Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August Sales Report

How did I do in August?

NOD #1 (e-book) - FREE - 576 downloads (+113 since July)
NOD #1 (print) - $9.00 - 17 sales (+5 since July)

NOD #2 (e-book) - $3.50 - 15 sales (+4 since July)
NOD #2 (print) - $9.00 - 14 sales (+4 since July)

NOD #3 (e-book) - $3.50 - 12 sales (+7 since July)
NOD #3 (print) - $10.00 - 7 sale (+3 since July)

NOD Calendar (e-book) - FREE - 23 downloads (+23 since July)

Total Sales - 65 (+23 since July)

How about the blog?

Pageviews in August: 5,961

Top Five Posts

1. Blackstar Warrior (581) - thank you Lando!
2. A Sword by Any Other Name (253) - smartest post I ever made - brings in tons of traffic from google image searches
3. Deviant Friday Five - Aug 13 (191) - apparently Dejah Thoris can drive internet traffic - who knew?
4. Mystery Men! (106)
5. NOD Sandbox Format (105)

Top Five Traffic Sources

1. Google (525)
2. Jeff Rients (340)
3. RPG Forum (264)
4. RPG Bloggers Network (132)
5. Google UK (102)

Top Five Audiences

1. United States (3,925)
2. United Kingdom (476)
3. Canada (293)
4. Spain (182)
5. Australia (127)


This is the last day of the August sales contest at Lulu, so if you've been pondering a purchase of NOD, I would be grateful if today was the day. You can get 10% off the price with the coupon code "FOUND".

It looks like NOD #4 will publish this week. I have a few bits of editing and design to finish up - so probably Thursday. Wish I could have had it out a week ago, but real life does intrude! Contents: Medieval Bestiary, Gods of the Golden Sea, Eastern Venatia sandbox, Ruins of Timulus adventure, Pleasure Palace of Izrigul adventure and another two chapters of Phantastes. Will probably come in around 110 pages. I'll keep the price as low as possible.

Later today I'll post the last preview of Ibis and a few more thoughts on Mystery Men! Thanks for reading folks - you're all making a dream come true for me here.

Art by F. Leyendecker

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mystery Men! - The Golden Gladiators

Introducing the Golden Gladiators, a fictional super team of public domain comic characters from the golden age. Uses the system described HERE, giving all heroes 15,000 XP to spend.

Barry Kuda
Barry is the defender of the underwater kingdom of Merma from the "Midget Kingdom".
Real Name: Barry Kuda
Occupation: Adventurer

Strength: 9 (+2)
Intelligence: 7 (+2)
Wisdom: 6 (+1)
Dexterity: 11 (+3)
Constitution: 8 (+2)
Charisma: 12 (+3)

Hit Points: 13
AC: 13
XP: 13,200

Powers: Magic Weapon (CL 3, 300 XP, makes harpoon a +1 weapon for 3 min.), Water Breathing (1500 XP, 6 hour duration)

Black Bat
District attorney who had acid thrown in his face by a criminal, blinding and scarring him. After an eye transplant, he gains the ability to see in the dark and takes up a life of crime fighting.

Real Name: Tony Quinn
Occupation: Lawyer

Strength: 2
Intelligence: 14 (+4)
Wisdom: 7 (+2) / 13 (+4) for 3 minutes with Owl's Wisdom
Dexterity: 9 (+2)
Constitution: 5 (+1)
Charisma: 12 (+3)

Level: 3
Hit Points: 19
AC: 12
XP: 13,800

Powers (1200 XP): Darkvision (600 XP), Owl's Wisdom (600 XP)
Other Skills: A skilled brawler, and handy with a gun


Brusilof, a Yugoslavian scientist, gains his weird powers in a lab accident prompted by a Nazi attack. He is covered in black fur and has a wolf-like face.

Real Name:Basil Brusilof
Occupation: Scientist

Strength: 11 (+3)
Intelligence: 9 (+2)
Wisdom: 8 (+2)
Dexterity: 9 (+2)
Constitution: 9 (+2)
Charisma: 1 (-1)

Level: 3
Hit Points: 29
AC: 12
XP: 12,200

Powers (2800 XP): Bull's Strength (600 XP), Darkvision (600 XP), Fly (1500 XP), Obscuring Mist (100 XP)

Captain Triumph
When Lance Gallant's twin brother Michael is killed in an act of sabotage, the Greek fates decide to intervene. Now, when Lance touches his "T"-shaped birthmark, he merges with Michael's ghost and becomes Captain Triumph.

Real Name: Lance Gallant
Occupation: Adventurer

Strength: 12 (+3) / 16 (+5) for 3 minutes with bull's strength power
Intelligence: 3
Wisdom: 2
Dexterity: 3
Constitution: 12 (+3) / 16 (+5) for 3 minutes with bear's endurance power
Charisma: 2

Level: 3
Hit Points: 35 (damage reduction 10/adamantine, up to 30 hp damage)
AC: 10
XP: 8,900

Powers (6100 XP): Bull's Strength (600 XP), Bear's Endurance (600 XP), Fly (1500 XP, 3 minutes), Invisibility (600 XP), Stoneskin (2800 XP)

Jupiter is the master magician of the planet Jupiter.

Real Name: Unknown
Occupation: Magician

Strength: 7 (+2)
Intelligence: 11 (+3)
Wisdom:12 (+3)
Dexterity: 6 (+1)
Constitution: 10 (+3)
Charisma: 3

Level: 1
Hit Points: 13
AC: 11
XP: 1,550

Powers (13,450 XP): Baleful Polymorph (4500 XP), Cure Light Wounds (100 XP), Fly (1500 XP), Minor Creation (2800 XP), Prestidigitation (50 XP), Teleport (4500 XP)

Man o Metal
A foundry worker, Pat Dempsey gets his super powers in a factory accident.

Real Name: Pat Dempsey
Occupation: Foundry worker, private eye

Strength: 11 (+3)
Intelligence:11 (+3)
Wisdom: 6 (+1)
Dexterity: 9 (+2)
Constitution: 11 (+3)
Charisma: 3

Level: 3
Hit Points: 32
AC: 12
XP: 9,400

Powers (5600 XP): Fire Shield (2800 XP), Stoneskin (2800 XP)

Nelvana of the Northern Lights
Demi-goddess and daughter of King Koliak.

Real Name: Nelvana
Occupation: Princess, demi-goddess

Strength: 3
Intelligence: 2
Wisdom: 7 (+2)
Dexterity: 5 (+1)
Constitution: 6 (+1)
Charisma: 8 (+2)

Level: 1
Hit Points: 6
AC: 11
XP: 1,700 XP

Powers: Control Weather (9100 XP), Fly (1500 XP), Haste (1500 XP), Invisibility (600 XP), Scorching Ray (600 XP, 1 ray for 4d6 damage)


Bob White is a pro wrestler who fights crime without special powers or gadgets. He is accompanied by his teenage manager, Terry Wake, known as Sleepy.

Real Name: Bob White
Occupation: Wrestler

Strength: 13 (+4)
Intelligence: 2
Wisdom: 7 (+2)
Dexterity: 12 (+3)
Constitution: 15 (+4)
Charisma: 7 (+2)

Level: 3
Hit Points: 31
AC: 12
XP: 13,500

Powers (1500 XP): Heroism (1500 XP, 30 min. duration)

Spider Queen

Shannon was the wife of chemist Harry Kane, who invented a spider-web formula before being killed by criminals. She discovered his notes and developed bracelets to shoot the webbing.

Real Name: Shannon Kane
Occupation: Adventurer

Strength: 7 (+2)
Intelligence: 11 (+3)
Wisdom: 6 (+1)
Dexterity: 8 (+2)
Constitution: 6 (+1)
Charisma: 7 (+2)

Level: 3
Hit Points: 24
AC: 12
XP: 13,800

Powers (1200 XP): Spider Climb (600 XP), Web (600 XP)


Joe Blair fights crime in a costume with wheeled feet.

