9322 Viking Campaign Sourcebook Review

History has always been popular in intellectual circles; be it in the form of reenactments, board games, or never-ending debates taking place at the shops of old book dealers; we are infatuated with our past, and many of us seek to get as close as we can too it.

Dungeons & Dragons is a fantasy game, but that doesn’t stop people from trying to make things more accurate. As soon as it got into the hands of the consumers, we started to change things. We wanted to see if it could support a more realistic setting, and it could (as well as a historical game really can). While the masses were cool with imaginary worlds, those who had (or would have) sought out historical gaming began to tinker; their goal was to envision what it would be like to be soldiers in the age of Rome, or perhaps a knight in a French Court; not only could the system support it, but it actually provided an even greater challenge to play. Not only can you run an entire campaign in medieval worlds, but with enough know how and tinkering, anything was possible. From the prehistoric dawn of men, to the imagined dusk of our planet, our AD&D books allowed unlimited potential.

There have always been those guys who were experts of a time period, and could easily twist and shape the settings to fit a specific mold, but what about the rest of us? Those that don’t have the time to completely overhaul and customize the basic rules into something useful, or have the knowledge base to get a decent enough grasp on the world in question; can they still experience it? Well, one can always buy in. From the earliest days of the hobby other people started to publish their changes, to the irritation and chagrin of the games founders. I’m sure that you all know what resulted from that! So, I won’t go into it.

The first OFFICIAL book to support historical play was the title, Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-gods & Heroes, which would become Legends& Lore. It had just enough info to get the common man started, and considering the fact that this book, which wasn’t associated with any other product in the TSR arsenal, has always done so well, why not do some expanding?

The idea was to create an inexpensive gateway to historical ideas, and the first cultural entry into the 2e arena was a big one, Vikings! Of course this has been done before, Chaosism’s game, RuneQuest provided an excellent world; but that didn’t put any coins into TSR’s pockets, besides, since the Federal Government said that they couldn’t shut them down, clearly the only thing that they could do was undercut them, right?

In May of 1991, Product 9322, Viking Campaign Sourcebook kicked off the Historical Reference Series, it was written by none other than Dave Cook, the biggest name in TSR at the time, and it would had been really interesting to see what he could had come up with, however as much as people love this book, it has some serious issues. The point behind HR1 wasn’t to provide a new setting. By this time TSR had lots of them to choose from! The purpose of this book was to be a cheap digest which expanded upon the ideas found in Legends & Lore; that is it. TSR was making a ton of money not selling settings, or campaign ideas, but ADVENTURES! That was the primary focus, and we consumers at the time were totally enabling this behavior; I remember standing at the D&D shelf and debating if I should buy this book or a totally forgettable module that I would probably never end up running anyway . . . unfortunately, I, like many of my compatriots, bought the module instead, but I don’t think that that really would had mattered. The Green HR series wasn’t meant to be anything other than a small print run and move on to the next project as fast as you can. Unfortunately, the small print run has translated into the collectors market, and as a user of these games I’m not paying the collectors prices to get $15 of information. It was designed cheap and it sold for cheap. I never did own it, but I was able to borrow a copy of it to do this review, so let’s look at what this title has to offer, shall we?

CHAPTER 1: Introduction

Right off the bat a glaring problem is exposed. Cook wrote this introduction before the editor got done with making the cuts to create exactly 15 dollars of content. How do I know this? Well, it is simple: Cook tells us that he’ll show us how to incorporate this book into other commercial settings, but he never does; that chapter or paragraph was cut, and instead of correcting this error, it went right to the printer and nobody ever looked back.

One can say that it was just a simple typo, but I don’t think there should be any typos in this chapter. If the writer says that it provides something that it doesn’t, even something as pointless as how to incorporate it into Forgotten Realms, it is sloppy and disrespects the readers who forked over their money for this thing. I know that at the time that this book was published, it took me almost 3 hours of work at my crummy job to earn the $15 necessary to buy this book.

