Monday, December 31, 2012

New Monster: Familia

"Yes, I know." Allianora said.

"Yet in spite of your 'knowing' you went and did it anyway."


"For goodness sake, why? Do you not think about what everyone says when you go gallivanting off, not considering the effect you have on others? On your father? On me?!?" The priestess slammed her fist down on the table, her thinning hair resisting any attempts to constrain it in a braid.

Allianora lowered her eyes. "I can't spend my entire adult life thinking about how my actions impact you..."

"Well that's certainly clear."

"Mother, you know-" A longsword blade poked through Allianora's mother's chest, then waved around. "Mother?!"

"What?" She looked down "Oh hellfires" and her form melted away.

AC: 7
Hit Dice: 1hp*
Move: 0’ (0’)
Attacks: special
Damage: special
No. Appearing: 1 (1)
Save As: C1
Morale: 10
Treasure Type: L
Intelligence: 9
Alignment: Chaotic
XP Value: 15

monster type: enchanted
Familia are a form of incorporeal monsters that tap into the viewers memories, and appear to the viewer as a beloved figure that will then proceed to berate them and their choices, draining the victim's very life force, until they are an unresponsive husk. Anyone attempting to attack a Familia must make a saving throw vs. spells, or suffer 1 point of temporary charisma damage as the creature causes the attacker to question their very self worth. Lost Charisma will be regained at a rate of 1 point every week. Familia are usually tied to a specific location or object, but they are not undead and can not be turned. Succeeding in an attack causes them to disperse for 1d4 months.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Review: The Hobbit IMAX 3-D 48fps

I've already written my review of The Hobbit, but now I’ve now seen it in both 2-D 24fps and IMAX 3-D 48fps, and I have to say that as much as I’ve generally been unimpressed by 3-D (Avatar I’m looking at you) I thought it was put to good use by Peter Jackson. It wasn't used as a gimmick, but rather to make the world of Middle-Earth that much more real. Honestly, except for a few spots, I didn't even notice the 3-D effects, which as far as I can tell means that it was successful.

The 48fps on the other hand I thought was fantastic! The opening of the movie, as old Bilbo walked through Bag End was so clear and sharp that I felt like I was walking along with him. Some reviews have complained that it took away some of the magic of the movie. I felt the opposite. Being able to see the details made the whole thing, including the fantastical elements, more real. 

One element I didn't note in my initial review was that I really liked the slight redesign to the wargs. The initial effort in the Lord of the Rings movies to give them hyena elements didn't work for me as much as the more wolfish appearance here did. 

The armor of the Rivendale elves was pretty cool too. The deep red and gold worked really well, especially when seen in context with the armor from the second age, and the armor worn by the elves at Helms Deep. I wish we could have seen more of it as they hunted the warg riders. 

If you haven't seen it yet, and you have the option, I would highly recommend seeing it in IMAX 3-D, 48fps as Peter Jackson intended.

I can't wait to see what special features show up on the DVD. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

7 RPGs

I haven't been online much in the last week, but I have noted the 7 RPG meme that's been on G+ and various blogs. Here's my list:

1. Dungeons and Dragons (Rules Cyclopedia Edition)
The game that started it all for me, and the one that I still default to both here on my blog, and also in my brain when I'm thinking about D&D.

2. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, 2nd Edition
This is what everyone was playing in High School, and what I ended up running lots of. The first time I played D&D in a basement, it was with this game. I played an elven archer using a kit from the Complete Book of Elves and we explored Baba Yagga's hut.

3. Star Wars, 2nd Edition (WEG)
This was the first non-D&D RPG I played. The deckplan of the Millennium Falcon sparked my interest, in spite of my preference for Star Trek. I never got to play it as much as I wanted, but when I did, it was always fun.

4. Vampire/Werewolf
Maybe it's cheating, but my gamer friends didn't really feel like these were different games, and whether we played at the table or LARPed it, there was always some blending.

5. Pandemonium
This was a D&D style LARP that I played in High School. My introduction to boffer weapons and armor making only ran once every month or two, but it was tons of fun. I spent hours and hours wrapping wire around a pole to make links that eventually made a chainmail vest for the game.

6. D&D 3.x
I ran this way more than I ever got to play it, but it answered a lot of the issues I felt had cropped up in AD&D, as well as introduced a number of features that I still prefer in my games (ascending AC being the big one).

7. Labyrinth Lord
For me LL has been the Rosetta Stone for playing via G+ hangouts. It isn't all that different from the start of the list, but it's available for free, and everyone has a copy. Plus it shows just how versatile the basic D&D system is, since both Starships and Spacemen (2nd edition) and Mutant Future are both built on the same framework, and mesh together really well.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The End of the (Game) World

If you're reading this then the world did not end!

At least, not our world. Recently however a pair of virtual worlds did come to an end: City of Heroes and Glitch.

When it was anounced that City of Heroes was going to be closing its servers down, forever ending the game, it sparked a bit of introspection, thinking about campaigns that I've both played in and run, and how I've never been in one that ended, just ones that stopped, as if some great god hit the pause button. There was an attempt to keep the servers going, but in the end at midnight on 11/30 the power went off in Paragon City.

Now, I never played City of Heroes, so for me its end was mostly a mildly interesting fact, rather than a heartfelt loss. For the players who turned out in large numbers at the end to thank the developers or to rage against the dying of the light, it was an emotional time. The players knew it was coming, and they had a couple of months to prepare, but how can you prepare for the end of the world? You can't take it with you, especially when it's virtual. I guess mostly it was just an emotional journey for them.

