Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Holy Moses, It's a New Class!

Yes, a new class ... probably the last new class of 2014 ... based on Moses, that fellow who parted the Red Sea and held the Ten Commandments.

At least, it's based a little on Moses, and a little on other old time prophets. In essence, it's a non-warrior cleric with more flexibility in terms of spells, but fewer spells to choose from.

In a moment, the class. First, a couple words from our sponsor (which happens to be me)


Two new e-books up on Lulu over the past couple days. The long awaited (well, by me anyways - took me forever to finish it) NOD 24, and the even longer-awaited (again, by me) Bloody Basic - Contemporary Edition. From my descriptions on Lulu.com ...


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NOD 24

2014 comes to a close with the 24th issue of NOD! In this issue, we continue the Ende hex crawl started in NOD 23, detail some Indian divinities, get into some court intrigue, make monsters with a dictionary, explore the ancient Red Sea as a campaign setting, tangle with space genies, and meet some 1920's superheroes called the Roustabouts. 80 pages. $4.39 for 80 pages

Wow! What amazing bargains (if you're into this kind of thing).

Now, back to our program!


The prophet is a cleric who goes way back … all the way to Moses in fact. The prophet is destined to be a religious leader of a people, if he or she can live long enough. Starting out in life, they are touched by a deity and tasked with leading their chosen people, or converting their chosen people, to their worship. They must eventually lead these people into the wilderness to found a new kingdom for them. The deity in question should be one that is, as yet, minor in stature, or a major deity that has largely been forgotten by his or her chosen people.

Obviously, this class is based on Moses. I won’t go over the story of Moses – it’s easy enough to find – but suffice to say he was a prince who discovered his true heritage and was chosen by God to lead his people through the Wilderness to the Promised Land. As an emissary for God on Earth, he could perform miracles, and as a man that was raised in a royal house, he had a good deal of non-spiritual leadership ability.

The prophet class has an innate ability to commune with the divine, a spell list based on the miracles attributed to Moses, other Biblical prophets and Christian saints. You’ll notice quite a bit of overlap with the normal cleric’s spell list. The prophet begins life as an aristocrat, and that means he has some capacity for fighting and leading people. His leadership abilities will continue to improve as he gains levels, though his fighting ability will improve more slowly. Prophets are not meant to be front-line warriors. A prophet’s spellcasting ability is in some ways more limited than a cleric’s, and in others superior.

Restrictions: Wisdom 13+, Charisma 9+, alignment must be LG, LN or LE

Hit Dice: d8 at first level, d6 at each level afterwards

Skills: Decipher Codes, Find Secret Doors

Weapons: Any*

Armor: Any*

Prophets are trained in the use of all arms and armor, but using arms and armor not allowed to a magic-user represents a lack of faith in their deity, and imposes a spell failure chance on them (cumulative):

Non-permissible light weapon +5%
Non-permissible medium weapon +10%
Non-permissible heavy weapon +15%
Non-permissible light armor +10%
Non-permissible medium armor +20%
Non-permissible heavy armor +30%

Spell failure chance should be rolled when the prophet beseeches her deity for a miracle. If the spell fails, the deity chooses to ignore her.

A prophet does not technically cast spells. Rather, he asks for miracles. A prophet is allowed a limited number of miracles of each miracle level per day. He does not need to memorize or prepare miracles, as long as he has access to a level of miracles, he can ask for any of them. The prophets’ miracles are listed at the end of this article.

Besides adventuring to earn money and power, a prophet’s most important job is to amass followers. To this end, a prophet must preach before multitudes, attempting to either convert them to his new faith, or reawaken them to an old faith. Treat conversion as a Charisma task in which the prophet is skilled.

The prophet can attempt to groups of 0 to 1 HD creatures, or individuals with more than 1 hit dice. With groups, the prophet makes a Charisma task check and, if successful, converts a number of followers equal to his 1d4 plus his level. Difficulties include differences in ethical alignment (law – neutral – chaos) and moral alignment (good – neutral – evil), or the people being strongly dedicated to another faith. The same basic process is used for individuals, with an additional penalty equal to the each level the target is higher than the prophet.

When 0 or 1 hit dice individuals join the prophet’s cult, you might need to determine what they are:

There is a 1 in 6 chance per person that they are wholly dedicated to their new faith, and need never check their morale. Others, however, may lose faith in the face of hardships (as determined by the TK). When this happens, the prophet must make a new conversion task check for each individual. If he fails, they decide to return to their homes and their old way of life.

A prophet must take care of his followers. He must provide food and water for them, protect them, provide some manner of shelter (tents at a minimum), and heal them when they are wounded or sick.

For one battle per day, the prophet can grant a benefice to his warriors in battle. As the prophet’s level increases, he gains additional benefices he can grant. Each benefice can be granted to one battle per day, and only one benefice can be granted per battle.

At 6th level, one of the prophet’s existing followers can become his acolyte. The prophet’s acolyte becomes a lesser divine servant of the prophet’s deity, gaining abilities as the prophet gains abilities.

A prophet with fewer than 10 followers by 6th level must perform a quest for his deity or lose his ability to request miracles. Likewise a prophet with fewer than 25 followers at 7th level, fewer than 50 followers at 8th level, and fewer than 100 followers at 9th level and each level beyond 9th.

A prophet that is killed might enjoy an apotheosis upon death. There is a 5% chance per level of the prophet. When an apotheosis occurs, the prophet transforms into an outsider of similar alignment with roughly as many Hit Dice as the prophet +1. In this form, the prophet remains in the material plane for one minute per level. Thereafter, he is called to his home plane and disappears forever unless resurrected. If resurrected, the prophet returns in his original body, not as an outsider.

1. Aid
2. Bless
3. Comprehend Languages
4. Control Light
5. Cure Light Wounds
6. Multiply Food and Water
7. Protection from Evil
8. Summon Nature’s Ally I
9. Sustenance
10. Turn Undead

1. Augury
2. Buoyancy
3. Calm Emotions
4. Consecrate
5. Cure Moderate Wounds
6. Detect Thoughts (ESP)
7. Gentle Repose
8. Levitate
9. Remove Paralysis
10. Speak with Animals
11. Summon Nature’s Ally II
12. Summon Swarm

1. Cause Disease
2. Create Food and Water
3. Cure Blindness/Deafness
4. Cure Disease
5. Cure Serious Wounds
6. Fly
7. Hold Person
8. Remove Curse
9. Summon Nature’s Ally III
10. Tongues
11. Water Walk

1. Blight
2. Charm Monster
3. Control Water
4. Cure Critical Wounds
5. Divination
6. Flame Strike
7. Holy Smite
8. Restoration
9. Sticks to Snakes

1. Awaken
2. Bilocation
3. Commune
4. Contact Other Plane
5. Healing Circle
6. Hold Monster
7. Insect Plague
8. Raise Dead

1. Banishment
2. Geas
3. Move Earth
4. Wind Walk

1. Control Weather
2. Create Clay Golem
3. Transmute Matter

1. Earthquake
2. Holy Aura

1. Astral Projection


Level: 5
Range: Personal
Duration: 1 minute

For one minute, the prophet can be in two places at once. Each version of the prophet can carry out movement and actions as normal. The second version can appear within 1 mile per prophet level of the first. When the second version disappears, any damage or other effects he sustained, or any items he took possession of, return to the first version.

Level: 2
Range: Close (30 ft.)
Duration: 1 minute

One object within 30 feet designated by the caster becomes buoyant in water, and floats to the surface.

Level: 7
Range: Touch
Duration: 10 minutes per level

By fashioning a roughly human-sized and shaped object out of clay and inscribing a magic sigil on its head, the prophet can cause it to become a clay golem for 10 minutes per prophet level.

