I came across this the other day while looking through the blue D&D Expert book by Cook/Marsh:

“In the wilderness, there will seldom be time to heal completely between encounters, and valuable equipment cannot be easily replaced.”

I didn’t really find an explanation in the book about why there will seldom be time to heal completely. I assume it’s the frequency of wandering monsters encountered in the wilderness. Or, perhaps it’s due to an implied nature of wilderness travel as being an exercise in getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible, not stopping to recover. Maybe it’s a resource management situation, where there isn’t time to stop because the party doesn’t have enough supplies to linger out in the wilderness longer than planned.

Whatever the case may be, in the Fire in the Jungle Supplement I decided to ignore the above explanations and just flat out declare the following optional rule:

“(Optional Rule) Difficult Recovery. Wounds just won’t close in the steamy jungle and even small scratches can open up into deep flesh wounds over time. Similarly, wizards may have a hard time re-memorizing spells in these harsh conditions. In the absence of magic or medicine, the only way to benefit from natural healing is to find an ideal camp site that has a clean water source, sunlight, and a food source that is easy to acquire and cook”

When you need to heal and recharge in the jungle, you basically have two choices:

  1. Take your chances with a native tribe. With some luck, they’ll take you in and you can get better. Without luck, you’re out of luck.
  2. Hope to find An Ideal Camp Site.

Some locations in the jungle have the rare mix of nourishment, water, sunlight, fresh air, protection, etc. to make a little healing possible. This an entry in the Jungle Event and Travel System:

“An Ideal Camp Site is a blessing. The PCs can stay here and heal for d6 days. Continue rolling Jungle Event each day, but with a 33% chance of an event, instead of 50%. With some effort, this area could also be made into a decent base camp.”

Want to build a more permanent base camp? That requires considerable man power. Some men are needed for building material procurement and construction. More men are needed for hunting food. Even more men are needed for scouting and defense. You’ll need extra men to replace those that become casualties of the jungle. Such is the difficulty of building a point of light in the green hell.

Across the Wide Dark Jungle, the sequel to the Fire in the Jungle Supplement, is now ready for release! Go here for more info.

I was playing around with different colors for the card stock cover, as you can see in the picture above. The black printing is really vivid and crisp on the tan colored covers, so the “official” cover will be one of those, as soon as I get to the store again. In the meantime, I have these extra covers available in other colors, so the first couple orders will get an extra cover (with map inside). Let me know if you want a particular color. First come, first serve.

How to order? Go to the ordering page, here.

How much is it? $5. Cheap. I’ll pay shipping cost no matter where in the world you are. I’ll be using the regular First Class rate. Much more affordable than the expensive Priority Mail rate that I stubbornly insisted on using for the original Fire in the Jungle Supplement digest.

Justin Davis at A Field Guide to Doomsday is doing a series of monster graphics and descriptions based on those in the Fire in the Jungle Supplement! First in the series…Tuskhog.
Next…Green Tiger.
Next…Rust Rhino.
Next…Rust Rhino Redux.
Next…Horned Hippo.

I’m excited that Justin is doing these posts because there wasn’t much room in the Supplement to give the monsters more than a brief description, and Justin’s pretty much the best monster designer in the OSR blog-o-rama. Later this year, I plan to release a post-apoc “Blasted Jungle” supplement featuring some of Justin’s unique creations. Check out his site…he’s got fun and games.

In other jungle news, there’s a manhunt in Uganda:

“For Ugandan soldiers tasked with catching Joseph Kony, the real threat is not the elusive Central Africa warlord and his brutal gang. Encounters with the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels are so rare that Kony hunters worry more about the threats of the jungle: Armed poachers, wild beasts, honey bees, and even a fly that torments their ears.”

It’s the St. Patrick’s Day sale at Fire in the Jungle.  $2 off the digest edition until 11:59pm central time zone, Saturday March 17.   Order direct from me at the FitJ Supplement page.  I’ve got new shades of green card stock available…

The new handcrafted digest version of the Fire in the Jungle supplement is now available.  Get yours now while my printing supplies last!

