August 31, 2011
August 30, 2011
A quick search on Google Images turns up many images of jungle ruins. Lots of images from Cambodia and Mexico there, but I was looking more for those with a fantastical or mysterious or adventurous or magical feel to them. I’ve saved some of those here for posterity. Click ’em to enlarge.
“Black Dots are Boulder Walkers.
Blue Dots are Suicide Bombers.
Red Dots are sleep mist spots.
Yellow Dots are herbs for a shattered crest quest.
Green Arrows are Boulder Walker paths.
Purple Arrows show the recommended path.
Blue lines are crushers. “
August 29, 2011
As far as I am aware, no director has made as many post-apocalypse movies as Cirio H. Santiago. You want to watch one or some or all…but which ones first? This post is for you.
(Also check out my Viewing Guide to Cirio’s Vietnam Movies.)
First thing to know is that all seven of Cirio’s post-apocs share several qualities, settings, and actors/actresses, but none are directly related to each other. Seven variations on the theme, with a core of similar elements, such as:
- Spiked car chases on desert wasteland roads.
- Football pads and other costume badassery.
- Flamethrowers and other weapon badassery.
- Militant factions of various stripes vying for control of an assortment of scarce resources.
- Extensive scenes filmed at Intramuros (the old “Walled City” in Manila) and the former site of the Marinduque mines in the Philippines.
Sorted by release date according to IMDB.com:
Wheels of Fire
Raiders of the Sun
What follows are a list of keywords for each movie, ordered approximately from my least to most favorite.
- Seven Samurai clone
- David Carradine
- Water shortage
- Defense of plywood village
- Henry Strzalkowski without a mustache
- Little People bandits
- Motorcycle joust
- Saloon brawl
- The nude cave bath
Why watch this first? The idea of a Seven Samurai clone starring David Carradine intrigues you.
- Set in post-apoc Alaska
- Biggest Gun Wins
- Vic Diaz as a Medicine Man
- Plywood castle
- Civil war unis
- Yelping natives in jeans
- The eponymous gun
Why watch this first? You want to watch the one that is most like a Western movie and can stomach the fact that Richard Norton has his shirt off most of the time but Corrine Wahl leaves her’s on.
- Men vs. Women
- Witch powers: Speak with animals, Lazer eyes, Healing touch, Telekinesis
- Skull Bar brawl
- Homeless lepers
- Tech weapon cache cave with AI voice
- War wagon
- Calcara, City of Ultimate Pleasure
Why watch this first? It’s the most like a 1980’s barbarian fantasy movie, until the women find the “war wagon” in the tech weapon cave.
Future Hunters (aka Spear of Destiny)
- Spear of Longinus turn victims into a pile of ash that looks like a burnt suit.
- The blonde thug in white polyester crushes a rose
- Kung fu alert: Bruce Le (not to be confused with Bruce Lee) vs. the Silver Fox at the Forbidden Pagoda
- Tasaday Amazons in Venus Valley (nothing like real Tasaday)
- Ed Crick as the Nazi villain
- Mongol riders
- Jungle Rating: 3 (yay, jungle!)
- Rope bridge battle
- Little People cavemen with crossbows
Why watch this first? If you are okay that this starts out as a post-apocalypse flick, but then the wasteland warrior time travels back to the 1980s and it becomes an awkward Terminator/Indiana Jones/Romancing the Stone mashup.
- Water wars
- Hidden spring temple cave colony
- Ash dunes with buzzing Little People
- Torture dungeon
- Amazons with bows
Why watch this first? Notwithstanding the gang rape scene, this is probably the closest thing to a mainstream normal movie of all on this list, but it’s still trash.
Wheels of Fire
- Gas wars
- Topless carhood surfing
- Sand hag underpeople
- Homeless babbling Little People
- Mind reading mutant girl
- Rocket ship called “Paradise express”
- Corregidor location
- Music sounds more than a little like Star Wars
Why watch this first? This is definitely a car fetish movie most similar to Mad Max and Road Warrior on this list, in case you are interested.
Raiders of the Sun
- Gunpowder Wars
- The Great Dude Hoghead gang
- The BAR
- Little People gypsies with battle axes
- Gunpowder mine in jungle village
- Jungle Rating: 3
- Corregidor location
- Randomly inserted guitar power riffs
- Great theme song: “Children of the world unite…stand up for your way of life!”
Why watch this first? Best Cirio H. Santiago post-apocalypse movie.
