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.

Save

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.

Scads of Magic

Imagination!

I’ve long been a fan of Seventh Sanctum, and tonight I decided to play around with the magic item generator. You get names for items that don’t always make sense, but often have in them something you can use … with a little imagination!

So, here’s a scad of magic items in thumbnail sketch form, plus a couple with names I loved that even I wasn’t sure how to flesh out with actual gamable abilities.

+1 Banded Mail of Heat Resistance: Stay comfortable in hot weather (summons cold air from elemental air plane), -1 damage per dice of fire damage

Amazon’s Pill: As heroism spell, females only

Barrel of Monkeys: Can summon 3d4 monkeys, once per week
Beggar’s Sandals: Feel no hunger or thirst if one eats/drinks once per week

Celestial Cube: When subjected to magic light, produces a prismatic/rainbow spell of the same or lower level

Coat of Sludge Repulsion: Cannot be engulfed by oozes

Coat of Slyness: Better pick pocketing, hides stolen goods

Earrings of Dancer’s Grace: +1 to AC, +1 to saves involving movement, gain ability to dance (fascinate as bard) once per day

Elemental Gauntlet: Gauntlet can on command turn into one of the following – an elemental earth gauntlet that smashes stone and +1 save vs. acid; a white hot gauntlet of metal that deals +1d6 fire damage and +1 save vs. fire; a gauntlet of ice that deals +1d6 cold damage and +1 save vs. cold; a sphere of swirling air that grants +2 AC vs. missile attacks and +1 save vs. electricity

Elixir of Blood Control: One can cause their own wounds or others to stop bleeding with a glance

Ethereal Brew: When poured out, it causes a whirlwind on the ethereal plane

Evil Drum: Bonus to hit for goblinoids

Flute of Ooze Alteration: Forces oozes to save vs. dancing; bards can cause them to move as they wish within sound

Fork of Time: When banged against metal, it forces all time displaced creatures within 100 ft. to shift into the present; against adamantine or mithral, it shifts the adventurers ahead 1 hour (do not move in space)

Hand Axe of Wind Shield: Can be swung around to create a wall of wind, when thrown, accompanied by a gust of wind

Hauberk of Revealing: Light reflected from this mail dispels illusions and reveals hidden and secret things

Haunted Tower Shield: Once per day can become a portal into the negative zone, releasing a single incorporeal spirit (HD no higher than users) to attack a foe

Helm of Ritual Fish Seduction: Hmmm … next!

Infernal Sitar: Playing causes people’s shoes to heat up (as heat metal)

Jar of Thought Absorption: One can hold a thought in the jar by putting against the ear and thinking; the thought cannot be accessed by mind reading – mage’s can do this with spells; can put thought back into head in same way – others can try, but may take Int damage

Massive Helm: A large, spherical helm – silly looking, but +3 to AC

Mechanism of Amazon Slaying: I have no idea, but what a great weird name

Pendant of Magma: Allows one to walk across magma and lava with no damage or sinking

Rainstick of Calming: Berserkers and barbarians cannot go nuts in its presence

Ring of Knocking: As knock spell, 3/day

Ruby Draft of Abjuration: Drink liquid to gain abjuration spell – water (1st), wine (2nd), other potion (3rd, and gain abilities of that potion); usable 1/day, spell remains in memory for 1 hour

Salve of Gold: Like fool’s gold spell, enough for ten tiny items

Sapphire Net: Becomes a large web of blue energy that can entrap air elementals and gaseous creatures

Sphere of Ursus: Metal sphere with a copper, silver and gold bear; copper bear summons a black bear, silver brown and gold polar; 1 bear per week, from a ray that fires from the sphere up to 30 feet away; destroying the orb summons a cave bear

Staff of Slime Absorption: Can absorb up to 6 HD of oozes or slimes (1 HD = 5 square feet); when broken or released, they all appear adjacent to staff; can also be ejected as a 30’ cone of acid (damage dice equal to HD absorbed)

Titan’s Wand: Can cast one third level magic-user spell per day, but requires two magic-users to swoosh it

Traveler’s Stick: +5 ft. per round to walking speed, walk twice as long without being fatigued

White Javelin: When it strikes undead, it absorbs their negative energy, up to 6 HD, turning the javelin black – the black javelin then absorbs levels/HD of living creatures until it negates the negative energy, so don’t touch it without a mithral gauntlet

Okay – one more, inspired by watching MST3K’s take on Cave Dwellers …

Helm of the Black Swan: Once per day, a roll of “1” can be turned into a “20”, or a roll of “20” can be turned into a “1” within sight of the wearer.

