Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Construction in Megadungeons

One of the least-used special abilities of dwarves is their 75% chance to determine new construction. When you read back over the history of the early Castle Greyhawk as run by Gary Gygax, we are told it was constantly in flux; new areas were being created, old areas were being re-worked, etc.

This is certainly not something that I've paid much attention to in the past myself, but it's something I've included (via the Greyhawk Construction Company) but hardly emphasized in my recent Castle of the Mad Archmage work. But I think it's an important piece of the megadungeon puzzle, as I've discussed in the past. They're not static things; they are always in motion. Not just with creatures moving into new digs to replace ones that have been slain and traps being reset, but the very physicality of the place undergoing change. The pace can be slow, or it can be swift, but in order to capture the true notion of the megadungeon as a constant work-in-progress, it should not be ignored.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

eXPloring the World of Greyhawk

What would motivate a Christopher Columbus or a Marco Polo in a D&D-type setting?

Jeff Rients came up with an absolutely awesome idea (perhaps "came up with" is the wrong term; "articulated for use in D&D" might be a better one) that one should earn experience points by the simple act of exploring. Reaching certain destinations would earn a character a certain modest amount of x.p.; the idea is that by "broadening" oneself, one gains life experiences (that can be translated into x.p. in game terms). Others have also talked about the same concept both before and after (and apparently it's something that has roots in Warhammer and Rolemaster as a concept), but unfortunately I hadn't run into the idea prior to reading Jeff's post.

This harkens back to the concept of the "Grand Tour" of various Continental centers of culture that English gentlemen-to-be were expected to undertake in order to round out their education and get acquainted with other lands and see for themselves the roots of their Classical educations. In contemporary America, you could make an analogy to "visit the Grand Canyon", "see Niagara Falls" (with bonus x.p. for "go over Niagara Falls in a barrel"-- not any waterfall will do), "go skydiving", etc. Think of it as The Bucket List with x.p. awards for crossing something off the list.

I think this is an absolutely terrific idea, and have, needless to say, jumped on it and poked around with it in Greyhawk-specific terms. I take it a little beyond just "see the sights," though. I think experiences that aren't specific to locale should count, too; seeing a dragon fly overhead for the first time, making a pilgrimage to a shrine of your patron deity, etc. Jeff suggested that he could find a hundred such things on the map of the Flanaess, so below you'll find 100 entries, broken roughly into four categories; geography, religious obligations, general events, and class-specific events. Almost all of the awards are in experience points, but a few yield benefits of another nature.

So, without further ado, I give you...

eXPloring the World of Greyhawk

It should be noted that, unless otherwise noted, all of these awards are one-time prizes, and are in addition to any other experience points that might be accumulated while in the process of earning the prize for the particular geographical feature or special event.


