Tuesday, November 17, 2015

More Collage...

Continuing work on Down in the Dungeon...

 I am really enjoying doing this though it kept me up til 2 AM  the other night...I realize my limitations and lack of color savvy but I do like the overall vibe, especially happy with the Reaper's robes.

For some reason this piece reminds me of some of Ronnie James Dio's verses:

"The world is full of kings and queens who blind your mind and steal your dreams, they tell you black is really white, and the moon is just the sun at night, and if you walk in golden halls, you get to keep the gold that falls, it's heaven and hell. Fool, fool, look for the answers." (Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell on the album of the same title).

You know, I don't think he intended one ounce of metaphor in that line...

May he rest in peace.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Caves of Quarl

I finally own a scanner/printer again after almost a year of not having one.

This means I will get to upload some of my maps and some more free dungeon


I have plans for the Caves of Quarl. I originally wanted to call them the Caves of

Quarn but discovered that some one else already thought of that name for a

video game level...

With the caves of Quarl, quite simply, I don't want it to be laborious and so after

setting a few guidelines for the design, I will be almost completely using the

random monsters, traps and treasure generation tables to populate and stock

the megadungeon.

I will then write the Dungeon Key and somehow reconcile all of the elements in

the dungeon...

When I run this for players, I intend to introduce some sort of teleportation

artifact to the party which will allow them to come and go from the Dungeon at

will, though I will place limitations upon it. Times of day it may be used, charges,

too complex to be used in the middle of combat, etc.

This is because Quarl's vastness is such that making forays in and out without

such a device is not really tenable--once you are down there, you are down

there. It would take days to make the journey out from the lower reaches, and

wandering monsters are common in Quarl.

The other map I am going to upload and will have ready before Quarl is a

double level map of the Sunken Temple.

The Sunken Temple is not an aquatic adventure...it is the remains of a Temple of

Poseidon that was built before the seas diminished, leaving the Temple ruin

inland. In course of time, earthquakes and tectonic activity have consigned the

old sea temple to the subterranean realm. Humans were driven out of the region

by the Erlking, Lord of Goblinkind.

The lost Temple of Poseidon now rests under the Goblin City.

In the original campaign where I first ran this dungeon, the players discovered

it after being  taken prisoner in the Goblin City, being thrown into an arena

where they were beset by giant beetles for the entertainment of the Goblin folk,

and winding up going down a Beetle hole to try to survive the onslaught.

They dead ended at an ancient underground wall--just as the Beetles were about

to eat them, a secret door opened--the players had no choice and rushed in.

The door closed behind them, and they found a strange underground ruin.

It was well lit by maintained torches and after descending several long stone

stairs and crossing a few bridges, they came into a little underground town

where a human cleric played father to hosts of orc, hobgoblin and goblin

children and teenagers.  Some of the clan were adults by now, as well, but all

were friendly. The confused players learned that a mysterious power emananting

from the Sunken Temple had assisted the cleric in bringing up relatively

benevolent humanoids--most were orphans and street urchins from the city

of the Erlking.

The cleric told them the way to a great cavernous shaft that led to the old

temple, and told them that a wondrous relic lay within the Temple..however, it

was also guarded by a  Demon who was set there by the Chaos gods to ensure

that no one ever retrieve the relic or restore the altars of the Sunken Temple...

I will be uploading the Sunken Temple map and Dungeon key shortly!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Art Project "Down In the Dungeon"

Here are some shots of the beginning of an art project I am working on called...for now at least...Down in the Dungeon.

What you see above is not what it will be...the final paint coat will be key to making this what I want it to be.

I am a big fan of collage art and make quite a bit of that.

Most of my collage art is not fantasy themed, though, so I don't share it on the Mazes... Down in the Dungeon, however, is meant to evoke an old school D&D vibe.

The pieces so far are all found/bought/scavenged toys and game pieces.

The death's head is from a bottle of cologne I had, some of the dungeon heroes are either plastic knights from a dollar store toy rack or salvaged board game pieces. The robes on Death are paper towels soaked in glue and water.

Obviously the maze structures are all Styrofoam but I brushed them with acetone to pit and age them. I will prime them black and then drybrush them to look like stone.

The frame and the fabric art in it were bought at a thrift store for ten bucks. Of course the fabric will disappear when I start the paper mache. And I still need some 3D pieces for the maze chambers. Pieces that are too round for setting on a flat canvas are sanded down flat on one side. 

The chess pieces are added to emphasize the game element and the fact that we can be any piece on the board we want to be...

I have not completely decided the colours that will be used in the piece, whether realistically painted or otherwise, I don't yet know.Part of me wants to add something mechanical to it, like a clock or do something with either glow in the dark or fluorescent blacklight paints.

I'd also kind of like to obtain or make some of those images that present the illusion of movement due to the wavy line placements. We shall see. I have an old cut up D&D 1st ed. Monster Manual that I may cannibalize for some Trampier or Sutherland images in the "rooms"--since I'm not going to be selling the piece I don't have any qualms about that. But they aren't really big enough. Instead I'd like to find some more cheap toys or old odds and ends cause I'd really like even more relief in it but I don't want King Death overshadowed, for he is in fact the Dungeon Master here. 

I will be adding many other pieces...currently keeping an eye out for a small hourglass, for example. Also, a skeleton key. And I'll be throwing in some symbolism and riddles to reward the patient observer. I will not reveal these in the blog but I will give one away: the chess piece above Death's head was not placed accidentally...


Why throw sh* away? I will post photos of the evolving art piece.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Megadungeon Map: The Caves of Quarl!

So here is the first draft of a map of an underworld I am playing with, the Caves

of Quarl!

Quarl shall be a place of limitless caverns and underground lakes and rivers...

The DMG shall assist me in populating it's expanses with monsters...as to the

 ancient subterranean race that was (and is) master of Quarl, and the

peculiarities of their culture and architecure, I am still deciding but it shall be a

traditional 1st ed. Race from the Monster Manuals or Fiend Folio, but that is

yet to be determined...

Friday, October 16, 2015

Creature Feature: The Revenant

So the other day I took the Seat of Repose... and while on my way to the Chamber of Repose, I grabbed the first book I could conveniently reach in passing from the book shelf...which happened to be the AD&D 1st Edition FIEND FOLIO...

