Thursday, May 21, 2015

Copper Age Heroes

Works continues apace on the next issue of NOD, and I'm doing research for my Age of Heroes campaign idea, which will probably show up in NOD later this year. The late Neolithic and Chalcolithic are really fascinating, and I'm enjoying the research immensely. Research is, of course, only the first step. I like to get an idea of what really was before I start making nonsense up to lay over the top of it and turn it into a fantasy campaign. I'm still not finished, but today I thought I'd share my working map.



I've mapped out settlements that would have been active (or nearly active in the case of Troy - I'd really like to include it but I probably will not) around 4000 to 3500 BC, drew out some broad cultural areas to work with (not entirely accurate, but again, this is a fantasy campaign, not a dissertation), included a couple locations of known ancient monsters (Chimera, for example) and sketched out the location of mythical Atlantis in North Africa. After all, every good fantasy campaign needs an ancient, ruined empire to plunder. In some case, I've started the process of giving these sites names - primarily in the west, using Basque and the Berber tongues as guides. Lots of work left to do, but it's getting there and is being refined and nudged constantly.

Obviously, any person who does this for a living could find a million problems with this map, but for my purposes of creating a Chalcolithic fantasy world with lost kingdoms and monsters, I think it will do.

I should note that the base map comes from Natural Earth Data. Very useful - I wish I had known about it when I was working on some of the other Campaign Workbooks I've published.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Getting Primitive

I have a tendency to run with ideas. The current one is an Age of Heroes campaign outline for NOD, or maybe Bloody Basic ... or maybe both. I've been reading The Horse, the Wheel and Language by David W. Anthony, and it got me thinking about a stone age/copper age setting from before the movement of Proto-Indo-Europeans into Europe and India. Now, I'm not going to get into whether this theorized movement actually happened - I don't have the background in it, and frankly, when I'm inventing a fantasy world to play in, I don't care.

My current thinking is to set the game in approximately 3500 BC in Europe, the Near East and the adjacent regions. This means stone age technology, with a few advanced societies using copper weapons (which may have been ceremonial, but who cares.) Armor would be padded and leather, and probably no shields. Weapons include bows, javelins, spears, daggers, maces, clubs, and hand axes. Since most are made of stone or copper, the damage should be reduced from normal, which mitigates the lack of armor to some degree. Hey - it was a rough time to be alive.

I'm thinking I'll take metal weapon damage back two steps for stone, with a chance of breakage on a natural "1" - maybe a simple item saving throw. For copper weapons, take damage back one step, with a similar chance of item's being ruined on a natural "1" attack roll. For armor, I might draw on the post I wrote about fighting naked like the ancient Greek heroes were depicted doing in art.

Horses (ponies really) will be rare, and the knowledge and technology of riding will be very limited. In fact, it was probably unknown in this period, but here's where we fudge things a bit.

Monsters will be geared towards prehistoric hold-overs from previous ages and the mythic monsters of the cultures of Europe and the Near East - manticores, chimeras, etc.

I'm working on a preliminary map of the cultures that were floating around in 3500 BC. Here, there will be some fudging and wholesale creation of ancient cultures. Mythology will be plundered, and something akin to Howard's Hyborian Age will be woven from the strands of what little we know. This is where the "Age of Heroes" idea comes in - the idea that the heroic stories of ancient peoples were really set in this prehistoric age. Hercules, Jason, etc. will be featured in one guise or another. Here, I want to make use of the demigod class I wrote up a while ago - the idea is that the player characters are demigods walking the world, creating the stories that will be told for centuries after by the tribes and kingdoms they found.

It's been a fascinating journey through prehistory for me so far - there was plenty I didn't know, primarily about the extent of stone age urbanization. I'll update you as I proceed. I'm still writing the next hex crawl. Sinew & Steel is pretty close to completion. Weird Fantasy is on hold while I bone up on my Dunsany and CAS. Still, all is proceeding nicely.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Of Armsmen and Puissants [Bloody Basic]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIRST LEVEL ARMSMAN FEATS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SECOND LEVEL ARMSMAN FEATS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THIRD LEVEL ARMSMAN FEATS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

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!


Friday, April 24, 2015

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.

