Wednesday, September 11, 2013

D&D Omni-Style

A couple years back I remember seeing on some forum or the other an entirely weird (and there for wonderful) collage-like ad for our favorite fantasy game from OMNI magazine. 

With a vaguely New Wave aesthetic backed by the liquid surrealism that seemed to be the bread and butter of the art of that magazine (a look and tone that seeped way down into the space opera reaches of my soul) the ad really stood out from the cartoony ones that TSR pumped out at the time in its quest for a young market share.

Until lunch hour--in which I happened to be (virtually) flipping through two more issues from the late part of 1981—I was unaware that that ad had some companions. All three posted here for your non-ironic/ironically-detached viewing pleasure.

(By the way, you can find the entire run of OMNI here legally and free.)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Don Featherstone R.I.P.

Just heard from a friend that DonaldFeatherstone passed away yesterday at 95 from complications following a fall at his flat in Southampton, UK. Featherstone was for mini wargamers one of the pioneering hobby giants and great popularizers along with (his close friend) Tony Bath, Charles Grant and (the other) Phil Barker.
Featherstone as a young tanker in WW2.
An oral account of his combat experience can be found here
Though he had a tendency to sometimes lapse into Colonel Blimpness in his historical writings on the small wars of the Victorian Age, he left behind a long legacy of incredibly useful and experimental books on wargaming.

Featherstone was particularly fond of the blackpowder period armies, however his books and other writing exhibited a wide ranging understanding and a creativity many times bordering on the wide-open imaginative play often associated with roleplaying games. His book Solo Wargaming, for instance, has a fascinating chapter on 19th-century solo campaigns on the Northwest Frontier of South Asia including some interesting examples of fake newspaper/campaign journals (see my scan below) spinning stories out of the emergent play at the wargame table.
Click to enlarge. 

Fortunately thanks to John Curry's History of Wargames project you can buy new, affordable reprints of much of his work (why doesn't the rpg hobby have an equivalent). Find a list of those books here.

Don Featherstone, presente.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Pompeii as Model Undercity or Ruins

Over the long weekend besides running a surprisingly-fun character-generation only session of the new Hill Cantrevs/Beyond the Wall mini-campaign (more about that later) and basking in the never-ending white-hot Texas sun, I had some mental room to get back to working on my cyclopean city-ruins pointcrawl project.

In the course of doing some research on real world existing ruins I discovered some wonderful, “I would be challenged to do it better” finds.

I am a firm believer in non-linear site design (thanks to that thought-provoking  old analysis by Melan) and how that makes for richer, more-interesting gameplay for the site-based focus of D&D, it's stunning just how much real sites seem to provide rich examples. And even more wonderful that thanks to the vast Annwn storehouse of stolen knowledge how easy it is to rustle up some inspiring visual examples.

Take Pompeii.

Truth be told I have modified actual-existing small-scale maps of that city for my Jakallan undercity (and later Kezmarok undercity when I shamelessly reskinned it), but at the time had never seen a larger-scale block map. Now thanks to Guide Archeologiche Mondadori: Pompei  by Eugenio La Rocca, Mariette and Arnold de Vos check this out.
Click to enlarge.

Notice how you have large access street-corridors with several avenues of approach. These can take the place of central staircases or main corridors of mega-dungeons that provide quick access to the “deeper” sections while presenting players with a number of exploratory choices. With the numbering system already here you can project a pointcrawl system quite easily to help guide travel and exploration in the zoomed out mode.

Even better is how the Roman-penchant for creating dense urban complexes (insulae) breaks the blocks down into a number of smaller discreet areas themselves sub-divided with large numbers of interlocked, non-linear choices. The above-mentioned book and some other internet sources even provide a wonderful selection of “pre-keyed” micro-examples of the city's larger villas, each of them could make for nice little sub-dungeons. (Note that these maps are mostly sites from that larger block map.)