Tuesday, September 9, 2014

JMG on Hiatus

Friends, as some of you know, my wife Jodi has, for most of the last three years, suffered from a ruptured ACL. Tomorrow, she is finally going to get the ACL reconstructive surgery she's needed to get back into shape... late always being better than never. While it is a simple outpatient procedure, any and all thoughts, prayers, and good vibes would be most welcome.

So for the next several weeks at least, possibly two or more months, we will be concentrating on her recovery. If I am slow in responding to e-mails and posts, this is why; also, we won't be working on anything for JMG during this time, and I won't be doing much blogging or any gaming, either. We're not avoiding anyone, we are just busy, between my job and her therapy. We'll be back with bells on once she's up and kicking... hopefully much sooner than later!

Monday, July 28, 2014

[Charts and Tables] Instant Rumor/Event Table

Eh, it's Monday, but here's an old table, anyway. I whipped this up some years back to generate instant rumors and campaign events. I threw it together from various sources, mostly the Dominion Events tables from the old Companion Dungeons & Dragons set.

D100   Rumor/Event
01-02   Assassination (d6): 1 Adventurer, 2 Merchant, 3 Guild, 4 Military, 5 Religious, 6 Gentry, 7 Noble, 8 Royal
03-05   Assault/Raid on (d10): 1 Citadel, 2 City, 3 Enemy Leader, 4 Fort, 5 Keep, 6 Ship, 7 Tower, 8 Town, 9 Village, 10 Demihuman Settlement
06-08   Banditry (d4): 1 Caravans/Convoy, 2 Gang Establishment/Hideout, 3 Highwaymen, 4 Muggers
09        Birth in (d6): 1 Adventurer's Family, 2 Ally's Family, 3 Enemy’s Family, 4 Gentry Family, 5 Noble Family, 6 Royal Family
10-11   Bounty Hunt/Posse
12-14   Brawling
15-17   Breakout (d4): 1 Constable’s Barracks, 2 Jail, 3 Prison Camp, 4 Private Prison
18-19   Caravan Escort
20-21   Cattle Drive
22        Comet
23        Coup d'état
24        Courier/Messenger
25        Crusade
26-28   Death [Natural] (d6): 1 Adventurer, 2 Merchant, 3 Guild, 4 Military, 5 Religious, 6 Gentry, 7 Noble, 8 Royal
29-30   Duel (d4): 1 One-on-One, 2 Gang vs. Gang, 3 Gentry Clan vs. Gentry Clan, 4 Noble House vs. Noble House
31-35   Dungeon Rumors
36        Earthquake
37-38   Execution (d8) 1 Bandit, 2 Brigand, 3 Thief, 4 Noble, 5 Traitor, 6 Murderer, 7 Witch Burning, 8 Mistress
39        Exploration (d6): 1 Local, 2 Regional, 3 Neighboring State, 4 Distant State, 5 Distant Continent, 6 Nexus Gate/Portal/New World
40        Explosion
41        Fanatic Cult
42-44   Feud (d6 vs. d6): 1 Gang, 2 Merchant, 3 Guild, 4 Military, 5 Religious, 6 Gentry, 7 Noble, 8 Royal
45-47   Fire/Arson
48        Flood
49        Hunt (d3): 1 Commercial, 2 Big-Game, 3 Monster
50        Insurrection
51-52   Intrigue (d4): 1 Personal, 2 Guild, 3 Religious, 4 Political
53-55   Kidnapping (d6): 1 Adventurer, 2 Merchant, 3 Guild, 4 Military, 5 Religious, 6 Gentry, 7 Noble, 8 Royal
56        Lycanthropic Outbreak
57        Madman/Madmen
58        Magical Happening
59-61   Market: Glut, Shortage
62        Meteor Shower
63        Meteor Strike: Major, Minor
64        New Celebrity Adventurer/Sage
65-67   Personal Escort
68        Pilgrimage
69        Piracy
70        Plague/Pestilence
71        Population Migration (d3): 1 In, 2 Out, 3 Around
72        Pretender/Usurper
73        Religious Schism
74        Rescue
75        Resource: Found, Lost
76-78   Riot
79        Sabotage
80        Salvage
81        Sinkhole
82        Smuggling
83        Spy/Spy Ring
84        Storm/Tornado
85        Swindle/Scam
86-87   Tournament
88-89   Trade Route: Discovered, Lost
90-91   Trailblazing
92-93   Traitor
94        Volcano
95-97   Wandering Monsters: Major, Minor
98-99   War (d8): 1 Internal Border Ambush, 2 Internal Skirmish, 3 Migrating Barbarian/Humanoid Band(s), 4 Migrating Barbarian/Humanoid Clan(s), 5 Migrating Barbarian/Humanoid Tribe(s), 6 Neighboring Border Incursion, 7 Neighboring Border Invasion, 8 Neighboring Border Skirmish

100      Waterspout/Whirlpool

Thursday, July 24, 2014

[Sale] JMG Super-Holiday Sale Ends Friday, July 25th at Midnight!

Yep, the Super-Holiday Sale ends Friday, July 25th at Midnight! So get it while the getting is good!

And now a snippet from a Work in Progress, a Slice of Hell:

THE DAMNED
The greater portion of the population of the Hells consists of the Damned. The Damned are those who sinned against the tenets of their Gods or possessed an Infernal Patron. In Hell they are transformed into Least Demons. So plentiful are these that the Hells are all but overrun with them, condemned to wander the plains, wastes, deserts, and hills of the Hells until either they are destroyed utterly by being consumed to Negation or Transformed into something greater and more terrible.

When the Fallen Soul makes its way to the Hells, it is transformed into a Least Demon, of a rank in power depending on the depth and might of its evil. Check on the following table to determine the fate of a PC or important NPC. First add together the Fallen Soul’s level and Charisma modifier, then roll a die depending on the Fallen Soul’s alignment: LG, LN, NG, TN, or CG +0; LE, CN +1d6; NE +2d6; CE +3d6.

Forms of the Damned
Roll     Form
1-10     Larva (1/2 HD Least Demon)
11-15   Nupperibo (1 HD Least Demon)
16-20   Manes (2 HD Least Demon)
21-25   Lemure (3 HD Least Demon)
26-30   Dretch (4 HD Least Demon)
31+      Unique Demon (1/2 Level HD)

Naturally, if the Fallen Soul had a Pact with an Infernal Patron, and a part of that Pact specified an exacting disposition in the afterlife, then such would apply… to the letter of the agreement, and no more.

LEAST DEMONS: Larvae, Nupperibo, Manes, Lemures, and Dretch are Least Demons, below even Lower-Order Demons in rank and power. They possess few if any powers save that they are immune to any form of Mortal mind-affecting enchantments (sleep, charm, and similar spells); such spells wielded by Demons affect them just fine. They are also resistant to Cold, Electricity, Fire, and Gas, suffering no damage with a successful save and half damage with a failed save. Finally, while in the Hells, they regenerate one hit point per round.

Unlike Living Souls and Lost Souls, the Damned are partially immune to the memory-draining features of food and drink in the Hells; they can never forget their failures and sins, but soon forget all the joys they had in life and lose all hope for any future.

Though they possess no true life-levels, their Dark Energy is measured by the life-levels they possessed in their Mortal Life. Demons and Devils feast upon this power; this power can be temporarily tapped or permanently drained; drained Dark Energy is much more potent than that which is merely tapped. Provided their entire Dark Energy has not been drained entirely, Least Demons re-spawn in Demon Pits when they are slain. Each time they are slain they lose one hit die, until they are re-spawned as Larvae. If they are permanently drained of all their Dark Energy they cease to exist; this is known as Negation. Once a soul has been drained to Negation it ceases to exist, and cannot be brought back, even with the most potent wish.

Least Demons who were of some importance, possessed magical talent, or other special abilities in their Mortal days can possess a Dark Energy, especially those born of noble blood, as such can be important in the casting of spells… or for holding their Immortal Soul ransom against their Mortal family and followers.