Whilst turning the FOLIO's pages under my careless fingers I happened, serendipitously,upon that entry of the tome which had always been one of my favourites...that of the Revenant.

I relate my re-discovery of that Undead monster.

The Revenant is an interesting AD&D monster...because it is not inherently evil, Clerics will be unsettled to realize that Turn Undead does not work upon a Revenant.

The Revenant seems to be based upon the ancient British "Barrow Wight", which in legend, although an undead spirit, was not always a force of evil or doom but one of warning or vengeance.

Although Barrow Wights were usually understood to be the undead guardians of the treasures which of old had been laid in those Barrows which gave them their name, they were also sometimes reputed to be spirits who would appear to kin to warn them of impending doom or danger.

The most interesting fact about a Revenant in the F.F. is that any player character in an AD&D or D&D game who dies a violent death which comes about from the will of another sentient being may potentially return as a Revenant...

The requisite for returning from the grave as a Revenant is that the character must have an intelliegence or wisdom greater than 16 and a Constitution of 18.

All attributes must also come to a sum of 90 or more and if all of the above criteria are satisfied, there is a 5% chance of a character becoming a Revenant after death.

In addition to being immune to Turn Undead, they are also immune to any spells which affect or control the mind and niether holy water nor holy/inholy symbols can affect it.

The sole motivation of a Revenant is revenge upon the agent of its death by any means necessary, and they can travel by day or by night. Their only intelligence is the ghastly will which drives them onward every day and night towards the object of their vengeance... 

 The above image is an original work and is copyrighted. It may not be used for commercial purposes without permission of J.E. Becker.

Monday, September 14, 2015


Sorceress might provide you with an interesting watch if you have any appreciation for the Middle Ages and can enjoy historical drama.

        The film is about a 13th century Dominican Friar, Ettiene of Bourbon, who is abroad on a mission from the Pope to seek out heretics and bring them to repentance and "justice".

        Ettiene encounters a rural French village where the presiding Cure' reluctantly permits him to speak with the villagers , who unwittingly arouse his interest in a young forest woman named Elda.

   Beautiful Elda lives alone in the woods and has long tended the villagers with healing arts derived not from sorcery but from her vast store of folk lore knowledge concerning the medicinal properties of the region's herbs and berries. Elda practices the ancient ways and has a somewhat mystical aura to her, which only deepens the friar's suspicions.

      The film pursues Ettiene's persistent enquiries concerning Elda, the villagers' reliance upon her, and their superstitions related to a mysterious ancient saint and a venerated grove, all amid the larger conflict arising between the peasantry and the cruel noble who holds the land upon which they struggle to survive.

      It is not a film of much physical action, but the drama is fast paced. It was meticulously researched and is based upon the written accounts of Ettiene of Bourbon, a real 13th century friar who really did deliver up heretics to clerical and secular judgment.

  The film, well acted and filmed in a convincing locale, is artistic and liberal in it's sensibility, mostly avoiding stereotypical characterizations or simplified moralizing from either the Christian or Wiccan point of view.

     I have posted this review here because although it is set in a period somewhat later than those most likely to be found in a Fantasy Wargaming scenario, it contains flavor and ingredients which would be useful to a GM who is running a game in even earlier periods.

  Be advised that the film is delivered in French language with English subtitles.

    The full film is currently uploaded at You Tube:

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Temple of the Winds Model Part Five

Greetings from the Mazes! We are currently getting pounded here in Oklahoma with record rainfall, flooding, and even a few tornadoes today but as yet we have not floated away!

 I am pleased with the way this section of my model turned out.

The figures pictured are actually twice the scale of standard D&D minis (I really like these figures and wish I had an entire collection of such pieces for gaming) so this platform actually has plenty or room for a good sized battle with many combatants.

I found out that if you prime a styrofoam model with cheap black spraypaint the solvent will erode and pit the material, giving it a much more ruinous and weathered look.

You can then drybrush on gray acrylic and repeat the process a few times.

I use joint compound to fill in any unwanted depressions and this actually ends up lending a nice variation of texture as well which is random but looks planned in the final appearance.

A couple coats of clear, brush on varnish has yet to be applied, but when this is done it will seal the piece and also make it a little sturdier.

I may carve a flight of steps going up to the crumbling arch--this piece will be embedded in paper mache mountain side with some perilous walkways and ledges leading to it.

Now I need a story as to why this European swordsman has come to this forlorn ruin and how he came to encounter Pegasus....

Monday, May 18, 2015

Pyschotic Flying Stuffed Animals, Cigar Chomping Buddhist Gods, and Dungeons and Dragons/Video Game Trope Lampoonage; "The Hero Yoshihiko"

Well, file this one under "I am extremely bored and in the mood to watch Japanese comedy which does not border on absurdity but exists in a vacuum sealed universe of it."

I was recently introduced to this nutty but somewhat amusing "Low Budget Gamer Fantasy Drama" (this description of the show is actually contained in the opening credits) by a family member who likes to watch Asian cinema and television.

Video gamer and table top role playing culture are the mine from which this show's writers (????) draw enough satire, absurd gags, and goofy LARP like action to give any seasoned gaming nut a few chuckles and the occasional outright belly laugh.

The plot is simple: the old trope of the questing party sent on a mission by a god to defeat monsters, gather relics, save towns and indeed the world in an ongoing campaign which, of course, never ends because, well, it's D&D. Or something like it.

The main hero is a hapless, naive and totally sincere knucklehead named Yoshihiko who is on a quest to bring peace to the world equipped with a magic sword which does not kill it's victims but sleeps them instead. He is accompanied by an old grizzled fighter named Danjou who seems to be a parody of the samurai trilogy hero, a strange silly wizard who is part charlatan, part real magic user named Merebu always inventing really cornball spells, and a female fighter/rogue/druid of some sort named Murasuki who is always discovering dumb skills she has like Big Eye, where she stares at her opponents with a vacant goofball stare that is sufficiently dumb enough to throw them off their guard so she can attack them.

