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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, 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 (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.

    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…

    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…

    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…

    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
    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).

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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.
    Alter Reflexes
    Block Energy
    Channel Star Force
    Charm Beasts
    Charm Person
    Comprehend Languages
    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
    Heal Other
    Healing Meditation
    Healing Trance
    Interstellar Navigation
    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
    Telekinetic Shield
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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).

    : 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!

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    Goblinoid Games has started a Kickstarter for a new supplement for Cryptworld: Burial Plots, a collection of five adventures written by Tim Snider of The Savage AfterWorld! Several levels to pledge enable you to not only pick up Burial Plots, but also pick up one or more of the Pacesetter games and/or supplements: Cryptworld,  Majus, Rotworld, Timemaster, or Monsters Macabre (NB, I contributed to Monsters Macabre, but I am not financially involved in any way with this Kickstarter or the Pacesetter games).


    COVER ART: Jethro Lentle
    INTERIOR ART: Brian Thomas
    BURIAL PLOTS includes five adventures for the CRYPTWORLD Horror Role-Playing game. They are also for use with the original Pacesetter edition of the horror role-playing game CHILL.*
    The adventures are:
    Condition Critical
    Dr. Howard Eastman has called a press conference at his remote research facility to announce a medical breakthrough that will “eradicate human illness and suffering forever.” But what if the cure proves to be worse than the disease?
    Three days ago, a group of hunters failed to return from their annual deer hunt near Akron, Ohio. Your team of expert trackers and investigators has been brought in to assist in the search. But there seems to be an undercurrent of unease amongst the police who whisper of a disturbing discovery they’ve made. Is there something sinister lurking in the forest?
    Death in the Dust
    In 1888, the silver-mining boomtown of Weaver, Arizona, was abandoned after a series of unexplained disasters, and the town was left to crumble in the desert sands. Today, the former ghost town has been revitalized as a historical attraction. Is history about to repeat itself?
    Horrific axe murders recently committed in Oregon's Tillamook State Forest are identical to those committed by the legendary "Paul Bunyon Butcher" 40 years ago. However, the original killer – now elderly and feeble – remains behind bars. Has a copycat killer surfaced, or is this the work of something even more sinister?
    It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
    The Christmas season is typically a time of peace on Earth and goodwill toward men. But one THING has decided to make this year's Yuletide visit to relatives a horrific holiday from Hell.

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    By James Mishler & Jodi Moran-Mishler

    This work contains two forms of the dragonborn race:

    First, a racial class for use with Labyrinth Lord, complete with several new dragon-magic spells;

    Second, a race for use with Advanced Labyrinth Lord.

    Notes are included for dragon-bloods, the half-blood offspring for dragonborn and humans.

    Magic Item: Dragon Scrimshaw Scales

    Dragonborn Lairs

    Dragonborn Monster Entry

    New Monsters: Dracosteeds and Dragonhounds

    10 pages altogether, seven pages of content, one cover page, two pages of OGL.

    $1.00 -- CHEAP!

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    Rob Conley, author of the Majestic Wilderlands and Wilderlands cartographer, has released his new color version of the map of the City State of the Invincible Overlord! This all-new map, based on the originals, is offered in multiple versions for ease of play.

    And even better, he offers a complementary copy of the product to the City State of the Invincible Overlord Kickstarter backers!

    From Rob's post on his Bat in the Attic Blog:

    Bat in the Attic Games and Judges Guild is pleased to announce the release of the City State of the Invincible Overlord, Color Map on Friday November 24th 2017.

    In 1976, Bob Bledsaw and Bill Owens went into business as Judges Guild. Their initial offering was centered on a magnificent 22" by 34" map of the City State of Invincible Overlord. First appearing at Gen Con IX, it was sold literally out of the trunk of a car during the convention.

    Now forty years later that map has been redrawn in full color. It preserves all the original detail while adding new ones like rocks, foot paths, trees, and shrubbery. This has been checked against the no-name city blueprint that was the first draft of the map. This helped to clarify details obscured by the offset printing process used in the 1970s.

