Dec 22, 2017

Beastie: the furious Fallen One

What's this, two beasties in the same week? Merry Christmas! Or, maybe, considering the content of this post merry Krampusnacht. I want to thank you so much for taking the time to read this blog. These beasties posts tend to be among the most popular, and I do enjoy drawing them and designing their stats. I'm thinking in the New Year of being more regular about posting lots more nasty little critters to challenge your characters with.

A lot of times these beasties start out as rough drawings in my sketchbook. This one I'd inked quite a while back, but it really wasn't up to par. While developing Beasties II this entry used that art. When it came time to post this mean little bastard I couldn't bring myself to post that old art, so I redrew, inked and colored him. Here it is five in the morning on the west coast and I'm about to hit the publish button. I hope you like.

Fallid Einn (Fallen One)
HD 8
AC 22
Atk 3-16
Save 11
Move 12/ fly 18
CL/XP 12/800
Special: control lesser demons, insanity field, immune to non-magical weapons

The depths of the abyss will occasionally spew forth a monstrosity known as a fallen one called Fallid Einn in the elder tongue. These are unfortunate creatures that have fallen so deep into the darkness and chaos that they have gone beyond madness to a level of insanity inconceivable to the sane mind. Their only thought is of slaughter and vengeance at all times.

Any demon of lesser HD within sight of a Fallen One will immediately succumb to its utter and complete control. If there is good cause the game master may allow the creature to make a Save to resist a command.

A fallen one radiates a field of insanity. All within a 20' radius must make a Save or be affected. Opponents who succumb will have difficulty focusing and coordinating with allies and also suffer -2 to all attacks. Other demons will go into a berserker rage having +2 on all attacks, but suffering a -1 penalty to AC.

Fallen ones usually attack in hordes. It is not unusual to see groups of 10-40 all intent on murder.

Dec 20, 2017

Beastie of the Week: the egregious Egren

HD 5+1
AC 14
Atk by weapon type ML 1d12, RNG 1d6
Save 13
Move 12 (Fly 3)
CL/XP 6/360
Special: fly, mirror image, protection from normal missiles, shape change

In ages past a clan of Ogre Magi was separated by a great storm and isolated on a desert island whose only inhabitants were feral ogres. Over time they interbred and created a new hybrid known as Egren.
Egren have some of the magical powers of their Magi lineage and all of the brutishness and might of there feral ancestors.

They are nearly indistinguishable from common ogres except being a bit stockier and a little wiser eyed. Detect magic will uncover that they exude a faint magical aura. These ogres have a deep ruddy tint to their skin, short tusks protruding from their mouths, and stand 8 to 9 feet tall. They are somewhat more intelligent than normal ogres, and are found in isolated areas far from civilization, often they inhabit crude residences or dwell in ruins. They dress primitively with what they can find since they don't manufacture fabric, this means they often wear garments taken from their victims.

An egren has the magical ability to invoke one spell-like effect at the beginning of a battle. This can be either protection from normal missiles (+4 AC vs. all non-magical missiles) or create a single mirror image of itself, as with the spell mirror image, the illusory double will disappear when it is hit.

Once per day an egren can shape change for 1-4 hours and appear like a normal adult sized humanoid like an elf or human. They're voice however remains unusually bass and gravely and the air will be slightly, but perceptibly cooler within a 10' radius of them. With great concentration an egren can magically fly very slowly with poor maneuverability, they cannot engage in combat while flying.

Female egren are rarely seen, reports are that they are roughly the same size but dress more decoratively and have the same abilities.

Dec 6, 2017

Ability Scores

Look at just about any RPG and you'll see little variations of what are essentially the same stats defined by Gygax and Arneson in the original Men & Magic book. This set of abilities has not been improved upon by any other roleplaying game. DC Heroes came close with its 3×3 grid of physical, mental and mystical/social character stats that expressed precision, force, and resilience in each area. Which was clever and novel, but really so specific to the DC universe it wasn't widely adapted to other genres, though the idea of each number being twice the power of the previous number so as to accommodate a game with characters as diverse in strength as Robin and Superman is an admirable design feature.

Taking a look at the wording on pages 10 & 11 of Men & Magic it is really quirky and awkward. First of all the order of the stats is random: Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Constitution, Dexterity, & Charisma. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to this order. It's not alphabetical. Not grouped in any meaningful way like physical/mental, or in order of importance.

