Saturday, April 7, 2018

Mythical Journeys Adventure Game

+Shane Ward (his website) encouraged me to share my version of the D&D rules again here on the site. It's not for sale anywhere and it's not up on DriveThru or anything. But in case you want to know what we like to play at my house, here is my rule set. Over the past, oh, week, my spare time was consumed by another fantasy project, so I have been neglecting to oblige him.

There is only one book, which is the Player's Guide. About two years ago, I lost the original docs for my monsters and treasure book. My friend Jeff J., who is my editor and layout artist, sent me the PDFs but I never got back to that. And I have never gotten around to explaining how to make wilderness and dungeon adventures. Nothing sinister, just never did it. Anyway, you guys know what all that stuff is by now.

Finally, and this is important, here is the errata document. The main thing is that there is a bad misprint on Table 4, and this document has the real Table 4 in it.

I hope it has ideas you can use, and that it can spark your imagination when you make your own rules, too!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

DM Screen, Part III

I pulled the materials together this weekend to build the prototype for my screen. I had to learn a little about the materials and the tools since I haven't done arts and crafts in forever.

I used a school guillotine to cut a large posterboard into four panels of the correct size. It's a little rough to use when you're cutting things thicker than a couple of sheets of paper, so I would suggest keeping an X-Acto knife to clean up the edges. I don't have one, but I should have one, so I'll buy one before I do the real job.

I decided on unobtrusive white Duck tape to seal the edges. It worked well. I used scissors to cut the pieces to the right size.

Here's a practice board I taped to make sure the tape would work the way I wanted it to. It worked perfectly. 

Place the tape sticky-side up on the table, and carefully line up the board halfway up the width of the tape. Press down firmly. Then fold the tape over the top, rather than flipping the board. Then cut the excess folded-over tape off with scissors.

ALSO PICTURED: My assistant, Tinkabelle.

Here, you can see a board pressed on half the tape, prior to being folded over.

Linking the panels: 

Once your four boards are sealed along all four edges with tape, make sure the commercially-machined part of the four panels are all aligned on the bottom edge, closest to you. This will allow the screen to stand up without wobbling when it's done.

Lay down a piece of tape longer then the long edge of the boards. Press each one about 40% of the way in on it, leaving a gap of about 1/8 of an inch. Then fold the extra tape over the top and bottom. Repeat for the other side of the boards with another piece of tape.

By leaving the small gaps between boards, the hinges can open at various angles, including laying flat. 

The final product:

Here's the Ref's side. To the second panel, I'll paperclip the map. To the third, I will paperclip the map key. To the fourth, I'm not sure, but probably the specific wandering monster charts for the dungeon or world we intend to tackle in that session.

Here's the player side. Panels 1 and 4 are the same: they have the attack and save matrices for the classes, and then the procedures for Rounds, Turns and Days.

The middle two panels are info for purchasing and using weapons, armor, adventuring equipment, tack and harness, and vehicles.

I did it like this because the character sheets and gen rules I use are so simple, the main differentiation between two characters of the same class is the gear they carry. So gear is very important!

I wanted to find a place to add alchemical and special purchase items, but they wouldn't fit on these panels. And anyway, I think it would be cooler if I whip out special lists when the several players come upon stores with unusual merchandise.

I made these sheets at Staples because they can print on special really good paper, and the ink is even and clean. You can email them docs to print out for you and then pick them up. Very nice.

The screen folds up flat so you can jam it in your binder or whatever. I suggest putting clear contact paper over it once you're happy with the contents of your panels.

So this was a really big success, and the final product is going to please me quite well.

PROPS: The tape is awesome. It works perfectly. Just as I'd imagined - maybe better.

SLOPS: Make sure you know how to use a grade school guillotine's little ruler dealie before you start cutting stuff! My panels came out a good inch short on each side because I couldn't use the ruler properly. I will do it right when I made the final screen.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Digging Into the Monster Lists

This analysis refers to my own Monster table which I talk about in my previous post.

Here is a link to the Excel spreadsheet. It is definitely a work in progress, but most of the dungeon tables are done.

Does not appear on these random tables!

