14 July 2017

Religion as Alignment

Alignment in D&D has always been something that is criticized, caused countless arguments, and seemed completely arbitrary. For the past several years I have used my own version of alignment. I have still been using the standard labels of Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic from Classic D&D, but with different meanings. In my games alignment is more of a general philosophy or mindset of the character; alignment represents how the character views the world. Someone who is Lawful beleives that government and Laws are good and that man needs government to be good; while a chaotic person believes that man is naturally good and that society and government corrupt the soul. It is basically the argument between the the philosophies of John Locke and Thomas Hobbes. Neutral would be someone who has a middle ground philosophy or doesn't care/hasn't put much though into it.

Despite sticking to alignment for so long, I'm finally going to abandon it. I am thinking of using religion instead to guide how NPCs will react to characters and as basis for the clerical class. As argued on Grognardia and Delta's D&D Hotspot Clerics in the original game belonged to a monotheistic/christian faith. There was an implicit presence of an underlying politically powerful and christian based religion in the early games of D&D run by Gygax and Arneson. Also, if I am using the Known World setting, the Empire of Thyatis is described as having a Byzantine culture. How can I have a Byzantine culture without Christianity? The Church was an intrinsic part of the culture of the medieval byzantine empire, not to mention the other countries of the known world based on medieval Europe.

The Known World won't be drastically different due to this change, simply many of the churches will be monotheistic instead of Polytheistic. Religions/ Churches of different regions are as follows. Thyatis, Karameikos, Corunglain, Minrothad, Darokin, Ostland = monotheistic(Christian). Atruaghin, Akesoli, Akorros, Ierendi, Selenica, Ylaruam = monotheistic (Islamic).  Glantri = polytheism (Druidic). Ethengar = Shamanism. Sind = polytheism (Hindu). Heldann, Vestland, Soderfjord = polytheism (Norse). Malpheggi Swamp = polytheism (Egyptian). In the future I will go into more detail about the dominant church in each region and the class associated with each faith. Basically the traditional cleric would belong to the christian analog and the druid class would be present in Glantri.

12 July 2017

Drausi Company, Part 2

Date: 8 July 2017

Woluf, Dwarf level 1
Orianna, Thief level 2
Litzy, Cleric level 2
Wylfus, Fighter level 1
Eff, Magic User level 1
Taber, Hin level 1
Daila, Elf level 1

Calendar Date: 13 Yarthmont AC1231
      In the morning the party is in the green ale tavern; Eff and Taber just graduated training and decided to join Drausi company. Daila who had been on a few adventures decided to join up with Drausi company for now. The party looks at the job board and decide to talk to Aleena, Patriarch Sherlane's daughter. They find her in the town hall. She says a local druid in north of the lake has been courting her and she has had no word from him and sent servant to find him but they never returned. she gives the party an advance payment of 50 sp each.
     They leave and head along a trail to the north. past the lake before they ascend into the mountains they are ambushed by 2 men with crossbows who retreat into the woods. The company doesn't follow and continue to Eltan's Spring. At the edge of Eltan's Spring they are attacked by a giant Wasp who poisons Orianna. she takes a potion of cure disease to stop the poison.
     Once in town they go to the local tavern, the crock and goblet, and speak to village elder Gernon. He offers information about bertrak the druid and says he has been infatuated with a raven haired beauty and has not been takingcare of the village crops or the local woods.

Calendar Date: 14 Yarthmont AC1231; weather=mostly sunny, warm, calm and dry
     Inn the morning the company leaves Eltan's Spring and head to the Druid's Grove. At a rope bridge below a waterfall they are ambushed by goblins and kill them. they interrogat one of the goblins. They find the goblin lair and battle with the tribe. they shut up the hole into the goblin lair and kill the remaining goblins on the surface, keeping 1 alive for interrogation.

XP: 272 each

05 July 2017

Death in D&D

Yesterday Alexis at Tao of D&D put up a post comparing golf to D&D and said this "If the DM of a campaign plays according to the original precepts of D&D, players will die.  If the players are of the sort that find the business of living to be obvious and dull, if they're not challenged by the process of going to work or being part of a group, they will want this.  They will see the risk of dying as a good thing.  Not because it doesn't matter if they die, for they will feel the pain and the sadness of losing their characters as keenly as anyone; but because if that chance of dying isn't there, the game just isn't hard enough."

Dungeons and Dragons is not just a game. If we played it just to have fun, or experience a story, or to socialize with friends, we could just play video games or read a book or spend time hanging out. D&D is more. D&D challenges our mental faculties. Death is such an intrinsic part of D&D that even for those games where character death never happens, the DM still works to make it look like it could happen. Even with my houserules, which makes death a much less likely possibility, a PC will die if they are foolish.

This is a problem I always have with players who have experience with other DMs and they're coming to my group for the first time. They become connected to their character, and because their character has never died or only when there was dramatic reason for it, they mope and complain when the PC dies. These players somehow get the idea that they shouldn't be as closely attached to their PCs as a result of the high risk of death. In reality the player does and should feel a connection with their PC, but that doesn't mean the player shouldn't be ready to generate a new character and learn from their mistakes.

As an example, a few weeks ago I DMed a solo game for a new player and, even though she hired 3 npcs to go with her, she died within the first half hour of play. She ran into a lair of ghouls and stayed to fight and every round 1 more ghoul came out of a burial mound, and she was outnumbered pretty quickly. But she went ahead and made a new character and some other players showed up and the rest of the session she was very cautious. She used what she learned to improve her chances of survival with the next character. If anything her change in behavior shows how she had an attachment to the first character and didn't want the same thing to happen to her new character.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that Players should have some emotional attachment to their characters, but without the real presence of death and other consequences in the game, there is no challenge to the game. People who have never played before ask how do you win when playing D&D. You win by having your character survive.

03 July 2017

Drausi Company, Part 1

Last Saturday I had my first game since moving to Vegas.

Date:1 July 2017
Woluf, Dwarf lvl 1
Orianna, Thief lvl 1
Litzy, Cleric lvl 1
Wythus, Fighter lvl 1

Calendar Date: 6 Flaurmont AC 1231 - 13 Yarthmont AC 1231

6 Flaurmont
     The charataters have just completed their initial training at the Adventurer's guild in Threshold and are given their first mission as a last test/trial before becoming full members of the guild. They are told to retrieve a red silk blanket that was stolen recently. They follow the trail of the robbers, which leads to ruined castle on an island in the Foamfire River at the entrance to the Foamfire valley. There is a broken bridge leading to the castle and at the base of the bridge they kill a crab spider. They eventually cross the bridge with some difficulty. They set off a trap of boiling oil in the gatehouse. They enter the main keep and the ceiling collapses blocking the entrance. They find the Kitchen. In the Kitchen are some kobolds, whom they defeat. They kill giant centipedes in the great hall. They climb onto the roof of the keep and find a small hole leading into room below. In the room is canopied bed and a red blanket. they take the blanket and flee. At the wall are some skeletons and Litzy turns them. They make it back to the Guildhouse safely and are given rewards and granted full membership.

7 Faurmont
     The Characters sell some loot they found and order pieces of armor which will be completed in a few weeks

8 Flaurmont
     The company goes back to the castle. They head to the tower at the north end of the island and find some zombies. Orianna and Woluf get infected. Litzy turns the zombies. The company flees to Threshold and pay the Guild Priest to cure them. They buy some burning oil from the guild.
     They return to the castle and burn the zombies. They find a naked man named Heli in the ruins. He claims his partner was killed by a person who looked just like his partner and then betrayed him. The company climbs the roof again and this time Heli's partner is in the bedroom and attacks them. They retreat temporarily and when they return to the room, the partner is gone. They loot the room and find a treasure chest some magic quarrels, scrolls, and an ancient tapestry. Wylfus tries to make the hole in the roof bigger and ends up collapsing the whole keep. they dig around in the rubble looking for loot for the rest of the day and return to Threshold.

