Wilderlands Map 6: Tarantis conversion completed

Using Necromancer Games / Judge’s Guild Wilderness of High Fantasy product, I converted Map 6 (Tarantis) to work inside Fantasy Grounds from Smiteworks.  I probably need to convert 2 or 3 more maps in order to run a campaign, but it is a good start.

Here is a peek of how busy the Fantasy Grounds map is when fully linked to data:

Every red pin links to the text for the location

Since I don’t have print concerns, I also took the time to reformat the text for the towns and military outposts:

A snippet of original text that becomes…
Text formating improves the readability of the provided information.

While I was about it, I also made the lists of locations a bit more valuable:


As you can see, the names of settlements stand out and I added population information.  The text shown here is what appears when the mouse hovers over a pin on the map, so loading it with a little extra information seemed like a good idea.

I also got another little side project with a random encounter table done and I will talk about that a bit later.  Finishing the overland map for Tarantis now has me eager to get the town proper converted.


Projects – Whats done, whats begun

Early last week I finished a 5e update for G1: The Steading of the Hill Giant Chief.  I used the Dungeon 197 restructure as a basis, incorporated the lovely full size maps from Mike Schley, and rebuilt it targeted for 5e players at 8th or 9th level as a Fantasy Grounds module.  The players in my campaign are soon to be 6th level, so it will be a little while before they get to G1, but it is so easy and natural to include in the current story I am weaving, which is why I converted it.

I hadn’t finished G1 when I started on another conversion project.  I took on Judge’s Guild TARANTIS map 6 from the Wilderlands campaign setting and have a Fantasy Ground’s campaign map well underway.

Tarantis Wilderlands campaign map coming alive with data!  Map and data come from “Wilderlands of High Fantasy” by Necromancer Games 2005.

At this point, I’d use Fantasy Grounds even if it were not for online gaming.  It is an indispensable tool.  With the aid of Fantasy Grounds, this Tarantis map is so many times more useful to me – I can hover a mouse over a location (the pins) and get a little info, or I can click the pin and get the full entry for the point of interest.

The map comes alive with data…

I ran one Wilderlands campaign in the now hazy days of 1978 or 1979 – I got frustrated with how awkward and slow it was to get to information.  The map is on a 5-mile scale and you need to look things up quite frequently as a result.  It was a big pain and with some regret I moved on to other campaigns at a larger scale.  Well, Fantasy Ground totally destroys all of the disadvantages of the small map scale.  The map comes alive with data and I am already starting to look forward to running a campaign set in Bob Bledsaw’s Wilderlands.

As long as I was going completely insane with large scale projects, I took on another Judges Guild conversion.  As it turns out, Judges Guild published their third City State-style installment in the form of TARANTIS (JG1200).  I bought all of the Cities Products that Judges Guild released, but I did not get this one since I did not know it was a town.

A large Lawful-Evil city is contained within these pages

The overland map is not much use to me if I cannot present the crown jewel of the region which is, of course, the large city of Tarantis.  The city acts as an excellent base of operation, the city itself being an adventure hook inferno, with places and people hinting at things to do.

The city itself being an adventure hook inferno, with places and people hinting at things to do.

The primary problem with the city of Tarantis is that the digitally provided map is shit. I am not being mean – it was good back in the day, but that day was over 30 years ago and it could be cleaned up.  A lot.  Have a look:

Even zoomed in, these maps are a little hazy and indistinct. They used brown ink on tan paper, so the scans are understandably a bit weak

Because I am unhappy with the condition of the map, I have been working to convert the entire city into vector graphics.  Vector graphics are cool because they scale smoothly from small to insanely large sizes.  The most simple and obvious example of a vector graphic are the fonts that we use on computers – we size them, scale them, and tweak them all the time.  Having the city map in vector form will allow me to manipulate the graphics with ease.

So here is how the vector graphics overlay on the original map:

Same area as before, but now you can see the vector graphics overlaid on the page.

I am currently around 40% along in redrawing the city.  It is a big map, with a lot of details, many of which are often difficult to discern.  Here is a birds-eye view of the town:

The stronger, darker areas have the outlines of buildings done.  Fuzzy grey scale looks especially bad zoomed out this far.

What will I do with it once I have converted the details to vectors?  I will improve it.  It will be absolutely true to the original vision, but it will be much more pleasant and pleasing to work with.

Here are the results of about 20 minutes of tweaking and playing around:

Amazing what a little color and some shadowing can do!

Tegel Manor really set the standard for what was expected of a professional adventure map

I have now spent quite a bit of time on Bledsaw’s original map of Tarantis.  What he did was quite an achievement for the time frame.  And this is the end of his run, the last big city that Judges Guild would release.  Several years before Tarantis, another Judges Guild product named Tegel Manor really set the standard for what was expected of a professional adventure map.  Mr. Bledsaw’s materials still hold up today and they influenced a formative RPG industry.

I will share a Judges Guild story sometime in the near future.


Rebuilding G1: The Steading of the Hill Giant Chief

Sometimes I like to take on a technical challenge and I thought that converting G1 to D&D5e would be an interesting thing to try.  I thought that it would be cool to see how well 5e would overlay upon the old bones of G1 and it would be interesting to discern how much of the original AD&D model would still shine-through while creating a Fantasy Grounds module.

