Friday, September 30, 2011

More maps from the archives

Here's a couple more Dungeons & Dragons maps I found in my old Trapper Keeper.  This is a castle and settlement I think I drew up for one of my characters for when he gained a domain:
 I also sketched a detailed map of the fortress itself:
Anyone else still have their D&D creations from when they were kids?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Monkeys & mayhem

Last week Ed the THW Guy blogged about the aftermath of a combat we played out using the rules for 5150: New Beginnings.  I generated a character (mercenary/bounty hunter) who landed a job retreiving a certain item on behalf of a trophy wife.  It was supposed to be a simple exchange, but the monkeys who supposedly had the mcguffin tried a double-cross.  Combat ensued, and I remembered to take a couple of photos during the firefight.
Here's my Star (green) and his group: Ace & Duce (the twins in blue) and Sparx (in grey).  They managed to get the drop on the quartet of uplifted simians who tried to mess the hardworking bounty hunter around, wounding three and chasing off the other one.  They snatched the downed leader and escaped in the van before the cops arrived, letting a gang of Hishen who happened to be walking by take the rap for the shootings.
Fun game, interesting background, quick play, and its way of generating encounters leads to some great storytelling based on what the dice give you.  I'm looking forward to finding out just what that monkeyboy knows ....

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Unearthed nostalgia

Some three decades ago, I came up with a short D&D adventure using the Holmes rules.  My recent postings on the blue book made me nostalgic, so I dug out my old module.  I thought I'd share the maps now:
As you can see, I was apparently influenced a great deal by the moathouse and dungeon from The Village of Hommlet.  I don't think I ever actually ran the adventure, so you, my readers, are the first people to see these maps.
The adventure itself is unbalanced as hell, but I was probably only 13 or so when I came up with it.  Still, it's fun to look back at the creative works of a younger me.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bonus new monster for Holmes D&D

And because it gets mentioned in the Holmes rulebook, I would be remiss if I didn't stat up the samurai along with the other AD&D character classes as monsters for this version of D&D.


Move: 120 feet/turn
Hit Dice: 4
Armor Class: 3
Treasure Type: B
Alignment: any
Attacks: 2
Damage: 1-6 points each

Samurai have a strict code of honor, and will not hesitate to attack any characters who do not show them the proper deference.  Samurai consider surrender dishonorable, and they will die rather than lay down their arms to a superior foe.  In battle, they wield a sword in each hand, and can therefore attack or parry with either or both weapons in the same melee round.  In large battles, a group of samurai will be led by a shogun with 9 hit dice and 2-8 samurai bodyguards with maximum hit points.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sunday Starships: Monday Edition

I messed up in my posting yesterday, so this edition of Sunday Starships is going up on Monday.  This week's featured ships are Pirate Assault Scouts from the Star Frontiers Knight Hawks range of spaceship minis.  These were part of my previous acquisitions from a local used bookstore.
I think this style of spaceship goes very well with the vessels in my Flying Roadshow, so I started out painting them the same way: white primer, brushed on metallic pearl white, and metallic gunmetal gray wash.  Instead of detailing with another metallic, this time I just picked out a couple of areas on each ship in a bright primary color.
One problem with the primer, it went on really gritty and grainy--and it even started coming off as dust when I handled the primed minis.  I don't think it was the temperature/humidity--I sprayed some other ships black at the same time, and they came out all right.  However, once I brushed on the pearl over the white primered ships, they looked fine, and the wash did a good job bringing out the details (although they're washed out by the flash in these pics).
The size and style of these ships doesn't really fit in with most of the Superior Models/Monday Knight ships in my collection, but I think they will work as civilian passenger shuttles.  They also would work great in War Rocket, if I ever get to play that game again.
I'm happy with the way these came out, and I'm encouraged by the fact that the wash did such a good job showing of the detailing on these models.  I'm gonna have to leave my safety zone of drybrushing to try experimenting with wash techniques more often. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

More new monsters for Holmes D&D

Building on my earlier list of new monsters for the Holmes D&D rules inspired by character classes, here are some more offerings.  Like the previous batch, these are based on a brief mention by Holmes in the basic rulebook under Additional Character Classes and the literature and pop culture available to a 13-year-old version of me.


