Sunday, November 4, 2018

New Campaign Hex Map Early Draft

So I'm slowly working on the hex map for my Forest of Fiends campaign idea which may or may not actually be a real thing one day. I'm using Hexographer which is is a very simple program.  It makes getting started easy, but it's not long before you begin wishing it had more features. For most people making basic hex maps it perfectly adequate. For people who start making a crazy big map right away it leads to a lot of re-thinking your map as you go along, just saying.  The map is for a semi-sandbox adventure with a coast, deep jungle filled with adventure, and finally a great cliff atop which lies (reportedly) the homeland of the fey.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

New Pathfinder Spell: Mage's Sanctum Privy

Mage's Sanctum Privy

School: Abjuration; Level: sorceror/witch/wizard 5

Casting Time:  1 round

Components: V, S, M (a sheet of lead, sheet of paper, drop of perfume)

Range: close (25 fr. + 5 ft./2 levels)

Area: 10 ft tall by 5' square

Duration: 5 minutes per level

Saving Throw: none: Spell Resistance: no

Description: This spell conjures an enclosed privy for when you really need to go potty right now. The privy is ornately decorated inside and out and large enough for one medium or large sized humanoid creature to comfortably sit. When the mage is done all necessary business, all unpleasant wastes are sent to an unknown plane, any noxious odors disapparated, and the mage's private parts instantaneously cleansed and lightly misted with a pleasant scent.

Anyone looking into the privy from outside sees only a dark, foggy mass. Darkvision cannot penetrate it. No sounds, no matter how loud, can escape the privy, so nobody can eavesdrop from outside or be discomfited by overhearing impolite noises. Those inside can see out normally.

Divination (scrying) spells cannot perceive anything within the area, and those within are immune to detect thoughts. The ward prevents speech between those inside and those outside (because it blocks sound), but it does not prevent other communication, such as a sending or message spell, or telepathic communication, such as that between a wizard and her familiar.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Google+ is Dead! Long Live Google+ !

     So in case you hadn't heard, Google has announced the shutdown of Google+ in August of next year.  That is still a good ways off but the migration is already underway.  I have been a heavy user (well, lurker mostly) of Google+ over the last two years or so and generally enjoyed it.   Most, if not all, of the people and groups I follow there are either moving already or looking around to move soon. The most talked about alternatives as far as I've seen are MeWe, Facebook, and Discord.  I totally don't trust Facebook, and Discord looks more like it's for live gaming, but MeWe seems promising. FYI, my MeWe personal link is

    For now I'm going back to normal blogging, which suits me better than microblogging apps anyway.  My main need is an outlet to create content for myself and the gaming community.  Micro-blogging is so minimal it's almost a waste of time.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Crafting: The CharacTray(?), my hack of the CharacTable

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I decided to do a customized version of a cool lap table/tray/PED dock product for RPG gaming designed for when you don't sit at a table.  My version is built around the relatively thick/chunky notebook I use for gaming, plus my phone which I use as a notepad.  First I did a quick sketch of the layout on a big pad of graph paper:

Then I went to the art store and bought some materials, and grabbed a few tools to work with: two big sheets of 0.5" thick foam core posterboard, two sheets of soft gray foam, and more glue.

I cut out two matching rectangles from the 0.5" posterboard, one to act as the base, the other to be cut into the walls to be glued on top of the base to separate out the sections.

Then I had a quick chat with my artistic consultant, Samantha.

Next up: sketch out the walls on the "top" board:

Next, I very carefully cut out the wall sections.  I was particularly worried about the thin walls (0.5" deep and wide) would crack or bend.  I swapped in a fresh new blade for my x-acto craft knife and cut carefully.

Here are the wall sections all cut out:

Started gluing wall pieces onto base:

Completed wall gluing...waited overnight for proper drying.

Painted exposed foam core edges black, and extended paint into section floors about 2cm so no white would show after gluing in the soft foam floor linings.  While waiting for it to dry, started cutting out foam linings--always look to be doing two things at once!

But then I found that the glue had warped the base a bit. So I flipped it over and placed a weighty tome on it to get it to press back down some.

Finished gluing in foam floor linings.  While that was drying, started painting tops of wall sections.  Decided to go with a medium/dark gray which could later be drawn on with a marker to add some visual texture.

Here is the wall top painting first coat on.  The paint wouldn't mix properly and came out translucent in places, allowing the white posterboard to show through in places.  Eventually I did two coats and a lot of touch-ups.

And the final result:

Lessons Learned:
1) Even 0.5" (12.5mm) foam core board will warp with relatively (I thought) small amounts of glue. Weigh it down while it dries.
2) Leave more room for electrical cords than you think you'll need.  With the finished model there was not quite enough room to plug in the power cord for the notebook.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

What If You Did Vancian Magic Like Tetris...

So I was reading an older post over at the Points of Light blog entitled D&D Doesn't Use Vancian Magic.  David's point is that although the magic system in D&D is often called "Vancian", it isn't actually an accurate simulation of how magic use is described in Vance's books, the Dying Earth novels in particular.  David provides this quote from Vance's work:

Maziriam made a selection from his books and with great effort forced five spells upon his brain: Phandaal's Gyrator, Felojun's Second Hypnotic Spell, The Excellent Prismatic Spray, The Charm of Untiring Nourishment, and the Spell of the Omnipotent Sphere. This accomplished, Maziriam drank wine and retired to his couch.

