I Was Nobody

Here’s that uber-short story I wrote for a Lulu contest. It is set in the land Beyond the Black Water – which I wrote for Frog God Games. I might expand on this and make a full fledged short story of it – maybe launch a series – and then Hollywood will buy it – and make a super successful film – and I’ll use the money to buy D&D from WOTC – – – or maybe not.

I Was Nobody
John M. Stater

The water in the ears was the worst of it. Well, no – not really. But it was persistent and annoying. There was also the cold. Eyes staring up at black clouds. Arms and legs unable to move, throat unable to groan. Death but not death.

After minutes or days his fingers began to paw the wet sand and sometimes feel the air brush cold against his damp flesh. His eyes could blink again, his lungs breath. Awareness now coupled with mobility. Life but not life.

It was nothing short of joy when he sat up and raised his head from the rippling waters, the surge and suck. Nothing short of a triumph when he crawled up the beach to the gray-green grass on the hills. Ecstasy to see the land beyond – the pseudo-green, rolling hills. But there was no Sun here and the sky was gray, the water black save for the white shapes moving in it, sliding through it with those pearly horns breaking the surface.

His legs and arms did not hurt, but moved as though they did. Stiff and noncommittal, dazed and lethargic. He soon left the beach behind for the quiet of the hills, that great, pointless expanse. The sky was still gray. That bothered him. One foot followed the other over the hills until they limbered up and he began to run. He wanted to make his lungs burn, but they did not. He wanted to make his feet hurt and his thighs ache, but they did not. It was too quiet, so he screamed.

His eyes were attracted by a gleam on another hill, so there he went. He saw a body encased in a byrnie of steel scales and pierced by a short blade. He shuddered and this made him smile. Why a coat of armor? Why a blade? Someone died here. Something killed him. Did somebody want to kill him? He looked across the gray-green hills and licked his lips. With a bit of work he dislodged the blade, rusty and pitted, from the armor. He shook the brittle bones from the armor and put it over his own shoulders to cover his nakedness. The armor was heavy and uncomfortable, too large, no underclothing. He crawled back out of the armor and cast it aside and moved on.

The excitement of death – true death – passed eventually. He continued to wander and smiled when his head began to throb, but quickly realized it was not his head that throbbed, but the ground. Horse hoofs beating the ground. No dust filtered into the air on the horizon – were they far or near?

They were very near, upon him in fact. Men with faces like hyenas on strong horses that sucked in the still air and belched it back out as clouds of steam. Horsemen with spears leading a train of men and women in chains, not crying, shuffling, lost in thought. The men stopped and regarded him, standing there naked but for his sword. Other men joined them, a few yards separating them.

“Who are you?” they growled.

The word caught in his throat. Not yet – he didn’t want to say it yet.

“I …”, the word played on his lips, which trembled.

“Nobody,” was what he wanted to say and think. He was nobody. Nobody. Or was he nobody? It would be easier, being lost. His eyes met the eyes of the people in chains.

“Wroth,” he finally said. He was Wroth.

And the sword leapt out at the men with the spears.

Copyright © 2011 John M. Stater
All rights reserved.

Another Hex Crawl Done!

Finally put the finishing touches on Hex Crawl Chronicle #6 – The Troll Hills


Here’s a little preview …

THE TROLL HILLS

There was a time when crystal domes dotted the landscape of the Troll Hills and sky sleds cut through the air like ships through the waves. That was long ago. The ancient, golden-skinned men, they say, built their domes too near the great lake from which all life sprang, and so the lake spawned the trolls and more fearsome creatures to punish the ancient men. Whatever the truth is, the ancient men were laid low, the cities crumbled, the survivors turned out into the wilderness and the hills were left to the trolls.

The Troll Hills are mostly gentle, rolling hills covered with green grass and dotted by woodlands of oak and hickory. They are bordered to the south by the Devil Peaks, jagged mountains that are home to the devilkins. To the north there is the Zarko Mountains, with valleys of pines where dwell dwarves in colorful coats who make rare distillations. The hills drain into the Sapphire River and Great River, which connects the Valley of the Hawks to Crescentium, the city-state of the witchmen to the south.

The Great River has proven a great boon to trade, but now the petty trolls have occupied the ancient fortress on Little Rock [3311] and shut down that trade, cutting Crescentium off from its markets in the north. Perhaps the adventurers might sally forth from north or south to open the river. Or maybe they’ll ignore the wars of the trolls and witchmen and instead delve into the wilderness in search of the secrets behind the weird blue ruins of the ancient men.

Hags and Trolls
Among the more pernicious and dangerous creatures in the Troll Hills are the trolls and their hag mothers. Most trolls are born from hag mothers and human or demi-human fathers. Under a full moon, hags are capable of appearing to males as nymphs in order to seduce them. Like some spiders, the hags usually eat male after they have mated. About one out of twenty troll births is a female that can breed true with other trolls. Trolls born from hags usually nurse from their mother for about two weeks, at which time they are about four feet tall and capable of catching their own food. The hag then drives the troll from its lair. Trolls return to their mothers from time to time to pay tribute.

Hags have an equally bizarre life cycle. A hag is an elven women that has reached their allotted 1,000 years of life as an elf. At this point, lawful elves wander into the woods and become nymphs. Neutral elves find a nice oak tree and turn into dryads. Chaotic elves crawl into a damp burrow or fallen log and cover themselves with mud and leaves. After one month, the elf emerges as a hag.

