Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Year-End Wrap-Up 2014

This was the most productive year ever for Blue Boxer Rebellion. Here's a quick recap, which is really just an excuse to thank you all for the fantastic response to my work and a special welcome to everyone who joined the blog this year.

June: Big Hexyland ate up much of my creative energy for the first half of the year. Nine modular megahexes created as vector files in Illustrator that you can arrange in a zillion combinations or drop one by one into an existing campaign. Each map was released with a node crawl map with capsule descriptions of each area. The fact that it's the default setting for Dungeonteller isn't bad, either. I am working on the sequel and actually previewed the first hex back in September.

July: was the biggest month ever, with the release of the Dungeonteller Fantasy RPG core rules, the Dungeonteller Monster Book, and a PDF of cut-n-fold paper counters for every hero and monster in the game. These projects were the result of three years of intense work and play testing and I'm absolutely proud of them. They are my dream game, presented in a clean, visually-oriented format that makes them accessible to everyone.

September: I had a lot of pent up desire to grab a pencil and draw after spending so much time with Illustrator and InDesign doing vector and layout work, so I blazed through the task of creating the Ultimate Hand-drawn Isometric Battle Maps PDF in about a month. Like my previous iso battle maps, they are an entirely new way of making your dungeons come alive for your players as handouts AND as battle maps you can use with 25mm minis or with the tailor-made Dungeonteller monster counters.

October: I delivered three commissioned battle maps to the Winter Eternal Indiegogo campaign, entirely compatible with the Ultimate Iso Battle Maps. I loved making these atmospheric vignettes of a magic-punk fantasy world locked in an everlasting cold snap. I also introduced a 7th hero class to the Dungeonteller canon: the witch, available as a free PDF.

Since then, I have been working on a huge Dungeonteller module with a town map and eight dungeon levels. Half-jokingly I've been referring to it as either "In Search of the Unpwned" or "Entry Level" but should probably come up with a more serious name. I wanted to have it done by January 1, and damn I'm close, but might not make it for a week or so.

Once again, Rock Opera '79 has to wait a bit -- I really wanted to have a spanking new Dungeonteller campaign for folks to play besides Welcome to the Plunderdome.

Again, thanks for supporting my work either through commissioned art, buying my PDFs on drivethrurpg.com, or simply hitting that +1 button or leaving an encouraging comment. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

8 Levels Deep

Finished drawing the dungeon maps for "Entry Level", the upcoming Dungeonteller adventure. Next up, scanning them, keying them and writing the encounters.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

HeroForge 3D Printable Minis Screenshots

Posting screenshots of two of the custom minis I'm ordering through the Kickstarter reward for HeroForge. Even if you don't actually order the minis, the screenshot feature is a great way to create character portraits.
Shown are Kefl Dür, my D&D level 22 barbarian/rogue, and Kat aka Ekaterina, level 15 rogue/thief-acrobat, from a longstanding campaign back in the 3e and 3.5e era. Cool!

Kefl Dür

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sunday, November 16, 2014

[Map Preview] Iso Dungeon Map

This weekend I dug down to the 3rd level of the upcoming Dungeonteller adventure. If you liked "Welcome to the Plunderdome," then you'll like this even more, I'll wager.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

[Map Preview] "Entry Level": A Dungeonteller Mega-venture

Quick snapshot of a map in progress. The action takes place in a town where only licensed adventure-houses can enter the big dungeon underneath and go looting. In fact, the town's economy depends upon it. The heroes can choose one of three houses to work for, each with its own terms of employment, per-diem, and loot-sharing policy.

Fun fact: the original working title for this adventure was "In Search of the Unpwned."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Make the Dragons Nice, and Hold the Dungeons

My kid hates dungeons.

She loves dragons — nice ones who let you ride them or have tea with them. Most of our Dungeonteller gaming sessions are about acquiring exotic pets, making friends with monsters or about scolding the ones who insist on behaving badly. If they get on really well, she will invite them back to her tropical island home base/monster sanctuary. She really is a kind and lovely soul, and as game master I work hard to make sure the games appeal to her.

