Saturday, January 31, 2015

How and Where I Write - February 2015 RPG Blog Carnival

As the one-year anniversary of my return to creative writing and tentative foray into blogging approaches, I offered to host this month's Blog Carnival: How and Where I Write and/or Game Prep. 

Thanks to Johnn Four for helming this project.

Years ago, I tried to be a Writer, without much success. I wrote some short stories and essays, even getting a few published. I think my crowning achievement was winning the Romance category in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, in spite of the fact that I have never read a romance novel in my life. But apparently I was adept at writing poorly on purpose. So there's that.

A bit over a year ago, I rediscovered gaming and the vigorous online DIY community of creators and theorists.  At about that time I also made the decision to be less of a consumer of content, and contribute a bit of my own, whether a story, a map, or a bit of treasure. So I've played around with mini-dungeon scenarios, occasional flash fiction, some essays on gaming environment, and a bit of crowdsource content.

For the next year, upcoming goals include another One Page Dungeon entry, a longer module-length piece, a new character class, short stories, and whatever crowdsource and/or contest content that doesn't have too strict of a dress code...

Like most creative folk, every writer has their own approach and opinions on the craft.

Among my writing books, I have two writers-on-writing books "Just Open a Vein," by William Brohaugh, and "On Being a Writer," by Bill Strickland. For the 30 or so essays/interviews in each book, there are approximately 30 opinions on 'how to write.' But they give a glimpse into each writer's method and philosophy, and there are many approaches. The creative process is as unique as the writer and their stories.

And each writer has their space: some spare, some well ordered, some cluttered.  Perhaps those spaces represent, or contrast with, the mind of the person sitting at their notebook or keyboard.

A few are documented in photo-essays like these:

I've always been fond of this photo of Sam Delaney in his garret-like workspace
So, here's a bit of me and my process:

I don't have a particular 'space' - sometimes it's at the kitchen table, sometimes at the couch.  Regardless, I hew out a comfy space to put the feet up and an appropriate beverage to quiet the Internal Critic, or commune with the muse... Your call.

And I grab some inspiration, whether is it a writing cue, a piece of art, or a map.

Mix well with:

And add a soundtrack of something drony or ambient via Or if I'm in an industrial mood: Or if it's Sunday night, (via the local high school radio station, one of only a few left nationwide) (where the kidlet takes her broadcasting class and internship) (The old man became slightly less uncool when he revealed his punk and industrial leanings) (Who says kids and their folks can't share musical tastes?) (Ok, I'll stop with the parentheses now).

And often with the "help" of Ella (aka Snotcat), the typical aloof cat who suddenly requires one's attention when one is busy.

There are a lot of creative folks out there in Blogistan - some write for work, many more as a past-time. Likewise, we plan for games - perhaps reskinning, melding, or pulling critters and spaces and situations out of our own minds. And everyone has their own inspiration, process and space.

Feel free to share yours. Perhaps we'll all find a bit of inspiration.

Update: Wrap-up and commentary here

Friday, January 30, 2015

Tenkar's Landing Crowdsource Hex 18.16, Redux

I made some small revisions to the previous version of my contribution to the Tenkar's Landing Crowdsourced Sandbox Setting, as well as adding a bit of a roll-your-own mini dungeon in the form of the lava tubes riddling Mt. Hrada, set in the southern portion of the hex. The tubes contain a handful of ancient rooms, a smattering of artifacts, and a couple of new critters.

Full text below, or you may download here, if you are so inclined.

The Head of the Ghavor (Hex 18.16)
Contribution to the Tenkar's Landing Crowdsourced Sandbox Setting


The River Ghavor is sourced among a ring of volcanoes occupying the southern portion of the area.  It flows from a lake fed by geothermal springs and mountain snowmelt.  A colony of lizardfolk has settled there, and have driven off other humanoids for miles around.  No one is certain why they have arrived here, or even how they arrived upon the island, many leagues from their favored marshy territories.  However, they have mined obsidian from the volcano's slope, forming and erecting stele throughout the forest for mysterious rituals. North of the volcanoes lies a lush evergreen forest, mostly uninhabited, but rife with tempting game,and a few odd predators. As long as one's incursions are brief, and does not raise the lizardfolk's notice, a fat hart or boar may be taken without raising their ire.  More intrusive exploration must be undertaken with great caution...

Friday, January 23, 2015

Lost Tomes 2

More Lost and Found Books


Twelve more (hopefully) interesting documents to find in a library or trove....

1. Urnell's Screaming Spellbook
Urnell Oughaughen was a right bastard of a wizard, and highly protective of his spellbook from the prying eyes of his ne'er do-well acolytes. Not satisfied with a mere Wizard Lock, he enchanted his spellbook to be noisome and insulting to anyone attempting to use it besides the rightful owner.

