December 14, 2013

How much treasure is in a random 1e AD&D dungeon?

Average Treasure per room (multiply by level of dungeon)
95cp
95sp
42.75ep
14.25gp
3.8pp
0.035 Gemstones (that fraction is worth 14gp)
0.0105 Jewelry objects (that fraction is worth 36.75gp)

If you convert all that to it's value in gp, then...
Dungeon Level 1 = 115.825gp per room
Dungeon Level 2 = 231.65gp per room
Dungeon Level 3 = 347.475gp per room
and so on...

So, if dungeon level 3 has 40 rooms then on average 13,899gp worth of treasure will be available for plunder on that level of the dungeon (3 X 115.825gp X 40 = 13,899gp).  This total does not include the occasional magic item or treasure map which turns up just as often as a piece of jewelry (a little over 1 such item per 100 rooms).

I arrived at this average total by running out the numbers from the random dungeon creation tables in the DMG (specifically V.F. and V.G on pg171).  I also used these values for average gems and jewelry that I found over on Dragonsfoot.  I should note that you can't get mixed treasure if you actually use the charts in the DMG.  Each treasure horde would be a single thing, like a pile of copper pieces, or a sack of silver coins, or d4 gems, or a piece of jewelry; never a big mixture of treasure.

According to those charts, 5% of the rooms have unguarded treasure and another 15% have larger treasure piles guarded by monsters.  That leaves 80% of the rooms devoid of treasure.  So, in the average random dungeon the party would actually have the opportunity to find a treasure horde in every fifth room.  The average treasure horde on dungeon level 1 would be...
475cp
475sp
213.75ep
71.25gp
19pp
0.175 Gemstones (that fraction is worth 70gp)
0.052 Jewelry (that fraction is worth 183.75gp)

Total value = 579.125


I'm not sure what I'm going to do with these numbers, if anything.  I was thinking of houseruling some treasure tables when I went off on this side quest.  I did find the results interesting, so I thought I'd share them.

December 29, 2012

Custom Class: Naked Mole Ratling

The first new class I've made for my Death to Humans! campaign.  I'm using race as class in my heavily house-ruled Franken-clone, but to each their own.  As always, feel free to use or improve upon my ideas for your own games.



Naked Mole Ratling
Requirements:  Comeliness 5 or less
Prime Requisite:  Constitution
Hit Dice:  d6
Max Level:  12th
Hit Progression:  Fighter
Saves as:  Dwarf/Halfling
Armor Allowed:  Any
Weapon Restrictions:  None
Magic Item Restrictions:  No wands, cleric scrolls, or magic-user scrolls
Racial Abilities:  Tremorsense 60' and Heightened Smell 

*Tremorsense:  Automatically detects any footsteps or burrowing within 60'.  This can detect invisible creatures, but not thieves who succeed in moving silently.  A slowly slithering snake might go unnoticed, but a small hopping frog would not.  Naked mole ratlings detect these vibrations with the whiskers sprouting here and there from all over their body, but usually it is their bare feet or tail which is touching the ground.  These sensitive hairs make wearing clothing and armor uncomfortable, but they can become acclimated over time.

*Heightened Smell:  Can sniff into passages or under doors to get a whiff of what lies beyond.  Roll as a thief of the same level using the Hear Noise skill.  This may also detect strong emotions and/or the stench of evil, at the DM's discretion.  A strong overpowering scent can mask more subtle odors.


Society and Culture
Naked mole ratlings are almost always considered repulsive and disgusting by other sentient species.  A few caring people will do their best to be accommodating and accepting of these "poor unfortunates" and tell others that "underneath it all they really do have a great personality", but even these gentle souls find it difficult to eat a meal with a naked mole ratling sitting next to them.  It isn't only their wrinkled visage that hinders social interactions, but also the rampant rumors of incest (mostly false) and stories of daily baths in their communal cesspits (mostly true).

Naked mole ratlings typically live in large underground colonies dominated by a single reproductive queen.  These colonies are rather similar to some insect colonies, such as ants and bees.  Each queen can choose to rule her colony/family a bit differently, but most will conform to normal standards presented below.

