Mystery Men! Preview

Where does Mystery Men! stand, you ask? At this point, I’m about 80% of the way to having a completed project – remember, it will be a free PDF and as cheap a book as I can manage, I’m thinking in the $8 range. I’m finishing up writing the setting material – about 75% of the way there – and then I need to write up the sample adventure, finish some of the formatting, work on at least one appendix (quick thumbnail heroes/villains for the harried Mastermind) and then the credits and dedications pages. My main focus right now is NOD 8 – I’m about a week to 10 days away from putting it to bed. After MM!, my focus goes to NOD 9/10 and another hexcrawl for the Frog God – this one dealing with a kingdom in the grips of a civil war between two princes and a princess – bandits, refugees, unquiet dead, war demons roaming the earth, dog and cats living together – mass hysteria.

Anyhow – here’s a little preview of what Mystery Men! is going to look like – specifically, Chapter 2. The PDF will be in color, the print book in black and white (though if there was interest, I could look into doing a more expensive color version – to the tune of about $25 according to my calculations on Lulu).

Hope you enjoyed the preview – now back to work.

Mu-Pan – Encounter XXIV

Well, just one more sample after this – 10 more encounters to write and then lots of work on finishing up NOD 8.

3634. A band of wild men with bushy hair and the legs and horns of goats dwells in these wooded hills, harrassing travelers. The men collect ribbons or the hems of robes and tie them in their hair. The folk have a thorough knowledge of the area and, if given gifts of saki and ribbons, are happy to become guides (though their mercurial personalities keep them dangerous). At least twelve of them can summon a great earth tortoise whose shell, composed of hexagonal slabs of granite marked with runes, measures approximately 30 feet in diameter. The tortoise can swim through earth and stone, with passengers crawling down its tunnel of a throat into its gem encrusted belly. Should anyone be foolish enough to try to steal a gem, the tortoise will never allow them to leave, coughing up their shriveled corpses a few years after they have died.

| Wild Man: HD 6; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 slam (1d4) or cudgel (1d6); Move 9; Save 11; CL/XP 8/800; Special: Summon earth tortoise, spells (confusion 1/day, transform 1/day), magic resistance (30%).

| Earth Tortoise: HD 12; AC 0 [19]; Atk 2 claws (2d6), bite (4d6); Move 9 (S12); Save 3; CL/XP 12/2000; Special: Immune to sleep and paralysis.

Mu-Pan – Encounter XXIII

Mu-Pan is proceeding nicely – about thirty more encounters to write up. I got some great material from the Weird Asia post, and Theodoric the Obscure, JD Jarvis and the wondrous Mr. Huth definitely have a free PDF coming their way.

The image in the corner is the cover of the next issue of NOD – coming soon. Now, a quick encounter and then back to work.

3018. The wooded hills here hide a coal mine worked by a gang of slave labor – convicted felons – under the tender mercies of a half-ogre called Suke. Suke is especially savage-looking for his breed, and he paints red radiations on his face to make himself look more fierce. He is assisted in his duties by five shashu no ashigaru.

The slaves of the mine are fifty men, ashen skinned and bleary eyed. They look like living dead, dragging leather sacks full of coal to ox-drawn carts or chipping away at the walls of the mine with picks, slim amber-colored lanterns hanging from their iron slave collars. In the evening, one can find them lying on the ground outside the mine, coughing and wheezing, praying for death but lacking the strength to even pretend to escape.

Of late, the place has attracted a gang of seven fire mephits. The mephits have made the mines too dangerous to work, enraging Suke. The mephits “arrived” when a bronze mask was uncovered embedded in a wall of the mine. The mask depicts a demonic face with a pointed chin and two pointed horns, and gives one complete immunity to fire as well as the ability to polymorph into a fire elemental once per month for a total of one hour.

| Fire Mephit: HD 3; AC 3 [16]; Atk 2 claws (1d6); Move 12 (F21); Save 14; CL/XP 5/240; Special: Immunity to fire, +1 or better weapon to hit, regenerate 2 hp/round when touching flame, double damage from cold, breath fire 1/day (3d6 damage, 15-ft cone).

| Suke, Half-Ogre Bujin Lvl 4: HP 4d6+1; AC 4 [15]; Save 13 (12 vs death, 9 vs. poison & disease); CL/XP 4/120; Special: Follow through, ogre’s ferociousness, open door on 1-4 on 1d6. Do-maru, suneate, kote, jingasa, tetsubo (1d6+2).