A face appears on any opened page, eyes and mouth formed as hole in the page. Text flows around the face as it wanders about the page, shouting and insulting the user.  The yelling and movement has the following possible affects:

1) Negates surprise or attempts at silence if opened.
2) The face is immune to magic, esp. charm, silence, sleep, etc.
3) Movement and disturbance of text increases chance of spell failure, particularly catastrophic failure.
4) Increases save potential of a target, where applicable.
5) If a new spell is recorded in the book, there is a 1d6 chance per day that the face will 'eat' the new spell.
6)  Unnerves any familiar, and the magic user will not be able to benefit from any familiar abilities while in possession of the book.

(May be used as a 4th-level magic user spell. Requires Remove Curse to negate.)

The book will contain 1d6 random spells each of 1d4+2 levels.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Otum's Tower

Otum's Tower

The Tower is a two+ level tower on the outskirts of town.  It has played the role of a watchtower, storehouse, and gaol in the past.  Currently, it is occupied by a slightly eccentric extended family and their retainers, and is primarily used as an observatory.  The eponymous resident of the tower, Otum, is a seer and sage of some local renown, who has a mysterious method to his auguries.

Three-quarters of the tower interior is occupied by the tower structure, with the remaining space open from top to bottom, allowing light into the courtyard and through windows in the tower interior.

The interior of the tower architecture is dominated by a wide spiral staircase connecting from the ground floor to the battlements.   A second, smaller staircase descends to the family crypts underlying the tower.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Monster: Pepper Dragon

Pepper Dragons

Pepper 'dragons' are not true dragons, but small flying reptiles. They are common near garden areas and wise gardeners will make their gardens hospitable for these tiny flying reptiles, as they eat insects and other garden pests.

Pepper dragons are masters of camouflage
They are named for both their resemblance to peppers, as well as their spitting defense, comprised of capsaicinoids accumulated in throat glands after nibbling on hot peppers. As such, a wise gardener will tolerate the loss of a few prized peppers in exchange for the general benefit provided by the dragons.  The creatures occur in red, yellow, and green.  They favor nests in hollow logs, and gardeners may make artificial nests in a hollowed log or small cask as an attraction for these benefactors.

The dragons are very territorial, and keep raiders out by buzzing, nipping and spitting 'pepper spray.' The pepper dragons' hatred for cats (their primary predators) is well-known, and they are famed for ganging up on cats and ripping out tufts of their fur for nesting material. They are also quite aggressive toward miscellaneous fairies, pixies, imps, brownies, redcaps, etc.

The little creatures will recognize 'their' gardener and regular visitors, and are generally affectionate, yet cautious, while flitting about someone tending their plot. Even if not visible, their high-pitched "song," like tinkling glass, may be heard in the shrubbery.

Halflings consider them good luck to have around, and anyone known to harm a pepper dragon is shunned.

Pepper Dragon:
HD: 1/2 HD (4hp)
AC: 2/18
Attack: Bite 1d2, Breath
Move: 6 (fly 18)
Save: 18
CL/XP: 1/15
Occurrence: 2d4
Special: Capsaicin pepper spray gland (save or blinded 1d4 turns)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Owen's Mine - Four visions.

So I proselytized some time back on the geology of mines and how their geometry might influence the creation of an underground environment or lair. I used Dyson Logos' Owen's Mine as what I considered a good example of a small mine environment. Since I'd suggested the influence and environment, I figured that I should come up with a few examples. This has been a slow-burn project behind work and life and such.

And I've already bollixed up one of Dyson's maps before, have four interpretations of Owen's Mine...

Owen's Mine
General notes: Tunnels are between 5 and 8 feet high, occasionally requiring stooping and affecting the mobility of taller characters. Measured from the crane elevator, vertical distances are: 30 feet to the first tunnel, 60 feet to the secret door, 100 feet to the right-hand lower tunnel, and 110 feet to the left-hand lower tunnel. The four scenes are statted using Swords & Wizardry, but are generic enough for any system.

Variation 1 - A small abandoned dwarven mine has been re-colonized by new tenants.

Variation 2 - The 'Temple of the Well' was a pilgrim site, with adherents coming from throughout the kingdom to be lowered to the sacred pool at the base of the well, with the hope of receiving a boon.  However, the area was overrun by barbarians, who pillaged, desecrated, and moved on. The well is still occupied, and worshiped in its own right by its new occupants.

Variation 3 - An alleged 'holy man' has been preaching along the roadside. However, goods and money have been disappearing, as well. He is suspected to be hiding in the abandoned mine. Another party of adventurers tried to root him out, but has not been seen since.

Variation 4 - Deep within an abandoned mine beneath an old temple is a unique bridge, possibly composed of powerful relics. Beware its guardian, though...

