Monday, December 31, 2012

It's Here! Dyson's Delves

My copy of the Dyson's Delve ltd edition hardback came today. It's a little smaller than I was expecting, but it will fit nicely along side my copy of Vornheim.
Fantastic stuff in here! I'm thinking about making a dust jacket for it and printing a large map on the back with the key on the flaps and back cover.
Also I think I can glue and fold in a large reproduction of one of the maps I intend to use.
This book is going to see some action.

Oh and I am so writing in this thing, it's not even a question. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Heart Breakers Bone Breakers

"Elemental Girl" by FastFood

The road from the Willows to the Slenderside is a lonely one. The only place to stop and take shelter is an old long house that smells like tobacco spit and greasy dog shits. The long house once served a logging camp. It's full of nothing now. 

But if you come out the western bridge to Slenderside you'll be treated to a nice view of the Stone Valley. There's an old quarry down there. It's where the prisoners from Slenderside get sent for work detail. All covered in white dust, digging and hewing in the rock, coughing up something fierce. All black blood caked around their mouths. 

Get to close to the edge of the valley and you can hear them calling out for water. Sons of bitches only give them water twice a day. Three times if the rain barrels are full.

There was a man named Grins. A real cussardly fuck if you know what I mean. Grins got pinched trying to fence some fancy incense burner or candle or some gold thing from the temple of Starius. Anyway, he had an elf girl on the side. See, they're not so open minded in Slenderside. Even a drunkard and a thief knows better than to be seen with an elf girl up there. Damn shame too. Some people just can't get their turds into the bucket, you know what I mean?

Anyway, our boy Grins gets sent to the Stone Valley for his trouble. He tells the elf girl to create a diversion so he can try and make a break for it. He had it all planned out. So what happens? The elf girl goes down there and calls out to the bosses. Short skirt, black leggings, you know, the works! So the bosses go to make time with the elf girl and Grins tries to make a break for it. He's got five other guys with him too. They're all shackled together you know.

So Grins and his Chain Gang make a run for it and it goes good for about a minute until he looks back and sees his elf girl and the bosses all aiming crossbows at them. One, two, three, five. They hit every man on the chain. Grins is struggling up the hill, pulling five dead men. As soon as he gets to the top, there's a Percy with a rock. Percy gives Grins three big strikes and he's out. Blood everywhere. 

The bosses all light cigars, give the pretty elf lady their regards, and tell the rest of the men to pull Grins and his crew down the hill. Pink dust just blowing around in the afternoon breeze. Yup, a real shame. They kept the bodies on that chain to spook the rest of the men. After the hacks couldn't take the smell, they finally buried them.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide

$10 plus shipping and it's in beautiful shape. However it's missing pencil notes, scribbles, and slips of paper tucked away. It smells faintly of cigars and fabric softener.

I did find some tiny notes written in pencil. Spell notes for the teeth of Dahlver-Nar...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Throwing a Shindig / Questions For the Floor

My players are going undercover at a ball held at the estate of a wealthy noble in town. I have NPCs for them to interview/interact with, a gallery of relics to explore, and a sprawling estate. Has anyone run a shindig for their players? Any advice or tips?

Also, while I have your attention, here are a couple other questions I wanted to ask...

1. Was/Is there a module that uses 1e AD&D Fiend Folio themes and monsters almost exclusively?

2. How have you converted AD&D monster stats to B/X stats?

Thank you.
Reverend Bizarre - "Goddess of Doom"

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Desktop Book Meme

Labyrinth Lord, Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque I & II, D&D basic, expert, Blue Box, Fiend Folio, Vornheim, graph paper composition book.
Evil Twin hipster ale, vivi nova, Black Box, Boba's Bounty 24mg

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Xyglia and Rauina

Succubus Twins by Tyler James - used with permission

Xyglia and her sister Rauina

Beneath the Nameless City, in the spiraling caverns of the ancient reptile gods, the two sisters Xyglia and Rauina were born.

The denizens of the city built temples and offered sacrifices to the sisters, and in time, they grew in power until they rained destruction and chaos over the young world.

A powerful game wizard named Chester Cetterdwin summoned the sisters' consorts and managed to seduce them and turn them against their mistresses. 

The sisters were imprisoned in a chamber behind the moon where they still lie today. Yet they send their messages and influencial vibrations to their chosen followers in their dreams.

Societies and cults devoted to the sisters build strange temples called Sleep Chambers where rites are perfomed and devotees slumber with the aid of mystical herbs and drugs.

Mother of Fears and Hurts
Consorts - giants, black dragons, demon lords
Devotees - evil clerics, dark knights, wizards, shamed clergy, suicide cults and evil fey
Totems - black wings, black bladed swords
Ritual Items - curved athame, polished obsidian, black haired virgins, black lotus, "Tears of the Mountain" - small shiny drops of basalt
Dominions - forests, steppes, desolate plains, ruined places

Mother of Despair and Murder
Consorts - titans, succubi, serpents, green dragons, lamias
Devotees - vampires, gorgons, necromancers, sorceresses, snake people, assassins
Totems - serpents, disembodied eye, dragons, two pronged crown
Ritual Items - Snake rattles, shakers, poisons, jeweled skulls, whips, ritual flagellations, 
Dominions - mountains, deserts, ossuaries, cemeteries, swampland

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dragon Cookie

Dragon cookie breathing fire cookie!!!!!

