Sunday, October 31, 2010

Things You Can Do With One Hand And A Blog...

In glamorous Hollywood news, Mandy's terribly ill and I've done nothing nonmedical all Halloween weekend except play 2 (losing) games of Small World* with the "I Hit It With My Axe" cameraman.

However, despite my left hand being completely occupied with patting Mandy on the head continuously and saying "there there" for 6 hours, I have managed to throw together this...

One Handed Blog Entry

Here's a a digital drawing I made with one hand on MacPreview (which has no "draw" feature)...

Here's a picture of Brainiac I googled that inspired the color scheme...

Here's another random picture of Brainiac...

Here's an RPG relevant thought...evil wizard casts some spell of annoyance which means the player has to do everything left-handed (roll dice etc.) or no-handed. Did telecanter already think that up?


Oh, here's a better picture of the big labyrinth drawing from my show (click to enlarge).

Resuming regular service sometime in the future.

*Customers Who Bought This Product Also Enjoy: Math.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Case For Fancy Maps

So I'm making these fancy maps for the city kit and it takes a long time and so naturally I'm asking myself why I'm bothering to do it.

After all, traditional grid maps are clear, easy to make, familiar to all DMs, and automatically include all the information a party expects to have. (For example--in the batcave map, how wide is the batmobile ramp? Can't tell. And, for that matter, how do you even get from Wayne manor to the cave? Can't tell. It's hard to squeeze all that boring stuff in to a picture.)

So, why bother? 2 main reasons:

#1 Well-executed picture maps are--to a DM--really fucking useful.

Traditional map: Let's say the PCs are in room 14. Cool. You look down and find the little "14" and you know all about room 14.

However, let's say somebody starts listening at the doors...what's the north door sound like?--now you've got to look up room 18. West door? Room 31. South door? down room 356. You're flipping and flipping.

Or say you're trying to decide when to break for lunch...well how close are the PCs to anything interesting? Stop now or on a cliffhanger? Or what if somebody starts detecting magic--how close is the nearest magic?

With a picture map, you not only know that room 14 contains no giant gorilla, you know that room 17 does and it's close enough to smell that feast the wizard just summoned.

So, a map that makes you go "Ohhhh, that room" as soon as you look at it is gonna be helpful. A picture map doesn't have to have a picture of everything that's in the room, it just have to make each room distinctive enough that it triggers the DMs memory.

It's not such a big deal if it's a dungeon you wrote yourself and so you remember it all, but if it's a module and so it's something somebody else wrote, you're likely to appreciate reminders about what exactly is where.

Reason #2: In a product, picture maps are efficient. Most RPG stuff has pictures. Most D&D stuff has maps. Combine them into one thing you save money, you save space, and best of all the person buying it can get a better idea of what kind of thing they're buying than if they flip through it (or the pdf preview of it) and see an image which simultaneously shows the structure of the adventure and the kinds of things that show up in it.

Map, Second Draft

Made some changes to the map for added clarity.

(Click to make it bigger).

Obviously what the little pictures for each room are supposed to be will be more clear once the map gets keyed, but the basic idea of how the rooms connect to one another should be pretty clear. Lemme know if anything's hard to understand.


Edited--thanks to Roger the GS for pointing out I had a stairwell going the wrong way.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Workin' On The City Kit...

That's a first draft for the map of Eshrigel the Medusa's place. The squiggly spiral thing above her head is the symbol for "secret door". (Click to make it bigger.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Staring At Skeletons

There are a lot of skeleton warriors on the coffee table.

They're in between soup cans and tins of cupcake cups which were doubling as battlements.

Miniatures are interesting--toys can sometimes look like they're just lying there, but minis always look like they're doing stuff. In formation, ready to hit each other.

I should probably clean them off--they're left over from the game we had on the weekend--but I keep not doing it because I kind of just like having them there while I work. And also on account of laziness.

So anyway they're sitting there. They keep saying "Play with us, plaaay with us!"

Here's what I'd like to do, I've been thinking: convince the Thai karaoke restaurant down the street to let us play D&D there at night once a week. Or the bar with the free hot dogs.

I think this is the skeletons' idea. I think they want to get out of the house.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Vornheim City Kit

So, yeah.

It's going to be great. I get to make the urban adventure book that I keep wishing already existed. Nothing to wade through, no thickets of worldbuildy prose, just wall-to-wall useful DM stuff. A total Swiss Army Knife for running cities in D&D.

I'm very excited, mostly because I can't wait to use it myself. And draw the pictures.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Quick Stupid DM Trick Postgame Report

So I wrote a scenario (a set of linked potential scenarios, really--you couldn't do it any other way and still fit it in the sandbox) using every idea y'all gave me.

During the actual session we got through 17 of the ideas suggested (though, to be fair several people suggested overlapping things involving dogs or kids), leaving 23 waiting beneath the sand in one or other corner of the map.

Mandy fell victim to an Adam-Thornton-inspired magnet trap in the Flesh-Shadow bordello, though she survived on account of her being Yuan-Ti and Caroline Pierce taking off all her clothes before climbing down to get her.

After being set upon by evil children (courtesy a few people) wearing unheard-of-in-Vornheim-mystery-color pink (thanks to Erin Palette) Connie decided to take a balloon ride with cameraguy Darren over an ocean of mystery goo created in the mid-battle flood suggested by James Smith and caused by James Raggi's much-agonized-over moral-dilemma disintegrating scrollkid (I made her a Yuan-Ti with readable snakebook scaleskin, just to twist the knife a little more).

