Classic Dungeons and Dragons and Old School Gaming

D&D etc.


"Heir to a crumbling summit: to a sea of nettles: to an empire of rust: to rituals' footprints ankle-deep in stone."

-Mervyn Peake

"...and that, my liege, is how we know the Earth to be banana shaped."

-Sir Bedevere in Monty Python and the Holy Grail



Thursday, December 19, 2013

Four House Rules of the Apocalypse

Four house rules that I've been contemplating:

1.  1/2 share of GP/XP for Hirelings, even if they die. 
I've talked around this issue before.  We run through a lot of hirelings, they're fun mini-PCs and when PCs croak they get upgraded.  We currently give hirelings the half share now.  If they somehow don't make it back to town though, some gold goes to the family maybe but the PCs keep a bigger portion and the XP.  I've realized that this actually provides incentive to killing off the poor mooks.  I don't think the players actually play to that incentive but it would be nice to flip it and incentivise keeping them alive.  That might mean fewer mooks get hired but I doubt it.  Or it might mean the PCs try to enter into working relationships with NPCs which usually provides lots of opportunity for shenanigans.

2.  No negative attributes.
I use the basic D&D -3 for a 3 to +3 for an 18 modifier scale.  It's pretty common to have characters with some -1s, and I don't really mind, one of my favorite characters recently had more minuses than pluses.  He was a chickenshit backstabber, he was smart and he was fun to play.  I say was, because shortly before he made it to 3rd level he had a change of heart and tried to save the world.  He died and failed, setting a Godzilla sized fire elemental loose on the world.  The fire beast went straight towards the nearest metropolitan area and the surviving PCs went the opposite direction!  Anyway, It seems to me that negative modifiers only make it easier for 1st level characters to die and they don't need any help in that regard.  So, what if instead of the normal minuses we change what it means to have a low score , like this:
STR:  1 handed small weapons only
INT:  fewer languages, bad at speaking languages, this is pretty much Rules as Written
WIS:  Player has to make up a paranoia or dumb thing, like the PC doesn't know how to count over 10.
DEX:  takes a round to switch weapons.  (we normally go from missile to melee without loosing a round)
CON:  Save or passes out at 1, 2 or 3 HP.
CHA:  DM gets to make up an enemy NPC.

3.  It seems entirely reasonable to me for the DM to base the HD of monsters & NPCs entirely on how entertaining or enjoyable doing the NPC or Monster's Funny Voice is.

4.  Cleric's, Undead and Alignment:
Lawful Clerics: Turn Undead
Chaotic Clerics: Command Undead
Neutral Clerics: Speak with Undead

The Law and Chaos is normal, but I've never played with the Neutrals getting anything cool or unique.  I think in most versions they have to choose to be like Lawful or Chaotic Clerics.  I think it'd be fun to have a Neutral Cleric in the party and have Kurosagi's Corpse Delivery Service inspired adventures.




Wednesday, December 18, 2013

OSR Christmas!

I got some folks on my list this year some things that decidedly fall  
within the OSR. Those things are:

Barrowmaze
This has gotten good reviews, and it's supposed to be not to gonzo,  
which I think the giftee will appreciate. I was also thinking  
Stonehell would be good, maybe I'll get that one for myself!

Realms of Crawling Chaos
What better gift for the D&D playing Lovecraft fan? I was also  
thinking Trail of Cthulhu but then the giftee might try to wrangle me  
into playing it...

Kefitzah Haderech
This one I'm really excited about!

And used copies of:

The 1e DMG
For the inspiration in the appendices especially.

Moldvay Basic and Cook Expert
Because it's the best.

I would have gotten Vornheim, but it's apparently out of print.  I  
hope Flame Princess prints more, bigger this time! 

Ho! Ho! Ho!


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

From the pages of a comic book from 1991:

Waldenbooks R.I.P.


Obviously, If you had any choice in the matter, you would go to the game/comic store hidden away in a basement downtown.  But if for some reason you had to go to the mall, this would be waiting for you there. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Monster Action Tables?

