Monday, December 31, 2012

The Fetid Pit - HMS APOLLYON location


From the Starboard side of the Promenade, Sterntown's premier shopping and temple district (off limits to sea washed flotsam, scavengers and such) and beyond huge reinforced bulkheads is the Fetid Pit, an air shaft that rises 700 feet to the grey light of the top deck, split by numerous fans that slowly rotate pulling down fresh air and scattering the faint light that leaks from above into maddening kaleidoscopic patterns.  The pit plunges down another 300 feet from the level of the promenade, presumably sealed where the lower submerged decks, the domain of the ash plague, begin.

The Fetid Pit - As Explored in the employ of Clavadius Krab

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Wheaton Dungeon Map

Recently there's been some fun had redrawing a map posted by Will Wheaton on his blog. So far Dyson Logos has done a quick sketch of the "Wheeton Dungeon" as has Matt Jackson at Lapsus Calumni (whose excellent maps I've just discovered).

Since I couldn't think of anything to map lately I did my own version of the map - as some kind of slimy fish deity temple where the horrible cult god, all scales, spine and giant sightless eyes comes slithering up a ramp to greet/eat its followers.  This arrangement was suggested purely by the layout.  I've fiddled with things a bit placement wise - making corridors shorter mostly.  Also used a variant fill - a spiral hatching that I've been trying to get right.

Here's the Map:

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Recent Expeditions into the Hull - A digest of HMS Apollyon One Shots

The following are recent exploration notes from several one shots that may provide information about the various semi-explored areas and potential adventure leads currently aboard the vessel.

Pretty Close to My Guess on What the Grottos look like - Art from Cryptcreeper  DeviantArt
1. The Familial Difficulties of the Devil Malchris

The Marines (strange, insular and vaguely cultish) hired a group of scavengers to go beyond the defenses they maintain in the very aft of the Apollyon and attempt to assassinate or otherwise deal with a troublesome outsider named "Malchris".  After winding through empty rooms marked with magical traps and strange signs - the Marine's much whispered about Sigil Maze.  Within a surly marine scout guide the scavengers were able to reach their destination, a Corrupted Train Station transformed into a hell scape of cinders a and spectral ash figures.  After seeing the Devil lord's guard force of spider centaurs and triggering an explosive runes trap they elected to parley.

Stretching their moral imaginations the party agreed to help the bug eyed devil enforce a contract for the soul and body of a small passenger class boy, the last of his line - and surprisingly upon their return to the Sigil Maze the proper seeming Marines revealed a depth of pragmatism edging into cruelty and offered to help abduct the boy. The Haldivar Mansion on the upper deck was visited and an elderly caretaker bribed to hand over the child, who proved to have an obvious strain of outsider blood, specifically great bug like eyes and a murderous vengeful disposition.  Keen to enroll the aid of a high ranking member of Hell's Nomenclatura for bloody vengeance on his family's tormentors and enemies little Lord Haldivar was glad to go. 

The party handed over the child to the Devil (who proved to be the child's Great Uncle) and intended to see to his proper upbringing and protection.

As a result of this adventure the Sigil Maze is open to those on good terms with the Marines for exploration or passage into the outsider lands beyond.  Malchris has offered rides on his train towards the fore in exchange for favors (principally the slaughter of rival Devils) from the Corrupted Station.

2. A Restful Interlude Amongst the Grottos

An expedition to search out allies for defense of The New Lands, specifically a search for a purported group of Black Gang soldiers on Deck 9 had no luck at finding the allies it sought.  It did discover the partially flooded apartment and entertainment block known as The Grottos where large pools and lagoons crossed by broken bridges and infested with fungus, slime, mold form a swamp like environment below deck.  Almost upon entry the scavengers were accosted by a pack of phase crabs, who were very difficult to hit and appear to be some kind of other-planar vermin. The Party found a broken bridge leading to a Black Bastion but could not find a way across so went Aft and discovered a pool of kelp paddies worked by somnolent and diseased looking humans under the harsh control of grey diabolic overseers.  This was the domain of the Last House, a family of passenger class sorcerers who have interbred with their outsider patrons a bit more than normal and for unknown reasons exiled themselves from Sterntown.  The Family of the House was friendly enough, putting the party up and feeding them roast shark, but distinctly strange and cruel.  The Family offered to sell some sleep walking gladiators as thralls, but the party did not follow up on this.

Discovered the Grottos and the Last House.  It's unclear what lives in The Grottos beside phase crabs, and less clear what the intentions of the Last House are though they seem powerful, evil and not especially hostile.

3. Return to the Grottos and Ghoulish Discovery Within the Black Bastion

Returning to the Grottos a different party of scavengers attempted to skirt the broken bridge by moving through the once opulent apartments that arc over the pools, but discovered these are also infested with terrible fungal horrors.  After destroying a Cyan Fungal Pillar the group reached the Black Bastion, which while full of powerful military technology to scavenge was also home to a large pack of Ghola - giant, degenerate, flesh hungry humans who use paralytic poison on thier bone weapons. The Ghola were eliminated, and much equipment recovered including a light suit of 4th generation boilermail and a semi functional war golem.