Move: 150 feet/turn
Hit Dice: 5
Armor Class: 9
Treasure Type: nil
Alignment: lawful good (50%), lawful evil (50%)
Attacks: 1 or 2
Damage: 1-6 or 1-4 points each

As Monks are skilled in unarmed combat, they always strike first, attacking twice per round with their hands, or once per round with a weapon.  If hit in melee, a monk takes half damage (round down).  Their training also allows them to dodge incoming missile fire half the time.  When fighting men or similar opponents, if a monk rolls 5 or more than the number needed to hit the target, the target is knocked unconscious for 1-20 rounds.  Monks carry no treasure, although their monasteries typically have valuable statuary or other adornments.  A monastery is led by the grand master, who fights as a 10 hit dice monster and attacks twice per round with weapons or four times per round open-hand.


Move: 120 feet/turn
Hit Dice: 8
Armor Class: 2
Treasure Type: see below
Alignment: lawful good
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1-6 points

There are a dozen paladins, all of whom serve the king.  The strength of their faith gives paladins a +4 save vs. any fear or charm effect, whether from spell, wand, or dragon breath.  Once per day, a paladin may lay hands on a person, this has the effect of a cleric's Bless spell.  Although paladins have no use for treasure, they are always armed and armored as a knight (sword, lance, shield, plate mail, etc.), with a 40% chance an item will be magical.  If encountered outside, a paladin will have a heavy war horse with barding (AC 5) able to understand the paladin's commands.  A paladin will not join an evil party or perform an evil deed.


Move: 120 feet/turn
Hit Dice: 7
Armor Class: 5
Treasure Type: M
Alignment: chaotic good
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1-6 points

Rangers are skilled in woodcraft and can track small groups or even individuals through the wilderness 90% of the time.  When outdoors, they can sense an ambush on a roll of 1 to 5 on a six-sided die.  While in the wilderness there is a 50% chance a ranger can use certain plants to create a healing draught that can cure the touch of a wight or heal 1-4 points of damage; such a potion takes 2-7 hours to make and must be used immediately or it loses its curative power.  The rangers have a chieftain of noble birth with 10 hit dice and a magic sword (roll type).  In large battles, a ranger will lead a company of 30-180 normal men or 20-80 elves.


Move: 120 feet/turn, 240 feet flying
Hit Dice: 3
Armor Class: 9
Treasure Type: S
Alignment: lawful evil (50%) chaotic evil (25%) neutral (25%)
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1-6 points

Although powerful witches such as Baba Yaga lead a solitary existence, witches usually gather in covens of three or more.  A witch will always have a Broom of Flying and a magic cauldron that functions as a Crystal Ball, but only for the witch.  A witch can also use her cauldron cast a curse similar to that of a scroll spell or to create enchantments able to dupicate any spell, scroll, or magic item effect (except wishes).  Witches often bestow these magic charms to adventurers in exchange for certain tasks.  A witch can speak with her familiar (usually a cat) and therefore knows what it knows.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

New monsters for Holmes D&D

In a comment about my expanded wandering monster tables for the Holmes version of Dungeons & Dragons, Zenopus noted that I didn't include any nonplayer characters in the charts (early printings of the blue book, echoing the original D&D rules, had character classes such as warriors, seers, adepts and footpads among the table entries).  While I said I'd maybe churn out some revised tables, I haven't done that yet.  However, that suggestion did inspire me to create a few additions to the monsters available for Holmes.

As you can see, these monsters are inspired by the additional character classes Holmes mentions in the Additional Character Classes section of the book.  While they share names with the archetypes available for the white box rules and Advanced D&D, I statted these up as opponents using the other monsters in the basic rulebook as a template.  Basically, I'm creating these new monsters based on the information that would have been available to the 13-year-old version of me after I first received the boxed set--so these entries don't necessarily reflect the classes found in the AD&D Players Handbook.  Instead, they're based on literature and pop culture of that era, along with a dash of The Holmes Companion.


Move: 120 feet/turn
Hit Dice: 4
Armor Class: 6
Treasure Type: M
Alignment: neutral
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1-6 points

These fanatical killers (known as ninjas in the Far East) inflict double damage when striking from behind and have all the other abilities of fourth-level thieves.  Assassins wear leather armor; their high dexterity (16) gives them a +1 on their Armor Class and means they usually strike first in combat.  These killers are typically armed with missile weapons in addition to hand-to-hand arms, but they never use shields.  On rare occasions, an assassin will use blowguns to shoot poison-tipped darts, but this requires special permission from the guildmaster.  Assassins usually operate in groups of one to four, but can be found in greater numbers in their stronghold, usually a fortress in a remote area.  The stronghold of assassins in the service of a higher cause will be led by an EHP, while that of killers for hire will be led by a master assassin with 9 hit dice who strikes from behind for quadruple damage and has all the other abilities of a ninth level thief.


