Friday, December 30, 2011

Somebody back east is saying, "Why don't he write?"

Undead for Torch&Sixgun

The Prairie Companion.

Frequency: Very Rare
No. Appearing: 1
Armor Class: 4
Move: 10"(100 feet)
Hit Dice: 3
% in lair: Encountered only near lair, and only after nightfall.
Treasure Type: Special, see below
No. of Attacks: 3
Damage/Attack: 2-8/2-8/1-6
Special Attacks: Importunate Mutter, Life Energy Drain.
Special Defenses: Unharmed by mortal weaponry.
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Average
Alignment: Neutral Evil
Size: M
Psionic Ability: Nil

Them what die alone on the prairie, don’t always rest easy in their grave-less sleep.

Those who end their days in solitary desperation sometimes rise and seek succor in the company of the living. A Prairie Companion is such an unliving creature. Existing forever in the state of lonesome fear which filled its final moments, it is drawn to the sounds of living camaraderie.

Should a party of the living encamp within gunshot of the place a Prairie Companion met its friendless end, there is a 25% chance, (cumulative per night), that it will rise and seek company to ease its endless loneliness.

It is never the generous or the good-hearted who become deathless creatures such as the Prairie Companions, however. Rather, in life they were of the sort who blamed others for their misfortune, and bitterly resented those who possessed contentment or good fortune.

As it approaches the campsite which attracted it, the Prairie Companion will begin its Importunate Mutter. It retells the story of its demise, it pleads for help, and it explains how it was not to blame for its unfortunate circumstances. All in a soft, begging spectral voice.

All who hear the Importunate Mutter must Save vs Charm. Those who fail the Save will fall into a state of deep and debilitating despair. They will be unable to summon the will to do anything other than sit and stare into the camp fire, (if there is one), and wallow in self pity and hopelessness.

If the Prairie Companion is not destroyed or driven off, it will circle the camp, muttering, until dawn, when it will return to its unresting place.
No healing of hit points through normal rest will occur while the Prairie Companion continues its muttering. No magical spell may be memorized, or granted by higher, (or lower), Powers, while the companion circles the camp.

No character or NPC who failed his save and fell under the spell of the Importunate Mutter, will have any memory of the past nights events when the sun rises again.

Each night the party remains in occupation of the encampment, the Prairie Companion will return at sundown. Each night its muttering will become louder, and angrier. It will begin to lay the blame for its terrible fate at the feet of the party. Each night it will approach more closely to the fire in its path about the camp.

As on the first night, all present must Save vs Charm or fall into despair. Those who failed the first night suffer a -1 penalty to Save, cumulative each time the Prairie Companion returns.

The Companion will return for a number of nights equal to the number of persons present in the camp.

On the final night, ranting incomprehensibly in rage at the unfairness of its death, the Prairie Companion will enter the camp and lay hands upon a random character or NPC. If the victim is not under the spell of the Importunate Mutter, the undead must roll to hit as in normal melee. If the victim is in the throes of the despairing charm, he will take no actions to defend himself.

In either case, the victim must Save vs Death Magic, or else have his life energy drained to the dregs by the terror wight. Those who do save will still take 2D8 in damage, and forever after suffer a fear of being alone. This life draining attack is not a power the Prairie Companion may draw on at any time. Rather, it must work up to it by way of the nightly visits and muttering.

After taking a life, the companion will vanish and return no more. Until the next time a party camps within gunshot of its earthly remains.

A Prairie Companion is not harmed by mortal weaponry. Only magic, silver, or holy iron may do it damage directly. A circle of Protection will prevent it from coming into a camp, and if established prior to the companion’s first visit, also lessen the effects of the Importunate Mutter.

As for myself, I haven't written here at the Old Guard Blog for a while because I just haven't had the time or the proper muse. Too many other things have drawn my attention and energy in the last couple of months.

I saw part of Dances with Wolves recently though. That bit with Timmons the wagon driver, when they happen upon the bleaching bones of some unfortunate out there, alone on the prairie, was always my favorite bit in that movie. I thought I'd work it into Torch&Sixgun, my AD&D/Weird West homebrew.

Why don't he write? Heh,heh,heh...

Sunday, August 28, 2011


I remember

The dark woods, masking slopes of sombre hills,
The grey clouds' leaden everlasting arch;
The dusky streams that flowed without a sound,
And the lone winds that whispered down the passes.

Vista on vista marching, hills on hills,
Slope beyond slope, each dark with sullen trees,
Our gaunt land lay. So when a man climbed up
A rugged peak and gazed, his shaded eye
Saw but the endless vista - hill on hill,
Slope beyond slope, each hooded like its brothers.

It was a gloomy land that seemed to hold
All winds and clouds and dreams that shun the sun,
With bare boughs rattling in the lonesome winds,
And the dark woodlands brooding over all,
Not even lightened by the rare dim sun
Which made squat shadows out of men; they called it
Cimmeria, land of Darkness and deep Night.

It was so long ago and far away
I have forgot the very name men called me.
The axe and flint-tipped spear are like dreams,
And hunts and wars are shadows. I recall
Only the stillness of that sombre land;
The clouds that piled forever on the hills,
The dimness of the everlasting woods.
Cimmeria, land of Darkness and the Night.

Oh, soul of mine, born out of shadowed hills,
To clouds and winds and ghosts that shun the sun,
How many deaths shall serve to break at last
This heritage which wraps me in the grey
Apparel of ghosts? I search my heart and find
Cimmeria, land of Darkness and the Night.

Cimmeria, by R.E.Howard, 1932.

Posted without permission, because I really like this poem, and Howard's works in general. And he's dead, and I don't make any profit from this blog, and I want you to see it, and I think its fair use, and IP laws are strangling culture and literature to death and making us all poorer for it. And I have a sense of ennui concerning the new Conan movie. And I haven't made up any new monsters for you lately.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Beware the Killer Blink Frogs!

“I swear! It was sitting on that rock, big as a wolf! It jumped and just vanished, I don’t know where it….ARRRGGHHHH!”

Killer Blink Frog

Frequency: Vanishingly Rare
No. Appearing: 2-12, (2D6)
Armor Class: 7
Move: 6”, (walking), 220”, (blink-leap)
Hit Dice: 3
% in Lair: 80%
Treasure Type: Incidental
No. of Attacks: 3
Damage/Attack: 1-2/1-2/1-6, (claw, claw, bite)
Special Attacks: surprise 3/6, first attack from rear 50% of the time.
Special Defenses: instinctively blink if hit in melee.
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Low
Alignment: Neutral Hungry
Size: S, (3’-5’ body length)
Psionic Ability: Nil

Ferocious Giant Frogs armed with cat-like slashing claws, rows of saurian teeth, and covered in a coat of damp, blackish green hair-like bristles, Killer Blink Frogs display characteristics of both Killer Frogs and Blink Dogs.

How these monstrous aberrations came to be, no one knows, and in fact, no one cares to think about it very much. Better to simply avoid the horrid things if at all possible. Or try to kill them when it is not.

Killer Blink Frogs may be encountered in areas of marsh, swamp, wetland, lagoons, and bayous, along river bends, lakes or any other area of high humidity or perpetual moisture. There have been accounts of cave dwelling Killer Blink Frogs of phosphorescent whiteness seen about underground lakes and streams.

The frogs are voracious predators and attack without warning. Anything which moves is a likely target for their hunger.

If the frog pack is well fed and not hungry, they will sit about their water source/lair and bark to each other to reinforce their standing in the group. There is only a 10% chance of the frogs feeling satiated if encountered randomly.

At any other time the frogs will sit silently waiting for a likely meal to venture within striking distance. In the case of Killer Blink Frogs, this is a greater span than for ordinary giant frogs.

Once a Killer Blink Frog has sighted a possible meal, it attacks by leaping in the targets direction. As soon as the frog’s feet have left the ground, it Blinks, disappearing and then reappearing mid-leap, and only feet away from its victim.

The frog can attack from up to 220” feet away in a single round by this method. If it hits successfully, the victim must Save vs. Crushing Blow or be knocked to the ground by the impact, and also take double damage from the frog’s claw, claw, bite attack for that round.

If the frog misses its first attack, it has failed to judge the position of its intended victim and either fallen short in its blink-leap, or overshot its mark. There is a 50/50 chance of either way.

A killer blink frog will remain in contact with its victim and continue its attack unless wounded. The frog’s instinctive reaction to being hurt is to blink away in a random direction.

Roll D4 to determine direction of the blink, 1-in front of victim, 2-behind victim, 3- to the right of victim, 4- to the left of victim. Also roll D20 to determine the distance the frog travels in feet. 1=1’, 20=20’, etc.

If the frog is not severely wounded, or if it's very hungry, it will return to the attack on its next action.

During periods of heavy precipitation, or very dense fogs, a killer blink frog pack may go prowling across country, searching for prey. The frogs slowly proceed by leap-blinking one at a time until the whole pack is present in the new location, watching for likely victims for a time, and then repeating the process if nothing toothsome presents itself.

If randomly encountered, the frogs are most likely hunting in this manner and certain to attack.

Killer Blink Frogs are hierarchical in the manner of dogs and wolves, there will be an alpha male and female frog, but they do not hunt co-operatively. Instead, if the pack becomes aware of a meal at the same time, the alpha frog attacks first. Other frogs will attack other targets, but not the same targets. Only should a frog be killed or give up its attack will a lesser ranking frog attack that target.

Though they are silent when awaiting prey or actually hunting, Killer Blink Frogs will bark loudly and excitedly when attacking.

The Ruined Tepidarium. (insertable encounter)

Near to the heart of the broken ancient city, the PCs find the remains of the city’s public baths. The building sits on a foundation dais ten feet above street level. Only the tepidarium still holds water as its connection to the aqueducts’ remains in good condition.

The pool is 40’ wide and 120’ long. It is 2’ deep in one end, and 8’ deep in the other. At the deep end, most of the marble columns which supported the roof remain standing, but near to the shallow end, the columns collapsed in the Catastrophe and two have broken and fallen into the pool.