I called the tables I sketched out in my last post "encounter tables" but that doesn't seem like the right term. One table answered the question, "what are the monsters doing when the PCs encounter them?" and the other answers the question, "what are the monsters going to do this round?"
I've used Telecanter's brilliant and all purpose 'what' are the monsters doing' table, but having a quick little table like this for specific monsters seems like a good way to jazz up encounters in a way that gives a particular monster a unique flavor, as well as making combat more exciting, cinematic and interesting. I think I got the idea for the "what do the monsters do this round?" table from the 4th edition thing where instead of encounter or daily powers, the DM rolls a d6 to see if a monster does a special attack. So a dragon, for example, instead of getting 3 uses of their breath weapon in a day, they let it loose on a 5 or 6 on a d6 that the DM rolls ever round. This takes a decision out of the hands of the DM in a way that I think can be interesting, at least sometimes. Another way to do this would be with 'Kung Fu dice' which is a thing that I'm pretty sure I first read about on D&D w/ pron stars, but I don't know that Zak invented it. This uses the d20 attack roll instead of a separate roll, which is pretty slick, but I don't think it's a big deal to roll another d6, you can roll it at the same time as the d20 attack roll and read the results at the same time. With the d6 you can also use the to hit roll if you need to.

This kind of table seems like a really good tool, I wonder why I haven't seen it more often? Or maybe lots of folks use it in published adventures and supplements an such, I just haven't picked them up or heard of them...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Moon Beasts and Ghouls

I feel like celebrating the return of the Dungeon Dozen to the internets so here's a few super specific encounter tables:

These use regular old d6s rather than the exalted dodecahedron.


What does the Moon Beast do this round?
1 run away. They'll stop in the next room and attempt to ambush anybody who follows.
2 knock stuff over, onto PCs if possible. If the only thing available is a person, they'll knock them over and stand on them. Save vs paralysis/fortitude/yeti stompin or take d4 dmg. Save again to act or wrestle free.
3 amazing leap onto the largest inanimate object nearby and screech/howl loudly. The following round a return call of screeches/howls may be heard. Another 1-3 Moon Beast 4-6 two Moon Beasts shows up in d6 rounds.
4 pick up one PC and throw them at another PC. Both PCs Save vs paralysis/fortitude/yeti stompin or take d4 dmg
5, 6 attack w claws, two attacks: d6 dmg. each.

Moon Beasts are big uni-horned, white furred yeti type critters with a primitive inteligence. (stat as bugbears exept as noted above)


What's up with the Ghouls in this room?
They are:
1 Ravenous. as many as possible will attack and attempt to devour whoevers in front. Attacking them back will draw their attention away.
2 Curious. They're throwing everything not nailed down around as if they were 2 year olds. If spoken to they will grunt back in imitation, and speak Ghoulish. they'll continue this for d3 rounds at which point they'll realize the PCs are food an attack.
3 Sullen. Theyll fight but 1-2 on d6 chance of running away every round.
4 Fighting eachother over a 1-3 live 4-6 dead thing.
5 Stalking something else, roll another wandering monster.
6 Awaiting the PCs in ambush.

All Ghouls used to be elves. They are 1-12 feet tall, and are from an invisible moon, where the elves sent them. They are not very bright, but they do have their own language, Ghoulish, which is a gutteral perversion of ancient elvish.
Their claws cause paralysis just like the book says.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Normal Men and XP?

In my current game, we just finished a multi-session adventure back in town with a fair amount of loot. There's three Joe Schmoe/Jimmy McRedshirt type hirelings with the group and we decided they should get a half share of gp/xp. This amounted to something in the neighborhood of 400 gp. Quite a big pile for 'ol Meatshield Mcfarlane and his pals! Now, the question is: is that 1 gp=1xp rule true for these normal dudes? How could it be? They don't level up. Or at least, I don't want them to. For them leveling up would mean becoming first level, but most of the PCs are still first level and it doesn't feel right to have the PCs and the hirelings on equal footing like that.

