Dec 28, 2020

APoM Design Diary #20 - Gozava

Today I am starting up the A Princess of Mars Adventure Design Diary posts again. I worked with a  researcher to go through the source material and compile it all into game-useful data. Now I am referring to that data as I build out the adventure. Most of the development remaining is editing, art, and layout.

In this NPC update, Sola's mom Gozava, you can see an improved stat block which provides some useful game info for the GM to be able to quickly refer to. In the spirit of turning the adventure into a sandbox rather than a railroad Gozava's fate is yet to be decided, while in the book she was tortured to death. Perhaps the PC's save her from this cruel end?

Green Martian, 1st level Fighting Man
Armor Class: 10 [10]
Hit Dice: 1/6hp
Move: 120'
Attacks:  2x weapon attack or tusks (2d4)
Damage: 1d6 or 1d12
Save: F1
Morale: 5
Alignment: Neutral Good
XP Value: 100
Str: 10 (+0), Dex: 10 (+0), Con: 10 (+0), Wis: 13 (+1), Int: 10 (+0), Chr: 12 (+1)
Equipment: 2x shortsword, irradium pistol, ammo belt, dagger, domestic tool kit, female leather harness, sleeping furs, food pouch.
Special Abilities: Beast ESP, Minor Telepathy ; SD: Mind Blank

A green martian female in the retinue of the cruel Tal Hajus. Too small to breed by tribal standards (only 10ft tall), she was forbidden to mate as dictated by Thark custom. Slowly this fostered an aversion to the awful cruelties and loveless existence of her people and helped her nurture a shy sympathy towards others. She cares little for the barbaric ways of the greenmen. 

Thus it was that over 5 years ago, she entered into a fateful tryst with the chieftain Tars Tarkas and each unwittingly fell in love with the other. Together they quietly bore a forbidden egg completely outside tribal law, the penalty for which is death. While he was away on a years-long military campaign, Gozava secretly hatched their hidden egg alone, begetting a daughter upon whom she lavished affection - an occurrence so rare among the greenmen as to be unheard of in living memory. 

Knowing she could not keep the child hidden for long, Goziva conspired to mix her in with the other tribal younglings from that year’s incubator expedition. Though initially successful, the ruse was later uncovered by the ever-vigilant Sarkoja, though the child’s identity remained unknown. 

Betrayed, now Gozava is to be brought before cruel Tal Hajus to answer for her crimes. Without hope for mercy, she will likely be subjected to unspeakable tortures to force a confession.

  • Secret - Her forbidden lover is Tars Tarkas, himself a powerful chieftain, and their illicit daughter is Sola. Should this ever become known, all three of them will likely pay dearly.
  • Goal - To be reunited with her daughter and lover Tars Tarkas, and if not take her secret to her grave. If forced under duress - to preserve the lives of those dearest to her - she will lie and say she killed her own infant daughter rather than leave her to the mercy of Tal Hajus. 
  • Motivation - She abhors the cruelty of the green men and only wishes to live in peace.
  • Conflict - Her softer sentiments are considered decadent - a reason to demand she prove her worthiness to the tribe. Her being in the retinue of Tal Hajus means the punishment for her ‘misdeeds’ will likely be that much more severe.
  • Quirk - Enjoys walking alone into flowering hills to daydream of a better life.
  • Flaw - Her love for her daughter can be used against her. 

Discussion thread here.

Dec 17, 2020

Clyde Caldwell's Barsoom

In the September 1982 issue of Heavy Metal magazine, before he went on to fame and success at TSR, noted fantasy artist Clyde Caldwell did a series of Barsoom paintings. They are interesting both in their relative faithfulness to the books and their raciness. 

Dec 10, 2020

The Outlander

A US civil war veteran transported to mars, a kryptonian evacuated to earth, a college athlete accidentally rocketed to an alien planet. With strange super-human abilities manifested on their new world the Outlander is a classic trope and the topic of today's Dungeoneering.

Edgar Rice Burroughs arguably invented the super hero genre with his epic hero Captain John Carter of Virginia in the classic novel A Princess of Mars. Carter's adventures on Mars inspired generations of kids who would go on to become artists, writers, and even scientists like Carl Sagen, Isaac Asimov, Frank Frazetta, and Frank Herbert.

The concept that someone raised on a planet with certain conditions would exhibit unusual abilities when transported to a different planet with different conditions is a compelling one. Often explored in science fiction, the most common being someone from a heavier gravity being stronger. There is so much more potential in the concept. Here is the Outlander as a playable character race. Ideal for the Warriors of the Red Planet and Guardians roleplaying games:

Outlander Strangers of extraordinary ability from other worlds

When one who is born on another planet or dimension or from another time with different atmospherics, climate, knowledge, or gravity arrives on this world they inherently have unusual abilities far beyond what natives may have. On their world of origin they may have been little more than average, but on this world they are stronger, or can jump higher, or have incredible endurance, or even stranger abilities that seem superheroic. 

