Monday, October 31, 2011

NOD 11 - Just in Time for Halloween

Just in time for Halloween, NOD 11 arrives with the beginning of a five part hex crawl set in the scariest place in creation - HELL! Also, four new races for your underground adventures, a sinister new class - the demonologist, four new demon lords to bedevil your players and some tips on sprucing up the most under appreciated mega-monsters in gaming, the titans.

Compatible with most old school rules

140 pages

PDF is $3.50

Print version not on sale until I get a proof copy

Well, what are you waiting for? GO BUY IT MAN!

NOD 12 (coming in December) will feature the next installment of Hell, a write-up of a hero and villain for Mystery Men!, the first part of the "shades of ..." dragon articles, four more underground races (drow, duergar, svirfneblin and notac-ichat) and, finally, the Mutant Truckers mini-campaign.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween from the Mystery Men

'Tis the season, and all that. Thought I'd write up a few heroes who seem appropriate for the holiday.

Bogey Man
Bogey Man is author Kendall Richards, a famous crime novelist who is forced to go undercover when a gangster called Blade steals his latest book, in which he has concocted the perfect crime. Once he gets his book back, he continues fighting crime as the Bogey Man.

Destroying Demon
Secret agent Bruce Blackburn is forced to go undercover as a traitor to break an un-American spy ring (no, that's not political - they actually called themselves the Un-American Group). Most folks think he is dead, but he actually fights crime and spies as the Destroying Demon. His main weapon - a bungee cord that allows him to jump from building to building.

Fantomah is a jungle goddess who deals out grim punishment to evil-doers in Africa. She can either take the form of a beautiful blonde jungle girl or a blue-skinned, skull-faced hellion.

Purple Zombie
Zoro - if that's his real name - was a corpse that was revitalized by a ray invented by Dr. Hale and Dr. Malinsky. Malinsky wants to create an army of zombies to take over the world, and when Dr. Hale opposes him he shoots Hale. The zombie, in return, strangles the evil scientist and then goes on a rampage. He is finally captured, but it turns out that Dr. Hale is still alive and is able to control him. The court releases Zoro to the doctor and embark on a life of adventure.

Happy Halloween Folks!

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Macabre

Once upon a time, the story goes, the fey retreated before the unstoppable spread humanity into the kingdom of Faery, rarely to be seen again. This, of course, is utter rot. Oh, the elves sometimes slip between the dimensions and travel through time as their magic allows, but most of the fey stayed put, learning to blend in and live among, though usually separate from, humans. The elves remained beautiful, of course, and the goblins weird and macabre, and they can be found today as members of a few weird families throughout the world, rarely intermarrying with humankind and otherwise enjoying themselves as best they can in a world that fears them.

The Macabre
The macabre are humanoids (well, mostly) who are, to a man and woman, unwholesome, or at least odd, in appearance. They are possessed of a dark humor and a glee that sometimes runs to the murderous. Encountered outside their close knit clans, the macabre refer to themselves as uncle, aunt, cousin or even grandmother or grandfather, indicating their race’s kinship to mankind. They call themselves by names profane, morbid or macabre.

The macabre are possessed of strange powers. All of them have rather special powers of regeneration, healing at double the normal human rate (i.e. 2 hp per day). Macabres can see in the dark up to 120 feet. Each one has an additional extraordinary ability rolled on the following table:

1. Startling strength (can boost their strength once per day per gauntlets of ogre strength)
2. Half damage from fire
3. Half damage from acid
4. Half damage from electricity
5. +3 bonus to save vs. poison
6. +3 bonus to save vs. disease
7. Menagerie (commands a swarm of spiders, a pack of six giant rats or a single vulture, lion or octopus)
8. Witch or warlock (cast prestidigitation three times per day)
9. Has an assassin vine as a boon companion
10. Has an old crawler (a disembodied human hand) as a boon companion
11. Swordsman (+1 to hit with swords and -1 [+1] Armor Class while fighting with a sword)
12. Explosives (can mix and set off explosives without harming himself)
13. Inhumanly tall (-1 to dexterity, +1 to strength)
14. Inhumanly short (-3 to movement, +1 to strength)
15. Inhumanly fat (-3 to movement, +1 to constitution)
16. Inhumanly thin (-1 to constitution, +1 to dexterity)
17. Raucous cackle (once per day, all within earshot must save vs. fear or flee for 1d6 rounds)
18. Regenerate 1 hp per round up to half normal hit points unless reduced to 0 hit points
19. Covered in thick hair (-1 [+1] to Armor Class)
20. Tunneler (has a burrowing speed of 6)

Macabres can advance as fighting-men up to 7th level, magic-users up to 5th level and as thieves with no level limit.


Illustration by Charles Addams. Found HERE.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Map of Hell Hex Crawl - Current Incarnation

Quick and easy post today - the Hell map in its most current incarnation. Things will be added as I write the rest of the hex crawl. The red river near the middle is Phlegethon. The little yellow squares indicate the location of something Hellish. The letters indicate the different tunnels and vaults, such as ...

[A] Hall of Surt: This tunnel is roughly 10 miles wide and 300 feet tall, with roughly rectangular walls carved throughout with the images of solemn fire giants. The air here is warm and dry, and the tunnel has no resources, including flora, fauna and water, to be spoken of. The floor is covered in massive stalactites and the ceiling in stalagmites, some of them so massive as to connect to form pillars 30 to 50 feet in diameter. This forest-like environment makes travel slower than normal (one hex every two days) and increases the chance of wandering monsters to 2 in 6 per day.

