Explaining Hit Points

How’s this for a draft for how I’m explaining hit points in Blood & Treasure

“Hit points don’t represent anything solid or real or concrete in and of themselves. Rather, they are part of a complex calculation that boils down to this: “What are the chances that the next moment of mortal peril you experience will be your last.” That mortal peril might be a sword fight, a poison needle, a trap door … anything that might kill you. Most often, hit points relate to combat.

It is important to remember that hit points are only part of the combat calculation for how likely you are to die. The complete calculation is in two parts. The first part pits your opponent’s fighting skill against your armor and quickness (i.e. his or her attack roll vs. your Armor Class). The second part pits your opponent’s strength and weapon type against your own fighting skill (i.e. his or her damage roll vs. your hit points). While most of the numbers in these calculations are fairly static, hit points moves quite a bit. The more danger you experience, the more likely your next dangerous act will be your last.

This is why a character can go from 100 to 1 hit points without suffering any particular physical hardships. All of those lost hit points represent narrow misses, lucky breaks and scrapes and scratches. Those last hit points lost, though, represent the sword in the heart, the knife in the back, the quaff of poisoned wine or the plunge off a cliff onto the rocks below. It represents the end of the story. (Though if your friends have enough money and are inclined to spend it, that story might have a new beginning).

The alternate dying system (see below) provides an option for translating 0 hit points into injury rather than sure death, of course, but the baseline assumption is that your hit points are merely an abstract measure of your chances of survival. Treasure them, adventurer, and know when to say when.”

Mystery Men! Google+ Play Report … the Conspiracy Revealed!

Google+ has been something of a renaissance for me in terms of actually playing games. At the moment, I’m running two games and playing in two games (and a third game not on Google+). Good times! I thought I’d give readers a glimpse into the games I currently running and throw in a few thoughts on doing “play-by-post” on Google+.

I started by Mystery Men! Dark Renaissance campaign in July 2011 and, 810 posts later (yeah, I save them) it’s drawing to its conclusion. The idea for the game came from a post by Zak at Playing D&D With Porn Stars – in particular, a post of an old map of Dr. Doom’s castle. I thought that assaulting the castle could be pretty cool, and pondered just running a game in which people created heroes and then tried to get into the castle and defeat Dr. Doom.

Ultimately, I decided to make the castle the final scene of a larger campaign, one which was designed as the origin story of a new super hero group. Like the origin stories of the Avengers and Justice League, the campaign would start heroes in different cities and then allow them to follow a string of clues to a grand conspiracy. Google+, with its concept of circles, appeared to be a great way to do this – and in the end, I think it was.

Games of Mystery Men! revolve around the plans of the villain. Dark Renaissance is set in the early 1960’s. One fine morning, dozens of military targets across the USA (and, it turns out, the USSR) are attacked by American supervillains. Those who are captured turn out to be brain-washed and all have a common thread – they were living in halfway houses run by a The Helping Hands Foundation, a large charity operation founded by an Oklahoma oil man.

Three heroes quickly latch onto these clues: Orca in Seattle (played by Nathan Sorseth) and two Chicago-based heroes, The Green Mask (played by Reynaldo Madrinan) and Firefly (played by Paul Fini). Orca’s own naval base is attacked by a villain called Supersize, and with the help of his fellow SEALs he manages to stop him. In Chicago, a train is stolen by three villains – Pinball King, Shatter and Sunburst – a train holding a massive gold shipment (and a mystery metal called Harmonium) and, coincidentally, the Green Mask’s girlfriend.

[Quick aside … I really like that Google+ uses people’s real names. It’s much easier to get to know them and I feel less ridiculous than I do when referring to people by their “avatar names”]

Meanwhile, heroes in Washington D.C. and New York are following up on seemingly unrelated crimes. The mind-reading super hero Revenant (played by Andrew Byers) runs into Senator Haskel in his civilian guise and is amazed when he doesn’t recognize him. Using his powers, he gets the impression that the senator is not who he seems. Following him to his house, he breaks in as Revenant and is stymied and almost captured by the police. Still – this gets him on the trail!

