Dragon by Dragon – November 1980 (43)

It’s time for another review of the grand old Dragon, and this time with a special guest appearance by White Dwarf #21. I figure, why not look at what WD was up to during the same month of Dragon I’m reviewing – see how the gaming communities in the US and UK differed.

First, though, we’ll dip into the Dragon and see what $3 got you back in 1980.

As you might be able to tell from the cover, this issue presents a new version of the Witch as an “NPC” class, written by Bill Mulhausen and revised and edited by Kim Mohan and Tom Moldvay. The first was back in Dragon #20, from November of 1978. I guess November is the month for witches.

This version is much like the one that will appear a few years later, dividing the witch into low (level 1-16) and high (level 17-22) orders. This is reminiscent of the AD&D druid. Here are a few of the essentials of the witch:

Requirements: Intelligence and Wisdom must be 15 or higher, must be human or elf (and elves are limited to 9th level, and can multi-class as witches).

Hit Dice: d4 to 11th level, +1 hit point per level thereafter.

Attack and save as magic-users.

Witches receive bonus spells for high Intelligence, as a cleric does for high Wisdom. Their chance to know each spell and such are as for a magic-user. For younger readers, AD&D magic-users had a percent chance to be able to learn any given spell of a level. This was based on their intelligence. You had to roll for each spell to see if a magic-user could learn it. So yeah, you could conceivably have a magic-user who couldn’t learn magic missile, fireball or lightning bolt.

The witch has rules for followers (gains 1d10x20 at 9th level if she establishes a place of worship), and rules about how many apprentices she can have.) She can apply for membership in the high order at level 10 if her Intelligence and Wisdom are 16 or higher and if she possesses a magic crystal ball, mirror or libram. High order witches can advance to 22nd level, and they receive special high order spells at each level from 16 to 22.

Besides their spells, they can brew poisons and narcotics, which they learn as they advance in level. This includes sleep (3rd level), truth (4th level) and love potions 6th level). She can read druid scrolls with no chance of failure, magic-user and illusionist scrolls with a 10% chance of failure and cleric spells if the spell is also on the witch’s spell list (8th level).

Witches can manufacture one magic candle per month at 9th level. The candles can cause love, offer magical protection, heal damage and other effects. She gets a familiar at 10th level, can brew flying ointment at 13th level, control dolls at 15th level, can fascinate with her gaze at 17th level, use limited wish at 21st level and shape change at 22nd level.

The witch has 8 levels of spells, which involve lots of charming, divination, some healing and a few offensive spells. It’s a cool class, but I can’t help but think you’d be just as well off with a magic-user.

Dave Cook (that one) offers some survival tips for the Slave Pits tournament at GenCon XIII. I only mention it here because those adventures went on to be classics when they were published as modules.

We also learn in this issue that Frank Mentzer won the 4th Invitational AD&D Masters Tournament at GenCon XIII. Dig that crazy shirt …

Speaking of great Dungeon Masters, this issue has a DM Evaluation Form for players to fill out. Here’s a sample …

This runs on for several pages and 43 questions! A couple issues ago, a reader complained that the adventures in the magazine were filler. This, ladies and gentlemen, is filler. I’m guessing GenCon kept them busy.

The Bestiary has some choice bits …

This is an amazon, art by Erol Otus (of course), monster by Roger E. Moore. I’d detail the monster stats here, but frankly, they’re humans and the women do all the “men’s work” and vice versa. Not much to see here – but the art is cool.

Todd Lockwood has a monster called a Tolwar that is basically a trunkless elephant who can telekinetically throw boulders (2d12 damage). They serve as loyal mounts.

Tolwar, Large Monster: HD 6, AC 15, ATK 1 slam (2d4) or 2 boulders (900’/2d12), MV 40′, SV F10 R11 W17, AL Neutral (N), XP 600 (CL 7), Special-Hurl boulders, only surprised on 1, telekinesis (100 lb), catch boulders with telekinesis (75%).

Ed Greenwood presents the lythlyx, a weird spiral creature that whips, constrict and drain blood from people.

Lythlyx, Large Aberration: HD 6, AC 19, ATK 1 whip (2d6 + constrict 3d6 + blood drain 1d4), MV 15′ (Fly 20′, Swim 20′), SV F13 R14 W11, AL Neutral (N), XP 600 (CL 7), Special-Blood drain can be used to heal monster (heal 1 hp per 4 hp taken), immune to charm, command, fear, hold monster and sleep, psionic attacks (all).

Now, give me a bunch of amazon warriors on tolwars hurling boulders at a band of adventurers who have stolen some amazon gold and are hiding in a half-ruined wizard’s tower, and you’ve got an adventure.

Philip Meyers has an article about disbelieving illusions, or more specifically phantasmal force. He comes up with a little system based on the intelligence of viewer and how suspicious they are about what they’re seeing. In the table below, situation 1 represents a character who has been informed about the illusion, and 6 is where the character expects to see what the illusion is depicting – in other words, 1 is super suspicious, and 6 is not suspicious at all.

The number is the percent chance of disbelief. It is increase by +20% if olfactory or thermal components are expected but not present, +20% if aural components are expected but not present, +10% if victim of illusion is an illusionist, -10% if victim is surprised and +10% if victim’s Wisdom is 15 or higher.

I reckon you can do about the same by giving a bonus to save vs. phantasmal force as opposed to improved phantasmal force or spectral force.

This issue contains a Traveller adventure called Canard. I won’t comment, because I’ve never played Traveller, but if you’re a fan, it’s probably worth checking out.

Two reviews which might be of interest – the first a Game Designers Workshop (not Games Workshop, as I originally posted) offering called Azhanti High Lightning, about fighting aboard a giant starship. The review was positive, but wonders whether or not they should have tried to tie it to Traveller.

They also review SPI’s DragonQuest, their first “serious” foray into Fantasy RPGs. The reviewer likes it – the intentional rather than random character generation, the action points in combat – but does not care for the way experience is handed out. Overall – positive review, and another reminder that Old School gaming was already becoming “Old School” in 1980.

I’ll also note Hero, by Yaquinto Games. It was an “album game” – “The physical layout is like that of a double record album. The components are stored in the pockets, while the playing surface is printed on the two inside faces.”

Very cool idea, and it would be fun to see something similar done these days, especially considering the connection between Old School gaming and bitchin’ Heavy Metal album art.

I liked this comic …

A scroll of illiteracy would be a great cursed item in a game.

A fair issue of Dragon, with a couple notable bits.

So, what was White Dwarf up to in November (really Oct/Nov) of 1980.

First – cool cover, but there are much better WD covers yet to come. You also notice, right off, that the layout of WD is much more professional than for Dragon at this point. Dragon makes some improvements over the years, but frankly never looked as good, and by the 1990’s and 2000’s looked terrible.

