Dwarven Artillery

I never bought the Gnomes as tinkers bull crap that I think DragonLance introduced and was perpetuated aggressively in the Forgotten Realms (the briny coast that most DL characters washed up on after they had capped out) and ultimately put on steroids thanks to the cultural phenomena of World of Warcraft. Dwarves, not gnomes, were always the tinkering engineers in my head-canon. And speaking of cannons (see what I did there) if anybody was likely to have mastered boom-powder and militarize it, it would be dwarves.

Assuming a gunpowder-free setting though, Dwarven ingenuity lends itself to mechanized artillery just the same, at the large end with elaborate siege-engines, and at the personal scale with crossbows. Not just any mundane crossbows either, but elaborate ones with complex lacings of cables on wheels and limbs, amplifying power in compact forms suitable for use in narrow corridors and interior spaces where flatter trajectories of faster projectiles are ideal.

Speaking of projectiles, the bolts fired by these devious dwarves are not going to be simple iron points. No, they will be death machines in their own right, displaying the same sort of fiendish ingenuity that their launchers exhibit, and in settings with gunpowder or similar magic and technology, dwarves are likely to have crafted explosive bolts and bullets for their crossbows.

Finally, unlike the popular culture that tends to cast Dwarves with Scottish accents, I tend to think of mine as having a more Eastern European accent and curiously, a lot of patents for crazy crossbow designs like these have been taken out by inventors with names penned in Cyrillic alphabets.



This is an image I have found curiously absent from online archives.
Katkin from the GW 1e release of Legion of Gold.
Unless their cartouche is hiding in the linework, this is an unsigned piece. I suspect Jim Roslof based on style, and supported by this being the only unsigned illustration and Roslof having no other illustration in the work (process of elimination). 

Stylistically, Bill Willingham can't be ruled out either, so it's possible Roslof produced the maps and this is a WIllingham piece.

Regardless, I scanned it out, narrowed the contrast band to eliminate inconsistencies from the print and scan processes, and applied a couple of filters to smooth the line-work ever so slightly, then sharpen (recorrect) the edges, which improves it as a portable image while retaining the character of the original.

From the text:
MOVEMENT: 15 (sustained movement, 20 for short bursts of speed)
ATTACKS: two claws and a bite, or a weapon
DAMAGE: 1-6/1-6/J-6, or by weapon type
MUTATIONS: heightened speed and balance, imitation of thought and sound

Katkins are a mutated form of the common house cat, standing about one meter tall when walking erect (which they often do). Coloration can range from white- to orange-striped, but graystriped and brown or black solid colors are the most common. These intelligent creatures have not lost their fangs or their claws, although the claws of their manipulative forepaws are not proportionately as long as the rear ones. Katkins are rather shy and reclusive, using their heightened speed and balance to live arboreal lives, ranging amidst the upper branches of woodlands to hunt and explore. One or more katkins will construct a well concealed hut of woven vines and branches high up in the largest of trees, dwelling there during summer months. Winter quarters are typically in hollow tree trunks. Katkins have both sound and thought imitation capabilities; so, in addition to their normal body weaponry (two claw attacks and a bite per turn, each doing 1-6 points of damage), they have dangerous imitative abilities as well.Katkins have been known to possess and use small technological devices (pistols, vibro daggers, etc.). Employment of normal weapons suited to their size and strength is fairly common around the  creatures' home.


Hex Crawl Generation 3

This is going to be a brief post to share the preliminary grid I knocked out per my To Do list on the first post in this series.

Click to view full size, right click that to download..
The die-modifiers in the hexes may change or disappear entirely, and whatever supporting tables and documentation are clearly missing as well. But this is the basic document I am working with right now as I fiddle and tweak the mechanics.

I am only posting a PNG of it for now, but will be putting out a PDF documenting the entire extrapolation process, including lists of transition terrains, and a correspondence table for biome to terrain.


Hex-Crawl Generation 2

Just jumping into this again, going to ignore what I wrote before... this is art damn it!

So I played around with some ideas for tables, which quickly became more complicated and wonky than I wanted. Rolling at least once, and in some schemes up to three times per 19 sub hexes and the 12 shared hexes... Tedious, but the goal here is fast, easy, and fun if at all possible.

