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  • 09/01/15--09:45: Magical Cat Companions
  • Any character type can have a magical cat companion; they are not limited to spell casters (magic-users who already have a familiar may still gain a magical cat companion). Elves commonly have cat companions, usually Caitshees; dwarves are unlikely to have cat companions, though some cats consider dwarves to be a good challenge. Generally, a magical cat will be attracted to a character that can benefit from its abilities, as the cat thereby in return gains power and status in the feline world (un-measurable by normal standards).

    The process of bonding with a magical cat takes several days. First, the character must be kind to the cat, feeding him or her treats and food, offering water, and spending time petting and playing with the cat. The prospective caretaker must protect the cat and care for him or her as he would any other companion. If, after several days, the character’s behavior has been exemplary, the cat signifies it has adopted the character as its own by placing its paws upon the character’s head and nuzzling him with its nose.

    Thereafter the character gains the benefits from the magical cat companion as appropriate to the magical cat companion type. The benefits work irrespective of distance between the cat and companion. In addition to the listed benefits, the cat’s companion gain 1 hit point, suffers only half damage from falling damage, and also gains Infravision out to 30’ or increases the range of his Infravision by 30’.

    The cat, which normally has 1 hit point, AC 2 (due to size and speed), no effective attacks, and Infravision 60’, gains a number of hit points equal to the level of the companion; these increase as the level of the companion increases. They make saving throws as per their companion, as though they were three levels higher.

    Should the magical cat companion die or be purposefully driven away by the companion, all abilities are lost and the companion permanently loses a number of hit points equal to the hit points of the magical cat companion.

    While some magical cat companions can speak, not all do, however, the bonded companion of a magical cat companion can understand the speech of his or her magical cat companion. They also have an empathic link, know each other’s emotions at any distance, and know what direction the other can be found, though not the distance (other than “near” or “far”).

    Alley Cat
    Alley cats are usually all black or all gray, and are usually small and lean. They are usually of the same gender as their companion. Alley cats make boon companions to thieves. The companion of this cat gains a +20% bonus to all attempts to Move Silently and Hide in Shadows, has a 99% chance of Climbing Walls, and a +1 bonus to Hear Noise; if the companion does not already have these abilities, he gains them as though he were a 1stlevel thief, with the bonuses..

    Battle Cat
    Battle cats are small, weak-appearing, and often are quite cowardly, almost sniveling. They can speak Common. Their power is in transforming into a large saber-toothed tiger form, brave and powerful, which is large enough for the companion to ride, should they so choose. They may transform three times per day, from small form to large form and back counting as a single use. In their large form they attack as per a saber-toothed tiger and have a number of hit dice equal to their hit points; roll for current hit points each time the cat transforms from small to large. When transforming from large to small, the cat returns to its small-sized hit point maximum, regardless of current hit points.

    Caitshee
    Caitshee are usually all black save for a white spot on their chest, and are usually quite large. Caitshees generally only bond with elves or half-elves, or those with elf or fey blood, but some make exceptions for others with promising natures (especially druids). They are usually of the opposite gender of their companions, though this can depend on the proclivities of their companion. Caitshees can speak both Elvish and Common. They can shapechange from cat to elven form at will; in their elven form they wear minimal clothing and fine jewelry, and have spell-casting abilities of a magic-user equal to the level of their companion; they know a mix of random magic-user and druid spells. The downside of the Caitshee is that in order to maintain their shapechanging ability, after every nine shapeshifts (to and from elven form), they must steal the soul of a dead human by passing over the corpse before it is buried.

    Cat-o-Nine-Lives
    Cats-o-Nine-Lives are usually calicos, and are often quite small. They are usually female. They can speak Common. They are always very sweet and kind, always trying to make friends of even the meanest creatures. The cat provides its companion a -1 bonus to all reaction rolls. The cat can cure light wounds, once per day per creature, by licking the wounds for a number of rounds equal to the number of hit points restored (1d6+1). If the cat’s companion is reduced to 0 hit points, the companion is immediately restored to 1d6+1 hit points and the Cat-o-Nine-Lives loses one of her nine lives. When the ninth life is used up, the cat dies; this does not penalize the companion any hit points, though she does lose all magical cat companion abilities.

    Chatty Cat
    Chatty cats are usually blue coated, with their own glowing nimbus, and with glowing green eyes; they are usually quite large, and often pudgy. Chatty cats can speak and understand all languages, and provide their companion with the same ability. They are excellent diplomats, tricksters, and often con-men. They can levitate, turn into gaseous form, and turn invisible at will.

    Lionheart Cat
    Lionheart cats are usually tabbies, orange or grey; they tend to be large, with a sleek build. They can speak Common. They are able to stand on their rear legs and can handle tools and wield weapons with their front paws. They are often quite brave and cut a dashing figure, and leap into fights with aplomb, preferring the use of small, fine rapiers. They have a +4 bonus to hit creatures of ogre-size and larger. They are almost fearless (+4 to save versus fear) and grant this bonus to their companion.

    Lucky Cat
    Lucky cats are usually torties, and tend to be small. They have a saving throw of 3 for all effects, and an Armor Class of 0. They grant their companion a +2 bonus on all saving throws and a +2 bonus to Armor Class. However, as they are so lucky, they also tend to be unwise, and get themselves and thus their companions into dangerous situations.

    Spellcat
    Spellcats are often strange and unusual colors, including neon red, lime green, or electric blue, with glowing eyes of the same color. They tend to be small and lean, and often wear wrappings like a mummy. They generally only form bonds with spell-casters. They can speak Common and 1d3 dead languages, usually those associated with eldritch magic. Spellcats sleep on their companion’s heads while their companion sleeps; provided they sleep on their companion’s heads for a full night’s sleep, the companion can memorize one additional spell of each spell level known the next morning. The companion can also concentrate and use the sense of the cat companion at any distance. The companion can also use the cat to deliver touch spells at any distance; however, it cannot be the source of spells with any range other than touch.

    Wild Cat
    Wild cats are usually grey tabbies, very large, almost as large as dogs. They have an aura of feral wildness about them. They can speak Common, though it is always with a barbaric accent. They love to fight; they attack as though they had a number of hit dice equal to their hit points, and have a claw/claw/bite routine that deals 1d2/1d2/1d4 points of damage. When cooperating against a target with his companion, the Wild cat and the companion each gain a +2 bonus to hit that target. A Wild cat can leap up to 10 feet forward, 3 feet backward, or 5 feet upward from a standing start; with a running start, the forward leap can reach 20 feet, and the upward leap can reach 10 feet.


    A character can have only one magical cat companion at a time. Being cruel to a cat companion or ensuring its death merely to enable the character to take on a new companion makes that character ineligible to ever have another cat companion; it also makes him a marked target for all feline creatures he ever encounters (they immediately attack him). There is also a percentage chance equal to the character’s level that the King of the Cats sends a Sending after the offending character.


    A Sending is a magical cat assassin. It always knows where its target can be found. It can Move Silently, Hide in Shadows, and Climb Walls with 99.99% efficacy. When it finds its target, it waits until the target is sleeping, then sneaks in and sits on the target’s chest. The target must make a saving throw versus Death each round; each round the target fails, the Sending drains one life level. If the target makes its save, it wakes up and sees the Sending staring down at it. Though the Sending is no larger than a normal cat, it fights as though it were a saber-tooth tiger, complete with hit dice and attack forms appropriate to that creature.

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    And here is a rendition of the Westrian or Olde Young Kingdoms of SnarfQuest in Hexographer.

    I took my old hand-drawn map, scanned it, plunked it into Hexographer and ran with it. The Hexographer map is a mix between the original and my hand-drawn version. Seems like it could make for a nice, interesting B/X or Labyrinth Lord campaign setting...  I'll have to see if I can do anything with it...

    Click to embiggen

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    Back in the day, people believed in the spontaneous generation of life; that is, they believed that life forms, such as worms, insects, and even mice, swans, and other larger creatures, generated spontaneously from unrelated things, such as corpses, water, and barnacles. Of course, today we know this is not true… but what if in your Dungeons & Dragons fantasy world, it was true?

    This could easily explain the nature of the population of dungeons; explain how dungeons can so easily and quickly become re-populated; and also eliminates the need for humanoid nurseries, if you dislike the idea of baby orcs or goblin whelps.


    Spontaneous generation in the dungeon begins with the death of a living creature in the dungeon. If that creature is not wholly eaten, if it is not buried with proper holy rites, if it is not burned to ashes, or otherwise if its body is not completely destroyed, then one or more new creatures might spontaneously generate from it within three days.

    Note that humans and demi-humans are not spontaneously generated in the dungeon, though if their bodies are left in the dungeon, they can spontaneously generate other creatures! It might be most disconcerting for a party to leave their erstwhile delving companions in the dungeon after death, to return several weeks later and discover a whole new orc tribe with their facial features!

    Note that evil versions of demi-humans, such as duergar and drow (the “maggots of the earth”), might spontaneously generate in a dungeon; you might also allow for spontaneous generation of human types, such as berserkers and cultists, who might look mostly human, but incomplete, and would lack a soul.

    The order of species and potential generation is thus, in ascending order:

    Slimes, Molds, and Jellies
    Vermin
    Animals
    Humanoids (baseline for human and demi-human bodies left in the dungeon)
    Monsters
    Monsters*
    Monsters**
    Etc.

    Monsters with an asterisk (*) indicate monsters with that number of special abilities, as per the B/X rules. Note that humanoids (and humans and demi-humans) and certain monsters can rise again as spontaneous undead through this process! Skeletons, zombies, wraiths, and spectres are the most likely to be generated by this process; note that multiple skeletons and zombies can rise from a single body, after all, it is a strange kind of magic!

    Whenever a creature dies, is left in a dungeon, and remains mostly whole roll a d6. On a 1-3, one or more creatures spontaneously generates from the body after 1d6-3 days (on a 0, roll 1d24 for number of hours; -1, roll 1d12 hours; -2, roll 1d6 hours).

    If the original roll to determine spontaneous generation was a 1, re-roll the die; if the re-roll is a 1, then the creature(s) that spontaneously generates from the body are of one order higher than the creature; continue re-rolling as long as you roll 1s, until you no longer roll a 1.

    Otherwise, the creatures will either be of the same sort, or a similar sort, or at the judge’s whim of a lesser order (for example, a boar might generate more boars, other animals, vermin, or slimes, mold, or jellies).

    Thus if a cave locust (vermin) is left to rot, and you roll three 1s in a row, humanoids spontaneously generate from the corpse.

    It should be noted that orcs, goblins, and other humanoids often have a slimy pit in their lair; there their shaman or sorcerer throws in bodies of victims, and using their dark magic, direct the forces of spontaneous generation such that they can assure the generation of new orcs or goblins or such from the bodies thrown therein…


    Halve the number of maximum hit points the creature had (individually, not based on maximum HD roll), rounded up; this is the total number of hit dice of creatures that spontaneously generate from the corpse. The bigger and more powerful the individual, the more potential... In the case of the cave locust, a 2 HD creature with 7 maximum hit points, up to 4 HD of creatures can spontaneously generate from the corpse.

    If a massive pile of dead creatures is left to rot, then group them together in 5s or 10s to determine spontaneous generation, and tally up all the hit points of the creatures to determine the maximum number of hit dice that can spontaneously generate from the mass of bodies. This is how dragons and other large creatures can spontaneously generate from lesser creatures.

    Spontaneously generated creatures can be a mixed bag, and need not be the same creatures from even the same body; if most of the hit dice are taken up with one creature, and no creatures of that order can be generated with the remaining hit dice, go ahead and choose lesser order creatures. Creatures generated from the same mass of bodies often remain allies, and can communicate with one another or at least understand each other through a common language.

    Creatures generated through spontaneous generation can reproduce normally (except for the human-like berserkers and cultists and other such pseudo-creatures).

    The odds of spontaneous generation and improved order of creatures might be improved the deeper one goes in the dungeon; or near certain magical emanations; or if the bodies are left in the shrine of a god of the underworld; and so forth. You can also tinker with the number of hit dice generated by hit points, with perhaps 1 HD per three hit points or even less, depending on how quickly you want your dungeon to refill itself spontaneously…

    As an example, a party slaughters a small clan of 17 goblins, and leaves the bodies to rot in their lair, sealed away from vermin and other things that might eat the bodies. The judge checks for spontaneous generation in blocks of 5s, with three blocks of 5s and the remainder of 2. On the first he rolls a 4; no spontaneous generation. On the second he rolls a 3; on the third he rolls a 2; and on the two remainders he rolls a 1, and then rolls another 1, and then a 5. The two normal rolls total 30 maximum hit points, generating 15 HD of goblins, replacing almost the entire clan. The two remainders with 6 maximum hit points generate a 3 HD monster; the judge decides that a giant black widow spider emerges from their putrescent bodies. Thus is born the Clan of the Black Widow…

    The powerful lord Dahneel Vahr-Ghoom, an 11thlevel fighter with 79 maximum hit points, is slain in the dungeon; his body left to rot in a deep well by his erstwhile companions. The judge rolls for spontaneous generation; a 1, then another 1, and another 1, and another 1, followed by a 3. 40 HD of potentially two-star monsters are generated from the dread lord’s corpse. The judge decides to go with the lord himself rising again as an 11 HD spectre; the additional 29 hit dice are divided among seven wraiths (4 HD each) born of his wrath and the lord’s animated skeleton (1 HD), still dressed in his fine armor and wielding his magical sword. The new undead lord seeks the destruction of his former comrades, and quickly takes over the local dungeon level…


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    Ghosts – The Incorporeal Undead
    By James Mishler and Jodi Moran-Mishler

     

    64 pages * $16 MSRP * JMG 00704

    On sale for $6.66 through Halloween!



    Designed for use with Labyrinth Lord, compatible with most Old School style fantasy and science-fantasy RPGs.



    Ghosts – The Incorporeal Undead includes everything needed to develop and use ghosts in your Labyrinth Lord campaign.

    Deadly Details on Fear Attacks and Life Draining Touch!

    Eerie Information on the Incorporeal powers of ghosts and other Undead Special Abilities!

    Full disclosure on the Sinister Sixth Sense, Scary Sensitives, and Mysterious Mediums!

    Ten different base ghostly types, covering each hit die from 1 to 10 hit dice, with countless thousands of combinations of 75 different ghostly special abilities!

    Secrets of the uses and dangers of Uncanny Ectoplasm!

    An expose of Eerie Enchanted Items!

    Scads of rulings on Spooky Spells, new and old!

    And a (relatively complete) Creepy Appendix N!

    What more can you ask for?

    How about protection from the Terrifying Table of Contents of…

    GHOSTS – THE INCORPOREAL UNDEAD!
       Fear Attack
          Fear Effects Table
          Spawn Ghost
       Incorporeal
          Bodiless
          Ectoplasm
          Flight
          Powerless in Sunlight
          Weapon Immunity
       Life Draining Touch
          Spawn Ghost
       Undead Special Abilities Package
          Infravision
          Mindless
          Poison Immunity
          Silent as the Grave
          Susceptible to Turning
       Other Special Abilities
          Special Ability Notation
       Incorporeal Undead Summary Table

    GHOSTS – LESSER AND GREATER
       Presence (1 HD Lesser Ghost)
       Apparition (2 HD Lesser Ghost)
       Lost Soul (3 HD Lesser Ghost)
       Wraith (4 HD Greater Ghost)
       Haunt (5 HD Greater Ghost)
       Spectre (6 HD Greater Ghost)
       Spirit (7 HD Greater Ghost)
       Wyrd (8 HD Greater Ghost)
       Phantom (9 HD Greater Ghost)
       Geist (10 HD Greater Ghost)

    APPENDICES
       Ghostly Special Abilities
       Uncanny Ectoplasm
       Eerie Enchanted Items
       Spooky Spells
       Creepy Appendix N

    List of Ghostly Special Abilities
       Acid Ghost
       Alien Ghost
       Ancestral Ghost
       Animal Ghost
       Animate Corpse
       Armored Ghost
       Blinking Ghost
       Bloody Ghost
       Chained Ghost [Earthly Remains]
       Chained Ghost [Location]
       Child Ghost
       Create Remnants
       Cursed Ghost
       Damned to Walk the Earth
       Daywalker
       Demon Ghost
       Dream Killer
       Drowned Ghost
       Drunken Ghost
       Ectoplasmic Blast
       Ectoplasmic Touch
       Embodied Ghost
       Entropic Attack
       Environmental Ghost
       Fast Ghost
       Fiery Ghost
       Fortean Apportation
       Friendly Ghost
       Frightening Ghost
       Frost Ghost
       Ghost Lover
       Ghost Magician
       Ghost Object
       Ghost Priest
       Ghost Ship
       Ghost Sovereign
       Ghostly Head
       Guardian Ghost
       Headless Ghost
       Hungry Ghost
       Hypnoghost
       Keening Ghost
       Laser Ghost
       Lifelike Ghost
       Lightning Ghost
       Material Susceptibility
       Monster Ghost
       Multiattack
       Nanny Ghost
       Negative Energy Blast
       Nightmare Ghost
       Object Animator
       Pipeweed Ghost
       Plague Ghost
       Poltergeist
       Poison Ghost
       Possess the Living
       Radioactive Ghost
       Robotic Ghost
       Shackled Ghost [Item]
       Shrouded Ghost
       Skull Thrower Ghost
       Special Immunity
       Spectral Music
       Spectral Steed
       Stuck in Time
       Tasked Ghost
       Teleport
       Thunder Ghost
       Trickster Ghost
       Unwitting Ghost
       Vengeful Ghost
       Wandering Ghost
       Warning Ghost [White Lady]
       Wind Ghost



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    One of the strongest influences on all my works has been the writings of Robert Adams, specifically his Horseclansseries of 18 novels and two Friends of the Horseclans short story compilations.


    The Horseclans series take place in a post-apocalyptic North America. The titular Horseclans are nomads from the Sea of Grass, the PA Great Plains, from the Mississippi to the High Plains of the Rocky Mountains, and from southern Canada to the Rio Grande. The Horseclans themselves are descended primarily from the youthful survivors of a bomb shelter in Los Angeles who, over the first several generations, migrate east, eventually taking to a nomadic life after the climate change that follows the war makes farming difficult if not impossible in the West (or was Adams simply prophetic about the forthcoming centuries-long Great Drought?).

    Along the way they bring into their tribal alliance various other survivors, including descendants of Canadian military, Anglo-Canadian and French-Canadian refugees, campers from Yellowstone, experimental ranchers from Texas, descendants of National Guardsmen from Missouri, and others. Though most of the ancestors of the Kindred, as they are called, are white, their culture is more Mongolian-Turkic, including yurts, wagons, sabers, and an intense dislike of Dirtmen (farmers), who are worthy only of raiding and taking as slaves.

    The Kindred are mutants, most of them, with powerful telepathic powers; some exhibit other powers, but other abilities are rare. Using their telepathy, they are better able to work with their horses, which are also telepathic and smarter than your typical horse. Their major allies, however, are the prairie cats, which are descended from an attempt to re-create the saber-toothed tiger through back-breeding. These are as intelligent as humans, and have very strong telepathy, of greater power usually than even the strongest Kindred.

    The leader of the Horseclans is Milo Morai, an immortal, one of the Undying. He was born long before WW III; how long before is unknown, as he lost his memory before the 1930's, but he was obviously a fighting man in the era before guns became popular, because even then he was a past-master of swordplay and knew dozens of languages, many of them long dead. My own theory is that he was a Greek or Roman from the Migration era; the author at one point mentioned that he was actually an alien, but that makes no sense, as there are other Undying. The Undying can die, it just takes cutting off their head; drowning them; or burning them at the stake; all things that can kill them faster than they can regenerate, which is at a speed as to turn a troll's head.


