Saturday, July 31, 2010

Maps of Nod

If you look just below the LAND OF NOD title at the top of the blog, you will see a link to a map page housing all of the maps I've published so far. New maps will appear here as they are published. These maps are larger and clearer versions of what appears in the published books, and might come in handy to folks who want to Referee games in NOD.

July Sales Report

In case folks are interested in how much product I'm actually moving ...

NOD #1 (e-book) - FREE - 463 downloads (+90 since June)
NOD #1 (print) - $9.00 - 12 sales (+6 since June)

NOD #2 (e-book) - $3.50 - 11 sales (+8 since June)
NOD #2 (print) - $9.00 - 10 sales (+5 since June)

NOD #3 (e-book) - $3.50 - 5 sales
NOD #3 (print) - $10.00 - 4 sale

Total Sales - 42 (+28 since June)

The print sales of #1 really warm my heart, since it means people were willing to pay for otherwise free content, but of course I'm thankful to everyone who has bought a copy of NOD, and really hope you find the content useful.

The 15% off sale on the print version of NOD #2 runs until August 15 - just use the code "BEACHREAD305".

Friday, July 30, 2010

Christmas in July?!?!?

Got an email today about a Christmas in July sale on Lulu - 20% off with the code "Santa305". That would make today and tomorrow great times to pick up any products you've had your eye on from the Old School Renaissance. Personally, I'm picking up OSRIC (finally) and Fight On! #9.

Deviant Friday Five - Andrea Uderzo Edition

Today we're checking out Andrea Uderzo. Much of his work is for Privateer Press steam-punk fantasy setting, but it is his fantasy artwork that really appeals to me.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

On Venatia - Part Eleven

4718 Sacellum of Mitra: Nomer, a powerful priest of Mitra has established a fortified abbey in a pleasant valley ringed by wooded ridges and sparkling rills. Nomer’s abbey is constructed in the Roman style prevalent in the grand city-state of Nomo, the place of Nomer’s nativity. The principal stone used in construction is limestone, supplemented with marble columns and lintels and gleaming brass ornaments. The abbey houses ten lesser clerics and their warhorses. The abbey sits atop a small rise next to the stream that flows through the valley. It consists of a large chapel to Mitra in which services for the priests and villagers are held each Sunday, storage rooms and simple living cells for the priests, including Nomer. The abbey also has a man-made grotto constructed beneath it in which private rituals are held for the priests. The ultimate goal of the Mitra-ites is to clear the woodlands of monsters and bring Mitra's light to the villagers of the coast.

The abbey is surrounded by a village of 400 pious yeomen farmers, all free men and women which is defended by a wooden palisade with a moat and three wooden towers. The yeomen farmers live in timber longhouses built atop columns of bricks, for the valley is prone to violent weather and the stream often floods. They raise crops of barley and turnips, and the clerics maintain a vineyard and produce a middling wine. The village is protected by a force of 60 archers (leather armor, short bow, spear) commanded by 4 sergeants and 20 horsemen (chainmail, shield, horseman’s mace, light lance) commanded by 3 sergeants.

A treasure of 3,015 cp, 239 sp, 250 ep, 486 gp and 198 pounds of barley corn (worth 1 gp/lb) is kept in the village. The priests possess 1,147 sp, 2,061 gp, two hyacinths (gemstones worth 1,250 gp each) and ten coconuts given to them by a South Seas trader who sought curative magic. The coconuts are worth 10 gp each.

• Nomer, Cleric Lvl 12: HP 45; AC 1 [18]; Save 4; Special: Spells (6th); Platemail, shield, mace, holy symbol. Muscular and bitter, his love was spurned by a highborn lady of Nomo – this rejection spurred him to become an adventurer, and though he is dedicated to Mitra, his feelings sometimes bubble to the surface, especially around petit brunettes.

• Cleric of Mitra: HD 2; AC 1 [18]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6); Move 9; Save 15; CL/XP 3/60; Special: One 1st level cleric spell; Platemail, shield, mace, holy symbol, blue mantle, white surcoat emblazoned with a blue bull.

4909 Bear Totem: A very shallow cave in the side of a mountain overlooking a rushing stream of white water holds the skeleton of a large cave bear. The skeleton is a mere pile of bones with the skull sitting atop the pile, and it has been decorated with smears of blue paint and eagle feathers. The walls of the cave are decorated with cave paintings of bears and hunters. The skeleton is an idol of Arcturus, the Lord of Bears, and must be propiated with offerings of meat. If such offerings are not made, adventurers passing through the mountains have a 1 in 6 chance each hour of encountering 1d3 cave bears, who will attempt to kill one person and drag their remains back to the idol as an offering.

4921 Rotting Circus: A caravan of brightly colored wagons is circled on a pleasant meadow overlooking a rushing stream. As one approaches, it becomes evident that the wagons are in terrible disrepair and that there doesn’t seem to be any movement around the wagons, although there is a flickering fire. The traveling entertainers, some months back, took a fortune teller named Morcerth into their ranks. Unfortunately, Morcerth turned out to be a necromancer, and in short order the entertainers had been murdered and raised as leper zombies. Morcerth is using them as his guardians while he searches for an entrance to the Netherworld that he believes lies hidden in the Forest of Dread. Morcerth’s treasure consists of 6,219 gp, 29 pp, a terracotta lamp he claims once held a genie and a cursed -1 dagger that he will offer in exchange for his safety, if hard pressed.

• Leper Zombies (19): HD 1; AC 6 [13]; Atk 1 claw or bite (1d6); Move 9; Save 17; CL/XP 3/60; Special: Disease, those slain animate as leper zombies.

• Morcerth, Magic-User Lvl 7: HP 22; AC 9 [10]; Save 9; Special: Spells (4th); Velvet robes of crimson, mauve and saffron, over-large golden turban with pearls (fake) and ostrich plumes, gnarled black wand.

5109 Azure Road: The hills here are divided by a winding avenue of gleaming blue stone that almost looks like a river. Large burrows at the start of the road are home to five giant owls who, if communicated with, will warn people to stay away from the road, for it leads only to their doom. The road extends into the center of the hex, so for about 3 miles as the crow flies, though its winding way actually totals about 5 miles. While walking on the road, there is a 1 in 6 chance each mile of an encounter with 2d6 blue flagstone spiders. The road eventually leads to a dark, wet cave choked with grey moss and hanging vines of a sickly yellow (a yellow musk creeper). The creepers control ten yellow musk zombies. The caverns beyond are said to lead, eventually, to the gates of the Underworld.

• Flagstone Spider: HD 1d4 hp, AC 3 [16]; Atk 2 claws (1d2), bite (0 hp + poison); Move 15; Save 18; CL/XP 1/15; Special: Poison (+4 save or die), surprise on 1-3 on 1d6.

• Yellow Musk Creeper: HD 3; AC 6 [13]; Atk 1 dust burst (2d6 + hypnosis); Move 0; Save 14; CL/XP 5/240; Special: Hypnotic dust, intelligence drain.

• Yellow Musk Zombies: HD 2 (12, 12, 12, 11, 11, 10, 9, 8, 8, 7 hp); AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 slam (1d6); Move 12; Save 16; CL/XP 2/30; Special: Immune to mind affects.

5112 Poisonous Meadow: Towards the center of this hex the hills flatten and become a large meadow. The meadow is lousy with deadly nightshade and holds the lair of seven chaotic pixies with poisonous personalities. Encounters with the pixies are a certainty, for they love to harass travelers. Encounters with giant centipedes occur on a roll of 1-3 on 1d6, night and day.

• Pixie: HD 1 (7, 7, 6, 6, 5, 5, 3); AC 5 [14]; Atk 1 dagger (1d4 + poison) or arrow; Move 6 (Fly 15); Save 17; CL/XP 5/240; Special: Arrows (cause amnesia), magic resistance 25%, spells (polymorph self, invisibility, dancing lights, dispel magic 1/day, permanent confusion 1/day with successful hit and negated by a saving throw).

5317 Retired Veteran: A craggy old borc (a centaur that is half orc and half boar) has retired in this hex to a cave overlooking a stream that flows into a pond. The area has ample game, and the borc has set the surrounding area with a variety of traps. The borc is still rowdy in his old age, and is willing to train fighting-men (especially barbarians) for a jug of wine, ale or spirits and a chance to tell war stories. His treasure, buried in a terracotta pot, consists of 9,814 cp, 1,265 ep, 405 gp, a terracotta statuette of Orcus worth 4 gp and 16 golden wolf skins worth 8 gp each.

• Borc: HD 4 (21 hp); AC 2 [17]; Atk 1 halberd (1d10) or 1 longbow (1d8); Move 15; Save 13; CL/XP 6/400; Special: Berserker (+2 to hit), can fight to -6 hit points.