So, yes, the mage does go through his spell books and load spells into his brain. But there are not spell slots, or specified numbers of spells of particular levels--although the mages in Vance's books do seem to have a limit of how much spell power their brains can handle.

Therefore to make D&D magic more Vancian you would need to retain the spell books and spell prep time, but remove the spell slot grid where at any given level you may only memorize X number of spells of each level.  But this being a game you still want to have a way to limit the numbers/levels of spells which a mage with a given Intelligence and casting level can have mentally prepared at any given time.

And then I thought of giving each magic-using class a sheet with a grid and tiles of different shapes for the spells.  Larger spells would have larger tiles, thus taking up more space on the grid.  As long as there's room left on the grid to fit in a particular spell you can memorize it and place the tile.  That brought to mind the old game Tetris, where you have to fit tiles of different shapes (made of connected squares) into a rectangular space.  So what if the spell-tiles were not just larger, but also of more complex shapes (but probably still an assembly of squares) as the spell level increased?

That started sounding cool, until I realized that making up a set of spell tiles would be work, especially if you wanted more complex shapes.  And then I remembered those puzzles where you place geometric shapes (triangles, squares, and parallelograms) to make shapes or fill in a square: tangrams.  I think the easiest gaming aid would use magnetic pieces and a metal board.  The board would be big enough to handle your game's maximum spell-slot capacity.  I'd also want a quick reference guide printed on the back for each spell casting class showing the capacity area and how many of each geometric shape the character gets at each casting level.

Monday, January 22, 2018

So, I'm Modding This Kickstarter (sort of)

Once again my Google+ feeds came through for me.  I saw a link to the CharacTable Kickstarter for these really nice wooden lap boards with slots and bins and docking for all your stuff, particularly if you don't sit at a table during play.  I love the idea and they really look sharp.  However, the larger models (there are four) are designed with upright docking for a slim tablet.  Alas, my primary GMing tool at the table is a chunky old notebook which can't possibly use the dock.

So, I decided to seize the excuse opportunity to do something crafty and make my own custom lap board out of posterboard, based around accommodation for my chunky notebook.  In addition to a pit for the notebook, I wanted 1) a pit for my mobile phone, because I have a stylus and use a note-taking app for "scratch paper" during play, 2) a slot for pens, stylus, etc, and 3) a dice rolling pit.  I usually line up my dice pool in the hinge of the notebook (as shown) to save space on the table, so I won't need to include a separate space for them here.  I laid out the items on a big pad of graph paper and drew around them.  The notebook needed an open space on the left for the fan port and a long slot down the right for the power cord.  For the phone and pen slots I left finger openings on the edges to make it easier to lift them out. 

Here's my mock-up layout on the graph paper.  I plan to make the outer edges and interior walls 0.5" (12.5mm) thick to account for the strength of the posterboard, both during construction and in regular use.

Tomorrow I'll stop at the art store and get some poster board!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Forest of Fiends: The Old Gods & Their Weirdings

[Here's another bit of setting lore for my Forest of Fiends campaign, with actual effects on play.]

Before the hex-priests bound the empire to the Maralith Queens, the land of Pra-Kryush had its own pantheon of local deities.  With the rise of the Queens their worship was suppressed, the priests broken or sacrificed, and the temples demolished.  Today, little remains of their faith and even the oldest amongst the tiefling elders remembers naught but odd references.  Nevertheless, the Old Gods are not dead.  Without mortal worshippers to sustain them they are so faded now as to be little more than wandering wisps.  Most are like dotards with fading memories of their former glory, some even forgetting their own names.  Some still cling to an abandoned shrine, idol, stele, cenote, or other lonely site in the jungle.  In that locale, referred to as a shrine manse,  they have some small power left.

Outside of these shrine manses, there are still many remnants about, such as building stones scavenged from their razed temples with some carvings left undefiled.  Here and there are troves of holy items stashed by faithful priests to keep them from destruction by the minions of the Queens.  A few of the greatest and oldest temples were so steeped in holiness that no corrupted being could enter, and so they were sealed by the demon-minions and forsaken.

The names of the Old Gods are long-forgotten, even to the gods themselves, for they have gone senile.  A person contacting one will experience strange visions appropriate to the deity's domains.  If the person tries to resist the visions, they must make a WILL save (DC 25) against each of the deity's three domains.  If they embrace the visions, or fail a WILL save against any, they will gain a "Weirding" (containing a boon and a curse) for each.

When each manse is contacted, the GM will secretly make three random rolls on the domain list for the forgotten deity's three domains.  The player of an affected character will then roll 1d6 (1-2/3-4/5-6) to see which of the three affects them.  The GM will note which weirding the character gains and reveal the effects when appropriate.

There are twelve domains on the list.  To keep things fun for the players, I'll just reveal one domain "weirding" as an example:

Domain: Animal
Wierding: you can speak with wild animals (boon); but domesticated animals panic near you (curse)