Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year, Peace & Good Will Toward Mankind!

I hope you have a great new year, gentle hearted readers... I have a very good feeling about 2010 indeed, although I cannot explain why! I will return now to my previously recorded "A Clockwork Orange" and see through the end of 2009 while sipping Pendleton Canadian whisky. May the Orcs, Goblins, and Kobolds steer clear of you in the New Year, and may you find your way to the treasure of the thousand dungeons you wish to explore. Peace.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

OSRIC Game Play Journal: Circling the Tower

(I’m a player in this game, not the DM.) There was a lot of mistrust in the party today, as three NPCs voted one way and the others four (PCs) in the group voted against them (with one abstention). The vote was for another split party recon of the tower. The PCs voting thought that it might be good to hypnotise the magic user NPC to see if she was legit, but in the end the cleric Ouze offered to (presumably use “Detect Evil” or “Detect Alignment”) and ask his god/goddess for guidance about her and offer advice based on this. You may recall that previously Ouze had been hypnotized himself by Dennis the Gnome Illusionist and found to be trustworthy. So they found her (through Ouze) to at least not have malevolent purposes, and the party agreed to her suggestion that she “use her magical means to attain the 2nd level of the tower” and then signal the rest of the party if it was safe to use the stairs up, once they’d entered.

The negotiations were intense leading up to this point, and the 2nd recon plan was put to the side and an actual approach and assault of the tower was to more speedily take place instead. Even still, there were a number of ruinous buildings (just rubble, really) to one side of the tower, so these were investigated first, until one was found to shelter a pit which contained a pathetic human-like creature who had been skinned, and staked to the ground through its hands and feet in a dog-like fashion. It was thought that this thing might be undead, and it was spoken to and when it didn’t respond, approached by one of the clerics to see if its flesh was warm. It was, and then there ensued a discussion as to whether the thing should be put out of its misery. The NPCs all voted against this, the PCs were split. Then Dennis Slyfoot, the Illusionist, persuaded Anrid the Fighter to release one of its bonds and see whether the thing attempted to attack him. Anrid could not remove the stake, and it was concluded that the thing was magically bound somehow, and that it was best ignored at this point. The party spent a great deal of time discussing this matter, even shooting the poor thing at one point (to no apparent effect) with a crossbow.

As is the norm now, another short session, but again with fun role-playing even if short on action this time around. Wow, we haven't played an OSRIC session since October. It felt good to get this going again...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Dungeon Chicken Now Available as Miniature

Ok ok, so maybe it's just a regular chicken. Depends on how you paint it I guess. Anyhow, I had to laugh after reading Megaminis' recent newsletter announcing their chicken minis, only two days after my recent Dungeon Chicken write up. Serendipity! Only $1, or get 16 for $8! :)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Dungeon Chicken

Armor Class: 7 [12]
Hit Dice: 1
Attacks: Beak or Claws for 1-2 hp
Saving Throw: 18
Special: Poison (see below)
Move: 6/15 (when flying short distances)
Challenge Level/XP: 1/15

Found in underground places, both genders of the Dungeon Chicken appear nearly identical to everyday roosters except that their combs and wattles are green instead of red. These are actually poison producing glands - similar glands of the same color are also located on their heels. They allow the sharp peck or claw of the Dungeon Chicken to deliver a poison whose effect is to cause fear and hysteria in the victim (treat as Fear spell: failure to Save causes character to flee in horror, with a 60% chance they will drop whatever they’re holding, effect lasts for one hour). They normally avoid conflict but will defend themselves vigorously if attacked or approached menacingly, or if they feel their offspring are in danger.

Dungeon Chickens are just as edible as their normal cousins, and while their eggs are not strictly poisonous, they can have strange magical effects. Even so, these creatures are sometimes kept as a source of food by underground dwellers such as kobolds and goblins. Their poison soon loses its efficacy after exposure to air, but some alchemists are said to have overcome this.

GIMP'd image, original here: / CC BY-SA 2.0

text of this post released under the OGL

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

S&W Game Play Journal: The Best Laid Schemes...

So we haven’t played in a long time, but the idea hatched in the last session was that the characters were going to lay a trap for local merchants by whom they’d been hired as guards (mostly to protect againt a known group of goblins). The idea was to have three party members lay in wait in darkness at a hairpin turn in the road and creek crossing - these party members would jump the merchants wagon (who couldn’t wait for a larger caravan) and an elaborate set of signals would provide communication between the two members with the merchants and the others which would culminate in the merchants being robbed but everyone remaining alive and well. It wasn’t clear at the outset if everyone actually intended for that to happen, but that was the plot they all agreed to with one another. The two characters with the merchants are Neutral in alignment btw, and the three who were to fake ambush them are all Chaotic.

Now Olav the (NPC) dwarf, an experienced (and trusted by the townspeople) caravan guard was along on the wagon. He was looking for real money here, having been talked into this scheme by Wagstaff the Thief, during a bout of heavy drinking. Since the last session (over several weeks), he’d been loaning his new comrades money to feed and shelter them. He was now half as rich as he had been since the fight with the rats, and the only reason he was entertaining Wagstaff’s idea was that the rat extermination job had earned him more in one day than a week had on the road as a guard (and they hadn’t even completed the rat job). He was also assured there would be no killing. Olav’s contribution to the scheme was to suggest the ambush location and convince the merchants when to depart in order for darkness and the rendevous point to be arranged properly. He’d heard that his proposed ambush point was also used by goblins as a location to raid traveling merchants, but he’d never had a problem in his guard duty, so he thought it very unlikely that the party would run into anything like this.

The day came for their evil scheme to take place - three had gone ahead the day before to hide at the ambush site, and Olav and Agnal rode on the wagon with the merchants - cloth merchants, as luck would have it...

(At this point I rolled to see if there was going to be any goblin activity at or near the ambush point on a roll of 1 in 6 - I rolled a one, so there were in fact goblins planning on going there near the same time.)

A couple of hours before the ambush was to take place, Snits the Elf, Berk the Fighter, and Agnal the Chaotic Cleric were hunched resting near the creek site when they heard voices coming closer. Agnal knows Goblinoid, and warned the others to get ready. They spotted four goblins approaching, hugging the road on either side of it. One was clearly slightly larger and it was he who was talking to the others, although what he was saying couldn’t be ascertained exactly at this distance.

Agnal then shouted out something to the effect of “Join us or die!”... the goblin lieutenant responded, “Why should we join or fear those that we cannot see?!?” Whereupon Agnal told the others to attack. Snits cast her Protection from Evil as Berk charged the lieutenant with his spear after missing him with a javelin. Agnal waited for the goblins to close. The goblin leader drew a short bow, and gravely injured Berk as he was charging, then slew him once he had closed and initially missed with his charge. Snits faired poorly, her attacking goblin scoring a lucky first hit. She was downed to zero one round later, her attacker running to join the attack on Agnal. Agnal had faired poorly too, and was reduced now to just one hit point. He surrendered and begged pathetically for his life just before Berk was slain by the leader.

The goblins dragged the lifeless carcass of Berk over to Agnal, as well as the unconscious and bloodied Snits to where he could see her. The goblins were obviously very pleased with their successful battle and also at having acquired the beautiful elven maiden. They applied first aid to her to keep her alive “for a few weeks” and asked Agnal why they should not kill him.

