Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Greetings friends, gamers and webtravelers. I always have the best of intentions in getting the Mazes up and going again but life has been busy of late.

I do have some content to upload and will try to do so after tax season.

We have enjoyed a very long campaign with a very eclectic gaming group for the last nine months or so, and I say eclectic because it has a diverse mix of game experience and ages. Our youngest player is nine, we have a preteen boy, a teen aged girl, and several middle aged folks.  So it has been very interesting from that vantage.

It has also been loads of fun and I have been working for over a year now on the material in the hopes I can soon offer a simple set of rules and a campaign module.

Now I'm kind of hungry to play some Tekumel!

A keeper for me from this campaign is an innovation I introduced to deliver myself from the headaches DM's face sometimes in mediating party relations, decision making and treasure sharing: The Thane.

The Thane is basically the party Caller for those who know what that is, as well as the official party leader and final arbiter of party decisions and treasure distribution. In the setting, it is a warrior culture and the Thane can be challenged only under four conditions that must all take place:

1. By right of arms in a non-lethal duel, though deaths can occur accidentally.

2.Only if the Challenger has at least half of the party's support.

3. The duel can only be fought at the beginning of each of the four major seasonal festivals.

4. It is nonmagical. Wizards must have a stand in.

With the Thane protocol in place, I am effectively removed from all party squabbles, any people not happy with leadership must contend for it and have some support, and if trouble does arise, it is settled in a game scenario during festival.

Drawbacks are obvious, but this has eliminated disputes over magic items and treasure in our games. It has also eliminated endless dithering over choices and path decisions. Liberty is given at times under certain conditions to not follow the Thane's edicts but you cannot try to sway others.

Give it a try if you are having problems in this area (and all groups see this from time to time, it's only human!)

Peace and good games.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

New Dungeon content coming soon...The Overlords of the Sunken Temple!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Book Review: A Coffee Table Art Book You can Use For D&D

While Christmas shopping in  a bookstore  yesterday I happened upon a very remarkable book in the young reader's section, a book entitled simply, "Fantasy; An Artist's Realm"  written and illustrated by Ben Boos in 2010 and published by Candlewick Press. You can see the very striking image it has on the 9 x 12 embossed  hardcover; that caused me to pick it up and flip through it, then read through it with interest. I managed to put it back on the shelf but when by chance my son and I returned to the same store in the evening I couldn't pass on it as it seemed a tool for any DM or the go-to book for any group  with younger players or for introducing new players.

According the credits inside, the author did art for best selling video games whose titles are not specified. I am assuming it was conceptual art since every single one of  the book's 83 pages are covered with beautiful, top quality fantasy painting illustrations by a highly skilled and trained artist.  Monsters, arms and armor, magic items, and character types are all beautifully rendered and explained textually in such a way that if a new player at your game was unfamiliar with, say, the difference between chainmail and scale mail,  or, what a hobgoblin looks like, you could just hand them the book.

 The jewel of the illustrative collection of the book are the opening pages, which look like  two ornate  banded wooden doors; when you fold each side outward you are looking at a six-panel map of the world of Perigord. It is not to scale but is instead painted in an illustrative manner, like a mural. The Map conforms perfectly to all the central features of any good D&D campaign map: small world setting, wilderness and ruins areas, several fortresses and villages, and a teeming metropolis called the City of Galliene, complete with a Thieves Quarter, a bay gated by two shining pillars, and an army of Paladins.

Perigord provides a perfect ready start campaign setting, though you would need to flesh it out considerably. Younger players would probably be satisfied with it as is for an adventure environ. The text of the book reads almost like a Marco Polo style account furnished to people who might visit the realms, giving plenty of seed ideas to any DM or players for a campaign, and the beauty of is it that every different campaign would probably grow totally differently, because there's just enough information for a common starting place but enough empty spaces to fill with homebrew material.

It becomes quickly  obvious  to an old school games reader that the author has played Dungeons and Dragons; the character types depicted and explained in the book are the basic prototype classes from OD&D/AD&D; paladins, fighters, clerics, magic users, druids, and thieves. Think of the old "Gnomes" art books (if you're familiar with them) but about character classes and other fantastic creatures besides gnomes.