Queens are well fed, rarely moving from the raised platform deep in the center of the colony.  Below the queen is the communal cesspit where others of the colony bathe daily in order to cover themselves with the scent of the queen.  Within their dark tunnels it is this scent that helps them to determine friend from foe.

The queen's carnal needs are tended to by her harem of males.  The males are typically uneducated, lazy, hedonists.  Their only other responsibility is to feed and care for of all the queen's babies for the first few years of life.  In lean times males will occasionally eat one of the young.  Neglect and incompetence also takes a toll.  Almost half of the young survive to adolescence.  Adolescent males are typically sold to neighboring colonies as love slaves; a queen has little use for her own lazy sons.  Adolescent females are given over to the care of the sterile female soldiers for training and work duties.

The sterile female worker/soldiers are responsible for bringing food to the royal chambers and nursery, and for the defending and expanding the colonies tunnels.  These females are often referred to as amazons.  They are tough as nails and usually follow a rigid military hierarchy.  They are expected to show fanatical devotion to their "Great Mother", the queen.  As these females prove themselves by gathering resources and defending the colony, they are given higher rank and allowed greater autonomy.  Besides the males, only the highest ranking amazons are allowed to speak directly with the queen.  Most of the higher ranking females will train and command groups of lower ranking amazons, but a few will take it upon themselves to learn crafts and trade skills for the good of the colony.  Most colonies produce only primitive weapons and armor, but they are great scavengers and will make use of any arms they find.  Larger colonies may even have a blacksmith's forge in a well defended outpost upon the surface.

A few of the young amazons (1%) are reproductive females.  Usually these are quickly discovered and the queen will challenge these rivals to single combat, killing them before they can become a threat to her.  If the old mother is killed, then the young reproductive female will become the new queen.  Some few reproductive females are able to flee the colony to take their chances up in the outside world.  These "Amazon Queens" can start a colony from scratch (once they acquire a male), or can take control of any existing colony by defeating it's queen mother.

Rival colonies and their queens are always a threat, but without neighboring colonies there would be no source of new young males... except for their own sons.  Often there will be a cluster of colonies in the same region who are constantly feuding over bits of land and food, but also trading males and other resources.  The established queens will usually stop short of killing each other, preferring instead to demand tribute from weaker colonies.  Rogue upstart queens are afforded no such courtesy, unless the males they'll produce are a much needed commodity.

In the border regions between two colonies one will sometimes find one of the famous "Mud Pits of Love".  The mud collected at these sites fetch a high price in human (and other) communities because it is said to remove wrinkles, restore youth, and cure impotence.  Naked mole ratlings know their value and guard these sites viciously.  The mud is sometimes collected for trade with outsiders, but they know enough to trade it sparingly in order to drive up the price.  Some mad hermits claim to have seen naked mole ratling males and amazons from different colonies come together on certain nights to bathe in these mud pits, wash off the scent of their colony, and have huge orgies in the mud.  Any naked mole ratling who hears such rumors will become angry and offended, demand that such things are never repeated, and then quickly change the subject. 





I made the xp chart by using my (overly?) intricate Custom Classes for B/X guidelines.


Naked Mole Ratling
100 Base
70   Hit Dice: d6
70   Hit Table: Fighter (+2hp after L9)
25   Max Level: 12th
55   Dwarf/Halfling Saves
60   Armor: Any
90   Weapons: Any
30   Magic: no wands, no spell scrolls

15   Sensitive to Vibrations 
(can detect footsteps/burrowing within 60')
20   Heightened Smell (can smell the emotions of those nearby)
0      Immune to pain from hot peppers and acid (but take damage as normal)
---------------
Total = 535% (of standard base xp)

Level 1 --------------- 0
Level 2 ---------  2140
Level 3 ---------  4280
Level 4 --------   8560
Level 5 --------  17120
Level 6 -------  34240
Level 7 -------  68480
Level 8 -----  136960
Level 9 -----  273920 


_____ Level 10+ _____
2hp/Level = +120,000 each
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 

Level 10 ---- 393920
Level 11 ---- 513920

Level 12 ---- 633920



December 15, 2012

Death to Humans!

I've started running a new campaign designed especially for my wife.  She's always had an interest in playing, but usually declines my invitations to play when other people are involved.  She's always been a bit shy, and I suspect that she doesn't want to appear silly while playing pretend with other adults watching.