In this issue, Andrew Finch presents some cool material inspired by The Chronicle of Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever. We have a new class, Lore Lords, who combine the spell-casting ability of magic-users and clerics, along with d8 hit dice and studded leather armor. Fortunately, this is balanced by a high XP requirement. Similar classes are the Rhadamaerl, who specialize in the lord of stone, and Hirebrand, who specializes in the lore of wood. There are also Bloodguards, who serve as bodyguards for Lore Lords, songs of summoning and words of power. Having never read the Thomas Convenant books, I cannot rate how accurate these classes are, but for fans they’re probably worth checking out. One bit I liked for Lore Lords was their ability to communicate telepathically with one another. A cool house rule might permit magic-users with intelligence and wisdom of 15 or higher to communicate this way with one another.

Roger E. Moore (yeah, that guy) presents a merchant class. It’s actually pretty close to the Venturer class I did, and I promise I hadn’t seen this write up when I wrote mine. Moore’s merchants can open locks, appraise items and use suggestion and command when speaking with people. These are all percentage skills, like those of the thief. Good class.

Azhanti High Lightning gets a review in this issue – positive as in the Dragon.

The Fiend Factory has several cool monsters, the Brothers of the Pine, Chthon, Enslaver, Micemen, Dragon Warriors, Grey Sqaargs and Cyclops. Here are some quick stats:

Brothers of the Pine, Medium Undead: HD 3, AC 15 [+1], ATK 1 weapon, MV 30′, SV F15 R15 W12, AL Chaotic (LE/NE), XP 1500 (CL 5), Special-Cast one 1st level druid spell per day, shrieking wail (save or flee for 1d8 turns), immune to cold, resistance to electricity, vulnerable to fire, only plant-based spells affect them.

Chthon, Medium Aberration: HD 8, AC 20, ATK nil, MV 0′, SV F13 R- W9, AL Chaotic (LE), XP 800 (CL 10), Special-Mineral intellect that hates all animal and plant life, especially intelligent, control up to 20 plants and animals (save to negate).

Enslaver, Tiny Aberration: HD 2+1, AC 14, ATK special, MV 10′, SV F19 R17 W12, AL Chaotic (CE), XP 200 (CL 3), Special-Blindsight 30′, 90% chance of hiding among rocks, dominate creatures that touch them (save negates), hosts freed from domination must make system shock roll or die, hosts are immune to pain and mind effects.

Micemen (crossbreed of brownie and orc!), Small Humanoid: HD 1-1, AC 13, ATK 1 javelin and dagger, MV 30′, SV F14 R16 W16, AL Chaotic (LE), Special-Infravision 90′, shun bright lights, surprise (4 in 6). Despite the picture, I’d like to see these dudes as evil piglets dressed as Robin Hood.

Dragon Warrior (made from dragon teeth), Medium Construct: HD 5+1, AC special, ATK 1 weapon, MV 20′, SV F14 R14 W14, AL Neutral (N), XP 500 (CL 6), Special-Cannot speak, obey commands, last for a number of turns equal to the dragon’s age category, +1 to hit, +2 to damage, attack as 6th level fighters, immune to parent’s breath weapon type, sleep, charm and hold, clad in scale armor and armed with broadsword, disintegrate when killed or dispelled.

Grey Sqaarg, Medium Construct: HD 6, AC 22, ATK 1 grapple, MV 20′, SV F14 R14 W14, AL Neutral (N), Special-Constructs built by ancient dwarves, never initiate attack, fight with strength bonus to hit and damage equal to combined modifiers of attackers, grapples to incapacitate people, made of solid stone, magic resistance 30%.

Cyclops, Large Giant: HD 6, AC 14, ATK 2 claws (1d6), bite (2d6), MV 30′, SV F10 R14 W14, AL Chaotic (CE), Special-Hypnotic stare, -1 to hit melee, -2 to hit ranged, +2 save vs. illusion, prefer to eat demi-humans to humans, breed with human females.

White Dwarf #21 also contains a sci-fi boardgame called Survival and a dungeon called the Tomb of the Maharaja. It is, I’m afraid, quite short and not terribly interesting.

All-in-all, some pretty cool stuff from the Brits in November 1980 – and of course, lots of art by Russ Nicholson.

Well, that does it for this edition of Dragon by Dragon. As always, I leave you with Tramp …

The Saboteur – A New-Old Class

Circa 1984, I was in 6th grade and discovering role playing games – well, Dungeons & Dragons. I’d played a game with a friend who only knew the game based on watching his older brother play. He drew up a dungeon on graph paper, and during recess he ran me through it using a D6.

The next step was me getting Moldvay Basic from Toys ‘R’ Us, then Cook Expert, then into the AD&D line (dude – rangers are cool).

Now, I want to bring the younger readers back into these primitive times. Photocopiers existed, but they weren’t cheap. I convinced my mom to spend a decent chunk of change letting me check out copies of Dragon magazine from the library, take them to Kinkos, and copying articles at $.25 a page. Eventually she found it cheaper to get me a subscription for Christmas. Before I got to that lofty place, though, the way I copied stuff was with a typewriter. I remember borrowing module B1 – In Search of the Unknown – from a friend and typing it page by page – double column (which involved actually making a few spaces and then writing the line of text in the next column) and then tracing the pictures. Hey – it worked – got B1 for free (wish I still had that copy I typed).

Around that time, I decided to write my own game. To say it was heavily influenced by D&D rules would be an understatement, of course, but I was smart enough to know that if the game was to be original, I needed to spin things a bit. Thus, the thief became the saboteur. I don’t remember much about the old saboteur (again, wish I still had those typewritten pages somewhere), but today I got to thinking about that old game, and those old times, and figured I’d make a new saboteur class for Blood & Treasure.


Hit Dice: d6 per level, +2 hp per level after 10th
Attack: as thief
Save: as thief

Saboteurs must have a dexterity score of 9 or higher and an intelligence score of 12 or higher. They can wear up to leather armor and cannot use shields. Saboteurs can use daggers, flails, clubs, maces, morningstars, crossbows and firearms.

Special Abilities

Saboteurs are skilled at the following tasks: Climb walls, hide in shadows, move silently, open locks, remove traps, use and disable mechanical devices, use magic items (after 8th level) and operate siege engines. For many of these tasks, they require a set of sabotage tools.

Saboteurs are capable of concocting explosives. At 1st level, they can concoct black powder explosives that deal 1d6 points of damage per pound. They can attach fuses that take from 1 round to 1 minute to detonate. One pound of powder requires 1 day and 10 gp for the saboteur to create.

When a 3rd level saboteur strikes a foe that is wearing armor, he can forgo dealing damage and instead lower their effective Armor Class by 1 per 3 saboteur levels. The effective AC of the armor remains lowered after the combat until it is repaired by an armorer.

At 6th level, the saboteur can spend an extra day and an extra 25 gp (so 2 days, 35 gp) to make a more refined and powerful explosive that deals 1d10 points of damage per pound.

Saboteurs always deal double damage with their weapons and explosives against constructs and mechanical devices. This includes magical constructs. A 6th level saboteur can damage golems even without magic weapons, though he does not deal double damage against them. Moreover, when he successfully strikes a golem by rolling a natural ’20’, the golem loses its magic immunity for 1 round.