Information about the Black Gang has been discovered in the Black Bastion and scavenging companies would be happy to get a crack at the luxury apartments along the The Grottos, despite the terrifying fungal horrors and poisonous molds that grow there in the dark.

4. Descent Into the Fetid Pit

In an attempt to recover the body of an unsanctioned victim of internal mafia violence and aid the Thieves in Law holding a tribunal for the alleged killers a band of scavengers were hired to plumb the depths of the Fetid Pit a huge air shaft to the starboard side of Sterntown.  Descending from a Steward guard tower the band spotted a Moribund Agricultural Station, a Floating Gas Angler Colony and finally began exploring an Infested Customs Bastion. The crawling death infected guardians of the Bastion convinced the scavengers to return to Sterntown, but the fetid Pit clearly holds some valuable and other strange wonders.

Friday, December 21, 2012

It's the End of the World as We Know it...

So the Apocalypse has come and gone and I feel fine.  Yet the end of the world is a seductive concept, as every individual always seems to presume they'll be a survivor of the end. Of course in a game you can really have your apocalypse, and so below is a table of ten world ends, in honor of today's non-pocalypse.  All are based on literary sources filtered though D&D logic.

Vastenov - 1887

1.“From what I've tasted of desire, I hold with those who favor fire” – Frost 
The world ended in fire, those that are left live huddled beneath the Earth out of the cindered skies and black obsidian deserts.  

2.“I think I know enough of hate, To say that for destruction ice, Is also great, And would suffice.” – Frost
The world ended in ice and sheets of frozen blue still blanket it.  Survivors crouch in caves in the lees of volcanos while nightmare creatures of white fur and fangs hunt endlessly through howling blizzard.

3.“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold” – Yeats
The center of the world broke from divine struggle, titanic magics or simply untold age.  Now the fragments drift together a string of strange islands in the vastness of the Empyrean. 

4.“What rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born” – Yeats
The Apocolypse Wyrm has come.  It's million children poison the Earth with their venom and pollute the sky with toxic breath, ichorous poisons drip from the leaves of every flattering tree.  To fight is folly, but their is no other path.

5. “On the day the world ends, A bee circles a clover,” - Milosz 
As if everyone has stopped in mid-task and walked away, they are simply gone, but a few remain, and things that should not have existed are crawling out of the shadows.
6.“Not With a bang but with a Whimper” -  Eliot
The world ended and no one realized, life goes on its ruts and and rituals continue unabated as in a waking dream.  Only you are awake from the dream and see the slow sickness spreading as the world contracts and at its edges something alien an antithetical intrudes.
7. “The Crumbling Pageant” – Dryden
Decadence and evil leaking in, the world of the fey has finally broken through and the innumerable courts of the otherworld demand fealty and sacrifice in this one.  Things change, melt and shift.  All is mutable whimsy, and all is deadly beauty.
8. “Everything’s Coming to a Grinding Halt” – The Cure
It has stopped, the magic and the gods drained from the world, and with them the cities and cultures of man crumble.  The arts are lost, the skills of living without magic or the boons of the gods are vague memories and savagery has reasserted itself.

9. “The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars Did wander darkling in the eternal space, Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air.” – Byron
The dying sun has burnt its last, only the moon and the worlds own slowly cooling heat allow any life, there are those who adapt - monstrous, those who struggle - futilely, and the majority who simply die.

10. "And where the scythes of Truth had mown. Clear space for Liberty's white throne.” - Realf
Truth is death, freedom is death and death now sits on its bone white throne above the world. Some may be living still, but they are monsters at loose in a world of undeath or livestock to the vampire lords waiting to be recast into zombie thralls

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Spell Reskinning - Lightning Bolt

5th Level is when Wizards start to get really dangerous, and one of the signs of their new power to destroy is lightning bolt, deadly area effect spell that is a staple of magic user direct damage spells.  In the spirit of my previous posts reskinning sleep and magic missile, here's a set of twenty alternatives for Lightning Bolt.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Snakemen of the Certopsian

Snakemen are something I keep mentioning in my Certopsian Plains stuff, and Serpent Men make up the ultimate opponent in the Certopsian Situation (which I am trying to get back to working on).  Below is a bit of background, a picture (the composition, idea, and style of which was ripped off wholesale from Moebius) and a basic stat-line.

Awakened by strange ritual and dark magics, the Serpent Men have returned to the Certopsian plains after two thousand years of slumber.  Once the blood soaked masters of the Land of Thousand Towers, their monstrous 500 year reign was only put to the end by the advance of the Clockwork Matriarchy and it's automaton armies.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Actually it's four small maps I drew up mostly as a series of tests for new map fills.

