Monday, September 28, 2009

I have nothing ready today. So, I'll distract you with Conan Art!

Here's a very atmospheric sketch by Mike Mignola.
I think that, as he did on the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser book jacket, he does an excellent job of conveying mood by grouping elements and themes of the story into a collage-like image.
As a book cover, I don't think you could do alot better than this. The job of cover art is to grab your attention and hint, or more, at the nature of the tales told within the book covers.
This image really says Sword&Sorcery to me. The only thing missing is a scantily clad dancing girl.
I really like this one too. This is a sketch by Mark Schultz, best known for his Cadillacs & Dinosaurs, and Xenozoic Tales. Which you should also check out, as it's a gold mine of inspiration for a weird science/sword&planet type campaign.
Just look at the grim expression Schultz gives Conan with pencil shading. In fact, just look at all of the dynamic motion and sense of iron resolution the image projects. That Cimmerian is coming to kill you.

Gil Kane, a classic from 1974. Very clean and sharp. I think Kane did some of the John Carter, Warlord of Mars series that Marvel printed. I might be mis-remembering that though. Do any of you guys know?

Stephen Fabian, a scene from The Tower of the Elephant. Conan is squeezing the heart of Yag-kosha to drench the jewel in blood. Fabian did some D&D art here and there, I think mostly in the 2E era. Though, I do remember pieces of his appearing in Dragon.
Man, do I miss that magazine. I mean, it was pretty much useless to me after 3E, but still.

Another Stephen Fabian piece, and one of my favorites of his, and of Conan. Here is Conan completely equipped, as R.E. Howard would have him. At least, at the beginnings of stories, before his mail was shredded, and he lost his helmet and shield saving that hot dancing girl.
When I envision a barbaric fighter PC, it's alot like this.
I know the fur loincloth has alot of cultural traction in the main stream Conan fandom, but I always prefer a properly kitted out Conan in art.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Strawman, or, "I know it's not the real enemy, but I can't stop attacking it!"

Reading through this and that game forum and blog lately, I've been entertained by the long standing conversational ploy of redefining the other side's point of view and attacking them for positions that they don't actually hold, so as to divert attention from the weakness of your own theories. I don't do this myself, at least not consciously, heh... But I do have fun looking for where exactly is the point where the bullshit begins.
When I'm out in the shop, I switch back and forth between Rush Limbaugh and National Public Radio. If you want to understand whats' actually happening, you have to seine out the lies of both sides to collect the little nuggets of truth.

But, that's neither here nor there.

When I ran into this illustration by H.J.Ford at another art blog I like, The Pictoral Arts, It pulled together the idea for a new monster/construct.

The Strawman.

Frequency: Very rare
No. appearing: 1
Armor Class: 2
Move: 14'
Hit dice: The strawman has hit dice equal to the level of it's creator. It has hit points equal to the hit points of it's creator.
%in lair: 100%
Treasure type: nil
No. of attacks: 2
Damage/attacks: 1-4, or by weapon or magic item
Special attacks: fixating charm
Special defenses: nil
Magic resistance: standard
Intelligence: non. The strawman is an automaton
Alignment: Neutral
Size: M
Psionic ability: nil

A strawman is a golem-like construct with a single purpose, to prevent assaults on it's creator from striking home by making itself the focus of all attacks that would otherwise be directed at the strawman's maker.

Once finished, the strawman will appear indistinguishable from the magic-user who made it. A strawman is normally stationed in a mages inner sanctum, laboratory, or bedchamber to serve as an expendable guardian of last resort.

The strawman will immediately move to interpose itself between intruders and it's maker in the event of a hostile invasion of the magic-user's domain. Any intruders who lay eyes upon the strawman must save vs magic at -3, or fall under a glamour which causes them to perceive the strawman as the real threat and direct all attacks against it to the exclusion of all other targets.
For it's part, the strawman will do all it can to keep the attackers hostility aimed at itself. It will rant and scream and threaten and play the part of the cornered sorcerer to the hilt.

The strawman will do what it can to draw out the length of the combat in order to give it's maker time to escape unnoticed. Should any attacker succeed in saving against it's charm, and perceive the strawman for what it is, it will direct all it's attacks at that character in order to prevent him from breaking away to pursue the real wizard.

A strawman will often be armed with a magic dagger, and a wand, or some other minor magic item.
When a strawman is destroyed, it reverts to a manikin of sticks and straw and the glamour is dispelled.

It is rumored that the spell needed to create the strawman is known to the great Eneg Remlap, and that he keeps it written within his Weighty Tome. Whether or not he may be convinced to share it in the future is a thing unknown.

Here is a link to the Pictoral arts blog, lots of good stuff there.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Beware the Gravediggers, or, "For Pelor's sake, they're only armed with shovels, how dangerous could they be?"


Frequency: Very rare
No. appearing: 4-12
Armor class: 7
Move: 12'
Hit dice: 1
% in lair: 100%
Treasure type: nil *
No. attacks: 1
Damage/attack: 1-6 (with long-handled spade)
Special attacks: possibility a victim may be struck insensible.
Special defenses: nil
Magic resistance: standard
Intelligence: non
Alignment: Neutral
Size: M
Psionic ability: nil

A specialized type of undead skeleton, gravediggers are constructed to serve as keepers and guardians of graveyards and mausoleums.
Serving as both it's weapon, and it's tool, a gravedigger carries a long-handled spade, or shovel. When attacking, there is a 50/50 chance, per round, of the gravedigger employing either the edge of it's spade in an overhead, axe-like stroke, or using the flat of the shovel as a bludgeoning weapon.
The standard 1 in 6 chance of a blow being aimed at the head of an un-helmited target applies, as the gravedigger is considered, non-intelligent. Should a gravedigger successfully strike a PC in the head who is without protective head gear in an attack with the flat of it's shovel, the PC must roll 1d20 and score less than his constitution stat, or be laid out insensible for 1d4 rounds.

