A preview of my One-Page Dungeon entry

I’ve been writing quite a bit on my One Page-Dungeon contest entry, and I thought I’d share one of the monsters before I get back to layout and scribing. This is a near-final draft: I’ll go back and edit the post if something significant changes.

A Gaunt Thing is a spirit of Starvation and Want. When encountered, one will prowl at night around the edges of any campsite within 5 miles of its lair, pleading for a morsel or warmth. It will remain beyond the reach of the party’s torch or firelight unless invited in, and disappear at dawn… but reappear the next night, always stalking fire and feed. If the party lets it in, it will seem affable, but hungry – inexorably devouring all offered food until none is left. It will then seize unoffered food, and finally seek to rend and eat the party themselves. It will devour the heat of a fire (dimming its light as well) after the manner of a Brown Mold, and it is healed by flames. They grow swifter and tougher as they feed.
Allowing one into the firelight or slaying it will summon 1d6 more. They will begin arriving during the following hour, but they too must be invited in to actually enter the firelight. A Gaunt One left too long at the edge of the firelight will alternately wheedle, curse, cajole, and threaten their targets constantly and loudly. When besieged by the Gaunt Ones, characters must save vs. Spells each night for each and every Gaunt One plaguing them, or have no restful sleep that night. Many monsters will be driven off in fear or devoured if they approach the Gaunt; if the Gaunt flee during the night, the party would do well to follow their example! The definition of an “Invitation” can be startlingly broad, as the party my find to their chagrin, and once you have their attentions traveling without a flame is most ill-advised. They are vulnerable to whit-thorn, the juices of waybroad*, and to iron.

*Waybroad is an old Saxon name: the plant is alleged to have many mystic properties, and was one of the Nine Great Herbs sacred to Odin. It is associated with travel and roads. Whit-thorn is of course a common wood for making clubs, not to mention a fairly powerful magic ingredient.

They were inspired partially by this (Warning: NSFL, although technically SFW), which I saw on the /x/. If you could penetrate their Glamers in some way, this is what you’d see…

Pithitude

Worked my ass off all day, had an awesome idea, needs playtesting and hammering into shape.

I updated the tools and free RPG pages.

Now I’m going to sleep.

Pax.

From the Archives #2

Today’s installment is the arsenal of my longest-running character, a fallen ranger who became a very, very dangerous assassin (he actually transitioned to 3e as a lv. 26 character, if that gives you any idea). He only used a small handful of magic items, several of which were commissioned as payment for his “services” or looted from particularly unpleasant enemies.

This gear is from the period when I was palling around with Silence the Bladesinger* (the actual comic and the pictures he commissioned from this lady appear long gone, these ten years by..). Anyway, since (almost) no-one actually cares about old characters..

First, a word about common poisons. I had a very accommodating GM once upon a time: together, we drew up poison research rules much like the spell research rules in 2e (I can post those in a future Archive). I poisoned the hell out of some daggers, and kept them in specially prepped throwing sheaths. These weapons, however, were almost never poisoned, since my favorite one was an anti-magic poison and I didn’t particularly want to hose a custom dweomer…

The Twin Terrors of Eric the Faithless
A matched pair of long, heavy throwing knives; they sheathe into opposite ends of the same plain brown leather scabbard. The handles are of ridged bone, with ring of dancing skeletal figures holding hands engraved around the pommels. The blades are blued Damascus steel, chased with silver.
They are +1 knives (not daggers) balanced for throwing. When drawn and thrown, the user may call one of three command phrases. The command words are engraved on the blade in the form of an Elvish poem: “Dance, my Darlings/Feet swift and true/Round and round you go”
On “Dance, my darlings” the blades attack autonomously for 1d4 rounds with a THAC0 of 13*, then fall to the floor.
On “Feet swift and true”, the weapons gain an additional +2 bonus to hit and damage.
On “Round and round you go” the blades will reappear in their sheath at the end of the next round.
These powers are only accessible if a phrase is spoken as the weapons are drawn and thrown simultaneously; thus, only one can be active at a time.
Rules: +1 Throwing knives with various additional effects if used properly. Personal property of Elthir.
*Attack as a 4HD monster(B/X) / 4th level Fighter (3x)