LARVAE the lowliest form of Least Demon, possessing merely ½ HD. Larvae are wretches beyond compare, being sickly yellow maggots 1 to 3 feet in length with the distorted faces the Damned possessed in life. They can only speak in screams and hisses, gibbering and babbling, as they inch along at merely 60’ (20’), and can only bite for 1d3 points of damage.
They manifest in great, writhing masses on the various plains of Hell, where they are gathered by the Night Hags; by ancient traditions and treaties, only Night Hags may harvest the Larvae, though foolish Demons, Devils, and visiting fools sometimes try to muscle in on the Hag’s business. Larvae are used as currency by the Night Hags; they are worth 100 gp per point of Dark Energy.

NUPPERIBO are 1 HD Least Demons. They are very nearly blind and deaf, managing only to mew, gibber, blubber, and drool. They are able to bite once per round for 1d3 points of damage. They have the appearance they did in life, but they stand only 2 to 3 feet tall, with rugose graying flesh, wormy tail, emaciated frame, and 1d3 Demonic Features (treat any Extraordinary Power, Weakness, or Oddity roll as “Nothing Unusual”).

MANES are 2 HD Least Demons. They are able to bite and claw one each per round, each dealing 1d3 points of damage. They have the appearance they did in life, but they stand only 3 to 4 feet tall, with rugose graying wormy flesh, and 1d3+1 Demonic Features (treat any Extraordinary Power, Weakness, or Oddity roll as “Nothing Unusual”).

LEMURES are 3 HD Least Demons. They are able to claw twice per round for 1d3 points of damage and bite once per round for 1d4 points of damage. They have the appearance they did in life, but they stand only 4 to 5 feet tall, are fat with a sagging, blobby body, graying skin, and 1d3+2 Demonic Features (treat any Extraordinary Power, Weakness, or Oddity roll as “Nothing Unusual”).

DRETCH are 4 HD Least Demons. They are able to claw twice per round for 1d4 points of damage and bite once per round for 1d4+1 points of damage. They have the appearance they did in life, but they stand only 5 to 6 feet tall, with round, rubbery bodies, thin arms, and spindly legs. They possess 1d3+3 Demonic Features. They possess the following abilities, each of which they can use once per round: darkness (5’ radius), scare, telekinesis (50#); and once per day they can create a stinking cloud.


UNIQUE DEMON: Villains of amazing and potent Evil are transformed upon arriving into the Hells as a reward for their evil deeds. They manifest as Demons with base hit dice equal to half their level in Mortal life, rounded up. Warrior-types will be Demons of Battle; spell-casters usually Demons of Power; those of seductive sort with high Charisma may well end up Demons of Lust; and all others end up Demons of Service. If properly buried with magic items, these manifest in the Hells as Demonic items (though if the original item is looted from their grave, these are lost instantly).

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

[Reviews] Tim Brannan reviews six JMG Products

ENnie-Award Nominee and author of The Witch and Eldritch Witchery Tim Brannan of The Other Side blog has reviewed six James Mishler Games products: Castle Adlerstein and Environs, Chronicles of Mhoriedh Map Pack, Gods, Demi-Gods, and Cults #1: Chaos Queen of Ants, Hercynian Grimoire #1, Ogres of the Olden Lands, and Vampires of the Olden Lands

Monday, July 21, 2014

[Sale] Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and Your Birthday in July!

Don't forget, James Mishler Games is still holding a sale. I know, there are other sales going on right now... but last time I checked, 60% off is way better than 25% off.

And we have a 60% Off Sale running now on most JMG products.

That's like Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and Your Birthday in July!

Obviously, the Pay What You Want stuff is still, well, Pay What You Want.

The new Barbarian Class, at $1, is already a steal.

So here's the list of stuff that is on sale:

Hercynian Grimoire #1, normally $7.95, merely $3.18.

Vampires of the Olden Lands, normally $3.95, merely $1.58.

Ogres of the Olden Lands, normally $2.95, merely $1.18.

Chaos Queen of Ants, normally $2.95, merely $1.18.

So if you've been waiting, take advantage of the sale now, because this isn't going to last... it can end any time.

And a sale like this isn't likely to happen again!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

JMG Gotta Get to GenCon Sale!

James Mishler Games is holding a sale.

I don't normally do this, except on very special occasions, but it is for a good cause. To get me to Gen Con!

Gen Con had been my annual pilgrimage for years, and I could count on less than one hand the number of Gen Cons I'd missed between 1983 and 2008. But then, no more... so I've missed the last five Gen Cons, which is more than I'd missed in the prior 25 years. This year, I've got a shot to go; I've got a badge, I've got crash space...

I just need a bit more cash; sadly, James cannot live on Games alone (eating my games, how sad would that be... but they would be high in fiber), and my car needs unleaded gasoline, not unleaded tin figurines (oh, if only). And, of course, I've got to stop at the Chessex and Gamescience booths and pick up a set of dice from each... it's tradition!

So I'm breaking my rule on having sales, and am now holding a 60% Off Sale on most JMG products. 

Obviously, the Pay What You Want stuff is still, well, Pay What You Want.

The new Barbarian Class, at $1, is already a steal.

So here's the list of stuff that is on sale:

Hercynian Grimoire #1, normally $7.95, merely $3.18.

Vampires of the Olden Lands, normally $3.95, merely $1.58.

Ogres of the Olden Lands, normally $2.95, merely $1.18.

Chaos Queen of Ants, normally $2.95, merely $1.18.

So if you've been waiting, take advantage of the sale now, because this isn't going to last... if I hit my goal, the sale ends. If I don't hit target sales each day... the sale ends, as it won't work.

And a sale like this isn't likely to happen again!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

[Now Available] Barbarian Class for Labyrinth Lord

Well, I finally got around to fixing up that barbarian class I had worked up for Labyrinth Lord... and it isn't even Wondrous Wednesday yet! Will wonders never cease?

Here's the sales blurb:

Barbarian Class
By James Mishler and Jodi Moran-Mishler

This class is designed for use with Labyrinth Lord. The barbarian presented herein is designed to emulate the classic barbarian from Sword & Sorcery literature. To that end the class includes the following abilities:

Proficient Weapons
Battle Rage
Berserk Rage
Fast Movement
Illiteracy
Impressive Physique
Outlander
Tribal Skills
   Desert Tribe
   Hill Tribe
   Forest Tribe
   Jungle Tribe
   Plains Tribe
   Seafaring Tribe
   Steppe Tribe
Uncanny Senses
Wilderness Survival Skills
Battle Cry
Slayer
Barbarian Horde


The class is designed to be used with the forthcoming Barbarians of the Olden Lands supplement, detailing the barbarian peoples of the Olden Lands of the Chronicles of Mhoriedh. However, they can readily be used in any Labyrinth Lord campaign.

9 Pages
MSRP $1.00


Monday, July 14, 2014

[Barbarians of the Olden Lands] Kholmyks, the Witch-Folk of the Mountains

Shortly after the Doom of Elysion, the Mhordlakhy poured forth out of the West, into the lands that now hold their name. There they found a patchwork of petty Guidhel and Kartaghan tribes, descended from wanderers from the East and the South. Most of these they conquered and absorbed, though it was a centuries-long process. One of the tribes that resulted from the merger of Mhordlakhy and Kartaghan clans, the Kholmyks, furiously fought their further conquest and assimilation by the greater Mhordlakh tribes, and thus migrated East, into and across the Mordhlagh Mountains.

There the clans, once home to forest and plain, settled into the forested hills and mountain valleys, and there slowly bred their plains ponies into hill ponies. To this day they are masters of raising, training, and riding their sturdy hill ponies and donkeys; they make a good trade selling geldings and mules to the merchants of Paúkgrad and Szmaüdjypol. Never conquered for any lengthy time by any of the petty princes and kings of their lands, the Kholmyks continue their atavistic clan-based lifestyle in the craggy hills and valleys, from which they debouch in times of war, chaos, and plague to ravage, pillage, loot, and enslave all they can before order re-establishes itself.

