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

Mars, Venus and Beyond

If you have read Blood & Treasure Second Edition, you might already know that I had a sample planar system that resembles the old geocentric model of the universe combined with Gygax’s idea of the outer and inner planes. At some point, I’m going to expand on these ideas and write a book called The Outre’ Dark – sort of my version of the Manual of the Planes.

To that end, I’ve already written an article in NOD on the planet Pluto, which stands in for the negative energy plane in Nod’s cosmos. This week, I’ve been playing with maps of Mars and Venus (or Martis and Veneris) for the Nod setting, and thought I’d show them off here, along with a few notes on the settings.

MARTIS, PLANE OF WAR

In the Nod cosmology, Mars is a planet of Neutrality, over which the forces of Lawful Neutrality and Chaotic Neutrality fight a never-ending war.

Mars3
  • The humanoid Martians come in a multitude of colors, from purple to amber to burnt sienna (and even some maroons living below the surface). They spawn via spores and do not nurse their young. They may have been engineered by a Zetan civilization that destroyed the plane with atomic weaponry before leaving Martis for Nod, where they were involved in founding the Nabu civilization (destroyed in a similar cataclysm).
  • They are joined on Martis by green mutants in the wastelands and bat people in the mountains.
  • The purple Martians are the most civilized (LN). They dwell in hive cities connected by canals.
  • The amber Martians dwell in the north, and might be considered pragmatic Neutrals.
  • The burnt sienna Martians are nomads (and former seafarers).
  • Atop Olympus Mons there is a monastery of weird Zen Neutral monks.
  • Martians wear little armor (or clothing) and arm themselves with swords, whip-swords, daggers, darts, jezzails and pistols.
  • The Martians also use flying ships (skyremes) levitated by weird rays.
  • There is a plant in the Martian deserts that oozes plastic nodules, which the Martians melt down and use to make a variety of objects.
  • The moons of Martis (those little specs underneath the planet) are home to ghouls, who launch themselves into space when astral ships approach too close.

VENERIS, PLANE OF LIFE

Veneris is the positive energy plane in Nod’s cosmos. I mixed the idea of positive energy = life with the old ideas of Venus as a jungle world. The map is still in the “rough draft” stage. It is partly inspired by this post at Malevolent and Benign.

VenusMap
  • Humanoid Venusians come in two varieties – the cyan-skinned cave dwellers and the jade-skinned tree dwellers. They are beset by many evils on the planet, for it is populated by numerous beastmen.
  • Venus has very little technology, and all of it in the hands of the gold amazons, who dwell in flying cities. Their sons, the myrmidons, are seafarers and defenders of humanity.
  • Most of the peoples of Veneris have neo-stone age technology, maybe some in the chalcolithic age – giant stone cities, simple weapons, etc. Very Flintstones.
  • There are dinosaurs (though not of the earthly varieties) and other prehistoric animals.
  • Beneath the surface of Veneris is a core of positive energy, which erupts from time to time from volcanoes.
  • The plant life of Veneris is a riot of color. It grows very quickly – a trail cut with machetes would disappear in mere minutes.
  • There are massive oozes on the planet that rise from the seas and cause ecological havoc.
  • The mountains are made of solid gemstone.

MERCURIUS, PLANE OF ELEMENTAL EARTH

I’m adding this one after the fact, having just finished the map. I’m picturing a world almost devoid of plant life with a thin atmosphere where all the real action is under the surface, where the powerful elementals dwell. On the surface, where adventurers are likely to spend their time, there are cities of crystal people who dominate their fellows by dominating the mineral springs they must bathe in to survive, and plundering metallic men who serve the greedy shaitan. I’m using the old idea that Mercury always had one side facing the Sun and the other in perpetual darkness – in this case, the cities of Parahelios and Nyx mark those spots.

MercuryMap2-1

Dread Kisthenes

Well, it is time to get back into the swing of things here at NOD after an unfortunately and unavoidable absence. Though I haven’t been as active online these last few weeks, I have been writing in what spare time I had, so I thought the easiest way to get back into blogging would be to share some of that material.

The Kisthenes hex crawl is proceeding apace – I can wrap up the basic writing in another 12 days – and then comes the editing and the writing of supplemental NOD articles. I need to commission art here really soon as well, but I think I can get the next NOD issue out by early May without too much trouble. This weekend I’m going to finally find time to get the paperbacks of the last issue of NOD and Barbarians & Basilisks up on Lulu, in case anyone has been waiting.

Without further ado … a few tidbits from the (unedited) Kisthenes hex crawl, which is based loosely on Mesopotamia and features a mad conqueror attempting to bring Tiamat (not exactly the copyrighted version from you-know-who, but something bigger and more Lovecraftian) bodily into the material plane, and other city-states competing to bring their own super-beasts into the world to oppose him. So a little Mesopotamian kaiju action for the adventurers to either stop or run away from.

(Note – the outlined areas in the map are the bits I have left to do. I usually write one chunk per weeknight, or two on weekends.)

 

Kisthenes map, plus a bit of the Nomo hex crawl to the left and Motherlands hex crawl at the bottom

0104. Damisu the Damned | Stronghold

Damisu is a necromancer whose ill-repute extends well beyond the grasslands of Kisthenes and the sands of the Crimson Waste. A waxy-skinned wastrel, he speaks in a timid soprano, pausing here and there to apply an unguent made of tallow to his dry, cracked lips. He dresses in a silk loincloth which, thankfully, he hides beneath a robe of crow feathers. Upon his head is the skull of his former master, the Mistress Utena. Her remains went to making one of several patchwork women who now serve in his manse, a decrepit old sandstone structure in a low spot on the grasslands that is soggy from a natural spring and littered with bones. The hex is patrolled by a dozen grey gnolls (encounter on a roll of 1-3 on 1d6) armed with composite bows and falchions.

Damisu is a petty man, very competitive with other magic-users (sorcerers are beneath his contempt). He is an obsequious man when presented with a possible challenge, offering hospitality in his shady domicile. In the night, the patchwork women set upon the magic-using guest and drag them through the dungeon into what Damisu calls “his arena”.

In the arena, dozens of zombies gather around two stone pillars, each pillar being about 6′ in diameter and raised 10′ off the ground. Damisu stands atop one pillar, his foe on the other. Whoever falls to the zombies is torn apart (unless it is Damisu, for they are his zombies and thus under his control.

If presented with a halfling girl with rosy cheeks and ebon locks, Damisu’s heart will stir and his mind flash back to a time long ago and a love long ago departed. How he reacts to this stimulus is up to the TK.

