Bat in the Attic

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A blog on 40 years of gaming and Sandbox Fantasy.Robert Conleyhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/03863009007381185340noreply@blogger.comBlogger1384125
Updated: 3 days 16 hours ago

Castle Xyntillan now avaliable

Thu, 12/05/2019 - 17:32
This begins with a story, back in the 2000's a bunch of folks were organized by Necromancer Games to fleshed out Judges Guild's Wilderlands of High Fantasy. The project took a lot of work but finally saw the light of day.
One of the author involved was Gabor Lux (also known as Melan).

So as a follow up to the Wilderlands one of the project Necromancer Games was planning on was Tegel Manor and Gabor Lux was tapped as the author. We all knew him from his blog and other writings and was excited about seeing his take on the venerable adventure from Judges Guild.

But alas it was not to be.

Now flash forward a decade, Gabor Lux revisited his ideas for Tegal and made his is own haunted castle adventure, Castle Xyntillan.  You can take a look it yourself at his store front. It is $40 plus shipping. You can also read up what Gabor has to say about in this blog post.

Finally I did the cartography for the adventure.

You can get a sense of the detail and scale from the players maps that Gabor Lux provides Or this snippet below.

Enjoy!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Thoughts on metagaming

Tue, 11/26/2019 - 17:04
Recently a two posts popped up on my feed related to metagaming in tabletop roleplaying campaigns.

What a horrible night to have a curse 
Role Playing, Metagaming, and Differing Opinions

The Nine and Thirty Kingdoms 
Is This Metagaming?

Both authors make good points including the individual in the video linked from the first article. I do find conversation bog down in an infinite loop of corner cases and exceptions.

The way I think about stems from my changing views on what constitute "proper" roleplaying. If you would have asked me in the late 1980s I would have said proper roleplaying is making a background and personality for your character and acting as that character.

When I refereed, I encouraged this ideal through how the experience mechanics worked and later by using systems that had mechanics for detailing a character's personality like GURPS. But I learned that not all hobbyist were interested in acting. Whether it was preference or ability, these players would up roleplaying a version of themselves with the abilities of the character.

For the sandbox campaign I ran, I found that was more than adequate. I learned that the all that required is for the player to act as if they are there in the setting as the character. The main thing I needed to do reinforce that was insist on first person roleplaying. A player doesn't have to do funny voices or act in anyway other than as if they were there saying what they are saying.

The reason for this is that first person roleplaying engages most people social sense and helps them be more certain of what they can do in a roleplaying situation.

Thus my definition of metagaming changed. Metagaming became for me acting as your character for reasons other than those as if you are there. Which seems to clarify the corner cases and exceptions for me.

Those damn rules
However there is an important corner case that comes up a lot, players gaming the rules to their character's advantage. I find this a non-issue provided one thing is true, that the rules being use reflect the reality of the setting. They don't have to overly detailed like GURPS vs. Microlite 20. But they do have to be accurate in regards how the setting.

That way it doesn' t matter what approach the players takes. Whether it is pretending you are there, visualizing my description, acting accordingly, and trusting me to use the rules to come up with a ruling. Or knowing the rules forward and backwards and using the mechanics to figure out the best option for the situation. Both players wind up in the same spot in the end if the rules reflects the reality of the setting.

Note the reality of the setting is the not the same as realism.

This was something hammered into me eading the Old School Primer and by my experience running LARP events. The use of live action made certain debates over what you can or can't do physically moot.

The Old School Primer goes into explaining rulings not rules. When coupled with my reading up on the early days of the hobby, I realized that the rulings being made are not arbitrary but rather based on the referee's understanding of history and sometimes sports.

This can be extended to cover the fantastic. The rules of SJ Games Toon are not realistic but they do reflect the reality of Looney Tunes cartoons. The record for a standing long jump is a little over 12 feet but on Barsoom with 1/3 gravity you can leap much further than this.

