Nov 20, 2014

The Nightmare Realm of Baba Yaga - Endless Quest

Since the early 80's Endless Quest books have been helping DnD fans get their DnD fix when they've got no one to play with.

Last week I alluded to this book in my post about Interstellar, Baba Yaga, and Tesseracts. This is the first Endless Quest book I read that you actually have to play it like a game with dice and a character. The only reason I got this book was that I enjoyed the adventure as it was described in Dragon #83. But it turns out this book is actually based off the 2nd edition AD&D adventure The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga.

The character sheet is really pretty clever, it does double duty as a bookmark. The character, Jerrak the bland, is a plain vanilla fighter.

Your companion in the game is Mjolnir. Mjolnir the dwarf? Seriously. I never did get over being annoyed by that name each time I read it. That was one of the few negative marks I'd give the book.

Unlink previous Endless Quest books I've read, you don't just choose your path, you often have to roll to determine results. The system has very little to do with AD&D. I think I would have preferred if it stuck closer to AD&D, rather than some new system that really isn't any more clever or better suited for the genre.

Overall the writing is fine, and the adventure quite enjoyable. It rates on the higher end of the Endless Quest books. Though I'd say it errors on the easy side, I've yet to get killed or even close to 0 HP, and have beaten the adventure each time. The author Roger E. Moore was probably my favorite Dragon magazine editor (or a close tie with Kim Mohan), and I've really enjoyed some of his other stories I've read. Particularly "A stone's throw away" a short story in Dragon magazine featuring Tasslehoff Burrfoot and Demogorgon, which was my introduction to the Dragonlance universe (also reprinted in The Magic of Krynn).

Nov 19, 2014

A Fighting Man and a Princess of Mars

Last night I inked this drawing for Warriors of the Red Planet. It is 8.5" x 11" on bristol, inked with a Pentel brush pen. I keep meaning to draw more creatures for the monsters section, but it's just so much fun drawing princesses.

Nov 14, 2014

Locust Gods

"My name is swarm for we are innumerable."
Ok, that's a paraphrase of one of the creepiest quotes in the bible, and a fitting description of the locust gods. The original idea was for massive megadungeons, each the size of the great pyramid of Giza, that could fly and land in places they wanted to suck dry of resources. Terrifying citadels of doom. As the concept was developed the question came up of who made these things? This led to the development of evil gods who were locust like in their mentality. I'm not sure, but I don't recall if any deities have been designed before that were actually composite beings made up of multiple intelligences who all formed a singular creature-thing. Here follows a description in OD&D style:
Locust God, God of Swarms
AC: 20
Move: 15/24
Hit Points: 290
Magic Ability: 3rd
Fighter Ability: 18th
Psionic Ability: Class 3
Each locust god appears as a giant humanoid locust. They all share the same mind, though they are not exactly telepathic. It is more that they all make the same decisions. Each locust god is unique, it has its own subtle differences: irregularities, body markings and shapes. It is not known how many locust gods exist.
Each locust god has a flying citadel as it's throne. Each citadel has multiple levels and are populated by malignant creatures of all sorts. The citadels also contain untold riches. Once the locust god that rules a particular citadel is killed that citadel can no longer fly. It eventually decays, only an empty husk may remain, sometimes for centuries.
Clerics of a locust god gain the ability: summon locust swarm, once per day. A locust swarm does not inflict damage, but obscures vision in a 10' radius causing -1 to hit, and limiting the ability to cast spells for 2-5 (1d4+1) rounds.

Nov 13, 2014

Catacomb Saint

Catacomb Saints are skeletons of Christian martyrs buried under Rome that were unearthed back in 1578. They were distributed throughout Europe, mostly in Germany and used to replace the relics that had been destroyed during the Protestant Reformation. Yes, Catacomb Saints are a real thing.
There is no shortage of evil aligned undead horrors to be found in DnD, but the good aligned ones are few and far between. Here are the stats of a Catacomb Saint in Swords & Wizardry terms, that could just as easily be converted to any non-4th edition version. In 1st edition or higher they will be of any Good alignment depending on the deity they serve (they will only serve Good-aligned deities).

Catacomb Saint

HD 7; AC 1[18]; Atk 1 smite (1d8); Move 12"; Save 8; CL/XP 11/1600; Special: Magic or silver to hit; magic resistance 51%; Call of Life; Immune to enchantments, sleep, charm; Cure Disease by touch, continual Turn Undead as 11th level cleric.

Catacomb Saints are often sent on missions to aid the cause of their deity. Sometimes this is to protect a group of adventurers, other times this might be to repel an undead horde, or to help a small town in need. They appear as ornately dressed skeletons, jewel encrusted, in rich robes with gems for eyes. They will have between 20-200gp worth of jewels on them. Anyone who attempts to steal the jewels from a Catacomb Saint will incur the wrath of their deity.

Call of Life: once per day a Catacomb Saint can call a deceased person's spirit back to its body, if the person has been deceased for less than 3 days. This person will be shaken and disoriented, but restored to full hit points.
Cure Disease: touching a Catacomb Saint instantly cures any disease the afflicted may have.
Catacomb Saints are immune to enchantments, sleep and charm spells.
Catacomb Saints exist to serve their deity. They are only servants of a Lawful aligned deity. Other Undead will avoid the presence of a Catacomb Saint, treat as continual Turn Undead by an 11th level cleric.