DESCRYER
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%

EXAMINER
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%

NECROPSIS
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%
AKSHI
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

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Eco-Post-Apocalypse That Wasn't

Image found HERE
I was reading today about some of the dire predictions made around the time of the first Earth Day in 1970 about the world we would be living in today. Grim stuff ... but not a bad premise for a post-apocalypse game that does not involve nuclear destruction, and one that escapes many of the norms for games of that type.

A few of the key predictions that we can use:

* Civilization will end in 30 years (i.e. by 2000)

* Between 1980 and 1989, 4 billion people will starve to death, including 65 million Americans | The world population in 1990 was 5.2 billion and America's was 250 million. That would leave the U.S. with 185 million people in this alternate 1990, and the world with only 1.2 billion people. If we continued these death rates to 2000, we might be left with only 270 million people in the world, and 137 million of them in the United States! This is about as many people who lived in the U.S. in 1940.

* Pollution is so bad that people have to wear gas masks to survive. Nitrogen build-up in the atmosphere is bad enough that the world exists in perpetual twilight.

* New York and Los Angeles (and presumably other cities) become "smog disasters" by the 1980's, killing hundreds of millions of people.

* Oxygen in rivers is used up by decaying life, killing off all fresh water fish.

* Life expectancy for Americans is only 42 years (I'd have died last year!)

* Earth has run out of crude oil, copper, lead, tin, zinc, gold and silver. | No new copper, silver or gold pieces!

* 75-80 percent of all animal species are extinct.

* A new ice age has begun.

So, what are we left with.

Civilizations as we know them have ended - Western Civilization, China, India, etc - all gone. Most of planet Earth is empty of human habitation and most animal habitation, the exception being the country formerly known as the United States of America. With crude oil gone, most internal combustion engines are useless, though presumably coal is still used and so some machinery could be in use ... but ... so many other materials have run out, that I'm not sure how useful they would be. Most people are probably hunter/gatherers, while "civilized" people live with Medieval, Renaissance or maybe early Victorian technology.

Food is universally scarce, which means that cannibalism probably exists everywhere. People don't live very long. An ice age grips the earth, with glaciation pushing into the northern United States and Asia. An ice age also means increased desertification - the Sahara would expand, as would the Gobi desert, and the Great Plains are probably back to being a Great Desert. Most humans are going to live in the tropics and sub-tropics, which I guess means that those Americans who are still alive are concentrated in the Southeastern United States, where the climate is still rather cool. Fires burn almost constantly, because there's so little light and so little warmth.

The old cities are ruins, having been cleared out by deadly smog. The poisons might still lurk, but the engines that created the pollution is now silent. Pollution will take the place of radiation here for the universal mutagen, because what's the point of running post-apocalyptic fantasy if you don't have mutations?

I'm envisioning scenarios of survival on the fringes of the sub-tropics - Mad Max-style nonsense, perhaps, or maybe bands of adventurers from what small civilizations still exist (could Atlanta be the largest human city on earth, with maybe a giant population of 25,000 people?) delve into the icy, poisonous ruins in the northern hemisphere in search of ancient knowledge and machinery. Perhaps we mix both - those explorers use armed vehicles that run on whatever small amounts of fuel are left to delve into the icy north.

Hopefully there are a few gameable ideas for people here. After I get Grit & Vigor published, I want to do an expansion book for post-apocalyptic gaming. I plan to include my Mutant Truckers of the Polyester Road idea, as well as Apocalypse 1898 ... and now this one. I guess I need to get my butt in gear and finish up G&V.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Bloody Basic and the Ulflandia Hex Crawl

Over the weekend, I got the Bloody Basic - Mother Goose Edition PDF up for sale, and just a moment ago I got the Bloody Basic - Contemporary Edition soft cover up for sale. So, if you like the various flavors of Bloody Basic, today is a fine day to be alive. The link to my Lulu shop to the right will take you there.

I've been working away at the next hex crawl for NOD, which is located just south of the Klarkash Mountains and is dominated by the island of Ulflandia, ruled by Queen Gloriana and inspired by the folklore and fantasy of England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, et. al. Below, you will find the introduction. I'm still playing around with things, mostly cosmetic, so it might be changed here and there before it is published. Enjoy!

