Friday, October 19, 2012

NIGHT RIDER - Fiction from High School and a Cool 3D Drawing of Skull Castle!

Holmes Basic Sample Dungeon Cross Section
I was poking around in the attic the other day and finally found my two copies of Gallery Magazine that I worked on as the Science Fiction Editor back in high school.  I wrote two science fiction/fantasy stories for the magazine during that time but distinctly remember writing the second piece as a junior in 1983 because in essence, it was my first ever written recap of D&D play, and also my first attempt at fiction writing.  Rather than just writing it from a blank piece of paper which I have always had a hard time doing, I wrote up an AD&D adventure centered around a wizard's keep called Skull Castle and the story itself is called "A Visit to Skull Castle".  So where did I get the idea for skull castle you might ask?  The Holmes Basic D&D sample dungeon cross section for Skull Mountain of course!  For the second story, I ran a friend of mine through the adventure that I wrote during study hall - yeah, we weren't studying real hard, but it was for the school magazine after all!  I took notes during play about what happened and afterwards, I wrote up a recap of the adventure as a basis for the second magazine story.

I totally forgot about the fact that I had done this little prequel story first while in 10th grade in the 1982 edition of Gallery Magazine, and that it included a very cool 3D view of the castle that I drew up and inked for the story!  I was just learning drafting at the time (I took a drafting class in 9th grade in high school and eventually got a degree in architecture) but had drawn up many a dungeon plan prior to drawing this.  In fact, if it wasn't for D&D I probably would have never become an architect in the first place.  The castle drawing actually looks like a perspective but may have been an isometric type of drawing though if so, it's it doesn't look like its in the usual 30/60 degree angle format (but it may be).  I'll have to slap this sucker on the old drafting board and see if it really is a true perspective or an isometric drawing.  Either way, it's a precursor to some of the cool castle drawings I did for Iron Crown Enterprises back in the day, a few of which were 3D perspectives or isometric/axonometric projections like this one.  It also illustrates my fanaticism and intense interest in castle design and construction and castle drawing which was a direct result of playing D&D as a kid.

I had a book when I was a kid (though I'm not sure where it is now) simply entitled Castle by David MacAulay (see Amazon link here:  Castle by David MacAulay) which describes how the Norman Conquerors built their castles to control Wales after their conquest of England in 1066.  The book is wonderfully illustrated and includes plans, perspectives and illustrations of a fictitious castle supposedly built in Wales following the Norman Conquest.  The drawings are very detailed and take you from design through construction, and even illustrate a siege of the castle at the end by an opposing army.  This is where I learned the most about how actual historical castles were really built, and the book is highly recommended reading for anyone who has an interest in this topic, especially gamers and military history buffs.  I went on to earn a minor degree in Architectural History from UVA along with a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Design, and wrote my minor thesis on, you guessed it, the Evolution of the Tower Keep in Medieval England.  That's up in the attic too and maybe someday I'll scan that in to post here as well.

In the meantime, enjoy my first foray into fiction writing and an early 3D castle drawing in the story below.  I'll post the recap of the actual adventure from the 1983 publication of Gallery Magazine as a followup to this blog post.  I'll see if I can find the original plan layout for this castle and the dungeon write up to post here as well, but my guess is I've lost it at this point.  There's nothing to keep me from re-creating the castle plan and D&D adventure write up from the recap and the drawing below though!

Copyright notice:  All original artwork and works of fiction on this page are copyrighted by the original writer and artist, Daniel Cruger.  This story and artwork may be downloaded and used for personal use only and may not be reproduced for commercial purposes in any way without the express written consent of the owner.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Averlorn Campaign - Dungeon Module B2 Of Hobgoblins, Bugbears, and a Fatal Foray

Recaps from 12-16-2011 and 1-6-2012

Part 1 The Hobgoblin's Lair

After the initial encounter with the goblins, we continued searching their lair and eventually found the chief’s quarters where we fought their leader, several guards and several female goblins and managed to kill them all.  We found a tapestry woven with silver and gold threads that was worth a fair sum of gold and a pewter bowl and some additional coinage as well.  In the next room we found a store room which was guarded by four more goblins and managed to slay them in a brief but fierce melee.  The room mostly contained ordinary supplies of no great worth.

We kept exploring the other side of the complex and went up a couple of flights of stairs which ended at a door.  We opened the door and encountered a large group of Hobgoblins which the wizards managed to put to sleep without too much trouble.  After the hobgoblins were put to the sword we continued exploring the Hobgoblin’s lair and eventually came into a prison/torture chamber occupied by two hobgoblins, one of which was wielding a whip.  After a short melee, the hobgoblins were dispatched and we released a plump merchant, two men at arms and the merchant’s wife who were chained to the wall.  The merchant told us he would give us a reward for rescuing him and his wife said she would give us a magical dagger as well.  The two mercenaries who were formerly the merchant’s guards agreed to fight for us as men at arms if we would arm and armor them in exchange for rescuing them.  Since we had released prisoners that needed to be returned to the keep safely, we decided it was a good time to go back at this point.