The other world that came to an end was Glitch. Again, I never played it, but it was an online MMO, and a weird one, but one with a small loyal following. The makers of Glitch knew the end was coming, but they worked to make it so that their players could in fact take it with them, This seemed to ease the pain for the players, though there was still a lot of emotion. In the end there was much less angst about the end of the world.

Someday, I think I'll run a campaign with an expiration date. I know it's been done, and I know nothing lasts forever, and I'm curious how players will react to it. Will they struggle to the bitter end, or will they accept their fate, and even help it along?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Last night I went and saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

It was good, really really good! I was a little worried when I heard the they were making it into 3 movies, especially after how bloated King Kong was. Then, after people started seeing it, there was talk about it being overly long and boring, to the point where The Onion wrote a story about the 53 minute long scene of Bilbo packing.

I didn't notice it being overly long, slow, or boring. It isn't the fast paced adventure/fairy tale story of the book. Rather, it's very much in line with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, both in the scenes Peter Jackson decided to add, and the things he glossed over. I was really pleased, and honestly would have been thrilled to see more. Getting to see a dwarven city, I mean I thought Ironforge from World of Warcraft was pretty impressive when I first saw it, and it's nothing as compared to Erebor!

Another thing I wanted more of was the Dale. The few seconds we really get to see it hint tantalizingly at the sort of place it is, and I know there was so much there on the screen that I didn't get to see or focus on that I can't wait to see it again, and to have it on DVD, and to watch all the extra features...

We saw the 2D, 24fps version. It was pretty clear on a few scenes that it was not a movie designed for 2D, and I'm looking forward to the 3D 48fps version that we'll be seeing tomorrow.I'll let you know my impressions on Monday.

Overall I would give the Hobbit 8.5/10. If you liked the Lord of the Rings movies, then you'll like The Hobbit. If you loved extended versions, and watched all the extra features, you'll love The Hobbit.

Friday, December 14, 2012

What's it like to be a dwarf?

Richard Armitage, the actor who plays Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit, did an interview recently where he talked about what it was like to be a dwarf. This particular quote struck me as being exactly what being a dwarf is all about:

The one thing I didn’t expect was the fact that we were going to be bigger. When we get into costume, we’re all massive. So these dwarves are huge. I was a bigger version of myself. I was taller and wider than I am (obviously, because Pete shrinks you on the computer). I always thought that I would be small, but I was big. But it was very useful, and I didn’t realize it at the time, but in retrospect, it’s become clear that the growth in size has really helped to form this subconscious ego that I think dwarves have.

When you look at the designs for Erebor, it looks like Mount Rushmore. They built massive monuments to themselves, they accumulate huge amounts of wealth, they think a lot of themselves because they are a forbidden race. They are secondary to elves in the Legendarium.

Without allegory (because Tolkien is just not interested in it), it’s possible that they are like the Jewish people of Nazi Germany. I don’t think Tolkien intended that at all, but that’s how they feel. There’s a pride to them that’s like, “We will not be defeated. We will go back to our homeland and we will reclaim what was taken from us.”

Dwarves build huge underground complexes because dwarves are big!

I'm so looking forward to seeing The Hobbit tonight!

Quick poll - are you going to see it this weekend?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Dwarf Cheat Sheet

While I'm not going to get to see it till tomorrow night, I wanted to make sure you knew your dwarves, before the Hobbit is released tonight at midnight.

this might help. There's also a flowchart version.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

20 Questions (part 1)

A while back Jeff posted 20 quick questions for your campaign setting. I never got around to answering them... until now!

1. Where can we go to buy standard equipment?
The various shopping districts of Zandana can provide you with all that you desire.... if you have the coin for it.

2. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?
The Gnome smiths could probably do it. The dwarves definitely could, but getting them to do it would be an effort. Probably a quest of some sort.

3. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?
Greywolf the Stormrider is certainly the most well known in Zandana, and is head of the largest arcane academy in the city, but the warlock Celestia is whispered to have powers that equal Greywolf's.

4. Who is the greatest warrior in the land?

Jarok is the current Champion of the Arena, and bearer of the Sash of the Mantacore. Rumor has it that there is a knife fighter by the name of Lizzie in the Downs whose skill is such that she can defeat a squad of plate armored foes.

5. Who is the richest person in the land?
The guildmaster Countess Endier is believed to be the richest woman in the lands, though there are many others who qualify as “very rich.”

6. Where can we go to get some magical healing?
Almost all of the 1,000 temples across the city can provide basic healing. There are also apothecaries, herbalists, barbers, and other healers who charge less than the clerics, but aren’t always as effective.

7. What is the deal with my cleric's religion?
It’s merely one of many, and the 1,000 temples are dedicated to a dizzying array of the 10,000 gods. Individuals and families worship a patron deity (or deities), but also pray and sacrifice to whatever entity seems most appropriate.

8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?
The temples are your best bet, but there will be a cost, and it might not be gold. How do you feel about being indebted to a temple?

9. Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?
Several competing societies and numerous independent practitioners all vie for magical dominance within and around the city.

10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?
Throw a stone, and you might find an expert on goblin stone carving, or the weapon styles of the lowland gnolls. Finding the right expert will be the challenge. Meeting their price may also be a challenge. On the other hand, the more esoteric the knowledge, the more likely they’re willing to go on and on and on.... Of course not all are truly as skilled or knowledgeable as they claim.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Star Trek Into Darkness

By now you’ve seen the trailer. If you haven’t, here's the American version:

And here's the slightly longer Japanese version:

And here is a link to a shot by shot breakdown of the trailer from Io9.

