So, I’m still waiting for one piece of art before I can publish the complete rules to PARS FORTUNA – hopefully it won’t be much longer, but I’ve seen a preliminary of the art and it is worth waiting for. Anyhow – missing that art doesn’t keep me from posting the free download of the basic rules, a link to which can be found HERE, or on the free downloads page (see above and to the right).

I’ve had a blast writing these rules, trying to take a randomly generated bunch of races, monsters and treasures and making them (sorta) make sense. There are some alternate rules to try out and hopefully people who play old school rules (or new school) can find something worthwhile for their game.

If all goes well, the Complete Rules will soon be available on The print book should go for $15, the PDF for $7. The Complete Rules will contain 12 race-classes, over 120 spells new to the old school, 120 new magic items, 140 new monsters, new magic rules, alternate rules for combat, equipment and encumbrance, rules for skills and knacks (i.e. a very simple skill system), a sample sandbox setting, a sample 1st level dungeon and general conversion notes for other old school rules – including adventurer, magician and warrior classes for folks who prefer to separate race from class. All packed into about 120 pages.

For now, check out PARS FORTUNA: Basic and let me know what you think.

UPDATE: I’ve incorporated some corrections suggested by JD Jarvis of Aeons & Auguries (and he wrote a review of the basic rules) and Gonster of Attack Plan R, one of the erstwhile followers and friends of the blog. All the links now point to the updated document.

Deviant Friday – Christopher Burdett Edition

Christopher Burdett is a monster man – not some kind of terrible mutant who threatens all mankind, but an illustrator of monsters. Enjoy the beasties and excuse the lack of Dejah and Red. I think you Gamma Worlders out there might find some of his creations especially inspirational.

(Essentially Tiamat for a primitive planet campaign)

On Western Venatia – Part Thirteen

Ah – the unlucky post. Five more encounters for Western Venatia. If all goes well, I’ll publish PARS FORTUNA this weekend. I’m still waiting for one last piece of art – if it comes through I’ll publish the complete rules on – should go for $15 in book form, $7 in e-book format – and the basic rules in the free download section on this blog. If the picture doesn’t come through, I’ll still probably publish the free version. Cross your fingers.

1636. All that remains of an ancient elf hunting lodge is a support column carved to look like three thin beeches braided together. A stone foundation traces a large footprint – the lodge must have been quite a sight in its day. There is little rubble left from the thing, and the forest is slowly but surely reclaiming the site. Should one rap three times on the surviving column, a trapdoor will open nearby to reveal a set of stone stairs descending into a cellar. The cellar is divided into two sections. The first is a fairly common root cellar loaded with urns, amphorae and barrels of spoiled or dried foodstuffs and sour wine. In one wall of the root cellar there is a sturdy, steel door that is quite cold to the touch – cold enough that prolonged contact begins causing frostbite (1d4 damage).

Behind the frozen door there is a small chamber with steel walls that was magicked long ago into a sort of freezer. Freezer-burned sides of venison and fowls hang from hooks in the ceiling, and in one corner there is the preserved remains of two elves, a woman and man. The woman was quite old (young looking, but with long ears) and is sitting in the corner cradling the man, who was much younger than her and died of terrible wounds taken in battle. The woman wears a gown of woolen scarlet, embroidered velvet slippers worth 50 gp and a silver tiara worth 100 gp. The man wears the costume of a wealthy forester and holds in his right hand a broken long sword (once a magical +2 weapon). Upon entering the freezer, a groaning spirit will emerge from the walls of the root cellar and attempt to destroy the intruders.

| Groaning Spirit: HD 7; AC 2 [17]; Atk 1 touch (1d8 + Str); Move 12; Save 9; CL/XP 9/1100; Special: Chilling touch, keening, only harmed by magic weapons and spells.

1705. Amidst the overarching oaks and fecund ferns of the forest, a small mound of earth has been raised and topped by a small wooden idol. The idol looks very old and weathered, the wood cracked and only a few particles of paint still adhering. The idol depicts a woman of earthy beauty, its breasts swollen, belly full, hips round and face regal. Druids, even neophyte druids, will recognize this as a depiction of the one true Goddess behind all mortal conceptions of feminine divinity, and their prayers and offerings (and those of their comrades) will result in each receiving the effects of the Bless spell for one week. Offensive actions directed at the simple idol curse the druid and her friends increase the chance of wandering monster encounters by +2 (i.e. usually to 1-4 on 1d6).

