Friday, April 30, 2010

For Whom Does the Squonk Cry? ...It cries for you.

Squonks are found in heavily forested regions and are rarely seen. They are extremely ugly and solitary creatures, having thick loose skin that hangs in folds around their midsection with warts and open oozing sores that the creatures pick at constantly. About the size of a large wolf, they walk on all fours but will occasionally stand on their hind legs and sit like a person. Their mouth is usually agape and panting, and their large fish like heads and bulbous eyes are always bobbing and tearful.

They are usually encountered by those who first heard their incessant sobbing and sought to investigate. Many reasons are given for why the creatures are always crying, but the truth of the matter remains uncertain. Some speculate that it’s because of a curse that has befallen their species, while others say that it’s merely intended to lure potential victims. In any case, they are very unpredictable and can be quite dangerous. They are able to move quickly when they wish to, and besides their long claws, they also have numerous sharp teeth in their large mouths.

The Squonk is often blamed for the disappearance of children and young maidens. They speak the common tongue, and have the magical ability of disappearing into a pool of their own tears.


Armor Class: 7[12]
Hit Dice: 3+3
Attacks: 2 claws (1d3), 1 bite (1d6)
Saving Throw: 14
Special: Regenerates 1hp/round. Teleport (can only be used when unseen, leaves behind a pool of nonmagical water)
Move: 18
Challenge Level / XP: 5 / 240

I've been meaning to stat this creature for about thirty years now, having originally been inspired by this song. This post's contents licensed under the OGL.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

S&W Session Journal: Grieving and Thieving

The group decided to go back to town and rest. They picked up their camp and went down the hillside to the beach, where they caught the attention of the fisherman by waving their arms about, and were transported across the water again. The fisherman all noticed and whsipered about the conspicuous absence of the teenaged Charles, who died in combat with the skeletons last session.

Once back on the opposite shore at the harbor, the party decided to appoint Agnal the (albeit charismatic) Chaotic to relay the bad news to the harbormaster about the untimely demise of his son. This he did, conveying how he had sacrificed his life nobly in the pursuit of the destruction of evil. While the mother wrung her wrists and wailed, the party decided to quickly take their leave and promptly made their way over to the church and asked to see the abbot there. Although his request was not fulfilled, they had recovered some holy books and presented them to the abbot who handsomely rewarded them 100gp. Even Agnal is relatively flush now.

They then went back to town for provisioning. They first went to a store they’d been to before that had some very expensive and specialized items, before realizing they needed less fancy things and found the general store. They found what they needed there, but were approached by the owner who'd heard about them through the miller, and offered them employment. He relayed how regularly, stock of his was being pilfered from a warehouse back near the docks. He wanted very much to catch the culprits, as he was slowly losing money and going out of business as a result.

The party agreed, and spent the night quietly at the warehouse, on guard for any activity. Sure enough, that evening three individuals entered in the darkness - they were immediately attacked by the group. One of them got away, and two others were slain in combat. Shortly thereafter, one of the party members went to the store owner’s home and asked him to return to the warehouse immediately to see the body evidence. The store owner did so, and recognized one of the would-be thieves as the son of a competitor (the shopkeeper with expensive wares spoken of earlier). They decided to wait until dawn and then immediately fetch the mayor and local constable...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Underwater River

Absolutely amazing and surreal images on Anatoly Beloshchin's photo blog: Sixty meters down, in an underwater cave, a "river" of hydrogen sulphide flows through and beneath the salty water. Wow.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Working Map of the Dordogne Campaign

I've really appreciated seeing what others have done with software solutions for their mapmaking. Someday I might use one myself, but for now I actually enjoy sketching something out and coloring it in... Although in this case, because the location is a real one, I used Google Earth as a guide. I realize it looks like it was done in crayon, but it's actually just color pencil magnified. If you'd like to see the Google Earth view, you can download the .kmz file here and open it - it's centered on Marquessac, but if you zoom out to about 40,000 feet elevation, you should be able to see the resemblance. Of course, you'll also be able to zoom and see pictures of Beynac, Castelnaud, and other features there.

It's a strange map, unlike any I've ever made or used for a campaign - there aren't any mountains per se, although unusual heights including the famous cliffs along the Dordogne* are indicated in brown, as are the buttes of Marquessac and the bastide Domme (warning: big picture). But the main thing that's odd to me about it is the extremely small scale. There are four castles within about twelve miles of each other. This seems ridiculous, but it's due to the unique actual history of the location, the site of the border between two warring factions, with two of the castles facing within spitting distance of one another across the river.

The distances are small, and the populations will be as well, with the largest town in the area (Sarlat) having only a few thousand inhabitants at most. I see the setting as beginning to rebound from previous wars and plagues. Wilderness that has re-encroached the settlements is littered with ruins of an earlier time, and there's more than the usual amount of monsters and bandits about. It's unsafe to stray even a mile from the walled towns and castle protected villages.