Greyhawk mixes it up even more randomly: Str, Int, Dex, Wis, Chr, Con. Blackmoor doesn't really discuss abilities, and Eldritch Wizardry only touches on Dexterity with a lengthy addition to its effects in the game.

It is funny that this order remained like this and carried all the way through to 1st edition with one weird difference: Constitution and Dexterity are swapped. Why? Oh, just because. This little change seems to have first appeared in the Blue Holmes basic edition.

At least in 2nd edition an attempt was made to organize them by physical and mental stats: Str, Dex, Con, Int, Wis, Chr, but strangely still not alphabetical. You can still see the original order lurking in there. All recent editions keep this odd order. Shouldn't it be: Con, Dex, Str and Chr, Int, Wis? Or even better with mental first and then physical (M before P). This is mostly cosmetic and doesn't affect the game however it is just another example of the chaotic roots of the rules and as much as things have been polished and organized these little artifacts still linger.

Here's a little chart to make it easier to see:

OriginalGreyhawkBasic2nd +Suggested

What is perhaps most interesting about reading the ability descriptions in M&M (Men & Magic) is how little useful game information is really given. Their primary purpose seems to be to provide bonuses to XP for class prime requisites. Beyond that only cursory and vague game information is provided.

Strength. Does any RPG not use the term strength? Grab any random rulebook, I happen to have Symbaroum at my desk. Alright it uses "Strong" not "Strength", but basically the same word. Runequest uses it. Even GURPS with all its effort in making everything advantages, disadvantages, and skills uses Strength.

Intelligence. Alright, GURPS uses IQ which I always thought sounded a little lame, but nearly every RPG has a version of this stat. In Men & Magic a lot of leeway is given to the DM to adjudicate the player's use of this stat. If a player wants to do something clever the DM can just say his character is too dumb to think of doing that, sorry tough luck!

Wisdom. This is expressed in a lot of different terms in various RPGs, but really what word is better than Wisdom to describe this ability? In M&M Wisdom doesn't seem to do much of anything though, the book basically says its the same as Intelligence.

Constitution. Of all the terms this one is probably the least used in other RPGs. Usually something like Stamina or Endurance or Health. I have to say this is my least favorite of the ability names and I was very confused when I first encountered the game. I thought the player had to write up a constitution for the character that represented his fundamental principles! Hah, how silly I felt upon learning it meant the character's health stat and was just another number. In M&M this stat is given some meaty useful game purposes: bonus hit points and resistance to paralyzation and petrification.

Dexterity. A good enough term. I might prefer Agility, but no qualms here. This is certainly one of the most basic stats that all games use. This provides a lot of oomph to a character and especially with Eldritch Wizardry is expanded into the most useful ability. Perhaps overpowered even. Hard to not make this overly useful and balanced with the other stats.

Charisma. Ah, the classic "dump" stat. I suspect in the early days this might have actually been one of the most useful ones as you could use it to recruit lots of hirelings and henchmen in the exceedingly high casualty games of the day. This one is also the most controversial. Does it represent physical beauty as well as force of personality? M&M certainly indicates that, but it becomes problematic because those are two very different things with sometimes related but mostly disparate effects. The addition of Comeliness (what an awful term!) in Unearthed Arcana tried to fix it, but was a disaster in terms of usefulness in an actual game that only served to show how well constructed the original list of six abilities actually was. Physical appearance is better expressed as an advantage/disadvantage not an ability stat all of its own.

In conclusion, not my most useful post here, but I've had these thoughts bouncing around in my head for a while and I needed to get them written down. I think the original six stats from the original rulebook are one of the best and most enduring elements of the game and I can't think of any RPG that does it better. While I've played a lot of RPGs my experience isn't comprehensive as I'm sure few people have played every RPG ever made, would that even be possible? Let me know what you think in the comments below or in discussions on G+.

ps. I did mean to mention the Size stat in Runequest which I always felt was clever and a much better solution to the Size relationship problem in combat. Early editions of D&D tended to complicate this with different damage values depending on small or large targets. Later editions have cleaned it up significantly, but still isn't the most elegant game mechanic. You could argue this is one improvement over the original six stats.

pps. The most obvious order for stats is just straight up alphabetical, because there isn't really any game mechanics associated with organizing them by mental and physical stats. So: Chr, Con, Dex, Int, Str, Wis.