1. Amedio Jungle. 300 x.p. for traveling at least 10 miles into the steaming jungle. An additional 300 x.p. for finding the vast lake concealed within.
2. Azure Sea. 300 x.p. for sailing from one side to the other (i.e., the Hold of the Sea Princes to Onnwal, the Principality of Ulek to Idee, etc.).
3. Baklunish Lands. 250 x.p. for a non-Bakluni to visit one of the Baklunish nations (Ket and westward) for the first time.
4. Blackmoor. 400 x.p. for reaching the ruins at the edge of the Cold Marshes.
5. Bright Desert. 400 x.p. for traveling at least 60 miles into its expanse.
6. Burning Cliffs. 50 x.p. for seeing the billowing steam and smoke of the Cliffs from afar; 250 additional x.p. for actually travelling into the region of the Cliffs themselves.
7. Castle Greyhawk. 200 x.p. for spending at least an hour on the first level of the dungeons, over and above any x.p. that might otherwise be earned there. Followers of the demigod Xagyg receive a bonus of 250 x.p.
8. Csipros Erd. 200 x.p. for visiting the Geysers of Death and living to tell the tale.
9. Corusk Mountains. 500 x.p. for crossing the mighty mountain range by a route other than the pass between Jotsplat and Knudje.
10. Enstad. 400 x.p. for entering the capital of the Elven realm of Celene.
11. Erelhei-Cinlu. 400 x.p. for entering the city of the Dark Elves.
12. Esmerin. 400 x.p. for visiting the fabled vale in the Lortmil Mountains.
13. Greyhawk. 250 x.p. for entering the city. An additional 100 x.p. for staying overnight in the Foreign Quarter.
14. Gull Cliffs. 500 x.p. for looking out over the crashing waves of the Solnor Ocean from their heights.
15. Here there be dragons. 400 x.p. for traveling off the map of the Flanaess.
16. Innspa. 250 x.p. for entering the city and sampling its famous baths.
17. Irongate. 250 x.p. for entering the city.
18. Land of Black Ice. 300 x.p. for gazing upon the vast frozen expanse with your own eyes.
19. Loftwick. 200 x.p. for entering the city.
20. Lopolla. 250 x.p. for entering the city.
21. Nyr Dyv. 250 x.p. for sailing at least 30 miles from land.
22. Molag. 200 x.p. for entering the city.
23. Niole Dra. 250 x.p. for entering the city.
24. Olman Islands. 200 x.p. for visiting these isles which mark the southernmost reaches of the Azure Sea.
25. Phostwood. 200 x.p. for entering the gently glowing forest for the first time.
26. Pinnacles of Azor’alq. 400 x.p. for seeing the famed massive spires in the Dramidj Ocean.
27. Pits of Azak-Zil. 300 x.p. for finding the lost dwarvish mine.
28. Rauxes. 250 x.p. for entering the city.
29. Rel Astra. 250 x.p. for entering the city.
30. Rel Mord. 250 x.p. for entering the city.
31. Rift Canyon. 400 x.p. for gazing over the rim of the mighty chasm. Bonus of 250 x.p. for traveling to its bottom.
32. Rigodruok. 500 x.p. for visiting the legendary Rainbow Vale beyond the Land of Black Ice.
33. Scarlet Brotherhood. 300 x.p. for penetrating the mighty plateau controlled by the mysterious red-garbed monks.
34. Schwartzenbruin. 250 x.p. for entering the city.
35. Sea of Dust. 1,500 experience points for traveling one week in the immense desert. A bonus of 1,000 x.p. for reaching the Forgotten City.
36. Sinking Isle. 350 x.p. for walking along the waterlogged surface of the isle when it breaks the surface as it is wont to do.
37. Skrellingshald. 300 x.p. for re-discovering the famed lost city of the Flan, in the Griff Mountains.
38. Stoink. 200 x.p. for entering the town.
39. Suhfang. 2,000 x.p. for visiting the kingdom in the distant West.
40. Temple of Elemental Evil. 300 x.p. for passing through the front gate into the courtyard of the legendary Temple.
41. Tovag Baragu. 150 x.p. for touching one of the stones.
42. Turucambi. 250 x.p. for visiting the vast semi-submerged limestone complex in the Oljatt Sea.
43. Twisted Forest. 150 x.p. for walking among the petrified “trees”.
44. Valley of the Mage. 500 x.p. for penetrating at least 50 miles into the valley.
45. White Plume Mountain. 200 x.p. for viewing the endlessly streaming flow of steam emanating from the famous volcano.

Religious Obligations (see Pilgrims and Pilgrimages of the Flanaess)

