Monday, December 30, 2013

Dungeon of Signs Muses About the Underdark

“The Brother Lords of the Faith of Light are great, and through their will they brought the lands of man to the Light at the end of the Age of Awakening.  All corruption was cast down, all false idols toppled and all brought forward to bask in the sun.  Those men and women that had served dark gods and false masters were given choice, all wise and all just, as the Brother Lords are great.  Many the of the unbeliever were wroth with these generous choices, and had to be forced to kneel.  The armies of the Light committed no wrongs though they were firm in leading the unbeliever from sin.  The choices given were as always the righteous three: repent and be cleansed to rise again in the Light,  Take the mark of service and the mark of the unbeliever to rise again in the Light after a life of instruction and repentance, take up the arms of the Light to live and die in the Brother Lords service, finding repentance as a warrior against the evil.  Because the soul of humanity shines with bravery and Light, even that of the unbeliever, many chose the last, yet at the end of the age there were no dark empires remaining unhumbled in error, and the armies of the Light were swollen with glory.

Bruegel - Underworld or Triumph of Death or Something
The blessing of bravery and the gift of the Brother Lords was not wasted, so wise were the pontiffs, and so wise their decrees.  Those newly grasping the arms of Light were sent into the deepest darkness of the underworld to bring Light there, so that the world could be cleansed from the heavens to the root.  There was much struggle in the deeps and many were given to rise again in Light.” – From the Chronicle of the 356th child of the Light, a work of commentary on the scriptures of the Brother Lords, published in the final years of the Age of Awakening.

So I just reviewed D3-Vault of the Drow, and as a result was asked by Brendan at Necropraxis what an underdark campaign would look like these days. Over at False Machine much work has already been perfected (really it’s amazing stuff) on what procedurally generating an Underdark would look like, so I’m not going into that. The above bit of mock serious doggerel would be the player handout for my Underdark campaign.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Review - D3 – Vault of the Drow

Lloth from D3
Written in 1978 by Gygax himself, and marked by his meticulous writing style, love of serious warnings about how hard things will be and gimping of certain spells, Vault of the Drow is pretty iconic. It's also pretty good, though better if one views it as a campaign source book then any sort of linear adventure module.

The first chunk of the module (continuing the D series methods) is a hex crawl through tunnels and caves, using a nodal map and geomorphs for random encounter areas. This is a lot of content in a little space, and it’s a solid way to do it. No keyed locations, but several tables of encounters. Unfortunately these encounters show a limited and minimalist understanding of what a random encounter can be. All the encounters are with monsters, and while some are Drow merchant caravans which are well detailed with giant pack lizards, evocative cargo, and slave lines, nothing really jumps out to provide atmospherics or wonderment one would like from wandering the underworld. Still this is an excellent hex crawl to cram into a few pages, and seems like the solid basis for the module. While it’s a bit odd that almost every monster in the random encounter table is Drow aligned, I suppose that this could be a cool feature, indicating the control and power of the evil elves underground empire.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Occurrences Beneath the Dungeon Moon

The Great and Powerful Human Spirit Protect me from the wrath and clutching hands of the unworthy and false creatures that have claim divinity and dominion, for I am now a Godkiller. May my Sisteraunt, Fleesin NoHells, anointed speaker against the alleged gods, confirm this statement and ratify our acts as correct within the eyes of the spirit of humankind, which resides within all.

 – Makepeace NoHells, ‘Paladin of No Gods’, upon his return to the surface from the last foray beneath the surface of the Dungeon Moon.

The exploration of the Dungeon Moon has continued a fair bit since last the deeds of the town of Stockton’s adventurous youth were recorded, some have died, and some prospered.  All have witnessed the depraved wonders of the Motherless Warlock and his cabal of sorcerers.  Notable events are related as follows, pieced together from the stories told by the returning band.
Killsin NoHells, henchwoman and 1st level cleric
of atheism
“A pack of stunted creatures, orange and wizened, with enormous side whiskers have been encountered along the street of slumbering villas. The creatures, who call themselves the ‘Kobalds’ were impressed when the band of Stockton explorers spoke to them peaceably and then battled a strange and frightful creature at the gate of their compound.  The fantastical beast, referred to whimsically by the rusticated Kobalds as “A Horse That Thinks He’s a Spider”, spewed webbing and bit with envenomed fangs, but was dispatched due to the skill and ferocity of Stockton’s own sons.  A gift of meat earned much respect and valuable directions from the Kobald compound.”
“Also among the slumbering villas a trove of several paintings was recovered.  These depict many exciting scenes, and strange personages from the world of green grass and can be seen at the old grange hall where they are on exhibit for the price of a single silver penny or one jot of strong drink. Younger patrons are advised to bring an elder to explain the strange landscapes depicted within the works.”

Friday, December 27, 2013

D20 Random Lunatic Hermits

Recently I got to thinking about Death frost Doom again, specifically as a representative of a definitive OSR (No I don't know what 'OSR' means) product that plays well on an 80's D&D ruleset (or retro-clone, whatever) but is nothing like an 80's D&D module.  I've been reading some of those things lately - and am still fuming about the apparently beloved "Pharaoh - I4" (which takes a cliched setting so brimming with life and reduces it to a limp grey ghoul confusedly wandering a 10' x 10' room).  Death Frost Doom is not without places to tweak and reskin it to make it better, and it may demand a bit much from a GM (or play testing has shown that it's end game isn't as final as the author originally believed so some additional material would be helpful), but it's a great little adventure well worth dropping on any sandbox map. 

One of the best parts of Death Frost Doom is the mad hermit who cajoles and warns the adventurers to steer clear of the haunted mountain.  Zeke (the hermit) is a bit dubious and might be scary to you or me (though not to the pack of money crazed sociopaths that make up most adventuring parties), but he is no liar.  Avoid the scary mountain and survive!  the problem with Zeke is that he's a give away for Death Frost Doom (also reskin the cottage and tooth door), and well informed players will run when they see his untanned hide wearing figure stumbling down an icy path.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


I4 - cover art, this has promise - it's a lie

Don't go into the desert of boring, you'll choke to death on the blandness. - Should have been the tagline, not “Lazy mists, deep blue wind, desert night”. The night and desert thing, that’s not a bad start to an adventure – and I3 – Pharaoh is a desert adventure, which is the best I can say for it. Pharaoh is from 1982, when adventure design seems to have been heading away from the sandbox and towards Curse of the Azure Bonds and Dragonlance Adventures. I figured I’d give it a read, because ASE’s Land of 1,000 towers has a lot of desert, or green sanded radioactive wastes, and not everything can be a dragon’s desolation.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Silent Perils of the Crystal World

The maniacs, they blew it up and were damned.

