Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Queens of Elemental Air

Readers may remember my Queens of Elemental Earth from a while back. Today, I introduce their rivals (are they rivals? I have no idea), the Queens of Elemental Air. Enjoy ...


Among the entities that fill the air, the sylphs and air elementals and minor godlings and disembodied spirits, there are five rarefied entities commonly referred to as the Queens of Elemental Air. There is no kinship between these queens, and though they are not actively at war with one another, they each regard the others as neither here nor there - not with contempt, but with royal disinterest.

The queens dwell in the more refined quarters of the Elemental Plane of Air, in "palaces" of colored gas and variegated temperatures that they regard much as a human would a building of many rooms, each lovely in its own way. They are typically surrounded by their followers, and while each is powerful in her own right, they are also well guarded by their adoring court and by petitioners to their court.

All of the queens are permanently in a gaseous form, and can make themselves any size from tiny to huge. They typically appear as medium-sized humanoids. For each size category smaller, they increase their effective Hit Dice total by 2 and reduce their effective Armor Class by 2 (as they are more solid and thus easier to hit). For each size category larger, they reduce their effective Hit Dice by 2 and increase their effective Armor Class by 2.

All of the queens are immune to acid, electricity and sonic energy and resistance to cold and fire.

Medium Elemental, Lawful (NG), Super Intelligence; Unique

HD: 21
AC: 26 [+2]
ATK 2 wind buffets (2d6) or cosmic ray (120' / 2d6 damage + mutation)
MV Fly 300
SV F 3, R 3, W 3
XP 10,500 (CL 24)

Helia appears as a radiant queen surrounded by a glowing aura (as bright as daylight) with a diameter of 200 feet. Creatures that enter this glowing aura must pass a saving throw each round to avoid a charm monster effect. Helia commands the respect of both air and fire elementals, and they mingle about her in rapid orbit like electrons around a nucleus. Helia is fearsome and arrogant, the "center of the universe" who regards all creatures of less than solar or arch-demon status as beneath her dignity. She employs a series of servants to communicate with her major domo, a deva called Atron.

Special Qualities: Immune to acid, electricity and sonic, resistance to cold and fire, gaseous form, magic resistance 65%

Spells: At will--daylight, minor creation, searing light, shield; 3/day--cone of cold, legend lore, lightning bolt, sunbeam; 1/day--major creation, summon monsters IX (air and fire elemental creatures only), sunburst

Medium Elemental, Neutral (N), Super Intelligence; Unique

HD: 21
AC: 26 [+2]
ATK 2 wind buffets (2d6) or cosmic ray (120' / 2d6 damage + mutation)
MV Fly 300
SV F 3, R 3, W 3
XP 10,500 (CL 24)

Nea dwells in a swirl of glowing, colored gases. She appears as a glowing, red female humanoid, airy and slightly indistinct, and surrounded by a devoted and adoring air and lightning elementals (2d6 of each, variable sizes), who create a wondrous clangor and exciting din as they dance and weave about their queen. Nea is a queen who appreciates excitement, though she rarely participates in it. She enjoys fetes and musicians and allows bits of her own gaseous form to enter their lungs and be expelled through their instruments.

Special Qualities: Immune to acid, electricity and sonic, resistance to cold and fire, gaseous form, magic resistance 55%

Spells: At will--color spray, light, protection from normal missiles, shield; 3/day--confusion, crushing despair, daylight, globe of invulnerability, good hope, polymorph other; 1/day--summon monsters VIII (air elemental creatures only)

Medium Elemental, Neutral (CN), Super Intelligence; Unique

HD: 21
AC: 26 [+2]
ATK 2 wind buffets (2d4)
MV Fly 300
SV F 3, R 3, W 3
XP 10,500 (CL 24)

Arga dwells on a great chunk of emerald (about 8 feet long and 4 feet wide) that rests upon a windswept plateau of stone that floats in the bustling winds of the Elemental Plane of Air. She lounges on this "fainting couch", a woman of luminous green gas attended by sylphs wearing hazy perfumes and guarded by two djinn. An equally sonorous court reposes on the plateau.  Arga is unconcerned with anything but herself, but will lend her air to those who promise a great reward. She takes lovers, even mortal lovers, often, and many now make up her court, for though she often tires of them and forgets them, she never drives them away.

Special Qualities: Immune to acid, electricity and sonic, resistance to cold and fire, gaseous form, magic resistance 45%

Spells: At will--chill metal, color spray, light, searing light, shield; 3/day--confusion, prismatic sphere, prismatic spray; 1/day--fusion (self with other), summon monsters VIII (air elemental creatures only)

Medium Elemental, Neutral (N), Super Intelligence; Unique

HD: 21
AC: 26 [+2]
ATK 2 wind buffets (2d6)
MV Fly 300
SV F 3, R 3, W 3
XP 10,500 (CL 24)

Krypta is the "hidden one", a shy spirit who prefers solitude to the goings on of court. Her form is transparent and translucent, but surrounded by an aura of white gas that outlines her. She nonetheless travels with two aerial servants, one tinged red, the other blue, who act as her valets and bodyguards. She roams the elemental sky, and for this reason often attracts the attention of dragon horses. Krypta appreciates wit and intellect, but despises the boastful and arrogant, enjoying laying these folk low.

Special Qualities: Immune to acid, electricity and sonic, resistance to cold and fire, gaseous form, magic resistance 55%

Spells: At will--cause fear, light, searing light; 3/day--invisibility, ray of enfeeblement, fear, stoneskin (the stone skin envelops her form and appears as white crystal); 1/day--meteor swarm, summon monsters VII (air elemental creatures only)

Medium Elemental, Neutral (N), Super Intelligence; Unique

HD: 21
AC: 26 [+2]
ATK 2 wind buffets (2d6)
MV Fly 300
SV F 3, R 3, W 3
XP 10,500 (CL 24)

Xena is a stand-offish woman, slightly paranoid and well guarded by 10 large air elementals. She dwells within a crystal sphere that float  through the Elemental Plane of Air, a sphere that can open and close by her will alone. She appears as a female humanoid of luminous blue gas that sometimes flares with flashes of electricity, especially when she is angry.

Special Qualities: Immune to acid, electricity and sonic, resistance to cold and fire, gaseous form, magic resistance 65%

Spells: At will--sleep, suggestion; 3/day--globe of invulnerability, haste, iron skin (her form is enveloped by a sky blue suit of plate armor), lesser restoration, polymorph other; 1/day--fission, summon monsters VII (air elemental creatures only)

Medium Elemental, Chaotic (NE), Super Intelligence; Unique

HD: 21
AC: 26 [+2]
ATK 2 wind buffets (2d6)
MV Fly 300
SV F 3, R 3, W 3
XP 10,500 (CL 24)

Rada appears as a female humanoid of translucent air, with a black orb floating in the midst of her head. Her arms are long and her fingers and toes come to talon-like points. Rada's court is composed of belkers and disgruntled aerial servants, not to mention a few incorporeal undead, like spectres. She is a dire queen who is said to be worshiped by subterranean peoples by sacrificing the weak in caverns filled with poisonous gas.

Special Qualities: Immune to acid, electricity and sonic, resistance to cold and fire, gaseous form, magic resistance 45%

Spells: At will--doom, faerie fire, inflict light wounds, silence; 3/day--cause disease, enervation, gaseous form (other), ray of enfeeblement, rusting grasp; 1/day--energy drain, improved invisibility, summon monsters VII (air elemental creatures only)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Alien Booze

Star Trekkin' across the universe can build up a mighty thirst, and there's a good chance that the dive on Rigel-5 you just entered doesn't have MGD on draft. Here are some other options.