I'll have a more interesting post tomorrow - converting a famous Halloween family into something playable for Swords and Wizardry. Here's a hint - they're both creepy and kooky.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Rappan Athuk Memories

Maybe five years ago, I was getting tired of running 3rd edition D-n-D. Lots of work, that one. I was happy to have discovered a new game called Castles and Crusades and was eager to get my players into the new system. To do it, I set up a one-shot excursion into Rappan Athuk, Necromancer Games' mega-dungeon that promised an encounter with Orcus in its deepest depths.

To introduce the game in the most painless way possible, I set out to make some pre-gen characters for the group. Being a man who loves fantasy art, I started with that. Find a picture, stat it up. Stuck around 6th to 9th level, as I remember and eventually threw in some sci-fi, Popeye, etc. Gonzo.

The play concept was simple. I put about 10 character sheets on the table and let people choose their favorite. I had another 20 or so in reserve. When a character died, they disappeared and were replaced by another, rolled randomly.

Before the group had even made it into the dungeon they had a female thief torn to shreds by gargoyles. Another died in that crypt trap. Deeper in, a psion torched himself and his fellows and sent at least one character to Hades. Another guy got stuck to the ... well, I won't get too much into spoiler territory. Lots of fun, lots of casualties, no tears.

That was Rappan Athuk to me - everything the damned game is supposed to be. And now we're going to have an expanded version for Swords and Wizardry. Neat!

Handy Dandy Mini-Dungeon Chamber Generator

I'm finishing up the first chunk of my Hell hex crawl now, and that means mini-dungeons. I save most of them for last and have about four or five more to go [dude, just counted - there are 13 of them - how appropriate]. To that end, I scribbled down some ideas for generating chambers that I thought others might find useful.'

1. Empty
2. Trap
3. Monster
4. Monster with treasure
5. Trap with treasure
6. Monster, trap and treasure

Since this is for mini-dungeons, I want fewer empty rooms so I get more bang for the buck. If you're only dealing with six or seven rooms, making three or four of the empty doesn't work for me.

1-3. Square or rectangular
4. Circle
5. Other shape (pentagon, hexagon, octagon)
6. Cross or L-shape

1-4. One level (i.e. normal, flat room)
5-6. Multi-level - levels connected by
        1. Ramps
        2. Stairs
        3. Balconies (i.e. no connection)
        4. Beams (i.e. no connection)
        5. Pit (i.e. no connection)
        6. Ropes or chains
        7. Magic (levitation discs, air currents, teleporters)
        8. Roll twice, maybe adding a third level to the room

Monster Is ...
1. Alone (CR = party level +3)
2. Duo (CR = party level +2)
3. Trio (CR = party level +1)
4-5. Mob (CR = party level)
6. Monster and mob (CR for monster = party level, CR for mob = party level -1)

1. No additional exit - dead end
2-3. One exit
4-5. Two exits
6. Three exits

Special Room
1. Fire / ash / smoke / torches / fire pits / burning walls / obsidian / red
2. Water / sludge / fountains / pools / well / reservoir / damp / rain / geysers / blue
3. Ice / freezing / snow / cold winds / white
4. Gas / sleeping / poison / acidic / fog / clouds / yellow / green
5. Light / multi-colored / bright / dark / twilight / candles / lamps / witch lights
6. Crystal / reflections / mirrors / glass / gem encrusted / facets / vibrations
7. Bone / blood / flesh / mold / rot / unholy / quivering / breathing / secretions / heaving
8. Noise / screaming / breathing / moaning / sighing / music / song / chanting
9-20. Nothing special


Image by Joseph Gandy


Addendum - Just got this from My shop link is up in the corner. You know what to do, if you have a mind to.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Deviant Friday - Kendrick Lim and Kippery Edition

Looking at two different artists on DeviantArt today.

Kippery works in a style that reminds me of some of the fairy tale work produced in the early 20th century. Strong, clean lines, thin figures and muted, flat colors.

Kendrick Lim (kunkka), on the other hand, produces beautiful, full, rich colors - very vibrant and satisfying.







Maiden of Fire

Defense of the Ancients

Gina - gyromancer

Dragon Lady

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hell Preview 11 - Earth, Wind and Water?

Another preview - maybe the last before the release of NOD 11. I'm going to try to finish the first Hell hex crawl installment this weekend and publish sometime next week. I think the schedule will be ...

NOD 11 - Ante-Hell, Circle 1 and Circle 2 - North half

NOD 12 - Ante-Hell, Circle 1 and Circle 2 - South half

NOD 13 - Circles 2-5

NOD 14 - Circle 6 (City of Dis)

NOD 15 - Circles 7-9

I think it's safe to say that by NOD 15, I'll be sick and tired of writing about Hell.

In the meantime - here's the preview material ...

15.39 Aella: This windy hex holds the stronghold of Aella, titaness of whirlwinds, daughter of Khaos. Aella’s barony is always windy, with the direction of the wind shifting substantially from moment to moment and whirlwinds forming each hour on a roll of 1 on 1d4 (treat as an air elemental’s whirlwind power).