Elves and faeries, as well as Dwarves, are mentioned...but no Halflings. There are some beautiful paintings of Dwarven weapon and jewelry craft, as well as of the named magical Relic Swords of the Paladin Orders.  There is a Minotaur race that shows the author's video game parentage, as does as a City of the Dead in Perigord named...what else..the Necropolis...and populated by intelligent and semi-civilized Undead. 

There are dozens of locales on the Map which could be adventure sites that would entertain a gaming group for months…ruins and labyrinths and such. Hobgoblins are to Perigord what Orcs are to Middle earth and there is some very interesting material detailing Hobgoblin culture, society, arms and armor, and racial variations. Giants feature as a very common dilemma for the realms, either as impetuous and troublesome  neighbors to keep pacified by any means possible or else as nearly unbeatable foes to try and defend against when they become angry. There is an entire bestiary of faery and fell races to furnish any curious mind with the basics of such beings and their relationship to the game. The Thieves Guild includes an order of female rogues known as the Shadowmaidens who serve the kings of Galliene as spies and burglars of enemies. There is a city on a hill accessible only by a secret mountain entrance…a city  known as Skellig where nearly all magic users go to learn their art or gather lore. There are many such potential campaign nuggets scattered all throughout the text. One neat gem is the depiction of a dark tower outisde the Necropolis called mysteriously the Tower of Seryu....throughout the book there are a few cryptic allusions to the Tower and a growing dark power emanating from it but no hard data--meaning you, the DM can fit the Tower and the name Seryu into your game in a wholly original manner. 

In fact, the entire book feels and reads like a role playing game…but without any rules. The setting, with its maps, grimoires, and bestiaries, can be plugged right into any D&D system old or new in about 20 minutes. And I intend to do just that. I know players who enjoy high fantasy will be thrilled... picture sitting in a tavern with a Minotaur on one side of you and an dwarf on the other, nonchalantly drinking together. In Perigord, a Minotaur in a tavern will stand out--he will be noticed and probably inspire some uneasiness in most--but he will not be an entirely strange sight in the cities of men. That  fact gives you an idea of the flavor of the setting. The tree palace shown on the cover is of course an Elven architecture.

I just wanted to let D&D players know about this treasure--even with no relation to the game it would be a very great read to give as a gift to a younger reader who likes art and has an imagination. If nothing else, you will pull ideas from it and enjoy the art. One of my favorite illustrations inside is a two page panel of a Paladin dueling a demon armed with a wicked vorpal sword. Some of the art looks like very realistic acrylic or water color painting and other parts look like colored medieval woodcuts, like the demon vs. the Paladin. There is a two panel realistic painting of a sylvan healing woman playing her guitar by a pond or stream that is very reminiscent of the work of John William Waterhouse.  . And the detailed border work the artist comes up with looks like the metal works adorning old illuminated manuscripts or carvings bedecking the treasure items of an ancient king. They are painted in a manner that almost looks 3-D, real illusions.

There is even a two panel map with text of a maga-dungeon in the form of an example of the Minotaur subterranean cities!

I scoured the Internet for images of the book's interior and couldn't find any but I did find an old blog apparently published by the author/illustrator. It's here:


Hopefully you can find this tome and add it to your gaming shelf--it's a real keepsake.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

This brief update is to keep my blog from being deactivated for inactivity. However, I have been at the designing table and do plan to resume blogging again. Hope everyone is having good times!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Edgar Rice Burroughs Venus series has some tremendous material.

ERB is, of course, the creator of Tarzan and John Carter of Mars books, the latter being recently adapted to screen in the Walt Disney film "John Carter". His Venus books feature a swashbuckling hero named Carson Napier, an earth man who builds a rocket ship which crash  lands on Venus and exposes Napier to so many adventures that the story makes Indiana Jones seem like a homebody.

While researching the  Venus series online I discovered that a 2013 film based on the first book...Pirates of Venus...is supposedly underway via a certain Angelic Pictures.

I read "Pirates of Venus" and "Lost on Venus".