46. Those of Baklunish extraction receive 10 x.p. for visiting each of the hundred Healing Shrines of Al’Akbar that are scattered throughout the Baklunish lands. There is a bonus of 15 x.p. if one is accompanying someone in need of the particular healing properties of the shrine in question.
47. Those who worship the Arch-devils of the Hells and their lord Asmodeus receive 150 x.p. for visiting the imposing Infernal Temple in Hokar.
48. Followers of Saint Cuthbert gain 200 x.p. each for visiting the Church of the Holy Cudgel in Verbobonc, the Great Cathedral of Mitrik, and the Church of the Apotheosis in Littleberg. They receive 300 x.p. for visiting the Healing Shrine in Shibboleth, Gran March.
49. Followers of Delleb get 300 x.p. for visiting the great library-cathedral in Niole Dra, Keoland. They receive 175 x.p. for visiting the Gardens of Chellester in the eastern portion of Sunndi.
50. Devotees of Ehlonna receive 200 x.p. for visiting Her sacred grove in the heart of the Silverwood, in Ulek.
51. Followers of Heironeous get 500 x.p. for visiting the Cathedral of Chivalry in Chathold, Almor. 250 x.p. more for visiting the shrine of Heironeous-by-the-sea on the coast of the Sea of Gearnat. And 350 x.p. for visiting the Temple of Heironeous Triumphant in Niole Dra, Keoland.
52. Worshippers of Hextor receive 200 x.p. for visiting the Blood Chapel in Mentrey, in the See of Medegia. They also receive 100 x.p. for visiting the great Cathedral in Rauxes.
53. Followers of Iuz get 150 x.p. for paying homage to their deity in person during one of his quarterly Great Audiences in Dorakaa.
54. Those whose patron deity is Joramy will receive 250 x.p. for visiting her temple in the foothills of the Hellfurnaces, in the western portion of the Hold of the Sea Princes.
55. Followers of Kord get 100 x.p. for the first time they participate in one of the sacred contests of strength and combat in Hookhill and Gradsul, with 50 x.p. for the first time they are in the contests in Flen, Cryllor, and Niole Dra. These awards are cumulative (i.e., one can get 450 total for appearing in all these contests).
56. Devotees of Lirr receive 100 x.p. for attending the great Theater in Gorna (in Geoff). They receive an extra 150 x.p. if they end up performing there. They also receive 100 x.p. for attending one of the performances in the Seven Shrines of Lirr in Innspa (and a bonus of 100 x.p. for performing at one of them).
57. Followers of Llerg receive 150 x.p. for visiting the shrine of Llerg of the Hills, at the headwaters of the Old River.
58. Followers of Lolth get 200 x.p. for visiting the Fane of Lolth in Erelhei-Cinlu.
59. Followers of Olidamarra get 300 x.p. for touching the marble statue of the God in Gradsul, Keoland.
60. Those adherents of the faith of Pholtus of the Blinding light have several destinations in the Pale from which to choose. They receive 250 x.p. for visiting the Grand Cathedral of the Light in Wintershiven, 150 x.p. for paying homage to their God at the Shrine of the Heavenly Courses (in the headlands of the Rakers), and another 150 x.p. for purging themselves of doubt and error at the Temple of Doubting Folly a few days' ride northwest of Ogburg.
61. Followers of Syrul receive 100 x.p. for visiting her shrine in Westkeep, in the Hold of the Sea Princes.
62. Followers of the evil demigod Wastri receive 50 x.p. for visiting the Vast Swamp, and an additional 150 x.p. for finding the temple of their deity within the endless and trackless mires.
63. Farmers who are devoted to Wenta will find their next harvest increased by 20% if they visit the shrine in the Thin Vale, in Idee (1 in 4 chance; the increase will only happen once every five years, maximum).
64. Worshippers of Zilchus receive 150 x.p. for travelling to the free city of Irongate (and a bonus profit of 10% on whatever trade they happen to be conducting while on their first visit).
65. Any who recognize the divinity of the Oeridian Gods of the Winds can receive 200 x.p. for visting Four Airs Tor; a singular mesa northwest of Pitchfield. If they are present when the winds change, they receive a bonus of 5% to all x.p. earned during the next 3 months.