The Brewery at Hookshire

In the mountains above Hookshire, there is an ancient glacier. It is protected by a court of Frost Giants, or so it is said. As the glacier slowly melts, the water flows down the mountain, over a bed of smooth rock, off the the side of a mountain and into a cold pool in a hidden valley. According to legend, the pool is also the final resting place of a long dead warrior king. From there, it flows down into a stone trough and into a special house where the water flows over the naked breasts of a beautiful young maiden.
After all of this, the water finally enters the brewhouse at Hookshire where it is made into the most prized ales in the land.

Hookshire Frost
Eisbier 12% abv
A malty core of sweet dark fruits highlights this velvet hammer of a beer. 
Cost per pint - 2 gp

Hookshire Ankle Biter
Imperial ESB 15% abv
The perfect balance of malty richness and peppery and spicy hops makes this a wonderful restorative.
Cost per pint - 2 gp

Hookshire Renton Reunion
Wild Ale 9% abv
Effervescent, golden and bright. This is the ale for which Hookshire is known. Brings a warmth to the body as well as clarity to the mind, for a little while anyway. 
Cost per pint - 4 gp

House Ale
? - ?% abv
The dregs of the barrels and bar troughs are blended together each night and served as a cheap house ale. Served in a wide-mouthed mug with a dense piece of bread.
Cost per pint - 4 sp

After a night of serious drinking, roll 1d12 -

1. Wake up in local jail under watch of local constabulary
2. Woken up at dawn to bare knuckle box local noble tough guy in town square
3. + 1d4 to any ability scores or spread out among existing scores
4. Wake up next to local noble who presents you with new clothing, armor and weapons
5. Wake up to angry brothel-keeper
6. Feel great, totally refreshed, add 1d4 hp
7. - 1d4 to random ability scores
8. Wake up in under bridge with Miles the Swine Herder who gives you 10 gp "in appreciation"
9. Wake up in full plate mail and holding bastard sword with room full of knights dressed the same ready to head out for a suicide mission
10. + 1d4 to constitution
11. - 1d4 to constution
12. Wake up to find out that you have been made Grand Exaulted Cardinal of Local Church

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Perchwood Siblings

Ezra and Murla Perchwood are twin brother and sister who live among the ruins of the Necropolis of Garel. They prey upon lost travelers in the marshes and ruins and try to kill and rob them.

They are pickpockets, thieves, con artists, and kidnappers. They live in a decrepit hovel in the ruined cemetery and also rob from tombs and explore the caverns beneath the ruins. They are also wererats and they believe that they have been blessed with this infliction. They secretly worship Stisis the Rodent Mother and have built a shrine to her from rat bones and skulls.

Ezra Perchwood

Ezra Perchwood is a short, skinny young man. His strange features make his age difficult to determine, but he could be anywhere between 18 and 30. His teeth are crooked and sharp. His eyes are dark and beady. His brown hair is matted and dirty. He wears ragged clothing that is patched together but he also wears gaudy and fanciful jewelry that he's stolen from tombs.

He carries several short, slender knives hidden on his person and will attack with these and attempt to move and kill silently. Ezra can move silently and backstab as a 8th level thief.

Ezra is extremely quick and agile. He can hide himself in virtually any environment. Some more nefarious factions often utilize Ezra as spy and informant, but he does not stray far from his home in the necropolis, and he rarely leaves his sister's side.

AC 3 (6 in wererat form)
Move 60' (60')
HD 8 (8)
Attacks: var. weapon (bite 1d4 + lycanthrope, claws 1d4)
Save as 8th level thief

Murla Perchwood
Murla Perchwood is Ezra's twin sister. Like her brother, she is also ragged and dirty in her appearance, she wears tarnished jewelry, furs and swamp flowers in her hair.

Murla fancies herself as quite the seductress. She has the ability to cast Charm Person once per day to lure men into her embrace so that her brother can kill and/or rob them.

AC 3 (6 in wererat form)
Move 60' (60')
HD 6 (6)
Attacks: bite 1d4 + lycanthrope, claws 1d4
Save as 6th level magic user

The Perchwoods claim that they are descended from an extremely wealthy family and they are hiding out in the marshes and ruins as part of an elaborate strategic ruse. Their true origins are unknown. It is rumored that they are cursed by a demon or crypt thing and must continue to kill and defile in order to please their masters...

Friday, November 16, 2012

Elves of the Shadowdrift

Long ago, the elves of this world lived in the Summerlands. They were closer then to their fae and dryadic cousins. They lived in accordance with nature and they worshipped the goddesses of their ancestry.
When the Summerlands were taken by the evil Xyglia and her sister Rauina, the elves fled their home. The Summerisles sunk into the hungry sea and the magic there faded into darkness.
Millennia later, we can find four tribes or castes of elves currently existing in the Shadowdrift.

