Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hand-Drawn Dungeon Map

Did I have something better to do?  Better might not be the right word, but I definitely had other things that I should have done.  But, for whatever reason, the urge to map arose within me.  Too lazy to do something on the computer, I grabbed an 8.5x11" piece of white printer paper and a trusty black gel pen and began doodling.

48 minutes later, I had completed this:

It looks (to me) a lot like Dyson's work--a style that I haven't ever really tried before.  I guess that I shouldn't be surprised: His maps inspire me more than just about anything else that I'm seeing out there right now.

Hopefully, he won't come after me for attempting to use his style.

If I wanted to really emulate him, I would write a little backstory for the map.  Unfortunately, too tired for now.  Perhaps a kind reader will supply me with one in the comments.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Dungeons and I: A Love Affair

Have I ever said that I LOVE dungeons?  Yes, dungeons.  Those strange twisting collection of passageways through the ground, or sometimes even through more sinister realms.  Yes, I know that they are (perhaps) unrealistic.  I know that certain gamers look down their noses at them.

But, come on.  If our suspension of disbelief can accomodate dragons, elves, and dwarves, CERTAINLY it can accomodate huge labyrinthine complexes of caves and passageways carved through the earth.  Well, mine can.

Then there are those gamers who can get past the "idea" of the dungeon, but then get hung up on the unrealistic nature of most dungeons that have been published, or even that haven't been.  There are basically two schools of thought that have attempted to answer this problem.  Of course, there is a third way: Ignore the problem, because it isn't one!

The first school says, "Well, if you think that dungeons are unrealistic, make them more realistic!"  A DM would do this by, for instance, including latrine facilities for the creatures that dwell within, ensure that the sources of food can support populations of a given size, etc, etc.  The DM would attempt to determine why creatures are where they are located in the dungeon and ensure, to the best of his ability, that his reasoning is plausible.

The second school says that there is a reason that the dungeon does not function in a way that makes ecological sense.  This school is best described by Philotomy here.  He sees the dungeon as a 'mythic underworld'.  I have to say I had never thought of this idea, and I like it a lot.  It allows a lot more freedom for the DM, but goes one further than the Third way mentioned above by actually giving a reason for the dungeon to be as it is.

Regardless of your school of thought, I think that there ample real-world examples of dungeons, and if they can exist in the real world, then they can CERTAINLY exist in a world populated by dwarves, and all manner of other subterranean creatures.  And, going further, of one assumes several millenia of history, then these races had generations and generations to craft, expand, and carve out underground locations ripe for "present day" adventure.

I guess my point in all of this is that dungeons are awesome.

And in case you didn't guess it, there is only one thing better than a dungeon, and that is a map of a dungeon!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Delves!!

So just like this guy over here, I will soon become the proud owner of Dyson's Delves.

I ordered the hardcover version.  Gave it to myself as a little birrthday present which will be happening shortly after the New Year.

I have to say that I am fired up about this purchase.  If you don't know what the big deal is about, go take a look at the Dodecahedron.  Better yet, just go straight to his maps.  I LOVE his style of mapping.  LOVE IT!

The Dodecahedron is what, a long time ago, I imagined this blog might become: A nice place to look at really cool maps.  (I'm not trying to compare my maps to his--it's more of an aspirational thing.)  Unfortunately, I haven't made the time to draw a lot of maps.  Maybe I'll start.

And, by the way, go buy a copy of the Delves.  I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Thoughts on the Hobbit (and Time magazine)

I went and saw the Hobbit Saturday afternoon.  I went and saw it with my wife, who's not a gamer by any means, and isn't really a huge fantasy fan.  But I'm lucky--she knew that I wanted to see it and was up for it.

Here's the best part: She LOVED it!  Frankly, I did, too.

I've read a lot of reviews of the movie.  Some positive, many neutral, a lot negative--which I don't really get.  I was going to write a long review myself, explaining why I felt the way I did.  But why should I bother--no one really cares.  THEN I considered linking to EVERY single review that I could find, both in our little corner of the blogosphere, and the wider interwebs--similar to how I used to post Map Roundups (which will return someday).  But again, why bother?

