A Quick Dispatch from the Pandemic

Howdy folks – just a quick note today, since I’ve been pretty busy setting up work-from-home and not thinking a bunch about gaming stuff.

My wife and I did a jaunt to the nearby Sprouts grocery store to pick up a few things, and boy was it a normal, boring shopping trip. The place wasn’t super crowded, but there were plenty of shoppers, and everybody was calm. There were a few shelves picked over – mostly of staples and at the meat counter – but we got what were were after without too much trouble. If you’re having trouble finding things at the larger chains, you might check out smaller chains or shops, assuming they’re open.

Folks were eating at the Sonic (in their cars – they had removed the outdoor seating) when we went through the drive-thru for some fountain Cokes, and the roads weren’t empty. Looks like people in Vegas are getting through this pretty well. Now, during the week I’ve been driving into my office to get things done – most of the people who work near me are working from home (you didn’t have to ask them twice), so I’m pretty much all by my lonesome there. As a confirmed introvert, I’ve been training for this situation my entire life!

The morning commute to work has been reminiscent of what it was like 20 years ago. I have worked for the same company in the same general place for 25 years, so I have a basis for comparison on such things. Since the resorts on the Strip are shut down for the moment, and visitation is at a minimum, the central core of the city is pretty quiet. It’s weird, but not super-weird – it looked pretty similar the week or so after the 9-11 terrorist attack.

I hope this little missive finds people safe, reasonably happy, and not panicking. Spend some time with your family – we had a rousing game of Dungeon! the other night, which I lost pretty soundly. I recently found an intact copy of the one I used to own – love those graphics so dang much – and I’m really looking forward to the similar game being produced by Sean Aaberg in his Dungeon Degenerates line. My daughter is spending some of her lost Spring Break (she and her friends were going to go to Disneyland – her first trip like that without the parents) sewing on of his weird patches on my denim jacket. Actually a good patch for the times:

We’re doing some comfort-viewing of TV shows and movies we like (and what would the world do without cute/funny animal videos right now?), getting some reading done (just finished Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler and Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis by Michael Ward – both good books), and I’m still working on my own projects. Now’s a good time to renew ties with friends and family, and if there’s a brick-and-mortar store or restaurant that you dig, but cannot visit, think about getting a gift card from for a later date. A good measure of a person or a people is how they behave in tough times, so be kind, supportive and generally groovy to one another, folks, and we’ll hopefully emerge on the other side relatively intact!

I’ll leave folks with a bad movie that would have been better if you had replaced all the “real” people with characters from Robert E Howard’s Conan stories. Ann Blythe sure was pretty – such an interesting face.

For something quite different, maybe you’ll enjoy Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes.


How to Herc – An Illustrated Guide to Demigodery

Every day, hundreds of people (or none) email me asking how they can be more like Hercules. They also ask for my social security number, so it may be an elaborate internet scam, but in case it isn’t, I present this guide.

If your fighter or barbarian character checks off everything on this list, when they die they will ascend to Mount Olympus and become a god. Any player at the table who plays a cleric will have to convert to your new religion, which obviously means they have to adopt your dead character’s alignment and they lose access to spells if they don’t fetch drinks and chips for you.

Kirk Morris as Hercules and Illoosh Khoshabe as Samson

Throw a Mega-Punch

At least once in his life, a real Hercules must throw a mega-punch. Here’s how:

1. When making an attack, declare it’s a mega-punch

2. Roll a d20, d12 and d10, adding your Str bonus and attack bonus to each dice

If all three rolls best your opponent’s AC, you reduce the target to 1d6 hit points and knock them out for an hour – yep, even if its Gandalf or Cthulhu

If two hit, you score normal punching damage, and are banned from mega-punching again until you gain a new level. We’re all a little disappointed in you.

If one hits, you swing wildly and miss. Any ally within fist range, though, must pass a saving throw or get clocked by you, suffering normal damage. If this occurs in a bar, your friend now has to get up and punch a stranger, and so on.