Real Name: Joe Blair
Occupation: Private Eye

Strength: 9 (+2)
Intelligence: 8 (+2)
Wisdom: 14 (+4)
Dexterity: 13 (+4)
Constitution: 2
Charisma: 6 (+1)

Level: 3
Hit Points: 18
AC: 14
XP: 13,400

Powers (1600 XP): Longstrider (100 XP), Haste (1500 XP)


Moving Forward

I've had some pretty good response to this little notion, and I'd like to take it to the next level. Here's the idea:

A cheap, open content Super Power game based on the SRD, essentially taking the Mystery Men! post and expanding it to include all the rules needed to play the game. I want it to include the rules of play (lots of powers, simple mechanics, a monster list of viable opponents), sample heroes and villains drawn from the public domain and a sample city setting, a super-sandbox, so to speak, with random encounters and a few set villain lairs.

What I need for such a product is some art - is there anyone willing to provide some black & white drawings of a few public domain heroes and villains - maybe six of each? If not, maybe I could do this as a patronage project and commission some art. So - who wants to make a supers game? If I can get some support, I'll devote the time to write the game and post it as a beta test document that anyone can download and critique and then put it up on Lulu as a download and print book.

If you have some interest in this little project - let me know

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mystery Men!

So you’ve spent your hard-earned dollars (or euros or pounds or yen, etc) on your favorite fantasy system and now your gaming group has developed a desire for some two-fisted, capes and cowls, super powered gaming. Option one is to spend some more cash on a new set of rules. Option two – we’ll call it the re-use/recycle option – is to turn your fantasy game into a super-powers game. Thanks to the concept of magic spells, most of what you need to duplicate super-powered crusaders is already present in your fantasy rules. All you really need are a few guidelines and house rules to make it work. The following article aims to fill that bill.

Ability Scores
The traditional 3 to 18 range of six ability scores works fine for a super-powered game, provided you adjust a few definitions. Where a score of 9 to 11 is usually represents average for human beings, super-beings need more room to shine. For a super-game, assume that most normal human beings have a score of 1 to 6. Scores of 7 or more represent super-human abilities. Ability score bonuses kick in at a score of 4, and improve every three points thereafter.

You get a pool of 14 dice to roll your hero’s ability scores. For each ability score, you choose how many dice you roll and remove them from the pool, with the stipulation that you have to roll at least one dice for each ability score.

For example, a player could choose to roll 5 dice for strength, 1 dice for intelligence, 1 dice for wisdom, 3 dice for dexterity, 3 dice for constitution and 1 dice for charisma. This would, on average, give him ability scores as follows:

The set of rules you choose to convert into a super-powers game will dictate what kinds of bonuses are attached to each ability score. Since henchmen are usually only used by villains, a Referee might convert henchmen into contacts that are willing to aid a hero – the chief of police, for example, or a reporter.

Heroic Feats
Heroic feats of daring-do are part and parcel of a super-powered game, and are most easily handled by allowing basic ability score checks – i.e. roll 1d20 and aim to roll lower than the most relevant ability score, with penalties applied by the Referee based on the difficulty of the task. A character trying to leap to the top of a five story building, for example, would roll against strength.

Class and Levels
To keep things simple, all heroes in the game are treated as fighters and use the fighter’s Hit Dice, combat matrix / attack bonuses and saving throw charts / saving throw number / saving throw bonuses. If you want to get fancy and run some magic-users, go for it.

Experience Points
Heroes (and villains) are built using experience points. At the beginning of the game, the Referee (or Narrator) decides how many experience points are available to the players to spend on super-powers. Anything not spent on powers goes toward determining the character’s level.

For example, a Referee decides that players in his current game begin with 20,000 XP for character creation. One player spends 15,000 XP on powers, leaving him with 5,000 XP to determine his level. Another player might spend only 5,000 XP on powers, leaving him with 15,000 XP to determine his level.

As experience points are earned, they can be spent to add new powers, upgrade existing powers (see below) or simply applied to the hero’s experience point total, which determined level.

All of the super-powers in the game are represented by spells. The number of spells, and their level and effects differ from one system to another, so different systems will produce different kinds of heroes.

Powers are purchased with experience points using the following formula:

     Spell Level x Caster Level x 100 XP

Spell level refers to the level of the spell, be it a 1st level spell, 4th level spell or 9th level spell.

Caster level refers to the effective level of the person casting the spell, since many spells base their variables on the level of the spell caster. Magic Missile, for example, usually determines the number of missiles one can cast on the level of the spell caster. Fireball determines how many damage dice you roll based on the level of the spell caster.

The following table charts out the costs of super-powers.

A spell’s duration translates into the duration of the power for a single fight scene. Outside of a fight, powers are usable at will, and thus have no functional limit to their duration. Spells like Haste are assumed to only work on the hero with the power, rather than being something the hero can “cast” on others. If a player wants such a power to work on others, the experience point cost is doubled.

It is up to a player to describe how his powers operate (i.e. are they magical powers, functions of high-tech battle armor, aspects of alien physiology).

Because low level characters gain levels more quickly than high level characters, it would be possible, using these rules as written, for a new character to load up on super-powers, come in at a low level, and then quickly catch up to players who opted to take more levels and fewer powers. For this reason, a -10% penalty is applied to earned experience points for every 3,000 XP spent on super-powers at character creation.

Sample Character Creation: Minerva
We’ll pretend that Minerva is a new character being created for a game, and that her player’s referee has decided that players may spend 15,000 XP on character creation.

First, Minerva’s player needs to roll ability scores. Out of the pool of 14 dice, Minerva’s player assigns them as follows: Strength 4, Intelligence 1, Wisdom 2, Dexterity 3, Constitution 3 and Charisma 2. After rolling the dice, Minerva has the following ability scores and bonuses:

Strength: 13 / +4
Intelligence: 5 / +1
Wisdom: 10 / +3
Dexterity: 15 / +4
Constitution: 7 / +2
Charisma: 10 / +3

Minerva’s player now looks at super-powers. He decides that Minerva is going to be a pretty standard Golden Age hero, and selects the following powers (using the SRD for reference):

Bull’s Strength allows her to boost her strength by +4 for 3 minutes. Stoneskin will allow her to absorb 100 points of damage before the power stops working.

Minerva’s player now has 5,900 experience points left to figure out her character’s level. For most old school games, this would translate into a 3rd level fighter. Thus, Minerva will have the attack bonuses, Hit Dice and saving throws of a 3rd level fighter, along with the power to fly, move at high speed, bonuses to strength, fighting ability and resistant to most damage. All in all, a pretty powerful woman.

Fatal Flaws and Weaknesses
Every character, hero or villain, should have a specific weakness or flaw that will be their doom if discovered. This is kept secret, even from the Referee, but should be something that can be discovered. Wide latitude is allowed here, and players and the Referee must be able to trust one another to come up with a valid weakness.

For simplicity’s sake, translate gold pieces into dollars and don’t worry about the realism of the prices involved. Mystery men don’t spend much time in comic books shopping. The following game stats can be used for modern pieces of equipment.

Pistol: One attack per round, 1d10 damage.

Rifle: One attack per round, 2d6 damage.

Machine Gun: Two attacks per round at 1d10 damage or one attack per round at 2d6 damage.

Laser Weapons: As the firearms above, but +1d6 damage.