The chapter does start the process of telling you about the real Vikings by addressing misconceptions that many people have, and another oddity of this book is that it isn’t all that historically accurate; it says that it is, but what it really is is a chance to play in the fantasy world of Vikings, which is cool! But one is not going to get a very good grasp on the real world of the Vikings from a gaming digest, no matter what the author implies, but it is cheaper than RuneQuest and faster to read, right?
Moving on.

CHAPTER 2: A Mini-Course of Viking History

This is a very helpful chapter, it is full of specifics, and it gives laymen a very fast history lesson that is fun to read. It also points out that this is a game, not a historical reference, regardless of what was written on the cover (Sorry, I’m being grouchy, but it is irritating). The timeline takes you from 800-1100, and crams as much material in as they could possibly get. It at least allows you to have a fun game with a historic feel, and provides research points to expand on your knowledge base, which is cool! Starting something like this from the small entry found in the Legends & Lore book would be extremely difficult, so this chapter functions.

CHAPTER 3: Of Characters & Combat

I’m not totally on board with this chapter, but I understand it being included. I think that it is easier to allow the Viking age to provide its own very high level of challenge, but we can always do this by cutting back, if the user wants more information than he is just out of luck. I see this chapter as catering to power-gamers, but that is just me. I can always ignore things.

In this book, players can get their human characters gifts by rolling against a table that is full of weirdness, some of it providing good roleplaying opportunities, and others being either pointless, ruins the character, or gives the DM even more paperwork to do.

One of the oddities of the book is the race restrictions, they say you can’t play an elf (okay), nor a dwarf (huh?), but you can play something called a Trollborn, which is totally historically accurate and not aimed at power-gaming at all. I don’t get it, but then again I’m no fun.

There were many unnecessary cuts done to available classes, and the inclusion of a Berserker class which they say is exciting and totally unique to this book, makes me wonder how long this thing sat on the shelf. Well, I suppose that since the rules for this class allow the player to shapeshift into wolves and bears, and have followers that make no moral checks; this is somewhat different than the previous versions that had actually been play-tested.

There is some good stuff in this chapter too, I like the lists of names that it provides, this is something that I always do myself because I suck at coming up with names on the fly. I also like how they included a list of Languages that the player can know, or can be used during play. Little things like that impress me more than Trollborn Sorcerers. It also gives some suggestions for the DM on how to settle in on a specific location and time period which is helpful too.

CHAPTER 4: Rune Magic

This is an interesting chapter; it suggests ignoring the 2nd Edition spells and replacing the system with this one. I do like me some alternative magic systems! My concern is that this hasn’t been play-tested, but considering that we like to fiddle anyway, this probably isn’t that big of a deal. This is a really good idea for the original cover price! Not all that historically accurate, but considering that there are some really good books and webpages on the subject of runes, it forms a decent base for the DM to create his own system.

CHAPTER 5: . . . And Monsters

This chapter is actually pretty good, sure most of it is modified monsters from the MM, but sometimes this book goes the extra mile and gives you a good list of Giant Names, or points out how Dwarfs and Elves differ from those that we are used to running. Not a bad chapter! They even hid a nice map of the area in this section, not sure why, but thanks!

CHAPTER 6: Equipment & Treasure

This is cool, it gives us the ability to eliminate coin completely, and easily convert it over to the PHB gaming terms. There is something cool about changing the name of the coins, I’ll do it for a little bit, and then typically the novelty wears off and we are back to using GP again. I do like the novelty though!

As far as the equipment is concerned,   they copied most of the PHB equipment and just wrote N/A for the cost; which totally makes more sense than just offering its own equipment lists specifically written for this book. Many players enjoy having things dangled in front of their faces and being told that they can’t have it, it helps with the illusion by drawing attention to the weaknesses of this specific system which I’m sure that you will find very helpful when you are trying to convince your friends to play it.

Now, to be fair, it does give you brand new items which you can buy: 10 of them. And one of them is a comb. Excuse my French, but WHAT? Is the comb considered the greatest technological invention of the Viking era?

