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

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The most underrated of dungeon exploration equipment is:

The Shovel.

I posted way back a million years ago about playing a character who's main weapon was a shovel. Durn the Dwarf, bearer of the rune shovel died in a dismal cave. Talysman was running the game and in fine old school fashion when the dice said that Durn died that's what he did. I was thinking today that the shovel really is a top notch dungeon exploration weapon/tool. Maybe the western martial arts crowd would say that there's no room for such an unwieldy two handed weapon in a dungeon environment, but I think I'm not going to worry about that too much in a game where the dwarves who are famous for dwelling underground (in presumably tight quarters) are also famous for wielding big axes and hammers. What I mean is, in a world of 10' corridors it hardly seems like an issue. Though if the caves did suddenly get all realistically twisty and narrow what better than a trusty shovel to make a bit more room for the broad shouldered barbarian? If these games were realistic then dwarves and goblins would be crawling around in the dark in tunnels too small for humans and I doubt they'd carry much more than a shiv or two.

Ah but if your after realism then the shovel is the first thing your PC should pick up when spending their 3d6x10 gold!  Let's look at a potential real world situation: Say you come across a rabid raccoon attacking your neighbors cat and you must rise to the occasion and intervene. What would you rather have a knife or a shovel? Are you going to bend over and take a stab at the raccoon? That would be rediculous, certainly far more dangerous and nerve wracking than being able to put the shovel between the two animals and if you had to be more forceful you could from a safer distance. Heck, I think in that situation a shovel would be preferred to a .22. You might hit the cat after all.  Now, if this situation sounds like it has nothing to do with D&D, look at your preferred 1st level monster list. A lot of those creatures resemble a rabid raccoon! In size, temperament or both.

But a shovel is a ridiculous weapon you say? Let's look at the Level 1 Wandering Monster table. Of the 20 entries on the table 9 (almost half!) are  monstrous creatures the shovel could be used to chop or swing at. These are creatures like the fire beetle and the spider crab as well as the aerial attackers: the killer bee , the sprite and the stirge. 10 on this list are humans or humanoids. They probably don't want to get whacked by a shovel either. That leaves the green slime. This type of creature is best prodded from a safe distance rather than attacked. Don't have a ten foot pole? A shovel will do in a pinch.

The Level 2 list breaks down similarly. Not until we get to the level 3 monster list does the shovel start to seem outclassed, but I think it's just an oddity of the popular imagination that a sword seems like it would do much better. Against these creatures you really need higher hit dice or a magic weapon or both. And if that's the case, then why not play a Dwarven Shovelmaster (3rd level) with a +1 Rune Shovel?

How about weapon restrictions? There isn't anything that prohibits a wizard or cleric from carrying a shovel is there? Is your wizard tired of striking Gandalf-esque poses while not actually doing much that is useful? Put a shovel head on that staff and get busy! My point is this: If you can walk into a dungeon with a magic missile spell memorized then certainly do so, but bring a shovel too.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Some things Mike Mearls said yesterday

Mike Mearls said stuff on Reddit.

Regarding the 5e DMG that's coming out in about a month:

"There are rules for domains and managing a realm or business as part of the downtime system."

That's good news.  I think that experiencing the characters go from murder-hobos desperate for gold to movers and shakers in what is really a totally different game is a big part of the draw and what makes rpgs a unique thing.  Also kender will not be in the DMG which is really really good news.

"Here's what I'd do if I designed the game solely for myself.
More dice, fewer static modifiers. I'd use a die in place of the proficiency bonus. I like rolling dice and find it easier to teach that way."

The person asking the question clarifies: Replacing a +2 with a d4, +3 with d6, +4 with d8, +6 with d12, etc.  That sounds FUN.  Doesn't DCC do something like that?

"I wish the MM could be an app rather than a book. Working in page counts sucks, to be honest. I would've loved to break out tables of bonds, traits, and flaws for every intelligent creature in the game. Don't get me wrong, I love physical books, but on the digital front there's so much potential in breaking out of physical restraints."

This sounds cool, but I feel pretty sure WotC would do it all wrong. I want to see a They Stalk the Underworld app, that would be awesome.  and there could be links to things like John the Retired Adventurer's Wandering Monsters  Lair/Spoor/Tracks/Traces.

Somebody asked: "Will we see Dungeon and Dragon magazine again? Will there be digital content on the website, similar to the maps, art, and adventures we saw in the 3E era?"

and Mike said:
"We're exploring options for the magazines right now. Nothing to announce yet, but we know they're an important part of D&D's history.  That said, the magazine business is in rough shape. Subscriptions to them were dropping heavily in their last years in print, and that was six years ago. You can expect anything we do will be delivered digitally."