Move: 120 feet/turn
Hit Dice: 5
Armor Class: 7
Treasure Type: Q
Alignment: neutral
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1-6 points

Druids are spiritual leaders and keepers of mystic wisdom who often serve as advisors to local warlords or champions.  Druids may use any two first-level spells and any two second-level spells (magic-user or cleric) per day.  A druid will always carry a magical staff (1-3=Staff of Striking, 4-5=Snake Staff, 6=Staff of Healing).  When defending the territory of his people, a druid will be accompanied by one or two heroes (4th level fighters) and 10-100 normal men followers.  There are tales of an archdruid who presides over all other druids with nine hit dice who can cast any three first-, second-, third-, or fourth-level spells (12 total) per day.


Move: 120 feet/turn
Hit Dice: 3
Armor Class: 9
Treasure Type: I, S
Alignment: any
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1-4 points

Illusionists are masters of escape and misdirection.  If tied up, shackled, or otherwise bound, they can escape their bindings in 1-10 rounds.  They can cast any six of the following spells once per day: Dancing Lights, Ventriloquism, Audible Glamer, Invisibility, Knock, Levitate, Mirror Image, Pyrotechnics, Rope Trick, Water Breathing, Confusion.  In addition, with at least one day of preparation, an illusionist can duplicate the effect of a Massmorph spell.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Vintage Starfleet Wars reviews

The Starfleet Wars rules and miniatures came out in 1977, produced by Superior Models.  I've learned some of the background that led to their creation, but now I'm curious about what kind of splash the SfW rules and associated models made when they were first released. 

Although Superior evidently had a viable product line, it didn't leave much of a record ouside the magazine ads remembered by geeks like me.  But now, thanks to the power of Google and the assistance of the kind folks over at The Miniatures Page, I was able to track down a few mentions of the rules and/or minis in a couple of gaming periodicals from around the time Starfleet Wars was released.  Here they are in chronological order:

Space Gamer #21 (January/February 1979)
In the overview "Spaceship Miniatures & Rules," author Tony Watson looks at "the proliferation of miniatures lines" dealing with science fiction gaming.  One of those minis ranges is Starfleet Wars, and the writer isn't that impressed with the models:

The models have a lot of detail (bordering on the garish) and are bristling with turrets, sensor modules and a variety of other odds and ends whose purposes we can only guess at.  My major criticism of the ship designs is, for some reason, the designer felt it necessary that the ships in some way resemble the race that built them. Hence, Carnivoran ships have a cat-like appearance, and the Aquarians look like turtles. ... I'm surprised the Star Wars Corporation hasn't sued over the resemblance to their "Imperial Stardestroyer"!
The reviewer sums up the miniatures as "a disappointment" and "not ... very appealing."  He also initially describes the game as "simplle, fast and clean"--but concludes "the rules have a sort of thrown together feeling."

The Dragon #29 (September 1979)
In "MICRO-REVIEWS: Short Takes and First Impressions," TD editor Tim Kask examines the miniatures and rules for MAATAC, the sci-fi ground combat game set in the same universe as SfW, and he mentions the spaceships as well:
If you haven’t seen the figures (castings would be a more correct term) you have really missed something. They are an extrapolation on their outstanding STARFLEET series of spacecraft, being the ground units of the five races. They also mesh with the STARFLEET WARS set of rules for using the spacecraft.
Kask however, has not played the game, telling readers, "If we had had some of the castings, we would have tried them by now."

Space Gamer #30 (August 1980)
In the "Capsule Reviews" article, under the Miniatures subsection, SG publisher Steve Jackson himself reviews the starship minis, with high praise for these models:
The STARSHIPS are the best miniature spaceships I've seen.  They come in five "races" – that is, there are five different sets of ships.  Each race has, at present, seven classes of ship, ranging from tiny starfighters to enormous "Super Galactic Dreadnoughts."  Each race's ships have a distinctive "look," setting them apart from those built by the other races.
He says he even dropped a couple to see how they responded to mistreatment and notes they're hard to break.  He goes on to recommend these minis for spaceship fans, "especially those who can paint well enough to do justice to the details."