0540. Hawk Men | Monster

A tribe of hawk men has taken up residence in an old Chimerian citadel, a basalt nightmare stretched around a narrow peak and overlooking three valleys thick with fungal monsters. The hawk men have been raiding the surrounding settlements and then selling their plunder in Galardis. Their prince, Voltaro, has in his possession the adamantine sword of a Chimerian brave. The brave, Ull, is on the trail, and may be seen climbing the mountain and being harassed by the hawk men by adventurers moving through the hex.

0803. Pit of Despair | Monster

This hex of grassland is always strangely calm, and yet those who enter the hex feel a vague unease. Animals will not willingly enter the hex, and so the hex has mostly been left alone.

Towards the center of the hex there is a 10′ wide pit ringed with ancient stone slick with slime. The pit looks endless, and perhaps it is. It is inhabited by a caller in darkness who is summoned by tapping some-thing metal on the stone that rings the pit.

When summoned, the monster erupts suddenly from the pit, attacking all it can reach. If presented with a holy symbol of Ishtar it recoils and then one of the faces within the monster comes to the fore, a priestess of Ishtar who fled here when Ishkabibel was taken.

The priestess, while in control, will say something to the effect of, “The Mother of Chaos is coming, fed on the milk of human suffering, and with her coming the gods will again walk the earth, bringing destruction in their wake! Stop her coming, or flee this world.”

1735. Zephos | Village

Zephos is a large village (pop. 320 urban, 2,560 rural) of farmers who want nothing more than to be left alone. About 5% of the population are halflings, who work as scouts and swineherds in the village, and who help their kin from the Golden Steppe make their way to Blackpoort and other points south. The village has two competing taverns, the Sneering Pony and the Hole-in-the-Wall.

The Sneering Pony is mostly frequented by humans, the farmers gathering in the large room to drink golden ale and mead and eat roast lamb while listening to a woman bard, Hannah, past her prime but with a fantastic voice – perfect for laments. They sit, drink, eat and cry. In the room above, the merchant and artisans gather to drink spiced wine and eat pungent stews while gambling or watching bare-knuckle boxing.

The Hole-in-the-Wall is a tiny bar for halflings that is literally accessed via a hole in the wall of the Sneering Pony. It is a cozy place with many chairs with thick cushions, root beer par excellence, food not to be beat and some of the finest storytellers in the region, who weave the legends of old with fragrant pipe smoke.

2231. Monastery of Valor | Stronghold

A monastery of monks dedicated to Ninurta, the god of heroes, occupies a high ridge in this hex. The ridge is surrounded by an acacia forest populated by numerous wild goats, which are held as sacred to the deity.

The monastery is a mud-brick fort consisting of a small citadel (wherein dwell the monks) and a court-yard for their training. Several small outbuildings permit monks solitude for their meditations.

The monastery enjoys occasional visits from the knights of Lyonesse. Many young knights journey to the monastery for training, especially in the areas of courage and fortitude.

The 20 lesser monks of Ninurta fight with forked weapons used for disarming and bludgeoning foes. They pray to a white crystal formation beneath the monastery that is reached by crawling through a narrow, twisting tunnel. The cavern of the crystal is filled with warm, salty water and the walls are encrusted with smaller crystals which the monks chip off and turn into charms worn around their neck as proof they have seen the crystal.

Ninurta’s monks go bare-chested and wrap white cloth around their legs and abdomens. They paint a grey triangle on their faces and are permitted a crystal charm and leather bracers, but no other costume. Their leader is Shursab, a tall, stately woman with an abrasive personality. Only perfection is good enough for Shursab. If she meets a “perfect specimen”, there is a percentage chance equal to his or her charisma score that she falls in love with them. Shursab’s badge of office is a pair of opals on her bracers.

2844. Bacchanalia | Monster

Cultists of Bacchus have a gathering place here in the woods around a bloodstained stone table. The table sits on a low hill, the base of which is overgrown with red wild roses, a narrow stair of white stones leading up to it from a mucky gully. On new moons, a procession of fey and elven women moves through the woods lighting their way with torches and drinking from silver goblets of mind-altering wine. They become drunker as they approach the stone table, two or three men they have charmed in tow, and when they reach the top of the hill, they are joined by a trio of maenads. Under their direction they lash the men to the table and ply them with wine until they are blitzed out of their minds, before finally plunging knives into them. Satyrs watch from the woods, and gather the bodies when they have left, giving them a proper burial in the woods.

3348. Count Down to Pudding | Monster

A strange tan globe hangs from the bough of an oak. The sphere is one of force, and holds a dun pudding. The leaves of the woodland floor hide a steel box that, when the center is stepped on, forms a cube, the roof enclosing the victims of the trap and the pudding. Immediately, the force bubble begins to dissipate from the top down – it will take 30 minutes before the pud-ding can escape.

In the floor of the steel box there is a key hole which, if picked (or unlocked with the key inside the pudding), grants entry into a quasi-dimensions where the gnome thief Braba hid his treasure. The opening of the floor reveals stairs leading down into a weird cavern lit by the walls, which glow in shades of red and yellow. It will take 10 minutes to get to the treasure cavern, and another 10 to get back (though you might want to roll 3d6 to determine how many minutes it takes to get there and back). Among the treasure items is a tuning fork of no value, but which can cause the cube to unfold, allowing people to escape unharmed if the dun pudding remains contained in its force bubble.

A Little Mo Nomo

Yes, it’s another pseudo-lazy blog post. I’ve been busy as a beaver writing the latest hex crawl (and you have to assume a beaver would be incredibly busy trying to write a hex crawl, what with their lack of opposable thumbs – dams and hex crawls require completely different skill sets), and haven’t had time to do much non-hex crawl writing. I’m doing pretty good at this point – about 45 more entries to go. This time around, I’m trying to do an entire map in one issue. In the old days (I’ve been writing long enough I think I can call them “old days”) I broke the maps in two, east and west, and handled each in a different issue, sometimes with an issue focusing on cities in between. If I had done the Nomo hex crawl the old way, I would have been done writing a few weeks ago for NOD 31.

The reason behind this move was not a burning desire to work harder, but rather that I had a request for a Mesopotamia hex crawl, and in preparing to write that, I realized that my version of Mesopotamia, the dread plain of Kisthenes, was next door to my Rome, and that the one would actually make more sense if I did the other first, since there’s some cross-pollination in terms of campaign themes stuff.

Which is a long winded way of saying that this blog post will also feature some material from the next hex crawl. In this case, I wanted to highlight a few of the heraldic designs I’ve made using good old Excel, with the hex entries that go along with them.

Talabar | Stronghold

(I mostly liked this design because it involved making up a silly phrase and badly translating it into an Aramaic font. The final came out pretty nice.)