ULFLANDIA

Ulflandia, which is sometimes called Brigantia, is a large island located off the coast of the Klarkash Mountains, effectively dividing the Tepid Sea from Mother Ocean. The island was a fey stronghold in ancient times, but a series of invasions changed it into an ostensibly human kingdom. In the days of Nomo’s glory, it defied that empire for decades before finally becoming an independent, though tributary kingdom. The island is now dominated by Queen Gloriana from the city of Tremayne, the largest settlement on the island. The island can be divided into numerous sub-regions. The woodlands in the eastern portion of the island are called The Greenwood. The grasslands in the north are called Plains of Logris, while the hills that run down the center of eastern Ulflandia are called the Ruffians. The hilly peninsula in the southeast is called Belerion, the peaks in the south are the Coblyns. The western portion is taken up by the hilly Lawlands and the mountainous Hielands. Between Ulflandia and the Klarkash Peninsula lies the Black Strait. The Klarkash Mountains have been covered in NOD 25, but the hilly portion on the southern peninsula is known as the Braga Hills. The southeastern portion of the map contains a portion of the Wyvern Hills (see NOD 1) and an island chain known as the Zebrides.


THE PEOPLES OF ULFLANDIA
In elder days, Ulflandia was home to the giants and fey, who battled and intermarried and generally had a wonderful time, separate from interlopers from outside. Humanoid tribes of gnomes, kobolds and goblins filled things out.

When Partholon sallied forth from Hybresail to leave the decadent wizards behind, a portion of his fleet was diverted. While Partholon landed further north, and came to dominate the human tribes of the area and found Nomo, the other grey elves landed on the isle of Iskey. Under the command of the warlord Nemed, the grey elves fought the native giants and carved out a small kingdom for themselves which they called Tyrnog.

The elves of Tyrnog soon colonized the southern reaches of Ulflandia, founding the kingdoms of Elphyne, Albion, Annouven, Prydain, Belerion, Avalon and Ylfelond. Over time, the elven population of Ulflandia changed. The elves of Tyrnog, called the Aysheeth, were still of the grey variety. The elves of the western lands of Elphyne became the Gruagach (wild elves). The elves of the mountainous Lawlands and Coblyn were known as the Gwyllion (high elves). The elves of the Greenwood were known as the Elvene (wood elves).

In the meantime, the northern portions of the island were begin settled by the orcs and hobgoblins of the Klarkash Mountains, and the wild humans of the Braga Hills. These peoples came collectively to be called the Sassenach by the elves, though later that term only applied to the humans of the Plains of Logris.

In time, the Empire of Nomo came calling. In a series of invasions the Nomoi, under the command of Brutus, colonized the north and began grinding down the old elven kingdoms. They made the fortified colony of Tremayne (Trēsmanus) their capital, and soon conquered the Plains of Logris and then the eastern portions of the Greenwood. The kingdoms of Ylfelond and Avalon were made tributaries of Tremayne, while the other kingdoms of the island proper barely maintained their independence through arranged marriages, bribes and costly wars. The old elven kingdoms gradually faded in importance, devolving into giant citadels hidden by powerful illusions and smaller hill forts that surrounded the old citadels.

The men and half-elves of Nomo made forays against the ancient giant chiefs and the goblin tribes of the Ruffian Mountains as well. Under the command of Aurelios Ambrosios his younger brother Uther Pendragon, the sage wizard and demigod Merlinus, and their collected knights, squires and men-at-arms, the kingdom of Tremayne rose to the heights of its power, only to be disrupted in time by royal struggles and minor civil wars. Modern Tremayne is ruled by Queen Gloriana, who continues the struggle of the heirs of Nomo to bring the entire island under her control.


THE PEOPLES OF ULFLANDIA
ELVES: Elves are the aristocracy of the ancient fey tribes of Ulflandia. They serve as rulers, warriors and hunters. Under the elves are the working fairies, including such creatures as the brownies (household servants), knockers (miners and armorers), fenodyree (heavy labor), habbitrot (spinners of cloth), kilmoulis (millers of grain) and leprechauns (cobblers and other skilled trades). In some cases, these creatures are more powerful than their rulers, but the fey cleave to their traditions, which place the elves at the top of the pyramid.

Among the elves, there are several tribes, as follows:

AYSHEETH (GREY ELVES): The tall, beauteous elves of Iskey are called the Aysheeth. They descend from the original elven colonists of Ulflandia, who came from the West to escape the wars of the wizards and build kingdoms of their own.

