Monday, June 23, 2008

Lum (Urusei Yatsura)

Lum (ラム) is the heroine of Urusei Yatsura (うる星やつら). Originally from the planet Uru, she followed her dad to Earth when he decided to conquer the planet, but by a twist of fate, Moroboshi Ataru (諸星あたる) managed to save the planet AND propose to her in a single stroke (she accepted!).

Although everyone else seems to be in love with the skimpy-clad oni (鬼) alien, Ataru cannot stop hitting on other girls (in fact, it seems that the reason he does not show feelings for Lum is because Lum shows feelings for him!), causing much mayhem, as although Lum is loving and loyal, she can have quite a temper when her love isn't reciprocated! But of course Ataru really loves Lum inside - he just can't make himself show it. This of course results in a lot of electrifying situations (lucky for Ataru, he has really quick feet!)...

Lum's alien race all suspiciously look like a more humanlike version of the mythical Japanese "oni" (sort of like a Japanese ogre). Green-haired, pointy-eared, and horned (one or two), they typically wear tiger-striped clothing. Besides being able to fly (although it does seem to require some practice), they often have some kind of other power, such as Lum's control of electricity, Ten's (テン) ability to breathe fire, and Rei's (レイ) ability to shapechange into a weird bovine creature.

Lum's race of alien oni is the most common alien race (in Urusei Yatsura), but the aliens seem to get along for the most part; Lum herself grew up with three other alien friends: Ran (ラン), Benten (弁天), and Oyuki (おユキ).

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Oriental Adventures (1st Edition)

Oriental Adventures is something of an anachronism now, especially since the word "oriental" is sort of taboo these days. Still, this classic work was the first to officially extend the AD&D universe to non-Occidental cultures, and may have been the first of many, except that TSR decided to go in other (non-Gary) directions.

It introduced, among other things, a whole slew of new classes, races, spells, monsters, and rules - of course the new classes were the most exciting part for most players! These new classes had powerful abilities but very high ability requirements as well - basically, rolling up a samurai was as hard as (or harder than) rolling up a monk or paladin. The new races, such as the korobokuru or the hengeyokai, had equally high ability requirements as well.

Unfortunately, Oriental Adventures probably should have been renamed "Japanese Adventures" since the work seemed to concentrate on only the Japan part ofthe Orient - note that of the 8 brand-new classes, only 1 was not from obviously Japanese sources (the Wu-Jen). Most of the new races, weapons, and so forth were also taken from Japanese sources - Chinese sources were rare, while other Asian sources were even rarer (if even existent).

In my opinion, Oriental Adventures should be revised and made more Chinese foremost - after all, China was the "center" of the Asian world, even if the Western world had been in rapture of ninjas and samurais for a while in the '70s and '80s. China also has a huge repository of mythology that could be a great resource for a revised Oriental Adventures - not to mention a great variety of weapons and armor that would be interesting to have in a campaign as well, from exploding bamboo tubes to mountain pattern armor to strange multi-bladed martial arts weapons. It seems that the author also weakened Chinese weapons (the three-piece rod does less damage than a Occidental quarterstaff, for example) while elevating Japanese weapons (such as the katana compared to a long sword).

One difficulty of a Chinese campaign is that the heroes of Chinese myth tend to have ALL powers in one - i.e., the combative skills of a warrior, the mystical skills of an ascetic, and the magical skills of a sage. Oriental Adventures did introduce a system of adding martial arts to AD&D, whereby a PC could use 1 proficiency slot to gain an improved AC and higher barehand damage; extra proficiency slots could then be used to learn special martial arts maneuvers as well, from flying kicks to distance death to levitation, in a way achieving the "sage-warrior" idea from old Chinese stories.

In any case, there were some transliteration mistakes that I will mention here:

"Korobokuru" should be "koropokkur" (Ainu language) or perhaps "koropokkuru" (コロポックル)

"Kensai" should be "kensei" (劍聖)
"Shukenja" should be "shugenja" (修驗者)

Also, although not wrong exactly, all of the Chinese transliterations are in Wade-Giles Romanization; today, I would write it all in pinyin. (Some of the Chinese words in the book are so illegible that I can barely see where the author got them, though!)