Atop a dusty, rocky plateau rests a grand castle, a large con-struction with outer and inner walls and towers, brilliant white in the blazing sun and quite noticeable against the reddish backdrop of the desert sands.

The castle is held by the Amirah Marusha zal-Sifi and her small force of 24 archers and 48 light cavalry. The Amira is a lusty woman, seemingly as delicate as a desert rose, but with iron sinews and a blaze to rival Iblis in her belly. An adven-turess, she fought her way across the Crimson Waste and Kisthenes and deep into the Golden Steppe to get where she is now.

The castle is surrounded by a collection of rock-and-hide hovels occupied by 540 goatherds, farmers and artisans. The people are a superstitious lot, and easily spooked. Their ex-istence here is tenuous at best, and the Warudi tribesmen, who resent her intrusion here, have left many frightening warnings of what will happen if she does not quit this place.

The castle holds a chapel dedicated to the goddess Allat. It is overseen by Marusha’s boon companion Uvart (LN human druid 3), a stony-faced woman of Kisthenes, with black ring-lets cascading down her back and a cherubic face with bright, darting eyes.

Rama | Settlement

Rama is a large oasis town (pop. 5,250) situated between two long ridges of red sandstone on a wadi that extends from the badlands out into the Crimson Waste. The oasis has rich soil and many springs, and supports the growing of date palms and herds of sheep, goats and horses. The oasis beyond the town walls is inhabited by 42,000 peasants. The peasants grow dates, figs, pistachios and barley using a net-work of canals first built by the Warudi and improved by Nomo.

The town was controlled by the Nomo Empire for many years and served as the capital of their Varudia province. With the disappearance of the empire, Queen Zabbai has declared her independence from Nomo and her suzerainty over all the Crimson Waste, a claim it is doubtful she can support.

The city has an outer wall of white stone that gleams for miles out into the desert air and five gates, each named for an ancient god of the Iremites, but commonly named for the color of the stone facings – i.e. the Red Gate (sandstone), the Blue Gate (lapis lazuli), Green Gate (malachite), Purple Gate (porphyry) and White Gate (marble). The outer portions of the town are given over to the adobe dwellings of the peas-ants and artisans, while the inner town, surrounded by a second wall (decorative, not defensive) is home to the royal family, government officials, priests and wealthy merchants in service to the queen.

The outer town is divided into four sections, each for one of the clans native to Rama, namely the Katare, Mabor, Malbizu and Mandilar. The clans can be identified by the color and style of their headdress and numerous other signs obvious to the locals. They are antagonistic towards one another, but not openly hostile.

The inner town is divided by a grand boulevard 30 feet wide and lined with 30-ft tall columns of white marble. The street runs from the Temple of Baal (dedicated to Jove by the Nomoi) on the east to the Temple of Nergal (dedicated to Pluto) on the west. At the center of the boulevard there is a great marble victory arch. On the north side of the street are the town’s baths, the Queen’s citadel and temples of Nabu (Mercury) and Allat (Venus). On the south side of the street one finds the building of the council of elders and the great Court of Tariffs, where tax collectors levy taxes and tariffs on visiting and local merchants.

Just outside the town proper there is a tall hill on which is built a fortified shrine of Moloch, who the Nomo had re-dedicated to Saturn while they held the town. The shrine is within a defensive tower manned by Moloch’s six priests.

Located outside the town in the desert is the Valley of the Dead, where the locals bury their dead in tombs. Some are simple caves while others are tower tombs or large under-ground sepulchers. The dead of the poor are cremated in the Temple of Moloch and placed in caves in terracotta urns. The wealthy are mummified by the priests of Nergal and placed in sarcophagi, dressed in their bejeweled finery.

Now that the Nomo have quit Rama, the locals have become fairly xenophobic. Foreign merchants with items to trade are permitted in the city, but not welcomed with open arms, and adventurers and other vagrants are kept outside, staying in one of the small roadhouses established for them.

Rama’s army consists of 9 squadrons of town guards, armed and armored as heavy infantry, under the direct command of Queen Zabbai, and 9 companies of soldiers under the command of Queen’s captain, her cousin Thamaba. The town’s cavalry operate outside the oasis, pa-trolling the desert sands and intercepting caravans to give them the once over before they come closer to Rama.

Ursa | Stronghold

(Some of the locales in these hex crawls are based on real places, and some are based on some idea I had. Many are as simple as “a tower keep of a 9th level paladin”, which require me to make up something to make this paladin’s keep different than the others I’ve already written. In this case, it was boring until I started designing the shield, which was going to have a bear on it – Ursa – but ended up with the double-headed eagle because I accidentally double-clicked it. The double-headed eagle made me think of the Holy Roman Empire, which brought me to the Holy Nomo Empire, etc.)

Pixta Adamia Ursa is a paladin of Minerva who commands a tower keep in this hex. She is gathering together a mercenary army of retired legionnaires and other warriors dedicated to the task of saving the empire by leading an army of loyalists into Nomo and dislodging the emperor’s shade from the throne that an angel of Jove might be placed there in its stead. Ursa is assisted in this task by an ex-Vestal virgin named Caia Spadaea Artia, a veritable she-devil with a sword.

So far, Ursa has assembled 25 veteran legionnaires (HD 1+1) and eight elite cataphracts (3 HD) whom she leads personally into battle. They have sharpened their skills against raiding Warudi, but know their toughest challenges lie ahead.

Ursa is now assembling the elements she needs to conjure a powerful angel. The ceremony requires a set of golden plates that are scattered around the region. These plates, when placed together, reveal the true name of Sabrathan, a plane-tar who they believe can become the emperor of a new Holy Nomo Empire dedicated to all the gods of Law.

Horologium | Settlement

(This is one of the “hex crawl jambalaya” sorts of entries, where I start with mechanical men, and then start throwing in all sorts of stuff from the ancient world that involved mechanical men and try to make something fun to visit. So you get Vulcan’s clockworks, and Talos and then Archimede’s laser rays for good measure. I particularly liked the name Artifex Maximus.)

Horologium is an island and city-state left of Vulcan’s creations, just doing their best to avoid corroding in the salty air. The island has a variety of coastlines, including beaches, harbors and cliffs, and many natural springs.

The city-state is contained in a dormant caldera that still has enough geothermal energy to power the creations of the clockworks. The rim of the caldera is fashioned into ram-parts, with nine towers, each equipped with one of Archimedes’ burning mirrors (i.e. laser ray, deals 2d6 points of fire damage each round it is held on the target; small targets require a hit roll each round).

