Spider Mage

I’ve been needing to get back into the nitty gritty of daily blog updates for a while – it’s just hard with all the writing and layout and editing and such that I’ve involved myself in. So, here’s another shot at it, based on tiny inspiration and a bit of “hmm – I guess nobody has done that before”.

The Spider Mage

Not every apprentice magic-user has it in them to be great wizard (see the Laser Mage, for example). This drives some into weird cults, such as that of the Arachno, the Spider God. Whispered about by the apprentices in the corners at wizard gatherings, Arachno is a secretive god who grants great powers upon those mages willing to enter his service. His living idols are said to lurk under most great cities, in some otherwise abandoned cellar or sewer tunnel or whatnot.

An apprentice willing to enter Arachno’s service must first find one of his living idols (a giant spider) and then parlay with it, offering gifts and oaths and the like. If the giant spider finds the apprentice acceptable, he sheds a spiky hair, which the little magi must use to tattoo Arachno’s symbol onto his forearm. This allows the apprentice to enter the spider mage class. Most spider mages will go on to make their tattoo really boss, and they will add others to their body as they advance.

Requirements and Restrictions

As the normal magic-user class

Spider Mage Skills

Climb Walls—As the thief skill of the same name.

Lore—As the magic-user skill of the same name.

Poison Use—As the assassin skill of the same name.

Spider Mage Abilities

Spider mages cast magic-user spells using the same rules as magic-users. To learn advanced spells, spider mages have a percentage chance equal to their intelligence score minus the spell level.

Spider mages enjoy a +2 reaction bonus with spiders and spider-like creatures, and a +2 bonus to save vs. their poison.

Starting at 2nd level, and at every even level thereafter, a spider mage grows an additional arm. This arm is a normal human arm in every respect, and it bears the same tattoo on its forearm that the spider mage gave himself when he became a spider mage.

For every two additional arms a spider mage grows, he can cast one additional spell per round.

Spider mages learn how to prepare their spells with modifications. Attack spells come in the form of touches, rays, lines (like lightning bolt), cones and blasts (like fireball). Spider mages can prepare an attack spell of one type as an attack spell of another. This sometimes changes the level of the spell.

Lines and rays retain their same range. Cones have a length equal to half the length of a ray or line version of the spell; likewise, ray or line versions of a cone spell have a range equal to twice the length of the cone. Blast spells have a range as line and ray spells equal to their blast radius, and a length as cone spells equal to half this.

Turning lines into cones and vice versa does not change a spell’s level. Turning a cone or line into a ray lowers the spell level by one. Turning anything into a blast increases the spell level by 1. Turning a blast into a line, ray or cone lowers the spell level by 1, and into a ray by 2.

At every even level, a spider mage must bring a sacrifice with levels or hid dice equal to the level he wishes to attain to feed his spider patron. This gruesome feast increases the giant spider’s hit dice by +2 and gives it magic use . This magic use starts at first level magic-user spells, and advances by one spell level with each subsequent feast.

Spider Cult
To advance to 12th level, a spider mage must kill his spider patron and bathe in its ichor. When he does this, he starts a spider cult to Arachno, gaining 3d6 adherents (normal humans), 2d6 guardsmen (men-at-arms), 1d6 acolytes (1st level anti-clerics) and a consort (male or female) who is a 3rd level spider mage, as well as a giant spider (large size, 4 HD) to serve as his mount and as the cult’s living idol.

Spider Mage Advancement


The Black Mystics

I was going to offer a no-prize to whoever could identify from whence these fellow come, but then I decided to use the art down below, which should kill any mystery to their origin. These guys are pretty tough, but I also tried to keep them simple.