MAP 1 - Bugbear Den
(This map relates to ASE goblins - with their strange alien physiology)

In the forest beyond the low road an enterprising band of goblins, led by a fairly intelligent servitor species goblin (though they have no hive mind) have set up a small defensible village using an ancient bunker as a base.  Using this base they've been successful raiders and scavengers.  The key to their success is the use of a huge hollow tree as a spawning shrine for selected goblin sacks that are then heaped with the bodies of victims and animals the goblins hunt.  As goblin specialists know, rich nutrients and forest air result in bugbears.  Now the tribe has several, and with this added muscle expect to raise an even larger crop of bugbears soon.

Not really a fill map, given it's outdoors - I do like the use of the 20% grey (well now orange) for the trees and think it's a nice way to frame a map when one doesn't have real walls.

MAP 2 - Bleached Harbor

The desert beneath the earth was once a salty underground sea, or what was once a sea is now dry an sunk beneath the earth.  Once a proud trading house the Bleached Harbor is now derelict, with the ruins of a smashed cog and a capsized war galley standing sentry below docks that now raise 15' from hard packed salt flats.  Inside the ruin, carved from the rock of a former sea cliff, its interior walls enriched with fossils the trading house is strangely undisturbed.  Perhaps it's ghosts, ghouls or demons.  Certainly denizens of the salt flats find the shelter of the trading post a welcome respite from the dry scouring winds outside.

Used a hatching technique consisting of spirals - Not sure how I feel about it, it's not slow but it's not especially fast either.  I think the effect is pretty good, but it doesn't fit well in narrow spaces.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Some Maps (and thoughts on map fill)

 I was recently happy to get a very flattering comment from Dyson Logos of regarding one of my maps, which got me thinking about Dyson and his maps.  I've always really enjoyed them, they're clean and interesting (especially the way passages cross over each other and they possess a three dimensionality while remaining one level). What I really got to thinking about, because I like drawing maps, is Dyson's crosshatching technique, which even if you have no idea who I'm talking about you will recognize, because almost every map I see (mine included) is using it.

By crosshatching technique I mean the way the one fills space, specifically the space on a map filled with rock, earth or anything else more or less impenetrable. I've been stealing Dyson's great crosshatching, and I want to look into other space filling techniques for maps, because though it's filler, crosshatching adds a lot of character to a map and the character it adds tends to be one of the things that differentiates hand drawn maps from computer drawn.

Here are two filler techniques I thought up yesterday night and have applied to these small temples of evil.

Sinister, vaguely mechanical - block stippling

DER TOTTENWERKS (Das Totenwerk/Temple of Slaughter)

Beneath a stretch of rocky ground and accessed by a narrow stair set within a square pillar in the middle of nowhere, this abandoned temple to a deity of justice gone nasty and draconian served as a prison, ritual torture center and place of sacrificial execution.

It is undoubtedly haunted by the spirits of the victims, but could be used as a lair by just about anything/anyone who doesn't mind grim utilitarian decor designed to inspire hopelessness.  Prison areas are to the North with drainage pits (certainly also filled with bones), a torture theater and a well. To the South is the ritual chamber and quarters for the Carnifex priests.

The fill pattern I used here has a nice effect and is easier than cross hatching, but it is rather time consuming.  I also think it might work better for a map with rounder rooms as smaller spaces can blend into the block fill.  Of course using thick black walls helps keep the negative and positive space separated.


Buried beneath the salt pan of an ancient dried lake, or the mud of a shallow marsh a sink hole leads to this ancient submersible.  A science-fantasy map depicting a crude temple to some sort of tentacled star god built into the ruins of an advanced technological craft.  The guardians reside in the aft, while the head priest or magician has luxurious quarters in the conning tower.  The temple itself is built in the missile and torpedo room amongst decaying weapons of mass destruction.

I would drop this thing into the Livid Fens South of Denethix in a second packing it with zombie drummers and poison wielding fanatical tribesmen.

This fill worked rather will, it's simply stippling in a more traditional way using a large, blunt sharpie. It's quicker than crosshatching and seems useful on maps with a lot of open space as where a decayed or organic feeling might be useful.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pahvelorn - Session XVII - Tower of the Stargazer

TOWER OF THE STARGAZER - As converted to Pahvelorn...

This is a play report, but it's also a review of playing tower of the stargazer using OD&D rules as made sensible and brutal by Brendan of Untimely.  I note that the party of 5 PC's (C 4, C 3, MU 2, F 1, T 3) and several henchmen (F2, F1, F1, MU 1, Dog 1, Dog 0) managed to make it through, get the loot and not suffer any damage.  I think this is a testament to the sheer deviousness of the GM's own puzzles and traps and the healthy fear the PC's now have for anything and everythingI should add that the dangers in the tower were apparently made more so based on the higher level of the party.