I really enjoyed the Star Trek reboot. While I don’t think it was really necessary, because the original series (at least the non-Spock's Brain type episodes) still holds up well. Yes, the special effects are very dated, even hokey, but the stories are classic, and the characters iconic. The proof of that is the fact that Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Karl Urban took on Kirk, Spock, and Bones in their own ways, but still so recognizable as the characters initially portrayed by Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelley.

My thoughts on the new movie trailer? Honestly? It's from JJ Abrams. He's a master of false information and misdirection. My guess is that a lot of what we see here is purposely cut together in a way that is unlike what the actual movie is about.

Don't get me wrong, this is not going to be an example of an Inner Light type story! This will absolutely be a summer blockbuster style, just like the first one, and I'm perfectly happy for it to be that way.

So for now, I'm just going to look forward to seeing the trailer on the big screen when I go see the Hobbit on Friday night.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Nov. RPG Blog Carnival

So what about you, RPG Bloggers? Why do you write about games? In what form does writing crop up in your campaigns? What’s your process, your stumbling blocks, your passion? How has writing helped you or your table? Or is writing more like a CR 8 Succubus whose torturous, siren song hurts so good and dominates your very being?

It’s funny that this was November’s RPG Blog Carnival topic, since it’s the month I’ve written the least for a long time. Not writing, not posting, and having the words and thoughts and ideas stuck in my head has actually been a physical ache.

So why have I been quiet? It isn’t exactly writers block. The thoughts, and even the words are there. It’s more a combination of stress, frustration, exhaustion, and just a general feeling of being overwhelmed. The fact that I’m in the middle of my second to last class for my Masters degree probably is a contributing factor...

So why do i write about an old pen and paper fantasy RPG?

I’m sure nostalgia plays a part, but the real reason is because when my mind wanders it tends to drift around to fantasy and sci-fi. So what makes Dungeons and Dragons my default go to as opposed to Middle Earth, Narnia, Starfleet, or any of the zillions of other worlds found in books? D&D is a game, a sandbox, and it literally doesn’t exist without the involvement of players. While I can steal ideas from all of those other worlds that authors have created, I’m not limited by them.

So maybe even more than writing is the creating. The monsters, places, magic items, characters, and everything else are all mine!

I think that is why I write.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

New Magic Item: Horn of Plenty

“Nimble!” yelled the barkeep across the taproom. “I told you not to use that blasted horn in here again!” Wiping her hands on her apron, she stomped around the bar, snagging a pitcher of ale as she went.

The far corner table went quiet, and everyone sitting around it looked anywhere but at the rogue in the corner.

“Mel, I was just showing these fine travelers the amazing artifact we found down in the depths of that old barrow mound.”

“You’re going to pay me for all of that food, or you’re going to give me that damned horn.”

“Now now, this horn is enchanted, and may be something of a bane to you, but I have it on the highest authority that there is nothing demonic about it.”

“Nimble...” Mel growled. “So help me, I will-”

Holding up his hands Nimble surrendered. “Mel you know I am only too happy to slip some coins your way! Especially when I am so clearly in the wrong.”

After Mel returned to the bar Nimble whispered to his table-mates “I love the woman’s ale, but her cooking?”

Horn of Plenty

Once per day this horn can summon a feast appropriate to it’s current location, providing enough food for 8 people. Anyone partaking of the meal must make a saving throw or suffer a -2 penalty to initiative, saving throws, and attack rolls due to the overstuffed feeling caused by the magical feast.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Review: Barrowmaze I & II

Greg Gillespie’s Barrowmaze is a two part megadungeon that sprawls under a moor littered with barrows. Barrowmaze 1 is an 84 page PDF detailing the moore and 15 of the barrows found there, and 188 dungeon rooms below. Barrowmaze II details barrows 16-50, and rooms 189-375 and clocks in at over 140 pages. BMI also provides 7 new magic items, 2 new spells, and 31 new monsters while BMII has 31 new magic items, 9 new spells, and 60 monsters (including those from BMI). While written for Labyrinth Lord, it is easily convertible to any of the old school editions of D&D or it’s clones.

Barrowmaze embodies the “Oh Shit Run” definition of OSR, and PC’s are encouraged to bring along hirelings, henchmen, 10’ poles, and sledge hammers in addition to the usual armor and weapons if they hope to survive! As is appropriate for a haunted moor full of barrows, undead are everywhere. Add to that a mix of cultists vying for control of the dungeon, traps, curses, several independent groups, and some more undead, all topped off with an evil artifact. It’s expected that the player characters will be tomb robbers, rather than heroic adventurers, and while there is the opportunity to show they’re made of more noble stuff, there is nothing requiring them to do anything of the sort.

Unlike most megadungeons, Barrowmaze is a single sprawling level with fuzzy borders between areas. This can mean that first level characters can wander into areas not necessarily appropriate for their level. Some areas a bricked up, while others don’t even have doors, and just getting into and out of the dungeon can take up an entire session. Throughout BM the recurring theme is death and the dead. Tombs, crypts, and burial alcoves are everywhere. Undead monsters are more potent in that they’re more difficult to turn, and they cause a cumulative fear effect on characters. One too many encounters with skeletons, zombies, and ghouls may have your character go stark raving mad! A little time in town carousing can help alleviate the effects if you get out before insanity steals you away.

The overall effect is to create a definite tone to the whole of Barrowmaze. While the dungeon itself isn’t structured in a logical way (as a modern building would be) it also isn’t a funhouse style dungeon, so you aren’t going to find goblins in one room next to a dragon in a room that it couldn’t physically get into. There is an internal consistency within it, and everything works together to help set the mood. All of this is reinforced considerably by the art.