Black Mystic (Black Master)

Black Mystic

Medium Aberration, Chaotic (NE)

Hit Dice: 6
Armor Class: 18
Attack: Strike (1d8) or by weapon +2
Movement: 60′
Saves: F12 R11 W19
Intelligence: High
No. Appearing: 1d4
XP: 600 (CL 7)

Magic resistance*

Spells—Augury (1), detect thoughts (ESP) (1), hold person (3), phantasmal force (2)

Black Master

Medium Aberration, Chaotic (NE)

Hit Dice: 12
Armor Class: 20
Attack: Strike (2d6) or by weapon +4
Movement: 80′
Saves: F9 R8 W4
Intelligence: Super
No. Appearing: 1 + 1d4 mystics
XP: 1,200 (CL 13)

Magic resistance*

Spells—Augury (3), cause fear (3), contact other plane (1), detect thoughts (ESP), dimension door (1), divination (1), hold monster (3), spectral force (3)

Black mystics are men (always men) who have entered into a dark pact with the nether forces in a bid for earthly power. To become a black mystic, they must have all the goodness in their souls extracted. This goodness, or higher soul, takes the form of a golden sphere, and is kept imprisoned by the black mystics in some form of mystic receptacle or iron-bound box.

Black mystics have amazing reflexes, catching or slapping away normal missiles on a roll of 1-4 on 1d6. They make no sound when they move, and have an 85% chance to hide in shadows. The sight of their twisted bodies forces creatures with 2 HD or fewer to pass a saving throw or be stunned with disbelief for 1d6 rounds.

Black masters rule the black mystics. They have a 95% chance to hide in shadows, and can shapechange twice per day into giant constrictors, giant vultures (use stats for giant eagle) or giant scorpions.

If a black mystic or black master’s higher soul is released from its captivity, it vaults into the celestial heavens and leaves the mystic or master dead. Damage against the soul’s receptacle causes stuns mystics and masters if they fail a saving throw.

* In Blood & Treasure Second Edition, magic resistance is not a percentage. Rather, it requires the spell caster to roll higher than the creature’s HD+10 with 1d20 + the spellcaster’s level. If you want to use a percentage, I’d go with 15% for the mystics and 30% for the masters.

EDIT: Well, it was at the time … now, not so much (Aug 2017)

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 …

Monster Tome II – The Worm Harmonious

I don’t know if the Monster Tome II will ever be a physical (or electronic) product, or if it will just be a series of blog posts. Either way, here’s an entry for you …


Size/Type: Huge Magical Beast
Hit Dice: 8
Armor Class: 17
Attack: 1 slam (1d12)
Movement: 30 (Burrow 10)
Saves: F R W
Immune: Sonic attacks, mind-effects
Alignment: NeutralIntelligence: Low
No. Appearing: 1d2
XP: 800 (CL 9)

The worm harmonious looks like a long, thick, wriggling vermin with pale pink flesh (sometimes marked with saffron streaks or speckled with deep aubergine spots) and odd markings on its “face” that approximate a mime or geisha. Extending from its head, down the sides of its body for about 10 feet are a number of long “hairs”, which it can vibrate to create or negate sound. Its entire body is actually covered by these hairs, though most are much smaller and are nearly invisible.

As alluded to above, the worm harmonious can negate sound, and thus create an area of silence (as the spell) in a 100′ radius by using its hairs to absorb the sound. While absorbing sound, the monster cannot move, and its attacks suffer a -3 penalty to hit. After three rounds, the monster can release this absorbed sound as a sonic blast, dealing 1d8 points of sonic damage to all creatures within 30′. Alternatively, it can give off a low, disorienting hum for 3 rounds that forces all within 30′ to pass a Will save or suffer one of the following effects:

Roll d6
1-3. Dazed (-1 penalty to hit and AC)
4-5. Confused (as the spell)
6. Stunned (no actions, only reactions)

It can also use its hairs to create a horrible, piercing screeching noise approximating some of the less successful attempts at Jimmy Hendrix-style guitar riffs. While doing this, the monster attacks normally, but its foes suffer a penalty to Armor Class and attacks, combined, equal to -3. They can choose, for example, a -2 penalty to AC and a -1 penalty to hit, or no penalty to AC and a -3 penalty to hit, etc. As long as the penalties add up to -3.

They Sup on Your Dreams

Hummingbird Men

Type: Tiny monstrous humanoid
Hit Dice: 0 (1d4 hp)
Armor Class: 13 [Silver]
Attacks: None
Move: 10 (Fly 100)
Saves: F19 R10 W14; +2 save vs. mind-affecting effects
Resistance: Magic 35%
Alignment: Neutral (N)
Intelligence: Low
No. Appearing: 1
XP: 50 (CL 1)

They are tiny, with long, beak-like snouts and beady eyes that sometimes strike you as cruel or callous, other times as curious. They have hummingbird wings where a man’s arms would be, and lithe bodies in pleasant, subdued colors – dusky rose, marmalade, the blue-grey of a threatening storm.