In New York, a bank is overrun by rats and Nightingale (played by Luke DeGraw) intervenes in her civilian guise. Later that night, she and another heroine, Dynamo (daughter of the original Dynamo, and played by my daughter Alyssa) investigate the robbery and discover that the only thing stolen is from a subterranean vault, with the criminals having come up from below and disappeared into mysterious tunnels underneath New York.

The attacks in the USA and USSR drive both nations into high alert, and war seems a distinct possibility.

Ultimately, Revenant, along with new companion the Bronze Statesman (played by Stefan Grambart), discover that Senator Haskel and several other senators have been replaced by clones. The clones are being produced in the Central American nation of Mexidor, where Orca has already followed a lead – a psychiatric convention of Dr. Emily Roberts, the psychiatrist who treated Supersize. Mexidor is in the grips of a power change from a U.S.-backed government to a Soviet-backed government, and while there he comes into conflict with a Soviet super hero called Malatok (“Hammer”).

Bronze Statesman and Revenant finally capture two of the clones as another clone is being delivered to the Virginia coast in the dead of night from a mysterious submarine. The submarine is not Soviet, but rather a Nazi vessel commanded by Baron Doom, an old Nazi super villain now associated with the nation of Fascovia, the sole holdout of fascist nations after WW2. They are recruited by the secret service to go down to Mexidor – where the submarine originated – and take out the cloning operation. Ultimately, they and Orca converge on a villa in the hills in time to fight purple zombies and witness the death of Dr. Mengele – but they fail to stop a seemingly invisible and silent Nazi saucer from picking up Mengele’s creation, a sort of Frankenstein monster that is, from the outside, physically perfect.

Meanwhile, Dynamo and Nightingale have some adventures underground, discovering a complex constructed by the Green Sorceress and her underground empire using enslaved mole men. The heroes defeat the Green Empire and free the mole men and take a ride in a underground “super subway” that take them all the way to Greenland! Firefly and Green Mask, working with the US Air Force, end up in Greenland as well, following clues of weird lights seen by fishing boats. The four heroes finally hook up in a subterranean hangar for the Nazi flying saucers. This hangar base holds the laboratory of Marto, a deformed scientist who works for the Green Empire and the Nazis and has developed a machine that transfers super powers from one person to another (using harmonium, an alloy of gold and cavorite). The heroes fight some villains who are using the powers of a band of WW2-era European heroes called the Resistance, and ultimately defeat them and free the Resistance members and other captives. Unfortunately, several saucers escape the hangar before it self-destructs. Firefly, Green Mask, Dynamo and Nightingale steal a spare saucer and head back to the US base in Iceland.

At this point, the clone conspiracy has been uncovered, and the US and USSR are ready to team up against the real villains – the Nazis. To that end, a conference is held in London attended by all of our heroes. A plan is hatched. While the Resistance and the Soviet heroes known as Secretariat Seven act as a diversion, the American heroes will make the final assault on castle Graufalke in Fascovia.

[In between the Mexidor stuff and Greenland stuff, the heroes got to level up – which in MM! means either banking your XP and going up a level (or not, depends on how many XP we’re talking) or spending new XP on power upgrades and such. Bronze Statesman spent a bunch of his XP on new powers that were embedded in a bronze hand bell and became the Bronze Bellman, if you’re wondering about the name discrepancies]

And that brings us to today. The heroes entered the castle and found the research lab and Marto’s machine, which looked something like a star fish. In the center, a plastic “coffin” holding the Frankenstein body – which now holds the preserved brain of Adolf Hitler! Connected to it are several pods holding Nazi supervillains. The switch is thrown and the heroes launch into combat with some lesser villains (the Toad, Armbrust and the Rodent). When the machine stops buzzing, Marto roars with victory. The risen fuhrer rises from his coffin, and promptly falls on his face. As the other villains topped from their pods, the final pod opens to reveal the empowered Captain Nazi, who has rewired the machine and now declares himself the Ubermensch and that today marks the birth of the Fourth Reich.

The assembled heroes are now fighting Captain Nazi (well, the Green Mask is actually lost in the castle – hopefully he’ll make it to the fight before it is too late) for the fate of the world!