If none hit, you lose one level due to embarrassment and divine punishment. This lost level returns after you defeat something awesome in battle – without help Poindexter!

Reg Park as Hercules

Swear an Oath to the Gods

When bad shit happens to good people, look to the heavens and cry, “By the power of Zeus I will avenge you!”

Then do it.

Earn double XP, and operate under a bless spell during your next adventure.

Dear God, It’s Me, Hercules

A variation on the above. Whenever you screw up something you shouldn’t have, look to the sky and ask “Why have you forsaken me?”

There is a 1% chance, +1% per person at the table who laughed or snickered at your failure, that the head of the pantheon appears and tells you, and then gives you a quest to fulfill.

What’s the upside? There is none. But being Hercules ain’t all cheese and crackers, you know.

Gordon Scott as Hercules

Wrestle With Something Way Out of Your Class

If you’re medium, it should be huge. You can warm up on something large, but eventually you need to step it up to huge. And I mean wrestle – not attack with sword. Grab it. Pin it. Choke it out.

Dan Vadis as Hercules

Ruin Architecture

If the world provides you with two pillars within arms reach of one another, you damn well better knock them down.

“But wait,” you cry, “I can’t do that with even an 18/00 strength!”

Then I guess you can’t be a god.

Steve Reeves as Hercules

Kill Someone with Chains

And not just any chains. The chains with which they bound you. Break out of the chains, then pick them up, and then start cutting down bastards like you’re harvesting grain.

Heavy chains do 1d6 damage and add 5′ to your reach. When attacking anyone who was involved in binding you, you score double damage.

Mark Forest as Hercules

Lead and Army in Skirts

No armor, just grim determination and skirts so short they would make a nun blush. Bonus if the army is Inca. You know, because of mythology and such.

Smack Around Some Moon Men

They may look like earth elementals, but trust me, they’re Moon Men and they have it coming.

Note – unless you’re lucky and they’re on Earth plotting to resurrect their queen by draining the life from a human woman, you’ll have to go to the Moon to fight them.

Mark Forest as Hercules

Choke a Thick Snake

Proudly, and announce that you’re choking a thick snake. Repeatedly. And talk about how your hands are tired afterward.

Don’t worry – each person at the table that snickers only adds to your glory. It’s called confidence, and there’s nothing manlier than that.

Sylvia Lopez as Omphale

Dally with an Evil Queen

She needs to be scary-hot. And evil.

Doing it while under a spell counts.

Changing her alignment counts for more.

Nigel Green as Hercules (one of my favorites)

Endanger The Party with Your Antics

Like, maybe by awakening Talos by stealing treasure you were specifically told not to steal.

Of course, you also have to save the day, or die trying.

Reg Park as Ursus

Two For One

Kill two men-at-arms by throwing one at the other. Extra points for a trick shot.

Fight Moloch

Or a guy dressed up as Moloch.

Okay – I just included this one because I thought the guy looked cool.

Steve Reeves as Hercules

Row a Galley

Bonus points if the captain can water ski behind it.



Learn to laugh at life!

Five Years and 400 Followers Later …

Image found HERE

Five years (and a few days) ago, I decided to start a blog. My first blog post went a little something like this …

“The Land of Nod is an old school rpg campaign I’ve been running for the past few years, initially using the 3rd edition of D&D, and then moving to the Castles & Crusades system and finally to something between Castles & Crusades and the excellent Swords & Wizardry clone of the original D&D rules. It seems as I get older, I look for ways to simplify my life – less static and more living.

The Land of Nod is my attempt at making a setting that allows players and referees to get down to the business of playing games. It doesn’t have a grand, thousand page history to memorize, or abundant restrictions on what you can play and how. It is a grand sandbox with all the requisites for the heroic adventures that have driven people’s imaginations for decades. Most importantly, it is a collection of places to see and things to do.

Over the coming months (and years?), this blog will serve as a place I can present my little imaginary world, and maybe a few notions that other role-players will find useful. So, consider this my entry into the Old School Renaissance.”