They appear at night, and settle down on a person to sup on the nectar of their fitful dreams. Dreams of isolation or rejection please them most; night terrors sate them quickly, but leave them unsatisfied. They hover and stare, and touch their snouts to the person’s temples or forehead, remaining for a few minutes. The dreamer has the best rest of his life; if he was nursing a psychic wound (such as damage to a mental ability score), he heals at twice the normal rate for the hummingbird man’s presence.

If the hummingbird man is threatened by one who knows not what it is or by one who cherishes his dreams, fair or foul, the beast flits back and disgorges nightmares from its snout. These nightmares are illusions, but hard to disbelieve (-2 to save). They usually take one of the following forms:

1 Black tentacles (solidifying from black mists)
2 Phantasmal killer (often a wild-eyed version of one’s close relatives/lovers/self)
3 Shapechange (into something one would not want to be)
4 Flesh to stone (usually a slow transitions, from feet to head)
5 Insect plague (but not always insects)

The victim has a chance to disbelieve each round, but only if the player says they disbelieve. The saving throw begins at -2, but the penalty increases by -1 each round as they are drawn further into the nightmare. The nightmare, thankfully, ends after 6 rounds, by which time the hummingbird man has fled to dine on blacker psyches.

Dimensional String Theory

Via Wikipedia

Long-time fantasy gamers get the idea of “planes”. Each plane is its own reality, and it connects in some fashion with other planes, and they’re mostly just where high level characters go to kill things and steal their stuff. Simple enough.

How about we swap out planes for strings.

[Disclaimer – I don’t know anything about actual string theory. I’m just stealing a term because it sounds cool and kind of fits this conception of planes and dimensions in fantasy games]

No, the elemental plane of fire won’t look like a tightrope – it will still be an endless reality of fire and efreet. But it will functionally be a string, as will all the other planes. Dozens of planes, as strings, crisscrossing the multiverse and, at certain points, touching.

At a planar nexus, the reality of two planes (or more) are combined, forming a little pocket dimension (perhaps a planet) that combines the aspects of the planes that are connected. So you might have a plane that combines Elemental Fire with Chaotic Good, or a plane that combines Shadow with Water. Maybe the Astral Plane is where all these strings are located – and maybe when traversing that plane you can accidentally hit a string and find yourself in another plane. The Ethereal is just the blurry edges of the vibrating Material Plane, and can be a passage to these “nexus points” that interact with the Material Plane.

Maybe the Material Plane is just a nexus point between all the different planes of reality?

The Ur-Thief

Image by Sidney Sime, found HERE

One of the fun things about exploring old D&D is the search for the origins of its many elements. Rangers are Aragorns, rust monsters came in a pack of Japanese dinosaur toys, etc. The thief has often been linked to the Leiber’s Grey Mouser and Vance’s Cugel, but I would propose a different Ur-Thief … Thangobrind the Jeweller.

I’ve been boning up on my Dunsany lately, to help me apply the finishing touches to Bloody Basic – Weird Fantasy Edition, and last night read through the “Distressing Tale of Thangobrind the Jeweller” in his Book of Wonder. I draw your attention to the following passages, which seem very thiefy to me:


“O, but he loved shadows! Once the moon peeping out unexpectedly from a tempest had betrayed an ordinary jeweller; not so did it undo Thangobrind: the watchman only saw a crouching shape that snarled and laughed: “‘Tis but a hyena,” they said.”


“Once in the city of Ag one of the guardians seized him, but Thangobrind was oiled and slipped from his hand; you scarcely heard his bare feet patter away.”

“At night they shoot by the sound of the strangers’ feet. O, Thangobrind, Thangobrind, was ever a jeweller like you! He dragged two stones behind him by long cords, and at these the archers shot.”


“… but Thangobrind discerned the golden cord that climbed the wall from each [of the emeralds] and the weights that would topple upon him if he touched one …”


“Though when a soft pittering as of velvet feet arose behind him he refused to acknowledge that it might be what he feared …”

Okay, not at a door, but keen listening nonetheless.