This can be challenging for me. My tastes run to the creepy and atmospheric, like if D&D had come out in 1930 and the modules were written by Clark Ashton Smith and HP Lovecraft. Without horror, conflict or combat to inject into the adventure, I still flounder a bit at times. It's easy to throw another troop of orcs at the PCs when you're not feeling inspired, but when the crunchy/tactical side of the game holds no draw for your players, you've got to find a new way to sustain interest and engagement.

We played today with her BFF, and there was a little more interest in conflict and tactics. The two of them play Minecraft together where there's lots of monster-fighting for loot drops and such -- maybe that's hardened them a bit. Anyway, the PCs had spent a snuggly night in a tundra tiger's den with her little cubs crawling all over them as a snowstorm raged outside. In the morning, the PCs found ogre tracks outside (easy to spot because of the drag marks left by the ogres' loot bags). Setting off home for the elven sanctuary of Ringwood (from the Big Hexyland map set), the PCs were soon waylaid by two tundra ogres ("snow-gres?") and a fight was on. My kid's hero is a forest guardian (a centaur/druid type that is not on the official Dungeonteller hero list), and her BFF was playing a rogue (with a wolf as a pet, along for the trip with her pups in addition to the tigress and her cubs). The heroes slowly wore the ogres down with help from the wolf and the tigress, but the centaur was down to 2 Luck before she remembered a medallion her ancestor spirits had given her to summon help in an emergency. A cloud bank in the form of charging centaurs appeared in the sky, setting the ogres to flight. The funniest conceit of the encounter was that the ogres thought the rogue's crossbow bolts sticking out of their hides were fast-growing body hairs and that they figured it was time for a mutual full-body shave once the battle was over.

Have you ever DM'd a game for kids or grownups who love RPGs but aren't the least bit interested in fighting, looting, or solving mysteries? How did it go for you?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

[Actual Play OD&D] The PCs Discover Their Class Abilities

Move silently! Backstab! Turn undead!

Now that my young players have absorbed the basic dice mechanics of Holmes-style D&D, they are actually looking at their character sheets and discovering what their PCs can do. As you will see if you read on...

The heroes had just finished off the last of some nasty kobolds and now decided to commandeer their barge. Drifting and poling downstream, the PCs soon bump up against an iron portcullis that bars further river travel into the kobold stronghold (unless the kobolds decide to open the portcullis). On the other side of the gate there are arrow slits hewn out of the rock. Kobolds start firing crossbows through the portcullis at the PCs, who  waste a bunch of ammo firing back before taking a few too many crossbow hits and deciding to withdraw. So much for downstream.

Upstream, they come to the base of a waterfall, and a small landing carved out of the river tunnel, with a door leading to parts unknown. And there's a path that leads behind the spray curtain of the waterfall. They opt to try the door, and have to bust it down. Beyond is a creepy temple or crypt area which looks disturbingly familiar to the old wizard, Corvax, who fought the vampires here a century before. Inching along a corridor, they see a source of pulsing red light around the corner.

The thief slinks ahead, rendered invisible by a spell from the old wizard. He discovers a sanctum with an altar holding a pulsing red gem. Eight robed figures are kneeling, facing the gem. The thief fails his move silently roll but the robed acolytes don't notice him. He reports back, then returns, leading the party to attack the sanctum. He backstabs one robed figure and misses, his slash opening the figures robe to reveal a dusty ribcage sans flesh. Slowly the robed figures turn. They are possessed skeletons with glowing red eyes!

The fight is on. The cleric tries to turn undead and rolls a 2 on 2d6. Ouch. The warrior socks one with a hammer she picked up from the kobolds. Smash! The skeleton lurches but manages to remain intact. The old wizard sees the whippersnappers need some help. He casts web and snares 6 of the skeletons. The druid smacks one with her bow (yes her bow, lucky it didn't break). The thief finds that daggers aren't much use against these bony foes. By the time the two standing ones are destroyed, the others have escaped from the web. Fortunately the fighter has found her mojo and smashes 3 skeletons in three successive rounds of combat. Eventually the undead are all rendered merely dead, and the heroes' attention turns to the pulsing red gem. The cleric, who has a pet fairy dragon, orders the little pet to grab the gem and bring it to her. Into her backpack it goes. Did I mention the gem is full of the souls of the vampires' old worshipers, waiting for  skeleton bodies to be reincarnated into.

