Friday, May 28, 2021

Saying good bye to a trusty notebook

 My orange-colored Poluma notebook has seen a lot of use starting around November of last year. Just in the last week it got completely filled up. I realize that seven-ish months is actually a long time to finish a notebook, but I am slow writer—this is probably the fastest I've ever gone through a whole notebook! I've got a few more detailed posts in the pipeline, but I thought I would go ahead and take you down a whirlwind tour of my old notebook before I put the finishing touches on those other posts.

The vast, vast majority of the pages in my notebook are just pure garbage and really only meant as a place to work out ideas and experiment. The pages scanned below are the ones that I think are the most interesting, but the ideas here are of course still pretty rough. That said, it can be fun to page through an old book and see what ideas got fleshed out and which languished, forgotten. In any case, here's to many more notebooks and many more years of blogging!

Page 1

I never finished this piece, which is a bit sad, because it's a really fun idea. In any case, it was very good cross-hatching practice. This is a map of a fantasy city that was originally going to be a backdrop for running the "Big Puppet" module from LotFP with lots of extra content. The "alien" writing there is a type of code known as "Elian." Elian is a very interesting code that was originally intended as a way to create eastern-style calligraphy in English, so it can be made very aesthetically pleasing. The idea was to create a single map written in a code that only I could read—that way I could share the map with players, without giving away any secrets. In the end, writing in Elian got to be too cumbersome, so I abandoned the piece.

The city itself was created using the rules outlined in "Electric Bastionland," a book definitely worth getting your hands on if only for the magic items and some of the essays in the back.

Page 2
I've shared this drawing before, but I liked it enough that I thought I would go ahead and share it again. The idea here was to create a dungeon where the players are right-side up, but the dungeon and the majority of its denizens are upside-down. An interesting concept, but the dungeon didn't really work out  because it none of the challenges in the dungeon really take advantage of the fact that the dungeon is upside down. The post is here though if you wanted to take a look at it, although I have to warn you that it really isn't very good.

Page 3

When the coronavirus ramped up, I started to get very interesting in trying to become a better artist. Here I'm doing a little drawing of one of my daughter's favorite stuffed animals, Purple Penguin. I was trying to practice making different textures and tones using pen and ink. This drawing was done with Micron fine liners if I recall correctly, but On the right side, my daughter drew her most favorite stuffed animal, a unicorn named Parties.

Page 4
By the time I drew this, I was ankle-deep in a brand new AD&D 2e campaign. I love 2e very much—it has become, in direct opposition to the rest of the OSR—my most favorite official TSR ruleset.

This dungeon in particular was a very memorable one. The ghost of a teenage boy, Brian, was lured by a demon into sacrificing himself to himself to become a Lich of great power. What Brian didn't count on was that, when he died, his psyche split into two ghosts--one with a red heart, and one with a blue heart. The party ended up restoring the hearts to the ghosts and putting Brian's spirit to rest.

Room 20 is not described on the page, because at the time I was unsure what should be inside it. The answer came to me in meditation--6 pillars, each containing an exact, but seemingly ancient clone of the party members themselves! Great fun was had, and the ramifications of this adventure is still being felt by the party.

Page 5

One of my favorite brain-storming exercises is to draw three tarot cards and try to come up with an encounter based around them. I repeat the process repeatedly until I run through the entire Tarot deck or I become bored. There quite a few sessions of me going through this in my notebook, but this particular page produced some interesting results. At the time, I was listening to Mark Fisher's book, "The Weird and the Eerie," which seems to have seeped into some of these results.

Page 6

I've made quite a few Tarot card idea generators and posted them to my blog, but this one is by far my favorite. Most of the adventures I make start with a graph like the one above using the Magic Tree method. I don't want to bore everyone with page after page of loose and scribbly graphs, but I thought I would share this one because it ended up becoming the basis for the "She who is a Fortress in Dark Water" adventure I posted a few weeks ago.

Page 7

When my group played through this one, they got as far as the second room where the elongated man killed their cleric! The whole rest of the dungeon was not used. I can't be that mad that it was never used—prepping stuff rooms, encounters, or even whole dungeons is all part of the path of OSR.

Page 8
Here is the very first draft of what would become the primary dungeon of She who is a Fortress in Dark Water. I had originally written it as an entry for the Garycon dungeon writing contest. I have to admit, it was a blow to my pride (and a testament to how awesome the Garycon crowd is!) when the adventure didn't even win an honorable mention at the contest. I still had an absolute blast at the convention, though. After the con, I took another look at what I had written and realized why it didn't win anything--the whole thing was mess! I spent a lot more work on it and ended up re-writing most of it before posting it on the blog. I'm very glad I did, because the work ended up much, much better.

Page 9

Here are a few towns and their encounters for my campaign. The inn at St. Gerald's ford ended up being a good one-shot, but I had to improvise a lot of it. Since my cursive is a little hard to read, her is my translation:

• St. Gerald's Ford
     -Inn run by Amelia Sardano. Middle-aged, kindly woman.
     -Ghosts in the mirror try to send messages
          -"Help us" written on napkins and such
          - Amelia will refuse to acknowledge even these notes existence.
          -At night, she stared, wide-eyed, in the darkness.

When I ran this for my group, the party found Amelia's "husband" in the basement, a portly gentleman with eight arms who clings to the walls and can only barely speak coherently. Amelia was a high powered magic-user, who kept ghosts in the mirror above the mantlepiece. Good times.

Page 10

The city encounters on the right side of the page are fine, but I mostly wanted to post the left side of the page, which ended up turning out really well. A lot of fun to draw! At the time, I was listening to William S. Burroughs "Cities of the Red Night." A wild book whose uncomfortable energy ended up infusing itself in the piece.

Page 11
Here is the final little doodle I wanted to share. The rest of the notebook mostly pertains to those other posts that I'm planning on finishing up and sharing in a more polished format.

It's always a lot of fun to flip through an old notebook. So many forgotten memories in these pages which at least I find interesting. If you keep a notebook, I would love to see anything you'd like to share!


  1. A lot of awesome stuff here, very nice!

  2. It is always inspirational for me to see other people's sketch/note books. Thank you very much for sharing.