    This map is not a scanned image of the original but has been redrawn from scratch.

    This product contains several versions of the map.

    • A vector based PDF with layers at 22" by 34" 
    • A bitmap based PDF at 22" by 34"
    • A jpeg of the map with building labels and legends removed suitable for Virtual Tabletop software.
    • Instructions for using the VTT map with Roll20
    • A 17" by 14" map with the city arranged in its correct location on the original 5 mile hex map published on the back of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy.
    • A PDF with overlapping sections of the full map suitable for printing on letter size paper.
    • A PDF with a letter sized black and white only map suitable for taking notes on during a campaign.

    This is an authorized Judges Guild release for the Wilderlands of High Fantasy.

    A coupon for a complimentary copy will be offered to all backers of the City State of the Invincible Overlord Kickstarter. Please check the comment section of the Kickstarter for instructions.

    This product only contains color maps of the City State of the Invincible Overlord. The original guidebook and map can be purchased from Judges Guild on RPGNow/DriveThruRPG.

    The original guidebook can be found on RPGNow/DriveThruRPG at

    Rob posted this in the related Kickstarter:

    "I am Rob Conley one of the cartographers on the Wilderlands Maps. I wish I knew more about what going on but I haven't had any communication with Robert Bledsaw III for a while. I do have some good news for the backers of this Kickstarter. As you all know I got the City State map and my Wilderlands maps done in late 2016. It now been a year and nothing has happened.

    In addition to doing work for this Kickstarter, I have a business relationship with Bob III's father Robert Bledsaw II through my company, Bat in the Attic Games. I have a limited license to produce material for my take on the Wilderlands known as the Majestic Wilderlands. So I decided to talk to Robert Bledsaw II about the maps. There are things that could effect the Wilderlands maps so I can't do anything at the moment with them. However that not the case with the City State map. So we talked and came to a license arrangement. I have permission to release the map as a Judges Guild authorized product for the Wilderlands of High Fantasy through Bat in the Attic Games.

    I am not responsible for what happened with the Kickstarter nor do I have any financial stake. But we are a small hobby and the Judges Guild name has been dragged through the mud because of the mismanagement of this Kickstarter. That effects what I do with my work as Bat in the Attic Games. I feel what is right is to offer each and every Kickstarter backer a complimentary coupon for the release. Understand it is PDF only. RPGNow/DriveThruRPG are not able to print poster sized maps through print on demand. I think you will find that the City State Map PDF package to be a nice one.

    Now for the logistics. This Friday I am going to post a code in the comment section of the September 2017 backer only post. You can use that code to get your complimentary copy. I would ask you spread the word to any other backer you know. So you know the number of times the code can be used is limited to the number of backers (965). I will be posting my email address in the comment so you can contact me if there are any issue.

    As for the Wilderlands maps, if there no movement by March 2018, then I will talk again with Robert Bledsaw II and see what can be done."

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    So in addition to the campaign I am running in the Wilderlands of High Adventure, I am also going to be starting a campaign set in a Sword & Soul campaign setting.
    Sword & Soul is a subgenre of Sword & Sorcery, dedicated to stories/games set in Africa.
    Sword & Soul originated in the works of Charles R. Saunders, the author of the Imaro series.
    Ebunorun grew out of two factors: first, my great enjoyment of the Imaro stories, and second, a friend of mine who wanted to play some Dungeons & Dragons, and he wondered, as an African American, if there were any African campaign settings that did the region justice (and matched the style of play we wished to play).
    After perusing a number of them, I determined that it would be best to go forward with developing my own Sword & Soul Campaign Setting, ergo, the Alternate-Africa setting of Ebunorun.
    I must note that the Ki Khanga RPG is very interesting, and was strongly considered; it does not come better in the realms of Sword & Soul than a game designed by the writers who work with Charles Saunders! However, the campaign setting is still much in the works, and the system for the game is unique; with everyone wanting to play D&D, it is something to be considered for the future.
    I have already posted some information on the Piazza, in the Homebrew Worlds section, though we have moved from going with Labyrinth Lord to 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, so the crunchy bits will change...
    The map is inspired by the Alkebulan"Africa Uncolonized" map, found here.
    I should note that the names of the locales were constructed using an English-Yoruba translator; in the history of Ebunorun, the Adeniya (E-Yoruba) Empire was much larger and left a much more lasting effect on these realms, such that the "Common Tongue" of the region is derived from the Adeniya tongue.
    The map is below. I am working on a brief player's gazetteer that should follow, soon-ish.
    We hope to begin the campaign in February.

