If you’re running a wilderness campaign, you know that at some point you have to think about the weather. Weather can create interesting challenges for a party of explorers, or even just lend to the mood of a session. Referees can always just arbitrarily determine the weather based on their needs, but for long treks across the wilderness seem to call for randomized weather.

I’ve tried a few different schemes for randomly determining weather in my years of writing hexcrawls, but for the last couple of years have used a system that I think is relatively easy, and provides something usable, rather than trivial.

In each of my later hexcrawls, I begin my section on regional weather with this:

“You can use the following tables to determine the overall weather conditions during a hex crawl. The table is divided into the four seasons. Temperature is determined by rolling 1d6 and comparing the roll to the chances of temperature being freezing (below 30°), cold (31-60°), mild (61-85°), warm (86-95°) or hot (96° or higher). Freezing, cold and hot temperatures might require the adventurers to take steps to avoid negative consequences. Precipitation is a percentage chance. If the temperature is below freezing, the precipitation is snow (10% chance of hail). The TK can decide how much rain or snow falls during the day and its duration based on how much she wishes the weather to hinder the players.”

This is followed by a table like this:

Western Wood

 Winter Spring Summer Fall Freeze 1-2 1 – 1 Cold 3-5 2 1 2 Mild 6 3-5 2-3 3-5 Warm – 6 4-5 6 Hot – – 6 – Rain 55% 45% 45% 40%

The table provides a bare-bones account of the weather on any given day, which the TK can flesh out as much or as little as he likes.

The upper portion determines the general range of temperature based on the season, rolled on D6, while the last line is the percent chance of precipitation that day rolled on D%. If the weather is freezing, any precipitation that comes up is snow or maybe hail. Otherwise, precipitation is rain. How much rain? That’s up to the TK. If the TK wants the rain/snow to be a real problem for the PC’s, then it is heavy. Otherwise, it’s a moderate or light rain that provides mood and interest, without becoming a major pain in the butt.

## Making the Tables

To make the tables, I could just make up the numbers willy-nilly. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but I usually like to keep things more realistic. To that end, I choose a city in an environment like the one I’m simulating, and look it up on Wikipedia.

If I’m lucky, the Wikipedia page has a table like this one for Rio de Janeiro:

To figure out the percent chance of precipitation, I just take the total of the average days of rain for the three months that make up a “season”, such as December, January and February for Summer (I almost wrote “winter” until I remembered I was working south of the equator), and divide by 90. In this example, Rio would have a 32% chance of rain during the summer season.

I then take the average high, daily mean and average low for each of those three months, and rate it using the scale mentioned above and repeated here: Freezing (below 30°), cold (31-60°), mild (61-85°), warm (86-95°) or hot (96° or higher).

That gives me 9 temperature readings for each season – I use those to determine the chance on a D6 of a day falling into one of those temperature ratings. Using Rio in the summer again, we get the following temperature ratings:

 DEC JAN FEB Average High Mild Warm Warm Mean Mild Mild Mild Average Low Mild Mild Mild

So, we have 7 milds and 2 warms. Seven divided by nine is 78%. Multiply that by 6 (i.e. D6) and you get 5. That means a 5 in 6 chance of mild weather. We don’t need to do the calculation for warm, in this case – it would be 1 in 6, but if we had more temperature ranges, we would use the same procedue for each. Naturally, the Referee can intervene a bit in these figures. Because Rio can get quite hot in the summer, I decide to go 1-4 = mild, 5 = warm and 6 = hot.

You do this same process for the other seasons, and you end up with a table like this:

Rio de Janeiro

 Winter Spring Summer Fall Freeze – – – – Cold – – – – Mild 1-6 1-5 1-4 1-5 Warm – 6 5 6 Hot – – 6 – Rain 17% 29% 32% 26%

So, if I’m running some adventurer in the region around Rio during the summer – maybe they’re searching for some ancient ruins or a satellite that crashed in the region – I roll 1d6 and d%, On the d6, I get a “6”, meaning it’s a hot day. On the % I get a 53, meaning no rain – just humidity.

# Into the Unknown

Happy Fourth of July folks! Remember, it’s not enough to value your own liberty, you have to love other peoples’ liberty just as much as your own.

And also remember – two or three hotdogs is probably sufficient unless you want to put on a fireworks display in your gut to rival the one outside tonight.

Now then … I’m busy working, as I’ve mentioned before, on an Old West supplement for Grit & Vigor. I love working on things like this because they give me a chance to learn about things about which I only have a passing knowledge. A couple days ago, I started working on something like random encounter tables for PCs wandering around in the wilderness. I wanted to keep them relatively simple – just suggestions a VM could use to spice up an overland journey. I started out with some general categories of “encounter”, and then realized that I had no idea how frequent these things should be. What to do?

Then it occurred to me … Lewis and Clark kept a diary!

So now I’ve spent a few hours going through the diary and making notes on what they encountered each day, both while traveling in the summer and fall, and camping in the winter. Pretty interesting stuff – I highly suggest giving it a look – and here are the results, according to my encounter definitions (with the definitions following):

 Encounter Travel Camp No Encounter 01-46 01-31 Danger 47-57 32 Ruins 58-67 – Herd 68-76 33-34 Predator 77-84 – Warriors 85-91 35-40 Settlement 92-96 – Travelers 97-99 41-00 Omen 00 –

Danger: This is a danger of some kind that strikes a person unawares, such as a snake bite, illness, a fall that results in injury, pests, etc.

Herd: This is an encounter with numerous large her-bivores, such as bighorn sheep, elk or bison.

Omen: This is an event that has spiritual significance to one or several of the adventurers.

Predator: This is an encounter with a large predator capable of killing an adventurer, especially if it achieves surprise. In the American West, this is probably a bear, cougar or pack of wolves.

Ruins: The remains of a settlement, such as mounds left by the Mississippian Culture, or an abandoned settlement (see below).

Settlement: A settlement appropriate to the region and time period. This includes trading posts and forts.

Travelers: An encounter with a small or large group of travelers. These people may or may not be capable of defending themselves, but their purpose is not one of violence and the group probably includes women and children. This could be a wagon train, a migration of American Indians or a prospector and his mule. There is a 1% chance that they are accompanied by a famous person appropriate to the time and place.