I’ve found Google+ to be an excellent way to do play-by-post. I have noticed that when a thread gets too long, participants are sometimes not notified of new posts (though I always was), so you’ll want to change threads whenever it makes sense (after combats, new scenes, etc.). Like all play-by-post games, busy Referees will appreciate the ability to think moves through, as I certainly have.

I’m currently running two groups through Nod on Google+, and when the Mystery Men! game is finished, and after a little break, I plan to start up a Space Princess game set in the catacombs of Mars. That will probably be followed by a Pars Fortuna game, and then back to Mystery Men! I plan to keep the Nod game running as long as there are players who want to play in the mega-sandbox – so if you’d like to join in, just let me know.

Smilodars [New Monster]

The first response I got when I asked about awesome monsters from the old D&D line (B/X or BECMI or RC) referenced the aranea, which made it into the SRD, and the rakasta. I wanted to slap myself in the forehead. The rakasta were one my old favorites from that line. How could I forget the rakasta?

Thus are born the smilodars of Blood & Treasure. They should be compatible with most old school clones.

Smilodon by Charles Knight

Neutral Medium Humanoid, Average Intelligence; Hunting Band (1d8) or Tribe (80 + 50% + 1d4 x 5 smilodons)

HD 2; AC 12; ATK 1 clawed gauntlet (1d4) and/or spear (1d6) or throwing axe (1d6) or bite (1d4); MV 30 (Leap 15); Save F 12, R 15, W 15; XP 100; Special: Leap into combat.

The smilodar are cat-headed men and women with tawny fur and sabre-teeth. They dwell in steppes and sometimes on the edges of deserts, hunting prey and raiding nearby human and demi-human settlements. While they bear no particular ill will towards most, smilodars have an innate hatred of gnolls and attack them on sight. Smilodars stand about 7 feet tall. They speak their own language and that of large, predatory cats, and might also learn Common, Gnoll and Goblin.

A typical smilodar warrior wears a leather loincloth and carries a clawed metal gauntlet (1d4 damage), spear and a throwing axe or four javelins.

Elite smilodar warriors are mounted on the backs of semi-domesticated smilodons. They fashion leather saddles that allow them to lock their hind-claws into leather flaps and thus ride using only one hand to steady themselves. Smilodars control their mounts with sounds and scents rather than reins.

In combat, smilodars can leap from their mounts, covering up to 15 feet and attacking as though making a charge. Their mounts then fight in concert with their masters, who can attack with spear and clawed gauntlet each round with a -2 penalty to hit with each. If disarmed, they can still bite for 1d4 points of damage.

Smilodars tend to come from primitive backwaters and lost lands. They adjust their starting ability scores as follows: Strength +1, Constitution +1, Intelligence -1. Smilodars retain the leaping ability of their monstrous cousins, essentially using it as a charge attack that does not require them to move at least 30 feet. As with all charges, they suffer the normal penalty to AC when charging. Smilodars can multi-class as barbarian/clerics and barbarian/thieves. They speak Smilodar and the language of large, predatory cats, and might also choose to learn Common, Elf, Gnoll and Goblin.

The Wizard’s Brain …

The Dead Wizard’s Brain …

… has unraveled and now looks like a squishy pink snake; it casts what spells it has left as auras and vibration fields such that all spells have an area of effect of 10-ft. per magic-user level

… is kept in a jar of preservative reagents, plotting and cursing and waiting for the day of rebirth

… was merged with his or her pointy hat and now allows the wizard to control those who wear the hat

… is hidden inside a puzzle box and does not want its revery disturbed by the senses

… was turned to crystal and now sends out thought rays that allow it to cast spells through anyone struck by such a beam

… is nestled in the head of a flesh golem (or any other flavor of golem) and is completely insane though no less potent for it

… is a cloud of mystic ash that haunts the corridors of its old tower, attempting to enter people through the nose and mouth

… is a shimmering cascade of energy that runs along the cracks and crevices of walls and which, sometimes, can animate those walls (per mid-range earth elemental with magic-user spells)