Table I - Where

1. Venusian
2. Martian
3. Jovian
4. Saturnian
5. Mercurian
6. Plutonian
7. Neptunian
8. Denebian
9. Altairan
10. Cygnian
11. Betelgeusian
12. Polarian
13. Andromedan
14. Cetian
15. Algolian
16. Pleiadeian
17. Rigelian
18. Aldebaran
19. Antarean
20. Arcturan

Table II - Descriptor (roll 1d4 / 1d10)

1-1. Acid
1-2. Bitter
1-3. Black
1-4. Blood
1-5. Blue
1-6. Boiled
1-7. Brown
1-8. Bubbling
1-9. Copper
1-10. Crimson
2-1. Dark
2-2. Death
2-3. Dry
2-4. Fire
2-5. Fizzy
2-6. Frost
2-7. Gold
2-8. Green
2-9. Grey
2-10. Heavy
3-1. Jumping
3-2. Lite
3-3. Malt
3-4. Molten
3-5. Orange
3-6. Pale
3-7. Purple
3-8. Red
3-9. Rotting
3-10. Royal
4-1. Salt
4-2. Scarlet
4-3. Silver
4-4. Slime
4-5. Sour
4-6. Spiced
4-7. Spitting
4-8. Sweet
4-9. Viscous
4-10. Yellow

Table III - What

1. Ale
2. Beer
3. Brandy
4. Brew
5. Cider
6. Punch
7. Whiskey
8. Wine

Table IV - Possible Side Effects

01-04. Affected as though by male or female hormones (50-50 chance) - a noticeable change
05-08. Blind for 1d4 days
09-12. ESP for 24 hours
13-16. Fall in love with first person of opposite sex (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) that you see
17-20. Gain 1d10 pounds overnight
21-24. Grow dorsal fin and/or webbing between toes and fingers (or some other DNA snafu)
25-28. Hair falls out
29-32. Hair (green) grows on palms and tongue; falls out in 1d4 weeks
33-36. Hair turns blue or white or some other weird color
37-40. Increased intellect for 1d4 days, then weakened for 1d6 days
41-44. Increased strength for 1d4 days, then weakened for 1d6 days
45-48. Infravision for 1d4 days
49-52. Levitate for 24 hours
53-56. Lose 1d10 pounds overnight
57-60. Lose sense of taste for 1d4 weeks (5% chance this is permanent)
61-64. Memory loss for 1d4 days (per sitcom amnesia)
65-68. Overactive salivary glands for 1d4 days (sound like Daffy Duck)
69-72. Projectile vomiting (1d4+3 feet)
73-76. Put into highly suggestive state for 24 hours
77-80. Sleep for 1 week
81-84. Speak words in reverse order for24 hours
85-88. Temporary insanity for 1d6 days
89-92. Visited by pooka in form of green horse or pink elephant
93-96. You can see dead people
97-100. Emit highly flammable gases from every orifice for 24 hours

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Three Villages of Cush - Preview of NOD 16

What an insane week!

I'm a day or three away from releasing NOD 16 and B1 - The Tumbled Towers, an intro module for Blood & Treasure with some pre-generated characters. B1 - The Tumbled Towers will be a free download, and probably a pretty cheap print product (cause it's short!).

Since things are so berserk lately (it's quarterly report time in my real job), I'm going with another Cush preview today. Enjoy!

15.41 Kaba: Kaba is a large village of 250 people set amidst large groves of butter trees, which produce a fruit favored by both humans and baboons. The village has tall stone walls with locked gates and narrow streets. During the day, people are out and about, tending the groves, hunting in the jungle, cooking their food, repairing tools, etc. As soon as the sun begins to sink, though, they lock the village gates and go inside, locking their doors and not opening them for anything. This is because a band of ghouls has found its way to their village, finding the secret places in the jungle where they have buried their dead and feeding on them. They have made incursions into the village and killed several men and women, turning them into ghouls as well, who are now obsessed with feeding on their relatives and loved ones. The village leader, a sage called Sambwa the Wise (Adept 3; 4 hp), has no idea what to do about the ghouls. The people will not allow him to dig up the bodies of their ancestors and burn them (though the newly died are burnt now, outside the village), and the graveyards are not safe to approach anyways. He has sent a few warriors out to other villages seeking help from monster slayers.

16.26 Nameless Village: On a hill overlooking the lazy Jamba River there is a village (pop. 230) surrounded by a palisade. All of the buildings in the village are narrow towers built of limestone quarried in the middle of town. The people of this nameless village are squat, thick, grey-skinned humanoids with toothless mouths who communicate with sign language and a clicking sound they make with their thick tongues against the roof of the mouth. The people are accomplished sculptors and surprisingly agile for their build.

The village supports several sculptors, a master mason and an inn. The inn has been built into an empty quarry, with people sleeping in deep, narrow alcoves dug into the walls. The innkeeper serves palm wine in crystal decanters and slugs and snails spiced with ground pepper. The town’s main protectors are a quartet of 1st level fighting-men armed with spears and falchions. The village has no apparent leader.

The village’s treasury contains a silver falchion, four golden-brown capes (worth 5 gp each), eleven tiny ivory flutes (worth 20 gp each), a pair of copper gauntlets with only three fingers (worth 100 gp), a brass-capped bone cane (worth 200 gp) and a lead (triple weight, AC 14) cuirass bearing the symbol of Atum.

18.02 Chimpanzees: A tribe of 100 intelligent chimpanzees dwells here in a collection of odd huts reminscent of the mud-nests of the termites, though larger. Each hut ranges in height from 15 to 30 feet, and can only be entered from above. Between the huts there are pens for the chimpanzee’s dogs – some for riding, others kept for food. The warriors of the tribe (there are 40) carry shields and wield long gnarled clubs. The chimpanzees are led by a grizzled male called Bobo, who smokes a long, iron pipe and wears a tattered purple cloak. A diamond stick pin worth 500 gp is hidden in the hem of the cloak.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dragon by Dragon - August 1978

No, I didn't stop doing Dragon by Dragon, just got busy last week. Now that I'm back, let's see what the August 1978 issue (number 17) has to offer.

First and foremost, we have a cover that reminds me of some of the pinball machines of the era, or perhaps the side of the bitchin'est van to ever ply the byways of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

Article #1: Vampires in the Dungeon by Clayton J. Miner

The article seems to work off the notion that vampires are total party killers, which may be true, depending on the level of the party. The article goes on to explain why, taking into account their different abilities and how to use them to best effect - including charming multiple party members and having them wait to be drained of blood later, using the dungeon rodents as a spy network, etc. Some of the article seems to assume things about vampires that I don't think were addressed in the rules - i.e. the older a vampire is, the more resistant it is to holy symbols (which may be true, if you're considering the vampire's Hit Dice correspond with age). It also posits the best ways to destroy a vampire. Not a bad article, but to be frank, the monster description and a little imagination from referees and players would be just as good.

Article #2: Chainmail Revisited - Jousting in D&D by Jon Pickens

Ah - anyone who has tilted in the FLAILSNAILS Jousting Tournaments run by the excellent Mike Davison is already aware of these rules. This article works on addressing a few perceived shortcomings of the rules, i.e. "I’m a Lord, and he’s a lowly Level 1. IT ISN’T FAIR!"

There is also a cartoon from Will McLean, who will go on to be, in my opinion, one of the shining lights of Dragon's humor department for many years to come.

Article #3: Dragonlord review by Glenn Williams

If I'm honest, I never spent much time reading reviews in Dragon Magazine. Reading reviews to old games is even less interesting to me, but I'm going to do it anyways. Williams finds the art, by Morno, to be top drawer. The game concerns battles between dragon riders. Williams points out that the map, while pretty, is screwed up because it shows everything from the side, when it really should be top-down. In addition, the map sections do not align correctly, and the grid is a set of Cartesian squares - a hex grid would have been better. The rules, Williams says, are also too complex. Still, he likes the concept, and thinks the game can be improved, such as playing it with the Warriors of the Green Planet map.

I couldn't find the game online for sale, but there are some other Wee Warriors products at EBay.

Article #4: Faceless Men and Clockwork Monsters

Why wasn't that the name of an actual game? This article presents a Dungeons & Dragons adventure aboard the Starship Warden (from Metamorphosis Alpha). I'm pretty familiar with this story, but if you haven't read of this genre-bending excursion, you should try to find it.