I'm still holding out for the D&D Mega-Blog.  Only WotC could do it, and it would be a reinvention of the magazine.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Everything you know about halflings is true.

WHAT IF everything you know about halflings is true?

They live underground, and are obsessed with comfort and pipeweed:

they're cannibals that want nothing more than to poke you to death and eat your face:

by this guy in Peru.  I love this picture.

Wait! They're basically regular folks, but smaller and with big hairy feet:

They pretty much don't believe anything you say:

They ride dinosaurs:

Ok, and sometimes goats:
You've probably seen them training and riding around on other things too, dogs, pigs, lammas, etc.  It's all true.

They are weirdly pale with flush red noses:

 They're great climbers:

And they're good at skulking about.  In other words, they make great thieves: 

But some are crafty magic-users:

And some are just barbarians:

Lately they've gotten really into collecting fungus:

Oh, and they're into tattoos.

Got all that?  They're your basic smoking and shrooming albino cannibal pastoral hedonists who love their domesticated critters and the all finer things in life, including yours.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Unhallowed Spells

The idea that there should be a spell called "Beastial Inheritance" came into my head as I woke up this morning but my sorta still asleep brain didn't have time to figure out what the spell does.  Upon further reflection here's how I think it might work:

Beastial Inheritance
Magic-User  Level 4
The MU must ritualistically kill a lycanthrope with a cursed blade then sheath it or put it away. If the next time the blade is used it is used to ritualistically cut a normal animal and a human then the bodies and spirits of the animal and the human are combined into a new were creature.  The victim/volunteer need not be willing,  and the Magic-User may cast the spell on him/herself.  The creature will serve the Magic-User for the caster's level+2d6 days.

This spell gives the PCs the power to create whatever were-creature they want: were-sharks, were-chihuahuas, were-emus... That sounds like fun, right?  Note the spell says "normal animal" so no were-tarasques or were-dragons.

That was fun.  Here are a few more vaguely Halloween themed spells:

Necrotic Transformation
Magic-User  Level 3
As the Magic-User casts this spell they undergo a ghastly transformation into an undead creature. The player may choose one die/table on the Undead Remix tables each round if a save vs. magic/Cosmic Doom/Necrotic Transformation is made.  If the save is failed then roll the appropriate die and record the result.  Once a save has been failed the remaining die are rolled normally.  The spell's duration is the caster's level+d6 hours.  At the end of the spells duration the caster must make another saving throw.  If this is failed the undead state continues for another d6 hours after which another saving throw is rolled.  If that roll fails the caster forever remains undead.

Magic-User Level 2
The material component for this spell is a bit of clay mixed with at least one drop of lycanthrope blood.  The spell must be cast just as the moon is rising and must be completed before the moon clears the horizon.  While the spell is being cast the clay is molded by the Magic-User into the form of a creature.  at the spells completion the clay will grow in size to the equivalent of a number of normal men equal to the caster's level.  The creature will come alive and serve the Magic-User until the moon sets.  The creature will have armor class as chain mail and will have the same HD as the caster.  The creature may have spikes or claws or wings or anything else that can be reasonably modeled in clay in a few minutes and they will be fully functional.

The DM should give the Player a ball of clay to mold to determine the nature of the Were-Golem that is created.  A timer of 2 minutes should be used to limit the time that the creature can be formed.

Moon Ray Cartography
Magic-User  Level 1
This spell must be cast on the night of a full moon.  A clear crystal worth at least 100 gp must be held aloft so that a moon beam may shine through it.  The light of the moon beam will form a map on the ground below the crystal.  This map will describe clues to the nature and location of a treasure.  Because the map will only last the caster's level+D4 rounds this spell is often cast over a bed of sand or unfurled roll of parchment to record the map.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

One Page Town Template

I've been thinking about towns lately.  Timrod's recent post about the lack of description about the town of Saltmarsh got me started, then I remembered this excellent post from Brendan.  I liked the aspects of the town Gorgonthorn that Brendan chose to write up, he focuses on being evocative and game-able.  The one thing that he leaves out are rumors and hooks to get you back out of the town which I think is important.  You could also add more info about factions and intrigue if that's your flavor.  Where I'm going with this is that I think we need a one page template for towns.  We have one page dungeon and wilderness templates, but I have never come across a one page town so I made one!

I've used Brendan's description of Gorgonthorn as the model for what should be included and added a place for rumors and adventure hooks.  Then to see if his three pages of description can fit on a single page I filled out the template:
I think i managed to distill the important information that would be handy to have while running a game, and there is room to spare.  To save space I decided not to make a separate key.  Instead, anything keyed to the map is described elswhere on the page as appropriate.  I put all the keys under "NPCs & Organizations" but you could have locations keyed in other sections.  For example, if one of the rumors is that at the edge of town there is a old haunted house the key for that could be under rumors instead.