One final gripe I had with the book was that the four "Common Martial Arts Styles" that were described were... Karate, Kung-Fu, Tae Kwon Do, and Jujutsu. Foremost, this list looks like the listings that one may find in a phonebook today when looking for martial arts classes (not exactly good medieval fantasy material here). Second, taekwondo does NOT belong in a medieval Asian campaign, since it only existed since April 11, 1955 when General Choi Hong-Hi (崔泓熙) named it! I suppose karate and jujutsu could be inserted into an Oriental Adventures campaign (noting that in the old days, karate was indigenous to the Ryukyu Kingdom (琉球國)), but "karate" and "jujutsu" are actually generic names for families of martial arts. (Also note that "karate" as a word is new itself; in the old days in Ryukyu, it was known as "toudi;" "karate" was a later adaptation to Japan's language and (anti-China) culture.)

The worst, of course, is "Kung Fu" - "kung fu" (in the incorrect English sense) is but an all-encompassing category containing all of the many thousands of styles of fighting that were and are practiced in China long ago and today. The differences between each style are tremendous, far surpassing the differences in karate styles or jujutsu styles. The kung fu styles are also great material for Oriental Adventures campaigns; for example, dog style specializes in prone fighting, while eagle claw specializes in grabbing and gripping techniques. New styles for role-playing are also easily devised; taken from myths and legends, there is a lot of good material to use out there!

So, in any case, in time, I will reorganize the Martial Arts Special Maneuvers section and post it (or a link to it) here!

But anyway... Yes, I have heard about the 3rd Edition reincarnation of Oriental Adventures (that apparently is getting hard to find now). Some things I liked about what I heard: the vanara race (based on Indian mythology) and fixes for some terminology (including those I mentioned above). Some things I didn't like that much: the "nezumi" race and the leaving of terms like "wu jen" in Wade-Giles Romanization.

2nd Edition didn't have its own Oriental Adventures supplement (although they did have a Monstrous Compendium Appendix for Kara-Tur), but they did have a free supplement called "Dragon Fist." I know I downloaded that years ago - but where did I save it?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Champions of Krynn (Gold Box Game)

Champions of Krynn was perhaps my first CRPG ever - I still have fond memories of waiting 60 minutes for the game to load (reading Time of the Twins while waiting and switching 5.25" floppy disks when prompted) at the beginning, and then waiting 30 minutes for the game to load at every battle (a great chance to read more of Time of the Twins)... Not only that, my computer was equipped with only CGA graphics, so I was treated to the game screens you see here in only 4 colors (white, cyan, magenta, and black).

Still, I had just finished reading the original Dragonlance trilogy (Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Dragons of Winter Night, and Dragons of Spring Dawning), and so I of course jumped at the possibility of playing in the world of Krynn myself. Although I had most of the 2nd edition AD&D books and some of the 1st edition ones, I didn't own Dragonlance Adventures (I only saw it on sale once, and then I never saw it in stores again!) and so could not appreciate the work SSI went into in emulating these rules (for example, the different cleric classes based on alignment - good clerics begin with 2d8 hp, neutral clerics begin with 1d8 hp, and so forth). Still, it was great fun - I spent hours just reading the manuals alone (as my mother did not let me stay on the computer for long periods of time).

For some reason, I remember Champions of Krynn as having been a REALLY HARD GAME - needless to say, I never beat it! I did get to the end of the game, or pretty close to it, but I was basically overwhelmed by that point - the low level limits (8 or so, even lower for those darned Solamnic knights) combined with the endless hordes of draconians and dragons at the end of the game were just too much for me, and that was it! In retrospect, I think that the 60 minute loading time basically prevented me from saving and reloading before training my PCs (to make sure I got maximum hp at each level) - more hp surely would have helped a lot, I think!