I've yet to really flesh out the larger world outside of this small area, but I see it as more or less a Dark Ages setting. It's the great surrounding wilderness that makes the Dordogne area a serious backwater in our game. Because of the river making this less feasible, the larger map will quickly become less historical outside of the area depicted here - mountains spring up, and waterfalls reduce the river's ability to serve as a trade or travel route. Our current S&W campaign world lies to the northwest of this locale by perhaps a month's travel by horseback.

For the record, I'm not aiming for hyper-accuracy here - this was originally begun as a way to help entice my wife to begin a solo-game, and it only needs to be as accurate as our memory serves us. Anything more than that is just a bonus.

* pronounced dôr-dōnyə but "dor-doine" by locals.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Swords & Wizardry With My 9 Year Old Nephew: Fight!

Every few weeks we’re able to enjoy our nephew's company and watch after him for a day or two. Last night we went to the symphony and saw "Play" - I really recommend checking it out if it comes to your town - especially if you have a youngster in the family that loves video games.

For today’s game, I decided to use Chgowiz’s Quick Start dungeon. It’s been nearly a year since last we played, previously using the LL rules. We’d rolled up some characters back in February and didn’t have to spend a lot of time with the preliminaries. We more or less rushed through the beginning bits to place the party at the mouth of the dungeon with its spiral staircase.

I'd purposely not taken out the miniatures at this point - he’d asked about them and I replied that we might not use them as they weren’t really necessary anyhow. He was fine with this. I think it actually focused him a bit more (although I think the additional year has helped too). As the party descended, he took great interest in the details of the first area. The iconic demon statue from the cover of the original player’s handbook is more or less in this room, with its bowl and flames. Josiah eventually made his way up to it and poked his sword into the bowl searching for traps and for the source of the (magic) flames. I suddenly realized that there was a great picture of this statue on the cover of the original DM’s screen, which I was using just for the screen aspect of it, and it was right there in front of him to check out. I think this actually added a lot, props to Michael for adding that detail to his dungeon.

There was some difficulty in conveying or understanding the rooms layout, and ultimately I sketched it out and realized that I’d be basically handling the map making for him - which is fine, he’s already managing 4 PCs at nine years old after all. The real fun started when he began to split the group - two were going to go one way, and two another. I had the sole female character pipe up and suggest that maybe this was a bad idea and that they should probably stick together. She’s going to be a great help, that sassy female fighter! He immediately agreed that this was probably a good idea, but then for some reason (possibly because he didn’t want to appear to appreciate “her” (ie. my) advice, he decided that “his” character, the elf, was going to begin to sneak off in the opposite direction of the rest of the party.

I was a bit worried by this turn of events, as there was a trap in the direction he was going - a portcullis was going to fall from the ceiling, trapping any characters on their side. The only way to lift the gate was with a combined strength of 40 if I remember correctly. Talk about learning quickly not to split the party! I decided that the three others heard the gate fall, noticed the elf’s absence, and ran back to find him. They were able to lift the gate and join the elf. I avoided the characters having an argument about what the heck he was doing sneaking off by himself (which would seem natural to bring up at this point), hoping that the circumstances would make his mistake obvious.

He’s an enthusiastic role player, and occasionally I’d have to reign him in when he began to take on some of the duties of the Dungeon Master. He'd offer things like “and the gate breaks when I run into it with my shield” to which I’d have to gently dissuade him with “Um, no actually…” a few times until he seemed to finally accept the DM’s authoritah.

Continuing in the direction the elf had been going, the party listened at a door. I did my best to describe what I thought bones walking on rocks occasionally dragging swords might sound like. He made a few guesses, then his fighter (“Buff”) managed to force the door. The skeletons inside nearly wiped them out, even though I’d reduced their number by one guessing ahead that this might happen. I fudged a couple of rolls and allowed the cleric to resuscitate both of the downed fighters to one hit point, though I carved a few charisma points off the male and permanently reduced the CON of the female by one so Josiah realized how fortunate they were.

At one point his elf fumbled his sword. I may have to devise some means of discouraging cowardice since at that point he had his lead character dive to the ground and crawl behind his comrades. Good survivalist tactics, but not exactly good leadership! This might be difficult to do, since we’re playing a solo game. I don’t want him bullying his fellow party members either. During a segment where he started losing focus on the game and goofing a little too much, I had “Buff” poke fun of his elfish antics a little. Josiah didn’t like that at all, and actually described how he was going to pull out his sword and rap the fighter in the head with its hilt! Here again, I had the voice of reason (the female) step in and chide him for threatening to cause a fight in the party “when we should be fighting monsters not each other!” When this didn’t work, I had the cleric (or “priest” as I sometimes referred to him) step between the elf and Buff and admonish them. I presume Josiah realized that striking a holy man would be going too far, because at this point his impetuous elf backed down and we were able to move the game forward again.

