Saturday, December 31, 2011

A SAN Check for New Year's Eve (and a bit more)

Most disturbing video of 2011? Perhaps ...

Weird Al aside, just want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who made 2011 a good year for me. I spend my days researching the Las Vegas commercial real estate market and the economy in general, which has been both interesting and depressing for the last few years (and just wait for 2012 ...), but the year has been pretty good overall. I've had the opportunity to do some TV interviews here in town, which has bolstered my real job. The family is healthy and happy, by and large, and I'm thankful for that.

On the hobby side, I want to thank all of the kind folks who read the blog and buy my goods - you've made a dream come true for me. I want to thank Bill Webb and Frog God Games for giving me the opportunity to be published by someone other than myself (Hex Crawl Chronicles - available now!), and for the opportunity to work on Tome of Horrors Complete and the new Rappan Athuk conversion. I'd also like to thank the players of my Google + Mystery Men! game, which is proceeding nicely through the Dark Renaissance storyline (the heroes are now split between Washington D.C. and Greenland - who knows where they will go next).

For those who didn't have such a banner 2011, I pray that 2012 is a better year. Economics and finances is a big part of life, but it is only one part of life. Many folks who lived through the Great Depression learned that lesson and a few of us old timers (well, middle agers maybe) were lucky enough to spend time with those folks, who were our grandparents to hear about their experiences. That said, when the wolves are at the door, it's hard to pay attention to much else. The best we can all do in 2012 is to be creative, productive and optimistic.

Of course, if the Inca are right (yeah, I know - just let me play with the meme), we could be spending the latter part of 2012 like this ...

When everything goes wrong, remember ... be the barbarian!

Finally ... NOD

In two years (well, really more like a year and a half) I've managed to scrawl out 12 issues of my own little magazine. I'm hoping for another six issues in 2012.

NOD 13 (Feb '12) should feature three more rings of Hell - Abaddon, Gehenna and Stygia. I should manage to get the different shades of dragons in this one, as well as some more Mystery Men! content. I have one more level of the Pleasure Palace of Izrigul I want to produce, but I'm not sure when it will happen. Sometime in 2012 for sure. By the time this is out, I hope Space Princess will also be out, allowing me an opportunity to play with sci-fi a bit more in the magazine.

NOD 14 (Apr '12) will delve into Dis, the massive city of Hell. I'm hoping to do something interesting with this one - more of a metaphysical crawl through the back alleys of the mind than a proper city with streets and buildings. We'll see. Hopefully Blood and Treasure will be completed by the time this issue arrives.

NOD 15 (Jun '12) will kick off Summer with the final installment of the Hell hex crawl, right down to Hell's frozen heart and the great escape through Lucifer himself. God willing, I'll have begun work on Action X by now. I also hope to complete a Pars Fortuna dungeon for this issue.

NOD 16 (Aug '12) will leave Hell behind for the savannah of Pwenet and the jungle basin of Cush. I've already submitted an excerpt from this Africa-inspired hex crawl to Fight On!, and this issue will take up half of that complete hex crawl.

NOD 17 (Oct '12) will feature the city of Iksum on the savannah of Pwenet. Iksum has a small part to play in a future adventure set in Nod that is being written by Greg Vaughn, who does work with Frog God Games. I have no idea what else will show up this far in advance.

NOD 18 (Dec '12) will round out the year with the finish of the Cush/Pwenet hex crawl and other assorted holiday goodies. I didn't think I'd make it to 6 issues in 2011, and I only hope I can make it to 6 in 2012.

Besides Nod, I'll be working to finish Space Princess, Blood and Treasure, Action X, Queen and Kaiser and 1800 - American Empires. I have a few mini-campaign ideas for NOD, including one based on the Bowery Boys/East Side Kids movies. I had wanted to do a couple other mini-campaign things in 2011 that didn't materialize, and perhaps they will show up at some point in 2012 (post-apocalyptic Great War and giant robots). Some folks have asked for a compilation of classes that have appeared in NOD over the past couple years, and if I hear from some more people interested in such a thing, I'll see about doing that as well.

Oh, and if the Mystery Men! Dark Renaissance campaign on Google + comes to a close (which I think it will), I'd like to start a new campaign ... maybe a crazy MM! campaign based on the comics of the Silver Age, but more likely something with Pars Fortuna or a Nod hex crawl. A cruise along the highways of post-apocalypse America with Mutant Truckers could be fun as well, and might not take too much time. If you'd be interested in playing such a game on Google +, keep your eyes peeled for announcements on this blog.

So, to close this ridiculously long blog post (and blogging in general for 2011) - Thank You! I hope I can continue to entertain folks with my writing in 2012 and well into the future. If any of you need some help making your own ideas materialize, feel free to call on me - I've been very fortunate these last two years, and I'd love to help somebody else realize their dreams in 2012.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Deviant Friday - In Memoriam

Okay, not technically a Deviant Friday, because this has nothing to do with DeviantArt. Instead, I thought I'd honor some of the artists who passed away in 2011. If I missed anyone on this list, let me know in the comments and I'll add them to the shrine. R.I.P to them all, best wishes for those they left behind who are missing them terribly, and a hearty thank you for all the wonders they introduced to the rest of us through their art.

Dave Hoover

Jerry Robinson

Minck Oosterveer

Shingo Araki

Gene Colan

Joe Simon

Eduardo Barreto

Mamoru Uchiyama

Darrel K. Sweet

Jim Roslof

Jeffrey Catherine Jones

On a personal note, I'd like to honor my uncle, George Stater, who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly earlier this year. I love him dearly, and everyone who knew him will miss him keenly in the years to come.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

NOD 12 - Just in time for 2011!

NOD 12 is ready to go. You can buy the electronic version HERE now - I'll put the print version up for sale as soon as I get a proof copy and make sure it isn't totally screwed up. What do you get in 144 pages?