The automata (pop. 168) are metalworkers mostly, mining metals from the slopes of the old volcano and fashioning it into fine weapons, armor and clockworks for sale. They have a fortified harbor on the north side of the island where they permit non-automatons to dock and take on cargo.

At the center of the city-state is the palace of King Talos, a giant bronze man. Talos is attended by 20 golden keledones, maidens of gold who sing and, when their king is threatened, turn into flailing death bots. Silver and gold watchdogs patrol the palace grounds. The captain of the city guard is called Incubito, a man of steel fashioned in the image of a gladiator, with interchangeable weapon arms!

The automatons worship Primus of the polyhedroids as Artifex Maximus. His high priest is the high scientist Excogitatoris, who fashioned the blazing mirrors and guard dogs.

Mantu | City-State

Mantu is the chief port of Nomo. Few vessels are permitted to pass by Mantu towards Nomo, mostly just imperial war-ships or the pleasure boats of senators and such.

The city is enclosed by a great wall on land, and a smaller sea wall. The walls of the city are greyish green, and embossed every 120 feet by the city’s arms. The city is built on a ring of hills that gradually descend towards the sea. The manses of the wealthy and the city offices are on the high hills, with the middle classes living below them and the lowlands, which sometimes flood, occupied by warehouses, tabernas, flop-houses and tiny shrines to a multitude of foreign gods. The buildings of Mantu have rooves of scarlet tiles, and many feature trellises climbed by vines of wild roses. The city is known for its cuisine, which includes roasted mutton, stews of garlic and fennel and lamb, fried fish, barley soup with fish sauce.

Temples are distributed throughout the city, with the Basilica of Neptune located in the high city. Other temples are dedicated to Salacia, goddess of sea water and wife of Nep-tune, Mater Matuta, protector of mariners, Angerona, reliev-er of pain and sorrow, Dispater in his role as god of wealth, the Aurae (breezes), the Venti (winds), Averruncus, propiti-ated to avert calamity, Hercules and Juno.

Mantu is known for its mines and those occupations related to mining, processing minerals and crafting with them. The traders of Mantu specialize in rare spices from the south. The hinterlands of Mantu are dotted with 49 villa rustica where people herd sheep and miners quarry granite, porphyry, copper and chrysoberyls. Chrysoberyls decorate the staff of office of the legate, who also wears sea blue robes of silk decorated with embroidered white roses.

With Nomo descending into chaos, many powerful families have fled to Mantu. The city-state has hardened its defenses, and there is talk of declaring the city-state independent of Nomo and preparing for war.

The city is protected by cohors I Mantu Nautae, which con-sists of 23 companies of legionnaires, many of them trained as marines, and 5 squadrons of equites. The cohort is commanded by Dux Ailio Cynon Gonzorgo, a veteran of many campaigns against pirates and a key conspirator with the nobles in declaring independence from Nomo (and he’s angling to be named Princeps). The cohort is responsible for protecting the city, patrolling the waterways and protecting the road that connects Mantu to Nomo. The Mantu city guard consists of 9 squadrons of guardsmen.

A Tiptoe into Nomo

Thomas Cole’s Destruction (1836) from Course of Empire

I’m deep into writing the Nomo hex crawl and thought I’d share a few of the encounters with you. I’m having fun writing it, combining a bit of the late Roman Empire + Byzantium about to fall, and running my Latin through a Gaulish filter to make it familiar and strange at the same time. Just north of Nomo’s heartland is the Crimson Waste, a desert that used to be a green and pleasant empire called Irem. The Iremites got into a devil worship and ultimately were destroyed in a war with the Nabu Empire (which you might have met in my Wyvern Coast/Nabu hex crawl from way back in NOD 1 to 3). Now that land is roamed by their descendants, the Warudi nomads, with a few monasteries and settlements that were spared in the cataclysm.

Lots of casual research goes into these things, so I always learn a few things. At the moment, I’m agonizing over Nomo’s legions and their emblems, mottoes and cohorts and such.

Anyhow … on with the show:

0411 Glassy Lake | Monster

This hex holds a vast, pristine lake with a glassy surface that seems unaffected by the wind. The banks are thick with acacias and great clouds of butterflies. At the center of the island there is a small, rocky island topped by a pretty little stronghold of lavender stone, with latticed windows and crenelations topped by golden pyramids. Splashing around the base of the island are pretty children – nixies – who sometimes climb the steps of the stronghold, which descend into the water, and slide through the doors.

Within the stronghold, a tower keep, which the nixies are pledged to defend, there is a throne of crushed shell, tall and fine, on which sits a woman composed of living glass. Princess Vyrna is the spirit of the lake, which was once much larger and much beloved by the Iremites. She was once a nixie queen, but took on her present form when she made a deal with the devil (literally) to save what remains of her home from the cataclysm. At night, the nixies of the lake take on a demonic aspect, and commit horrors upon any foolish enough to be found in the stronghold.

0512 The Snake Women Cometh | Monster

The desert sands here funnel into a deep cave of basalt. As one proceeds into the earth, about 500 feet, the air becomes warm and damp, and pools form on the floor. This opens into several interlocked caverns that are very wet and warm, with opalescent slime growing on the walls in great furry strands. These caves are inhabited by a trio of giant vipers that are controlled by the true masters of the cave complex.

Hidden behind one of these curtains there is a stair that proceeds another 400 feet into the earth. This passage is blocked by an adamantine gate with a complex, electrified lock.

At the base of this winding stair is a complex of ophidian amazons. Tall, statuesque women, they have pale scales that darken to rust on their lower arms and legs and carmine on their fingers and toes. This tribe of warrior-scientists consists of 85 females (lesser ophidians) and 27 smaller males who are left behind to tend the eggs and the machinery that pro-duces the warm, wet air that fills the cave.

In these caves, they work night and day on developing a method to clone themselves using concentrated quintessence, blood and whatever humanoid remains they can recover from their vipers. They have not yet struck upon the proper formula, but when they do, they have plans for Nod.

0610 Dirhab | Stronghold

Dirhab is a dervish abbey from olden times. The abbey is constructed of white marble, pock marked after a thousand years of windblown sand. The walls are 40 feet high, and there is a 50-foot tall tower at each corner. The gates of the abbey are composed of ebony, and are 1 foot thick, 10 feet tall and can only be opened using a winch found on the inside.

Within the front gate there is a broad courtyard, rectangular, that supports numerous flowering bushes. The courtyard is floored in reddish tiles decorated with white lilies. On the walls are mosaics of Marduk’s battle with Tiamat and Kingu, and his creation of humanity.