So what is fun? Dice-Drop tables are fun. Well, I can't really use a pure dice drop table, the hexes are where they are. I could use a "Drop and Arrange" table though:

≤3  Primary Terrain (current major hex)
4  Intermediate Terrain 1 (current to nearest)
5  Intermediate Terrain 2 (current to nearest)
≥6 Secondary Terrain (nearest adjacent major hex)

Drop 31d6 and redistribute as needed to fill all available hexes. Dice may be moved either to the nearest empty hex, or arranged to group results into more aesthetic configurations.

Center sub-hex is -1 or 2 die value, next ring of sub-hexes is 0 or -1 die value, next ring is 0 or +1, and shared sub-hexes will be +1 or +2. I will need to play with this to see what modifiers and results I prefer.

I haven't decided how to squeeze in a Special Terrains. I may bake those into the reference tables that will be used to determine which terrains are intermediate. In a water-to-water area, maybe the intermediate 1 or 2 will kick off to a sub table that has a thin chance of producing islands, shoals, reefs, or sargassum.

A box of 36d6 from Chessex is perfect for this, and as luck would have it, the wife got me one a while back, so I am set for the testing phase of this.

I have a rough drop table I am going to dress up and hopefully, the next time I post on this, I will have that along with whatever refinements that testing it out yield.

Regarding Terrain and Biomes:

At this point, I am treating Terrains (geology) and Biomes (environment) as separate elements that coincide on the map. This goes back to an old preference of mine to use color-fill to indicate biomes and symbols to indicate terrain. Many biomes are present on multiple types of terrain. Wetlands and deserts present some special challenges for categorization, but short of going all science on this, this is a good solution.

Water: oceans, seas, and lakes.
Wetland: semi-inundated land.
Plain: flat, rolling, eroded, plateau (highland), etc.
Hill: foothills, badlands, low elevation escarpments, mesas, and buttes, etc.
Mountain: peaks, ridges, high elevation escarpments, mesas and buttes, etc.

Biomes: (and major breakdowns by terrain)
Barren: Typically arid regions, possible small grass and scrub up to sporadic shrub or trees.
  • Bog: peat wetland with stagnant or acidic water and sporadic small plants (wetland)
  • Dunes: arid/desert rolling hills of fine sand with rare vegetation (plain)
  • Flats: arid/desert stone or hard-packed ground devoid of plants (plain)
  • Broken: jagged, rocky, or eroded land with occasional small or medium plants (plain) 
  • Tundra: rocky permafrost with sporadic grass and scrub (plain)
  • Badlands: as broken but with major elevation changes (hill)
  • Desert and high-altitude mountains are also typically barren, rocky, and/or broken.
Grassland: Low to medium height soft plants, may include occasional large plants or trees.
  • Scrub Desert: arid with coarse soil and low to medium shrub (plain)
  • Fens: spring or stream fed peat, top growth of small flowering plants and grasses (wetland)
  • Prairie:  mainly low to medium grassland (plain)
  • Marsh: wetland with dense tall grasses with occasional shrub patches and trees (wetland)
  • Savanna, grassland with shrub patches and occasional trees (plains)
Forests: Trees of various sizes with possible undergrowth.
  • Coniferous Forests are mainly evergreen pines
  • Deciduous Forests are mainly broadleaf trees that shed leaves in fall/winter
  • Rain Forests experience high precipitation and are most common in the tropics  
  • Swamps are wooded wetlands.
  • Forests (excepting swamps) generally extend over plains, hills, and mountains.


Hex-Crawl Generation 1

Spurious live feed blogging, not going to refine this, expect multiples in this line of thought, thus the title.

I would like to work toward a truly random hex-generation system that produces good results, but maybe that is too much, so lets start with extrapolation. Extrapolation can work almost as well as complete random generation. One can start with a rough map at a global scale using the Traveller style icosahedral globe with hexes. There is a nice random generator of those with customizable scales from like 7 hex per triangle up to 35 hex per. Anyhow, a random/automated extrapolation routine could basically turn a global map into a local map with only a few passes, and charting the entire globe could be done on a progressive and as needed basis from a very coarse high level map.

