Dragon by Dragon – February 1982 (58)

The Clyde Caldwell cover to the February 1982 Dragon Magazine is chock-full of fantasy tropes. You have the warrior woman in weird, revealing armor and a gnome fighter mounted on a giant lizard. You also get a Clyde Caldwell trope, namely lots of feathers. That said, I adore Caldwell’s work, and consider it fundamental to 80’s D&D.

We’ll begin this rule with the editorial – which is rare for me. This one deals with “assassin” and “killer” games, and is written on the subject due to an incident in December 1981 in which a college student playing Assassin was shot by police. I bring it up because I played a game of TAG (The Assassination Game) in junior high school. Well – briefly. I managed to get assassinated while walking from first to second period, but remember that by lunch period we were informed that the school had put an end to it due to one idiot performing an assassination during class. I suppose these days the entire school district would be put on lockdown if some kids were playing “assassination”.  What odd memories we nerds have of youth.

The first big article this month is by Len Lakofka, who is “Beefing up the Cleric.” This article introduces a multitude of new cleric spells that will show up later in official AD&D product. They include ceremony, combine (a neat idea), magic stone, magic vestment, messenger, dust devil, enthrall and negative plane protection. One spell I didn’t immediately recognize – readers of this blog might have better memories than I – Death Prayer (2nd level). This spell reduces the likelihood of a corpse being animated at a later date.

The Dragon’s Bestiary includes the sull and beguiler by Ed Greenwood and Magenta’s cat by Roger E. Moore. These last monsters are the descendants of a cat familiar who was made psionic by its mistress, Magenta, and in the process freed from its obligations as a familiar. It went out and made babies, and they inherited the psionic powers. It’s a very cool idea – a psionic cat causing trouble in a village, trouble blamed on some legendary menace the adventurers try to hunt down.

Michael Parkinson offers up “Medusa’s Blood”. This article details the many creatures that were born from Medusa’s blood, including old fantasy favorites like Pegasus, the Lernaean hydra, the chimera, Cerberus and the Theban sphinx. Some new monsters from the lineage of Medusa include Geryon (the three-headed and three-bodied giant, not the demon lord), Echidna and the Blatant Beast.

The Medusa article is followed up by “Four Myths from Greece”, with stats for Atalanta the huntress (9th level fighter), Daedalus (sage/engineer), the Sybil of Cumae (16th level cleric) and Chiron (15th level centaur ranger).

Dragon 58 has a special section all about dwarves, featuring “The Dwarven Point of View”, “The Gods of the Dwarves”, “Sage Advice on Dwarves” and “Dwarven Magical Items”. Dragon did a few of these series, and elements of them became standard parts of Dungeons & Dragons in later days, especially the dwarven pantheon. Roger E. Moore’s “The Dwarven Point of View” is one of those articles that represents the inflection point of the original DIY days and the middle phase of “explain it all”. It’s a useful article for folks new to fantasy gaming, but I suppose some folks didn’t like the Dragon magazine doing articles that might tie their creative hands, what with it being “semi-official” in D&D world.

I liked this bit from “Sage Advice”:

“Why aren’t ettins mentioned among the bigger creatures which attack dwarves and gnomes at -4?

Ettins may be big and dumb, but they don’t suffer any penalty “to hit” against dwarves and gnomes because of the most obvious difference between ettins and other big humanoids: their two heads. In the words of the Monster Manual, “One of the ettin’s heads is always likely to be alert, so they are difficult to surprise.” And, presumably, also difficult to sneak up on in any other way.”

Now let’s be honest – the answer here is “crap, we forgot to include the ettin”.

Another question that struck me is one that shows a clash of mindsets that I’ve seen myself in our hobby. The question writer asks:

“What would be a reasonable spread of races and sub-races for adventurers and NPCs? For instance, what would be the chance of a PC dwarf being a mountain dwarf?”

An interesting question, and one that would be answerable in a particular campaign, or if there was really such a thing as dwarves and we have solid demographic data on  them. I appreciate the answer:

“The chance of a player character dwarf being a mountain dwarf is 100% — if the player wants to be one, and if no circumstances of the campaign prohibit such a choice.”

I’ve fielded a few similar questions from people reading my games, as though I had some special right to tell them what they could and could not do in their own homes. Some folks have the mindset that there is a “right and wrong” to these games we play, and they seek answers from “authorities”. This isn’t a dig against these folks – it’s just a way of looking at things that differs from mine that I find interesting.

On the topic of “The Gods of the Dwarves” – I really loved Moradin when I was a kid. The demi-human pantheon was another case for me, as a young man, of being amazed that you could make up pretend gods and goddesses for a game. This article also introduces a new undead monster – the rapper.

This issue of Dragon also has a bit of fiction from J. Eric Holmes called “The Bag”. It involves a character of his called Boinger. I haven’t read this one, but I’ll include the first couple paragraphs as a taste for those who might want to delve deeper:

“Perhaps the small master is looking for something special?”

