Wednesday, April 29, 2009

the Sacred Shrine of Ylalla

The sacred shrine lies upon a heavily wooded hillside about 3 miles outside of town. It consists of three 60' wide conical structures made of red cedar, descending steplike down the hillside. The hillside has been carved into gardened terraces over the centuries, and gravel trails lead along them. Behind the wooden buildings is an ancient stone circle consisting of nine twelve-foot tall megaliths surrounding a central divining pool of raised stone. The pool is spring fed, and spills over into a stream that tumbles down the rear of the hill into a deep, stony ravine. Several dark openings are visible in the walls of the ravine, tombs of priestesses dead and returned to Ylalla's womb.

Ylalla is a local goddess of Fertility, Rejuvenation, and Vengefulness. She is depicted as youthful woman projecting overt sexuality and her visage may range from caring to lustful to fierce. She is typically garbed in a simple crimson toga and holds a sheaf of barley in one hand and a barbed spear in the other.

The clergy of Ylalla is exclusively female. Upon reaching 2nd level, priestesses cease to age visibly, retaining their youthful appearance and fertility until the final 9 days of their natural lifespan, during which they age suddenly. They are typically garbed in crimson togas, but will don chain shirts and bear both shield and spear when necessary. Holy rites are observed twice monthly as the moon the waxes and wanes, and both summer and winter solstices are the most important holy days, attended by all local worshipers.

Currently residing at the Shrine are:
Arja, High Priestess (C7)
Carola, Captainess of the Shrine's Guard (F4), Arja's constant companion.
Essi, Asst. High Priestess (C5)
Hanna, Ida, Jaana, Shrine Adepts (C2)
Ilsa, Kaari, Laila, Maarit, Shrine Guards (F1)
Annika, Elisa, Helvi, Ilta, Janna, Katri, Mira, Nea, Oona, Riia, Shrine Acolytes (C1)
Paavo, Dwarf "handyman" (D3), the only male residing at the shrine.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

WotRP Preview 2 - Weird Science!

In additional to the new martial classes, Warriors of the Red Planet provides GMs with two alternatives to the tradional Cleric and Wizard for their Mars/Venus/Center-of-the-Earth/etc campaigns: the mind-bending Mentalist, featured in last week's preview, and the Scientist, master of inventions and gadgets of wonder and terror. This week you get a sneak peek at just a few of the Scientist's wide array of potential accoutrements. See if you can guess which Sorceries these Sciences replace!

Nightray Lenses
Science, 3rd Level
Range: 40 ft
Duration: 24 hours
Charge: 1/day
When activated by manipulating a small dial behind the left eyepiece, these midnight-blue, wire-frame lenses allow the wearer to see in total darkness for 24 hours.

Death Ray
Science, 6th Level
Range: 240 ft
Duration: Instananeous
Charge: 1/day
This outlandish looking contraption looks like a multi-barreled Irradium Pistol covered in tubes and wires. When activated, the 60’ cone of sickly-green energy waves can kill up to 2d8 creatures of 6HD or less.

Lightning Thrower
Science, 3rd Level
Range: up to 240 ft
Duration: Instantaneous
Charge: 1/day
This rod-mounted, wire-and-crystal sphere emits a bolt of lighting almost ten feet wide, up to 240’. Anyone in its path suffers 1d6 points of damage per level of the Scientist (half with a successful saving throw). The bolt always extends a minimum of 60 ft, even if this means that it ricochets backward from something that blocks its path.

Science, 1st Level
Range: 150 ft
Duration: Immediate
Charge: 5/day
The standard sidearm of the well-equipped scientist, this pistol-like item emits a purplish ray of energy that unerringly strikes its target for 1d6+1 points of damage. At 5th level, the ray causes 2d6+2 points of damage, and at 9th it causes 3d6+3.

Invisibility Generator, Personal
Science, 2th Level
Range: Personal
Duration: Until wearer is hit or attacks someone else.
Charge: 2/day
This mountable gadget-box, covered in small brass dials, causes light to bend around a person or a thing, rendering it invisible. If the Referee is using the invisibility rules unchanged, the result is that an invisible creature cannot be attacked unless its approximate location is known, and all attacks are made at -4 to hit. If the invisible creature makes an attack, the effect is ended. Otherwise, it lasts until the gadget is turned off by the Scientist.