In the midst of these winds there is a great dome of tarnished gold. The dome is pierced by a grand gatehouse of white marble with towers 60 feet tall and inner and outer portcullises. The gatehouse and dome are defended by 15 companies of sinister bronze men, who pour molten bronze upon people from murder holes in the gatehouse (6d6 damage, save for half) and 5 squadrons of harpies, who pepper invaders with arrows and sing their terrible songs.

Aella is lithe and graceful, but her green eyes have a malevolent cast and her red hair is wild and unkempt. Her skin is the color of a crimson sunset and her frame is encased in mithral platemail. She carries a massive glaive. Her treasure includes 3,920 gp, 740 pp and a silver idol in a copper basin (worth 14,000 gp) that depicts her father.

18.28 Mount Kippat: Kippat is a lonely mountain that towers over the surrounding savannah. Plumes of white and yellow smoke pour out of crevices near the base (climbers must save vs. poison or fall unconscious and fall for 6d6 points of damage). The cracks and crevices of the mountain are inhabited by a tribe (really multiple families) of 400 goblins. The crevices are anywhere from 10 to 30 feet deep, and the bottoms have been hollowed out by the goblins, who sought both a place to live and the green garnets that abound here. Over time, the goblins tunneled deep into the mountain, discovering that the deeper one went, the larger the garnets became until they finally coalesced into a single garnet about 20 feet in diameter at the very center of the mountain. A bizarre creature appears to exist in the heart of the garnet. The garnet’s great size and faceted nature makes it difficult to discern just what it hides, but it is clearly evil and the garnets of its mountain seem to carry with them a taint to this mother garnet.

66.9 Water Bridge: A powerful gout of water emerges from the ground here and arcs into the distance, well past the horizon. One can step into the rushing water and, if they can hold their breath for 10 rounds or fight the current enough to keep their head out of water (requires an open doors roll each round) they are delivered across the hex, suffering only 3d6 points of damage for the journey.

Unfortunately, the plume of water plunges back into the ground at the end of its journey, depositing the adventurer in a series of partially submerged limestone caverns crawling with giant centipedes, green slimes and other monstrosities. It is impossible to “swim” back up the flowing water and the limestone caves seem to climb ever downward, with waterfalls and submerged tunnels all the way. At the bottom of the caves there is a sickly titan chained to the cavern walls. The titan looks pale, its eyes rheumy and its lips lank and parched despite the moisture of the caverns.

The titan, Felix, is the son of Anatole, goddess of the sunrise and Sors, the god of luck. He was locked away, hidden from the Sun, as a means of tormenting his mother. His chains are semi-ethereal and pass through his wrists and ankles. They keep him weak and prevent him from using his magical powers. If freed, he would be a target for every demon and devil in Hell, but he would be a powerful ally for a time and a great help in escaping Hell.


Yeah, the titans were built with the help of THIS.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ray Guns and Invizo-Screens [Space Princess]

The esteemed Jason Sholtis is now working on illustrations for Space Princess, so the game's release is imminent. To keep the atomic fires of excitement for this game stoked, I thought I'd provide a sampling of the super science that scientists in the game can build, provided they have the skill and resources.

Super Science
Super Science is our name for high-tech equipment. The following list of super science is not exhaustive, and Referees and the players of scientist characters should feel to invent new items.

The name of each item is followed by a number in parentheses. This number is the test value for a scientist’s skill test when trying to fabricate the item.

Found super science devices can be salvaged for parts. A working super science device is worth a number of SCI (science points) equal to half its test value, rounded down. Thus, a working anti-gravity belt is worth 7 SCI. A non-functional device is worth 1d6 SCI.

Anti-Grav Belt (TV 15): An anti-gravity belt allows one to rise or descend through the air (or vacuum) at a rate of 10 paces per round. An anti-gravity belt can be used 10 times before needing a recharge.

Electro-Scrambler (TV 20): An electro-scrambler can be used to disrupt the electric brains of robots, androids and gynoids. The effectiveness of an electro-scrambler depends on the skill level of the scientist who created it. When used, consult the following table:

Find the skill level of the inventor and then cross reference the number of Hit Dice of the robot. The resulting percentage is the chance that the electro-scrambler works. When unleashed, an electro-scrambler affects all robots, androids and gynoids in a 30-ft radius unless they have specifically been given immunity by the inventor of the device (i.e. a scientist can choose to make the androids and gynoids that are his allies immune to his electro-scrambler). Making these modifications costs five Science Points per android, gynoid, or robot so modified.

Robots that are affected must flee (usually while bleeping loudly and smoking) for 1d6+1 rounds in the opposite direction. If they cannot flee, they simply walk repeatedly into a wall. If attacked while affected by an electro-scrambler, a robot goes berserk, fighting back with a +2 bonus to hit. Androids and gynoids receive a Mentality test to ignore the effects of an electro-scrambler.

Force Screen (TV 10): A force screen is usually projected from a belt or other small piece of equipment attached to a person’s clothing. The force screen grants a +2 bonus to DEFENSE against missile attacks. It can be used for 10 rounds of combat before needing a recharge.

Invizo-Screen (TV 20): An invizo-screen emanates from a helmet worn on the head, making the person completely invisible for up to 10 rounds before it must be recharged. An invisible person has their Defense Rating increased by 10 if they do not attacks, and increased by 5 if they do attack in combat. Invisible people can still be heard, felt and smelled.

Medi-Kit (TV 10): A medi-kit is a small box that can dispense chemicals that heal wounds (+2d6 hit points) and neutralize poisons. A medi-kit can be used 6 times before its chemical stores must be replenished.