    Click to embiggen

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    Digging around in some old files, I came across this material I wrote long ago for a Fourth AgeMiddle-earth D&D campaign. As it seems like everyone was posting about Middle-earth recently, I figured I might as well be late to the party...

    The Brambleking of Nan Morëhón
    Bregambar, Quickdoom, the Brambleking of Blackheart Vale
    Entish Sorcerer 12/Ranger 12
    Emblem: A dead tree above which is arrayed three white stars.

    Through the vile magic of the Necromancer, the Treegarth of Orthanc was poisoned, and the ents there corrupted into Voronodrim, Dark Ents, with malice in their heart, brambles for vines, and poisoned ichor for sap. They are led by the Brambleking, formerly known as Bregalad, or Quickbeam, once friend and ally of the Good Peoples, now a dire enemy and danger known as Bregambar, or Quickdoom.

    The Voronodrim of Nan Morëhón are currently embroiled in a “civil war” with the other ents for control of Fangorn Forest. The ents are still led by Treebeard, who has fallen into a terrible despair over the fate of his brothers. Due to the civil war (which moves, albeit at an entish pace, regardless of the recklessness of the Brambleking) the Brambleking has not been able to pursue his hatred of the other races, save to the extent where he has sent a few Voronodrim and huorns out to other forests to begin the process of corruption there. This includes forests in Eriador and Rhovanion, though not as yet in Gondor, as the Brambleking is wary of directly offending and thus gaining the full attention of King Elessar.

    The Treegarth of Orthanc is now known as Nan Morëhón, or Blackheart Vale. The Watchwood is much expanded, to fill the entire vale, and is now known as the Bramblewood. The lake about Orthanc is now a silted, festering swamp, while the tower itself, a creation of man, displeased the Brambleking so much (especially in that it could not be destroyed despite his new power and magical arts) that he grew the entire thing over in vine and thorn and branch, such that it now looks like a colossal dead black tree, with four huge branches grasping at the moon, the whole covered in bloody vines (from which hang the rotting bodies of men and elves). Orcs once again inhabit the tower and the slimy dungeons beneath it, doing the bidding of Quickdoom. His employ of orcs has dragged him into the politics of that vile race, and he plots now for his tribe to overthrow the Moria Orcs and take that realm for his own, the wealth and power thereby gained the better to conquer (and extirpate) the other races of Middle Earth.

    For all that he had a hand in the creation of Nan Morëhón, the Brambleking, and his followers, the Necromancer is at best a distant ally and at worst a future rival, and thus the relationship between Quickdoom and Pallando is strained at the best of times.

