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More Handy Notepads

Now is a good time to visit your local Half Price Books!

As if you needed a reason.

I found another line of pocket notebooks that is just perfect for on-the-go dungeon mapping. Leuchtturm 1917 is a German manufacturer of fine notebooks, and let me add that it pleases me to no end that in an era of cost cutting and digital tablets a company can still exist based on making quality notebooks. That it’s a German company also seems appropriate.

The model I found is a nice 3.5″ x 6″ with a 17×26 grid pattern on both pages. Technically 18 across, but the last column is on the gutter and isn’t easily used. The book has a thread binding, which on the downside means it doesn’t lay flat as easily as a spiral binding, but on the plus side it is sturdy, attractive, and reduces the profile making it fit in your pocket better. There are other nice touches in the design, such as acid free “no bleed” paper, an expandable pocket in the back cover, a built in page marker, and a band to hold it closed. These would be fine journals in any case, but the grid pattern makes them wonderful for gamers.

The US distributor for Leuchtturm is Kikkerland Design and they sell this model for $12.95. When I found them at Half Price Books they cost just under $5 and when I went back for more they’d been marked down again to $2.99!

I now have several Leuchtturm notebooks sitting on the shelf next to my Blue Sky planners.

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2015 in Cool Stuff, Dungeon Design, Gaming, Maps

 

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Speaking of Isometric Mapping

One of the things I love about the OSR is that it’s allowed people to create and spread unique ideas and products.

Case in point, my post on G+ asking about isometric mapping was replied to by the author of the blog Blue Boxer Rebellion. He happens to make isometric dungeon tiles and sells them on Drive Thru RPG.

Dungeon tiles are nothing new, I got my first set in the 80’s and I know there were sets available in the 70’s. I’ve seen countless 2D and 3D sets, but I’ve never seen an isometric set before now. It’s rare that I can look at a gaming product and say that I’ve never seen anything like it. You can see his products on his store front here.

I love the optical illusion effect the tiles generate and the hand drawn black-and-white fits my preferred old school art preferences. You can get a good look at a sample on his blog here.

 

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And the Dragon Comes in the NIIIIGHT!

Well, so much for my November plans.

A major work project that had been delayed was unexpectedly summoned back into being, breaking its chains like an Elder God and dragging me into shadows. So while I’m dancing to the pipes of my insane corporate masters my other plans are on hold.

However, I do have some fun stuff to look at this week. Red Level Games has released Dragon, an open world game where you get to play as a fire breathing dragon, flying over the landscape and unleashing your wrath on the world. Eventually the game will allow for co-op and PVP with other dragons. It would be epic if they could do a licensing deal with Wizards of the Coast so we could get dragons with the various breath weapons. I’d be all over playing a lightning breathing blue dragon. But the chance to play a dragon in an open world game sounds pretty darn awesome.

Here’s the trailer for the game. It doesn’t look like much yet, but they’re clear that the game is still in early development.

Although I do have a minor rant. Remember when “early access” was called “beta testing” and you didn’t pay to troubleshoot other people’s products? Although I suppose this is the same mindset as Kickstarter, where you’re more of a backer than a customer. Heck, it probably has a better record on deliveries than Kickstarter.

The times, they are a-changing.

I love the idea of playing a dragon and will keep an eye on this product, though I’m not ready to deplete my hoard on it just yet.

This does remind me of another game that let you play as a dragon.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2014 in Computer Games, Fantasy, Gaming

 

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Car Wars

Here are some photos from our 5th Edition Car Wars game.

It’s sad that this edition was so ill fated. The rules play faster and simpler than previous editions, are easy to teach, and the increased movement per phase gives the game a more dynamic feel than previous editions. Plus 5th Edition was designed with Matchbox scale cars in mind, making it even easier to set up games like this. We used Division 10 cars, large enough to have a variety of weapons but not as heavily armed and armored as their Division 15 counterparts.

CarWars1

The Calm Before The Storm

I made the city using the Capitol City papercraft base set from Fat Dragon Games. I printed them on a standard color laserjet printer and attached the base tiles to foam core. I’m a big fan of Fat Dragon Games’ sets. They look great, they provide excellent instructions, and they make good use of .PDF technology. Fat Dragon has multiple layers on its designs that you can turn on or off to add variety to your structures. The result is that some of your street sections may have potholes, others cracked pavement, others can be strewn with trash, or you can turn them all on for that authentic Detroit feeling.

CarWars2

The cars are from a regular set of five Matchbox cars that you can get in any toy store. I went with futuristic looking cars and those that went slightly small on size, I took the cardboard from an old pad of paper and cut the bases from them, then hit them with a layer of spray primer to give them an asphalt look. Then I used the same blue tack you use to hang posters to attach the cars. No mess and I can pull them off the bases for my kids when I’m done.