However in turn, these cruel and savage slavers often find themselves on the other end of the slave whip. Kholmyk women, often of rare and exotic beauty, are regular targets for kidnappers seeking to sell the beauties in the slave market; thus the universal distrust of men of other races held by Kholmyk men.

RANGE: Primarily Lower Bagaudia and Eastern Mhordlakh, in the hills and valleys of the Mordhlagh Mountains. Some clans have wandered further afield, and can be found in the hill country of the Southern Verdhulann north of the Vale of Lamentation; across the Black River in the western foothills and valleys of the Mountains of Blood; in the forested hills of the Wicked Wood in Strigoria; and in the Black River Hills in the Western Marches.


APPEARANCE: Kholmyk men usually stand 5’2” to 5’8” and are of medium to stocky build; women are slightly shorter and tend to be medium to svelte build in youth, growing stockier with age and child-bearing. Being of mixed Mhordlakhy and Kartaghan descent, they have shimmering, pale, almost translucent light blue skin, reddish-gold eyes, and raven-black hair. Their lips, mouth, and tongue are deep purple rather than reddish-pink.

RELIGION: The Kholmyks, like their Kartaghan ancestors, are usually dedicated to the King of Hell, whom they know by the name Zuulchovek or, commonly, as Pop Bog, “Devil God.” Kholmyks are not so much zealous as they are fatalistic; they figure Pop Bog will get their souls no matter what they do, so they don’t much worry about pleasing him; but then, too, they do not go out of their way to anger him. Thus the Kholmyks are a very superstitious lot, as over the ages various things that apparently please or displease Pop Bog pass into and out of vogue. Currently, Kholmyks fear black cats, adore white dogs, do not trust anyone wearing cloth-of-gold, always wear something red, cannot cross water when a dead body is visible in it, believe blue-eyed women possess the Evil Eye, and grimace and snap their fingers three times each when the God of Law is mentioned.

Kholmyks do not have priests or clergy; their religious needs, such as they are, are served by female witches and male shamans. Kholmyk witches are practitioners of black magic, sourced through the King of Devils as their patron in a quid-pro-quo relationship rather than abject reverence. The magiya, as they are known, do not serve the clan so much as answer to Zuulchovek; they have their own secretive rites and ceremonies, unseen by their own men let alone outsiders. They usually hold their sabbats on the nearest and highest cave-ridden pinnacle, near an entrance to the Underworld, on nights of the New Moon. Together their covens defend the clan and prepare their men-folk for war; otherwise, each witch tends to the needs of her own extended family. Families without a witch tend to be poor and looked-down upon.

Shamans among the Kholmyks are invariably male, and usually few and far-between; perhaps one to three per clan. As a requirement of service as a shaman they must remain celibate; additionally, as magic is believed to be woman’s work, they must also dress and act in all ways as women. Thus they are known as the baba dukhs, or “spirit women.” Their magic is different from the fiendish witchcraft of the Kholmyk women, however. The shamans retain a more ancient form of magic that supplicates and commands spirits, including nature spirits, elemental spirits, and undead spirits, and thus like true witchcraft combines elements of divine and arcane magic. Their assistance is sought only by those who have no family witch or who wish not to seek the help of the family witch.

Neither the witches nor the shamans are overly zealous or forceful about their faith; they are usually a laid-back lot, as they know they won’t get much out of their people, so they don’t push much. They are happy to keep their people safe from the other evils of the world and enable them to engage in their raiding, pillaging, slaving, and slaying, so long as Zuulchovek gets his cut. They are not even overly concerned with their people paying lip service to some other Pagan god; they know that their King of Devils has a greater hold on their people’s soul than any other. The only thing they won’t stand is any interference from the Gregorian Church or the followers of the Dungeon God; such proselytizing clergy as pass through Kholmyk lands are favored subjects for torture and sacrifice.

TRIBAL STRUCTURE: While to the outside world it appears that men rule the clans, as outsiders only ever deal with Kholmyk men – rarely even seeing their women – it is actually the women of the clans who rule. The clan boyan, or lord, acts merely at the pleasure and the orders of the baba magiya, the council of crones, which is made up of all the witches who are also grandmothers. The council of crones makes all long-term decisions of the clan, including when to raid and when to trade. In the extended household, the woman with the most living children is considered the family matron, regardless of age or other ability, though she must take the advice of any magiya in her family.

Once a decision has been made, however, the men must go out to enforce the will of the women. And there they have much discretion, and usually use it as much as they dare. Older men have much respect from the younger, as to live to be a greybeard means one is mighty and wise indeed.

At the top of the clan hierarchy are the baba magiya, all old witches steeped in wisdom and evil. They are served by the other magiya, who lord over not only their own families but also witch-less families. Then there is the boyan and his family (always from a family with a witch), who have a degree of respect, as do the clan champions (boyets). Beneath them are all the rest of the Kholmyks, with those who are olboyani (families that have a living, former boyan with them) being given a further degree of respect. Beneath all are the slaves, usually female concubines and servants, but also sometimes including strong males; any slave can end up being made a sacrifice if need exists, so most are taciturn and terrified. No few are simply enchanted into submission by the clan witches. Note that the children of the concubines are not considered the children of the father; they are often sold off as slaves or even sacrificed.

A clan usually has 10d10 able-bodied 1st level men (usually barbarians, fighters, rangers, or animal trainers), an equal or slightly greater number of women (with perhaps 25 to 40% being equivalent to 1st level thieves, scouts, or doxies), and a number of youths and children equal to the number of men and women combined. For every 10 men there will be an additional 2nd level leader; for every 20 an additional 3rd level; and the clan will be led by a boyan of 5th to 7th level with a cadre of 1d4 4th level boyets. For every five women there will be an additional 1st level witch; for every 10 a 2nd level witch; for every 20 a 3rd level witch; and the council of crones consists of 2d4+1 4th to 7th level witches. In addition there will be 1d3 shamans of 1st to 6th level; one slave concubine per 10 men plus one for each level of each male leader type; and a number of male slaves equal to the total number of witches. There is also a 50% chance of 2d6 recent captives, either being held for ransom, waiting to be sold into slavery, or being readied for sacrifice.

TERRAIN/CLIMATE: Kholmyks are native to temperate forested hills and mountains.

TRIBAL WEAPONS: Battle axe, hand/throwing axe, composite short bow, club, dagger, javelin, throwing knife, lariat, sling, spear, short sword (cutlass-like saber), and staff.

TRIBAL ARMOR: Leather coat, leather armor, studded leather armor, lamellar, scale mail, brigandine; leather coif, pot helm, and spangenhelm (i.e., “normal helm”); small, medium, and large wooden shields.

TRIBAL ABILITIES [LL]: Kholmyks can climb trees, cliffs, and mountains; train and ride hill ponies, donkeys, and mules; herd sheep, goats, and pigs; leap and jump; and imitate animal calls. They are considered native to forests, hills, and mountains.

TRIBAL ABILITIES [C&C]: Animal handling (ponies, donkeys), armor maker, battle cry, bowyer, first aid, horsemanship, horse warrior, scale, sound imitation, all wilderness abilities.

LANGUAGE: The Kholmyk tongue, like the people, is a thorough mix between Mhordlakhy and Kartaghan, with centuries of its own side-development; thus it sounds familiar to speakers of Mhordlakhy or Kartaghan, but is not understandable. It is usually written, when written at all, using a variant of Mhordlakhy script. Usually only the witches and shamans are literate.

MALE NAMES: Altzek, Balamber, Bezmer, Bleda, Chok, Ditzeng, Drogo, Dukum, Ellak, Ernak, Gostun, Grod, Hudbaad, Kardam, Kotrag, Krum, Kuber, Kubrat, Malamir, Mugel, Mundjuk, Ruga, Sevar, Telerig, Teletz, Tervel, Uldin, Vinekh, Vund, Zabergan.