9 Flaurmont
     Orianna and Litzy begin training for 2nd level. Woluf and Wylfus sell stuff.

13 Yarthmont
    Training is completed along with armor for Wylfus.

27 June 2017

The Adventurers Guild

The Adventurers Guild was established in the Dragon City as a training facility and common meeting place for adventuring parties. It began as an extension of the first Green Ale Tavern. The Guild is organized into different companies; each adventurer is part of a company of adventurers. Generally when a group of adventurers complete their training they form a new adventuring company; each individual adventurer also may opt to join the company of an adventurer who agrees to mentor them. The adventuring company allows a group of adventurers to pool their resources and and have companions on which to call when in need of aid. All treasure found is property of each company; a company member may withdraw up to half of company resources from any chapter house with the available funds. Adventurers of different companies may work together; usually each company will agree to a percentage of any treasure found.

Each adventurer receives a magically enchanted iron badge after completing training and joining a company. The badge identifies the wearer and the company to which they belong. Any adventurer may be voted out of his company by a unanimous vote. An adventurer without a company receives none of the privileges of membership in the guild and may often be hunted down by the guild. When a character is ousted from a company he must relinquish any magical items owned by the company. Such a character may petition to join another company at which time they regain all their past privileges.

The Adventurers Guild has three types of establishments: the guild house, the chapter house, and the safe house.

A safe house is usually a single story one room building of sturdy wood or stone provisioned with 40 rations and water. The food and water is restocked every week by a permanent create food and water spell. The Safe House contains 3 bunk beds, has a single door which can be barred from the inside, and no windows are present. A permanent protection from evil spell has been cast on the building. The inside of the house also has a permanent control temperature spell present, keeping the temperature at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. There is also a small stone embedded in the ceiling with a continual light spell cast on it. Once the door to a Safe House is closed, it is sealed by a Wizard Lock. Access to a Safe House can be gained by pressing a guild badge against a small circle on the door, if the door is barred from the inside the adventurer trying to gain access will also have to circumvent that obstacle through negotiation or force.

A Chapter House is fronted by a Green Ale Tavern. Adventurers receive one free pint of Green Ale and one free meal every day, and may stay at the Inn without charge. The chapter house has a backroom available only to adventurers stocked with provisions and supplies. These supplies are given at a standard rate no matter location. Items stocked will include everything from the Expert Rules equipment section. The Green Ale Tavern will also always have a bulletin board where locals or adventurers may post help ads. Often the local populace that frequent the Green Ale Tavern can be hired as Hirelings or Torchbearers. Torchbearers generally start at 1cp/day, and Hirelings start at 1sp/day. The Chapter House will also have the same enchantments as a Safe House, excluding ration replenishing and the wizard locked door. The continual light will only be present in the main tavern.

A Guild House has all the amenities of a Chapter House with the addition of training facilities. A Guild House is a compound composed of  a large chapter house and separate buildings for each type of class to train in. In the center of the compound will be a courtyard dedicated to weapons training. The Guild House also contains a small alchemical laboratory available for the creation of potions and scrolls. Sometimes the Potions and Scrolls will be available for sale, these will be priced at 100sp/spell level of the potion/scroll. It is also possible to sell potions and scrolls to the guild at 3/4 price. If a character(the whole company must agree to such a sale) wishes to sell a more permanent magic item(such as a sword) he can do so by putting up an ad on a selling list in the Guild House and must negotiate for the price with the buyer. There is a 10% chance that 1-4 magic items will be up for sale at any time. Each Guild House has a secret closet with a teleportation spell which will take the Character to any other Guild House. An adventurer wishing to use this device must contact the local Guild Master who has a key to unlock the closet and a separate key to specify destination.

Training at the Guild House is as described in the current house rules document. To level up a character must pay 1/4 of xp needed to level and take 10 days to trains per level. Weapon mastery training is as described in the Masters Rules as if trained by a Grand Master.

06 June 2017

Government in the ancient world

I have been reading Caesar and Christ by Will Durant. It's a history of Rome and the rest of the ancient world at the time of Rome's dominance. Reading about the intrigues of the Romans, simply impressed upon me how complicated the laws and government of the Republic were. Often in modern society we have this opinion that our government is better than those in the past and that government was smaller and simpler. Yet if we study ancient history we find quite the opposite, their laws and customs were just as complicated and obscure as ours are today. just because their constitution wasn't written on a piece of paper doesn't mean it wasn't just as binding or important to them. The corruption present was probably greater then anything we have ever seen in the US. Everything we know about ancient Rome shows they were our equals in bureaucracy, legislation, class warfare, and corruption. This also applies to all the other ancient governments we have good records of. We can conclude that everyone of the ancient world, whether we have good records for them or not, had sophisticated governments because of all the ones we do know about and it doesn't make sense for other peoples not to govern themselves; it's not like certain groups of humans are less intelligent then others.

To link this topic to D&D is pretty simple. Every village, city, and country should have sophisticated laws and customs and methods of self-governance. There should be no group of humanoids (by humanoid I mean any species like humans in mental function and physical appearance) in a Utopian society where everything is shared and there is no central government, everybody just gets along. That just doesn't happen. There is always a government. The strong try to rule the weak, whether that is one very powerful man, or a group of aristocrats, or simply the majority in a democracy. Their is always a government and the methods by which it functions are complicated and based on ancient customs called "the constitution" and "common law". It is not like cities just appear overnight with no previous history. The history of a people determines and is determined by their laws and government.

03 June 2017

Armstrong Company, part 1 & 2

So there are a few session notes that I haven't posted yet, this is going to be from this last week, the first games of the summer.

Date: 31 May 2017
Edge, lvl 3 Mystic
Thaddeus Lightbringer, lvl 1 M-U

Calendar Date: 27 Kaldmont - 24 Thaumont

27 Kaldmont
     Thaddeus Lightbringer is lost in the woods/looking for adventure. He finds a gecko lizard that appears to be injured sprawled on its back in front of a cave. He attacks it, it fights back, more lizards come out of the cave, and he is injured and knocked unconscious.
      Edge is walking by on a nearby trail and hears screams. He runs into the woods and sees Thaddeus being munched on by lizards. He runs, picks him up and runs away. After he gets a safe distance away he performs first aid on Thaddeus. While traveling on the trail, a Tuatara lizard comes out of the trees and attacks Thaddeus. They manage to run away from it.

      They set upcamp for the night. Not long after dark, they are ambushed by a group of 10 iron ring bandits. The bandits try to put manacles on them, but both Thaddeus and Edge manage to escape, killing 2 bandits in the process. They are separated, and Thaddeus climbs a tree and sleeps the rest of the night. Edge plays a game of cat and mouse with the bandits for a good portion of the night and manages to kill 2 bandits, and capture 1.

28 Kaldmont
     In the morning Thaddeus and Edge find each other. They continue south along the trail through the forest (Edge is on his way back to his monastery). They reach Wereskalot in the afternoon. Told by Innkeep that a beast has been killing local sheep and kidnapping children. Edge gives his Iron Ring prisoner to Azemur, the only human in the halfling village, and Azemur gives him a pearl in return.When Thaddeus goes to Azemur's house afterwards, it is dark inside and no one answers the door.

29 Kaldmont
     They go north into the hills to hunt down the beast. A trail of sheep fur and blood and bits of cloth is easily followed. They pass an Ogre cave and the trail leads to a Dire Wolf den. They go back to the the Ogre cave and draw out and ogre and run towards the wolves. The wolves rush to attack them, they climb a tree; The Ogre throws the wolves a piece of meat and then proceeds to shake the tree in an attempt to shake the PCs out of it. They jump out of the tree and manage to run away towards Wereskalot.

30 Kaldmont
     Thaddeus writes a letter to the Adventurers Guild asking for help from his company to defeat these monsters.