Disease Antimogrifier
Science, 3rd Level
Range: Touch
Duration: Immediate
Charge: 3/day
This small box of tubes and glass bulbs comes with a hose-attached syringe. If used to withdraw a sample of a diseased individual’s blood, it generates a colored capsule. Taking the capsule cures the diseased individual of their ailment.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Retroclones and the Old School Renaissance

Why the “Old School Renaissance”? And why now? The resurgence in interest in old-school gaming is more than the vague, ephemeral suspicion it was a year or two ago: “is it me or am I seeing more message board postings on the old editions?”, “where did all these old-school blogs come from?”, “I started playing D&D with 2E back in ’91 or so and recently started looking into older editions…”. I’m sure you’ve seen these quotes in various forms across the internet for months now, like I have, with increasing frequency. Its kind of satisfying to be able to say, without second-guessing whether I’m being precipitous, that yes, there really is an Old School Renaissance, and yes, a lot more people are playing and talking about older edition D&D than there were even a year ago.

But why now? Those old editions have been right there all along, easily accessible from EBay, game stores with used book sections, and (until recently) in .pdf form for 4 or 5 bucks a book online. Why, seemingly all of a sudden, are so many picking up these old games and rediscovering how much fun they were, and talking about it so much? Sure, plenty of folks have stuck with them all along, and been espousing their advantages to any who cared to drop by Dragonsfoot, or K&K, or even ENWorld, but there’s no denying there’s a huge number of folks just getting into again (or in a lot of cases for the first time, which is especially cool imho).

Is it possible to put together a “chain of events” leading to the OSR? I hear a fairly common tale of gamers leaving the hobby in the early 90’s, suffering from a combination of apathy with an uninspired and increasingly complex 2E, and a need to focus more on finishing degrees, starting careers and families, etc. And then these “ex-gamers” remembering there’s something they missed when all the hoopla of a 3rd edition being announced arrives, and deciding to pick up the dice once more.

To find something…not quite what it used to be. Fortunately, 3rd party companies arrive that recognize that something special that’s missing, like Necromancer Games and Goodman Games, and they publish adventures designed with the old school gamer in mind. This doesn’t make the games truly old-school of course, but old-school enough that ex-gamers do infact become gamers again. They make room in their lives for the hobby once more, and a thriving 3rd party cottage industry gives many of them, myself included, the chance to do what they never so easily could do back in the militant TSR days: get their own stuff published!

But 3E, while an enjoyable pastime, was apparently still missing something. Why didn’t gamers flock back the old editions after a couple of years of this? Was the DIY ethic inherent in the hobby strong enough to keep them working at it, striving toward customizing the new edition into something more closely resembling the glorious old stuff? Well, yes, some folks out there did indeed do this. A couple of “halfway” games popped up, almost concurrently. TLG released “Castles & Crusades”, an unmistakably d20 game that lovingly crafted a thick coat of AD&D icing over the SRD while still staying strictly faithful to the terms of the OGL. BFRPG would also appear around this time, and take things yet a bit further. This nice little game, as opposed to C&C, was B/X with a thick coat of SRD on top of it, testing the OGL waters for just what was possible to get away with. This would be my first experience with what came to be called the “Retroclone”. Old-school-simple M20 appeared as well, completely based on d20, but with the old-school ethic of “less is more” better represented than in any variant so far.

Oh, and OSRIC popped up too! As the name states (Old School Reference..) this wasn’t even intended to be a game that you played, it was intended as a way for folks to release 1E AD&D-compatible adventures and supplements under the OGL. Nonetheless, people were downloading it and playing it. And printing it, and having it printed. And playing it. What exactly was going on here? I mean, people were talking about how much fun they were having playing “OSRIC”. There were folks bugging the admins at Dragonsfoot to open an OSRIC forum. But that’s the same thing as 1E AD&D, the mods responded, and the forum for that is still right here. But shouldn’t we have an OSRIC forum!?, the demands continued (and there is, now, a “Simulacrum Games” forum, btw). No, really, what exactly was going on?

Were 3E players actually leaving their game to move to OSRIC, a not-intended-for-actual-game-play clone of an out-of-print edition that was still easily available to anyone who bothered trying to get it?

