Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Thank you everyone who emailed or called. Anakin is doing great. He got out of the hospital last Thursday and we've been having fun ever since.

Saturday my eldest child (Alexander) turned 10 (and I turned 35).

Sunday Alex and Mackenzie (my 8-year-old daughter) played in their first D&D game. Granted that it was 4E, but everyone has to start somewhere. The two of them and a bunch of their friends sat down and played. Alex played a dragonborn paladin named Dorax; Mackenzie played a human cleric (her "normal" character is a halfling rogue) named Hewoman; their friend Daniel played a dwarf fighter named Dwarf Man; and Daniel's brother played an eladrin wizard named Warlock. Their friend Derrik (who will "normally" play the human cleric) was at a football game and couldn't make it. I ran the game (right out of the 4E starter box). I guess the kids want me to run every Saturday afternoon for them. We'll see how that goes.

Monday was Labor Day. My friend Brian emailed me a 30-day renewal for Warcraft. Damn him! I was almost free from my near crack-like addiction to WoW. Guess it'll have to wait another month. ;-)

Wednesday (today) is the first day of school in this neck of the woods and 3/4 of the kids went to school this morning (Alex, Mackenzie, and my 4-year-old Samantha). Oh how glorious it is to have the house back and silence reigns. Now if I could only get my remote to work on my wife, is a wonderful button. Don't get me wrong, I love her. But like all women, she seems to feel that if I am sitting in silence, I must be suffering and she attempts to fill the serenity I have found with innane prattle.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Family News: Anakin's Surgery

I am sitting in the waiting room of the hospital. My youngest son (Anakin) is undergoing surgery to fix the bone plates in his head. He's 6 months old. Forgive me if I sound tired, I've been up since very early this morning and the wife and I are under a pretty large bit of stress. I will post edits and updates as things progress. I'm normally a very private person when it comes to my family life, but this is an unusual case.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Building the Lair

To continue from yesterday, today we're putting together the encounters for the Lair of Black Sorrows. We already know that we want a quick encounter site for 5th level players. We built our map and it has 10 locations. We need to start laying out our encounters, basically at least 1 encounter for each type of player: combat, skill, and magic.

In 4E, combat is the easiest type of encounter. Monster Group A attacks Player Group B. A very simple formula. However, this is a long lost area, not easily accessible to replenishing supplies (like air, food, and water). So, whatever "lives" here needs to be able to go without these things, or needs to find a way to get these things without creating a new entrance. For this, I am choosing ghosts, specters, and wraiths.

For our "skill encounters" I am going to use the trapped doors, a skill challenge, the barred doors (which are locked), and finding the secret doors. Skill encounters are quick, and can pose as deadly a threat as any combat encounter. Never underestimate the power of skill encounters.

Last, but certainly not least, the magic encounter. This can be of any type of power that a normal person cannot create without some fantastic element (arcane spells, divine prayers, psychic powers, demonic abilities, etc.). For this, I think I'm going to add a ritual that needs to be performed.

Being an off-shoot adventure, I'm not planning on this little encounter site to have any long-lasting effects on my campaign (other than giving my players some experience points, cash, and a magic item or two). So, next we figure out what we are putting where:

  • Room 1 - Skill challenge (decipher the room's contents to determine what happened in the Lair)
  • Room 2 - Combat encounter
  • Room 3 - Trapped door
  • Room 4 - Combat encounter
  • Room 5 - Trapped door and barred door
  • Room 6 - Secret door
  • Room 7 - Secret door
  • Room 8 - Barred door and combat encounter
  • Room 9 - Secret door
  • Room 10 - Secret door and ritual area
So, there is the basics of what I want to do the PCs in this encounter site. Now, we figure out how many XP we want the PCs to gain from our little jaunt. I feel that half of a level is more than enough for 5th level characters. This equals 1,000 XP. The encounter site is written for 5 PCs, so we will need to have 5,000 XP worth of encounters. Any encounter greater than PC level + 3 is going to be a bit too strong in here (the encounters are close together and could happen in rapid succession). Any encounter less than PC level - 1 isn't rewarding enough for our players (taking candy from a baby may be fun for bullies, but not for heroes looking for a challenge).

We have 3 combat encounters, 2 traps, 1 skill challenge, 1 ritual, and 6 minor skill encounters. Of these, the combat encounters, traps, and skill challenge have their XP covered by various core books. The ritual and minor skill encounters are GM calls if the PCs receive XP or not (I like to give out PC level x 10 XP for these kinds of encounters to the first PC to come up with the idea to use certain skills or abilities).

This is how our encounters will look:
  • Room 1 - Level 4 skill challenge (875 XP)
  • Room 2 - Level 4 combat encounter (875 XP)
  • Room 3 - Level 4 trap (875 XP)
  • Room 4 - Level 5 combat encounter (1,000 XP)
  • Room 5 - Level 4 trap (875 XP)
  • Room 8 - Level 6 combat encounter (1,250 XP)
This gives us a total party value of 5,750 XP. 750 more than what we want, but the characters may walk past certain encounters or fail at others (the PCs may not care about the skill challenge or may bypass one of the traps entirely).

Tomorrow we will fill out the encounters.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dungeon of the Week: The Lair of Black Sorrows

To begin my Dungeon of the Week and Encounter of the Week series of posts, I decided to throw together a quick map. (Forgive me, I'm old and I like the old greyscale style maps.) This is a pretty simple dungeon crawl.