MagCloud now offers “digest format” as a publishing option, but I want separate cardstock covers, dammit!  So I reworked the layout, converted some images, and printed up a copy on my desktop printer.  Here it is hanging out with other digests…

The largest obstacle was what to do with all the full-color art and maps…

  • I tried a test print of “The Lonely Gorilla” cover art in full-color but I wasn’t satisfied with the job my desktop printer was doing with it, and it used a lot of ink.  So I transformed the image to inverted grayscale.  This gives it a nice look in B&W print on green cardstock without consuming massive amounts of ink.
  • I also tried an enlarged full-color test print of the The Tomb of the Monkey God map.  It used a boatload of green ink and my printer couldn’t give it the crisp look of the original image, so I decided to change it to grayscale.  The disadvantage is that the map loses some of the coolness of the original image’s deepening shades of green.  The advantage that it’s twice as large as in the original FitJ supplement.
  • The jungle hex map and the player’s map are printed in full-color on a cream cardstock.  These maps  won’t use obscene amounts of ink and my printer does a good job of reproducing them in color.  I tested some grayscale versions, but too much detail was lost.
  • “Egot in Oil” is not in the digest version, unfortunately.  Printing it in full-color wouldn’t work well on my printer, and grayscale wouldn’t do it justice.  Replacing it is an old woodcut piece that looks nice in B&W.

To summarize, some of the images worked better in full-color with my printer, others in grayscale.  So the digest edition of the FitJ supplement has double cardstock covers to fulfill these needs.

The text booklet is twenty digest pages in length and, except for the layout, almost entirely the same as in the original FitJ supplement.  Some sentences were slightly altered to fit the new layout better, but those are only minor changes.  The biggest change was due to an extra half-page of space that was available, into which I added the Bolo Man character class.  There was another small space available that allowed me to include a shortened version of the Great Flood myth.

The digest edition is only available direct from me.  Go here to the FitJ Supplement page to order.  $10 for US buyers, $17 for Canada buyers, $19 for buyers anywhere else in the world.  The price includes USPS Priority Mail shipping.


Check out the  Fire in the Jungle Supplement page to see what the latest deal is.


November 21, 2011

Or download the Phantasy Cave pdf here.

All that’s missing the voice of Werner Herzog narrating!  (Click here to see the trailer for his Cave of Forgotten Dreams)

If there’s one thing in the Fire in the Jungle supplement that I’d like to revisit or change, it’s the Ant Tunnel System. My original intention of that system was as an extension of the Jungle Event System…the discovery of an ant tunnel entrance would spice up jungle exploration.  The idea was that a series of dice rolls using the Ant Tunnel System could quickly play out an exploration of the tunnel.  The PCs would dive in, pull out some loot or clues, and then resume their jungle journey.

Somewhere along the line I started to envision the ant tunnels as a vast network of tunnels touching all corners of the jungle and reaching down to unknown depths.  So the Ant Tunnel System tries to do two things at once: quick delves into an ant lair and open-ended exploration of a mythic underworld environment.  It turned out okay, but I wonder if it could have been better if it only focused on one or the other.

Phantasy Cave is a re-visitation, re-engineering, and re-skinning of the Ant Tunnel System, focusing on the mythic underworld concept and detached from a jungle setting.  Simply stated, it’s one page of house rules and charts to help me improvise fantasy rpg adventures in a map-less cave environment.  The charts are mostly cobbled together from other sources…an assortment of ideas to jumpstart a DM’s creativity.  It’s the house rules that cement the charts together and help fulfill my primary goal for Phantasy Cave:  enabling fast-paced “pick-up games” of D&D while preserving the essential tension of dungeoneering…explore deeper or get out?