All of this in only three rooms. After resting a while, the foursome was able to again hoist the gate trap, and make their escape. The fighter’s shield had to be left behind (again, a consequence) being too heavy to keep since the priest had to help the grievously wounded Buff up the stairs and out. The female was also too weak, and apparently the elf wasn't about to carry it for him! Of course, they’ll be as good as new in a week. Joe mentioned that he’s thinking about asking his best friend if he’d want to play, “since he likes swords a ton.” I don’t know if anything will come of that, but it might allay some concerns I have. I purposefully placed the game's start at a location in the Dordogne setting I’ve been preparing for my wife - there might come a time when the two of them will be able to play together and she can help provide some social/ethical guidance when needed. All in all, a very fun and enlightening day's adventure for both of us.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tavern Graffiti: The Foul Mouthed Paladin Limerick

A young paladin was heard to cuss
As a demon he struggled to truss...
"If you would just sit still
Then your blood I won't spill
You *#%€@#$ fat succubus!"

Friday, April 23, 2010

Cave Entrance Photos

I've taken a lot of photos of underground explorations, but regret not having taken more of the openings. Here are a few...

Previously posted, this is from Shasta Caverns. Now unused, it was formerly an access point before a larger entrance was created with dynamite.

A small cave on Maui - the entrance was so overwhelming fetid that I didn't venture in for fear of being overcome by the gases. It probably smelled something like the caves in our games though - stinking of orc, blood, and gods know what else. Not a lot of perspective here - it's about 5' high.

Just inside the entrance to a large lava tube on Maui, once used as a fallout shelter.

I've posted another shot of this one before, the roof collapsed in this tunnel in a cave in northern California. A tree fell in and would be climbable, although there are other easier and larger openings to the cave. In this shot, you can clearly see the two passageways diverging to the left and right. The other photo is here for perspective.

About 15 or 20' into another entrance of the previous cave. Many of the larger stones have been moved to the side at the front.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

WotC & IDW to Publish Dungeons & Dragons Comic Books

From PRWeb: "IDW Publishing, under license from Hasbro, Inc. and Wizards of the Coast, will launch several all-new comic book series based on the many worlds of the hugely popular roleplaying game, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. Following IDW’s previously established comics model, the first new series will begin with an introductory debut issue in August 2010, with new monthly comics and deluxe reprints of past series launching in November." More.

Hardcore Forgotten Realms fans might be interested to know that plans include a series for that setting.

Personally I've always hoped to see a S&W or LL comic in the old school B&W Trampier style, for the same shared marketplace reason...hey, I can dream.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I'm a d30

OSRIC Session Journal: Re-Outfitting with Coppers

Last night’s session was mostly selling our loot and resupplying. There really wasn’t a ton of it, mostly just enough to resupply ourselves. The chest we’d thrown out the window of the tower in an attempt to break it was not able to be opened to the first place we took it in town, so we had to take it to the town council. There one of the members (presumably a high level thief) was able to pick the lock, although we had to give them a percentage of any coinage inside. Once it was opened, it was found to be stuffed with only copper pieces, but money is money. We were able to buy an additional pair of draft horses with it.

Our killing of the assassin in the booze tent a long while back had apparently been talked about during our absence, and a young man approached the party and requested that we allow him to join us. His name was Gliffik, and he complained about how his mother had shacked up with a man who wasn’t his father and how he was desperate to get out of town, hating it and everyone in it. We decided we could use the fodder, and treated him to a sumptuous meal. Gladric sent Demurarg off with a gold coin to properly bathe and rest a night, and they equipped Gliffik with an expensive suit of chain mail and a small shield. The staff he carried seemed decent enough, but we bought him some darts as he’d used them before and we wanted him to have some cheap missile weapon of some sort. The men spent the night in their own tent in the middle of town, amongst many others.

After taking care of business, they rode back out to the camp near the tower with the new horses, where Ouze and Vadco were waiting. The remaining money was split up, a tidy sum each, but certainly not making them rich. Vadco did some more whining and we called it a night.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spell Book: Swords and Wizardry Reference App for the iPhone

I only just discovered Robertson Games' Spell Book application for the iPod/iPad/iPhone today. I like the idea of it in a way but I think the lack of additional reference available in the same place makes it more of a novelty than a utility I'd use often. I put Labyrinth Lord on an iPod Touch a while back just to see what it would look like but never used it.

With the iPad though, I can see using something like this - esp. if it combined charts, a dice roller (though I'd probably still use real dice) and the complete rules all in one. After all, the apx. 10" screen is actually larger than the 6x9 OD&D books (or BHP's White Box books), and the portability would be awesome. An additional app for creating characters with editable PC sheets would be nice too, or perhaps as an additional item in the same app. Until something like this comes along, I can't see spending $2, but if the other options were there, I'd be willing to throw down good money.