Have fun and comments welcome.  Thanks again to Dyson for his ongoing creativity and content.

*Update* - Thanks, Dyson, for the shout-out!  I really appreciate it!
And, I realized that I uploaded a draft of Variation 4, not my final version - So here's Variation 4a, with a different, more sinister, guardian,....

Friday, January 9, 2015

Random magic item: The Spider Dress

Here's a lovely dress designed to respond to external stimuli that may be a perceived threat to the wearer.

The necromancer Baheni Qu'an designed a dress to defend against both unwanted suitors, and rivals. Incorporating both physical protection and more subtle devices, the gown is well-suited for situations where armor is inappropriate or unseemly.

Besides, haute couture demands an impressive and memorable entrance...

Her gown consists of a stiffened corset and gown constructed partially of polished giant orb-weaver bits. The burnished exoskeleton sections are structured to accentuate and form to the body, creating a alluring silhouette.

The 'collar' of the dress is its most striking feature (literally and figuratively) with several spider legs poised around the throat and shoulders in a dramatic halo. They appear slightly animated, waving and flowing as the wearer moves.

Incorporated into the fabric of the dress are numerous black opals.

The gems glow with their inner fire, and have been enchanted to become attuned to the intent/mental state of those around the wearer, sensing threats or aggression. The multiple gems are linked and 'triangulate' to track the threat and to ready defense or strike.

If the threat approaches too closely, or physically assaults the wearer, the undead spider legs, tipped with re-purposed fangs, will strike out to paralyze, or poison, the threat.

Spider Dress

Equivalent AC7/13 - atk - 1d4 fanged spider legs (as 3HD monster), wearer may select fatal poison or paralysis (2d6 turns) prior to defense response.

An alternate, cursed, version will cause the legs to activate and strike inward upon the correct stimuli or command word. Preferably, this occurs during a public event, where the shock will have the maximum effect, with bystanders watching the victim scream and thrash as the poisons course through their body. Perhaps an important message will be delivered that some gifts should be refused.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Caecilian, Biggun.

To expand upon the Bleeding Caecilian - its larger relative (while avoiding the 'Great' and 'Dire' nomenclature).

Who's a cute little slimy horror?
These legless, burrowing amphibians are encountered in wet, tropical climes. Although nearly blind, they are equipped with an acute sense of smell and sense motion via vibrations, making them difficult to surprise (1 in 6 chance).  Designed for a burrowing life, their skulls are thick and heavily muscled.  Their teeth are relatively small, but numerous, and their bite is quite powerful.


A portion of caecilians will also secrete hemolytic poison from sub-dermal glands. 25% lay eggs, and the female will guard the incubating young until birth.  The remainder are viviparous, with the young hatching within the female's body prior to birth.

Caecilians are typically retiring and will tend to flee unless surprised, although an incubating female will stand her ground. Hunting caecilians may erupt from the ground, mistaking a single or small individual as prey.


Caecilian, Big-ass
No. Encountered: 1d4
HD: 2-4 (for extreme specimens)
AC: 8/12
Atk: Bite (1d4 per HD), 20% will have hemolytic poison (1 hp hemolysis/day/HD until cure disease or 2x save)
Save: 16-14
Move: 6/3 (burrowing)

The poison glands have value to various practitioners:

1. Assassins will refine glands to distill a more potent poison (4 hp hemolysis/day/-2 to save)
2. Sorcerers and necromancers require them as a material component for creating magic items enchanted with bleed or similar spells.
3. Likewise, clerics and healers may use the glands as a material component for antitoxins against bleeding spells or poisons.
4. Certain sham 'healers' may keep a vial of the caecilian poison about to effect additional bloodletting of bad humours, in lieu of leeches. Of course, having methods for stopping the process may not have occurred to them...

The glands may be harvested from adults, although those harvested from immature specimens or unhatched caecilians may also be used.  These will be less potent (save at +2).

real Ceacilian research 

Oh, and the mother caecilian grows a specialized skin layer for their offspring to feed on.

Friday, January 2, 2015

"The Apartment Dweller's Bestiary"

My friend Kij is a Real Writer (vs. me, who is a geologist who leaves his keyboard unaccompanied in a roomful of macaques).

So reposting her most recent short piece, published in Clarkesworld Magazine. It's one story, or perhaps seventeen...

But it may be of assistance in identifying that ball of fur, perhaps with horns, that you catch out of the corner of your eye in that new apartment...


Instant adventure?

For the New Year, I was going to post up a few mini-adventures based on a single map, as I have done before. But they still require some tweaking (How the hell did that dragon get into that 10x10 room after all?).

In the meantime, please occupy yourselves with this all-in-one adventure kit.

1. Print out
2. Drop all the dice
3. Away you go!
After all, more adventures could use a magic cow.