Buzzkill

A while back, I was playing around with creating YouTube playlists based on Saturday morning TV shows from different years. The one’s I managed to create – not an easy thing, since most of those classic shows are not remotely public domain – are live on the site. If you search for “SaturdayMorning1968” – or other years – you’ll probably find them.

In the process of making these lists, I came across a Canadian sci-fi show called Starlost. Given the audience for this blog, many of you have probably heard of this show and maybe even seen it. The episodes are on YouTube, and I must say that the one I watched I quite enjoyed. I watched episode 15, thus starting near the end of the series, but it wasn’t hard to figure out what was going on.

The show could be good inspiration for folks who run Metamorphosis Alpha, as it has a similar setting. Episode 15 involved a creature that I thought would work well as a monster for fantasy, post-apocalypse or sci-fi games, but I must issue a SPOILER ALERT here, since the creature and its stats give away the plot of the episode.

Scroll down past the episode link if you don’t care about spoilers, or better yet, watch the episode first and then check out the monster stats …

 

 

 

 

The episode involved  giant mutant bees that I thought would make a pretty good monster. Their Blood & Treasure stats are below:

Giant Mutant Bee
Type: Monster
Size: Medium
Hit Dice: 4
Armor Class: 14
Attack: Sting (1d4 + Poison III)
Movement: 30′ (Fly 80′)
Save: 15
Intelligence: High
Alignment: Lawful Neutral (with evil tendencies)
No. Appearing: 2d4
XP/CL: 1,200/6

Giant mutant bees are highly intelligent bees that measure up from 3 to 4 feet in length. They are very aggressive, wishing to expand their territory and domination over “lesser” species by any means possible.

A giant mutant queen bee is capable of controlling one humanoid creature at a time, communicating through something akin to radio waves and issuing orders to it in a subtle-enough way that the controlled creature does not recognize that it is being controlled. This domination has a range of 1 mile, but can be extended through the queen’s drones – thus up to 2 miles.

A giant mutant queen bee can control normal bees within 1 mile, sending swarms of them to harass and attack her enemies. She can read the thoughts of humanoid creatures within 3 miles.

Giant mutant bees enjoy a +3 bonus to save vs. poison, while the queens are immune to poison. Cold damage acts as a slow spell on giant mutant bees.

A giant mutant beehive consists of one queen and 2d4 drones.

A Moment of Paternal Pride

Just a quick note today to show off something that made me very happy, for a few reasons …

This is a shot of the game table where my daughter ran a session of Blood & Treasure for a group of her friends.

Of course, it makes me happy to see my game being played, especially on a table instead of via the internet.

It also makes me happy to see that the little acorn didn’t fall too far from the tree. Gaming was never something I pushed on my daughter. She showed interest from an early age, mostly because we collected some of those D&D miniatures that WoTC put out. Out games were not very serious and used rules I made up as I went along – mostly me asking what she wanted to do, and then having her roll the dice and try to beat a number to do it. We had fun – her party consisted of Romeo the dwarf, Aladdin the cleric, Tinkerbell the thief … and a few others. I don’t remember them all, but I do remember that the wacky antics of Romeo the dwarf were our favorite.

Since those times, we’ve played some real D&D – recently using the Moldvay Basic set with some family friends, wherein she has a played a thief that was the only smart enough not to challenge a dragon while 3rd level … and thus was the one who survived the fight without a scratch. The others should have listened to her, but a couple of them were just learning the game, and the most experienced player had most recently played 3.5 edition … so you know how that works in terms of player survivability. Just a wee bit different than old Basic D&D.

But now the child has become the DM (or Treasure Keeper, in this case), and it was fun to listen to her introduce her friends to the concept of gaming. They wanted to try because of Stranger Things – who knows how good that show has been to table top gaming? Listening to people who have never played before start hatching crazy plans involving 10′ poles and finding a way to kill the witch without destroying her treasure brought a smile to my face – the game may be old now, but it has the same goofy effect on the players. And, most importantly, they had fun and wanted more – 3 sessions in all before one of them went off to college.

Folks, games are supposed to be about getting people together and having a good time. D&D and its many clones and descendants do just that – so raise a glass to the games, and all the people who designed, played and enjoyed them over the years.

And no – I’ve not disappeared from the hobby. I’m taking a sabbatical and planing to get back to work in earnest in 2020.