The muscular young halfling put down the leather backpack he had been examining and looked at the person who had addressed him. He was worth looking at, Boinger decided. For one thing, his species was not one the adventurer had ever seen before. The creature was obviously not human; his complexion was slate grey and his face was covered with wrinkles so that it looked like a folded piece of linen with a long, pointy nose sticking out. He was shorter than Boinger himself. Some sort of gnome, the halfling thought, out of the north, I suppose. Shorter than a dwarf, taller than a Lilliputian …”

In Robert Barrow’s “Aiming for Realism in Archery: Longer Ranges, Truer Targets” you get another article trying to make the game more realistic. This one has a useful little table about archery accuracy derived from medieval tournament data:

This article is followed up by “Bowmanship Made More Meaningful” by Carl Parlagreco. This one introduced the idea of minimum strength scores for different bows – a 16 for composite longbows, for example, or 8 for short bows. Using a bow without having the strength required presents a -2 penalty to hit per point of strength deficiency. There’s more – so check it out if you like more realism in D&D.

David Nalle presents “Swords – Slicing Into a Sharp Topic”, which gets into the weeds on that fantasy staple, the sword. You get information on its history and construction. No game stats in this one, but good information for folks new to the topic.

There is also an article by Glenn Rahman on the Knights of Camelot Game. I’ve never played the game, so I cannot review the article, per se, but I love the bit on “Acts of Villainy”. These include:

  1. Distressing a Lady
  2. Imprisoning Persons
  3. Looting a Shrine
  4. Piracy
  5. Seizing a Castle by Storm
  6. Slaying a Good Knight
  7. Slaying a Goodly Hermit Man

This is a great checklist for Chaotic/Evil characters in any game – try to do three or four of these things in every game. The article also has two awesome little tables – the kind of random fun that screams old school gaming to me. The first deals with the merchant ships you might run into while being a pirate:

The second is a random table of dying curses from goodly hermits:

It is so hard to keep track of things like this, but I love the idea of using them during play.

Speaking of useful stuff, Jon Mattson’s “Anything But Human” is for Traveller, but could be useful to anyone. It is a collection of random tables for creating aliens. As always, my review of this article consists of using it – here’s my random alien:

It’s a mammal, feline, average of 67 inches tall, that has a bonus of +1 to education and a penalty of -1 to strength and social standing (which in D&D-esque games would be a bonus to intelligence and a penalty to strength and charisma). The creature has a -3 to their psionic rating. It has no special abilities.

“What’s New? – with Phil and Dixie” covers love magic in D&D. I had a crush on Dixie as a kid … and probably still do.

This issue also has cut-out counters of all the magic-user spells to aid magic-user players in keeping track of what they’re doing.

As always, I’ll leave you with Wormy …

Grandeur from Tramp

Fashion of the Future!

Saw something interesting at Public Domain Review about the future of fashion. Actually, the imagined future of fashion in the 1890’s based on a book from future (1993). W. Cade Gall, the author, found this book, which tells of the immutable laws that govern the waves that move through fashion.

Let’s see what the future book tells us about fashion in the Roaring ’20s

Hmmm. Pretty close

Now, here’s what I think is usable (besides the images, which will figure prominently in what I write for Terra Obscura, the land of the Philosopher Kings in Nod) in the article.

Random Fashion Table
For the most part, when I write cultures in Nod I base them on real world cultures (or perceptions of real world cultures). Why? Because a thoroughly make-believe world requires the players to learn a tremendous amount of made up bullshit about things that don’t exist, instead of them focusing on having fun drinking beer, rolling dice, and playing a game. That said, I do like to throw a few weird civilizations out there to keep things interesting, and the little table of waves might be useful for generating ideas about how they dress. The book conveniently gives us six waves – to whit:

1. Angustorial / Wobbling
2. Severe / Recuperative
3. Latorial / Decided
4. Tailor-Made / Opaque
5. Ebullient / Bizarre
6. Hysterical / Angustorial

The first term refers to the type, the second to the tendency. And no – I don’t know what “the tendency” means for sure. And “angustorial” and “latorial” – I can’t find definitions for those words. Perhaps they meant augustorial? Oh hell, maybe it’s not that useful after all. Or perhaps I just need to make a few changes:

ROLL D6
1. August and senatorial style as dictated by the elite; many ornaments, rich fabrics (and lots of it) and textures, meant to look refined, stately and elegant
2. Severe and simple, a reaction to the previous style that is casual and not ornamental in the least, focusing on solid colors, simple fabrics and clean, classic lines
3. A loosening of styles, fuller and blowsier, with sedate patterns, with a bit more trim (but not the ornamentation of phase 1); fashion is highly dictated at this point, and weirdos are barely tolerated
4. Much as before, but quality is the watch word – clothes are tailor-made and well fitted, and no two suits or gowns are quite the same
5. Ebullience and joy reign supreme, as a new generation takes advantage of the loosening of rules and introduces doodads, geegaws and bright colors and patterns to the mix – Ah youth!
6. The ebullience of before becomes a hysterical riot of color and pattern, with over complicated and impractical designs and a high degree of ornamentation; even now, the elite are beginning to create the august style that will appear next …

It Came from the Sky!