Welcome Back to Hell - The southern portion of the Glooms, Acheron and the first two rings of Hell.

Pandaemonium V - Stats for Asmodee, Barbatos and Naamah.

Deep Denizens II - Drow, duergar, notac-ichat and svirfneblin as playable races. Art by Jon Kaufman.

The Gourmand - The PC class that takes a bite out of ... no - I can't do that bit here.

Exotic Dining - Random tables for generating bizarre feasts.

Hero vs. Villain - A new article series that presents one original villain and one rejuvenated Golden Age hero for Mystery Men! This inaugural article presents the villainous Shatter and the heroic Madame Strange. Art by Stefan Grambart.

Mutant Truckers - A mini-game using Target 10 depicting the highways of post-apocalyptic America and the truckers who drive them. Art by Bradley K. McDevitt and Chris Huth.

Hope everyone enjoys it. The projects up ahead for me - today I try to finish putting together a glimpse of the next hex crawl, the savannah of Pwenet and jungle of Cush, for Fight On! because I've owed them an article for the better part of a year and because part of it might relate to a project somebody else is writing for Frog God Games set in NOD (blows my mind).

The weekend will be spent converting a few more levels of Rappan Athuk to Swords and Wizardry. After that, my focus is on NOD 13, Blood and Treasure and Space Princess.

So little to do, so much time. Wait - scratch that and reverse it.

Hell South - Final Preview - Palace of Minos

For those not up on their lore of Hell (or Dante's Inferno, as the case may be), Minos (former King of Crete, had a bull-headed stepson) is the judge of damned souls in Hell. His brothers show up sometimes as well, but Dante just uses Minos and I went that route as well. Minos is an interesting character - son of Zeus and Europa (remember - that's the one where Zeus masqueraded as a white bull to carry her away - bulls are a running theme for Minos), marries Pasiphae, the daughter of the titan Helios and an Oceanid named Perses. This means that Minos and Pasiphae are both, in Nod reckoning, titans. That was fun to play with.

Anyhow - Minos judges damned souls and decides which ring of Hell they should spend eternity being punished on. He also guards the narrow stairs that lead from Asphodel (ring #1 in Nod's Hell cosmology) to Erebus (ring #2), so PCs adventuring in Hell will probably have to go through Minos if they ever want to escape. Presented below is a map of his palace, a mini-dungeon in the game that is based very loosely on Minos' actual palace on Crete. Enjoy!

It was meant to be maze-like without really being a maze. The un-drawn dungeons below hold a labyrinth, of course, inhabited by Asterion, the original Minotaur - a rough customer to be sure. Oh - and the cover for NOD 12, which will be published a bit later today ...

The Archangel Michael in action by Guido Reni (1575-1642).

Monday, December 26, 2011

Hell South - Preview 10 - Breezy Books and Sheva's Chariot

Finishing up NOD 12 - just a bit more work to be done on the hex crawl, then writing the OGL page - always takes a while due to all the critters from the Tome of Horrors that show up. Anyhow - a few more locales for you to preview ...

40.97 Breezy Book: A skeleton lies in the grass here. The skeleton has a crushed skull and ribs and is wearing a robe of damask silk and a tasseled hat. The skeleton has two gold teeth (fangs, actually), a silver dagger on his belt and a leather pouch that holds his spellbook.

The spellbook has a wind walker trapped within it. The wind walker’s presence makes it impossible to read the spellbook, for the pages are whipped around violently, as though in a high wind. Attempting to handle the book carries with it a 2 in 6 chance per minute of ripping some pages and ruining one of the spells contained within. Naturally, the highest level spells are ruined first.

Spells: 1st – Detect magic, hold portal, magic missile, read magic, sleep; 2nd – darkness 15-ft. radius, ESP, knock, magic mouth, strength; 3rd – darkvision, haste, protection from normal missiles, rope trick, slow; 4th – extension I, ice storm, plant growth, wizard eye; 5th – cloudkill, magic jar, passwall, wall of stone; 6th – enchant item, invisible stalker, repulsion; 7th – monster summoning V.

51.101 Chariot: Having been driven from his lair on a deeper level of Hell, the lich Sheva of the Silver Hair has wandered Asphodel on a chariot pulled by two giant hyena. She has ever sought to build a network of alliances based on favors and threats that might return her to her lair, currently inhabited by the efreet Nabeel in the metallic desert of Gehenna. Many secrets are held in her lair, secrets she must reclaim to advance her grander schemes. Sheva’s phylactery is hidden within the tombs that circle the pit of Tiamat [57.99].

67.105 Skeletal Harpies: Nine skeletal harpies are roosting in a grove of trees here, nibbling at the sour fruits that hang there. The fruit look like human hearts, and have a pulpy, acidic flesh. The harpies really hunger for human flesh. Each time they score 5 or more points of damage with a bite attack on a humanoid, a layer of musculature covers their bones. When they have scored a total of 35 points of damage, they reform as true harpies, with all the powers and abilities of such creatures.

86.96 Lake of Sorrow: A long, narrow lake sits here on the savannah, surrounded by a thick tangle of briars that bear fragrant black roses. Bubbles rise and pop on the surface, bringing with them the sounds of sighs, moans and cries that hang over the still waters. The water of the lake is intoxicating, leaving people in a deep melancholy and unable to summon the will to do anything for 24 hours other than defend themselves. At the end of the 24 hours, they must pass a will save to keep from drinking again.

97.91 Double Trouble: The land descends into a series of interlocking canyons here. The canyons are barren of life, with grey, rigid, angular sides. Once per day, a chill wind begins to blow, tussling hair and tugging at clothes. It grows stronger, and soon forms small whirlwinds that combine to form larger whirlwinds that glow with a pale, cheerless light. Assume each character has a 1 in 6 chance per turn of being touched by one of these whirlwinds. The whirlwinds only last about for one hour (6 turns).