Tying this back to the metagaming and rules issue if the decision making process and procedures of the mechanic reflect the setting's reality then it not metagaming to think in terms of rules. In fact may make the campaign more fun for some hobbyists as it dovetails better with how they think of things.

Wrapping it up
For me the point of running a tabletop roleplaying campaign is to have fun presenting interesting places and people for the players to interact with. With the campaign being open ended this results in fun surprises happening every session as things unfold. Metagaming gets in the way of this as it introduces distractions from experiencing the campaign.

Some metagaming is necessary due to the limitation of how the campaign is setup. The most important of which is that there is only one referee and many players. But beyond a handful of items, it is a good thing to try to eliminate metagaming and focus on being within the setting as the character doing interesting things.

A unrelated side note
I posted a minor update to the Majestic Wilderlands Basic Rules. I omitted some spell descriptions referenced on the spell list namely Magic Missile, Mirror Image, and Monster Summoning I

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Deal of the Day for the Wilderlands of High Fantasy.

Tue, 11/19/2019 - 13:44
Today I put up the Wilderlands of High Fantasy Maps as the Deal of the Day over on DriveThruRPG.  The deal will go live at 11 am Eastern Time.

Note that buying this will get you the Guidebook PDF as well. There are 18 maps to the Wilderlands divided into four sets of guidebooks and maps. This deal is for the first set of five maps including the City State of the Invincible Overlord.

The guidebook has an introduction and map commentary by me,. Each map in the guidebook is detailed with the following listings: Villages, Castles & Citadels, Idyllic Isles, Ruins & Relics, and Lurid Lairs. Any statistic or rule is compatible with Swords and Wizardry and various classic editions of the original roleplaying game.

This deal on the first set, is a good way for folks to see if they like the series without having to invest all at once. You will be credited the cost of the PDF if you decide the buy the PDF bundle later. Finally if you decide to buy print, I include the PDF of maps and guidebooks at no additional charge. The print version of each map is two 12" by 18" poster maps. They also have a generous overlap to make joining the map easy or to track features across the map boundaries.




Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Been working on the Wild North

Tue, 10/29/2019 - 16:40
Been working on the updated Wild North. A small snippet of something I just wrote. The map is the same style as Blackmarsh and has been revised to adjoin it to the north.

Niveny River (Hex 1516)
This river is the traditional border between Orenberg (Hex 1313) and Suzdal (Hex 1720). The river valley has long been a debatable land between the two cities and is currently dominated by Orenburg. Regardless of which power is dominate a thousand gold pieces are given as an offering to the Vodyan (10 HD, Triton) every year. The offering is given after the first thaw to the river king is to appease him so river travelers are left unmolested during the summer season.







Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Last day for some Viking Adventures

Sat, 10/12/2019 - 03:28
Douglas Cole of Gaming Ballistics and I have gamed together and since he started publishing often wound up chatting on the same podcast. He has created a distinctive fantasy Viking themed setting called Nordlond. Along with doing work with GURPS, The Fantasy Trip, and his own 5e variant Dragon Heresy.



His latest kickstarter is expanding Nordlund with a series of adventures. It now in its last 24 hours and like all his projects looks to be fun, and interesting. This version is for the The Dungeon Fantasy RPG by SJ Games which implements the GURPS system as a standalone fantasy RPG. I hope you check it and get in on the kickstarter. Douglas has delivered on all his kickstarters and spares no expense on the production values.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Evocative Maps

Fri, 09/20/2019 - 20:13
While Google+ was a thing I posted this map from my Majestic Wilderlands campaign


The party talked to the dragon Mori (center and up) and succeeded converting her to their cause. In turn she explained what she knew about the forest. But rather than write a description, I described it visually with the above map. Figuring that it was more effective in visually conveying the highlights of what could be found.

