Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Janus Fey Pics

While thinking about the Janus Fey I thought it might be an idea to do a few "Janus" variations in Google Images and see what falls out the other end as regards inspiration.

Janus tat. I like the blue skin it reminds me of Hindu deities/avatars and I think the Janus Fey should have pale blue skin like this.

Celtic Janus. That's quite inspirational as well.

More pale-blue skinned Janus stuff. Again this is probably what the Janus Fey look like.

Wrong Janus but I don't give a stuff.

Two-faced Jesus-Janus!

Hmmm... Definitely the wrong Janus.

Two-headed Giant Tortoise (called Janus). Stat him up!

Sunday, 24 May 2009

The Janus Fey

Bank Holiday weekend this weekend and also my 35th birthday on Saturday. Weather was lovely so I spent the day driving around in the MX-5 sans roof, then spent an evening watching the Futurama D&D-lovefest that is Bender's Game while polishing off half a bottle of Shiraz. I thought Bender's Game was excellent and laughed like a drain all the way through, but YMMV - note the half bottle of Shiraz polished off during proceedings.

Sunday was a drive to my parent's for lunch and watch the Monaco Grand Prix and accept my Father's help in starting the repair of the vandal damage to the MX-5 (keyed, once on each rear wing).

So not much geekery this weekend.

Something I did start thinking about was the random map I posted a couple of days ago. I was going to use this map, since a random map strikes me as very Old School but then I noticed something odd about the way it had come out. There is a secret door in the south wall of room 5 and 11 rooms beyond it, and a staircase, can only be accessed by locating the secret door. Roughly half the level is hidden away.

So I started thinking about what sort of weird level layout would want to hide half the level.

And I thought - maybe the not-hidden part was a sham designed to conceal whatever is going on the hidden half. Perhaps the not-secret part is all sweetness and light and helpful NPCs, but find their secret door and you discover what they are really up to - what they didn't want you to find.

And then I thought - well Elves are a bit ambiguous aren't they? They might be good, they might be bad. A lot of RPG settings divide Elves into good and bad for you, so that WFRP has High/Wood/Sea Elves as the good guys and Dark Elves as the bad guys, D&D has the assorted Elf races that PCs get created from and then the evil Drow as the inverted versions. I've never really liked this clean split between the white hats and the black hats as I think Elves should have the capability to be bastards and the PCs should never really know if they can be trusted.

And then I thought - Elves could be quite two faced couldn't they?

And then I thought - Remember Janus? That's the Roman god with two faces not the spanking sub-culture magazine. Interestingly wikipedia tells me he was the God of Doorways and Gates, so presumably secret doors in the south wall of Room 5 fell into his domain. Now a race of Fey with two faces would literally be two-faced. We could use Elf statistics for these creatures.

And then I thought - What about if the two faces were different? Then you could have a serene, beautiful face and on the back of the head, the same facial features but haughty, cruel and arrogant.

And then I thought - The face that faces forwards is the current mood. So the Fey would be able to turn their heads through 180 degrees and then their alignment changes from a Lawful/Neutral one to a Chaotic one.

And then I thought - This level is writing itself. All the Fey in the non-secret area have their beautiful faces forwards and are well-disposed to the PCs and act as healers and sages. All the Fey in the secret area have their evil faces forwards and are enemies of the PCs and, instead of healing, are vivisectionists, insane surgeons and instead of helpful sage-like advise just lie through their teeth. Fey's behaviour depends upon which side they are currently in so that a Fey that has befriended the PCs will be their enemy as soon as they pass the secret door.

And then I thought - why not take this mirror image idea to it's logical conclusion? Throw away that map and build a level that is a complete mirror image around the secret door and each room is the opposite of the one on the other side?

I like the idea that the PCs could enter this area of the dungeon quite often to seek healing and make allies but just behind a door their so-called friends are experimenting on prisoners and plotting general eeevvvvill.

