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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Soviet Fantasy

Another setting idea I've had kicking around for over a year. The main civilization is very much a soviet communist one. They have red flags with yellow hammer and sickles. Russian is the common language. Everyone is addressed as comrade. State commissars prowl the streets, seeking out those unfaithful to the Great Leader. Clerics would be watched in case they spread sedition to the State, but mages would be treated well and become agents of the State.

Warriors often use hammers and sickles as weapons of choice. Rusalka and other russian folklore monsters are much more likely to be encountered than unicorns or harpies. Goblins and ogres are definitely common, as well. Baba Yaga may also exist.

I think my main "campaign" area would be where the Soviets have recently settled a coastal colony, and the natives are arabs. The Soviets would use ice magic vs the locals fire magic. The Arabs would also be very religious, having many clerics. But they would be uncomfortable around mages. In this land, saharan and desert creatures would be very common. Gnolls would be particularly common away from the human lands. There might even be "civilized" gnolls who work with the human natives.

Monday, March 29, 2010

What kind of fool enters a megadungeon?

I was just thinking about this a bit. If a megadungeon exists, and especially if it is well known, what kind of fool would actually think that entering it is a good idea? Especially if there are numerous reports of adventuring parties not returning, or only a few returning, who describe all the horrible things that happened to their friends.

Reasons people might enter a megadungeon:

1. They're insane. Megalomaniacal, even.
2. They somehow think that they won't get hurt, when 9 out of 10 people who enter the dungeon die there.
3. They have very powerful cleric friends who will resurrect them.
4. They're archeologists.
5. They're mages looking for a powerful spellbook known to be lost in the dungeon somewhere.
6. They're priests attempted to recover lost relics.
7. They're priests attempting to banish the evil that lives in the dungeon.
8. They've been hired by the local government to clean out the dungeon. And they're megalomaniacal enough to try.
9. They're godlike beings, and can't really be hurt by anything in the dungeon.
10. They're Sensates from the Planes, and just want to experience everything the dungeon can offer.
11. They're sacrifices.
12. They're escapees from something even worse than the dungeon.
13. They like living in dungeons, and think it would make a nice home.
14. They have a fool-proof plan to raid the dungeon without actually having to fight anything. At least, they think it's fool-proof.
15. They enter the dungeon to find a relic located there that will save their spouse or children.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Forgotten Realms publication history

Realms Info

A very cool historical bit on the early Forgotten Realms as posted by Jeff Grubb.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Goodman Games: Dungeon Crawl Classics rpg

I'm sure many of you know that Goodman Games will be publishing a DCC rpg, which sounds like it will be something similar to Castles & Crusades. I'm pretty excited about this. Goodman puts out a lot of adventures, so it's pretty much a guarantee this game will get tons of support. And since it will be simplified from 3e, there should more actual stuff in each module, instead of full-page statlines for one monster.

While I am one of those people who believes the old school renaissance is getting very over-saturated, at least with game systems with minor variations, I think a fairly large publisher like GG getting their own clone out will be great for the OSR in general. It's likely to pull in even more players, who just might check out adventures published for S&W, LL, OSRIC, BFRPG, etc. For those who publish adventures, I suspect their sales may increase. I also suspect rules publishers will see a decline in sales overall.

All in all, I wish GG lots of luck with this venture. I would love to see a new module every month, or even every other month. I really hope they update their Aereth box set, as well.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Divine Right of Kings

Just a setting thing that I thought of:

Only kings and their immediate children can be clerics, because they are divinely blessed by blood. There are still lots of priests running around, but they are not spellcasters, unless they are a mage. While I think the King and the country would worship a god (or even more than one god), the king may also act as a living saint or even the god of his country.