After the last disastrous foray into the Pits of Pahvelorn, the adventuring party sometimes known as 'The Order of Gavin" is depressed.  They are broke, have just lost one of their mages (The non-creepy one), had a a favored henchman descend into hysterics and dash unarmored off to his death, exhausted most of their magic items and honestly at wits end about where additional valuables might be located within the Pits.

A knock on the door of the party's ramshackle compound stirs the adventurers from their despondent sloth, and they find a short man, dressed in motley and bearing a invitation to the tower of a powerful wizard recently arrived in town presumably offering employment.  The tower is normal except for a pack of large apes placidly eating ferns in an enclosure to one side, and some strange geometry that appears to facilitate the sorcerer's interest in the heavens

Indeed the powerful wizard does want the adventurers to undertake a mission for him, specifically he claims that an ancient sorcerer of the name Calcidius 'the Great' shared an interest in observing the stars.  Clacidius is presumed dead, but he left an intact tower, likely full of high quality observation equipment that Zorpath's wizard is willing to pay 1,000GP for scouting a path to.  Beni negotiates a byzantine deal where the party will receive a 1,000GP each if they fail to find treasure, and the wizard has a contract drawn up by a strange white haired servant and the party prepares to depart.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Wampus County Play Report - Return of Chauncy...

Public Handbill Posted in the Streets of Thistlemarch...

Citizens of Thistlemarch!  To Arms!

Recently it has come to the attention of this concerned citizen, as I am sure it has come to your attention as well, that a gang of lawless louts and madmen have taken up residence in our fair town.   If the struggles of the stolid frontiersman were not taxing enough, imagine your struggles when faced with the pack of buffoons, cunning men, cold eyed killers and wastrels that haunt the so called "rat-house" of this fair town.

Recently this band of scallywags and maniacs have abducted, imprisoned and ultimately executed no less than three individuals for unproven and likely imagined crimes.  Furthermore, their numbers grow daily, with new hired thugs riding in from the West and dangerous villains thought gone returning from unknown errands.

While undoubtedly you are aware of the recent debacle involving the torturous imprisonment of a large gentleman of the arachnid variety in the center of town and the related hanging of three individuals purported to be bandits, you may be less aware of the return of one of the Rat House's original denizens, the dastardly, obviously insane warlock Chauncy Woolstrike.  The monstrous prestidigitator returned shortly before the diabolical revelry associated with the hanging, and orchestrated by the violent killer Ms. Cobweb, who's gentle feminine demeanor some may still remember from when she was employed as a waitress at the hotel, but who is known now for her sanguinary disposition and was recently seen to strike down a citizen of Thistlemarch with a shotgun at a public meeting.

Monday, December 10, 2012

On alternatives to spell research


In a recent discussion regarding the acquisition of magic in Wampus County the idea that on the frontier normal magical research isn't appropriate, and that perhaps magic (in the form of new spells) can be taken directly from the land and its spirits was discussed.  This, combined with a stodgy and restrictive magical establishment, makes the frontier a beacon for wizards, a sort of magical gold rush.

Weird psychedelic painting - seemed appropriate

Thursday, December 6, 2012


A black shadow above the alkali dust.  The caravan master shouts and several of the guards, the ones who know the road between Denethix and the Lower Certopsian panic.  You ask the nearest veteran if it's a nomad attack, he shakes his head, scars shiny in the oppressive sun, "That's not a Snakeman Terrordactyl, it's something worse" he mumbles and then points to a black pillar in the distance.  "That there, it reminds you, you've run out of time..." With that the veteran darts off his horse and under a creaking wagon, his lips dry and his crossbow loaded.

So that map I published a while back with a drawing of a winged gorgon monster - I've got a downloadable PDF of the adventure local. It's under 20 pages, and considerable tougher than the last adventure I put up.  Again it's aimed at a party of Levels 3-5.

It's a freaking flying Gorgon... This is where my home game would have ended up I think.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Millicent Cobweb - Wampus County PC/NPC/Monster


Specialist/Assassin 6
HP 12
AC 5
DAM: (1D8+2 or 1D6+2 melee)*
(1D10x2) ranged
MV: 40'

STR 16 +2
INT 15 +1
DEX 17 +2
CON 13 +1
CHR 12

SKILLS: Backstab-6
Pick Lock/Tinker-3
Climb -3
Listen -3

Equip: Ash gray steel reinforced leather armor, Black dress, Ash Gray funeral hat, Festive leather skull mask, Silvered cavalry saber (1D8), Primeval monkey bone kukuri (1D6), Sawed off double barreled shotgun x2(1d8/1D10) 20 Silver shells, 20 shells, 2 magical monkey bone pistol bullets, 40' Rope, Compact hand mirror, Lantern, 6 Flasks of Oil, Turkitrice Talon Fetish (Once per day adds + 1D4 damage to attack) Scary Mask of Savage Origin (allows wearer to see in dark). Sack of mysterious blue Carcosa crystal bricks

*On Backstab attack damage is X4 and to hit chance is +4 (unless played by the rules - in which case it's X6/+6hit, without stat and item bonuses).