So now we have a mirror image level linked by a concealed door. The PCs think they have found allies in a strange race of two faced-Elves but maybe the expressions on the back of the Elves' faces are hinting that something is not quite right. Then, if they find the secret door they discover the other face of the Elves (literally) in a nightmare world of medical experiments, plots and death-traps.

All that from one random feature on a random map. Neat-o.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Thirty Years War Armies - In 2mm!

What's 2mm you say?

Well if a 28mm miniature represents a 6' foot human by making the miniature 28mm tall and a 15mm miniatures represents a 6' foot human by making the miniature 15mm then a 2mm one...

Yep, that's right :)

Each casting represents, not a individual miniature, but a whole battalion laid out shoulder-to-shoulder with little flags flying overhead. In effect you go from creating a battalion or regiment by using several soldier miniatures to creating a higher formation by using several battalion miniatures.

These castings are from Irregular Miniatures and have been painted to represent troops of the Thirty Years War period (1616-1648)

(On all these pics, clicking for the fullsize is recommended)

Battalion stands, muskets "sleeving" pike. Some artillery up front and a little General figure. For our rules we assume that each individual base represents a complete foot regiment of about 400-800 men.

While Irregular do make generals and staff in 2mm we find them too small for individual basing and decided upon generals from their 6mm ranges instead. Obviously 3 times too large but for some reason they look OK when lined up with their smaller brethren. Stylised, but it works. We relegate the 2mm officers and staff to the battalion bases as Colonels and couriers.

Cavalry. Cavalry are cast in multiple ranks, three and two. We use the three ranks to represent caracoling cavalry (that formed in many ranks and fired pistols in preference to meleeing - retreating to the rear of the formation to reload) and two ranks for charging cavalry - the shock tactic of charging straight in with cold steel that started to find favour during this period and ultimately won out. Cavalry are really easy to paint, probably the easiest of all the 2mm castings which is a nice change to larger scales when painting cavalry is a chore. This allows for large cavalry forces to be quite practical, very handy when often cavalry could comprise 50% of an armies manpower in the TYW.

These are Irregular's offering for Tercio, the Spanish/Imperialist huge formations of shot and pike that were cumbersome, wasteful of manpower and inflexible but very difficult to defeat and kept morale high by sheer weight of numbers. However we didn't feel that they looked imposing enough - so these represent more foot regiments in a different formation to the bases above. There's no game difference, it's just a visual effect.

And here we have our intrepretation of Tercio - 4 pike block bases with the corners guarded by "castles", formations of shot. These are my favourite units in my TYW armies as they look great but the shot are due to be replaced with bigger castings (more men) as over time I have come to think that the shot look drastically understrength.

Finally our 6mm Generals.

OK, you say how the hell do you paint something this small?

It's actually dead easy, once you remember that you are painting the casting as a regiment would look at a distance.

I simply undercoat everything in matt black and then drybrush a main colour one. For infantry this will be a red, blue, grey, buff etc. with buff drybrushed on the pike hafts and silver drybrushed on the tips of the pikes to hint at metal blades. Cavalry get drybrushed in a horsey shade.

Then I just take a brown paint and randomly dot in a bunch of heads (representing hats), then another brown, then a grey and so on. I dot large blobs of flesh-coloured for faces, this makes a massive difference to the finished look. Even though the faces are widely overscale, it seems to work. You can even create animation in the figures by adjusting where you dot the pink blob and create the illusion that individual soldiers are looking to their side or up in the air. Contrasting coloured flags are usually one colour and a splodge of another. You can paint dozens of castings in an evening.

One of the things I love about 2mm as a scale as that it appears to carry no compromise between ground scale and figure scale. Most wargames armies don't have anywhere near the numbers required - for example in the Napoleonic Wars period a theoretical full strength French battalion number 720 men (not that it ever did - half this would be a more realistic field strength) and even at a 1:20 figure scale, that's only 36 miniatures (18 for our depleted field strength). In 2mm you have armies that look like armies and the painting concentrates on painting an army - not individual model soldiers. To show you what I'm talking about look at this painting of the Battle Of White Mountain (you'll have to click to see the full width of the pic - Blogger has decided to only show half the bloody thing until you click it - don't ask me why)

That's exactly what serried ranks of 2mm miniatures look like.

