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