Mu-Pan – Encounter XXII

Back from the Magic Kingdom. Much work to catch up on, but the weather was beautiful, the park not too crowded and the Candy Cane Inn (yes, I say it with pride) was excellent as usual. Two encounters today – a bit of a fight brewing between them.

2842. The deforested hills around a sprawling castle of cream-colored stone are alive with the activity of two companies of shashu no ashigaru, three companies of yari ashigaru and a squadron of samurai in training. Further afield there are meadows of grazing sheep and fields of pulses and barley worked by busy, nervous farmers. The villagers dwell in simple huts located about half a mile from the castle. The village boasts a small tavern run by Myshulai, a raven-haired beauty with a wicked jaw and purple burn scar decorating the right side of her face. A former paramour of the lord, she is the only person known to have defied him and survived, though none know the details of their romance or parting.

The lord of the castle is Chinegan, a thin, malevolent sprite of a man with a long mustache and thinning hair pasted over a spotted scalp. Chinegan always appears swathed in silks, a poisoned dagger grasped in one hand and hidden in a long sleeve. Chinegan covets 2942 more highly than the lives of his wives and daughters, and has long been preparing his forces for an assault. His little army has been funded by a fabulous mine of peach-colored agates discovered many summers ago underneath the castle behind a dungeon wall. Dozens of peasants now labor in the dark, day and night, digging out the stones.

When not plotting the destruction of his neighbors, Chinegan amuses himself hunting outlaws in the woods surrounding his castle using a pack of three shocker lizards. The lizards are wrangled by Anq, a half-ogre who raised them from the egg and keeps them under control with nothing but his commanding voice and a series of hand movements.

Chinegan owns a treasure of 1,630 sp, 1,645 gp, a terracottage aquamanile (painted with a code that means nothing) worth 1 gp, a lapis lazuli water buffalo worth 50 gp, an amber vase worth 70 gp, a sack of agates worth 115 gp, a granite statuette of a five legged gryph worth 80 gp and twenty pounds of red (iron) dye worth 5 sp per pound, and meant for the manufacture of battle flags.

| Shocker Lizards (3): HD 1-1 hp; AC 6 [13]; Atk 1 bite (1d3); Move 6; Save 18; CL/XP 2/30; Special: Electric shock.

| Anq, Half-Ogre Bujin Lvl 6: 34 [45]; AC 4 [15]; Save 11 (10 vs death, 7 vs. poison & disease); CL/XP 6/400; Special: Follow through, ogre’s ferociousness, open door on 1-4 on 1d6. Hara-ate, jingasa, kote, suneate, tetsubo (1d6+1).

| Chinegan, Bujin Lvl 10: HP 36 [55]; AC 3 [16]; Save 7 (6 vs death & poison); CL/XP 10/1400; Special: Follow through, parry death blow. Do-maru, kote, suneate, kabuto, katana, wakizashi, tanto, daikyu, 10 arrows.

MON: Red field, white gryph

2942. The gaijin warlord known as the Lord of the Granite Chrysanthemum dwells here in an unyielding safehold (the aforementioned Granite Chrysanthemum). The Granite Chrysanthemum is a castle of concentric rings protected by tall towers that encircle an inner keep. The structure is constructed on the Motherlander model and is ruled by a dwarf warlord called Inthor, a former servant of the Tiger Empress who now rules as a freelord in brazen defiance of the Jade Empress and her court. The castle is constructed of yellowish stone with roofs of red tile and ample stonecarving, as is the wont of dwarves.

Within the inner court of the castle, surrounding the keep, there is a grove of gingko-biloba trees. The gingko is harvested by Inthor’s harem of maidens – all the eldest daughters of foes he has vanquished placed in Inthor’s protective custody to insure the loyalty and good will of their fathers. Despite their imprisonment, the maidens are treated well. The gingko’s essence is extracted by a half-mad wise woman called Gombe. Her elixirs are much sought after by shugenja, for whom they have a 1 in 6 chance of acting as a potion of mnemonic enhancement.