FEMALE NAMES: Arzu, Asli, Ayla, Aylin, Aysel, Aysun, Basak, Belgin, Berna, Bilge, Deniz, Derya, Dilara, Dilek, Ebru, Elmas, Emel, Emine, Esen, Eser, Esin, Evren, Fidan, Gizem, Gonca, Gozde, Hande, Havva, Hazan, Muge, Nergis, Nesrin, Nuray, Ozge, Ozgur, Ozlem, Simge, Su, Tulay, Yildiz, Yonca.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

[Throwback Thursday] Sorcerers of the Wilderlands

Today I’m reminiscing about writing Sorcerers of the Wilderlands; not quite a class-based expansion, not quite a spell-based splat book, and yet still not a monstrous manual, it included a little bit of all three. Sorcerers of the Wilderlands grew out of my infatuation with the classic demon-summoning wizard, a subject that for various reasons was mostly completely discarded from Dungeons & Dragons in the second and later editions.

This was, I feel, an unfortunate development in D&D, as I feel it distanced the game from its Sword & Sorcery roots. Demons and the sorcerers who summon them are a major factor in most classic Sword & Sorcery. Conan faced the demons of Thoth-Amon, Tsotha-lanti, and Zogar-Sag, as did the myriad knock-offs (especially Kothar and Kyrik, who faced demons in virtually every story); even the wizards of the Dying Earth summoned and faced countless such creatures (known as “sandestin,” usually), and the Balrog of Middle-earth was essentially a demon.

And of course, the ultimate BBG of Original D&D was none other than the Balrog. He got a good bit of back-up in Eldritch Wizardry, where they divided fiendish monsters into the classic demons and devils category. But then things took a turn away from the classic demon-summoning sorcerer. As the game developed from OD&D and D&D and AD&D, demons drifted away in favor of more High Fantasy, rather than Sword & Sorcery elements.

In D&D of course, they completely disappeared until Frank Mentzer brought them back in the Immortal-level Rules. They sputtered along in AD&D through the Fiend Folio and Monster Manual II; one can tell that Gary really loved demons, as foes at least, as he continued to add in more demons in his adventures and books. But of course, even he wasn’t so hot on the summoning and use of them, even by NPC wizards, as the spells to do so were all of very high level and highly dangerous.

And then of course we had the D&D Witch Hunts of the’80s, and TSR switched hands, and after that they dared not even call them demons anymore.

But me, I always loved demons, whether they were the small and easily slain kind, the sexy and tempting kind, or the big, ugly, and beat-down kind. I never felt that hordes of goblins, orcs, or even gnolls or bugbears were worthy foes for true heroes and great adventurers. Demons, the kind that nearly flayed the skin from Conan’s back; the sort that cavorted with the arch-wizards of the 21st Aeon; the hordes of such that assaulted Kothar and Kyrik and any of a number of nameless Conan-pastiches – these are true foes meant to die on the end of a hero’s blade.

Fortunately for me, Bob Bledsaw agreed. In fact, demons were a major factor in the wider world of the Wilderlands. Long ago, before I even dreamed of publishing my own Wilderlands under the AGP label, during one of our visits Bob and I had talked about the wider world of the Wilderlands. I remember he discussed the “demon empire” found to the south of the Wilderlands; it filled up the three maps to the south, he said. I, always eager to fill in the further ends of the map, immediately took out a sheet of paper, drew a tall rectangle inside which was a quickly-scribbled representation of the Wilderlands as I knew it (three maps wide, six maps tall), and then three small boxes below, each the size of a standard regional Wilderlands map.

“So,” I asked, “How does this fit?”

“No… no no no. Not three region maps. Three maps each the size of the Wilderlands,” he said.

I stared at him, dumbfounded.

I could not understand; if there was a vast demon empire that big, how on earth was the Wilderlands not overrun by demons? Bob said that it wasn't a single empire, no; the demon lands were divided into numerous empires, each fighting each other, and then each empire was often divided, the various demon lords fighting among each other over petty, foolish points of precedent and power. He then talked long and in detail about the demon society, how it was based on magical power and prowess indicated by one’s demonic features – so many horns, such defined hooves, skin coloration and so forth. He had an entire society he had developed for these demons.

I then asked him why there were no demons in the Wilderlands proper, if there were so many not so far away. He then informed me that I had apparently missed them, because there were plenty of them, especially female demons. I was quite confused, as I did not remember much in the way of female demons being noted in the books.

“Why yes, of course,” he said. “All those houris… those are female demons.”

I’d long before researched houris, way back when I first ran into them in the City State. I’d always figured that from the original religious sources and the context of the setting, the name was simply a replacement for doxy, harlot, or whore; but no, Bob had intended all “Houri” encounters to be with an actual demoness!

So yes, guys… every time your characters were hanging out with houris, you were cavorting with demons!

So some years later, when I finally got Bob to put pen to paper and draw the maps beyond the Wilderlands, I finally got to see the demon empires… and what empires! The Demon Empire proper, the Great Horned Empire, the Lesser Horned Empire, the Chaotic Horned Empire, and all the myriad sub-divisions and ever-competing, ever-warring petty kingdoms and realms.


Turned out that only the elite among the population were actually true, full-blooded demons; most of the residents of the empires were mortals, humans, demihumans, and humanoids long ago enslaved by the demons, who themselves had once been the slaves of the utterly alien and inimical Markabs. The middle-class consisted of the Demonbrood, those descended from mortals and demons; among these were the Houris, which were originally created by the Markabs as a sort of pleasure-demon, to be given to favored servants. Sort of like self-replicating pleasure-model replicants, after a fashion.

The demons one summoned, then, were in Bob’s original vision demons from these empires, summoned so that their masters could gain more mortal souls, and thus more power in the Demon Empires, and gain ever more power and influence in their homelands. Bob’s demons could be visited simply by traveling far enough to the south… if one was mad enough to do so…

Origins of the demons aside, I still wanted NPCs, and even player characters, to be able to summon and interact with demons as I had read of them in the various original sources. And so I concocted my version of sorcery… a kind of magic that, at the basic level, anyone could use in order to summon a Demon Lord. From there, though pacts and alliances, even a fool (and especially a fool) could gain power at the cost of his soul… and those steeped in magic and ancient grimoires could command amazing levels of sorcerous power.

And so, I wrote Sorcerers of the Wilderlands
Sorcerers of the Wilderlands details the demon-allied wizards, priests, warriors, and rogues of the Wilderlands. Sorcery, that special branch of magical might that can be gained only through pacts with demons, is dealt with in detail, including Dark Pacts, Petty Evils, Lesser Evils, Greater Evils, and in depth, sorcerous spells, including special summonings and curses.
 SPELLS: Curse of Choking Doom, Curse of Madness, Curse of the Evil Eye, Curse of the Grotesque, Curse of Rotting Death, Curse of Primal Chaos, Demonfire, Demonground, Demonic Eye, Greater Curse, Plague of Doom, Sacrifice, Soul Rend Curse, Summon Demon Lord, Summon Demon Swarm, Summon Demonic Simulacrum, Summon Greater Demon, Summon Least Demon, Summon Lesser Demon, Summon Nightmare Steed
 Also included are two new monsters: Demonic Simulacrum and Plague Bearer Demon, as well as a new magic item, the Potion of Plague.
 AGP00301, 28-page digest booklet, $6.00 MSRP

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I never offered Sorcerers of the Wilderlands as a stand-along PDF. It was combined with Warrior-Mages of the Wilderlands, an early version of Monsters & Treasures of the Wilderlands, and a preview of the never-published Valley of the Dead Queens in the PDF version of the 2008 Wilderlands Jam, which turned out to be the last PDF product published by AGP.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

[Midweek Mash-Up] Apes, Belkers, Carbuncles, and Dragonnels, Oh My!