The three hags who gave issue to the petty trolls have recently come together to form a covey and spread their dominion over the Troll Hills and maybe beyond. These hags, Peggy Blackteeth, Mollie Longshanks and Fat Anya, because they have formed a covey, can now cast the following spells three times per day each: Animate dead, control weather and phantasmal force.

Peoples of Namera (Hex Crawl Chronicles)

There are now three Hex Crawl Chronicles out and a couple more in the can. I’m about to begin writing the next one, and since I’ve had a couple emails recently asking for some more details about the setting – in particular about the folks wandering around causing trouble in it – I thought I’d share a few of the details (well, as many as I know).

(Oh, and you can find the overall map for the setting HERE)

Bucranian
Appearance: HCC 5

The Bucranians of the great island Bucrania are handsome folk, with chiseled physiques and deep olive skin. Their hair and eyes are as black as night.
Noble Bucranians dress in tunics of expensive fabric, most purchased from the Last Men, and square cloaks. They wear leather sandals on their feet and phetas of silk on their heads. Commoners dress as nobles, only with less expensive fabrics. Warriors carry spear, short sword, javelins and oblong shields emblazoned with black bulls.

In Bucrania, all women are wards of the king and live one of his many palaces until they are wed to a man. The most valued men of the kingdom are athletes, and athletic games are frequent and hotly contested. Champions are adopted by the king and become princes of Bucrania. They are gathered into fraternal trios, and in these trios they battle minotaurs in the arena for the honor of their father and the favor of his “daughters”.

As humans, Bucranians can advance in any class. Bucranian priests are usually druids who worship bulls. Bucranian fighters favor spear and javelin.

Centaur
Appearance: HCC 3, HCC 4

A centaur has the head, arms and torso of a human or elf and the lower body of a pony or ass. Centaurs dwell in meadows and glades surrounded by thick woodlands. They are known for their lack of temper and their fondness for women, war and song.

Centaurs are usually seven to eight feet tall from hoof to head. Even though their equine bodies are smaller than normal horses, they are still quite heavy and find it difficult to scale sheer surfaces without help from others. A centaur’s equine body may have any pattern common to normal horses, and the hair on their heads often follows suit. Centaurs usually have nut brown skin.

Centaurs speak their own language and often (50%) the language of elves. They occasionally speak the common tongue of men. Many centaurs learn the languages of gnomes, goblins, halflings, kobolds and orcs. Because of their size, centaurs have booming voices.

Centaurs cannot have a strength or constitution scores lower than 9, nor can they have a wisdom score higher than 14. Centaurs can become fighting-men, advancing to a maximum of 7th level (8th level if strength is 14 or higher, 9th level if strength is 18). Centaurs can carry 150% more than most characters. In addition, their base movement is increased by 6. Because they are quadrupeds, a centaur’s gets a +2 save to avoid being knocked over or grappled. In combat, centaurs can choose to attack with their weapon or their hooves, which deal 1d4 points of damage. A centaur’s armor (really a combination of human armor and horse barding) costs twice as much as normal human armor.

Dwarves
Appearance: HCC 1, HCC 2, HCC 3, HCC 4

The dwarves of Namera are bandy-legged and wrinkled, with narrow eyes and immense noses, splayed toes, large hands (the better for holding hammers and climbing rocks) and snow white hair. Women are as ugly as the men, but their ugliness is made up for by a reputation as being honest, hard-working, and immense fun at parties.

Dwarves don’t like to stand out in a crowd, so they were muted colors that blend in with their surroundings, including hooded cloaks. They adore pockets and sew as many into their clothes as they can. Long, pointed shoes are also a must, to give the illusion of more height. Dwarf warriors look for as much armor as they can wear, and prefer practical weapons like hammers and axes to flashy swords. They usually carry crossbows or hand gonnes over bows. Dwarves are natural animal lovers, and every dwarf has his pet.

Dwarves follow the normal dwarf rules. Their gods are never named or invoked in public, and their clerics stay home to care for the clan (unless your favorite rules allow dwarf clerics, in which case they replace spoken prayers with noisy ululations.

Dwarves of the Aderumdocs
Appearance: HCC 5

Unlike their bandy-legged cousins of the west, the dwarves of the Aderumdoc Mountains are a bit shorter and much rounder, rosy cheeks, gap-toothed smiles (when they bother to smile) and long, nimble fingers. They have gray skin that becomes covered with moss as they grow older, giving them a natural camouflage in ancient forests.

The Aderumdoc dwarves are deliberate and patient, never given to rash action or thoughtless words. They often sit down cross-legged when it is time to think, puffing on their pipes and considering every angle. This makes them wondrous engineers, but can be quite taxing on their fellow adventurers when every fork in a tunnel must be weighed and considered.

The Aderumdoc dwarves follow the normal rules for dwarves.

Elves of the North
Appearance: HCC 4

These northern elves dwell in towers disguised as massive trees by illusions. They are uglier than the trouping elves to the south, having long legs and arms attached to squat bodies and faces that resemble brownies more than fashion models. These northern elves wear long mail byrnies and winged helmets traced with precious metals. They carry hide shields painted in bright colors and carry longswords and daggers.

Northern elves are gruff and forward than their southern kin, and do not bear so much resentment to others (though they dislike the imperious Northmen and their empire). They believe profoundly in freedom and actively sew chaos where societies seem to rigid and structured. The wood elves have learned how to train giant eagles for use as their mounts, and every wood elf warrior aspires to become an eagle rider.

