Archive for April, 2016

Planetary Display

April 26, 2016

Here is a planetary display form I’ve made for mapping worlds in science fiction games.

PD Capture

This map uses a “buckyball” geometry, a truncated icosahedron with hexagonal and pentagonal sections, but instead of filling it with hexes, it has been laid out with lines of latitude and longitude. The major latitude lines are in 10 degree steps, with further subdivision into 2.5 degree sub-steps, and the major longitude lines are in 18 degree steps (which neatly works with the pentagonal division of the ball). Longitude lines are shown at 4.5 degrees at the equator, extending to 50 degrees latitude, and then 9 degrees between 50 and 70 degrees latitude.


These quadrants created with this mapping are not all equal, but it does provide a ready way to identify a location anywhere on the surface, and they provide a sufficiently fine-grained division of the planet to allow for distinctions of the different areas.

Part of the inspiration for this was another wonderful “buckyball” planetary display done by Ronald Stepp which he posted on G+ recently. But in his map, each face is covered with a hex grid (which he warps to fit the pentagonal sections in a most interesting way). One of the comments asked about a way to identify the small hexes for mapping and note making purposes, and that got me thinking about latitude and longitude.

This is being made available as a pay what you want PDF through RPG Now and DriveThru RPG.  Once it’s approved, this should be [Update: it’s available now!] the link to get the Planetary Display PDF.

It’s pretty apparent to me that this could be cut out and turned into a 3D object quite easily.  But what seems easy to me isn’t necessarily easy for everyone, so if I need to put together a tutorial for that, that’s something else that could be done.

There will be revisions to this, and if you have suggestions, we’ll be glad to look at them and see about incorporating them into an update.  There could also be a spin off variant that is more oriented for fantasy rather than SF games.

We’re also probably going to have a very large version (maybe 24″ x 36″ or so) that we’ll have to sell direct, rather than being able to distribute through DriveThru.  There will be an announcement about that when that is further underway.

DragonQuest combat rules retro-clone resource

April 22, 2016

There is now a very basic outline version of the DragonQuest combat rules posted at DQRules.  I’m providing extra notice here for those of you who are following Antherwyck House for DQ-related stuff since there are more followers here than there are on DQRules itself.  There are PDF and .DOC versions, as well as a pretty bare plain text, so hopefully at least one of those will provide a useful version.

This is just the bare bones of the DQ combat rules, but is probably enough to run combats if you already have some familiarity with the game.  More importantly, it is the basic skeleton on which the system is built, so a retro-clone would start with this framework and expand out to flesh things out once more.

The other series of questions to be considered are regarding whether any of these core rules should be modified or revised as part of the new version of DQ.  A total retro-clone would stick to this with very little deviation, but a new edition of DQ should consider improvements and modifications.

Before things get too in-depth, this needs to be the next set of considerations.  There are some ideas already being kicked around, but additional feedback would be especially useful for this project.

Intersection I

April 20, 2016


There are two primary lines in this intersection, but unlike some of the others, this doesn’t have multiple connections between different paths.  To get from one side to the other, you have to go through the two locked rooms on this one.  There are a few side rooms, and one complex of rooms off the passages, rather than being connected to other parts.

These maps I’ve been making with very little post-processing.  Generally, these are just pencilled and then inked and then scanned and posted, so some of the warts and flaws show from time to time.  But, overall, they seem to be working well.  I’m still very interested in hearing about anyone using any of these in actual play.

What Should the DragonQuest Retro-Clone Be Called?

April 12, 2016

DQcoverI’ve opened up the idea of assembling a retro-clone of DragonQuest, but one question to be answered is: What should it be called?

For a long time, I was interested in using the original name for DQ: DragonSlayer (before a now long-forgotten movie of the same name came along, and SPI shifted the name of their FRPG in order to use that title for an equally long-forgotten tie-in game).  DragonSlayer would be a good name with a historical connection to the game, but things have become more complicated.

