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

Don’t Lose Your Barbaric Edge

This is a half-formed notion that came to me last night while working on Blood & Treasure Second Edition. It’s not in that book, but I thought somebody might find it useful.

The idea of a “barbaric edge” comes from good old Robert E. Howard, who posited the notion that barbarians were in many ways superior to members of civilization, whether they be decadent nobles or downtrodden peasants. Barbarians in Howard’s fiction are usually a cut above non-barbarians.

The Edge

In games, the barbaric edge allows you to treat one of the following ability scores – Strength, Dexterity, Constitution or Wisdom – as though it were an 18. Each morning, a person with the barbaric edge can decide which ability they will treat this way. Ability damage affects the temporary score, and the real score if the damage persists and the barbarian chooses to boost a different ability score from the one that was damaged.

Note that druids who boost Wisdom do gain extra spells for high Wisdom, but clerics do not unless they worship something wild and primordial. One might permit it for a cleric of Thor, for example, but not a cleric of Minerva.

Example: Crom the Barbarian (pictured above) wakes up one morning and stretches his iron sinews. He normally has a strength score of 13 (a +1 bonus). Today, he’ll increase his bonus (but not his actual strength score) to +2. Tomorrow he might be feeling especially cat-like, and improve his +0 dexterity modifier to +1.

Gaining the Edge

How does one obtain a barbaric edge? By living rough in the wilderness and eschewing the soft pleasures of civilization. This means that the barbaric edge is open to any class, provided they do the following:

1) Always sleep outside in the wilderness; in a pinch, sleeping in an alley or field will do. This means no beds, no pillows – no more than an animal pelt to protect you from the elements.

2) Low retention of wealth; you can keep 10% of your found treasure to spend on equipment and gear (maybe more if you use a system that requires paying for training to level up), giving the rest away. Treasure is there to be won, not enjoyed – think of it as catch-and-release. Treasure not kept must either be discarded as though it were trash, given to others (who may not spend it on you) with a hearty sniff of contempt, or spent in a tavern on booze and sex (i.e. drinks on the house, and you must drink until you collapse or get in a rip-roaring fight).

3) No fancy clothes or armor; you retain the barbarian edge by wearing no more than leather armor or maybe a chainmail shirt if they are used in the campaign. You cannot wear silks and satin – really just a loincloth and sandals or fur boots will do when you’re not fighting.

4) A lack of trust for civilization and civilized people. A barbarian can adventure with civilized men and women, but they must be kept at an emotional distance, and the barbarian must sneer at and criticize their soft living and decadent morality. This is primarily done through role playing.

5) A barbarian’s food must come from his own hunting, gathering or fishing rather than from “iron rations” and magic. If this means going hungry, so be it. The barbarian may indulge in a tavern after an adventure, but only once and only in terms of a tavern crawl as in (2) above.

Losing the Edge

Breaking any of these rules means the barbaric edge is lost. No ability boosts. It can only be regained by living by the above rules for a full month of game time (or perhaps for two or three game sessions if that’s easier to calculate). Only after that time spent living wild does the barbarian shake off the excesses of civilization and regain his barbaric edge.

Don’t trust them Conan, they use rugs!

 

Dragon by Dragon – June 1980 (38)

It’s Fall here in Nevada – finally. Summer usually lingers until Halloween (or Nevada Day, if you prefer) and then gets its back broken. But Dragon #38 was published in June of 1980 – summertime!

The guy on the cover is appropriately attired for summer, though somewhat less so for adventuring. It’s worth remembering that the male equivalent of the chainmail bikini was the fur underwear that graced many a barbaric warrior in the 1980’s (and professional wrestlers – it was really the heyday of violent men in their underwear).

So, onto the ten best things about Dragon #38!

We start this post with an advertisement.

The first is S3 – Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, the special Fifth Anniversary Module! Only $8.00 – approximately $23 in today’s dollars. Am I selling my stuff too cheap? Well, I’m not writing classic modules, so probably not.

#1 … In the Weeds with Dragons

I’m not trumpeting this article because it’s a truly great addition to the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Rather, because it takes me back to a day when these sorts of “scholarly” articles about the game were not so unusual.