It’s been a couple of busy days, so this is a bit of a delayed article. Fortunately, it has a bit of everything… monsters and magic from around the Olden Land… it even has a few small charts. So here are the ABC and D’s of a few monsters of the Olden Lands.

The Olden Lands Map Pack includes a complete listing of major (and many minor) monsters encounter in the Olden Lands and where they are generally located, so you can find out more about the monsters of the Olden Lands in that PDF.

APES
First up, we have the Great Apes found in the Olden Land – the Chimpanzees and Gorillas; their close relatives the Man-Eating Apes, the Dakon, and the Giant Apes; and Albino Apes and White Apes. Orangutans are not found in the Olden Lands; they are native to the islands of the Far West, beyond the Purple Plains and Deshret, and are only rarely encountered in the Olden Lands, usually in menageries or in service to a Western sorcerer. Also, Albino Apes and White Apes will be dealt with another time, as they have little in common with the other Ape groups. And of course, Humans and the Demihuman and Humanoid races all, according to various sages and sorcerers, are distant relatives of these creatures, as the common theory is that the Elder Titans adopted the more successful and widespread proto-Human Ape-like ancestors of these races as their servants.

Most Great Apes are found exclusively in the South; Chimpanzees and Gorillas are native to the Isle of Apes and Mandayan, though a few are found on the various other islands of the Sea of Steam. Once their range was far greater, into Eosha, Kryx, and even Deshret, but in the last few ages these populations were crowded out and exterminated by encroaching Human and Humanoid groups. Chimpanzees and Gorillas of the Olden Lands are more intelligent than their real-world counterparts (Intelligence 8), likely due to evolutionary stress and the direct intervention of deific powers. The Isle of Apes, quite naturally, is their remaining heartland; here it is said that they are protected by their very own deity, the Ape God, though no living man has ever claimed to have seen him with his own eyes. It is on this island that the Dakon, an intelligent race of Apes, can be found, serving the Ape God as acolytes.

Man-Eating Apes, distant cousins of the Chimpanzees, are aberrations of evolution or magic, though not Chaos-magic, as such. Their great size and ferocity is often due to long generations of isolation and inbreeding, combined with being hunted or abused by nearby Human or Humanoid groups. As the common Chimpanzees are more intelligent than real-world counterparts, so the Man-Eating Apes are usually (though not always) also more intelligent, up to and including Human levels of intelligence, including the ability to speak or at least sign. Some of the more isolated groups have developed a full culture, complete with tools, weapons, armor, and architecture, or borrowed such from the nearby Human and Humanoid peoples. Those found in the Yasdunn Jungles of Eosha have been known to fall under the influence of the White Apes of that land.

Giant Apes are rarest of all. These distant cousins of the gorillas, like the Man-Eating Apes, are aberrations, descended from isolated groups of Gorillas cast ashore on distant islands or trapped in rugged interior jungles. Towering creatures capable of fighting giants hand-to-hand, these beasts are, like their Gorilla cousins, usually peaceful, though quick to rage when they are troubled. They are often the objects of veneration and worship by the primitive tribes of Humans and Humanoids that live on their island homes.

BELKER
These strange beasts are not native to the Olden Lands; they are not, in fact, native to this world at all. They fall under the wide and far-reaching rubric of “Cosmic” entities, being not of this world or the elemental fundamentals of this world, nor even of Chaos, but of something else entirely. Sages believe these creatures, made of pure ash and willpower, originate in the great clouds of depleted Stardust that surround the Stars Above. They are created by the passing thoughts of an Elder Titan or similar creature, which gives life and animation to the depleted Stardust.

These creatures must exist in great numbers in the Void Between the Stars, as there have been numerous reports of their falling from the Skies Above down to the World. There they are usually captured and grossly abused by wizards and sorcerers, or flee to some hidden place, where they live out their immortal lives in a pitiable fashion, alone and never able to return to their starry abode in the Void Above. Thus, though not of Chaos, they are hateful of all living things of this World, and though by preference would flee any encounter, of necessity often attack interlopers, seeking a surcease to their bebotherment.

If a belker is slain, its ashes can be used in scribing arcane spells in spell books and on scrolls, being used to create the ink. Every hit point worth of ash of a belker counts as 50 gp in value toward the cost of the scribing of a spell in a spell book or scroll.

CARBUNCLE
The origins of these strange creatures are lost in the mists of time; sages speculate they may be descended from some sort of pet kept by the Titans in the Dawn Ages, while the clergy of the Gregorian Church believe them to be heralds of Chaos. Carbuncles are found on the islands of the Serene Sea and the Sunrise Isles; they can also be found from time to time along the shores of the Sunrise Sea, as they enjoy sneaking on ships to go exploring in the wider world.

Carbuncles of the Olden Lands can range from Small to Large size, with the rarer larger breeds having commensurately larger and more valuable gems; some are even magical in nature, though the creature has no ability to command the magic. Their gems are also variable in color and form; most are like rubies, but some are like sapphires, or emeralds, or opals, or other, rarer sorts. The carbuncle’s rugose skin is colored similarly, with gray or brown stripes, fading to grayish-white shades on the belly.

Though they are not innately Chaotic in nature, their one joy is causing chaos and confusion, sowing distrust and discord, and causing horrible tragic bloody battles and feuds. Though there is no evidence to suggest such, the superstitious believe that their gemstones are as dangerous as the creatures themselves, and bring with them a curse of chaos and discord. Thus the saying among common folk along the Serene Sea, that a person or thing “isn’t worth a carbuncle.” Superstitious peasants avoid those who openly possess or especially wear a gemstone known to be taken from a carbuncle.

* The gem, when soaked in a glass of wine for a day and a night, transforms the wine into a random potion. The potion is determined once when first acquired.
** D8: 1-3 Wizard, 4-5 Illusionist, 6-7 Clerical, 8 Druidic. Divide the carbuncle’s HD by the spell level and round up to determine how many times per day the spell can be used.

DRAGONNEL
Dragonnels are found in great numbers on the Dragon Isles, and in lesser numbers in the Starcrag Peaks, the Dragon Hills in Aurlandia, and the Drachenfels in Gyrax. Dragonnels of the Olden Lands are little different in appearance than their more potent great dragon relations, save that they are smaller in general, more gracile of form, with smaller heads and longer snouts in proportion, and longer legs with smaller claws (note that dragons in the Olden Lands have four legs and two wings). Unlike true dragons, which favor a build more like that of the lizard crossed with the feline or canine, the build of the dragonnel is more along the lines of the lizard crossed with the horse; they stand tall rather than crouch near the ground. They are compared favorably in form as draconic pegasi, though there is no relation between the two creatures.

One in 36 are of superior sort, and possess a fiery breath attack, like but lesser than that of Draco Conflagratio Horriblis (the red dragon). Most are of animal intellect, though some of the greater sort can approach a human level of cunning. None has ever mastered spell-casting, though most have a dim intelligence and can understand complex commands, moreso than a horse, and the more intelligent can actually understand various languages and pantomime conversation. Unlike their chromatic dragon cousins, these creatures are not by nature of Chaotic sort, though most of the wild variety are inimical to Humans and Demihumans, having in the past been trained by or allied with various Humanoid races; plus, most humans cannot tell the difference between a dragon and a dragonnel, and thus they are more often hunted than sought as steeds.

Dragonnels come in a variety of chromatic colors, including not only the usual red, blue, green, black, and white, but also purple, yellow, orange, gray, and brown. Dragonnels born from a single clutch are all of the same color, or a mix of brown, gray, and one other color. There is also a breed, derived from the orange, which has a golden sheen; these were bred by the knights of Aurlandia for use as steeds by the Knights of the Golden Dragon; all such possess fiery breath. The gold dragon allies of the knights are not friendly with these, considering them to be little more than brutish beasts.

