Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Vin Diesel is an Old School Gamer

I'm not a Vin Diesel fan (although he's quite good in Pitch Black if you haven't seen it), but I've been interested in the fact that he seems to be the only celebrity who at all talks about gaming as a positive thing.

I'm guessing he's an AD&D 1E guy from what he says here:

Monday, September 7, 2009

D&D My Way: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Make My Own House Rules

I've spent a lot of time in the last few years thinking about which edition of D&D is the best for me. I've got some real fondness for Basic D&D, AD&D 1E, OD&D, and I even think that if I was going to run the original Ravenloft: Realm of Terror boxed set I'd be willing to go with 2E just because that set is so brilliant(although I wouldn't pick 2E under many other circumstances). So. . .which edition (or retroclone) is the one I'd prefer? The answer is: there's good and bad with all of the above editions. There is no one ideal choice (although Moldvay comes pretty damn close in my book) which, I suppose, is WHY we all keep re-engaging with these rules.

I though I'd sort of found my answer in OD&D several years ago when I first stumbled onto Philotomy's OD&D musings (which you can find at http://www.philotomy.com/ ) . Initially, I was pretty fundmentalist. I thought: "Okay, just the three brown books from the original OD&D set. Who needs the Thief and screw variable weapon damage! We are going to go as old school as you can get!" Well almost. . .I didn't decide to play some crazy Blackmoor-styled Chainmail variant (although reading about that stuff is inspiring). Problem is that I almost never got to play OD&D, and when I did play it became clear that some of the elements of later editions were more valauble than I'd first believed. For example: I wanted more classes!

Which then led me to crack open my AD&D 1E Player's Handbook, and The Dungeon Master's Guide. The rules were both cumbersome and obscure in places, and in others as clear and as simple as daylight. My time looking at OD&D was very helpful, because for the first time I saw how AD&D had both retained and tried to move away from the previous ruleset. Instead of being clearer, AD&D was just obscure in different ways. I needed help, so I looked at OSRIC. I read posts online at various forums about AD&D. I studied, and I thought. In the end, I created a house rules document (which I posted here a few months ago) that took out all the stuff I didn't want, so my AD&D ended up looking more like OD&D. That was the hewing back AD&D approach, but it occured to me that there was another route to go as well.

What about OD&D with the supplements? That's when I started looking at Swords & Wizardry as an option. The PDF was free afterall, right? After poking around a bit, I found the wonderful S&W Companion at http://swcompanion.wikidot.com/ . The supplement at the S&W Companion site called White Box Heroes was pretty much exactly what I'd been looking for. So earlier this summer I ordered both S&W White Box and White Box Heroes from Lulu (along with the excellent S&W Monster Book).

I'm in the process of prepping a session for this Thursday with my gaming group. We decided that I was going to run a one shot of old school D&D for two of my players who are pretty much new to roleplaying. So what was I going to run them in? Moldvay? Holmes? AD&D? Nope. After almost deciding on Moldvay, I decided that using S&W White Box with the White Box Heroes book was just about perfect for new players. I revised an old OD&D character sheet I made, and I even created a house rules document and some reference sheets that are pretty spiffy.

I'm curious to see how OD&D/S&W plays with a few more options. I'll definitely post about it here afterwards.

In the end, I'm like a lot of folks who seem to be looking for something with the core simplicity of OD&D/Basic D&D with many of AD&D's options. James Maliszewski at Grognardia has called this D&D 0.75. The link to his post is here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I've Started

I've started working on a pulp science fantasy novel that I'm hoping to actually finish. It occurs to me that while I've written lots of stories with genre elements I haven't written anything quite like this since I was eighteen. For long time I wrote stories with "literary" aspirations (largely because I was writing in a college MFA program that encouraged those sorts of stories), but I never wanted to write like Hemingway or Graham Greene. When I was thirteen, I wrote a number of stories that were pretty much pastiches of Michael Moorcock, but they brimmed with imaginative imagery. I feel like I've gone back to that well for the first time in a long time. Maybe, I'll have a few more things to say now that I'm in my late thirties.

BUT. . .the book IS going to have swords, monsters, a doomed heroine, and all those things that have drenched my journal and my imagination for a long time. I feel like I'm finally letting them out to play.

I'll update on my progress as I make some.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Prince Valiant on Mars

The following is my implementation of an Edgar Rice Burroughs type Mars setting based on the Chaosium Prince Valiant Game by Greg Stafford (which is sadly out of print, but it shouldn't be too hard to track down a used copy). This is a brilliant little game that I highly recommend picking up if you're looking for something really rules lite and which does a good job of creating the feeling of old style adventures like Hal Foster's Prince Valiant, Flash Gordon, or even Burrough's Mars novels. The system is ideal for introducing new players to the idea of roleplaying. It is also notable for being influential on many later designs but was relatively unsuccessful when it came out. I've substituted dice for the coins the game uses, and I've created a set of careers and skills specific to Mars. For a fuller explantion of these notes see the Prince Valiant rulebook.

Maybe I'll try to write up some of the characters from the Burroughs books in the next few days.



Characters are rated from 1-6 in just two attributes. These are BRAWN and PRESENCE. The rating indicates the number of D6s they may roll when making an attribute check. Attribute checks roll ONLY on the attribute.

Skills are rated from 1-6 and also indicate the number of D6s they may roll when making a skill check. However, unlike attribute checks, skill checks combine the skill and the attribute to get a total dice pool.

For example: If you were rolling on your Horsemanship skill and your Horsemanship was 3 and your Brawn was 2 you would combine these for a total dice pool of 5D6.

Any roll of 4 or higher is considered a success. Any character that rolls successes for ALL of the dice in his current dice pool has attained a COMPLETE SUCCESS. Any character who rolls a complete success may add 1 additional success to his roll.

If the action you take next round is related to the action you took this round (such as a continued opposed contest like a fencing duel between two characters)then the character may BANK his/her successes for the following round if they so desire (Note: this banking may only be done ONCE).


1 Successes: Very Easy

2 Successes: Easy

3 Successes: Normal

4 Successes: Difficult

5 or more Successes: Very Difficult

Skill contests (like combat) involve rolling your dice pool and comparing the number of successes with your opponent. The one with the most successes is the winner.

A tie indicates the contest was a draw.


Beginning character have 7 points to divide up between their attributes. Each attribute must have at least 1 point in it and no attribute may have more than 6.



