Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Monster: Bog Mummies


Victims of sacrifice, the condemned, the shunned... many of these souls were fated to end their days immersed in the ooze at the bottom of a bog, their remains interred into the mud.  As more doomed souls join these increasingly restless dead, the bogs preserve and give un-life to these corpses.

Given time, the bogs accrue the negative and tragic energies of these dead, transferring these energies to those sunk into their muck and ooze.  And eventually, a tipping point is reached, and the bog mummies may arise to stalk from the muck in search of some retribution.


Bog mummies are characterized by their tough, leathery flesh, well-preserved in the anaerobic and acidic environment of the bog bottoms.  The mummies will be tannin-stained to a dark red-brown.  Many will bear evidence of their means of death or maltreatment and torture prior to death - nooses, manacles, lacerated flesh. Well preserved, the bodies may appear fresh-dead, but for these ghastly features.

An individual mummy, upon arising, will have a target of its revenge - typically the source of its misery and death, whether it is a magistrate, shaman-priest, or members of the lynch mob.  For those who have been interred long enough, their original tormentors may too have crossed the veil.  For these, they will seek a member of the same class, or perhaps a descendant of their original killers.  The mummies will resolutely seek out their condemners, and are a bane in areas where sacrifice and justice are meted out in the bogs.

Sunk into the anaerobic, acidic environment of the bog, the body is preserved, and the tragic energies distill the hate and pain of the victim's death.  The skin is toughened, yet still pliable.  In addition to clubbing or clawing damage, the touch of the bog mummy causes acid damage, corroding armor, degrading clothing, and dissolving flesh.

Bog Mummy (Generalized OSR Stats):

No Encountered: 1d3
HD: 6
AC: 4/16
Attack/Damage: 1d8+Acid Touch (1d6 1st round, save or addtl 1d6), +2 to hit vs 'favored' opponent
Save: as Cl5 or equivalent
Move: 6
Special: Hit only by magic weapons.  Individual mummies will pursue either individuals or equivalent classes of their original condemnation and death and receive a bonus in attacks against them.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Mini-Review: Off the Beaten Path

So, this arrived a few days ago....

I supported +Thom Wilson's Kickstarter for the project, opting for the system-neutral version of the book.  The book also has a variant printing published with adventures statted out for Swords and Wizardry Light.

The setup for this book of encounters and mini-adventures is to fill space and opportunities in case the pesky PCs wander off the map, need a small side-challenge, or a light on-off is necessary.  Thom prepared 23 one- to two-page adventures, typically with a single challenge or objective.  The encounters are classed as 'Easy,' 'Moderate,' and 'Hard' for a range of levels up to around 6.

Of course, with the un-statted nature of the system neutral version, modding critters or challenges would be achieved fairly readily.  Likewise, although some treasure or magic items are fairly clearly delineated, plenty are left blank, such as the 'Magical Short Sword' shown below:

Which allows the GM to craft an item appropriate to the level (or perhaps needs) of the party members.  I appreciate this format, and mentioned it before in my review of The Staff of the Last Hill Chief.  Coincidentally, Monkeyblood Design crafted several of the maps in OTBP, so may have had a hand in influencing this open concept.

Speaking of maps, due to the single encounter-area or mini-dungeon typical of the scenes, most are fairly simple and brief.  Thom and Monkeyblood shared mapping duties.

The adventures provide a variety of baddies to combat,as well as a few traps and puzzles to worry out.  Per its title, all of the OTBP scenes take place in the wilderness, to be encountered along the road, or in the boonies if the PCs wander off the road to check out something curious, camp out, or otherwise stray from the path...  Thom reports that he is working on a follow-up desert-themed collection via his Patreon.

While most of the encounters are standalone, four of the adventures can be linked through items found in individual scenes (maps, clues, etc.), which could either drive a few sessions of play, or pop up in later adventures.  One quibble - the linked scenes are referenced by Excursion #, but neither the page headers or table of contents number the scene titles.  Edit:  Thom pointed out that the Excursion numbers are printed along the footer of the pages - I hadn't noticed them in my read-through.  Doh! Thanks for the correction.  That said - adding the #s to the TOC will be a help.

From my read-through of the collection, the scenes are well-written, with sufficient but not too elaborate descriptions.  Because of Thom's one to two-page limit per scene, even the 'largest' areas have no more than 10 encounter areas.  