 

Menace of the Mer-Mongrels [Mini-Dungeon]

Here’s a quickie dungeon for you, featuring mer-mongrels (essentially aquatic orcs), just in case you need something dark, wet and dangerous for your game.

Overview

This is underground and near the sea. Sea water flows down the entrance corridor. Everything is slimy and the water is about 2 feet deep (so gnomes and halflings might need floaties) throughout.

There are clumps of phosphorescent sea weed here and there, giving a dim glow to the caverns – so dim as to be useless, but enough to create weird, wavering patterns on walls.

Mer-Mongrels

HD 1, AC 13, ATK Claws (1d4) or weapon (1d6) or barbed net (1d3 + entangled), MV 20′ (Swim 40′)

Room Descriptions

1. Corridor is broken here by a waterfall – water leaking in from the ceiling. Just on the other side of the waterfall there is an aquatic assassin vine attached to the ceiling. Just beneath the waterfall, to the extreme left of the corridor, is a pit that leads to the corridor just to the right of [1] on the map (the one that leads to area [14]). That corridor is completely submerged until area [14].

2. Two lacedons are chained to the walls here. The mer-mongrels have a winch in [11] that shortens the chains, but otherwise the lacedons can wander throughout the room.

3. Water swirls around the walls, ceiling and floor of this tunnel, creating a vortex of confusion. Save vs. confusion or become dizzy (-1 to hit, AC and save) for 1 hour.

4. Three mer-mongrel guards are in this room playing a gambling game that involves plunging half a coconut into the water and seeing which player gets splashed. Each has a shagreen pouch holding 1d10 gp. One mer-mongrel has a barbed net, the other two have tridents. All three have daggers.

5. A small natural chimney in this room leads to the surface. The air is fresher here.

6. This is a supply room, containing bits of flesh wrapped in seaweed and stuffed into cubby holes, floating bottles of wine, floating boxes of candles and an odd assortment of tridents and daggers (1d6 of each).

7. Two mer-mongrel acolytes dwell in this room. They have silvery bodies, and each can cast one 1st level anti-cleric spell (chosen by GM). They are armed with footman’s maces with heads shaped like octopi with opal eyes (worth 35 gp each). A curtain of barbed chains blocks the passage to [9].

8. The high priest of the mer-mongrels (3 HD) dwells here. He can cast two 1st level anti-cleric spells and one 2nd level anti-cleric spell, and wields a mace like his acolytes (but with pearl eyes, worth 150 gp). The room is also occupied by three white fish who roam around randomly, but who can be commanded by the high priest to swim in a circle, creating either a magic scrying pool or a magic whirlpool (per a water elemental). A sunken iron chest holds 250 sp, 50 gp, a gold bracer (65 gp) and a potion of healing in an old rum bottle.

9. Mongo, the living clam god (a giant clam) dwells in this chamber, the temple of the mer-mongrels. The clam rests in the alcove in the far portion of the cave, and a coral altar has been set before the clam. A young man in rough shape is chained to the altar as a sacrifice. The altar juts about 1 foot above the water, and there are many candle stumps and a few burning candles on the altar. Right before the altar there is a submerged pit (save vs. falling – no damage from fall, but 5% chance of drowning do to an accidental inhalation of water).

10/11/13. Each of these chambers is inhabited by 1d6 mer-mongrel males armed with daggers and blowpipes from which they shoot poisoned sea urchin darts (save vs. poison or slowed for 3 rounds). Each chamber has a small stone chest containing 1d4 x 50 sp and 1d6 x 100 cp. One of the mer-mongrels has a small topaz (30 gp) hidden under his loin cloth.

12. Several sea urchins are kept in this alcove. The water here is envenomed by their presence (save vs. poison or 1d6 damage).