A pack of nine Killer Blink Frogs have made their lair in the tepidarium. Six of them sit at positions between the standing pillars at the deep end of the pool, while three, smaller, (only 1 hit die) frogs hide in the shallow end of the pool amongst the column fragments.

The large frogs, #1- 17 hp, #2-12hp, #3-12hp, #4*-13hp, #5-8hp, #6-14hps. The smaller frogs, #7-2hp, #8-3hp, #9-4hp.

• Frog # 4 recently devoured an unwary wererat which had come to the tepidarium for water. As a result, some inexplicable quirk of the laws of Spontaneous Generation has conferred upon the frog the ability to infect victims of its bite with a unique and especially disturbing form of lycanthropy.
Any PC bitten by frog #4 has a 50% chance, less his Constitution score, of contracting the transformative disease. The PC so infected will become a Blinking Killer Rat-Frog at the next dark of the moon(s).

The building may only be easily entered by climbing the stairs at the shallow end of the pool

Should PCs climb the stairs and enter the remains of the building, the frogs will immediately attack.

The largest frogs will leap-blink from the far end of the pool one at a time to attack each PC as they are noticed. Only one frog per PC will attack at any time. Only if a frog is killed or driven off will a lower ranking frog attack its former victim.

The small frogs in the pool are unlikely to attack unless attacked first, or unless a PC enters the pool, for any reason. This includes falling into the pool during melee.

At the bottom of the pool at the deep end is the remains of a wheel barrow which holds a cracked ceramic jug containing 1500 gps and a four dozen short rods of ivory worth around 450 gps, as well as the skeletal remains of the man who sought to wheel his savings to the docks during the Catastrophe, and who instead drowned in the tepidarium.

These things are hidden beneath a layer of water lilies which cover the surface of the pool.

There are also present, unfortunately, 1d4 Groin Leeches, (always attach themselves to the victim’s groin, as per the HackMaster Hacklopedia of Beasts IV), Groin Leech, AC: 8, HP: 1D4-1, Move: 3” on land, 6” swimming, No. of Attacks: 1, Damage/Attack: 1-3 blood drain, release their bite only with salt or fire

Top pic is clipped from the cover art for DA2- Temple of the Frog (1986). Art by Dennis Beauvais. There's just no finding art of a hairy killer frog online, but I always liked Beauvais' work on the Dragon Magazine covers.

The second pic is just funny, so I included it. I do stuff like that.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Honorable Mention! Dig it!

Here's the winners in the Fight On! Big Book Of Random Tables contest. I got a couple honorable mentions for two of the 100 item random tables I put up here on the Blog.
I had completely forgotten that I'd entered this, until I got an email from the gracious Ignatius Umlaught the day before yesterday.

All these tables will be compiled into a Fight On! book, and it looks like it will be a very entertaining and useful tool for DMs.

The Honorable Mentions.

Planet Exploration Table, Chris Willrich
Magnificent Lagan, Jeff Wilcox
Exotic Intoxicants, Patrick Wetmore
100 Character Backgrounds, Anthony Westenberg
20 Random Alchemical Accidents, Buzz Tilford
Wandering Harlot Table, Adam Thornton
Defective Scroll Effects and
Sewer Features and Hazards, Bill Staeven
Incidents and Events in Town, Joel Sparks
Random Bag of Holding Contents and
Gladiators, Ricardo Signes
Broodings of the Barbarian, Jason Sholtis
30 Close Combat Concentration Breakers, Matthew Schmeer
Battle Scars and Sequelae, Igor Vinicius Sartorato
How to Make a Random Table, Scott W. Roberts
50 Things That Might Be Found In A ‘Dungeon Town’ Curio Shop and
Vile Poisons and
50 Things Found In A Fantasy Villain’s Lair, Richard Rittenhouse
Who Is That Drunkard? and
What the Prostitute Knows, Jim Richmond
Random Bar Encounters, Lawson Reilly
Random Cause of Death, Mr. Reaper
Exploring the Crags, Marc Pavone
100 Random Starting Items for Beginning Characters and
100 Odd, Level-Inappropriate, and Random Treasure Items, Gene Palmer
30 Sprite Curses, Mike Monaco
20 Unexpected Customs and Laws and
20 Reasons for Stuck Doors, Gary McCammon
Random Pirates & Buccaneers, Dyson Logos
Traumatic Adolescent Background Generator, Samuel Kisko
Elves, Kesher
Random City Generator, Nicholas Kariya
Random Secret Door Clues, Adam Flynn
Monster Motivations, Conrad W. Deitrick
Multiversal Table: We Ended Up Where?, Michael David Jr.
The Crate in the Back of the Hold and
Customize Your Mutant and ,
Alchemist’s Ale, David Coleman
Magic Weapon Table, Courtney Campbell
Curious Curative Corollary, BIU_sKrEEm
Falls Down A Pit, Lee Barber
Slum Encounters and
Weird Things In Rooms, Al

Special Honorable Mentions

Rudingoz, Patrice Crespy
Swashbuckling Adventure Generator, Ralph Mazza
The Dungeon is Trying to Eat You! Best Of, Remix!, James A. Smith
What’s in that Hole?, Matthew Schmeer
Drink Me, Eat Me, Mr. Reaper

Elite Honorable Mentions

Ruins, Joe Wetzel
What’s Happened To Those Dead Bodies You Left In The Dungeon Yesterday?, Roger S. G. Sorolla
Character Generation, Alex Schroeder and Adrian Shieh
Magical Research Results, Gavin Norman
Dwarves, Kesher
Exotic Traps, Mr. Reaper

Third Prize

One Page Monster Manual, Paolo Greco

Second Prize

Quick Hex Contents Generator, Al

Grand Prize

Feast, Samuel Kisko

Just how many OSR inspired D&D fan magazines are there now?

I know of Fight On!, Knockspell, Oubliette, I know there are others. Who am I forgetting?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Fun with Leeches and Flies!

The common practice of leeching, whereby the spineless water parasites are affixed to those who are unwell with the intent that they should draw forth the bad blood or excessive humors which cause sickness, is in fact only ignorant superstition, and no help at all to those who have fallen ill.

The origin of this error lies in simple, unruned folk attempting to duplicate without sufficient understanding, the performance of Nahwalar’s Marvelous Thaumnivorous Leeches.

That most puissant Viviomancer and life-shaper, by dint of much effort and practice, achieved a spell whereby he might turn the natural actions of the leech to his own advantage and that of the sick he cared for.

This spell, when cast upon a suitable supply or number of ordinary leeches, alters them in such a way that they may be used to ameliorate some unhealthful conditions.
The degree of effect on the patient, and the conditions which may be treated, varies by the number of Thaumnivorous Leeches set to feeding upon him.

A single leech will suffice to draw forth any poison or venom by which the victim’s life is threatened. A victim of poison must receive the attentions of the leech within 4 rounds of the poisoning or envenomation in order to survive. Use of a single leech will cause the loss of one hit point in blood loss as the magically enhanced leeches draw mightily upon the vital fluids of the patient.
A leech which sucks poison will itself die afterwards.

Two leeches are sufficient to cure disease, either natural, or magically inflicted. This includes the infestation by fungal spoors and molds, but not other large parasites such as rot grubs. A pair of thaumnivorous leeches will inflict 4 points of damage upon the patient while removing all trace of disease from the body.

Three leeches must be used to clear the body of the effects of potions, dusts, or other ingested magics. The person so treated will incur 8 points of damage during the procedure.

A set of four leeches will end the effects of any sort of magical Curse, while also causing 16 points of damage to the leeched.

As with normal leeches, thaumnivorous leeches may be removed prior to satiation by the use of salt or fire.

Due to the Laws of Spontaneous Generation, it is wise to destroy by fire any leeches which have become engorged upon magic by their feeding. There is always a possibility that arcane mutation or alteration could bring about changes in a magic-sated thaumnivorous leech which may be infelicitous.

Also, there exists the possibility that a leech, employed upon multiple patients, may in some form transmit magical effects or disease which it had previously drawn from one patient to another.

The spell used to create the Marvelous Thaumnivorous Leeches is quite rare. It has been found to date only in the form of an enscrolled incantation. It prerequires a crystal vessel or decanter of fine workmanship with which to contain the leeches, sufficient solution of aqueous sortilagic fluid to fill the container, and at least four, and no more than eight leeches in good health, as well as a sprinkling of powdered gold and ivory dust.

The spell may of course be copied into a spell book rather than expended directly. All the standard costs and consequences of so doing apply.

Once created, the thaumnivorous leeches will survive within the crystal vessel handily until they are needed.

*Notes of warning, there have been reports that some scrolls containing the engenerative spell have either mistakes or deliberate malignancies written into them. Thaumnivorous Leeches created through the use of such a warped spell result in parasites which directly draw life energy from the patient in a manner similar to some undead. Victims of such leeches will lose one experience level and one hit die per leech attached to them, per round until death.

The Bloodfly Pin.

A large cloak or hat pin of bronze and ruby in the shape of a biting black fly, the Bloodfly Pin isn’t particularly attractive as a piece of jewelry, but it is effective as a magical deterrent.

Once per day, the wearer of the Bloodfly Pin may summon a cloud of vicious biting flies and direct them to swarm a given target. This target may be a single creature, or a designated space, such as a room.

If the target is a creature, the flies will inflict painful, maddening bites causing 1d4-1 pts of damage per round. If the target is a volume of space, then all living things within it will suffer 1 pt of damage per round they remain within it.

The fly swarm will remain for 1D6 rounds before dissipating.

The flies will fly into ears, nostrils and open mouths and make spell casting impossible. Horses and other touchy or high strung animals will bolt and run if attacked by the fly swarm.

The wearer of the pin will draw flies of the normal non biting sort at all times. Usually a half dozen or so will be found buzzing about the general area the pin wearer occupies.

The wearer will also develop a taste for overripe fruit.

