Codpiece of Power [Magic Item]

When attached to one’s armor, the codpiece of power actually just sits there, doing nothing. No powers at all. The magic is in the satisfaction of kicking someone’s ass while the codpiece of power stares at them with that smug look on its face.

That, or it permits the wearer to invoke the power of a potion of heroism once per day when facing a foe tougher than they are, or when outnumbered at least 3 to one.

Or maybe it can attack a foe per the lion shield (or shield of the lion, or whatever it’s called)

Or once per day, when you rub it, it answers one question for you, per the augury spell.

Any other ideas what this puppy might do?

The image above, and the images in the past post, are by Wendelin Boeheim

Armor Up Like a Barbarian

Once upon a time, there was pretty realistic armor floating around in the fantasy realm – the stuff you would expect out of folks who did a little research at the local library. And then the 1980’s arrived on the scene …

In the spirit of ridiculous, barbarian-style armor, I present the following scheme:

Armor is for cowards, and nobody likes or respects a coward – not buxom serving wenches, not grizzled men-at-arms, not squirrely thieves, not fat merchants and certainly not the local lord with a quest that needs fulfilling.

In old school parlance, being unlikable = low charisma.

In a barbarian milieu, armor = cowardice.

The barbarian uses piecemeal armor. Each fledgling barbarian hero can decide, at character creation, to buy as many pieces of armor as they like – well, up to 8 anyways. Each piece costs 25 gp, improves one’s Armor Class by 1 and reduces their charisma score by 1. A barbarian cannot allow their charisma to fall below 3, so starting out with low charisma puts a solid ceiling on how much armor you get to wear as a barbarian. This doesn’t sound fair? By Crom, barbarians don’t whine about life not being fair – go be paladin you lousy #$%#%.

For each piece of armor you order, you roll on the following table – after all, only a real poser would actually go out and buy mismatched, piecemeal armor – barbarians pick it up off the bodies of the slain.

Note: Bits and straps of leather don’t count here – just metal. Leather up all you want.

1. Helm (5% chance of wicked horns – if you have horns, you keep your point of charisma)


2. Sabatons (if this is your only piece of armor you lose an extra point of charisma – what kind of dork walks around with nothing but metal shoes)

3. Breastplate or shirt or mail or scales (+2 AC and -2 charisma)

4. Arm (right or left, your choice sport)

5. Leg (right or left, you choice sport)

Always protect yer fightin’ leg!

6. Shield (why does a shield dock your barbarian street cred? Because you should be wielding a honking big two-handed sword or axe, jerkwad)

7. Shoulder guards (if your charisma is still 15 or higher, you can add a cape; otherwise it would just make you look like a stupid poser)

8. Gauntlet (5% chance of being spiked, which grants +1 bonus to damage each time you score a hit in combat)

9. Mail Loincloth (add mail brassiere if female, unless you want to kick it amazon style)

[You can Google “chainmail loincloth” on your own, chief]

10. Disc Armor (not as dorky as a breastplate, but still shows a lack of self-confidence, which is like a taped up pair of eyeglasses to a barbarian)

You can scrounge other pieces as you adventure, but note – adding a piece still means losing charisma, which means fewer retainers, lower reaction checks and probably some kind of penalty to carousing.

Don’t worry Conan, we can forgive the horned helmet … just not the acting

Eine Kleine Monster Art

One of my artists on Blood & Treasure, Jon Kaufman, has just posted a compilation shot of most of the monsters he illustrated for me on DeviantART. Check it ..

From left to right (vaguely – we’re all geeks here, so I’m sure you can suss it out): Behir, Centaur, Horned Devil, Wight, Mummy, Marilith, Nalfeshnee, Hengeyokai (Fox), Sahuagin, Ghaele, Bat Monster, Locathah, Succubus, Flail Snail, Cockatrice, Shedu and Gnoll.

You can also buy the illustration as a print, if you are so inclined.

In other news, I’ve finished editing the Player’s Tome for Blood & Treasure! I still need to tweak the layout a bit, but the Player’s Tome should be on sale pretty soon. Next step is the larger Treasure Keeper’s Tome. Still, I’m getting there little by little.

Thinking About Angels

We often talk about under-used (and over-used) monsters in D&D, but I rarely hear people bring up angels as an underused monsters. But think about it … aside from the railroady-save-the-world-from-elder-evil games, most D&D concerns a bunch of plunderers and tomb robbers. Even though some might be, technically, lawful, why wouldn’t some angelic vengeance show up once in a while when the party violates a consecrated tomb and carries away the burial goods or busts in on some humanoids who aren’t, at that moment, breaking God’s Law (or Whoever’s Law) and slaughter them wholesale, carting away their treasures. Angels in the game seem to just show up when a (technically) Lawful character summons them for help.

