Friday, October 9, 2015

Ghosts -- The Incorporeal Undead Designer's Notes

I started thinking about designing some new ghosts for Labyrinth Lord when I first wrote the Spontaneous Generation in the Dungeon article for my blog. I realized at the time that there were actually very few ghostly monsters in the canon – wraiths, spectres, groaning spirits, and ghosts being the only incorporeal undead. And all of these were of rather high power and, with their life energy draining ability, horribly lethal...

So I set out to fix that hole in the low-level incorporeal undead section of the monstrous corpus. I figured I’d work up a couple low-hit die, low-power ghosts…

As is usual with me, though, things kind of got out of hand from there. My little five-pager grew into a whopping 64 pages, with a complete list of 10 different basal ghostly types, 75 ghostly special abilities, 23 new magic items, interpretations on scores of spells, a whole new system for ethereal sensitivity, and in-depth analysis and rulings on every element that might affect interaction with ghosts, including the development of the uses and dangers of ectoplasm.


I started on September 16th, and wrote 55,859 words in 22 days, averaging just over 2,500 words per day… my best rate of writing in years, and this while working a full-time job.

At times, I literally felt like a man possessed, especially once I’d decided I wanted this to be a comprehensive look at ghosts. I delved deep into my classic comic-book education, having grown up reading Casper as well as all the various weird and spooky comic-books that were “never really meant for kids,” but we all read anyway. I dredged up all my memories of the creepy movies and eerie TV shows I’d seen, and all the old ghost stories and Gothic literature I’d devoured in my college days.

And I’d determined that there was a LOT of stuff that could be used in a ghostly RPG supplement!

First I sketched out the 10 different basal ghost types, wanting to have something for everyone at every level of adventure. I penciled in the basic attributes, especially the weapon immunities, touch damage, and life-draining abilities of the existing ghost, created a spectrum from weakest to strongest, and varied that with basal Armor Class improvements as the hit dice improved.

The original scheme with the four original ghosts worked fairly nicely, with a regular power curve matching fairly well to hit die progression (though the original ghost kind of blew that with some of its odd resistances). So I adjusted things here, jiggered them there, and made things fit… though I felt that a 1 hit die ghost with life-level draining was too much of a danger. So for the “lesser ghosts” as I termed them, I implemented the fear attacks, rather than life-level draining, which seemed more in line with the existing myths, legends, and ideas about low-power ghosts being merely scary rather than deadly.

This also quite naturally broke the two types of ghosts, lesser and greater, into a natural “tragic” versus “evil” sort of ghost, though of course, the two origins often meet and mesh. This allowed for less powerful but still dangerous ghosts that players could interact with in a manner that was not immediately violent and deadly.

I then scoured my memory for all the different things I’d ever seen ghosts do in stories, comic-books, TV shows, and movies, and from there built out the ghostly special abilities section. I eventually just had to limit the special abilities to 75; there are naturally an infinite number of abilities possible, but these cover most of the broadest possibilities.

My interpretation of ectoplasm is based both on the old, classic form of ectoplasm “experienced” during the age of spiritualism and, naturally, ectoplasm as developed in the Ghostbusters movies. Because ectoplasm is… Just. So. Cool. Of course, modern Ghostbusters-style technology and classic mysticism don’t quite mix, so I cloaked the modernisms in a techno-magical pseudo-steampunk style, ergo the various techno-magical devices for capturing and imprisoning ghosts and using and developing ectoplasm.

The many uses of ectoplasm, and their dangers, are a natural outgrowth of the same in Ghostbusters… and of course, what player or Labyrinth Lord worth his dice doesn’t love experimenting with powerful and extremely dangerous new forms of magic?

So too the evolution of Sixth Sense, Sensitives, and Mediums, the development of which were influenced both by the classical spiritualism movement and another movie, in this case, Ghost. And, like ectoplasm, and distinctly unlike the Vancian magic system, use of these abilities is uncertain and, in many cases, extremely dangerous… and thus extremely tempting for use by players, no doubt!

Finally, of course, no exhaustive look at ghosts would be complete without developing the reasons and methods of their creation, their continued existence, and how that and their natures interact with the use of various spells. Add in a few more spells, and some general rulings for broad circumstances, and we were almost done…

The Creepy Appendix N provides plenty of leads for interesting and useful information on ghostly adventures and campaigns.

Throughout the writing of Ghosts -- The Incorporeal Undead, my wife Jodi was both an inspiration and sounding board. Her knowledge of magic, the mystical, and the spiritual astounds me, as does her boundless creativity and support, without which none of this would have been possible.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

[Now Available] Ghosts -- The Incorporeal Dead

Ghosts – The Incorporeal Undead
By James Mishler and Jodi Moran-Mishler
 64 pages * $16 MSRP * JMG 00704

On sale for $6.66 through Halloween!

Designed for use with Labyrinth Lord, compatible with most Old School style fantasy and science-fantasy RPGs.

Ghosts – The Incorporeal Undead includes everything needed to develop and use ghosts in your Labyrinth Lord campaign.

Deadly Details on Fear Attacks and Life Draining Touch!

Eerie Information on the Incorporeal powers of ghosts and other Undead Special Abilities!

Full disclosure on the Sinister Sixth Sense, Scary Sensitives, and Mysterious Mediums!

Ten different base ghostly types, covering each hit die from 1 to 10 hit dice, with countless thousands of combinations of 75 different ghostly special abilities!

Secrets of the uses and dangers of Uncanny Ectoplasm!