Next, divide 9 points among 6 skills, with at least 1 point to each. No skill may be rated higher than 6.




(Red Martians)

Must have Arms and Piloting.

Must have Arms and Stealth.

City Noble
Must have Courtesy and Telepathy.

Must have Money-Handling and Charm.

Prince / Princess
Must have Arms and Courtesy.

Must have Hunting and Riding.

Must have Brawling and Charm.

Must have Courtesy and Dexterity or Agility (Choose one)

Must have Arms and Firearms.

(Green Martians)

Must have Riding and Firearms.

(Black Martians)

Must have Piloting and Stealth


A character may use a single Storyteller point in order to invoke a Special Effect at an appropriately dramatic moment. This effectively allows the player to temporarily take control of the narrative and automatically declare that a particular event happens.

Here is a listing of the Special Effects that can be invoked:





Mounted vs. opponent on foot +1
Superior Position +1
Superior Numbers +1
Flanking +1
Surrounding Opponent +3
Attack from Behind +3


Normal Weapons +1


Target Behind Cover -1 to -3
Draw and Attack -1


Positive: Love, Loyalty +1 or +2
Negative: Fear, Panic -1 or -2


Character has 1000 Honor or more than opponent: +1
Character has 10000 Honor or more than opponent: +2


1 Success: Point Blank Range
2 Successes: Short Range
3 Successes: Medium Range (Default)
4 or more Successes: Long Range


(Awards per Session)

Minimum Award 100
Standard Award 200
Significant Award 300
Maximum Award 500

100 Known among circle
500 Famous in Home Town
1000 On the Road to Real Fame
10000 A Famous Adventurer
50000 Famous throughout the Country (and the World)

1 Skill increases 1 point at the 1000 Honor mark (and every subsequent 1000 mark).

1 Attribute increases 1 point at the 5000 Honor mark.

Skills may also be increased if a complete success is rolled. The character should then roll an unmodified skill roll (with no attribute combined) and if that roll also comes up all successes then the character may add an additional point to that skill.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Japanese Giant Robot and Monster Shows

Warning: YouTube nostalgia ahead!

I used to watch many of these shows and now inflict them on you!

For some reason I used to want to fly around in Rodak's bat wing space ship thing with the glowing white disco ball embedded in it.

Yikes! I'd forgotten I used to watch both Spectreman and Ultraman until I watched the openings!

"Use robot punch!"

Okay. . .I never saw this show when I was a kid, but I now want that guy's helmet.

Okay. . .I never saw this one either, but If I'd seen this when I was eight it would have been my favorite TV show ever. I would have then created a D&D campaign where they have laser guns, swords, and werelions on horseback.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Three Headed Monster Games

One thing I've always admired about the indie rpg scene is the very real way in which those folks support each other in publishing, promotion, and even just actually playing of each others games. It's nice to see a bit more of that sort of creative support coming together in the OSR. So check out the guys over at Three Headed Monster Games:


I keep thinking about this fellow when I hear the name:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Where I First Saw OD&D

I mentioned this in my previous post, but I though I'd expand on this story because the memory now haunts me (but in a good way as you'll see).

I was a kid living in Crystal Lake, Illinois when I discovered D&D, and I would often make trips to our local bookstore which, despite it being an independently owned shop, was located in a mall. I can't remember the name of the store for the life of me, but it was something like "The Book Hollow", but their bookmarks, as I recall, had the image of a small gnomelike fellow with a beard standing next to an old gnarled tree.

So in around the spring of 1982 I discovered one of the later editions of OD&D in with a bunch of other D&D stuff at this store. The box set was from the last set of printings which have "Original Collector's Edition" written on the box. In addition to the box set they had individual copies of Men & Magic and the other two volumes from the boxed set. I'm also certain they had copies of Gods, Demigods, and Heroes, Chainmail, and Eldritch Wizardry.

These books confused me as I hadn't seen them in any of TSR's catalogs such as their "Gateway to Adventure" catalog which had come with my Basic Set. Maybe it was the cover to Eldritch Wizardry which said: "Okay ten year old Nick this one isn't for you. . .and besides HOW are you going to get this one past your Mom?" I don't think I even had a clear understanding that these were the original rulebooks--I probably thought they were freaky old miniatures supplements for AD&D. Only years later did I realize what those little white booklets were.

Now, I keep thinking: if only I'd bought them!

Yet I think it was this memory which was fired when I stumbled across places like the Knights & Knaves Alehouse and the OD&D Discussion Boards. Soon I bought the OD&D PDFs from RPGNow, and I was off into creating my houseruled version of OD&D.

I think in that initial flurry of the OSR it felt a bit like we were excavating the origins of so much stuff that's now central to our hobby. It was exciting. And all that made me love D&D again.

Friday, July 3, 2009

My Gaming History

Its far too late and I should go back to bed, but this just crawled into my brain and so I thought I'd post this. Here's what I've played from when I was a wee gamer until now.

This is a long post (I've been gaming on and off since 1982).

(I've stolen this idea from a thread at Vincent Baker's blog Anyway)

Here's mine:

Played made up "dungeon" game with a six sided and a dungeon board drawn on a piece of construction paper in my fourth grade English class (we weren't supposed to be doing this).

AD&D ran by a friends older brother (it was Against the Giants)

Got Moldvay Basic.

Left Moldvay behind for the siren call of those AD&D hardbacks.

I see one of the later editions of the "white box" in with a bunch of other AD&D stuff at our local bookstore. They also have copies of Gods, Demigods, and Heroes and Eldritch Wizardry. They confuse me as I haven't seen them in any of TSR's catalogs. If only I'd bought them!

Played Dungeon! over at my friend Tom's house.

Top Secret.

Gamma World.

(Wow there's a horrifying infomercial on right now for a "male enhancement product". That's what I get for being up this late).

Lots of AD&D!!

Lots and lots of Top Secret (This was our main game for several years).

Call of Cthulhu (this game blew my mind and led me to read the pulp trinity of Lovecraft, Howard, and Smith).

Traveller (we never used the Third Imperium Setting--I made up my own setting ripping lots off of Dune).

My friend buys GURPS claiming it is the Holy Grail of Gaming: you can play ANYTHING. That's intriguing but we never end up playing.

Marvel super heroes. I only got the original basic set and then wised I'd waited and got the "advanced" set--which was really a much better and more complete game.

Paranoia at my friend Mike's house. We all kill each other and laugh about it.

AD&D 2nd edition.