Recently I did another for the current Swords & Wizardry campaign I running using my Majestic Fantasy rules. In this case it is about the Valley of the Dead Queens northwest of Viridistan.
As with Dearthwood, the characters were able to have a long discussion with allies knowledgeable about the region. I felt it was easy to convey the information visually. In the valley you can see the towers of the Dead Queens along with the Obsidan Tower and the Serd Worms.

Keep in mind the scale of the Majestic Wilderlands is 12.5 miles per hex not 5 miles hex. So the maps are larger than the original counterpart. Which is why villages are now castles or towns. 
Below is how the above looks on the main map I drew for myself.

Finally here is the first poetic map I drew. It was for the last GURPS campaign I ran in the Majestic Wilderlands
And the written summary It is written from the point of view of the rebel giving the information.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Your help is needed for Jim Kramer of Usherwood Publishing

Mon, 09/16/2019 - 16:52
OSRIC along with the Basic Fantasy RPG ignited the OSR as we know it today. Jim Kramer is part of the OSRIC community and through his company, Usherwood Publishing, offered a print version of the OSRIC rules as well as his own works.

Jim and his family need your help. The OSRIC community explains,
You may know Jim Kramer from his Usherwood Publishing modules & supplements, or his work helping produce works like OSRIC and Knockspell. You probably didn’t know Jim had multiple brain surgeries to remove tumors, and the battle has gotten much harder. To help Jim and his family during this difficult time, a group of his friends, collaborators, and first edition enthusiasts banded together to make this fundraiser fanzine, where all royalties go directly to Jim and his family.To this end the Saving Throw fanzine was created.  You can look over the table of contents and buy the Saving Throw fanzine from this link. Or look over his store and if something interests you buy something from there.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Journey's End (for now), the Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches has been released!

Thu, 09/12/2019 - 15:01
I am pleased to announce the release of Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches. This is the fourth of four products covering the eighteen maps that encompasses the Judges Guild Wilderlands setting. This product covers four of the maps as detailed below. The four sets combined will cover a region equal in size to Western Europe providing years and decades of adventuring for you and your group.

Unlike many setting products, the Wilderlands sketches out the overview and history in light detail. Then presents a comprehensive list of local detail in a compact format that is customizable. This eliminates much of the tedious work involved in creating a setting and allows the referee to focus on the campaign and the grand adventures the players face as their characters.

This is presented as two products both in PDF and Print on Demand.

The first product is a 44 page guidebook containing a brief overview of and commentary on Maps Fifteen to Map Eighteen of the Wilderlands along with lists covering details on Villages, Castles, Lairs, Ruins, and Islands.

Due to the extensive use of monsters from the supplements to the original edition, this release details 7 monsters and provides full statistics suitable for use with Swords and Wizardry and similar RPGs.

The Guidebook for the Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches also includes charts, tables, and rules concerning the Triumphant Grand Tactical mapping system used by the Wilderlands, how to build strongholds, and establishing baronies. In addition information has been added on the demographics of the Wilderlands along with new rules governing pastoral and nomadic cultures. Because Tula, the City of Wizards, plays a prominent role in this region, rules for potion and magic item creations has been included. Finally as the Isle of the Blest straddles the corners of four maps, a combined map and list has been added as a bonus chapter. This includes the background originally written by Scott Fulton in Pegasus #3.

Included with the Guidebook are letter sized blank map of the Wilderlands that can be used to take notes during a campaign. A PDF with the map legend. A letter size black and white guide to the placement of each of the 18 maps within the Wilderlands.

Finally a giant sized preliminary version of the master map that I used to crop the individual maps from. With the right printer this can be printed as a full scale map 5 feet wide and 8 feet long. With the PDF you can selectively copy out regions as complete maps that overlap the borders of the 18 maps. After the release of the final set of maps this file will be updated as a layered PDF allowing for custom maps of the Wilderlands to be copied or created.



The second product is a set of four maps:  Isles of the Dawn Map Fifteen, Southern Reaches Map Sixteen, Silver Skein Isles Map Seventeen, and Ghinor Highlands Map Eighteen. When ordered via print on the demand they are printed in two overlapping halves each on a 12" by 18" poster. In addition each map is presented as a 22" by 17" PDF file.