I put together the Phantasy Cave sheet for my own reference, so some parts probably need further explanation to allow others to make sense of it…

The basic idea is to roll on the Exploration chart each turn to determine what is encountered.  Because a delve into Phantasy Cave is meant to be fast-paced, something of interest is found each turn, be it a monster, obstacle, or just cave scenery.  The Depth factor is added to the Exploration roll to represent the increasing risk and reward of going deeper and deeper into the cave.

The risks are meaner monsters and darker darkness.  The hostile blackness and shadows of the lower depths enable monsters to ambush PCs more frequently.  And there is always the danger of getting lost, too.  The essential problem of being lost is that the PCs don’t know if that passage in front of them leads to a more dangerous area or not.  Being lost may not be a big deal to full strength PCs just exploring, but can put them in a bad situation if they are beat up a bit and trying to get out of the cave.

Cave adventures, like any other, need a variety of obstacles and monster encounters.  When an obstacle is discovered, roll on the Obstacle chart to determine what it is (the first thing listed on each line), then make things interesting by rolling on the chart again to add a Complication (the second thing listed on each line).  Go ahead and roll for more obstacles or complications to mess things up even further.  Or the DM can decide that the obstacle is just cave scenery and not something blocking the way or with a dangerous complication.

The DM should judge what will be the consequences of failing to overcome an obstacle.  If the PCs chicken out and backtrack instead of attempting to pass the obstacle, the Depth factor should decrease.  Poor planning or bad luck while attempting the obstacle could cause damage, getting lost, torches extinguished, sliding down to dangerous depths, etc.  On the flip side, a DM may offer benefits for successfully passing an obstacle.

Create three lists of monsters that could be encountered at various depths in the cave.  Monsters should get bigger in the deeper levels of the cave. Using the Reaction, Disposition, and “What are these monsters up to?” charts can give the DM plenty inspiration to improvise unique monsters encounters.

Whereas the malevolent darkness of the cave can enable monster ambushes, in other situations I like to allow PCs to often have “surprise”.  I don’t mean surprise as in “you get one free attack”.  I mean it as “Okay dudes, you detect some uglies up ahead. What’s your plan?”  Provide opportunities for the players to get creative and maybe gain an upper hand in an encounter against tougher monsters.

To encourage the players to risk extended exploration, I created a house rule a little like “healing surges”.  After each combat or obstacle where a PC took HP damage, the player can choose to heal all hit points by making a roll on the Injury chart.  Penalties received on the Injury chart can only be cancelled or healed by magic.  A trip into the Phantasy Cave should scar a character for life.

I like riddles.  I understand that some DMs or players prefer not to use riddles in their campaigns, but it’s my Phantasy Cave so I added a special encounter on the Exploration chart called “Magic Mouth Riddle”.  Replace it with “Obstacle” if riddles would confusticate and bebother your players.  A Magic Mouth appears on the cave wall and speaks a riddle.  If the PCs answer correctly, the mouth opens wide to reveal a passage into a random Special (d8).

(Get your d30 ready…I put together a sheet of my favorite classic riddles: download here.)

What is a Special?  It’s the whole reason to go adventuring into the Phantasy Cave!  It’s were the good stuff is.  The baubles, shinies, delights, and magnificent loot.  This is the part of Phantasy Cave that the DM should customize and prepare ahead of time.  Make a list of twenty special chambers or encounters, arranging them in order of least valuable to most valuable treasure.  (The dX notation on the Exploration chart indicates which die to roll on the Special  list.  Better chance of richer treasure at deeper levels.)  Some Specials may have complex descriptions, but I prefer ones that can be vaguely but colorfully described in just a few sentences.  The weirder, the better.  For example:

A beanstalk rising through a hole in the ceiling and a man-sized metal pipe going straight down into the floor.  The beanstalk extends into the clouds and the pipe leads to a surreal treasure room.

Stuff like this can be found all over the place on D&D blogs and forums.  (Obligatory links to the Dungeon Stocking table @ Aeons & Augaruries and the Dungeon Alphabet.)  More examples of Specials are in the Fire in the Jungle supplement:  Fire Ant Colony and Weird stuff.