Together they encounter paper mache monsters animated by strings or stop motion, goofy bandits who usually end up doing themselves in in one stupid fashion or another, crazy spirits, buxom celestial maidens, and live video game characters who don't know they are in a video game...

It's not ingenious by any means but if you can appreciate Japanese humor its free on the Internet.

Look, the less you know about this one going into the better, so I'm not going to comment on anymore of the show, except to say that every DM who has ever BullShat his way through explaining his game devices or why a quest hasn't really ended will get a kick out of Hokote, the god who is forever sending them on missions that are supposedly life and death world struggles but which sound as if he is making them up as he goes...

You can watch the series at www.gooddrama.net .....

Here are a couple of scenes uploaded to You Tube that should tell you right away whether or not this kind of comedy is for you. I am not responsible for any loss of productivity that results from watching this show...but I will state that it was worth watching just to see the episode wit the scene where they fight a  proud bandit who slips as he is about to deliver his death blow because he steps in....never mind.

Relics of Gaming Glory; Little Brown OD&D Books and Greyhawk Supplement

Last night I was privileged to make a photocopy of the Greyhawk Supplement from my father-in-law's OD&D books.

I already have the LuLu reprint of the LBB's. I also have a Chainmail reprint and a photocopy of the original Chainmail rules.

The books pictured here are not Scott's original set ,which has long been lost--they are copies picked up at a yard sale in Tulsa Oklahoma about five years ago for thirty dollars.

Scott was a longtime gamer and all five of his kids, including my lovely wife, are avid gamers along with their spouses...and a few wargamers in the lot to boot.

He bought Chainmail new at the store when it came out--and said they always played with paper chits because none of them owned miniatures!

When the White Box D&D game was released, Scott and his brothers bought it and became D&D freaks for  long, long time. It's one of the activities my mother-in-law did with him when they started dating. I've met Scott's mother and she related to me how she would come home and find a throng of young men encamped in the living room floor or at the kitchen table playing D&D for hours.

Those early games apparently were full of the same humorous streak hinted at in the original books--my wife told me how when they were kids and played D&D with the family every dungeon came equipped with a magic item vending machine that had every magic item in the book if you but had the gold.

There were also Land Sharks....and these tried to fool you by knocking politely at dungeon doors, hoping you would open so they could eat you.

The Greyhawk Supplement has some water stain and a bit of mold damage and is unattached from the cover but otherwise sound, all pages legible. The LBB's are in perfect condition. Lisa has said she might sell them if Scot doesn't care, so if anyone wants to make an offer, message me.

I told her she ought to hang onto them, though.

 I would buy them if I had the change-- as it is, I get a little thrill each time I thumb through them!

As a side note, one illustrious member of their gaming group was a player who would later achieve fame as a writer--she was none other than author Laura K. Hamilton, whom my wife remembers from the gaming table at her house. Apparently Mrs. Hamilton played a Cleric with a powerful warhammer!

Good times!

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Rysanthian Chronicle; Environs of the Mistwater

 Here are portions of a map I fashioned of the locale of the campaign we ran for about a year and a half. The map is one portion of a wilderness, town and dungeon expanse within the greater world of Rysanthis. Its strange how the stories of the gaming table remain--I have so many good memories of the hours spent with my friends exploring the shores and depths of the Mistwater.

Our first party was Thaddeus, a fighter who became a Paladin of Illuvion, Phantom Fireborn, a thief who was raised from the dead after being burned by dragon's fire, Gerta the Priestess of Illuvion who was basically Joan of Arc, Perseus, a warrior from the Merling sea people who joined Thaddeus in the Order of Illuvion, a hill giantess of the Tol Myr race, and a one handed warrior NPC named Daag Mahn. There was also a cowardly retainer named Gort who will forever be infamous to the players for his acts of treachery and his untimely end....

The campaign ended with the party at 10th and 11th levels using 1st Edition AD&D. It has been over a year since we held that game--the party had solved many secrets of the locale and was right at the epic conclusion with a war brewing when life intervened...I still hope to run that battle with the group as a Chainmail wargame!

I am taking other friends through the Mistwater, and yes, I am running the exact same campaign and encounters. They are at fourth level now and are taking an entirely different course...and they have agreed to help playtest the Chainmail OD&D system I want to try.

I am in the process of hammering out a module and campaign setting based upon the Mistwater games and promise it will be available soon!

When I can, I want to share some of the funny, touching, tragic and scary tales that happened along the way. You know you've done an NPC right when the party mourns his death--Daag Mahn died bravely and became a song of the heroes. I will get some of these tales on the blog.

The green portions of the Map are of course deep coniferous forests with some deciduous growth--this is the Forest of Wyr, also known as the Wraithwood. Once an elven kingdom, since the Elves abandoned Rysanthis it has become a haunt of ghosts, goblins, and unsavory men...except for the portions of the King's Road which are kept up by the lords of Carrhoene.  

Brandyburg is a good sized town on the North Shore of the Great Lake and the Rushwater River. The folk there enjoy the favor of the Temple of Illuvion and this gives them some autonomy though they are tributary to Carrohoene. Smith's Ferry takes supplies and pilgrims to the eastern shores of the lake where lies Whiterose Abbey and the Sisterhood of the White Lady. The Abbey is not pictured but I have constructed a model of it scaled to miniatures and will upload pics. Near Smiths Ferry is a settlement of the friendly and peaceful Bog Folk. A bell on either side of the Rushwater summons the Ferry. It is not a pleasant duty to be stationed at night on the Eastern Shores...

Pictured here is the Southern reaches of the Mistwater which peters out into boggy fens and marshes. There is of course another populous Bogfolk settlement here, but the primary concern to the inhabitants of the Mistwater environs is Arnforth, the Citadel. The Citadel serves as the southern defense against the perils of the vast wilderness and also as the training grounds for the soldiers of the Great City. Citizenship in Carrohoene can be granted to any willing and able soul who serves three years in the Citadel's forces-but acceptance in the ranks is based on the strictest standards of General Felhaus, the grimfaced warlord who answers directly to the House of Vhulkas in Carrohoene. Felhaus is reputed to be unbeatable in single combat and known for his severity in dealing with criminals, rebels and derelict soldiers.