Running solo adventures is not my favorite (I prefer groups of around five players), but at least I get to play some D&D with my special lady.  Who knows, she might even get comfortable enough with it that she'll want other people to join in the fun.

Our first session did not go well.  It was something of a fiasco honestly, as I was totally unprepared to accommodate her style of play.  I'm used to characters who are greedy murder-hobos descending into the mythic underworld to kill monsters and loot their treasures.  This time it was very different.  She's not motivated by treasure, at least not enough to risk entering a dungeon.  She doesn't want to attack any wild animals, she seems to prefer trying to cuddle them as they try to eat her.  When her NPC henchmen attacked the creature biting her, she turned her blade on her allies for harming the poor misunderstood beast.  Legendary and magical creatures are even more precious to her.  For a moment I became very irritated with her for playing the game wrong, but that quickly turned to shame as I realized that it was my responsibility to adapt to her playstyle and make the game fun for her.

I stopped the session mid-combat by saying "I'm sorry.  This sucks and it's my fault.  Can we try again once I put together something new?".  She agreed and we talked for bit about what kinds of things her character might like to do.  I asked quite a few questions, but the responses were mostly "I dunno" and "whatever you think would be fun".  Not real informative.  Luckily though, this is my wife, and I already know enough about her to make informed design decisions.  So then I went back to the drawing board and tried to design a campaign that we both would love to play.

It seems so obvious to me now.  I was trying to force her to fight on the wrong side.  Humans are definitely her prey of choice.  I toyed with the idea of having her play a druid who protects the wilderness from hunters and the slow creep of civilization, but then I thought "No, she should play as a monster".  And so, the Death to Humans! campaign was born.

The first order of business was to roll up a monster character.  I had her roll 3d6 for each of the seven ability scores (Comeliness being the seventh).  No rerolls or moving points.  The default monster race is Andorian (medieval technology, and at war with humans).  There are many other monster species to choose from, but all of the others have ability score requirements.  These requirements are not ability score minimums, but rather ability score maximums.  Rolling low ability scores opens up new choices.  Here's the chart we're currently working with.

Artwork by Leonard O'Grady

No Requirements - Andorian
8 or less............. 5 or less ...................3
Str  | Halfling -------- Frogling ------------ Ghost
Int  | Pakuni ------------ Sleestak ------------ Troll Runt
Wis | Gnome --------------- Satyr ----- Psychic Jester Psycho
Dex | Dwarf ------------ Serpentaur ----------- Zombie
Con | Elf ------------------- Muppet ------------ Robogolem
Cha | Tiefling ---------- The Cloven ------------- Haniver
Com | Goblin ----- Naked Mole Ratling ------- Mutant

So, for example; rolling a bunch of 9's, a Wisdom 5, and Constitution 8 would allow you to choose from Andorian, Gnome, Satyr, and Elf.

The wife rolled some decent ability scores, but there was a Dexterity 8 and a Comeliness 5 in there.  Bless her heart, she willingly chose to play a Naked Mole Ratling.  Mechanically I'm using race as class, but the character sheet I gave her had separate spaces for race and class, so when she asked I told her that Naked Mole Ratling was her race and Amazon Queen was her class.  She seems quite pleased at that.  We're already having more fun than last time.

The setting is going to be a Land of the Lost/Middle Earth mash-up.  Honestly that's probably an accurate description of most of my D&D settings.  I am taking something from the Land of the Lost TV show that I've never tried before...  Exiting one side of the map will bring you to the opposite side.  Travel in a straight line and you'll eventually (5-8 days later) end up back where you started.  Conveniently, my world map fits on a single page (20x32 hexes).
I hope she likes it.

October 8, 2012

Awfully Unforgettable Fumbles

I was looking for a great fumble chart to pair with the Arduin Criticals.  If you haven't seen it yet, then you should go take a look.  Jeff posted the whole thing a while back, here it is.  That's a thing of beauty,  that is.  Critical hits deserve to be deadly serious, and that chart delivers.

I think you have to go the other way with fumbles though.  Fumbles need to be weird, and silly, and stupid.  I like the contrast I guess.  Just like how in my games the surface world is all politics, scheming, and control; while the underworld is full of chaos, horror, and the bizarre.