    Most of the early action in the series focuses on the east coast, as that is where the Horseclans migrate to in the first book, The Coming of the Horseclans. It is the late 26th century, about 700 years after the Two Day War and the Great Dyings, which are by now a time of myth and legend. In the early series the war was ~1980; as that year passed, the author later placed the war ca. 2015 (starting in the Middle East, likely with a local dictator getting a nuke and hitting Israel, but as it was intimated that it was Libya and Qaddafi, I'm not too worried today). An ancient prophecy among the Kindred tells that the clans would one day return to the Holy City of Ehlai; as Milo knows that it is a radioactive ruin, most of which slid into the sea after the Big One finally hit in the 23rd Century, he takes them east instead.

    There they run into the kingdoms of the Ehleens, or Greeks, who migrated to the east coast some centuries ago, fleeing the depredations of the Turkish Sultan. They built a great kingdom on the east coast, from Virginia to the Mississippi and south of the savage lands of Tennessee, that broke up after the Big One (which was continent-wide, and took out much of the east coast and the coastal cities with tidal waves). So when the Horseclans arrive, they find three divided countries of now decadent and debased Ehleens.

    In The Coming of the Horseclans, the Kindred conquer the northern country, Kehnooryos Ehlahs or New Greece, in the process discovering the presence of the Witchmen, who are men from the old world who use technology to move their minds from one body to another, and thus try to re-build their kingdom, which was destroyed when the Ehleens invaded. They defeat the current machinations of the Witchmen, defeat the decadent Ehleen nobles, and start a new united kingdom from their city of New Ehlai, built atop the ruins of Hampton, Virginia, where Milo spent some years following WW II as part of the budding military-industrial complex.

    In  the second book, Swords of the Horseclans, the other two kingdoms come calling, wanting to re-conquer the lands the Horseclans took in the previous generation (the books follow Milo at this stage, and as he is immortal, each book jumps a generation or two). The Kingdom of Karaleenos (the Carolinas, of course) is at first at war with the new Confederation, which is a union of the Ehleens and the Kindred. Then the vast army of Zastros, the newly-crowned King of the Southern Kingdom, comes up to wipe away both forces. Zastros is under the influence of the Witchmen, and doesn't care how many are killed, as all the chaos is needed to enable the Witchmen to reconquer the eastern coast (they are stuck in the swampy ruins of Florida, where they were based before the war, at Cape Canaveral/Cape Kennedy Research Center). Thanks to prophecies provided by Blind Hari of Kroogah, a Kindred bard with many of the other unusual psychic powers the Kindred can possess, High Lord Milo and his allies are able to defeat Zastros, and unite all three kingdoms into the Confederation.

    In the third book, Revenge of the Horseclans, we find that things are going well for the Kindred, as they now mostly rule the Confederation. However, the Ehleens, now sharing or losing much of their power, seek to regain it, and unite behind the Ehleen Church, a debased and decadent version of the old Greek Orthodox faith, long ago infiltrated and perverted by the Witchmen. During the Great Rebellion, we see Thoheeks (Duke) Bili Morguhn, son of a chieftain and Duke of Morguhn, rise to the occasion and rout the Ehleens, though other counties are not so lucky, such as the Kindred of the Duchy of Gafnee, the whole clan of which is extirpated when their virtually impregnable fortress is struck by a "miracle" i.e., a Witchman magic item, an ancient missile!

    These were the first three in the series, originally published by Pinnacle Books in 1975, 1976, and 1977, and later picked up by Signet for the rest of the run beginning in 1982. The first prints of the first and second books had covers by Carl Lundgren, the third by Ken Kelly, who went on to do the covers for the whole series under Signet.

    You may well ask why I am posting about the Horseclans like this. Well, with Richard Le Blanc of New Big Dragon Games nearing completion of the Basic Psionics Handbook, I hope to revive an old dream of mine... to run a science-fantasy version of the Horseclans. Rather than just adding in bits and bobs from the series, or adding elements inspired by the series, I'll be able to run the series using Labyrinth Lord with bits of Mutant Future. While an official GURPS supplement came out ages ago -- GURPS Horseclans, which was excellent -- I much prefer B/X and Labyrinth Lord. So I am hoping that this new book will enable me to run that campaign without a lot of house-ruling, as I've tried in the past...





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    These Goblins Won’t Kill Themselves
    For 3-6 adventurers of low to moderate levels of experience
    By Christopher Clark (Inner City, Fuzzy Heroes, My First LARP)
    Art by Dave Peterson (interior) and Lloyd Metcalf (cover)
    34 pages, $6.00 PDF, $14.95 POD SC

    TL; DR: These Goblins Won’t Kill Themselves (TGWKT) is a fun, one-shot dungeon delving adventure in the classic, humorous style reminiscent of the early days of fantasy gaming. If you liked Keep on the Borderlands and the April issues of Dragon, this is right up your alley…


    In Short: TGWKT is a fantasy adventure module written in a classical style; that is to say, it deals with a fairly standard type of adventure (Seek the Treasures Lost in the Bad Guys Lair), and to this it adds a heaping helping of another classic element – humor. TGWKT isn’t anything new – it evokes the same style of adventure classic in TSR modules in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, down to Gygaxian naturalism, flavor text, puns, and in-jokes. But for this reviewer, that is very much a feature, not a bug. Much like In Search of the Unknown, Keep on the Borderlands, and Horror on the Hill, it is a light dungeon crawl adventure, suitable for play in one to three sessions. So if that is what you are into, it will be right up your alley.

    The Look: TGWKT evokes the classic look; most of the interior art by Dave Peterson would be at home in any classic OSR style adventure. The art mostly depicts scenes and characters in the module, so you can print those separately to show to your players. The maps are simple, but well done and utilitarian. The font is simple and easy to read. Flavor text is in bold. Like many of the old modules, it’s not fancy, but it works, and unlike a lot of modern works, it won’t kill your printer cartridge to print it up to have a paper copy at the table.


    The Feel: TGWKT definitely falls within the “classic punster” or “tongue-in-cheek” style of adventure; the fact that it is the first in a series of adventures taking place in the “Lands of Igpay” should give anyone reading the cover fair warning of the style of play expected. It feels like something one would find as an insert in a classic April issue of Dragon Magazine. However, while the adventure certainly works well with the humor style of play, if that’s not your thing, the core elements can also be used with a more heroic style of play with minimal work. Minus the humorous elements, TGWKT fall solidly in the “heroic fantasy” style of play, with a dash of Faerie style (as Igpay is a “land apart” from the character’s normal homeland).

    The System: TGWKT uses a generic system, much like the various Eldritch Enterprises adventure modules that Clark has published with Frank Mentzer, Jim Ward, and Tim Kask. This is really a non-issue; most of the monsters can simply be lifted from whatever system you are using by simply looking for the monster name or a similar type in your core rules. A little conversion might be needed on the fly, but even for an inexperienced game master, the conversion needed is minimal.

    The Adventure: The characters, removed from their own natal lands, somehow end up in the Land of Igpay, a fairy-tale land where the Elves have been at odds with the Goblins over an unfortunate misunderstanding. Elven heroes put a stop to the Goblin War some time ago, but now the Goblins are back, and the Elves today have no defenses, being pacifists. Thus they offer their treasures to the adventurers if they will go into the Goblin caves and rout out the enemy, or at least, return to the Elves their lost weapons of power so that the Elves can once again defend themselves. After a short wilderness trek, the adventurers must delve into the lair of the goblins, where several fearsome tricks and traps await, in addition to the martial menace of the goblins. There is also a lead-in to the sequel, though this can be ignored if the game master simply wants to run the adventure as a one-shot.

    Some of the traps in the module are outright lethal… which again, to this reviewer is a feature, not a bug. So if you do not like the “Save or Die” style of gaming (or worse, the “No Save and Die” style), you might need to tone down a few things.

    NB: Back when TGWKT was originally released, Inner City Games Designs sent me a complementary copy of the PDF to review. As they have now released the sequel Why Are We Here? These Things Are Already Dead! I was reminded of TGWKT and went to find it to finally write the review… and discovered that at some point in the previous year, I had lost it in a purge of my computer. So I went and bought a copy of the PDF in order to review it.

    5 out of 5 stars






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  • 10/27/15--11:02: First Level Death Spell!
  •    The door was locked and bolted, but it swung silently open and Xaltotun stood before them, calm, tranquil, stroking his patriarchal beard; but the lambent lights of Hell flickered in his eyes.
       “I have taught you too much,” he said calmly, pointing a finger like an index of doom at Orastes. And before any could move, he had cast a handful of dust on the floor near the feet of the priest, who stood like a man turned to marble. It flamed, smoldered; a blue serpentine of smoke rose and swayed upward about Orastes in a slender spiral. And when it had arisen above his shoulders it curled about his neck with a whipping suddenness like the stroke of a snake. Orastes’ scream was choked to a gurgle. His hands flew to his neck, his eyes were distended, his tongue protruded. The smoke was like a blue rope about his neck; then it faded and was gone, and Orastes slumped to the floor a dead man.

    -- Hour of the Dragon, Robert E. Howard 


    So you want to pump up the magic-user class?

    How about a 1st level Death Spell!

    Herein I am using Labyrinth Lord stats and descriptions…

    Think about it. Magic Missile is a 1st level spell. It has a range of 150’, deals 1d6+1 hit points of damage (average 4.5), and always hits its target. That’s powerful enough to kill most 0-level Normal Men and even powerful enough to kill most 1st level characters and 1 HD monsters.

    Death Spell is a 6th level spell (can be used as early as 11th level). It has a range of 240’ and kills 4d8 HD of creatures of 8 HD or less (essentially, Name Level characters are immune), though all the targets get a saving throw versus Death.

    Poisons… all characters of all levels fear poison, as all characters of all levels can still be slain by the same simple poison…

    So let’s just up the ante a little bit, and give everyone a reason to fear magic-users… because no one fears low-level magic-users once they have reached 5th level (no more sleep effects on you, right).

    Try this on for size…

    Death Spell
    Level: 1
    Duration: Instant
    Range: 40’ plus 20’ per level

    When this spell is cast a ray of black, coruscating energy emits from the caster’s finger, directed at a single target within range. The target must then make a saving throw versus Death; failure indicates instant death. If the target is of a higher level or hit dice than the level of the caster, the target gets a +4 bonus to their saving throw. If the saving throw succeeds, and the target is of higher level or hit dice, nothing happens. If the target is of equal or lower level or hit dice, the target suffers 1d6 points of damage plus 1 point of damage per level of the caster.

    The appearance of the spell can vary from caster to caster, though once a magic-user learns the spell it will always have the same appearance (d10):

    1. Arc of Black Lightning
    2. Sickly Purple Ray
    3. Coiling Indigo Tendril of Smoke
    4. Flash of Blue Flames
    5. Whip of Green Energy
    6. Staccato Bursts of Yellow Beams
    7. Scintillating Orange Beam
    8. Scorching Red Ray
    9. Blinding White Flash of Light
    10. Invisible

    If you want to limit the use of this spell, have each casting require the use of a material component, such as black lotus, or demon ichor, or some other such material rare and expensive (say, 1,000 gp per casting). Or perhaps the magic-user must craft a special wand to use as a focus, costing 1,000 gp; without the wand, the caster cannot cast the spell.

       Bellatrix laughed, the same exhilarated laugh her cousin Sirius had given as he toppled backward through the veil, and suddenly Harry knew what was going to happen before it did.
       Molly’s curse soared beneath Bellatrix’s outstretched arm and hit her squarely in the chest, directly over her heart.
       Bellatrix’s gloating smile froze, her eyes seemed to bulge: For the tiniest space of time she knew what had happened, and then she toppled, and the watching crowd roared, and Voldemort screamed.
    -- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling




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    I'm going to start off a series of posts about unsung worlds with the posting of my latest Hexographer map, the Northeastern Sea of Tears region of the Perilous Lands.

    Perilous Lands was the campaign setting for Richard Snider'sPowers & Perils RPG, published by Avalon Hill in 1983 (the campaign setting box was published in 1984). Discussion about the system might follow, but I want to concentrate mostly on the setting, and how it can be used today as an excellent sword and sorcery style campaign setting for Labyrinth Lord and other retro-clone systems.

    For the moment, I'm going to simply post the map I made of what I consider the core adventuring region of the Perilous Lands. While there are literally countless adventures to be had in the Perilous Lands, I view this region as the " Known World of the Perilous Lands," and much like the Known World of Mystara, an entire campaign can be set in this region and never need to leave...

    But more on all that later. The hex scale of the original maps was set at 20 miles per hex; for my own campaigns, I often used it at 24 miles. Now I will be using it at 25 miles per hex, which for most maps of similar regions, I find to be superior for many reasons, most notably for ease of breaking the map down into child maps of 5-mile hexes or into single hex maps of 25 one-mile hex sort...

    As usual, click to embiggen...

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    There are three main civilized human cultural groups in the region spread out among several states: La’Cedi, Thalibans, and Donarans. There are four minor groups: Basati, Caldans, Climans, and Shazir. The barbarian groups (Fierazi, Kazi, and Zen’da) are dealt with in the description of their regions (to follow later). Note that all civilized peoples have access to plate mail, though of course, wear only as much armor as they can afford.

               


    LA’CEDI subcultures include the Ced (includes Nerid), the peoples of the Confederacy (Aratad, Eured, Rhozad), the E’lici, and the Salaqi (includes Chirosi, Salaqi of Shiben, and Ticasi); they are descended from a patchwork mix of sea-faring colonists of a variety of southern and eastern peoples from the shores of the Sea of Tears who colonized the region (from the Wild Forest to the River Zara), who subsequently mixed with the native Basati (and to a much, much lesser extent, the Elves of Elysium). They later mixed with the Thalibans during the two centuries of Thaliban rule (ca. 1700 to 1500 years ago). It was the attempt of the then recently-converted Thalibans of the Thaliban Empire 1500 centuries ago to force the conversion of the ancestors of the La’Cedi to Law that caused Ced a’Caran to lead his revolt and found the Empire of Ced. The Ced tend to be harsh, boorish, and arrogant; conversely, they are also honorable, honest, and truthful, though personal survival is more important than honor for all but the elite. The Nerid, on the other hand, are a nation of pirates and thieves; being pragmatic, tenacious, and yet malleable when the price is right, they are also suave, calculating, and unpredictable. La’Cedi of the Confederacy are hard, uncompromising, and militant; they are slow to befriend, quick to hate, live for vengeance, and have raised the practice of vendetta to an art. E’lici are strange, known for their patience and tolerance, stoic and yet kind; they are dedicated to freedom, moral conduct, religious devotion, and love of family. Salaqi, natively being obstinate, stubborn, traditional, and proud, after centuries of being horribly and viciously oppressed by the Donarans (to an extent that even in this cruel world, most other peoples feel the Donarans are perverse in their treatment of the Salaqi), have become conniving, treacherous, and cruel to outsiders who they cannot trust; with family and friends, they are dependable, honest, and courageous. The various La’Cedi peoples speak dialects of the La’Cedi tongue. Their culture is essentially Gallo-Roman; the people of E’lici and Salaqi more Gallic, the people of Ced, Nerid, and the Confederacy more Roman.

    Religion: The disparate peoples of the region originally worshiped a mix of the Elder Gods, especially the Children of Danaan, the Elemental Gods, the Court of Dionysius, and the Court of Hecate; most La’Cedi people continue to revere the gods of their ancestors, respect the Sidh and the Dwarves (especially E’lici and Salaqi), and loathe Kotothi forces. In the case of the E’lici and Salaqi, this is in the face of strong resentment and oppression by the Lawful-aligned Donarans. The Chirosi are devout followers of the Court of Dionysius; the Ced nobility prefer Nuada, Morrigan, Finvarra, and Donel (the Elder Gods of War), while other classes revere Elder Gods more in line with their labors; the E’lici have a particular reverence of Domiel, Girra, and Dionysius; the Nerid are even more diverse than the Ced; the Salaqi revere Manannan, Morrigan, and Epona; and the Ticasi are the odd-men out, with a reverence for Law, though all “goodly” religions are welcome.

    Appearance: La’Cedi of Ced, Nerid, and the Confederacy have dark hair, brown eyes, and olive complexions; they average 5’7” tall with light build, and tend to be dexterous and agile. Many of the hill-folk of the Confederacy have a strong Basati streak, though it manifests only in height, build, and temperament. E’lici and Salaqi are a bit taller and heavier built, and lighter-skinned, eyed, and haired (redheads and even blondes not being unknown), due to intermixing with the Basati and Elves in the early days of the settlement of the region.

    Favored Weapons: Ced favor javelins, pikes and short swords; men of the Confederacy prefer slings, spears, and long swords; E’lici and Salaqi prefer daggers, spears, and long swords.


    THALIBAN subcultures include the Marentians, Portans, the barbaric Thabans, Thalibans, and Zarunese. The original Thalibans were descended from local autochthonous tribes, cousins of the Bhamoti and Rizeeli to the south, who, over long centuries and millennia, were conquered by and assimilated waves of Zen’da invaders. They were merged into the modern Thaliban type in the pre-Imperial consolidation era of Thaliba, though with regular influx of Zen’da blood pre and post-empire through invasion and trade. Marentians are aggressive, quick to anger, tenacious and violent when angered, and loyal to those who earn their loyalty; they also can be hospitable, compassionate, and generous. Portans are amorally pragmatic, cold and calculating; they are malleable as the situation requires, capable of being loquaciously toadying or stone-cold killers, as needful. Thaban tribesmen are paranoid, defensive, and hostile; suspicious of all strangers, especially civilized peoples. Among their own, Thabans are kind, generous, and trusting; stranger are hunted down and killed, mercifully and quickly if they have not offended, slowly and painfully if they have cause grief. Thaliban toll-takers (the only Thalibans outsiders ever meet) are universally haughty, arrogant, condescending, and greedy; they tend to be cowardly, but if Thaliban blood is spilt, they are implacable in hunting down the murderous sub-human scum. Zarunese are freedom-loving libertarians; they hate government and oppression, being strong believers in individual freedom; however, they also work together very well when threatened, placing their trust in an elected Dictator during times of war. They are isolationist, but friendly; miserly, but help those in need; kind and peaceful, but merciless when their freedom is threatened. Thalibans speak various local dialects of the Thaliban tongue. Their culture is essentially Greco-Roman; the Thabans essentially being barbarized Romans, Goth-style.

    Religion: The Thalibans were converted to the way of Law more than 1500 years ago by missionaries from the Empire del’Nord; they primarily revere the Court of the Converted, including Ashur, Inanna, and Vahagn. The Thalibans dissolved their empire almost 700 years ago, when the Imperial Court converted to the worship of a southern mystery cult (a branch of Bhamotism dedicated to Sabbathiel of the Court of Metatron). The Thabans have a shamanic-style faith dedicated to Law (primarily dedicated to Vahagn), while the Zarunese and Portans are wary of religion but tolerant of those who cleave to religion… as long as they keep it to themselves.

    Appearance: Thalibans and Thabans tend to be tall, men averaging 5’8” with a light build, dark hair, gray eyes, fair skin, high cheekbones, and aquiline noses. Zarunese are shorter and darker-skinned and have strong La’Cedi bloodlines (especially in the west), while Marentians are taller and leaner, with strong and recent Zen’da infusion. Portans are mutts, mixing all the various races found on the Sea of Tears and beyond.