Lakofka was a master of them (and he perhaps still is). He had a penchant for digging into the elements of the game, thinking deeply about them, and then reworking them for his campaign. Were they better for the attention? I suppose that’s a matter of opinion … but I like that he did it.

In this article, he presents new percentage chances for dragon’s speaking and casting spells. He also comes up with the chances that dragons might cast spells other than magic-user spells. He also presents a three new dragons – Brown, Orange and Yellow. The brown dragon has faerie fire and lightning breath weapons, the orange dragon color spray breath weapon (I dig this) and the yellow dragon has breath weapons that cause disease and blindness.

#2 … Redacted

Merle Rasmussen writes an article about a new game … Top Secret. I never played it, but was always intrigued. I did a quick check, and didn’t see anything about a retro clone of this one – maybe some fan out there can create one. In the meantime, I would suggest checking out Bill Logan’s White Lies. Looks awesome.

#3 … Memories

Speaking of spies and espionage … the Cold War. The advertisement to the right was one of many games about nuclear destruction (or its bizarre aftermath) from the period. I’m never sure if the people writing them didn’t want it happen a little. This one also brought to mind Supremacy. Fun game – I played it often. I remember the f-u move in that game was, when it was obvious you were going to lose, to nuke your own territory and launch a nuclear winter so that nobody won. Tricky, weird, stupid game, but lots of fun with friends. Right up there with RISK and Axis & Allies.

#4 … Gygaxian Sugar Coating

The old man himself speaks on the idea that good characters must be stupid …

“Good does not mean stupid, even if your DM tries to force that concept upon you. Such assertions are themselves asinine, and those who accept such dictates are stupid.”

Which begs the question: Is Raggi the Gygax of his day?

Also:

“Female dwarves are neglected not because of male chauvinism or any slight. Observers failed to mention them because they failed to recognize them when they saw them. How so? Because the bearded female dwarves were mistaken for younger males, obviously!”

I was never big on bearded female dwarves, but I think I’m changing my mind. Time to commission an all-female dwarf party illo for the new Blood & Treasure.

AD BREAK

Always wondered what the heck the deal was with the ducks in that game. Was it Howard the Duck inspired?

#5 … The Seven Magical Planets

Super cool article by Tom Moldvay with great art by Darlene.

The article draws on Agrippa to present the magical correspondences of the different classical planets for use in gaming. For example, here’s the entry for the Sun.

THE SUN

Archetypal Plane: Light (or the Positive Material).

Description of Archetype: A blond, golden-skinned child holding a sceptre. A rooster crowing. A lion roaring. A sleeping gold dragon. The phoenix rising from flames. An individual with a tawny complexion, yellowish eyes, and a short, reasonably hairless, handsome body. A wise, honorable personality, courageous to a fault, but constantly seeking praise.

Planetary Powers: Magic concerned with money. Fortune and destiny in general. Any operation involving peace, harmony, and friendship. Long life and health. Transmutation of the elements. Spells involving light; magic whose prime purpose is goodness.

Color: Gold, or bright yellow.

Metal: Gold.

Stones: Amber, Topaz, Heliotrope (Yellow Jasper), Cat’s Eye

Agate, Citrine, Jacinth.

Plants: Sunflowers, Saffron plants, Ginger, Gentian, Celadine, Dittany, Lotus trees, Laurel trees, Poliginia, Ivy, any vines which climb toward the sun.

Animals: Lions, Roosters, Eagles, Rams, Boars, Shellfish, Worms, most Beetles, the Phoenix, a Cockatrice.

Day: Sunday.

Numbers: 1, 6, 11, 66, 666.

Selected Deities: Sol, Helius, the Titans Theia & Hyperion, Samas, Tai Yang Ti Chun, Tionatuh, Brigit, Apollo, Suya, Vishnu, Asar, Ra.

Angel: Michael.

Angelic Order: The Shinanim.

Devil: Surgat. (possibly also Mephistopheles).

Demon Order: Type III Demons.

