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:



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.









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.


Resources

Warriors of the Red Planet RPG

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/34303/warriors-mars

http://zenopusarchives.blogspot.com/2017/08/d-on-barsoom-art-by-chris-holmes.html

http://ironrationales.blogspot.com/2010/08/warriors-of-mars.html

https://archive.org/details/WarriorsOfMarsTheWarfareOfBarsoomInMiniature1974/mode/2up


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 https://youtu.be/UO4URyLjlxg:


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


More info on BGG: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/2483/viking-gods


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 https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/330720/Pumpkin-King-Clip-Art that you can use in your independent game book.

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. 


https://youtu.be/QsNHTnY6HQg


Special thanks to Timothy S. Brannan of http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/ for the heads up.


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: www.ancient.eu/article/1239/toilets-in-a-medieval-castle/


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.



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.

https://www.teepublic.com/t-shirt/14214872-2020?store_id=173700

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.



Warduke Sketch

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




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.





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.





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.


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):

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.


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.

https://dungeonmapdoodler.com/


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.

Bug-A-Bear Sketch

Working on an update to the art for each of the Dungeoneer monsters in the conversion to the Tarniss RPG.

Here is an idea for the Bug-A-Bear, and also a bonus sketch of a Druid because she was on the same page in my sketchbook :)


Bug-A-Bear

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

Bug-A-Bear

Fiend

HD: 4 (12hp)
AC: 16
Atk: 2 claws (1d4x2)
Save: 13
Move: 9
Morale: 9
Treasure: A
CL/XP: 4/400
Special: dying scream when killed, everyone within 20' radius take 1d6 damage, Save for half damage.

The Bug-A-Bear is a horrific monstrosity created by the corrupted wizards of Ilbor Paiden from the husks of giant beetles and carcasses of viridian bears from the Taraka mountains. They are highly territorial and constantly ravenous. There is a saying in Dolmar that is told to children when they won't mind "Beware of the Bug-a-Bear".


Here was the original sketch, this dates from around 1999.


Indentured Guardian

Indentured Guardian

Undead
HD: 4
AC: 16
Atk: 1 weapon (1d6)
Save: 13
Move: 9
CL/XP: 6/500
Special: paralyze, immune to sleep & charm, ward

An indentured guardian is a guard posted to protect an entrance who was enchanted to be ever vigilant even beyond death.

Their attack can cause paralyzation if the victim fails a saving throw. Paralyzation lasts 2-7 rounds (1d6+1). A guardian will not attack a paralyzed character.

If the object of its protection is breached the indentured guardian will crumble to dust in a howling, screaching, terrifying collapse as it has failed in its duty. Sometimes (1 in 6 chance) ancient wards are placed on the entrance to be triggered by the howls of a guardian.

Wards (roll 1d6)

  1. Poisonous gas fills the area all within 20’ radius Save or die.
  2. Fiery blast incinerates; all within 5’ radius take 3d6 damage, within 10’ radius take 2d6 damage, within 20’ radius take 1d6 damage. Save for half.
  3. Electric bolts zap, all within 20’ radius take 2d6 damage. Save for half.
  4. Acid floods the ground, Dex check or take 2d6 damage and footwear is ruined.
  5. Sonic attack, all within 20’ radius take 2d6 damage and blood discharges from eyes, ears, and nose. Save for half.
  6. Disenchantment aura, 1 magic item chosen randomly loses its enchantment. Spells cannot be cast in the immediate area for 1-6 hours. 


From the original Beasties

Monster Cards are a tad better than the Monster Manual

 One time I won an ebay lot with a bunch of old D&D stuff and it had a deck of Monster Cards. I never saw these back in the 80's and didn't even know they existed until the lot arrived in the mail. A pleasant surprise to be sure.

Reading through the cards I can appreciate how well done they were for the time. Excellent full color art and full descriptions and stats on the back. Upon closer inspection they also have minor improvements over their original entries in the Monster Manual. Perhaps the best addition being they provide statistics for the XP value of defeating the creature. Changing the numbers from ranges (ie. 2-12) to dice rolls (2d6) was probably just a bit easier for quick reference during play, it is a minor thing to convert 2-12 in your head to 2d6, but at a glance it makes for a quicker read.