The writing of Barrowmaze is generally concise. Below are 3 room descriptions that give good examples of what you can expect from the bulk of the dungeon.

##. This room has two unique features. The inner
walls are lined with small rectangular burial al-
coves. In the center is a short sealed stone mauso-
leum. It has a stone door with engraved runes in
Ancient Common that read “Klexx the Maligned.”
The area smells of old death and rot. A Coffer
Corpse (1) AL: C, AC: 7, HD: 2, HP: 7, #AT: 1, DMG:
1d6*, B(50) is buried with jewelry including a Gold-
en Crown worth 1,000gp, and two Jeweled Brac-
ers worth 1,400gp (each).

Burial Alcoves: (143) Square with black urns.
Contents: 131sp.

##. There is a large pile of debris including rubble,
rags, broken wood, and two wooden rafters. The
door on the north and eastern portion of this room
has been bashed down.

##. This room is empty. A broken runic tablet (now
useless) rests on the floor.

A few rooms are given more extensive descriptions, especially if they include important NPCs. Many rooms are similar in description to that last example above. Empty. But, as we all know, Empty only means there isn’t an obvious monster/trap/treasure/special within. Within Barrowmaze there are a number of random tables to help set the stage including both dungeon dressing and graffiti. One bit of complaint - all of the random tables from BMI are recycled in BMII. Granted BMII adds a 100 entry sarcophagus table as well as an extensive system for rolling up random crypts, including geomorphs, but I still would have liked more graffiti and even a rumor table. With the various factions within the dungeon, I’d expect a fair amount of tagging and smack talk between them.

What didn’t I like? Very little. My biggest issue was the map. I bought the PDF version of BM I + II, and there isn’t a single image with the whole map. I know that Greg released a high quality mapset that you can buy seperately, but I’d be happy with a low-res that I could print out on a sheet of legal paper or even 2 letter sized sheets. I also wish the illustration books weren’t so expensive.As much as I’d love to pick them up, I can’t justify spending $16.66 each for the 2 PDFs, even knowing that the art in them is as good as the art in BMI + II.

I would definitely recommend at least picking up Barrowmaze I, and strongly recommend Barrowmaze II, and I'd suggest doing it now. Why? Because Greg is giving you 10% off for Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

To Boldly Go...

I was going to finish writing my review of Barrowmaze for today, but last night I got 2 packages in the mail. One was from paperbackswap, the other from Goblinoid Games...

Now I just need to figure out what to do with the patch... Any ideas?

Monday, November 19, 2012

New Monster: Dire Turkey

"This isn't a joke!" The farmer's face contorted as embarrassment, fear, and desperation flashed rapidly across it.

"Where did it come from?"

"A druid came through a couple of weeks ago. When he demanded I let him sleep in my barn I asked for something in return... he offered to bless my harvest feast bird... to make it the biggest bird the hamlet had ever seen and to make its flesh rich and wonderful." He paused. "In hindsight I should probably have just let him stay without bother."

"That would have been wiser." Rathgar sighed. "So where is this overgrown turkey?"

"Its been in the pumpkin field since yesterday." He said pointing off to the north. "Blake's boy went out to shoot it last evening. He only riled it up, and..." He gulped. "His body is still out in the field."

Dire Turkey
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 7+1* (L)
Move: 180’ (60’)
Fly: 60' (20')
Attacks: Peck or Kick
Damage: 2d6+throw or 2d4+stun
No. Appearing: 0 (1)
Save As: F5
Morale: 9
Treasure Type: special
Intelligence: 2
Alignment: Neutral
XP: 550

The dire turkey is a stupid and overly territorial bird. It's primary attack is pecking the target and flinging it into the air. On a successful attack that is 4+ over the target's AC, a medium sized opponent will be thrown in a random direction 1d12 feet and take an additional 1d6 damage. Small opponents will be thrown 3d6 feet and take an addition 2d4 damage.

A Dire Turkey may also perform a kick attack. Opponents hit with the feet must make a saving throw vs petrification or be stunned for 1d4 rounds. Opponents wearing a helm get a +2 to the saving throw.

Dire Turkey meat is highly prized and will fetch a good price if the market is available for it. A full grown dire turkey can easily fetch in excess of 750gp in a large village.

Image Source: Monster Turkey by Tenshi3D

Friday, November 16, 2012

New Magic Item: Chuluunbold's Bow

The horses hooves beat the ground as their riders spurred them onward. Ahead a herd of Yakmen raiders ran together, their hard pace hindered by their ill gotten gains allowed the speed of the horses to slowly overcome them.

Chuluunbold, holding onto the lathering mount with his knees pulled an arrow from the hide quiver strapped to the saddle. The short bow in his hand was stretched out, and the arrow brought against the string. Around him, the other riders mimicked his movements.

They were almost upon the yakmen when they let the arrows fly. Just as the fletching brushed past the wood, the yakmen skidded to a halt and turned on the horsemen. Some arrows found their mark, but many shot past. The riders swerved, and most avoided the horns and axes of their foes, but two plowed straight into the herd. The riders continuing forward, even as their mounts were taken out from under them.

The remaining riders all readied and shot more arrows into the now stationary targets. The herd again turned and charged toward the riders, unsheathing throwing blades. The riders scattered, continuing their fire into the herd. Arrows protruded from their bodies, but only after multiple hits did they begin to fall.