Dec 4, 2017

Beastie of the Week: Torchiere Corpse

Torchiere Corpse
HD 4
AC 18
Atk ML 1d6, RNG 1d4
Save 13
Move 12
CL/XP 6/400
Special: infernal radiance, rage, life drain, random multiple attacks

The torchiere corpse is an ultra rare and unusual undead creature that can only be created under bizarre circumstances.

When the freshly deposed bodies of giants are partially cremated and when the currents of magic are strong, deep, and dark, a torchiere corpse might be formed. If the soil is cursed, the night sky is moonless, and rotting flesh of an once animated carcass is sprinkled on a potential torchiere corpse, a torchiere corpse might be formed on a roll of 1 on d100.

In this case evil bodiless souls in search of flesh to inhabit can form the ashes into a monstrous giant beast. The souls will vie for their piece of the undead creature and a flaming hot conglomeration of giant body parts will arise hungry and full of rage.

Infernal radiance: a torchiere corpse continually radiates an unbearable heat in a 30' radius. The closer one gets the more unbearable the heat is. Save each turn or take 1hp damage within 20' and 2hp per turn within 10'.

Rage: once a torchiere corpse is attacked it may become enraged and have +1 to hit on all attacks.

Life Drain: on a successful hit the victim must Save or take an additional 1hp damage, this confers 1hp of healing to the torchiere corpse.

Random Multiple Attacks: each turn the torchiere corpse gets an additional 1d4 melee attacks as various souls vie for control of the conglomeration of body parts to attack with.

Nov 27, 2017

Old-School Character Sheet

I've been looking at a lot of character sheets lately, and had this idea for a layout based more on rows rather than columns like most character sheets are. It's not amazing or particularly innovative, but I like the legibility of reading ability scores across the rows rather than down columns. This also allowed for grouping all the essential combat stats across right below them.

Please feel free to download it and test it out. If I get some useful feedback I can make some modifications if called for.

Nov 14, 2017

Raiders of the Lost Artifacts Review

A typo and misspelled words filled review, but some very good points are made and it is overall positive. The point is, if you love (or just like) the pulp genre then Raiders is an excellent addition to your game library. For game masters who don't mind making occasional rules calls (it is OSR after all!) you should enjoy it.

Oct 30, 2017

Barsoom: Beyond Imagination

Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. has a Vimeo channel. Who knew?

I've often wondered what the ERB, Inc. company was up to. They never seemed to be doing much with the fantastic library of imaginative works that Edgar Rice Burroughs created throughout his career. It seemed like such a wasted opportunity while everyone else kept mining Burrough's ideas for gold and turning it into Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Star Wars, Avatar, and uncountable other movies, novels, and comic books.

Many of ERB's books are in the Public Domain, it would be interesting to see more done with those books. We see countless takes on Alice in Wonderland and Wizard of Oz, as well as Dracula, Frankenstein, and so on every year.

This video that ERB, Inc. just posted gives a bit of an overview of the first three Mars books which form the John Carter trilogy. Lots of great art and some history of Barsoom.

Oct 28, 2017

Sigil: The City of Doors

Planescape came out at the time I was taking a hiatus from D&D because second edition had turned me off, and I'd migrated to playing GURPS and other RPGs. During this period David "Zeb" Cook took the concepts of Outer Planes from the 1st edition Dungeon Masters Guide and did what the Manual of the Planes should have: turned it into one of the greatest settings of all time.

I didn't discover this until years later when I picked up the Planescape boxed set at a garage sale around the time that Planescape Torment, a computer roleplaying game, came out. So it must have been around 2000. Torment was one of the best CRPGs in its day.

I haven't played the Planescape setting at the gaming table as much as I'd like. A few short sessions, but I never really got a gaming group that wanted to play a campaign. However I have enjoyed reading those books, and will always have fond memories of playing Torment. Also, a lot of the art and design is really interesting and different.

Legend goes that the symbol for Planescape: a female face surrounded by blades called "the Lady of Pain" is a representation of Lorraine Williams. Because everyone loved working with her so much?

