Wednesday, September 13, 2017

GAMESPELL; A Theory of Gamestyle by J.E. Becker

 What is Gamespell?

Gamespell is not a game system or setting but a method of playing a tabletop roleplaying game…what we would call a “style of play.” 

This style of play will not appeal to every sort of rpg gamer but shall be as meat and drink for those who crave such a gaming experience. 

These latter are the gamers who, we are often told, “take things too seriously”; those strange role-players who seek an immersive, vicarious experience from their fantasy gaming that is similar to the rapture of an engrossing film or book. They want to try, in as much as within their power and can be safely managed, to “be” in the game they are playing., to make the game and the tale within the game as “real” as possible.

Quite simply, they wish to enter the fantasy world. Not forever...not for real...just for a little while, as realistically as possible.

Attend any movie theater and if there is a good or great film playing, you will observe reactions among the audience. People may be scared, on the edge of their seat, or even crying or sitting in saddened silence, mesmerized by the vicarious life they are watching upon the screen. Likewise, a reader with a gripping book is equally mesmerized, caught up, like the moviegoer, in a story that they know is fiction, is not “real”, and yet their real emotions are engaged in the tale into which they have submerged.

There is no reason that a fantasy role-playing game experience cannot be almost or as engaging if those who enter the experience together are willing and committed to letting it be so.

Beer and pretzels gaming and the ensuing hilarity and campiness that results from rpg-playing as pure goofiness is a beautiful and fun pastime for friends and a time honored method of play. Every gamer can enjoy such playing.

But there is another, more vicarious gaming experience to be had, one where those who cooperate in the setting of atmosphere , plot and characterization can be as players upon a stage, allow the story and the atmosphere to carry them along for a few hours to a place where halting the game and rising from play is not unlike awakening from a dream or a relaxed and pleasant state of mild hypnosis such is experienced when listening to music, watching a great play or film or being enfolded in the pages of a beloved fantasy novel.

This is the experience which Gamespell is meant to aid and facilitate.


Gamesmaster, you are tasked not only with the preparation and conducting of the adventure but also its presentation in an atmosphere suitable for the Gamespell. 

Little need be said to an experienced Gamesmaster about how to prepare a dungeon or adventure, but now you will be working as much to create a mood or ambience as you will in running the adventure.

Many things will aid you in this…music , art, props, lighting, even fragrances.  These we will examine presently.

But the chief thing to realize as a Gamsepell Gamesmaster is that you are not to be what is prominent in the game session; it is the fantasy world and experience that should stand out in relief to your troop.

You are not there to crack jokes or speak unendingly but to be the medium between the players and the fantasy environment and non player characters they encounter. Humor and joking is fine and always in order, not to mention serving as a much needed relief from the heroic and high fantasy themes of Gamespell, but let the Gamesmaster’s humor be given vent through well acted non-player characters and subtle underlying themes built into the adventure.

Players should perceive your brief descriptive narratives as a disinterested voice that speaks as little as possible except when you are acting as a non player character, in which case by all means you should enter the role and have as much fun as everyone else is having—in character. Because as the players are to “be” their characters, so you are to be something other than yourself for a little while.

The Gamesmaster should make certain every player has a copy of these guidelines before playing so they know what to expect and also, be certain they desire this sort of game. 

You will rely upon diverse elements and not lengthy narrative description to impart the fantastic vision you want your game to be for yourself and everyone present. It will be necessary enough for you to give descriptions when these elements are not sufficient and to answer the inevitable questions that arise in play, but that is why you should curtail any unnecessary talking so that your voice is not omnipresent. You will be relying mostly upon your players’ imaginations; you are not there to make them see what you see but to let them see what they can envision within their own minds, both collectively and individually.

One of the most important features of Gamespell is that the rules and mechanics of the game you are using fades from the forefront and the story and setting become prominent.

For this reason, there is to be absolutely no arguing about rules during the Game. 

Time should definitely be set aside before or after the game to clarify rules or straighten out differences, but during Gamespell, as much recourse and reference to books as can be avoided should be avoided or handled in the form of a note to the Gamesmaster should it prove absolutely necessary.
Players who agree they want to play a Gamespell style campaign will therefore accept without explanation the decisions of the Gamesmaster during play and not make lengthy appeals to rules books. 