Thar She Blows

Here’s a little beastie that popped into my head today while I was walking the dog. Strangely enough, there was a cloud-filled sky …

Cloud Whale
Type: Elemental (Air)
Size: Huge
Hit Dice: 36
Armor Class: 16 [+1]
Attack: Bite (6d6 + 1d6 electricity), slam (3d6 + 1d6 electricity)
Move: Fly 100′
Save: 7
Intelligence: Low
Alignment: Neutral (N)
No. Appearing: 1d4
XP/CL: 3,600/37

SA—Resistance to cold and electricity, immune to fire

SP—Gaseous form, gust of wind •••

Cloud whales look just as you might expect, as masses of clouds in the shape of whales. They swim through the sky, only rarely descending near the ground, feeding on incendiary vapors and smoke. These vapors are spouted from the cloud whale every so often as a gout of flame, and coagulate within them as “flambergris”, a waxy, reddish mass about the size of a human fist, that can be used by magic-users in fire-oriented magic. A ball of flambergris is worth 500 gp. A ball can be set ablaze and thrown in the manner of alchemist’s fire.

Rainbow Fantasy III – The Champion

I wind up my little Rainbow Fantasy series of tributes to children’s TV fantasy action shows with a class based on probably the two best such shows, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and She-Ra, Princess of Power.

The Champion

Champions are warriors that draw their power from an oath to defend a Lawful place, institution or divine entity. They often appear as shining knights, and preach a philosophy of mercy, honesty and generosity. Although implacable foes of Chaos, they are not killing machines; a champion would prefer to subdue evil or convert it to goodness if possible, rather than simply slay it.

Requirements & Restrictions

To be a champion, a character must have the following minimum scores: Str 9, Wis 11 and Cha 13.

Champions must be Lawful in alignment. They can use all armors, shields and weapons.

A champion who ceases to be Lawful or whom grossly violates the champion’s code of conduct (see below), loses all special abilities, including the services of their mount (see below). The fallen champion may not progress any further in levels as a champion until she atones by gaining enough experience to gain another level without the use of her special abilities and while acting in perfect accordance with his alignment and code of conduct.

Champion Skills

Champions add their level to the following task checks:

Healing—Champions are knowledgeable about applying bandages, mending broken bones and compounding medicines, unguents and tinctures. They can stop wounds from bleeding, and with a successful check grant a +1 bonus to save vs. ongoing poison and disease.

Riding—Champions are capable of fighting while mounted at no penalty, and can use this task for dangerous (and awesome) stunts.

Champion Abilities

A champion must take a sacred oath to a Lawful cause or entity. Her sword (or other weapon) becomes a symbol of this oath. If a champion comes into the possession of a better weapon, she may transfer her oath to it.

A champion is immune to disease, and can cure disease once per week per 5 levels attained. Her touch can calm emotions (as the spell) three times per day. Comrades adventuring with a champion receive a +2 bonus to save vs. mind-affecting effects.

A 2nd level champion can heal wounds (her own or those of others) by touch. This is called the “laying on of hands”. Each day she can heal a total number of hit points of damage equal to twice her champion level. She may choose to divide her healing among multiple recipients and she does not have to use it all at once.

A 3rd level champion gains the ability to amplify her heroic powers once per day by invoking her sacred oath while holding aloft the weapon on which she took her oath. This exact form of this amplification can be chosen by the champion. To simulate this, the champion receives a number of Power Points equal to her level divided by two (rounding up) per day. One power point can be spent to gain a +1 bonus to attack or save or a +2 bonus to Armor Class or damage or a +10′ increase to speed. These power-ups last for 10 minutes. Three power points can be spent on an augury, strength or haste spell effect with duration as the spell’s in question.

A 4th level champion can undertake a quest guided by a divine vision to find and gain the service of an unusually intelligent, strong, and loyal mount to serve her in her crusade against evil. This champion can choose from one of the following mounts: Celestial warhorse, pegasus, spotted lion, tiger or unicorn (female champions only). Treasure Keepers can add other animals to this list as they wish.

The mount and its location appear in a vision. The location is no more than a week’s ride away, and the challenge involved in claiming it should be difficult but not impossible.