Level: 1
Range: Touch
Duration: Instantaneous

This miracle takes existing food and water and multiplies, creating one extra portion per prophet level.

Level: 1
Range: Personal
Duration: Instantaneous

The prophet can go without food, drink and sleep for one day, but must sacrifice one point of constitution to do so. This constitution point cannot be healed while any casting of this spell is in effect. A prophet could, therefore, use sustenance for seven days straight, but would be without seven points of constitution on the seventh day, and would suffer the normal effects of a lower constitution. Constitution points sacrificed for this spell return at the rate of one per day of rest.

Level: 7
Range: Touch
Duration: 24 hours

The prophet can transmute matter from one form to another, thus lead to gold or steel to adamantine. The effect lasts for 24 hours. At the end of this time, the object must pass an item saving throw (as its original matter) or disintegrate.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Rankin-Bass is My Dungeon Master

A party of misfits
If you ever spent time as an American kid in the 1970's or 1980's, you surely are aware of Rankin-Bass holiday specials. And back then, they were special. No VCR's, DVD's or internet, so you had once chance each year to see Rudolph, and if you weren't home, you didn't see it! Egad!

R-B did more than just Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in 1964 though. In Christmas specials alone, they produced The Little Drummer Boy (1968), Frosty the Snowman (1969), Santa Claus is Comin' to Town (1970, my favorite), The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974), The First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow (1975), Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976), The Little Drummer Boy, Book II (1976), Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey (1977), Jack Frost (1979), Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July (1979), Pinocchio's Christmas (1980), The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold (1981), and The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1985).

So many holiday specials ... and thus so much material to mine for a little RPG nonsense. So, in the spirit of Mother Goose is my Dungeon Master ...

Races and Classes

First and foremost, we don't have adventurers in Rankin-Bass D&D. We have "misfits". Characters in this game are weirdos who don't quite fit in, and thus leave Santa's Castle or the Island of Misfit Toys to do some adventuring! Silver and Gold!

I'll be your narrator for this adventure
Moreover, the DM isn't a DM. He or she is the narrator, and they have to do the whole game impersonating an old celebrity. Something like The Caves of Christmas Chaos narrated by Sean Connery.

Humans have to be included as a playable race because of Yukon Cornelius. Other options could be elves (shorter than the traditional D&D elves) and reindeer (definitely a candidate for "race as class"). How about toys? Winter sprites? Lots of options there.

Classes - prospector, knight, winter warlock, dentist? Dentist!? Heck, you could even just stick with the old fighter, cleric, thief, magic-user standbys. A 3rd level elf magic-user, a 5th level reindeer fighter, a 2nd level dolly thief. How can you beat that?

Clerics need divine patrons, and R-B gives you Father Time, Mother Nature, Father Winter and of course Old Saint Nick himself.


Only high-level misfits better tangle with this character
The bumble, King Moonracer is a shedu, giant vultures, town guards, elemental misers and their miserlings (mephits fit the bill very nicely for these guys), keh-nights (mechanical knights from Jack Frost) - many options here. Rankin-Bass adventures seem to be more centered around big villains with a collection of minions around them. That villain had better be threatening Christmas or New Years, too, or what's the point?

Adventure Sites

You're just loaded here. The North Pole, with Santa's Castle and the reindeer caves and Yukon's peppermint mine is a good home base. Burrow heavily from Candy Land and get a candy cane forest and gumdrop mountains. The Island of Misfit Toys is nearby, with its Shedu ruler King Moonracer. The weird Sea of Time that shows up in Rudolph's Shiny New Year could and should be the site of a mega-campaign all on its own. Seriously - if you haven't watched it, watch it. Great imagination fuel. You can go further afield with the Holy Land, Sombertown (apparently somewhere in Central Europe), the Russian Steppe and its Miserable Mountain, Southtown, etc.

The Game

It's Christmas Eve, and your friends are over. Pull out Basic D&D or one of its clones, pick a place to adventure, make up a villain or bring back Burgermeister Meisterburger or Kubla Kraus, figure out how they're trying to screw up the holidays and then roll up some elven dentists and human knights and jack-in-the-box whatevers and get to adventuring.

Oh, and don't forget to put a little of that goodwill towards men in your hearts. Share your +1 short sword. Don't be stingy with the healing potions. Give a little love, and get a little love back. It is Christmas, after all.

And no pouting and shouting if your character dies. Santa's got his eye on you!

Note - All images are the property of their copyright owners. No intended infringement in this post - just a bit of holiday fun.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Phoenix (New Class)

This class originally came about because I was working on some class ideas inspired by the classic elementals – not in terms of “guy who uses fire”, but rather “class inspired by fire’s representation in folklore and mythology".

Speaking of fire, this is what I came up with:


Some humanoids are born with an especially powerful spark of life. These are warrior souls, caught up in the great circle of life. Phoenixes have souls that never stop. When a phoenix dies, he or she immediately reincarnates as a new creature with the same memories and its personality mostly intact. The phoenix can do this many times, though each time stresses their constitution to the max, and each time a phoenix dies may be their last. Of course, it isn’t really the end of the phoenix’s soul – it merely transmigrates elsewhere in the cosmos (i.e. time for the player to roll up a new character) and fights on!

ARMOR – Any armor, including shields

WEAPONS – Any weapon


The key ability of a phoenix is his ability to reincarnate upon death, per the druid spell of the same name. When a phoenix is reduced to 0 hit points, its body immediately bursts into a 10-ft. radius of fire which deals 1d6 points of damage per four levels of the phoenix. The phoenix has a chance to direct this flame at a single target; if they can pass a Will saving throw they can direct the fire up to a range of 10 feet per four levels at a single target, who suffers all the damage (Reflex save to halve damage).

Once the fireworks are over, the phoenix emerges from the fire and smoke in a new body rolled randomly on the table below.

01. Aasimar
02. Azer
03. Blink Dog
04-07. Bugbear
08. Centaur
09. Crabman
10. Doppelganger
11-13. Dromite
14-19. Dwarf (10% chance of duergar)
20-25. Elf (10% chance of drow)
26-29. Gnoll
30-35. Gnome (10% chance of svirfneblin)
36-39. Goblin (10% chance of blue)
40. Grimlock
41-46. Half-elf
47-52. Half-orc
53. Harpy
54. Hengeyokai
55-58. Hobgoblin
59-64. Human
65. Janni
66-67. Juggernaut
68-71. Kobold
72-76. Lizard man
77. Minotaur
78-82. Neanderthal
83-85. Notac-Ichat (see NOD Companion)
86. Ogre
87-90. Orc
91. Satyr
92-93. Tiefling
94. Troglodyte
95. Unbodied
96-97. Utu (see NOD Companion)
98-00. Xeph

Roll randomly for the gender of the new body.

The phoenix gains all the abilities inherent to his new body (though not equipment, like a satyr’s pipes), but retains his normal hit points (adjusted for losing a level – see below), saving throws, attack bonus, ability scores and ability to speak. The phoenix personality remains largely the same, but is nudged a bit in the direction of its new form. If the phoenix has half or less of the hit dice of his new form, his new form is reduced in size by one size category.

The transformation is not without cost. The phoenix loses one level, and his experience points are reduced to the minimum level for his new level. A first level phoenix can reincarnate. His level remains at first, and his XP are reduced to 0. The phoenix must also pass a Fortitude saving throw or lose 1d3 points of constitution, permanently.

Once the transformation is complete, the phoenix must adjust to their new body. Each round, the phoenix must attempt a Will save. Once they succeed, they gain control over their faculties and can act normally. Until then, they are stunned.

A third level phoenix gains a limited form of regeneration. His natural healing is doubled (i.e. 2 hit points per level per night of rest), and he enjoys a +2 bonus to save vs. poison and disease.

