Freebies

Two-Room D&D Adventure

I want to introduce my son to D&D and decided to try to find a one-room dungeon adventure for a beginning player with a low-level character to explore, and was inspired by David Hartlage’s interesting discussion of the early D&D adventure, F’Chelrak’s Tomb, on his site http://dmdavid.com/tag/fchelraks-tomb-the-earliest-dd-adventure-that-remains-playable/.

I really liked the adventure, and edited it into a playable, low-level version; a monster-infested two-room tomb, but without the chaotic magical effects that occur in the original.  I expect that my son will want to explore the more challenging Room 2 on a follow-up adventure, so it should work well as an introduction to the game.  Here is my version:

F’Chelrak’s Tomb

Minecraft Mod

I’ve played a lot of Minecraft on shared worlds with my kids, or trying out different mods.  I have to say that the sandbox style of the game is really intriguing and I’d love to see other games like it, especially a sci-fi one.  There’ve been a lot of imaginative undead-type mobs that have been created, but I’ve never seen one of what might be called an ‘animated skull’, which I first saw in White Dwarf magazine’s Goblidigook many years ago.  So, I created one that works with v1.7.10 / Forge at least.

Cool Minecraft world 

Sometimes I use Minecraft to see what an idea might look like in 3D very roughly.  Here’s a really cool world with an interesting spawn point.  I’ve only started experimenting with it, but thought I’d share it.   Hmm my save file won’t work but here is the seed for 1.8.8:  2748734181494200413

Greenbrier High School ^ English 5th Period  ^ Free Writing

A few years ago, I found writing that I had done as a schoolboy and thanks to my English teacher collecting all of it together and to my father for saving it for many years it was there to be found.  It is interesting to see my ideas and style of writing way back when, but I think a few of the stories show promise.  One of my favourite shows  growing up was Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, something that I shared with my old mate Andrew, and my dreams ran from being an astronaut to going on safari with spears, pith helmets and the whole kit.  These daydreams seem to have found their way into a couple of my stories in this collection, ‘The Gentle Jungle’ and ‘The Scream in the Jungle’.

The story I’m choosing to share, though, is of course science fiction, since The Adventures of Haldan Thane is most likely what brought you here.  Hope you enjoy this story from 23 April 1982, transcribed exactly as it was written:

IMG_0004

Tunnel in the Sky

Zachary Taylor was disobeying his father’s orders.  The Calico was to tempting to fly then just sit around.  So, he departed from the mother ship.  Zach knew how to fly the Calico well.  He had been trained since he was a child.

Zach’s father was the General of all Earth Armies.  His father’s name is Steven Taylor.  He commanded the armies with great admiration.

Zach was named after his great, great, great, great, great, grandfather, Zachary Taylor, who was a President of the United States of America before the Civil War.

When Zach was practicing the worst thing that could happen was beginning to happen.  The mandroids were coming!!!  One mandroid in his jet space fighter flew ahead of the others.  Zach thought this must have been the leader.  The Calico was 7 miles from the mother ship.  The Mandroids were closing in on him fast.  The “leader” took the first shot at the Calico.  It barely missed the rocket engine.  Zach returned the fire.  The laster almost blasted the fine-looking “leader’s” ship, but it was slightly off though.  The beam kept going though.  It close in on a fighter ship and blew it in a trillion pieces.  Three different fighters ships fired on the Calico.  Zach dodged the first two but the third beam seemed to know where Zach would move.  Zach was hit!  The deadly laser beam crippled the Calico by knocking out all of its engines.  The Earth was losing what might be the very last hope for man to survive.  Without the Calico in the Earth’s hands, the resist was hopeless.  Zach was about to be taken away and murdered.  Zach locked a huge non-see-through diamond door.  It would give him about two or three minutes, maybe.  Zach remembered a button on the Calico that his dad told him to never, ever push.  It wouldn’t hurt now though.  Earth would rather die than let the enemy capture them.  Zach raised the cover, was about to push the button, and the mandroids broke through the door.  Zach pushed the button a split-second before the mandroids caught him.  The button activated a device that created a black hole.  A minute after the button was pushed, Everything was sucked into the black hole.  Observers from another world have probably said, “Look at the tunnel in the sky!”