    The Dragon King of Khand
    Dhumujian Khan, Dailianj Khan (V. “Great Dragon King”), Tárolókë (Q. “High-King Dragon”), Lukhûzdurub (B.S. “Dragon King”)
    Half-Dragon (Variag) Barbarian 18
    Emblem: A red dragon rampant.
    Dhumujian was born 33 years ago amongst the Variags of Khand, during the chaos and wars that followed the fall of Sauron and the disintegration of the Dark Empire. He was born a normal human, son of one of the many tribal chieftains. His father and most of his tribe was slain when he was but a child, and he fled into the wilderness. There he slowly built his own tribe from outcastes, the disaffected, and orphans like himself, welding them into a new tribe and power. Two years ago his tribe conquered the last remaining Variag tribe that opposed him, and he celebrated by naming himself the King of the World, and proclaimed himself a god. The High Priestess of Khand thereupon prophesied that he would either be destroyed for his presumption or he would, in fact, succeed, and be both god and king. Shortly thereafter a dragon began ravaging the countryside in a terrible rage, and all thought that it was the vengeance of the gods for their leader’s blasphemy. Dhumujian went forth to meet the beast single-handed. Naught was heard from him for three days, but the dragon was not seen again. When he returned, the khan was a changed man. When he slew the dragon its blood spilt over him and changed him in ways terrible and magical.

    Unbeknownst to him or any other, the reason the dragon raged so terribly was that it had eaten a ring from its hoard, a ring of power, and the smelting of it in its belly drove it mad. When the khan slew the dragon, its magically-charged blood drenched him and altered him through the magic of the ring. It transformed him and gave him no small measure of the dragon’s power (effectively turning him into a half-red dragon). Today his followers are fanatical to the extreme, believing the transformation to mark the approval of the gods and the eventual conquest of the entire world under the hooves of the Variag peoples.

    The Ice Queen of Angmar
    Helkanárfëa (Q. “Icy Fire Spirit”), Akûldâgalûr (B.S. “Ice Demon”)
    Valaraukar/Noldor Sorcerer 24
    Emblem: A white dragon rampant.

    Helkanárfëa, the Ice Queen of Angmar, is the daughter of a balrog and a captured Noldor princess of the First Age, born in the pits of Morgoth. Thus, as with Lúthien, daughter of Thingol of Doriath and Melian the Maia, she is a most potent being. She was being trained as a great captain by Morgoth when the Final Doom fell upon Angband and her master, but she survived, and was cast into the waters of the north, where, due to her great might from her valaraukar father, she remained frozen alive, encased in ice for millennia. Even frozen in body she was potent in spirit, and over the ages she slowly corrupted nearby native tribes of elves, men, and orcs to her cause. When Sauron was destroyed the great wave of magic that was released in his destruction shattered her prison, and she was freed.

    Since then she has slowly built her forces of Helkari (vile ice elves), Lossoth (evil snowmen), and Akûlmurûk (“ice bears,” the mighty furred orcs of the north). Around 30 FA her first scouts snuck into Angmar and made contact with the local goblin tribes. By 50 FA she had conquered the orcs of Mount Gram, and controlled or otherwise dominated all other local orc tribes and troll bands, save those of Mount Gundabad (who oppose her and, thus far, are too strong to conquer).  By 60 FA her new domicile, Lugrazbûrzum, the “Tower of Frozen Shadows,” was complete, built atop the ruins of the Witch King’s tower at Carn Dûm. Angmar is now a fairy land of ice and snow, where summer is as autumn and spring never reigns. It has become known as the “Fimbul Land,” for orcs and trolls walk the frosted moors by day and ice and frost giants are said to stride the land by night.