1726. The banks of the river here are coated with run-off from the surrounding farms and villas. Encounters with effluvial grubs, nasty worm-like creatures who burrow and feed on human and animal waste, occur here on a roll of 1-3 on 1d6.

| Effluvial Grub: HD 2; AC 5 [14]; Atk 1 bite (1d4 + infection); Move 9 (B6); Save 16; CL/XP 11/1700; Special: Infection, effluvial gases.

1808. The remnants of a Nomoan road can be spied here, forming a small ridge among the trees and underbrush. The road is mostly overgrown, but still allows fast passage through the woods. It once extended all the way to the mineral springs in [1816]. A particularly large oak alongside the road is home to a flirtatious hamadryad who will appear to benevolent looking adventurers and invite them to dine with her. They will find that a wide stump behind the oak has been set with a fresh linen cloth, plates of silver and a meal of venison steaks and berry wine. The dryad, Salena by name, will quiz the adventurers on the goings on of the wider world, and is a fine hostess. Should the adventurers return her kindness, she will send them on thair way with a sack of goodies (treat as one week of iron rations). Should they prove violent, they will be set upon by a gang of buckawn robbers hidden nearby and poised to strike.

| Buckawn: HD 1d6; AC 2 [17]; Atk 1 dart or dagger (1d3); Move 15; Save 18; CL/XP 1/15; Special: Spells, magic resistance 10%.

| Salena: HD 2 (13 hp); AC 9 [10]; Atk 1 wooden dagger (1d4); Move 12; Save 16; CL/XP 3/60; Special: Charm person (-2 save).

1821. A tribe of skunk goblins has built a large stilt village here. The tribe numbers 125 warriors, 150 females and 200 children. The skunk goblin king is Glickwick, who is advised by Wullug the vizier. The tribe’s warriors go into battle mounted on giant killer frogs, making them a force to be reckoned with.

| Skunk Goblin: HD 1d6; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6); Move 12; Save 18; CL/XP 1/15; Special: Pungent.

| Glickwick: HD 4 (22 hp); AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6); Move 12; Save 13; CL/XP 5/240; Special: Pungent. Chainmail, flail.

| Wullug, Goblin Adept Lvl 3: HP 12; AC 6 [13]; Save 13; CL/XP 4/120; Special: Pungent, spells (1st), guide. Warhammer.

Art by Dragos Stanculescu from his gallery at Elfwood.

Happy Veteran’s Day

Just taking a moment to say thank you to the troops, past and present!

If you would like to do more than just say thanks – consider giving to these organizations …

Air Force Aid Society
Army Emergency Relief
Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society
Wounded Warrior

We’ll return to our previously scheduled gaming nonsense later tonight.

Image above is my grandfather, Dr. John H. Stewart (or Pa, as I always called him). He served in a M*A*S*H unit in Japan after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. My father served in the Air Force in the closing days of the Vietnam War. God bless them both.

An Owlbear for Every Occaision

My last post involved a mama owlbear and her cubs. When you write as many encounters as I do, you have to provide some descriptive text to make one monster encounter feel different from another. In the case of the owlbear, I described it as a “great horned owlbear”, meaning it has the head and face of a great horned owl on a bear’s body. With that in mind, I present this little table to roll up a random owlbear. Just roll d12 for a body and d12 for a head. If you want to know what a sun bear or elf owl look like, use Google or Wikipedia.

Barn Owl (M)
Black Bear (S)
Boreal Owl (S)
Blue Bear (M)
Eagle Owl (L)
Brown Bear (M)
Elf Owl (S)
Cave Bear (L)
Fearful Owl (M)
Grizzly Bear (L)
Great Horned Owl (L)
Moon Bear (M)
Laughing Owl (M)
Panda Bear (M)
Pygmy Owl (S)
Polar Bear (L)
Screech Owl (S)
Shortfaced Bear (L)
Snow Owl (L)
Sloth Bear (S)
Spectacled Owl (M)
Spectacled Bear (S)
Stygian Owl (M)
Sun Bear (S)

The S, M and L refer to the size of the animal. For every “L” in an owlbear, it gains +1 hit dice and +1 to damage. For every “S” in an owlbear, it loses 1 hit dice and +1 to Armor Class.

And since owlbears are supposed to be magical hybrids, feel free to throw some weird special abilities in. Maybe a stygian owl-headed owlbear has some demonic powers, or a sun bear-bodied owlbear can radiate intense light. Surprise your players – they love that kind of thing. Really.

Image is by Claudio Pozas for the Owlbear challenge run by the ArtOrder blog.

On Western Venatia – Part Twelve

Six more delightful things to see and/or do in Western Venatia.

