M. Jared Swenson Productions

This blog chronicles my projects, developments, and all things related to tabletop gaming. I will try to avoid rants and reviews. Mostly games I'm developing, and progresses from my campaigns.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A little more awesomeness

Just wanted to show a little more that is the awesome work of Jarom.

Left to right: Qur'Haddan Tempest (the quick one that nearly killed Behrun), Behrun Farsetter, Garu Greyforge (background), Agnya Brighthill (background), and Hanzbur the Forgesworn

This is a depiction of the events that happened in my Journal entry Day 7. Again this is an actual dnd game that Jarom and i are doing together. I like this illustration because it sort of shows the fighting style of the Crusader, and the Qur'haddan Tempest, which is another class we plan on getting into in the future. The Qur'haddan have their own magic and the Tempest is the epytome of its use.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The art of Jarom Swenson

From my recent posts, you have seen some journal entries from a dwarf named Behrun Farsetter. This is an actual character I am playing in a DnD 4E campaign that my brother, Jarom Swenson, is running for me. The setting for this campaign is called Konomancer.

It is a project Jarom and i have both been working on for a long time. It started out as a fantasy story that we wanted to make into a comic book, which can be found here. The first volume is complete, and we are working on volume 2. But we have already gone beyond that. We have developed the world and setting, making it a lot more in depth than just that of the comic book. We realized there was much more to the underlying story that took place before and after.

So one of our projects is to make this setting of Konomancer into a DnD campaign setting. With me as creative director and Jarom as lead artist. We decided to put this to the test by doing a DnD campaign in this setting. The time period for this takes place a while after the story of our Konomancer comic book. The main character, Behrun Farsetter, is of a new class we created called the Crusader. Sort of a holy warrior who weilds 2 weapons and fights with increasing fury. These crusaders were in the works before we planned on making them into a DnD character class. They were the backbone for a religion that worships their ancestors. This religion called Benefictus believes in living a certain way so upon death you become a spiritual being that helps those who are in your family, provided they worship you. It was our own twist on divine powers that doesnt utilize a mythical god or a pantheon of gods, as does most DnD settings do. Therefor this Crusader is a divine class, and everything about it revolves around ancestral worship.

Here's a preview of the class:

Role: Striker: Your religion’s vigor and zealotry is channeled to rid the world of evil as it meets your two bloody tools of purging.
Power Source: Divine: As a tool of the spirits and ancestors, they bolster your weapons and strengthen your resolve to be an unstoppable force against evil. Your blind devotion also makes you harder to control in battle.
Key Abilities: Wisdom, Strength, Constitution
Armor Proficiency: Cloth, leather, hide, chainmail
Weapon Proficiency: Simple melee, military melee
Implements: Holy Symbol
Bonus to Defense: +2 Will
Hit points at 1st Level: 14+ Constitution Score
Hit points per Level Gained: 5
Healing Surges per Day: 7+ Constitution Modifier
Trained Skills: Religion. From the class skills list below, choose 3 more trained skills at 1st level.
Class Skills: Athletics (Str), Endurance (Con), Heal (Wis), Insight (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Perception (Wis), Religion (Int)
Class Features: Crusader’s Fury, Crusader’s Weapons, Furious Strike, Channel Divinity