From HERE

Roll d30 if your players are futzing around in the wilderness boring you to death, and inflict one of the following random encounters on them …

1. A silver bird dropping silver daggers (low quality, but useful given the plague of apparitions in the neighborhood)

2. A tiny meteorite (1% chance of hitting somebody)

3. The sound of trumpets (all LG characters receive bless for 24 hours)

4. Waves of crimson sound that warn of … Murder!

From HERE

5. A red dragon spelling out “Eat at Joes” in smoke

6. A green luminescence that causes all plant-life to grow wild (per entangle), causes 1 in 10 trees to turn into treants, and heals 1d6 points of damage to all living things

7. Acid rain (1d6 acid damage per round, item saves for objects, lasts 1d6 minutes)

8. A silver canister of the mi-go (holds the brain of a 1d4+3 level magic-user)

9. A frozen black sphere (when it thaws in one minute it becomes a black ooze)

10. 3 and 20 blackbirds, recently released from a pie and bent on revenge against humanity (treat as enraged bat swarm with 2 attacks per round)

From HERE

11. A flight of pegasi, willing to give good characters a lift (I won’t say exactly what they’ll do to the evil, but it involves gaining altitude first)

12. A senile old giant owl who has mistook the halfling or gnome for a giant rat

13. A WW1-era biplane with a confused pilot

14. A disk of glowing orange metal crewed by 20 ultra-troglodytes (troglodytes in shiny orange jumpsuits with bulging brains, genius IQ’s and psychic powers)

15. An errant catapult stone (1% chance it lands on a character, dealing 10d6 damage)

From HERE

16. A sylph floating gently to the ground, love in her eyes and a song in her heart – she is soon joined by many others, who put on an impromptu ballet until a bunch of satyrs show up to ruin everything

17. A flight of seven harpies with a barbed net

18. The head of a frost giant, recently knocked from its should a few miles away by the hammer of the mighty Thor (or whatever native giant species and thunder god works in your campaign)

19. Confetti – it rains for hours

20. A rain of frogs, thrown into the atmosphere by a water spout

21. Sky pirates on a flying clipper – they bungee down to attack and plunder

22. An angel of the Lord, with grave tidings – the nearest metropolis is to be laid low for its sins

23. Two dozen giant bees, looking for a new home, their old one having been sacked by a clan of werebears

24. A holy sword, which embeds itself in the ground; it can only be removed by the rightful
Emperor-Pope of All Paladins (first paladin to 20th level can claim it)

From HERE

25. A black comet that sends out waves of revulsion and decrepitude

26. A black cloud, moving fast and against the wind and carrying with it the sounds of a clash of swords – perhaps a combatant will wing down to pick up the adventurers as reinforcements

27. 15 bird men – they seek ornaments for their queen, who is brooding

28. The Imam of the Jinn, on a magic prayer rug (treat as magic carpet), seeking converts to the Lawful Neutral faith and warriors for his crusade against the efreet

29. Mana from heaven (treat as triple strength create food spell)

30. A storm giant’s castle on a floating island; it’s on a crash course that will cause havoc and destruction about one mile from here (and it creates one heck of a great dungeon to explore)

Found Under the Loose Dungeon Floor Tile …

Before we get to the random table, I’d like to announce that Bloody Basic – Sinew & Steel Edition is now up for sale at Lulu.com as a PDF (the book will follow). This is basic role-playing without the magic – imagine if the original fantasy game had been based on the medieval war game rules without the fantasy supplement included.

Races are exchanged for Social Ranks, classes are Armsman, Scholar and Villein, and to make up for all the space normally taken up by spells, fantasy monsters and magic items, I included some simple rules for mass combat, sieges, jousting and archery tournaments. The rules are still pretty short, so the book only costs $6.99 – not too bad. Click on the title to check it out at Lulu.

I should get NOD 26 up for sale tonight as a PDF. When I get my review copies, the books will follow. More on that later.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program …

What I Found Under the Loose Dungeon Floor Tile (Roll d20)

1. A yawning abyss – it is cold, and light flute music can be heard from within it

2. A giant, leering eye

3. A rope loop – pull it to set off all the traps on this level of the dungeon

4. A wooden box – holds …
     A. The ashen remains of a vampire
     B. Mummy bandages
     C. Incense cubes – varying scents, one casts a cloudkill spell
     D. Candle stubs – one holds a key to an important room in this dungeon
     E. Chicken bones
     F. Shuriken, one is a +1 shuriken
     G. 1 week of iron rations
     H. A vial of holy water
     I. A collection of glass eyes
     J. Silver pince-nez

5. An iron strong box – holds …
     A. Copper coins – ancient and verdigrised
     B. Silver coins – all pierced and defaced
     C. Gold coins – the edges have been sharpened
     D. Silk handkerchiefs (5)
     E. A velvet glove (allows a single vampiric touch then decays into dust)
     F. Shards of delicious peanut brittle

6. Goop – smells terrible, stains skin and clothes muddy purple – treat as stinking cloud

7. Green slime – actually forms a layer under the entire floor, and will bubble up through the cracks at an inopportune time

8. Last will and testament of a high level adventurer

9. Map of a lower level (incomplete)

10. Intense light (save vs. blindness)

11. Nothing – but causes a steel cage to materialize around the adventurers

12. Nothing – but removing it causes the dungeon illusion the adventurers have been in to disappear, revealing they are in an alien laboratory (break out Star Frontiers!)