Who should come into view down the hallway but two more skeletons, carrying an inert pile of bones between them, ready to incarnate another worshiper. The thief takes one down with a backstab + natural 20 clutch roll. The cleric turns the other skeleton who begins shambling away. "Gimme your bow," says the warrior to the cleric. By the time the warrior has an arrow nocked, the skeleton is nearly out of sight. She shoots. By gosh, another natural 20!

And it was time to call it a day.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

[Preview Map] Lastward Town Map

I'm writing an adventure module called "Entry Level" for the Dungeonteller FRPG and this is the local map. You can find the town of Lastward on the Quibble March map from Big Hexyland. As usual, there will be a matching node version of the map too.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Dungeonteller Witch Class Now Available as Free PDF

As promised, I'm giving away the first ever expansion class for my Dungeonteller fantasy RPG. The witch PDF includes a two page character record and a page describing her initial cool powers and potential power-ups. This hero class can interfere with the Luck mechanic of her foes in the form of curses and hexes, as well as casting some charms on herself. And she comes with a broomstick and a black cat, of course.
Available here for download.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

[Actual Play OD&D] Non-canon Kobolds and a Jail Break

DMing for newbies is such fun. This is a little update to this post about starting a Holmes blue book campaign for some middle-schoolers.

The PCs are all first level. Wizard, cleric, thief, and fighter.

The wizard and the thief are street urchins living in a dilapidated warren on the outskirts of town, under the tutelage of a Fagin-like crime boss who also happens to be the thief's mom. The PCs wake one morning to find every adult in the town turned to stone. 

The cleric shows up. She's an elf who has been sent by her mother superior to investigate a disturbance in the force the natural order and deal with it as a test to earn her holy orders. She finds the wizard and the thief and they agree to, yes, team up.

Making a recon of the town, they find that the only thing out of place is that someone has smashed one of three statues topping the town fountain -- a monument to a trio of heroes who saved the town from destruction a hundred years ago.

"Hoooey! Ahoy there!" calls out a voice from afar. They look out into the harbor to see a wizened figure of a man waving from the barred window of the tiny town lockup, which is on a rock in the harbor. They come to within comfortable shouting distance, and he introduces himself as Corvax, a wizard who was none other than one of the three legendary town heroes commemorated in the town monument. When the statues had been built, he placed a spell on them so that if evil stirred again, any of the three heroes still alive would be teleported to the spot, the release of powerful magic shattering the statue in the process. Unfortunately no one in the town these days remembers that little detail, so the guards arrested Corvax for being a crazy old vandal and locked him up,  despite his dire warnings.

"And whatever this evil is has turned the people to stone?" asks the cleric.
"Oh no, that was another spell I placed, to protect the villagers from the vampires who we drove back the last time. It's for their own good. I would ask you to rescue me and help me find my spell book, but the dread lake pirates must have noticed that the town lighthouse wasn't shining last night, because their ship is just heaving into view out of the morning fog and is headed this way to ransack the town."

He recommends the players hide in the old dwarf mine cut into the bluffs that nearly encircle the town, but not to go in too far, because that's just where the vampire cult is entombed. Unless of course, they want to take on the cult themselves...

The PCs dash to the mine entrance, which has been prettified with an old mining cart that  now serves as a planter full of flowers. The players encounter the challenge of exploring in complete darkness, until the cleric realizes she can cast a light spell on a rock and use it as a lantern. Looking back, they see a figure framed in the entrance to the mine. It's the 4th PC, the fighter, who was a young stowaway on the pirate ship looking for adventure and who has now found it after jumping off as the ship approached the town dock. They agree to, yes, team up.

The thief is playing his low Wisdom to the hilt and brashly strides down a tunnel that leads to a cavern with a deep pit and a sketchy-looking mine elevator/hoist. He's attacked by the vampires' precious little watchdogs, who happen to be stirges.

The other PCs run up, the wizard gets impaled by a stirge proboscis and quickly gets down to 1 hp before the fighter pops the critter with her bare hands, splattering them all with the wizard's blood. The thief gleefully knifes a stirge before it can attach itself. The cleric saves the wizard with a cure light wounds.Four stirges are dead and the PCs have survived their first combat ever, with no punches pulled by the DM!