5503 Boiling Pool: A boiling pool of water sits amidst the ruins of an ancient temple built by the lizard kings to what appears to have been a six-legged crocodilian creature with a single giant, saucer-like eye. The pool is inhabited by vapor cranes, 4 large adults, 8 small adults and 4 fledglings. The bird’s boiling bodies can be deadly to touch. One standing wall of the temple has a secret cache that holds a golden face mask of the crocodilian god worth 100 gp.

• Large Adult Vapor Crane: HD 5; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 bite (1d4+5); Move 5 (Fly 12); Save 12; CL/XP 6/400; Special: Scalding to touch, steam cloud (1d6+5) in cone or 15-ft radius.

• Small Adult Vapor Crane: HD 2; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 bite (1d4+2); Move 5 (Fly 12); Save 16; CL/XP 3/60; Special: Scalding to touch, steam cloud (1d6+2) in cone or 15-ft radius.

• Fledgling Crane: HD 1; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 bite (1d4+1); Move 5 (Fly 12); Save 12; CL/XP 2/30; Special: Scalding to touch, steam cloud (1d6+1) in cone or 15-ft radius.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How Do People Find The Land of Nod?

Looking at my blog stats - here are the search terms that directed people to my blog this week ...

Search Keywords

land of nod rpg blog (3)

john stater nod free (3)

land of nod blog (2)

bahama underwater caves vortex (2)

john stater nod (2)

land of nod d&d (1)

amtcheret goddess (1)

liberace in bathtub (1)

land of nod (1)

alp demons breast milk (1)

I love that people found their way here by searching for Liberace in a bathtub and alp demon breast milk!

Pars Fortuna Preview #5 - Magic!

So, part of my concept for PARS FORTUNA is introducing alternate rules. While the RPG will contain the old tried-and-true Vancian system for those who love it, the assumed magic system for the game is something different.

The Spell Interval System
The Spell Interval system assumes that casting spells involves gathering eldritch energies and then releasing them, with the words, gestures and tools that are involved shaping that "energy" to produce the desired effect. The more powerful a spell, the more energy it takes - i.e. the higher the level of the spell, the longer it takes for the magician's body (and soul?) to absorb the needed energy to power the spell.

The spell level intervals are as follows: Each hour, you may cast one first level spell; each day you may cast one second level spell; each week you may cast one third level spell; each month one fourth level spell; each year one spell each of the sixth, seventh eighth and ninth levels.

Naturally, the average magician will not be satisfied with these restrictions, and will seek a way around them. Magicians can attempt to cast spells over and beyond what is allowed, but doing so can be dangerous. When a spell-caster wishes to cast additional spells of a level, he must make a saving throw, subtracting the level of the spell he wishes to cast from his roll. If successful, he channels and masters the energies necessary and casts the desired spell. If he fails, he must face the consequences, which include mental and physical deformities and supernatural curses. The more powerful the spell a magicians fails to cast, the more potentially disastrous the consequences!

Magical Tools
I've always enjoyed the idea of magicians carrying all sorts of odd objects and materials in order to work their art. Advanced versions of our favorite game have included material components for years, and they are often ignored because they are difficult to track. PARS FORTUNA uses a similar concept, as follows:

Level 1 to 3 spells are classified as "Cantraps" and require a fetish to cast. Each spell requires a different sort of fetish, and the fetish is not consumed in casting the spell - it is merely a cheap tool, composed of ordinary, mundane objects, that the magician must hold in his hand to successfully shape his magical energies into a spell.

Level 4 to 6 spells are classified as "Invocations" and require a tool (or set of tools) to cast. These tools are more expensive than the fetishes required by cantraps, and include arthames (mystic knives), censers and wands.

Level 7 to 9 spells are classified as "Rituals" and require expensive gems to cast. Unlike the fetishes and tools, these gems are consumed during the casting of the spell.

Sample Cantraps

Irritation (Cantrap)
Spell Level: 1
Range: 30 ft.
Duration: 1d4 rounds
Focus: Leaves from poison ivy, oak or sumac tied into a bundle with twine

You cover the target’s body in an itching sensation that lasts 1d4 rounds. For the duration, the target takes a –1 penalty on attack rolls, damage rolls and saving throws, and suffers a –1 penalty to its Armor Class if it fails a saving throw. The creature can scratch, negating the penalties for that round. Creatures that have thick hides are immune to this version of irritation.

Pitch Sight (Cantrap)
Spell Level: 2
Range: 30 ft.
Duration: 1 minute per level
Focus: A small piece of phosphorescent lichen held tightly in right fist

The caster and her allies can see normally through normal and magical darkness.

Curse of Light (Cantrap)
Spell Level: 3
Range: Touch
Duration: 1 hour/level
Focus: A tiny sack of phosphorus

You make the subject extremely sensitive to light. Abrupt exposure to bright light blinds the subject for 1d4 rounds. On subsequent rounds, they suffer a –1 penalty to all attack, damage and saving throw rolls.

Sample Invocations

Exorcise (Invocation)

Spell Level: 4
Range: 10 ft.
Duration: Instantaneous
Tool: Bolline (sickle) swung over the target’s head

You negate possession of a creature or object by any force. When you cast this spell, the possessing force may make a saving throw to resist you. If unsuccessful, the possessing creature is ejected from the host and stunned for one round. A creature affected by this spell cannot attempt to possess the same host for one day.

If cast against disembodied spirits, the spell forces those spirits to make a saving throw or flee away from the magician and keep at least 30 feet away for 1 hour.

Ghost Walk (Invocation)
Spell Level: 5
Range: Personal
Duration: 1 minute/level
Tool: Amulet set with a mirror

You become incorporeal, similar to a ghost. While ethereal, other ethereal creatures can harm you, as well as material creatures that use magic weapons and spells. You are immune to all non-magical attack forms, are not burned by normal fires, and are unaffected by natural cold or harmed by mundane acids.

You can move in any direction (including up or down) at will and with perfect maneuverability. You do not need to walk on the ground. You can pass through solid objects at will, although you cannot see when your eyes are within solid matter.

You are inaudible unless you decide to make noise. You pass through and operate in water as easily as you do in air. You cannot fall or take falling damage. You have no weight and do not set off traps that are triggered by weight. You do not leave footprints, have no scent and make no noise.

Your physical attacks are ineffectual against material creatures. Your spells affect material creatures normally.

Gem Guard (Invocation)
Spell Level: 6
Range: See text
Duration: 1 hour per level
Tool: Athame, used to split the focus gem

You transform a gem into a scrying device. When the spell is cast, the two halves of a corundum worth at least 1,000 gp become linked. When you hold one, you may scry on the other at will. You can see everything within 50 ft. of the other half. Any creature with at least a 12 intelligence has a 1-2 on 1d6 chance of sensing your attention. Spells may be cast freely through the linking gem, and may target any creature within its sensor range. Area effect spells may damage the other half of the focus, which has 30 hit points.

Sample Rituals

Infinite Step (Ritual)
Spell Level: 7
Range: Sight
Duration: Instantaneous
Gem: Jacinth (50 gp)

You (with one other willing party) instantly transfer yourself from your current location to any other spot within sight. At 12th level, the magician may make a second step from the destination.

Edge of Oblivion (Ritual)
Spell Level: 8
Range: 60 ft.
Duration: Instantaneous
Gem: Onyx (100 gp)

This spell assaults the mind and body of the subject. The subject must make two saving throws, one boosted by any wisdom bonus the creature enjoys, the other by any constitution bonus. If the subject fails the wisdom saving throw, the spell deals 1d6 permanent ability damage to the target’s intelligence, wisdom or charisma, determined randomly. If the subject fails the constitution saving throw, the spell deals 1d6 permanent ability damage to the target’s strength, dexterity or constitution, determined randomly. The caster is stunned for one round following the casting of this spell.

Prismatic Helix (Ritual)
Spell Level: 9
Range: 60 ft.
Duration: 10 minutes per level
Gem: Opal (500 gp)

The visible effect of the prismatic helix is a stationary, slowly rotating, seven strand helix, one for each color in the spectrum. This helix is 5 feet in diameter and up to 20 feet high. Any creature of 8 HD or less that looks at the helix from less than 60 feet away is fascinated, unable to do anything but stare at the helix. There is no limit to the number of creatures that can be captivated in this manner.

Once per round, the helix shoots one ray at the nearest creature, using the magician’s attack bonus. Roll randomly on the table below for the effect.

1. Red: 2d6 points of fire damage
2. Orange: 4d6 points of acid damage
3. Yellow: 8d6 points of electricity damage
4. Green: Poison (save or die)
5. Blue: Turned to stone
6. Indigo: Stark, raving mad
7. Violet: Sent to another dimension
8. Struck by two rays, roll twice, ignore any “8”

Individual strands are destroyed by opposite effects (as determined by the Referee). If a particular color has been destroyed, and that color is rolled for a ray attack, re-roll until a valid color is selected.