TMNT and Heroes Unlimited

Car Wars (I'm not very good and die quickly in our arena combat).

Pendragon (great game).

Top Secret/S.I. This continued on from where our old Top Secret campaign left off (with the same characters).

I don't game for about two years.


More Cyberpunk.

AD&D 1st edition Dragonlance.


FASA's Star Trek.

Amber Diceless (I've fallen in love)

Lots of Amber.


Ars Magica.

I buy the Different Worlds printing of Empire of the Petal Throne.

I buy Stormbringer (4th edition) but never manage to get a game going.

Gene Wolfe inspired fantasy thing using a AD&D 2nd edition and later a freeform system without dice (inflicted mostly on my friend Erik).

More time not playing.

Epic Mekton campaign that lasts almost two years.

Run a great long running Amber game.

Don't game for a few years.

Various homemade Amber-inspired settings using freeform rules.

Another Mekton attempt that crashes and burns.

Amber inspired thing using the FUDGE rules.

Supernatural themed FUDGE game inspired by British TV shows like Sapphire and Steel.

D&D 3.0

We convert our D&D 3.0 campaign to Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying System (which becomes our go-to system for a while).

Follow up/alternate take on our FUDGE amber inspired game using the Basic Roleplaying System--this one ends up being a grittier modern era game.

Abortive Star Wars game using Basic Roleplaying--the system finally fails us.

Pendragon (5th edition) using the Great Pendragon Campaign.

Figuring out what I want in D&D.

Discover Philotomy's Musings and the OD&D boards.

OD&D baby!

Simultaneously discover indie scene and the Forge. Now I have too many games to play!

D&D (4th ed)

GMless X-men thing.

Talisman with my wife and friends.

The 9th Division.

Tell me yours?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dungeon Squad and Other Rules Lite Fantasy Games

So yesterday I spent a little bit of time reading up on a game I had downloaded a while back called "Dungeon Squad" but had never taken the time to really look at very closely. It strips the idea of something like D&D down to its essence in quite an interesting way.

The game was originally written by Jason Morningstar, author of such games as The Shab-Al-Hiri Roach and Grey Ranks, as part of a 24 hour rpg design challenge. According to the wikipedia entry on Dungeon Squad the idea came from an unsatisfying session of D&D 3.X which he ran for some kids at the local library. Dungeon Squad tries to cater to younger roleplayers by providing a fun and rules lite system with lots of rolling dice, killing monsters, and getting gold.

It looks like it could be a blast to play and its given me a kick in the butt to actually finish Dungeon Battle!--my ongoing dungeoncrawl boardgame project.

Here's a link to Morningstar's original draft of "Dungeon Squad":


Here's a thread on Dragonsfoot from a while back with some discussion of the game as well as some great links. Meepo's version is quite good as it keeps the stripped down quality of the original with just a little bit of expansion:


Here's are some of the various versions of Dungeon Squad which people have made posted at the 1000 Monkey 1000 Typewriters website:


Here another little fantasy game called "Adventurer" which looks kind of nifty too:


Here's a link to the brilliant Microlite 74 which is a distillation of the D20 system down to its essence so that it closely resembles the earliest editions of the world's most popular fantasy game:


Here's a link to the 1000 Monkeys 1000 Typewriters website which hosts lots of cool free rpgs--poke around I think you'll find some interesting stuff.


Monday, June 22, 2009

9th Division: The Protagonists

Here's a brief description of my character and her aspects:

Name: Dietrich

Description: A bald woman in her late twenties/early thirties with an exotic air. She has swirling tatoos around the back of her head and wears dark forties style suits made out of unusual materials.

Here's her list of aspects as per the questions in Wheel of Fate:

What is your greatest strength?

Her physical superiority to human beings.

What is your greatest flaw?

Acceptance of her slavery (she's an android).

What do you want?

To be seen as the best cop she can be.

What is keeping you from getting it?

Perceptions of other officers about her being an android.

What are you doing about it?

Being a perfectionist/ overachieving.

Here's another of our character-protagonists.

Name: Dr. Victor Choi.

Description: 4'8" weightlifting psionic Chinese-American (2nd generation psion).

Here's his list of aspects as per the questions in Wheel of Fate:

What is your greatest strength?

Perception and analysis.

What is your greatest flaw?

His inability to relate to others.

What do you want?

To understand people.

What is keeping you from getting it?

His intellectual and conceptual remove.

What are you doing about it?

Being among troubled people / Working for the police.

Here's the last of our character-protagonists.

Name: ??

Description: Middle aged detective.

Here's his list of aspects as per the questions in Wheel of Fate:

What is your greatest strength?

Commited professional cop / workaholic.

What is your greatest flaw?

Ambition for promotion

What do you want?

Promotion out of the 9th Division.

What is keeping you from getting it?

Has the stink of corruption on him from a previous scandal which he was made the scapegoat for.

What are you doing about it?

Closing cases at all costs.

The 9th Division: Setting Document

We're gearing up to play this homebrewed gmless science fiction rpg right now. We collaborated on generating the setting: which came together gradually through various conversations (mostly over the phone), and last night we finally sat down to finish tweaking the setting and roll up our characters. Our PCs are members of the eponymous police unit which specializes in investigating crimes of an unusual nature. Influences on the campaign include: Blade Runner, Gattaca, The Wire, and Minority Report.

We're all excited about the setting, we like our characters, and we're all pretty much on the same page. I thought I'd share what we've come up with just because I think its pretty nifty stuff.

Here's the setting document as it stands right now:

Sometime in the late 21st Century of an Alternate Future

Location: The City

Video phones with rotary dials and monographic screens.

Monochrome green screen computers.

Computers used as databases and calculation machines but there is no real internet.

TV and Radio still dominates as major media.

Vinyl is used—no tapes or CDs.

Paper still dominates society—newpapers, phone books etc.

Chunky cybernetics.

Cybernetics are a cheaper medical alternative to cloning.

Androids are being incorporated into various aspects of society (such as the police).

In the last sixty years or so there has been genetic modification of embryos to “improve” them.

Gene-mod children develop psychiatric and psychological problems, various disorders, and even low-level psychic abilities.

Some of these traits (such as psychic abilities) become inheritable—thus the gene modification experiments have permanently altered the human gene pool.

Most people travel by public transportation as duty charges on things like registration and licensing for private vehicles are exorbitantly expensive.