Spirits: Dardael, Hurtapel, Nakiel, Vianathabra, Carat, Haludiel, Machasiel, Burchat, Suceratos, Capabile, Och, Sorath, Aquiel.

Tarot Trumps: The Sun, The Wheel of Fortune, The Hanged Man.

This is just one of those really useful articles for generating gaming ideas.

#6 … True Confessions

I freaking love the line drawings for miniatures they used to do in The Dragon. I want to make them all into characters. And, most importantly, I want to learn how to draw something that cool in such a small, compact package.

#7 … Another Damn Ad …

I know, but look at this thing!

#8 … The Civil War

The Electric Eye article by Mark Herro looks at two games – Civil War and Star Trek. Why is this so cool … because when I was a young nerd, my father borrowed a book of programs from an old nerd he worked with and I typed the Civil War program into a computer and played it. So help me God. To kids out there, I might as well be explaining about the day the guy who invented fire showed me how it was done.

#9 … The Flolite

Sometimes it’s the monster’s stats that make you want to use it. Sometimes its the art. For the flolite, it’s the art.

And dig the Dyson-esque hatching on the verges of the lights. So cool.

So what about the stats for Kevin Readman’s little beastie? Here’s the B&T version:

Flolite, Medium Aberration: HD 5+1; AC 15; ATK 1 tentacle (1d4+1); MV Fly 30′; CL/XP 7/1250; Special–Excellent sight and hearing, 30′ radius daylight around creature, when deals max damage with tentacle it drains 1 point of Strength and gains 1d8 hit points, frenzy against flying creatures (+1 to hit, +3 damage).

The monster’s eye, if harvested, protects an adventurer from the level or prime requisite draining abilities of vampires, night hags, wights, etc. What a great adventure hook – the adventurers know they have to take on a vampire in her castle, or follow a night hag into the Astral Plane to retrieve the Christmas dreams of the children of Sombertown, and to avoid the energy drain they must first venture into the desert after some flolite eyes.

#10 … I AM THE GREATEST!

A game by Brian Blume in this issue – Ringside – that simulates boxing. “Match the pros or create your own fighters.”

I admit, I’ve never been into boxing, but this sounds like a fun game for a Saturday afternoon. Invite some friends over, make a championship belt, and have some fights.

The game is pretty simple – Agility, Endurance, Counterpunch and six punches. Combat uses a punching chart. There are basic rules, advanced rules and campaign rules, and stats for 30 of the greats, including Ali, Jack Dempsey and Rocky Marciano.

And that’s it for Dragon #38 – June 1980. Find a copy and enjoy, boys and girls!

Release-A-Palooza

I have three new (or recent) releases to bring to your kind attention.
Before I talk about them, though, HERE’S A LINK to those Bloody Basic printable character sheets I mentioned (including Weird Fantasy edition), with background color removed.

NOD 27

This issue of NOD features:

* Gloriana’s Blessed Isle, Part 2 – The continuation of the Ulflandia hex crawl that started in NOD 26 – this one covers a little of the island, the Bragart Hills, the southern portion of the Klarkash Mountains and a wee bit of the Wyvern Coast … a real cross roads. Features some groovy art by Denis McCarthy

* d20 Mecha I: The Classes – The first part of a three part article on adapting d20-based games for giant robot adventures – by my good friend and mecha-aficionado Luke DeGraw. Part 2 will cover equipment, and in Part 3 we’re going to collaborate on simplified rules for the mecha themselves, using some of the rules I’ve developed for GRIT & VIGOR.

* The Nodian Bestiary – Featuring 10 new monsters

* Strength: A Primer – Exploring the strength ability score

* The Muscleman – A new class that puts strength to the test … yeah, he can bite through chains and throw halflings … nice art by NOD regular Jon Kaufman

* You Pull the Lever and … – Ideas for lever-based traps and tricks … with more from Kaufman

* Racial Variations: Earth – Elemental twists on the classic fantasy races … and a third Kaufman piece

* Plan 9 from Outer Space: The RPG – A Quick & Easy minigame for Halloween … I’m super excited about this silly thing

* The Grey Planet Beckons – The negative-energy planet Pluto for the Nodian cosmos

$4.99 for the e-book … print edition coming soon 

BLOODY BASIC – WEIRD FANTASY EDITION

I know some folks have been waiting for this one. The Weird Fantasy Edition rules are inspired by the wondrous prose and poetry of Clark Ashton Smith and Lord Dunsany and the art of such luminaries as Aubrey Beardsley and Sidney Sime. It include rules for the races, classes, spells and monsters of weird fantasy tales. Ever wanted to play a grotesque puissant? Now’s your chance.