Despite their otherworldly origins, Outlanders adapt rapidly, being able to learn local customs and languages in a short time. Consequently, Outlanders may learn the local equivalent of Common within days of first hearing it, regardless of their Intelligence score. 

Many Outlanders find themselves looked upon with fascination as possible heroes or saviors, whose unexpected arrival means the status quo is about to change. Just as easily as they find allies, they are likely to encounter enemies in equal numbers.

Perhaps because journeys between worlds/times/dimensions are inherently hazardous, only the most resilient -- and fortunate -- Outlander survive. Members of this race gain a +4 bonus to saving throws. 

Owing to the unusual nature of their fighting styles, Outlanders gain a +1 bonus either to Armor Class or to hit and damage when fighting opponents unfamiliar with their ways. Which bonus the Outlander wishes to use must be declared before each combat begins and, should the opponent survive to face the character again, the bonus is nullified thereafter in the case of that particular foe.

Home World

These are just a few of the possible conditions of the Outlander’s home world and the abilities it confers to them on this world, choose one.

Heavier Gravity: Outlander is unusually strong, +1 Strength and can jump twice as high and far as normal.

Thinner Air: the Outlander has unusual endurance, +1 Constitution

Advanced Knowledge: the Outlander understands technology and can figure out strange gadgets or make their own with the proper time and resources, +1 Intelligence.

Aquatic: the Outlander is amphibious and can breath underwater and on land. And swim twice as fast as normal. They can hold their breath for unusually long periods, for no less than 2 hours plus their Constitution modifier.

Hotter: the Outlander from a hot world is nearly impervious to heat, taking half damage at most from fire or heat attacks, and usually being able to save for none.

Colder: the Outlander from a cold world is nearly impervious to cold, taking half damage at most from cold attacks, and usually being able to save for none. They are not susceptible to the further effects of cold, such as being frozen. 

Radiation: the Outlander was born on a planet with extremely high and unusual radiation. When they come to this world that lacks this radiation and bathed by the light of a different sun they gain unusual powers of flight, invulnerability, x-ray vision, even laser blasts from the eyes. As all of these combined are likely to unbalance a game, choose one of these options:

  • Flight (24”) with high maneuverability

  • Invulnerability: +2 natural AC, +2 hit points per level

  • X-Ray vision: able to see through most solids as normal, the GM determines what blocks this vision, usually heavy metals like lead.

  • Eye Lasers: roll to hit, inflicts 2-7 (1d6+1) damage. Can be used 3 times per day.

  • Super breath: can exhale a powerful gust of wind, in 15’ cone, targets must make a Dexterity check or be blown back 25’ cone, targets must make a Dexterity check or be blown back 10’ and fall down prone. Can be used no more than once per hour and when not fatigued.

I started a discussion thread on the ODD74 Forum here:

Inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs, American comics, and Robert Heinlein, and many other “Science Fantasy” books and movies. Loosely based on the Stranger by James Maliszewski

Dec 8, 2020

The Space Noble and the Space Princess

Alien kings, space monarchs, rulers of the known universe, decadent nobles of a highly advanced and technological civilization, and of course Space Princesses are staples of space operas, sci-fi sagas, and tales of strange worlds and other dimensions. The Warriors of the Red Planet roleplaying game provides the basics needed to run a Sword & Planet style interplanetary fantasy romance campaign using the classic OSR style rules. However if there was one class that was missing it was the Space Noble -- the aristocracy of the dying red planet. This supplement endeavors to fill that gap with a very playable royal character class, though its primary purpose is to describe the NPC’s that the player characters will encounter.

The Space Noble is designed to work with any science fiction or science fantasy OSR style RPG that is based on the original fantasy roleplaying game.

Nov 25, 2020

Gong Farmer and Privy Construction

While doing some research on castles and privy construction I stumbled across the occupation of gong farmer, something I vaguely recall having read about before. This instigated further research. I wrote up an early version on a post back in September. Since then it has been refined and playtested. It sounds a bit silly, but we had a lot of fun. Along with that came some expanded details on castle construction as related to waste management. A serious an important element that is left out of the LBB's and most other stronghold construction rules. Privies and cesspits are serious and necessary elements for any castle and also offer up plenty of useful items for adventuring possibilities.

The full write up is complete and available on DriveThru.

Gong Farmer, a 0 level class for OSR games.

Counterintuitive to expectations, playing 0 level characters is quite fun. There is something exhilarating about the fragility and lack of special abilities where they are not good at anything and one blow may kill the character off. This forces the player to rely on their wits, creativity, and imagination rather than staring at the character sheet for answers to solve a problem.