31 Kaldmont - 24 Thaumont
     Edge and Thaddeus stay in Wereskalot allowing Thaddeus to heal from his injuries.

Date: 1 June 2017
Edge, lvl 3 Mystic
Thaddeus Lightbringer, lvl 1 M-U
Beren, lvl 5 fighter

Calendar Date: 25-26 Thaumont

25 Thaumont
    The Armstrong Company (12 NPC adventurers ranging from lvl 4-7 led by Beren) arrives in the morning. Beren sends one of his halfling adventurers to scout the territory. He finds evidence of 5 ogres and 5 dire wolves. The party journeys into the hills and and sets up camp before reaching the ogres' territory.
      During the night, Edge sees a moonbeam that looks nearly solid in the woods. He wakes up the rest of the party. Only some of the characters can see the moon beam. They decide not to investigate and go back to sleep

26 Thaumont
     In the morning they appraoch the Ogres' cave and hide in the trees nearby. Edge draws the ogres out. 5 ogres chase him into the trees, the rest of the party surprises the Ogres and attack. 4 Ogres are killed in the first round, the 5th Ogre runs back to the cave and rolls a stone in front of the entrance.
     The party then travels to the wolf den and attack them. they manage to kill all the wolves. They return to their camp and find it has been ransacked by Ogres and see tracks leading toward Wereskalot.

XP: 623 Each

31 May 2017

Building a Web Map, part 8

Since I'm going to be running a game today,  I wanted to be able to use the web map.  A big part of that usefulness fro me is the presences of hexagons for distance measurement. I know I already have a scale bar on the map, but I always find those pretty useless on interactive maps. So I generated hexagonal tessellation in ArcMap at 3 different scales: 6 mph, 24 mph, and 96 mph. I know Mystara is traditionally mapped at 48 or 72 mph at the smallest scale, but I felt I should be consistent in size difference because 24 is 4 times 6, whereas 72 is only 3 times 24, which works for the 8 mile hex, but I'm using 6 mph because I'm trying to stay consistent with the older source material and the 6 mile hex is great for measuring in general. Yes, that was a ridiculous run on sentence.

You may notice that the hexagon layer doesn't match up with the size of the hexes in the original maps. This is due to actually placing the maps in their geographic locations on Earth. I'm am positively sure that the "Continental Map" published in X1 and "The Grand Duchy of Karameikos" map published in the Expert set were developed prior to and independently of the "Known World" map which appeared in the masters set. So the map from Isle of Dread was smashed into a place on the world map that looked like it might fit, and the scale was retroactively applied to the world map. The scale of the hexagon layer and the scale bar are the accurate scale produced by matching the "Known World" map up with the map from the Jurassic, giving me actual geographic coordinates and a basis for an accurate map. If you prefer the original scale, it is fairly simple to convert; in most places the original hexes are 2/3 the size  they are supposed to be. So the 6 mile hexes in the original map are each about 4 miles across, thus the 6mph layer would be 8mph at the old scale.

Also you may notice a distortion of the hexagons as you get closer to the poles. This of course is due to the mercator projection used in pretty much all web maps. The hexagon tessellations appear as regular polygons in the mollweide projetcion (the original projection of the Known World map), but become warped in any other projections. Displayed in another equal area projection, such as the cylindrical equal area projection, the hexagons still maintain their area while shape is distorted.

28 May 2017

Building a Web Map, part 7

Sorry to anyone who actually keeps up with this blog, I know I haven't posted all week; I have been distracted by TotalWar. I haven't played any computer games all semester and I decided I have time and deserve a break, but then I got sucked into the hole that is Europa Barbarorum.

So, I finally updated the web map. It now shows a version of the poster map, along with a scan of the original known world and brun maps. I have started digitizing the smaller streams, and once I 'm done with that I plan to fix a few anomalies I didn't catch earlier so I can run the interpolation again. Then it should match the stream network on the poster map and I can move on to creating hexagons for the webmap and filling them with data.

20 May 2017

Building a Web Map, Part 6

School is now over!

I presented my thesis on monday, I'm going to upload it as a link in the sidebar. The web map has all of the locations placed with custom icons and popups.

also I finished a poster of Karameikos for another class, I'll also post a link along with the paper for that project, but here is a screenshot.

Of course I continue to plan working on this project, I am going to upload a modified version of the of the poster to the web map as a new basemap. From there I will probably be working on a hex overlay with info tied to each hex.

There are still a few locations that need to be placed, I'll listthem below with pertinent information, If you have any input, let me know.

  • Village of Kaldarak/plains of desolation, on road, between carrabridge and ford, several farms nearby, near dapleth woods home to elves and treants, Dungeon 15 pursuit of the Slayer
  • Elven Home, in sylvan wood, treeant, Dungeon 1 Elven Home
  • Elwyn's Sanctuary, deep wilderness, in domain of patriach sherlane, elwyn made deal with shrine of evil chaos, B9 and B1-9
  • fire giant home, large mountain with cae entrance in foothills, AC10
  • Tuma, mountains spurs in west, sylvan forest in north, desert around ctiy of tuma, most likely northwest of wereskalot in 5 shires or lake amsorak in darkokin, B8
  • Giant's castle, in northern mountains, more than 3 day journey from town to castle, above the treeline on a black mountain, AC10
  • guido's fort, probably on edge of malpheggi swamp south of darkin, B5
  • Haven, original orange book in gulluvia/glantri, green book in karameikos - 'valley in heart of altan tepes' according to B 1-9, placed north of lake of lost dreams south of zargash mountains in 83 expert
  • Highdell, on duke's road, at source of river, 83 expert
  • hive brood lair, near rugalov north of road, Dungeon 13 of nest and nations
  • mist raven, destroyed in explosion rebuilt, AC11
  • white dragon cave, 10 day journey into mountains, trail leads past and through mountains, in ravine with spring, pine trees, AC10
  • Mt Caylorne, abandoned dwarven city
  • port town, trade from caravans to south to north sea, zenopus tower on hill near city, Holmes Basic
  • Gray Mountain, in elven forest, middle eastern overtones, mountains to north, B7
  • spinyon, small village far from trade routes, grows corn and wheat, AC11
  • stonefast, abandoned dwarven stronghold, on edge of human territory, white dragon, classic D&D 
  • stone peak, dwarven kingdom, AC11
  • dragon lair, dragon in wulfwolde hills raiding peasants on edge of moor, Dungeon 27 Tarfil's tomb
  • Zanzer tem's Tower, near town, salt mines and dungeon below, classic D&D

03 May 2017

Building a Web Map, part 5

I have begun redoing the location markers. I have divided locations by category: settlement, stronghold, lair, ruins, and dungeon. I Have been working on updating one category at a time. I have finished the settlements. They can be seen on the webmap split into different layers with different icons. The categories of the settlements are based on the population of each place, based on the pop figures in the RC or Expert books. The different categories are Homestead, 1-49 pop; Village, 50-1,000 pop; Small Town, 1,000-4,999 pop; Large Town, 5,000-14,999 pop; City, 15,000-99,999 pop; and Metropolis, 100,000 or more pop, the last category being one I invented.

Of course Karameikos has no cities or metropolises, if you go with pre-gazetteer numbers. I think I am going to have Specularum have a population of 7,000 because it is stated as having 70,000 in Kingdom of Adventure. My general rule of thumb for pop figures post gaz is to divide everything by 10, but the city as shown in B6 is a little large for a medieval town of 5000 people even if you take the scale which shrinks the city. So I think 7,000 is a good compromise number; 5,000 of the people could be of thyatian origin, and 2,000 could be traladaran. the traladarans just aren't included in population figures normally. The same principle applies to Threshold. In the expert set the town is said to have 400 inhabitants plus 100 visitors, and then it says it has 500 inhabitants and 50 demihumans and visitors. Both those numbers are given on the same page. we could reconcile that by saying the extra 100 are traladarans not given full citizenship by the karameikans/thyatians.

Anyway, I created the settlement markers in Adobe Illustrator. I just traced an image of the legend given in the Kingdom of Adventure poster map, with some slight modifications. I have also created symbols for the stronghold and dungeon categories, but have yet to put those locations on the map and port them over to the web app.

Because blogger kept messing up the map, and the marker symbols, I decided to just have the blog redirect to a web portal on my student account at the school for now. It seems to be working just fine so far. I'm currently working on a new base map, based on the elevation model I created, as a side project for another class, and hope to finish it over the weekend, when I do I'll be uploading it to the web map as another base layer.

27 April 2017

Building a Web Map, part 4

Well, the most difficult and time consuming part of the project is done; the DEM is finished. It's not perfect, but the original data wasn't perfect either. Here is the finished product, followed by an explanation.