Inthor commands three companies of dwarf warriors armed with teppo or chu-ko-nu and masakiri. They wear Motherlander-style mail and carry shields, as does their lord.
Inthor rules over a tribe of cavemen who dwell in leather tents on the wooded grasslands surrounding the keep. The holding is rich in copper and malachite, and the cavemen are employed as able miners.

| Inthor: HP 31 [57]; AC 1 [18]; Save 4 (2 vs. magic); CL/XP 12/2000; Special: Note stonework. Platemail, shield, battle axe, dagger.

Weird Asia Contest

To be precise China, Korea and Japan. What’s the weirdest factoid about these geographies or cultures that you would like to see represented in Mu-Pan? I’m looking for the obscure here – something I probably haven’t already stumbled upon myself.

Submitters of my favorite three get a free PDF of NOD 8 and credit in the text.

Image from Alcatena’s blog

Seriously, if there was one artist I could impress into lifelong service on illustrating the Land of Nod, it’s him. Astounding creativity and attention to cultural quirks and details, all blended seamlessly into a unified style. Love it. I’ll stop raving now.

Monsters of Mu-Pan III

Taking a day trip to a date farm today, and next week I’m spending a couple days at Disneyland, so posting will probably be light. Getting closer to being finished with NOD 8 and Mystery Men! – excited about that. Hopefully some glimpses at the finished pages of Mystery Men! soon.

Gyuki – Ox-Ogre (Japanese)
Hit Dice: 8
Armor Class: 1 [18]
Attack: Gore (1d8), 2 pincers (1d8)
Saving Throw: 8
Special: Magic immunity, resistance to damage (10%)
Move: 12
Alignment: Neutrality
Challenge Level/XP: 9/1100

Ox ogres appear as massive crabs with the heads of oxen and the tusks of elephants. They dwell in coastal waters and only emerge to hunt.

Kasha (Japanese)
Hit Dice: 5
Armor Class: 3 [16]
Attack: 2 claws (1d4), bite (1d4)
Saving Throw: 12
Special: +1 or better weapon to hit, magic resistance (20%), stun, surprise on a roll of 1-2 on 1d6
Move: 15
Alignment: Chaos
Challenge Level/XP: 9/1100

Kasha are cat demons that prowl the fringes of civilization in search of funeral processions. When they find one, they leap from the underbrush and sieze the corpse, dragging it into the forest to devour it. The ferocity of the attack is such that, provided the kasha achieves surprise, all in attendance must succeed at a saving throw or be stunned and unable to act for 3 rounds. The kasha is exceptionally difficult to track. Kasha make their lairs in burrows beneath dead pine trees. They decorate their lairs with the jewelry and funeral shrouds of their meals. The soul of a devoured corpse cannot enter the afterlife and thus wanders the woods in which the kasha makes its home as a ghost until the kasha is destroyed.

Ninja (Japanese)
Hit Dice: 2
Armor Class: 4 [15]
Attack: Strike (1d4) or Weapon (1d6)
Saving Throw: 16
Special: Death attack, stun, spells
Move: 15
Alignment: Neutrality
Challenge Level/XP: 6/400

Ninjas are humans that have trained themselves in the arts of stealth, assassination and illusion. When encountered on the job they wear black clothing, hoods and masks. Ninjas have all the abilities of assassins, including the assassins’ death attack, the ability to make a stunning attack as a monk and the ability to cast phantasmal force and ventriloquism.

Ninjas are armed with shuriken and wakizashi. They might also carry hankyu. Ninjas also carry a collection of powders that they can blow into their enemy’s faces. These powders can be used to blind an opponent, cause itching and sneezing (-2 to AC and to hit) or sleep (as the spell) unless a saving throw is made.

Groups of four or more ninjas are led by a 3 HD genin. If a clan is encountered, there is one genin per 10 ninjas. The clan is led by an 5 HD jonin with the ability to cast invisibility and obscuring mist. He is assisted by a 4 HD chunin with the ability to cast obscuring mist. Both jonin and chunin are capable of flipping out once per day, gaining a +2 bonus to hit and damage.