The Mistwater is a massive freshwater lake filled with abundant fish and useful crops and mollusks. Many fishing boats are always to be seen in the waters between Carrohoene and Brandyburg. Military boats are to be seen as well ferrying soldiers to and from the Citadel. The presence of water sprites and other mysterious creatures are generally accepted as fact by the superstitious folk but no one who grew up on the Mistwater doubts--fishermen see things while at their nets. There are documented cases of people vanishing near or in the waters in olden days, and it is accepted that a few live now who were the wife or husband of a water sprite for a year and a day beneath the waves before reappearing to live as a legend the rest of their days....

The Bog Folk are to be found in three different locations on the Mistwater. They dwelt here long before Men, perhaps even during the First Age of the Elves or the Second Age of the Jennerak. They survived the Dragon Age; Perhaps it is because few among Men, Dwarves or other races think them much more than walking frogs, and the Dragons were probably no different in that respect. They speak with chirps and croaks that are impossible to mimic or understand, and communicate with Men by means of a simple sign language they have used with the people of the Mistwater for time immemorial. They dwell in mud waddle domed huts on the shores among reed and fern. They will fight at need with their simple spears but prefer to dive into the waters and vanish at sign of danger. They resemble a cross between a frog and a salamander, the tallest among them being well under five feet. They dress in only trinkets and leather belts, travel in reed canoes, and are sought after occasionally as guides.Almost no one in Rysanthis pays them any mind at all--they are treated rather contemptuously by city dwellers, considered nuisances because of their curiosity and chirping voices. Rural folk regard them somewhat more highly--they have knowledge of medicinal plants and trade these for baubles and trinkets when they do not simply give them away. The Bogfolk revere the great Horned Serpent that is found in the Southern Marshes. They display the bones and skulls of these creatures as if religious symbols. The Horned Serpents are not numerous and scholars think they are dying out, but they appear to have once been the greatest predator against the Bogfolk, who will unite to slay the beast when it appears to wreak havoc. Travelers who have seen the aftermath of such a battle have reported seeing the Bogfolk prostrate themselves before the dead beast and sing in chirps and trills as though imploring forgiveness...

It is rumored that an Elf Lord named Thingon lives in the Wraithwood in a protected enclave where he is attended by sylvan guardians. Elves are a lost race in Rysanthis. You've more chance of meeting the Man in the Moon than ever crossing paths with one of the few Elves who remained after the Jennerak Kingdoms fell and the Dragons ruled Rysanthis. That people fled in ships across the seas of Rysanthis, never to be seen again. Many elven ruins were left behind, and somewhere in the vicinity of the Wraithwood a great elven stronghold once stood.

So these are a few highlights of the Mistwater region. I will post more this weekend about Carrohoene, Brandyburg, White Rose Abbey, the ruined town of Barrow on the South Eastern shores, and the Isle of Kazamir. Kazamir is a ruined castle on an island off the shores of Barrow. Its spires can be seen on a clear day all the way from the Great City. It is forbidden by the House of Vulkhos for anyone to go near it, even if they were stupid enough to want to since it is known to be one of the Old Places of the Jennerak, now a haunt of evil spirits and trolls...Barrow was once a thriving town named Thuvial whose people tampered with the Isle and were destroyed by its guardians or some evil they awakened there. Only foolhardy adventurers would even dream of visiting Kazamir...

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Temple of the Winds Part 4

Some painted Temple sections.  I rushed things a bit, and as a result I did not get the realism I envisioned for this model. There were a few serendipitous accidents though, and overall, I am happy with the pieces for table top gaming. My errors will be obvious to anyone--let's just say I did not plan for such a weathered and pitted look, but fortunately I am pleased with it for the purpose hand. Hope to finish the remaining pieces as quickly and run some Chainmail battles in this desolate and forlorn ruin...

Monday, May 11, 2015

Temple of the Winds Part 3

This weekend was busy as it was Mother's Day. Besides my wonderful wife and my awesome mother, I have a very nice new mom-in-law as well, so it was a full day. Also had time to work on a zine of song lyrics for the band.

I worked for an hour and a half on the Temple, and I'm getting excited because the inner sanctuary is almost ready to paint.

I have a huge bag of old game pieces and little toys and decided to sacrifice a couple of my knight figurines to provide statues of the Temple guardians flanking the arch.

I also glued down my "dragon head" statues by the main altar, carved some wall reliefs with a pop bottle lid and a marker pen cap, and used joint compound to fill in the circular impressions in the chamber floor. I added cornices to the pillars by carving them and then using the compound to fill in the gouges and round the pillars out. They have a slight rough appearance but its fine because this is after all an ancient ruined temple.

I decided to leave one impression in the corner near the arch as an ancient sacred pool of Illuvion which will likely be made into a fountain. I realize that the compound will have a different texture than the rest of the walls and floor but again, being a ruin, even this might not compromise the realism when I paint, though if any experts out there have suggestions on a step before painting or with paint to unify the texture, I would love to hear from you.

I will be spraypainting the model completely matte black and then a somewhat heavy dry brushing of a gray over this (black will leave shadows in the cracks and crevices) and then mottle it a bit with an even lighter gray.

I must also cannibalize a suitable dragon head from a toy or carve one for the altar-part of the Quest is that the Dragon Cult has set up their images upon the altar of the Ineffable Flame, so the head must be removable should the heroes complete their mission!

Hopefully will have a pic of the painted and finished sanctuary to show soon, though I still have to construct my mountains for the exterior ruins.

A thief stands in the mystic arch, perhaps frustrated at the ancient locks and wards within the sanctuary, as the impassive stone sentinels keep their ancient watch.

In the Second Age, the age of the Jennerak, San'seriaat's main altar held a perpetual fire and the dragonhead statues were not present. Illuvion has no carven image and is not depicted as anything but a circle of flame. When the Dragon Reign began in the Third Age, and the elves abandoned Rysanthis, San'Seriaat was the first place to fall because it was the sacred site of Illuvion. An image of Gehennos the Dragon Lord was set up there after the priests were slaughtered. It should be noted that the Temple Keepers at this time were not Jennerak, as that culture had long vanished by the time of the Third Age. The stone altar was also added by the Dragon Cult to honor Gehennos with the unspeakable rites that transferred the Dragon Magic to men.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Temple of the Winds Images Part 2. Inner Sanctuary

So...although in the midst of preparing to move and working on musical projects with friends, I am working almost nightly on the models of the Temple Complex.