Obviously you need to ensure your rules work around the idea of not having individual figure removal - since that's rather tricky when they are all moulded together... We use Renaissance Principles of War which records hits upon a unit on a roster and the unit is removed when it's hits run out. Some like Warhammer, where you remove 1 or more individual figures at a time wouldn't be suited to 2mm but I have toyed with the idea of a ruleset that does involve individual casualty removal but each removed model is a whole 2mm battalion - but that's something for another day.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Mars Attacks! Full Thrust Fleet

I found this picture today while going through an old 'My Pictures' folder - a bit of a joke but perfectly usable at the same time. Decorative panel pins (rosehead) for furniture, painted steel and inkwashed and mounted on bases. Instant Mars Attacks! Martian fleet for spacecraft games!

I ultimately made up about 30 of these for Full Thrust or similar games mostly as a joke but also because at around 15p per ship I couldn't resist it. Mounted on watercolour board with bits of space scenes (mostly cut from videogame mags) they look quite effective and this was a something of a reactionary lash-out against the sheer bloody cost of modern white metal spacecraft miniatures.

Despite having 30 or so ready for use (including a load of planets built from painted and based table-tennis balls), I've never used them for gaming as the fleet consists of one type of craft and think the complete lack of balance in a fleet full of saucers wouldn't make for a very edifying game. I never managed to find anything similar and cheap for larger-sized ships. One day I will play something with them though.

Made the rest of the Stourbridge and District Wargamers club smile though.


Random Map

Level 2 of the Netherpit or possibly another Level 1 using another exit from the Entrance chamber below the cyclopean carving of the Baby's Face.

Generated via the Demonweb Random Dungeon Generator. I might not use it exactly "as is" and the final included map will probably be another hand-traced map in black ink. Anyway if the weather turns sour over Bank Holiday weekend and hooning about in the MX-5 (Neo Green V-SPEC Eunos Roadster for those who care) with the roof down stocking this map should keep me busy. I have no idea for a theme for the level which is ironic, especially after I posted 100 suitable level themes a few posts ago :)

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Catacombs of the Green Meteorite Old School Map

Chris from Vaults of Nagoh has done this brilliant old-TSR-style map for the Catacombs of the Green Meteorite, level one of the Netherpit. Much kudos to him for that!

This almost cheered me up after discovering today that some shit in subhuman form has keyed the MX-5 Roadster that I've had for only three sodding weeks. If I ever catch him he'll have his face keyed with my Stanley knife.

Monday, 18 May 2009

The Netherpit Starts Getting Dug

Having received a bit of nice feedback for Strange Loops, I decided to carry on while I was on a roll and create Level 1 of my Megadungeon via the usual One Page Dungeon template. Level 1s are probably the hardest of all dungeon levels to create well - it's all too easy to create something that is too soft to provide a challenge and looking at the sort of dungeon denizens to be found on the upper levels tends to induce a feeling of "yawn... Kobolds, Giant Rats and Giant Centipedes again...". I'm not sure I've succeeded in creating something more interesting but take a look and see what you think.

Format-wise I've rolled up the Level 1 PDF along with a revised version of Strange Loops (just corrected two typos - nothing major) and what I dub a Level 0 which is a single page explaining the entrance to the dungeon. The zip file of 3 PDFs can be found here http://www.datafilehost.com/download-3cc15839.html and it's my intention to keep the whole thing in one zip file and post updates as new levels are added and existing ones tweaked.

Level 0 is the entrance, set under a sinkhole and through the mouth of a gargantuan carving of an evil baby's face (well, why not?). Hopefully it serves to slightly awe the players and acts as a gentle reminder to those expecting Gygaxian Naturalism and something from one of those "Ecology of the Kettle-Witch" articles from The Dragon that we are in a different world here, the Mythic Underworld and the real rules of the universe no longer apply.

