Category Archives: Flavor

Trade Goods

TRADE GOODS

I’m always thinking about specifics of what might be on a caravan. The town that is the main focus in my AD&D campaign has frequent caravans, and as yet, I have not needed to know what is in them. In case it every comes up, I wanted ideas. I put together the following list to give me ideas for general categories for developing tables.

WATER: In general, this would be a local resource, but in a desert scenario, water could be worth its weight in gold. Merchants will carry enough water to get to the next known source of water.

Adventurer/Explorer: Some merchants will be adventurer merchants seeking to expand the trade routes, or find something new to trade. Think Marco Polo.

SALT: Whether mined from a salt flats, a salt mine, or recovered by evaporation from the ocean. It is a key preservative in pre-industrial societies. Salt does not go bad. Roman soldiers were paid in salt.

Spices: All various kinds. More exotic spices from more distant lands cost more per pound or ounce than local spices. Most spices have a long shelf life if kept dry.

Produce: Fruits and vegetables. Only fresh would be available locally within about 100 miles or so. Beyond that only dried fruits and vegetables, or pickled. Dates, grapes, and figs were common dried fruit that formed into blocks for easy transport and had a relatively long shelf life in a dry climate.
NOTE: Preservation methods for transport are the same methods used to help people make it through the winter or whatever time is between growing seasons.

Meat: As with produce, fresh meat, including fish would usually only be transported about 100 miles or so. Beyond that, dried, salted, pickled or otherwise preserved meats could easily be transported over longer distances. “On the hoof” is the best way to transport fresh meat the farthest, such as with the cattle drives of the American west.
NOTE: Preservation methods for transport are the same methods used to help people make it through the winter or whatever time is between growing seasons.

Honey: It does not spoil and it has anti-bacterial properties. If it crystallizes, heating returns it to liquid. Honey from ancient tombs has been liquefied and was still good.
Gaming Hooks: Supply will be limited by the supply of various bees, bumblebees, wasps, etc. and flowering plants. A hive of giant bees, etc. could be used by some society of humans that had special tools or magic to allow it. Perhaps some giants could be beekeepers and there be some form of trade with other races.

Raw Materials: In general, raw materials are first shipped to where they are made into an intermediate or final product. An example of an intermediate product is ore processed into ingots, wool spun into yarn, or logs processed into lumber. Sometimes two or more raw materials are combined to form an intermediate material, such as charcoal or coal and iron ore to make iron ingots. Some craftsmen/tradesmen, such as blacksmiths might process their own ore for further use, or be specialized in processing ore for others.

Intermediate Products: Materials in a state that further products can be made from them. Iron ingots are made into weapons and armor, yarn from wool is spun into cloth, etc. Some intermediate products, may be made into further intermediate products. Rough cut lumber may be formed into various sizes and quality of boards for specific uses. Spun cloth may be died and cut to make clothes or other items.

Textiles: Raw materials include wool or bundles of harvested plants. Clothing, rugs, tapestries, table clothes, napkins, towels, rope, armor, paper, etc.
NOTE: Related to textiles will be the raw materials.

  • Plant based: Cotton, linen, flax, jute, hemp, bamboo, straw, grass, rush, sisal
  • Animal based: Wool, silk (cocoons of silkworms)

Plant textiles: SOURCE:
Grass, rush, hemp, and sisal are all used in making rope. In the first two, the entire plant is used for this purpose, while in the last two, only fibers from the plant are utilized. Coir (coconut fiber) is used in making twine, and also in floor mats, doormats, brushes, mattresses, floor tiles, and sacking.

Textiles involve some form of spinning into thread and weaving and/or braiding.

Straw and bamboo are both used to make hats. Straw, a dried form of grass, is also used for stuffing, as is kapok.
Fibers from pulpwood trees, cotton, rice, hemp, and nettle are used in making paper.

Cotton, flax, jute, hemp, modal and even bamboo fiber are all used in clothing. Piña (pineapple fiber) and ramie are also fibers used in clothing, generally with a blend of other fibers such as cotton.

Nettles have also been used to make a fiber and fabric very similar to hemp or flax. The use of milkweed stalk fiber has also been reported, but it tends to be somewhat weaker than other fibers like hemp or flax.

Acetate is used to increase the shininess of certain fabrics such as silks, velvets, and taffetas.

Seaweed is used in the production of textiles: a water-soluble fiber known as alginate is produced and is used as a holding fibre; when the cloth is finished, the alginate is dissolved, leaving an open area.

