Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tower of Blood 2nd Printing Shipping

The ordering platform was enabled for ToB 2nd Printing at 12:19pm CST.

Thanks to the fans who voiced such strong interest in this!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tower of Blood 2nd Printing Available July 29th

I received the booklets for Tower of Blood late yesterday and am now collating them and packaging. Sometime after noon on the 29th I will enable the ordering platform so that purchases can be made. I will announce this not only here, but at our forums and by email to those who have been on the waiting list since it went OOP.

The demand for this title is extremely high, so I doubt that even with the extra batch I ordered that these will last longer than 2 weeks max.

Boreal Level Map (Sample)

Ramsey and I are conferring by phone this week over the next map he's rendered, a sample of which should be an appropriate teaser. Next in line after we've put this one to bed is the Machine Level which EGG's main PCs playtested (just as Robilar did Tomb of Horrors) before we placed it in the Castle precincts.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Original Castle Levels Project

I have been receiving many inquiries regarding this project and the book of tales, essays and other early day commentaries, Lord of the Green Dragons. An in depth synopsis of the Castle project follows.

When PPP put these into the production schedule we had two projects due out at the time which would float, so to speak, the publication of the Castle project and LotGD. Unfortunately, the person that was to complete these projects did not do so. This set us back with everything thereafter, and the publishing schedule had to be remade (as is now being addressed). In between, Ed Kann finished the FC illustrations (4, with 2 having already been finished by ATOM); Ed was then to do what Ramsey Dow is now doing, re-render the six (6) castle levels. Unfortunately, again, Ed had to drop out of gaming and associated creating due to very personal issues, which I understood. While taking up the slack for the missing two projects to keep us on target with releases, I now found myself scrambling to get all the pre-press stuff juggled as well, and that is where Ramsey, Hextor bless his soul, came in (with help from his beautiful lady, "Z").

Ramsey and I are working at breakneck speeds to get everything finished. The Castle levels (at least these first 6, as there are more to follow), will be released in 2 sets of x3 levels each, with an estimated page count of 24-32 printed pages per booklet and with three booklets per set. Each will have a color map and a reproduction of my hand-drawn original map. The levels will either be available as single issues or as sets, as noted, with a sizable discount if one purchases the sets. This will also allow a reduction in combined mailing costs as opposed to being purchased separately over time.

There is so much Original Campaign material slated for future publication that I am quite sure that I will be kept busy for many years to come. Beside the Castle Levels, there is the City, the extensive sewers beneath, Special levels (like the Annex), Demonworld, more magic, NPCs and PCs from the OC, spells, one-off adventures and army/unit organizations, etc., etc. Though I contributed about 15 levels to the OCastle, by that time many of the PCs were moving to the outdoor and city adventures (or specials); so as EGG continued crafting rules and such, I was busy with campaign crafting, and was getting more detailed about things from the way they originally appeared in our sketch notes. Major work was done by myself on the City and Sewers, for example, and that is why I have elected to add that to a growing list of future products for the line.

I hope that explains a little and more of my intent and position regarding this project. It has the highest priority after our next drive, which I hope is a successful one. :) After the Castle levels we should be in a poisition to do LotGD, which is for the most part finished except for 10,000 additional words and then editing.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wrapping Up a Very Busy Month

I have been too busy as usual what with an upcoming drive. Let's see, some tidbits...

I am in the middle of organizing the pieces to get Black Festival ready for the layout person.

I am ordering the details of an adventure to be to written with another chap having to do with the Original Campaign: The Cursed Village.

I am ordering another part of a secret project PART 2 for another person to draw the maps for.

Ramsey (Yesmar) finished secret project PART 1.

Ramsey Dow and I had a phone conversation the other day (whew, 2 or so hours long) and finalized the go ahead for the next Original Castle map, The Boreal Level. He is now rendering it. Ramsey is real cool and so is his lady, Z, who helps as well. Real neat.

I am about to get my remaining short stories off to our editor, David Coalter.