Instead, I'm only going to link to two reviews.  These are the two reviews that I have read thusfar that most closely match my views on the movie.

First, from Ain't It Cool News.

Second, from Original Edition Fantasy.


I'm sure that most of you have seen the article in Time magazine from last week about D&D.  The title summarized the article: Will D&D be the next Hobbit?  Pretty good article, fairly insightful, in my opinion.

Here's my thoughts on it:

- WotC and their corporate overlord probably could try to bring D&D more "mainstream" success if they were smart about it.  (Whether this would even be a good thing or not depends on your personal opinion.  I'm just assuming that it would be, because unlike those members of our hobby who enjoy the supposed cachet of being in a very small group of like-minded people, I would have no problem with the entire world becoming D&D fans.)

- I'm going to pretend that the previous D&D movies didn't happen.  Because they were, IMHO, crap.  Besides, the point of a D&D movie shouldn't be to shout, "Look, ma, I'm D&D!  I'm in a movie!!!"  The point should be to tell exciting fantasy stories that employ some of the IP from D&D.  (And don't hate on me, because I used the term IP ("intellectual property")!  The D&D IP is what makes it so cool.)

- What do I mean by the above comment?  This: I don't want to see a movie with "Dungeons and Dragons" in its title.  I want to see a movie with "Baldur's Gate" in its title or "Waterdeep" in its title or, maybe even better, "The Keep on the Borderlands" or "Dwellers of the Forbidden City" in its title.  I want to see a fantasy movie that, to the unlearned, is just another fantasy movie (and let's face it, there's fantasy all over the place right now) that has mind flayers as the big baddies in it.  Or maybe a fantasy movie that takes place in a city where the crime-lord is a beholder.  (Cliched, perhaps.)  Heck, just a movie with a beholder at all would be pretty damn cool.  I know that many of you in the OSR aren't fans of Drizzt, but why not a movie about him in the Forgotten Realms?

So there you go.  I'm curious to know what do you think.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Did Goodman Games Steal My Idea!?!

Over two years ago, I wrote a post proposing a "One Map Dungeon Contest".  It was an idea I had at the time while thinking about the One Page Dungeon Contests that have been so successful.

Imagine my surprise when I came upon this.  I guess the idea was so good that Goodman Games decided to take it.


Lest you think that I am out of my rocker, I don't think that they stole my idea.  I'll just choose to believe that great minds think alike.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My Daily Read

Off to the right of your screen and down a little is a blog list that I call 'My Daily Read'.  For a long time, it was just what its name implied: A list of those blogs that I read daily--or at least looked at daily.  Some of them were there, because I really enjoyed the material.  Some had the added benefit of serving as "gateway" blogs for me that I could count on to have blogrolls covering most of the other blogs that I enjoyed.

Over time, things happen, tastes change, bloggers stop blogging, etc.  I started calling the list "My Used-To Read", but, except on two occasions, I have been too lazy to update it.

Laziness, be gone!!  The list is updated!

I'm also very happy to report that Brandon Kruse over at D&D Doodle seems to be doodling again!  Very good news indeed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Inspiration for Me: City Ruins

One of my reasons for maintaining a blog is to build an online library of things that inspire me, creatively or otherwise.

This post is purely for that purpose.

I came across something in my internet wanderings, and I don't want to lose it.

The topic is City Ruins, and the source of the inspiration is the Hill Cantons.  Thank you, ckutalik, for this blog post that is 3+ years old.  You have inspired me.

The inspiration comes from a quote in that blog post about the ancient city of Constantinople.  Good stuff.


Now that I stop and think about it, fantastic city ruins have occupied a large plot of mental real estate in my mind lately.  Three different ruined cities actually.

