Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Safari Card Monster Manual

I was reminded today about the existence of Safari Cards. Here’s the commercial from the early 80s that some of you may remember:

As a child, I positively adored these things. I obsessively read, filed, and re-filed them. I think some of the first mail I received addressed to “me” alone were little packets containing these cards (though I have no idea how my parents were suckered into subscribing to them, probably under the laudable auspices of the cards being “educational.”)

I remember convincing a teacher to let me do my “book reports” on animals that she would draw randomly from a pile (I think I still have one of these somewhere on the terrific Jackson’s Horned Chameleon). I’d get to write down the name, and she’d keep the card while I scampered off to the school library and immersed myself in the reference sections. It was always fun “checking my work” versus the card.

So, the information presentation on these was actually pretty interesting and could have some application for rendering Monster/Encounter information in a compact format. Let’s take a look at the front and back of a card (these were 4¾ by 5 inches):

While the front is dominated by the photograph of the animal in question (prime real estate and size for a monster illustration you could show to the players), the top bar is usefully dense. You have the creature name above a series of icons. I believe these were used for filing/organizing the cards within their storage containers (there were dividers), I think they map to Class/Order/Family, but we could just as easily have a set of icons for Monster Type: Undead/Aberration/Dragonkind, or other types of Monster classification icons (maybe solitary/group, treasure type?, etc). Next is a nifty line illustration of the type of terrain it’s typically found in (especially relevant for Overland Encounters, but a “Dungeon” terrain could exist) which was also used for organizing the cards, and a map with the geographic region. This format seems pretty pilferable (insert your fantasy world hex-map over the Mercator projection, with hexes highlighted). I believe the color of the top bar also was different depending on the climate the animal preferred.

On the back, we have two columns of information (monster fluff goes here, ecology, etc), and a lovely little table at the bottom with some additional interesting information (this might have varied a bit from critter to critter). I think a stat-block could easily fit in here, or maybe keep some of this box (the measurements are neat, and gestation information is woefully under-represented, other “fun facts” could also be presented here, I am a sucker for having any collective nouns/terms of venery at the ready for instance) and reduce the amount of text in the information/ecology section to add another few rows for simple, broadly compatible stats.

The card format could be useful for quickly building a “deck” for random encounters within a region/terrain/climate to have the monster statistics and relevant information handy, not necessarily as a generator (frequency isn’t really represented here), but as reference with all the necessary information in one place and a quick way to locate/re-file the monsters as necessary.

Just another idle idea. Perhaps I might eventually find the time to create some templates or example cards for this.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Mountain Range Generator Idea

I’ve been thinking about Mountain Ranges a bit lately in preparation for some supplemental tools/tables for generating some names and flavor for the Mountain Hexes. In my musings, I hit upon the idea to procedurally generate a primitive visual profile using area charts.

Here’s a rough idea for a Mountain Range generator (using Google Sheets for web-based compatibility, sample output and link below).

Mountain Range Generator (this is a link that creates a copy to play with)

It could definitely benefit from a little more variety for the naming (I’ve only included some short tables as a proof of concept here) and some tinkering with the data series, but there might be some potential with this approach. It could be interesting to include some options for “young and tall” ranges (à la the Himalayas) as well as “old and worn” types (like the Appalachian Mountains). It is also tempting to nest a few more data series as well or have the number of series plotted to be randomly determined for more or less visual depth.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Updated Layout For Gorgon Trail TROIKA! Backgrounds

Found myself fiddling around a little bit with the Layout for the Gorgon Trail TROIKA! Backgrounds.

The document itself has been updated with a few more Backgrounds. Hoping to finish this up soon. To view the living document, use either the above link, or this link to the previous post.

Here's a quick preview of the latest layout styling:

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

TROIKA! Backgrounds for Gorgon Trail

Psst...I’ve started whipping up 36 Gorgon Trail Backgrounds for TROIKA!

This is a living document, that I’ll be adding to as I get some free time, so check back for updates!

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Return Of The Mountain Hexes I

I decided to take a bit of a breather from the foliage of the Forests for some fresh Mountain Air. Alpine terrains are always interesting to me and were even the first terrain I tried tackling with this project, so it’s wonderful to return to these stony slopes.

Here's a brief breakdown of the contents of this draft:

  • Help for Hikers: An ancient stone walkway
  • A Mountain Lake, devoid of life
  • A Scenic Way-Shrine
  • Some distinctive, finger-like Formations
  • Rabidly foaming Rapids

I’ll have to brainstorm on some supporting generators for Mountains (akin to all the material I’ve whipped up for Trees/Plants/Herbs), maybe a Mountain Range/Prominent Peak name generator would be useful. As always I welcome any ideas for these in addition to feedback!

These Mountain Hexes as part of my ongoing Wilderness Hexes project (browse the hexes tag on this blog for more).

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Tex-Crawl/Gorgon Trail Backgrounds & Vocations

One of the first things I like to do these days when I’m contemplating Settings is to start with player facing materials.

For the Tex-Crawl project, Gorgon Trail (a Mystara-sytle Gazetteer for fantasy Texas) I went ahead and created an updated “Backgrounds & Vocations” list that tries to do some of the heavy lifting to communicate setting during Character Generation:

Ideally, as with the previous Backgrounds, these should create more questions than they answer and telegraph more of the entire world more quickly than a huge setting dump. It is also interesting to see which Backgrounds/Vocations are broadly applicable despite the setting, and how a simple tweak can completely change the tone.

The actual Gazetteer is going on 36 pages so far, and the sections on some of the really intriguing things (like how Clerics are handled, Rune-Branding, Barbed-Wire Wizards, and Hooch Magic) have been completed in their draft forms. It’s all very tongue and cheek, and the authorial voice/heavy use of idiomatic expressions is having the strange side-effect of my latent accent creep out in conversation :). I’m having to resist the urge to just go full on TROIKA! with these Backgrounds instead of something broadly compatible with B/X.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

These Dwarfs Are... (d100 Table)

I’ve managed to somehow saddle myself with yet another project that I’ve been spending some spare time on. This one’s taking shape as a Mystara-style Gazetteer for a Fantasy Texas (tentatively calling it the Gorgon Trail Tex-Crawl). It’s fairly tongue-in-cheek, but it’s proving to be a fun distraction.

But I’m still hoping not to neglect this blog, so here’s another quick d100 Activities Table to liven up encounters (random, wandering, or otherwise) with Dwarfs this time. It could serve as a companion for the one I previously put together for Wood Elfs.

Feel free to browse the d100 label for similar tables I’ve posted in the past, and as always I love hearing about how they work out at your table.