A sixth level phoenix gains access to his soul’s memories. By meditating for one hour, the phoenix gains the use of one feat per three levels (i.e. two feats at sixth level, three a ninth, etc.). The phoenix can only access memories in this way once per day.

A ninth level phoenix can build a fortress-temple dedicated to the Phoenix. The phoenix attracts a body of 1d12+9 men-at-arms, heavy infantry, to serve as his personal bodyguard. In addition, a young 1st level phoenix seeks him out as a master (likely a sidekick from a former life).

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Saving Some Gold Pieces (and a Spell)

Boys and girls, if you've been waiting to buy some of my print products, you may be in luck. Lulu is running a sale through November 27th ..

And on November 27th, I'm going to throw in some markdowns of my own for the holiday season. You'll find the link to my storefront on the side over there.

Don't forget, if you buy a hard cover book, I'll send you a free PDF of that book.
And now, to keep this post from being nothing but a commercial, I will make up a magic spell ...

Wind Tunnel
Level: Cleric 5, Druid 4, Magic-User 5
Range: Centered on caster
Duration: 1 minute

This spell creates a tunnel of powerful winds extending 10 feet per level ahead and behind the spellcaster. The tunnel is large enough for the spellcaster to walk through normally, though it obviously cannot be larger than the chamber or passage which the spellcaster currently occupies. Missile weapons, gases and breath weapons are deflected by the wind tunnel. Creatures outside the tunnel trying to force their way through the tunnel suffer the effects of entering a huge air elemental's whirlwind. The caster can decide if creatures grabbed by the wind tunnel are carried forward or backward and then deposited on the ground, prone, where the tunnel ends.If the tunnel is not created on solid ground, the spellcaster's comrades (though not the spellcaster, on whom the spell is centered) might fall into the winds themselves (in other words, it cannot be used to create a bridge across a chasm unless the spellcaster's comrades want to ride the winds across).

(Essentially, this is a variation on, and enhancement of the wind wall spell).

Monday, November 24, 2014

Undead, Yes ... But What Else Can We Turn?

Now imagine the cross is a pole, and she's a chasm. Image found HERE.
The title is making me think of the "Will It Blend?" videos.

At its heart, an RPG (or really any game) is just a collection of mechanics hiding underneath a layer of fluff. In an old school world, simplicity and, to some degree, minimalism is important - that means getting as much mileage as possible from the rules you have, so that you can avoid creating new rules. One rule mechanic that doesn’t get used enough, I think, is the Turn Undead table.Well ... let me rephrase that. It gets used all the time when people are turning undead, but the rule concept itself could probably be used to do more than just turn undead.

What follows are a few ideas for how you can tweak the Turn Undead table.

1. Alternate Targets

I've used the basic concept of "turning" in my games and unhinged it from the undead. The beastmaster class I wrote, for example, can turn animals. I meant it as a means of representing Tarzan's ability to cow animals and send them packing without having to necessarily fight them. In Grit & Vigor, I played with the idea of letting the dreadnought (a sort of big, scary guy archetype ... think Mr. T) use a table like that to frighten low-level NPCs, or at least stun them into inaction. I'm picturing Mr. T walking into a room and glaring at the thugs while he and the A-Team walk through unscathed, nobody daring to mess with them.

What else can you turn?

Different alignments - perhaps a wretched villainous NPC can force good creatures away through a sort of self-righteous repulsion. Maybe a chaotic troublemaker has the ability to turn authorities, though in this case it would represent the troublemaker avoiding their notice rather than frightening them away.

Different creatures - if the beastmaster can turn animals, maybe a dragon slayer can attempt to turn dragons (probably only succeeding on the little ones). What about turning reptiles, or turning elementals, or turning specific creature types as a lesser special ability?

2. Alternate Effects

I already hit on this above, in the chaotic troublemaker using "turn undead" to avoid the notice of lawful creatures. You could also replace turn/destroy (and rebuke/command) with ...

Annoy/enrage (a jester class might use this)

Charm/control (or dominate, great for a succubus class)

Stun/confuse (a riddlemaster? Kirk dealing with computers?)


Maybe a swashbuckler can "turn blades" as a way to represent a lone swordsman confronted with a multitude of minor combatants. One swipe of his blade, and a random number of lesser swordsmen are "parried/disarmed".

I'm sure there are many other possible variations. Just think in terms of partial success/complete success, pick a class of targets, and you're done.

3. Alternate Function

The Elementalist class I wrote used a variation on the turn undead chart to cast spells. For the elementalist, the idea was that the magician was controlling elemental spirits and forcing them to create the magic effects on his behalf, so a turn undead table made sense.

You could further twist the Turn Undead table concept to entertain crowds, convert heathens or solve conundrums. How about turning spells, using the Turn Undead mechanic as a counterspell mechanic.

In fact, the Turn Undead table could probably serve as a general task resolution mechanic - rate the difficulty of a task from 1 to 10 (or skeleton to vampire - "Gee Bob, that chasm's a real vampire - are you sure you want to try to jump it?) and roll the dice.

Just a few ideas for getting the most out of your chosen ruleset.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Unhinging Clerics from Alignment

A Chaotic cardinal for a Lawful church? Read on ...
Since the beginning of the game, clerics (and anti-clerics and druids) have largely been defined by their alignment. In the context of the early game, this made sense. Clerics were based on a combination of Van Helsing the vampire hunter and the religious knights of the crusades. That clerics must be Lawful was logical when you considered that they were based on adherents of a moral religion.

Note - I'm not going to get in a discussion here about the morality of the medieval Christian church. What I mean to convey is the idea that while Jews, Christians and Muslims believe that God created the universe and has some measure of control over nature (i.e. he can control the weather and such), they put their focus on his code of rules (thou shall not kill, etc.). Clerics of God, therefore, should be defined by their alignment.

Almost as soon as the game was written, though, it started to change. Clerics stopped being tied to an implicit Medieval Christianity and instead were tied to polytheistic deities, most of them just anthropomorphized forces of nature. Rather than the pseudo-Templars and Hospitalers that seem to have been intended under the original rules, we got clerics of Thor and Loki. Since Thor was Chaotic Good (if my memory of the Deities & Demigods/Legends & Lore book), his clerics needed to be Chaotic Good as well, which meant they needed to be "crusaders" for enlightened freedom. The Thor of mythology, however, did not seem particularly concerned with moral concepts. He was a personification of thunder and lightning, and, if anything, a ready and eager foe of the giants (i.e. natural calamities). It should have made more sense to use druids as the priests of all the nature deities, but they became saddled with the concept of True Neutrality. Ultimately, several unrelated systems were mashed together to make something that was mostly fun, but also didn't make much sense.

How about a different concept for clerics? One that keep the basic rules in place (and hopefully the fun), but changes with the whys and wherefores and takes the focus for clerics away from alignment, and puts it back on casting spells in armor and pounding heads with maces.

Clerics, like magic-users, are spellcasters. The universe they inhabit has physical laws that can be broken with magic spells. In other words, the supernatural in thus universe is natural - it's just a nature with processes that are beyond most mortals. The universe also has gods, goddesses and other divine beings. Maybe they created the universe, maybe they just have a secret knowledge of how it works. Either way, clerics join their cults and learn how to perform rituals that can alter the fabric of reality in ways the gods and goddesses are willing to allow.

Think of the universe as the internet, and clerics as people who have been given passwords to systems by the owners/creators of those systems, as a bank gives a customer a password that allows the customer to access her account information and perform other allowed functions. Because clerics are given this access in exchange for performing the necessary rituals and living by the rules of their temple or order or brotherhood, they have more time to spend on learning to fight than magic-users.