The northern elves follow the same rules as all other elves. They can become fighter/magic-users (level 4 and 8 respectively), thieves (no limit), rangers (level 3) or fighter/magic-user/thieves (level 4/8/unlimited).

Elves of the Pirate Coast
Appearance: HCC 5

The elves of the Pirate Coast have sun-dappled skin and auburn locks they never cut and warm, gray eyes. The coastal elves stand about 5 feet tall and have wiry frames. The elves wear as little clothing as possible, preferring loose tunics and loincloths. In times of battle they put on ornate, polished armor and wield long swords, dagger and longbows.

The elves are natural horsemen, learning to ride at a very young age and not truly achieving adulthood until they are can perform all manner of acrobatic tricks and feats of mounted warfare. They are a carefree folk who have a tough time realizing that other people’s feelings, needs and desires exist. They are persistent, if not always skilled, singers and dancers.

These elves follow the same rules as other elves. Coast elf thieves are usually horse thieves and rustlers, and take as much joy in stealing as the warriors do in fighting and the magic-users in torching villages with fireballs.

Elves of Valley of the Hawks
Appearance: HCC 1

The elves of the Valley of the Hawks are typical for the elves of Namera. They stand about five feet in height and have lithe physiques, pale skin that gives off a glow of health and vitality. They usually wear their hair long and tie it back or weave it into braids. Their hair and eyes might be any color under the sun.

They follow the tradition of the trouping fairies, with every elf a lord or lady in dazzling raiment of mauve, cyan and soft green, riding fine horses and carrying ornate bows and long swords. Elves take great pains to have the most stylish and expensive clothing they can afford – their appearance is a matter of great pride for them.

All elves of the valley hail from a hidden fort that is disguised by illusions and enchantments to look like a grassy knoll. The elves tend moontrees, whose leaves absorb moonlight that distills into the sap. Dead branches have a core of hardened sap which is melted down and alloyed with aluminum and tin to form elven mail. Their cloaks of elvenkind come from the silk of the faerie dragon, which lives in globes of spun silk that look like colored lanterns hanging from the trees. Their boots of elvenkind come from the hides of harts that are killed and slaughtered ritually to gain the blessing of the forest.

The elves of the Valley are haughty and proud, but also terribly dashing and brave. They adhere to the normal rules for elves (or high elves for “advanced” games). Elf fighters of the Valley favor the use of long sword and long bow, or possibly lance.

Embalmers
Appearance: HCC 3

The Embalmers are a race of bronze skinned men with raven hair and violet eyes. They are short and stocky, the women voluptuous and the men given to wide exaggerations and long melancholies.

Male embalmers dress in woolen tunics and trousers and gray cloaks. They wrap their lower legs in leather thongs and wear leather sandals on their feet and intricately patterned conical wool caps on their heads. Women wear loose gowns, a wide leather belt wrapped just under their breasts, shorter cloaks and put their hair in braids. Warriors arm themselves with spear, shields of wood and leather, short bows and long knives.

The embalmers raise sheep, trading wool and foodstuffs for fragrant oils and herbs used in their embalming ritual, the aspect of their culture which gives it its common name. The embalmers make mummies of their dead philosophers and nobles, walling them into their temples and palaces that they may advise future generations through barred windows. Peasant corpses are burned for heat in the furnaces of their palaces.

Embalmers are humans and might be of any class. Paladins are rare among them and most embalmer clerics worship death gods. Embalmer fighters favor the spear or short bow.

Golden Men
Appearance: HCC 1

The Golden Men of the steppe have golden-brown skin and blazing red hair. They wear buckskins in the winter and loincloths when the weather is warm enough. Warriors wear leather armor and carry stout clubs and leather slings, or metal weapons they have scavenged from their victims.

The Golden Men are descended from the ancients and now dwell in small hunter-gatherer bands in the woodlands or as brutal nomads on the prairie. The ancient ruins that once made up their homes are sometimes haunted by them, as they return to their temples to pay homage to such deities as Alberni, the dog-headed moon goddess, Kishrdis, the obsidian-skinned goddess of mining and Thallos, the seven-eyed god of love.

The Golden Men are humans, and can advance in any class. Clerics are as common among them as druids and magic-users are quite rare since they lack the resources to produce books or scrolls. Most Golden Men magic-users use very ancient tomes from the times of the ancients printed on strange, glossy paper in tiny black letters. Golden Men fighters favor clubs and slings.

Half-Orc
Appearance: HCC 5

Half-orcs are not a race, but rather creatures with a mixture of human and humanoid (usually orc, goblin, gnoll, bugbear or hobgoblin) blood. Half-orcs can almost pass for human. They average from six to seven feet in height and are usually stocky. Their skin often has a pink, grey or green cast to it. Half-orcs often have one of the following facial features: Turned up nose, pointed ears, thick eyebrows, a heavy forehead, vestigial tusks and/or pointed teeth. Half-orc hair is coarse and unruly and usually black, dark brown or dark red. Half-orc eyes are almost always brown, brownish green or greyish green.

Half-orcs usually speak the common tongue of men and often (60%) the language of their other parent race. It is not uncommon for them to learn the language of dwarves, goblins, ogres and giants.

Half-orcs can see up to 60 feet in darkness and their sense of smell is as keen as a wolf’s. Their thick skin gives them a natural Armor Class of 8 [11], which can be enhanced with armor. Half-orcs enjoy a +2 bonus to saving throws against poison and disease.