Here are links to the template:

One Page Town Template (word file)
One Page Town Template (pdf)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

UNDEAD remixed

This one is just in time for your Halloween themed games!  In this installment the remix includes the powers and abilities of the Undead creatures.  As with most of these remixes, I've looked to later editions (mostly the 1e Monster Manual) for some inspiration and added a few new elements of my own to fill out the tables but the bulk of the characteristics on the table are from ODnD.  Hopefully the result will be some creepy monsters that your PCs don't know what to do with.

I'm experimenting with a different format for this one, basically taking a cue from Telecanter and added the sentence at the top to organize the rolls.

Let's try this out:

An animal corpse (I'm going to say it's a cow) actually appears beautiful (and otherwise normal) but goes all Jekyll/Hyde and turns into cow-corpse monsters.  They cause Level drain (by trampling) and fear/revulsion.  They are vulnerable to fire and garlic.  (HD: 1 AC: 3 No. App: 15)  I think the local villagers call them the Fell Herd and are totally terrified of them.

How about another?

Bandaged corpses of women.  They cause fear/revulsion and regenerate.  They are vulnerable to mirrors and water.  (HD: 3 AC:7 No. App: 3 Dmg: D8)  These I think will be called the Shunlilly Sisters and the rumor is that they dwell in a big decrepit mansion at the edge of town, and Old Man Shunilly came back from a grand voyage with a mysterious treasure and then disappeared.

These remixes were inspired by Sham's pointing out how the monsters are categorized in the Monster Reference Table.  When I started doing these remixes Sham was still occasionally posting but the Grog n' Blog has been silent for years now.  I'm really grateful that the blog is still up, it's a great resource!

Thursday, October 2, 2014


I thought that I already put this up here, but it doesn't look like it.  This is the latest in my ridiculous and unnecessary remixing of all the the monsters from vol II: Monsters and Treasure.  I put the Save vs. Stone creatures together with the Lycanthropes and snuck in the Gargoyles.  The stoners and the werefolk aren't usually associated with each other.  In OD&D there's a cryptic Saturday horror movie matinee inspired connection between lycanthropes and vampires, but for these remixes Undead (including vampires) need to be their own thing.

In my mind the Gorgonae like to turn Lycanthropes into stone because they make the nicest statues, and their Lycanthropic bodies & souls can somehow magically interfere with the effects of the Gorgon turn-to-stone attack.  I don't think that background interferes with the remixing of the original monster write ups.  I'll leave it up to the DM to determine if Gargoyles are in some way magically bound to the Gorgon that made them or if they have their own society and hold secret enclaves on moonless nights to plan their flight to a mythical city in the South Sea.  Maybe a Gargoyle's autonomy depends on the intelligence of the creating Gorgon.

Download here:

As usual there is a worksheet at the bottom to keep track of what's rolled up.

The only monster remixes I have left to do are humans and undead!  I want to redo Dragons to hew closer to the source material, but I figure I better get these all done before I start redoing them.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Magic of Cinema Forever

Well, the subject of my last post may be a hopeless cause.  Here is a cause that is near and dear to my heart and that has better prospects of being successful:
The best video store in the world, although they don't give out free beer. has started a Kickstarter to become a non-profit.  It looks like they're going to make their goal.  I'll be delighted if they do.
For preservation of legal access to copyrighted material I can't say it better than Outlaw Vern

OK, but this is a gaming blog, sooo....

d24 things from the film Saragossa Manuscript to add to your DnD:
  1. Soldiers on opposites sides both enraptured by a marvelous book in the middle of a battle.
  2. Ghost haunted inn in a desolate mountain pass, master suite is carved into rock, half cave and half immaculate carved rock.
  3. Soldiers arguing with their commanding officer, playing a crazy lute thing and wearing ginormeous cummerbunds.
  4. Hangmen on a gibbet with a vulture and piles of bones.
  5.  Emina and Zibelda sisters from a foreign land, want to marry protagnist, but he must obey the Prophets Law, can only see them in his dreams and drink from a skull chalice.
  6. A guy loses a duel then gives his soul to the devil, then lives and gets married.
  7.  Ladies say fruit is bad for you.
  8. There’s a guy missing an eye, you find out later zombie gypsies ate it.
  9. Zombies/spirits try to talk a guy into coming outside so they can get him but he’s safe in the chapel.
  10. The Spanish Inqusition!
  11.  Zota the bandit stages a rescue.
  12. A guy stuck in a crazy devil mask.
  13. Things happen then wakng up by the gibbet again and again groundhog day style.
  14.  A friendly Cabalist who tells of: Nach-Sou-Chasi, Chaldean knowledge,  Shir-Ha-Shi-Mir, magic words/numbers, how Adonai made the world with a word, Setir-So-Har, Pandemonium.
  15. Some people can distinguish between Hungarian and Polish zombies.
  16. “oh yeah, I just happen to have a castle in the neighborhood” not an actual quote, but it happens.
  17.  “Good company is more precious than wealth or black magic.” Actual quote.
  18. “You have books here, all the wisdom in the world is to be found on these shelves.” Another actual quote.
  19. A guy in a story in a book finds the book he’s in a story in.  
  20. When an old gypsy starts to tell his story a guy with a big ass spanish guitar sits down behind him an starts playing.
  21. A cool gypsy in a wide brim hat just chillin on some stone lions on the town square till a rich guy pays him to spy on his wife.
  22. A guy’s friend dies and he visits him as a thunderstorm to tell him about the afterlife.
  23. “only an uneducated man who sees a thing everyday thinks he understands it.  A true researcher proceeds among riddles.  He errs but he gets nearer his goal every day.”
  24. A fortune telling whore and another who smokes big cigars.
This list is only a tiny tiny fraction of the game worthy elements of this movie, including the whole story-within-a-story-within-a-story premise.  You could base a campaign on this movie!