Also, since I have your attention, a few bits of NOD news:

PARS FORTUNA is set to be published in one week. There will be a basic version of the game as a free PDF and a complete version for sale via I’m waiting on one piece of art, right now, and have a few bits of formatting to finish up. PARS FORTUNA will contain 12 new races/race-classes, a new way to handle weapons and armor (nothing earth shattering), simplified encumbrance, new initiative rules, new magic system with 126 different spells, guides on designing campaigns and dungeons – both for sandbox/exploration type games and plot driven games, 147 new monsters, a sample level 1 dungeon, a sample sandbox and 120 new magic items. Whew! The basic version will have 4 of the races, the spells level 1 to 3, about 48 of the magic items and a bunch of the lower level monsters. Can’t wait to get this one off my plate.

Oh – and what do you think about STAR FORTUNA as a sci-fi version?

NOD #6 is in the works – probably will be published early December. This will be a free download to celebrate the holidays. I plan on going free downloads next year and then selling hard copies on Lulu. I think I can make up the lost revenue with advertising – rates will be affordable and the circulation on #1 stands at close to 700 units.

– My first Hexcrawl Classic will soon be available via Frog God Games. I’m writing the second one now and should do about 8 or 10 of the things in all. Exciting stuff for me, and hopefully people will find them useful. I’m especially excited that they will eventually be converted into the Pathfinder format, opening a new audience for sandbox-style play.

Mystery Men! was funded and I’m now working with Joel Carroll to get our illustrations completed. I’m going to put scads of time into the MM! rules once PARS FORTUNA and NOD #6 are put to bed.

And that’s the news from NOD. Now on to our regularly scheduled geekery …

0913. A tattered cloak hangs on the branch of a tree. The face of a grimacing ogre is embroidered into the back of the cloak. In the presence of ogres or giants, the wearer of the cloak must pass a saving throw or fight alongside them against his comrades or risk the cloak making a choking attack each round as a 4 HD monster dealing 1d8 points of damage.

1616. A female owlbear and her three cubs live here in a dank cave. The cave opens out on a small gully that turns into quite a large pond when it has rained. The gully is surrounded by scrub oak and blueberry bushes. The owlbears look like a combination of great horned owls and black bears. When the female is in season, encounters with males occur on the roll of 1-4 on 1d6.

| Owlbear: HD 5+1 (27 hp); AC 5 [14]; Atk 2 claws (1d6), bite (2d6); Move 12; Save 12; CL/XP 5/240; Special: Hug (2d8) if attack roll is 18 or higher..

1631. There is a geyser here in a large, stony clearing surrounded by a “fence” of massive boulders. Most dwarfs can identify the work as coming from hill giants. Within this compound there is a shallow pool of hot water and mineral salts and the geyser, which erupts every 1d4+3 turns. Folk caught in the gout of super hot water suffer 3d6 points of scalding damage (half that with a successful saving throw) and more-over have their movement rate cut in half from the burns that cover their body for 2d4 days.

A cursory examination will reveal spikes hammered into the walls of the cavity from which the water springs. The cavity is safe, though very steamy, if the water is not exploding, and grants access to a complex of limestone caves filled with slippery, sucking mud to a depth of 1 to 3 feet. Movement through the mud caverns is at a rate of 3, and fighting in the mud forces folk to pass a save every time they miss an attack or fall into the sticky stuff.

Lurking in the system of muddy caves is a thessalhyrdra that the region’s giants, goblins and kobolds call Yiquartho, which roughly translates as the “Daughter of Heaven’s Whore”. Yiquartho receives sacrifices of gnomes and adventurers on an irregular basis from the evil folk of the woods, and will quickly pick up the scent of new arrivals. The creature’s treasure is scattered through the cavern system beneath the thick layer of mud.

Treasure: 3,240 gp and a gold nose stud worth 165 gp.

| Yiquartho: HD 12 (57 hp); AC -1 [20]; Atk 8 bites (1d6) and 1 bite (3d6) and 1 tail (2d6); Move 12; Save 3; CL/XP 17/3500; Special: Acid, poison, immune to acid.