Government agencies like the sanitation department, the police, and emergency crews still use institutional vehicles.

The 9th Division is a specialized unit within The City's regular police department.

The 9th Division’s mandate is dealing in “specialized” crime, but the division is now a bit of an orphan as the people who created and shepherded it are no longer there.

The 9th Division is not a prized division and rumors abound about the division being on the chopping block.

Jurisdiction issues with local cops and 9th Division.

Combination of modern, retro fashion, and future fashion.

Futuristic drugs: Rebirth.

Rebirth rewrites your memories in strange ways—replacing old memories and creating new ones at the same time.
Non-lethal weaponry in commonly used by police units—various stun weapons.

Light pulse based weapons—shuts down your nervous system.

Needle Gun with CO2 cartridges.

Tracking goo from air-gun.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

OD&D Dungeon

Here's a dungeon I made that was stocked by using the rules in The Underground & Wilderness Adventure. For my money the advice packed into those few pages trumps is more compelling than most other later attempts at this type of thing. This method keeps things simple and fun and for some reason fires my imagination.

This dungeon is not as large or as intricate as Castle Dragonscar, but I'm pretty happy with the selections of encounters. You'll notice I placed the slimes and black pudding in the corridors as per Vol. 3 pg. 7: "Note that Ochre Jellies, Black Puddings, Green Slime etc. are generally distributed randomly, usually in passages without treasure."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sharp Teeth and Other Things of An Ellisonian Nature

I've always liked Harlan Ellison. My copy of the Essential Ellison sits on the shelf behind me--I remember pouring over that book and reading story after story when I was twenty years old, had very little money, and was living New York. It was the perfect book to be reading. I even wrote a couple of stories that were certainly "Ellisonian" in tone but, mostly, they weren't very good.

But I've been thinking about doing some "real" writing again after not really doing it since I got out of school back in 2004. We'll see.

In the meantime this documentary about Harlan Ellison called Dreams With Sharp Teeth is due out this month on DVD. Looks great.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Finish Line is in Sight

I'm a college English instructor, and I'm currently buried in Final Exams that need to be graded. My postings have been fewer recently due to end of the semester craziness, but I'm hoping to do more writing here at the blog and on a couple of other writing projects I've got lined up (among them two different game designs and a fantasy short story).

Looks like later in the summer we'll be playing this crime-noir science fiction campaign we've been talking about (using a Frankenstein ruleset I came up with that's cobbled together from various indie games). My friend James even came up with a nifty name for it: The 9th Division.

Friday, May 22, 2009

My Current Project: Dungeon Battle!

A few month ago I started fiddling with rules for a dungeon miniatures boardgame that was inspired by things like OD&D, Heroquest, Warhammer Quest, and the old Heritage USA rules for their paint and play sets like Crypt of the Sorcerer and Caverns of Doom. I'm calling it Dungeon Battle, The Fantasy Fighting Game. I recently started writing the rules up in earnest and when its finished I will post them here to the blog.

Right now the game has little in the way of an advancement system--you just collect treasure and magic items, but I'm considering trying to cobble together an advancement system that would suit this style of play. Right now the game also doesn't have a single GM--it has a rotating role known as the Sorcerer who places and controls the monsters for a single encounter.

Here's a preview of the write ups for two of the Hero figures:


Move: 5 squares Spells: None
Fighting: 1D6+1 Miracles: None
Defense: 1D6
Missiles: 1D6+1
Magic Resistance: 1D6+2
Wounds: 1D6+1 (roll before game)

Weapons: Two-Handed Sword (roll bonus die on fighting)
Throwing Knife (Range: 2 squares)


Move: 4 squares Spells: None
Fighting: 1D6 Miracles: None
Defense: 1D6
Missiles: 1D6+1
Magic Resistance: 1D6+3
Wounds: 1D6+2 (roll before game)

Weapons: Battle Axe
Throwing Axe (Range: 2 squares)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Nick's Headspace: A Clockwork Orange

Just watched 2001: A Space Odyssey again.

Been thinking about Kubrick lately. I just watched this clip of the opening to A Clockwork Orange, and I have to say that his use of the camera is hypnotic. He's all about the power of deliberate slowness whereas many director today cut fifteen times in a minute. Kubrick makes us look.

This is one of the best openings to a film that I can think of.

So look now at Alex and his droogs:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Thoughts on Jaws of the Six Serpents & the PDQ System

I received my copy of a new rpg last week. The game is called Jaws of the Six Serpents and it is written by Tim Gray and published by Silver Branch Games. The game uses Chad Underkoffler's Prose Descriptive Qualities System (PDQ). Gray had previously published another PDQ game called Questers of the Middle Realms which from the title you might have guessed is a game that emulates tolkienesque high fantasy. So why the need for another PDQ fantasy game? Well, Jaws of the Six Serpents is inspired by the dark fantasy and pulp sword and sorcery stories written by writers such as Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock, Glen Cook, Karl Edward Wagner, and David Gemmell. When I read about it online I decided to give it a go since I was familiar with the PDQ system and was curious to see a real sword and sorcery implementation of it.

I really dug into the game last night, and I have to say I'm quite excited. For some time I've been looking for a system that suits my style of play and which might be well suited to pulp sword and sorcery. D&D can do this, but it misses the mark in a few areas. D&D' s reward system is generally built around exploring underground spaces, killing monsters, and collecting magic items and while this makes for a great and fun game it doesn't really replicate the sort of stories written by the above gentlemen. Some of the folks over at the OD&D boards have some brilliant house rules and variants of OD&D that bring D&D in much closer line with this sort of fiction, but I've been curious to try this type of story using a more narrativist system

I should also note that one reason systems like OD&D, Tunnels & Trolls, the Fate System, The Shadow of Yesterday, and PDQ appeal to me as a GM is that I can be terrifically lazy when it comes to game systems. I don't want to do anything like the sort of prep that something like D&D 3E requires. I'm older, busier, and I've got a family which means that my prep for games should ideally be both easy and fun. I'm done with taking three hours to stat out bad guys that are going to eat it in five minutes when my bloodthirsty players get their hands on them. I want to spend my prep time thinking about interesting npcs, environments, and situations for my players to deal with.

