9 December 2012

The Widow's Lantern

Tweaking the rules for Goblinquest (still not entirely happy with that name...) is progressing nicely enough for me to claim that I 'won' at nagademon 2012 by finishing and playing my game within November. Anyone else who has designed a game will, I hope, understand that just because I think it's going well doesn't mean I've anything to share yet, so for my 120th post I thought give you another Echo of Averaigne and welcome the two most recent followers of this blog, Dreamfish and Tenz - hello chaps!

Right then, are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin...

Up in the hills towards The Gap there are many remnants of earlier communities, self-styled noblemen and petty kingdoms. Some are undoubtedly still malign, like the Black Hand Barrows, others merely shocking to modern sensibilities, like the frescoes in the Temple of Perpetual Dissipation. Any traveller to nearby towns and villages will, if not driven away by suspicious locals, be treated to tales of heroism and misdeeds, tragedy and treasure about these ruins. One such tale is of the Widow's Lantern.

Picture taken from Coopdevil's tumblr feed - great source of inspiration

All that is left of the castle/great house/private chapel/monastery (depends on the teller of the tale) is one end wall, complete with huge, exquisite window. The glazing is long since lost, but the fineness of the supporting tracery that is still intact tells of a level of workmanship not seen in these days outside the capital. Anyone who looks carefully through the window will notice something odd; tracking a bird or cloud across the sky, they will see that as it passes behind the window it fraction of a second longer than it should before it appears through the window. Indeed, if you stand at the right angle, the bird might still just be visible through the window and have reappeared beyond it. The real mystery, though, is the light that blazes forth from it on midwinter and midsummer nights. In summer, the light is accompanied by the sound of great merriment, as if a host of fine ladies and their paramours were feasting and dancing. At midwinter, the sound is different. Very different. The moaning worms into the listener's very guts, filling them with such sadness and dread that none can stand it. Very few stay long enough to hear the screams, and they never talk of it.

Why the widow's lantern? A learned man from the king's schola came once and decided it was a corruption of 'window' by an illiterate villager many years ago and that simple countryfolk had built superstition around a spelling mistake. The villagers know better. They say the moaning is that of a beautiful maiden from a distant land who was married to a nobleman on midsummer's night in that house. He treated her brutally and shamefully for many months after she objected to his predilection for serving girls until, broken-hearted and broken-spirited, her piteous cries brought down heaven's judgement on that evil man and his corrupted household. At midwinter, fire fell from a cloudless sky, consuming all of the building and its inhabitants, but for that window.

Even now, should a man within five leagues mistreat his wife or sweetheart in any way on midwinter's night he will surely be dead by morning without a mark on him, except for sooty marks around his nose and mouth and the stench of smoke clinging so tight to him such that no washing will remove it!

The stories also tell of those who have been invited to the midsummer wedding feast within the long-vanished hall and have come away laden with gold and jewels handed out as largesse to the guests. Reason enough for any adventurer to try their luck and risk the Widow's displeasure...

Happy geeking, and be good to your lady,

30 November 2012

Game design advice needed

Righto, gaming parents (and any other readers, of course), I need a spot of advice.

In the game I'm writing and probably known as Goblinquest, characters start with a d20 as their combat dice and then, as they lose combats, this is reduced through d12, d10, d8, d6 and then d4 before ultimate glorious and heroic death (or victory, of course).

Now, the question is this. Should I keep my original plan and allow heroes to increase their Combat Dice by one (eg d8 to d10) if they kill a foe, or should I go for a more traditional RPG approach and have each foe worth a certain number of points which can then be traded for the equivalent poly-dice (eg collect eight points and you can buy back your d8 if you're down to a d6)?

As I see it, the advantage of 'original' is that it is simple enough for the introductory, parent and child game I intend it to be. The advantage of 'traditional' is that it gives more weight to slaying a dragon than a goblin, and it would allow the finding of treasure to have an in-game effect.


26 November 2012


Woohoo! My little Geekly Digest is now an award winning blog, thanks to Tenz over at Basement Motive nominating me for this Liebster Award for "creative gaming from a geek Dad's point of view".