Something was going on. Something was happening to 3E sales, though I can’t imagine the old-school movement had much to do with it. At any rate, WotC would trot out 4E D&D a couple of years earlier than anyone, including the developers, expected. Not what 3E fans wanted to hear at all. Or 3rd party publishers for that matter. But enough folks were interested in trying out 4E to push initial sales higher than those of 3E, by all reports. Some folks ran with the new edition. Some blanched at it, citing sacred cows and MMORPGs and anime and all that. Irreconcilable differences. Some, however, and these were the ones that caught my eye, were posting about how 4E reminded them of those old games, remember them, 1E and especially B/X? So much so, that hey, we should try and hunt down a copy of them. Or, we could just download one of these new retro-clones…

Last month I brought a LuLu-printed copy of Swords & Wizardry with me to a friend’s house, an ex-gamer who hadn’t played in decades. He looked at it, admiring Mullen’s cover art. “Wow,” he said, “this makes me feel…” he stopped, at a loss for words. “Like gaming again,” I offered? “Yeah, like I wanted to way back when”

Did Retro-clones just happen to come along at the right time, an unlikely conjunction of opportunity and availability? Is the OSR just a fad, destined to fade away as fast as it appeared? Or has it been slowly building in the background all along. Do Retro-clones offer just the right amount of “New and Shiny” along with the necessary amount of nostalgia? Did some failure in the design and marketing of the newer edtions of D&D contribute? Lots to ponder. And lots of good gaming to be had as we watch this whole renaissance thing continue to develop around us.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Spirits of the City State

Armor Class:
6 [13]
Hit Dice:
Shadowy Weaponry (1d8)
Saving Throw:
Challenge Level/XP:

In the days before the Overlord's violent rise to power, the Nightwatchmen served the purpose the City Guard serve (or are supposed to serve) today. Yet by the time of the Overlord's ascension, they had grown into a corrupt, Temple-sponsored boysclub that did as they pleased while the weaker classes were preyed upon unchecked by the organized criminals of the Citystate. No one is sure who placed the curse upon them that causes their spirits to patrol the streets now on starless nights, but when they do they are implacable and incorrupt, taking a bloody toll of any they find in contempt of the law, which includes adventurers out after "curfew". The Nightwatchmen appear as whispy, shadowy, guardsmen. They inspire terror in those they attack, requiring a saving throw to face them bravely without suffering a -2 penalty to hit.

The Hellboar of Bywater
Armor Class: 4 [15]
Hit Dice:
Gore (3d8)
Saving Throw:
Spell Immunity, Breath Weapon
Challenge Level/XP:

This immense, rotting, black swine has fiercely glowing eyes, and drips with maggots and filth. Once every few years it rises up out the Mermist Marshes to rampage into the city on an unknown errand. The last time it attacked, about 3 years ago, it killed nearly thirty citizens before the arrival of elite warriors from the Cryptic Citadel were able to drive it off. Once per turn, the Hellboar can exhale a black cloud of unholy cold, doing 3d6 pts of damage to all within a 60' cone. It is immune to spells of less than 3rd level. More than one party of adventurers has been lost in the Marshes hunting the fell thing, for its heart is rumored to be a cursed ruby of immense size.

Deadman's Dirk
The thieves of the City State live and die by their blades, and some thieves' spirits never leave their favorite sidearm. A Deadman's Dirk is a haunted +2 dagger that carries a malicious poltergeist around with it. The spirit will generally taunt and harrass its weilder in its ragged, whispery voice, angrily throw things around (strength of an unseen servant), and will whisper nightmares in its owner's ear as he sleeps.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Animated Dungeon Delve?

This is bizarre. I guess it could make an *interesting* one-page dungeon contest entry... Enjoy!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Happiness is a....

...Big honkin' compilation of Savage Sword of Conan!

almost 600 pages of old school sword & sorcery goodness, and this is part one of six or more volumes.

It warmed my cockles (can I say "cockles" here?) to see this stuff again, I have a modest, but woefully incomplete, collection of the real thing. It was one of my favorite mags, and came into my life at effectively the same time as D&D and Star Wars and all the other nerdphoria that consumed my adolescence.

The series featured some of the best artists at the time, and stayed truer to the source material than most later comics or movies would. And its fun to read...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Quoth the Raven

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted�nevermore!

Friday, April 17, 2009

WotRP Preview: NPC Mentalist

Arun Visk
Mentalist, 3rd level
S9 I11 W14 D10 C7 Ch16
AC11 hp11 Move12 Save13
Powers: Control Person, Somnolence, Mind Reading
Equipment: Arm Bracers, Irradium Pistol, Dagger, Gas Belt, Ammo Pouch, Vorlum Paste, 14augs.