9th level saboteurs can damage magic items to the extent that they lose their powers for up to 1 day per the saboteur’s intelligence bonus (if she has an intelligence bonus). The saboteur must be able to handle the item, and must employ lodestones, lead wire and a silver hammer to temporarily cancel the magic item’s properties.

Saboteurs do not build strongholds, but they do gain followers. Starting at 7th level, a saboteur attracts one follower per level until they reach 11th level. Followers who die are not replaced. Roll these followers on the following chart:

1. 1d4 gnome tinkerers (0-level)
2. 1d3 rogues (0-level – see henchmen section to determine abilities)
3. 1d2 men-at-arms (leather armor, short sword, light crossbow)
4. Assassin (roll 1d2 for level)*
5. Thief (roll 1d3 for level)*
6. Saboteur apprentice (roll 1d4 for level)*

* Takes a 10% share of the saboteur’s experience points.

Laser Mage, Because Why Not?

Image found HERE

Sometimes, you need a weird class to shake things up. The laser mage is one of those classes that starts as a phrase that pops into your head, and then begins to take shape as you let your mind wander and explore. I saw a guy with a wand covered in crystals who could do interesting things with light – something like a combination of illusionist and evoker, but more focused. I pictured something of a magical duelist, a class for people who had played everything and were ready to figure out how to make something new work for them, or people who didn’t want their class abilities to lock them into a particular role.


Laser mages are arcane wash-outs. They never quite got the hang of magic in general, but showed a weird interest in, and ability with, the light spell. Light is to the laser mage what read magic is to normal magic-users – the key spell without which they cannot operate. They know it so well, they can cast it from memory.

To produce multiple effects with this single spell, the laser mage needs a light projector. The projector looks like a rod or thick wand. It is a hollow metal tube about one foot long and tipped with a faceted rock crystal. The crystal is cut by the laser mage, so as they progress in level their skill as a gem cutter increases as well. They also learn how to use other translucent gemstones, faceted or curved, to increase the effectiveness of their spell, or produce additional effects.

Intelligence and Dexterity of 13 or higher

Armor & Weapons
As magic-user

A 1st level laser mage can cast the light spell at will. Casting this spell through his light projector is how he manifests all of his other abilities, not including his skill as a gem cutter and his ability to appraise the value and quality of precious stones.

The first thing a laser mage learns to do is project rays of light through the crystal at the end of his light projector. These rays have a range of 20’ and require a ranged attack roll to hit. The ray’s effect depends on the laser mage’s level and, of course, how intense they want it to be.

These improved rays, and the other special light effects gained by the laser mage are dependent on the laser mage improving the main gemstone in his light projector. This must be done at the following levels, with a gem of a stated value (or higher): 4th level, 100 gp, 6th level 500 gp, 8th level 1,000 gp, 10th level 2,500 gp and 12th level, 5,000 gp. The gem must be polished and cut by the laser mage himself, requiring a gem cutting task check (Reflex task, modified by dexterity, skilled).

At 3rd level, a laser mage can project a beam of light from the projector that can be used as a sword. The beam deals damage as the ray would, and requires a melee attack to hit.

By adding additional colored gemstones to the light projector, the laser mage can project 10’ cones that influence emotions (Will save to resist) as follows: Red gems cause rage or dispel fear effects, blue gems calm emotions or dispel charm effects, yellow gems cause crushing despair or grant a +1 bonus to reaction checks, and green gems cause fatigue (for 1 turn) or inspire good hope.

Finally, the 1st level laser mage can use his light projector to analyze materials, gases and liquids. A knowledge task check is required to interpret the results (Will task, modified by Wisdom, skilled), which determine the material’s content, and which can detect magic.

At 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th level, the laser mage can add a gemstone worth at least 50 gp to the handle of his light projector to improve the projector’s function. The laser mage determines the improvement gained at each level. Only one improvement can be applied to any given light effect. The potential improvements are: Double range, double duration, impose -2 penalty to saves against the effect and add +1 to hit on ray attacks.

Laser mage’s can create the following additional effects with their light projectors, based on their level and provided they have added the proper stone’s to their light projector:

A 9th level laser mage may open an academy. He attracts 1d6 gem cutters (0-level), 1d6 men-at-arms, 1d6 1st level laser mage students and a 3rd level laser mage to act as his lieutenant.


Dragon by Dragon – July 1980 (39)

It’s been too long since I did a review of The Dragon. Between work and trying to write/edit a few games, Sundays have been just packed, but today I’m diving back in. This week, we’re examining The Dragon #39, released in July of 1980. I can remember those days. I was 8, and I think the entire country was just about fed up with the 1970’s. Despite what you might have picked up in a revisionist history class, the 1970’s sucked. Hard. In RPG land, though, things were heating up – new companies, new games, and TSR and D&D were about to hit the heights.

So, what did July’s issue have to offer? Let’s check out this edition’s Top 10 cool things.

As we often do, we start with an advertisement. This time from Iron Crown Enterprises. I’m trying to remember if I’d seen an I.C.E. advertisement in The Dragon yet, and I don’t think I have. God knows, we’ll see plenty in the issues ahead.

I must say, there’s a bit of humor in an ad that looks like that and boasts about “fine graphics”.

They also left their state off the address – did everyone know where Charlottesville was back in the day?

Anyhow – they would go on to produce some pretty good material – from tiny acorns do mighty oaks grow.


Here’s a sign of the times:

“Snap! Crackle! Zap! THE DRAGON computes! Recently, we’ve acquired a TRS-80 computer here at THE DRAGON (for those of you into home computers, it’s the Level II with 16K memory, a 16K expansion interface, two floppy-disc drives, and a printer). In addition to using it in conjunction with Mark Herro’s ‘Electric Eye’ column, we’ll now be able to look at a few of the plethora of game programs now available on the commercial market, and (hopefully) do some reviewing on our own. Please hold off on sending us your own home-brew programs for a bit yet; we’ll have our hands full with what’s on the market already. But electronic gaming is looming on the gaming horizon, and THE DRAGON is going to be ready for it.”

Personally, I don’t think electronic gaming will ever catch on.


Fantasysmith did some really nice miniatures articles, and the art was always top notch. This one in particular deserves an airing after 35 years:

The one thing left off this guideline: Be good at painting. When I did the miniatures thing, I had no problem choosing the goal  … I was just often less than successful in getting there.


Really, this should be Cool #1, because this article by George Laking and Tim Mesford introduces a “beloved” element of old school gaming – The Anti-Paladin!

We start with awesome art (not sure who drew it), and then move on to the class itself.

The anti-paladin was an NPC class, meaning it couldn’t be used by players. To that end, it gives a guide on rolling up the anti-paladin’s scores, using 12+1d6 for strength, for example, or 10+1d8 for constitution. Charisma has a special formula that uses 1d4: a “1” equals 3, a “2” 4, a “3” 17 and “4” 18. On a charisma of 18, there’s a 25% chance of having an exceptional charisma. Anti-paladins with very low charisma cause fear, while those with very high charisma will charm humanoids and other monsters.

I bring the above up to show how different the game was in the old days. There was much more willingness to invent new sub-systems to do things.

Anti-paladins roll d10 for hit points, gaining 3 per level after 9th. They get a host of special abilities, including causing disease and wounds, protection from good, backstabbing, poison use, rebuking undead and demons, a special warhorse and cleric spell use at high levels. Their special swords are called unholy reavers, which is, by the way, pretty sweet.


Why was alignment discussed so much back in the old days? Because alignment was a stand-in for philosophy – moral and ethical philosophy anyways. That made it interesting for lots of people, and contentious as well. A good example is the “Up On a Soap Box” in this issue, in which the following question is asked:

“Is something right just because we think it is right? If Hitler feels that it is right for him to kill six million Jews, is that morally acceptable?”


The first superhero rpg. Review here.

Heavy stuff for a game magazine. Alignment has become a throw away in many modern games, or has been rendered down into the faction rules it appears to have grown from. The discussions are still being had, though, in the gaming community and beyond.

Oh, and the answer to the above question is NO.

#4: ERA in RPG

Well, we’ve already mentioned Hitler and the Holocaust in an article about alignment, why not delve into equal rights?

The article is “Women Want Equality and Why Not?” by Jean Wells and Kim Mohan, and there’s a follow-up called “Points to Ponder” by Kyle Gray. I’m not going to delve too much into the contents of the article, but I suggest you find a copy online (it’s there) and read through it. It’s worth comparing and contrasting what was being discussed 35 years ago with what is being discussed today.


Len Lakofka writes an article called “Starting from Scratch” about starting a new campaign and rolling up a new party. The bit I liked was the random tables for rolling up starting spells. For magic-users it’s pretty straight forward – roll once on each table for a magic-user’s three starting spells:

He also suggests a limited number of starting prayers for clerics – 1d4+2 to be exact, with those spells being rolled randomly and modified according to the cleric’s instructor’s alignment.

The article covers much more ground than this, of course, so it’s worth reading.


You know I always like these little Moldvay gems. This edition contains two Norse legends.

Bodvar Bjarki (16th level chaotic good fighter), the son of a Norwegian prince who was turned into a bear during the day. Bjarki wields Lovi, a +3 sword, +6 vs. magic-users.

Egil Skallagrimson (14th level chaotic neutral fighter) who became a viking.

The article also contains a small table of runes.


A question to the sage:

“Question: Why can’t human, half-elf and elven Magic-Users wear armor and still cast spells? Elves and half-elves who are Magic-Users and Fighters can, so I don’t believe it is because of the iron in their armor or weapons. If it is because of training, then Magic-Users could be able to learn how to wear armor and cast spells at the same time—and even a human Magic-User/Fighter could train to acquire the ability.”

My answer – it’s a made up rule to keep the game balanced, you knucklehead. Stop rationalizing make-believe!


This article by Carl Parlagreco is one of the classics. It covers critical hits and fumbles, which it describes as “two of the most controversial subject areas in D&D”. His system is fine enough, but the random tables for the effects of critical hits and fumbles are what makes it really groovy. A sample – critical hit effects of missile and thrusting weapons – follows:


I loved this piece by Karl Horak:

“Several months ago I came across a member of the minority that hasn’t acknowledged Gary as final arbiter. The campaign he ran was based on the original spirit of Chainmail instead of the latest revisions. To say the least, the game was fresh and unorthodox. His foundation was the 3rd edition of Chainmail and his vague recollections of the three-volume set of Dungeons &Dragons, which he never purchased.”

Testify, brother!


I dig the image in the ad to the right – makes you wonder what the Hell is going on. I’m going to turn this into a little side trek into comic books.

When I used to collect the things, the covers were a shorthand blurb about the story in the issue – the idea was to get a kid at a news stand to plunk down their money to find out what was going on.

Now comic book covers are mostly pin-ups, I suppose because they’re aimed at an different audience. They’re usually very well drawn, but personally, I prefer those old covers. They fired the imagination, and were pretty fun. In fact – when I find an old issue, those covers still induce me to buy them. The pin-ups – not so much.

#10: TRAMP

Of course …

That’s all for this week. Hopefully the pace will slow down and I can get another one written next Sunday. I will have some updates this week from the next hex crawl in NOD.

Bring Some Muscle Into the Dungeon

1958. Steve Reeves plays Hercules and not only is a legend born, but a new genre of action/adventure – Sword & Sandals: the heroic adventures of oiled bodybuilders strangling things with their bare hands, bending bars and lifting gates.

We have lots of interesting characters running around fantasy roleplaying games, and plenty have 18’s in Strength, but none of them are true musclemen. Until now …

Requirements & Restrictions
Strength 15+, at least 6’ tall

Musclemen wear no armor, only the hides of the animals and monsters that have slain. They can use shields

Musclemen can wield any weapon, but double-handed weapons are preferred

Hit Dice: d12

Skills: Bend Bars/Lift Gates, Climb Sheer Surfaces, Jump, Swimming

Advance As: Fighter

Special Abilities
Musclemen are capable of using their muscles to influence reactions, either through charm and awe, or sheer intimidation. Musclemen can modify reaction checks with their Strength score rather than Charisma score if the TK deems the situation appropriate.

Musclemen add 1.5 their strength bonus to attacks and damage when armed with double-handed weapons.

Musclemen treat creatures as one size category smaller for grapple and bull rush attacks.

Once per day, a muscleman can call on an adrenaline rush and either re roll a failed strength check with a +2 bonus or double their strength bonus on a single melee attack and damage. They can also make sundering attacks with their bare hands.

A muscleman spends a great deal of time in training. Every four levels, beginning with fourth level, they can deduct one point from intelligence, wisdom or charisma and add it to their strength score.

Musclemen gain additional skills as they advance in level if their strength score is high enough.

Burst Chains and Iron Bands (Level 3, Strength 16) – A muscleman can burst chains and iron bands simply by flexing their chest muscles or biceps.

Toss Dwarf (Level 5, Strength 17) – Musclemen can toss gnomes (Str 17), halflings (Str 19) and dwarfs (Str 21) at opponents. Treat this as a ranged attack with a range of 10 feet. If the muscleman misses, the tossed character gets no attack, loses their turn and suffers 1d4 points of damage. If their attack hits, the tossed character makes an attack as though charging, and the mere act of throwing them scores 1d6 points of damage for gnomes, 1d8 for halflings and 1d10 for dwarves, plus the muscleman’s strength bonus.

Hammer Nails (Level 7, Strength 18) – A muscleman’s sinews are iron hard, allowing him to hammer nails with their bare fists. Difficulties include hammering sharp items larger than nails, or hammering into materials harder than wood.

Bite Through Chains (Level 9, Strength 20) – A muscleman’s jaws are such that he can bite through metal. In addition, he can bite characters that he grapples (treat as an additional unarmed attack).

Of Armsmen and Puissants

I’ve put in some yeoman’s work on the Weird Fantasy Edition of Bloody Basic, and, in the process, had some inspiration for what I think I’m calling the Sinew & Steel Edition.

Sinew & Steel is designed to be a version of Bloody Basic with no magic or supernatural elements at all. In other words, it is role-playing in the real (well, mostly real) Middle Ages, with all the filth and plague you would expect from such a thing. Naturally, Sinew & Steel only has human characters, and they may (at least for now) take levels as armsmen (with the subclasses of barbarian, cavalier and cleric), thief (with the subclasses of assassin, charlatan, hedge wizard and minstrel) and scholar (specializing as a lawyer, theologian or leech). The game will feature some simple rules for strongholds, warfare, storming castles (rather than dungeons) and sieges. When you take out spells, monsters (outside of human and animal monsters) and magical treasure, you sure make a concise game, so I’m trying to fill the pages with other useful materials.

I need to get back to work on the next issue of NOD, and I need to set up my own little playtest of GRIT & VIGOR, but I think I might be able to complete Bloody Basic – Weird Fantasy Edition and Bloody Basic – Sinew & Steel Edition by sometime around mid-summer. And, of course, “midsummer” brings up the possibility of doing a Shakespeare edition of Bloody Basic. ‘Zounds, that would be fun!

Now, the armsman … or as the class is known in the Weird Fantasy Edition, the puissant.

The armsman uses the spell casting ability of the magic-user as a basis for using combat feats. I’ve brought this idea up before, and I’m certainly not the first person to think of it, but I thought I might post the class here for your enjoyment and use.

The armsman is a trained warrior, a master of fence, who is designed to dominate utterly the field of battle. While any sort of historical warrior can be portrayed using the armsman class, most wear heavy armor and carry the most potent weapons they can.

REQUIREMENTS & RESTRICTIONS – Armsmen must have a Strength score of 9 or higher. They can be of any religion, and they can use any weapon and wear any armor.

SPECIAL ABILITIES – Armsmen have the ability to perform feats of combat excellence while fighting. An armsman can perform a limited number of feats per day, based on their level and the level of difficulty of the feat. Armsmen know only a limited number of feats, beginning with three first level feats at first level. An armsman learns a new feat each time they advance in level. They might also learn additional feats from other armsmen.
At sixth level, an armsman gains a retainer. The retainer is a loyal companion under the control of the armsman’s player. The retainer is rolled randomly on the retainer table at the end of this section. The TK should roll ability scores for the retainer and assign them a name and religion. The armsman must pay for his retainer’s room and board. Arsmen receive 25% of the XP earned by the armsman.


1. ARTFUL DODGE – You avoid one enemy attack this round, provided you are capable of moving.

2. CLEAVE – If you slay an opponent this round, you get an extra attack against another opponent within reach.

3. CRITICAL HIT – One successful attack you strike this round does an extra 1d6 points of damage.

4. FAR SHOT – You double the range of a missile weapon attack.

5. FIGHT BLIND – You can make one attack while blind without suffering any penalty on the attack.

6. GUARDS & WARDS – You accept a penalty to hit, and gain a bonus equal to that penalty to your own Armor Class.

7. IRON FIST – You may deal 1d4 points of damage with an unarmed strike this round.

8. POWER ATTACK – You accept a penalty to hit, and if your attack is successful gain a bonus equal to the penalty to damage.

9. QUICK – You add +1 to your initiative roll next round.

10. SHIELD BASH – You may attack with a shield at no penalty, scoring 1d4 points of damage if successful.

11. SWORD & DAGGER – You may attack with two weapons you are holding this round. One weapon can be of medium weight, the other must be light. The light weapon attacks at a penalty of -4 to your attack roll.

12. WEAPON FOCUS – Choose one weapon. For the remainder of this combat, you gain a +1 bonus to hit with that weapon.


1. BULL RUSH – Any opponent you successfully attack this round is also knocked out of your way (up to 5 feet).

2. DEFLECT ARROWS – For one minute you can negate hits on you from missile weapons with a successful Reflex saving throw.

3. DISARM – Any opponent you successful attack this round is also disarmed of their weapon or any other item they are holding.

4. FEINT – Any opponent you successful attack this round is fooled into moving into an awkward position, and is denied an attack on their next turn (whether this round or the next).

5. GRAPPLE – Any opponent you successfully attack with an unarmed strike this round is also held and pinned by you. This pin is maintained until they make a successful attack roll against you.

6. STUNNING FIST – Any opponent you successfully attack with your unarmed strike is dazed for 1d4 rounds. While dazed, they may not move or attack, but can defend themselves.

7. SUNDER – Any opponent you attack this round also has their weapon, shield or some other item they are holding sundered in twain. Fragile items are broken instantly. Wooden items have a 2 in 6 chance of surviving. Metal items have a 4 in 6 chance.

8. TRIP – Any opponent you successfully attack this round is also knocked prone to the ground.


1. GREAT CLEAVE – As long as you keep slaying opponents, you keep gaining extra attacks against new opponents within reach.

2. SHOT ON THE RUN – You may make a full run and still shoot or throw missiles without any penalty to your attacks.

3. SNATCH ARROWS – As deflect arrows, but you actually catch the missiles and may immediately, out of turn, throw them back at your attackers (if they are within range).

4. SPRING ATTACK – You may make a move, attack, and then make a second move.

5. WHIRLWIND ATTACK – You make one attack against every opponent within reach of your weapon. A penalty equal to the total number of attacks you are making is applied to each and every one of these attacks. Attacking five people, therefore, results in a -5 penalty to each of those five attacks.

An armsman with a Constitution of 13 or higher can opt to be a barbarian. Barbarians are wild and woolly warriors from the wilderness. They eschew the civilized ways of normal armsmen. Barbarians do not gain the feats of an armsman and they cannot use armor heavier than maille. Barbarians can go berserk in one combat per day per level. While berserk, the barbarian deducts two from her Armor Class, but scores double damage with successful melee attacks. In addition, barbarians can climb sheer surfaces and move silently as thieves (see below).

An armsmen with a Dexterity score of 13 or higher can opt to be a cavalier. Cavaliers specialize in mounted combat. They suffer no penalty for fighting on horseback, and gain three special feats not available to other armsmen.

1. RIDE-BY ATTACK – While charging on a mount, the cavalier may attack at any point during the charge – in essence, making a move, attacking, and then moving again.

2. SPIRITED CHARGE – The cavalier deals double damage with his weapon attack while charging on a mount.

3. TRAMPLE – The cavalier can trample opponents with its mount by simply riding over them. The mount gets no attacks that round other than trampling, dealing double hoof damage to all in its path unless they pass a Reflex saving throw, in which case they cut the damage in half. The cavalier may still attack with his own weapon while trampling.

An armsman with a wisdom of 13 or higher can opt to become a cleric. Clerics are religious knights or fighting priests. While clerics must have a religion, the extent of their faith is up to them. One can be a fighting bishop and give only cursory lip service to their faith. Clerics can bless, as theologians (see Scholar below).