This one was briefly in the Top 10 hottest titles on rpgnow … pretty cool!

$4.99 for the e-book … print edition coming soon

DEVIANT DECADE

Can you survive the mean streets of New York City in the 1970’s? Muggers, psychos, junkies, sewer-gators, street punks, and gangsters! Oh My!

Deviant Decade is a quick and easy game to learn and play. All you need is a few friends, some pencils and paper, a few ordinary dice and this book … leisure suits are optional.

$2.99 for the e-book (no stagflation here) … print edition coming soon

For sale now at both Lulu and Drive Thru / Rpgnow

COMING SOON

Well, I think that’s enough productivity for the moment. I’m working on Black Death (coming along nicely – and a little more meat than past Quick & Easy games – I think Swords & Sandals will need a revision next year) and NOD 28 (exploring the northern Land of Og in this one) now, and I’m determined to get GRIT & VIGOR released by the end of the year.

Then I can focus on the revisions of BLOOD & TREASURE, MYSTERY MEN!, SPACE PRINCESS and PARS FORTUNA. I’ve already commissioned new cover art for B&T!!! Super excited.

Of Armsmen and Puissants

I’ve put in some yeoman’s work on the Weird Fantasy Edition of Bloody Basic, and, in the process, had some inspiration for what I think I’m calling the Sinew & Steel Edition.

Sinew & Steel is designed to be a version of Bloody Basic with no magic or supernatural elements at all. In other words, it is role-playing in the real (well, mostly real) Middle Ages, with all the filth and plague you would expect from such a thing. Naturally, Sinew & Steel only has human characters, and they may (at least for now) take levels as armsmen (with the subclasses of barbarian, cavalier and cleric), thief (with the subclasses of assassin, charlatan, hedge wizard and minstrel) and scholar (specializing as a lawyer, theologian or leech). The game will feature some simple rules for strongholds, warfare, storming castles (rather than dungeons) and sieges. When you take out spells, monsters (outside of human and animal monsters) and magical treasure, you sure make a concise game, so I’m trying to fill the pages with other useful materials.

I need to get back to work on the next issue of NOD, and I need to set up my own little playtest of GRIT & VIGOR, but I think I might be able to complete Bloody Basic – Weird Fantasy Edition and Bloody Basic – Sinew & Steel Edition by sometime around mid-summer. And, of course, “midsummer” brings up the possibility of doing a Shakespeare edition of Bloody Basic. ‘Zounds, that would be fun!

Now, the armsman … or as the class is known in the Weird Fantasy Edition, the puissant.

The armsman uses the spell casting ability of the magic-user as a basis for using combat feats. I’ve brought this idea up before, and I’m certainly not the first person to think of it, but I thought I might post the class here for your enjoyment and use.

THE ARMSMAN
The armsman is a trained warrior, a master of fence, who is designed to dominate utterly the field of battle. While any sort of historical warrior can be portrayed using the armsman class, most wear heavy armor and carry the most potent weapons they can.

REQUIREMENTS & RESTRICTIONS – Armsmen must have a Strength score of 9 or higher. They can be of any religion, and they can use any weapon and wear any armor.

SPECIAL ABILITIES – Armsmen have the ability to perform feats of combat excellence while fighting. An armsman can perform a limited number of feats per day, based on their level and the level of difficulty of the feat. Armsmen know only a limited number of feats, beginning with three first level feats at first level. An armsman learns a new feat each time they advance in level. They might also learn additional feats from other armsmen.
At sixth level, an armsman gains a retainer. The retainer is a loyal companion under the control of the armsman’s player. The retainer is rolled randomly on the retainer table at the end of this section. The TK should roll ability scores for the retainer and assign them a name and religion. The armsman must pay for his retainer’s room and board. Arsmen receive 25% of the XP earned by the armsman.