If I had an iPad that is. Sooner or later I'll end up with one. Don't get me wrong, I'm an open source, linux lovin', anti-DRM, EFF t-shirt wearing tech. But I pay the bills by being a Mac tech for the time being and what the hell, I'll be able to write one of these things off on my taxes next year.

Anyhow, it's nice to see someone's already thinking of something like this, and huge props for putting the Mullen artwork on the splash page.

edit: For the record, even if there was something more to my liking, I'd never be done with my books, pencil, and paper for gaming - the quick and easy portability here would be nice though.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Some Personal Gaming History

When I was a kid, probably about 9 or 10, my cousin and I had heard about D&D and wanted to play but didn’t have any money to buy it. We’d both played enough to get the basics, and I actually went about writing up my own rules - really just a bunch of charts, with weapon damage, equipment costs, etc. He did the same or used mine, and we only had six sided dice. The games all took place in the neighborhood - that is, the map I used was just a rough sketch of a bunch of houses and woods nearby. I populated them them monsters - in retrospect, they were basically psychotic people with knives (John Carpenter's Halloween was probably making an impression), ghosts, and vampires. There might have been an ogre or a few goblins too (orcs?)… We had a lot of fun, and that Christmas we both received the Moldvay Red Box. In a flurry, we soon both had the Expert Set, then a slew of AD&D books, modules, miniatures. We went crazy for the stuff, and there wasn’t anything that TSR could release that we weren’t drooling over if not immediately buying.

In the sixth grade I met Rich - even more of a player and collector, and we became great friends. His basement grew to become stuffed with every game imaginable. Eventually his collection seemed larger than even the local game store’s… I benefited by being able to play many more RPGs and suspect I was often the only willing volunteer he could find.

Rich was much more into war gaming than myself - being brilliant at math and tactics, and having played so many games and read so many rules, it was difficult for him to find peers that were a decent match. He became interested in conventions, and the two of us went to the only one I’ve ever attended (maybe the first or second Simcon at the University of Rochester in New York). I distinctly remember playing Mayfair Games’ I.C.B.M. there. Rich was kind enough to usually allow me to play the “Evil Empire” with its greater number of targets and missiles, although of course the game was really un-winnable by anyone. The first time I ever heard of Sun Tzu's Art of War was of course from Rich, who I saw carrying it around. In junior high we played D&D during lunch period with groups of up to a dozen (we could hardly fit around the tables) with Rich usually DM’ing, and then sometimes again after school until our parents picked us up.

Eventually, I started drifting away from the gaming table - I became more interested in music and my Pink Floyd experiments. Rich went on to join ROTC, eventually becoming a military intelligence officer (specializing in the Korean peninsula if I remember correctly). After he left the Army, between jobs he wrote up a card game that received some attention in the mainstream press. We fell out of touch a number of years ago, but he’s definitely the person I’m most indebted to in terms of my interest in role playing games to this day.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Giraffe People?!?

This one was really my wife's idea. They’ll be NPCs in her campaign and are mostly for some fun flavor. She adores giraffes and has pointed out to me that they have the largest hearts in the animal kingdom (probably due to the fact that their blood has to be pumped up their long necks to their brains). Taking a cue from this, I took an old picture of myself and replaced my head with a giraffe’s so she has a personal graphic to go along with her original idea (I forgot about the moss shadow, but I still like it better than this). I suppose monster makers have been doing this sort of thing for centuries… Gimmicky and easy, but I’m hoping she sees this as the kind of fun mutual myth-making we’ll be doing more of once we (should we ever!) begin playing. I put this on a 4x6 monster index card pdf and can’t wait to show it to her.

Giraffe People

Armor Class: 7[12]
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: Weapon (1d6)
Saving Throw: 13
Special: Innate abilities of Know Weather, Locate Animals, Locate Plants, and Speak with Animals (per the 1st and 2nd level Druid spells found in Supplemental Lore)
Challenge Level / XP: 2 / 30

Gentle, peace loving folk, the giraffe people’s origins are unclear, although they themselves claim that the more commonly known giraffes are actually a magically created devolution of
their own kind.

They live in heavily forested areas and are druidical in faith. They speak their own tongue, but will also know the common language.

Their long necks give their opponents a +1 to hit/damage bonus with melee weapons, and they refuse to wear any metal armor. They favor the staff and spear as weapons.

*Giraffe photo component by Vanessa Pike-Russell
This post is released under the OGL

Update: Telecanter posted a great giraffe person hybrid I should really convert to a mini somtime...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Heritage Miniatures 1982 Newbie Guide

I've always played with minis, though with minimal involvement, and we never bothered to paint them. Since taking up the hobby again though, I’ve been rebuilding my toxic lead collection and now am interested in personalizing them with some paint. I follow a few excellent miniatures focused blogs, and have bookmarked a few tutorial sites, but the only printed guide I have is the one I only recently acquired after being gifted a Heritage set by a game store near Portland.

