Reviews

The Thing About a Dyson Logos Dungeon Map

Watching one of Dyson Logos’s time-lapse videos is mesmerizing. Finger tips squeeze close to nib. Black ink trails as the pen glides along straight lines, jerks through hatch marks. Parallel lines become a long corridor, a protruding rectangle a door frame. Rubble strews across the floor.

Then the hatching. Short, quick strokes: one, two, three—one, two, three… That’s when we know: this guy’s wired different.

There’s a thing about a Dyson Logos dungeon map. By the hatching we recognize the style, because we’ve been admiring his work for more than a decade. But it ain’t the hatching.

The thing is the design.

To make the point, I chose a Dyson Logos map without hatching. Tunnels of the Shrouded Emperor is an example rare and fine.

Tunnels of the Shrouded Emperor
Tunnels of the Shrouded Emperor, Map by Dyson Logos.

The tripartite doorways either side of the entry hall, middle north, a blind stairway landing just south of it, rounded triangular daises in an octagonal room, a balcony overlooking half a chamber, stairs to the side, the generous use of dungeon furnishings—these catch the eye and draw us in.

But there’s more. Charting an imagined course through the dungeon, we follow branches, turn around at dead ends, weave one way or another along parallel routes, until we progress, via a wide thoroughfare, into the southern caverns.

This long trench reminds of a dry watercourse, perhaps a former Darkling tributary, which leads us to the dungeon’s end, where we find only stones and dry bones and lurking creatures. For we’ve missed the diamond-shaped central chambers where its priests work to repair “The Shrouded Emperor.”

That’s the thing about a Dyson Logos dungeon map.


Dyson Logos has been creating hand-drawn maps for fantasy role-playing games since 2009. You can support the creator on Patreon.


Pits and Pendulums and Other Means to Retire an Adventurer: OED Traps Digest

Searching for traps? Find them in the OED Traps Digest from OED Games.

After using it in his games for eight years, Dan “Delta” Collins of Delta’s D&D Hotspot and Wandering DMs finally, in this Hotspot post, opened the cover on the pit where he cached this six-page booklet chock-full of traps.

Search for Traps at OED Games

One Table, Myriad Dooms

On the first page, Dan explains in one paragraph how to generate a trap for your dungeon stocking needs. He tells you how often a trap is present, your chance to find it, and failing that, your chance to trigger it.

If you’re old school, you might consult the Monster Determination and Level of Monster Matrix from OD&D’s Underworld and Wilderness Adventures to determine the trap’s level. I adore the “Lost Matrix,”1 and I’m excited to have another reason to use it. On the matrix, you might find a 3rd-level trap anywhere from dungeon level one through five.

Let’s take pit traps, for example. On upper levels, you got your standard covered-pit traps for neophyte adventurers. For more experienced delvers, you got pits with spikes, pits with monsters, locking pits, and pits that crush you in your plate mail like a tin can.

The rest of the digest-sized page is a single table of d12 traps for each level, one through six. That’s 72 traps at the end of a dice roll.

Table entries are brief and descriptive. Dan suggests the text may be copied straight into your digital dungeon room notes.

Five Pages of Descriptions

Dan doesn’t leave you gazing at the approaching edge of the swinging pendulum. In remaining pages, he describes each trap, divided by type. There are eight types, including crushing, confining, and magic/energy traps, plus my favorite pit traps. Some have variations, like a poison’s strength or a missile’s accuracy. Each description provides how much damage, what save if any applies, and how to escape the trap should you survive its immediate effects.

Furthering our pit-trap example: At the deepest levels, you might find, if you’re lucky, a covered pit. Lifting the cover, you see spikes poking up from the bottom. The points are covered in poison. When you don’t find the cover, you fall through it, it locks, and the pit floods. Don’t worry. Dan tells you how to get out of it. Spoiler: It’s a job for friends topside. They should have an axe. Hold your breath while they work.

The OED Traps Digest is a free download for the Original Edition Delta fantasy rules system. Go to OED Games and search for Traps.

Working Traps on Wandering DMs, Sunday

For a live trap-stocking demonstration from the author of the OED Traps Digest, catch up with the Wandering DMs on YouTube today at 1 p.m. Eastern US. In “Dungeon Design Dash 2,” Dan and fellow DM Paul Siegel continue their work from a previous episode. Earlier, they stocked monsters and treasures in a one-page dungeon. They intend to finish this week with puzzles, tricks, and traps.