The rules of the Liebster Award are:

1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog
2. Link back to the blogger who presented the award to you
3. Copy and paste the blog award on your blog
4. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 5 blogs of 200 followers or fewer who you feel deserve to be noticed
5. Let them know they have been chosen by leaving a comment at their blog

So, points 1-3 completed, here are my five nominations (once I'd culled the blogs with over 200 followers already), in no particular order:

Phreedh's Miniature Stuff - a little quieter than usual at the moment, but an absolute goldmine of old-school fantasy miniatures with a highly enjoyable ongoing campaign, "Songs of Stillburg"

Drums in the Deep - a great new blog which is the home of Cavern Crawl and now sports some witchfinders as a new project

Somewhere the Tea's getting cold... - he spent two and a half years collecting, painting, and then refighting "Blood Bath at Orc's Drift" but didn't burn out and still is churning out mountains of cool stuff

Realms of Miniatures - excellent modular game boards and an enthusiastic participant in the online revival of WFB 3rd Edition

Extraordinary Gentlemens Journal - loads of wonderful VSF stuff on here, a treasure trove of found items and rivets

Thanks again, Tenz, for the awards and happy geeking to you all,

16 November 2012

Doorway to adventure

I made stuff!

Irritated by having to put open doors to one side of the playing board when they were opened, I made two sets of opening doors. A quick scan of the interweb shows I can't claim this approach is new, but I was quite pleased with myself for coming up with it. With easy access to a laser cutting printer thingamabob I knocked these up while the class I was expecting to be teaching were all in a mock exam.

 The one on the left is obviously what they look like closed, with the one on the right with it in 'fully open' and 'diving under the blast doors' modes! A bit of Billiam Babble's old skool art stuck on to them and they'd look just the ticket, I reckon :)

Happy geeking,

10 November 2012

Goblinquest continues

No sooner do I think I've settled on a name, when eldest son comes up with his own name for our rapidly evolving game - "Knights and Dice". Well, whatever it ends up being called, the action was about to start again. When we left our heroes last time they had split into two groups, one having had a nasty scare fro a skeleton almost literally in a closet and the other facing down a gang of sneaky goblins. Lumbering in between them was a particularly disgruntled troll. What would happen next.....

First off, Sir E's crossbowman stuck a bolt straight into the lead goblin, wounding him slightly and making him easy meat for Sir E himself. A good job too because the troll was soon upon them, trapping the valiant band.

Sir E swung his trusty blade left and right, while his spearman rushed to the aid of the rather outmatched crossbow chappy. Meanwhile, supremely confident in the ability of Sir E to look after both himself and his retainers, Sir C and his merry band had opened another door to reveal another skeleton warrior.

They had learned from their previous encounter, however, and withdrew to allow the crossbowman to shoot his bolt; an incredible shot that shattered the skull of the foul revenant and returned him to the sleep of the grave.

Free to come to the aid of their fellows, they'd left it almost too late.

The troll had slain Sir E's crossbowman and the spearman was hard pressed, all the while Sir E's arm was aching from cutting down the horde of gobbos from whom he could not disengage.

Sir C's arbalist tried to even the odds by shooting bolt after bolt into the back of the creature but to no avail - Sir E's spearman was crushed before Sir C could smite the brute.

All that remained was for Sir E to finally eradicate the goblin menace and all was still.

Actually, Sir E's mourning his loyal fellows rather disrupted the board (clumsy child!), but the survivors withdrew, honour intact and the kingdom safer than before. Time for tea and cake....

[This was a really successful playtest of the almost-ready-for-sharing rules, confirming the missile rules nicely and the change in Combat dice reclamation that I've instituted. I'll post more thoughts on that early in the week, but suffice to say Playtesters Wanted Soon!]

Geek well,

8 November 2012

Charitable adventuring

I popped into a hospice charity shop last Friday with a couple of bags of clothes my mother-in-law wanted to donate. My instant reward for such helpful behaviour was to find a mildly foxed box...

 ... and inside, some pristine goodies...

... the Moldvay Basic and Expert rules, plus B2 Keep on the Borderlands, and even...

... the catalogue and registration documents absolutely printer-fresh. Now, I'm not the sort of person who gets excited by an unpunched registration card, but it does show how untouched it all is. All for the princely sum of £2.50! Woohoo! Seriously, not a bent corner or pencil mark to be seen anywhere.

