Gathox Vertical Slum – A Review

I have recently been given the priveledge of perusing Gathox Vertical Slum by its author and artist, David Lewis Johnson. For readers of this blog who also read my NOD magazine, Johnson should be well known, as his art has graced many issues of NOD (and will grace many more, God willin’ and the crik don’t rise).

I approach game materials in two ways – as stand-alone, run-as-written products (i.e. can I grab it off the shelf and run with it) and as tool boxes. David’s book, I am happy to say, works well in both in capacities.

As a “module”, it is fantastic. A well-developed city, incredibly imaginative with new things around every corner, that can play host to all sorts of adventures. Explorers will not be bored in Gathox, and players who like mysteries, puzzles, interaction and, of course, fisticuffs, will find plenty to do in Gathox provided their referee knows what he or she is doing. While Gathox is fully fleshed out and ready to go, I think one could also make modifications as needed for their group.

I also appreciate the fact that Gathox, as designed, can be dropped (almost literally) into any campaign and a wide variety of games, from pure fantasy to sword & planet to post-apocalyptic to sci-fi. The city is a wandering entity, you see, and it could show up in the World of Greyhawk just as easily as my Nod campaign world or wherever you happen to play.

As a toolbox, Gathox has all sorts of goodies between its covers. There are new and very imaginative monsters, a pretty boss little mutant class and clever rules for running competing gangs in a city setting. The rules as written are compatible with old school games of the D&D variety, so it should be as easily converted to other systems as other old school games.

Gathox Vertical Slum is published by DIY RPG Productions (just look for the sign of the flipping bird), with chapter fiction written by Josh Wagner and editing and layout design by Mike Evans. It is a well designed book – easy on the eyes, easy to read and well organized. Johnson’s art is great (but hey, obviously I’m biased there) and the fiction does a great job of conveying the intended feel of the setting.

Folks, I give David Lewis Johnson’s Gathox Vertical Slum my highest recommendation. It’s a great book – so great that I’m going to shell out some hard currency for a physical copy. I have some 5E D&D-ers that might get a fun surprise if they walk through a shimmering portal one day in the depths of Stonehell.

You can grab a copy (and I recommend you do) HERE.

Dragon by Dragon – February 1982 (58)

The Clyde Caldwell cover to the February 1982 Dragon Magazine is chock-full of fantasy tropes. You have the warrior woman in weird, revealing armor and a gnome fighter mounted on a giant lizard. You also get a Clyde Caldwell trope, namely lots of feathers. That said, I adore Caldwell’s work, and consider it fundamental to 80’s D&D.

We’ll begin this rule with the editorial – which is rare for me. This one deals with “assassin” and “killer” games, and is written on the subject due to an incident in December 1981 in which a college student playing Assassin was shot by police. I bring it up because I played a game of TAG (The Assassination Game) in junior high school. Well – briefly. I managed to get assassinated while walking from first to second period, but remember that by lunch period we were informed that the school had put an end to it due to one idiot performing an assassination during class. I suppose these days the entire school district would be put on lockdown if some kids were playing “assassination”.  What odd memories we nerds have of youth.

The first big article this month is by Len Lakofka, who is “Beefing up the Cleric.” This article introduces a multitude of new cleric spells that will show up later in official AD&D product. They include ceremony, combine (a neat idea), magic stone, magic vestment, messenger, dust devil, enthrall and negative plane protection. One spell I didn’t immediately recognize – readers of this blog might have better memories than I – Death Prayer (2nd level). This spell reduces the likelihood of a corpse being animated at a later date.

The Dragon’s Bestiary includes the sull and beguiler by Ed Greenwood and Magenta’s cat by Roger E. Moore. These last monsters are the descendants of a cat familiar who was made psionic by its mistress, Magenta, and in the process freed from its obligations as a familiar. It went out and made babies, and they inherited the psionic powers. It’s a very cool idea – a psionic cat causing trouble in a village, trouble blamed on some legendary menace the adventurers try to hunt down.

Michael Parkinson offers up “Medusa’s Blood”. This article details the many creatures that were born from Medusa’s blood, including old fantasy favorites like Pegasus, the Lernaean hydra, the chimera, Cerberus and the Theban sphinx. Some new monsters from the lineage of Medusa include Geryon (the three-headed and three-bodied giant, not the demon lord), Echidna and the Blatant Beast.

The Medusa article is followed up by “Four Myths from Greece”, with stats for Atalanta the huntress (9th level fighter), Daedalus (sage/engineer), the Sybil of Cumae (16th level cleric) and Chiron (15th level centaur ranger).

Dragon 58 has a special section all about dwarves, featuring “The Dwarven Point of View”, “The Gods of the Dwarves”, “Sage Advice on Dwarves” and “Dwarven Magical Items”. Dragon did a few of these series, and elements of them became standard parts of Dungeons & Dragons in later days, especially the dwarven pantheon. Roger E. Moore’s “The Dwarven Point of View” is one of those articles that represents the inflection point of the original DIY days and the middle phase of “explain it all”. It’s a useful article for folks new to fantasy gaming, but I suppose some folks didn’t like the Dragon magazine doing articles that might tie their creative hands, what with it being “semi-official” in D&D world.

I liked this bit from “Sage Advice”:

“Why aren’t ettins mentioned among the bigger creatures which attack dwarves and gnomes at -4?

Ettins may be big and dumb, but they don’t suffer any penalty “to hit” against dwarves and gnomes because of the most obvious difference between ettins and other big humanoids: their two heads. In the words of the Monster Manual, “One of the ettin’s heads is always likely to be alert, so they are difficult to surprise.” And, presumably, also difficult to sneak up on in any other way.”

Now let’s be honest – the answer here is “crap, we forgot to include the ettin”.

Another question that struck me is one that shows a clash of mindsets that I’ve seen myself in our hobby. The question writer asks:

“What would be a reasonable spread of races and sub-races for adventurers and NPCs? For instance, what would be the chance of a PC dwarf being a mountain dwarf?”

An interesting question, and one that would be answerable in a particular campaign, or if there was really such a thing as dwarves and we have solid demographic data on  them. I appreciate the answer:

“The chance of a player character dwarf being a mountain dwarf is 100% — if the player wants to be one, and if no circumstances of the campaign prohibit such a choice.”

I’ve fielded a few similar questions from people reading my games, as though I had some special right to tell them what they could and could not do in their own homes. Some folks have the mindset that there is a “right and wrong” to these games we play, and they seek answers from “authorities”. This isn’t a dig against these folks – it’s just a way of looking at things that differs from mine that I find interesting.

On the topic of “The Gods of the Dwarves” – I really loved Moradin when I was a kid. The demi-human pantheon was another case for me, as a young man, of being amazed that you could make up pretend gods and goddesses for a game. This article also introduces a new undead monster – the rapper.