Crusader Class Features
Crusaders have the following class features.
Crusader’s Fury
The Crusader builds his righteous rage the longer he attacks the same target. He learns of its weaknesses through fighting it and adapts his technique to match. Whenever you attack a single target, add 1 to your Fury for each weapon hit. (For example, 1[W] powers can add 1 Fury if it hits, 2[W] powers can add 2 Fury if hits, and 2 attacks of 1[W] each can add 1 Fury for each hit). Your Fury has a starting value of 0, and it resets to 0 when you switch to a different target or you take a short rest or an extended rest. Your Fury value has a maximum value of 10 at 1st through 10th level, a maximum value of 15 at 11th through 20th level, and a maximum value of 20 at 21st through 30th level. Any additional Fury gained after the set maximum is lost.
Once per round, you may add your current Fury value as a bonus to any one damage roll. If you have dealt Fury damage since the start of your turn, you cannot deal it again until the start of your next turn.
Crusader’s Weapons
The signature of the Crusader’s fighting are two weapons. They train in a martial style centered around them, always making sure that when one is in use, the other is at the ready. You can wield a one-handed weapon in your off hand as if it were an off-hand weapon. In addition you gain Two-Weapon Threat as a bonus feat, even if you don’t meet the prerequisites.
Furious Strike
In one righteous filled strike, Crusaders can expel all their pent up Fury. In addition some powers grant additional effects when they strike in this fashion. Choose one of the following class features:
Purging Fury: Once per encounter, as a minor action, deal damage to your current target equal to your current Fury value and reset it to 0. You gain a bonus to your next attack roll on that target equal to your Strength modifier until the end of your next turn.
Raging Fury: Once per encounter, as a minor action, deal damage to your current target equal to your current Fury value and reset it to 0. You gain temporary hit points equal to twice your Constitution modifier.
Channel Divinity
Once per encounter, you can use a Channel Divinity power. You start with two Channel Divinity powers: Divine Push and Divine Vigor. You can gain additional Channel Divinity powers by taking divinity feats.
Like the Cleric and Paladin, Crusaders wield holy symbols to call upon the help of ancestral spirits. A Crusader wearing or holding a magic holy symbol can add its enhancement bonus to attack rolls and damage rolls to powers that have the implement keyword. Without a holy symbol, a Crusader can still use these powers, but he or she doesn’t gain the bonus provided by the magic implement.
Crusader Powers
Crusader powers are called prayers. They rely on the guidance of the ancestral spirits to strike harder and truer. Many times it appears to be as though the power they wield does not come from within their own.

As i said, Jarom is the lead artist for the project, so i will showcase some of his sketches he's been doing for it:
This is a portrait of Behrun Farsetter. This is pretty standard for the look of the Crusader.
  • Chainmail armor that resembers more of a samurai than anything.
  • 2 one-handed weapons that they dual wield with a fighting style they train in for most of their lives.
  • An ancestral scroll case slung over their front. It contains the family geneology mountain.

An adventuring party comes accross a ruined Qur'haddan transport (like the one mentioned in Behrun's journal entry day 7)
Defending the hold against a horde of beasts. What are they? And who is that shadowy figure commanding them? This is actually something we plan to release later after the initial comic book and DnD campaign setting are done.
A battle taking place. The guy climbing the hill with the big sword is actually a very significant historical figure in the Konomancer setting. More to come with the comic book series.
A dungeon delve turns real bleak real quick.
Yet another scene of a group trying to get out of sticky situations. As we were working this setting, be both just came to realize "this has DnD adventures written all over it!" Originally during that time, DnD was still in the 3.5 ruleset. Then 4th edition came out and it was perfect for what we needed.
A human comes accross an odd looking axe stuck out of a dead corpse during their dungeon delve. That dwarf Crusader looks shocked as he reaches for it. What could it be?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The 4 Statues: A DnD 4E tactical trap encounter

Phalen cautiously proceeded down the corridor and into the next room, taking careful steps to avoid notice if anyone lie therein. The square room seemed empty. All that was there was the small clock tower in the center, with its loud incessant ticking, and 4 statues on each wall. He motioned his companion, Abyok the paladin, to follow; for there seemed to be no imminent threat. Along the floor was a grid of rails, at least about 3 feet apart. Like something was supposed to ride along them, but what. The two cautiously approached the noisy clock. The 3 arms were exposed. The seconds hand moving at a normal rate. As it would with a normal clock, the minute hand moved as the seconds hand hit the 12. It seemed peculiar as it being the only noticeable feature in the room. This was also the end of the road for them. Any further doorway or stairs would be hidden at this point. Perhaps it was this clock that was the key to proceed. The only thing that resembled any sort of lever were the hands on the clock. Phalen, the rogue, cautiously gripped the minute hand with his fingers and progressed it one minute. Suddenly a ruckus occured. The sound of several gears grinding in place emanated from the clock, and all around larger gears and chains came to life in the room behind the walls. The 4 statues began to shake as though they were responsive to all this unseen mechanical commotion. One of the statues noisily proceeded further on the rails in the floor as if pulled by a rusty chain. A burly helmeted statue with a giant sword tucked in front. The statue then lifted the sword up and came to swing it forward. Then another moved from the wall. This time a statue of a bluish female. Her arm raised and a white hot burst of energy shot straight out at Abyok. He ducked out of the way as it flew across the room and hit the wall. The third came to life, a wide and short bulky figure. Bursts of flame spewed out underneath all around it as it approached. Finally the fourth started lumbering forward on the rails. This time an upright sarcophagus. Metallic tentacles whipping around in front. Abyok and Phalen backed into each other, not sure of how to handle this looming threat...

