Monday, December 17, 2012

Intense, precisely rendered maps from the 1980s

A great new gallery of Dungeons and Dragons material from 1981-83 contributed by Kevin Campbell.  This is why we offer drafting classes in high school, people.  I suggest they be mandatory.

Something Harn related.  

 Seriously fantastic dungeon draftsmanship.

This drawing could live a double life in the sketchbooks of a third generation Minimalist.  It's beautiful.

A lawful evil monastery.

Dragon turtle!

C'mon, this is so well done.  

Fast and loose is just as beautiful as careful finishing. 

The oracle is immune to all attacks.  Over.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

"Eviscerated by a curiously skilled kobold fighter..."

Contributor James Brigham has donated about eighty documents created in Indianapolis between 1993 and 2011.  The games played range from various D&D versions to Warhammer Fantasy to GURPs and Aces and Eights, and are mostly made up of character sheets which have seen various amounts of use.   There is a good selection of scribbly GMnote sheets created during game play, tracking hit points and spell use and character stuff. 

Here are some highlights:

Note the names:  Scooby Doo and Mountain Dew.  

Running game notes and math is always a favorite of mine.   

These people ordered some fancy pizzas.  I wonder about the order in which this
paper was written out.  I can't help but feel that the the scrawled pizza order
must have come AFTER the carefully written list of character deaths, because why 
would anyone write such a nice list on a piece of sullied paper?  But that doesn't make sense 
because the list was begun on the lower half of the paper...

 A sweet map that has seen a lot of use.

Mysteries abound.  Is this about the game, or about a player, or completely unrelated?

It took me a minute to figure out that the circle in the middle represents a complex
piece of topography.  I'd initially seen it as a confusing cartoon face.  

I'm not sure if this is a homebrew character sheet or not.

There are some pretty amusing little drawings in this donation packet.  

Sunday, November 11, 2012

An Ohio/Penn fundraiser for PlaGMaDA, November 17th

The amazing folks over at the Penn-Ohio Chapter of North Coast Gamers are having their 2nd Annual Penn-Ohio Roleplayathon, a 24 hour game event raising funds for a good cause.  This year they've chosen the Play Generated Map and Document Archive, a fantastic show of support by a gamer-led organization for the archive. 

This sort of generosity and support is humbling and wonderful.  Thank you.

The event is on November 17th in Garrettsville, Ohio.  Here's the link:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Four Hours to Go on the Kickstarter...

...or at least there will be that much left by the time you read this. 

Run, don't walk, over to:

With the goal of $4200 we'll be able to do a good print run with fancy covers, and if we somehow pull $10,000 there will be an awesome game party/book release in NYC.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

OSR Kickstarter, home stretch

Hey folks,

So the Habitition of the Stone Giant Lord & Other Adventures from Our Collective Youth is in the last three days.  The big goal is $4200 which would let us do a print run of 500 copies with a fancier cover and more pages.  Help us make it! 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Wired article, free party this Sunday, all is good in the world

Big news for us:  A spot on the project in Wired magazine, written by Mark Wallace.  Keep an eye out for the web version!

Big news for you:  A book release party in Brooklyn to celebrate the release of Everything is Dolphins by Ray Weiss.  This Sunday at Shea Stadium BK at 20 Meadow Street, games start at 5pm and music starts at 8.  Free admission, all ages, bring some dough because you know you're just going to have to buy a t-shirt or two.

Kickstarter:  We are overjoyed to announce that the Habitition of the Stone Giant Lord & Other Adventures from Our Collective Youth has quadrupled its admittedly modest funding goal.  Help us get to our next goal, which will let us do a traditional print run with more pages and a fancy cover.

And don't miss a post about all this over at The Mule Abides, it's sure to horrify and charm. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Kickstarting the Habitition of the Stone Giant Lord

So a Kickstarter is running until October 10th for The Habitition of the Stone Giant Lord & Other Adventures from Our Collective Youth.  Go here

  • Launched: Sep 20, 2012
  • Funding ends: Oct 10, 2012
In 1981, 13-year-old Gaius Stern wrote and illustrated The Habitition of the Stone Giant Lord in imitation of TSR’s Dungeons and Dragons adventure modules. The Habitition is a true labor of love, typed and drawn as a DIY addition to the “Against the Giants” series of modules, part time capsule and part outsider art.
From The Habitition of the Stone Giant Lord
From The Habitition of the Stone Giant Lord by Gaius Stern