This issue of Dragon also has a bit of fiction from J. Eric Holmes called “The Bag”. It involves a character of his called Boinger. I haven’t read this one, but I’ll include the first couple paragraphs as a taste for those who might want to delve deeper:

“Perhaps the small master is looking for something special?”

The muscular young halfling put down the leather backpack he had been examining and looked at the person who had addressed him. He was worth looking at, Boinger decided. For one thing, his species was not one the adventurer had ever seen before. The creature was obviously not human; his complexion was slate grey and his face was covered with wrinkles so that it looked like a folded piece of linen with a long, pointy nose sticking out. He was shorter than Boinger himself. Some sort of gnome, the halfling thought, out of the north, I suppose. Shorter than a dwarf, taller than a Lilliputian …”

In Robert Barrow’s “Aiming for Realism in Archery: Longer Ranges, Truer Targets” you get another article trying to make the game more realistic. This one has a useful little table about archery accuracy derived from medieval tournament data:

This article is followed up by “Bowmanship Made More Meaningful” by Carl Parlagreco. This one introduced the idea of minimum strength scores for different bows – a 16 for composite longbows, for example, or 8 for short bows. Using a bow without having the strength required presents a -2 penalty to hit per point of strength deficiency. There’s more – so check it out if you like more realism in D&D.

David Nalle presents “Swords – Slicing Into a Sharp Topic”, which gets into the weeds on that fantasy staple, the sword. You get information on its history and construction. No game stats in this one, but good information for folks new to the topic.

There is also an article by Glenn Rahman on the Knights of Camelot Game. I’ve never played the game, so I cannot review the article, per se, but I love the bit on “Acts of Villainy”. These include:

  1. Distressing a Lady
  2. Imprisoning Persons
  3. Looting a Shrine
  4. Piracy
  5. Seizing a Castle by Storm
  6. Slaying a Good Knight
  7. Slaying a Goodly Hermit Man

This is a great checklist for Chaotic/Evil characters in any game – try to do three or four of these things in every game. The article also has two awesome little tables – the kind of random fun that screams old school gaming to me. The first deals with the merchant ships you might run into while being a pirate:

The second is a random table of dying curses from goodly hermits:

It is so hard to keep track of things like this, but I love the idea of using them during play.

Speaking of useful stuff, Jon Mattson’s “Anything But Human” is for Traveller, but could be useful to anyone. It is a collection of random tables for creating aliens. As always, my review of this article consists of using it – here’s my random alien:

It’s a mammal, feline, average of 67 inches tall, that has a bonus of +1 to education and a penalty of -1 to strength and social standing (which in D&D-esque games would be a bonus to intelligence and a penalty to strength and charisma). The creature has a -3 to their psionic rating. It has no special abilities.

“What’s New? – with Phil and Dixie” covers love magic in D&D. I had a crush on Dixie as a kid … and probably still do.

This issue also has cut-out counters of all the magic-user spells to aid magic-user players in keeping track of what they’re doing.

As always, I’ll leave you with Wormy …

Grandeur from Tramp

Sniffing the Flowers in No-Man’s Land

The concept of “Edition Wars” never really struck a chord with me. I started my D&D life with Moldvay/Cook, and then bolted on all the cool stuff from AD&D (classes, races, monsters, spells). I later went to 2nd edition AD&D, ignoring anything I didn’t like and using the things I thought were cool (kits – at the time – being one of them). In 3rd edition I got tired of all the rules and hour long combats that would have taken 10 minutes in older versions of the game and ultimately abandoned it, but I never hated it and there were things in 3rd edition I thought were pretty clever.

And so it came to last Saturday night, when four of my daughter’s friends – aged 17 to 22 I think – gathered around my dining room table to learn D&D. To be more precise, they wanted to get their own game going, but since none of them have ever DM’d, and they knew I was a D&D-er from way back, they wanted to see how I ran a game. My daughter asked me if I was willing, and I was, and so the date was made.

Just a few weeks ago, I had started another D&D game because the wife of an old friend (and D&D player) wanted to try the game out. This game also included my daughter (who had played a couple times with me when she was younger), my friend (as I said, an old pro) and our wives, who had never really played. For this game, I decided to use Moldvay/Cook D&D for two reasons. The first is that I had just bought vintage boxed sets of both and wanted to play with my new toys. The other reason was that I wanted to use a game with few options and few rules so that people could ease into the game playing aspect without being overloaded with rules and regulations. We’re now three sessions in, adventuring in Jeff Rients’ Under Xylarthen’s Tower and I’ve only killed three characters … all of them belonging to my buddy, the most experienced player at the table.

So, having just successfully launched a game for novices with Moldvay/Cook, I figured that would be the best way to go with this new group. But then a complication arose … the kids had all gotten together (no including my daughter) and rolled up characters. With what version of rules I asked? D&D 5th Edition. Hmm.

The problem was that I didn’t have 5th edition and, frankly, I wasn’t going to get it. Nothing against it, but I just didn’t need another version of D&D and I didn’t have time to learn those new rules. I could have nixed the characters and required people roll up new ones for the session I was going to run, but I hate to quash youthful enthusiasm. I could have converted the characters to B&T, but since I knew they were ultimately going to play 5th edition I wanted this training session to be as useful to them as possible. My ultimate solution – I decided to wade into the No-Man’s Land between editions and cling to the faith that D&D is D&D and I could make these different editions work together with absolutely no preparation on my part.

It worked!

What did I end up running? I ran Michael Curtis’ Stonehell dungeon, which was written for Labyrinth Lord with my Blood & Treasure rules behind the DM screen and characters created in 5th edition D&D, except for my daughter, who ran a valley elf fighter named Moon Unit done in B&T. And – I want to stress – I went in 100% cold, with no knowledge of 5th edition other than the fact that lots of people think it’s pretty close to traditional D&D.

How did I handle the rules clash? If I was rolling it behind my DM screen, I was using a blend of Blood & Treasure (surprise, skill rules, saves) and a little old-fashioned D&D (listen at doors checks and reaction checks). If the players were rolling, I let them use what was on their character sheets, sometimes interpreting it through an old school lens. The first thing that took me back was the presence of more bonuses and higher ability scores in 5th edition than in old school games – not a shock, though, since I had played 3rd edition. To make up for the stronger fighting ability of the 5E crowd, I decided to bump monster Armor Classes by 2 points, and I rolled d10 for their hit points. This was after it looked like the characters were going to cut through the monsters like a hot knife through butter. After I made the change about halfway through the session, the fights got tougher and more fun.