Jaws makes all that stuff quite simple. I'm not going to go into an extensive discussion of the PDQ system here, but I will mention a few things. The system runs on modifiers which are attached to Qualities that the character possesses, and the modifiers range from -2 to +6. Examples of Qualities might be "Swordsmen", "Beserker", "Walks with a Limp", or even things like "Always Carries a Red Scarf in Remembrance of His Slain Lover". The modifiers from the relevant Qualities are added to a roll of 2D6 and compared against a target number or another character's roll. That's the basic mechanic, but the most innovative aspect of the system is the damage system which involves the character taking damage to their respective Qualities. However, the player decides which Qualities will be affected. Eventually, if the character has lost all of their ranks in all of their qualities they are considered to be "zeroed out" which means they've been defeated (but probable not dead unless the stakes are really high for the story). Jaws itself introduces some unique elements to the PDQ system such as Dark Learning points for Secrets Man Was Not Meant To Know, and the demonically tainted magic you often find in Sword & Sorcery tales--as opposed to the sort of magic you find in various high fantasy settings.

I'm an incessant tinkerer when it comes to game systems (which is why OD&D/AD&D are so much fun), but Jaws pretty much sold me on running the system as is--which says quite a lot.

I could see using Jaws for all sorts of fantasy games. The system will work pretty well for any sort of low-magic dark fantasy setting, but it could be easily adapted to science fantasy settings or a variety of other things as well. I'd definitely recommend the system if you're looking for a rules lite system that facilitates narrative play, and which allows you to run a dark fantasy styled game.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Buy Your Elder Sign Now!

I think this is the best thing my eyes have ever seen.

AD&D House Rules & Character Sheets

AD&D is a game that (despite the rulebook's insistence that there is a correct way to play and an incorrect one) has always been houseruled. Even when I was younger and didn't understand all of the rules, I just ignored what I didn't get--which, I suppose, is a type of house ruling. So in the light of that, I thought I'd offer some brief notes as to what I'd change in AD&D.

Not using the armor vs. weapon type table.

No weapon speed factors.

Using the revised Monk and Bard Classes from The Best of Dragon vol.III.

Ignore the unwieldy hand to hand rules from the DMG.

Not using weapon proficiencies.

I'm going the keep the prices and coin from the Player's Handbook, but in practice I'll likely almost entirely ignore electrum and platinum pieces.

Characters make attribute checks by rolling their attribute or lower on a d20 for class attributes. Non-class attributes are rolled at the attribute minus 4.

Things I'm unsure about:

Not sure whether I'd want to use the classes from Unearthed Aracana. I like the idea of Barbarians and Acrobats, but the rules seem increasingly fiddly.

Not sure about casting times. I might just adopt the OD&D/Basic D&D method for casting--which is basically that spells take place instantaneously.

I'm by nature a lazy DM and much of these rules are me just trying to shape the ruleset into something that I'd feel comfortable running.

Here's the character sheet I made:

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Dungeons of Castle Dragonscar Levels 1 & 2

Here's both of the completed levels together. I'm toying with the idea of a random stocking method which I'll try to detail in a later post. Certain chambers would be "setpiece" encounters, some would be designated as empty, while other rooms would have randomly generated encounters within.

I mentioned over on the OD&D boards that drawing these feels like a weird stress reliever. Call it Dungeon Therapy.

Anyway, here they are:

Deleted so my players won't see them!!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Nick's Headspace: The Fountain

I know this is strictly speaking a tabletop RPG blog, but I've been listening to the soundtrack to Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain rather incessantly. This all started in order to find inspiration for this gmless fantasy/ horror/ western we're thinking of playing this summer, but I can't help but remember how bowled over I was by this film.

If you want to see the aching pain of real cinematic beauty see The Fountain. Leave your questions at the door and let it wash over you.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Just saw this bit of brilliance about Dave Arneson.


Castles! Castles! Castles!

Here are a few castles that I created for an epic interdimensional fantasy campaign that was partly inspired by Roger Zelazny's Amber series. Icewatch is loosely based on a real world castle (Caernarvon Castle in Wales), and Ravengard was my attmpt to create a seat of sorcerous evil, and it was inspired by the interpretation of Barad-Dur from the old Rankin-Bass Return of the King animated film. They both exist in the frozen Norse-inflected realm of Valtallas.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Dave Arneson (1947-2009)

I never met Dave Arneson, and I only had the barest sort of contact with him through his occasional postings on the OD&D board, but I'm realizing we've lost the person who's innovations led to our hobby. I mean Dave was the guy who said to himself: what if we did THIS with Chainmail.

It's a sad day.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fantasy Boardgame Fun-A-Rama

So we've been playing Talisman (the edition by Fantasy Flight Games) and its been lots of fun. When we picked it up a few months ago the guy at the game store described it as "D&D meets Candy Land" which sounded just about right to my wife and I as we'd tried to play The Fury of Dracula over Christmas and found it a little frustrating (likely due to the fact that I'd not carefully gone over the rules). We want games that are fun, not too complex, and which are playable in under three hours. Our Talisman games have been running about three to four hours, but there are several ways to speed up play which we might want to do from now on.

I've been curious about Descent for a while now, but I've read enough descriptions that make it clear that the game can often take four or five hours. Unfortunately, my wife and I aren't really up for a five hour game. After reading a bit of stuff online it has become clear to me that there are lots of older dungeon crawl boardgames that would serve us better. I used to play TSR's old Dungeon boardgame when I was younger but now I think I'm looking for something with just a little more complexity. Milton Bradley's Heroquest (which was licensed from Games Workshop) might be fun, but everything I've read indicates that the sweet spot for dungeon crawlers was really hit with Games Workshop's Warhammer Quest. The bad news is that Warhammer Quest is long out of print and copies of the game go for ridiculous amounts of money on Ebay.

Lots of people cried in horror that 4e was becoming a boardgame and while I sympathize I actually think 4e is almost more interesting as a boardgame or as a boardgame/rpg hybrid (which is what it seems to be). I prefer older editions of D&D, but I can see that for the type of game that it is 4e is pretty damn good game. I've got a bunch of WOTC dungeon tiles and some of their figures, and it had occured to me that a slightly sripped down version of 4e might be lots of fun if you essentially played it as a boardgame. Ideally, you'd be able to play without a DM as it is discussed in the 4e DMG. I read a post over at En World a while back suggesting that WOTC should sell 4e in big box with a slimmed down rulebook, lots of minis, a nice set of dungeon tiles, power cards, encounter cards, and advancement rules through 10th level. And they should sell it at Target and Toys R Us. I know I'd buy it.