As art, its text and image show how a creative teen made his own contribution to the genre of roleplaying adventures, but where most such books were the work of a writer, a crew of play-testers, editors, and a stable of artists, Stern went it alone. As a time capsule, it provides a window on a particular way Dungeons & Dragons was played at a particular time.
Stone Death cover, by Richard Benson
Stone Death cover, by Richard Benson
PlaGMaDA and The Hutchingsonian Presents are putting together a collection of adventures written by young people in the 1980s. The focus is on game modules written by players, including their carefully made maps and painstaking illustrations, framing the sort of adventures we played back when we were kids. Help us print this full color book, it'll be great!
If we meet our goal we will be producing a full color, soft cover book at a POD facility in the United States.  If we meet our bonus goal we will do a traditional print run.  Thanks for your help!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

On the Reading of Old Modules, by Nicholas Mizer

When I was an undergraduate, one of my teachers told me that the most important thing about Plato isn't the ideas that he put forward or the claims he made, but that every dialog he wrote is an invitation for readers to have their own dialog about Big Ideas. In other words, The Republic is a "just-add-people" instant seed kit for interesting conversations. You might agree with him, you might disagree, you might crack a beer bottle over your friend's head for holding ignorant concepts about the nature of justice (an unlikely but possible outcome), but if Plato got you talking, then mission accomplished.

I'm not a classicist, so I don't know if that's a widely held idea by Plato scholars, but lately I've been thinking about how the same could be said of D&D modules.  True, they lay out a map, tell you who the bad guys are, and usually at least hint at a plot, but they're not stories in and of themselves. Like a Plato dialog, a module is the seed of something interesting.  Given the flexibility of a role-playing game, there are a near-infinite number of stories that could grow out of a single module.  For those who, like me, enjoy reading modules, I think that part of the appeal is in imagining some of those possibilities. Some scholars argue that humans are inherently narritivizing creatures; that is, give us a set of events and we will try to make a story out of them. Modules, and role-playing games more generally, give us ample opportunity to exercise those pattern recognition (creation?) abilities.

That may be so, why should we care about the story seeding kit provided to the world by G.J. Caesar, age fourteen, in 1981. Habitition of the Stone Giant Lord is not The Republic, and when I told my economist friend I was studying it he pointed out that if presented with a thirty-one year old economics paper written by a middle schooler he would be more likely to laugh than to consider archiving it. So why is it different with old gaming documents? For many gamers the awesomeness of Habitition needs no explaining. D&D is, as my friend Tavis Allison often reminds me, a game that is largely about nostalgia-for-things-we-never-knew.  Nostalgia for older versions of that nostalgia just seems to fit.

As much as I enjoy nostalgia, though, I think there are a lot of other good reasons to think carefully about something like Habitition. As I said, telling stories seems to be one of our primary activities as humans, but our understanding of what "stories" means varies across time and space, as does our understanding of how best to tell them.  This is true when considering differences between very different cultures, but it is also true over the almost forty year history of D&D.  By looking at how modules have changed over time we can gain insights into our changing assumptions about what story is and how best to produce it, and how the structure of the seed guides the stories that can grow from it. From there (to put it grandiloquently) we can learn more about what it means to be humans living in a world full of events ripe for narrativising.

Changing ideas about story are only one set of interesting conversations that we can have about these materials, however. Like both Plato dialogs and Habitition, PlaGMaDA is a seed that allows for any number of interesting conversations.  What do gaming maps tell us about how we navigate our worlds, for example? Or what do the characters we create (and the records we leave of them in dogeared character sheets) tell us about our identities?  For the person willing to engage them, the documents in the archive represent an endless resource for exploring these topics.

– Nicholas Mizer
   PhD student in anthropology at Texas A&M University

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tax Deductible Donations Now Up and Running

So for those of you out there who want to help out with the PlaGMaDA archive, it's now easy and streamlined.  Monetary donations can be made via credit card at this link

Fractured Atlas is now the fiscal sponsor for the archive, all donations are tax deductible. 

Monies donated to the archive will help us do amazing things like:

-purchase historically important documents
-acquire a faster, better scanner
-arrange exhibitions of the holdings in art galleries and schools
-help offset the costs of presentations at educational institutions and conferences

I've also officially changed the email address of the archive to collections at 


tim h

Thursday, May 31, 2012

"The Shadow Out of Providence" Kickstarter

So I am excited to be participating in a project called "The Shadow Out of Providence", a book being Kickstartered by Ezra Claverie.  Ezra is not just a long time chum of mine, he's also a significant PlaGMaDA contributor and a great help to the project.  The book is about the way Lovecraft writes, I think, but it isn't striving to be Lovecraft.  From Ezra: is “Lovecraftical” (to coin a term). It treats Lovecraft the writer, the thinker, and the cultural phenomenon, rather than the sliver of his work on which most writers fixate (one that he sometimes dismissed as “Yog-Sothothery”)...
Three separate fictional universes challenge the reader: if the oldest and strongest source of fear is the unknown, what, in each setting, counts as unknown? 
The book has stories which wander in and out of reality, confusing what's true and what's not.  The story in which I am featured is a fake interview between myself and Ezra, in which I talk about an underwater art installation I am making about the reservoir which flooded the town of Dunwich.  Reality has been tweaked to fit the HPL in a way that I found unsettling when I first read the article.
This is not a conventional parody, but a metafictional re-working of Lovecraftical material, especially Lovecraft’s intellectual concerns—such as the power of print and visual media, the unknown as a source of fear, and ignorance (willful and otherwise) as a defense against the new.