Then I was reminded that there ought to be some morale rolls in here between adventures. My first inclination was to give them a bonus to the morale roll because of the gold earned, but instead I think they should get a penalty for each comrade that died. There were 4 other hirelings who died along the way. If there's a -1 for each death, it seems quite likely that these guys will cut and run en masse. That sounds good to me. In my experience, hirelings are either faceless mooks who get no respect from the players or the players love the hirelings as much or more than their PCs with no middle ground. These guys were solidly in that first category.

Maybe the combination of giving Hirelings a half share of gp with the -1 to morale rolls per death with get these poor folks some respect.

They'll only earn xp if they're classed characters, and if a PC dies the player can take over a hireling and give him or her stats and a class if they dont have those already and convert their gold to xp then, so the new PC doesn't start at 0.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Upside Down D&D

A while back I made characters with people who have never played the game before and I was reminded of the confusion surrounding the fact that you have an attribute score and a modifier derived from that score.  That experience gave me this idea that evolved into a really simple story-gamey version of D&D.  This is simpler than Red Box Hack or Dungeon World (at least based on my minimal knowledge of those games) and maybe closer to the original game rules.  What the DM does in the game described below is pretty much the same as a DM in DnD.

UPSIDE-DOWN D&D

Character generation:

1. players roll 3d6 in order for D&D abilities. (Low is Good)
2. roll 3d6 and the single best (highest) die roll is your HP.
3. roll those three dice again, one at a time once on each of these tables:

You are a...
1: Noble of House __________
2: Veteran of the ___________ War
3: Librarian from the City of ____________
4: Worshiper of ____________
5: Criminal who pulled the __________ Heist
6: Fey of the ___________ Woods

Who carries a...
1: Big Axe
2: Crystal
3: Knife... and more knives
4: Brutal Mace
5: Bow and arrows
6: Sword and shield

And who tends to be...
1: Crazed
2: Bon vivant or grump
3: A hero or a leader
4: A coward
5: Greedy
6: A sneaky schemer

Here's how it would work.
Any time you would roll dice in a regular game of DnD instead the Player rolls 3D6, or 2D6 if the DM says its really hard.  The DM says what ability is being rolled against (S, I, W, D, Con, or Cha) rolling over that ability means success.

The items don't add dice, instead they let you accomplish things you couldn't otherwise.  With an axe you might be able to chop down a door, with a bow you can hit somebody from across a room, what's a crystal let you do... etc.

The last die rolled above is like XP.  At the end of the game the DM writes down in order who generally acted the most in character.  The Player then gets that many bonus dice to add to any action or actions in the future that they want.  The DM can also give out Dice to PC's who act in line with their character in a way that is generally detrimental to the party.  For example, when the coward runs away, that PC could get a bonus dice to use later.

This isn't my ideal DnD, but I think something like this could be a great way to play with people who have never played an RPG before, and in that context, could be fun.




Sunday, June 9, 2013

Lords of the Underworld

Who are the Lords of the Underworld?

Many are demons.

Some are Gods, all but forgotten in the Sunlit Lands, clinging to the whispered prayers of a few dying cultists.

Some are long dead wizards, kings and emperors from the World We Know; despots and madmen undefeated by death, now vying for power in the Court of the Black Citadel.

The High Court of the Black Citadel
The lords of the high court are the most powerful beings in the Underworld. Each of these lords has a domain of their own, but they can often be found at the Black Citadel.

Alterius the Tryptarch is a ghost who inhabits three bodies simultaneously. The bodies change but one is always brutal and murderous, one is conniving and genteel and one is craven and kind. Alterious has divinatory visions but disagrees with himself on their meaning.

Baltagour is a god worshiped by patrician merchants and nobles long since corrupted.
The upper half of Baltagour is an obese shave-headed man with tattoos that float off of him like whisps of smoke. The lower half of his body is made up entirely of many long thin arms.

Ulzen is a beastial demon lord, a trusted general of the Lord of the Underworld himself. He commands a massive army of demons and beastmen who travel the Dark Sea, not in ships, but astride giant ghoulish mammoths who wade through the Dead. Ulzen sleeps with Heskatta, but secretly adores and spies on Elmeria.