The world (or at least this vast expanse of it) is sick, silent and perfect.  Everything is now crystal, tinkling leaves on trees with trunks like cut glass, and shattered plains of broken fragments. Nothing can live among the majority of this beautiful ruin, though here places capable of supporting life endure.

Use the table below for any hex where you wish to emphasize that wizards did something stupid. Roll a D10 or D12 if your world is completely dead and a D20 if maybe some desperate holdouts still cling to terrible, miserable existence.

Friday, December 20, 2013

ASE - Onward to the Obelisk - Play Report

ASE SESSION B 1 – Return to Mt. Rendon

The Party
Mungo Stroot – CL 2
Jane Dill – IIL 2
Raymond ‘Numbers’ Gamma – SCI 2
 ‘Bee Bot’ – ROB 1
Darth Acne – MU 1 (necromancer)
Yana of Cithras – CL 1

After spending a few weeks going about their own business in the newly booming town of   Grain doesn’t grow in the mold patches of Chemfoldshire and the demands of the Certopsian  War to the South East have meant that grain shipments to the new brewery are frequently getting hijacked by troops, including mercenary bands and private militia heading to the front.

In Denethix Mungo can’t even get a meeting before the magistrates and the Boards of Proper Apportionment won’t honor most of the brewery’s scrip for refund as they are on the wrong form or misspelled.  A clerk suggests that Mungo and his business partners retain a lawyer to travel with each grain shipment to make sure that the brutish mercenaries and angry Unyielding Fist Sarjents fill out the right paperwork.  With this setback Mungo wanders into a nice bar near the Street of students and begins to realize that the life of a business priest is perhaps less certain and more cutthroat then wandering into the darkened lairs of eldritch horrors from ‘before time’.   He soon meets up with his old nemesis/adventuring companion Ray ‘Numbers’ and finds the scientist equally glum, as his reports on opening the subsurface environment were received only with threats from Ray’s advisor who wanted to know about the secret entrance and where the gold Ray had found was, far more then he wanted to hear Ray’s theories about subsurface life cycles and robot ghosts.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I wade into the greatest OSR fight ever, several years late

Sacrilege! Shame! The center cannot hold! Madness! Rioting neckbeards! Muderous halflings!

Look at that flat affect, he'll use that blowgun on you in a second.

I think I will adopt ascending AC.  I am bad at math, ascending AC is easier to figure for me then THAC0.  I’ve never seen any real debate here and I’ve enjoyed using ascending in some games recently.  How to convert seems to be the biggest issue.  Nothing new really said below, notes to show my players mostly. Still I feel it's a decent discussion of my personal conversion story to ascending AC.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Finchbox Play Report II - A tower of moleratmen

Back to the old wizard tower, looking for plunder and violence.  It’s not as if there’s much else to be done – a few caves, and old lightning shrouded temple (which a few of the companions from last time were lost to), some kind of stone circle that eats religious men – but really for a curious redcap like Scabgrinder, there’s nothing like exploring deeper into the cracked and crumbled ruins of the wizard’s tower. It’s not really the money the items recovered from the tower, though money buys drink and more metal, it the sense that one is changing the behavior of other thinking things.  As a root, one doesn’t have much chance to do this, maybe try to choke the neighboring root where it gets in the way of one’s expansion, but that’s rather intimate – tendrils grasping in the dark and squeezing for months or years.  The world of men is changed by a casual and distant word – every action can be like a brush fire, rewriting the landscape in a moment.

B4 - The Lost City - Review

B4 – The Lost City

A classic module of the golden age of D&D, Written by Moldvay in 1982 for Red Book (it says so itself) Basic D&D. There is something pleasant about B4 because of its origin, as it’s clearly written with youthful players in mind (the glossary for exciting dungeon terms like “niche” for example [Aside: I sometimes wonder if the use of certain archaic words in D&D has changed the frequency of these words in popular usage since]), and ultimately, while B4 has many troubles, there’s an endearing spirit to the adventure that makes it worth reading. It seeks to encourage, even requires, a great deal of imagination and dungeon building by the GM, and while I think this is a noble intent for an introductory product, it is a weakness in a published dungeon when one is looking for either a drop in location or something to fill out specifics, such as traps and set encounters (the reasons I use published modules).
The Art is kinda great as well - the giant headed bald guy keeps appearing
While Lost city is labeled B4, it’s a tighter and less sprawling adventure then B1(search for the unknown) or B2(Keep on the Borderlands), yet without the narrow focus of B3 (Silver Princess). Some might find this enough to stop reading, B4 is no sandbox, it’s a dungeon adventure that makes some weak gestures at a sandbox in the end.  Indeed, these weak gestures, and the typical poor monster placement of products from its era, are B4’s biggest flaws. The better elements of the adventure are its excellent traps and a certain spirit worth emulating.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Backstory and Adventure Design

So I read a lot of reviews on Ten Foot Pole, and am pretty familiar with Mr. Lynch's standards over there – especially his overwhelming hatred of backstory, boxed text and excessive plot. I largely agree with these sentiments.   Read aloud text for example is a way published adventures make players tune out, and a way antagonistic GM conceal “gotcha!" traps or encounters. Likewise, excessive plot leads to railroads where clumsy efforts to make PCs act in certain ways that the players don’t want their avatars to act frustrate everyone. Background is often a waste of space and GM time in published adventures especially when it makes it hard to incorporate them into one’s own game. Yet, on background I have some contrary observations.  Specifically,  my players seem to want background, and I have been thinking about how to introduce it into play, but more to what extent background is useful in a product.

Makes a great Dungeon...
but don't make me watch all of Starblazers to run it.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Simplified HMS APOLLYON or OD&D gun rules.

Below are draft rules for firearms that I would use for HMS APOLLYON or any similar reasonably high lethality game based on a Basic/Expert or more specifically OD&D (whitebox) system.  I have only dealt with small arms below, but crew served weapons such as heavy machine guns and artillery have their own, very deadly, rules that I will detail in a future post.

My aim is to make firearm rules that provide some advantages to guns, but limit them in other ways so they don't come to dominate player's weaponry.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

D100 Random "Minor" Science Fantasy Treasures

Below is a list of randomly generated "minor treasure" for the South of Denethix, where the Tombs of the Rocketmen and Obelisk of Forgotten Memories can be found. I like this sort of list because it provides random treasure for unexpected encounters, with a great variety.  Generally putting some odd valuable objects in place and then some coinage where appropriate is more fun then using classic treasure tables.

In addition to description and value I have included two other columns. Weight and fragility. Weight is based on the LOTFP "significant item" rules, and the modifications of that play are increasingly common in the games I've been playing.  A character may carry 1 significant item for every point of Strength. Exceeding that limit means the character is encumbered and cannot act normally. Fragile helps determine the possibility of the item being destroyed if it is dropped suddenly, caught in a fireball, or otherwise subject to destructive force.