Arun Visk tends to stay moving, from settlement to settlement, avoiding the big cities if at all possible. Visk spent the last 24 years in prison for the confidence trickstering and murder of a rich widow. He presents himself as a sort of elderly wise-man or mentor-figure, though he is in fact a hardened criminal. He likes to travel the Wastelands just to either side of the great canals, within safe reach of civilization, and his preferred targets: elderly, wealthy, infirm merchants. Arun Visk will exersize his mental control to make the merchant his puppet, and tag along until he has taken the business for everything he can. If circumstances allow, he will then murder the merchant and leave his body in the wastes for scavengers to consume. Arun Visk has a secret cache of his ill-gotten wealth hidden near an oasis far out in the wastes. Visk occasionally targets adventuring companies who flash their loot around a bit too much. Visk owns a Tusked Oro (a sort of scaly, three legged, red and orange riding ostrich), which he rides when travelling the wastes.

Tusked Oro: HD 4+1; AC 7[12]; Atk 3 claws (1d6), 1 bite (1d4); Move 15; Save 13; CL/XP 4/120; Special: Rake (extra d6 dmg when all 3 talon attacks hit).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Warriors of the Red Planet

Old School Pulp Sci-Fantasy in the vein of Burroughs, Kline, Moorcock, and Brackett. Old School Rules in the vein of Swords & Sorcery and Labyrinth Lord. Coming Soon...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

City State: Tal'Aral Neen

Tal'Aral Neen (Ancient Astronaut)
Armor Class: 2 [17]
Hit Dice: 4
Attacks: Fire-wand 2d6
Saving Throw: 13
Special: ESP; Immune to sleep, charm, paralysis, etc
Move: 12
Challenge Level/XP: 5/240

The Tal'Aral Neen are seven holy engineers currently in service to the Invincible Overlord. They were first spotted in his court about three years ago. Since their appearance, the City State has made astounding improvements to the sewer system (though it is still infested with sewer eels), the city walls (which withstood a Purple Claw catapult last winter without a scratch), and to the Overlord's citadel itself, which was already a place of mystery, and has become much more so in the last 3 years. The Neen never make an appearance without their bizarre ceremonial garb, which includes an armor-like suit of gem-studded metal plates and a full helmet. Though the Neen do not speak the common tongue of the Roglaras, they understand it perfectly, and somehow are able to make their garbled, clicking language understandable to any they directly address. The Neen are known to have a fondness for the Pleasure district, though some who attend them have been known to disappear. It is not known what the Neen eat, but they do have a fondness for wine, and rumor has it they are easily enebriated.

The Tal'Aral are capable of mind-reading, but are immune to any mind-affecting magic directed against them. They possess ornate, serpent-shaped wands which emit a spell of fire upon silent command, doing 2d6 damage with at a range of up to 100 yards. They were witnessed using these wands to help cut stone for the reinforcing of the city walls. It is rumored they have hidden a crystal-domed chariot adorned with gold and platinum reliefs somewhere beneath the Overlord's palace, and that this chariot may traverse sea and air as easily as it does land.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ancient Astronauts

I watched a special on TV this weekend about theories on whether our ancient ancestors were visited by beings from another world. While its difficult to buy into theories like these, I did find the artwork presented by the show to be compelling, and as usual began to think of its potential for gaming. Alien Visitor theorists like Von Danigan (sp?) posit that the picture above (of a Mayan King name Pekal, who was supposedly a giant and a brilliant engineer) depicts the Mayan King departing Earth in a rocket ship, reclined much like our own Apollo asronauts would have been, and manipulating various instruments and pedals. Conventional archaeologists claim this is actually a depiction of Pekal journeying to the mythological Underworld.

The ambiguity and possibilities this art inspires could certainly be brought into a gaming situation, perhaps in the form of art like this, letting the players in the campaign ponder whether the gods in their world were actually voyagers from another world, mythological beings from the underworld, or the more standard, more emphemeral sort of deities.

How about these space-mannish depictions in cave-art? It would be interesting to introduce some "beings of light" who occasionally visit the mundane vistas of the campaign setting, perhaps imparting wisdom, kidnapping specimens, and such, all while keeping the players guessing.

Food for thought, at any rate.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

Hope everyone is having a great Easter weekend!