I found this movie at my local video store.

Even though it's the 21st Century and oh my god aren't you downloading TV shows straight into your brain like everyone else? I'm still in love with Scarecrow Video.  Were it not for this Temple of Cinema of a Video store I would never have even heard of Saragossa Manuscript or lots of other great and terrible movies I have enjoyed watching over the years.  We are really lucky to have this place in Seattle and We should support it!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

An open letter to Games Workshop


I'm writing to ask about the possibility of Games Workshop publishing the old Realms of Darkness books.  It's easy to find illegal pdfs on the internet, and some of the best tables and art have been put up online by various people.  My problem is I don't download illegal pdfs, I don't want just a few tables or pictures, and really what I'd like is to have the books Slaves to Darkness and the Lost and the Damned.  They are so cool.  The art is really really amazing, these are some of the best rpg products ever.  Used copies can be found but they're damaged, written in, crazy expensive or all three.  

I think it's weird that while a novel if it's popular will be reprinted in perpetuity, rpg products either go out of print or are "revised" until they're unrecognizable.  Why not just keep printing the books that sold well in the first place, just as they were printed before?  No additions, editorializing, no new rules and definitely no new art is necessary!  Just good binding and all the art and content GW paid for 25 years ago.  Hey the Lost and the Damned was originally printed almost 25 years ago, right?  That's a good reason for a reprint right there. 

I know those rules are supported anymore and if reprinted as is there would be conflicting editions.  The thing is, there already are conflicting editions! Sure, now you have to pay $200 for a copy of the old edition, but it's out there.  I really believe that if reprinted as-is the old Realms of Darkness could only increase sales of current edition games and miniatures.  Wizards of the Coast has been reprinting old editions of Dungeons and Dragons, and I think it's bought them a lot of goodwill from the older fans.

If I bought used copies of the RoD books it could easily set me back $350.  It seems like you could charge a third of that and make plenty of money.  That's $116.66, hah, or $110 and $6.66 for shipping and handling.  I am sure that I'm not alone.

I just sent the above to GW's customer service email, where I doubt anything will come of it.  Who knows though, with the OGRE reprint, Metamorphosis Alpha and all of the D&D reprints and pdf releases Wizards of the Coast has been doing and the 25 year anniversary, just maybe...   

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sleestak Mafia Capital City

Just to make sure I don't get too good of a reputation, here's this:

The Big City. A den of villainy. A hive of magical research. Inequality. Larceny. Gambling. Robo-sorcery. 

Obvious facts:
Kobold ghetto
Huge casinos, Sleestak managers, human and kobold workers
Sleestak overseers, with robot servants 
Visiting dwarf merchants, buttoned down, loathing the whole place
Visiting dwarf merchants, cutting loose