Over the open water, after spying an enigmatic sea structure topped by a floating pig (of whose true nature Infamous Jum knows more than my players) and surrounded by a cloud of flying somethings (nods to Matt and Jarrah), Darren lowered Connie ropewise down to the deck of a ship where slept Chris Weller's unusual ettin which she, being Connie, decided to wake up for no discernible reason.

Thus began a long and lamentable battle wherein Connie got royally fucked up and Darren ended up trying to use her dangling and flaming body as a sort of giant match to set the deck of the ship on fire which only ended in non-disaster on account of Darren managing to roll a 20 (only possible successful roll) to summon the will to slice his own leg open after it got fused to the balloon basket and then equally screwing the gods of probability on a charisma check to be all "Ah, well-fought old boy, let's end this and have a drink!" with the ettin and joining him in a well-earned tankard on the deck of the now-decimated ship. Without medication, Connie may yet die.

In other news: the dogs have begun to behave strangely--biting people, who then giggle, and Mandy and Caroline found a glass sphere with an aurotropic fish inside.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Stupid DM Trick Update

5 hours to game time...
So far so good...

Sexy Cladograms?

You know how they make these things which show the evolutionary family tree...

...of various species, or sometimes all species, or sometimes just a species and subspecies?

Anyway--they used to look awesome. Now I can't find any good ones.

Anybody know of any?

Stupid DM Tricks

Got a game tomorrow.

I'm going to sleep now.

In the morning I will write a D&D adventure incorporating every single idea you all leave in the comments between now and when I wake up in 8 hours. (noonish Pacific Standard Time).

Then, a few hours later, I will run the girls through it (unfilmed, so no royalties for good ideas). (and please don't be a douche and link to some long thing that's already all written out)

Anyway, have fun.

Good night.


(8 hours later)

Times up. Stop posting. I am getting to work.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Omnipresent Inspiration Hypothesis Day...3 is it?

Just got back from NYC. The art got shown and sold and all that. At some point soon I may be able to settle back and resume the regular broadcasting schedule here.

Anyway: still testing the hypothesis.

So I just saw Zach Galifinakis interview Bruce Willis and made me think of this player-skill-test mechanism:

NPC (or magic talking box, or communed with deity or whatever) asks a question. If the PC hesitates, horrible things begin to happen.

Unlike the Python "Name/quest/favorite color" gimmick, it's not just a binary answer-or-get-fucked-over situation, it has to get progressively worse the longer the player fails to answer and the player has to know it.

Also, I wouldn't go with a riddle, I'd just go with something that you have to think about for a minute.

Like the cleric goes "Oh, Mighty Vrogthrot, guide me in my hour of need!"
Vrogthrot: "Then tell me, holyman, what is the finest meal you've eaten since you left the Brass Forests of Klee Ten Krhome?"
Cleric: "Uh..."
DM: "You lose a fingernail"
Cleric: "What?"
DM: "Tik tik tik. You lose another. Off your thumb."

And then if you lie, things of course get much worse.

Alright, there you go.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Been very busy on account of having an art show opening this week. Squeezed a game in with a gazillion local friends*.

It was a pretty simple concept but it went over well including with like 4 people who'd never played so I'll lay it out here in case anyone wants to steal it:

PC's are shipwrecked in a barren and icy land (with their gear). Lost, hungry etc. (or otherwise desperate)

They espy 8 ships navigating a nearby fjord. The flagship is in the middle and is flying a flag some may recognize as that of some famous pirate. 7 fearsome frigates surround him.

The 3 most obvious ways the PCs can access the ships are:
-across the ice
-through a wood to a cliff (where they can drop down onto a frigate)
-and by water (they have a not-terribly seaworthy lifeboat left).

Each frigate has a crew of 4-10 pirates on deck ready to repel intruders.

Belowdecks on each ship there's a microdungeon containing a fearsome captain, a treasure or otherwise weird thing, a trap or two, and whatever else your sense of verisimilitude demands be belowdecks on a ship. (I based the 7 fearsome captains on the 7 Dwarves and the 7 things in the 7 holds on the Bela Bartok version of Bluebeard but I only had a couple hours to prepare so you can probably do better than that. I had Bluebeard and Snow White celebrating their recent wedding on the flagship.)

My group had a sea elf (Mandy) who was able to do a little reconnaissance on the frigates, and so I let them pick which target to attack first based on what little she could glean (one ship was unnaturally quiet, one had a garden inside, one had a lake of tears inside, the others were hard to read).

The real fun comes from the fact that as soon as anyone in the convoy is alerted to the presence of the PCs, the frigates will begin to maneuver so that they:

-put as many frigates between the PCs and the flagship as possible, and
-save the treasures on all the allied frigates.

And of course the whole thing happens in a narrow fjord, allowing for all kinds of channel-blocking and sea-to-land-to-ice-to-sea shenanigans.

This makes the whole set-up into a moving dungeon with interchangeable pieces. For extra swashbuckledom, have the PCs be attacked from behind by wolves, arctic stirges, or polar worms during their initial attempts to make contact with the pirates.

*to: New Yorkers reading this who weren't there: joethelwayer, etc.--I would've called you but it was already over-capacity--my sister brought a ton of friends who'd never played. We should hook up later.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Stuff I Found...

...while looking through this years' sketchbook.

(I have a show in about a week--thus the light posting.)

There's a page of notes on the Gigastructure...
And here's...mmm...I think I was writing an adventure and trying to mark off every monster I'd already used...
Here's some pics of something I'm working on for the show...

that's a little bit of it (8x10")--it just keeps going...

I actually have the parts that go where that fucking wall lamp is, but I'm too tired to move the whole piece to a new wall right now.