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Contents and shipping rates for TTS#2 are now posted!:

Issue #2 is $5 vs. Issue #1 at $4, too---we added 4 more pages and a new cardstock cover, as well.

I have random wilderlands products and was wondering what items would you consider the most important? My favorite city is Modron and I am thinking of making that the starting point of my next campaign. I am thinking of doing it with 1e?

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All three issues of The Twisting Stair will go on sale TODAY at GaryCon! Stop by the Black Blade Publishing booth in the main exhibitor’s room and grab yourself some dungeon-y goodness!

Picked up the print run of The Twisting Stair Issue #3 this morning. I'll zip down to Lake Geneva tomorrow and deliver them to the Black Blade Publishing guys, where you'll be able to pick up a copy from their booth (along with #1 & #2). Copies should become available online after GaryCon. Hope you enjoy it!

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Proof for #3 is in! Going pink with this one because sickly mind flayer mauve wasn't available, but I like it! All three will be available at GaryCon, and online afterwards. See you there!

+Anthony Rosten and I are happy to announce that The Twisting Stair #3 (Spring 2018) goes to press this week, and should be available at GaryCon next week!

Like TTS#2, The Twisting Stair #3 is 20 pages long, is priced at $5, and is available in print format only.

Here are the contents for TTS#3:

- From Kuroth’s Quill by Allan -- "Mega-Dungeon Mapping Strategies for Players" (in which Allan attempts to make mapping fun!)
- Critters and Glitters
----- New monster - Fire Weird by Allan (a firey variation on Ernie Gygax's classic monster)
----- New magic items - Ying’s Fantastic Fireworks by Tony (a collection of ten new one-shot magical devices)
- The Centerfold Mega-Dungeon Map by Tony and Allan -- The third 11"x17" level of The Twisting Stair dungeon
- Wandering Pairings by Tony -- Third-level wandering monsters
- Down the Twisting Stair by Tony -- Vertical Design in the Mega-Dungeon
- Stackable Geomorphs Add Verticality to Your Mega-Dungeon by Tony and Allan -- A new type of geomorph designed to increase vertical space in dungeon design

More details at


I was recently asked on a forum about my methodology for creating the Centerfold Map for The Twisting Stair, especially since I've now made the move to a digital process. So here's a quick rundown of how I make these dungeon maps.

First, I set up the Illustrator document by creating a page size that matches the zine (in the case of the Centerfold Map 11 x 17), then made a graph at 6 spi (my preferred scale) in a light grey color. I keep a 1/2" border around the graph (so it's actually 10 x 16) and then lock it down on its own layer. I then create a number of other layers over this one: a "sketch" layer where I rough in the level; a "body" layer that will contain all the walls and dead space; an "airlock" layer that I'll use to create shapes in isolation from the rest of the body then drag down to the body layer (that way I'm not accidentally selecting pre-existing body elements that may overlap); a "cookie cutter" layer where I keep pre-made shapes that I use to punch out sections of the body (great for adding semi-circular rooms, especially if they have repeating dimensions); a "symbols" layer where I put place things like doors, pits, etc. as well as the compass, and finally a "text" layer where I put, well, any written elements of the map. There are some exceptions to these layers, as necessity dictates: for example, the geomorphs and text that says "place geomorph here" are grouped together, and get placed on the "body" layer but below all of the other elements because the stroke on the black sections will overlap the geomorph space.

I start off by conceptualizing what I want to accomplish with the level, both thematically and with the flow of exploration. Melan wrote a fantastic essay a number of years ago concerning dungeon flow and I find myself reflecting on it quite a bit at this point (if anyone has a link to it could you please post it here? It's really that good). Once I get an idea of what "kind" of level it will be I'll grab a sketchbook and do some real basic compositions: big shapes and lines to just get a feel for the shape of the things. I then go to the computer and mark where the points of access from the level above will be, since these are constants. This is also when I establish no-fly zones; sections of the map I can't add elements to because the space is already occupied (such as a deep pool on the level above that extends into the new map's real estate). With these constants locked in I go to the "sketch layer" and start laying down the topography. When I worked on paper this was the penciling stage, but now I use my Wacom tablet. I use an obnoxious magenta at this stage because its easy to pick out from the rest of the black and white map. I try my best to keep to the game plan I established in my sketches, but I find myself doing a lot of improvisation at this point, often modifying the flow and major areas.

While I'd like to say that I sketch the whole thing out before I putting in the shapes and lines, the truth is that I will often be bipping between the sketch and airlock/base layers, locking down elements even before the sketch is complete. I work in the negative space for the most part, creating the shapes between rooms and halls in the airlock then plugging them into the base. That's one of the nice things about digital is that its a lot easier to make changes to the black space than it is to ink on paper!

I use the line tool for single walls between open areas, while I'll use the pen tool for all other unused space. As Dungeondork mentioned, I use a snap to grid, which makes is painfully easy to do straight lines, just point and click. I set the grid to the same as the graph I created (6 spi) but will bump it up to 12 spi if I'm working on special angles or on 5' wide corridors. I'll turn off the snap to grid for some things, such as placing symbols and text, or free-handing natural surfaces. I also make sure to keep consistent with line and stroke weight.

After the layout of the level is put down I add the symbols. I have my symbols pre-made and in vector form (thanks to the article on keying dungeons we did in issue #2) so I keep those on the side and copy/drag them to wherever they're needed. This is also a stage where I'll freestyle, especially when it comes to things like traps, elevation shifts and secret doors. Lastly I add text. And while I'm checking for errors the entire process (elevation shifts are the most common, but missed doors happen quite a bit as well) I'll give it a once-over at the end. Not only is this to catch errors, but in the case of the Centerfold maps it is to make sure that they provide a good playing environment and tons of opportunities for DMs to expand upon. Since this dungeon isn't coming pre-stocked it's important that these maps can accommodate a wide range of designer styles and ideas. I then tidy up the document, make any changes that strike my fancy, and put it into the InDesign doc.

And that's pretty much it. Hope you guys enjoy them half as much as I enjoy making them!

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Fanzine Focus VIII: The Twisting Stair #2—A review of the second issue of the fanzine published by The Twisting Stair Partnership for use with OSRIC and other Retroclones.
Fanzine Focus IX: The Twisting Stair #2
Fanzine Focus IX: The Twisting Stair #2
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