If the wearer of the Bloodfly Pin should kill an insect for whatever reason, the next time he attempts to summon the fly swarm, the swarm will target him instead for the full duration of the summoning.

Insects will not attack the wearer of the pin unless attacked first. This includes giant types, but not intelligent insectoids. Intelligent insectoids such as Thri-Kreen, Aspis, etc… will generally feel non-hostile towards the wearer of the pin when first encountered. What happens afterwards is up to the pin bearer.

It's deer fly season here, hot, humid, still, deer fly season. I hate the blasted things.

Google fetched for me the top pic from some wiki type site.
The second came from the Pictoral Arts blog. It's a sketch for a jewelry maker.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Greyhawk Wars meets Kelly's Heroes!

I Watched Kelly’s Heroes last week on the Military Channel, I always loved that movie. If you haven’t seen it, this is the Wikipedia entry for it.

In World War II France in early September 1944, units of the 35th Infantry Division are nearing the town of Nancy when one of the division's platoons receives orders to pull out while under attack from the Germans (much to the dismay of the men, who are eager to get into Nancy in order to find a decent place to get some rest).

Kelly, a former lieutenant who'd been demoted to private as a scapegoat for being given orders to attack the wrong hill and wiping out half a Company of GI's, captures Colonel Dankhopf of German Intelligence. When Kelly notices his prisoner has a gold bar in his briefcase, he gets him drunk to try to get information about the gold. Before he is killed by an attacking German Tiger tank, the drunken Dankhopf blurts out that there is a cache of 14,000 gold bars (worth $16 million) stored in a bank vault 30 miles behind enemy lines in the town of Clermont (most likely Clermont-en-Argonne).

Kelly recruits the rest of his platoon, including skeptical Master Sergeant "Big Joe", to sneak off and steal it. Eventually, others have to be recruited (or invite themselves) into the scheme, such as an opportunistic supply sergeant "Crapgame"; a proto-beatnik Sherman tank commander, "Oddball"; and a number of stereotypical G.I.s presented as competent, but war-weary veterans who are as much fed up with their incompetent or self-serving superiors as they are with the Germans.

The expedition successfully breaks through a German held town during a mortar barrage that has been arranged by Kelly. They then meet bad fortune when an American fighter plane mistakes Kelly's group for the enemy, shooting up their vehicles and destroying them with rockets. They continue on foot and one of them dies in a minefield. Two others of their number then die in a battle on the minefield.

Meanwhile Oddball's tanks head along a railway line wiping out a German depot along the way, but their route is blocked when the last large bridge to Clermont is blown up by Allied bombers, prompting Oddball to let a bridge engineering unit in on the deal. When intercepted radio messages of the private raid are brought to the attention of gung-ho American Major General Colt, he misinterprets them as the efforts of aggressive patriots pushing forward on their own initiative and immediately rushes to the front line to exploit the "breakthrough".

Kelly's men race to reach the French town before their own army. There, they find it defended by three formidable Tiger I tanks with infantry support. The Americans are able to dispatch two of the Tigers and most if not all of the supporting German infantry. However, as they prepare to take on the last tank, which is parked right in front of the bank, Oddball's last Sherman breaks down, and it is found that the Sherman cannot be repaired due to a lack of needed replacement parts.
Powerless to defeat the heavily-armored behemoth, Kelly, Oddball and Big Joe square up like western gunfighters and walk purposefully in line towards it, prompting the commander to emerge from the turret. He and his crew are then offered a share of the loot, the tank blows the bank doors off and they divide up the gold ($875,000 per share).

They then go their separate ways, just managing to avoid meeting the still-oblivious Colt, who is delayed when the celebrating town residents are told he is Charles de Gaulle. Oddball and his crew ride out of town in a Tiger tank and SS uniforms, having used part of their share of the gold to buy them from the Germans. Kelly and his misfit heroes head off into the sunset, presumably en route to Switzerland where they can sit out the war and rest on the joys of numbered accounts

I made a note years ago about writing a D&D scenario that would put an adventuring party in a Kelly’s Heroes type situation during the Greyhawk Wars, but I never went any farther with it.

The thing with setting up a D&D game around the plot of a movie is that it’s very difficult to replicate events without turning the game into a railroad. I really do not care for those. Railroad games just suck all the tension out of play.

So, I like to set up situations that will likely replicate the general feel of the movie and the pace of its events, but don’t require the PCs perform a pre written pantomime of the movie in order to progress.

I was thinking for the Greyhawk’s Heroes scenario, I’d have the PCs be impressed into the armies of Furyondy at the beginning of the war. Wyrd Greyhawk’s PCs aren’t normally Heroic Fantasy material. They tend to be hardscrabble, average Joes getting by on guts and black humor. Getting press ganged into a conflict between great uncaring powers would be par for the course.

The PCs would be in the position of Kelly and his platoon, while I’d have NPCs for the Big Joe, Crapgame, and Oddball analogue characters.

Looking for a good encampment spot, the PCs encounter a spy/courier of Iuz. The spy has a bag of gold coins and information on just where, thirty miles beyond the battle front, a great horde of looted treasure has been hidden for later shipment to Dorraka.

Of course the PCs want it. Risk your life for a fortune, or risk it for ten silvers a month and disciplinary beatings once a week, plus the chance of encampment cholera and being hacked to death by orcs, which would you, choose?

The game would be an overland hexcrawl through war torn territory and no man’s land, towns held by the forces of Iuz, scarred lands, and wild countryside. The PCs would have to avoid combat wherever possible in order to draw the least amount of attention to themselves if they want to have any chance of reaching their goal.

One of the best parts of the movie was that, in order to solve problems as they went along, Kelly’s Heroes had to keep enlisting the help of more and more other people, who in turn drew the attention, and greed, of still more people. Eventually, the allied command gets drawn into it and the movie becomes a race to reach the gold and escape before the whole U.S. army follows them to Clermont.

To mimic this, I’d add the Notoriety rules from the Dorrakka, City of Skulls module TSR put out for the Greyhawk Wars. (I can’t find my copy at the moment, so I don’t have the module number).

The notoriety rules are a system whereby the PCs accumulate points for high profile actions. As these points accumulate, they draw the attention of various other actors in the module, resulting in them taking appropriate actions of their own. Such as investigating, pursuing, etc…

I’d do the same thing, with PCs actions gaining them notoriety points as they progress, and these points gaining them first the attention of low level Furyondian officers, and then higher and higher up the chain of command as the PCs incurred more points.

If the PCs are clever and circumspect, they might make it all the way to the horde without drawing too much attention. If not, the Furyondian army might make it there right alongside them.

Once Kelly’s Heroes made it to Clermont, they had to deal with a squadron of three Tiger tanks guarding the gold. They knocked out two with surprise and maneuver, and then made a deal with the Commander of the remaining Tiger for a share of the gold.

To have a chance of a similar situation playing out in the game, I’d have to have a suitable foe in the destination village that couldn’t be defeated directly at first, but might be amenable to parley if placed in the weaker position.

I haven’t decided what that foe should be. A trio of young dragons under the domination of Iuz? Impressed former Shieldlander knights? Heavy armored elite hobgoblins? Devils? I’ve got to muse on that a bit yet.

Big Joe would be a Serjeant of Furyondal heavy foot the PCs would have to convince to go along with the plan. No rolling for it, I’d make the players role play it out with “Beegjoh” .

Crapgame would be a Provisioner , charged with securing supplies for the Furyondians. He’d also have thieves’ guild connections and many friends in low places. I might just call him,”Crapper”.

Oddball would be Sir Ohe DeBal, a Furyondian knight of petty nobility with a small squadron of chivalric heavy horse. For Wyrd Greyhawk, a fully armed and armored knight is the best analogue for a tank. 1600 lbs of horse, man, and iron isn’t something any spear pusher wants to get in the way of.

I’d play each of these NPCs just as their actors did in the movie, Telly Savalas for Beegjoh, Don Rickles for Crapper, and Donald Sutherland for Sir Ohe De Bal. Imagine Sutherland in wine stained armor as a black lotus smoking beatnik knight of Fortune.

“Ceaseth thou with thyne negative emanations, Sirrah! If thou dost believe the bridge shall be there, then so it shall!”

This is all I’ve written about the idea. If I do ever pull it together and run it, I’ll let you know how it plays out. If you do it, let me know how it goes. Game on!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dungeons & Dragons Super Edition!

So, let me throw this out there.

Instead of the death march to the land of diminishing returns that continuing down the path of perpetual new editions dooms Wizards of the Coast too, how about a multi-edition edition of Dungeons & Dragons?

The Game is built of multiple core components and elements that show up in all editions. Combat, Character Generation, Player Character Stats, Armor Class, Initiative, Surprise, etc… All the topics that we argue over and discuss on blogs and forums without end.

You could take these core elements as they are written in each edition and group them together to compare and contrast how each edition of The Game treats them.

Each edition is a product of the spirit of the times in which it was produced. Each one makes its own assumptions about what the game is meant to do, how to provide that outcome, and what players are looking for in the play experience.

Every edition made rule changes guided by these assumptions, and which edition you started with, and when, colors your view on what’s right and what’s wrong with the others.

Everybody knows I’m an AD&D guy, I don’t think there’s anything I can’t make it do with sufficient tinkering. But, I will readily admit to prying bits and pieces off of other editions, other RPGs, house rules gathered from blogs and forums, pretty much what ever catches my eye, and seeing if I like it in play. I think most of us, (the Old School blogosphere), do this without giving it a second thought.

You wouldn’t have to do every component of The Game, only the major ones which diverge significantly from previous editions. That would keep it from becoming the Encyclopedia of D&D. (though I would buy the Encyclopedia of D&D WOTC, if you're watching.)

You could present it by topic, say, Hit Points, and then the relevant sections from Original, AD&D, 2E, 3E, 3.5E, 4E, concerning what hit points are, how they are generated, how they are viewed in the game, and then a bit of considered commentary about why each edition makes changes, the different ways hit points are used to represent actual damage sustained, personal energy expended, near misses, luck, etc.