The first thing I did was I identify points where I knew the exact elevation. There were just a few of these such as mountain peaks. For others I had relative elevations, such as the keep on the borderlands. the contour lines were marked as change of 25ft in elevation, but I had no base elevation. At other places I had general descriptions or average elevation. Also there were the maps from B10, Night's Dark Terror which had ridge lines of mountains depicted. This was useful for knowing the direction of slopes and adding more details to those areas.

In order to determine which method of interpolation was best, I did some testing with the keep on the borderlands map, which can be seen in a previous post. Interpolation is a mathematical method of predicting what the values of a certain geographical point will be based on the known values of surrounding points. I ended up working with the Topo to Raster tool which uses the ANUDEM method developed by the Australian National University Fenner School of Environment and Society. It is essentially a modification of the standard spline interpolation method, which can be described as taking a rubber sheet and spreading it over a given area and making certain it passes though specific points. The ANUDEM method is unique in that it allows for the input of more than just points; you can include rivers, cliffs, contour lines, coastlines, hydrological sinks, and lakes.

I first created contour lines, cliffs, and rivers. Then to create elevation points I created a single point for each hex from various maps, whether they were 6mph, 3mph, 2mph, or 1/2 mph. then I selected different hexagons within a certain area and generated random values within a certain range based on descriptions in the text. For the mountain ranges shown in B10, I detailed the values a little bit more meticulously. Though this may sound fairly easy and simple, it was extremely time consuming and took a lot of fine tuning to get just right. In the end there were over 8000 input points! I often had to go back and run test interpolations to catch anomalies and fix those points to better match the description of the text. Below is a screenshot of all my input data. From the final result I created a hillshade which I then placed over the DEM as a transparent layer and got what you see above. I will upload it to the web version shortly.

26 April 2017

The Open Table

When I was younger I would play D&D with my family and a few friends. Whenever there was sufficient number of people present at our house interested in playing, we would start a game. we all had multiple characters who we would use in different campaigns/adventures. some time we would have the same character playing in two different adventures at the same time. which adventure we played was determined by who was present and out mood. We also tended to switch DMs for the longer campaigns, the prime example of this my Federation of Dargunn Campaign/setting, there were 6 different people who DMed that one continuous campaign with no less than 10 changes between DMs. We never completed any single campaign or adventure; there was no distinct change between games, and everything was just seen as a different adventures we played in D&D. By the end of High School I had approximately 30 characters, only 2 of which reached 10th level(David a fighter, and Galron the elf).

Since then, I have found that the rest of the RPG community doesn't play this way, they tend to stick to one campaign with one character until that campaign is finished or falls apart. Play tends to be a lot less free form, and more structured; because of the very nature of committing to play at a specific time So, what is an open table? It is a style of game play that involves a large pool of players that play frequently in smaller groups among a shared world. Many modern gamers are amazed when they hear that Gygax and Arneson had 20 or 50 players; they imagine how dificult it would be to run that amount of players all at once. What is misunderstood is how they would handle all those players. They played in smaller groups and many solo sessions, but the players in a group would rotate so there was no constant single campaign occurring.

The open table consists of a large group of players who may each have more than one PC. Depending on who shows up to any single gaming session, the players pick the PC they want to play at that time.This style of play can encourage greater participation and engagement in the setting of the game. Dungeons aren't meant to be 'cleared', and if they are something will take up residence in the now empty dungeon. The wilderness is constantly changing, there are always new things to discover. The world may change because of the actions of another group of PCs. Different parties can interact with each other, and ultimately multiple DMs can run run different groups in the same setting.

Following are some ground rules for the open table I am starting an open table at the college. Any company of PCs who goes adventuring will be part of that group until they return to chapter house of the adventurers guild. If Bob the fighter, Sally, the cleric, and Jim, the Thief, go into the dungeon of scary things, and they don't return by the end of the session, then those characters remain in that position until the game is picked up later by the same players. Bob the fighter would not be available for play in a different adventure until he is played again and returns to a chapter house. In this fashion, each player may have several different characters on several different adventures simultaneously, and also may have some in reserve at an adventurer guild house. Once a character has returned to a guild house, he or she is available for play in a later session at any location with a guild house. I will detail the Adventurers Guild in my next post.

21 April 2017

Keep on the Borderlands Hillshade

I used the elevation data from keep on the borderlands to test out DEM creation/manipulation. I used a ANUDEM interpolation tool in ArcMap, and from that I constructed a hillshade. below the original is is shown transparent over the hillshade both with and without color.

 The keep itself

The Caves of Chaos

I imported it into ArcScene so you could see it from different perspectives.
view from the road approaching the keep

view from the keep looking across the river

view into the ravine

20 April 2017

Wandering Stone part 1

Played a short session yesterday.

Date: 19 April 2017
Tavish, lvl 1 Dwaarf
Edge,  lvl 3 Mystic

Calendar Date 25-26 Kaldmont

We started out with just Tavish in the tavern in Luln. He asked the Barkeep if there was any adventure/work nearby. the barkeep told him about the haunted keep nearby, and that mistress Sascia might have some work for him. He went to talk to Sascia and she told him abut some bandits that had been waylaying merchants on the trail to fort doom. Tavish then went to the local brewer to fill up on mead, but he didn't like the price and wasn't able to successfully haggle the price down, so he left without buying anything. He left on the trail to fort doom and after a few hours came upon a border post. Tavish had to pay a toll to enter the Black Eagle Barony. after traveling for a few more hours night fell and he made camp.

In the morning Tavish found that he had drunk all his water so he quickly looked for a farm nearby. after about an hour he happened upon a farmhouse and was welcomed inside by a young mother. Soon after, Her husband came in from the fields for Dinner(lunch). They allowed him to restock on water and asked him to stay for the meal, but Tavish said he had to get going.

Later in the afternoon Tavish saw a strange spiderlike creature eating a horse on the road. After seeing him, the Rhagodessa attacked, and Tavish was almost immediately overpowered, but Edge happened to be traveling along the road at that instant. With Edge's help Tavish was able to kill the monster. 

XP: 125 each

15 April 2017

How are we not dead yet, part 3

Yesterday's game was kinda short, and I felt it was a little dull. Not every game is amazing though, and you have to take the good with the bad in D&D. I think part of the problem is my style of DMing because this has happened before with this group and others. I don't want to change because I view player choice as the fundamental heart of all RPGs, yet there are times when the players fail to make any choices. I don't want to push any sort of 'story' on the players; I try to present the world as it is, and it is the responsibility of the players to interact with that world. I am a referee or judge, not a storyteller. The story is a byproduct of the game, not what moves or creates the game; the players' actions and choices are the core of the game. Then again when sessions like yesterday occur I question myself and try to find what I did wrong or how I can improve.

Anyway on to the recap, the party finally picked a company name: How Are We Not Dead Yet (HAWNDY). Every adventuring group is part of the adventurers guild. The group is identified by a company name within the guild and may be composed of more adventurers than are currently being used. I'll have to write another post about the adventurer guild at some future point.

Date: 14 April 2017
Ozbrave, M-U lvl 3
Raveling, Thief lvl 5
Willem, Elf lvl2
Dilbert, Lizardman lvl 1
Dalia, Elf lvl 1

Calendar Date: 23 Kaldmont - 25 Kaldmont

23 kaldmont, weather = 11-20 degrees Fahrenheit, moderate humidity, 15 mph minds from north

We left off just after the party had defeated and captured an old elf hermit on an island in the bog. The session began with the interrogation of the Hermit. Ozbrave really wanted his spellbook, so kept asking questions to its whereabouts, but the mad ravings of the hermit were the only response he got, so he killed the hermit.

They then continued on to the forge. as they approached, they saw that there was a 20' tall wooden stockade guarded by kobolds and gnolls. they approached the gates, and told the guards they were interested in buying some swords which were supposed to be made here. The gnoll captain, Cosann, deliberated with them for a while and then left to go speak with his boss. After a few minutes he came back with an ogre named Graah. He showed them a blight blade, claimed that a wound from it would cause the victim to bleed continuously, and said they might be able to purchase one for 85 silver. he said before any purchases were made, he would have to talk to the 'Queen', but the party could stay inside the stockade while waiting for her reply. He left to talk to the the Queen, and Cosann led the party into the stockade to the gnoll barracks and said they could sleep there. after some initial non-conversation with the gnolls in the barracks, they decide to sleep outside.