For every three levels the champion gains after 4th level, her mount gains one Hit Dice.
A champion wielding a weapon sword can deflect rays, beams and magic missiles a number of times per round equal to half their level (rounding down). Instead of automatically deflecting a ray, the champion can try to aim the deflection. To do this, the champion must roll 1d20 under her dexterity score; if the save is successful, her target must pass a saving throw or be struck by the ray, beam or magic missile. This ability does not work against lightning bolts or fireballs. A 3rd level champion can also choose to convert the ranged attack into a color spray spell. A 6th level champion can convert the ranged attack into a rainbow pattern. A 9th level champion can convert the ranged attack into a prismatic spray.

Swearing Fealty

A 9th level champion can swear fealty to a Lawful outsider, becoming their agent and champion on the Material Plane. The champion is charged to defend a Lawful realm under the protection of the outsider in question. To aid her on her quest, the champion gains the services of 1d4+2 followers. Roll on the following table to discover what sort of followers the champion attracts:

Roll d%
01-08  Automatons (1d6)
09-12  Crystal men (1d3)
13-20  Dwarves (1d6)
21-28  Elves (1d6)
29-36  Gnomes (1d6)
37-44  Hawk men (1d6)
45-64  Men-at-arms (1d6)
65-70  Nixies (1d4)
71-74  Pixies (1d3)
75-76  Shambling mound (1)
77-78  Bard (level 1d6+1)
79-80  Butterfly (level 1d6+1)*
81-82  Duelist (level 1d6+1)
83-86  Fighter (level 1d4+1)
87-90  Magic-user (level 1d4+1)
91-92  Monk (1d4+1)
93-96  Scout (level 1d6+1)
97-00  Sorcerer (level 1d4+1)

* See THIS POST for the butterfly class

Strongholds

A 12th level champion may conquer an evil stronghold and sanctify it for her own use or simply construct a stronghold of her own. The stronghold must be a symbol of goodness for all the land, not just a mere construction of stone and metal. When a champion occupies a stronghold, she adds 1d4+2 more followers to her retinue, plus 60 Lawful men-at-arms of a type determined by the champion.

Champion Codes

Champions live their lives by a code of virtue, and must also abide the following strictures:

• Must always seek to knock foes unconscious rather than killing them – killing is a last resort.

• May not own more than 10 magic items.

• May not retain more wealth than needed to support herself, her henchmen and to maintain her castle.

• May only employ Lawful henchmen. Champions may adventure with non-Lawful characters, but must make at least a small attempt to reform them, and must, at the end of each adventure, explain how that adventure taught a sound moral lesson.

Besides these rules, champions must abide by a code of conduct that demands honesty, mercy and generosity above all things.

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.

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.

Rainbow Fantasy I – The Butterfly

There are so many kinds of fantasy to choose from. Old D&D was a mish-mash of everything from King Arthur to Hammer films to Elric (which is why I love it), Warhammer does dark and gothic, there are the oiled up barbarians from 80’s movies, fairy and folk tales, weird fantasy and horror … and also what I would have called in my youth “girly fantasy”.

OK – don’t get up in arms over the nickname, but when I was growing up this was the stuff more girls liked than guys. I think most folks know what I’m talking about – rainbows, unicorns, pegasi, fairies, etc. Let’s call it “Rainbow Fantasy”.

While Rainbow Fantasy may have ended up in 80’s TV cartoons and on junior high school folders, it started long before that. Old fairy tales made some use of it, Baum’s OZ, where people cannot die is within this category, and the “hippies” during the psychedelic 60’s who were besotted with flowers and nature and pleasure in all its forms certainly used it. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” is like a hex crawl through this sort of fantasy.

Where Rainbow Fantasy has gotten short shrift, I think, is fantasy role playing games. I remember when a few guys in the neighborhood and me starting playing some D&D back in the 80’s. We invited a neighborhood girl (a close friend of mine, practically a sister) to play. She created a Rainbow Fantasy-style elf character, and we all looked at her like she was insane. He had a cutesy name. D&D just wasn’t for cutesy names.

Well, of course D&D is for cutesy names or whatever else you want to cram into it. It’s a system, not a genre. Jeff Rients said it best when he said, “You play Conan, I play Gandalf. We team up to fight Dracula.” As an adult, I’ve learned to appreciate all sorts of things I didn’t as a kid, especially something as strange and creative as Rainbow Fantasy.

