Thursday, June 30, 2022

Black Fang's Dungeon meets B/X

When I stumbled back into gaming some years ago, I was recommended the Pathfinder Beginner Box set as a good choice to reenter the world of funny shaped dice.

While the experiment of PF didn't really work out for me, and I eventually rediscovered the Old Ways of Gaming (tm), I did appreciate the product of the Beginner set. Having picked up a number of introductory sets and quickstarts (and of course holding fond memories of my old Holmes box set), I think that Paizo put together a good product. It does seem to be inspired by the Red Box and similar sets of yore, with separate, slim player and GM manuals, an intro adventure, and a number of accessories (char sheets, map, stand-up minis, etc.). The material, and a few free supplements available at the time, provided sufficient material to roll up characters, and get the character choices to 3rd level.

The GM manual includes a 10-room dungeon, "Black Fang's Dungeon" as an introductory adventure. Like the intro adventure in the B/X books, the scenario is interspersed with how-to's on running encounters, skill checks, combat and other nuts and bolts for a beginning GM. And it has a dragon.


So why not convert it back to OSE-B/X? I was curious on how it would fit, if I could do a direct porting over. Plus I wanted to experiment with the terse presentation style of the OSE adventures, such as "Hole in the Oak", etc.

So how does it look? Well, the original scenario is a bit encounter-heavy from an old-school design style. In ten rooms, I count six encounters (one can be negotiation, and a second negated with an application of Cleric). The remaining rooms are one empty, one trap, and two special, if we are using the classic "room content" matrix.

Six rooms contain recoverable treasure, at least two of which will be important for confronting Black Fang. From a B/X or similar "Treasure Type" determination, the value and types of treasure actually roll over fairly directly. I really only tweaked one bit of treasure (a scroll) in my interpretation. (Edit: I also multiplied Black Fang's gp total by 10 to sit more in line with B/X equivalents)

For the monsters, most are basic underground denizens (goblins, skeletons, spider). I converted a Pathfinder aquatic critter to a roughly-equivalent giant frog. Black Fang is a low-HD "juvenile" black dragon, with some adjustments to AC and damage proportional to the reduced HD (although still plenty deadly to some low-level mooks). In general, though, I think it fits pretty well across the two editions, although YMMV.

Anyway, here's the Experiment. All pared down to four pages (no spiffy art, layout, or advice).

And the Original for comparison.

(Heh, forgot that a B/X party could still drop a nuke on Black Fang via sleep, if someone held the spell in reserve. Better turn in my old gamer card.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Dune, June '22 read-through thoughts

I first read Dune the summer of 7th grade, I believe. Checked out the big 1st edition hardback from the library. I'm certain that part of the read was in the wheat truck, waiting to unload the combine harvester. (I'm sure that my treatment of said book was detrimental to its collector's value. But if anyone out there has a used library copy with a bit of wheat chaff in the pages, you know where it's from...)

Since then, I've re-read the book a good handful of times, every few years or so. Because of the multiple themes lined out in the book, I tend to pick up something new each time, or at least read with a different emphasis or context.

I've also read into the series, but it took me multiple tries to surmount “God Emperor.” I finally pushed through the entire series in the late autumn of 2001 while on a road trip.

Talk about context.

Anyway... It's been a number of years since I've creased the cover, and I had a week away from home out visiting family on the Plains (site of the first read), and I decided to bring along a few books that were due for a re-read, Dune among them.

Although I haven't seen the current film iteration, I'm sure that my reading was colored by discussions of the film, as well as some recent commentaries on the book (esp. Matt Colville).

What did I pick up this time?

Well, it's a fast read for me. Partly due to familiarity, partly Herbert's writing style. The chapter length is good, and the flow of writing and plot tends to get me into that “one more chapter” mode, especially since I was reading this with the anticipation of particular upcoming plot moments.

I few other observations on this run-through...

Leto and his advisers are aware and angling to contact and enlist the Fremen almost immediately. They suspect the capabilities of the Fremen, especially with respect to their potential martial prowess. And although the team makes good in-roads, both Leto, and separately Jessica via manipulation of the Missionaria Protectiva framework planted within the religious consciousness of the people, they simply run out of time as the Emperor/Harkonnen collaboration intervenes.

A recollection of Paul's ongoing fears and resistance to becoming the Lisan Al-Gaib. He repeatedly uses the premonitions granted through his genetics and Spice addiction, seeing the majority of futures resulting in jihad, and fearing that – it seems he only attempts the Water of Life as an attempt to find a way to avoid this outcome. Either way, it seems that the prophecy is self-fulfilling, no matter Paul's machinations.

Paul's observation that Count Fenrig is one of the failed Kwisatz Haderach bred by the BG, and that Lady Fenrig intended to become impregnated by Feyd-Rautha as a fallback or means to salvage the breeding program interrupted by Jessica.

Speaking of Fenrig, I always recalled him speaking with a lot of Hmmms and Ahhhhs. But I noticed that Herbert wrote the interjections into many peoples' speech patterns as they hesitate or think before speaking. This probably stands out, also, due to my multiple reads of the “Doon” parody.