At character creation, he had a low Dex (8 or 9, I believe), which I wrote off as having lost an eye as a youth. He wore a one-eyed, featureless mask on assignment after becoming an assassin. His final payment, shortly before I retired the character, was this;

The Mask of the Faithless
A shaped, but featureless orihalcon mask. Into its single eye socket is inserted a ruby lens – a uniquely crafted Gem of True Seeing. Upon concentrating briefly, the user is also made aware of the exact range to any single creature or object in his sight: this cancels the negative modifier for fighting with one eye closed (or missing). The deep red tint of the gem can, however, obscure certain things from the user’s sight (at the GM’s discretion) and badly affects his night vision. The user is Blinded for one round after removing the mask.

He also routinely wore the Shadowcloak, a 2e magic item from the Complete Book of Thieves (not reproduced here). I later created a similar item for 3e, which I’ve back-translated into earlier AD&D rules.

Cloak of the Shadows, Lesser
This shimmering, midnight black cloak is crafted from the hide of a ritually flayed animate shadow (which must be skinned with a blessed silver blade). The cloak appears to be a soft velvet, as long as you don’t look at it too hard…
The cloak grants the user a 25% chance of invisibility in shadows if he remains motionless, and improves standard Hide in Shadows and Surprise rolls by 15% / +1. Once per day, the user may cast the reversed form of Light. They may also choose to invoke the cloak once per day. This makes them incorporeal (and therefore silent) for 1d6 rounds – but they still take normal damage from silvered or magical weapons, and double all damage from light-based sources.While in this form, the wearer gains infravision (60′), if they do not already possess it.
The wearer is at -1 to hit and -5% to use all skills in very bright light, and takes an additional point of damage from all light-based sources and silvered weapons: in addition, if they must save against a Light spell cast upon the eyes, they do so at a -2. Touching silver causes the wearer to feel an intense burning itch, but this has no mechanical effect.
3x: The user gains a +1 enchantment bonus per level to Hide in Shadows if he is not moving. Cast reversed Light 1/day. Become Ethereal and Silent 1/day for 1d6 Rounds (silvered or magic weapons will still hit them in this form).
The user becomes vulnerable to silver, and suffers a -2 circumstance penalty to all saving throws from light-based damage.  They also suffer a -2 circumstance penalty to all skills and BAB when in direct sunlight or the equivalent.

As more of a “mundane” magic item; using the Shadowcloak‘s powers, he enchanted a number of small stones and caltrops with reversed Continual Light and kept them in a sack at his belt for minelaying purposes and fast escapes. These were the primary original (ish) magic items: he also used a Lifestealer +2 and very occasionally got ahold of an Arrow of Slaying or an Arrow of Harming.

Finally, a sword I made and put in The Archives to honor old Quelthelas Arundel. The enchantment on it is one of his original spells – we used the SHIT out of the optional parrying rules, and Shadowblade was his answer (I just sicced the Twins on them and then came in from the shadows/out of the darkness)

Arath’ve, the Shadow-shroud.
Arath’ve is an ancient renegade Elven weapon, forged from the dancing unlight at the core of the Shadow Plane. It radiates Shadow and Illusion magic. The handle and sheath are crafted from soft white leather, and the fittings are of silver. The pommel is a simple acorn-type, with a small rondel of Jet.
When drawn, the pitch-black blade seems to explode into a loosely-connected swarm of blades and shards, each dark as night: they suck the light forth from the room, deepening shadows and softening the light. Even the user finds this disconcerting: each time he draws it, he must make a save vs. spells. Until he passes, he must either fight blind or fight as though he was not proficient with the weapon. This effect is cancelled after the user saves for the first time.
(Variable standard bonuses as appropriate); in addition, the sword gains a bonus of +1 to hit, and generates 2-5 mirror images of itself when drawn. If the sword is parried, randomly determine the blade that was hit: images are dispelled on “impact”, and the parry has no effect. Mirror images are generated the first time the sword is drawn each day, and are not regenerated until the following evening as the sun crosses the horizon.
Rules: (Enchanted Sword, casts Silence’s Shadowed Blade upon itself when drawn)

As you can see, I’m fond of drawbacks on my items, but also of powerful(ish) ones. I’ve always felt that the ying-yang should apply to magic –  all but the nastiest cursed items should have a little good (tempt the players to use them!).