Playing the game again after years is quite nostalgic, but I now remember a few irks about the game as well - foremost is the stupid journal (having to refer to it for storylines, as well as whenever you load up the game); the moons (at the top of each game screen) were also somewhat annoying (if beneficial), as you had to make sure that Solinari and Lunitari (the white and red moons) were both full so that your magic-users could memorize the maximum number of spells before heading into a dungeon (as it helped THAT much). I remember being annoyed at having to switch floppy disks so often, too. But in the end, Champions of Krynn was a great game, and I enjoyed playing it!

(At present, both Forgotten Realms Unlimited Adventures and Dungeon Craft do not support Dragonlance campaigns - it would be nice, though!)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Dungeon Craft Design Contest

There is a Dungeon Craft Design Contest going on - and there are only three weeks left! (Original information can be found here: My own wondrous design is maybe 2% finished, so it is highly unlikely that I will have something to "hand in" by then, but... I can still try to have something playable by then.

Dungeon Craft (similarly to Forgotten Realms Unlimited Adventures) requires various graphics such as backgrounds, wallsets, and doors (for the 3D-esque viewport) as well as combat sets and icons (for the miniature wargaming-like combat view). Besides, it is nice to have small pictures, sprites, and big pictures for events (such as encounters), but... this is of course all a lot of work, and I have much more to do before I have enough art (I want to make ALL the art for my game, if possible!).

At this point, I have lots of icons, a some small pictures (for encounters), and a few walls and backgrounds (most unfinished). I have no sprites at all, as I have decided not to use them! If I make one sprite, I will have to make sprites for all my icons, so no sprites for now.

So - a list of things to do (in terms of graphics):

- Wallsets: brick wall (10% done), rock wall (10% done), tree walls (50% done), straw/mud hut wall
- Doors: rock wall entrance (1% done), brick wall door, straw/mud hut wall
- Overlays: some overlays would be nice!
- Small pictures: a few more level II and level III monsters (maybe gnoll, huge spider, bugbear?)
- Portraits: need a few more for PCs - maybe a male halfling, human fighter, and some others.
- Icons: more PC icons (human fighter, etc.), maybe a few more monsters (bugbear?)
- Title screen: some kind of title screen (huge at 640 x 480)
- Other graphics: borders, cursors, unconscious icon, etc.

Wow, that is a lot of stuff to do - we'll see how far I get... If I don't finish in time, that is okay, I will just continue working until I have a module of some sort that is playable someday...

In general, this adventure module will (eventually) have a rich array of random encounters (good, neutral, and evil) as well as some kind of story - but no set order to do things. If you want to be a hero - don't go and kill everyone you meet...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Monodrone (Base Modron) (Monster Manual II)

The monodrone is the weakest and simplest of the modrons, the inhabitants of Nirvana, plane of absolute order and law. Resultingly, the monodrone is single-minded, single-functioned, and completely lawful, utterly following orders from their superiors (usually the duodrones), referring to them when their orders are not sufficient to understand what to do in a certain situation.

As utterly lawful creatures, modrons are not affected by spells that affect the mind (including illusions) or emotions; they are also immune to spells making use of positive or negative material energy. They are also resistant to fire, cold, and acid (save +1, damage -1/die). Death is also not a big problem for modrons, who will simply reform in 9 days as modrons in the energy pool of Nirvana.

Monodrones usually act in groups of 12, led by duodrones or tridrones; 1 in 12 of monodrones lack the spindly arms and have fan-like wings sprouting from a single point instead. These latter monodrones are messengers and can relay messages of up to 48 words perfectly. All monodrones have infravision up to 30'.

Rarely, a monodrone (or higher level modron, but never higher than quarton) for some reason becomes defective (due to age or exposure to chaotic forces) and stops obeying the laws. These rogues are typically hunted down by the pentadrone police force.

Modrons were changed to a strange clockwork race in 2nd edition, and then mostly ignored in 3rd edition, but I like them just fine as they were introduced in 1st edition; they are fully organic, yet fully lawful creature of order and hierarchy - quite interesting as a counterpart to the demons, devils, and devas of the other planes of existence.

