Saturday, June 29, 2013

Unleash the Hounds

Hit a major milestone with Hot Springs Island early this week and basically finished the Field Guide written and laid out, and on paper. Feelin' great! It's laid out so it can be printed on regular US 8.5"x11" paper that's been folded in half, and weighs in at a whopping 234 pages. Much of the reason for the length because every monster consists of two pages: one of art, one of writeup.

In the meantime, Telecanter put up a great post about his sandbox, offhandedly mentioned that the town of Gilworth raises fighting dogs and said he needed to make up a price chart for the dogs. Then, with dogs on the brain, I stumbled across a post on the Medievalist about dog names in the Middle Ages, and I ended up falling into some weird dog name wormhole on the internet.

Not being able to escape the dogs, I decided I'd make up a table of 50 dogs with interesting or useful abilities. I pulled a bunch of names from this page on Names for Roman Dogs (using the English translations 'cause I thought it was amazing how many of them are still used to this day), pulled a bunch of breeds at random from Wikipedia's list 'o dog breeds, and pulled the dog abilities out of the aether. Then I mashed it all into the table style Zak S. used for his nobles in Vornheim, so you can roll d100 and just pick a dog, or roll d100x3 to build your own.

Enjoy the mashup!

Click to embiggen

Monday, June 17, 2013


I've been listening to a lot of retro-future-new-newwave music recently, and it's giving me crazy ideas. Just as metal can inspire gloriously epic fantasy, synth-heavy-fever-dream music inspires a very spacy 80s fantasy, where magic is real, but so too is the ancient science of forgotten empires that walked the stars with abominations.

I'm gonna see if I can rustle up some #gygaxiandemocracy and get the G+ grodnards to join together, blend up some crystal swords and laser beams and help fill in the shattered land of Synthexia.

To help get things going I've made a playlist of inspirational music, so you can hear the vibe I'm stuck on.

Additionally, the plan is to point people to Scrap Princess' Petite Boating Accident for the ultimate inspirational visual reference.

So if you read the blog but don't visit G+ much, hop on over and bring some ideas!


Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Vyderac

The Vyderac are a type of blood sucking insectoid found in the Swordfish Islands. The Matron, or Queen, is totally stationary, but heavily armored and defended by her swarm. Her maggots reinforce the hive area, build additional blood reservoirs as the colony expands and can be transformed into the other three types of vyderac. The seekers identify food for the colony. The swarmers overwhelm the food and make sure it's blood doesn't clot. The feeders drain the food of its juices and transport the juices back to the matron so she can feed the colony.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Random Ship Name Generator

I've added a button! It's over there on the right, up above the "Adventurers" section of the blog (I'd love it if you'd push the join this site button too 'cause numbers going up on the internet gives my life fulfillment and meaning). Every time you push the button it will give you a random ship name based on the following tables:

Originally I was just going to make this a pirate ship name generator, as I'd based most of it's original contents off of a Shakespearean Insult Generator that's been floating around the world since before the dawn of the internet [speculation]. As I worked on it however, I began to realize that it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to generate the names of merchant ships and military vessels too. Many of these names could probably be used for seedy tavern names and adventuring groups as well, so please feel free to remix and reuse as you like.

Now then, how does all this work, and what's actually going on with the generator (or, what if I want to print a copy of this and use dice to work out names)?

Step 1: Choose if you want to roll up a PIRATE, MERCHANT, or MILITARY vessel

Step 2: Roll 1d20, and take that prefix

Step 2a: If you get something like "Blood -ed -y" you then have a 50/50 chance of having "Blooded" or "Bloody" as your prefix. Some of the Suffixes actually have four choices, so bust out that 1d4 and determine if you've ended up with the "Stag", "Stags", "Doe" or "Does".

Step 3: Determine which suffix column to roll on based on the vessel type you choose, using the sub-table. If you chose to roll up a PIRATE you have a 0% of rolling on the Positive Suffix table, a 40% chance of rolling on the Neutral Suffix table, and a 60% chance of rolling on the Negative Suffix table.

Step 4: Roll 1d20 on the suffix table you ended up with

Step 5: Enjoy your awesome name

I love complex tables like they lead to a metric shit-ton of possibilities, the down side of course is that, although doable, it can become pretty tedious rolling up multiple ships. Thus! With the aid of my best friend and coding wizard, I have added a widget right here on the front page of the blog where you can roll up a name whenever you like.

Don't like a roll? Just keep pushing that button!

Once I get a real website up and running, I think I'm going to set this up with its own page and make it so that when you roll, you can immediately tell the "type" of ship you rolled up (pirate, merchant, military) based on the font it displays the text in. Just need tiiiiiiiiiime.

Friday, June 7, 2013

"Never Go Full Retard"

Content has no value, but it's the only thing that matters. It matters because it's content that attracts the attention of an audience. It's the content that unites people, globally, from every conceivable socioeconomic background by giving them a commonality to discuss in mutual enjoyment. And then, when all of these people have come together and are talking about, and enjoying the content, they can choose to engage in a gentleman's agreement with the content creator, and say "We love what you do, and we love it so much that we will work together to try free you from your mundane daily obligations so that you can create even more content for us to enjoy."

And that's fucking great.

That is so, amazingly, blindingly great that I just want to shout it from the rooftops.