Wild Elves
aka Wood Elves, Ferals (derogatory term)
Wild Elves shun civilization and live in dark woods and hills. They have a great mistrust of human folk and are the fierce enemy of trolls and goblins. Some fae beings live among the wild elves and they will often barter for peace and resources with dwarves and giants.
Wild Elves believe that the forest is their mother and will defend it at all costs. They fear that any separation from the forest sickens the soul and they’re fiercely opposed to trespassers in their woods.
Deities: The Forest Who Walks (powerful chaotic nature god), Adria (moon goddess of the elves), Churlathoton (Forest Mother and also Goddess of Entropy and Sunsets)
Analogue: anarchistic and fanatical environmental terrorists, living off the grid with nature
Symbology: An oak tree. Vines choking a ruined tower.

aka Grey Elves
The Hayasails or Grey Elves have no tribal structure or society. They live among men and have no sworn allegiances. Their dream of Summerland is dead and they prefer to live for themselves as loners and wanderers. They live by their wits, have no magical prowess, but are cunning warriors and mercenaries.
Analogue: Lone wolves, mercenaries, travelers, thieves. The elves of Drew Hayes’ Poison Elves series.
Deities: generally none, although some do worship Garm Gorak – God of Wolves and War. Some others will call upon Adria in times of upmost duress.
Symbology: A dagger, a bottle, a wolf head

White Elves
aka Moon Elves
The white elves get their name from their blonde to white hair. Their skin is pale and sometimes a grayish blue color. They live in lavish castles and cities of their own construction and rarely venture into the worlds of men. Some of them become powerful clerics or sorcerers. They worship the many moon gods of their antiquity. They seek the powers and artifacts of their past and obsess over their ancestral loss. Many write brooding and sorrowful songs or poems.
They can be powerful and loyal allies when there is a mutually beneficial arrangement, ie: seeking out and destroying the worshipers of Xyglia or the Mother of Trolls. 
Deities: Original pantheon of Moon Gods (names too numerous to list), Adria, Churlathoton
Analogue: Ennui-ridden poets and philosophers.
Symbology: A white crow on a black shield. An owl and a moon.

The Children of Mur
aka The Seven Tribes of Summer
aka Pastorals
In the rolling plains and fields many elf tribes have organized communes and small villages. They have red or brown hair and laughing eyes. They live a simple life by the wheel of nature and are farmers, fishermen, and artisans.
They are steadfast in their beliefs and their devotions to their tribes and families.
When their lands are threatened, they are quick to defend, but they are also articulate and measured negotiators and keepers of peace. Many emissaries of the tribes will travel to cities and towns with gifts of swords or apples in exchange for their continued peace and safety of their lands.
Fewer men know magic than the women.
The tribes live in peace, but there are often rivalries and squabbles that the council of elders will settle.
Deities:  Churlathoton, Adria, Falloch – Goddess of Field and Flower
Analogue: commune-dwellers, tribal people, healers, stout-hearted folk
Symbology: Harvest moon surrounded by seven stars, a fish and a flower

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tarlen and Dodd

Tarlen and Dodd were like the Mitch and Murray of several of my campaigns.

"You think I'm fucking with you? I am not fucking with you."
They were benefactors as well as shadowy antagonists.

My players in the early days were big on thieves and assassins, as well as Opal Starr - a NPC fighter/magic-user/thief that only a the fevered mind of a pudgy adolescent raised on Elric, Conan and Boris Vallejo art could have created. Opal Starr would have been the Alec Baldwin to Tarlen and Dodds' Mitch and Murray. Opal Starr would contact the adventurers about some McGuffin that they needed to go find, or a missing shipment of black lotus ("Stygian! The best!") or whatever adventure hook.

I was really into the Fiend Folio, that wondrously reviled book, and for my last, great Tarlen and Dodd adventure, I used the fuck out of it. In the end, Opal Starr revealed herself to be a Pennangalan, the characters fought a Needleman, and eventually they lead the Lava Children in a revolt against the horde of Githyanki that had invaded their home. Shit, someone may have even swallowed a throat leech.

The characters never met Tarlen and Dodd, but they asked a lot of questions about them. What was probably a throw away idea I had became something really fun and engaging for the players. They got to ask around town, learn rumors, false information, and of course, follow leads.

"These are the new leads, these are the Acererak leads..."
After Opal Starr (that name makes me cringe to type) died a grisly death, the players took it upon themselves to go off and kill Tarlen and Dodd too. It never happened, but it's just as well. Vengeance is for closers.

Later, I imagined Tarlen and Dodd were a pair of demi-lich skulls that lay in the corner of a long-forgotten crypt. In life, they were rival wizards who were constantly at odds with each other, now they formed a collective evil consciousness that reached out to people in their dreams, forcing them to gather what they needed to return to their physical forms.

"Psst...over here!" "No! Over here!"

The Shadowdrift

My current project - The Shadowdrift.

What began as an idea for a ruined necropolis has now turned into a vast area of ruins, swamplands, woods, burial mounds, and other places that hunger to be explored! 