May your charity shop exploits be as fruitful,


6 November 2012

Decisions, decisions

With some helpful feedback from fellow blogger Thatsants (find him over at Somewhere the Tea's getting cold), I've tweaked the character cards. Minor stuff, but I think it's an improvement. I now need to decide whether to have the white or parchment background. Any thoughts?

4 November 2012

Goblinquest character card, take 1

A bad back (something went when I was leaning into the hen hutch to retrieve the mortal remains of Henrietta this morning, poor hen) meant I had plenty of time just sitting still today, floating nicely on ibuprofen, diclofenac cream and a strategically placed hot water bottle. I could have done some prep for school which starts again tomorrow, but came up with this instead. It's a first attempt at a character card for Gobinquest, with all artwork shamelessly stolen from the interweb and put together in Photoshop by me.

What do you think? I'd rather have a less cartoony image of the knight, but an artist I am not :)

NaGa DeMon

No, not a D&D monster from the Outer Planes or anything of the sort, National Games Design Month is a blatant rip-off inspired by the success of NaNoWriMo except (as the name rather suggests) you create a game, rather than write a novel. I've decided to jump on the bandwagon and finish off the Goblinquest game this month (The Averaigne setting is going to be too looooong a haul for this, I think).


Apparently, the organised sort of people who succeed at this kind of venture tend to have clearly defined goals and targets. Things like 'finish the game, make it good' tend to be scoffed at as being too nebulous and imprecise. Tightening up The Plan (TM) a bit while my tea brewed, I came up with these:

  • refine movement rules and decide whether they should be fixed per character, or given by dice rolling each turn
  • test shooting rules more - different shooting dice for different weapons, or shift top dice up by one?
  • Instant kill - yes or no
  • Produce character cards to allow for different dice 'routes' for monsters
  • flesh out monster list to at least twelve
  • Magic items (dead easy, just +/- to dice rolls)
  • Magic spells - got a couple of ideas here but basically a very strong ranged attack which reduces the top dice of the caster as if they had been wounded, because my physics teacher brain says that conservation of energy means magic should take something out of the wielder ("A balrog... What an evil fortune! And I am already weary"). Yup, that's right, I'm worrying about the science of magic for a game for schoolkids - my Geek is always set to eleven!
Is there anything I've missed off? I have some grandiose plans for a modular game board, but even I recognise that they're not a priority or even necessary for the NaGa DeMon project.

Get designing, you lot! Oh, and any feedback or suggestions on the above would be very welcome indeed.

Happy geeking,

1 November 2012

Down, down, deeper 'n down

In his 1892 novel, "Lady Windermere's Fan", Oscar Wilde wrote the line "I can resist anything but temptation." I'm sure this is a sentiment many of you fellow gamers out there can identify with! I'm no different, so I was more than happy to comply when C asked if he could take his knight back into the castle they explored last time and "see if we can find some stairs to go to different floors - there might be even more treasure to find, and I think we got rid of the goblins so it should be easier." Ah, the innocence of youth; doesn't he know how many painted and part-painted (ok, and unpainted) fantasy figures I have? Mwahahaha....

Partly to see if I could gently extend the simple rules I used with them last time, but also so that I could increase the level of adversity (and, to be frank, friendly body count), I gave each knight one retainer with a crossbow and one with a spear and shield.

This way, men!

To simplify matters for a first run through, I allowed the retainers to move at the same rate as their knight so there was only one d4 roll per player for movement. As they were mere retainers (i.e. medieval redshirsts!), I gave them d8 (spearmen) and d6 (crossbow) as their Maximum dice. If you have crossbows, though, you have to have some rules for missile weapons. Sticking to the principle that has seemed to have taken root in these rules [note to self - must choose a name for this game] that picking the right polydice is the answer, I came up with something that will help with a kid's numeracy (counting down):

Crossbow [missile weapon]: d12 - range

So, you pick your target, roll a dice (different dice for different weapons?) and subtract the number of squares that is the shortest route to your target. If it gets to zero or below, the crossbow bolt shatters harmlessly on a wall, doorframe, whatever. Otherwise, the resulting value is your attack as normal (target rolls their current Max dice for defence, dropping by one dice if the missile beats the defence).