    The Ice Queen appears not unlike a beautiful Noldorin princess of old, being 6’8” tall, with platinum-blonde hair, beautiful elven facial features, and fine slim hands. Her resemblance to Galadriel is stunning, though not so when one realizes that her mother was none other than Galadriel’s long-lost sister (she is thus great aunt to Elladan, Elrohir, and Arwen, and kin to Prince Eldarion of the Reunited Kingdom). However, beneath her voluminous flowing robes of scintillating colors (which glow like the northern lights) her body is foul and demonic, covered in innumerable ice-blue scales strong as dragon plates (think of the appearance of Mystique in the X-Men movies). These scales go all the way up to her neck and to her wrists, and thus does her robe; her feet are clawed and demonic, and so she ever wears slippers of mithril and gold. The only obvious (uncovered and un-disguisable) demonic elements of her appearance are her eyes, which are a solid blue, the glowing blue of glacial ice, and her wings, which appear as those of a balrog, though ice blue in color and dripping with ice. She can “scrunch” her wings to vestigial size, and hide them under her robes when necessary, though the process takes three full rounds. The air about her is ever cold, deep frozen as the north (-20 degrees Fahrenheit); her breath freezes in a cloud of ice as she speaks, the stone floor slicks in ice under her feet, and icicles form on the arms of her throne as she sit upon it. She travels about her realm in a sleigh drawn by polar bears and manned by Lûzolog (snow trolls) and Akûlmurûk.
    The Ice Queen possesses one of the lost Palantír, one of the two lost to the sea when the White Ship of Arvedui, the Last King, foundered. It is encased in a large column of blue glacial ice now hidden deep in the bowels of her tower at Mount Gram. It has gained several powers through her tampering with it and through its long centuries encased in the northern ice. The Palantír can only just be made out through the deep blue ice, flames writing continuously within its dark depths. The visions granted by the Palantír now take shape within the column of ice, and can be seen by anyone who sees the column of ice when the visions are evoked by the user. It is also central to her growing power over the climate and weather within Angmar, as she uses it as a focus and amplifier of her power.


    The Ice Queen has allies among the Forodrim of Forochel, who are currently whipping the locals into a murderous frenzy against the southerners. She seeks to send the Forodrim on a viking rampage against the Grey Havens at Lindon and the coastal territories, perhaps even against Dol Amroth and other Gondorian territories, or into Eriador up the Baranduin, Gwathlo, and Angren. The Forodrim are Northmen, of the same line (though long sundered from) the Rohirrim, Beornings, and Woodmen. They are tall and grim, silver and grey of beard and blue of eye. They are not related to the Lossoth and despise the peace-loving nomads (though they grudgingly cooperate with those that follow the Ice Queen).

    The Necromancer
    Morinehtar, Pallando, Pallanír the Soul-Slayer
    Maia/Lich Wizard 27
    Emblem: A dragon skull with blazing red eyes.
    Pallando, the junior Blue Wizard, returned out of the east in 60 FA, conquered East Lorien using a Black Wind, and re-occupied Dol Guldur, claiming the title, The Necromancer, for his own. He now commands an army of Woodmen skeletons, zombies, and ghouls. Clad now in deepest black, he has developed terrible magic whereby he can trap the spirit of an elf and corrupt it to create a banshee or elven ghoul. He has several allied Easterling tribes which have recently begun moving west. With them he has begun raiding the lower vales of the Anduin, the Iron Hills, and Dorwinion, not yet feeling he has the power to challenge King Elessar in his heartlands in Gondor or Eriador.

    Pallando is now a lich, of terrible power. For a thousand years he ruled in the furthest east, the lands of Que-Rin and Kydor, as the First Sovereign Emperor. Then he was cast down in a rebellion and mummified alive in SA 2660. Trapped with many spells and runes, he was captive within his tomb for a thousand years...

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    Wilderlands of High Adventure
    Campaign Map 1 Roglaras
    Hex 01-2723: Dungeons of the Dragon-Lords
    Those of you who look very closely at the arrangements of the ruins that make up the Dungeons of the Dragon-Lords may realize what existing adventure module I am using for the dungeons. I should note that as usual, I am not necessarily using everything in the adventure module, though I am using the maps and select elements, combined with select elements of the original adventure that inspired the published adventure.
    That should be enough for someone to figure out the locale being used as the Dungeons of the Dragon-Lords...
    The first person to correctly post in the comments the name of the published adventure module being used wins a free 5-mile hex map of your choice. You can choose one of the Wilderlands hexes from any region or even draw up your own for your own game, complete with ideas and/or details of what you want to see in the hex, and I will create a map for it in Hexographer.
    Good luck!
    Click to embiggen