They find the desiccated body of an earlier explorer, who was wearing a spiffy ruby ring. Agreements are made about how to split any treasure in future.

They rest for a bit. I'm using Dungeonteller-style resting rules, which means you get all your hp back between fights, and in this case, spell casters get back one spell for each rest. Tense moment when a couple of the marauding pirates enter the mine but then turn back, thinking better of it.

After some tinkering, the PCs figure out how to use the mine elevator. The cleric, who is by far the most sober and strategic thinker and the least stabby, decides that the old wizard needs to be rescued from the jail before they go much further. So she doubles back and creeps into town while the others winch themselves to the bottom of the pit.

Minus the cleric, the PCs check out a tunnel that leads from the base of the pit. Tapping sounds are heard ahead. They enter a terraced mine gallery with a boulder-strewn floor. You really don't want to turn your back on these boulders -- they are kobolds who can polymorph into stone, kinda like the trolls in Frozen. Except evil. My kobolds are more like their Germanic folkloric counterparts -- I don't know why they turned into little horned dog-guys with tails in AD&D. Mine are malevolent little dwarf miners whose tapping foretells danger via a well-staged cave-in. They can also telekinese rock.

Anyhow, the fighter decides that throwing her short sword would be a good idea and nails one of them to the floor, but leaving her weaponless. The thief gets another one and the remaining kobolds turtle up as rocks. The thief jumps onto one of them to annoy it. The other ko-boulders begin rolling towards him to grind him into urchin burger. He and the fighter dash to the far end of the gallery. At this point the wizard realizes a fight is going on -- he was investigating some interesting rock formations. He dashes after them, ko-boulders nipping at his heels. Thank goodness he's there, because he's there to cast hold portal on the exit to keep the kobolds at bay. They bounce off the portal forcefield to comic effect.

Meanwhile the cleric sees that the pirates are happily looting the town. A fight breaks out between two scurvy crewmen over a particularly bedbug-free pillowcase, and it provides the cleric just the distraction she needs to get back to the urchin-house, where the other kids welcome her. (These kids will serve as a ready pool of first level PCs if we have any deaths in the campaign). The kids show her to a rowboat hidden in the bushes on the shore, and she rows out to the jail. Crap! The jailhouse is locked with a very sturdy padlock. Fortunately the jailer is standing there in petrified state with his lunchbox and key ring on the ground nearby. The cleric gets into the jail and finds Corvax. He's half-approving, half-scolding. They look around for his spell book and find it in the jailer;s office, along with his +2 dagger and +2 ring of protection. One quick rowboat ride later, they are back in the company of the urchins.

By this time, the pirates are done looting and starting to get freaked out by the statues, and board their ship, lest they too be turned to stone. The cleric and Corvax get back to the mine.

While the hold portal is in effect, the thief explores down the tunnel and finds a spiral ramp heading down. At the bottom is a subterranean stream/river where the kobolds' barge is tied up. Two kobolds are on guard. Stabby McStabalot ganks one of them, and the fighter arrives to mop up. Lots of loot to be had on the barge, but 4:30 rolled around and we had to end the session.

So now the PCs have a high level wizard with few hp on their side. I think he will last long enough to get them through a tough fight or two and then go down because they won't be able to keep a mob of baddies away from melee-ing him. I'll update as I go.

Monday, October 13, 2014

New Dungeonteller Hero: Witch

In the spirit of the season, here comes a new Dungeonteller hero: the witch. Everyone who has bought the core book or the complete bundle will get a free PDF with a two-sided hero sheet and cool powers list for this first-ever addition to the six standard DT heroes! Until then, enjoy this poster with original art from yours truly.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

[Map] Gnashfang Chaos

Finished the Big Hexyland map I started yesterday...

Big Hexyland 2 Is On The Way

A followup to my continent of modular hex maps...
This set will include more mind-bending fantasy terrain, some more generic terrain types (alpine, desert, forest), coastlines, and deep sea hexes (with and without islands). Here's the first hex in progress. Give me your wish lists now, and I'll see what I can do.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

WInter Eternal Maps Done

The battle maps I drew for Morné Schaap's "Winter Eternal" campaign are now done. I really enjoyed making them.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

HeroForge Elf Spellslinger!