1642. Giant manta rays, silvery blue in color, choke the sea lanes here by day, and at night leave the water to soar through the skies. By day or night, encounters with the beasts occur on a roll of 1-4 on 1d6 in this hex, with 1d6 appearing.

| Giant Manta Ray: HD 8; AC 6 [13]; Atk 1 bite (2d6), tail sting (2d10); Move S18; Save 8; CL/XP 10/1400.; Special: Swallow whole, tail stuns

1707. The River Dubglas in this hex plunges down a waterfall. Stretched across the falls are the remnants of a rope bridge. The bridge now consists of a single length of thick rope with the remaining ropes now suspended from it over the maelstrom. The river is not fordable further up river, for it is astoundingly deep, being a primordial gorge that once supported a dark civilization of ophidians. The river is 40 feet wide at this point, and crossing using the rope requires four strength checks (use whatever method you favor, or use saving throws) to avoid falling. A fall plunges one 10 feet down into the river and then over the 30-ft high falls for 6d6 points of damage.

1817. A tall hill of gray stone dominates the landscape. It is topped with several menhirs that jut out at odd angles. An ancient vampiric chief of the Magog is interred within this hill along with a bodyguard of wights. The tomb is accessible from the top of the hill via a small opening near the base of a menhir. One must wriggle through the opening to reach an ante-chamber ringed with menhirs carved with undulating, swirling patterns that cause nausea when stared at for too long. Secret doors from this chamber give access to the deeper recesses of the tomb. Wandering monsters in the barrow include mites, molds, wights and zombies. At the heart of the complex is the tomb of the vampiric chief, kept in a deep slumber in a coffin of silver in the middle of a pool of holy water.

Illustration by Jon Kaufman.

Deviant Friday – Chris Stevens Edition

Chris Stevens (Chriss2D on DeviantArt) covers the width and breadth of geekdom – from role playing games to comic books to toy lines. Trying to pick and choose from his gallery on DeviantArt was very tough, but I’ve tried to create a nice sample of his work from different sub-genres. Oh, and the two requisite pin-ups weren’t left out!

And finally …

The Eight-Headed Creeper

Folks who follow this blog might remember the vote I held to determine which PARS FORTUNA monster I would commission an illustration of from Russ Nicholson. In the end, the Eight-Headed Creeper, a monster originally created by my daughter when she was 3 or 4 years old won the day. A few days ago, I received the finished illustration …

My daughter’s version

Russ’ version

I’m very happy with it, and I have to thank Russ for his work – he was very kind.

On Western Venatia – Part Eleven

Yeah, somewhere in between all my other projects (rpg and otherwise) I’m still cranking away on Western Venatia, which will be the centerpiece of NOD #6, the free (pdf) holiday issue that will publish in December. On to the weirdness …

1414. The small farming village of Gormen rests here on the outskirts of Blackpoort’s domain. The folk of Gormen are hard-working an industrious and have a very low opinion of adventurers, merchants and the rascals that populate Blackpoort. Still, their militia consists of a mere 15 men in piecemeal armor and wielding farm implements (1d4 damage) and slings, so the regular patrols by Blackpoorts soldiers and tax collectors are hard to resist. The village is ruled by a selectman named Eblith, a heavily weathered and creased old man with bushy white eyebrows and hooked nose. Eblith is a brewer by trade, and his brews are renowned throughout this corner of Nod.

1435. The Skrink kobolds live in extensive silver mines that were abandoned by the gnomes many decades ago. The mines consist of five different levels, each level consisting of anywhere from 3 to 6 galleries and one or two shafts leading down to the next level. The kobolds number 150 warriors, 20 females and 60 young and are led by a Niknit and his 20 closest relatives, all 1 HD kobolds.

Treasure: The Skrink’s entire treasure consists of 60 gp worth of silver nuggets, each nugget being carried on a separate kobold to avoid losing the entire treasure to plunderers.

| Niknit, Thief Lvl 3: HP 13; AC 2 [17]; Save 12; CL/XP 3/60; Special: Backstab for double damage, decipher writing, thievery.

1450. A particularly dangerous sea serpent that goes by the name of Illweather dwells under the waves here in the wreck of a sleek greatship that was once the pride of Tremayne’s navy. The Golden Ark was lost many years ago after receiving an illicit cargo from a galley that originated in the port of Ophir. The cargo was a silvery sphere that, when held, glows in a swirl of turquoise and taupe and causes the hair on one’s body to stand on end. The holder of this relic of the ophidians gains the power to control wind and weather in an 9 mile radius (i.e. 3 hexes in diameter). The sea serpent has learned of this power and uses it to raise storms in the hopes of sinking an easy meal.

| Illweather, Fanged Sea Serpent: HD 8 (40 hp); AC 0 [19]; Atk 1 bite (1d10 + poison); Move 12; Save 8; CL/XP 9/1100; Special: Poison.

1537. The steaming carcass of an ogre lies here covered by maggots. There are no tracks (not even the ogres) in the immediate area, and no apparent cause of death.