The Four and Eighty Princes are skeletons who ride about the Dark Sea in caravels and knarrs made entirely of bone. They are petty and greedy and quite powerful with their bony hands in many and varied  machinations throughout the Underworld.

Hunhd is god of the centipedes. She moves with exacting precision in the unfolding of stratagems the goals of which are completely alien to human minds. She dwells in the decaying body of another god.

Muhlhaladred the Red Sultan often brags of the murders committed in his name. A few hundred years ago he was a bandit king who conquered half the world. Of all the high court Muhlhaladred perhaps has the most knowledge of and interest in if not influence over the World We Know.

Elmeria is the daughter of the Lord of the Underworld. She is pale, beautiful and raven haired. She longs to see the World of the Living but this is forbidden by her Father. When angered she may transform into a giant blue naga.

Morderex Pentefax is Lord of the Underworld and God of the Dead.
Morderex has many forms but he most often appears in the High Court as a giant man, strange and beautiful with long white hair and high cheekbones. When angered or feeling warlike his skin will turn a brilliant blue.
He may also appear as a robed skeleton, or a giant floating skull wreathed in shadow and flame and belching snakes. Morderex is a convivial host and enjoys conversation. He is also a psychopath who fancies himself beyond good and evil.

The Lower Court of the Black Citadel
The Lower Court are the lesser lords, would-be lords, servants, schemers and companions of the High Court. They are all almost always found at the Black Citadel.

Ijahel is a vampire. He is cursed and must remain in the Land of the Dead. He is weak, starving and desperate for blood at all times. He tends a flock of demon goats who know a path to the World We Know. Ijahel is the Hayward of the Black Citadel, in charge of the hedges, twisted and ruined as they are.

Heskatta is a sucubus and Madame of the courtesans of the Black Citadel. They are generally bored, the dead are not very randy.

Zelasnian is a Lich. Long ago he was a great power in the Underworld and longer ago than that he was even more powerful as a Lich Lord in a great necropolis in the World Above. A very very long time ago he was a great wizard but he no longer remembers that time and now is a servant of Lord of the Underworld.

Pelawaque is a witch, a living woman disguised as undead with glamour.  She is queen of the Crows.  worms appear to crawl about beneath her gossamer gowns.  She hopes to seduce the Lord of the Underworld.

Hourcloth is a demon and a cook. He has a small army of goblin scullions and servants who help him make rare and extravegant feasts from the dreams of the dead.

Jimilshirk the Barber is obsessed with esoteric knowledge and objects. Being the cheif doctor of the Black Citadel he is an expert of undead maldies and medicines. Jimilshirk is a brain in a jar with many mechanical appendages.

Grom is the Lord's favorite hound. He is pitch black and bigger than a horse. He is keen eyed and sharp fanged. He runs the stables of the Black Citadel.

Venal Jim is the ghoul chief of pages of the Black Citadel. He lurks constantly.

Augerschwartz and Wigglewoorst are lean and red-eyed. No one knows what they do.

Schloosch is the Undine ewerer of the Black Citadel. She loves bawdy jokes.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

To The Dark Sea Again

The Dark Sea setting that I started sketching a while back has been percolating in my mind again.  I stopped working on it because I realized how bleak it was, a sea of the dead, no light, Underworld with a capital U.  I set it up as dungeon/hex crawl treasure grab in the finest of old school traditions, but that started to feel wrong.  I saw it as a campaign setting unto itself, but now I think it could function really well as a diversion from a regular D&D game.  Here's how it would work:  Say a PC dies.  the DM can hint that there are ways to get them back.  Clerics that can cast Raise Dead.  But there's a hitch.  They need to find the soul  before they can cast the spell.  The surviving characters get go on an adventure into the Underworld!  I'm not sure why it took me so long to come up with that.

You could say that the recently deceased don't immediately become a part of the Sea, maybe they first go to the Black Citadel where they might get sold or traded to lesser nobles of the Underworld.  (Yep, I read Wraith: The Oblivion in high school.  Don't think it ever got played though.  Now maybe my D&D game can benefit from that finally.)  This is setting up a wheel-and-deal scenario rather than a straight fight, which makes sense since it's probably pretty tough to go toe-to-toe with a lord of the Underworld.