Lyocell is a man-made fabric derived from wood pulp. It is often described as a man-made silk equivalent; it is a tough fabric that is often blended with other fabrics – cotton, for example.
Fibers from the stalks of plants, such as hemp, flax, and nettles, are also known as ‘bast’ fibers.

Wooden goods: Raw timber, i.e. logs, and lumber are the simplest. Finished products include tables, chairs, plates, mugs, shields, hafts for spears and javelins, staves for bows, barrels, arrows, lumber (planks, beams, etc.), carvings. Types of wood, from the common to the rare and exotic. Wooden trinkets, like lacquered necklaces, tableware, handles, spinning wheels, looms, etc.

Metal goods: Unprocessed ore and ingots are the base goods. Finished goods include arms and armor, copper goods, tin goods, bronze goods, tableware (of various quality from copper, tin, bronze, pewter, silver, gold, perhaps electrum or platinum), coinage (ancient coinage bound to a collector(s), or coinage for a payroll for troops, workers (miners, lumbermen, builders, etc.), tribute, etc.), Jewelry of all sorts. idols, icons, craft goods, collectibles, etc.
NOTE: Coins can be counterfeited using base metals. Wizards can use fool’s gold and the surprise comes when the spell expires….

Antiques: From all the dungeons and ancient battlefields and ruins, there can be all kinds of antiquities. These would be many of the same things that are recognizable for what they are, or items that no one living knows what it is. Go to a flea market or estate sale at an old farm and look at the strange gizmos. It is amazing what kinds of hand tools our forebears used and to look at them, it is not always obvious what they are. Get an old timer to explain some of it.
NOTE: Forgery will be an issue. Adventure hook, trader is swindled, or trader is the swindler of his clients, etc.

Art: This can be antiques or current carvings, statues, monuments, paintings, tapestries, rugs, etc.

Stone: Statuary, construction blocks. Usually construction blocks are not hauled very far. Some prince or wealthy patron wanting a rare marble might ship it overland in a long line of wagons running miles. What an adventure hook. Slate for chalkboards, roofing tiles, etc. Chalk for writing or building, etc.

Gems, jewelry, precious stones: These can all be transported by a single poorly dressed man as he moves between venues. A fortune for trade could be had. How does he pull the switcheroo to his respectable clothing to make a legitimate trade is another hook. Counterfeits and forgeries would also be a possibility.

Slaves: If you have slaves among the humans, elves, dwarves, etc. There can be long caravans of them. Humanoids, such as orcs, like slaves to do the jobs they hate. Humans could make slaves of war captives of other humans, or orcs, etc.

Exotica: Rare items, ingredients, metals, wood, animals, etc.

Circus/Sideshow/Carnival: Group of performers travelling town to town on their own or as part of a larger caravan.

Anything you use on a daily basis had to come from somewhere. In the ancient and medieval world people made due with what was available locally, within about 20 miles. Trade developed as a means of acquiring something that is needed, useful, or desired from AWAY, i.e. non-local. Most food was local. Most building materials were local. Only large or special construction projects were not local.

Any list of professions will suggest products. If you create a town or city, the occupations of the inhabitants will indicate what they have to trade and suggest items they import.

Only very small towns or cities can be self sufficient. After a certain size, neighboring towns, villages, farms and herds are needed to support it. Rome imported grain from Egypt, etc.

In the ancient world of pre-history, there is a lot of evidence of the tin trade over many thousands of miles. As the easily accessible tin petered out, bronze became scarce. I read an article online that says some theorize that the iron age was helped along by necessity. That is, the scarcity of tin to mix with copper to make bronze was the necessity to figure out how to efficiently heat iron ore enough to separate it from the rest of the material so that it could be worked.

Type of Materials/Goods in a Caravan or on a Ship

  • Raw Materials
  • Intermediate Materials
  • Finished Goods

Raw Materials

  • Food
    • Livestock – Sheep, goats, pigs, cattle, fowl (chickens, ducks, geese, etc.) Driven by drovers/herders.
    • Fresh Food – Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Fish, Eggs of various fowl., honey. Carried in crates or baskets, or perhaps jars.
    • Dried Food – Fruits, Vegetables, Meat (jerky/pemican), Fish. Can be wrapped in paper or cloth or stored as is in kegs, barrels, or crates.
    • Grain – Oats, Wheat, Rye, Rice. Usually transported in sacks or barrels. Can be used for seed or eating.
    • Processed Food – Flour of various grains, bread, crackers, pickles, pickled meat or fish
  • Logs
  • Stone/Rock
  • Ore
    • Tin
    • Copper
    • Iron
    • Silver
    • Gold
    • etc.
  • Fibers
    • Wool/Silk
    • Plant fibers for spinning/weaving (Hemp, sissal, etc.)
  • Animal By Products
    • Ivory
    • Bone
    • Hides (From butchered or trapped animals, i.e. cows or beaver, for ex.)
    • Horn

