Saturday, May 18, 2019

Gaming today, and so very excited

After a couple of weeks of interruptions, in part due to my own burdensome schedule, and in part due to an over-crowded comic-book shop two weeks in a row (first from a card set release, then because of New Comic Book day), my D&D group's last regular meeting was April 20th. We squeezed in a short session, with only half the players able to make it, and at a different venue than we're used to, on May the 4th; but it really does feel like I haven't gamed in a month. Probably because I did at least a month's worth of schoolwork in the last week of the semester, and I've forgotten what fun is like.

Anyway, after many trials and tribulations on the high seas, and a second dead PC the last time we played, I expect that the party will at last reach the Isle of Dread today. And have I put the Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan somewhere on the isle? You bet your sweet bippy I have.

It'll also be the first time gaming with a pile of new equipment: custom .75" grid battle-mat, a new hand-made DM screen, some numbered checkers to serve as monster tokens, and a snap-together felt-and-leather dice-tray (it is so choice; if you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up).

Yeah, baby. I'm psyched for this.

Red, blue, green, black, and gold panels,
for each box in the BECMI series.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

I've got Fighters and Rogues on my mind

It's the last weekend of my semester. I'm scrambling even more than usual to get all of my work in on time. I could maybe write about that.

My last D&D session involved fewer than half the usual number of players showing up, and indulging their maximum murderhobo instincts, with severe consequences. I'd also really like to write about that.

But for some reason, my thoughts keep getting drawn to the fighter and rogue classes, and the ways that I've implemented them in past and present campaigns.

In my Barrowmaze campaign, I've tried to go against my tinkering instincts and implement as few house rules as possible, to keep D&D as close to by-the-book D&D as I can. Where there are differing interpretations (say, between the Holmes, Moldvay, and Mentzer Basic Sets and the Rules Cyclopedia), I've tried to stick with either the most frequently occurring, or the latest and most up-to-date version of the rule that doesn't appear to be a grave mistake or inadvertent typo. So the Rules Cyclopedia mostly has precedent over the boxed sets, except where it seems pretty clear that the boxed set rules make more sense.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Yes. Oh, very yes.

As of last week's game session, the party had been exploring Mystara's Sea of Dread in search of the storied Isle of Dread, when the player characters had stumbled upon a random island which happened to be home to the infamous White Plume Mountain. By the time the session had ended, the PCs had explored about two-thirds of the small dungeon and claimed Wave and Whelm for their own; our evening came to a close with the slaughter of all the monsters in the "inverted ziggurat" that guards Blackrazor.

But this post isn't about that. This post is about something I received in the mail.

* * *

So, being an obsessive with no real self-control, I went ahead and bit the bullet on my battle-mat redesign (say that five times quickly), and I have to say… oh, sweet hot mama, yes.

The grid looks perfect. The thicker vinyl feels far, far sturdier and nigh-indistinguishable from a commercially-produced battle-mat. The woven texture reminds me of the older battle-mats, before Chessex's design was ubiquitous, which is a total nostalgia-trip. The light-gray grid-lines against the white-marble background let any color of marker show up, and this particular vinyl even works with every kind of wet-erase marker I've thrown at it, including Crayolas. (Turns out, you can buy black Crayola Washables in bulk on Amazon; so I don't think I have to worry about finding decent markers in the future.)

After I was kind of disappointed by the mat that I received from (again, half of it my fault, because I didn't think the color-scheme through very carefully; half of it theirs because of the flimsy vinyl and heat-crimped edge-hemming), I went looking around for a company that would print on heavier vinyl (18 oz instead of 13 oz) and had an option to leave the edges clean-cut and un-crimped.  I went with more or less at random, and I'm kind of blown away by the results.