I was in the Swords & Wizardry camp back then (blessed be the name of Matthew J. Finch).

My plan at the time was to write hex crawls and other Land of Nod-oriented things and post them on the blog. About a month into it, I decided that hex crawl stuff was going to be tough for people to use if it was on a blog, so I thought about doing a quick Word document each month to collect that month’s material in one place. Then I thought … why not a PDF? Then I thought … why not publish it?

So, not long after the blog started, the NOD magazine started, with 25 issues now completed. In between, I also wrote a few games (Pars Fortuna, Mystery Men!, Space Princess, Blood & Treasure, Bloody Basic, Greatsword), had a chance to work with Frog God Games (I’d like to do more of that), and I’m working on getting another game, Grit & Vigor, published. Pretty sweet.

If this sounds like something you want to do, do it. It will probably not get much easier than it is now to write and publish your own material, provided you are willing to put in the time and effort.

I usually miss these anniversaries, but today I noticed that I finally hit 400 followers, so I figured I’d take note of this one. I want to thank all my readers over the years, especially the ones who have encouraged me with kind words and the ones who have actually forked over their cold, hard cash for something I’ve written, for supporting me. My plan is still to write up the entire Land of Nod in hex crawl form. If I live long enough, I think I can get it done!

In other news …


I’m almost finished with my Mother Goose edition of Bloody Basic. Just finishing up some layout and editing and putting on the finishing touches to the text. This weekend is going to be busy (Viva Las Vegas show and Easter), but if I find a few spare moments I’ll get the PDF version up for sale.

The Chaos edition is probably next … though I might veer into the Jules Verne-esque Victoriana edition. Don’t know yet.


It occurred to me today that it might be fun to do a Bloody Basic edition illustrated by women. It could put a light female spin to the game classes (maybe amazon instead of fighter, or amazon and oracle as sub-classes). The question – how to do it without involving stereotypes one way or the other – just good old fashioned fantasy role playing with art involving female characters by female artists. To women out there reading this blog, I’d love to hear from you if this sounds interesting to you. I’ve been perusing some of my favorite women artists on DeviantArt to approach for commissions, but suggestions from the assembled Nodians are always appreciated.


Yep, got NOD 25 up for sale in print today. Check it out if that sort of thing floats your boat.


Saw a glossary from an old book of Scottish fairy tales today. A few excerpts:

Baudrons: Scotch name for a cat

Ben: A mountain peak

Bonnet-piece: An old Scottish coin

Cantrip: A freak, or wilful piece of trickery

Clout: A blow

Cutty-pipe: A short clay pipe

Eldritch: Weird

Emprise: An enterprise

Gled: A hawk

Gloaming: The twilight

Louping-on-stane: A stone from which to mount a horse

Unchancy: Uncanny

Wight: A person

Unicorns: Ancient Scottish coins

Also this:

“Finlay the hunter lived with his sister in a lonely little house among the mountains, and near at hand there were giants who were descendants of Beira. This giant clan was ruled over by a hag-queen who was very old and fierce and cunning. She had great stores of silver and gold in her cave, and also a gold-hilted magic sword and a magic wand. When she struck a stone pillar with this wand it became a warrior, and if she put the gold-hilted sword into his hand, the greatest and strongest hero in the world would be unable to combat against him with success.”

Killer magic item, that wand.

My First Crush

The first AF issue I ever bought, at a 7-Eleven

Sometimes, you discover your own history in strange ways – things you forgot you knew or did until something jogs your memory. Recently, my family and I spent some time in Boulder City checking out antique stores. Boulder City is not far away from Las Vegas, and is the anti-Vegas in many ways. The locals are anti-development, and thus B.C. has a small town atmosphere.

One of these aforementioned antique stores had a few shelves stacked with old comic books, and they were cheap so I was bound to buy a few. I started digging in and found a bunch of old Kamandis, Ka-Zars, Battlestar Gallacticas, John Carter Warlord of Mars, Shogun Warriors … groovy stuff from the ’70s and ’80s. I grabbed quite a few of those titles, and I also grabbed a couple old Alpha Flights.

