A new journey …

As you can clearly see, this blog has not had much attention over the past few years, after a great run!

It hasn’t been forgotten, but the focus has been elsewhere. With my children busy with exams and growing up (they’re about to start their 3rd and 1st years at University), role-playing time has been unusual.

During this time, I have probably spent more time on my other hobby (which is also my career…), software development. In hobby terms, my interest in programming centres around technology for RPG, as readers of this blog will know from the regular column RPG Tech Talk, and in particular the concept of an open ecosystem of RPG tools that one could select and use inter-operably.

Unfortunately, despite some of the fantastic tools that have come on the market over the last few years (e.g. Roll20, World Anvil, Foundry VTT to name but a few …), I still don’t quite see this happening as I’d love to see…

So I’ve decided to take the plunge and see what I can do about this … or at least put some things out there that help the community.

As a first step I have created a new software brand, Tolrendor Software (I think you can see where that comes from…) and a new blog to chart my journey:

I hope you’ll join me … and in the mean-time this blog is going to get some much-needed attention as well!

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Heroic Maps – a Shout Out!

I love mapping! There’s nothing better than creating a fun and interesting battle-map…

Mapping is hard … it takes a lot of time and effort to produce even one battle-map, let alone enough maps for a whole adventure.

Which is why I want to call out out what I think is one of the best Patreon sites out there: Heroic Maps….


For $5 a month, you get the following:

  • A 20 by 20/30 (5′ grid) detailed battle map – Map of the Month
  • An alternate version of the MOTM
  • A third map, voted on by patrons
  • An adventure supplement for the MOTM.
  • Regular discounts for Heroic Maps publications on their DrivethruRPG store

I’ve been subscribed for a few months (since April), and have also purchased a number of back-catalogue items. The quality is fantastic, and I can honestly say I’m now thinking of my adventures in terms of ‘how can I use last month’s map’, rather than ‘what map do I need to create’ … I may never design another battle map 🙂

Posted in Cartography, Patreon | Leave a comment

Icon Rolls

I am definitely not what you would call an ‘off-the-cuff’ DM!

The happiest DMing I do is when I’ve prepared well, both in terms of the session that I think I’m going to run, and for those parts of the session that I’m not really expecting to happen, but that might crop up if the PCs go off-piste. If I’ve done this, I’m generally pretty flexible and let the game flow; if not, I’m more likely to try and keep the party on a certain path.

I’ve just got back into running the Amber Pendant campaign, a solo campaign with my son, following a long (almost 2 years) hiatus due to many life things, including GCSE exams, as discussed here. This campaign has always had Icons, even when we were playing 4E. However, on re-starting this campaign, we’ve decided to convert fully to 13th Age. So how do I reconcile the improvisational concepts of 13th Age with my need to be prepared?

Well, I simply take the designers’ advice on p179 of the core rules: If you aren’t entirely comfortable improvising on the fly, consider asking the players for story guide rolls at the end of the session to prepare for the next game. 

This suits me much better. I have found myself mulling over the Icon rolls for several days between sessions, and this has lead to some interesting changes in the encounters that I potentially had planned for the next session. For example, we had a ‘6’ roll for the Twilight Lady (an Icon in my setting somewhat analogous to the Elf Queen) at the end of one session. The next episode was planned to be a dangerous trip downriver, with goblins ambushing the party with war canoes and archers on the shore – how could that relate to the Icon in play? Eventually I struck on the idea of a fey giant turtle surfacing from the river and aiding the characters (as the advantage conferred by the roll). This turned out not only to be a cool addition to the encounter, but also quite necessary to stop a potential TPK … as the battle was pretty vicious!

I now try and make notes in the planning for my next session as to how the Icon rolls (if any) will impact the session, as shown in this snippet (from my Scrivener campaign workbook)


Originally, this whole episode was not even envisaged … but once I had the roll to work with, the creative juices started flowing…

Until such time as I feel more comfortable with an improv style (i.e. not very likely …), Icon story guide rolls at the end of an session or episode is definitely going to be my method of choice 🙂


Posted in Adventures, Amber Pendant campaign, Icons, Miscellaneous, The Amber Pendant campaign | Leave a comment

Faint Stirrings…

It’s been a long time … dust has settled …

As is obvious, it’s 18 months since the last post on this blog. Pretty much dead then? The honest answer is that at times I pretty much thought so. Due to 2 years of A-levels and GCSE exams in the house, no D&D was being played, and quite frankly, motivation for any sort of writing, or mapping, or gaming, just wasn’t there.

So much so that although I subscribed to the 2016 Cartographer’s Annual from Profantasy.com, which I’ve blogged about many times, even doing a whole year of monthly maps in 2013, I recently discovered that I’d never even downloaded an issue! Whenever I had some time (rare…) and thought about doing some writing, I just couldn’t get going … I can’t realistically blame the lack of playing, as I’ve had many periods in my life where no gaming was happening, but it had never stopped me creating before!


So what now? Well, it’s summer 2017, and the kid’s exams are well and truly over, results are in (all good!) … and we’ve even played a few sessions of D&D! Does that mean my enthusiasm is back? Well, whilst I’ve enjoyed the sessions, it’s still a struggle getting going again, but as the title of this post suggests, just maybe …

I’m not promising much here, but I’d like to think it’s time to get the broom out …


Posted in Miscellaneous | 1 Comment

The Amber Pendant

A new fantasy artist on the block …

The Amber Pendant - blue - cropped

I’ve posted before about the 4E solo campaign I’m running occasionally (very occasionally as it happens…. doesn’t life just get in the way!!) for my son, called the Amber Pendant. His character has been called upon to embark on a quest for this relic of a bygone age, which has been stolen by agents of the Conclave of Dark Amber, one of the villainous Icons (yes this is 4E with 13th Age spice) of my Tolrendor setting.