Vehicles: Treat vehicles as monsters under the control of their driver.

| Motorcycle: HD 3 (15 hp); AC 5 [14]; Atk 1 ram (2d6); Move 150.

| Car: HD 5 (25 hp); AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 ram (3d6); Move 120.

| Tank: HD 10 (15 hp); AC 1 [18]; Atk 1 cannon (6d6); Move 100.

| Locomotive: HD 15 (15 hp); AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 ram (6d6); Move 400.

| Fighter Jet: HD 20 (100 hp); AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 cannon (4d6) or 1 missile (8d6); Move 3500.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

On Ibis, City of Sorcerers - Part Seven

The penultimate preview of Ibis - one more to go and then I get into Mystery Men, The Gods of the Motherlands and Western Venatia, a land of blue-blooded knights, black-hearted robbers and silver-tongued merchants.

37. Three Cockles: This restaurant, owned by an √©migr√© from Nomo named Malvina (3 hp), is under a bright blue sign decorated with three large cockle shells. The restaurant caters to expatriates from Nomo and the other city-states of Umbriago. They are an unruly and dangerous bunch, but the restaurant is usually full of laughter and singing with only the occasional duel. Duels in Malvina’s are done in a painted ring. Combatants are tied left wrist to right wrist, and engage in pummeling and wrestling until one person submits or is unconscious. Wagers fly all about the room during these bouts, and both winner and loser are treated to a steaming plate of food and a mug of wheat bock.

When one enters the Three Cockles, their eyes are immediately drawn to a number of large, steaming cauldrons in the center of the room. These cauldrons contain all the fruits of the sea – cockles, salty sea slugs, clams, oysters, fish (in a stew with saffron, scallions and dark wine), crayfish, squid and octopus tentacles, etc. A pot of garum is on every table.

The owner of the establishment, Malvina, is a youthful woman with a hard face and eyes that look right into a person’s soul. She has tawny blond hair, usually pulled back in a bun, dark brown eyes and is quite tall for an Umbriagan woman. Malvina is a divorcee, having once been married to a minor magus of Ibis; she now carries a chip on her shoulder toward all magicians, students and intellectuals.

Besides her waiters and cooks, Malvina also “employs” a band of pikeys (gypsy halflings) who skulk about the room picking pockets and doing odd jobs. The halflings live in the cellar in squalid conditions, and have been forced to serve Malvina because she holds their grandmother, a fortune teller, captive in her chambers above the restaurant. They are always under Malvina’s watchful eye, and she also has a bull mastiff on guard in her room. The halflings are beaten savagely by Malvina if they are caught plying their trade, but always wind up back in the restaurant when things cool off a bit.

39. Goldsmithy: Svalgault (gnome, 1 hp) runs a very successful shop of jewelers and goldsmiths, all of whom are gnomes. The ground floor of Svalgault’s is a workshop of tiny tables and shelves and a locked, freestanding vault containing anywhere from 20 to 80 pounds of gold and silver, and maybe 1 to 10 pounds of platinum. The floor above has been extensively altered from its former state. It has been bricked in to create a system of artificial burrows for the gnomes and their little families. The top floor contains Svalgault’s palatial residence, a seraglio of clockwork doxies, expensive rugs from Ishkabibel and beaded curtains from Ophir.

The gnome jewelers specialize in astrolabes and amulets. Like svalgault, they have light brown skin, salt-and-pepper hair and blue eyes. Svalgault is possessed of an impetuous curiosity and loves to play a good prank (though he never mixes pranks with business). When challenged or contradicted, he flies into a terrible rage, and can fight as a berserker. He is a frequent guest at Malvina’s [37], and she knows well that he and his people must not be targeted by her little band of captive thieves.

41. Exotic Redsmith: Xihuitl (4 hp) is a tall, thin woman with cinnamon skin, dark brown hair, brown eyes. She is immaculate in her appearance, wearing a white tunic, leather sandals, copper jewelry (including a nose stud) and she has three black lines tattooed on her chin, running from her lips to her neck. She is an immigrant from far-away Hybresail, brought to Ibis (via Ianus and Ophir) by her husband, a roughneck sailor from Tremayne who spends most of his time at sea. Xihuitl is a kindly but jealous woman who makes a living as a redsmith (i.e. she works in copper and bronze), specializing with vats and cauldrons (she made the cauldrons in Malvina’s Three Cockles restaurant [37]).

Xihuitl has a young son, Coyotl, who is always by her side and learning her craft. He is possessed of a wondrous intellect and frightening psychic powers (treat as a level 5 psychic). Coyotl has wicked eyes, and his piercing stares have been known to unnerve even the most stouthearted barbarian.

Xihuitl’s shop is cluttered with keepsakes from her husband’s travels and with wooden idols from her native land. A seemingly harmless iron trunk in one corner is large enough to hold a person, and the interior is lined with long spikes. Xihuitl uses it for sacrifices, a handy spout siphoning the blood into a ritual bowl of jade (worth 35 gp). She makes these sacrifices infrequently, and maybe tellingly, she usually chooses sailors who remind her of her errant husband.

43. Masoleum of the Golden Princess: This building is a tall, narrow pyramid of limestone clad in white marble and topped with beaten brass (the original gold was stolen many times). Entrance is via the ghoul tunnels under the city or through a secret entrance on the southern wall that leads to a short tunnel and a sudden fall (10-ft).

The pyramid is home to a mummified princess called Hashminepsis and nicknamed the Golden Princess from her habit of bedecking herself in a ridiculous amount of gold jewelry. Her wickedness carried her into the afterlife as an avaricious, undead monster, now attended by scorpions, the ghouls of Ibis and ladies-in-waiting (wights), as well as an ill-tempered and sarcastic idol of the scorpion goddess Selchis.

Treasures: 1,300 gp, two sunstones worth 1,200 gp each, a jade mask worth 95 gp, a necklace of gold discs worth 9,000 gp, a brass ankle chain worth 100 gp and a jaw of dust of appearance sealed with wax.

| Hashminepsis: HD 6+4 (37 hp); AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 fist (1d12); Move 6; Save 11; CL/XP 7/600; Special: Rot, hit only by magical weapons.

| Lady-in-Waiting: HD 3; AC 5 [14]; Atk 1 claw (1 hp + level drain); Move 9; Save 14; CL/XP 5/240; Special: Drain 1 level with hit, hit only by magical or silver weapons.

| Ghoul: HD 2; AC 6 [13]; Atk 2 claws (1d3), 1 bite (1d4); Move 9; Save 16; CL/XP 3/60; Special: Immunities, paralyzing touch.

45. The Lamb and Scallion: This low building is actually constructed about half above ground and half below. One enters by descending wooden stairs, and wide ledges around the exterior of the room hold low tables and woven mats for seats. The room is always stalked by the owner, Hasani (2 hp), the owner, a large, red-faced man with a bushy black beard and sunken eyes. He always wears rich clothes and a large, white turban and carries a ciphering stick (for recording one’s bill) and a large knife that he enjoys flashing in people’s faces. Naturally, Hasani is a coward at heart, and quickly backs down when challenged.
He employs several cooks who prepare rich dishes of antelope steaks, legs of mutton and goat stew, spiced with pepper, saffron and other exotic products of the far south. Pantries connected to the main room contain barrels of sweet ale, spiced wine, bottles of rum and brandy and wheels of cheese.

Hasani has five wives, all of whom work as waitresses in the restaurant and make a game of stoking their husband’s jealous disposition. He has but a single son belonging to his third wife and adopted as his own. Adom is a layabout and a wastrel who is always working a scheme to get rich. He is a fair swordsman, but shys away from adventuring.

| Adom, Fighting-Man Lvl 2: HP 13; AC 9 [10]; Save 15. Short sword, dagger.

Thanks to Tony Dowler at Year of the Dungeon for his dungeon maps, the format of which inspired my little mausoleum.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Deviant Friday Five - Arnold Tsang

I'm highlighting Arnold Tsang today - arnistotle on DeviantArt. He has a rugged style with great lines and hatchwork.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

NOD #4 On the Horizon

I think I have a cover, so that ain't bad - now I just need content! The cover image is a cyclops painted by Odilon Redon, a French symbolist painter who, it can safely be said, did not foresee his work appearing on the cover a RPG supplement.