Dragonnel eggs can be sold at the appropriate markets for anywhere between 800 and 3,200 gp; hatchlings can be sold for twice as much. Most civilized lands and even many semi-barbarous ones severely restrict the sale and possession of live dragonnels; attempting to sell eggs or hatchlings on the open market can easily earn the wrath of the local authorities.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

[Saturday Night Special] So I've been running this Mutants & Mazes Campaign

Well, last night was a wash. Between running errands, work, and a bout of food poisoning that kept me up till 5 am this morning (and thus caused me to call off at work and finally get some sleep this morning and afternoon), I've gotten nothing done. Missed out on Freeform Friday, and still haven't gotten around to writing a review, so I figure I'll write about my ongoing, irregular Mutants & Mazes campaign I am running.

It is set in the Realms of Murikah, in the Midzee Lands, specifically, in the hilly borderlands between Awbash, Free Ohyo, and the Great Ohyo Forest (starting in Hex 1028, for those keeping track). Here is found a small independent village known as Sanktree; whether the name is derived from Sanctuary or from Saint Tree, no one knows, but the great millennia-old Kwerkus (intelligent and psychically-powerful mutant Oak) that is the leader and heart of the village might mean it is a bit of both. The villagers have always welcomed those who are friendly and seeking shelter, regardless of the reason, provided they were willing to provide for the common defense and work for their own keep.

Near the village is an ancient ruin of stone and glass; there the Professor resides, a pure strain human who has deep knowledge of the artifacts of the Ancients. Some say he is also powerful in the ways of wizardry; but as he is both mostly sane and usually harmless, he is at least not a Sorcerer-Scientist.

The Professor, together with his friends and allies, are the protectors of Sanktree. As such, he recently sent out several young, footloose, and perhaps dangerously bored adventurers on a mission. His "instruments" he said, had been picking up strange signals on the "radio-band frequencies," in a code he believes is used by the pirates of the Midzee. So he sent a group of young adventuresome-types off to check and make sure everything was OK to the north...

Till Millstone (1st level Hobbit Magic-User/Thief) and Killniss (1st level Elf Ranger): Till and Kill were adventurers in 4th Age Middle-earth who went down the wrong tunnels in the ancient ruins of Angband, emerging in this strange new world of weird magic and super-science.

Jesika (1st level Pure Human Cleric of Apollo) and Sol-Re (1st level Mutant Human Fighter/Mutant Master): Jesika is an outcast from the Temple of Apollo in New Manpoor, where her faction (the Greek pro-Mutant faction) recently lost out in an internecine struggle with the Roman anti-Mutant faction (sponsored by the temples in the Empire of Man). Sol-Re, a weak-willed kind of fellow, has been her personal bodyguard ever since he accidentally slew her brother in a battle.

Tinman (1st level Basic Android Fighter) and Lizzardo (1st level Mutant Lizard Mutant Master) are the Professor's adoptive sons; the one found bereft of programming on a battlefield, the other found half-dead alongside a river bank.

Feu (1st level Pure Human Fighter/Magic-user) and Skweeker (1st level Mutant Rat Thief) were also exiles from New Manpoor, Feu having sought shelter from the guild of wizards from which he stole, Skweeker from the band of thieves to which he formerly belonged.

They ran into trouble almost immediately as they traveled north, for at a local crossroad in the trail they encountered a band of Pig-Man; fortunately, they caught them by surprise, and made short work of them. However, now warned that danger was far nearer than they ever expected, they kept on toward Bobburg, the next nearest settlement to the north, with much more caution.

When they reached Bobburg, they discovered that it had recently been attacked; the wooden palisade was still burning. They went in to investigate, and found that everyone was gone... all the bodies, villagers and attackers, had disappeared. When Lizzardo went and checked the tavern/inn on the village green, he found the remnants of the villagers... they had been re-animated as Zombies

Thus began a furious battle between adventurers and zombies, during which the necromancer, Walpurgo, challenged the adventurers from his window in the great suite of the inn. Arrows and even bullets bounced away, for he had some sort of protection against common missiles. Black lightning shot forth from his staff and blasted Lizzardo, who, then flying and shooting wildly, fell to the ground and was quickly consumed by the ravenous zombies. 

But even as he was laughing at this victory, Tinman lifted and aimed his plasma rifle (40 watt range); the magic shell around the necromancer glowed briefly, then faded quickly as its creator was all but disintegrated in the blast.

The adventurers lamented their lost friend, and after deciding that not enough was left for a funeral, went into the tavern/inn to loot the place. There they discovered a slug-like being, cowering and hiding; a Sloogah accountant, the assistant/apprentice of the necromancer. He warned them that if anything happened to him, "they" would be very angry. Then after attempting to get one over on the adventurers with a sleep spell, he was cut down by Tinman.

Up in the grand suite they discovered the ashen remnants of the necromancer, alongside his staff and a pair of night-vision goggles. When they picked up the staff, it whispered dark things to them, so they immediately threw it down and rolled it into a bag. When they tried to get into the chest against the wall, Feu discovered much to his chagrin that the runes he found upon it weren't simply warnings, they were an actual curse! One failed saving throw later, Feu is possessed by a fiend, and cackling "I'll swallow your souls" at his friends.

Sadly, they were forced to kill him, as they had no way of driving the spirit forth. After giving the chest wide berth and throwing Feu's bullet-ridden corpse out the window, they slept for the night. The next day they were awakened by a great horn sounding from the distance. When they went to investigate they discovered that a group of Hwiska vikings, foot and horse, had arrived at the gates, and were calling for Walpurgo. The group thought to bluff their way through things, though they had the halfling (invisible through use of his magic ring of invisibility), behind the leader of the vikings just in case.

Things went down pretty well as expected, and as the leader was giving the order to attack, a halfling appeared on his back, for with a roll of "Natural 20" and an "Instant Kill" roll on the critical hit table, the halfling took out the big-bad in one shot. Sadly, the viking's morale held, and they still pressed the fight. Killniss used his one-shot bazooka device to take out half the vikings in one fell swoop. Then during the battle it became apparent that the herald of the leader was also a Basic Android, much like Tinman, with whom he went toe-to-toe. When Tinman's two-handed sword skewered the herald, it grinned, then clicked, and started counting down... "10... 9... 8..." and everyone, vikings and adventurers alike, ran like hell.

So few were caught in the blast, impressive as it was. The surviving vikings fled, and the party retreated to lick its wounds. They then decided to investigate the rest of the tavern/inn, and were rewarded with finding a secret tunnel in the cellar. The tunnel, it turned out, went to the Bobburg Tower, a great standing stone of glassy black stone that the mysterious, reclusive, and never-seen Bob apparently lived in, or did at one time, for no one in living memory could remember having seen Bob.

The party then discovers why, as the tunnel leads, after some trouble (a big metal gate with push-button lock; "666" being the proper code, of course), to an Ancient underground shelter, where they discover a run-down metal-skinned android. This they give some power, by jury-rigging a power bypass from Tinman. The android Bob greets them merrily, and says he will help them however he can; it turns out that he was the founded of the village, helping refugees after his owners in the complex died of unknown causes. They then use his guidance, fractured as it is, to check out the rest of the complex; all is abandoned, powered-down, the hydroponics section overtaken by living, angry fungi (avoided), and the nuclear power station, after opening the door, obviously irradiated (I warned 'em, I did). All the treasures were long ago looted by Bob to help the people of Bobburg.

Then they have Bob show them the way up, into the tower. There they discover that there are many rooms pristine and un-spoiled, save by time, most with some sort of government-style shield on the wall or official-looking desks. They find several security-bots, most of which seem to be out of power or shut off; one of these, however, comes to life and shoots at them when they try to open a certain door. With a quickness none thought possible of her, Jesika takes out her needler and blasts it, even as with the other hand she takes its slug-thrower from its hand...

And that was where the last session (third session thus far) ended... and we pick up again tonight.

Friday, June 27, 2014

[Throwback Thursday] Barbarians of the Wilderlands 1

So today’s Throwback Thursday was pretty much called out by the OSR itself, as the subject of the Barbarian class in AD&D has been of some issue of late, being discussed both at Tenkar’s Tavern and Greyhawk Grognard.