Next comes a great add from Dragon Tooth Fantasy Figures, proclaiming the war between the Saurian Empire and Amphibian Confederacy. Love the art ...

 I think I get more inspiration from the ads of Dragon Magazine than the articles - quick, dynamic ideas with catchy art.

Article #5: A Wizard with a Difference by James M. Ward

Love the editor's note ...

"ED. Note: The following is recommended as a source of bedevilment to be used by DM on their NPC’s. Some of the possibilities here will drive the average group of PC’s wild when trying to deal with running NPC‘s."

Prepare for a piece of pure opinion by yours truly - D&D is more fun when the DM is trying to kill the characters. I don't mean by cheating, but by being a clever, inventive bastard.

The article presents the idea of specialist wizards, using the following types: "Wizard of Aggression", "Wizard of Defense", "Wizard of All Things Rustic", "Wizard of Control", "Wizard of Tenaciousness" (yeah, I'm picturing Jack Black), "Wizard of Detection", "Wizard of Fire" and "Wizard of Movement". One can see some overlap with the later specialists - Conjurer, Necromancer, etc., but these do sound more fun.

The concept is that these wizards get two spells of their specialty per level (I think, the rules could be a bit clearer) and have a percentage chance of casting them based on the level of the spell and the level of the magic-user. Ward suggests these wizards are best used as NPC's, which is a good point. The average NPC has a short lifespan in combat, so doesn't necessarily need a vast list of spells, many of which are designed for exploration, which the NPC doesn't need.

There are plenty of new spells or modified spells - a really fun article to read.

Article #6: Sights & Sounds in Dungeons & Dragons

Another one of those darned useful sets of random tables, this one for random sounds and random sights in a dungeon. Both use a d20, though the sounds table actually runs to 21, with 21 being a bit of a joke (rattling dice/dungeon master's scream of anguish/garbage disposal/etc.)

Article #7: Variant Monster Dept.

This article gathers a few monsters, including the Magic Munchkin by Michael Kolakowski, the Scholar by Patricia LaPointe, and the Crs'tchen by Dennis Chapman. I love the fact that none of them share the same statistical arrangement - heck, the Munchkin has no stats to speak of. Just for fun, I'll convert the Scholar for Blood & Treasure:

Medium humanoid, Neutral (N), High Intelligence; Symposium (1d10+10)

HD: 1 to 3
AC: 10
ATK: By weapon
MV: 30
SV: 1 HD = F15 R15 W12 / 2 HD = F14 R15 W12 / HD 3 = F12 R14 W11
XP: 1 HD = 100 (CL 2) / 2 HD = 200 (CL 3) / 3 HD = 300 (CL 4)

Scholars are short, bearded men in tweed robes with leather patches on the elbows. They smoke foul-smelling pipes than can produce enough smoke to provide an obscuring mist. There are three levels of scholars.

Instrictors (1 HD) know two spells, confusion and read obscure languages. Confusion is cast by answering a simple question, the answer being in an obscure language.

Associate Profussors (2 HD) know three more spells: Fear, time stop and book missiles. Fear takes effect after muttering about term papers being due. Book missiles works as magic missile, save the books inflict 1d8 points of damage.

Fool Profussors (3 HD) have three ultimate spells. The first is power word stun (the incantation being "Surprise Quiz Today"). Academic dust does 3d6 points of damage and can paralyze the mind for 2-4 turns.  The final spell is cause boredom, which works as a sleep spell that affects any level/HD of creature.

One powerful incantation causes scholars to be seized by instant cardiac arrest - "Tenure denied".

Article #8: The Monk and Bard in 'DUNGEON!' by Jon Pickens

Always love Pickens' stuff. This one introduces the bard and monk into games of DUNGEON!. I love that game - so sorry that I got rid of my copy years ago. I need to find a copy online (and yeah, I know Hasbro is going to do a reprint - I'd rather have an old game - I'm weird that way).

Article #9: Tesseracts by Gary Jordan

These have been covered nicely at Aeons & Auguries. Jordan covers putting cubic tesseracts into a dungeon do drive map makers nuts. A worthy goal!

Article #10: Ogre Piece by Piece by Jerry Epperson

I'll admit it. I played it years ago, and found it somewhat boring. If you do love the game and want some variations from 1978, find this article.

Article #11: Design Journal - Boredom and the Average D&D Dungeon by James Ward

If you know James Ward, you know "average" probably ain't happening in any dungeon he's written. In this article, he described the idea of filling new dungeon levels with "areas of history" - i.e. themed sections based on history, like an Ancient Egypt area with minions of Set, evil high priests of Set, an 11th level grave robber thief, etc. He also covers Ancient India, The Far East and The Future Machine Age. Good advice, of course, especially for fun-house dungeons.

Article #12: A Short History of Adamantite by Charles Sagui

Short indeed. He labels adamantite as an alloy of Mithril, Carbon, Iron and a few secret ingredients - technically known as Mithriferral Carbide. It is 4/5 the weight of steel, and provides a +2 on AC and hit probability for weapons. It is much more expensive to work and much more difficult to enchant. Sagui gives some prices for different armors (plate armor is 20,000 gp, chainmail 14,000 gp, daggers 1,500 gp) as well.

Article #13: Messengers of God: Angels in Dungeons & Dragons by Stephen H. Dorneman

Dorneman introduces the idea (new at the time, of course) of some non-omnipotent Lawful beings to counter all those devils and demons. He describes four types of angels - Type I (Angel of Wrath), Type II (Angel of Healing), Type III (Archangel of Mercy) and Type IV (Seraphim). Honestly, it never occurred to me to use "types" of angels to counter the "types" of demons. Neat article.

Article #14: Natural Armor for Monsters in Monsters, Monsters by Doug Miller

This one is just what it sounds like. If you don't have Monsters, Monsters, it won't do much for you.


Fineous Fingers is saved from the Antipaladin by the evil wizard, because he needs a thief - not a bad way to handle an encounter in your next game, especially if the needed character is a major pain in the ass to the rest of the party.

Wormy plays a nasty trick on some goblins and tree trolls.

Article #15: Warp War review by Tony Watson

Warp War was a mini-game by Metagaming (click here for Warp War on Boardgame Geek).

From the description, it almost sounds like Car Wars in space - you have to build your ships and then use them to fight over star systems. Watson likes it, and I must admit it sounds fun.

And that brings us to the end. This one is pretty packed, with lots of great articles. Definitely one to look out for!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Land of Nod Forums Are Now Open!

Well, I've taken the plunge (God, don't make me sorry I did it!)

You can access the forums HERE - I've set up forums for the different games I've written, as well as the Land of Nod in general, future product announcements, Hex Crawl Chronicles and just a place for the community (do I have a community?) to talk about whatever they like.

Only rules of the forums - no politics - no religion (not including stuff like "who would win in a fight, Thor or Athena, unless it becomes heated) - and no being an a$$hole! The forums are a place to relax and enjoy. If you feel the need to be a dick, do it somewhere else, mmmKay?

So, go to it boys and girls. I think everything is set up properly - if not, I'm sure I'll hear about it soon.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Grab Bag + Chance to Win FREE PDF (OMG)!!!

Haven't done a grab bag in a while, and I stumbled upon a few things this morning that were worth it ...


Still looking into setting up message boards. I'm a born penny-pincher, so making the leap into paying for monthly hosting is a tough one for me. Stay tuned. In the meantime, feel free to leave comments on the pages.


If you're running a game set in this time period, and you don't make use of this, you might in fact suck. Via Retronaut.


Louise Brooks. Just needed to post this.

Oh, and if they'd done John Carter in the 1920's, she's your Deja Thoris.


T-tops was always my favorite (and yes, it was to a dinosaur, and they're called brontosaurus not apatosaurus and Pluto's a planet and scientists can just bite me). Via LaughingSquid

Here it is in action ...


They look like this. I know he didn't, but Fridtjof Nansen looks like he could go toe-to-toe with a remorhaz. Via Retronaut.