Real life is often stranger than fiction. The gong farmer, or waste management specialist if you prefer, was a necessary and lucrative career. A perfect start to an adventurer’s life. Suddenly the idea of switching careers to become a cleric doesn’t seem so bad after all. This character class came out of a bit of research on how castles were actually constructed, and a few game sessions playing 0 level characters. It was a lot of fun, and hopefully you’ll have fun with this character too.

More than just a character description this supplement includes other useful resources:
  • Gong Farmer class
  • Expanded Stronghold Construction Options
  • New monsters:
  • Sewer Monster
  • Junk Golem
  • Contaminated Alligator
  • New magic items
Also includes full illustrations and a minimalist OSR basic style character sheet.

Nov 18, 2020

OSR Social Status - A New Ability

A while back I wrote about the Social Status score. While I think that Gygax and Arneson nailed it near-perfectly with the standard six abilities, if there was room for one more it would be some sort of Social Status stat. 

Here that original article is developed and refined into a system that can be added to any OSR game. All of the information and research was refined, like panning for gold into a clear, concise, uncluttered rule set that can add something to just about any fantasy campaign. In particular the Warriors of the Red Planet roleplaying game mentions Social Status during character creation, but doesn't describe it much further from there. In the source material it is an important element in the sword and planet stories with space princesses to be betrothed and evil emperors to be overthrown.

This supplement is a perfect addition to that game. It also includes a folding character sheet that would fit in your original White Box (or Woodgrain Box if you are so lucky) done in a minimalist basic OSR style with room for this new ability. 

Nov 16, 2020

The OSR Elf

Now available, the OSR Elf. No longer part time fighter part time spellcaster, now it is a full time class that doesn't split its experience points. It is carefully balanced with the other original edition classes. Also includes a nifty old-school style character sheet fully illustrated specifically for the Elf, and also a blank version. That alone is worth the price.
See the previous work in progress version here And the discussion on ODD74 here.

Nov 12, 2020

Reinventing the Greyhawk Thief

  Coming into D&D in the early 80's with the red box set and then quickly onto AD&D I had no idea that there were some who'd been playing the game since its release in 1974 that considered the Thief class to have broken the game.

While I very much enjoy the original LBB (little brown books) that are so bare boned there was only 3 classes: Fighting-Man, Magic User, and Cleric. I find that Greyhawk really completes the original set.

There is general agreement that Greyhawk which introduced variable damage and hit dice, ability score bonuses and penalties, and a variety of other things really fixed the game. Yet the thief seems to have stolen some of the primary things players were doing on adventures that hadn't quite been systemized yet: sneaking around and stealing stuff.

The thief is a staple now of just about any fantasy roleplaying game. Enjoying a special niche all their own separate from the fighting ability and spellcasting ability of other classes.  There is however a problem with the thief that I haven't seen much written about. That is how bad they are at their character abilities.

A 1st level thief can pick pockets with a 20% chance of success. You know from actually playing one that is terrible, there is an 80% chance of getting caught! All those other things are so bad there is hardly a point in even trying until higher levels, 15% to open locks? 10% to remove traps? Oops! Triggered again, the party is dead. Yikes. What if we got rid of all that stuff and they were really good at one thing first. What if pick pockets started at a 60% chance of success? Now we're talking. Then it could improve at a slower rate and eventually become very proficient.

What if they slowly acquired the other abilities as they leveled up?  Then they would be in synch with the other classes. With this idea in mind here is a reimagined Greyhawk-style thief class. A note on terminology, a few things are changed to be more generalized; for example the general term pilfering instead of the specific term pick pockets. Or climb instead of climb walls.

Each level opens a new Thief Class Ability. Success is not determined by a percentage, an idea I find doesn't fit the rest of the mechanics of the game, but by an ability check. The GM could adjust the difficulty of the task up or down. If the victim is attentive and other leery viewers in the area a pilfering attempt may be more difficult. If the victim is asleep success may almost be assured with only a roll of 1 waking the target up and getting caught. The level of the character and dexterity adjustment may be added to the roll of a d20 for success.

Prime Attribute: Dexterity, 13+ (+5% XP)
Hit Dice: 1d4
Armor/Shield Permitted: Any non metal. No shield.
Weapons Permitted: Any one-handed.

Thief Class Abilities

Pilfer: at 1st level the thief can filch small objects, pick pockets, and palm small items without being noticed.

Open Locks: at 2nd level the thief can open any lock given enough time and with the right tools.

Hear Noise: at 3rd level the thief is sensitive to sounds others may not notice, and identify what they are or what someone who is speaking in a language they understand is saying.

Climb: at 4th level the thief can climb sheer surfaces including walls and cliffs.

Backstab: at 5th level the thief can deal double damage when striking an opponent from behind. At 7th level damage is x3. At 9th level damage is x4.