‘The 4 Statues’ is a challenge encounter I designed for one of my DnD 4th Edition gaming groups. Abyok and Phalen were actual players. This challenge came to me as I wanted to make some sort of advanced mechanical smart trap (kind of steampunk), that the players could still outsmart.
I used these as props. I’ve been looking for an excuse to use them for a while as they came from an old props set for Mage Knight Dungeons (except the sarcophagus which comes from the DnD miniatures). Except any statue like miniature could do. This can easily be reflavored with some creativity to fit what you have or the style of your dungeon. This encounter is designed for players of level 3 to 4.

The way this encounter goes, is each statue has a unique attack they do on the players, and all are pretty much invulnerable to player attacks, but they are vulnerable to specific attacks from eachother.

Each statue has a movement of 4 (special) if you’re doing this encounter in a 9x9 room. (with larger rooms you give them more speed). The statues cannot be slowed or inhibited by attacks or effects. They all also have an initiative of +5.

An explanation for each statue is below:

The Statue of Death

This is an upright sarcophagus. It shoots forth metal tentacles that attempt to grab onto you and pull you in. Doing no harm, but setting you up for attacks from the other statues no doubt.

Vulnerable: the fire blast attack from the Statue of Fire

Attack Area: a reach of 2 squares straight out in front of its facing

Attack: +8 vs Reflex

Hitting a Player: Target is grabbed. Target is also forced to move with the statue and it’s facing. This means whenever the statue moves, the target has to be in front of the statue at all times as long as it is grabbed. The target may attempt to break free from the grab, which requires an athletics or acrobatics check vs. 15

The Statue of the Mage

This is a figure of a tall and slender woman, which shoots bolts of Arcane energy.

Vulnerable: the grabbing tentacles of the Statue of Death. This statue doesn’t get grabbed, just takes the hit when it’s in the attack area

Attack Area: unlimited range straight in front of its facing

Attack: +8 vs Will

Hitting a Player: 1d10 force damage

The Statue of Fire

This is a short and wide effigy of a grotesque demon. It periodically spouts flames all around from underneath it.

Vulnerable: the sword attack by the Statue of the Warrior

Attack Area: a burst of 1 all around the statue. This one doesn’t matter on the facing, but is wider than the others, taking up 2 squares. Movement is treated like a large creature, and it can change from vertical to horizontal orientation with 1 movement point, providing it has the room.

Attack: +8 vs Fortitude

Hitting a Player: 1d8+2 fire damage

The Statue of the Warrior

This menacing statue is of an armored warrior. It has a large wide stone sword it swings around in front of it.
Vulnerable: the magic attack from the Statue of the Mage

Attack Area: 3 squares across directly in front of its facing

Attack: +10 vs AC

Hitting a Player: 1d6+4 damage

The Clock

The Clock stands resolute in the middle of the room. Its hands spinning wildly now that the trap has been sprung!

This serves no purpose other than just being the clock in the middle of the room. It doesn’t move or attack, but provides cover from the attacks of the Statues of Death and the Mage, as it is invulnerable to all attacks.

Facing matters for these statues, so you have to choose what their front is beforehand. They can only fire in the direction they are facing. (For example, the Statue of the Mage can only fire north, south, east, or west). They cannot move diagonally, for they move along a grid rail system in the ground. Since they only have a movement of 4, they are not very fast, and easy to avoid. Even changing their facing costs 1 movement point per square side. But a statue will never attack unless a player is somewhere within their attack area. (illustrated by the gray on the images above). Getting a statue to follow you is easily done by attacking it. Even though the attacks have no effect, it will begin to follow the new player that just attacked it. On the statues turn, it will ALWAYS use up all 4 movement points (even if it is just circling the player), and make an attack if a player is in its Attack Area. The statues will never just stand still on their turn unless they are immobilized.