Any person enveloped by a whirlwind emerges unscathed, but with a double intent on murdering his “comrades”. The player has a 50-50 chance of playing either his own character or the double, and only he will know which character he now plays. The character and his double cannot harm one another – any attempt to do so meets with failure and crushing pain (6d6 points of damage) for the instigator of the violence.


Image found HERE 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas from the Land of Nod!

Nothing geek or game related. Just a wish for a Merry Christmas to all within the sight of my pixels!

(Well, okay, the Santa image to the right is kinda steampunk, so I guess there's  a little something geek related).

(And I said pixels, and that's a bit geeky.)

Oh - what the heck ...

Flying reindeers are more than just magical beasts - they are cherished creatures of the forces of Law. They appear as large, handsome reindeer with a golden tinge to their fur and a crystalline sheen to their antlers. They are uncommonly intelligent and immensely patient, though they fly into battle with creatures of chaos at the drop of a hat. The most famous of the flying reindeer are part of the team used by Saint Nicholas to make his one-per-year trip around the world to deliver gifts and tokens to all the Lawful boys and girls in the world.

Flying reindeer are capable of using the following spells: At will - detect evil, sanctuary; 3/day - haste; 1/day - time stop. They are always under the effect of a protection from evil 10-ft radius spell.

FLYING REINDEER: HD 6; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 gore (2d6) and 1 bite (1d4); Move 15 (Fly 36); Save 11 (9 vs. abilities of chaotic creatures); CL/XP 11/1700; Special: +1 or better weapon to hit, immune to cold, turn undead as 10th level cleric, spells, smite evil 1/day (double damage if gore attack is successful, forces demons and devils to save or be thrown back into Hell), magic resistance (15%).

Image from Golden Age Comic Book Stories

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Saturday Grab Bag

Just some random nonsense. I have some leaf raking and bagging to do today, along with other household chores to prepare for the family coming over tomorrow for all the traditional festivities. Whatever you do tomorrow, do it with a little love in your heart and find a way to be happy.

From the Old Fashioned Geek-mas Dept.

When I was a young lad, maybe 12, I remember borrowing a friend's copy of B1 - In Search of the Unknown and transcribing it on my parent's typewriter. Not as fancy a model as this (and they still have it!), but until I finally got an Apple IIE, the typewriter was one of my most important RPG tools. Image comes from James Lilek's Merry Kitchmas site.

From the Zeppelin Christmas Mash-Up Dept.

Fleming & John - Winter Wonderland to the tune of Misty Mountain Hop. Image and link from one of my favorite daily reads, NEVVER.

From the My Hero Dept.

I officially declare that the rest of my life will be dedicated to trying to match the greatness of this man.

From the Heart's Desire Dept.

I'm back on the weight loss trail again. I lost 50 pounds about a year ago, and then hit a long plateau. I'm now back on the trail, trying to finally get back to my college weight of 180. Images like this are both a balm and a torment.

From the Sci-Fi RPG Challenge Dept.

Okay, so we have a couple new planets to play with. Who wants to do a non-denominational sci-fi hex crawl with one of these planets? Maybe I could set up a blog called Kepler 20-F, post a map and people could all throw their 2 credits in. No game stats, no over-arching theme other than - "Recently discovered by 'Man', largely unexplored, holds secrets and ruins of the ancient Keplons". Just anything that grabs your fancy that other Referees could then use with their groups to explore. Whaddya think?

From the Thank God for Frank Cho Dept.

Yeah - just ... yeah.

From the Super Short Story Dept.

I wrote a very short story for some Lulu contest. You can download it for free from HERE if you have an e-reader thingee. If not, I'll probably post it in the near future. It's set in the Beyond the Black Water hex crawl I did with Frog God Games, and I might look at expanding it into a proper short story.

From the Blood and Treasure Art Dept.

I leave you with an elf paladin and a dwarf cleric from Blood and Treasure, both illustrations by Jon Kaufman (Pachycrocuta). Not a bad way to end a pre-Christmas post. Maybe a post tomorrow, maybe not, definitely normal posting next week. Enjoy the day, even if it has no spiritual meaning for you.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Queens of Elemental Earth

This idea popped into my head today, so I explored it a bit.


The primal earth has produced many wonders, but none so lovely (and few so powerful) as the so-called Queens of Elemental Earth. These five sisters are worshipped as goddesses by many of the folk who dwell beneath the earth and are honored by all elemental earth creatures.

The queens look like astoundingly beautiful statues of women in their natural state. They are translucent and gleam with an inner light that produces a magical aura. Within their eyes dance shimmering motes of light that affect all upon which they train their gaze. They dwell in luxurious palaces beneath the ground, served by lesser elementals and fey creatures.

While the queens are ground in neutrality, with some preference for order (i.e. Law), they are, as one might expect, possessed of a very keen appreciation for the wonder that is them. They do not like to be disobeyed or their intentions and desires frustrated, and they have no qualms about destroying lesser creatures that get in their way.

All of the queens can move through rock, stone and soil as easily as a human moves through the air. They suffer half damage from all attacks from manufactured and natural weapons.

Adamantia is Queen Diamond. She has a smooth body of translucent crystal with inner reflections of pink. Adamantia is the strongest and most durable of the five sisters, and she is unforgiving in her disdain of imperfection and muddled thinking. She is always under the effect of a true seeing spell and a zone of truth. She is worshipped as a goddess of clarity, truth and perfection. Her stronghold is a fortress of gleaming adamant, with every surface stark white and lit by a soft, pinkish-white glow. Her court includes elemental earth creatures as well as entities of Law and a host of human paladins that have declared her the focus of their courtly, chaste love.

Adamantia produces an aura of truth (see zone of truth above) that also acts a protection aura against chaotic creatures (per protection from evil, 10-ft. radius). Her gaze acts as a hold monster spell.