So the bottom line is this: is, indeed, cheap. I would only recommend them for poster-maps that you're only going to pull out occasionally, such as a single specific dungeon, or perhaps as a backdrop for a specific wargame or scenario. In that case, the low price makes them a good go-to. (or anywhere else with similar options, although I can't vouch for other banner-printing websites) is a fantastic choice for a more permanent, repeat-use mat. If you need something custom, like colors or grid-sizes that you won't find from Chessex or Crystal Caste or any of the many, many newer sorts of battle-mats and -boards that you can find floating around on Amazon and Ebay, printing your own is definitely the way to go. And I could not be happier with how this one turned out.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

First attempt at a custom print battle mat

My new battle-mat arrived from yesterday; I have to give it a solidly mixed review. Part of it is my fault; the grid I designed was composed of overlapping light gray and dark gray lines, set on top of a crinkly parchment background (one of the defaults in GIMP 2); and while the thin light gray lines just barely show up, the thick dark gray lines look almost black. This makes it very difficult to draw visible rooms with any color of marker, even black, over the grid that I wound up using. So, lesson #1 learned: next time I try this, use only light gray for the grid-lines, and don't use a background color that contrasts quite so much.

Testing markers on the vinyl, incidentally, has also met with some mixed results. "Expo Vis a Vis" overhead projector markers work fine (for the most part), whereas Crayola washable markers just bead up and don't form a line (in just exactly the same way that RoseArt and any cheap off-brand washable markers will when used on a Chessex mat; and of course those behave this way on this mat as well). On top of that, while black and green overhead markers wipe off just fine, blue stains and red stains badly. Lesson #2: only use black and green overhead projector markers when drawing directly onto a custom-printed vinyl battle-mat. (Not that I'll be doing this very much; clear plastic and dry erase markers make the whole affair that much more convenient!)

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

April Update

I'll try to keep this one quick. There's one full month left in my current semester, and I'm swamped. But once it's over, maybe I can do some proper blogging and game publishing. Think of this as an agenda for the near future.

1. Campaigning

My weekly D&D campaign has proceeded largely without interruption, and the players are at that level (6th mainly) where they get restless and want to wander off to exotic locales. Built into the Barrowmaze is an off-season when the dungeon floods for half the year, and the players used some of it to train up their characters, some of it to explore Stonehell dungeon (which I located about a hundred miles north of the main campaign area), and now they're going to spend the rest of it sailing the Sea of Dread and looking for the infamous Isle of Dread. I've also placed White Plume Mountain, Teki-Nura-Ria, and the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth on various islands waiting to be found. At the end of the last session, the PCs only just found the entrance to White Plume Mountain (lightly re-skinned to fit a more tropical island theme), and we had a PC death to the "sphinx guardian" (which I replaced with a giant tiki-face with the same riddles and combat stats).

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Heh, I've got a better pun now

I need to republish Engines & Empires and World of Gaia.

Yes, I feel the need to kick the OSR logo off the back covers of both. (It has no right to be there now regardless, since Stuart Robertson rescinded it for everybody.) But there are also a few minor corrections to make—tweaks to the character sheets, the usual spate of minor typo corrections, and two bigger deals.

First, I'd like to tack the boxer and scholar classes that I wrote up (and presently have in their own little file on my sidebar over yonder to the left of the ol' blog) onto the end of the book in another appendix; and second, I feel a desperate need to update the melee weapon list, which (as it turns out) has some glaring inaccuracies that I just can't stomach anymore.

Corrections to things like the relative sizes of daggers, long-knives, short swords, arming swords, bastard swords, long swords (long swords are BIGGER than bastard swords; and even bastard swords are practically always used two-handed, never with a shield), and zweihänders. Or the fact that "great axes" and giant fantasy two-handed war-hammers are basically not a thing and never were, and that the largest historical axe and hammer weapons were pole-arms (namely pollaxes, bardiches, Lucerne hammers, and halberds) with long hafts, but relatively small heads.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Concerning Zak S.

Over the course of the past couple of days, the role-playing community at large, and the old-school gaming community in particular, has been rocked by revelations from multiple women that noted OSR artist, author, and blogger, Zak S./Smith/Sabbath (however it goes), is a reprehensible liar, manipulator, and sexual abuser.

Let me open by stating clearly that I believe Mandy, Hannah, Jennifer, and Vivka. They have my unequivocal support. Their accusations are credible beyond reasonable doubt, and also sufficiently rage-inducing that I would caution anyone against clicking those links unprepared for a gut-punch or three.

Zak's behavior, as described, is truly vile. He is a miscreant and a reprobate, and he has forfeited any claim to belonging in this community, online or otherwise.

The rest of my discussion on this matter is of considerably less relevance than the suffering of the victims, and their bravery in coming forward; therefore I relegate it to the remainder of the post, below the fold.