Yup, Raiders of the Sun gets the crown from me. Somewhat of a surprise because each of Cirio’s post-apocs seemed a little worse than the previous. Then all of a sudden Raiders of the Sun, his last one, hit on all cylinders! Stryker and Wheels of Fire are a close second place.
BONUS TRASHY POST-APOCALYPSE MOVIE MADE IN THE PHILIPPINES…
Gotta mention this one because it has some great jungle locations. I’d rate it about equal to Future Hunters on the list above.
- Jungle rating: 5!
- Rope bridge battle
- Humming natives
- Immortal death clown Little People
- Amazon temple
- Mindfeeble gaze
- Spike trap
- Fertility ritual
- Lazer eye battle
- Combat throne
- Power plant with leprous keepers
- Shoulder pad fetish
For more in-depth reviews of these and other PA movies, check out www.post-apocalypse.co.uk.
August 25, 2011
In general, when I think of AD&D 2nd Edition I think “too much”. Too much rules supplements. Too much campaign settings and too much product for those settings. No doubt there are some good products from that era, but so much of it seems watered down and overdone.
Compared to other camping setting product lines from the era, the Al-Qadim setting seems modest. Only 14 products released over the span of a few years. The visual style of the books is restrained. Functional but attractive with gold border designs. Not over-stylized like Planescape and Dark Sun, but not with a bland layout and style like a lot of what TSR made in the 90s. The setting has a nice sword & sorcery vibe to it with the gritty adventure of a hot desert and the exotic wonder of a thousand and one cool nights. Overall, I nominate Al-Qadim as an under appreciated gem of the AD&D 2E era.
All that being said, I only own one Al-Qadim product: Ruined Kingdoms by Steven Kurtz. Of course, it has jungles.
Ruined Kingdoms is like the seven other Al-Qadim adventure sets in that it consists of a thin but sturdy box containing many pieces. In this box: 64-page Adventure book, 32-page Campaign book, 8-page Monster book, six cardstock accessory sheets, and a color fold-out map.
The six cardstock sheets are full color on one side, intended to be shown to the players at various times during the adventures in the Adventure book. Little props like this are handy. The other side contains DM info such as maps and stats.
The Al-Qadim world maps are some of the best TSR ever produced. The Ruined Kingdoms poster map is a fine example. A functional cartographic style with effective use of color and texture. Thematic icons to represent noteworthy sites such as ruins and cities. This map alone can be used as inspiration and roots of a sandbox campaign. Here is a portion of it:
The meat of Ruined Kingdoms is the 64-page Adventure book and 32-page Campaign book.
The campaign book provides enough details to communicate and support the general theme of a Ruined Kingdoms campaign. It starts with a brief history of the land, outlining the kingdoms that have ruled there in the past but now exist only as ruins and deadly magic in the jungle. Next, it describes the magical legacy of the Geomancers, an extinct culture of earth elementalists. The Geoglyphs that they left behind makes exploring their ruins particularly dangerous. Then, the crocodile Cult of Ragarra is efficiently described and presented as a potentially powerful friend or foe of the PCs. Next, four cities are presented: Dihliz, Kadarasto, Medina al-Afyal, and Rog’osto. These cities are described in enough detail (about 2 pages each) to give each its own flavor and adventuring possibilities without getting bogged down with mundane details. The origins of Rog’osto is especially cool. Finally, some magic items found in the Ruined Kingdoms are described, offering more ideas and lures to adventure.
Overall, the Campaign book is a good balance of detail and openended-ness that supports a classic D&D theme: exploring and plundering the magical ruins of past kingdoms. In the jungle, no less! Furthermore, any of the components could also be swiped for use in your own jungle campaign. Just a nice little book of ideas.
Unfortunately, I felt most of the nine scenarios in the Adventure book don’t live up to the potential of the Campaign book. For better or worse, there is a plot to it all, giving it the feel of an adventure path. The story is ok but not exactly original, involving a long dead sorcerer rising again in hopes of reviving the Geomancer empire, which the PCs must thwart. Only a few of the adventures deal directly with that plot, the other adventures serving as filler, some of which are no more than a single encounter. It’s a little railroad-y, but not overwhelmingly so, and the individual adventures could be easily adapted for use in your own campaign if you liked a particular one. My favorites are the ones that involve jungle ruins, delivering on the potential of the Campaign book:
Adventure #5: Talisman. Travel through the jungle to battle the crocodile Cult of Raggara at the Temple of the Serpentine Empress.
Adventure #7: Secrets of the Seal. Journey to the Isle of the Elephant to find the underground ruins of Al-Asirr and the holy avenger scimitar: Breaker of the Ninth Chain.