The maps have been redrawn from the original in a color style. Instead of the distinct symbols of the original maps, terrain has been drawn as a transparent fill and vegetation represented by colored areas. This allows both terrain and vegetation to overlap. Representing more accurately the complexity and diversity of the Wilderland's geography.

This release is the final book in a series of four covering the Wilderlands of High Fantasy.

A preview PDF

The Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches Guidebook

The Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches Map


Bundles

I now offer bundles of all four sets of guidebooks and maps at 25% off buying separately. There are four bundles two sets of print or PDF for the guidebooks, and two sets of print or PDF for the maps. DrivethruRPG doesn't allow maps and books to be mixed in the same bundle (or order).

Wilderlands Guidebook Bundle (PDF)
Wilderlands Guidebook Bundle (Print)
Wilderlands Map Bundle (PDF) 
Wilderlands Map Bundle (Print)

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Some thoughts on Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax Part II

Mon, 09/02/2019 - 22:52
This is the second in my series post about the legacy of Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax.

 

I consider myself informed on the legacy of the two men and the history of DnD and tabletop roleplaying. There are other that have spent far more time, and money on the subject than I. Sharing what they learned in formal films and books.

However for each of us to come to our own conclusion on the topic we need a path to get there. The sources I have used were the following

Playing at the World by Jon Peterson
The Hawk and Moor series by Kent David Kelly
The First Fantasy Campaign by Dave Arneson and the Judges Guild Staff
Dave Arneson's True Genius by Rob Kuntz

Gygax Q and A series on various Forums
Dragonsfoot
Enworld

The TSR Q and A series on Dragonsfoot

Old school forums such as
The Comeback Inn
The ODnD discussion forum.
Knights and Knaves

Recently there an another new source of information the Secrets of Blackmoor documentary which I haven't gotten completely through yet.

Browsing through the above when you have the time and interest will lead you to other sources that I haven't mentioned.

The reason I haven't given you my opinion yet is that throughout the recent round of discussion there are lot of editorializing and opinion given but nobody is explaining how you can form your own opinion. Especially in a way that is compatible with the time and budget you have for a hobby. Everything that list except for the First Fantasy Campaign should be readily accessible to anybody reading this. You don't have to digest it all at once. Just read (or watch) through what you can when you can.

Eventually you get to a point where you have your own answer to the questions I posted in Part 1.

And no I am not going to make you wait for a Part III for my answer.

So what does Rob think?

  • Would have Dungeons & Dragons be written without Dave's help or Dave running the Lake Geneva session?

My conclusion is no. In the absence of that session happening in Lake Geneva maybe Gygax would have followed up man to man section of chainmail with a Metagaming Melee type wargame or some other type of wargame that had the players playing individual characters (like Gladiators). But it is Dave Arneson who the first to put all the element that we know as tabletop roleplaying. And more important did the work to figure out how to make it fun and interesting.


  • What was involved in developing the idea of a tabletop roleplaying campaign in Dave Arneson's Blackmoor Campaign.

Blackmoor started out as a miniature wargame campaign. Not a traditional one where the players were in essence the armies on board. In Blackmoor, like in the various Braunsteins being run, the players played the actual commanders and other important characters. Not just the good guys but the baddies as well. 
Dave's role was that of a neutral arbiter. He created the setting, drew up the rules to resolve battle, logistics, and prices list. Within those constraints the players were free to do anything that they would as if they were there. In short a wargame campaign but a very sophiscated one.
What turned Blackmoor into the first tabletop roleplaying was Dave's willingness to say yes. When Peter Gaylord wanted to play a wizard, he said yes. When Dave Fant figured out how to transform into a vampire, he said yes. And so forth and so on. Week by week the focus of the Blackmoor campaign shifted from a struggle between good guys versus bad guys to the individual exploits of the players as their characters.