    Favored Weapons: Marentians and Zarunese prefer spears, broad swords, and long swords; Marentians have a strong chivalrous tradition, their knights favoring lances, maces, and scimitars. Portans use clubs, daggers, and short swords. Thalibans wield crossbows, polearms, and long swords. The barbaric Thabans wield long bows, spears, and long swords, and wear soft leather armor and wooden bucklers (eschewing heavier armor as too “civilized” and thus taboo).


    DONARANS are a mix of Zen’da and La’Cedi (especially E’lici and Salaqi) with a dash of Thaliban. They originated as a cult among the Bra’mani founded by Xalan Horse-Brother. The cult revered and followed Don, the “Son of the Moon,” who arrived in Bra’mani lands riding the tail of a comet 315 years ago (785 SA). The pan-tribal cult grew in power and was forced out of the Western Steppes and into the Nameless Forest in 810 as the “Don Host;” they slowly made their way through Zarun, the Empire of Ced, and Salaq, ending up in E’lici. After 35 years as brigands and mercenaries in broken bands in E’lici, the Host reformed, and conquered E’lici. They went on to conquer Salaq, unite with Xian, annex Ticasi, Chiros, and Shiben, and today threaten Caldo, the Confederacy, and the Empire of Ced. Donarans, though honorable and moral (within the strictures of the Temples of Law), are a cruel and violent people; three centuries has not soothed the savage streak of barbarism in their souls or their culture. Wealth and power are the central goals of most Donaran lives; tempered by the teachings of Law, they try to gain wealth and power through legal and moral means. Many fail at this, however, especially the elite and noble classes, who are known for cruelty, sadism, and deceit. Common Donarans are readily bribable, as long as the actions for which they are being bribed are not heretical or harmful to friends or family (though even these limits have their price). Donarans speak Donaran, a dialect of Zen’dali and closely related to Thaliban. Donarans are essentially Normans, especially as portrayed in the Robin Hood tales (with the Salaqi taking the part of the oppressed Saxons).

    Religion: Early in the days of the cult, following the lead of Don and Xalan (both under the influence of Marentian missionaries) they adopted the ways of Law, particularly the Court of the Converted (Ashur, Enki, Inanna, and etc.). They loathe Chaos (especially the gods of Clima), detest the Kotothi, and fear and hate the Sidh. That the Salaqi were allied with the Sidh and Clima, and fielded powers and creatures of Sidh and Chaotic sort against them during the conquest is a major factor in the vicious hatred the Donarans hold for that people.

    Appearance: Relatively pure Donarans (of strongest Zen’da blood) are even taller than Thalibans at 5’9” average, with muscular builds (rather than the lean build of their ancestors); they are dark-haired, with blue or hazel eyes, and fair or pale-skinned (with tendency to tan deeply with freckles). Most “Donarans” are actually of Zarunese or La’Cedi blood (especially E’lici and Salaqi), due to centuries of wife-stealing from the lands the Don Host passed through and settled in, and the modern continuance of that through the keeping of slave concubines.

    Favored Weapons: Donarans prefer short bows, maces, and long swords; they have a strong chivalrous tradition, their knights favoring lances, maces, and bastard swords.


    BASATI are descended from an early people who lived in the west, in the Kolar Peninsula, long ere the arrival of the Kolari. They settled the lands between the Sea of Tears and the Elder Mountains when the Sidh and Kotothi were alone in these lands, and humans were all but unknown. The Sidh saved their ancestors from extermination by the Firbolg and allowed them to settle in these lands. While the ancestors of the La’Cedi conquered the lowlands, the Basati continued to hold the highlands, or eventually regained their independence, notably in Iravoy and Xian, where the Basati still rule. Basati blood flows in the veins of the La’Cedi, especially among the E’lici and Salaqi and among the hill-folk of the Confederacy. Basati are a clannish people; they have a great love for their families, extended families, and clans, and with these and their trusted friends they are kind and understanding; they are distrustful and suspicious of outsiders. The eastern Basati (the Irava and related clans) are quick to anger, easy to provoke, enigmatic, and noted for fierce tempers; their western cousins of Xian are much more patient, and slow to anger, but like the Irava, are deadly, fierce, and virtually berserk in battle when finally angered. Basati are proud, love to take risks and gamble, and have a deep love for life and their land; the quickest way to anger a Basati other than to threaten his family is to threaten his land. Basati culture is essentially an extension of the Kolari-Goidan-Fomorian-Shandar-type, i.e. Celt-Iberian-Basque-Berber.

    Religion: The Basati all revere Sarameya (God of Balance, Protector of Heroes, Patron of Shepherds, Lord of Fraud and Theft, etc.) and the Elder God Dionysius and his court (Bacchus, Ceres, Bes, and Pan); in Xian, where Dwarves are not uncommon, Gaea, Goibniu, and Dvalinn are also much revered. The Children of Danaan are respected, but not worshipped, in honor of the ancient alliance with the Fey and the Elves. The Basati loathe Kototh and all his creations.

    Appearance: Basati are 5’8” tall on the average with a robust build; the women tend to be buxom with wide hips and an hourglass figure, while men tend toward heavy-boned barrel-shaped stockiness. They have pale to fair skin, red hair, and green eyes.

    Favored Weapons: Basati prefer axes, short bows, and spears; they eschew plate armor, it being heavy for their hilly lands and difficult to climb in, preferring soft leather or chain or scale mail shirts, a pot helm, and a light shield.


    Image: Basati woman being kidnapped by a troll of the Elder Mountains.

    CALDANS are descended primarily from the two Kazi clans who initially settled the Caldan plateau; they have since mixed with other Kazi and Basati, and to a lesser extent with La’Cedi, Fierazi, Dirllar, and Djani (mostly marriages of alliance for trading purposes). They speak Caldan, a dialect of the Kazi tongue, though much evolved and with many Basati loan-words. Caldans are loyal to their families, their clans, and their nation; some might say to an obsessive level. As long as these are not threatened, Caldans are kind, friendly, and even generous. They engage in all manner of physical sports, gambling, and troll-baiting. Caldans are essentially land-based Dutch traders, with a Scots-Highlander attitude.

    Religion: Caldans worship their ancestors; out of respect for (and hope for) their dead, they respect the Gods of the Dead, notably Morrigan.

    Appearance: Caldans usually stand 5’7” and have a medium to lean build. Most are blondes or redheads, with naturally pale but usually tan skin and light blue or green eyes. Due to intermixing, other physical types are not unknown. Physical differences mean little to Caldans; if blood is blood, even if only a drop runs in common through each other’s veins.

    Favored Weapons: Caldans prefer to wield javelins, pikes, and short swords; those who travel the roads on horseback often wield Kazi weapons, including dagger, composite bow, and long sword. On foot they wear the heaviest armor they can afford; on horseback they prefer to ride Kazi style, wearing leather or scale mail with bucklers and leather helmets.


    CLIMANS are descended from the same drift of peoples from the southlands that led to the formation of the La’Cedi; however, most of the later settlers were of distinctly Rogizini type, and so modern Climans are much like the Rogizini of the south. Prior to the rise of the Dark Temples, Climans were a free-dealing and open culture dedicated to piracy and trade. Today their culture is dedicated to the Dark Temples, the Immortal Ghova and the Priestesses, and their idea of an Empire of the Sea of Tears. Climans obey and fear their rulers; they dare not hate or loathe them, but they need not love them. As the Immortal Ghova and her priestesses rule the Dark Temples and the land, so too do women rule the household in Clima. However, while men are merely second-class citizens in Clima, they still have room for advancement (usually in the navy). Punishments are severe, up to and including death by crucifixion. Climans speak Climan, a dialect of Rogizini; each city and small island has its own distinct accent, noticeable only to native speakers. Climans are essentially Minoan-Phoenician in style, complete with strange dark cults and far-ranging sea-rovers bent on conquest and trade.

    Religion: Climan life revolves around religion, particularly the worship of the Court of Sammael (and the other Lords of Hell, though the Court of Lilith plays little role in Clima); Aeshma Daeva (plus his mother Lyssa, his consort Astaroth, and his son Meresin); and Tiamat (plus her consort Apsu, their son Kingu, and Kingu’s wife Tiella). Between the three temples there are at least two festival days per (six-day) week; Climan life revolves around these ecstatic, orgiastic, exuberant, violent, and perverse rituals and revels. Other days of the week Climans are stoic and fatalistic, untrusting of foreigners and shy to strangers.

    Appearance: Climans stand 5’6” tall on average, with a median to thin build. They have dark brown skin, dark brown to black hair, and brown or amber eyes. No few Climans exhibit the taint of demonic blood, as demons are summoned to participate in the numerous festivals of the Dark Temples.

    Favored Weapons: Climans prefer to wield slings, spears, and maces; being a sea-faring folk, they rarely wear heavy armor, preferring cloth or leather, and generally eschewing shields.


    SHAZIR OF SHIBEN have a long and storied history, being descended from Rogizini pirates who fled their home on the Island of Shazizan and found sanctuary with the Salaqi more than 700 years ago. Thousands of Shazi settled in Shiben, then a wasteland border province between Salaq and Ced. Since that time, the Shazir have been the most loyal of subjects of the Salaqi crown, even today when Salaq groans under the heel of the Donarans. Though they are great allies of the Salaqi, they never mixed with them, or other locals, and so today though their culture is much evolved, and similar in many respects to the Salaqi, they are ethnically distinct. Shazir are boisterous, exuberant, and violent; they love fiercely and hate deeply, never forgetting or forgiving. They are friendly, generous, kind, and loyal to those who have earned their friendship; implacable devils to those who have earned their enmity. They speak Shazir, a dialect of Rogizini, that has borrowed much from Salaqi and Ced. As for RW equivalents… imagine the Welsh, if the Welsh were Arabs, and were allied with the Saxons against the Normans…

    Religion: The Shazir abandoned their old gods, who had abandoned them when the Rogizini took Shazizan. They have since adopted the worship of the local Elder Gods, especially Morrigan, Ull, and Donel; they also revere Gaea, Goibniu, and Dvalinn due to the many mines in the region. Shazir sailors and pirates, who mostly operate out of Ticasi, Chiros, and Nerid, generally revere Manannan. Though nervous around the Sidh, they honor them for the alliance they once had with their Salaqi saviors; they honor the Dwarves as the Children of Goibniu.

    Appearance: Shazir stand 5’8” tall on average, with a lean if muscular build. They have dark, swarthy skin, black or brown hair, and brown or amber eyes. The uninitiated might mistake them for Rogizini or Climan, which would earn one a dagger to the belly in impolite company.
    Favored Weapons: Shazir favor short bows, daggers, and scimitars; though they have been mostly land-based for centuries, they have never gotten over the pirate’s fear of heavy armor, and thus usually wear only cloth or leather armor, or rarely scale mail, and eschew the use of shields or helmets.

    Note: The material herein is derived from the original materials by Richard Snider, with additions and some changes by myself, notably the combination of the Xian and Irava into the singular Basati peoples (intimated in the text). I've also changed around a few details here and there, notably in religions (modified both by later work of Snider and my own ideas)...

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    Delving deep into the origins of Powers & Perils and the Perilous Lands has one great difficulty – the designer, Richard Snider, passed away in 2009, leaving the “one true source” of information forever out of touch. Fortunately, however, (most) games are not designed in a vacuum, especially games published by major publishers, such as the Avalon Hill Game Company. And thus, as with most such games, Powers & Perils and Perilous Lands have a list of playtesters…

    Of the multitude of playtesters listed, one name leapt out – that of Winchell Chung, as both a playtester and artist for the entire series of four products. For the uninitiated, Winchell is best known as “The Ogre Guy,” as in, the guy who designed the iconic style of the Ogre– the gargantuan cybernetic tank used in Steve Jackson’s microgame, Ogre. And Winchell is still active in the gaming community.

    Fortunately, Winchell was very kind to answer my many questions concerning his work on Powers & Perils and Perilous Lands in a series of e-mails back and forth…

    “I got started in gaming around 1975, when I saw an ad in ANALOG science fiction magazine for a game called Stellar Conquest by Metagaming Concepts,” Winchell wrote. “From there I went on to play GDW’s Triplanetary and SPI’s Star Force Alpha Centauri. From Lou Zocchi’s catalog I got my first role-playing game – TSR’s Empire of the Petal Throne.

    When I was a little boy I had a copy of Avalon Hill’s Tactics II, but that doesn’t count since I only played it about twice…”

    It was a small, small world among gamers even back then, in what is often known as the “Garage Industry” era. And while gamers didn’t have Internet forums, they often communicated with publishers through other means, such as through magazine letters or direct letters via snail mail – though in Winchell’s case, the communication that brought him his first publishing opportunity was quite accidental…

    “While I was still in high school, I subscribed to Metagaming’s magazine The Space Gamer. Just for fun, I doodled some spaceships on my subscription letter. Metagaming was so hard-up for art that they published the doodles in the next issue and asked for more. Later I was offered commissions for artwork in their microgames, including Ogre.”

    After earning his eternal 15-minutes of fame by designing the iconic form of the Ogre, Winchell went on to work in the real world, in computing, but still had the bug to work in the games industry. That’s when he noticed that the Avalon Hill Game Company was local…

    “I rented a TRS-80 microcomputer for a week, and wrote a computer game for it. The game was a glorified BASIC Star Trek, with ASCII asterisk for stars and letters for starships. I had an innovative way to allocate energy between movement, offense, and defense.

    The game impressed Avalon Hillenough that I got hired for their Microcomputer Game department, programming Atari 800 computers.”

    While Winchell’s main interests were in computer games and wargames, he also played role-playing games. Thus, when word passed around Avalon Hill that they were looking for playtesters for a new role-playing game, Winchell signed up. It turned out that, among the several RPGs that were in the works at Avalon Hill at the time (the others including RuneQuest III, Tom Moldvay’s Lords of Creation, and James Bond 007 through Avalon Hill’s imprint, Victory Games), the game Winchell went on to playtest was Powers & Perils in the Perilous Lands, with the designer himself, Richard Snider, as game master.

    “Of all my memories of the playtest, the worst was trying to read all the rulebooks in a single afternoon, cramming for the first playtest session. Since this was playtesting, we were expected to learn the game by reading the rulebooks, not by being coached by the game master, Richard Snider. He would answer questions, though. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of gaming in general and RPGs in particular.

    “He never spoke about how he plotted the campaign, as game master he was giving a performance, and like a stage magician he never revealed how he did a trick. He only had a few notes, but he performed as if he had reams of prepared notes. I think he had lots of notes, but they were *memorized*. He knew how it all went together and all the details, all at his fingertips inside his brain.

    “Richard Snider had a keen mind, and used it to totally control the game.

    “He was somewhat precise – one of the things I kept tripping over in the game was ‘experience’ and ‘expertise’. They were distinct metrics, but in my mind they seemed to overlap quite a bit.

    “As a game master, he was quite good at delivering the lines of various non-player characters in various voices and with various mannerisms. As the evil demigod Slidranth, he delivered his lines with a cold haughty demeanor. As the guard dog being spoken to via a ‘communicate with animals’ spell, he delivered in a dorky, simpleminded, scatterbrained manner.”

    Slidranth makes his offer (Perilous Lands Site Book p. 20) by Winchell Chung

    Of course, the main focus of a playtest group is always on the rules, and how they work in play, rather than theory. While there were a lot of rules in Powers & Perils, the playtest group worked hard to break them…

    “The general reaction of the play-test group was that we really liked the system. It certainly had plenty of detail. The game system ran fairly smoothly once we got the hang of it. There was a lot of flipping through the rulebooks, however.

    “The only thing that I was worried about was it seemed just a little too crunchy, keeping track of a little too much detail, given the small effect it had on one’s character. It was nowhere near as bad as Advanced Squad Leader, but it did have tendencies in that direction. Generating a character was a quite involved process.

    “It was also odd the way the various skills had different scales, some were 1-10 while others were 1-100.

    “As playtesters we were required to give our input at the end of each game session. As far as I can tell the game ended up pretty much the way Richard Snider first designed it. All I know for sure is that none of my suggestions were worthy of being acted upon.”

    One of the most interesting developments out of the playtest was how the actions of certain characters in the playtest had an effect on the development of the published version of Perilous Lands, the campaign setting developed for Power & Perils.

    “One of the other playtesters, David Kuijt, had their character father a child who turned out to be the current incarnation of the dreaded demigod Slidranth aka the ‘Highwayman on the Road to Death.’ If any of the characters died, as their soul moved on to the afterlife, Slidranth would appear as a giant pair of eyes. Slidranth would say ‘here’s the deal: you pledge me your fealty and I’ll bring you back to life.’

    David’s character refused to be intimidated by anything, and was fond of treating Slidranth as his wayward boy, instead of a powerful demigod who could squish him like a bug. ‘Hey, Sliddy? How’s it going?’ he would ask…

    The concept behind Slidranth I found impressive, a cut above standard Dungeons & Dragons boss monsters…”

    David Kujit’s character was, as it turns out, none other than Vlad Stonehand, an iconic character from the Powers & Perils rules set, a major figure in current events in the Perilous Lands, and a featured character in Snider’s article, “Weapons Masters of the Perilous Lands,” (Heroes Vol. 1 No. 3). Therein he is described as being the world’s grand master in the use of the bastard sword.

    “We did a campaign-style series of adventures during the playtest. My character was always in hot water, due to my insistence on playing a magic-user character while we adventured in a land where magic-users were considered to be demons who should be immediately burnt at the stake.

    “Al ‘Albrecht’ Hess played a character who could speak to animals. Our group was on a mission to swipe a specific item from a mansion guarded by watchdogs. Albrecht told us he had a plan.

    “Albrecht walks up to the dogs, carrying a load of meat. As the dogs prepare to start barking he says (in dog language) ‘Hey guys! How goes it? Gee I have a problem. I’ve got this load of meat that nobody wants. Do you know of any lucky dogs around here who could use a meat dinner?’

    “Dogs start to frantically yip ‘ME! ME!’

    “Albrecht tells them to pipe down, and gives them the meat. He goes into the mansion and swipes the item. Unfortunately, these are dishonest dogs, they do not STAY bought.

    “Dogs look up ‘Good meat! Chomp chomp! Hey, what are you doing? Are You Stealing Something?!?? THIEF! THIEF!!’

    “Our characters barely made it out of there with their lives…

    “I remember another time when Albrecht (whose character was Chaotic) tried using his speak-to-animals spell to talk to some kind of flying snake (I forget, maybe a fire snake). Unfortunately the animal was Lawful, so all it would say was ‘Oooh, you bad! You bad-bad!’

    “Later we were trying to convince some villagers (who were Lawful) to help us. Albrecht started to look nervously around. We asked him why, and he said ‘The last thing we need now is that blasted snake landing on my shoulder and telling all the villagers 'He's Bad! Bad-bad-bad-Bad!’”

    The playtest group was, to all appearances, a typical role-playing game group – part serious, part not-so-serious…

    “I don't think Richard minded, because he was focused on playtesting the game system. He was there to wring out the bugs; our wacky style was superfluous. He could make the world as serious as he wanted, since he was writing the world book all by himself.

    “We were not ‘Monty Python’ wacky; we did strive to stay in character. It’s just that we could not resist doing any (in-character) humor.

    “When David Kuijt called Slidranth ‘Sliddy,’ he didn't call Slidranth something out of character like, ‘you bargain-basement Sauron.’ He was trying to play Vlad Stonehand in character, but showing Slidranth that he was not afraid.

    “When Vlad said that, Richard (playing the Slidranth NPC) played along. He gave Vlad an uplifted eyebrow, and tsk-tsked Vlad as if thinking, ‘Ah, my silly overly brave father, it is going to be a pity when I have to eat his soul...’”