Plush-Cthulhu jokes are out. Shoggoth-literacy jokes are in.

There also might be some Cthulhu-horror gaming material involved, if the project takes off...

Oh.  And I almost forgot to mention that the book has a bunch of original artwork by Erol Otus

A poor, beleaguered shoggoth by Erol Otus

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Game Aid Archive in full swing

Here's a new blog featuring the work of Chris Strasser,

Chris does a good job of detailing the why's of the pieces he's put up, which is important.  It's these sorts of detailed explanations that make documents come alive.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

"PlaGMaDA article on the Escapist"

Robert Rath has written a great article on the Play Generated Map and Document Archive at the Escapist.   It does a great job of summing up my intentions for the archive.

Thanks Rob!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

PlaGMaDA spot on Bonfire Dog...

Friday, March 9, 2012

Last Chance on the Kickstarter

By the time you read this there will be less than twenty-four hours left to jump in on the first PlaGMaDA/Hutchingsonian Presents Kickstarter.

So The Hutchingsonian Presents has reached the super bonus goal of $4000 for Everything is Dolphins, meaning that everyone from the PDF Pledge level on up will be receiving a free PDF of scenarios. These scenarios should be just as good as the book itself, with more amazing art by a second group of smart artists.

Should be pretty cool.

And because the process of making should be as interesting as the process of playing or reading, I'm going to be doing something extra cool: Some of the artists will be invited to do a handful of illustrations for a scenario and then I or Ray (the EiD author) will have to tie them together into a coherent adventure. How ridiculously awesome will that be? Why is the dolphin wearing that comical hat?, let's find out...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Two days left on the Everythying is Dolphins Kickstarter

And we are just $500 short of our super bonus goal. Kickstarter is here:

No big, though - this is pre-sales and not begging. We made the goal and things are good.

Nice mention of the project here, too.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Everything is Dolphins: Superchief article has a write-up on Everything is Dolphins. My favorite bit:

The ludicrous idea of playing dolphins lends itself well to forming the imaginative space that the best RPG experiences require. Pretending to be non-anthropomorphic animals is such a foreign idea that it puts me in a bizarre mindset for actual game play – it’s almost allows more childish, primal play. I mean, seriously, when’s the last time you pretended you were an animal? Imagined that you didn’t have arms? The game taps that way of thinking and puts dice on it.

The Kickstarter for Everything is Dolphins is ongoing.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Everything is Dolphins Extra Bonus Funding Reward and Boing Boing

Hey folks,

First off the Everything is Dolphins Kickstarter got Boing Boing'd, which is always exciting.

Next off, we settled on an Extra Bonus Funding Reward for the Kickstarter:

To celebrate, a Bonus Funding Reward has been set. If we double our current pledge amount we will give everyone from the $12 Reward Level up a free PDF of four or five adventures. This might include mystical wonder adventures like "The Lilly of the Marianas Trench", nailbiters like "Everything in the Ocean Wants to Kill You", and the SC1-4 series "Against the Shrimp Cult" series.

So there you go: $4000 in funding gets EVERYONE a PDF! Whoohoo! Because we all need more PDFs in our lives.

"The Lilly of the Marianas Trench" has been written and playtested, though it needs to be nicely formatted. And yeah, I know that "Lilly" seems to have an extra L - it's not that kind of lily, silly. "Everything in the Ocean Wants to Kill You" is written out and not playtested. So don't think I'm promising adventures I can't deliver - I swear this stuff is in the mail.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Everything is Dolphins is Funded, Now What?

So it's not too late to jump in on the Kickstarter and either:

Help fund the flagship project of the publishing arm of PlaGMaDA
Pre-order your Everything is Dolphins copy right now.

However you want to look at it.

Regardless, we are now talking about what to do for a Bonus Goal. Can't wait to figure that one out.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Everything is Dolphins

So I started a Kickstarter project for the spin-off PlaGMaDA publishing arm. The game is Everything is Dolphins by Ray Weiss.

From my afterword in the book:

"PlaGMaDA brought me into contact with Ray Weiss, the author of Everything is Dolphins. He donated a notebook containing a mishmash of stuff: dungeon maps, Gamma World monsters, notes from a political science class, and a hilarious game which you now hold in your hands."