The largest of the yakmen surged out of the herd, nearly catching Chuluunbold with a swing from his ax. Chuluunbold spun his horse, causing it and the yakman to slam into each other. The 3 of them fell, Chuluunbold rolled free of the tangle, managing to hold both his bow, and a single arrow. As the yakman shoved free of the horse, he shook his furry mane, locked eyes on Chuluunbold, snorted and lowered his head. Chuluunbold put the arrow to the bow and pulled back at the yakman charged. The arrow sank deep into the neck of the charging foe who staggered from the hit. It's momentum carried it into Chuluunbold, snapping the arrow, and dropping both of them into the hard dirt.

Chuluunbold's Bow

This magical shortbow is a finely crafted work of art, inlaid with dark wood swirls, and the tips carved into horse heads. When mounted, the bow provides a +3 bonus, and even an unskilled rider will suffer no penalty for shooting from horseback. On foot the bow's effectiveness is reduced, providing only a +1 bonus.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Review: The Witch

First off, a big thank you to Tim Brannan for writing The Witch, hosting a contest giving a copy away, and for picking me.

When I downloaded the PDF, I was expecting a fairly short book detailing how to run a witch in basic dungeons and dragons. What I got was a 120 page campaign book detailing how to adjust a typical fantasy world to incorporate the witch character class.

The Witch character class is a blend of magic-user and cleric with a number of additional elements that make it something that stands out in its own way. On top of the basic class features, Witches pick traditions (like wizard specialties or clerics’ deities) which focus their development through the levels, and can also choose to be a part of a coven.

There are 6 traditions available to the witch character:
Aquarians - readers of the celestial bodies
Classical - pretty much the usual stereotypes
Family - mother to daughter type witches
Faerie - witches that consort with various fay beings
Maleficia - those that deal with demons, devils and otherworldly beings
Eclectic - those without a tradition and are picking it up as they go

Spells are of course a large aspect of witchcraft, and the 54 pages devoted to the topic are extensive. Everything from cantrips (0-level spells) to 8th level spells and rituals are covered, as well as a small section on witch spellcraft theory.

Covens give the witch access to a small group of NPCs who can assist with training, provide safety, information, backup, and additional help with ritual castings. This section of the book also goes over the various items traditional to witches, and their uses in-game.

Moving beyond the PC witch, there are also 21 new monsters offered, and numerous witch specific magic items and artifacts.

Overall I'm really impressed. I haven't yet read every word (I skipped a lot of the spells)but I can see just how much flavor adding the Witch class to a campaign will bring. If you have any interest in any of the stuff above, it's well worth your time (and money) to go and pick up a copy for yourself.

Monday, November 12, 2012

New NPC: Sgt. Stubby

The post below is from the blog Doctor Grumpy in the House. It's about a dog NPC that joined up with a US army unit during WWI.

I'm sharing it here in part because today is the day Veterans Day is being celebrated by federal employees, and because I think it shows just how valuable having a dog, even a little dog, can be during dangerous adventures. Stats for Sgt. Stubby follow at the end of the post.

Veteran's day is to thank those who have served the militaries of our respective countries. We throw parades, hold services, and honor our warriors in many ways. But it should never be forgotten that not all veterans walk upright.

Sergeant Stubby, United States Army

No one knew when or where he was born. In common terms he was just a stray dog.

It was an early morning in 1917 at Yale Field in Connecticut. The area had been taken over by the U.S. Army for training, and a group of young soldiers was there, preparing for World War I across the Atlantic.

At some point a medium-sized dog wandered onto the field, and took an interest in the young men. They befriended each other, and Private J. Robert Conroy liked him enough to take back to their base that night.

Stubby, though officially not supposed to be there, quickly became a part of the camp. He got used to the daily routine of orders and bugle calls. He even learned to salute: when he saw humans all doing it around him, he'd put his right paw on his eyebrow.

Eventually Conroy and his division were ready to ship out for the war in Europe. Rather than abandon the dog (now named Stubby) they smuggled him (under coats) aboard the troopship S.S. Minnesota for the journey across the sea.

Stubby turned out to be far more of a dog than his finders ever expected. Staying with his owners, he served in combat in France. He lived in the frontline trenches with the 26th Infantry (102nd division), for over 18 months. His first battle was in February, 1918, and overall he fought in 4 major offenses and 18 ground battles.

Frontline trench warfare is a nightmare, but Stubby, like his fellow soldiers, learned to live with it. At one point his position was under 24-hour continuous enemy gunfire and shelling for over a month. He never deserted his company or position.

In April, 1918, he was wounded by an enemy hand grenade, and sent to Red Cross facilities. While recovering he improved morale there by routinely visiting other wounded soldiers. After healing he went back to his company in the front.

Later that year he miraculously survived a gas attack in the new era of chemical warfare (though was extremely ill for several days afterward). He quickly learned to recognize the smell long before his primate colleagues could. Later, when the Germans launched another surprise gas attack in the early morning, Stubby noticed it first. He ran through the trenches, barking and even biting his comrades to waken them so they could put on their masks. Since there were no gas mask to fit him, after spreading the alert he'd run out of range behind the trench and wait there until the all-clear was sounded.

His keen ears could hear the high-pitched whine of incoming shells before humans could, and his warning barks gave his friends an extra few precious seconds to take cover.

Stubby - of his own accord - undertook some of the most dangerous missions of the war, searching no-mans-land between trenches for wounded soldiers. He could differentiate between English and German speech, and successfully led medical teams to the injured. He also was able to lead dazed, but walking, soldiers back to safety. How many lives he saved is unknown.

Later, Stubby and his men were deployed to the battle of Argonne Forest. There, while walking around on his own, he single-handedly caught a German spy that had slipped behind allied lines to map their formations. Stubby detected him behind a bush, raised the alarm, and then detained him (by holding onto the back of his pants) until 2-legged soldiers could arrive.