I allowed the 5th edition healing rules and death rules to function as-is. If we were playing by old school rules, I killed three characters (including my daughters), two of them with a zombie who rolled really high on damage and who had as many hit points as he could have. Boy, did that zombie scare them. Since we used the new death rules, nobody died – which is fine. I’m not a killer DM, and hey, just getting knocked out scared the crap out of them and made the fights more fun.

The only hurdle I’m not 100% sure how to handle is XP. By 5th edition’s character XP chart, it seems like the group would advance very quickly through levels, making Stonehell too easy for them quickly. The group wants to stick with me as DM for a while longer and they want to explore the dungeon, so I need to keep it viable. For that reason, I think I’m going to use Blood & Treasure’s XP system, which they can then translate into 5th edition’s XP values when I hand over the DM’ing to the player who is planning to become the new DM.

So – moral of the story. Do not fear different editions. Though I can’t speak for 4th edition, which was a departure from the norm, I can say that different editions can work together IF … and this is important … IF you don’t care about getting things perfectly right from a rules standpoint, and just want to have an enjoyable, engaging, exciting game. Work with the players to make a good session, regardless of the rules, and you’ll all have a good time.

Oh – and I found an online character creator that allowed me to turn my daughter’s B&T elf fighter into a 5th edition elf fighter in about 5 minutes, with the exception of picking a feat or feats.

Dragon by Dragon – January 1982 (57)

Wow – 1982. I was ten years old (well, nine in January) and still a couple years away from learning about Dungeons & Dragons. Thirty-six years ago – much as changed, and much has not. I guess all these years later, we can be happy that people are still playing D&D and AD&D and other “old school” games. Let’s start the new year by looking at the new year in 1982 in gaming …

Let’s start with the cover, because it’s pretty different from the traditional fantasy fare. We have a woman, maybe modern, knitting dragons (or something like them) onto a blanket  and the dragons are becoming real and flying into the fireplace, all while a strange painting of a man or woman looks on. The tragedy is that I can’t quite make out the signature, and I didn’t see the artist’s name in the magazine.

Update: Nathan Irving writes me to let me know the artist is Dean Morrissey, who provided covers for 16, 18, 28, 60, 84 and 91.

The first big article is “Modern Monsters” by Ed Greenwood. It’s a great article, giving modern (in 1982) vehicles and firearms stats for D&D. The article also goes into some of the pitfalls of pitting “medieval” characters against modern characters. It really all goes to the point that jumping from one reality into another was assumed to be a regular feature by our elders in the hobby. Here’s one insight you might enjoy:

Magic will ultimately determine the fate of an AD&D party in a modern setting. It is the party’s “heavy artillery,” and must be expended with caution, for it is not wholly renewable. Magic users without spell books will be unable to regain their spells.

Lenard Lakofka presents some useful ideas and tables in “Shield and Weapon Skills”, including this insight about shields after he watched some folks from the SCA put on a demonstration of medieval fighting:

Fully 60% of the blows are caught by the shield. Second, a trained fighter who normally uses a broadsword is a much poorer fighter when using a battle axe for the first time. To place these facts in terms of AD&D™ rules, some minor rule changes are proposed. A shield will now give +2 to armor class instead of just +1.

He also presents some rules for determining how long shields last in combat. My favorite scheme is for shields to have to make an item save whenever an attack roll is a natural ’20’.

The tables I mentioned are for determining an NPC’s weapon proficiencies, but they could also be used to determine an NPC’s armaments.

In the “Sorcerer’s Scroll”, one E. Gary Gygax presents some more details about the Greyhawk setting – a good read for those who use that campaign setting.

In “In Search of a James Bond”, Mark Mulkins covers how in a TOP SECRET game one could work for three different operational bureaus at the same time without sacrificing experience points. What Mark covers in three pages I would just hand wave.

Up next is an article I kinda dig called “Random Magic Items” by Pete Mohney. It’s a collection of some groovy little random tables for generating magic items. I’ll generate three of them now:

1) A magic girdle, not cursed, that gives a +1 bonus to all saving throws.

2) An amulet shaped like a double-headed axe that allows the wearer to control animals once per week.

3) A hat that provides a +1 bonus to intelligence – we’ll call it a thinking cap.

If you’re a player of DragonQuest, this issue has an article about magicians by Jon Mattson. Since I’ve never played the game, I can’t comment on the merits of the article.

This issue’s Giants in the Earth covers a couple characters I don’t know – C. J. Cherryh’s Morgaine and Vanye (with art by Jim Holloway) from the books Gate of Ivrel, Well of Shiuan and Fires of Azeroth, Lynn Abbey’s Rifkind from Daughter of the Bright Moon and The Black Flame, and two characters created by Robert E. Howard – Belit and Dark Agnes. Howard. Belit is a Chaotic Evil 10th level fighter in this write-up, though I would probably go Neutral Evil given her devotion to Conan since I conceive of Chaotic Evil as being utterly self-interested.

The special feature of this issue is an AD&D adventure called “The Wandering Trees” by Michael Malone. It is intended for characters level 6th to 9th. The adventure begins thus:

Long ago, so far back that even the elves are not sure when, Termlane Forest was the home of a tribe of tree-worshipping men. These men built a great temple at the heart of The Forest, where they worshipped their mysterious tree-gods.

The adventure concerns a forest of moving trees with only two safe ways through, and a lost temple somewhere in between. It’s a hell of a dangerous forest, so beware. The adventure also includes stakes for the Phooka.

In “Up on a Soapbox”, there are two essays – one by Brian Blume on the problems with playing evil characters in games, and another by Roger E. Moore on the benefits of playing rpg’s with women.

Michael Kluever has an interesting look at “The History of the Shield”. It’s a good primer for those who like to get crunchy. It’s not a short article, and it is well researched with a useful bibliography.

There’s a great insight into 1982 geekdom in “The Electric Eye”, namely the results of a survey regarding to what high tech goodies readers of the magazine had to play with. The results:

  • 46% have an Apple II or Apple II+
  • 38% have a TRS-80
  • 20% have an Atari 400 or 800
  • 9% have a CBM
  • 6% have no computer
  • 6% have a S-100
  • 3% have a North Star
  • 3% have a VIC
  • and 20% have some other computer

The bottom line, apparently was:

Who is the average Electric Eye reader? He’s a 17-year-old male high school student. He has owned a 48K Apple-l I+ with a disk drive, a printer, and a joystick or a paddle set for about a year. He has spent a little over $100 on software, but he mainly either copies out of magazines or does it himself. He reads The Electric Eye for the program listings and reviews, but he is also interested in other facets of computer gaming.