So, freshly equipped, Sir C and Sir E returned to the abandoned castle from which they had retrieved the king's treasure from those pesky goblins. At first it was quiet; too quiet. The knights led their followers cautiously into the echoing tunnels, when they were jumped by a gang of four goblins who were soon wilting under the onslaught from Sir C and his spearman, one of them already slain by a well-placed bolt from a crossbow. The last one fled - but it was trap! Sir E was caught in a tight crossroads frantically fending off the attacks of three monsters at once.

Elsewhere, and unaware of the trap that Sir E was about to fall into, Sir C and his team had entered a long hall lined with doors. Opening the first door to reveal a small cubbyhole, Sir C got a nasty (if seasonal) shock as he was immediately attacked by an animated skeleton with glowing blue eyes. "Oh no, Daddy, I should have opened the door and stepped out of the way so my crossbow man could shoot any monster behind the door!" I was impressed - SWAT team house-raiding tactics from a not-quite-5 year old? Good lad!

Sir C (bottom left), Troll in the middle, Sir E and co. (red and white room), goblins at the top

Right prevailed eventually - Sir E extricated himself from the trap (by bravely running away), and the skeleton was dispatched. At this point we must leave our heroes (who need to have their teeth brushed and go to bed); but wait, can you hear that bellowing? Could it be a troll about to come between our foolishly separated men at arms? You betcha :)

Suggestions for a name would be appreciated. Goblinquest? Goblins and Jewels?

Happy geeking,

23 October 2012

Striving for hex-actitude

With my painting table even more covered in non-gaming stuff than usual (small matter of a leak from the roof through into our bedroom, requiring the moving of about a hundred and fifty books onto my desk but fortunately no long term damage other than slight discolouration of a ceiling I was going to repaint in the spring anyway), I've returned this evening to mapping Averaigne, my nascent Swords & Wizardry sandbox - see previous posts for details.

I wasn't entirely happy with how things were progressing, to the point where I was actually avoiding working on it, so took to the wilds of the interwebs for sage advice. I found a great philosophical discussion which made me rethink a bit how a semi-open environment in an RPG could or should work most effectively, which then led on to a very helpful 'how-to' post about creating a hex map from scratch. I already had the tools (the template for Illustrator and the map hex icons) but was coming at it rather ham-fistedly. Now I have a plan of action to follow. Obviously, with a large scale map already roughed out, the same level of random free-flowing creation isn't what I want but I think it will be helpful none-the-less.

Having digested, pondered, procrastinated and dawdled over the advice in the links already mentioned, I've just spent a rather mindless and therapeutic half an hour creating a new Layer for the Illustrator template I have which has the large scale 'atlas' hexes which sit over sets of the pre-existing 'sub-hexes', to use the terms from Welsh Piper's instructions.

Without further ado, then, taa-daaa! Some blank hexes!

Ok, not exciting. However, as I've gone to the trouble, if anyone wants a copy of my update to Thorfinn's original Adobe Illustrator CS template with the atlas hex layer included then drop me a comment and it's yours for the asking.

Happy geeking,

20 October 2012

Don't like goblins. Do like jewels.

Having bought each of my boys (C, aged nearly 5 and E, aged 2 and a half) a set of gem polydice in the summer, they've each been asking to play a proper game with them. C can just about manage Song of Blades but it's way beyond E still so I was in a quandary. Polydice just shout 'dungeon-crawl' to me so today I grabbed a bunch of miniatures and some dungeon tiles and made up some very basic rules:

  • All players and monsters have a Maximum dice
  • Combat is by opposed dice rolls
  • If you lose a round of combat, you 'lose' the dice you rolled (damage/HP/fatigue)
  • Once you lose all your dice, you're out/down/dead
  • If you defeat a foe then you regain the 'smallest' of your lost dice (levelling up equivalent)
  • Movement is by squares, d4 per turn
  • No moving if you're in combat
  • Bashing down a door is attempted at one down from your max remaining dice
  • Each door has a total which must be reached (over consecutive turns if necessary) to break it down
  • Multiple combats are split if more than one on each side
  • If it's 2:1 or worse, the score for each side is the SUM of the values rolled for each side
  • Knights start at d20, goblins at d8 and the giant at 2d20 (can lose two rounds at each dice level before going down)
Now, this was more for me and my desire for internal consistency in a game; I only shared it with them as needed. I'll admit I wasn't prepared for how upset they got at 'losing' one of their dice, but otherwise it went really well. Apart from anything else, E came up with the best proto-gamer comment ever, which I used as the title for this post "Don't like goblins. Do like jewels." That's my boy - XP is always easier to get from treasure than combat!