… was powdered and stirred into your drink; it will turn your tongue bright purple and give you the ability to cast one spell that was stored in it when he died one time only

… is preserved within the body of a gelatinous cube, casting spells despite the lack of vocal cords or digits

… has become a viscous goo that lurks on ceilings, dropping on the unwary

… floats in astral space, sending out tendrils of quintessence into Astral, Ethereal and Material Planes to search for a new host

… has been imprinted in a glyph etched in gold that covers a vast chamber – people in contact with the gold get an electric shock (per shocking grasp) and become conduits for his spell casting and speech; they must pass a Bend Bars check to pull away from the electrified gold

The Living Wizard’s Brain …

… has become a mirror image of itself, its owner now speaking in reverse, walking in reverse and casting spells in reverse (i.e. they either have the reverse effect, or they are backward in time, the effect occurring before the casting)

… has a 1 in 100 chance per day of collapsing in on itself and becoming a black hole that sucks him and everything else into an alternate dimension

… is in constant contact with the divine via a contact higher plane effect; only he can hear these divine voices, and he is often heard saying “no, I wasn’t talking to you Thor, I was talking to somebody here” – he still doesn’t get the true benefit of the spell more than once per day

… demands chocolate at any price

… is a clockwork device that needs winding once per day – this involves sticking a crank in his ear; on the plus side, he’s immune to all traditional mind-altering spells and effects

… is split into two personalities; one is obvious and in control of the body, the other is subtle and acts via telekinesis

… is convinced that wall wasn’t there before … or was it?

… is slowly crystallizing, losing the ability to cast low level spells, but increasing the number of higher level spells each day (i.e. one day one, the magic-user can no longer cast first level spells, but he gains one additional spell per day of his highest level spells) until he can only cast his highest level spells – at this point, the inside of his head looks like a geode

… wants to be relieved of conscious thought as much as possible; each drink or drag of something alcoholic or narcotic gives him a 1 in 12 chance of going astral (per astral spell) and journeying to a higher plane

… suffers cleric envy

… sends out etheric vibrations that impose any condition it is experiencing on everyone else within 1 mile per the magic-user’s level (save allowed, of course)

… is three seconds ahead or behind everyone else in time- very disorienting

Results of Best. Monster. Ever!

No love for the RC?

The results are in (I’m always amazed at how few people who view these posts actually chime in – I’ve never known a gamer who didn’t have an opinion or couldn’t form one at the drop of a hat) and the monsters the readers want to see are the Slaad, the Modrons and the hengeyokai.

Naturally, the slaad and modrons have to be re-cast. The slaad are going to become the xaoc and retain their rubbery toadness, but with a dash of Lovecraft’s moon monsters and CAS’s Tsathoggau thrown in for good measure.

The modrons are going to become the polyhedroids – something I’ve already put together and should translate pretty easily. I picture them as skittering around in the space between dimensions, maintaining the mechanics of the universe and sometimes intervening when powerful adventurers insist on screwing with the intricate balance.

I had thought about rebranding them as the Abraham Merritt’s metal monsters, but I might just include them as well – they’re pretty awesome.

The hengeyokai are legendary and pretty easy to work with, and yeah, I’ll make sure there’s a blurb on playing them as characters.

By far, the most response was for Fiend Folio monsters, and I’m wondering if that book doesn’t form a dividing line in the hobby. Plenty of people hate it, but I’m one of the folks who love it and, frankly, wouldn’t play a game without it. I just run those kinds of games, I guess.

There was no response for the old Rules Cyclopedia, i.e. the “basic” Dungeons & Dragons line. Were the only unique, cool monsters in that book the nightshades, who already made it into the SRD? Or maybe I just didn’t attract enough fans of the old line to comment on the thread. I don’t know, but I’d love to hear some thoughts on the old D&D monsters that made it distinct from the AD&D line.

Bionic Warriors and Space Hippies [Space Princess]

It could take up to 6 million quatloos to get a body like this!