Changing terms like "offal" and "carrion" to "garbage" and "carcass" is another minor improvement and these subtle changes to the language that is used reduced the reading level of the vocabulary just a bit, making them more universal. At this point elementary school age kids were playing the game.

These cards were published in 1982, a year after I started playing. I sure could have used them back then as a great playing aid! 

Here is one of my favorite creatures to use at lower levels, the humble bombardier beetle. It's always fun to add sound effects when they fire their deadly vapor cloud.



APoM Design Diary #18 - Dejah Thoris

Dejah Thoris
Red Martian, 9th level Noble
Armor Class: 8 [12]
Hit Dice: 9/36hp
Move: 90'
Attacks: shortsword or pistol
Damage: 1d6 or 1d12
No. Appearing: 1
Save: C9
Morale: 12
XP Value: 100
Str: 10 (+0), Dex: 13 (+1), Con: 14 (+1), Wis: 16 (+2), Int: 15 (+1), Chr: 19 (+3)
Social Status: 19 (+3)
Equipment: Shortsword, Pistol, Tissue Regenerator, Tri-Chorder, Remote Starter, Metal War Bikini

Dejah Thoris is described as the incomparable Princess of Mars. She is the quintessence of feminine beauty and grace. She is skilled in courtly and royal etiquette, as well as all womanly pursuits and charms. She commands the loyalty of the soldiers of Helium - the preeminent city on Mars inhabited by the race of Red Men. She is a true daughter of Helium, willing to risk her life to defend her home city and people.

Dejah Thoris has bronze skin of flawless complexion, jet black hair, and an ideal figure that she makes no attempt to conceal as there is no shame in nudity on Barsoom. Even the toughest most grizzled warriors tremble at her mere presence. Such is her incredible beauty that few males can resist her persuasions.

On occasion she participates in scientific expeditions on the marvelous sky ships of Barsoom, it was on one of these occassions her ship was destroyed by green martians and she was captured at the same time Captain Carter was in their captivity. She eventually fell in love and married him.

Her loyal affections are to Captain Carter. The only thing likely to faze her calm demeanor is her husband being in peril.

How do you draw the most beautiful woman in the galaxy? For starters you don't even try. You try to draw a character with a personality and hope for the best. I tried to make her fierce and attractive at the same time.

This description was cobbled together from a few sources and my recollections from the book. It is a work in progress and likely to change quite a bit in the final adventure. I was considering making her either the helpless maiden-in-distress (like the book), or giving her a little bit of fighting ability, or to do what the movie did and make her a Scientist. Then I recalled the Alien Noble class by James Maliszewski described on the Grognardia blog which is nearly perfect and now I need to make a whole adaptation of the class for Warriors of the Red Planet.


Thrud - Daughter of Thor

Part of the Valkyria: Shieldmaidens of Asgard project is defining all the Valkyries, and several other Norse Mythology characters and creatures, in both 5th Edition and OSR.

Here is an attempt at writing up Thor's daughter: Thrud using 5th edition. It is quite a bit of work and the layout is a bit tricky, but the results are pretty rewarding. She is probably one of the more powerful Valkyries I'll be designing for the book.


June 2020 Patreon Rewards


Did you know I have a Patreon? Yeah, I know everyone does. Why should you support this one?
Every month I provide behind the scenes material on games being developed for Night Owl Workshop, as well as providing high resolution files of my art that can be used as wallpaper for your computer and phone.

This month the rewards were Skeggold Valkyrie of Axes and new western themed character classes for your favorite OSR game. It is part of a Western mini-RPG inspired by the classic Boothill and meant to work seamlessly with Warriors of the Red Planet as a prelude to the A Princess of Mars adventure.

Just 3 bucks a month gets you this incredible deal, cheaper than a fancy drink at Starbucks and you know you'd buy these on DriveThru RPG for $5 or so anyways! Click on the link below:


APoM Design Diary #17 - Korad

One of the city ruins the green martians take John Carter to is Korad.