Intermediate Goods

  • Rough cut lumber
  • Ingots of various ores
  • Spun fibers
  • Woven cloth – undied and uncut

Finished Goods

  • Wood – Furniture, Weapons, Tools, Shields, Musical Instruments, cups, mugs, plates, etc.
  • Fibers – Rope, Yarn, String, Thread, Bolts of colored cloth, clothes, rugs, tapestries, curtains, etc.
  • Metal – Needles, weapons, armor, utensils, tools, hinges, locks, chains, coins, ingots, cups, mugs, plates, eating utensils, etc.
  • Ivory – Carved items. As inlay in other items, such as a table top.
  • Bone – Needles, corsets, inlay in wooden items.
  • Horn – Bows, drinking horns, musical/hunting/war horns.
  • Glass – Windows, containers, lab equipment. (What level of glass technology is in your fantasy campaign?)
  • Ceramic/Clay – glasses, mugs, plates, jars, etc.

Containers

  • Keg – Dry or liquid storage.
  • Barrel – Dry or liquid storage.
  • Sack – 50 pounds
  • Basket – Bushel
  • Crate – 20 – 50 pounds
  • Jars
  • Amphorae – Large jars for transporting olive oil or wine in the ancient world.
  • Chests
  • Coffers
  • Bags

See my article on Caravans & Pack Animals and Loot Carriers for more ideas on how goods might be transported.

Geographical Descriptions

There are tons of types of geographical features. I ran across a link that uses pictures to group geographical descriptions, but it uses pictures, so there is no easy cut & paste of the text. I have typed up all the descriptions used and put them at the end of this article.

Still, I find Useful Geographical Descriptions For Writers helpful. I saved all the pictures to my computer, in case this link goes dead. I’m a bit of a writer, I have a nearly done first draft of a novel, and DM’s/GM’s are always looking for things to spice up their descriptions. There are some pretty crazy geographical types, like different types of lakes or caves.

When building your world, some fantastic ideas just might be fueled by reality.

Meadows and Grasslands

Steppe – extensive area of treeless grassland with short grasses and less rainfall than a prairie

veld, veldt – steppe with scattered trees and shrubs (especially in Africa

tundra – extensive northern (arctic) treeless plain with mucky soil

sward – green tract of grassland or turf

lea, mead – grassland for grazing or hay

fell – high moor or barren field

moor, moorland – a tract of open, peaty, wasteland, often overgrown with heath, common in high latitudes and altitudes where drainage is poor

barrens – scruby, uncultivated ground, or land along a lagoon covered by high water

heath – an area of open uncultivated land, esp. in Britain, with characteristic vegetation of heather, gorse, and coarse grasses

croft – yard or field used as a household kitchen garden or for a few farm animals

paddock – a small field or enclosure where horses are kept or exercised

boondocks – an uninhabited area with thick natural vegetation, as a backwoods or marsh

Hill, Mountains, and Valleys

knoll, hillock, barrow (British) – small and rounded hill

downs – rolling grassy upland with few trees

plateau – extensive flat-topped land elevation that rises steeply on at least one side

mesa, butte – isolated steep hill or small mountain

pike, peak, summit – top of a mountain

glacial horn, horn of the mountain, pyramidal peak – an angular, sharply-pointed mountain peak which results from the cirque erosion due to multiple glaciers diverging from a central point

aerie, eyrie – elevated place

palisade, palisades – cliff formation or line of cliffs

dell, glen – small and nestled (usually wooded) valley

hollow, combe – deep and narrow valley

vale, dale – valley

scree – rocky debris on a mountain slope

fumarole – volcanic vapor hole

maar – Extinct volcano crater often containing a lake or marsh

Trees and Bushes

bower, bowery – leafy tree-enclosed nook or recess (also the nest of a bowerbird)