Disarm Traps: at 6th level the thief can render a trap inoperable given enough time and the right tools.

Move Silently: at 7th level the thief can move at half speed without making a detectable sound.

Hide in Shadows: at 8th level the thief can become near invisible when lurking in shadows, they may slowly crawl at a rate of 1”.

Read Languages: at 9th level the thief can read any language they may have reasonably come in contact with, including magic. This ability allows them to use magic-user scrolls, though with a high degree of error. Reading languages excludes lost, ancient, extremely foreign, or dead languages that would require special knowledge to know.

Thieves Guild: at 10th level the thief becomes the master of a local thieves guild in a fortified hideout, usually in a seedier part of town, that will attract 2-12 apprentices. This hideout is difficult to find and infiltrate. They will also have political influence with corrupt officials and powerful criminal elements.

Thoughts? Discussion here:

Nov 8, 2020

The ODD Gnoll

 More adventures in redrawing classic stuff from the old LBB books. It is fun looking at them and reinterpreting how I'd draw them.

Here is the original drawing from the Monsters & Treasures book. I didn't put in the heavy black shading in case I want to color it later.


My daughter convinced me it'd look much better with the black shadows filled in. Also, that I missed his helmet.

Oct 15, 2020

Fantasy Map Technique Experiment: The Land of Nevah

 Experimenting and working on improving my map drawing skills. Here with the fantasy world of Nevah I created some geography brushes to paint the contours of the continent and islands. Made some terrain brushes of mountains, hills, and trees. And a pattern fill for the water. Generated some random names using Donjon then colored and tidied things up a bit.

It took a few hours, and it didn't come out too terrible for one evening's work. With some refinement and practice this could be turned into a viable process to generate fantasy maps. Not quite publishable I'd consider this a sketch or rough to then take to a finished polished state.

These are the brushes I made in Photoshop to "paint" the terrain with:

Oct 7, 2020

Sketchbook Tour - Haphazard

 I recently completed a sketchbook and videoed a tour through it with some commentary. Mostly Norse mythology stuff in there, with a little bit of gaming and some other randomness. As much as I draw I don't actually finish sketchbooks all that often. Most drawings are done on loose leaf paper here at Studio Denmark.

Oct 6, 2020

Warriors of Mars Review

In 1914 Edgar Rice Burroughs’ seminal classic A Princess of Mars launched the “Sword & Planet” genre and directly inspired Flash Gordon, Superman, Dune, Star Wars and many other characters and stories. Largely forgotten by the public to the point that the John Carter movie was accused of ripping off the very films the original book had inspired!

The Mars novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs were a major influence on the early D&D game. The original LBBs contain more references to Barsoom novels than to any other fantasy literature.

Some of the races and creatures even appear in the Wandering Monsters tables of OD&D.

Gary Gygax acknowledges this influence in the Forward to Men & Magic “These rules are strictly fantasy. Those wargamers who lack imagination, those who don’t care for Burroughs’ Martian adventures where John Carter is groping through black pits...will not be likely to find D&D to their taste”

Even in AD&D references to Barsoom are found throughout, including notably in Appendix N of the DMG.

The "Warriors of Mars" rules for miniature wargames, was published by TSR in July, 1974 just six months after the original D&D rules. Written and designed by Gary Gygax and Brian Blume, and lavishly illustrated with 24 interior drawings by Greg Bell. 

They are a standalone set of rules for adventures on Barsoom.  It is clearly not a roleplaying game, there just isn’t enough there in ways of creating or describing a character, but it does have some RPG like elements such as 1:1 combat and movement, character advancement levels, and suggestions how to make personal adventures. It is a wargame closer to Chainmail than to OD&D.

The forward by Gary Gygax states "this project was done at the request of the firm which originated the miniature figures for this singular aspect of wargaming".  According to Jon Peterson's book Playing at the World the firm is identified as Hinchliffe Models which later became Heritage Models.

The Edgar Rice Burroughs estate contacted TSR with a cease and desist so to avoid any legal action, the book was never reprinted. Which is a shame as there doesn’t appear to be anything in Warriors of Mars that wasn’t already in the public domain. This makes this one of the rarest hard to find and most expensive TSR books. Copies come up occasionally on ebay for hundreds of dollars. PDF copies are easy to find online with a little searching.

The book is divided into Land Warfare, Aerial Warfare, and Characters, & Creatures, followed by a series of combat tables.  There are also maps of Barsoom.

The Land Warfare section provides rules for mass combat, sieges, and rules for individual combat.

Individual melee involves rolling 3d6 and the result compared to attacker vs. defender on a rather dense table in the back which looks reminiscent of the Fantasy Combat table in Chainmail. There are 2 rounds of melee each turn.

