Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Coming of the Alpha Cetaceans

When paleontologists unearthed the giant skull from the alkaline soil of central Nevada, they at first believed they had found the skull of a prehistoric whale, for the famous deserts of Nevada were once covered by a shallow sea. Little did they imagine they had found the proof that Earth had been visited long ago by a race of giant aliens, or that they were due for a re-visitation.

The Alpha Cetaceans come from a massive, damp, wooded planet in the Alpha Ceti system. They stand roughly 40 feet tall and have a thick, stocky build. Their skulls are topped by a massive bone crest that acts as an “aerial” for their psychic powers. For millions of years the highly advanced Alpha Cetaceans have roamed the universe as self-appointed chroniclers of history and arbiters of the fitness for survival. When they visited Nevada 250 million years ago, they found the primitive life forms remarkable for their variety and entered into their logs a notation of the likelihood of intelligent life that might one day rival them evolving. This, of course, necessitated a scheduled re-visit for a possible extinction event. Among the Alpha Cetaceans was one scholar Leiru, who attempted to destroy the expedition that life on Earth might progress unmolested. For this, she was killed by her fellows and left to rot under the shallow sea.

When exploring, the Alpha Cetaceans wear suits of battle armor in vibrant colors (blues, yellows, purple, greens) that reflect their heritage and scholarly achievements. Besides their psychic powers, they are armed with massive energy lances.

LVL 8 | PH 10 | MN 12 | DC 16 | SPD 2 | XP 10000
ATK Energy Lance (3d6, 100’ range) or slam (2d6)
POW Analyze, Command, Commune, Locate, Read Minds, Sending, Telekinesis
GEAR Heavy Armor (Levitate, Shield), Energy Lance (Energy Bolt)

Image depicts a blue whale skull turned on end. From an image roundup at Super Punch.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Deviant Friday - Gureiduson Edition

I am an unabashed fan of Gureiduson - love the sense of fun and wonder in this style and the attention to detail. When I eventually write hex crawls set in Hybresail, his images will be at the forefront of my mind. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Aaron Zirkelbach has posted a very kind review of PARS FORTUNA on YouTube. Check it out and then ask yourself "Why haven't I bought this modern day classic yet?"

And for the record - pronounced everything the same way I do. Of course, I don't know if I'm pronouncing the names correctly, but if I am, he is as well.

Le Freak - C'est Chic

The Fabulous Freak started life as a Delbert Haynesworth, a carnival barker for a "freak show" that traveled with the Dingling Brothers Circus. Delbert, despite his somewhat shabby profession, was a decent man who resented the way his performers and friends were treated by his audience. One terrible night, as the circus was winding down its show, a fire broke out, trapping the freak show performers and killing them. Delbert blamed himself for not being able to save them. He quit the circus after his friends were buried and became a noted bum on the streets of Shore City.

One night, while drowning his sorrows in a bottle of rotgut in the cemetery, he was visited by the spirits of his deceased friends, who he discovered were able to lend their abilities to him. Deciding to punish society (and make a few bucks in the process), he became the super criminal known as the Fabulous Freak! His current whereabouts are unknown.

Note - the picture has nothing to do with the Fabulous Freak, who is an original character. It just fit the bill!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Happy Happy Hexcrawl Joy Joy!

HC1CoverWebSWThe Frog God has informed me that the first of my Hex Crawl Classics is being printed AS WE SPEAK!!! Okay, maybe not exactly as I speak - or write. Nevertheless, it's on its way. Like all things Frog God, it comes in two flavors - Swords and Wizardry and Pathfinder, which I think is pretty cool - some old school goodness for the middle school folks ('cause, if 4E is now new school, then 3E must be middle school - right?)

Okay - so what are these Hex Crawl Classics? Basically, Bill asked me to write some non-setting specific material like my Nod stuff. Within about 5 pages, of course, I was already turning the things into a setting and linking them. Oh well - it's tough to do a "value added" sandbox setting (i.e. more than writing "5 hill giants are sitting here around a campfire") without injecting some setting into the thing.

So, Valley of the Hawks is based on a bit of land being settled by a couple different cultures - the Witch-Men from the south and the Northern Men from - you guessed it - the North. The native humans aren't all that happy about it, but they're a bit primitive and unorganized, so they're mostly reduced to being wandering encounters. The original settlers, elves, either don't care or care quite a bit and want to do something about it. Here's a preview of the race descriptions ...

The Golden Men are descended from the ancients and now dwell in small hunter-gatherer bands in the woodlands or as brutal nomads on the prairie. They have golden-brown skin and blazing red hair. Warriors wear leather armor and carry stout clubs and leather slings, or metal weapons they have scavenged from their victims.