I’m leaving on a SE Asia trip soon and was thinking of having a big sale on the FitJ supplement while I was away.  Well, with all this “Free PDF” stuff going around, I figured I’d join the party.  Now the FitJ PDF is free!  Check it out:

The Fire in the Jungle Fantasy RPG Supplement Find out more on MagCloud

So, I’ll be gone for awhile.  My next post might not be for a month or so.  If you’re looking for some jungle action in the meantime, check out the list of Popular & Favorite posts here.

Images of The Jungle

June 16, 2011

I wish these could have been included in the Fire in the Jungle Supplement:

Big Muddy River and Swamps of Wak Wak Wa

The Pool of Dreams. Some say it is a gate to another world. (In real life: The Enchanted River in Mindanao, Philippines.)

The Old Ant Hills. Remants of the ant civilizations that ruled The Jungle long ago. (In real life: the Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Philippines.)

A dragon's view from high above the Emerald Mountains

The following is an abbreviated version of the Ant Tunnel Exploration System found in the Fire in the Jungle Supplement.  It can also be used for adventuring in any complex or unmappable subterranean location, while still retaining the essential tension of dungeoneering:  Go deeper or go home?

Previously, I wrote about the ant tunnels beneath The Jungle, including a method for randomly generating ant tunnel geomorphs.  The complex structure of the ant tunnels makes them a challenge to explore and nearly impossible to map.  A delve into the tunnels can be played without reference to any map or visual representation of the convoluted tunnels by using the Ant Tunnel Exploration System.  The complexity of the tunnels and how it might affect adventurers is abstracted into the system.

Depth:  The Depth factor reflects the increased risk and reward of exploring deeper into the tunnels.  It is used in the following way:
• Depth starts at zero when the tunnels are first entered, and cannot go below zero or above 10.
• Add the Depth factor as a bonus to the Tunnel Event Roll.
• After each Tunnel Event: The Depth factor increases by one if the party wants to continue going further into the tunnels. The Depth value decreases by one if the party has chosen to turn back towards the surface.

Lost:  It can be assumed that explorers are using a method of tracking their path (mapping, wall marks, trailing twine, etc.), but tunnel events can disrupt those methods and cause the explorers to become Lost.  When Lost, instead of automatically increasing or decreasing Depth after each Tunnel Event, a d6 is rolled:
• If PCs are trying to get out of tunnels:  On 1-4, -1 Depth. On 5-6, +1 Depth.
• If PCs are trying to go deeper into tunnels:  On 1-4, +1 Depth. On 5-6, -1 Depth.

Tunnel Event Roll
Each turn roll 2d6.  If Snake Eyes (double 1’s) is rolled, then Double Trouble has occurred and no further calculations are made.   If a different double is rolled, note the total, roll again, and add the results. Continue rolling and cumulating until non-doubles are rolled. The following bonus and penalty applies to all Tunnel Event Rolls that aren’t Double Trouble:
• Add current Depth.
• Subtract the number of PCs in delving group.
The result is the Tunnel Event Roll Sum.

(Fun Fact:  I had originally designed this exploration system for use in a Tunnels & Trolls campaign, hence the resemblance of the Tunnel Event Roll cumulative rolling mechanic to the Saving Roll mechanic in T&T.)

Tunnel Event Roll Sum: Event
Snake Eyes: Double Trouble
<10: Trouble
10-14: Curiosity
15-19: Regular Chamber (4 in 6 chance of Trouble and a 2 in 6 chance of treasure. )
20+: Special Chamber

Double Trouble:  Roll twice on the Trouble table.  If Monster (1-74) is rolled twice, the party is ambushed by one group of monsters. If Hazard (75-100) is rolled twice, then a trap is encountered but no save is allowed. If a Monster and a Hazard is rolled, then this encounter involves a monster cleverly using the hazard to its advantage before or during combat.