Missile fire is a novel system: roll 2 dice, The first is the target number to match or beat in order to score a hit and it is modified by the attackers status, weapon, range, and so on. The second die is the roll to hit that target number.

Individual adventure guidelines describe unexpected encounters, time, and movement. A rudimentary experience and advancement system is described for characters to rise as high as 12th level. John Carter is 13th level. Fighting men and assassins are the only things mentioned that could remotely be considered “classes”.

The "experience" points table includes rewards for defeating foes, rescuing princesses, capturing airships, capturing enemy warriors or items, freeing prisoners, and finding lost treasures.

Adventure locations such as exploring deserted cities, or delving into the black pits beneath are only given a brief paragraph and a suggestion to consult D&D.

With movement rules, individual combat, experience, and encounter charts there is almost a proto rpg lurking in this game, but to turn it into one would take about as much effort as it would take to turn Chainmail into an RPG.

Aerial combat is given the most attention with rules for movement, fliers, fire, elevation & depression of guns, damage, ramming & collision, grappling, boarding, bombing, air-to-ground combat, fire at structures, and ground-to-air fire, with tables for resolving these combat situations.

The last section sparsely describes characters and creatures of Barsoom before going into the final tables and charts. Including John Carter, Ulysses Paxton, Carthoris, Tars Tarkas, Solon of Okar ,Mors Kajak, Tardos Mors, Kantos Kan, and the various martian races. 

There are also short descriptions of the various creatures like white apes, darseen, malagor, and orluks.  It mentions that other animals are not covered, since they are already described sufficiently in the novels.

"Warriors of Mars" is a standalone wargame, related more to Chainmail than to D&D, the enthusiasm for Barsoom shines through and this piece of gaming history provides a glimpse of what could have been if the tales of ERB had become the prominent backdrop for roleplaying adventures.


Warriors of the Red Planet RPG

Oct 2, 2020

Viking Gods a TSR minigame Playtest Review

A short review of the 1982 TSR minigame Viking Gods.

In the early 80's TSR published several minigames. They were ubiquitous in book and game stores all throughout the US. Were they any good?

Viking Gods is a Norse mythos themed war game simulating the battle of Ragnarök between the Gods of Asgard and the Forces of Chaos lead by Loki. 2 players, competitive, 1-2 hours. Rules are simple enough an 8 year old, or even younger can grasp them.

The goal for Chaos players is to destroy Yggdrasil.

The goal for Asgard players is to defend Yggdrasil and defeat Loki.

It is a simplified war game. Each turn players may move each piece up to 2 spaces until they encounter an opponent, then they may not move. But they can engage in combat. Pieces are either defeated, pushed back a space, or the combat is a draw. With a simple die roll on a combat table.

The table is a sort of primitive predecessor to the FASERIP column shift system with the columns determined by the defender's strength subtracted from the attackers strength total.

There are two rules categories: Basic and Advanced. The basic rules are a little too vanilla. The advanced game gives each piece a special ability that makes combat and tactics much more interesting. Even the advanced game is simple enough that an experienced gamer could just start with those. The rulebook includes more background text on Norse mythology than necessary to play, but is fun to read.

One challenge with the advanced game is that the tokens are plain and do not have their special ability printed on them, so there is constant referring in the rulebook to the chart that explains their abilities. There are custom tokens that are better to use because the token's effect is printed on them. See the custom tokens.

Video review

The combat table is reportedly misprinted, here is a corrected version along with the custom tokens CLICK HERE:

More info on BGG:

Oct 1, 2020

Pumpkin King

 Today I drew a Pumpkin King character to celebrate the first day of October. Fall is my favorite time of the year, I love the colors, the weather, and the season.

These drawings are available as clip art on that you can use in your independent game book.

Sep 30, 2020

Dungeons & Dragons Cartoon: Requiem, the Final Episode.

If you were a certain age in the 1980's the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon was something you looked forward to every Saturday morning. While most cartoons were composed of one-off episodes, the D&D cartoon had a continuing narrative and character development, in many ways ahead of its time. The cartoon was cut short before the story could be completed. Now fans have cut together using full animation and some original voice acting to create the final episode. From a script written by series writer Michael Reeves. It was fully animated using footage from the series.  The voice acting dialogue came from the DVD radio show released in 2006 by BCI eclipse. 

Original cast member Katie Leigh reprised her role of Sheila. The music was reconstructed from the original series. Some of the voice and music are uneven, but for a fan made production is very well done.

Special thanks to Timothy S. Brannan of for the heads up.

Sep 29, 2020

Castles and Privy Chambers

Page 20 of Booklet 3: Underworld and Wilderness Adventures begins the section on Construction of Castles and Strongholds and goes on to give prices and measurements to various parts of your stronghold most characters could begin building at 9th level.

This was an important part of OD&D not as emphasized in later editions.