Among the Aysheeth, the nobles wear chainmail under brilliantly colored tabards and capes. They carry round shields and arm themselves with lances and longswords. In their retinues are the galloglass and kerns. The “common” Aysheeth, or kerns, wear lighter armor and carry spears, bows, axes and greatswords. Noble grey elves fight in chariots or on horseback, while the kerns may fight on foot or as light horsemen.

ELVENE (WOOD ELVES): The Elvene are the wood elves of the Greenwood, living in roving bands who hunt and patrol their lands and answer the call of their rulers when it is time to fight. They dress in scarlet and green, and are merrier than the more guarded and elegant grey elves.

Elvene armies are composed of longbowmen and light infantry. Both wear light armor, with chainmail shirts about the heaviest armor among them. They wield longbows, short swords, hand axes and sometimes spears. Cavalry is rare among the elves of the Greenwood, for they often fight in thick woodlands.

GRUAGACH (WOOD ELVES): The Gruagach live in the wildest parts of Ulflandia. They cultivate a wild appearance, growing their hair long and keeping it tangled or spiking it, and painting their faces and bodies with blue dyes. They wear woolen tunics in dazzling plaids and checks.

Wild elf warriors are light skirmishers, for the most part. They wear light armor and wield longswords, greatswords, battleaxes, spears and shortbows. Some fight from chariots, while others are mounted on light horses or, in rare occasions, Irish elk.

GWYLLION (HIGH ELVES): The high elves of the mountains are more akin to the grey elves than their wild cousins of the wilderness and woodlands. They are honorable warriors, and more organized than their kin.

High elf warriors put light and heavy infantry and cavalry into the field, as well as their famous longbowmen.

SASSENACH (HUMANS, HALF-ELVES, HIGH ELVES): The Sassenachs are the descendants of the invaders from Nomo. They include humans (the most numerous of the invaders), half-elves (who are most often to be found in administrative and mercantile roles), and elves (the ruling class). The Sassenachs organize themselves along feudal lines, and hold chivalry in high esteem (at least in theory, though not often in practice).

Sassenach armies are composed of light and heavy infantry and cavalry, crossbowmen, and foreign mercenaries drawn from the other peoples of Ulflandia and from beyond.

THE GODS OF ULFLANDIA
The Ulflandians worship the divine pantheon of the Motherlands under different names. The Ulflandians have some unique deities as well, including Sirone, the goddess of healing, Epona, the horse goddess, Canta, the god of medicine and physicians, Puck, the trickster god, and Merlinus, the god of magic.

KABIR / ULFLANDIAN NAME
Asur (Sun, Kingship) = Dagda
Bel (Rebirth) = Bel the Fair Shining One
Ghobb (Earth) = Govannon
Karn (Hunt) = Cernunnos
Nudd (Sea) = Nodens
Tut (Mischief) = Puck
Ys (Fertility) = Matrona

MOTHERLAND DEITY / ULFLANDIAN NAME
Bacchus (Drunkeness) = John Barleycorn
Diana (Woodland, Hunting) = Flidas of the Beautiful Hair
Hecate (Magic) = Morgana le Fey
Hercules (Heroism, Strength) = Percival
Juno (Motherhood, Queenship) = Morrigan
Mars (War) = Camulus
Minerva (War, Arts) = Brigantia
Pluto (Death) = Dispater
Saturn (Time) = Sucellos
Venus (Love, Beauty) = Penarthun

OTHER DEITIES / PORTFOLIO
St. Angus, Youth, Beauty
Arianrhod, Moon
St. Canta, Medicine, Healers
St. Dylan, Sailors
St. Ecna, Sages
St. Elen, Travelers
Epona, Birds, Horses
Merlinus, Magicians
St. Ogma, Bards, Eloquence
Taranis, Thunder

RELIGIOUS ORDERS

BLACK FRIARSThe black friars are dedicated to the atmospheric deities. A scholarly order, they study the stars and atmospheric conditions. The black friars tend towards Lawful behavior, and tend to be loyal to the Queen (though not always her Church), the Starry Order of blue magicians and the two orders of knighthood.

The black friars are primarily dedicated to Dagda, Arianthod, Bel, Nodens and Taranis.

GREY FRIARS
The grey friars are druids dedicated to the chthonic deities of earth and the underworld. Like the white friars, they tend toward true neutrality, seeing themselves as guides to the afterworld, and thus above human affairs. They are often to be found in opposition to the necromancers of the Cunning Order of red magicians (see below).