Once we collected our rewards and equipped our new men at arms, we returned to the Caves of Chaos once again to resume the exploration.  This time, we entered the next cave entrance up higher on the hill past the hidden entrance to the Ogre’s lair.  There was a closed door at this entrance with a sign on it written in common which said “Come in, we’d like to have you for dinner!”  Amul the monk examined the locked door and found a hidden latch on the outside that slid the bolt open to allow entry into the hallway beyond.  The group went down the right hand corridor since the areas to the left looked familiar - we had explored these other areas previously including the torture chamber/prison and the room connecting to the Goblin’s lair.  As we walked down the hall, the group was attacked by a group of six guards in a room off of the hallway.  A brief but fierce melee ensued and the six hobgoblins were dispatched without too much difficulty.  And that’s where we ended the session.

In the next session, we started off in the hobgoblin lair having just fought the guards in the room on the left of the hallway.  We knew we had company coming because we could hear them moving down the hall, so we fell back into the room and formed a line with Fauna and Sulethri attempting to block the entrance with the others behind them in the room.  A mob of hobgoblins showed up in the hallway with their leader behind them exhorting them to push into the room.  We held them back for a round or so but then they broke through on Sulethri's side, and swarmed around the wizards Lorinar and Ragnar on the left.  The rest of the group behind the front line guys couldn't do much to help so both spellcasters attempted to cast sleep while being engaged in melee with their shield spells up.

Ragnar got hit and lost his spell but Lorinar managed to get his Sleep Spell off and the crisis was averted as all of the lower hit die hobgoblins (except for the leader) plus our two henchmen were knocked out.  The leader tried to flee but Amul, Fauna and Lorinar chased him down at the door and the elf managed to put two arrows in him doing maximum damage with both arrows and killed him, just as the others rained blows down on him.  We dispatched the rest of the hobgoblins and searched their lair where we found an armory stocked full of weapons and armor including two suits of plate mail, one of which was dwarf sized which we gave to Rollo the fighter/cleric.  We gave one suit of plate mail to one of our henchmen fighters as well.  We also found a potion and a magic wand.

Part 2 The Bugbear’s Lair

After sacking the Hobgoblins lair and looting it thoroughly, the group fell back to the keep and paid the local cleric to cast some healing on the two characters that went down in the previous fight who were lucky enough to survive with only broken limbs.  Then we sold and divvied up the loot.  After all of this was taken care of and we acquired provisions, we headed back to the Caves of Chaos and decided to explore some of the caves on the right side of the valley during this trip.  Amul the monk checked out one cave on the lower right side near the valley floor but it "smelled of death" so we bypassed it.  Then we went up the hill to the cave just to the left of the last orc lair we had previously sacked.  There was a sign at the door in three languages inviting any and all humanoids in for dinner (or to be dinner rather).  It said come in and report to the room on the left for a meal.  I can't believe we did it but we walked right in and did just that and were surprised by three Bugbears!  (Talk about walking into the trap...) That wasn't the worst of it though (we could have handled them) but one rang a gong and alerted the whole complex to our presence, so we decided to fall back down the hall a bit since there was a stair on our right side and there would surely be more coming up behind us.  Sure enough, a really big leader Bugbear came down the stair to join the others and more started coming down the hall behind us!

So we fell back further so that we would at least be able to escape back out the way we came if things got bad and things started going south shortly thereafter.  Fauna went down on the front line of the group to the left and about six bugbears showed up in the hallway on the right and threw their spears at the two mercenaries covering our rear.  One of them went down with a spear in his chest (he was dead) and that left one 1st level mercenary between the bugbears and the wizards!  He didn't last long and went down as well and then they were on Illundria and Ragnar.  Lorinar and the Monk retreated out the hallway (the Monk was carrying the fallen Fauna) and beckoned the others to follow while they still had a chance since it was looking like we could lose the entire party at this point if we stayed to fight.  But Illundria and Skjeorn opted to stay and to try and cast spells to cover the retreat or make a heroic last stand.  Skjeorn cast hold person on the leader who failed his save and Sulethri the half orc warrior managed to kill him.  The group had only killed about four Bugbears at this point out of eleven or twelve.  Illundria got hit and lost her spell and Ragnar got hit and was hurt badly but was still standing at the end of the round.  Lorinar yelled “get out while you still can, I'll cover your retreat!”  And the others attempted to run.  Sulethri was hit as he attempted to flee and went down as was Illundria and she fell as well.  Lorinar cast stinking cloud in the cave mouth to prevent them from following us and we waited about an hour but the others never emerged.  The DM told us afterwards that they both rolled 3’s on their Death and Dismemberment rolls and were finished.

Fauna the Ranger rolled a 4 on her Death and Dismemberment roll and lost her arm!  It could have been worse, she could have died but fortunately made her saving throw against death.  On the way back we encountered a group of four ogres blocking the way along the road who tried to attack us but we successfully evaded them and made it back to the keep.