Any way, I've added a picture/link on the right to gather these posts.

Speaking of pictures here are some that inspire the Sead of the Dead:


























Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Mind Mage and Space Wizard

Here's two Space Mutant D&D Character classes:

Mind Mage:
XP and Saves as Cleric
HD: D4
Prime Req: INT, WIS, and CHA
Restrictions: none

Special Abilities:
Powers per Telecanter. Skip step one at first level. Assume the character has the gift. roll step one every time the character gains a level. or +1 rank/lvl to an existing power or roll new power randomly and new power starts at rank 1.

Roll D12 or choose for one or more Psionic Traits:
1 third eye
2 pale blue skin
3 really big head
4 no hair at all even eyebrows
5 no iris - eyes are all white
6 finger and toenails look like microchips
7 blood is bright purple
8 weird stone flies around head at all times. If it is taken away the psionic becomes magnetic and will eventually die.
9 skinless cranium. transparent bones.
10 casts no shadow
11 people cant help but stare at character when present, but no one remembers what he/she looks like
12 ears like Yoda

Space Wizard:
as M-U except as noted.
Restrictions: none
Special abilities:
Must commune with Space Gods every night in order to get powers. Whether or not a Space Wizard gets a full nights sleep does not effect their ability to cast spells. powers are granted like clerics. Spell books don't have spells in them, rather their full of maps of constellations, the names of long dead gods from distant stars, rocket fuel recipes, things like that.

Space wizard wands look like this:
Space Wizards don't make scrolls, instead they can store spells in their wands.  By performing a ritual that's one day long per level of the spell and putting 100 gp worth of powdered meteorites, crystals, moon fungus, etc. any spell the Space Wizard can put any spell they know into their wand.  A Space Wizard can use another Space Wizard's wand.  A non-space wizard can try, but there's a 2 in 6 chance that something really bad happens.



Saturday, May 25, 2013

OPDC 2013 and Tracks vs Hooks


The One Page Dungeon Contest 2013 winners have been announced and I'm one of them!  I'm flattered and surprised.

Here's three of my favorites that I printed out to use:
The Sea Tower This one is all text and has some great stuff in it.  My favorite line is "...the maintenance drones have degenerated into savage tribes.."
Clown Robot Doctor Apocalypse I think this is my favorite entry from this year.  It looks like a blast to play through.
Faery Ring to Alpha Ari  This is a ruined space station that you get to by entering a ring of magic mushrooms.  That is awesome and it makes me think, are there other abandoned space stations that you can get to by entering magic mushroom circles?  (the answer is YES)


Laying Tracks vs. Casting Hooks

I've been thinking about how I start adventures sometimes.  I have this annoying habit of writing up a dungeon and then starting the PCs out in a sandbox type situation that has the dungeon in it, thinking that I'll make stuff up on the spot if they don't go right for the dungeon.  They almost never go right for the dungeon.  Dang it.  Sometimes I make up great stuff and we all have fun anyway, but sometimes I don't and the session falls flat.
So, my advice to myself and you I guess if you're reading this (and I know this is not new advice) is to run a sandbox if I have a sandbox prepped and run a dungeon if I have a dungeon prepped and not try to do both at the same time.
For example, to run IRON CLOUD I would not have then PCs just wandering around in the wasteland I would have them seeking out the Iron Cloud on purpose and start the game when they find it.  I've shied away from this approach in the past because it feels like railroading.  It of course is not.  Railroading is when no matter what the players do the same thing happens.  This is giving the game parameters, but inside those parameters anything can happen.  The idea is the same if the parameters are a sandbox or a dungeon.

