Mannix!

Mike Connors recently passed away. He’s best known for playing Joe Mannix, private investigator, on the TV show Mannix, which ran from 1967-1975. Great show, and one of my all-time favorites. It was also an odd duck for its time because it forewent the idea of a detective with a gimmick (fat, wheelchair-bound, old, etc.) and just created a detective in the hard-boiled tradition.  James Rockford was probably Mannix’s spiritual successor on television.

Mannix is an interesting character with an interesting history, and that interesting history makes him a perfect character for a game of GRIT & VIGOR.

R.I.P. Mike Connors, and thanks for the fine entertainment.

Joe Mannix
High school football and basketball star, Korean War veteran, former P.O.W., mercenary in Latin America and current private investigator

5th level fighter, 7th level private eye

Strength: 13 / +1
Dexterity: 14 / +1
Constitution: 16 / +2
Intelligence: 11
Wisdom: 13 / +1
Charisma: 11

Hit Points: 3d6 + 4d10 +14
Armor Class: 11
Attack: +4
Saves: F11 R10 W12

Feats: Pugilist, Power Attack

Knacks: Athletics, Communicate, Drive Car, Endure, Pilot Aircraft

Fighter Skills: Bend Bars, Break Down Doors, Endure*, Jump, Lift Gates, Ride Mount

Private Eye Skills: Cant, Crack Code, Gather Intelligence, Hide in Shadows, Listen at Doors, Move Silently, Search, Sleight of Hand, Track (humans only)

Class Abilities: Note clues and concealed items, mull things over, backstab +2d6, extra attack vs. opponents with 3 or fewer Hit Dice

Equipment: Colt Detective Special (1d6), 1975 Chevrolet Camaro (in the show’s final season, but Mannix drove an astounding array of cool cars over the course of the series – check Wikipedia’s entry for a list)

The Coming of the Triphibians

The triphibians have their origin in a delightful Japanese film with numerous titles, the most common in the U.S. of A. being The Monster from a Prehistoric Planet. Another title (Gappa: The Triphibian Monster) refers to the monsters in question being triphibians. I really dig that word, so I decided to make them into more useful monsters for the average fantasy/sci-fi game – i.e. I resized them as humanoids rather than uber-massive kaiju. Here then, are the triphibians, compatible with Blood & Treasure and other OSR games.

Triphibian

Type: Humanoid
Size: Medium
Hit Dice: 2
Armor Class: 15
Attack: Slam (1d4) or by weapon
Movement: 30′ (Fly 90′, Swim 30′)
Save: 16; +3 vs. poison
Intelligence: Average
Alignment: Neutral (N)
No. Appearing: 1d6*
XP/CL: 200/3

SD—Immunity (electricity), resistance (fire)

Triphibians look like beaked humanoids with scaly skin and large wings which they can fold onto their backs, nearly hiding them. They are emotional creatures, and their scales change colors to match their emotions. They are not desirous of contact with other species, and do their best to maintain a wide buffer between their lands and those of other creatures. In their own territory, they are highly aggressive towards intruders, especially when they are protecting their eggs and their young. In battle, they fight with swords, spears, bows and javelins, and sometimes use shields.

Triphibians can fly and they can breath underwater, making them a triple threat. Nations that have gone to war with them find their skies blackened by their warriors dropping heavy stones or bombs, and their boats falling prey to their attacks from underwater. Triphibians do not believe in fair fights, and use their abilities to the fullest to get an advantage.

Triphibians dwell in tribes of 1d6 x 60 warriors and twice as many noncombatants. They usually make their home underwater near thermal vents or in secluded mountain strongholds near lakes. It is not unusual for 1d6 tribes to live within a mile of one another, forming a confederation.

Triphibian tribes are commanded by a 6 HD king or queen who can breath a 10′ cone of electricity (2d6 damage) three times per day. These kings and queens undergo a secret ritual that increases their size to Large and their intelligence to High. The king or queen is attended by a bodyguard of 3d6 warriors with 2+1 Hit Dice. There is a 36% chance that a tribe has a spell caster, usually an adept (roll 1d4 for level). This philosopher, as the triphibians call them, is a spiritual teacher to the people, attends the king or queen on matters of state, conducts public rituals (including coronations) and joins the tribe in battle.

NOTE: These monsters would work very well in a PARS FORTUNA campaign, substituting for the larger humanoids like gnolls and bugbears that appear in traditional fantasy. By adding ray guns and such to their weaponry and putting them in serene bubble architecture above or below the sea, they would also work in a sci-fi setting such as Space Princess.