If anyone wants to take a hex and run with it, we'll call this Open Source Shadowdrift. Let me know your ideas. 

Gavin over at The City of Iron wrote this wonderful post today - Is Writing For D&D the Ultimate in Short Story Writing? and it gets me right in the goodies. I have myriad unfinished stories, novels, bits of ideas, scraps of characters, pictures of situations, places, and things. Now with Shadowdrift, I have a place to sew those ideas and let them grow into their own.

Friday, November 2, 2012

My blog as an 80s fanzine

Totally late to the party on this one, but I love the concept so much...

"Your last 5 blogposts are the contents of a gaming zine you wrote single-handedly in the 1980s, photocopied on the local library photocopier or via indulgence of an office-working parent and sold on to around a dozen people at a loss. This zine has the same title as your blog. Invent an issue number and cover price."

Here is an issue of Codex Apocrypha, found in a shoe box after a tire fire in Oakland, California.

Okay, so I went a little overboard. I went with a more classical "Arduin" look and as someone who worked in a copy shop many years ago, I saw many a fanzine get wrapped up in that heavy parchment cardstock. It was a bitch to fold and staple on the spine.

Before I read all the stipulations, I banged this out - 
Because, a zine with a free cassette or flexi (remember those?) AND an 8 page mini-dungeon would have blown my 12 year old mind.

There's a scene toward the end of the great film "SLC Punk" where the two protagonists are shown, in flashback, as D&D playing, 2112 listening, basement-dwelling nerds. I always bristled at that. D&D and punk rock could live happily together, but I was just as guilty. When, I discovered punk rock and girls (and punk rock girls especially) I found myself drifting away from graph paper and d20s and towards 7" records and demo tapes. 

I actually did a couple fanzines in my younger days - "Splatterpunk Diary", "Dashi No Gondo", "Plastic Persimmon Journal of Poetry and Thai Kickboxing", etc. But most of them were the sort of Aaron Cometbus, self-confessional zines that kids did before we had Livejournal - lots of blurry, high contrast photos of people, poetry written in markers, stick figure obscenity, etc, just like tumblr is now.

Virginia Giordano

original artwork by Virginia Giordano used with permission
My friend Virginia Giordano is an amazing artist and craftswoman of all manner of sensory delights. You can check her art here and you can raise the horns and go buy her handmade soaps, salves, and sanitaries at Bath Sabbath.

Ulverland Uber Alles

Andrew Shields over at Fictive Fantasies (the blog formerly known as "Between Are the Doors") is just about finished with his tome - "The World Between for Fictive Hack". Fictive Hack is Andrew's own hack of his Old School Hack, which is his fantasy role playing simulacrum.

My apologies to Andrew, but I have not spent much time researching his creations, but we do share the inspiration of Jack Shear's "World Between".

Andrew makes a compelling case for how well-suited Shear's world of gothic horrors and wonders is for his Old School Hack game. One of his points is that in Dungeons & Dragons, your character's level progression pulls away from any real notion of danger or fear within the campaign. The visceral terrors of The World Between are less effective on players coming from a perspective of "oh look! a new monster to fight!"

I can definitely understand that, but what I love about my current campaign, is that my players are all used to the shiny flash of Warhammer or the churning engine of 4th Edition. Dropping them in a miserable fen, in the midst of a ruined necropolis somewhere in Ulverland, leaving them to their own devices, forcing them to think on their character's level and figure out their own way out of the mess, has become a revelation for them. At the lowly 2nd level, there is much to be feared.

It's always strange for me to be playing in someone else's sandbox. When I played 3rd Edition, I bought the lavish Forgotten Realms guidebook, only to never look at it. It was too overwhelming, too many dates and places to remember. Too much information that I felt like I had to incorporate. I just wanted to make my own worlds. But what I love about Jack Shear's World Between, is that it is a real pleasure to work with. It's the sort of game world that I would have liked to build and because it's new and accessible,  I love being able to build within it. Rather than a strict set of places and names, we get a description of the cultures and the "flavor" of the places.

I've never cared for any technological advances in my games, especially gunpowder and firearms. They pull me too far out of the setting and they feel like such an anomaly in the worlds that I like to conjure up. If there were guns, then why would this character want to even wield a sword? If guns were available, I imagine everyone would just stop making swords and armor, and pursue the making of firearms.

Even traditionally Science Fiction elements are strangely off-putting to me. "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks" frustrated me to no end as a kid. "Oh! This is the module where you find a spaceship!" While I loved Star Wars and I loved the endless stream of post-apocalyptic films, comics, artwork, murals on custom vans that filled the 70s and 80s, I just didn't want it in my fantasy. Even now, I can't really describe what bugs me about different genres playing nicely together. I suppose it has something to do with the original appeal of swords and sorcery. You succeed by your strength and wits. Live and die by the sword. I don't know, the riddle of steel, something like that. The sudden appearance of a rogue robot or a laser pistol weakens the framework.

But that's just me. Enough of my yackin' go check out Andrew's site and get hackin'!