Two new classes for the wonderful worlds of Space Princess

Bionic warriors are usually space warriors or astronauts who have been rebuilt due to injuries sustained in the line of duty. They are strong and quick, and come with their own built-in super science. Some hold a grudge against the scientists who built them, while others are glad to use their new-found abilities to help others.

HIT DICE: Bionic warriors roll d10 to determine hit points

REQUIREMENT: STR and DEX of 6 or higher

SKILLS: Bionic warriors can add their SKILL to the following tests: Climb (STR), Leap & Swing (STR) and SWIM (STR)

STARTING GEAR: Bionic warriors start with a hand weapon, ray gun and snazzy jumpsuit

.nobrtable br { display: none }

Level Hit Dice Skill Luck
Robo-Man/Woman 3 3 2
Cyber-Man/Woman 5 6 1
Bionic Man/Woman 8 10 0

Bionic warriors have three random bionic implants in their bodies. These implants can be disabled with other super science devices (electro-scramblers, EMPs, etc.).

1. Bionic brain (ie. mento-helmet)
2. Bionic calves (leaps as though had a SKILL of 12)
3. Bionic claws (retractable claws allow an additional claw attack for 1d4 points of damage)
4-6. Bionic ears (can listen at doors as though the bionic warrior had a SKILL of 12)
7-9. Bionic eyes (i.e. night goggles)
10. Bionic feet (i.e. gravity boots)
11. Bionic finger (finger acts as a basic ray gun with 3 shots per day and can be used to disable devices as though the bionic warrior had a SKILL of 10)
12-13. Bionic fists (fists are as potent as laser swords)
14. Bionic jaw (gains additional bite attack that deals 1d4 points of damage)
15. Bionic lungs (immune to toxic, narcotic and poisonous fumes and gases and can hold breath for 10 minutes)
16-17. Bionic nose (i.e. locator)
18. Bionic skeleton (i.e. exoskeleton)
19. Bionic skin (i.e. body armor)
20. Bionic thighs (increases movement from slow to normal, normal to fast or fast to very fast)

Space hippies travel the star-ways, spreading their message of enlightenment. Space hippies are adventurous sorts. Some are rugged individualists, while others are just posers looking for a handout and their next smoke of Venusian red, but all space hippies cast disdain upon the “Herberts” – authority figures who don’t share their beliefs.

HIT DICE: Space hippies roll d6 to determine hit points

REQUIREMENT: MEN of 4 or higher

SKILLS: Space hippies can add their SKILL to the following tests: Identify substance (KNO), calm situation (MEN), hide (DEX), move silently (DEX), charm strangers (MEN), play instrument (MEN)

STARTING GEAR: Space hippies start with a musical instrument the clothes on their backs – they disdain weapons, but will fight to defend themselves from the Herberts (and space monsters) using their feet and fists. Space hippies aren’t looking for trouble, but they can handle what they find.

.nobrtable br { display: none }

Level Hit Dice Skill Luck
Joker 2 4 3
Star Child 5 8 1
Groovy Guru 7 12 0

Space hippies are capable of evoking emotional states with their music. This requires a play instrument test, with the following difficulties and effects:

PEACE, BROTHER (DC 15): This music calms hostile creatures. All who hear it cease fighting and can only begin fighting again after one round, and even then they must pass a MEN test (DC 15) to begin fighting. A combatant who is attacked can always choose to defend themselves.

THE BLUES (DC 15): All whom the space hippy targets must pass a MEN test or become very, very glum, suffering a -2 penalty to all tests and attacks.

RIGHT ON! (DC 10): All whom the space hippy targets are filled with righteous energy and enjoy a +2 bonus to all tests, but not to attacks.

KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON (DC 10): All who hear this that are under the effect of some mental effect can make a new test at +2 to shake it off.

SPACE TRUCKIN’ (DC 15): Pilots who hear this music enjoy a +1 bonus on all pilot tests.

AQUARIUS RISING (DC 25): All whom the space hippy targets with this masterful song can spend one free luck point on any test or attack they make while the effect lasts. This can only be done once per adventure.

PROTEST (DC 20): This protest song has the ability to counter any sonic ability or attack (including damage-dealing harmonics) used by an opponent.