In the same realm of retro-clones and throwback games and the like, there is now a title called “Crimson Dragon Slayer” by Venger Satanis.  And given the potential for confusion between the two names (as well as the fact that he also publishes through OneBookShelf, as does Antherwyck House Games), that option is now much more problematic.

Also, even among the grognards and the long-time fans of DragonQuest, not a lot of them know the early alternate name, and no one looking for things related to DragonQuest is likely to be looking for things under another name, so it would have very little benefit to have a different name in order for people looking for DQ-related materials to find it.

There is also the Nintendo videogame series called “DragonQuest” that is often a point of confusion.  A new name might help distinguish between the RPG and the videogame, particularly since the latter is still actively being produced and promoted.

There is also the project organized through the Yahoo Groups called DragonQuest Open Source or Open DQ.  But OpenDQ is also a name for a data quality software project.

Retro-clones of other games need to avoid using the name of the original source, because those companies are still in business, and their trademarks for the original title are still active.  That is not the case with DQ.  So a name with “DQ” or “DragonQuest” in the title shouldn’t be challenged on that front.  The videogame might be more of a point of conflict.

So, it seems to be open season for a new name for the game.

This seems completely open for new ideas and discussion, so I hope you will add your suggestions to the mix.

Scannable Papers & Notebooks

April 8, 2016

So there’s a new thing out from Moleskine, a scanning pen and special notebook paper that will let you digitally capture your hand drawn notes as you draw them.  But they’re very expensive.  In addition to a prohibitive price-point, this doesn’t especially appeal to me because it requires the proprietary pen and proprietary paper in order to work.  But there are other alternatives, including the one I used for this Friday map which is (almost) completely free.

20160408-115631In addition to posting this old-school map, I am also reviewing the tools I used to make it, and examining the idea of scannable and digitizable notebooks.

After seeing the announcements (and then the price) of the Moleskine set, I went looking for something I had first seen around the end of last year.  I learned about white line grid paper from Dave Millar (of Dave’s Mapper fame), and I discovered a company that makes notebooks with this kind of paper (with a light gray background and white lines for guidance, rather than dark lines on a white sheet).

When I first found Whitelines, I also found their Whitelines Link notebooks, which can be scanned with an app, so that you can have digital copies of your notebook pages.  I was intrigued, but didn’t want to buy a notebook that had to be shipped from Sweden, so I held off at the time.  But, what I’ve found now is that they have free PDFs of their Whitelines pages that you can print out and draw on and then scan with their app.  So you can try it out for free.*  (The conditional “free” assumes that you already have a device (phone or tablet) with a camera and an internet connection, and that you have a printer.  B&W laser is probably preferable, but you might be able to do it with others, as well.)

So this was drawn on a sheet of Whitelines paper and then scanned with the camera on my phone.  Note that, since Whitelines is a European company, their paper sizes are A5 and A4.  Those don’t exactly fit onto American paper sizes, but it doesn’t really matter, unless the precision of knowing the scan’s size exactly matters to you.  I printed some A4 sheets scaled to fit on a letter page, and I expect they’ll scan just fine.  The app can’t tell whether the paper is full size or not, it is looking for corners and then working with those as its guidepoints.

You’ll notice that the scan is incredibly flat and even, for a hand-held scan.  That’s because it was done using the Whitelines Link app (available in Android and iOS flavors; but I didn’t find a link on their site, so you may need to search for “Whitelines Link” at your app source of choice). This automatically locates the page and takes the picture when the four corners are in frame and the image is in focus. It then processes the image and adjusts it so that you have a completely squared off image, without any keystoning or warping that you’d have just doing it by hand.

IMG_20160408_115755102Camera resolution (for me, currently) is around 2400 x 4200 pixels.  (I’ve downsized the copy of the camera image here just to avoid choking the bandwidth.)  The scanned document is at 1106 x 1550 pixels, so it probably loses some resolution in the process.  But it’s still completely readable and functional.  You can see the QR-esque marks in the corners that the software uses to identify the field of the image and adjust the scan to its final version.