Level 1 is set in a series of catacombs inspired by the Christian catacombs of Rome. Except that a mysterious and evil meteorite has crashed into the place and turned everybody into Zombies. Just like in one of the Metal Slug Neo-Geo games. I forget exactly which one.

What I plan to do with the upper levels of the Netherpit is not simply to have one first level, one second level and so forth but to have a variety of level ones connected by a central hub (which can be seen in Level 0) and give the players the choice of where to explore. The current Level 1 is therefore just one of several that should radiate out from the entrance room to the Netherpit.

Anyway, feel free to download the latest zip and see what you can cannibalize from whatever you find within.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Mongoose Traveller

I picked up Traveller:Pocket Edition yesterday from Waylands Forge in Birmingham. I've never owned nor read nor even flipped through any version of Traveller in all the 25 years or so I've been a gamer so hopefully this purchase should go some way towards correcting this curious gap in my gaming knowledge and history.

I got the Pocket Edition because it was £10 cheaper, but the book is not actually as large as you think. The outer dimensions are 8.5" x 5.5" (215mm x 140mm) but the pages have very large margins so the printed area ends up being about 6.25" x 4.5" (155mm x 110mm) so are a bit small for easy reading. However I bought the book in order to learn about the game and should I ever play it then the £25 full-sized hardbook will be on the shopping list.

I also picked up 4d6 for my friend's 5 year old. I'd previously given him two cheap d6 from Poundworld and told him he can roll the dice with his collection of toy soldiers so have been delighted to see him setting up armies, counting them out to make sure sides are equal and then throwing the d6s to see which army loses a soldier, tank or giant robot (he has a box full of old plastic Epic 40k stuff as well as the usual horde of Army Men and HO scale Airfix WW2 copies). The Poundworld d6 were utter crap (seriously - so badly cut that the spots for the '6' run off the sharp edge of the face!) so had promised him some proper, game quality dice. Some marble-like Chessex 16mm D6s later and he's well on the way to being seduced into growing up a gamer like his Dad and his favourite Uncle Coop.

Anyway, the football season at home is over for me today, so now I'll be free on a lot more Saturdays (until the Coca-Cola Championship starts when we'll have more games then we did in the Premiership) and should be able to go up Waylands a lot more.

Friday, 15 May 2009

My Somewhat Late One Page Dungeon Entry

I'd started an entry for this competition but my holiday had come along before I'd sorted it out and then I took my eye off the ball and never completed it. However, since the deadline has been extended by a week due to some ambiguity about the original deadline I decided I may as well finish it up and send it in just for jollies.

It's called Strange Loops, it's only 12 encounter areas but set in a strange and (hopefully) confusing maze created by unfathomable warps in space and time - hence the name.

You can download it here - http://www.datafilehost.com/download-7e58a253.html. It's decided to be easily extendable and scalable to suit your party. If you don't like it, well it's an idea for a dungeon level and there are 12 encounter areas you can cut-and-paste straight into your own designs.

I found the One Page Dungeon Template to work really well - it forces one to concentrate on purely the essential notes on the dungeon and so level construction is very fast. Strange Loops took a bit of time because of the odd geography but I suspect it wouldn't take above an hour to do a more conventional level and at an average of 2 lines to describe each keyed location, a level of 20 encounter areas can easily be fitted onto one sheet of paper.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

100 Themes For Dungeon Levels

100 themes for levels (inspired by videogames that have an ice level, then a water level, then a mechanical level etc.) arranged in a handy-dandy d% table. Make a few rolls and mix them together.

I haven't put many explanations on the entries because your interpretation of what a Bio-Mechnical level with a helping of Anti-Matter is is as perfectly valid as mine.

Now go and create a Reverse-Gravity Mechanical level with Meso-American influences!