This does not mean a player will always be wrong or disallowed to express questions and perhaps help the Gamesmaster past a misunderstanding; what is mean is that during actual play the above principle should be observed by all.

You will understand from the onset that players and GMs who enjoy rules lawyering , as it is called within the hobby , will realize here and now that they do not wish to play Gamespell. And while these are fellow brothers and sisters of our craft and hobby with whom we can enjoy playing games outside of Gamespell, for purposes of this gaming style , it is well they do not want to play, for it is not gathering a group of willing players that is usually the bane of any aspiring gaming group but achieving the right concord concerning game style. No stones are being cast; the desire is that players who enjoy a particular table style will be matched with a gaming group that delivers this to them.

Note however, that this rule of acceptance of the Gamesmaster’s choice of how to proceed during play when a mechanic rule is in question does not mean we are to assume he or she is right about the matter in question, only that rules discussions will take place before or after a Gamespell session, not during. The Gamesmaster, as always, will be expected be using a set of rules and a setting that is familiar and to be amenable to admitting any mistakes in interpreting the rules.

Because of the “No Gametalk Rule”, as it is called, it will happen occasionally that a player’s character or the party is affected, seriously or even drastically, by the Gamesmaster’s decision when he or she proceeds with an incorrect interpretation or faultily remembered rule .  In Gamespell, however, there is a remedy for this situation, that being the mitigating principle of Poetic License . If, in out of session discussion it is determined that the GM was wrong and the course taken created unfair or damaging consequences to any character, the story is simply altered to undo, as much as possible, the deleterious effects. Thus, if a character died due to a rules error on the Gamesmaster’s part, when the next session resumes, that character is alive. If a magical item was lost, or a friendly non-player character offended and estranged, or whatever the case, all is undone and the next session of Gamespell begins with things set right; it is not important to this style of play if a story changes after the fact, only that the illusion and immersive experience of play during a session is maintained as much as can be done.

If the Gamesmaster is not to speak endlessly or give unending narrative or description, how, you may ask, will players “see” the fantasy realm and respond to the game?

In answer, the Gamesmaster is to make use of ambience, props, visual and auditory art, and the players’ own imaginations.

The Gamesmaster does not need to describe with long narrative what the characters discover upon being conveyed to an Elfin Kingdom or Enclave—he or she can play a specially chosen and prepared piece of classical or medieval music in a soft light setting while passing around or holding up an image that either shows or evokes the Elfin Kingdom in a manner that will impress it upon the imagination of the player.

Players are asked to let go, to listen to the music, and to “experience” the image and the sounds together and form in their own minds. For this reason, it will not be uncommon for there to be many moments of silence during Gamespell, wherein the particpants attempt to truly feel and visualize the game world and what is taking place there by means of a meditative disposition which makes the enjoyment of a piece of art or a selection of music an integral element of play . At times, it may be that players will close thier eyes and listen to an entire sing or instrumental piece as they see with thier mind's eye what the piece evokes.

At other times, suitable music is played in the background during normal play. Imagine listening to Scarborough Fair by Simon and Garfunkel as the characters browse a village Bazaar...or a dark and brooding piece of Wagner as they approach a dragon's mountain, accompanied by a painting of one of Larry Elmor 's dragons. The power and grandeur of music and art, and thoughtful silences amidst  character role playing, become effective means of creating the Gamespell. It is no longer incumbent upon the Gamesmaster to paint the world with his or her own meager words-- in such an atmosphere, the players' imaginations will do that work instead.

Thus, the Gamesmaster does not seek to place any certain image in their minds; he or she may simply play a suitable classical piece while showing the players a color image of Botticelli’s Primavera  It is not assumed that the players are actually seeing exactly the scene they behold in the art piece, but rather that this is an evocation of the feeling from what their characters are actually seeing.