The plot was that some wicked goblins had raided the king's treasure house and two of his knights (Sir C and Sir E) had to retrieve the stolen gems.......

"Right, you go and get that goblin, and I'll pick up the jewel" "Ok, brother"

"Take that, goblin!"
Things got a little hairy when they encountered the giant who had masterminded the theft and the goblins broke down the doors that had been locked by the knights to encircle them.... "This game tricky, Daddy" according to E.

"But Daddy, I don't want the giant to kill me."
Fortunately, some blinding dice rolls from the boys (two 20s, a 19 and an 18 from four rolls in the critical rounds) meant that the chamber was soon cleared and the treasure retrieved.

And, out of the dungeons, the knights make good their escape. Hurrah!
And then home for feasting and medals for everyone!

I worried at one point that I'd have to cheat for them to survive when the numbers started piling up against them, but their dice rolling! Jeepers creepers, I wish I could roll like that. They finished with only one dice 'lost' each but had felt that they might get beaten for large sections of the game which I reckon means I (by luck) got the challenge level absolutely spot on.

An hour of geeking with my two boys, playing a game they enjoyed and want to play again. Now that's treasure :)

Happy geeking,

17 October 2012

In the beginning was the Picture

Although, as seems traditional in my family, I started reading rather early (The Hobbit by 5 and plenty of Arthurian myth as well as The Lord of the Rings by 6) and remain a voracious reader, there are images from history books and fiction which are almost as much to blame for me being the fine upstanding geek I am today. I've picked just one for this post from Michael Foreman's evocative illustrations for Terry Jones' "The Saga of Eric the Viking". The viking's are outnumbered and ankle deep in the freezing, breaking surf as Fear itself threatens to sweep them away under the cold blades of alien, dog-headed warriors.

I could have included almost anything by Alan Lee (Tolkien-related or otherwise) or Cor Blok or....

Actually, I lied: one image isn't enough. Here are two more; both covers from books I loved as a boy. The Hobbit (Tolkien's own drawing) and Dragonworld by Byron Preiss and Michael Reaves (worth a read if you haven't), cover by Joseph Zucker.


So, your turns now - what images inspired you? Share the wealth!

Get reading,

10 October 2012

Hex marks the spot

After a slow couple of weeks, geek-wise, I sat down yesterday evening to put mouse to screen and start making my GM level map of Averaigne. I wanted to keep with the old-school feel of the whole project and produce a hex map. Now, a brief scan of the tubes of the interweb throws up gazillions of hits of varying usefulness: some lovely examples, several competing programs (each with their critics and devotees), and some mindblowingly complex cartographic arguments over the precise representation of various fictional worlds.

Fortunately, there was a clear voice which rang out amidst the clamour, that of Thorfinn (or more succintly Thorf on several OD&D mapping fora). As part of his labour of love (the complete mapping at all scales) of the game world Mystara, he has produced a marvellously useful set of tools for the budding hax-mapper to use in Adobe Illustrator CS. I have CS4 thanks to school, so they've worked like a charm.

You get a hex template like so:

You have to add the symbols that come with the download to the correct folder for your installation of Illustrator, but that's a really quick bit of copy and paste. The template consists of half a dozen layers so you have rivers on one, roads and settlements on another, map hexes (trees, mountains, good pasture, volcanoes) on another and so on. The map hexes are done by selecting a hex and choosing to replace it with one of the symbols from the palette. Roads and rivers are done by painting a line and choosing the appropriate style from the included set (major river, track, road etc). Seriously, this is a great piece of kit and a fantastic gift from one geek to the geek world!

Once I'd worked out that pressing 'shift' and clicking allowed multiple selection of hexes, I found it really quick and knocked this up in about 35 minutes. Thirty of them were before I found out about the shift button thing, and five after: I got the same amount done in both sets of time!