13. An oil slick (Texas tea!) – begins pouring up and soon covers most of this level of the dungeon (same effect as grease spell)

14. An intelligent +2 dagger with a note – the dagger will obey so long as its wielder commits to assassinating a local dignitary or royal within 1 week; turns into a -2 cursed dagger if this is not done

15. A long, narrow shaft to a pocket dungeon level or just a lower level of the dungeon

16. A grasping hand on a long arm (treat as a ghoul or wight)

17. A silver spike driven into the ground – it was driven into a vampire’s heart, which will regenerate if the silver spike is removed

18. A carved stone that tells the dungeon’s history (or fills in gaps in the characters’ knowledge)

19. Black tentacles (per the spell) erupt from the floor

20. A portal back to the dungeon entrance (works once, afterwards, it just sends people to random rooms on deeper levels)

Random Royal Thank You

When you’ve done the king or queen of a small kingdom a favor, it’s only natural to expect a thank you. Just roll 3d8 (because how often do three d8’s get to work together) and see what you get …

3. Position as royal cup bearer with a 120 gp a year salary and weekends off

4. A night in the royal wine cellar – no questions asked

5. Right to kiss the queen’s hand

6. Entry into the lists at the next tournament

7. Box seat at the opera (and invitation to the post-opera ball)

8. The hand of a maid-in-waiting’s hand in marriage

9. An acre of land

10. A pension of 10 gp per year for the life of the king or queen

11. A gold medal (100 gp)

12. A place of honor at the next royal feast

13. A firm handshake (slipping you a platinum piece)

14. A garland of roses (and a necklace of silver roses worth 50 gp)

15. An adamantine weapon

16. A mithral shirt

17. An abandoned motte-and-bailey castle (a fixer-upper with no peasants and 1d6 acres of really crappy land)

18. Charter to a royal tin mine for one year (worth 1d12 gp per month, 1 in 6 chance of labor dispute per month)

19. Cloak of elvenkind

20. Suit of rich clothes and a fitting with the royal tailor

21. Invitation to the royal unicorn hunt

22. Dubbed a knight in a very minor and honorary order (with rights to lodge in their house and borrow money at 10% interest)

23. A very fine warhorse or riding horse (or pony)

24. A golden goblet studded with fancy stones (worth 300 gp)

Mercy Me, The Fantasy Ecology

Image found HERE

When scientists cracked the DNA code, and started re-mapping the Tree of Life, they found some pretty interesting things – animals one would not think were related, it turned out, actually were. It’s amazing the way different animal families manage to fill ecological niches. Heck, just looking at a Chihuahua and Great Dane will tell you that life is pretty mutable.

This led me to thinking about how one could create weird, fantasy ecologies. Imagine categorizing animals into broad ecological niches – large predators, small predators, small scavengers, large grazers, for example – and then randomly picking from the various families of the animal kingdom to fill those niches. The next step would be hardest, of course – imagining how the selected animal family might fit into that niche. Of course, if you draw a feline for the large predator category, you can just stick in a tiger. But what about a large equine predator? What might that look like?

Okay – one note for what follows … it ain’t science. It’s an affront to science. The idea here is to stimulate one’s imagination and come up with a twisted ecology that will entertain and delight the people who play in your games. The below tables are designed to start with something you know, and then turn it into something you don’t. Insectivores will become herbivores and herbivores will become carnivores, etc. Have fun, use your imagination and if you have a few bucks in your pocket, commission and artist to bring your creation to life.

ECOLOGICAL NICHES
First, determine the sizes of the animals in you fantastic ecology. This is dependent on the availability of food in the environment, which itself is usually dependent on the availability of water. For marine environments, it should probably be based on the availability of sunlight (SUNNY-MEDIUM-DARK).

Tiny creatures will rarely serve as anything but a prop when running an adventure; unless they swarm or are poisonous they won’t threaten adventurers, and grand hunts are not organized to kill them. Hence, don’t worry about creating too many.

For each animal size, determine its general strategy for feeding itself by rolling 1d6 on the following table.

Carnivores eat meat, and will usually hunt for it or scavenge the kills of smaller creatures

Omnivores eat meat and plants, and might pose a danger to adventurers

Herbivores eat plants, and are usually only dangerous in large, stampeding herds; they do, on the other hand, serve as prey for adventurers

This will give you a variety of interesting animals that might be encountered (randomly, of course) in a region by adventurers. The point here is not to build an actual viable ecosystem, but rather to build a dangerous backdrop for exploration and adventure. Naturally, you’ll want to fill out a random encounter table with more fantastic monsters as well.

To determine what fills the niche, roll on the tables below. These tables are designed to produce something weird, so keep that in mind.