There's a game here ... Cultist who travels in powerful circles decides to build a new tower of Babel in London, SAN checks follow. Via Retronaut.


First person to identify all the mistakes in the picture above wins a free PDF of their choice of something I've published. Once I identify the winner and call them out, they'll need to email me so I can email them the link and password. Via Retronaut (oh, and the artist's inability to draw worth a shit does not count as a mistake)

Thanks for hanging with me this week - have fun on the internet!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Blood & Treasure Complete is ... Complete!

OK - last bit of advertising for a while, I promise!

The complete version of Blood & Treasure, which puts the Players Tome and Treasure Keepers Tome together in one package is now on sale as a ...

Hard Cover for $35.99

Soft Cover for $22.99

E-Book (PDF) for $11.99

As before - if you buy a hard cover, send me the Lulu receipt (email address over there to the right) and I'll send you a link to download the e-book for free.

Glad to finally be finished - hopefully no new errors have crept into it. I'm sending this one straight out without seeing the preview copies, as a few people (you know who you are) have been waiting anxiously. If the game pays for itself plus a little extra, I'll be ecstatic, but if it does no more than give people an enjoyable game to play, I'll be satisfied.

I'll try to get a more substantive post up for you to read tomorrow - thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Treasure Keepers Tome ... It's Alive! [Blood and Treasure]

Yes indeed. Just put this puppy up for sale on

Hard Cover is $29.99

Soft Cover is $18.99

E-Book (PDF) is $8.99

Now, to answer the first question ... Complete will be up tomorrow. I have a couple adjustments to make on that one, and I just don't have time today to make it happen.

To answer the second question ... Yes, if you buy the hard cover and send me a copy of the Lulu receipt, I'll send you a link to a free download of the PDF.

Best news of course ... Lulu is doing a 15% off sale this week (code is PADDLE15), so if you act fast you can save a few coins.

I hope people enjoy the books and the game. I'm going to have the introductory adventure up pretty soon as well, probably early next week. It will be available as a free download or a pretty cheap book (about 20 pages, soft cover) and include some pre-generated characters.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Soggy Goddesses, Mighty Baobabs and Ghostly Apes - Cush Preview

A few more previews from Cush - I've been remiss about posting these lately. NOD 16 should be out by the end of the month - I'm just putting on the finishing touches now.

09.21 Goddess: A 20 ft. tall statue of a Hindi-style goddess lies belly-up in the river here. The statue is tilted, so that its face peers out at the north bank of the river. 1d8 crocodiles sun themselves on the statue, which is missing its arms and legs and looks to be very ancient. A secret door in the statue’s navel can be unscrewed, leading to a crawlspace that ends in the statues head. Inside the head there is a golden orb studded with gems (5,000 gp). The statue is all that remains of a stone golem destroyed a milennia ago during a war between Kolos and distant city-states of Ende.

11.04 Mufo: Mufo is a large town (pop. 4500) that receives some caravan traffic between Ophir and the Carnelian Coast, and also acts as a trade center for the local region. The city is surrounded by walls of reddish stone that are studded with bronze spikes. The front gates are thick, dark oak, heavily glazed, that are bound in bronze. The walls are anchored by five stout towers, about 30 feet tall. The walls and towers are patrolled by the town’s 45 guardsmen (men-at-arms; leather armor, shield, spear, light crossbow). The town is known for its green tile roofs, that sparkle like emeralds in the sun and help to camouflage the town from above, hemmed in as it is by the surrounding jungle.

Mufo is governed by a council of wealthy men and women, the head of which is Kanda, a rather famous merchant who once adventured throughout Cush, Pwenet and the Carnelian Coast and who now commands several caravans who ply the same area. Other members of the council are the monster trainer Mbando and the infamous duelist Muamba the Snake, who runs a a fencing academy.

Mufo has two ghettos, one of Ophirian traders, craftsmen (especially weavers) and adventurers who traveled down with the caravans from Ophir, the other of gnomes who have quit their traditional forest home and now make a living as wood-carvers and fortune tellers. The Ophirians of Mufu number about 250, the gnomes about 180. Both are treated reasonably well, though the gnomes are considered dishonest schemers by the locals, and the Ophirians are considered to be greedy.

11.27 Baobab the Mighty: A baobab tree that covers much of this hex has lived long enough that it has achieved sentience and a sort of godhood among plants. The forest creatures of bow to it as they pass along their way, and the beasts that dwell within its branches serve as a sort of priesthood. Key among them are a tribe of 30 monkeys who gather the sap (which can apparently neutralize poison, who knew?) and allow it to ferment, making a crude spirit that grants them low intelligence for the period of 1 month, before they must drink of the sap once again. The tree desires nothing but peace and tranquility in its domain, and a complete absence of fire.

12.36 Nettles: This hex is filled with many large patches of grass topped with tiny, stinging nettles. There is a 4 in 6 chance of any given adventurer being painfully stung and suffering a -1 penalty to all rolls for 1d4 days or until the bathing in urine.

14.30 Ghost Apes: Ghostly white apes crawl through the trees of this hex, leaving icy finger and foot prints whereever they go. The apes are true ghosts (treat as spectres), and their haunting howls and calls put people at ill ease and force animals to pass a saving throw each hour or flee in fear. The ghost apes only rarely attack travelers, having a 20% chance of attacking (in a group of 1d6+1), the chance increasing to 35% if there are spell casters present, and 55% if they are divine spell casters.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Monster of Monsters

Saw a neat illustration today at Super Punch by Kelly Tindal that I had to share ...

Naturally, something this grand must have some stats:


Medium Construct; Chaotic (CE); Average Intelligence; Solitary

HD: 10 (50 hp)
AC: 16
ATK: 2 claws (1d4), bite (1d6 + energy drain) and snakes (1d4 + poison III)
MV: 30
SV: F 10, R 10, W 10
XP: 2,500 (CL 12)

A patchwork monster is perhaps the highest expression of the golem maker's art, as it is composed not of bits of humans, but of humanoid monsters. More importantly, the maker of a patchwork monster must preserve the special abilities of the creatures he uses. The traditional patchwork monster uses components from a medusa, werewolf and vampire

A patchwork monster's gaze turns people to stone for 1d6+1 days. A Fortitude saving throw negates this power. If a patchwork monster uses a special grapple attack with its bite, it can sink its fangs into a victim and drain blood, dealing 1d4 points of constitution damage, and gaining 1d6 temporary hit points for itself.

Special Qualities: Weapon resistance (silver weapons), immune to energy damage and drain, ability damage and drain and fatigue

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fraternal and Votive Orders

Not the white lady the order probably had in mind ...
While tooling around the internet the other day (I have no idea what I was looking for at the time, now), I ran across the wikipedia page for Emprise de l'Escu vert à la Dame Blanche - AKA "Enterprise of the Green Shield with the White Lady". I'd never run across this order before, but I loved the name and investigated just a bit.

The order was what was called a "votive order". Votive orders were formed on a vow, and were really a less serious form of "fraternal order", which also involved a pledge. Wikipedia lists the following fraternal and votive orders:

Compagnie of the Black Swan, founded by 3 princes and 11 knights in Savoy (1350)

Corps et Ordre du Tiercelet (Corps and Order of Tiercelet), founded by the vicomte de Thouars and 17 barons in Poitou (1377–1385)

Ordre de la Pomme d'Or (Order of the Golden Apple), founded by 14 knights in Auvergne (1394)

Alliance et Compagnie du Levrier (Alliance ad Company of the Greyhound), founded by 44 knights in the Barrois (1416–1422), subsequently converted into the Confraternal order of Saint Hubert

Emprise de l'Escu vert à la Dame Blanche (Enterprise of the green shield with the white lady), founded by Jean Le Maingre dit Boucicaut and 12 knights in 1399 for the duration of 5 years

Emprise du Fer de Prisonnier (Enterprise of the Prisoner's Iron), founded by Jean de Bourbon and 16 knights in 1415 for the duration of 2 years

Emprise de la gueule de dragon (Enterprise of the Dragon's Mouth), founded by Jean comte de Foix in 1446 for 1 year.