#1: The first is the city of Tharrenton Deep, an ancient dwarven stronghold in a piece of fiction that I am writing.  Megadungeon exploration in fiction.  Enough said, for now.

#2: The second city is that which appears in the classic AD&D module, Dwellers of the Forbidden City.  I, like many people before me, absolutely adore the map of the city that appears on the inside cover of the module.  Some have said that that map is the first example of an isometric map to appear in a TSR module.  Don't know if true or not, but it's a fantastic map.

Recently, I had a crazy idea.  Why not create a map of the city in a 10'/square scale instead of the (I believe) 50'/square scale that it originally appears.  I figured it out a while ago: Assuming 5 squares/inch graph paper, the map would come in at about four feet by four feet.  You could map the interiors of all the buildings shown on the original.  You (meaning me, if I actually attempted it) could do a second map (or mutliple maps)(same size) that depicts all of the upper levels of those buildings.  Do another map that shows the sewer system, basements, and catacombs, and perhaps one final map that shows a deeper level.  What you end up with is 5+ maps, sized four feet by four feet, that depict the Forbidden City in typical dungeon level detail.

FANTASTIC!  I even considered going one step further: Make it a kickstarter project and see if people would actually back such a thing.  Because, honestly, without some kind of forcing factor, I don't see myself being able to plod through all that effort.

#3: The third city is a ruined city located in a cavern that I hint at in Locales, Volume 1, the first product that I released at many years ago.  I was on the website looking at the product and re-read a review that said, "The maps for the Caverns are wonderful, creating an entire underground complex ready for adventuring. The only complaint I have for these maps is there is no map for the ruined city."  (Emphasis added.)

I guess I just have a thing for ruined cities.


And here's the map from Locales, Volume 1 that shows (in very little detail) the ruined city:

(The scale for the map was 100ft per segment of the scale at its bottom.)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

World Engines (My Own Part Three)

First off, yes, it's been a long time since I've appeared here.  I apologize.  Honestly, I've been passing this way almost continuously since you last saw me--I just didn't stop to say hello.

So.  Hello.

Okay. On to the topic at hand.

So Dave (here or here) and I have long talked about coming up with a system for a DM to generate a world (continent, region, kingdom, whatever...) history in a relatively short period of time using a set of random charts, similar in concept to the Events Charts from the AD&D Oriental Adventures.  We have talked about it and discussed it for a long, long time.  (A dozen years or more?)  We were talking about it just a few days ago, in fact, the last time that we spoke.

It turns out that others are talking about such a system as well.  They have, in one small way, gone a step further than us--they've given the system a name.  World Engine.  I have to say that I like the sound of that.  Anyway, first go here for Part One of the talk.   Then, go here for a little commentary on Part One.  Finally, go here for Part Two.

I don't have much to say on the topic today, but I wanted to dip my toe in the water and grab a spot at this bar.  I will have more to say in the coming days.  I hope that those others do as well.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Terrifying Horror from the Real World

I am about to link to a video that should be the stuff of nightmares.  Perhaps it isn't, but it should be.

But honestly, to be truly horrifying, you need to do some things to prepare first:

1. Arrange to listen to some scary music or background noise, something other than the soundtrack to the video itself (because the video's music is just strange).  Try to pick something that evokes a horrible death, an inevitable doom that you cannot escape from, or an evil that is almost beyond comprehension.  Perhaps something alien.

2. The first view of the video is looking down on a bunch of round objects.  When you see them, do your best to convince yourself that you're looking at the heads of your adventurers, protruding from the ground, as if they are buried up to their ears.  When the video shifts to the side-view, again, convince yourself that you are looking at a human, dwarven, or elven head, possibly with lifeless (or perhaps drugged) eyes staring blankly at you.

When viewed when following the above pieces of advice, I think you will find that the video is pretty terrific, in the most horrific ways imaginable.

Here is a link to the video.  Watch it.

I personally found the first two minutes or so to be the best, but you might feel otherwise.

I found the video in this article, but I highly recommend watching the video before bothering with the article.