Space Gamer #31 (September 1980)
In the "Capsule Reviews" article, under the Games subsection, contributing editor Nick Schuessler describes the SfW power allocation process and notes the rules are unclear about the advantages of firing at half range or less.  He does does like the differentiation between maximum power units for each ship:
A major pitfall in this type of game is to spend your time thinking up fancy names and then give all the ships nearly identical characteristics.  Here the PUs and the maximum for offense, defense, and movement pretty well reflect the national characteristics given in the policical discussion.
The reviewer also suggests adapting the game to use hexes instead of inches for movement and range, something I have done in my own Starfleet Wars games.

Space Gamer #34 (December 1980)
In the "Capsule Reviews" article, under the Games subsection, author Alex R. Sabo reviews the rules for MAATAC.  He describes the game as simple, lacking the details of more complex wargames such as Tractics or Panzer.

The basic rules of MAATAC are straightforward, easy to explain and understand, and quick.  Probably anyone familiar with miniatures could just pick up the data tables and start playing.  This is very good for an introductory game or for scenarios with large numbers of units.  ... The rules can also becom boring after very few plays.  The reason?  While there are five empires, each with five classes of MAATAC they all have the same weapons systems.  The vehicles in each class, while different in detail, all seem very much the same.
The reviewer recommends the rules for players wanting a game with infantry, armor, and air aspects, but warns them to keep its simplicity in mind.

Dragon #101 (September 1985)
In the Ares science fiction section of Dragon magazine, in the article "Starships and Star Soldiers: Miniatures in Science-Fiction Gaming" editor Roger E. Moore compiles a list of sci-fi minis and rules, including: 
MAATAC; Superior Models, Inc. These are tank-battle rules.
Starfleet Wars; Superior Models, Inc.
There's no further details in this article, just these bare-bones listings under “Land warfare” and “Space war” respectively (but that's all any other sci-fi minis games got, anyway).  I'm surprised I didn't find more mentions of SfW or MAATAC in other issues of Dragon magazine.

That's all the mentions of Starfleet Wars and MAATAC I could find from back in the day.  If you know of something more, in these magazines or in other periodicals please let me know.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Starships: treasure fleet

I haven't posted any starship pictures in a long time, but that's because I hadn't painted any more ships recently.  Well that changed this weekend, so here's my latest batch of spaceship minis:
These ships were part of my massive score of several boxed sets and some blister packs from Half-Price Books.  I'm just happy to get some of my accumulated loot painted.
These vessels were originally pirate frigates from the Star Frontiers/Knight Hawks game.  I might use them as such for my games, or they might serve as more cargo vessels--maybe special ships carrying back loot on an annual basis.  Call it the Slannish Treasure Fleet.
Despite the deep-space environment of these craft, they have a design element much different than other ships in the Star Frontiers range.  They wouldn't look out of place in War Rocket.  I'd even call it a steampunk asthetic.
In an acknowledgement of that Victorian machinery vibe, I decided to paint these ships with a metallic look that gave the impression of tarnished brass.
I drybrushed these guys with three colors (all Folk Art brand): First, metallic antique copper.  Next, metallic copper.  Finally, metallic Inca gold.
I also finished up a trio of Federation frigates to join my civilian transport fleet.  Hey, a privateer can never have too many merchant targets ...
Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fixing Blogger's new "feature"

You may have noticed when clicking on blog photos recently, that instead of getting a larger version of the picture, Blogger just displays the photo in a sort of slideshow format.  While you and I might consider this a bug, the folks who run Blogger, in their infinite wisdom, call it a "feature."

Unless Blogger decides to undo its unilateral implementation of this "feature," we are forced to view photos on other blogs in this manner.  However, there is a fix for individual blogs, which I have applied to SGDN.  Here's how to bring back the old way of displaying photos on your own blog:
  1. Go to the Design section of your blog (you know, the "Add and Arrange Page Elements" section).
  2. Click on "Add a Gadget" (anywhere on the page)
  3. Select the "HTML/Javascript" gadget
  4. Leave the title blank and paste this code into the "Content" section.
  5. Save your changes, and your blog will display photos the way you expect it to.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My own dungeon: bottoming out

OK, we're working on my own little dungeon project.  We've done the first level, the second and third levels, the fourth and fifth, and the sixth and seventh levels.  Now we’re all the way down to the eighth level.

cloud giant 1
cloud giant 1
dragon (any) 5
dragon (any) 2
frost giant 4
frost giant 2
spectre 9
spectre 10*
spectre 9
black pudding 1
chimera 3
dragon (red/white) 1
evil high patriarch
evil lord
evil wizard
hydra 5, each with 5 heads****
ochre jelly 6**
stone giant 6
troll 9**
vampire 3