Doing a little more research on Easter, and other religious holidays, legends and rites of fertility and rebirth, I was struck by how many of them include an element described as "Descent into the Underworld". It is part of the Christian Easter that Christ descended into Hell for a time, before his rebirth. Similarly, the Egyptian judge of the dead, Osiris, was a figure of rebirth, having been destroyed and reborn twice, once to father Horus, and again after having been torn to pieces by Set. This cycle of death and rebirth was a strong reflection of the rising and lowering river Nile, and the crucial part it played in the survival of the ancient Egyptians.

The Japanese also had their underworld mythology, and its a fascinating one, the dark realm of Yomi:

"Yomi (黄泉 ?), the Japanese word for the underworld in which horrible creatures guard the exits; according to Shinto mythology as related in Kojiki, this is where the dead go to dwell and apparently rot indefinitely. Once one has eaten at the hearth of Yomi it is impossible to return to the land of the living. Yomi is comparable to Hades or hell and is most commonly known for Izanami's retreat to that place after her death. Izanagi followed her there and upon his return he washed himself, creating Amaterasu, Susanoo, and Tsukuyomi in the process.

This realm of the dead seems to have geographical continuity with this world and certainly cannot be thought of as a paradise to which one would aspire, nor can it appropriately be described as a hell in which one suffers retribution for past deeds; rather, all deceased carry on a gloomy and shadowy existence in perpetuity regardless of their behavior in life. Many scholars believe that the image of Yomi was derived from ancient Japanese tombs in which corpses were left for some time to decompose. After the arrival of Buddhism, Yomi also became one of the Buddhist hells in Japan, like Kakuri which is ruled by Enma."

Yomi is vastly different from the Welsh underwold of Annwn, "a world of delights and eternal youth where disease is absent and food is ever-abundant", which would tend more towards the fertility and rebirthing end of things. Certainly sounds like a friendlier place, anyways.

As far as fertility deities go, a fun inclusion to a game world would be Inanna (also known as Ishtar): "the goddess of love and is one of the Sumerian war deities, who was seen swaggering around the streets of her home town, dragging young men out of the taverns to have sex with her. Despite her association with mating and fertility of humans and animals, Inanna was not a mother goddess, though she is associated with childbirth in certain myths. Inanna was also associated with rain and storms and with the planet Venus. She is always depicted with a shaved pubic region." War and mating? Sounds more like a Viking god to me. Inanna spent a little time in the Underworld too, but she seemed more interested in scouting the place out for future conquest.

The Vikings had their own deity of rebirth, Baldur, who was slain through Loki's trickery and would descend into the Norsemen's mythological underworld, remaining there until Ragnarok was over.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Gaming Inspiration!

If you're like me and enjoy perusing used-book stores for lost treasures, always be sure to check the "various" section. I've found several anthologies of old pulp-fantasy short stories (like the one pictured above), and they're an absolute treat to read.

One of my favorite parts of coming back to rules-lite old-school systems is that my "prep time" is no longer devoted to squinting at stat-blocks and re-memorizing grapple rules for the 19th time. Now my prep time is a pulp fantasy short story. One before each session. I've found that it ensures I'm never lacking for ideas when the players take a surprise turn, and I'm able to bring a more immersive and atmospheric narrative to the game. Whereas 4 or 5 years ago I dreaded prep time for my 3.5 game, now I catch myself sneaking in a little extra time when I can, and I've read a whole of really cool stuff over the last couple of years.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

RIP Dave Arneson

I feel a bit strange posting this twice in two days, a situation Dave would no doubt have found to be satisfyingly humorous, but it seems he has, in fact, passed away. Out of all the "founding fathers" who have passed on in the last few years, Dave was the only one I knew and gamed with, so his passing is naturally the saddest of all for me.

Nearly every time I venture out into the wilder parts of the Lake Erie shore, I can't help but think of poleboating along the shoreline of Dave's gloomy Loch, with silver guardian ships buzzing past through the air high above... Wand of Lightning don't fail me now...

Miss ya, Dave!

Speaking of the City State...

Looks like Judges Guild has launched a new website. Big, new things in store for us fans? Hope so!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Oh dear, no more WotC .pdfs for sale (violins, please).

Yes, today the internets have been in an uproar because WotC has stopped selling their products in .pdf form through online retailers like DrivethruRPG. The official word from WotC is that it has to do with a couple of folks who got busted pirating their .pdfs of the 4E PHB2.