Magic-users are the hackers of the universe. They alter the fabric of reality without anyone's permission, and it's not easy. They have to learn the code of the gods and hijack it. This forces them to spend all their time figuring out how to get things done, and gives them little time left over for learning to fight. It also allows them a much wider array of powers than the clerics (though they still haven't figured out how to hack into the healing spells).

Clerics in this scheme are not champions of an alignment, but champions of their cult/church/temple/brotherhood/etc. They represent their little faction in the very dangerous fantasy worlds in which they live, just as fighters serve kings and thieves serve their guilds. The name of the game is survival and power. In this scheme we do not need to tie the god of thunder to a particular alignment. He has a cult of followers whose existence allows him to play games in the cosmos (think of the scene in Jason and the Argonauts with the gods moving mortals around like chess pieces) or who just brag about how awesome he is. In return for their service he lets them alter reality on his terms. Within this cult, there can be clerics of any alignment, so long as they advance his agenda. In fact, the god of thunder might not even pay much attention to the cult. Maybe he gave his "passwords" to somebody long ago, and they passed the knowledge down to those who would serve them loyally.

Alignments in this sort of universe are not warring cosmic factions (a rather heady concept when you consider that the game is mostly made up of swashbuckling adventures and puzzle solving in a quest for money and experience/power), but rather the personal codes if men and women that determine how they interact with the world.

Clerics of Thor can be lawful, neutral or chaotic. The lawful clerics like to stick up for the little guy, the neutrals serve their order loyally to stay in good with their masters, and the chaotics try to get away with as much as possible without being expelled. This would endow these invented religious organizations a bit more color and intrigue. The lawfuls and chaotics within the cult don't quite trust each other, and each works to control the cult because they fear the other faction, but they aren't necessarily at each others throats all the time. The lawful heads of the cult might even understand that the chaotic clerics have their value in the organization, doing things they might shy away from, but which are necessary to advance the cult's goals in the world.

A deity that does represent or espouse a moral or immoral concept might, of course, restrict his or her clerics to a particular alignment. A deity of charity would want his clerics to be charitable - this would make chaotic clerics a bit tricky. Likewise, a god of trickery would want his clerics to be tricky - this might not work well for lawful sorts. Then again, consider Cardinal Richelieu - a member in good-standing of an ostensibly lawful church, and a terrible villain if most accounts are to be believed.

I guess this is a conception of alignment and clerics that would only fit in well in a Robert E Howard-style fantasy world, where the name of the game is power. It certainly wouldn't be to every player's taste, but it should please some players or at least prove entertaining for a while to veteran players. At a minimum, it could free clerics in the game from being forced into the role of do-gooder or do-badder, and instead make them more enjoyable to play.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Campaign Idea - After the Fall of Troy

It's the end of the late Bronze Age world, and I feel fine

If D&D represents a fantasy post-apocalyptic world, it makes sense to look for ancient fallen civilizations to use as inspirations for campaigns. What better than Troy?


A silver piece from Troy
Helen was a drop dead gorgeous (and a demigoddess, the daughter of Zeus), apparently, and Paris, prince of Troy, was smitten. So smitten, in fact, that he convinced her to run away with him to Troy where they would live happily ever after.

Well, not so fast. Apparently, Helen's husband, Menelaus, the King Sparta (those happy-go-lucky fellows) was none too happy about this situation. More importantly, he had managed to extract an oath from all her old suitors (also kings and lords) when he married her. They swore that they would lend him military aid if anyone tried to steal her away as a way to ensure that none of the other great Greeks would try kidnapping her. Menelaus rallies the Greeks and off they go to lay siege to Troy for a really long time. The gods get involved here and there, and ultimately Troy falls due to the trickery of Odysseus more than the rage of Achilles. The Greeks go too far, of course, and sack the temples and are visited with many troubles.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Age of Heroes, the days when the great heroes of Greek mythology trod the earth and the gods and goddesses took a very active interest in the world, moving people around like pawns in a great game only they understood.


Eventually, the actual existence of Troy was proven, by Frank Calvert in 1865 to be precise. It's mythic history was then woven into the historic period called the Late Bronze Age Collapse. The Greeks would have called it the Golden Age Collapse, but why quibble - a collapse is a collapse.

The walls of Troy, as they were
The collapse involved the transition from the late bronze age to the early iron age, and the disruptions that resulted from this technological shift. Power structures are built on the now, and the new often causes things to tumble. According to Wikipedia, "The palace economy of the Aegean Region and Anatolia which characterised the Late Bronze Age was replaced, after a hiatus, by the isolated village cultures of the Greek Dark Ages." During this period, from 1206 to 1150 BC, we have the fall of the Mycenaean Kingdoms, the Hittite Empire, the New Kingdom of Egypt.  Not only was Troy destroyed (twice, apparently), but also the Hittite capital of Hattusas, and the city of Karao─član.

That sounds like D&D - small villages and brand new ruins to loot and plunder.


So what is different about a Post-Troy fantasy campaign than the standard D&D campaign?

Bronze Weapons: The fighting-men of this era are fighting with bronze weapons, rather than iron or steel. Iron was not unknown in this period, but iron weapons were probably still relatively rare - they were the high-technology of the time. With this in mind, it probably makes sense to allow bronze weapons to have the standard weapon statistics in your game (short sword 1d6 damage, etc.), and make iron weapons something akin to magic weapons in your campaign. A +1 bonus to hit probably makes sense, especially since they're being employed against bronze armor. It might also make sense to treat them something like silver weapons when fighting supernatural creatures, since the manufacture of iron, and thus blacksmiths in general, was considered magical by many people (any technology advanced enough, etc. etc.)

Come on Zeusy - my boy needs a cleric spell.
Divine Champions: In the Iliad and the Odyssey, we are introduced to the concept of certain characters being favored by the Greek gods and goddesses. This brings up the idea of casting clerics not as simple priests, but rather as extraordinary men and women favored by the gods, and perhaps descended from the gods. Odysseus, for example, had the blood of Hermes flowing through his veins, and Achilles was the son of the nymph Thetis, who could intervene on his behalf with Zeus. The idea here would be that these champions could pray to the gods and get solid, concrete results because they were part of the extended divine family. One might also use the demigod class I came up with in a campaign like this. At a minimum, feel free to make the gods and goddesses active participants in the campaign.


First and foremost, the Fall of Troy campaign provides a great megadungeon in the ruins of Troy. Sacked by the Greeks, a battleground (indirectly) of the gods, the famous horse, the sacked temples, the great palace, etc. Obviously, we'll need to bring in a subterranean aspect to the city - catacombs, caverns, etc. Making Troy a total ruin allows one to populate it with monsters - goblins and the like - bubbling up from the Hades' realm.

Any spot in Greek mythology is fair game, of course. The island of the gorgons, entrances to the underworld, the amazons' queendom (or its remnants), the oracle at Delphi (imagine the dungeon that exists below the oracle, from whence come the strange fumes that drive her prophecies), etc. 

Maybe the perfect campaign in this setting is one patterned on the journeys of Odysseus. This would be an island-hopping campaign, with the adventurers and their henchmen traveling from place to place, maybe trying to get home, maybe searching for a new home (i.e. Aeneas) and maybe just looking for treasure and adventure.

For another wrinkle, the Late Bronze Age Collapse might have also been the time period in which a prince of Egypt, by the name of Moses, led his people across the wilderness to a land promised to them by a mysterious deity who was really going to shake things up on the deific scene. Adventurers might have a chance to meet the guy who pretty much invented the Sticks to Snakes spell (or at least, the guy who cast it first).

Partial spell list: Sticks to snakes, part water, insect plague ...

A Fall of Troy campaign offers up an addition opportunity - brand new places to see. One of the famous stories that comes from the Fall of Troy is the founding of Rome by the exiled Trojan prince Aeneas. In a traditional D&D campaign, high level characters work hard to found strongholds, essentially medieval fiefs. In a Fall of Troy campaign, high level characters can work to lead their followers to a new land to found new city-states. The follow-up, of course, is a campaign of ancient war, the forging of new empires and ultimately the redrawing of the map of the ancient Mediterranean.

