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.