In all cases, these orders were not centered around a nobleman - just a group of people vowing something to one another, and sometimes for a limited, set amount of time. Sounds a bit like an adventuring party to me. In the past, I have compared adventuring parties to merchant companies, which had a charter (i.e. "The Company of the Red Dragon shall plunder the red dragon's lair and split the proceeds as follows ...), but fraternal and votive orders could fit the bill as well.

To use the Emprise de l'Escu vert a la Dame Blanche as an example - it was founded for the protection of women suffering oppression, especially widows. Any woman so beset could petition the order, and they would send a knight forthwith to fight her oppressor personally.

The Emprise du dragon rouge, for example, could be founded by 6 knights (the adventurers) and their 12 retainers for the period of 1 year with the vow to hunt down and kill the red dragon Aglemire (and plunder his lair, of course).

Even better, an order founded by Lawful (or Good) characters could be a great cornerstone for a campaign. A band of adventurers could, for example, make it known far and wide that their order could be called upon by all honest folk who are being oppressed by foul wizardry, and then sit back and wait for the campaign hooks to roll in. They'd be a little bit like a medieval A-Team.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Skeleton For Every Occasion (18 of them, in fact!)

Image from Wikipedia
The old fashioned skeleton is a great monster for low level parties - maybe even mid-level parties in large enough numbers - but I thought I'd put my mind to making a skeleton for every level. Enjoy ...

Medium Undead, Neutral (N), Non-Intelligent; Gang (1d6)

HD: 2
AC: 15
ATK: 1 cleaver (1d4+1) and 1 saw (1d4 + rend flesh)
MV: 30
SV: F15 R15 W12
XP: 100 (CL 2)

Sawbones are animated skeletons that have had cleavers grafted to the right arms and serrated blades attached to their left arms, in both cases replacing their hands. Victims of a saw-blade attack who suffer maximum damage must pass a Reflex saving throw or suffer an additional 1d4 points of damage from the blade sawing at their flesh and bone. If said victim is wearing armor, they instead make an item saving throw for their armor; failure indicates the armor has been damaged and loses one point of its armor bonus until repaired. No armor can lose more than half its armor value (rounding down) from this attack.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons)

Medium Undead, Chaotic (CE), Low Intelligence; Gang (1d4)

HD: 3
AC: 15
ATK: 2 claws (1d4) or by weapon
MV: 30
SV: F14 R14 W13
XP: 300 (CL 4)

Dry bones are animated skeletons capable of drawing the moisture out of the surrounding environment, including creatures. The dry bones always generates a 10-ft. radius area of blight (per the spell). Once every 1d4 rounds it can generate a cone (10') of desiccating wind that deals 3d6 points of damage to most living creatures and 3d8 points of damage to plant creatures and water elemental creatures (Fortitude save for half damage). Any liquids within the cone must pass an item saving throw or be destroyed (including magic potions, which save at +1). Other items might also be ruined, as determined by the Treasure Keeper.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons), resistance to fire

Medium Undead, Chaotic (CE), Low Intelligence; Gang (1d6)

HD: 4
AC: 15
ATK: 2 claws (1d6) and skull (1d4 + poison III)
MV: 30
SV: F14 R14 W12
XP: 400 (CL 5)

Hurlers are skeletons that can remove their skulls and hurl them at targets. If these skulls hit, they bite the target for 1d4 points of damage and inject Poison III into them (Fortitude save to negate poison). The target must also make a Fortitude saving throw or the skull clamps down on them and continues to deal bite damage (but not inject more poison) each round thereafter until the target can make a successful grapple attack against it to remove it. A hurler can continue to fight without its head, and if it gets the chance can pick it back up and throw it again. A hurler skull can only be thrown by the hurler it belongs to.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons)

Medium Undead, Chaotic (CE), Average Intelligence; Gang (1d4)

HD: 5
AC: 16
ATK: 2 claws or talons (1d6) or by weapon
MV: 30 (Fly 40)
SV: F13 R13 W11
XP: 500 (CL 6)

These skeletons are covered in leathery flesh and have two large, bat-like wings sprouting from their backs. They are more intelligent than normal skeletons, and use their ability to fly to full effect.
Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons)

Medium Undead, Chaotic (LE), Low Intelligence; Gang (1d6)

HD: 6
AC: 16
ATK: 2 claws (1d6) or by weapon (1d8)
MV: 30
SV: F12 R12 W11
XP: 600 (CL 7)

Dragon bones are skeletons that rise from chromatic dragon teeth that have been sewn into the ground. The skeletons rise fully armed and armored, with scale mail (the color approximates the color of the dragon to whom the teeth belonged), shield and longsword or battle axe. These skeletons are immune to either fire, electricity, acid or cold, depending on their dragon "parent".

Black Dragon: Acid
Blue Dragon: Electricity
Green Dragon: Acid
Red Dragon: Fire
White Dragon: Cold

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons), resistance to energy (see above), magic resistance 5%

Medium Undead, Chaotic (CE), Average Intelligence; Gang (1d4)

HD: 6
AC: 16
ATK: 2 claws (1d4 + blood drain) or by weapon (1d6)
MV: 30
SV: F12 R12 W10
XP: 600 (CL 7)

Bloody bones are skeleton covered in a sheen of slimy, red blood. They are especially difficult to grapple (DC 20), though why one would want to is beyond me, and they are surrounded by a 5-ft. radius of blood that acts as a grease spell. Creatures struck by the bloody bone's claws must pass a Fortitude save or those claws pierce the flesh for an additional 1d4 points of damage and then begin draining blood at the rate of 1 point of constitution damage per round until the bloody bone's grasp is broken, either with a successful grapple attack, or with an attack from a weapon that deals at least 6 points of damage.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons)

Medium Undead, Chaotic (NE), Average Intelligence; Yawn (1d4)

HD: 7
AC: 15
ATK: 2 slams (1d4) or by weapon (1d6)
MV: 30
SV: F12 R12 W10
XP: 700 (CL 8)

A lazy bones looks like a normal skeleton, though it is always wrapped in a black cloak. The skeleton constantly emits a strange, piping noise that acts as a sleep spell (Will save to resist; sleep for 1 hour). It gives off a 10-ft. radius aura that drains strength. Each foot of distance one travels within this aura forces a character to pass a Will saving throw or suffer 1d3 points of strength damage. Strength returns at a rate of 1 point per hour after one leaves the lazy bone's aura.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons)

Medium Undead, Chaotic (CE), Low Intelligence; Howl (1d4)

HD: 7
AC: 15
ATK: 2 claws (1d4) or by weapon (1d6) or scream (see below)
MV: 30
SV: F12 R12 W11
XP: 700 (CL 8)

A screaming meanie can emit a piercing scream, once per battle and lasting for 4 rounds. This scream does not prevent it from attacking with claws or weapon. All within a 30-ft. cone must pass a Fortitude saving throw or be struck deaf for 1d6 hours and must also pass a Will saving throw or flee from the screaming meanie for 1d6 rounds.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons)

Medium Undead, Chaotic (NE), Average Intelligence; Solitary

HD: 8
AC: 15
ATK: 2 claws (1d4) or by weapon (1d4 + poison IV)
MV: 30
SV: F11 R11 W9
XP: 800 (CL 9)

Black bones are the animated remains of skilled assassins. They generate a field of impenetrable darkness 20 feet in radius and are also under the permanent effect of a silence spell. Naturally, a black bones can see through its own darkness, though the darkvision of other creatures does not pierce it. They are always armed with poisoned daggers. A black bones can backstab as an assassin for triple damage.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons)

Large Undead, Chaotic (CE), Low Intelligence; Gang (1d3)

HD: 8
AC: 16
ATK: 2 claws (1d6)
MV: 30
SV: F10 R11 W10
XP: 800 (CL 9)

Bone spurs are animated from the remains of ogres. They are covered with barb-like growths that slash and tear at the flesh of creatures engaged with them in hand-to-hand combat. All creatures engaged in melee combat with a bone-spur must pass a Reflex save each round or be slashed for 1d4 points of damage. If 4 points of damage are scored, the bone barb detaches from the bone-spur and becomes caught in the victim's flesh or clothing. The next round, the barb grows into a full-sized skeleton (per the normal skeleton stats) that can make a free grapple attack on its victim. A bone-spur can produce a maximum of ten skeletons in this way.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons)

Medium Undead, Chaotic (CE), Average Intelligence; Gang (1d3)

HD: 9
AC: 16
ATK: 2 claws (1d4 + 1d6 fire)
MV: 30
SV: F11 R11 W9
XP: 900 (CL 10)

A blazing bones appears as a skeleton wreathed in flame. All creatures within 10 feet of the monster are affected as though by a heat metal spell, and all in melee combat with the skeleton must pass a Fortitude save each round or suffer 1d4 points of fire damage. Once per day, a blazing bones can breath a cone (20') of fire that deals 4d6 points of damage (Reflex save for half damage).