Warriors: An encounter with a relatively small band of armed men. It could be a hunting or war party of American Indians, a troop of U.S. Cavalry, a gang of outlaws or European fur trappers. There is a 1% chance that they are accompanied by a famous person appropriate to the time and place.

That’s enough for today – I have to prep the dog for the horrors of fireworks tonight. Be good to one another folks – love each other – it’s the only way forward!

# Dread Kisthenes – Hawk Men and Pits of Despair

Well, it is time to get back into the swing of things here at NOD after an unfortunately and unavoidable absence. Though I haven’t been as active online these last few weeks, I have been writing in what spare time I had, so I thought the easiest way to get back into blogging would be to share some of that material.

The Kisthenes hex crawl is proceeding apace – I can wrap up the basic writing in another 12 days – and then comes the editing and the writing of supplemental NOD articles. I need to commission art here really soon as well, but I think I can get the next NOD issue out by early May without too much trouble. This weekend I’m going to finally find time to get the paperbacks of the last issue of NOD and Barbarians & Basilisks up on Lulu, in case anyone has been waiting.

Without further ado … a few tidbits from the (unedited) Kisthenes hex crawl, which is based loosely on Mesopotamia and features a mad conqueror attempting to bring Tiamat (not exactly the copyrighted version from you-know-who, but something bigger and more Lovecraftian) bodily into the material plane, and other city-states competing to bring their own super-beasts into the world to oppose him. So a little Mesopotamian kaiju action for the adventurers to either stop or run away from.

(Note – the outlined areas in the map are the bits I have left to do. I usually write one chunk per weeknight, or two on weekends.)

 Kisthenes map, plus a bit of the Nomo hex crawl to the left and Motherlands hex crawl at the bottom

0104. Damisu the Damned | Stronghold

Damisu is a necromancer whose ill-repute extends well beyond the grasslands of Kisthenes and the sands of the Crimson Waste. A waxy-skinned wastrel, he speaks in a timid soprano, pausing here and there to apply an unguent made of tallow to his dry, cracked lips. He dresses in a silk loincloth which, thankfully, he hides beneath a robe of crow feathers. Upon his head is the skull of his former master, the Mistress Utena. Her remains went to making one of several patchwork women who now serve in his manse, a decrepit old sandstone structure in a low spot on the grasslands that is soggy from a natural spring and littered with bones. The hex is patrolled by a dozen grey gnolls (encounter on a roll of 1-3 on 1d6) armed with composite bows and falchions.

Damisu is a petty man, very competitive with other magic-users (sorcerers are beneath his contempt). He is an obsequious man when presented with a possible challenge, offering hospitality in his shady domicile. In the night, the patchwork women set upon the magic-using guest and drag them through the dungeon into what Damisu calls “his arena”.

In the arena, dozens of zombies gather around two stone pillars, each pillar being about 6′ in diameter and raised 10′ off the ground. Damisu stands atop one pillar, his foe on the other. Whoever falls to the zombies is torn apart (unless it is Damisu, for they are his zombies and thus under his control.

If presented with a halfling girl with rosy cheeks and ebon locks, Damisu’s heart will stir and his mind flash back to a time long ago and a love long ago departed. How he reacts to this stimulus is up to the TK.

0540. Hawk Men | Monster

A tribe of hawk men has taken up residence in an old Chimerian citadel, a basalt nightmare stretched around a narrow peak and overlooking three valleys thick with fungal monsters. The hawk men have been raiding the surrounding settlements and then selling their plunder in Galardis. Their prince, Voltaro, has in his possession the adamantine sword of a Chimerian brave. The brave, Ull, is on the trail, and may be seen climbing the mountain and being harassed by the hawk men by adventurers moving through the hex.

0803. Pit of Despair | Monster

This hex of grassland is always strangely calm, and yet those who enter the hex feel a vague unease. Animals will not willingly enter the hex, and so the hex has mostly been left alone.

Towards the center of the hex there is a 10′ wide pit ringed with ancient stone slick with slime. The pit looks endless, and perhaps it is. It is inhabited by a caller in darkness who is summoned by tapping some-thing metal on the stone that rings the pit.

When summoned, the monster erupts suddenly from the pit, attacking all it can reach. If presented with a holy symbol of Ishtar it recoils and then one of the faces within the monster comes to the fore, a priestess of Ishtar who fled here when Ishkabibel was taken.

The priestess, while in control, will say something to the effect of, “The Mother of Chaos is coming, fed on the milk of human suffering, and with her coming the gods will again walk the earth, bringing destruction in their wake! Stop her coming, or flee this world.”

1735. Zephos | Village

Zephos is a large village (pop. 320 urban, 2,560 rural) of farmers who want nothing more than to be left alone. About 5% of the population are halflings, who work as scouts and swineherds in the village, and who help their kin from the Golden Steppe make their way to Blackpoort and other points south. The village has two competing taverns, the Sneering Pony and the Hole-in-the-Wall.

The Sneering Pony is mostly frequented by humans, the farmers gathering in the large room to drink golden ale and mead and eat roast lamb while listening to a woman bard, Hannah, past her prime but with a fantastic voice – perfect for laments. They sit, drink, eat and cry. In the room above, the merchant and artisans gather to drink spiced wine and eat pungent stews while gambling or watching bare-knuckle boxing.

The Hole-in-the-Wall is a tiny bar for halflings that is literally accessed via a hole in the wall of the Sneering Pony. It is a cozy place with many chairs with thick cushions, root beer par excellence, food not to be beat and some of the finest storytellers in the region, who weave the legends of old with fragrant pipe smoke.

2231. Monastery of Valor | Stronghold

A monastery of monks dedicated to Ninurta, the god of heroes, occupies a high ridge in this hex. The ridge is surrounded by an acacia forest populated by numerous wild goats, which are held as sacred to the deity.

The monastery is a mud-brick fort consisting of a small citadel (wherein dwell the monks) and a court-yard for their training. Several small outbuildings permit monks solitude for their meditations.

The monastery enjoys occasional visits from the knights of Lyonesse. Many young knights journey to the monastery for training, especially in the areas of courage and fortitude.

The 20 lesser monks of Ninurta fight with forked weapons used for disarming and bludgeoning foes. They pray to a white crystal formation beneath the monastery that is reached by crawling through a narrow, twisting tunnel. The cavern of the crystal is filled with warm, salty water and the walls are encrusted with smaller crystals which the monks chip off and turn into charms worn around their neck as proof they have seen the crystal.