Adamantia can cast the following spells as innate abilities: At will – charm person; 3/day – break enchantment, charm monster, cure disease, dispel magic, haste (self), invisibility; 1/day – dimension door, ray of enfeeblement, strength, suggestion, wave of exhaustion. She can also cast spells as a 10th level cleric.

Adamantia: HD 21; AC -7 [26]; Atk 2 strikes (4d6); Move 36; Save 3; CL/XP 30/7400; Special: +2 or better weapon to hit, aura, gaze, earth glide, half damage from all weapons, suffers double damage from sonic attacks, immune to fire, resistance to cold (50%), magic resistance (65%), regenerate 3 hp/round.

Queen Ruby, Rubinia, is composed of a translucent red substance. Her hair (though it is merely sculpted on her head) appears wild and unkempt and her eyes gleam with power. She is worshipped as a goddess of fire and passion and strength. Her court includes elemental earth creatures as well as exiled or rebellious elemental fire creatures. Her stronghold is enclosed in a ruby sphere with spherical chambers that look like bubbles within the sphere and connected by curving tunnels that radiate out from her central court. Gravity is completely relative within the sphere, with people able to walk on all surfaces.

Rubinia produces an aura of weakness (10-ft. radius) that forces people to pass a saving throw or be affected per a ray of enfeeblement. Her gaze forces people to pass a saving throw or be enraged (per the emotion or rage spell, depending on which version of the grand old game you play). Enraged folk never turn their anger upon Rubinia or her servants. Her touch ages people as the touch of a ghost.

Rubinia can cast the following spells as innate abilities: At will – augury; 3/day – charm person, divination, dispel magic, haste (self), invisibility; 1/day – dimension door, flame strike, heal, heat metal. She can also cast spells as a 10th level magic-user.

Rubinia: HD 21; AC -6 [25]; Atk 2 strikes (4d6); Move 36; Save 3; CL/XP 30/7400; Special: +2 or better weapon to hit, aura, gaze, earth glide, half damage from all weapons, suffers double damage from sonic attacks, immune to fire, resistance to cold (50%), magic resistance (55%), regenerate 3 hp/round.

Esmeraude, Queen Emerald, is the most sensuous and beautiful of the sisters, possessed of a green, healthy glow and a warm, though unyielding, touch. Her stronghold is a paen to love and romance, being a series of limestone caverns with jade pools, rushing streams, laughing waterfalls and gardens of flowering trees, ferns and flowers. Her court consists of elemental earth creatures, nymphs and dryads.

Esmeraude radiates an aura of blinding beauty (per a nymph) and her gaze stuns creatures for 2d4 rounds. Her kiss can grant magic-user’s the effects of a mnemonic enhancement for 24 hours, but also imbues upon them a geas that they must visit her once per year and serve her faithfully for one week.

Esmeraude can cast the following spells as innate abilities: At will – cause blindness; 3/day – cure blindness, cause fear, dispel magic, haste (self), invisibility; 1/day – charm monster, dimension door, entangle, plant growth, suggestion. She can also cast spells as a 12th level druid.

Esmeraude: HD 21; AC -5 [24]; Atk 2 strikes (4d6); Move 36; Save 3; CL/XP 30/7400; Special: +2 or better weapon to hit, aura, gaze, earth glide, half damage from all weapons, suffers double damage from sonic attacks, resistance to cold and fire (50%), magic resistance (55%), regenerate 3 hp/round.

Queen Amethyst appears as a woman of translucent purple crystal accompanied always by three legendary panthers with purple-black fur. She is a queen of dreams who commands a court of elemental earth creatures, succubi and illusionists. Her court is held in a palace of mottled purple walls set in a maze-like layout, with many secret chambers where visitors can rest themselves on comfortable beds stuffed with celestial goose down and sleep under silk and satin, perhaps never to wake again.

Amethysta produces a purple aura of slumber (as the daze spell) and her gaze causes confusion. Those struck by her, even lightly, must pass a saving throw or fall into a deep sleep. She can deliver a kiss that drains levels per a succubus.

Amethysta can cast the following spells as innate abilities: At will – sleep; 3/day – cause fear, dispel magic, haste (self), invisibility; 1/day – dimension door, dream, nightmare, phantasmal killer, poison. She also casts spells as a 10th level illusionist.

Amethysta: HD 21; AC -5 [24]; Atk 2 strikes (4d6); Move 36; Save 3; CL/XP 31/7700; Special: +2 or better weapon to hit, aura, gaze, earth glide, half damage from all weapons, suffers double damage from sonic attacks, resistance to cold and fire (50%), magic resistance (45%), regenerate 3 hp/round, life drain.

Zaffira is a bubbly, almost giddy queen of sapphires. She appears as a beautiful, young woman with translucent blue skin, her eyes like star sapphires and her hair tumbling like cascades of water down her back to her ankles. She dwells in a floating palace of sapphire walls and misty, damp halls occupied by elemental earth creatures as well as sylphs and other exiled air creatures and giant eagles. Zaffira is worshipped as a goddess of innocence, truth and courage.

Zaffira produces an aura of euphoria. Folk who enter it must pass a saving throw or be calmed, losing all desire to commit violence or even engage in argument. Her gaze causes people to break into uncontrollable laughter (per the spell).

Zaffira can cast the following spells as innate abilities: At will – hold person; 3/day – cause fear, discern lies, dispel magic, haste (self), invisibility; 1/day – globe of invulnerability, mark of justice, ray of enfeeblement, resilient sphere, strength. She also casts spells as a 12th level cleric.

Zaffira: HD 21; AC -6 [25]; Atk 2 strikes (4d6); Move 36; Save 3; CL/XP 23/5300; Special: +2 or better weapon to hit, aura, gaze, earth glide, half damage from all weapons, suffers double damage from sonic attacks, resistance to fire and cold (50%), magic resistance (65%), regenerate 3 hp/round.


Image found HERE. Painted by Jean-Baptiste Regnault (1786).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

If You Have Thought About Buying NOD Stuff ...