ANIMAL FAMILIES (LAND) – Roll D%

01-02. Aardvarks
03-04. Anapsida – turtles
05-06. Ants
07-08. Anura – frogs and toads
09-10. Apoidea – bees and wasps
11-12. Arachnids – spiders and scorpions
13-14. Bats
15-17. Birds – I could be more specific, but I like the possibilities of throwing them all into one category
18-20. Bovines – including cattle, goats, sheep, musk oxen and antelopes
21-22. Caelifera – grasshoppers, locusts, crickets and katydids
23-24. Camels – including llamas
25-27. Canines – wolves, dogs and foxes
28-29. Caudata – salamanders and newts
30-31. Coleoptera – beetles and weevils
32-33. Crocodilians – crocodiles and alligators
34-35. Dinosaurs – you should have no problem fitting them into any ecological niche
36-37. Diptera – flies, mosquitoes, gnats, and midges
38-39. Equines – including horses, asses, and zebras
40-42. Felines –cats, including the related sabre-toothed paleofelines
43-44. Hippopotamuses
45-46. Hyenas
47-48. Insectivores – including moles, shrews, hedgehogs, and moonrats
49-50. Lepidoptera – butterflies and moths
51-53. Lizards
54-55. Mantises
56-57. Marsupials – kangaroos, wombats, opossums
58-59. Mongooses and linsangs
60. Monsters – mythological beasts
61-62. Mustelids – weasels, badgers, otters, wolverines and the related skunks
63-64. Odonata – dragonflies and damselflies (dragons and damsels – funny)
65-66. Pangolins
67-68. Pecora – deer, giraffes, okapis, pronghorns
69-70. Pilosa – including sloths, extinct ground sloths and anteaters
71-72. Pinnipeds – seals and walruses
73-74. Primates – including lemurs, monkeys, apes and humans
75-76. Proboscids – elephants, mammoths and mastodons
77-78. Raccoons
79-80. Rhinoceroses
81-83. Rodents – rats, squirrels, guinea pigs, hamsters, porcupines and capybara!
84. Snails
85-86. Snakes
87-88. Swine – including peccaries
89-90. Synapsida – mammal-like reptiles from the primordial world
91-92. Tachyglossids – including echidnas and platypuses
93-94. Tapirs
95-96. Ursines – bears, including the extinct bear-dogs
97-98. Viverrids – civets
99-100. Worms

ANIMAL FAMILIES (SEA) – Roll D30

1-2. Cephalods – including octopuses, squids and cuttlefish
3-4. Cetaceans
5-6. Crustaceans – lobsters and crabs
7-8. Dinosaurs
9-10. Eels
11-12. Jellyfish
13-14. Lampreys
15-16. Manatees and sea cows
17-18. Monsters – fantastic creatures
19-20. Osteichthys – bony fish – i.e. fish with bone skeletons rather than cartilage
21-22. Placodermi – armored fish
23-24. Sharks and rays – including ghostsharks
25-26. Shrimp
27-28. Turtles
29-30. Roll on land table and adapt to marine environment

To help you along, you can consult the following table listing existing animals in each niche, modeling your make-believe animal on the survival techniques of a real animal.

EXAMPLE: WEIRD SAVANNAH

My weird savannah is dominated by tall, broad herbivores descended from crocodiles. They have short snouts and thick tongues that pull in grasses. Mostly slow and ponderous, they retain their crocodilian patience and ability to generate a short burst of speed. The grazing tortoises are about the size of water buffalo, with shells that are spiked, providing a means of defense. The savannah is also grazed on by wombat-like creatures that resemble long-legged, antelopes. The swiftest herbivores on the savannah are medium-sized descendants of rhinos; they look like springboks with rough, rhino-like skin and small horns on their foreheads. Seeds on the savannah are collected by sparrow-sized dragonflies and a rodent that resembles a cane rat.

The only true carnivore on the savannah is a burrowing, carnivorous hedgehog that preys on the rodents and dragonflies. Packs of these creatures prey on such creatures as the long-fingered and ring-tailed raccoons that live in colonies in large trees and the small anteaters that scurry among the tall grasses. The savannah also has a wolf-sized feline that feeds on smaller animals and the long, purple fruit that grows on the savannah trees, and a panther-sized arachnid that hunts at night in small prides.

Gads of Goblin Goodies

Goblinoids, especially the lesser versions of kobolds, goblins, orcs and hobgoblins, are crawling all over the average fantasy world. They make great opponents to low-level parties, and in large masses are pretty good against mid-level parties. Eventually, though, their usefulness either runs out, or you and your players just get plain sick and tired of them.

So, how about 100 little modifications you can use to spice up these well-worn monsters?

You can use these to change entire tribes or war bands, or just to spice up individual goblins to make them a bit more distinct and to play up their ties to Chaos.

Enjoy!