On Venatia - Part Ten

3902 Rhodia: Rhodia is a citadel of 65 amazon warriors and 20 maidens. The citadel is constructed atop a rocky outcropping that has a commanding view of the woods in this hex. The citadel, which appears to predate the amazon habitation, is built of massive limestone blocks covered with shiny red tiles. The citadel sports six tall towers, several courtyards and a fortified palace wherein resides Vierna, a full-figured amazon with ash-blond hair and cool, deep-set gray eyes in a toga of charcoal. Vierna is protected by two bodyguards, Phyta and Minephe. She is never without her silver scepter (treat as a light mace) and steel shield. The palace contains a chapel dedicated to Minerva and tended by Xanaide and her three acolytes. The amazons work their own fields, which dot little clearings that surround the citadel. They mine iron, copper and tin from the surrounding hills with the help of three dozen kobold slaves, and trade finished weapons and armor for supplies with traders from Antigoon. Amazon patrols, consisting of a dozen warriors wearing chainmail and carrying shields, spears and long bows, are common in this hex and usually mounted on tough mountain ponies and accompanied by one of Xanaide’s acolytes bearing a brass owl standard that grants the amazons a +1 bonus to save vs. fear. Beneath the citadel there is a spider-infested dungeon in which the amazons have hidden the mythic Girdle of Hippolyta (treat as a belt of giant strength). Vierna owns a tame fire drake that she uses as a mount in times of dire emergency. It otherwise resides in the entrance to the aforementioned dungeon.

• Amazon: HD 2+1; AC 1 [18]; Atk 1 sword (1d8+1) or 1 bow (1d8+1); Move 15; Save 16; CL/XP 2/30; Special: +1 to hit and damage with sword and bow.

• Vierna, Amazon Fighting-Woman Lvl 10: HP 60; AC 1 [18]; Platemail, shield, long sword, 6 darts. Eccentric and aggressive.

• Xanaide, Amazon Cleric Lvl 7: HP 36; AC 1 [18]; Save 8; Special: Spells (3rd), turn undead; Platemail, shield, warhammer, holy symbol. Large blue eyes, golden hair in a long ponytail, high forehead, somber and severe.

• Phyta, Amazon Fighting-Woman Lvl 4: HP 25; AC 1 [18]; Save 13; Platemail, shield, long sword.

• Minephe, Amazon Fighting-Woman Lvl 3: HP 19; AC 1 [18]; Save 14; Platemail, shield, long sword.

3922 Goddess of the Tree: Lodged in the hollow of a dead tree is a 2-ft tall soapstone idol of a voluptuous women with the head of a gorilla sitting cross-legged with a illegible tablet in her lap. Anyone who argues with the holder of this idol is polymorphed into a toad.

4211 Dangerous Bridge: This hex is trisected by an extremely deep chasm, the lowest reaches of which are filled with a black, murky lake inhabited by sapphire-skinned mountain squid and a dizzying array of shellfish. At approximately the center of this hex, a bridge of three massive bronze spans and mica tiles crosses the chasm from west to southeast and northwest. Three massive gnasher lizards are sunning themselves on the bridge and, though reluctant to move as a rule, will happily charge any prey foolish enough to wander onto their bridge.

• Gnasher Lizard: HD 9 (53, 46, 41 hp); AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 bite (2d6); Move 12; Save 6; CL/XP 12/2000; Special: Behead on natural ‘20’, bite victims must save or br swallowed whole (2d6 acid damage each round).

4308 Stone Forest: A petrified forest fills a magically silent valley in this hex. Even the animals of the forest have been petrified, but their ghosts haunt the dead woods. A partially tumbled tower in the middle of the forest is home to a dragon and a magic sword.

4413 Abandoned Forge: Volcanus and his cyclopean assistants one forged powerful weapons and armor in this volcano, which has now cooled considerably and has thus been abandoned. The forge is located in a giant, vaulted cavern that has been scrupulously carved into palatial splendor. Connected to the forge room are dozens of storage chambers, now all empty save for a few bars of steel and other odds and ends. The center of the main cavern is dominated by a fire pit 30 ft in diameter. The forge’s bellows are still operated by a giant brass chimpanzee, an automaton created by Volcanus himself and abandoned when the forge was abandoned. The chimpanzee keeps the fire pit filled with coal and hot – hot enough that nine fire snakes have made it their lair. They ignore the chimpanzee, and the chimpanzee ignores them. The coal is dug and delivered by five small bronze moles with ruby eyes (worth 50 gp each).

• Brass Chimpanzee: HD 4+1 (18 hp); AC 2 [17]; Atk 1 weapon (1d8+1); Move 12; Save 13; CL/XP 5/240; Special: None.

• Bronze Mole: HD 1+1; AC 4 [15]; Atk 2 claws (1d6+1); Move 6; Save 17; CL/XP 2/30; Special: None.

• Fire Snake: HD 2 (12, 11, 10, 10, 9, 8, 5, 5, 4 hp); AC 5 [14]; Atk 1 bire (1d4); Move 6; Save 16; CL/XP 4/120; Special: Poison, immune to fire, surprise.

4508 Fountain of the Gods: Actually, a fountain of the storm giants, in a great vaulted cavern that connected (via a winding stair) to a palace long since razed to the ground. The cavern walls are mottled with shades of magenta, blue and greenish-yellow and measures 300 ft in diameter and 60 ft from floor to ceiling. The fountain is stark, white marble ornamented with gold filigree (long since stolen) and a center piece with four giant brass heads with spouts in their open mouths. The water flows from the fountain in a such a large quantity that it overflows and in fact form the head waters of two mighty rivers that emerge from caves (which form the principal entrances, north and south, to the cavern). The bottom of the fountain is covered in 2 inches of gold dust that is claimed by the storm giants and thus carries a terrible curse. Anyone attempting to steal the gold will discover their flesh slowly transform into the sparkling metal, starting with their fingers and toes and moving inward a couple inches each day. Just inside the northern cave entrance, in a small alcove of sorts, lies the skeleton of one unlucky robber; three quarters of the woman’s skin was turned to gold and now lies an empty shell but for her dry bones.

Gator Swarm

Time to revise the No. Appearing line in the Monster Manual.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Terrible Idea is Making the Rounds

At A Terrible Idea, they've come up with a pretty good idea - a community effort to pay an artist to create 60 character portraits - each about 2.5" square - that will be released into the Creative Commons, and thus usable by guys like me, who publish game material, and by folks who just want to find a little character portrait for their games. I threw $10 into the ring, and if you would like to give to the cause, see the widget below.

If you do not want to be involved, please see the Gidget below ...

And yeah, I went Sandra Dee over Sally Fields - I'm retro like that.

Monday, July 26, 2010

On Venatia - Part Nine

The first 6 sample encounters for the NE portion of the Venatia map.

5604 Flamin’ Lizards: This hex is home to dozens of nests of igniguanas. The beasts seem to come here to spawn, probably because of the rivers of magma that flow and pool hundreds of feet below the surface. Since igniguanas can move through solid rock as easily as you or I move through the air, there are not tunnels or burrows in evidence. Encounters with the creatures occur on a roll of 1-3 on 1d6, and the chance of surprise is also 1-3 on 1d6. The nests, should one manage to burrow down to one (assume they are 1d6 x 30 feet beneath the surface) are made near the pools of magma or near eddies in the rivers of magma, and consist of piles of crude gemstones, worth about 500-700 gp per nest.

5701 Yellow Caverns: There is a great rend in the side of the tallest mountain in this hex. It is marked with deposits of chalk and from it flows a tiny trickle of water, colored a dull yellow. The cavern has a sulferous smell and the interior is cluttered with a magnificent array of rock formations, all tinged with yellows, oranges and reds and making the cavern look like it is aflame. Winding through these formations is the aforementioned brooklet of yellow water which, if followed, leads to a little waterfall spilling over several terraces of rock. A sharp eye will notice handholds spaced for a tall humanoid. These hand holds lead up to a narrowed cavern with a higher ceiling and more flowstone than stalagmites and stalagtites. The brooklet forms many interlocking pools here, and appears to support a crusty form of yellow crab apparently immune to the poisonous water. More than a dozen tunnels of various sizes converge in this cavern – some leading deeper into the mountain, others leading toward the peak. A variety of odd beasts dwell in these caverns, but the most dangerous is surely a cabal of yawahu bugbears.