“Comb: Combs were valuable trade items
and gifts, simply because they were hard to
make. The teeth were carved from a thin piece
of wood, whalebone or other material. This
sheet was then mounted between two other
pieces of wood, ivory, amber, antler, or other
ornamental material to make the handle.
Combs were often elaborately decorated with
silver or gold fittims. These were treasures in
their own right.”

Right! Moving on: Not only do you get this fascinating piece of equipment, but there is a list of Art Objects, which must had been written later, or the writer of the book thought that perhaps that comb didn’t belonged here; after all, how can a Viking fight when he’s got hair in his eyes?

As far as magical treasure is concerned, once again it lists everything that the player CAN’T have, instead of focusing on what they can. It does add some decent magical items that are unique to this title, and are really cool. Why you can find a Ring of Money, but not a Helm of Underwater Action is beyond me.

CHAPTER 7: The Viking Culture

This is one of those classic 2e chapters that you either love or you hate. It follows a year in the life of a guy named Ivan, and through his eyes you learn something about the Culture, which probably was the real reason that you bought this book. Once you see how he lived, it goes into explaining the Social Ranking system, the way of the warrior, addressing female characters (a true bonus to playing a Viking type character), houses and farms, little maps of typical buildings, and much more: this chapter is the true workhorse! And was a tremendous value at the time that it was published! Ignore everything else, and just read this chapter and you’ll probably be happier.

CHAPTER 8: A Brief Gazetteer

Another good chapter, this one describes the world as the Viking knew it to be. This is the actual setting of the game, and is wonderfully done. It is easy to reference and allows a layman with no previous knowledge to run the illusion of an authentic campaign.

Also included were full color maps which increased the value of this title considerably, even by today’s standards this is nice.


The last two chapters, while valuable, still don’t justify the current market price for this title. As a product of its time it was very valuable, but you have to remember that it came out before the internet, owning this book saved you a trip to the library! It still provides something that is easy to reference. As a stand-alone item, this simple book did the work of an entire box set, it is just too bad that it was poorly designed, and terribly edited.

The biggest failure of this title, believe it or not, is one that I haven’t even gotten to yet, as it isn’t something that was put in, but something that was clearly left out. You see a boat on the cover; the boat was essential to life for these people, and you get a cute little drawing of some Viking ships, but guess what. You are still expected to use the horrible rules found in the DMG which do not function. Wouldn’t this have been a great place to put some easy to use mechanics which allows better ship travel? Clearly this was a lost opportunity which I feel that this book must be held accountable for.

At the time of its publishing, I would had given it a B, and I know that people still really love it, but today I give it a D+ . The mechanics that it does offer suck, as a gaming book this is terrible, as a setting book there is just so much wasted space. A lot of detail went into the maps, I enjoy them, but that doesn’t change the fact that much of this book is filler. If you want to play a game of Viking style adventure, I would recommend that you skip this title, and find a copy of RuneQuest.

Gothic Earth Session 6: Into the Swiss Alps

Game night went well! We started with what was to be the finale of the last adventure, but I did shorten it up some, yet it still took a while to complete. I had planned on forcing combat with the German Military, I still had them stop the train, but more as an inconvenience, I still got things pretty hot, but at the last minute I allowed my NPC banker to pay off the Major, and they let the train pass.

I did keep the finale though, seeing how combat right off the get go would effect play later, getting into the mindset of play can be difficult, and I feel that this did actually help. I designed a runaway train scenario, it was foreshadowed by the German Military, they stopped the train because they claimed that it contained archeological finds that were not allowed to leave the country. The PCs knew from last time that The Watchmen were transporting some kind of religious artifact on the train, they were worried that this was what the soldiers were trying to get. One of the players, Sam, the gunfighter decided to sit back in the freight car, figuring that the military would try an American style train robbery, nor did he trust the American cowboys assigned to guard the relic. It was a fatal mistake, the archeological specimens were skeletons, including the bodies of two knights that fought like knights. Their purpose was set, they were going to take over the train, attempt to destroy the relic in the crash, if that didn’t work then they would try and hide the reliquary out in the wilderness where nobody could find it. Sam was in the wrong place, and all by himself.