66. Attending a wedding at the Temple of Myhriss in Chendl, in Furyondy will gain one 25 x.p. (Devotees of Myhriss earn 75 x.p. for doing so the first time.) This is an award that can be earned as often as once per year.
67. Seeing a dragon of young adult age or older flying overhead earns 100 x.p.
68. Witnessing the crowning of a king or other royalty earns one 50 x.p.
69. Attending the Midsummer revels in the Elven court at Enstad, when the moons are both full, earns one 400 x.p.
70. Retrieving a treasure marked on a treasure map for the first time; 50 x.p.
71. Witnessing a fireball or lightning bolt spell for the first time earns 35 x.p. (one or the other; not both).
72. Going on a ship for the first time; 40 x.p.
73. Witnessing an honor duel amongst the Rhennee; 40 x.p. Participating in one; 250 x.p.
74. Experiencing one of the great storms in the Sea of Gearnat; 100 x.p.
75. Being on a ship that is attacked by pirates; 125 x.p.
76. Travelling more than 100 miles from the place of your birth; 1 x.p. per 10 miles (greatest distance). (The game master might want to calculate this on a regular basis rather than in real-time, to avoid unnecessary book-keeping.)
77. Those encountering advanced technology for the first time (lasers, robots, etc.) gain 250 x.p.
78. Riding an unusual mount (elephant, roc, polar bear, etc.) earns 25 x.p. per animal type.
79. Flying for the first time (whether by spell, magic item, mounted on a pegasus, etc.) earns 100 x.p.
80. Seeing a character (PC or NPC) of over 20th level; 50 x.p. (Note; this is not per character; anyone only gets this once, and does not apply if the character in question is in disguise or incognito.)
81. Fighting as a soldier in a battle with at least 1,000 troops on each side; 100 x.p. (can be cumulative for multiple battles).
82. Commanding at least 500 troops in a battle with at least 1,000 troops on each side; 200 x.p. (halved if the battle is lost).
83. Spending at least 1,000 g.p. on a single night’s carouse; 250 x.p. bonus.
84. Seeing an undead creature for the first time is worth 45 x.p.
85. Encountering an extra-planar creature (devil, elemental, etc.) for the first time earns one 100 x.p.
86. Seeing some creature or representative of some race that is supposedly mythical; 250 x.p.
87. Visiting either Luna or Celene (the moons of Oerth); 5,000 x.p.
88. Solving a murder mystery or other serious crime for the first time; 300 x.p.
89. Witnessing the “Rite of Battle Fitness” in the Hold of Stonefist; 200 x.p.
90. Seeing a king or other ruler in person (as in a parade or procession, etc.); 25 x.p. (can be awarded once per year).
91. Travel as part of a merchant or other caravan; 50 x.p.

Class-Specific Experiences

92. Cleric: successfully converting someone to your own particular religion; 50 x.p.; 10 x.p. for every subsequent convert (lifetime maximum 1,000 x.p.—Saints have no maximum (that’s one of the things that makes them Saints)).
93. Druid: saving a grove of at least 30 trees from destruction; 200 x.p.
94. Fighter: defeating another fighter at least three levels greater than yourself (alone); 250 x.p.
95. Paladin: defeating a Greater Demon for the first time; 400 x.p.
96. Ranger: First giant-class creature killed (solo) whose hit dice are at least three times higher than the level of the ranger in question; 250 x.p.
97. Magic-user: watching a spell being cast that is more than three levels higher than you can cast; 300 x.p. (Cannot be cast for the purpose of benefitting the recipient.)
98. Illusionist: watching a spell being cast that is more than two levels higher than you can cast: 250 x.p. (Cannot be cast for the purpose of benefitting the recipient.)
99. Thief: stealing a treasure of at least 1,000 g.p. value where the victim doesn’t realize the treasure’s been stolen; 400 x.p.
100. Assassin: Assassinating someone twice your own level (victim 6th level minimum); 500 x.p.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Very Scary Solstice

A few years ago, a particularly twisted friend of mine (hi, Craig!) gave me a CD of "A Very Scary Solstice" by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. Normally I loathe with the fiery passion of a thousand white-hot suns the fan inspired lunacy known as "filking", but these were so clever and so wonderfully twisted that they bore a spot into the cockles of my heart, much like a fungus-encrusted worm in rotting Arkham might do. (The HPLHS has since come out with a second volume; "An Even Scarier Solstice" and they are both worth every penny.)

But how to share these gems with you, my erstwhile readers? Eureka! Enter YouTube. Thanks to the shameless intellectual property pirates wonderfully enterprising creatively syncretic folks over yonder, I can now present a sampling of these wonderfully insanity-inspiring carols to fill your Yuletide with an even mixture of humor and mind-warping horror from Beyond.

Enjoy while you can, for now The Stars Are Right!

We begin with my personal favorite, "The Carol of the Old Ones":

And thence to "Awake Ye Scary Great Old Ones". Tidings of Madness and Woe, indeed!

One can almost hear Bing himself crooning out "I'm Dreaming of A Dead City"...

And you know, it really is "Beginning to Look a Lot Like Fish-Men". I love this time of year...

And we end this trip down Santa-Claws lane with the rousing "Great Cthulhu Chorus", as sung by the Dagon Tabernacle Choir. *sniff* Always inspiring.

Glad Yule to all, and to all a good night. May you live through it!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Castle of the Mad Archmage named best free product of 2009

Many thanks to Zach Houghton over at RPG Blog II for naming Castle of the Mad Archmage as the best free RPG product of 2009. I really appreciate the nod, and it's really great to see that folks are enjoying the fruits of the labor. I am genuinely surprised at the positive reaction this project has gotten. Look for more stuff in 2010!