Agnal spewed a bunch of BS that even the goblins wouldn’t buy at that point. In the end they stripped him of literally everything he had on him, and told him to go back up the road to town as a mark of humiliation and as a warning or morale destroyer to the “huge party of dangerous adversaries” he’d tried to fool them into believing was coming very soon.

Shortly later, Wagstaff and Olav were surprised to see the naked and bloodied form of Agnal on the road, lumbering in their direction. Agnal’s story to the merchants was that he and his two (now dead and missing) friends had left town looking for better or more work (the merchants recognized him as someone they’d seen with Wagstaff and Olav at the local tavern) when they’d been jumped by goblins up the road. There was some discussion at that point whether they should continue and try to find a new route (and the remaining party improvise another ambush or some other trickery). The merchants, however, insisted on going back to town to join a larger caravan and to notify the militia of yet another goblin incursion.

Lesson here being, never split the party (even above ground). It’s possible an arrangement might have been reached with the goblins through another approach, but for now the party is back in town, poorer and down two of their number from where they were before. Needless to say, Olav is irate at this turn of events, especially since he will now never be repaid his loans to the former party members. Veritas only knows what the goblins are up to with Snit - one shudders to think. I suppose this is a bit of instant karma for these chaotic PCs, although it could have happened to anyone too (if only I hadn’t rolled that 1 on d6 early on). Berk chose to use the d30 on his spear charge, only to roll a 2. That could very well have killed him, although he does have a DEX -1 modifier and crappy armor already. It remains to be seen whether Olav will give up adventuring completely and turn into an honest working dwarf like his brothers, although something tells me his drinking may get the better of him again soon... As for Agnal, his self-esteem has hit a new nadir, this latest sorry event following on the heels of his public humiliation and exile from the previous settlement he'd tried to undermine. Wagstaff is happy to be alive and to have earned another gold piece for his time tonight - but money is running out quickly and desperation growing.

Monday, December 21, 2009

HP Boxes Poll Results

Re: Hit Point Check Mark Boxes in Published Modules...

Like 'em: 23%
Hate 'em: 20%
Huh? : 27%
Meh: 29%

Pretty even spread here, but I was surprised at the number of folks who've apparently no idea what I'm even talking about. Perhaps this will make it clearer:

I haven't played any Hackmaster personally but I've seen a HM module or two and these were in 'em. I think I've seen them in some non-TSR AD&D modules too, but I forget. I can't even remember where I got this example from, but I think it was from an indy module intended for OS games.

I actually like them a little bit, just for the fact that I'm lazy and it saves me a small amount of time in game play.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Artifact Deciphering in Gamma World and Elsewhere

As Chris rightly pointed out, I'd forgotten about these types of charts being used in Gygax's S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. Here they are, for comparison purposes:
Though the system is largely the same, the 1980 charts have been tidied up a bit and clarified versus the Ward and Jaquet 1978 GW charts. I think it's interesting that though Metamorphosis Alpha (1976) is clearly the inspiration to both later TSR publications, the artifact deciphering system is different. MA uses a percentile system: cross referencing the Leadership Potential character ability vs. the item's complexity yields a percent chance of success.The more I think about it, the more I like the later system vs. the percentile system, for the potential additional (minor, but fun) role playing it affords, or at least seems to encourage more, even with the the speed and simplicity of the d% method. I've never played the 2nd through 6th(!) editions of Gamma World and wonder if the artifact deciphering rules were ever changed "back" to the percentile system.

Another approach are saving throws - Akrasia's excellent article "Thieves and Tasks" in Knockspell #2 discussed these as 'a kind of general task resolution system' which could easily be applied to resolving artifact deciphering. Matthew at The Wheel of Samsara proposed something like this using an INT Save with modifiers based on the item's complexity and with a short list of results to consult.

Update: Just to add for those that might play Mutant Future but who've never owned or played Gamma World: Considering MF has three levels of artifact complexity just like 1e GW, one could easily use the GW charts there if they wanted to (if this wasn't obvious). See previous post here...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Those Crazy Gamma World Charts

You know the ones I'm talking about:
These nearly amount to a game within a game. If it isn't obvious, or you don't remember or haven't seen 'em, they're the charts to consult when a player is trying to discover how to use an artifact. Basically, you'd roll on them up to a maximum of 5 times, at which point if you haven't figured it out by getting to "F" (you start at "S"), you can work at it for a straight hour (as long as you aren't interrupted) and you'll have figured it out. Die rolls take into consideration intelligence and mutations.

I haven't seen anything like this in an rpg that came before it or since. Mutant Future btw, uses a more familiar d% system, with base chances for the item's "Complexity Class", also taking into consideration INT and mutations.

Still, they make me smile.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Abandoned Water Park: Gamma World Or Mutant Future Inspiration

I would love to get a Gamma World or Mutant Future game going (although I'm having a hard enough time keeping my S&W/LL game going due to out of game demands), and when I saw this forum post of a portion of Walt Disney World abandoned in Florida, I immediately thought of how cool it would be for an adventure to take place there, or someplace inspired by it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Free Chaosium Downloads for Call of Cthulu w/ Code

Sign up for an account with Chaosium if you don't have one already and use the code "CHAOS GOODIES " at checkout to get these two PDF downloads for free:

Christmas in Kingsport contains "...Five (mini adventure -z.b.) tales certain to scare the stockings off the mantle."

and Arkham, Now :
This is a PDF map depicting the city of Arkham, Massachusetts in the modern-day.

Update: Let me know if you have a download problem, I've tried with 2 different emails and accounts and haven't had a problem yet but YMMV. You might also try them at

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rats on a Stick, Side of Fries

Ever since I saw that old Judges Guild recipe for Rats on a Stick another OSR blogger brought to my attention (sorry, forgot who) I'd been wanting to make them for my eight year old nephew. I'm still trying to get him interested in early D&D, or keep him possibly interested (he seemed just a little young for it the last we played). He'd much rather play Zelda when he visits, but does enjoy watching the old D&D cartoons on DVD that I bought with him in mind just about every time he comes over.

I was reminded of these items again recently after my post here about rat diseases and decided I should get to it and do a trial cooking run in order to see how they come out before attempting to serve them to him.

I didn't have some of the ingredients and only had a half pound of ground beef on hand, so they were going to be slightly smallish rats... no honey, and no tails as we didn't have red food coloring for the spaghetti. I had Annie's answer to the Cheddar Goldfish crackers, "Annie's Cheese Bunnies" or something like that so I smashed those up. I had some decent southern barbecue sauce, but no honey, and only had Monterey Jack for the cheese stuffing. In terms of the amounts, I just winged it for the smaller serving size. My recommendation would be to cut the cheese not into cubes but into narrow rectangles, then skewer and mold the egg/cracker/beef mixture around these. There's definitely a trick to the moisture content - if there's too much egg it's too wet to mold properly. I think the crackers might have helped if they were ground up more than just by hand. Very hard to get the cheese coated enough with meat not to leak out with the beef deficit here too.

Ready to go in the pan
Ready to go in the oven
Out of the oven
On the plate

Went well with sweet potato french fries and mayo... Tasty too, but they really didn't much resemble what I think of when I hear about rats on sticks:

I think the only thing to do is to sculpt the little bastards with sausages of some kind. :-)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pinball Wizard

I'm not a huge pinball fan but I'd love to buy and resell or gift this local (to me) Craigslist item if I could afford it, or raffle it off for charity, just to have an excuse to play it for a little while!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tavern Graffiti: Morgana Le Fay's Cousin

The infamous Morgana le Fay
Had a sorceress cousin they say
who lived afar down South
and knew but Magic Mouth,
but was quite popular in her day...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Bubonic Plague, Rats

There’s nothing in the BXCMI indexes about diseases (maybe it’s in those and I just missed it), nor is there in the OSRIC index. I couldn’t find anything about them in the three OD&D books, but Supplement II (Blackmoor) has some wonderful diseases referenced, thirteen of them exactly, and AD&D (1e) has about two pages in the DMG about them.

