Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 Go Away

Hola amigos, I know it's been a while since I last rapped at you.

Well, farewell to thee 2013. This has been a year filled with loss, grief, giant rodents, toenail fungus and psychiatry. I figured I would throw together a post about the current gamabilities that are currently stuck in my craw, as well as some high and lowlights of the year.

1. My long-time gaming group dissolved. I had kept them crawling through underground ruins and caverns for so long, I finally got them to the surface and ready to go blow the magic horn to wake up the dragon to take on the evil Necromancer that was posing as the Priest-King of a sect of monks.
Anyway, one member moved to the Netherlands, and two others just fell off the radar, although one of them did reach out to admonish me for saying mean things about Olson Scott Card, so whatever.

2. Actually got to play some D&D and Flailsnails! A one shot here, a one shot there. Actually playing and not running a game. Awesome.

3. I still couldn't care at all about D&D Next, however, I guess I'm becoming slightly curious to see the cover at this point.

This. In full day-glo colors! (Glowing Green for demon blood! Electric Blue for swords and armor! Preternatural Pink for demon skin! Yarrow Yellow for backgrounds and demon eyes!) 
4. Did not finish my OSR-B/X-LL projects - the Shadowdrift setting book (which I think now will probably just be a long list of d100 settings, situations and monsters) The Shadowdrift setting book is basically complete, it's just in a bunch of various legal pads and graph paper journals. I have toyed with the idea of starting a kickstarter for $40 to help cover the cost of a fifth of Fernet Branca while I sit and type it all up.

5. Acquired near-mint copy of Bushido. Still have not played Bushido. Will play Bushido in 2014.

6. Ran the first of my "BATTLES IN THE NORTH" FROSTY-GRIMMMM campaigns. One player was in it to win it, got his character killed under an hour into the game, and then seemed genuinely surprised that his character was actually dead. I'll run part two very soon.

7. The Mythos bug I caught is now a full-on infection. I've been reading up on what makes Trail of Cthulhu different from Call of Cthulhu. Something that I have noticed is that used Chaosium/CoC books are way more scarce on the used market than...well...anything else for that matter. My Cthulhu Mythos meets Big Trouble in Little China novella is in the works as well as my "Parlor Larp" clothing-optional-Cthulhu-post-punk-mystery-dinner-theater role-playing-group-think.

8. Did not acquire the OD&D collector set for the simple reason that it looks too nice. I want my gaming stuff to be scuffed, drawn-in, written-on, coffee-stained and dog eared. Well-used, well-worn, well-loved.

Long-forgotten tome of dubious intent? No, it's my copy of the Dungeon Masters Guide.
9. My demo was picked up and released by Fragile Branch as a very cool, limited edition cassette. You can acquire one here.

10. On a much more important note, and an emotional one - my friend Robert Stewart has been missing since December 6th. He was last seen after work in downtown Annapolis. They have searched the water, his friends and I have searched the town, and there is no trace. The detective in charge of the case officially said that they're at a dead end. So my year ends on a somber note.

About a month before Rob went missing, we talked about a sci-fi RPG that he was interested in putting together. Sort of a post-apocalyptic thing with lots of philosophy and math, which was what he dug. He was a brilliant guy and I was really excited about helping him put some ideas together.

I miss you, Robert. I wish you'd come home.

Happy new year.

Robert (l) and me. February 2012 at Red Wine Bar in Annapolis.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Dungeon Punks


It's a phase that most young people grow out of. You know, hanging around in the local dungeon, painting graffiti, smoking clove cigarettes, maybe making out with a cute half-elf girl or boy. Usually, the young dungeon punks leave it behind and go off to school, or become smith apprentices, or brewmasters, or whatever.
However, sometimes the lure of the dungeon is so great that they cast their practical aspirations aside and become adventurers or explorers or sometimes even a sorcerer, or to the true dismay of their family and peers, a bard.
Most will take up the sword - 
And some will take up the eyeliner
It is my estimation that this is what a badass first level character looks like. (Well not the dude in eyeliner necessarily) They've spent their lives up to that point dreaming of adventuring, battling foul creatures, and uncovering untold treasure in the deep and dark.

Sure, some characters have been apprentice mages, did odd jobs for the local thieves guild, was an acolyte at the local church, but others, the fighter, those who learned to defend themselves, those who dreamed of getting the fuck out of the sticks and out into the wilderlands of high adventure.

The "Dungeon Punk" is a hybrid of various class skills. They've been trained, not formally but by a friend or by reading a book or by taking a class at the local Y. They've perhaps stolen their gear. They're naive, but eager. Maybe to a fault.