I always felt this would have been done better as basic plans: buy a Tower, Stronghold, Mott & Bailey, Keep, Castle, Fortress, or Palace, etc. Then construct additional parts with the characters wealth later on.

In the illustrations in the booklet showing what your character could have constructed an essential part of all castles is missing:  the 'privy chamber', or just 'privy' or 'garderobe'. Other names included the ‘draught’, ‘gong’, ‘siege-house’, ‘neccessarium’, and even ‘Golden Tower’. This was not only a necessary feature, but was also used in deterrence against sieges as they either emptied out into a moat, or directly onto potential attackers.

This also necessitated the services of a person to clean out the privy when it got too full or too foul to bear. This trade was called a Gong Farmer. After the term for "going" (potty).

Gong Farmer

Hit Die: d6
Prime Requisite: Constitution
Alignment: any
Social Status: -2

Gong farmers specialize in waste management. They work primarily at night where they come to a house, dig out all the feces under a privy, and carry it to a dump where it can be recycled as fertilizer and building materials. These men are in high demand. They are only allowed to work at night, build up resistances to diseases, and are required to live far, far away from other people. But they are paid quite well (up to six gold pieces a day), making it worth working chest deep in unspeakable horror.

They Save and Attack as a 1st level Fighting Man.

The Gong Farmer could be used as a pre-adventure career for a character. 

More details here:

Sep 24, 2020

The Original Dungeoneer RPG

Like many in middle school I started designing my fantasy heartbreaker when I was around 12. Anyone who is a DM becomes a game designer as soon as they start modifying the 'official' rules. One concern I have about the current batch of players of 5e is that they seem to have an even more devotion to the letter of the official rules than any of the 'rules lawyers' from my youth. I know, that's one of those "kids these days..." sentiment from an old man. So as long as they are having fun and exercising their imaginations it is all good.

This game that eventually became the Dungeoneer card game lived most of its life as a pseudo-RPG. I say pseudo because it was always kind of boardgame like in its design philosophy. I didn't know it at the time, I was just trying to make something fun and interesting to play. It very naturally evolved into a card game. Still, I wonder what it would be like to finish that RPG I started back then. A major motivation in becoming an illustrator was so I could illustrate my own games. Looking back at those old drawings is painful as all I see is how to draw them better. But I suppose there is a certain old-school charm to them.

Here is a scanned in page from one of my attempts to actually lay the RPG out with art. I was still enamored with the 3-column layout that was popular in the era of TSR modules that I think started around the time of the first Dragonlance modules. Now I find that format too cramped and ungainly. This was originally laid out back when I was just learning about desktop publishing in Aldus Pagemaker, which Adobe bought and turned into InDesign.

Sep 21, 2020


 Not really game or Dungeoneering related, but I made a tshirt, mask, and mug design.

Lots of color options available to suit your taste.

Sep 18, 2020

The Atlas of the Dragonlance World

In 1987 TSR published the Atlas of the Dragonlance World. At the time Dragonlance was at the height of its popularity and dominated the fantasy section of bookstore shelves all across the US. Written and illustrated by Karen Wynn Fonstad who rose to fame with her oustanding Atlas of Middle-Earth, it is a detailed overview of Krynn and the continent of Abanasinia.

Like her other atlasses; Middle-Earth, Forgotten Realms, The Land, & Pern, it is very high quality and lavishly illustrated with brilliant cartography accompanying clear, concise, yet extensive text.

My video review goes into more depth and shows off the beauty of this book. Regardless of what you think about Dragonlance there is no doubt this atlas is a masterpiece of fantasy world building and can be great inspiration for creating your own fantasy world or for running a Dragonlance campaign.

Sep 14, 2020

Warduke Sketch

 Just a quick post today. Some rough sketches of everyone's favorite D&D Cartoon character: Warduke.

Aug 31, 2020

Clip Art - Dust Dragon and Harpy Attack

I've uploaded some new clip-art include Harpy Attack and Dust Dragon in both b&w and full color versions onto DriveThruRPG. Please take a look and consider using these for your game.

Dust Dragon a dragon (or wyvern if you prefer) raised from the arid dust of the forlorn desert surveys the land it rules.

Harpy Attack poor fighter in a precarious position wedged between a rock and a hard place taunts and defies a bloodthirsty harpy as she stalks him.

Aug 26, 2020

Monster Cards - Blink Dogs

A staple of classic DnD, Blink Dogs are intelligent with a highly annoying special ability: short distance teleport. Bite and teleport away. This is emblematic of old style play where each monster was a sort of puzzle to solve. How to deal with intelligent pack monsters that can coordinate and can avoid your attacks while it can attack you. The answer is, of course, Fireball. Which is almost always the right solution. Right?