Here I’m concerned with diseases that rats can carry. Since Wagstaff and his friends have been playing with them lately (ok, “exterminating”), and since Wagstaff was bit and contracted a disease (nice work, 5% chance), I was interested in exactly what he’d gotten from the poor beast...

Although I like the generality of the 1e DMG rules, I was looking for something a little more specific, to be able to inform the player of more exactly what he was diagnosed with (if he indeed seeks professional, ie. clerical help), if for nothing else.

Blackmoor is more specific and was what I was looking for really, being generally lazy. What, if any, diseases were listed there that could be picked up from being in direct or indirect contact with these giant rats he’d encountered?

Only one, in fact, although I’ll have to remember to roll for a 1% chance of contracting “Crud” as listed there, following each dungeon experience. Bubonic plague is listed, and the chance of contracting this would be 1% too, with a 90% chance of infecting anyone he comes in contact with in the following 1-20 days or so, depending on how you read the chart there. Exposure to fleas is required, but given the carrying of the carcasses to the flour mill owner to prove their deed for payment, I’m inclined to up that number from 1% a tad, to say 10% (more?). I mean, wouldn’t those fleas just be jumping ship as soon as their host was dead? So what we have here is a potential plague in the town, all because some uppity adventuring types thought they could fulfill a request for assistance with a little rat problem. Blackmoor states that the fatality rate is 35%. Since there were 5 party members present for the rat battle and carcass carrying (why didn’t you leave them there man?!?), that means that there’s a 50% chance someone got it. And if someone got it, there’s only a 10% chance that each of the others don’t get it! Which here amounts to a 2.5% chance that someone else in the party doesn’t get it. And if they do get it, the chances of the others not getting it get even worse! Wow. I don’t know what Arneson based those numbers on, but if they are remotely accurate, no wonder the Black Plague knocked off so many people.

On the bright side, if you get it and live you’re immune for life. Yay! Best to get this early in your dungeoneering career, I imagine. The exposure possibilities should be fairly good. Anyone working for Claude probably stands a good chance of contracting this at some point.

So the chance of dying due to bubonic plague in this instance, amounts to an average of uh, what? Gods I hate math. I mean, I love it, but I in practice I hate it. I asked a couple of folks on an IRC channel about this and either got the brush off or they were stumped. Anyone? Just curious... I mean, speaking of gambling here recently, I wonder just what the party’s odds were in accepting this business arrangement, esp. given their 100gp total pay (100/5=20gp each, eesh). Sadly, they didn’t complete the job, and were paid only 50gp total, and their odds of contracting the Black Plague were not diminished relatively.

With all that said, Wagstaff was bitten by one of the rats, not infected indirectly via fleas. So maybe that’s another post entirely.

Monday, December 7, 2009

If I Really Wanted to Combine Actual Gambling and D&D

Instead of this, I'd have done something like this:

I played the lottery once before, a few years ago...
wish us luck, I'll let you know what we when. :-P

udpate: we won $4

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Battlefield 1942, Old School FPS...(with apologies)

Heresy you say! To use the term old school in the context of discussing a computer game, shameful...

Yeah, Battlefield 1942 is not a pencil and paper game, sorry. I’ve been playing a lot of it again lately...not bad considering it came out in 2002. Anyone wanna play? Email me. You can also look for me serving up a game (rarely these days) under “Fletcher Memorial” with wildcards in the search since I’ll occasionally be running mods. Why is this game so great? Because it’s old school as far as FPSs go. And mods. Free mods. And you can pick this up for the Windows version for probably less than $20. If you do, make sure you get it brand new as opened versions might have the serial numbers registered that might prevent you from playing multiplayer online games.

Why is this an old school FPS? It’s not railroady. Most people I know play this in head to head Conquest mode, which means you just need to reduce your opponents teams tickets to zero. There’s no Call of Duty-like do this then do that story line, it’s just a matter of seizing flags and controlling zones (however you want to go about this). You can hang out and snipe if that’s your style. You can be a medic and mostly heal, or an engineer and fix things.

But the other O.S. aspect of the game are the free huge mods that you can download. The best and most played of these is probably Desert Combat (look for Desert Combat Final .8). Fan created, they are occasionally buggy, but really show the versatility of the game. There’s even a Civl War, Star Wars clone, Post-Apocalyptic, and Pirates mod which will change all of the vehicles, maps, and weapons, but otherwise be familiar to veteran players. Reminds me S&W somehow.

In addition to the mods, I occasionally run the commercial expansions Road to Rome and Secret Weapons. Mods I run...

Forgotten Hope .7
Battlegroup 42
Desert Combat Final
Rarely: Pirates, Eve of Destruction, Galactic Conquest, HomeFront, Interstate, Dead Cities, Civil War, and Silent Heroes.

I even ran a dedicated Linux server for this game for awhile. Look for “Corporal Clegg” if you’re a regular player (there are 500-1000 folks playing this at any given time).

Anyhow, I'll try to keep the computer side of gaming out of this blog, but well, that's what I've been up to lately...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thoughts on D&D & Online Gambling

I recently saw that WotC must have licensed the D&D trademark to Kerching Casinos for their "Dungeons & Dragons: Crystal Caverns" online gambling game. I haven't played it and don't really care to (and couldn't even if I wanted to here in the U.S.). But the very existence of this game put some things in perspective for me.

I grew up back when the when certain Christian groups were up in arms about D&D, accusing it of being a way to convert kids to Satanism, cause them to commit suicide, lose their minds, you name it. I know it sounds ridiculous now, but there really was a lot of media stir about it at the time. Fortunately that all blew over, and as everyone reading this probably knows, D&D became just a bit tamer in the aftermath. Numerous studies have been done on RPGs since, and now it's more common to read about the potential psychological benefits of them than any real or imagined negative effects.

I suppose there are a few reasons why mixing D&D's image and online gambling shouldn't cause an uproar these days - it's only available via the web and you'd need a credit card, it's not in the U.S., and there are (presumably) far less D&D players now than there were in its hey day.

But the thing that stands out for me about this development is how the game has been around so long that the earlier edition players are now definitely old enough to gamble. Since online gambling and D&D really have very little to do with one another, it comes down to a marketing gimmick - and in this case it would seem to be evidence of the nostalgia for these games that exists, one that's being cynically exploited in this case. Consider UK1: Beyond the Crystal Cave (for 1st edition AD&D), the name of the gambling game here ("Crystal Caverns"), and the fact Kerching Casinos is UK based, and there's little doubt what demographic is being most marketed to here. I see WotC's licensing for this in the same light.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tavern Graffiti: The Ugly Thief Limerick

There once was an ugly thief
Who'd chewed too much halfling leaf
He was heard to convey
"I could sure use a lay
But wish I still had my teef!"