Went to get moving boxes and I know lots of places that toss boxes with interesting styrofoam
forms--this one was almost nearly the perfect shape and architecture for a dungeon room as is.

I have decided this room will be the Sanctuary or Chapel of the Temple of the Winds.

The ancient altars of Illuvion have been desecrated and Dragon Cult images have been erected.

I am waiting to paint until I bevel some of the pillars, add some embossed faces and cornices, and
get statues in place. Wooden Knights from a very stylized wooden chess set work great for carved
dragon heads.

In the encounter pictured below, heroes storm the sanctuary to try and rescue their companion from
the sacrificial rites of a Lich...undead attempt to defend the desecrated Temple.

I do find in sculpting the model and seeing it in 3D and placing figures that it is helping immensely to
plan the encounter. I will not be using the one pictured and that will all be kept under wraps until I
run the Temple as an adventure. I just placed the figures to get a feel for the scale of battle that could
take place in the Chapel.

I am debating if I want to try and sculpt a dragon head for the central  altar or saw one off a toy...the
dollar store and garage sales sometimes supply the neatest little figurines and statues that would lend
themselves so well to a dungeon model.

I'm thinking of using Cheerios for the column decorations....

I am getting anxious to paint but I am making myself wait until it's constructed!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Rysanthian Chronicle; An OD&D and CHAINMAIL Campaign Idea

Note: I apologize for the length of this post..nearly half of it gets into CHAINMAIL and D&D rules and history, so if you are familiar with all of that, you can skip down to the part entitled "The Rysanthian Chronicle; CHAINMAIL and OD&D" Thanks for reading, comments welcome.

As you may or may not know, Dungeons and Dragons was developed as a game by expanding upon the concepts of it's predecessor, the TSR miniatures wargaming rules named CHAINMAIL.

The big difference between CHAINMAIL and D&D is that the former is strictly a game of warfare and unconcerned with the individual character development one finds in a role playing game.

There are, arguably, three different combat systems in the single volume rulebook of CHAINMAIL.

The first is for large scale wargames involving historical period troops and where a single figure on the game table represented  unit of twenty soldiers.

The second is called the Man to Man rules--these were designed for smaller scale skirmishes where each figures represents a single combatant.

The third system was  to be the precursor of fantasy roleplaying as we know it today--this was the Fantasy Supplement of CHAINMAIL, which was included to be used in conjunction with the mass troop warfare rules for wargamers who wanted to recreate the epic battles found in the works of authors like Tolkien, Moorcock or Robert E. Howard.

The Fantasy Supplement charts and tables seem less compatible with the Man to Man skirmish rules, which seem to be mainly for historical and non fantastic figures.

The CHAINMAIL volume included separate combat matrices for each of these three systems: the troop Combat Tables, the Man to Man Melee Table (plus the Individual Fires with Missles Table) and the Fantasy Combat Table. Each of these tables used old fashioned six sided dice to determine results and in most instances (excepting fantastic monsters and super heroic types) a hit resulted in an instant kill.

I will discuss these tables briefly to  acquaint the player with their purpose so that you will understand their use in the Rysanthian game.

The Troop Combat Matrix

The troop Combat Table is broken down into attacker and defender troop types such as Light Foot, Armored Foot, Heavy Horse, Light Horse, and other designations based upon historical soldiers, arms and armor, and combat styles. One simply looks at the designation for the troop type attacking, finds the troop type being attacked, and is told the number of dice  to roll and the necessary result for a successful hit. You would roll a six sided die for every man in the attacking unit, sometimes two dice for very tough troops, and however many dice came up at or above the target number was how many men would perish in the defending unit...remember that with this table, a single figure stood in for twenty soldiers.  You kept track of these kills on paper and when all twenty men were dead or routed the figure was removed from the board.

The Man to Man Melee Table

This matrix was formulated in a manner that made the initiative (who attacks first) and the chance to hit a matter of the attackers type of weapon versus the armor type (or lack of armor) of the defender. You cross index these two factors to arrive at the number you must roll on a pair of six sided dice to strike your opponent and kill his figure instantly. It does not appear that this table was meant to be used with the Fantasy Supplement but it did become the basis for the later armor class and to-hit tables of D&D. There is also an Individual Fires With Missle Table for missle weapons .

The Fantasy Combat Table

This matrix is just fun! It was used to facilitate combat between Heroes, Superheroes, Wizards and all sorts of different fantasy monsters. All of these were listed on a vertical and horizontal column and you simply cross referenced the two engaging combatants to find the number that the attacker needed to  hit the opponent. Although the Fantasy Supplement was intended for use with the troop Combat Tables, no normal troops lower than a Hero could even roll on the Fantasy Combat Table, because in CHAINMAIL, most fantastic creatures were impervious to any sort of foe except other fantastic monsters or heroes. It should be noted that some creatures that could certainly to be considered mythical or fantastic also could not melee with the fantastic creatures specifically listed on the Fantasy Combat Table (the creatures on the table are the Big Boys) and instead used the normal troop Combat Tables. Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Goblins and most humanoid or demi human troops fall into this category, though each of these have certain unique abilities and limitations that made them differ greatly from the human troops they might melee with or against.

With these combat systems and attack tables, endless historical period or fantastic wargames could be devised or recreated from history or fantasy and science fiction literature.

Aside from the Fantasy Combat Table, the Fantasy Supplement in the CHAINMAIL volume consisted of a codified collection of archetypical monsters and hero type figures, all with designated rates of movement, morale factors, limitations, abilities and powers...not at all unlike chess where one becomes acquainted with the personal powers and limitations of each individual playing piece and builds one's strategies from the characteristic strengths and weaknesses of that piece. The seasonings of the works of many fantasy authors can be tasted in this brew, as well as mythology, making the Fantasy Supplement in CHAINMAIL the certain ancestor of modern roleplaying games.