14. This spawning chamber is home to five female mer-mongrels. They are armed as the males, but also carry two nets. There are three young in the room, and they will fight to the death to defend them (and send them fleeing into [16] at the first sight of trouble. A stone chest here holds 200 gp and three bottles of fine wine. The chest is trapped with a sea urchin spine (save vs. poison or 1d6 damage).

15. I forgot to put this number on the map!

16. This is the lair of Yort, the chief of the mer-mongrels. He is a erudite man (he trained in the humanities at a sea elf university) who returned to his tribe when his father was slain by adventurers. Yort carries a +1 trident that can make the water boil in a straight line up to 20 feet long (1d10 fire damage, save for half damage) three times per day. He also has a silver dagger and a chest containing 500 gp, 1,200 sp, a small sapphire (200 gp) and a bottle of giant octopus ink. Yort will offer to pay adventurers off if they leave he and his people alone, but if a child is harmed will pursue them to the ends of the earth to exact bloody revenge.

 

New Spells and a Way to Use Them

New magic-user spells – fun to create, but hard to get into a game. After all, a magic-user only has so many spells he can cram into a spellbook, and when it comes time to choose, the average magic-user is going to go for the most useful, and thus usually the most standard, spells in the game. Detect evil might be boring, but it sure is useful.

Since I was inventing a bunch of new spells yesterday, I also went to the trouble of inventing a way magic-users can actually use them. It’s a highly complex set of rules …

FIRST, A MESSAGE FROM OUR SPONSOR

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!

AND NOW, BACK TO OUR STORIES

… that are actually not complex at all, and very simple. I call it Quasi-Spell Research

With an hour’s meditation, a magic-user can prepare any magic-user spell permitted by the Referee. The magic-user must have an open “spell slot” for the spell to do this. Once a spell has been prepared in this way, it can never be prepared with quasi-spell research again. It can, at some point, be learned and added to the magic-user’s spell book in the normal way, but not using this method. The magic-user also cannot use quasi-spell research to acquire a spell for making a magic item – she cannot use it to scribe a scroll, brew a potion, etc.

Since we have a rules lite way of accessing all sorts of new spells, how about a few new spells?

Black Sun (Necromancy)
Level: Anti-Cleric 3, Magic-User 3
Area of Effect: 120′ radius
Duration: 1 minute per level

Sunlight in the area of effect becomes gray and wan. It does not harm creatures normally harmed by sunlight, such as vampires.

Fantastic Transformation (Transmutation)
Level: Magic-User 9
Range: Touch
Duration: 10 minutes

This spell requires three subjects plus the caster. All four participants must be holding hands. Upon casting the spell, a bolt of cosmic energy erupts from the spell caster’s hands and travels through the subjects. When it ceases, all four participants in the spell are transformed. The subject with the highest strength score gains the benefit of the stoneskin spell. The subject with the highest dexterity score gains the benefit of the fire shield spell. The subject with the highest wisdom gains the benefits of the improved invisibility spell. The subject with the highest intelligence score takes in the properties of an ooze. If one subject qualifies for more than one of these transformations, they choose which one they want, and the runner-up then takes on one of the other transformations. All transformations last for 10 minutes and then cease.

Freak Out (Illusion)
Level: Magic-User 5
Range: 30′
Duration: See text

You may target all creatures within 30 feet of you with waves of psychedelic weirdness. Creature with 0 to 4 HD are confused for 1 minute. Creatures with 5 to 9 HD begin dancing around like crazy beatniks for 4 rounds and are fatigued for 10 minutes. Creatures with 10 or more HD are stunned for 1 round while they ponder the cosmos, man (and engines that run on water, man – water!), and then fatigued for 10 minutes from the heavy thinking.

Light Fantastic (Evocation)
Level: Magic-User 3
Range: See text
Duration: 1 hour

A beam of light departs the magic-user’s fingertip and proceeds in a direction chosen, bouncing off of solid objects as it goes generally in the direction determined by the caster. The light beam extends for a maximum of 90′ and lasts for one hour, suspended in the area cast. Any creature stepping through this beam of light must pass a saving throw or fall prone on the floor, having tripped (over) the light fantastic.

