Archive for September, 2010

I’m a Traveling Man

No, this is not a post about Traveller.  I will be traveling for the next week or two.  I may try to write a post while doing so if I find internet connectivity along the way.  But if not, be good while I’m gone!

B/X Character Sheets

I made these B/X character sheets a while back.  I only used them briefly, I found having separate sheets by class too irksome for rolling up characters quickly on the fly.  I imagine they’d be nice though if you had any reason to believe your character wasn’t going to die very soon.

Anyway, they are nice as pure B/X character sheets.  Clearly they were based on the original character sheet found in the Moldvay text.  They’re fillable PDFs, with specialized areas based on class:  spell lists for magic-users and clerics, thief skills for thieves, turning chart for clerics, and extra inventory space for fighter types.  Also, they conveniently have the encumbrance chart next to the equipment list, which I find extremely useful at the table.

Take note that it appears as two pages, though each page is 5.5″ x 8.5″, meaning they print best side-by-side on a single piece of paper.  Just tell your PDF viewer to print two pages per page and it should work.

Download here.

EDIT: Just noticed there is one minor deviation from pure B/X: the inclusion of a “Base Attack Bonus” box instead of a standard combat matrix.  This is because I like to use Delta’s Target 20 system for attack rolls.  I suggest you check it out.

2nd EDIT: As requested, here are the scribus files.

The Digital DM

Here’s a crazy idea for a piece of software I just had in the shower.  I’m hoping writing this down will get it out of my system and I won’t waste any time actually thinking about how to implement it.  If anyone cares to steal this idea, be my guest, just tell me where to download the finished product.  The inspiration for this idea comes from Delta’s recent musings on the DMG’s Appendix A: Random Dungeon Generation and Chase Bank.

You know how if you call customer support for any large-ish institution these days you end up talking to a computer?  I mean literally talking, speech recognition seems to be all the rage in automated answering systems now.  I hate those things, I always feel horribly self conscious knowing that I’m talking to a machine.  Probably because they make you sound like a crazy person to anyone over-hearing your end of the “conversation”.  Anyway, let’s put these systems to good use: let’s make them DM.

Basically, all you do is load up a randomly generated dungeon (just steal one of the many good ones out there already), and write an algorithm to have the computer describe the layout one section at a time.  Have the computer know where the players are on the map, and then write an interactive system whereby the players can tell the computer where they move and the computer describes the next section.  I’m envisioning an interaction like this:

COMPUTER: You are in a north/south facing corridor that extends 30 feet to the north and 20 feet to the south.  At the south end it turns west.  The north end extends into the darkness.  A door to the east stands on the wall 10 feet to the north.

PLAYER: North 10 feet.  Listen at door.

COMPUTER: You hear muffled voices.

PLAYER: Open door.

COMPUTER: Beyond the door is a 30 foot square room with doors to the west and north.  Five goblins sit around a table bickering over a leg of mutton.  They attack immediately.

You get the idea.  The players could enter key stats at the beginning (what light sources they have, movement rate, etc.) and the computer would make rolls for things like listening at doors, searching for traps, etc.  It would be a very basic dungeon crawl, at least to start.  You could then add features from there, such as:

  • Combat algorithms.  Let the computer roll for monsters.  Use Target-20 so the players just state who they attack and what they rolled, the computer then figures out if it was a hit, and if so asks for damage.
  • Extra sounds.  As long as our interface is audio only, let’s take it up a notch and add some sound effects.  Could be anything from dungeon drips and spooky wind effects to the clatter of dice every time the DM makes a roll.  And of course then you must add the randomizer that makes the DM clatter some dice every now and then for no reason other than to make the players nervous.
  • Special rules.  Would be nice if the computer allowed for things like sneaking thieves, invisible magic-users, etc.

It would probably still be maddening talking to the computer.  “I said listen at door, not open door!  No I will not roll for initiative!”  Still, might be kind of fun.  I especially like the idea of sitting there with a piece of graph paper trying to map out what the program describes to me.  Maybe at the end it could display the map so you could see how horribly off you were.

Anyway, that’s my crazy idea for the morning.  Time to go to work and write some serious code.