Honorable mention goes to Adventure #9: Kismet, for being a nice set piece lich’s lair deep in the jungle with a nice color map card and challenging final battle. Unfortunately, it is assumed that the PCs will travel to the lair on a magic carpet, missing out on the fun (for who?) of stomping through the jungle. Indeed, like many jungle modules, travel through the jungle is glossed over for the most part. For example, introduction to adventure #5 Talisman suggests:
“Take your time describing the noises, sights, and smells of the jungle: stress the unusual abundance of water and cool rainfall in the mornings and evenings; the persistent chatter of the birds, animals, and insects (at night, this can be unnerving until the party becomes accustomed to it); the magnificent hardwood trees stretching into a canopy far overhead; the crumbling stone ruins, which occasionally peek from beneath a carpet of vines and creepers; and the delicate smell of orchids, gently wafting down from the canopy overhead. To relieve any mounting tension, feel free to run one or two simple encounters, perhaps with a family of wild boars or a giant hornet looking for food.”
A nice effort, but it basically just tells the DM to give some flowery jungle-y descriptions and toss in a few jungle-y encounters. As I’ve mentioned before on this site, the shortcomings of existing jungle modules is what led me to create the Jungle Event and Travel System.
To summarize my thoughts on Ruined Kingdoms: Great maps, props, and clean, functional book design. The Campaign book got me interested in running a campaign in the Ruined Kingdoms, but I would use only a few of the scenarios in the Adventure book. More likely is that I’ll get value from Ruined Kingdoms by stealing bits and pieces for my own setting.
“I am the Wrath of God. The earth I pass will see me and tremble. But whoever follows me and the river will win untold riches.”
August 23, 2011
The following is the partial script of a freestyle PBEM jungle adventure played with a friend last year. Complete with arcade sound effects. It introduced El Grande Loco, an NPC mentioned in the Dark Jungle Sandbox Generation system.
Giancarlo Montoya is his name, but only his mother calls him that anymore. It’s “El Grande” to everybody else. In the gossip of those who have followed him into the jungle and witnessed his obsession for finding Mayatashi’s gold, he has become “El Grande Loco”.
This morning El Grande Loco left behind what was left of his decimated expedition…
“It’s so close I can taste it.”
“Please El Grande, let this heavy rain pass. The mules can’t make it up in this mud.”
El Grande slugs a mule in a fit of rage, then kicks it while it thrashes on the ground, braying painfully.
“NO RAAAA-EEEEEN WILL STOP ME NOW! COWARDS! I DON’T NEED DEEZ SHTEEEENKING AAAAASSES!”
…and continued up the wet and thick jungle ravine by himself.
As he climbed higher, El Grande Loco became so excited that he couldn’t help but converse with himself. “Eeet’s close, very close. I know eet eez!” “Yez, yez, I feel it too!” “You, El Grande, will be revered and hailed as keeeeeeng!” “Yez, yez, nobody can stop me now!”
Then, he finds a rusted metal sign. It once said “Mac’s Mother Lode” but the first word is crossed out and it now says “Mayatashi’s Mother Lode”. El Grande Loco looks around in mad excitement. Seeing nothing he crashes through the foliage and comes to a small clearing. There stands a small, wicked man, or what once was a man before enduring centuries of isolation and madness.
Then it scampers up the hill and ducks into the hidden mine entrance, looks back and taunts again: “Come now. It’s so exciting to have you as our guest.” Then it disappears into the mine.
El Grande enters the mine, whooping and hollering.
A single long horizontal shaft cuts straight into the mountain. Small candles are spaced haphazardly, dimly lighting the way as far as El Grande can see. It looks like they’ve been lit for a thousand years. Thick timbers support the walls and ceiling.
If he notices nothing then he will grab a candle and toss it down the passageway, grabbing more and more until the area around the suspect timber is lit well enough to initiate a more thorough search.
El Grande carefully avoids the trap and proceeds down the length of the mine. Wary but confident.
You see a partially concealed length of twine leading from the suspicious timber and up the mine shaft, half buried in the thick dust on the floor.
El Grande tosses the candles on top of the twine. Igniting it.
None of the tracks look particularly new. In fact, it appears the tracks are all from a left shoe.
El Grande stomps down hard on the stones at the very edge of the area, keeping one foot firmly planted on solid terra firma.
The floor gives way slightly where he stomps. It looks as if there is a pit, covered with large leaves, then camouflaged with pebbles and dust.