As always, I leave you with Wormy

Save

Holier Than Thou

I’m currently working on Blood & Treasure Monsters II, which involves fleshing out a few monster notes I’ve accumulated over the years. You know the sort of thing – monster concepts I just haven’t had time to flesh out. Among these concepts are three angels, the cherubim, seraphim and ophanim. These are the kinds of folks you just don’t want to mess with, especially if you’re chaotic. At the end of this article, I’ll talk about what I’ve just released, what I’m about to release, and what I’m going to try to release in 2018.

Image to the right of a cherub in humanoid form by Martin Harris, used under the Creative Commons license

Cherub
Type: Outsider
Size: Large
Hit Dice: 20
Armor Class: 25 [+3]
Attack: 2 kicks (4d6)
Move: 60′ (Fly 120′)
Save: 7; MR 55%
Intelligence: Super
Alignment: Lawful (LG)
No. Appearing: 1
XP/CL: 10,000/23

SA—Magic use (cleric spells, up to 9th level)

SD—Immunity (cold, electricity, fire, energy drain, magic missile, mind effects, petrification, poison, surprise and trap the soul), see invisible creatures, discern lies, protection from evil II and true seeing always active

SP—animate object, blade barrier •••, change self, commune, comprehend languages, control weather •, cure blindness/deafness, cure disease •••, cure serious wounds •••, detect evil, detect magic, dimensional anchor, dispel magic, earthquake •, ego whip •, feeblemind •, fire storm •, flame strike •••, heal, holy word •, insect plague •, intellect fortress •, invisibility II, limited wish •, mental barrier •, mind blank •, mind thrust •, polymorph any object, psionic blast •, psychic crush •, raise dead •••, random action •, read magic, remove curse, remove fear, resist cold, restoration •, shape change •, speak with dead, symbol (any) •, teleport without error, thought shield •, tower of iron will •, wind walk

The cherubim are the second highest in rank among the angels, after the solars. Called great, mighty and blessed, they appear as huge shedu with four wings and four faces, those of an angel, a dragonne, a gorgon and a gold dragon. They guard the passages from the Astral Plane to the upper planes, keeping fiendish beings out.

The dragonne head of a cherub can, four times per day, emit a powerful roar that forces all within 120′ to pass a saving throw or fall unconscious for 1d4 rounds.

The gold dragon head of a cherub can, three times per day, breathe forth a 60′ long cone of fire that deals 6d6 points of damage, or a similar cone of weakening gas that has the same effect as a ray of enfeeblement.

The gorgon head of a cherub can, five times per day, breathe a 60′ long cone of gas that turns creatures that fail a saving throw into salt, even if they astral or ethereal.

If a solar should be destroyed, a cherubim is uplifted into a new solar to take his place in that rank.

Ophan
Type: Outsider
Size: Huge
Hit Dice: 18
Armor Class: 25 [+3]
Attack: Slam (5d6) or trample
Move: 60′ (Fly 150′)
Save: 8; MR 50%
Intelligence: High
Alignment: Lawful (LG)
No. Appearing: 1
XP/CL: 9,000/21

SA—Magic use (cleric spells, up to 9th level, magic-user conjuration spells, up to 6th level)

SD—Immunity (cold, electricity, fire, energy drain, magic missile, mind effects, petrification, poison, sleep and trap the soul), see invisible creatures, discern lies, protection from evil II and true seeing always active

SP—astral projection ••, blade barrier •••, commune, comprehend languages, control weather •, cure blindness/ deafness, cure disease •••, cure serious wounds •••, detect evil, detect magic, disintegrate •, dispel magic, ego whip •, etherealness •••, feeblemind •, fire storm •, flame strike •••, heal, hold monster, holy word •, intellect fortress •, invisibility II, limited wish •, mental barrier •, mind blank •, mind thrust •, polymorph any object, psionic blast •, psychic crush •, raise dead •••, random action •, read magic, remove curse, remove fear, resist cold, restoration •, speak with dead, symbol (any) •, teleport without error, thought shield •, tower of iron will •, wind walk

Ophanim, also called Thrones and Elders, are living symbols of justice and authority (and just authority). They appear as beryl-colored wheels within wheels. The rim of the outer wheel is covered with hundreds of eyes, and the entire angel is wreathed always in divine radiance that heals the good and harms the wicked.

The space within the ophan’s wheels can be occupied by another creature, usually an angel. In this manner, the ophanim are used as chariots, or mounts, by other angels and lawful deities.

The radiance surrounding an ophan grants Lawful creatures the regenerate special ability, and deals 3d6 points of fire damage per round (double to undead) to non-lawful creatures.

An ophanim on the ground can trample a creature by rolling over it, dealing 6d6 points of damage. When flying, they can rotate so rapidly as to cause a whirlwind, like that created by an air elemental, for one minute.

Ophanim can emit up to four rays per round from the eyes on their rim. They can choose from the following:

Amethyst: Command
Silver: Hold monster
Gold: Polymorph
Sapphire: 6d6 cold damage
Emerald: Cure serious wounds
Ruby: 6d6 fire damage
Platinum: Fear
Diamond:6d6 electricity damage

Seraph
Type: Outsider
Size: Huge
Hit Dice: 16 [Regenerate]
Armor Class: 25 [+3]
Attack: Bite (4d6 + constrict)
Move: 40′ (Fly 120′)
Save: 9; MR 75%
Intelligence: High
Alignment: Lawful (CG)
No. Appearing: 1d3
XP/CL: 8,000/19

SA—Magic use (cleric spells, up to 9th level)

SD—Immunity (cold, electricity, fire, energy drain, magic missile, mind effects, petrification, poison and trap the soul), see invisible creatures, discern lies, protection from evil II and true seeing always active

SP—animate object, blade barrier •••, change self, commune, comprehend languages, control weather •, cure blindness/ deafness, cure disease •••, cure serious wounds •••, detect evil, detect magic, dispel magic, earthquake •, ego whip •, feeblemind •, fire storm •, flame strike •••, heal, holy word •••, insect plague •, intellect fortress •, invisibility II, limited wish •, mental barrier •, mind blank •, mind thrust •, polymorph any object, psionic blast •, psychic crush •, raise dead •••, random action •, read magic, remove curse, remove fear, resist cold, restoration •, shape change •, speak with dead, symbol (any) •, teleport without error, thought shield •, tower of iron will •, wind walk

The seraphim are burning serpents with burnished gold scales and six copper wings. They are messengers from the upper planes and foot soldiers of virtue.

Creatures within 30′ of a seraph suffer 2d6 points of fire damage from the intense heat unless they are lawful in alignment, in which case they are unaffected.

A chaotic creature constricted in its coils must roll 1d20 under their Wisdom score or have their alignment shifted to neutral for 3d6 days. This power does not work on chaotic outsiders, but it does leave them confused for 1d6 rounds.

A seraph can breathe a cone of divine fire that is 120′ long and deals 6d6 points of fire damage to most creatures, but 9d6 to chaotic creatures and 12d6 to the undead.