Schley’s version is a great improvement, being rendered in a 5′ scale

So I gathered up a copy of G1 and the first task seemed to be to either make or find a high resolution battle map.  A little bit of search engine action later, and I was staring in amazement at a Mike Schley version of the two maps in G1.  They were not a one-to-one match, but very, very similar while getting the job done.  Actually, Schley’s version is a great improvement, being rendered in a 5′ scale while the original was in 10′ map square.  I became a patron of Mr. Schley’s web store and bought the two maps.

David C. Sutherland III cover art for the original G1 module

Once I had the maps, I started to wonder if Mike just took on old modules and made maps, or what.  Why in the heck did he make this map?

The entire G-series was remade for the 4th Edition of D&D

It turns out that the entire G-series was remade for the 4th Edition of D&D starting in the pages of Dungeon 197 and subsequently reappearing in 199 and climaxing in issue 200.  It was designed for level 13-14+ characters, which made me a bit unhappy since the original G1 was designed for level 8 or 9 adventurers.  I am still targeting the level 8-9 range because I’d prefer to keep at least that much consistent.

Fantasy Grounds screen shot of the Steading map and adventure text
Mike Schley’s excellent map serves as the anchor for my conversion of the G1 module to D&D5e and as a Fantasy Grounds module

Reviewing the pages of Dungeon 197, I was actually very, very pleased with how they had structured it.  The Steading was zoned off into logical areas and it was tied into what would happen if an alarm was sounded.

A 25th Anniversary edition of the G-series was released as Against the Giants: The Liberation of Geoff

Still looking at things through a historical lens, I discovered that a 25th Anniversary edition of the G-series was released as Against the Giants: The Liberation of Geoff in 1999.  I suppose that this was swan song of D&D2e material – but it is not available online, so my interest in it died.

Very, very early into this conversion, you have to stare down the barrel of Gygax’s player killing design.  The second room in the original module contains over 25 giants.  If the alarm goes up elsewhere in the structure and this group fans out and gets organized, it could be very easy for a party to do a full wipe.

The second room in the original module contains over 25 giants.

Conversely, a room filled with Giants is an AoE wet dream.  I can still recall the party that I DMed for hitting that room with wands, a necklace of fireballs, and of course an actual fireball cast by the party mage.  Of the 25 giants, most were dead or nearly dead and the room was really an irresistibly huge XP pool and my group of players happily cannon-balled and belly-flopped into the warm, warm waters of combat experience.

Fantasy Grounds chart for use in G1 module
This is one of the custom charts to generate mundane finds when searching.

In fairness, things were quite a bit different back in D&D1e days.  Damage inflation hadn’t happened – doing over 10 points of damage on a single attack was doing good.  The giants of the time had hit points listed as: H.P.: 44, 3 x 40, 39, 5 x 38, 5 x 37, 3 x 36, 33, 30, 2 x 27.

Your average run of the mill D&D5e Hill Giant has 105 hit points – close to 3x the average hit points of the giants in the original encounter listed above.  More problematic for the players, these giants will not crumple and fold under the incandescent glow of a few fireballs.

So the number of foes has to be reduced – even an expert party would go down under the crushing power of 25 giants.  It still needs to be an overpowering group of grubby hill giants, one that you do not want to face in a fair fight, but something closer to manageable in case the party decides to risk direct conflict.

What I ended up with was a CR 16 group worth 14600 XP – not yet modified for difficulty which will be deadly.  The group summarizes as:

  1. Stone Giants x 2 (one being the chief Nosnra, one being the stone giant emissary)
  2. Hill Giants x 5.  I really considered going with three (one giant for each seat at the table), but decided to dig in the spurs and make sure the group had significant gravity
  3. Dire Bear x 1.  The chief has a pet bear and animals might pose problems or opportunities depending upon the group and their plans.  To create the bear, I modified a polar bear, gave it more hit dice (7d10), renamed it to DIRE BEAR and patted myself on the back.

Get the hardest encounter tuned and the rest of it just sort of falls into place.

Getting the principal encounter on the map ‘tuned’ to level 8 or 9 made me feel pretty good about how the rest of the adventure will turn out.  I think that I will use this approach during future conversions – get the hardest encounter tuned and the rest of it just sort of falls into place.

Area 01 summary (CR9 XP 4950):

  1. Hill Giants x 2 (one on the tower, one asleep against the main doors)
  2. Ogres x 3 (asleep near the main gate)

Add one more ogre and the difficulty jumps from HARD to DEADLY, so this monster encounter is a pretty good acid test to see if the group of players is ready for adventure inside the Steading.  If you are unsure, fudge it into an full encounter and if the party struggles, they might want to fall-back.

Area 03 summary (CR14, XP 11250)

  1. Morzul, Hill Giantess Shaman (started with a Hill Giant, copied the three powers from the article in Dungeon 197 and removed rock throwing – she is asleep in her room)
  2. Hill Giants x 3 (these guys are asleep and scattered in beds in two rooms)
  3. Hill Giant Younglings x 9 (I took an ogre and converted it into a Hill Giant youth.  The players have three rounds to get this group down before they attract the attention of the adult Hill Giants whereupon things could take a turn for the worse)

This is a controlled situation where player choices will make a difference.  If the adults become involved, the situation could deteriorate very quickly.