100 science fantasy treasures on the table below.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Map - just a map

Was thinking about buried vaults from before the collapse of a Science Fantasy Society and what great dungeons they might make.  Below is a small one I call Shelter Antere.  We have nuke plants and robot repair stations, a dome of green crops (or not if the light went out) and plenty of space to fill with undead, mutants, ghouls, upstanding citizens or degenerate horrors.

As a map I am not so sure. I added too much fiddly detail I think - in the engineering sections and medical sections only.

Level One - is an Engineering shop section, and there's even an abortive escape tunnel.  I'd run this as a mutiny, trapping the vault closed behind the door to this upper section, where no one survived to let the majority of the dwellers out once the safety interlocks allowed outdoor access.

Level Two - Administration, Security and Medical/Carniculture around a central growing area with artificial lake.

Level Three - On the right, living quarters, on the left reactor and robot shops.  One might note a lack of supply rooms.  This is because the large covered pit leads to a robotic supply pit, an acre of dusty crates superintended by angry robots (or maybe balrogs, because that's what happens when you dig too deep).

Well something like that at least. I mean most likely it's filled with radiation ghouls and insane AIs anyhow.  I note (as referenced in the comments with Garrison James of Heriticworks) that this dungeon is full of choke points and has very little in the way of alternate routes.  Some would suggest this makes a bad dungeon map.  This was drawn on a whim, and as is my way, drawn with an effort to make something logical and organic (i.e. things are in the space that make sense).  Yet this is unsatisfying - as a dungeon map.  If one were to fill this with vault dweller of any intelligent variety, it would be unassailable by a party unless they had a few area effect attacks at least (and the vault dwellers didn't).  Could be good still for undead - or robo undead, which is sort of the science fantasy variant, along with plain old robots.  Anyhow it's a map.  I bet the initial population of the vault was somewhere in the 25 - 50 range - too small really.  I kind of envision it as a private vault built for a pack of rich folk.  This of course seems like it would be the perfect set up to devolve into necromancy or ghoul packs.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Finchbox Play Report - Session 1 - A Tower was Crumbled.

Scab Grinder. A Red Cap

Below is the bragging story of Scab Grinder, about his exploration, with several other destitute wanderers and castoffs, of the newly fallen tower of Grimsgate's lord protector .  The Scab Grinder is a forest spirit that stumbled into Grimsgate recently.  The entity seemed harmless enough, and since the lords are vanished and the capital has fallen, there is no one to say it should be driven back into the woods. Worse there is no one to drive the foul intrusion of the magical back into the woods,but it seems willing and even delighted to do menial labor (especially butchering) for table scraps and stale beer. Scab Grinder is a Red Cap, a twisted elemental brute of animate burl and root that crudely copies the ways of man.  As a PC Scab Grinder is a Lvl 1 dwarf played in Brendan’s “Finchbox” inaugural session.  He acquitted himself well, but did little besides acting as a guinea pig for gasses and spotting hidden doors.

There was sun above the rich earth, and the vibrations of the people below, the questing touch of growing things.  This was.  Then there was movement and the light of sun amongst the forest, and it was good to be inside the growing thing.  Time existed and also self.  Self begat knowledge of that outside self, and such knowledge is not quickly found standing still.  The ambition for more knowledge of the world cannot be served by standing alone in the deep dappled woods.  That is how the root wandered.  The root found others and others were different then the root, softer and loud, calling themselves men.  The root took a name, Scab Grinder, as those were in the words of the others and sounded strong. Scab Grinder was brought most powerful sensations in the test of the Root’s form against those of men.  Squashing, pulping and looking at their inner workings – such color, worthy of a hat for Scab Grinder.  Still ambition demands more than simply wandering the woods and crushing the men found there, dipping his hat in the red water that runs from their still forms.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Signs your party is not the first in the Dungeon.

Sometimes players decide to keep returning to the same picked over part of the dungeon because it's safe rather then delve deeper.  This is especially common if it's a mega-dungeon.  best way of dealing with this is rival packs of murder hobos on a spree.  Treasure gets grabbed, enemies slain, allies turned hostile and a new extremely dangerous entry goes on the random monster table - the rival adventuring party.
Add this to your random encounter table...
Here's a table of  hints that the party might not be alone anymore.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lost in the Dense Forests South of Denethix.

The forest South of Denethix and towards the sea, covers the entire area between Mt. Rendon and the Livid Fens.  It hols several attractions to adventurers including the fabled Molybdenum Tombs, infested with crystal jaguars, The Obelisk of Forgotten Memory and the Tomb of the Rocketmen.  The area also contains the towers, fortresses and complexes of several wizards and is a rich zone for the recovery of ancient artifacts and smaller ruins dating back to the centuries before the collapse.  The below table list random items and locations discovered while wandering this trackless tangle of brambles and ominous black barked pines. 

Perhaps these are useful for on the fly hex socking, or roll one every few hours of travel to give the forest a bit of life perhaps. This table is not a substitute for random encounters.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Zone Tigers

Recently there has been talk about “Tigers” in the OSR gossip world. Tigers being animals that appear specifically adapted to hunt humans.  From my understanding of the fossil record, and especially of how the big cats hunt baboons with terror, perhaps jaguars would be a better name for these beasts, but any large hunting cat will do and the label tigers has the advantage of a Borges reference.  The beast that “can only be faced by a man of war, on a castle atop an elephant.”

Below are a pair of  “Tigers” specifically for the “Zone”, inspired by the novel Roadside Picnic, and FATE SF “Zone Project”.  These aren’t simple anomalies, mutants, or extraterrestrial horrors, they specifically hunt the Stalkers that seek to plunder alien artifacts from the Zone.
A Real Zone

Rust Tiger – While greed or curiosity is the lure that brings stalkers and scientists into the zones, once behind the nightmare curtain of the zone, every investigator craves only safety and survival.  The Rust Tiger hunts with hope, the lure of safe passage amongst the horrors of the Zone, and it hunts with a will beyond hunger and animal cruelty.  Rust Tigers hunt only men, and will not even harm the dogs that stalkers sometimes use as scouts or defenders, and Rust Tigers show actual malice and cunning, even an art, in their predations.

The source of the Rust Tiger’s malice is unknown, but the more poetic of the stalkers claim that the secret of the beasts’ rage is found in its form.  While every Rust Tiger is different they all appear as the detritus of everyday life, objects of home and convenience left to decay, corrode and rust  in the unwholesome environment of the zone.  Indistinguishable from any mound of domestic debris or spray of forgotten objects half buried in the mud of a ruined cellar the Rust Tiger waits in ambush.  Some animating force however controls these seemingly random bits of trash, and suddenly it will rear up from concealment, tearing with claws of thick television screen glass, gnashing with jaws of broken coffee mugs, and flowing quick and deadly on limbs of warped furniture.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tomb of the Rocketmen - 1st Playtest Report.