The yawahu are to normal bugbears what ogre magi are to normal ogres. Five yawahu dwell in this cavern, at least from time to time for their machinations and explorations into black lore often carry them to far away locales. They have white fur tinged yellow from their environment, and frightful faces of the deepest blue and green, with yellowing fangs and rather long, dropping ears. The foremost of the yawahu is Grifnarg Hells-Paw, a servant of the nether powers. His fellows are Drask Arch-Draconic, Borzog the Beast, Gozr of the Mangled Claw and Zukasm Friend-of-Jellies. Collectively, they have amassed 10,000 cp, 1,000 sp, 1,000 ep, 600 gp, 10 pp and a flake of obsidian worth 3 gp and used by them as a sacrificial knife (it retains the psychic impressions of a dozen victims that can be read with the Speak with Dead spell).

• Yawahu Bugbear: HD 3 (15, 14, 14, 11, 11 hp); AC 5 [14]; Atk 1 spear (1d6+1) or 1 shortbow (1d6); Move 12; Save 14; CL/XP 4/120; Special: Change self, burning hands, cause blindness (1/day), invisibility (1/day), ray of enfeeblement (1/day) and tiny hut (1/day).

5813 Neldor: The woods in this hex thin out some, leaving room for several meadows broken up by little limestone crags. The meadows are covered in carpets of wild thyme, sweet woodruff and greenish-blue grasses that are grazed upon by wild goats and a variety of small game. A village of 300 huntsmen is nestled by a stream in a rocky valley that cuts across the hex. The village, Neldor, is composed of 60 or so timber huts built in the shape of tall beehives surrounded by a wall of stacked limestone about 10 feet tall. Situated as it is on a natural trail across the hex, Neldor boasts a cozy roadhouse (constructed like the timber huts writ large) that serves sweet berry wine and an astounding array of roasted game and the rabbit sausages that are its house specialty. The Neldorians have thick, wavy black hair and pale skin made tan by the sun. They are short and thin and have narrow faces that bring to mind hawks. The Neldorians dress in exagerated clothing in bright colors with bouffant skirts for the women and tall collars for the men. The village is defended by 20 men-at-arms wearing leather armor and carrying spears and short bows. The village is ruled by a mayor named Thoith, an overly-officious little pain in the neck. The roadhouse is run by Galin, and absent-minded fellow with an unreasonable fear of dwarfs (especially of their stubby fingers, which remind him of grubs).

5916 Gulon: This hex is the hunting ground of a gulon, a strange hybrid of cat and fox that devours its prey whole, stuffing itself so full that it must force itself to vomit its meal so that it can continue its gluttonous feast. The gulon dwells in a shallow cave near a tall oak that was split some decades back by an errant bolt of lightning. The beast is currently nursing a litter of six cubs, making it especially rapacious.

• Gulon: HD 3 (13 hp); AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 bite (2d4); Move 15; Save 14; CL/XP 3/60; Special: Devour corpse.

6123 Three-Headed Idol: A three-headed idol of Hecate stands on a hilltop in this hex overlooking the bay. The idol is constructed of limestone blocks stained with salt and stands 40 feet tall. It is quite weathered, but still recognizable as the goddess of witches, having the head of a she-hound, a vulture and a beautiful, severe woman. The statue holds a writhing serpent in an outstretched hand and a torch in the other. Those who touch the idol without first kneeling and offering a small sacrifice feel themselves become faint and suffer 1d6 points of constitution damage.

6402 Ettins: A family of five ettins has made a lair here in a large cavern. The ettins keep a herd of 15 giant goats with long, black coats and gleaming white horns. The goats give copious amounts of milk which the ettins turn into an excellent goat cheese that they trade to passers-by for tools and baubles (unless of course they decide to eat the passers-by and steal their stuff, which is often the case with adventurers). The head of the family is Arnon-Torri and his wife is called Brigga-Nimayne. The ettins cave is cramped and reeks of sour milk and body odor. At any one time is contains a dozen large, terracotta bowls filled with fermenting goat milk and twice as many bundles of cloth holding curds in various states of cheesehood. Besides their cheese (assume 1d6 x 100 gp worth), the ettins have amassed a princely treasure of 6,200 gp and a giant terracotta flask decorated with images of rampaging hecatonchires worth 800 gp.

• Ettin: HD 10 (58, 54, 50, 44, 44 hp); AC 3 [16]; Atk 2 clubs (3d6); Move 12; Save 5; CL/XP 10/1400; Special: None.

• Giant Goat: HD 3; AC 7 [12]; Atk 1 gore (2d6); Move 18; Save 14; CL/XP 3/60; Special: +4 damage with charge.

Eulion, the Wandering City

I made mention in my "On the Drawing Board" in the sidebar that I'm working on making a free, completely open content (probably one of the creative commons licenses) fantasy city. I plan on keeping it either system neutral, or throwing in multiple sets of stats (thus - the wandering city, as it can wander from one setting to another - at least theoretically). The idea came about when I was playing with some of the random generators at Chaotic Shiny. Anyhow, I hope to have it include a brief description of the place, a map, descriptions of the inhabitants and a low-level "dungeon" linking a ruined monastery and a large graveyard - making the product useful for starting a new campaign. Naturally, Eulion is on the back burner while I work on PARS FORTUNA and NOD, so it probably won't show up until late 2010 or 2011. Anyhow - a preview of the rough draft for the map is below ...


Friday, July 23, 2010

NOD #3 For Sale

I've just put NOD #3 up for sale here as a print magazine for $10.00 and an e-book for $3.50. This one comes in at 122 pages - about 34 pages more than the last two. Articles in this one are:

Beastmen of Nabu - 13 race / race-class / monsters for your game.

Gods of Nabu - A pseudo-Egyptian pantheon of 37 gods and goddesses with 9 new spells

The Nabu Wasteland - a sandbox hexcrawl with over 150 encounters and many new monsters

The Elementalist - a magic-user who casts spells by commanding elemental spirits

The Druids of Nod - a new take on the druid class for Old School games

Phantastes, Part II - second part of our serialization of George MacDonald's fantasy classic, with annotations for gamers

Deviant Friday Five - Alan Lathwell Edition

Today's feature Deviant is Alan Lathwell. Lathwell has a more classic style than previous featured artists.

The Mercenary
I like the pose and the helmet - basically a fighting-man with a short bow, short sword and leather armor looking for work.

Washer at the Ford
The concept of a "wandering omen" doesn't show up much in fantasy games - banshees and black hounds are usually things that force you to roll initiative. Consider how much more effective they would be if there was nothing a player could do about them but wait and worry

The Battle
Law vs. Chaos

Elf Queen
Despite the ears, a far more realistic depiction of the female form than we usually get in modern art

Merlin and Arthur

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Underwater Caves

Via National Geographic - the BlueHoles of the Bahamas. Especially cool - the "insanely dangerou" vortex!

Travis Charest's Spacegirl - Cool Retro Sci-Fi

I just discovered Travis Charest's Spacegirl comic strip online. I've been a fan of his artwork for years, and I can't wait to read this space opera. It sparked the following two notions:

Notion 1) The Villain's Lair

We see villain's like this in many books and movies - the guy in the dark chamber, spying on the heroes and doing his best to thwart him. Perhaps all those wandering monsters that adventurers are dealing with aren't wandering at all - perhaps they are directed by a secret Villain and can provide a clue to where the Villain is hiding. You can make capturing intelligent monsters pay off if every (or many) captured monster has a piece of the puzzle - and a specific piece as well. So, to find the Villain requires the adventurers to discover three pieces of information - information that can be found through dangerous exploration, or by interrogating (or searching for clues like a certain kind of mud on their paws in the case of non-intelligent monsters) the second, fourth and seventh wandering monsters that they come upon on certain levels of a dungeon. This makes spells like comprehend languages (and intelligent characters with a wide range of known languages) or even speak with the dead more useful spells, since they can save adventurers a lot of time and trouble when they're after the Villain and/or his horde of treaaure.

Notion 2) Pulp Sci-Fi Role-Playing Games
If you're in the process of creating a retro sci-fi sort of game, how cool would it be to blend the game with art from this series. I wonder if a deal could be struck up between an enterprising game designer and Mr. Charest to feature some select panels in the game - not reprinting the entire thing, but maybe an image of a spaceship to illustrate the chapter on spaceships, etc. It would help the game product by making it more attractive, and could be a source of exposure for Charest (who, admittedly, probably doesn't need much exposure). I mean, the web-comic is free, so maybe he would be open to such an arrangement.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pars Fortuna Preview #4 - Final 4 Races

These are the final four playable races populating the world of PARS FORTUNA. My next task will be to preview some aspects of magic and a few of the spells.

The attractive quadruped on the crest of the hill is a Skathra. The Skathra look like centaurs with the lower bodies of antelopes and spiral horns atop their heads. They have light brown skin and darker, auburn fur with black markings on their faces and sides. A skathra stands about 5 feet tall from hooves to head. They are wise, though sometimes confounding, creatures who dwell in the wild, green hills. Skathra have a natural wanderlust, and a desire to see everything there is to see before they die.