arbor – a leafy, shady recess formed by tree branches, usually manmade

grove – small group of grouping of trees (usually without undergrowth

weald – wooded or uncultivated country

timberland – land covered with timber-producing forests

thicket – cluster of shrubs or small trees

bosk (adj. bosky) – a small wood or thicket, especially of bushes

copse, grove – grove or thicket of small trees

coppice – a thicket or dense growth of small trees or bushes, esp. one regularly trimmed back to stumps so that a continual supply of small poles and firewood is obtained; copse

underbrush, undergrowth – shrubs, saplings, low vines, etc., growing under the large trees in a wood or forest

canebrake – thicket of cane

deciduous – describing a tree or forest with foliage that falls off annually

bough – a branch of a tree, especially of the larger or main branches

hinterland – the remote parts of a country, or back country

Deserts and Miscellaneous

sand dunes, dunes – a mound or ridge of sand or other loose sediment formed by the wind, esp. on the sea coast of in a desert

playa – an area of flat, dried-up land, esp. a desert basin from which water evaporates quickly

arroyo – a dry desert gully

hogback – an eroded, steeply tilted ridge of resistant rocks with equal slopes on the sides

hoodoo – a column or pillar of bizarre shape caused by differential erosion on rocks of different hardness

chaparral – vegetation consisting chiefly of tangled shrubs and thorny bushes

karst – landscape underlain by limestone that has been eroded by dissolution, producing ridges, towers, fissures, sinkholes, and other characteristic land forms

salt flats, salt pans – flat expanses of ground covered with salt and other minerals, usually shining white under the sun

oasis, watering hole, spring – a fertile spot in a desert where water is found

seep – a place where petroleum or water oozes slowly out of the ground

tar pit – a hollow in which natural tar [asphalt] accumulates by seepage

Rivers, Oceans, and Wetlands

Watersmeet – junction of two rivers

headwaters – river’s upper tributaries

ford – shallow area of water that can be waded across

levee – a ridge of sediment deposited naturally alongside o river by overflowing water, or an embankment built to prevent the overflow of a river

delta – river mouth’s often fan-shaped sedimentary plain

estuary, frith – sea’s juncture with a river’s mouth

strait – connecting passage between two large bodies of water

riverain – pertaining to or like a riverbank

sandspit – small jutting of sand or gravel at water’s edge

lagoon – shallow pond near a body of water

tarn – small mountain lake with steep banks

millpond – a pond for supplying water to drive a mill wheel

loch – a lake or partially landlocked or protected bay

mere – (British) a lake or pond

sluice, sluiceway – an artificial channel for conducting water, often fitted with a gate (sluice gate) at the upper end for regulating the flow

narrows, straits, channel – a narrow channel connecting two larger areas of water

gulf – extensive sea inlet

fjord – sea inlet that is narrow and has steep sides or cliffs

cay, key – low coral island or visible reef

atoll – ring-like coral island or reef surrounding a lagoon

shingle – pebbled or stony beach

shoal – shallow place in a sea or river

eddy – small whirlpool

bog, fen – tract of low and wet spongy ground

tideland – low land subject to flood tides

tide flat – flat and usually muddy tideland

bracken – rough or marshy tract of land with one kind of vegetation (shrubs or ferns)

swale – moist low-lying land (usually pineland)

causeway – raised path or road across water or a marsh

cape – land formation jutting into the sea or other large body of water

headland,promontory – elevated land area juttying over the sea or other large body of water

floe – sheet of floating ice

hoarfrost, hoar – frost (Middle-English)

rime, rime ice – an opaque coating of tiny, white, granular ice particles most commonly seen on tree branches

snowdrift, snowbank – a mound or bank of snow driven together by the wind

permafrost – (in arctic or subarctic regions) perennially frozen subsoil

sleet – ice pellets created by the freezing of rain as it falls (distinguished from hail)

Caves, Cliffs, and Rocks

grotto, cavern, hollow – underground or rock-walled chamber

stalactite, dripstone – icicle-like formation hanging in a cave

stalagmite – icicle-like formation on the floor of a cave

flowstone – rock deposited as a thin sheet by precipitation from flowing water

bluff, precipice – a cliff, headland, or hill with a broad, steep face

crag – a steep, rugged rock; rough, broken, projecting part of a rock

scarp – a line of cliffs formed by the faulting or fracturing of the earth’s crust; an escarpment

rocky outcrop – part of a rock formation or mineral vein that appears at the surface of the earth

bedrock – unbroken solid rock, overlaid in most places by soil or rock fragments

rubble – broken bits and pieces of rock, through demolition, quarry, or natural processes

scree – a steep mass of detritus (or rubble) on the side of a mountain

slag – coal waste or waste obtained from smelting ore

gulch, gully – a deep narrow ravine, a ditch or gutter

gorge – a narrow cleft with steep, rocky walls, especially one through which a stream runs.