Because the King has divine spells, he can just say, "It's obvious why I am King, as no one else can do the things I do. God wants me to be King." And it's quite likely a sizable portion of the uneducated populace would believe this without reservation. Shrines to the King might even be kept in villages for everyone to pray at. And the normal taxes would be considered a tithe to him freely given, instead of forced taxation.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fantasy Apocalypse

Reasons for the Apocalypse:

Undead rising.
Mages casting massive fireball or lightning storm spells that wipe out all the major cities.
Divine retribution.
Wild magic runs amok.
Magic leaves the world, even if only temporarily.
Spellcasters all go insane.
The orcs and goblins win!
Dragons go on a lemming-like burn and eat frenzy.
A powerful artifact of evil is used by a psychotic suicidal person.
The forces of good (angels, etc.) all leave the world for some reason.
The rat-men of the sewers come out at night and kill millions of people.
Lycanthropy runs rampant, becoming even easier to catch for some reason.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy

This is another genre I think would be really cool, and very easy to do with Swords & Wizardry. There are a ton of monsters already on the books, many of which would fit fairly well as mutations from magical fallout.

For this setting, I don't think there would be much left as far as wizard labs or libraries. If one is found, it will likely be hidden and very well guarded, with both monsters and traps. Fighters and rogues would be supreme, as mages would have a really hard time finding a teacher, researching spells, or creating magic items. I'm sure there would be at least one heavily fortified town with a mage either ruling it outright or from behind the scenes, though.

Clerics could go two ways: either they are the common spellcasters with a lot of power, or the gods have left and clerics no longer exist as a class. I prefer them not being around, as it makes the setting more desperate.

Common problems faced by post-apocalyptic fantasy characters:
Food and water.
Poisonous areas caused by magic. Maybe people just get sick there, or maybe they are magically mutated or slain.
Undead. There will be lots of these. The mass deaths of the apocalypse combined with clerics losing their powers would just make their populations increase. I would keep this way below zombie movie levels though. I want undead to be a threat, but not the only major problem.

Creatures such as gibbering mouthers and beholders would roam freely, as they are either unaffected by the magical disaster or even strengthened by it.
More beastmen and animal mish-mash monsters to represent all the mutants caused by the magical blast.
Magical items would be very rare, and extremely valuable. Spellbooks would be the equivalent of an artifact.
Potentially a magic-immune race could develop, that gets inherent magic resistance.
Ruins would include entire cities that might be empty, or could be full of gangs of people who used to live there but now fight each other and might view travelling adventurers as food or pawns to use against the gang up the street.

I could go on. There's just a ton of really fun stuff that could be done in this type of setting. I believe there is a OGL game that covers this genre, though I haven't seen it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fantasy settings with one monolithic church

I'd like to see a major D&D campaign setting featuring just one Church, with one God. Druids would be leftovers from an older time, and might even be persecuted. Inquisitors and witch burnings would be commonplace. Penitents and Faithful Knights would also be seen fairly regularly. All knowledge would be reviewed by the Church, who would be the resident teachers throughout the land. Mages would still exist, but either work for the Church or be independent scientific types.

Saints would exist, and might even receive worship as part of the services to the God. There might even be a living Saint somewhere in the world, who would act as a beacon to the faithful. Miles-long pilgrim lines would form at the living Saint's church, with people being blessed just by his presence. Priests would have a saint's finger bone as a holy symbol, and every church would have the bones of some saint interred inside the altar. 

Also, there would be no racial gods. Evil races such as orcs might worship demons, and have demon-summoners among their ranks. The demons would also be able to grant spells to their followers. Demon-worshiping humans would be hunted, but very definitely present. Succubi could hide themselves in a King's Court with none the wiser. There might even be a very powerful mage with demon servants, that even the Church cannot fight, as he has his tower in a major city, and trying to kill him would likely wipe the city out.