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons), immune to fire, vulnerable to cold

Medium Undead, Chaotic (CE), Average Intelligence; Gang (1d3)

HD: 9
AC: 16
ATK: 2 claws (1d4 + 1d6 cold)
MV: 30
SV: F11 R11 W9
XP: 900 (CL 10)

A bone chiller appears as a skeleton clad in a thick layer of ice. All creatures within 10 feet of the monster are affected as though by a chill metal spell, and the ground to a 20-ft. radius around the monster is covered in frost and ice (per a grease spell).

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons), immune to cold, vulnerable to fire

Medium Undead, Chaotic (CE), Average Intelligence; Gang (1d3)

HD: 10
AC: Variable
ATK: 2 claws (1d8)
MV: 30
SV: F10 R10 W8
XP: 1000 (CL 11)

Bronze bones are skeletons covered in a coating of metal. Despite the name, the metal varies, determining the monster's Armor Class as well as special abilities:

Bronze: True bronze bones have an AC of 17 and can heat metal around them in a 5-ft. radius.

Steel: Steel bones have an AC of 18; wooden weapons that hit them (including metal weapons with wooden hafts) must make an item saving throw or be broken.

Lead: Lead bones have an AC of 16 and are surrounded by a 30 ft. radius aura of slow (per the spell) that permits no saving throw (though it is countered by a character under the effects of the haste spell).

Mithral: Mithral bones have an AC of 19; in the presence of light, all creatures within 10 feet of a mithral bones must pass a Fortitude save each round or be blinded for 1d6 minutes.

Adamantine: Adamantine bones have an AC of 20; non-adamantine weapons that hit them must make an item saving throw or be broken; weapons that break deal only half damage.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons), resistance to fire, immune to electricity

Medium Undead, Chaotic (CE), Average Intelligence; Gang (1d4)

HD: 10
AC: 17
ATK: 2 claws (1d6)
MV: 30
SV: F10 R10 W8
XP: 1000 (CL 11)

Funny bones are capable of separating into their constituent parts and then re-assembling. When struck for 4 or more points of damage by a physical attack from a bludgeoning weapon (or force effect), the funny bones separates into two demi-skeletons, each with 5 hit dice, a single attack and a movement rate of 20. These demi-skeletons can also be divided into piles of bones with 2 hit dice, no attacks, and a movement rate of 10. Demi-skeletons and bone piles can reassemble by touching. If 3 demi-skeletons (or 6 bone piles) manage to come together, or a full funny bones and a single demi-skeleton or 2 bone piles comes together, they form a creature with 15 hit dice, four attacks and a movement rate of 40. These creatures can only be divided (into funny bones) by scoring at least 8 points of damage. Two of these super-skeletons can join together to form a 20 hit dice mega-skeleton with six attacks. Mega-skeletons can only be divided (into super-skeletons) by scoring at least 16 points of damage.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons), regenerate

Medium Undead, Lawful (LG, NG, CG), High Intelligence; Solitary

HD: 11
AC: 18
ATK: 2 slams (1d4+1) or heavy mace (1d6+1)
MV: 30
SV: F10 R10 W7
XP: 1100 (CL 12)

Holy bones are the animated remains of lawful high priests. In effect, they are living reliquaries, sealed into plate armor (15% chance of being +1 plate armor) and armed with a heavy mace (15% chance of being a +1 heavy mace). Holy bones function under a permanent protection from evil effect, and in each of their bony fingers they can score a single cleric spell (two spells each of levels 1 through 5) that can be cast once per day. They are typically left as guardians of the catacombs under monasteries.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons), magic resistance 25%

Large Undead, Neutral (N), Non-Intelligent; Solitary

HD: 12
AC: 18 [+1]
ATK: 6 slashes (1d8) and bite (1d6 + poison -see below)
MV: 40
SV: F8 R9 W7
XP: 3000 (CL 14)

A skelepede is a massive centipede-shaped monster composed of hundreds of humanoid or animal bones. They are non-intelligent and usually left as brutish guardians by necromancers. The clicking sound of the monster's myriad components forces attackers within 10 feet to pass a Will save each round or suffer from a confusion effect. Targets bitten by the monster must pass a Fortitude save or succumb to a bone-softening poison. Targets who fail this save suffer 1d4 points of constitution damage and lose 5 feet from their normal movement rate.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons), regenerate, magic resistance 30%

Medium Undead, Chaotic (CE), High Intelligence; Solitary

HD: 13
AC: 18 [+1]
ATK: 2 claws (1d6) or spell (see below)
MV: 30
SV: F9 R9 W6
XP: 3250 (CL 15)

A crystal skull looks like a skeleton composed of a crystalline substance as hard as steel. Their bones glow with a light as powerful as that produced by a lantern, and so long as this light is not suppressed by magic darkness (the monster has magic resistance 50% against magical darkness effects), it can use one of the following spells: At will-dancing lights, hypnotic pattern, searing light; 3/day-prismatic spray, sunbeam; 1/day-prismatic sphere, sunburst.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons), magic resistance 30%, immune to fire, acid and electricity, vulnerable to sonic damage

Medium Undead, Chaotic (CE), High Intelligence; Solitary

HD: 14
AC: 16 [+1]
ATK: 2 claws (1d6 + energy drain) or symbol (see below)
MV: 30
SV: F8 R8 W5
XP: 3500 (CL 16)

A skeletrix is a skeletal figure, usually garbed in women's clothing and always painted in bright patterns that are actually glyphs of power. A skeletrix can use each of the symbol spells once per day, and can generate two symbols per round. The touch of a skeletrix drains 1 level (Will save to negate). Their presence causes fear (as the spell) in creatures with 5 or fewer Hit Dice.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons), magic resistance 45%

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dragon by Dragon ... July 1978

Dragon #16 holds great promise based on the cover alone - a bad-ass barbarian and the word "ninja" ...

To begin with, a gentle commentary from Kask regarding the amount of fiction in the magazine:

"Due to the length of the conclusion of THE GREEN MAGICIAN, we found it necessary to add an additional four pages this issue. Contrary to what some Philistines might think, this is not a fiction magazine. The Philistines I refer to are the ones that don’t want to see any fiction at all in these pages. To forestall the howls, the extra four pages were added to compensate, not that the story NEEDS compensating for."

Gerald Guinn kicks this issue off with a rebuttal to a letter criticizing The Cthulhu Mythos Revisited. An entertaining exchange one would now expect to see ... well, on every message board and blog frequented by geeks.

Jerome Arkenberg brings us the Near Eastern Mythos. Like the other articles in this series, it keeps it short and sweet and covers quite a bit of ground - everyone from An(s) to Ziusudra(s). The heroes in this article would be especially useful for swords and sandals campaigns - heck, this article, a map of the Near East and a few dungeon maps would be all you need to run a great campaign. The scorpion men are worth a look ...