At some point, the Gamesmaster will ask them to close their eyes and “see the Elfin Kingdom.” At this time, brief suggestions and bits of description can be offered as the players visualize in their own minds what their character is experiencing. “See the stately elves, smiling at you as their viols and harps fill the glen…see them dancing in the treetop houses…merrymaking and soft song with the smells of a midsummer’s feast…you stare transfixed as an Elf Lord and His Lady approach you…you may open your eyes.”

At such a point, the Gamesmaster would now speak as the Elf Lord or Lady. If desired, one of the players can speak from a prepared piece of dialogue provided by the Gamesmaster., portraying the Lord or it becomes them. The Gamesmaster would take over the character once the players begin interacting with the non player character, but a regular feature of Gamespell can be the most suitable players introducing a non-player character or monster and then resuming playing their character as the Gamesmaster takes over.

As you can see, visualization, letting go and seeing, if you will, a “movie of the game” in your mind is an important component of Gamespell. The desired effect is that by use of soft lights, a quiet and private playing space, perhaps candles or oil lamps , mood altering music and imagery, players will become relaxed and the characters, story and setting will be more suggestively impressed upon their mind’s eyes.  This is, in fact, how movies and movie theaters and plays are designed to draw you into them. And this is exactly what Gamespell attempts to do: that is, create a drama stage or movie theater atmosphere in a game table environment, in as much is possible, so that the same sort of transport can occur during your adventure, in a shared fantasy world that is experienced both individually and collectively.

Even though during the visualization process each player sees in his or her own mind something completely different and unique to their own psyche and how their psyche is filtering and interpreting the visual and auditory elements, there is still  enough of a shared element that it will feel as though everyone saw the same thing. And play will proceed from that basis. The Gamesmaster is actually letting the player’s imagination do the work , and for the player, it is more relaxing and pleasant to experience this than have to try and digest a wall of repetitive narrative that leaves as many questions as it does answers.

Everyone who is playing Gamespell is attempting to evoke for themelves and every other player the feeling of Being There.

In light of this fact, it should be most apparent that it is not only the Gamesmaster who avoids silly banter and superfluous description but the players as well. This is governed by the ageless roleplaying principle of staying in character, or, to be more memorable, “In Persona Dramatis.”

Jim, who is playing the role of Felhaus the Fighter, does not say “Felhaus lights a torch” but speaking as Felhaus, Jim says “I shall set a torch to burning, that by its flame we might see this buried place.”  Angie, who is portraying Drumina the Cleric , does not say  “Drumina casts her healing spell upon Felhaus to heal the goblin damage” but speaks in the voice she imagines to be of Drumina, and says “Felhaus, good knight, ye shall be healed by the power of the Goddess, behold, I cast my healing upon thee.”

It is by these acts of small drama, and staying in character, that the players will immerse themselves in the game and create a much richer experience that is, it is hoped, will be almost akin to a spell. The story is the spell…

It can be easily seen that out of character banter, such as talking about your day at the office or the factory, or interrupting the game to discuss politics or a movie you saw is definitely not fit for a session of Gamespell; that would be somewhat like if we were all seated in a movie and right during an intense part of the film someone behind us began loudly talking, breaking the spell.

Thus the party, as well as the Gamesmaster , will endeavor to avoid as much as possible such Player Talk and be committed to Character Talk instead. And with regards to Character Talk, players may be as free as they wish for they are acting out a play of everyone's making.

We are conditioned socially to feel embarrassed or silly about individually expressing ourselves this way, especially now that we are adults. And yet, socially, we don’t look down on actors or musicians or artists when they let go, not when we are getting to experience someone else’s imagination. If we should see someone shedding a tear at a movie, we don’t say “Don’t you realize that no one really died here? That’s just an actor and this film is fiction.” Somehow we feel, most of us anyway, that that is perfectly acceptable. But if a group of gamers lets go and pretends to be their characters and to “see” and share a fantasy setting, well, this is somehow different to many. It is our position that, in fact, it is not so different, or needn't be among gamers. 

It is not necessary that everyone be real acting talent during Gamespell, but it is important that can let go and be their character.