The Landsknecht

Click to make larger … you know, so you can actually read it

The landsknechts – roughly translated as lowland vassals – were the preeminent mercenaries of Europe in the 16th century, surpassing the famous Swiss pikemen when they defeated them at the Battles of Bicocca and Marignano. The landsknechts were first formed in 1487 by Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor, as an imitation of the Swiss pikemen. Like the Swiss, they relied primarily on the pike with support from crossbowmen, arquebusiers, halberdiers and swordsmen. The landknechts probably reached their height during the Thirty Years War (which is why I’m featuring the class in this issue).

What roll could a landsknecht play in dungeon exploration? It is a common practice to bring retainers into a dungeon to help overpower enemies and soak up their attacks for the player characters. The landsknecht is a master of soldiers, a captain in the field. The landsknecht may not be as powerful a front-line warrior as the fighter, but he brings friends and knows how to use them.

Experience Points: As Fighter

A landsknecht is not trained to fight solo, like a fighter, but rather in a company of warriors. When he starts his career, he is a slightly less powerful fighter, though he receives a +1 bonus to hit with spears, pikes and other polearms due to long training with these weapons.

As the landsknecht advances in level, he adds men-at-arms to his company. At each level beyond 1st, the landsknecht adds a single man-at-arms to his company. The man-at-arms equipment is rolled on the table below:

1-5. Pike (or spear), leather armor, dagger
6-8. Arquebus (or heavy crossbow), leather armor, scimitar
9. Halberd, leather armor, dagger
10. Greatsword, leather armor, dagger

These men-at-arms are the landsknecht’s personal guard, and do not count as his retainers. Retainers can still be hired separately by the landsknecht, and are commanded by him, but they do not benefit from his special abilities as his personal guard does.

A 3rd level landsknecht adds a trabant to his personal guard. The trabant is a 2 HD warrior armed with a greatsword, dagger and ringmail.

A 5th level landsknecht adds a kaplan (chaplain) to his personal guard. The kaplan has the same alignment and patron deity as the landsknecht. He fights as a 2 HD warrior and casts spells as a level two adept. The kaplan is armed with a light mace, buckler and chainmail shirt.
Once per day, a 6th level landsknecht can inspire his personal guard to amazing levels of courage. As long as he is within 10 feet of them, they enjoy a +1 bonus to save vs charm and fear effects, and a +1 bonus to hit and damage for one battle.

A 7th level landsknecht adds a führer (guide) to his personal guard. The guide fights as a 2 HD warrior and has the track and survival skills as a 2nd level ranger.

Once per day, an 8th level landsknecht can inspire his personal guard to greatness. All troops within 30 feet of the landsknecht gain 1 Hit Dice, an additional +1 bonus to hit and damage, and a +1 bonus on all Fortitude saving throws for the duration of one battle.

A 9th level landsknecht adds a standard bearer (and personal standard) to his personal guard at 9th level. The standard increases the fighting ability of his special troops (trabant, kaplan, führer) by one hit dice, and grants his entire personal guard a +1 bonus to save vs. fear and magic spells. The standard bearer fights as a 3 HD warrior, using his standard as a quarterstaff. He also carries a dagger and wears a breastplate.

It is not uncommon for a landsknecht to lose troops, of course. Any troops lost from his personal guard can be purchased in a settlement (town-sized or larger) at a cost of 10 gp per soldier plus equipment costs. Special troops can be purchased for 100 gp plus equipment costs.

Holy Moses, It’s a New Class!

Yes, a new class … probably the last new class of 2014 … based on Moses, that fellow who parted the Red Sea and held the Ten Commandments.

At least, it’s based a little on Moses, and a little on other old time prophets. In essence, it’s a non-warrior cleric with more flexibility in terms of spells, but fewer spells to choose from.

In a moment, the class. First, a couple words from our sponsor (which happens to be me)

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NOD 24

2014 comes to a close with the 24th issue of NOD! In this issue, we continue the Ende hex crawl started in NOD 23, detail some Indian divinities, get into some court intrigue, make monsters with a dictionary, explore the ancient Red Sea as a campaign setting, tangle with space genies, and meet some 1920’s superheroes called the Roustabouts. 80 pages. $4.39 for 80 pages

Wow! What amazing bargains (if you’re into this kind of thing).

Now, back to our program!

The prophet is a cleric who goes way back … all the way to Moses in fact. The prophet is destined to be a religious leader of a people, if he or she can live long enough. Starting out in life, they are touched by a deity and tasked with leading their chosen people, or converting their chosen people, to their worship. They must eventually lead these people into the wilderness to found a new kingdom for them. The deity in question should be one that is, as yet, minor in stature, or a major deity that has largely been forgotten by his or her chosen people.

Obviously, this class is based on Moses. I won’t go over the story of Moses – it’s easy enough to find – but suffice to say he was a prince who discovered his true heritage and was chosen by God to lead his people through the Wilderness to the Promised Land. As an emissary for God on Earth, he could perform miracles, and as a man that was raised in a royal house, he had a good deal of non-spiritual leadership ability.

The prophet class has an innate ability to commune with the divine, a spell list based on the miracles attributed to Moses, other Biblical prophets and Christian saints. You’ll notice quite a bit of overlap with the normal cleric’s spell list. The prophet begins life as an aristocrat, and that means he has some capacity for fighting and leading people. His leadership abilities will continue to improve as he gains levels, though his fighting ability will improve more slowly. Prophets are not meant to be front-line warriors. A prophet’s spellcasting ability is in some ways more limited than a cleric’s, and in others superior.

Restrictions: Wisdom 13+, Charisma 9+, alignment must be LG, LN or LE

Hit Dice: d8 at first level, d6 at each level afterwards

Skills: Decipher Codes, Find Secret Doors

Weapons: Any*

Armor: Any*

Prophets are trained in the use of all arms and armor, but using arms and armor not allowed to a magic-user represents a lack of faith in their deity, and imposes a spell failure chance on them (cumulative):

Non-permissible light weapon +5%
Non-permissible medium weapon +10%
Non-permissible heavy weapon +15%
Non-permissible light armor +10%
Non-permissible medium armor +20%
Non-permissible heavy armor +30%

Spell failure chance should be rolled when the prophet beseeches her deity for a miracle. If the spell fails, the deity chooses to ignore her.

A prophet does not technically cast spells. Rather, he asks for miracles. A prophet is allowed a limited number of miracles of each miracle level per day. He does not need to memorize or prepare miracles, as long as he has access to a level of miracles, he can ask for any of them. The prophets’ miracles are listed at the end of this article.

Besides adventuring to earn money and power, a prophet’s most important job is to amass followers. To this end, a prophet must preach before multitudes, attempting to either convert them to his new faith, or reawaken them to an old faith. Treat conversion as a Charisma task in which the prophet is skilled.

The prophet can attempt to groups of 0 to 1 HD creatures, or individuals with more than 1 hit dice. With groups, the prophet makes a Charisma task check and, if successful, converts a number of followers equal to his 1d4 plus his level. Difficulties include differences in ethical alignment (law – neutral – chaos) and moral alignment (good – neutral – evil), or the people being strongly dedicated to another faith. The same basic process is used for individuals, with an additional penalty equal to the each level the target is higher than the prophet.

When 0 or 1 hit dice individuals join the prophet’s cult, you might need to determine what they are:

There is a 1 in 6 chance per person that they are wholly dedicated to their new faith, and need never check their morale. Others, however, may lose faith in the face of hardships (as determined by the TK). When this happens, the prophet must make a new conversion task check for each individual. If he fails, they decide to return to their homes and their old way of life.

A prophet must take care of his followers. He must provide food and water for them, protect them, provide some manner of shelter (tents at a minimum), and heal them when they are wounded or sick.

For one battle per day, the prophet can grant a benefice to his warriors in battle. As the prophet’s level increases, he gains additional benefices he can grant. Each benefice can be granted to one battle per day, and only one benefice can be granted per battle.

At 6th level, one of the prophet’s existing followers can become his acolyte. The prophet’s acolyte becomes a lesser divine servant of the prophet’s deity, gaining abilities as the prophet gains abilities.

A prophet with fewer than 10 followers by 6th level must perform a quest for his deity or lose his ability to request miracles. Likewise a prophet with fewer than 25 followers at 7th level, fewer than 50 followers at 8th level, and fewer than 100 followers at 9th level and each level beyond 9th.

A prophet that is killed might enjoy an apotheosis upon death. There is a 5% chance per level of the prophet. When an apotheosis occurs, the prophet transforms into an outsider of similar alignment with roughly as many Hit Dice as the prophet +1. In this form, the prophet remains in the material plane for one minute per level. Thereafter, he is called to his home plane and disappears forever unless resurrected. If resurrected, the prophet returns in his original body, not as an outsider.

1. Aid
2. Bless
3. Comprehend Languages
4. Control Light
5. Cure Light Wounds
6. Multiply Food and Water
7. Protection from Evil
8. Summon Nature’s Ally I
9. Sustenance
10. Turn Undead

1. Augury
2. Buoyancy
3. Calm Emotions
4. Consecrate
5. Cure Moderate Wounds
6. Detect Thoughts (ESP)
7. Gentle Repose
8. Levitate
9. Remove Paralysis
10. Speak with Animals
11. Summon Nature’s Ally II
12. Summon Swarm

1. Cause Disease
2. Create Food and Water
3. Cure Blindness/Deafness
4. Cure Disease
5. Cure Serious Wounds
6. Fly
7. Hold Person
8. Remove Curse
9. Summon Nature’s Ally III
10. Tongues
11. Water Walk

1. Blight
2. Charm Monster
3. Control Water
4. Cure Critical Wounds
5. Divination
6. Flame Strike
7. Holy Smite
8. Restoration
9. Sticks to Snakes

1. Awaken
2. Bilocation
3. Commune
4. Contact Other Plane
5. Healing Circle
6. Hold Monster
7. Insect Plague
8. Raise Dead

1. Banishment
2. Geas
3. Move Earth
4. Wind Walk

1. Control Weather
2. Create Clay Golem
3. Transmute Matter

1. Earthquake
2. Holy Aura

1. Astral Projection


Level: 5
Range: Personal
Duration: 1 minute

For one minute, the prophet can be in two places at once. Each version of the prophet can carry out movement and actions as normal. The second version can appear within 1 mile per prophet level of the first. When the second version disappears, any damage or other effects he sustained, or any items he took possession of, return to the first version.

Level: 2
Range: Close (30 ft.)
Duration: 1 minute

One object within 30 feet designated by the caster becomes buoyant in water, and floats to the surface.

Level: 7
Range: Touch
Duration: 10 minutes per level

By fashioning a roughly human-sized and shaped object out of clay and inscribing a magic sigil on its head, the prophet can cause it to become a clay golem for 10 minutes per prophet level.

Level: 1
Range: Touch
Duration: Instantaneous

This miracle takes existing food and water and multiplies, creating one extra portion per prophet level.

Level: 1
Range: Personal
Duration: Instantaneous

The prophet can go without food, drink and sleep for one day, but must sacrifice one point of constitution to do so. This constitution point cannot be healed while any casting of this spell is in effect. A prophet could, therefore, use sustenance for seven days straight, but would be without seven points of constitution on the seventh day, and would suffer the normal effects of a lower constitution. Constitution points sacrificed for this spell return at the rate of one per day of rest.

Level: 7
Range: Touch
Duration: 24 hours

The prophet can transmute matter from one form to another, thus lead to gold or steel to adamantine. The effect lasts for 24 hours. At the end of this time, the object must pass an item saving throw (as its original matter) or disintegrate.


The Phoenix

This class originally came about because I was working on some class ideas inspired by the classic elementals – not in terms of “guy who uses fire”, but rather “class inspired by fire’s representation in folklore and mythology”.

Speaking of fire, this is what I came up with:


Some humanoids are born with an especially powerful spark of life. These are warrior souls, caught up in the great circle of life. Phoenixes have souls that never stop. When a phoenix dies, he or she immediately reincarnates as a new creature with the same memories and its personality mostly intact. The phoenix can do this many times, though each time stresses their constitution to the max, and each time a phoenix dies may be their last. Of course, it isn’t really the end of the phoenix’s soul – it merely transmigrates elsewhere in the cosmos (i.e. time for the player to roll up a new character) and fights on!

ARMOR – Any armor, including shields

WEAPONS – Any weapon


The key ability of a phoenix is his ability to reincarnate upon death, per the druid spell of the same name. When a phoenix is reduced to 0 hit points, its body immediately bursts into a 10-ft. radius of fire which deals 1d6 points of damage per four levels of the phoenix. The phoenix has a chance to direct this flame at a single target; if they can pass a Will saving throw they can direct the fire up to a range of 10 feet per four levels at a single target, who suffers all the damage (Reflex save to halve damage).

Once the fireworks are over, the phoenix emerges from the fire and smoke in a new body rolled randomly on the table below.

01. Aasimar
02. Azer
03. Blink Dog
04-07. Bugbear
08. Centaur
09. Crabman
10. Doppelganger
11-13. Dromite
14-19. Dwarf (10% chance of duergar)
20-25. Elf (10% chance of drow)
26-29. Gnoll
30-35. Gnome (10% chance of svirfneblin)
36-39. Goblin (10% chance of blue)
40. Grimlock
41-46. Half-elf
47-52. Half-orc
53. Harpy
54. Hengeyokai
55-58. Hobgoblin
59-64. Human
65. Janni
66-67. Juggernaut
68-71. Kobold
72-76. Lizard man
77. Minotaur
78-82. Neanderthal
83-85. Notac-Ichat (see NOD Companion)
86. Ogre
87-90. Orc
91. Satyr
92-93. Tiefling
94. Troglodyte
95. Unbodied
96-97. Utu (see NOD Companion)
98-00. Xeph

Roll randomly for the gender of the new body.