*extrapolating from Holmes, doubled number of seventh-level monsters on eighth level
**extrapolating from Holmes, tripled number of sixth-level monsters on eighth level
****extrapolating from Holmes, quintupled number of fourth-level monsters on eighth level

Half my rolls to determine which level to roll on were 10 or higher, meaning half of the encounters on this level are with ninth-level monsters.  To make this level semi-survivable, I’ll have the EHP, lord and wizard each lead one faction against the other two.  The patriarch directs the vampires and specters, while the evil lord leads giants and the wizard employs the trolls, chimerae and the solitary dragon (let’s make him a charmed white).  Also, per my note from my expanded wandering monsters tables, the name-level characters will get some underlings as well.  The grouped dragons (rolling randomly)—5 brass and 3 red—are sworn enemies, and the pudding and jellies scavenge the caverns, with the trolls just trying to stay out of everyone’s way.

Next, we turn to the ninth (and last, for now) level:

black pudding 2*
black pudding 3
displacer beast 27**
displacer beast 15**
evil lord
evil lord
basilisk 8*
cloud giant 1
dragon (black) 4***
dragon (white) 6*
evil high patriarch
hydra 5 with 7 heads ****
manitcore 20***
master thief
purple worm 1
stone giant 12*
storm giant 1
troll 30*
vampire 2*
wraith 15****
*extrapolating from Holmes, doubled number of eighth-level monsters on ninth level
**extrapolating from Holmes, tripled number of seventh-level monsters on ninth level
***extrapolating from Holmes, quadrupled number of sixth-level monsters on ninth level
****extrapolating from Holmes, quintupled number of fifth-level monsters on ninth level

Interesting … OK, the master thief (and his poison-wielding assassins) guard their hideout with a lot of traps that use black puddings.  The black and white dragons are in constant conflict, while the storm giant leads the stone giants in digging for a lost artifact.  The EHP controls the wraiths and vampires, while the evil lords (husband and wife) guard their quarters with the hydrae.  Displacer beasts, basilisks, and manticores all have their own breeding grounds here, and the trolls have a lair (borrowing from Holmes’ approach to humanoids, I’ll give them a king who fights as a hill giant).  Everyone leaves the purple worm alone.

So that's as far as I'm going with this thought experiment for now.  We have the bare bones of a dungeon; let me know if you'd like to see me flesh it out.

My own dungeon: into the depths

The story so far: I'm using my expanded wandering monster tables to make a residency list for inhabitants of a dungeon I'm creating (level 1, levels 2-3, levels 4-5).  Now we're working on level 6:

basilisk 3
basilisk 4
hell hound 10
hell hound 5
hell hound 8*
ochre jelly 3
ochre jelly 3
ochre jelly 1
troll 9
troll 6
troll 2
berserker 10****
displacer beast 5
elf 30****
giant spider 6**
manticore 4
medua 6**
ogre 9**
red dragon 2
stone giant 2
*extrapolating from Holmes, doubled number of fifth-level monsters on sixth level
**extrapolating from Holmes, tripled number of fourth-level monsters on sixth level
****extrapolating from Holmes, quintupled number of second-level monsters on sixth level

Finally, the game’s namesake—dragons!  This pair (twins) should have quite a hoard.  They use the hell hounds as guard dogs and do not get along with the trolls, who sometimes ally with the ogres.  Like gargoyles, the stone giants are already made of rock and therefore are immune to the gaze of basilisk and medusa, and they wander the level with impunity (except the dragons’ territory).  The elfs and berserkers sometimes trade when they’re not fighting, and the berserkers sometimes employ the ogres as mercenaries.  Also, I think this number of elfs is large enough to earn them a leader (2-4/2-8 fighter/magic-user per their monster description).  The jellies wander the corridors in search of food, while displacer beasts and manticores have their own lairs.  The giant spiders can serve as guides if the price is right.