24 Kaldmont, weather = 30-50 degrees Fahrenheit, High Humidity(misty), moderate rainfall

The party awoke just after midnight  when Graah arrived and said the witchqueen wanted to speak with them immediately. They were led to her residence, and talked with her in her foyer, which was decorated in demonic artwork. They negotiated with her and she led them on a tour of the facility, showing them the forge where Graah made the swords, the chasm where the blight was mined from the swamp, and her sacrificial platform above the chasm. They finally agreed on purchasing 10 swords at a total price of 850 silver. She said the crafting would take a few days, so they left and set up camp on the island outside of the stockade.

25 Kaldmont, weather = 15-35 degrees Fahrenheit,  High Humidity(misty),  15mph winds from North

At dawn, the a Merrow comes out of the swamp water and begins talking to the PCs. No one can understand him at first, but then he starts speaking in broken Lizardman. He asks for their help in curing a sickness and says lizardmen are the source of it. He dissapears back into the swamp. later in the day, Cosann and 5 kobolds come out of the stockade and say they have the swords. They deliver them wrapped in a bundle of hides. Ozbrave hands out the swords to the party members, and puts the extras in their wagon, and then they turn around ready to attack the kobolds.

XP: 40 each

14 April 2017

Building a Web Map, Part 3

I know its been awhile since I've updated the project; there's still a lot of work to be done before it's really finished. I just finished tabulating all the data from every source that gives information about karameikos.

Sources used include: 81 basic rules, 81 expert rules, x1, b5, holmes basic, 83 basic rules, 83 expert rules, b1, b2, ac2, sword of justice, ac10, b10, companion rules, chapel of silence, b9, elven home, x12, gaz1, b1-9, of nest and nations, wererats of relfren, in pursuit of the slayer, b11, ac11, tm1, tm2, b12, in the dread of night, tarfils tomb, hrothgar's resting place, night of fear, dda3, who's who among dragons, rules cyclopedia, dda4, warth of immortals book, novel ideas, ac1010, Ransom, champions of mystara book, karameikos ho, magic of karameikos, hail the heroes, classic dnd game, first quest adventure book, night of the vampire, menacing malady, voyageof the crimpshrine, kill bargle, karameikos kingdom of adventure.

I can finally move on and work on the actual map. YAY! Mapping is the easy part; data acquisition and preparation are always the most time consuming and difficult part of any GIS project. From here I am going to integrate all the maps from the above sources into my ArcMap document. I have already done many of them, such as the wilderness maps from b10 and ac2, but there are a few that need to still be added such as the map of the black eagle barony in dda3. At the same time I will be working on analyzing any topographic data and applying that to a Digital Elevation Model(DEM) from which any further basemaps will be developed.

In the morning I will be running my game continuing where we left off in the kelven moor.

11 April 2017

One Shot Session Notes

This last friday, no one showed up for the game at first besides one person, and I was about to leave and do some homework, when a new guy showed up. So because it was just the two of them and I knew I had to leave for work in a few hours I decided to run a short adventure I've done before, 'The Sword of Justice'. while the adventure is designed for 1st level characters, I gave them higher level characters because there were only two players. Later a few other guys showed up and I gave them some equal level characters. So without further ado, here are my notes:

Date: 7 April 2017
Orinthe, 3rd level Dwarf
Ozbrave, 3rd level M-U
Willem, 2nd level Elf
Aldren, 3rd level M-U
Ralph, 4th level Thief

Our party of heroes started in the town of Farstead looking for new adventures. They entered the Judges Inn and asked the barkeep if there was any work for them in town, who promptly directed them to a poster which Judge Miles had put up earlier that day. The poster simply said that the judge was looking for bounty hunters and to speak with him if interested. At this point Aldren and Ralph(we still only had 2 players at this point) went to the town hall and spoke with the judge in his office. He told them a story about a murder in town and the trial of an elf, Falrik, and how he had fled the trial and taken the sword of justice with him. After the elf had fled, the judge had discovered the true culprit of the crime was the captain of the watch. The judge wanted the party to find the elf so the judge could grant him a pardon and also to recover the sword of justice. he agreed to pay the party 200gp for the return of the elf, and 300gp for the return of the sword, and maybe 20 or 50 gp if they returned with clues about the whereabouts with either. The judge told them a peddler had seen an elf near the abandoned mansion of the wizard kanos, and that was the best lead the judge had right now.

The group then left town and traveled along an old trail leading to the mansion. On the trail they met an old witch gathering herbs, who they traded with. they gave her an enchanted dark ritual black candle in exchange for some snakespike, which can be used in a healing tea. 

When they arrived at the mansion Ralph circumvented it looking for other entrances and anything interesting. Aboiut 3/4 of the way around the house he found a well and a small side door. from the well he heard a voice calling for help. they rest of the party came around to look, they threw some rope and burning cloth down the well and determined no one was there, so they entered though the side door.

They kicked down the door(yes literally), and entered a kitchen which had been obviuposly ransacked before. It was long before they woke up and had to fight a gray ooze blending in with the kitchen table. After ransacking the kitchen some more, they opened the door to their right and entered that room. this was a dining room with a gold cutlery set and crystal goblet at the head of the table. As they were inspecting the room, a phantom figure(dressed like a butler) entered the room, and the whole party, besides ralph, were scared out of their wits and ran back to the kitchen. After gathering their composure, the rest of the party went back to the dining room and discovered the phantom just standing next to the head of the tale and nothing they did could get it to react to them.

So the party opened the door to a small bedroom and were attacked by a crab spider, which they subsequently killed. During the fight Ralph was poisoned by the spider. On killing the spider they all went into the bedroom, to look for loot. When they entered that room with the gold cutlery, the phantom in the dining hall smiled and dissapeared. they found a few coins of various denominations in the bedroom and then left to go back to the dining room and opened another door and went upstairs to one of the towers of the house. there they found a giant lizard which they killed. under the lizard they found a trap door with a key hole which they opened. When the trapdoor opened, noxious fumes were relaeased and everyone but Aldren fell asleep. Aldren was able to wake everyone up but ralph, who died from the spider poison. They then found a chest with some treasure under the trapdoor.

We ended there, and I told them that they went back to town and told the judge that they found no trace of falrik.

XP: 292 each

04 April 2017

Making mistakes as a DM

It can be difficult to run a good game. Dungeon Mastering is a performance, and can be very stressful. You have a number of people depending on you to entertain them. That doesn't mean all the responsibiliy lies on the DM to ensure the players enjoy themselves, but only that the players depend on the DM. A player won't enjoy an RPG session if they don't put in some effort, yet none of the players will be able to  have a good time if the DM doesn't perform well. The DM could be termed the fulcrum of a session, if you will. Everything hinges on him/her. Thus, being a DM comes with a lot of responsibility, and not everyone is willing to take on the job. Every DM has their ups and downs; nobody is perfect and sometimes we screw up.

My game a few weeks ago is a perfect example of this. The party was traveling to a village where they had learned an evil cult was going to receive a shipment of weapons. On the journey I rolled several random encounters and they stopped at a few towns along the way until they reached their destination. It was at this point that I realized I had neglected to have an event occur at a specific location on the journey. I was so focused on making the travel itself interesting and actually feel like there was some distance between towns that I had forgotten about the adventure. I faced a dilemma, either I could improvise and move on in the adventure as if nothing had happened, or I could 'rewind' and erase half the journey so that the group could experience the event before they reached their destination. I decided to ask for the opinion of the group. I let them decide whether to continue or go back. they opted to rewind the journey.

Many DMs would not have done what I did, they would have continued as if they had not made a mistake and continued to roll the adventure onward. I think that it is ok to improvise past mistakes if they have minimal impact to the game, but where there is a major error on your part the players should be informed. I realize it breaks the flow and immersion of the game,  yet it is also important to be honest with your players. T Here needs to be mutual trust between the DM and the players. It is often necessary to get player opinions, and cater to their desires. There are multiple arguments that can be made for or against what I did in the above scenario, but I think it is important to admit your mistakes to the players and try to fix them as a group.