I'm about 75% complete with writing the fourth issue of my non-award winning gaming magazine. Articles will be ...

- Eastern Venatia - sandbox with 200+ encounter areas

- Gods of the Golden Sea - a pantheon of deities inspired by the Thracians, Dacians and other assorted -acians

- Medieval Bestiary - a couple dozen monsters based on medieval folklore

- Phantastes - a couple more chapters of the classic fantasy story by George MacDonald

I'm also including two medium-sized dungeon crawls - The Ruins of Timulus and the Pleasure Palace of Izrigul, both located in the Eastern Venatia sandbox.

I'm hoping to get this thing out by Sept 2 before I take a mini-vacation to the land of my ancestors - Ottumwa IA. Should probably clock in at 110-120 pages.

Flail Snail!

I had to share this drawing I saw on DeviantArt today ...

I don't know who she is or where she is, but I know in my heart that somewhere in NOD, this adventurer is cruising into a sleepy village  (probably with a cult of purple worm worshiping ghouls living beneath a field of mauve turnips) on her trusty steed, on her way to seek fame and fortune.

Artist is Pachycrocuta, who some may remember illustrated my PARS FORTUNA races. This piece is exactly why I commissioned him - fun, interesting and with wonderful bits of detail. Check out this guys entire portfolio and then explain to me why he hasn't illustrated a monster book yet! Trust me - if I had the money, he would have.

The Nodian Calendar - A Free Download

Yesterday, I notched over 10,000 page views for the LAND O' NOD. In celebration, I'm putting up a Calendar of NOD for download.

Some explanation: I love sitting down to read settings with totally imaginary gods, new calendars, etc. On the other hand, I don't love running those settings, at least not for people who haven't read all the same material I have, because they don't know what I'm talking about when I mention Pelor or the month of Harvesthold or whatever - at least, not in the same way as if I mention Apollo or October. The purely imaginary is fun, but sometimes takes players out of the game, especially if they're like my players and would rather spend their time playing and exploring dank caves and moldering ruins instead of brushing up on an encyclopedia of imaginary stuff.

When I decided to put together a calendar for NOD, I had two things in mind:

1 - Keep it simple - I have enough to do running a game, I don't need to tax brain remembering a complicated calendar.

2 - Make it immediately accessible to the players, with just a tinge of fantasy to keep it "exotic".

To keep things simple, I decided that each month would have four weeks of seven days each, and I threw in a 13th month (Midsummer, technically) to keep the year about as long as a real year. I used slightly archaic names for the other months to make them recognizable.

I then decided to inject some fantasy into the fact that there are 13 months, which, we all know, has to be unlucky. So, Januar becomes the cursed month, a month of twilight when the dead Sun is tromping through the Underworld awaiting rebirth. During this month, all over the globe, the skies are always overcast and the sun is but a dim, gibbous light. During these months, all the evil things that dwell in the dark corners of NOD emerge from their caves and walk the land. The unconsecrated dead rise from their graves and caper and cavort. Goblins sharpen their blades and make war on humanity. Dragons emerge from their slumber and remind people of their true place in the hierarchy of things. Januar is the month when adventurers are loath to leave the security of stinking, disease-ridden city-states, for they know something much worse is waiting outside.

Anyhow - you can download the calendar as a PDF below. The holidays on the calendar refer back to the Gods of the Motherlands (not yet published, but very soon), a mash-up of Greco-Roman religion with the Medieval Christian Church.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

On Ibis, City of Sorcerers - Part Six

Six more locations for Ibis (use the keywords below for the other posts - they're becoming too numerous to link).


25. Coffee House: The broad, single-story building sits between the University and the Souk, and attracts a higher class of person than the Spotted Sphinx. The interior walls of the coffee house are lined with velvet couches, with a number of small, circular tables placed so that patrons have ready access to their drinks and the delicate, exotic viands served by the host. A back room serves as a kitchen and pantry, and it is here, in locked iron chests, that the precious coffee beans (worth 100 gp/lb) are kept and later ground. In the center of the main room there is a gilt, marble table holding several charcoal braziers. Bronze flagons of water are set on grates over these braziers to be heated, with the host and a number of serving boys in silk tunics pouring the water through the ground beans into silver carafes, which are then served to the customers, along with porcelain cups.

The host is named Baruuf, and he is a spindly, supplicating old gentleman of 40 winters, usually wearing an embroidered robe of damask and brocade and a neat turban pinned with a silver brooch. Baruuf works for Panth, a retired warrior and trader who established a well armed caravan to traverse the eastern Nabu to the highlands beyond, where the finest coffee is grown. Panth, nicknamed thus for his dusky skin and fighting prowess, is in the coffee house most days, conversing with clients and making deals. Although no longer the juggernaut of his youth, he is still tall and broad shouldered. He wears expensive silk robes and adorns himself with multiple pieces of gold jewelry (600 gp worth, at minimum), and always keeps his falchion (treat as battle axe) under his robes. He keeps his pet fox on a chain nearby.

A carafe of coffee costs 10 gp, and one can order light fare of an exotic nature to go with their coffee – a typical bill runs 50 gp.

| Pantha, Fighting-Man Lvl 6: HP 31; AC 8 [11]; Save 11.

27. Temple of Isis: This four-story structure has a commanding view of the Souk and the Road of Kings. The building is constructed of marble-clad limestone, and is topped with a brazen dome and a spire in the shape of an angel. One enters the building through a door of white wood hammered with golden nails. Inside the door is the main hall of the goddess. The main hall is 35-ft from marble floor to ceiling and contains a chryselephantine idol of Isis and numerous columns covered in the strange pictoglyphs of ancient Nabu. The northern wall of the main hall contains an entrance to the inner temple and three balconies overlooking the hall. These balconies are each a series of arches and can be accessed by a locked door.
Beyond the main hall are a number of vestibules and concealed staircases that lead into four floors of living quarters for priestesses, storage rooms, meditation areas, a hospital floor and offices. Amazon guards are posted inside the entry door and at the top of each staircase, and males are not permitted into these areas unless they are accompanied by a priestess, for the temple is overseen by a sisterhood of devout nuns.

Beyond the living quarters lies the inner sanctum of the temple, with a smaller idol of Isis enthroned and holding the infant Harpocrates. This statue is carved from marble and clad in gold leaf (worth 5,000 gp). Beneath the inner sanctum, accessible via secret trapdoor, are two levels of catacombs and tombs in which are interred former nuns and priestesses, as well as a former princess of the old royal house in a secret vault. Another secret vault in the catacombs holds the temple’s treasure: 2,100 cp, 730 ep, 1,100 gp, a brass coronet worth 175 gp and a chalcedony worth 1,250 gp.

The high priestess of the temple is Manesha, an older woman with olive skin, silver hair and soft, hazel eyes. Manesha is very short and thin, and wears silk gowns of the ancient style underneath more conservative blue robes of office. She is usually adorned in a wide necklace of gold and sapphires (500 gp) and ivory bangles on both arms (100 gp total). Twenty nuns dwell in the temple and tend to sick and infirm women and children. Some wander the streets collecting alms for the poor and sick.

| Manesha, Adept Lvl 7: HP 24; AC 9 [10]; Save 9; Special: Spells (2nd), healer.

| Priestess (5), Adept Lvl 1: HP 1d6; AC 9 [10]; Save 15; Special: Spells (1st), healer.

| Sister (15): HP 1d4; AC 9 [10]; Atk 1 weapon (1d4); Move 12; Save 18; CL/XP A/5; Special: None.