CarWars3

The Carnage, A Rooftop View

The crossroads became very popular early on, as all five cars decided to cut through the center of town. This lead to major chaos. Note the debris counters. Many more would be placed before the cars got clear. The quarter in the center is being used as a spike dropper counter. The orange car has just finished a 90 degree skid to avoid rolling through the crossfire. The red car is about to suffer tire damage from debris.

CarWars4Off To The Races

The survivors turned it into a road race. Ram plates have a powerful reputation in Car Wars 5th Edition and we did see that they are very strong weapons. High speed and my car’s heavy ram plate caused my target’s car to disintegrate, while getting T-boned by a light ram plate followed by a missile launcher spelled my doom. However high speed and good maneuvering can compensate. We had several cars with ram plates that were defeated by good driving and gutsy tactics.

Although that comes with its own risks. The black car on the left lost control during a high speed maneuver and slammed into the building, crushing the left side and killing the driver.

CarWars5

IT’S A GUNDAM!

I took this picture for fun. Giant mecha didn’t actually drop in on the autoduel.

After all, I need to save some surprises for next year.

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2014 in Gaming

 

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Handy Notepad

*Update* See below for corrections

I’ve been wanting to do more mapping lately. Specifically dungeon maps.

To do this I wanted to find a notepad that was more portable than my trusty 8.5″ x 11″ graph pad. Something I could toss into my laptop bag or a jacket pocket. I found a few promising candidates online, but nothing I wanted to pay shipping on. Having tried several art and office supply locations I’d just about given up hope.

Then while going through Wal-Mart I came across the perfect solution.

A company called Blue Sky produces a line called ProNotes that could have been custom designed for gamers. The books are 5.5″ x 8.5″, comfortably fitting into the cargo pocket on my jeans and the spiral binding lets me clip in my pencil. The notebook is designed for mapping out projects, so when you open up the left hand page has a 12 x 22 graph while the right hand page has a ruled section for notes. You could practically market these to the OSR community as One Page Dungeon planners.

You can order them directly from Blue Sky’s website, the product page is here and the cost is $7.99 per booklet. Refills are listed as available through various retailers but I do not see them on the Blue Sky website. The notebooks I picked up at Wal-Mart were about half the price. I’m not sure if they were on sale or priced at the refill rate, but I snapped up the only two they had.

If you are looking for a portable dungeon sketchbook, keep your eyes peeled for these.

*Corrections* I stopped at another Wal-Mart and discovered a few things I had wrong. The pads I picked up are 4″ x 6″ and under the “Notes” line instead of “ProNotes”. This line doesn’t appear on Blue Sky’s web site. I found them on the shelf in the same section as the regular pads of paper and they retail for under $5.

Notepad1

It would be fantastic if we could get these branded for Labyrinth Lord or Dungeon Crawl Classics!

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2014 in Cool Stuff, Dungeon Design, Gaming, Maps

 

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Office Delving

I spent a good portion of the day at one of my company’s other locations and after I finished my work I decided to do some exploring.

We occupy three complete floors and most of the fourth of a large building, though with the exception of a server room the fourth floor is vacant. It’s dominated by a large data center, built by the tech company that previously owned the building and which is now mostly storage.

The fourth floor is fun to poke around in and it’s not unlike dungeon delving. I made my way through an old cube farm, seeing the posters and notes still on white boards that hint at bygone departments. Darkened hallways open into lost conference rooms filled with old furniture. The old data center itself is a treasure trove of the fantastic. Passing through the no-longer locked gate reveals the relics of ancient technology. An old K-class server looms out of the shadows, its forgotten UNIX systems silent, it’s drives slumbering while waiting for boot commands that will never come again. A stack of desktop computers lines one wall, still bearing 3.5″ disk drives, their white cases yellowed with age. Old keyboards pile up in another stack, some still bearing Post-It notes underneath, with their former masters’ passwords written on them. Data tapes containing arcane backup files spill out of battered boxes.

The best part? Because the data center is on a raised floor I was walking around on a square grid pattern. If the walls were painted “Don’t-Photocopy-Me” blue it would be like falling into a TSR map.

Like a good dungeon, the office space has a mix of naturalistic design and the fantastic. The objects already mentioned fit in logically with the history of the structure and tell the tale of a once glorious data empire, now reduced in grandeur and largely forgotten.

In one corner I found a large black and white portrait of a group of about a dozen people. They were posed, stern faced, well dressed for business in the fashion of the 50’s. Who were they? I don’t know, but they were important once. The portrait probably held a place of honor, maybe in the entrance lobby of the building. The people may have been the executives, rulers of their departments. Now they’re nameless faces in the dark.