Anyway all of this has led me to consider trying to cobble together my own dungeon crawl boardgame. It occurs to me that older versions of D&D might also be easily adapted to this sort of play. I downloaded the Dungeon Bash pdf a while back which is game that adapts D20 as a boardgame, but it also wasn't what I was looking for.

I'm going to need to think on this.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Room of A Hundred Dwarves and Other Highlights of Third Grade

Unlike a lot of other rpgs D&D has for a variety of reasons always been linked to boardgames in my head. This likely has to do with my early experience of the game. You see I started playing D&D even before I owned the game. This must have been around the spring of 1981 or so when I would have been in 3rd Grade. I had seen some kids at school playing, and so I endeavored to make my own D&D game. This consisted of me drawing a dungeon on a piece of construction paper from school and looting a green six sided die from an old game set at our house. I drew numbers on the rooms and that’s all I figured we needed. Having noticed the squares on the dungeon maps I’d seen, I imagined that you rolled a die to move through the dungeon—just like in Clue or a million other boardgames.

Then my friend Eric (who we decided should be the DM because he’d actually played “real” D&D with his neighbor) would make up whatever he thought should be in the room. I think we just rolled a certain number on the six-sided to hit. Goblins might have needed a 3 to hit while a Dragon (the nastiest thing we could imagine) would have probably been a 6. I’m not even sure we were using hit points, but we might have been. There were also no classes: we were all playing warriors of some type. I didn’t even bother to name my character. There was one room where we had to fight like a hundred Dwarves. That was rough (although they died really easy and never made any kind of a group attack). It just took a looong time to kill them all. We’d get to a room, kill everything in sight, and then we’d find whatever gold or magic was in the room (and there ALWAYS was gold or magic). It was fun.

One of the funniest things was that we’d mostly play during our English class! We were supposed to be doing some sort of project, but we’d sit and play our D&D game instead. Our teacher got upset at us several times, but at other times she ignored us. We weren’t being particularly disruptive and the group of us were generally “good” kids who had a little more leeway.

At home I decided I wanted to have a D&D game with miniatures. I had a couple of knights and a pack of plastic monsters and dinosaurs my parents had bought me at a local drug store. I then took some cardboard and drew a dungeon with permanent marker that was big enough to move the figures around on. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that one of the plastic monsters I had was the same plastic monster that Gary Gygax had utilized several years before as the now infamous Rust Monster. At the time, I, of course, had no idea what a Rust Monster was. These dungeon boardgames went through several iterations, but they were all fairly rudimentary in their construction, but that hardly mattered to me: I was in love with the idea of a "dungeon" game.

It occurs to me now that this endeavor of mine explains a lot about the person I’ve become. I started out making and hacking games and I’m still doing that today.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Dungeons of Castle Dragonscar

I posted this over in the OD&D forums a few weeks back so some of you might have seen it there, but I decided to post it to the blog at least partly so the resolution would be a little clearer. Just click on the image above.

You can see on this version the elevators, pits, and whatnot I included. I'm not sure which levels the elevators go to, but right now I'm thinking one should go to Level 3 and another to Level 6.

My intention is to stock the level myself, but things have been crazy with tons of grading and two bouts of sickness in the last month. I'll post the results here when I'm finished.

Oh, and as I noted on the forums--feel free to steal this baby and use as you will.

Here's the original forum thread in case anybody's interested:


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Nine Hells

I've always wanted to go to Hell.

Okay. . .not actual Hell, but when I played AD&D I wanted to send the characters to Hell. Despite Dave Sutherland's wonderfull depiction of "A Paladin in Hell" from the AD&D Player's handbook, I was always initially more facinated with the demons as opposed to the devils in the AD&D Monster Manual. That changed thanks to Dragon Magazine and Ed Greenwood. Greenwood's articles on the Nine Hells (from issues #75 and #76) captured my imagination in a way that only a few other articles in the magazine ever did.

Greenwood's articles gave life to those images in the monster manual. Hell was a place rife with intrigue, plotting, and lots of really awful adversaries. More than that the Hells as depicted were an interesting and varied planar environment. Not just a flaming pit, here we had disease filled swamps, frozen wastes, icy rivers, and a few massive dungeons located under the fortresses of Hell's rulers.

When TSR tried to de-Hellify the Nine Hells and turn it into Baator was about when I lost interest in 2nd edition D&D. Planscape was a wildly creative setting and had some gorgeous artwork, but after years of parents freaking out over Satan and D&D they decided to first just kind of not mention Hell and then later to recast it as Baator. Granted they didn't change much about the actual setting--it was clearly still loosely based on previous published versions such as the Manual of the Planes (1st ed.) and Greenwood's articles--but the name change choked out any of the mythic resonance. It was actually Wizards of the Coast who made Hell Hellish again, but I find myself looking over the Greenwood articles and being more inspired by them than anything later.

Despite my facination with the articles I never really ever sent any of my players to Minauros, Maladomini, Avernus, or any other of the Hells. I always was waiting for them to get powerful enough--which we kind of never did. Pretty soon I was under the spell of another game's depiction of cosmic evil: Call of Cthulhu.

One thing that always puzzled me about parents concerned about Satanism and D&D was that the Devils and Demons were clearly put into the books for players to fight. Having a party of 20th level characters butchering their way through Hell and the Abyss and taking out hordes of demons hardly seems like Satanism to me. Gygax and the folks at TSR put them in the books because Players wanted to go up against the big bads of the mutiverse, and you can't get a better depiction of mythic evil than Hell. Enter Asmodeus and his cohorts.

So here's my pitch: a full on campaign set largely in Hell. Screw the we have to wait until we're 15th level and all that. I ride on the hells tomorrow. . .

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

RPG Video History: D&D Computer Labyrinth Game

I'm slammed with grading this week. But here's another bit of D&D video nonsense.

Beware the Dragon!

Friday, March 13, 2009

King Arthur Pendragon: An Appreciation

I've always loved King Arthur. Malory, Howard Pyle, Wolfram Von Echenbach, The Grail Stories--I was obsessed with it all. My Dad used to tell me stories about King Arthur when we'd go out to eat when I was four or five. I guess he figured that it was a way to keep me occupied. I remember once going to a medieval themed restaurant and listening with rapt attention to his half remembered stories of Arthur, Lancelot, Galahad, and the evil Mordred. Looking back I realize that he was probable picking details from whatever he could remember from when he read the stories when he was younger and whatever movies he could remember (likely films such as Knights of the Round Table).