Apologies to Martin DiBergi

Monday, October 29, 2012

Aim for the glory

This book details the rich Dwarven Mine which lies just outside the walls of the City State of the Invincible Overlord.  The City-State is alive with rumors of the strange happenings deep within the Glory Hole.  Something is going on down there - is it the discovery of ancient catacombs filled with the artifacts of a long-dead civilization?  Is it a power struggle between the Overlord and the Dwarves over the control of the mine?  Is it a grudge match between Dwarven and non-Dwarven miners over the division of vast treasures that have been found?  Is it an influx of creatures from without?  Is it an influx of creatures from within?  Is it an influx of creatures from another plane?  is it the discovery of a lost Gnomish mine adjacent to the Glory hole?  Can all of the preceding questions be answered by an emphatic "YES!"?  Venture into the Glory Hole Dwarven Mine, if you dare, and find out how you can turn these events into adventure and riches beyond your wildest dreams!  Glory Hole details the background and history of the site with ore charts and carefully maps and details the 7 large levels of the famous and dangerous mine.

Preparing for a massive storm...

...and I'm glad that I have plenty of candles, graph paper, and beer. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Got a very cheap copy of the old "Blue Box" on eBay. The book is in brilliant condition, the box is a little battered, and the copy of B2 is missing its cover and maps. However, tucked away in the bottom of the box, with a few random cardboard chits, were three character sheets. This is the most complete of the three. Brother George the Cleric and Clarissa the Medium.

Such artifacts are a joy to find in a used book and especially in a classic gaming product.

My local library as a kid rotated through the AD&D first edition books like crazy. In one of their copies of the Monster Manual, people began to leave notes about what monsters their characters had killed and in the DM's Guide, a carefully inserted sheet of notebook paper with a laundry list of additional weapons and equipment - a spiked yo-yo for instance. Such underground correspondence usually went undetected by the library circulation office staff since the books came and went so quickly.

To Elysium, George and Clarissa, to Elysium.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Ruined Abbey

The ruins of an abbey sits on a grassy hill, somewhere in Ulverland. It is said that visitors to the ruins are never seen again. One popular tale of the ruin concerns a group of students who visited the ruins with their professor. One of the students drew a demon face in the clouds, and to his fellow students' wonder, the same face appeared above them in the clouds.

Beneath the ruins, the professor found a series of tunnels filled with mysterious robed figures, mysterious books, and the demon itself in an enchanted oubliette with the puzzling sign that read "Life"

How do I know of this? It seems a prophet sits at his desk and watches over the mysterious ruin via his crystal ball. Perhaps some intrepid band of adventurers can one day discover more...

The Gentle Tragedy of Lord Sparrowgrass

There once was a time when you would have heard Algen Sparrowgrass' name in common rooms and around campfires. He was one of King Careth IV's most celebrated and storied knights. He had served in the decades-long campaign in Mord-Stavian against The Necropolitan and his armies of the dead.

Algen led his company through searing hot deserts, nameless cities and ancient tombs filled with horrors he would not recall.

When he returned to Ulverland, he implored King Careth to denounce and outlaw all sorcerous practice within his kingdom. Furthermore, he unsuccessfully lead a rebellion against the King's own Council of High Wizardry.

Sparrowgrass' fervent hatred for any magics, no matter how benign or beneficial, made him quite unpopular and King Careth sent him to the fishing community of Daesarna with the title of Master of Fisheries.

Lord Sparrowgrass demanded that his community shun any magical practices and to destroy any magical artifacts that may find their way into his harbor. Although he imposed strict penalties, a black market for such things flourished in the marketplace. "Folk remedies" of enchanted teas were popular, as well as elixirs and potions, all sold with in the marketplace with a series of codewords and signals.

But for all of his fear of magic items, it is said that the old boy has a secret vault filled with many trophies of war, including three magical swords plucked from the hands of ancient mummified wizard-kings.

Lord Sparrowgrass shocked and surprised the people of Daesarna when he wed the young Lady Sparrowgrass. An orphaned girl who worked in the marketplace. Many said she had a secret lover who she would meet in the gardens of Sparrowgrass' keep or among the rocky shoreline.

But of course, such an arrangement rarely ends well.

Lord Algen Sparrowgrass
AC 1
Move 30'
HD 9 (120 hp)
Attacks: variable
save as 15th level fighter

Haunted Woods Template One

The party finds themselves lost in the heart of a dense forest, shrouded in mist. Roll 1d10 and let the fun begin!

1. Wandering band of hobgoblins

2. A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit
The players encounter the ghost of an adventurer who had died while lost in the woods. Party must save vs. paralysis or be frozen with fear and/or run screaming in a random direction when the ghost appears. If the party can successfully communicate with the ghost, it will lead them to their mortal remains and treasure hidden in the hollow of a tree.

3. The Vanishing Tower
A tower appears in a clearing. It is 200 feet high and 100 feet in diameter. There is an arched doorway, but no windows. It cannot be seen from anywhere else in the forest. The tower will vanish and reappear at random locations throughout the woods until the tower is entered.