29. Lecture Hall: The main lecture hall of the University is a three-story structure, with each level ringed by an arched portico. Within the portico are dozens of plain rooms containing a dias for a speaker and benches or chairs for students. The uppermost level contains rooms for the ten scholars on the faculty and a large room, library and laboratory for the headmaster, the archimage Randac (a notorious libertine in his youth made honorable by age and infirmity). The faculty and their specialties are as follows: Anioth (law), Haluim (arithmetic), Minia (geometry), Falanes (medicine), Shakir (astronomy), Amsi (music theory), Thema (grammar), Nekhbet (logic), Zalika (theology) and Astarte (rhetoric). Most of the scholars are level 3 adepts (sages), but Nekhbet is an elementalist (and a playful rival of Randac).
| Randac, Magic-User Lvl 11: HP 32; AC 9 [10]; Save 5; Special: Spells (6th). Sable robes of office, a golden amulet bearing the all-seeing eye (symbol of the university), a slim wand of cherrywood tipped in gold and a silver dagger.

| Nekhbet, Elementalist Lvl 5: HP 10; AC 9 [10]; Save 11; Special: Command elementals (see NOD #3 or treat her as a magic-user with many elemental spells). Black robes, a silver amulet bearing the all-seeing eye, the tools of an elementalist (usually carries an athame and goblet).

31. The Bearded Beauty: The Bearded Beauty is a social club of magic-users, illusionists and elementalists. The exterior walls (mud brick) are painted with the picto-glyphs of ancient Nabu, with the most prominent image being a beautiful queen wearing a false beard.
The club is two-stories tall, with the upper story containing the infamous “chamber of doors” and living quarters for the club’s landlord, Butros, and his staff. The ground floor contains a spacious common room, numerous small tables, four large tables and five semi-private booths obscured by thick, velvet curtains. The room is kept fairly dark and is lit by tallow candles. The walls and ceiling are decorated with stars and crescents of sparkling, polished tin.

Butros is a young man, a former student of Randac [29] with a young, pretty wife named Tabia who has recently been replaced by a succubus. Butros has bronze skin, sandy brown hair. He is a nervous chap, but very courteous and does his best to keep his clientelle happy. Besides three serving wenches, Butros employs a man named Karmaz-Kan. Karmaz wears a simple leather harness and loincloth and has deep, crimson skin and a mane of shining black hair. He came through one of the doors in the “chamber of doors” and found work here as a bouncer after he adjusted to the heavier gravity.

The aforementioned chamber of doors is located on the second floor in the center of the building. It can be accessed by a single door of golden wood that moves around a bit. Inside the room there are a dozen doors, incuding two flanking the entry door but not apparent from outside the room. Each of these doors leads to another place or dimension based upon the position of the stars. The ceiling of the room is glass, and there is a broze astrolabe in the center of the room to make last minute observations possible.

| Karmaz-Kan, Fighting-Man Lvl 4: HP 24; AC 8 [11]; Save 13; Leather harness, long sword, dagger.

33. Akiiki the Bricklayer: Akiiki is a mature man, short and wiry with skin baked into a deep, leathery brown. Akiiki has a fear of beautiful women and married a plain woman named Jendayi (an excellent weaver) and has four children. He shares his 4-story home with boarders and his aging parents. Akiiki is an excellent bricklayer and owns two brick-making operations located just outside Ibis. Despite his success and his family, whom he loves dearly, he remains a bitter man who dreamed of grand adventures in his youth.
35. The Academy: The academy is a fighting school run by Bovis, a young-looking man with alabaster skin, pale blond hair and blue-green eyes. Bovis is a swords-man of considerable skill, and considers himself an artist. As such, he is rather bohemian – unkempt, broody and chaotic. He is a frequent visitor to the coffee house [25]. The academy is a two-story building with a training hall on the bottom floor and living quarters above.
| Bovis, Fighting-Man Lvl 4: HP 29; AC 7 [12]; Save 13; Leather jack, long sword, dagger.


Art by Edmund Dulac, via Golden Age Comic Book Stories

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pars Fortuna Monsters

I'm currently working on the monsters for my Pars Fortuna project. Here's a quick preview of the monsters (by challenge rating) I've statted up.

1 - Hraeth: Giant ravens.
1 - Hrogo: Leaping lampreys.
1 - Moggie: Giant cats.
2 - Giant Snail: Main meat animal of Fortuna's Wheel.
3 - Arakhun: Raccoons the size of black bears.
3 - Dol: Pack dogs the size of mules.
3 - Haloot: Large, quadrupedal, wingless owls.
3 - Maimun: Giant monkeys.
3 - Olph: Carnivorous, predatory sheep.
3 - Topi: Cross between and octopus and spider; live on land and in the sea.
3 - Woin: Bat-winged wolverines.
3 - Xerg: Foxes the size of leopards.
4 - Armadillox: Giant armadillos used like oxen by the natives of Fortuna's Wheel.
4 - Gangarou: Giant, carnivorous kangaroos that hunt the savanna.
4 - Hhai: Winged cougars.
4 - Jumart: Like a cross between a horse and bull.
4 - Peca: Like feline baboons.
5 - Onkeyn: Swift, horse-sized rhinos with long legs.
6 - Bebb: Giant herbivorous bears with massive heads and long beards.
6 - Orpo: Giant swine who live in rivers and lakes.
6 - Urleel: Cross between a moray eel and sea turtle.
7 - Giant Gulper Eel: Google them.
8 - Giant Mantis: Stalk the jungles.
8 - Mursa: Cross between a walrus and polar bear.
9 - Opur: Penguins the size of killer whales.
9 - Rho: Giant lynx with a large horn jutting from its forehead.
11 - Tragelph: Giant, elephantine goats, kept for their wool but hard to control.
12 - Criniger: Sleek, fur-bearing whales with massive tusks.
12 - Lhee: Beetles the size of elephants, and used by the natives of Fortuna's Wheel in much the same way.
12 - Snee: Giant terrestrial eels that constrict and send out electrical shocks.
17 - Singawale: Stingrays the size of whales.
20 - Aiwhah: Catfish the size of whales.

B - Mercurial: Rats composed of mercury with poisonous bites.
2 - Moonmaid: Tiny figurines carved from moonstone, powers reminiscent of Circe.
2 - Revenant: Animated corpses.
3 - Retriever: Clockwork dogs.
3 - Skeloid, Lesser: Skeletons bound in silver wire with wooden raven head. Absorbs spells.
4 - Ningyo: Guardian puppets with gaze attacks.
5 - Abominid: Spider creatures stitched together from amputated limbs.
5-10 - Imposter: Statues sent to kill their living doubles.
6 - Deruu: Tree women.
6 - Iconogryph: Alabaster vultures created as temple guardians.
6 - Skeloid, Greater: Skeletons bound in gold wire with wooden hawk head. Absorbs spells.
7 - Gongthrottle: Bronze gorillas animated by wrath.
8 - Fulminator: Lightning men.
14 - Sanctus: Images of saints carved in green stone.

A - Nizzertit: Slimy, stunted goblins.
B - Nurg: Short, stout savages
1 - Cakrol: Pangolin warriors.
1 - Ilel: Cloned warriors.
1 - Nif: Wasp women.
1 - Nine: Quick, furry humanoids who live in swamps.
1 - Oraenca: Stout warriors with iron bones.
1 - Skathra: Antelope centaurs.
1 - Tachi: Ape warrior.
1 - Vindlu: Scaled lion.
2 - Caledjula: Flying tricksters.
2 - Jae: Mounds of tricky kelp.
2 - Kyssai: Ethereal scouts.
2 - Olvugai: Tentacled warriors.
3 - Bo'al: Tall, burly humanoids.
3 - Hamazak: Amazon warriors.
3 - Qward: Stocky feline nomads.
3 - Zimbad: Reptilian flyers.