Mathematically, only about 3% of overland encounters will be with Men. This seems very low. So I think I will add in a preliminary roll for overland play: on 1d6, a result of 1 goes directly to the Men subtable (not to be confused with the Man-Type table which includes all the common Demi-men as well as some normal-type monsters.)

The Men subtable will have the several kinds of Men of course. That means 20% of overland encounters will be with bandits, brigands, dervishes, whatever.

This feels better to me. The world is strange but it should be a world of Men.


After hearing from some of the fellows in the several D&D-themed G+ groups, I think the proper number should be 1-3 on a d6, or just shy of 53% (plus the 3% from the proper monster tables.) Some fellows said higher and some lower, but they got me thinking about the right answer for me, and that's what I was hoping for. Thanks, guys!

That makes Men the creature of predominant number in the Realm and keeps things feeling a little more Medieval-fantasy and not weird fantasy. Nothing wrong with weird, but it's not what I'm going for.

Something else that just came to me is I want Cyclopes and Titans on my Giants subtable so I'm going to go do that too.

My Own Monster Manual

Wandering monsters.

Wouldn't you love it if there was a little book with all the tables laid out properly in order to get what you need to generate a spontaneous monster encounter, without flipping around to ten different pages? Boy howdy, I would!

A rust monster ate my monitor

Since I’m doing a DM screen, I want an easy way to roll up any ol’ random dungeon room. And that means, in part, rolling random encounters - on the fly. And that means having charts with all the key monster stats by environment all on one page.

The myriad Monster Manuals make for great reading and many of them are truly excellent works. However, none of them lend themselves to idiot-proof and time-efficient use at the table while you're running the game. There just ain't such an animal in dead-tree form.


So I started by looking at how it’s done in B/X. That system is very similar to what I decided on for Treasure Hunters. In B/X, there are a couple of different procedures. 

First, dungeons. There are a couple is rolls to find the monster. The first to determine the correct table (roughly but not precisely corresponding to dungeon level), and then on the particular table to find the right monster. Then you have to go to the appropriate monster listing, generate the particulars, and then run it.

Overland is a little easier. Just roll on the appropriate table for the terrain. But again, there are at least six kinds of terrain, and more if you like to differentiate terrain more. The first roll tells you the category of monster (such as man-types or giants or dragons.) The second roll is on a table by monster type to give you the correct monster.

That’s a lot of information. Way more than you can put on a single panel on a DM screen!

The first thing I did was gather all the key info on all the monsters I want to use in one place and put it in a spreadsheet. Thanks to the excellent prep work of +Simon Bull, this was trivial.

It looks like this, only much longer.

The second thing I did was put together the master charts for dungeons. They're not laid out yet. But you can see them here:

Dungeons' Master Charts

The third thing I did was make up charts for overland monsters; first by terrain type and then by monster category. I used the same method that +Michael Thomas did in his his excellent BLUEHOLME rules.

Overland Master Charts
The next step, which I'm working on now, is to lay out one page for each of the dungeon levels and terrain types with the key monster stats for each one on its own page. Then I can make a note on the master charts which page to turn to in order to generate the specific encounter. For instance, here's Dungeon Chart 1:

I can then put the page number where it appears next to the correct listing on the Master Chart.

The only thing I've not decided on is how to generate NPCs. 

I think NPCs will have to come from their own section because each one is more than a stat block - he has spells and magic items, too, and these need to be recorded in longer form. Additionally, high-level parties will have their own henchmen and hench-animals to record.

So my sense is that one page (or more) will be devoted to detailing an entire NPC party, in order of appearance. In a practicum I did last year, it takes 15-20 minutes to generate even a bare bones NPC party (without spells), so it's not something you can really do on the fly. I will use the rules in B/X to generate them and record them in the book as well in their own section.

Sine this is just for me and not something I intend to sell or give away, I won't add art or worry too much about layout and formatting. It's an interesting problem and I'm enjoying tackling it, slowly but deliberately.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Order of the Brass Dragon

My son, Nate, plays a hobbit who is a member of the Order of the Brass Dragon. It's very mysterious and people seem to take him more seriously because of it. The secret is that his local pub is called The Brass Dragon and the Order is his darts team.

Here are a couple of items he has commissioned to enhance his mystique.