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Scans for Erol Otus Fans (from Gamma World)

(Gotta love that Dead Kennedys necklace)

Of course, right after scanning these I discover Jeff Rient's fan page, but at least these are a bit larger...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turducken? No Turducken.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone... I’d been considering writing up a gimmicky monster a la Turducken of some kind. That is to say, a monster within a monster (literally) but I’m drawing a blank. The movie “Alien” keeps coming to mind. If I could come up with something, I’m sure at least Claude would appreciate it.

We’re not actually cooking a turkey this year. Somehow, it has fallen upon myself to be head chef this time, and with my admittedly weak cooking abilities, I have opted out of the large bird in the oven thing in favor of two small birds in the oven. I’ll be cooking cornish game hens. Not only that though, as my wife is a huge fan of this holiday as well as of various cooking shows (Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, Iron Chef, Good Eats, and more), I feel compelled to cook her my own version of Turducken. She asked me at one point if I actually intended to place a half handful amount of stuffing into these tiny birds, to which I surprised myself by replying “Oh there’ll be stuffing, but you’ll just have to wait and see what it is” quite smartly, or rather stupidly, as I’d no idea what I’d put in there at the time I said that. Now that a day has passed, I’ve taken stock of our provisions and defrosted what will be the meat contents of the game hen stuffing - and it’s breakfast link sausages folks! ...What, no good? Well, she said she liked them the last time I made breakfast for us, and it’s all I have that will fit in these poor little bastards.

Suggestions are welcome. Cook the links first and then cram them in there to be baked with the birds? Chop them up and put them in there (uncooked, although aren’t they pre-cooked already)? Or perhaps I can do something stuffling-like with the (instant) mashed potatoes or broccoli I have on hand?

Anyhow, I have two fall backs - one is the two bottles of champagne already in the fridge that I can bust out at any time, and the other is the dessert, which I didn’t make myself. Pumpkin pie! Purchased from a local gourmet dessert business. Hey, I whipped the cream myself, complete with agave syrup and bourbon vanilla. Um, I probably won’t post how this turns out. Eat on!''

Update: By the gods it worked out pretty well - 400 deg. for 30 min. and 45 min. at 375 degress (F) uncovered, and it was perfect. The only thing I botched was the squash - an arorn squash split half and then seasoned with molasses and sugar cane (instead of brown sugar itself) just didn't cut it. I was out of the stuff, what can I say? Ah well.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Scintillating Orchids

A subterranean type of flora, Scintillating Orchids (or more commonly “blind man’s flowers”) are a visually poisonous type of plant which live symbiotically (see also: Carnivorous Grass) with predatory creatures such as the Piercer and Stirge.

The petals of these plants change color with incredible frequency and in intricate patterns, with a slightly hypnotic effect. Their bioluminescence causes flying insects to become attracted to the flowers, which are then fed upon by bats. It is thought that most of the nutritional needs of the plants are filled by the guano of these creatures. However, a more amazing ability of the Scintillating Orchid is what makes it dangerous to man - the plants can react to the nearby presence of larger creatures by emitting a cone of light (see below) which can temporarily blind or stun them. This in turn can lead to attacks of opportunity by other creatures - which themselves add another type of fertilizer to the plants in the course of their own killing and digestion of prey.

No. Appearing: 1-4 HD: N/A
Special: Color Spray attack per 1e Illusionist’s 1st level spell: Range 10’ - A vivid cone of clashing colors, causing creatures to become stunned, perhaps also blinded, and possibly knocking them unconscious. Each creature within the cone is affected according to its Hit Dice:

2 HD or less: The creature is unconscious, blinded, and stunned for 2d4 rounds, then blinded and stunned for 1d4 rounds, and then stunned for 1 round. (Only living creatures are knocked unconscious.)

3 or 4 HD: The creature is blinded and stunned for 1d4 rounds, then stunned for 1 round.

5 or more HD: The creature is stunned for 1 round.

Sightless creatures are not affected by the Color Spray attack.

Once picked, these plants will no longer be capable of their Color Spray attack, but will retain their coruscating colors for 1-4 days. Each provides the illumination equivalent of about one candle. They are highly sought after by wealthy nobles as romantic gift items and can easily fetch as much as 100gp each.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Ill-Tempered Gnome Winter Ale

Not a D&D item, just a shout out and thanks to the good folks at Oakshire Brewing for their tasty seasonal brown ale, the Ill-Tempered Gnome. Between Oakshire and Ninkasi (named after a Sumerian goddess), that 100 mile diet is looking ever more doable for us Eugenians. Long live the local brew!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Scary Potter Mini

I'm finding it hard to resist this 25mm zombie mini from MegaMinis.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Claude de Sarlat, Monster Eater

This post is Open Game License content.

Claude de Sarlat is an eccentric and very wealthy gourmand. He regularly employs groups of adventurers to hunt down, kill (or trap), and retrieve for him various creatures - mostly four footed monsters but also exotic flora and fowl. Claude eats it all. His chef, one “Tirel”, himself an eccentric and worldly character, gladly indulges Claude’s culinary desires. Without Claude knowing it, Tirel has even expanded his repertoire to include bipedal beasts such as owlbears (and others) but has not yet dared to surreptitiously introduce Claude to these more acquired tastes.

Claude owns a keep and has inherited a small fiefdom - while not exactly encouraging monsters to forage for human and demihuman fare of their own, he does seem to tolerate it - or at least does so according to many of his not so loyal nor admiring subjects. Rumors of his more exotic tastes have recently spread throughout the land, and his appetite is already legendary.

He is a large man: short of stature, but it would be unfair to call him “fat” - obscenely obese would be more accurate, or as Claude prefers, “most long of girth”. He wears an unfashionable mustache, which is typically encrusted with the remains of food, and he is almost constantly eating. Short-tempered and demanding, he’s very unpleasant to be around, and were it not for the fact that he pays extremely well (and can afford it), he would no doubt be quite alone. He’s always surrounded by personal servants and bodyguards, one of whom will have a bucket handy should Claude need to quickly vacate his stomach’s contents to make room for another course.

Claude is eager to employ experienced travelers and dungeoneers in his territory to retrieve for him some “free-range” meats from nearby grottos, preferably live or very freshly killed. Some of his servants are busy watching the local taverns for such travelers and will occasionally approach them with offers of employment (not revealing the actual name of their own employer). Acquired “game” should be presented to and will be paid for by Tirel directly.

Several other nobles have heard of Tirel’s exotic meals, and some wish to try them. Others feel the notion of eating monsters is an abomination and that Claude and Tirel are criminals whose actions imply that these creatures’ existence has a purpose and that they should not just be exterminated.

A long time ago, Claude was once a dungeoneer himself. Trapped by a cave-in, he sustained himself by living on the partially-eaten carcasses of battling monsters while awaiting rescue from outside. His survival was aided by his family’s greatest treasure, a Ring of Invisibility. Claude trained for a time as a magic user but his last dungeon experience turned him away from it (it also made him a touch mad).

Claude: Magic User 7: HP 28, AC 9 [11], Atk dagger d4, Str 10, Dex 9, Con 18, Int 14, Wis 8, Cha 7, Ring of Invisibility, Spells: Charm Person, Magic Missile, Read Magic, Sleep, Continual Light, Detect Invisibility, Stinking Cloud, Haste, Lightning Bolt, Charm Monster. He will seldom use the ring unless in extreme danger, and will only do so in conjunction with casting Haste upon himself.

Tirel: Fighter 4: HP 21, AC 5 [14], Atk long sword d8, Str 12, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 13, Wis 12, Cha 14.