B - Tomb Robber: Grey men who burrow into graveyards.
1 - Osk: Golden skinned smiths with pointy teeth.
1 - Ouph, Black: Subterranean fairies who consume hallucinatory mushrooms.
2 - Meagle: Stunted pixies who summon demons.
2 - Zwunker: Swarthy dwarfs with golden hair, negate magic by their presence.
4 - Ouph, White: Pious sculptors.
6 - Ingala: Amazonian nymphs of the rain forest.
8 - Ouph, Blue: Berserk zealots.

B - Jeyah: Like furry, giant geckos who produce psychic static.
B - Sand Rat: Scaled rats the color of sand.
1 - Dreak: Voracious giant polliwogs.
1 - Vazin: Sinuous lizards who give off electric shocks.
2 - Byn: Siren lizards.
4 - Frosseleth: Woodland carnosaurs.
4 - Palasm: Victims of a disease that become faceless baboons that blend with shadows.
5 - Meerskin: Giant weasels with emerald eyes; surrounded by a miasmic yellow cloud.
5 - Nanc: Copper-furred capybaras with scorpion tails.
5 - Tharp: Swarms of steel-gray wasps; their stings cause hemorrhaging.
6 - Isaelen: Titanic beasts who simply shift from the ethereal plane to capture creatures in its stomach.
6 - Rhuup: Portly, furred humanoid tigers; swallow people whole.
7 - Aeloll: Arachnid horrors with legs that end in noose-like loops.
7 - Kruk: Four-armed ogres who trade in flesh.
8 - Idekel: Cross between an alligator and boa constrictor; uses illusions to look like dead wood.

X - Demonic Beast: Template for altering beasts.
X - Elemental: Templates for altering beasts.
X - Tabib: People possessed by feral spirits.
7 - Volp: Crystalline wolves who spread rage, cause misfortune.
8 - Nokt: Green, five-headed crows who spread misery and desperation.
6 - Fiend: Lesser demons with variable abilities.
9 - Haunt: Ghostly creatures with a touch of death.
9 - Nature Spirit: Humanoid spirits composed of natural materials.
10 - Greater Fiend: More powerful demons with more abilities.
10 - Lunarch: Amorphous, silvery bears with spider eyes; serve the Moon Goddess, cause madness.
15-18 - Archfiend: Most powerful demons.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

On Mines and Mining - Part Five

The Finale! Previous posts are as follows:

Part One: Mining and Smelting
Part Two: Alabaster to Corundum
Part Three: Diamond to Lodestone
Part Four: Marble to Rhodochrosite


Natron (5 sp / lb): Art, Preservation
Salt (5 gp / lb): Alchemy, Cooking

Salt occurs as a white, pink or reddish mineral in rock salt form. Rock salt occurs in vast beds of sedimentary minerals resulting from the drying of enclosed lakes and seas. These salt beds may by up to 350 meters thick and cover many square miles. Salt is also extracted from sea water.

Salt can be extracted from rock salt deposits by mining it. This was traditionally a very dangerous profession, and thus left to slaves and convicts. The salt occurs in the form of irregular salt domes, and may be transparent, white, pink, reddish or red in alternating bands. Some salt mines still in operation today are very ancient, including famous mines in the Punjab and Poland. These mines cover many square miles, run up to 10 levels deep, and have hundreds of miles of passages and thousands of chambers. In other words, they would make perfect dungeons.

Salt can also be collected from salt water from the sea or from brine springs. When extracted from water, the salt is either evaporated from the water using salt pans (pots made from a crude ceramic material called briquetage) or by boiling it down over a fire. Even when boiling is used, the brine is usually allowed to evaporate in salterns in order to concentrate it before the boiling occurs.

Salt is a useful material on its own, primarily as a food additive and an alchemical ingredient. At some points in time it was almost as valuable as gold. Alchemists can make spirit of salt, or hydrochloric acid, by mixing salt with vitriol (sulfuric acid). Spirit of salt was mixed with aqua fortis (see Urine) to produce aqua regia, the gold dissolving acid. Alchemists also used salt to produce sal mirabilis, or miraculous salt, a popular laxative.

Another product of dry sea beds is natron. Natron was used as a grease-cutting cleaning agent, a mouthwash, and tooth paste. When blended with olive oil, it made soap. Natron was an ingredient in antiseptics and it was used to dry and preserve fish and meat, kill insects, make leather and bleach clothing. The Egyptians used it in the mummi-fication process because it absorbs water. When added to castor oil, it made a smokeless fuel, allowing artists to pain in tombs without staining them with soot. The Romans combined natron with sand and lime in their glass and ceramic production, and it was used as a flux in soldering precious metals and as an ingredient in blue paint.

Sandstone (8 sp / lb): Architecture

Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed of sand-sized minerals. Most is comprised of quartz and feldspar, the most common minerals in the Earth’s crust. Sandstone is usually colored tan, brown, yellow, red, gray and white. It is a common building material because it is easy to work and often resistant to weathering.

Serpentine (1 gp / lb): Architecture, Art

Serpentine is a group of many different minerals. The Romans called them “serpent rock”. They come in colors ranging from white to grey, yellow to green, brown to black and they are usually splotchy or veined. Serpentine is plentiful in sea beds. In the soil, it is toxic to plant life, and thus deposits often underlie strips of grassland in wooded areas. Serpentine marble (lizardite) ranges from red to green and weathers very well. Serpentine is a common stone in hardcarving. It can be carved into art objects or used as an architectural facing.

Silver (100 sp / lb): Art, Coins, Equipment

Silver, or argentum, is a whitish metal that is harder than gold, but still easily worked. This made it an excellent material for making coins, and in fact most coins through history were minted from silver. There are three main sources of silver: Quartz, galena and acanthite. For more information on quartz, see the entry for Gold & Quartz. For information on galena, see the entry for Lead. Acanthite is a blackish-grey mineral with a metallic luster.

Silver is most often used to make coins. Historically, silver coins were far more common than gold and copper (or bronze, brass, billon or potin) coins. In fantasy games, silver is also used on weapons, probably in the form of silver plate, because of its effect on lycanthropes. Silvering a weapon would probably involve the use of mercury, and would be performed by an alchemist rather than a smith.

Lunar Caustic, or lapis infernalis, was made by dissolving silver in aqua fortis and evaporating the substance. Sticks of lunar caustic were used in surgery because of its antiseptic properties. It blackens the hands. Argentum fulminans, or fulminating silver, is a silver compound that explodes readily, though the charge is fairly harmless in small amounts.

In mythology and folklore, silver is associated with the moon, thus lycanthrope’s vulnerability to silver.

Slate (5 cp / lb): Architecture

Slate is a grey stone formed from shale. The most common use for the stone is roof shingles, though high quality slate can be used for grave markers and other monuments.

Soapstone (1 cp / lb): Art

Soapstone is rock composed of talc and rich in magnesium. Soapstone has been a medium for carving for thousands of years. Native Americans used it to create bowls, cooking slabs and smoking pipes, the Indians for temple carvings and the Chinese for official seals. It is highly heat resistant, making it a good material for cooking slabs, seals that are to be dipped in hot wax and as a mold for soft metals.

Spinel: Medium Gem

Spinel is a class of minerals found in gemstone bearing gravel, limestone and marble. Spinels range from blue to mauve or dark green, brown or black in color.

Black Powder (3 gp / lb): Equipment (Guns)
Sulfur (1 sp / lb): Alchemy, Laundry, Medicine
Vitriol (10 gp / vial): Acid

Sulfur is a soft, yellow mineral that can be found near volcanoes and hot springs and in salt domes. It can also be extracted from pyrite (iron + sulfur), cinnabar (mercury + sulfur), galena (lead + sulfur), sphalerite (zinc + sulfur), stibnite (antimony + sulfur) and the sulfates, gypsum, alunite and barite.