It's my first draft of the border marches of Averaigne. I'm learning a LOT about how I want to set things up so that there is a sandbox type experience for the players, but also there are key elements of the history (and therefore likely encounters) of the region that fit with a pseudo-medieval, medium magic, Europe which is my desired outcome. It might not look it, but plenty of thought, pondering, noodling and staring out of the window went into what little is there so far. Unfortunately for non-affected parties, both of the chaps who I hope will play this at some point check in on this blog from time to time, so I can't give spoilers, but shall just leave the teasing note that there is good reason to be afraid of the dark in the Marches. Mwahahahaha...

Anyway, the hex stuff. Thorf's site is: http://mystara.thorf.co.uk/cartography.php

He has a good explanation of the way you can use the layers in his template here: http://www.thepiazza.org.uk/bb/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=2057

And there are plenty of other pointers scattered around that site. I also found loads of youtube videos for how to use Illustrator, which is something I'd never done before yesterday. It really is that straight forward.

Happy geeking,

30 September 2012

Sponsor a dungeoneer, guv?

Well, it seems like people power is the new black, especially in the form of crowdfunded projects. I considered the Reaper kickstarter, had my mouse over the contribute button for the Fractured Dimensions orcs kickstarter that I posted about a couple of weeks back... but resisted. Now I've got another temptation: Otherworld miniatures, who produce some of the finest and most characterful 'old school' monsters, are finally moving onto the adventurers with an Indiegogo project. Kev Adams is evidently on a break from sculpting brilliant goblins and this is the first set of greens:

I like them. A lot. They have that grizzled professional look on their faces which hints at them being used to glorified tomb-robbing, but not having been made rich from it. There's also not a demi-god amongst them. And they're laden with kit. A little pricey, perhaps, at about £4 each, but they do appeal. Will I resist this time?


Happy geeking,

25 September 2012


After spotting a thread on Lead Adventure Forum (LAF) this morning bewailing the discontinuation of GW's washes (particularly Devlan Mud, a spectacularly useful addition to my own painting 'skills'), a really helpful link was posted by Major_Gilbear pointing to this blog entry at From the Warp. Suffice to say that I'm already planning an order of the mentioned Army Painter inks.

The summary of the post is:

Army Painter Warpaints Dark tone ink = Badab black
Army Painter Warpaints Strong tone ink = Devlan mud
Army Painter Warpaints Soft tone ink = Gryphone Sepia

Note that it's not the big tins of Quickshade that is being talked about here, but the inks in their Warpaints range.

Hope that's as useful to any readers as it was to me,

24 September 2012


A few days ago, this rather nice little parcel of freebies was waiting for me when I got home :)

It was the very generous prize I won from winning the caption over on Headnhalf's great blog ilikepaintinglead (which you should have a look at if you haven't already). I can see those pieces proving vaaaahry useful as I get my act together and dabble in running Swords and Wizardry. Or Gareth's new ruleset, Cavern Crawl. Or both. Or....!

Term seems to be settling down a bit now (famous last words!), so hopefully I might even apply paint to lead or get a game in.

Happy geeking,

7 September 2012

Fount of all knowledge

Buy a man a pint and he'll drink your health. Buy pints in a bar often enough and you become that creature beloved of all barkeepers: the regular. To become a regular in the Wounded Gryphon you'll have to earn the trust of Jacques Noir ("Blackjack") and then he'll tell you all the gossip you need, he might even tell you what he really thinks. More likely, though, he'll tell you what you want to hear or what he thinks Baron de Corbin wants to hear. Now, it's your round.

The Baron? Big admirer of Baron Gilbert, me. Not actually ever met him, o’ course but his taxes don’t leave us starving, he doesn’t ‘invite’ our wives and daughters to keep him warm at nights, and his seneschal and soldiers keep the King’s Highway and the towns free of anything major that creeps out of the wilderness. Must have been here twenty winters by my reckoning, round about the harvest time when my eldest was born. I heard he upset the wrong person at court, lost all his holdings but this one and has been exiled here ever since. A proper Marcher now like the rest of us. Mind you, I wouldn’t cross him – might end up having to ‘explain things’ to his nephew, Sir Reynaud, the seneschal. He’s as hard and cold as iron, that one. Maybe you have to become a bit of a monster to be so successful at crushing them?

3 September 2012

Into the oubliette

Well, that's the summer holidays over and term starts again tomorrow. I suspect that I'll be in effect off-line as far as the blog goes for a couple of weeks until it all settles down. See you on the other side...


29 August 2012

One evening, down at the Wounded Griffon...