Bloody Basic (Revised) Stats

Size: Medium
Type: Humanoid
Hit Dice: 2
Armor Class: 16
Movement: 30′ (Fly, Swim)
Attacks: Slam or Weapon
Saving Throw: 16
Alignment: Neutral
CL/XP: 3/300

Spider Mage

I’ve been needing to get back into the nitty gritty of daily blog updates for a while – it’s just hard with all the writing and layout and editing and such that I’ve involved myself in. So, here’s another shot at it, based on tiny inspiration and a bit of “hmm – I guess nobody has done that before”.

The Spider Mage

Not every apprentice magic-user has it in them to be great wizard (see the Laser Mage, for example). This drives some into weird cults, such as that of the Arachno, the Spider God. Whispered about by the apprentices in the corners at wizard gatherings, Arachno is a secretive god who grants great powers upon those mages willing to enter his service. His living idols are said to lurk under most great cities, in some otherwise abandoned cellar or sewer tunnel or whatnot.

An apprentice willing to enter Arachno’s service must first find one of his living idols (a giant spider) and then parlay with it, offering gifts and oaths and the like. If the giant spider finds the apprentice acceptable, he sheds a spiky hair, which the little magi must use to tattoo Arachno’s symbol onto his forearm. This allows the apprentice to enter the spider mage class. Most spider mages will go on to make their tattoo really boss, and they will add others to their body as they advance.

Requirements and Restrictions

As the normal magic-user class

Spider Mage Skills

Climb Walls—As the thief skill of the same name.

Lore—As the magic-user skill of the same name.

Poison Use—As the assassin skill of the same name.

Spider Mage Abilities

Spider mages cast magic-user spells using the same rules as magic-users. To learn advanced spells, spider mages have a percentage chance equal to their intelligence score minus the spell level.

Spider mages enjoy a +2 reaction bonus with spiders and spider-like creatures, and a +2 bonus to save vs. their poison.

Starting at 2nd level, and at every even level thereafter, a spider mage grows an additional arm. This arm is a normal human arm in every respect, and it bears the same tattoo on its forearm that the spider mage gave himself when he became a spider mage.

For every two additional arms a spider mage grows, he can cast one additional spell per round.

Spider mages learn how to prepare their spells with modifications. Attack spells come in the form of touches, rays, lines (like lightning bolt), cones and blasts (like fireball). Spider mages can prepare an attack spell of one type as an attack spell of another. This sometimes changes the level of the spell.

Lines and rays retain their same range. Cones have a length equal to half the length of a ray or line version of the spell; likewise, ray or line versions of a cone spell have a range equal to twice the length of the cone. Blast spells have a range as line and ray spells equal to their blast radius, and a length as cone spells equal to half this.

Turning lines into cones and vice versa does not change a spell’s level. Turning a cone or line into a ray lowers the spell level by one. Turning anything into a blast increases the spell level by 1. Turning a blast into a line, ray or cone lowers the spell level by 1, and into a ray by 2.

At every even level, a spider mage must bring a sacrifice with levels or hid dice equal to the level he wishes to attain to feed his spider patron. This gruesome feast increases the giant spider’s hit dice by +2 and gives it magic use . This magic use starts at first level magic-user spells, and advances by one spell level with each subsequent feast.

Spider Cult
To advance to 12th level, a spider mage must kill his spider patron and bathe in its ichor. When he does this, he starts a spider cult to Arachno, gaining 3d6 adherents (normal humans), 2d6 guardsmen (men-at-arms), 1d6 acolytes (1st level anti-clerics) and a consort (male or female) who is a 3rd level spider mage, as well as a giant spider (large size, 4 HD) to serve as his mount and as the cult’s living idol.

Spider Mage Advancement

 

Rediscovering Pars Fortuna

Bo’al, Ilel, Caledjula and Cakrol

It was about seven years ago that I published Pars Fortuna, my first game. It used the Swords & Wizardry engine, with a few alterations by myself just to test out ideas for alternate mechanics. Seven years, and now it’s time for a little revision.

Revising seems to be my main hobby at the moment. I’ve just done a 2nd edition of Blood & Treasure, so I’m now working on revising the two B&T supplements, the Monster Tome (to be re-titled Monsters II) and the NOD Companion (to be re-titled Esoterica Exhumed). That goes on apace, one piece at a time. Now I’ve started delving into Pars Fortuna, and it has been fun to explore that weird little book.