Ninurta’s monks go bare-chested and wrap white cloth around their legs and abdomens. They paint a grey triangle on their faces and are permitted a crystal charm and leather bracers, but no other costume. Their leader is Shursab, a tall, stately woman with an abrasive personality. Only perfection is good enough for Shursab. If she meets a “perfect specimen”, there is a percentage chance equal to his or her charisma score that she falls in love with them. Shursab’s badge of office is a pair of opals on her bracers.

2844. Bacchanalia | Monster

Cultists of Bacchus have a gathering place here in the woods around a bloodstained stone table. The table sits on a low hill, the base of which is overgrown with red wild roses, a narrow stair of white stones leading up to it from a mucky gully. On new moons, a procession of fey and elven women moves through the woods lighting their way with torches and drinking from silver goblets of mind-altering wine. They become drunker as they approach the stone table, two or three men they have charmed in tow, and when they reach the top of the hill, they are joined by a trio of maenads. Under their direction they lash the men to the table and ply them with wine until they are blitzed out of their minds, before finally plunging knives into them. Satyrs watch from the woods, and gather the bodies when they have left, giving them a proper burial in the woods.

3348. Count Down to Pudding | Monster

A strange tan globe hangs from the bough of an oak. The sphere is one of force, and holds a dun pudding. The leaves of the woodland floor hide a steel box that, when the center is stepped on, forms a cube, the roof enclosing the victims of the trap and the pudding. Immediately, the force bubble begins to dissipate from the top down – it will take 30 minutes before the pud-ding can escape.

In the floor of the steel box there is a key hole which, if picked (or unlocked with the key inside the pudding), grants entry into a quasi-dimensions where the gnome thief Braba hid his treasure. The opening of the floor reveals stairs leading down into a weird cavern lit by the walls, which glow in shades of red and yellow. It will take 10 minutes to get to the treasure cavern, and another 10 to get back (though you might want to roll 3d6 to determine how many minutes it takes to get there and back). Among the treasure items is a tuning fork of no value, but which can cause the cube to unfold, allowing people to escape unharmed if the dun pudding remains contained in its force bubble.

# Nomo – Lakes, Snakes and Sea Phantoms

 Thomas Cole’s Destruction (1836) from Course of Empire

I’m deep into writing the Nomo hex crawl and thought I’d share a few of the encounters with you. I’m having fun writing it, combining a bit of the late Roman Empire + Byzantium about to fall, and running my Latin through a Gaulish filter to make it familiar and strange at the same time. Just north of Nomo’s heartland is the Crimson Waste, a desert that used to be a green and pleasant empire called Irem. The Iremites got into a devil worship and ultimately were destroyed in a war with the Nabu Empire (which you might have met in my Wyvern Coast/Nabu hex crawl from way back in NOD 1 to 3). Now that land is roamed by their descendants, the Warudi nomads, with a few monasteries and settlements that were spared in the cataclysm.

Lots of casual research goes into these things, so I always learn a few things. At the moment, I’m agonizing over Nomo’s legions and their emblems, mottoes and cohorts and such.

Anyhow … on with the show:

0411 Glassy Lake | Monster

This hex holds a vast, pristine lake with a glassy surface that seems unaffected by the wind. The banks are thick with acacias and great clouds of butterflies. At the center of the island there is a small, rocky island topped by a pretty little stronghold of lavender stone, with latticed windows and crenelations topped by golden pyramids. Splashing around the base of the island are pretty children – nixies – who sometimes climb the steps of the stronghold, which descend into the water, and slide through the doors.

Within the stronghold, a tower keep, which the nixies are pledged to defend, there is a throne of crushed shell, tall and fine, on which sits a woman composed of living glass. Princess Vyrna is the spirit of the lake, which was once much larger and much beloved by the Iremites. She was once a nixie queen, but took on her present form when she made a deal with the devil (literally) to save what remains of her home from the cataclysm. At night, the nixies of the lake take on a demonic aspect, and commit horrors upon any foolish enough to be found in the stronghold.

0512 The Snake Women Cometh | Monster

The desert sands here funnel into a deep cave of basalt. As one proceeds into the earth, about 500 feet, the air becomes warm and damp, and pools form on the floor. This opens into several interlocked caverns that are very wet and warm, with opalescent slime growing on the walls in great furry strands. These caves are inhabited by a trio of giant vipers that are controlled by the true masters of the cave complex.

Hidden behind one of these curtains there is a stair that proceeds another 400 feet into the earth. This passage is blocked by an adamantine gate with a complex, electrified lock.

At the base of this winding stair is a complex of ophidian amazons. Tall, statuesque women, they have pale scales that darken to rust on their lower arms and legs and carmine on their fingers and toes. This tribe of warrior-scientists consists of 85 females (lesser ophidians) and 27 smaller males who are left behind to tend the eggs and the machinery that pro-duces the warm, wet air that fills the cave.

In these caves, they work night and day on developing a method to clone themselves using concentrated quintessence, blood and whatever humanoid remains they can recover from their vipers. They have not yet struck upon the proper formula, but when they do, they have plans for Nod.

0610 Dirhab | Stronghold

Dirhab is a dervish abbey from olden times. The abbey is constructed of white marble, pock marked after a thousand years of windblown sand. The walls are 40 feet high, and there is a 50-foot tall tower at each corner. The gates of the abbey are composed of ebony, and are 1 foot thick, 10 feet tall and can only be opened using a winch found on the inside.

Within the front gate there is a broad courtyard, rectangular, that supports numerous flowering bushes. The courtyard is floored in reddish tiles decorated with white lilies. On the walls are mosaics of Marduk’s battle with Tiamat and Kingu, and his creation of humanity.

From the courtyard, one can pass into the living quarters and temple of the order. The buildings that surround the courtyard are three stories tall. The halls are hung with rich tapestries depicting the destruction of Irem by avenging angels raining down fire and the scattering of the Warudi across the Crimson Waste. In each of the towers is a large bell of meteoric iron, the dervishes striking them at noon and midnight to call the order and their families to prayer.

In a second courtyard, well-protected, are kept dozens of small white goats with pearly horns. These goats are kept as sacred animals, and are feted on Marduk’s holy day from silver bowls while the priests dance and play flutes carved from lapis lazuli.