Thom did also fall victim to box text (shaded in this case) but we'll forgive him this.  

The product was delivered promptly after the end of the project.  Thom planned ahead well, with the majority of writing (and booklet cover) pre-prepared, leaving him only stretch goal additions (adventures, mapping) to create at the end.  

Overall, this looks to be a useful resource and inspiration for keeping the party from wandering aimlessly in the woods!

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Village of Devsay-Hough

Haven't done a village for a while....

The Village of Devsay-Hough stands at an almost-literal end of the road, overlooking the River Igleri gorge. The bridge crossing the gorge collapsed nearly five years ago, and the powers that be can't be bothered to engineer a replacement. Prior to the collapse, Devsay-Hopugh was a moderately successful border village overlooking a river crossing to West Lien. With the bridge loss, traffic moved to a ford to the north, and an intact bridge to the south.

The village was originally home to nearly 500 citizens, but is slowly dwindling, as travel through the area has dried up.  Approximately 200 people remain in the core area of the settlement, with houses and farms in the surrounding area abandoned and left to be reclaimed by the woods.  With the loss of the bridge and its associated administration, more questionable souls, who are fine with being off the beaten path, have arrived.

The village has struggled to remain self-sufficient in its impoverished state.  However, it still maintains a several trades-folk and professions to serve both citizens and those few travelers who pass by on the Marginal Road.

Friday, March 10, 2017

RPG Blog Carnival: Things in the Dark

Moebius Adventures opened up their figurative doors to host this month's RPG Blog Carnival, with the topic of 'Things in the Dark'...

...whether they are critters, environments, or just making one's way around in the dark places that PCs have a bad habit of exploring.

So, I will, as I often do, grab a bit of real history and bend it a bit for a little gaming goodness...

Mining.  Deep underground, dirty work in the darkness.  Personal illumination to safely and effectively work was important (well, effectively, safely came later...)

Trouble is, mines and other similar confined spaces can have a problem of atmosphere - Not enough oxygen, too much oxygen, explosive dusts or gasses, or poisonous atmospheres.  These so-called 'damps' (from the German dampf, or vapor) were a constant hazard.

And open flames can exacerbate those problems - especially in the cases of explosive environments or oxygen-enriched environments (where combustion can accelerate or spread rapidly).  Since miners often relied on open flames, such as helmet-mounted oil lamps (below), there was an incentive to find a less dangerous alternative, or at least methods to assess an atmosphere before working in an area (the fabled canary could only do so much, after all...).


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Lost Tomes 5

....wherein we find more books to seek, stumble upon, or suppress....


Funerary of Ildar:  A hide-bound book of resurrection of the dead.  The book contains powerful texts for the retrieval of the soul from beyond, and re-securing it to the mortal body.  However, the subject of the resurrection must now permanently keep the book in their possession to maintain their revivified status.  Physical separation from the book will sever the person's hold on life, rendering them permanently dead.  The book will be found with a decayed corpse a few feet away, in the attitude of crawling toward the volume.

The Mortuaria of Radow: A clandestine directory of maps to a dynasty's King-barrows.  It was compiled by generations of tomb-builders (and grave-robbers) in deepest secrecy.  If the map-book's unique cipher can be broken, the directory shows the locations, contents, and hazards of dozens of tombs.  Map fragments secreted in the book's cover consist of partial information, requiring a complicated sequence of overlays and foldings to depict the barrow locations. There is a likelihood that a number of these tombs may remain undefiled. If found on a person by the Dynasty's forces, the copy will be immediately destroyed, and the person and their companions buried alive in punishment.  Two copies are rumored to exist.

Worm-caller's Scrolls:  Stinking, fetid skins wrap parchment written in the runes of a mysterious subterranean cult.  The cult claims to speak the languages of and communes with various monstrous burrowing annelids.  The bearers of the scrolls may pass through giant worm-burrows without harm.  The odor of the scrolls identifies the bearers as 'worm-talkers,' causing generally negative reactions from other subterranean dwellers.  Mastering any of the associated worm-cants will allow communication with a number of species of giant hell-worms known or rumored in the land.