Melt (Transmutation)
Level: Magic-User 8
Range: 90′
Duration: 10 minutes

For ten minutes, the landscape and all inanimate objects around you seem to melt and bend. They become porous and strange. Walls can be walked through with a d20 roll under a character’s Wisdom score, and creatures can walk on walls and ceilings as though they were the floor. Weapons deal only 1 point of damage (plus strength modifier), and rigid objects become flexible. Everything in the landscape changes color into a brilliant, psychedelic pallet, including living creatures. After the spell ends, all sentient creatures must pass a saving throw or be sickened for 1d6 rounds. Creatures who are sickened must also pass a save or suffer 1d6 points of Wisdom damage.

Mystic Fire of Phango (Evocation)
Level: Magic-User 4
Range: 30′
Duration: Instantaneous

The mystic fire reaches out from the spell caster’s fingertips, like hands of liquid white flame, to caress the skull of the target. The spell attempts to erase from the mind of the target their three highest level spells that are also of a level the spell caster can cast. Thus, a 7th level magic-user could erase spells no higher than 4th from a target’s mind.

If the target’s highest vulnerable spells number more than three, then each spell is nominated by the target in turn and the spell caster decides if they wish to target that spell.

For each of the three to be erased, the target can choose to release the spell from their mind, or suffer 1d6 + spell level points of damage to their synapses and retain the spell. Thus, retaining an 8th level spell would inflict 1d6+8 points of damage to the target.

Recharge (Evocation)
Level: Magic-User 3
Range: Touch
Duration: Instantaneous

The magician uses their own body as a battery to recharge a wand or staff. For every point of Constitution damage or every 1d6 points of hit point damage they are willing to accept, they add 1 charge to a wand or staff.

Silky Smooth (Necromancy)
Level: Magic-User 1
Range: Touch
Duration: See below

At the magician’s touch, the victim loses all of their hair or fur, being left with silky smooth skin. Creatures without hair are unaffected.

Sinister Suspicion (Illusion)
Level: Magic-User 2
Range: 120′
Duration: 24 hours

The target of this spell scans as evil (Chaotic) to detect evil spells for 24 hours.

Sun Shower (Evocation)
Level: Cleric 3
Range: 240′
Duration: 1 round

Particles of light shower down on an area 40′ x 40′ x 40′. Creatures harmed by sunlight suffer 3d10 points of damage (no saving throw) in the affected area.

Supercharge (Evocation)
Level: Magic-User 4
Range: Touch
Duration: Instantaneous

The magician supercharges a wand. On its next use (and only its next use), the wand can expend two charges to cast its spell at either double the range, double the duration or increased damage. Damage is increased by +1 point of damage per dice of damage it normally inflicts. Thus, a three dice lightning bolt would do 3d6+3 points of damage if cast from a supercharged wand.

Transmute Skin to Tongue (Necromancy)
Level: Magic-User 7
Range: 30′
Duration: 1 hour

This bizarre curse changes a creature’s skin to the texture and color of a tongue. Their skin now tastes whatever it touches, a highly disconcerting sensation that requires a saving throw each turn to avoid becoming sickened (for sentient creatures) or frightened (for non-sentient creatures). Creatures without a skin (oozes, energy creatures) are unaffected. The affected creature’s appearance is likewise disconcerting to others, who must pass a save to avoid reacting with revulsion.

Transmute Sound to Light (Illusion)
Level: Magic-User 4
Area of Effect: 30′ radius
Duration: 1 minute

This spell converts all sound in the area of effect into light. The form of the light depends on the sound; singing, for example, might produce a lovely light show, while arguing would cast a harsh reddish light on the area.

Battles, in particular, create a vivid, violent strobe effect, with each clash of arms producing a flash of light. The effect is disorienting, and each creature in the area must pass a saving throw to avoid becoming dizzy (-1 to AC, -1 to hit, each miss in combat by 4 or more points resulting in the attacker falling prone). The dizziness ends when one leaves the area, for outside the area one hears the sounds and does not see the lights.

The Coming of the Triphibians

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

Triphibian

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

SD—Immunity (electricity), resistance (fire)

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

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

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

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

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

Bloody Basic (Revised) Stats

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