The beta 2 update of the HeroForge character maker lets you mix Western and fantasy elements. Go fer your staff, varmint! And they added a snapshot button.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Dwarf Gadgets (from Dungeonteller rule book)

Dwarf characters in Dungeonteller can place a rune on a gadget they have built or found to power it up, at the cost of lowering their maximum hp (or "Luck" in DT terminology). Everybody wants a clockdog and a gunderbuss.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

[Actual Play] First OD&D/Holmes Campaign in 35 years

"My big brothers told me you used to run a D&D club after school. They won't let me play with them. Can you bring back the club for me and my friends?"

I told her that if she could find three friends who could consistently show up after school on Thursdays, I would run a campaign for them. But which edition? I decided to use my beloved Holmes rule set and set to making a village map and a dungeon in the old mines at the edge of town. 

I have not run an OD&D campaign since 1978, when I was exactly the same age as my young players are now.

Opening the dogeared, taped-together booklet and revisiting the character creation rules was like combing through your old camping gear in the basement — this is still good, this is broken, oh wow I forgot about this bit altogether...

Here's a summary of the tweaks I've done to make it work for me.

1. Stat-beefing. What gets me is how little your stats matter unless you're on the extreme ends of the bell curve. Why did my players cry so much back in the day about their stats? Unless you have a 15 or higher or a 7 or lower, it matters not. So I spread the love a little bit so that you get at least some bonus if you've got 12 or higher in a given stat.

2. Saves. I tossed out the standard saves and instead you roll a d20 and have to roll at or under the relevant stat. So roll vs. your CON score for poison, WIS for fear, etc.

3. Weapon damage. I think as written it's totally broken. Even in '77 we had different damage ranges for different weapons in our house rules. My patch:

Daggers do 1–4 damage but you can strike twice each round.

One-handed weapons do 1-6 damage but allow for a shield.

Two-handed weapons do 1-8 damage.

Polearms do 1-12 damage but only once every other round.

4. Spells. Clerics with high WIS get a spell at 1st level.

5. Healing and spell recharge. I use Dungeonteller-style healing, where a brief rest between fights gets you back to full HP and you get a spell back. No 15-minute adventurer work days.

What I didn't compromise on: hit points. I told the players, when you get to zero hp, you are dead. Period.

The party includes an elf fighter/cleric (illegal in Holmes, I know, but I just swapped out her magic user class for cleric, is that so wrong); a human magic-user with and enviable 18 INT and 17 CON; a human thief with no stats higher than 12; and a human fighter who hasn't acquired any weapons or armor yet, but kills stirges by popping them with her bare hands.

Their first fight was against some stirges, and two PCs out of four could have bought the farm if I had rolled differently on the blood loss die.

It was incredibly fast-moving and exciting play. I loved it. Best newbie quote, as I took out the rule book: "Whoa, there's an instruction manual too? No way!"

Dungeonteller Complete Bundle Now Just $5

Still haven't tried my Dungeonteller fantasy RPG? The easiest to learn and play RPG for mixed-age and mixed-ability game groups? With astonishing full-color handouts and mini-posters that explain the rules in seconds? Then how about picking up ALL THREE Dungeonteller PDFs for just $5? (A savings of $3.50!)

  1. The core rules.
  2. The monster book.
  3. The full-color cut-n-fold monster and hero counter set (which is totally compatible with my hand-drawn iso battle maps).
Check out the deal here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pix from Hero Forge Character Creator Beta

A while back I bought into the HeroForge Kickstarter. If you haven't heard of it, well, they will let you design a custom mini online, then deliver it to you as a 3D-printed plastic figure. The beta version of the character designer is open now to backers, and here are two dynamic poses of the same character I made in about three minutes. You can adjust the character's height, build, hair, armor, pose, and gear in thousands of ways. If they pull this off, it's going to change the way I buy minis for my PCs and name NPCs.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

[Battle Map] Commissioned Map

This is one of three maps I'm drawing for Morné Schaap's Winter Eternal Indiegogo campaign. All the maps will be 100% compatible with my most recent battle map tile set. This map is meant to represent a segment of a covered roadway that connects cities ravaged by an icy apocalypse. Note the break in the wall with a snow pile tumbling in!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Hand-Drawn Iso Battle Maps Now Available