One of the most compelling concepts in Planescape is the city of Sigil. This city was set in the middle of the Concordant Opposition and was a meeting place for all kinds of extra-planar beings. What made this so compelling was that the city was full of doors that lead to other planes. You can see from a gaming perspective what an awesome idea that is, as well as a logical feature that fits in nicely with the entire idea of the setting. Too bad Planescape hadn't come into being much sooner, well if Manual of the Plans had been this we'd have a lot more fond memories of that book and the setting may have become as large as Forgotten Realms. But, by the time it came out there were a lot of distractions for the gaming market with everything from dozens of popular role-playing games, computer games were on the rise, as well as the release of Magic: the Gathering which changed everything.

On the Russian blog Nether-Whisper there is an interactive map of Sigil that is very well done. You can explore the city in detail. If you're playing a Planescape campaign I could see this as a valuable tool to enhance the game.

Oct 24, 2017

Resurgence of D&D

Not only are us old fans experiencing a reignited love for the game we played in the 70's and 80's, but new generations are discovering just how great this game is. And it is resonating in very interesting ways, perhaps people tired of staring at screens are wanting to socialize in person. It seems everywhere you look these days D&D is being mentioned as part of the fabric of popular culture.

Dungeons and Dragons featured in an article in the New Yorker? And not in a snarky ironic way, but a sincerely complimentary piece.

"Dungeons & Dragons nights have spread into classrooms and game stores across the country. Forty dollars in Portland, Oregon, gets you into Orcs! Orcs! Orcs!, a “Tavern-inspired” pop-up restaurant with D. & D. games and artisanal delicacies."
You can see the full article here, its not a bad read:

Oct 16, 2017

Ancient Barsoom had Hydrothermal Vents

It is now a well-understood fact that Mars once had quite a bit of liquid water on its surface. In fact, according to a recent estimate, a large sea in Mars’ southern hemisphere once held almost 10 times as much water as all of North America’s Great Lakes combined. This sea existed roughly 3.7 billion years ago, and was located in the region known today as the Eridania basin.
I really dig this map of Barsoom showing where water once lie on the planet in great seas.

MOLA topographic data, colorized to show the maximum (1,100?m) and minimum (700?m) level of an ancient sea. Credit: NASA/Joseph R. Michalski (et al.)/Nature Communications

Oct 9, 2017

A Princess of Mars adventure

For some time I've had this idea of turning A Princess of Mars into an action packed adventure for the Warriors of the Red Planet RPG. There are a lot of challenges to doing that, primarily that the book is a 1st person account of a single warrior's experience and how to translate that into a party adventure. I look towards Gary Gygax's Dungeonland and Beyond the Magic Mirror modules for inspiration. I think it can be done.
So I had a little fun and concepted a cover for the module. If there is any traction to the idea I'll consider developing it further.

Sep 17, 2017

Sofia Vergara's Husband Plays Dungeons & Dragons

Hello folks, it's been a while since I posted, so I thought I'd come back with this little tid bit. Sofia Vergara Says Husband Joe Manganiello Is a ‘Nerd’ Who Plays Dungeons & Dragons.

This article is a fun little read. And did you ever think D&D would become this mainstream?

Aug 22, 2017

Gen Con 50

With all the preparation for Gen Con, and being so busy at the con I haven't posted much here lately. Time to change that!

I first attended Gen Con back in 2000 when 3rd edition D&D came out. It was mind-blowingly awesome. I attended several years in a row and started showing there when they moved to Indianapolis in 2003. I stopped attending around 2011. I showed there again this year for the first time in years. The Artist Alley has gotten so good, and the show has grown exponentially with the rise of the popularity of boardgames.

This year, the 50th anniversary, they did something special and made a tribute to the first Gen Con with a recreation of the Horticultural Hall and an exhibit of the history of tabletop gaming specifically related to wargaming and RPG's.

I took several pictures. Here are a few to start with:

Recreation of the Horticultural Hall Entrance

Early Gen Con Program Guides

Early Editions of Chainmail

The Original DMG Cover Art!

Dave Sutherland III's Original Iconic Paladin in Hell Drawing

Early Draft of D&D and the Contract Between TSR and Dave Arneson

Aug 15, 2017

What About that Old-School Art Book?

