Saturday, November 10, 2012

Les Essarts : A draft map of my Dodecaedron World

This map is intended for the publication of the second opus of my Dodecaedron world.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

House of the Hogboblin Daimyo, part II

Hey, long time I didn't published anything on that blog. Publication rythm always has been erratic  and sowas life  for the last year. Now things are far much better, here's the long-time promised second part of the House of the Hogboblin Daimyo. 

The strangest feature of MM’s Orcs is probably their helmet. Sure, they depicted as pig-men and it’s a feature I’d like to discuss in another post, but look that helmet! I searched for an historical comparison. I can’t find the exact model, but it appears the closest thing is the phrygian helmet. yes, the one which serves as a model for the french revolutionary Phrygian bonnet. So, Antique Phrygian and Dacian could be a cultural inspiration for orcs. 

Gnolls mismatched armour was another problem to solve, but it appears the closest inspiration could be Byzantine banded mail. The costume is obviously not Byzantine by itself, but could easily fits Varangian, ie. “Vikings”,  guards serving as mercenaries in the Greek empire.

Last but not least, Bugbears are featured with voulge and blazon, with a town nearby,  suggesting a civilised and late western middle-age culture. Italia and France, where voulgue was common during 14 and 15 century, could fit, but euphonic with bugbears leads to the grand-duchy of Burgondy.

It makes the Cave of Chaos a rather strange but interesting mismatch of World History...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Middle earth as an hexmap

I was surprised I couldn't find a Middle-Earth hexmap. I guess this is like a "sacred monster" and turning itto hexes would be a blasphemy. So I did it, not a very detailed map, but the kind of one you could use in a vanilla od&d campaign. .

Link to a bigger version :

Friday, November 11, 2011

House of the Hobgoblin Daimyo

For a very long time, I knew from B2 « Keep on the borderlands » only the French published version. Only a few years ago, I discovered there was several versions of the same and more recently even, I learned some illustrations did existed only in the French version, thanks probably to Bruce Heard double nationality. So, I wasn’t aware of the first “pink cover” version. Still examining what could be learned from this fabulous module, I had a closer look on this cover. No doubt the creatures fighting adventurers are hobgoblins, as they’re depicted in AD&D Monster Manual.

The samurai armour is a feature of AD&D hobgoblin which is unique. Nothing else in their description in MM or any other rulebook suggest they could link with eastern Asian cultures -and the fact they have 60% chances to have carnivorous apes as guards, and 20% of living in village defended by catapults, neither their listed weapons or depicted weapons is specifically tied to ancient Japan. But... why not, after all? I suggest to take it as such: Borderlands Hobgoblins have a ancient Japanese-style culture. Just replace the chief by a daimyo or a shogun and the picture suddenly make sense. It give them a special cultural flavour and a nice switch in the campaign.

So... if hobgoblins are Japanese, what are other humanoids in the caves of chaos? Even if Kotb wasn’t designed for AD&D, it seems we could follow MM pictures to give us a few clues about it. Kobolds (p. 57) scimitar, despite not being listed among their weapons, leads toward oriental culture, and the style of columns behind suggest it could be Moghul-era India. Both scimitar and dagger could also have a Moghul era counterpart, but the costume is still a mystery. Anyway, a kobold rajah is a nice idea enough.

(to be continued...)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Keep in the Borderlands inspirational painting

"The Fountain of Vaucluse", by the american painter Thomas Cole (1801-1848). The paintings is now in the Dallas Museum of Art. Even if some details don't match, I found it very inspirationnal for the famous Keep on the borderlands.

The Fountain of Vaucluse isa small village in the south of France, well known for the impressive source of the river Sorgue. The middle-age poet Petrarcus did lived there and composed some of his most famous writing in this place.

The castle istelf did belong to the Bishop of Cavaillon, in the place where an antique bishop, Saint Veranus, defeated a dragon.