Climbing into the elevator tower I had two more surreal encounters. From down the hall I heard music. I stepped from the stairs to investigate, but stopped in surprise when I heard a loud metallic “clang” from beneath me. Looking down I saw a two-panel trap door as wide as the corridor. At one time it would have been used to haul up heavy electrical parts for the elevator mechanisms, but now it was unnecessary thanks to smaller and lighter technology. Still the implications were not lost on me.

I had failed to detect traps and had stepped onto a covered pit.

Undaunted, I continued down the hall, looking for the source of the music. I discovered a radio receiver with a wall speaker. I wondered if it was left here by electricians who might use this spot for taking breaks, but I saw none of the usual signs of a covert break room. Then I realized, it was the same type of speaker I’d seen on the walls in the public areas of the building. This was the master radio receiver for all the speakers.

I resisted the urge to change the station. Not for any Alignment considerations, but because I wished to maintain my status in the adventuring class: Employed.

I had a random encounter with a wandering employee, who I unexpectedly found working on a laptop in the back corner of an otherwise deserted cube farm. I moved on after a positive reaction roll and friendly nod.

Another surprise was waiting for me in what I thought was yet another conference room, just off the main data center, The chamber was dark and many of the modular floor panels had been removed, turning it into a collection of pitfalls. Near the far wall was a wide rack of systems, their green and amber lights the only illumination available. It was the demarcation point for the building, the place where public networking ends and the building’s network begins.

I had stumbled into the heart of the dungeon.

I’ve said before that I prefer my dungeons to follow at least a minimal set of logic, as opposed to a pure funhouse dungeon. However, even when designing from a naturalistic standpoint there is still room for something totally out of place and inexplicable.

I came across something like that too.

In one section of the data center, surrounded by the corpses of the computer age, I found an old upright organ. This was the real deal, with a wooden body, two keyboards, switches, sliders, toggles, and pedals. It’s the kind you would have seen during commercial breaks on The Lawrence Welk Show.

Why was it there? Where did it come from? I doubt I’ll ever know, but like any good adventurer I played around with it. Even though there was no power I had to press the keys, shift the sliders, toggle the switches, and try the pedals.

Sadly, my experimentation didn’t raise any ability scores or grant me a wish. Fortunately I didn’t set off a trap or summon anything nasty.

At least, I don’t think that I did.

PhantomOrgan

Behold! The Lost Instrument of Wurlitzer!

Well, they did say to store the old keyboards in the data center.

 

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2014 in Cool Stuff, Gaming, Weirdness

 

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Dwimmermount? That’s a name I haven’t heard in a long time…

I’ve been a gamer since the early 80’s.

I started with the red and blue Basic and Expert Dungeons & Dragons and I’ve been rolling the dice ever since. I’ve played old school, new school, and a few things out-of-school.

A few years back I discovered the Old School Renaissance and it captured my imagination. My old books have never been far from hand and it wasn’t uncommon for me to pull out a vintage manual or adventure and read through it for fun or to mine for ideas. On rare occasions I’d even run something using an old rules set, but it wasn’t until I began reading OSR blogs that I latched on to the idea of choosing these games, or their clones, as mainstays. Many of those blogs are still going strong, and a perusal through my Blogroll will reveal several of my favorites. But there was one blog above all that is responsible for me being sucked into the OSR.

Grognardia.

James Maliszewski, the blog’s author, is a gifted writer with a passion for not just looking at how the old games were played, but why the rules were created, and what things still resonate with gamers all these decades later. He is good at taking a fresh look at the classic tropes, exploring the original concepts behind things, how they changed over time, and how we can do something new with them. A few examples I’ve put to use in my own games include his discussions on Rangers and Paladins.

Maliszewski is also a good storyteller. I’m picky about reading game session write-ups. I enjoy reading summaries, but detailed accounts of what other people have done tend to lose me. It’s hard to hold my attention with a long post about what other people were doing at the gaming table. Maliszewski’s reports about his Dwimmermount campaign were some of the rare exceptions.

Maliszewski sees old school gaming as being about exploration, making him a gamer after my own heart. His megadungeon is filled with a rich and interesting history and his session reports reflected this. They were not about how Character A fought Monster B, but about the things the party discovered down in the darkened halls. Reading these reports I was able to get a taste of that discovery.

It made me want to learn more.

When Maliszewski announced that he was launching a Kickstarter to release an official Dwimmermount book I felt no small amount of excitement. In fact, it was the first Kickstarter project I backed.

If you’ve been around the OSR for any length of time, you know how that went. To sum up, the project was funded but fell apart and the book was never produced. For various reasons Maliszewski failed to complete the project and as a result he closed up his blog and dropped out of the pubic’s eye.

