Updates for Khunmar / other work

I’m still thinking / working on the new version of Exquisite Corpses; the entire concept/layout has changed several times in the course of the past 2 months and I need a bit of time to stew it over.

A while back I did a few illustrations for ‘Mines of Khunmar.’ I was thinking of doing a 1/2 pager to introduce each level, but that is probably too much work for a freebie. Perhaps after I win the lottery. See some previews below.

Meanwhile, I have more work for another client coming up, but that’s all I can say for right now.

Below is a picture for level 1b (which I believe is just east of level 1; I don’t think this level appeared in the free preview pdf I released a few years ago). It looks like the party’s torchbearer is finding out that the Vargouille’s bite is worse than it’s bark. I’m not sure if ‘Vargouille’ is released under the OGL and if I need to make a subsitution or create an ‘offbrand’ version. I haven’t decided what kind of compatibility the public version of Khunmar will have when and if I ever finish it.

This (below) is level 1a (just north of level 1)… an abandoned mine filled with challenges (getting in is supposed to be hard; getting out alive is supposed to be harder). The ‘giga snails’ are not particularly fast moving, but probably well beyond the capacity of a lower level party; hopefully the party can keep moving and not get caught in a dead end passage. But once your 1st level PC is underneath the snail, it’s probably time to roll up a new one.This is level 1 — the entrance to the kobold caves. My only regret is that I made the kobolds about 2x the size they ought to have been… I dunno if I can fix that or not. The challenge is getting across the bridge alive — the bridge is defended by spearmen and archers on the kobold side. Hopefully that magic user brought a ‘sleep’ spell along.

Stonehell: First Impressions

OK, I know it’s already been out forever but I finally got around to ordering Stonehell Dungeon by Michael Curtis after having read about his campaigns on his blogs (one blog is Torch, Pole and Rope; the other is Rotted Moon). 134 pages for $13.00 seems like a bargain to me.

I’ve only read the first couple of pages and skimmed through the rest, but so far am very happy about my purchase and feel inspired to hopefully get off my butt and do something with Khunmar once I get some of my other backlog of projects squared away.

Likes: Brief entries for room descriptions, lots of options, map on one page and key on the facing page to prevent lots of flipping of pages during play. Lots of charts for random stuff and suggestions on how to make Stonehell your own.

Dislikes: Almost no art (sad face) but I suppose that makes the compact layout possible. Not all of the info for a given location is in one place (i.e.: the description of an area on the surface near the entrance is partially in the introduction to that ‘level’ in one place and partially in the key. I guess that’s needed to keep the key compact enough to fit on one page but I’d be worried that I would forget something important if I was referencing only the key.

This is apparently just the first volume; more levels are to come!


A to Z: K is for Khunmar!

Today is brought to you by the letter K.

Khunmar (as in “Mines of Khunmar,”) starts with the letter K. Khunmar is my magnum opus, my megadungeon, my Castle Greyhawk, my Castle Blackmoor, my Stonehell, my Castle of the Mad Archmage

The fellow at right has discovered why you should ‘go’ outside rather than dump a load in Khunmar.

I am definitely repeating myself here, but, in case you did not know, Khunmar is a big-ass dungeon drawn on graph paper, sheets of notebook paper, etc. I started it in the 80s, kept adding to it over the years and now it remains, a testament to the fact that for much of my teenage years I did not have a life. Fastforward a few decades. I found the binder in my parent’s attic. “I still have this?” I took the maps with me and scanned them, then wrote out brief outlines of each level and put them together in a pdf that I released for free over the series of tubes we call the internets.

Since there were around 8 levels (each level occupies an average of 2-5 sheets of graph paper) and lots of side and sub levels, the low res document was about 6 mb in size. People liked it.

Geoffrey wrote me and said how much he liked the dungeon and offered to type up my handwritten notes. Every few weeks I would scan a couple pages of my chickenscratch and email it off to him and he would patiently puzzle out what I had written 20+ years ago and type it. I think it took him a year or even two to finish that thankless, Herculean labor. Then a publisher (I’m not sure if I should refer to them by name so I will err on the side of caution) expressed interest in publishing it. For one or two years we exchanged emails but nothing happened. Somewhat frustrated but with no malice, I finally wrote to them and said I thought they should either commit or I would pull the project and try to do it on my own. They expressed regrets but indicated they were more interested in another megadungeon that wasn’t Khunmar, so, to my regret, we parted company.

This leaves me where I am now. Every six months or so I blog about “this is the year I will finish and publish Khunmar!” and then another six months go by before I work on it again… but, now that it is such a huge undertaking and 100% on my shoulders, I find myself a bit overwhelmed and undersupplied with time to give Khunmar it’s due. So I am somewhat leery of making any promises at this point other than to say that although not much progress has been made since my last post on the subject, I have every intention of finishing Khunmar… I just don’t know when.


Who needs more stuff to buy?