    Richard Snider was one of the earliest players in Dave Arneson’s Blackmoor Campaign; he went on to work with Arneson on Judges Guild’s First Fantasy Campaign supplement that detailed the original Blackmoor Campaign, and later worked with Arneson on the Adventures in Fantasy RPG, published originally by Excalibre and later by Arneson’s own publishing company, Adventure Games.

    From Richard Snider’s experience in Arneson’s Blackmoor Campaign, I’d always assumed that the extensive level of detail he provided of the Perilous Lands, notably the various military forces, naval forces, income, and so forth, was designed to enable the classic “end game” of early fantasy campaigns. This “end game” being, of course, the goal of characters, once they rise to a certain level of ability, to forge their own kingdoms or take over existing kingdoms and build their own empires. Unfortunately, Winchell does not recall any mention of such an “end game” being part of Snider’s goals for the Perilous Lands

    “I do not remember him saying anything about characters becoming rulers of the kingdoms. But he did want to ensure that the various nations and tribes were actually different from each other, instead of being Generic Nation #1, Generic Nation #2 and so on. He wanted to produce an impressive useful product for game masters, not some flimsy useless item just to pad out the product line.”

    Nor, unfortunately, is there any known record, written or verbal, of Snider’s literary inspirations for Perilous Lands

    “He never mentioned any of that when I was around,” Winchell wrote. “He did not want his work to appear to be derivative of anything; it was all to be original from him.”

    Winchell says his fondest memory of working on Powers & Perils, Perilous Lands, the Book of Tables supplement, and the Tower of the Dead adventure module, was working on the art for the rulebooks.

    “For me, working on the art, it was mostly the same-old same-old. You were given a written description of the required illustration, general dimensions, and a deadline. And there were a lot of pieces… the Barbarian Warriors and Civilized Peoples pieces at the end of the Culture Book in Perilous Lands? I drew every single one of them. Took me forever….

    “Most of the reviewers really liked James Talbot’s illustrations, but hated the work from all the other artists (including me). There was a stink when somebody noticed that one of the other artists was plagiarizing from Frank Frazetta’s work for the Powers & Perils illustrations. She got fired for that…

    “The cover of the Perilous Lands boxed set was originally a bit spicier. The woman was topless – totally topless. But cooler heads prevailed. The Powers That Be hesitated a minute, then said, ‘Uh-uh,’ and sent it back to have a bikini top painted on…”

    Today, Winchell mostly plays boardgames, wargames, and computer games. He manages his website, the WeirdWorld of Winchell Chung, wherein can be found links to his various interests, including the 3-D Star Charts and Atomic Rocket sub-sites that are dedicated to assisting science-fiction gamers, writers, and other aficionados in maintaining scientific realism in their games and stories.

    Of the other playtesters, almost nothing is known. If anyone has a lead on any of these playtesters, please let me know; I’d love to get more information on the Powers & Perils and Perilous Lands playtests!

    David “Vlad Stonehand” Kuijt*%&
    Al “Albrecht” Hess*&
    John Huff*&
    Charles Kibler
    Ron Hall*
    Winchell Chung*&
    Dan Coggins*&
    Martha Larkins
    Larry McCauley
    Jeff Sussman
    Rorik Rorikson
    Tom Murphy
    Jeff Suzman**
    Al Roireau**
    Bill Peschel**%
    “…and a multitude of others”

    * Playtested both Powers & Perils and Perilous Lands
    ** Playtested only Perilous Lands
    % Edited Perilous Lands
    & Playtested Tower of the Dead

    I also would like to do a full feature article on the art of Powers & Perils and Perilous Lands. Here is a list of artists from the products:

    Powers & Perils
    Jim Talbot (Box Cover and Booklet Covers)
    Stephanie Czech
    Paul Dame
    Winchell Chung
    Bob Haynes
    Charles Kibler
    Ed “ECM” Morris

    Perilous Lands
    Jim Talbot (Box Cover)
    Winchell Chung
    Michael Creager
    Bob Haynes (Color Maps)
    Unknown (Interior Maps)

    Tower of the Dead
    Richard Barber (Box Cover)
    Mike Creager
    Winchell Chung
    Bob Haynes

    Book of Tables
    Roger Norton
    Winchell Chung
    Michael Creager
    Jim Talbot


    This piece by Winchell Chung (Book of Tables p. 17) depicts game designer Richard Snider climbing a tower...

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  • 12/21/15--21:41: Offline until 2016
  •  
    I'm going to be essentially offline until the new year. Will be back with bells on come January 1st.

    Keep an eye on my new blog, the Grymdark Lands. That's where I'll mostly be posting going forward until I have completed the 64-Page Campaign Setting Challenge. The blog will detail the development of the Grymdark Lands, and at the end of the process, I hope to have published my first print, full-color cover, fully-illustrated, 64-page book...

    Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

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    Goodman Games follow-up to the wonderful Dungeon Alphabet, Monster Alphabet, has finally been released in PDF for those who were not part of the Kickstarter. As I have found the Dungeon Alphabet to be indispensable during dungeon crawls, so too do I expect to find this book essential to running a game, whether Labyrinth Lord, Castles & Crusades, Dungeon Crawl Classics, or even 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons.


    Here's the blurb:


    An A-to-Z Reference for Classic Monster Design


    What foul beasts slosh and gibber in the furthest reaches of your skull? Unleash your demons with the Monster Alphabet, a compilation of monster design elements keyed to letters of the alphabet.


    A is for Android, B is for Breath Weapon, C is for Crossbreed! Game masters of any rule system will find inspiration for creating strange, new abominations: random tables of traits, powers, and lore; awe-inspiring illustrations by your favorite fantasy artists old and new; and rolling handfuls of dice directly on monster generation diagrams.


    The entries are accompanied by fantastic art from classic fantasy illustrators and are compatible with all fantasy role playing games.


    Featuring a foreword by noted designer Frank Mentzer!


    Rules Set: Systems-neutral, designed to be used with any RPG


    Writer: Jobe Bittman with Michael Curtis

    Foreword: Frank Mentzer

    Cover Artist: Jim Holloway

    Interior Artists:  Easley, Fritz Haas, Jim Holloway, Doug Kovacs, Diesel LaForce, William McAusland, Brad McDevitt, Peter Mullen, Russ Nicholson, Erol Otus, Stefan Poag, Chad Sergesketter, Chuck Whelon, Michael Wilson



    GMG4386, 80 pages, $11.99 (PDF)


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    Portal into the Future
    Level: 5
    Duration: Instant
    Range: 10’
                               
    This spell enables the magic-user to get rid of a meddlesome foe by flinging the target into a one-way portal into the future. If the target fails a saving throw versus Spells, the target is flung into the future… it is a one-way trip, though the victim can find another way back in time, if such exists. If the target makes the save, he or she jumped out of the way of the portal, and the spell fails.

    The victim, if flung into the future, arrives at a random safe point on the same planet, d100 miles distant from the original point of the spell per level of the caster, in a time one century in the future per level of the caster, +/- d100 years. The caster does not know when the target will arrive in the future; similarly, if the caster is alive when the victim arrives, the caster has no clue, until this is discovered through normal means.

    The caster physically ages one year per century the target is flung into the future, rounded up. For a human caster, this can be quite dangerous, if he does not have access to potions of longevity; for elves and other long-lived beings, such as shape-shifting masters of darkness, such effects are of little note.



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    Realmscrawl Campaign Map 05: Tilverton is the first in what is hoped to be a series of maps and gazetteers detailing the Eastern Heartlands of the Forgotten Realms at a six mile per hex scale.

    Click to embiggen this snippet of the map.

    Continued support for this line depends primarily if it is worth my time to continue to develop this campaign setting as a product line, rather than merely for my own campaign use. This depends entirely on how well these products sell. If this map doesn’t generate enough interest, then I’ll know there is no interest in the gazetteer, the hex-based encounter and event generator, or other expansions of the product line.

    Thus, your donations through the Pay What You Want system will decide if I publish further support materials. In fact, your payments will also guide what products are published after the gazetteer for this map is published (if it is published). As I cannot use Patreon to make this work, here is the way this will be done:

    When you make a payment for the map, send an e-mail to jamesmishler@gmail.com, letting me know what you paid and when. Also include your vote as to which of the following items should be published after the Region 05 Gazetteer:

    1)      Region 05 Hex Encounter and Event Generator; or
    2)      Map and Gazetteer of the Underdark of Region 05; or
    3)      Map and Gazetteer of another region.

    Regarding option #3, these are the nine regions of the Eastern Heartlands that I am developing. As my campaign has pretty well stuck to Tilverton so far, I am not attached to any of the other regions specifically.

    Region 01: Old Arkhosia (includes the Kingdom of Takhasia)
    Region 02: Northern Dales (include Palandria, Daggerdale, Teshendale, and Shadowdale)
    Region 03: Western Moonsea (includes Zhentil Keep, Phlan, Thar, Hillsfar, and northern Cormanthor)
    Region 04: Goblin Marches (includes northern Cormyr, southeastern Anauroch, and western Stonelands)
    Region 05: Tilverton (this map)
    Region 06: Eastern Dales (includes southern Cormanthor, Battledale, Scardale, Featherdale, Tasseldale, Harrowdale, northern Sembia, and the Dragon Reach)
    Region 07: Heart of Cormyr (includes western Cormyr, the Tunlands, the Dragonmere, and the Dragon Coast)
    Region 08: Way of the Manticore (includes eastern Cormyr, western Sembia, Highdale, Archendale, and Westgate)
    Region 09: Sembia (includes central Sembia and the northwestern Sea of Fallen Stars)

    If I reach my goal for sales for this map and the gazetteer, I will tally the total votes by dollars to decide which product will be next.

    NOTE: Reaching the goal for the sales on the map and the subsequent gazetteer is NO GUARANTEE that I will necessarily publish further products. So pay ONLY what you want for the CURRENT product, with the HOPE that further products will be forthcoming. There is NO guarantee of further products AT ANY STAGE of this process.

    ALSO: Do NOT send me any payments for these products in any way EXCEPT through the Pay What You Want system on DM’s Guild. I CANNOT accept payments or donations for these products in any other way.

    My sales goal for Campaign Map 05, which will determine whether I even go on to publish the gazetteer, is net $100 (total sales on this map thus being $200). Running total sales and vote totals will be posted every Friday on my blog at jamesmishlergames.blogspot.com (more often if developments warrant it).

    I plan, at the same time, to publish notes on the history, races, cultures, events, and other broader elements of the Realmscrawl Campaign, which differs in ways from the core Forgotten Realms campaign, as outlined below. All these notes will also be Pay What You Want, and any payments made for these items will count toward the overall goal of the current product and votes for the next product… so email me with your votes when you purchase them as well.

    Note that the entire background of the Realmscrawl Campaign and all elements thereof are entirely optional; use whatever bits you want however you want in your own campaign. And of course, under the terms of the use of the Dungeon Master’s Guild, you are free to re-use, alter, and expand upon any of these materials for your own products. The maps, of course, remain copyright © 2016 James Mishler, however, if you want to license them for your own products, my terms are simple and relatively cheap.

    NOTES ON THE REALMSCRAWL CAMPAIGN
    The year is 1287 DR, the Year of the Smoky Moon, near the end of one era and the beginning of a new. The Eastern Heartlands are in chaos, as Cormyr and Sembia are wracked with civil war and the Dalelands and Cormanthor are under siege by dark elves, humanoids, and other monsters.

    It is a time of war, a time of heroes, and a time of villains. It is a time of change, a time of opportunity, for good and for evil. The old traditions of feudal kings and the sacred bonds of barons and knights are giving way to the customs of mercantile princes and the profane contracts of guildmasters and adventurers.

    The old world, however, does not give over gracefully to the new, and the fading lords of chivalry cleave desperately to their waning treasure and power, even as the rising masters of trade seek to claim the wealth and authority they feel more fit to wield…

    INTRODUCTION
    As can be seen from the above scrawl, the Forgotten Realms (hereafter simply referred to as the Realms or the FRC) of the Realmscrawl Campaign (henceforth abbreviated as the RCC) isn’t quite the same as the standard Realms. It is an alternate version of the Realms, with several major and numerous minor changes in history and geography. The reasons for this are several:

    First, the origin of this version of the Realms is in my own campaigns and campaign styles. I generally prefer a campaign setting that is more Dark Ages to High Middle Ages than Renaissance, and so my campaigns focus more on knights and chivalry than merchants and trade, though both are a factor.

    Second, when 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons was released, and I thought of re-launching my Realms campaign, I decided to make it even more of a “What If?” by positing a whole new beginning for the Realms. That is, rather than adopting all the changes that had occurred over the years, all the great events in the “past” that were caused, in our reality, by new editions of the system, I decided to simply re-present the campaign as though it had originally been developed with 5th Edition races, classes, and concepts from the get-go… though informed by the themes and ideas from the Old School Renaissance movement that is near and dear to my heart.

    Third, I decided to set the campaign at a time of great strife, to drop the characters in the midst of world-changing events, though close enough to the original timeline that, if the players chose, they could still be “at home” in the familiar Realms. Thus, I chose to set the campaign at a slightly earlier date than the Realms had been set before (save, of course, for the Age of Netheril mini-campaign). And so the campaign opens in 1287 DR, 71 years before the Year of Shadows (1358 DR), which was the suggested starting date in the original FRC.

    The grand struggle between feudalism and mercantilism makes for an excellent backdrop to the campaign. It is a time when players could choose to make a quick buck as mercenaries for either (or both) sides in the broader struggle; righteously defend the rights and prerogatives of feudal society; honorably embrace the new way to the mercantile princes; support one faction or many among above others in the overall anarchy; defend their homes or explore the growing wilderness amidst the sputtering points of light of civilization; or, if they were of the mind, to even carve out an empire of their own.

    Unlike the grand events of previous editions, there is no “right” way for a Realmscrawl campaign to end… the future of the Realms, for better and worse, is entirely in the hands of the player characters, should they so choose…

    PERTINENT HISTORICAL CHANGES
    There are only a few pertinent changes between the core FRC and the RCC that need be mentioned in this gazetteer:

    The dragonborn Empire of Arkhosia once stood where now can be found the wastelands of Anauroch. It was from the fading remnants of this empire, not the elves, that the Netherese first learned the ways of civilization and magic. Dragonborn are still found in great numbers in Anauroch, particularly the powerful realms of Palandria and Takhasia, which follow Bahamut and Tiamat, respectively.

    The descendents of the Old Netherese, known today as Anaurians, are the dominant culture of the city-states and wild tribes of the wastelands found between the dragonborn realms. The wandering Bedine are found in the Shaar; there are no Zakharan-based cultures in Anauroch.

    Thauglorimorgorus, the Purple Dragon of Cormyr, wasn’t a black dragon; he was a purple dragon, born of a union of Dragorgonos (the Dragon-Demon, three-headed son of Tiamat and Demogorgon (with red, purple, and blue heads)), and Khyrexandretha, herself a purple dragon born of the union of a red and blue.

    Rauthauvyr “The Raven,” who founded Sembia in 913 DR after unifying the major city-states and most of the regional towns under his banner, kept the new realm as his own, crowned himself king, and founded the Ravencrown Dynasty. Following last year’s untimely death of King Rauthauvyr IV, with no less than seven pretenders to the throne, Sembia has fallen into anarchy. Each pretender is backed by a mix of factions of Traditionalists (feudalists) and Modernists (mercantilists).

    The fateful meeting between King Salember and Prince Rhigaerd, during which Jorunhast slew the Red Dragon King in the FRC, did not happen. Thus today, after two years of small skirmishes and street fighting, Cormyr is rent by civil war, with the Uncrowned King (already called the Purple Dragon Prince) and the Red Dragon King each gathering their forces for major battles…

    EXAMPLE GAZETTEER ENTRIES
    0814 CASTLE FALCONBRIDGE is a castle-bridge complex, with a five-story square keep and walled bailey at each end and a fortified stone bridge, complete with shops and upper level, crossing the Stonerun River. Built by a consortium of merchants from Tilverton, Bloxham, and Ravensden, Falconbridge is governed by Starjan Coelwren (LN male Cormyrian Human 3 HD Trader) and guarded by a garrison of 60 Guards led by Captain Kharwyn Hastler (NE male Cormyrian Human 5 HD Captain, secretly a Zhentarim agent).

    Use of the bridge costs 1 sp per man and beast and per wheel of cart or wagon. The castle-town, which is built on and above the bridge, consists of 90 Commoners, including a Smith, a Wheelwright, a Tavern Keeper (The Dragon & Eel) and an Innkeeper (The Falcon’s Nest).

    1611 THE CITADEL OF VALDYR’S FORGE is a massive three-story stone keep atop Mount Moeglidh (“Old Grumbly”), a (mostly) inactive volcano. It is home to the eponymous Valdyr Ironforge (LN male Shield Dwarf 14th level Artificer), one of the mightiest artificers in the Eastern Heartlands; he goes about his forge wearing only an apron, bracers of defense, and a ring of fire resistance. Young when Thunderdeep was overthrown, he has sworn not to rest until the Beast of the Deeps is slain and his people return to their home; to that end he perfects his arts, hoping to forge the blade that will be the Bane of the Beast.

    Valdyr is served by 60 dwarven men-at-arms led by his nephew, Valkyr Ironforge (LN male Shield Dwarf 6th level Fighter (Battle Master)), who wears a suit of magical +2 plate and wields a magical +1 battle axe. He is served at the forge by eight 1st level, four 3rd level, and two 7th level dwarf Artificers. His complex system of magma-based forges is maintained by four stone giants. Six brown bears, allies of dwarven rangers among Valdyr’s men, prowl the mountainside hunting any stray goblins from Duskdale or the mountains to the east.

    The seven major and three sub-levels of the dungeons beneath the keep are home to many dwarves, half being the remnants of the Ironforge clan, the rest from a mix of clans, including an additional 220 males, 177 females, and 88 children, plus seven 1st level, two 2nd level, one 3rd level, and one 4th level Fighters, plus eight 1st level, four 2nd level, two 4th level, and one a 9th level Clerics of Moradin. The 9th level cleric, Brynd Shieldbreaker, wears a suit of magical +2 splint mail.

    1711 THE RUINS OF DUSKVALE consist of the tumbledown remnants of an un-walled village of 656 gnomes and dwarves; these were slaughtered, every man, woman, and child, during the fall of Thunderdeep, when a whole horde of goblins fell upon the village without warning. The bleached bones of the victims are scattered amidst the fallen stones of their homes and workshops.

    The ruins consist of the remnants of 72 buildings, including temples of Moradin and Garl, a village hall, a merchant hall, and a large keep. There is a three-level dungeon beneath the ruined keep, home to a guard outpost of 33 goblins, three goblin bullies, and a goblin boss; the bullies and boss are worg-riders, with their worgs stabled in the 1st level of the dungeon. The goblin boss also possesses a pair of boots of springing and striding. The goblins are served by ten gnome slaves; these slaves are from the slave pits of Thunderdeep, have been raised to slavery, are thoroughly broken, and will raise the hue and cry if anyone attempts to rescue them.


    Unbeknownst to the goblins, a hidden chamber on the 3rd level of the dungeon (used as a midden, and occupied by vermin and slimes) contains 1,187 sp, 280 gp, a jar of universal solvent, a jar of sovereign glue, and eyes of minute seeing.


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  • 06/29/16--21:59: On Extended Hiatus
  • I'm going on an extended hiatus from reading, writing, and publishing game stuff.

    I'm just not feeling it right now. I'm going to concentrate on actually gaming once again.