Back in March I announced a plan to publish a sketchbook that featured art inspired by old-school 1970's DnD with fully statted characters, creatures, and adventure locales. What ever happened to that book?

On my schedule I was aiming to have it ready in time for Gen Con 50, which I'll be leaving for tomorrow, and the book is still sitting in very rough outline shape. So, blew that deadline!

The only thing holding me back is finishing the writing and the stats. But that's the hard part for any book, right?  Yeah and so is making all the art, and I have a lot of it. How to solve this? It occurred to me this would be a great project to outsource to the community. The last time I was involved in a collaborative project like that was Petty Gods which I think came out fantastic. However that thing took years and years and passed through different hands. This is nothing like that, nor nearly that ambitious. It is a 32-64 page book, a bit like the fanzines Knock spell and the like.

Would there be any interest or support for a project like that? And how best to manage it?

Well, Google Docs is terrific for writers to collaborate on the same document. Setting it up would require a lot of trust that no one goes in and deletes or wrecks the book. Then there is quality control and editing to deal with.

I've got the start of a document here:

Alternately writers could claim a piece on a spreadsheet and write it in their own preferred word processor and submit that. Like this:

This is an experiment. If there isn't any interest I'll continue plugging away at it bit by bit and eventually finish it.

Here is the folder full of art, not all of it will be used, collaborators would get a higher rez version of the piece they choose to do, and I'll probably be making some more drawings too:

Aug 14, 2017

Half A Million Page Views

This past month this blog passed a huge milestone. According to my stats Page views all time history: 517,568
That's a whole lotta old-school viewing. Some of that is likely bots, and during last year's election there was an unusual amount of traffic from Russia. Seriously. But still, most of that is real traffic.
For those who visit this blog, comment, and share it I want to give a huge thank you. You're awesome! And you help inspire the OSR style books and to keep posting things of interest to the OSR community.

Aug 12, 2017

3-volume Rules Cyclopedia

Dungeons & Dragons 3-volume Rules Cyclopedia. Japan. Mediaworks, TSR Inc.

In 1991 TSR published in Japan a chunky 3-volume Rules Cyclopedia set. Looking at these photos it makes me a little jealous that they weren't published in English too.

Look at how lavishly illustrated, many in full color no less, these books are a real treasure.

For just $425 on this eBay auction you can get your very own set!

Jul 25, 2017

The Sword of Goujian

A new relic for your Raiders! game.

The Sword of Goujian
In a tomb among more than 50 other tombs in Hubei, China lies a near air-tight wooden box held in a tight grip by a skeleton. Inside the box is a perfectly preserved 2500 year old bronze sword that is still sharp enough to slice a stack of over 50 papers at once.

Named after a book, Spring and Autumn Annals attributed to Confucius, the Spring and Autumn period is one of the most turbulent periods in the history of Ancient China. A high number of conflicts between powerful nobles, who fought for supremacy during this period, led to the production of some of the finest bronze high-quality weapons and the Sword of Goujian appears to be among the most outstanding examples.

Measuring 22 inches in length, with a 1.8 inches wide blade and 3.3 inches long handle, the sword is beautifully decorated with turquoise crystals. Eight characters in ancient Chinese script are engraved on the blade near the hilt and translate to: “The Sword belongs to the Goujian, the King of Yue State.”

Possible supernatural powers
If you want to add a touch of magic, or the supernatural, to your game here are some ideas.

The Sword of Goujian gently vibrates in the presence of malevolent spirits. The blade is sharp enough to cut an ethereal creature such as a ghost. It retains its edge regardless of what it strikes, and can cut or even slice such hardened materials as stone or metal. It is +2 and does 3d12 points of damage on a successful hit.

More info here.

Jul 23, 2017

The Dalluhn Manuscript and CONTAX?

Jon Peterson doesn't post often, but when he does it is always very interesting, thorough, and well researched. He found another clue in the ongoing Dalluhn Manuscript mystery that points to when and who (even where) it may be from. I won't steal his thunder, I'll just point you to his blog post about it:

Jul 22, 2017

Erik of Tenkar's Tavern has posted a great interview of Tim Kask he found. The video was posted back in October last year on the Dorks of Yore channel, but I somehow missed it until Erik pointed it out.