AND NOW A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR …

A week ago I published the e-book for Blood & Treasure Esoterica Exhumed, an expansion to the game with numerous new races, classes, weapons, armor, spells and magic items, as well as optional rules for psionics, 0-level characters and proficiencies. The e-book is $7.99 cheap.

Later today (I hope), I’m putting NOD 33 up for sale. It features an Africa-inspired hex crawl, a continuation of the one first published in NOD 16. It has a pantheon of African deities, mostly drawn from West Africa, a new hero, villain and plot outline for Mystery Men! and a dungeon for OSR games.

In 2018, I’m aiming for three hard covers (and will probably finish two).

Blood & Treasure Monsters II is a sure thing, as I’m about 75% done with it right now. I’m waiting for a cover by Russ Nicholson (you can see a mock-up below).

Myths & Legends will collect numerous pantheons I’ve published in issues of NOD, as well as many as yet unpublished. I’m probably 35% done with this baby.

Outre Dark is a guide to the planes in the NOD cosmos. I’m maybe 15% done with this one, but it should be pretty fun to write.

Of course, I’ll still be making issues of NOD and expanding the NOD campaign setting, and I should get the Pars Fortuna revision out, which will also serve as a preview of the revisions I’d like to do on Bloody Basic in 2019.

Flower Liches of the Dragonboat Festival

I’ve finally found the time, between impromptu trips to Iowa and too dang much work (the real work, not the silly game writing work), to peruse Kabuki Kaiser’s Flower Liches of the Dragonboat Festival, with fantastic art by Evelyn M. Kabuki was kind enough to send me a review copy (PDF), and I’m sure glad he did.

I well remember when Evelyn first showed off some of the artwork on Google+ – my first thought was “dammit – flower liches – I wish I’d thought of that!” Such an enticing notion – a nice twist on an old idea.

Now I can happily report that Flower Liches is a very groovy book. You get a nice adventure with lots of action and mystery, plus a sourcebook for an interesting Asian setting that can also fit nicely into people’s existing settings (it would slip into my Mu-Pan setting in NOD like a treat), plus a dragonboat race minigame with different levels of complexity.

The book is 95 pages long, with a creative, attractive layout and the aforementioned beautiful art by Evelyn M. The text is dense – there is plenty to digest, and all of it is useful. When the text is evocative and descriptive, and it often is, it has a Clark Ashton Smith feel – weird fantasy. You get the practical and the aesthetic all in one package.

In a nutshell, the game describes itself as:

“Flower Liches of the Dragonboat Festival is a Chinese ghost story, a Kung-Fu action movie adventure, and a detective story. It features both location- and event-based
sequences built upon sets of tables which encourage the action to derail and to switch between martial arts displays, thoughtful inquiries, and high octane dungeon action with spirits, monsters with giant bloated tongues, and porcelain faces. They’re meant to be grotesque, picaresque, and gross; they’re spirits and liches, after all. Like in all classic Kung-Fu and Chinese ghost stories, magic and philosophical whatnot alternate
seamlessly with flurries of fists and things that croak and go bump in the dark.”

In my opinion, the game really delivers the goods. You get a colorful romp, very “D&D” and thus easy to include in existing campaigns, that challenges the players in multiple ways, including a mystery to solve (I won’t say much, to keep from spoiling it), monsters to slay and numerous strange and wonderful locales to explore.

If you dig wuxia, mysteries and weird fantasy, get yourself a copy of Flower Liches of the Dragonboat Festival folks – a truly original addition to the OSR.

And I’m still pissed I didn’t think of it first.

Baluchor, Prince of Astral Evil

I found a great old illustration of “Baluchor” from an old Halloween advertisement via James Lileks’ Bleat and thought it would make a great demon prince.

Baluchor, Demon Prince of Evil Astral Monsters

Type: Outsider
Size: Large
Hit Dice: 15 (90 hp)
Armor Class: 22 [+3]
Attack: 2 claws (2d8 + Poison I)
Movement: 40′ (Fly 60′)
Save: 9; MR 65%
Intelligence: Super
Alignment: Chaotic (CE)
XP/CL: 7,500/18

SD—Immunity (electricity, poison)

SP—Astral projection, confusion •••, darkness II, desecrate, detect good, dimension door, dispel magic, ego whip •••, fear, intellect fortress •••, magic missile, mental barrier •••, mind blank •, mind thrust •••, nightmare •, phantasmal killer •, psionic blast •••, psychic crush •, read magic, shield, suggestion, symbol (any), telekinesis (2000 lb.), teleport without error (self + 50 lbs.), thought shield •••, tongues, tower of iron will •, unhallow, unholy aura, unholy word, wall of force

Baluchor is the demon prince of evil Astral creatures, paid fearful obeisance to by the kith-yin, mind blasters, night hags and nightmares.

Baluchor’s antennae can pick up mystic vibrations (detect good, detect magic) and thought waves (E.S.P.) in a 60′ radius (always active).

When Baluchor rolls a natural ‘20’ on a claw attack while on the Astral Plane, he automatically severs a creature’s astral thread (if applicable).

Three times per day he can open a portal to the Astral Plane or a portal from the Astral Plane to another plane and, in the same round, use his telekinesis ability to attempt to push a creature through it.

Baluchor’s hairy body is host to numerous pests and parasites, so those in melee contact with him for more than 3 rounds must pass a saving throw or contract a disease.

Three times per day, Baluchor can summon 1 nalfeshnee or 1d2 marilith demons. Once per day, he can summon 2d8 kith-yin, 2d6 nightmares, 2d4 mind blasters or 1d4 night hags.

 

Aliens I Have Known

I love lo-tech aliens. I don’t mean aliens who wield sticks and stones, but rather aliens from old TV shows and movies who look goofy (or often look goofy). I love the creative work done by make-up artists and folks working with rubber and shiny polyester on these creatures. I’ve always appreciated old time special effects with technological limitations – nothing has taken the magic out of sci-fi and fantasy for me more than computer graphics. I used to wonder how they did it … now I know, and I wonder why with the ability to do virtually anything, they did what they did.

But let’s get back to those old sci-fi aliens – here’s a little chart of aliens I have known (or “watched” would be more appropriate). I’ll include a link to download it below. This could be used for rolling random alien encounters in a gonzo fantasy game, or just for inspiration when doing your own thing.

Oh – and those aliens from a galaxy far, far away who are too stuck up to come visit the Milky Way Galaxy – I left them out. Enjoy!

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD

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The Haunted Mansion

[When I transferred posts to this new blog, I came across this adventure inspired by Disney’s Haunted Mansion that I wrote in October of 2010. It was in draft form, but I’d swear I had already posted it when I wrote it. On the off chance that I didn’t … here it is for the month of October – enjoy!]