The idea at the time was to make a random RPG. This meant removing the races, classes, spells, monsters and magic items that we all knew and (mostly) loved, and replacing them with things that had their genesis from random generators. At the time, I described it as reminiscent of Talislanta (“no elves”). For the most part, that’s what I did. Random classes just were not workable at the time, though I later developed a random class generator. To deal with classes, I went the race-as-class route. Random spells had the same problem, so I just rolled randomly on some lists of OGL, but non-SRD, spells.

Now I’m revising, and that means re-reading, and I’m amazed at how much I wrote that I do not remember writing. A couple of the races receded from memory and were nice surprises to me now. Many of the monsters were forgotten, and now I’m realizing how much monster art I’m going to need.

In Pars Fortuna Revised, I’m going to bring the rules more in line with what will be, next year, a revised Bloody Basic. Mostly just messing with saves and skills – nothing earth shattering. The race/classes will get some more options (essentially a warrior, skill monkey and magician class for each race). Pars Fortuna’s spell system will remain intact, and I’ll add in a few extras that I created after it was published and maybe a few things that have been bouncing around my head for a while.

Speaking of art … art was the weak spot for me when I wrote Pars Fortuna. At the time, I had zero budget to work with, so I convinced my wife that sinking $120 or so of our money into this silly project was a good idea. I contracted with Jon Kaufman to give life to the bizarre races in the setting, and I still remember the feeling of absolute delight when I got that first illustration (at the top of the post) from him. It’s still one of my favorite things ever from my years of commissioning art for games.

And then came the monsters. I tapped a fellow named Michael Stewart for a few pieces (gongthrottle over to the left is among my favorite, but the hamazak and qward are also awesome), as well as Russ Nicholson (who I’m proud to say is now working on a cover for B&T Monsters II) and Rhiannon McGuiness (who did the delightful illustration of ouphs). All great illustrations, but … there were so many more monsters to be illustrated! Almost all of the monsters in the book are original (to some extent), but I didn’t have the money to commission more art for them. Seven years later, I have a bigger budget to play with, so I plan to commission quite a few more monster illustrations. Here are a few that are on my list of potential targets for illustration:

Arahkhun – giant racoons, as big as bears and excellent grapplers

Armadillox – armadillos the size of oxen and used as draft animals; a cakrol (pangolin man) mounted on an armadillox would be just dandy!

Bebb – bears with curled goat horns

Gangarou – glossy black giant kangaroos, sometimes used as mounts

Haloot – owl-lions – quadrupedal raptor, with cheetah speed

Jumart – horned horses with shaggy hair

Mursa – furry, white walruses with bear-like legs

Olph – carnivorous sheep with wide faces and toothy maws

Opur – penguins the size of orcas, filling a similar niche

Woin – sleek wolverines with skin membranes that allow them to glide

Abominid – a giant spider stitched together from humanoid arms and legs by a vivimancer

Fulminator – five bronze spheres joined together by arcs of electricity and moving like a humanoid

Mercurial – animated mercury in the vague shape of a rat

Ningyo – animated wooden puppets with demon faces

Retriever – clockwork dingo

Sanctus – animated statue of a saint

Skeloid – animated skeleton bound in silver and gold wire with its head replaced by a wooden raptor or crow head

Tinker King – mechanical man with gemstone eyes

Nine – furry humanoids that look something like otters or seals, but with four eyes; extremely fast

Nizzertit – slimy burrowers with big eyes; keep guard cats

Nurg – short, hairy men with savage tempers; have large fists

Spenwanan – spider people of dungeons and grasslands

Zimbad – humanoid pterosaurs

Goon – evil underground humanoids who wear crowns and cause trouble

Ingalas – amazon nymphs of the jungle

Meagle – stunted moor-folk who like like a combo of hedgehog and bat

Osk – golden humanoids with sharpened teeth; covet jewelry

Tomb Robber – tiny men with grey skin, white eyes and oversized black claws

Azimok – towering crimson humanoids with protruding foreheads; urbane philosophers in daylight, raving madmen at night

Booglemoon – bear-sized wingless turkeys with crushing beaks

Cavern Crawler – terrestrial octopi

Crystalline tree – can throw beams of searing light

Dreak – look like polliwogs with the faces of human children; lake predators

Floating Horror – floating eyeball formed of protoplasm

Hyari – feathered carnosaurs with long snouts and who can leap like fleas
Idekel – cross between alligator and boa constrictor with illusion powers