He proceeds cautiosly across the area, locating firm areas where he can stand and knocking down the rest until he has cleared a path to the other side.
Problem is that El Grande isn’t finding any firm areas. It seems the whole area is a covered pit. It appears to be longer than what he could leap across.
El Grande hears a laugh:
El Grande grabs handholds and footholds in the rock lining the walls and scales himself across.
El Grande is nearly all the way across when he hears his enemy charging with a blood-curdling yell and a long bamboo pool with a knife lashed to the point. He is a sitting duck, clinging there on the wall above the pit, and it is too late to turn back, so El Grande recklessly finishes crossing the pit. With not a moment to spare he steps down on solid ground and draws his sword with bravado.
The charging goon thrusts his spear (more than ten feet long) but El Grande dodges and grabs the bamboo with his off-hand. The goon wigs out, drops the spear, and turns to flee back up into the mine.
El Grande picks up the spear, tests it for weight and balance, and hurtles it at the back of the fleeing goon.
The spear is very long and awkward and not well-suited for throwing, but there is nothing that El Grande cannot do, and his throw strikes its target. But because the mine wasn’t wide or tall enough to rotate the pointed end towards the goon, it is just the dull butt end that hits. It knocks him down, but not much real harm is done.
The goon gets back up and grabs the spear. With a piercing glare, he momentarily considers a counterattack, but thinks better of it. He heads back deeper into the mine, chuckling like an asshole.
El Grande twirls his sword after the encounter, and shouts a few disparaging remarks about the goons mother corrupting the morals of the village donkey before proceeding on his was down the hallway.
El Grande stops and looks down. His right ankle is pressed against a tripwire. He thinks to himself: “Susmaryosep! I was looking out for these, but this one is almost thinner than a thread of spider’s silk!”
Without moving too much, he investigates the area briefly and discovers pieces of bamboo buried in the dust, one on each site of the corridor. The tripwire goes into the bamboo through tiny holes.
El Grande inspects the floor, ceiling, and walls around him verrrrrrrrrrryyyy closely before proceeding to do anything.
Nothing is found, except there is a spider (about the size of his hand) clinging to the wall and watching El Grande from a few feet away.
El Grande shrieks and feints dead away falling straight backwards to the floor.
There is an explosion and El Grande dies.
(1 of 3 lives remaining…respawn…)
El Grande drives his sword into the ground (non-edge to rope)in order to keep the tension on the trap and then runs for it down the hall.
El Grande comes to a chamber in the mine. Thick timbers scaffold the room, supporting the ceiling. (kinda like the scaffolding shown in this picture, but the chamber isn’t this big: http://www.onlinenevada.org/media/image/45i_00155LOC_Square_set_poster.tiff.jpg )
He hears the goon’s voice echoing from somewhere up in the timbers. Then a chopping sound. Moments later a large punji spiked log is swinging down, tied up above by a rope or vine, toward El Grande. Riding the log is the screaming goon, wide-eyed and manic, his katana flashing in the dim candle light.
El Grande rolls to the off-sword side of the goon/swinging log of death.
The log swings past El Grande, and back up into the shadowy timbers. Then, like a pendulum, it swings back down, this time without its bloodthirsty rider. It continues swinging back and forth like this. There is silence except for the whoosh of the log and the straining of its rope.
El Grande surveys his surroundings with a complete 360 degree turn and then picks up a large, hand sized stone from the floor.
“Whoosh” goes the log, swinging past.
“Nagamatsu is hungryyyyyy!” is the scream heard right above El Grande as the goon jumps down to slam the katana into the conquistador’s skull. But El Grande is quick and raises the stone to block the shining blade. They collide with a shattering clang.
Nagamatsu is momentarily stunned.
El Grande smashes his gauntleted fist into Nagamatsu’s throat.
“Whoosh” goes the log, swinging past.
The cursed imperial soldier staggers backwards, clutching his throat. Then he grins, his smile a mix of gold teeth and rotten black ones, and charges El Grande, screeching: “Domo arigato!”
The perfectly timed and executed maneuver sends the charging Nagamatsu flying straight into the swinging log. The goon, impaled and stuck to the log, emits a diminishing moan…”Mayatashi”…and dies with a smile on his face.
Searching ground level briefly, El Grande finds a mine shaft going straight down into darkness. There is a crude platform and pulley system hanging above the opening.
El Grande tests the sturdiness of the platform. If all is well he steps aboard and mans the pulley.