Half-orcs can advance as fighters (up to 8th level), thieves (no level limit), assassins (up to 6th level) or fighter/thieves (up to 8th level as fighter and 12th level as thief).

Hivernians
Appearance: HCC 2

Hivernians have jaundiced, sallow skin and hair that ranges from dark carnelian to fiery orange. Their eyes are icy blue. Hivernians are short and wiry, with long arms, fingers and toes, pug noses, long teeth and heavy jaws. They wear animal skins and long hoods decorated with bones and teeth. Warriors carry spears and short bows and wear the equivalent of leather armor.

Hivernians are as ancient a people as the Golden Men, and have warred with them for generations. Unlike the Golden Men, who seem to be able to lay claim to an advanced civilization in the past, the Hivernians have ever been savages. They are skilled in stalking and hunting, and have no qualms about killing for the sheer enjoyment of it. Hivernians worship the elk-antlered, doe-eyed goddess Yhoundeh.

Hivernians move as silently as halflings and can track as well as rangers of their class level. Hivernians can take levels as fighters (up to 7th), fighter-thieves (up to 6th level in each) or magic-user/thieves (up to 5th level as magic-users and 6th level as thieves). Hivernian fighters favor the spear or short bow.

Last Men
Appearance: HCC 5

The Last Men have olive skin and blond hair always worn closely cropped. Dealing as they do in fabrics, the Last Men dress in heaps and layers of clothing, all of expensive and luxurious fabrics like damask silk and velour. Soldiers of the Last Men carry Bohemian ear-spoons (pole arms) and hand gonnes (treat as heavy crossbows).

The so-called “Last Men” are a population of men and women who consider themselves the last true humans left in Namera. All other peoples are infected with chaos and thus “sub-men” in the eyes of the Last Men. They are emotionless, bland people, their lives ordered by their master, The Golden God, and by an ingrained herd mentality. The Last Men deal in fabrics, growing cotton and mulberry trees. Their factories contain mechanical looms controlled by a difference engine kept in a great, black citadel in their city-state, located to the south of the Pirate Coast. True xenophobes, they fear corruption by others, but still send out traders in longships to trade fabrics for food and other items.

Last Men are humans, and can take levels in any class, but their lack of independent, creative thought makes magic-users among them rare. Clerics of the Golden God are more common. Last Men fighters favor the use of bohemian ear-spoon or hand gonne.

Necrophage
Appearance: HCC 3

Necrophages are tall and lean, with pallid skin that they paint in grotesque patterns using burgundy paint made from crushed elderberries and columbines. Their warriors wear leather or ring armor and carry shields, leaf-bladed short swords, spears and javelins.

The Necrophages are fierce warriors who roam the rolling steppes of the Land Beyond the Black Water with their herds of cattle, riding in war chariots. The necrophages consume the flesh of their dead and of enemy casualties in war. They are berserkers in combat, and while one might expect berserkers to charge into combat screaming, the necrophages fight in complete silence. Necrophage tribes are ruled by undead kings, wights, with worthy challengers raised by force of will when they die to challenge the existing wight-king. The necrophages worship Emntrix, the petty death who claims the souls of soldiers.

Necrophages are humans, and can take levels in any class. Necrophage clerics worship Emntrix, the petty death of soldiers. Necrophage warriors favor the short sword. They can choose to be berserkers, but lose the ability to wear more than ring armor. Berserkers gain a +1 bonus to attack in combat for a number of rounds equal to their constitution bonus plus their level. After they come out of rage, they suffer 1d6 points of damage from exhaustion.

Northmen
Appearance: HCC 1, HCC 2, HCC 4

The Northmen have ebony or chocolate skin and wavy hair of brown or black, often worn long. Most are stout and plump, but a few villages mingled with the elves in elder times and are noted for their height and the electric sparkle in their eyes. The northmen are known for their baggy trousers and long tunics. They favor axes and curved knives and usually wear chainmail or platemail.

Northmen are the architects of a great kingdom that is now tearing itself apart in a terrible civil war between three princesses who seek to replace their dead father. They are industrious folk, not given to flights of fancy, who regard others as just a tad less civilized than themselves. They have a tendency to roll their eyes at outlandish customs and costumes.

Northmen are humans and can take levels in any class. Their clerics worship such deities as Almerla the goddess of healing, Talaunus the god of civilization, Teros the god of war, Vilmarra the goddess of vengeance and Waith, goddess of the underworld. Northmen fighters always favor axes.

Sea Lords
Appearance: HCC 4, HCC 5

The average Sea Lord has pale skin (or deeply tanned skin for the crews of their lion-prowed longships), blond to auburn hair and eyes ranging from blue to gray. Men and women tend to be exceptionally tall, with a pleasant, rough demeanor. Sea Lords dress in leather tricorne hats, padded doublets and baggy pants tucked into tasseled buskins. Sea Ladies wear long dresses covered by shawls and pile their braided hair atop their heads, holding it with wooden pins. Noble Sea Lords and Ladies wear necklaces of bronzed leaves from their old domains in the White Islands. Warriors carry broadswords and pistols and wear steel breastplates over soft leather armor.