I cannot identify the artist who drew this. I think it might be Roslof, as it is reminiscent of his painting style (see the cover of Keep on the Borderlands) but can't be sure since it doesn't have as much dynamic energy as many of his drawings demonstrate. There is no signature or credit. 

When looking through the monster cards it really strikes me that I would have liked to see a new edition of the classic Monster Manual that used all of this color art. The rebranding with the Jeff Easley cover would have been a good time to do a "1.5" edition with updated stats, like including the XP rewards. It really is surprising how neglected the core books were during the 80's heyday of AD&D.

Aug 24, 2020

Clip Art For Your Game Books

During this pandemic lockdown I've been busy reorganizing old art folders. Copying files off of old drives. Consolidating and discovering art I'd thought long lost. All with the purpose of not only having well organized archives, but to make Clip Art available to the gaming community through DriveThruRPG.

For a while now I've sold Clip Art on my website, and in the past have been contacted for art I'd be willing to license out for republishing. Most notably for Timothy Brown and his Dragon Kings project that had a very successful Kickstarter and turned out to be an excellent alternate take on Darksun. This made me aware at how I could contribute more to the gaming community. There are a lot of fantastic creators out there, writers and game designers who are in need of high quality art to accompany their well crafted words, but who are on tight budgets. 

To do an illustration of an Elf Bard, fully inked and colored takes about a good day of work; 8-10 hours. Even a skilled laborer gets $25 or so per hour, but how many can afford $250 a drawing for their little fantasy heartbreaker? Especially since these often need dozens or so illustrations. By making these available as clip art for an affordable price then more designers can afford to fill their books with cool art.

I did not want to confuse this clip art with the products published by Night Owl Workshop and so opened a new account called Studio Denmark that will be solely dedicated to providing high quality affordable licensed art. Each week I will be releasing new Clip Art you can use in your own books, games, and online adventures.

Most bundles includes high resolution full color art and where available also black & white inked art.

Aug 21, 2020

Frazetta Friday - A Princess of Mars

One of Frank Frazetta's most recognizable paintings, A Princess of Mars, came up for auction. 

From the Heritage Auctions article:

In 1970, Frank Frazetta painted two versions of the cover for Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars.

One he sent to the publishing house Doubleday, whose hardback version of the 1912 story — featuring the debuts of Confederate soldier John Carter and Martian princess Dejah Thoris — has become one of the most recognizable and influential covers in publishing history. And the other Frazetta made for himself immediately upon competition of the assignment. He was deeply proud of the piece and knew its return was unlikely. Better, he thought, to make another than lose this only child.

Previous auctions have been as high as $5.4 million for Egyptian Queen. No doubt this one too will go into the 7 digits. Here is a link to super hi-rez version (Heritage Auctions account required, it's free to sign up):

Aug 19, 2020

51 Foot Rope

 From the Tarniss RPG. Describing the Dungeoneer game in classic OSR terms.

The humble 50' rope is an essential item for the aspiring dungeoneer. With this simple tool pits can be traversed, sheer cliffs can be climbed, and dangerous foes can be tied up. So what is a 51' rope?

In ancient times the eldritch lords dabbled in the darkest arts. One humble apprentice of an evil wizard whose heart had not yet been corrupted read through his master's forbidden tomes and tried a simple prestidigitation that would bring life to an inanimate object. He held an old hemp rope and spooled it out as he spoke the words of enchantment, but he fumbled the words a bit at the last moment and accidentally permanently enchanted the rope. This rope was 51' long, and no matter how many times it was cut it would be exactly 51' and the cut pieces would duplicate some of the magical properties of the original. Though its duplicates did not have the unique ability of creating additional copies of themselves, they did retain certain magical properties that protected its owner from traps, and could at times sacrifice itself to prevent a wound.

51' Rope
Enchanted Item
This rope provides +2 versus traps and falling in pits. It may be sacrificed to prevent 1 wound from a fall or trap.

Aug 18, 2020

Dungeon Map Doodler

Seems like everyday some new tool to aid in playing D&D, or your other favorite RPG is published. There are a lot of map making tools available online, and random dungeon generators of varying levels of quality and usefulness.

Dungeon Map Doodler is a map making tool that is easy enough for anyone to use regardless of their drawing ability. Play with it for a few minutes and you can quickly create an interesting dungeon map for your next gaming session. It also allows you to output the map in various file formats. I particularly like the .png format, but it also has jpeg.

You can save your map to return later to work on it more, or download it.

Aug 17, 2020

Advanced D&D Deities and Demigods Review

Deities and Demigods for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was billed as an essential book to play the game, but is it really that necessary? 

First published in December 1980 it went through essentially 3 major versions, and 8 printings with minor variations.

The original 1st & 2nd printing had 144 pages, with 17 mythologies. 13 of which were real world like Greek and Norse while 4 are fictional from fantasy literature. This included the famous (notorious?) Cthulhu and Melnibonean myths.