Mutations

1. Acid spit – resistance to acid, bite attack +1d6 acid, +1 to sunder items
2. Ape arms – move faster on all fours
3. Bat ears – huge, flapping ears allow fly speed (slow)
4. Big lungs – hold breath longer, +1 save vs. exhaustion
5. Black skin – +1 to hide and surprise in dark areas
6. Boar tusks – gore attack (1d4)
7. Bouncy – jump
8. Cat’s Eyes – +1 to reflex saves, +1 to missile attacks
9. Croc tail – tail attack, save vs. trip
10. Crusty – +1 AC
11. Death saliva – poisonous bite, +1d6 poison damage, can spit 10 feet
12. Dynamo – shocking grasp once per three rounds
13. Evil eye – bestow curse with gaze attack
14. Extra brain – higher intelligence level, +2 to will saves
15. Extra heart – +1 hit point per hit dice, +1 save vs. exhaustion
16. Four arms – extra attack and shield
17. Frog tongue – 10-ft ranged attack to grab items
18. Fullback – +2 to bull rush attacks
19. Gnarled – +2 AC
20. Goblin-queen – remarkably attractive … but no less evil
21. Goliath – one size category larger, but one intelligence level lower
22. Greasy – can slide at double speed down grades, +2 save vs. grapple
23. Green skin – +1 to hide and surprise in woodland environments
24. Hairy – +1 AC, resistance to cold, +1 damage per die from fire
25. Halitosis – breath weapon – 5-ft cone – every three rounds – save vs. nausea
26. Hammer fists – increased unarmed damage and grapple attack
27. Head ridges – head butt attack
28. Hook claws – claw attack, +1 to disarm and grapple attacks
29. Horns – gore attack (1d6)
30. Hound dog – knack for tracking
31. Iron stomach – +1 save vs. poison
32. Lantern-eyes – beams of light can blind
33. Monkey tail – prehensile
34. Nose spike – gore attack (1d3)
35. Pitch-skin – flammable skin, immune to fire
36. Puffer – can blow up, knocking people back, no damage from bludgeoning weapons, piercing weapons can puncture
37. Radioactive – all within 10 feet much pass a fort save or be nauseated; miss by 5 or more energy damage
38. Razor teeth – bite attack, and save or grappled
39. Rooky – crow wings to fly, crow beak to peck
40. Runt – one size category smaller, but one intelligence level higher, chance of spells
41. Scaled – +3 AC
42. Speed demon – +10 speed
43. Spikey – damage from grapple, or when struck by natural weapons
44. Spy – passes for human
45. Stinker – troglodyte stench ability
46. Third eye – immune to illusions
47. Translucent – big bonus to hide and surprise
48. Troll-blood – regenerate 1 hit point per round
49. Wall crawler – climb speed
50. Weird – first level psychic power (offensive, of course)
51. White skin – +1 to hide and surprise in arctic environments
52. Wolf ears – +2 to listen at doors, surprised on d8
53. Wormy – gnaw through stone (burrow 10)

Professions

54. Acrobatic – +2 to reflex saves, slow fall as monk
55. Backstabber – attack, hit points and abilities of first level assassin, one vial of poison
56. Berserker – 2 attacks per round
57. Black knight – weird sense of honor, warhorse, lance, platemail, pennons, squires from lesser goblin race
58. Brigands – brigandine armor (studded leather), longbows, surprise in woods
59. Bushwhacker – attack, hit points and abilities of first level scout, longbow
60. Dark Lord’s man – +1 to hit, upgrade armor and weapons
61. Desert Rat – unaffected by heat and sand movement, +1 bonus vs. fire
62. Evil High Priest’s man – +1 bonus to save vs. cleric spells, chance of 0-level orison
63. Hexenhammer – +2 save vs. spells, 1d6 bolts with silence cast on them, light crossbow, warhammer
64. Hoary – extra hit dice, +1 to will saves
65. Ice Demon – unaffected by cold and ice movement, +1 bonus vs. cold
66. Necromancer’s man – +1 bonus to save vs. magic-user spells
67. Pickin’ and Grinnin’ – attack, hit points and abilities of first level bard, banjo
68. Pilferer – attack, hit points and abilities of first level thief, thieves’ tools
69. Psycho – 2 attacks per round, immune to fear, max hit points, immune to confusion
70. Savage – attack, hit points and abilities of first level barbarian, greataxe
71. Sea Wolf – swim speed, hold breath like lizard man
72. Thugee – attack, hit points and abilities of first level assassin plus four 0-level cleric spells
73. Veteran – attack, hit points and abilities of first level fighter, platemail
74. Warrior princess – females, studded leather, falchions, chakram, ululating battle cries (save vs. fear)

Equipment

75. Amazon – female, longbow, short sword, breastplate
76. Boar rider – rides a battle boar
77. Blitzkrieg – chainmail, spiked tower shield, short sword
78. Cannonball – small cannon – spiked platemail – launches self into battle, 10% chance of living through the experience with 1 hp
79. Canter – 1d6 magic-user scrolls (can cast them), robes, curvy dagger (+1 damage)
80. Costermonger – looks like ugly old man or woman, sells poisonous or magic apples
81. Dashing – leather armor, rapier, ruffles and bows and feathers in wide-brimmed hat, leering eye
82. Fire-breather – petrol, torch, resistance to fire, once per round 5-ft cone of fire (1d6), or 10-ft cone every other round
83. Fire bug – 1d6 alchemist’s fire, leather armor
84. Flailer – great flail (double damage) – attack by hurling self 10 feet, once every two rounds
85. Hacker – black hood, great axe or executioner’s sword (+1 damage), leather armor, dagger
86. Hammerer – great hammer (higher damage) – hurl up to 20 feet once every two rounds
87. Infiltrator – padded armor, silk slippers (+1 to move silently), three daggers, hand crossbow
88. Kamikaze – bat-winged glider, goggles, devil-may care attitude, catapult launch (if necessary), dagger
89. Magic hat – can produce a spell effect from hat, must make Will save to make it work, 10% chance of random spell of level 1d4
90. Plunderer – light warhorse, leather armor, composite bow, short sword, knack for riding
91. Porcupine – spiked scale mail, spiked club, spiked gauntlets
92. Rhino rider – rides a battle rhino
93. Ronin – splint mail, grotesque mask and great helm, scimitar and dagger
94. Sapper – heavy pick, mining helmet, leather armor, dagger, 1d6 bombs, goggles
95. Sea dog – blunderbuss, leather armor, hook hand, dagger in teeth
96. Slimer – 1d6 glass spheres of green slime, +1 bonus to save vs. acid and slimes
97. Tinker – armorer’s tools, portable anvil
98. Twister – two chains, chainmail, chain letter tucked into belt
99. Swineherd – two boars on a chain
100. Wolf pack – two wolves on a chain