Tomb of the Rocketmen Playtest - I ran a playtest of Tomb of the Rocketman the other night, the party was fairly successful, losing one member to a trap and most importantly they showed me that the Tomb isn't instantly deadly (as I had feared) or impossible to enter.

A crack team of skilled graverobbers, killers and antiquarians assembled at the personal orders of the Grande Vizier of Denethix.

Grisham Everyman – A perfectly mundane man of middling years, with mud brown hair and hard brown eyes.  Only his armor, a suit of white ceramic plates, marked with blue designs is remarkable. Fighter 6

Dogrok – A cyclone of anger from the beleaguered tribes amongst the Feasting Trees.  This warrior wears elaborate fluted armor made of the finest steel and his hammer is the living heartwood of a Feasting Titan. Fighter 6

Mo-Mo – Moktar Warrior from the Certopsian, Deadly with a black Zweihander from a dusty serpant man tomb and favored by his ancestors.  Moktar 6

Marina Cleric of Theosaurid – Worshipper of the gilded god of dinosaurs, a devotee of the most savage faith amongst the orbital gods (or so they claim – Rarge God of Savagery disagrees).  She is always accompanied by her Doberman convert and guardian, Lt. Dog. Cleric 6

Gamma Ray – Sorcerer of the Sword, a well built warlock who is fond of  grandiose gestures.  His past is unknown to any but himself, and he hints at retaking a tower somewhere in the Worthless North.  He carries a powerful artifact of lost sorcery. Magic-User 6

11 – An ancient machine of rust and impenetrable armor plating, unearthed near the home warrens, 11 destroyed the foolish dwarf nobles that thought he could be bound by chains of compound interest.  Its drills and magma cannon still function, and now 11 is a heartless bounty killer. Robot 6

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Cliff Dwelling Map

Another Map - Playing with Isometric paper.  The hard part with isometric maps is putting rooms on top of each other.  I think they can be good for small locations or really spread out spindly ones, but I feel like a lot of information is lost and the limitations outweigh the coolness factor.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Another G'Damn Map

More for "The Pretender's Dread Machine".  Another map.  Not all cool and old school, an outdoor map, of the "Autocrat's Tear", a canyon in the midst of the accursed halfling infested (Yes halfling rustics with curare - don't say you weren't warned) Yellow Lands.

What we're looking at is a canyon, with a cavern at the East end.  I'm not sure how well it played out, but this is the trouble with drawing and drinking. The walls of the canyon are black rock, and the vegetation grey.  The milky water flowing within is poison, death by slow petrification.

A) An ancient watch tower of arcane weapons, blasted to rubble.  Formerly the den of Skip Lions.

B) A blasted crater - where a Wizard met his end when faced by Desolate Crusaders and Wire Ghasts.

C) Pubelo religious center of the ancients. Empty, dusty, gold here and there.

D) Vile Marsh where the milky water pools in stinking sludge, and Wire Ghasts roam.

E) The Cavern of the Machine, A  huge arched cavern, with cenotes dotting it's floor,  the cenotes vary in color as they have been permanently dyed by the pigments that coated the sacrifices made by the ancients, or possibly by the industrial effluvia of the Pretender's Machine.  Wire Ghasts, Rusted Sentinals and Desolate Crusaders emerge from the pools and stalk the cavern.

Updated with a bit of a fix to make the cave clearer and the letters more functional

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Map, a Short Project

Perhaps it's not really wise to start a new project right now, but I have.

The Pretender's Device
Here's the map of the place, well the dungeon map.  It's a sequel to Prison of Hated Pretender of sorts 2nd - 4th level I think - that sweet spot of adventuring where one can be a bit the badass - but still doesn't have access to world shaking powers.

It's generic fantasy world, but still a bit weirder then a vanilla fantasy module (I hope).  I decided to write it based on the fun I had writing Seas of Love - which it'll likely be similar to in scope (though it's a 21 room dungeon - which is fairly big for me because I don't believe in empty rooms). 

The idea behind the location is a hidden canyon, once used as the site of rituals that aided the Hated Pretender's (An ancient despot long removed from power) Empire by resurrecting his slain champions and generals.  The "dungeon" itself is a giant machine (the map) that contains the secret of life, and unlife, and mutation, and horrible pacts with soulless Machine Entities.

Officially now a long project.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Encounters Among the Moribund Hulks of the Great Rust Waste.

Running East to West, the exact size of this belt of ancient trash and abandoned technology is unknown, as the winds that whip the sands of the desert into flesh stripping cyclones uncover and conceal new deposits every season.  The sand scours the ancient objects clean, so that each new pile of twisted junk gleams like treasure for weeks after it is uncovered, before the dust and flash flood rains cake it in dry yellow grime and flakes of ruddy corrosion.

1. A broken tower of rusted bits and corroded pieces.  The tower is later construction, obvious order amongst drifts of similar rusted detritus.  All three stories are uninhabited, though close examination will reveal signs of a massacre.  Black stains on the wall that are not corrosion, a spray of cracked teeth covered in dust, though nothing else to indicate who may have dwelt in the tower or what exactly befell them.   There’s a light ballista wrought from scrap bolted to the tower’s roof parapet.  While it’s lacking ammunition and has cranks in need of oiling, the compact siege weapon is well made and still functional (3D6, two rounds to load, requires crew of two – 250lbs, spall shield offers base AC 6 to crew).  Divination spells will reveal that the residents of the tower (idealistic freeholders or simple bandits, were slaughtered in the night by lanky unknown creatures that came from the rust piles in the night and left no one alive). 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Odd Objects from the Outer Darkness.

A table of six encounters that mark the world as Science Fantasy.