Don’t forget your ten-foot pole. I’ll bring the axe.


Notes

1 I call it the “Lost Matrix,” because, after an abbreviated appearance in the Holmes Bluebook and a more extensive rendition in the 1979 AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide, it isn’t reproduced in later editions—the beginning of the end of the old school, so saith the grognard.


Setting Up a Wargames Campaign

I came only recently to Tony Bath. I’d heard vague stories about a game in the misty past set in Conan’s world. Details were murky and scarce. It wasn’t clear if it was D&D or something else, and I couldn’t sort out how the game related to the archetypal barbarian.

In early 2011, while browsing the Hill Cantons, I discovered a four-part series about Bath’s Hyboria wargames campaign (December 2010). Author Chris Kutalik had got hold of a copy of Setting Up a Wargames Campaign by the legendary English wargamer. Kutalik doesn’t so much review the book as proselytize. That day I became an acolyte.

Today, we take for granted the campaign. For modern role-playing gamers, a single adventure is called a “one-shot,” and while the form has its merits, it lacks the scope, continuity, and satisfaction a campaign provides.

The Society of Ancients

Tony Bath founded the Society of Ancients and its journal Slingshot in 1965. Now in its 56th year, the society continues to thrive. It has an active members-only online forum, hosts an annual Battle Day, and still produces Slingshot bi-monthly in full color.

So it was, too, with wargamers in the 1960s. Pushing lead figures across a tabletop gets stale after a number of unrelated battles. The context, coming from historical accounts, is inflexible. The setup and tactics, again historical, are sometimes limited. Battles often ended in a slug-fest, there being no reason a general might conserve troops for the morrow.

Veering from the strictly historical wargame, campaigners step back from the table and consider the larger theater of operations. On large-scale maps showing rivers instead of streams, mountains instead of hilltops, countries instead of towns, opposing generals exercise strategy instead of tactics. They march armies, represented by pins, across the map, each general in secret from the other, until forces meet.

In the ensuing battle, the context, setup, and tactics are all determined by the preceding events and the terrain upon which the two forces find each other. Troops must be used effectively or be withdrawn to fight another day. This is the stuff of the campaign.

In Bath’s Hyboria, King Arthur and his knights waged war on Conan’s Cimmerian hordes.

In those years, Tony Bath devised the quintessential wargames campaign. But he went further, for he set the campaign in a fictitious world. He lifted the map from the end papers of a Robert Howard novel. He cribbed also the setting’s name, and so Hyboria came again to life in the second half of the twentieth century. Bath borrowed real-world cultures, both ancient and medieval, to populate the continent with peoples, whence armies were drawn.

In Bath’s Hyboria, King Arthur and his knights waged war on Conan’s Cimmerian hordes. Carthaginians struggled against Viking raiders. Picts crossed swords with Persians. Aquilonians, allied with Argives and Nemedians, laid siege to a Turanian town occupied by Hyrkanians.

Tony Bath’s Ancient Wargaming including Setting Up a Wargames Campaign

That was only the beginning. Bath describes the process and much more in amicable prose. Setting Up a Wargames Campaign was published in 1973 by Wargames Research Group. It had a second edition (1977) and a revised third edition in 1986. Copies now circulate on various reseller sites for not extraordinary prices. At the time, though, I couldn’t find any such copy.

Instead, I found a reproduction. As part of his History of Wargaming Project, John Curry, with the Society of Ancients, published Tony Bath’s Ancient Wargaming (2009, 2011), which is a reprint collection of three previously published books:

  • Peltast and Pila Ancient Wargaming Rules (Tabletop Warfare, 1976)
  • Setting Up a Wargames Campaign (WRG, 1973)
  • The Legend of Hyboria (Society of Ancients, 2005)

In setting up the Valormr Campaign, I’m using Wargames Campaign’s first three chapters, in which Bath describes the basics:

  • How to Set Up Your Campaign
  • Map Movement
  • Contacts, Battles and After Effects

I’m sure to make use of later chapters in subsequent campaigns. Furthermore, the ancient wargame rules Peltast and Pila will serve in campaigns taking place earlier in the DONJON LANDS time line.