The Glooms – Dungeons and Mines

7.91 Adalark’s Tomb: A tall cenotaph of black marble stands 20 feet tall here. On the top there is a sculpture of a giant serpent, mouth open and fangs bared.

The serpent is the entrance to a small tomb complex located about forty feet below the ground. One cannot fit in the serpent’s mouth, of course, but by reaching deep into its mouth (unfortunately impossible for halflings or gnomes) and touching a stone lodged therein, a person is teleported beneath the ground.

[A] The entry chamber into the tomb is a square room with black marble walls and a 30 foot high ceiling. Against one wall there is a copper plaque bearing the following inscription: “Adalark | Called Great | Was Great | He cannot blame lesser thieves for following in his steps.”

There is a terracotta statue here of a weeping woman looking at the plaque, on hand reaching toward it. Approaching any of the walls in the room causes a sub-section (10’ wide by 10’ tall) of that wall to move backward – apparently one cannot step closer than five feet toward a wall. The walls extend back ten feet, at which point a metal portcullis descends from the ceiling, locking them in. The walls then slowly begin to crawl back to their original position to crush the intruder. The section of the wall with the plaque does the same as the others.

If all four walls are forced back at the same time, the wall with the plaque disappears completely and reveals a second chamber, and the other three traps do not spring.

[B] The trapped chamber opens here onto a balcony overlooking a square room about 10 feet below. In the room below there is gathered the treasure of Adalark the master thief, which consists of three gold ingots (3 lb each), a brass icon of a winged woman (worth 1,000 gp), a cape of deep red velvet (100 gp), six silver shields (250 gp each), thirty pairs of chartreuse gloves (they were Adalark’s trademark), a suit of halfling-sized platemail and 8,000 gp. The interior of the platemail is coated with platinum (2,000 gp worth).

Extending from the balcony there is a wall of force that does not allow one access to the treasures below. The treasure chamber is actually an optical trick called “Pepper’s Ghost”. The treasure is actually located in a room beneath the balcony. A large pane of glass slanted across the open area reflects the treasure, which is illuminated from below using a continual light spell. The most likely way of dropping into the treasure chamber is to use dispel magic to remove the wall of force. Any who then drop into the chamber without being very careful may drop through the glass into a pool of acid below (inflicts 3d6 points of damage from the fall and 1d6 points of damage each round from the acid).

14.87 Boring Wreck: A large earth borer made of steel with brass highlights has been abandoned here by the Master’s synthoids after the drill bit broke. The Master was already on to other projects and never reclaimed it. Eight were-weasels have now adopted it as a lair, and keep 60 cp, 170 gp, fifteen wolf skins (worth 8 gp each) and a small pearl worth 3 gp hidden inside.

20.92 Iromir Mine: Iromir is a natural alloy of iron and mithral. A very deep mine here, run by kobolds (who took it from a clan of svirfneblin), produced a good amount of the material, which the drow favor for their weapons and armor when they cannot find pure mithral. The shipments recently stopped. When a band of orog from the village in [32.98] appeared to investigate, they discovered the mine (it has seven levels) crawling with kobold zombies. There are now fifty orogs camped outside the mine and making some shallow forays into the place.

Image is copyright Wizards of the Coast.

Sunday Grab Bag

From the Mystery Men-Approved Vehicles Department

From the Bashful Blue-Eyed Ever-Lovin’ Thing’s Mom Department

From the Fab Four Department

If you don’t dig Hard Day’s Night, I’m not sure we can be more than friendly acquaintances.

From the Robots Have a Hard Life Department

From the “It’s Called a Hobble Skirt” Department

Useful information for fans of Morticia Addams

From the “It Ain’t Just Good to be a Gangsta” Department

From the Red Sonja Department

An image so awesome, I’m afraid I don’t even remember where I found it. Wherever it was, thank you!

Too Many Ideas …

Queen & Kaiser

Role playing in the late colonial period. Semi-Victorian gaming – gentleman of fortune, soldiers, daredevils, naturalists, native scouts, jungle guys and gals, etc. – but the game incorporates the competition between the Great Powers, such that the victories and defeats of the PC’s translate into victories and defeats by their patron power. You’d have to incorporate competitions of manners, honor, exploration, etc. Inspired as more by the satirical cartoons of the period and adventure fiction than realty. Maybe add some steampunk and occult rules for folks who want that, but otherwise keep it plausible rather than fantastic.

Image from wikipedia.