1. A statue of pale blue crystal about four feet tall, roughly human in shape. It is the work of no hand, but the remains of an ancient stellar sailor. Long dead, the spirit within the crystal awakens when it is near the delights of a port. If the statute is carried to any town of reasonable size, the ancient mariner’s spirit will manifest evenings in the form of a hunched being of pure energy. Appearing suddenly in low dives, bawdy houses and cheap burlesque shows it will snatch drinks, dance on tables and sing raucous songs in an unknown language. Unfortunately the spirit’s singing causes fires and explosions.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Powers of the Brine Witch - More Leviathan Spell Lists

The Brine Witch - This avatar of the Leviathan symbolizes the deity in its union with humanity.  Appearing as a brine soaked and salt crusted hag with flaking white skin, it is largely summoned by initiates eager to have more power over mortals.  Initiation into the mysteries of the Brine Witch require the preparation of a salt crusted mask of white metal or porcelain (of at least 1,000 GP value) that the initiate must wear at all times while invoking the spirit's power.
Salt Monsters - they all look the same.
Foul or Cleanse (ritual) [10] [purify water]
Summoning the powers of the Leviathan to cleanse or foul waters for drinking is a boon most often happily granted by the Brine Witch.  A volume of water equal to a 10'+1' per level of the caster cube may be so effected.  Fouling waters simply turns them brackish and undrinkable, it does not render them poisonous and will quickly dilute in larger bodies of water.  Catastrophic failure of the spell implies an intervention on the part of elemental forces, and usually results in the creation of a hostile water weird.
Drown [13] [hold person]
The Brine Witch's powers may be directed at the bodies of other humans and humanoids, causing their lungs to fill with salt water.  The Initiate may select up to three targets who may Save vs. Spells to avoid the effect.  If afflicted the target will find themselves coughing and spewing water in a desperate attempt to breath.  Victims of the spell will be unable to act or move in an effective manner for 5+1 rounds after the spell is cast.  Catastrophic failure of the spell will most often result in a backlash where the initiate and up to two of her companions will be effected by the Drowning.

Entropic Weard [13] (ritual) [Protection from Law]
Forming the Witch's sigil from brine crusted bones creates a powerful ward against order that may be shattered to induce terror in all nearby.  When worn by an individual this weard, a lattice of bone, salt crystal and string will make it impossible for creatures or agents of order to touch the wearer.  Mortal and mundane agents of order may still attack, though at a -2 to hit, but supernatural creatures of order are limited to ranged assault while the weard is active. The weard will last for 1 turn per level of the initiate, before greatly accelerated entropy causes it to crumble.

Rather then wear the weard for protection an initiate may shatter it, instantly causing terror and the impulse for flight to grip creature within 30' that is capable of such emotions (including the caster).  All aggressive acts for the next turn will be a -1 to hit for those effected because of timidity, and a save vs. spells is required to avoid immediate flight for 1D12 rounds towards any remembered place of safety.

Catastrophic failure often results in complete chaos and entropy in the area the ritual is performed.  In addition to causing all those present to flee in terror for 1D12 rounds, the entropic weard is likely to permanently mark the ritual area with signs of its presence - such as rapid decay, a crusting of salt or the presence of otherworldly murmurings.

Brine Horror (ritual) [17] [animate dead] By performing an elaborate ritual, it's gruesome mysteries known only to the Heirophants of the Leviathan, the initiate may draw a fragment of the Brine Witch's power into the body of a water logged corpse.  When this corpse dries in 1-4 days it will animate as a mummified, salt encrusted servitor ready to follow the commands of the Initiate.  An initiate may only have one Brine Horror spell active at a time, but may raise multiple horrors.  To raise more than one servitor the initiate simply needs to subtract 1 from their casting roll per additional corpse animated.  The servitors created will be 3HD undead, AC 5 that attack last each round, either with their clawed hands (D6 damage) or with weapons provided by the initiate.  Given the draconian penalties associated with necromancy in Sterntown, the cult of the Leviathan discourages the use of this spell amongst its initiates, and when Brine Horrors are created they are kept well concealed.  A catastrophic failure of this spell often creates a temporary rift in the fabric of reality and draws nightmarish creatures such as shadows and wraiths from beyond.

Stagnation [17] [dispel magic]
Through the use of this spell the initiate asks that Leviathan uproot the reality of the present and lock the universe in place around the initiate.  This spell effectively disrupts and destroys the intervention of other forces, dispelling all magic within 10'  as if the spell had been cast by a 10th level magic user.  All magic in the area of effect will be transmuted into sprays and structures of crystalline sea salt, pale grey in color. The initiate may not choose what magic is dispelled as the thaumaturgic energy of the entire area is leeched into the Leviathan, and even friendly magic will be dampened or destroyed by this spell.  A catastrophic failure of this spell will often render the initiate himself unable to cast spells or use magic for at least a day. 

Dessication [21] [death spell]
Asking for this boon is dangerous, because of the power it contains.  If successfully cast, this spell will desiccate the next target of a successful melee attack by the initiate.  On a successful attack the target begins to shrivel and desiccate, rapidly turning into a mummified corpse encrusted with brine.  Targets may Save vs. Spells, but even with a successful save the will take the Initiates level x 1D6 points of damage.  Creatures slain with the Brine Witch's dessication will rise as brine horrors within 1D4 days, but have no loyalty beyond a loathing for life.  A catastrophic failure of this spell will most often cause the caster 1D6xlevel points of damage as the Witch draws the life foirce and moisture from them instead of the target.  Alternatively it may simply drain a level of experience and render the caster unconscious for 1D4 hours.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Sprits of the Deeps - Alternate Cleric List for HMS Apollyon

Two of the major religions aboard the HMS Apollyon are not organized religions in the sense that the average D&D cleric seems to depend on, they are less hierarchical and more polytheistic then the standard portrayal of D&D holy men.  The Shrine of the Ship Spirits is a syncretic polytheism that worships numerous small spirits and petty gods tied to different manifestations of the Apollyon itself.  It has aspects of ancestor worship and animism, depending in the immediate intervention of local spiritual forces.  The Cult of the Leviathan is likewise outside the norms of clerical practice, being a classic mystery cult devoted to an otherworldly entity with dominion over the ocean.  I have decided optionally to adopt a non-Vancian system for these religions following that used by Brendan in designing a Shaman class for Pahvelorn.  Alternatively I have included the name of a standard clerical spell that can be replaced by the Cult versions below for flavor. It should also perhaps be noted that these guys were originally intended to be baddies, yet for whatever reason they seem to be perceived as more "zany counter-culture types" by my players.

Cult of the Leviathan

It's likely that Leviathan ...
The worshipers of the Most Serene and Ancient Leviathan are a fairly new addition to the religions of Sterntown.  Some claim the Leviathan was originally a Frogling deity, and indeed Froglings make up a fair portion of it's worshipers, but then again many Froglings are fishers and the Leviathan's entire congregation is made up of fisherfolk.  The Cult is an ecstatic mystery religion, with the bulk of its supplicants knowing little beyond a few mantras requesting divine aid in finding schools of fish, or strengthening nets, and worshiping the Sunken God only by wearing a carved whalebone gris gris or marching in the Cult's festive parades.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Absurdites of Wizards.

I have a feeling all Pahvelorn's wizards
are the spiritual successors of this guy.