The Arduin Fumbles don't impress me as much, and I know I'm not alone in that.  I suspect that they are too serious for me.  Is it strange that the same reason that I love the crits makes me feel "meh" about the fumbles?

Anyway, I went looking through every fumble chart I could find on my budget of $0.00 to see what struck my fancy.  None of them made me scream "This is perfect!", so I stole a bunch of bits I liked from different charts and mashed them all together.  Then I just kept thinking of crazy stuff that would be fun and make my friends laugh when it happened at the gaming table.  Some of the results below are embarrassing and meant to wound a character's pride a bit, but nothing too insulting.  Insults aren't much fun.

Here it is, totally untested.  I'm excited to try it out.  Let me know what you all think.  Does anyone out there see room for improvement?


Awfully Unforgettable Fumbles
Roll d100, add 10 when outdoors

01-02  Xenomorph bursts out of your chest!  You will die next round without magical aid.  With magical healing, you will stabilize but remain unconscious for 24 hours.  (Xenomorph: 6hp, AC3, bite d4, acid blood - it will grow to full size if it can manage to escape)
03  Three is the magic number.  You loose your balance, stumble, mumble, drop your weapons, grasp at thin air, and just happen to cast a random M-U spell. (Roll randomly for both spell level, and individual spell.  Your melee opponent is the target if applicable.  If you aren't wearing the proper mage type garments, the feedback loop knocks you unconscious for a number of rounds equal to the level of the spell.  When you wake, your memory for details is kinda hazy until you can sleep it off.)
04-05  Your weapon tears a hole in reality!  Before it can sew itself shut, out steps a (1 Alien, 2-3 Shoggoth, 4-5 Demon, 6 Dead President)
06  No one saw it coming.  The Invisible Stalker following you chooses this moment to strike.
07  Lucky you!  You find a shortcut to the lower level when the floor gives way under your feet. (falling damage, and whatever else is down there)
08-10  Wait... what?  It turns out you are not holding your weapon, but rather, an angry (1-3 crab, 4-5 lobster, 6 giant isopod) 