Notable Nobles – Part the Fifth

For the sample nobles today, we go into the elven wood.

Anwenod the Rebel Earl of Arddus
Anwenod is a raven-haired elf earl who dwells on the fringe of the kingdom and near the border marches of the humans. Grey of eye and lean of build, he is a masterful swordsman with a deep interest in the politics of both elves and men. He is currently attempting to woo the daughter of a human baron as a hedge against perceived enemies in the royal court. Anwenod’s retinue consists of his champion, Keryd (elf ftr 3/m-u 2), four elf warriors, two elf sergeants and Cedric, son of the human Baron Donal, who is a visiting dignitary attempting to secure the marriage of his sister Yulisa to the Rebel Earl.

ANWENOD: HD 9 (48 hp); AC 2 [17]; Atk 1 longsword or longbow (1d8); Move 9 (12 out of armor); Save 5; CL/XP 9/1100; Special: Double normal number of followers, cast darkness once per day.

Kaith the Quick, Duchess of Beor
Kaith is a tall elf woman (5’9”, very tall for an elf) with ebony skin and a sharp jaw line. Her hair is short, curly and as black as pitch and her eyes emerald green and radiant. Kaith is a cynical woman, bored with the tedium of life inside the great elfwood. The high queen is her cousin and a tepid rival. Kaith’s retinue includes three scribes, three elf warriors, the harpist Lhart (bard 3) and the human rake Lardre, whose devious antics and disruptive presence help relieve the duchess’ melancholy.

KAITH: HD 5 (29 hp); AC 2 [17]; Atk 1 weapon (1d8); Move 9 (12 out of armor); Save 12; CL/XP 5/240; Special: Double normal number of followers, treasure as CL 15, +1 to initiative rolls.

Morgannet the Renowned, the Spider, the High Queen of Elves
Morgannet is the high queen of the elfwood, a gentle woman with nut-brown skin, gray-green eyes and golden brown hair that falls down to her ankles. She is fine-boned, but with flashing, lively eyes and a vivacious, cherubic face. Despite her childlike appearance, Morgannet is an expert politician. Her spies, the elven thieves (level 3 and 4) Blathet and Dumnann are frequent visitors to every court in the land, and little escapes their notice. Her retinue includes three maids-in-waiting (lesser nobles), seven scribes (for the elves believe that every utterance of their queen is prophetic and must be recorded), four elf longbowmen and their sergeant, Pathogius, a human found as a waif and reared by the elves.

MORGANNET: HD 2 (10 hp); AC 2 [17]; Atk 1 weapon (1d8); Move 9 (12 out of armor); Save 16; CL/XP 2/60; Special: Triple normal number of followers, treasure as CL 20, Charisma 14, Wisdom 13.

Illustration by Arthur Rackham. Found HERE.

Choosing the Bloody Cover

Last night, the child and I started looking at potential covers for Blood and Treasure. I’ve been chipping away at it in between writing the Hell hex crawl, finishing HCC 6 and putting the finishing touches on Space Princess, and I’ve so far finished about 90% of the chapter on characters* (still need to work on strongholds, domains and mass combat), have the basic adventure rules finished (skill checks, combat, dangers, movement/time, etc.) and have spells and monsters from A-C written up. So far, so good.

On to the cover mock-ups …

First image I looked at is one people have seen in my adverts on the back of issues of NOD. I originally found it at Golden Age Comic Book Stories. I like the overall look and feel – descending into the unknown – and it remains a strong contender.

Looking at some other images from GACBS, I found this one which fits the “treasure” theme nicely, but frankly makes the game look like it’s about pirates.

Side Note: I have to write a game about pirates now, because this illustration would rock as a book cover. I’ll put it in the queue after Action X.

J.C. Leyendecker is one of my favorite illustrators. This illustration of Cuchulain is gorgeous. Very heroic – but is heroic the vibe I want for Blood and Treasure? The interior character art I’ve commissioned is meant to look like adventurers who are banged up, dirty and scarred. Nice, but I’m not sure it’s quite right.

The last image was initially just for fun – I didn’t expect I would like it. It is a medieval painting of a cleric being beaten up by demons. No – not the one I just used for NOD 11, but probably depicting the same scene. After I dropped it in, though, I did like it, very much. Even looks like there is a goblin and gnoll in the background.

In the final analysis, for me, it’s between the first cover and the last. Unless I find something else, of course. What are your thoughts, gentle reader?