... today might be the day. Big sale at Lulu for one day only.

Not a bad deal - I know I have a couple things I've been thinking about picking up.

You can find my stuff HERE, and other Old School goodies HERE.

Hell South Preview 9 - Oedipal Shrines and Anesthetic Jellies

15.70 Overturned Wagon: A wagon with chipped and faded anatomical drawings on the bulging sides and large, solid, round wheels has overturned here. There doesn’t appear to be anyone present. Jars of preserved organs and hands fill the wagon. The jars are uncommonly thick and sealed with wax, and none of them are broken. The jars contain about 15 hearts, 20 livers, 5 gallbladders, 3 spleens and 30 hands – determine the source randomly. The body parts are preserved in a weird, anesthetic jelly that, when the jars are opened, turns out to be alive. These oozes feed on warmth, draining heat from their victims.

ANESTHETIC JELLY: HD 3; AC 9; Atk 1 touch (1d6 cold + numbness); Move 9; Save 14; CL/XP 4/120; Special: Body parts touched become numb and useless if save is failed, if deals 6 points of damage, it doubles in size.

19.78 Rebellious Garrison: There is a fortress of dark gray stone, stained with bird droppings and shaped like a cube with only a faint arched line on the bottom of one side indicating a portal, overlooking the gray-green grasses here. The fortress is 40 feet tall, wide and deep, and thorny vine (assassin vines) cling to the corners of the cube, some of them reaching as high as 30 feet. A company of vulchlings stand atop the fortress, cackling and throwing spear ineffectively at the fortress’s mistress, the malacarna Thienhela, who stands on the ground below, shaking her fist and demanding they relent and open the portal to her.

Thienhela found herself cast out of the fortress while she snoozed, her former garrison acting under the orders of a recent arrival, the incubus Daznishu. Daznishu is acting under the advisement of Kerothuar and Hanoarnah, two very ambitious imps.

Thienhela is anxious to get back inside. For one thing, she was cast out in the all-together and knows that even a malacarna cannot long survive on the Asphodelian savannah without armor and weapons. She will agree do just about anything to sway adventurers to her side, though collecting after she has regained her throne might be tricky.

22.84 Hunters: A large village of mud huts covered with thorny branches sits here. It is home to 300 gnolls and their wives and cubs. The gnolls, though normally loyal to Barbatos, now serve Flavros. Each has had one of its arms hacked off at the shoulder and replaced with a scaled, demonic looking limb that can act independently of it. In essence, a disloyal gnoll can strangle itself while it sleeps. The gnolls are miserable wretches, and especially mean spirited because of their humiliation. They have six giant hyenas in their village.

23.85 Axe Beaks: A flock of 500 demonic axe beaks (no feathers, bilious green skin, black, jagged beaks) roam this hex. Encounters with 1d6 of the birds occur on a roll of 1-2 on 1d6 made each day. If one fights 1d6 of the birds, they discover that another 1d6 birds are attracted by the noise every 10 rounds on a roll of 1 on 1d6.

30.95 Shrine of Oedipus: There is a temple here that looks like six black cubes, each 30 feet long, wide and tall. Five are laid out in a cross-formation, the sixth stacked atop the middle cube. The place is constructed of basalt blocks and the floors, clad in white tiles, are covered in about four inches of ash. Columns of black and gold swirled marble hold up the ceiling except in the inner sanctum, which has a 60-ft. high roof. The inner sanctum holds a 40-ft tall statue of Oedipus, unclad and holding a staff. The statue has empty pits for eyes. On one of the upper walls of the inner sanctum there is a large brass gong.

If two precious stones are placed in the eye pits of the idol and the gong is struck, it flashes with an image of the death of the person who strikes the gong. Determine this fate randomly:

1. Dragon Breath
2. Death Ray
3. Fall
4. Fireball
5. Lightning Bolt
6. Mummy Rot
7. Poison
8. Spear Trap
9. Swallowed Whole
10. Trampled

When next the character encounters this attack, he suffers a -5 penalty to saving throws against it. If he survives, the prophecy is proved false and he suffers no further saving throw penalties against that attack form.

If the gong is struck without putting gemstones in the idol’s eyes, it acts as a monster summoning VII spell.


Image from Wikipedia

Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Anniversary to Me! (And a Magic Item)

No, not a blog anniversary. That's in March sometime. A wedding anniversary. Number 17, in fact. If you enjoy all the nonsense I post on this blog and publish through Lulu, join me in thanking my wife, Wendy, for her support and tolerance of this very geeky, often time-consuming hobby of ours. About a decade or so ago, I had put my RPG days behind me. When some friends invited me to play some of the new D-n-D (I was so far out of the hobby that I didn't know TSR was gone and a new version of the game in the works), I was hesitant. My wife thought I should go play with my friends. Ultimately, this led me to the new old versions of the game and convinced me I should give blogging a try. That led to the publishing and a new facet of my life - just in time for a very geeky mid-life crisis, I guess. So, this is to my bride of 17 years - I hope for countless happy years to come, but with her I'm ready for anything the world can throw at me. Except maybe rabid badgers shot out of a bazooka - who could really be ready for that?


Now, for the game content ...

Golden Bands of Bonding: These two golden rings are plain and unadorned. When slipped on the fingers of two people in love, they act as rings of protection +1. When the people hold hands, they create protection from evil, 10' radius and sanctuary effects. When apart, the rings allow the wearers to know the general state of well-being of the other. If one is in mortal danger, the rings allow the mate to call them (as a summoning spell) to their present location. This drains the remaining magic in the rings, and they become ordinary rings thereafter. If one of the ring wearers is killed, the mate can instead use this magic to summon the person's killer.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hell South - Preview 8: Evil Pumpkins and Dwarf Kings

I'm about three days away from finishing the main writing on the Hell South hex crawl for NOD 12. Then I have a few articles to finish up and should be able to publish before Christmas - or maybe after Christmas. We'll see.