Mento-Helmet (TV 20): A mento-helmet amplified a person’s natural brain waves and performance. It grants a +2 bonus to mentality tests and gives a person the ESP ability of mystics. The mento-helmet can be used 10 times before needing a recharge.

Ray Gun – Basic (TV 10): A basic ray gun fires rays of energy. Ray guns can be used 10 times before they must be recharged. All ray guns have a range of 30 paces.

Ray Gun - Freeze (TV 15): A freeze ray immobilizes a creature for 1d4+1 rounds unless they pass a test of Strength (TV 10).

Space Suit (TV 10): A space suit allows a person to survive in a vacuum for 1 hour before its oxygen supply must be replenished. It consists of an air-tight suit of plastic and rubber, a glass helmet and oxygen tanks that can either be external or worked into the lining of the suit.


Image found HERE.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dark Shadows - My Obligatory October Horror Post

Over the past few months my wife and I have been watching Dark Shadows, the 1960's gothic horror soap opera that eventually revolved around Barnabas Collins, a vampire from the coast of Maine. My wife and her friend got into Dark Shadows years ago when they were first released on video cassette and then DVD. I'm a newcomer to the saga, and, given my retro proclivities and love of quality cheese, I'm completely hooked.

For the old school RPG enthusiast, Dark Shadows is a pretty good fit. For starters, it has production values that are on par with our beloved LBB's. Lines are forgotten, mike booms and cameras sometimes get into shots and impenetrable brick walls often shudder when touched. Re-shooting scenes was an expense the producers were not able or willing to incur, but I'm a firm believer that bad special effects do not ruin good stories. Dark Shadows is a cracking good story.

Most DVD collections ignore the early episodes in favor of the episodes that introduced Barnabas, who became the break-out hit of the series. The story begins with Victoria Winters taking a job as a tutor with the Collins family. The Collins family is suitably Gothic and weird.  The grand dame is Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, who hasn't left the family home in over a decade - and nobody knows why. Well, nobody except one Jason McGuire, who knows precisely why and is blackmailing Elizabeth as a result. McGuire, as played by Dennis Patrick, is so slimy I found myself dreading his arrival as much as the characters - and praying for his violent downfall as much as his victims as well. Elizabeth's brother is Roger Collins, an alcoholic single father who was apparently married to a phoenix - i.e. his wife left him and then returned and revealed she was really a mythological creature who catches fire and burns. Weird. Roger's son is David, a precocious boy (they always are in the 1960's) who claims that the ghost of Josette Collins still haunts the old house on the estate (she does - for a while, at least, until a new ghost shows up). Elizabeth has a swinging daughter named Carolyn who hates Jason McGuire enough to take up with the world's goofiest hippy biker just to piss off mom. Jason's comrade in villainy is one Willy Loomis, who thinks he has discovered that the Collins family jewels are sealed in a crypt on Eagle Hill Cemetery, only to find out that something terrible is hidden within (I'm sure plenty of RPG tomb robbers can relate).

Barnabas, when he finally arrives, proves the maxim that you can't judge a production by its budget. The storylines with him are often very creepy. His big goal, early on, is to be re-united with Josette, the woman he loved back in 1795. I won't go into the details, but the storyline is well written and often well played and is disturbing even if you ignore the fact that Barnabas is a vampire. This is something for RPG referees to think about. Don't let your villains be villains because of the special abilities written next to their names. Make them villainous because of what they do, not because of what they can do.

Eventually, Dr. Julia Hoffman arrives on the scene and adds a new dimension in villainy. She sees curing Barnabas of his vampirism as a way to establish herself as a medical genius, and pursues this with an amoral zeal that eventually catches up to her. Another good template for a villain in RPG's - the amoral enabler whose agenda complicates the lives of the protagonists.

I highly suggest that folks with a Netflix account or some other way to access the series give it a try. Don't be put off by the production values - as with the LBB's, there's some real treasure buried beneath the modest facade.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hell Preview 10 - Brutish Hobgoblins, Chained Duergar and a Terrible, Terrible Place

12.40. Hobgoblins: A tribe of 100 brutish hobgoblins burrow deep into the earth here in search of iron for their master, Flavros. Their village is a series of gray, adobe buildings bristling with spikes and stacked upon each other in the fashion of a great mound. The hobgoblins are overseen by an erinyes called Gofany, a reeve in service to Flavros, who is as paranoid and ill-tempered as any demon ever born into Hell. She is clothed in banded armor of leather and bronze and from her wings hand dozens of holy symbols taken from foolish clerics. The village is surrounded by a 20-ft deep moat filled with hundreds of spikes (actually tubes containing worms that infect wounds caused by the tubes; save vs. disease or lose 1 point of constitution each day as the worms burrow through flesh and spread their putrescence.

The hobgoblins leave the village in work gangs overseen by the largest and meanest hobgoblins of the tribe, venturing out to ancient mines where they descend into the darkness and return with sacks of iron ingots. They process the iron around their village, and great heaps of slag have completely blighted the meadows. At Gofany’s command, 1d6 of these slag heaps can rise up in the manner of earth elementals to combat her challengers.
Gofany keeps a treasure of 1,000 sp, 3,000 gp, 260 pp and a silver plate worth 16,000 gp. The plate, when filled with a bit of wine, acts as a scrying pool that shows any person alive living their most humiliating moment.

13.56. Sand Pit: The landscape here descends into a valley of dunes. Black rivulets flow into the sandy area from the surrounding landscape, forming a oozy marsh in the center. Strange totem poles of grotesques jut up from the sandy soil, apparently carved from living trees. These totem poles are few and far between when one first enters the hex, but become more numerous as one approaches the center. They seem to exert a strange influence over magic spells cast here as well, an influence that becomes more pronounced as they become more numerous. The chance that a spell cast in the hex goes awry starts at 15%. For each mile towards the center of the hex one travels, that chance increases by 5%. If a spell is found to go awry, roll as though the spell caster has used a wand of wonder.

This strange hex has a forge fueled by cold, black fames at its heart. The flames arise from the heart of an ancient demon lord called Humbaba, long since slain by the forces of Law. The forge is worked by a three duergar brothers without names, who are themselves chained to the forge. They are currently beating upon a tangle of black, iron wires intended to become a crown for the succubus called Lady Scarlet, who dwells in a deeper Hell. The forge and the duergar are guarded by a company of dragon men who are clad in burning platemail and who wield military forks that drip with acid.

14.34. Saslarta’s Domicile: Saslarta is a pit fiend who controls a particularly unpleasant stronghold as a vassal of Azazel. Saslarta appears as a masculine, muscular humanoid with obsidian scales and a head reminiscent of a raven, upon which he wears a platinum diadem (12,000 gp). His stronghold is dull, ugly and filthy and stinks of feces. In fact, it is made of great bricks of excrement through which burrow worms and dung beetles (each turn spent inside the fortress carries a 1 in 6 chance of 1d4 rot grubs falling on you from above).

Saslarta’s fortress is surrounded by fields grazed by stench kows, the kows being tended by halfling cowherds, who split their time between tending the herds and patching the fortress walls with fresh loads of dung. The halflings are renowned leather workers. The fortress is defended by ten companies of manes demons.

The walls of the fortress are 50 feet high and it has nine mound-like towers. The entrance is via a barbican. The courtyard of the barbican is home to a chaos dragon called Mote. The wide halls and chambers of the fortress are jumbled together in a haphazard fashion, and there are numerous pits holding loathsome otyughs. A buzzing of giant flies constantly assaults the ears, and attacks by 2d6 the beasts occur on a 1 in 6 chance per hour. Saslarta’s throne room consists of a deep chamber guarded by rusted iron portcullises. His throne and the dais is rests on are made of concrete and are surrounded by a moat of raw sewage that drips from rusted pipes that jut from the walls at odd angles. The throne actually sits on a rusted iron grate, beneath which is his treasure chamber.

Saslarta’s treasure consists of 36,000 sp, 2,000 gp, 1,170 pp and a garnet worth 950 gp that was lodged in his eye during a fight with a movanic deva. The treasure is kept in a deep pit that is home to a truly massive otyugh with the face of Doukas Basileios, an ancient emperor of Nomo.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday Grab Bag

Just a few random images harvested from a grand tour of the internet.

Dang It's a Great Day Department

Did Superman Ever Star in a Diorama Fighting a Cyclops? Department

Yes. Yes he did. At the World's Fair, in fact.

Geeks Come Out of Your Shell Department

Handy guide to the popular dances of the day. Don't miss a chance to shake your geek thing.

G.I. Jump the Shark Department

This is the point when your toy line has take one step to many. See also - William "The Refrigerator" Perry with a football flail action figure.

Halloween Peaked in the 1970's Deparment

Let's just be honest about it and move on with our lives.

Theo Ortner Kicks Ass Department

Those teeth are going to leave a mark.

Keep it Clean Department

Yeah, ending it with the bowel gnomes.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Deviant Friday - Kennon James Edition

Kennon James (Kennon9) is one of those artists who I would love to just toss some rules to and say "Here, illustrate these. Whatever you want." Great style - very expressive and fun.

Flying Monkey of Oz

Kurdy the Dwarf

C is for Carnage

The Sea Hags

Laurel and Hardy

All-Con Chick

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Three (or Six) Dual Helms [Magic Items]

Dual helms are constructed in pairs and are connected to one another through subtle strings of being that float through the ether.

Gemini Helms
When little used, Gemini helms allow the two wearers to swap abilities. One category of ability can be swapped at a time for up to 1 hour in a 24 hour period. These categories are as follows: fighting ability (i.e. attack bonus), strength, intelligence, wisdom, constitution, dexterity, charisma, hit points (damage stays with the person damaged, though, so a person who normally has but 20 hit points and swaps it with his comrades 50 hit points will die when the switch it over if he's taken more than 19 points of damage), saving throws (all categories, if applicable), prepared/memorized spells and spell casting ability and special abilities (i.e. a thief could swap his special thief abilities for a ranger's special ranger abilities).

Each time a pair of people use the helms, there is a cumulative 1% chance of a feedback, up to a maximum chance of 12%. If a feedback occurs, consult the following table:

1-6. Memory Swap: Particular memories swamp between the people - perhaps memories of their parents.

7-9. Personality Swap: This could also count as an alignment swap.

10. Combination: The pair average all of their ability scores and lose half of their class levels (-1), gaining half of their comrade's class levels +1. In other words, a 6th level fighter and 8th level combined would turn into two 4th/5th level fighter/thieves.

Puppet Helms
Each of these helms acts as a helm of telepathy. It also gives its wearer the ability to impose his will on the wearer of the other puppet helm. When this battle of wills occurs, both players should roll 1d20. Whichever rolls the furthest under their charisma score wins the battle and can force their companion to do or say one thing that takes no more than 1 turn (10 minutes). The winner of this contest of wills suffers 1d3 points of charisma damage, the charisma damage disappearing after 8 hours of sleep.

Helms of Summoning
The wearer of one of these helms can remove it, strike it with a small platinum rod and say "Come Hither!" and their comrade appears beneath the helm (and no, not if you're holding it over the edge of a cliff or under water - don't be a pain in the ass). The other helm appears on the summoner's head when his comrade appears. These helms can be used once per day, but with each use there is a cumulative 1% chance that the summoned comrade will actually be their double from another reality. This chance re-sets at the next full moon. If an alternate comrade appears, use the following table to determine what shows up:

1. Zombie: Retains a feral intellect, thoroughly chaotic. Fights with as many Hit Dice as the person had levels, but loses any special abilities. Those who lose more than half their hit points to the zombie's attacks must pass a saving throw or become a zombie themselves. Remove disease cures them, but only inflicts 1d6 points of damage per caster level to the summoned zombie.

2. Demonic: Has the abilities of the person summoned (or the reverse, if they were a cleric or paladin), but with a demonic cast and a chaotic alignment. The summoned demon is immune to fire and mind reading and has bat wings that give it a flight speed of 12.

3. Hulk: Summoned person is much larger than normal, with double the strength (or strength bonus, to keep it simple) and an intellect of 1d4+2. Might start calling the summoner "George" and develop a strange fascination with small, furry mammals.

4. Reverse Gender: Summoned person is of the opposite gender. All abilities stay the same, but personality might be slightly altered.

5. Evil Twin: Appears to be the person summoned, but is secretly chaotic and smart enough to realize the situation and use it to their advantage. If the summoned person was chaotic, the evil twin will attempt to kill and replace his or her double. If male, will eventually grow a goatee.

6. Lycanthrope: Summoned person is a lycanthrope (Ref's choice).

Hell Preview 9 - Hellish Halflings, a Sinister Salesman and a Demoted Demon

9.51. Halflings: Far from the salt-of-the-earth, pleasant folk of the world above, the halflings of hell are bestial little fiends who delight in the torment of others, and especially of things larger than they are. They are the sum of all the fears and jealousies that infect their kin who dwell in the sunlight. These particular halflings dwell in the branches of a wood of thorny trees that covers most of this hex. The trees grow in clumps and have a bark that can be pulped and turned into a mild poison that they rub on their barbed whips. This poison adds +1 to the damage inflicted by the whips and raises especially large and uncomfortable welts on the skin (-2 effective dexterity for 24 hours).

The halflings dress in bark cloth and lurk in the branches, preparing to ambush travelers with their barbed nets. People captured are tortured to death (suffer 1d3 points of constitution damage each day until they die). The halflings then attempt to capture their shades with their nets when they appear. The shades of lawful and neutral creatures are especially valuable in Hell, but hard to hold onto.

The halflings live in small, clannish groups of about 1d10+20 individuals. There are twenty such groups in this hex and they are encountered on a roll of 1-2 on 1d6.

10.47. Traveling Salesman: The master of Hell has a soft spot in its heart for salesmen, and they are welcomed as honored guests in its myriad rings. One of the best is a man called Kharvel, a huckster extraordinary whose crooked dealings landed him in Hell after he died. He was granted his memories and his old body by the powers-that-be and now roams Asphodel atop a great achaierai he calls Tripoli. From here he sells all manner of goods stolen and traded for, including random potions (one in six is cursed to have the opposite effect and one in twelve of those is cursed to be permanent), maps (one in six is genuine), amulets (all fake), and other odds and ends.

Despite his dishonest nature, Kharvel is actually a good source of rumors and information about the netherworld, though he charges a high price for information. He looks like a well-proportioned, rugged man with golden skin, a balding pate and a devilish beard and mustache. He wears a white tunic and cloak, worn sandals and a leather belt that holds a curved sword, several pouches and pipes of the sewer. These pipes summon shadow rats instead of the normal, mortal variety.

11.46. Ruined Fortress: While the lords of Hell may appear to be eternal and everlasting, they are as mutable, in a way, as humanity. Demons are creatures of spirit and thus immortal, but they can be reduced in stature by their peers and mortal challengers. Such was the fate of Pashatiel, a demon of doorways and beginnings and endings who deigned challenge the power of Flavros and was duly defeated and demoted.
Pashatiel’s fortress was constructed of iron blocks welded together. The fortress had two layers of walls – an outer wall 25 feet tall with 11 towers standing 30 feet tall, and an inner wall 30 feet tall with 8 towers standing 35 feet tall. The place is without windows. The top of the towers are shaped like the pretty, outstretched hands of a maiden.

The fortress is now empty. The demons who died here fighting the army of Flavros have melted away into the landscape. Weapons and armor, including hundreds of arrows that retain their poisoned tips, are scattered about the place, many atop black stains on the walls and floor that have a vaguely humanoid shape.

The interior of the fortress is clad in ivory-colored marble that is very clean and very smooth. Hallways, doorways and archways abound in this weird, quiet place, with actual chambers being few and far between. When people pass through the archways and doorways, they feel a tickle on the back of their neck, as though something is watching them and has made a note of their arrival. The interior is like a maze, and there is but a 2 in 6 chance per round (3 in 6 for elves, 4 in 6 for dwarves) of making any real progress.

The only chamber of note in the fortress is the inner sanctum, a sort of circular great hall at the heart of the place containing a throne atop a circular dais. Sprawled on this throne is Pashatiel, who in life took the form of a short, graceful man with deep wrinkles on his bronze-colored face, wide, gray, catlike eyes and long, straight, night-black hair. His appearance is now ashen and indistinct – like a shadow rather than a demon lord. Pashatiel is now a prisoner of his fortress – reduced in stature to a mere shadow demon.

Pashatiel inhabits the walls, floors and ceilings of his fortress, with the dais being the focus of his spirit and power. He can, with a thought, disappear from the dais and re-emerge from any wall, floor or ceiling. He can also command 2d4 shadows or 1d4 allips to arise from the black stains on the walls and floors.

If defeated as a shadow demon, Pashatiel sinks into the ground and re-emerges some time later as a mere lemure. Beneath the dais, which weighs 3 tons, there is a hidden treasure cache containing 1,250 gp and 400 sp.


Image from HERE. From the Monkees episode The Devil and Peter Tork - I wanted one of the devil as salesman, but I got this instead.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Silver Age Shenanigans [Mystery Men!]

Is your superhero campaign getting a little staid - a little routine - maybe boring. Would you consider bringing the insanity of DC's Silver Age into it? Can your players handle the challenge, or are they a bunch of mopey, modern age cry babies who think getting turned into a gorilla is some kind of punishment? If you answered yes and/or no to the questions in the appropriate order ... oh Hell - here's a chart. Roll a dice.

I think my next MM! Google + campaign will draw heavily on the imaginary stories from DC's Silver Age, though I have no idea how as yet.


Edited to correct an error.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Action X

Action X is an idea I had for a mini-game based on a team of highly trained individuals (mercenaries, soldiers, spies) a'la Mission: Impossible, G.I. Joe (no, not the movie) or the A-Team being sent on a mission to do, well, something action-y and dangerous. Basically - modernized D-n-D built around TV and movie tropes.

My idea for characters is to use the basic notion of Rookie - Veteran - Old Timer as in Space Princess, but to base all character abilities on a set of skills.

Taking the veteran level as an example, he might have five trained skills, three mastered skills and one specialty skill. The idea here, a'la G.I. Joe's "primary speciality" or assembling an Impossible Mission team is that each character comes in with a specific expertise - the Electronics Expert, the Seduction Expert, the Intelligence Expert, the Demolitions Expert, etc.

The training level at which one takes a skill (ranging from acrobatics to electronics to the use of a specific weapon or martial art) corresponds with the bonus to use that skill/weapon: +3 for trained, +6 for mastered and +9 for specialty. The basic rules would be Target 10 (i.e. compare your ability to opponent's or general difficulty level to find your die modifier, roll 1d20 and try to get a '10' or higher).

Each time a skill is used during a mission, there is a 1 in 6 chance that the character gets a +1 boost to a trained ability, a 1 in 10 chance on a mastered ability and a 1 in 20 chance on their specialty. Maybe after one mission, Mr. X gets a bump to his acrobatics skill and we now classify it as Trained +1. Qualified abilities cannot be bumped beyond +5 and mastered abilities beyond +8. One's primary specialty has no limit to how far it can be bumped. Successful use of a skill/weapon the character is not trained in also carries a 1 in 20 chance of getting a boost (Untrained +1), with a max bonus there of +2.

Besides character creation and advancement, the major notion behind Action X would be random missions. I need to come up with a way the Ref could randomize the mission objective, the location, the key enemies and their abilities (there would have to be templates of stock villains), a complication for at least one of the characters and the place to be "invaded". Not sure where to go with that yet.

Still plenty of work to do on this idea, which I would probably stick in an issue of NOD in 2012.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hell Preview 8 - Asphodel, First Circle of Hell

Rather than post some locations, I thought I'd post the draft for my description of the first circle of Hell, Asphodel.

The First Circle of Hell

Once one has crossed the Acheron, they see looming above them a wall greater and more hopeless than any other in the cosmos. Hell, you will remember, is a prison and the demons and devils within Hell prisoners. The walls are composed of impossibly thick stones, and thus for all intents and purposes impossible to bore through or knock down. The walls are also proof against ethereal creatures and the passwall spell. Within Hell, it is impossible to teleport or open dimension doors or gates to anywhere outside of the confines of Hell.

Hell’s ramparts from the outside are a sheer face of dark gray stone about 500 feet high. The battlements are not unlike those of a mortal fortification, being crenellated and manned by barbed devils. The walls are 80 feet wide at the bottom and about 40 feet wide at the top, providing ample space for the terrible bronze guns of Hell – massive cannon 30 feet long and 6 feet in diameter that launch exploding cannon balls that inflict 12d6 points of damage in a 10-ft radius, 9d6 in a radius from 11 to 30 feet, 6d6 in a radius from 31 to 60 feet, 3d6 points of damage in a radius from 61 to 90 feet and 1d6 points of damage in a radius from 91 to 120 feet. Folks within 60 feet of the impact must pass a saving throw or be permanently deafened. The cannon have a range of 600 feet and the shells can explode in mid-air at a range chosen by the firer. These shells leave massive craters, many of which are in evidence on the gray-green plains of Asphodel just beyond the walls.

The key point about the cannons is that they point inward, not outward. Likewise, the demons on the parapets do not resist people flying into Hell – only people trying to fly out. For those attempting an escape, assume that every mile of the wall is patrolled by 1d4 squads of barbed devils (i.e. 1d4 x 10 barbed devils) and one cannon. When one section of the wall is "attacked", barbed devils from nearby sections quickly join the fight. Fortunately, the barbed devils that guard the walls of Hell are prisoners themselves, and thus cannot go beyond the walls to chase down escapees. The gods of Law and the masters of Hell use other resources to deal escaped shades.

Most escape attempts are aimed at the Hellmouth, or Gates of Hell. The gate is unimpressive on the exterior wall – an arched portal 40 feet tall and 25 feet wide barred by a portcullis that, like the walls, is proof against ethereal creatures. The bars are 6 inches thick and made of adamant, and thus quite difficult to bend. The 80 foot tunnel beyond the front portcullis has another adamant portcullis located every 20 feet. All of these are operated by barbed demons looking down from chambers constructed around the tunnel via arrow slits. Murder holes abound, through which the demons pour such things as molten lead, acid and boiling oil. Arrow slits located about 20 feet above the floor allow them to rain arrows on those who are attempting to force their way through.

On the interior wall of Hell, the gate is more heavily defended, situated as it is between two 500-ft tall towers pierced by numerous arrow slits. Each tower is manned by three companies of barbed devils. The terrible hound Cerberus stands guard just outside the inner portcullis.

Beyond the walls of Hell, Asphodel is a wide-open, undulating savannah of long, gray-green grasses, thorny, twisted trees and tiny white flowers called asphodels, the circle’s namesake. The plains are roamed by a variety of demonic humanoids and animals in a sort of parody of Africa’s savannah. Many fortresses and even cities dot the savannah, where the lords and dukes of Hell hold court.

There is no Sun in Hell, of course, but the whole of Asphodel is swathed in a twilight gloaming, allowing creatures to see about 1 mile away, double for creatures with “darkvision”. The air of Asphodel is unnaturally still and almost suffocating in its stillness. There is no wind to move the grasses or bend the boughs of the prickly trees, and the range of wind-related magic on Asphodel is cut in half. Storms cannot be raised here nor lightning called.

Races of Asphodel
Asphodel, like most of the other circles of Hell, is not only inhabited by pitchfork-carrying devils and their victims. Four races known to people of the surface world dwell in Asphodel, though these races have been changed by their habitation in Hell.

Asphodelian Gnoll: The gnolls of Asphodel are tall and thin, with greenish hair spotted with black and glaring white eyes. They arm themselves with spears, ring armor and large, round shields. The Asphodelian gnoll utters an insane, demonic laughter while fighting, forcing people to pass a saving throw after three rounds of combat or become so unnerved that they suffer a -2 penalty to fight.

GNOLLS: HD 2; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 bite (2d4) or weapon (1d10); Move 9; Save 16; CL/XP 3/60; Special: Unnerving laughter.

Asphodelian Goblin: The goblins of Asphodel have rear legs like those of a grasshopper. They have mottled blue skin and long fangs jutting down from behind their upper lips. These goblins carry spiked maces and wear leather armor. Their touch causes people to revert in age by one year unless they pass a saving throw.

GOBLINS: HD 1d6 hp; AC 5 [14]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6); Move 9; Save 18; CL/XP B/10; Special: -1 to hit in sunlight, touch de-ages people.

Asphodelian Halfling: Asphodelian halflings are willowy and relatively tall for their race. They have spidery arms and legs and droopy eyes, like those of opium eaters, on small heads with beetle-brows and pronounced overbites. The halflings are bald and have four gleaming white eyes spaced evenly around their heads, making it impossible to surprise them. They arm themselves with barbed nets and whips, dropping from trees to capture travelers.

HALFLINGS: HD 1d6 hp; AC 5 [14]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6); Move 9; Save 18; CL/XP B/10; Special: -1 to hit in sunlight, cannot be surprised.

Asphodelian Hobgoblin: Asphodelian hobgoblins are squat, apelike creatures always encased in black lacquered platemail and gripping their beloved axes and blunderbusses. They are deeply paranoid creatures, positive that everyone and everything is out to get them, and this makes them even more militant than usual for hobgoblins.

HOBGOBLINS: HD 2+2; AC 1 [18]; Atk 1 weapon (1d8+2); Move 9; Save 16; CL/XP 2/30; Special: Magic resistance (10%).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday Grab-Bag - Grabbier Than Ever and with 50% More Bag!

A few odds and ends I've collected from the internet ...

From the Paper Your Digital Wall Dept.

Something for the season - enjoy it in better health than this guy.

From the Variations on a Kryptonian Theme Dept.

Am I wrong to love this look? Oh - and in case you need it, some boilerplate Mystery Men! stats for Kryptonians operating under a yellow sun.

From the Oh Great, Another Remake Dept.

My wife and I have been watching the original the last few months, and I love it. Honestly, not even a tiny bit of interest in a remake. Oh, and is it just me, or does Depp look like one of those creepy Madame Alexander dolls?

Oh, and for the real deal ...

From the Space Princess Inspiration Dept.

Bat demons, claw creatures, snake men and human vampires ... yeah, I'm gonna need stats for them.

Also this ...

This ...

And a little this ...

Yeah, this is for you space buddy!
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