To the Dungeon

Some points of history are debated among gamers, but it is my understanding that it was Dave Arneson who was to use the CHAINMAIL Fantasy Supplement rules to forge a new kind of game for the Castles and Crusades wargaming society, one where the individual Hero, Superhero, Elf or Wizard (or whatever) was to become a recurring character in an ongoing fantasy campaign setting.

Arneson devised a fantasy world for his games, the world of Blackmoor, and the CHAINMAIL figures who adventured there (and the cults and entities they faced) became personalities that were somewhat larger than just a playing piece in a wargame. I don't know how much Arneson's Blackmoor campaign resembled the one described in the Blackmoor Supplement later published with the D&D books, but Blackmoor was evidently a place of crypts, temples, dungeons and treasures with a character that was unlike the wargames of old. Word of Blackmoor reached Gary Gygax, and soon Gygax and Arneson were working together on what would become the rules to an entirely new sort of game which  reflected the possibilities and potential of the sort of game Arneson had been running...the game of Dungeons and Dragons.

In D&D, the most intriguing and exciting concepts of the Fantasy Supplement in CHAINMAIL were set out in more fully developed and more widely accessible forms. The "character class" was created, as were individual physical and mental attributes for a character. The concept of level progression and character advancement were outlined. Wilderness, dungeon and town settings were detailed, monster and magical item lists were expanded, and treasure tables were introduced. A system of Hit Dice and Hit Points replaced the old "instant kill" system from CHAINMAIL so that your D&D character could have a reasonable chance of continuing in one piece (relatively) from game to game.

The result of the introduction of D&D was that the evolution of CHAINMAIL was largely finished. It would forever remain solidly a wargame while D&D would be a "roleplaying game". Although it is probable that most of the people who initially played D&D were familiar with the older game, D&D soon became popular with an entirely new class of gamers who did not come from a wargaming background and accepted the novel game entirely on its own merits. And from this beginning sprang an entire hobby, new lines of games, and all kinds of evolutions and innovations that continue to the present!

The Rysanthian Chronicle; CHAINMAIL and OD&D

I have delved into the history of D&D and the Combat systems of CHAINMAIL to provide a basis for players who might participate in my games set in the world of Rysanthis.

The Rysanthian Chronicle represents an effort on my part to do a little "reverse engineering" from D&D as I learned it in the 80's to try to arrive at a game that is closer in spirit to those earlier games, streamlining combat and record keeping and fleshing out the wargaming aspects but retaining the essential elements of the "roleplaying game".

The game that I envision will revolve around the figures on the table and the environment of the adventure. 3D terrain will be used for each adventure. Dungeons and other adventure settings will hold all the traps, tricks, wonders and treasures as in D&D, and indeed, the D&D books will be used as sources for magic items, spells, and treasure, but the player characters will be figures drawn from CHAINMAIL and magical and melee encounters will be conducted using the CHAINMAIL rules instead of the D&D d20 Hit Tables.

The process for an individual player creating a character (or characters) will consist not of rolling up attributes or choosing a character class but of selecting troops and/or fantasy figures from those contained in the CHAINMAIL descriptions. All of those figures have a point value based upon their strength...each player is given an initial pool of 100 points with which to select from them. The player will do more than select generic figures, however...he or she will imbue them with names, personalities, loyalties, aims and ambitions that will be centered in the backdrop of the kingdoms and histories of the world of Rysanthis. The figures can then be employed by the player to pursue those aims against the larger backdrop of the game world or to simply adventure in search of plunder, guts and glory...the involvement of the figure in the bigger picture is completely dependent on the personality and traits created for the figure by the player. You can have a zealous knight in the service of a religious order, a dangerous freebooter, or a Wizard who cares only about seeking out lost arcana or even taking over the entire world.

Using the point system a player can choose to begin the game with a very powerful figure, like a Wizard, or a slightly less powerful character such as a Hero but with a magic sword and a few loyal normal warriors as his companions. Or one could opt to create a company of Elves. Players who have a favorite D&D character can bring them in as whatever figure the character's level is equivalent with. It would also be possible for players to select different figures for different games, so that one could run a Lawful Paladin through one game and the next have an evil Wizard with Orc henchmen...and occasional games where the players are pitted against one another are not an unlikely prospect! A little cooperation with the DM  and some forethought is all that is needed.

Each player will be given the campaign world book and can hatch whatever schemes they desire in the game for the cause of Law, Chaos or pure self interest!

The Actual Game Mechanics

The basic rules of engagement will be as follows:

In the Rysanthian Chronicle, the troop Combat Tables of CHAINMAIL will be used strictly for mass combats.

The Man to Man Melee Table and Missle Table will be used to facilitate warfare between all demi-human, humanoid, and human combatants, the exception being humanoid monsters specifically listed on the Fantasy Combat Table such as Trolls, Giants and Lycanthropes. Heroes and Superheroes will melee with men or manlike combatants on these tables as well, as will Wizards.

The Fantasy Combat Table will be used for warfare with or between fantastic beings listed therein. No figure below the level of Wizard, Hero or Superhero will be able to fight on the Fantasy Combat Table unless that figure either has a magic weapon (you then fight as a Hero) or is of a level which permits them to attack thereon with minus's--this means that normal troops are of limited or no use against the kind of monsters listed on that table! So in D&D, a 3rd level Swordsman can fight as a Hero -1, a 4th Level Enchanter can fight as a Hero -1, and so on.

The Instant Kill system is done away with and a limited Hit Point system is instituted; a figure in CHAINMAIL has a number of hit points equal to it's HD plus any bonuses as listed in the D&D books.  So, if a dragon in D&D has 12 HD, instead of rolling twelve dice to determine the dragons hit points, the dragon is considered to be able to withstand twelve hits. A Super Hero in the D&D Fighting Man tables is said to have a HD of 8+2; so that figure can withstand 10 hits. DM's have the prerogative of adding a d6 or a d3 to the hit point total of exceptionally tough monsters.

All hits do only one point of damage, with the exception of magical weapons. A magic sword will add 1 extra point of damage, certain rare relics may be so powerful as to add two.

Magic and Miracles

The Wizard is run exactly as described in CHAINMAIL with the exception that he melees with the appropriate combatants on the Man to Man Table and his fireballs or lightening bolts are conducted on the Missle Table. Whether or not he is impervious to normal missle fire in close encounters is a matter of debate--in the CHAINMAIL rules it seems more reasonable in a mass combat setting.