With that in mind, I’m going to write a few articles to bring a little rainbow into the deep, dark dungeon. Up first is a character class called the Butterfly, inspired by an old piece of fantasy art from a magazine that had very little to do with fantasy. I’ll then discuss the ways we can treat alignment and quests in this sort of fantasy to make it work, and I’ll follow up with a discussion of how existing classes and races might work in a rainbow fantasy campaign as well as introduce one more class.

You play She-Ra, I’ll play the Last Unicorn. Dracula will never know what hit him.

The Butterfly Class

Butterflies are a mystic calling of some people. Those with a lust for wandering in wide meadows of cool grass and chatting with hummingbirds, those who wish to escape the bonds of the earth and the boundaries of the mind. They can see the beauty of life and nature despite the ugliness and sorrow, and seek to spread that beauty far and wide. The butterfly is like a light in the darkness.

|Requirements & Restrictions|

Ability Scores: Dex 11, Cha 13

Alignment: Non-chaotic

Armor Permitted: None

Weapons Permitted: Club, dagger, sling, staff

|Butterfly Skills|

Butterflies add their level to the following task checks:

Communication: Butterflies can communicate with creatures that speak languages they do not understand. Much of this is through empathy and hand gestures (but not THAT hand gesture – it’s just so crude).

Fly: Butterflies can perform all manner of aerobatic stunts while flying with their natural wings or while mounted on flying mounts.

Handle Animals: Butterflies can calm frightened and hostile animals, and tame wild animals. They can teach tame animals simple tricks.

Move Silently: Butterflies can walk slowly and lightly without making a sound.

|Butterfly Abilities|

Butterflies can see auras. This includes magic auras generated by spells, magic items and the like, and alignments (Law, Chaos and Neutrality).

A butterfly can speak with all animals and is always considered a friend by non-predatory beasts. These animals will help a butterfly whenever she requests it, as long as it does not put them in direct danger and as long as she treats them with respect and kindness. A butterfly gets a +2 bonus to reaction checks with predators, and might be able to convince them to help her given the right inducements.

A 2nd level butterfly can shrink to tiny size, about 6 inches tall, and grow butterfly wings. She can do this once per day per two levels. At this size, the butterfly can fly at a speed of 60 feet per round. In this form, she can weave magic (see below). The butterfly can remain at this size for as long as she likes, and can return to normal at will.

A 3rd level butterfly can grow butterfly wings while at full size and use them to fly at a speed of 40 feet per round. She can do this once per day per three levels.

At 4th level, a butterfly can take the form of a cloud of butterflies. She can do this once per day per four levels. Treat this as the same as a magic-user taking gaseous form.

Whenever a butterfly is flying, she leaves behind a trail of glitterdust (per the spell) which falls on any creature beneath her flight path.

Butterfly Spell List

1st level – Audible glamer, calm emotions, charm person, color spray, dancing lights, detect secret doors, faerie fire, goodberry, hypnotism, light, reduce person, sleep

2nd level – Continual light, cure light wounds, darkvision, glitterdust, hold animal, invisibility, pyrotechnics, reduce animal, summon swarm (insects only), web

3rd level – Blink, cure moderate wounds, daylight, hold person, invisibility sphere, shrink item, sleep II, speak with plants

4th level – Charm monster, cure serious wounds, false forest, giant vermin, invisibility II, rainbow pattern

Butterfly Class Table

LVL XP HD ATK SV 1 2 3 4
1 0 1d4 +0 15 1
2 1,500 2d4 +0 14 2
3 3,000 3d4 +1 14 3 1
4 6,000 4d4 +1 13 3 2
5 12,000 5d4 +1 13 3 3 1
6 24,000 6d4 +2 12 3 3 2
7 48,000 7d4 +2 12 3 3 3 1
8 100,000 8d4 +3 12 4 3 3 2
9 200,000 9d4 +3 11 4 3 3 3
10 300,000 10d4 +3 11 4 4 3 3
11 400,000 +1 hp +4 10 4 4 3 3
12 500,000 +1 hp +4 10 4 4 4 3
13+ +100,000 +1 hp 5 4 4 3

 

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The Antiquarian – Thumbnail Class Sketch

When I forget my phone at home, I usually spend lunch writing in a little notebook rather than reading. Today I had a few ideas for a class, which I present before in “thumbnail sketch” format, rather than fully realized.