For this reason, it will be beneficial if at the beginning of a session of Gamespell if the Gamesmaster sets the modd by dimming the lights, playing an appropriate music piece, perhaps a piece that become the theme of the fantasy setting, and gives the players a chance to let the world outside wash off their shoulders. The Gamesmaster may then say something to this effect; “Greetings, Mighty Heroes. Rest for a moment as you see the world outside of this room fading away. You have entered the world of (the setting). You are no longer Jim—you are Felhaus, the warrior of renown. You are no longer Angie, but you have become Drumina the Priestess of Ardrahna, Goddess of the Namonites. You are no longer Chris, but you are Isilthris, Master Magician. Til we break this Gamespell. What is your wish?”  Or set up the introduction piece from here. 

In addition, each player may have an illustration or figure that is set forth prominently to depict their character and everyone should focus upon seeing and hearing each other in these roles.

Players should feel comfortable enough in their group to then let go and speak as their character. Due to the descriptive nature of role-playing, it will sometimes be necessary to state as dialogue what, in a real setting, one would simply do, but even fantasy worlds have their limitations. As In Dramatis Persona is already an understood rule for people who have agreed to gather for Gamespell, the Gamesmaster should not try to force this during a game. Sometimes it will be inevitable that something must be said or asked not in charcter. But every Gamespell group will find their own creative ways to interact so as to preserve the principle of Character Talk and No Game Talk  as much as possible.

For obvious reasons, these kind of observances are more likely to be lost in larger groups. It is recommended that a Gamespell party consist of three or at most four players plus the Gamesmaster: this keeps everyone off the sidelines and is much easier to manage under the guidelines suggested here. However, larger groups may work well enough if everyone gets into the spirit. 

A closing word about props. Props are most essential to Gamespell. Music, prerecorded dialogues, art, handmade maps, poems , weapon replicas, potion bottles, scrolls, portraits, sound effects…all are in order for the resourceful Gamespell group and all, not just the Gamesmaster, may take hand in providing crafted props, though the Gamesmaster reserves the right to guide these contributions in a manner that does not conflict with setting or game rules. Some groups would not mind, perhaps, if players were permitted to write a page or two for each session to read, accompanied by music, to their fellow party, bits of background or some such like. Learning to seamlessly move between such moments will be something that develops over time… soon, awkward silences will be replaced by a group rhythm and pace will become natural.

The choice of rules, setting and the use of miniature figures and table top terrain models is a matter of group taste Rules for movement and combat should be simple and understood by all so as to facilitate their quick resolution without Gametalk as much as possible. Some may find it refreshing to leave these behind during Gamespell, perhaps replacing them with larger , lovingly crafted figures which are merely visual in nature and meant to evoke game mood, not necessarily strictly tied to rules of movement. For example, in addition to six or seven inch tall representations of the characters which are either crafted by the group of printed from images and affixed to heavy card stock on both sides, the Gamesmaster would also have pieces prepared for non player characters and monsters. If Drumina, Felhaus, and Isilthris have met a minotaur and are engaged in battle, the minotaur figure is set on the table purely to help create a mood, not to be moved about during battle. Figures like this Wraith, pictured below:

It was crafted using a plastic dollar store skeleton from a package of four, a cloak from an old doll,  foam board particles for the base, and a stick to hold it upright. It is nearly seven inches in height. My inspiration was from the South American paper mache and cloth dolls of folk tradition. Gamespell would benefit greatly if such crafting and props became a hobby of the players involved and everyone who could and wanted to contributed to the props.

This concludes the general rules and guidelines for Gamespell. Now you have only to find likeminded players to whom such a “serious” game appeals. Not that the game should always be serious.-laughter and fun are vital parts of every roleplaying game., and everyone should be free to offset the more sober scenes of a Gamespell session with levity and humor; only seek to be creative in doing so In Dramatis Persona.