The Sea Lords, or Albians, came from across the Briny Sea to escape the sinking of their homeland, the White Islands. Most of the Sea Lords that escaped this cataclysm were men, the crews of ships. The early settlers suffered a distinct lack of women, giving rise to the taking of slaves among female humanoids of the Pirate Coast. For this reason, there are still a good many Sea Lords with goblin, orc or (if they are lucky) elf blood flowing through their veins (i.e. half-elves and half-orcs). Sea Lords always have a tale to tell, and in taverns they tell these tales to the accompaniment of fiddles, mouth harps and percussion provided by stamping feet and by clanging walking sticks and cudgels on whatever surface is handy.

The Sea Lord clerics always worship Albia, the White Goddess who created them and kept them until the betrayal of her father, the Briny Sea. Albia is a goddess of perfection and purity, the gleam in her father’s eye until he consumed her in a fit of pique. Where some religions produce holy water, the priests of Albia produce holy powders. The first were taken from the chalk cliffs of the White Islands, but modern powders, kept in vials of glass or silver, are drawn from chalk outcroppings on the Pirate Coast.

Swamper
Appearance: HCC 3

The swamp folk are albinos with long, kinky hair that they sculpt into a shape reminiscent of large horns or cones. They have broad faces and large, pink eyes. The Swampers dress in soft leather tunics and the more accomplished hunters wear black cloaks made from the pelts of swamp panthers. Warriors carry sickles and staves.

Swampers encountered outside their villages are hunters or gatherers looking for exotic herbs and insects. The gatherers carry horn-handled sickles, often silver bladed, leather slings, wicker holy symbols, spirit rattles and bags of herbs, including healing poultices and bundles meant to repel the undead. Gatherers are usually accompanied by a breed of large, white swine that are used as mounts, pack animals and to sniff out herbs and funguses.

Swampers can be of any class, but most of them are clerics or magic-users. Clerics worship spirits of the dead and of the earth. Swamper fighters favor the use of the staff, and there are probably more Swamper monks than true fighters.

Tevalar Elves
Appearance: HCC 4

The Tevalar elves are aquatic elves who dwell in fresh water. They have blue-green skin and are completely hairless, with large, black eyes. Their warriors wear coats of silvery scales, onion-domed helms of ground and polished river glass (filled with water and connected via copper tubing to brass water tanks on their backs). They are armed with tridents, crossbow and short swords.

The Tevalar are slightly paranoid expansionists, building dams to flood valleys and bringing nearby human and demi-human tribes under their sway. Tevalar elves know how their surface kin have been dimished by the surface folks, and are determined to escape this feat. This makes them easy to offend and quick to deal with situations decisively and, at times, violently.

Tevalar elves follow the same basic rules as elves, with the exception that they can swim as quickly as they move on land and breathe water rather than air. To be sure, they would make challenging player characters, given how reliant they are on their water tanks.

Witchmen
Appearance: HCC 1

Witchmen have tan or olive skin and a great variety of hair and eye colors. They wear long, straight tunics and woolen leggings. Their shoes are leather and pointed, and they wear tall pointed hats with wide brims; both shoes and hats are decorated with buckles of brass or silver. Warriors carry long swords and daggers, and wear either ring armor or chainmail.

The Witchmen come from southern climes and dwell in the swamps at the mouth of the Great River. They are mystics, steeped in eldritch knowledge and taught the arcane arts from childhood. They dwell under the rule a college of witches and warlocks, with young Witchmen accepted in synods when they reach puberty. They are educated in these synods and treat them something like political factions. They worship such deities as Eosinn, the faun goddess of hunting and Onorix, the goddess of wealth.

Their leaders are skilled in swordsmanship and magic, and should be treated as elves in terms of their class choices, though their maximum levels are 3 levels higher than elves. Witchmen favor long swords and daggers.

Oh – also – just finished my little map for HCC 6 – The Troll Hills. Time to start filling this baby up. We’ll have Witchmen colonists on the Great River, an unspeakable troll god and a lair for every troll that I can legally use and few I’ll probably create. Think of it as Against the Giants but for trolls. Should be fun!

News from the Land of Nod and a little more Mu-Pan

Busy weekend, but a good one. I finished my fifth Hex Crawl Chronicle The Pirate Coast – and just need to send it along to the good people at Frog God Games. Next up is The Troll Hills, in which I try to incorporate every version of troll I can. If you have an OGL troll you’d like stuck into those very dangerous hills, let me know.

Oh – for that matter – the Tome of Horrors Complete is now available. I have scads of lairs in that tome and did the conversions of the monsters from Tome 1.

I’m about 1 week away from publishing NOD 10. Contents should be …

Mu-Pan – continuation of the hex crawl in NOD 8. I’ve been running excerpts all month.

Polyester Road – this is a mini-game/mini-campaign about truckers hauling goods on post-apocalyptic highways. The technology is mid-1970’s and the mutations not too gonzo.

Monstrous Evolutions – two race/classes for Pars Fortuna in the tradition of beast-people. In this case, the “beasts” are a rust monster and owl bear. Will include an illustration and a mini-adventure.

Chim-Chimera-Cheree – The random chimera generator I posted on this blog with a nice illustration.

The Leech – A fantasy doctor/surgeon class for Swords and Wizardry – think of this class as the medical equivalent of Indiana Jones’ archaeologist.

Phantastes – a few more chapters of the fantasy classic.

Coming up for NOD 11 – A journey into Hell (hex crawl inspired by Dante’s vision of the underworld), Action X (mini-game of special operations teams in the Cold War) and probably something spooky for Halloween – probably a dungeon crawl in a haunted manor.