01 - Ice
02 - Water (architectural feature)
03 - Water (flooded)
04 - Sand
05 - Chaos
06 - "Egyptian"
07 - "Greek"
08 - Darkness
09 - Industrial
10 - Rusty Metal
11 - Ruins
12 - Crawl
13 - Hot/Heat
14 - Windy
15 - Undead
16 - Orcish
17 - Insectoid
18 - Reptilian
19 - Amphibian
20 - Mechanoid
21 - Ancient Astronaut
22 - Lost Civilization
23 - Biological
24 - Bio-mechanical
25 - Arboreal
26 - Technological
27 - Wood
28 - Crystal
29 - Glass/Slag
30 - Soil
31 - Haunted
32 - "Meso-American"
33 - Sewer/Drain
34 - Fungal
35 - Disease
36 - Catacombs
37 - Charnel House/Ossuary
38 - Torture
39 - Spiky
40 - Maze
41 - Labyrinthine
42 - Clean/Sterile
43 - Ceramic
44 - Clockwork
45 - Underground River
46 - Underground Lake/Sea
47 - Underground Highway
48 - Mining Works
49 - Tectonic Activity
50 - Hypostyle Hall/Columns
51 - Rubble-strewn
52 - Gas
53 - Floating
54 - Reverse Gravity/Walking On The Ceiling
55 - Gauntlet
56 - Confinement - Cells
57 - Confinement - Denizens free to roam within level
58 - Graveyard
59 - Death
60 - Pain
61 - Sonic
62 - Etheral/Non-corporeal
63 - Fallen Civilization
64 - Post-Apocalypse
65 - Collapsing
66 - Bloodbath
67 - Underground Library
68 - "Vertical" Level (tiny footprint, but very deep level)
69 - Staircases
70 - Sun-themed
71 - Moon-themed
72 - Cloud-themed
73 - Anti-matter
74 - Void
75 - Fire
76 - Marble
77 - Creature Burrowings
78 - Acid/Alkali
79 - Underground Warzone
80 - Gears
81 - Steampunk/Steam-Powered
82 - Illusion of being above ground
83 - Poison
84 - Pit Trap Level
85 - Vivisection
86 - Archaeological Dig
87 - Oil/Petroleum
88 - Brass/Bronze
89 - Rotating
90 - Monster Proving Ground
91 - Trial of Manhood
92 - Juggernaut
93 - Carnivorous Plants
94 - Holy Sanctuary
95 - Unholy Sanctuary
96 - Dinosaur/Prehistoric
97 - Radioactive/WFRP-style Warpstone
98 - Asteroid crash site
99 - Spacecraft crash site
00 - Artwork/Gallery/Sculpture Park

John Blanche or the I Know Nothing About Art But I Know What I Like Post

I doubt I'd ever want to hang a Blanche painting upon my wall but his overly ornate Durer-influenced style works wonderfully well for the Warhammer world as it was in the 1980s - modern day Games Workshop artwork is all too clean, too designed and approved by committee to actually work well in my eyes.

Why does the Blanchitsu stuff work?

Blanche's work always seems to mix two different stylised themes. The first is to be found in the nice graphic design of the little touches. On the picture of the Dwarven army note the up-turned toes on the armour of the Dwarf in the bottom right, the nice banners, the almost-cartoony faces. Intricate little armour details. All Blanche's works reward careful searching for all the "little bits". You'll probably have to click each image and see the full-size to get the full impression.

The composition of the painting is interesting in that it comprises three distinct layers each with their own limited palettes, and unusually, forces the eye of the Westerner used to reading left-to-right into starting on the "wrong" side and traveling leftwards. There is the yellow and black of the army, then the red-brown and dirty white of the building and finally the dark grey of the mountain range and by the time you get to the left face of the mountains the "mirrored" form and resulting travel has created a sense of tension.

It's the mountain range that makes this work for me and want to show it to players as a "This Is What You See" handout. The airbrush mist and the birds give an impression of scale. But have you ever seen mountains that just appear out of nowhere and that steep?

No of course not.

Why not?