For his remarkable heroism and skills, the commanding officer of the 102nd division recommended him for promotion, and Stubby became Sergeant Stubby - now outranking his owner, Corporal Conroy.

Stubby's remarkable skills extended beyond the battlefield. During a visit to Paris with Corporal Conroy, Stubby suddenly dashed out into traffic and saved a young girl who was about to be struck by a car.

After allied forces liberated the town of Château-Thierry, the local women made him a chamois coat. It kept him warm and was also used for his growing collection of medals, including the Purple Heart.

After the armistice, Corporal Conroy returned home with his friend. Stubby was now a celebrity, routinely leading parades. He met 3 Presidents and was made a life member of the American Foreign Legion and Red Cross. In one instance he received a distinguished service award, presented by no less than the fabled American General, John "Blackjack" Pershing.

Sergeant Stubby leading a victory parade. His heart was bigger than his body!

As the cheers faded the pair transitioned back to civilian life. Conroy enrolled in Georgetown law school, and Stubby found employment as the team's mascot. He often performed a football halftime show, pushing a ball around the field.

He died on March 16, 1926, with Conroy holding him. He is remembered by a brick at the World War I memorial and at the Smithsonian. The latter has his remains on display.

Thank you, veterans!

Sgt. Stubby (Dog)
Hit Dice: 2+2*
Move: 180’ (60’)
Attacks: 1 bite
Damage: 1d6
No. Appearing: unique
Save As: F4
Morale: 11
Treasure Type: Nil
Intelligence: 3
Alignment: Lawful
XP Value: 45

Sgt. Stubby is a highly experienced combat veteran, and provides a +1 bonus to the first group initiative roll of every combat, all surprise rolls, saving throws vs poison gas, and all reaction rolls from all non-hostile encounters.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Review: Among Thieves (Tales of the Kin, Book 1)

Among Thieves (Tales of the Kin, Book 1)
by Douglas Hulick (Author), Kirby Heyborne (Narrator)

I don't think Drothe really looks anything like this

Ildrecca is a dangerous city, if you don't know what you're doing. It takes a canny hand and a wary eye to run these streets and survive. Fortunately, Drothe has both. He has been a member of the Kin for years, rubbing elbows with thieves and murderers from the dirtiest of alleys to the finest of neighborhoods. Working for a crime lord, he finds and takes care of trouble inside his boss's organization-while smuggling relics on the side. But when his boss orders Drothe to track down whoever is leaning on his organization's people, he stumbles upon a much bigger mystery. There's a book, a relic any number of deadly people seem to be looking for-a book that just might bring down emperors and shatter the criminal underworld. A book now inconveniently in Drothe's hands...
(From Goodreads)

I almost didn’t make it past the first disk of the book. It starts with a kin (member of the underworld) literally over a barrel, and while Drothe’s hired torturer works to get some information out of him.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve read plenty of books where the protagonist engages in a variety of evil acts in the furtherance of their goals. I can’t think of another example where the first scene in the first book starts that way. It was a bit of a turn-off, and I have to credit Kirby Heyborne (the Narrator) with keeping me listening.

Drothe is looking for an Imperial Reliquary so that he can sell it. He doesn't get it's location, but he does get a name - Ioclaudia. The search for Ioclaudia, and the missing relic leads Drothe across the capital city of the empire. Along the way we get to see how the kin of the city organize themselves around upright men (bosses) and shadow princes (bigger bosses), and how noses like Drothe collect their information. The use of the canting tongue is a very flavorful addition, and helps set the tone of the book.

From there we’re swept into an race to find, and then to hold on to Ioclaudia's book that everyone from the Emperor on down seems to want. Even more important for Drothe is finding out why everyone wants it, while at the same time trying to protect those close to him. Most of the time Drothe doesn’t actually have a clear picture of what’s going on, and since the story is told from Drothe’s perspective, you only get to see what he sees. He is perfectly aware that he's playing way above his level, and has little idea of what's going on, or why. He just keeps going, and lets everyone around him think he knows what he's doing.

While Drothe manages to be the typical sardonic rogue with a heart of gold, Hulick puts him in situations that force him into awful choices. Someone Drothe cares about has to be sacrificed or betrayed, no matter the choices he makes.

Aside from Drothe, there are a number of other characters that stand out. I really liked the fruit seller, especially the way he's voiced by the narrator. The upright men Nicco and Kells were both well written, flawed characters. I did think that people were a bit too quick to start yelling at each other, though to be fair, everyone seemed to be under an awful lot of stress. 

I ended up liking Among Thieves more than I thought I would.  When Sworn in Steel (book 2) comes out, I hope the same narrator is used.

For your game
  • Ioclaudia's Journal - A book of mysteries that everyone wants. Maybe it has magical secrets, maybe it has heretical truths, or maybe it has the secret recipe to the crispy chicken that everyone loves.
  • Thieves Cant - Among Thieves actually uses a basic thieves cant very effectively, and shows how you can incorporate it into your setting without too much effort.
  • Ten Ways - There are numerous districts within the city, each one surrounded by a cordon. Ten Ways is one such district. It’s particularly run down, but with a lot of secrets in its long history. It would fit into Vornheim with ease!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

New Magic Item: Guardian Stones

“We will rest here for the night.” the black cloaked druid said.

“What’s so special about here?” Nimble asked. The woods seemed no different at this spot than anywhere else they’d seen.