Before I get into my other thoughts, I want to address that I always use horizontal (latitudinally aligned) hex rows. E-W travel is always true to a hex row in this case, but N-S travel, especially when extrapolated to an icosahdral-projection globe, is only true to a longitudinal hex row when at or near the center of a given triangle of the of the icosahedron. Otherwise, you are actually tracking a path that curves off of true north or south by following a hex row. Horizontal rows won't fix that, but ceases to present a false north heading to confuse. Furthermore, the hex rows at the edges of the triangle, do still maintain a true north heading. Predominate travel patterns in open seas tend to be E-W also. Some early wargamers used the E-W convention that was picked up by Traveller, but it was discarded along the way because on skirmish maps, troop advancement (on the vertical) was easier to track, as well as frontal engagement... I find battle mat logic a poor justification for making a mess of global mapping... but enough of that digression.

To start, each global or macro hex has a terrain assigned. At least a majority if not more than half the sub-hexes should match the macro-hex they are being extrapolated from. Also, each macro-hex has six neighboring macro hexes with terrain assigned. Those neighbors correspond to a pie wedge of the given macro-hex, we should assume that some percentage of those pie-wedges will have terrain matching the neighboring macro-hex. 

This gives us a couple of baselines to work on... the hex is probably best processed in triangles (pie-wedges), and a series of tables can be produced to represent those correspondences. At this point, I should probably specify the terrain types, but I am winging it, so lets assume around 6-10 major terrain types and hope everything falls into place later. These tables should be weighted in a way, either by dice mechanic or raw sampling, to statistically deliver the terrain indicated by the macro-hex at least 50% of the time. The remaining spread of results would be a litany of other terrain types sorted by expected prevalence.

SO: The intersections of Mountains and Ocean would probably contain a wide variety of terrains including the principles of course, along with just about everything in between. I imagine a terrain table between Mountains and Hills on the other hand would be predominately hills and mountains with some thin chances of a couple of other terrain types.Terrain variations between Ocean and Ocean on the other hand, would probably offer almost nothing but ocean, with a few land types scattered at the most extreme distribution of the table.

I am also considering additional weighting of the rolls/results based on already filled in adjacent sub-hexes. I can image a number of ways to make this process work in a virtual system, but in a manual tabular system where simplicity is king, this may be best represented as a 'wild-card' result on the table. More filled in adjacent sub-hexes should have a greater impact on the result. Perhaps, in a system using 3d6 (3-18) to produce results, each adjacent, filled-in hex adds 1 to the roll, and results of 18+ are a wild-card result based on those adjacencies...

SO: a sub-hex with no adjacencies would roll as normal, but for every adjacent hex filled in, the next die-toss is influenced slightly in that one's favor. 

Obviously, Genesor* Fiat will win out if some die-results fail to satisfy the desire or expectations of the world creator. This is a process to aid and expedite the creative, not stifle it, after all.

Next steps:

  1. Find the URL for the world generator, and knock one of those out for experimental purposes. Link included.
  2. Make (and print) a grid template with the wedge/triangles marked.
  3. Nail down the major terrain types to include (will probably need to have more granular terrain options for finer map scales).
  4. Decide on a dice mechanic and table format that can produce sensible results based on the adjacent sub-hex fill.

*I am coining and claiming the word Genesor as "one who creates (worlds)"


More on Attributes

 On Google Plus, Ian Borchardt has posted this:
In my current D&D system this is how the six standard attributes are arranged (I use willpower instead of wisdom).
The top three attributes belong to the physical realm and measure how good the character is at physical activities. The bottom three attributes belong to the spiritual realm and measure how good the character is in the spiritual realm (magic and intellect and the like). Each half of the wheel reflects it's counterpart in the other realm. Thus willpower is the spiritual equivalent of constitution, and dexterity is the physical equivalent of intelligence.

To left we see how easy it is for the character to exert force on the world. Strength measures the physical force; charisma measures the spiritual force (force of personaility). Wrestle with someone and use strength. Argue with someone and use charisma.

To the right we see how easy it is for the character to finesse the world. Dexterity measures how easily they physically dance or weave through the world. Intelligence does the same thing for spiritual/mental aspects of the world.