FIRST LEVEL ARMSMAN FEATS

1. ARTFUL DODGE – You avoid one enemy attack this round, provided you are capable of moving.

2. CLEAVE – If you slay an opponent this round, you get an extra attack against another opponent within reach.

3. CRITICAL HIT – One successful attack you strike this round does an extra 1d6 points of damage.

4. FAR SHOT – You double the range of a missile weapon attack.

5. FIGHT BLIND – You can make one attack while blind without suffering any penalty on the attack.

6. GUARDS & WARDS – You accept a penalty to hit, and gain a bonus equal to that penalty to your own Armor Class.

7. IRON FIST – You may deal 1d4 points of damage with an unarmed strike this round.

8. POWER ATTACK – You accept a penalty to hit, and if your attack is successful gain a bonus equal to the penalty to damage.

9. QUICK – You add +1 to your initiative roll next round.

10. SHIELD BASH – You may attack with a shield at no penalty, scoring 1d4 points of damage if successful.

11. SWORD & DAGGER – You may attack with two weapons you are holding this round. One weapon can be of medium weight, the other must be light. The light weapon attacks at a penalty of -4 to your attack roll.

12. WEAPON FOCUS – Choose one weapon. For the remainder of this combat, you gain a +1 bonus to hit with that weapon.

SECOND LEVEL ARMSMAN FEATS

1. BULL RUSH – Any opponent you successfully attack this round is also knocked out of your way (up to 5 feet).

2. DEFLECT ARROWS – For one minute you can negate hits on you from missile weapons with a successful Reflex saving throw.

3. DISARM – Any opponent you successful attack this round is also disarmed of their weapon or any other item they are holding.

4. FEINT – Any opponent you successful attack this round is fooled into moving into an awkward position, and is denied an attack on their next turn (whether this round or the next).

5. GRAPPLE – Any opponent you successfully attack with an unarmed strike this round is also held and pinned by you. This pin is maintained until they make a successful attack roll against you.

6. STUNNING FIST – Any opponent you successfully attack with your unarmed strike is dazed for 1d4 rounds. While dazed, they may not move or attack, but can defend themselves.

7. SUNDER – Any opponent you attack this round also has their weapon, shield or some other item they are holding sundered in twain. Fragile items are broken instantly. Wooden items have a 2 in 6 chance of surviving. Metal items have a 4 in 6 chance.

8. TRIP – Any opponent you successfully attack this round is also knocked prone to the ground.

THIRD LEVEL ARMSMAN FEATS

1. GREAT CLEAVE – As long as you keep slaying opponents, you keep gaining extra attacks against new opponents within reach.

2. SHOT ON THE RUN – You may make a full run and still shoot or throw missiles without any penalty to your attacks.

3. SNATCH ARROWS – As deflect arrows, but you actually catch the missiles and may immediately, out of turn, throw them back at your attackers (if they are within range).

4. SPRING ATTACK – You may make a move, attack, and then make a second move.

5. WHIRLWIND ATTACK – You make one attack against every opponent within reach of your weapon. A penalty equal to the total number of attacks you are making is applied to each and every one of these attacks. Attacking five people, therefore, results in a -5 penalty to each of those five attacks.

BARBARIAN SUBCLASS
An armsman with a Constitution of 13 or higher can opt to be a barbarian. Barbarians are wild and woolly warriors from the wilderness. They eschew the civilized ways of normal armsmen. Barbarians do not gain the feats of an armsman and they cannot use armor heavier than maille. Barbarians can go berserk in one combat per day per level. While berserk, the barbarian deducts two from her Armor Class, but scores double damage with successful melee attacks. In addition, barbarians can climb sheer surfaces and move silently as thieves (see below).

THE CAVALIER SUBCLASS
An armsmen with a Dexterity score of 13 or higher can opt to be a cavalier. Cavaliers specialize in mounted combat. They suffer no penalty for fighting on horseback, and gain three special feats not available to other armsmen.