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Treat, Sans Trick

For the next couple of days, I'm knocking 10% off of the Monster Tome in honor of all the undead (and Elsas, apparently) on the streets tonight looking for free sweets.

As always, if you buy the hard cover and email me a receipt, you'll get a PDF copy of the book for free.

Happy Halloween, folks!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Hierarchy of Materials [Grit & Vigor]

Machines are a pain in the butt.

Well, really, they're a challenge, and challenges are half the reason to design a game.

The challenge in this case is dealing with 100 years of machine technology in a systematic way that allows one decade to flow into the next in a rational way that permits gameplay.

The specific challenge I've been playing with is Armor Class. Armor Class and attack rolls and damage rolls work - they're an abstract way to deal with combat between individuals and they've managed to produce fun gameplay for a long time. I don't want to rock that boat. There are some functional limits, though, that become apparent when you have to allow for a system that runs from "man in loincloth" to modern tank with 12 inches of steel armor.

Functionally, an attack roll involves rolling a d20, which gives you a maximum roll of 20. Characters in the sweet spot of levels are going to bring maybe a +4 or +5 to their attack rolls. High strength or dexterity adds another +3. Side factors throw in a +2 or +4 bonus to hit. The result: You're not going to get many attack rolls higher than 30. Sure, at high levels, with everything on your side, maybe you roll a 40. But - and this is key - tanks were destroyed by guys with, reasonably, 1 or 2 Hit Dice all the time in World War II. A tank shouldn't require a "40" attack roll to inflict damage.

So what do we do with that 12" armor?

Well, damage reduction makes sense. This allows us two mechanisms to govern the ability to damage objects (and hit points lends a hand as well). Now, we don't need super high Armor Class. We can have manageable Armor Class ratings, supplemented by Damage Reduction that makes sure certain classes of weapons cannot destroy certain objects. A fighting-man shouldn't be able to sink the Bismark with a revolver, no matter how high his level is.

My first attempt at damage reduction was based on two factors - what is the object's skin/hull made of, and how thick is it. I came up with some arbitrary values and used them as a place holder. Steel armor, for example, would provide 20 points of damage reduction per inch. Wood would be 5 points. Most other metals 10 points, etc. Simple enough, but maybe not realistic. With damage reduction in play, I needed to deal with the amount of damage inflicted by weapons.

Once again, a system was involved - in simple terms, rating firearms on the energy they were putting into their projectiles and turning these ratings into damage figures. Once again, I had a system that needed to take into account everything from slings to super-cannon, and now I needed it to interact intelligently with damage reduction. Obviously, some of these values were getting pretty big. Tanks were rolling around with 240 points of damage reduction, which meant anti-tank weapons needed to reasonably deal more than 240 points of damage (quite a bit more, actually) to destroy them. How does one roll upwards of 400 points of damage? That could take more than 60 d6, or about 20d20. That's a lot of dice!

I won't bore you with the details of the calibrations - and I'm honestly not done with all of them yet - but I did come up with a plan to simplify things.The point of my using damage reduction was to make sure that certain weapons were going to be ineffective on certain machines. In the real world, this isn't just about how hard you're hitting something, it's also about what you're hitting it with. This gave me the idea of a hierarchy of materials based on the strength of that material (or as near as I could figure it).

With this system, I decided that damage reduction would be 12 points per inch of material, regardless of the material. I chose 12 because it is easy to divide by 2, 3 and 4 (i.e. half-inch, quarter-inch, third-inch).

Using the hierarchy of materials, one compares the material being hit with the material doing the hitting. If they're on the same "level", or the hitter is at a lower level than the "hittee", damage reduction applies as normal. If the hitter is one level higher in the hierarchy, use half the normal damage reduction value. If the hitter is more than one level higher, it ignores the damage reduction entirely. For every level lower, the damage reduction value is increased by 6 per inch.

Here's the hierarchy I came up with (changes pending):

A. Kevlar
B. Tungsten
C. Steel (Hard, Armor), Titanium Alloy, Uranium (Depleted)
D. Mangalloy, Steel (Medium)
E. Cast Iron, Chainmail, Nickel Alloy, Spider Silk, Stainless Steel, Steel (Soft)
F. Aluminum, Bamboo, Brass, Copper, Fiberglass, Granite, Hard Woods (Ash, Hickory, Maple, Oak, Walnut), Nickel, Titanium, Wrought Iron
G. Bricks (Hard), Glass (Bulletproof), Lead, Limestone, Sandstone, Soft Woods
H. Bricks (Common), Concrete
I. Flesh

Let's take an inch of steel armor (Class C). It has the following damage reduction values:

6 vs. Class B (tungsten projectiles)
12 vs. Class C (hard steel projectiles)
24 vs. Class E (cast iron, like old cannon balls)
30 vs. Class F (brass and copper, like many non-armor piercing projectiles)
36 vs. Class G (lead projectiles)
48 vs. Class I (Flesh, which sounds ridiculous until you realize you need to deal with things like Kaiju vs. tanks)

If we assume that adamantine is harder than tungsten, then we could say that steel armor has no damage reduction against adamantine. One could make that argument for magic weapons as well if they were using them in their game.

There's still some work to do with this idea, and I'll probably alter the hierarchy before I'm finished, but I think this is a simple, workable system that will make that campaign involving Hitler invading Mars as viable as one that just involves a small band of French resistance fighters committing acts of sabotage and espionage during World War II. The main idea is not to build a complex war game that takes every possible contingency into account, but rather to make a system that makes fighting tanks in Grit & Vigor not much more complex than fighting purple worms in Blood & Treasure.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Keep on Trucking!

A while back, I posted and then published a campaign idea and mini-game called Mutant Truckers of the Polyester Road. Illustrator Aaron Siddall is running a campaign based on that idea, and he has produced a nice map and character sheet to go along with it. Samples below, but proceed with all due haste to his website (CLICK HERE) to see more, and for all sorts of stuff related to Blood & Treasure (he's done some nice work on doing something like Spelljammer with B&T) and Grit & Vigor (and I haven't even published it yet!). Good stuff - well worth checking out.

Mutant armadillo / bullette - perfect for moonlight strolls through post-apocalyptic deserts

Way prettier than my map!
Never thought of using the madflap girls - how did I never think of using the mudflap girls?
Once I get Grit & Vigor out there, I want to do a post-Apocalypse supplement book that will hit on Mutant Truckers, No Mutant's Land (WW1 that never ends, with weird chemicals subbing for radiation) and Apocalypse 1898 (my idea for a post-Mars invasion New York during the time of Tammany Hall and the notorious street gangs). Until then, check out Siddall's stuff!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Grit & Treasure (Blood & Vigor?)

German warbird, or ...
Work proceeds on Grit & Vigor. The last couple weeks have been spent gathering vehicle data, turning it into something useful, and brainstorming the rules for dogfights, car chases and inventions.

On the vehicle front, I now have data for about 1,400 tanks, cars and airplanes, and believe I have found a way to turn the raw data into game data. Just for fun, I thought I might throw out some comparisons between military vehicles from the olden days and Blood & Treasure monsters. Obviously, I need to look at some heavyweights.


The Neothelid - 25 HD wrapped up in acid-dripping, tentacled horror. Imagine it going toe-to-toe with a Russian T-18 tank. The tank is easier to hit, but can absorb some damage and deal it pretty well.

T-18: Huge Construct (Tank), HD 25 (88 hp), AC 19 (DR 6), SPD 10 mph (140), ATK 1 tank gun (8d8) and light machine gun (1d8), MVR +0, CP 2/0, WT 13,000 lb.