It was an exciting but brutal session.  The decision made by Illundria and Skjeorn to stay and fight in such a hopeless situation ended up being a bad call but it inspired Sulethri to stand with them and it cost two of the three dearly.  The group had been fairly lucky in the caves so far with only one loss, but our luck clearly ran out during this session.  The decision to walk right into the trap was what led up to the disaster in the first place though and was not very well thought out but luck was not with the Brotherhood of the Black Crowes that day.  First we were surprised by the Bugbears, then we lost initiative five times in a row (talk about unlucky!) and then only got two simultaneous initiative rolls at the end using B/X group initiative.  Group initiative works fine except when you have abhorrent luck like that.  When you can’t win initiative things can get ugly real fast as they did in this session.  So in that entire combat, we never won a single initiative and paid the price!  That was the difference right there since Illundria lost her Color Spray spell when she got hit.  Also, we have had many characters go down previously but had been very lucky with the Death and Dismemberment rolls, but that luck ran out as well during this session.  This was what you call the classic low level funnel to weed out the weak and unfit so that only the strongest survive - three characters and two NPC henchmen were lost in the RPG Cuisinart of doom known as the CAVES OF CHAOS!!!

After we returned to the keep and rested for a bit, Fauna decided that her adventuring days were over at least for the time being – she could still use her sword and could even wear a shield on the stump of her arm but could no longer use her bow so she left the keep and returned to Caursetti to return to more mundane duties with the Brotherhood and perhaps even retire as a soldier.  A few days later, a female Paladin by the name of Sierra arrived from Caursetti as her replacement.  She was sent by the brotherhood after they heard of the betrayal by the evil clerics in the keep, as it was suspected that this was the work of Evil Acolytes of our arch enemy Ravishar the Undying and holy reinforcements were in order!


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Averlorn Campaign - Dungeon Module B2 Of Orcs, Goblins, an Ogre, and a Viking Funeral

Recap from 12-9-2011

The session began with our group having just discovered the trip wire for the net trap in the entry hallway to the third cave on the right side of the box canyon.   We decided to set off the net trap intentionally to set up a trap of our own!  The monk used a grappling hook and a rope and we all stood back at the cave mouth before he pulled the trip wire.  When the net fell, there were all kinds of noisy bells and cans attached to it that made a huge ruckus  and acted as an alarm, and we started screaming like we were trapped in the net and saying things like "Oh god, I'm trapped in the net - help!"

Not surprisingly, a bunch of orcs showed up but we managed to surprise them and Illundria and Ragnar cast sleep and color spray and knocked them out and it was over real fast (about nine orcs went down).  After the brief surprise attack in the entry corridor, we made our way into their lair and their humanoid womenfolk attacked us and we killed them but let the young ones go.  Afterwards, we went down the right hand hallway and an Orc guard sounded the alarm and ran into a room and we followed him.

There we fought with the guard, a few more orcs and the Orc’s tribal leader.  The leader was a big burly orc who could both swing his sword and throw his axe in the same round, and in one round he threw the axe at Viktor wounding him badly and then followed up by landing a powerful blow with his sword and killed him!  (The damage totals for both the axe and sword were a 7 and an 8 - ouch!)  After the battle, the player playing Viktor rolled a 4 on his death and dismemberment roll (from Troll and Flame's Death and Dismemberment Table), and the result was that he lost his arm and bled out despite our attempts to save him - OH THE HUMANITY!!!

So we went back to the keep and buried our Nordic comrade.  We wanted to give him a Viking funeral but unfortunately we were in the hills far away from the ocean and didn't have a boat.  Afterwards, we met up with a new Thugee cleric named Skeorn who was at the keep and looking for adventure.  Once we were ready, we headed back to the caves but on the way, the party had to evade a group of four giant ants by throwing food behind us as we ran.  They were huge (as big as horses) and probably would have killed us all if we hadn't outrun them. 

When we finally made it back to the caves, Rollo suggested that we see what was in the hidden cave behind the foliage on the left side of the valley this time.  It was immediately to the right of the goblin’s cave that we had retreated from the first time we visited the Caves of Chaos, so we figured it may have been another less obvious way into their lair.   We went into the tunnel and into a cave beyond and fought a very large Ogre briefly until Amul pulled his heart out and then took a bite out of it - he succeeded in using his Monk's death blow and killed him in round two with his bare hands!

We searched the Ogre's lair and found some treasure in the first and the room beyond.  There was a secret door in the Ogre's lair beyond the first cave and it opened up into a large room with six goblin guards in it.  They started chucking spears at us after sounding the alarm, and we got into a ranged duel and killed most of them but two ran away to sound the alarm and then another ten showed up.  We traded ranged shots with six of them and engaged four in melee and after the four went down we charged the rest and won the day!  That's where we left it - the goblin lair is now eerily quiet!