When I first got into comic books in the ’80s (after playing TSR’s Marvel Super Heroes RPG, because I always get into things ass-backwards), the first two titles I grabbed onto were West Coast Avengers and Alpha Flight. So, I’m reading Alpha Flight #12, wherein Guardian dies a horrible fiery death, and it suddenly hits me … Heather Hudson (later to be Guardian and then Vindicator) was my first comic book crush (with Mockingbird a close second).

[Quick aside – I was thinking about that era in comic books, when I first started collecting them, and something struck me. The West Coast Avengers were led by Mockingbird, the Avengers by Captain Marvel (this lady), the X-Men by Storm (in her cool costume), and Alpha Flight by Vindicator. Four women leading super hero teams at the House of Ideas, and two of them black women. Has that happened since?]

So, Nodians – who was your first comic book crush?

(And keep it clean … there may be children present).

Non-over-sexualized women are sexier. Or is that just me?

Precision Swiss Dungeoneering

Image by Joshua Sherurcij

I honestly don’t know. I go on a walk. A funny idea pops into my head, which I quickly dismiss. Then a couple more thoughts pop in to flesh out the original idea, and the next thing you know I’m writing up a Blood & Treasure class called the Switzer. On the other hand, one of the founders of the hobby was of Swiss origin, so maybe this class is way overdue!

The Switzer

Switzers are folks from mountainous regions who live up to several flimsy stereotypes (and outright fabrications!) and delve in dungeons. Hey, the inspiration behind this idea is pretty sparse, just do me a favor and roll with it.

Switzers advance in level as rangers.

A life in the mountains has given the 1st level Switzer (regular) a knack at noting unusual stonework and slopes as a dwarf (or count these abilities as skills if the Switzer is a dwarf). Switzers also have an innate money sense. They can calculate a number of coins and the value of gemstones with 80% accuracy. When buying goods, they can make an Intelligence check to either find a bargain (10% discount) or to find superior merchandise (pay a 50% premium, gain a +1 bonus to checks or attacks when using the item).

Switzers must remain true neutral for their entire careers, but they have mercenary hearts and can commit Lawful, Chaotic, Good or Evil acts at the cost of 10 gp per Switzer level. A Switzer who strays from neutrality becomes a normal fighter with the fighting ability of a cleric until he or she receives an atonement spell.

The mountain homes of Switzers are lousy with mad wizards and scientists, so 3rd level Switzers (mountaineer) thus gain particular skill at combating one of their most common and hideous creations, the flesh golem. Against a flesh golem, a Switzer gains a +1 bonus to hit and scores double damage on a successful hit. At 7th level (hellebardier), the Switzer’s innate familiarity with clockworks gives him a similar advantage against iron golems, antikytheres, automatons (i.e. mechanical men) and other clockwork creatures.

A 4th level Switzer (gardist) becomes a master of the pole arm and pike, gaining a +1 bonus to hit and damage with them. When fighting in formation, the Switzer also gains a +1 bonus per 5 fellow warriors (similarly armed) in the formation to Armor Class, up to a +4 bonus.

A 5th level Switzer (Alpinist) can undertake a quest, guided by a divine vision, to find and gain the service of an unusually intelligent, strong, and loyal St. Bernard to serve him. If the Switzer’s dog dies, he must wait until gaining another level of Switzer to undertake the quest again.

The St. Bernard has the following stats:

St. Bernard, Medium Magical Beast: HD 2+2; AC 16; ATK 1 bite (1d6); MV 40; F12 R12 W16; AL N (LN); XP 200; Special—Resistance to cold, cask of wine (produces enough restorative brandy to restore a total of 2 hp per Switzer level per day), low intelligence.

A 6th level Switzer (yodeler) can cast a small collection of spells by yodeling. The spells are drawn from the following list. The Switzer can cast as many spells as the paladin (see B&T Player’s Guide).