This is a bit of a rush job – I just thought of it this morning. I think the inspiration is pretty obvious. Hopefully it will at least give folks a laugh.

The old manor that overlooks the harbor is well known to the locals, who avoid it at all costs. Owned by a successful ship captain, it was once the jewel of the town. It seems the ship captain planned to wed a local girl of tremendous grace and beauty, and invited her to live in his home while he was away on a voyage. On his return, they would be wed. His only request was that she never venture into the attic! Alas, on the happy day the guests arrived at the manor and made merry in the ballroom while the bride was dressed and made ready. The handsome captain arrived home and sought out his bride, and was aghast when he discovered her in the attic. Her curiosity getting the better of her, she broke his only request and discovered his secret – a chest of pirate booty! The man strangled her and then hung himself.

 

If only this was the end of the sad tale – for the ghost of the pirate now descended on the happy revelers, sealing them into the manor and murdering them. Their spirits now haunt the mansion and challenge any who would venture in to discover the pirate’s treasure!

The mansion has wooden walls that resist all blows. Doors are also made of wood, but quite resistant to battering, and they always close on their own a few minutes after being opened. Windows are apparent on the outside of the manor, but on the interior either disappear entirely or allow no light to enter. The rooms and halls are appointed with candle sconces and candles lit with ghostly lights.

1. This entry hall is dusty and covered with cobwebs, but otherwise well appointed. An opening in the north wall leads into the gallery. Once the gallery has been entered, the opening is shut by a sliding wall that foils all attempts to force it open.

2. This gallery has a high ceiling and several portraits of aristocratic folk. Once the sliding wall has closed, the gallery will appear to stretch and the portraits will take on a sinister aspect, depicting their aristocratic subjects dying grisley deaths. A ghostly voice will call out, taunting the adventurers that there is no escape from the room. As the voice laughs menacingly, the gallery goes dark and then the ceiling is lit as though from a bolt of lightning, revealing a body hanging from the rafters. Each henchman with the adventurers must now make a saving throw or be possessed by a spirit of death that will transform them into mouldering coffer corpses.

Coffer Corpse: HD 2+2; AC 7 [12]; Atk 1 fist (1d6); Move 9; Save 16; CL/XP 4/120; Special: Only harmed by magic weapons, choking.

3. This dark hallway is decorated with pictures of mouldering corpses and two busts that follow the adventurers progress down the hall.

4. This room is a kitchen inhabited by a poltergeist. The kitchen contains numerous knives, rolling pins and other dangerous objects.

Poltergeist: HD 1d4; AC 9 [10]; Atk None; Move 6; Save 18; CL/XP 2/30; Special: Fear, invisibility, incorporeal, only harmed by silver or magic weapons.

5. At the top of the stairs one sees a long corridor lit by a floating candelabra. Once adventurers enter 10 feet into the hallway they will be trapped in a pocket dimension – no matter how far one walks in either direction, they cannot leave the hallway without fighting the phantasm holding the candelabra.

Phantasm: HD 9; AC 1 [18]; Atk 1 incorporeal touch (1d6 + level drain); Move 12 (Fly 24); Save 6; CL/XP 12/2000; Special: Level drain, magic jar, desecration.

6. This conservatory holds a coffin that is partially nailed shut. A skeletal entity inside the coffin is attempting to escape while four murder crows look on from above. The crows will attack any who enter the conservatory. The occupant of the coffin is a cadaver – he cannot escape without help.

Cadaver: HD 2; AC 6 [13]; Atk 2 claws (1d4 + disease) and bite (1d6 + disease); Move 12; Save 16; CL/XP 3/60; Special: Disease (fever, -1d3 Con per day until two successive daily saves are made), regenerates 1 hp/rd after being dropped to 0 hp.

Murder Crow: HD 9; AC 1 [18]; Atk 2 claws (1d4) and bite (1d6); Move 3 (Fly 30); Save 6; CL/XP 10/1400; Special: Eye-rake (if both claw attacks hit, save or blindness), when killed it explodes into a swarm of normal crows.

7. The door to this room appears to bulge outward. The room is occupied by a bogeyman, a young woman of aristocratic appearance who made the sad mistake of attending the wedding those many years ago.

Bogeyman: HD 8; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 touch (1d6); Move 12; Save 8; CL/XP 11/1700; Special: Bump in night, frighten, shadow shift.

8. As adventures enter this comfortable room a swarm of 6 shadow rats will emerge from one wall and attack.

Shadow Rats: HD 1d6; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 bite (1d3 + 1d2 Strength); Move 6; Save 18; CL/XP 1/15; Special: Incorporeal (only harmed by magic weapons and spells).

9. When one reaches the center of this room, which is decorated with clocks, they will suffer from a slow effect. The room will appear to grow to five times its actual dimensions, and each round spent in the room will age the adventurers 10 years.

10. Two hapless apparitions of twin moneychangers occupy this room for eternity. Their corpses, hacked by a hatchet, are in the center of the room clutching a leather sack of 300 gold pieces.

Apparition: HD 8; AC 1 [18]; Atk See special; Move 15; Save 8; CL/XP 12/2000; Special: Only harmed by silver or magic weapons, sense living creatures, choking.

11. Three ghoulish maids feast on the remains of three bridesmaids in yellow taffeta. If the ghouls are dispatched, the bridesmaids’ skeletons will burst from their bodies and attack.

12. This was the room of the bride, now empty. The wardrobe contains rich clothing of velvet and silk (worth a total of 200 gp) and a jewelry box holds a golden ring on a severed finger. Anyone touching the ring must make a saving throw or be “magic jarred” into the ring – a mourning ring – their body being transformed into a vengeful demiurge.

Demiurge: HD 8; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 touch (1d4); Move 12 (Fly 18); Save 8; CL/XP 13/2300; Special: Transfix, soul touch, only harmed by magic weapons or cold-wrought iron weapons.

13. This séance room holds a round table and a tall wooden chair. Musical instruments float about the room, held aloft by a pesky poltergeist. A crystal ball rests on the table and holds the image of a medium’s head, one Madame Leota. Upon entering, Leota will say the following:

“Serpents and spiders, tail of a rat/Call in the spirits, wherever they’re at./Rap on a table, it’s time to respond/Send us a message from somewhere beyond./Goblins and ghoulies from last Halloween/Awaken the spirits with your tambourine./Creepies and crawlies, toads in a pond/Let there be music from regions beyond./Wizards and witches wherever you dwell/Give us a hint by ringing a bell.”

Asking her a question causes a tarot card to appear on the table. Picking up the card activates it as though it were from a Deck of Many Things.