The patriarch of the order is old Gazim (NG human cleric 10), whose body has twisted as he has grown older. He has lived through 500 summers, as all of the dervishes are extremely long-lived due to the blessing of Marduk.

The abbey houses 18 dervish priests, 40 dervishes and 180 noncombatants. The dervishes are mostly armed with shields and kaskaras, though 20 of them carry light crossbows and wear leather armor. They all fight like berserkers.

0927 The Sea Phantoms | City-State

Deep beneath the waves of this hex there stands a tall spire, raised from the sea floor, 40 feet thick at the base and 200 feet tall, rounded at the top and carved from top to bottom with skulls in an alien, geometric design.

Around this spire is a town of 1,500 sea phantoms, men and women of the Ethereal Plane with only the merest presence on the Material Plane. These people are not undead, but they are insubstantial and appear indistinct to people who dwell wholly on the Material.

These sea phantoms survive on the dying screams and lamentations of doomed sailors, though they are never the cause of these dooms. They merely float to the surface when they detect fear, and holding out their hazy hands collect these collected sufferings in the form of a black nodule that is not unlike a large, black pearl. They place these pearls, which exist on both the Material and Ethereal Planes, in the eye sockets of those aforementioned skulls. These pearls bathe the Ethereal Plane in a strange radiation which nourishes and sustains the enigmatic sea phantoms.

On the Ethereal, the sea phantoms appear as normal human beings with pallid skin, silvery hair and slate grey eyes. They dress in gauzy robes and carry thin silver swords and daggers at their sides to fend off ethereal marauders and other such dangers of their plane. On the Material Plane, they appear as vague, shimmering outlines of human beings, with eyes like faint lights gleaming through a thick fog, and their voices, normally quite distinct, sound hollow and wispy. Their buildings and houses look like white shapes seen through a thick fog bank, and feel to those on the Material Plane like cold, slushy water.

The sea phantoms are not evil, nor are they good. They want nothing from the Material Plane beyond the desperation of doomed men and women. They seek no agency over the material world, but are willing to communicate the secrets they have gathered to people if they are willing to pass through to the Ethereal Plane with rich gifts.

1719 Natanos | Stronghold

Natanos is a small fishing hamlet (pop. 50) on the shores of the Green Sea. The hamlet consists of several stone cottages on a gentle rise overlooking the beach. Within the hamlet on will find a mysterious staircase between two buildings. The stairs are painted many colors and seem to climb nowhere. Numerous orange cats sit on the stairs.

The cats are intelligent, and live with the sorceress Philia. The stairs head up to her tower, which is tucked between dimensions. The tower, if one could see it, is about 60 feet tall and pure white, topped with a conical azure roof. The interior is elegant and simple, with many bookshelves, blue carpets and furniture that is best described as “Danish modern”.

One chamber holds a small gallery of abstract art, all of it carved from blue stone, ranging from light to very dark blue. Another holds a pool of sea water and an elegant white boat – the pool serves as a portal to the sea, and is activated by pouring wine mixed with a drop of blood into the pool. All of the chambers equipped with floor to ceiling mirrors, for the only thing Philia loves more than her cats is her own face.

Philia is in the middle of the process of forging a magic staff, and she is using the pounding surf and sea winds to do it. The staff is being held by a living statue that she has sent out into the waves – only its forearm and hand, and the staff, are visible to those on the beach, and one might guess it is nothing but a bit of driftwood.

Just a lazy Saturday post today with a few preview locations from the next Og hex crawl in NOD 29. Pour yourself a drink and enjoy!

2913 Morgor | Settlement

Morgor is a mining village of 400 lanky hill dwarves and flinty gnomes. The dwarves of Morgor are more lively than most due to the positive influence of the gnomes and their hand organs. The warriors of the village, 20 dwarves and gnomes, wear bulbous helms and coats of mail and carry military picks and light crossbows.

The village currently looks abandoned, for the people have had to withdraw into their mine. They have been terrorized for more than a week by a weird sorcerer called Tall Darrow. The countryside around the main village is populated by 3,200 dwarf and gnome farmers. Many of them have fled the area and are on their way as refugees to Azsor. Many others are hiding in cellars or caves in the wilderness.

Tall Darrow has pale, waxy skin spread over his tall, thin form. He is capable of replacing his head with one of six others, all of them being the preserved heads of ancient sorcerers, and each having their own set of magic spells that they know. Each morning, the sorcerer can remove one head and then attach a new one – this can only be done in the first rays of dawn, and the process takes 10 minutes during which the sorcerer can do nothing.

Morgor’s ruler is the Lady Ymarr, a rough and tumble hill dwarf war-maiden with a pet winter wolf she rescued as a cub. The wolf is growing impatient in the mine, and is threat-ening to return to its naturally evil form.

Village Treasure: 850 gp, 2,500 sp, 13,000 cp, 2 fancy stones

3023 Gloomy Storm Giantess | Monster

There exists in this hex a pleasant hollow surrounded by tulip trees. In the midst of this grove there is a silver tube that juts up from the ground. Should anyone drop a gemstone down this tube, they will hear a hollow, echoing voice ask “What need thou know, friend?”

At the moment, a storm giantess by the name of Avnell is consulting the subterranean oracle about whether her lover will ever return from Utt, the City of Giants located far to the north in the White Mountains. She is quite distraught, which explains the gloomy clouds and temperamental rains that plague this hex at the moment.

If adventurers will promise to journey north and find her lover, the erudite storm giant Jondr, she will promise them the moon and the stars.

A herd of shadow horses sweeps down from the hills at eventide, leaving crystal growths to grow behind them. These crystals last for 1d4 hours before they explode into a mist of negative energy that chokes and drains. The mist persists for 1d6 hours (or 1d6 turns if there is a strong wind, 10% chance). The crystals can be harvested and used to create magic items, but they drain 1 hit point (permanent) per day from any within 10 feet of them. The horses are heading towards the City of Sand and Stone [3403].

3429 Temple of Mental Fortitude | Stronghold

The Temple of Mental Fortitude is a strange place indeed. The “temple” consists of a thousand stone pillars of unknown height, emerging from a valley shrouded in chill mists. In the surrounding mountains dwell a flock of giant eagles. Seekers of enlightenment come to the lip of the valley and meditate for three days before holding up a golden offering to the giant eagles. If they are judged worthy, an eagle swoops down, grabs the monk with its talons (inflicting damage) and deposits them atop one of the icy pillars.

The pillars are about 10’ in diameter. There, the monk con-tinues his meditations for 14 days, eating nothing and hydrating himself on the ice that gathers on his pillar. This mortification of the flesh is intended to bring about enlightenment and mental fortitude. If they survive, they increase their Wisdom by 1d4, and reduce their Constitution by the same.

When a monk has finished his time on the pillar, he crawls to the edge of the pillar and leaps off. A giant eagle will either catch him and carry him back to the edge of the cliffs that ring the valley, or he plunges into the mists and is never seen or heard from again.

3631 Temple of the Fox | Monster

A crevice in this hex, narrow and spooky, hides a small temple dedicated to Ruch, the Fox Spirit of the Qum’al. The temple is carved into the red walls of the crevice, with a single small door flanked by bas-reliefs of fox women. The door opens to a tunnel entrance that goes back about 30’ into the cliffs, ending in a chamber 20’ in diameter with a 30’ domed ceiling.

The temple room is completely dark – magically dark – with a number of motes of light that resemble stars. These motes orbit the dome, moving slowly unless somebody attempts to grab one or interfere with one – then they scramble and swarm around the room at full speed.

Grabbing a mote (treat them as AC 25) causes a terrible burn (1d6 damage) and leaves a key-shaped imprint on their palms. If the key is made and one returns to the temple they will find it guarded by seven foxweres, lithe women wrapped in poly-chromatic veils that hide mithral mail shirts. They are armed two scimitars and can cast spells as 4th level druids.

In the floor of the temple there is a tiny hole, just big enough for a key. When a key created from an impression left by a mote is put in the hole and it is turned, the corresponding mote becomes larger as the key is turned, and becomes a portal into a vault buried deep beneath the ground.

These vaults belong to some of the greatest thieves in the world, and are guarded by death traps of their own devising. Here, they hid away their greatest treasure – their memories and true identities.

Have a groovy weekend. I’ll be back tomorrow with a Dragon review (I hope).

# Ulflandia – Giants and Magic Wells

I’m about 90% finished writing the Ulflandia hex crawl, which means I’m pretty much on schedule to get the next issue of NOD out this month. I should get Bloody Basic – Sinew & Steel Edition out as well, and maybe Bloody Basic – Weird Fantasy Edition (depending on how much reading I get done between now and the end of the month). Once those are put to bed, I turn my near-sighted eyes to Grit & Vigor, which I would like to publish before the end of summer.

That being said, I thought I’d post a few Ulflandia entries today to give people a taste of it. Enjoy!

3324 OLD GROG | MONSTER

Old Grog the hill giant smith dwells here, keeping a forge, three unruly daughters and a motherly wife who could only kill a person with kindness, for she’s otherwise gentle as a lamb. Old Grog remembers the old ways, and he can breathe magic into his creations if he has the mind to – he’ll swap minor magic weapons and armor for tales well told (and a heap of gold). If somebody will promise to wed one of his daughters, he’ll make more powerful magic items. He keeps a giant spider on an unbreakable silver thread in his workshop as a guard animal and companion. The spider is well versed in elven poetry and gnomish limericks, and he has a fine baritone voice (for a spider).

Treasure: 150 pp, a silver hammer (80 gp).

3630 FOREST GIANTS | MONSTER

A band of fifteen forest giants and their mates dwells in a massive hall made of timber in this hex. The longhouse is surrounded by a wooden picket and a shallow moat, about 20 feet wide, filled with gooey mud and crossed by a drawbridge.

The forest giants have grey skin, no hair and emerald eyes. They dress in tunics and leggings, usually of green, brown, russet or grey, and wear cloaks. Forest giants are excellent bowmen, and carry large longbows and scimitars.

The forest giants have a love for ale and wine, and will gladly trade their guidance through the woods for intoxicants.

Treasure: 65 pp, 1,750 gp, a silver medallion set with a citrine (500 gp), a sable cloak with a golden clasp set with alexandrite (1,500 gp), a scroll of darkvision, a +1 shield (giant-sized), a potion of hide from undead, and a potion of remove paralysis.

3724 NOBRUN THE NECROMANCER | STRONGHOLD

The stronghold of Nobrun of the Glassy Eyes appears to be a cave set in a doughty granite hill topped by long, green grasses with a base surrounded by huckleberry bushes. The cave mouth is shaped like the maw of a demon, and there is the notable scent of sulfur surrounding the place.

If one approaches the cave mouth, a vrock demon is conjured. The vrock, Xerial, is Nobrun’s major domo. He will inquire as to the nature of the visit and peruse his scroll to see if the visitors are expected. If they are, he will permit them to enter the cave, at which point they will see a stone stair leading up to the top of the hill and a simple wooden door painted dull green. The door is wizard locked. Beyond the door, which appears to be attached to nothing, is the invisible tower of Nobrun.

Nobrun is a necromancer. He is inhumanly tall and thin, with long, bony fingers absolutely covered in rings. Some of the rings look valuable, others are made from human hair or meteoric iron and engraved with runes. The necromancer dresses in purple silk and black velvet, in the manner of a Spanish grandee. Nobrun is always heavily perfumed (usually lavender), and he has a long, black beard (he colors it) and strange, glassy eyes. One of his eyes has a permanent x-ray vision spell cast on it, while the other always sees with a faerie fire effect. He normally wears a patch lined with lead over the x-ray eye.

Nobrun lives alone, except for his army of zombies. All of them are shaved smooth and dyed purple, and dressed in black velvet doublets and leggings of silver maille. Nobrun is currently between apprentices.

3924 THE BOILING WELL | WONDER

A well in this hex produces great gouts of steam from the water, which nearly boils with magical energy. The water is about 20 feet below the surface, the well being constructed of grey stones that are slick with green slime that must be cleared before one can safely enter the well.

By bathing in the water for one minute (suffering 1d6 points of Constitution damage in the process), a magic-user or sorcerer gains the knowledge of a single weird spell. The spell remains lodged in a person’s mind for 24 hours. A sorcerer can add the spell to her natural repertoire if she has a spare spell slot, while a magic-user can scribe the spell on a scroll or in his spell book. Of course, they can also just cast the spell and discharge it from their mind permanently.

The second time a magic-user bathes in the well, the Constitution damage becomes Constitution drain. The third time, it becomes 1d6 points of energy drain. A fourth dip is fatal, turning the magician into a rampaging chaos beast.

The random spells learned from the well are:

D6 SPELL
1 Accursed Archer
2 Blasphemous Shield
3 Golden Torch
4 Hex of Diminution
5 Invocation of Righteous Anger
6 Unknowable Incantation of the Yellow Doors

ACCURSED ARCHER
Level: Magic-User 1
Range: Medium (150 ft.)
Duration: Concentration + 1 round

This spell forces a single opponent within range that is shooting or throwing missiles to automatically target one of his own allies. If he has no allies, the spell simply applies a -1 penalty to his attacks on non-allies.

BLASPHEMOUS SHIELD
Level: Magic-User 2
Range: Personal
Duration: 1 minute

This spell conjures a shield (much like the shield spell) before the spellcaster. The shield bears an image blasphemous to a single chosen cleric within sight of the magic-user.

The cleric must pass a Will saving throw each round he or she attempts to do anything but attack the bearer of the shield. The shield bearer enjoys AC 18 against the cleric’s attacks, and a +1 bonus to saving throws against the cleric’s spells. Spell that are saved against have a 25% chance of turning back on the spellcasting cleric.

GOLDEN TORCH
Level: Magic-User 2 (Lawful (Good))
Range: See below
Duration: 1 hour

A golden torch appears in the magician’s right hand (always the right hand, and there it must stay). It emits a golden glow with double the illumination of a normal torch, and emits positive energy in a 30-foot radius. This positive energy doubles the normal healing rate of living creatures and grants them a +1 bonus to save vs. poison, disease and death effects, forces undead creatures to pass a Will saving throw to enter the positive energy and imposes a -2 penalty to their Fortitude saving throws.

HEX OF DIMINUTION
Level: Magic-User 4
Range: Touch
Duration: Instantaneous

This hex slowly shrinks a creature down to tiny size. Each hour, the creature’s size category is reduced by one. The spell is permanent, though it can be reversed with one or several permanent enlarge person spells, dispel magic or wish. The creature’s equipment does not shrink with him or her.

INVOCATION OF RIGHTEOUS ANGER
Level: Magic-User 5
Range: Personal
Duration: 1 minute

As the cleric spell righteous might, save that the magic-user is unable to cast spells while enlarged.

UNKNOWABLE INCANTATION OF THE YELLOW DOORS
Level: Magic-User 6
Range: Personal
Duration: See below

Often used as a last ditch effort to escape certain doom, the unknowable incantation is a dangerous spell. When cast, the magic-user is surrounded by walls of black energy (negative energy, in fact) with four yellow portals placed to the north, south, east and west. The black walls form a circle with a 20-ft diameter, and they rise 20 feet before ending in a ceiling.

Touching the walls causes 1d6 points of energy drain. Each round, the walls and ceiling contract, moving inward by 5 feet (the movement is actually fluid, not all at once). If they close in on a creature, it is killed unless it is immune to energy drain, in which case it left unharmed.

The walls can be avoided by entering one of the yellow portals. Each portal leads to a random plane, elemental or outer. The magic-user has no control over where the doors lead, nor has he any knowledge of where they lead. Once a door is touched, a person is transported to that plane. There is a 5% chance that the door deposits the person before a power of that plane.

# Mountains of Chaos – Golems and Lizards

 This is the Frazetta painting that inspired the Klarkash Mountains (found HERE)

Hey folks – the art is ordered, the supplemental articles are being written (very excited about the pen & paper football game – I’ve run 31 seasons so far), and I think I’m on track for a February release. Hopefully, I’ll get another Bloody Basic released as well – I think the Fairy Tale edition. We’ll see on that one. In the meantime, a few more locales from the Klarkash Mountains. Part of the fun in this hex crawl is that it takes place above and below ground. Underground encounters are put in a box, while the surface encounters are not. The first bit is an excerpt about movement through the mountains.

Movement through the mountains is complicated. Many valleys are dead ends, and frequent landslides make dead ends of passes that were once passable. Whenever a mountain hex is entered, the Treasure Keeper should roll 1d4 to determine how many exits the hex currently has, and then roll 1d12 to determine how the hex can be exited. Assume that the characters can always leave the way they came, even if the roll on the table does not indicate that they can:

D12 EXIT
1 North – surface
2 North – subterranean
3 Northeast – surface
4 Northeast – subterranean
5 Southeast – surface
6 Southeast – subterranean
7 South – surface
8 South – subterranean
9 Southwest – surface
10 Southwest – subterranean
11 Northwest – surface
12 Northwest – subterranean

A subterranean exit must be discovered by searching (treat as searching the hex for a secret door, with one check per day). If the hex contains a subterranean encounter, the exit will always involve dealing with this encounter.

7321 IRON GOLEM | MONSTER
A key tunnel in this hex is being held up almost entirely by a stout iron golem. The iron golem is blocking the tunnel. If it moves (which it will if attacked) the tunnel collapses after 1d6 minutes. A total of 1d10x200 feet of the tunnel will collapse when the iron golem moves.

7326 DIRE STAIRS | WONDER
The remnants of a deep staircase can be found in this hex. After descending about 300 feet, one begins to detect warmth and sulfuric fumes. The stairs keep on descending until the reach the center of Nod, wherein Hell is located.

7333 FIRE LIZARDS | MONSTER
1d20 fire lizards are crawling over and through a series of basalt tunnels. The tunnels are hot to the touch, and the air is excessively dry and acrid. Crystal growths explode from the sides, ceiling and floors of the tunnels at random (1 in 6 chance per round, 1 in 6 chance of a growth hitting an adventurer for 1d6 points of normal damage + 1d6 points of fire damage, Reflex save to halve damage). The crystal growths glow a deep orange, and they are lousy with the raw energy of fire magic. A person holding a piece of this crystal can double the effects of the next three fire spells he or she casts.

7606 KATYA’S MAGNIFICENT TOWER | STRONGHOLD
The mountains here are composed of green stone, slightly glossy, with valleys filled with purple grasses and large mud flats fed by scalding mud geysers. The land is lovely and dangerous, and home to a large village of fierce yeomen clustered around the green tower of Katya the Magnificent, a magician who specializes in teleportation and other modes of magical transportation. Her tower is a sort of beacon on both the Astral and Ethereal Planes, and serves as an anchorage for the weird vessels that ply those dimensions, depositing interesting visitors and their strange cargoes in the little town.