Who’s Under that Mask?

You’ve fought your way into the evil lord’s citadel or the inner sanctum of the chaos cult. You’ve eliminated the guards. You are locked in battle with the masked overlord of all evil and in a brief pause in the fighting reach out and snatch away their mask. You gasp as you see …

1-2. The Archduke or Archduchess

3-4. Your doppelganger (literally, a doppelganger in your form)

5-6. A faceless horror, or something with tentacles so the party can say, “Seriously, more Lovecraft?”

7-8. A goblin (he’s standing on another goblin’s shoulders)

9-10. Your old teacher

11-12. Your ex-lover or ex-mate or ex-best friend who always secretly resented you

13-14. Your mom!

15-16. The captain of the guard

17-18. The sergeant of the guard

19-20. Second man-at-arms from the left at the front gate who, now that you think of it, was giving you a funny look when you entered the city

21-22. The hunchbacked hedge wizard who hawks magic charms in the town square – turns out he’s a 15th level magic-user

23-24. The high priest of the local Law Cult

25-26. The pirate lord of the western seas

27-28. The queen of the gypsies

29-30. A sleestak

31-32. A mannequin [gasp]

33-34. The mummified face of some the ancient pharaoh on display in the museum

35-36. Nosferatu!

37-38. The princess royal

39-40. A ghoul [chomp]

41-42. Your evil twin brother or sister who was thought to have died in the barn fire

43-44. The head of the local merchant company

45-46. The local guildmaster of thieves

47-48. A bearded devil

49-50. A polymorphed fire giant, and that mask was what kept the spell in play

51-52. A brilliant light (choose a color) in place of a head that messes with your mind

53-54. A succubus – pucker up!

55-56. A tangle of vines and two emerald orbs for eyes

57-58. An elf lady knight from the far woodlands

59-60. A flesh golem with a psychic’s disembodied brain sutured to its head

61-62. A serpent man with a cobra’s ability to spit

63-64. The undying caveman

65-66. A grey alien with a headband of pain of dominance

67-68. A 15th level amazon

69-70. The wizened old magic-user you thought was your greatest ally

71-72. The dark pope of the holy assassins

73-74. A demi-god or goddess

75-76. A quasi-god or goddess

77-78. A primordial ooze thing that collapses into a blob of destruction

79-80. That dummy used by the seemingly harmless bard in the local tavern

81-82. A super-intelligent gorilla

83-84. A really stupid and confused gorilla

85-86. A heavily scarred visage

87-88. The twisted face of a maniac

89-90. A 15th level duelist who is actually left-handed

91-92. The emperor everyone thought was lost

93-94. The mad genius that designed the automaton palace guards

95-96. An astral deva that has taken Lawful Good to an unhealthy level

97-98. The Riddler (unfortunately, as played by John Astin, not Frank Gorshin)

99-100. The robe collapses, because the meme has been revealed

Horses Are Sooooo 1978

Or whenever the paladin was first published. I wanted to be clever with the title, but not to the degree that I was going to do five seconds of research with Google.

Paladins, at 5th level, can undertake a quest to obtain a very intelligent mount. Depending on the edition you play, this mount either hangs out with you all the time and sorta requires you to hire a groom or page or whatever to look out for it when you’re in a dungeon, or it just pops into existence whenever it is convenient. You can probably guess which concept I like better.

But what if … what if there were more options than that super-clever wonder horse? Well, how about these …

(Use as inspiration, or roll randomly with a D12)

1. Mechanical Warhorse – requires a quest to settle a grudge for the Dwarf King, who forged the horse in his own workshop. Just combine an automaton and a heavy warhorse to get the stats. For anti-paladins, the mechanical warhorse is grey and spiky.

2. Putti – I think I did stats for these fellows once (you know, the chubby, winged babies people mistakenly call cherubs or cupids), if not, just make them Lawful (LG) imps. For anti-paladins, just use an imp.

3. Unicorn – but only if the paladin is female. For anti-paladins … not sure.

4. Aasimar Squire – 4 HD, of course. For anti-paladins, a tiefling picaroon.

5. Blink Dog – maybe the quest involves rescuing it from a giant’s kennels. For anti-paladins, a shadow mastiffs.

6. Halo – actually a lantern archon with 4 HD that oftens hangs out around the paladin’s noggin. For anti-paladins, just craft a red-hued evil version of the lantern archon.