... fantasy robot - who would win in a fight?
The Balor Demon - 20 HD of demonic fury, roughly equivalent to a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk. The Warhawk can deal more damage with its six heavy machine guns, but the Balor isn't affected by such mundane weaponry. Better load that Warhawk up with magic bullets.

Curtiss P-40 Warhawk: Huge Construct (Fighter), HD 20 (70 hp), AC 16, SPD 360 mph (5280), ATK 6 heavy machine guns (2d6) and bombs (1000 lb), MVR +2, CP 1/0, CEILING 29,000 ft., WT 8,400 lb.

The Iron Golem - 18 HD of heavy metal death, the equal of Messerschmitt Bf.109 - though let's be honest, one good strafe or bomb drop, and the iron golem's iron hide and its vaunted magic immunity is going to go up in smoke.

Messerschmitt Bf.109: Large-X Construct (Fighter), HD 18 (63 hp), AC 16, SPD 398 mph (5830), ATK 2 heavy machine guns (2d6) and 1 medium machine gun (1d8) and bombs (550 lb), MVR +3, CP 1/0, CEILING 39,000 ft., WT 6,940 lb.

A few notes on the vehicles:

Size is based on weight (and how interesting would that be to do with all the monsters?). I used the full d20 scale (I only used Small to Huge in B&T), and added half-steps in. Size determines Hit Dice.

CP refers to crew and passengers. The crew is going to be making the attacks for the vehicle, so it's their attack bonus that counts when firing their weapons.

The weapons here are generic, and the final stats will include their ROF and range. ROF works into the gun rules, with each addition round you fire at a target either increasing your chance to hit by +1, or contributing to an additional 1d6 damage at a rate of 5 rounds to 1d6 damage - player's choice and they can mix and match (e.g. an extra 20 rounds of ammo can translate into a +20 bonus to hit, or +4d6 damage or something in between, like +10 to hit and +2d6 damage). The bombs I still haven't decided on, but probably going to be treated as something like a fireball spell - damage dice and radius based on the poundage, with people and items passing saving throws to halve the damage. The game is really designed more for man vs. man, rather than man vs. B-17 Flying Fortress.

Speed is the vehicles top speed, in miles per hour and, in parentheses, feet per round. For car chases, I'm working out a system that uses top speed as a determinant for the difficulty of stunts, to make it easy for referees and players to create stats for vehicles without having to know much about them other than their weight, their style and their top speed.

Armor Class is based on the material of the vehicle's skin, as well as its thickness. Size plays a part as well. Damage reduction (DR) is based on the thickness of the armor, since I needed a way to screen the tanks from weapons that, by right, shouldn't be able to penetrate their armor.

MVR is maneuverability, which is based on the vehicle's type and its power to weight ratio.

Not a perfect system, I know, but I think it will work well enough for game purposes. My focus is on three systems - aerial combat (aircraft vs. aircraft), car chases and a nod towards aircraft attacking land vehicles. G&V isn't designed as a wargame, but the combat rules should be able to handle something as basic as two tanks plugging away at one another.

Oh, and just for fun ...

Burrough's Barsoom Scout Flyer: Large Construct (Fighter), HD 11 (39 hp), AC 20, SPD 300 mph (1460), ATK none, MVR +3, CP 5/0, CEILING 11,000 ft., WT 1,500 lb.

Nemo's Nautilus: Colossal x5 Construct (Submarine), HD 250 (875 hp), AC 22, SPD 40 mph (580), ATK 1 ram, MVR -1, CP ???, DEPTH 52,000 ft., WT 1,500 tons

Well's Martian Tripod: Huge-X Construct (Tank), HD 31 (109 hp), AC 22, SPD 10 mph (140), ATK 1 heat ray (10d6 fire) and black smoke projector (as cloudkill?), MVR +1, CP 1/0, WT 20,000 lb.

Martian Tripod vs. Balor - now that's a fight I would pay to see!

Friday, October 3, 2014

What's It Worth?

I'll give you 10 gp, and not a copper more
Despite the wondrous quality of my RPG writing, it hasn't made me a million dollars yet (just shy by about a million), so I have to have a real job. In my case, I research the commercial real estate market in Las Vegas, and write reports every quarter about how the market is doing. In the process, I often get asked questions about how much something is worth, or hear people complaining that a building sold for less than it was worth. I respond by explaining that nothing is worth more than what somebody else is willing to pay for it at any given moment. That got me thinking about a different way to value treasure.

Currently, when I'm writing a hex crawl, I'll include treasure hordes with notations like "large ruby worth 5,000 gp". What if, instead, I merely wrote "large ruby" and let the value be determined by the customer?

The basic idea: Come up with a matrix. The columns represent different classes of customers, the rows different categories of treasure. The data would be a random amount of money that the customer would be willing to pay for the treasure. The GM would roll this to determine the starting bid, and then roll a second dice to determine how high the customer will go. Adventurer and customer (GM) could then work out a final price for the item by haggling.

Classes of Customer

Peasants: These are your average working stiffs - laborers in towns and cities, people who carry things and serve others. They didn't make much money in the real world - some would figure it at the equivalent of 1 or 2 copper pieces a day - but in the fantasy world, the standard is 1 silver piece per day. Either way, they have expenses, so they can't afford to spend much on luxuries like treasure. There is a 90% chance they'll offer goods and/or services instead of coins.

Artisans & Traders: These skilled laborers make a bit more, maybe five times as much as the peasants. This gives them a bit more money for luxuries. Still, if adventurers are going to these guys to sell their treasure, they're probably a bit hard up. There is a 75% chance they'll offer goods and/or services instead of coins.

Merchants: The merchants have plenty of money, though their assets probably aren't liquid (meaning they have lots of stuff - goods, wagons, camels, ships - but not lots of money). Still, they aren't hurting, and they can drop a few coins on the good things in life. There is a 50% chance they'll offer goods and/or services instead of coins.

Merchant Princes: These are the big-time merchants, the fellows with royal and noble connections that allow them to own fleets and caravans and manors, etc. They're going to be a bit more liquid than the common merchants. There is a 35% chance they'll offer goods and/or services instead of coins.

Aristocracy: The lower end of the titled fellows - the knights and baronets and such. Like the merchants, their wealth is mostly tied up in things - land, animals, armor, weapons - so they're like uber-barterers. They have a few coins stashed away, but they're probably more apt to trade things like armor, horses or favors. There is a 65% chance they'll offer goods and/or services instead of coins.

Nobility: The nobility includes barons, counts, and the like. Lots of land, but, as with the merchant princes, more liquid than the aristocracy. There is a 25% chance they'll offer goods and/or services instead of coins.

Lesser Royalty: A step up from the nobility - the dukes and bishops. There is a 20% chance they'll offer goods and/or services instead of coins.

Greater Royalty: Kings, queens, princes and princesses, and archbishops as well. There is a 12% chance they'll offer goods and/or services instead of coins.

Imperials: Not Chryslers, but actual imperials - emperors, empresses, kings-of-kings, popes, etc. There is a 6% chance they'll offer goods and/or services instead of coins.

Categories of Treasure
These are the same categories you will find in Blood & Treasure, and adapting them to your favorite game shouldn't be too taxing on the grey matter.

Fancy Stones - agates, hematite - the stuff you find in shopping malls and tourist traps

Gems - better than stones, not as good as jewels

Jewels - rubies, emeralds, sapphires, diamonds

Common Arts & Trade Goods - armor, weapons, things made out of non-precious metals, common animal skins, rugs, many tapestries, common sorts of books. Assume the price is per ounce where applicable.

Fine Arts & Exotic Goods - lacquered wood, rare spices, items made from precious metals, bejeweled items, the skins of exotic animals, rare books, especially fine paintings and tapestries. Assume the price is per ounce where applicable.