Bodyguards (d6 at any given time) are 1st level fighters with a 2nd level captain.

(images from Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life”, of course!)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

S&W Game Play Journal: Hatching a Plan

Our weekly game was almost canceled due to real world demands, but we've agreed to continue gaming with the expectation that our sessions will be shorter...

Picking up from where we left off, the party had to rest for a good five days in order to heal from the giants rats attacks from the last session. It was decided that it wasn't worth the additional promised 50 gold in order to finish the extermination job, and the party went looking for employment elsewhere.

They visited the docks and paid the harbormaster a visit - Wagstaff tried to gauge interest in "rat pelts", and the pencil pusher really didn't know what to say or make of the suggestion that there might be money in the rat pelt trade! Taking their leave of him, Wagstaff suggested that more underhanded efforts at acquiring gold might be in all of their best interests, such as making a raid on merchants traveling out of town. Olav the dwarf took his leave of the party, saying that he bore them no ill will and would keep his mouth shut, but wanted nothing to do with this plan.

The others (all of whom are chaotic in alignment) were eager to hear more of this idea of Wagstaff's - they went back to the inn themselves to discuss the matter further, where they found Olav deep in the ale... Wagstaff let the barmaid (also the tavern proprieter's wife) know that they were again seeking employment as guards, and she assured them she would let the merchants eating and staying there know about it. A while later she returned with news that there were two looking for accompaniment, but that they only needed a couple of guards - the barmaid had already put in a good word about the dwarf (better known locally as a regular patron at the tavern), and so they were interested in his services as well as those of one more individual.

At this point, Wagstaff suggested that he take employment with Olav to ostensibly protect the merchants, but that they all figure out a good place for the others to raid them and for a fake fight to be put up, whereupon they would all split the loot. Olav wanted to take no part in killing, but Wagstaff said that if the others were well disguised and the fake fight went well, it wouldn't be necessary to kill the merchants - the now drunk dwarf agreed, and the details were worked out in terms of where and when the ambush should take place.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

TSR's Weird Little Minigame: Icebergs

It’s hard to know what was going through the minds of the marketing team at TSR when they decided to go ahead and publish the little minigame called “Icebergs” by Tom Wham. Wham also authored Snit’s Revenge (and others), another TSR minigame which originally appeared in an issue of Dragon magazine, several years earlier. The idea of navigating a supertanker through treacherous icy waters seems something more likely to be exciting in the form of an Atari videogame (big at the time), rather than a hex map, turn and counter based game. I’ll say this though, as a wargaming, rpg playing kid I would buy just about any new game TSR put out if I could afford it, and yes, I actually bought this back in the day (along with Saga, Vampyre, and a number of other mini games by Steve Jackson and Mayfair). From that perspective, they might have made a nice little profit from these.

The idea here is to move your ship from one side of the map to the other, avoiding ice floes and icebergs. That’s really it. You can move ice floes and icebergs to impede other players. You can play solo by rolling d6 to randomly determine the movement of floating ice.

Maybe the intent was to give some kids something cool (cold, that is) to think about on their Summer camping trip or in the motor home on the road or something. Too much wind or movement would quickly destroy a game though, due to the small size of the map and counters. I don’t remember ever actually playing this game, it may well have been the first of many games that I’ve bought where this is the case.

Here are some scans:

Map Detail
Map Detail - Ship Stats

Counters (This scan is of the counters actually printed on the inside of the rear cover, kind of nice in case you lost the heavier card-stock counters. The originals came in eight colors.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Beagle Rolls a d30

I've been busy replacing the computer, cleaning the office, and other mundane tasks the last few days... today I apparently ignored the dogs a little too much. While I was taking a shower, the beagle jumped up into my chair, grabbed the Crown Royal bag of dice off of the desk, and proceeded to get the thing open and spill the Gamescience and expensive casino dice on the floor. Fortunately none of them were chewed up and damaged, and I thought I'd found and put them all away again in the bag (I wonder if the velvet texture reminded her off one of her toys?), when a few minutes later I saw her playing with what appeared to be a small black walnut. She's always finding acorns and nuts from outside and bringing them in, and then tossing them around for herself to chase like a kitten or something. I'm glad I took a closer look and pulled it out of her mouth, as it was one of the hard to find d30 Gamescience dice and not a walnut at all. Grrr!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

S&W Game Play Journal: Just Your Average Rat Killin'

Picking up where the party left off, Wagstaff's lead on a rat extermination job led them to the mill where he bargained with the miller over the job's pay and requested specific tools that would assist them. The miller balked somewhat at this, finally agreeing to deduct the cost of requested materials from the previously agreed upon pay.

His apprentice was sent off with a list and instructions to procure the materials requested there, and returned with a length of silk rope, oil, more torches, cheese (!), and beer. Cedric the 14 year old apprentice returned hours later, clearly inebriated, carrying the requested materials. In the intervening time, Wagstaff tried to get to know the others, with the only really interesting piece of information coming from Olav the dwarf. Olav relayed how he had left the dwarven lands to the West using the same river they were now beside at the mill, travelling down it to find work and get away from the inter-clan warfare raging in his homeland. It seems there was a powerful dragon demanding tribute from the clans, and some were paying it while others were not.

Eventually entering the cellar of the mill, Wagstaff developed an elaborate plan to create a net that would slow or trap rats exiting from rooms they opened doors to, whereupon they would set upon the entrapped rats with their weapons and be at less danger of being bit. Agnal the chaotic cleric suggested that they use the numerous large bags of flour to build small walls to channel any rats they might encounter when opening doors in combination with the home-made net. This they did - unfortunately some attack roll fumbles resulted in sections of the net being severed allowing some rats to escape and nearly kill two members of the party. Fortunately they were able to block up a door with more bags of flour and prevent any more rats egress. Carrying carcasses back upstairs, they secured half of their promised reward on condition they return to finish the job. Wagstaff bluffed that he would disgrace the mill and publicize the infested conditions, but the miller claimed ownership of the carcasses and otherwise discouraged the blackmail attempt, and Wagstaff backed down once the party was assured that they would be allowed some rest and recuperation and still be paid for their efforts.

What was really gratifying about tonight's game was how we noticed that even such a simple and classic role play as this rat killing excursion was actually a lot of fun. The extra care in tactically planning their attack on the rats served the party well. Wagstaff now has 10gp in his pocket... not much, but more than the few silver he had before this job, and he's gained a slightly greater if grudging respect from the others in the party.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Time Killer: The List of Last Words

Saturday, November 7, 2009

De Profundis PBP Forums Up

Per my earlier post here, the forums are now up and accepting new registrations - at this time, I'm only aiming for 4-5 players initially for manageability. Time commitment is minimal compared to most PBP games, a single entry per week would suffice, although more would be welcome. Forums are here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

There is No Such Thing as Efreet Beer

Efreet Beer has restorative properties the same as a potion of Extra Healing, but also conveys Fire Resistance (immune to normal fire, +2 saving throws against fire attacks, half damage to magic fire attacks that do not permit saving throws), as well as Giant Strength. Stored in kegs, each of which will contain d100 “doses”, but which will be rendered useless if decanted from keg and not drank within 2 days. Non-efreet drinking more than one pint (dose) must save versus poison or take d4 damage each time they do so, with no further magic benefits to be had. Badass dungeoneers love this one for their drinking/gambling games.