The purpose in this encounter is to immobilize each statue. Once that is done, the challenge ends, the statues cease, and the Clock moves and becomes a spiral staircase to the next room. (Or a hidden door opens up in the room, whatever fits your dungeon). The way you achieve this is figuring out which statues harm which and get them to attack each other as they aim for your players.

Each statue can only take 5 hits from the statues attack it is vulnerable to. Whenever a statue makes its attack and the vulnerable statue is in its attack area, the vulnerable statue takes 1 hit (no attack or damage rolls necessary when hitting other statues). When it takes 5 hits, it’s immobilized. Narrate that to your players. It can still make attacks, but cannot change its facing or move.

One way to help players figure things out is by hinting them to make a perception check vs. 10 on each of the statues. Each one has a symbol carved in it. Draw the symbols out for the players as they inspect each statue:

For example, let them figure out that because the Statue of Fire has the sword on it, it should probably be hit by the sword attack from the Statue of the Warrior.

Hopefully this made enough sense, and hopefully your players will be able to figure out the challenge. Just make sure to illustrate things to the players that they may find trivial at first, but important later:

The statue with the giant sword swings wide. It misses you, but takes a noticeable chunk of damage out of the short fat statue.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Behrun Farsetter's Journal. Day 7

Behrun Farsetter's Journal. Day 7

We gathered in the morning and set off to the abandoned hold. The journey would have to do without mounts because it goes through some rocky and heavily forested terrain. During the trip we were ambushed by some of those alien mongrel Kobolds, and a few of their Haddan masters. These pockets of resistance have been known to be spotted around the map randomly. A remnant of their mothership crashing some years back. During their invasion that shook the very foundations of the lands many nations, that infernal ship brought the Haddan and their cannon fodder the Kobolds. Vile little scavengers who only know to follow their masters. Since the Qur'Haddan were stranded here, they have been nothing short of a plague. Of course the Kobolds are an easy fight, quick to be dispatched, but the Haddan with their dark spewing glaives took a little more effort. Our little group of 3 dwarves and a Forgesworn took care of them easily.

Things got a little more eerie as we could see the vine covered doors to the hold. A magnificent dwarven statue lay above the frame, albeit worn down and weed ridden. As we approached we heard and saw something that made all our hearts sink. The last time i heard this distinct hum was when Brinyons Hammer Hold was under siege by the Qur'Haddan. They would swoop in from the skies and drop several of their soldiers right behind enemy lines, like some sort of magic flying shuttle. And we saw just that today. One of those devices hovered right in front of the hold doors and dropped off a horde of Kobold and several Haddan in makeshift self repaired armor. Definitely part of some of the renegade bands of Qur'Haddan. All except one, which had dark blue stains and scars all over his already blue skin, and very light robes. He appeared to be the leader as he barked his orders to his minions. A large battle ensued. With the vigor of my ancestors helping all of us through the swarm of enemies, we were able to cut through to the leader. His power was strange. He moved about quick and in a very showy fashion. Every time he made a long quick motion with his hands, some of that vile dark and corrosive ichor would fling out onto one of us. The stuff eats through flesh or armor and quickly evaporates. Like it was never there, leaving behind only the damage it dealt. Several times this quick-one would push the Forgesworn away and into some hole. The power he wielded seemed to knock us back, but i was able to stand my ground, like a proud dwarf i would show him.

My ancestral fury had reached its limits as every hammer blow landed true and hard, he seemed to be phased a bit by my strikes, but his own were too much for me to bear. One had caught me straight on an exposed part of my chest and i felt my life force giving away. I fell back, feeling really tired and about ready to black out. I could barely see Agnya or make out her silhouette as she hovered over me, trying to patch my wounds. I couldn't even remember what she said to me, all i know is i didn't have the strength to speak back. Suddenly i felt a push. I recognise it as a radiant touch of an ancestor, but this wasn't any of my own that i call upon. It was someone else. Someone different. But with that my senses immediately came back, and i had the strength to get up. I felt invigorated. As i got up i saw a very bruised and bloodied Hanzbur finish off the quick Haddan with a well placed axe. The creature yelled out something in its native tongue as it fell off the high rise to the hold, and landed on the rocks below.