I’ve been using some whiteline grid paper I made using the Incompetech inverted graph paper generator which has been fantastic to work with.  (The old-school map from a couple months back was one of the first experiments working on that paper, and I’ve really liked using that.)

If you’re the kind who can work with a looseleaf notebook, printing a dozen sheets of Whitelines Link paper and downloading the app for your device of choice can be a quick and super-inexpensive (compared to the Moleskine kit) way to start merging your hand drawn maps (or notes, or whatever you want) with your digital life.  Anyone wants to give me a Moleskine set, I would be happy to try it out.  But I expect I’m going to be set just with using the Whitelines system as I have it now.

I’d still really like to try out an actual Whitelines notebook, and that’s probably where I’d make a frivolous purchase (some other reviewers have really liked the quality of their paper, as well). 

We have a new Google+ group for people who are really into their map-making tools: Pens & Grids for RPGs  Come check it out.

If you’re an Amazon customer and you’d like to support me by buying it from them, you can use these links for:

Whitelines Link A4+ Squared Notes (WL241 LinkWA4S)

Livescribe 3 Smartpen Moleskine Edition for iOS & Android Phones &Tablets (APX-00019)

Leuchtturm Whitelines Academy Pad A4 Dots Blk (another notebook manufacturer with Whitelines Link compatible pages – this one has white dots instead of a white grid!)

Intersection H

April 6, 2016


Intersection H is closer to the idea in some of the early Intersection series.  There are a couple of clearly long-running hallways that come close to one another, and this knot of chambers and halls is the way of connecting from one to the other.

Of course, there are a couple other passages that connect into this intersection, as well, and a couple rooms that are peripheral to the rest of the ensemble.

The hall of columns is not a neat and orderly space; the columns are irregularly spaced and asymmetrical in the room, and their appearance is more like menhirs than Greek columns.

There are also two large pairs of stone plinths, each much larger than the columns.  One is in the hall of columns and the other in the antechamber to that hall.  All of these are decorated with extensive pictographs/hieroglyphs which wind around each of the plinths.

Rahnlaine Dungeon (segment)

April 5, 2016

Start with a simple map layout. One vertical corridor and two crossing horizontal halls. Put a few rooms into the spaces between the passageways. Then greeble the hell out of it.


This portion of the Rahnlaine Dungeon was constructed during the Bistich Hegemony, when crenelated construction was in favor over long unbroken walls (since it was much harder to write out opposing Dravellar slogans on irregular surfaces).  Though of no practical benefit in underground warrens, the style was adopted even for the extensive works beneath Castle Marthrikt and the keep of the city.

This space is ideal for encounters with small creatures that can readily hide in the shadows and the many niches and corners.

These halls extend many hundreds of feet in all directions, with many connections to the basements of buildings and to the fortifications around Castle Marthrikt and the city.

As is the case with most of my maps, feel free to use this for any non-commercial purpose (with attribution).  You can also contact me if you’d like to use any of my works for a commercial project.

DragonQuest Rules Clone

April 1, 2016

tarot-fool[1]It’s time for a retroclone of the DragonQuest RPG.  It’s past time, really, so there’s no point in delaying further.

Yes, that’s correct, it is April 1st.  But when better to undertake such a fool’s errand?

I have been thinking about getting a clone version of DragonQuest for a long time.  That’s ostensibly what the Yahoo DQ-RULES group was for.  There is also the mostly dormant DragonQuest Rules blog that has been a collecting point for some of the revised rules (along with some tangential stuff).  And recently, I’ve been thinking about making my Patreon about creating re-written rules for DQ with an eye toward developing a set of clone DQ rules.