The runaway train was being driven by 4 regular skeletons, they were pushing coal into the steam engine at an enormous speed, not caring if the thing over-heated and exploded or not; it was maintaining the trains top speed through the territory of 125 mph, the train was also entering the Alps, which is twisty and up hill, pushing the engine even further. I assigned saving throws to be done for the train, every 3 minutes of real time. If a saving throw was failed, the train took a lot of damage, and everyone on top or not in their seat had to make saving throws as well. Destroying the skeletons working the engine would slow the train down depending on how many of them could still shovel coal. The Skeletal Warriors had different tasks, one headed up to the front to defend the weak skeletal labor, and the other went to the back to destroy the emergency breaks on all of the cars.

So, then we add the PCs into the equation, the strongest fighter is alone in the worst possible spot to be, the rest are back in the Royal car lent to them to aid them in getting the dethroned Prussian King out of the country to Switzerland. Sam was unable to stop the skeletons from leaving the freight car, but somehow survived the fight with the skeletal knights, he pursued the warrior heading to the front of the train, while the rest of the party attempted to stop the other from disabling the breaking systems. In the end, Sam lost the fight, but lucked out again (this character is known for always almost dying), the funny thing is that while he is fighting this enemy, he is also rolling up a new character. He does well, but not well enough, he was reduced to a perfect 0hp, which gave the rest of the party 1 turn to get to him. I rolled a saving throw for him from behind the screen,  and learned that when he slid off of the roof of the train, his coat got caught up on something and he is just hanging there, bleeding to death. The party was able to save him, it took them 6 rounds, and Sam was at -4. Death in my games is -10 for fighters.

They decided to separate the train at the freight car, and one of the heroes was physically strong enough to do it. This was a very very dangerous scenario, both of the skeletal warriors were slain, the relic and the Prussian King was saved, and the party won. I deducted XP for the lives of the passengers in the coach car which they sacrificed,  but the number of XP was still really high and they had time to level up since they weren’t going anywhere until help arrived, so I gave it to them. The Prussian spy, and the Irish Explorer both leveled up.

The party was able to figure out what they had saved when they opened the large box in the freight car and found the Reliquary of Saint Sabaldus, the priest (and Watchman) who was riding in class with the Swiss banker  told them that they were secreting this artifact out of Germany and into Switzerland to keep it out of the hands of the military.

In the morning, help arrived in the form of Johnathan Harker, the Reliquary was loaded onto his wagon and everyone finished the journey to Zurich with no troubles. We said goodbye to Bismarck, completing the goal of getting him to safety; they met up with Van Helsing who gave them a proposition. He replaced the silver casket containing the bones of St. Sabaldus with a fake, and asked them if they would accompany him to the remote village of Belalp to properly hide the relic in the medieval church where it would be safer from theft. Once this short task was done, he’d personally see them back to London. They agreed but insisted that he find them better weapons, the creatures that they have been fighting thus far seem to be mostly unaffected by them. He agreed.

In Zurich Sam and Harker took the Reliquary to the Swiss Bank, and transferred the funds earned from saving Bismarck, when he learned that someone, using his name had already opened an account, and much of his fortune had been restored! The question is who did this?

The party also had to plan a way to get the real relic of Sabaldus out of Zurich, and they did a great job! Posing as merchants, they had Harker purchase crates of wine, hid the casket in an empty winecrate, everybody healed up and lived like human beings for a few day then they once again left modern civilization behind as they drove the wagon deep into the Swiss Alps, and three days later, they reached the city of Naters, where Van Helsing sold most of the wine, and then the grewling hike up into the mountain and officially kicking off the new game!