What mistakes have you made as  a DM, and how did you rectify the situation?

25 March 2017

Building a Web Map, Part 2

Alright, I was finally able to get some basic markers and popups to work.  I wasn’t able to accomplish as much this week as I was hoping.  I ended up working extra hours this week because I was off school for spring break, so I couldn’t spend that time working on the map as I had planned.

Before placing any locations on the map, I organized the data I had preciously collected into one excel file. I split the locations into two broad categories, adventure locations and population locations. for adventures, I included data about type of adventure, ruin, dungeon, lair, mine, and graveyard; type of monsters present such as humanoid, or undead; the big boss of the adventure; and the source where the adventure can be found. For population centers I included different categories, type of population center, total population, faction loyalty, military capability, the current ruler, and main economic activities. For this category I included major humanoid locations that were the locations of a lair for an entire tribe.

Once I had all this data organized, I needed to create actual points in ArcMap to match to all the locations. To do this I used Thorfinn Tait’s updated map of Karameikos modified with forested hills as a reference. I was able to georeference this 8mph using the24mph expert map as a basis. however, this map doesn’t match up perfectly and I had to use more than two control points to get it to line up, even then it still doesn’t completely agree with the earlier 6mph map or the 24 mph map published in the expert set. The most notable differences occur in the route of the rivers and the shape of the peninsula by Specularum. There are also more hexes classified as mountainous as opposed to hilly, and some of the settlements are off by a smidge. These differences can be seen in the image below, the 8mph map is displayed at 50%transparency on top of the other maps with the created locations symbolized as red and purple circles. Once I had this reference map in place, I was able to create a new shapefile and add points features to it for each location. I used the 6mph map as a primary source, and where a location wasn’t marked on that map, I used the 8ph map.

With the point locations created, now I needed to join the data from my excel file to the shapefile. this proved troublesome. the join tool failed to operate when I attempted to join the two attribute tables with the excel table. I could have figured out the issue, which probably had something to do with the formatting of the excel table, but since I hadn’t created a great number of points I decided to just copy and paste the data from the excel file to the attribute table of the shapefile.

With my work in ArcMap completed, I moved on to moving the features I had created into the web map. This is where the most time was spent and I kept running into roadblocks. The main goal here was to convert the shapefile into a geoJSON format and then use that to create popups displaying the properties of each marker.  Converting to geoJSON seemed to be easy at first. There was a tool in ArcMap which allowed me to easily do this. however, the end result had to be modified. This is what the tool gave me for the adventure site of Koriszegy Keep:

{"type":"FeatureCollection","crs":{"type":"name","properties":{"name":"EPSG:3857"}},"features":[{"type":"Feature","id":0,"geometry":{"type":"Point","coordinates": 419432.17583047762,3141498.3623768883]},"properties":{"FID":0,"Id":0,"Name":"Koriszegy Keep","Type":"Ruins","Monsters":" Humanoids, Werewolves, Undead, Lowlife","Boss":" Rodemus Family","Module":"Modlvay Basic"}}]}

The issue here is the coordinates provided. In order for the point to be displayed properly the x and y values must be in decimal degrees; currently a northing and easting are displayed in meters, specific to the projection used (web Mercator). Also, the latitude and longitude values need to be swapped, so they appear as long(x), lat(y). Also, seen in the code above is the definition of the projection used (the section following crs), this can be deleted as the coordinates used in the future will be unprojected in decimal degrees. The resulting geoJSON feature looks like this:

{"type" : "FeatureCollection",  "features" : [{"type" : "Feature", "id" : 0, "geometry" : { "type" : "Point", "coordinates" : [3.76782, 27.1442 ]}, "properties" : {"FID" : 0,"Id" : 0,"Name" : "Koriszegy Keep", "Type" : "Ruins", "Monsters" : " Humanoids, Werewolves, Undead, Lowlife", "Boss" : " Rodemus Family", "Module" : "Modlvay Basic"} } ] }

When first trying to import this geoJSON into leaflet, nothing would happen. the feature was inserted as a variable within the body of the script at first, with the L.geoJson following the map initialization. I tried several different things to get it to work, some of which caused the map to not even initialize. I even attempted to use mapbox to display the data. I was able to upload the data, and display points, but o make popups work I had to rewrite the entire map code from scratch in the mapbox GL JS. This I failed to execute successfully, so I gave up on that. After a day of not being able to get anything done I was able to find some more examples and resources about geoJSON that I had not looked at before. I ended up placing the geoJSON variables in the header of the document in two separate scripts for each variable. It may not have been the most efficient way to write it, but it ended up working.  The last part I did was to have the markers be clickable and display the properties of each feature. This was done using the onEachFeature function combined with layer.bindPopup.

This post has grown larger than I expected, given the changes made to the map are relatively minor. In the next few weeks I will be adding more markers, different symbols based on feature type, a base map of my own devising, and possibly a routing option. If you have any comments about the process far, or have input about how the data should be displayed please leave a comment. 

20 March 2017

Building a Web Map, Part 1

I have put up a link to the web map under the blog header. At the moment, it is just a base map different scale maps. All the maps used in the app so far are replica maps made by Thorfinn Tait. Establishing a Base Map In a previous post, I discussed how the basis for all the maps of Mystara can be referenced back to a paleogeographic map from the early 80s. With the goal of determining an accurate geographic location for all the maps and places of Mystara, the original paleo map had to be georeferenced. Most raster images must be georeferenced at some point, whether it be an old historical map, or satellite imagery. Georeferencing is a process in which a map is placed on a geographic grid based on some key control points. Generally, the more control points the better fit. In this case as the late Jurassic map most likely served as the basis for a tracing which was modified to the map of Mystara, it was important to use only two control points in order to scale and rotate the map to the right position. This same principle applied to the georeferencing of all the other Mystara maps also. the control points to establish the position of the late Jurassic map, and thus all other maps, were based on the latitude and longitude lines of the original map. as shown below it can be seen that this process resulted in some of the outer longitude lines not matching up perfectly with a digital dataset of longitude and latitude lines. A second georeferencing was done with more control points, resulting in a perfect match between the digital coordinates and the image, but this also resulted in a less perfect match between the world map of Mystara and the late Jurassic map, so the origianl scaled image shown below was used as a basis for all other maps.

The world map of Mystara was georeferenced using the basis of the late Jurassic map. Control points used were points along the coastlines that were common to both maps. this resulted in a less than perfect match, so both points had to be moved until a best fit was found; the end result showing a comparison between the two can be seen below.

In order to fix the larger scale maps to this model accurately it was necessary to use a continental map from the D&D Dungeon Masters Companion: Book Two, which shows outlines of exactly how the larger scale hexagonal maps fit into the world map. A personal scanned copy of this map which had been matched to the world map using GIMP, was then georeferenced to the same location as the map pictured above. Based on the continental map, the map presented in X1: Isle of Dread was georeferenced.

At this point, colored version of the same maps already discussed were georeferenced, along with the 6 mile per hex(mph) map that appeared in the D&D expert rulebook published in 1981.

Moving the Base map to the Web with a general base map is established, work can begin on the web application. The web map was built using leaflet and mapbox. After learning the basics of mapbox, each of the layers (the world map, continental map of Brun, 24mph known world map, and 6mph Karameikos map) established in ArcGIS was imported as a tile set into mapbox. While doing this, it was discovered that mapbox needed raster tile sets to be already established in the Web Mercator projection. If this was not done map box would either take a very long time to reproject the raster, or be unable to upload the raster entirely. Another issue that was encountered occurred when loading a raster formatted with a color map. when this raster was uploaded to mapbox the result was a greyscale image. To properly display color rasters in mapbox, all images must be in an 8-bit unsigned three color band format (three versions of the image in red, green, and blue). Thus, all the images were reprojected in the web Mercator projection and converted to a three-color band format. Once all four tile sets were uploaded they were added to a single style in map box, and opacity was adjusted for each image dependent on zoom level. below is a view of Mystara in the web Mercator format, and as expected, the poles are severely warped; outlines of current continents are shown for comparison. 