But there's a problem. And the problem has been around for a very long time. We're ultimately physical creatures, that live in a physical world, and we're only able to be in one physical location at one time. So if you're a content creator, and you make something in this physical world, it, like you, is confined to a single location as well. This is why the printing press was so revolutionary, and the camera, and the television, and of course, the internet.

With each advancement the ability to make copies has become cheaper and cheaper, because the physical goods required to make the copy have become less and less. With electricity and inter connected computers it costs effectively nothing to make a million perfect copies of a song, or a book, or a picture. It is possible to be ubiquitous for effectively nothing.

And this is fucking great!

It's great for the consumer because they have immediate access to almost any content they want, and it's great for the content creator because they are able to reach the whole fucking world for nothing. Nothing.

The distributors of course, hate it. They hate all of it. It nullifies their traditional place. THEY were the facilitators. They were the ones that paved this road with their money, and enabled the creation of all the physical media for so long. So so long. And now... they're unnecessary. Or well, not unnecessary, but the traditional need and guaranteed returns are gone. They COULD transition, and flex, and pivot and become curators and taste makers and content "pushers". But there are shareholders. There are profit expectations. There is arcane thought about pricing. They would rather sell one copy of something for a million dollars, than a million copies of something for one dollar, because under the first system they *might* be able to sell two.

I hate it. It makes me rage.

The distributors are fighting to survive. Fighting to figure the whole thing out. And they're doubling down on copyright, and patents and DRM, and actively trying to thwart the consumer by creating god damned artificial scarcity, and Microsoft, with it's new XBone is siding completely with the distributors. The middlemen.

We are a generation that will be forgotten so quickly. We will fade like a firework, and be gone. The digital is inherently one of the most fragile things we've ever created when it comes to preservation because of its absolute reliance upon electricity. And as if that wasn't enough, file formats change a break neck speeds compared to the history of the world. And when DRM is involved the content fades and dies even faster. Its life is even more limited.

The great erasures are coming. I feel like a wild man in the desert, bearded and in burlap. But do we not all wish in our hearts to be like Achilles? To be remembered? To not fade? But our photos, our content, our records cannot live without cannot live without electricity. They can't be sifted through in an antique store in 100 years. They'll vanish when Facebook dies, not even having the decency to rot and fade. Just blip out of existence. Yes the Streisand effect is real, and what you put on the internet is "permanent" and can "hurt you" but when compared to the timelines of our life, and the timelines of our collective history, it's nothing.

Google will die. Facebook will die. Where are the pictures you hosted on Geocities? The World of Warcraft servers will be turned off, and what will be left? Not even ashes. The primary sources will be gone.

It's only by copies that ideas survive, and pass throughout the ages. TSR is gone, and TSR is dead, but I still have its books. I still have the physical things in a format that can be used because all it requires is the reflection of light to view. The digital is a ghost. A phantom. And if it stops working today, every baby born tomorrow won't even believe it existed when they grow up.

These restrictions that Microsoft is embracing condemn its content to oblivion, not ubiquity. And it just... doesn't have to be this way.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tabular Complexities [or 1d20 vs 3d6]

Jungle river of fire by Leigh Hilbert
Hot Springs Island has 7 different habitat zones, and I've really been focused on making each type of habitat *feel* different from one another. On the one hand I've been working on a list of descriptive terrain words the DM can quickly reference as the description of each hex. For example, in the areas of Heavy Jungle I've got things like (dense, shadows, dark, vines, twisted, musk) while in areas of Light Jungle I've got things like (sunbeam, canopy, clearing, bushes, vines, trailing, flowers).

On the other hand, and for the purposes of this blog post, I've really been focused on giving the random encounters of each hex type their own feel. To accomplish this, we're using 3d6 tables instead of 1d20 tables for random encounters, and we're nesting the tables like Russian dolls so there are tables in tables in tables.

Our Light Jungle encounter table looks something like this:

While the Heavy Jungle looks something like this:

Each of the categories (Beast, Elemental, Intelligent) have their own 3d6 sub-table based on terrain type, so while Beast is the most common encounter type in both the light and heavy jungle, you're only going to encounter Blindfire Carpets in the Heavy Jungle, and Duecadres in the Light Jungle. Likewise, you'll have different chances of encountering the different factions depending on the terrain type as well.

To top it all off, we've got a 3d6 motivation table for beasts, and a 3d6 motivation table for intelligent creatures. This way, even though you encounter 1d4 giant centipedes they could be fleeing, wounded, mating, fighting, patrolling, hunting, and more. And if you come across a random NPC in the jungles, they might be in combat (roll again on encounter table), meditating, art, laboring, and more.

What's shitty about all this complexity is that it can end up requiring 4 to 5 rolls of 3d6 to determine what the actual encounter is, and that's just too many. To counter this, in addition to the printed tables, we've compiled them all into a program where you can literally touch the party's current hex and receive a random encounter. We've got super alpha version 1.0 working on android tablets and phones.

Ideally, this will cause the island to feel more like its own character in the game that exists outside the control or confines of the players, DM, and even the creators. Life and story through chaos.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Some Elementals

Below are a few pages from our section on elementals. Things are still rough, but if anyone's got a minute to give a little feedback, it'd be greatly appreciated. Are these pages rendered completely useless because they don't have stats? Is the information about each creature useful, or does it smack too closely to AD&D 2e Monstrous Manual dreck?

Images are quite expandable, so zoom on in!