From the courtyard, one can pass into the living quarters and temple of the order. The buildings that surround the courtyard are three stories tall. The halls are hung with rich tapestries depicting the destruction of Irem by avenging angels raining down fire and the scattering of the Warudi across the Crimson Waste. In each of the towers is a large bell of meteoric iron, the dervishes striking them at noon and midnight to call the order and their families to prayer.

In a second courtyard, well-protected, are kept dozens of small white goats with pearly horns. These goats are kept as sacred animals, and are feted on Marduk’s holy day from silver bowls while the priests dance and play flutes carved from lapis lazuli.

The patriarch of the order is old Gazim (NG human cleric 10), whose body has twisted as he has grown older. He has lived through 500 summers, as all of the dervishes are extremely long-lived due to the blessing of Marduk.

The abbey houses 18 dervish priests, 40 dervishes and 180 noncombatants. The dervishes are mostly armed with shields and kaskaras, though 20 of them carry light crossbows and wear leather armor. They all fight like berserkers.

0927 The Sea Phantoms | City-State

Deep beneath the waves of this hex there stands a tall spire, raised from the sea floor, 40 feet thick at the base and 200 feet tall, rounded at the top and carved from top to bottom with skulls in an alien, geometric design.

Around this spire is a town of 1,500 sea phantoms, men and women of the Ethereal Plane with only the merest presence on the Material Plane. These people are not undead, but they are insubstantial and appear indistinct to people who dwell wholly on the Material.

These sea phantoms survive on the dying screams and lamentations of doomed sailors, though they are never the cause of these dooms. They merely float to the surface when they detect fear, and holding out their hazy hands collect these collected sufferings in the form of a black nodule that is not unlike a large, black pearl. They place these pearls, which exist on both the Material and Ethereal Planes, in the eye sockets of those aforementioned skulls. These pearls bathe the Ethereal Plane in a strange radiation which nourishes and sustains the enigmatic sea phantoms.

On the Ethereal, the sea phantoms appear as normal human beings with pallid skin, silvery hair and slate grey eyes. They dress in gauzy robes and carry thin silver swords and daggers at their sides to fend off ethereal marauders and other such dangers of their plane. On the Material Plane, they appear as vague, shimmering outlines of human beings, with eyes like faint lights gleaming through a thick fog, and their voices, normally quite distinct, sound hollow and wispy. Their buildings and houses look like white shapes seen through a thick fog bank, and feel to those on the Material Plane like cold, slushy water.

The sea phantoms are not evil, nor are they good. They want nothing from the Material Plane beyond the desperation of doomed men and women. They seek no agency over the material world, but are willing to communicate the secrets they have gathered to people if they are willing to pass through to the Ethereal Plane with rich gifts.

1719 Natanos | Stronghold

Natanos is a small fishing hamlet (pop. 50) on the shores of the Green Sea. The hamlet consists of several stone cottages on a gentle rise overlooking the beach. Within the hamlet on will find a mysterious staircase between two buildings. The stairs are painted many colors and seem to climb nowhere. Numerous orange cats sit on the stairs.

The cats are intelligent, and live with the sorceress Philia. The stairs head up to her tower, which is tucked between dimensions. The tower, if one could see it, is about 60 feet tall and pure white, topped with a conical azure roof. The interior is elegant and simple, with many bookshelves, blue carpets and furniture that is best described as “Danish modern”.

One chamber holds a small gallery of abstract art, all of it carved from blue stone, ranging from light to very dark blue. Another holds a pool of sea water and an elegant white boat – the pool serves as a portal to the sea, and is activated by pouring wine mixed with a drop of blood into the pool. All of the chambers equipped with floor to ceiling mirrors, for the only thing Philia loves more than her cats is her own face.

Philia is in the middle of the process of forging a magic staff, and she is using the pounding surf and sea winds to do it. The staff is being held by a living statue that she has sent out into the waves – only its forearm and hand, and the staff, are visible to those on the beach, and one might guess it is nothing but a bit of driftwood.

Lazy Saturday Post

Just a lazy Saturday post today with a few preview locations from the next Og hex crawl in NOD 29. Pour yourself a drink and enjoy!

2913 Morgor | Settlement

Morgor is a mining village of 400 lanky hill dwarves and flinty gnomes. The dwarves of Morgor are more lively than most due to the positive influence of the gnomes and their hand organs. The warriors of the village, 20 dwarves and gnomes, wear bulbous helms and coats of mail and carry military picks and light crossbows.

The village currently looks abandoned, for the people have had to withdraw into their mine. They have been terrorized for more than a week by a weird sorcerer called Tall Darrow. The countryside around the main village is populated by 3,200 dwarf and gnome farmers. Many of them have fled the area and are on their way as refugees to Azsor. Many others are hiding in cellars or caves in the wilderness.

Tall Darrow has pale, waxy skin spread over his tall, thin form. He is capable of replacing his head with one of six others, all of them being the preserved heads of ancient sorcerers, and each having their own set of magic spells that they know. Each morning, the sorcerer can remove one head and then attach a new one – this can only be done in the first rays of dawn, and the process takes 10 minutes during which the sorcerer can do nothing.

Morgor’s ruler is the Lady Ymarr, a rough and tumble hill dwarf war-maiden with a pet winter wolf she rescued as a cub. The wolf is growing impatient in the mine, and is threat-ening to return to its naturally evil form.

Village Treasure: 850 gp, 2,500 sp, 13,000 cp, 2 fancy stones

3023 Gloomy Storm Giantess | Monster

There exists in this hex a pleasant hollow surrounded by tulip trees. In the midst of this grove there is a silver tube that juts up from the ground. Should anyone drop a gemstone down this tube, they will hear a hollow, echoing voice ask “What need thou know, friend?”

At the moment, a storm giantess by the name of Avnell is consulting the subterranean oracle about whether her lover will ever return from Utt, the City of Giants located far to the north in the White Mountains. She is quite distraught, which explains the gloomy clouds and temperamental rains that plague this hex at the moment.

If adventurers will promise to journey north and find her lover, the erudite storm giant Jondr, she will promise them the moon and the stars.

3109 Shadow Horses | Monster

A herd of shadow horses sweeps down from the hills at eventide, leaving crystal growths to grow behind them. These crystals last for 1d4 hours before they explode into a mist of negative energy that chokes and drains. The mist persists for 1d6 hours (or 1d6 turns if there is a strong wind, 10% chance). The crystals can be harvested and used to create magic items, but they drain 1 hit point (permanent) per day from any within 10 feet of them. The horses are heading towards the City of Sand and Stone [3403].