Secondly, it keeps the wonder flowing – even fairly mundane weapons &c can be made much more interesting with a simple random 1st-level spell thrown on them (Heheh, Mouse would be amusing..); randomly generating them ahead of time and slapping them in The Archive means I’ll always have something to draw on when the party hits paydirt. I have a feeling this will come in handy when I start the new LotFP campaign…

*For those of you that care, I helped edit the Slayers fic “Shards of Chaos” up until he dropped it upon moving to Japan. Just looking for the pics of Silence brought back serious memories from the ’90s –  seeing the fragments of Amethyst Angel‘s old fanart site she put up when she was hosting the fics,  and Queeny‘s new page.. Damn. Now I think I have to go grab a beer and watch some Slayers in memory of friends I’ve lost touch with.

Fun stuff from work.

Got a bit of work done, and found the following pages:

http://the1642goodwyfe.wordpress.com/

http://thegoodwyfe.blogspot.com/

Interesting references for a very, very specific period in history: I’m specifically intrigued by the woodcuts, which look to help with a project I’ve got in the pipe.

But shortly thereafter, work finally did something that’s unacceptable to do on my main computer. I’m currently building the virtual machine that’s going to contain it… On the bright side, that means my lappie will finally be free to run better browsers, keep up my AdBlocking software, and generally not be under their control anymore.  On the downside, can’t make more money for another few hours at least, and probably until tomorrow.

This wasn’t technically from work, but is still awesome

Brother discussing a new D&D campaign. He keeps using phrases that set off red flags, like “story-planning” and “3x” and “Eberron”, but fuck it, I’m desperate. :b

Currently brewing a class like drunken little monkeys. Will post what we come up with later, when it’s fit for human eyes.

 

About the Archive (and a real intro post now!)

Basically, all those “Archive” posts are me converting the shreds of my old notebooks and half a gig of word files/images/maps and the like into something that other people can use. I’ll usually try to post in as many formats as I have data: I prefer the 1e AD&D for monsters, but I’ll add nods to D20 for the Pathfinder and 3x folks out there. In addition, I’ll occasionally post my conversions of other items and monsters into editions for which they were never published.

Check after the jump if you want an abbreviated history of my 2+ decades of gaming (there’s more, but I’ll leave that for now), and how I actually wound up with the docs.

(more…)

grah

So, one day my dad found something that promised to be utterly awesome; Christopher Lee as lead singer in a metal opera about Charlemagne.

Now, Chris Lee is basically James Bond with a staggeringly wide vocal range and that whole “competence” thing Jimbo lacks. So I was a bit more than cautiously optomistic..

And then this happened.

Yeah, no. He did better working with Rhapsody, ffs, and they’re basically an ego and 4 pairs of leather pants thrusting rhythmically at Mediaeval instruments.

 

This, on the other hand, this is the level I was hoping for.

I was introduced to Sabaton by a friend of mine in a car ride last week, and am now thoroughly hooked  – although their first album seems to be pretty generic “pagan metal”, the last 4 have all been excellent.  Instead of looking to Mediaeval subjects, they tend to rock out on the last hundred years. They even have a couple songs about the Warsaw Uprising, which is one of the most tragic, heroic things the U.S pretends never happened (history rants later, I’m sure)

 

More of your regularly scheduled programming later.

Busy work today.

Spent a good 4 hours sorting and cataloging my Eldar army today, then packing it into a box. It’s (mostly) going off to a friend in Maine, provided we can agree on a price. I think I may keep my 2 favorite models (a converted fusion-gun Storm Guardian, modeled as the squad leader, and a very heavily-modified Eldrad, intended to be Iyanna Arenial), and some of the more valuable stuff will probably go on ebay depending on circumstances.

All that said, I have well over 100 Guardians, a 25-elf Seer Council, and the better part of a dozen vehicles – plus about 60 specialists of various types. Never quite realized at the time how much I spent on the little bastards.

…You know, maybe it’s time to just strip down my 2 Marine Companies, paint them up as UM, and sell them off too. God knows I could use the money, and I haven’t played anything but Sisters or IG in more than half a decade.

Didn’t get anything done on the RS front, and Steve really needs those vee and VTOL sheets ><

Feel like a complete tool over that.

From the Archives, Vol. 1: Vorphalach

This is one of the oldest magic items that I created that’s still in a readable condition, and it shows. Every so often I find him and poke at the wording, but this has actually been a pretty constant weapon.  Only one player ever got his hands on it, but he was killed shortly thereafter by that most insidious of TPKS: gamer ADD.

Stats are for AD&D 1e, as far as I can tell. This was mostly randomly rolled, then rather extensively interpreted from the combination of effects.

Vorphalach

(named after a member of Dimmu Borgir, so I was about 18 when I wrote this)

Frostbrand +1, +4 vs.  disgraced Clerics [addendum; and fallen Paladins]

Int 12, Ego 12, Faint empathy, Lawful Evil. (Note that its powers affect good and evil alike, and the sword does not blast characters of other alignments: see below)

Powers: Detect Apostate 10′ radius, detect sloping passage 10′ radius.

Special Purpose Power: +2 on saving throws, -1 on all dice of damage sustained.

Vorphalach was once a faithful servant of the god of Death. On his demise, he begged to be allowed to continue to serve his master on the Prime. As punishment, the priest was granted his wish: he became the animus of a magic blade. His newfound purpose in his prison is punishing religious Oathbreakers (any such person attempting to wield him, regardless of alignment, is blasted for 2D6 damage). He still finds satisfaction in slaying Undead, serving his Master’s original designs, but this is not technically part of his remit.

The sword has a hilt of petrified bone (the priest’s thighbone), and a plain but very sharp blade tinged with hoarfrost.  There is a faint scent of jasmine flowers and blood when the sword is drawn: the scent and extent of the frost intensify when the blade is blooded. On the command word “Morituri salutamus*“, or a close variation in any language, the blade is transfigured into a glowing amber crystal as the Frostbrand powers activate. The floral scent becomes choking, and the blade cannot be sheathed until it the owner dies or slays an intelligent being.  If the sword is left in this form, its curse has a 20% chance of striking per hour until the blade is sated.

The scabbard and hilt are bound in blue dragon-leather, and the chape depicts a dark elf stabbing a dragon in the base of the skull.  The sword remembers much of his history, but can neither speak nor communicate with telepathy on his own – only faint emotions emanating from the blade hint of its intelligence.

There is one exception to his memory: the blade is Cursed. Each day an intelligent being is not killed in the wielder’s presence, there is a cumulative 1% chance that the sword will attempt to possess the user (as per normal artifact possession).  This chance resets following a kill. If the user draws the sword for a purpose other than combat, it will occur immediately. Otherwise, the curse will activate as soon as the user attempts to sleep. In either case, when possessed the user draws  the sword, speaks its command word, then challenges and attacks the closest intelligent being at full strength for one combat round.

If the user succumbs to possession, neither he nor the sword will remember the incident, even under the influence of a Zone of Truth. If the holder of the blade succeeds, he will (drawing the blade) feel a sudden wash of blinding murderous intent, then nothing or (if sleeping) have a nightmare of killing the person he loves most in gruesome detail. This curse affected Vorphalach in life, and it is now bound nigh-inextricably with his soul.

Order of powers for Identify: A very powerful dweomer: powers of ice, a bane to the apostate, it will lead you to them, it will defend you against them, the sword has a mind of its own, it can find hidden geometries.

(false powers for 1e Identify) a bane to dragons and their kin; grants its full powers in the hand of an Elf; the scent of flowers grows stronger when Wyrms come near.

Divinations:

He must drink, or other payment will be taken.

Only the man who is already dead can know his true powers. Honor death, and be rewarded (command phrase)

Hold fast to your vows, and fear not the Oathbreaker. But woe betide the Fallen should he wind them.

*”We who are already dead salute you”

For 3x/Pathfinder (sorry, you’ll have to work out XP value/cost yourself):

An intelligent, LE Unholy Frostbrand (+1d4 ice damage, +1d4 Unholy damage, Bane vs. earth-based and heat-based creatures). Bane vs. any being that has broken a religious vow and not Atoned.

Base 1% chance, checked once per day (cumulative until triggered, when it resets) that the sword will lash out and attack the nearest person to the user when first drawn. The sword is unaware of this curse.

In leiu of an actual intro post…

I’m answering the list from Brendan; this should tell you a lot about me right now. Note that I’m currently “between games” – we’ll see how long it goes before I can actually hammer out another play group. This represents how I would run a D&D-based game right now, or have run one in the past; other systems are their own post…

  1. Ability scores generation method?
    Depends on the game and my mood. I prefer 3d6 down the line, with one extra roll that can replace any of the others. Attribute adjustment follows Holmes Basic – strip 2 from another, specified stat to get 1 in Prime Requisite. I’ve also used good old 6x4d6 drop 1 a la carte and 3d6 down the line.
  1. How are death and dying handled?
    Usually with tantrums. Seriously, though, PCs die. It happens. Now if only it’d happen to one of my players (no shit, no fudging, only one player in one game I’ve run in the last 5 years has died.)0 HP = croaked. Below that: also maimed, party may need to recover bits to get a proper raise in. If the character is abandoned around most monsters, they’re very likely to be eaten. Coups de Grace, execution, terminal diseases, all Save or Die effects, and sacrifice bring the character to 0 automatically.
    I also use a modified System Shock: the character goes unconscious if they fail, for 1d6 rounds if the attack is less than half their hitpoints, or Turns if more.
  1. What about raising the dead?
    If it ever f*ing happened, the PCs could either choose a slow, sure, expensive method (based loosely on their cash – you can owe the Church a favor for a major discount), or a fast and messy, cheap version with a chance of the character coming back.. wrong. Or a very cheap Reincarnation from the local Druid – even for eaten or dismembered characters. Hope you roll well.
  1. How are replacement PCs handled?
    (sound of the transporters cycling up, twin vertical glows spread apart as the PC appears in a shower of golden sparkles.)
  1. Initiative: individual, group, or something else?
    I’ve used individual since day 1, probably not gonna change it. Usually use 1D10, counting down.
  1. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?
    Yes.
    Fumbles: you roll another immediate D20, and I adjucate based on circumstances. Bad rolls, your weapon saves vs. Crushing Blow; good rolls, you save or stumble/drop your weapon. Mediocre rolls, you’ll usually wind up disarmed, no save.
    Crits: Roll 1D20, I come up with something. can range from disarming your opponent, to double damage, to their armor taking a save or being destroyed, or knocking them unconscious.
    And what’s sauce for the goose.. well, PCs need to buy new armor occasionally, right?
    I should probably make a table for this shit.
  1. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?
    Peircers not a problem, no called shots to the head, less likely to get cinematically knocked the f*ck out by a crit.
  1. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?
    Yup. You can also rob them, be robbed, or say incredibly stupid things to an NPC and get shanked.
  1. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?
    I started out playing very, very deadly – by-the-book Holmes.
    When I started 3x, I actually gave a damn about CR, but rapidly discovered how much of a pain in the arse it was to “balance” all your encounters – and how little drama the characters felt in the ensuing combats.
    Now? It’s possible to kill almost anything. But not necessarily with the resources the PCs will have. Translation: Run the hell away.
  1. Level-draining monsters: yes or no?
    Yes.
    Rare, deadly, horrible. I treat them more like traps – generally there will be clues that a ‘drainer is about, and the PCs will have a chance to avoid them. Unless they’re the Hounds of Tindalos (future post, that).
  1. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?
    Yes.
    Sometimes, a passed save means you’re dead – dragonfire sucks. They tend to be rare, though; I prefer lasting, nasty effects for my poisons and curses – cause casualties, not kills..