Gnomebucha is a fermented gnomish tea made from mushrooms which will Cure Disease or immediately counteract any poison. Ever present in the homes of gnomes, 10% of the time it has been brewed incorrectly and will be poisonous to non-gnomes causing d6 damage.

Tincture of Halfling Pipeweed will double normal hit point restoration due to rest but will stop normal restoration if used for more than three days in a row. It is mildly addicting and beer or wine consumption will nullify its restorative abilities. The small bottle it’s stored in usually holds about ten doses.

Boccob’s Wort is another tincture, generally stored in a small bottle holding ten doses, this herbal concoction will change the alignment of the imbiber to neutral for one day.

Landlubber’s Juice is a foul tasting beverage made from seaweed and herbs given to those unaccustomed to travel by sea. Those who fail their saving throw (against poison, or roll under their Dexterity) every twelve hours of such travel are at a disadvantage (DM's discretion) in combat and spell casting for an equal amount of time without the inner ear balance provided by the Juice. No further rolls necessary per journey once a Saving Throw has been successfully made.

Civilization: Video Installation by Marco Brambilla

This video has been around for awhile and most visitors here will already have seen it, but if you haven't I highly recommend you view it full screen - it's really an amazing work. Though obviously rooted in a western religious perspective, I found it to be really suggestive of Hindu or Buddhist cosmology or art somehow, or of a kind of mandala. I wish I could reproduce something more personalized like this to give to players as a kind of vision or overview of the planes, splicing in monsters and our own deities.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Real Village Maps

I stumbled on this page a while back and bookmarked it as a future source of free village maps or inspiration for creating my own. These are all maps of real villages in the U.K., made for the purpose of being of possible help to "emergency services, delivery men, or indeed anyone trying to find a house by name." Maybe they'll be of use to your game too.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

De Profundis: A GM-free RPG

Michael Oracz’s De Profundis initially caught my eye on Chaosium’s catalog because of its Cthulu theme (though it's not related to Chaosium’s own Call of Cthulu game) and because it described itself as “GM-free”. To me, this marks it as an even more direct relative of the Exquisite Corpse than other role playing games.

It’s a softcover book of about 30 pages, and in many ways is really just a primer of psychodrama, although as the author points out, one intended for fun, rather than as therapy. Indeed, the back of the book carries the warning “This game is intended for mentally stable adults” which itself evokes the Necronomicon’s sanity stealing power. The game is meant to be played via postal correspondence, and though I can see some subtler aspects of play being lost by not following that format, I think it would work very well in a web forum play by post format or even just by email. An example of solo game play is described in the book. Here though, I believe the notion of De Profundis as a game is probably stretched to the breaking point, and perhaps better described as method acting or rather, method writing.

Oracz best summarizes psychodrama as game in an article which previously appeared in the (Polish?) gaming publication Portal (#3), which he includes here in the appendix. There, one can find examples of play, descriptions of typical features of psychodrama, and examples of useful devices. This appendix is probably the most lucid part of the book - the rest of it is itself an example of game play and a bit surreal, moving from description of the game and its elements to personal accounts of creeping madness and Lovecraftian horror and then back again.

I plan on setting up a forum for purposes of playing this game if anyone’s interested. The setting will initially be an island with several isolated research stations, though of course you may enter play and locate yourself in the world wherever you choose and in whatever capacity you like.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Worling's Magic Items

For fans of the famous wizardess of the British Isles:

Hand of Pilfering

Any lit candle placed into this dried, shriveled, and clenched humanoid fist will provide illumination as would a normal candle to only the person holding the hand. Anyone else will see the candle go out and no illumination provided. Prized by human thieves and owlish wizards and alchemists.

Mirror of Enemy Detection

This mirror will show its owner’s possible enemies (oppositely aligned creatures) within a 100’ radius. The images will be blurry or sharp depending on how far away the enemy is - in the case of multiple types of enemies, the images will rotate through a gallery of them, pausing a few seconds on each.

Light Snuffer

A candle snuffer that can extinguish sources of light at a distance, it's used as a wand, has a range of 100’, and can effect up to one dozen separate non-magical (ie. torch, lantern) light sources at a time once per day.

Teleportation Powder

Effects per the spell but usable by up to three individuals simultaneously, this powder is thrown onto a large fire which is then stepped into as the powder causes the flames to momentarily shoot up and produce a prodigious amount of green smoke. Often a magic item of last resort, in order for the teleportation to work, a saving throw must be made. Those who fail will not teleport and will take fire damage accordingly.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Homegrown Chinese Monster

The Telegraph reports:

Stunned farmer Zheng Dexun dug up a crop of fleeceflower, or Chinese knotweed, and found one shaped like a person, in Langzhong, China. The eerie-looking plant, measuring 62 centimetres tall, has clearly defined arms, legs, and head. Zheng said: "I don't know whether it is good or bad to dig out a Chinese knotweed that looks like a human. I'd better put it back in the earth!"

Just another few weeks and I imagine this thing would have dug its own way out.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

S&W Index Card Sized PC Sheet PDF: Latest Iteration

I'm always messing with these, here's the latest version, which I'm too lazy to reformat from the 3x5" index card format to a proper 4x6" (we just zoom the image when printing to 4x6's)... Get it better quality PDF (with reverse side equipment etc.) here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Street D&D: Market & Powell in San Francisco

King of RPGs posts pictures of their recent street D&D game. There's a slideshow here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Game Play Journal: A Shell Game

Tonight was the first time Nick and I have been able to play our one on one game in weeks due to illness. Since we haven't played in so long and have a new party, we figured we'd test drive Swords & Wizardry instead of playing Labyrinth Lord. His party of a thief and dwarf met up with three others (including the chaotic cleric Agnal) outside of a town's pallisade entrance and agreed to join each other. The other two with Agnal were Snits, the beautiful female elf, and Berk, a very unremarkable fighter.

There was the usual wandering around a new town, getting their bearings, finding the fletcher and arms shop, grocer, general store, tavern, etc. It dawned on the thief that he was at the lowest point in his life, as he had only 5 silver pieces, no job, no real friends, and no prospects in this strange town. He enthusiastically brought out three nut shells for a quick attempt at some gambling/swindling by sleight of hand in the tavern - perhaps a bit naively considering it was breakfast time, and the tavern consisted of a total of nine individuals (five of whom were party members, one of whom was the serving woman/wife of the proprieter, and the others were travelling merchants with whom Agnal, Snits, and Berk had hitched a ride the night before).

Nick's role playing can be very entertaining to listen to, particularly his high fantasy speech, and he's very content to converse at length with NPCs. However, today the merchants avoided eye contact upon recognizing that they were being solicited. Fortunately the dice ruled that Berk was suckered into Wagstaff the thief's shell game.

At this point, I realized that Nick thought that this sleight of hand thievery ought be very easy for him to accomplish. He let Berk find the nut the first time, then tried to double the money and secret it away - my problem was in trying to determine the probability of success here and I didn't want to just rule that he succeeded, lest an easy money precedent be set. We're using a combination of Skathros' thief and Dyson Logos' 2d6 thief skills. As there's no sleight of hand skill, I thought of using a DEX check but figured this was more complicated than that (it would have required training to perform as an adequate illusion on a regular basis). The closest thing seemed to be pick pockets, but even that didn't seem right since in the case of picking pockets, you are (hopefully) not being directly observed and scrutinized. I decided to offer Nick the option of trading his pick pockets skill for this shell game business, assuming that he'd have had to practice it and that it was a general sleight of hand skill and not just moving shells. He was fine with this, and using his DEX modifier, was able to successfully hide the nut and earn a single silver piece from his comrade in arms. Eesh.