And now, two encounters – one from Mu-Pan, the other from the Pirate Coast. Enjoy …


0108. The floor of this valley is a chain of shallow lakes linked by channels of sandy, sluggish streams. The lakes are heated geo-thermally, and this has made the valley steamy and verdant. In ages past, great creatures akin to reptiles lived in the valley until they were hunted to extinction by the ancient elves – many an old elven sword has a pommel wrapped in leather cured from their skin and ancient elf lodges often have their strange, massive heads mounted on the walls.
While these massive beasts no longer roam the valley, their spirits do, and are encountered here on a roll of 1-2 on 1d6 (1-4 on 1d6 during a full moon). Use the following table to determine what kind of animal is encountered.
1-3
Ankylosaurus: HD 8; AC 0 [19]; Atk 1 clubbed tail (special); Move 9; Save 8; CL/XP 8/800; Special: None.
4
Brontosaurus: HD 25; AC 6 [13]; Atk 1 stomp (special); Move 9; Save 3; CL/XP 25/5900; Special: None.
5-6
Stegosaurus: HD 15; AC 2 [17]; Atk 1 bite (special), 1 spiked tail (special); Move 9; Save 3; CL/XP 15/2900; Special: None.
7-8
Triceratops: HD 15; AC 0 [19] front, 5 [14] back; Atk 1 gore (special); Move 12; Save 3; CL/XP 15/2900; Special: None.
9-10
Tyrannosaurus: HD 18; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 bite (special); Move 18; Save 3; CL/XP 19/2400; Special: Chews and tears.
The dinosaur spirits are ethereal, and can thus only be harmed by silver or magical weapons and spells of force or dispelling. Their attacks cause 2d6 points of chilling cold damage and force a victim to save or be drained of one level.
One of the shallow lakes is an illusion, hiding an ivory palace of the ancient elves – one that has been abandoned and forgotten for centuries. The palace is composed of eighty-one cells, each with a vaulted ceiling and connected to four adjacent vaults via a short (5 feet long) passage. These passages are blocked by walls of force, each one a shimmering curtain of one of five colors – cerise, ultramarine, gamboge, myrtle and heliotrope.
The palace has four entrances; each of these entrance cells has only three curtains for force blocking further access to the palace. One of these entrance cells contains a colored tetrahedron of metal, the exact color being determined randomly (see below). In the middle of each cell there is a tripedal stand which fits this tetrahedron. By placing the tetrahedron in the base and tapping it with something metallic, the corresponding colored curtain of force disappears for 1 minute. The colors of the curtains in each cell should be determined randomly with a d10 (1-2 = cerise, 3-4 = ultramarine; 5-6 = gamboge; 7-8 = myrtle; 9-10 = heliotrope), and the color of the tetrahedron changes (using the same random table) when it is brought into a new cell. This makes moving through the strange palace quite a chore, and potentially dangerous as there is a slight chance one will enter a cell and be unable to exit due to the color of the tetrahedron.
Each time a cell is entered, there is a 1 in 1d6 chance of a random monster (CL 3) appearing in the cell. These monsters are given the same random colors as the rooms and tetrahedron, and the color of the creature makes it vulnerable to a single form of attack: Cerise = cold, Ultramarine = fire; Gamboge = silver; Myrtle = steel and Heliotrope = wood. All of these beasts can be harmed by magic missiles. Their bodies disappear after one leaves their cell.
The center cells of the palace are combined into a single large chamber. In the middle of this chamber there is an elf-hewn idol of a four-faced, eight-armed and eight-legged goddess. Each pair of hands holds a golden plate hidden by a pelt of sable. The plates face the curtains of colored force, and these colors determine what secrets are etched on the plates. The plate facing a cerise curtain is attuned to fighters (and rangers and paladins). The plate facing an ultramarine curtain is attuned to clerics (and druids). The plate facing a myrtle curtain is attuned to thieves (and assassins and monks) and the plate facing a gamboge curtain is attuned to magic-users. A plate facing a heliotrope curtain is replaced by a portal into the void, per a sphere of annihilation.
Looking upon a plate not attuned to their class forces a character to save vs. blindess. Looking upon the proper plate grants a magic-user a new spell of their highest spell level (though it must be written into their spellbook), a cleric or druid access to a magic-user spell that can be associated with their deity, a fighter-type a +1 bonus to wield a random weapon and a thief-type a +10% bonus to use one of their skills.
7238. Dinsan: Dinsan is a city of 6,000 people situated atop a plateau that rises 200 feet above the surrounding landscape and looks over the source of the river. The city is quite ancient and the buildings show their age. Although the people are productive, growing sweet, golden barriers (sun berries) and turning them into a very potent liqueur favored by the Ying nobility.

The city is notable for seven grand constructions. The first is a central tower with a single, large wooden gate. This tower is the entrance to the plateau, as it connects with a tunnel that spirals up through the plateau. This tunnel is guarded by albino apes chained to the walls. The roof of the tower is conical and set with six mirrors. As the sun hits these mirrors, it sends a beam of light to strike the face of one of the six statues.

The six statues represent the six founders of the city. Each of the founders is represented by a faction in the city, and while the face of a faction’s founder is illuminated, that faction governs the city absolutely. This makes for rather confused government, though the locals are fairly used to the arrangement and almost take pride in it.