Constitution measure the raw physicality of the character. Willpower measures the raw spirituality of the character.

As well as being tested directly, each attribute provides a bonus to doing something to the world and resisting something about the world.

The bonuses to resisting things are, of course, bonuses to saving throws. Strength gets to resist things that try to stop you moving, so it applies to saves vs petrification and paralysis. Constitution gives a bonus to saves vs poison and death. Dexterity allows you to get out of the area of effect more easily so it provides a bonus to saves vs Blasts and Dragon Breathe. Intelligence gives a save vs Magical Devices (including Wands and Staves). Willpower gives a save vs Spells and Magic. Charisma gives a bonus to saves vs Charm and Fear. [What happens when you get hit with a Wand of Paralysis? You get to choose the saving throw based on how you react against the attack. Avoid where it is pointing? Save vs Magic Device. Get out of the area of effect? Save vs Blast/Breathe. Resist the magic? Save vs Spells. Overcome the effects of the paralysis? Save vs Paralysis/Petrification. Some save might need you to do stuff to use them though - like actually moving to cover or diving out the way, or resisting the magic.]

Bonus boosts collateral rolls. So strength increases the damage die the character uses. Constitution increases the hit die used by the character. Dexterity increases the ability to avoid being hit. Intelligence increases the number of Expertises (skills) you begin the game with. Willpower increases the spell point die, and Charisma affects the number of faithful hirelings you can have and their loyalty.

Direct tests of attributes are a straight d20 or d30 (or even d100) roll against the characteristic, with low being good. [By custom, using the same die you roll to hit with.]

Normal attributes ranges from 3-18. Player characters use 4d6/best 3 (with the option of a straight 4d6) for one attribute. Bonus is +1 for every full 3 points above 12 (and -1 for every 3 full points below 9). A characteristic above 18 is considered exceptional and notable. A characteristic of 25 is considered the pinnacle of human development. Anything above that is superhuman. As characters increase in level their attributes increase. Every odd level a random prime requisite goes up by 1. Every even level a random non-prime requisite increases. So the basic classes increase in attributes fastest.

Ian and I were writing about attributes at about the same time and his thoughts certainly helped shape my own, and I noted the influence, albeit without mentioning him by name. An oversight I am correcting here. 


Exquisite Corpse Dungeon

I prefer posting on G+ to blogging unless I am doing a big info-dump I want to easily reference later.

I have already shared this over on G+ with comment, so I am leaving this here as a placeholder in time, if nothing else.


Recent Silliness

Spurred on by a recent discussions over at G+, I quickly knocked this out, putting a stylized image of Norman Fell, who played Mr Roper on Three's Company, on the illustration of a Roper from the AD&D 1st edition Monster Manual.

That discussion eventually led to a comment regarding Mr Roper keeping an eye on Jack Trapper, who in the show, was actually Jack Tripper, played by John Ritter. So here, using similar techniques, I stylized and applied an image of John Ritter to the illustration of the Trapper from the same tome as above.

This is certainly nothing to brag about, it took longer to find the right images than to put them together, and it's far from art... but it was a silly diversion, most of my other projects are not ready and/or able to be shared yet, and I haven't posted in a while.


Dave's Mapper

Well, my first set of tiles has finally been accepted and uploaded to Dave's Mapper, and I feel as giddy as a school-kid. This first batch only contained Cavern Tiles, but I have a variety of dungeon and city tiles I intend to ink and upload soon.


Epic Sword

This is a beautiful sword. I won't be talking about the actual item and its history, which can be found here. Instead, I want to talk about what it made me think of:

The pocking and nicks of the blade are not the function of age and corrosion, but the nature of the thing. It's aged appearance belies its strength, and that seemingly blunt and eroded blade is actually a keen carver of both flesh and armor alike, forever sharp, while the erratic serrations of the edge allow it to hew into almost any material.

A warrior wielding such a blade my be thought at first quixotic, but as the weapon reveals its uncanny trait for bifurcating most anything it's plied against, either or both the sword and its wielder will come to command respect.

Or perhaps the corroded appearance is also an indication of secondary properties, and the weapon actually has a corrosive or acidic effect upon that which it comes in contact, and the only safe housing for it is an enchanted sheath....