The hit points section could be followed by a bit about the various rules concerning when is dead really dead. Since there is always discussion about death at zero, death at -10 hps, deaths door rules, recovery from near death, I don’t want to go on the cart, yadda yadda.

The point of this book would be to create an Ala Carte Dungeons & Dragons which would allow DMs to pick and choose the elements from all editions that best suited their game and gaming sensibilities and build a personal edition. This is what we all really do anyway, at least, we of the Old School.

Of course, not all elements from all editions can be made to play nicely together. I don’t expect they could be made to do so by a Super Edition, still, having examples side by side of all the different ways that Combat, or Skills, or what have you have been treated in The Game would be horizon broadening for those unfamiliar with other ways of looking at things.

It’s my perception that newer generations of gamers are much less likely to have a do it yourself-make it your own attitude towards gaming. I think a book that actively encourages the idea of tinkering would go a long way towards changing this.
The majority of OSR bloggers and related forum posters are in their mid thirties and forties, I think I can safely assume, and they have been a fountainhead of creativity that I am overjoyed to drink from. However, I find it unsettling that the younger gamers seem to be the ones wearing blinkers about The Game and what it does. It’s supposed to be the kids who are wild and creative.

I can’t tell anyone to get off my lawn if they never jump fences. Dagnabit.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Not only Shields Shall Be Splintered!

Trollsmyth's Shields Shall Be Splintered rule to give the shield more value in melee is one of my favorite house rule ideas to come out of the OSR blogosphere.

It's easy, simple to employ in The Game, and makes sense to my way of playing. It also gives a bit more juice to combat. Like a saving throw, it allows for an exiting narrow escape from a possible nasty end.

I like to roll it around in my mind. It has a tasty texture and rule symmetry that appeals to me. Thank you Trollsmyth!

This is how I phrased the rule for my own houserule document.

Any player character, who is employing a shield and takes damage in melee combat, can opt to instead have their shield take the damage. The shield will be shattered and must be discarded thereafter, but the character takes no damage from that particular attack.

I like it so much, I want to share the terror and excitement of that near brush with death with PCs of classes which normally don't carry shields.

So, I'm extending the rule to include hastily improvised shields. Things which might be snatched up in a desperate attempt to ward off an otherwise fatal blow.

Items such as a stool, a chair, a saddle, a halfling, etc..

This way, magic-users and thieves, who usually need all the protection they can get, have a rule to give them a last chance to escape a cleft skull.

Of course, same as with the shield, whatever object the PC grabs to serve as a shield is destroyed if made to absorb the damage the PC would have otherwise incurred.

*regarding the halfling. Only NPCs may be sacrificed in this manner. PCs may not be employed as hastily improvised shields by other PCs.

Pics are a nice medievalesque stool I found online, and a clip from a larger sketch by the mighty Jim Holloway, one of my favorite D&D artists.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Scorned Blade, An all-humanoid NPC rival adventuring party

The Scorned Blade is the chosen name of an adventuring company composed entirely of renegade and outcast humanoids. Lead by the hobgoblin Zarkutz, the Scorned Blade includes, two orcs, Grum and Cazag, a bugbear, Grug, three goblins, Snool, Bugum, and Pulc, and a gnoll called Hykic.

All are exiles, or outcasts from their tribes for one reason or another. This unsavory group is held together by the iron will and discipline of Zarkutz, that plus mutual need, and the fact that no one else will accept them. They are more than a match for the average party of low level characters because they work as a team and use every dirty trick they can muster.

Ambushing travelers has been their bread and butter, but Zarkutz entertains grim dreams of making a name for himself as human adventurers do, and returning in glory to revenge himself on those who forced him from the tribe.

To this end, he gathers what information he can in regards to lost treasures and magic. He also looks for the chance to capture alive any adventurers that may be able to teach skills that the Scorned Blade lacks. Zarkutz especially wants a thief to teach the goblins, and a magic-user to tutor Kazag.

Zarkutz: hobgoblin war-leader.

AC: 2, HP: 25, Move: 9, Int: above average, Alignment: Lawful Evil.
Zarkutz wears a combination of jazerant and plate armor, and carries a falchion, (dmg: 2-8) and hewing spear, (dmg: 1-6).

Having lost a power play within his tribe, Zarkutz was exiled with dishonor. The hobgoblin lusts for command and forged the Scorned Blade from other outcast humanoids he encountered simply to have something to lead.

He speaks common very well, and will be interested in talking with any player character party that doesn’t attack immediately. At least, any party he can't over come easily.

He will be willing to ally with adventurers if it is advantageous, and will adhere to the letter of any agreement made.

Zarkutz will attempt to impress the members of a weak party into the Scorned Blade if he can dominate them. He will, at the least, quickly begin issuing orders to any indecisive appearing allies.

Grug, bugbear.

AC: 4, HP: 30, Move: 9", Int: low, Alignment: Chaotic Evil.
Grug wears heavy bronze chainmail looted from the cairn of a firbolg giant. He carries also a large shield and great sword,(1d10+1 dmg), which he easily wields one handed.

Grug is very large for a bugbear. He is most enthusiastic, and not overly intelligent. Despite his chaotic nature, he applies himself to the strict lessons of Zarkutz, and as a result, he has become both a skillful and an erratic opponent.

If faced with multiple attackers, Grug's first attack will be to bash the closest target with his shield. Opponents of lesser mass must Save VS Crushing Blow or be knocked down, requiring two rounds to get back up.
Grug will use this time to attack the next closest target.

Grum, orc shaman.

AC: 7, HP: 8, Move: 9", Int: average, Alignment: Lawful Evil.
Spells available: cure light wounds, light.

A fanatic devotee of Baghrutu, Grum was driven out of his tribe by the dominant followers of Grumsh for the crime of heresy.
He wears studded leather, and fights hand to hand with gauntlets of ogre power, (18/00 str, +3 to hit, +6 dmg).

Grum will attempt to convert captured opponents to the worship of Baghrutu. He is passionate, but not eloquent.

His favored method of attack is to blind his opponent with his light spell, and then close to pummel with his iron gauntlets.

He would like to challenge Zarkutz for leadership, but secretly fears the ruthless hobgoblin.

Kazag, half-orc magic-user.

AC: 9, HP: 4, Move: 9", Int: very, Alignment: Neutral

Not brutal enough to live among orcs, yet not sensitive enough to live with humans, Kazag is selfish, unpleasant, weak willed, and greedy. He directs his spells as commanded by Zarkutz, but will never expose himself to direct attack. He is not to be trusted, and Zarkutz makes sure the goblins always accompany him. They serve as both protectors, and minders.

Kazag carries a dagger coated with golden adder venom, Save or suffer agonizing hallucinations for 1d4 days which completely incapacitate the victim.

His spell book holds, Burning Hands, Hold Portal, Identify, and Spider Climb, as well as Read Magic.

The goblins: Snool, Bugum, Poolc.

AC: 6, HP: 7, Move: 6", Int: average, Alignment: Lawful Evil.

Large for goblins, these three are brothers who were cast out for the pleasure murder of prisoners which their chief had intended to ransom.

Scouts and skirmishers, they will close for combat only if ordered by Zarkutz. Each carries four javelins, short swords and shields, and wears studded leather armor.

If the Scorned Blade should manage to capture a thief, Zarkutz intends to force him to teach the goblins his skills.

Hykic, Gnoll

AC: 5, HP: 14, Move: 9", Int: low-average, Alignment: Chaotic Evil.

There is a strong possibility that Hykic is mad. His sharp barking laugh, which seems to come at random moments, is irritating. He was driven from his clan for, "unwarranted cannibalism".
He is ferocious and reckless in combat, and Zarkutz employees him as a shock trooper to terrify and to herd targets into advantageous positions. He is without fear but obeys Zarkutz for reasons of his own.

Hykic wears armor of horn, leather and metal, and carries a long sword and a halberd.

Mally Goodbin, unfortunate halfling

AC: 10, HP: 4, Move: 9", Int: very, Alignment: Lawful Good.

Mally is a slave and cook to the Scorned Blade. Her ability to turn odds and ends into good food is what saved her life when her traveling party was ambushed. The humanoids had never had cooking of such flavor, and Zarkutz knows a fighting force moves on its stomach.

Hykic would like to eat her, and the goblins would enjoy murdering her, but the bugbear Grug considers her his pet, and to Zarkutz she is a tool to keep the group together.

The Scorned Blade is only slightly above the average of humanoid combatants statistically. The thing that makes them dangerous is the fact that they fight as would a well disciplined human adventuring party.

Zarkutz always attacks, and opens negotiations from a position of strength. He will not commit to a combat that he isn’t very sure of winning. There must also be a definite goal, or prize involved. Though, of course, he enjoys fighting as much as any hobgoblin, Zarkutz has priorities, and is not easily dissuaded.

If the Scorned Blade becomes aware of a PC party before the PCs are aware of them, Zarkutz will first determine the strength of possible foes, or new recruits, and then determine a course of action.

If the PCs are obviously too strong for the Scorned Blade, Zarkutz may either avoid them completely, or begin to shadow them, waiting for an opportunity to present itself.

If the PCs are judged to be on close to equal footing with the members of the Blade, Zarkutz will offer a truce, he speaks common quite well. The hobgoblin will use any conference to gather information about the party and its purpose. If the party is competent and willing, and there is gain in it, Zarkutz may offer an alliance of convenience, for a time. Treachery is possible if the information leads him to reevaluate his first assessment of the PCs. He will, however, abide by the letter of any deal or agreement arrived at in negotiation.

If the PCs are judged to be weak or at a disadvantage, then Zarkutz will most likely attack. Any useful survivors will find themselves conscripted into the Scorned Blade.

If the Scorned Blade attacks with Surprise, or otherwise gets to make the first move, they are coordinated and business like.

