Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Dungeonmorph Dice gets an Ennies Nomination

The 2015 Ennie Award Nominees are out and I don't normally get excited about these sorts of things as Gen Con is so far away and I'm unlikely to get the chance to go myself.  However, this year is different and I will be rooting for Inkwell Ideas Dungeonmorph Explorers Dice in the "Best Aid / Accessory" category.

What sets Dungeonmorph Dice apart from the other products in the category is one word... 


This nomination is more than just a reward for Joe, it's a reward for all the geomorphing contributors that have been part of our odd little cartographic community for the past 4 or 5 years. 

I know how difficult it is to come up with unique cartography and, through my involvement with the Dungeonmorphs 2 Kickstarter, how much work goes into making this idea into a real product.  The hours pouring over designs, selecting the best ones and making subtle changes here and there, not to mention the wrangling of manufacturers and shipping out orders. 

Congratulations to all the mappers out there that made this possible and lets spread the word and turn this nomination into something bigger.

Monday, 22 June 2015

A to Z of UK RPG in the 80s: M is for Mayfair Games

M is for Mayfair Games founded by Lawyer Darwin Bromley in 1980.  This small games publisher branched out into RPGs with the help of veteran Bill Fawcet and began publishing their "Unofficial" AD&D / D&D / T&T compatible adventure modules like 1982s Question of Gravity under the Role Aids banner.  Their attempt to steer through the copyright minefield by using the coverline "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of TSR Hobbies, Inc. Use of the trademark NOT sanctioned by the holder." they eventually fell foul of the changing attitudes to product licensing at TSR.

Looking at these modules through OSR spectacles they are refreshingly light, yet ambitious and Question of Gravity in particular has a quite unique take on the traditional dungeon.

The cover art (by Fantasy author Janny Wurtz) does not allude in any way to this singularly impressive locale which is the focii for this scenario... 

... a dungeon on the inside of a 1000ft wide cube.

The interior maps are an impressive feat considering the lack of digital artistry back then.  I saw something similar nearly 20 years later in Issue #86 of Dungeon Magazine which was a Tracey Hickman Dragonlance scenario called "The Anvil of Time" but this was only one room not a whole dungeon.

Grids are notable absent from the maps, this was the 80s after all, where play was freer and not concerned with tactical movement, flanking or god forbid Attacks of Opportunity!!  The room (or should I say platform) descriptions oddly don't have the tried and tested "read aloud to the players" boxed text that we have all come to know and love in our pre-written dungeon crawl modules, but in this case I can understand.  Enemies can come from any direction and the mind boggles at trying to replicate this on a tabletop grid.  The descriptions are brief and designed to give a flavour of what you may encounter, the salient points rather than detailing the minutia.

original hand illustrated map (click to embiggen)Sketchup Render (click to embiggen)

Whilst these modules are rare, they are still available in all the usual places, and they may well prove to be an unexpected and inspirational distraction for your players.  I know that I've got plans for using the cube in my own campaign world.

Monday, 16 March 2015

The Tale of Tynka Azolla - The Isle of Dread - Episode 1

As I mentioned in an earlier post I am embarking on my first adventure using D&D 5th Edition and I'm going to chronicle my journey (and that of my character) as a series of blog posts.  The format will be character journal entry and then my take on the rules.

This being the true and reasonably accurate account of the misadventures of Forest Gnome Barbarian Hermit Tynka Azolla.

The tribe have left me to look after the old hermit Klandgnor and the egg of Khan Arge in the ruins of Montnorad

He's insane but harmless and cries out in his sleep when troubled by the dreams of the 52 black birds and the missing Iles of Cruise, visions of the war between the hawk men of the Capitol and their enemies the Coh Mees of Uesesah.  He rambles prophetically about The End of Days when the high priest of Potus spoke to the the amureeckans and told them to go forth and shelter from the fall.

I was out picking berries to make a poultice to calm his dream time when a great black shadow passed over the forest, followed by a raucous cawing.  When I got back to the ruin it was a shattered mess.  There was no sign of the old man or the egg, but in the sky I could see a great bird travelling South.

I grabbed my travelling pack, glad that my father had trained me well to always be ready to move at a moments notice and headed South.  On the third day I found the hermits body among the flat rocks at the bottom of the waterfall.  He had been split open and his insides torn out, great claw scratches littered the rocks among the blood, feathers and viscera.  Whatever swooped down and snatched him up had decided to eat him.  The egg was nowhere to be seen, so I blessed the old man's corpse and continued South.  The hermit had taught me that a great evil resided in the egg and should it be released it would consume the world in destruction, my mission to find the giant bird and retrieve the egg.

Eventually coming to a great coastal settlement I found many people who had seen the great bird always heading south.  Some said that it must be headed to the Isle of dread.  I found a merchant who was assembling a trade ship bound for the Isle.  I lied to him about my past but he believed me and I am now one of his bodyguards. 

We set sail on board a ramshackle ship bound for the Isle.  10 days later we approached the archipelago when an ungodly storm came out of nowhere smashing our ship to pieces and I jumped overboard to save myself.  We woke up in the beach battered but alive, a heavy mist obscured the horizon so I went inland in search of fresh water, food and foliage.  It was then that the giant crabs attacked, I killed one with my javelin and almost killed two others who were attacking Kendrick the merchant and some of the other survivors and sailors.