To make this work the players need a hook to get them there.  With Iron Cloud I gave the different names of the airship to give the DM and the players some ideas for hooks without spelling it out.But the DM will probobly need to spell it out so here's a little random table:

(roll D4)
The PCs are seeking:
1. the lost knowledge of the wizard Zadrilon
2. revenge against Kragofax, maybe he ate the character's village
3. to ally or dominate Kragofax
4. to conquer and control the Iron Cloud itself





Sunday, May 5, 2013

Gomerville, new village on the Borderlands

We just finished what I'm pretty sure was our 8th session of Keep on the Borderlands, and we're ready to go on to other things. The PCs have not left the map and are in fact in the Keep right now, but after time warping 50 years into the future the Keep is a ruin and the lair of a gnoll sorcerer who rides a giant spider.  

While the PCs were time warped in the Shrine of Evil Chaos a town was built and named after one of the characters:

The town's population is about equally divided between humans, bugbears and dwarves.  (bugbears and dwarves are now optional PC races) This is what they saw when they approached the town:

That tower in the middle is the Temple of St. Cuthbert.  

Here's the player map of Gomerville:

And here's the DM map of Gomerville:
The town has some factions and I threw some in-town adventure hooks at them, but they didn't bite on any of these this session.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A flying dungeon for 1PD 2013


My entry in the one page dungeon contest 2013 was inspired by Archigram's Instant City.  


Their idea was that this airship descends on a hum drum little town and they have a party, and then the airship takes off, leaving behind a taste for miniskirts and high technology.


If you're ever like, "I need to come up with a Space Mutant D&D adventure and I'm looking for inspiration  but I don't have time to watch a whole episode of Thundarr the Barbarian" then spend 5 minutes at the Archigram Archive.  Guaranteed.

Any way...

Here's IRON CLOUD.

My goal was to carefully plan an adventure that has all of the glorious stupidity and potential for hijinks that something that I pull out of my butt while the players are rolling characters would.




Thursday, March 21, 2013

Session Log

I want to organize a bit the game I'm running.  It's not that I forget things from one session to the next, but I'm accumulating a mess of notes.  I've never been interested in this kind of bookkeeping but the idea of having one piece of paper from one session to the next to keep track of things sounds like a good idea.

So I put together this log and filled it out for last session:



Here's the file:

Session Log Excel
Session Log pdf




Sunday, March 10, 2013

Wisdom


"Knowledge is realizing that the street is one way; wisdom is looking in both directions anyway."

-pillar of the old school gaming community: Albert Einstein

Clearly a character's Wisdom modifier should apply to all saving throws. That's how Mr. Einstein and I run anyway.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Centipedes & Spiders

Centipedes and Spiders are from the Fey Realm, but were long ago banished to the Underworld. Most of the Centipedes and Spiders, while larger than in the World We Know, are still merely beasts. There are some of these creatures who are ancient, and these have grown huge over the countless years since they were cast into the Shadow Realm and their intelect has grown with their size.

The many-legged centipedes accepted their place in the Shadow Realm and sometimes even sell whatever information they can gather about the Lords of the Underworld and the Court of the Black Citadel to the highest bidder, which is often the Kings and Queens of the Fey.

The centipedes eight legged cousins, however, have not forgotten their banishment from the shadows of the Green Realm and they hate all fey creatures with an unquenchable seething and malicious passion.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Giant Rats

The giant rats were once the favored pets and messengers of the God of the Underworld. They have been replaced by the crows in this respect and have been banished to the edges of the Dark Sea.
These rats possess a keen animal inteligence and are capable of mimicing speech. They were once able to swim short distances in the sea of the dead, and to facilitate their movement from island to island ancient stones were errected. Many of these stones are still in place.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Black Lodge of Elemental Evil, etc.

I, like a few other people, just bought some old D&D stuff.  I got the Keep on the Borderlands (which I'm now running) and the Village of Hommlet.  I never played through these some I'm coming at them fresh. I'm not going to review or discuss these right now really except to say that when I read about the Temple of Elemental Evil in VoH more than anything it made me think of this place:




When I run this I think I'll associate each of the NPCs in the village with someone from Twin Peaks.  Of course the Inn of the Welcome Wench will serve cherry pie and damn fine coffee.

This is pretty much how most players act, right?