1. RIDE-BY ATTACK – While charging on a mount, the cavalier may attack at any point during the charge – in essence, making a move, attacking, and then moving again.

2. SPIRITED CHARGE – The cavalier deals double damage with his weapon attack while charging on a mount.

3. TRAMPLE – The cavalier can trample opponents with its mount by simply riding over them. The mount gets no attacks that round other than trampling, dealing double hoof damage to all in its path unless they pass a Reflex saving throw, in which case they cut the damage in half. The cavalier may still attack with his own weapon while trampling.

THE CLERIC SUBCLASS
An armsman with a wisdom of 13 or higher can opt to become a cleric. Clerics are religious knights or fighting priests. While clerics must have a religion, the extent of their faith is up to them. One can be a fighting bishop and give only cursory lip service to their faith. Clerics can bless, as theologians (see Scholar below).

Weird Fantasy

I’m a weird-o (if that’s the correct spelling). I’ve come to this conclusion as “geek culture” has become more prominent, and I came to realize that while my interests have some overlap with geek culture, I’m definitely not part of that culture. Of course, definitions vary, so we won’t linger on that. The point is – I like weird stuff, including weird fiction and weird fantasy. I’m more of a Clark Ashton Smith guy than a J.R.R. Tolkien guy.

This brings me to my next mini-project. Bloody Basic – Weird Fantasy Edition.

I know, I said I’d probably do a different edition next, but then I was perusing some Aubrey Beardsley art, and that led to Harry Clarke art and then Clark Ashton Smith and the next thing you know I was spit-balling ideas and writing up an outline.

Here’s my intro to the edition:

Weird fantasy is a cornerstone of fantasy role-playing games, influencing the earliest games and lending them their unique flavor. Born from the Romantic Movement and symbolism, weird fantasy was a reaction to the modern world in which the authors lived. Weird fantasy was lush and decadent and yearned for meaning and release. It consisted of simple stories set in ornate worlds, and reveled in obscure, flowery and archaic text. The weird fantasy author and his characters were like tourists drinking in exotic places that existed only in their dreams. It has in its genes both pseudo-historical romances, Orientalism and fairy tales. Not fairy tales fit for children, but fairy tales that were not stripped of their violence or their erotic overtones.

Weird fantasy is steeped in meaning and bereft of it. It is quiet and noisome and ridiculous and sublime … and makes an excellent place for players to explore and indulge their sense of wonder. Weird fantasy characters are decadent and seek escape from the tedium and constrictions of the industrial age. They are errant knights, burglars, wise women, mystery priests and magicians, entering a world of fantasy through their dreams. They are bent on one last grand adventure, one chance to crack open the bones of drudgery and suck out the marrow of life, one final opportunity to live deeply and truly and transform the mundane into the beautiful … are you?

Does this sound right to you? It’s one of those situations where I know what mean, but I don’t know if I’m conveying what I mean.

Races for the edition, at the moment, are humans, elves (with a little soulless fairy twist), grotesques (ugly little buggers) and satyrs. Classes are the hierophant (unarmored clerics that accept taboos to gain access to the spell lists of divine mystery cults), the magic-user, the vagabond (basically the thief with a different name, not unlike the knave of the Mother Goose Edition) and the puissant (a warrior that uses combat feats the way magic-user’s use spells). Sub-classes are the rake (puissant), and the demimonde, odalisque and traveler (vagabond sub-classes).

I’m still working on monsters – trying to get the basics in (after all, we’re still dealing with good, old-fashioned dungeoneering), with some CAS-inspired stuff added in. I don’t want to go the Lovecraft route because I think that it is a little overexposed at the moment, and it tends to dominate. Alignment is replaced by passions, which are dangerous to indulge (one loses wisdom or constitution, as over-indulgence leads characters to madness or physical degredation) but are worth bonus XP when they are indulged. I might switch out the bonus XP for special abilities, though – something more palpable and flavorful that just raw numbers.