Animals and simple beasts suffer a -2 penalty to tests against these effects, while militant aliens enjoy a +1 bonus. The effect lasts as long as the space hippy plays their music +1d4 rounds.

Deviant Friday – mc-the-lane Edition

Before the art – if you haven’t commented on my post below, please take a look and give me your 2 cents on which monsters who lurk outside the SRD I should include in Blood & Treasure.

Now – to the art …

mc-the-lane does bold, bright colors and usually big scenes, though I think he does some really nice black and white as well. Enjoy.

My favorite of his pieces – the Dream Catcher – wasn’t available for sharing, but here’s the link

Best. Monster. Ever. [A Poll]

Image found at flumph.com. No, seriously.

My work on Blood & Treasure is rapidly coming to a close. Only a couple small sections are left to be written and I’m now embarking on editing the sizable tome. I’ve managed to include most of the monsters of the SRD, including a few psionic beasts (some rely too heavily on the d20 psionic system to work well without it) and many of the epic level monsters (toned down a bit).

About the only monsters that didn’t make the cut were those of the “monster +1” variety – i.e. a monster with additional hit dice or class levels. With all the myriad systems and calculations, statting up monsters like that was useful in d20, but in Blood & Treasure its mostly a waste of space. Even the “alternate iconics” have all made it in as well, from the greymalkin to the evil eye to the phrenic scourge. That being said, there’s always room for a few more monsters.

So – my question is this: What is the best monster ever! that wasn’t included in the SRD, but does exist in some open content source?

In particular, I want to know what you think is the best monster ever! from each of the following books:

[I’ll keep a tally as people comment]

AD&D’s Fiend Folio

Beaktapus (as an alternative to the Grell) … 2 votes
Crypt Thing … 1 vote
Dark Creepers and Stalkers … 1/2 vote
Death Knight … 1 vote
Flail Snail … 2 votes
Skulk … 1/2 vote
Slaad … 3 votes

* I think it’s a testament that by far the most response is for Fiend Folio monsters. It’s may favorite as well, and I guess I just draw that sort of crowd!

** Looks like the slaad are starting to run away with this one

AD&D’s Monster Manual II

Metal Monsters (as an alternative to the modrons) … 1 vote

D&D’s Rules Cyclopedia 

Rakasta … 1 vote

Any of the myriad d20 sourcebooks

Clockwork Horrors (an alternative version, of course) … 1 vote
Hengeyokai (an original version, most likely) … 3 votes
Primordial Ooze (as an alternative to the deepspawn) … 1 vote

I’d love to hear from the readers … what is your favorite that you’d like to see in Blood & Treasure?

Cover of the Day

So tell me, dear readers. Is this fantasy or science-fantasy? Or science-fiction? I don’t know, but I do know that I love everything about this cover. Let’s break it down, along with some quick stats for Space Princess and Blood & Treasure.

We have to start with our heroine. Who sez the ladies were always helpless victims on old pulp and comic book covers? Okay, maybe 99% of the time, but still. From the cover blurb, we can assume this is one of Flint Baker’s amazon sky-troops. AMAZON SKY-TROOPS. Please tell me that phrase makes you smile. Tastefully dressed amazons equipped with morningstars flying about on the surprisingly strong necks of mutant vultures. If you look at the background closely, you’ll see that some of the amazons are riding on flat platforms being pulled by the birds – maybe the sci-fi equivalent of floating discs.

Amazon Sky-Trooper (B&T): Medium Humanoid, Neutral, Average Intelligence; HD 3; AC 14 [5]; Atk 1 morningstar (1d6+1); Move 30; Save F 14/R 12/W 14; XP 150; Special: No penalty to attack while mounted.

Amazon Sky-Trooper (SP): HD 3; DEF 16; FIGHT 8 (1d6+1); SHOOT 9; MOVE N; STR 5; DEX 6; MEN 4; KNO 4; DL 3; Special: No penalty to attack while mounted.

Vulturoid (B&T): Medium Animal, Neutral, Animal Intelligence; HD 6; AC 13 [6]; Atk 2 claws (1d6) and bite (1d6); Move 20 (Fly 90); Save F 10/R 9/W 15; XP 300; Special: None.