Onieromancers' Somnambularium: A spellbook of an Onieromancer - an arcane practitioner and manipulator of sleep and the night.  The book contains numerous spells associated with the discipline,  including various 'dreamwalking' spells for the viewing and manipulation of dreams (and dreamers...).  The book's deep black cover imitates a moonless night sky. Any non-onieromancer handling the book must save vs spells or fall into a deep trance, simply staring at the book's cover until the book is removed or covered.

Gnoll-codex:  A discredited sage's study of the matrilineal lines and mating habits of the gnoll clans of the Outer Plains.  The illustrations are exceptionally detailed and hint at quite personalized research in the matter.

The Cog-Rhack: Developed by secret castes of dwarven majicker-smiths, this iron-bound manual secured with complicated clockwork specifies the creation and operation of mobile automatons for the transport of ore and other heavy hauling.

Songbooks of Ghamoskel: A collection of chants and psalters of marginalized non-human gods.  The texts include:

  1. Fungus Lord Hymnal  - Songs of hallucination and decay in dedication to the spore-gods. 
  2. Insect Anthiem - Trilling songs of the hive and communal goals.  Certain phrases within the verses allow a disorienting gateway to the compound visions of the hive minds.
  3. Labyrinthinos - Paeans to the minotaur-gods of the mazes and lost twisted places. The supplicant, while keeping up the songs, will not be misdirected in a maze.
  4. The Yiap - Calls to an alien, one-legged saltating god of the plains.  With great leaping bounds it attempts to stomp out the unworthy...
  5. Oestern Ent-songs - Sonorous, ponderous chants of the tree folk - takes days to complete a single verse.  Full choral symphonies in the language can outlast a human lifetime.
  6. The Torhoninahin -  Subsonic moans and meditations of the near-immortal god-mammoth that tracks among the frozen northern wastes and is worshiped by the Hatgarrak Wanderers as the Tundra-lord.


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

An Encounter Matrix for Multiple Factions

Hi all, a quick, final post for this month's RPG Blog Carnival theme: Rethinking Encounters.

Within potential encounters in a larger area of action, one element that must be considered is encounters with different groups or factions within a setting, as well as their relationship to one another.

And to perhaps consider the benefits or liabilities of both positive or negative interactions with the various groups.

So here is a brief scenario, as well as a reference matrix, for tracking several groups in an area:

A - A bunch of cultists who have occupied an abandoned hill-fort on the edge of civilization. They are recent immigrants, fleeing a more restrictive environment.
B - A settlement of orcs near the confluence of two rivers.  They moved in long enough ago to build a rough palisade and establish rock and wattle structures.  While they mostly hunt in the forests, they are certainly not above a good raid now and then.
C - A band of raider orcs, attempting to expand their tribe's influence and territory into the region.  They have been preying on travelers on the Border Road, as well as isolated farmsteads.
D - A goblin clan that lives in a series of sandstone caves along the river banks.  They have been here longer than any of the groups, and have weathered the ebb and flow of 'civilization' in the area.
E - Corrupt soldiery tasked with peacekeeping in on the border, but more focused on looking the other way if a share of bribes and loot pass in their direction.

These groups have relationships with one another-  either as Allies (A), Enemies (E), or Neutral (N).  Tracking these relationships might be busy, so a quick matrix to highlight who's who and where they stand with respect to one another is helpful:

Ok.  So now our erstwhile adventurers need to retrieve an artifact, the Scepter of Harambe-kamen.

Trouble is, it got broken in two pieces while being used as a nutcracker a few years back, and its respective components are now in the hands of two groups: the cultists (Group A), and the raider orcs (Group C).

Provided our team can't physically defeat one of both of these groups, they are going to have to use some diplomacy.  Of course, these two groups are at odds, so utilizing and intelligence of the relationships (and territories) of the various faction may be useful.

For instance, the soldiers and cultists tolerate one another, but the soldiers have also come to team with the raider orcs, who have proven to be quite lucrative.  Conversely, getting on the cultists' good side may also gain influence with the local orc tribe, who hate the interlopers horning in on their territory, and may be happy to have an excuse (and temporary allies) to help push them out of the area.

Now, if the team wiped out the cultists in pursuit of part of the scepter, and the local orcs learned of it, then not only will they not assist, but now they are another belligerent faction to deal with.