* Races are going to be the traditional human, dwarf, elf, gnome, halfling, half-elf and half-orc. Classes are going to be all the classes in the SRD (barbarian, bard, cleric, druid, fighter, magic-user, monk, paladin, ranger, sorcerer and thief) plus two of the prestige classes turned into full classes, the assassin and duelist. I think that covers things pretty well.

The Star Warrior

My conception of Space Princess is as a very focused, rules-lite, beer & pretzels game that you and a few friends can break out one day and play without too much prep. For all intents and purposes, it is about dungeon crawls with a pulp sci-fi motif inspired by the original game. I wanted to make a very simple, focused set of rules that worked, and allow others to add on to those rules if they wanted to expand the game into different realms.

With that in mind, and as a way to show the simplicity in the rules, I present the Star Warrior class for the game, along with a sample illustration by Jason Sholtis.

Star warriors are the rocket-powered heroes of the game, leaping to the fore when things turn ugly. The star warrior is usually a soldier or professional adventurer with marginally more ethics than the scoundrel. They are not as skilled as the scoundrel and scientist and do not have the powers of the psychic, but nobody is more valuable in a fight than a star warrior.

HIT DICE: Star warriors roll 1d10 for hit points.

REQUIREMENT: Strength and Dexterity of 4 or higher.

SKILLS: Star warriors may choose one of the following skills as a skill to which they can add their skill bonus during a test: Avoid Notice (Dexterity), Leap & Swing (Strength), Pilot Ship (Mentality) or Swim (Strength).

STARTING GEAR: Ray gun and hand weapon.

Hit Dice in this game determine one’s attack bonus, much as monster Hit Dice determine attack bonus in other old school games. They also determine hit points and are the basis for one’s DEFENSE (i.e. AC).
The ability scores in Space Princess are really just the ability bonuses, which run from 0 to 8. To roll abilities, you still start with 3d6, so we get the bell curve, and then translate those into the ability scores. An ability score of “4” in Space Princess corresponds to an ability score of “9-12” in most old school games. The game uses four abilities – Strength, Dexterity, Mentality and Knowledge.
The skills work off of the skill bonuses in the chart. If your character has a skill (scientists and scoundrels have more skills than the star warrior and psychic) and is attempting a test, they add the skill bonus to the attempt. Otherwise, they add nothing. Tests are also modified by one’s ability score.
Example: Athena Laserwolf, a veteran, is attempting to out-pilot some space pirates. She has chosen “Pilot Ship” as her skill, and thus adds her skill bonus (6) to her Mentality score (we’ll say it is 5) to get her total Pilot Rating of 11. The space pirate pilot has a total Pilot Rating of 9. Comparing the two ratings, we see that Athena Laserwolf will get a +2 bonus to her roll to keep her distance from the space pirates. She will then roll 1d20, add 2, and try to roll a 10 or higher.
Combat works the same way, except you figure out your combat rating by adding your Hit Dice to either Strength (for melee attacks) or Dexterity (for missile attacks) and compare it to your opponent’s Defense (HD + Dex + Armor). Compare the two to determine the bonus or penalty, roll the dice and try to get a “10” or higher to hit.

Starting gear seems pretty light, but consider the source material – old movies. Once a group is in a space fortress prowling around, they can pick up additional gear and find (or build) pieces of super science (i.e. the sci-fi version of magic items). Naturally, the Referee can provide additional bits of equipment if he or she likes.

Luck points balance the different levels, allowing games that include both old veterans of clone wars and eager young space cadets. A luck point can be spent for an automatic success on a roll – any roll. At character creation, aliens can spend a luck point to gain a new special ability, and any character can spend a luck point to gain a super science item.

So, creating a character means rolling four ability scores, picking a species, class and level, rolling hit points, calculating a few basic ratings (so you don’t have to do it later) and writing down your starting gear. Theoretically, a group can be ready to delve into a space fortress and rescue a space princess in about 10 minutes.

Hell South – Preview 2

“Hell South” sounds weird. Anywho …

4.68 Kobolds in Distress: A band of 15 kobolds have been trapped on a ledge about 30 feet above the ground. They are armed with javelins and clubs, and especially worried about the cave located about 10 feet above their ledge, where a lone howler dwells. Below the ledge there are four chaos beasts that escaped the Master.