10.72 Anemone Shelf: Hundreds of brightly colored giant sea anemones are attached to a wide shelf along the bank of the Acheron, about 70 feet below the surface. Equally colorful nixies dwell within these anemone, sometimes falling prey to them, but more often tending them. The nixies are led by the druid Anwyla, whose sea cave lair is hidden by the anemones. Deep within this sea cave there is a bubbling fountain of air. Bathing in this air, which carries a damp, green smell, one becomes a creature of living water. While in this form, the person can swim at a speed of 30 and is immune to cold and resistant to fire. This state lasts for a number of hours equal to the person’s constitution score.

35.99 Bothaaa: This hex holds the lair of Bothaaa, a giant, fiendish octopus spawned by Dagon himself. Bothaaa is usually in his sea cave, studying his greatest treasure, a jar that holds the preserved head of the Rivana, youngest daughter of the lich lord Piran. This head wears a crystal diadem (worth 1,000 gp). It is still alive, the body resting in Guelph in an ornate crypt. The head is sought by Dudge, the chaotic knight currently trapped in the stomach of the dragon whale Oraguldurn [7.63].

9.66 Grimserne: Grimserne is the dark city of Alberich, the king of the nyblings, a race of sorcerous, demonic dwarves. The nyblings are sore put upon by Alberich, and the shade slaves of Grimserne even more so.

Grimserne is home to 5,000 shades and 3,500 nyblings. The city is built into the sides of a massive and ever deepening pit mine from which the slaves extract copious amounts of coal, enough to fire the furnaces of Dis. The nymblings direct the slaves in their mining and then form them into great caravans who march towards the palace of Minos and the narrow stairs that lead down to the third ring of Hell. Each shade holds 300 pounds of coal in its back in canvas and leather sacks, and by the end of the journey to Dis are so spent that they often melt into the landscape, only to emerge back in their pit a few days later.

Alberich is a mighty sorcerer among dwarves. He and his people possess an unheard of skill at forging magical items, making them as easily as most craftsman make normal items, but expecting cruel payments for their handiwork and cursing the items to make sure they are not betrayed.

11.70 Prison Farm: The damned souls of 450 greedy halfling farmers toil here on a vast field, farming and tending animals under the poisonous whip of the balor Enkepis and his manes. The halflings grow bitter kale, lima beans, Brussels sprouts and pumpkins that grow to about four feet in diameter and bear tormented faces on their pale orange skins. They also tend sheep that they turn into spicy meat pies that are valued throughout Hell.

Each of the pumpkins, if one should carve a hole into it and crawl inside (gnomes and halflings can manage this) is a portal to the surface world.

13.57 Peat Fields: This hex was once a great swamp of tsetse flies and stinging nettles. It has since been drained and is now a great expanse of peat fields. Miserable shades now roam the fields, cutting the peat under the watchful eyes of gnoll overseers. The peat is destined for the lodge of Barbatos, who disdains the use of coal and thornwood. The peat moss is rank with worms, each one with the face of a damned, miserable soul.


Image by Rackham; found at Wikipedia.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Deviant Friday - Loston Wallace Edition

Hey boys and girls - let's have some fun with Loston Wallace today. Enjoy the art, kids, and visit him at DeviantArt!

Mars Attacks



Great Race of Yith

Rom, Greatest of Spaceknights

Iron Man

Buscema's Conan

Thing Color

Suicide Squad

Batgirl vs. the Vampire

Class Rocketeer

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Six Magical Bracelets for Your Viewing Pleasure

Just got an art book by Steve Prescott delivered yesterday (Aggregate - buy it, won't you) and was inspired by the chick on the cover.

Bangles of Bakram: These two bangles are carved from wood and each bears a small hole in it. The bangles were originally worn as earrings by Bakram, a highly skilled and deadly monk who weighed in the neighborhood of 350 pounds. If worn as earrings again, these items grant the wearer the abilities of a monk 5 levels, or, if you have no levels as a monk, a 5th level monk. Most folk make the mistake of wearing them as bracelets. When put on the wrists, the bangles grant the same ability, but also grant the wearer Bakram’s weight. Ballooning to 350 pounds, the person suffers a -2 penalty to their constitution score and is treated as though they are carrying their extra weight as added encumbrance.

Armlets of Devolution: These armlets, when placed around the biceps, hold tight and cannot be removed. The armlets act as rings of protection +1. Each week, the wearer must pass a saving throw or their body and mind “devolves”. Elves devolve initially into half-elves and then humans. Other demi-humans devolve into humans (of the same general height as their original race). Once human, or if they began as humans, they devolve first into a Neanderthal and then into an albino ape. Once the person has been changed into an albino ape, the armlets release from them. Changing back requires a wish.

Bracelet of Missile Deflection: These thick bracelets of gold, when clasped around the wrists, grant a +2 bonus to Armor Class against missile attacks. Moreover, when the wearer is attacked by magic missiles, they can make a saving throw to not only avoid the attack, but to deflect those missiles back at their caster.

Bracelet of Reaching: This single bracelet is made of bronze and engraved with a triangle pattern. It is normally kept off of one’s wrist, for when it is put on a person’s hand disappears and can be projected, by the wearer, from any similarly sized hole in their view. This could be the top of a vase, another bracelet, a large key ring, a mouse hole, etc. The bracelet can be pushed up to the shoulder if the wearer wishes, with their projected hand (which is part of their body and can be damaged normally) extending to the same length.

Bracers of Magnetism: These iron bracelets are set with large hematites. When clanged together, they can pull any small iron or steel item to the bracelets. If the item is held, the holder can make a strength check to hold onto their item; the bracelets pull with a strength of 25. If a sharp item is pulled to the wearer, they must pass a saving throw to avoid being hit and damaged by that item as though it was wielded by a person with a strength of 25.