Giant Crabs attack the PCs (yes the pencil sharpener is a PC) and survivors on the sample file beach.
When the mist cleared it was clear that we were on a sandbar and the ship had hit a reef a sort distance away.  It was heavily damaged but intact if we are to survive we must construct a raft from the flotsam washed up on the sandbar and make our way back to the ship to gather supplies.

My Thoughts on Character Generation

My character is a truly random creation.  Race & Class were randomly rolled and Attribute scores were determined from a best of three sets  (using 4D6 drop lowest method) then placed appropriately and Race/Class modifiers applied.  This resulted in above average STR, INT and DEX scores but a truly awful WIS.

The use of predefined "packs" is an excellent answer to long complex equipment lists and gets you up and running in no time.  Similarly, I really liked the background aspects of the new character gen system (Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds, Flaws) which will be of immense help to new players and create some really interesting combinations.

I'm a big fan of the way Castles & Crusades / SIEGE system resolves Skill/Attribute checks so I feel quite at home with the new slimmed down skills list and proficiency modifier system.  Gone are all those horrible 4e Powers which made even a low level game sound like you were in an 80s anime and drove you nuts tracking Class Feature / Race Power / At Will / Encounter / Daily usage.

In play

Coming around after the shipwreck encounter, I received my first Disadvantage token, which was a real shock.  Although it only applied to skill checks it really had an adverse effect on my play.  I could not catch a break and I failed all subsequent skill rolls.  I'll reserve judgement on this until I've benefitted from Advantage but I'm leaning towards favouring a static positive/negative modifier as I feel it's effects might be too random.

Combat seemed way more streamlined and faster than 3.5/4e with a return to the simpler bash/bash mechanics of earlier editions.  It may not be terribly realistic, but it gets the job done with the minimum of delay.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Thunderbirds are Go... ing to be a Co-op Boardgame and RPG in 2015

Supermarionation fans are going to have an FAB 2015 as they celebrate 50 years of Thunderbirds.

In April ITV launches it's semi CGI remake of the classic series Thunderbirds are Go! and Modiphius have teamed up with Pandemic designer Matt Leacock to make a Thunderbirds Co-operative Boardgame and RPG currently going through the crowdfunding motions on Kickstarter.

Withing minutes of hearing about it, I backed it.  Game components look top drawer and with the extra RPG stretch goal already unlocked, it's two games in one.  Can't tell how it will play, but if Pandemic and Forbidden Island / Desert are anything to go by this should be a crowd pleaser.

Whilst you're waiting for this to be delivered check some of the stunning models created for the new series by WETA Workshops. I can't wait to see how it looks with the CGI characters added in.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Reaper Bones: Elliwyn Heatherlark, Gnome Bard

In a couple of weeks I'm going to be getting both my first taste of D&D 5e (can't wait) and visiting the classic 80s module Isle of Dread for the very first time.  American readers may find it surprising that as I'm a 40-year-old virgin when it comes to most D&D modules and I've opined on this cultural peculiarity several times.

When GMing I like the PCs to be a good spread of classes to ensure that every player has at least one set of abilities or skills to ensure they feel engaged.  I'm probably holding a minority opinion here, but my example is always that of The A-Team.  Face had his charisma, B.A. his Strength and Engineering skills, Murdoch was the pilot and Hannibal the brains of the outfit.

However, when playing I prefer a challenge.  I let the dice decide the big stuff and I use my imagination to fill in the subtle details.  My GM accommodated my predelictions and I ended up with a female gnome barbarian with a severe Napoleon Complex.  She's going to be the sort of girl who picks fights in the roughest inns with the biggest guys just to prove that she's not a damsel in distress.  I still have to figure out who she's trying to prove it to...

Luckily Reaper Bones came to the rescue with a suitable mini, 77164: Elliwyn Heatherlark, Gnome Bard (sculpted by Derek Schubert).  Even though she's listed as a Bard, she's not carrying the defacto lute or mandolin and can easily stand in for a plethora of fighter stereotypes.

Main colours blocked out
My painting style starts with a black base coat (usually sprayed on) and then I block out the main colours starting with the face.  I'm making her some kind of forest gnome so her palette reflects summer and autumn of reds, browns and greens. 

My theory is that she gathers fresh local foliage every day to camoflague her shield and clothing much like snipers and she paints her skin and dyes her hair to blend in with the forest just like the hunters in Apocalypto.

Windsor & Newton Matte Varnish... not so matte, but she's well protected

Then it's just a case of adding midtones and highlights to finish her off.  All-in-all about an hours work spread over a few days between filling out job applications and talking to recruitment agents.

I hope to be blogging regular gameplay updates of her progress through the game and my thoughts on 5e, so stay tuned.

Bones Progress 

Reaper Bones: 245 - Painted: 35

Related Posts:

  • Reaper Bones: The Marathon Begins - Where I paint a dozen Giant Rats
  • Reaper Bones: Kobolds, Are They Dogs or Dragons? - Where I paint a dozen kobolds. 
  • Reaper Bones: A Carcase of Skeletons - Where I paint a half dozen skeletons
  • Reaper Bones: A Shuffle of Zombies - Where I paint five zombies.
  • Reaper Bones: Introducing Shaina Coppervein, Dwarven Orc Hunter - First PC mini
  • Reaper Bones: Mimic, Treasure Chest and How I re-base my Bones - Where I paint furniture
  • Reaper Bones: Fire Elemental Meets Novelty Lamp - Where I hack a mini with LEDs
  • Reaper Bones: Flaming Sphere LED Tealight Hack - Another mini LED lighting project