Tim Kask talks about the early early days of TSR with lots of anecdotes (and some pie) about those days long ago when this weird little game called Dungeons & Dragons just came out which nobody really quite understood yet. It's nearly two hours long, only meandering occasionally, and a great ride through TSR history.

Jul 21, 2017

XMas in July sale 2017

It is DriveThruRPG's annual big sale. I've included all the Night Owl Workshop products in the sale, so that's 25% off everything.

I'm picking up several things for myself including White Box Gothic, and Dyson's Delves.

Head on over:

Jul 15, 2017

A firefighter, a soldier in full gear, and a medieval armored fighter

"A firefighter and a soldier in full gear bear the same load as a medieval armoured fighter. Which one will perform best on the run?"

This video displayed in the exhibition "Armatus Corpus" at the Military Museum, Castle of Morges, Switzerland is a pretty fascinating comparison. The clip shows how well designed medieval armor really was.

Jul 14, 2017

Raiders of the Lost Artifacts Review

Review of Raiders of the Lost Artifacts on Reviews from R'yleh
what you have is a really fun game supported by lots of useful information and background material. In fact, it would be useful no matter the rules you used as it could be easily adapted were you so inclined, though it would be interesting to see a post-‘Original Edition Compatible’ version of the game. Overall, the impressive background detail and the obvious love for the subgenre is what shines through in Raiders of the Lost Artifacts: Original Edition Rules for Fantastic Archaeological Adventures and makes you want to run games of Pulp action and archaeological adventure.
Overall a positive review. Interestingly one of the criticisms in the review is what has been considered a strength by most players, and that is the simple straightforward character creation system that doesn't get bogged down in much detail. This is an intentional design goal of all these ODD (original design do-over) games. I think the background system addresses some of the issues about character diversity that are brought up, but YMMV.

Link to the review here:

Jul 7, 2017

Cavaliers & Roundheads - TSR's first book

A common misconception is that Chainmail was TSR's first book and out of that came OD&D. The history is much more convoluted and interesting than that.

Cavaliers & Roundheads was TSR's first publication, and the sales were intended to help fund publishing OD&D. In a cruel twist of fate things went awry and the history of TSR became a convoluted mess after that. But that is another story.

OD&D was already well into development when Cavaliers & Roundheads was published. So this game had little impact on OD&D except in a few cosmetic ways. The format of the book: saddle-stitched digest sized. A cover that established the basic layout printed monochrome on textured paper. Plain san serif font body text, clean simple layout. Crude amateurish art.

Cavaliers & Roundheads is like a cliff's notes version of Chainmail. It is succinct, to the point, has no fluff except a couple of pages of art describing uniforms. And it is musketeer-like focused on its topic: the English Civil War of 1642. No dragons, no uber powered Landsknechte, just English, Scottish, and Irish troops battling for the political fate of the Kingdom of England. Even if you're not a history buff you've no doubt heard the famous name Oliver Cromwell, this war is why.


Skimming through it the system appears very similar if not identical to Chainmail. Considering it has the same authors that isn't surprising. I just got this copy and am still reading through it, I hope to get a few play tests in to get a feel for how it works. I've started a post over at ODD74 if you want to follow along as I read and comment on it.

Jun 30, 2017

Beastie of the Week: Gnomblin

Last week the family went to DisneyWorld, while we had a blast we all came back with the plague. So between coughing fits and sleeping from taking too much NyQuil I have managed to draw a few new beasties. I've been fiddling with the description for this gnomblin and while I have lots of ideas, I've got nothing really coherent yet.

In order to get a good post in this week I'm posting this one in very rough form with an outline that kind of shows the process of how I think about generating the stats and abilities for a new beastie.

Big Concept: Gnome + Goblin
Gnomes are kind-hearted, family oriented illusionists, goblins are chaotic little murder machines who hate the light. Common theme: both dwell in the underground and are diminutive in size.

HD 1/2 to 2
AC 13 to 16
 Atk 1 weapon (1d6)
Move 9
Save 18 to 13
CL/XP B/10
Special: -1 to hit in sunlight.

Illusion spells levels 1-3 (define spell list).

A gnomblin has magical ability equivalent to double its hit dice. Gnomblins save vs. magic or wands with a +4 bonus. It is theoretically possible for individuals of even greater power to exist. The Game Master can roll spells randomly or determine appropriate choices from the Magic-User spell list.