    Y'all have fun!

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    Several days ago I received an e-mail from Paul Stormberg of The Collector's Trove, advertising the company's upcoming auction of the Allen Hammack Collection. Several items and images in that e-mail caught my eye, and thus I inquired if Allen would mind if I asked a few questions and posted his responses on my blog. He very graciously accepted, and the results of that interview are include here, together with various of my own interjections concerning the replies...

    My questions hardly cover Allen's entire career; I merely asked about a few of the items on his long list of accomplishments that were pertinent to my own interests. Allen's list of accomplishments in the industry is quite extensive, covered fairly well in The Collector's Trove's blurb included with the auction listing e-mail:

    Allen started at TSR as a games editor in 1978, developing, and contributing some writing to scores of TSR roleplaying products notably including the Dungeons & Dragons Holmes Basic Set (1978 editions) and Moldvay/Cook/Marsh Basic/Expert Sets (1980 editions), AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, Deities & Demigods, Fiend Folio, Monster Manual II, Dungeon Masters Screen, NPC, Character, and Permanent Character Record Sheets, Monster Cards, World of Greyhawk Folio, Boot Hill (2nd edition), Dawn Patrol, Gamma World, Gangbusters, Marvel Super Heroes, and dozens of supporting adventure modules. He served in the same capacity for several of the company's boardgames, counting 4th Dimension, Divine Right, Knights of Camelot, Dungeon! (1980 revision), and Escape from New York boardgames.


    His major design and writing collaborations include TSR's Top Secret that he co-designed and developed with Merle Rasmussen for about a year before the game was ready for publication. He was also part of the larger design team that produced TSR's science fiction RPG entry into the market, Star Frontiers. In addition to these large projects, Allen also had a major role as a co-designer on TSR's AD&D Monster Manual II, Monster Cards, and the legendary Slavers' series of adventure modules.

    Allen was the primary designer and writer for several of TSR's classic games and modules including A3 Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords, C2 Ghost Tower of Inverness, and the minigame, Viking Gods.

    He also designed several freelance products, such as TSR's I9 Day of Al'Akbar and Mayfair's Fantastic Treasures I and II, and Monsters of Myth & Legend III. He also designed and developed other games for Mayfair including their DC Heroes roleplaying game and an unpublished G.I. Joe roleplaying game that he pitched to Hasbro.


    Allen quickly turned around my extensive list of questions, prefacing them simply with, "Let me start as I start all such interviews, which is that the preface to all my answers is 'To the best of my recollection'! Some of these answers go back 45 years, and my memory certainly isn’t perfect!" :)

    Q: How and when did you get involved in gaming? Did you come in through board or war games, or start off with RPGs?

    A: I played chess, bridge, and Risk in junior high and wanted something less abstract. I started wargames with Blitzkrieg and soon expanded to play all the Avalon Hill and SPI wargames. This was around 1969 or so. I joined Sparta International Competition League to play in tournaments, and was highly ranked in Waterloo. Sparta introduced me to miniatures games of all periods, and eventually we played TSR’sChainmail with the fantasy supplement—wizards and Nazgul and trolls, oh my!

    One of my local friends had seen or played with Gary Gygax at a convention where Gary was running a pre-publication version of Dungeons & Dragons, and our friend told us about it. *old geezer voice* Back in the day it was possible to play all (or nearly all) of the games that were published, so we jumped on the boxed set of D&D as soon as it came out. By 1975 we had multiple campaigns running in our area, including mine.

    Q: What was your overall experience like with the early RPG’s? You are a designer and developer; was that a natural development from the start or did that develop as you played?

    A: In our group, almost everyone who played D&D also ran a campaign, so everyone who is a DM gets a little design experience—there were no published adventures in the beginning! The difference is while in college I also had a minor in English and worked part-time for newspapers, so I got more writing and editing experience in those jobs.

    Development training was when I inherited dungeons, maps, and adventures from other DMs who moved away, lost interest, or whatever. I would make changes to make them more consistent with my campaign (level of monsters and treasure, etc.). At TSR I pushed for the addition of a “Developer” credit for work that was more than a playtester or copy editor but less than a full editor. Some execs at TSR were very stingy with credits; I tried to change that mentality.

    Q: What were your early (ca. 75 to 77) games like? What styles did you play? What was your experience like as a Dungeon Master in the early days? Do you have any fun and interesting or illustrative anecdotes about your games from that era?

    A: A player today would almost not recognize the game. We had to ink or paint half the numbers on a 20-sided die a different color to represent 11-20, because the numbers were 0-9 twice. Miniatures weren’t readily available, so we used 3x5 index cards. These cards were also our character sheets, so it kind of self-regulated encumbrance by a limit of what we could fit on a card. We rolled 3D6 in order, and the rolls pretty much determined what class we would be. It was a point of pride to make characters with lousy stats last a long time, but death was permanent with us. No character had enough experience or wealth to be able to use Raise Dead.

    We also insisted players make their own maps, and player mapmaking (and map-reading) were important skills. At least a couple of players with not-great combat technique were tolerated because they were good mappers. It somehow seemed like a real party would be, with individual strengths and weaknesses. This also explains why a lot of my dungeons were massive and had nonsensical corridors—if you could confuse the mapper, the party could get lost in the dungeon. We actually had characters that never found their way out of Inverness and died there.

    Q: There is a definitive literary influence in your game design; who were your primary influences? Your favorite authors and why?

    A: I could write a chapter on this—so many! Tolkien, of course. Howard, Leiber, Carter, Norton, Vance, McCaffrey. On the SF side, Heinlein, Spider Robinson, Clarke, Asimov, Alan Nourse. I also enjoyed the Doc Savage Bantam adventures, and the first non-picture book I got was a Tom Swift, Jr., so I got hooked on SF very early.

    If you know Tolkien, Howard's Conan& Red Sonja, Leiber’s Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser, and the entirety of Robert Heinlein, you’ll know a lot about me and my campaigns (and personality!).

    Allen's Inverness Campaign Map

    Q: Your campaign setting adapts, at least in name and some geography, many elements from the world of the Gondwane series (The Warrior of World’s End, etc.) from Lin Carter. Were the influences merely on the map or was the setting strongly influenced by Carter’s work (and if so, how so)?

    A: See above—I certainly read and enjoyed World’s End and Witch World and Dying Earth and the others. No, I simply wasn’t ever a good artist, but I was fascinated my maps in the books I read. When my campaign started I had completed one dungeon and Inverness was underway (being built slightly ahead of the players’ explorations), but I was under time pressure to build a world to place them in. Using some techniques from wargame maps, I crammed in countries, rivers, and city names from three or four fantasy series that I was reading onto a large hex-grid posterboard and decided I’d fill in details on the countries and cities if and when players went there. I followed rough similarities to the books—the Witch World areas had a lot of female magic-users, for example.

    [NOTE: I myself created a map based on Lin Carter's Northern YammaYamma Land map from the World's End series, which can be found here -- James]


    Q: Gormenghast as a mega-dungeon... Is this post-Groan occupation, now filled with weird monsters and a few remnants of the old staff (sort of like Castle Amber)? Or something else altogether? What were the best deaths in the dungeon?

    A: Gormenghast was a mega-dungeon I inherited from a friend. I expanded some of the levels and heavily modified the encounter key (really a couple of booklets) to make them compatible with my campaign. There are many references to Titus Groan in the dungeon, but the players never got deep enough to find him. If you had to set a time, it would be during or shortly after the second novel but before Titus left.


    Q: How did you make the leap from player to designer at TSR?

    A: In 1975 and 1976 several friends and I attended the first two Origins conventions in Baltimore and then GenCon IX, piling into an RV for a week of driving and gaming. We had gotten the governor to declare us the Alabama State Wargaming Team, and all had the t-shirts! We were part of the winning team (they were huge) in the D&D tourney at Origins, and then at GenCon I won the Best Mage in the AD&D Open (awards were by class that year). Along the way I started writing to and for The Dragon magazine, so my name started getting known by Gary and by Tim Kask, who let some of us stay at his house for the Winter Fantasy con in 1977 or 1978.

    There was an ad for an editor in the back of The Dragon in very early 1978. I was working on finishing my Masters in chemistry, but I applied on a lark and promptly forgot about it. I had a bit of experience with newspapers, but I never thought I was really in the running—but I was very competitive! That summer of 1978 I went to GenCon at UW-Parkside, and was on my way to run an event when Gary waved me over (he was standing in line for food). He said, “When can you start?” I stammered, “When would you like me?”, and Gary said, “First of the month!” So, I had less than two weeks to finish GenCon, drive back to Alabama, make all my arrangements, and move to Wisconsin!

    Q: Tell us about your work on Top Secret. What do you recall of the design and development? What was it like working with Merle Rasmussen on the game? Were there any elements of the game that you would have done differently? What are your favorite anecdotes from playing Top Secret?

    A: Merle was a pleasure to work with, so much so that we later hired him! These were the days of typewriters, carbon copies, and mailing manuscript changes back and forth, so it was a slow process. I knew it was going to be a fun game, but we had to go a long way from the thick stack of typewritten sheets. Merle is good at lists; if I asked him to give me a list of 20 weapons, he’d send me a list of 40—then I’d have to edit it back down to 20! Mostly I remember that we both did a lot of typing!

    What would I have changed? With perfect hindsight, I would have changed the hand-to-hand combat system. It was cumbersome. Merle and I are teamed up again on a new unnamed espionage RPG, code-named Acrid Herald. Keep an eye on Merle or me on Facebook for release information (not for many months). I think we have a much better game mechanic (including the dreaded HTH combat!) for this system.

    Oh, my favorite anecdote is still the FBI visit. During in-house playtesting, we had a campaign that was essentially a PBM (play-by-mail) system, using notes and memos turned into a referee (similar to Diplomacy). The ref would adjudicate moves and orders and publish results in a “newspaper” of current events. This was a very strategic-level simulation, with players being heads of countries (or their intelligence divisions). Anyway, we were scattered in different buildings then, and the messages had to get from the downtown former hotel where the designers were to the Sheridan Springs building (where others were). 

    Somehow, a note ordering an assassination attempt on NPC William Weatherby was dropped in public by the referee, and found by someone who told the FBI. I was one of two people playing the KGB and had written the order, and I know it was delivered properly to the ref, so the security breach was on him! The FBI did make an inquiry to our company, and they were not surprised when they found out there was not an active KGB hit squad operating in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, but they did their due diligence. As is often the case, all publicity is good, and this did get the game a lot of press coverage.

    Q: C2: Ghost Tower of Inverness... how do the tournament module and the published module differ from the original? What anecdotes can you tell us about survivors (and victims) of the dungeon in your original games? What was the strongest literary influence on Ghost Tower?

    A: The published module was for a tournament, and therefore I wanted to offer the same challenges to all players. I had played in tournaments where random choices with no information could waste a lot of precious game time (“You see 12 identical cave openings in the hill ahead. What do you do?”), so the module is still a plot “rail-gun” , but initially with the illusion of choice—you still have to go down all the corridors. Optional encounters were not in the original tournament, but added to give more play-value to the published module.

    The campaign version was designed on small graph paper to allow for larger-scale levels. Because mapping was critical for players back then, there are a number of features to confuse the players and to require mappers to use many sheets of regular-scale graph paper. There are multiple below-ground levels, because back then the depth of the level was a strong guide to what would now be called the Challenge Rating of the monsters there; the deeper levels were more dangerous (see Moria!). The concept of the central keep as time-lost was still being developed and wasn’t described in my notes and key.

    One great story from there involved leaving a PC who was wounded on the trip out to Inverness from their base city, which was several days (remember the old “Lost” die roll chance?). For some reason the party decided the wounded guy would be a drain on their resources or slow them down, so they left him to get back to the city. Now expeditions frequently spent several weeks in a dungeon once they got there, due to the dangers of overland travel. After some successful finds and a couple of weeks, they were on their way up and out of Inverness when, near the entrance they had come in, giant scorpions attacked. They decided exiting was their best strategy and ran to the door. They were very surprised to find new brickwork sealing the door! The abandoned player had—played out with me in a separate room—gone into town, paid for healing, and hired some laborers to come out with him to brick the door up. A dwarf with a military pick was able to break through in a few rounds, but casualties were high in an act of sweet revenge!

    What was the greatest literary influence on Ghost Tower? Well, the name (and only the name, not the plot) was suggested by and a hat tip to a weird radio serial. As I’ve said before, it’s not related at all to the real city of Inverness in Scotland. I have always enjoyed time-travel stories, so inspiration was found in The Time Machine, Bellamy’s Looking Backward, Heinlein’s The Door Into Summer, L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time, Vonnegut's Timequake, and Gerrold's The Man Who Folded Himself. Cheesy though it was, I also liked the TV show The Time Tunnel. I was not aware of Doctor Who at the time, but it’s now a favorite of mine.

    Too many books to count employed the four elements (earth, air, fire, water) as part of the structure. I am still pleased how long it takes players to recognize the theme as they struggle upwards. Also, I had always played in traditional “deeper is more dangerous” dungeons, so I thought it would be fun to turn it on its head and make players fight their way UP for a change!

    Q: What elements of your own campaign made it into A3: Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords? What was it like to work with a design team on tournament modules?

    A: Not much of the campaign made it into A3 because we were trying to give an equivalent challenge to each round. The two parts of A1 and A2, and the first part of A3 were each first-round adventures in the tournament. Human nature (especially gamers) being what it is, some knowledge was always leaked between the first slot of a tournament and subsequent runnings of the first round, The result was that the last running of the first round usually resulted in higher scores because of accrued knowledge and metagaming. In this tournament all first-round slots were new adventures, and it worked—we had advancing teams from every first-round slot.

    That being said, a few elements from my campaign made it through. The “slow salt slide” was one, inspired by the movie “Journey to the Center of the Earth”.

    Q: The city of Suderham from A3; how much of a hand did you have in the design of the city? Other than Gary Gygax’s Erelhei-Cinlu, vaguely outlined in D3: Vault of the Drow (and to a lesser extent T1: Village of Hommlet and L1: Secret of Bone Hill) , Suderham was the first city environment so thoroughly outlined that was published by TSR. Was it based on Gary’s Greyhawk works or otherwise? Was it ever more developed and used at TSR by the development team?

    A: I did not get to play often in Gary’s Greyhawk, so no, that wasn’t an influence. The city of Suderham (“South Home”, referring both to Alabama and a hat tip to my friend Dave Sutherland) was, for the tournament, fancy window dressing to get the players to the underground. At the time, tournament adventures tended to be dungeons, dungeons, and more dungeons, so I wanted to give players a rare chance at an urban environment. Different skill sets would be needed for a bit, what we would later call Gather Information, Bluff, Streetwise, and Diplomacy.

    I had read a lot of history and had participated in the SCA, which in our group at least had a lot of educational presentations as well as fighting. Anyway, I knew I wanted a wall and guards, and to have the city divided into quarters. I got together with the artists and gave them sketches of what I wanted, and they came up with the excellent maps. I think they might have preserved certain aspects of the maps on overlays that the artists could incorporate into parts of future projects involving cities, but Suderham specifically was never developed further.

    In my campaign taverns tended to favor certain classes, or maybe they just hung out there. Fighting Man’s Haven is obvious, the Sign of the Magic Missile was popular with spell-casters, etc. The names were all from taverns used in my campaigns or in local campaigns that I played in, as were some character and NPC names.

     A harem in Suderham as depicted by Bill Willingham
    Why are there brothels in my cities? Well, they certainly existed in all societies, but primarily I included them to be a bit rebellious and push the envelope. We designers (and the artists) constantly played a game where we pushed the restrictions that our Mrs. Grundy bosses sought to impose. Dave Sutherland used to draw tiny biplanes into wizard hats in honor of the Fight in the Skies WWI game. I used a brothel as a very important clue to proceed, using very delicate wording and without--ahem!--requiring a purchase. Artists enjoyed drawing suggestive clothing on models, or would have shadows were more provocative than the figures who cast them. In Top Secret one illustration has a woman with a pistol wearing a ring with my initials. All of these were “us against the man” tiny rebellions that we tried to slip past bosses who were sometimes (in our view) nitpicky bean-counters.


    Q: What was it like working in the “designer’s bullpen” back in the day? What helped, being together with all the other designers? What wasn’t all that helpful?

    A: One of the beautiful things about D&D (and all RPGs) is the demonstration that group-think is almost always better for finding solutions to puzzles. I think this is part of the current popularity of escape or breakout rooms. In “the bullpen” (though we never called it that), there was never a shortage of creativity—if someone started with an idea, others would add improvements or alternatives and it would snowball. If someone had a not-so-great idea it would become brutally obvious fairly quickly—although we respected each other tremendously and were polite, gamers in general and designers in particular are, shall we say, blunt.

    Sometimes we’d see the “death by committee” effect of a thousand cuts. There comes a time in a project cycle where the designer, developers, and editors need to let it go and just inspect it for flaws and polish the gem, instead of making one last little change.


    Q: What is the story behind the “GI Joe RPG Development Materials?” Was that an official TSR project for Hasbro or something you were working on yourself?

    A: That was definitely not TSR at all. After the mass layoffs of 1983, I returned to Alabama and opened the Lion and Unicorn book, game, and comic store. I was writing freelance for Mayfair and was approached more than once by people who walked in off the street with game ideas. A guy came in to talk to me about doing a GI Joe RPG. I said, “Hasbro will never license that out. They won’t even listen to you.” He knew someone at Hasbro who could get us a meeting; I could design the game. It intrigued me, and I quickly thought of a way to make an extremely simple RPG-ish game using the action figures instead of miniatures. The game would have to be very simple to be playable by the young end of the GI Joe target market.

    I developed a boxtop-length rule set with one easy component to keep costs down. The neat thing about this was that even if only a small percentage of GI Joe buyers played the game, the sheer numbers of the buyers would make this a hugely successful game. Cha-ching!

    Alas, it was not to be. We flew to New York, had a good meeting, but evidently that VP wasn’t able to convince others to approve the project. Another great game shot down by bean-counting executives who don’t understand games… :)

    Q: After your TSR days, did you continue to game on a regular basis? If so, what did you play? Did you remained tied in to the broader gaming culture and society?

    A: As I said, I returned to Birmingham, Alabama and opened a game and book store. As part of the store, we would often go to regional cons as a vendor. I attended GenCon until it left Milwaukee, so I kept my hand in with the industry. I also wrote my three books for Mayfair Games and I9 for TSR as a freelancer during this period. This was a part of my life where I was too busy with the game industry to actually have time to play games, which is not a great place to be. I’m now playing almost every weekend with my local group.

    I am very pleased when conventions ask me to be a guest, and if it’s financially possible I’m happy to go. The great hospitality of Gamehole Con, GaryCon, and NTRPG Con have allowed me to run a lot of games for their attendees and to reconnect with a lot of old industry friends and make new ones.


    Q: Was I9:Day of Al’Akbar an outgrowth of another campaign setting or further development of your earlier setting? How did that get published; did you send it in as a freelancer, or had it been sitting in the slush pile at TSR for several years since your employment there?

    A: It was not while I was at TSR. I had written my books for Mayfair and was obviously available for freelance work. I believe Bruce Heard approached me (not sure, there was a lot of networking involved!) with the offer of a module. I liked digging up things from the very early days of D&D. When the list of artifacts came out in OD&D it was very cool, but no DM in our group dared allow any player character near one of those things! As a result, we never got to use them, which I thought was a shame. I pulled out the Cup and Talisman as the least likely to destroy a campaign, and Bruce agreed. This was, of course, long before world events would make such a subject or title unlikely to be published.