The goblins will hurl javelins from a distance, choosing unarmored targets such as magic-users first, clerics second. Grum and Kazgag will cast spells to cause confusion and damage from a distance, before Hykic, Grug, and Zarkutz move in to attack any obvious fighters. Grum will close to attack after expending his magic. Snool, Bugum, and Poolc will move in to melee once they have expended their missile weapons. They much prefer to gang up on a single, wounded opponent if possible.

Zarkutz directs the actions of the others and they obey him without question, at least during combat.

If the melee goes poorly, Zarkutz will order a withdrawal. If Zarkutz is himself killed, the others will flee.

This is a version of an NPC party I sent James at Grognardia for his MegaDungeon project a while back. I’m pretty sure that's dead in the water now, so I thought I’d share it with my blog buddies. You can, of course, easily up rate the Scorned Blade for higher level play. I made them with the intention of providing a thorny problem for experienced players running low level characters.

I think that’s about my favorite gaming scenario. Very good players running low to mid level characters who have to make do with what they’ve got. It just seems to have more juice to it, there’s more at stake somehow. High level play feels a bit too super hero-y to me for D&D.

Not that I don’t love super hero rpgs, mind you. I’ll have to tell you about the time we demolished most of downtown Indianapolis in a brawl with A.I.M. I guess I just don’t like peanut butter in my chocolate.

The top pic is cropped and lightened from the TSR Book of Humanoids, done by Sam Rackland I believe. I like it a lot, it illustrates why Old Schoolers know not to mock the single orc guarding a door.

You all know Erol Otus. Dig.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Insertable Encounters # 2 The Gallows at the Cross Roads

Amongst those who seek to discern the form of the unknowable and define the shape of the ineffable arcane, few are the equal of Gyahzeere the Skryarch. Heretic priest of Boccob-Delleb and eldritch diviner, from his velvet cushioned marble throne-divan beneath the azure dome of his great sanctum psychomanteum; Gyahzeere seeks to know all that is unknown through the art of thaumaturgic extrospection.

Recently, ripples and perturbations in the arcaethosphere have pulled at the edges of his expansive consciousness. Disturbances of a texture and quality unfamiliar to the mystic seer of Urnst have draw his attention to the east and south, to that no-man’s land contested by Nyrond, the Bone March, and the Great Kingdom. The grim Lands of the Unending March.

Gyahzeere does not know what it is that causes the intermittent magical turbulences which intrude upon his prophetic divinations, yet he can discern that if it is not spell work, it is still magic of some sort, and powerful enough to resonate across many leagues.

As his magic has thus far provided him little insight into the matter, Gyahzeere now considers choosing a cat’s paw to send forth to reconnoiter directly. The Skryarch is a most generous employer; coin has little meaning to his ever questing soul. Prospective agents soon learn, however, that acting in the interests of Gyahzeere may bring most unsettling consequences.

Concurrently, as the diviner-mage ruminates on which path to understanding is the most applicable; another already near upon the source of the hidden magic has begun to gather up the loose threads of happenstance.

Hearozaul the Shining Priest, devotee of Pholtus, adherent of the Rightful Way, the curiosity of his brilliant mind piqued, has commenced to acquire and scribe accounts of inexplicable and apparently, “miraculous” events which have taken place within and about a large area which appears to center upon the town of Borlem.

The stories which Hearozaul has thus far gathered seem to have no relationship, one with another, and yet the Enlightener feels there must be one. He prays that Pholtus cast his revealing luminosity upon that which remains shadowed.

Among the accounts the Shining Priest has quilled upon the pages of his journal of inquiry to date;

That of the kind, but quite homely, goose girl who, before the very eyes of the shoemaker’s children, was enveloped in color and suddenly became a ravishing beauty.

The account of the four days rain of wine which fell only upon the estate of Samsar the Vintner, killing all of his grape vines.

The foul death of Wamsucsh the Usurer, the cause of whose demise was later found to be that a very large rat had somehow crawled up his arse, and there, died.

The beautiful music which played from thin air for the space of one hour in the taproom of the Blue Boar Inn.

The scrawny cow of the charitable crone of Duhn which began giving foaming ale rather than thin milk, and apparently still does so.

The tale of how Secoulm the Riff of Lunh met with his bizarre demise, vomiting forth gallons of urine before,” drowning “in the street, his lungs filled with piss.

Hearozaul has expended a great deal of his personal time upon investigating these happenings, but as yet, has reached no conclusions. Something turns aside his priestly magical enquiries. The constant threat of the inhuman raiders across the Harp commands the lion’s share of his attention. The infirmities of the fearful peasantry demand his action.

As his superiors in the order evince no interest in what they declare to be minor devilry or else random arcane circumstance, Hearozaul now muses over the possibility of hiring a spadesman to turn the ground in his stead and perhaps unoerth further clues to the puzzle which tugs at his robe.

Unknown to either the Priest of the Shining One or to the Master Skryer, the source of both the eldritch turbulence and the inexplicable occurrences is in fact, the worn and lonely gallows pole which stands at a dusty cross roads some small distance from Borlem.

In that endless moment before death and judgment, those who die by the noose upon the pole are spoken too by a voice which only they may hear.
The voice asks no bargains and makes no demands. It instead offers a final Wish to the condemned, requiring nothing in return. The only limit attached to the wish is that it may not prevent the death of the recipient.

All of the unexplained events, (save the music in the Blue Boar), are the results of the last wishes of those who have hung from the gallows pole. This is magic of no small power.

The source of the voice is unknown, likewise the reason for its offer. Not all who die upon the gallows at the crossroads are spoken too by the voice. Why some are granted this final “gift” and others are not is also unknown.

The gallows at the crossroad may be inserted into an existing campaign in many forms and serve many purposes. It may be that the PCs are hired as investigators by one or the other of the concerned parties. It may be that a friend, hireling, acquaintance or relative of the PCs dies on the gallows and by way of the wish embroils the PCs in unexpected events. If your group is sufficiently thespian in leanings, in may be that one of the PCs themselves swings from the pole.

The gallows may be used as a hook, or an entry point to adventure, and also as an end point.

The voice may belong to any number of beings, mortal, infernal or divine, or other. Perhaps the speaker gains in some way from the deaths of the hanged. Perhaps it only rewards those who died wrongly. Perhaps it offers the final wish as a test.

It may be that something lies buried beneath the pole, or perhaps nearby. The cross roads itself may be the center of the magic rather than the pole, certainly cross roads have the reputation of drawing the unoerthly. A gate of some sort may be connected to the cross roads.

I like to have things like this in The Game and simply not explain them. The imaginations of the players will often conjure forth more lurid and terrifying suspicions than I could have stated out myself. I love a thick atmosphere of mystery and weird fear to marinate the players in, before their PCs get eaten.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Star Wars campaign that never was. Shoot first like Han Solo!

Above is a cover for an imaginary Han Solo novel that I ran into on Boing Boing,of all places. Its just art, not a real novel. Sorry to get your hopes up.
Its by Phil Noto, whose work I like, though he does tend to give women overly narrow hips.
Anyway, The image sparked my memory and I went rooting through the old game idea folders to retreive the bones of a Star Wars campaign that never quite jelled.
We, the game gang, had West End Games Star Wars RPG, and the idea was to have an campaign with a large number of characters whose lives mostly overlapped, but didn't always. This was probably 88, just after the WEG Star Wars came out.

I was going to trade off game mastering with one of the guys so that we could both play in the same campaign. We'd alternate games or go two for two or something along those lines as we both wanted to play, but somebody had to GM. The other players could with either of us GMing as we'd have multiple game directions running concurrently.

The game was to be sort of Star Wars meets A-Team plus "Caper" movie, with some Western themes thrown in. The party was to be a crew of rejects, rat bastards, whak-Os, and failed criminals, rebellion friendly but not active members of it.

Thrown together by fate, or maybe the Force, they find the battered hull of an old Republic era Intruder class torpedo boat and decide to make a career out of sucker punching the Empire.
The first few games would have centered on scrounging, stealing, trading for, or otherwise aquiring the parts and equipment to make the old boat functional. Then it would have been on to smuggling, piracy, bushwacking and otherwise sticking their thumbs in the eye of the Empire whenever possible.

Above and below are a couple of the sketches we worked up concerning the general design of the Intruder torpedo boat class.

The bottom drawing has a scout walker standing near the bow for scale. Also a speeder bike, a guy, and an R2 unit.

My character was an Imperial deserter, a renegade storm trooper named Izayah yaegr. (This was before storm troopers were clones, of course.)

In my character background I wrote, "A member of the Nova Demons swoop gang in his youth, Izayah joined the Empire after his wing of the demons was destroyed. His career as a storm trooper ended when he deserted after causing the death of an officer in a bizarre practical joke. Since he's been a smuggler, a gunman, and a real thorn in the ass of authority. Izayah will do just about anything to stick it too the Empire."

Izayah had one, intermittant and unreliable Force power, an inhumanly fast speed draw. Once per day he could roll to attempt it. It didn't guarantee a hit, but it did, if successful, give him the first shot regardless of the circumstances.

This game never did happen. I think mostly because we had a hard time trying to figure out how to apply WEG's rules to our AD&D gaming sensibilities. The WEG rules make some story driven assumptions about the game that were a bad fit for us.
We didn't realize that at the time, it just felt off somehow.

We started on an house rule adaptation, but it took too long, and enthusiasm flagged.

Is there a limbo, do you think, for campaigns that never happened?


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Blogger fumbles again. I'm gonna make them roll on the self inflicted damage chart.

Now I can't post comments on my own blog. I can comment on other blogs, and others can comment on my blog, but when I try to comment, I get stuck in this repeating loop of signing in, over and over.

Blogger says they're aware of the problem and are working on a fix.

This happening to anyone else?

Also, I wanted to say regarding the comments to my Stargate Universe post, I agree, Blueskreem. I hated the kinos and the communication stones too. The stones just became a crutch for the writers. They used them to write teeny drama on earth instead of sci-fi in space. The kinos just became another excuse for the shaky cam.