The Barsoom Wiki describes it like this:
Korad is a dead Martian city that was once belonged one of Barsoom's greatest nations. It was a center of culture and commerce, built upon a natural harbor surrounded by magnificent hills. When the seas began to dry Korad was abandoned, and as happened to many of the abandoned cities, it was soon taken over by one of the green hordes, in this case, the Tharks. As it is with most dead cities upon Mars it had a population of White Apes.
Bordering its central plaza is a magnificent structure of marble inlaid with gold and brilliant stones, with a canopied entrance one hundred feet in width. Its inner walls decorated with wondrous murals, paintings, and mosaics showcasing scenes of ancient Barsoom.
On my live stream twitch.tv/thomasdenmark I did this painting of Korad. It's still pretty rough and could use a lot more refinements. But it is a start.


I live stream weeknights at 9pm PST, you are welcome to join and watch me draw and talk about D&D.

APoM Design Diary #16 - Dak Kova


Dak Kova
Green Martian, Warhoon, 5th level Fighting Man
Armor Class: 5 [15]
Hit Dice: 6+6
Move: 120'
Attacks: longsword, and shortsword or pistol or tusks
Damage: 1d8, and 1d6 or 1d12 or 2d4
No. Appearing: 1 (unique)
Save: F5
Morale: 7
Treasure Type: A
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
XP Value: 700
Social Status: 12
Str: 12 (+0), Dex: 12 (+0), Con: 16 (+2), Wis: 15 (+1), Int: 10 (+0), Chr: 8 (-1)
Equipment: longsword, shortsword, pistol (x2).
Dak Kova is a Green Martian from the horde of Warhoon. He was a Jed until he challenged and killed the Jeddak Bar Comas and assumed leadership of the Warhoons. The conflict resulted from a disagreement over the fate of John Carter following his capture by the Warhoons, though Dak Kova had regarded Bar Comas as weak and unfit to rule and needed little excuse to usurp his position.

Bar Comas had much the better of the battle, as he was stronger, quicker, and more intelligent. It soon seemed that the encounter was done, saving only the final death thrust, when Bar Comas slipped in breaking away from a clinch. It was the one little opening that Dak Kova needed, and hurling himself at the body of his adversary he buried his single mighty tusk in Bar Comas's groin and with a last powerful effort ripped the young jeddak wide open the full length of his body, the great tusk finally wedging in the bones of bar Comas's jaw. Victor and vanquished rolled limp and lifeless upon the moss, a huge mass of torn and bloody flesh.
- A Princess of Mars, Chapter 18, Chained in Warhoon

APoM Design Diary #15 - Woola


Woola
Calot
Armor Class: 6 [13]
Hit Dice: 6/40hp
Move: 120' (360' burst)
Attacks: bite
Damage: 2d10
No. Appearing: 1
Save: F5
Morale: 12
XP Value: 600
Str: 18 (+3), Dex: 18 (+3), Con: 13 (+1), Wis: 9 (+0), Int: 5 (-1), Chr: 12 (0)
Equipment: n/a
Woola is a calot and the loyal hound of John Carter and his family. Calots are about the size of a Shetland pony, with ten short legs and a frog-like head, and a small amount of bristly "hair". They are the fastest creatures on Mars. He can perform bursts of speed for 2-8 rounds of 360' per round, and requires an hour of rest before performing a burst again.

Woola was once a guard-dog for the Tharks at Korad and was assigned by Sola the green martian because she feared for Carter's safety since Korad was infested with white apes. Carter misunderstood Sola's intent and attempted to run away and was startled to find Woola was faster than him. So he leapt to a second story window, but was grabbed by a white ape. In the struggle he was pinned down by the ape and was about to be smashed by another apes cudgel when Woola intercepted and tore at the massive creature. Carter returned the favor by grabbing the cudgel and smashing the monstrous ape's head in and saving Woola.