crevasse – a fissure or deep cleft in the earth’s surface.

stack – a steep and often vertical column or columns of rock in the sear near a coast, formed by erosion

stone run – rock landform resulting from the erosion of particular rock varieties caused by myriad freezing-thawing cycles

inselberg, monadnock, kopje (Dutch), bornhardt – an isolated rock hill, knob, ridge, or small mountain that rises abruptly from a gently sloping or virtually level surrounding plain

promontory, headland (over water) – prominent mass of land that overlooks lower-lying land or a body of water

cenote – a natural pit, or sinkhole resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath

tor – a large, free-standing residual mass (rocky outcrop) that rises abruptly from the surrounding smooth and gentle slopes of a rounded hill summit or ridge crest

Alliterative Appellations And Associations

Herein I examine the RPG affinity for Alliterative Appellations And Associations, used to name adventures, groups, modules, etc.

An example is the iterations I went through to come up with a name for my submission to the 2015 One Page Dungeon Contest.

Dark Druids of Delver’s Dell

Devious Druids of Delver’s Deep

Final -> Dire Druids of Delver’s Deep

I have several posts of alliteration and acronyms.

My Group Name Generator does not rely on alliteration, but finding words to make the name alliterative can be a fun challenge.

Alliteration can be challenging to make a good one, but when it rolls off the tongue, it has a poetic/hypnotic quality that makes it stick in the mind.

Some people are better than coming up with alliterative phrases than I am. Sometimes I just get in a frame of mind that I find it easy to do a long list of them. Other times it is like pulling teeth to get them to come together.

I am sure there are those who can always come up with a fitting alliterative phrase without much effort.

I find the challenge to be fun, and makes me think of things in a way I had not before. I try to come up with them without resorting to a thesaurus, dictionary, or Google.

It is also a neat exercise to come up with one or two alliterative phrases to get the juices flowing when getting ready to write.

AD&D – Appendix D – Random Generation of Creatures from the Lower Planes

Pages 194 and 195 of the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide present a few tables for generating random creatures from the lower planes, i.e. demons & devils.

There is a grouping of 21 tables for the appearance of such creatures that define the appearance of the head, ears, eyes, nose, mouth, overall visage, head adornment, body attributes, skin, color, and more.

Head adornment includes such things as antlers and crests. The head has options of bat-like, snake-like, etc. Ears can be dog-like. Eyes deal with color, and size/type of eyes and their number. Various similar suggestions are given for the nose and mouth tables.

The body attributes determines the type of torso, either bipedal, or quadrupedal/other.

The type of tail, if any, such as prehensile, and various body odors, such as blood, mold, vomit, etc.

One table for the texture of the skin and another for the predominant color of the skin/fur/whatever.

Is the back normal, hunched, spiked, etc. Are there wings?

How many arms/tentacles and what kind, and what are the hands like? Similarly, the treatment of legs and feet.

After all these tables define the appearance, then any attacks, and defenses, including special one and and spell-like abilities and immunities.

All these things give lots of ideas for mixing things up. These tables need not be limited to fantasy creatures, but can be used for any genre of creature, including horror and science fiction.

Reading the last page with 5 tables on Random Humanoid Species Appearance Charts in the Outer Space Raiders, Vol. I reminded me of Appendix D as a supplement for White Star. One can easily make collections of nouns for various aspects of body types and associated body parts to come up with unique creatures. Take the stats from goblins or other well-known creatures to “re-skin” them for an appropriate challenge, as others have indicated they do so that players don’t know what every creature is or does by memorizing their descriptions.

I am not finding via a quick Google search the OSR blog(s) that discussed this a few years ago. I keep coming up with links about re-skinning creatures in MMO’s, or locating or painting miniatures.

In the case of White Star, one can have all intelligent aliens be humanoid, if you want to follow the tropes of most illustrations, TV shows and movies. Or you can mix it up, and have something that deviates from bilateral symmetry, and have something besides carbon and silicon based life. The movie Evolution has an interesting take on silicon based life.