In game terms, Skathra are one of our magic-using classes. They combine their magical abilities with a talent for archery, lightning quick reflexes, survival skills and a knack for divinatory magic.

Slinking down the hill next to the Skathra is a Vindlu. Vindlu resemble long, thin lions covered in scales of silver tipped with aquamarine. They have long "whiskers" like those of a carp. These whiskers are extremely sensitive, making vindlu difficult to surprise and allowing them some insights into the emotions of others. Their four legs end in clawed hands. Outside their home city, they live in tight-knit family bands, hiring themselves out as "problem solvers".

In game terms, Vindlu are one of our skill classes. Vindlu are stalkers and pouncers, and have a talent for avoiding traps and getting into places they are not wanted.

In the middle of the group is a Tachi. The Tachi are intelligent macaques who live in lattice-work cities on the thickly forested southern coasts, west of the lands of the Cakrol (and often in competition with them). The Tachi are merchants, moneylenders and bankers extraordinaire, and are always looking for a new path to riches.

Tachi are another skill class. They can literally smell gold and silver, and couple their natural proclivity for finding treasure with a head for business and a silver tongue. Tachi make natural spokespersons for adventuring parties in PARS FORTUNA.

And so we come to the last of the races of PARS FORTUNA - the Oraenca. The Oraenca are a race of stout, heavy warriors with skin like scarlet sandpaper and bones of iron. They measure four to five feet in height and are broad and muscular. Oraenca have flat faces, golden eyes, nose holes set high in their faces and broad mouths filled with chisel-like teeth. They are egg-layers and amphibious, having evolved in a shallow sea that is now a dry, salty wasteland. Exiled from their homeland, they found a home in the Empire of Vex, and have served as the foot soldiers for that empire and its Ilel rulers, for generations.

Oraenca are the heavy warriors of the game - they can use any kind of weapon and armor, and their fighting skills are primarily defensive - they gain an increased bonus with shields and can apply that bonus to a nearby comrade. Unfortunately, they are natural followers, and suffer a penalty when saving against mind-control effects.

And there you have it, the race of PARS FORTUNA - from slightly different to what-the-heck!

15% Discount on NOD #2 at

Apparently, NOD #2 (print) was not showing up in searches on Lulu has fixed the problem and sent me the following email:

Note, the discount is only good until August 15, 2010. So, if you were thinking of buying a copy, now you can get it a bit cheaper.

NOD #3 Cover

Okay - looks like I'll definitely have this up by Friday. Here's the cover I'm going with ...

Artist is Frantisek Kupka (1871-1957), a Czech artist. The painting is called Resistance, or The Black Idol, from 1903.

Thoughts on Suspense

Over the past three days, I've been listening to recordings of Francois Truffault's interviews with Alfred Hitchcock. I read the book based on those interviews a decade ago in college, but it has been enjoyable revisiting them.

Hitchcock, at one point, discusses the concept of suspense in film. He stresses that it is important for the audience to be aware that a momentous or terrible event is going to occur and when it is going to occur, and, of course, for the characters to be unaware. Simply blowing up a bus generates surprise, which fades fairly quickly for the audience. Letting the audience know the bus is going to explode - and that the people on that bus have no idea they're about to die or be injured - creates a suspenseful situation that can last for several minutes.

In role-playing games, the players are both the audience and the characters. I think Referees mostly use surprise - "Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor" - with a bit of mystery thrown in by some of the old stand-bys - will the statue come to life and attack? does the lock contain a spring-loaded poison needle? etc.

My question is: Has anyone ever used suspense as Hitchcock defined it? For example, letting the player's know that in 5 rounds the ceiling is going to collapse, but reminding them that their characters are unaware of this and must proceed with their fight against a gang of hobgoblins. I'd be interested to know how such a situation worked out.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On Venatia - Part Eight

Here begins the preview of the northeast quarter of Venatia. This map introduces a new geographic region - the Sturmdrang Mountains. The Forest of Dread lies on the western periphery, and the Golden Coast and Golden Sea take up most of what is left.

Sturmdrang Mountains
The Sturmdang Range is connected to the westernmost portion of the Great Yamas. The Sturmdrangs are lush mountains and very ancient. A host of rivers originate in their snowbound peaks, with the Rhodon River merging with the River Dan and flowing into the Tepid Sea, and the others (Dinar, Scorda and Oeagrus) emptying into the Golden Sea.

The slopes of the Sturmdrangs are covered with coniferous forests, and the valleys are choked with broadleaf forests. The mountains are rich with flora and fauna, including brilliant red poppies, edelweiss, wild thyme, bilberry, black bears, wolves, foxes, martens, wild goats, badgers, lynx, eagles and bats. The most conspicuous inhabitants of the Sturmdrangs, and the reason for their name, are the storm giants.

NOD, unlike a world founded on immutable scientific laws, does not have natural processes per se’. The natural progress of seasons, the patterns of wind, rainfall, etc are all the labors of the fey folk and other agents of the Old Gods, including their ancient, defeated foes, the giants. Weather, of course, was the purview of the storm giants, and every region of NOD has a storm giant (or family of storm giants) assigned to govern wind and rain. The storm lord of Venatia made his home in the Sturmdrangs, where he still accepts offerings and sends forth life giving rains and death dealing bolts of lightning..

Random Monster Encounter (Roll 1d12)
1 Alp (1d6)
2 Beast (see below)
3 Carcohl (1)
4 Drude (1d6)
5 Giant (see below)
6 Griffon (1d6)
7 Humanoid (see below)
8 Lantern Goat (1d3)
9 Oread (1d2)
10 Rothran (1d6)
11 Waldgeist (1d6)
12 Wraith (1d6)

Beast Encountered (Roll 1d8)
1 Badger – Giant (3d6)
2 Bear – Black (3d6)
3 Eagle – Giant (3d6)
4 Goat – Giant (3d6)
5 Lynx – Giant (1d6)
6 Musimon (2d6)
7 Ram – Giant (3d6)
8 Wolf (4d6)

Giant Encountered (Roll 1d3)
1 Giant – Stone (1d6)
2 Giant – Storm (1d3)
3 Ogre (3d6)

Humanoid Encountered (Roll 1d8)
1 Arimaspian (3d6)
2 Barbegazi (8d6)
3 Bugbear (3d6)
4 Knocker (8d6)
5 White Lady (3d6)
6 Wild Man (8d6)

Monday, July 19, 2010

NOD #3 - Getting Close

I'm almost finished with NOD #3. I have a little bit of writing left to do, some editing, some art to add, a few mini-dungeon maps to finish drawing and a cover image to find. Looks like this one will come in at around 120 pages, so the price might increase a little, at least on the print version. Slated articles are:

Nabu - The sandbox covering the eastern half of the wilderness map that first appeared in NOD #1 (free download just to the right). This time, there are about six mini-dungeons with maps. This sucker weighs in at almost 80 pages.

Gods of Nabu - A pseudo-Egyptian pantheon - around 20 deities and a few new spells.

Beastmen of Nabu - 13 bestial humanoids statted up as monsters, races and race/classes + art by Charles LeBrun.

The Druid - The druid done for S&W. I've made some alterations since posting it on the blog, mostly in terms of the spell selection and the special abilities.

The Elementalist - A magic-user who commands elemental spirits.

Phantastes - Second installment of George MacDonald's fantasy story, along with annotations for role-players.

The plan is to publish by this Friday.

Thoughts on Henchmen

I was reading Al Nofi's CIC on StrategyPage today, and saw this ...

"When the Duke of Alba set out from northern Italy for the Netherlands in 1573, his army consisted of about 9,600 troops and nearly 7,000 camp followers."

Could be interesting if every henchmen you wanted to bring on an adventure had 0-2 followers with him - wife, kids, whatever - or perhaps the requirements for strongholds (1 armorer for X troops) were carried over to expeditions as well. In truth, the added annoyance would probably guarantee my players would never use henchmen (or henchman - 10,000 gp in their pockets, and the most they would ever hire was one guy, with a few hit points, who always managed to die within an hour of leaving town ... Gygax help me, I tried).

Sunday, July 18, 2010

On Venatia - Part Seven

Final 6 preview locales for the southeast map. Starting next week - the northeast map.

6831 Wrecked Galleass: A long galleass, its sides covered in thin plates of bronze, lies wrecked upon a small rocky island. Close inspection will reveal two interesting facts. The first is that the island appears to be a column of basalt that was raised from the ocean floor. The second fact is revealed by a visit to the ship. Below decks, the oars are attached to bronze spheres. The sphere have two L-shaped pipes sticking from them on opposite sides and pointing in opposite directions. They appear to contain brackish water. Beneath each sphere is what appears to be a brass torch, but is actually a pipe. The lowest deck contains dozens of glass tanks, each attached to the torches above. Most of the tanks have been broken, but one contains a small, dead salamander, now reduced to the appearance of charcoal. The salamander deck appears to have burned extensively, for the air here is acrid and the walls are pitted and scarred. Two chuul lurk in the lowest deck, hiding in the shadows and eager to make a fresh kill.