This fellow will probably find his way into Esoterica Exhumed in a more fleshed-out form.

The Antiquarian …

– Rolls d4 for hit points

– Fights and saves like a magic-user

– Can read obscure languages

– Collects dusty tomes, books, scrolls – carries them on his back, so he’s hunched over – provides protection from back stabs

– Can call up the ghosts of the past to help him (knowledge, fighting, etc. – “Julius Caesar, I choose you”) – I figure this will work a little like an illusionist’s shadow conjuration spells

– Legend lore, as a bard (or more so)

– Use magic scrolls to cast spells; can always identify potions and scrolls

– Can recall ways to fight monsters (“Egad, I nearly forgot that ogres are allergic to dust mites”) – while fighting a monster, but only if the group doesn’t have what they need – they can use the method in future fights, though, and get a +1 to hit the monster

– Has bad eyesight from all the reading – easier to surprise

– Resistance to magic – 3% per level to divination, enchantment and illusion; 1% per level to necromancy, transmutation, etc.

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Shameless Self Promotion

I don’t normally do this, but I have three new books out and about at the moment, so a little self promotion seems appropriate. Tomorrow I’ll find some time to do that G.I. Joe post I mentioned last week.

NOD 32

NOD 32 features a new hex crawl that is right next door to the Nomo crawl from last issue. Nomo was a falling empire, but in Kisthenes the whole world might be going straight to Hell … or Chaos. The nomads have conquered the great city of Ishkabibel and are now using its wealth and power not only to conquer the rest of Kisthenes, but to bring Tiamat (yeah, that Tiamat) into the material world from the Chaos beyond reality. Worse yet, the other cities of the plain are joining in, abandoning the old gods and gestating their own super-beasts to go toe to toe with the Queen of Chaos.

Other features include:

A new class that is fitting for this issue, the Prophet is a different kind of divine spellcaster, one who is bringing the news of a new deity into the world and trying to found a kingdom in that deity’s name.

The gods and goddesses of Mesopotamia

Rules for running circus campaigns in GRIT & VIGOR

And some notions on how (and why) to make monsters interesting for players as well as their characters

$3.99 PDF at Lulu.com

$3.99 PDF at rpgnow.com

Pen & Paper Football

Pen & Paper Football is football without the commercials, endless merchandizing and prison sentences. A few dice and some paper is all you need to simulate an American football game. Just find some friends (or play solo), roll up some teams and pit them against each other in League Play, which requires eight simple dice rolls to play a game, or in Head-to-Head play, which simulates a game play-by-play.

P&PF has all the rules you need to play a whole season of football, with rules for passing, running, kicking, penalties, injuries and even off-season rules for team development. There are dozens of sample teams you can use and handy record sheets for teams, leagues and games.

$1.99 PDF at Lulu.com

$1.99 PDF at rpgnow.com

NOD 31

I finally have the paperback version of this issue of NOD up for sale at Lulu.com. Here’s the description:

NOD magazine begins its fabulous eighth year with a full hex crawl covering the crumbling empire of Nomo, a Romanesque city that has lost its emperor. As the empire slowly falls, opportunity for adventures abound. The hex crawl includes three mini-dungeons and hundreds of places to visit.

Other features include:

Two old school classes, the Centurion and Dervish, as well as ideas for anti-classes designed to foil fighters, magic-users and thieves.

Rules for playing poker in GRIT & VIGOR, as well as a gambler sub-class

A host of new “eye monsters” for Blood & Treasure and other OSR games

Plus some ideas on votive orders and on introducing the most horrific concept into fantasy gaming ever conceived … Taxes!

$7.99 Paperback at Lulu.com

Magic from the Masters

When I was about 10 years old, Mattel introduced its He-Man toy line. I remember going over to a friend’s house to see the entire original line, which his grandparents had bought him for Hanukah. If I’m honest, they didn’t do much for me. I was a freak for G.I. Joe and military stuff at the time, and really had no interest in swords and sorcery. As a result, I never had an interest in He-Man. I mostly saw it as a cheap Filmation cartoon. It would still be two or three years before a chance meeting with Tolkien’s The Two Towers and Dungeons & Dragons would get me interested in the fantasy genre.