Does the life form have DNA, or something that serves the function of DNA? If they have DNA, is it composed of a right or left turning structure. This is something I recall from a book I read in the 80’s, The Right Hand of Dextra [Aff link], with a cool cover illustration.  The idea is the DNA on Earth has a left spiral and the planet in the book, the DNA has a right spiral, so the wild animals native to the planet leave humans alone, since they can’t eat them.

One thing left out of Appendix D and from Outer Space Raiders, is communication method.

Communication Method – d10

  1. Vocalizations
  2. Pheromones
  3. Scents/Odors
  4. Color Changes (Chameleon feature, color and or pattern changes to the “face” or other body part.)
  5. Volume (Ability to expand like a puffer fish, but controls and varies the size in pattern or rhythm.)
  6. Empathy
  7. Telepathy
  8. Temperature
  9. Motion
  10. Combination

NOTE: Sound can be above or below the range of human hearing, and color changes can be above or below the range of human sight, etc.

Diet

  1. Herbivore
  2. Carnivore
  3. Omnivore

Carnivores and Omnivores could include cannibals that eat their own species, or scavengers that eat dead things they find.

Young d10

  1. Eggs – left to fend for themselves/guarded/warmed and nurtured by parent(s)
  2. Marsupials – Eggs/pouches
  3. Born – rapid walking/locomotion or months/years to moving on their own
  4. Sprouted from spores
  5. Budding from body
  6. Division – like a cell
  7. Regeneration – like a starfish
  8. Clones grown in a vat
  9. Robots/Machines that are built and programmed.
  10. Hybrid of the above.

Type d3

  1. Plant Based
  2. Animal Based
  3. Mineral Based

Temperature

  • Cold Blooded
  • Warm Blooded

 

Review – DayTrippers Planet Generator

DayTrippers Planet Generator, is a section pulled from the DayTrippers GM Guide.  DayTrippers is an RPG game by Tod Foley of As If Productions. I had not heard of this game, but this is one piece that many complain is not in the White Star framework. It is a nice piece to have if you don’t have another ruleset to borrow from, or don’t wish to create your own tables. It is a system agnostic method for generating star systems from the size and type of star, to the number and size of planets.

This six page document is 4 pages of tables for system generation and half a page of converting character abilities, skills, and difficulty levels to other systems. The first page being the cover and last half page being split between more information on Day Trippers and blank space.

It is reminiscent of what I recall from other science fiction games back in the day, most likely Traveller, but perhaps also Star Frontiers. At 50 cents, it is hard to say no to this.

If you need something to get your juices flowing with ideas so that every system is not the same, this can do the trick. If you don’t want to invest in a complete rules system just for these tables, it is a great value.

Review – Outer Space Raiders Volume I

+Chuck Thorin of Magic Pig Media has produced Outer Space Raiders, Vol. 1, an interesting set of 6 new classes compatible with White Star. At $1.49 it is very affordable.

In 20 pages are packed 16 pages of information. Unlike many small PDF’s, this one includes clickable links in the table of contents. While not necessarily needed in so few pages, it is much appreciated!

The classes presented are alien, astromancer, engineer, lost worlder, scoundrel, and warp ninja.

Aliens are a generic class to cover any kind of alien you can imaging. 8 abilities are suggested, from which the player picks one. There is also an option to convince the GM to let you make up an ability. These would also make good generic NPC aliens.

Astromancers remind me a bit of illusionists, but have some very interesting “Quantum Formulae” that they can use. Many of the names of these re-worked spells give a science fiction flair to otherwise standard and well known spells. There are a few new “spells” here, along with some interesting abilities.

Engineers read like a cross between MacGiver and Mr. Scott. With abilities that allow them to do various kinds of “save the day” things. I really love the techno-babble chart for generating random terms, such as “quantum radiation capacitor”.

The lost worlder is a “barbarian in spaaaace!” The don’t use high tech gear, but have a chance to randomly push buttons to make something work, with an equal chance of catastrophic failure. One of the abilities is extra resistance to disease and poison, with a bonus on such saving throws. I am reminded of Leela from Dr. Who, and similar such characters.

Scoundrels are an obvious homage to Han Solo, and other stereotypical characters in all manner of fiction. One of their skills is “know a guy”, giving them a chance to know someone, not necessarily friendly. This single page sums up what most of us envisage a scoundrel to be.

Warp Ninjas are an interesting idea. It takes ninjas and crosses them with a dash of science fiction, and uses a black hole to power their abilities. Two of their abilities are dangerous and actually cause damage if used. They are powerful, but a bad roll could mean it’s time to roll up a new character.