A bubbling sound is coming from farther into the chamber, beyond the candlelight…
August 18, 2011
I had been planning to put the Dark Jungle on hexes for awhile but I didn’t think it would be all that interesting of a map, because from one perspective it’s just a massive expanse of jungle canopy. To spice things up I designed a system of generating a Dark Jungle map with encounters and obstacles using Mahjong tiles. I’ve customized this system for the dragon-hunting Jungle Men campaign, so lots of monsters to hunt and changes in wind direction to aid or hinder the hunters.
Everybody has a set of Mahjong tiles and can interpret Chinese characters, right? (Unfortunately, I haven’t memorized the Chinese characters yet, so I need a chart for reference.)
A Mahjong set contains 144 tiles, many of which have jungle-themed icons, so it’s a natural fit for jungle hijinks. Different sets contains different variations of some icons, but here is a good example with jungle-themed icons:
Generating a Dark Jungle sandbox is a simple matter of pulling a tile for each hex when creating a map before play begins. (The Jungle Event System is used to determine wandering monsters and random events during play.) Or, for less encounter density, roll d6 for each hex: on a 1 pull a tile to determine hex contents. 2-6 indicates “regular” Dark Jungle terrain and no tile is drawn.
In a complete mahjong set there are four copies of most of the tiles, with eight unique tiles. Here’s a breakdown of tile counts and what they indicate when generating a Dark Jungle hex:
4x 9 Bamboos = hex contains resource monster
4x 9 Circles = hex contains other encounter
4x 9 Characters = hex potentially contains an NPC or River or Ravine
4x 3 Dragons = hex contains dragon
4x 4 Winds = hex contains change in wind direction
1x 4 Flowers = hex contains special location
1x 4 Seasons = hex contains special location
Bamboo Tiles (Resource Monsters)
1 Blood Beak (Feather and beak)
2 Levitacean (Blubber and oil)
3 Reticulated Panther (Fur and claw)
4 Giant Gibbon (Fur and sinew)
5 Thogibex (Horns and ivory tusks)
6 Giant Fire Ants (carapace and glands)
7 Great Golden Cobra (Hide and poison)
8 Black Crocodile (Hide and teeth)
9 Pale Elephant (Ivory tusks and wire hair)
Circle Tiles (Other Encounters)
1 Native Hunting Party
2 Giant Jack Ants
3 Armed Chimpanzees
4 Giant Headhunter Flies
5 Giant Flying Frog
6 Cynocephalus Volans
7 Giant Daddy Longlegs
8 Spiny Spider
9 Spore Bloom (Fast Fungus)
Character Tiles (NPCs, Rivers, and Ravines)
1 El Grande Loco (Giancarlo Montoya)
3 Lung-Eatin’ Hayes
5 Panther-Claw Glin Topp
7 Thed Zoltar
9 Eberhard Dunwitty
If a Character tile is drawn, there is a chance that the indicated Jungle Man or Bolo Man is encountered. Roll d10. If the roll is equal to or less than the NPC’s value (1-9 on the chart), then the NPC is placed in this hex. If the roll is greater than the NPC’s value, then the hex contains a Spindle River instead. After an NPC is placed in a hex, any time its tile is later drawn the hex contains a Fire Ravine instead. If NPC’s fourth tile drawn and that NPC hasn’t been placed yet, then the NPC is automatically placed in this hex.
The purpose of this system is to make some NPCs more likely to be found far away from where the PCs enter the Dark Jungle. Similarily, rivers will be common when the PCs first enter the Dark Jungle, but Fire Ravines will become prevalent deep in the interior. This dice-rolling mechanic could also be applied to Circle and Bamboo tiles if you prefer to have less monsters or to make some monsters rarer than others.
These swirling rivers lace the Dark Jungle. They often flow in unnatural directions, sometimes flowing underground and resurfacing later. Crossing a spindle river is dangerous due to its swift and swirling current, but not impossible. Some of the bravest or foolish have been known to ride rafts or canoes for rapid downstream travel, but it’s a good idea get off before the river plunges back underground or into a Fire Ravine. Use the following guidelines to generate a spindle river:
- When a Spindle River hex is created, roll d6 to determine where the river exits the hex and/or another d6 to determine where it enters the hex. If both rolls are the same, reroll until they are different.
- Continue chaining sections (hexes) of river on each end of the river according to the above method. Note that the river may loop back into hexes that it already passes through, even passing through a single hex side multiple times. Best to use pencil when initially generating river section so adjustments can be made to allow a river to pass through a hex multiple times.