 I absoultely loved it--it is cliffhanger page turner stuff with races, monsters and cultures that would inspire any DM. There is even a castle and city of re-animated corpses controlled telepathically by an evil prince on Venus...an undead army! Eat your heart out Romero.

Frankly, it is not as good as the John Carter of Mars series, being slightly less majestic and sweeping in it's panorama of a world. However, this is like saying that gold is not as good as platinum.

Be forewarned that the books have a whiff of ERB's politics here and there which, one can be sure, are not politically correct. There is an overt nod to the KKK in one chapter, and unmistakable praise for racialist scientific theories that were conventions of ERB's day. 

This does not bother me in the least--the book was written in the 30's and during that period of American history... before expose journalism became vogue...the Klan enjoyed very widespread popularity and politicians routinely pandered to them if they wanted even a chance of being elected. Take in in the context of it's era and it would not be offensive to anyone in the least.

The chief antagonists of the books I read were "Thorists", Thorism being a very thinly veiled motif of Marxism. You can't read the first book and fail to guess what ERB thought about Marxism/Socialism...he hated it, obviously, and regarded it with all the horror of his American contemporaries. 

If none of these things bother you (and they comprise mere sentences of the books) you will love the stuff! I read both books in two days and wished I lived on Amtor!

I think ERB's materials can be interpreted and re-interpreted for many years to come--and I imagine that when you watch a lot of sci fi TV and theater films of the 50's and 60's, you are probably getting treated by people who were heavily inspired by ERB and his counterparts.

All I can say is I hope that another ERB film goes off!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Norman "Mini-Con" Game Meet Up

We welcome our friends and fellow gamers to an open house "mini-con" to be held Saturday, April 28th at 4400 W. Main in Norman, from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm. 

 This event is being held in the  community recreation hall of Canadian Shores Mobile Village which is just west of Sooner Mall on Main St.  The Recreation hall is just inside the entrance of the community and has ample parking space. There will be tables with role playing games set up, board games, and general fellowship and recreation. Refreshments will be made available. We hope to connect  players, have a great time, and do some serious gaming.  You are invited! Whether you are new to gaming or an old hand, you will find a game for you! 

Here are the planned games; please e-mail me at j.becker@inbox.com with the game you are interested in playing. Games will be open to late comers, inasmuch as is possible. Characters  will be provided by the GM's, so all you have to do is show up, sit down and play!( First come first serve on characters…!)--

Justice Incorporated

Justice Incorporated is being hosted by game referee Steven Rycroft.  Steve is a very experienced game master, I can tell you that from having sat in on several of his games. Justice Incorporated is a game based on the pulp fiction of the 20' s and 30's--masked heroes, hard boiled private eyes, ruthless gangsters, and occult horror.  I don't know yet what kind of game Steve has up his sleeve--horror, mystery, vigilante or crime noir, but judging from past scenarios, I suspect it will be a very fun session. Steve's games tend to be very story based and fast paced.

Boot Hill (3rd Edition)

Brent Davis will be running a raucous game of  3rd Edition Boot Hill. Boot Hill is a role playing game of the Wild West--gunslingers, damsels in distress, gamblers, lawmen, outlaws and hang-em high judges. Play a character in one of America's early frontier towns when law and order came from the barrel of a gun and the landscape was as savage as the brave men and women who settle on it. Brent's games are also very story based and highly character driven--he is a most engaging GM and player and if a western fantasy is your kick you will get a good game!

Original Dungeons and Dragons

Yours truly will be conducting a good old fashioned game of OD&D--Original Dungeons and Dragons! This will be a medieval fantasy dungeon adventure using the very first set of D&D rules ever published in 1973. This is the game that started them all--even before 1st Edition Advanced D&D, , 3.5 or Pathfinder. Play a warrior, cleric or wizard. Perhaps an elf, dwarf or hobbit is to your liking as a character….brave a misty dungeon of long buried secrets  that pits your wits and your sword( or spells)against traps, puzzles, tricks and monsters to win the fabulous treasure…an old school romp through dungeons as they were played by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson! Don't split the party!