The phoenix gains all the abilities inherent to his new body (though not equipment, like a satyr’s pipes), but retains his normal hit points (adjusted for losing a level – see below), saving throws, attack bonus, ability scores and ability to speak. The phoenix personality remains largely the same, but is nudged a bit in the direction of its new form. If the phoenix has half or less of the hit dice of his new form, his new form is reduced in size by one size category.

The transformation is not without cost. The phoenix loses one level, and his experience points are reduced to the minimum level for his new level. A first level phoenix can reincarnate. His level remains at first, and his XP are reduced to 0. The phoenix must also pass a Fortitude saving throw or lose 1d3 points of constitution, permanently.

Once the transformation is complete, the phoenix must adjust to their new body. Each round, the phoenix must attempt a Will save. Once they succeed, they gain control over their faculties and can act normally. Until then, they are stunned.

A third level phoenix gains a limited form of regeneration. His natural healing is doubled (i.e. 2 hit points per level per night of rest), and he enjoys a +2 bonus to save vs. poison and disease.

A sixth level phoenix gains access to his soul’s memories. By meditating for one hour, the phoenix gains the use of one feat per three levels (i.e. two feats at sixth level, three a ninth, etc.). The phoenix can only access memories in this way once per day.

A ninth level phoenix can build a fortress-temple dedicated to the Phoenix. The phoenix attracts a body of 1d12+9 men-at-arms, heavy infantry, to serve as his personal bodyguard. In addition, a young 1st level phoenix seeks him out as a master (likely a sidekick from a former life).

The Incarnator

It’s been way too long since the last post, so hopefully this one will make it up. This is admittedly not an “old school” sort of class, but rather more of a “high fantasy” concept.


The incarnator is a mystic character class that can make the power of the stars incarnate on and within his person. These stellar incarnations appear in many shapes, but are always composed of light of a different color, based upon the star sign being invoked.

Incarnators train in much the same way as monks, psychics, and soulknives. They operate in training houses as tight-knit brotherhoods under the tutelage of a master.

In your campaign, incarnators might be the equivalent of magicians or psychics who specialize in star magic, or they might even have the blood of star gods and goddesses (the Pleiades) running through their veins.

REQUIREMENTS: Wisdom and Charisma 13+

ARMOR ALLOWED: Padded, leather, studded leather, and ring mail

WEAPONS ALLOWED: Club, dagger, dart, light crossbow, light mace, quarterstaff, short sword

SKILLS: Communicate, Decipher Codes, Navigation


1. Incarnators call upon the mystic power of the stars, in the form of the twelve signs of the zodiac. Obviously, different fantasy worlds might have different star signs, but the rules here use the traditional zodiac – adjustments may need to be made for other worlds.

Because an incarnator calls upon the zodiac, they must first have their own star sign rolled randomly, with a 12-sided dice, of course.

2. Incarnators are skilled at drawing astrological charts. The action takes one hour, and not only reveals a person’s star sign, but also acts as an augury spell for the person in question.

3. To manifest an incarnation they must make a task check (a Will save) modified by their Wisdom score. Manifesting from one’s own birth sign is at a +2 bonus, from one’s own element at no penalty, from other elements at a -2 penalty, and from an opposing element at a -4 penalty. It is impossible for an incarnator to manifest from his opposing sign.

There are three types of incarnations an incarnator can manifest:

Artifacts are objects of solidified starlight. Manifesting an artifact requires a Will saving throw made with no additional penalty (see above).

Summonings are creatures composed entirely of solidified starlight. A summoning requires a Will saving throw with a penalty equal to the monster’s Hit Dice.

Aspects are internal or external modifications of the body. Aspects require a Will saving throw with a -10 penalty.

An incarnator can attempt a set number of manifestations per day (see table below). These numbers represent attempts, not successes. It’s possible for an incarnator to fail on all their attempted manifestations during a day. An incarnator can attempt the same manifestation multiple times per day if they choose.

Fire signs produce red light, earth green, air white and water blue.

If an incarnator is manifesting three incarnations from the same element, he gains resistance to that element’s related energy (fire, acid, electricity, cold) so long as his incarnations are manifested.

The artifacts, summonings and aspects associated with the signs are as follows:

Weapons: All incarnator weapons, including natural weapons, appear as solidified light of the appropriate color. The weapon acts in all ways as a +1 magic weapon of its type. A 6th level incarnator’s weapons also deal +1d6 points of energy damage based upon its element (i.e. Aries is a fire sign, so a warhammer of Aries deals +1d6 fire damage). A 12th level incarnator’s weapon acts as a +1 brilliant light weapon of its type. Weapons last for one turn (10 minutes). Manifested natural weapons permit an attack by the incarnator in addition to a held weapon.

Armor: Incarnator armor acts as +1 magic armor of its type. A 6th level incarnator’s armor also provides resistance against the appropriate energy (fire for fire signs, acid for earth signs, electricity for air signs and cold for water signs). Armor lasts for one hour.

Potion Bottle: The potion bottle of Aquarius contains a potion that duplicates a single spell of a level equal to the incarnator’s level divided by four, rounding down. Thus, a 1st level incarnator can manifest a potion that duplicates a 0-level spell, a 2nd to 5th level incarnator a first level spell, a 6th to 9th level incarnator a second level spell, and so on. The potion bottle and the liquid starlight is contains last for one turn, though the effects of the spell within have the normal duration.

Scales: The scales of Libra can take a measure of creatures, determining their alignment leanings (chaos vs. law, good vs. evil) and also the wisdom of an action (per the augury spell). The scales manifest for 1 turn.

Monsters: Monsters are energy constructs that fight as their normal type, but enjoy resistance to the energy associated with their sign. They last for 6 rounds.

Split: When a character splits, they become two incarnators of half their normal level and half their current hit points. If one is killed while split, the incarnator absorbs his former half, but suffers one level of energy damage (not drain). A split lasts for one round + one round per level of the incarnator.

Mighty Roar: The mighty roar works as the special ability of the dragonne. While manifesting the mighty roar, the incarnator’s eyes glow red, and a mane of reddish light filaments sprouts from his or her head. The mighty roar ability lasts for one round + one round per level of the incarnator.

Magic Circle: Per the magic circle spell, affecting either good or evil. The magic circle actually appears as a glowing green aura around the incarnator’s body, and lasts for one round + one round per level of the incarnator.

Blinding Beauty: Per the nymph ability, this ability causes the incarnator’s body to glow with luminous, white light. Blinding beauty lasts for one round + one round per level of the incarnator.

Horse Body: The incarnator manifests a centaur like horse body of red light. He gains the movement rate and natural hoof attacks of a centaur.

Steam Body: Per the gaseous form spell, but the incarnator can choose to expand into the equivalent of the fog cloud spell. Lasts for one round + one round per level.

Scales and Gills: The incarnator gains a swim speed of 60 and water breathing (per the spell). Lasts for one round + one round per incarnator level.