More recently, archeolgist found thousands of Vth century golden pieces as a tresaure in the source. Definitively a D&D place...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Some thougths about rpg world mapping

As I'm world-building, using material from all campaigns and modules I masterised from the last 27 years, I had a look on a few classical world maps to try to catch what's the spirit of a good world map. Here are 5 of them, but I could add more based on the same principles : Blackmoor, Wilderlands, Greyhawk, Known World and Forgotten realms. 

The first feature which strikes me is that none of them is a full world map. Borders are mostly lands, not sea, as an invitation to go further. Unfinished maps for unfinished tales. What's south of Blackmoor ? What's West of the Wilderlands ? The DM's imagination... 

I guess this feature comes from earlier fantasy litterature. Middle-earth, Hyboria, Newhon or Young Kingdoms map are  based on the same principles. 

I remember my first attempts of world buildings as a young DM. As far as I can rememebr, I nver played in tose big continental maps I drew, while I can distinctively remember I used smaller, unfinished ones, as seetings for my games. maybe i'll post some of them here soon or less.

Another striking feature, of which Blackmoor is the best - and earlier - example is the idea of the Great bay: sea goes faraway in the lands, like a Mediteranea. In these five maps, only Known World escape this feature. All have a big surface of seas. 

The 'Great bay' feature had a significant impact in my longer D&D campaign, with the CM1 'test of the warlords' Norwold's Great bay aera. This module's map share's clearly tehse two features: it's organised around a great bay, with land on two borders of the maps.

So... my current world-building work-in-progress has still no map, even if the picture is growing in my head. Now, I think I found two clues about how organize it for a mysterious, successful map. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Lost Land of Mêm

Another archive file, I posted on on odd74 forum

Mêm is a land of grass hills, battled by warm winds coming from the southern jungles. It’s a wilderness, with a scarce human and orcish settlement. The wild hills and grasslands are the realms of many animal species: baboons, black bears, giant beetles, wild boars (and warthogs), bulls, wild camels, wild cattle, wild dogs, elephants, flightless birds, herd animals, hyenas, jackals, mammoths, mastodons, giant rats, rhinoceros (including its wooly cousin, in the colder north), common stags and wolves are common, as well as numerous dinosaurs species like anatosaurus, iguanodon, monoclonius, pentacerops, plateosaurus, stegosaurus (in the south, near the jungles), styracosaurus and triceratops. 

The chalky subsoil has been dig from millions of years by the rivers. Their large valleys have turned to swamp and marshes. Sudden changes in the river flow created islands and lakes. Theses swamps are a dangerous place, due to the abundance of crocodiles, giant toads and giant water spiders. But the main troubles are dinosaurs like apatasaurus, camaraurus, diplodocus and lambeosaurus. Some islands and rives are covered by small woods and forests, where bombardiers and boring giant beetles and strangle weed are another danger. 

All these rivers converge to a dead inner sea, curiously called the Sea of Horses. Giant sea horses, sharks, sting rays and whales are common undersea fauna, as well as dinosaurs like dinichtys, and plesiosaurus. Pteranodons living in the surrounding cliffs and islands predates from fishes. This makes boating hazardous on the inner sea. 

These valleys are surrounded by cliffs, pierced everywhere by caves in this karstic landscape. Due to the massive presence of dinosaurs, even if most of them are plant-eaters and other giant creatures, most thinking species settle rather in the subterranean caves than in the underground. Clans of dwarves, orcs and troglodytes, as well as band of ogres and hill giants, fight endlessly for the control of these subterranean networks of caves. Forests of giant mushrooms, including shriekers, provide food for underground inhabitants. 

As their physiology doesn’t fit to underground life, human live in cities surrounded by a small farmland, fighting hard to protect them from dinosaurs and other animals, among them the feared giant stag beetle. Out of the cities, only heavily armed merchant caravans, using draft horses and mules – as well as bands of bandits and brigands – travels in the wilderness from city to city. 

In these cities, people worship death and devils, as way to protect themselves from these surnatural beings. Temples are rumoured to be protected by ferasome things as lemures and larvaes.

All the creatures cited here are quoted as being “common” in the AD&D Monster Manual. All common creatures have been used, and no other frequency category. So this is the most common world…