Many people have opinions on all this. Mine are simple; A writer I like very much got in over his head and failed to complete a project I invested in (note: invested, not a pre-purchase.) While things could have been handled better, unlike many Kickstarter horror stories he owned what happened, took the blame, and didn’t try any ridiculous schemes to save his reputation and screw more people over. He took the heat and moved on.

I also think that the OSR is poorer for having lost his voice.

Before leaving completely, Maliszewski passed the project over to the folks at Autarch, who publish the Adventurer Conqueror King game system. The Autarch folks had been partners in the project and took over the task of trying to complete the book while still producing their own products. Over the years there would be occasional updates, new deadlines to be missed, and beta test files posted to the backers’ site, all of which I stopped paying attention to long ago.

Until last week.

Last week they posted a nearly 400 page proof document of the Dwimmermount book, complete with artwork and tables. It’s a monster of a file, filled with information on the legendary (now infamous) megadungeon. For the first time in years, they have my attention.

I have no idea if I’ll ever hold a physical copy of the book in my hand, and with things like Stonehell Dungeon and The Castle of the Mad Archmage already on my shelf I’m even less sure I’d run it. Also, at this point I won’t be reading James Maliszewski’s work as much as Alexander Macris’ interpretation of it.

Still, the proof copy is going onto my iPad and I am looking forward to giving it a read-through.

And if you’re looking for something to read, delve into the Grognardia archives.

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2014 in Dungeon Design, Fantasy, Gaming

 

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Okay 5th Edition, Now You Have My Attention

A while back I talked about the suspected pricing for 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons and my disappointment over it.

Pricing appeared to be about $50 per core book, meaning buy in would be $150.

“I’m not going to say that they are wrong to use this price point, in fact I anticipate they’ll do fine. I hope the game becomes popular because I firmly believe that what is good for D&D is good for the industry. I hope D&D 5th Edition becomes very successful.

It’s just going to do it without me.”

Now that the Internet is awash with the official release dates and pricing information, the cost of the core books has been confirmed. My opinion has not changed, I have too much invested in other games and there are too many other interesting games available at a fraction of the cost. I have no interest in dropping the coin to buy the core D&D books, though I do still wish the game every success. I’m aware that they say you can play the game with only the Players’ Handbook, but let’s be real. I’m either buying the big three or none at all.

However, then I saw this:

“The Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set is your gateway to action-packed stories of the imagination. This box contains the essential rules of the game plus everything you need to play heroic characters on perilous adventures in worlds of fantasy.

Ideal for a group of 4 – 6, the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set includes a 64-page adventure book with everything the Dungeon Master needs to get started, a 32-page rulebook for playing characters level 1 – 5, 5 pregenerated characters, each with a character sheet and supporting reference material, and 6 dice.”

-Write-up for Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set

A box set, complete rules, support up to level five, and a set of dice? The nostalgia is strong with this one. The cover art even evokes Elmore’s cover on the classic Red Box.

I would not be disappointed if the dice are blue and come with a white crayon.

But here’s the part that made me take notice. Suggested retail price: $19.99.

Wizards of the Coast, you have gained my attention.

All the books are available for pre-order at a decent discount, but see if you can get the same deal from your Friendly Local Game Store (assuming you have one).

Dice

 

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2014 in Fantasy, Gaming

 

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Transmute!

Holy chrome!

The first cartoon series I ever fell in love with was Battle of the Planets, the American version of the anime series Gatchaman.

Years later I discovered Gatchaman itself, a much more mature and serious, not to mention violent, show than the American version. Much MUCH later I was finally able to collect the entire series on DVD. It’s one of the only big series I ever collected and I spent a pretty penny to do it.

Now the entire Gatchaman series is available in one Blue-Ray collection and it’s on sale for $60!

Gatchaman is the original Sentai team series and it had a big influence on anime and superheroes that is still felt today. The show is deeply rooted in the groovy 70’s (we still called it “Japanimation” back then. Oy.) and it’s certainly dated material now, but a surprising amount still holds up. Also the production values, both in music and art, was miles ahead of other anime of the era. It’s not inaccurate to say that Gatchaman is to early anime what Jonny Quest is to American animation.

Plus, my nostalgia for the series is mighty.

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2014 in Cool Stuff, Movies & TV

 

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Weather Dominator

Check out the latest project being funded by the Pentagon;

Researchers are working to develop a technique to trigger rain or lightning with high-energy laser beams.”

The RAW Story

So the Pentagon is funding a super-powerful laser to give them control of the weather. You might even call it a “Weather Dominator”.

I believe that this is actual footage from the research trials:

Would someone please check and see if the head of DARPA turns blue in sunlight?

CobraLogo

 

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2014 in Cool Stuff

 

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