Rumors:  (roll D30.  Most of these are true, but that's up to the DM)
1There is a robot underground movement, robots who have shed there Sleesy schackles and escaped and now plot against their former masters
2 There are pylons in the desert, remnants of ancient Sleestak techno-magic 
3 The Sleestaks have secret research facilities in the desert.
4 There is a pylon hidden in Sleesport
5 The Sleestaks can see into the future
6 There is going to be a massive shipment out of the Sleestak treasury soon
7 There are strange lights in the Desert at night
8 The visions you see while on Kobold psychedelics are true
9 the Sleestak treasury is guarded by a pair of giant robots and a squad of some of the toughest members of the Sleestak Mafia
10 the Sleestak Mafia is hiring outsiders for a secret mission (capture escaped robot wizard who can cast Detect Sleestaks at will)
11 The gladiator pits are a good way to make some quick dough (this rumor will come from a kobold, the gladiator pits are the only gambling facility the kobolds are allowed to control)
12 weird strangers are in town (giant intelligent cats, plant people riding rhinos, blue people, a flying squid, etc) are they here on business with the Sleestaks?
13 there's a big reward for a human princess last seen in one of the opium dens
14 the latest fashion craze is growing an eyeball on your chest by swallowing a pill. 
15 giant monsters attack Sleesport every 100 years. The last attack was about 100 years ago.
16 Sleestaks all share the same memories
17 the latest fashion craze is dressing like a dwarf (heavy blue and grey wool) and wearing stilts
18 a human wizard has figured out how to crack the anti magic shell around all of the Sleestak casinos
19 no one is ever seen coming or going out of the Romulon warrior temple
20 a secret treaty between the Sleestaks and the Romulons just went south
21 the latest fashion craze is wearing a tiny robot on your shoulder
22 the latest fashion craze is already passé
23 the latest fashion craze is pretending to be your future self who has traveled back in time to the present
24 some of the dwarf merchant houses of Foulcrest hire bandits to steal their own trade shipments because they have a great insurance policy 
25 the flying ships seen landing in and leaving the Sleestak imperial citadel are diplomats from other worlds
26 the Sleestak Mafia's secret technology comes from a place called Illinois
27 purple camels are highly intelligent, they only pretend to be dumb animals
28 somebody in the caravanserai is hiring thieves to break into the Sleestak imperial citadel
29 there is a beast in the sewers giving the kobolds all kinds of grief, killing and maiming, they need help
30 the guy who runs the giraffe stables is selling a map to treasure in the desert.

Sleestak Mafia Amulet
works like a mystical cellphone.

Sleestak Mafia Tommygun

Once per day, can shoot a ray that turns the target into a robot. It's possible but difficult to save or dodge.  Any character hit, in addition to being a robot, will be under the control of the Shooter.  Over the course of days, weeks or months it's possible for some to resist the Sleestak's control, but they're still robots.  This is where the robot underground comes from.

Otherwise the tommygun shoots lazers that don't have to go in a straight line and do as much damage as a pole arm.   

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ninja vs. Aerobics and Make Game Stuff Right Now

Last night I watched Ninja III: the Domination and this gem of 80's cinema validates completely my notion of Cursed Blades at least if you equate demons with ninjas, let's not worry too much about the details.  Ninja III also validates the writer/directors opinion regarding the erotic possibilities of V8 juice, but that's also a detail we shouldn't worry too much about.  Anyway I recommend the film, though my girlfriend would not.  

Let's change the subject.

Sometimes I'll be thinking about D&D and I'll obsess over something stupid like saving throws or thieves skills or how much damage two-handed swords should do, when what I should be thinking about is how to make my next game more awesome.  I mean I love thinking about saving throws or thieves skills or how much damage two-handed swords should do and we should all do that, we really should but then it'll be game night and I'll have half a map so we'll play Cataan and that's fine and great but not what this blog is about it's about actual D&D-type gaming.  That stuff is like, "Hi my name is Steve and I'll be your server for the evening" and what I need is the stuff cookin up in the kitchen. (more back of house and less front of house)   

So what I'm going to start doing is pretending like the time that I have to noodle over D&D is all I have before the next game. Today I did and this is what I came up with:

Wizard Wastes Encounter Table:
1 wyvern
2 humanoid scouts 
3 merg band (merg are running bird riding mongols, great riders and archers)
4 caravan beleaguered and off route, will pay for guidance, replace with another human group from civilization after this is rolled
5 dinosaur, lone carnivore 
6 dinosaur, group of herbivores
7 Cactus treants, replace with another plant thing after rolled
8 Giant centipedes
9 pteradactyls
10 giant undead spider, weirdly friendly humanoid shaman riding/living inside, replace with another weird thing after rolled

Events Table
Sandstorm: this doesn't happen randomly, it happens when the ruined city is fleshed out by DM, storm exposes city under the dunes

Rumors: beginning players hear all of these, work them into an intro monologue, tales of the crusty hermit style:
1 Ruined structures, ancient carved stones buried in the dunes
2 spending night under temple will turn humans into ghouls, some say ghouls are doomed forever, some say they can be changed back to humans 
3 demon city full of powerful magic is under temple
4 other wizards manses dot the rim of the wastes, some ancient, some new

Some things in the Wizard Wastes:
Oasis: mud, water, bamboo, some trees, likely to encounter
Obelisk: very weathered ancient obelisks dot the desert
Ruin: very weathered stone buildings, a few walls only

Encounters below the Temple:
1 Ghouls
2 giant centipedes
3 toad men subteranean desert dwellers
4 MU and mercs

Toad men traps, involve sandbag weights, stone slabs, random scavenged sharp things, fiber chords, pits, meant to trap ghouls mostly, they'll dig a smooth pit, cover it with weak wood, and cover the whole path with sand.