Any spells from the D&D books can be employed and have a Complexity Level equal to their Spell Level.

I am including a new figure, that  of the High Priest or Priestess, who functions as a Wizard in all respects except that he or she uses clerical spells and has the Cleric ability to Turn Undead. In addition, the cleric has a Holy Smiting power useable once per turn which calls down a thunderous blast from the divine realms (or infernal, depending on the alignment of the Priest) which is equal to the Wizard's Lightening Bolt.

This concludes my post for this evening...I was not able to address everything yet and I am sure that I am missing something but I am going to move ahead with the game and I will report the results of this strange alchemy after we have run a few games with it.

I will not be creating a new post for more rules, so be sure to check this post again if you are interested in any additional house rules for running OD&D and CHAINMAIL together.

Thanks and Acknowledgements to Jason Vey for his Forbidden Lore OSR CHAINMAIL supplement; it was very helpful to me in formulating these house rules.

Good night!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

7 Rules to Allow Chainmail Style D&D Games

I have never gotten to play CHAINMAIL, the original fantasy wargame rules that launched Dungeons and Dragons, but that's not because I have not wanted to...have few people to play it with and although I have a decent collection of minis, don't know that I could field whole armies.

CHAINMAIL being wargame and skirmish rules, the rules are much simpler and less involved than in a roleplaying game

There are no various levels of characters or progression of skill as with D&D, only fantastic and military archetypes with set powers, attacks, and movement rates that never change.

I have long wanted to use the CHAINMAIL combat rules for D&D gaming because of the flavor and the cool tables, but the Fantasy Combat Table  in CHAINMAIL presented a problem because for one thing, using that table as a 6 sided die hit system, a D&D Fighting Man would not be able to fight any creature on the matrix until attaining 4th level, and besides that, there would not be much chance of an ongoing campaign with the same characters when a figure is killed by a single hit. And while a D&D Fighting Man would have to wait until 4th level to use the table, other characters must wait even longer, making them fairly useless in melees with fantastic creatures.

So I think I may try a different take.

1. All humanoid, demihuman, and human combatants will use the Man to Man skirmish tables and rules, except those humanoid types which are listed on the Fantasy Combat Matrix.

2. Any character with a magical weapon may fight on the Fantasy Combat Matrix as a Hero. A Fighting Man of lower than 4th level can fight as a Hero on the Fantasy Combat Matrix without a magical weapon but will not fight as a Hero against foes faced on the Man to Man skirmish tables until he actually attains fourth level and Hero status. Fighting as a Hero or Superhero against foes on the Man to Man table means that you get the number of attacks listed in the Hero and Superhero description.

3.A hit by any creature against any creature does only 1 point of damage, plus any adjustments for magic weapons. Magic is somewhat different..where a spell does damage and mentions a number of hit dice of for the damage, convert that to points of damage instead. So a spell that does two dice of damage will instead do two points.

4. Monsters can take as many hits as their hit die. So a dragon in D&D which has 12 H.D. can take 12 hits. At the DM's option a d6 may be rolled and added to this for tougher versions of the same monster.

5. Characters will begin the game with the maximum number of hit points possible for their class at 1st level and gain 2 points with every new level.

6. The movement rates of fantasy creatures will be as per CHAINMAIL. All special powers from CHAINMAIL will be retained for fantasy creatures, including demi-humans, in addition to any additional ones later developed in D&D. If the players encounter fantastic creatures from D&D not listed on the Fantasy Combat Matrix in CHAINMAIL simply use the closest equivalent.

7. The CHAINMAIL rules for Mages casting counter spells against spellcasters of a lower level than themselves will be retained. I may work out spell complexity numbers for every D&D spell.

The rest of the D&D books will be used as normally for purposes of treasures, magic items, and the like.

So this is the model I intend to use. Some would say why? It's less involved. While I love heavily involved games, I go through seasons where I don't want that at all. The narrative rules system I am working on with Brent will be great fun but I will always love a simple game.

As I have mentioned in previous posts I am wanting to run a game with new or open minded players that is figure, terrain, and story based all at once. I want it to have the tactical elements of a wargame with the development of characters found only in roleplaying.

I'm sure I have missed something in this alchemy but I will wing it.

Will playtest soon!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Saan'seriat; Temple of the Winds

This open air platform is the remains of the antechamber that leads to the interior of the mountain and the forgotten sanctuary of Saan'seriat.....

Here are pics of a wargame model I am beginning which I intend to use in a D&D game using the Chainmail combat system.

 I will be uploading progress pics here at the blog from this humble beginning to...hopefully...a very realistically painted 3D model for D&D miniatures.

I was very inspired by one of the mountain top temple ruins in the Skyrim video game by Bethesda Works...what a lush gaming engine!

Anyway, I have for some time wanted to construct an open air, mountain top "dungeon" consisting of a series of stonework platforms and temple works connected by dizzying bridges, spiral staircases and crumbling spires.

I subsequently saw a styrofoam cooler in the trash and decided that it needed to live forever as a D&D terrain setting....

Saan'seriat will consist of several encounter areas of various elevations, nestled in a forbidding mountain range.

I will be adding these models to papermache mountain footings which should provide for two to three game sessions of dungeon exploration, skirmishes with various Temple guardians, and untold mysteries of the forgotten ruin of a once powerful religion.

I will be locating appropriate plastic figurines and toys such as are suitable for painting the same color and texture as the stone works so as to look like grotesque or elegant statuary. These will be affixed to the temple ruins for flavor, and carved faces will adorn the doors and passages of the ancient monument.

Aside from whatever weird (and patient) guardians remain at Saan'seriat, there will be the danger of falling and unsteady stone works to give any dwarf nightmares....but of course with treasures that cannot be resisted by brave heroes!

I have long wanted to run a D&D game that consisted of 3D models and miniatures that were centered in encounters and skirmishes. My reasoning is that in such a game, where lead-up to the dungeon is summarized to the players and every session of play ends up right at the adventure locale (be it a city, a ruin, or a wilderness), play will progress more quickly, breaks between games will not cause the usual annoying amnesia, and the DM need not focus on anything but the adventure itself.