The upper deck is still intact, except for the masts (felled and now gone). The captain’s cabin has been trashed, but one might find fragments of charts and schematics. The captain’s head and entrails have been nailed to a door which leads to his sleeping chamber, now occupied by a massive chuul that appears to be waiting for someone to foolishly open the door. Each chuul on the ship has a golden amulet on a chain around its neck. The amulets are almost impossible to remove. One minute after death, the chuul and anything it is touching will be teleported (via the power of the amulets) to the tower of Ingostos in [7047].

• Chuul: HD 11+2 (76, 68, 58 hp); AC 0 [19]; Atk 2 claw (2d6); Move 12 (Swim 9); Save 4; CL/XP 15/2900; Special: Amphibious, constrict, immune to poison, paralysis.

6934 Playful Porpoises: A pod of six porpoises (treat as dolphins) resides in these waters. Folk in need of rescue will invariably encounter these creatures, who know a great deal about the surrounding seas and will be happy to communicate (via a speak with animals spell) with folk they deem worthy. They will specifically warn people away from [6926], [6938] and [6831].

7250 Chasm: The western portion of this hex has been rent apart into a yawning chasm, some 400 feet deep and 3 miles long. Sand pours into the chasm constantly, and the chasm’s floor is covered in over 100 feet of sand, and acts as quicksand. The chasm was created during an especially vicious confrontation between two deities, and still bears the scars of their deific combat in the form of random magical effects. Each hour adventurers spend in or near the chasm, roll 1d6. On an even roll, generate a random effect (1d6 for level, and then the most appropriate dice for the spell) from the cleric spell list. On an odd roll, use the magic-user spell list, rolling 1d8 to determine level. The spell’s will always target one (or all) of the adventurers.

7428 Fractured Deity: Nine monstrous trilobites have attached themselves to the fractured head of what must have been a massive statue, well over 200 feet tall. The face is in the ancient Egyptian style, and is carved from a solid block of obsidian and is approximately 10 feet in diameter. Should human flesh come into contact with the stone head, they will feel that it is warm and it will send a tingle through their arm and up their spine. Prolonged contact will put one in contact with a voice from beyond, per the Contact Other Plane spell. These communications carry with them the chance of possession by an alien mind that knows only hunger (saving throw to avoid).

• Monstrous Trilobite: HD 4 (21, 20, 19, 19, 19, 17, 17, 17, 15 hp); AC 2 [17]; Atk 1 bite (1d4); Move 12 (Swim 24, Climb 3); Save 13; CL/XP 4/120; Special: Dissolve wood, glue.

7635 The Eye of Ra: The waters in this hex churn and eventually begin moving counterclockwise, drawing ships toward the center of the hex. This region is nicknamed the Eye of Ra. Ships drawn to the center of the Eye are dashed against the rocky island and destroyed. The noble families of Ibis, however, are privy to the Eye’s secret. By playing a secret tune on a reed flute, the Eye opens, the rocky island disappearing and a portal to the Astral Plane taking its place. This portal allows the merchant princes of Ibis to venture into the cosmic gulph, visiting far flung worlds and returning with their exotic cargoes. Few merchant princes ever dare venture into the Eye, for few know how to navigate the Astral Sea and return.

7736 Coral Battlements: What appear to be the crenelations of ancient battlements rise from the sea bottom's silt in this hex. The battlements are ancient and worn, and are in the process of becoming a coral reef. Beneath the coral, one can still make out the shapes of five hunched statues. The gargoyles are really kapoacinths, aquatic gargoyles, and the reef is their lair. Their treasure, hidden in a hollow, consists of 500 ep, 1,000 gp, 10 pp, a pearl worth 5 gp and a brass icon of Sabazios worth 450 gp.

• Kapoacinth: HD 4 (23, 22, 19, 18, 14 hp); AC 5 [14]; Atk 2 claws (1d3), 1 bite (1d4), 1 horn (1d6); Move 9 (Swim 15); Save 13; CL/XP 5/240; Special: None.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Playing around with potential cover art for PARS FORTUNA.


This possibility features really nice art by Burne-Jones of Fortuna and her wheel ... and probably is not even slightly appropriate for a game about sword-wielding clones, wasp-women and anthropomorphic pangolins delving in dungeons for gold and glory. Looks nice, but probably not what I'll use.

I'll probably go with one of my commissioned art pieces, but that means a black and white cover. I'm very hesitant about doing a throwback to the original booklets since it's been done a few times before, but they do have a classic look in black & white. Other option would be to commission for color for the black & white piece, but I've probably spent as much on art as is prudent for a one-man operation like myself. I'll keep playing around - maybe I'll come up with something both cheap and dynamic ...

Deviant Friday Five - Akizhao Edition

Another Friday, another five pieces of art from an artist I follow at DeviantArt. This week, I'm highlighting akizhao.

Akizhao paints in what might be termed an "anime" style, or at least with anime sensibilities. This style can be a bit controversial in old school RPG circles, but I like it - hell, if it's good, I like it. Orthodoxy does not appeal to me.


Lao Dao
When fantasy games look to Asia for inspiration, they usually look to Japan. They might want to start looking at China, whose stories of "knight errants" is almost tailor-made for adventure games.

When the eight eyes peering back from a cave turn out to be this guy instead of the four kobolds the players were expecting, well then the game gets interesting.

Hope, Water and Heart Stop


Ant Megadungeon

This is so D&D it hurts ...

Something to think about, the next time you're designing a mythic underworld.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Touring the Solar System

Some illustrations by Frank J. Paul (I think) for Amazing Stories via Golden Age Comic Book Stories. Head to the link to see them large size.

These would make a great foundation for a pulp sci-fi game.

Also - Where does Lucas get all of his great ideas?

Savage Swords of Athanor

Got my copy today of the Savage Swords of Athanor. Brilliant little book! Everything you need to get a campaign started, including a sandbox, races, religion, magic items, monsters, a new class (the rogue, a sort of minor magic-user). The design is excellent - easy to read, well organized, clear and concise. A real inspiration, and well worth the price! My compliments to Doug Easterly for a job well done.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

On Venatia - Part Six

I noticed my last Venatia post had three "ancients" in it - man I need a thesaurus ...

4545 Cursed Pirates: A herd of six hippocampi dwell in these waters. They are all that remains of a crew of pirates who were polymorphed by Horrges, the sea hag in [5045]

4633 Yawning Chasm: A chasm splits this hex in two from north to south. The chasm is 100 feet deep, and the keen eyes of an elf might spot numerous piles of bleached bones in the bottom of the chasm. A rope bridge crosses the chasm, but is actually a rope golem in disguise. The golem was placed here by a long dead wizard to guard the approach to his tower, now located on Saturnis after a particularly powerful teleportation spell went awry.

• Rope Golem: HD 6+1 (26 hp); AC 4 [15]; Atk 2 slams (1d8); Move 12; Save 11; CL/XP 10/1400; Special: Magic immunity, reduces damage from hits by 3, slashing, strangle, suffers double damage from fire.

4748 Sea Hags: A covey of three sea hags has set up shop in a sea cave located deep beneath the waves. While they do eat human and demi-human flesh, and find wrecks at sea the height of hilarity, they are actually less violent and evil than their kin and are willing to cast spells in exchange for favors. The hags are named Cacia, Morgis and Sthorah. Their treasure, kept in a casket holding brine zombie named Xavier, consists of 10,000 cp, 10,000 sp, 500 ep, 100 gp, a porcelain chamber pot worth 105 gp and a moss agate worth 175 gp.

• Sea Hag: HD 3 (18, 14, 10 hp); AC 6[13]; Atk 1 bite (1d4); Move 6 (Swim 18); Save 14; CL/XP 5/240; Special: Death gaze, weakness gaze.

• Xavier the Zombie: HD 4 (18 hp); AC 6 [13]; Atk 1 cutlass or 1 slam (1d6); Move 12 (Swim 12); Save 13; CL/XP 4/120; Special: Half damage from fire.

4850 Root Cellar: Under a few inches of soil there is a wooden trapdoor that covers an old root cellar. Travelers through the hex have a 1% chance of stumbling upon it. Inside the cellar there are jars of picked radishes that either cause horrible stomach pains (1d6 damage and disabled for 1d3 days) or give one the ability to breath fire (2d6 damage, 10’ cone) three times over the course of 24 hours. When adventurers eat the radishes, have them roll a saving throw to decide the outcome, with a -2 penalty for every jar consumed over the course of a week.