HOWLER: HD 6; AC 2 [17]; Atk 1 bite (2d8) and 1d4 quills (1d6); Move 18; Save 11; CL/XP 8/800; Special: Quills (save or quill breaks in flesh, imposing -1 penalty to d20 rolls, removing deals 1d6 damage), howl (those who hear for one hour must save or become confused (per spell).

CHAOS BEAST: HD 8; AC 3 [16]; Atk 2 claws (1d4); Move 9; Save 8; CL/XP 10/1400; Special: Magic resistance (20%), corporeal instability (save or become amorphous mass and lose one point of wisdom per round; at 0 wisdom the victim turns into a chaos beast).

5.69 Goons: A tribe of 370 goons and their 60 females and 40 children dwell here in an ornate, garish palace of stone set with ornamental stones. The carvings depict cavorting demons, hunting beasts and scenes of terrible melancholy. The palace contains barracks and living chambers, fungal gardens, cruel prisons and kennels for the goons’ 30 champion hunting dogs. The palace is laid out in rings separated by fungal gardens crawling with shriekers who double as guard animals.

The goons are ruled by Vodic, a brutal priest of Cali, the demon queen of assassins. Vodic dwells at the center of the palace in a shrine of Cali. The ring just beyond the shrine is inhabited by 30 louts. The shrine contains a bronze idol of Cali and three iron chests hanging from thick, iron chains attached to the ceiling. The idol holds aloft in one hand a compass carved from a single large sapphire (worth 4,000 gp). The compass has a permanent find the path effect cast on it, activated by holding upright on one’s palm and blowing on it.

GOON: HD 1+1; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 weapon (1d8+1); Move 12; Save 17 (12 vs. hold spells); CL/XP 4/120; Special: Crown (if knocked from his head, he either slinks away in embarrassment or flies into a rage, gaining +2 bonus to hit and damage until reduced to -5 hit points), magic immunity (immune to mind-affecting spells).

6.102 Dusty Halls: There is a small castle here, abandoned ages ago while under siege by the wizard Porin Bloody Bones. Porin devised a wondrous spell that sealed the castle – a powerful variation on the venerable hold portal enchantment. In time, the garrison succumbed to hunger and cannibalism and eventually wiped themselves out. Unfortunately, the wizard didn’t last long enough to enjoy his victory, having succumbed to the venom of a serpent that crawled into his tent one night. The castle has been sealed ever since, and is now inhabited by twenty ravenous zombies. Within these dusty hallways one might discover the great hall with its magnificent opal-studded throne (ten opals worth 250 gp each).

The castle’s treasure is hidden in a room within a room. The walls of the outer room are studded with spikes. When the inner door is tampered with, it opens with a powerful gust of wind. Anyone in front of the door must pass a saving throw or be flung back on the spikes for 1d6 points of damage. If the damage rolled is “6”, the spiked walls of the circular chamber begin to spin, first at a rate of 10 feet per round. The speed increases by 10 feet per round until it reaches a maximum speed of 90 feet per round. Once the speed reaches 30 feet per round, anyone still on the spikes begins to suffer 1d6 points of damage per round.

Within the treasure chamber there are 5,650 sp, 2,310 ep, 1,060 gp, a tiny pair of gold dice (30 gp), a small book of dirty kobold limericks with a gray-brown cover (by reading the first word of each page you discover a wish spell that works one time) and a +1 broadsword.

CANNIBAL ZOMBIE: HD 4; AC 8 [11]; Atk 2 claws (1d4) and bite (1d6); Move 9; Save 13; CL/XP 4/120; Special: Immune to sleep and charm.

Image from WIKIPEDIA

Another Hex Crawl Done!

Finally put the finishing touches on Hex Crawl Chronicle #6 – The Troll Hills

Here’s a little preview …


There was a time when crystal domes dotted the landscape of the Troll Hills and sky sleds cut through the air like ships through the waves. That was long ago. The ancient, golden-skinned men, they say, built their domes too near the great lake from which all life sprang, and so the lake spawned the trolls and more fearsome creatures to punish the ancient men. Whatever the truth is, the ancient men were laid low, the cities crumbled, the survivors turned out into the wilderness and the hills were left to the trolls.

The Troll Hills are mostly gentle, rolling hills covered with green grass and dotted by woodlands of oak and hickory. They are bordered to the south by the Devil Peaks, jagged mountains that are home to the devilkins. To the north there is the Zarko Mountains, with valleys of pines where dwell dwarves in colorful coats who make rare distillations. The hills drain into the Sapphire River and Great River, which connects the Valley of the Hawks to Crescentium, the city-state of the witchmen to the south.