I decided to scan and make this available here - Heritage is no longer in business (as far as I know) and this 1982 document is definitely for beginners. If nothing else, maybe it will be of minor historical interest to someone. Due to the odd size of the original, the scan didn’t come out perfectly. It’s a bit squinty on 8 1/2 x 11, and the original is even worse, but you can magnify it pretty well due to the resolution here. Thumbnail above, download here.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Buckshot Blume Rides Again... Nah I'm Just Billy the Kiddin' Ya

I picked up a 2e first printing (1979) of TSR's Boot Hill on eBay for $8.50 recently. I never owned it, but I did play a session or two as a kid. I mostly wanted to look through the rules again just for old times sake.

The Brawling section looks interesting, though not in a good way. My memories of actual gameplay are gone, but I do remember the included map. Anyone get much mileage out of this?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Poor Hanuman: Addendum

In a previous post lamenting the shabby treatment given to the Indian god Hanuman in OD&D (a deity with still millions of devotees), Limpey commented that he seemed to ‘remember “Hanuman” appearing in Conan (or other books) as a kind of evil monkey god…’ - Well, yesterday by chance I was reading a reprint of the July 1974 Marvel comic Savage Tales of Conan the Barbarian (#5), and sure enough, there was mention of a Hanuman.

This time he took the form of what appeared to be a hill giant, whom Conan readily dispatched. This does lend some evidence that it was Howard (or even Marvel Comics) that supplied an inspiration for the 1976 Supplement IV appearance of Hanuman as a giant evil monkey god.

The complete page is here, frame detail above.

S&W Session Journal: That's a Whole Lotta Bones

The session began with the resumption of combat (I couldn’t believe we’d ended the game in the middle of combat last time, but must have been about to pass out - sure enough, I found the monster stats with some hit point deductions). The skeletons were destroyed, but the party’s injuries were severe. Continuing through the temple in the only direction they could, they then encountered another group of skeletons. In a sad turn of events, Charles, the teenaged volunteer (son of the harbormaster) had his head nearly torn from his body by one of them, and was killed.

Nothing of substance was found in the newest room, and the party decided to head upstairs and then outside of the temple, where camp was made for two days while they recuperated. They buried the townee, Charles, as best they could. There was no firewood for a pyre. During this time, Agnal the Chaotic cleric had very disturbing dreams. The mists that had escaped from the temple when they'd first unsealed it seemed manifest in them, and swirling images of smoke, fog, or mist seemed to be inviting him to enter them. He awoke with both a sense of dread and guilt, and yet thrill, and felt that he shouldn’t share these dreams with his comrades.

They re-entered the temple and before descending, explored a new ground level room. This was nearly identical to the room in which they’d found a holy book of some kind as well as two animated and unfriendly skeletons. Only this one was devoid of any undead. They took the second copy of the same thick book, and headed down the staircase again.

They soon encountered more skeletons, and this time Wagstaff’s henchman Frederick was severely bitch-slapped by one of them and knocked unconscious. Frayse, the enormous fighter, proved his worth during a retreat where he blocked a door and single handedly dispatched three of the things before his sword got stuck in one and another was able to enter the room. At that point, Wagstaff stepped up and was able to destroy it.

Agnal was very lucky to be able to resuscitate Wagstaff’s henchman Frederick, who is now thinking of switching allegiance to Agnal (after all, he owes him his life). The party again retreated to the surface for rest. They are running low on rations and may have to consider crossing the river and returning to town for supplies in a couple of days.

As usual, I wish our sessions could be longer, but I’m glad to fit in any games at all - tonight’s was only about two and a half hours.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Name That Mini

Here's a little fella I picked up for a dollar a few weeks back at the LGS...Poor thing's lead horn is a bit blunted from falling over because of the shabby base. Preslotta FTW!

Reminds me of an old Grenadier, but I don't know for sure. Anyone? An oriental dragon? It's slightly larger than a standard 25mm. Looks a bit like the Python Jabberwocky.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sitcoms and Sorcerors

Six months later, I finally got around to writing up a tea circle of magic users for the Dordogne campaign. Sometimes I have a clear idea of how my NPCs will act, and other times I find their personality arising spontaneously. With these, there’s an obvious inspiration that will help guide their actions and personalities and maybe bring some laughs too...

The weekly magic users tea party of Domme is an open invitation affair in this charming small bastide. The local magic users are nearly always all in attendance, and the meeting location goes back and forth between one Geronymous’ garden and the small, clean, and uncrowded establishment known simply as “Tom’s Tavern”.