And Timeshadows, I would love to read whatever you have to say about Universe. Also, I thought Todd the Wraith was the single best antagonist on SGA. I always like those episodes where the SGA team is forced to work with Todd against their better judgement.

I figured we'd be sympatico on SGU, Dr Rotwang!

And Brutorz Bill, me too.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Stargate is dead. Long live Stargate!

The last episode of Stargate Universe season 2, also the final episode of the series, aired a couple weeks ago, and while I had no great love for the show, I was not pleased by its demise.

This is mostly because I thought it still might have been possible to turn the show around, and because when it went, it took with it any chance of new movies or another series for the foreseeable future.

Stargate as a whole constitutes a mythos that rivals that of Star Trek in its breadth and detail. Universe, however, deliberately eschewed the majority of the elements which made its predecessors, Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, so successful, and paid the price for it. In our current economic situation, it may have been a franchise killer in so doing.

Universe started hemorrhaging viewers early on, and just never recovered. This is directly the fault of the show runners and writers. With Stargate Universe they wanted a darker, grimmer stargate, more edgy, story driven instead of episodic, a character drama with a cast of flawed characters who, “weren’t supposed to be here”.

The problem with this approach is that ultimately, it’s not the writers who decide what is and is not “Stargate”, or any other show for that matter, it’s the fans. If this show had been launched without any connection to Stargate, it might have survived longer. Maybe even grown its own fan base. Making it a part of the Stargate story, however, brings with it preexisting expectations about what a Stargate show will be like. Universe did not deliver on these expectations, but brought an entirely different theme and feel that the majority of fan-voters felt were just not Stargatey enough.

I’m one of those who weren’t very pleased with the show. I think it was a showcase for just about everything that’s wrong with contemporary Science Fiction. Still I watched most of the episodes because I wanted it to get better, I wanted the writers to have a chance to recover from their hubris and listen to what the fans and ratings were telling them, and it was the only Stargate in town after all, sorta.

There were things I liked about the show very much. Ironically, the things I really liked about the show only magnified the contrast with the things I really didn’t like.

I really liked the Destiny, the Ancient starship the show was built around. The shape of the ship was based on a gate chevron, greatly elongated. The show was shot with such dim lighting that it’s hard to actually see the details of the model, and that’s a shame. I lightened the image of the Destiny here by 50% just so I could actually see the ship itself.
Now you can see the stepped levels of the hull, and the proto-Egypto-Ancient styling of the swooped command Ziggurat which supports the bridge. It’s an elegant design that conveys a sense of ancientness by its form. I actually felt bad for Destiny, a ship that awesome being trapped in a show that bad.

I liked the effects in general, especially the gauzy corona which envelopes the ship when Destiny employs its Faster-than-Light drive but remains in real space, rather than diving into hyperspace.

I also like the first generation stargate on board the Destiny. The entire ring of the gate spins in its base rather than having an inner track with locking chevrons like the SG-1 era gates. I think it looks a bit Deco/Art Modern. Much cooler than the lite-bright gates of the Pegasus galaxy in Stargate Atlantis.

I liked the back-story as well. Some uncertain millions of years ago, the Ancients built and launched Destiny to investigate a message or signal that they had discovered embedded in the cosmic background radiation which permeates the universe. A message apparently sent from very near to the beginning of time. A fleet of autonomous gate seeding ships preceded Destiny, manufacturing and placing stargates on appropriate worlds from galaxy to galaxy across the universe so that as Destiny followed, the Ancient crew could investigate and resupply.

That is a huge, romantic, classic science fiction notion. It’s the sort of theme that drives the great works of science fiction, the quest to discover the great unknown, the desire to know the universe. It’s also the kind of thing that you just don’t often encounter in modern sci-fi writing.

I really like the Ancients, or rather; I really like the original SG-1 era conception of the Ancients as the first technologically/spiritually advanced human race. The super advanced lost race is another theme of classic and pulp science fiction that later was mostly discarded by writers in favor of the ancient aliens idea.
I find the super aliens thing a little boring. It’s too easy to attribute to them whatever a writer needs without any real consideration. The idea that there have been multiple evolutions of humanity on earth pulls at my imagination much more.

Consider the changes humanity has experienced in the paltry few thousands of years we have recorded history for today. What might the Ancients have considered, attempted and experienced in millions of years? What insights might civilizations that cover eons have arrived at? Tackling the big questions of life, the universe, and everything is what Science Fiction was born to do.
That, and saving space-babes from bug-eyed monsters with a ray gun.
The best sci-fi does both at the same time.

Unfortunately, the Ancients became less interesting later in the series, and with Atlantis. The writers made them just another super alien race from another galaxy with the whole Ori story line in the last two, regrettable seasons of SG-1. And Stargate Atlantis managed to make them more and more mundane and less magnificent with every appearance and reference.

Exploding tumor device anyone?

What I didn’t like about Universe.

I hate the cinematography. I loathe reality-tv shaky camera with a white hot fire. Pan left, pan right, zoom in, zoom out, focus, unfocus, refocus, half screen, this irritates the crap out of me. The steady-cam was invented for a reason folks. Camera gimmicks are there to distract you from the fact that there is no writing going on.

The inevitable musical montage scene. This is another gimmick to fill in for a lack of good writing or dialogue. I like a good music video as much as the next guy, but in a tv show there has to be a good reason for it. You just can’t do it every single episode and not look like you’re phoning it in. Also, using the pop music of the day rather than an appropriate instrumental severely dates the show.

Shaky cam and Maroon 5 are going to be the mullet and saxophones albatross around this shows neck a few years down the road.

What I disliked the most, however, was the characters themselves. As with the regurgitated Battlestar Galactica, I was unsympathetic to their plight because they were all such terrible people.

Science fiction is escapism and there is nothing wrong with that. The thing we are attempting to escape, or ascend from is the mundane world with its unending stream of small, mean problems. All the crap we have to deal with on a daily basis. Science fiction allows us to consider the greater possibilities, to dream of the awesome.

Stargate Universe, with the exception of Nicholas Rush, was completely populated by just the sort of petty, small, unimaginative people that I want to escape from in science fiction. You can have a few such characters, in fact they are needed to contrast and compare with the protagonists, but when every character is one of, “the wrong people”, I just can’t care what happens to the feckless disfunctionistas.

Now Rush wasn’t a likeable character or a cookie cutter good person or standard issue sci-fi hero either, but he was complex, subtle, and had motivations that were above and beyond the run of the mill. Rush was the only character who displayed awe at the ancient purpose of the Destiny. The only character who grasped the greater meaning of Destiny’s mission. He wasn’t quite amoral, and certainly not the “evil scientist”, but obviously gave greater weight to understanding than to the needs of the rest of humanity.

However, because there was no other characters in the cast remotely as complex or interesting as Rush, or anyone with principles to balance Rush’s all consuming craving for knowledge at any cost, there wasn’t any tension or direction to the show. There was no counterweight character of sufficient gravitas to balance Rush. When he, or Destiny itself weren’t on the screen, watching the rest of the cast interact was like sitting in a Wallmart and observing the dysfunction pass by.

I don’t want these people in my science fiction. I have to deal with them every day in real life.

By contrast, the cosmic grandeur of the Destiny, and the quest of the Ancients to understand the meaning of the signal from the beginning of time made the characters of Stargate Universe seem all that much more petty and small and unworthy to be on that ship.

In the final episode, the crew has to go into stasis to conserve power while the Destiny crosses the void between galaxies in order to avoid an enemy they cannot out fight. Kid slacker genius Eli volunteers to be the odd man out and stay awake to pilot Destiny and try and fix the last stasis tube for himself.

There is a last musical montage, which actually works well since it’s a simple piano piece and not whiny alt-rock, and a final shot with Eli standing on the observation deck watching space fly by as Destiny shifts into its faster than light drive.
Destiny vanishes into the distant void of extra galactic space with its crew frozen in time.

I thought this was the best possible ending for the show, all things considered. The idea of that ancient vessel continuing its journey of millions of years in silence towards an unknown destiny, with its crew in unchanging sleep, possibly for thousands of years to come, is perfectly in sync with the classic science fiction of mighty ideas I love. The greater Stargate mythos is itself in stasis for the foreseeable future and I’m alright with that.

The possibilities are again endless.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Did every one manage to Save VS Blog-Fumble?

I don't seem to have lost anything here, but some of the art blogs I like seem to have lost a post or two.

how about you guys?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Run! Blordels' turned into a... What the Gax is that,anyway!

It's a Yragnereian Panathrope!

The inexplicable whimsies and enigmatic follies of the mighty Zagig are of course known to all who work or dabble in the Art. Only a very few, however, suspect the true depth of the arch mage’s inquiry into the hidden nature of the Oerth’s arcane aetherosphere and the ways in which it may be manipulated.

Before his disappearance, and unsupposed by most, Zagig had set into motion an unknown number of personal experiments, schemes, plots, and fancies fully capable of continuing to their respective ends without the direct supervision of the mad mage of Greyhawk.

Among them is a spell-like work of magic which even now propagates itself by its own volition hither and yon across the flanaess, though it is unrecognized for what it is. This self sufficient eldritch construction may have been meant to be a curse, or perhaps a jest, or else it may serve some other, as yet unseen greater purpose.

Whatever the reason for the Pananthropic Glamour, though it may bring glee to Zagig the Mad, wherever he may be, it is no humorous matter to those it visits itself upon.

A person or character who contracts, (or is cursed, or blessed), by the Pananthropic Glamour undergoes transformations into random forms either at certain times or which are triggered by certain circumstances. A person so afflicted is known as a Yragernerian Panathrope by the handful of wizards and sages who recognize the handiwork of Zagig the Inexplicable.

Though superficially the Glamour seems akin to lycanthropy or other such were-beast transformations, its effects are far more reaching and unpredictable.