***

Reading this makes me wish I could go back in time and whisper questions and give some guidance to my old self to see where the story could’ve gone.  On the second page I seemed to have completely forgotten paragraph spacing, but it does have an ending at least.  Damn mandroids!  LOL   I wonder if any of my old classmates remembers who taught this class.  Most of the stories are either unmarked or have the classic check-mark that I use myself today.  One story seemed to have really hit home with the teacher, who commented, ‘This is a very original idea’ and ‘I really like this’.

Literacy Week Poetry Competition

I was chuffed to find this as it was lost for a very long time.  Thankfully I knew I had kept the finished draft in paper form and thought to save the entry form too.

Complete the poem:

What I am you’ll have to guess

And if you do you’ll have success

Follow my path here and there

It may seem I’m leading everywhere

But while I often mislead with glee

Still I drop crumbs as to what I be

Can you guess what I be?

Complete the poem:

iStudent, deemed and dreamed a future

In the wealth of mind image waves

That for this once while new

Fuels and fills my iThought

Floating with blurry clearness

In iMusic busy urgent daze

Here’s a sneak-peek into the draft of my action thriller.  The working title is Ruzscom.

Edwards growled to his men, “Shoot them!  Blow the glass out!”

The white-clad men rushed out of the jagged hole torn in the smoking fence, arms outstretched and unloading everything they had at the rusty orange Kristi until it trundled over a hill sparsely-weeded snow bank.  Over the crackle of the fence, the snow cat’s screeching tracks and roaring engine could still be heard.

Edwards held the Russian Kosmanov automatic rifle.  Not one person had ever escaped any of his assaults.  Not until just now.

“Smith, Rook, Wesley,”  All of his men snapped their faces towards him.  “Get that Range Rover and track that asshole down,” then added maliciously, “Wound him, but save him for me”.

*****

“I’s can smell ze petroleum,” Klauser yelled to Ruzscom, who hunched over the controls.  The mechanic flicked the gauge and muttered to himself, “Dunna think we’re losing any.  Musta got the top of the tank”.

The snow cat, rusty and shot to hell, continued on its way.  Ruzscom headed roughly for towards his cabin, but wondered what good that’d do.  His jeep was back at the centre base.  He turned to the scientist.

“OK Klauser, what is this thing I risked my ass to get?”  He held up the shiny black case.

The German peered at him through his thick glasses.  “It’s a key, Martin.  And ve must acquire what it unlocks before zey, whoever zey are, do”.

I imagine that it will be a sort of cross between Matthew Reilly, Clive Cussler, Indiana Jones, Fire in the Sky and X-Files.  As such, it may be what snobbish critics would deride as ‘derivative’,  but I don’t care.  The above are popular because they are full of action and intrigue and I only care about telling a good story.  It needs a lot of work, but I hope you enjoy the draft.  I tried to copy it exactly as it’s written in my notebook, existing edits included.

As far as the writing goes, it’s what I call ‘early days’, meaning it needs a lot of work to be a really great scene, but I feel the elements are there and it captures the escape of Ruzscom and one of the scientists from the base while the bad guys are frustrated that they haven’t killed everyone.  The dialogue especially is rough, but it’ll get there.  Please don’t think the entire story will read like that or that the Haldan Thane books are like that.

Previous working titles include The Sword of the Skeleton and The Alaskan Adventure, but the first seemed too fantasy-oriented and the story was originally going to be set entirely in Alaska but it looks like it will go beyond that location so it didn’t feel right either.  Here’s a peek inside the notebook I’m writing the story in:

IMG_0111

Here’s what a snow cat looks like:

'Snow Trac ST4' by 1101 Cigar Lounge at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qfbMG8BkBo. Image used according to Creative Commons Attribution License.

‘Snow Trac ST4’ by 1101 Cigar Lounge at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qfbMG8BkBo. Image used according to Creative Commons Attribution License.

