Tag Archives: Tools

The Trove

This.

Place.

is.

Ridiculous!

Their words; “The Trove is a non-profit website dedicated towards content archival and long-term preservation of RPGs.
We currently host various large scale collections amounting to hundreds of thousands of files. These collections include various image, ebook and software archives. As of right now, The Trove hosts 908GB of data.”

I can’t over emphasize how spacious this place is and its not just D&D, its got Dungeon Crawl Classics, Dungeon World, Starfinder, Pathfinder, World of Darkness, Sword & Sorcery, Warhammer and a ton more. Its kind of nuts. Its not just manuals, its comics, novels, programs, board games, maps, magazines(Dragon, Dungeon, Polyhedron, Games Workshop, , on and on and on.

I can’t speak enough about this place and its just best you go explore it yourself. Its like when you first discovered comics and you step into one of the biggest comic books stores for your first time. Eyes in bewilderment.

I recommend Dungeon #100 and Polyhedron #159 for some light level 18 adventure reading and say if you happen to want to hunt something on the Beastlands. I also recommend Sailors of the Starless Sea for DCC.

They also have a nice little repository for the One Page Dungeon contest over here. The One Page Dungeon Contest is actually a pretty sweet little contest in its own rights and you should check them out along side the rest of this pile of heaping excitement. It does also have maps, animated & 3D printable stuff

I do also want to mention that all these things are copyright their respective owners and that if you do truly enjoy them and get some use out of them or plan to get more use out of them than maybe you think, pitch a few dollars their way. Without these amazing people there would be no content here to be excited about, literally. These people are the makers of some pretty fantastic things.

My personal take is its fine to rent a movie to see if you like it. If you want to watch it again, maybe think about buying it since you like it enough to see twice.

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Wizard Dawn

UPDATE: It seems that Wizard Dawn has moved hosting once again, this time to https://osricrpg.com/wizardawn.

I happened across a site called Wizard Dawn some while ago and I just want to take a minute or three and just express the amount of badassery there. Like it is ridiculous. I believe I was on the kick for just generators. Name, loot, you know, the usual kind. I then found this hidden gem.

I don’t know the whole history here but this site was a site that was taken over by anther site and is currently hosted on a site that is not updated anymore(Its all here and here). & Magazine has some offerings at their download page also.

Back on point though, Wizard Dawn is a beast of a collection of generators for OSR stuff including AD&D(1979), D&D(1981) and from something I’ve mentioned before at this site, Swords and Wizardy(He wrote the Quick Primer to Old School Gaming linked here, he also has the rule book linked for download at Wizard Dawn).

Just the maps generator. Look at all the others on the side there.
A Dyson Logos design the maps generator above spits out. They all have this flavor… except for;
This one is the Infinite Zero selection which just love man. Its light on the details but ts gorgeous.

Now don’t get all nuts because thats just the one map generator from the image above. See below for the Dungeon Generator and its crazy amount of options and a small example of what it spits out under that.

I’m just going to stop here because you probably should have just gone there by now to check this place out. I do want to point out though that I think the generators can change debating on which game system you have chosen. It is worth playing around with. These guys need a patreon.

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Sandbox in a Dungeon

Yet one more sandbox discussion from my pile of notes I have compiled.  This one is a bit more on the contemplative side than a straight forward “heres what you need to do.”

I think what the author below is getting at and what I posted earlier about the sandboxing template and sandboxing is old school is that you can build a sandbox inside a dungeon.  Namely if you use the same ideas as the ones in those articles(name, ambience, history, encounters) and if you have the right kind of dungeon then you can just build those places inside of a dungeon.  Take the drow city of Menzoberranzan, its just a city inside of a cave inside an outer layer of danger.  You have the place, you have the encounters and basically its just all under ground or in a place that doesn’t have open air.  I think some of the biggest thing that people may struggle with here is building it and the transition from in to out.  That’d be going from sandboxing a plot inside the dungeon to outside the dungeon.

Is there a story going on inside the dungeon itself?  Does Menzoberranzan have its own personality of place(==============)?  Do the mobs there interact with each other?  Is there a hierarchy of the mobs there?  Is there an over lord or are they just mindless?

First thing, maybe you just want to have your game as a dungeon crawl?  Sure they can go back to town to sell their loot but the focus is the crawl.  Your dudes are straight forward looters/crawlers be it for the adventure and thrill of feeling alive or be it cleansing the world of a blight, your down in the depths for a reason and it doesn’t have much to do with regional politics.