Wizards, they are all crazy.  The random table of horrible wizard affectations listed below has been inspired by the variety of mad wizards encountered in Pahvelorn.  So far the Pahvelorn party has done in the following wizards:

1. Some chump necromancer with theatrical aspirations (he had a skeleton acting troupe), wore a three horned headress.

2. His would be successor, an even less intelligent necromancer, killed by Beni because the clerics in the party wanted to torture the poor touched soul.

3. Lovitar the bleak eyed - madder then a rat living in an outhouse.  Enjoyed turning people into beastmen while hiding invisible - an ineffective tactic when faced with killer war dogs.

4. Some crazy old alchemist type (looted and exiled, not actually killed, because he proved not to be a retrospect however.)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Cannibal Ax Killers - Session II - Warlock Moon

Food is scarce, not so much food as flavor.  There's plenty of grey pablum to go around, but just like vistas of grey stone, beds of grey stone, square grey stone buildings, wind that only brings the taste of distant burning and the grey light that filters through the orb's black, black sky, pablum is boring. Boring onto death for some.  Suicides are common on the Warlock Moon, though that's a waste really as there are plenty of other ways to die, and almost all of them are from boredom.  Madmen a perhaps more common, frankly so common that it isn't wise to call another man mad unless he is actively trying to eat you.  That's the main reason Makepeace NoHells leaves the safety of the village wards.  He may talk about proving the innate superiority of the human spirit and bringing the light of reason to the dark places of the sphere, but this is lies and dogma, MakePeace is hungry for flavor.  It's for the best really, especially if the rumors about Makepeace's people's "burial practices" can be credited, and really beside salacious rumors what else is there to do?
Grey Vastness of the Warlock Moon

Thursday, October 10, 2013

What's needed for a Setting?

I've been playing in Nick of Paper & Pencil's "Warlock Moon" game lately and it's interesting to watch.  Nick's a meticulous GM when it comes to designing his levels - the paper shuffling in the background, quality and quantity of tricks/traps, and hint of a multi-level notation system confirm this.  Yet, Warlock Moon is still a setting in it's infancy, two session have been run, and the ideas and feel of the setting are still being hammered out. Watching this process, and doing setting work of my own on the Apollyon, I've been thinking about the question "What's the minimum of resources one needs to run a compelling and unique setting".  I mean most people who've played a game of D&D or even stumbled about Skyrim for a few hours could gin up an amusing enough vanilla game with a system book and a piece of graph paper.

You can get going with something along the lines of "goblins have been killing farmers, and you're the local tough guys".  Cave map, some goblin stats and instant cliched default game setting. This isn't what I'm talking about, though these sorts of games can be fun, and can grow interesting as the world expands organically.  What I want in a setting is something that has a distinct feel, different from what one can get in a million other places.  In order to do this certain considerations must be made.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Uptown Henchman Table - HMS APOLLYON

The rich aren't like other people, that's an old maxim, but aboard the HMS Apollyon it is literally true.  With blood corrupted by generations of intermingling with otherworldly horrors, and minds filled with a rigidly solipsistic worldview, non-exiled Passengers simply cannot hire followers in the normal way.  Seeking henchman for pay amongst the Scavengers is a major faux pas and few scavengers are willing to work directly with Uptowners.  Instead Passenger characters may attempt to convince members of their family household to join them on an adventure by adventure basis.  Below is a table of potential results.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Dungeons and Dandies - HMS APOLLYON - Uptown Session Play Report.

The Uptown Follies – Casino of Torment – Session I

  • Sea-mongrel head (taxidermied) and shark jaw club – minor curio – 50 XP each party member
  • 4 theater masks – minor curio – 50 XP to each party member.
  • Ancient Carcosian dice – major curio – 300 XP to each party member
Group XP
  • First into the Crystal Cavern – 100 XP each
  • Well-mannered negotiations bonus – 50 XP each
  • Total XP – 550 XP each PC – 275 XP to Gaspar the Valet who is now 1st level (pick a class when he returns to town).
Individual XP bonuses
  • Daring-do with trident – 100 XP to Efrin
  • Standing up for the moneyed classes 50 XP for Ignatz
Invitation to Ruckus
After the ‘entertainment’ incident and the ghost actress massacre, things have been slow amongst the fourth sons, spinster daughters, wastrels, bastards and wealthy layabouts of Uptown.  Yet, Devin Hare – man about town, mistress of the duelo, and survivor of the pigeon tower massacre, has come across an opportunity for social advancement that simply cannot be ignored.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Passenger Class Equipment List

The Passenger Class of the Apollyon, even it's cadet family third sons, parvenu bounders and black sheep, is wealthy enough that normal monetary concerns don't apply.  For PCs of the Passenger Class (except destitute exiles), the issues related to equipment aren't so much money, but temperament and preparation.  It's not that an adventuring passenger can't afford a proper kit, or even often find very good equipment laying about the family estate, it's that a Passenger has little or no idea what sort of equipment might be needed to delve into the wretched and forgotten parts of the hull.  Furthermore, most passengers have trouble adapting to the life of an adventurer and are loathe to replace their initial equipment.  Rather than admit idiocy, a passenger joining an adventuring party will refuse to purchase new equipment, insisting on retaining whatever meager or absurd combination of equipment they first brought adventuring out of pride and misplaced fear of looking gauche.  A passenger may not purchase normal adventuring equipment until 3rd level, and as always purchasing directly from lower deck purveyors or craftsmen will cost reputation (1 point), while sending underlings to do it will mean the requested items do not arrive for an extra session.  This does not mean that passengers cannot augment their equipment in other ways.  Items recovered during adventuring if they are of better than average quality (would normally qualify as treasure) may be used as "trophies" and even objects taken from other dead adventurers can be adopted (as mementos).

Monday, September 23, 2013

Play Report - Warlock Moon

Nick of Paper & Pencils ran an inaugural session of his Warlock Moon setting with the Pahvelorn core group.  We set off to explore the moons bleak grey wastes in a lively and fast paced session. Now this was a pretty well schooled group of tactically minded players who all have a fair amount of experience, but Nick managed to make it an interesting, challenging, and strangely almost combat free (We avoided beasts, got lucky and ran), session despite our caution and experience.

The Party
A Chimney Sweep (Thief) - Played by Ram at Save vs. Party Kill
A Warlock (Elf) - Played by Brendan of Necropraxis
A Paladin of Null (Fighter) - Played by Gus L. of Dungeon of signs.