I know WFRP has some of this vibe, but I'd like to make it even more like the Dark Ages of Europe, without just being a historical fantasy game.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Different types of spellbooks

Leatherbound tome.
Tome bound in human/elf/monster skin.
A bunch of scrolls tied together.
Wind chimes that whisper spells into the mind of the mage when exposed to a breeze at midnight.
A talking skull that teaches spells.
Bone discs with spells carved into them made into a necklace.
A staff with spells engraved on it.
A flute that teaches spells to mages who play songs on it.
Rune stones that teach spells to mages who toss them onto a silk cloth.
An animal familiar that never forgets spells and can teach them to a mage.
A tree that reveals spells in the patterns of its leaves.
Metal discs that have spells engraved into them.
A painting with spells hidden within the obvious scene.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Planet Algol has an interesting post on unique spellbooks HERE. I really, really like this idea. It's a fairly easy way to add flavor to your campaign setting, and even little tidbits of history. And the possibilities for adventure seeds are pretty much included with any given spellbook. A spellbook written and used by an evil lich instantly provides a general theme for the spells within, a monster that must be defeated, stories of heroes who fought the lich and lost, and a cool description such as the book is encased in bone and the words are carved into the smaller bones that serve as the pages of the book.

Unique spellbooks have a fairly long history in fantasy and even D&D. More than a few articles were written about them in Dragon magazine. They also provide the DM with ways to include variant spellbooks. A massive tome wrapped in demonskin is pretty cool. A set of wind chimes that whisper the spells into your mind when exposed to a breeze at midnight is even cooler. And the chimes spellbook is something that the players will remember years later, long after they've forgotten much of the actual campaign.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gaming Stuff I've Written

This is just a post with links to gaming stuff I've written and put on the web. Hopefully some of you will find it fun and useful.

My Castles & Crusades stuff

The World of Elda for Savage Worlds

Elda World Map

WhiteBox S&W Bard Class

Sword and Board rpg

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Setting Maps

I'm a big fan of maps. When I get a setting book, the first thing I look at is the map. I don't know why, but maps are just really, really cool. That said, I do have my preferences.

Favorite rpg maps
Harn and Ivinia - Both are from Columbia Games. They are very detailed, and also make sense. Cities have lots of small villages surrounding them, and there are no deserts sitting right next to glaciers.

Forgotten Realms 1e - Yeah, they are pretty blank, and a glacier is sitting right next to plains and in a warm territory. But it's there due to a major magical curse. The wide open areas leave tons of room for me to stick in my own stuff, especially monsters. And the maps are huge, especially when you put them all together. Some of this is nostalgia, though.

MERP maps - All of them. These are works of art.

Earthdawn - Beautiful maps, that don't give away too much information. And the setting is quite different from standard D&D stuff.

Maps I don't really care for
Greyhawk 1e - I don't like the hexes. And most of the country names are downright silly.

Planescape - Love the setting. The maps are unusable in game, though they are pretty.

Wilderlands (Necromancer set) - Small, two-sided, hexes. I love the setting. The maps really needed to be bigger and in color, though that would have made the set ridiculously expensive.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Bad news - AGP closing

AGP Closing

Adventure Games Publishing is closing. James Mishler has been producing some very good Wilderlands material. I know I bought almost all of it. I wish things had worked out better for him. It does confirm my belief that unless you are really lucky, or have a hot product, you really can't make money selling rpg's, which is too bad. I'd love for James and everyone else to be able to make a nice wage just producing game material. If I thought it was even remotely viable, I would have gotten into the field myself. Luckily, I make a fair wage doing geology work.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Two years ago today

Gary Gygax died. I was actually a bit shook up, which has never happened to me except when family has died. Gary did more to shape my life than anyone except my parents. And I never met the man. Here's hoping he's partying in heaven.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Skaven for WhiteBox

I'm a pretty big fan of Games Workshop, and I love the skaven armies. Here's my interpretation for them for my WhiteBox game.