Because they are amazingly unrealistic. But it works. It says "this is not our World". Even the natural landscape is different to our World. Look at Blanche illustrations of the Warhammer World (and for matter, his illos for the Sorcery! series of gamebooks) and realise that on this fantastic world polluted by the raw material of Chaos-stuff not even the mountains and forests look quite right. They look slightly unsettling and this is good. This is an alien world, despite it's similar climate and geography and the laws of physical geography are different. Different geological processes occurred here, different laws of the natural world hold sway.

We can see more of Blanche's subtle use of surreal physical geography in the following two pics. In the undead pic, Blanche has painted "just" a box cover for some plastic Citadel skeletons. But that tree belongs to an alien world and a grim one at that with the hanging corpse. Again, Blanche puts more tension into the painting with surreal composition - the skeletal horde is upright, the tree is upright but the world beyond is seriously on the cock by being slanted to about 30 degrees off horizontal. It's dream-like and it's drug-like.

The final illo I've posted here is of a Knights Panther from the Warhammer World. Lovely intricate armour and equipment but forget the central figure for a moment and look at the background. Alien sky. Alien foreground. Alien rock formations in the background. Alien low crescent moon. Alien and unsettling angle of the landscape.

How could that ever be mistaken for a copy of mediaeval Europe but with orcs and wizards?

WFRP's Appendix N

I wasn't going to do one of these "Your Appendix N" blog posts as, after some thought, I realised that my influences are not a list of novels and short stories - most of my RPG influences were somewhat circular in that they came from other RPG books and magazines. Anyway I changed my mind after seeing Noisms's list that contained a lot of non-novels.

Here are the seminal influences upon how I ran and created material for WFRP in the periods from the late 80s to mid 90s.

2000AD - especially Nemesis the Warlock (fantasy in space) and Strontium Dog.

BBC Television - Blackadder II for the Elizabethan setting.

Brittany and West coast of France - Many family holidays, especially Carnac (standing stones) and St. Emilion (extensive dusty urban ruins).

Dever, Joe and Chalk, Gary - Lone Wolf gamebooks (all). The Chalk-illustrated books are especially evocative of the WFRP atmosphere even though they obviously aren't WFRP. Oddly enough, Chalk wasn't Dever's first choice as illustrator - he originally wanted Brian Williams who ending up illustrating the series from The Cauldron Of Fear onwards.

Games Workshop/White Dwarf - All illustrative and advertising material from circa 1980 to circa 1990 (especially John Blance and Ian Miller), Warhammer 40000 Rogue Trader, box covers, miniatures, mono art in wargames rulebooks, graphic design, typefaces etc.

Herbert, Frank - Dune, Dune Messiah etc.

Holiday Brochures - Photo-material of Germany, Switzerland, Austria.

Jackson, Steve and Livingstone, Ian - All Fighting Fantasy stuff, especially City of Thieves and Creature of Havoc. Illustrations as well as plots, scenarios, encounters, creatures and traps.

Lovecraft, Howard Phillips - The Mountains of Madness.

Moorcock, Michael - Most Eternal Champion stuff, especially The Warhound and The World's Pain and The City In The Autumn Stars.

Russian Confederation - A week-long visit to Moscow in December 1993.

von Daniken, Erich - Chariots of the Gods and all other "Ancient Astronaut" nonsense.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Giovanni Belzoni and Real-Life Egyptian Dungeonbashing

I was in Egypt last week. First thoughts upon entering a tomb in the Valley of the Kings -

"I wonder if this is a 10' wide tunnel passage?"

Sadly, the presence of others preventing me from lying down to measure out my 6'3" on the floor and see how wide the passage really was. I didn't fancy trying to explain that one away. Next time take a tape measure.

While in Luxor I visited the famous Gaddis & Co shop on the Corniche which has supplied travellers with books and photographic services and supplies since 1907 and picked up this biography of Giovanni Belzoni.