This is quite pertinent to a major booklet I wrote for the Wilderlands of High Adventure: Barbarians of the Wilderlands 1, which was essentially my attempt to re-create and adapt the Barbarian class presented by Gary in Unearthed Arcana for use with the Wilderlands in Castles & Crusades format. Like most, I had a love/hate relationship with the Barbarian as originally designed. Something always seemed a bit off about it; it did not fit my own personal notions of what a Barbarian class should be like, and it was some years before I understood why.

I grew up, like many, reading the 1966-1977 Lancer/Ace editions of Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories; you know these well, as they were graced by the work of Frank Frazetta, who influenced people’s concept of Conan’s appearance for all time. These are the 12-volume paperback series edited and expanded by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. I also sought out and read a number of the full-blown pastiche novels in the expanded series by various publishers, most notably by Tor from 1982 on…


Gary often mentioned the strong influence the Conan stories had on Dungeons & Dragons from the start; it would be fair to say, I think, that it was the sword and sorcery of Conan that had a greater influence on him than the high fantasy of Tolkien's Middle-earth, though even the Conan stories take a back seat to the picaresque tales of Jack Vance’s Dying Earth. Gary probably read the original Gnome Press compilations of Conan, the first collections of the stories originally released from 1950-1957; this was the first time they were compiled since they were published in Weird Tales from 1932 to 1936.

But strong the influences were, and yet, from the outset of the game, a “barbarian class” was nowhere to be seen. I think that this might come from recognition that, as adventurers go, Conan was quite unique. Though he was a barbarian, and quite proud of that origin, he was so much more than “just another barbarian.” By the end of his career, he was highly educated, perhaps the most well-traveled adventurer of his day, and has been so many more things than just a simple barbarian.

Conan was unique even among his own people. Though given to their black moods and melancholies, he rose above his grim-minded cousins and went into the wider world. Remember, no civilized person who had not spent time on the Cimmerian border ever mentioned having ever even seen a Cimmerian. Conan was not merely a barbarian, he was an aberration, and his career, though hardly unique (as we meet many adventurers in the Conan tales) was the broadest and deepest of its kind in its day, from a street-thief in Zamora to a king in Aquilonia.

Conan wasn't just some thick-skulled barbarian. Rather, Howard’s Conan wasn’t; he was something else, something unique, altogether. However what Conan, the literary character did was launch an entire genre of literature, the Sword & Sorcery genre, with a distinct sub-genre in emulation of Conan himself, the Barbarian Genre. This, I think, is where far more influence on the “Barbarian Class” came from; not Conan himself, but the other barbarians of pulp literature that later followed. As I, and I think many, missed out on these characters, the Barbarian class as presented in Unearthed Arcana always seemed a bit off… as it didn't really emulate Conan much at all, nor did it really intend to...

Dig deeper into Appendix N, and you will find the real fathers of the Barbarian class… Fafhrd of Lankhmar (1957, Fritz Leiber, published by Gnome Press, the second publishers of Conan stories); Thongor of Lemuria (1965, a Conan pastiche by Lin Carter, ere his work on Conan); Ganelon Silvermane of the Gondwane series (1974, again, Carter); and Kothar and Kyrik (1969 and 1975, respectively, both by Gardner Fox). And these are merely the barbarian characters who made the cut to both get published books (rather than mere stories in various magazines) and get mentioned in Appendix N.

Pulp fiction was rife in the late ’70s and early ’80s with stories with barbarian characters who had been inspired by Conan, and Gary had read, at the very least, many of the most prominent of them. I believe that it was these barbarian characters, rather than Conan himself, upon which Gary's Barbarian class was based. That, I believe, is why the Barbarian class never rang true with me, in relation to the Conan stories I had read. It was not until more recently that I was able to acquire the Kothar and Kyrik tales, and put all the materials therein in conjunction with what I knew about Fafhrd, Thongor, Ganelon, and the other barbarians of the later pulp era (notably Brak the Barbarian, by John Jakes, published first in 1968).

Suddenly, after reading these stories, the Barbarian class as Gary designed it made a whole lot more sense. It was never meant to emulate Conan; it was meant to emulate these other barbarians, inspired by what the readers and writers thought Conan was all about. These other barbarians are more like stripped-down versions of Conan, focusing on the caricature of the barbarian rather than the character of Conan himself, as of course each author had to develop his own character separate and distinct from that of the “original” barbarian.

So anyway, this realization came upon me long after I had published Barbarians of the Wilderlands I. In it, I developed the Barbarian class as I felt it should have been, if written for use with Castles & Crusades. It included many of the core elements that made Gary’s Barbarian distinctive, but also was designed more with emulation of Conan in mind, notably with the addition of the Versatility class ability, which allows the barbarian to adapt to the society and cultures around him as he travels about on adventures. In essence, I created a “Conan-style” barbarian and left the barbarian class as developed in Castles & Crusades (itself a development of the barbarian in Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons) as the more “generic barbarian,” or “savage warrior,” as I re-name the core C&C barbarian class in Barbarians of the Wilderlands I.

Here’s the sale’s blurb:

From beyond the Pale they stride. Grim, mighty-thewed, born on battlefields and raised amidst wolves and lions. A road of red ruin they wreak across the civilized lands. From the cold north, the burning wastes, the boundless plains, and the fetid jungles they come, finding civilization wanting, but wanting all that civilization can give... and whatever they can take...
 Barbarians of the Wilderlands 1 features an alternative barbarian class for Castles & Crusades; tips on how to work both the original barbarian class (renamed "savage warrior") and the barbarian in together in urban and rural civilizations; plus listing and details on the major barbarian nations of the Wilderlands. If you prefer a barbarian class based on classic pulp Sword & Sorcery themes, this is the class you have been looking for...
 The new barbarian class abilities include: Native Arms & Armor, Primal Rage, Resilience, Savage Glory, Sixth Sense, Tribal Abilities (Animal Handling, Armor Maker, Battle Cry, Berserkergang, Bowyer, Canoeing, Demon Slayer, Fast Movement, First Aid, Horsemanship, Horse Warrior, Jumping, Languages, Master Armor Maker, Master Bowyer, Master Weapon Smith, Runes, Running, Savage Horde, Savage Retainers, Scale, Seamanship, Signaling, Sound Imitation, Swimming, Weapon Smith, Wilderness Abilities, and Wizard Slayer), and Versatility.
 Versatility is the great ability of the barbarian, as it enables him to learn the skills and abilities he needs to operate, excel, and conquer in the decadent realms of civilization.
 The new barbarian class can be used with any Castles & Crusades campaign!
 Plus, this booklet also includes details on nine barbarian nations of the Wilderlands of High Adventure: Altanians, Amazons, Karakhans, Karzulun, Mgona, Moonrakers, Skandiks, Tharbrians, and Valonar.
AGP00251, 36-page digest booklet, $7.00 MSRP

I like to think I pretty much succeeded in my goal of creating a more Conan-esque barbarian class. It was certainly one of the more popular AGP product, both in PDF and print format, and is a “Copper Seller” on both DriveThruRPG and RPGNow.

The class itself, however, is less than half the book. The rest is taken up with details on the specific major barbarian peoples of the Wilderlands, brief two-page spreads detailing the history and origins, range, appearance, religion, tribal structure, terrain and climate, favored weapons, favored armor, specific tribal abilities, languages, and names of nine major barbarian nations. So there is a ton of information on the Wilderlands of High Adventure in the book, too. It was the brief write-ups that eventually inspired me to go all-in and write up a complete guide to the Tharbrians… which as I mentioned earlier, didn't sell quite as well.

Finally, I should note that the tome is called "Barbarians of the Wilderlands 1" as a second volume was in the works. That volume was to include the barbarian nations of Karak, to go with the map of Karak, and to include numerous important barbarian NPCs from around the Wilderlands. That volume was only ever partially completed ere I folded AGP. You can find some of the NPCs I wrote up in early posts on the Google+ fan site for the Wilderlands.