- The river ends when the hex side indicated by the die roll cannot be reached due to a barrier in the hex, such as another section of river, Fire Ravine, etc. Spindle Rivers never fork or intersect. For example, let’s say River “A” enters a hex from a southern hex side and that hex already contains River “B” crossing it from east to west. If the next die roll indicates a northerly flow, then it is blocked by River “B” and so River “A” ends in this hex (enters a cave, pit, etc.).
- After the river is completely drawn, decide the direction of flow. The only rule for this is if the river is terminated by a Fire Ravine, then the river flows into the ravine to form an incredible waterfall and plume of steam. Only one end of a river can flow into a fire ravine, obviously.
These are steep canyons with flame and lava bubbling far below. Fire Ravines vary in width, typically from 3 to 60 feet wide (3d20). Fire ravines are difficult to cross, of course, but some can be crossed by swinging on vines if you are willing to endure a blast of scorching heat. Lung Eatin’ Hayes is famous for his flight across a wide ravine on the back of a panther. Use the following guidelines to generate a Fire Ravine:
- When a Fire Ravine hex is created, roll d6 to determine how long it is. If the length is greater than one, perform the next step.
- From the initial Fire Ravine hex, chain additional hexes in a straight line until the length is attained. Whereas Spindle Rivers bend and meander, Fire Ravines are always straight, though sometimes multiple ravines will intersect from different directions.
- If you wish for a Fire Ravine to intersect an existing Spindle River, then the river flows into the ravine. If that splits the existing river in two, then the river flows into the ravine from both directions.
Dragons are the primary quarry of Jungle Men. Dragons in the Dark Jungle are not the bat-winged behemoths of high fantasy, but more like the typical portrayal of oriental dragons. Entering a dragon hex and hunting it should be an adventure of itself. In the Dark Jungle they are typically one of three colors:
Red: The smallest and most devious. Its scales are very rough, almost thorny.
Green: The most intelligent and poisonous. Its scales have an iridescent appearance.
White: The largest and most ferocious. Its scales have a slick, almost wet appearance.
The Dark Jungle exhibits an interesting wind phenomena. Though separated from the atmosphere by a thick layer of leaf, limb, and vine, winds ranging from persistent gusts to sudden zephyrs are felt underneath the canopy. Natives believe them to be breath of dragons. High Wizards from the east attribute the wind to the incredible amount of decomposition that occurs in the Dark Jungle. Some poets have, in so many elegant words, theorize that the winds are due to rotating air masses within the sub-atmosphere between the jungle canopy and floor.
Wind direction changes when the PCs enter a hex with a Wind tile . For example, when a North Wind tile is encountered, the Wind blows out of the north. Wind direction persists until another wind hex in entered.
If the PCs are downwind of monsters, they have a better chance of detecting the monsters before the monsters detect them. If the PCs are moving directly into the wind, they have a 4 in 6 chance of surprising any monsters encountered. (Diagonal movement on a hex map qualifies as movement in two directions for purposes of determining surprise. For example, with a wind from the west the surprise advantage is also granted for movement through the NW and SW sides of the hex just exited.)
Flower and Season Tiles (Special Locations)
There are eight unique tiles: four Flowers and four Seasons. When one these is pulled, a unique special location is found in the hex:
1 The Sacrifice Pit
2 Cave of Melting Moss
3 Zoltar’s Hell
4 El Grande’s Mother Lode Mine
August 15, 2011
Zak posted something about jungles. He’s a little known D&D blogger, so I figured I’d send some traffic his way. Help out a struggling blogger by visiting his site.
The jungle setting Zak describes jives well with the “Dark Jungle” environment I’m slowly developing here, so I’m hopeful he will continue to write more jungle-themed stuff. Check out his cool drawing of the Kamadan snake-leopard. That’s one way of envisioning the Reticulated Panther.
If only Raggi would stop screwing around and finish up Death Ferox Doom.
August 11, 2011
As part of his “Dog Variants” series of posts, noisms describes a type of canine specially bred for jungle work: the Azümchefe Climbing Dog. Check it out.
On a whim, I searched for “green dog” on Google Images. Mostly pics of dogs dyed for St. Patrick’s Day, but there was this painting that looked something like how noisms describes the Azümchefe Climbing Dog.
These dogs would be excellent working companions for Jungle Men, most of whom find monkey meat quite tasty. And they wouldn’t let those pelts go to waste either, since monkey skin purses are much sought after in the eastern kingdoms. Also, natives covet monkey tails for medicinal purposes.