Interstellar and Baba Yaga's Hut

Over the weekend I watched Interstellar at the theater with my wife. As the story unfolded there was a scene that reminded me of Baba Yaga's Hut from my favorite issue of Dragon Magazine. What in the universe could Interstellar and Baba Yaga's Hut possibly have in common?
A tesseract.
Ok, for those of you who hate spoilers that is as close to a spoiler as I'll get. And I don't think it is much of one. Considering the movie deals with worm holes, black holes, and relativity, it should be no surprise that the concept of a tesseract makes an appearance in the movie. It also happens to be one of the more clever sci-fi aspects in the story. In case you're wondering yes we liked the movie very much and would recommend it. You should see it at the theater, Imax if you can. It's that kind of experience.
So, back to Baba Yaga's Hut. In Dragon Magazine #83 is an high level adventure featuring Baba Yaga written by Roger Moore. The layout of her hut's interior is a tesseract. This was not only the first issue of Dragon I had purchased, it was also the first time I'd learned about a tesseract. And my imagination was ignited by the potentials. There are so many strange possibilities in a 4th dimensional object and all the fascinating things you could do with it. It took a while to wrap my head around the concept, but once I grokked it, my mind was opened to dimensions I hadn't considered before.
There is a scene in Interstellar that is one of the best visual representations of a tesseract I've yet seen. And once you see it, the maps in Baba Yaga's Hut will make a lot more sense.
I never have had a chance to play through this adventure. However since reading this issue of Dragon, Baba Yaga has become one of my favorite fairy tale characters and I've read a lot about her over the years. I've gotten to do a few illustrations about her for various publishers. Like this one in Legend of Badass published by HarperCollins:
TSR revised the adventure and published it in a module called, the Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga written by Lisa Smedman. I recently acquired this artifact, but haven't read all the way through it. Based on my skim through it looks like it is more inspired by Roger Moore's version than an actual rehash. It still looks pretty good. Though the few reviews I've read by those who have actually played it report that players quickly become frustrated by the layout and the various traps and puzzles in it. I can see how moving through a tesseract could be bewildering for 3-dimensional beings like ourselves.
There is another Baba Yaga product by TSR I have, one of those choose-your-adventure books. I have played through that one, and enjoyed it quite a bit. But that is worth a post of its own.

Nov 12, 2014

WotRP Update - The Lost Vault of K'Ral

Warriors of the Red Planet continues to gather momentum. Since it has been available on a lot of copies have been getting out there and into player's hands. The feedback has been universally positive, many are surprised that we're calling it a "beta" when it is more polished than much of the stuff that's being published out there.

I'm working on a few things in general, like fixing typos, making illustrations, and collecting feedback on where things need to be clarified and improved. This work cannot be done without your help, so please chime in on anything you've noticed that we can make better.

Specific things I am working on are a map and world guide of Barsoom, and an introductory adventure. I've chronicled the challenges of making a map of Barsoom here a few times, the biggest hurdle being that no two sources agree on locations of places according to the books. Every map I've looked at has contradictory information. So I'm distilling the best sources I can, and letting intuition be my guide to fleshing it out.

The world guide itself is just a matter of how much detail to go into, and how much additional material to make up for the sake of creating fun adventure locations and possibilities. This has been one of the most enjoyable parts of this endeavor. I'm looking forward to sharing more of that here. Also it is restricted to the first five books which are in public domain. But that is more than enough information for a world filled with adventure potential.

The adventure I have been writing, The Lost Vault of K'Ral, has gone through playtests and revisions (how many adventures actually get playtested?). I'm detailing out the various locations with essential information without getting too wordy. And of course making some very cool maps and illustrations.

Ok, that's a pretty good update for now. Here is a little sneak peek of one of the maps in The Lost Vault of K'Ral:
A few links that might be of interest:
A Google community has formed to talk about Warriors of the Red Planet:
I occasionally post on the Old D&D Forum:
A thread on The RPG Site:

Nov 11, 2014

Transmogrify Tuesday - Giant Illustration

I had so much fun drawing the Beautiful Witch illustration for Halloween, I thought I'd continue with the theme of being inspired by some old RPG illustrations. Here is the giant from Underworld and Wilderness adventures. I'm not sure if he is supposed to be an early version of a fomorian giant, or a malformed hill giant. Anyways, he does have some personality and I wanted to capture something of the expression and attitude. And add a bit more storytelling. Here is the old one:

And here is a new drooling giant. Here he looks like he's about to squish a little fighter. Anyways, I hope you enjoy.

Nov 10, 2014

Citadels of the Locust Gods

Megadungeons. Those monolithic, massive, dense labyrinths of adventure that exist to tempt characters to find untold riches or an ill fate. They are filled with horrific creatures, treacherous traps, and epic quantities of treasure. This is a work in progress of an idea for megadungeons I've been playing around with: Citadels of the Locust Gods. They swarm like locusts, flying across the darkened skies and setting down on wealthy, bountiful lands. Once on the ground they unload swarms of beasts to plunder the region, strip it and leave it barren. When their cargo holds are full, the creatures return. The citadels launch, darkening the skies once more and they move on to some other doomed land.
This megadungeon has a lot of advantages for the game master, since she can place a citadel anywhere she likes in her game world and it has appeal to a wide variety of play groups. Those that just want to plunder dungeons for treasure can dare to enter, or those with a more heroic bent that want to save the land can attempt a more ambitious cleansing of the foul den.
It is very much a work in progress, and here is a first pass on a layout for one of the levels inside a citadel. I'm not sure how many levels it should have, maybe each one is different. This version has 3. The characters have to figure out how to get to the top where the entrance is, and work they way down to the heart of the citadel, perhaps one of the locust gods is awaiting them in the bowels of this dreadful and foreboding fortress of evil.
Next up I'll have some stats and an illustration for one of the locust gods. Just putting the finishing touches on it now.

Nov 3, 2014

Crypt of Galsharak

I was experimenting with some ways to hand draw a map and then digitally age it with parchment textures, and adding some finesse.

And here is a little drawing of Galsharak, whom's crypt this is.