We all felt we should take a rest and tend to our wounded before we continued further. We made camp far off the path, but still in sight of the hold. Something important lies down there, else why would a Qur'Haddan transport bring a group like that to protect it. And would they be back with more tomorrow? Mysteries within may hold more than the mere quest of Garu and i. I tried talking with Garu and Agnya about the push i felt as i lied there. They both agreed it was unusual, even though they didn't feel it. Perhaps this is something calling out to me for help. Perhaps its that gap in our family mountain encouraging me. I prayed to my ancestors and hoped they would find those who helped me, and pass along my thanks.

We delve at dawn.

Behrun Farsetter
Crusader Acolyte

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Simple Trees, Shrubs, and water. A better way to map 2.

In my previous posts i explained how to make simple stackable terrain tiles. Now i show you how to make it even better and stand out more with simple trees and shrubbery.

First you are going to need some plastic plants to work with. The cheapest i have found were some aquarium plants you get at a pet shop.
You will end up cutting these up a lot, and you will use pretty much every part, including the reddish roots at the bottom of the big ones.

First i plan to mount them to some of my greenery tiles. You will need to 'drill' some holes into them for mounting the plants. I just used my x-acto knife.Next by trimming off the thick bottoms of the trees, i glued the bases and inserted the trees.
I did it on a 1x2 tile because a single may be too small and could tip over easily. Also i would recommend mounting trees and bushes near the outer edges of the tiles so you can still fit mini's on them.
That's pretty much it.

Next i move onto making simple water terrain. I just measured how big a 2x2 and 1x2 tileset was, and printed off some water texture on some cardstock. I then cut them out into pieces like this:
The greener ones are smaller and for my indoor dungeon set, for murky cave/sewer waters. These pieces fit easily into spaces between tiles, so it looks like actual receding water.

Now for a showcase of all these principles:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Behrun Farsetter's Journal. Day 6

Behrun Farsetter's Journal. Day 6

I will admit, even though this Bellyorp may not be the best of kin, he knows how to travel. The itinerary he had planned out was worthy of mention. He knew when the best periods of the day were for a voyage. Apparently during certain times of the day, Krin were least likely to attack. And the caravan entourage was worth praise. It included a couple of dwarfs from other holds that were under Bellyorps employ, and a couple Forgesworn. Of all humans, the only people i will have any real respect for are the Forgesworn. Their story is one of devotion and oath. Back when humans were mere tribes scattered about all lands, this particular tribe took an oath to the dwarves of the earliest benefictus holds. Taking an oath to the forge. They have been mentioned among many a dwarven hold's annals of history and battle records. They now live in a hold they call their own and are counted among our own kin. Their love for the craft of armor and weapons meets our strict tenants, and their resilience and strength even matches our own. The Forgesworn are no meek and weak humans either. Their lives are of being the strongest and biggest. A noble way indeed. It is rare to find a Forgesworn that does not stand tall above others in a crowd of humans.

But with all precautions there was reward. The entire journey to emberstone was largely uneventful. Aside from a few twigs breaking in the woods, nothing threatened us. We finally arrived at the walls of Emberstone. Or ruined walls i should say. There was a crew rebuilding what they could of the sieged structure. Another wound from the Qur'haddan. A great wall built by dwarves remained for centuries, only to be broken down from poor human upkeep and Qur'haddan siege power.

Not too soon after we entered, i thanked the caravan for a safe journey and parted ways with my cousin. I seeked the cities grand library. From asking around i was lead to a tall stone structure, outlined with pillars and murals of the cities' supposed "great valour and bravery" of their kings. Inside i found a very old woman who didnt seem to pay much mind to my presence and pointed to the room that held the dwarf historian. It was no grand hall, just a dark and stuffy record room, poorly managed by an old dwarf, no doubt bad habits from being among humans too long. He introduced himself as Garu Greyforge.

I discussed with him the nature of my quest, and he was actually quite helpful. As it turns out, during the Purging of afflictus, many scrolls and documents were burned to remove its taint, even important scrolls. He had on himself his own family mountain scroll and showed it to me. The edges and a large portion of it had been burnt. He too had been trying to repiece the portions missing of his families record. Unfortunately not much was left of the Greyforge. My heart sank for his troubles. There have been rumors of some noble dwarf families slowly dieing out. My gut wrenched at the thought of their ancestors being forgotten; to have no followers to keep them alive. Disappearing into oblivion.