Settlers of Catan

If you are more into exciting board games, try the Settlers of Catan, run by John!! Forget what you know about Monopoly or Sorry…Settlers is like no board game you've ever played. It is profoundly simple to play, but highly engaging and strategy based as you compete against other settlers to construct roads, hamlets, and towns on the land of Catan.  Points begin to pile up as the settlers build but their secret event and power cards, carefully hidden and wisely used, can shake up the game in unexpected ways. You will trade resources cards with other players to get what you need to build your city, but someone who is your ally during one turn might be your toughest opponent the next!  Victory never was so close….but come end of game, only the most determined will win!

So come out, meet new people, and play a game. E-mail me at j.becker@inbox.com for further information or to request a seat at a particular game. If you attend, please do drive carefully within our community as children are often at play. Hope to see you there! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Entering the Mazes

We enjoyed a great session of some 1st Edition AD&D goodness this past Saturday.

Since our scheduled DM announced he would be unable to run our normal game, yours truly DM'ed  from my Jennerak campaign material.

The four players rolled up 1st level characters which included a priestess of Bast the Cat Goddess named Aniya from the far lands of Kishtar, an elf magic user named Belarus, a gnome thief named Hoorstenfast, and a human fighter named Desmond .

 The characters met in the sea town of White Whelm. Things looked a bit bad when Aniya bristled at a town guard and drew her weapon which led to her and Desmond being arrested and hauled to the dungeons for a night.  Aniyas feigned insanity as a defense. They were  fined and Aniya was sentenced to a lashing. However, the torturer would not actually whip her but lashed the stones instead and bid her cry out as though in pain. They were released and sought lodging at the Sinful Centaur, where Belarus was busy gathering information and Hoorstenfast was planning on thieving from some drunken dwarves.

Belarus learned that the town had become more oppressive in recent years because it was tributary to the Barony of Kor and Baron Kor had had a change of personality after fighting in the Holy Wars in the East. Kor, whose banner is a black lion, has become somewhat of a despot now, and it has trickled down to his environs and their local governments. Moreover, he has been engaged in skirmishes with the elves on the Borderlands and his men have become hostile towards any elves in his lands as possible spies of the forest Kingdom. Belarus met an elf spy named Erretas in the Sinful Centaur who warned him to beware the shields of the Black Lion.

Hoorstenfast learned of a great sea monster named Drasilisk who demanded tribute in flesh or wealth from all who crossed into his waters--the Dwarves escaped by doing obeisance to Drasilisk and feeding him orc prisoners they had aboard the vessel they had chartered.

Belarus also inquired as to the location of Shamrann, a powerful wage whom he had heard tale of in other places. Erretas told him where to find the mage.

The next morning, the party went down on the beach to a walled in cave opening which serves as the home and fortress of the wizard Shamrann. After some parleying with the bizarre Gort, the wizard's servant (an unidentifiable creature of unknown origin), they passed by the two Brass Golems guarding the cave and into the library/cave/laboratory of the preoccupied Shamrann.  They told Shamrann that they sought both employment and knowledge and so learned of the wizard's fixation upon the vanished Jennerak civilization, mostly due to his assertion that they had discovered the secret of immortality and might still be in existence somewhere.

Shamrann claimed to have traveled the planes (he had once possessed the Codex of the Infinite Planes) where he met a creature called the Speaker, who claimed to possess all knowledge of all things in time and space past, present and future. On his planar travels he had also warred with a demon and freed the creature Gort. The Speaker said that the Jennerak had found immortality and that Shamrann might have it if he were to unbury their lost relics and books.

So Shamrann hired the party to travel to the Lonely Coast and enter---The Forbidden Mazes of the Jennerak.  He outfitted them and provided a vessel but asked for 10% of any monetary treasure found to fund his research and any Jennerak relics or writings. They set sail the following morning. Shamrann sent some goodies with them--five potions of healing and two scrolls--Protection from Undead and Protection from Shapechangers.

Upon arriving at the Lonely Coast a day, a night and a day later and using a map  provided by Shamrann, the found an old hill whose summit seemed to show artifices of human or Jennerak hands. A rampart led up to the hill which might have been an old road.  Atop the hill, they could see that all of the hills in this wasteland of grasslands and gnarled trees lacked any discernible peaks except the summit they had gained. They also found a wall built into the hill with two stone doors. And they found the Guardian…the Guardian was a fat tatooed bald man wearing a diaper like loin cloth and living in a wooden tub at the dungeon entrance.  He was eating when they found him, and he looked very happy to see new faces.