We're done here; on down to the seventh level!

basilisk 4
basilisk 2
hill giant 7
hill giant 4
hobgoblins 45****
hobgoblin 55****
troll 9
troll 7
displacer beast 6*
doppelganger 16***
fire giant 1
grey ooze 4***
giant spider 33**
hell hound 24*
manticore 10
ogre 5****
owlbear 6**
spectre 4
vampire 3
zombie 55****
*extrapolating from Holmes, doubled number of sixth-level monsters on seventh level
**extrapolating from Holmes, tripled number of fifth-level monsters on seventh level
***extrapolating from Holmes, quadrupled number of fourth-level monsters on seventh level
****extrapolating from Holmes, quintupled number of third-level monsters on seventh level

Wow!  A fire giant—so that’s where all those hell hounds are coming from.  Seems like he bosses around those hill giants, and I bet he has some lava to play in, as well.  The trolls, of course, steer clear of his neighborhood.  With all those hobgoblins, the hobgoblin king and his 1-4 bodyguards (all of whom fight as ogres, per Holmes) will be hanging around too.  I’m thinking the hobgobs raise the displacer beasts as pets; the beasts can smell doppelgangers, which prey on the other humanoids.  The spiders must know of a secret route from here to other levels; they might trade that knowledge for magic items.  Manticores nest here, explaining their large numbers, and the owlbears prey on them.  Basilisks have their own lair.  The ogres down here are looking for work; they’re on the outs with the hobgoblins.  The powerful undead and numerous zombies mean there’s a shrine to evil chaos that corrupted its priests and worshipers, turning them into specters and zombies.  The vampires here are victims of a separate curse, feeding on any creature (other than oozes or basilisks) foolish enough to enter their catacombs.

There are some tough critters down here, but they're bound to get even tougher as we descend further.

My own dungeon: keep digging

Continuing with my attempt to design a dungeon (first level; second and third levels) I roll the dice (or grab the random numbers) for level 4:

gargoyle 2
gargoyle 7
giant spider 7
giant spider 2
giant spider 3
grey ooze 2
grey ooze 1
medusa 1
medusa 2
ogre 4
ogre 4
blink dogs 4
bugbear 8*
gelatinous cube 1
ghoul 6**
hell hound 3
hydra 5 heads
minotaur 1
shrieker 12*
wraith 3
*extrapolating from Holmes, doubled number of third-level monsters on fourth level
**extrapolating from Holmes, tripled number of second-level monsters on fourth level

About the same number of critters as levels 1 and 3; so much for my mythic underworld theory from level 2.  More ogres; I think the minotaur uses them as mercenaries against the encroaching giant spiders, who keep clogging his labyrinth with webs.  He’s in a mythologically inspired truce with the medusae, who order around the gargoyles (already made of stone, they’re not affected by the medusa’s gaze).  Blink dogs are on this level, too, but for some reason they’re on friendly terms with the hell hounds—both groups of lawful canines are guarding something.  More wraiths; likely earlier adventurers who died trying to get what the mutts are sworn to protect.  I think that’s what happens to unconsecrated corpses of characters of fourth level and higher who die down here: they become wraiths; third level and lower arise as zombies.  These ghouls are separated from their colleagues two levels up; I think they should resemble humans at first and be able to talk, like the ghouls in Lovecraft’s works.  The bugbears, who are just trying to get by, have a hydra of their own, but they regard it as a pet/watchbeast.  Grey ooze slithers among the shriekers, while the gelatinous cube makes the rounds on a regular basis.

Now we do the same thing to determine the occupants of the fifth level of the dungeon:

doppelganger 6*
doppelganger 2*
giant spider 8
giant spider 6*
hydra 5 heads
hydra 5 heads
hydra 7 heads
zombie 16***
zombie 18**
dwarf 15****
giant centipedes 35****
hell hound 10
minotaur 5
ogre 10
owlbear 2
stirge 20****
werebear 4
wereboar 2
weretiger 3
wraith 5
*extrapolating from Holmes, doubled number of fourth-level monsters on fifth level
**extrapolating from Holmes, tripled number of third-level monsters on fifth level
***extrapolating from Holmes, quadrupled number of second-level monsters on fifth level
****extrapolating from Holmes, quintupled number of first-level monsters on fifth level

Lots of numbers, thanks to the way the charts work--maybe the mythic underworld thing isn't bunk.  Specifically, more hydrae, this time a whole family of them.  This means there’s some sort of spawning ground nearby.  Hell hounds roam the halls; not sure why.  The doppelgangers could be fun, especially since these groups of dopps haven’t encountered individuals from the outside world in a long time and their tactics aren’t the best (instead of picking off group members one-by-one, they’ll all swarm the party at the same time and duplicate one or two of the most powerful adventurers—good luck telling friend from foe!).  The dwarfs used to inhabit more of this level, but many have been slain to arise as zombies and wraiths.  They should have a leader (level 2-7 per the rules) to help keep them alive down here.  The minotaur warrens on this level connects to the one above, and again the bull-headed men employ ogres to keep their maze clear of the giant spiders (who can be convinced to lead a party through the labyrinth for the right price).  Giant centipedes are everywhere underfoot, while stirges swoop down to feed on the warm-blooded.  The owlbears snack on both of these species, while the were-creatures all share an uneasy truce as they search the area for clues to a rumored cure for lycanthropy. 