3429 Temple of Mental Fortitude | Stronghold

The Temple of Mental Fortitude is a strange place indeed. The “temple” consists of a thousand stone pillars of unknown height, emerging from a valley shrouded in chill mists. In the surrounding mountains dwell a flock of giant eagles. Seekers of enlightenment come to the lip of the valley and meditate for three days before holding up a golden offering to the giant eagles. If they are judged worthy, an eagle swoops down, grabs the monk with its talons (inflicting damage) and deposits them atop one of the icy pillars.

The pillars are about 10’ in diameter. There, the monk con-tinues his meditations for 14 days, eating nothing and hydrating himself on the ice that gathers on his pillar. This mortification of the flesh is intended to bring about enlightenment and mental fortitude. If they survive, they increase their Wisdom by 1d4, and reduce their Constitution by the same.

When a monk has finished his time on the pillar, he crawls to the edge of the pillar and leaps off. A giant eagle will either catch him and carry him back to the edge of the cliffs that ring the valley, or he plunges into the mists and is never seen or heard from again.

3631 Temple of the Fox | Monster

A crevice in this hex, narrow and spooky, hides a small temple dedicated to Ruch, the Fox Spirit of the Qum’al. The temple is carved into the red walls of the crevice, with a single small door flanked by bas-reliefs of fox women. The door opens to a tunnel entrance that goes back about 30’ into the cliffs, ending in a chamber 20’ in diameter with a 30’ domed ceiling.

The temple room is completely dark – magically dark – with a number of motes of light that resemble stars. These motes orbit the dome, moving slowly unless somebody attempts to grab one or interfere with one – then they scramble and swarm around the room at full speed.

Grabbing a mote (treat them as AC 25) causes a terrible burn (1d6 damage) and leaves a key-shaped imprint on their palms. If the key is made and one returns to the temple they will find it guarded by seven foxweres, lithe women wrapped in poly-chromatic veils that hide mithral mail shirts. They are armed two scimitars and can cast spells as 4th level druids.

In the floor of the temple there is a tiny hole, just big enough for a key. When a key created from an impression left by a mote is put in the hole and it is turned, the corresponding mote becomes larger as the key is turned, and becomes a portal into a vault buried deep beneath the ground.

These vaults belong to some of the greatest thieves in the world, and are guarded by death traps of their own devising. Here, they hid away their greatest treasure – their memories and true identities.

Have a groovy weekend. I’ll be back tomorrow with a Dragon review (I hope).

NOD 28, Revisions and Goodies

It’s a bad sign when you start all of your blog posts with “I’m sorry I haven’t posted lately …”. Still, I’ve been a busy boy, so I have a good excuse. Here are my current RPG projects and a glimpse at what I would like to do moving forward, as well as a few RPG odds and ends mixed in to make this more than an advertisement.

NOD 28

First and foremost – I’ve put NOD 28 out for sale today as a PDF! It’s going for $4.99 – 78 pages, with part one of the Trollheim Mountains hex crawl (trolls, pseudo-Russians, elemental folk, a crazed demigod, etc.), a Swiss mercenary character class, new rules for handling disease in RPG’s and a campaign idea for a “World of Atlantis” game drawing from Theosophy’s notion of “root races”. Tons of fun for $4.99. GET IT HERE or HERE.

BLOOD & TREASURE 2nd edition

I’m about 80% complete with editing and laying out the new B&T Player’s Tome, and about 35% complete with the Treasure Keeper’s Tome. The 2nd edition will not be a major departure from the first, but I’ve made some adjustments to saving throw values, XP requirements, I’ve tried to give the sorcerer some personality and make the ranger the cool cat I remember from youth, streamline any rules that could use streamlining, etc. The goal is still RULES LITE – OPTIONS HEAVY. Most of the work I’ve done is concerned with improving the layout and incorporating the first edition errata. I’ve also commissioned new covers from David Williams, which are being colored now. Here’s a sneak peek – half of this image will be the Player’s Tome, the other half will be the TK’s Tome.

If anybody has an ingenious old school idea they think would improve fantasy gaming, let me know and I’ll see if I can’t incorporate it into the rules.

QUICK MONSTER: GOATMAN

Goatmen live in hidden valleys, deep within forbidding mountains. Half mad, chaos flows through their veins. When the moon is full, they descend into the lowlands, seeking out people to torment or torture.

Goatman, Medium Monstrous Humanoid: HD 1; AC 16; ATK 1 slam (1d6); MV 30; SV F15 R13 W14; XP 250 (CL3); Special-Auras.

Goatmen cause fear (as the spell) to all within 10′ of them. Each time a person succumbs to this fear, the goatman grows larger, gaining 1 hit dice (and all that goes with it). At 6 HD, they become large creatures and their aura changes to one of madness (save or go temporarily mad). Each person that goes mad causes the goatman to gain another HD. At 12 HD, the goatman becomes huge, and the aura becomes one of death. All within 10′ of the beast must save or die. Each creature that dies increases the goatman’s hit dice by 1. At 18 HD, the goatman explodes into shadow and ceases to exist. The land where he explodes becomes permanently blighted and haunted by the souls of those who died.

MYSTERY MEN! Revision

I’m further along with the MM! revision than B&T. The book is laid out, the rules tinkered with, and now I just need to give it a thorough editing. This version will still have the sample Shore City setting and the sample adventure, but will also include several write-ups of heroes and villains.

NEW SPELL: UNWITTING ALLY

Magic-User 2
Range 10′ radius
Duration 1 minute

One enemy helps you despite himself. When this spell is cast, one enemy within 10′ chosen at random must pass a Will save or become your unwitting, unwilling ally. Every move the creature makes has the possibility of helping you. For each action, roll 1d6.

1-2. The creature’s action proceeds as normal.
3-5. The creature’s action proceeds as normal, but has a side effect useful to you.
6. The creature’s action is twisted to your purpose entirely.

Help, in this case, is up to the referee, but would include things like the monster making a move, but also accidentally tripping or running into one his allies, the monster making an attack, but accidentally attacking an ally as well, etc.

BLACK DEATH

The latest Quick and Easy RPG is Black Plague, which really just needs some editing and it’s ready to go. This one is set in the era of Europe’s religious wars (mostly the Hundred Years War), and is intended to be grim and gritty – more survive than thrive. This Q&E is a bit heftier than past editions, due to containing a bit more setting info and some rules for disease and damnation.

QUICK MONSTER: LEAF SWARM

A leaf swarm is a swarm of vicious green insects. They descend on a tree, strip it of leaves, and then take their place. When a creature nears the tree, the leaf swarm strikes, surprising on a roll of 1-4 on 1d6. The monster’s stings cause blindness. The first save a creature fails blurs their vision (-2 to hit and damage), the second failed save blinds them for 1 minute, and the third blinds them permanently.