On another note:

Friar Dave recently asked the question, "with cheap and legal PDFs of B/X D&D, do we still need Labyrinth Lord?"  This has gotten me thinking about how there is a retroclone product that I wish existed but doesn't really.  What I want is a pdf primer/player's guide to Fantasy gaming that I can print several copies of and give away to players.  It would have:

  • A low page count, probably 24 pages at most.  I want it to cost a buck fifty or less to print. 
  • Not a lot of art, but some art for atmosphere.  Probably line art so as not to bleed through cheap stock paper.
  • A brief explanation of what the game is and how to play.
  • Have rules for character generation, the first few levels of spells and some simple adventuring rules like time and movement, light, maybe hirelings.
  • Editable forms, so the DM can modify to describe the rules of whichever particular edition or version of the game they are running.  This one is the trickiest I think, but many of the different versions of the game are similar enough that I think you could do it and cover most of them.
  • A character sheet on the back.
The Original Fantasy Player Reference that Paul made is the closest thing that I have found.  It's strictly for Swords and Wizardry doesn't have art and it's not editable though.  Am i crazy, is this a pipe dream?  Is there some complication with the OGL that prevents this?  Or is there something like this already that I haven't found?

And one more thing:
In my last post I describe my preferred vision of orcs, and I've described orc shenaegans in the past.  They look something like this:
I was reminded about these guys by Needles fantastic post of 1d10 Deep Ones loot.  For me, orcs are less Peter Jackson and more H.P. Lovecraft and Roger Corman.





Thursday, February 7, 2013

Orcs

Orcs are the simplest and most fundamental tool that evil gods and demons have to wreak their machinizations upon the World We Know. They enter the World We Know through the waters of brackish fens, dark pools under moonlight, or the sea. They can be found in the Shadow Realm as well, awaiting direction from their masters.

While goblins have pebbled skin which is often bright, striped and be-spiked like a lizzard, orcs are mottled, dark and smooth like an eel.

While goblins are maniacal inventors, orcs are patient builders, constructing monoliths and monuments.

While goblins often sing, orcs do not, though on moonless nights a low inhuman chanting may be heard coming from Orchenges.

Orcs are dutiful in the work they do for their masters, however, this work is merely vocational. The gods that orcs truly worship are much, much older and long since vanished from any world known to orcs or men.

Orcs are fascinated by human women.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Skeletons

Skeletons are the most common creature to coalesce in the mists over the dark sea from the dreams of the dead. The dead often dream of themselves it seems. These skeletons are almost always violent, angry and mindless. There are stories, however, of skeletons capable of thought and speech and with memories of their past life.

Sorcerers are capable of learning a certain unholy and ancient runic language. By carving a particular rune  on the inside of a skeleton's breastbone and carving a complimentary rune into his own flesh a sorcerer may bind the skeleton to his command.  Wizards, rulers of aberrant empires of long ago bound countless skeletal warriors in this way and fought wars amongst each other.  In the Southern Wastes there are tombs full of these silent armies and magical scrolls made from the skin of sorcerers preserve the runes of command.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Goblins

Goblins sprout from the wounds of devils or ooze forth from the blood of demons. When a demon is killed a ritual must be performed to prevent a horde of goblins from pouring forth from the corpse.  Long have the demons and devils attempted to control goblins for their own demonic ends. They have had little success. Goblins certainly make mischief in the world, but it is their own mischief, not anyone else's.

Goblins love making things, inventing things, and breaking things to reshape them for their own pernicious ends. In the songs of goblins are the secrets to making vile constructs, contraptions and machines.

In the Shadow Realm goblins can be found fishing, usually with a box made of thick copper wire and glass, with one side that may be opened. They affix this box to the end of a line and toss it into the Sea of the Dead. When they haul in the line the box is filled with a memory, stolen from the dead and rendered in physical form: a live chicken, a worn boot, creek water on a warm summers day or a birthday cake.