“Sure, mortal, I understand how hard it is to murder your way to riches. Let me help you out with some free healing because you’re technically on my team!”

I think there are a few reasons why this attitude predominates.

1) In a culture with Judeo-Christian roots (whether you believe or not, the roots are there), fighting angels seems wrong – i.e. not just non-lawful, but deeply chaotic. Fine for an “Evil Campaign” perhaps, but just weird otherwise.

2) The GM/Ref is “God”. You can fight berserkers, orcs, basilisks, balrogs, flail snails, etc. all day long, and it makes sense, because they’re just supposed to be there. But if an angel shows up and scolds the party with a fireball, it must be because the GM is trying to punish you for wrecking his dungeon/world.

3) History might be another problem. For generations, supposed believers in The Book wore their religion on their sleeve while engaging in plunder and slaughter. Angels didn’t punish them, so why should they punish us? We often posit – “What would a fantasy world be like if The Gods were real?”, but not  – “What would a fantasy world be like if Vengeful Enforcers of the Ten Commandments were real?”.

4) Finally, we tend to take a very soft, Michael Landon sort of view of angels in popular culture. You know, technically the adventurers are the good guys (or at least mostly focus their killing and robbing on evil folks), so, you know, the angels are kinda sorta on their side.

But how about a more unforgiving view of angels. Angels are relentless enforcers of the deity or deities of Law on the Material Plane. They take orders from an entity that is right, by definition, always right (maybe this entity is always right in your campaign, or maybe Lawful entities think he/she/it always is). “Thou shalt not kill” isn’t a suggestion, its a rule. You go around killing things, even wicked things, and eventually you’re going to run into some divine interference (maybe a cumulative 1% chance per killing, first you tangle with a lesser deva, and then work your way up to a Solar).

These are angels that encourage the concept of “martyrdom for one’s beliefs” (i.e. pacifism in the face of sure death, ’cause the point is to die with your alignment intact, not with the most XP or GP), not the “muscular Christianity” of the 19th century. Steal a pound of gold, lose a pound of flesh. It’s a different view of angels than we usually get, but isn’t that the point? Players won’t see it coming, and you can finally get some use out of the those solars, planetars, devas, archons, eladrin, etc. that are taking up space in your favorite monster book.

Anyhow – just a thought.

Dragon by Dragon – February 1978 (12)

The cover of this baby trumpets an exclusive preview of Andre Norton’s D&D novel, Quag Keep! Let’s see what else this issue has to offer …

The first article is Leon Wheeler‘s The More Humorous Side of D&D, which, if I’m honest, is the literary equivalent of “Let me tell you about my character”. My preference was for the little illustration …

Simple but effective line art … something missing from the more modern products, I think. But maybe I’m just an old fart.

Up next is a “D&D Variant” – A New Look at Illusionists by Rafael Ovalle. Rafael’s illusionist has a 7% chance per level of discerning an illusion created by a creature (i.e. rakshasa, succubus, leprechaun) and, if I’m reading this correctly, always can tell another illusionist’s handiwork. Their spells can affect astral and ethereal creatures because they involve light. A few new spells are added as well, including improved displacement, sensory displacement, discord, gaze of umber hulk, create spectres and basilisk gaze.

Jerome Arkenberg now provides us with The Persian Mythos. This is a quick list, and provides an Armor Class, Move, Hit Points, Magic Ability, Fighter Ability and Psionic Ability for each of the deities. Vohu Manah, “Good Mind”, for example, has the following stats:

Armor Class: 2

Move: 18″

Hit Points: 250

Magic Ability: Wizard – 20th

Fighter Ability: Lord – 15th

Psionic Ability: Class 1

Short and sweet, and probably enough to run a combat, if a combat was actually needed.  I’m sure more modern players will scoff at the AC, which would be 17 or 18 in modern games, but with 250 hit points and all that magical and fighting ability, it’s probably sufficient to clean a few old school clocks. More importantly, a combat encounter with this guy in old school rules would last about as long as it would with new school rules, just without a page of stats that will largely turn out to be useless.

It’s actually a pretty thorough list, and includes several heroes and archdemons.

Hey, check out the ad for this game …

Breaking new ground, those fellas.

In the Design Forum, James Ward lends us Some Thoughts on the Speed of a Lightning Bolt. In the article, he sings the praises of the new rule (or variant rule) on melee rounds in Eldritch Wizardry. It’s an odd article that, these days, would just be a post on a forum discussing the new TSR book.

James Endersby and John Carroll now offer another “forum comment” describing a Ship’s Cargo from some game they played involving a voyage to Japan.