I am waiting on Tower of Blood, which did not ship today, so I expect it to be available next week Tuesday.

In the middle of outlining a new project as well as plugging away at a new essay length post for the blog.

In between, reorganizing the Living Room adventure to be reprinted as a saddle-stitched booklet with a color cover and with additional material. This might take the place of DHALT which I am falling behind on with so much organizational stuff, but we'll see what reserves I have left for it.

Also communicating with NTRPGCon on a very special adventure I am crafting for next year's event.

I also keep up a steady stream of research each week as well as scratch my ear on occasion...

Did I mention that I went shopping today? Home made tacos for dinner. :) Afterward, if I am not already dead to the wind, I will savor a flute or two of Perrier Jouet Grand Brut to help issue me off to Dreamland...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wolfar: Black Festival Art (Sample)

Wolfar is a barbarian, an educated Frank, who I created back in 1989. I wrote a lone novella of 20,000 words on his most daring exploit entitled, "Black Festival." This will be available soon. I have other stories outlined that I will write and publish which pertain to his various adventures here or there throughout Francia and the Mediterranean world. The action for Black Festival takes place in historical Aquintaine, Lombard and other remote parts of the area as the action shifts. The story has many fantasy elements and thus can be considered a "historical fantasy," but I chose the locale mainly due to the colorful nature of Francia at that time and the admixture of pagan and Carolingian Empire spices. It does not compare to Clark Ashton Smith's Averoigne in as much as it follows the bent of a Fafhrd minus the Gray Mouser, with some attention given to the far-ranging story line which even touches upon Wolfar's past wherein he was a Moorish galley slave. I hope that our fans appreciate this when published and support our line of fantasy fiction that I intend to publish, with this being the first of the batch! :)

Tower of Blood 2nd Printing

Tower of Blood (2nd Printing) is off to the printers and should be available as early as the weekend or at least by early next week. I ordered double the number of reprints for this than I did for CAS1
(120) as there has been a larger demand for it, presumably because we only issued 350 of them (as opposed to 500 for Cairn) in the initial print run. These will go very fast, so stay tuned! :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cairn of the Skeleton King 2nd Printing Sold Out

The limited reprinting of this adventure has been sold out.

There may be more reprints in the future based upon demand.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Tormented Trees

Long time no post. Been busy with work, life and preparing some material for the Lord, among other things (that is Lord as in Green Dragons, not Yahweh or Jehovah - just so we're clear - I'm not preparing anything for the Other Guy just now)

Anyway, in recent fiddlings about seeking inspiration from natural sources, I stumbled up against this weird little website, and especially the section of pictures pertaining to unique trees. There are some decent dendrites with tales to tell in that lot.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Ever Wonder Why...

That newer Fantasy in Games is becoming a laughing stock? I don't...

From a WotC Board Post:

"Level 30 Elf Paladin / Astral Weapon / Demigod
Elven Accuracy
Pray for More
Divine Miracle
Vorpal Weapon
[!] Given this build, there are no additional feats, optional class powers, or ability scores that are required to accomplish the trick.

How it works:
Setup: Before attacking you must expend every encounter power you have except Elven Accuracy.
Step (1) Approach your enemy.
Step (2) Perform a basic melee attack.
∟(2a) Regardless of the roll (even a natural 20), use Elven Accuracy to reroll.
Step (3) Reroll your attack. After rerolling, Elven Accuracy has been expended and you can use Divine Miracle.
∟(3a) If you roll a natural 20, you hit. Use Divine Miracle to recover Pray for More.
∟(3b) If you do not roll a natural 20, you might not hit. Use Divine Miracle to recover Elven Accuracy . Repeat Step (3).
Step (4) Roll for damage.
∟(4a) If you roll max damage, roll an additional die as provided by Vorpal Weapon. Repeat Step (4).
∟(4b) If you do not roll max damage, use Pray for More to reroll your damage. Upon expending Pray for More, use Divine Miracle to recover it. Repeat Step (4).
Step (5) Repeat Step (4) until your damage is greater than your target's hit points and other miscellaneous modifiers such as temporary hit points or resistances.
Step (6) To end the cycle after completing Step (5), Use Divine Miracle to recover Elven Accuracy instead of Pray for More. Thus, you will be able to repeat this trick upon your next attack.