4. Dahmer Party
A group of four adventurers who have also become lost in the woods. They will refer to a fifth member of their party who may or may not have been eaten by the others. They will beg for food and alternately attack the players in a rage if food is denied.

5. Tribe of werebears. Holy shit.

6. Dimensional Bleedthrough
Through the fog or through a grove of trees, another world can be seen - a burning desert, a beach on a crystal blue sea, a landscape of fire, etc. This is a place in the woods where the walls between other dimensions are thin. 

7. Abandoned campsite
The remains of a woodfire and a leather pouch that contains several vials of liquid the nature of which should be determined at the GMs discretion.

8. Death-like Silence
The trees are so dense that the forest is completely silent. After wandering in the complete stillness, the characters may begin to go mad and despair. Characters must save vs. spells each round or lose 1d4 wisdom and the ability to cast spells for 1d8 rounds

9. Murderous albino halfling clan
Whole inbred tribe of them living in filthy tunnels under the roots of trees.

0. Grognus the Friendly Giant
The party encounters a friendly and not-so smart hill giant. If they help Gronus with a menial task, he will help the party find their way out of the woods. 50% chance of finding their way out or getting further into the woods.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Shield Maidens of Sea Rune

Actually found this old Judges Guild supplement in a pile of D&D2e modules at the gameshack. I had just posted this cover on Pinterest the other day. Yes, men use Pinterest too. 
It's a fantastic cover. This was the first JG release that I have actually laid my hands on in over twenty years. As a kid we'd go to the Bob's Big Boy diner and they'd hand out these cheap comics to kids. I remember thinking that Judges Guild must have used the same printer. The Judges Guild stuff had the same paper and same vivid colors that the Bob's Big Boy comics had. 
Will I actually use this? Sure, and besides, there are endless maps and lists of pre-made NPCs and baddies. Fun for the whole family.
Crazy thing is, check out that cover again. That's the villain of the campaign. Seriously.
I've been toying with the idea of running a campaign through Twitter (yes, I use that too) and doing a sort of minimalist take on gaming. Also I think it would be fun to be able to just run it throughout the day, check in to your game while pumping gas or riding the bus or whatever. 
What say you?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Omerta - This Thing of Ours

So I had a hook and I had a great NPC and a fantastic climax to the adventure. That was about it. Here's what I got. Fill in the rest.

The Hook:
The adventurers run afoul of the local guild of thieves - which is actually a fairly large and prosperous criminal network. The head of the guild is a ruthless and feared crime boss and he's going to make them an offer they can't refuse.

Bill Burrows

Bill (aka Billy Boy, Willy the Rabbit, Bugsy Burrows, Will D. Mancer, Billy No-Shoes) Burrows began his life of crime at the age of 13. He was running contraband poisons to the Sisters of Twilight and the Mage's Guild and by the time he was 15 he was stealing holy relics from the Tabernacle of Aslos and selling them on the black market.

In his mid 20's Billy Boy had made his bones in the Royal House of Cavaliers and Clements - the biggest thieves guild in the free kingdoms. He was second to the big man himself, Ordus Spane - King of Thieves. When the church cracked down on crime, Spane was one of the first to go into hiding. When Spane met with an untimely fate, Billy Boy took the big chair and ran the Royal House for over 30 years.

See what Billy Boy could do that no one else in the guild could do, was that he had a cousin in the Imperial Courts. It was a big deal, first halfling to hold a royal rank and there was nothing, I mean nothing, that anyone in the Court could do. It was between the Imperials, it was real greaseball shit. But Billy Boy used that influence to build himself a virtual city of fronts. Legit businesses all over the city were straight with the magistrates and tax collectors, but they all gave a piece of the action back to Billy Boy.

The local sheriffs and constabulary? They were guys on Billy's payroll! I mean, these guys were actual footpads from the guild, but Billy sent his cousin a request for position and it came back approved, every single time. And the good, upstanding guards and knights who weren't on the take? They all loved Billy. Billy made for sure that everyone who wore a sword in town got the softest bread, the freshest meat, and they got all their blacksmithing for free. I mean, who is going to turn that down?

One night, two drunken pirates in town for the festival tried to break into the guild. They caught Billy off guard and cut his legs. The bodyguards dispatched the pirates and burned them alive in the square, but after that Billy couldn't walk. For a while, Billy had to be carried everywhere, and he hated it, so he had some cart wheels put on a throne and he rolled around his estate. A team of builders built him a brand new house, a palatial mansion on a hill, except there weren't any stairs. Everywhere was ramps, all through the place. If you were called for a conference, he'd come rolling down at you, shaking his cane and screaming. Then you had to push him back up, all through the house. It was exhausting.

that shit don't work here man
Billy Boy had it made, until, the bottom fell out.

Billy's cousin Boyd got caught in a bad situation. They caught him trying to burn the evidence of one of Billy's bigger takes. The clergy, the bishops, everyone demanded that Boyd be put on trial and kicked out of the Imperial Court. To make matters worse, Billy caught Boyd with one of his girlfriends on a long weekend in the Bright Wood. So Boyd had a choice, give up Billy and the Organization and stay in the Court with his mistress, or face a long, hard trial and possible life imprisonment, which of course, would be unthinkable for a venerable halfling facing 130 years of age.