It’s ostensibly an informal occasion, but in truth, the manners of everyone in attendance are highly scrutinized. If someone does not attend a meeting, they are invariably gossiped about at length by everyone else. Particular details of their dress or manner will be discussed and debated behind their back. Any seeming offense will eventually be brought to their attention inside or outside of the tea party, usually causing a short banning or boycott of the gathering by some of the parties involved. Otherwise the conversation revolves around the minutia of their lives, with occasionally more interesting stories contributed by Cranner.

Geronymous - Fairly good looking, charming, and slightly arrogant, this magic user (“Ger” for short) makes his income by traveling to small towns where he performs tricks and tells stories. He earns a decent living at this, and is quite popular with the ladies as well. Of the tea party’s members, he’s the most well adjusted and normal. He is the least likely to commit to going off on any wild adventure, but rarely he will if it seems fairly safe. He will not hesitate to leave any such party if things look like they aren’t going well. Both he and Jorgen are very protective of their magic and not likely to share their knowledge easily. Geronymous will go so far as to act as though he invented a particular spell, accusing others of stealing it from him (“So - you’re using my magic now?!?”)... At any given tea party, a female magic-using consort of his is often in attendance.

Jorgen - Short and stocky, but strong, Jorgen has a serious confidence problem. He looks up to Geronymous, and the two of them have been best friends since childhood (although what Geronymous gets out of the relationship at this point is questionable). Jorgen does surprisingly well with the ladies himself, considering his mediocre charisma, though part of this may have to do with the fact that he’s close to Geronymous. Jorgen’s finances are often in doubt, but somehow he always seems able to scrape through. He’s unlikely to ever hire on with a party unless completely desperate. Being a total coward, he will never put himself in danger, fleeing from it immediately without regard to the expense of others. Due to an embarrassing incident he doesn’t wish to discuss, he is particularly afraid of fire.

Ilaina - Short, pretty, and a bit of a firecracker, Ilaina actually went out with Geronymous for a while. But then what local magic using gal hasn’t? She still secretly pines for him, but will gladly court strong, handsome fighters (especially those that aren’t nearly as smart as herself). In comparison to the rest of the group, she is slightly more likely to think of others rather than herself in a crisis. She is unlikely to join a group of adventurers, but if she does, there’s a 50% chance she will decide against it at the last moment and not show up, and a 25% chance she will just forget about it beforehand.

Cranner - Tall, thin, and not terribly attractive, Cranner is nevertheless a very charismatic persona, although not quite as much as Geronymous. Though he appreciates the embrace of a woman, he does not crave it as most do. He is clearly the most independent of the bunch, and though never in need of money, he always has some profitable venture planned or actually in process. Even still, he likely has no cash upon his person, and will resort to asking for small personal loans. Of the regular tea party group, he’ll be the most likely to join any group of adventurers on a lark, but he is equally fickle and likely to flee in self-interest if his well-being is about to be compromised. He is always full of surprises in terms of his experience and is clearly well connected. Rumor has it that he may have once inherited a large sum of money, as it never seems to worry him and neither does he especially desire it.

Pneumis - Short and fat, always out of breath and breathing hard, Pneumis is an unattractive fellow, yet the best friend of Cranner. He is desperately in love with Ilaina, and always seeking to hear about her doings and to somehow gain her favor. Financially secure, he will undertake minor tasks in return for information about Ilaina’s desires and motivations. He dislikes Geronymous greatly but fears him - he wishes above all to see him humiliated and defeated, but is himself a coward and will only undermine his nemesis if he feels certain of victory or at least of anonymity in the process. Anytime a misfortune befalls either of them, each first assumes it’s the fault of the other.

Swords & Wizardry Stats:

5th level Magic User: HP 19; AC 9 ; ATK dagger for d4 damage
Spells: Charm Person, Hold Portal, Magic Missile, Protection from Evil, Invisibility, Phantasmal Force, Fly

3rd level Magic User: HP 15; AC 9 ; ATK dagger for d4 damage w/ STR bonus
Spells: Protection from Evil, Shield, Darkness

4th level Magic User: HP 12; AC 9 ; ATK dagger for d4 damage
Spells: Charm Person, Magic Missile, Sleep, Pyrotechnics, Strength

4th level Magic User: HP 16; AC 9 ; ATK dagger for d4 damage
Spells: Charm Person, Shield, Light, Knock, Detect Evil

3rd level Magic User: HP 10; AC 9 ; ATK dagger for d4 damage
Spells: Hold Portal, Read Languages, Knock

Other tea party attendees:
•Consort of Geronymous: (likelihood 50%) 1st level MU or (likelihood 10%) 1-2nd level Elf
•Consort of Jorgen (likelihood 10%) 1st level MU, Ftr, or Thief
•Consort of Ilaina (likelihood 20%) 2-4th level Ftr or (10%) 1st-2nd level MU
•Consort of Cranner (likelihood 10%) 1-2 level MU, Cleric (Nun), or Ftr
•Random Traveling MU, level 1-3.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cleric, Meet Anti-Cleric

Who else wants one of these? Totally cool, but since it’s the only Center Stage mini I’m interested in at the moment I'll have to see what else they come up with (though the $1.79 price is right I can’t bring myself to pay $6.55 for USPS priority mail shipping). Is this the only 25mm, upside down cross wielding cleric mini ever made?