The townspeople do some farming and herding, but most are engaged in the tourist and mercantile trades. The town has three grand inns and several taverns.

The green tower is about 300 feet tall, and composed of the same stone that dominates the landscape, with floral carvings around the windows and doors. The interior is crowded with visitors, servants and guards. The servants are swathed in layers of white silks, which hides the fact that they are animated skeletons. The guards are living iron statues made to look like gothic knights. Katya’s personal guard is composed of the succubus Hamzhara, bound to her service by Katya’s possession of her true name, and her three alu-demon daughters, Lividia, Xaspera, Inflamidine. Katya permits them some demonic fun to keep them docile, but otherwise keeps them on a short leash.

7721 MERWIN PETERS | MONSTER
The ghost of Merwin Peters, former trader, sits on a stump in this hex on moonless nights. The ghost is headless, and does little more than point to the west, perhaps indicating where his head has been carried away. The ghost has a set of keys on a chain around his neck – perhaps they would open a treasure chest if the ghost could tell adventurers where to look.

# Mountains of Chaos – the Giant’s Vault

A few more locales. I’m commissioning art today, so I think I’m on schedule to get NOD 25 out at the end of this month.

5534 GIANT’S VAULT | DUNGEON
In the elder days, the giants constructed a vast dungeon beneath the mountains here to hide the hammer first used to construct the lightning bolts hurled by Jove. The hammer broke, but it contains massive residual energies useful for forging lesser magic items. The dungeon is guarded by all manner of giant creatures (all large or huge), and it is sized accordingly. The halls are patrolled by ten purple worms with amethyst faces embedded in their heads. The faces can communicate with one another and control the monsters, making them all the more dangerous to intruders.

5728 COUNTY OF NIMBUS | CITY-STATE

Nimbus is a great mountain fastness, a concentric castle of light grey marble painted white, with five towers and a central keep flying the green banner of the Countess D’Aurzi, a pleasingly plump woman with perhaps the shrewdest mind in Umbriago, and an iron stomach that allows her to drink ogres under the table. She is attended by three consorts, her chosen knights Melus, Urgis, and Amarionnus (her favorite, but the stupidest and thus not worthy of ruling by her side).

Surrounding the castle there is a village of tall, narrow houses composed of grey brick with red doors. Brass nails are pounded into the doors for good luck, and hung with strings of beads. The houses are set on gravel streets radiating out from the castle and separated by triangular pastures on which the city’s fine cattle are grazed. Wooden posts, strangely carved in demonic shapes, look over the cattle. The people fear these totems, which preceded the founding of the city, and never look directly at them without spitting on the ground and tossing a copper coin.
The people walk to their fields, which are watered by underground springs and frequent rains. The city boasts a few artisans and merchants, a mercenary company that is always hiring for the summer campaign season in the north, and a shrine to Eurynome, the titaness of pastures and the matron goddess of the city-state. Three female druids oversee the shrine and tend to the spiritual needs of the people. The trio always includes a crone, a matron and a maiden. The crone tends to the countess and the city government with her wise council, the matron to the needs of the common people, and the maiden to the needs of the herds and fields.

Besides the city’s cattle, there is also timber in the mountains, fertile fields in the surrounding valleys (each protected by a fortified tower keep controlled by one of the county’s knights and topped with a beacon fire to alert the city to danger) and fur-trapping. The fur trade is where the real money is, with traders leading caravans down to the sea in [5627] once per month to trade with merchant galleys from other city-states.

In all, the city-state of Nimbus boasts a population of 600, and the domain around it 5,400 people in four manors, three of them controlled by the aforementioned knights. The fourth is overseen by a huntsman in the employ of the three druids of Eurynome. The city watch consists of six men-at-arms, and the county’s army consists of about 40 men-at-arms, 30 armed with Lucerne hammers and short swords, the others with longbows.

5744 DUCHY OF KESSEL | CITY-STATE
Kessel is the hard-drinking, hard-working red city of the deep mountains. Long isolated from the rest of Umbriago, the strain of orc blood runs deeper here than elsewhere, and the peoples are only barely governable by Duchess Maladi. The people of Kessel are miners and quarrymen (basalt, olivine and peridots), farmers and herdsmen (mountain wheat, stunted pears, cattle), some lumberjacks in the mountains, fisherwomen in the rivers, and a small band of artisans, especially gemners and smiths.

The bourgeois of the town dress in rough finery, the men in arming coats, the women in virago sleeves. The commoners dress in tunics and stockings. The city-state has 400 citizens, the hinterlands 3,600 peasants on four manors, two of them baronial (Baroness Lemba and Baron Morix, siblings with a deep, abiding rivalry that borders on hatred) and one dedicated to the Poor Brothers of Pluto’s Trident, Pluto being a patron of miners, and the patron deity of Kessel.

Duchess Maladi is casually cruel and bombastic, and feared by her people. She has high cheek bones, ruddy skin, and deep eyes of black flecked with gold. Maladi is always well dressed, with leather corset and full skirt and sleeves of crushed damask silk. She carries a silver horseman’s mace as a symbol of office (the face stained with blood, as she uses it to personally execute traitors) and a brace of daggers hidden on her person. Half-orcs and orcs would call her handsome.

The buildings of Kessel are made of red brick with slate roofs. The walls are made of basalt. The city is situated at the end of a broad, long valley, backing up to a dormant volcano. It is also protected by the two rushing rivers. Each river is spanned by a bridge with fortified gatehouses controlling access to the valley and, thus, the city and its fields. An army of 30 men-at-arms (pikemen and crossbowmen on mountain ponies) can be raised to supplement the four permanent guardsmen who man the gatehouses on the bridges.

6026 BROTHERS OF THE EVIL EYE | STRONGHOLD
A monastery is perched on the seashore here, an imposing, windowless structure of basalt blocks, an unsightly pile indeed. The building is home to the Brotherhood of the Evil Eye, a band of goblinoid monks dedicated to Azathoth, the Lord of Entropy and Chaos. They are brutal in their discipline, and many who join the monastery do not make it out alive. Those who survive become a potent force for chaos. The leader of the monastery is a smallish goblin called Zozzo, his lieutenants being Zum and Karx. Under them are 17 first level monks. All of the brothers cover their entire bodies with tattoos or brands of eyes. In addition, they carry silver flutes in honor of their chaotic god.

# The Mountains of Chaos – Introduction

The next hex crawl for NOD is set in the Klarkash Mountains, which divide the Venatia hex crawl from the lands of Nomo, Guelph and Irem (which probably doesn’t mean much, so lets say the part of the world inspired by Greece, Rome and the Fertile Crescent).

What follows are some excerpts of the hex crawl – enjoy!

3834 GHAE | CITY-STATE
Ghae is a fading city-state of deep sea locathah. The city has the pattern of a starfish, with great towers at its six points and hundreds of domes holding homes, palaces, temples, armories, workshops and the like. The city was once home to over 15,000 locathah, but only 12,500 remain, as the mithral mines they once worked have been depleted.

The deep locathah resemble anglerfish, and though they are fearsome to look upon, they are not evil. The city’s autocrat, Phlaq, wears phosphorescent shell armor as a sign of his authority. He carries a mithral scepter that looks like it was made by surface elves, and it was – it was lost at some point by Vinrix, the missing Emperor of Nomo.

The army of Ghae is 1,000 strong. The locathah wear no armor. They carry spears and often ride mechanical dunkleosteus, powered by vril. These armored mounts are slowly dying, so they are now rarely used. The soldiers are poorly paid and only barely loyal. They have turned to banditry to supplement their incomes, driving some merchants away to the west, where they hope to find welcome in other deep sea cities.

4125 BLEEDING TITAN | MONSTER
A sea titan by the name of Glaudia is drowsing in the sun here, floating on his back in the sea, which remains placid around her. Three giant leeches have attached themselves to her and are supping on his ichor. The titan isn’t particularly bothered by this, but awakening her will throw her into a rage.

5302 BLOODY STAIRS | WONDER
High in the mountains here there is a cave shrouded in magical darkness. Beyond the entrance, light works, and reveals a staircase stained with blood. The staircase leads down to a great cavern in which there is a bell composed of lead and engraved with images of fallen angels holding burning torches. When struck, the bell sends out blacklight (per the spell) in a 100-ft radius, strikes all within 60 feet with black lightning (also per the spell) and summons forth all monsters within 10 hexes to war in the name of unholy Chaos.

5404 BEJEWELED ZOMBIES | MONSTER
The walls of the river canyon here are studded with twelve spheres of force. Each one contains a rabid zombie, scratching at the sphere and trying to attack anything that comes within sight. Around their necks are long iron chains from which are suspended large iron keys. In the middle of the river, near the spheres, there is a small promontory that bears a great, iron door. The door is two feet thick and cannot be opened, for it is really a sort of elevator platform that lowers into the promontory when activated. The door/platform has twelve keyholes … so you can see where this is going.

If the spheres of force are deactivated, the zombies are released. When the zombies are released, they grow to giant size (the iron chains now fit their necks more snuggly) and attack.

GIANT ZOMBIE, Huge Undead: HD 8; AC 11; ATK 1 slam (2d6); MV 20; F8 R11 W9; AL Neutral (N); XP 400; Special—Move or attack, weapon resistance (blunt weapons).

If the platform is activated, it lowers itself slowly at first, and then quite quickly, about 300 feet into the earth. A door at the bottom of this shaft opens into the underworld.

5444 HEALING BATH | WONDER
A stone circle is hidden in the mountains here, on a meadow of daisies and purple cone flowers. The stones are jagged and white, and bear deep claw marks that form weird patterns. The circle has a diameter of 60 feet.

Under a full moon, the stones glow in the moonlight. The ground within the circle becomes first spongy and then ethereal, dropping people into a cavern below (20 ft. fall). Within this cavern, dimly lit by the moonlight filtering through the ethereal ground, there is a fountain of healing waters surrounded by a dozen statues of skull-faced nymphs. The healing bath is permitted only to Chaotic (Evil) creatures; others are attacked by silver rays from the eyes of the statues that curse them (per the bestow curse) spell.

More to come …

# Navigating a Fantasy World with Google

I was looking at some paintings this morning by British artists working during the Victorian period. The painting below was painted by Richard Parkes Bonington in 1826. It depicts the Rialto in Venice.

Since the Rialto is a landmark, I decided to have a look on GoogleEarth …

Not the same angle, of course, but close enough. This got me wondering how useful it would be to use GoogleEarth’s street view for fantasy gaming. I’ve used it in the past for a Mystery Men! game, mostly to stage a chase and fight in Chicago IL. That was set in the 1960’s, so not so far in the past that the modern cityscape wasn’t close enough to use “as-is”.

This section of Venice has some nice alleyways that appear to be “walkable” in GoogleEarth, and the buildings don’t seem terribly different from 1826, when the above painting was painted. It makes me think that by picking an old city, and jumping into the old part of that city – the part that’s been kept “oldey-timey” for the tourists – you might be able to turn it into a fantasy city and navigate players through using random encounters and random building tables, and a few set pieces, to facilitate play and give them a better reference point when fights break out or cut purses nab their gold and a chase ensues.

Some other cityscapes that might prove useful …

Carcasonne, France – be sure to have your adventurers stay at the Best Western Hotel le Donjon.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Ghent, Belgium

Prague, Czech Republic

Siena, Italy

Unfortunately, many cities outside of Europe don’t have street views available, such as Algiers’ famous Casbah. You can at least use the street maps, though, and supplement it with old paintings.

You can also use real world landscapes from GoogleEarth for wilderness exploration to provide something more visually stimulating than a simple hex containing a landscape symbol. The NOD hexcrawls use 6-mile hexes. Below, a roughly 7-mile wide chunk of the Himalayas.

 Much better than a hex with a triangle in it, don’t you think?

You can zoom in as you play and, depending on the resolution of an area, have a better understanding of the path that has to be taken, and maybe find a convenient spot for a dwarf village or red dragon lair. The pictures can give the players a better understanding of what they’re going through.

 You’re walking up a narrow defile. The ground is covered with gravel and boulders, and the slopes tower above you on either side. Strange noises echo down the defile …

And what about random weather? Well, why not just use today’s forecast? How is this bit of the Himalayas doing today? Rainy, fairly warm (well, when this post was written, anyways).

Just a few ideas for leveraging modern technology for better tabletop gaming. If you have any tips and tricks, please wax poetic in the comments, or toss in a link to a blog article you wrote.