Makepeace NoHells - LOTFP Fighter (Level 1)
A full character sheet - rather Science Fantasy I think.
The Town doesn't really have a name, well it has one: Stumberg or Stovell or something with an 'S', but even those who've lived in it their whole lives don't really remember it as there aren't any other towns.  The traders in their flowing orange robes who appear and disappear by their own whims say there are other towns, and Belina the town elder came from somewhere else.  It's an intellectual fact that there are other towns, but for the residents of The Town there is only the one - a circle of square stone buildings, flat roofed, mostly empty except for dust, and surrounded by a ring of ancient protective sigils.  The catch basins are usually filled with rain water, and the food continues to appear twice a day in the huge metal bowl at the center of 'town'.  There is enough food, the warlock saw to that before he left the townsfolk's grandparent's here.  Perhaps there is even too much food, as the town once held many more dwellers then it does now, but there is nothing else.  No craft, as there is no need and only stored materials. No business, except for the visits by the traders.  Nothing for the townsfolk beyond the petty betrayals, endless gossip, pointless vendettas and mindless lusts that come when a people have no future.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Pirate Interlude

Last weekend Erik over at Wampus County put out a call for a "Pirate Adventure" to run at a public event. In a fit of optimism I offered to draft up a one page adventure.  I still owe the man an adventure form a bet on last year's Superbowl, so it was the least I could do.  While not raven themed, I'm happy with the way this silly little piece turned out.

I also want to thank Brendan of Necropraxis for the best idea in the whole adventure (the ooze pool), as well as Nick at Paper's and Pencils and Logan of Last Gasp for taking a quick perusal of the thing before I tossed it out to the world.

An Treasure Map!
Anyhow - what was interesting about writing a "Pirate Adventure" for a vanilla fantasy one shot is that I felt free and unencumbered by setting details.  I could embrace genre cliches and use monsters straight from the manual - though ultimately I reskinned a minotaur, orcs/bullwugs, elves and a gargoyle (you don't have to fight most of the mean ones).  I am pleased with the result, though I don't think it's my best stuff, I think it will be good for a game of piratical fun.  It even has a running sea sodomy joke in the form of the ship's name, which seems juvenile, but I think is part of the pirate genre and easily removed.

Anyhow, I do think that accepting some genre cliches is not a bad thing, it certainly makes writing an adventure easy, and I don't feel like it automatically produces a less creative product. The issue is not taking the easy way out with the genre cliches.  Yes I have mutiny, a treasure map, an island, dangerous natives and a shrine full of lost civilization gold, but for me the thing with pastiche is keeping it high level (or trying - you be the judge).  The mutiny is a dull and meaningless act of petty cruelty amongst low lifes even if I steal the plot of Treasure Island and the ancient civilization is a Greek/Nordic hybrid dropped into a Polynesian setting. Hopefully this will be enough not to make the adventure a dull slog through predictable junk. (Link to PDF after break)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Common Traps aboard the HMS Apollyon

Traps are always hard for me to use.  They get worse once you have a cleric with "Find Traps".  For me the difficulty in traps lies in making them vaguely mechanically plausible, and a puzzle that can be figured out.  I don't like remove traps as an automatic skill.  Yes a thief will know how to jam up a spring trap, fix a tripwire or even disarm a bomb - but a simple roll isn't how I want to do it.  Like a lot of things in OD&D I think "Find & Remove Traps" exists at a level of abstraction higher than most people currently play the game at.  Rather than asking the classic "I search the room for traps" players tend to say things like "Is there anything odd in the keyhole" or "Is the stone discolored like from fire or acid?".  This makes traps hard.  Rather then "You failed a roll and spring a fire trap", one has to explain how a glass globe was balanced on the door jam and fell, its volatile contents instantly bursting into flame. Yet knowing what a trap is makes the disarming and detection more fun.  In the glass globe example, perhaps close examination of the door would reveal it was slightly ajar and something seemed to be balanced on the top of it.  To disarm it - maybe holding a cloak to catch the falling object, or most simple setting the trap off from a distance.  A thief is not needed for these things, though I would give a thief setting the trap off a chance to dodge it. 

Below are a list of common traps and trap like hazards I have used or might use aboard the Apollyon.  Each also includes the sort of advice about how to avoid them that old scavengers with acid scars and missing fingers like to give out.

Looks Safe!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How to Handle Clerics (and other troubling shortcuts).

So as I GM higher and higher level games I discover certain things about how disappointing certain
Iconic Pathfinder Cleric - not bad.
abilities can be.  Specifically there are certain spells and abilities that ruin some of the best things in D&D: traps, tricks, doublecrosses and undead monsters.  Many of these abilities are lodged in the cleric, this isn't the cleric's fault - it seems reasonable that clerics have these abilities, but they still tend to make things less fun. Player's sometimes don't realize it's not fun to not have to think, or realize that spotting and avoiding traps is more rewarding if it's a product of actual player skill - but it's true.  Ok that's not fair, players want to survive without too much trouble and many support spells allow this, it's the GM's job to deal with these spells in a way that's interesting. Below are several ways I propose dealing with certain abilities that players have.  I don't think these are improper GM behavior, railroading or GM fiat and I don't suggest removing player abilities, only means of limiting or interpreting them it to keep challenge in place.  It's also worth keeping in mind that powerful opponents and dangerous places in worlds where miraculous spells exist may have their own divine protectors or other means of dealing with the interventions a Cleric or mage can call up.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Known Factions of the Hull - HMS APOLLYON

Below is a list of the current factions known to be active within the hull of the Apollyon, some (such as Malchris, the Krab brothers and Madam Bibi) my players have regular dealings with. Others are clear enemies, and many are still more rumors and mysteries then active campaign powers.  This list should help players keep track of this growing cast of horrible people.  Of course this is just factions within the hull, the sort one might run across in a random encounter or who's domain a party might end up invading.


1) The Marines
Mysterious and smothered beneath a mountain of ritual, shame and disdain, the Marines were once the preeminent human force of the Apollyon.  They have grown strange strange in defeat, mystical but completely atheistic, devoted to Sterntown's protection, but merciless and unreasonable. More and more their patrols are spotted by scavenger bands, but their motives remain incomprehensible.  Heavy Boilerplate wearing officer armingers with only a hereditary trooper waiting in empty gangways, and bands of savvy scouts in marine white have both been reported, while veiled figures in brown have been whispered of both in Uptown and within the hull.

2) The Krab Brothers
Old and well thought of, the mafiya dons Clavidius and Jerry Krab claim to be retired.  Their organization is still among the strongest in the Rustgates andit is said that Jerry's interests at least extend into the hull.  Clavidius is a rotund man of his middle years, with the look of a prosperous factor who spouts the ideology of revolution and freedom for the downtrodden of Sterntown.  Yet Clavidius is feared for a reason, he hold staunchly to the criminal's code, an upright man among upright men and his favor is sought by most other mafiya families in the settling of scores and negotiation of deals.  Jerry is a different sort, a former pit fighter standing 7' tall and covered in shamanistic tattoos of rare power.  He seems to have a fatherly affection for the urchins of the Rustgate and most of the street children of Sterntown are in some way loyal to him.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Space Zombies (Tomb of the Rocketmen)

In ancient times humankind (and it was only humankind then, the elves, dwarves, goblins, & moktar are younger races) traveled to the stars.  As the Temple of Science recites, the Orbital Gods hint and the University moguls know,  each star is a sun, and each sun surrounded by plentiful worlds.  Amongst the worlds around distant stars the Rocketmen discovered: wonder, wealth, and power, but mostly they discovered strange death.