And, as a reminder, there is now a new installment of CotMA available for download, which takes us down to Level 7: The Crypts. Enjoy!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Avatar (spoiler-free review)

What do Peter Jackson, George Lucas, Paul Verhoeven, and the Wachowski brothers have in common? They will all be banging their heads against walls, wishing they had made "Avatar", or at least lamenting that it steals their thunder.

I have seen Imax films before, and I've seen the latest generation of 3-D films (most recently, the Disney remake of A Christmas Carol, which I didn't hate, but certainly didn't love). But I have never before today actually seen an Imax 3-D film.

Today I saw James Cameron's "Avatar", in Imax 3-D.

This was a film that was enormously hyped prior to its release (as well it should be, given its purported half-billion-dollar production cost). Cameron invented entirely new technologies just to make his film, knowing that the story wouldn't work without them. It's not an already-established franchise from successful books or video games, and aside from Sigourney Weaver it doesn't have an A-List cast. What a gamble...

A successful scifi/action film requires three elements, at the very least; effects, story, and acting. Let me take these elements in order.

The 3-D effect is remarkable. I saw Disney's "A Christmas Carol" just a few weeks ago, and I've got to say the 3-D in "Avatar" is superior. Perhaps it's the way that Cameron uses it; there are no boogies-jumping-at-the-screen. It is most impressive when it's the most understated; when you're looking down a corridor, and it's like you're looking through a window. There were a couple of instances where the old foe of 3-D came through-- in most of the shots where there was a very strong contrast between a dark foreground and a brightly-lit background, there was a bit of fuzziness in the 3-D. But other than that it was impeccable.

Although can we PLEASE lose the Matrix-esque "moving-down-a-tunnel-of-light-to-simulate-connecting-to-a-virtual-world" effect? It was lame when it was green. Making it white is no improvement.

The digital effects are just effing stunning. Cameron said that when he saw what Peter Jackson did with Gollum in the Lord of the Rings, he thought it would be possible to realize his vision. But... damn... the natives (who are all CGI) absolutely blow away the trolls of LoTR, and sad to say the clone troopers and Geonosians of SW:Episode III are left in the dust.

The plot is somewhat ham-fisted in its condemnation of colonialism and capitalism, but that is really secondary to the story of the embedded spy who "goes native" and has to choose between his own people and the people he has come to know and love. Add in a love story with a great twist, and the political and personal sub-plots between the various factions (military, civilian, and scientific) behind the Earth colony on Pandora, and it's a very complex film, although Cameron is able to keep his primary plot moving like a juggernaut, and the sub-plots help it along in its inevitable track, but not (usually) in a predictable fashion.

The acting is just wonderful. The live action sequences (and the line between those and the CGI sequences continues to blur) are excellently served by the cast, and the effects wizards really seem to have learned a knack for translating the performances of the actors into their digital doppelgangers (dare I say avatars?).

I am deliberately not going into details because I don't want to include any spoilers. But the effects are almost perfectly executed, the story is well thought-out and carries the action excellently without seeming contrived, and the acting is first-rate.

I cannot say that "Avatar" is the best science-fiction movie ever made (I still keep Stanley Kubric's "2001: A Space Odyssey" in that slot), I think it may well be the best sci-fi/action film I've ever seen, if one cares to split such hairs. Certainly it beats T2, the Matrix films, and even Star Wars (if the Ewoks were big and blue, this would be Lucas's ideal "a primitive culture defeats a technologically superior one through ingenuity and determination" scenario).

One important caveat: I don't think this is the birth of a franchise. Cameron told his story, and there's little more to be said (although any hack could always plop a mediocre film in the same setting). I truly hope this film makes its millions, and is then left to lie fallow in the field of Hollywood's few truly original films.

Overall, I would give this film five stars. It's outstanding on both the technological and storytelling levels. It's honestly something that you should see.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Castle of the Mad Archmage December Release Now Available!

Sweet merciful bloodstained Gods! It's done, and just in time for the Yuletide!

It is with no small amount of relief that I am pleased to report that the latest version of the Castle of the Mad Archmage is now ready and available for download. As usual, it's free, and available as a 3+ MB pdf file.