    Q: How did you end up writing Fantastic Treasures I and II for Mayfair Games? What were your design ideals behind those books? Were you scheduled to do two books, or did the project just grow so large that you needed to dived the treasures into two books?

    A: After all the layoffs at TSR, I had former colleagues scattered all over the gaming landscape (Mayfair, Pacesetter, Coleco, etc.). By then I knew several people at Mayfair, so I let it be known I was available for freelance. They asked what I wanted to write, and I said something from mythology. We had touched on it briefly with TSR articles and books, but I wanted to go more in-depth. I also wanted an answer to the rules geeks of the time who knew the stats of every single magic item in the DMG so well it was impossible to fool them. I wanted players to have the sense of discovery (and dread) when they find something new and magical.

    It was scheduled to be one book, but when I said the material for two was there they had no problem dividing it. I spent many nights in the libraries using reference materials that couldn’t leave the library (pre-internet, kiddies!). There were a lot of handwritten notes and retyping (no laptops, children!). I also interviewed a number of international students to get a sense of what traditional myths and stories they were being told as modern children.

    The third book was Monsters of Myth & Legend III, covering several mythoi and focusing on the monsters and strange creatures therein. By the time Fantastic Treasures II was finished, Mayfair had already contracted MML 1 and 2 to other writers--I would have enjoyed getting to write all of them! Again, my pitch was to introduce unfamiliar monsters and magic to know-it-all players who had memorized all the existing ones and how to deal with them.

    Q: What kind of gaming have you done since your days as a professional designer? What are you playing these days (RPG, board, war game, other)? Do you still have a regular campaign?

    A: Yes, I have a campaign, although my players would argue that it is anything but regular! Our local group rotates among several DMs, but my professional commitments have reduced the number of times I can DM. I will have them cowering before me again soon… We’re pretty locked in on the 3.5 system because we all have all the books, but the campaigns vary widely in level. My niece runs an aquatic world.

    I regularly go to the Chattanooga Rail Game Challenge, which is a weekend full of train games in an extremely competitive Puffing Billy tournament. I enjoy the Empire Builder-type games from Mayfair, Ticket to Ride, On the Underground, Union Pacific, and Metro.

    I still like miniatures and wargames, though those are mostly confined to conventions for me now. The inventiveness and work done by people amazes me.

    I enjoy Puerto Rico, and the concept and play of the co-op games (Shadows over Camelot, The Captain is Dead) can be intriguing as well. Online I also sometimes play World of Warcraft and am a backer of Star Citizen.

    I recognize that there are certain types of popular games I just don’t like or can’t get my head around. The 18xx tile-laying stock games seem too much like real-life work to me. Games with too much bookkeeping lose appeal to me. The newer games that have cavalcades of victory points from 18 different methods aren’t fun for me. My friends joke that I like boards with hexagons because there’s no lying (“diplomacy”) involved—the traditional wargames with zones of control and “D Back 2” results! :)

    Q: Do you have any plans to publish your campaign or any of the materials from back in the day? Any plans to delve back into design and publishing?

    A: I recently contributed an article and a trap to a collection of essays Jim Ward is coordinating from various famous authors through Goodman Games. Publishing the campaign? The truth is “not at this time”, but I never say never. Night of the Black Swords, available from Diecast Games, is a module based on a tournament I wrote for a convention long ago after I left TSR. The publisher made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, so who knows what the future may bring? Keep watching!

    Allen with Inverness Module, in front of the real Castle Inverness, in Inverness Scotland!


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    Somehow I got left out of the big sale going on at DTRPG/RPGNow... so instead of a Black Friday thru Cyber Monday sale, I'm having a "Goodbye and Good Riddance to 2016" sale! All James Mishler Games products are on sale through the end of the year.

    50% off! Get them now before someone opens that Seventh Seal!

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    Project Oasis, written by Joseph Bloch (Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage) and self-published through BRW Games, is a 36-page PDF campaign supplement for Mutant Future and Apes Victorious, both being post-apocalypse (PA) games by Goblinoid Games.

    Set 1000 years after the Devastation, it is a “kitchen-sink” style setting, containing all the themes and ideas from a wide spectrum of early PA literature, film, and television, focusing on the materials developed in the 1970s. Planet of the Apes, Ark II, Omega Man, Logan’s Run, Twilight Zone, Mad Max– it’s all here in a fantastic melting pot that gives you an entire continent of possible adventure.
     
     
    The two-page introductory section explains the basics of the world and how it came to be; speaks of technology and geography; and gives some basic guidelines for the kinds of campaigns the setting is designed for (very different from many modern PA settings, due to the strong influence of the middle-era of the PA genre). Details are brief, but give a game master more than enough material to get started.
     
    We then get to the meat of the booklet, the 22-page gazetteer. This covers every major power in the PA setting, a mix of stone-age savagery to high-tech insanity. Virtually every kind of PA trope is covered in this, with lots of opportunities for a game master to start a campaign in exactly the kind of setting he wants, then move the adventure on to other regions. There are ape realms, human-friendly, human-neutral, and human-enslaving; there are high-tech mutant realms hidden under wastelands, low-tech mutant wilds, human-mutant cooperatives, and mutant-power domains; there are hidden high-tech cities of wonder where the people are dedicated to recovering what was lost, high-tech cities of wonder where the people are kept in dystopian decadence, and there are low-tech kingdoms dedicated to keeping things exactly the way they never really were in chivalrous glory. And that’s just for starters!
     
    I’m being a bit nebulous here, as I believe that it would give you, the reader, far greater joy to discover the world of Project Oasis on your own, rather than have me list off the regions chapter and verse.
     
    Two things I will discuss are "Project Oasis" itself and the inclusion of adventure hooks with each region. First, Project Oasis is not simply the name of the book, it is also a major faction in the PA world. Project Oasis is a very high technology organization, operating from a secret base, that seeks to bring the world back from savagery (echoes of Ark II, Earth II, and Planet Earth); to this end, they send out teams of adventuring types to help uplift goodly domains and bring down or stall villainous ones. This provides an excellent hook on which the game master can hang her campaign, as it enables player characters to travel all over the continent (and beyond) with as much technological support as the game master wishes them to have at the time. Second, each of the region entries has three adventure hooks included, at least one of which deals with Project Oasis and how it, and its representatives, might interact with the peoples and powers of the region. So the book itself, as mentioned in the introduction, really gears play toward a Project Oasis-based campaign, though myriad other options are readily available.
     
    The volume finishes with three short appendices, two dedicated to new monsters (one for Mutant Future, the other for Apes Victorious), and the other a listing of inspirational material. The new monster sections include everything mentioned in the work that was not otherwise found in Mutant Future and/or Apes Victorious, each section covering the same monsters. The list of inspirational material provides most of the books, films, and television shows you would need to read or watch to better understand the setting. Personally, if you have no experience with the middle-era PA genre, I’d watch Ark II, the Planet of the Apes movies and television series, and the Logan’s Run movie and television series; these give you a complete overview of the relevant material and, most especially, style of the genre.
     
    Finally, there is the continental map. Created using Hexographer, it shows the relation between the new geography of the continent and all the various regions, including cities, major towns, ruins, and other notable locations. The only problem with it is that I have not been able to find a scale for the map anywhere on the map or in the book… I think it is 30 or 40 miles per hex? [NOTE: Confirmed from Joseph that the scale is in fact 30 miles per hex.]
     
    Click to embiggen; this is a small and shrunken snippet of a full continental map!
     
    The upshot of the review is that this is the best PA campaign setting on the market today, if you are into the middle-era PA genre. If you aren’t, well, get on the bandwagon! The PA middle-genre provides you with all the action, adventure, seriousness, and wild and wacky wahoo you could ever want out of a PA setting, and this book distills it all down for you. Project Oasis plus Mutant Future and Apes Victorious can provide literally years of PA adventures. With Project Oasis Joseph Bloch has presented the PA gamer community with a PA campaign “Greyhawk Gazetteer” upon which to build and develop their own campaigns.
     
    Project Oasis is a book I wish that I had written. And really, I can’t give it better kudos than that.
     
    Five out of Five Stars
     
    Project Oasis
    by Joseph Bloch
    Published by BRW Games
    36-page PDF with PNG Continental Map
    $9.95
     
    Note: I purchased Project Oasis with my own money. I have not been offered anything in return for a review. The links above go through the Affiliate Program at OBS, so if you buy something after clicking through, I get a taste of the action. Hope all the cyber-cops are happy with this disclaimer.

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    Stumbled across this old map while going through a pile of old writings. Not quite sure when I drew this, could be anywhere from mid-'90s to early '00s, would have been a time when I was fiddling around with both the Wilderlands and the Forgotten Realms.
     
    No longer have the original file, this is a scan from a much-faded print. I don't recall doing any development of this version of the setting(s), as really, not much needed to be done to kludge them together like this.
     
    Everything really fits nicely, with the western Wilderlands merging nicely with the vaguely Arabic Semphar and the eastern Wilderlands nestling quite nicely together with the Mongol/Chinese region of Kara-Tur. Heck, even the Karakhans make perfect sense; descended from a mix of wizards from Shou-Lung and Tuigans from the Plain of Horses who founded their own independent kingdom of Karak. You've got the Great Glacier/Sea of Ice to the north and the weird lands of the Utter East of the Forgotten Realms mixing it up with the Demon Lands of the southern Wilderlands...

    Two Great Tastes that Play Great Together?

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    I've been pretty quiet here lately, been concentrating on playing games rather than writing about them... well, of course, I have to do SOME writing about most of the games I run. I've been running two campaigns, both 5th Edition.
     
    I recently put the bigger campaign on hiatus, as I've got less time right now. The campaign is set in Kvin Mondöj, though less Heavy Metal and more Kitchen Sink. I ran the campaign at a local game store every other Sunday for several months, and even though we'd have an average of 8 to 10 players at a time, most of the characters reached 5th or 6th level... and that's where I find 5th Edition to kind of break down, with twice as many characters at that mid-level. I hope to pick up the campaign again, but first I'll have to figure out how to run it in a balanced yet challenging fashion for that many players at that level and higher...
     
    It got a little weird at times, almost but not quite this weird...
     
    The other game is a one-on-one I've been running with my wife. She's a huge Pokémon fan and so she introduced me to the anime midyear last year. After watching several episodes, I commented on how it would make a wonderful tabletop RPG, and wondered why such had not appeared as yet (in official licensed form)... and the rest, as they say, is history.
     
    At first I looked through the usual suspects for a system to use (all the old Guardians of Order systems, for example), but I felt that they really didn't capture the experience just right. So I punted and started designing a Pokémon trainer class for 5E. I also snagged the Kanto Pokédex from Caniswolfman24 on Reddit; though it is a very good start, it only captures each Pokémon in a snapshot, and even then, as mix of each of the various generations as the author preferred... and as I wanted the Pokémon to be able to level up, just like they do in the game (and the anime), I had my work cut out for me...
     
    And then, too, I needed a world... well, a Region, really, as these adventures needed to take place in their own region. I could have used Kanto, or Johto, or any of the already defined regions, but I wanted something that would be unknown and wild and open... a real Pokémon Sandbox, so to speak. So I created the Byoga region (not based on any real Japanese region or other worldly region), and set about creating the region based on my wife's favorite artist. Try to figure it out...
     
    The main map isn't finished yet; I just wanted to get a decent feel for the overall region, and then drill down to the individual hexes. The campaign started in Café Town, and her first adventures were all in the Café Hills. The region hexes are 5 miles, and the township hexes are each 0.20 miles. I packed a LOT of stuff in each hex; with the way Pokémon trainers wander, they tend to miss a lot, so she was guaranteed to find SOMETHING each session (each session is one or more "episodes," depending on the action that takes place and the length of the session).
     
    Anyhoo, here are three of the maps, and I'll see about posting some of the information about the Pokémon Trainer class and the various Pokémon Racial Classes...




     
     

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    Investiture of Eternal Guardianship
    3rd-level transmutation
    Casting Time: 8 hours
    Range: 10 feet
    Components: V, S, M (gems worth at least 10,000 gp, which are consumed in the casting; plus, a single solid object of any value made of any material as the focus of the spell)
     
    You transform a living creature into an immortal guardian of a single place; an intelligent creature must be willing (not under any sort of magical duress). So long as the creature so affected does not leave this place, it will not age or die of natural means, though it can be killed normally. It also need not eat, drink, breathe, or sleep (though it may do so if it wishes). It heals normally, even without eating or drinking, and it need not sleep during its long rest, merely rest. The creature also never advances in levels or hit dice, and gains no experience points while thus enchanted. The creature can learn new languages, and can learn new knowledge from willing teachers or from books, though none of this can cause it any improvements in abilities or statistics.
     
    I know he aged, so the comparison isn't quite perfect, but it is apt...
    The area the guardian tends and must remain in may be no larger than a sphere 10 feet in radius per level of the caster; thus 20th-level caster allows for a sphere up to 200 feet in radius. Often the area the guardian must reside within is smaller, as set by the caster during the casting of the spell, perhaps a single room or cavern or small system of rooms or caverns, and the border is delineated by some design or motif, such as differently-colored bricks or stones, a painted line, a fence, or even a hedge of shrubs.
     
    The creature innately knows where the boundary is, and never willingly passes the boundary, knowing it can mean instant destruction. Low-intelligence creatures cannot reason beyond their fear of the boundary, while intelligent creatures might determine that there is no ill effect… within their natural lifespan. Should the creature ever be forced to leave the defined area that it guards, for any reason, the spell ends, and it instantly ages all the years that have passed since the spell was cast. Should it age past its natural lifespan, its body will wither, turn to dust, and the dust will blow away.
     
    The creature knows of any being that passes into its guarded area; by concentrating for a round it can view the being(s) remotely, as though present and within 10 to 30 feet. When so concentrating it can also hear the being(s) clearly, as though it were present, though it only understands any languages it already knows. If it is intelligent, it may also speak to the being(s), as though from the air or, perhaps, from some appropriate bit of décor within the area. The creature can always see clearly within its area as though it were perfect daylight, even through magical darkness.
     
    Casting dispel magic on the creature or the entire area is inefficacious; the spell can be dispelled only by casting dispel magic (or other such spell) specifically, intentionally, and directly on the singular item that acts as the focus of the spell. This focus item cannot be removed from the area of effect; any attempt to do so merely causes the item to disappear from the hands or pockets of whomever attempts to remove it and causes it to reappear elsewhere within the area of the spell. The spell is also dispelled if the object is ever destroyed (thus the object is usually of some strong metal). Note that the object cannot be enchanted against destruction, nor with any other magical ability; the item detects as magical, while the area and the enchanted creature do not detect as magical or enchanted.
     
    If the focus item is destroyed, or if the spell is dispelled, the guardian creature does not age instantly, and merely continues aging as normal, no longer having any benefits of the spell.

    At Higher Levels. The spell cast with a 3rd-level spell slot only affects beasts, oozes, and plants. The spell affects low-intelligence (Intelligence 6 or less) elementals and monstrosities when cast with a 5th-level spell slot. A spell cast with a 7th-level spell slot affects higher-intelligence elementals and monstrosities, as well as low-intelligence aberrations, celestials, dragons, and fiends. A spell cast with a 9th-level spell slot affects high-intelligence aberrations, celestials, dragons, and fiends, as well as fey, giants, and humanoids.
     
    Designer Note. I thought of this spell while playing the other day, wondering just how certain living creatures guarding a treasure remained alive and whole after centuries of being locked away in a dungeon with no "natural ecology" on which to survive...

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    So last year I tried to jump into the 5E market on the Dungeon Masters Guild, with some hex-based mapping of the Forgotten Realms called Realmscrawl (also, alternate version of FR based on some old campaign stuff). Sales went nowhere, for various reasons.
     
    I had already done a lot of work on the rest of the Realmscrawl maps, and have decided to release the Incompleat Realmscrawl maps into the wild. The linked product includes all eight of the remaining Realmscrawl map Hexographer files, as well as small PNGs of each region, and one very small scale "mega-map" of all nine regions of the Eastern Heartlands altogether.
     
    As mentioned, it is incomplete... none of the maps have any names on them, most got to the placement of locations stage, and Map #9 is only in primitive layout stage. But if you are into FR, or just need a blank sandbox or eight, this is for you, and at the right price... if you have Hexographer, of course...
     
    The Incompleat Realmscrawl
     
     
    Herein you will find the remaining eight maps of the Realmscrawl line, which never quite took off.

    The initial release, Realmscrawl Campaign Map #5: Tilverton, never sold enough for me to further develop the line.
     
    However, I still have my initial work done on the rest of the maps; here they are, incomplete, ready to be further developed for your own campaign using Hexographer.
     
    Included are the Hexographer files for Maps 1 to 4 and 6 to 9.
     
    Maps 1 to 4 and 6 to 8 are essentially complete, save for names. Map 9 is in a rather more primitive condition, but the general outline is all there.
     
    Also included are small maps of each of the eight regions, in PNG format, as well as one map of all nine regions stitched together in a primitive fashion (made with slightly older versions of the maps included herein).
     
    PAY WHAT YOU WANT
     

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    Here is the alternate Star Knight Class and Star Force Meditation system I've used for my White Star games. It is continually under development and adjustment. It is rather more complex than the system used in White Star, but it is more like what I envision Star Knights being capable of... note that it is NOT designed with "balance" in mind. If you want to "balance" the added abilities gained from this system, you can increase the XP needed for Star Knights to rise in level. I don't really worry much about it myself...
     
    Over time I have referred to a number of sources to develop this system, including Labyrinth Lord, Labyrinth Lord AEC, White Star, White Star Companion, Star Sailors, and Between Star & Void, among other sources.
     
     
    Star Knight Consular
    Primes: Wisdom + Charisma
    Hit Die: d8 + Charisma Bonus
    Force Die: d8 + Wis Bonus
    Star Sword Ability Bonuses: + Charisma Bonus to Hit and Parry
    Star Sword Mastery Bonus: 1st+2nd +0; 3rd-6th +1 7th+ +2
    Parry: 1 free Parry and Redirect per round, 1 FP per Parry or Redirect thereafter, -1 to Parry and Redirect per attempt after the first Parry that cost Force Points.
    Meditations: Channel Star Force, plus Level +1 + Cha Bonus meditations
    Special Ability: Misdirection, costs 1 FP. If target fails saving throw, you change his mind (on a minor, immediate subject) or misdirect his attention for up to on minute. If he fails a second saving throw after that minute, he forgets anything about the incident.
     
    Star Knight Guardian
    Primes: Wisdom and Dexterity
    Hit Die: d10 + Dexterity Bonus
    Force Die: d6 + Wis Bonus
    Star Sword Bonuses: + Dexterity Bonus to Hit, Damage, Parry, and Redirect
    Star Sword Mastery Bonus: 1st-4th +1; 5th-8th +2; 9th+ +3
    Parry: 1 free Parry and Redirect per round per level, 1 FP per Parry and Redirect thereafter, -1 to Parry and Redirect per attempt after the first Parry and Redirect that cost Force Points.
    Meditations: Channel Star Force, plus Level +1 meditations
    Special Ability: Seize Initiative, costs 1 FP. If opponent fails saving throw, you gain initiative.
     