They follow a nice gentle trail up into the alps until they get to the village of Blatten; they do not look forward to the next day, Belalp is straight up the mountain, they are loaded down with supplies, and they need to buy more. They purchase warmer clothing, some mountaineering gear, more food, and spend the night in the Blatten Inn. Spending some time in the inns tavern, they visit with the Blatten locals and discover some facts about the area:

  • The Blatten Mill was forced to shut down.
  • Belalp is secluded as hell, very few of the people ever come down to town, except in winter time when travel is much easier.  
  • The people that live up there are tougher than normal people, seeming to enjoy the severe isolation that would drive most people mad, and adding that no amount of money could convince any of the Blatten locals to go up there.
  • The whole area is dedicated to wood and mines. While the Blatten mill was forced to shut down, the Belalp mine caved in a few years ago and the miners up there are stubbornly working a less productive and much older mine, which they say is haunted.

So, in the morning, the party slowly makes the two day climb through a thick forest, up the steep mountain; following the zig zagging trail lined with flags, until they finally get to town and to their horror, they discover that Belalp isn’t Medieval at all, the Church that they were going to hide the relic in is nothing but a bare-bones cheap church made out of plywood and ran by an old priest that isn’t even civilized enough to not cuss every other word, never the less have a civil conversation with. Van Helsing is upset, he too thought that this would be a short trip and he couldn’t wait to get off of this mountain, but it is evident that this is going to take a while.

The party was very productive up here, they learned that in order to keep the Belalp #3 mine open, the land lord who owned all of this stuff had to hire some Spiritual Specialists out of Bern to run an investigation.
The Landlord is an eccentric Italian of incredible wealth who insists on being called Lord.
Many of the native locals are extreamly big people, typically standing about 7’ tall.

Visiting with the “Lord” they learn that this is an old village, a witch had been burned at the local park or something, and the entire area surrounding the village has remnents of a rich history as Romans and the old Bavarians had settled this area.

The party rented an empty cabin, and paid a local woman to provide housekeeping. The locals were just as interested in them as they were of finding this church and getting the hell out. The sheriff stopped by and introduced himself, trying to figure out the parties business (adventurers exploring historical places), and the local law man was helpful, suggesting a few people that might be able to help them get started, and that was where we ended the game!

As far as prep goes, I developed a system to dictate an unpredictable MR, I have a detailed overland map with a key of major triggers, I also started a player map, as they’ll probably want something to look at as the try to find the areas I’ve hidden around. I used to have two sets of Random Encounters lists, I’d get bored with running combat and just go with non-combat lists, so this time I consolidated the two into one list, with non-combat taking up most of the common entries on the RA list.
 I drew up three original maps for this adventure, the overland map loosely based upon images found on Google maps, a layered dungeon designed to provide multiple adventures in, and a finishing dungeon. I recycled some old village maps from published adventures, and rekeyed them. I’ve got a very large list of NPCs, as well as some mysteries going on. I wanted to strip the game down to its barest essentials, this is pure D&D, it contains mystery, exploration, hack and slash combat, it just doesn’t get any better than this! I’ve got my story in place, and the motives of major NPCs accountable for, all I have to do is describe what the players see, and figure out how my NPCs interact with the party based on their decisions.  I’m very happy with this.

I think that I will try to Draw up the Belalp Village map, and label it better so that it is easier to use. I’d also like to draw up the Mining camp, but that isn’t a have to. Events are set and just waiting for the players to either set them off or foil them. I prefer this kind of game, it basically runs itself instead of me forcing issues. I feel that everything is interactive, it is the players that will make the story happen vs. me doing it, which is nice. I guess it would also be nice to have statblocks for my RA list, but again, that isn’t really a have to . . . the only have to is the Belalp Village map. I also want to get a roll of Gaming Paper, which I found inexpensively at wondertrail.com.

Next game will be delayed, as a friend’s 50th birthday is that day, which is fine as it puts game day on St. Patricks’ Weekend, and it has become a yearly tradition to play that weekend, so I’ve got plenty of time to do whatever I want to do.

