Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Black and White Rock Texture

The maps from the 1983 Red Box got me to thinking about how unique they were. They were black and white with shades of gray and had nice rock fill like pattern in the background. I wondered how hard it would be to make my own rock pattern texture, so I spent most of last Sunday, doodling with pencil and paper, scanning, and then countless fiddling in an image editor to try and get a good rock pattern.

Black and White Rock Texture
CC0 Public Domain Image Pack

It is not as easy as it sounds. A couple of pointers, in case you want to follow in the madness.

1) Start drawing circles at different points on the page. I would suggest you draw 10 to 20 circles, then jump over to another spot on the page, draw 10 to 20, then move around. Then slowly start filling in the space in between. This makes the page more uniform looking since you will draw circles differently as your hand gets tired.

2) Sharpen your pencil, but then scribble with it on a different piece of paper until the point gets dull. The difference between circles drawn with a sharp and a dull point is very noticeable when you scan in the paper at 600dpi.

3) Take a break every couple of minutes so your hand doesn't get tired. You will start to draw more unevenly if your hand is tired. I especially had an issue with a stray jagged line at the end of making the circle if I did not concentrate on it.

low res example of rock texture

I posted my first version on G+ when Bill Logan suggested I put it up under a "Pay What You Want" price. Then Alex Schroeder mentioned how he always sees these kind of images as tiles, so they can stack up against each other seamlessly. So I went back and started working on a version that would do just that. The below image is composed of 4 of the top image.

low res example of 4 tiled rock textures

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Caves of Threshold

As I have said many times before, my first real introduction to Dungeons and Dragons was through Frank Mentzer's version of the Basic Set in the iconic red box.

Who could forget that lone warrior, standing before a cave, when a goblin rushes out and attacks. Or encountering the fair Aleena, who heals your wounds and joins you on your quest, only to be struck down by the evil magic user named Bargle. Such a great introduction for the game.

One of my very first posts was about the origin of Aleena (See Iconic Basic Dungeons and Dragons Characters Part 1)

Later on, in the Basic Set, there is a choose your path style adventure that details another cave in the area. But the original area was never given a map in the tome, leaving the public to wonder what the cave system looked like. Did the cave with the snake and Aleena connect up to the cave with the statue and magic mouth trick?

Well, recently, Frank Mentzer started an ebay auction where he will personally draw the map that you never got to adventure to, as well as the part of the cave with Bargle and Aleena. As well as adding some unique touches and signing it.

eBay auction (ends 2014-07-25)
D D Red Box Intro Dungeon

This got me to thinking about what did that first cave system look like. I broke out my image editor and started trying to piece together the room descriptions. This is what I came up with. I am sure it is "not quite right". It is difficult to tell from the description what size the rooms are. There are a couple of instances where it says you "look around a corner". Did that mean the hallway make a 90 degree turn before going into the room? Hard to say.

So here is my interpretation of the map. It would be interesting to see how it ends up comparing to what Frank presents to the auction winner.

After putting together the map, it got me to thinking. How the hell did Aleena end up in the room where you first encounter her?

It doesn't outright state it, but you get the impression that Aleena and the fighter you play are exploring new territory as you go down the hall together. You encounter ghouls and she says to head back while you discuss what to do, as if she did not know the ghouls were there.

Then, after turning them, you both continue down the hall, and Aleena and the fighter examine the door. That implies that she did not know the ghouls or the door was there? I mean, if she had come from that direction, it would feel more natural if she said, "Hey, lets go down this corridor because I passed a door earlier".

Or, let us assume that the ghouls were not there and just moved into the hall. Would she not have said, "There is a corridor up ahead, but I came from that way." ???

Sunday, July 13, 2014

B8 Journey to the Rock

Part of the Basic Dungeons and Dragons Reviews

I had an insatiable apatite for modules as a youngster. I loved reading through them, just to read them. Even if I never got the chance to use them, or decided not to use them, there was something fascinating about their layout and structure that fired my imagination in a way that other media didn't. So, I dutifully collected the B series from B1 to B10 during the 80s. Somewhere along the line I acquired B8 Journey to the Rock.

I think I ran this module one time. I distinctly remember not being impressed with this adventure in my youth, but I can't exactly remember why. I want to say that it might have been that I felt it did not fit with the setting the previous modules have put into place. Now, I would laugh at such a notion as it would be trivial to "make it fit".

I might have been put off by its linear nature back then as well. It is no secret that I do not think sandbox play is the end all, be all of styles, but at the same time, I did not like a series of short encounters along a path to a single destination on the horizon. True, there are 3 paths in Journey to the Rock, but it doesn't feel like much of a choice.

What I mean by that, is there really isn't much information about the setting before hand. I would venture a guess that the 3 paths are presented to give the module "re playability" instead of offering the players a chance to make a meaningful choice.

I think if I were to run this adventure today, I would say the Rock is an ancient holy place that was tended by monks in the past, until two rival brothers disagreed on who would make the better guard of the holy rock. Both were expelled from the order due to their constant fighting. One of the monks went to live in Tuma (the northern trail), the other went to live in the mountains (the southern trail). And then ask the player's which trail do they want to pursue to find the resting place of the monk with the theory being that they will have a hard time getting into the rock without a clue from one of the monks. That way, there is a little more differentiation between the 3 paths.

I created node to edge graphs of B1 to B8, (See B7 B8 Node Edge Graph Maps). If you look at the comparison of B7 to B8, you can see how the map complexity for B8 is very shallow. I don't think that is a terrible thing, necessarily. I just think the major branching point could be enhanced slightly by providing the players with more information about what lies in store down the 3 paths.

Reading over the module again, there are some really great encounter setups. There are gnomes pulling a boat, a hidden creeper in the rocks that seems to be stalking the party.  Some clever trap trick encounters like a magical bridge to cross, the dilemma at the conclusion. Even some of the random encounters have a bit of flavour to them.

Something Awful did a humorous play through of B8 Journey to the Rock.