Goblins never wear shoes.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Kobolds

Kobolds come from their own realm which is not the World We Know, nor the Shadow Realm. Some kobolds say that their world is of a slightly different shape than ours, and other kobolds say that it is shaped exactly the same but is at a slightly different angle. Kobolds apparently can travel to and from their world as long as they are not touching iron, but if they are cut by an iron blade they loose this power forever. When they travel this was they appear or disappear in a puff of smoke. Kobolds revere knowledge above all worldly things. They are especially fond of the written world and will bargain, beg, command or cajole to get a book they have not seen or read. There are groups of kobolds, sundered from their home who live in caves in the walls of black stone that surround the Sea of the Dead. Some say they tunnel to and from the world we know, stealing books and amassing secret libraries.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Sea of the Dead II

There are islands in the dark sea. Some islands are the foundations of castles of lords of the underworld. Some of these castles are abandoned, and some are the seat of strange power.

The Black Citadel I

The Black Citadel is in the center of the Sea of the Dead. In the highest levels of the Citadel the God of the Underworld holds court and devils and lesser gods vie for power. The base of the Black Citadel is a tangled mass of viaducts, cisterns, colonades, butresses, and crumbling towers. It is here where gods who are no longer worshiped in the World We Know are entombed. These tombs of forgotten gods and the fabled treasure within is what most often draws foolhardy adventures away from the sunlit world and in to the Shadow Realm.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Mist II

When the mists descend the dead dream. These dreams coalesce in the mists and form monsters who stalk the Shadow Realm. Sometimes these monsters are then brought into the World We Know via nightmares.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Mist I

Mists descend upon the Sea of the Dead in the same way that night falls on the World We Know.

Monday, January 21, 2013

People who I wish WotC would hire to do D&D art

There's concept art for 5e Forgotten Realms up.  Some people don't like it.  I think it's way better than the stuff from 4e.  They tried too hard to make the art in the 4e books all the same style, the same world, everything had to adhere dogmatically to the new D&D canon.  comments here mention that the hobbits especially look like they're from Pixar.  I'm fine with that.  What I like about art in the older editions of D&D books is that they let individual artists express different styles: Easley does not look like Elmore does not look like Trampier, but it's all D&D.  This 5e stuff is a tiny baby step back in that direction.  Yeah, the hobbits are Pixar-ish, the humans could easily be from Game of Thrones and some of the monsters could have come from Peter Jackson (that Aboleth is bad ass) and I think that's great. I wish they would take this farther and let people really play with what D&D can look like.

so here's my beginning of a list of people who I wish WotC would hire to do D&D art
(but they probably won't):

Shawn Cheng, Zak S and some other folks

Barnaby Ward

Theo Ellsworth

Skinner

John Paul Leon

frickin Scrap Princess

This list can and should be added to.  Feel free to make suggestions!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Wraithwind I

The unsettling quiet and calm of the dark sea is only rarely broken by Wraithwind. This ill wind may be summoned by a murderer from the World We Know. Filling sails with Wraithwind is the favored method of travel of pirates and smugglers on the dark sea.

The Shadow Realm II

Some say there are many paths to the Shadow Realm, and that in the back of every cavern, cellar, cairn and closet there is a door you may pass through, if only you know the secret word, the secret knock, or have a silver key.

Others say there is but one path and only the dead know the way.

There is a city in the East with a pool in a temple and the priests of that temple claim that by diving in to the pool you may reach the Shadow Realm.

In the forests they whisper that to reach the Shadow Realm you must first travel to the moon.

The Sea of the Dead I

The Living must have a vessel to cross the Sea of the Dead. Any craft intended for our waters will do, from a simple coracle, a flat-bottomed river boat, or a sailing ship. The trick is getting the vessel to the Dark Sea.

Some find wind to fill sails on the dark sea, but this wind is rare and fickle.

The easiest way to move a vessel across the dark sea is to hold a light aloft at the bow. The hands of the sea will slowly pass the craft from one to the other. Light may draw eyes from out of the darkness however.

Holding aloft the holy symbol of the god of the underworld will similarly move able craft through the sea, but it is said He will seek payment for this favor.

The Shadow Realm I

Deep beneath the World We Know there lies the Shadow Realm. In this world below there is a vast sea of human souls. From the near shores to the far reaches of this Sea of the Dead the bone dry waters are countless upraised hands, the pale grey hands of those who have descended in to the shadow.