Leto's strength of leadership through empathy and personal connection. Late in the book, Gurney Halleck repeatedly points out to Paul that he has lost that empathy in comparison to his father, indicating the loss of humanity as Paul succumbs to the KH myth.

Seems like this whole messiah thing may not be all its cracked up to be. Perhaps time to revisit more of the series...

Thursday, June 9, 2022

A Return Trip (and Updated Tourist's Guide) to Griswall

When I shared my map interpretation with u/therealregalis, I noticed that they had also uploaded a few building layouts for select locations in Griswall, so I ganked them for possible incorporation into a revised edition of the town description. More on that below.

First of all, a couple of quick shout-outs and thanks.

First, Rosie and Adam discussed her contribution to Jackalope 2022, as well as my contribution to her prompt for creating six festivals for a community. The podcast episode is here: Gelatinous Cube. I'm glad that they appreciated the entries, especially one of the "bonus" festivals that they could envision dropping into their game. Their podcast focuses on creating encounters and scenarios.

Also, u/therealregalis mentioned that they used a faction tool I'd incorporated into my 2017 One Page Dungeon contest entry, and that is appreciated, as well. 

I don't know how much of my scribbling here sees the light of day, so it's always a pleasant surprise when something pops up in the wild.

Anyway, back to Griswall. I pulled up the layouts for the three locations: Manor-house, Inn, and Trader's Shop. I ended up not dropping them into the revision itself, as the floor plans and some interior features didn't quite work for me. However, I did update some elements of the general descriptions of the three locations to align a bit more with the layouts, but the general descriptions are similar to my original concepts.

But what I did do was flesh the area out a bit. u/therealregalis mentioned that they created the map in the style of the old blue-line module maps such as Village of Hommlet, and since I take after format of the occupant and locations from the old modules, it fits.

Things added. Although we don't have an area map, I treated this as an implied mini-hex, with possibilities of encounters in town or within a few selected radii. A few of the NPCs have some additional details. Then there is a rumors table, because of course there is. Some entries are trivial, some more substantial. Several point back to the NPCs, locations, and described setting, but plenty may be hearsay. And a random encounter table, because who doesn't like those. Might as well codify if/when a skeleton wanders through town while the PCs are having an ale at the inn. 

After I gave the writing a day to ruminate, I decided that I needed to flesh out (or skeleton out...) a fallen NPC mentioned in the town description and subsequently in the rumors. I just couldn't leave him (and his sword) as a loose end or vague arm-waving. And I added a chance that he will appear as an event or encounter.

And prettied it all up a bit with some public art, either from Wikimedia Commons or the Metropoitan Museum of Art, a couple of my standard go-tos for setting color pieces.

The Battle of Towton, Richard Caton Woodville

Ok, enough rambling. Time for a second visit to the Hamlet of Griswell.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Passing through the Hamlet of Griswall

Hidely-ho, internet neighbors!

I finally took the time to transcribe a bunch of scribbles into legible text on the laptop, so filling in some blanks on the map, so to speak. Had some time, as I've been taking a burnout break away from work, and waiting the start a new gig next month, hopefully in a different, possibly better, work environment.

Back to maps.

Creative souls are posting up on reddit, and user u/therealregalis provided this map:

with the following note:

Decided to make a map deliberately in the style of TSR modules like N1 and T1. Quick outline of the map key:

  1. Manor-house.

  2. Church.

  3. Mill (duh).

  4. Inn, tavern, or the like.

  5. Livery stable.

  6. Traders' establishment.

  7. Leatherworker.

  8. Potter.

  9. Weaver.

  10. Tailor.

  11. Smith.

12 thru 17: Farm houses.

There are wells near 15, 17, and 1.

Ok, good. I typically use the Hommlet text format for my town descriptors, and I'll stick with therealregalis' building/occupant distribution for this writeup.

So a raison d'etre for this little burg. A crossroads should be an obvious point to establish a town, preferably a successful one at that. But Griswall, at least in this snapshot, is pretty small (I've populated it with around 60 folks). 

Serendipitously, I've been listening to some history bits (among other things) while taking the dogs on long walks, and picked through a couple of programs on the English War of the Roses. One of the bloodiest battles was the Battle of Towton, involving 50,000 troops of the Lancastrian and Yorkist sides, and taking place in marshy land on a snowy spring day. At the end of the day, up to 9,000 lay dead, most as the Lancastrians fled a rout. Many troops attempted to flee across rivers and were either drowned or shot down until the channels were choked with bodies. Bodies were buried where thy lay, or in unmarked mass graves.

Ok, on that pleasant note, Griswall is built on a site of a similar battle that took place some time in the past. Like Towton, bodies were buried or consumed by the land, and even the notable dead became anonymous. Unlike Towton (probably), occasionally a few of them will arise to walk around. So who would settle a haunted place as this and think it a good opportunity? Retired adventurers, of course. Several of the town's notables are old comrades-in-arms, and fending off the occasional restless dead is a small price for some good real estate, and no longer involves poking around in some dank dungeon somewhere.  

So anyway, feel free to pay a visit to the Hamlet of Griswall, have some buckwheat biscuits at the inn, and perhaps cajole a joke out of Degrir Oakenvier.