7. Relic – the relic is the skull of a cleric which the paladin can communicate with telepathically, and which can cast spells as a 4th level cleric (though not touch spells, obviously).

8. Choir – a choir of four 1 HD lay priests who can chant (as the spell) and inspire (as bards). For anti-paladins, four 1 HD flaggelants with scourges who do the same.

9. Gold Wyrmling – precocious, of course. For anti-paladins, a red wyrmling.

10. Brownie Knight – gained by embarking on a quest for the Fairy Queen, a bit of a curmudgeon. For anti-paladins, a spriggan thug of the Unseelie Court.

11. Elven Sage – an old codger with silver hair who can cast spells as an adept (venerable master). For anti-paladins, a drow alchemist who may or may not be trying to poison their master.

12. Reformed Prostitute – a prostitute who has seen the light and can cast spells as an adept (venerable master; note, the prostitute is not venerable in terms of age, but in terms of the blessings bestowed upon him or her). For anti-paladins, a fallen, alcoholic friar or nun.

Building Better Henchmen [Blood & Treasure]

Do you like random tables? I do.

Do you like henchmen? I do.

Do you like random henchmen? I hope so …

The following tables can be used to make more interesting, if not useful, henchmen for your classic fantasy game. I think I might adapt these to ACTION X and use them as the default for minions.

Note – for those who don’t play Blood & Treasure (yes, I’m aware that’s 99.99999999% of all gamers), treat a “knack” as succeeding on a roll of 1-2 on 1d6, or as a flat +3 bonus to skill checks

TABLE THE FIRST – HENCHMAN PERSONALITY

1. Sniveling coward – has move of 40 and must check morale before each fight

2. Greedy bastard – tries to steal treasure at every turn

3. Junior paladin – braver and more heroic than he/she should be, but also a Lawful (Good) moralist about things

4. Dastardly spy – working for an opposing group of adventurers, making a map and reporting back

5. Secret cultist – member of a secret chaos cult, will betray the party if possible

6. Sword-for-hire – has to be paid (1×6 x 5 gp) for sticking his neck out, but +1 to hit with swords

7. Old veteran – a bit slower (move 20), but good at solving puzzles

8. Pack mule – can carry 150% normal weight, tends to be quiet and dull

9. Rebellious princess – (or prince) a rich brat who wants adventure but is still in the aristocratic mindset, has a tendency to complain and command

10. Rugged he-man – or she-woman; strong, brave and competent and a bit arrogant

11. Mother hen – very concerned about the adventurers and their health and well-being

12. Hyper-active – gets bored easily, often moves off on his own (especially when carrying something important)

13. Lucky duck – +2 bonus on all saving throws; lucky and knows it

14. Rakish devil – hits on the opposite sex, makes lascivious innuendos at the drop of a hat, has an over-fondness for booze

15. Death magnet – 1 in 6 chance that any random bad thing happens to this poor slob, but they enjoy a +2 bonus to all saving throws

16. Terrible jinx – increases chance of random monster encounters by 1 (or 5%), imposes a -1 penalty to saving throws for all in the party by their mere presence

17. Lazy complainer – move rate of 20, like to rest once per hour, complains about physical exertion, eats double rations

18. Delusions of grandeur – claims skills he or she does not have

19-20. Mundane henchmen – nothing special at all about this henchman

TABLE THE SECOND – HENCHMEN SKILLS

1. Academic – knack at deciphering and appraising the value of goods

2. Acolyte – can cast 1d4 zero-level cleric spells, each once per day; charges double

3. Acrobat – knack for jumping and ???

4. Animal Handler – knack for riding and taming animals

5. Apprentice – can cast 1d4 zero-level magic-user spells, each once per day; charges double

6. Athlete – knack at climbing walls and swimming

7. Deceiver – knack at forgery and disguise

8. Investigator – knack and finding traps and discerning alignment

9. Negotiator – +2 bonus to reaction checks if does the talking and knack for discerning alignment

10. Pick Pocket – knack at move silently and pick pockets

11. Rogue – can backstab for x2 damage once per day, knack at thief skills; charges double

12. Savage – berserker in combat, knack at barbarian skills, comes with loincloth, shield and spear; charges double

13. Sentinel – knack for finding secret doors and listening at doors

14. Shadow – knack for move silently and hide in shadows

15. Spelunker – darkvision to a range of 30 feet, dwarf knacks

16. Survivor – knack at survival and climbing walls

17. Swordsman – has one combat feat of the TK’s choice and comes with chainmail, shield and hand weapon; charges double

18. Thugee – can backstab for +2 damage and use poison safely, knack at assassin skills, comes with black leather armor and two daggers; charges double

19. Whirling Dervish – can attack twice per round with melee weapons, comes with leather armor, short sword and dagger; charges double

20. Woodsman – +1 to hit animals, knack at ranger skills, comes with leather armor, longbow and short sword; charges double

PAY SCALE

Just thought of this. What if the henchman’s pay scale determines what they’ll do …

Copper a day – will carry torches and bags, but will not fight

Silver a day – as above, plus will fight in second rank

Gold a day – as above, plus will fight in front rank

Platinum a day – as above, plus will check for traps and go into rooms first