It was Billy who decided to get out of town and he needed some "impartial" persons to escort him and his servant safely. The adventurers had run afoul of the guild and Billy offers them a choice, help him get out of town or be dropped into a pit and be eaten by wolves.

The adventurers disguise Billy as a child and begin their long journey to freedom...


Billy looked down at the massive frost giant's shield that lay in the snow. The howling of wolves and the barking of the dogs got louder, echoing through the icy air.

"What are we waiting for!? Get on!" Billy shouts and the party climb aboard the massive shield.

The grim-faced Chester Madsen stands atop the hill with his dogs. He spits on the snow.

"This ends now Billy!" He shouts. "You can't run forever!"

Billy grins "I'll see you in the seven hells you son of a pig bitch!"

The shield rockets down the mountain like a massive sled, faster and faster it streaks across the snow. The archers fire arrows after the party, but they are too far down the mountain...

...and that's all I got.

Live in Brooklyn 2010

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Crow Jane

Crow Jane

Crow Jane is the disembodied spirit of an ancient and powerful witch. Her real name has been long forgotten but she is called Crow Jane after her ability to shape shift into a murder of crows. She can also appear as a bent crone in a black cowl or occasionally as a young, raven-haired woman.

Jane acts as a spy and informant for some unknown entity who has granted her eternal life in exchange for her services. She lurks in dark woods, ruins, and fens luring lost travelers to a grisly fate. Jane usually keeps a horde of her victims' remains (especially their rotting hearts) and whatever valuables in the hollow of a tree. She uses these in her vile rituals she preforms to please her master(s).

She can sometimes be pressed for information, especially by handsome men, but is immune to any magical charms. 

She can cast Charm Person, Confusion, Curse, and Polymorph Self/Others as a 10th level magic user.

AC: 10 / 1 (in crow form)
Move: 120' (40') / Flying: 180' (60')
Attacks: variable
HD: 10 (40 hit points)
save as 10th level magic user

In human form, Jane will attack with her gnarled hands to try and choke her foes (1d6), and she also attacks with a long staff. She looks frail but is very strong (1d8). Jane also carries a long dagger which she uses to slit the throats of those unwise to turn their backs on her. (1d6) She can also backstab as a 10th level thief.

If Jane suffers more than 10 points of damage in any number of rounds, she will transform herself into crows and leave the melee.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Music, Martinis, Ten Foot Poles, and Me

The popularity of old school role playing games on the Internet was the part of the glittering lure that brought me back to the smell of graph paper and the clattering of dice. Discovering the indie efforts of so many people devoted to playing games was like discovering punk rock as an eleven year old. The glossy overpriced tripe at the chain bookstores held nothing in the way of allure for me like this virtual gamer speakeasy of freely traded .pdf files and blogs bursting with creativity and plot hooks.

Chief among them was Jack Shear's marvelous Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque and the "World Between" he created - a sort of darkwave campaign setting that melded my younger deathrock sensibilities with my love of storytelling and adventure.

My current campaign that I am running uses the B/X Labyrinth Lord set and it is set in the dreary fog-soaked country of Ulverland. Of all the locales in the World Between, Ulverland is the one that I find the most familiarity. Equal parts classic fantasy rpg setting and something far more lush and dangerous.

I started this blog with the intent of trying to capture the myth and muse of what I love about the classic role playing games, in particular the early days of Dungeons & Dragons, which I will probably talk about at some point, but I guess in the spirit of my favorite blogs, I will just share my own projects, my own ideas, and put them out there as a small contribution to the OSR cabal.

There will also be lots of run on sentences in the posts to come.

The lovely Ms. Shadowfell has created two wonderful mixes of music from the World Between. One for Harrowfaust and one for Midian. And I have shamelessly copied her with my own - Music from Ulverland. It's probably a little more on the black and doom metal side than Mr. Shear and Ms. Shadowfell would have used, but Ulverland is a big place and these are the sounds of the darkened woods, the vast fog enshrouded necropolis, and the long road to uncertainty in my players' dangerous and dark investigations.


An Ulverland Companion Part One

1. Fen - The Wind Whispers of Loss
2. Wolves in the Throne Room - A Looming Resonance
3. Blood of the Black Owl - Intent
4. Dead Can Dance - Gloridean
5. Alcest - Summer's Glory
6. Sylvus - IV
7. Byla - Closer to the Center
8. Darkthrone - The Winds They Called the Dungeon Shaker
9. Cicadan - Dusk
10. Lycia - Clouds in the Southern Sky
11. Isengard - Gjennom Skogen Til Blaafjellen
12. Faith & The Muse - Willow's Song
13. Celephais - Our Hideout Among the Stars
14. Dammerfarben - Vinterblkheten
15. Drudkh  - Tears of Gods
16. Ionnsaich - Despairing
17. Kallathon - As The Sky Fell I Left You Behind
18. Les Discrets - Song For Mountains
19. Manilla Road - The Frost Giants Daughter II: Behind the Veil
20. Chelsea Wolfe - Halfsleeper
21. The Ruins of Beverast - I Raised This Stone as a Ghastly Memorial
22. Negura Bunget - II
23. Kauan - Ikuinen Junan Kulku
24. Neurosis - The Road to Sovereignty
25. Joy Division - I Remember Nothing (live)
26. Wolvserpent - Gathering Strength
27. Nor - Sune
28. Petrychor - Dryad (I Make My Home)
29. Ulver - Kledt i Nattens Farger
30. Manilla Road - Tree Of Life
31. Siouxsie & the Banshees - An Execution

Sunday, September 30, 2012

What's This All About Then?