Here are a few skill/bonus ideas for the "Dungeon Punk"

Can perform one thief skill at the first level. Two at the third level and three at the ninth. 

Has magic artifact or enchanted weapon. How they came to possess it could have repercussions later in the game. 

Has a magical amulet or family heirloom that will allow them to cast one MU spell per day (a non-lethal spell) 

Grew up in a religious school for troubled youths. Knows one first level cleric spell but only has a 50% chance of success.

Is an expert at gathering information, gossip and rumors. 

Can write and speak an additional localized "street" dialect. Knows local slang and expressions. 

Very good at evaluating monetary value of items. Knows the "street value".

Listens to only the most underground of bards. 

Very good at DIY projects. Can repair leather armor, mend clothing. Can make simple leather goods with right materials. 

Can improvise weapons. Gets a bonus to hit when using a broken bottle or pool cue, etc. 

Eyes adjust to darkness quickly. 

Bonus for running and evading pursuers. Good at climbing chain link fences. 

Always "knows a guy". Has a friend of a friend nearly everywhere they go. 

Expert in local squatting laws. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

B1 Hack - Into Cytheron Wandering Monsters Upper Level (NSFW)


(2-6) AC 9, HD 1/2, #AT 1, D by weapon -1, plus disease, MV 90' (30'), Save NM
The plague children were the offspring of men and women who perished in a cruel and tortuous enclave for the diseased. The children escaped the colony and found shelter and refuge within the caverns. They attack with clubs and daggers, but whoever comes within 60' of any of the plague children have a 25% chance of contracting the plague unless a successful saving throw is made. If a player contracts the plague, they will infect the other members of the party after ten rounds. Symptoms of the plague appear within 6-10 days. Symptoms include dizziness, vomiting, memory loss, loss of feeling in extremities, fever, wild hallucinations, and explosive diarrhea. Players with plague-symptoms will be unable to do anything but rest. The sufferer must make a saving throw each week vs. disease at a penalty of 1d6. If the saving throw is unsuccessful, the character dies a horrible death, vomiting blood and necrotic tissue. If slain, the remains of the children are still infectious. They will not attack unless threatened, but will ask for food and water in exchange for information (most of which, will be false).


(6-18)-AC 7, HD 1/2 (2 hp) #AT 1, D 1 -4 MV 120' (60') Save NM 
Rat Things are the horrible hybrid of rodent and halfling. Rumored to be an abominable creation of Zog himself, the lower vaults and caverns are teeming with these strange 2' high creatures. They have very low intelligence and will only attack if provoked, or if a player casts any magical spell in their presence. 


(3-12)-AC 7, HD 1-1, #AT 1, D var by weapon, MV 60' (20'), Save F1
Throughout the winding corridors and caverns of Cytheron, the animated remains of long-dead warriors wander in search of the living. They carry longswords and spears and will attack on sight. Zog the Sullen had raised these undead warriors as his own personal guard. The skeletons have a strange blue tint to their bones and will appear slightly phosphorescent in the dark. The blue skeletons cannot be turned no matter how high the cleric level. The strange blue coating on the bones is extremely flammable and will catch fire if too close to a source of flame. While ignited, skeletons will still attack and move as usual with the flames going out in 2 rounds.


(1-4* see below) AC 7, HD 1 +1', #AT 1, D 1-8 or by weapon, MV 90' (30'), Save F1
Nomadic berserkers have been exploring Cytheron for several days. They are seeking any artifacts that may have been taken off the bodies of their slain dead in Stranathon's many battles with their barbarian kin.
There's a 25% chance that a Berserker Chieftain will be among them.


(1-2) AC 5, HD 2, #AT 1, D 1-8 or by weapon, MV 90' (30'), Save F2 
The Berserker Chieftains wear full burnished plate mail and usually fight with a morning star or flail. They will always carry a shield, giving them a total AC of 5. The Chieftains will speak multiple languages including common, goblin, elvish and their own tribal dialects.


(1 -4)-AC 6, HD 1, #AT 1, D 1 -4, 1-6 or by weapon, MV 90' (30'), Save F1
Hordes of Mountain Goblins were enslaved to help construct Cytheron. Some say that most of them were lost in the darkness of the caverns far beneath. Many Goblins still dwell within the interior and seek intruders to kill and eat. Mountain Goblins wear spiked leather armor with wrist gauntlets that they can swing for 1d4 points of damage. They also carry crude swords and knives.


(1-2)-AC 9, HD 1/2, hp 2,2, #AT 1, D poison, MV 60' (20'), Save NM

Random giant insect creatures - 2' - 4' long - giant crickets or centipedes. There are massive hives of these clicking and whirring beasties hidden away in the darkest caverns of Cytheron.