“… – now like a botanist, scrutinising the ground; now like a dancer, leaping from crumbling edges.”


“Oh, he was cunning! When the priests stole out of the darkness to lap up the honey they were stretched senseless on the temple floor, for there was a drug in the honey that was offered to Hlo-Hlo.”

Which, of course, means the Thief needs to be reintroduced as a class in its own right into the Weird Fantasy edition, sending the vagabond back to the “subclass” category. This thief will likely have a couple different skills to bring to the table, though.

Weird Fantasy

I’m a weird-o (if that’s the correct spelling). I’ve come to this conclusion as “geek culture” has become more prominent, and I came to realize that while my interests have some overlap with geek culture, I’m definitely not part of that culture. Of course, definitions vary, so we won’t linger on that. The point is – I like weird stuff, including weird fiction and weird fantasy. I’m more of a Clark Ashton Smith guy than a J.R.R. Tolkien guy.

This brings me to my next mini-project. Bloody Basic – Weird Fantasy Edition.

I know, I said I’d probably do a different edition next, but then I was perusing some Aubrey Beardsley art, and that led to Harry Clarke art and then Clark Ashton Smith and the next thing you know I was spit-balling ideas and writing up an outline.

Here’s my intro to the edition:

Weird fantasy is a cornerstone of fantasy role-playing games, influencing the earliest games and lending them their unique flavor. Born from the Romantic Movement and symbolism, weird fantasy was a reaction to the modern world in which the authors lived. Weird fantasy was lush and decadent and yearned for meaning and release. It consisted of simple stories set in ornate worlds, and reveled in obscure, flowery and archaic text. The weird fantasy author and his characters were like tourists drinking in exotic places that existed only in their dreams. It has in its genes both pseudo-historical romances, Orientalism and fairy tales. Not fairy tales fit for children, but fairy tales that were not stripped of their violence or their erotic overtones.

Weird fantasy is steeped in meaning and bereft of it. It is quiet and noisome and ridiculous and sublime … and makes an excellent place for players to explore and indulge their sense of wonder. Weird fantasy characters are decadent and seek escape from the tedium and constrictions of the industrial age. They are errant knights, burglars, wise women, mystery priests and magicians, entering a world of fantasy through their dreams. They are bent on one last grand adventure, one chance to crack open the bones of drudgery and suck out the marrow of life, one final opportunity to live deeply and truly and transform the mundane into the beautiful … are you?

Does this sound right to you? It’s one of those situations where I know what mean, but I don’t know if I’m conveying what I mean.

Races for the edition, at the moment, are humans, elves (with a little soulless fairy twist), grotesques (ugly little buggers) and satyrs. Classes are the hierophant (unarmored clerics that accept taboos to gain access to the spell lists of divine mystery cults), the magic-user, the vagabond (basically the thief with a different name, not unlike the knave of the Mother Goose Edition) and the puissant (a warrior that uses combat feats the way magic-user’s use spells). Sub-classes are the rake (puissant), and the demimonde, odalisque and traveler (vagabond sub-classes).

I’m still working on monsters – trying to get the basics in (after all, we’re still dealing with good, old-fashioned dungeoneering), with some CAS-inspired stuff added in. I don’t want to go the Lovecraft route because I think that it is a little overexposed at the moment, and it tends to dominate. Alignment is replaced by passions, which are dangerous to indulge (one loses wisdom or constitution, as over-indulgence leads characters to madness or physical degredation) but are worth bonus XP when they are indulged. I might switch out the bonus XP for special abilities, though – something more palpable and flavorful that just raw numbers.

I might mess with spell names, treasure and the weapons and armor to use more archaic, ornate language, a la Clark Ashton Smith. I say I might, because I’m not sure if that’s just adding complexity without adding enough flavor to make it worth while.

So, what else? And what public domain art would make for a good cover image? I’d love to hear some ideas from the peanut gallery – make sure this edition is all it could be. Let me know in the comments or on G+, if you would be so kind. Thanks!