This was a really difficult level to write, for a variety of reasons, but one of the chief ones was the fact that it is in fact really 40 or so mini-dungeons, all working off a central core. Trying to keep things from being too repetitive was a challenge, as was trying to keep the pendulum from swinging in the opposite "every encounter is a weird bat$#!t thing you've never seen before!" direction. I hope I've struck a nice balance.

I must especially thank my co-conspirators; Joe Bardales for his as-always terrific mapping (and dealing with seemingly endless revisions and corrections, mostly my own fault) and Steve "Honorary Joe" Rubin (because everyone working on this project must, of course, be a Joe) for catching scores and scores of errors, continuity glitches, and other flubs to elevate the whole thing to something much more professional-looking. And both as volunteers. My congratulations and profound thanks, gentlemen.

As always, comments, questions, observations, and the like are more than welcome. Feel free to trumpet the news hither and yon; CotMA is once more blessed (?) with a new level, and there are more to come. Hopefully Level 8: THE LESSER CAVES will come much more quickly than this one. I'm shooting to get back on my monthly schedule. And bonuses! Oh, man, do I have extra stuff planned... But more details on that when the time is ripe.

Download it --> here <--

EDIT: Some folks have reported a limit on the number of downloads RapidShare will allow at any given time. Thus, I have also uploaded the latest and greatest version of CotMA over at MediaFire. You can download it --> here <--

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Interior Module Art

Why do publishers include art inside adventure modules?

I mean, aside from the rare instance where an illustration is required to make the description of a particular area intelligible, or in the case of illustrations intended for the game master to show to the player (which is not what I'm talking about here), I have to wonder why do companies bother?

Adventure modules are, by their nature, utilitarian products. They're meant to be used in actual play. The inclusion of interior art doesn't assist that function in any way (other than noted above).

Do you think that the inclusion of such art helps the game master get a better understanding of the "feel" of a particular module? (In which case, what about the use of generic fantasy art, such as we see today in the licensed clipart used in some modules?) How about pictures of particular characters/NPCs/deities/etc.? Why include them if they aren't intended to be shared with the players? Doesn't that defeat the purpose? Do modern publishers use such illustrations as a sort of atavistic homage to the way modules were done in years gone by? In which case, why did TSR include such art in the first place? From my recollection (I've not actually looked through the modules in my collection; so it may be wrong) the old Judge's Guild modules had much less art than their TSR counterparts. Why did TSR add an extra couple of pages worth of art? Just to round out the page count to a number divisible by 4?

I'd be particularly interested in hearing from those out there who've published their own modules, but all are, of course, welcome to comment.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Thinking About Dragons

Dragons are, of course, as iconic a piece of the game as can be imagined. Hell, they make up half the name. Dragon magazine came up with a few excellent ideas for the scaly beasts: I note with particular fondness Richard Allan Lloyd's outstanding "filling in the missing dragons" article in Dragon #65, which gives us the evil Yellow, Orange, and Purple dragons (and which was ultimately revised for 2nd edition in Dragon #248).

Richard Allan Lloyd, by the way, was the man who invented the Starmaster play-by-mail game, and I actually worked for him as a game master for the game for a while. Man, I loved that game. But I digress.

There were also the gemstone neutral dragons in The Dragon #37, offered by Arthur W. Collins (Crystal, Topaz, Emerald, Sapphire, Amethyst, Ruby).

I also liked the combat upgrades dragons got in 2E: wing buffets, tail slaps, fear, etc. I play with those in my own campaign, and almost all dragons beyond the very youngest are also able to use magic (and I assume all dragons are able to polymorph themselves at will). I throw in the removal of "dragon subduing" to make them really fearful opponents. I'm also fast and loose with the 3 breath weapons per day rule. I think that makes 'em a little too under-powered.

But one thing just struck me while I was forced to watch "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" on television tonight. The dragons had such cool names. The Oriental Fireball. The Hungarian Horntail. The Swedish Short-Snout. They refer back to either the physical characteristics of the beast, or its place of origin, or both. The names given to the dragons in the monster manuals are, by any objective standard, quite lame. Red, Black, Copper, Silver...