Armor Class: 6 [13]
HD: see below
Attacks: by weapon (+ special)
Movement: 12
HDE/XP Value:
Clanrat: 1/15 XP
Globadier: 4/120 XP
Assassin: 5/240 XP
Plaguebearer: 2/35 XP
Plague Monk: 5/240 XP
Packmaster: 3/65 XP
Jezzail: 3/65 XP
Rat Ogre: 4/120 XP
Grey Seer: 10/1,400 XP
Stormvermin: 4/120 XP
Warpfire Throwers: 3/65 XP

Skaven are humanoid rats, nearly man-size in height. They walk on their hind legs and they use their hands as would a human. They are typically brown or black, though whites are seen. Their eyes are a deep red and reflect light, making them appear to glow at night. They are worshippers of a god called the Horned Rat. It appears that their goal is the complete domination of the land and the slavery of all other races. This includes orcs and goblins as well as humans and demihumans. As such, they have no allies among the other races.

All skaven have infravision to 60 feet. They speak Skaven, though some (20%) speak Common. Skaven also have the ability to speak with rats of any type, and often use rats as spies and forward lookouts. Skaven are constantly exposed to disease, and thus gain a +4 on their saves when exposed to some form of plague. Skaven are never attacked by rats of any type, though only packmasters can control rats.

Clanrats: The majority of skaven encountered are clanrats (~85%). They are usually encountered in packs of 3 to 30. They conform to the listed statistics, and have no special abilities. If clanrats are preparing for a major battle, they don chainmail and have an AC of 5 [14]. They wield spears and short swords in battle.

Globadiers are skaven who know how to make poison wind globes. These globes are small crystal balls, which are hurled at the enemy. When the globes strike, they shatter, releasing a poison gas that covers a 10 foot area. Anyone who breathes the gas must make a saving throw or take 20 points of damage. Those who make their saves take 5 points of damage. One globe can be hurled per round, with a range of 10/20/30. If a blunt object strikes a globadier, he must make a saving throw or 1 to 3 globes will explode. Note that this will almost definitely kill anyone near him. Other skaven tend to give globadiers a wide berth during combat for this very reason. Globadiers wear gas masks, which grant them immunity to the poison gas. The mask only protects vs. globadier poison, other gaseous attacks are unaffected by it. Globadiers also carry a short sword for engaging in melee.

Assassins are similar to regular skaven except that they have 2 Hit Dice and have several special abilities. They are very stealthy, and can only be noticed on a successful Find Secret Doors roll if they have hidden. If they successfully attack someone who has not located them, they inflict double damage with their weapon. Assassins also gain a +1 on their initiative roll. They use contact poison on their blade (save or take 1d6 damage).

Plaguebearers go into battle wielding censers filled with a liquid that causes disease to beings which come into contact with it. Plaguebearers do not retreat, fighting to the death, as they are among the most insane skaven of the clans. Someone hit by a censer must make a saving throw or catch a disease, which has the following effects: victim loses one point of constitution and strength per day. If either ability reaches 0 the victim dies. The spell Cure Disease is the only known cure for the ailment. Once the spell is cast on a victim, he regains one point of strength and constitution per day, up to his normal score. The censer acts as a flail in combat.

Plague monks are dangerous opponents. For one thing, they have 2 Hit Dice. They also may cast the following spells once per day: Curse, Cause Light Wounds, Cause Fear, Cause Moderate Wounds, and Cause Disease. Plague monks fight with a short sword in each hand. (House Rule: Roll 2d6, take the highest number.) The Cause Fear spell forces the target to make a Saving Throw or run away from the Plague Monk as fast as he can for 1d6 rounds.

Packmasters are skaven who have an innate ability to command rats, equivalent to a Charm Animal spell. They will be leading 4 - 16 giant rats when encountered. If in an area populated by rats, they can summon an additional giant rat each round along with engaging in normal combat. Packmasters are the only beings able to cause rats to attack skaven; even human mages or clerics can't do this. Packmasters have 2 HD, with maximum hit points. They fight with a short sword in one hand and a whip in the other. (House Rule: Roll 2d6, take the highest number.) Packmasters also command Rat Ogres, once they are experienced or have enough prestige within their clan.