What kind of cool backstory elements have you seen?

Making a DM's Screen Part 2

When last we left our DM's screen, we had decided that there would be one DM-side panel that is permanent. Here it is:

Here is the PDF file.
Here is the Word file.

Now I started to lay out the player's side. The first panel, one that goes sort of in the middle, will be the basic info: Attack matrix, Save matrix, and the steps for Exploration Turns, Combat Rounds, and Wilderness Days.

The next panel will begin the listing of all the common equipment that will be available in the village or little town. All the stuff adventurers might need (as opposed to want, which might only be available in the Big City.

Panel 2 has adventuring equipment, transport, and tack and harness.

Panel 3 has arms and armor. 

I have a terrible sense of color, so maybe someone can suggest to me what colors to use for these panels?

There is a 4th panel for the player's side, but I haven't decided what to put on it yet. It has one item so far: an Alchemical Items shopping list.  

Here is the Word file for reference. It is not done. When it is done, this link will lead to it.

So those are the four panels that go on the player side!

In the next few days, I'll take some pictures of the physical prop as I construct it and give a step by step actual build report.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Making a DM's Screen Part 1

Something like this.

After all these years of reffing without one, I'm going to try out using a DM screen. Here's why.

I've been playing in Steve's game. He has used a DM's screen. What I like about it is that there are vertical surfaces for him to clip things to, and he can hide the map from us. I think this makes him a better DM. 

And when I ref for my son and daughter and their friends, I feel like I'm a little scatterbrained even though I've boiled the rules down to where I can keep them all in my head. Additionally, I would like to provide the info to the players that they need but is not on their sheets.

I like the vertical surfaces, both ref-facing and player-facing, for these reasons.

So what do I put on my DM screen?

The first decision to make is, should it have three panels or four? Or more? Or less? So let's work through that.

DM Side Panel 1:
  • Monsters Attack Roll Matrix
  • Characters Attack Roll Matrix
  • Saving Throw Matrix
  • Exploration Turn Steps
  • Combat Round Steps
  • Wilderness Day Steps
  • Quick Reference for a couple of rules that come up all the time
  • Wilderness Table: Encounter Chance, Lost Chance, and Mounted Travel Distance per day versus Terrain Type

Luckily, all this can fit on one panel. And with the marvels of modern desktop publishing, even a duffer like me can make it look presentable.

Here's a link to the PDF.
Here's a link to the Word file.

The other panels on the DM's side will be modular. 

DM's Side Panel 2: The map
DM's Side Panel 3: The key
DM's Side Panel 4: Wandering monsters by dungeon level; wandering monsters for the terrain outside the dungeon.

So, that's four panels. Cool. 

I've also decided to do them portrait-layout, but I don't know if that's the right way to do it. I may end up doing 4 12" by 12" panels so I can lay things out portrait or landscape as necessary.

Now I know I have four panels to work with on the Players' Side too. What do I want to show them?

The first thing is that the charts I show them must be larger so that they are legible 6-8 feet away. The fonts need to be bigger.

Player's Side Panel 1: Let's keep the same pattern as we did for the DM's side. Panel 1 for the players needs less info. 

  • Characters Attack Roll Matrix
  • Characters Saving Throw Matrix
  • Exploration Turn Steps
  • Combat Round Steps
  • Wilderness Day Steps

Here's a link to the PDF.
Here's a link to the Word file.

Player's Side Panel 2:

  • Adventuring Equipment
  • Armor and Shields
  • Weaponry

This might actually have to be two panels. There's a lot of stuff to buy in town. I want to keep the stuff you can only buy in a city separate, and only give that as a handout when they get into The Big City. This includes exotic mounts, warships, and most alchemy items. 

I haven't worked all that out yet either.

However, here is a link to the Excel spreadsheet I am using to lay out all the charts. Maybe they will be of use to you. I will update this spreadsheet while I work on it.

In the next few days, I will share with you the several panels on the players side. I will lay out a generic wandering monster table for the dungeon, per Holmes. I think he did a good job with that.

I am interested in seeing example wandering monster tables for the several terrain types. Do you have any that you've made up, or can you direct us to where we might see the ones you took for your home game?