Minor Magic Items - potions, scrolls, magical oddities

Major Magic Items - that stuff you really want to put on your character's equipment list

The Table

The table above is a simple matrix. Find the category of treasure and the category of customer, and you get their opening bid. Roll a d6 to find out how high they'll actually go:

1-3: No more than 25% higher, and they might have some conditions
4-5: No more than 50% higher
6: No more than 100% higher

Also, remember that there is a percentage chance that the customer offers to pay with goods and/or services rather than actual money. The value of services rendered is up to you, but most games give some sort of guidance. Favors are tricky - they may not be honored at a later date - but they could come in handy.

Obviously, some interpretation is involved here for the GM in terms of treasure category and customer category, and feel free to apply other factors. In a country where gold or silver is common, objects made from gold and silver might be considered common arts rather than fine arts. Likewise, spices, furs and pelts might be common one place and exotic in another.

The impetus for this table was a painting I posted a few weeks ago when I asked the question "Are Treasure Hordes Too Small?". The idea here is that you can now provide a fairly large horde without having to predetermine what everything is worth. This system also gives adventurers a reason to make contact with nobles and such, which in turn can lead to further adventures.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Grit & Vigor Update

G&V had been languishing. I was finishing the Monster Tome, of course, so I was busy, but the game just wasn't gelling for me. And then POW - a kiss on the forehead by a muse who either looked like a Gibson Girl or Teddy Roosevelt (hopefully not both), and instead of finishing work on the latest issue of NOD, I've been messing with G&V night and day. For those who might be interested, a few thoughts ...

#1 - I'm focusing the main rules on the period from 1850 to 1959 - a century of manly exploits. The "adventures" section, as well as covering different genres of play (espionage, sieges, exploration, scientifiction) and sub-rules useful for those kinds of adventures, also covers each decade between 1850 and 1960, with major event (wars, assassination, inventions, discoveries) and literature and film from those years, and with stats for important firearms, vehicles and other goodies from that year as well. I'm going to include - though I haven't yet - a brief description of popular settings for manly adventures - Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Paris, London, the Amazon, the Congo, the American Southwest, the Yukon, etc.

#2 - The character stuff is pretty well finished. I played around with using backgrounds as a stand-in for races, but then decided against it. Why? When I tried to imagine different famous characters or actual people using those backgrounds, I found them too restrictive. In their place, people now roll up a background randomly, initially focusing on making their character a School Boy, a Boy of the Streets, a Working Boy or a Cadet. The tables you roll on, though, can send you in different directions - the Boy of the Street, for example, might be taken in by a rich old woman and sent to school. This makes a character's background a bit more interesting and varied.

#3 - I struggled with classes - too many, too few, etc. At one point, I devised a method where levels were earned with experience, and with each level, adventurers could choose a new feat. These feats were classified as scholarly, martial, underhanded and rugged, and a character's class, at a given level, was based on in which category the majority of that character's feats were classed. So, if most of your feats are martial, you're a fighting man. You roll hit points with a d10, and you attack as a fighting man of that level, etc. If two levels later, most of your feats are underhanded, you're now a rogue, etc. This ultimately didn't work for me, though I might include it as an option. Instead, there are four major classes, and then sub-classes characters can qualify for if their ability scores are high enough. The classes are going to be kept fairly simple (maybe one or two special abilities), as they are done in Bloody Basic.

#4 - I've written some simple rules for guns, car chases and dogfights that I think will work, and otherwise am using the Blood & Treasure engine for task resolution and combat, with a couple added bits and pieces.

#5 - I'm about half-finished with the "monster" section, which mostly focuses on animals and human beings, but includes some more fantastic or science-fiction fare as well. Since the game is compatible with Blood & Treasure, you can introduce anything from one into the other. About the only thing I'm changing is to measure distance in Grit & Vigor with yards rather than feet - it helps with the longer ranges and faster speeds of things like cars and guns.

There's still plenty of work to do, and this weekend I really need to focus on finishing up some blog posts and getting some more work done on NOD 26, and I need to finish up Blood Basic - Contemporary Edition. But give me a month or two, and I think G&V will be ready for a playtest on Google+. If you'd like to be involved in this playtest, leave a comment here or find me on Google+. The intro adventure will either be "Taft Must Die!" or "Against the Thugee". Hopefully, it will be on sale in 2015. When it is, I plan on using the G&V engine to finish up 1800 American Empires, Apocalypse 1900, and revisions of Space Princess and Mystery Men! (yeah, I know). I'd also like to revise Pars Fortuna using the Blood & Treasure engine and with much more art.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

David Lewis Johnson Provides a Whizbang Good Time

If I review it, I like it.

This is a review of Grandpappy Cromdar's Whizbang Zoo, by David Lewis Johnson, and yeah, I like it.

This is an old-fashioned beer & pretzels dungeon plus a menagerie of awesome monsters, all lovingly illustrated by DLJ himself - he did some kick-ass work for my Monster Tome recently, and the stuff here is even better. If you love weird monsters, and the idea of inflicting terror and pain on your player's characters with them, you have to love this dungeon.The kjellmena and muggerbeak are particular favorites of mine, and the retch fly should join the ranks of low-level monsters everyone sneaks into their dungeon.

The map is fun and interesting, and I found it easy to read. The dungeon rooms contain all sorts of interesting things, and in fact should be very useful to GM's who like to take random bits of dungeon paraphernalia and use them as further adventure hooks.

Grandpappy definitely does not keep a run-of-the-mill dungeon. It's inspired lunacy, and perfect for players who like a bit of the tongue-in-cheek element in their game, while still dealing with a solid dungeon crawl.

Do yourself a favor and give it a try.

CLICK HERE TO VISIT Grandpappy Cromdar's Whizbang Zoo at RPGNow.com

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Mercy Me, The Fantasy Ecology

Image found HERE
When scientists cracked the DNA code, and started re-mapping the Tree of Life, they found some pretty interesting things – animals one would not think were related, it turned out, actually were. It's amazing the way different animal families manage to fill ecological niches. Heck, just looking at a Chihuahua and Great Dane will tell you that life is pretty mutable.

This led me to thinking about how one could create weird, fantasy ecologies. Imagine categorizing animals into broad ecological niches – large predators, small predators, small scavengers, large grazers, for example – and then randomly picking from the various families of the animal kingdom to fill those niches. The next step would be hardest, of course – imagining how the selected animal family might fit into that niche. Of course, if you draw a feline for the large predator category, you can just stick in a tiger. But what about a large equine predator? What might that look like?

Okay – one note for what follows … it ain’t science. It’s an affront to science. The idea here is to stimulate one’s imagination and come up with a twisted ecology that will entertain and delight the people who play in your games. The below tables are designed to start with something you know, and then turn it into something you don’t. Insectivores will become herbivores and herbivores will become carnivores, etc. Have fun, use your imagination and if you have a few bucks in your pocket, commission and artist to bring your creation to life.

First, determine the sizes of the animals in you fantastic ecology. This is dependent on the availability of food in the environment, which itself is usually dependent on the availability of water. For marine environments, it should probably be based on the availability of sunlight (SUNNY-MEDIUM-DARK).

Tiny creatures will rarely serve as anything but a prop when running an adventure; unless they swarm or are poisonous they won’t threaten adventurers, and grand hunts are not organized to kill them. Hence, don’t worry about creating too many.

For each animal size, determine its general strategy for feeding itself by rolling 1d6 on the following table.

Carnivores eat meat, and will usually hunt for it or scavenge the kills of smaller creatures

Omnivores eat meat and plants, and might pose a danger to adventurers

Herbivores eat plants, and are usually only dangerous in large, stampeding herds; they do, on the other hand, serve as prey for adventurers

This will give you a variety of interesting animals that might be encountered (randomly, of course) in a region by adventurers. The point here is not to build an actual viable ecosystem, but rather to build a dangerous backdrop for exploration and adventure. Naturally, you’ll want to fill out a random encounter table with more fantastic monsters as well.