The first faction was founded by Binua, a priestess of Inzana. Her sohei are now commanded by Temang, a muscular woman with a round face and long grey hair. The sohei wear armor lacquered red and brass masks meant to depict Inzana, the sun maiden. The sohei are warlike and easily annoyed, and demand almost constant tribute to their goddess and her sacred monkeys.

The second faction are the samurai descended from the army of Chireng and now ruled by Agchaan. Agchaan is a straight-forward, brash woman with fiery green eyes. Agchaan is big boned and has a small-featured face. She and her samurai rule with wisdom and restraint, following the bushido code zealously.

The third faction are the shugenja of the White Order, a band of moralists who outlaw alcohol, gambling and promiscuous behavior while they are in charge. They are all ascetics who wear simple white loincloths and who anoint their bodies with the oil of stinging herbs. The White Order was founded by Manalch and governed by Haampi, a small man with a thin face and sunken eyes.

The fourth faction are the ninja of Geri, the so-called Jade Prosperity Society. The ninja are a crime syndicate of smugglers and assassins who run protection rackets even when they are not in power. The ninja are ruled by Uncle Take, a secretive man, tall, with a long face, who runs a shop of calligraphers and keeps white mice.

The fifth faction are the wushen of Geran, a monkey hengeyokai who preached the values of laughter and festivities. The city takes on a Mardi-Gras atmosphere while the monkey lords are in power (though not all of them are monkey hengeyokai). The wushen are governed, loosely, by their eldest member, Mudar. Mudar is a willowy men with a heart-shaped face. He and his priests dress in silk tunics and pantaloons, carry staves and wear monkey masks.

The sixth factions are the descendants of the slaves who constructed the city-state and the tunnel through the plateau. They are no longer slaves, and most of the time work on repairing buildings and constructing new buildings. When they are in power, however, they run rampant through the city destroying the work they had done and causing new destruction – though never to the houses of the other factions or the central tower. They are led by the half-ogre Suhaz.

|    Temang, Sohei Lvl 6: HP 20; AC 3 [16]; Save 9 (7 vs death & poisons); CL/XP 7/600; Special: Banish undead, spells (4th). Kabuto, haramaki-do, haidate, masakari, prayer beads.

|    Agchaan, Bujin Lvl 6: HP 6d6+1; AC -1 [20]; Save 11 (10 vs death & poison); CL/XP 6/400; Special: Follow through. O-yoroi, dadao, daikyu.

|    Haampi, Shugenja Lvl 5: HP 19; AC 9 [10]; Save 11 (9 vs magic); CL/XP 4/120; Special: Spells (3rd). Bo staff, spellbook.

|    Uncle Take, Ninja Lvl 7: HP 23; AC 9 [10]; Save 8 (6 vs. death & poison); CL/XP 4/120; Special: Move silently, hide in shadows, climb sheer surfaces, backstab x3, read languages. Bo staff, hankyu.

|    Mudar, Wushen Lvl 5: HP 14; AC 9 [10]; Save 10; CL/XP 5/240; Special: Spells (3rd), turn undead, xxx, xxx. Kama, prayer beads.

|    Suhaz, Half-Ogre: HP 7; AC 9 [10]; Save 16 (15 vs death, 12 vs. poison & disease); CL/XP 1/15; Special: Follow through, ogre’s ferociousness, open door on 1-4 on 1d6.

Image by jurer2, found HERE.

Hex Crawl Chronicles: Map of Namera

Quick post to give people an idea of how the hex crawls I’m writing for Frog God Games “connect”. They were designed to depict different types of terrain so that Referees could stick them into their own campaigns when they need a certain terrain type, but it’s tricky to write a hex crawl without injecting some setting – at least for me – and I found the blank slate of the HCC’s irresistible.

I decided early on, just for fun, to base the maps loosely on the geography of North America – partially because North America was used as the basis of the original World of Greyhawk, and partially because I didn’t want to spend too much time formulating the hex crawl maps.

HCC1 is set in the vicinity of Iowa, since the Stater family hails from Iowa and that is where I was when Bill Webb first emailed me about the idea of writing the HCC’s. The second is centered around Lake Geneva, WI (do you know how hard it is to come up with a reasonably original play on Gygax’s name?). HCC 3 really just got shoehorned into Canada because I wanted it to be north of HCC 2. The Shattered Empire (HCC 4) is centered around Cincinnati, OH, where my new grand nephew lives. You get the idea. I’ve nicknamed the “campaign world” Namera.

The squares on the map are not quite to scale, but they should give people an idea of where the HCC’s take place. There are a few additional notes on the map that might be turned into additional HCC’s if the project proves popular.

So – on to HCC5 – The Pirate Coast.

Hex Crawl Chronicle 4 Done!

Yes sir – finished writing HCC 4: The Shattered Empire tonight, so I’m ready to have a cocktail and watch some old movies. I’ll do a quick edit and send it to the Frog God tomorrow, along with the maps. This one involves the Northmen, who appear in HCC 1 and HCC 2 as colonists. In HCC 4 you see the heart of their empire, which is embroiled in a war of succession between the three daughters of the murdered emperor. It’s a standard hex crawl, but attempts to throw in the concept of armies on the march, besieged cities and some royal intrigue, with the adventurers maybe stumbling on the missing Imperial Regalia that one must own to legally take the imperial throne. So – one more down, at least 5 more to go, with the next one being set by the seaside, with seven angry tribes and a band of colonists who escaped the sinking of their island homes far to the east.