Due to copyright issues these two were cut from the book and it was reduced to 128 pages. The author Jim Ward claimed he had a letter from Chaosium granting permission to use those mythos but that TSR administration lost it. At first TSR simply credited Chaosium, but then decided to remove them altogether so as not to provide any attention to their competitor. A real loss since they were two of the best chapters in the book.

In the 5th printing TSR rebranded the cover with an illustration by Jeff Easley of Odin wielding his spear Gungnir charging through the sky on Sleipnir accompanied by his wolves Freki and Geri. Other than that there was no material difference from the previous 128 page version.

The book is largely organized in three sections, the first being an introduction and some new rules and guideline to manage the divine in your campaign. The middle section is the pantheons themselves. The last section are appendices detailing the outer planes and some additional info about adventuring in the ethereal and astral planes. Of these three sections it is perhaps the pantheons themselves, the bulk of the book, that are the least useful in actually playing the game. Unless you are using the gods as high level monsters, not much is provided in the way of practical application to your campaign.

The first section expands ability stats. At the time abilities were capped at 18. And strangely Strength had a clunky additional percentile system added to give extra bonus to fighters who were seen as underpowered as compared to the other classes, particularly magic-users. To accommodate divine beings this 18 cap was raised to 25 picking up right from where the Player's Handbook left off. Why the designers couldn't have the imagination to see beyond 25 is a mystery, it seems obvious to us now in hindsight that the numbers should be able to progress indefinitely. This cap causes problems in some of the stat blocks of the gods described as we'll see clearly in the Norse section where many gods have the same 25 strength score that Thor has so they have to give him a special little nudge instead of just giving him a higher score.

Perhaps the best useful game mechanic associated with the expanded ability scores is Negative Charisma. Something that seems to have been left out of later editions of the game. This negative score had the effect of instilling horror in lesser beings. Very Cthulhuesque in its implications for game play.

The pantheons serve as little more than a survey of each of the specific mythos. And not a particularly scholarly one. TSR was experiencing a huge boom and certainly had the financial ability to hire qualified freelance writers knowledgable in the field. Imagine this, middle school and high school students everywhere were intensely interested in the game and reading the rules book, this would have been an excellent source to educate on history, legends, and beliefs from around the world. Instead the task was left to a staff writer who did the best he could under the circumstances, no doubt there were intense deadline pressures, what we get is closer to what you'd find in comic books and popular media of the day. And it carries over the problems from the original Gods, Demigods and Heroes from the original edition. Trying to give tangible stats to divine beings. Making this more of a high level Monster Manual than a resource for developing the mythos in your own campaign world and fleshing out the Cleric class.

The highlight of the book has to be the four fictional mythos, in particularly the non-human pantheon which gives us such memorable deities as the orc god Gruumsh, the demon queen of spiders Lolth, and the disturbing lobster headed goddess of the kuo-toa Blibdoolpoolp. This is the only pantheon that is uniquely particular to Dungeons and Dragons.

Of the chapters that do make the book worth having: Cthulhu, Melnibonean, Non-Human, and Nehwon mythos half were removed. The treatment of the Outer Planes is interesting, but doesn't provide enough detail to really use. The divine ascension rules are nearly useless.

Deities and Demigods introduces the gods of myth and legend to AD&D by providing combat statistics for them and very little to promote actually using them as something other than high level monsters in the game. It is ultimately a book of missed opportunities, and fails to be that essential for playing clerics or for helping DM's to create their campaign world. It is an interesting artifact of its time, but the poor scholarship and general lack of creativity and useful information makes it a pass for most. Perhaps it was just too big a task for one book. Each of these pantheons needed to be a source book of their own, in a sort of Mythic Earth series. There are better sources for each of them. Chaosium's outstanding Call of Cthulhu, Stormbringer, and Pendragon RPG's gives those topics the treatment they deserve. For the other pantheons a basic Mythology Encyclopedia provides more authentic and useful information if a DM wanted to make a Mythic Earth style campaign.

I didn't set out to give a negative review, I have quite a fondness for this book, if only for the nostalgia of having read it, played it, and killing half the gods in it in our gonzo middle-school gaming sessions. I still think much of the artwork holds up.

The long gap between this video and the previous review video was a fluke, I have a lot more lined up. I originally recorded this months ago and was in editing hell. I finally threw it away and recorded a new version last night. I learned I do not enjoy editing and it is better to do a straight forward video and cut out the most egregious mistakes and then let it go. Unfortunately once uploaded to YouTube it sounds like I recorded it with a grapefruit in my mouth, even though it sounded fine on the original. I don't know why its so muffled and quiet. In the future I'll have to pump up the gain on the microphone more, if it comes out too loud it is probably better than being too quiet.