The Great River has proven a great boon to trade, but now the petty trolls have occupied the ancient fortress on Little Rock [3311] and shut down that trade, cutting Crescentium off from its markets in the north. Perhaps the adventurers might sally forth from north or south to open the river. Or maybe they’ll ignore the wars of the trolls and witchmen and instead delve into the wilderness in search of the secrets behind the weird blue ruins of the ancient men.

Hags and Trolls
Among the more pernicious and dangerous creatures in the Troll Hills are the trolls and their hag mothers. Most trolls are born from hag mothers and human or demi-human fathers. Under a full moon, hags are capable of appearing to males as nymphs in order to seduce them. Like some spiders, the hags usually eat male after they have mated. About one out of twenty troll births is a female that can breed true with other trolls. Trolls born from hags usually nurse from their mother for about two weeks, at which time they are about four feet tall and capable of catching their own food. The hag then drives the troll from its lair. Trolls return to their mothers from time to time to pay tribute.

Hags have an equally bizarre life cycle. A hag is an elven women that has reached their allotted 1,000 years of life as an elf. At this point, lawful elves wander into the woods and become nymphs. Neutral elves find a nice oak tree and turn into dryads. Chaotic elves crawl into a damp burrow or fallen log and cover themselves with mud and leaves. After one month, the elf emerges as a hag.

The three hags who gave issue to the petty trolls have recently come together to form a covey and spread their dominion over the Troll Hills and maybe beyond. These hags, Peggy Blackteeth, Mollie Longshanks and Fat Anya, because they have formed a covey, can now cast the following spells three times per day each: Animate dead, control weather and phantasmal force.

Notable Nobles – Part the Fourth

Just to show that these nicknames are good for more than pseudo-European nobility, I offer three pseudo-Arabic nobles (and yeah, I like ’em so much I’m going to use them in NOD eventually).

Mansour the Lion, Bey of Rumm
Mansour the Lion is a handsome man, aging and rugged, who commands a fortress where the desert sands meet the savannah. Caravans of traders and pilgrims move through his land, making him wealthy, and his many wars against the nomads have made him famous throughout the kingdom. He looks upon the Sultana Azzah with hopeful eyes, but her heart lies elsewhere. Mansour’s retinue includes the half-ogre fighter Isaam (F5) and his comrade, the sly Ziyad (F1), four men-at-arms and two scribes.

MANSOUR: HD 9 (45 hp); AC 2 [17]; Atk 2 scimitar (1d8); Move 9 (12 out of armor); Save 5; CL/XP 9/1100; Special: Double normal number of followers.

Shafeeq the Landless, exiled Amir of Pazazabad
Shafeeq the Landless is a the son of Bishr, the former Amir of Pazazabad. That wondrous city-state was overrun by goblins not three years ago, and the young man has wandered ever since with his retinue, seeking support for a reconquest of his land. The retinue includes four scribes, two sergeants-at-arms and his father’s court magician, the cloying Nazihah of the Nine Lamps (M3). He is also accompanied by Intisar, a lesser aristocrat and the rambunctious daughter of Pazazabad’s greatest merchant (and, unknown to others, the traitor who engineered the goblin invasion) Haarith of the Hoary Beard.

SHAFEEQ, FIGHTER LVL 3/THIEF LVL 2: HP 15; AC 2 [17]; Special: Double normal number of followers, treasure as CL 15.

Azzah the Liberal, the Iron Sultana, the Leopardess, Sultana of Keshfar
Azzah is the Great Sultana of all Keshfar. Learned, wise and fierce, she commands the deserts, savannas and sea for hundreds of miles from her domed capital of Nadid. Despite her coteries of handsome petitioners and the adoration of her people, she knows he is not getting any younger and must soon choose a husband that her line may continue. Mansour the Lion seems the logical choice, but her heart burns for Shafeeq the Landless, if only she knew where he was.

Azzah’s retinue includes the rakish sisters Amani and Munirah, the handsome young Izvod, Baron of Esterhafen and his sister, Lady Bezpa, four scribes, three men-at-arms and he sergeant-at-arms, the loyal Tariq.

AZZAH: HD 2 (16 hp); AC 1 [18]; Atk 2 scimitar (1d8); Move 9 (12 out of armor); Save 16; CL/XP 2/60; Special: Triple normal number of followers, treasure as CL 20, +2 reaction from peasants, constitution 14.