Tomorrow – I’ll post something fun – probably another preview of Yun-Bai-Du. I’m almost done with that article for NOD 9, and then I need to finish up a short Pars Fortuna adventure (The Titans’ Door) and a Mystery Men! adventure (Washed Out in Washoe) for that magazine and it will be ready to go. Which reminds me – I need to commission a western-style superhero illo – anyone have a good artist suggestion?

Oh, also this …

Image is The Battle of Alexander at Issus by Altdorfer (I’ve wondered if the Empire’s capital of Altdorf in Warhammer was named for him)

Hex Crawls & Horn Tooting

Just an FYI for those who are interested, it looks like the first two Hex Crawl Chronicles that I wrote for the Frog God are now available for sale as PDF or soft-cover book. The hex crawls are produced in two versions – one for Swords and Wizardry and the other for Pathfinder. Obviously, if you would like to buy a copy of each for their historical significance, I won’t complain.

HCC1 – Valley of the Hawks
The Valley of Hawks is a wooded river valley that cuts across a verdant prairie. It is named for the giant specimen of hawks that hunt along its banks and, during the Spring, blacken its skies. In the days of myth and legend, the Valley of the Hawks was inhabited by a race of giants who carved their likenesses in stone and hunted monstrous creatures using the giant hawks as their ardent companions and helpers. In the shadow of the giants dwelled the trouping elves and their erstwhile goblin enemies, fighting and feasting and making sport of life. The coming of the golden men from the west sent the proud elves and vicious goblins into hiding, for they commanded powerful magics and built a grand city of metal and crystal. But the reach of the golden men exceeded their grasp, and within a few generations their city had fallen and sent its children into the valley as orphans, and the elves and goblins worked their vengeance on them until only a few bands of the golden men, as wild and savage as the beasts, still roam the Valley. And so our adventurers arrive in the Valley of the Hawks seeking fame and fortune. Perhaps they come from northern lands or southern lands or perhaps they were born in the Valley and seek to learn its secrets and use its wealth to found a new city in the manner of the long gone golden men, a city that shines and terrifies and engraves their names forever in the stories of elves and men.

Price: pdf 4.99, pdf and softcover module $9.99

HCC2 – The Winter Woods
When the northern men came into this land they thought they had discovered a place of limitless possibilities – sparkling streams, fertile valleys and endless acres of rich timber. They didn’t realize they would have to contend with giant beasts, rapacious lycanthropes and the mysterious black arcs that visited the land from beyond the Black Water. Strike out into this land of dire wolves and giant badgers – bring news and trade to the isolated colonies of the northern men or fight through the lands of the wolfmen to find the palace of the mythical Queen of the Winter Wind.

Estimated Price: pdf 4.99, pdf and softcover module $9.99

Happy Happy Hexcrawl Joy Joy!

HC1CoverWebSWThe Frog God has informed me that the first of my Hex Crawl Classics is being printed AS WE SPEAK!!! Okay, maybe not exactly as I speak – or write. Nevertheless, it’s on its way. Like all things Frog God, it comes in two flavors – Swords and Wizardry and Pathfinder, which I think is pretty cool – some old school goodness for the middle school folks (’cause, if 4E is now new school, then 3E must be middle school – right?)

Okay – so what are these Hex Crawl Classics? Basically, Bill asked me to write some non-setting specific material like my Nod stuff. Within about 5 pages, of course, I was already turning the things into a setting and linking them. Oh well – it’s tough to do a “value added” sandbox setting (i.e. more than writing “5 hill giants are sitting here around a campfire”) without injecting some setting into the thing.

So, Valley of the Hawks is based on a bit of land being settled by a couple different cultures – the Witch-Men from the south and the Northern Men from – you guessed it – the North. The native humans aren’t all that happy about it, but they’re a bit primitive and unorganized, so they’re mostly reduced to being wandering encounters. The original settlers, elves, either don’t care or care quite a bit and want to do something about it. Here’s a preview of the race descriptions …

The Golden Men are descended from the ancients and now dwell in small hunter-gatherer bands in the woodlands or as brutal nomads on the prairie. They have golden-brown skin and blazing red hair. Warriors wear leather armor and carry stout clubs and leather slings, or metal weapons they have scavenged from their victims.


The Northmen have ebony or chocolate skin and wavy hair of brown or black, often worn long. Most are stout and plump, but a few villages mingled with the elves in elder times and are noted for their height and the electric sparkle in their eyes. The northmen are known for their baggy trousers and long tunics. They favor axes and curved knives and usually wear chainmail or platemail.


The Witchmen have tan or olive skin and a great variety of hair and eye colors. They wear long, straight tunics and woolen leggings. Their shoes are leather and pointed, and they wear tall pointed hats with wide brims; both shoes and hats are decorated with buckles of brass or silver. The witchmen carry long swords and daggers, and wear either ring armor or chainmail. Their leaders are skilled in swordsmanship and magic, and should be treated as elves.

So, if you enjoy the Land of Nod stuff, you’ll find more of the same. Weird encounters, a couple small mini-dungeons, pulp fantasy thrown in with sci-fantasy and fairy tales, a roster of strange gods – and hopefully a few evenings of enjoyment for the folks who plunk down their hard-earned coin for it.

HCC 2 – The Winter Woods is in editing and on its way, HCC 3 – Beyond the Black Water is written (my favorite so-far) and I’ve started plotting out HCC 4 – The Shattered Empire today.