Does Gamespell work, you ask? Absolutely, if you can let go and as a group of players collaborate in a little magic. I will never forget playing a game many years ago in a darkened room with six other players and having our playing pieces on the table cast in a relief of shadows in the flickering light of candles as I told them that in the ruined dungeon they found a rotting bed whereupon lay the skeletons of what appeared to be a mother and child. They were the remains of the wife and daughter of the wizard who had once been Master if that place. An eerie and solemn hush fell upon our group and it felt like we were there. The child's skeletal wrist was encircled by a bracelet which was meant to be a clue to passing another barrier in the dungeon and as GM I had intended the party to take it. But so great was the Gamespell at the moment that when the party's Thief went to remove the bracelet, the player running a Cleric suddenly said "No, you shall not desecrate the dead. Thus is a tomb, we shall honor it as such." I looked at the player and was spooked by the emotion in his eyes,  realizing at that moment that he was a father to a daughter of the age of the wizard's dead child. At one point in the game, the Thief attempted to sneak back to the room unnoticed after the party had moved on. I diced to see if the cleric noticed since the player had been suspicious of this happening and had warned the Thief against it. The dice indicated that the Cleric did indeed see the Thief's attempt and he went and blocked the passage, drawing his weapon and warning that in the name of his deity he would rightfully punish any desecration with attack. The Thief declined the Cleric's offer and the party had to go on without the bracelet. While things didn't go as I as GM had planned, the dramatic scene was far more satisfying for everyone as the other players watched this unfold with serious interest.

So immersive was that scene that it had gotten through the player's conscious mind and into his emotions. I had not deliberately attempted to create this effect; somehow the music, the soft light, the props, and our imaginations had combined in a strange but engaging alchemy of role-playing. I did not then refer to this effect as Gamespell but the atmosphere I was wanting to experience even back then was essentially what this essay describes. The hope that such magic moments can be shared by your gaming group is the reason I have shared these thoughts with you.

The best of gaming to you!

Post Script: I will be producing an illustrated PDF of these guidelines in the future. These guidlines may be printed and distributed freely for non-commercial purposes. If there are any questions, comments or feedback, please feel free to address them to me via the comments section of this post. Thank you! Humble apologies to Latin, I need to edit this post again! 

Disclaimer: I assume no responsibility for irresponsible or unsafe use of these guidelines. Candles are potentially dangerous and should only be used by adults with care. In no instance should weapons be brandished or employed as anything other than as visual props: no sharp or real weapons should be used. Hypnosis of others and self hypnosis are complex and potentially mind altering excercises and should not be practiced by anyone without the oversight of a licensed professional. Gamespell is not intended to be a hypnosis session.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Gelnn Halstrom "The Old Grognard" Reviews Blueholme Prentice Game by Dreamscape Design

Posting a link to a good review of Michael Thomas's Blueholme Prentice Rules by Glenn Halstrom from Glenn's Youtube Channel, the Old Grognard.

I am truly looking forward to owning and playing a copy of Blueholme Journeymanne Rules, Dreamscape's latest effort. Really cannot wait to see the treatment of the higher levels and to see the world of Blueholme, which the Prentice Rules didn't encompass.

But the Prentice Rules have  still gained a place on the map and rightfully so!

The price  is great, and the amount of love that went into the project is evident in the design. The simplicity of Holmes style dungeon and wilderness design and the light weight rules are one of Blueholmes' greatest strengths. I am a firm believer that rpg's should be simple when it comes to what we call "mechanics"--so many classic games that had beautiful atmosphere, world settings, artwork and design and amazing concepts are not being widely played today because they were cumbersome rules sets, while the simpler games of old continue to evolve in ever new forms.

Glenn Halstrom gives a very good presentation of what is great about this game.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

You Can Put Your Art Major to Use Through Dungeons and Dragons ( * )

Greetings Maze Dwellers! Today I wanted to share a great web presence by a fellow DM who goes by the moniker DM Scotty. If you are a DM who loves to craft for your games, whether it be props, character sheets, minis, terrain or minis painting, I recommend that you check out the DM's Craft Youtube Channel and, if you are a Facebook user, the Facebook Group named DM Scotty's Crafts and Games.

I've come to a strange point in my gaming life where I had to give up the GM chair of a Sunday afternoon gaming group we were enjoying just because, well, I've got too many danged things to do right now and I can't do Gming justice.

It's not that my love and passion for the games are any less and I'm still going to be joining some games as a player on a semi-regular basis but I have alot going on at home with gardening, landscaping and remodelling. Boring I know, but while I have been unable to play many games lately I find that in my evening hours, especially on weekends, I still love crafting the game and writing adventures and rpg rules.