August 10, 2011
The Rendezvous is sometimes likened to a circus in the middle of the jungle wilderness. There you have Jungle Men gathering to celebrate another year of survival in the harshest of conditions. They are living life to the fullest, knowing they may not survive the next rainy season. Throw into the mix women and drink from the east and jungle natives partaking in the excesses of a rich, foreign culture for the first time. It’s a carnival in the green hell.
(I’m reminded of the scene in Apocalypse Now where the Playboy playmates are choppered into the jungle to put on a surreal show of bright lights and hip wiggling. Maybe somewhere Bob Hope burns his golf club on stage while Jimi Hendrix wah-wahs “Silent Night” and Ho Chi Minh weeps.)
But the Rendezvous is not a dream. It’s business. It’s the critical link between the dragon skin harvesters in the jungle and the eager market of wizard-senators and their privileged wives. The Jungle Men pack in their skins from all across the Dark Jungle, and the kingdom’s traders cart in all manner of supplies and entertainment from the eastern cities.
Some Jungle Men are Free Hunters, unaffiliated with any merchant company and selling to the highest bidder. Most Jungle Men are under contract with a company to produce a quota of dragon skins for a fixed price and the next season’s supplies. All these company men long to earn enough to become free hunters, but the seductive raucous of the Rendezvous often drains all profits, leaving them again in need of the company contract.
Only the most hardy and crazy of Jungle Men (such as Lung-Eatin’ Hayes) go it alone. Most team up with others to form reliable units called bands for the season long hunts into the Dark Jungle. Safety in numbers. Hirelings are almost always present, if only to cook and guard base camp. An important element of the Rendezvous is the formation of the bands and agreements with other bands regarding hunting territory. There are often rivalries and disagreements, of course.
The events and business of the Rendezvous can be fun roleplaying. But some DMs and players may want to speed through it and get back to the business of exploring the jungle and hunting dragons. For them, I present the following table:
(d20) What happened at the Rendezvous?
- “That’s some high quality dragon skins you have there.” 20% extra profit
- “Why, these here skins are damaged.” 20% loss of profit
- “Could find no tracks to a woman’s heart.” You fell in love but were jilted.
- “Traded her for a Hawken.” You traded for a wife. If you already had a wife, you traded her away.
- “He’s got tough bark.” You’ve won a contest: 1) Lying 2) Tree climbing 3) Howling 4) Dancing 5) Spitting 6) Coconut Tossing. Gain a reputation and (another) nickname.
- “On his own hook.” You’ve become a Free Hunter if not already one.
- “Paint yer face against em.” For some reason or another, you’ve declared war against a certain native tribe.
- “Get yer bristles up.” A rivalry has formed with another band of Jungle Men. They plan to encroach on your hunting grounds this upcoming season.
- “The whole shiteree.” You lost everything in a bad gamble or investment.
- “Spirit fingers” You’ve become an alcoholic and experience severe withdrawal symptoms when not drinking.
- “Snortin with funk, itchin with junk” You’ve caught a disease. 1-3) Respiratory 4-6) Venereal
- “Bois de vache” You’ve become convinced of a conspiracy theory.
- “Try un scalp me now!” For some reason, you decided to shave your head bald.
- “I’d like to leave something behind, even if it’s just to be remembered on some chief’s trophy wall” Your beard and scalp grew considerably during the Rendezvous.
- “Foofarraw” You acquired some fancy clothing. Perhaps you are embarrassed about them now. Maybe you can trade them to a chief.
- “Are you really surprised to learn that the crying three month old child there is yours?” Congrats. The youngun has your 1) Eyes 2) Nose 3) Ears 4) Hair 5) Smell 6) Scars
- “Chaffed the Curly Wolf” You got into a brawl with someone your equal and both of you got beat up right good. Scars or other permanent injuries result.
- “Just where is it I could find dragon, basilisk, and other critters worth cash money when skinned?” You’ve befriended a rookie Jungle Man who insists on tagging along with you.
- “Shinin’ times with Big Medicine” You partied with a famous jungle man or native chief. Roll on NPC chart.
- “Waugh!?” The whole rendezvous was destroyed by… 1) Fire 2) Dragons 3) Flood 4) Fungus 5) Whiskey shortage 6) Whiskey surplus
(Tip of the hat to Jeff’s Carousing Mishaps table.)