Which brings me to King Arthur Pendragon by Greg Stafford. This game is one of my favorite roleplaying games of all time and my admiration for it has only grown over the years. Greg Stafford has said the game was a work of love for him, and I have to say that it shows. Moreover, the game's rules (despite multiple editions and being published by three separate companies) have essentially stayed the same for over twenty years. And that's a good thing. In a world where new editions of games are coming out all the time that supposedly "improve" on previous ones Pendragon knew something that it might not always be bad to listen to: if it isn't broken don't fix. Different editions have made adjustments to various parts of the rules but most of the changes have been relatively minor and often were for the better. No attempt was made to pull out core mechanics and "re-imagine" the setting. The game was perfect the way it was.

Pendragon was quite innovative for its time as well. Foremost among these innovations were things like passions and personality traits. Some have balked at the idea that a die roll might tell me how my character might react to something but lets take step back and look at the source material. Do the characters in the Arthur stories behave in such a way that they are always doing the tactically smart thing? The best thing? No. They make mistakes. Epic HUGE mistakes. They fall in love with people they shouldn't. They betray each other. Traits and Passions are ways to have characters do those things that really push things in unexpected direction. My group really liked leaving some important decisions up to the dice. And you needn't use traits and passions all the time--they become important at various key points. They should be a resource for deepening the characters rather than something the group should feel slavishly bound to.

The PCs are also bound by their social obligations and responsibilities. Characters are a fundamental part of the game world's society. No wandering sellswords with no social connections in this game.

However, my favorite element of the game is the seasonal advancement. Pendragon plays out over YEARS. In just a few sessions your characters might have aged several years. They grow older like real people. They have losses. They have families. And they die. That's one thing you know for sure in Pendragon. That if you keep playing--eventually the character is going to die. Combat (and the combat is deadly!) or just the advancement of time--one of them will win out in the end. It occurs to me that this sort of advancement could be (and likely has) been utilized by D&D to reflect a different sort of campaign that's more clearly medieval in tone.

Greg Stafford has a website where he's putting new PDF and print supplements for the game as well as lots of free content. Check it out--there's some great stuff there.

Check it out at:

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lament for a Lost World: The World of Tarna

So a few years ago two of my friends and I created a fantasy campaign world known as Tarna for a proposed D&D 3rd edition game. We ran into problems when we got into the game only to realize that we weren't really enjoying the system that much. 3rd edition is great for some folks, but we were all too busy and too lazy to spend the amount of time that the game would have demanded. We ended up converting the game to a Basic Roleplaying variant we cobbled together, and this second attempt at the campaign was much more what we were after. Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying system is brilliantly intuitive system that worked well and provided us some memorable and gritty combat. I now realize that Basic Roleplaying has its limits as a system as well, but it worked well enough for us at the time.

However, we loved the little campaign world we'd created, so we kept adding little bits to it. We kept adding, brainstorming, and adding more. We were off dreaming up this world under the heady spell of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films and about a million other things. The stuff we came up with rocked, but it had one little drawback: it was never going to come into the game. Looking back it was one of the most important lessons in my gaming life. It really taught me that while worldbuilding can give you great stuff--you can also drown in it. And we were drowning. Eventually, we moved on to other games having absorbed some of the lessons of our Tarna experience. Yet I keep looking back on that stuff wondering if I should still do anything with it. I've been tempted on a few occasions to run it as an old school OD&D campaign, but the best thing I got out of the Tarna campaign was a stronger sense of what works in the GAME not in some massive fictional world you keep tinkering with.

Some interesting features of Tarna:

* Elves were very long lived, mystically potent, and had held the people of Tarna in slavery for several hundred years, but were now mostly extinct (although they'd left behind massive tomb complexes).

* Goblins were a "plague race" that infected people and turned them into goblins.

* The planet itself was a living deity.

* Magic was an aberration created when the chaos planet Umaen hurled a piece of himself into Aeos (the planet the land of Tarna was located on). This shard of Umaen was the locus of mystic energy on the planet and located far out in the ocean stabbing like a knife far into the atmosphere.

* The savage war goddess Shiara had the head of boar.

Here's one of my maps:

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Enter the Magical World of Adventure Gaming


This page from the 1980 Sears Catalog is (almost) single handily responsible for turning me into a gamer. My parents got me both the Moldvay boxed set and the D&D Computer Fantasy Game because I showed them this. The computer game was what I really wanted, but it was the Basic Set that I ended up becoming far more interested in. I still have the Computer Game (although it doesn't work) and the nifty metal figurines that came with it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide: Finding the Gems

Despite my earlier posting about my youthful frustrations with AD&D, I've recently grown to appreciate and understand the massive baggy monster that is Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 1st Edition.

A key part of getting more out of the books is in understanding the play style that they seem to support. I never appreciated things like Wandering Monster Tables, Random Dungeon Generators, and hexcrawl wilderness exploration when I was younger. I suppose part of the problem was that I was too focused on a creating story like Lord of the Rings rather than appreciating what the game WAS good at.

This is something that I feel I've learned from both the old school and the indie gaming communities in the last few years: the story is wherever the players are and what they are doing NOT whatever grand scheme is in your head. Provide your players with situations they can dive into and DON'T provide them with plots that aren't ever going to be realized or that you have railroad them through. Railroading can be okay and provide a satisfying play experience, but it requires significant buy in from the players. D&D can get around railroading by focusing on what might be called environmental dangers (i.e. the dungeon or the wilderness) that by their nature are situational. The major buy in for the players is usually at the beginning during the scenarios set-up or "mission briefing" phase. Once they are in the "situation" they've usually got all sorts of motivations to interact with the imaginative environment. This usually means killing stuff, getting treasure, and getting killed by stuff in return, but it also might mean solving puzzles and avoiding traps.

Anyway, part my problem seemed to be that I just needed to give myself permission to see the game as a toolbox and move from there. I'd argue that AD&D at its core is a pretty simple game actually, but it suffers from a complex presentation and lots of extra "stuff" that got bolted on over the years (Unearthed Arcana I'm looking at you!). The DMG in particular is a labyrinthine text that while filled with some great stuff also has lots of "extras" that you may not need.

Here's Dr. Rotwang's appreciation of the DMG from a few years ago:


So ignore the chaff--find the gems--and dive into the dungeon!

RPG Video History: D&D Commercial

Remember this? And when you DM make sure to always point your finger the air like you're declaring something important.