The Guardian informed the party that the dungeon doors could only be opened by means of a magic password that he alone knew. He would open the doors if they would play his game. His game was that they must face him as he faced them (stripped to loin cloths and with their weapons at a distance by a rock) , seated indian style and answer a riddle put to them. They got two tries--if they won, they might pass unmolested into the Mazes of the Jennerak. They asked "What if we lose?" "You end up like them behind that rock," he replied, pointing to a boulder. Upon looking behind the rock, the party found a pile of ancient and not so ancient bones of various races. When asked if anyone ever beat him, he said yes…"one fellow did a few years back. But that one never returned from the Mazes!" upon which saying he laughed with gusto. He also told them they must play the game upon exiting the dungeon as well.

The party agreed, not having much choice and guessing the strange man was far more than he seemed to be. Much to his consternation, they unraveled his riddle and were admitted. He promised them, however, that the riddle would be much harder next time.

The odd being leaned close to the wall and whispered the magic word, and true to his words, the doors opened. However, as the party passed in, they closed fast shut behind them!

Upon getting torches and a lantern glowing, they passed into a hall filled with ornate pillars and statues of beatific looking men and women they presumed to be the Jennerak. They bore inscriptions in ancient Jennerak (which some party members took as a language when creating their characters) declaring praises to an unknown but apparently good deity called "He of the Light".  They were investigating the hall and its doors and archways as well as for any secret doors when Desmond the fighter set his lantern down in front of an open doorway.

A spear came hurling out of the shadows beyond and struck him, doing three points of damage.  The party was suddenly beset by a chorus of howls and screeches as bestial naked humanoids covered in long hair and sporting gigantic bulbous white eyes with no pupils burst into the hall from two archways. There were six in all--three of them beset Desmond at the archway and three of them attacked the remainder of the party inside the hall. The beast men had giant misshapen ears and sharp claws but were intelligent enough to wield their spears efficiently as well.

The melee went badly for the party at first due to bad rolls but they rallied and managed to defeat the beast men, although Belarus, the elf magic user, who had only 4 hit points to begin with, got down to two and it was touch and go.  The party wiped their swords on the dead aberrations but were reminded of the value of stealth and marching order--mages should stick behind other classes.  The party then heard footsteps running away in the next chamber and rushed into an even larger room that had several door-less exits and some kind of channel/reservoir filled with water apparently pumped up from below. A dark figure disappeared with a splash before they could catch up with it.  No one wanted to dive in after it. The most notable feature in the room was a giant statue --perhaps "He of the Light"--knocked off its pedestal and replaced with a small, crude demonic four armed  and cyclopean Baboon image. Desmond quite rashly kicked the statue from its place but nothing happened.

The party retreated back to the first hall and searched an adjacent chamber where some relics were found in locked chests. Hoorstenfast picked a lock on one chest and they found an old scroll written in very corrupted Jennerak and quite younger than the other goods wherein someone had apparently detailed the demise of the locale.  It could not be completely deciphered even by those who read Jennerak. It was accompanied by a map of a vast underground warren--a real "mega-dungeon". There was also some monetary and precious stone treasure as well as a long sword of old Jennerak make which seems to be magical if it's lack of aging and lightness are of any signifigance. Desmond was the only character who could wield it so he naturally fell heir to it.

And here we concluded the adventure until next time. As DM, I got to roleplay several memorable parts, my favorites being a drunken dwarf, the A.D.D. Shamrann, the Guardian, and Erettas the elf spy. The players role played well and we had a great time. My son played and took a liking to his character which was really a spur of the moment quick roll up.

I indulged my fascination with the Jennerak concept by using the actual Forbidden Mazes map from the movie of the namesake of my blog and many of my dungeons....

Thought I'd share it with you. And ask a question--what do you as a DM do when a thief fails to pick a lock but then party members smash the lock, rendering the lock picking a moot point anyway?