5136 Deadly Dam: Two giant death watch beetles have felled a number of trees, creating a dam that partially blocks navigation on the river. The valley has become swampy as a result, and the giant mosquitos have already moved in, with 1d6 of the creatures encountered on a roll of 1 on 1d6, made every hour adventurers spend here. The beetles lair inside their dam under a cover of leaves, waiting for a band of adventurers to check things out. One has a dented bronze helm in its stomach that, when worn on the head and the command word “Azkabat” is uttered, covers the wearer in a bronze chitin that resembles the exoskeleton of an insect, complete with bulging eyes of amber glass that allow one to see in the dark. The armor counts as platemail.

• Death Watch Beetle: HD 9 (39, 37 hp); AC 2 [17]; Atk 1 bite (3d4); Move 15; Save 6; CL/XP 10/1400; Special: Vibrations – save (4d6 damage) or die.

• Giant Mosquito: HD 1; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 touch (attach); Move 12 (Fly 21); Save 17; CL/XP 2/30; Special: Drain blood (1d4 constitution per round).

5332 Halls of the Titans: A yawning cave opens in the side of a hill. The cave has a sharp drop, almost 200 feet, to a cavern filled with strands of glowing fungus (act as assassin vines). Set in one wall of the cavern is a large set of double doors. The doors are composed of titanium and ensorcelled to absorb light, making them very difficult to find. They are also wizard locked. Beyond the doors lies an extensive underworld carved out by the ancient titans and their mortal slaves to house their fabulous treasures. The underworld is haunted by a number of criosphinxes, each considering itself the lord of the dungeon. One level has a vast subterranean prairie of grey grass grazed on by a menagerie of elemental beasts. Another is composed of a massive mechanical puzzle consisting of the very chambers and tunnels, all movable by massive wenches (or winches, if the idea of giant women frightens you) and haunted by a tribe of kobolds armed with hammers, wrenches and oilcans, as well as mechanical assassin beetles, mercury oozes and a creeping patch of rust that not only feeds on armor and weapons, but on one’s very blood. While in the underworld, it is important to avoid doors that appear overly friendly.

Knacks and Skills in Pars Fortuna

I was thinking yesterday about the PARS FORTUNA stuff - mostly developing the race/classes and the idea of knacks and skills hit me. Nothing ground breaking, but they go like this ...

When playing a game of PARS FORTUNA, there is no limit to what your character can try to do. Please note that trying to do something and actually doing it are two different things. Many tasks a character attempts are easily accomplished and do not require you to dice for the results. In simple terms, if the average person could do it, your character can do it.

However, some tasks require above-average physical or mental abilities, or years of training to have a chance of succeeding - breaking down a bolted door, deciphering a lost language or climbing a sheer wall, for example. When a player wishes his character to attempt a task such as this, this game assumes that they have a 1 in 6 chance of success - in other words, the player throws 1d6 and, if they roll a "1", they succeed. This translates into a slim (17%) chance of success, so Referee's should only use this mechanic if the task the character wishes to undertake has a high probability of failure.

A high ability score (15+) in a relevant ability can extend this chance by +1 (to 1-2 on 1d6) if the Referee permits it. Referees might want to give other bonuses based on the situation and any clever ideas a player might have for improving his chances.

Some races have a knack for certain tasks, usually because of their physical or mental make-up. If a racial description notes a "knack", for something, that race accomplishes it on a roll of 1-2 on 1d6. Oraenca, for example, are stout and solidly built, and have a knack for busting down doors.

Some classes put a portion of their training into mastering certain tasks - the Kyssai, for example, train to move about silently. When presented with a task encompassed by one of their skills, a character's success or failure is determined by rolling a saving throw. In this way, the character becomes more likely to succeed at that task as he rises in levels. For example, to successfully sneak past some tower guards, a 1st level Kyssai must roll a 15-20 on 1d20 (i.e. a 30% chance of success), while a 10th level Kyssai would have to roll a 6-20 (a 75% chance of success).

To sum up, any character has a 1 in 6 chance of succeeding at a difficult task. Characters with a knack for something have a 2 in 6 chance of success. Characters who are skilled at a task roll a saving throw to determine success or failure.


I'd love to know what people think of this basic system for non-combat task resolution.

Pars Fortuna Preview #3 - More Races

Four more of the strange races in the PARS FORTUNA setting ...

In the back of the pack we have a JAE. The Jae are clumps of walking vegetation that can assume a humanoid form by wrapping themselves around a skeleton of wood or metal. They use their morphic form and a little magic to make themselves appear to be members of other races - or even a person's close friends or family. In their real form, the so-called kelpies can detach from their skeletons and move about almost like oozes - fitting into tight spaces and such. They are natural charlatans.

Jae are another spell casting race, with the added abilities of impersonating people and crawling around like an ooze when it suits them. They can communicate with plants.

Next to the Jae is a KYSSAI, also known as a ghost. The Kyssai are happy anarchists who view bodies of solid matter as prisons. Kyssai are capable of becoming ethereal for short periods, and are generally sneaky sorts. In the game setting, they are wanderers who pick up all sorts of useful information that a Referee might wish to introduce into game. They are the only race besides the Oraenca (see next preview) who can tolerate the Ilel - mostly for the spectacle.

Kyssai are another skill class, this time working as spies and scouts. They are good at sneaking about and surprising others and their power to become ethereal helps them infiltrate areas and escape with their lives. They are, alas, a bit emotionally stunted and have difficulty forming close relationships.

The bizarre creature that looks like a tentacled potato is an OLVUGAI. The Olvugai are nicknamed the visitors by the other races. They are, in fact, alien visitors to the setting, stranded on the strange world (dimension?) of PARS FORTUNA and dedicated to unraveling its mysteries.

Olvugai are a race of scholarly warriors. They are capable of attacking opponent in front and behind at the same time, and they are capable of becoming invisible for short periods of time. Olvugai have a knack for logical thinking and are skilled as sages.

In the foreground, we have a NIF, or wasp-woman. The Nif are the female counterparts to a mindless race of drones called the Nef. They dwell in hive-cities in the Cinnabar Flats, a desert of poisonous mineral springs. Each Nif belongs to a brood of sisters. The broods serve their queen mother and dote on their over-protective (and sentient) fathers until they get the call to strike out on their own. Nif have honey-colored carapaces marked with black patterns that they share with their brood-sisters.

The Nif are our third magic-using class. Their carapaces make them slightly more durable than the Caledjula and their talents run to elemental spells rather than illusions. Nif are resistant to poisons and acids, have thick carapaces and a knack for chemistry.


Our last preview of the races of PARS FORTUNA will appear next week, and include fire-loving lions, mercantile monkeys, wise antelope-centaurs and creatures with bones of steel.

Status Report

Whew - busy busy. I'm at least a week away from NOD #3. I need to finish some encounters for the Nabu Sandbox, polish up a couple articles, finish the Elementalist class and then add some art. I'd love to get it finished by the 21st, but it will probably take a bit longer. After #3 goes live, I'm going to slacken the pace a bit, but forge ahead on the next map of the mega-sandbox and whatever other ideas pop into my head. NOD #4 will be slated for September release.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

On the Classic Elements and Their Masters

So, I was pondering doing an elementalist class a couple weeks ago, and today jotted down some ideas. Here's the class "in progress" - I'd love to know what people think ...


Command elemental spirits to perform tasks – the effect is the equivalent of casting spells. An elementalist can attempt to command these spirits a number of time each day equal to his Charisma score divided by 3, rounding down. [maybe at 6th level, this increases to Charisma divided by 2, rounding down?]

Elementalists must own and carry a grimoire of the true names of known spirits – they add to this as they adventure, but not in the manner that magic-users add spells to their spell books

An elementalist is a ritual caster; each day he chooses to focus himself on a particular element and in turn must wear an appropriately colored robe (red, blue, yellow or white) and carry a ritual tool – athame, goblet, censer or wand. Without the robe and the tool, he cannot command elemental spirits.

Elementalists cannot command spirits opposed to their chosen element for the day, but they can command all spirits that are not opposed to them. When commanding elementals spirits that match their daily focus, they receive a +1 bonus to their command checks (see below).

Command checks are the equivalent of a cleric’s ability to turn undead, and use the same table substituting the spell level for the undead’s Hit Dice. Elementalists can also turn elementals opposed to him and command elementals favorable to him. Elements refers to elementals, genies (efreet, djinn, janni), sylphs, salamanders and other creatures composed entirely or mostly of elemental stuff.

The elementalist has four spell lists, each tied to a different element (with a few spells appearing on all four lists). Spells marked with an asterisk (*) are new and described below.