In short, Belzoni was an Italian who came to England as a strongman entertainer and then, in career changes so abrupt and unlikely as to suggest that he was a PC in a WFRP campaign, became a self-taught engineer of hydraulics followed by then acting as Britain's main representative in the Egyptology fields of discovering sites and recovering antiquities. Amongst other things he transported the Young Memmon colossus from Thebes to London (by building his own cranes and dollies to get the colossus onto a barge), re-discovered the lost entrance to the 2nd pyramid at Giza, located the sites of Abu Simbel in Aswan and Berenicia on the Red Sea coast and rediscovered the tomb of Seti I in the Valley of the Kings which had been lost since antiquity.

The book's account of the entering of Seti I's tomb struck me as fascinating from a D&D viewpoint. Like all the tombs of the Valley of the Kings, this tomb was hidden in an attempt to protect it from tomb-robbers, a complete inversion of the earlier attitude of the Old Kingdom which had been to bury Pharaohs in large, obvious pyramids and then wonder why the tomb-robbers knew where to hit.

Personally I'm a bit skeptical about the concept of the Valley of the Kings (and by association the Valley of the Queens next door) being picked to "hide" the tombs entirely. Building a large worker's village at the foot of the valley to house masons, architects, sculptors and artists involved in the wouldn't seem to be the height of discretion. Neither would locating it about a mile and a half from the capital of the New Kingdom help hide the place, nor would the constant activity of constructing and maintaining the tombs. How did they think that these interments would not be noticed by the populace who lived next door and probably built the thing in the first place?

Having trod the Valleys I think the answer is more that the site wasn't picked to make the tombs vanish as such, but because of the air of death that hangs over the whole place. The Egyptians associated life with the east bank and death with the west bank due to the rising and setting of the sun and the Theban Necropolis is on the "death" side. The valley is shockingly inhospitable, a dry place of such utter death and sterility that it's difficult not to feel apprehension when present there. You are painfully aware that without shelter and water you'd be dead and should it be one of the very, very rare days in which it rains (average rainfall days per year - none) the valleys flashflood and then you'd drown. In short, the security comes not from obscurity but from the inhospitable nature and difficulty of locating entrances and avoiding being detected when digging. But I digress.

Back to Belzoni and the tomb of Seti I. When Belzoni correctly guessed that he was looking at a tomb entrance he barged the door in with a tree trunk (which was generally par for the course back in the early C19th). He cleared rubble to enable ingress and discovered that the tomb had been entered before. This is where we get to the D&D part I promise.

The tunnel ended in a deep pit, dug to prevent further access. Belzoni later had it filled which damaged the paintings as the opened tomb was now open to the risk of the valley flash flooding and the pit had previously protected the inner chambers from inundation. But on his first entry to the tomb, he found evidence of earlier explorers - fragments of rotted rope hung from both pit sides. Crossing the pit via a ladder he entered another room, containing a fascinatingly clever non-lethal "trick" to foil tomb-robbers.

The next room, the supposed burial chamber was carved and painted in the usual fashion but the carvings were incomplete. Some were painted, others half painted and some areas of the walls just carried red painted outlines (with corrections in black) to show sculptors where to work. The room was unfinished and the implication was clear. The tomb had never been completed and never been occupied.

But the men whose ancient footprints Belzoni was following in weren't fooled. They tapped all the walls, found a hollow-sounding section and smashed it in. Beyond was the sealed tunnel to the real burial chamber.

What a great idea - it didn't work but I can imagine an architect sitting at his drawing board with this new "trick" in his mind just like the DM stocking his dungeon and imagining how it will fool the party. Likewise I can imagine the leader of the tomb-robbers (the party caller?) declaring "We check for secret doors" and cosmic dice being rolled. Have a think about the apprehension and fears of the tomb-robbers, their fear of lethal traps, ghosts, priestly magic, divine punishment for their sacrilege, envisage the way in which they explored the tomb and found the secret tunnel and then you'll understand why I felt this to be the nearest I've ever come to a proper D&D dungeonbash in real life.