'Space Zombies', and the entire infestation of the slough with alien fungus, are the product of deadly spores, buried with one of the long dead Rocketmen.  The spores predictably broke free of the corpse they hibernated within, animating it as shambling corpse, grew into huge colonies in the sealed and abandoned environment of the Tombs and then faded and died due to lack of fresh air and water, only to be revitalized again from spore when Feh Ling invaded the tomb and reactivated it's power and water systems.  The fungal colonies have infested most of the larger tomb chambers and reanimated a large number of mummified Rocketman within.  The alien fungus will aggressively try to infest biological organisms, but has ignored Feh Ling and his offspring because they are not living creatures susceptible to fungal spores. The zombies and the fungus colonies that create them represent four different types of monsters: Fruiting Bodies, Mobile Fungal Growths, Space Zombies, and Floating Spores.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

More Objects of Evil

Once again the party aboard the HMS Apollyon has taken a job on behalf of the Baatezu rail baron Malchris. The Devil is oddly happy about the partially failed mission (the characters revealed they were attacking an undead outpost on Malchris' behalf) but the selection of "boons" he offers the party members a choice from is sparse compared to his prior rewards.

Ring of the Broken Feather - A glowing gold band, hot to the touch, with its exterior worked into
the shape of a feather.  The ring imperfectly protects the wearer from the attacks and powers of celestial creatures.  Outsider Entities of the Lawful Good variety will suffer a -2 on all rolls to physically attack the wearer, and the wearer will gain a +2 to any saves against them.

Scroll of Tormented Form - Written on crackling parchment from some unknown beast, this scroll is heavily wrapped in thick braided black cord and sealed in wax marked with a sigil of Orcus. Within is the 2nd Level Magic User Spell "Tormented Form"

Tormented Form - Level 2 - Magic User Spell - Transformation/Curse
Range: Self  Casting Time: 1 Turn Duration: 3D6 Turns

By this horrid ritual the caster may transform his form into that of a sludge-like puddle of flesh temporarily.  The process is terribly painful, and the ritual involved requires an uninterrupted turn of disconcerting whispered chanting as well as the incineration of a small piece of the caster's dried skin.  After the ritual the caster will liquify, puddling with a series of vile wet sounds.

The disgusting form can crawl and ooze at a rate of 10' per round, climb almost any vertical surface, slide under most doors and through small cracks (of 1/2" or greater size) providing access to or escape from many hard to reach areas.  While in liquid form the caster can see and hear as normal, but has no mouth and cannot speak and so cannot cast spells.  The blob has sufficient manual dexterity to unlatch doors and work machinery, but lacks the strength to wield weapons, instead attacking by pummeling for 1D4 points of damage.

The transformation lasts exactly 3D6 turns, and cannot be cancelled by the caster prior to it's full duration.  When rolling duration, if three sixes are rolled the transformation will be permanent, and is irreversible without diabolic intervention or a wish spell.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


This mornings post at Tenkar's Tavern mentions the original helmet rules from early D&D. Specifically intelligent creatures supposedly swing for the head 50% of the time.  This of course begs certain questions beginning with are all metal helmets AC 3 (without shield), who can wear helmets, do humanoid monsters wear helmets and do thieves need leather (AC 7) helmets?

Really helmets must do something, they are 25 GP on the OD&D equipment list and given that price must have some utility.  Historical fact and even the slightest bit of verisimilitude calls for helmets to be important as well.  Helmets are pretty much the first piece of protective equipment people use, and the last to go as armor faded from the modern battlefield.  This last point may be why many people seem to consider helmets to be part of every suit of armor, a helmet is symbolic as armor and really the most important piece to functional protection.

Still, helmets are on the original equipment list as separate expensive items and it seems like helmets should have an important mechanical effect.  Something along the lines of a lack of helmet providing a 50% of armed attackers bypassing armor, combined with an initiative penalty due to the vision obstruction of a helmet might work.  However, system complications are always the easiest thing to add when thinking about games, and rarely worth the trouble when it comes time to play.  Additionally, given the importance in fantasy art and literature of bare header heroes and heroines with glamorous hair, it hardly seems right to seriously penalize characters who want to be dashing and not wear a helmet. Below are a few simple possibilities that might both make helmets useful but not necessary. Long ago Brendan at Untimely cataloged various approaches to helmets as well, so I've tried to hit on only the simple mechanical fixes that might be useful.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Walls and Doors - Mega Dungeon Detail on the Cheap.

Back when I was running ASE I discovered that while the room descriptions and details are very functional and describe the rooms sufficiently for the mechanical aspects of play they often lacked the sorts of details my players wanted to know.  Specifically, one of my players kept wanting to know about the walls and doors: material, age, markings, dust.  While a decent GM can usually provide this sort of thing quickly - and if it's unavailable, one must wonder how well the GM is visualizing the fantasy spaces he is creating, it becomes tricky at times, especially in a megadungeon setting where there are plenty of corridors and empty rooms.  

This could be a dungeon hallway

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Tomb of the Rocketmen - AREA XIII (SAMPLE AREA)

XIII – Satellite Zeta Mu
Dim light from various instrument panels and searing unfiltered sunlight from portholes.
Sterility and ozone
Uplift of party member to Orbital God Hood or die of starvation and thirst.
Grave Goods worth 5,200 GP

When the shimmering, nausea inducing matter transportation effect wears off the party will find themselves on an extremely cold grated metal floor.  The room is a small round cornered rectangle, with a high roof that vanishes above in a mass of fluted conduits.  At the center each wall is a 7’ diameter dome made of different materials.  The Northern dome is especially notable as it is made of cut crystal, while the others are metal.  Small screens, dials, buttons and other instrumentation cover the walls between domes.  Searing natural light pours through randomly spaced porthole like windows of thick smoked and unbreakable endura glass. Looking out the windows the viewer will quickly realize that they are at the peak of a large ovoid metallic structure that appears to float amongst an ocean of stars.  A scientist or the more intelligent sort of cleric will be able to identify their location as “in orbit” likely on a “god’s star”.  Looking out all the portholes will eventually spot the world floating in the distance, its dry continents and the still glowing death wastes clearly visible.   The only other item of note in the chamber is a small pile of human bones, brittle with age and wrapped in scraps of orange cloth, that rest near the crystal dome.  The domes are as follows: