Phantom Tech [Space Princess]

Thought up a few new bits of super science for Space Princess. Enjoy …

Phantom tech is concerned with insubstantiability. It is designed to separate an object’s molecules just enough to allow it to pass through another object, which is also made insubstantial. In the process, molecules from these two objects do not mix with one another, but rather they maintain integrity (well, mostly – long term use can prove hazardous to one’s health).

Phantom Suit (DC 25) – Phantom tech suits cover the entire body and are skin tight. They are usually a dull gray or black in color and covered with slightly luminous circuitry. One can see and hear through the head covering, though not terribly well. When activated, the suit creates a field of ethereality around and through the suit, allowing a person to become ethereal and walk through solid objects.

Phantom Bullets (DC 20) – Phantom bullets can be fired from needle guns. Each bullet is imprinted with phantom-tech circuitry. They are designed, after being fired, to become ethereal until they have passed through at least one inch of solid material. This allows them to ignore armor (even natural armor) and to inflict +1d4 points of damage when they become solid within a creature’s body

Phantom Ray Goggles (DC 20) – These goggles project a conical ray that separates the molecules of a solid substance, allowing the person wearing the goggles to peer through it

Phantom Ray Trap (DC 25) – These traps look like flat, circular, metal objects about 3 feet in diameter. When laid on the ground, they project a conical phantom tech ray when they are trod upon. This causes the person who trods on them to become ethereal and shift into the Phantom Dimension (fantasy characters know it as the Ethereal Plane), where they are trapped. The process takes one minute, giving scientists time to deactivate the device before the person is trapped.

Etherscope (DC 20) – An etherscope looks like a hemispherical but of metal with a glass screen, with all sorts of dials and antennae projecting from it. It permits one to look into the Phantom Dimension from normal space.

Perpetual Role – A Society to Preserve Pen & Paper Gaming

The good folks at Perpetual Role (well, I assume they’re good folks – if it turns out they’re using me in some complex plot to take over the world, I beg your forgiveness and indulgence for my ill-considered collaboration) are dedicated to preserving pen & paper role playing games, both of the Old School and the New School.

They’re currently running and Indiegogo campaign to fund incorporation for their society as a non-profit, with an aim to holding conventions and, well, I’ll quote from their Indiegogo site:

“Perpetual Role is a new society forming to promote the continued interest in pen-and-paper role-playing games and to encourage independent and innovative new games, while honoring the old. This will take many forms, such as encouraging independent creators of unique and original games; supporting the efforts of other small-scale organizations with a gaming bent; preserving the heritage of the hobby and honoring its creators. And we have plans to start a new gaming convention in the next year, with a particular emphasis on indie games of merit and the old school classics so many of us enjoy.”

If this sounds laudable to you, go check out the CAMPAIGN or maybe hit their BLOG for more information.

The Bar Fight Matrix – A Way to Handle Fantasy Slugfests

The bar fight – classic stuff, and a pain in the ass to run. Try this …

First and foremost – how big is this thing? Either find the number of combatants on the table below, or roll randomly:

“Hit Points” refers to the total hit points of the faceless crowd. When hit points are down to zero, the fight is over because all the non-PC combatants have either fled or are unconscious.

Each round, PC’s can choose one of the following actions:

FIGHT: The character jumps into the fight with feet and fists flying – he’ll take all comers

FLEE: The character tries to scramble out of the fight

HIDE: The character is hiding under a table or hiding behind the bar

LOOT: The character wades through the fight picking pockets or stealing drinks

SEEK: The character wades through the fight looking for a specific target; the target could be a person or an item

The Referee rolls 1d10 and checks the matrix below, cross-referencing with each character’s stated action. Any time a character suffers damage, they must pass a saving throw (Fortitude, or vs. petrifiation) with a penalty equal to the damage to avoid being either stunned (lose turn for 1d3 rounds) or knocked unconscious for 1d10 minutes. There is a 50% chance of either. A stunned character is considered to have chosen “Hide” as his action each round he is stunned.