Monday, December 3, 2012

Character Portraits

As a follow up to the post of Beni Profane - here's the rest of the Pahvelorn party (with the exception of Sarin the Cleric - who was not around this last session).  All were drawn during the tragic session.  A short blurb is below each of them.


Ogum - The party's current magic-user.  His master himself a former apprentice was torn apart by skeletal rats.  He also knows that the first warlock in the party, a now almost forgotten fellow named "Margo" was strangled by a skeleton.  He should clearly be afraid of skeletons.

It's not clear Ogum wanted to be a magic-user, rather he had magic use thrust upon him.  He's not really suited for it, but he finds himself with a pile of scrolls, spellbooks and magical bric-a-brac.

His apprentice is Eahrianna - an orphan moppet of 12 years old who was the former apprentice of the mad wizard Lovitar the Bleak eyed, who Ogum, Higgans and the rest of the party slew.

SATYVATI (Deceased)

Satyvati was a cheerful sort for a wizard taking up adventuring to pay his creditors after fleeing his home town.  He liked the finer things and spent a large amount of treasure on clothes and a house (which the party have now taken).  He was a skilled magic-user all the same - and quite effective with less combat oriented spells.

Sadly he was talked into seeing is "Protection from Evil" work on stone guardians.  Apparently they weren't evil, and before he could turn tail and run his was punched through the head by an 10' tall statute.

Satyvati leaves his servant Druna (who came with him in exile) to join the party as a full fledged member


Druna is not an adventurer, or at least he never wanted to be one.  He was a rich man's body servant, and seemed rather content at that job.  Yet when his master fell on hard times Druna followed him into a new career as a delver in slime filled caverns and plunderer of ancient barrows.  Faint hearted and useless at first, apparently Druna had been holding out on his master as he has had some obvious combat experience in his 59 years.

No one is sure where he learned to fight: banditry, military service or gladiator pits.  All are possibilities, but Druna isn't telling.


 Tarvis is the party's less contemplative Cleric.  A crusader for the Ancient Empire (The established religion in Pahvelorn) he's a bit the bruiser and door kicker.

Tarvis is also on the town counsel of Zorptah. His clerical rectitude and zeal making up for any lack of education and intellect.

Tarvis is accompanied by Darullian, a local Pahvelorn farm boy recruited by Lune (deceased) in a crossbow contest.  Darullian is both smarter and possibly more rational than Tarvis but the two work well together.

It should be noted that Pahvelorn is one of the deadlier games played on Google+ that I've seen - 4 PC's and 3 Henchman have died so far in the Pits, which is pretty high given that there is a death save. This is all the more surprising because the party is generally very cautious and frequently goes through a large number of 10' poles, ropes, iron spikes and similar items..

Friday, November 30, 2012

ASE SESSION IV - Lessons in Dungeon Hygiene

Reginald - alas we hardly new him
A diminished party set out from Denethix, joined by a couple of new members - Reginald Wolfmother, a dandy who's tidy foppish ways would be his undoing, and Raymond (Series of strange numbers) Gamma, a young scientist and former student of the now deceased Dr. Jones.  An ancient vault was opened: some of its secrets revealed, some of its inhabitants put to the torch and a modicum of loot extracted from its dusty chambers.  Also we experienced the first death in the ASE campaign - senseless and avoidable, but exciting none the less.

Wildeye - Demobilized Mercenary (F1)

Huxley - Devotee of the God of Forgotten Things (CL1)

Reginald Wolfmother - Dandy (Deceased) (F1)

Raymond (Numbers) Gamma - Scientist (SCI 1)

Margo the Flame - Sorceress/Pyromaniac (MU 1)

HMS APOLLYON - Plague Sénéchal (More Boiler Mail)

Plagued Armor
April 21, Year of the Feathers, 44 days after the beginning of the retreat.

The Marine line was thin and weary, stretching across the forty foot companionway, with only ten marines worthy of being called active. Seven walking wounded made up the rear line, and only Hereditary Corporal Penthurst wore powered armor, his shrapnel cannon the unit's only fire support.  That they would hold anchoring the sixty odd civilian militia behind them, was the best chance of stopping the advance of plague King Macheath and his legions of the steerage dead.  Penthurst also had a squad of frogling hunters in reserve, worthless in his estimation, led by one of their witch doctors - a grey hunched thing in robes who lorded her authority over the rest of her people with obscure croaking threats.  As pitiful as these forces were they were all that remained  between the overrun factory decks and the desperate efforts of the Steward's second corps to create a defensible bulwark sternward.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Updated Character Sheets - Pahvelorn

What 10 plus sessions of ODD will make of a character.

Below is the updated character sheet for Beni Profane - rat catcher, thief, poison arrow user.