This build is capable of instantly killing anything with a basic melee attack at-will. Furthermore, the trick can be accomplished with any At-Will or Daily power also. However, It can not be used with an Encounter power! Astral Whirlwind would be great if you ever ran into a pack of Elder Red Dragons. You could even perform this trick multiple times in a single turn from things such as Opportunity Attacks or other bonus attacks.

Furthermore, the build is completely independent of feats, other powers, and ability scores. In terms of optimizing any of those, I would suggest optimizing your survivability as you no longer need to worry about your offensive capabilities.

Also, the base class of Paladin is not required. Only Astral Weapon and Demigod are required. Therefore, in the pursuit of defeating Orcus with each class, Level 30 Elf x / Astral Weapon / Demigod with Soldier of the Faith can serve as a template for any class.


How enjoyable...

Inspiration Via Music

There is so much music that inspires me, but this one, and others on Achillea's album, "The Nine Worlds," does the trick. By Jens Gad of Enigma, and with stunning vocals by Helene Horlyck, this is indeed a treat. Helene performs in ancient Swedish and Latin, and her evocations are supreme treasures when mixed with the music. Makes my Nordic heritage come alive, wanting to detail GH's Valhalla level before its time! Anyway, I immediately bought the CD and all of her work, as I find her voice just so enchanting.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Most Beautiful Net-Stop

E.G. Palmer pointed me to this site several months ago and I continue to be impressed with its wide and varied visual content. For those who have not discovered it, click here.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

UP ON A TREE STUMP #3: D&D’s Ongoing Paradigm Shift

Up on A Tree Stump™

(or) All I Know about D&D™ I Learned From Life

©2009 Robert J. Kuntz

#3: D&D’s Ongoing Paradigm Shift

A game is a game is a game. We all agree on that. But D&D in its many facets breeds different abstracts of the game idea for each person who experiences it. This is the paradigm shift that is in fact ongoing through that games unique presentation. It will never end and there is no argument for or against what is better. The concept is open-ended and mutable, indefinable beyond the points of its mechanics, as the influences—each player and every DM—in essence sets their own game scope and projects it along a singular, and in many cases, ever diverse path. We incorporate endless and diverse data from many sources and project it into each unique structure, unifying the base philosophy as each evolves into an interdependent whole.

That said, there are some basic tenants that cannot be ignored as inconsequential to good play or good DMing, as this is still a game. A game, of course, predisposes the use of strategy and tactics used by its players therein. Even in Monopoly, for instance, that simple but far ranging and ever-present concept is always, or should be, at the forefront of every player’s thought process.

Imagine playing a board game such as Monopoly without a plan, without gauging the “lay of the land,” so to speak, and note how far such players progress within its territory as compared to players who otherwise adhere to such tenants.

Of course if Monopoly had not been created with a mind to the use of player tactics, then we would have but another example of a game of limited range with consequences garnered from just rolling dice and ascribing personal success or failure while doing so to luck alone.

As noted--and as an unrelenting telling point, in terms of infinite structural choices possible in such a mutable game as D&D--there are no Apples and Oranges within any games perceived and/or adopted conceptual range; and only understanding what a game with a set of rules “is” for its participants and that each participant understands their individual levels of investiture of resources is paramount. A game is a game is a game.

Yet what distinguishes a game from being a challenging or less challenging one in any of its presented levels is the degree of thought and expansion given to its base range of expression. As DMs will set that tone from the beginning—structure—such base understanding is more or less passed along to their players thereafter. Inherent structure will only move from its initial perceived base in D&D through the interjection of shifts that directly reflect back upon the game’s most important tenant: that there is always an expanding possibility range within an open structure. As originally expressed by EGG and D&D’s first co-designers, this is an ever-present and intuitive gaming philosophy. Further, the more these types of shifts are present, the more each participant grows through their use. Expansion expands.