The form which the victim takes is determined randomly at each transformation by rolling upon the random monster encounter table most applicable to the immediate environs. The person so “blessed by Zagig” completely becomes the creature chosen by chance, and will act in a manner appropriate to the monster he has become.

The victim may be overcome by the magic and transform at certain times, monthly, seasonally, annually, or other. Alternatively, the magic may be triggered by a given event. Such an event may be hearing the scream of a horse, a dog crossing the victim’s path, in the presence of wooden shoes, if the victim drinks beer, eats a muffin, takes a bath, takes off his hat, looks directly at the moon, stubs his toe, etc..

The triggering event need have no reasonable connection to the transformation. Somewhat like a taboo, or a geas, it is a forbidden occurrence which will invoke the power of the glamour and bring about a transformation. The triggering event should be chosen by the Dungeon Master and should have a reasonable chance of occurring at least once per game, if the Panathropic Glamour is contracted by a player character.

The duration of the transformation is also variable and follows no clear logic. The monster form may persist until sundown, sunup, lunch time, the next rain, the next holiday, until a joke is told, until the monster is struck by a pillow, the setting of the moon, until invited to tea, etc… This may be determined randomly from a prepared list of random events, or by DM fiat.

What exactly draws the glamour to an individual is unclear, though it appears to have at least a component of karmic justice, or possibly comeuppance for those who jeer at fate.

Also, persons who commit alignment violations in the presence of a carrier of the Glamour must save vs. spell or contract the magic themselves.

Due to the changing and chaotic nature of the Glamour, it may also be passed to others in various ways which depend upon the changes in each manifestation of the magic. Each victim of the glamour may pass the spell curse in a different manner. Such as by biting, slapping, kissing, spitting, making love, sneezing, laughing at, farting, sharing wine, etc. There need be no logical connection between the action which imparts the glamour and the nature of the glamour itself.

Such is the will of Zagig. He is the Egg-man, He is the Walrus! Koo-koo-katchoo!

Friday, April 29, 2011

A monster, and a magic item for the Weird West.

Monsters are very rare in the Weird West, it just happens that PCs run into them more often than most folks. People keep to their towns and settlements for the most part; it’s the brave, the desperate, and the touched who dare the open range, the mountains and the deserts by their lonesome.

Likewise, items of a supernatural nature are exceeding rare. Powerful objects of the Art are always singular in nature. Minor arcane items are also very rare, but may possibly be replicated. PCs aren’t likely to be able to do this however.

Gundog, (hell hound of the weird west)

Frequency : Very Rare
No. Appearing : 1 or 1d6
Armor Class : 4
Move : 12”, 120’ per round
Hit Dice : 3-8
% in Lair : 10%
Treasure Type : C
No. of Attacks : 1
Damage/Attack : 1d10, (bite)
Special Attack : muzzle blast, damage as shotgun 1d10, or grape-shot 4d6, depending upon hit dice
Special Defenses : only takes half damage from gunpowder weapons
Magic Resistance : Standard
Intelligence : Low to Average, cunning
Alignment : Enigmatic Evil
Size : M to L
Psionic Ability : Nil

Legends say the Gundog haunts old battlefields or the sites of massacres. A great, black hound with iron teeth and burning ember eyes, the beast is wreathed in acrid gun smoke and leaves behind it paw prints which char the earth.

When the creature appears, its size and power seem to change to match the scale of the carnage which took place at the site. Where only a few were killed, the gundog has appeared but little larger than a wolf. At places where great battles have occurred, and many died by the gun, tales have it the beast grows to nearly the size of a horse.

It is unclear whether the Gundog is a single, immortal monster, or a type of creature of which there may be many. Conflicting tales are told of the Gundog. It is also unknown if it, or they, are supernatural in origin, or some sort of aberration.

Though in all tales the Gundog is a malevolent killer, it seems to choose its adversaries by the strength of the threat they may pose. A Gundog the size of a pony is said to have appeared with a roar like cannon fire the night after the battle of Shealho. It killed most of a cavalry patrol before vanishing, but completely ignored a group of refugees passing by.
The Gundog which appeared on the Dead man’s leg of the Chislem Trail paid no heed to a dozen cow punchers and instead went straight for Lightening Caleb Booker the infamous gunman. Lightening emptied both sixguns into the dog before it reached him and it disappeared in a cloud of brimstone. Or so they say.

In addition to the bite of its terrible jaws, the Gundog may employ its Muzzle Blast up to six times per combat. This is a sudden roaring bark which also discharges red hot shot as though a shotgun had fired from within the dog’s throat. The muzzle blast bark has the same range and effect as an actual shot gun. In larger accounts of the Gundog this weapon is equal in range and effect to grape shot fired from a cannon.

Somewhere, out there, maybe in a ramshackle ghost town or a ruined ranch house, is a battered cartridge box containing the Demon Bone Bullets of Father Callaghan.
The story goes, the Father, an easterner and city-slicker were’t all that strong in the faith himself, till circumstances found him sharing a stage coach with the fearsome Ezra Crumb.
Crumb, called by them who know as, “Ezra the Ghoul Scalper”, regaled the Father with many hair-raising tales of his encounters with the unnatural. Callaghan, more a man of science than a child of God, believed none of it. Though Ezra’s air of firm assurance and vivid powers of description caused him some unease as the night ride went on.

Ezra, as it turns out, were’t just traveling that night. He was a-hunting a diabolic thing called the Buckthorn Fiend. The wind had told Turning Cloud the Shaman that the fiend would come to the coach with the dark of the moon, and Ezra Crumb meant to see it got its trip back to hell.

When, round about midnight, the horses screamed and a yard of spiny black demon arm, plated in armor like a scorpion, came a-groping through the window, Father Callaghan found his faith real quick.

Though the coach was torn to flinders, the horses and both the driver and side man killed horribly, Crumb and Father Callaghan survived that desperate fight beneath the cold prairie stars. The Buckthorn Fiend was banished to the pit, its skull transfixed by the sainted iron of Crumb’s Arkansas toothpick, and from its bones the good Father fashioned 24 bullets of .52 caliber for the Sharps rifle.

Callaghan died in agony some few months later, poisoned by inhaling the demon bone dust kicked up by crafting the cartridges. Ezra Crumb is known to have expended some of the rounds in subsequent adventuring, but how many is unknown.

Each of the Demon Bone Bullets acts as a weapon of slaying. A successful hit with one is always a killshot. In addition, the bullets can hit creatures which otherwise are unharmed by mortal weaponry.
There is a 1 in 20 chance of a misfire each time one of these infernal cartridges is fired. Anyone who may find the old ammo box containing the bullets is advised to employ them with care. It is unlikely the demon bone is any less lethal than it was and a misfire could possibly throw deadly powder into the face of the rifleman.

Only an early model Sharps rifle is able to fire the Demon Bone Bullets.

I've had very little time or creative mojo lately. There's a lot of stuff competing for my energy this spring. I've got images and feelings roiling around in my mind, game wise, but not enough time to spend on pulling them together. It'll come around eventually.

Here at O.G.G.A., we post no monster before its time.

Also, I think I'm going to get myself one of those reproduction Colt model 1860 army revolvers.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Torch & Sixgun; Weird West Adventure Via AD&D.

Imagine an adventuring party consisting of Josey Wales, Rooster Cogburn, Brisco County jr, James West, and Jonah Hex, daring black mesas riddled with undead-haunted mines, lost and buried cities of the ancients, ghost towns, goblin infested badlands, cruel black mountains, and pitiless miles of open range, driven by the remorseless ecstasy of gold.

Starting from a base of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons standard rule set, with the following modifications. Rules default to AD&D in all cases not specifically altered.

Initiative may be either individual or group based depending upon circumstances. If the party is alert and moving as a group, then standard AD&D initiative determination applies. If the party is dispersed somewhat, engaged in various tasks, not immediately expecting attack, but not surprised, initiative is determined individually. Each character, npc, and monster involved rolls 1D20 + Dexterity bonus to determine order of actions.

Player Character armor class, (difficulty to hit), is determined by class, level and dexterity bonus if applicable, rather than by physical armor worn. Nothing bullet proof can be worn for any length of time, so little armor is used in the weird west. Each character class has a base AC bonus, this bonus increases with level to reflect the character’s accumulated experience in avoiding gettin’ shot.

The chance to hit with a gun at short range is determined by the AD&D melee combat charts. Almost all gun battles will occur at distances of less than twenty feet between combatants, so the majority of gun fights will be rolled for as “short range”. Medium and Long range shooting is modified by weapon type and character class. Non Fighter classes incur penalties when shooting at medium and long range targets.

Firearms are bolt action, single action, double action, lever action, or pump action, plus break open shotguns. Only Fighter Class characters can fire multiple shots per round. This is determined by the AD&D fighter’s level/attacks per round. Level 1-6, one shot/attack per round, level 7-12, three shots/attacks every two rounds, level 13 and up, two shots/attacks per round.

Firearm stats.

Derringer type pocket pistols do 1D4 dmg, +1 to hit at Medium range, +0 at Long range

Full-size handguns do 1D8 dmg, +1 to hit at Medium range, +0 at Long range

Shotguns do 1D10 dmg, +2 to hit at Medium range, +0 at Long range

Sawed off shotguns do 1D8 dmg, +1 to hit at Short/melee range, +0 at Medium range, +0 at Long range

Long guns/shoulder arms do 2D8 dmg, +2 to hit at Medium range, +1 at Long range

Dynamite sticks do 6D6 dmg, a save for half damage is possible if detonation is at least 10’ distant.

All melee weapons do damage per AD&D rules.

When gunfire damage is rolled after a successful hit, maximum damage indicates a kill shot, instant death. This applies to monsters, NPCs, and Player Characters alike. Characters, NPCs, and monsters above third level and/or three hit dice may attempt to Save vs. Death against a kill shot. Those who succeed take damage only and are not killed. Unique supernatural Monsters of the Abomination class, certain sorts of undead, and creatures with 11 or above hit dice are also immune from death by kill shot.