Scorpion Man: HP 240 (holy crap!), AC 1, MV 20", Magic as 15th level wizard, fighter ability as 15th level lord and Class I psionic ability.

Okay, gonzo stats, but a sweet piece of art. I also love the fact that the "artifacts" presented would, in modern D&D circles, be considered fairly weak magic items.

After the Near Eastern mythos, we have the big article of the issue - The Ultimate NPC: Ninja - The DM's Hit Man by Sheldon Price. I can hear the audible gasps of the "dick DM" crowd and the clicking of their teeth. To be honest, they have a point, but I think the article also needs to be seen in the context of the time. With characters bouncing around from game to game, there was the real danger of a ridiculously powerful character (probably played by a cheater) showing up to ruin everyone's fun.

Here's the rundown - Ninjas are limited to 16th level and must be neutral; they cannot use psionics. Their special abilities include seeing in the dark, tracking (as ranger with 20% penalty), simulate death, poison use (lots of rules here), far travel (2nd to 5th level 50 miles a day, 6th to 9th level 75 miles per day, 10th level or higher 100 miles per day - a unique ability), they prefer no armor but will wear leather or chainmail and they have a special shield called a neru-kuwa, they attack as a fighter, can attack open-handed as a monk and use judo as a samurai (originally in ... uh, some other issue), they get a save vs. all damage, save as magic-users of one level higher against spells and can attack with any weapon at a -3 penalty, save ninja weapons they have mastered and weapons associated with a disguise class they have learned. Otherwise they save as a fighter. Their disguises are learned randomly. The article goes on a bit ... go read it. It's actually not too shabby in terms of being overpowered, especially since it's assumed that one or two ninjas will be taking on an entire party and their retinues.

James Ward does another The Adventures of Monty Haul #3. This involves Freddie and his love of the weird. A sample:

"We appeared on a frosty plain of ice and snow with four Storm Giants swinging their weapons and Monty chuckling something about “minor guards”. We heard the sound of three clubs and a magic sword going smash, smash, smash, and chop. Mike’s gargoyle was a grease smear on one of the clubs, Tom’s Monk was down to one hit point, Dave’s cleric was really hurting, and Jake’s golem had one of its arms cut off by the vorpal sword. Robert clove one in two with his sword while Ernie’s and my cold rays took care of two more (and the sword, we found out a bit later). The last one was missed by the rest of the group, but it didn’t miss me for thirty-six points of bruises and nicks. With the next round, we were able to finish the giants off before the last one did any more damage. They didn’t have a copper coin’s worth of treasure on them, and we weren’t pleased. After a bunch of cure spells and a raise dead on the gargoyle, we still hadn’t figured out what to do about the golem’s arm. We just let it go and traveled on. Tim and Brian put on some of the dead guard’s clothes (which everyone thought was a good idea) and we were on our way towards a batch of caves."

E. Gary Gygax covers a bit of ground in the Sorcerer's Scroll with Role-Playing: Realism vs. Game Logic; Spell Points, Vanity Press and Rip-offs.  The essence is - some people are morons when they propose fixes to D&D, and they are an irritation to Gygax not because of vanity, but because they don't understand game logic. Two quotes:

"The uniform element amongst these individuals is a complete failure to grasp the simple fact that D&D is a game. Its rules are designed and published so as to assure a balanced and cohesive whole."

"D&D encourages inventiveness and originality within the framework of its rules. Those who insist on altering the framework should design their own game. Who can say that such an effort might not produce a product superior to D&D? Certainly not I."

The bit about Weapon Expertise being stupid considering that any fighting-man worth his salt would practice with all arms all the time is funny, considering he had just published the AD&D Player's Handbook with the weapon proficiency rules.

In a Design Variant article, Charles Sagui explains Why Magic Users & Clerics Cannot Use Swords. In essence: For balance in the game, and Tolkien didn't write D&D, so I don't care if Gandalf could use a sword. Sagui works out a system where clerics can use edged weapons, but whatever damage they score with those weapons must be paid with by losing spells or, if they're out of spells, losing their own hit points. Weird, but kinda fun.

A. Mark Ratner presents Metamorphosis Alpha Modifications. This one covers the lack of mutants having a leadership potential, and thus being unable to use devices and weapons they find. I'm not sure that wasn't the intention in the rules, but Ratner proposes a mechanical aptitude ability for mutants. More importantly, he presents a great big chart of mutated animals, including pigmy elephants, so you know it's legit.

Next up is the second part of The Green Magician by L. Sprague deCamp.

"Shea’s intention was to jerk the blade loose with a twist to one side to avoid the downcoming slash. But the point stuck between his enemy’s ribs, and, in the instant it failed to yield, Nera’s blade, weakened and wavering, came down on Shea’s left shoulder. He felt the sting of steel and in the same moment the sword came loose as Nera folded up wordlessly."

Hard not to fall in love with Belphebe.

Wormy involves Irving the imp selling dwarf burgers to a hungry crowd that includes a wereboar. Frank the tree troll takes him out with a club. Almost forgot Dudly and Frank - excellent characters. The gaming world really lost out when Wormy ceased.

Fineous Fingers, meanwhile, turns back to help his pals against the evil knight.

We finish up with a Design Forum article by James Ward on Game Balance. This involves the rate at which magic item treasure is given out - Gygax, Kask and Kuntz all want it restricted - Ward, on the other hand, loves it. He introduces the idea of Game Equilibrium. In this concept, the DM doesn't care how much magic the players have. He uses plenty of it in his hordes ... but he lets the defenders of those hordes use the magic items. In essence, Ward embraces the DM vs. players concept wholeheartedly, like a great big game of Spy vs. Spy. Not a bad style of play, in my opinion, if everybody involved is a good sport.

Well - I got steaks to grill. Have fun on the internet folks, and make sure you buy a copy of Blood & Treasure!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Drawing Dungeon Maps in Excel - A Quick Tutorial

Well, I think I just about have this whole mapping in Excel thing down, so why not share the techniques with everyone else. Quick note that I'm doing these maps with the latest, greatest versions of Excel and Paint and nothing else.


The first step is setting up your grid. In general, this involves eyeballing the fields into squares, and then adding a border to all of those squares using whatever color you like. In the example below, I'm using a light blue.


Now, I color in all of those squares with the same color blue, and then cut out the passages and chambers by changing those squares to "no color", though I suppose coloring them white would work just as well.


At this stage, you can add in walls using thick lines (again, using the same color as above), doors (they're just small rectangles), stairs (see below, took me a while to get these right), pillars, statues, etc. The newer versions of excel also allow you to freestyle draw shapes, which are good for irregular pools. For pools, I do a tight, white dot pattern over the blue. For chambers that are going to be natural caverns, just get the overall shape right at this stage.

The secret door is just an "S" (Arial 12 pt.) in a text box with no outline and no background.

The stairs are a long trapezoid, no outline, with a pattern of vertical lines or horizontal lines, depending on the direction the stairs face. Yeah, I'm kinda proud of figuring that one out - I originally tried drawing in the lines, but could never get the spacing correct.


To make the pointed room, I added a couple right triangle shapes of the blue color. I then add room numbers using Arial Narrow, 9 point. You can also add outlines of rounded shapes over rooms, coloring in the bits outside the outline in the next step.


We now highlight our map, hit CONTROL-C to copy, and open up MS Paint. In Paint, we paste in the map. If we want to turn any of our passages or chambers into tunnels or caverns, we just use the paintbrush (same color as background) to draw in the natural walls.

And, lo and behold, we have a workable dungeon map. It's not perfect, and there are some limitations, but it's not bad for using a couple pretty basic programs. Whether this will work with the Open Office version of Excel, I don't know - I'd love to hear from somebody who tries it out.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Periplus of the Erythaean Sea

Well, with all the hex numbers stripped off ... just ask the archaeologist who had to trudge through snake-ridden wilderness to find the remains of Rhapta.

The Periplus of the Erythaean Sea was a Greco-Roman production that jotted down, very succinctly, the major ports of the Erythaean Sea, which translates as Red Sea, but which included what we would call the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.