Conversely, getting on the soldier's good side may make headway (or at least hopefully a 'safe' introduction) with the raider orcs, although once the two groups understood that something of value was to be found, the chances of double-crossing goes up significantly.  And the soldiers would likely not get in the way if those pesky cultists got ousted from the old fort.  Provided their tithing boxes got dropped along the roadway as the players made their way out of the area.

The goblins would just rather be left alone.

Since these relationships aren't necessarily linear to one another, there is ample potential for negotiation, subterfuge, and double-crossing (on both plate and NPC sides).  Anyway, as I said, a brief approach for building and tracking relationships in an area to give both color and complications to an area, and quite likely, the party's goals.  Enjoy.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Magic Item: Saint Iriabel's Censer of Alliance

Tabletop Terrors is hosting this month's RPG Blog Carnival, with the theme of 'Rethinking Encounters': including rethinking encounter mechanics, making them memorable, redefining encounters, and creating items associated with encounters...

And I've found that if I don't take advantage of some inspiration as it strikes, it tends to dissipate into the aether.

So here ya go - 15 minutes of inspiration and Wikipedia....


Saint Iriabel's Censer of Alliance

The Way-Priest Gegar Iriabel was a missionary-explorer to the Chaos-lands that encroached on (and periodically overran) the boundaries of the tamed lands.  Rather than simply smiting Chaos as he found it, he was known to proselytize to the 'Darkness' and occasionally found some success, as evidenced by his periodic entourage of hobgoblins and orcs.

For Iriabel found it much more profitable, and less hazardous, to create small alliances, or sway factions within Chaos forces to either support him, or at least allow him passage in his greater crusading goals.  These goals often included recovering hostages, retrieval of lost or stolen artifacts and relics, and re-sanctifying desecrated places along the edges of civilization.

In this pursuit, he fortified his own faith and powers of persuasion with a chain censer blessed to magnify the powers of a wandering priest in hostile lands, such as himself...

The Censer was made of silver worked with rare examples of lapis and topaz.  Swung by a short chain while burning certain blessed charcoals and incenses, the Censer creates the following effects for a Law-aligned cleric (or class allowed use of cleric magic items):

  • +2 on reaction rolls with potentially hostile or unknown parties.  Irabel blessed the device to have its greatest benefit when encountering an unknown individual or group in unfriendly territory.  While the Censer may not have the outward benefit of a charm spell, Irabel found that, along with his own powers of persuasion, such an amplifier was quite suitable to create voluntary temporary allies.
The Censer grants bonuses to the following common encounter-based spells
  • An additional +1 bonus to saves (and corollary -1 penalty to chaos forces) Protection from Evil, (For Protection from Evil, 10' Radius, the radius if doubled)
  • An additional +1 bonus for a character under the benefits of a Bless spell
  • An additional -1 penalty to creatures affected by a Prayer spell 
Other bunuses granted by the Censer include:
  • +1 on undead turning rolls
  • While the Censer is burning, any ally within 10 feet is protected from contracting disease due to its protective smoke and fumes. 

Bonuses will last while the Censer is burning,  The Censer will burn for 1d2+1 hours with each charge of charcoal and incense.

After Iriabel's death and canonization, the Censer was housed in his fortress-monastery in the northwest of the kingdom,  Ironically, the monastery was overrun by Chaos warbands a decade after his death, and the Censer itself was stolen away.  Perhaps a brave and clever party will seek to recover it...

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Hitting things with sticks (and Swords & Wizardry Light)

Been poring through Tenkar's Swords & Wizardry Light treatment.  Erik was kind/brave enough to leave a Word copy laying about unattended, so I was making some personal edits and additions, including adding pared down interpretations of the four additional S&W Complete Rules classes (Assassin, Druid, Monk, and Ranger).  I was working on the Druid, when I noticed that the S&W druid doesn't have 'club' as a weapon option on the equipment list.

I was bit confused by this, as the AD&D 1st Edition, where S&W gets a lot of its inspiration and mechanics, includes the club as a druid weapon - after all, the class is often constrained to non-metallic weapons, in addition to armor...

So I'm not sure if this was an oversight or other simplification.  But anyway, my S&W druids will be allowed to swing clubs. Likewise, my Light version of the druid will be issued a club or spear as part of starting equipment.