So, a little while ago I commissioned (aka asked nicely…) my daughter, now 16 and studying A-level Fine Art, for a painting of the Amber Pendant … and here you have the result!!

I fully accept that I’m a bit biased, but I’m pretty chuffed with the outcome! This was produced using the Art Rage program on her iPad, and I hope this is the first of many further family collaborations – I may even have to start actually paying 🙂

Love to hear your views in the comments.



Posted in 4E D&D, Amber Pendant campaign, DM for Kids, Roleplaying with Kids | 3 Comments

Map of the Month: CC3+ and Mike Schley Overland

MapoftheMonthLogoIt seems an age since I really got my teeth stuck into a proper map e.g. one which wasn’t just a quick CC3 hack to print out a scale battle-map.

For my ‘Amber Pendant‘ solo campaign with my son, I needed to start detailing the northern borderlands of the Kingdom of Norbaer, as his character would be travelling through this region on his quest. In Tolrendor, this area is just to the south of the Nentir Vale (where my ‘Amber Tower‘ campaign is taking place) from the 4E source-books.

I decided to use the ‘Mike Schley Overland‘ style, which comes with CC3+ Beta, the new version of Profantasy‘s premier map-making program. Although I’ve had this installed for some time, I’ve hardly touched it, so that was a good incentive as well.

CC3+ was great to use: much faster than its predecessor, and very able to cope with leaving sheet effects turned on the whole time, as promised! In CC3, doing this was usually a recipe for white screens and frequent crashes. I also really liked the tool prompts displayed with the cursor, so you weren’t continually looking to the bottom of the screen for options.

Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the results, and here I am also very pleased with this style; in fact it may just have got to the top of the list of my preferred styles for area maps. Nice soft colours with excellent blending and effects, great bitmap symbols, and especially, gorgeous forests combining the simplicity of drawing tools with symbol fills.

Here it is:


Posted in Cartography, Columns, Map of the Month | 1 Comment

Down the River

RPGKidsLogoA really fun encounter in my ‘solo’ campaign session with my son today. His character, with a few accomplices, is travelling down-river on a merchant’s barge in pursuit of some nefarious folk who have stolen an ancient artefact known only as the ‘Amber Pendant’.

Travelling down river … by barge … 🙂

Sounds ripe for a bit of rip-roaring action on the water! After a couple of days of watching the riverbanks, it was time for some fun. The afore-mentioned nefarious folk were not about to let the pursuit continue without some sort of complication … which came in the form of some goblin war-canoes (brim full of feisty goblins of course):


A shout-out to Heroic Maps for some (slightly doctored) really great battle-maps. I printed these out in sections so that the river could ‘flow’ as the combat progressed and the barges and canoes travelled in the current…

We had to stop at this point, but there is lots more to come just downstream … beware hazards ahead …


Note that this is me bowing to the inevitable and going back to physical maps and figures at the table after my experiments with alternate technology solutions.

And yes, it was lots of fun 😉

Posted in 4E D&D, Cartography, Columns, DM for Kids, Encounters | 2 Comments

Content Corner: Icon of the Week

Content Corner LogoAnother icon to (hopefully) whet the appetite for adventures in the Havenscoast, this one a powerful and ruthless pirate lord with some dark and dangerous secrets. Certainly when I started my 13th Age Campaign ‘Eyes of Watch’, this icon attracted a lot of interest in terms of both relationships and backstory.

Posted in 13th Age, Columns, Content Corner, Icons, The Havenscoast Project | Leave a comment

Content Corner: Icon of the Week

Content Corner LogoToday I hit 10,000 words out my 50k target, yay!!

In celebration I thought I’d share another Icon write-up. In fact, I’m going to try and share one every week, hence the post title 🙂

This time it’s the Circle Arcanis of Mirin, a magical order hailing from a small city at the southern end of the Havenscoast. They’re definitely a regional Icon rather than a global one, but certainly not to be under-estimated … or trusted. Enjoy:


Posted in 13th Age, Content Corner, Icons, The Havenscoast Project, Tolrendor Gazetter | Leave a comment

Content Corner: The Havenscoast Project

Content Corner LogoA long time ago, I started ‘The Havenscoast Project‘, an attempt to bring my ancient game-notes from the ’80s forward into ‘modern’ D&D terms, and to publish them on this blog. At the time, I was using 4E D&D. Although I managed to publish a few maps and notes, this had rather faded away.

One of the key ‘hobby’ goals of my sabbatical leave was to kickstart this effort, although the project has now morphed into 13th Age, in line with the new campaign I recently started in the Havenscoast.

The target is to finish (at least) a draft of a complete ‘Havenscoast Gazetteer’, approximately 50k words/100 pages. Assembling all the work I had done already got me to about 4k words, so there’s plenty left to do!

Along the way, I’ll be sharing a few snippets. The first is shown below, another of the Icons of the setting: The Sea-Lord of Mirranor.


As an aside, owing to a recent post on Richard Green’s Parsantium blog, mentioning that he had his latest writing project set-up in Scrivener, I decided to check this tool out. I had heard of it before, but never really looked into it … now I have, and it’s really good (Thanks Richard!). I have my outline set-up in the app, and off I go:

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 11.36.36

I may well cover this app in a bit more detail in an RPG Tech Talk post, as it has some really great features!

Posted in 13th Age, Content Corner, Self-publishing, The Havenscoast Project | 1 Comment