    Star Knight Mystic
    Primes: Wisdom + Intelligence
    Hit Die: d6 + Intelligence Bonus
    Force Die: d10 + Wis Bonus + Int Bonus
    Star Sword Bonus: + Wisdom Bonus to Parry
    Star Sword Mastery Bonus: 1st-4th +0; 5th-8th +1; 9th+ +2
    Parry: 1 FP per Parry or Redirect, -1 to Parry or Redirect per Perry or Redirect attempt after the first Parry.
    Meditations: Channel Star Force, plus Level +2 + Wis Bonus + Int Bonus meditations
    Special Ability: Attuned to the Star Force. If a Void Power Gift is used within 1 mile per level, you automatically sense the use of the Gift. With one minute concentration and expending 1 FP, the Mystic can scan for presence of Void Gift users within same area. Some Void Gifts might hide the presence of Void users.
     
    Star Sword Parry and Redirect
    Whenever a Star Knight armed with a Star Sword is attacked and hit, he may attempt to parry the attack. The Star Knight rolls an attack roll against the attack that was rolled to hit him; if his roll is equal to or greater than the roll to hit him, he parries the attack. Melee weapons are destroyed (unless they are of similar caliber to a Star Sword), as are slug-thrower bullets and the like; laser and blaster bolts, however, may be redirected by the Star Knight against any target he can see within the remaining range of the original weapon blast. This is made as a normal attack using the Star Knight’s Star Sword bonuses. If the attack hits, it deals the normal damage due to the weapon type.
     
    Power of the Star Force
    All Star Knights can call upon the power of the Star Force at need. They can use their Force Points (and Hit Points) to increase a failed roll to hit, to parry, or to save after the roll has been made. This can be done for any roll that is not a Natural 1 fumble or for any attempt that does not require a Natural 20 to hit. This should only be used for important, major, life-and-death, save-the-world kinds of rolls, not for every normal, everyday rolls.
     
    After the roll is made but before the effect occurs (or fails to occur), the Referee must tell the Star Knight that he failed; do not tell the Star Knight how much he failed by. Then offer the Star Knight the opportunity to expend Force Points to make the roll a success. If the player says yes, he then spends a number of Force Points needful to make the roll succeed.
     
    If the number needed is more than his current Force Points, he suffers damage to Hit Points as though he had spent them as Force Points (i.e., 2 HP per FP). If he does not have enough Hit Points left, he then suffers Constitution damage at a rate of one point of Constitution per Force Point; this might even kill the Star Knight!
     

    Call Upon the Void
    The Star Knight can also or instead call upon the Void for the needed points to make the hit, parry, or saving throw, they can also call upon the Void to cause a target to fail their saving throw against a Meditation. The first time the Star Knight does so, she gains a pool of Void Points equal to the number of points needed to make the roll succeed. The first time the Star Knight gains Void Points, and each time there after, the Star Knight must make a percentile roll against the new Void Point total.
     
    If the roll is equal to or less than the Void Point total, the Star Knight falls from the grace of the Star Force and turns to the Void, becoming an NPC Void Knight from that point on.
     
    There are ways for a Star Knight to decrease her Void Point pool; these are at the discretion of the Referee.
     
    STAR KNIGHT MEDITATIONS
    Alter Reflexes
    Awareness
    Block Energy
    Celerity
    Channel Star Force
    Charm Beasts
    Charm Person
    Comprehend Languages
    Darkvision
    Defensive Coordination
    Detect Evil/Good
    Detect Gifted
    Detect Invisible
    Detect Life
    Detect Thoughts
    Detect Traps
    Dispel Effect
    Eschew Food and Water
    Expand Senses
    Feather Fall
    Foresight
    Heal Other
    Healing Meditation
    Healing Trance
    Interstellar Navigation
    Leap
    Levitation
    Locate Object
    Mind Shield
    Mind Voice
    Neutralize Poison
    Protection from Firearms
    Read Languages
    Remote Viewing
    Speak with Animals
    Speak with Plants
    Speed Burst
    Star Force Meditation
    Star Light
    Star Speed
    Star Sword Form: Attack Style
    Star Sword Form: Defensive Style
    Star Sword Form: Offensive Style
    Star Sword Form: Protective Style
    Star Sword Form: Whirlwind Attack
    Suspended Animation
    Telekinetic Force
    Telekinetic Hand
    Telekinesis
    Telekinetic Shield
    Telepathy
    Tongues
    Vision
    Water Breathing
     
    Base Cost Note: Meditations with (Reaction) listed in the base cost can be activated instantly, out of initiative order, in reaction to an enemy action or other event. The activation interrupts the event, and thus the Meditation can affect the results of the event. The use of a reactive Meditation counts as the one Meditation activation per round allowed to a Star Knight.
     
    Duration Note: Meditations with durations marked with a (C) can be continued at the end of their duration through another expenditure of the base cost; this continuation does not count as the activation of a new Meditation for that round.
     
    Bonus Stacking: Bonuses from different Meditations for the same modifier do not stack; only the highest-currently active bonus applies. Thus, alter reflexes and celerity both provide a +2 bonus to Initiative when wielding a Star Sword; the bonuses do not stack, and the Star Knight can benefit from only one bonus to the same modifier at a time.
     
    Alter Reflexes
    Prerequisite: Awareness, Celerity, Speed Burst
    Base Cost: 3
    Range: Self
    Duration: 1 minute (C)
    The Star Knight doubles their personal movement and may attack twice per round for the duration of this Meditation. He also receives +2 to Initiative rolls.
     
    Awareness
    Base Cost: 1
    Range: Self
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    This Meditation makes the Star Knight immune to surprise. Should the party the Star Knight is a part of be surprised, he remains unsurprised, and any adjacent allies may make a saving throw to also remain unsurprised.
     
    Block Energy
    Prerequisites: SS: Defensive Style, SS: Offensive Style, Telekinetic Force, Telekinetic Hand
    Base Cost: 4 (Reaction)
    Range: Self
    Duration: 1 minute (C)
    This Meditation works exactly as Parry and Redirect with a Star Sword, with the same costs and modifiers based on sub-class, except the Star Knight no longer needs to be wielding a Star Sword. They can attempt to deflect energy attacks and catch or deflect physical missile attacks with nothing but their bare hands.
     
    Celerity
    Prerequisite: Awareness
    Base Cost: 2 (Reaction)
    Range: Self
    Duration: 10 Minutes (C)
    The Star Knight gains a +1 bonus to Initiative; this bonus increases to +2 if he wields a Star Sword.
     
    Channel Star Force
    Base Cost: 1d6 (Reaction)
    Range: Self
    Duration: 1 round
    For the duration of this Meditation, the character can perform tremendous abilities beyond their physical norms. The character could lift a ton or more, see in the dark, hold an object with an unbreakable grip, run at double movement, leap as per the leap Meditation, or ignore poison in the atmosphere or your own blood stream. Basically it allows the use of any Meditation that affects only the Star Knight, even those not known, for the duration. This Meditation requires too much concentration for use in combat, and cannot be used to gain the abilities of any combat-related Meditations.
     
    Charm Beasts
    Prerequisites: Charm Person, Speak with Animals
    Base Cost: 5
    Range: 120 ft
    Duration: One hour
    This manifestation functions similarly to charm person, but can affect large creatures or massive beasts.
     
    Charm Person
    Base Cost: 1
    Range: 120 ft
    Duration: One hour
    This Meditation affects living bipeds of approximately human size, including most aliens. If the Meditation succeeds (saving throw allowed), the unfortunate creature falls under the caster’s influence.
     
    Comprehend Languages
    Base Cost: 1 (Reaction)
    Range: Self
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    This Meditation allows the Star Knight to understand the unfamiliar and unknown spoken languages of sentient beings, including robots. The Meditation does not impart the ability to speak the language, merely to understand the language spoken.
     
    Darkvision
    Base Cost: 3 (Reaction)
    Range: Self
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    The Star Knight can see in low light and even total darkness at a range of up to 60’.
     
    Defensive Coordination
    Prerequisite: SS: Attack Style, SS: Defensive Style, SS: Protective Style
    Base Cost: 3
    Range: 30 feet
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    The Star Knight and all his allies within 30’ receive a +1 bonus to all saving throws and all enemies who attack them suffer a -1 penalty to all “to-hit” rolls for the duration of this Meditation.
     
    Detect Evil/Good
    Base Cost: 1
    Range: 120 ft
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    The Star Knight detects any creatures with evil intentions or evil thoughts, as well as places tainted by the Void within the Meditation’s range. Poison is not inherently evil, and cannot be detected by means of this Meditation. The reverse Meditation, detect good, works the same way except that it detects good intentions and places that are powerful in the Star Force.
     
    Detect Gifted
    Base Cost: 1
    Range: 120 ft
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    This Meditation allows a Star Knight to detect the presence of any living creature within 120 feet that possess the ability to use the Star Force or Void Power. It does not determine the specific number or location of those detected, only that they are present.
     
    Detect Invisible
    Base Cost: 2 (Reaction)
    Range: Line of Sight
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    The Star Knight can perceive invisible creatures and objects. This includes objects or individuals concealed by obstruction, concealment or a personal cloaking device.
     
    Detect Life
    Base Cost: 1
    Range: 120 ft
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    This Meditation allows a Star Knight to detect the presence of any living creature within 120 feet and whether or not they are sentient creatures. It does not determine the specific number or location of those detected, only that they are present.
     
    Detect Thoughts
    Base Cost: 1
    Range: 60 ft
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    The Star Knight can read the surface thoughts and emotional state of other living beings within range. The Star Knight must spend one full round concentrating on a target; if the target fails a saving throw, the Star Knight can read his thoughts as he wishes thereafter during this use of this Meditation. The Star Knight may make as many attempts as he wishes to break through to read the thoughts of a target, however, each time the target makes his saving throw he gets a +1 bonus to the next saving throw, and if he ever makes his saving throw by 10 or more, he knows that someone is trying to read his mind.
     
    Detect Traps
    Base Cost: 2
    Range: 30 ft around character
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    The Star Knight can perceive both mechanical and technological traps at a distance of 30 ft.
     
    Dispel Effect
    Prerequisite: Detect Evil/Good, Detect Gifted
    Base Cost: 4
    Range: 120 ft
    Duration: Instant
    This Meditation can be used to immediately end any single Gift or Meditation that is currently active in range.
     
    Eschew Food and Water
    Base Cost: 1
    Range: Self
    Duration: 24 hours (C), Special
    During the duration of this Meditation the Star Knight needs not eat any food or drink any water; the Star Force sustains him and provides all needful nutrients.
    The Meditation can be continued beyond the first day, though each day costs a number of Force Points equal to the number of days (2 on the second day, 3 on the third day, and so forth). Only once the Star Knight has consumed a full day’s worth of food and water does the number of Force Points required to use this Meditation reset.
     
    Expand Senses
    Prerequisite: Remote Viewing
    Base Cost: 5
    Range: Special
    Duration: 1 minute (C)
    The Star Knight is able to see and hear far off people or places, anywhere on the same planet, in near orbit, or on a moon orbiting the same planet, instantly, though he must name a specific location or direction within that range. If he has not actually been in that place, or does not actually know the person, he must make a saving throw each round to find the location or person. He must meditate in peace and quiet to use this Meditation. Any distraction will draw him back to his normal senses.
     
    Feather Fall
    Base Cost: 1 (Reaction)
    Range: Self
    Duration: 1 minute (C)
    The Star Knight slows any fall experienced by the Star Knight to merely 10 feet per round. The Meditation thus must be continued for falls longer than 60 feet. The effect of the Meditation ends the moment the Star Knight lands on his two feet, on the ground or otherwise (such as on a hovercar), or grasps any object that is connected to the ground in any fashion (such as a flag post or antenna of a building). The Star Knight can attempt to direct his fall in a gliding fashion to an area up to 5 feet distant from his point of fall per 30 feet of fall by making a saving throw with a bonus from Dexterity; failure indicates he goes into an uncontrolled spin and when he does land, he suffers 1d6 points of damage.
     
    Foresight
    Base Cost: 5
    Range: Self
    Duration: 1 minute (C)
    This Meditation gives the Star Knight a prescient awareness. For the duration, they gain a +2 to Armor Class and Saving Throws, and they cannot be surprised.
     
    Heal Other
    Prerequisites: Detect Life, Healing Meditation, Healing Trance
    Base Cost: 4
    Range: Touch
    Duration: Instant
    The Star Knight can touch a wounded individual and instantly restore 1d6+1 hit points. This Meditation cannot heal Constitution damage or be used to regain Force Points.
     
    Healing Meditation
    Base Cost: 1
    Range: Self
    Duration: Instant
    This Meditation heals the Star Knight of 1d6+1 hit points of damage. It cannot be used to heal damage to Constitution or to regain Force Points. It cannot be used by spending hit points to activate the meditation.
     
    Healing Trance
    Prerequisite: Detect Life, Star Force Meditation
    Base Cost: 1
    Range: Self and Touch
    Duration: 8 hours
    This Meditation allows the Star Knight to recover an additional point of damage per level after a day’s rest. Alternatively, they can use this Meditation to assist another’s healing by concentrating with them while they rest. It cannot be used to heal damage to Constitution or to regain Force points.
     
    Interstellar Navigation
    Base Cost: 1 per Parsec
    Range: Self
    Duration: 1 hyperspace jump
    This Meditation enables the Star Knight to navigate a hyperspace jump without the need for a navigation computer. The time to calculate the jump is merely one minute per Parsec. The Star Knight can cut this time down to one round per Parsec, but then must make a saving throw after jumping into hyperspace; if the saving throw fails he ends up miscalculating the jump, ending up one Parsec away from the original target per point by which the save failed. If the save failed on a Natural 1, the jump is off by an additional 1d100 Parsecs.
     
    Leap
    Base Cost: 1 (Reaction)
    Range: Self
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    Once activated, this Meditation allows the Star Knight to leap and jump prodigious distances. They can easily leap 30 feet horizontally or 15 feet vertically. If an enemy is unsuspecting, this can easily surprise them on a 1-4 on d6 or allow the user to retreat from combat without suffering an attack.
     
    Levitation
    Prerequisites: Feather Fall, Telekinetic Hand
    Base Cost: 2
    Range: Self
    Duration: 1 minute (C)
    The Star Knight can levitate up or down up to 20 feet per round; horizontal movement is not possible, save by moving along the walls or ceiling with hands.
     
    Locate Object
    Base Cost: 2
    Range: 120 ft
    Duration: Instant
    This Meditation gives the Star Knight the correct direction (as the crow flies) and distance toward an object the character specifies with a description. The object cannot be something the character has never seen, although this Meditation can detect an object in a general class of items known to the Star Knight: stairs, a Star Sword, etc.
     
    Mind Shield
    Prerequisites: Detect Thoughts, Mind Voice, Telepathy
    Base Cost: 5
    Range: Self
    Duration: 24 hours
    This Meditation protects the mind of the Star Knight for the next 24 hours. During that time, they are immune to all Meditations and Gifts that affect the mind. They are also immune to any natural, technological, or chemical attempt to influence their mind. Pain and torture are useless against them, as are truth serums or pheromones. This power can be nullified by dispel effect, though the Star Knight gets a saving throw to resist the dispel effect Meditation or Gift.
     
    The downside of this Meditation is that if the Star Knight attempts to use detect thoughts, mind voice, or telepathy, he must make a saving throw; if the saving throw fails, the Force Points spent are lost and the use of the Meditation fails. If he fails the saving throw with a Natural 1, the mind shield also fails.
     
    Mind Voice
    Prerequisite: Detect Thoughts
    Base Cost: 2
    Range: 120 ft
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    This Meditation allows the Star Knight to send and receive surface thoughts to a target. This power does not allow deep mind reading, only those thoughts the target wishes to share. This communication transcends language barriers.
     
    Neutralize Poison
    Prerequisites: Detect Life, Heal Other, Healing Meditation, Healing Trance
    Base Cost: 3
    Range: Touch
    Duration: Instant
    The Star Knight can purge poison from either himself or another living being with a touch.
     
    Protection from Firearms
    Prerequisites: Awareness, Telekinetic Hand, Telekinetic Shield
    Base Cost: 3 (Reaction)
    Range: Self
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    This Meditation creates an invisible force field around the Star Knight which no firearm (kinetic missile such as bullet, slug-thrower, needler, gyro-pistol, rocket-pistol, etc.) may penetrate. This also affects thrown weapons such as axes and more primitive missile weapons such as arrows. Any such missiles fall harmlessly to the ground a foot away from the Star Knight, as though they had struck an impenetrable steel wall. The Meditation has no effect on lasers, blasters, or other energy-based weapons; larger, vehicle-scale missiles also are unaffected, as is shrapnel from grenades and bombs. Melee weapons are also unaffected by the effect of this Meditation.
     
    Read Languages
    Prerequisite: Comprehend Languages
    Base Cost: 2
    Range: Reading distance
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    This Meditation allows the Star Knight to read directions, instructions, and similar notations written in unfamiliar or even unknown languages.
     
    Remote Viewing
    Prerequisite: Star Force Meditation
    Base Cost: 3
    Range: Special
    Duration: 1 minute (C)
    This Meditation allows the character to see distant locations; the Star Knight must be able to meditate in peace and quiet during this Meditation. The view-point of the Star Knight moves away from the Star Knight at one mile per level, though it snaps back instantly when willed to do so or when the duration ends.
     
    Speak with Animals
    Prerequisite: Detect Life
    Base Cost: 2
    Range: 30 ft
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    The Star Knight can speak with animals within range. There is a chance that the animals will assist him, and they will not attack him or his party (unless he’s got something particularly offensive to say).
     
    Speak with Plants
    Prerequisites: Detect Life, Speak with Animals
    Base Cost: 4
    Range: 30 ft
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    The Star Knight can speak to and understand the replies of plants. Plants will obey his commands as far as they are able (e.g. twisting or bending aside to ease his passage, etc.). Intelligent plant Styles, such as plant aliens, get a saving throw to resist the Star knight’s commands.
     
    Speed Burst
    Base Cost: 1 (Reaction)
    Range: Self
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    This Meditation doubles the Star Knight’s movement.
     
    Star Force Meditation
    Base Cost: 0
    Range: Self
    Duration: Special
    This Meditation enables the Star Knight to regain Force Points through meditation. For every hour the Star Knight meditates he regains a number of Force Points equal to his level plus his Wisdom bonus.
     
    Star Light
    Base Cost: 1
    Range: 30 ft
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    This Meditation creates a small mote of starlight that sheds full light in a 20’ radius. It floats within 30 ft of the Star Knight, forming where he wills it, and moving as he wills it to move (requires concentration). If the Star Knight does not concentrate on moving the mote of light, it moves with the Star Knight as it was last directed to do so.
     
    Star Speed
    Prerequisites: Alter Reflexes, Leap, Speed Burst
    Base Cost: 5
    Range: Self
    Duration: 1 hour (C), Special
    The Star Knight can run at incredible overland speeds; this Meditation is of no use in combat, and can be used only for long-distance running. The Star Knight can run at a speed of 10 miles per hour per level; as this also combines the effect of the leap Meditation, all ground cover other than badlands and mountains is considered effectively clear for movement purposes. The Meditation ends immediately if the Star Knight stops running for any reason.
     
    Star Sword Forms
    Star Sword Forms are styles of use of the Star Sword. A Star Knight may use only one Star Sword Form per round, though he may have more than one Form active at a time.
     
    Star Sword Form: Attack Style
    Prerequisites: Defensive Style
    Base Cost: 2
    Range: Self
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    The Star Knight focuses his mind on battle at hand, gaining a +1 to all “to hit” rolls for the duration of this Meditation.
     
    Star Sword Form: Defensive Style
    Base Cost: 1 (Reaction)
    Range: Self
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    The Star Knight centers himself and prepares to face his foes. All enemies suffer a -1 penalty on any “to-hit” rolls made against the Star Knight and he receives a +1 bonus to all saving throws made to resist any abilities they have which can be resisted with a saving throw.
     