Sulfur is extracted by stacking deposits in brick kilns built on sloping hillsides, making sure to leave airspace between them. Powdered sulfur is then placed on top of these piles and ignited. As the elemental sulfur burns, the heat melts the sulfur in the deposits, causing molten sulfur to flow down the hillside. It is then collected in wooden buckets.

Sulfur was used by the Egyptians to treat granular eyelids, and the Greeks used it for fumigation and bleaching cloth. Sulfur was also used, along with phosphorus, by Robert Boyle in a forerunner to modern matches. Sulfur is odorless. The odors associated with it come from hydrogen sulfide in rotten eggs and sulfur dioxide in burnt matches.

Alchemists could turn sulfur into a powerful acid called vitriol. Vitriol was, in fact, sulfuric acid. It was made by burning sulfur into sulfur dioxide, and then converting the sulfur dioxide into pure sulfuric acid.

The colors of Jupiter’s moon Io are from various forms of sulfur. The planet probably smells of brimstone, and could be an excellent haunt for demons and devils.

Clay (5 cp / lb): Art

Terracotta, from the Italian for “baked earth”, is a clay-based ceramic. Terracotta usually has a reddish-orange color. Terracotta could be glazed or unglazed. It could be used to make pottery, figurines, bricks and roof shingles. Perhaps the most famous use of terracotta was in the creation of Chinese Emperor Qin Shi-Huang’s terracotta army. Virtually all cultures made use of terracotta, from China to India to Greece and Western Africa. Terracotta could be dried in the sun or baked in kilns.

Tin (3 gp / lb): Alloys, Equipment

Tin, or stannum, is a silvery metal that is primarily found in an ore called casserite. Pure tin deposits are sometimes found near river and stream flows. Miners harvest this tin by digging a trench at the bottom of a deposit, loosening the gravel with a pick, and then running water over the gravel to remove unwanted material. This process creates gullies. Casserite occurs in quartz deposits. It is a black to reddish brown to yellow crystalline mineral. It is found with tourmaline, topaz and arsenopyrite (q.v.).

Tin was mostly used in the form of bronze or pewter. Bronze is an alloy of tin and copper (see Copper above). Pewter is an alloy of tin and lead (85:15) that might also contain portions of antimony or copper.

Tin ingot currency (see below), with each ingot weighing one pound, was used in Indo-china and the Malay Peninsula during the 14th and 15th century.

Alchemists created “butter of tin”, or tin chloride, which was used in the dyeing industry to fix colors.

Topaz: Medium Gem

Topaz is a gem that occurs with granite or rhyolite lava flows. Pure topaz is colorless, but tinted wine, yellow, pale grey, reddish-orange or blue-brown from impurities. Precious topaz is orange and imperial topaz is yellow, pink or pink-orange. Blue topaz is the rarest. Folklore holds that topaz wards away evil spirits.

Tourmaline: Medium Gem

Tourmaline is a semi-precious stone found compounded with such elements as aluminum, iron, magnesium, sodium, lithium and potassium. It occurs with granite, marble and schist. There are several varieties of the gem. About 95% of all tourmalines are schorls, and colored bluish to brownish to black schorl. Dravite is a dark yellow to brownish-black, rubellite is rose or pink, indicolite is light blue to bluish-green, verdelite is green and achronite is a colorless tourmaline.

Turquoise: Minor Gem

Turquoise is blue-green mineral. It is a hydrous phosphate of aluminum and copper. Even the best turquoise is only a bit harder than glass. It forms from the action of acidic solutions on pre-existing minerals during weathering, often from such minerals as malachite and feldspar. Turquoise is often a by-product of copper mines. Turquoise has been valued as a precious stone for thousands of years. It was used by the ancient Aztecs, Chinese, Egyptians, Mesopotamians and Persians, for whom it was the national stone. The name derives from the French for a product derived from Persia imported through Turkey. It did not become a common ornamental stone in Europe until the 14th century. Common belief held that the stone had prophylactic qualities, and would change color to indicate the health of its owner. It was also supposed to aid horses.

Aqua Fortis (50 gp / vial): Acid
Black Powder (3 gp / lb): Equipment (Guns)
Saltpeter (2 gp / lb): Alchemy

Urine is not a mineral, but it contains minerals and it was an important material for Medieval industry. It was used as a source for both phosphorus (q.v.) and saltpeter, or potassium nitrate. Saltpeter is Latin for “stone salt”, and it was a critical ingredient in black powder and slow matches. Saltpeter was obtained by mixing manure with either mortar or wood ashes, common earth and straw into a compost heap 5 feet high by 5 feet wide by 15 feet wide. The heap was covered to protect it from the weather and kept moist with urine. This leached the water from the heap after one year, with the remaining liquid being mixed with wood ashes to produce saltpeter. The saltpeter crystals are added to sulfur and charcoal to produce black powder.

From saltpeter, the alchemist can produce aqua fortis, or strong water. Aqua fortis is nitric acid, a highly corrosive and toxic substance. Aqua fortis was used as a solvent to dissolve silver and most other metals, with the exception of gold and platinum. It was prepared by mixing sand, alum or vitriol with saltpeter and then distilling it by a hot fire. The gas that is produced condenses into aqua fortis. Refiners used this acid to separate silver from gold and copper, to mosaic workers for staining and coloring wood, and to other artists for coloring bone and ivory a fine purple color. Book binders used it to produce a marble effect on leather. Lapidaries use it to separate diamonds from metalline powders and to etch copper and brass. When mixed with oil of vitriol, it was used to stain canes with a tortoise shell effect.

Alchemists mixed aqua fortis with spirit of salt to create aqua regia, the gold dissolving acid and an important step in the creation of the philosopher’s stone.

Zinc (7 gp / lb): Alloys

Zinc is a grey metal that is found in deposits of sphalerite. Sphalerite, which is also called zincblende, black-jack, and mock lead, is a yellow, brown or grey mineral.

Zinc is smelted by roasting in an oven. The zinc is placed in a clay retort shaped like a cylinder resting on a funnel. The retort is also packed with dolemite and a fuel like cow dung. The retort is then placed vertically into a furnace, which causes the zinc to become a vapor that condenses in the clay funnel and drips into a collection vessel. Such a furnace can separate 450 pounds of zinc in a day, producing sulfuric acid as a by-product.

Zinc is primarily used as an alloy with copper in brass. Flower of zinc, an alchemical compound also called zinc oxide, was used as a salve for the eyes, skin conditions and open wounds. It is still used in baby powder and creams that prevent or fight rash. The Romans used flower of zinc in paints and to make brass.

Hyacinth: Medium Gem
Jacinth: Medium Gem
Jargoon: Medium Gem
Zircon: Medium Gem

Zircons occur in many kinds of rocks, but mostly granite. Zircons can be black, brown, hazel, pink, red, yellow or colorless. Light colored zircons are called jargoons, a corruption of the Persian zargun, or “golden colored”. Red zircons are called jacinths, and yellow zircons hyacinths.

Zircons were believed to decorate the lost city of Iram and the hilt of Excalibur. In the Roland cycles, Ganelon gave his wife Bramimunde two golden necklaces inlaid with jacinths and amethysts. According to the Book of Enoch, there is a mountain of jacinth in Hell. Jacinth was believed to be a good luck stone for travelers. It also wards off plague and protects one from fire.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Zarmon's Hammer, a minor artifact

This is a minor artifact I worked up for Jeff Rient's open call.

Zarmon’s Hammer
Zarmon was a great smith, maybe the greatest smith in the world, or perhaps in all the Motherlands. This is a point of dispute among sages and was a point of honor to Zarmon when he yet drew breath. One winter, in the depths of the twilit season and in the throes of a pernicious melancholy, Zarmon resolved to seal his fame and forge a magical weapon, a sword. As a master smith in great demand, he had many opportunities to consult with great mages, and peppered each one who walked into his workshop with questions about the forging of magical things. While most had not the skill or knowledge to help him, a few truly learned men and women advised him that his endeavor must end in failure, for he had no command over things arcane. Finally, one archimage (possibly the magnificent Baloc) told him that, indeed, an enchanted weapon was not beyond his abilities if he was completely dedicated to the task. He would have to forge the weapon in the presence of raw elemental power and mingle his own blood, his own soul, with the weapon.