Short story competition entry

In 2010, my wife and I heard about a contest for an Australian magazine that encouraged writers to submit a short story of 1,500 words or less that featured the theme of ‘south’.  For my entry, I focussed on the idea of well-to-do English families going south for the summer to escape the cold.  I imagine it is set around the late 1950s and suggest imagining rich English accents when you read the dialogue.

South for the Summer

“Oh, Charlotte, you simply must come South with Emery and I this summer!”

“I suppose some sunlight would lift my spirit. I’ve been confined inside the library most of the time reading. Poor James has to turn the pages for me, the old dear.”

“You can’t even lift your arms? Have you seen a physician?”

“Bert says to keep my hopes up that I shall improve. Dreadful accident! And wouldn’t you know it would happen in front of the entire company. And now I’m being pushed around in this archaic contraption.”

“Oh, Charlotte, and the worst part is you can’t even enjoy your honeymoon with your new husband!”

“Elizabeth! You have such a lustful mind! Poor Bert is dreadfully sad. I only see him in the evening. I don’t know where he keeps himself spirited away during the day.”

“Oh, Charlotte, you must be ever so lonely. We shall come at once to see you! Do you think Bert would put on a magic show for us too?”

Charlotte laughed, “As long as you don’t let him saw your head off like I did! It was an amazing illusion though, looking at my body from across the stage. Oh, I must go Elizabeth, Bert is calling for me. All my love.”

Elizabeth placed the phone back onto the cradle and opened her cigarette case. Lighting a cigarette, she walked to the window where she watched the sun setting. Something about her conversation with her sister nagged at her. She could just hear the rumble of thunder over the wind trying to get in through the window. The head lamps on Emery’s Jaguar were coming up the drive. She grabbed her jacket and rushed down the stairs so they could drive to see Charlotte at once.

Emery squinted over the steering wheel as the rain poured down the Jaguar’s window like blood. Emery grumbled, “I haven’t seen a night like this since the war! You’ve a mind to have us out in it Lizzie!” Driving on the rainswept, flooded roads of Northamptonshire for hours, and frustrated from not finding the road to the manor house that Charlotte had described, Emery and Elizabeth were relieved to find themselves in a village.

Drops and puddles of water came with them into the pub they found there. The heady smell of old beer and tobacco smoke stung their eyes. Locals perched on their stools like a line of old cackling birds stopped mid-conversation to stare at them as they introduced themselves to the barkeep, a balding, grey-haired man with a shirt stained from use. When Emery couldn’t remember Charlotte’s husband’s name, Elizabeth asked the man, “We’re looking for the road leading to Bert Morte’s manor house. Can you direct us please?”

The gasps surprised them, as did the barkeep’s shocked face. A short, older man made the sign of the cross over his vest. Another local, a grave-faced man with deep-set eyes explained, “The only Bert Morte in these parts were the old magician that”

Elizabeth interrupted cheerfully,“Yes, that’s him! He is my sister Charlotte’s husband.”

The man knitted his brow. “That cannot be. Albert Morte has been dead for nigh on fifteen years, lass. Burnt to death along with a lot of other people during a performance.”

Emery shook his head. “No, no. This is Bert Morte. Perhaps his son or a relative?”

The barkeep found his voice. “Didn’t have any family. There’s not nobody that lives up at the old manor for years now. Gutted by fire, you see. Just up the road thatta way a bit.”

Emery and Elizabeth found the drive to the manor. It didn’t look as if anyone had been down it for a long time. “This can’t be right, Lizzie,” he decided, then braked suddenly.

A car was parked just ahead on the drive. “That’s Charlotte’s car!” Elizabeth exclaimed. They found that it was locked and the windows were cranked up. “Huh. Well,let’s to the house, then. We’ll have to walk.” Emery adjusted his hat to keep his neck dry. They started for the manor, battling clumps of weeds that had grown thick in the broken driveway. The house loomed ahead, two-storied and only lit by the distant flashes of the storm.