This is interesting; I guess I'll keep going and see what the dice throw my way next.

My own dungeon: digging deeper

OK, generating the inhabitants of the first level of my dungeon wasn't too hard.  Let’s see what we get for the next level down, which is about the same size, room-wise (this time I won’t show you the step-by-step, just what I end up with):

bandit 10*
bandit 4*
bandit 8*
berserker 6*
elf 1
fire beetle 2*
fire beetle 4*
fire beetle 4*
ghoul 3
giant ant 5
giant ant 5
giant ant 6
giant rat 16*
giant spider 2
giant spider 3
giant tick 2
harpy 3
kobold 20*
skeleton 10*
wererat 3
*per Holmes, I doubled the number of first-level monsters encountered on the second level

This time, even though we had the same number of rooms, we have a lot more denizens—about 117.  For those of you who subscribe to the Dungeon as Mythic Underworld theory, this is evidence that foul creatures are drawn to the depths and shun the light of the overworld.  Or something like that.

Hmm, let’s see what the numbers mean.  More bandits, 22 all together—still not enough for them to rate a 4th level fighting man as leader, even with their half-dozen berserker buddies.  Oh, what the hades; I’ll give ‘em a 4th level fighting man per the rules.  Obviously, these guys are with the same group as the guys upstairs, so we probably should put some vertical connectivity between these two crowds.  The lone elf must be their (escaped?) prisoner—is she buddies with the elf band above?  Sixteen giant ants means there’s a nest around here somewhere, maybe below.  Fire beetles and ticks are just more vermin, but the web-spinning giant spiders have low intelligence and chaotic evil alignment—maybe they let the ghouls gnaw on the husks of their victims after they drain their juices; the skeletons here arise from this unclean death and unsanctified disposal.  The wererats and giant rats are an obvious pairing, while the kobolds down here are trying to figure out how to rescue their buddies up top.  The harpies have their own way in and out of this level, but maybe they don’t leave because they like to prey on the bandits.

Time for level three, and another twenty rolls (actually 40 rolls--one to determine level and another to determine which monster) on the charts:

carrion crawler 1
carrion crawler 2
hippogriff 4
hippogriff 3
shrieker 2
shrieker 2
wererat 2
wererat 2
blink dogs 5
giant centipede 18**
giant spider 3
giant tick 1
grey ooze 1
hobgoblin 7
huge spider 4*
hydra 6 heads
lizard man 12*
ogre 3
wraith 1
zombie 14
*extrapolating from Holmes, doubled number of second-level monsters on third level
**per Holmes, tripled number of first-level monsters on third level

Only about as many occupants as the first level, but a lot more dangerous.  OK, carrion crawlers and shriekers interact just like on level 1.  No more giant ants; I guess the insects on the second level have their nest there.  Giant centipedes infest the third level, with the grey ooze wandering around to keep things clean.  Two pairs of wererats; let’s make them enemies of each other, each couple trying to ingratiate themselves with the trio of lycanthropes on level 2.  There must be some kind of way out of here to allow hippogriffs access (maybe it’s the same way the harpies get in and out).  I like the idea of the lizard men serving/worshipping the hydra.  I also like the idea of the wraith being someone who met his doom down here (maybe a greedy magic user in search of a relic from the ancient Mag’Uph’Un Empire); the zombies are his bodyguards whose oath extends beyond death.  The giant spiders don’t like the competition from their smaller cousins so those two groups are enemies.  To provide for more interaction options with players, I think these critters should be able to talk, just like those oversized arachnids in The Hobbit.  The blink dogs (who teleported in) were ordered to guard something here; maybe that’s what the wraith was after.  Not sure what the ogres and hobgoblins are up to; let’s see if there’s anything below to tell us.