  1. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?
    Encumbrance
    Formerly: I tracked it fanatically as a player. As a DM.. not so much.
    Currently: Going to try the LotFP system, since it looks like it isn’t impossible to use on the fly. Edit: Works like a frickin’ charm. Using forever.
    Resources
    You better damned well go into one of my dungeons with enough torches, spikes, rope, and ammo, because I track them. Your light will almost certainly run out before your food, though, and when all else fails there’s “orc”/Long Pig.
  1. What’s required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?
    You need some down time, at least OOC. I usually pass out XP at the end of an adventure, and observe the rolls/help with selections after the main session or at the beginning of the next.
    No Training. It’s silly.
    Arcane casters with a lab/library (they can begin establishing one before Name level) get an automatic spell of any level they can cast on levelling. Casters without name a spell and roll chance-to-learn. Spellbooks are moderately common treasures, however, counting as a “treasure map” in most hoard rolls. They can contain rare spells (I.E. not in the PHB), and often have rather nasty defenses – poison needles in the locks, trick bindings, Sigils and Runes, and monster-attracting scents, to name a few.
    Divine casters have sharply restricted spell lists (for now. Working on new rules, to be seen in a future post), and cast more dynamically.
  1. What do I get experience for?
    (Flexible amounts) Clever problem-solving, making significant sacrifices, doing class-appropriate things, making me laugh.
    (Fixed amounts) Getting treasure, tithing magic items beyond the amount required by your class, killing things. I’m seriously considering adding in Carousing rules, simply because they look funny.
  1. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?
    Description (first tier), dice rolling (when actively searching for certain types of traps, or when about to set one off for certain races and type of trap), saving throws (once tripped), kobolds on sticks.
  1. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?
    Yes.
    Morale is the usual 2D6 system, with modifiers for treatment, charisma, and pay.
    I also use Reaction Tables, religiously, modified by the Charisma of the FIRST party member to speak/act, or the average of the party’s CHA if the mobs have surprise.
  1. How do I identify magic items?
    Take them to a Sage, play with them, cast Identify or Legend Lore if you’re rich and impatient, have a Bard in the party…
  1. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?
    You can. They tend to be rare, extremely expensive, and hard to fence: potions can have side effects, and are usually only available from people on the weird side of society (all those fumes from the Henbane..). Holy Water is easy for Lawful-ish, Good-ish characters, but harder for others, and known sacrilegious acts will generally completely fuck you out of support from any allied religions.
  1. Can I create magic items? When and how?
    Yes.
    When you create a lab and start spending money on it.
    How? Retain a Sage, fire off a Legend Lore, get the Bard to give some advice.. basically, make up a recipe and try it out. Research makes it more likely that the thing will work: days spent working and better/weirder ingredients help too. On a day you work on a magic item, you can’t cast any spells, from dawn to dawn, and your memory is emptied. Potions can be made in batches, provided the ingredients are sufficient.
    Clerics must fast, sacrifice, and pray: those who have served their deity well may be rewarded for diligence and patience. Ritual purity doesn’t hurt. This can take days, and may not work at all. In both cases, making a weapon is harder than making a potion or scroll.
  1. What about splitting the party?
    You can. Do you really want to?

Again, these represent the current state of play, not how I’ve rolled in the past

Day 1

Still moving in, as it were.  A statement of intent or some such carping should occupy this space shortly. Basically, this page is for me to publish and archive various things I’ve had rotting on my hard drive, get all my (worksafe, ToS-compliant) RPG links backed up to a remote location, and do random game dev and homebrewing with my friends. I have a good 2 decades of stuff to unload, plus my unique brand of rambling philosophy and the weird-ass links I find while I work, so we should be good for a while.

Hopefully, I’ll become rich and famous, and then watch my blog implode horribly in a storm of internet drama while I [popcorn].

Now I need to go root up a decent theme, photoshop GIMP up a header image, and start pulling three-ring binders off the bookshelf..