    Star Sword Form: Offensive Style
    Prerequisites: Attack Style, Defensive Style
    Base Cost: 3
    Range: Self
    Duration: 1 minute (C)
    This Meditation focuses the Star Knight’s combat technique into a whirlwind of destruction. They inflict an additional 1d6 points of damage with every successful attack when wielding a Star Sword. This damage bonus does not apply to redirected attacks.
     
    Star Sword Form: Protective Style
    Base Cost: 1 (Reaction)
    Range: Self
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    The Star Knight, when wielding a Star Sword, can apply any portion of his bonus to hit for that round as a bonus to the Armor Class of any adjacent ally. The Star Knight can also use his Parry and Deflect abilities when the ally is hit in combat. The Star Knight must declare which adjacent ally is being protected at the beginning of each round, and the amount of the bonus that is being applied to the defense.
     
    Star Sword Form: Whirlwind Attack
    Prerequisites: Awareness, SS: Attack Style, SS: Defensive Style
    Base Cost: 1 per target (Reaction)
    Range: Self
    Duration: 1 round
    For the current round, the Star Knight may make one Star Sword attack at each adjacent enemy. If the attack hits, the target may make a saving throw to suffer only half damage.
     
    Suspended Animation
    Prerequisites: Detect Life, Eschew Food and Water, Healing Trance, Star Force Meditation
    Base Cost: 1
    Range: Self
    Duration: Special
    Using this Meditation the Star Knight enters a state of suspended animation, during which his bodily functions slow down dramatically. During the period of suspended animation the Star Knight does not need to eat food, drink water, or breathe air, and is immune to natural variations in heat and cold (between -60 degrees to 160 degrees Fahrenheit). This allows the Star Knight to survive in low-pressure atmospheres or mildly tainted atmospheres, but not in a vacuum or in poisonous atmospheres.
     
    The Meditation requires expenditure of 1 Force Point per 24 hours; this is spent automatically, as long as the Star Knight remains in suspended animation. The Star Knight awakens when he runs out of Force Points or when a pre-set condition occurs.
     
    Telekinesis
    Prerequisites: Telekinetic Force, Telekinetic Hand, Telekinetic Shield
    Base Cost: 5
    Range: 120 ft
    Duration: 1 minute (C)
    The Star Knight can move objects using mental power alone. The amount of weight he can lift and move is 20 pounds per level up to 20 feet per round.
     
    Telekinetic Force
    Prerequisite: Telekinetic Hand
    Base Cost: 3 (Reaction)
    Range: 30 ft
    Duration: Instant
    This Meditation gives the Star Knight a potent weapon, allowing them to either thrust targets towards or away from themselves with but a thought for the duration of the power.
     
    The target is allowed a saving throw, but if failed will be either flung 30 feet away from the character, or pulled directly towards them. If they impact a solid object, such as a wall, they will suffer 1d6 damage. If they are pulled towards the Star Knight, the star Knight may make an immediate attack against the target at a +2 bonus to hit.
     
    This can also be used to snatch an object from a target. If the target fails a saving throw, you can pull an item from their hands or off their clothing into your hand or fling it further away.
     
    Telekinetic Hand
    Base Cost: 1 (Reaction)
    Range: 60 ft
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    This Meditation allows the character to lift and manipulate one or more objects, up to 5 lbs per level in weight. It requires no more concentration to lift an object than it would with one’s hand. Objects may be carried along in this fashion, floating at the user’s whim. This power can be used on multiple different objects during the duration, but only one per manipulating limb of the Star Knight at a time. The Star Knight must make a saving throw in order to use the telekinetic hand to manipulate buttons or perform other fine work.
     
    Telekinetic Shield
    Prerequisite: Telekinetic Hand
    Base Cost: 2 (Reaction)
    Range: Self
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    The character wraps themselves in waves of telekinetic force, protecting them from attacks. They gain a +2 bonus to Armor Class and Saving Throws.
     
    Telepathy
    Prerequisite: Detect Thoughts, Mind Voice
    Base Cost: 3
    Range: 360 feet and Special
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    The character can send and receive mental communication with any one target within 360 feet. If they are intimately connected with a target, such as family, friends, or lovers, then they can communicate with them if they are within one mile per level. An unwilling target can make a saving throw to drive the character out of their mind. This power only allows the reading of surface thoughts.
     
    Tongues
    Prerequisite: Comprehend Languages
    Base Cost: 3
    Range: Self
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    This Meditation allows the Star Knight to speak and be understood by any sentient being (including robots) within speaking distance. The listener understands the Star Knight in its own native language, even if the Star Knight does not and cannot speak that language. Conversely, the Star Knight understands all spoken languages he hears during the duration of this Meditation.
     
    Vision
    Prerequisites: Expand Senses, Remote Viewing
    Base Cost: 9
    Range: Self
    Duration: Three questions
    The Star Knight senses their destiny and the player may ask the Referee three questions regarding the events of the current campaign. The Referee may answer as directly or cryptically as they wish.
    This Meditation is very taxing to the Star Knight and may only be used once per week.
     
    Water Breathing
    Base Cost: 3 (Reaction)
    Range: Self
    Duration: 10 minutes (C)
    The Star Knight can breathe underwater for the duration of this Meditation.
     
     


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  • 06/01/17--19:54: Simple Vancian Magic
  • Of late there has been a bit of chatter about Vancian style magic in D&D, as in, how much magic in D&D actually resembles the magic portrayed by Jack Vance in his Dying Earth series.
     
    Short answer, "sorta-kinda." Longer answer, it is similar to Dying Earth magic in that it is "fire and forget," but in practice, there is a lot more granularity to the D&D system than there is to magic as portrayed in Dying Earth. That of course does not take into account the later appearance of Sandestins (effectively, re-skinned genies), which Vance introduced in his later Dying Earth stories. D&D magic-users can cast a LOT more spells at higher levels than any wizard of Dying Earth (or even of Lyonesse); however, D&D magic is a lot less "colorful" than that found in Dying Earth, but that is really more of a function of rules versus literature. If a judge wanted to, she could make D&D magic just as colorful as that found in the Dying Earth.
     
    Also, in Dying Earth, wizards had to get by a lot more on their wits than most magic-users seem to do in games these days (or even back in the day). A truly Vancian magic-user would have Charisma as his second-highest stat, merely to take advantage of reactions, bargaining, intimidation, and simple bluster and bluff, and in combination with his Intelligence, wit and repartee. Most D&D magic-user players, at least, from being on the other side of the screen as I have, seem to just fade behind the meatshields after they have used their spells, or at best, fall back on flaming oil, caltrops, and other such more physical "bags of tricks."
     
    That said, the brief and simple system to make D&D magic more "truly Vancian," is simple.
     
    A magic-user can memorize a number of levels of spells equal to her level plus her Intelligence bonus. The magic-user cannot memorize the same spell twice. Memorization requires an hour of rest and then one round per spell level to impress the spell in the mind. Once the spell is cast (or miscast, or lost), the spell is gone from the mind. 
     
    Note that no magic-user in their right mind would ever bring their spell books (plural, one to six spells per spell book, no more) with them into the dungeon, as they are far too rare and valuable. Any foolish magic-user who does this deserves everything she gets (or rather, loses) when Something Bad happens to her spell books.
     
    The Cugel Corollary: Anyone who wishes to may attempt to cast a spell from a spell book, if they can read the language (this presumes that spells are written in a readable language rather than a magical cipher). Use the character's "Spell Learning Probability" based on Intelligence and subtract 10% per level of the spell to be cast. ANY failure indicates that Something Bad happens to the attempted spell-caster...
     
    For a longer, more involved version of the system, read my Jack Vance Dying Earth-inspired Adventurer class.

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  • 07/27/17--17:06: Rules for Black Lotus use...
  • Went looking for these rules for Black Lotus, realized I no longer had them on any of my computers, and thanked my lucky stars I had posted them on another blog long ago (and had not deleted the blog, merely hidden it).
     
    I would sell haga to a slayer such as you?
    So here are rules for using black lotus pollen (burned upon coals in a brazier).

    BLACK LOTUS
    Cost
    : 250 gp per ounce of unrefined pollen (provides one hour’s fumes in a five foot radius).
    Native Location (Greyhawk): The Vast Swamp, Tilvanot Peninsula, Hepmonaland, and the Amedio Jungle, as well as islands of the Densac Gulf and points south and southwest.
    Native Location (Wilderlands): Roglaras (Deadroot Marsh), Altanis (Eyestones Jungle), Desert Lands (Underwing Jungle), Ebony Coast (Shimmersink Marsh), Lenap (Jungle of the Sweet Smelling Death), Sea of Five Winds (Hutamah Jungle), Tula (Tulamite jungles and marshes), Ament Tundra (Chamfly Forest), Southern Reaches (Dark Castle Marsh).

    Unrefined black lotus pollen, burnt upon a brazier of coals to create a cloud of blackish-green smoke, is used as a magical soporific that enhances magical power (the arcane power of magic-users, not the divinely-granted power of clerics). A single ounce fills a five foot radius area; all within who breathe of it for even but a moment must make a saving throw versus death magic or fall into a deep, death-like slumber. Those caught in this magical slumber are virtually impossible to rouse. Only heavy shaking or physical damage has a chance of rousing one so stupefied. If so treated while the source remains fuming in their presence, the sleeper must make another saving throw versus death magic, at -1 per two hours in slumber, or remain in the black lotus slumber. Only one such save may be made per hour. Once the source is removed from the sleeper’s presence, the sleeper can be easily awakened, and naturally awakens and regains clarity of mind after five minutes per hour of sleep minus the sleeper’s Constitution score.

    No less than one ounce of the pollen is efficacious; this causes one hour of slumber. More pollen applied to the brazier either extends the period of slumber or expands the fumes, at the choice of the applicant. Each additional ounce beyond the first expands the radius by five feet (i.e., 10 feet with two ounces, 15 feet at three, and so forth). Most magic-users only use more to create a wider circle when they prepare the material as a trap. Many magic-users spend days or a week or more engaged in the black-lotus slumber; if they are not cared for by servants, they can dehydrate or even starve.

    While sleeping under the fumes of the black lotus, the sleeper has terrible nightmares. For the uninitiated, these seem nothing more than horrific dreams; the reality is that a part of their spirit travels forth unto dark planes, strange realms of time and space, and there witnesses terrible events, past, present, and future. Sometimes the dreams are germane to the individual and his specific situation, but most of the time they are peripheral at best or simply mind-numbingly horrific at worst. Other than the dangers inherent in being magically asleep, though, non-magic-users have nothing to fear from the fumes of the black lotus.

    Magic-users, though, with their trained minds and arcane power, may channel the lotus’ dark energies and focus the spirit travel capabilities inherent in the fumes to expand their arcane power. Use of the black lotus allows various uses of the dark energies and knowledge generated thereby on the part of the magic-user. As with normal spell memorization and study, any interruption of the use of the black lotus spoils all effort prior to that point. The difficulty, of course, is raising the magic-user from the black-lotus slumber!

    First, black lotus allows a magic-user to memorize spells without prior rest. Each spell merely requires double the normal amount of time spent “in study” whilst breathing the smoke of the incense, and the spell will be memorized. The magic-user need not study his spell book, he must merely have it in his presence (i.e., in hand or in the same room), as the black lotus allows his mind to access the spell book directly in spirit form. Thus, a 1st level spell can be memorized in 30 minutes, a 2nd level spell in an hour, and so forth. Remember, though, that even a minimal use of the black lotus requires one hour of slumber!

    Secondly, the black lotus allows the magic-user to “overcharge” on memorized spells, up to one additional spell of each spell level known. The magic-user must first have his full, normal complement of spells memorized. He must also have his normal rest. He then must spend one hour in black lotus slumber per spell level of spell to be overcharged, i.e., one hour for a 1st level spell, two hours for a 2nd, three hours for a 3rd, and so on.

    The downside of overcharging spells is that the energy to overcharge must come from somewhere, and that somewhere is the negative material plane! As such, overcharging spells can gain the magic-user the unwanted attention of demons, devils, undead, and other creatures who crave those dark energies! Every time a magic-user uses black lotus to overcharge, he gains a point of Dark Energy per level of spell overcharged (in the example above, the magic-user would gain six points in one sitting). Every time the magic-user uses a spell overcharged with this energy, the DM must roll percentile dice against the magic-user’s new total Dark Energy; rolling less than or equal to the Dark Energy total indicates the magic-user has captured the attention of a potent demon, devil, undead, or similar being. Consult the Dark Stalker table below; the roll to determine if the magic-user gains a creature’s attention determines the creature or creatures that begin stalking the magic-user. Note that if the creature does not normally have the ability to teleport, it will gain the ability to teleport itself to the magic-user’s location when the magic-user is engaged in black lotus slumber. The creature will form in the fumes of the black lotus, upon which the magic-user will awaken to see his nightmares become reality…

    The creature thus attracted to the magic-user will seek him out across the cosmos to drain his Dark Energy and his tainted soul! Some creatures bide their time and observe the magic-user on the material plane, where they might gain some advantage. Other creatures, especially the less intelligent and bestial types, make direct attacks against the magic-user’s spirit while engaged in the black lotus slumber. In this spirit form the magic-user has all spells that he has memorized and all magic-items that he had upon his body at the time he entered the black lotus slumber. If he is slain in spirit form, the body dies, usually in a manner most horrible and with a great many wounds mimicking those suffered by the body, and his spirit is either consumed or taken prisoner; no form of raise dead or resurrection will work upon the magic-user without the accompaniment of a wish spell or similar magic to restore the soul from destruction or entrapment.

    When a creature is thus attracted to the magic-user, subtract from his Dark Energy total the value of the roll; if a magic-user had a total Dark Energy of 12, and the DM rolled a 9, the Dark Energy of the magic-user thereafter will be merely 3. Also, subtract from the magic-user’s currently memorized spells a total number of levels equal to the roll, determined randomly, though overcharged spells go first; the magic-user feels this drain as a cold shadow upon his soul, and knows as he casts the spell that he has broken the barriers between worlds and caught the attention of… something. What exactly, though, he will not know, perhaps until it is too late…

    D100 Creature*
    1 ..... NPC Magic-user**
    2 ..... Demon, Manes
    3 ..... Devil, Nupperibo
    4 ..... Devil, Lemure
    5 ..... Berbalang
    6 ..... Demon, Dretch
    7 ..... Shadow Mastiff
    8 ..... Devil, Spined
    9 ..... Hell Hound
    10 ... Gibbering Mouther
    11 ... Grue, Harginn
    12 ... Grue, Ildriss
    13 ... Mi-Go
    14 ... Shadow Dragon
    15 ... Son of Kyuss
    16 ... Yeth Hound
    17 ... Piscodaemon
    18 ... Demon, Rutterkin
    19 ... Devil, Imp
    20 ... Demon, Quasit
    21 ... Shadow
    22 ... Grue, Charggrin
    23 ... Wight
    24 ... Wraith
    25 ... Rakshasa
    26 ... Salamander
    27 ... Devil, Abishai
    28 ... Devil, Erinyes
    29 ... Hellcat
    30 ... Penanggalan
    31 ... Slaad, Red
    32 ... Spider, Phase
    33 ... Yuan-Ti
    34 ... Devil, Bearded
    35 ... Djinn
    36 ... Drelb
    37 ... Great Race of Yith
    38 ... Grue, Varrdig
    39 ... Hordling
    40 ... Nightmare
    41 ... Primordial One
    42 ... Shadow Demon
    43 ... Troll, Spirit
    44 ... Spectre
    45 ... Demon, Babau
    46 ... Demon, Bar-Lgura
    47 ... Demon, Hezrou
    48 ... Demon, Succubus
    49 ... Demon, Vrock
    50 ... Naga, Spirit
    51 ... Slaad, Blue
    52 ... Bodak
    53 ... Cthuga's Flame Creature
    54 ... Dao
    55 ... Demon, Glabrezu
    56 ... Demon, Nabassu
    57 ... Devil, Barbed
    58 ... Devil, Bone
    59 ... Devil, Horned
    60 ... Devil, Styx
    61 ... Efreeti
    62 ... Groaning Spirit
    63 ... Invisible Stalker
    64 ... Mezzodaemon
    65 ... Night Hag
    66 ... Yochlol
    67 ... Demon, Alu
    68 ... Shade
    69 ... Vampire
    70 ... Charonadaemon
    71 ... Hydrodaemon
    72 ... Demon, Nalfeshnee
    73 ... Ghost
    74 ... Slaad, Green
    75 ... Barghest
    76 ... Demodand, Farastu
    77 ... Demon, Cambion
    78 ... Demon, Chasme
    79 ... Demon, Marilith
    80 ... Devil, Ice
    81 ... Marid
    82 ... Xag-ya
    83 ... Xeg-yi
    84 ... Derghodaemon
    85 ... Yagnodaemon
    86 ... Ultrodaemon
    87 ... Nycadaemon
    88 ... Titan, Lesser
    89 ... Arcanadaemon
    90 ... Byakhee
    91 ... Demilich
    92 ... Demodand, Shator
    93 ... Demon, Balor
    94 ... Devil, Pit Fiend
    95 ... Shoggoth
    96 ... Slaad, Grey
    97 ... Titan, Major
    98 ... Slaad, Death
    99 ... Lich
    100 ... Archdevil, Daemon Lord, Demi-God, Demon Prince, Elder Titan, Old One, Prince of Elemental Evil, or Slaad Lord of DM's choice.

    * 75% of the time only one creature of the rolled type begins stalking the magic-user; the rest of the time, roll the normal number of such creatures encountered, and ALL begin stalking the magic-user…
    ** When a magic-user is encountered, divide the Dark Energy of the PC magic-user by 10, rounding up, and add 1d6 to determine the level of the magic-user that begins stalking the PC magic-user.
     
     
    Third and most potently, the use of the black lotus enables the magic-user to discover new spells and charge his spell book with that knowledge. The magic-user must engage in a black-lotus slumber for eight hours per spell level being sought. During this time his spirit wanders far and wide across the dark gulfs of the cosmos, seeking power and knowledge beyond human ken. At the end of this time the magic-user must roll his Chance to Know Spell; if successful, he has gained the knowledge of a new spell. If the roll is equal to or less than 10% of the base chance (rounded down), the magic-user may choose the spell; otherwise it is randomly determined by the DM. If random determination indicates that he learns a spell he already knows, then no new knowledge is gained, though due to the insights gained the magic-user forevermore casts that spell as though he were one level higher in ability. However, if the magic-user rolls equal to or above 10% of his failure chance (rounded up), or 00 in any case, he instead encounters some terrible creature upon the darker planes, and must escape it or defeat it before his spirit may return! In this case, roll randomly on the Dark Energy Stalker table to determine the creature encountered.

    INT....Choice ... Random .... Failure .... Encounter!
    9 ........... 01-03 ...... 04-35 ........... 36-93 ............ 94-00
    10-12 ... 01-04 ...... 05-45 ........... 46-94 ............ 95-00
    13-14 ... 01-05 ...... 06-55 ........... 56-95 ............ 96-00
    15-16 ... 01-06 ...... 07-65 ........... 66-96 ............ 97-00
    17 ......... 01-07 ...... 08-75 ............ 76-97 ............ 98-00
    18 ......... 01-08 ...... 09-85 ........... 86-98 ............ 99-00
    19+ ...... 01-09 ...... 10-95 ............ 96-99 ............ 00

    Finally, gaining a spell in such a fashion adds five times the level of the spell to the magic-user’s Dark Energy, and the roll must be made every time a spell gained in this fashion is used!