The druid paused, looked long and hard at Nimble, and then completely around to the surrounding woods. “There is nothing special about this spot. It is much as most places here in the woods.” His gaze returned to the thief. “But it will soon be dark, and since it is much like any other spot, it is equally as good a place to rest for the night.”

Nimble looked skeptical but dropped his pack, and began to help Feris set up the tent. “I don’t like this.” he whispered.

Feris’ mouth crooked up slightly. “The woods, or the druid?”


A quiet chanting caused both men to turn and face the druid, who had removed a stone head from his bag. It took Nimble a moment to figure out what was wrong with it... it had 3 faces, and each face shared an eye with the faces to either side. The druid placed it down on the ground, and the eyes began to glow green.

“See? What is that thing? We don’t know. Maybe he’s summoning an owlbear to eat us while we sleep.” Nimble hissed.

The ground rumbled, and 3 stones, each about as tall as a halfling, sprouted from the ground around the little clearing. Runes carved into their surfaces glowed with the same green as the eyes of the head.

Guardian Stones

These magical protective devices are rare, and highly sought after. The focus piece is a stone head with multiple faces, each face sharing an eye with the face to each side. When activated, it causes a number of stone rune covered pillars to erupt from the ground. There will be a pillar for each face of the stone, and the more faces, the more powers it has.

3 faces/stones - Reduced chances of random encounters (reroll any roll indicating a random encounter) and will sound an alarm per the spell.

4 faces/stones - as above, plus will double any natural healing for those who rest within.

5 faces/stones - as above, plus counts as a circle of protection v evil.

6 faces/stones - as above, plus circle of protection from normal missiles

7 faces/stones - as above, plus remove curse/cure blindness

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Way back when, before I ever picked up a d20, there was HeroQuest. I played that game like only an obsessive preteen can. Not only did I play, I made up my own adventures, treasure, buy-able items, and even some variant monsters. I painted every mini that came in the set, as well as the expansion boxes. And those minis have seen lots of use over the years in many many D&D games.

Recently I was handed a complete copy, practically new. It's beautiful.

I actually feel a little bad that in the couple of weeks I've had it, I haven't done anything but look at it.

Was HeroQuest anyone else's gateway to Dungeons and Dragons or mini painting?

Monday, November 5, 2012

New Monster: Yakmen

"Look out!" The horseman yelled.

Rathger turned in time to see the beast's head come crashing down onto the center of his helm. The world went white, and the next thing he saw was a fluffy white cloud blowing gently across an azure sky.

The lovely vision was blocked by a furry horned face. It's large nose flared as it sniffed Rathgar uncomfortably close. "This one is still alive" it said, looking over to someone else. An older looking beast leaned over into Rathgar's field of vision.

"Bring him."

Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice: 3+1* (L)
Move: 120’ (40’)
Attacks: Weapon or Headbutt
Damage: 1d8+1 or 1d6+special
No. Appearing: 2d6 (4d12)
Save As: F5
Morale: 10
Treasure Type: D
Intelligence: 9
Alignment: Neutral
XP: 75

Yakmen are large hairy humanoids with bovine heads and horns. They can made a headbutt attack, and if it hits, the target must make a saving throw vs. paralyzation or take a -2 to their next attack roll. On a natural 20, the target automatically fails the save, and falls prone.

For every 8 Yakmen there will be a 5HD Warrior among them who has survived drinking the Red Water. 1 in every 20 will be a level 3 shaman. Every tribe will be lead by a 7HD leader who may also be a level 1d4+4 shaman.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

New Magic Item: Red Water

"Are you ready?" Dzo asked the assembled herd kneeling around the pit of the Death Worms.

"We are" their voices answered in unison.

"Then take this vessel, taste of the Red Water." Dzo handed the jug to the first kneeling figure. His large brown eyes watched as the pitcher was brought up to the supplicant's lips, and the water flowed over them. The pitcher was lowered, and passed to the next figure. The first gave a slight cough, and then fell forward into the pit.

"His mind was not ready." Dzo said sadly, watching the worms investigating the body.

The second figure trembled as the pitcher came up to his lips.

Potion: Red Water

This potion opens the imbiber’s mind, unlocking mental powers... if they survive the experience. Anyone drinking this potion must make a saving throw vs poison or die. Every attempt to drink another Red Water after the initial attempt suffers a cumulative -3 penalty to the saving throw. The powers gained are rolled randomly, and are per the spell description unless noted otherwise.

  1. Speak with Animals
  2. Telepathy - can take no other actions
  3. ESP
  4. Remove Fear
  5. Cause Fear
  6. Charm Person
  7. Detect Magic
  8. Detect Invisible
  9. Unseen Servant
  10. Knock (non-magical locks only)
  11. Produce Fire
  12. Mind Blast (1d4 damage/2 levels, roll to hit or auto hit but take half the damage inflicted)
  13. Clairvoyance
  14. See Through Animal Eyes
  15. Dark Vision
  16. Pyrotechnics
  17. Player's Choice
  18. Roll Twice on this chart, funky physical change (DM's choice), ignore rolls of 18+
  19. Roll Three times on this chart, -2 Str, Con, Cha, ignore rolls of 18+
  20. Roll again on this chart, ignore rolls of 18+, +2 to Int or Wis

My original notes

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Spreading the Witch

Tim of the Other Side Blog wrote a book about witches for fantasy RPGs called The Witch.

He's looking for people to spread the word, so I am.

This also gives me an excuse to show off an old diorama I made some years back.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2012

New Monster: Mongolian Death Worms

“Dzo, come quickly. It is time.” The young calf said as he stuck his head through the yurt door frame.