Toad men holds defended well against ghouls, they tunnel themselves. 
Toadmen weapons are dried root clubs w shards of sharp stone, cactus spine blowgun darts, slow if hit (half move, -2 to hit, effects ghouls)
Toad men go to surface at night only, to hunt desert owls, forage cactus...
Toadmen chief is corrupt, maybe possessed, Maybe has a cursed blade.

Clawblobs: gross oozes with many claws, climb as high as they can. (Put one or two in the roof of the temple) they are dimly intelligent, attack from above by falling on victim, clawing, clinging and enveloping in ooze. Absorb everything but stone, Get bigger when they feed and split. They smell like rotting meat.

Kinds of Monsters:
Monsters that move in from the desert (toadmen)
Monsters that spawn from chaos below (claw blobs)
Monsters from surface that make forrays below (humanoids, other MUs)
Monsters originally from surface, corrupted by chaos below (Ghouls) 

This is certainly incomplete, but it came together very fast and it goes a long way towards filling in the most recent map I have started and the area around it.  My advice: Make Game Stuff Now!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Zabel's Return... with tentacles

 Recently I found this painting:

 Zabel's Return by Vardiges Sureniants

It's a nice painting, right?  Queen Isabela of Armenia is returning to the throne.  But wait a minute, what is that guy on the far left looking at?  It really looks like he's staring with a shocked look on his face at something over her head.  It must be that he's supposed to be looking at the crown, but not to disparage mister Sureniants at all, it really looks like he's looking above the crown to me.  is somebody waving at him?  did he spy an assassin?  What's going on?

The only conclusion I've come up with is that there's actually supposed to be cthulhoid tentacles reaching from behind the curtains, and the guy on the left is the only one who made his initiative/surprise roll.  So, I've fixed the painting:

I haven't been able to figure out what the rules are regarding modifying public domain art.  If this isn't legal maybe somebody let me know.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

What Happens When a Wizard Dies

When a Magic-User croaks roll a d6:

The Magic-User's spirit may take one action per level as if a 20 were rolled for each action. Possible actions are anything a human could be able to perform including speak. Spell casting is not possible. The spirit of the Magic-User appears ghostly and is as intangible as desired.
The place of the Magic-User's death is imbued with Mana* equal to the M-U's level x d6. This Mana will manifest gradually over d6X weeks. Manifestations may include:  
(d6X=exploding d6, reroll and add if a 6 is rolled)
man-made objects left in the area
animals in the area
The killers hand warps, atrophies and falls off causing d4 damage per level of the M-U. The hand, if not destroyed with a ritual will:
Turn to stone and in d6 hours will grow into a:
Earth Elemental
Come alive imbued with the M-U's spirit
Fall to the earth and sprout a Creep Tree**
Crystallize, and crystals spread in all directions 100' per day. Max days=M-U's level
Turn into an Imp and serve the nearest evil M-U.
Fall to the earth and spread an undead plague in all directions 100' per day. Max days=M-U's level
Every one within 10' per level of the M-U are consumed in ghostly fire. (d6 damage per M-U's level. Save for half damage.)
The M-U remains linked to one of his personal possessions the way a Demon is linked to a Cursed Blade.
The place of the M-U's death is haunted by their spirit forever.

* Mana can be used in the following ways:
1  Burned up by a M-U to cast a spell.  One Mana is equivalent to a spell slot of the highest level spell the M-U may cast.
2  It can be burned when researching a new spell, one Mana is equal to d12x1000 GP for this purpose.
3  If a Magic-User gives it to a non-Magic-User to consume, the non-Magic-User can cast a single spell of the Magic-User's choice that is in the Magic-Users spell book.

** A Creep Tree is like an evil Ent with twisty ropey roots.  They are really sneaky, surprising 4/6, and they can move really fast in short bursts. They are intelligent and obsessed with ruining cities and civilization.  They will find the biggest and best city and climb the highest building like King Kong or the tree in the courthouse roof in Greensburg Indiana and from there whisper evil things into the dreams of everyone who sleeps in the city.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Wyverns are what happens when a Medusa attempts to turn a Werewolf into a Gargoyle and fails.