Roleplaying things like character development, buying equipment and leveling will then be handled in a narrative turn that takes place before or after each game session.

To me, this would be the perfect game for people who love D&D but find life happening between sessions.....

Anyhow, I will continue working on the Temple of the Winds and upload pics in case anyone feels inspired to construct their own ruin....and who knows..once Saan'seriat is mapped and keyed it may end up on the Mazes as a complete adventure for other DM's to use to test the mettle of their players....:)

Another open air plaza nestled high in the windswept peaks of a forbidding mountain range that is the lost locale of the Temple of the Winds...I have it in mind to either fill in the cup impressions or turn them into ancient fountains or pools. The large resin figure is a stand in for whatever I decide to convert into a huge stone idol, beneath whose gaze the mighty heroes shall do battle with the Temple Guardians.....

Everything I needed I found in a single styrofoam cooler, though I will most likely add to it. The mountains will consist of piles of thickly wadded newspapers shaped with masking tape to provide a paper mache frame. The modular platforms will be staged upon these precipices and the highest point will be perhaps three feet off the table when I am finished. The beauty of it all is that this is how I relax after work come nights...it has been a blast so far to build, and I discovered that the grooves built into the cooler provided perfect architectural flavor for Saan'seriat.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Proposed Combat System for New RPG System

As I stated in a previous post, my friend Brent K. Davis and I are attempting to create a new roleplaying rules set incorporating some non-D&D game theories.

I wrote an earlier article detailing the mechanics of spellcasting in this yet unnamed system.

While I've been working on the magic system, Brent was tasked with formulating a narrative combat system.

I was very impressed at this one!

There are several factors I like about it. 

First, although it incorporates realism it doesn't sacrifice streamlined mechanics.

It also permits a player to narrate combat objectives as simply or as creatively as the individual player wants...for each specific blow...and resolves it quite fairly by being based upon the number difference between your needed hit roll and what you actually cast on the die...Combat Effects are in steps according to this difference.

I also love the initiative system-- if you lose initiative, you state to the DM your actions and those who win get to tailor their response to your action and resolve theirs first! This works both ways and the players must take the black eye in this fashion if they lose to NPC combatants or monsters!

There are several other unique and creative aspects involved and I look forward to playtesting it, which we have yet to do.

We welcome your comments and input!

1. Determine encounter distance

2. Determine Surprise a. Stealth vs Perception b. Perception vs Whatever the Other party is doing and how immersed they are in it

3. Determine Initiative a. Dexterity/Perception/Intuition (?) Bonus +d10, higher is better. b. A Character that is Engaged by a Character with a higher Initiative total may only defend, not attack. C. Characters with LOWEST Initiative Scores state actions FIRST. Characters with HIGHER Initiative Scores may then react to the Characters with low Initiative.

4. Statement of intent. What do you intend to do? Move in, charge? Circle warily? Describe your intended action with as much detail as possible. All attacks are called shots. State your intended target.

 5. Determine Reach

a. Close Range weapons- Dagger, Hand-Axe, Fist, Cestus, Shield, broken bottle, etc. (A shield isn't a weapon? Get hit with the rim one time...)

b. Me-lee Range weapons- Swords, Axes, Cudgel, Mace, War Hammer, Flail, Staff, Spear in close mode, Short Pole-arm in close mode. (Lets face it folks, the spear is one of the most efficient hand weapons we as a race have ever devised.)

c. Far Range weapons- Spear, Pole-arm, Staff, Two Handed Sword

d. Far+ Range weapons- Pike, Lance if mounted

 e. If a Character with a shorter Reach weapon engages a Character with a longer Reach weapon, the shorter Reach cannot attack the longer Reach possessing Character. Regardless of Initiative. The shorter Reach may attack the weapon, or attempt to get inside the Reach of the opponent. The Character with the longer Reach may hold the shorter Reach opponent At Bay. Once inside the Reach of your opponent, they may only dodge, ignore or shield block. A parry with a longer weapon is no longer possible. Natural weapons MAY be used. They may attempt to increase the distance with a Combat Effect.

f. Larger or smaller opponents treat Reach as one or more steps higher for Larger opponents and one or more steps shorter for smaller.

 For example a Dwarf with a spear is at Me-Lee Reach versus a Human with a sword, and at Close Reach versus an Ogre with a club. In either case the Dwarf is at a serious disadvantage.

However, the disadvantage shifts if the smaller opponent gets inside the Reach of the larger. Once this occurs, any +1 or more complication on the Larger size
character may result in a hit on themselves. g. Mounted Characters use the size class of the mount to determine reach. 4. Roll Attacks and Defense a. The attacking character attempts to follow through with his stated action.

The defending Character may 1. Dodge the attack, or duck, or in some way not be in the place the attacker is trying to hit. 2. Parry the attack with a weapon. Unarmed and unarmored Defenders must pass a Will check in order to Parry an armed attack.

3. Block the Attack with a shield. b. Roll d20 +Weapon or Technique Skill Level +/-any Modifiers due to magick or circumstances (darkness, unstable footing, etc) for the Attack c. Roll d20 +Weapon or Technique Skill Level +/-any Modifiers due to magick or circumstances for the Defense d The Defense total rolled is the Target number the attacker must roll higher than for the attack to succeed. e. How MUCH the attacker rolls above or below the defender determines the effects of the attack. Each 4 above gains a Combat Effect for the higher rolling Character.

+12 +8 +4 +3 to -3 -4 -8 -12
+12 +8 +4 +3 to -3 -4 -8 -12

Monday, April 13, 2015

More Original Spooky Images

Here are a few more of the Green Man mask pics--forgive me for posting some of the same images but you will note I experimented with different colors in some of them.

I did not actually wear the mask...just set it up in various locations and draped an old black tee shirt over it like a cowl.

It is somewhat creepy to me how you can take the same mask and photograph it from different angles and it will seem in each case to wear a different expression...angles change so much.

At times the pics look sinister, at times comical, and a few are even noble looking in their own way.

One or two of them remind me very much of the mask sequences of one of my favorite movies...The Wicker Man...original version of course!