Classes include the Fighter, the Thinker, the Manipulator, and the No-Account. These classes are very broad archetypes just as are the AD&D classes.

Character generation follows AD&D rules. Character stats remain the same.

The Fighter

The fighter primarily makes his way in the world with his fists and his gun. Current and former military men of any sort, cowboys, roustabouts, athletes, brawlers, any person who is generally more disposed towards physical action over cerebral consideration, will fall under the “Fighter” category.

The T&S fighter has the same class requirements and advantages as the AD&D fighter. They attack on the AD&D fighter melee chart. They gain levels according to the AD&D fighter progression. They roll 1D10 per level for hit points, and also roll saving throws as AD&D fighters. Any sort of weapon is usable by fighters.

Torch & Sixgun fighters operate with the following alterations.

Fighters start with a base armor class of 8. This number drops by one for each experience level gained up to, and including the sixth. Thereafter, by one for every two levels gained.

A fighter may have a natural talent for a particular type of weapon. This gains him a +1 to hit with that type of weapon only. This bonus is very specific, as example, a pistol, not all guns, a saber, and not all melee weapons.

A fighter may make a called shot at third level and above. A called shot can only be taken when the fighter has time to line it up, such as with surprise or initiative, and not during melee or in melee range. A successful called shot is not necessarily a kill shot. It merely indicates the fighter hit exactly what he was aiming at. Damage is rolled normally and a kill shot may or may not result. Secondary results of the hit are for the DM to decide.

A fighter with a constitution score of 15 or above has got grit. This means that the fighter’s Hit Point Adjustment bonus may be subtracted from damage the character takes, in addition to adding to his hit point total. The grit bonus may not be applied to a kill shot that would have slain a character otherwise.

Yeh git shot in the face, son, an yer still gonna be stone daid.

The Thinker

The thinker primarily makes his way in the world with his mind. Scientists, engineers, doctors, scholars and academics, as well as sorcerers and preachers, any type of person who is generally more disposed to forethought and mental solutions over immediate physical action belongs to the Thinker character class.

The T&S thinker has generally the same class requirements and advantages as the AD&D magic-user. They attack on the magic-user melee chart. They gain levels according to the AD&D magic-user progression. They roll 1D6 per level for hit points, and roll saving throws as AD&D magic-users.

A thinker starts with a base armor class of 10. This number drops by one for every level up to and including the fifth. Thereafter the thinker’s AC improves by one step for every two levels of experience.

A thinker class character may familiarize himself with one weapon for every three levels of experience. A thinker may attempt to use any weapon, however, he suffers a -3 to hit penalty with any weapon he is not familiar with. A familiar weapon may be employed without penalty.

A thinker possesses the abilities of a Sage, as defined in the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide under expert hirelings, pg 31.

Added to this rule set for Player Character thinkers, the character’s Intelligence score carries a bonus that increases the number of minor fields of study the thinker has expertise in. An Intelligence score of 15 adds +1 minor field, 16 adds +2, 17 adds +3, 18 adds +4.

The Manipulator

The manipulator primarily makes his way in the world by influencing others to gain his ends. Gamblers, hucksters, snake oil salesmen, Politians, saloon girls, fancy-dans, merchants and traders all fall within the manipulator class. Any person who prefers to maneuver others into serving his ends rather than directly acting himself falls under the manipulator character class.

The manipulator has generally the same class requirements and advantages as the AD&D cleric. They attack on the AD&D cleric melee chart. They gain levels according to the AD&D cleric level progression. They roll 1D8 per level for hit points, and save as AD&D clerics. A manipulator starts with a base armor class of 9. This number drops by one for every level up to and including the fifth. Thereafter the manipulator’s AC improves by one step for every two levels of experience.

A manipulator must have a Wisdom score of at least 10. A manipulator may use pistols and handguns without penalty. Long guns, shot guns and heavy weapons incur a -3 to hit penalty.

A manipulator is capable of slick talking. This operates in a manner similar to the AD&D magic-user spell “suggestion”. By slick talking, the manipulator can often convince a listener of the wisdom of following a course of action that may or may not be the best idea for the listener, but will certainly benefit the manipulator. The object of a manipulator’s power of persuasion must save vs. spell or fall for the manipulator’s spiel.

If the manipulator’s target possesses a Wisdom score bonus, it is applied to the saving throw.

A person who is slick talked into a course of action that then turns out badly for the manipulator’s target, that person gains a +4 bonus against future attempts at slick talking.

If a manipulator attempts to slick talk a crowd, (a group of 5 or more), the crowd saves as its lowest level or hit die member. This is why Politian is a preferred avocation for the manipulator.

When engaging in games of chance where misdirection is a factor, the manipulator is at an advantage in being able to roll twice and choose the better number in any situation where the dice determine an in-game out come. This applies to in-game betting and gambling.

The No-Account

The no-account primarily makes his way in the world by leaching off of others and avoiding work himself. Thieves of all sorts, lay-a-bouts, hangers-on, drifters, shiftless shirkers, rustlers and claim-jumpers, any person who habitually appropriates the wealth of others without direct conflict falls under the no-account character class.

The no-account has generally the same class requirements and advantages as the AD&D thief. They attack on the AD&D thief melee chart. They gain levels according to the AD&D thief level progression. They roll 1D6 per level for hit points, and save as AD&D thieves. The no-account starts with a base armor class of 9. This number drops by one for every level up to and including the fifth. Thereafter the no-account’s AC improves by one step for every two levels of experience.

Somewhat ironically, in their pursuit of gain without the need of honest work, no-accounts often develop specialized skills. A no-account rolls 1D8 at character creation to determine how many of the AD&D thief skills he possesses. Then rolls again to determine which skills he knows. 1-Pick Pockets, 2-Open Locks, 3-Find/Remove Traps, 4-Move Silently, 5-Hide in Shadows, 6-Hear Noise, 7-Climb Walls, 8-Read Languages. These skills are administered according to AD&D rules.

All character classes are guidelines and subject to alteration to satisfy player needs for particular PC designs. Any abilities, bonuses or penalties given as a result will deviate minimally from the standard.

Once upon a time, in the Ancient West. Setting description.

No back history, no timeline, no specific date the campaign starts on. The game is meant to exist in a sort of Western Mythic Now. So, any event, technology, story, history, or person, fictional or otherwise, who exists at any point in a time frame from 1840-1900, can appear in the Weird West.

The campaign map covers all of North America between the Appalachians and the Rockies. That the rest of the world may be out there may be implied by inference due to the presence of people from other parts of the world. They are there, however, to fill various character roles traditional in westerns. The campaign won’t leave the West.

Magic items are always singular, or else extremely rare. As an example, consider the Ace of Winchesters from Hitman #16, (Garth Ennis & John McCrea), a rifle, “fashioned of halo-steel and hades-gems, bound with ivory of saints, designed to blast the very life from fiends…”.

Supernatural weapons and items will be unique and usually meant to serve a certain purpose. They will also have a severely limited number of uses before they are burned out.

Hit point recovery will also follow AD&D standard. One hit point restored per day of rest, four weeks rest returns hit points to maximum regardless.

Henchmen and hirelings become Sidekicks and Hired Hands.

New and altered AD&D monsters for Torch & Sixgun.

Unique dragons via the dragon generator, (which I’m considering updating)

The Painted Unicorn. I have this idea of an appaloosa unicorn roaming the Great Plains. No one who has ever taken a life can approach it unnoticed.

Yigs, Yig-sons. The yuan-ti reskinned as remnants of an ancient race of serpent men. From their hidden city beneath the Cerulean Mountain, the Yigs send out their most human like members to infiltrate human towns in order to bring back slaves, sacrifices, and… food.

Spirits of Place. Watering hole weirds, sand storm devils, ill winds, avalanche gremlins, etc…

Non standard undead. The Sundown Wailers, The Wagon Train, The Mountain Man.

Degenerate Ancients. In hidden cities and lost valleys. Malignant survivors of lost civilizations.

Badland Goblins. Fused with Quickling stats. Spare, boney, blindingly fast, and mercilessly cruel. “If them goblins gets aholt ah yeh, they’ll string you up by yurh thumbs and skin yeh with their teeth, boy!”

The Damned Stallion. Outside of Laerdin, there’s miles of black prairie. Apparently burned by fire years ago, it never regrows and yet the charred grass never crumbles away. The locals say a great bronze colored stallion courses the black prairie and that those who die out there, must ride the stallion to Hell.

And of course, a steady stream of regular old conniving, black hearted, rat-bastard scum.


This is my start on a bolt-on house rule set for weird western adventure on an AD&D platform. I watched The Outlaw Josey Wales a couple weeks ago, and then just kept running into westerns on TV. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, El Dorado, High Plains Drifter, Open Range, Unforgiven. The really good westerns. I kept smelling mental gunsmoke and hearing the rutch of boots on dirty pine plank floors. Also, a couple of the guys at the part time job are into cowboy shooting and western reenactment. They have a lot to say about horses and shooting. The Wild West themes just sort of sank down and melded with the AD&D dungeoneering ethos I look at rpgs through.

I think I want something gritty and dangerous. I expect PCs to die fairly often. I’ll come up with something for army surgeons, folk remedies, country doctors and such, but I don’t think I’ll have any sort of commonly available “healing”, magic or otherwise.

I’m a bit leery of the degree to which the weird western tale has been infused with contemporary steampunk these days. I want stone cold gunslingers and horrific monsters in this campaign. No wacky inventions, steam robots, crazy professors or airships. I love Victorian era and classic science fiction, I cut my mind’s eye teeth on it, but the reimagining of it in steampunk has reached the point where it’s become self-referential and incorporated way too many modern attitudes. It’s disconnected from its source material to the point of caricature. Steampunk has become WOTC Jules Verne.

I want The Man with No Name with a cigar in his teeth in a desperate gun battle with blasphemous gibbering things in a maze of black tunnels beneath an ancient mesa.

I reckon I’ll whittle on this here rule set a mite bit longer, see what shapes up.