... a group of young farm labourers and woodsmen are just getting into the swing of things. Ale and insults are flowing in equal measure when one of them decides it's his turn to tell a tale.

Look at this, lads! Well it’s a jewel, ain’t it? Yes I know it’s just glass, that’s not the... Look, shutup, will you... What!? Really? Well your sister didn’t complain! OW! Alrightalright, sorrysorrysorry, get off me, will you!

Anyway, this jewel. Got it from one of those wandering preachers this morning, he was up by that dead oak near the crossroads over by old man Fletcher’s place. He was just standing there, eyes closed. I was going to walk past him but he called my name, didn’t even open his eyes to begin with, and said he had a gift for me. “What sort of gift?” I asks. “Wisdom” says he and then hands me this bauble. Great, I think, a bit of broken glass. Some gift. But then he grabs my hand and I can’t pull away, even though he must be about sixty and scrawny as a sick hen. “Look at the jewel,” he says. “See how it has many sides? All the temples focus on a single face and call it their god, but it’s just one face of the Whole. Remember that, boy.” And then, I swear, he just fades away like mist, but I still have the jewel. Perhaps I’ll save it to be a bride-stone for your sister, eh?

Ow, get OFF me, you savage...

27 August 2012

A second glance

Trying to fix part of my previous map just screwed it up as I had all my images in the same photoshop layer. Duh! So I cribbed from this great tutorial to use layers properly and made, to my eye, a much better map.

I diverged from the tutorial slightly, using the Pen, rather than Polygon, tool to produce the coastline. I also am not quite sure how I eventually managed to get the Marquee tool to do as suggested. It involved me pressing loads of options at random :/

Anyway, if anyone finds this useful and makes their own maps as a result, do share what you produce! Also, if you have any suggestions for making my map better, do leave a comment.

Happy geeking,

EDIT - just noticed, this is my 100th post. Yay for me!

26 August 2012


The lands that comprise the kingdoms of Averaigne, Calthus, Ferrand and Lombria are not newly inhabited by men. True, the great woodlands once were tended by the elves and the mountains stood firm over the realms of the dwarves, but there were earlier empires of men. Not all were good. Many, indeed, were foully corrupt and brought nought but horror. The echoes of those perversions lies heavy on the wildernesses that encircle the bright points of law that the kingdoms aspire to being.

25 August 2012

Echoes of Averaigne

My two boys, aged 4 1/2 and 2, now have their very own sets of 'gem' polydice so their full geek conversion nears completion mwahahaha!

When they are a little bigger, I hope they'll enjoy playing Swords and Wizardry with me (although I doubt darling wife will ever join in). By that time I hope I'll have a well-developed 'world' for them to adventure in. I've made a start on the first part of it: the northen Marches of the Kingdom of Averaigne. Given my overwhelming attraction to all things chivalric, it'll come as no surprise that Averaigne (and its neighbouring kingdoms of Lombria, Calthus and Ferrand) are inspired by western European countries of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.

I haven't drawn a map yet (although I have the outline in my head) but I have written a couple of imagined overheard conversations of the folk who scratch out an existence in the Marches. Here's the first, from a pessimistic old fellow, deep in his cups.

Life in the Marches can be hard. 

Not like in the broad vales and wide, gentle plains of the Near Shires with their abundant harvests. Nor like the peaceful Forests in the Earldoms and Baronies of the Founding Families, with their common grazing and the security of the King’s Law. Nor yet like the river and coastal towns, brash and wealthy, fat on trade and the bounty of the sea. Up here the winters are hard and long, the soil scarcely rewards its ploughing and the forests are dark and unwelcoming.

We may not have to worry about armies marching under the banners of other kingdoms during the short-lived wars that flare up around the border towns and fortresses but, nevertheless, we are under constant siege. Too far from the King’s palaces to be considered a prize, we are also too far to attract much notice or concern. Out of sight of the rich and powerful, monsters thrive. In the mountains and the forests, the caves and long abandoned ruins, they make their lairs and strike when bold or desperate enough. It has always been so.

Kings and kingdoms have risen and fallen down in the plains but, whatever flag has fluttered above the seats of power, their writ has never truly extended here so it has ever been a place for the desperate, the mad, the monstrous.

Oh yes, life in the Marches can be hard.