My opinion that it is the introduction of Blackmoor dungeons the defines the clear line between two phases of the campaign. Prior the dungeon Blackmoor was mostly a wargame campaign, afterwards it was mostly about the exploits of the individual characters.

The reason I picked the dungeons, because the First Fantasy Fantasy campaign and other anecdotes clearly state that the good guys players were punished with exile because they lost Castle Blackmoor to the baddies by spending too much time exploring the dungeon. Instead of learning their lesson when they arrived at Lake Gloomy they went off to explore new dungeons.

I know my statement makes it sound like a AHA! moment. But I can't stress enough that this developed over weeks and months. With Dave and his players constantly trying things out.

When Dave goes down to Lake Geneva to run that fateful adventure. He has nearly two years of running Blackmoor under his belt. The same amount of time Gygax used from the writing his first manuscript and running the Greyhawk campaign, to the publication of Dungeons & Dragons.

Also keep in mind as Gygax ran Greyhawk, Dave continued to run Blackmoor that the two corresponded frequently.


  • What would have happened to Dave Arneson innovations if Gygax never had written Dungeons & Dragons?

So here the thing, Dave does not have a lot of published works to his name. Nearly all of the anecdotes paints Dave as a genius at running campaigns, making wargames.  But shined when it was face to face not words on paper. But Gary Gygax was able to see a project through publications and did so a number of time prior and after Dungeons & Dragons.

So what would have happened if Gygax never had written Dungeons & Dragons. We would have seen Megarry's Dungeon boardgame at some point. We would also probably seen wargames where the players played individual characters. Probably something like GDW's Engarde, the first Boot Hill, or the later Metagaming's Melee and Wizard by Steve Jackson. We would have probably seen some Braunstein scenarios published.

But without that Lake Geneva session run by Dave inspiring Gygax, we would have not have tabletop roleplaying. When I read through First Fantasy Campaign and the various accounts, I notices there is a lot of focus on the wargame side of the campaign. In terms of rules, scenarios, the miniatures, and the props being made.

But because Dave had to travel to Lake Geneva, he couldn't bring all that so brought the part of the campaign that was easier to transport (and popular in its own right) the dungeons. Hence Gygax was inspired to run his own dungeon campaign, Greyhawk.

My opinion that the dungeon was the perfect setting to convey how different this game was. Compared to other type of adventure locales, the dungeon is clearly focused on players acting as individual characters. In this case exploring the monster filled maze.

Gygax contribution to the development of tabletop roleplaying was to take what Dave did and figure out to make it work for himself. Then write it in a way that was understandable for everybody else to learn for themselves.

In my view that was as an impressive feat as Dave developing the concept of tabletop roleplaying. Is why I view that there is no path to what we have as a hobby and industry that doesn't run through the two of them.

Wrapping it up
There are people who wrote whole books about the subject (and filmed documentaries to boot). I can't encompass all that into two post. What I can do is outline for you the path I took to reach the basic conclusions I reached above. Hope this help.

In the meantime
Fight On!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Some thoughts on Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson Part I

Fri, 08/30/2019 - 17:04
A recent article that was published has ignited discussion, some heated, about the legacy of Dave Arneson relative to Gary Gygax. I have my opinions which I will explain in part 2. But the process I went through involved me answering three questions for myself.

  • Would have Dungeons & Dragons be written without Dave's help or Dave running the Lake Geneva session?
  • What was involved in developing the idea of a tabletop roleplaying campaign in Dave Arneson's Blackmoor Campaign.
  • What would have happened to Dave Arneson innovations if Gygax never had written Dungeons & Dragons?


Link to Part IIIn other news
Sorry for the light blogging this month. The time I have for this was mostly consumed by two major projects. Drawing maps for Gabor Lux's upcoming Castle Xyntillan, and the Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches. I am happy to say that the guidebooks are going through the print approval process. So release should be in two to three weeks.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs