Taiwan Trip: Jiufen At Last!

March 14 2022

Jiufen is a seaside mountain area in Ruifang DistrictNew Taipei CityTaiwan. It’s about an hour drive or 1.5 hour bus ride from Taipei city itself.

Jiufen Old Street is a narrow, winding alleyway with shops, teahouses, and restaurants that offers tourists a view of traditional Taiwanese life. It’s filled with food, knick-knacks, mementos – many of which are Spirited Away – themed, as there’s a legend that it was the inspiration for parts of the movie (though Hayao Miyazaki has denied this).

The absolute must-do is to go into A Gan Yi Taro Ball, order your dessert, and then squeeze through to the back of the restaurant to enjoy the view. Check it out!

While you’re there check out historic Shengping Theater

Not too far away is a restored Japanese-style four joint residence

Jiufen is a former mining town and they have a glorious Gold Museum!

But How Can I Get Toren’s Comics?

Recently I’ve restocked a bunch of the comic anthologies in which my work appears, and I’m making them available at very reasonable prices indeed!

EXPLODED VIEW – contains my 5 page ‘prequel’ comic that ties in with the Spaceship Zero: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets.

Cover price is $11 and I’m letting them go for $5 for a limited time

ACTS OF VIOLENCE – Back in stock! Back in the day Kevin Leeson asked me to do the art for his story “Reggie-Town” which Ed Brisson published in the anthology ACTS OF VIOLENCE along with many other impressive creatives! The book contains 4 stories and ours was 37 pages – definitely the longest comic project I’ve worked on. I’m charging $10

HISTORYONICS (Cloudscape Comics) – Contains a 4 page, black and white, dialogue free “Secret Files From the World Wildlife Federation of Justice: The Ominous Origin of Rhinosferatu.” Cover price $10 my price $5 for a limited time.

MEGA FAUNA (Cloudscape) – The culmination of my anthropomorphic animal superhero characters (so far) in print. Contains the 9-page full colour “Eye Eye Eye!” written by Ian Boothby and colored by Tanya Lehoux. Cover price $25 my price $12 for a limited time!

GIANTS OF MAIN STREET (Cloudscape) – Featuring a four page story called Tales of the Underbelly written by Kolja Liquette. Cover price is $10 and my price is $5 for a limited time!

Giants of Main Street is Cloudscape’s massive tome exploring the theme of fantasy and magic within an urban environment. This graphic novel carries the reader through a multitude of impossible cities inhabited by all manner of strange creatures. From communities ravaged by sorcerous wars to thriving metropoli preserved in bottles, this anthology has it all. After all, anything imagined can be found between the cracks if you are brave enough to look.

FUNDAY SUNNIES – Cloudscape

Contains a 1 page parody of those old Hostess Fruit Pies ads. In”Mid-Afternoon of the Living Dead” Go-Rilla finds the only way to stop Elk Diablo’s evil plan is with General Woodcock’s Wholesome Flax Pies! Free with any purchase but it’s wider and longer than the other books so that may affect shipping prices if we’re doing this through the mail

Hey! Cheap Original D&D Art! My Annual Birthday Sale

Yes it’s time once again for my birthday art sale. These original pencil drawings (and a couple of inks) were produced for various D&D and other RPG books and are marked down from now until my birthday June 28.

Everything listed here is on offer for $54 USD (unless you’re in Vancouver and we can arrange in person, then $54 CAD)

CONTACT ME at :

You can see more D&D art going all the way back to AD&D/2nd edition at https://torenatkinson.com/dungeons-and-dragons-original-art/ and I’ll be giving discounts on offsale stuff too if you buy two or more pieces!

Shipping to the US is typically $20 and that includes tracking and stiffening boards for maximum protection.

From Terror in Freeport – Reikert

From If Thoughts Could Kill (Monte Cook/Malhavoc Press) – crystal consciousness amulet

From Egyptian Adventures: Hamunaptra (3.5 edition, Green Ronin)

Skull & Bones (Green Ronin)

From BONDS OF MAGIC (Malhavoc Press)

From THIEVES WORLD GAZETEER (Green Ronin)

Demonologist (slight blemish from ink bleed through on left edge)

BOOK OF ELDRITCH MIGHT

From MINDSCAPES: BEASTS OF THE ID (Malhavoc Press)

From CAVALIER HANDBOOK (Green Ronin)

Cults of Freeport (Green Ronin)

From Temple Quarter (Game Mechanics/Green Ronin)

From Advanced Players Manual (Green Ronin)

From Advanced Bestiary (Green Ronin 2004)

From Minions (Chaosium, Call of Cthulhu)

From Monte Cook Presents: Year’s Best d20 (Malhavoc Press)

From Shaman’s Handbook (Green Ronin)

From Wrath and Rage: A Guidebook to Orcs, published by Green Ronin

From Spaceship Zero: The Roleplaying Game (2001 Green Ronin)

From Liber Bestarius (Eden Studios 2003)

From Black Sails Over Freeport (Green Ronin)

From MONSTERS OF THE MIND (Green Ronin)

From Book of the Righteous (Green Ronin)

From Monte Cook’s Arcana Unearthed D&D 3rd edition pencil on paper

From Bastards & Bloodlines D&D 3rd edition (Green Ronin Publishing) pencil on paper:

From Black Company (Green Ronin Publishing):

Book of Fiends (Green Ronin Publishing)

Aasimar and Tiefling: A Guidebook to the Planetouched (Green Ronin)

Mindshadows (Green Ronin)

Noble’s Handbook (Green Ronin)

From ORK! The Roleplaying Game (Green Ronin)

From Chaositech (Malhavoc Press)

From Creature Collection (White Wolf)

From Jade Dragons and Hungry Ghosts (Green Ronin)

From Creatures of Freeport (Green Ronin)

From Denizens of Freeport (Green Ronin)

from Touched by the Gods (Atlas Games)

From Thieves World (Green Ronin)

From THIEVES QUARTER (Game Mechanics)

from Unholy Warrior’s Handbook (Green Ronin)

From HARP (High Adventure Roleplaying Game – Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE)

Taiwan Trip: The Many Toys of Ximending (Entry 23)

Sunday, March 13 2022.

Check out this Pokemon Train in Taipei!

Arriving in Ximending Walking District

Wanhua District and Shilin District and other fun stuff

20 Minute Monster Series: Fiend Folio

For the first Monster Manual series, click here

Berbalang breaks a bard

Diana debates a dark stalker in a dank dungeon. The Darkling was seen in the cartoon episode “Winds of Darkness”

Evil ettercap entices an eager elf with an emerald

bonus E entry

Four flail snails frolic in a fuschia foyer

A grey-green grell grapples a gravid grimlock with a greataxe in a granite grotto

Hook Horror appeared in the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon “City on the Edge of Midnight”

Jermlaine jousting for jars of jujubes

Khaki kenku with katana kicks a khargra in the keel

Lilac lachrymose lava children lamenting the loss of their luggage

Many merciless maroon meenlocks menace a manly mountain mage

Nude nilbog nerfs a noble knight and a needy gnome in a navy nave

Ochre ogrillon observes obvious osquip in the old outhouse

As seen in the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon episode “The Garden of Zinn”

A reliable retriever wrecks a rector in the reredorter

Three theatrical thorks threaten a thief (Sheila from the D&D cartoons)

Underneath an undulating ultramarine umpleby unveiling it’s umbilical ulexite

Various vexing volts victimize a vizier in a vermillion void

Wild warty witherstenches worry a wayward wizard in a winter waste

Xill, as seen in the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon episodes “Servant of Evil” and “P-R-E-S-T-O Spells Disaster”

Y is for Yellow Musk Creeper and Z is for Zombie, Yellow Musk. Featuring Ruddiger the elf!

Stay Tuned for the Monster Manual II, coming later in 2024. Like what I do? Send me a dollar on Patreon! https://www.patreon.com/torenatkinson

Overdue Who Review: City of Death

Season 17, 1979, 4 parts, Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker)

On Earth, 400 million years ago, an alien (Jagaroth) ship explodes. In modern day (1979) Paris, the Doctor and Romana experience time echoes because a nearby a scientist is working on a time machine for Count Scarlioni. After meeting with a punch-happy Inspector Duggan who is investigating art thieves, the Time Lords meet and confront Scarlioni, who reveals he is Scaroth, the only survivor of the exploding ship, and he intends to go back in time and prevent the accident that destroyed his race.

The Doctor discovers six Mona Lisa paintings in Scarlioni’s possession, so he travels back in time to visit his old friend Leonardo Da Vinci, but instead encounters Scaroth from that time period. Scaroth has commissioned Da Vinci to create multiple paintings to finance his time travel machine. In the climax, the Time Lords face off against Scaroth 400 MYA and Duggan punches him in the face, allowing the ship to explode and start the development of life on Earth.

Not a bad episode, though this episode spends a lot of time watching the Time Lords running back and forth on the streets of Paris, impeding the drama. The scientist really overdoes whatever accent he’s trying to pull off. I recognized Scarlioni as Donovan from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, known to some as Julian Glover, and a nice surprise cameo by John Cleese, which I just spoiled

Next up: The Creature from the Pit

Three Quick DM Tips

Prefer to watch as a 3 minute video? See below

TIP 1 – use a colored marker on your dungeon map to indicate what the player characters might smell, hear and see

TIP 2 – on the bottom of each page of your notebook, write some character names so that when your players ask what an NPC’s name is, you don’t have to come up with something on the spot. Also on the back page of your book keep a list of voices you can do. Be prepared!

TIP 3 – get some small cards and on each one write some miscellaneous personal effects that a downed enemy might have, or might be found when searching a room. Let the players pick a card randomly for added flavor and fun!

Adapting “Prison Without Walls” D&D Cartoon Episode to a D&D Tabletop Adventure

“With each brave deed you grow more worthy” – Dungeon Master

This is part 2 of Adapting the D&D cartoon into a campaign. For the basics and part 1 “In Search of Dungeon Master” see my blog post:

Episode 7 features a pretty straightforward plot and some fun encounters. I’ll post the video link down below. This adaptation is edition agnostic, no stats are provided.

Here is an overall map of the area and encounters, with great thanks to Andrew Bator

Scene 1: Mist-Enshrouded Mountains

The party is lost in a sort of misty wasteland. The episode script reads “these are old mountains, not unlike the Appalachians, except the trees on the slopes grow in contorted, vaguely demonic shapes” and “we hear the distant sounds of hammers pounding rocks, and baleful moaning.” Dungeon Master pays them a visit and provides the first clue/riddle: “When the dragon’s heart is in the right place, it may show you the way home” and then DM disappears. The fog gets so thick they can’t see where they’re going and they fall down over a ledge into….

Scene 2: The Vale of Mists.

The valley (more like a big crater, which the script describes as “reminiscent of the Devil’s Punchbowl in the Mojave”) harbors an (inexplicably *not* foggy) gnome village. There are two immense stone warrior statues poised like sentries, and the walls of the crater are filled with “Mystic Gems.” The gnomes are all busy on various scaffolding, mining gems from the rock under the watchful eye of their slavemasters, the orcs. In the center of the village is a large stone statue of a dragon with a hand-sized hole in the center of its chest — where it’s heart would be. One of the pitiful gnomes falls off a scaffolding. He is tired and hurt! A merciless, evil orc comes to whip him – this is the heroes’ cue to come to the gnomes defense. This is our first combat encounter.

This is not a terribly challenging fight for the heroes. Once it’s over, the gnome (he isn’t given a name in the show, let’s call him Orson) explains that his people cannot leave the valley because of Venger’s spell. In the script it says “the gnomes cannot leave unless summoned by Venger — or else they die!” Orson explains “only our wizard Lukyon might break the spell. His magic protected our valley for centuries” and “No one can find Lukyon. When he refused to tell Venger the secret of the dragon’s heart, Venger imprisoned him in the Swamp of Sorrows.” Orson also tells them that the swamp is South, beyond the forest.

Scene 3: The Swamp of Sorrows

Any battle map will do for this encounter – here’s a nice one from DiceGrimorium

The heroes slosh knee-deep through the dismal swamp, overgrown with vines. Sunlight barely penetrates, and insects are everywhere.

Dungeon Master appears and provides the second clue/riddle: Lukyon dwells in a prison without walls.

Immediately after DM vanishes, the heroes are attacked by violet fungi. In the middle of the fight, a shambling mound appears. It frees them (rather violently) from the grip of the fungi, and then it lurches menacingly towards the heroes – Eric gets stuck in the creature and is seemingly almost sucked inside it. After taking a few hits from the heroes, the monster retreats back into the foliage.

Swamp Part 2.

The heroes continue searching in the swamp, being eaten alive by mosquitos. Dungeon Master appears and give them another clue: “You will know Lukyon by what he says without speaking” He adds “find him quickly, young ones. Tomorrow, during the crossing of the four suns, is the only time Lukyon can help you.”

Scene 4: The Cursed Dwelling

The kids come across a rotting house. The script describes it as “the ruins of a dwelling on a small patch of moist, grassy land. The roof is rotting. The walls are partially caved-in. Drippy, slimy gobs of moss hang like curtains from the rotting timber supports” However, a more welcoming description would invite the PCs to use this location to rest – perhaps this is the only solid ground they’ve come across for hours of wandering in the dark. You also might describe the dwelling with some or all of the walls missing, as if this might be the “prison without walls.”

This encounter must happen in the evening or at night, after some time has passed since Dungeon Master reminded them that the crossing of the four suns happens the next day. For a battle map, try searching “swamp hut shack battle map” on your search engine of choice.

There’s a bed on the porch. When the kids enter the shack they are attacked by zombies who are very possessive of their house and start grappling with the party. The party is overwhelmed! But, the shambling mound returns, scares off the zombies, and demolishes the house with a tree trunk.

The kids realize that the monster is Lukyon because it’s saved them twice.

Scene 5: Breaking the Spell

Lukyon brings the heroes to a tree where the cursed gnome has stashed his magic items, as well as the Dragon heart – a large violet gem about 5 or 6 inches across that pulsates – like the beat of a heart!

Lukyon shows Presto (more or less) how to break Venger’s spell by using Lukyon’s spellbook and magic wand, and Lukyon reverts to the form of an elderly gnome wizard. There’s a brief chitchat, and then…

Scene 6: Climactic Wizard Battle

With a wave of Lukyon’s wand, the group is teleported back to the Veil of Mists and the gnome village where, just in time for the four suns to converge, he puts the dragon’s heart back into the dragon (using the Mage Hand spell, no doubt). The entire crater lights up with glowing gems, with a lattice of glimmering lasers pointing between them. Lukyon explains that each point of light is a gateway to another world. Just at that moment, Venger appears on his nightmare, releases the orcs and activates/animates the two giant statues which start crushing the gnome houses with their tremendous feet, and attack the PCs (as do the orcs).

The kids defeat the colossi while Venger and Lukyon have a battle of magic. Venger keeps far overhead out of range of the kids. During the battle, one of Venger’s energy blasts ricochets and destroys an area of the gem cliffs, specifically the portal back to Earth. Venger is ‘banished’ by Lukyon. The kids are cheated out of their way home and must adventure on.

Of course, there are countless gateways to other worlds through the gems while the solar conjunction is happening, should the group and DM want to explore that option. Otherwise, the conjunction ends and the gateways close. On to the next adventure!

DM challenges

As usual, there are a few decisions the kids in the cartoon make that allow this adventure to play out the way it does, which could be a challenge for the Dungeon Master if their players make different decisions.

In the Vale of Mists, the entire group falls down into the crater because of the fog. This means in game terms that every single group fails their saving throw and falls several feet. Probably the best way to handle this is through narration, avoiding any dice rolls. 

Clever players may try to avoid falling by using a pole or something as a cane to check the ground as they move through the fog. Feel free to simply have the ledge crumble and bring the kids down. Whether or not you require saving throws or dexterity checks to avoid taking a small amount of damage from the fall is up to you. I personally would avoid damage but might have a character stunned from the fall and more easily grabbed by an orc.

Antediluvian miniatures

The scene with the gnome getting whipped by the orc is a good one for story, flavor and characterization if you can keep it in. Combat with the orcs is likely even if the PCs don’t go charging in – you can simply have an orc spot them and sound the alarm. The orcs should not be an overwhelming challenge for the PCs – play them dumb and with low morale, and arm them only with swords and whips, with leather armor at best. Quick to run away, but they will return in greater numbers later, after Orson gives the PCs the vital directions for where to look for Lukyon. The interior of the cave is not detailed here, but it can be a simple barracks for the orc slavemaster and soldiers, should the PCs want to investigate.

https://www.printables.com/model/100486-violet-fungus-minis-6-variations
https://azazelx.com/tag/shambling-mound/

The shambling mound/Lukyon is more tricky. In the cartoon, Lukyon is initially viewed a threat by the kids because he is scary, bumbling, and dangerous simply due to his size and the composition of his body. If your players realize that he is the gnome “in the prison without walls” during this encounter then the second swamp encounter with the zombie house will likely be skipped.

In the zombie house, you might add a “boss zombie” to make things more interesting.

Otherworld Miniatures

Using Presto to break Venger’s enchantment on Lukyon is a very particular character/plot device that might prove difficult to adapt, depending on the classes and abilities of the player characters. If all that is needed is for a character to wave Lukyon’s wand over his spellbook and read aloud some magic words, that’s great. But if it relies on a skill or class ability, and that fails, then the plot grinds to a halt. Take a look at your player characters and see how you might be able to handle this conundrum.

Once Lukyon is restored, make sure you give the PCs time to rest and heal before the final encounter, where they will be dealing with the stone titans and a contingent of orc warriors. You can easily say that there are a full 8 hours before the conjunction of the four suns.

Crocodile Games

The giant statues in the Vale are described as stone golems in the script, but the rules have stone golems as size Large. These statues are what I would call colossal or gargantuan. You might base your monster on the Walking Statue of Waterdeep, but prepare to play it fast and loose with the numbers, because two of those could wipe out the party quickly and easily. If a golem hits, rather than do massive damage, have it grab the victim and hold them fast in its hand. Make them slow and nigh-invulnerable so that the PCs will have to think of some ingenious way to disable them, such as the marbles that Presto used.

In the episode, we the audience see Shadow Demon. You might permit the PCs to make some kind of perception check to detect his presence, it could add an interesting element to the story, even just seeing him skulk away.

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Overdue Who Review: Destiny of the Daleks

Season 17, 1979, 4 parts, Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker)

Romana regenerates, despite being in perfect health, and she chooses various forms before settling on a doppelganger of Princess Astra (see previous episode). The TARDIS lands on Skaro, home of the daleks, but untold years since last we saw them, and their battle computer is in a stalemate with the battle computer of the robotic Movellans. The daleks last hope is to drill down to find and excavate the body of Davros, creator of the Daleks, who was believed to be dead. Naturally the daleks are using humans as slave labor. The Doctor and Roman run about and get separated multiple times, and The Doctor blinds a dalek by throwing his hat on its ocular extender. Meanhile the Movellans are likewise made inert by removing a very obvious and exposed item from their belt, which causes them to do a weird falling down dance.

Not a particularly fun or interesting episode, sadly. The only remarkable aspect is the interesting look of the Movellans, who are cast largely by non-white actors.

Next: City of Death