Secondly, so your party some how becomes aware of a dungeon in the locality.  They can go check it out if they want.  Is there a reason for them to go check it out?  Well you just struck gold because if theres a reason, a hook(==============), then you have what you need because then whatever reason they would have to go check it out(taint needs cleansing… (ED; Think I’ve seen that video?), overlord using it as a base, plain old treasure hord, or good old just lair of a beast) thats the thing you build into the dungeon.  Its like a town but with its own subplot, which is another article altogether.  You have the reason they go there and you have the reason why they would go there.  Its their choice if they do but you’ve already built the system of the why, now you just have to build the system of how do they get there and thats entirely up to you.

The below is the actual posting I had in my notes.  The above is what I personally wrote.

The last session of the Forgotten Realms campaign I play in reminded that, while I love my twice a week, lunch time Greyhawk campaign, there’s a lot to be said for a nice, juicy four hour game session. In particular, long sessions are great for what I think of as Borderlands style adventures, adventures that give the PCs a long list of shallow options.

Melan’s excellent post on megadungeon mapping has been kicking around in my head since I first read it. In particular, his analysis of Keep on the Borderlands stuck in my head for a while. I really like the idea of an adventure that gives you a lot of places to go, even if those specific places are simple and even linear. In particular, I think such a design shines if those simple, straightforward spots have some level of interconnectivity, again, even if the connections are simple. Those could range from the physical (the ogre’s den has a secret door leading to the orc lord’s throne room) to the social (the orcs hate the gnolls and are looking for allies against them).

The appeal, IMO, lies in the raw possibilities of bouncing around the map, delving here, allying there, looting here. I think there’s some element of sandbox gaming at play, but on a smaller, more focused level. Rather than the world as a sandbox, this style of design focuses instead on a single city or adventure site, with the connections I mentioned above a critical part of the design. The adventure is like a pool table cluttered with balls, with the PCs a cue ball careening across the field, knocking some balls into pockets, slamming others into each other. The key is that with every action by the PCs, the “board” changes.

By keeping the individual components simple, it’s much easier to manage the scope of changes and reactions across the entire adventure set up. It’s easy to manage changes within the individual caves in KotB because each one is so simple, basic layouts of rooms wedded to rosters of (mostly) homogenous tribes.

The complexity of this design rests in the relationships and interactions between the individual, simple nodes. In addition, particularly in 4e, you need the flexibility to keep each node at least somewhat challenging for the PCs. Given that the characters gain about 1 level for every 10 encounters, you have to balance the number of nodes in the adventure with the PCs’ level progression. It’d be great to offer the PCs 5 or 6 places to investigate, but you need to limit each node to 3 or 4 encounters to keep those nodes in a 3 level band.

While the Keep on the Borderlands is the best known example of this design style, I think the approach would shine for urban adventures. The connections between locations can cover a broad range of social, political, and military alliances, both including and forming against the PCs.

It’s interesting to me that KotB-style design is relatively rare. Most published adventures rely on a plot with a clear beginning, middle and end, or individual dungeons. A borderlands-style design has the cosmetic flaw of appearing simple, since the individual pieces are simple. The value of the design rests in its emergent properties. It plays, rather than reads, well.

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Sandboxing Template

These would be the things neededed for helping setup a good sandbox to play in.  Whats in your world?

Location Name: This is a few words that are memorable and convey the feeling of the location. These names are for your own personal use and reference. The “official” name of the location as used by NPCs in the game and the PCs may be different, but a quick evocative name will help remind you what you want the location to be.

Ambiance: This section should briefly convey the look and feel of the location. It is meant to be a spark for your descriptions of the area during play.  Even though they’re all forests, “Ancient growth forest peppered with Elven ruins”, “Marshy willow forest” and “Bramble-dense sapling grove” are all distinct.

History: Especially avoid writing a no

vel here. This should just be a few notes on the history of the location to make sparking adventure and sub-location ideas easier. Something like “Once held by elves, fell into ruin. Now a haven for several nasty goblin clans” will work fine.

Encounters: This is not a defined encounter list or wandering monster list. Instead this is just a short list or few sentences about what kinds of encounters the players will find in this location for use when you DO create encounter lists, adventures, and wandering monster tables. “Standard creatures for this environment” is fair game, although most locations should have a little more to go on than that. “Lots of inter-goblin skirmishes”, “Dark Fey dominate this area”, or even “Ol’ One-eye the unique griffin inhabits these woods” are perfect.