The Northmen have ebony or chocolate skin and wavy hair of brown or black, often worn long. Most are stout and plump, but a few villages mingled with the elves in elder times and are noted for their height and the electric sparkle in their eyes. The northmen are known for their baggy trousers and long tunics. They favor axes and curved knives and usually wear chainmail or platemail.

The Witchmen have tan or olive skin and a great variety of hair and eye colors. They wear long, straight tunics and woolen leggings. Their shoes are leather and pointed, and they wear tall pointed hats with wide brims; both shoes and hats are decorated with buckles of brass or silver. The witchmen carry long swords and daggers, and wear either ring armor or chainmail. Their leaders are skilled in swordsmanship and magic, and should be treated as elves.

So, if you enjoy the Land of Nod stuff, you'll find more of the same. Weird encounters, a couple small mini-dungeons, pulp fantasy thrown in with sci-fantasy and fairy tales, a roster of strange gods - and hopefully a few evenings of enjoyment for the folks who plunk down their hard-earned coin for it.

HCC 2 - The Winter Woods is in editing and on its way, HCC 3 - Beyond the Black Water is written (my favorite so-far) and I've started plotting out HCC 4 - The Shattered Empire today.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kardiak and Psychedelic for Mystery Men!

It was a warm summer night when Lisa Grabowski saw the fortune teller machine on the boardwalk of the (now closed) amusement park in Shore City's Waterfront district. Paint pealing, copper fixtures turned green with time, the old manikin inside beckoned her forward. Dropping a quarter in the slot, Lisa's finger caught on a bit of ragged metal and a single drop of blood followed the quarter inside the machine. That drop of blood worked its way through the machinery until it touched a tiny silver pentagram hidden deep within, and Kardiak was released.

Where Kardiak comes from exactly is unknown, although many prominent mystics assure the government that it hails from another dimension, possibly The Beyond. What it is is horrifying - a disembodied human heart that measures ten feet tall from top to bottom and which has eight "tentacles" that look like oozing arteries hanging from its sides. The entity seems to be quite intelligent, using its rhythmic throbbing to control people and organize them into armies or defensive shields. It can also fly and drain people's lives away with a touch of its tentacle.

One of the more potent threats to ever hit Shore City, it took the efforts of the entire team of Golden Gladiators plus the visiting Zipper to stop it from its plans of world conquest. Kardiak now resides inside a frozen laboratory hidden deep inside a mountain.

To say Prof. Hammond Davies got a little too into the '60s would be putting it mildly. A chemist by trade, he did quite a bit of experimentation with his own chemicals during the Summer of Love and became the super villain called Psychedelic, a modern day trickster intent on expanding people's minds - whether they like it or not. Although not terribly dangerous, he does rob banks and the homes of the wealthy to keep himself in the manner to which he has become accustomed. Psychedelic is always assisted by a pretty, intelligent blonde chem student he calls Saffron. There have been many Saffrons through the years, but all of them adhere to the same basic template.


Okay - what's the point of all these villains? Well, for one thing they're fun to make up, and they put a more personal touch on the Shore City than just re-using public domain heroes and villains. Also, they will eventually grace the pages of a supplement I want to call VILLAINY INC.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Two New Villains for Mystery Men!

To celebrate Easter I present two super villains that aren't remotely themed to Easter, Spring or anything else. Huzzah!

Super Size
Dexter Finkel was well liked. He was funny, terribly sarcastic, hard working and generally regarded as a "good guy". He was also miserable, because being a good guy, and a good guy weighing north of 260 pounds, wasn't much help with the ladies. He'd tried just about every diet plan conceived by modern man (except exercise and eating less, it should be noted), but one disappointment and he was right back at the burger stand (Mister Patty, with seventeen locations around Shore City for your convenience) and the double patty bacon blast with fries and a shake.

It was after on such binge that he awoke to an advertisement on the radio - Wainwright Labs seeking overweight people to take part in an experimental weight loss drug. Dexter grabbed his phone and, after a few questions, got himself on the list.

The drug worked well, at first. He started shedding pounds, though it made his teeth ache, and had himself down to a slim 180 when a minor rejection from the receptionist at his office sent him right back to Mister Patty. Only this time, he couldn't stop at one double. After four he felt something must be wrong, because he not only didn't feel full, he was growing. After ten, he'd put on 200 pounds and 3 feet and it wasn't stopping. Naturally, a rampage resulted that only ended when Fantome used her natural charisma to distract him long enough for Miss Victory to put the hammer down on the 10 ton, 15 foot tall Dexter Finkel (and by hammer, I mean bulldozer). Nicknamed "Super Size" by the Daily Herald, Dexter is now serving time at Iron Island, where positive affirmations and a very controlled diet are temporarily keeping him from being a threat to himself and others.