The Smell of D&D

I was leafing through my copy of the 1st edition DMG and got a whiff of a distinctive odor that I implicitly associated with old school D&D.  They say scent memory is the strongest, and it was very interesting the flood of memories from my youth that came along with this simple smell of the book.  Then it hit me — this isn’t even the same book I had back then.

As a child, I was not very kind to my belongings.  I have copies now of the 1st edition hardbacks as well as Moldvay/Cook B/X books here at my desk, but they’re recent acquisitions.  I pulled out my Moldvay red book and took a whiff — it smelled the same.

It can’t be the binding process, the Moldvay books are soft cover saddle stitched.  There’s not even any glue involved.  Was there something distinctive about the quality of paper they used back then?  I started scanning my shelves for other old books.  I found a paperback printed in the 40’s, but no, that smelled like pretty much every old paperback book I own, a distinctive odor in its own right.

I suppose there’s nothing else to it — D&D books from the late 70’s and early 80’s have a  unique odor.  Frankly, to my mind, that’s pretty awesome.  At least until Jenn walked in and asked “Are you smelling that book?”

I challenge you now to not start smelling all your books.

Battle Board and Magnetism

dsc_0019Here’s the board I created for my 10mm miniatures. It’s a 2’x3′ piece of plywood with a slightly smaller piece of sheet metal glued to that. I then coated the sheet metal in magnetic paint, mostly just to give it a little extra texture without losing any magnetism of the sheet metal.  This all was then painted dark green and dry-brushed some lighter shades of green and yellow.

The hills were cut from standard foam core, which I then coated on top with more magnetic paint.  Unfortunately this caused the hills to warp and become somewhat concave.  I then glued sheet magnet to the bottoms of the hills and placed them under heavy weights to dry.  This helped uncurl them, but they’re still not completely flat.  I need to put some more thought on how to fix this problem.  Finally, the hills were painted the same as the main board.

All my figures are mounted on #10 flat washers, which are smaller than an american penny, probably about 12 mm diameter.  I placed a dab of Apoxie Sculpt into the hole of the washer, and then jammed the miniature down on it.  This served both to fill the hole and to adhere the mini to the base.  Once dry, I cut and stuck a piece of adhesive business card magnet to the bottom of each based miniature.

Thus, everything is magnetized to everything else — the hills to the board, the models to the board or hills.  Even the castle has magnet stuck on its bottom, and by virtue of being made of tin allows the models to stick to it.  The sheet magnet is probably the weakest of them, it works only well for light weight stuff with a large area, like the hills.  The business card magnet is too weak for 28mm metal models, but works fine for plastics and these 10mm guys.

For 28mm guys I bought several years ago a huge pack of disk magnets that are easy to glue into the recess of your standard GW bases.  Actually, I usually have to offset them with a small scrap of cereal box cardboard to get them level with the base of the miniature.  Looks like now that site I linked has all kinds of cool shapes and sizes, and you could probably just base your mini right onto the magnet itself.

The magnetism is neat, and while it isn’t super strong (I wouldn’t want to turn the base upside-down), it does prevent anything from budging if you bump or tip the board.  I also like using magnetism for transport.  I buy a plastic toolbox to transport my minis in and coat all the bottom surfaces with magnetic paint.  Then I can just place the minis in it where-ever I want, and they don’t bump into each other through normal transport.

Anyway, enough about magnetism, here are the pictures of my 10mm terrain:

More Little Men, 10mm to be precise

dsc_0019I’ve almost completed my collection of 10mm monsters that came with my Dungeon Pack.  All the green skins and undead are painted.  All that remains are the five odd models: two slimes, a pudding, a giant, and a purple worm er..  giant grub.  I assume purple worm is what they were gong for with that one.

I promised myself I wouldn’t order more 10mm models from Pendraken until I had completely painted all the ones I already had.  Unfortunately I’ve already broken that one — put my order in last night.  I’ve still got all the scenery to paint after the five monsters, but I’m not super motivated to paint those as I don’t see any obvious use for them.