I've been developing this idea of goblins being fecund; willing to breed with anything and everything. Because of their unique DNA they are able to create offspring, mostly sterile, with almost any humanoid. This opens up no end of options for interesting little goblin+ hybrids. I've been having a lot of fun drawing these little beasties, and hope you are enjoying them too, I have several more in the pipeline. Also the Gnome/Goblin war of 576 which I have a LOT more to say about in the future.

Jun 26, 2017

Freebooters Review on Save or Die!

The Save or Die podcast reviewed our Age of Pirates old-school roleplaying game Freebooters! And they really gush about it, I'm almost embarrassed, but glad they love it so much. One of the things they note is how painstakingly researched the setting is and how historically accurate it is. This is not a fantasy game! Yes, it does include an optional character class that has magic, but it is respectful of the customs and beliefs of the region during the period and it is purely optional. Everything else about the game is rooted in realism and historical accuracy.

Interestingly one of the members on the podcast has his own YouTube channel, Ol' Man Grognard, where he has reviewed several Night Owl Workshop books. His reviews are worth watching for anyone who enjoys OSR games.

Jun 21, 2017

Comprehensive List of Retro-Clones?

Are you like me and never tire of getting, reading, and sometimes even playing Retro-Clones? Since more are published nearly every week, and there are already so many out there I was curious if anyone put together a comprehensive list.

The problem, obviously, is in the definition of Retro-Clone. Are they all remakes of various versions of early D&D and its sources? Or are they of any RPG from the early 80's and before? Or does the goal post keep moving so that it is any RPG more than 20 years old? (actually, I don't think that is a terrible definition, then it is much like some definitions used for classic cars).

At this point the vast majority of them are of OD&D, Basic D&D, and 1st Edition D&D, with the occasional Chainmail and speculative "what would Gygax have done?" edition.

Fortunately Taxidermic Owlbear has put together a pretty good page of them.

And of course there is this old thread on the RPGSite which is an excellent compilation.

Here are a couple more good compilations:

Jun 8, 2017

Poster: HawkMoor Underworld Cutaway Map

Poster of HawkMoor cutaway map is now available at DriveThruRPG.

I've made a variety of cutaway maps over the years and have occasionally posted some of them here, but this one of the HawkMoor Underworld has been by far the most popular. I've seen it reblogged, pinned on Pinterest, tweeted, and spread around the net in unexpected places. It was one of those drawings where I spilled a bunch of ideas in my head down onto paper one day. You never know which drawings are going to resonate with people, and this one has. So I made it available as a high resolution download, or as a 12"x18" poster map you can put up in your gaming area.

I received my proof copy today and it looks just like I designed it. The paper stock is glossy, the blacks are dark and rich, the touches of color came out as intended. And it comes in a bubble wrapped envelope with card stock to help protect it from damage during transit.

HawkMoor is a fantasy world I've been developing for sometime, really since the beginning of this blog, and piece by piece it has been coming together. If you've followed my Beasties of the Week posts you may have noticed little mentions here and there of this world. I have a lot more things set in this world to share on this blog over the coming weeks and months.

Here is the sell text which I think came out rather evocative (I say patting myself on the back):

Hawkmoor Underworld Cutaway Map

Many dwarven cartographers perished to bring you this underworld cutaway map of the mysterious Lost Realm of Hawkmoor. Revealed for the first time are the Halls of Hammerguard deep under Dragonbluff. See how the Sewer Pits where the wererats lurk are connected to the Tombs of the Ancient Kings under Castle Werthorp.

Far under Hawkmoor are pockets of civilizations such as the Twilight Citadel where underdwellers have built a great city. Deeper still is the city of the dark elves where few dare to venture into unless allied to those sinister and zenophobic beings.

It is even rumored that a submerged city is home to one of the last remaining clans of shahada, the ancient race that spawned the sahuagin, the tritons, and the merpeople.

This large wall map is sure to inspire many adventure ideas and stir your imagination!