Last month, Jarrod Shaw of Mythoard (a recent convert to DragonQuest compared to some of us grognards) was asking about a clone version of the DQ rules (in the spirit of the many other OSR games out there).  And that got me thinking, once again, about moving forward on a full retroclone of DQ.

Over the past year, I’ve seen a lot of OSR material and found a widespread community producing materials and engaged with these games.  There are many throwback RPGs, and each has its following.  Not only are there versions of every stripe of old D&D, but even games like RuneQuest now have retro-clone versions (OpenQuest).  DQ may never have had the fan base that some other games had, but it’s definitely a game with its merits and that ought to be brought up to date.

The original idea for Antherwyck House Games was to produce DragonQuest materials, and that is part of what we are doing.  While  I’m definitely intersted in continuing that,  there hasn’t seemed to be much support or interest, so we’ve been working in some other directions.  But let’s see how much interest this discussion generates now.

So is a retread of DQ a sacrilege?

The game many of us regard as canon was written in 1981. D&D is on its 5th edition (or more, depending on how you count things).  Third Edition DQ is less a new edition than  tinkering with a few rules and excising some of the “frightening material.”  But really, nothing has changed since the 80’s.  That was last millennium, folks!

What about copyright and trademark and so forth?

From what I know of copyright and the law in this area (and IANAL, but I’ve looked at this question more than a little bit), it is the specific expression of the rules (the particular language used to describe the rules) that is covered by copyright.  The ideas of the rules themselves (such as having six characteristics for a character in a range from 3-18) can’t be copyrighted.

But every rule needs to be uniquely re-written in a new way.  This is what’s behind many of the OSR clones, as I understand it.  The general ideas are the same, and are compatible and interoperable with the games they descended from.  But they are fresh and new (and often introduce some new angles to the system to avoid being a cut-and-paste of what had come before.

As far as trademark goes, the DragonQuest mark has been abandoned by TSR/Wizards/Hasbro, so it would presumably be available (although there is also the Japanese video game of the same name, which is always confusing), but a new name might be better.

What would a new DQ be like?

In all, there’s going to be a lot more discussion about what should and should not be a part of any such thing, so treat all of this as starting points for discussion, rather than anything that has been completely settled.

DQ has always been a modular system, and the designers’ intent seemed to be to have a system that allowed for extension and adaptation.  New Colleges of magic were built into the system almost from the outset, and Arcane Wisdom almost made it to production.

The DQ-rules group on Yahoo was originally started to create a consensus version of new DragonQuest rules.  I think a more open-ended numbering system, to allow for new rules to be added in a more orderly fashion, would be important.  Being able to add or delete certain elements without breaking the whole system would be important.

Should DQ become a D20 based system?

That’s something that Chris Klug was looking at a while ago.  A DQ/D20 system would make it much more accessible to the much larger audience of gamers, and might increase the number of players.  I’m not sure that’s the direction I want to go with it.  D20 is very familiar, though, and there could be some merit to adapting things to be more cross-compatible with That Other Game.  On the other hand, there are a lot of other options already out there that offer that compatibility, and I don’t think that’s what DQ is best at.

What are the key elements of DQ that need to remain in order for things to stay compatible with existing DQ materials?

  • Stats and stat ranges (or an easy conversion system if things are changed)
  • World with multiple Colleges of Magic (but to remain exclusive?)
  • Skills
  • Non-super-heroic system/Human-scale (a game where even an advanced hero might be cut down by a simple peasant with a knife, and where dragons remain a terrifying opponent no matter how good you’ve gotten)

But there are also some elements where I wonder if they are as important to retain in their current form:

  • Extensive ability breakdowns (individual spells, weapons, etc.)
  • Fine granularity in rules
  • Experience and progression

So now what?

If you’ve read this far, then you’re definitely in the interest group and your feedback about this idea.  What would you like to see in a new DQ?  What are the things most in need of revision?  What are the parts that represent the essence of DQ that need to remain as they are?