Lady-of-the-depths – plant that uses illusion to look like a dainty woman; enslaves people with tendrils, who then serve as her handmaidens

Nanc – coppery capybaras with spiny tails

Oroboros – worms with lamprey mouths on either end; Pars Fortuna’s answer to color-coded dragons

Palasm – look like faceless baboons with distended bellies

Pellucid – colonies of translucent crystals

Pyroceros – stone rhinos with cores of magma

Sand rat – scaled rats with sapphires embedded in their foreheads

Sagebane – large frogs with psychic powers

Snurl – mastiffs covered in lobster-like armor

Wyveroon – like little wyverns; they adore magic rings

Zavvo – body of giant serpent, head of bat, wings of vulture; surrounded by darkness

Archfiends – Haaqugo the Burning One, Ac’ishlath the Elder Goddess and Y’dhortshagg

Lunarch – slightly amorphous silvery bear with a cluster of spider eyes on its head

Malhora Swarm – tiny moths that accelerate time

Nokt – evil spirit that looks like a five-headed green crow

Pillar of Fire – ’nuff said

Volp – crystalline wolves

Zax – energy creatures (look something like 9-bit designs from old arcade games)

If I can manage to commission a third of these, I’ll be pretty happy. If I can do more than that, I’ll be ecstatic. If you have any favorites from the list above, let me know in the comments.

I’m thinking of doing a separate setting book for the game, and both rule book and setting book (if I do separate them) will have adventures in them as well. Should be a fun project, and a nice chance to resurrect one of my first attempts at making games.

Dragon by Dragon – September 1981 (53)

Glory be – I finally have enough time this weekend to do another Dragon by Dragon, this one on issue #53 from September 1981.

The first thing I noticed about this issue was the cover. This was not an issue I had as a young nerd, but the cover painting by Clyde Cauldwell, which makes it seem very familiar.

I started playing D&D in 1984, introduced by a friend, Josh Tooley, in 6th grade. He watched his older brother play with some friends, and so with a hand-drawn map on notebook paper, a d6 and a vague recollection of what went on, he ran me through a dungeon during recess. I was hooked, and convinced my parents to get me the game – in this case Moldvay Basic purchased at Toys ‘r’ Us – for Christmas. Good times.

So, let’s see what TSR had to offer 35 years ago.

One of the best things about these magazines in the old days were the advertisements. All these games – and God knew what they were – with all this art. It was all so new to me when I was a kid. Take this ad from I.C.E.

I never had any of their games, but I always admired the art in the adverts – and can you have a cooler name for a company than Iron Crown Enterprises?

Jake Jaquet’s editorial this issue was just the tip of the iceberg …

“There is a bit of a new trend in gaming that I find a bit disturbing, and perhaps it should be food for thought for all of us. I refer to the recent interest in so-called “live” games, especially of the “assassin” or “killer” varieties.”

I remember back in 7th grade some kids running T.A.G. – The Assassinatiom Game. All who participated had to draw the name of another player and kill them – which meant pointing at them and saying “bang”. The victim would then hand his slip over to his assassin, and so it would go until the game was over. Alas, but 2nd period it was all over – a couple morons tried to assassinate their victims in class, and the administration called the game off. I suppose now we would have all been expelled.

Enough of this memory lane stuff, let’s get on to the offerings:

“Why Isn’t This Monk Smiling?” by Philip Meyers brings up the shortcomings of the monk class, and tries to improve on it. The point is actually well made – the idea of suffering through many very weak levels to be powerful at high levels may appear balanced, but it doesn’t work well in practice. To fix things, Philip introduces a new level advancement chart, plays with the rate at which the monk improves its abilities, and adds some new special abilities, some of them psychic. He also makes it easier for the monk to hit those higher levels, without always having to fight another monk.

The monk isn’t out of the fire yet. Steven D. Howard writes in “Defining and Realigning the Monk” a few questions and answers about the monk, mostly to cover why they can’t do some things (answer – I guess it wouldn’t be lawful) and how to once again handle the whole limited number of monks over 7th level. This issue’s Sage Advice keeps the hits coming, with more discussion of the good old monk.

Dude – I had those. Still have some of them, as a matter of fact. Love that packaging, and I always dug that logo.

Next up is Andrew Dewar’s “The Oracle”. This character class always seems like a obvious choice for gaming, but because it deals with the future (which turns out, it is not possible to predict), pulling it off is always tough, both in terms of the abilities, and making it a playable class. Of course, the oracle here is an “NPC class”, meaning not meant for players, but we all played them anyways.