Nevermind the fact that the 4E PHB1 was available on file sharing sites before the new edition was even released, much less available on .pdf.

SO the whole pirating excuse seems pretty weak, especially considering the fact that WotC's legal department would have to have been living under a rock to believe the old misconception that internet piracy has any negative effect on sales. In fact, there is some evidence that it actually helps sales. That is not to say that WotC's legal department has not been living under a rock, I'm sure there are plenty of nice rocks where they are from.

Personally, I could care less. I'm old-fashioned, I guess, but I like books I can hold in my hands. I like to flip through pages while sitting on a park bench or in a coffee shop or on the can. I have no interest in big 400 page .pdf game manuals, for free or for pay. They are cute for promoting a book, as in a free preview. They are wonderful for sharing homebrew stuff. Homebrew stuff, you'll note, is not typically 400 pages of full-color nonsense like a WotC book is, so you can print that homebrew .pdf quickly and cheaply and take it with you to bench, shop, and can.

Nonetheless, things like this do hold some entertainment value for me, because any time WotC does anything at all, the conspiracy theories begin to fly, accompanied by gleeful foretellings of the end of official D&D. The WotC .pdf moratorium has been interpreted as many wonderful things, among them:
1) A precurser to shutting down WotC.
2) A precurser to selling D&D.
3) An excuse to somehow grab more money by selling .pdfs themselves.
4) A sneaky way to stop selling 1E .pdfs, which are obviously ruining 4E sales.
5) A sneaky way to put online .pdf retailers out of business, making 3rd party sales harder.

Well, life is crazy, so maybe it is one of the above, no matter how bizarre that may seem. No one has suggested yet that maybe WotC just isn't sure how to handle the piracy issue, so they're sealing the hatches until they figure it all out. I think they've made an uneducated decision, but not necessarily a dumb one, provided they're using the time to get educated.

Monsters of the City State

The City State of the Invincible Overlord is a dangerous place already, but here are some more horrid beasts to harry your players with:

Harmakhani Skeletal Guardian

Armor Class: 3 [16]
Hit Dice: 4
Attacks: 1d10
Saving Throw: 13
Special: Fear
Move: 12
Challenge Level/XP: 5/240

These are special skeletal knights crafted and animated by the temple clergy of Harmakhis. They appear as 6' tall skeletons in plate mail, and heft serrated greatswords. Like their lesser brethren, they are unintelligent and only perform the simple tasks assigned them by their creators. Typically found in areas important to the Harmakhani clergy, they are also sold to wealthy buyers from time to time. They will not harm anyone wearing a holy symbol of Harmakhis. Anyone of level one or less must save against the terror they inspire or flee.

Sewer Eel
Armor Class: 6 [13]
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: bite (1d6)
Saving Throw: 16
Special: diseased
Move: 12 (swim)
Challenge Level/XP: 3/60

These hideous, carnivorous eels infiltrated the City State's sewer system from the Roglaroon less than a decade ago, and have proven to be a horrible nuisance. They can survive in shallow, filthy water, and will attack anything that enters their environment. Their bite can confer a crippling disease (-4 to Str, Con and Dex) if a save is not made. The Overlord has placed a bounty of one silver coin on each of these creatures killed in an attempt to curb their population.

Drake Buzzards
Armor Class: 7 [12]
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: bite (1d6) or sting (1d4 plus poison)
Saving Throw: 16
Special: poison
Move: 15 (fly)
Challenge Level/XP: 3/60

These foul scavengers are an unsightly cross between a vulture and pseudodragon. Supposedly bred in magical laboratories in attempt to create a creature that would keep the City State a bit cleaner, the creatures have found it easier to prey on beggars, drunks, cripples, and beasts of burden. Their poisonous stinger injects a venom which slows the victim for 1d6 turns, making it easy for flocks of these creatures to run down and eat their prey.