Finally, the last page of game material is a set of charts for Random Humanoid Species Appearance Charts, for skin color, hair, ears, eyes, and miscellaneous features. These charts use a d6, three of them use a d8, and a d20, so 5 dice, if the d8’s are specified, can roll a random creature quickly.

The simplicity of each class fits right in with the overall theme of White Star.

If you want more classes, or ideas for modding or making your own classes for White Star, or Swords & Wizardry White Box, this is a good start!

Review – April Mythoard

I had a package in the mail on Friday, May 8th. I had forgotten that I ordered the April Mythoard. However, I had a feeling that there was something that should be coming in.

April 2015 Mythoard
April 2015 Mythoard

I had not planned to get it, but when I saw that it contained the latest edition of Oubliette #9, I was curious. I had read other positive comments about it, and knew that I would get some other cool goodies along with it, so I took the plunge.

Squarehex Products
Squarehex Products

Along with Oubliette #9 are several other goodies from Squarehex. There is a book mark with large squares on one side and the other side contains large squares with dungeon map symbols. There are two business card sized items. One is blank on one side, and the other side had hexes with outdoor map symbols. The other small card has dungeon map symbols that are black and the other side has the same symbols in gray with labels to explain them. I am not sure if the purpose of these symbols is to give you an example of what such symbols “should” or might look like, or if you are supposed to put them under your hex paper to help you draw a very neat map.

There is a folded piece of graph paper the same size as the Oubliette issue with the grid on the outside. The inside of the graph paper has the OGL license. I wonder if it it the innermost page of the zine, and did not get stapled. Finally, there is a small pad of 7 mm hex paper. The pad it not as wide as a business card, and it is about as tall as two business cards top to bottom. It is so small that it is for a very small area and it well suited to a micro map.

I expected the Oubliette zine to be a full page folded over, instead it is about a half page folded over. The introduction indicates that this is not the usual size. It is a slick card stock cover with click heavy weight interior pages. It is 20 pages counting the back cover, which is a table for generating hit points of creatures from 1/2 HD to 2 HD using a roll of one or more d20’s. Six pages are a mini adventure, two pages with four new spells. two pages on a variation on familiars, four new magic boots, a new monster, and second mini adventure of three pages. While not every idea will be used by everyone, there is a lot in these few pages.

Awful Good Games has a booklet that is zine sized, i.e. half a page folded over. It is a module of 31 pages. It has a slick card stock cover and slick heavy paper for the pages. The text is black over light grey. It is legible as long as the slick paper does not have any glare. Older eyes with bifocals can have trouble with this. If you avoid glare on the page, unless your eyes are worse than mine, you will be able to read it.

Lichfield - by Awful Good Games
Lichfield – by Awful Good Games

Next is a mini setting, a half page top to bottom ready for a standard three ring binder on slick card stock. It is black ink on a lightly colored background. It looks great, and as long as there is no glare, it too is easy to read. It continues adding to the Mythoard setting. I like that they keep adding things to the existing setting. If you want to use this setting in whole or in part, it is easy to do with this. I was glad to see that past month’s offerings are available. I would like to have the complete series of materials, if I can.

Tower of the Everflame
Tower of the Everflame

Next is a Pathfinder compatible supplement from AAW Games. It is For Rent, Lease or Conquest. It is a module about obtaining a home base for the party. It is a 42 page adventure. It is in a slick cover and the pages give one the visual impression of newsprint, but are slick and heavier than newsprint. The print is black ink on a multi-colored background. Most of each page has a light background, and thankfully the slick pages are not shiny. However, lighting and the angle the page is held can make words over darker ink harder to read for older eyes with bifocals. In addition, the layout has the text on some pages running into the border decoration. I think the intent is to look cool, but since it is hard for me to make out the text in some areas, and not every page is crowded, I think it is a layout issue. When the young eyes of the layout people read this stuff in 20 or 30 years, they will curse their younger selves. It is worst in sections of the page where the background color transitions from lighter to darker. Some letters disappear. In the corners of some pages is a leaf motif that goes light, dark, light and the odd color transition takes more concentration to read. I find that prolonged reading of this starts the feelings of a headache. It reminds me of the original PDF of D&D 5 where it had a colored background and was very hard to read. It seems like the intent is to go after the younger crowd at the expense of the older crowd.