A is for “Attacked”
The PC is attacked by other combatants, and can attack them back, roll 1d6

1 = AC 10, Attacks with +0 bonus for 1d2 points of damage
2 = AC 11, Attacks with +1 bonus for 1d3 points of damage
3 = AC 12, Attacks with +2 bonus for 1d4 points of damage
4 = AC 13, Attacks with a +3 bonus for 1d6 points of damage
5 = AC 14, Attacks with a +4 bonus for 1d8 points of damage OR attacked by a special combatant who happens to be in the bar (an ogre, minotaur, mind flayer, flumph – whatever)
6 = Attacked by two combatants, roll 1d5 to determine each one; if struck by both of these combatants, the PC must make a save (Fortitude or vs. petrification) or be lifted and thrown:
     / 1-2 = Slid down bar for additional 1d6 points of damage and knocked prone
     / 3-4 = Thrown out door and into street for 1d6 points of damage and knocked prone
     / 5 = Thrown out window and into street for 2d4 points of damage and knocked prone
     / 6 = Thrown off balcony or stairs onto a table, suffering 2d6 points of damage and knocked prone; if this doesn’t make sense, re-roll

B is for “Bystander”

The PC catches sight of an innocent (or not) bystander

1-2 = Child (or maybe a halfling) hiding from the fight; lawfuls must attempt to save them, first by seeking and then by fleeing
3-4 = A dancing girl or guy (we’re urbane and sophisticated in the Land of Nod) motions you over to a door; you must “Move” to get there (it is 2d10 feet away), and once there are pulled inside and either:
     / 1-2 = Quit the fight and do some more enjoyable wrestling (50% chance of being slipped a Mickey or simply being pick pocketed, 10% chance you are hunted down by a jealous lover afterwards) – either way, you earn XP per a 3 HD monster you dog!
     / 3-4 = Suckered into an ambush, roll as per “A” above, but roll 1d3+3, and you don’t get to hit back
     / 5-6 = Punched by the girl/guy (AC 10, attack at +1, 1d2 points of damage) – this is a surprise attack, so you don’t get to hit back
5-6 = See a damsel faint, roll attack vs. AC 15 to catch her for XP (per a 1 HD monster) and now must fight with a -2 penalty to hit

F is or “Flying Debris”

The PC is struck by flying debris; monks can make a deflect arrows roll to avoid this, but for everyone else it is just the luck of the draw. Roll 1d6

1-3 = Hit by bottle for 1d3 points of damage; save vs. stunning or unconscious
4 = Hit by chair for 1d6 points of damage; save vs. stunning or unconscious
5 = Hit by a flying body for 2d4 points of damage; save vs. stunning or unconscious; if a compatriot was thrown this round, you were hit by them
6 = Hit by a random spell (1st or 2nd level), type depends on what spell casters are present; if no spell caster is present, roll again.

L is for “Looting”

The PC acquires some loot – roll 1d6

1 = Acquire a single mug of ale or a shot of whiskey
2 = Make pick pocket roll to acquire 1d10 cp worth of goods
3 = Make pick pocket roll at -5% to acquire 1d10 sp worth of goods
4 = Make pick pocket roll at -10% to acquire 1d10 gp worth of goods
5 = Make pick pocket roll at -15% to acquire 1d10 pp worth of goods
6 = Make pick pocket roll at -20% to acquire a treasure map or some other plot-driver
On a failed pick pockets roll, you are attacked (see “A” above)

M is for “Movement”

The PC moves 1d10 feet towards his chosen exit (door, stairs to second floor, etc.)

N is for “Nothing”

Nothing happens to you this round, nor do you get to do anything

R is for “Reach Target”

PC reaches the target they were looking for!

“Okay, Break it up!”
Each round of the fight, there is a 1 in 20 chance that the town guard shows up in force to break up the fight. Assume a number of men-at-arms equal to the number of PCs, plus 1 man-at-arms per 3 hit points worth of crowd remaining. Combatants, including the PC’s, will be arrested (unless they fight their way out or find a way to sneak out). If the guard is on its way, there is a 50% chance that the round before they arrive some bystander yells “Cheese it! The Cops!” to give the combatants a warning.

Bringing a Knife to a Fist Fight
Pulling a weapon or casting a damage-dealing spell during a bar fight is a chaotic act (small “c” chaotic, not big “C” summoning-Cthulhu-to-destroy-the-world chaotic – i.e. you’re a dick); and results in you being avoided by other combatants for the duration, but suffering a -4 penalty to reaction checks in this settlement forevermore. Also, it just isn’t any fun.

Death and Dismemberment
Bar fights shouldn’t really result in PC death – death just isn’t the point of these things – but your mileage may vary. At 0 hit points, assume that a PC has been knocked out and will awaken in jail (or the stocks) if not rescued by a compatriot.

The Periplus of the Erythaean Sea

Well, with all the hex numbers stripped off … just ask the archaeologist who had to trudge through snake-ridden wilderness to find the remains of Rhapta.

The Periplus of the Erythaean Sea was a Greco-Roman production that jotted down, very succinctly, the major ports of the Erythaean Sea, which translates as Red Sea, but which included what we would call the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.

How’s this for keeping it brief and lively …

1. Of the designated ports on the Erythraean Sea, and the market-towns around it, the first is the Egyptian port of Mussel Harbor. To those sailing down from that place, on the right hand, after eighteen hundred stadia, there is Berenice. The harbors of both are at the boundary of Egypt, and are bays opening from the Erythraean Sea.
2. On the right-hand coast next below Berenice is the country of the Berbers. Along the shore are the Fish-Eaters, living in scattered caves in the narrow valleys. Further inland are the Berbers, and beyond them the Wild-flesh-Eaters and Calf-Eaters, each tribe governed by its chief; and behind them, further inland, in the country towards the west, there lies a city called Meroe.
3. Below the Calf-Eaters there is a little market-town on the shore after sailing about four thousand stadia from Berenice, called Ptolemais of the Hunts, from which the hunters started for the interior under the dynasty of the Ptolemies. This market-town has the true land-tortoise in small quantity; it is white and smaller in the shells. And here also is found a little ivory like that of Adulis. But the place has no harbor and is reached only by small boats.
Just throw in a magic fountain and some rampaging orcs, and you’re all set.
You might want to work out a periplus of important towns for your own campaign and give a copy to the players. Keep it vague, hint at some coolness, and then let them have at it.
Oh, and due to looking up the Wikipedia article on the periplus (cool word), I discovered the Himyarite Kingdom, which became a Jewish monarchy on the Arabian Peninsula that exercised great control over the frankincense and spice trade. The Arabian Peninsula, with all the interesting kingdoms and empires surrounding it, and the possibility of lost cities and tombs within it (I’m looking at you, Irem), would be another great locale for a RPG campaign. 
Hell, what am I saying? The entire Erythaean Sea would be a kick-ass place for sea-borne adventures in the vein of Sinbad. I really need a duplicate-inator to make multiple me’s – there’s just so much writing I would love to do.

Great Place for a D&D Campaign …

Ever consider Bactria and Gandhara right next door?

You have an area that supported lots of small cities, was washed over by many different cultures and religions (i.e. ruins to explore), lots of rugged wilderness (excellent for swords & sandals – conan sort of adventure) filled with manticores, Chinese dragons, Mongolian death worms, flumphs (hey, why not?) – what’s not to love?

Is there a classic D&D/AD&D module you couldn’t shoehorn in here? And Samarkand! You have freaking Samarkand!
Bactrian camels – double-humpers!
Scale mail for the win!
Cataphracts – 99% cooler name than “knight”

Pointy steel hats and chainmail face masks!

You want variety?

Think of the character variety that is possible here!
Finally, monks are just as much at home here as every other class in the game!
Exotic headgear – check!
Kick ass helmets

You want treasure?

A Gold Stater – I may be prejudiced, but what a great name for a coin!

Silver pieces from Gandhara
Gold earrings depicting men with dragons
Stone plate

You want exotic gods and goddesses?

Athena (LG) of the Olympians
Buddha (LN)
Hercules (CG)
A whole new way to do Caves of Chaos


Another bodhisattva, but who says it can’t be Vecna?

Epic Adventure in Three Rules (Dice Not Included)Image

Print this out

Image by Tom Gauld; found at Love Truth & Beauty

Roll a dice on it (or flip a coin or throw a dart)

That’s what you are

The Ref does the same to pick the antagonist of the epic tale

Anything you want to do that your character should be good at, you do on a roll of 1-4; everything else you do on a roll of 1-2

The size of the dice depends on the difficulty – usually it’s a d6, but the Ref can make it bigger if what you’re trying to do is harder, more epic, more dramatic or more final

Opposed rolls (like combat) are just that – whoever rolled the highest and still succeeded on her roll wins; oh, and opposed actions must always be prefaced by, “Oh yeah? Well I …” or they don’t count.

All done!

DUDE – POST 900!