Thinking Horizontally and Vertically: As D&D has an ever-expanding range of possibilities, creative lateral inputs (horizontal shifts) will indeed elongate the structural base in those directions. This is the most important part of a published adventure, as many vertical shifts (which I will explain hereafter) are not as structurally prevalent within such abstracts intentionally scaled for specific ranges as they are within home-brew scenarios. On the whole this is where the phrase “Apples and Oranges” does apply to a greater or lesser extent.

As the inclusion of horizontal shifts is limited only by the creative inputs of the designer (or DM)--and in the home-brew scenarios, by the players, as well, and more-so in this case than within a published scenario—we may continue upon this extending, linear path forever. Perceptions aside, this still remains linear unless the base itself as presented is not only elongated but also challenged for its range, no matter how extensible it is perceived to be. That is where verticality comes in.

In game design one cuts across the axis of the horizontal with vertical lines of design, extending the whole in the process. As the base expands laterally, it also expands outward and thus holistically onward exponentially. It only stops when it reaches self-imposed or insurmountable, and often artificially introduced, design limits. This expansiveness can be realized at any level within the DM’s or player’s expression whenever each can interject to the model during moment by moment game exchanges—and this is one of the most profound aspects of our game, and of course of unlimited expression, overall, which the game maintained from its onset as its strongest, most immutable tenant.

The “Dial” of Design: From a flat-line base of the horizontal we interject extensibility to it, creatively widening its base; and perceptually this looks and feels like a set of “rolling hills.” When one inserts the vertical model into this, that is when these expressions can potentially reach for the height of mountains or the depth of seas, even with their “tiniest” portions. Verticality comes in so many examples, as it did in the Original Campaign, but one could say that it is a dial DMs and players place over each horizontal aspect and rotates to note its effects upon their ranges or limits. A good set of journalistic questions—Who? What? Where? When? Why? And How?—can be a useful dial--a creative barometer—when so applied, and we as designers and DMs are always expressing same, whether we are consciously aware of what is for the most part an intuitive process. It is important to realize, however, that its application has no limits at any time as long as the DM and his or her players accepts its ongoing inclusion as part of the gaming process.

“Vive la Difference”: Players accepted what EGG and I offered in the Original Campaign as a range of possibilities and indeed communicated within that same accepted range with us, knowing that the parameters were established and open. In so doing they learned to expect anything and we in turn learned to expect a range of responses befitting that same model, and certainly expected that these could and would challenge our abilities. In turn, all participants gained by this open model. Participants--DMs and players alike—were enhanced along many levels, and mainly creative and logical ones. Tactics and strategy came to the fore. There was no random die roll, anymore, as verticality added or subtracted from that. We were now merging with the realm of possibilities to the extreme, and within our mindsets stayed aware and open to that endless panorama. Everyone learned their own gaming limits and ranges and at the same time expanded their personal ranges of thinking and expression.

Two quotes from Lao Tzu apply here to cover every perceptual base about D&D’s ongoing shifting terrain:

“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

“He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.”

May you never get caught in a dead-end by an iron golem…

Monday, July 6, 2009

Original Castle Level (Sample) Sub Level 3

Here's a cut-out sample of how well Yesmar is doing with the Original GH maps via our constant and elucidating interchanges. He has finished 1 of 6 maps in the original sets (there will be more, of course), which has fixed the base of design understanding between us, so the others in line will follow more quickly as he and I have a firm grasp on the mode. Well done, Ramsey!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

DM'ing Philosophy

I initially submitted this to the forum, but Rob thought it might be interesting to include it here, too:

I've read some recent PP blog entries with great interest, as they (and some links) recount some of the North Texas RPG Con adventures. These, and some other recent comments in this forum have led me to some questions about DM'ing style.