Monodrone (Base Modron) Statistics

Frequency: Common
No. Appearing: 12-144
Armor Class: 7
Move: 6"//6" or 6"/18" (MC:D)
Hit Dice: 1+1 or 1-1
% in Lair: Nil
Treasure Type: Nil
No. of Attacks: 1 or Nil
Damage/Attacks: 1-4 or by weapon type
Special Attacks: Nil
Special Defenses: Immune to illusion and mind control
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Semi-
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Size: S (3' - 6")
Psionic Ability: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil/Nil
Level/X.P. Value: II/28 + 2/hp

Nupperibo (Least Devil) (Monster Manual II)

The lowly nupperibo is the lowest of devils (renamed "baatezu" in 2nd edition AD&D) and the result of a more-or-less lawful evil existence on the Prime Material Plane (truly lawful evil become lemures instead). Spawning in the Nine Hells, they are blind and deaf and fated to be usually reborn as nupperibos again if destroyed.

Although members of the diabolic race of devils, they are so weak as to be fair game for even a party of 1st-level adventurers; the only special power of nupperibos is their ability to regenerate, but only in areas of particular evil or else the Nine Hells themselves. As devils, they can freely move through Gehenna, Acheron, Hades, and the Astral Plane at will, but are repulsed and harmed by holy objects and water (they cannot regenerate this damage) and may be turned as special undead by clerics.

It is little-known that the humble nupperibo is actually of Japanese origins - thus it would be perfect in an Oriental Adventures campaign as well. (Strangely, many depictions of the nupperibo these days look more like a child monk with a blank face, though.)

Nupperibo (Least Devil) Statistics

Frequency: Common
No. Appearing: 10-100
Armor Class: 9
Move: 6"
Hit Dice: 1
% in Lair: Nil
Treasure Type: Nil
No. of Attacks: 1 or 2
Damage/Attack: 1-2/1-2 or by weapon type
Special Attacks: Nil
Special Defenses: Regenerate 1 point/round
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Special (unratable for spell effects)
Alignment: Lawful Evil
Size: M
Psionic Ability: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil/Nil
Level/X.P. Value: I/18 + 1/hp

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Xvart (Fiend Folio)

The xvart is one of those sad creatures from the original Fiend Folio that tends to be for the most part ignored - and so in a humble gesture I have decided to include it in my own Dungeon Craft adventure module. I think I may be only the third or fourth person in the whole world who has actually attempted to draw a xvart! So here he is in all his glory. Basically, xvarts are diminutive (3' tall), short sword-wielding humanoids that are slightly stronger than kobolds and slightly weaker than goblins. Leaders (8-11 hp, attack as 2 HD monster) are from 3½' to 4½' tall and use other weapons like hand axes, morningstars, flails, or maces. Shamans (up to 7th level) and witch doctors (up to 4th level) exist as well; most are followers of Raxivort, Lord of Xvartkind, Packmaster of Rats, and Night Flutterer. Xvarts often keep giant rats or consort with wererats. They are also known for sometimes using nets in combat.

Xvart Statistics

Frequency: Uncommon
No. Appearing: 40-400
Armor Class: 7
Move: 6"
Hit Dice: 1-1
% in Lair: 40%
Treasure Type: K
No. of Attacks: 1
Damage/Attack: 2-5 (short sword) or by weapon type
Special Attacks: Nil
Special Defences: Nil
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Average
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Size: S (3' high)
Psionic Ability: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil/Nil
Level/X.P. Value: I/5 + 1/hp
Leaders: I/20+2/hp

Quick Introduction to Dungeon Craft

So, now for a quick introduction to Dungeon Craft (and my adventure module in-progress!).

Dungeon Craft emulates the old Gold Box games by SSI, such as Secret of the Silver Blades (one of the only games I beat as a child) and of course Forgotten Realms Unlimited Adventures, which allowed players to create their own games. Thus, it is an old-school AD&D game engine that features PC creation, 3D-esque dungeon exploring, and turn-based grid combat (a la old wargaming with miniatures) for cool strategy.