I started off thinking about my own version of Brendan's differentiating weapon with properties other than how much damage they do  and then I started thinking about pikes and how cool it would be if PCs hired a bunch of pikemen to travel around with them but then I thought pikes are a lousy weapon in a dungeon, you're better off with a shortsword in those tight spaces then I was wondering about what kinds of foes or situations would it make sense for the PCs to hire a bunch of pikemen if not dungeon crawling and the answer to that is wide open spaces and enemies that are something like cavalry since historically that's what pikes were good against so that means beasts, animals, humanoids I suppose too but I like the idea of big scary beasts being fended off by a handful of guys getting paid like 5 gold a day and they're all scared shitless but their wizard boss is like "it'll be fine boys, just jab him if he gets any closer."

Dragons are a big beast but their fire breathing would render pikes useless, so it's gotta be a big beast with no ranged attack, how about wyverns?  Then I remembered how I want to link Lycanthropes with Medusas via Gargoyles like this: Medusa/Gorgon type creatures are really intelligent and really old and for whatever reason their turn to stone effect doesn't work against Lycanthropes the same way it does against every other kind of creature, instead of turning to stone they turn to stone but are able to move and think and they are forced to serve the Medusas who make them.  Maybe the ancient Medusa language Gorgole has a magic effect on them.  Then I think maybe some were creatures turn into something other than Gargoyles maybe their mutants, maybe they look away at the last minute maybe they drank an anti turn-to-stone potion made by a werewolf alchemist I don't know.  The whole Medusa/Gargoyle/Lycanthrope relationship will have to be explored another time, here's the sketch that resulted from the above silliness:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sentient Spells

Sometimes through accident or strange purpose, a spell acquires sentience, personality and it's own goals or desires. A sentient spell can be scribed into a Magic-User's spell book. (it may already be there when it becomes sentient)  When the Magic-User attempts to cast the spell he or she must convince the spell to create it's effect. This will generally require the M-U to acquiesce to the Spell's requests. When a Sentient spell is encountered or created it's desires/goals should be determined. It will take at least one round to discuss the casting with the spell. The following modifiers should be applied to the reaction roll:
Roll 3d6 Take Highest 2 dice
If the M-U provides the spell with it's desires.*
+1/level lower
If the spell is lower than the highest level that the M-U can cast.
Roll 3d6 Take Lowest 2 dice
If the spell is greater than that which the M-U could normally cast.*
Refuse and demand
Argue and request
Debate or concede 1/2 spell effect
Concede spell effect
Spell effect x2
Spell's Appearance:
Spell's Initial Method of Arguement/Debate:
Spell's Desire:
Freedom. If granted the spell may be erased from the caster's spellbook.
warm glow
Life Energy. If granted decrease caster's or victim's Hit Points.
crackle of electricity
vague, ghostly animal
Veiled Intimidation
Magic. If granted delete magic items (permanent) or spell slots (temporary).
inhuman, alien creature
Open Threats
*If a Magic-User attempts to cast a sentient spell that is of a greater level than he could normally cast and he provides the spell with it's desire, then roll 2d6 as normal.

I have not used this at the table yet.  It will probably change a bit when I do.  The above is what I would tell/show the Players. What I wouldn't say (at least not at first) is that stringing the spell along is kind of what this is all about.  Saying you'll give it what it wants, but putting it off.  Also the degree of freedom/amount of HP, magic items or spell slots is deliberately vague.  What ever the spell can convince the M-U to give it is what it gets! 

Monday, January 20, 2014


I've completed another one in my series of Monsters Remixed:

This preview looks all weird and crappy, but the pdf looks good.  In fact, it looks better than some of the previous Monster Remixes because I learned how to convert text to a table in Open Office Writer instead of forcing excel into being a graphics program when it's not.

Humanoids Remixed takes the basic attributes of the humanoid races in ODnD: goblins, kobolds, orcs, hobgoblins, gnolls, ogres, trolls, and giants and mixes them up.  The idea is that instead of just rolling "orc" on a table, or having to make up from scratch something that is more interesting than orcs, the DM rolls one of each die and looks at this page to make a new type of humanoid.  I've rolled up some of these, and it all seems to work, but they need some kind of name I think so something like this should be added:

For example:

Fat, three foot tall, 1 HD, nomadic humanoids 200 strong who ride about in their walking castle and wear leather armor.  Their leader is a Lvl 3 fighter and he's got 8 guards with 2 HD.  They keep as a pet a scorpion tailed, winged, headless goat thing with a voracious appetite and 4 HD.  In the lair they've got 2000 cp and 3000gp worth of gems.

In the example above I combined the Nomadic attribute with the result rolled for Lair: Castle.

Gaunt, five foot tall, 1 HD, regenerating cave-dwellers, 60 of em. Lead by one of their own with 5 HD with 10 guards at 2 HD and 40 giant bats.  5000 cp, 1000 sp and a scroll of snake control.

Now all I have left are the humans, undead, save vs. stoners and animals.  