For Rent, Lease or Conquest
For Rent, Lease or Conquest

The premise of the module is buying/occupying a building for home base and the villain is the realtor. I do not find that entertaining. As a homeowner who got screwed in the housing collapse, it is too much like papers and paychecks. That plus the difficulty in reading it, I don’t know if there are any useful nuggets in here.

Finally, there are two Dragon’s Quest adventures from Judge’s Guild: Starsilver Trek, and Heroes and Villains. They are in clear sealed plastic. If this is the original plastic and still sealed, do I want to open them? While these were from Bad Mike’s Books and Games, are they worth more sealed? There are definitely from back in the day and the art is of the sort that did not draw me in back then. Some of the JG stuff is really good and I wish I had delved into it back then.

Starsilver Trek
Starsilver Trek
Heroes and Villains
Heroes and Villains

So there is a lot of stuff in here. Some of it is for younger/better eyes than mine. As with “grab bags” one cannot expect everything to hit the sweet spot.

I found some things to interest me, and some ideas for later.

Arbalest vs. Heavy Crossbow

I did not make note of the article I read this on, but I wanted to get this scrawled note from an index card recorded so I can ditch the index card. I believe this is the article, but there’s no date on it, so I’m not sure.

It discussed the arbalest, a heavy crossbow, that used spring steel arms for the bow and had a range of about 300 meters, longer than 3 American football fields! It also had a fire rate of 2/minute.

They could shoot bolts or stones or shot. I’ll have to dig up the article, but it would be a heavy+ crossbow in D&D terms. Since a longbow is often credited as 12 aimed shots a minute and that is translated to 2 shots per round in AD&D, it makes sense that one shot per round for an arbalest. The heavy crossbow has a more complex cocking procedure, so one shot every other round.

Or is an arbalest just one expression of what the heavy crossbow in AD&D represents?

I mentioned in two past articles (one, two) about my brother, Robert, allowing a Chinese style self loading crossbow that could fire 10 shots a round, and our foolish characters ended up as orc food because we elected to fight with swords instead of our cool crossbows.

Finding the proper scale so that one isn’t dropping a combat changer into the midst of the game is the only part of balance I am concerned with.

Earthquake!

I live in Southwest Michigan, about 15 miles south of Kalamazoo. Today, we had an earthquake of magnitude 4.2.

I live across the street from the houses next to the train tracks. It is an active freight line and big, heavy trains can shake the house. This shaking was much different. We have 5 crossings through town and federal law requires them to blow the horn at each crossing. The Wednesday night, AD&D campaign I play in can hear the whistles if I forget to mute my microphone until they pass. If the windows are open in warm weather, I have people in phone calls ask me if I am standing on the tracks.

I was in my house, built about 1920 on sandy soil. The shaking was slightly similar to a big, heavy train going by, but it felt deeper and more powerful, and lasted just a few seconds.

I swore I heard a boom/roar/loud noise that preceded/coincided/followed the shaking. I can’t explain that. It was over so quickly that I didn’t have time to make sense of it. My thoughts were, there is no train, did a tanker truck explode? That has to be an earthquake.

About ten or fifteen minutes later, there was a very brief aftershock.

This is the first earthquake that I know I’ve experienced. My recollection is that an earthquake needs to be a 2.5 to 3.0 for most people to feel it and know it’s an earthquake. What I found using my google-fu is that it has to be a 3.0 to notice it.

A 4.2 was interesting. Since the scale increases an order of magnitude, a 5 would be impressive! A 6, 7 or more would be mind blowing.

My son took his girlfriend and their daughter to a neighborhood garage sale and met up with some friends. He said that he was sitting on the ground and that the ground beneath him felt hollow. His girlfriend said that she was standing up and that her feet were vibrating and she noticed that the trees were moving one direction and the houses another. Their daughter is 3 1/2 months old and she did not seem to have any reaction.

In addition to an interesting experience, I have a better understanding and thus more able to describe an earthquake in my writing and DMing.

2015 One Page Dungeon Contest – My Revised Submission

I re-did the map for my OPDC submission, The Dire Druids of Delver’s Deep. I did the new map by hand and scanned it. The only thing I put on the image with a program, are the numbers for the rooms/areas.

Doing my map old school, i.e. like I did when I was a teenager and before we had our first computer, microwave, or cable TV.

I’m not that good at getting the result I want out of a graphic’s program, so hand drawn it is. Being out of practice with the details on hand drawn maps doesn’t seem to be a problem for this small one. If I had time before the deadline to fiddle with it and get a cutaway effect of The Deep and the cavern, I would.