On one of the double entry doors, Emery used the knocker heavily, its sound like a church bell ringing slowly and loudly. A lady’s voice called from somewhere inside, “James! Do see to the door!” It went quiet once again. Elizabeth straightened, “That was Charlotte!” Emery smiled.

Emery’s smile steadily became a frown. No one came to the door. He and Elizabeth looked at each other. “Charlotte?” Elizabeth called. There was no reply apart from a freezing wind that came and swirled about them. Emery’s teeth chattered. He huddled close to the door and turned the handle. It was stiff but opened, creaking pendulously.

An elegant entry hall stood before them, but thick dust and out-of-place webs draped down from tables and paintings. A foul smell filled the air. The wind caught the door, slamming it with a wooden bang. Elizabeth scrabbled to grab Emery’s suit-arm. A door was open just down the hall; Elizabeth could see rows of books inside and a light. “Charlotte?”

The rain-soaked back of her dress felt frozen to her body. She shuddered when her sister Charlotte’s voice answered, “Elizabeth? Oh, Elizabeth! Do come in. Where are you James?” Elizabeth and Emery hesitated, then stood in the door of the library. The walls were bookshelves; tables with stacks of books and a mounted globe filled the room. A chandelier shone down on the back of what had to be Charlotte’s wheelchair.

It was massive, an elaborate throne of dark-stained wood. A canopy was at the top, and knitted throws were draped over the front to keep Charlotte warm. “Lizzie? Turn me around, I was just reading.”

Elizabeth nodded to Emery, who pulled it around. Elizabeth’s hand went to her open mouth involuntarily. Charlotte wore a creamy-white, frilly bride’s dress. Her unmoving, bony hands stuck out on the armrests, stilled gloved in white. Charlotte’s face looked out from the box-like canopy, her hair still done up and her veil draping back from it. “Oh, Elizabeth! It is so lovely to see you!” Charlotte chattered away, eyes open but unseeing and unmoving.

Emery stepped back. Elizabeth’s eyes were drawn to Charlotte’s slender arms, still dressed as a bride, bone thin. Charlotte’s skeletal neck, unattached to her head, could be seen at the neckline of the dress. Charlotte’s mouth babbled on, “Oh, Elizabeth, do let’s go South for the summer.”

Elizabeth, too frightened to scream, ran out of the library and pulled at the front door. Deep crackles of thunder erupted as if banging on the other side of the door. Emery clumsily pulled at the door, moaning as if he were dying. A ghostly flash of lightning lit up a butler’s alcove by the door. A tall, tuxedoed skeleton sat in a chair, its skull turned their way and grinning. Charlotte’s voice continued from the library, “being with you will keep my mind off of the pain. The accident really hurt, Elizabeth, like I was actually being cut into pieces!” Elizabeth wrenched the door and pulled with all her strength. “You mustn’t ever leave me to a magician’s tricks again.” Sucking air fought against her, freezing as it whistled in through the crack. She felt as if she couldn’t breathe. “You mustn’t ever leave me again.” Emery’s desperate, icy hands joined hers and together they yanked the door open.

Sometime in the dark of the night, Charlotte smiled to hear Bert’s soft voice, “Charlotte my love?” James pushed her into the parlour, where she could see Bert, his shadowy cloak flowing from his magician’s cowl.

“Oh, my dear husband.  Why did Elizabeth leave in such a rush?  Is my appearance after the accident so repulsive?  James, push me to the mirror!”  James, stiff and silent as a dead man, did as he was commanded.  Charlotte studied her reflection.  Bert floated to her side, his eyes pools of blackness. He spoke soothingly, “You are lovely my bride, still lovely even after the accident.” His shadowy hand found the handle on the canopy over her head and he lifted.

She saw Bert lift something in the mirror, she saw his spectral, flowing body; and she saw James, tall and skeletal, his bony fingers still holding her wheelchair. She saw her own skeletal body, dressed as death’s bride. At last, Charlotte saw her own cut-off head in the box, held up in the mirror. A ghastly scream from Morte Manor echoed over the wind and into the village.

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