Treasures: Most locations are assumed to have standard treasure, but any special treasure considerations should be noted here. Check out previous articles “Seven Ways to Spice up your treasure” and it’s follow up “Seven more ways to spice up your treasure” for examples and inspiration.

Hooks and Hotspots: An optional part of the template, this section is for adventure hooks and “Hotspots” (unique, important or special sub-locations) that aren’t implied by virtue of earlier sections.  If we mentioned that our woods are inhabited by goblins and full of elven ruins, it’s assumed that there are goblin lairs and elven ruins around and that “exterminate the goblins”

or “Explore the ruins” are available hooks, but a good non-implied hook might be finding the goblin hedge mage who can teach the PCs the local goblin dialect and a good hotspot might be the hidden crypt of the elven royal line.

 Here’s a pair of examples:

Name: Fenwood
Ambiance:
 A thick forest full of twisted drooping trees, Fenwood’s soil is marshy and fallen leaves conceal many pockets of stagnant water and quicksand.
History:
 Largely avoided for it’s long held reputation for being haunted and dangerous, Fenwood has little in the way of a history.
Encounters:
 Fenwood is home to normal forest and swamp creatures. In addition a tribe of primitive cannibalistic gnomes spy and prey upon visitors. A number of dark fey lovingly tend the sickened trees and rotten bogs and eagerly capture slaves.
Treasure:
 In addition to treasure captured from adventurers, the swamp gnomes craft powerful woven totems and the Dark Fey have many pieces of living sculpture and jewelry with it’s own disturbing beauty.
Hooks and Hotspots:
 The swamp gnomes’ cannibalism and dark fey’s slavery make rescue missions common Fenwood hooks. In the center of the forest, the dark fey hold a Stonehenge-like altar to a Shub-Niggurath-esque deity.

 Name: Ash Flats
Ambiance:
 A dreary desert of ash studded with fist-sized irregularly shaped igneous rock and the occasional bit of metal or stoneware debris, the monotony of the ash flats is broken only by the occasional drifting fire mote (small slowly drifting permanent portals to the elemental plane of fire) or dust storm. At night, the ash flats look like a massive swarm of fireflies as motes and elemental vermin criss-cross the landscape.
History:
 The site of a one-grand Elven forest city, a magical accident created dozens of fire motes and burned the city and surrounding forest to the ground.
Encounters:
 No natural creatures can survive in the bleak wasteland of the ash flats, and the drifting motes prevent regrowth of plants. However, vermin from the plane of fire routinely cross through the fire motes and slowly and painfully burn out unless they can return or find fuel. Below the insulating ash, colonies of fire rats burrow retaining heat and returning to the plane of fire through fire motes that drift below ground level.
Treasure:
 Elemental vermin carry no treasure although their burnt out bodies may contain small crude gemstones. The flats themselves however are studded with debris that survived the incineration of the city, weathered items made of metal, stone, or ceramics are common. Large burrows of elemental vermin often horde these.
Hooks and Hotspots: Somewhere beneath the ash lies the ritual circle that sustains the fire motes. Finding and ending this effect will allow the ash flats to recover although dangerous creatures from the plane of fire may notice and interfere.

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Sandbox is Old School

Yet another thing I stole from someplace to put into my pile of notes about sand box DM’ing.  Here, I steal their work to share with you.

There is a lot of work on the front end, but not at much as you would think. The key I found when I did this was to ABANDON ALL PLOT THREADS. The plot thread is the path that the PCs take as they move through the world. So you only really have one plot, the one that the players make out of the plot legos you have given them. That does not mean that the NPCs and the villains don’t have plans that they are work on. It simply means that their plans don’t become part of the plot until the players choose to make it part of the picture.

The random encounter works pretty well with this too. The key here is to keep in mind that there is no such thing as random encounter even if the encounter is randomly generated. They should always have something to do with the plot. So if you roll up orcs, they are not just random orcs, they are orcs that have a connection to something already going on. No connection is too unreasonable or tenuous. It just makes the plot thicker because the player’s minds will accept the clues you offer and build on it. Just use the ones from the nearby dungeon that has orc in it.

But we are still in the realm of theory. Let’s get practical.

Step 1.   Get your map.

Draw your map on a hex sheet. 6 mile hexes work best (there is a whole math as to why this is the perfect hex size). You probably want to start with an area of about 65 hexes total or 7 hexes out in all directions from a center hex. Whichever way you go you need to set it up so that it will take about one session to get out of this starting area if the players decide that they are going to circumnavigate the globe.