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    I will be attending GaryCon this year, finally, again, though only for one day -- Saturday.
    I hope to arrive by 9am. My day is essentially open until 6pm, so I mostly plan to hang out in the Exhibitor Hall or catch seminars or short game demos until 6ish.
    Then at 6pm I will be running a BX/Labyrinth Lord/House-rule game in the Open Gaming area. It's an open-ended game, no limits to the number of players, so if you are there, jump on in, I will have plenty of pre-generated characters.
    Hope to see some of you there!
    Image result for garycon X

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    Sifting through some old disks, I found an old alternate Thieves Skill system I worked on some years ago. It combined elements from Labyrinth Lord, 2E AD&D, and Warlock.
    The thief chooses eight skills at 1st level from the following list. Each starts at 20%. At 1st level the thief gains 120 points to assign as she wishes, no more than 60 points to any one skill. Plus, an additional number of points equal to the greater of her Dexterity, Intelligence, or Charisma score, which can be divided up or assigned in a single block.
    Every level thereafter she gains 40 points, no more than 20 points of which can be placed into a single skill. She can also choose to gain a new thief skill, but it must start at 20 points.
    Here are the skills to choose from:
    ACROBATICS: Use of this ability includes performing tumbles, flips, handstands, tightrope walking, rope swinging, and so forth. Use to entertain is generally relatively easy unless the stunt is complicated, while use during combat is often difficult and requires penalties even under the best of circumstances.

    ARSON: This ability enables the Thief to quickly start fires, assure that fire goes where desired and at the speed desired, burn specific buildings or sections of buildings as appropriate, and so forth, including the detection of an arson job by another arsonist. This skill also enables the Thief to properly and (usually) safely manufacture and handle Greek Fire as well as various fire accelerants.