Which brings me to a very brief rant.  Ok, I know that D&D,etc. isn't specifically 'realistic' or sometimes even internally consistent, but after all these years of reading the rules, I noticed that there is only one other class that can't wallop things with a cudgel.

Come on folks, anyone can pick up a stick...  no skill or significant strength required... Give the poor magic users a club.


Anyway, here's my tweaks and additions to Erik's original document - feel free to swipe for use and abuse.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Mini Review: Swords & Wizardry Complete, 3rd Printing

I supported the latest printing of the Complete rulebook via the Frog God team's recent Kickstarter.  The new book arrived promptly (Especially as I'm only a ferry ride away from the Frog God's home swamp).

As stated in the KS campaign, the book is a new printing, rather than a new edition. The text is essentially unchanged from the previous printing (which I also supported).

However, the book layout and artwork were reworked with the intent of drawing in new players and a new audience. The project was headed by Stacy Dellorfano, who invited a crew of female artists to provide the illustrations.

While there was a bit of controversy (isn't there always) that the art was exclusively by XX chromosomes, that's not the point to me.  It's good art.

Thumbing through the book has that element of inspired imagination. Kaos Nest's gothic-tinged cover piece evokes dark spells or demonic shadows.  Example characters, scenes, and reinterpreted monsters (the kobold has a hint of plumed dinosaur) do a good job of rekindling some inspiration for this lapsed gamer.

And I'm always a sucker for a good bulette.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Building some class

I recently stumbled upon Erin Smale's 'Building the Perfect Class' and updated 'Building a More Perfect Class' procedure for building alternative classes for old school or OD&D variants of the game.

Erin did some serious heavy lifting back-calculating experience point/level builds using the original classes/races to develop a matrix for creating or modifying playable races/classes.  He broke down HD, saves, equipping, skills, and spell abilities, assigning values to the variables.  The outcome is a reasonably balanced approach to class creation, and seems, at face value, to avoid over-powered classes.  (He does go on at some length about how the classic magic-user appears to be very hampered by the assigned XP requirements vs his calculated XP, built out via criteria).

So as a thought experiment - I tried a build-out with my Lizardfolk class that I wrote up a couple years past.


Erin lines out the criteria as such:

1. Hit Dice
2. Class Saving Throw
3. Attack/“to-hit” progression
4. Armour availability or restrictions
5. Weapons availability or restrictions
6. Spell-casting ability
7. Special Abilities: the class’s special abilities, (Erin has an inconsistency in this item - he notes that the abilities are not based on race in his summary, but includes racial abilities in his special abilities list.  Since there are no other racial qualifiers elsewhere in the list - I assume this is a typo)
8. Skills: learned skills, not based on race
9. Weapon Mastery: weapon proficiency (from the Rules Cyclopedia, if used,otherwise a generic value)
10. Level Limits - name-level or none?

The individual point options are provided in his document and associated spreadsheet.  My lizardfolk-specific notes are summarized below:

1. HD - 400 points (d8 is assigned 300 pts, but I'm adding value for 2HD at 1st level)
2. Saves - 100 points (fighter equivalent)
3. Attack - 500 points ('monster')
4. Armor - 100 points (Restricted to shields)
5. Weapons - 0 points (Racial restriction)
6. Spells - 0 points (this may change, since a 'shaman' class is allowed)
7. Special Abilities - 100 points (Natural armor)
                                100 (Natural weapons)
                                100 (Swimming)
                                100 (Breath-holding)
8. Skills - 0 points
9. Weapon Mastery - 0 points (generic)
10. Level Limit - -100 points (name level)

Total: 1400 points

Seems realistic - comparable to the cleric class.  The target XP is lower than the familiar demi-humans (dwarf, elf, halfling), but this may be representative of the Lizardfolk's perceived primitive or degraded state.  Flexing in a cleric-type spell ability option could add 100-400 points to the buy.

The base XP requirement is extrapolated to the appropriate level goals

Therefore - the Lizardfolk-specific class levels line out as:

Lvl XP Required
1 0
2 1,400
3 2,800
4 5,600
5 11,200
6 20,000
7 40,000
8 80,000
9 160,000 (Name-level limit)

Anyway, the BaMPC system appears to be a fairly robust resource for creating player classes for your own world.  As always comments or tweaks are welcome.