Dragon Bracers: These bracers are made from the hide of a blue dragon. Once per day, the wearer can cause the bracers to cover their body with the equivalent of leather armor and granting them immunity to lightning attacks. The armor lasts for 10 rounds, but if struck with lightning immediately retract.

Now This Is the Seed of a Game ...

Map of San Fran's Chinatown in 1885. And I mean hardcore Chinatown - tongs and exiled princesses and foolish Occidentals and opium dens and weird dragon cults and foo dogs and all that good stuff. I have to do something with this ...

Oh - and Emperor Norton. Have to throw in Emperor Norton, just for fun. Maybe it could be a supplement to Action X? Or a board game - like Monopoly but with tongs and kung-fu.

Map from THE BIG MAP BLOG, the internet's premier source for BIG MAPS! When you're in the mood for a BIG MAP, think THE BIG MAP BLOG.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea!

I'm backing it, and maybe you should as well. Check it out ...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The "S" Word in Blood & Treasure

While I've been scrambling to finish NOD 12 by the end of the year, Blood and Treasure and Space Princess have been simmering on the back burner. B and T is about 80% complete - all the monsters, spell and magic items converted, classes written, basic rules finished - and is mostly waiting for some info on high level play (strongholds, wargames, magic research) and a sample delve. Space Princess needs some modifications to the rules (fairly minor) and a formal writing down of the sample delve. They'll probably both be available in January of 2012.

In the meantime, here's a look of how non-combat actions can be resolved in the game (i.e. skills, one of the dirtiest words in Old School gaming). Also, a preview of the game's iconic thief.


The concept of “heroic tasks” covers everything from climbing a sheer wall to riding a dragon. Brushing one’s teeth or stepping over a puddle do not qualify as heroic tasks, and characters can do these and most things automatically, without rolling any dice. Accomplishing very difficult (or almost impossible) tasks, on the other hand, does require a player take dice in hand and roll to discover his character’s fate.

For each of the heroic tasks described below, the conditions of the task are described as either “easy” or “difficult”. If somebody meets the definition of an easy task, they need not roll dice to see if they succeed. Success is assumed.

For people attempting a difficult task, dice must be rolled, and failure imposes consequences.

The actual dice to be rolled and the number needed for success depends on whether the person attempting the heroic task is unskilled, unskilled but has a knack or skilled.

UNSKILLED: An unskilled person can succeed at a difficult task by rolling 1d20, adding the relevant ability modifier, and trying to equal or beat an “18”. Alternatively, you can simply roll 1d6 and attempt to roll a “1”.

KNACK: An unskilled person with a knack for something (such as an elf’s knack for finding secret doors or a gnome’s knack for listening at doors) can succeed at a difficult task by rolling 1d20, adding the relevant ability modifier, and trying to equal or beat a “15”. Alternatively, you can simply roll 1d6 and attempt to roll a “1” or “2”.

SKILLED: A character skilled at a heroic task improves his chances of success as he or she advances in level. A skilled skill check is made by rolling a saving throw, modifying the 1d20 roll with the appropriate ability score modifier.

The type of saving throw depends on the ability most associated with the heroic task. Saving throws made to accomplish a heroic task are modified by their associated ability score, not the ability scores that normally modify saving throws (see Saving Throws above).

Strength: Fortitude
Dexterity: Reflex
Constitution: Fortitude
Intelligence: Will
Wisdom: Will
Charisma: Will

In some circumstances, a Referee can alter which ability is associated with a heroic task, and therefore which type of saving throw. Such is the power of being a Referee!

If a heroic task you are attempting involves more than one difficulty, a -2 penalty per extra difficulty is applied to the dice roll. For example, riding a mount during combat is difficult, and therefore requires a skill check for success. Riding an untamed flying mount that has been frightened during combat involves four different difficulties, and thus imposes a -6 penalty (-2 per difficulty beyond the first) to the skill check to avoid failure.

[Note - just a sample of the more "old school" heroic tasks here - there are more in the game]

Adventurers tend to get themselves into trouble, either by breaking into a monster’s home and stealing its loot or by failing to pay the king’s taxes on said stolen loot. This means that they might end up in the king’s dungeon or maybe on the wrong side of a portcullis with thousands of angry kobolds rushing towards them.

EASY: Bending bars is only easy if the bars are made of a weak metal, like gold, or very rusty iron bars. Using a tool might make bending bars an easy task as well.

DIFFICULT: The following difficulties force a character to attempt an action check when bending bars:
• Bending normal metal bars
• Bending bars one inch or more thick

FAILURE: The bars do not bend.

NOTE: Adamantine bars cannot be bent.

When a wizard wants to hide their treasure for all time, they might put it behind a massive metal door with a dozen locks trapped with acid, or they might put it behind a door that blends into the wall. Of course, they might do both.

SKILLED: Elves have a knack for finding secret doors.

EASY: Finding a secret door is never easy.

DIFFICULT: The following difficulties force a character to attempt an action check to find a secret door:
• Secret door is built to resemble the surface of a wall, floor or ceiling (i.e. all secret doors).
• Secret door is hidden using magic.

FAILURE: The secret door remains a secret.

NOTE: Finding a secret door does not necessarily mean opening a secret door. Many secret doors require special catches to be tripped (a book pulled from a bookshelf or a wall sconce pulled down, for example). Characters who cannot figure out how to open a secret door may have to batter it down (see Battering Doors above).

When an adventurer finds themselves hunted in a hostile dungeon or fortress, hiding might come in handy.

SKILLED: Thieves and assassins are skilled at hiding anywhere. Rangers are skilled at hiding in the wilderness. Halflings have a knack for hiding.

EASY: Hiding one’s entire body behind a solid opaque object.

DIFFICULT: The following difficulties force a character to attempt an action check to hide:
• Hiding behind a translucent objects (no, you cannot hide behind a transparent object!)
• Hiding behind an object smaller than you are.
• Hiding behind a non-rigid object, such as curtains.
• Hiding in nothing but shadow (counts as two difficulties)
• Hiding while under observation (requires a distraction)

FAILURE: You are noticed by an observer.