Out in the cold depths of space, there exist a race of cyborg apes called Ro-Men. For ages, these apes have watched the advancement of human beings and now they are beginning down the long road to mankind's destruction. Their advance scout is Extension XJ-2. His mission is to lay the foundation for man's destruction, starting with the sabotage of his space programs. Unfortunately, Ro-Man's activities brought him into conflict with Rocky X and his Rocketeers, and he found his plans delayed, if not stopped entirely, by a stint in Iron Island. He still manages to send short messages to the Great Guidance via his antennae, and still plans to finish his mission when he finds a way out of prison.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Deviant Friday - Sanford Green Edition

First a warning. If pseudo manga-inspired drawing causes you some manner of existential pain, look away, my friend, look away.

Sanford Greene - Greenestreet on DeviantArt - helps me overcome my own recent lack of interest in all things manga/anime. Honestly, much of the work I see in that style strikes me as formulaic, but I think with the best of the artists that work in that style, craft overcomes style. I like Greene's craft - dynamic, bright and fun. Enjoy!

As a side note - I adore Avatar. It would make such an excellent rpg setting!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Schrodinger - New Villain for Mystery Men!

Harvey Paxson was a grad student at Shore City University with his eyes on the prize - a research grant and a place on the faculty. In the summer of 1968 he became a research assistant to Dr. Barton Merryweather, a brilliant man regarded as something of a kook by other professors at the university, but highly favored by several donors due to his research into life extension and metaphysics. Paxson had no particular interest in the research - didn't believe in it in fact - but he needed the money and wanted the contacts. If Merryweather's research made wealthy donors happy, Paxson was only too happy to be involved.

And so it happened, as summer turned to fall, that Paxson found himself sitting in a chair in the laboratory with a metal box affixed to his chest by a dozen electrodes in an experiment, Dr. Merryweather explained in his rambling stutter, to "separate, enhance and reintegrate your essential self" - whatever that meant. Paxson was placed under a mild hypnotic trance and told to focus on himself (not that he needed a hypnotic trance to do that) and the box was activated and then everything went black.

When Paxson awoke, it was to a scene of horror. He was still sitting in the chair and the box was still affixed to his chest, but the laboratory was a shambles and Dr. Merryweather was dead, looking as though he had been torn apart by a jungle cat. In his usual reaction of self-preservation, Paxson attempted to tear the box, electrodes and all, from his chest and flee, but the box would not be removed, and the wires now appeared to have sunk into his very flesh. He could flee, though, and did so, seeking the shelter of his apartment on Toth St in College Town. He re-emerged the next day to plead his case to the dean, doing his best to hide the box, and although cleared of the murder and destruction, found himself on academic probation for fleeing the scene and not notifying the authorities.

Paxson again returned to his apartment, bitter and in a rage, and almost as soon as he closed the door, he passed out. He woke a few hours later to the sound of sirens and, a few hours later, discovered that the dean had been similarly mauled by a jungle cat. Being quite intelligent, Paxson had no problem putting one and one together. The box, in some manner, had worked. It had separated Paxson's essential self - aggressive, self-centered, power-hungry - but had also unleashed it into the real world.

A series of crimes followed, as Paxson got the hang of unleashing his "inner self". He made an attempt to conquer the underworld of Shore City, taking the name Shrodinger, but ultimately found himself defeated an imprisoned in Iron Island by the Golden Gladiators.

Image taken from HERE.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mu-Pan - Encounter XXV

Ah - the final encounter preview! Enjoy ...

3718. An ancient town stands by the side of the river. It once held a fine market, but the arrival of a ghostly leopard has driven most of the population away, as it devoured the hearts of their animals without leaving a mark on them. The town is surrounded by a thick stone wall with a most impressive carved gate that looks like the open maw of a celestial tiger. The village now houses 100 woodsmen and their elder, Hengoutoq and her daughter, the healer Sukouay. Hengoutoq is a tall, elderly woman in lavender robes. She has haunted gray eyes and frizzy silver hair that falls to her waist. She acts as though quite meek, but in fact has called the ghost leopard (a totem of her ancestors) to punish the townspeople for their decadent, corrupt ways. Her daughter is curvaceous and terribly beautiful, and knows not of her mother's actions.

| Ghost Leopard: HD 9 (38 hp); AC 0 [19]; Atk 1 bite (2d6 + level drain); Move 18; Save 7; CL/XP 11/1700; Special: Drains one level with successful bite attack, no save.

Image from Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons 3.0 license - taken by Rolf Müller

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mystery Men! Preview

Where does Mystery Men! stand, you ask? At this point, I'm about 80% of the way to having a completed project - remember, it will be a free PDF and as cheap a book as I can manage, I'm thinking in the $8 range. I'm finishing up writing the setting material - about 75% of the way there - and then I need to write up the sample adventure, finish some of the formatting, work on at least one appendix (quick thumbnail heroes/villains for the harried Mastermind) and then the credits and dedications pages. My main focus right now is NOD 8 - I'm about a week to 10 days away from putting it to bed. After MM!, my focus goes to NOD 9/10 and another hexcrawl for the Frog God - this one dealing with a kingdom in the grips of a civil war between two princes and a princess - bandits, refugees, unquiet dead, war demons roaming the earth, dog and cats living together - mass hysteria.

Anyhow - here's a little preview of what Mystery Men! is going to look like - specifically, Chapter 2. The PDF will be in color, the print book in black and white (though if there was interest, I could look into doing a more expensive color version - to the tune of about $25 according to my calculations on Lulu).

Hope you enjoyed the preview - now back to work.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mu-Pan - Encounter XXIV

Well, just one more sample after this - 10 more encounters to write and then lots of work on finishing up NOD 8.

3634. A band of wild men with bushy hair and the legs and horns of goats dwells in these wooded hills, harrassing travelers. The men collect ribbons or the hems of robes and tie them in their hair. The folk have a thorough knowledge of the area and, if given gifts of saki and ribbons, are happy to become guides (though their mercurial personalities keep them dangerous). At least twelve of them can summon a great earth tortoise whose shell, composed of hexagonal slabs of granite marked with runes, measures approximately 30 feet in diameter. The tortoise can swim through earth and stone, with passengers crawling down its tunnel of a throat into its gem encrusted belly. Should anyone be foolish enough to try to steal a gem, the tortoise will never allow them to leave, coughing up their shriveled corpses a few years after they have died.

| Wild Man: HD 6; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 slam (1d4) or cudgel (1d6); Move 9; Save 11; CL/XP 8/800; Special: Summon earth tortoise, spells (confusion 1/day, transform 1/day), magic resistance (30%).

| Earth Tortoise: HD 12; AC 0 [19]; Atk 2 claws (2d6), bite (4d6); Move 9 (S12); Save 3; CL/XP 12/2000; Special: Immune to sleep and paralysis.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mu-Pan - Encounter XXIII

Mu-Pan is proceeding nicely - about thirty more encounters to write up. I got some great material from the Weird Asia post, and Theodoric the Obscure, JD Jarvis and the wondrous Mr. Huth definitely have a free PDF coming their way.

The image in the corner is the cover of the next issue of NOD - coming soon. Now, a quick encounter and then back to work.

3018. The wooded hills here hide a coal mine worked by a gang of slave labor - convicted felons - under the tender mercies of a half-ogre called Suke. Suke is especially savage-looking for his breed, and he paints red radiations on his face to make himself look more fierce. He is assisted in his duties by five shashu no ashigaru.

The slaves of the mine are fifty men, ashen skinned and bleary eyed. They look like living dead, dragging leather sacks full of coal to ox-drawn carts or chipping away at the walls of the mine with picks, slim amber-colored lanterns hanging from their iron slave collars. In the evening, one can find them lying on the ground outside the mine, coughing and wheezing, praying for death but lacking the strength to even pretend to escape.

Of late, the place has attracted a gang of seven fire mephits. The mephits have made the mines too dangerous to work, enraging Suke. The mephits "arrived" when a bronze mask was uncovered embedded in a wall of the mine. The mask depicts a demonic face with a pointed chin and two pointed horns, and gives one complete immunity to fire as well as the ability to polymorph into a fire elemental once per month for a total of one hour.

| Fire Mephit: HD 3; AC 3 [16]; Atk 2 claws (1d6); Move 12 (F21); Save 14; CL/XP 5/240; Special: Immunity to fire, +1 or better weapon to hit, regenerate 2 hp/round when touching flame, double damage from cold, breath fire 1/day (3d6 damage, 15-ft cone).

| Suke, Half-Ogre Bujin Lvl 4: HP 4d6+1; AC 4 [15]; Save 13 (12 vs death, 9 vs. poison & disease); CL/XP 4/120; Special: Follow through, ogre's ferociousness, open door on 1-4 on 1d6. Do-maru, suneate, kote, jingasa, tetsubo (1d6+2).

Friday, April 15, 2011

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