Carter showed affection to Woola by petting his head, and never before having experienced kindness Woola became his loyal companion. After John Carter was forced to leave Mars, Woola became Carthoris's pet and later that of his younger sister Tara.


Dragonlance the Musical!

Dragonlance seems nearly forgotten in all the recent 80's nostalgia. The original series called The War of the Lance ran from 1984 to 1987. Exactly the years I was in high school. So I was in the prime demographic for the adventure modules and novels.

Margaret Weiss posted an image on her Facebook and mentioned it was from the Russian Dragonlance Musical. That was immediately intriguing. So after hunting down more information about it I came across the entire play on YouTube. And found several images online. The costumes  are clearly recognizable and not too bad. The set though is very minimal and relies on lighting to hide that fact.


Turns out there are several versions of the musical you can find videos of, each with different actors performing the parts. I didn't do an exhaustive review to see which was the best as I enjoyed the first one I stumbled across well enough.


Wizards of the Coast seems to have pretty much forgotten the Dragonlance line and nothing new has really come out since 2010 as far as I can tell. In retrospect the novels aren't necessarily the greatest literature of all time and is highly derivative of Lord of the Rings. At the time the novels were immensely enjoyable, though they come across as a little naive and cliche by today's standards. But I do think the second trilogy, the Time of the Twins is much more original and tells a rip roaring story of a mage and his quest for power. Despite it involving time travel, which is annoying enough especially in a fantasy novel.

Its kind of funny to think that most of the performers probably weren't even born yet when the books came out. That makes me feel old.

The musical is interesting, a Netflix series with high production values would be even better. You can watch the entire musical with subtitles on YouTube. It's not that bad and has some really good moments if you don't mind opera:


APoM Design Diary #14 - Air Plant Keeper


Air Plant Keeper
Red Martian, 1st level Fighting Man
Armor Class: 10 [9]
Hit Dice: 1/6hp
Move: 120'
Attacks: shortsword or pistol
Damage: 1d6 or 1d12
No. Appearing: 1-4
Save: F1
Morale: 12
XP Value: 100
Str: 11 (+0), Dex: 10 (+0), Con: 10 (+0), Wis: 9 (+0), Int: 13 (+1), Chr: 9 (0)
Equipment: shortsword, pistol.
Air plant keepers are skilled in the operations of the great air generators that maintain the breathable atmosphere of Barsoom. They are dedicated to their job and will defend the plant from hostile forces that may harm it.

___

Some things are switched around in the stat format. This is similar to the classic B/X layout. Still considering what would be the best format. I like the brevity in the Warriors of the Red Planet rulebook, but feel it might be a little too minimalistic.

One of the common criticisms of WotRP is that it mentioned Social Status as an attribute, but doesn't provide much more information. I discussed Social Status a bit in this thread odd74.proboards.com/thread/14144/social-status-lurking-ability-stat

Social Status is a very important part of the Barsoom novels and deserves more extrapolation. So maybe Social Status should be added to these NPC entries?

The Lost Art of Staggered Squares

In Alarums & Excursions issue 15 Gary Gygax notes "...I do not bother to place adventurers on any sort of graph if the group is three or less...more than three persons are in a party, we always require that they align themselves in a march order, the leader be in the front rank...when combat takes place we sometimes use miniatures...my favorite grid for character positions in combat is a large sheet of staggered squares covered with acetate." That is some interesting lore from way back. 

I was curious what the pros and cons of staggered squares might be over a square grid or hexes and not having much luck finding a good one online I made a sheet in Photoshop and printed it out large to test at the gaming table. It has some very interesting properties. Basically it works the same as hexagonal paper, but with the straight edge alignment properties of squares. The play test went really well, and you don't have that weird move effect where you move further relatively per square diagonally on a square grid.


Square grids and hexagons are ubiquitous in games, but when was the last time you saw staggered squares? I first became aware of the staggered squares grid when reading a copy of TSR's first sci-fi game Star Probe and its sequel Star Empires which has a map of the galaxy on a staggered grid.



Here is the grid I made, you are welcome to have and print out to try at home: