Monday, August 22, 2016

Lords of Light? Not Quite

I finished reading Thundar, Man of Two Worlds, last night and this is my promised book report. As always, I will keep it short and try to avoid spoiling it for folks who want to read the book themselves.

First and foremost, the book is an homage to the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs. It was published in 1971, but reads more like something written in the 1930s (for good and ill). The author, John Bloodstone, is really writer Stuart J. Byrne. Byrne wrote pulp sci-fi back in the 1950s and 1960s, wrote a couple episodes of Men into Space (which I kind of dig) and a couple movies in the 1970s, and later wrote translations of Perry Rhodan stories.

The book concerns the adventures of Michael Storm, who is a mountain climber and swordsman (all such characters need to have a knowledge of sword fighting before they wind up in a swords and sorcery setting) who winds up in the far future through his reckless daring. Once in the far future, he gets into all sorts of trouble - again, I don't want to get into specifics, because blabbing about them would ruin all the good (which is little) this book has to offer.

Unfortunately, the book lacks ERB's creativity, or his pace reminiscent of old movie serials, with each chapter ending with the protagonists in a terrible situation, and the next beginning with how they escaped it ... only to fall into another by the chapter's end. You get a little of this in Thundar, but not enough, and like most fan fiction it doesn't completely gel. The book was clearly intended to be followed by others which, to my knowledge, did not materialize.

Now, as to whether this book could have influenced the Thundarr the Barbarian cartoon (1980-1982) ... maybe, but only in very small ways. If it had any influence, I would guess it was a matter of the creators of the cartoon having a hazy remembrance of the book. Cartoon Thundarr looks a little like the guy on the cover, but the resemblance ends there. There is no Ookla the Mok (and the Mogg in the book can only have influenced the word "mok", and nothing else about old Ookla), though there is a "dawn man" called Koom (and he's pretty cool - more Koom would have made for a better book in my opinion). There is no Princess Ariel (though there is a Princess Cylayne, who does help Thundar and mostly serves as a Dejah Thoris stand-in to motivate our hero). There is some super science, but no sorcery. There is no sun sword, though there is a blade of Damascus steel. There was a catastrophic cosmic event that screwed up the Earth, but the story is set a million years in the future, so there are no remnants of the 1980s. In short ... very little influence. There is suggestion that this world was the origin of the advanced peoples of South America, but the people we meet in this future earth don't apparently resemble them at all - I kept expecting this and was disappointed.

Can gamers get any inspiration from the book? Maybe, but I doubt it. The world building is pretty simplistic. You have mountains and a jungle and an inland sea and two rival cities on its shores, and not much else. I would expect that every DM's first stab at making up a campaign world was as good as anything you would get in this book. There's almost a cool hook involving technology's influence over the world, but it remains vague, perhaps to be dealt with in more detail in the later books that didn't happen. Even if technology had been more fully explained, it mostly shows up as a deus ex machina, which wouldn't be too handy to a DM writing a campaign world. The way Michael Storm ends up in the far future could be copied for a game - it was pretty fun,  but not revolutionary.

Final grade: C-

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Three New Monsters

Boy, have I been on a roller coaster ride lately. Work continues on the Blood & Treasure Second Edition Monster book, but has been slow due to some medical issues. Amidst the stress and activity, I'm still editing and working on some one-page dungeons that will be included in the book. Hopefully won't take too much longer, but you can't rush these things, and medical issues certainly have to take precedence over make-believe.

In the meantime, I managed to cobble together a few new monsters for your edification and enjoyment over lunch. The artwork is my half-assed sketch of a brazen godling ...

Parrot Man

Type: HumanoidSize: Medium
Hit Dice: 1
Armor Class: 12 + armor
Move: 30′
Attack: Bite (1d3) or by weapon
Save: 16; 20 vs. mental control
Intelligence: Average
Alignment: Varies
No. Appearing: 1d10
XP/CL: 50/1

Parrot men look very much like human beings, except for their parrot’s beak and their brilliantly hued skin, often spotted in place or marked with whorls or jagged stripes, especially on the arms and legs. They are garbed in looks tunics, perhaps to better show off their skins with which they take a terribly amount of pride, and they rarely carry more than staff slings and truncheons to defend themselves. Warriors are almost unknown among them, though some become thieves (up to 9th level) or magic-users (up to 6th level).

Parrot men are noted for a singular lack of original thinking. What they read or hear they believe and repeat until they’ve heard something new. This makes their alignments highly variable (exposure to a new alignment has a 3 in 6 chance of persuading the parrot man to adopt it), yet always lacking in conviction.

Brazen Godling

Type: OutsiderSize: Large
Hit Dice: 9+3
Armor Class: 17
Move: 40′
Attack: 2 slams (2d6)
Save: 12; 9 vs. mental effects; MR 25%
Intelligence: Low
Alignment: Chaotic (CE)
No. Appearing: 1
XP/CL: 4,500/11

SD-Immunity (disease, poison), resistance (electricity, fire)

Brazen godlings are formed from the heroic frustrations of the weak and cowardly, becoming encased with demon stuff on the Astral Plane and then deposited in a sheath of bronzed flesh in the wastelands of the Material Plane. They are universally handsome and mad.

Brazen godlings attack with their fists or, when they have lost them, the black tentacles that lie beneath their flesh, for every brazen godling is really a black, tentacled demon heart encased in a tall, strong humanoid body. Attacks against the brazen godling that deal damage have a chance on a d20 equal to that damage of tearing away a bit of the monster’s outer flesh. Roll on the table below to discover what it has shed.

D12 Body Part
1. Leg, left lower
2. Hand, left
3. Posterior
4. Arm, right lower
5. Leg, right thigh
6. Arm, right, upper
7. Leg, left thigh
8. Arm, left lower
9. Hand, right
10. Leg, right lower
11. Arm, left upper
12. Head (reveals tentacle, giving an extra attack each round)

When head and limbs have been removed, the next attack destroys the torso and permits the demon within to be attacked directly. It has 30 hit points and the same stats presented above, save it can only be damaged by magic weapons of +1 or better. The demon heart has five black tentacles (one hidden in each limb, and one curled up in the head), which continue to ooze the creature’s black tears (see below).

A brazen godling, while it retains its head, cries tears of black ichor that have the same properties as unholy water. In melee, these tears may land on attackers, forcing them to save or fall into a terrible despair (-2 to attack and save) for 24 hours. When the being’s flesh is removed, the demon heart continues to secrete this ichor in battle.


Type: Monster
Size: Small
Hit Dice: 1
Armor Class: 13
Move: 20′ (Fly 150′)
Attack: Talons and bite (1d4) or laser rays (2d6 fire)
Save: 16
Intelligence: Animal
Alignment: Neutral (N)
No. Appearing: 1d4
XP/CL: 100/2

Laserhawks are large birds of prey with scaled skin and golden feathers. They can emit laser rays from their eyes, both directed at the same target. The rays permit a saving throw, and if that is failed deal 2d6 points of fire damage to their target.
Laserhawk blood can be used to make an unguent that provides complete immunity to fire, but at the cost of one’s eyesight. Both effects last for 24 hours, even if the unguent is washed off.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Dragon by Dragon - July 1981 (51)

If I hadn't been so busy with writing 2nd editions, I could have done this review in the same month it was published, just 35 years later. Oh well - can't always get things done as quickly as you would like. On with the review ...

Let us begin with one of my favorite bits of old D&D lore - the definitive statement regarding make believe:

"First, an AD&D magic-user is not a fighting class. He or she resorts to a dagger, dart or quarter staff as a last resort. His or her main interest (read, only interest) is magic."

And now you know!

In "Make Your Own Aliens" by Roger E. Moore we have a nice set of table for making random alien species for Traveller. You don't see too many "modern" issues of Dragon kicking off with articles for a non-TSR game, and there are more to come. As to the article's utility, let's make a random alien:

Our new species lives primarily on land. They have bilateral symmetry and one brain, so they probably won't be too alien to us. Their brain is in a head, they have no tail and they have 2 feet (I'm starting to think I'm randomly creating human beings). They have 2 arms ... but only three fingers and toes on each hand/foot. They also have plantigrade feet which are more like paws than human feet. These aliens are omnivorous hunters, so they are communal, cooperative and aggressive. They weight 50 kg (or 110 lb.) on average. They have no natural weaponry or armor and are covered with feathers or down. They are warm-blooded creatures, give live birth and have two sexes. Their primary sense is auditory, and unlike humans they have light-enhancing vision and heat-tolerant tactile sense.Their auditory organs on on their body rather than head. The roll of the dice say they don't have any special abilities, but I'm going to roll one anyways and come up with a chameleon-like body covering.

Not too bad - quite a few rolls, but not too many. I'm deciding they are mostly covered with down that can change color to blend in with woodland settings. They have a mane of longer feathers around their neck, and this is what they hear through. I'll assume they are a primitive people - something like bad-ass barbarians - who are hired as mercenaries by criminal types as body guards.

This article is followed by four more Traveller articles, including one by Marc Miller. Since I've never played the game, I can't really tell you if they're great or not, but if you play the game, checking out this issue may be worth your while.

At this point, it's worth noting a couple ads of interest. The first is a sign that the big boys were getting interested in this weird D&D thing that was all the rage ... Mattel's Dungeons & Dragons game! It looks like a real hoot - just a wee bit before I was aware of the game, so I don't remember seeing any. Alas.

Our next ad of interest comes from Mr. Arneson and Mr. Snyder - Adventures in Fantasy, a complete and consistent system of fantasy rpgs (no shot intended there, I'm sure). This is the second edition of the game, produced after Arneson bought back the rights from Excalibur Games using his settlement money from TSR. Ah - the drama of the rpg industry!

Up next we get back into D&D territory with William Lenox's Winged Folk, a new monster. They look like humans with wings, and they are essentially humans with wings with slightly better Hit Dice and AC. Great art with the article, though, and I like the bit about females have 1d4+1 carvings made from wood, gems, etc. Of course, there will only ever be one group of winged folk for me.

Hell yeah! These guys also get some info on being used as playable race, and honestly, the art by Todd Lockwood is pretty great.

Lakofka has an article about what it takes for a character to become 1st level. It gives some XP requirements to become 1st level, after going through a couple pre-1st level stages. Fighters, for example, can begin as 0-level recruits, then move on to becoming 0-level men-at-arms before finally becoming 1st level veterans. I think I like the level titles best (of course I would). It has a bit more about running 0-level characters - good stuff.

If you're into RuneQuest, or just dig their rules for cults you should check out Eric Robinson's "The Worshippers of Ratar" for an example of one

I know nothing of Metagaming's MicroGame #2: Chitin, so I can't comment much on the article "A New Breed of Bug" by Ben Crowell, but I do like the art by Paul Jaquays.

Up next are two articles addressing the Lawful Good alignment, and specifically how it impact paladins. This was always a popular topic in the old days - much argued over, much lamented. The prolific Roger E. Moore wrote "It's Not Easy Being Good" and Robert J. Bezold added "Thou Shalt Play This Way: Ten Commandments for Paladins". I can only imagine how many letters in subsequent issues of Dragon will address these articles.

If you like mini-games, you'll like this issue, for it includes "Search for the Emperor's Treasure". It has a map and counters and looks like it's lots of fun.

How about this questionaire in this issue's The Electronic Eye?

How many big disks do you have? Paddles?

Also, special mention for the most tortured spelling of "Basics" ever ...

About the only reference I found was on the Internet Archive.

The winged folk were a bonus in this issue, because we still get a "Dragon's Bestiary" by Mark Cummings. He created a fun monster called the Dark Dweller, close kin to trolls, but 1000 times better because of this ...

Yep, they ride the Antrodemus dinosaur! Underground!! This issue also has stats for Pirahna Bats!!! Good for the DM, bad for the players.

All in all, I declare this a groovy issue, mostly for the monsters, all of which would have a place in my campaigns.

As always, I leave you with Tramp.

That Wormy will never be a theatrical animated film is really sad. Sometimes, stories don't have happy endings.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes - First to Second Edition

I have a few minutes today, so I want to get a post out on the changes from the first to the second edition of Blood & Treasure. I won't swear that this is exhaustive, but it's pretty close to it.

  • Messed with multi-classing a little on races, tried to relate them a bit more closely to their original incarnations
  • Classes each have their own XP chart now, and some were re-calibrated
  • Assassins don't cast spells anymore, but can cast spells from scrolls at high levels
  • Got rid of bard, paladin and ranger spell lists - they now cast off the magic-user, cleric and druid lists respectively
  • Added some abilities to classes around 6th level to make the game a bit more distinctive and to hit some fantasy tropes missing in the original:
  • Assassins can brew their own poisons
  • Bards can carouse their way to valuable rumors … but may end up in the stocks or making enemies
  • Clerics can temporarily convert sentient creatures to their own alignment – not always easy, and doesn’t necessarily last long, but I thought it might be a fun non-combat way to get through encounters
  • Druids can harness greater bits of power by sacrificing the despoilers of the natural world
  • Fighters can subdue monsters and use them as mounts (as in every cool 70s rock album cover and van art ever produced)
  • Magic-users get access to little bits of arcane knowledge, ranging from something as simple as making phosphorous to making hot air balloons or understanding the healing arts
  • Paladins gain chivalric badges that give them access to royal and ecclesiastic courts and tournaments (a minor bonus, but the paladin already has some pretty cool abilities)
  • Rangers can pick up a loyal hunting beast (again, inspired by many pieces of fantasy art – particularly this one 
  • Thieves can assemble teams of rogues for capers – bypasses the normal henchman rules … but can the thief trust these guys?
  • Changed the way a fighter's multiple attacks worked, since lots of folks thought it was too powerful; also beefed up the barbarian a bit, as well as the sorcerer (see below)
  • Got rid of the basic/advanced/expanded concept to make B&T more its own game than a reference to old games, but I did keep the idea of basic and advanced spells; to learn or prepare advanced spells classes have to make a quick roll under their Int or Wis minus the spell level; specialists get free access to certain advanced spells, but treat others as though they were a higher level
  • Made some big changes to the sorcerer to keep it from being just a variant magic-user - they can now sense magic and do impromptu casting of spells they don't know (with dire circumstances for failure); they might also choose bloodlines, and might be related to other magical creatures (got this idea from Bewitched I'm proud to say)
  • Changed some of the class variants, added a few - the monk has a ninja and ronin variant for example
  • Tweaked the equipment charts - more weapons because I like cool weapon names, got rid of some 3E alchemy I never liked
  • Worked on the adept spell list to better reflect its origins
  • Tried to streamline rules wherever I could; fixed errors in time and movement, changed reaction rolls a bit (simpler, based on alignment), made task checks easier (roll 1d20, 18 or over to succeed, add bonuses, add level if "skilled")
  • Changed saving throws so that it's now just one number, but you get a bonus to save vs. stuff that takes your character out of play (death, paralyzation, polymorph), magic from magic items (wands, etc.) and spellcasters get a bonus vs. spells - so a little like the old D&D saving throw categories, but streamlined
  • Different disease system - I think better – focused on the effects and overcoming them
  • Added a table of the mass of different materials - helps when adventurers want to pick up a golden idol and carry out of a dungeon and you need to figure out how heavy it is
  • Got rid of a few spells (not many) and streamlined the rest when possible; I also got rid of 0-level spells, bumping them up to 1st level (sometimes with modification) - I never liked the 0-level thing
  • Redid the treasure tables (I'm still not satisfied completely - I think I'll add some alternate scheme in Esoterica Exhumed)
  • Streamlined the magic items, especially weapons and armor, and added some items that might be familiar from movies and cartoons; also added some sci-fi items as optional magic items for those who enjoy that – includes a mutation chart (for the mutagen capsules)
  • The appendices cover inspirations, conversions (other systems, and notes like these for 1st to 2nd edition, though not super extensive), a couple additional "specialty mages" to show how one can devise their own lists of advanced spells, did some racial classes for folks who like them, made a list of all the spell components and foci for quick reference, and then made a quick reference chart of common dice rolls in the game
That's all that comes immediately to mind. I'm working diligently on the Monsters book now. Stay tuned, true believers!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Blood and Treasure 2nd Edition Rulebook is Released!

Just a quick one today, boys and girls - the Blood & Treasure 2nd Edition Rulebook is up for sale as a PDF on and $9.99. I'll get the hard cover and paperback version up ASAP - just need to get a review copy first.

This is a combination of player's book and referee's book, with all the classes, races, spells, rules, magic items and info on making dungeons, wilderness, settlements and other planes.

The monsters will be in a second book called, appropriately I think, Blood & Treasure 2nd Edition Monsters. I'm shooting for getting that one up for sale in 1 or 2 weeks - there's some editing to do, and I want to include some mini-dungeons as well.

Anyhow - here's the ad copy for the Rulebook ...

Blood & Treasure is the fantasy role-playing game for people who want to spend less time arguing over rules and more time playing, and the new 2nd Edition continues this tradition.

Compatible with old school games, it strives to be rules lite and options heavy.

You get ...

Thirteen character classes, as well as suggested variations on the existing classes

The classic fantasy races

A streamlined and easy optional feats system

Hundreds of spells and magic items - you can run games for years without running out of new things to try

Optional scientific treasures for those who like science-fantasy

Quick and easy rules for exploration, combat, mass combat, naval combat, strongholds and domains and a simple task resolution system

Guidance on designing dungeons, wilderness, settlements and even the cosmos

Suggestions on converting to other old school systems and changes between the first and second edition

Blood & Treasure 2nd Edition is designed to give you years of enjoyment in just two volumes, this book and the forthcoming Blood & Treasure 2nd Edition Monster book, which features over 600 monsters to challenge players.

Blood & Treasure doesn't want to tell you what kind of fantasy game you should enjoy, it just wants to put all the tools in your hands and let you play YOUR GAME, YOUR WAY
Once the Monster book is finished, I'll jump into updating the NOD Companion, which will be retitled Esoterica Exhumed (and have a few new bits as well) and the Monster Tome, which will be retitled Monsters II. After that, whew - I'll rest.

Then I'll get busy on finishing up the next issue of NOD and writing some shorter books and some blog posts.
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