Jezzail are skaven who have mastered the art of the rifle. They are the only creatures that know the secret of creating smokepowder. They will never reveal the secret of its creation and appear to have some type of mental block when questioned concerning smokepowder. Spellcasters who attempt to discover the secret will meet with no success. Jezzail are totally dedicated to their weapons, and will wield only their rifle in combat. They disdain all other weapons. A unit of jezzail firing in unison can decimate the best knights, as some humans have learned too late. Jezzail will go to any length to recover lost weapons. If a human is seen with a gun, he will be attacked at the earliest opportunity (like when he goes to sleep).
Jezzail Rifle: Dmg 1d6, ROF 1 per 2 rounds, Range 70 ft, Weight 8 lb, Cost -, Armor only provides half protection (ex. plate mail only provides -3/+3 armor bonus).

Grey Seers are extremely rare. There are only about 20 of them in any given world. They have 5 HD, but cast spells as a 10th level mage. They have a bodyguard of 30 stormvermin with them at all times. They are the masters of the skaven race, and all skaven defer to them. Seers maintain a library and a laboratory much as human mages do. Each Grey Seer has his own selection of spells, but they all tend to prefer spells that cause lots of damage (such as fireballs), as well as using curses and spells that cause disease or prolonged pain.

Rat Ogres are huge, mutated rat men. They spend much of their lives in a berserk rage, as they live in a constant state of pain. They are also not very intelligent. A packmaster will accompany any Rat Ogres encountered, keeping them under control and preventing them from slaying the skaven nearby. Rat Ogres are statistically identical to normal Ogres.

Stormvermin are the skaven warrior elite. They average 6 feet in height and are quite muscular (+1 to hit and damage with a weapon). They have 3 HD, with maximum hit points. They wear plate mail (AC 3 [16]) and wield two-handed swords, great axes, and halberds in combat. They are immune to fear (including spells, dragons, etc). They are often used as bodyguards by the clan elite, as well as being excellent shock troops in battle. Stormvermin typically aren't too bright, and as such are rarely encountered in any type of leadership capacity (not counting leading other Stormvermin).

Warpfire throwers work in groups of two, carrying their famed weapon. A warpfire thrower spits out a ball of green fire 50 yards, which explodes and injures everything within a 10-foot radius. Those caught within the blast radius take 3d6 points of damage or 1d6 damage if they make a saving throw. Warpfire throwers are the only beings who know the secret of their weapon, and appear to have a mind block similar to the Jezzail. Note that a thrower cannot be fired during any round in which its bearers have moved, and can only be fired once every 3 rounds in any case. If one of the bearers is killed, the remaining skaven can still fire the weapon, but will be unable to move it anywhere. Warpfire throwers will let no other skaven touch their weapon and will destroy it if it cannot be removed from danger. Humans who manage to capture an intact warpfire thrower will be unable to get it to work. In fact, in all such cases where this is attempted, the weapon explodes, causing 20d6 damage to all within 40 feet. While the warpfire thrower is a powerful weapon, any medium level mage can easily best it with fireballs or lightning bolts. As such, warpfire thrower teams either avoid mages totally during combat, or attempt to sneak up on them and kill them with one shot. A warpfire thrower looks like a World War II flamethrower, with one skaven carrying the fuel canisters on its back and the other holding the tubing and nozzle. These skaven also arm themselves with short swords in case they are forced into melee.
Skaven are extremely territorial, and often war with each other. A different clan rules each area, and if members of another clan enter the area, it is considered an act of war. These wars are often very vicious, and are one of the main reasons the skaven do not overrun everyone just by numbers. 

Skaven also fight amongst themselves to determine rank within the clan. These fights are seldom fatal, but all skaven are scarred, with many missing an eye or ear. The Grey Seers encourage this behavior, as the Horned Rat says that only the strong may rule. Grey Seers are above inter-clan warfare, and often visit each other. No skaven would dare assault a Seer or his bodyguards. Seers also work together, though not well. There is much politicking among them, but they would never even consider killing another Seer. The skaven are also slavers. They enslave those they defeat in battle, forcing them to do all the menial labor.

I also have a pdf of this located HERE