As he inspected my scroll laid out over his table, he did recognize a name. One he had seen before somewhere. Excited he pulled a latter up to his tall library shelves, searching for a volume he knows existed. I wish i had paid more attention to his movements for i may have seen the large tomes being thrown from the top shelf. One such had hit me in the forehead leaving a bruise.

Garu found the book to have a lead. There was an old abandoned dwarf hold not too far from Emberstone near the hill ranges which is rumored to have many records within still intact. He had been meaning to go himself for his own families sake, but never could gather the forces. The hold is said to be overrun with savage Krin or other vicious denizens who now call it home. I resolved to search the hold with him for clues to both our heritage. Old Garu enthusiastically accepted the offer and we made plans for our quest. He introduced me to his wife, a cleric of the local benefictus church. Her name was Agnya Brighthill (evidently during their marriage, her father had not wanted her to take the new name. Greyforge was not well enough known). Garu suggested i find another member for our party, as we may need all the help we can get. I knew just the one.

After finishing plans with Garu, i return to my cousins base of operations. I found him negotiating with a local vendor. I asked him if i could get the aid of one of the Forgesworn under his employ. He directed me to a Hanzbur. A tall bearded human with a patch over one eye and an axe, that was about as tall as i, slung over his back. He seemed emotionless and of few words. However he did agree to come along after i mentioned a possible compensation of his time, and some action against the Krin or beasts of the area. He appeared more interested in the latter.

We leave in the morning.

Behrun Farsetter
Crusader Acolyte

Behrun Farsetter's Journal. Day 2

Behrun Farsetter's Journal. Day 2

I woke up late. Late into the day as a matter of fact. Never has much laziness been shown among dwarfkind since the dark afflictus kin. Not a good way to begin my journey. But i must not dwell on it, for an ancestor does enough remembering of my sins when i am judged before them.

As a first step i returned to our family historian to convene with him where i may begin my search. After pondering the missing section of the genealogy mountain, we found it might not be a bad idea to get with someone in the family that trades goods between the holds and with the humans if there might be any artifacts recovered or traded that could be a lead to something. He recommended me to my cousin, Bellyorp. Now i have not seen much of Bellyorp during our decennial reunions, but i know the rumors of him. Some say he has grown soft or wild from too much contact with humans and shady folk. Having got himself into much trouble at times.

I was to find this cousin at the trade district of Brinyons Hammer Hold, for today was nearing market season in the holds and he was sure to be there selling his services to stock the vendors with goods and oddities from far and wide. Sure enough, i find him there, but in a tavern, drinking with some ragged looking bunch of human folk. All rumors i heard of him appeared true. He looks as though he has seen his fair share of rough times, but not from battle or war. One side of his waist length double braided beard had been sheared off by a blade it looks. Perhaps from crossing a powerful individual, most likely a human. A specie that has no respect for the sanctity of the dwarf and his beard. They appeared to be having a jolly time amongst the bar, and as i approached i received a hearty greeting and an offering of ale. While i would prefer not to be seen drinking with this black sheep, it was an even greater dishonor to refuse a drink from a dwarf, especially of family. I relayed to him the details of my quest, making sure to keep the conversation relevant to my purpose of being with him. He mentioned his next errand would be to Emberstone, a human city mid continent. A place between the mountain range and the shores. It was once the largest and most powerful human city, but fell under siege from the Qur'haddan invasions. Now it remains half in ruins and a large percentage of its inhabitants became refugees and nomads, many settling in smaller cities. I do not wish anyone fall under the dark blades of the vile alien Qur'haddan, but good riddance. Emberstone was never much of a credit to the continent, or a friend to the dwarves since the Liberation war.

Evidently there is a grand library intact, and a certain dwarf upkeeps a section detailing dwarf history in that region. Its better than no leads, but i can only hope our Farsetters arent tainted too much by being mixed with that piece of the world. Bellyorp insisted i come with, just for safer passage. I will agree the roads do lead through the forests, and caravan casualties have happened from raiding Krin. So i am to be stuck in a mixed caravan with a half bearded cousin through Krin territory. Ancestors guide me.

We leave in the morning.

