Thursday, January 30, 2014


It's been a bumpy few weeks on the creative side of things, but I think I'm back on track... here are a few updates:

1. The Shakespeare Deathmatch cards took much longer than I expected, and were more labor-intensive than I imagined they'd be... and I'm still not sure they're going to print correctly. I spent several nights playing with Scribus to try and get the layout going there, to no avail. I think that might be the single most counter-intuitive program I have ever used. I tried a number of tutorials, and every time I'd get close to getting a card layout finished, I'd click in the wrong spot, select off the field I was on, and not be able to get back into it to make adjustments and fix it. I know that there had to be some way to fix it, but none of the tutorials aligned with the version I was using, and I ended up wanting to throw my computer into the backyard several times... I have a policy of not posting when I'm mad - and I haven't posted much the last two weeks... I ended up ditching that program altogether and putting cards together 'the old fashioned way' (with the simple graphics software I usually use)...

2. Because of #1 above, I fell behind on updating cards and background material that I planned to get done for my Army Ants webcomic! January was going to be the month of getting all the file cards up and a 'story so far' page done, and I only got about half of the cards I wanted up. This means that cards will carry into February as I start the new story, and I'm going to try to squeeze out the 'story so far' segment this weekend. I can use the original pages from my two graphic novels as the visual framing and 'narrate' the transitions to get a big page together, so this shouldn't be too labor-intensive.

3. However, I now feel like I have my feet back under me. The Shakespeare Deathmatch card deck is at the printer to get a proof copy (cross lots of fingers for me, please!) and I've posted a new file card to the webcomic. I also have created another half-dozen maps for my dungeon crawl, and I've started a set of notes for my next 'big project'... which may be something in the OSR... okay, it is almost definitely something in the OSR, using the world's greatest game engine, and putting my own spin on things. More about that to come...

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Quick Review: Howler

James V. West throws his hat into the adventure module writing arena with his first release, "Howler". There is a lot to like here.

James’ writing is clear and direct. Throughout, he strikes a great balance in helping the DM run the adventure – he gives suggestions throughout for ways you might want to play out particular encounters, but never railroads the adventure into a particular direction. He often suggests possible avenues for things that could happen, and throws suggestions that will help the DM along. This really lends itself towards a DM who doesn’t have a ton of experience, since these sorts of suggestions would have been a huge help to me when I was first starting out. The flavor text is just right – snappy and brief, establishing the scene and letting the DM get to the action.

The adventure itself uses a number of very common monsters, but provides just enough variety to give each encounter some freshness, so you’re not just fighting a group of generic goblins again. Each time, the variation is simple and elegant, appropriate to low-level play, but sufficiently interesting.

The main monster itself is quite clever, and is a great threat for a low-level party. There’s also a new monster type introduced, which I quite like. Hill Mummies for the win.

However, my favorite element here is the map, which is simply too cool. My ONLY disappointment with the entire package was that there weren’t more maps – I would have loved a small regional map in the same style to go with the one we got. The entire package is quite professional, from the expertly-designed cover to the clean, lively art throughout. The tone of the art and design align well with the flavor of the adventure.

It’s a sharp little package, and I look forward to more of James’ work. Now all he needs to do is set this up as ‘pay what you want’ so that people can throw him a few dollars to support him!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

More Megadungeon Mapping Madness

It's snowmageddon here in Western New York, so I've spent a chunk of the morning doing some drawing, and roughed out this map. I wanted to get away from square/rectangular rooms and to create a 'great hall'; I started with the central corridor and built off of it. I think that this was the abode of a powerful sorcerer and his followers. He summoned something in the chamber to the east, drove it southward and collapsed the tunnels upon it to destroy it (hence the rubble in the SE corner of the map).

My idea of a megadungeon is always flavored by my experiences in Darkness Falls when playing Dark Age of Camelot (almost a decade ago, now... wow how time flies). I liked it for the big, broad caverns - and the sense that you were always delving ever deeper and deeper into darkness.

This idea of developing the megadungeon as 6-12 area sub-dungeons that all interconnect helps me to visualize the thing. I don't have one giant map to rough out and put together; instead, I'm left with a series of small areas (each with a unique theme, hopefully) that link together to former the larger superstructure.

Now, if only I could convince myself to put in some doors at some point (other than the odd secret door or two)...

Monday, January 6, 2014

I'm No Dyson Logos or Matt Jackson, but...

Inspired by both +Dyson Logos  and +matt jackson , I've been playing with some mapping for a megadungeon for the next generation game system that I've got on the back burner (but which is rapidly heating up that burner, and asking to get moved to the front)... There is something I like about each map. The first one is a bit symmetrical, but I like the layout for a tomb. As for the second, I took some of Dyson's suggestions for multiple layers and overlapping elements, and I think that they turned into a cool little map to explore. I see that 'upper level' as an abandoned temple (with an elder force still tied to the statue in the sanctuary) while the lower level has been flooded and is inhabited by oozes and huge rats in the water... it's all bad, here!


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Webcomic Organization and Updating

I've finished the first two chapters of The Fall of Valhalla (I expect it to run 5 chapters, but it can always grow in ways I didn't expect... we'll see). Before starting Chapter 3, I'm going to spend January getting the webcomic organized and adding a number of features, including a 'story so far' page (probably 2-3 pages to get it all in there) and profiles of the major characters (GI Joe File Card style).

I'll post regular updates to the webcomic throughout the month (more than just once a week), but the updates won't be 'comic pages' per se. The Fall of Valhalla storyline picks up in February, with a story that will align with content from Army Ants Adventure Journal #2... it's my first 'crossover event'.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year, New Ants

So far, I've managed to keep my New Year's Resolution to release new Army Ants material!

The first issue of Army Ants Adventure Journal is now up as a "pay what you want" product at RPGNow. That means you can download it for free and check it out, and if you like it, you can kick in a dollar or two later on. It includes a profile of the ladybugs and their headquarters, two adventures, and guidelines for running a hex crawl campaign.

The Army Ants webcomic continues on, and I'll be posting a 'story so far' page (or two) and character profiles in the next while. Now's a good time to get caught up, as chapter two of the "Fall of Valhalla" story line is just wrapping up, and over 50 pages are now posted. Please become a subscriber to the comic so you don't miss a single update. New pages are posted every Monday.

A new Army Ants Google + Community has just launched, and I'd love to see the community grow and thrive. Please take a minute to stop by and sign up with the group.