At the end of last month, the HUGE RUINED PILE posted an entry about the proposal of going a year without gaming purchases. Without hesitation, I decided to borrow that as my own new years resolution …and I just realized that I broke that promise yesterday when I ordered a book online that had some of my illustrations in it and for which I did not get a contributor copy, so I had to buy one… grrrr! Technically, I suppose my promise to myself still stands, since I promised to avoid purchases for 2011 (and, technically, 2011 hasn’t started yet — but I wouldn’t respect such justification from someone else so I can’t accept it from myself).

Part of what makes HUGE RUINED PILE’s suggestion appealing to me is that since I don’t have a job (and, thus, no money), many purchasing decisions have already been made for me. But I also have a ton of books on my gaming shelf that I have never used and will probably never use… and will never read. I just don’t devour rule books like I used to when I was 15. I also think my game mastering days are over — no one in my current circle seems to want to play the kind of game I want to run… and my interest in (and patience for) running anything they do want to play is too low. I just don’t see that changing.

If I were to run a game tomorrow, I doubt I’d use published stuff anyway. I’ve got some continent maps that I drew when I was much younger with such “inspired” names as, “The Dales” and “Elfwood” and “The Sinking Lands” that I would probably use as my setting, hokey names and all. My pantheon of gods would include a few borrowed from mythology, some who were made up and the rest stolen from The Church of the Subgenius. Monsters would include stuff from my old D&D manuals, borrowed from movies or comic books (Fin-Fang-Foom is perhaps a minor god), and other sources (i.e.: dero from Shaver). There would be mole people. And robots. And, of course, both magic and ancient ‘technology’ a la Gamma World and the aforementioned Shaver. I’d be shooting for ‘Hiero’s Journey’ meets Lankmar with heavy detours through HG Wells and Barsoom. Of course, given that everything in it would be someone else’s IP, it would be unpublishable.

It also becomes ethically problematic for me not to be buying (i.e.: supporting the efforts of others) if I’m working on stuff that I expect other people to buy. Maybe the solution to that dilemma is to just offer it for free. Which is what I am thinking of for Mines of Khunmar. I may just take the document that Geoffrey McKinney typed up from my notes, add the maps and dump it on the internet for all the world to have for free instead of toiling on it for 100+ more hours and then trying to sell it via Lulu. This would probably make more sense. I worked many hours on ‘Exquisite Corpses,’ and, if I figure how much work I put into it versus how many dollars I got out, I would probably be making less than an Indonesian twelve year old making shoes for Nike.

I might make more money if I had it printed and bound and then shipped it out myself, but I lack the front capital to make that happen and don’t want to spend all that time packing and shipping copies to individual customers. I also don’t want to invest the hundreds of hours it would probably take to make Mines of Khunmar ‘print ready’ with all of the editing, writing, redesigning, etc. The maps alone have taken a lot of time so far and I am not even finished with them. And then there are the illustrations. Even if I were to do just 20-25 illustrations (which doesn’t seem excessive for a 150+ page book), that would represent at minimum 100 hours. I just don’t have that kind of time.

In addition, I have to admit that the RPG business, with all of the drama, chest thumping and shilling that goes on, seems less and less attractive to me the more I look into it. The fact that it pays so poorly, making Khunmar more of a ‘Vanity’ project than anything else, makes me think that it may not be for me.

This probably isn’t the last word on this. I am considering the options, however.


Progress Report

Work continues on several fronts. There is a floor mosaic in my front hall that needs more of my time (currently the tile ~75% done, then the grouting needs to be finsished).

The Mines of Khunmar project has maps about 50-60% redrawn (I have the originals, I just need to redraw them all, then take them into photoshop to add legible type and numbers). There are a number of errors in the maps that I am correcting as I go along. After that, I need to work on the text and then do the artwork and layout — a daunting task. The image at right will possibly be included — this is the famous ‘crapper of death’ where those who stop to make a deposit risk being bit in the tukas by giant centipedes. Right under the ‘crapper of death’ is the famous ‘cesspit of death’ which I think may have caused 2 TPKs back in those halcyon days of my gaming youth.

I’m currently working on a fistful of illustrations for GameDevOnline. I’m probably upside-down as far as effort I am putting in versus money that will come out on this one, but the illustrations were interesting ones and I was enjoying to buckle down and really work these ones; I think I’m learning something new here and perhaps making some aesthetic discoveries, so its all good.

I have a new (old) project from a while back on which it is too early to say much other than, a) hopefully will result in a published piece; b) represents a somewhat unique idea as far as I know and c) will hopefully earn me some money if I can figure out where to place it. Still in the early stages, though. My one hint is that it deals with The Shaver Mystery.

I’m also still job hunting (sigh) which cuts into everything else. Plus I just finished winterizing our house, applying for a position at a local institution that took up a lot of time (and appears to have not paid off) and doing all the little jobs that now fall to me as ‘house husband’ (including cleaning, home maintenance, shopping, yardwork, etc.), so I have been a fairly busy beaver. But I continue to give an hour here and an hour there as I can; hopefully I’ll be able to make an honest effort to see Khunmar in print early next year, the mosaic finished before Christmas and my other (currently secret) project done some time in the new year.