On the other hand, I wanted some terrain to play with these guys on, so I’ve started building some of that.  I have a 2’x3′ board to start, and I made a bunch of hills from foam core, which is just about the right height for these guys.  I don’t have photos of those pieces yet, but I do have some pictures of a small castle I built from a 2 oz tea tin that Jenn gave me.  I’ve been looking for something to do with these things forever, and it struck me as just about the right size.  I used cork for the base, foam core to add some crenelations, and textured paint, plasticard, and balsa wood for texture and trimmings.  I think it came out pretty well.

Anyway, here are the pictures.  I’m really quite pleased with how quickly I’m churning this stuff out.

Patchwork Campaign Settings

For some reason, I’ve always felt I needed to be apologetic about using content from modules or similar in my home campaign.  I guess I was worried this somehow indicated I wasn’t creative enough to come up with my own material or something.  After playing for almost nine months now though, I can say that while the world map and the large scale themes playing out in our game are all my own invention, all the details come from existing material, be it old D&D modules from back in the day or new OSR printed stuff.

I came to terms with it today when I made a decision to move a major element’s location radically in the world.  OK, I want go into specifics here, I guess I’ll just have to warn my players off.  Players, don’t read beyond this cut.  Suffice it to say, I don’t think using bits from other locations isn’t such a big deal.  My analogy is that it’s a bit like making a quilt.  Everyone can appreciate a truly beautiful quilt and the craftsmanship that went into it.  But the quilt-maker didn’t weave the fabrics, he just found pieces that fit together in interesting ways and stitched them together.  The end result though can definitely be a work of art.  The whole is more than the sum of its parts.

On with the details…

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I work for a company of over 100 employees that’s working on a fantasy setting video game.  Keith Baker (creator of Eberron) is visiting our office today.  I was just introduced to him by our executive producer as “probably the most dedicated RPG player in the office”.

Should I be proud of this?

Book of War: The Battle of Restenford

I think my posting lulls happen not because I have nothing to write, but that I have too much to write. The huge blocks of text marshaled in my brain ready to post overwhelm me and I can’t seem to make myself sit down and do the work. This time, I will try to break through that by posting some pretty pictures.

A week ago we used Delta‘s Book of War to resolve a major conflict in our D&D game: an invasion of hobgoblins heading toward the player’s home town of Restenford.  I invited a friend to come act as general for the invading forces while the players controlled the defenders, allowing me to remain an impartial referee.  I took a lot of pictures, and intended to post a full recap of the fight, but Bigfella beat me to it.  So I’m just going to dump my photos on you, and while they do have captions generally describing what was going on, I highly suggest you check out Bigfella’s post for the full story.  This is just the highlights real.

All in all I’d say the game went extremely well.  So much so that at least one player requested we have wargame breaks at regular intervals to decide the fate of the RPG world.  I will absolutely continue to use Book of War to resolve these conflicts, but I prefer that it be driven entirely by the outcome of the RPG.  I don’t want to force fights into the story simply so we get to play a wargame.  Still, the invaders did take the town, so it seems like more fights may very likely be in our future.

And now, without further ado, the pictures:

Little Men

dsc_0008Yesterday Bigfella and I got together for a little minis painting session.  I had some peasants from Foundry I wanted to finish, they were base coated and inked, and just needed the final highlighting and detail pass.  I spent the majority of my time on them, but at the end I decided to try my hand at some 10mm figures.

For those who don’t know, that’s about 1/3 the size of the normal miniatures I usually paint.  They’re extremely tiny.  Being much more an RPG player than a wargame player, I’ve never had much exposure to scales other than 28mm, which is what most fantasy RPG minis are.  I’ve always been curious though, and then I discovered Germy’s 10mm Dungeon Pack (available from Pendraken), I decided why not and ordered it.  It comes with 5 heros, 30 monsters, a bunch of furniture and modular dungeon pieces.  I have no idea what I’ll use for, but all that at £40 (about $60 US), I couldn’t resist.

I’m now officially hooked on 10mm.  I painted all 5 heroes to completion in less than 2 hours.  Between not having much detail (how could they at that size?) and so much less area to paint, it’s super easy to churn these guys out.  I’ve now got all the monsters based and primed as well, and half the dungeon sections primed black.  I’m curious to see how long it will take me to paint the entire collection.

I’ll post more details on my process for painting these guys, and some other general mini painting stuff, but for now, please enjoy the pictures of my 5 10mm heroes.  I think they came out pretty well.