Don't just map your dungeons. Illustrate them. Page after page of cut-and-glue floors, walls, and features to make your fantasy RPGs pop off the table. Buy the new set here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

End of Summer Roundup

Well, it was a productive summer here at BBR. I finished the definitive full-color versions of the Dungeonteller core rules AND the Dungeonteller monster book AND put out fold-n-play counters of EVERY Dungeonteller monster. It's all available in PDF format here for a reasonable price given that it's copiously illustrated in full color and designed to be a pleasure to read.
The definitive set of hand-drawn iso battle maps is only a week or so away from publication. And I'm making three custom battle maps for Morné Schaap's Winter Eternal indiegogo campaign. After that I will get Rock Opera '79 into shape for release by year's end.

Monday, September 8, 2014

[Iso Battle Maps] Back Walls Added

Some of you have been asking about including walls in the set. I hand-drew a full page of stone wall texture that you can cut and paste to make walls as room backdrops. Cutting and fitting them is a bit tricky but they do a good job of letting you know how tall the ceiling is in a given room. I would consider them an option for more advanced builders! Note how I've shown two ways of doing cutaway walls (curvy edge and stepped).
The wall texture can double as a cliff or sheer drop, too.

Monday, September 1, 2014


The iso tile ideas just keep flowing. This is a page of wall features, including, from top left, ossuary, torch, shackles, cistern, fireplace, bricked-up doorway, niche, broken wall/mousehole, and shrine with arch and plinth.

Like all asymmetrical tiles in the forthcoming set, I will offer a mirror version of this page so that you can place a tile on a SW-NE wall or a NW-SE wall.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Hand-drawn Iso Tiles (Interior Walls Test)

One new feature of this set is strips of bricks/stones you can use to represent interior walls without obscuring the floor behind them. Look for some near the middle of this shot.

Friday, August 29, 2014

25mm Iso Battle Map Layout

Another iso battle map layout -- rearranged some elements, added some new ones. Things are getting interesting. Right now I'm drawing up elements to represent interior walls/dividing walls.
With 25mm figures for scale.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

[Tile Preview] Evil Shrine

The ultimate hand-drawn iso dungeon tile pack is growing by leaps and bounds. I've added a page of 10-foot gates and doors, and a page of pillars and statues. Here are some of the new features in action, with fold-n-play Dungeonteller monster counters. An evil shrine with tomb and sacrifice pit!
Assembled from 12 individual pieces.

Monday, August 18, 2014

[Tiles Preview] 2 x 2 Vignettes and Features

WIP snapshot of latest work from the forthcoming hand-drawn iso tile set. Scribe's or wizards desk, supply depot, well, table and chairs, pothole, junk heap, stair variants.
These are fun to do.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

[Tile Preview] How the Accessories Work

I cut and glued this tableau in about 5 minutes. The bedroll, table, chair, and barrel were rough-cut and then glued onto the room shape. Ditto with the doors (which are from Set 2) but will be making a reprise in this new set because I'm still happy with them.
with some classic Mithril and Ral Partha minis!

Friday, August 15, 2014

[Tiles Preview] New Accessory Tiles

Work continues on the iso cut-n-glue dungeon tile set. Look for a cauldron, oubliette, lantern, and more!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

[Preview] Sample Battle Map Setup

The only limit is your printer ink budget! Fits most 25mm minis. Has a cool hand-drawn look. This was cut out from just three pages.

More Battle Maps On the Way

Back from a week's vacation in the north woods with a new battle map to show you, along with some of the Dungeonteller monster counters. I will be releasing Set 3 of the battle maps sometime soon. They will be 100% compatible with the monster counters.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Counters for EVERY Dungeonteller Monster Now Available

OK, so I lied the other day when I said I would put up some sample print-and-cut counters from the Dungeonteller Monster Book. 

I put up every single one of them. Thirteen pages of full color counters, all compatible with forthcoming Dungeonteller adventure maps, I promise. If you don't play Dungeonteller, use them for your own damn game. Go grab 'em here.