The Eyes Have It [Monsters]

The Floating Eye of Death via HERE

Ah, yes – eye monsters. Monsters composed of a giant eye with a toothy maw and the ability to use magical rays. I think another game called them beholders, but since me calling them beholders might get me in trouble, I call them eye monsters here, the “evil eye” in Blood & Treasure (voted number one RPG in the world by the owner of this blog), and I’ve heard many other euphemisms in other portions of the open content RPG world. Whatever you call them, they’re a modern classic and below you will find a few variations that might be fun for your game.

Large Aberration, Chaotic (CE), High Intelligence; Cluster (1d6)

Hit Dice: 9
Armor Class: 21
Attacks: 2 lashes (1d6)
Move: 5 (Fly 30)
Saving Throws: F10 R11 W8
Experience Point Value: 800 (CL 9)

Descryers are evil eyes of an especially brilliant hue. Like their kin, they can communicate with any sentient creature within 100 feet, with their thoughts entering a person’s mind like a tongue entering one’s ear – a very creepy, unwelcome feeling to be sure.

The descryers are the sages and oracles of their species, capable of perceiving past, present and future, and seeing beyond the material world. They are less dangerous in combat than their kin, but very useful to their people. Most are treated as oracles, and are housed in temples under the guard of their zealous cultists the akshi.

Descryers sees magical emanations naturally. It is constantly treated as though under the effects of detect magic. They are also treated as though under constant true seeing and detect good effects.

Unlike their kin, the descryer does not possess gaze attacks. Rather, they are capable of casting powerful divination effects. When they do so, they emit brilliant light, with a different color of light connected to each of their abilities. Creatures within 30 feet of this light must pass a Fortitude saving throw or be struck blind for 1d6 minutes. Creatures so affected must also pass a Will saving throw or have their emotional state altered for 1d6 hours (see descriptions below for effects).

Each divination power can be used by a descryer once per day, but no more than once every 1d4 rounds. Their powers are as follows:

CONTACT OTHER PLANE: As the magic-user spell. Accompanied by a moody blue light that causes crushing despair (as the bard spell).

DISCERN LOCATION: As the magic-user spell. Accompanied by an intense red light that causes rage (as the spell) .

FORESIGHT: As the magic-user spell. Accompanied by a pale yellow light that causes fatigue.

LEGEND LORE: As the magic-user spell. Accompanied by a scathing green light that affects people per the cause fear spell.

PROBE THOUGHTS: As the magic-user spell. Accompanied by a piercing white light that causes an effect similar to the calm emotions spell.

VISION: As the magic-user spell. Accompanied by a deep purple light that causes weakness (as the ray of enfeeblement spell).

Special Qualities: Resistance to acid, cold, electricity, fire and sonic, magic resistance 35%

Medium Aberration, Chaotic (CE), High Intelligence; Cluster (1d6)

Hit Dice: 7
Armor Class: 19
Attacks: 2 lashes (1d4+1)
Move: 5 (Fly 40)
Saving Throws: F12 R12 W9
Experience Point Value: 700 (CL 8)

Examiners are the crafty spies of their species. Smaller than their more powerful kin, they are capable of getting into somewhat tighter spaces. Examiners see magical emanations naturally, and are always under the effect of a detect invisibility effect. They are also capable of turning invisible three times per day, and using the blink spell once per day. Examiners are albinos, with pale flesh and pink irises. They communicate telepathically in a high-pitched drone that makes the eyes water.

The examiner possesses gaze attacks, but can only use one per round. It cannot maintain any specific gaze attack for more than one round, and must wait 1d4 rounds before activating that particular gaze attack again. The examiner’s gaze attacks have a range of 90 feet (assuming line of sight).
BURN: Subjects must succeed on a Fortitude save or be affected as though by burning hands.

CHARM: Subjects must succeed on a Will save or be affected as though by charm monster.

CONFUSE: Subjects must succeed on a Will save or be affected as though by confusion.

HYPNOTIZE: Subjects must succeed on a Will save or be affected as though by hypnotism.
PARALYZE: Subjects must succeed on a Will save or be affected as though by hold monster.
PROBE: Subjects must succeed on a Will save or be affected as though by detect thoughts (ESP).
SLEEP: Subjects must succeed on a Will save or be affected as though by sleep.

WEAKEN: Subjects must succeed on a Will save or see visions as per a ray of enfeeblement.