Level One: Cause fear, charm person, daze, hideous laughter, message, open/close, sleep

Level Two: Animal trance, daze monster, enthrall, hold person, rage, shatter, sound burst

Level Three: Charm monster, confusion, crushing despair, good hope, speak with animals

Level Four: Dominate person, hold monster, repel vermin, shout

An 8th level Switzer (Reisläufer) gains the ability to manufacture magical cheeses. The cheeses must be created from the milk of a magical beast (one with the proper equipment, of course), and can be infused with a spell effect that duplicates one of the monster’s special abilities or one spell up to 4th level that the monster can cast. Making the cheese takes as long as brewing an equivalent potion, and requires a proper kitchen.

A 10th level Switzer (Burgrave) can choose to establish a stronghold in the wilderness and gain followers (see High Level Play below). The lands controlled by the burgrave are called a canton. A Switzer who commands a canton attracts 1d6 men-at-arms per level, 1d6 first level Switzers who wish to train under them and one 3rd level Switzer to serve as a leutnant. These Switzers should be generated as characters under control of the player.

Edited 9/19 – Made a correction in the text and added an ability

18 Strength! – A Goofy Google Experiment

I’m laid up with a sore foot at the moment and trying to get some work done on NOD 17, which is due out this month (God willing), and needed a break. Checked email, Lulu.com (2 sales today – yippee!) and a few other sites and was still bored. What to do? Google image sort, of course. I started with “most beautiful woman in the world”, just wondering what would come up, and then thought – “hey, could be an interesting experiment to see, via Google, what people with 18’s in their ability scores would look like. Here’s what I found:

STRENGTH 18 – “Strongest woman in the world”

Now, the list below tends to be male dominated – don’t blame me, blame the internet community. So, for strength I decided to specifically search for the strongest woman in the world, and found Becca Swanson (no relation to Ron, as far as I know). Why don’t we get more women like this in fantasy games? I don’t know – but we really should.

INTELLIGENCE 18 – “Smartest person in the world”

The smartest person in the world is an easy search, but a tough choice, as there are many claimants to the throne, some of whom draw a very sharp distinction between “intelligence” and “wisdom” (see below for more on that) – the smartest man in the world who thinks eugenics is a great idea in particular. In the end, I had to go with Hawking.

WISDOM 18 – “Wisest person in the world”

Ah yes, wisdom. A tough stat, originally designed to govern how good one was at being a cleric and later expanded into “that stat kinda like intelligence, only not intelligence”.  When I searched for “wisest” on Google, I mostly got “smartest”, except for the gentleman pictured above. Apparently, humanity has gone through a real dry spell in terms of wisdom for the last few thousand years.

DEXTERITY 18 – “Greatest archer in the world”

Anybody who has put any thought into the dexterity stat knows that it is highly problematic, as it encompasses quickness of action, aim, how steady one’s hands are and how nimble one’s fingers are. A search for “most dextrous” yielded nothing (we geeks have larger vocabularies than many of our fellow human beings, thanks to Uncle Gary). Quickest went to Usain Bolt, but of course one’s dexterity score has nothing to do with one’s movement rate in D&D. “Most agile” got me a monkey. But, since D&D is about killing things and taking their stuff, I decided on “greatest archer in the world”, and according to the Denver Post, that’s Brady Ellison.

CONSTITUTION 18 – “Toughest person in the world”

If Minnesota Monthly can be believed, this gentleman, Pierre Ostor (last name would make a good D&D name) is the toughest man alive.

CHARISMA 18 – “Most beautiful person in the world”

Gawker asks if this is the most beautiful woman in the world – and I reply “I dunno”. Science says she is, but science once thought forced sterilization was a good idea, and that you could determine a person’s intelligence by measuring their skulls. Still, she looks pretty good to me.