Trouble d100 (# encountered)
1-10 Giant Jack Ants (d6 + Depth)
11-20 Giant Fire Ants (d6 + Depth)
21-30 Giant Centipedes (d6 + Depth)
31-40 Tunnel Rats (d6 + Depth)
41-50 Gobblers (d6 + Depth)
51-54 Crater Spawn (1)
55-58 Giant Daddy Longlegs (1)
59-62 Straggler (1)
63-66 Spiny Spider (1)
67-70 Giant Dung Beetle (1)
71-74 Great Golden Cobra (1)
75-79 Punji Plant
80-84 Throat Roots
85-89 Big Man’s Dilemma. This tunnel is mysteriously thinner than what it appeared a few seconds ago and now the victim is stuck. Any struggle pinches the tunnel tighter.
90-94 Enchanted Snake.  A glowing snake launches from a small hole in the wall, striking with poisonous fangs. Seconds later the snake crumbles to dust. Victim save vs. poison, or die.
95 Tunnels rearrange behind party.  PCs become Lost.
96 Tunnel collapses immediately behind party (+1 Depth, Lost).
97 Air sucked out. Light source extinguished. Lost. Party must immediately choose whether to backtrack or rush ahead. If backtrack, -1 Depth. If rush ahead, any Trouble next turn is Double Trouble.
98 Indigestion.  Fast rising water ejects delvers out of tunnel, Lost, -d6 Depth, Light source extinguished.  Water recedes quickly.
99 Flush of water. +2 Depth, Lost, Light source extinguished.
100 Roll 2d6: Snake Eyes = Earthquake! Tunnel collapse immediately behind party (+1 Depth, Lost) and on top of party (Xd6 damage where X = Depth/2, Light source extinguished).

Light source extinguished: Some tunnel events cause light sources to extinguish. If the PCs cannot see, any movement causes them to become Lost and any encounter is Double Trouble.

Curiosity d6
1 Odd odor or startling silence
2 A pile of poo or puddle of pee
3 Smashed skulls or broken bones
4 Strange sound or troubling tremor
5 Crumpled armor or corroded weapon
6 Something dead or something bled

Special Chambers are encounter areas with features, monsters, and treasure according to the judge’s designs.  Roll on the chart to determine which Special Chamber is found.  The following is an example of a Special Chambers chart, representing a colony of Giant Fire Ants:

Special Chambers (Giant Fire Ant Colony) d6
(Die roll)x10% chance of Ant encounter each turn.
1 Blaze Furnace.  The fire ants gather massive amounts of (mostly) combustibles in these chambers and move about in frenzy to create an intense inferno.  Secretions of the fire ants fuel a heat so great that the walls of the chamber become glass.
2 Ash Brood.  As the furnaces cool, eggs are moved into the chamber to incubate in the warm ashes.
3 Junk Vault.  The fire ants fear things that don’t melt in the furnace chambers.  They view such items as threats and dispose of them in chambers like this one.  Precious gems and metals and magic items can be found amongst the piles of blackened iron.  These chambers are always sealed with thick glass doors.
4-6 Glass City.  The soil is excavated from around the glass chambers and tunnels, creating a massive alien city of glass. A maddening hum fills the city, caused by the fire ants climbing and rubbing against the glass.
Queen’s Chamber.  Only found if a 6 is rolled while in the Glass City. A twisted glass temple where drones attend to the Queen. After a drone mates, the Queen immolates him in a purple flame and consumes the remains.

Giant Fire Ants are slightly smaller than their non-fired kin. They are fireproof and secrete a combustible chemical through their exoskeleton.  A single fire ant only produces a brief flash of flame, but a well-used trail often burns robustly.  During combat, the secretions increase and the ants will swarm and immolate the enemy in flame.  It takes a full round for the inferno to form. Anybody caught in the fire takes Xd6 damage per round, where X = the # of ants that contributed to the blaze the previous round.