MINES OF KHUNMAR to be published (soonish I hope)

A few years ago I released a pdf of notes and maps (about 5 mb — 50-60 pages) of a “megadungeon” of my own creation that had been ‘under construction’ since 1980 or so. It got some approval from those who like big-ass dungeons, like here… or here… or elsewhere.

But the initial release (in 2004), although free, was just a scan of about 90% of the maps (eight levels; each level consists of around 2 to 5 maps) and very brief summaries (written by me) of what was on each level. It was just an outline.

Enter Geoffrey McKinney. He downloaded the ‘outline’ and wrote me to say that he wanted to see it printed. I hemmed and hawed and whined that the original notes were all written in pencil or ink on school notebook paper with lots of abbreviations and cross-outs and spelling errors and my handwriting was crap anyway, so he said that if I scanned the pages, he would type them up and send me an MS word copy. I took him up on his kind offer.

About a year ago, one of the OSR publishers approached me to ask if I would like to see Khunmar go to print. We had some discussions, but after a year we hadn’t made much progress, and, since I have been out of work for a while, I decided that if ever I was going to have time to work on Khunmar, it would have to be now. Previously I had released ‘Exquisite Corpses’ via Lulu and had been pleased with the way that worked out.

So I’ve decided to publish it myself. Whether via Lulu or some other means is still in doubt. I haven’t figured out what set of rules I should make it compatible with, but I’m guessing I’ll just make it as close to ‘generic D&D’ as I can using a rule set like “Labyrinth Lord” or similar.

This is a massive undertaking. So far, without maps or much editing, the manuscript runs over 100 pages. The maps are all poorly drawn in pencil on yellowing graph paper and need to be redrawn. I’d like to use the book as a showcase for my illustration and will be illustrating it myself with scenes of adventurers in the dungeon itself (the picture above is my rendition of one of the encounters involving a giant cyclops and his pet hydra that I painted for my own amusement). I would also want the book to be interesting for the other dungeon masters or mega-dungeon fans to read, so many of the entries (which consist of just the name of a monster, hitpoints and treasure, if any) have to be written and ‘fleshed out.’ There are also lots of errors: missing levels, stairs that lead nowhere, mislabeled rooms, etc. An unrealistically optimistic estimate would say that the earliest it will be even close to being ready for print is a year from now.

But I’m excited and eager to see it through. As an example of how I would like to see the maps done, I’m attaching one of the maps (level 2f) below. Click to see an enlargement.


MINES OF KHUNMAR to be published (soonish I hope)

A few years ago I released a pdf of notes and maps (about 5 mb — 50-60 pages) of a “megadungeon” of my own creation that had been ‘under construction’ since 1980 or so. It got some approval from those who like big-ass dungeons, like here… or here… or elsewhere.

But the initial release (in 2004), although free, was just a scan of about 90% of the maps (eight levels; each level consists of around 2 to 5 maps) and very brief summaries (written by me) of what was on each level. It was just an outline.

Enter Geoffrey McKinney. He downloaded the ‘outline’ and wrote me to say that he wanted to see it printed. I hemmed and hawed and whined that the original notes were all written in pencil or ink on school notebook paper with lots of abbreviations and cross-outs and spelling errors and my handwriting was crap anyway, so he said that if I scanned the pages, he would type them up and send me an MS word copy. I took him up on his kind offer.

About a year ago, one of the OSR publishers approached me to ask if I would like to see Khunmar go to print. We had some discussions, but after a year we hadn’t made much progress, and, since I have been out of work for a while, I decided that if ever I was going to have time to work on Khunmar, it would have to be now. Previously I had released ‘Exquisite Corpses’ via Lulu and had been pleased with the way that worked out.

So I’ve decided to publish it myself. Whether via Lulu or some other means is still in doubt. I haven’t figured out what set of rules I should make it compatible with, but I’m guessing I’ll just make it as close to ‘generic D&D’ as I can using a rule set like “Labyrinth Lord” or similar.

This is a massive undertaking. So far, without maps or much editing, the manuscript runs over 100 pages. The maps are all poorly drawn in pencil on yellowing graph paper and need to be redrawn. I’d like to use the book as a showcase for my illustration and will be illustrating it myself with scenes of adventurers in the dungeon itself (the picture above is my rendition of one of the encounters involving a giant cyclops and his pet hydra that I painted for my own amusement). I would also want the book to be interesting for the other dungeon masters or mega-dungeon fans to read, so many of the entries (which consist of just the name of a monster, hitpoints and treasure, if any) have to be written and ‘fleshed out.’ There are also lots of errors: missing levels, stairs that lead nowhere, mislabeled rooms, etc. An unrealistically optimistic estimate would say that the earliest it will be even close to being ready for print is a year from now.

But I’m excited and eager to see it through. As an example of how I would like to see the maps done, I’m attaching one of the maps (level 2f) below. Click to see an enlargement.