With the base map hosted on map box it was fairly easy to port that over to a leaflet application. This is the code so far. I put the map on a separate page on the blog which is linked underneath the header just as test to make sure it works. Next steps involve adding location markers and popups with data.

18 March 2017

How are we not dead yet, part 2

Date: 17 March 2017 Karameikan Calendar Date:19 Kaldmont - 23 Kaldmont
Henry, lvl 1 fighter
Ozbrave, lvl 3 M-U
Matt, lvl 3 M-U
Edge, lvl 3 Mystic
Raveling, lvl 5 thief
Dilbert, lvl 1 Lizardman
Bladus, lvl 1 Fighter
Bilbo, lvl 1 Thief
Willem, lvl 2 Elf
Ranulf, lvl 2 Fighter
Dr Happy, lvl 2 Cleric
Daila, Lvl 1 elf

We started the game by leveling up characters who gained enough xp from last session: Raveling, Edge, Ozbrave, and Matt, and Willem.

19 Kaldmont - weather = 10-18 degrees Fahrenheit, low humidity, no winds.
     The party continues on their journey north. In the morning they encounter some villagers running south along the road in panic. One of them has his hair on fire. They scream warnings about a red dragon and continue fleeing south. Party drives wagon off road into forest in attempt to hide, other individuals in party attempt to hide behind trees. They see an adult red dragon come flying over trees and bite head off of peasant who was slower than the rest, he circles around and come back to the dead body, sniffs it, and flies away.
     The party continues on the road north. after about a mile they find small farming village on side of road burnt down. they search the remains and find a small chest with 100 crona. They continue traveling until dark and make camp.

20 Kaldmont - weather = 10-25 degrees Fahrenheit, low humidity, no winds.
     The party continues north. the day passes uneventfully. Towards dusk they approach Kelvin and stay at an inn.

21 Kaldmont - weather = 10-18 degrees Fahrenheit, moderate humidity, no winds.
     The party goes shopping, buys winter clothes and fresh food and a few weapons. They continue on the Duke's Road north. About midday they find a hole that has been recently dug in the middle of the road. It is 5' diameter, and 8' deep. They investigate it for a few minutes and move on, camping when darkness falls.
     At about midnight, Henry is keeping watch. he hears the shriek of an eagle. He wakes up Willem and Dilbert. They look towards the source of  the sound and see a giant bird above them. Henry wakes everyone else up. The bird lands next to the wagon and starts rummaging through it. Willem and Dilbert both throw missiles at it, but miss. The rest of the party is now awake and attack the Roc with missile weapons. It becomes frightened and begins to fly away, but Ozbrave hits it with his necklace of Fireballs. It dies and falls to the ground. The party cuts it up and eats some of it and stores the rest of it in the wagon.

22 Kaldmont - weather = 15-26 degrees Fahrenheit, high humidity, no winds.
     As the party continues north on the road, a heavy mist moves in from the swamp and envelopes them. A horrible rotting stench comes with the mist. After a few hours of traveling they hear noises of combat, and a horse comes galloping out of the mist dragging a dead rider behind it. The rider is an orc armed in rusted mail.
     They go towards the noise and find four overturned wagons, several dead orc bodies, dead horses, deadslave bodies, and deep furrows in the ground. The good from the wagons are all spoiled or broken, they included provisions, and crude black swords. Henry goes scouting into the swamp, and hears deep breathes. he goes further and sees the head of a black dragon looking at him. He turns around and runs away yelling. The dragon chases him, and runs towards the rest of the party. Ozbrave hits it with his wand of fireballs. The dragon runs forward and breathes a line of acid, injuring Ozbrave, Willem, Daila, Bladus, Raveling and Edge. Matt casts a globe of continual darkness around the dragon, the rest of the party shoots blindly into the globe. The dragon comes limping out and melees Ranulf, while the rest of the party attacks the dragon. The dragon takesto thewing and starts to fly away, Matt takes the necklace of fireballs from Ozbrave and hits the dragon, killing it.

     During the whole combat it was apparent that the dragon was suffering from some sort of disease and that he couldn't summon the strength to use his breath weapon after the first attack. When he died the dragon exploded and a bitter acid landed on everyone.
     The party now sees two crude wooden bridges leading into the swamp, they hear voices of orcs on one bridge so decide to take the other. The bridge leads to a smallislandin the swamp with a dead tree and an old statue of some forgotten king. They search the island and find a large silver neck circlet 5' in diameter, with a riddle inscribed on the inside, "Prince and Pauper, King and Knave, equals in his wake."  The statue has a carving of the head of a five eyeddemon hanging from its belt. Ozbrave casts detect magic on the statueand is able to determine that the statue is a construct ofsome sort, so they avoid it.
    The returns to the other bridge and Ozbrave goes forward andparleys with the orcs. After learning that the dragon is deadby their hand, the orcs want to celebrate with the party. They drink and eat, and cut off Willem's hair. The party learns that the orcs are part of the cult of the dragon. THeir cult is trying to ressurect and ancient evil reddragon. A kobpld sect of the cultwas tasked with ressurecting the dragon's human companion, a human wizard named Tsathzar Rho, who had helped the dragon conquer many lands. The orcs had just traded asignificant amount of the cultswealth for a shipment of swords of blight. Swords of blight are made at the forge in the swamp, ruled by Kyleth, an vil sorceress, knownas the witch queen. They give the party a crude map of the swamp, and agreeto take them to the forge. The party campswith the orcsfor the night.

23 Kaldmont - weather = 11-20 degrees Fahrenheit, moderate humidity, 15 mph minds from north.

     The party is led by the orcs across another bridge to a larger island. in one corner of this island is a hut, which the orcs identify as the hut of a hermit that they avoid. the party goes in, the hermit is an ancient elf who babbles about curing a sickness and joining his army to destroy the witch queen. he then commands 10 skeletons to attack the party. They quickly dispatch the skeletons and tie up the old man. They find someof his diaries, most of wich is illegible. what they can read is cryptic ravings of a madman.

XP earned: 313 per character

16 March 2017

How are we not dead yet, part 1

So I plan on keeping notes for my current D&D campaign, starting with last week's events

Characters present:
Raveling lvl 4 thief
Edge lvl 1 mystic
Dr. Happy lvl 1 cleric
Willem lvl 1 elf
Ronalf lvl1 fighter
Matt lvl 1 m-u
ozbrave lvl 1 m-u
Chelsea lvl 2 druid

Previously: The party had just finished an adventure in a dungeon beneath Koriszegy Keep where they defeated a kobold cult trying to resurrect Tsathzar Rho, an ancient sorcerer. After returning to town (Luln) they were contacted by an agent of the Duke who had received word about the rise of this cult in his domain. the agent had recently discovered the plans of the cult to perform a dark ritual at the standing stones in the forest nearby. While discussing a plan to sabotage the ritual the agent was assassinated and the assassin escaped. The party continued with their plans to stop the ritual  and were successful, either killing or chasing off the cultists. They captured one cultist and were able to withdraw information from him. he revealed that the cult receives weapon shipments at the village of Stallanford. At this point the party returned to Luln and sold some of their loot from the dungeon. they then took a wagon with more loot, mostly a library that they plundered, to Specularum to find a buyer for the collection.

Date 10 March 2017, calendar date:18 sviftmont - 18 kaldmont

At this point the party reached Specularum  in the late evening after the gates to city were shut. they were able to bribe the guards to let them in. They stayed the night at the Rattlebone inn. The next day they went to various merchants and were able to sell their gems and other miscellaneous items. they were able to sell their collection of books to senator Eipoistlo in the Hill district. They initialyy couldn't find anyone to buy  the Black Candles from them, but were able to convince Ceesar the sage to buy them. At this point those with enough experience found the local chapter of the Adventurers Guild and spent time training to level up. they then left the city and began the journey north along the dukes road. we ended with them about 15 miles north of Krakatos.

Things of Note:
Black Candles - the party learned that these candles were magically created specifically for dark rituals. They are made from the blood of 5 different species, men, elves, dwarves, dragons, and rakasta combined with fat of orcs.