11  Spontaneous Combustion!  (Any nearby monsters/NPCs immediately roll morale, while you must Save or Die!  Loose half your remaining hp and Cha/Com if successful.  You can regain the hp.) 
12  Faux Pas. You shriek, spasm and either urinate in fear or orgasm in excitement (player chooses secretly) 
13  Your own worst enemy.  Critical hit... yourself.
14-15  It's a trap!  A 10'X10'X10' pit trap.  You and anyone standing too close need to roll a Dex check.  Succeed by 5+ to jump clear and be fine.  Succeed by less than 5 to catch hold of the floor at the edge of the pit and you can pull yourself up at the end of next round.  Failure = falling damage.  The pit trap is (1-3 empty, 4-5 spiked, 6 infested) 
16-18  Stop hitting yourself! (normal damage)
19-20  Choke!  You've managed to smash your own larynx.  Your voice is strained and raspy, maybe permanently.  For the rest of the session it is a real struggle to speak each sentance.  (Roll a Save vs Poison each time.  Failure indicates a loud, choking, coughing fit.)
21-23  Pass it on.  Jostle random nearby combatant (they roll a fumble now)
24-26  Sorry, my bad.  Hit an ally
27-29  Arrow to the Knee!  It's origin is a mystery.  That leg will not hold weight until healed. (hop around at 1/4 movement, or half movement with a crutch, AC penalty of 3)
30-31  Wakey Wakey.  Your stumbling reveals a fist-sized hole,and disturbs the nest of d6 1HD venomous (1 snakes, 2 frogbats 3 spiders, 4 centipedes, 5 scorpions, 6 fishcats).  Half will roll initiative next round, the others enter combat the round after.
32-35  Get a grip.  Your weapon slips from your fat, greasy, butter fingers. It ends up stuck somewhere that makes it difficult or impossible to retrieve.
36-38  The taste of fail.  You give your tongue an epic bite!  You think part of it might be missing now. (1 damage, and until it is healed you are slurring speech, drooling blood, and your spellcasting times are doubled as you slowly enunciate each sound)
39-41  An innocent mistake.  Hit a random innocent bystander.  If necessary, one appears as if by magic.
42  I pity the fool.  One of the mad jesters who teleport innocent people into harms way has somehow offended his brethren.  He appears just in time to receive a Critical Hit from you.
43-44  Rent Asunder!  Your weapon takes a crushing blow!  It breaks if normal, permanent -1 if magical.
45-47  Collateral Damage. Your weapon goes flying and damages the most valuable breakable object in the area.
48-49  That's Fowl.  d6 putrid zombie chickens surprise attack this round. The first one goes for you, the rest choose living opponents at random. (1HD, d4 damage, AC 8)
50  Sad.  You accidentally slash your own wrists.  At least, that's your story. (1 damage/round until bandaged)
51-53  RABIES!  A rabid creature bursts unto the scene.  (Random encounter + rabies) 
54-55  Friends Forever.  You fall into a pile of refuse/puddle/snow drift/sand dune, and it's full of weird leeches (no attack next round as you pick yourself back up.  The leeches are harmless really, but release a bunch of phero-hormones into your blood.  You quickly grow very, very fond of them.  You'll probably take a Charisma hit once you start naming and petting the ones who live on your face.)
56-58  Look, no hands!  You fall on your face... Hard! (d4 damage, Cha/Com moves 1 toward 7, no attack next round as you pick yourself up)
59  Et tu, Dumbass?  Critical Hit... an ally
60-63  Smooth Move.  You fall onto your backpack (player rolls for each breakable: even=fine, odd=ruined; stop if 3 break)
64-66  I attack the darkness!  Your head gear slips and covers your eyes (blinded until it is adjusted)
67-68  Ants in your Pants!  They're biters. (-2 to hit until you take off your pants and knock them all away)
69  Wardrobe Malfunction.  Your sexy bits flop out!  Fix it or risk it. (attacks that miss you by 1 will now strike sexy bits)
70-73  Classic.  You stumble over an unseen imaginary deceased turtle.  You are very confused.  (loose next action)
74-76  Trying too hard. You are overextended and off-balance. (Melee enemy gets an extra attack)
77  Dumb Luck.  You slip and Critical Hit a random enemy.
78-80  Watch your Step.  You accidentally step on a small venomous snake and it takes a bite at your leg before slithering away.
81-83  Moth to a flame.  You fall into a nearby light source.  (Choose the worst case scenario within the given variables... torches go out, lanterns break, oil lamps spill, flames spread, ect.  FYI, lava sucks.)
84-87  You're doing it wrong.  Twisted Ankle for 24 hours. (AC penalty of 2, and 1/2 movement until healed)
88  A happy mistake.  Hit an random enemy. (normal damage)
89-91 WristStrong!  You sprained/fractured your wrist. (your weapon is dropped, and dominant hand cannot hold any weight until after 24 hours)
92-95 Pop & Lock  You bent your elbow backwards somehow (only 1 damage to you, but until it is healed -2 to hit rolls and damage)
96-97  You got Knocked the F*** Out! (unconscious for d6 rounds)
98-99  You've got the funk!  It's the bad kind.  Sorry, Patient Zero.  Did some enemy blood spray into your mouth, water drip into your eye, or slime get on your finger?  I hope it's not a highly contagious airborne virus. (DM determines illness/infection)
100  Deja Vu!  You were distracted because you've seen this before and think you know the enemy's next move. (for any one melee attack next round you can yell out advice, giving the attacker a 2d20 for their to-hit roll.  20+ is a crit, but any 1s rolled require a fumble roll in addition to the combined result.  Double fumble is possible.)

101-102 Shpadoinkle!  It's like a bear trap, only stronger.  You found it the hard way. (d8 damage. You'll probably need some extra hands to help remove it.  Without help, a willingness to hack off your own foot, or a lucky bend bars/lift gates roll; you are stuck here as monster bait.)
103-104  It gets worse.  The ground crumbles under your feet and you drop into some kind of lair. (roll random encounter to see what lives there)
105-106  You've really stirred up a hornet's nest this time!  No, really. (d100X6 hornets unless winter.  Frozen Lands=Ice Hornets unless summer)
107-109  Bree Yark! - Something pooped and/or pissed on your head, probably a bird.  If in a dense urban area it might be someone emptying a chamber pot out the window.
110  Chick Magnet  d12 fuzzy baby birds decide that you are their Mommy and start to follow you everywhere.  You and anyone fighting next to you will need to make all melee attacks with a -2 penalty, unless they are willing to risk stepping on one of the cute little things. (5% chance per chick, heartless bastards)  The chicks don't like bags, and are terrified of the dark unless they can snuggle right up next to you.