    BLUFF: This broad skill includes all forms of con games (both long and short con), lies, deception, persuasion, diplomacy, haggling, and bargaining.
    CLIMB: This skill includes climbing trees, ship masts and nets, slopes, walls, sheer surfaces, overhangs, and the proper use of ropes, grapnels and grappling hooks, pitons, and other such equipment.
    DECIPHER: This skill includes the deciphering of ancient and modern scripts, alchemist and magic-user codes, maps and map symbols, and the memorization and recollection of the same. Special: At 90 and above, this skill can be used to read magic-user scrolls and cast the spells thereupon.
    DISGUISE: Use of this skill enables the Thief to disguise himself to appear as a generic being of the same or even a different race, or even specific individuals. This skill includes modification of physical appearance, plus mimicry of voice and vocal traits, physical mannerisms, and memorization and application of the “targets” specific personal affairs and knowledge (requires extensive observation for long-term disguise).
    ENTERTAIN: This skill provides the Thief with in-depth knowledge of and performing abilities in a single sort of entertainment, as well as broad general knowledge of all sorts of medieval entertainment. Possibilities include: musical instrument (specific type), singing, dancing, sword swallowing, mummery, stage magic, puppetry, animal training, buffoonery, and so forth. Special: At 90, 95, and 99 each, the Thief gains in-depth knowledge of another single sort of entertainment.
    ESCAPE: Successful application of this skill allows the Thief to escape from personal body restraints such as cuffs, shackles, ropes, chains, straitjacket, and so forth; picking locks requires the use of the Locksmith ability, and some of the more complicated and diabolical of these devices require multiple rolls of both skills!
    EVALUATE: This skill includes the evaluation of common goods, trade goods, and precious treasures, from weaponry and armor to gems and jewelry, works of art, raw materials (especially ivory, furs, hides, and materials of interest to magic-users and alchemists). This is essentially the same skill that a merchant would have to evaluate goods. This skill is especially useful for a Thief with little time on his hands; successful use increases the search rating quality of a location by one grade (from Entrance to Rapid Glance, Rapid Glance to Detailed Look, Detailed Look to Brief Search, and Brief Search to Thorough Examination)
    GAMBLING: This skill includes the theoretical knowledge of and practical playing skills in various games of skill and chance; it can be applied to regular game play as well as to cheating, and to the detection of other player’s cheating. With games of skill it can be applied as normal, and cheating can up to double the relative skill level of the player, while with games of chance the application of this kind of skill is essentially only in cheating (slipping in weighted dice, using marked cards undetected, etc.) to weigh the game’s chances in the Thief’s favor.
    HIDE IN SHADOWS: This skill includes hiding in shadows, camouflaging one self in difficult backgrounds, and so on. In order to “slip into nearby shadows” from direct visual sight, the Thief must provide some sort of distraction, perhaps using Slight of Hand, Bluff, a smoke bomb, or some similar skill or device. Any attempt to Hide while moving at half or less normal Speed results in half the normal chances; moving faster than half normal Speed results in merely one-quarter the normal skill chance (all rounded down)!
    INTIMIDATE: Similar to Bluff, this skill is used to get people to do what you want… by any means necessary. Application of this skill is both physical and mental, and at higher levels includes intimate knowledge of the finer methods and application of torture.
    LISTEN: This skill subsumes all listening at doors, hearing and discerning noises down a corridor or pit, and listening in on a conversation across a crowded tavern, as well as reading lips.
    LITIGATION TRICKSTER: This skill includes an intimate and thorough knowledge of the laws, of all grades and classes, and the ability to defend oneself using the law or to prosecute (or persecute) another using the same laws. This skill is also very useful in navigating and understanding bureaucracies so common in cities and Lawful realms, though Decipher skill might also be required to cut through arcane terminology. This skill also subsumes some oratory skills, but use of Bluff or Intimidate are required when the laws really are not with your cause.
    LOCKSMITH: Successful use of this skill allows the Thief to identify the quality of a lock, pick a lock, repair a lock, manufacture a new lock, make a lock that looks complex but is really simple, make and modify keys, and guess the proper key for a lock from a large ring of keys in a short matter of time. With experience and close study, the Thief can even identify the maker of a specific lock, knowing thereby certain weaknesses and likely combinations between the lock on the chest and any potential traps included therein.
    POISONS: This skill allows a would-be assassin to safely handle, identify, and brew poisons and antidotes. The skill is not as thorough nor as in-depth as that of true Assassins, however, and proper handling of poison is never assured; however, whenever the Thief might poison himself through mishandling or the fumbling of a weapon, he can make a Poisons check to negate the effect. Note that secretly insinuating an ingestive poison in a drink requires successful use of both the Poisons skill and the Slight-of-Hand skill! Special: At skill levels of 90, 95, and 99 each, the Thief may choose one poison against which he gains immunity.
    PUZZLES: This skill applies to solving mental puzzles, such as riddles, mazes, the proper order of pushing of buttons and pulling of levers, special oddities, and all other non-script and non-cipher puzzle solving.
    SAP: This skill allows the Thief to “backstab” a target with a blunt weapon or object (a sap, club, staff, rock, etc.) with the goal of knocking the target unconscious directly rather than causing lethal damage. First, the Thief must make a successful backstab attack with the blunt object. Damage dealt is subdual only; if the target is still conscious after application of subdual damage, the Thief makes a Sap roll; if successful, the target must make a saving throw against Death Ray or Poison, with a penalty equal to the damage dealt or the Sap roll (whichever is higher) and a bonus equal to the AC value of any helm worn (i.e., a Plate-quality helm gives the target a +6 bonus to his saving throw). If the save fails, the target falls unconscious.
    SCRUTINIZE: This skill subsumes all sorts of searching, spotting, double-checking, sighting, noticing, and other forms of visual observation and perception. It is used to find traps, spot pits, detect secret and concealed doors, and otherwise visually determine the true status or nature of a physical object or area.
    SLIGHT-OF-HAND: This ability includes small acts of prestidigitation, cutting purses, lifting kerchiefs, picking pockets, and manipulation of fine objects with the fingers. This skill is modified by 5% per level difference greater than 5 levels between the Thief and the target; toward the Thief’s favor if he is of higher level, against the Thief if the target is of higher level.
    STEALTH: This is the ability to move silently; it is usually used in urban, rural, or dungeon settings. Use in wilderness or cavern settings is at half normal chances, at best. Movement is limited to half normal Speed for best chances; half the skill chance if moving more than half normal Speed up to full Speed, and quarter chances for movement from full Speed to double Speed; it is impossible to use Stealth at faster Speed rates.
    TRAIL: This ability enables the Thief to find and follow a target unseen through a generally urban or, at best, rural area. The more deserted the streets and wary the target, the more difficult the use of the skill. Disguise skill can be of great help in trailing a subject, as can Hide and Stealth.
    TRAPSMITH: This is the ability to manufacture or disable traps of all sorts. Lack of the proper tools makes this quite difficult, if not impossible, depending on the nature of the trap. This ability also subsumes the ability to find traps at half its normal value, rounded down, if such skill level is greater than the Scrutinize ability of the Thief.