Special Qualities: Resistance to acid, cold, electricity, fire and sonic, magic resistance 15%

Large Aberration, Chaotic (CE), High Intelligence; Cluster (1d6)

Hit Dice: 11
Armor Class: 23 [Silver]
Attacks: 2 lashes (1d6)
Move: 5 (Fly 30)
Saving Throws: F 9, R 10, W 7
Experience Point Value: 1,100 (CL 12)

The necropsis is an eye monster that has dabbled in the necromantic arts. Steeped in negative energy, they have taken on necromantic powers. The necropsis is incorporeal. It has black flesh and a grey eyeball with a maroon iris. They communicate telepathically within 100 feet, with a ghostly moan.

The necropsis sees magical emanations naturally. It is constantly treated as though under the effects of detect magic. Additionally, the necropsis is also treated as though under a constant detect invisibility affect, and enjoys a constant invisibility to undead effect.
The necropsis possesses a vast repertoire of gaze attacks, but can only use one per round. It cannot maintain any specific gaze attack for more than one round, and must wait 1d4 rounds before activating that particular gaze attack again. The necropsis’ gaze attacks have a range of 150 feet (assuming line of sight).

BITE: Subjects must succeed on a Will save or be affected as though by eyebite.

CHILL: Subjects must succeed on a Fortitude save or be affected as though by chill touch.

CURSE: Subjects must succeed on a Will save or be affected as though by bestow curse.
DEATH: Subjects must succeed on a Will save or be affected as though by inflict critical wounds (4d6+4 damage; save for half damage).
ENERVATE: Subjects must succeed on a Fortitude save or be affected as though by enervation.

PAIN: Subjects must succeed on a Will save or be affected as though by symbol of pain.
RE-ANIMATE: Dead bodies within the monster’s gaze are affected per the animate dead spell.
SLAY: Subjects must succeed on a Fortitude save or be affected as though by slay living.

Special Qualities: Resistance to acid, cold, electricity, fire and sonic, magic resistance 25%

Medium Aberration, Chaotic (CE), High Intelligence; Cluster (1d6)

Hit Dice: 9
Armor Class: 18
Attacks: 4 lashes (1d6 + grapple) and weapon
Move: 30
Saving Throws: F11 R11 W8
Experience Point Value: 900 (CL 10)

The akshi are the insane crossbreeds of the eye monsters and the mind eaters. Bitter exiles from both communities, they sometimes form cults dedicated to the descryers or become underworld warlords, dominating lesser creatures and waging war on both the mind eaters and eye monsters.

Akshi look like humanoids with greenish skin, long arms with three fingers and a thumb, and a head composed almost entirely of a massive eye. Four long lashes are set around the eye. The akshi has no mouth – it drains life energy from creatures with its drain gaze attack, using its lashes to hold creatures in front of it, and its humanoid arms to force their eyes open. Akshi communicate telepathically with a domineering, imperious voice that has an unmistakably bitter edge to it.

Akshi see magical emanations naturally, per the detect magic spell.
The akshi possesses a repertoire of psionic and gaze attacks, but can only use one per round. It cannot maintain any specific attack for more than one round, and must wait 1d4 rounds before activating that particular attack again. The akshi’s attacks have a range of 60 feet (assuming line of sight for gaze attacks).

BLAST (PSIONIC): As the mind eater mental blast ability.

CHARM (GAZE): Subjects must succeed on a Will save or be affected as though by charm monster.

DAZE (GAZE): Subjects must succeed on a Will save or be affected as though by daze.

DRAIN (GAZE): Subjects must succeed on a Fortitude save or be affected as though by vampiric touch.

HARM (GAZE): Subjects must succeed on a Will save or be affected as though by inflict light wounds.

BURN (GAZE): Subjects must succeed on a Fortitude save or be affected as though by burning hands.
PARALYZE (GAZE): Subjects must succeed on a Will save or be affected as though by hold person.

SLEEP (GAZE): Subjects must succeed on a Will save or be affected as though by sleep.
WEAKEN (GAZE): Subjects must succeed on a Fortitude save or be affected as though by a ray of enfeeblement.

Special Qualities: Resistance to acid, cold, electricity, fire and sonic, magic resistance 55%

Spells: 1/day–astral projection, detect thoughts (ESP), levitate, suggestion

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).