Yes, I am an old school gamer and blogger admitting that I have not been able to engage in the hobby I blog about! We do honesty here, Maze Dwellers, and I suspect some can understand!

I suspect I will get back into it soon, I love gaming too much not to, but in the meantime I've been focused on model building and art stuff in the spare time I do have. And DM Scotty's FB group has been very welcome! It's a real community, perhaps not as closely knit as a forum but sharing the works, tips, questions and techniques among everyone posting had not only been relaxing and uplifting but has opened my eyes to so many awesome possibilities in the realm of model building and D&D inspired art. I was not asked to share this page, I do it as one gamer to another because I guarantee you that whether you craft or not, once you start looking through the posts of contributing members, you will find major inspiration! If you have become bored with the Internet, get ready to get jazzed again!

So in case you did not know about the Crafty DM, may I point you to his Youtube videos and if you are on Facebook find the group! Imagine seeing D&D crafts on your FB feed everyday instead of political bombast and strange dinner photos! I can tell you it made FB a new experience for me.

In addition to DM Scotty's Crafty DM FB group may I recommend that people with this addiction also take a look at the following FB groups. I'm not posting them as links because if you have FB you can search for them with better results!

The Terrain Tutor's Terraniacs

WGC Terrain Builders

RPG Map Creations

Polystyrene Modellers and Recyclers   

And now, here is DM Scotty. Build worlds my friends!!

*I didn't say you would make money with your art degree, I just said you could put it to use.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

"The Lost City-Temple of Vashru-Mal" Dungeon Doodle and Adventure Idea

This evening I needed to relax a bit so I got into some doodling and a one page dungeon idea starter. This one is probably inspired a little by what I've been reading and immensely enjoying at the moment--DUNE by Frank Herbert.

I envisioned something like the Fremen or like the real life Essene, a monastic community once living in little carved stone huts on a strange volcanic desert where they guard the rites of a Dual Solar/Lunar cult in their weird temple. I called them the Quo-Tol. 

They are presumed a vanished people, and the location of their bizarre City-Temple was deemed a secret that disappeared with them. But a strange visitant offers not only a map with Vashru-Mal's location but the offering of wealth, power and magic if the party will guide him/her with them to that forgotten place. And magic items are given for the journey...

The wilderness trek getting there is full of survival scenarios as well as encounters with the desert monsters, the most of fearsome being a strange tunneling beast who emerges to devour hapless prey.

The dungeon rooms are circular and look something like Tatooine architecture but with a more spherical design, all being carved from ancient volcanic pinnacles. Curved, smoothly carved stairs swoop gracefully into lower chambers, with a long rising spiral stair climbing up a natural column of rock that rises from the center of the Court of the Sun Lord. The stair leads to an astronomical observation point that was central to the community life along with their cryptic faith.

I have provided a simplistic side view of the City-Temple so that a DM can sketch out a reasonable map of all the levels on some graph paper, playing with the scale as he or she desires to some extent. 

Below the complex lies a network of caverns and a strange underground lake that was the water survival of the Quo-Tol and the reason the temple was built upon that place. The lake the Quo-Tol associated with their Moon Goddess, whom they held to be the sister of the Sun. The Quo-Tol had a prophecy that they would find her face within the bosom of the desert and there they were to build a temple to her and her brother. 

The prophecy was, of course, fulfilled when the pilgrims beheld the reflection of the moon upon the underground lake through a natural shaft that they named the Well of the Moon.

They carved their temple from the monolithic pinnacles that stood sentinel like around the Well, the only laid stonework being an  antechamber to the Court of the Sun Lord which closed the Well from the skies except during the summer solstice when the sun would shine through a special admittance that cast the its rays on the face of the waters below.

The Quo-tol were celibate except for an annual quota of a small number of men and women who were paired for the express purpose of maintaining their own numbers and ensuring young adults who could help with the hunting and labor. Obviously this led to a strange society where the youth were a small minority among so many old.

In brief the dungeon's levels or areas are:

1. The Ascent of the Acolytes where they climbed a long, low sloping stair inside a tall arching tunnel that symbolized an astral bridge.