Following Baloc’s instructions, Zarmon moved his factory and household to the southern island of Taprobane, to a place where hot magma flowed into the pounding surf. There, on a windswept ridge, he constructed a forge and began working on his sword. For a year and a day he worked at refining the steel and folding it, pounding it every day with his trusty hammer, firing it in the flowing magma, quenching it in the pounding surf and anointing it with his very lifeblood. For a year and a day he poured his every waking moment into the sword, the great sword, the greatest sword forged by mortal man. And on the final day of his task, at the completion of his work, he laid his hammer on his anvil and held aloft the unadorned blade and watched it cut the wind and throw the sunlight off its back and a tremor shook Zarmon. He dropped to his knees, gasped a final breath, and toppled with his masterpiece into the flowing magma, and smith and sword ceased to be. All that was left of Zarmon the Smith was his old, trusty hammer, with which he had forged a thousand swords and known a thousand joys and sorrows and built for him a reputation as a worker of wonders.

Zarmon the Smith did not leave behind an enchanted sword for the ages, but he did leave an enchanted hammer that passed into the hands of his sons and made them almost as great as their father, and then passed into the mists of time when their workshop on the shores of Taprobane was sacked by pirates. The hammer exists to this day, looking for all the world like an old smith’s hammer and still working wonders in steel.

2 x I: ____________, ____________
1 x II: ____________
1 x III: ____________

Art: The Smithy by Martin Driscoll.

Friday, August 20, 2010

On Ibis, City of Sorcerers - Part Five

Six building descriptions for Ibis.

Part One (Map)
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four


1. House of Three Leopards: A wayfarer’s inn (map above), popular with traders, caravan guards and sailors. The inn is constructed of adobe bricks and painted with a coat of yellow paint. The sloped roof is clad in red tiles. The inn has a shaded courtyard decorated with potted palms and a long taproom that serves an excellent short beer and other simple fare. There are five dormitories (6 sp a night), six shared rooms (3 gp; single bed, don’t always choose your roommate) and four private rooms (7 gp a night).

A stairwell in the taproom leads down to the cellar, where the innkeeper store kegs of beer, bread, vegetables and expensive bottles of wine. A secret door behind the wine rack leads into a smuggler’s den. A door in the den opens to a subterranean dock and a flooded tunnel to the River of Death [A]. The den currently holds twelven marten skins worth 8 gp each, 25 ingots of zinc (5 lb, worth 8 sp each) and an olivine worth 155 gp.

The landlord of the House of Three Leopards is Hermess, a spare man with stringy white hair, piggy brown eyes and a pleasant smile. Hermess (4 hp) is paid by the smugglers, but is not one of their number and will claim he knows nothing about their hideout. His wife, Ucheb, and three children live on the ground floor in two connected rooms.

The smugglers are led by a fence named Aylana, a short woman with salt-and-pepper hair, alabaster skin and brown hair. Aylana is a former sailor who turned to crime when she lost a foot to a sahuagin attack. Aylana wears wooden hoop earrings inlaid with silver that are worth 100 gp and speaks goblin.

| Aylana, Thief Lvl 3: HP 10; AC 6 [13]; Save 13; Special: Back stab for double damage, thievery, decipher script. Leather armor, dagger, keys, brown hooded cloak. Sharp mind, contrarian.

| 1d6 Smugglers: HD 1d6; AC 7 [12]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6); Move 12; Save 18; CL/XP B/10; Special: Surprise on 1-3 on 1d6.

3. Zacoran the Chymist: Zacoran (3 hp) sells alchemical ingredients and concoctions, magical spell components (5% chance to have what you are looking for, charges 1d6x100 gp for each rare component) and there is a 1% chance he is trying to shift a magic potion or spell scroll (1d6 x 500 gp). Zacoran is a cynical man, and loud and obnoxious. He carries a wicked-looking dagger and is not shy about brandishing it if he feels he is being cheated. Zacoran is a member in good standing with the merchant’s guild [34]. His shop is guarded by an animated carpet. See “Urban Adventures” in NOD #2 for information on alchemists.

| Animated Carpet: HD 1 (7 hp); AC 9 [10]; Atk 1 (no damage); Move 6; Save 17; CL/XP 1/15; Special: Grab and hold.

5. Ramord the Wig-Maker: Ramord (5 hp) is a maker of wigs from human, goat and horse hair. He is well regarded in the neighborhood and is an outspoken advocate for the poor (though stingy in his own right). Ramord’s specialty is beards, specifically the false beards employed since Nabu times by nobles and merchants to make themselves appear more stately and elegant. Wearing such a beard, which requires the use of spirit gum, gives one a +1 bonus to reaction checks in Ibis. Ramord is a paunchy little man with pudgy but nimble fingers. Naturally, he wears a fine beard (not overly long), but his head is bald.

7. Ismid the Lapidary: Ismid (1 hp) is a scrawny young man with olive skin, thick, black hair and large, dark brown eyes. He cultivates a professional appearance, a powerful lense always hanging around his neck from a brass chain (worth 45 gp) and his clothes always neat. Ismid is single, but shares the room above his shop with his elderly and ailing father, an old soldier who was cashiered with a miniscule pension by the queen. This has stoked a burning resentment for the ruling class in Ismid, who now hosts secret meetings with agitators in his attic. The group wishes to throw down the old ruling caste and install a republic in imitation of the city-state of Antigoon. Ismid is capable of identifying the value of gems and fancy stones, and usually has a collection of minor stones (100 gp value in total) on hand for sale or trade.

9. Sudica the Chandler: This four story building houses three apartments and a chandler’s shop on the ground floor. The chandler, Sudica, is a tall, skinny woman with olive skin, dark brown hair and eyes. She has a foul personality and leads a solitary life, dipping her candles and preparing her scented soaps. She shares a room with her grandmother Nathe, who despises and fears her, for Sudica has an obsession with ghouls.

11. Granary: This two story building of thick stone is a granary that is half full of emmer wheat. It is guarded by a mature woman named Melig. Melig has alabaster skin, sandy brown hair and dark, burning eyes. She is quite short and stout, looking much like a dwarf but with finer features. Melig is a retired fighting-woman who is married to a papyrus collector named Kaval. She carries a short sword of blue-steel and wears boots of elvenkind. She is bored with her job as a guard and uninspired by her marriage, and if a better offer comes along, she will probably take it.

| Melig, Fighter Lvl 3: HP 17; AC 3 [16]; Save 14; Chainmail, shield, short sword, boots of elvenkind.


Tomorrow - final part of Mines & Mining.

Sunday - six more building previews.

Deviant Friday Five - APFurtado Edition

Sorry to introduce math into all of this, but today's Deviant, APFurtado, had lots of neat stuff and I didn't want to choose only five. You can check out his blog here. His style reminds me of Vaughn Bode's stuff and Phil Foglio's work in the grand old Dragon.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Excellent Castle Resource

This is a site I found years ago that I just re-googled today because its existence popped into my brain. Essentially, Bob Carney builds castles out of Lego and posts photos of his creations and - best of all for RPGers - floor plans! The plans are often drawn by Bob specifically for Lego construction, meaning they are a bit squared off and therefore easier to transcribe to graph paper*.

Bob has an impressive collection of castles from throughout Europe, including most of the standard castle plans (tower keep, concentric, etc). The image to the right is Neuschwanstein.

If you need a castle floor plan, take a look.

Bob Carney - The Land of Nod salutes you!

* Man, I love graph paper.
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