Shamshir
Hit Dice: 3
Armor Class: 4 [15]
Attack: 4 weapons (1d6) or bite (1d3 plus poison)
Saving Throw: 14
Special: Poison
Move: 15/12 (climbing)
Alignment: Neutrality
Challenge Level/XP: 5/240

The shamshir are a strange humanoid people who combine mammalian and reptilian characteristics. They have four arms and pale scales speckled with electric blue and long hair that ranges from white to gray to aquamarine. Shamshir have humanoid faces with poison sacs in their checks.

Shamshir can replace one weapon attack with a poisonous bite that deals 1d3 damage plus an additional 1d6 damage if the victim fails a saving throw. Because they are so quick, they rarely wear armor. They arm themselves with longbows and katana.

Shamshir tribes are ruled by princes called shatyas. Shatyas usually have 4 to 8 levels in bujin. Shatyas are guarded by level 2 to 4 bodyguards.

Common Names: Aehvel, Aisfimies, Alshsis, Bishl, Bisihism, Clihih, Csisei, Dieshm, Flivsi, Gesisi, Gilih, Hilxishessi, Ilxeh, Ji-Ahh, Kisssi, Melesiees, Ofesh, Oszissie, Qeehvis, Rielesi, Rissi, Sphisei

Image of shamshir by Jason Sholtis of Underworld Ink. I cannot recommend him highly enough!

Mu-Pan – Encounter XXI

2532. As one passes through this woodland of pines and pale blue rhododendrons, they might (1 in 12 chance) be accosted by a sort of clown – a short, slight man wearing a frightful blue mask and brightly colored silks and going barefoot. The clown appears about 20 yards ahead of the adventurers, performs a series of comical acrobatics and motions them to follow him.

The clown leads the adventurers to a secret grove of tall, black pines. Black moss covers the ground and the boughs of the trees are thick with spider webs. Sitting on the ground in the grove is a porcelain bottle decorated with black moths. The bottle contains a powerful narcotic, that, when imbibed, causes one to fall instantly and deeply asleep. As a person falls into unconsciousness, they also fall through the mossy ground, which becomes spongy, then more and more insubstantial until it can no longer hold the sleeper’s weight.

The sleeper passes through the ground for about 100 yards, finally emerging in an etheric chamber of mists and half-heard whispers. This chamber leads into the lair of a coven of nine witches (shugenjas, level 1d4+1) loyal to the Yozi. Like the grove above, it is lousy with spider swarms and giant spiders, as well as a tribe of twenty-five blue faced bugbears (HD 3+1) with long, golden brown fur that lightens to silvery white at the tips. The leader of the witches is Gatachru, a creature that appears to be female from the waist up and spider below. She has skin the complexion of black currants and eyes that shine like sapphires. On Gatachru’s head is an ivory crown set with two large emeralds, one containing the trapped soul of a holy bujin, the other that of a sohei.

The chambers of the bugbears and Yozi cult connect to the wider underworld of demons, devils and the unquiet dead.

| Gatachru: HD 6; AC 2 [17]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6) and bite (1d4 plus poison); Move 12 (C9); Save 11; CL/XP 10/1400; Special: Poison, magic resistance (40%), casts spells as a 6th level sohei and 6th level shugenja, surprise on roll of 1-3 on 1d6.

Deviant Friday – Grant Gould Edition

Grantgoboom is your one stop shop for geek nostalgia, as well as items for the modern geek. Though mostly movie tie-in material, he also has a neat project called “The Wolves of Odin”. Check it out!

Think, if you will, about how you can put more Twain into your fantasy or sci-fi gaming. Thanks! And speaking of Mark Twain, I’ll be riding on his namesake around the River of America in a few days – yay Disneyland!

Yes, the first reveal was pretty cool back in the day. And no, the FX didn’t look any better then that now, but who cared – FX are not the point of sci-fi and fantasy. Someone please give that memo to Lucas and Spielberg, who seem to have forgotten.

Yeah, I’m pandering with this one. Sue me.

Perhaps the best translation of comic book to movie ever. Great casting as well.

Probably as close as Saturday morning cartoons ever got to Cthulhu (except for the Real Ghostbusters episode that actually had Cthulhu and probably a dozen other things I’ve forgotten or never heard of …)

And, after a terribly long absence from Deviant Friday ..