Leaf Swarm, Tiny Vermin: HD 4; AC 13; ATK 1 swarm (1d3 + special); MV Fly 60; SV F14 R13 W14; XP 400 (CL5); Special-Blindness.

THE FUTURE

What I’d like to start doing next is producing more adventure material for the games I’ve written. No more games for me – just fun, supplemental material.

For GRIT & VIGOR I want to do setting books that cover different eras – the historical events that lend themselves towards adventure, the equipment, the personalities. Each book would also have an adventure for that era. These would be trade paperbacks, probably 40 to 60 pages.

For MYSTERY MEN! I’d like to do some short books of heroes and villains, also accompanied by an adventure or two. They might be themed, or they might just be whatever tickles my fancy. These would maybe run 20 to 30 pages, trade paperback.

For BLOOD & TREASURE I’d like to do some adventures, with a few new monsters, new spells, etc. Again, trade paperback, probably 30 to 40 pages.

I also want to start writing supplements called THE LAND OF NOD that would provide hex crawls, mini-adventures and other setting material. These would probably also be trade paperbacks, maybe in a landscape format. Page count here would probably be around 120 pages. The first step would be to collect and revise the old NOD hex crawls.

I still have a revision of Space Princess and Pars Fortuna slated for the second half of this year, and I have more Bloody Basics I would like to make.

So – that’s what’s on my agenda for 2016. We’ll see how far I get. Hopefully, as the revisions and editing slows down I’ll have more time for blogging. I have tons of ideas that need to be fleshed out, and God willing I’ll start that fleshing process as the year wears on.

Cheers!

Og and the Trollheims

The southwest corner of Og

No, not an ogre garage band. Og is the northeastern potion of the Land of Nod, where the fake vikings and such live. The Trollheims are a range of mountains, just south of the larger White Mountains, that divide Og from the Motherlands.

I’m in the middle of writing a hex crawl set in a small corner of Og which includes the northern chunk of the Trollheims and a sliver of the Golden Steppe. This particular portion contains the city-state of Azsor, where King Mogg rules. The first campaign I ran in Nod was set in and around Og, stretching from the far eastern city-state of Azdak (where a mysterious murder was committed), and covering the halfling land of Yore (where a town was burned down), Azsor (where a human ranger raised by dwarves Frank and Estelle joined the party), the White Mountains (where a cloud giant was assaulted and insulted), Isithul (where something happened that I don’t entirely remember) and back to Azdak, where the murder was solved through no work of the party (don’t run murder mystery campaigns with people who don’t care about murder mysteries) and the next campaign was set up for Mu-Pan.

Anyhow – here’s some setting information I’ve written for Og, with more to come!

Og
The northern lands of Thule are also known as Og, after the great river which drains them into the sea. The Og looms large in the lives of the people, and most treat it as a god.
South of the river is the Golden Steppe. North of the river are forests, marshes and chill grasslands. The lands are ringed by mountains. The Trollheims and White Moun-tains border it on the west, and the shadowy, ill-famed Black Mountains on the north.

Within those mountains, forests and marshes live humans, dwarves, elves, halflings and humanoids. This hex crawl only covers the extreme southwest corner of Thule, which include the northern portion of the Trollheim Mountains and the extreme western fringe of the Golden Steppe. Within these confines is the great city of Azsor, a city-state of humans and dwarves ruled by the legendary King Mogg.

History of Og
In days best left forgotten, much of Og was covered by a great sheet of ice that spread from the Sea of Stars to what is now the country of Mab. At the edge of the ice sheet, a simple human people scraped out a stone-age existence. The land was rough and wild. Nod was much drier then, and the great desert of the south all but en-compassed what is now steppe-land. The greatest re-source of Og was its herds of mammoth.

As that age of ice passed, a shallow sea was formed, attracting strange denizens of the deep to build cities be-neath the waves. Great forests sprang up in the wake of the retreating glaciers. The trees grew unnaturally tall, attracting the attention of the ancient elves.

At this point in time the elves already ruled the human civilizations of the Motherlands. They now resolved to settle the great forests of Og. All that stood in their way was the shallow sea and its inhabitants. These creatures were older than the elves, but technologically backwards. The elves were at the height of their powers and arrogance, and a cabal of elven wizards decided the easiest way to eliminate the fish folk was to drain their shallow sea. Through unknown means (well, I know them … if you read the hex crawl, you might discover the secret as well), they accomplished this task, leaving in the sea’s place a great river that flowed from the White Mountains to the Sea of Stars.

The elves and their human subjects now surged into Og. They besieged the citadels of the firbolg giants and drove them into hiding. The goblin folk were driven into the mountains, and the primitive humans they found were enslaved and carried away. These slaves toiled endlessly on the elven walls and towers of their now mythic city of Isithul. Isithul’s location is now a mystery. Its walls were built of green stone, it is said, and within its halls walked the greatest wizards the elves ever produced. They had come for a grand project – a way to travel between worlds.

When the grand project was finally completed, it rivaled the ancient Crown Stone in power and achievement. Although it appeared as nothing more than a giant vessel covered in beaten gold, at its heart lie an engine powered by mysterious crystals that could bend space and time. It was the height of elven achievement, but it displeased the Kabir, the ancient gods of the elves. Asur, chief amongst the gods, instructed Nudd to destroy this vessel before it could do any harm. Although his quest was long, and fraught with peril, Nudd eventually succeeded in destroying the elven starship, scattering its mysterious crystal shards in the process.

When the Great Rebellion of Dwarves and Men occurred, and the Crown Stone was destroyed, the great network of standing stones went with it and the elves lost their ability to maintain the magical civilization they had created. The ethereal winds swept over the landscape, spawning monstrous beasts and aberrations and destroying the elven aristocracy’s monopoly on power.

Some five hundred years ago, humans led by a spellcaster called Louhi battered down the gates of Isithul and formally ended the reign of the elves in Og.

Four hundred years ago, the red-skinned Qum’al of the steppe sacked the encampment of Ulu-Than, Imperator of Harady. Drunk on plunder, they then turned their attentions to the verdant lands to the north of the River Og. In short order they conquered the small stone forts of the Isithul (the name now given to the people of Louhi). The Isithul were soon overrun from the White Mountains to the Sea of Stars. By three hundred years ago, the Qum’al had established hill forts from Azsor to Luhan, and cause-way villages on the lakes of Mab. Only in the Valley of Yore did they meet strong resistance from the better organized and more technologically advanced Feafolc (halflings). Yore would be sorely pressed in those days, but it never fell.