What happens when you (e.g.) put Bottle City on the second level of Castle Greyhawk? Well, you might lose some incautious low level PCs, but what else happens? First and foremost, you undo their expectations that they will exist within a bubble of appropriately-scaled encounters. This might be quite a shock and maybe you'll lose those players, but this effect seems quite worth the risk. Wouldn't this lead to a much greater feeling of accomplishment when the players actually do gain levels and navigate successful adventures? After all, if they weren't actually smart AS PLAYERS, they would have touched the bottle, or charged the hill giant or tried to steal Smaug's golden cup. This must (I think) create the perception that the entire world is not only genuinely dangerous, but more "real" in the sense that it exists and changes not according to the level of the PC but according to its own internal logic. As much as the idea of putting Bottle City on the second level kind of shocked me, I really like the kind of player experience that sort of move engenders.

However, the thing I like about it most is what I'd call the "mystery and sublimity" factor. I recall two incidents in my own DM career that maybe were a bit similar (though I had no idea at the time why I did them, to be honest). The first was when the (relatively high level) party went back in time to the sack of Gondolin. Peering out of the ruined building into which they'd just transported, they saw a group of 6 balrogs run by on some errand of destruction. Wisely, the PCs kept low: "I guess that's the wrecking crew" one muttered. If they'd engaged them in combat, the PCs would have been easily slaughtered. The other incident was when I had a group going through the upper ruins of Morgoth's old stronghold of Utumno. Moving through the maze of echoing passages and vaults, they came upon a vast pit in the midst of which was suspended an enormous, elongated diamond-shaped metal artifact. They could only see the very tip of it, itself over 100 feet high -- the rest, they guessed must extend almost 1/2 a mile into the darkness below. I still don't know what that thing was or why it was there, but I did feel at the time that I wanted to symbolize to them the utterly mysterious and alien vastness of this place, of which they'd see only the tip of the iceberg.

Although I'm over analyzing things as usual, it seems to me that one further effect of meeting a Bottle City as a first or second level character is that it gives you a foreshadowing or embodiment of the vastness and mystery (and danger) of Castle Greyhawk and the kind of Greyhawk Campaign that was being run. It reminds me of an image Tolkien used in LOTR to the same effect (at least, this is what I suggested to my students). Most folks recall the well in Moria into which Pippin throws a stone? Isn't that the perfect symbol for how Moria and Tolkien's world in general works? We enter in to it, interact with it, and then hear a mysterious and distant answer (the tapping) which just enhances the feeling of mystery. As a reader, we're given the surface text, but it's full of images of a deeper, older, more mysterious reality -- think of Gimli's song in Moria, Sam's poem about Gil Galad. These hints of an ancient, independant "reality" abound in Tolkien -- and that effect of sublimity and mystery I think is really worth invoking.

Now, all that being said, I'm curious about the extent to which people pursue a similar or different gaming philosophy and, in particular, I wonder how you all might interpret EGG's words on page 2 of the "Storerooms" section of the Castle Zagyg Upper Works. To summarize, he talks about scaling encounters for PCs entering the area who are of too low (or high) a level. Is this kind of scaling a recent thing for him? Is it different somehow from (e.g.) putting Bottle City on level 2 (which seems intentionally unscaled, to me)? Did his DM'ing philosophy shift later in his career? Of course, you keep reading and he still sounds pretty hard core (suggesting it's good to put the fear of God into the adventurers and how important the "run for your life" tactic is and always has been). Gary says "Rash play will likely result in hard lessons" -- that's good, but balancing encounters? What happened to his DMG advice of "Let the dice fall where they may"? Shouldn't you just create the encounters and make sure plenty of hints are available about relative difficulty to the players?

Just some thoughts. I'd love to hear anyone's reaction to them or any other unrelated ideas about your own DM'ing philosophy.

Thanks for reading.