How's this for keeping it brief and lively ...

1. Of the designated ports on the Erythraean Sea, and the market-towns around it, the first is the Egyptian port of Mussel Harbor. To those sailing down from that place, on the right hand, after eighteen hundred stadia, there is Berenice. The harbors of both are at the boundary of Egypt, and are bays opening from the Erythraean Sea.

2. On the right-hand coast next below Berenice is the country of the Berbers. Along the shore are the Fish-Eaters, living in scattered caves in the narrow valleys. Further inland are the Berbers, and beyond them the Wild-flesh-Eaters and Calf-Eaters, each tribe governed by its chief; and behind them, further inland, in the country towards the west, there lies a city called Meroe.

3. Below the Calf-Eaters there is a little market-town on the shore after sailing about four thousand stadia from Berenice, called Ptolemais of the Hunts, from which the hunters started for the interior under the dynasty of the Ptolemies. This market-town has the true land-tortoise in small quantity; it is white and smaller in the shells. And here also is found a little ivory like that of Adulis. But the place has no harbor and is reached only by small boats.

Just throw in a magic fountain and some rampaging orcs, and you're all set.

You might want to work out a periplus of important towns for your own campaign and give a copy to the players. Keep it vague, hint at some coolness, and then let them have at it.


Oh, and due to looking up the Wikipedia article on the periplus (cool word), I discovered the Himyarite Kingdom, which became a Jewish monarchy on the Arabian Peninsula that exercised great control over the frankincense and spice trade. The Arabian Peninsula, with all the interesting kingdoms and empires surrounding it, and the possibility of lost cities and tombs within it (I'm looking at you, Irem), would be another great locale for a RPG campaign. 

Hell, what am I saying? The entire Erythaean Sea would be a kick-ass place for sea-borne adventures in the vein of Sinbad. I really need a duplicate-inator to make multiple me's - there's just so much writing I would love to do.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Dragon by Dragon ... June 1978

First page of the magazine ... Fantasy Air Cavalry from Ral Partha. It's a good start, let's see how they finish.

Best line in Kask's editorial this time ...

"In the past year, we have met and overcome all obstacles in our path save one: the U.S. Post Offal."

The more things change ...

First article is Dragon Magic by Michael Benveniste. This is in the D&D Variant series (God, I love seeing that in an official TSR publication).

"The magic used by dragons is tempered by their nature. Dragons
are creatures of rock and wind, having little use for plants and water.
They feel little need for offensive spells, believing that their own body
and deadly breath fulfill this need."

What follows is a spell list for dragons, and this idea: All dragons have a secret name they will reveal to nobody, under no circumstances. A legend lore or wish reveals a clue, but not the name, nor does commune or similar spells. A limited wish just confirms or denies a guess. Speaking the dragon's name dispels all of his spells, and allows the speaker to demand one - just one - service from that dragon. Nice concept for driving a game: "We can't get to the top of the Godmountain without the help of the Dragon of Peaks, and to do that we need to learn its true name."

The spell list has all sorts of new dragon spells, including 1st level - Breath Charm, Charm Avians, Evaluate Item, Locate Lair, Magic Pointer, Werelight; 2nd level - See Other Planes, Wall of Gloom, Weave Barrier, Weight Control (boy, could you make money selling this one, as long as no phen phen is involved); 3rd level - Binding Spell, Hold Mammal, Mesh, Negate Enchantment I, Revelation, Servant Summoning I, Water to Wine, Wood to Sand; 4th level - Attack Other Planes, Rock to Sand, Seek, Turn Magic, Work Weather. There are some great, evocative names in there, and the more I read, the more I liked the idea. One sample ...

"Water to Wine: A dragon loves good wine. This spell allows the dragon
to convert any water (including salt or tainted) to wine
valued even by Elves. Amount: 20 gallons per age class."

Up next are a couple more D&D Variants. First, we have Pits by Richard Morenoff. It's a pretty neat set of random tables to determine the contents or type of a pit. One possibility is a "citizen", which consists of the following: Pipeweed grower, shipbuilder, hatmaker, beer merchant, sculptor, fisherman, locksmith, tool merchant, weapon merchant, teacher, loan shark and trapper. Old D&D means that 1 in 1000 pits found in a dungeon holds a pipeweed grower.

N. Robin Crossby of Australia next presents Random Events Table for Settlements and/or Settled Areas. This one is based on the current season (word to the wise, Spring and Winter are safer than Summer and Autumn). There can never be enough tables like this.

James Ward is up next with Monty and the German High Command, another expose of the gaming goings-on within TSR in 1978. The accompanying illustration brings me joy ...

This one involves some WW2 Germans facing off against orcs, storm giants, manticores, an EHP (if you don't know, you need to study your D&D history a little more closely), a warlock, heroes and superheroes, and trolls, all in an attempt to take a castle.

Jim Ward also presents some thoughts on Wandering Monsters, providing a list of Fourth Level wandering monsters. Takes me back to the game's origin as a, well, game.

Jeff Swycaffer now presents Notes From Another Barely Successful D&D Player, a follow-up to Ward's article in issue II/7. He tells of playing a "Maladroit", who can't cast spells, fight for a damn, pick locks or lead men. Instead, he lies like a rug. Some good ideas here - worth a read.

Jerome Arkenberg writes The Gospel of Benwa (is he referring to ... hmmm) in Dragon Mirth, in which he extoles the Benwanite Heresy, that holds that all the problems in the world are due to the struggle between the Gods of Law and Chaos, and that only victory by the Gods of Neutrality can end misery on earth.

Gygax's From the Sorcerer's Scroll covers D&D Ground Area and Spell Area Scale. Herein, he claims the confusion of 1" = 10 feet indoors and 1" = 10 yards outdoors will be cleared up in ADVANCED DUNGEON & DRAGONS. He explains how this originally came to pass - namely that the original scale was 1" = 10 yards in CHAINMAIL, and that the 1/3 scale was devised by Arneson when he turned the tunneling and mining rules of CHAINMAIL into the dungeon rules of what would become DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. He also explains here that one turn = one scale minute in CHAINMAIL, but that for dungeon movement it was altered to one turn = ten minutes, since mapping and and exploring in an underground dungeon is slow work. The key here is that area of effect is always 1" = 10 feet, even outdoors. So, there you go.

David Tillery is next with Weather in the Wilderness. This always seems to be such an obvious thing to do, but it has rarely paid off for me in a game. I usually just roll for inclement weather conditions when there's to be an outdoor fight, to make the fight more interesting. Tillery has a pretty solid system, it seems - reminds me of the World of Greyhawk system.

Next, we have an ad announcing "TWO IMPORTANT NEW RELEASES FROM TSR", those releases being GAMMA WORLD (love the original font) and the AD&D Player's Handbook.

Next, we have Stellar Conquest: Examining Movement Tactics by Edward C. Cooper. Since I don't know the game, I won't go into it much, but I did enjoy the art:

Not enough space ships have giant pincers, in my opinion.

Next we have some fiction by L. Sprague deCamp - The Green Magician.

"In that suspended gray mists began to whirl around them, Harold moment when the Shea realized that, although the pattern was perfectly clear, the details often didn’t work out right.

It was all very well to realize that, as Doc Chalmers once said, “The world we live in is composed of impressions received through the senses, and if the senses can be attuned to receive a different series of impressions, we should infallibly find ourselves living in another of the infinite number of possible worlds.” It was a scientific and personal triumph to have proved that, by the use of the sorites of symbolic logic, the gap to one of those possible worlds could be bridged."

Funny - I just read this bit recently.

Next up ... Fineous Fingers runs away from Grond the Anti-Paladin.

After that, a full page pic of Wormy counting his gold over a backgammon board.

The next article is Random Encounters for BOOT HILL, by Michael E. Crane. This should be useful for folks who play Old West games. It includes such things as mounted bandits, homesteaders in wagons, unarmed clergy, soldiers, indians, etc.

And so ends the June 1978 issue of The Dragon!
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