Any characters killed in combat with the gravediggers will be buried by them after the fighting has ceased. One month later, they will be disinterred, and rise as a new gravedigger, doomed to join the work-gang and keep the graveyard for eternity.

Gravediggers are most likely to be encountered either singly while doing some form of maintenance among the headstones and monuments of their graveyard, or in a group patrolling the graveyard, or digging a fresh grave. If a group digging a grave is encountered, then only one gravedigger will actually be doing the lion's share of the work, while the remaining skeletons stand about in poses of disinterest and lean on their spades. All will immediately move to attack when perceiving intruders.

There is one report of special interest to adventurous souls that I feel I must pass on. It is said that the great Garden of Serenity, the league wide graveyard which surrounds the White Shrine of Nerull, is patrolled by a "Funeral March" composed of gravediggers, standard skeletons, and bone minstrels. The march only takes place at night, bearing torches and slow-stepping to the beat of the mournful dirge the bone minstrels perform. The dirge differs from the reel which bone minstrels normally play in that those who hear it and fail to save, must join the funeral march instead of dancing.
Those who join the march, are doomed to walk the graveways forever unless freed before they die of thirst and starvation.

Gravediggers have all the attributes of standard skeletons. They only take half damage from edged weapons, are immune to Sleep, Charm, Hold, and cold-based spells. Holy water causes 2-8 points of damage, fire causes normal damage.

*Gravediggers do not collect treasure. However, they do collect any objects they find in their maintenance of the graveyards and deposit it in a central location. Usually a keeper's shack, or empty mausoleum.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dragonwoods, or, "Wenta's straining corset! That tree just ate Gorc!"

I'm back, and I'm makin' more monsters.


Frequency: Very rare
No. appearing: 1
Armor class: 0
Move: 12'
Hit dice: 6-12
% in lair: 40%
Treasure type: special, see below
No. of attacks: 3
Damage/attack: 2-16/2-16/3-18
Special attack: breath weapon, chance of magic use
Special defenses: regenerates 2hp per round when exposed to sunlight.
Magic resistance: standard
Intelligence: highly
Alignment: Neutral, (50% good, 50% evil)
Size: L, (up to 60' long)
Psionic ability: nil
Chance of; Speaking: 55%, Magic use: 40%, Sleeping: 50%

As the great treants appear to exhibit the attributes of both men, and trees, being man-like in form, but tree-like in appearance, so does the Dragonwood combine the features of trees and dragons. When a dragonwood is unmoving, it is indistinguishable from any normal tree in the forest. It may appear to have a strange, or twisted and gnarled form, but it's true, dragonish shape will not be revealed until it decides to move.
At this point, it is often too late. A dragonwood is ill disposed to any who intrude upon the stillness of it's glade.
An active dragonwood is seen to have a serpentine shape with four legs, a long neck and tail, and a heavy dragon-like head with long jaws filled with teeth of polished wood. These teeth are no less hard than the teeth of any true dragon, and no less dangerous. Covered in ridgy bark, branches, and leaves, the dragonwood has primary branches which appear to be wings, but it cannot fly. Instead it raises it's wing branches over it's head when it wishes to sun itself, or appear as an ordinary tree.

A dragonwood does possess a breath weapon of sorts. Three times per day, it may breath forth a hail of dart-like wooden splinters from within it's throat. The splinter hail takes the same cone shape as the breath weapon of a red dragon. The splinter hail will do damage equal to the dragonwood's current hip point total. PCs wearing plate mail, or better armor will only take half damage, and saving vs dragon breath will halve that damage again. No lesser armor will do the same. The splinters are driven with great force.

A dragonwood may be capable of speech, and may, or may not be willing to engage travelers in conversation. The life span of a dragonwood crosses many thousands of years, however, and those unwilling, or unable to spend the proper time in adequately conveying their meaning may be judged as being, "hasty", as they might be so judged by a treant. A treant, however, is not likely to eat a hasty creature, whereas a dragonwood is likely to do just that.

A dragonwood not actively engaged in some pursuit will simply freeze in a comfortable position and enter a meditative dormancy. It is still aware of all that transpires around it, and may return to full awareness and action in a moment. If the actions of lesser creatures in it's immediate area are not in anyway inconveniencing for the dragonwood, and it is not hungry, it is likely to remain motionless and undetected, content to ignore the ephemeral, squeaking things.

If a dragonwood has the capacity to employ magic, it will be of the druidical variety.

Dragonwoods do not seek treasure. They will, however, keep items which they find pleasing in some way. These things they will display about their glades by hanging in trees or placing on stones where they may contemplate them while they enjoy the sun and the soil.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Edged weapons only do half damage! Dumbass.

A nice illustration by W.A.Clark, from a 1906 Harper's magazine, which I have just this moment, snagged from Golden Age Comic Book Stories. Thanks again to Mr Door Tree!

My blogging may be intermittent for a bit, I've got a booth an Monrovia's annual festival, and I'm spending all my free time building more furniture pieces for it, so I'll have something to hopefully sell. It's nothing big, just a small town's "just because we can", festival. There might be a parade though, I think.
Hey, maybe we should form a drill team! The Old Guard Marching Grognards. We'd carry armloads of old game books and babble on about our old characters.

"I don't know, but I've been told!"
"Greyhawks only for the bold!"

Or maybe T.A.R.G.A. should have a float. We could chuck dice at the crowd and shout, "Show us your T&Ts!"

No, wait, that's mardi-gra. I'm going to bed.