Finally, if anyone can point James Raggi in the direction of this post, I'd appreciate it.  I think that he would really enjoy it.  (I used to be listed on his 'Other Stuffies to Read' but he probably removed me after months of my not posting.)

Friday, July 20, 2012

An Elven View of the World

The Elves in my campaign worlds can occasionally step into states of (what is effectively) suspended animation, for various periods of time.  They typically do this when they are communing with their natural surroundings.  They use this time to rest and separate themselves from the mortal burdens that all of the other races of man around them have to deal with.

When they do so, this is reminiscent of how they experience the world.

It also reminds me of the Silmarillion, before the sun was created and the Elves lived in perpetual twilight.  I think that these views are like what they would have seen.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

DIY Dungeon Maps and Some Old Classics

So I'm not a big fan of the WotC website--in fact, I only ever go there if a link leads me to it.  But today, I came across a link that I really enjoyed.

About three weeks ago, WotC had a little dungeon contest at their website.  Draw a cool dungeon map, submit it to them, and they would pick the winner, etc, etc.  I guess there were prizes, although I didn't read far enough to find out.  You see, I only found out about it today, and it is too late to enter.  If I had known about it then, I probably would have.

But the cool thing is this: At the page announcing the contest, down at the very bottom, are pictures of some of the classic dungeon maps from our hobby's beginnings.  Not in a format that you could actually use them (I don't think), but I love looking at them.

More recently, they announced the winning entries.  I enjoyed looking at them, although some are *better* (wholely subjective, I know) than others.  I particularly like the map for the Fortress of Despair.  Good stuff!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Subterranean Design - F#@$ Yeah!

It's included on My Daily Read for a reason.  If you aren't a frequent visitor, you are missing out.  I'm talking about Subterranean Design of course.

This amazing collection of images should serve as fantastic inspiration for anyone who plays D&D, or any fantasy, science fantasy, or even science fiction rpg out there.  Absolutely incredible--I cannot say enough about how good the site is.

And for those gamers who claim that dungeons are unrealistic, outdated, or just plain stupid, taking a look at the real world dungeons presented at SubDes should change your mind.  If it doesn't?  Well, that sounds like a personal problem to me.

Go check it out.  Check it out often.  Check it out every day.  You won't be disappointed.  I promise.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Map Roundup - 01 February 2012

A very short map roundup today--one item short.  In case you missed it, this is one from several days ago.

FrDave over at Blood of Prokopius (26 Jan 2012) posted this nice map of a Manor House.  Really nice work.

Friday, January 27, 2012

More Dungeons in Fiction

So back here, I asked the question, "Does anyone know of any megadungeons in modern fantasy literature?"  I received a few answers (thanks for those, guys) and that gave me some food for thought.

I have a follow-up question, although it is only slightly different from the original, so the same answers might apply.  Does anyone know of any works of fiction that include a "Campaign Dungeon"?  In case you aren't familiar, the term basically means a dungeon that is the main (perhaps only) adventuring locale for an entire campaign of play.

You may be wondering--or perhaps you aren't--why I'm asking questions about dungeons in fiction.  The short reason is because I am actually in the process of writing a story (goal length 60-75k words) that is basically just that--a big old dungeon with a small group of adventurers going into it looking for riches.  My reason for asking is to help me determine if the idea is as unique (in fiction) as I think it is, or is it trite and old.  I have to admit that I haven't read any fantasy is a LONG time and may not know about something that is out there.

So, if you know of something, please speak up.  Thanks.

Monday, January 23, 2012

"Thanks!" and "WTF Blogger?!?"

So I asked a question in my last post about dungeons in fiction and I received some replies and I wanted to say thanks to those guys for answering my question.  They definitely provided some things for me to look into.

Now you may be asking yourself, "Why is he thanking them in a new post?  Wouldn't it make more sense to just throw a comment and thank them there?"

The answer to the second question is, yes, of course it would.

But that brings me to part 2 of this post.