2. The Chamber of Prayers, where the entire community could gather to pray, receive water and commune with one another in hushed pairs or small groups.

3. A stair from 2. leads to the Court of the Sun Lord where Acolytes who graduated to a higher degree served a symbolic role as they both waited upon the Temple priests and priestesses and the comers for water from the Chamber of Prayers. Also there is a stair up to the Sanctuary of the Sun in the dome furthest from the Astral Bridge, and a spiral stair to the Chamber of the Heavens.

4. Crypts of the Seers. Here are entombed the remains of the leaders of the Quo-Tol, the High Priests and Priestesses who administered a simple theocratic rule. These wore gold wrought work in their holy vestments that they might gleam with the light of the Sun as they held council and rites within the Court. Now they are moldering bones, albeit rich ones.

5. The Chamber of the Heavens. This is a domed room accessible only by the Watchers, who viewed the heavenly courses through vast arched viewers, charting the celestial paths on an intricately carved relief covering every square inch of the inner dome and its floor. 

6.Holiest; Sanctuary of the Sun Lord. Here was where the Adepts, all priestly, held council in the presence of the Sun coming down through a vast sky portal. Unknown rituals occurred here. Here too is hidden the secret and most forbidden portal that leads down into the lower caves.

7. The Lower Caves. These are a series of interlocking caverns that were formed by vast pockets of water back in the past eruptions that led to the weird land of uprising rocks and sand. Herein lies the bottom of the Well of the Moon, the cool and seemingly eternal lake whose shaft once opened to the sky but is now capped by the dome of the Sun Lord's Court. Any Quotol who lived in the community could have as much water from the Well as they could carry, even to fill basins for bathing, but only Adepts of the Moon might enter the lake itself. 

So, there you have it! I offer this as a quick start for a journey for a DM's players. 

Obviously, there is much left to your imagination. What was the fate of the Quo-Tol? What monsters and game inhabited their domain? What treasures did they leave, and what now rests within the sleeping City-Temple? Is there magic to to the Well of the Moon? Perhaps even in the strange Hall? And who and what is the visitant who has sought the party to escort them to this weird and desolate place? 

These are things for you to decide as you decide what levels of characters should face the Lost City-Temple of Vashru-Mal. You will also have to determine how the party comes by the information that uncovers the nature of the City-Temple, whether from their visitor, from lore, or during the exploration phase. However you might do it,I hope this can serve as an adventure!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Xerxez Draws!

Here are a few scans of some of my drawings in recent years. I am untrained and uneducated in materials and mediums so these represent only sharpie and felt tip pen drawings on bond paper--not the best effect for aging or copying but at any event, here are some pictures intended for projects I may never get to finish. I hope you like them! I am by no means a great artist but I think they are in the tradition of the old school and I would be very happy if they could inspire a DM or player with some gamey thoughts!

This is a rendering of a Baak-Suul warrior in repose with a Jashani courtesan playing upon her strings. The Baak-Suul are a reptillian race I prepared for my Rysanthis campaign--and I will admit they are heavily inspired by the Shen warriors of M.A.R. Barker's Tekumel setting. The Jashani Empire is headquartered in the great Eastern city of Jashan and Jashani merchants, traders, smugglers and warriors are very common in the coastal ports of Rysanthis.

This is a felt tip illustration of some of the principle events that transpired in my Rysanthian campaign with a very noteworthy band of heroes--my friends and fellow gamers who allowed me to DM this campaign for about one year, heaven bless them for their patience. I will probably give this one a blog post of it's own to share some of the adventures they had around the great Mistwater Lake--pictured at center is the wicked old Hag who took up residence in the lake and turned it's fey spirits inimical to the lake town people. Some well read observers may recognize the direct influences of Fritz Lieber. This drawing was water-damaged.
This is a sea-ruin I never got around to fleshing out. It's harbors are the haunt of a huge beast who guards sunken treasures, while the Carved City is now a dungeon of fearsome denizens and glorious treasures....
This is not a part of the Rysanthis campaign but a rough of a cover for a zine I once envisioned creating...who knows..perhaps it will yet come to pass!