[Maybe his communications with spirits helps him avoid surprise (i.e. surprised on 1 in 1d8 instead of 1 in 1d6), avoid pit traps, find secret doors - essentially, he's in communication with the landscape/dungeon and maybe gets some forewarning]

Level One
1 Burning Hands (F)
2 Feather Fall (A)
3 Magic Stone (E)
4 Produce Flame (F)
5 Purify Food & Drink (W)
6 Ray of Frost (W)

Level Two
1 Fog Cloud (W)
2 Heat Metal (F)
3 Levitate (A)
4 Pyrotechnics (F)
5 Stinking Cloud (A)
6 Strength (E)

Level Three
1 Fireball (F)
2 Fly (A)
3 Lightning Bolt (A)
4 Protection from Normal Missiles (A)
5 Stone Shape (E)
6 Water Breathing (W)

Level Four
1 Create Water (W)
2 Ice Storm (W)
3 Solid Fog (A)
4 Spike Stones (E)
5 Wall of Fire (F)
6 Wall of Ice (W)

Level Five
1 Cloudkill (A)
2 Cone of Cold (W)
3 Conjure Elemental (U)
4 Passwall (E)
5 Transmute Rock to Mud (E)
6 Wall of Stone (E)

Level Six
1 Find the Path (E)
2 Invisible Stalker (A)
3 Lower Water (W)
4 Move Earth (E)
5 Part Water (W)
6 Stone to Flesh (E)

Level Seven
1 Aerial Servant (A)
2 Control Weather (A)
3 Delayed Blast Fireball (F)
4 Earthquake (E)
5 Reverse Gravity (E)
6 Wind Walk (A)

Level Eight
1 Horrid Wilting (W)
2 Incendiary Cloud (F)
3 Repel Metal or Stone (E)
4 Whirlwind (A)

Level Nine
1 Imprisonment (E)
2 Meteo Swarm (F)

Prime Req: Charisma
Fights As: Magic-User
Hit Dice: Magic-User
Saving Throws: Magic-User
Armor & Weapons: Leather, magic-user weapons

Level Titles
1. Grammarian
2. Reciter
3. Incantator
4. Lector
5. Elementalist
6. Dracunculus
7. Draco
8. Pentalpha
9. Solomon


Thoughts -

1. I might need to invent a few spells to fill in the gaps. I wanted about three spells per level per element up to level 5, and then one or two from 6-9.

2. The big question is the use of the Turn Undead table for casting spells. As written, a 1st level elementalist would be able to make, on average, three or four attempts at casting a spell each day. They could attempt to cast 5th level spells (5% chance of success), 4th level spells (10% cos), 3rd level spells (25% cos), 2nd level spells (40% cos) and 1st level spells (55% cos). Limited number of tries, limited chance of success - but is it too limited? Not limited enough?

A 1st level elementalist that sticks to 1st level spells can, on average, cast about 2 spells per day, so double that of most magic-users. If that elementalist tries to get off a fireball, he only has a 25% chance to do it, and even if he does it, it will only do 1d6 damage. This is probably okay.

At higher levels, the elementalist is still limited to just a few attempts per day, meaning he falls behind the magic-user as a spell caster - fewer spells and less variety. In exchange, I'm giving him leather armor and the ability to turn (and command) elemental creatures - not bad, but maybe not good enough. He might still be worth it if he advances in level faster than the magic-user, but advancing quickly in a crappy character class is little compensation.

So, still some work to be done here. If you have any suggestions, let me know.

Monday, July 12, 2010

On Venatia - Part Five

Six more sites for the Southeast map - two more installments to go before I begin on the Northeast map.

4348 Fish Men: A community of 112 locathah dwell in a submerged castle. They ride giant eels into battle and carry barbed spears or heavy crossbows or tridents and nets. The locathah are known for their paralyzing poisons, which they harvest from the sea urchins that cover their castle. They are led by Lord Kigl’lot and his bodyguard of twelve elite warriors. The castle is further protected by 11 cave eels and a giant jellyfish. The cave eels live in the catacombs that run underneath the castle and hold Kigl’lot’s vault of treasure. The vault contains 6,100 gp and 110 pp.

• Kigl’lot, Locathah Fighting-Fish Lvl 4: HP 24; AC 4 [15]; Save 13; Shagreen armor, poisoned trident, shield.

• Elites, Fighting-Fish Lvl 3: HD 3d6+6; AC 5 [14]; Save 14; Shagreen armor, poisoned trident, shield.

• Locathah: HD 2; AC 6 [13]; Atk 1 weapon (1d8); Move 12; Save 16; CL/XP 2/30; Special: None.

4431 Abbey of St. Arachne: This abbey is dedicated to Arachne, a mortal weaver possessing such magnificent skill at her art that she challenged the goddess Minerva and was eventually punished for her hubris. Nevertheless, she has become a patron saint of weavers and dyers and a minor figure in the cult of Minerva. The hillsides surrounding the abbey are grazed on by sheep with especially fine, strong wool. The nuns of the abbey use this wool to produce spectacular tapestries which are valued throughout the Motherlands and a variety of magical vestments.

The abbey itself is situated on a rocky hill overlooking a valley of rolling hills. The abbey is a shell keep, two stories tall, containing workshops, storage areas (mostly bundles of wool (5 tons, worth 20 gp per ton) and dyes of many colors (100 lb each of yellow, red, blue and green, worth about 5 sp per pound), combs, spindles, etc) living quarters for the nuns and their officers, an armory, and vaults carved into the granite hill where the true treasure of the monastery, dozens of enchanted spiders who do the real weaving of the abbey, are kept.

At the foot of the abbey hill there is a village of 30 thatched longhouses surrounded by a stone wall with a moat and three towers. The village is built against the abbey hill, with the town hall constructed right against the wall and offering access through a secret door to the tunnels and vaults carved into the hill. One can also access the abbey from the village by a system of stairs, some wooden and some carved into the living rock. The villager is defended by five men-at-arms in embroidered +1 tunics carrying shields, spears and light crossbows.

Abbey and village are ruled by Xanah, a small, radiant woman who wears sepia robes covered in magnificent embroidery depicting scenes from the life of St. Arachne (worth 200 gp). Xanah has guileless green eyes and fine, white hair in an elegant chignon. Her order is sworn to a vow of silence, and she will not break this vow. She is assisted by ten nuns. Hidden in the vaults beneath the abbey is her former lover, Brear, who has been turned into a drider and now stalks the dark corridor struck with madness. While Xarah has forsworn her love for him, she still does her best to hide and protect him, despite his occasional attacks on the villagers.

The abbey’s treasure consists of 10,000 cp and 4,100 gp and is kept behind a locked door in the subterranean vaults.

• Xanah, Cleric Level 9: HP 30; AC 1 [18]; Save 6 (5 with cloak); Special: Spells (4th); Platemail, shield, mace, cloak of resistance (+1 to saving throws), holy symbol.

• Brear, Drider: HD 7 (30 hp); AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 weapon (1d8); Move 18; Save 9; CL/XP 9/1100; Special: Spells, magical abilities.

4433 Ancient Donjon: An ancient, crumbling donjon stands atop a hill, overgrown with pine trees that are gradually tearing the place down. An obscured trap door allows access into the dungeon, which currently houses two hungry ghosts.

• Hungry Ghost: HD 1+1; AC 9 [10]; Atk 1 claw (1d4); Move 12; Save 17; CL/XP 3/60; Special: Phantasmal force, invisibility, suffer double damage from cold and fire.

4436 Ancient Computer: An ancient analog computer has been tucked into a small niche in the rocks and hidden by a few pine boughs, now dry as kindling. The computer looks like a large, wooden chest filled with gears and covered with dials on the outside and a crystal sphere on which is etched a map of the world. By turning the dials to match astronomical observations, the sphere turns to show one their location on NOD. Alas, the map is a bit inaccurate, ignoring the existence of the antipodes and misjudging by 1,000 miles the western extent of Antilia. Operating the device requires a check against intelligence, with magic-users modifying their roll by 1 and scientists by 2.

4450 Whirlpool: This hex is almost filled by an enormous whirlpool that will almost certainly drag ships down to be dashed against the rocks. The whirlpool is caused by a glowing sword piercing the sea floor. The short sword, constructed in the ancient Greek style, was placed there by Neptunus for any hero brave and cunning enough to claim it. The sword is a +2 weapon that allows its wielder to breath underwater and swim as swiftly as a dolphin (Move 24). In addition, sea creatures must pass a saving throw to threaten or attack the wielder (unless he attacks first).

4531 Ancient Road: An elevated stone road goes from this hex to [6026], following the curve of the evergreen belt. In hexes [5434] and [5534] is follows along the banks of the lake. The road is of Nomo construction, and was meant to move troops swiftly into the Golden Coast region for an invasion that never took place. Every six miles (i.e. in each hex) there is a statue of Mercurius consisting of a 5-ft tall pillar of porphyry topped by a sculpture of the deity’s head. Where the road is near settlements, it is lined with cenotaphs, tombs and crypts.
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