This should be an exact reverse duplicate of the party. For example if a player's character is a lawful female fighter, they will encounter a chaotic male fighter. Races, armor class, hit points will all be the same. The NPC party also has the same mission and will readily agree to combine forces and share information until a chance at treachery will reveal itself. As a wandering monster, only 2 of the NPC party will appear and will then call upon the rest of their group. 


As Level 1 Magic User - AC 7, HD 1, (4 hp)  #AT 1, dagger 1-4 or spell, MV 90' (30'), Save MU1
Three young women have been reported missing. Many in the nearby town of Gristwallow say that three young women with red hair wandered into the caves. Those who are close to the young women say that they are witches who are seeking artifacts of Zog's magical workings. All three of them wander the caverns alone. Each wears an amulet that casts an instant Charm Person spell. Players must save at -1d4 to resist. Each young woman can cast the following spells - Magic Missile, Telepathy, Sleep, Detect Evil. The witches will tell the party that they need help finding the other two and they also need help overcoming any barriers or locked doors within the corridors. They will also come and go as they please, usually vanishing while the party is engaged in combat. Their names are Tessaree, Ancharun, and Bree.


(1-2) AC 6 HD 1+1 # Attacks 1, by weapon, MV 60' (20'), SV F1
The Hobgoblins were used by Stranathon and Zog to keep the Goblin slaves in line. They still search the corridors of Cytheron seeking their lower Goblin quarry. They will attack players on sight. They carry longswords (1d8 damage) and whips and nets. Each wears studded leather armor and carries a large shield. 


(1-2)-AC 5, HD 1, #AT 2, D 1-4/1-4, MV 80' (40'), Save F2
Feral bipedal beasts covered in coarse yellow, brown or gray fur. They attack with two large claws. The Sasquanath is a relative of the Sasquatch of folklore and myth. Several of these creatures wander the darkness of Cytheron. Zog had several of them locked in the dungeon where he attempted to train them into doing his bidding. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


a.k.a. Chinese Super Ninjas 1982

Five Element Ninjas is a tour de force from the legendary Shaw Brothers film studio in Hong Kong.
I first saw it on video, baked out of my skull in the early 1990s. Strange to think that the film was only about a decade old at the time.

The plot of Five Element Ninjas is simple - rival ninjas infiltrate a Martial Arts Academy. The Chinese martial artists have to take on the "Five Element Formation" - five groups of ninjas with fighting styles and costumery based on Gold, Water, Wood, Fire, and Earth.

 The ninjas make quick work of our brave martial artists, the Gold ninjas are my favorite with their spinning metal hats that refract the rays of the sun into the eyes of the challengers. This special feat is accompanied by a truly wonderful sound effect.

Chinese characters flash on the screen to announce the appearance of each new weapon or fighting style "Water Spiders", "Copper Hats", "Falling Petals", "Foot Claws"

Eventually, a foxy girl ninja in a fishnet body suit betrays the Alliance and the ninjas slaughter the entire base.
The last one alive seeks to be trained in the arts of ninjutsu to seek bloody vengeance.

Hanging out of his shorts? Entrails. Red gooey ones.
Bodies are torn to shreds, entrails drag on the ground, and comically bright red blood soaks the screen. The action plays out on the Shaw Brothers' gorgeously constructed sets (the forest of tree ninjas is truly inspired) and the result is one of the best Kung Fu films ever made.

I'm totally writing an adventure about a Five Element Formation of my own in my campaign.

Four sorcerer knights with golden dragon scale armor. They refract the rays of the sun and also can unleash a spray molten gold from their shields.

Like the Creature from the Black Lagoon, jumping out at you when you're walking over a bridge. They strangle and drown their victims with their large webbed claws.

Evil halflings and evil dryads lurk in the trees. They have nets, hooks, and blowguns, ready to kill all intruders in their murderous grove.

Eight pissed off lava children, dancing on the slope of a volcano.

The earth element formation consists of four elf rangers who can summon up swarms of fire ants and killer shrews.

Let me hear your ideas! What's your five element formation!? 