Adventurers Guild: this guild was created in the city of dragons located north of the lost valley. The guild has chapters in most major cities throughout the known world. Each chapter provides training for adventurers, a place to sell loot, buy equipment, and recruit new members.

27 February 2017

The Project

First off, let’s talk a little bit about my background. I have been playing Dungeons and Dragons for as long as I can remember (about 20 years). One of my earliest memories is waiting for my Dad to come home from work so I could play my first game of D&D. That first character was an elf named Zeniff. We had later forgotten I played that character, and my family insisted I hadn’t played D&D before we moved to our new house; they insisted my first character was my cleric, Paul. When I was in high school we found Zeniff’s old character sheet, so I could finally prove I played D&D at the old house. Anyway, we played using the old BECMI boxed sets in the Known World, and were pretty isolated from anyone else who played D&D until middle school and high school.

When I was in middle school I played a few games of Alternity, Rifts, and World of Darkness with my older sisters’ friends who were in high school. It was about the same time that I became aware of the 3rd Edition of D&D and other RPG groups. I DMed my first game when I was a sophomore in high school. It was also during high school that I began to read RPG forums (like ENworld) and blogs. By the end of high school, I had made so many houserules and adaptations from other games in order to ‘fix’ D&D that I decided to create my own game system. The first complete version was finished by the end of 2010; currently I’m in the middle of editing, reorganizing and rewriting large parts of my system. I’ll post more details about it at some point in the future.

On to the matter at hand, I am currently studying Geography at the University of California Northridge. I will be graduating at the end of this semester and am working on my capstone project.  My project will consist of building a web map and analyzing the benefits and drawbacks of such an application, specifically in regards to fantasy and rpg maps. 

Computer based mapping in the form of GIS software has been around for several years. Digital map making is nothing new, but for a long time only those with the right skills and training could make use of GIS software in order to create digital maps. The end result was often a static map, in paper form, or as a part of a digital presentation. The basic cartographic design has remained relatively stable in this transformation of medium. However, the introduction and widespread use of web maps is having a dramatic effect on the profession. The ability of a web map to be interactive affects many of the basic assumptions about creating a good map. Things as simple as zooming in and out and panning around on a web page influence how a map is perceived and used. With the web map, the main concern is how the map will be used by the public more than strictly adhering to any single dogma of how to make a good map.

In the midst of all this change in the field of cartography, publications dealing with the fantastic are left behind. The common paperback novel still has the same style of generic fantasy map that persisted thirty years ago. Maps of fantasy worlds have been published in RPG books for decades with little change. These maps are also often released as pdfs, but they were designed to be printed either as poster or on a page in a book. The cartographers of the RPG industry rarely use or make hand drawn maps, but they are not using GIS software either.  Campaign Cartographer, Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Publisher are common software programs used among fantasy cartographers. The maps produced are often aesthetically pleasing, but of little use if trying to describe a location.

The goal of this project is to show how fantasy cartography can make use of modern technology and how that will benefit those who play RPGs. The webmap I construct will showcase the world of Mystara.

The world of Mystara is a fantasy setting that was developed for the Dungeons and Dragons game in the early 80s. It was specifically made to introduce new gamers into a setting that contained all the elements of Dungeons and Dragons and showcased how a new Dungeon Master might create a fantasy world. Most of the countries in the setting were modeled after a real world historical cultural in order to show new gamers how to use different aspects from history as inspiration for a fun game. The actual world map was derived from a paleogeographic map of the earth during the Jurassic period. Ultimately many different versions of this setting were published over the course of about 15 years in many different game books. These publications often contradicted each other or redrew the map in some places. A lot of work has already been done by fans in solving contradictions and filling in gaps. However, a lot of this work has been undertaken under some faulty assumptions and are not geographically accurate as a result.

This project will focus on the Grand Duchy of Karameikos in the fantasy world of Mystara. The culture of the area can be described as resembling medieval England shortly after the Norman conquest in 1066. The country covers an area of approximately 22,260 square miles, an area slightly larger than modern Croatia. The reason for focusing on this area is to limit the scope of the project, in addition to the fact that this area has the greatest amount of detail published about it within the world of Mystara.

As stated previously, the work of others, though amazing and not to be belittled, has almost entirely been based on some false geographic assumptions. The first and probably most important detail ignored is the origin of the world map. The world of Mystara is clearly stated to take place on earth long ago in one of the rulebooks (even though it is also stated that the Dungeon Master can change this fact).
The home world of human player characters as portrayed in the D&D Basic, Expert, Companion, and Master sets is . . . simply our real one, but at a point in the far past. The land masses diagrammed in the Companion set are a rough depiction of the ancient world of Pangea. The continents have only begun to drift from their early unified position, following the modern theories of the shifting tectonic plates. . . We have the elements of fantasy to this likely early configuration, and the result is the campaign world described in the boxed sets and adventures. This period of Earth’s history is therefore known as the Age of Magic. (DM’s guide to Immortals, p. 5)
In addition to this several times in recent years the creator of the world, Frank Mentzer has stated that the basis of the world map was a historical map of Pangea.

“Some of the Suits wanted to create their own in-house campaign world for D&D (i.e. no royalties for a change) and thus Mystara was born. It started with a worldmap of Pangaea from Francois Froideval, twiddled by yours truly, and introduced in brief in the DM's Companion and extended to the entire world in the Master DM's Book." (Frank Mentzer, 4 Aug 05, http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=106&t=10717&p=216320&hilit=Francois#p216320 )

during BECMI the topic of a Base World did come up, and Tom Moldvay had included certain details in his set (and Zeb's X-1 module likewise). I remember discussing the topic with various folks (mostly Gary), and Francois Marcella Froideval contributed a map of earth dating geologically somewhere between single-land-mass preprepreprehistory and the current state of continential drift. (Frank Mentzer, 2 Sep 10, http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=106&t=35588&p=947988&hilit=Francois#p947988 )

Though Francois and I had frequent contact, as we were both creative friends of Gary, I wasn't familiar with the things he did while he visited TSR. I don't even know if he was an employee. Early in the period that I was developing BECMI I had openly invited everyone to contribute or participate, and Francois retooled the historical map of Pangaea (Earth before continental drift) as a suggestion for my new world, and I accepted it and took it from there. (Frank Mentzer, 31 Aug 06, http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=10717&start=1500 )

“We played with plate tectonics as early as '82 (when Francois pushed it)” (Frank Mentzer, 23 Oct 13, http://www.thepiazza.org.uk/bb/viewtopic.php?f=85&t=11264&p=134142&hilit=francois#p134142 )

This idea of setting D&D as Earth’s Age of Magic was ignored in later publications, so numerous contradictions grew up between the early publications and later expansion material.

“One interesting side effect: since I was doing the entire boxed set line alone, and since TSR was using committees for most of its designs of that magnitude -- a procedure with which I simply refuse to comply; I almost always work alone -- I was not only uninvolved with the Mystara world line but was also never consulted about anything in it” (Frank Mentzer, 4 Aug 05, http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=106&t=10717&p=216320&hilit=Francois#p216320 )

Figure 1

The modified map of Pangea was presented in the Masters set as seen in figure 1 without any geographical reference (latitude or longitude, projection, scale), and any work that subsequently expanded on it has been guesswork. Taking the statement that Mystara is earth in the past as a basis, then it follows that earth’s geography and everything we know about mapping the earth’s surface should be applied to Mystara as well. If modern paleogeographic maps are examined, it can be seen that the map of Mystara closely matches that of the late Jurassic period (http://www.scotese.com/late1.htm ), yet the match is not exact. A map of the same geologic time period must be found that would have been available to the publishers of Dungeons and Dragons before the release of the continental and world maps of Mystara. From the quotes above it can be surmised that work on the world map had begun as early 1982 or 83. This was well in advance of the publication of the Companion set which was released in 84. A map matching our criteria can be found in a publication about rainfall patterns in the Mesozoic (Parrish 1982). This map almost perfectly matches that of the world map of Mystara(compare Figure 2 with Figure 1). Based on the original paleomap I will be using the Mollweide projection to map Mystara.
Figure 2

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