Monday, July 28, 2014

On the Way: Dungeonteller Iso Tiles

Next project: cut-and-fold counters compatible with my iso battle maps. The first sheet will come FREE on drivethrurpg.com, with six heroes plus a few sample monsters and battle sheets. Some test images to follow:
Sample sheet of icons...

...with fold-down tabs to give them structure.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

[Art Preview] Delf Sentinel and Sorceress

Here are two freshly made illos for the Dungeonteller monster book. Delves are the hostile underground elf race of the Dungeonteller world. I'm aiming to include them as a hero class down the road.

Monday, July 21, 2014

[Monster Book Preview] Steam Dragon

Preview page from the Dungeonteller monster book, which is nearly done. I love this one.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Iso Dungeonteller Heroes

Iso counters for the six Dungeonteller heroesConcept tests for a possible dungeon mapper set. Meanwhile the monster book is still coming together.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Random Character Generation in Dungeonteller

Anthony asked me if the full-on Dungeonteller book includes rules for character generation rather than using the optimized character sheets included in the game. I don't have any philosophical objections to random chargen, but I feel that the "rolling up a character" process is a huge turn-off for newbie players and non-gamers. They usually get so much hand-holding and railroady advice from the DM and more experienced players that the PC they end up with might as well have been handed to them.

Here's how I would do it in Dungeonteller.

1. Pick two lucky numbers from 1 to 6.
2. Roll ten dice for each action (Battle, Magic, Make, etc.) and count the lucky numbers as successes. Each success equals one action die for that action.
3. Decide which of the six hero types you want to be and use that hero's starting cool powers list.

[Excuse me while I grab some dice, BRB]

OK, here's what I got, rolling 10 dice for each action:

Battle 1
Magic 4
Make 5
Muscle 4
Notice 2
Resist 5
Shoot 2
Sneak 3
Stunt 2
Talk 5

Looking at the relatively high Magic and Talk, maybe a rogue or an elf? Nothing stands out for me on that guy.

Let's try again:

Battle 3
Magic 7 
Make 4
Muscle 2
Notice 6
Resist 5
Shoot 3
Sneak 1
Stunt 5
Talk 4

I picture this hero as a charismatic, strong-willed wizard. Low Sneak and high Stunt is an odd combo -- maybe he never shuts up and that's why he can't sneak?

This is fun, one more time:

Battle 7
Magic 2 
Make 3
Muscle 1
Notice 3
Resist 5
Shoot 0
Sneak 4
Stunt 5
Talk 3

This guy strikes me as a nimble but willowy paladin -- high Battle, high Resist, high Stunt, low Muscle, zero Shoot.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Full-on Dungeonteller RPG Book is Here!

The Dungeonteller RPG book is now available for sale at drivethrurpg.com!

It includes the complete free player's pack plus:

  • complete descriptions of actions and cool powers
  • rules for running the game (lighting, movement, combat, environment)
  • The Quibble Marches "Big Hexyland" hex and a map and description of Stormgate City and the Tides Inn to serve as a background for your first adventure
  • Plot, villain, and dungeon generators
  • Treasures, including gems, potions, wonders, scrolls, and gadgets
  • Five preview monsters from the upcoming monsters book due to hit the site in August!

Click here for a direct link to the product page.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

[Preview] Dungeonteller Cover Art Promo

I am are very close to publication of the dungeonteller full PDF, which will include everything in the free player's pack plus detailed descriptions of actions and cool powers, the Stormgate city map and location descriptions, the Quibble Marches "Big Hexyland" map, plot generator, villain generator, dungeon generator, lots of microposters for explaining turn order, combat and movement, illustrated treasure tables, and a few sample monsters from the forthcoming monster book. This is my love letter to the Holmes blue book and I hope the love shows.

While you're waiting for it to appear on drivethrurpg.com, show me a little love by purchasing a poster, mug, or tee shirt with the cover art at my crappy little merchandise shop:

Heady days!

Monday, July 7, 2014

[Review] Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules PDF

Whatever else I might say in this review, it shouldn't overshadow the fact that mere existence of a free basic ruleset is always a good thing, and that anyone who complains about what's in it, including me, is not entitled to a full refund. I say good on you to any publisher who puts out free material. 