On Subterranean Landscapes

Now that I’m firmly ensconced in writing about the Underworld, it behooved me to put some thought into landscapes deep beneath the surface of the earth. To that end, I dashed out some ideas to work off of – and will probably add to it as I go. Of course, these are fantastic landscapes, so take them with a grain of salt. Maybe they’ll be useful to some other world builders out there.

– Circle
– Oval (fat or tall)
– Square
– Rectangle(fat or tall)
– Diamond
– Hexagonal

Character of the Walls/Ceiling
– Ledges (wide, narrow, steep, gentle)
– Pocked with cave opening or openings (ground level, high, how many?, uninhabited, abandoned, inhabited by animal life or sentient life?)
– Waterfalls pouring from the walls/ceiling- Lava flowing from the walls/ceiling
– Smooth and hard to climb
– Damp and slimy
– Hot to the touch (lava flows behind them?)
– Carved (art, cliff dwellings, stairs or ladders to caves, mines, rent by claws)
– Glowing (phosphorescent fungus or minerals, radiation, magic)

Character of the Floor
– Canyons / badlands
– Ridges (blunt, razor-sharp obsidian)
– Mounds- Stalactites (massive) – stalagmites above presumably
– Sandy
– Pebbled / rocky
– Smooth and flat
– Wet and slippery – myriad of streamlets
– Subterranean river (slow and lazy with inhabitants on banks, torrential, glacial)
– Underground lake (fed by streams or a spring)- Sharp incline- Sharp decline
– Very low ceiling (6d6 feet)
– Sinkholes (karst topography)
– Geysers / steam vents / gas vents
– Chasm (stream or lava or sand or quicksand or spikes or poison gas at bottom, inhabited by giant monster or small monsters)
– Strewn with bones (fell from above, remains of battle, remains of large predator’s hunt)
– Pools or lakes (clear and clean water, hot springs with mineral salts, brackish and slimy, saline water, mild or powerful acid, magical, mercury)

Character of the Air
– Damp and chill – misty
– Damp and warm – steamy
– Dry and chill
– Dry and warm
– Hot (volcanic activity involved, or magic)
– Frigid
– Smoky and acrid
– Acidic tang to the air
– Smell of rot and decay
– Cacaphony of animal or monster noises
– Sound of running water
– Rumble of geological activity
– Windy (gentle, powerful, vortex/tornado)

– Fungal fields (requires water or damp air and animal fuel)
o Slimes (ooze encounters likely)
o Mushrooms (small) (chance of mushroom monsters)
o Mushrooms (large) (chance of mushroom monsters)
o Algae
o Moss
o Bacterial soup (primordial ooze) (ooze encounters likely)
o 20% chance of grazers
o 1% chance of sentient creatures – farmstead

– Animals (probably requires fungal fields)
o Bats
o Cave fish or eels
o Moles
o Cave salamanders
o Cave crickets
o Shrimp
o Cave beetles
o Cave crayfish
o Silverfish
o Isopods
o Cave snail
o Velvet worms
o Cave wolf spider
o Harvestman spider
o Eyeless albino millipede
o Cave sandhopper
o Beauty rat snake
o Mole rats (good source of intelligent species based on Rufus)
o Note – troglobite creatures have heightened senses (hearing, touch, smell), lack of pigment and eyesight, lack of wings and longer appendages in insects)

– Minerals or Gases

If you have any bright ideas to add to this list, I’d love to hear them!

Image by Dave Bunnel, found at Wikipedia

Super Lazy Free RPG Day Post

I like to think that every day is free RPG day in the Land of Nod. Yeah, I know – a cheap blog post. I’ll have something more fun later today.

A bare-bones sketch of an idea for a sci-fi “dungeon crawl” game involving a team of heroes delving into a dark lord’s space fortress to rescue the space princess.

Mystery Men! is a rules-lite role playing game based on the original fantasy rpg that lets you play out comic book adventures. Includes a sample setting and scenario. Available at as a BOOK.

The basic rules for the PARS FORTUNA experiment in random game design include four playable race/classes (level 1 to 4), sixty spells from level 1 to 3, dozens of monsters, 40 new magic items and scads of alternate rules. Play PARS FORTUNA on its own or use it as a toolbox to spice up your favorite old school rules. The complete rules are on sale at as a PDF and BOOK.