Throughout the lands of the Qum’al, every hill fort be-came a tribal state, and raids and war were common. The clan elder system of the steppe Qum’al was gradually re-placed by the strong leadership of war chiefs. Gradually, the greatest of these war chieftains carved kingdoms out of this chaos. Such ancient Qum’al kingdoms as Luhan, Mab, Irith, Zhuul, and Krakon were forged, only to fall and then rise again as life degenerated into a circle of blood feuds and ill-conceived wars of conquest.

Two hundred years ago, seafaring invaders from Yama hit the Amber Coast of modern Luhan. The Nakdani, fleeing their sinking homeland, drove their war galleys to Luhan and began colonizing. The petty Qum’al kingdoms united in a war against the invaders, led by the mighty lords of Azdak, the Luors. The war raged intermittently for 100 years before ending in a draw, the invaders holding the coast, the Qum’al the hinterlands. Nakdani kingdoms such as Ozid, Morr, Ellik, Vac, and Gyora were founded.

By one hundred years ago, through marriage and trade, the great kingdom of Luhan was formed under a high king, the self-same lords of Azdak. The Qum’al and Nakdani had become one folk, now called the Luhano. High king after high king undertook great public works, such as repairing the ancient trade roads of the elves. Wooden forts were constructed to keep the rampaging Vadda under control, mines were established in the hills and mountains, and an iron industry was firmly established.

When a high king fell out of favor, the magnates of Luhan would withdraw their support and challengers would march with their supporters to the gates of Azdak. The fields to the north of Azdak drank much blood over the centuries, as royal dynasties rose and fell.

To the west, the country of Mab led a quiet, contemplative existence. The people lived in small lake settlements. Peace was made with the elves, though contact between them and humanity remained quite rare. Fortunately, there was enough contact to produce the present White Queen of Mab. She, like her fathers and mothers before her, is a sorceress of great power.

In the foothills of the White Mountains, life remained simple and unorganized until the war chieftain Mogg forged an alliance with a dwarf lord and founded the Golden City of Azsor about 50 years ago.

The present day finds Azsor’s king merry, Azdak’s asleep on his throne, the Isithul dreaming of a new golden age, and the White Queen alone in her tower, reading the stars and beginning to fret over things yet to come.

An early map I made of Og when I was still calling it Thule – note the “Barrier Peaks”

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.

Crunching Numbers, Charting the Course

Even though I don’t write gaming stuff for a living (thank God), I do keep track of sales. I didn’t enter publishing thinking I would make a fortune, but I do like to stay profitable – as long as I’m not losing money, I’m generally okay since I enjoy writing.

Today I crunched some numbers, and thought people might find them interesting.

I started publishing in June 2011, with NOD #1. Overall, sales peaked in in 2012/2013, and may be increasing again in the last few months … maybe. Just for the sake of reference, I’ve sold a total of 4,743 units of everything I’ve ever published (not including free downloads of a couple issues of NOD) on Lulu.com.

Boy, Christmas 2013 was good!

Breaking things down a bit, we see that sales have generally fallen off for most products over time. This doesn’t bother me too much – I would expect sales when a product is brand new to be stronger than months or years later … though of course, I would be very happy if they were stronger.

Blood & Treasure will get a new “edition” next year – mostly a redesign and correction of mistakes, nothing drastic (though I will be ditching the half-orc and all the demons and devils … just kidding). NOD Companion did reasonably well, but not great. Monster Tome sales have been weak, and it was an expensive book to do due to the art costs involved. Oh well – I still think a proper fantasy RPG should have at least one monster book.

I was going to do a Pars Fortuna B&T edition, and bring Space Princess into the Grit & Vigor fold when I publish that later this year, but now I might not. Their sales are steady, and there may be no reason to mess with them other than to improve the quality and correct mistakes. I might also go for a 6×9 format on them. I didn’t include a Mystery Men! chart above since I haven’t been able to sell it for the last couple years (dangit). Not a canny business move on my part, but hey – live and learn!

Bloody Basic seems to be on the upswing, and I enjoy making them, so I guess I’ll continue. I think the inexpensive mini-games I’m working on might also do well.

And then there’s NOD.

The flagship product ain’t getting it done these days. Alas. When we look at sale issue by issue …

It’s even more pronounced. NOD 1 and NOD 6 are free PDF’s, so those sales can be ignored. What can’t be ignored is the overall trend. NOD 25 and NOD 26 are still pretty new, but they have not reversed the trend. Worse yet, with the last 2 or 3 issues, I’m losing money on the magazine when art costs are tallied in.

So, what to do?

1) Stop making NOD. I could do the hex crawls as stand alone products and just blog the rest of it. Not a bad way to go, and in fact I’ve really thought about doing this. I would also revise the older hex crawls. I might even go for a “vague OSR” rule set for them, rather than B&T.

2) Improve the product. God knows there’s room for improvement, both in terms of design and content.

3) Stop publishing. Magazines don’t last forever, and 26+ issues of a self-published magazine ain’t too bad.

My choice – Option 2, with Option 1 as a back-up plan.

Not the final art – just used for the template

I’ve already played with a new look for the covers, and I’m committed to getting NOD onto DriveThru/RPGNow so it gets more exposure.

I also want to bring more contributors into NOD. It’s been me by myself for way too long. I want it to be more of a community magazine than just a solo project moving forward.

The problem: If I’m selling hundreds of copies, paying folks for submissions is not a problem. If I’m doing a fanzine that isn’t designed to make a profit, asking for free community cooperation is not a problem (getting it might be, but asking is okay). I’m somewhere in the middle. It is a for-profit enterprise, but it ain’t that profitable. What to do?

THE PITCH
If you would like to contribute something to NOD (system-neutral, or any system which I can cover with the OGL) – and I would love to have you do so – I can pay a flat $10 per page (after layout), plus a free PDF of the magazine, plus a free advertisement in that issue (or, if you have nothing to advertise, a free PDF of anything else I’ve ever published). I’ve been asked if I would accept maps as a submission, and my answer is yes. 

New adventures (dungeons and wilderness), new spells, new monsters, new rules hacks or ideas, NPC’s, mini-games, war games, comic strips, art, etc.

Any genre is cool with me – fantasy, historical, science fiction, pulp fiction, modern, etc.

I’m going to try this scheme starting now, with NOD 27 (which I hope to publish in late-September, early-October). If this seems to turn around sales and gets me back to where I’m not losing money on the deal, then NOD lives!

If not, then NOD dies and I focus on doing hex crawl adventures with more dungeons included, new monsters, maybe a new class or race (if it makes sense for the setting), etc. Basically hex crawl modules for OSR games, that also happen to fit into the LAND OF NOD setting.