I’d love to have my pseudo-cross bearing cleric on the table across from this guy... That’s a pretty loud “In your face, Jack Chick rabble!”

Limerick: The Thief Called Gord

Leaving Greyhawk because he grew bored
There went the young thief that they called Gord...
Sure, he freed many slaves -
But still earns the most raves
Because with Eclavdra's clone he scored.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Swords & Wizardry Fillable PDF PC Sheet (Index Card Sized)

Since our regular game was again canceled tonight, I had some extra time. I've been meaning to make a form fillable PDF version of the Swords & Wizardry character sheet we've been using (originally formatted for 3x5 index cards but I just resize it to 4x6 when printing), so I finally put it together tonight. It's here if you can use it.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Castle Garrison Disposition

I've been considering all of the castles in the Dordogne campaign I'm readying for my wife's solo game - there are three within just a few miles of one another of similar size. Two are frequently at war with each other, and I'm trying to figure out troop strengths and staffing. A month or so back, Yhisevil at the OD&D Guild uploaded a file that I thought might be really handy.

Using the Keep on the Borderlands (B2) module, the numbered areas on the map of the keep correspond with color coded, numbered sections on the PDF that contain the levels and numbers of the troops there. These are arranged hierarchically so you can see the chain of command. While the numbers I use might not match up exactly, it's a very helpful template. It also makes seeing how Gygax statted the location very clear, and easier to compare it to other locations that might exist in the game or historically. If you're not a member and don't want to become one just to see this graphic, you can get it here. Thanks again Erin.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Magic Hats, Here's a Dozen

There seems to be a dearth of magic hats in Dungeons and Dragons.* Sure there’s a smattering of magic helms, but considering the iconic hat wearing wizard, the absence of hats or caps in the magic item sections is odd.

Perhaps it’s because of the modern “fake” magician, and the cliched pulling a rabbit out of his hat that makes us shirk from utilizing magic hats in D&D. Maybe it feels silly, or cartoony somehow, and we shy from it for that reason. The comical attempts of Presto (in the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon series) to save the party with his hat may have helped to indelibly corrupt the idea of a more noble or useful magic hat in our game. Or maybe it’s a darker thing - maybe at an early age we learned from Mickey Mouse (in Fantasia) the terrible things that might happen when you put on a magic hat.

On the other hand, it may be that the utility of a wizard’s hat is just implicitly understood. That’s where the spell book is kept, or spell components… Of course that’s where small conjured items initially appear. Personally I’ve never really given it much thought. I think I assumed that magic users use their hats mostly as a way of identifying one another (although painting a target on one’s head in such a manner seems a bit unwise). Maybe the color or style of a hat functions as a type of guild status or designation of a degree of mastery. Maybe it’s just foppery. Which isn’t to say that all of my games’ magic users have even sported the things. But again, I really haven’t given it much thought until recently.

A host of spells are easily adaptable and well suited to being contained in magic hats. Here are some that immediately come to mind, as well as a few more unusual ones (including one very unpleasant, cursed hat). They’re minor magic items since I was thinking of my own campaign and the low level PCs there...

Gusty Hat

When held outright with both hands and pointed bottom facing out, performs once per day as the 3rd level magic user spell Gust of Wind. Of course, this hat can't be blown off its wearer.

Egis Nuns’ Hat of Grog

Per the 3rd level cleric spell Create Food and Water, but only produces beer.

Hat of Dapperness

A rather common magic hat, it conveys +1 charisma to wearer and allows one re-roll on the reaction table per day.

Hat of Feather Fall

When held with both hands above ones head, functions like the first level magic user spell. Decorated with a normal feather, it will function as a normal hat if this is removed.

Hat of Teleporting Objects

Any object that can fit inside the hat (say, a little less than a foot in diameter) can be teleported by being placed there. Up to 100gp of weight can be transported this way once per day. Other than this limitation, it functions like the 5th level magic user spell.

Hat of Inconspicuousness

Once per day, the wearer of this hat will be seen but not recognized (unless he wishes himself to be) whenever in the presence of more than four people in a 30’ radius.

Ventriloquist’s Hat

Usable only by magic users, it immediately bestows the ability (upon the last magic user to touch it) to cast the 1st level magic user spell Ventriloquism with the following differences: the projected voice will only emanate from the hat, the distance it can be used is increased to 30’ per level, and there is no duration limit.

Peterman’s Hats of Desiccation

The wearer of this hat and his possessions will remain completely dry as long as the hat itself is never completely submerged. Anyone who is wet will become instantly dry upon wearing it. It also instantly and completely evaporates any liquid possessions of the wearer.