Monday, March 2, 2009

RPG Video History: When We Were Witches

Wow. I'd forgotten how bad it was. The story is quite a hatchet job. Shame on you 60 Minutes!

Gateway to Adventure?

The TSR catalog that came with my Moldvay D&D Basic Set was titled “Gateway to Advnture.” If you’re curious you can take a virtual tour of it here:


Being a kid of about ten—I immediately wanted lots of stuff from it. I loved my Basic Set, but AD&D (1E) looked “cooler” to my eyes—I mean there were all these hardcover books and the covers were great! So of course I felt I should get those—it was only natural, right? Of course, I was entirely unaware that AD&D was more game that I was probably ready for. To compound things even more, I decided that I was going to be the DM. I didn’t have enough cash to go buy ALL the D&D books, so I decided that The Dungeon Master’s Guide would be the best thing to get first (one of my friends bought The Player’s Handbook and I don’t even remember whether we initially even had a Monster Manual). Now I love the DMG, but it is far from a beginner friendly rulebook. Despite Gygax’s claims that AD&D was a separate game than OD&D, it seems to me that to really make use of the DMG it helped to have a background in OD&D.

When I played AD&D, I mostly just reverted to what I understood from my Basic Set and eventually the game reverted to some sort of bizarre Star Wars game where out characters were essentially in charge of the Death Star. It was fun, but it had stopped being D&D of any kind. The rules had mostly disappeared. I can't remember what dice system we were using, but I know I'd mostly stopped paying attention to the hit charts in the DMG.

I ran a few campaigns in later years that hewed much closer to actual AD&D, but I don’t think I played close enough attention to the rules then either. I grew up with AD&D, but I also feel a bit like I’ve never actually played AD&D (with one or two exceptions where I was a player in someone else’s game—usually someone older with a better sense of how to play the game). From what I can tell my experience does not seem to be unusual. Looking back, I might have been happier if I’d have stuck to my Moldvay Basic Set and just gone from there.

It wasn’t until comparatively recently that I really dove in and took a hard look at AD&D’s rules. After I felt I had gained an understanding of OD&D, AD&D 1E’s idiosyncrasies seemed to make more sense. So I did what I never did when I was younger and which I should have done all along. I created my own House Rules document and a custom AD&D character sheet that, while not being the most attractive thing in the world, certainly reflects my “take” on the game.

Sometimes we so desperately want to be "Advanced" when we may have been happier with "Basic".

Now to find that Time Machine--there's a ten year old boy I'd like to give some advice to.

Friday, February 27, 2009

My Sandbox Wilderness

I've been working on a sandbox setting that would be a AD&D/OD&D hybrid. I was inspired by Judges Guild's Wilderlands, Robert Conley's Point of Light setting, Badger's excellent "The Wilderness Architect" article, and the wilderness setting from the Cook/Marsh D&D Expert Set.

The region was once known as the Archmagery of Tregarth and was ruled by a family of Wizards who exerted their power over the region from the imposing Dragonscar Castle (which is sort of my Castle Grayskull meets Castle Amber meets Greyhawk Castle). The political authority has largely collapsed in the region--leaving several villages and the town of Rivermead to fend for themselves. These areas of habitation are relatively safe, but outside the villages the region is rife with raiders, monsters, and wild animals.

To the north is a the Black Eagle Barony (from the Cook/Marsh Expert set) and to the south are the frayed borders of the decadent and ancient Maurelian Empire.

The PCs will start in the village of Tarvan--I'm thinking I'd like them to maybe even be from the village.

Here's the map:


Purple is mountains, Primrose is hills, dark blue is water, aqua blue is marshland, dark green is forest, light green is plains, and yellow is arid plains.

Here are some locations of note on the map:

The Caverns of Everlasting Darkness: An underground stronghold that is a locus for chaotic humanoids (basically my local version of the Caves of Chaos). And, of course, there's a nasty Minotaur lurking in there.

The Ghostwood: A haunted forest plagued by the spirits of a dead elven kingdom.

Temple of the Nameless One: A temple to one of the forbidden Chaos Gods whose noxious influence brings madness and death (think horrible Lovecraftian deity). The temple was destroyed long ago when the Maurelian Empire more firmly controlled the region. There have been rumours that the Temple has been reoccupied, but even the Goblins in the region fear to come to close to its ruined walls.

Port Ren: A city that thrives as a haven for pirates and slavers. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and well you know the rest. . .

Barrow Fields: A vast arid plain set with burial mounds of an ancient horseriding warrior people. This culture occupied the region long before the Maurelians entered the region.

The Old Keep: My starter dungeon with lots of skeletons and such (ruled by a cursed Skeleton King!)

The Black Eagle Barony: I was never particularly enthralled with the Baron himself but the name is good. I was thinking a Baroness with various distinctive henchmen would rule the Barony. She's not an intended as an explicit "villain"--she's just self interested and wants what she wants. She'd like to get more control over the Valley of Tregarth and is seeking the undermine the Sheriff of Rivermead.

The Sheriff of Rivermead is appointed by the town council of Rivermead and is charged with maintaining law and order in the the villages of Rivermead, Tallow, and Tarvan. The reality is that the Sheriff is a good man, but he is surrounded by corruption and lawlessness.

The Tower of Wailing Stars: A mysterious tower that seems to phase in and out reality. I'm thinking this is a slightly higher level location involving extraplanar baddies (Githyanki anyone. . .). Its current situation is the result of a magical experiment gone wrong.

The Forbidden City of Shahara: A large ruins site located on an island. Not sure what's going on here yet. Any thoughts?

Fort Uzar: A Maurelian outpost occupied by hardbitten troops who might not be to friendly toward wandering adventurers as the region is rife with bandits.

The Sea of Dreams: was once a thriving ancient kingdom but it was wiped out in some sort of cataclysm (doesn't every fantasy setting have to have a cataclysm). However the psychic echoes of this kingdom still plague those who sail the sea--giving them strange dreams of lands long dead.

Votus Marsh: The Lizardmen here are aggressive and hate outsiders who stumble into their domain. They ride giant swamp beasts and hunt down all hapless folks who wander into their marshland home.

Faringdale: A Halfling community overseen by an elected ruler known as the Autarch. The community is highly suspicious of outsiders and "big folk." Their soldiers are well trained and organized. Faringdale has suffered numerous incursion attempts by the Orc Tribes to the south. So far the Autarch's men have been able to fend them off.