The grey friars are primarily dedicated to Dispater, Govannon, Morgan le Fey and Sucellos.

WHITE FRIARS
The white friars are druids dedicated to deities of flora and fauna. They are a neutral order, and consider themselves emissaries of the nature gods to humans, and thus are above other human institutions, including the Queen and her government. They do not often press this claim, as diplomacy is less costly than fighting an angry queen and her armies. White minsters (monasteries) are known for their gardens and the numerous sentient animals to be found around them.

The white friars are primarily dedicated to Cernunnos, Epona, Flidas, Matrona, Puck, and John Barleycorn.

THE QUEEN’S CHURCH
The Queen’s Church handles most of the day-to-day religious chores of the kingdom. Gloriana is the head of the church (hence the name) and has its unswerving loyalty. Sages and adepts make up most of the priesthood, which is divided into Vicarages and Bishoprics, with the immediate superior of the church being the Archbishop of Cantiacorum.

The Queen’s Church honors all of the deities mentioned above, as well as Brigantia (the patron deity of Ulflandia), Camulus, Merlinus, Percival, Saint Angus, Saint Canta, Saint Dylan, Saint Ecna, Saint Elen and Saint Ogma.

KNIGHTLY ORDERS

THE MOST OBEDIENT ORDER OF THE GLORIOUS QUEST
Also known as the Knights of the Cauldron, the Questing Knights, and the Knights of Percival, they are an order dedicated to recovering the Cauldron of Dozen-King for their queen, Gloriana. The order is composed of warriors and clerics, all Lawful (Good) in alignment. While the brothers wear their own livery, they sew a badge in the shape of a red heart over their own hearts. Once each year, at the end of campaign season, they gather at their chapter house in Camulodunon to report on their progress and adventures over the previous year, and they are permitted an audience with their queen, who travels to the city from Tremayne for that purpose.

The quest of the knights is supported by the Black Friars, the Queen’s Church and the Blue Magicians. The white and grey friars oppose it, though the white friars neither publicly nor actively, and the yellow and red magicians care little for the quest.

The arms of the order are a field azure numerous crosses or. This livery is worn by the members at their convocations, and is worn by their retainers when on official duty.

THE ORDER OF THE RED CROSSE
The Order of the Red Crosse is dedicated to the veneration of St. George, the local name for Mithras. The knights are loyal to their god first and to the Queen second. They have numerous fortifications throughout the country, and their main chapter house in Tremayne. The knights are commanded by a Knight Commander, and all of the knights wear white emblazoned with a saltire gules while serving the order. Most of the knights are Lawful (Good) clerics and paladins, though the ranks of their warbands are filled out with lay brothers (i.e. fighters).

MAGICAL SOCIETIES

THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF PHILOSOPHERS
The members of the Royal Society are more commonly referred to as yellow magicians. Their ranks are primarily filled by sages, alchemists, magic-users (especially transmuters) and scientists. In public, the philosophers wear robes of yellow. It is headquartered in Tremayne at Mumpsimus College. The society is led by a president, elected by the members for a life term, or until recalled by the membership. The society is known for its wealth and influence with the Queen, and is regarded with jealousy by the other magical orders and the merchants of Ulflandia.

THE STARRY ORDER
Colloquially known as the blue magicians or even blue friars, the Starry Order is composed of Lawful (Good) magic-users, sorcerers and warlocks. It is closely allied with both the Knights of the Red Crosse and the Questing Knights, and with the Black Friars. The order is chartered by Gloriana, and has its headquarters in Cantiacorum, a seaport located south of Tremayne. Members are known for their blue robes and their white headbands.

THE CUNNING ORDER OF WYSARDS AND WITCHES
The red magicians are a very loose fellowship of magic-users, sorcerers and warlocks, unofficially divided into four colleges – The Conjurers (who wear burgundy robes and golden bells), The Evokers (who wear crimson robes and rose badges), The Illusionists (who wear scarlet robes) and the Necromancers (who wear maroon robes and skullcaps). The society is technically a secret society, with secret passwords and hand signals to allow members to communicate with one another. In reality, the existence of the order is fairly well known, and though the exact location of their lodges is unknown, most people know whether or not there is a lodge in their settlement.




Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Alia - Mechanical Goddess

Sculpture by John Duncan Fergusson
Saw this sculpture on Wikipedia today, and it inspired me. Looks like an appropriate goddess for the mechanical men who run about in NOD.

ALIA, GODDESS OF THE MECHANICAL MEN
Goddess of Sun, Wisdom, Harmony, Dance
Neutral (LN)
Worshiped by Mechanical Men, Sages, Engineers, Royalty
Carries no weapons

Alia is the sun goddess of the mechanical men. The mechanical peoples have a different relation to the Sun than living creatures. They require no warmth, and do not eat, but they do require light and recognize its central place in the scheme of things. To the mechanical men, Alia is a goddess of reason and harmony, and her priests are usually Lawful (LG) or Neutral (LN) as a result. Her role as a slayer of darkness/evil or bringer of new life is underplayed by them, and instead she is conceived as more of a wise woman, holding a combination of a salon and grand ball, in which the other heavenly spheres dance and commune. Her priests, therefore, are skilled at dancing and are more sages than warriors, though they acknowledge the need to combat Chaos (Evil), as it attempts to disrupt and wear down the mechanical universe, of which they are microcosms.

CULT SPELL: HARMONIOUS ACTION

Cleric 4 (Clerics of Alia only)
30 ft. range
1 minute duration

Harmonious action permits all allies within the spell's range to move and act in perfect harmony while engaged in melee combat. The cleric chooses one enemy target in particular. Each of the cleric's allies, in addition to making a normal move and melee attack, can make an extra melee attack at a -5 penalty on the cleric's chosen foe, provided that foe is within their range.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Five Years and 400 Followers Later ...

Image found HERE
Five years (and a few days) ago, I decided to start a blog. My first blog post went a little something like this ...

"The Land of Nod is an old school rpg campaign I've been running for the past few years, initially using the 3rd edition of D&D, and then moving to the Castles & Crusades system and finally to something between Castles & Crusades and the excellent Swords & Wizardry clone of the original D&D rules. It seems as I get older, I look for ways to simplify my life - less static and more living.

The Land of Nod is my attempt at making a setting that allows players and referees to get down to the business of playing games. It doesn't have a grand, thousand page history to memorize, or abundant restrictions on what you can play and how. It is a grand sandbox with all the requisites for the heroic adventures that have driven people's imaginations for decades. Most importantly, it is a collection of places to see and things to do.

Over the coming months (and years?), this blog will serve as a place I can present my little imaginary world, and maybe a few notions that other role-players will find useful. So, consider this my entry into the Old School Renaissance."

I was in the Swords & Wizardry camp back then (blessed be the name of Matthew J. Finch).

My plan at the time was to write hex crawls and other Land of Nod-oriented things and post them on the blog. About a month into it, I decided that hex crawl stuff was going to be tough for people to use if it was on a blog, so I thought about doing a quick Word document each month to collect that month's material in one place. Then I thought ... why not a PDF? Then I thought ... why not publish it?

So, not long after the blog started, the NOD magazine started, with 25 issues now completed. In between, I also wrote a few games (Pars Fortuna, Mystery Men!, Space Princess, Blood & Treasure, Bloody Basic, Greatsword), had a chance to work with Frog God Games (I'd like to do more of that), and I'm working on getting another game, Grit & Vigor, published. Pretty sweet.

If this sounds like something you want to do, do it. It will probably not get much easier than it is now to write and publish your own material, provided you are willing to put in the time and effort.

I usually miss these anniversaries, but today I noticed that I finally hit 400 followers, so I figured I'd take note of this one. I want to thank all my readers over the years, especially the ones who have encouraged me with kind words and the ones who have actually forked over their cold, hard cash for something I've written, for supporting me. My plan is still to write up the entire Land of Nod in hex crawl form. If I live long enough, I think I can get it done!

In other news ...

ITEM: MOTHER GOOSE IS MY TREASURE KEEPER

I'm almost finished with my Mother Goose edition of Bloody Basic. Just finishing up some layout and editing and putting on the finishing touches to the text. This weekend is going to be busy (Viva Las Vegas show and Easter), but if I find a few spare moments I'll get the PDF version up for sale.

The Chaos edition is probably next ... though I might veer into the Jules Verne-esque Victoriana edition. Don't know yet.