Vulturoid (SP): HD 6; DEF 17; FIGHT 14 (1d6); SHOOT 10; MOVE F; STR 8; DEX 4; MEN 3; KNO 0; DL 6; Special: None.

Moving downward, we come across a furry gent who is apparently a raider from the Red Moon. Perhaps we could also call him a Red Moonman. He’s not only furry, he also has cute little ears and demonic talons for feet. And check out the fork he’s holding that guy down with.

Raider of the Red Moon (B&T): Medium Humanoid, Chaotic, Low Intelligence; HD 2; AC 15 [4]; Atk 1 war-fork (1d4), dagger (1d4) or 2 talons (1d4); Move 20; Save F 12/R 15/W 16; XP 200; Special: Resistance to cold, can make two attacks per round with weapons, or, if has initiative, pounce and make four attacks with weapons and talons.

Raider of the Red Moon (SP): HD 2; DEF 16; FIGHT 6 (1d4); SHOOT 6; MOVE S; STR 4; DEX 4; MEN 4; KNO 2; DL 2; Special: Resistance to cold, can make two attacks per round with weapons, or, if has initiative, pounce and make four attacks with weapons and talons.

If we continue down, we meet, I assume, Flint Baker, and frankly, he’s the least interesting thing on this cover. No pixels will be wasted on Flint.

Other stories include Auro, Lord of Jupiter, Mars, God of War and Hunt Bowman in the Lost World. If you don’t name your next ranger Hunt Bowman, you might be taking your gaming just a tad too serious.

Stygian Depths – Hellcrawl Preview II

Writing has begun in earnest on the Stygia portion of the Hellcrawl. Here are some samples of what I’ve written so far.

33.50 Tree Temple: The mangroves here grow to a truly enormous size. A city of 500 frog men is built in the tree tops, centered around an abbey dedicated to Tsathogga. Their matriarch is an engorged female frog man, bedecked in amber beads and holding in her hands two crystal balls, each one colored bright green with a white, star shape in the center that spins and waxes and wanes. Though they appear identical, one seems to promise security and safety, while the other promises unending struggle and chaos. As soon as people enter the temple their gaze must be drawn to one or the other.

Those who choose safety and security gain the ability to commune with Tsathogga once per day, but whatever advice he gives, they must obey. Those who choose unending struggle have chosen life, and suffer no ill effects other than the ire of the frog men, who attempt to sacrifice those who reject the fatherhood of Tsathogga in his name, hosting a grand feast of them for those who have chosen Tsathogga’s blessings.

34.59 Love Shack: A red, serpentine dragon courses through the mud, battering down trees as it does so. When it spots travelers, it slinks close and opens its great mouth, revealing a door of ruby crystal. It waits patiently for 1 turn to allow people to enter the door, and then moves on.

Beyond the door there is a grand hall of red velvet and marble floors. The spirits of jealous, bitter lovers slink by the walls, hissing at travelers. The twisting hall leads to a shrine in which there is a throne of green stone. Sitting on the throne there is a handsome youth who looks much like Cupid, but has glowing green eyes and pincers in place of hands. This is Phthonus, a daimon of jealousy who stirs the fires of love and unleashes it in violent passions.

36.48 Flooded Temple: A sinkhole here might send unlucky travelers into a series of flooded caverns. The largest of them holds an ancient, partially ruined temple. The temple is composed of blocks of lapis lazuli. The temple is dedicated to Omoo, a sahuagin goddess regarded as the mother of the species. The idol holds a statue depicting the demon lord Dagon simultaneously copulating with and tearing apart Omoo, whose blood, according to the myths of the sahuagin, turned into the first sahuagin, who then fed on her flesh and drew on her powers. A reliquary hidden in a dungeon beneath the temple holds her dismembered hand, which gives the bearer command over sahuagins, sharks and rays and denies creatures struck by it the ability to regenerate for 24 hours. If the hand is planted, it grows into five fiendish sahuagin warrior-maids who persist for as long as they are fed the blood of their summoner. They obey their summoner loyally.