The bulky shape lifted itself from the carpets and pillows, its long fur was streaked with gray, and its horns showed the marks of many years, and many battles. The calf held the door flap for the elder. The chill wind cut across the land, blowing the scrub grass and stunted trees decidedly to the east. Just to the north of the yurt stood the low round ovoo.

Crouching low, Dzo descended the stone stairs and stooped under the overhanging lintel. Within the ovoo the round wall was lit by candles placed haphazardly stuck to the irregular stones that made the wall. In the center of the dirt floor was a round stone lined pit. The stones were stained an unnatural yellow with streaks of brownish red. At the bottom of the pit were three red worms, each about 3 feet long, and thicker around than the haft of an ax.

The calf passed Dzo a hooked pole, and he used it to catch one of the worms and lift it from the pit. As he removed it from the hook, the worm hissed, and Dzo’s hand began to smoke. In a rumbling low voice, Dzo called out to the gods of the land. Turning he walked to the far side of the pit, the worm hissing the whole way.

Lifting the worm up, Dzo twisted it in his hands. The hissing grew louder, and the worm spat a coy smelling glob at the wall. Dzo twisted, and with a snap the worm broke, ichor falling into the pit, covering the remaining two worms.

“Extinguish the candles.” Dzo ordered.

Mongolian Death Worms
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 1-4 (S-M)
Move: 90’ (30’)
burrow: 30’ (10’)
Attacks: poison spit or bite
Damage: 1d4 + ongoing or 1d6+1/HD
No. Appearing: ()
Save As: F (level =1/2 HD)
Morale: 10
Treasure Type: nil
Intelligence: 2
Alignment: Neutral

Death Worms are greatly feared among the peoples of the high grasslands. When found, they are usually killed immediately. It is said the very touch of them is instant death, and the strange yellow stains the creatures leave in their wake is merely another indication of the ill wind that follows them.

Death Worms are indeed poisonous. Their spit (30’ range) causes 1d4 damage plus an additional point per round for as many rounds as the worm has hit dice. Touching a death worm causes 1 point of damage for every round of contact, and their nasty bite causes 1d6 damage plus the creature’s hit dice.

Today is the final Monday of October, and this is my The Monstrous Monday Blogfest entry!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saturday Starport: Trage's Starship Triage

Today's Saturday Starport is brought to you by Shortymonster who upon hitting 10,000 page views offered his readers a free NPC. In fact, the offer is good until 11/17, so you still have time to go get yours!

DB4 Trage's Starship Triage 

Like all Chadra-Fan, Trage was covered in a rich dark fur from head to foot. Very few of her kind took the time to style the fur on their heads as she did. It was lifted into a long Mohawk and interwoven with fine gems and precious metals. She was very proud of her ‘hair’, and when dealing with her customers could often be seen to stroke it and make minute adjustments to the crest. Some think that she’s compensating for her small stature, small even for the bat-like species she is part off, but the few her know her well, understand it as pure vanity.

She has done well for herself has Trage. using her natural gifts of salvage, and then hiring others to do the dirty work, she runs a successful business on an affluent star-port. Buying damaged components, and sometimes whole space faring vessels that are beyond repair, and stripping them down to the component parts. these are then refurbished and sold on at a higher price as replacements. Although she knows how to make a fast turn-around on a small investment, Trage is always honest with her clients and customers.

In her world it is too easy to make the wrong kind of enemies if a business deal goes south, so she makes sure she is beyond reproach. This has helped her in her successes, but has recently started to cause her an unexpected problem. A criminal Cartel, the Umbruc, have seen her success, and her reputation as straight shooter, and have started to threaten her business. They see her as a perfect front for their smuggling operations, but she knows it will mean saying good-bye to her integrity. For now, no one else knows what is troubling her, but if the threats become too much, she has very few options open to her…

As an ongoing project I’m stocking the map above with shops and characters, making it something of a mini-campaign setting. However, it’s also want to open to you. This is your chance to be a guest blogger here at Tower of the Archmage! All you need to do is to pick one (or more) of the different stores, and write up a description of what type of store it is!

How to get involved: Leave me a comment or an e-mail letting me know you want to join in, and pick a space. Write your post (or posts if you’re feeling ambitious). Send me your post via e-mail, and I’ll get it up, probably on a Saturday.

Monday, October 22, 2012

New Monster: Wesker

Thus it came to pass that the followers of P’Orcus
did corrupt and debase the greatest gift to the carnies.
They assembled in the great hall, each bringing a component;
flesh and guts ground together, each hand forming the shape.
Their perversion was then given the breath of life,
and the creature did rise and slay those who brought it forth.
Anger made flesh, hate that bleeds, death that walks.

Book of Roomba, BACN, 001-26 - 007-42

No. Enc.: 1
Alignment: Chaotic
Move: 120’
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 8+2
Attacks: 2 fists
Damage: 2d8+2/2d8+2
Save: L10
Morale: 11 (2)
Hoard Class: -

The Wesker is a humanoid that appears to be a completely skinned creature with pure white globes for eyes. They are highly destructive creatures, attacking any type of intelligent life they encounter. The Wesker is vulnerable to fire, but it will release a bacon scented spray which will cause 8HD worth of creatures within 15 feet to stand and drool for 2d4 rounds when damaged by flame.

Mutations: Fragrant Development, Natural Armor, Bizarre Appearance, Epidermal Susceptibility

Happy Monday, and welcome to today's entry in the Savage Afterworld’s Mutated Monday blogfest.

Don't forget that next Monday, October 29, the final Monday of October, is The Monstrous Monday Blogfest!