The Other Guy Who Says ‘Ho Ho Ho’ [Monster]

Be honest, wouldn’t you like to see this guy …

fighting a horde of these guys …

Green Giant
Huge Giant, Lawful (NG), Average Intelligence; Solitary

Hit Dice: 13
Armor Class: 17
Attacks: 2 slams (1d10)
Saves: Fort 4, Ref 9, Will 9
Movement: 40
XP: 1,300 (CL 14)

Green giants dwell in lush, fertile areas, being the sons of fertility goddesses and therefore interested in agriculture. They tend to “adopt” farming regions, providing a service for the farmers in the area in the form of keeping invaders and pests out, and in return expecting tribute and worship for their divine mothers.

Once per day, they can unleash a mighty laugh that gladdens the hearts of farmers and honest folk (per the good hope spell) and strikes fear into the hearts of despoilers and wicked folk (per the cause fear spells). The range of this laugh is 6 miles.

Spells: At will–create water, purify food and drink, entangle, speak with plants; 3/day–goodberry, plant growth, repel vermin; 1/day-command plants, commune with nature.

Special Qualities: Magic resistance 50% vs. druid spells

Friday Grab Bag + Chance to Win FREE PDF (OMG)!!!

Haven’t done a grab bag in a while, and I stumbled upon a few things this morning that were worth it …


Still looking into setting up message boards. I’m a born penny-pincher, so making the leap into paying for monthly hosting is a tough one for me. Stay tuned. In the meantime, feel free to leave comments on the pages.


If you’re running a game set in this time period, and you don’t make use of this, you might in fact suck. Via Retronaut.


Louise Brooks. Just needed to post this.

Oh, and if they’d done John Carter in the 1920’s, she’s your Deja Thoris.


T-tops was always my favorite (and yes, it was to a dinosaur, and they’re called brontosaurus not apatosaurus and Pluto’s a planet and scientists can just bite me). Via LaughingSquid

Here it is in action …


They look like this. I know he didn’t, but Fridtjof Nansen looks like he could go toe-to-toe with a remorhaz. Via Retronaut.


There’s a game here … Cultist who travels in powerful circles decides to build a new tower of Babel in London, SAN checks follow. Via Retronaut.


First person to identify all the mistakes in the picture above wins a free PDF of their choice of something I’ve published. Once I identify the winner and call them out, they’ll need to email me so I can email them the link and password. Via Retronaut (oh, and the artist’s inability to draw worth a shit does not count as a mistake)

Thanks for hanging with me this week – have fun on the internet!


Okay folks – 300 followers – enough to hold off a Persian invasion!

Assuming our body oil holds out.

Thanks to Gonzalo Barreda, #300, and to the other 299 of you honorary Nodians for making me feel appreciated day in and day out. Now, back to editing NOD 15 and Blood & Treasure and writing NOD 16 – idle hands are the devil’s playthings.

Friday Grab Bag

A grab bag of digital flotsam and jetsam that has floated past my perch on the cliffs that overlook the vastness of the World Wide Web …

Pirates + Goofy Headgear = Pirates in Goofy Headgear

The Victual Brothers were Baltic pirates who, frankly, would be much less groovy if they called themselves “The Baltic Pirates”. Likewise, every D&D party should have a name, awesome, goofy or otherwise. Thanks to that rule of my game, I can now tell tales of the Tender Blades and Wyld Stallyns and their adventures in Nod.

I think every good sword school needs to be named after a saint who, technically, should have been opposed to violence. And speaking of kickass names, these lads were officially known as the Brotherhood of Our dear lady and pure Virgin Mary and the Holy and warlike heavenly prince Saint Mark. “Holy and warlike heavenly prince” – eat your heart out Cuthbert!

I’m listening to these guys at the moment. I officially endorse them as my favorite depression-era swing quintet ever!

Pole arms kick ass.

I’m color blind. Just discovered, via my daughter, that Batgirl’s costume is purple. My love of her (my daughter and Batgirl) has increased immeasurably because of this.

If you thought Carrie Keagan made a spectacular Power Girl (she does), she’s also easy on the eyes as Princess Allura. And if you don’t know who Carrie Keagan is, then your life has been misspent (and not in the good way).

That’s all for today! Over and Out!