14. This balcony overlooks a dining hall. The western portion of the room is occupied by a table filled with a gruesome feast being consumed by wights garbed as though from ancient Rome and Egypt. Other wights are riding chandeliers and drinking from bottles of wine (poison). Portraits of duelists hang on the wall, and the ghosts therein will, every 1d4 rounds, appear over their portraits and fire one of their ghostly guns (or crossbows, if you prefer) at an adventurer. Those hit by a bullet or bolt must pass a saving throw or be paralyzed for one round. The eastern portion of the room holds a dozen waltzing ghosts and a mouldering organ player. His ornate organ draws shadows from the Land of the Dead into the material world. 1d6 shadows appear each round to challenge the party. The organist is a wraith.

15. This attic holds a chest of pirate treasure (10,000 gp worth) and the ghost of the bride, turned into a bhuta by her brutal murder at the hands of her beloved sea captain. The only way out of this room is the window overlooking the graveyard.

Bhuta: HD 7; AC 4 [15]; Atk 2 claws (1d8); Move 12; Save 9; CL/XP ; Special: Death grip.

16. This graveyard offers the only means of escape from the dark dimension of the Haunted Mansion. Each round spent in the place carries a 1 in 6 chance that a mortuary cyclone will arise. Once defeated, the threat of the mortuary cyclone is ended.

The graveyard is filled with tombstones and stone crypts. The doors to the crypts are easy to open but difficult to re-open once the crypt is entered. Each crypt is a room with coffins sealed into the floor or resting on shelves in the walls.

17. This crypt is occupied by the ghosts of five musicians. A brass bell hangs from the ceiling, and when rung causes all undead within 10 feet to make a saving throw or be disrupted (i.e. stunned) for one round. Disrupted undead also suffer 1d6 damage. Each spirit has a golden harp that can be seized when the creature is destroyed. Each harp is worth 500 gp and can cast a charm person spell once per day in the hands of a trained harpist.

Groaning Spirits: HD 7; AC 2 [17]; Atk 1 touch (1d8); Move 12; Save 9; CL/XP 12/2000; Special: Chilling touch, aura of fear, keening, only harmed by magic weapons.

18. This crypt holds two aristocratic corpses, now animated as ghasts.

19. This crypt holds the spirit of an executioner and a headless knight. Both are spectres.

20. This crypt appears empty. A loose flagstone reveals a brass lock made for a large key. If the key from area 21 is used, it will cause the entire crypt to sink down into the earth, revealing a long, dark tunnel lined with mirrors. Looking into the mirror will cause a wicked spirit to attach itself to the adventurer (treat as a Bestow Curse spell – no save). At the end of the corridor there is a stairway leading back into the real world, apparently depositing the adventures in a small, stone outbuilding of the Haunted Mansion and into the daylight.

21. This crypt is larger inside than it would appear on the outside. It offers a winding set of stairs down into the earth that end in a small chamber with three doors. The first door holds a gang of four barrow wights guarding a large brass key. The second door holds a crypt thing that will teleport the adventurers back to room 2 in the mansion. The final door holds another set of stairs that seem to go at least 100 feet down into the cold earth. The end in a cavern through which flows a black river of moaning souls. A skeletal boatman waits on the shore, beckoning adventurers forward. The boatman is a charonadaemon, and he will carry adventurers into the realm of Hades.

Barrow Wights: HD 6; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 slam (1d4+3 + level drain); Move 12; Save 11; CL/XP 9/1100; Special: Gaze causes confusion, drain one level with slam attack (save negates), characters killed by a barrow wight rise as barrow wights one round later.

Crypt Thing: HD 6+1; AC 2 [17]; Atk 1 claw (1d8); Move 15; Save 11; CL/XP 7/600; Special: Only harmed by magic weapons, teleport.

Charonadaemon: HD 10; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 staff (1d8); Move 15; Save 5; CL/XP 15/2900; Special: Spells, fear gaze, summon demons, only harmed by magic weapons, magic resistance 55%, plane shift, telepathy.

22. This is the crypt of a transplanted mummy. It wears a golden circlet worth 1,000 gp that is poisonous to the first person who touches it (save or die).

Apparition
Apparitions are ethereal undead that are only vulnerable to attack when they themselves attack. They are reluctant to approach mirrors or objects made of pure silver. Apparitions usually speak common. They surprise on a roll of 1-4 on 1d6. Although an apparition cannot actually touch a victim, it creates the sensation of choking; a victim that succeeds at a saving throw is stricken with horror and must flee for 1d4 rounds, while a victim that fails his save must also make a saving throw or suffer a massive heart attack and die on the spot. A victim killed by an apparition will rise as an apparition in 2d4 hours.

Apparition: HD 8; AC 1 [18]; Atk See special; Move 15; Save 8; CL/XP 12/2000; Special: Only harmed by silver or magic weapons, sense living creatures, choking.

Bhuta
A bhuta is the spirit of a person who was murdered. For about 2 weeks they appear as they did in life; thereafter they begin to rot and take on a ghoulish appearance. When a bhuta hits with both claw attacks it fastens its hands around the victims throat and chokes for automatic claw damage each round. Breaking the bhuta’s grip requires one to roll 1d20 (adding their strength bonus or penalty) and meeting or beating 18.

Bhuta: HD 7; AC 4 [15]; Atk 2 claws (1d8); Move 12; Save 9; CL/XP ; Special: Death grip.

Bogeyman
Bogeymen look like translucent humans with delicate, childlike features. They can create phantasmic sounds and images (per phantom force) at will and those who look upon them must save vs. fear or stand frozen with fear for 1d6+2 rounds. Bogeymen can travel between shadows per the dimension door spell.

Bogeyman: HD 8; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 touch (1d6); Move 12; Save 8; CL/XP 11/1700; Special: Bump in night, frighten, shadow shift.

Charonadaemon
Charonadaemons appear as skeletal boatmen in black robes. They always have a skiff and staff. They can cast the following spells: Darkness 15’ radius, detect invisibility, fear and teleport (including their skiff). Once per day they can attempt to summon 1d4 vrocks or another charonadaemon with a 35% chance of success. They can steer their skiff into the Astral and Ethereal Planes, as well as the plane of Hades. As daemons, they are immune to acid and poison and suffer half damage from cold, fire and electricity.

Charonadaemon: HD 10; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 staff (1d8); Move 15; Save 5; CL/XP 15/2900; Special: Spells, fear gaze, summon demons, only harmed by magic weapons, magic resistance 55%, plane shift, telepathy.

Coffer Corpse
These undead resemble zombies. Although most coffer corpses attack with their fists, 25% are armed with weapons. Creatures hit by the coffer corpse’s fists must make a saving throw to avoid be grabbed around the neck and choked, suffering 1d6 damage per round automatically until killed; nothing can make it release its grip.