Jun 7, 2017

Beastie of the Week: Hoblin

This week is a special two for one. Its been a bit busy around here lately and I've missed posting any beasties in the past couple of weeks. This is a critter I've developed for the fantasy world of HawkMoor (more on that later!). It comes in 2 flavors: naughty and nice. First the less mean one, and then a really rotten little beast:
HD 4
AC 18
Atk ML 1d6, RNG 1d4
Save 13
Move 12
CL/XP 6/400
Special: night vision
When a goblin couples with a halfling a sterile hybrid called a hoblin can be the result. These creatures tend to take some of the more noble aspects from their halfling parentage, but do gain sensitivity to light and the ability to see in the dark.
They also tend to be more feisty and courageous in battle than either of their heritages.
Unfortunately due to their disturbing and unattractive appearance they are often spurned by the halfling community. Goblin clans will also rarely take them in. Thus they often spend their lives on the outskirts of civilization, trying to survive, and hoping someday to find a community that will let them in.

Hoblin, Cruel
HD 4+2
AC 18
Atk ML 1d6, RNG 1d4
Save 12
Move 14
CL/XP 6/500
Special: night vision, stealth
When a goblin breeds with a halfling a sterile hybrid called a hoblin can be the result. 1 in 10 of those will be born with a cruel demeanor. These vicious little monstrosities are cold, heartless, ruthless killers. They cannot adapt to society or a normal lifestyle and will live on the fringes. Stealing and murdering to survive.
Unfortunately for the majority of hoblins this reputation seems to have spread to all of them, regardless of how kind hearted, generous, or honorable the hoblin is.
Cruel hoblins are most often hermits, ambushing prey they believe to be susceptible. In some circumstances they will even eat halfling flesh.
They are extremely stealthy, only able to be detected on a 1 in 6, or even 1 in 8 in nighttime in the wilderness.
They collect any shiny little bits they can find and will have a nest lined with rags, matted hair, and scraps of things they've found or stolen. And while they may seem somewhat animal like they are actually deviously clever and will concoct vicious means to lure in prey.

May 30, 2017

Free Character Sheets! Guardians, Freebooters, and Raiders!

So I'm wrapping up 3 more free character sheets. I found myself fiddling with the Guardians sheet a lot, there are so many ways that the Gifts, Powers, Special Abilities, Limits, Issues, and Gadgets can be layed out on the sheet. Since this is a "Basic Character Sheet" series inspired by the very simple character sheet in the classic Moldvay Red Box D&D set I decided to leave it a bit more generic. If I get feedback on the sheets I can modify them or make more detailed forms. Perhaps even fillable PDF's in the future.

Here are links to the PDF's:




Colonial Troopers Free Character Sheets!

In preparation for Kublacon I made several character sheets. For this one I went back and forth with Steve Perrin the author of Colonial Troopers to get this character sheet right. It is a balance between simplicity and all the information you need to play.

Here is a link to the free PDF:

May 25, 2017

Miniatures for Colonial Troopers? And a Free Battle Mat!

 It's been a while since I talked about the little sci-fi game Colonial Troopers. A surprisingly consistent seller despite the lack of promotion. I have not forgotten this game! I'm working on a character sheet for it right now as well as an expansion book that fleshes out space combat and provides lots of encounter locales and adventure hooks. More on that later.
Right now Colonial Troopers is all about ground combat in powered armor against vicious aliens to protect the colonies of the great Terran Empire that are under constant siege from hostile forces. And for that it might be handy to have some miniatures for those situations you need to visualize the specific placement of the Troopers and their foes. These toys popped up in my Amazon recommended list and is a near perfect collection of figures for the game.
It comes with 35 figures. 15 Marines and 20 Aliens. Each of them come in 5 styles.

The scale isn't ideal compared to your typical RPG miniatures, they are somewhat large. I don't know the exact scale. But for the price they work great as a visualizing tool for ground combat.
Here is the link (my sales associate link so I might get half a penny if you buy them here):

Here is a free Battle Mat I used for these photos

The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan

The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan shares a special place in my memory along side The Isle of Dread as one of the first adventure modules I played.

This ass kicking illustration by Jason Thompson of a group of adventures making their way through the Hidden Shrine is a real treat. It was recently featured in the Dragon+.

I haven't read Dragon magazine since it went all digital. I think I stopped reading during the 3.5 era sometime before the print edition went extinct, but if this is an example of the kind of content it contains I might consider subscribing again.!/article/114737/103426456