ITEM: HEY LADIES

It occurred to me today that it might be fun to do a Bloody Basic edition illustrated by women. It could put a light female spin to the game classes (maybe amazon instead of fighter, or amazon and oracle as sub-classes). The question - how to do it without involving stereotypes one way or the other - just good old fashioned fantasy role playing with art involving female characters by female artists. To women out there reading this blog, I'd love to hear from you if this sounds interesting to you. I've been perusing some of my favorite women artists on DeviantArt to approach for commissions, but suggestions from the assembled Nodians are always appreciated.

ITEM: NOD 25 IN PRINT

Yep, got NOD 25 up for sale in print today. Check it out if that sort of thing floats your boat.

ITEM: SCOTTISH GLOSSARY

Saw a glossary from an old book of Scottish fairy tales today. A few excerpts:

Baudrons: Scotch name for a cat

Ben: A mountain peak

Bonnet-piece: An old Scottish coin

Cantrip: A freak, or wilful piece of trickery

Clout: A blow

Cutty-pipe: A short clay pipe

Eldritch: Weird

Emprise: An enterprise

Gled: A hawk

Gloaming: The twilight

Louping-on-stane: A stone from which to mount a horse

Unchancy: Uncanny

Wight: A person

Unicorns: Ancient Scottish coins

Also this:

"Finlay the hunter lived with his sister in a lonely little house among the mountains, and near at hand there were giants who were descendants of Beira. This giant clan was ruled over by a hag-queen who was very old and fierce and cunning. She had great stores of silver and gold in her cave, and also a gold-hilted magic sword and a magic wand. When she struck a stone pillar with this wand it became a warrior, and if she put the gold-hilted sword into his hand, the greatest and strongest hero in the world would be unable to combat against him with success."

Killer magic item, that wand.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Misspells

Bonus XP if you know who this is!
When you write as much as I do, you get used to dealing with typographical errors. Some of them are rather amusing – I remember one blog post in which some room trap involved a wench rather than a winch lifting something heavy. I suppose anybody who has ever visited modern D&D message boards knows about that game’s very mysterious “rouge” class (which I have now decided I am going to write).

One area in which I have made more than a few errors, and repeated errors at that, is with spell names. Sometimes, these screwed up spell names actually make a sort of weird sense, and it occurred to me that errors in spelling on scrolls might lead to some amusement in a game of D&D (et. al.) Grammatically incorrect scrolls could be a new category of cursed magic item – the magic-user thinks they’re casting one thing, but discover their spell has a different effect.

A few ideas follow:

Altar Self: The caster is turned into an altar for the duration of the spell. Note sure if I want to know where the holy water comes from.

Animate Trope: This one takes some work for the GM. Think of a role playing trope and make it come to life (literally) during the game.

Baste: Warm meat juice is squirted on the caster, making them more delicious and stickier.

Blank: The caster’s face disappears for the duration of the spell.

Cane of Cold: A walking stick made of ice appears in your hand. Feel free to shake it angrily at your foes.

Charm Parson: As charm person, but it only works on clerics and druids (and the like).

Dorkness: The lights stay on, but the caster becomes socially awkward (Charisma 5) for duration of the spell.

Find Familiar: More of an incorrect inflection than misspelling, this spell causes they caster to find strangers strangely familiar. He just knows he knows them from somewhere, and it’s maddening that he cannot think of who they are. As a result of this frustration, he suffers a -1 penalty to Will saves for the duration of the spell.

Obscuring Mast: The mast of a ship grows from the ground right in front of somebody, obscuring their vision until they move out of the way.

Slaw: A jar of coleslaw appears.

Spectral Ham: A ghostly swine appears and otherwise acts as the spectral hand spell. This one might be an improvement over the original.

Summon Munster: Roll randomly on a d10: (1-2) Herman (i.e. a goofy flesh golem); (3-4) Grandpa (i.e. a vampire); (5-6) Eddie (i.e. a 1 HD werewolf); (7-8) Lily (not sure here – she’s Dracula’s daughter); (9-10) Marilyn (i.e. human female with high Charisma).

Tireball: A belted radial is launched bouncing towards a target point, and then explodes with a loud noise, sending shreds of rubber out. Basically as a fireball, without the “fire” damage and dealing minimum damage within the blast radius.

Have at it folks – I’m sure these can be improved upon and better versions can be invented.
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