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