Second, I'm happy to see Kevin Kulp's name in the credits. I can hardly claim him as a close friend, but I've been lucky enough to run a couple of Northern Crown games at his Boston game days, in an atmosphere of comfort, acceptance, and fun. As for Zak S and Pundit, I can't believe the spite-envy piddling out of the dorkosphere because WotC asked two prickly and very self-aware gadflies to give their game the scoff-test. If you're a cynic you're going to see it as a move by Wizards to co-opt two potentially damaging critics and turn them into rah-rah boys. If that's true, then at least they co-opted the entertainingly opinionated ones.

My big takeaway on the rules architecture is that it's more D&D than 4th edition was, and that's a good thing, but sadly it's at least as much D&D as 3rd edition was, which is a bad thing. I am not an OSR booster, but what I do like about the OSR philosophy is the lack of post OD&D epigenetics/barnacle growth, which sadly the new edition doesn't seem to have mustered the gumption to scrape off, and has even added to. Is it nostalgia? An artifact of how Mike Mearls likes his games? What?

Damage types, for example, seem to front and center in the combat system. Bludgeoning, slurping, and cankering are the three main categories, and they exist to make damage resistance more nuisance-ey. I question whether it's worth having every D&D player for the next 8 years write "slashing" next to their scimitar just so it can do less damage when you smack a gargoyle with it. I would prefer that such exceptions reside with the monster stats rather than cluttering up the character sheet.

Spell components are back. Again, I question the cost/benefit ratio. Requiring spell components is an onerous chore that has never added fun or wonder to any game I've played in. It's a designer's bandaid fix on spells that are too powerful to be cast without gouging the caster. Can we just say you can't cast a spell if you're gagged or your hands are tied? If you really like the idea of auditing your players' gear lists to make sure they have enough grasshopper legs, be my guest.

Backgrounds, personality traits, ideals, bonds and flaws. I can't keep them straight in my head yet, but the only one that has a formal influence on game play is your background. You might get a shovel and an iron pot if you choose your background wisely. I'm serious. 

OK, its twenty minutes later, and I can tell you that personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws are scripted ways for your character to act. Personality traits are more like habits, some good, some bad. Norman Bates liked to eat candy. I say "actually" too much and I have an evil cackle when I'm truly amused by something. These things make me endearing. Ideals are beliefs, like, "The thicker the cushion, the sweeter the pushin," except less fun to test empirically. Bonds are what you would see at the bottom of a teaser poster for an X-Men or Avengers film, like "You won't like me when I'm angry" or "I have breasts but I endorse male-centered power fantasies."

While you were reading the last sentence, I just made a sage who uses polysyllabic words that convey the impression of great erudition; who believes nothing should fetter the infinite possibility inherent in all existence; whose life work is a series of tomes related to a specific field of lore; and who overlooks obvious solutions in favor of complex ones.

Holy crap — I'm playing a designer responsible for 3.5e!

This all seems very GURPSy to me except that the ads/disads/flaws aren't mechanically effective in play except for the shovel and iron pot.

This fluff fills up a lot of space and shows a lot of sweat, which gives me leave to speculate about who exactly are Mearls & company pitching D&D to in the year 2014. Show me the legions of players who will put up with spell components and damage types AND need to be told that "There's no winning or losing in the Dungeons & Dragons game" AND need to be handheld through the process of flufferizing their 1st level PC. Who is that person? Can we stop pretending that a rule set which opens with four pages of unrelieved text is the way to introduce a game to anyone?

I hope the box set has a clearer vision of its audience because an accessible, attractive iteration of D&D is good for all of us — it will always be the gate that people walk through into this hobby, and so it better look good and play nice.

The big question: does this version of D&D model the swords-and-sorcery tales it claims to take inspiration from? No. I don't think D&D ever did this, except in the sense that OD&D and the Holmes blue box set left enough empty canvas so that you weren't explicitly prohibited from modeling any particular genre. All editions since then have had various degrees of success at modeling the experience of sitting around a table playing D&D, which can be super fun, but there's no room for wonder or enchantment in it. I get that most people who play D&D are cool with that — I have lots of players whose love of the game comes from choosing character options and seeing what advantage they give you in combat. D&D has been really good at that for a long time and it looks like it will still be that in future.