Unlike the aforementioned classic SSI games, Dungeon Craft has the benefit of being able to display any amount of colors and much higher resolutions (you can pick from 640 x 480, 800 x 600, 1024 x 768, and 1280 x 1024, but I have chosen 640 x 480, if only because it is hard enough to create art for this resolution as it is!), allowing you to create beautiful, colorful graphics if you only put in the time and effort! (I still remember my first SSI game, Champions of Krynn, which I played on my first computer, which was equipped with a CGA card (a whopping 4 colors, including black). (Another problem I had was that loading the game took about an hour (with disk-switching), and loading each combat took about half an hour!) Another benefit of Dungeon Craft is the ability to use combat icons of any size, so you can have huge dragons, gargantuan squid, or colossal sharks as part of your combat scenes!

When playing the game, you wander through areas from a 3D-esque viewpoint (you can also use overland maps). Once you trigger some kind of event (including random events), you are treated to a view of the monster or creature you have encountered, and then you may opt to enter battle!

Once you are in battle, you are treated to a grid-like scene where your PCs face off against whatever creatures you are fighting with. Positioning is important in these battles, especially since you should consider the range of your weapons and spells, as well as area effects!

That basically wraps up the quick introduction to Dungeon Craft (and my half-baked adventure module, two screens of which you can see here!).

Welcome to Advanced Dantians & Dragons

Advanced Dantians and Dragons (AD&D for short) is a punny name that encompasses two of my main interests - old school role-playing (in particular Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st edition but also 2nd edition)) and Chinese mysticism/martial arts. Related interests include mythology, languages, and of course computer gaming (especially gaming related to the other interests above!).

This blog will focus on the following:

1. My efforts to revive 1st and 2nd edition AD&D (as 3rd edition has nearly wiped it out from the earth) through encouragement of the the open source CRPG maker Dungeon Craft ( Dungeon Craft emulates the old Gold Box games by SSI (Strategic Simulations, Inc.), in particular Forgotten Realms Unlimited Adventures, which allowed gamers to create their own Gold Box series game. Unfortunately, Dungeon Craft does not receive the attention that it deserves, partially because it is still under development, but also because of a lack of art and adventure modules. My own efforts strive to assuage the second problem; I have a lot of art already (, but I still need to make more before I can create my future adventure module! As a part of Dungeon Craft's development I will also provide some AD&D rule specifics as needed.

2. My goal to become successful as a freelance pixel artist. 99% of the art I create for #1 is of the art field known as "pixel art" (although I have done this for years before I even knew what people called it); basically it is art as created in Microsoft Paint (or similar simple art programs). It is nice to make extra money, especially doing something that one enjoys, so sometimes I do pixel art that is not related to Dungeon Craft for my portfolio (or gasp, even a job!).

3. My research and experiences regarding Chinese martial arts and qigong. As a current practitioner of the arts of baguazhang (八卦掌) and xingyiquan (形意拳) (and to a lesser extent, yiquan (意拳) and taijiquan (太極拳)), I am very interested in history, technique, weapons, etc. of the Chinese martial arts, as well as related subjects such as Chinese thought (Daoism, Buddhism, Confucianism), ancient Chinese military strategy, ancient Chinese weapons, and so on. (To a lesser extent, I am interested in Japanese and Korean martial arts as well.)

4. Commentary on culture and language. Language is of course the foremost culture of any group; besides English, I have varying ability in Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, and Korean, and many interesting comparisons can be seen once one gains some fluency in these three languages. Culture comparisons are also very interesting and I may write about that as well.

5. Introductions to characters of somewhat obscure Japanese comic books (i.e. anime/manga) that I am a fan of.

6. Anything else I feel like writing about, such as animals (especially weird critters), paranormal phenomena, or even cooking. :)

Looking forward to blogging here, stay tuned!