Behrun Farsetter
Crusader Acolyte

Monday, September 7, 2009

Behrun Farsetter's Journal. Day 1

Behrun Farsetter's Journal. Day 1

And so begins my journey. My quest. I have been chosen by my family, the Farsetters. For generations we have been a proud dwarven family name to involve ourselves in the construction and landscaping of several of the dwarf holds. Since our liberation from the barbaric Krin, we have been key in helping our people rebuild. Since the first purging of the Afflictus taint from within our mountain walls, we have helped to undo the damage done during the Great Purge war. Since our misguided and betrayed leaders caused the Crusader wars with the human nations, we have rebuilt and healed the damage to our structures and pride. Since even the invasion of the alien Qur'haddan, we have recuperated our forces and won back our freedom and homes. Our heritage is one of creation and rebuilding. So it will be my quest.

One very disturbing thing has been around our ancestral home in Brinyon's Hammer Hold. Our great wall with the genealogy mountain, showing the progression of our family offspring all the way back to ancient beginnings, has a missing piece. An entire section left blank and unrecorded. As though a section of our history had never happened. We know that a generation or two of proud dwarves took the name of Farsetters in that time, but we have no record of it. It has been a scar, our only scar upon our name. Not a scar of commission, but a scar of omission. The family elders have convened and said it is high time one work to fill this gap and retrieve the missing piece. Through a lottery of many able bodied warriors, i have been chosen. Me, a mere inductee into the Crusaders. Holy warriors of the benefictus ways. Well i am not without experience. I took part into the defense and liberation of Brinyons Hammer Hold from the Qur'haddan when i was but a neophyte, fresh from the steps of my family hearth. But for all Crusaders to be in the highest and most honored order, they must undertake a quest. A grand quest. So i go forth with confidence that the ancestors have willed my name be drawn from the lottery pot. I go forth with them at my back, and their strength at my limbs.

In my preparation ceremony i received many a fine implement. Great uncle Kern awarded me with a fine suit of chainmail. A chain of dwarven vigor. One that embodies our very resolve and stubbornness to fall to our enemies. Forgekeeper Rhun bestowed me a pair of ornate hammers. Craghammers named Errot and Mollek (earth power and earth defense). Even my nephew, Yinn, has given me his best crossbow from his personally crafted collection. I treasure it so. And finally the family historian gave me the greatest honor a dwarf could carry. A family mountain scroll. The Farsetter thane of old, Bregyon, carried this scroll on a chain bandoleer in a pipe case on his chest during the first purging war. Since has more and more generations of Farsetters names been added to it. To carry this into battle and on journeys is to have the very souls of my ancestors watching over it and its wielder, to make sure their names never get blotted from history by sword or fire.

The celebration of my acceptance to the task was grand. Many a keg were broken and music and dance was rampant before our genealogy mountain wall. As a matter of fact, maybe too much had been broken open, for i could barely walk straight to my bedchamber. But i needed the sleep, for the next day i would begin my quest.

I leave in the morning.

Behrun Farsetter
Crusader Acolyte

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Stackable Square maps

First things first. You go out and raid every single local thrift store you can get your hands on, and purchase all the copies of the game UpWords you can find. I was able to find 8 copies (thrift stores usually sell these things at around $2 a box). You are gonna need these letter tiles. Lots of them.Next i would recommend washing the letter tiles. These thrift stores are 2nd hand, so you dont know where they've been. Once you have them washed, you want to glue some of them together. The reason for this is you want the tiles to be a quick and easy setup. Something you can do on the fly on the gaming table. If you are having to stack up each and every individual tile one at a time, it takes a while. So with some of them you glue them together. I would say about 30% made into 2x2 tiles, 30% made into 1x2 tiles, and the rest singles. Glue them together and make sure they have a set spacing so they fit easily on the game boards they come with.Once you have your tile groups made, paint them. Spray paints do great for doing the base colors. I will explain how to do the details in a bit. Now that we have our tile sections made, start thinking of what kind of terrain you want. Of all the tiles had made, i was thinking of a combination of rocky ground, cave floor dirt, dungeon floor coblestone, outdoor road coblestone and grassy. The quickest way to do this is get some printable sticker paper, and find on the internet some textures (google images was invaluable for this) and print the textures onto the paper. Cut them up into squares that fit the tile tops and stick them on.Now for your game board. As you may notice, one of the game boards isnt nearly big enough for what you need (around 10" x 10") so i had the idea to combine them. I took 4 of the boards and cut off some of the sides and glued them together on the bottom.Then spray painted the top. I did this too for a dungeon set.
And VOILA! Quick and easy stackable gaming terrain. We played with these and they were quick to setup and visually appealing at the same time. We also played with the dungeon set and i came up with a cool way to pull that off. I noticed that there was some space inbetween the tiles. So i printed off some cardstock with textures of cave and dungeon walls. I found i could stick these inbetween the tiles and they would stay standing. This made it feel as though your characters were actually enclosed inside, as apposed to just moving around on a map.
There you have it. The best way i found to make things all the more awesome for your games. It took a lot of time to make and set up, but the ending result is very pleasing. And all this from several copies of the old milton bradley game of UpWords.