To determine what fills the niche, roll on the tables below. These tables are designed to produce something weird, so keep that in mind.


01-02. Aardvarks
03-04. Anapsida – turtles
05-06. Ants
07-08. Anura – frogs and toads
09-10. Apoidea – bees and wasps
11-12. Arachnids – spiders and scorpions
13-14. Bats
15-17. Birds – I could be more specific, but I like the possibilities of throwing them all into one category
18-20. Bovines – including cattle, goats, sheep, musk oxen and antelopes
21-22. Caelifera – grasshoppers, locusts, crickets and katydids
23-24. Camels – including llamas
25-27. Canines – wolves, dogs and foxes
28-29. Caudata – salamanders and newts
30-31. Coleoptera – beetles and weevils
32-33. Crocodilians – crocodiles and alligators
34-35. Dinosaurs – you should have no problem fitting them into any ecological niche
36-37. Diptera – flies, mosquitoes, gnats, and midges
38-39. Equines – including horses, asses, and zebras
40-42. Felines –cats, including the related sabre-toothed paleofelines
43-44. Hippopotamuses
45-46. Hyenas
47-48. Insectivores – including moles, shrews, hedgehogs, and moonrats
49-50. Lepidoptera – butterflies and moths
51-53. Lizards
54-55. Mantises
56-57. Marsupials – kangaroos, wombats, opossums
58-59. Mongooses and linsangs
60. Monsters – mythological beasts
61-62. Mustelids – weasels, badgers, otters, wolverines and the related skunks
63-64. Odonata – dragonflies and damselflies (dragons and damsels – funny)
65-66. Pangolins
67-68. Pecora – deer, giraffes, okapis, pronghorns
69-70. Pilosa – including sloths, extinct ground sloths and anteaters
71-72. Pinnipeds – seals and walruses
73-74. Primates – including lemurs, monkeys, apes and humans
75-76. Proboscids – elephants, mammoths and mastodons
77-78. Raccoons
79-80. Rhinoceroses
81-83. Rodents – rats, squirrels, guinea pigs, hamsters, porcupines and capybara!
84. Snails
85-86. Snakes
87-88. Swine – including peccaries
89-90. Synapsida – mammal-like reptiles from the primordial world
91-92. Tachyglossids – including echidnas and platypuses
93-94. Tapirs
95-96. Ursines – bears, including the extinct bear-dogs
97-98. Viverrids – civets
99-100. Worms


1-2. Cephalods – including octopuses, squids and cuttlefish
3-4. Cetaceans
5-6. Crustaceans – lobsters and crabs
7-8. Dinosaurs
9-10. Eels
11-12. Jellyfish
13-14. Lampreys
15-16. Manatees and sea cows
17-18. Monsters – fantastic creatures
19-20. Osteichthys – bony fish – i.e. fish with bone skeletons rather than cartilage
21-22. Placodermi – armored fish
23-24. Sharks and rays – including ghostsharks
25-26. Shrimp
27-28. Turtles
29-30. Roll on land table and adapt to marine environment

To help you along, you can consult the following table listing existing animals in each niche, modeling your make-believe animal on the survival techniques of a real animal.


My weird savannah is dominated by tall, broad herbivores descended from crocodiles. They have short snouts and thick tongues that pull in grasses. Mostly slow and ponderous, they retain their crocodilian patience and ability to generate a short burst of speed. The grazing tortoises are about the size of water buffalo, with shells that are spiked, providing a means of defense. The savannah is also grazed on by wombat-like creatures that resemble long-legged, antelopes. The swiftest herbivores on the savannah are medium-sized descendants of rhinos; they look like springboks with rough, rhino-like skin and small horns on their foreheads. Seeds on the savannah are collected by sparrow-sized dragonflies and a rodent that resembles a cane rat.

The only true carnivore on the savannah is a burrowing, carnivorous hedgehog that preys on the rodents and dragonflies. Packs of these creatures prey on such creatures as the long-fingered and ring-tailed raccoons that live in colonies in large trees and the small anteaters that scurry among the tall grasses. The savannah also has a wolf-sized feline that feeds on smaller animals and the long, purple fruit that grows on the savannah trees, and a panther-sized arachnid that hunts at night in small prides.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Monster Tome and Maps

It took a little longer than I wanted due to a need to alter the cover when I got my first preview copy, but the Blood & Treasure Monster Tome hard cover is now available for sale at Lulu.com.

What do you get for $21.99?


Who doesn't need a few more monsters to menace their players? This tome includes 258 monsters, all statted up and ready to go. Most of the monsters also include a sample encounter to help you work them into your games. Although written for the Blood & Treasure system, the monsters are compatible with most old school fantasy games. 172 pages.
PLUS - If you buy the hard cover and email me with a copy of the receipt, you get a free PDF! To paraphrase Eddie Murphy - What a bargain for you!

IN ADDITION - I did a little redesign work on the NOD page on the blog, with (I think) better links to better copies of the hex crawl maps. Check it out if you've a mind to.

COMING UP - A different way to value treasure, Trojan campaigns (the city, not the ... you know) and whatever else my fevered little mind can dream up. NOD 24 is in the works as well!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Navigating a Fantasy World with Google

I was looking at some paintings this morning by British artists working during the Victorian period. The painting below was painted by Richard Parkes Bonington in 1826. It depicts the Rialto in Venice.

From this great blog

Since the Rialto is a landmark, I decided to have a look on GoogleEarth ...

Not the same angle, of course, but close enough. This got me wondering how useful it would be to use GoogleEarth's street view for fantasy gaming. I've used it in the past for a Mystery Men! game, mostly to stage a chase and fight in Chicago IL. That was set in the 1960's, so not so far in the past that the modern cityscape wasn't close enough to use "as-is".

This section of Venice has some nice alleyways that appear to be "walkable" in GoogleEarth, and the buildings don't seem terribly different from 1826, when the above painting was painted. It makes me think that by picking an old city, and jumping into the old part of that city - the part that's been kept "oldey-timey" for the tourists - you might be able to turn it into a fantasy city and navigate players through using random encounters and random building tables, and a few set pieces, to facilitate play and give them a better reference point when fights break out or cut purses nab their gold and a chase ensues.

Some other cityscapes that might prove useful ...

Carcasonne, France - be sure to have your adventurers stay at the Best Western Hotel le Donjon.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Ghent, Belgium

Prague, Czech Republic

Siena, Italy

Unfortunately, many cities outside of Europe don't have street views available, such as Algiers' famous Casbah. You can at least use the street maps, though, and supplement it with old paintings.

You can also use real world landscapes from GoogleEarth for wilderness exploration to provide something more visually stimulating than a simple hex containing a landscape symbol. The NOD hexcrawls use 6-mile hexes. Below, a roughly 7-mile wide chunk of the Himalayas.

Much better than a hex with a triangle in it, don't you think?

You can zoom in as you play and, depending on the resolution of an area, have a better understanding of the path that has to be taken, and maybe find a convenient spot for a dwarf village or red dragon lair. The pictures can give the players a better understanding of what they're going through.

You're walking up a narrow defile. The ground is covered with gravel and boulders, and the slopes tower above you on either side. Strange noises echo down the defile ...

And what about random weather? Well, why not just use today's forecast? How is this bit of the Himalayas doing today? Rainy, fairly warm (well, when this post was written, anyways).

Just a few ideas for leveraging modern technology for better tabletop gaming. If you have any tips and tricks, please wax poetic in the comments, or toss in a link to a blog article you wrote.
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