NOTE: If wearing camouflaging clothing (i.e. green in a woodland, black when hiding in shadows) you may receive a +2 bonus to your dice roll.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Greatsword - A Card of Game of Sword Duels

Here's my draft of the rules for a card game of sword-against-sword combat using a normal, everyday deck of cards. I call it Greatsword. Let me know if you try it out and what you think. I'm going to try to find some time this week to try it out myself.

Dueling with a Deck of Cards

Toying with a mini-game involving sword duels and a deck of cards. I'll fill you all in as I get further with it, but at the moment it involves playing black cards for offense, red cards for defense, sometimes wanting to go higher than your opponent, sometimes lower, may include some bluffing elements for feints, damage would involve losing cards in your hand and it would take into account the benefits of using a shield. Sound good? We'll see.

In the meantime, enjoy a small glimpse into HELL!

9.57 Amber Tower: Three hundred cowardly shades dwell here in a village of packed mud houses surrounded by a dry moat filled with pongee sticks coated with a black, tar-like poison that causes people to slip into a comatose sleep for 1d4 days. When they awake, they find themselves changed, their skin scaled and colored deep purple on their extremities and their minds possessed of an animal cunning, though their intelligence score drops to 2.

The shades of the village have ashen skin that is cracked and dry. They are lean and quiet and move stiffly, almost as though they were zombies.

The village is overseen by Leralol, a nalfeshnee minion of Barbatos who dwells in a tower of amber glass that gives off waves of heat. Standing within 100 feet of the tower is uncomfortable. Moving to within 10 feet causes 1d4 point of damage per turn. This damage persists within the tower, which is about 50 feet tall and 20 feet in diameter. Each floor of the tower is circular in shape, with an arched roof and a spiral stair in the center leading to the next floor. All of the glass surfaces in the tower are hot to the touch, causing 1d6 points of damage.

In the lower chambers, Leralol has dozens of newly arrived shades chained to the ceiling, drying like prosciutto. The third level holds changed victims of the black tar poison in cages. These poor souls serve as Leralol’s primary form of entertainment – hunting. The fourth level holds his kennel of nerizo demons, which he uses on his hunts. The fifth level holds his own quarters, a room about twice as big as it should be, given the size of the tower. This room is decorated with all manner of grisly hunting trophies, most of them humanoid, but also many wild, demonic animals as well, a row of seven succubus heads posed most scandalously and the head of a hellephant that has been turned into a headboard on Leralol’s bed. Five servant succubi are chained to this bed, but have enough room to move through the chamber, which connects to a small pantry, kitchen and armory.


Image is the iconic fighter from Blood & Treasure, by Jon Kaufman (natch)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hell South - Preview 7: Ghoul Town

110.100 Ghala-ghilan: Ghala-ghilan is the gruesome city-state of the ghouls and ghasts and their hideous lords. The city houses 5,000 ghouls, 1,500 ghasts and their slaves/cattle, which number 1d10 x 1,000 humanoids at any given moment. Ghala-ghilan has sandstone walls topped by a hundred onion domes cast in bronze and painted with black enamel. In each tower there is a squad of ghouls armed with slings and crude axes. The streets of Ghala-ghilan are wide and covered with a damp, slimy film. The buildings are sandstone towers rising 30 to 50 feet in height, with flat roofs topped by memorial statues stolen from cemeteries all over the world. Amidst these towers there are long palaces with colonnades.

The ghouls need not eat often, so when they do slaughter their herds of humanoid slaves, they hold grandiose feasts with strangely sedate and dainty entertainments.

112.99 Celestial Army: An army of luminous aasimar has gathered here for an assault on Ghala-ghilan, the city of ghouls [110.100], for the ghouls have stolen something precious to the powers of Law, the legendary Pistis Sophia. The paladin Eaduvenius leads the bright host, who are now camped in white pavilions (regrettably sullied by their long trek through the Underworld) flying white pennons emblazoned with various symbols holy to the forces of Law. The army numbers 25 companies of heavy infantry and 50 companies of light infantry and archers. Almost all of them are drawn from the Farukh, the descendants of the Heavenly Host that once descended to Nod to destroy the wicked city of Irem and stayed to long. The Farukh dwell in the hills outside of the city-state of Guelph. In addition to the warrior, the army has about 300 bearers and handlers to look after the giant lizards used as pack animals, and ten packs of blink dogs.

117.64 Hot Cave: There is a deep, dank, damp cave here that is heated by a thermal vent and mineral spring. The interior of the cave and much of the exterior is covered by a massive yellow musk creeper. The cave is always filled with 3d6 yellow musk zombies and encounters with 2d4 zombies occur in this hex on a roll of 1-4 on 1d6 per day.

120.63 Exploding Pool: A simple pool in this hex is bordered by white stones that glow lightly. Should a person try to drink from it, the fountain explodes into a water spout, throwing them 1d10 x 10 feet into the air. Should one attempt to ride this spout to the top (requires a dexterity check on 2d6+12) find they can access a chamber carved into the ceiling that contains a great trove of treasure guarded by an ancient water elemental.

121.66 Tormented Mephits: Ten fire mephitis have been chained to the ground here near a frosty cave. The cave is inhabited by three frost giant brothers, Frimli, Giri and Hundi and their pet small white dragon, Snurl. The giants torment the mephitis from time to time, carrying small torches near them and then snapping them away.


Image from Golden Age Comic Book Stories; by Virgil Finlay

Friday, December 9, 2011

Deviant Friday - Chen Wei

Some classic stuff today from Chen Wei - Lorlandchain on DeviantArt. Some of it reminds me Chris Achilleos. All of it is excellent.



The Jurney

Dance with Ice and Fire


Cavalier of Gold

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