Normal weapon appear to do damage to a coffer corpse, but they actually do not. If the creature sustains 6 or more points of damage from a normal weapon, it will go down as though destroyed. It will then rise again, causing fear in those who witness the revival and fail a saving throw.

Coffer Corpse: HD 2+2; AC 7 [12]; Atk 1 fist (1d6); Move 9; Save 16; CL/XP 4/120; Special: Only harmed by magic weapons, choking.

Demiurge
Demiurge are incorporeal spirits that look like humans with sunken noses, empty eye sockets and semi-transparent flesh. Their gaze acts as a hold person spell. A demiurge can fly through a person’s body, forcing them to pass a saving throw or die instantly.

Demiurge: HD 8; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 touch (1d4); Move 12 (Fly 18); Save 8; CL/XP 13/2300; Special: Transfix, soul touch, only harmed by magic weapons or cold-wrought iron weapons.

Groaning Spirit
Groaning spirits appear as incorporeal female elves. Their touch causes one point of strength drain unless a saving throw is passed. Anyone viewing a groaning spirit must pass a saving throw or flee in terror for 1d6+4 rounds. Once per day a groaning spirit can emit a death wail that forces anyone hearing it to pass a saving throw or drop dead.

Groaning Spirits: HD 7; AC 2 [17]; Atk 1 touch (1d8); Move 12; Save 9; CL/XP 12/2000; Special: Chilling touch, aura of fear, keening, only harmed by magic weapons.

Phantasm
Phantasms are spirits of pure evil. They look like hooded spectres with tentacle-like arms. The phantasm’s touch drains one level unless a saving throw is made. It can use the spell Magic Jar once per round to take possession of a creature on the material plane. The phantasm is surrounded by a 10-ft diameter aura in which undead are turned as though 3 Hit Dice greater.

Phantasm: HD 9; AC 1 [18]; Atk 1 incorporeal touch (1d6 + level drain); Move 12 (Fly 24); Save 6; CL/XP 12/2000; Special: Level drain, magic jar, turned as a 12 HD creature.

Poltergeist
Poltergeists are “noisy spirits” encountered where they were originally killed. They are invisible and incorporeal and can only be harmed by silver or magic weapons. They can attack by throwing unattended objects, hitting as though they were 5 HD creatures. Creatures hit by a flying object suffer no damage, but must pass a charisma save or be affected by fear, fleeing in a random direction for 2d12 rounds. There is a 50% chance a victim will drop what he is carrying while fleeing. Holy water and strongly presented holy symbols will drive poltergeists back but not harm them.

Poltergeist: HD 1d4; AC 9 [10]; Atk None; Move 6; Save 18; CL/XP 2/30; Special: Fear, invisibility, incorporeal, only harmed by silver or magic weapons.

“don’t forget your death certificate”

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Nodian Grimoire II

Thought up a few new spells – probably more weird than useful, but who knows?

Belch Bile (Conjuration)
Level: Magic-User 3
Range: 20′ cone
Duration: Instantaneous

The magician conjures acid from their guts, belching it in a cone 20′ long and 10′ wide. All in the path of the acid suffer 1d4 points of damage per magic-user level (save for half damage). The magic-user loses their voice for one hour after casting the spell due to throat burn.

Body of Rubber (Transmutation)
Level: Magic-User 3
Range: Personal
Duration: 1 hour

The spell caster’s flesh becomes as rubber. They are immune to falling damage, and in fact bounce back half as high as they fell with no effort, or as high as they fell with some effort. Bludgeoning weapons do no damage to them, and their Armor Class against all other attacks is increased by +2.

Cocoon (Abjuration)
Level: Magic-User 2
Range: Touch
Duration: 1 hour

A piece of cloth large enough to cover the target becomes a metal cocoon, protecting them from harm. The cocoon holds enough air to allow the protected individual to breathe comfortably for the duration of the spell. The quality of the metal depends on the level of the spell caster: Steel for levels 3rd to 7th and adamantine for 8th and 9th level casters. The metal is one inch thick. The cocoon weighs approximately 1,400 lb.

Freeze Ray (Evocation)
Level: Magic-User 3
Range: 120′
Duration: Instantaneous

The target of this ray suffers 1d6 points of cold damage per level and must pass a saving throw or be paralyzed for 1d4 rounds.

Lifting Hand (Evocation)
Level: Magic-User 4
Range: See below
Duration: 1 minute

An invisible hand of force appears beneath the spell caster and comrades within 5 feet of him and lifts them up or down up to 20 feet per level. The hand can move laterally no more than 2 feet per level. If the magic-user and friends are still on the hand when the spell’s duration runs out, it simply disappears.

Mutation Ray (Transmutation)
Level: Magic-User 4
Range: 60′
Duration: 1 hour

A glowing green ray erupts from the palm of the magic-user’s left hand. A creature struck suffers a random mutation (see mutagen capsule in Blood & Treasure Rulebook). There is a percentage chance that the mutation is permanent equal to 20 minus the target’s constitution score, or 10 minus their Hit Dice for monsters. Constructs, oozes, outsiders and elementals are unaffected by the ray and fey creatures receive a +2 bonus to save against it.

Ricochet (School)
Level: Magic-User 2
Range: Touch
Duration: 1 minute

A sword blade touched by the magic-user gains the ability to block unerringly rays and magic missiles.

Spiraling Failure (Enchantment)
Level: Magic-User 3
Range: 30′
Duration: 24 hours

The magic-user curses one dice-rolling aspect of her target – attack rolls, saving throws against a general class of threat, a particular task check, etc. For 24 hours, every time the target fails one of those dice rolls, they suffer a cumulative -1 penalty one subsequent dice rolls of that type.

Transmute Flesh to Robot (Transmutation)
Level: Magic-User 6
Range: 30′
Duration: 10 minutes

The target of this spell has their flesh and innards changed to metal and mechanisms for 10 minutes. This gives them the abilities of a construct and a natural AC of 15, but removes their emotions (and alignment becomes true neutral).

Transmute Food to Ash (Necromancy)
Level: Anti-Cleric 2, Druid 2, Magic-User 2
Range: 10′
Duration: Instantaneous

Up to 1 lb of food per level within view and no more than 10 feet away is turned to ashes.

Transmute Water to Poison (Necromancy)
Level: Anti-Cleric 2, Druid 2, Magic-User 2
Range: Touch
Duration: Permanent

The magic-user transmutes up to one gallon of water per level into Poison I or one quart of water per level to Poison II, one pint of water per level to Poison III and fluid ounce of water per level to Poison IV. If the magic-user attempts to transmute a larger portion of water than allowed by their level, the spell fails. The reverse of this spell changes poisons (in like quantities to above) to pure water.

Illustration by Jon Kaufman

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