More on this later.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Hand Bound 0ed Edition by Oban

And yet gamers had to play Palladium Fantasy to get
the skill Book Binding, Leather.

Another neat player made modification of rule books from Oban of New York Red Box:
First I have combined the PDF files of the books I want to bind, then print them out as signatures - in this case ten signatures of five folios each. The signatures are then sewn together on cords to form the book block. Hand sewn headbands are added to the head and tail. I cut front and back covers, and the cords are woven into the covers, binding the whole thing together. The resulting book is then quarter-bound in leather - I have been using Hewit goatskin for these books. The remainder of the cover is covered in decorative paper. Recently I have started tooling the leather.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Privacy Issues

Sometimes I find PlaGMaDA documents which include private information, phone numbers especially. It's always tough as to whether or not I should include these documents in the online file.

On one hand, the information is often vague, a first name and phone number without an area code on a twenty year old document is probably not going to lead to an invasion of privacy. On the other hand, I am not going to take a chance - such documents are always removed. If something absolutely spectacular included a piece of private information, I would simply blur or bar out the offending section.

For the record what I tend to find are phone numbers and email addresses. I myself have jotted down emails on character sheets or note pages while at cons, it's fast and convenient.

If anyone does find information like this on a document hosted on the site, please let me know by posting here - I'll fix it immediately.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Looking at the Collection: Attack Bear

A recent character sheet acquisition from Black and Reade near Denver had something that I found interesting. Here's the first page, which isn't terribly important, and here's the second page below:

A hum drum list of magical items, complete with misspellings. Not that exciting, but then under "livestock" we see an attack bear listed. An attack bear is a pretty fantastic thing to write down on the character sheet as two simple words. If it was my attack bear I'd have written it in giant letters surrounded in lightning bolts, and probably bothered to give it a name. Heck, I'd give an attack bear its own character sheet because it deserves it.

Torn the Elf needs to put a little effort, a little pride into his pet.

This piece is part of a series of homemade character sheets all neatly filled out by the same hand and seemingly never used, it's a reasonable guess that some hopeful DM made a bunch of characters for a scenario that never developed or friends that never came to play. I see a lot of this in the collection and it would probably help to make up a name for the phenomenon, maybe "Empty PCs" because it sort of sounds like "NPCs" when spoken aloud.

You saw a lot of ready-to-go characters with Judges Guild stuff, and with people who were influenced by Judge's Guild. Here's a list of novelty filled 1st level fighters from David McLouth:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Jolly Blackburn's Custom Bound First Edition Set

(Photo used with permission of Jolly Blackburn)

These are the first edition books used by Jolly Blackburn back in the day, here's what he has to say about them...

"Was organizing my bookshelf and came across this monstrosity -- my original AD&D GMG. I bound ALL the AD&D books as one huge book along with my own house rules/notes. I was such a geek. (Okay I still am)."

The neat thing is that I've seen this before, it's not an uncommon impulse.

"Its actually a great way to bind the books -- it was a Maytag Washing Machine parts manual originally -- three hole punch with four inch spleens. You can open to any page and it lays open by itself. I ended up binding three or four friends' books the same way back in the day."

Smart, simple, a super nice touch that he put the spines inside the spine piece of the binder.

"It has allthe following books in it: DMG, PHB, Unearth Arcana, Deities and Demigods, Monster manual and the Fiend Folio [and the Monster Manual II - ed.]. Once you removed the hard covers you could reall pack them in . ;) Oh I think the Rogues Gallery is in there too."

I love how nicely they all fit.

"I'll confess -- my original inspiration was to thwart players who were always asking to borrow my books."

Ah. Well then.

This item is not from the archive, the photo was provided by Mr. Blackburn for this posting. There are items like this in the archive, but none so grand. It's fantastically interesting when an item is intensely worked and personalized, customized for a specific task.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

NY Times mention of a sort

Just to let you guys know I am always in the field, doing research and working hard, I'm one of the guys in the front row. The D20 Burlesque group is a great show.

This photo appeared in the printed paper, attached to "Players Roll the Dice for Dungeons & Dragons Remake" by Ethan Gilsdorf. The photo is from an art and gaming event called "Dungeons and Dragons, On & Every Onwards" which I curated at the Soho Gallery for Digital Art. The event organizer was the remarkable Tavis Allison.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Two new folders up

Two new folders are up in the PlaGMaDA archive: a donation by RB and material collected from the games played during the Dungeons and Dragons On & Ever Onwards exhibit at the Soho Gallery for Digital Art in Jan 2012.

This map was drawn by Paul H. while playing with Mike Mornard,
an original member of the Gygax game group.