WTF Blogger?!?

You see, for some reason that I am unable to fathom, I cannot see any specific Blogger blog post with comments.  I can read a blog and read the last X number of posts, but if I try to click on a specific post to read the comments associated with it, nothing.  My IE opens a new tab and then refuses to put anything into it.  That goes for any blog post, my own included.

(Now I know that many of you scoff at the fact that I use Internet Explorer, but I do.  It's never really bothered me before now.)

I guess the question is, is this an issue with Blogger, an issue with IE, or some other issue?

Can anyone help me?!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Question about Dungeons in Fiction

Or more specifically, megadungeons.  Are there any megadungeons who have played a significant role in fantasy (and/or any of its "offshoots") literature in the last twenty-five years?

The Mines of Moria are perhaps the most well-known example of a megadungeon in fiction.  And while they are important to the Lord of the Rings as an obstacle to be overcome by or as a road to be traversed by the Fellowship or, if I remember correctly, as a means to separate Gandalf from the others, they don't play much of a role in the story.  The time spent in their halls by that adventuring group (in words) isn't all that great compared to the entirety of the trilogy.

But are there any other examples of megadungeons in modern fiction?  I'm interested and would really appreciate any other examples.  Thanks!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Names, Names, Names

Speaking of names, what he said.

Also, thank you, Brendan, for pointing me toward this.  A handy little name generator that, based on my initial playing-around, works nicely indeed.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Artist Unfamiliar (before now) to Me

Stefan Poag is an impressive artist in his own right and has done some amazing work.  First, I say to Stefan, thank you for the drawings that you have done that have "leaked" out into the world.  I say "leaked" because I've not purchased anything with his art in it, but it is always a joy to look at.  And I'm really looking forward to his Drawing-a-Day.  I hope he posts all of his drawings.

Secondly, I want to say thank you to Stefan for pointing me toward Rich Longmore.

To Rich, I can only say, "Wow."  I love his aesthetic.  Some of his pieces are reminiscent of the best drawings from the Fiend Folio, but more "realistic" (Is that possible in fantasy art?).  At the same time, I feel like each of his pictures tells a story. 

(That is a phrase that I've heard many times about illustrations, perhaps too many, but, in the case of Rich's art, I think that it is completely appropriate.)

They are full of detail, action, and style.  Don't want to sound too much like my fifteen year old self from days past, but, "Awesome!"

Knowing that his art is in Carcosa is perhaps one more reason I may need to purchase that.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Map Roundup - 05 January 2012

Lost in Time (05 Jan 2012), a new blog (and new to me) posted these maps from the early days.  Love them.  Perfect mix of home-made awesome with a bit of skill thrown in.

Thankyou, Trollsmyth (04 Jan 2012) for this post about perhaps the last great map of hte United States.  (And you thought I only liked fantastic cartography?)  And, just in case, here is a link to the actual article.

Aaron over at Paladin in Citadel (04 Jan 2012) shows us Magic Realm, a pretty nifty looking board game about wilderness hex crawling.  I like board games that get built as you play them.  I've found them to be a lot of fun.  It sounds like a fun little game.  The actual hexes are pretty nice looking, too!

Not an extensive roundup, but all I have time for today.  Until next time...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

D&D - Past, Present and Future

So where I am currently typing this, the New Year has not yet rolled in.  It is about ten minutes to midnight, and I am surrounded by sounds of explosions, large and small, welcoming the coming passage.

So, I guess first thing's first--Happy New Year to all of you who are already on the far side of this celebration.  I hope that you had a fun, and safe, time.

But on to the point.

I'm not a regular reader of the Escapist, but these articles caught my attention.  A guy by the name of Greg Tito has written three articles about D&D, talking about its Past, Present, and Future.  Interesting read, all in all, whether or not you agree with what he has to say or if you think that these articles have any relevance to the real world.  But I always enjoy hearing from "insiders" so I found these articles a fun read.  Perhaps you will as well.