It occurred to me that, in the World of Greyhawk Fantasy Setting, one might have more interesting names for the standard dragon types in the monster manuals, based on their habitat, their images in the Monster Manual, and so forth. I give you:

The Dragon Types of the Flanaess

Black: Sunndi Proudhorn
Blue: Bright Desert Hornnose
Brass: Suloise Fanwing
Bronze: Almorian Arrowsnout
Copper: Crystalmist Curvehorn
Gold: Suhfang Serpentine
Green: Sussian Mossback
Red: Hellfurnaces Redbelly
Silver: Yatil Silverwing (aka "Cloudherder")
White: Thillronian Fanhead

Naturally, though, as dragons of the Flanaess are sentient, they do not themselves use these by-names, but these more common appellations are used by humans, demi-humans, and humanoids (in their own tongues, of course), in everyday speech.

And, for the edification of those who might not have access to the 2E Monstrous Compendium, here is a very brief overview of the special abilities dragons possess:

Detect invisible creatures (10' per age category).
Clairaudience in lair (20' per age category).
Fear: 15-50 yards range as they get older, young adults cause fear in all >1 HD automatic panic for 4d6 rounds, others save vs. petrification or fight at -2 to hit and damage.
Snatch: young adults can grab victims (50% chance of pinning their arms), fly up and drop them. Automatic claw damage if you're snatched.
Plummet: The dragon lands on some unfortunates, crushing for damage equal to its bite, getting between 1 and 12 people depending on its age.
Kick: Anyone in the rear hemisphere of the dragon can suffer claw damage and get knocked down (save vs. petrification).
Wing Buffet: Any target at the dragon's side can be attacked by its wings, damage as claws, dex check to be knocked down.
Tail Slap: Adult and older dragons' tails do 2x claw damage against a number of opponents equal to its age category; they are also stunned for 1d4+1 rounds.
Stall: If flying, the dragon can just stop in mid-air, attack with all 4 claws, and kick up dust that blinds and prevents spell casting for one round.

Also, their armor class gets better as they age (start improving by 1 AC after Juvenile) and they get +1 "to hit" per age category.

These things are most definitely not pushovers in my campaign. They will have you for breakfast unless you are very well prepared. Literally.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Hall of the Mountain King

In my dotage, I find myself drawn more to classical music than I have been throughout my youth. That is to say, I like it at all. When I was growing up, the only classical music I liked was in Warner Brothers cartoons (and most of that, I didn't even realize until I started listening to real classical music-- "Hey! I recognize that!"

I now notice, however, just how much of a variation in classical music there can be. The same piece can be completely reinterpreted, and yet remain quantifiably the same piece of music. Take, for example, Edvard Grieg's "Hall of the Mountain King." Here it is in its unadulterated form:

You all know the piece; you've heard it on some commercial, or in some movie, or something. You might not have known its name (Hel, I didn't know it was part of the same piece of music as "Morning" until not long ago), but the elasticity of the piece makes me stare in wonder. Consider this:

It's only four instruments, and it's heavy metal, but it's undeniably the same piece. How's that possible? Well, here's another:

Damn, that's got a completely different tone and feel. And yet, it's got the same notes. Same piece, completely different experience. And holy moly, we can even find this:

So what is my point with all this? I think it points to the question, raised a month and a half ago, of whether or not it is possible to publish a megadungeon. I wrote on this subject a few weeks ago, but I thought it meet to follow up with this musical analogy. Edvard Grieg wrote his megadungeon (the Peer Gynt suite) in 1875. He laid it down, in writing, and left it for others to "imagine the hell out of". Others have since done so; as orchestral arrangements, as metal, as techno...

The same can be said of any megadungeon. It is initially written by someone. Then others come along and play it on different instruments (different game systems). Each game master makes it his own; Apocalypto plays it differently than DJ Liquid. Just as I might play Castle of the Mad Archmage one way, someone else might play it a completely different way. From the same notes, they would make different music. Such, I think, applies to all megadungeons.

They all get played differently by those who run them. But they all start with the same music. And that's the point. Publish the same music, and get a million different songs. Such is the beauty of the megadungeon.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Even Yet More Minifigs Pics

Thanks to the good offices of snookums8 over at eBay (whomever he or she may be), I've got a ton of new pictures uploaded to my Minifigs Greyhawk miniatures page. Look for goblins, Overkings guards, human forest dwellers, heroic mercenaries, and a lot more. Enjoy!