He has a job prospect as a rat catcher though, so the thief's upbeat for the moment.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A God for Agnal?

As I mentioned earlier, I've asked Agnal's player (Nick) for an idea for a potential deity for his chaotic cleric. We've decided that as we're playing that clerics get no spells until 2nd level, they haven't committed to a deity before then and are really more like mystics. Achieving second level, they have an epiphany, choose a god, and are given magical ability. I like this approach as it allows players to immerse themselves in the campaign setting before fully settling on a religious identity for their characters.

While waiting for a response I came up with the following option for Nick if he prefers not to devise his own at this time. Some broad brushstrokes here, but I like the idea that it could lead to a tie-in with Mutant Future at some point in the future.
Skapeses - (skāpˌsēz) “The Anti-Shepherd”

Appearing as a wandering, diseased, or malnourished goat shepherd, Skapeses moves back and forth between a possible future Zirthus and the present. He is always accompanied by what appear to be (2d12) goats - These goats have had a permanent illusion spell cast on them to appear normal, but are actually a more intelligent variation of spidergoats (a la Mutant Future) - [AC 6, HD 4, ATK 1 (Gore, Kick, or Bite), DMG 2d4, 2d6, or 1d4, Save F12]. In addition, each of Skapeses’ attendant spidergoats can daily cast Bestow Curse as well as Web.

Skapeses and his followers sow confusion, doubt, and chaos. To amuse himself, he will often sell his goats to shepherds and farmers, or to travelers on the road as sources of food. These goats will always try to first secretly kill and eat other livestock and eventually move on to do the same to their human or demi-human keepers. If they accomplish this, they’ll then call upon Skapeses for their return via Teleportation.

Clerics who choose his worship are expected to follow the example of Skapeses’ spidergoats - Their ultimate goal should be to gain the trust of a community (especially a religious one) and subvert it in every way, eventually murdering the leaders and ideally making it look like the work of someone else.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Most Halloween Appropriate D&D Monster, Lest We Forget

I would offer this pumpkin headed depiction of the venerable Bugbear, from the 1975 Greyhawk supplement (page 67), as my suggestion for the most "Halloweeny" D&D monster. A far cry from the creature depicted in the 1e Monster Manual.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Chaosium Releases "Classic Fantasy" Supplement to BRP

"Classic Fantasy" is a return to the dawn of roleplaying, when you would gather with your friends in your parent’s basement, bashing down doors, slaying hordes of orcs and goblins, and throwing yet another +1 sword in your bag of holding. In these early days of roleplaying, what eight giants are doing in a 10’x10’ room was less important than what their treasure rating was, and rescuing the beautiful princess isn’t something you did because it was morally right, but because of the 1000 gold piece reward. And finally, the adventures that didn’t have to be anymore detailed then “some giants are raiding the border settlements let’s kill em”, are the adventures you and your group still talk about to this day."

I've never played any Chaosium games and only bought the Basic Role Playing and Call of Cthulu rules books in the last year, but based on these two books I have a lot of curiosity about this new Classic Fantasy "monograph". Chaosium's having a 30% off sale, and if I hadn't already exceeded my monthly RPG budget I'd probably jump on this...Seems like it might be a good deal at 196 pages and the sale price of $20.97 (sale ends Nov. 1st).

If that interests you, there's also the two free FRPG's at - Fire & Sword and the SRD edition of the Mongoose Runequest rules.

Old School label? Well, it's described as "...An homage to the classic dungeon delve and the following games were inspirational in its design, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition, The Fantasy Trip, Tunnels & Trolls, and of course, RuneQuest 1st and 2nd edition."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wherein I Discover Some Nice Maps Hiding Inside A Rolled Up Battlemat

So there were a few mostly unexamined items I acquired as part of the Craigslist find some time ago. Some of these were large battlemats (something I’ve never used before). These were rolled up, and now that it’s been nearly two months since I got them, the other day I unrolled one and discovered to my surprise the following:

The World of Greyhawk Box Set’s two maps, very carefully lined up and laminated by the previous owner. There aren’t even any thumbtack holes in the corners.. Nice! Funny thing is, I had opened that box, and was disappointed to discover that the maps were missing. I then went and bought a complete box with maps, combined the best parts of the two boxes, and sold the one with missing maps. Then I find this. Still, very pleased and am slightly tempted to use them even though I’ve been plotting out a homebrew campaign setting for some time now. What to do. Maybe I should just put them up on the wall in the office...seems a shame to keep them hidden away somewhere all rolled up.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

iRobot's ChemBot

I saw this on Slashdot the other day and immediately thought of various slimes and jelly monsters in D&D, as well as something that one might encounter in Gamma World or Mutant Future.

Check out this video (shown "walking" towards the end):

Obviously there's a long way to go before this thing matures to the point of being useful...but the possibilities are kind of scary. The shapeshifting Terminator comes to mind among other things -it's not surprising that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the U.S. Army Research Office are funding its development.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pirates: Beware Wizards of the Coast

The AP reports:

"Two of eight people accused in lawsuits of illegally distributing Dungeons & Dragons handbooks over the Internet have settled, and the maker of the pioneering role-playing game is seeking a default judgment against a third.

In one of three lawsuits brought by Wizards of the Coast LLC, a subsidiary of Hasbro Inc., U.S. District Judge Thomas S. Zilly on Friday accepted a settlement in wh">In a settlement accepted by Zilly in July in a second Wizards lawsuit, Arthur Le of San Jose, Calif., agreed to pay $100,000 to the Hasbro Inc. subsidiary.

Wizards has asked the judge to order that Le's co-defendant, Mike Becker of Bartlesville, Okla., pay $30,000 in damages and $14,616.75 in legal fees and costs. Becker has not responded to the lawsuit and was found in default in July, court filings show." More.

That's a lot of money - and probably unrealistic to believe that those 2600 downloads each would have translated into a $40 hard copy sale equaling slightly over $100,000 in sales. Even with the correct price of $34.95, this is a PDF file we're talking about. This seems like a great business practice - don't offer download purchases of your products, just sue when they're downloaded. How long were the files up on anyhow? It seems like there might have been better oversight considering the amount of downloads made - surely a flag could have been raised to at least check up on what was using that kind of bandwidth. Assuming conservatively it was a 10mb download that's 25gb of data if I did my math right. What are they, in cohoots with WotC, or just grossly negligent?

Maybe next we'll see RIAA-like tactics with peer to peer file sharing lawsuits. Except in the case of WoTC, it looks like their bottom line might actually be better served. I don't condone piracy, and I've wondered if, like the music industry, WoTC would be better off selling electronic versions of their products (or rather, going back to doing so). Considering these lawsuit amounts, maybe not!

Update: Just to add some more speculation, presumably (WotC's ex-Brand Manager) Scott Rouse's very recent departure from the company has nothing to do with this, but if I'd been in his position, based on the PR disaster the music biz suffered as a result of its lawsuits, it would definitely have encouraged me to leave if they're even considering going after individual downloaders.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tavern Graffiti: The Purple Worm Limerick

Bursting through the tavern door
"The purple worm is no more!"
So said the paladin...
But between sips of gin,
"I beg to differ" said the whore.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Collaborative Campaign World Design

The evil cleric Agnal has no god. That is, we jumped into game play before ever bothering to sort it out, and then the character got ejected from the party (and the game) once his evil nature was discovered. Later, nearly the whole party was killed, new characters were rolled up, and perhaps to bring the aborted Agnal back into play, all the characters were made neutral or evil.