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    Goblinoid Games has finally launched the Advanced Labyrinth LordKickstarter!
    From the Kickstarter:
    Advanced Labyrinth Lord
    Labyrinth Lord was first published in 2007, and for over 10 years has been one of the premier old-school "retro-clone" games. Its wildly popular supplement, the Advanced Edition Companion, adds all of the "advanced" first edition options for Labyrinth Lord, all while keeping compatibility with the B/X basic fantasy game.
    For the first time, Labyrinth Lord and the Advanced Edition Companion will be seamlessly combined into one volume! Fans have been asking for this for several years, and it is my pleasure to make it happen! All of the basic and advanced options, magic items, and monsters will be brought together under one cover for easy reference.
    Here are some facts about the combined book:
    • This is not a new game.
    • This is simply a combined book.
    • You will still be able to separate "basic" from "advanced" game options.
    • Much interior art will carry over from the original books, but new interior art will be featured in addition.
    • This combined book does not replace the current separate books. Those books will remain in print.
    Cover Options and Realms of Crawling Chaos
    There are 4 cover options available to backers. The first two will be available after this Kickstarter campaign is over, but the other two are limited and available in this Kickstarter only! These last two covers hearken back to earlier cover versions of Labyrinth Lord.
    In addition, for the first time ever and only available now, Realms of Crawling Chaos is presented in hard cover format as a backer add-on!

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    I missed Free RPG Day due to other commitments, but got to run a two-player Dungeon Crawl Classics funnel on Monday night. I ran the party through the classic The Portal Under the Stars adventure.
    Spoilers ahead for that adventure...

    Mortuorum Cibum
    Player: Adam
    Ryan the Fortune Teller
    Paul the Cheesemaker (“Blessed are the Cheesemakers”)
    Seth the Mummer
    Zack the Smuggler
    Player: Alex
    Brian the Linkboy
    Richard the Cultist
    Harry the Gongfarmer
    Thomas the Hunter
    We used the Alternate Occupations supplement from IDD.
    Modus Mortis
    Ryan the Fortuneteller used his Tarot Deck to gain advice on how to proceed once they discovered the locked door in room 1. He rolled a Nat 20, so he got the advice to “Wait,” and so they did and entered the dungeon without incident.
    Brian the Linkboy got a gut-shot with a spear in room #2.
    Seth the Mummer got blasted by fire in room #3.
    Richard the Cultist was crushed by a falling statue in room #3.
    Ryan the Fortune Teller and Paul the Cheesemaker burned to death in the conflagration that followed the toppling of the statue in room #3.
    Zack the Smuggler was bitten to death in room #4.
    Harry and Thomas actually killed the beast in #4 and fled the dungeon with the demon horn and 4 XP each.
    Though there was a solid death count, everyone had fun! I need to run DCC more often…