Fast forward to adulthood. What did not interest me as a G.I. Joe-loving kid now does interest me as a weird retro-loving adult. I can now appreciate just how bizarrely creative Mattel’s toy makers were with the MOTU line, and I can even appreciate the cartoon, though more by way of laughing at it (gently and with love) than of thrilling to the adventures of He-Man (who I just now discovered shared his voice with Morris the cat – even weirder).

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been watching a He-Man cartoon at night before bed to unwind, and in addition to the entertainment value I’ve been inspired to write a few spells that will find their way into Esoterica Exhumed. Here’s a sample:

Battle Beast (Evocation)
Level: Druid 5, Magic-User 6
Range: 30′
Duration: 10 rounds

One animal targeted by this spell becomes a battle beast, doubling its size and Hit Dice, and increasing its damage rolls by +2 points for the duration of the spell. While under the effects of the spell, the animal is treated as a monster rather than animal, and its coloration changes to something weird and unearthly. The animal gains limited sentience and low intelligence in battle beast form.

Blinding Light I (Evocation/Illusion)
Level: Cleric 1, Druid 1, Magic-User 1
Range: 5′
Duration: 1d6+1 rounds

One creature immediate in front of you is dazzled by a sudden intense light that flashes from your eyes. The victim is blinded for 1 rounds, and then dazzled for 1d6 rounds. A dazzled creature suffers a -1 penalty to attack rolls and to all task checks involving sight.

Blinding Light II (Evocation/Illusion)
Level: Cleric 2, Druid 2, Magic-User 2
Range: 20′ cone
Duration: 1d6 rounds

This spell causes those caught in the area of effect who fail a saving throw to be dazzled, suffering a -1 penalty to attack rolls and all task checks involving sight.

Chasm (Conjuration)
Level: Druid 4, Magic-User 5
Range: 60 feet
Duration: 10 minutes

You can cause the ground to suddenly disappear, shifting it briefly into the elemental plane of earth. The resulting chasm has the following dimensions: Width is equal to 5 feet plus 2 feet per level; length is equal to 1 foot per level and depth is equal to 2 feet per level. After 10 minutes, the earth shifts back into position from the elemental plane, burying anything that was in the chasm or displacing gases and liquids (such as water or an obscuring mist spell) that might have been in the chasm to the surface.

Cosmic Comets (Conjuration)
Level: Magic-User 3
Range: Personal
Duration: 1 hour

You conjure three miniature comets which orbit you at a radius of up to 10′. While orbiting, they provide a +1 bonus to Armor Class. Melee attackers that miss their attack roll against you by only 1 point are struck by a comet for 1d6 damage + 1d6 fire damage. You can also send these comets streaking out at a single target, who can avoid it with a saving throw. Targets that are hit suffer 2d6 damage + 1d6 fire damage.

Homing Spell (Divination)
Level: Magic-User 1
Range: Touch
Duration: Permanent

Once a magic-user has placed this spell on a nonliving item, she can, with mild concentration and while rubbing the temples, discern its location relative to her in terms of direction and approximate distance. This homing beacon is permanent, but can be removed with dispel magic or suppressed while in possession of a creature with magic resistance (dice to determine).

Raise Pillar (Evocation)
Level: Druid 3, Magic-User 4
Range: 30 feet
Duration: 1 hour

With the lifting of your arms, a pillar of solid rock rises from the ground. The ground in question must be solid – i.e. there must be rock to form into a pillar. The pillar rises 5 feet plus 1 foot per level, and is roughly 4 feet in diameter. The pillar can be raised under a creature’s feet, in which case they must pass a saving throw to avoid being lifted. If they fail this saving throw, they are carried upwards and could potentially be crushed if the pillar’s height plus their own would force them to violently contact the ceiling of a chamber or cavern. If they are crushed, they suffer 3d6 points of damage. After one hour, the pillar slides back into the ground. This spell can conceivably be used to raise buried treasure to the surface, but the soil in which the treasure was buried forms into solid rock and therefore may make the treasure difficult to access.

Sleeve of Holding (Conjuration)
Level: Magic-User 3
Range: Personal
Duration: 8 hours

The magic-user can stuff 100 pounds per level worth of non-magical, non-living goods up his left sleeve. After 8 hours, the magic-user must dump the goods out of his sleeve or they disappear into dimensions unknown.