Friday, July 12, 2013

B1 Hack - Into Cytheron Background

Zog the Sullen & Stranathon the Blood-Washed
Many years ago, there were two tight bros - Zog the Sullen and Stranathon the Blood-Washed. Zog was a powerful mage and Stranathon was a warrior without peer. Together they faced many challenges and many foes, adventures that had soon passed into legend.
Zog and Stranathon enslaved thousands to build a swanky underground hideout together constructed a hidden headquarters and base of operations deep within the Mountain of the Menstruating Moon - a labyrinth of chambers and caverns called Cytheron, named after the Moon Goddess.
In the great wars against the Barbarians of the Wintermoon, Zog and Stranathon helped lead the free people of the land to victory. Afterwards, they took all of their retainers and sellswords to invade the Northern Kingdoms of Frost.
Barbarians of the Wintermoon
Rumors tell of a great battle in the North where Stranathon and Zog met their demise. It is said that the demonic beings that Zog had long courted aided the armies of the north. If only someone had the knowledge and wherewithal to find their hideaway, there would be great things to explore! And who knows what riches of wealth and magic might be there for the taking?

Hoodlum Adventurers
Over time however, the hideout had been discovered. The Caves of Cytheron became a place for local youths to smoke black lotus and drink hallucinatory elixers. For witches and rogue mages to seek traces of Zog's magical workings. However, none could find the way into the depths of the stronghold, much less the oft-rumored caverns beneath. Furthermore, gangs of mysterious brigands and berserkers had been seen within the entry halls and in the rocky passes among the Mountain of the Menstrual Moon. 

In the nearby city of Gristwallow, rumors of Cytheron abound -
  1. The name of the stronghold is Cythereon. It is named after the moon goddess and has been built as a symbol of her glory.
  2. Zog had a secret chamber in the stronghold where he performed dark rituals and powerful magical workings.
  3. The shadowy figures seen going into and coming out of the dungeon are Xyglian cultists.
  4. Zog and Stranathon had several slaves to do the menial work, and were imprisoned at the stronghold.
  5. The complex has twenty levels.
  6. The skeletons with blue bones cannot be turned.
  7. The complex has a rear exit which is secret and well hidden.
  8. There is a woman who lives deep within the caverns who grants wishes.
  9. Strange sasquatch creatures have moved into the complex in the absence of its normal inhabitants.
  10. There are portals to other worlds inside the caverns.
  11. The very walls speak to visitors.
  12. An enchanted stone within the stronghold will grant a wish to anyone who chips off a piece of it and places it within their mouth.
  13. Stranathon & Zog still live within the caverns and watch the trials of unwary travelers and adventurers for their amusement.
  14. A coven of red-haired witches entered the caverns in recent weeks, and did not return.
  15. There is a gold mine on one of the lower levels of the caves.
  16. Anyone who dies within the walls of Cytheron can never be restored to life by any means.
  17. There is an entire brood of dragons nesting in Cytheron. 
  18. Cytheron is suffused with raw magic, making spells more powerful when cast within. 
  19. Stranathon was a cannibal who had a fully-staffed kitchen in Cytheron dedicated to the butchering and culinary preperation of his enemies.
  20. Tribes of Goblins have taken up refuge within the complex.
INTO CYTHERON is a re-imagining of the original 1979 D&D adventure module "In Search of the Unknown". Some names, concepts and inspirations have been also gleaned from Jack Shear's "Devilmount" Hail to the Anti Pope!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Abominations of the Shadowdrift Part One



The "Skinless Eater" resembles an emaciated, horn-less rhinoceros. It's body is covered in no discernible flesh of any kind, revealing it's bloody, raw musculature. It can run as fast as a quarter horse and can stand upright on it's hind legs (standing an average of 8 feet tall). The eater's large mouth is filled with small sharp teeth that can rend and tear through armor, flesh, and bone. It will eat as much as it can hold in it's glistening yellow stomach, until it needs to regurgitate. The powerful stomach acid of the eater can break down all materials, including metal.


The Wood-Shriek sleeps by day in the darkest of the woods and hillside thickets. By night it creeps through nearby villages and peers into homes where it becomes aroused by the screams of the horrified people inside. At the height of arousal, the Wood Shriek will crawl down chimneys or creep through windows and feast upon his victims.


The Heartless Bastard is a curious being and it's origins are unknown. They appear as harbingers of danger or guardians of secret places. The Bastard will only communicate via the bloody incision in it's abdomen which is filled with row after row of sharp teeth.


These strange bird women dwell in the temples and battlements of the city of Kara-Zul. They are often used as spies and assassins for their shadowy masters. They can paralyze with their horrible squawking.


Hides in old chests and beneath floorboards and beds. The Wee Struncher's bite contains a powerful toxin that paralyzes and numbs the slumbering victims. The tiny horror then goes to work gnawing on their victim's soft tissues, cartilage and tendons.