Great Toad of Ixx
ArmorClass: 0 [19]
Hit Dice: 6 (maximum hp)
Attacks: Bite (2d6)
Saving Throw: 11
Special: adhesive tongue, swallow
Move: 12 (hop 30)
Challenge Level/XP: 8/800

The existence of the Great Toad of Ixx has never been proven conclusively, but most folk of the City State swear it exists, and tales of near escapes, or of watching friends be consumed, are common in alehouses and market squares. Rumored to haunt the pleasure parks at night, the Great Toad is pitch black, with rubbery, near-impenetrable skin and eyes that glow like liquid green fire. Once per turn, the Great Toad can shoot its tongue out to a distance of up to 15' and pull a target of man-size or smaller into its gaping mouth and swallow it (swallowed creatures take 3d6 points of damage per round while digesting). The Great Toad can leap distances of up to 30'. It is possible some malign intelligence drives the creature; at any rate it is far smarter than its diminutive cousins. The Great Toad is rumored to have a taste for beautiful young women.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Happy Eostur

With all the talk of religion in the old-school blogosphere lately, the roots of religious festivals have been on my mind alot lately, especially Easter. Today my family takes its traditional annual trip to the big market downtown to pick up all the little imported foodstuffs for Easter dinner next week.

Easter is a holiday with an especially rich history, its roots coming from spring fertility rites celebrated in honor of the goddess Eostre. These would eventually influence naming the entire germanic month of April after her, "Eostur Month".

Some parts of the traditional Eostur celebrations survive today, like rabbits and eggs. Rabbits were eaten though, as opposed to sneaking through the night delivering baskets of candy, and one rabbit meal would be thrown into the fields in offering to Eostre (I imagine this fertilizer led to a particlularly bountiful patch of field). Eggs of course are symbolic of fertility and natural bounty.

Eventually, the Christian celebrations of Passover would rise to predominance, and the destruction of all written records of the old faiths would cause poor Eostra to fade into obscurity and uncertainty. Think of her while you're coloring eggs this week!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Rules and the "Old School Renaissance"

There have been a few very interesting posts in the old-school blogosphere recently, most notably one from Mr. Raggi over at LotFP, and one from Mr. Shook at LotGDs, each in their own way trying to balance the various "D&D" rule sets out there with the current momentum of the "Old School Renaissance". Good reading.

I'm perhaps a bad person to discuss this topic, as I feel books like "A Princess of Mars", "The Swords of Lankhmar" and "The Black Company" are far more important to your gaming experience than whether you choose between OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, or D&D4E.

That said, I think one of the biggest reasons gamers are flocking (can I say "flocking" here?) back to the older editions specifically (and their modern simulacra) is that these rule sets are simpler, and thus more easily adapted to fit what each DM/group envision as their ideal game world. It's easy to say that OD&D and such were too amorphous and ever-changing to qualify as a flag for the old-school movement to rally around, but this is only valid if you were around at the beginning to experience it.

A large number of gamers I know picked up the hobby during the AD&D 1E days, left after 2E came out, and came back to it after 3E through a mixture of curiousity and nostalgia. While 3E, and even 4E, can be enjoyable under the right circumstances, they certainly aren't going to inspire the legendary gaming experiences my 30-and-40-something generation remembers fondly from their youth, nor recreate the gaming exploits they read about greedily in old issues of Dragon or witnessed as teens at conventions with veterans-at-play.

What simulacra like S&W and LL do exceedingly well is give modern gamers easy access to concise, inspired representations of the oldest editions of D&D, and lets them develope their home games naturally from there.

As OD&D gradually morphed into 1E AD&D and B/X in the late seventies, fell into corporate hands in the late 80's and gradually morphed from there into the rules-heavy 3E (well, what did you expect with a Rolemaster vet as a lead designer?;-), so can LL, S&W, and OSRIC morph into something altogether new over time. Only this time, it could do so in the hands of the old-school gaming community, with no corporate interests in mind.

Whether these disparate editions will morph into a unifying old-school edition to rule them all, the lack of which Mr. Raggi laments, remains to be seen. But I do think some evolution is inevitable, and given the current climate of creativity and respect for D&D's roots, most likely headed in the right direction.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

RIP Black Leaf

Sadly, Marcie's thief Black Leaf was killed last night by a poisoned trap. Our DM ejected her from the game, which I found a little harsh, but bizness is bizness, right? I called Marcie this morning but she's not answering. Probably out shopping or something.

Good news, though! Debbie's cleric finally made 8th level! Our DM told her that means she can cast real spells now, and the little airhead believed it lol. Blonde gamers are funny! Looks like its a little april fools joke on her.

Anyways, there's a big bonfire at church tonight. Maybe I'll bring all my gaming stuff and see if I can get a little pickup game going.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...