Hat of Holding

A conical hat, it functions like a Bag of Holding, only the diameter of the entrance is only half a foot wide (being near the narrow end of the hat), its weight limit is 50gp, and its volume limit 3 cubic feet.

Hat of Skulking

Bestows the thief class ability of Hide in Shadows at the same level of the wearer. If worn by a thief, attempting to Hide in Shadows will always fail.

Hat of Jesting

Much like the Hat of Dapperness above, this hat conveys the ability to re-roll on the reaction table, in this case an indefinite number of times - but only if the player actually tells a joke. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be funny.

Buck’s (Cursed) Hats of Misery

A very disgusting and humiliating item, when Buck’s Hat of Misery is worn, the wearer immediately becomes nauseous and will vomit. Into the hat. They will then be compelled to place the hat back on their head. Otherwise, the hat cannot be removed by the wearer and will be firmly stuck on. Unless the victim is cured via a Remove Curse spell, every time (or at least once per day) there is a tension filled moment in the game (such as just before a battle) the wearer of the hat will again vomit into it and then replace it. Aside from the unpleasantness, this will adversely effect the reactions of others and possibly cause the loss of initiative. If others forcibly remove the hat with great effort, the former wearer will become totally incapacitated and violently ill. If the hat is not returned to their head, they will drop dead (save vs. Death allowed every d4 turns). The curse will continue until someone else that knows the first wearer dons it, whereupon the curse will be transferred.

* I should say that I only have 2nd edition and earlier books, and my only 2e Magic Cyclopedia stops at the letter G. Likely I won’t have looked hard enough. Photo by pokpok.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

It's Been Fun

I’ve had a lot of fun updating this blog, which started out as more or less a personal gaming scrapbook of sorts, and has never really become focused as others have. I’m very aware of the huge amount of great many :P gaming blogs (OSR and otherwise) which are better written and more thought provoking, and am humbled by the interest shown here… to date, there have been more than 11,000 unique visitors to the site, with some 25,000+ hits. I hope my enthusiasm for role playing games has been infectious and my posts here at least occasionally entertaining or inspiring for your own game, because I’m not planning on going anywhere!

So… as a symbolic gift back to the community, what does our lucky number 100th follower win*?

A copy of Bruce Galloway’s “The Highest Level of All Fantasy Wargaming” (ha!) and a box of Otherworld Miniatures’ Pig Faced Orcs. Come on down Zanazaz, and claim your prizes. To everyone else, I give you my thanks for playing. Role playing games that is. :)

* Clever gamers note: this is a one time offer, un-following and re-following will not effect your chances of winning. Offer void where prohibited. While supplies last... etc. etc.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Torture Never Stops

Flies all green 'n buzzin' in his dungeon of despair
Prisoners grumble and piss their clothes and scratch their matted hair
A tiny light from a window hole a hundred yards away
Is all they ever get to know about the regular life in the day;
An' it stinks so bad the stones been chokin'
'N weepin' greenish drops
In the room where the giant fire puffer works
Where the torture never stops
The torture never stops
The torture
The torture
The torture never stops.

Slime 'n rot, rats 'n snot 'n vomit on the floor
Fifty ugly soldiers, man, holdin' spears by the iron door
Knives 'n spikes 'n guns 'n the likes of every tool of pain
An' a sinister midget with a bucket an' a mop where the blood goes down the drain;

An' it stinks so bad the stones been chokin'
'N weepin' greenish drops
In the room where the giant fire puffer works
'N the torture never stops
The torture never stops
The torture
The torture
The torture never stops.

Flies all green 'n buzzin' in his dungeon of despair
An evil prince eats a steamin' pig in a chamber right near there
He eats the snouts 'n the trotters first
The loins 'n the groins is soon dispersed
His carvin' style is well rehearsed
He stands and shouts
All men be cursed
All men be cursed
All men be cursed
All men be cursed
And disagree, well no-one durst
That's right
He's the best of course of all the worst
He's the best of course of all the worst
Some wrong been done, he done it first
Some wrong been done, he done it first

An' he stinks so bad, his bones been chokin'
'N weepin' greenish drops,
In the night of the iron sausage,
Where the torture never stops
The torture never stops
The torture
The torture
The torture never stops.

Flies all green 'n buzzin' in his dungeon of despair
Who are all these people that he's locked away up there
Are they crazy?
Are they sainted?
Are they zeros someone painted?
It has never been explained since at first it was created
But a dungeon like a sin
Requires naught but lockin' in
Of everything that's ever been
Look at her
Look at him
Yeah you!
That's what's the deal we're dealing in
That's what's the deal we're dealing in
That's what's the deal we're dealing in
That's what's the deal we're dealing in

Thanks Frank.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

PDF Policy Reversal

Obvious? Sure.
Not missing an opportunity to poke fun of WotC? You bet!