Mr. Giant Isopod knew that he had nailed the audition

August 26, 2012

Hack Goblish

Here's a chart for my version of Goblish.  This is what I use to make names for goblin NPCs, goblin villages, or any goblin words.

Feel free to make your own, better version.  Hack Goblish is for hacks, like me.  In either case, once a few words are rolled up randomly you might find certain rules for grammar start to take shape.  Whenever one occurs to you, just write it on the sheet.  It could be anything.  A particular combination of sounds might act as a root word, so it shows up in many related words.  Maybe most plurals end with the same sound.  Maybe some languages use howls, hisses, or clicks so you put those in the chart as predominate and frequent results.  It's the language for your goblins in your game, just write down whatever grammar and sentence structure rules you like and roll up the rest randomly.  Or let the players do it.  They love that shit.  Rolling up something that then becomes canon, like the name of a village?  Hell yeah.  That's almost as good as getting to name it yourself.



You roll percentage dice to determine each phoneme (distinct sound) used to say the word aloud.  A few rolls for short words, more for longer words.  The results here will form a pronunciation key, you can spell the word however you like.  By keeping certain sounds common to certain languages, I'm hoping that the randomly created words for each language will sound as if they belong together.  It seems a lot easier than inventing whole languages like Tolkien did.  As always, you may need to mix up the order a bit or add some vowel sounds to pronounce the result.

Maybe some examples?


First, let's roll up a name for a goblin shaman.  I don't want it to be very short or very long, so I'll use 6 phonemes.

*Rolls*  92 - 83 - 74 - 36 - 2 - 18
Result = O - N - I - OR - E - L
How I decided to spell it = Auneorrel


Second example.  Some PCs decipher some goblin runes about "blood".  Now they want to know how that is pronounced in the Goblish language, because, you know.... players.  So let's roll it up.  The word "blood" has 4 phonemes in English (B-L-U-D), but I'll say that it has 5 phonemes when spoken in Goblish.  Because, why not?

*Rolls*  8 - 49 - 28 - 56 - 79
Result =  F - Z - S - V - N
I just let my brain fill in the vowels sometimes = Fezsvin

Base 44


Blank Language Template

August 24, 2012

Hack Languages

Random name/word generator for any language.

Roll percentage dice a few times for short words, roll more for longer words.  Each roll is a distinct sound.  Just roll until the DM says to stop.  These results form a pronunciation key for the word, it can be spelled however you wish.  You may need to mix up the results a bit or add some vowel sounds to render a word pronounceable.

[1- 44] - Use the Base 44 Chart

[45 - 100] - Make a unique chart for each language using the Blank Language Template.  Just put the name of the language at the top, and pick the ten most frequently used sounds for each language.


Blank Language Template
Base 44




Below is the language chart I use to make names for human commoners, bandits, barbarians, tribesmen, pirates and more.  The percentages used here are similar to those heard in American English, but far less precise.  It's handy to roll up some names and words before the game, just in case you need the name of someone's nephew or whatever.  Rolling up words like this can be time consuming, but in moderation it can be fun let the players roll one up at the table.


August 14, 2012

Archeology makes me sad sometimes...

The archeological sites in the Middle East that interest me at the moment are mostly in the form of Tells.  Over many centuries new buildings were put on top of the remains of older structures.  These became large hills, mounds of mud-brick and sediment that accumulated as cities built up over time.

Some of these Tells are the cities of ancient Sumer, which became some of the cities of Akkadian Empire, which became a few of the cities of the Babylonian Empire.  Some of them were abandoned along the way.  Over the span of thousands of years, rivers and trade routes would change course; and so sometimes change the fate of cities.




That's not the sad part.