First we played D&D because, everyone played D&D. It was the earliest of 80s then. We had to sneak into my friend's older brother's bedroom to get the dice. Like ninjas we had to move over that shag carpet. So I had drawn the short straw, and I was sneaking over that thick shag pile and slipped into my friend Dave's older brother's room. Dave had two older brothers. The oldest had centerfolds on his walls and a surfboard. The middle brother had samurai swords, blacklight posters, Rush albums, and more D&D shit that you ever saw outside of a King Normans or a Happy Hobby.

So I had been walking over the carpet in my new Keds, and there I was in the middle brother's room. You know how when you are a kid, everyone slightly older than you looks decades older? Dave's older brother looked like he was 40 years old. He had a thick porno mustache and drove a Camero. On the waterbed was the family cat, a big white bastard bitch who eyed me suspiciously. I was just a few feet away from the dresser where about a million dice were sorted into various mason jars and beer mugs. I felt the cat's eyes on me, so I reached out and gave her a pat.
Well with my new shoes and that thick carpet, I had generated a ton of static electricity and shocked the hell out of that poor cat. It leaped into the air while simultaneously shredding my hand and arm with a frantic windmill attack.

I grabbed the die and tried to hold back my screams of pain. My hand was bloody.
The cat bolted into the den, where the older brother was smoking a Camel while watching an RCA videodisc of Excalibur. I tried to quietly shut the door behind me and get back out to the garage before the older brother appeared.

My friends hailed my safe return and I showed them my hand. I held a cold can of Shasta Cola against it and the game began. Had I been caught, the brother would have put me in a headlock and held that cigarette close enough to my skin until I yelped.

The Tomb of Horrors was nothing compared to that suburban Eichler of real terror that we endured.

My friends moved away and then I moved away, and I became more interested in girls and punk rock and skateboarding to care about D&D anymore. Although, a perpetual loner who spent lunch period in the library, I tore through those Dragonlance books. There was something very different about those novels than anything my friends and I played. There was a glossy sheen upon the overall aesthetic. One that hadn't been there before. When I looked through some of the 2nd Edition stuff when it hit the shelves, it didn't look like D&D at all. The new books felt like, well, they felt like school. They looked and felt like textbooks.

I played Palladium for a while, but that never possessed me to go out, buy graph paper and fresh black pens and pencils and create a vast ruined city that I would have done over and over in my earlier days. There was nothing about it that fired my imagination. It was much more structured than I was used to playing. The rules had a certain cumbersome quality to it. Like when we tried to play the Iron Crown games.

I played some of the White Wolf stuff too, but really, I only played those games to try and meet goth girls who were into gaming.

I don't know what it was, but when D&D 3rd edition came out, I was all over that shit. I spent a couple nights during the week playing with a group that met at a local pizza joint. I'd get off work, drink beer and eat pizza while tearing through the newly renovated Temple of Elemental Evil. I wrote a column about gaming for a local fanzine. When "Living Greyhawk" was launched, I went to hotel conference rooms and game shop back rooms and ran my character Eryon Longshadow through the fucking wringer in the dullsville Theocracy of the Pale. But I showed up, got my little slips of paper that represented my Amulet of the Phostwood and Masterwork Composite Bow, and kept them in a little binder.

But anyway, Eryon died. Killed on a double critical by an Orc battleaxe. Ah well. By this point I wanted to run my own games again. The desire for the "Old Edition Feel" with the new slick d20 rules had become very popular and all the new indie publishers that sprang up inspired me.

I submitted stories to Dragon and Dungeon (which were kindly rejected, but always with the encouragement to send more) and I started working on my first real module. By this stage in my life I had racked up quite a few unfinished novels and short stories that were perfect for scaling into adventures.

Escapism is hard to escape into long enough to create a lasting project. Family, college, work, life, all conspire against such creativity, but perhaps here on this blog I can dole some of my ideas out in bits and pieces.

Currently I am running a Labyrinth Lord campaign with three friends who weren't alive when I got my first D&D basic set. They're used to enormous books of feats and skills that control every aspect of every player's movement. What it's really about, and what has drawn me in, time and time again, is the "collaborative storytelling" aspect of role playing games. Breathing life into the backgrounds of those worlds we create together.

Good day.

First One is the Hardest

Naakhum - Anunnaki 
scenes from Baraka