In this first issue of NOD, you can explore the Wyvern Coast, a sandbox hexcrawl with over 190 encounters. There are six new classes, three new races, a random village generator, a dozen new deities, new monsters, and more! Compatible with most Old School game systems. Over 1,300 downloads so far – what have you been waiting for!? Available at as a BOOK.

This holiday issue of NOD includes a massive sandbox hexcrawl adventure, another level of the Pleasure Palace of Izrigul (and a very odd level at that), holiday-inspired spells and magic items, a pseudo-Olympian pantheon of gods and goddesses and The Traveler – a world-hopping class for old school games. Available at as an E-BOOK and BOOK.

The Jack-of-all-Trades

I was having a drink at Tenkar’s Tavern, when I overheard his musing about making a bard-ier bard than I did in NOD 1. I commented that one possibility for a different bard would be one that can sort of “fake” the class abilities of other classes. The idea lodged in my head, and so I whipped up this goofy class.

Oh, and this baby is Open Game Content

The jack-of-all-trades (and yes, there are female jacks – just adjust the verbiage as you see fit, maybe jill-of-all-trades) is a wandering ne’er-do-well that has seen it all and done it all – at least, that’s the way he tells it. Truthfully, he is an observant fellow always on the look for an opportunity, and that includes a bit of tomb robbing and dungeon delving when the pickings have been slim. The jack has the enviable ability to play at all the different classes of fantasy adventurer, though they do best at emulating the thief. But, in a sticky situation, he might recall the way that wizard once levitated himself out of a pit – he said something like “Abra Kadabra” and then set a feather atop his head – or maybe when presented by a clutch of angry kobolds, he recalls the way that fighting-man held off a whole gang by himself using only the pieces of a broken chair.

Prime Requisite: Charisma, 13+ gives a +5% bonus to earned XP.

Hit Dice: 1d8 per level to level 9, +2 hit points per level thereafter.

Weapons: Any.

Armor: Leather and shield.

Jack-of-all-Trades Abilities
The Jack-of-all-Trades uses the cleric’s combat matrix.

Everybody’s Pal: The jack-of-all-trades gets around, and he knows how to work a crowd. Most jack’s can play an instrument, dance, sing, tell stories and do minor tricks. They receive a +1 (or +5%) on reaction checks (double with dragons) and always leave a tavern with at least one rumor.

Background: Even a first level jack-of-all-trades has a bit of history under his belt. Choose one of the following backgrounds for your little scoundrel.

Acolyte: He was thrown out of the seminary/temple school for unworthy behavior, possibly with women of ill repute or for stealing the holy wine. He has a +5% chance to emulate cleric abilities and is literate.

Apprentice: He was dropped by his eldritch master for something referred to only as “the incident” – brooms might have been involved. He has a +5% chance to emulate magic-user and is literate.

Soldier: He deserted from the army on the eve of a major battle, possibly with his fellows’ pay. He has a +5% chance to emulate fighting-man abilities and can wear chainmail (though doing so spoils his use of magic-user and thief abilities).

Bits and Pieces: The jack-of-all-trades wanders widely and rubs elbows with a diverse crowd. As he walks through life, he learns bits and pieces from others, and he is always observing and making notes. This gives the jack-of-all-trades a percentage chance to use the abilities of the other classes (see advancement table below).

Cleric abilities usable by the jack-of-all-trades include turning undead, casting cleric spells and using cleric scrolls. When attempting to cast a cleric spell, divide the jack’s percentage chance of success by the level. Fouling up a cleric ability carries with it a 1% chance of divine retribution, the exact form of which is up to the Referee.

Fighting-Man abilities include making multiple attacks against creatures with less than 1 Hit Dice (the jack need only make the roll once per fight) and using magic items only usable by fighting-men.

Magic-User abilities include casting magic-user spells and the use of staves, wands and magic-user scrolls. As with casting cleric spells, you must divide the jack’s chance of success by the level of the magic-user spell he is attempting. Fouling up a magic-user ability carries with it a 1% chance of ill consequences (roll 1d6 on the table below).

Thief abilities include speaking the cant and back stabbing. The jack-of-all-trades also has a percentage chance to use a thief’s other abilities (climb walls, pick pockets, etc) equal to half that of a true thief of the same level.

Whether the jack’s ability to ape these classes applies to “sub-classes” (the monk, druid, etc), is up to the Referee. Perhaps the jack’s player might have to choose whether he can emulate the class or one of the sub-classes, just to keep things even.