The Noble Wee Struncher hides in the homes of wealthy nobles and royalty. They prey upon their victims with a powerful acid that sprays from its eyes and mouth. The Struncher then can suck the melted flesh and organs into it's various orifices.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Into Cytheron, by way of North Ave. in Baltimore

First B/X D&D at Liam Flynns Ale House was a rousing success. 
I ran a hack of B1 "In Search of the Unknown". Same dungeon crawl but with more witches and Jack Shear influence. 
These little bastards were a dollar and made great stand-in for miniatures. 
The hack v.1

Happy people wearing the death beads. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Old School D&D Night at Liam Flynn's Ale House with Flying Dog Brewery!

I'll be running a modified version of B-1 interpolated with Jack Shear's "DEVILMOUNT"

More Elves of the Shadowdrift

Inspired by this post by the great Gavin Norman, I've been pondering taking his Fey Elf class and melding it with my initial ideas for "Feral" or "Wild" of the Shadowdrift. As Fey Elves left their homelands, they migrated into other lands and developed their own individual cultures.

Living as far from humankind as possible, one can still find the great courts and enchanted cities of the Fey. Guided by the laws and principles of countless ages, the Fey Civilizations are wonders of art, architecture, and beauty. The concordance with the natural world that birthed them is the supreme law of their world. They build golden towers that reach the clouds, yet fell no tree in their construction. Their halls are filled with the firelight of thousands of candles. They only burn wood when the trees give up their branches freely.

It is a society constricted by tradition and the constant hiding from a world that is always threatening to encroach further upon their lands. The power of the courts is weakening. Their influence is barely a shadow of what it once was.

These factors are among many others that inspired myriad generations of Fey Elves to leave the traditions of Flood and Flower behind.

The Fey Elf can cast spells as a Magic User/Elf, however at the third level they can summon their own familiar or spirit animal. The familiar can sometimes communicate with the character, can gather components for new spells depending on the familiar and the setting. Let's say in the tomb of an ancient wizard, a weasel could scamper off and return with a scrap of parchment. On a beach, a cat could uncover a piece of an old shipwreck, buried under the sand.

Wood Elves (Churlathotons) 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.

The devious and wicked MARSH FOLK who live within muddy tunnels and caves along wetlands and swamps. They are prone to murder and robbery, especially wayward fishermen who might wander too close to the secret marshlands.

Marsh Folk society revolves around endogamous tribes of 20-30 persons who are lead by the family elder, called the River King. The tribe will also have 1-2 Swamp Witches (Marsh Hags) who serve the tribes in an advisory role. These women are usually humans and will never live among the elves, but in a hermitage nearby.

Hidden in subterranean caverns and ancient ruins, you will find the strongholds and fortresses of the Deep Elves. Their origins are unknown, but their social order is an elaborate caste system which includes several subsets and species.

Lords of the Swallowed Light are the sorcerers, warrior kings, and priests. They sit on silver thrones and imbibe rare fungi that they harvest from strange gardens. Under the influence of the fungi, they experience bizarre hallucinations and trances. In this way, the priests receive messages of communion with their Gods. 

The Deep Elves worship a secret cabal of deities. Some known, some long-dead and forgotten. Their most sacred being is an impossible cosmic horror that dwells in the center of a dying star - Xyrx the Eternal. Within the temples of the Swallowed Light, shafts have been created so that the star of Xyrx may be observed during ritual and meditation. Xyrx's dying embers are said to fall through the night sky and rain down upon the chosen ones.

They believe that a black sun exists in the center of their world and when Xyrx's star dies, he will use the black sun as a gateway to this world. He will rule and destroy the world from the inside out, swallowing oceans, crushing cities to dust, disintegrating mountains.

A Master of the Order is assigned to each fortress and stronghold. They rule through cunning as well as cruelty. They are diabolical, yet polite and well-mannered. They strike easy alliances and soon break them to fit their own needs. 

Reporting directly to the Lords of the Swallowed Light are the Shadow Keepers or Wardens. They are shorter and stouter than their tall masters. They are the underlings, warriors, and slavers in the Stronghold. In secret, the Wardens revere a legendary figure - Six Fingered Harlech. In days of yore, Harlech usurped the throne of the Lords of the Swallowed Light and since then, many Wardens dream of rebellion. 

Lowest in the social circle are the Nilderbog. Very short creatures with varying appearance. Some are covered in coarse hair, some are porcine in appearance, some insectoid or goblinoid. Some of those who tend the fungal gardens are covered in strange fungi and growths. The Nilderbog are very close to the deep elves and trolls of folklore.

They are extremely strong and they turn the gears to power the machinations of the deep cities. They also work forges and hammer out weapons and armor. All are castrated at birth and many of these eunuchs serve as harem guards.

In addition to these populations, Deep Elves will also associate with Tharens (ultra-intelligent subterranean ogres with bright blue flesh, like ogre mages, but with no magical abilities) and other subterranean creatures.