I might mess with spell names, treasure and the weapons and armor to use more archaic, ornate language, a la Clark Ashton Smith. I say I might, because I’m not sure if that’s just adding complexity without adding enough flavor to make it worth while.

So, what else? And what public domain art would make for a good cover image? I’d love to hear some ideas from the peanut gallery – make sure this edition is all it could be. Let me know in the comments or on G+, if you would be so kind. Thanks!

It’s Bloody Basic!

Blood & Treasure Basic is going to officially be called Bloody Basic. I like the sound of it, and that’s all the market research I need (or can afford).

The draft is completed and the layout is finished. I’m now editing the text, and should be done by the end of the day (which is good, because I need to finish up layout on NOD 23 and then get my butt in gear on the Monster Tome – some of the art for that thing is so awesome I’m chomping at the bit to get it out there). The first publication will be the Classic Edition in blue. At the moment I plan to follow it up with the Contemporary Edition in red, the Fairy Tale edition in green and then maybe a the Victoriana Edition in brown.

All of these editions will be the same basic game, but the illustrations will be different and there will be slight alterations made to fit the rules to the theme. The Fairy Tale edition, for example, will be based on my “Mother Goose is My Dungeon Master” articles. The Contemporary edition might have automatons and tieflings as playable races, and sub-classes like shadow dancer and soulknife.

That’s the plan. This is probably the quickest I’ve ever gone from idea to publishing, so hopefully it won’t bite me in the ass (fingers crossed).

These covers are mock-ups – I plan to vary the cover images for the different editions – but they should give you the idea. Obviously, if these prove popular, I might other editions, assuming I can come up with a theme that can sustain an edition – the one that comes immediately to mind is a sort of “mirror-mirror” Chaos edition, where you play the monsters and the dungeons are actually human and demi-human fortresses.

Okay … actually, that sounds pretty good.

Blood & Treasure Basic

Yes, Blood & Treasure Basic. For now – I might change the name.

I took the last week off of work, and in between hiking, grilling ribs and a much needed massage, I found time to write Blood & Treasure Basic, as well as finish up NOD 23 (should publish by Monday).

What is B&T-B?

Ultimately, it’s that project I mentioned a post or so back in which I pondered doing different editions of a basic game using different public domain artists. While I thought of that, a couple ideas for simplifying B&T came to mind, so I started making notes, and notes led to writing, and a week later I had a game …

B&T Basic is kind of the same game as B&T, but also kind of a different game. One could easily make the jump from one to the other, but Basic isn’t just B&T with a bunch of material chopped off.

B&T Basic has the six traditional ability scores, with just a +1 or -1 modifier for high or low scores.

It has humans, elves, dwarves and halflings, with some multi-classing and level limits.

It fighters, magic-users, clerics and thieves, with some sub-classes that work like the variant classes in B&T – barbarian, paladin, ranger, assassin, bard, druid and cultist (the chaotic version of the cleric). Levels go from one to six.

The cleric and magic-user have spells from level 1 to 3, with the fewer spells than in Blood & Treasure (of course).

It has the basic equipment lists, the basic rules for dungeoneering (light, movement, tasks, combat, how to draw a dungeon, wilderness travel, settlements), all as simple as I can make them.

For monsters, you get all the basic monster types, with stats based on size and examples of monsters to make them more interesting. Why? I thought it would make it easy for TK’s to invent new monsters if they could just label something a Medium Aberration to get their basic stats, and then drop in an AC, attacks and special abilities.

For treasures, I keep it simple so you get the coins, the gems, the objects and the magic items.

I wanted to get a couple new things in the game, so I came up with a retainers system and super simple encumbrance. Since the levels only go to six so there are no rules for strongholds. In exchange, I decided that sixth level characters get a retainer, or sidekick. I also decided to roll them randomly, since I love random stuff! The retainer is a 1st level comrade for the adventurer, with whom they share some experience points. Honestly – I have no idea how well this will work. Maybe they should be higher level? Maybe second?

Anyhow – here’s the table …

At this point, the game runs about 30 pages without art – I figure when I add a title page, contents, index, and illustrations it will be around 35 to 40 pages, so not too shabby.