Some of these sites that were dug before the mid 1900s were not done systematically.  Without proper documentation the artifacts can loose context, and valuable information may have been lost forever.

Is this statuette from a temple or a home?  What else was found nearby?  We might never know.

In addition to that, these sites are all in Iraq.  You've probably heard that the political climate over there has been a little tense now and then.  As a result, digs have been started, halted, and started again.  There is a LOT left to uncover, and therefore a LOT more that the human race will eventually be able to learn about Sumerian culture.  I hope that I live long enough to learn about it all.

Was Ninurta the original Heracles?
Who is this handsome fellow?
















That's not the sad part either.


Sometimes, the archeologists will start digging but then have to leave because of some turmoil or another.  Then once the site is exposed and abandoned, looters will come and dig for things to sell on the black market.  I don't mean like some punk kid and his buddies.  I'm talking about a large scale pillaging force.

On May 21, 2003, Col. John Kessel and Professor Macguire Gibson of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago toured various sites in Southern Iraq by helicopter. After visiting Uruk, Professor Gibson "flew north to Isin, (modern Ishan al-Bahriyat) where I had already heard from a German visitor that it was being badly destroyed. Her report was correct. At least 200 to 300 men were at work on all parts of the site, and the damage was clearly of long duration. We landed and the men came up waving. They were surprised that the US troops would think that it was wrong for them to be doing the looting. They lied by saying that they had been working only a few days, only since the German woman has been there and told them to do so. We told them that it was forbidden, and the army men fired over their heads to speed up their exit. A boy with a tractor and cart, the only vehicle on this site, wanted us to pay him his taxi fee, since we had chased off his fares. The next day, the German woman returned to Isin with a German camera crew, to find hundreds of men at work again. Clearly, an occasional visit by a helicopter is not going to save the sites. Only the imposition of authority in the entire country, as well as the reconstitution of the State Board of Antiquities with its full complement of guards, backed by Coalition power, can preserve what is left of these major Sumerian sites." Scholar Simon Jenkins, in a subsequent report, noted "the remains of the 2,000 BC cities of Isin and Shurnpak appear to have vanished: pictures show them replaced by a desert of badger holes created by an army of some 300 looters."

I get it, you know.  Times were tough and full of craziness.  They're just trying to do what was best for themselves and their families.  I try not to judge, really.  I don't live there, so I don't know what it's like.

but I do know that this is the sad part...

Umma above has been rather thoroughly looted.


 Bad-Tibira isn't a total loss... yet.


That is Zabalam up above, we know that because of clues found at other sites.  It has never been officially excavated, at all, ever.  What you see there is all the work of looters.  Impressive really, in a soul crushing sort of way.

Hopefully any looted tablets and artifacts will make their way through private collections and eventually end up in museums.  Of course, there often won't be any way to tell which artifacts came from which cities, so good luck with that Sumerianologists.  I wonder how many irreplaceable treasures of history were broken by shovels, dropped, or stepped on.  *sigh* 

Alright, I'm done being sad.


Learning about Sumerian culture and mythology is really a tangled snarl of contradictions and conjectures.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  These cities evolved over a huge span of time, their names and gods sometimes changed, old myths were sometimes recast with new characters, and certain beliefs held in one city might be different than the city down the river even though they both existed at the same time.  It's a lot to take in and try to puzzle out.

It's all super confusing, but also super fascinating.  Here are some helpful websites if you are interested in reading about Sumer without any of the ancient alien theories.

Iraq's most significant ancient sites and monuments

The Nippur Expedition, Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago

Sumerian Deities

Sumerian Mythology by Samuel Noah Kramer

The Temple of Sumer


This map is interesting.  The dotted lines show the future paths of rivers.  The Persian Gulf is today receded so far to the south that it would be off the map, but in 3000BC it covered the area roughly as shown above.  The dotted red line is the current Iraq/Iran border.  A few of the cities are out of place, and shouldn't be there.  Babylon and Borsippa haven't been built yet, that probably comes after the Euphrates changes course 500 or so years later.  Also, Baghdad has apparently traveled back in time a few millennium just to appear on the map here.  Maybe those are just on there for reference?  Regardless, it really is one of the best maps I've found of Sumer circa 3000BC.