I’d like to make Agnal a larger plot force and was thinking of asking his player if he’d like to design his own deity for Agnal to use. There seems so much rich role playing material that is underutilized when it comes to clerics and their relationships with their dieties - perhaps part of the reason for this is the whole supermarket approach to god selection that most people seem to use.

After considering all of the benefits of this particular approach, it quickly dawned on me that there was no reason to stop with just clerics and deity selection - why not really open up the campaign world creation process so that it was much more collaborative overall? Obviously this happens in the course of play as the actions of the PCs inform the world - but I’m talking here about even before the PCs enter the picture. Geography, races, religion, culture - all of these can be created along with the players. Of course it won’t be for everyone, some are not going to have the time or interest, but I would imagine particularly with more experienced players it might be met with enthusiam. A side effect is that the role of DM becomes potentially something that can be shifted from person to person in the playing group more easily since we’re all playing in each others’ world that much more.

Practically, how would this look? One option would be to draw up rules that would outline the collaborative creation process, step by step, and give each participant a turn in contributing a part (reminding me again of my earlier thoughts on Exquisite Corpses). Knowing I'm not the first to have thought of this approach, I first turned up this interesting DM handout proposal, and then discovered N. Bob Pesall’s “Dawn of Worlds” game, which is exactly what I’d been hoping someone had already developed. I haven’t yet tried it out, but if nothing else it’s a great road map for potentially creating our own rules with the same purpose in mind, perhaps utilizing them with an online white board and wiki, or even Google Wave.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Korgoth of Barbaria and Conan: Red Nails

Sniderman at the GG forums brought this gem to my attention. Must see viewing, although discretion is advised...
Korgoth of Barbaria - Pilot

June|Bug|MySpace Videos

I'm curious to see if Conan: Red Nails will be any good, that is if it ever gets released. I think it's been in "post production" status for years now. Or did I just miss it somehow?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I'm taking a break from any posting until I get over this illness I've been fighting for weeks now - maybe the respiratory specialist I'm seeing tomorrow will help. "Fight On!" as they say...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Tavern Graffiti: Two Limericks

The last time I stayed at the Ruddy Angel Lodge, I noticed these two limericks carved into the restroom's walls. If you're easily offended, it's probably best that you don''t read them...

The Scary Halfling

The Weird Dwarf

Reading and sharing those two terrible works with my fellow adventurers back at the bar, we all swore an oath to drink copious amounts of ale on a more regular basis in order to find our muses and resurrect the lost art of the limerick.

Disclaimer: Ok, I've been sick lately and I guess it's showing...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Zombie RPGs

I'm a huge fan of zombie films (actually, the last movie I saw at a theater was the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead), and I've been meaning to try out a zombie rpg sometime. I saved a link a little while back intending to research the genre some more...In case you missed it, here's Tim Bannock's excellent Complete List of Zombie RPGs post on There's still plenty of time to learn some rules, roll up some characters, and create an adventure for prospective Halloween party players - personally I'm favoring the All Flesh Must Be Eaten Demo kit at the moment.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

d30 Table of Taxes, Fines, Tariffs, and Fees

Ah yes, the fine art of separating a PC from his hard gotten treasures...Here's a d30 table that might provide some inspiration or aid in this endeavor:

1. Entering the City/Kingdom Fee. "We like people to prove they have some money and won’t be a drain on the economy should they need to be thrown in jail, executed, and disposed of."

2. Sales Tax. On Everything. Varies by locale. Fun to announce just after the party has carefully calculated exactly what items they need and can afford.

3. Firewood Tax. "Look around - Notice how we’re starting to run a little short on trees around here? We don’t appreciate outsiders warming their backsides with our wood." Yeah, those torches count.

4. Smoke Fine. "We got a bad pollution problem in this valley mister! You can only burn on the days specified on the public notice posted in the town square. You might want to check there frequently, as the days may change without much (any) notice."

5. Employer Tax. (per hireling)

6. Slave Tax. Fixed amount per slave, levied once per year. "Hey, we’re trying to outlaw it here! This is our way of progressively instituting a ban." Only an evil PC would keep a slave anyway, so you’ve probably nothing to worry about.

7. Hunting/Fishing Permit Fees. "That there’s our game!"

8. Tavern/Inn Taxes. Ostensibly to pay for periodic “health” inspections, state-run vermin exterminations... all part of the King’s Health Plan. Conveniently taxes travelers instead of townees.

9. Fines to Help the Poor. Or rather, to help us pay for their transport out of town, or for their imprisonment. This is usually levied by a tax collector posing as a beggar - if you don’t at least offer something, you’ll be fined. Yes, it’s hard to tell the difference between beggars and tax collectors, especially since some of those darn beggars are corrupt! At least the locals mostly know the real McCoy.

10. Army/Militia Tax. Barracks upkeep, pay, outfitting, and sometimes to keep from being conscripted.

11. Brothel Tax. Levied only on customers of course. Part of the King’s Health Plan.

12. Unbound Weapon Fine. Applies to spears, polearms, battleaxes, etc. whose blades aren’t bound with cloth and twine.

13. Unsheathed Weapon Fine. I mean, really. Put that away.

14. Corpse Disposal Fee. "These things don’t just magically disappear all on their own you know."

15. Horse Tax. Also known as the shit shoveling tax.

16. Inheritance Tax. "Your hireling told us that the magic user just inherited the dead fighter’s possessions...Um yeah, we’re gonna need a full accounting of those..."

17. Potions Tariff. "Well, really it’s a liquor tariff, but we’re gonna tax those potions too - unless you don’t mind us testing a few to make sure they’re not booze?"

18. Toll Bridge.

19. Toll Road.

20. Toll Dungeon. "You dungeoneers waltz in here with your whistle britches and fancy armor, throwing around yer money and thinking you can buy anything or anyone you want!"

21. Census Tax. You are taxed because you had to be counted, we had to pay the counters, and we had to count how many people there are to know how much to tax everyone.

22. Retirement Tax. "Not for you silly! For the guild masters."

23. Beard Tax. That’s right, if Henry VIII could tax beards, so can we. Dovetails nicely with the local prejudice against dwarves in these parts.

24. Paper Tax. There’s a paper shortage! Can’t pay the tax? Sacrifice your book for paper recycling. Why is there a paper shortage? "We need it to track tax collection and those who haven’t paid!" Yes, that scroll counts too.

25. Rations Tariff. Because “We support our local agriculture!”

26. Gambling Winnings Tax. Fun to announce just after the party decides to collect their winnings and leave.

27. Property Taxes. How nice that you could finally afford your own stronghold/tower/fortified building/etc. Pity you haven’t paid the king anything for it - annually, by the square foot.

28. The King’s Health Plan Tax. "Who do you think pays those clerics when the poor can’t afford it? What do you want, a plague?"

29. Thieve’s Guild “Insurance” Fee. Pay now or pay later, your choice. You don’t want to have to worry about pickpockets do you? Or about a group of well armed thugs jumping you at night, twisting a knife in your back, and taking all your possessions? Recurring fee on an irregular schedule.

30. Tobacco/Halfling Pipeweed Tax. Part of the King’s...oh you know the drill. Also, beware of number 4 above.