A better way to Map

As a DM for our games, i am always looking for better and more visually appealing implements for our games. And i think i stubled onto the ultimate.

When we battle in dnd, i used to use a 1 inch grid map laminated and used dry erase markers on it. It worked well, but it wasnt as visually appealing. I searched the internet near and far, and found several appealing and awesome solutions, but most were usually too expensive or time consuming. Like worldworksgames products here.

Then i found something else. There is a tabletop strategy game made by Hasbro called Heroscape. It utilizes stackable hex tiles, creating some awesome landscapes. This would be a simple easy solution to making visually appealing and dynamic terrains and settings, but again its waaaaay too expensive, and it uses hex tiles. Dnd is all 1" squares.

So i got an idea. Does anyone remebers the family board game called UpWords? It was pretty much a game of scrabble with stackable letter tiles. See where im going with this?

I found a way to make that game, into this:

I had finally found a quick and easy solution. In my next blog post i will detail how i made it all.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Alternity Reality

For most when they think of pen and paper RPGs, the first they think of is the giant gorilla in the corner called Dungeons and Dragons. And rightly so. It is the pioneer for the industry, and a very good fantasy game to play when with friends. My brothers and I have done several campaigns and all of them memorable.

But for me, my RPG experience didn't start with D&D. It started with an old sci-fi game called Alternity.

The game was made by the company TSR (which was the company to invent the D&D we know today), but was discontinued shortly after creation. Which is a shame because it was an awesome game. It was true blood scifi space opera on paper. We really got into it because they actually released a setting for it based on the video game Starcraft. My brothers and I enthusiastically began creating our characters. We all had an idea of what memorable unit from the game we wanted to be. My friend Austin made a Protoss High Templar, with psionic power radiating from his cold eyes. My brother Jacob played a professional stealthy Terran Ghost, with his high powered canister rifle. James, my 2nd brother, was a devout Protoss Zealot, a soldier that would go into fits of blind rage, slaughtering any Zerg that stood in his way. And finally Jarom, my 3rd brother, played a Protoss Dark Templar, the invisible rogue, which evidentaly didnt have the luck-o-the dice on his side, as he couldnt stealth past anything.

All in all the game was full of win. But unfortunately shortly after we started playing it, we also stopped. We couldnt always get together as much as we wanted and plans fell through. My books began gathering dust on the shelf.

Nowadays, James Jarom and I get together weekly to play a game of D&D. We have been having fun with it, but are sort of getting bored with the generic fantasy setting. When we finish this campaign we might dabble back into the old scifi settings and pick up alternity again. I got so excited about it and looked back again at all the old books i had. Now with as much roleplaying experience i have under my belt, i notice a whole hell of a lot more about the old game than i ever did. Some rules that didnt make sense to me at all back then give the game a lot more sense and depth now.

So since i like to keep myself busy, i made a custom character sheet in Microsoft Publisher. The original character sheet is adequate, but doesnt have all the possibilities for a character, and
takes up too many pages. So i made a booklet.


Each page is printed on a 8.5 x 11 sheet. Page 1 and 2 are printed front and back, and page 3 and 4 are printed front and back. Page 5 is cut out and glued onto where its instructed on page 4, making a nice card pocket. When the the 2 pages are put together then folded over, it makes a 4 page booklet. The 6th page is just some reference cards you can make when you cut them out. I would used them to put down rules that apply to your character the most or keep track of gear. It helps with things on the go. Kind of like how D&D 4th edition uses the power and gear cards. Everything you need is on your character sheet, but having cards for that stuff makes it much easier.

Everything in this character booklet makes more sense when you are more familiar with the game Alternity.