Step 2.   Get your adventures

You will probably want 5-8 adventures. Be careful in your selection. You want a lot of site based elements. So lets say you are running what we have set up- Aztecs in the pacific northwest. It probably wouldn’t hurt to grab right off the top of the classics pile and get Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan and Dwellers in the Forbidden City. That gives you two. Aztecs had pyramids so since we are 4e we go a grab Pyramid of Shadows, Its coastal so we grab the new Dungeon Adventure sea reavers of the shrouded crags and massacre at fort Dolor. There are a lot of lost cities in the whole Aztec thing so we grab Lost City of Barakus, and for the heck of it The Lost City Basic D&D module. No campaign is complete without 1) a mega dungeon of some kind and so we pick one that can adapt well to an Aztec feel – The Ruins of Castle Greyhawk and 2) a meat grinder or two so we throw in the frikken Tomb of Horrors, and what the heck Grimtooths Dungeon of Doom because both of these will be hard to access in any case, but its fun to have them around. Oh yeah and the adventure Rana Mor from Dungeon has a sort of Aztecish feel so lets put that on the map. And because we really want to have fun we throw in a truncated version of the Caverns of Thracia. It can have an Aztec feel to it if you want.

(ED; I think what the author is trying to say is you have your map, you have your sand box, now you need to set the pieces in place for that sandbox.  You need to build some castles and things to play with.  He went on a rant but to further his point he choose appropriate written works to build into his sandbox.  In a desert?  Use pyramid things.  Near a desert coast?  Go to those places.  You get the point)

Step 3.   Catalog your adventures.

I went a little overboard above. I picked 12. So I take all the settlements and home bases and towns and stuff and put them on the map somewhere. The weird thing is the Apophenia(ED; the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data) and Synchronicity(ED; which holds that events are “meaningful coincidences” if they occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related) will start to kick in here. These are the natural human capacities to find connections and patterns in senseless noise, they exist so you can find patterns and connections in things that are not senseless. As a DM in a sandbox these are your two favorite friends. If you want to know more, watch the wizard of oz while listening to Pink Floyds Dark Side of the moon (synchronicity) and read up on conspiracy theories, especially 9/11 (apophenia). In any case place the towns and such. Then place the “dungeon” parts. Next you will want to get something like the Ready Ref Sheets. These have really useful charts for really random things. A lot of these made it into the 1e DMG, but there are more that did not. One of the most useful is a series of charts that set up random stuff to find in hexes as players pass through. This really makes the world come alive.

Step 4.   Get a Rules Light System

DO NOT TRY THIS WITH 3E. You will go insane and possibly get divorced. The monsters will kill your time. A rules light system is best. Retro Clones like Swords and Wizardry, (ED: Dungeon World) Labyrinth Lord (using expanded classes), Basic Fantasy, OSRIC, Castles and Crusades, or Microlite 20 will probably be best. It is pretty much all in how the monsters work. I would run with 4e or a Labyrinth Lord/OSRIC hybrid. Essentials are that you want to keep attachment to new characters to a minimum because the mummy’s tomb that the 2nd level characters decide to raid might actually have a mummy in it. 4e can work because it gives the players enough stamina and tricks to get their asses handed to them by said mummy and then still live (barely) to fight it later when they have gained some experience and have learned how to kill a frikkin mummy. The system should allow for easy monster set up and modification. Like I said 3e does not have this and will eat your lunch in this regard. If the adventure says “mummy” and you know exactly what to put there, without any additional work, that is the system to use. On any modern game you will want to change the curve of experience. (except in 4e cause its alien technology) 10th – 14th level should be uber. To get the 4e equivalent divide by 2, a retro clone and 4e will play the same at equivalent levels.

Step 5.   Extra Credit (Sandboxes within Sandboxes)

So that hex with the Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan in it? Its six miles across. That’s a lot of room to play. What you want to do is for each of the inhabited locations (towns/dungeons) set up things around them nearby to accentuate the location. This makes camping in the hex sort of interesting. And if you have to design a dungeon, make the dungeon a sort of smaller sandbox. This aspect of sandboxing is largely stolen from Mike Mearls at this post:

http://kotgl.blogspot.com/2008/09/borderlands-style-adventures.html

Supplementary reading:

http://batintheattic.blogspot.com/2008/10/tale-of-two-4th-editions.html

http://jrients.blogspot.com/2008/08/old-schoolin-how-to-get-started.html

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