James Bruner now has an article about The Druids. Probably a good synopsis of the current knowledge on druids, but much of what people thought of the druids in the 1970’s has turned out to be faulty. Still, some of it appears to be dead on, and I’m sure it was a useful article in its day, if only to veer people away from the “Druid = Fantasy Hippy” syndrome that sadly persists to this day.

Another neat ad …

If the Persian gods weren’t enough for you, Rob Kuntz now presents The Lovecraftian Mythos in Dungeons & Dragons. Apparently, J. Eric Holmes was primarily responsible. So, here’s what you all want to know …


Armor Class: 2

Move: 12″

Hit Points: 200

Magic Ability: (see below) [when you see below, you see nothing about magical ability]

Fighter Ability: 15th level

Psionic Ability: Class 1

Those who see him must save vs. fear, and if released from his sleep, all within 100 miles must save or go insane. He regenerates 10 hit points per round, can teleport 1/2 mile, is resistant to water, cold and vacuum and can call 10d10 deep ones up from the sea bottom. He retreats from the Elder Sign. He can attack physically and psionically each round – meaning, I suppose, that he can make an attack and use a psionic power each round.

A later issue has stats for Conan. When I come across it, I’ll have to pit Conan vs. Cthulhu and see how it turns out.

Another great ad, this time for All the World’s Monsters vol. 2.

It is followed by a quick, unbiased review for the new AD&D Monster Manual. The review calls it “An absolute must for every D&D enthusiast everywhere”.

The preview of Norton’s Quag Keep is next …

Milo Fagon, swordsman, and Naile Fangtooth, were-boar berserker, have met in an inn in the Thieves’ Quarter of Greyhawk. They have one thing in common, each wears on his wrist a wide copper bracelet in which are set a number of unusually shaped dice. Puzzling over this strange bond, they are also uneasily aware that something momentous is about to happen to them both, though they cannot see that any of the other people in the inn are paying any attention to them. 

Well, not a terrible issue – the pantheons might have come in handy, but much of the rest seems like the equivalent of chit chat. We finish with the following …

NOD 15 – Finally Ready to Download

I don’t know why, but this one was like pulling teeth for me …

This issue features the final three Hellcrawls – Phlegethon, Malebolge and Cocytus, and the astonishing thing heroes must do to escape Hell! Also a Handy Dandy Cavern Generator, a gaggle of arch-devils and demon lords, magical bracelets, variations on the blue dragon and some random Silver Age nonsense for your Mystery Men! game. 70 pages.

The PDF is available now for $3.50.

The book will be available in a week or so after I get my review copy and make sure all is well.

Later today … Dragon by Dragon

Tomorrow … Some Thoughts on Angels

Next Week … Who knows?


Okay folks – 300 followers – enough to hold off a Persian invasion!

Assuming our body oil holds out.

Thanks to Gonzalo Barreda, #300, and to the other 299 of you honorary Nodians for making me feel appreciated day in and day out. Now, back to editing NOD 15 and Blood & Treasure and writing NOD 16 – idle hands are the devil’s playthings.

Overcomplicating Coins (You’re Welcome!)

Are you one of those guys or gals that likes it … complicated?

If you answered “yes”, then read on. If not … read on anyways, you’re already here.

What follows are some tables showing a variety of historical coinage that might appear in the next treasure horde you generate, if you’re of the mind to permit them. Of course, you might want to attach some imaginary, fantasy kingdom name to them to make them campaign specific (“Ah! You’ve found 300 Cromarkian Groats and a small sack of gold doubloons from the Fraznak Empire!). You can use the table in two ways (and one of them might just piss off the players, so I know which one I’d use.)

1) Calculate the total value of the horde’s coins, roll a random coin type for each metal (or two or three, whatever you like), and translate the value into the number of coins. I included three values, one for OD&D (10 coins per pound), one for d20 (50 coins to the pound) and one for a more realistic 100 coins to the pound.

Example: You generate 1,000 cp and you’re playing OD&D (i.e. 10 coins to the pound). You roll up the Roman Sesertius as your historic copper coinage, which are worth 1/3 a copper piece each, thus the horde consists of 3,000 copper sesterius.

2) You roll up the number of coins, and then roll randomly to determine what kind of coin was found.

Example: You roll up 300 gold coins (gp) and then roll randomly to determine they are Italian ducats. You’re playing d20, so 300 ducats is actually worth 1,200 sp, or 120 gp. See – your players will be pissed. On the other hand, if you’d rolled up Spanish escudos, the horde would be worth 1,500 gp.

Without further ado … the tables.



If you want to annoy the players a bit more, you can roll to see how debased the coinage is … but I wouldn’t suggest it.

Of course, if you’re using the notion that your fantasy world is built on the ruins of a “modern” world, then the ancient coinage would be made up of krugerrands, yen and buffalo nickels.