Thoughts on RAVENLOFT Masque of the Red Death setting, product MCA2, and sad news

I had a whole month to prep, and I used it all. I've got a large body of work over here, but I am happy with it all. It should give me time to figure things out. I've got many elements to it, it is layered nicely, but we'll have to see how it plays. It will definitely be a challenge for everyone at the table, a test of everything that we've learned so far. It has exploration, physical conflict, amazing treasure that will make things easier for the party, but not required to succeed if they miss it. A great mystery that should unfold nicely. I'm excited! I like this! I wish that I could play it, which is a really good sign.

Its been a couple of weeks since I've chatted you up, and I do have some stuff to say, so lets get to them!

I stumbled across an article about "Masque of the Red Death" (I didn't save it, and I no longer know where it is, but the writer summed Gothic Earth up to a simple game. Something that you play for a session or two and then beat it, like it is a video game, and this is so far from the truth that it annoyed me. Maybe I see something in it that others don't. I will admit that sometimes I get frustrated with it, because it can be very demanding,  the setting isn't complete in any way shape or form, if I get lazy it always shows, and because of the technology of the 1890's, the flow is different from sword and sorcery, and from time to time I'll admit that I miss that; But, this setting offers a lot more than fighting the Red Death, as a Dungeon Master who enjoys a more literary style, and as a huge fan of the Ravenloft Setting, this is the perfect medium for both. You aren't confined to the default AD&D setting in any way, it allows the DM and players the freedom to come up with their own mechanics, it excepts a very broad variety of styles, but in a challenging way that keeps things fun and spontaneous.  Things that players take for granted in standard fantasy are really tested here, it isn't just me that caters to the setting, and nurtures it, the players are actively doing it as well. We like the idea of turning all of the magic into rituals; giving it that occult feel. I expected the players to buck the system, but they don't. They see it as an additional challenge, and really put thought into using it.

Going into it with the expectation that you are going to save the world from the Red Death is akin to going into Forgotten Realms with the expectation of getting rid of the Red Wizards of Thay and expecting everything to be peachs and cream. The Red Death, to me, is more like Sauron in the Lord of the Rings, but worse, because the Red Death doesn't consolidate his power into a tower that you can storm, but what the two do share is that neither have an actual face. They aren't flesh and blood characters, they are horrifying ideas. One can't assault the Red Death. To whatever it is, even a 30th level wizard is a pawn on his game board.

As a DM, Masque of the Red Death allows me to really focus on, and properly showcase monsters found in the MM. Give them the perfect stage to really delve into what makes them tick. Up until we all sit around the table and I start describing the world, it is the monster that is the hero of the game. I really like that.

We are still playing Dungeons & Dragons, but with a lot more thought put into it than a fantasy game typically requires,  and for those of us who have a real appreciation for gothic horror, the setting allows us to get a lot of bang for our buck. It challenges us to rethink what table top role playing can be, but allows us to use a system that we are comfortable with. I've been playing this setting for many years now, and still don't think that I've scratched the surface of it's true potential.

I would gladly pit Masque against the other commercially successful settings that D&D offers, and point out that it is just as open and full of possibilities as any of them. I'm not sure why it didn't get the acclaim and attention that it deserved, perhaps it was just bad marketing or just to much of an indy kind of an idea for people. Those of us who did give it a shot absolutely love it! It was well worth learning the new mechanics and changes that it demands. On paper it does look barebones and incomplete, but once you get going it becomes apparent just how wonderfully different that this is, and how well it compares with similar products. I've played Call of Cuthulu, but I prefer this medium. It allows for more surprises and twists then CoC does, and since it is still Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, it offers much better support and idea generation.