Beni Profane - "Rat Catcher"
Beni is now 3rd level and he and his loyal dog continue to plunder the vaults of Pahvelorn.  He's fulfilled a geas to his not quite diety the six armed rodent The Mother of Thousands and managed to have a suit of shockingly tasteless and gaudy white leather armor made from the skin of a giant snake slain beneath a demon infested manor house buried in the vaults.

Currently Beni sees himself as the tactician and pragmatist among the adventurers known as the Order of Gavin and is finding a kindred soul in the fancy living wizard Satyavati.  He's a bit uncomfortable with the zealousness and love of battle that seems to have infected the clerical members of the party now that they've become seasoned veterans, but perhaps that's the problem with actually worshiping gods rather than simply placating the dangerous ones...

Beni recently learned that he should stay out of melee, even though he has a slightly magical saber made of elf metal he purchased from a Sarin.  Beni is starting to form a smuggling route from the city of the Priest King, Illum Zugot to Zorptah, his adopted home town.

Beni's dog Treacle has not only survived but been instrumental in the party's survival on several occasions.

Treacle, War Terrier

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Monster Cards - A discovery & review


The holidays bring plundering one's parent's basement for curios and curiosities.  I discovered three partial sets (Series I, II and maybe VI) of TSR's 1982 Monster Cards the other week.  These things were a strange play aid published during the bloated yet still magnificent early 80's days of TSR when D&D was really popular.

Each Deck consisted of 30 cards, about the size of an index card.  On the front was an image of a monster from one of the various monster books done in full color by various artists, and on the back was the stat-block of the monster depeicted on the front.  The monsters are all over the place, from goblins to Fiend Folio curiosities.  There were even some new monsters including the first appearance of the Thri-Kreen insect man.

The front of some of the cards - presumably still TSR's property

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

HMS APPOLYON - Sample Boiler and Plate (Magic Item)

The heaviest armor aboard the HMS Appolyon is not the ornate, custom fitted steel plate armor of accomplished Passenger Class warrior fops, but rather rare suits of powered armor.  While the best known of these machines are the handful of elegant Boarding Suits in possession of the Marines, ancient bone white armors, with elongated limbs and twisting rounded surfaces now much repaired and rarely seen, powered armor suits are still being manufactured using the limited mechanical and magical resources of Sterntown.  Boilermail ranges from light exoskeletal suits that offer protection little better than plate mail, but dramatically increase the wearer's strength (allowing the mounting of heavier weapon or increasing melee damage) to fully enclosed heavy suits that can mount cannons and wield swords and axes weighing a few hundred pounds, often augmented with hydraulic penetration aids or voltaic generators that release a deadly charge on impact.
Jubilee Class Boilermail with the insignia of the Stewards

Sunday, November 25, 2012

HMS Appolyon - Monster - Gun Wight


No Enc.2-20
Movement: 30'
Armorclass: 4 + Special
Hit Dice: 4
Attacks: 2
Damage: 1D6/1D6+drain (melee) or 2D6/2d6 (ranged)
Save: F4
Hoard Class:None
XP: 245

One step up from the zombie mass, Gun Wights are shambling undead things that act as soldiers for the War Dead.  They attack either mixed in with large packs of zombies, or in small fire platoons.  

Universally these undead rise form the corpses of soldiers who died to firearms or artillery.  Their bodies are ripped by horrible wounds and all lack a head.  In the place of their skulls Gun Wights have a cluster of several firearms, or just the barrels, jammed into the mangled rotting flesh of thier shoulders or otherwise affixed as a gruesome prosthesis.  These guns are rusted and even bent, but still fire bursts of necroticizing energy that act mechanically like normal bullets.  The largest Gun Wights have sometimes been reported as having light machine guns or small cannon as strange prosthesis, but most have only a cluster of pistols, rifles and shotguns.

Not the smartest undead, Gun Wights also are less perceptive than most of their compatriots.  They will be surprised on a 3 in 6 and act last on the first round of combat unless accompanied by more lively undead who can direct and encourage them.
Special Defenses:
Gun Wights are undead and so immune to Sleep, Charm and other mind effecting spells.  Additionally, as Wights, they take 1/2 damage from normal weapons and full damage from silver or magical weapons.

Special Attacks: 
Gun Wights use the weapons mounted on their neck stumps to attack from range.  These are generally treated and a bolt action rifle with two shots a round, each doing 2D6 with any 6 'exploding' for another D6 of damage. In melee combat they attack with ragged claws as a wight, for 1D6 + level drain.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Science Fantasy Racial Character Class - Vault People