The oracle can cast divination spells, and can use some other divination abilities. It must have an Int and Wis of 14 or higher. Oracles can be human, elf or half-elf. Advancing beyond 11th level requires the oracle to challenge a higher level oracle to a game of riddles (which makes no sense if this is an NPC class … and there is actually half a page spent discussing advancing in level over 11th level).

The innate abilities are various forms of divination – rhabdomancy, arithomancy, etc. – which the class has a percentage chance of using successfully at different levels.

Lewis Pulsipher has a nice introduction to heraldry in “Understanding Armory”. It’s a great primer for those interested in the subject.

Roger E. Moore has the lowdown on “Some Universal Rules – Making Your Own Campaign – and Making It Work”, which covers exactly what he says. He gives a step-by-step on how he designed an original campaign world, based on nothing but his imagination. He also gives a nice set of ways from getting from one universe to another:

1. Cross-universal caves – always go from one world to another.
2. Teleport chains – a length chain of a weird metal that, when surrounding a group and the ends joined pops them into another world.
3. Rings or amulets – like the fabled Ring of Gaxx
4. Rooms and corridors at the bottom of a dungeon
5. Cursed scrolls
6. Angry wizard with a new spell
7. Wish
8. Magical items causing etherealness
9. Psionic probability travel
10. Magic spells (astral spell, plane shift)
11. Mutational planar travel (i.e. Gamma World)
12. Artifacts
13. Advanced technology
14. Acts of the gods

He also notes Dorothy’s ruby slippers

Judith Sampson has a really interesting article called “Adventuring With Shaky Hands”, in which she describes playing the game with choreo-athetoid cerebral palsy. Worth a read.

In “Larger than Life”, David Nalle covers “The Bogatyrs of Old Kiev”. Here are a few highlights:

Prince Vladimir I, The Saint, is a LG 13th level fighter in +5 chainmail with a +3/+4 broad sword. Ilya Muromets is  a LG 20th level fighter – a Cossack with long blond hair – with a mace that scores 2d10 damage.

He also has stats for Baba Yaga, though I don’t know how they compare to the later version in the famous Dancing Hut adventure.

Speaking of adventures, this issue has “The Garden of Nefaron” by Howard de Wied. This adventure won first place in the Advanced Division IDDC II, so it has that going for it, which is nice. This puppy includes some wilderness and a dungeon, and is meant for a large group of relatively high level characters. It also includes some nice Jim Holloway art, one of my faves.

The dungeon has a ki-rin as its caretaker, there are corridors and rooms filled with magic mists, illusions and a really great map (with Dyson-esque cross-hatching).

 

#53 also has some Top Secret material by Merle M. Rasmussen, with scads of spy equipment.

The Dragon’s Bestiary covers Argas (by James Hopkins II), lawful good reptilian humanoids that gain powers from devouring magic, Oculons (by Roger E. Moore), which are enchanted monsters created by magic-users as guardians (and which look super cool) and Narra (by Jeff Goetz), which are lawful human-headed bulls.

Len Lakofka has some extensive info on doors in his Tiny Hut and Matt Thomas does some work on the AD&D disease rules in “Give Disease a Fighting Chance”.

If you like triffids, you’ll like “The Way of the Triffids” by Mark Nuiver. Let’s do a triffid in Blood & Treasure stats:

Triffid

Type: Small to Large
Size: Plant
Hit Dice: 6
Armor Class: 7
Attack: Stinger (10′/1d3 + poison)
Move: 10′
Save: 14
Intelligence: Low
Alignment: Neutral (N) with evil tendencies
No. Appearing: 1
XP/CL: 600/7

They can hide in foliage with 94% chance of success, and they attack with a stinger. The stinger requires two saves vs. poison. If the first is saved, it means instant death. If the second is failed it means blindness and 2d4 additional points of damage.

For the Traveller fans, Dennis Matheson presents “Merchants Deserve More, Too”, which covers character creation for merchants.

 

Another great ad. I’d dig one of these shirts.

Besides reviews and such, that’s it for September 1981 … except for the comics.Here’s a dandy from Will McLean …

And though no Wormy this month, here’s one of the nifty D&D comics by Willingham …

Khellek shouldn’t be confused with Kellek

“That’s the pepper – right down the middle!”

Or Kelek, Evil Sorcerer

Apparently a popular name among magic-users.

Have fun, guys and gals!