August 2, 2011
Any book I take on vacation seems to become tattered by the end, so I figured I’d grab the most worn out book on my shelf for the trip to SE Asia: The City of Singing Flame, a paperback compilation of Clark Ashton Smith stories I picked up at a used book store a couple years ago. It fit into the pocket of whatever jeans or shorts I was wearing each day, so it really got sat on and beat up pretty good. Of jungle-interest in the book is a short story called “The Garden of Adompha”. An excerpt:
“On palmy boles, beneath feathery-tufted foliage, the heads of eunuchs hung in bunches, like enormous black drupes. A bare, leafless creeper was flowered with the ears of delinquent guardsmen. Misshapen cacti were fruited with the breasts of women or foliated with their hair. Entire limbs or torsos had been united with monstrous trees. Some of the huge salver-like blossoms bore palpitating hears, and certain smaller blooms were centered with eyes that still opened and closed amid their lashes. And there were other graftings, too obscene or repellent for narration.”
Let your prurient imagination meander and you’ll likely have a good idea of where the story is heading. Grognardia discusses it briefly here. And the entire story can be read online here, it’s quite short actually.
Though set in an enclosed garden, it definitely has jungle flavor. It reminds me some of the old module Garden of the Plantmaster by Rob Kuntz. I went back and reread the module this weekend and discovered that, yes, Mr. Kuntz mentions “The Garden of Adompha” as inspiration.
Garden of the Plantmaster was originally published in 1987 as part of Kuntz’s Kalibruhn setting, but its history goes all the way back to Gygax’s original Greyhawk campaign. In 2003 it was modified and published for D&D 3.5 as part of the Kingdoms of Kalamar setting.
There is a decent review of Garden of the Plantmaster at rpg.net, so I don’t feel the need to tread the same ground here, but I do want to point out how the old and new versions differ, as well as my favorite thing about the module.
Much of the text of the new version seems to closely match the original version, except for the expanded stat blocks. What are some differences?
Whereas original has essentially a “your party teleports to another dimension” hook into the adventure, the new version has an extended intro, backstory, and railroad hook to get the PCs into the garden. I prefer the original’s brief intro and modular set up, but some DM’s may find the extended intro useful. It places the garden within a vast jungle in the Kalamar setting, but it’s mostly just “read aloud to the players” text until the garden is entered, so the intro itself isn’t much to get excited about for jungle aficionados.
A benefit of the new version is that the garden map is redone and much easier to read. The original map was rendered in a strange “extended ASCII” type style and is difficult to read. There are slight differences between the maps, mostly connecting passages added or removed in a few places. One major change was the addition of the summoning circle in areas 43-45. Here is the NE section of the map, comparing the style and some changes between the old(top) and new (bottom) versions:
(Mr. Kuntz has posted a color version of the original map on his blog. Check it out. Much easier to read than the original b&w version. I was curious about the module’s early electronic version, so thanks to Mr. Kuntz for making this available.)
The new version also contains an illustration section indexed to keyed locations (like S1 Tomb of Horrors and a few other TSR modules), but the 16 b&w illustrations are nothing special. I prefer the sometimes goofy but imaginative full- and half-page b&w art sprinkled throughout the original version.
Lastly, my biggest disappointment with the new version is that the appendix of monsters is not illustrated. The original version has a simple 1E Monster Manual-esque drawing of each of the 20+ new monsters. Not fine art, but they helped visualize some of the strange monsters, especially the fungus, and loosened up the layout considerably.
The “Garden Dressing” section is my favorite part of the module, and is largely the same in both versions. It’s a finely researched and detailed DM toolkit for garden and jungle adventures, containing:
- d100 table of effects to determine what happens when mutated flora is discovered or eaten.
- 20 different vines, some of which are carnivorous.
- 151 different flowers and their meanings.
- 10 more carnivorous plants.
- 40 different shrubs.
- 20 fungi. Poisonous, edible, hallucinogenic.
- 16 insects.
- A list of interesting magic scroll materials found in the garden.
- Terms of the multitude. A muster of peacocks, a knot of toads, etc.
- A massive glossary of terms relating to insects, fungi, and vegetation of all kinds.
- Multi-page chart of uses for herbs.
- Not in the Garden Dressing section itself, but in the same spirit of utility, is an excellent system for generating properties of attacking flowers, as well as more info on birds, fungi, insects, and vines. The New Monsters section is also eminently usable in any campaign.
Random tables are always appreciated and usable in many situations. The glossary is a good idea and something that rpg supplement creators should consider for biome-specific modules and settings. It works as a quick primer for related flora and fauna, and also as a source of evocative terms and instant inspiration. I never would have known that “stridulate” is the term for the making of noise by rubbing two surfaces together, such as done by grasshoppers and crickets.