1606. Several days ago a barge was tossed ashore by an errant wave (or perhaps an ill tempered water elemental). Whatever the cause, the barge’s cargo of exotic musks was spilled all over the forested shore and the crew were forced to seek shelter in the boughs of the trees from the parliament of great horned owlbears that have come to investigate the aroma. The five surviving crewmen are exhausted, hungry and completely miserable.

| Great Horned Owlbear: HD 7+1 (40, 31, 22 hp); AC 5 [14]; Atk 2 claws (1d6), bite (2d6); Move 12; Save 12; CL/XP 5/240; Special: Hug for additional 2d8 damage if to-hit roll is 18+.

1611. Some 200 feet from the shore of Blackmere Lake a crag rises from the dark waters. Atop this crag the wizard Delorian chose to build his manse. It is here that he observes the stars, records his thoughts, putters about in his laboratory and does all the other things one expects of wizards.

Delorian is one of the the most powerful mages in the Motherlands. He is capable of rending the very fabric of reality with his incantations and imposing his will on nature by dint of superior intellect; naturally, this means his tower is subject to almost weekly raids by robbers and adventurers and so is well defended by magical tricks and traps. Deep beneath the surface of Blackmere, the crag is honeycombed by caves that serve as the lair of a family of three mist dragons, allies of the wizard.

Visitors can reach the castle by a small dingy tied to a post on the shore. Upon reaching the crag, one must climb a ladder that leads to a small antechamber. At this point the image of the wizard appears before them, questions them and does his best to discern their true motives. If they do not seem to be a threat, he invites them in (the doors are wizard locked). If they do present a threat, all of the items in the antechamber animate and attack, including a richly woven rug, three tapestries, a chest-of-drawers and two suits of armor.

Groups that try alternate means of entry are attacked by a flock of twelve gargoyles. Delorian monitors all such battles and summons the mist dragons if the gargoyles seem to be outmatched. If necessary, he involves himself in the combat.

Within the confines of his modest home there is a small kitchen, a plush living room, a library closet with a secret door to a laboratory and observatory, and several guest chambers tended by automatons of polished steel with owl faces and sepia tunics bearing the three-handed glyph of Delorian.

Delorian is a very lawful man, though he is no prude or stick in the mud. He barely tolerates the presence of the “city of thieves” so close to his tower, and has thought seriously about moving it.

Treasure: Delorian’s treasure is kept in a sealed vault located 20 feet below his home. It can only be reached via teleportation and contains several beams that increase the liklihood of materializing within solid stone. The treasure is 11,700 gp and a bronze statue of a portly woman wearing a viking helmet worth 115 gp. Delorian’s grand grimoire contains the following high level spells: Contact Other Plane, Extension II, Teleport, Wall of Stone, Control Weather, Disintegrate, Legend Lore, Limited Wish & Phase Door.

| Delorian, Magic-User Lvl 15: HP 30; AC 4 [15]; Save 5; CL/XP 18/3800; Special: Spells (7th). White robe, staff of wizardry, ornate titanium dagger, three silver darts, potion of healing, bracers of AC 4 [15].

| Small Animated Object: HD 1; AC 5 [14]; Atk 1 slam (1d4); Move 15; Save 17; CL/XP 1/15.

| Medium Animated Object: HD 2; AC 5 [14]; Atk 1 slam (1d6); Move 12; Save 16; CL/XP 2/30.

| Large Animated Object: HD 4; AC 5 [14]; Atk 1 slam (1d8); Move 9; Save 13; CL/XP 4/120.

| Gargoyles: HD 4; AC 5 [14]; Atk 2 claws (1d3), bite (1d4), horn (1d6); Move 9 (Fly 15); Save 13; CL/XP 6/400; Special: Fly.

| Mist Dragon: HD 10 (40 hp); AC 0 [19]; Atk 2 claws (1d6) and 1 bite (4d6); Move 9 (Fly 30); Save 5; CL/XP 17/3500; Special: Gaseous form, breath weapon, spells.

Election Day!

Today is Election Day in the Land of Nod – in particular, the deadline for Golden Age patrons of the Mystery Men! project to get their votes in for which heroes are to be illustrated for the game. To pique interest in this monumental election, I present the current front runners …

Captain Triumph
Black Fury
Magic Agent
Miss Victory
Phantom Lady

If you’re a Golden Age patron and you haven’t voted yet, get to it – especially if your favorite isn’t on that list above! At midnight (Pacific time) the polls will close and I’ll send the official commission to Joel Carroll.