Before closing, I would also like to make a retraction. Somebody, I'm sorry, I forgot who exactly, pointed out that the XP Calculator was updated in the Monstrous Compendium Annual Vol. II; a book that I have ignored for years as just more monsters that are more trouble than they are worth, but I after picking it up and looking at it, this book is moving off of the annex shelf and over to the main one. Not only does it have a great XP Calculator, but I find that the Random Encounters are much better than those found in the 1st Edition DMG, which I had been using and was never all that happy with. I completely forgot that that appendix was back there! It is also worth noting that rediscovering this appendix made my life much easier during my prep marathon, so thank you :)

The game starts on Saturday, wish me luck! Also a bit of sad news. Another player has lost a parent, a shout out to my brother Bigfoot. If you need anything, brother, we are here. Our thoughts are with you, always.

Slightly Modifying My Wilderness Maping Style

Howdy! Please forgive my free-writing: I’ve got some pretty involved prepwork going on, typically I try to blog through it, but my mind is occupied, so I think that I’ll incorporate it this week. I am trying something different, yet not really. My last two games haven’t really been up to the standards that I really want them to be, so at its heart, I am stripping the game back down to its very basics, and designing a more traditional AD&D game. The group decided to go to Switzerland, so we’ll be tying up some loose ends, and then disappearing into the Alps, which is a great place to have a nice normal game.

I did some research online and found three potentially good spots to focus on, and finally narrowed it down to just one. We’ll be in really harsh mountains, so I’ll have a bit more control over movement, my wilderness map is not all that accurate, it is but it isn’t. I looked over the google maps for major things, which I marked on my hex map, and then just started filling stuff in. Typicallly with mountains, I’ll just draw them in, ignoring the hexs, but since the entire map is nothing but mountain terrain, that is kind of pointless, and I did want to take the play style back to an older OD&D style, so with the exception of rivers and roads, I marked hexagons individually. Now, the cool thing about these wilderness maps is that you can get a ton of play out of them.

I know that a lot of DMs share their maps with the players, I am not in this camp. If they want a map, then they have to make it, if I want to be nice, then I’ll aid them, but I don’t want them to see my map as it is full of secrets. This one, even more so, because the characters have never been to this territory, they have no idea what is there. They know to follow a trail, and they’ll arrive at a village, I can mark that, and I’ll mark the peaks that they can see in the distance . . . maybe. I’ve still got to figure out what they’ll see.

For this map I’ve done something new, I’ve added secret places all over the map, if the players enter them they will set them off. Some are good, others are bad. We’ll be using random encounters, but there are some places where the encounter is forced, there is also places were food is easy to get, I’ve hidden treasure spots, and I am also trying a brand new thing. When I was a kid I had this cool board game called Fireball Island, which I loved! They had these caves scattered around the island and when you went into one you rolled the dice and it would warp you around the board, I kind of like the idea, so I’m going to incorporate it into this map just to play test it. It’s a maze down there and I’m not really worried about actually playing in them, I’ve decided that the players will roll to decide which cave they go to, and roll again to see how many days it takes to get there. It could take them 1 day to travel all the way across the map, or it could take two weeks and they find themselves back in the cave that they entered in the first place. I’ve still got to figure out how we’ll calculate movement, I know that for the most part, it will be slow and grueling.

I’ve got my basic map done, though I am still fine tuning it. This will be a very old-school game of find the dungeon, but there are things to find out there besides just it. I still have a lot to do, I’ve got to create my random encounters lists, draw up my dungeon maps, complete stat blocks, and figure out some side quest stories if they want to follow them.

I’ve done this before, and once you are finished with all of the prep, the game is a lot of fun to play and you can have multiple sessions with just the work that you have. I also, hopefully, figured out how to stump a player, he is very good at looking at a blank map and picking out where features are located. I tend to put things were they are aesthetically pleasing to me, or in a spot that is logical, and he gets it every time, this time I did not. It won’t be impossible to find, but I am hoping that I get him to do some work for it this time.  I’m excited! I just love the way that D&D allows us to enter a drawing, how the creativity flows and you get all of these fun ideas while you’re working. I’ve got a good feeling about this one! Sandboxes, once you figure them out, are a lot of fun; not to mention save you a ton of money because who needs modules when you can get so much out of a single sheet wilderness map?


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A 2nd Edition AD&D holdout, I've played since 1993 and still love it!

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