Here's the basic map key:
  • D = normal door
  • T = trapped door
  • S = secret door
  • B = bars
  • 1 square = 10 feet
  • top is north
The Lair of Black Sorrows
"The Lair of Black Sorrows" is a 4e GSL encounter site for five characters of 5th level. This encounter site is designed to work well in any location. In particular, this encounter site is designed to fit into an inhabited area, namely the basement of a shop in a busy city. However, it is not necessary to place this site in a city, it works equally well in any established dungeon as an off-shoot for PCs to earn extra experience.

Tomorrow we look at the anatomy of the adventure, how to set it up, what encounters we want to add, and start writing.

Kicking Dice: Episode 1

I've been a "gaming geek" for close to 3 decades. It's sad, but true. For close to 30 years (Year 30 is officially marked in November 2009) I have picked up dice, paper, and pencil on average of no less than once per week and played a tabletop RPG for a minimum of no less than 6 hours per session. When I started up as a game designer and writer, I spent close to 10 hours a day (6 days a week) working on various RPG projects over the course of 4 years. That's quite a bit of time to be lost in various worlds of fantasy (910 days or 2.5 years). Of course, this doesn't include the time spent reading magazines, novels, core books, adventures, and surfing the web looking for new gaming stuff.

Why do I mention these seemingly minuscule factoids? I am turning 35 in less than a week and I'm taking stock in time spent on certain things over the course of my life.

I've seen the evolution of the game, 4 times. Hell, I helped evolve the world's first campaign setting with one of the great-grand-dads of gaming. I have given my autograph to gaming legends (I nearly keeled over when Bob and Dave wanted me to sign a couple of my adventure modules). I have walked in the shadow of heroes. I have reached for the brass ring at the gates of gaming nirvana, and turned my back as I fell.

Now? I stand at the base of a large mountain. A new edition of my beloved game appeared a year ago. I have largely kept to the shadowy fringes of gaming for the last 4 years. An occasional convention appearance as a "spotlight GM" (a nice way of saying I get into the con for free because someone vaguely remembers something I wrote, and I get to run a packed schedule of games.. no such thing as a free lunch/con). But I have finally placed my hat back in the ring. My burn-out is gone. The ideas are fresh and running hot.

What will it be like to write for the newest edition? Like writing for any game system. The music doesn't stop playing because you're playing it on an iPod instead of the radio. Does one sound better than the other? Aesthetics.

Look for the new Encounter of the Week, coming soon.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Throne Categories

So, I was sitting upon my throne* when I came up with some categories for my blog.
  • 3E: All info and such about version 3E and 3.5E Dungeons & Dragons.
  • 4E: All info and such about me and 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons (if ever at all).
  • Cartography: Where I post my maps, battle maps, and VTT maps.
  • Classic Gaming: This includes any addition of D&D before 3E, all of the various World of Darkness worlds before the schism, Rolemaster, and the original Warhammer Fantasy RPG.
  • Demon Hunter: One of 2 super cool game design projects. This is the sci-fi version.
  • DotW: Stands for "Dungeon of the Week." This uses the One Page Dungeon design model created by the Chatty DM (see links for a link to his blog).
  • Eternal Heroes: One of 2 super cool game design projects. This is the fantasy version.
  • GURPS: The wonderful game by Steve Jackson.
  • Other Stuff: Exactly what it says, "other stuff."
  • Palladium: This includes all of the various worlds in the Palladium line: Rifts, Fantasy, Ninjas and Superspies, Recon, Beyond the Supernatural, Manhunter, etc.
  • Video Games: I am one of the biggest video game dorks I know. I play quite a few of them (when I should be writing or getting ready for a game).
  • World of Darkness: For all the various new worlds of darkness.
I think those are about all the ones I'm going to have. If I add more, so be it. I see a few of these that may not see the light of day often though ;-)

* Throne: The purpose behind me calling this the Black Lord's Throne... I do my best thinking in the bathroom. ;-)

It Has Begun!

I do not know what unholy power has driven me to call this piece of cyberspace home, but something has driven me mad enough to start a "blog." I have MySpace, AOL, and Yahoo... but something called out to me to go ahead and try this. So, here I am rambling like a mental patient off his meds (not always a bad thing).

I guess I should layout the basic foundation and premise of my blog:
  1. Dispite the name, this blog has nothing to do with anything Satanic (depending on your definition).
  2. This is my personal blog about playing and running roleplaying games (both IRL and on a VTT). I use Fantasy Grounds II as my VTT.
  3. I am a freelance game designer. I have a number of design credits, but I've been out of the loop for a number of years and I'm looking to make a come back.
  4. I have a project I've been consumed with for the last 2 years. In the last 2 months the project has picked up steam and the first book is almost completely written (more later).
  5. I recently joined the Cartographers' Guild. I fancy myself a dabbler of map creation. I'll post some here as I make them.
  6. "Why 'the Black Lord's Throne,'" you may ask. Well, at one time (in the far distant past), I was the lead GM of the Black Knights Gamers' Guild in upstate NY. Thusly, I am the Lord of the Black Knights Gamers' Guild--or the Black Lord.
That's it for now. More later. :-)