Here's a link to the pdf:
There's more in the free loot links to the right.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Intelligent Swords and Cursed Blades


Intelligent sword rules in most every edition are complicated and don't seem to gain much for the complication. But the idea of the fighting for control of his sword/ring/arm like Elric/Frodo/Dr. Strangelove seems like Gaming Fun, so could we do that with a simpler mechanic?


The Reaction table is perfect, and the bell curve that makes the center of the bell "uncertain" roll come up the most often encourages roleplaying. It's the dice telling you to talk more.

The intelligent sword formula takes into account STR and INT I think and percentage of hit points, but really all that is measuring is how tough you are and the dead simple way to measure how tough you are is level
so I'm going to use that instead. And the swords pluses and powers make it harder to control so when it's time for a PC to battle for control roll 2d6 + level -plusses and powers of the sword: check
result on the reaction table. Simple.

2d6 + wielder's Level - 1 for each plus or power of the sword

Adding level won't get out of hand A. Because high level characters are rare anyway and B. I'm adding level caps for every class except M-Us in this campaign.

2:   draw and attack
3-5:  draw or attack if drawn already
6-8: stagger around and argue
9-11: drop sword or attack inanimate object (Player's choice)
12: sheath it.  End of argument.

Ok, but how do you know when to roll?
Swords have Alignment: roll d6:

1-2: Law,
3-4: Neutral,
5-6: Chaos.

Law and Chaos insists on attacking anyone or anything of the opposite alignment within 30 feet. I bet Lawful swords would get more characters killed than Chaos. "No I really insist we stay and fight the dragon." Maybe Neutral swords have a specific goal like: travel, in which case the PC would have to fight for control to resist jumping into the teleporter/portal/ ship heading out to sea/onto the wyverns back.  I'll have to think about neutral sword some more.

And SENTIENT SPELLS may use the same mechanic, or maybe each spell gets it's own weird reaction chart? I'll have to think about that more too.

I was thinking that I'd use the same mechanic for Cursed Blades, but  now I have a better idea:

The reaction table encourages roleplaying and hopefully makes making the PC do something that they don't want to do entertaining and fun, but with Cursed Blades I want to give incentive to the PLAYER to use the sword.  Make the thing easy to use, the benefits of using the sword hard to pass up and at the same time telegraph the risks.



Certain swords and daggers are links to a hell/demon world. Using one of these blades provides a Demon the opportunity to enter our world.  Even just carrying one allows the demon to learn about you and the world around you. It's possible that the only way to destroy a cursed blade is to kill the demon linked to it, but then again that might be a bunch of hooey. Also what happens when you kill a demon is Goblins come out.

(dicey part: when the cursed blade is used to attack a normal d20 attack roll is made. At the same time roll 3d6. The single highest die is added to the attack roll. If all 3 d6 show a 6 it's hello demon time.)

Each time the sword is used the PC will see The demon in a flash of brimstone. It will encourage/taunt/laugh at/cajole the PC though it wont have time to say much.  There is a 1/6 chance the demon will
speak to the PC in their dreams after each use of the blade. It might not know common, which may be even more terrifying than if it did.

I need a quick demon generator...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Campaign Specific Spell Components

"In some cases, the spell may require substances or apparatus, such as conjuring a water elemental (5th level) requires the presence of water, a sleep spell requires a pinch of sand."

-Dungeons and Dragons, Holmes edition page 13

The Sleep spell (1st level) requires sand from the bone wastes. This desert area causes creatures who venture there to fall asleep and never wake up. The corpses are scoured by the sand the edges of the desert are full of bones of all sorts of creatures. A pinch of sand from this desert is required to cast the sleep spell, and is consumed in the casting. If the sand of the Bone Wastes is touched any character must save vs. sleep/paralysis/Mortal Terror or fall asleep forever. A flying or levitating PC or creature could conceivably carry some of the sand away. The Sand must be stored in a velvet bag with a Kyrthanean Hieroglyph "eye". The color of the bag effects the dreams of those under the effect of the spell. Black velvet will cause terrifying dreams, red velvet causes dreams of violence and passion, and blue velvet causes confusion or self loathing. The longer the sand spends in the bag the more intense the dreams.  Once the sand is in a bag as described, its effects are diminished without the proper magic to activate its power, so that a person reaching into the bag will feel drowsy, but it otherwise has no effect. 

Magic Missile
There are two known ways to cast the Magic Missile Spell (1st level).  the first is to make an arrow from vermillion ash.  This arrow is useless as a normal arrow, but when fired in combination with casting the spell effect occurs.
The second way to cast Magic Missile is to travel to the green realm of the elves and trade or steal astral arrows.  These are intangible, invisible and held in the casters thoughts.  A Magic-User can carry a number of these equal to their INT.  Astral arrows can be traded between Magic-Users but non-spellcasters cannot carry them.