An expose of Eerie Enchanted Items!

Scads of rulings on Spooky Spells, new and old!

And a (relatively complete) Creepy Appendix N!

What more can you ask for?

How about protection from the Terrifying Table of Contents of…

   Fear Attack
      Fear Effects Table
      Spawn Ghost
      Powerless in Sunlight
      Weapon Immunity
   Life Draining Touch
      Spawn Ghost
   Undead Special Abilities Package
      Poison Immunity
      Silent as the Grave
      Susceptible to Turning
   Other Special Abilities
      Special Ability Notation
   Incorporeal Undead Summary Table

   Presence (1 HD Lesser Ghost)
   Apparition (2 HD Lesser Ghost)
   Lost Soul (3 HD Lesser Ghost)
   Wraith (4 HD Greater Ghost)
   Haunt (5 HD Greater Ghost)
   Spectre (6 HD Greater Ghost)
   Spirit (7 HD Greater Ghost)
   Wyrd (8 HD Greater Ghost)
   Phantom (9 HD Greater Ghost)
   Geist (10 HD Greater Ghost)

   Ghostly Special Abilities
   Uncanny Ectoplasm
   Eerie Enchanted Items
   Spooky Spells
   Creepy Appendix N

List of Ghostly Special Abilities
   Acid Ghost
   Alien Ghost
   Ancestral Ghost
   Animal Ghost
   Animate Corpse
   Armored Ghost
   Blinking Ghost
   Bloody Ghost
   Chained Ghost [Earthly Remains]
   Chained Ghost [Location]
   Child Ghost
   Create Remnants
   Cursed Ghost
   Damned to Walk the Earth
   Demon Ghost
   Dream Killer
   Drowned Ghost
   Drunken Ghost
   Ectoplasmic Blast
   Ectoplasmic Touch
   Embodied Ghost
   Entropic Attack
   Environmental Ghost
   Fast Ghost
   Fiery Ghost
   Fortean Apportation
   Friendly Ghost
   Frightening Ghost
   Frost Ghost
   Ghost Lover
   Ghost Magician
   Ghost Object
   Ghost Priest
   Ghost Ship
   Ghost Sovereign
   Ghostly Head
   Guardian Ghost
   Headless Ghost
   Hungry Ghost
   Keening Ghost
   Laser Ghost
   Lifelike Ghost
   Lightning Ghost
   Material Susceptibility
   Monster Ghost
   Nanny Ghost
   Negative Energy Blast
   Nightmare Ghost
   Object Animator
   Pipeweed Ghost
   Plague Ghost
   Poison Ghost
   Possess the Living
   Radioactive Ghost
   Robotic Ghost
   Shackled Ghost [Item]
   Shrouded Ghost
   Skull Thrower Ghost
   Special Immunity
   Spectral Music
   Spectral Steed
   Stuck in Time
   Tasked Ghost
   Thunder Ghost
   Trickster Ghost
   Unwitting Ghost
   Vengeful Ghost
   Wandering Ghost
   Warning Ghost [White Lady]
   Wind Ghost

Monday, July 13, 2015

[Now Available] Myrkridder -- The Demonic Dead for Labyrinth Lord

Myrkridder -- The Demonic Dead details eight new undead creatures loosely inspired by old Norse myth and legend; includes 20 unique Myrkridder; and includes rules for the Myrkridder character race and Myrkridder class. Tired of the regular run-of-the-mill skeletons, zombies, and ghouls? Throw the Myrkridder at your players... undead with souls ripped straight from Hell!

This 17-page book includes eight new monsters for Labyrinth Lord:

Myrkridder Carrion Steed
Myrkridder Champion
Myrkridder Hag
Myrkridder Minstrel
Myrkridder Myrkulf
Myrkridder Outrider
Myrkridder Sergeant
Myrkridder Soldier

d20 Unique Myrkridder NPCs

Myrkridder Player Character Race and Class

Note that this is a living document... it will be updated on an irregular basis, with new material and art, and the price will increase as the material increases and art is added. So buy in when it is cheap and reap the benefit of free updates!

Latest Update (7/17/2015): Added the Myrkridder Minstrel and the Myrkridder Myrkulf. Price increased to $1.50.
Previous Update (7/16/2015): Added Myrkridder Player Character Race and Myrkridder Class

Previous Update (7/13/2015): Added d20 Unique Myrkridder

The Demonic Dead
By James Mishler and Jodi Moran-Mishler
17 Pages, 14 Pages of Cool Stuff
$1.50 -- STILL CHEAP!

Monday, March 23, 2015

[Now Available] Demi-God Race for Labyrinth Lord

Well, here's a bit of something new...

This Demi-God race is provided for those seeking to run a campaign inspired by the struggles of demi-gods to live among mortals. Such are the tales of the Greek demi-gods from the Heroic Age, of the Iliad and Odyssey; of the descendants of Odin among the early Migration Era tales of the Germans and early Vikings; or the tales and legends of the great heroes of India such as the Mahabharata.

Note that the abilities of the demi-god are mostly balanced out by the fact that her divine parent's enemies, inherited along with her abilities, will often seek her out to destroy her or seduce her to their side. It should also only be used in a campaign where the Labyrinth Lord has the players roll 3d6 for ability scores, limiting accessibility to races appropriately.

Demi-God Race
By James Mishler and Jodi Moran-Mishler
JMG 00502
8 pages, 5 pages of Good Stuff
Pay What You Want!