My own dungeon: getting started

In order to take a break from spaceships, I thought I’d mess around some with Dungeons & Dragons and design an underground adventuring locale (a megadungeon as the kids call it).  For purposes of this exercise, I’m going to limit myself to the original Holmes D&D rulebook and my expanded wandering monster tables, supplemented with The Holmes Companion and (maybe) module B2, The Keep on the Borderlands.

I’m not going to start off with any overarching purpose or backstory; just use the dice rolls and the tables as a springboard to see what my imagination comes up with.  I’m not even gonna bother with maps at this point; I just want to see what sort of ideas the dice give me.  To me, it’s a mini-game I can play solo to entertain myself for awhile.

We’ll begin with the first level of the complex, which I will assume has about sixty rooms.  Since Holmes says one out of three rooms will contain some sort of monster, that gives us a score of encounters on this level.

To start out, I roll twenty times on my wandering monster tables, rolling a 12-sider to determine which level table to consult, then rolling another d12 on that table (actually, I just go to to generate the numbers).  Here’s what I get:

First roll (level)  Second roll (monster)   
12   (third)        8   shriekers
11   (second)       7   troglodytes
12   (third)        10  car. crawls
4    (first)        7   gnomes/pixies
2    (first)        5   skeletons
10   (second)       7   troglodytes
  (first)        4   kobolds
10   (second)       10  shadows
1    (first)        3   bandits           
9    (second)       2   elfs
2    (first)        11  fire beetles
9    (second)       2   elfs
4    (first)        10  lg spiders
8    (first)        7   gnomes/pixies
2    (first)        11  fire beetles
  (first)        12  stirges
9    (second)       3   hobgoblins
11   (second)       6   gnolls
10   (second)       1   berserkers
10   (second)       3   hobgoblins 

A lot of relatively tough creatures, but also some potential allies and natural factions.  Next, I’ll rearrange the encounters by frequency and roll for number appearing (breaking out my dice this time):

elfs x 2 (6 total)
fire beetles x 2 (4 total)
gnomes/pixies x 2 (6 gnomes, 2 pixies)
hobgoblins x 2 (5 total)
troglodytes x 2 (10 total)
bandits (3)
berserkers (2)
carrion crawlers (2)
gnolls (5)
kobolds (8)
large spiders (1)
shriekers (4)
shadows (3)
skeletons (3)
stirges (4)

That’s a total of almost 70 potential allies, enemies, and vermin.  Here's what I come up with for living arrangements: The elfs, gnomes & pixies occupy their own area, feuding with the hobgoblins and troglodytes.  The fire beetles seem like a common pest encountered anywhere.  The bandits and berserkers are natural allies, perhaps here to loot the place.  Carrion crawlers have a sort of symbiosis with the shriekers, showing up when they hear noise because that means food is near.  Shadows and skeletons inhabit an isolated area that living creatures shun (and I think I know how I’ll make use of the fact that I rolled the same number for each creature).  The large spider has a lair from which it emerges to hunt.  Since the book says gnolls are strong but dislike work (including mining), they’re there making the kobolds dig for something (the gnolls won’t say what they’re doing here, and the kobolds just don’t know).

Before I come up with a map or even roll for hit points for the monsters on this level, I want to see what lies below.  It may affect how I end up placing things up here.  As an arbitrary limit, I will only detail the first nine levels of this dungeon.  Let's see what's down these stairs ...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Oh God I just can't stop myself

I went back to Half-Price Books to take advantage of their Labor Day weekend sale (20% off the sticker price of everything in the store), and I grabbed five packages of Stardate: 3000 minis that I had declined to purchase during my last visit to HPB.  When I told my wife I needed some of these smaller ships to round out my alien squadrons, she quickly corrected me: "You don't need these, you want these!"  She is, of course, correct.  I desired these toys, and at half off, with another discount on top of that, how could I say no? 
I did at least leave one package of spaceships in the store.  There were also several boxes and blister packs of Star Frontiers character and monster figures still on the shelf when I left, as well as the old 25mm Star Wars figures.  So collectors, get down to the HPB on San Pedro in San Antonio for some cool minis finds.
Speaking of cool finds, I also picked up this book depicting Unseen University from fantasy author Terry Pratchett's Discworld series.  The pages are designed to be cut out and assembled into buildings.  While the size of the doors makes the scale of these models closer to 15mm than the 28mm I usually game with, I can still see myself using these structures as strongholds for Hordes of the Things or buildings/terrain for Song of Blades and Heroes.  So get on down to Half-Price Book this weekend and see what treasures you might find (and buy them before I'm tempted again).