When as glowing ashes of the cities fell in a silent blanket they quaked in fear beneath the earth. The lucky ones.  As the frost and storm raged across the land for a century, they ate and slumbered in plenty beneath the earth. The lucky ones.  As the surface bloomed again, the tentative shapes of grasses, plants and fauna, forever warped by the hand of the final war, they husbanded carefully their stores and overworked greenhouses beneath the earth. The lucky ones.  As civilizations of man and beast grew in bronze, bone and cyclopean obsidian above, they  watched their machines wind down and screamed in the dark for release, thin and cannibal. The lucky ones.  As man stumbling, learned sorcery, the practical arts and war again under the weak sun, the ancient seals creaked open and strange survivors of the ancient science men poured blinking into a world that had forgotten them. The lucky ones.
A Free Hunter Vault Man (Type -Beta)
When the ancient wizards warred and the world was destroyed, some of the wizard's followers fled beneath the earth, and a few have endured since, in warrens and bunkers slowly crumbling to dust. These vaults open from time to time as their seals fail or mad computer overlords decide that the surface is again safe for life.  It has been so long though, much longer than the first vault people could ever imagine.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cenotes & Rodents

A map I drew tonight while play a nice game of Stars Without Numbers GM'd by ApisFurioso from Pilgrims Guide to to Zeitgeist.(Who is perhaps even more of a fan of ASE than I and has managed to use it in his home space D&D game already...).  Stars Without Numbers also seems an excellent version of B/X D&D in space - totally able to cross genres.

Here is the "Undershrine of The Rat Mother"

It's pretty linear - but I like the map.

Monday, November 19, 2012

ASE II Review

ASE LEVEL III - this is not a small dungeon
So, Patrick Wetmore over at Henchmanabuse has release the second session of ASE. I've thoroughly read a pre-publication copy as I made some of the art for the adventure, and this review is based on that.  This is not a critical review, it really isn't, not only was I tangentially involved in the second book, but it's the project that got me back into gaming and has inspired at least 1/2 of the content on this blog.

Dungeon Design and Stocking - with examples!

Recently there was some discussion on Google+ about dungeon design, and if it's possible to teach better dungeon design.  I frankly don't know, but it got me thinking about how I design dungeons vs. how I know others who I think are good GMs design dungeons.  Below is a glimpse of my method- with illustrations from the Mute Tower, which I finished running last week, and which presents a simple dungeon that was perhaps a bit the railroad because it exists only for the purpose of finding a map and some radioactive pebbles to get a party into ASE.

Now I design my dungeons "organically" or "naturalistically".  I rarely use random tables, and I try to stock them in a way that makes sense.  This creates it's own issues, but I feel it works well to build an interesting and alive feeling adventuring environment.
From VALL3Z GAX at - whole adventure based on this drawing...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Character Sheet - The Laughing Boy

The Laughing Boy is an 11th Level LOTFP fighter I'll be using in a one shot.  He is completely random, with a random appearance (Male, Child, Beautiful, Wearing Uniform) and 3D6 in order stats (which turned out good).  This random appearance roll though created the creepiest PC I've played in a long time.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Mute Tower - Map


Just finished running this for the Google+ ASE group, it took three session, but I think it was fun.  As a dungeon I designed it to be introductory with a little bit of everything, and a fair number of odd things to play with.  The party managed to circumvent most to the death traps and didn't lose anyone, though there were two saves vs. death and on near TPK (Well it would have resulted in capture and enslavement by Johnny Two-Bad - reanimated pugilist/Wizard).

 A waste of cracked earth expands for almost a half mile around the Mute Tower, an ancient construction of cherry red ceramic fused adobe marring the plains several miles East of Marsten.  The tower has been home to many strange denizens in the eons it's stood, most recently the two-headed mutant wizard "Johnny Two-Bad" who once terrorized Marsten with his madness and displays of strength.

Thirty years ago, as Denethix consolidated its control of the surrounding area and battalion of the Unyielding Fist, led by Captain Tyrno himself besieged the tower and put its inhabitants to the sword.  While Marsten has since bloomed into a bustling cattle town, the tower remains, an almost forgotten oddity.  Only a few souls have ventured to explore the place, due to its bad reputation and the general belief that the place was looted out by the victorious army when Johnny Two-Bad was put down.

Recently a small expedition from the Temple of Science asked directions to the Mute Tower, and headed off towards it laden with a fancy assortment of supplies.  They haven't returned, and it's a well known fact the the Temple of Science is wealthy enough to pay ransoms and rewards for those who return, save or hold its Scientists.

The Dungeon itself had only a few monsters, and most were reskinned standard creatures - I got to use carrion crawlers without anyone realizing what they were until two party members were already paralyzed.  The party even bought barrels of salt to throw at the creatures because they were some kind of horrible slug creatures. I think this shows the usefulness of gonzo, at shuffling about the cliches and tropes of D&D play and allowing wonder or something like it back into the game.

Thoughts on Combat Resolution Techniques

Random thoughts on D&D combat systems and how combat style has serious and possibly unintuitive effects on game-play.

Otto Dix
NOTE: If the works of Otto Dix appear anywhere in your referee materials or inspirational imagery don't get attached to your character...

Now to my mind combat is an integral component of classic table top RPG play.  War game roots, conflict requiring randomized resolution, immediately recognizable as risky, fulfills male power fantasies common among gamer types etc.  Of course there's the question of what kind of combat one might have?

I am by inclination and lack of newer gameplay pretty stalwart in my devotion to B/X ODD OSR combat and gameplay, so I am not really talking about other editions or systems here (like story games of the tactical focus I hear is part of 3.5E on).  Yet, within even simple (and deemed by some to be deadly boring) B/X style fights there's a lot of house rules and variations that effect play.  In order to make them work it seems one has to figure out what one wants.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Anomalous Subsurface Environment Session II - Two Bad for You!

Anomalous Subsurface Environment Session II -Two Bad for You!

Nathan Rosario draws He Man Villains.
Played this a while ago, and it was really fun - finally putting up a brief after session report as session III is tonight...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pahvelorn - Session XIII - Rats!


Feeling like they'd accomplished a lot, and that the upper level of Pahvelorn's buried city might be pretty much looted out, Beni Profane (Rat Catcher), Higgins Dreadmire (Warlock), Tarvis (Priest) and Sarin (Priest) decided to take themselves and their henchmen to the corrupted shrine in Pahvelorn's abandoned districts.  The "shrine" is a tower edifice, more a cathedral than anything with such a humble name should possess, but it is undoubtedly corrupted.  Last time the party ventured into the shrine, it was a near thing - zombies, flying imps and giant lizards all took a piece out of the adventurers before they encountered a pack of undead smoke creatures that very nearly wiped the party out.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Many Gates of Gann - Review


Cover of Many Gates of Gann
An ancient complex in cyclopean stone haunted by uplifted apes, and other fell beasts ... or a really classic feeling adventure with a hint of the strange.

As any reader of this blog must realize, I am rather fond of a bit of silly in my D&D.  Pure Tolkienesque mock seriousness with every elf a wise-eyed noble stoically forging on under the weight of an eon of sadness and an unfortunate name like "Glintiever the Unsullied" makes me feel like making trouble as a PC and makes me feel like a complete jerk as a GM.   Equally I can't really embrace the Warhammer style vikings, chaos and scumbags approach, I lack the cruelty to make every tussle with street urchins a life and death situation and don't enjoy properly modelling wound fevers.

This means I mostly enjoy a bit of the strange light hearted sentiment known among the OSR as gonzo (though most D&D games seem to have an element of Hunter S. Thompson's greatest scraps in them).  Gates of Gann is billed as such, and contains a fair bit of fun and weird ideas.  It feels less of an homage and pastiche of 80's Sword & Sorcery cartoons/media than ASE, which I've seen it compared to, and more of a flavor like a Kull or Conan story.  This is a good thing, a different authorial voice that still allows for legions of white apes (the two armed kind) with gemstones implanted in their skulls.

Works in Progress and Some Tables

Finally got to run something again, though once again a one shot aboard the HMS Apollyon turned into negotiation and cocktails with the forces of (very lawful and indolent) evil rather than the punch fest I'd got planed.  It was one of the more seat of my pants sessions that I've run, and hopefully it turned out well.  I got to spring the Apollyon's version of displacer beasts on the party, which was fun - and they encountered what is Deck 9's "safe" area.  I think I managed to make it tense and creepy.

Girard - I think it's from the Incal

Anyhow I am typing up the adventure for the clocktower map I posted last Monday - it's turning a bit bigger than I expected, so it'll likely be broken up here. Below are the random encounters and rumor tables...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tempus Gelidum - A Short Location (Map & Monster)

An ASE Wilderness Encounter Levels 3-6

Deep in the badlands of the Certopsian Plains it is not uncommon to find strange remnants of ancient times.  Tempus Gelidum takes place in one such location, an ancient train station, now buried beneath the cracked earth, except for it's clock tower, which acts as the roost for a terrible creature and her minions.  The clock tower is home to Sthaleno, a winged gorgon, of rust and pitted iron who finds the tower's similar black metal construction the perfect perch from which to hunt.  Around the tower statutes of rusted iron provide a clue to the great gorgon's presence, though travelers and adventurers are a curious lot, and tend to investigate rather than flee.
Map of the Clock Tower

Stahleno herself is an ancient creature, perhaps not as old as the tower, but older than a thousand years.  Her body is made of thick iron plates, streaked with rust, but still incredibly strong and resilient, a combination of the mechanical and magical arts.  Unlike most gorgons, Stahleno does not have a bull's head, but bears the face of a beautiful woman, made from living porcelain, with black iron eyes.  Stahleno's breath is a noxious cloud of rust colored smoke that transforms those caught in it into iron statues, which she places at the base of her tower to savor the last reverberations of their hopelessness and fear.  Indeed, Stahleno lives off of the fear, terror and despair of mortals and will play with her victims to heighten these emotions.

In addition to her own considerable powers Stahleno has been able to reanimate some of her victims by returning a small portion of their life force, creating several iron servitors that act to protect her lair and the various treasures she has scavenged.