I also later went on to put together a Barbarian class for Labyrinth Lord and publish it on my personal blog; this one needs some more work on it, I think. Maybe I’ll finish it some day and combine it with some tribal write-ups for the Barbarians of the Olden Lands… hmmm…


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

[Midweek Roundup] First week of the Dailies is in!

So far the experiment in trying to write a post a day is working. Just in case you've missed them, here's a run-down of all the posts I've made on the this blog in the last week:

Wednesday June 18th: The Dailies!
Wednesday June 18th: [Wondrous Wednesday] Mageglobe, Magewand, and Ring of Defense
Thursday June 19th: [Throwback Thursday] Tharbrian Horse-Lords or Up Harzburk! A Morguhn!
Friday June 20th: [Freeform Friday] Stone Heads, Talking Paintings, and Spoon Goddesses
Saturday June 21st: [Free RPG Day] Remember, Olden Lands, Midzee and Adlerstein are PWYW
Saturday June 21st: [Saturday-Night Special] So I ran some v3.5 tonight...
Sunday June 22nd: [Sunday Driver] Touring the Olden Lands
Monday June 23rd: [Monstrous Mondays] Gyflegyr
Tuesday June 24th: [Chart and Table Tuesday] Bandit Clerics of the Olden Lands
Wednesday June 25th: [Wondrous Wednesday] Devil's Leap, Pit of Ghouls, and Throne of Thunder

Here's hoping I can keep this up... regular writing keeps the ol' mind going, and the more I write, the more I can write...

[Wondrous Wednesday] Devil's Leap, Pit of Ghouls, and Throne of Thunder

For today’s Wondrous Wednesday entry, I am providing three of the many interesting magical and wondrous locations found in the Olden Lands:

DEVIL’S LEAP
This hill is found in the Adlerbergen in eastern Gyrax, upon the shoulders of the Wunderspitze, or Wonder Peak, at the southeastern verge of the Central Adlerbergen. One of many storied and legendary locations in that region, the Devil’s Leap is a tall conical hill; it is barren, a boil amidst the green pastures of the high vales, and though well below the snow line, it is still always chilly upon the hill, even in deepest summer.

At the peak of the hill is a pentagonal cracked black stone, the size of a large altar and just large enough for one person to stand upon easily. If one does so normally, it affords a lovely view of the surrounding region. If one does so during the Witching Hour (3 am to 4 am), one can magically leap from the altar to any other point in the World Above. Legends say that one must call upon the King of Hell to do so, but in fact, no such invocation is necessary. One merely needs to visualize the destination, even if he has never been there, and leap from the altar. If the location is merely a fable or a false rumor, the leaper ends up in the place that most resembles that location.

The leap is automatic, but not instantaneous. One flies through the air at 666 miles per hour. The trip can thus be quite long and cold, with the only companions being the stars and perhaps the moon. While the leap is automatic, the landing is where the difficulty lies. At the landing, the leaper must make a saving throw versus Magic; if the save succeeds, the leaper successfully lands unharmed. If the leaper fails his saving throw, he suffers 1d6 points of damage per point by which he failed the saving throw.

Use of the Devil’s Leap is considered a Chaotic act, and permanently stains the soul, as it is an aspect of the Underworld, an extrusion of Chaos into the World Above.

PIT OF GHOULS
Upon the southern shores of the Serene Sea, between the Titan’s Gulf and the Eoshan Deep, along the northern shore of Kryx there stands the Desolation of Makkarash, a terrible wasteland of rock and sand, accursed of old by the Titans themselves. At the heart of the wastes and along the shoreline of those fearsome waters, within sight of the Isles of Ghouls, is the ruined city of Makkarash. A place of strange towers, worn black temples, ramps to nowhere, and non-Euclidean structures, one of the most prominent ruins is an ancient temple complex.

At the heart of this complex, deep beneath the earth, lies the Pit of Ghouls, said to connect to all the tunnels of all the ghouls everywhere they may dig in the Underworld. And of course, even hedge wizards know that ghouls have access to every crypt, necropolis, and catacomb ever dug by man, and have even found their way to every corner of the Numberless Hells. Thus, this site is a true nexus point of the Underworld, from which virtually any other location in the Underworld can be accessed.

Of course, that access would come with a steep price, for the Pit is, after all, the heart of ghoul activities in the Olden Lands. The nearer caverns are a virtual ghoul metropolis, where the flesh of the dead is sold in bazaars side by side with the living flesh of slaves; such is often the end of those captured from the World Above by other races of the Underworld, sold on down the line from slaver to slaver, to end up on the block only to be added to the larder of the ghouls, fleshed up only to be slaughtered and buried for proper fermentation…

But too, other things, lost things found and things better lost, can be found for sale in the lich-light glow of the lamps of the markets of the ghouls. Here necromancers and sorcerers abound; dark-order witches congregate and revel; and the other denizens of the Underworld feast and fete, trade and talk, for the Pit of the Ghouls is neutral ground, held sacrosanct by all, for the penalties exacted by the ghouls for breaking their peace are unspeakable.

THRONE OF THUNDER
Deep in the heart of the Thunder Peaks of eastern Elysion, in a vast bowl formed by the tallest mountains of the range, stands a vast, crumbled ruin. Here it is said that long ere the Elysians arrived out of the Dawn Lands, the Storm Giants possessed a great kingdom, with the ruins being their great capital city. At the heart of the ruins, high atop a central peak at the heart of the bowl is a huge throne made of shimmering blue stone.

Long ages of rain and weather have beaten the stone down, but even today, countless millennia after the last of the Giant Kings sat upon it, it still possesses a magnificence beyond that of any mortal throne. Standing a total of 36 feet tall, the blue stone shimmers with power; a distinct smell of ozone permeates the air, which crackles and pops randomly. Those who stand within 100 feet of the throne feel distinctly uncomfortable; those wearing metal armor must make saving throws against Magic every round or suffer 1d6 points of damage from small arcs of lightning that strike from the throne.

Any intelligent mortal being that clambers up the throne and sits upon it must make a saving throw versus Magic or suffer 6d6 points of lightning damage; those who save suffer only half damage. The save only ever need be made once, as thereafter the throne has taken its price. After the initial round of shock, the one sitting upon the throne can call upon the throne’s powers:
  • He may concentrate and view any location within the Thunder Peaks as though he were an eagle high in the skies; this does not include the ability to hear sound.
  • Any spot he can see in the Thunder Peaks using the above ability can be made a target for lightning bolts from the blue, one per minute, each dealing 8d6 points of damage. The bolt is as though cast by a 20th level wizard. If the target is within physical line of sight from the Throne (i.e. within a 270-degree arc facing the front of the throne) the bolts deal 12d6 points of damage and can be flung once per round.
  • While seated upon the throne the one so seated may speak Gygantos, the tongue of giants. After each time the user speaks with giants thusly, the one so seated may make an Intelligence check; if successful, he has permanently learned how to speak Gygantos (Giantish).
  • One who is seated upon the Throne, and who speaks Gygantos, may meditate upon the throne for one week (seven straight days), seeking insight into the Thyrsar Runes used in ancient Giant Magic. If after one uninterrupted week he makes a successful Intelligence check, he has gained insight into a single rune, and masters its magic.
  • If the person seated on the throne is a wizard, he may meditate upon the throne and thereby gain wisdom into spells that are lightning based. Such counts as magical spell research, with each day seated upon the throne in meditation counting as a day spent in research. No cost in gold or other materials is required for this research. At the end of the needful time to research the spell desired, the wizard merely checks to see if he has learned the spell, then if successful may write it down in his spell book (at the usual cost for scribing a spell).

Every time the user masters a new rune or learns a new lightning-based spell there is a chance that he is polymorphed into a storm giant. The chance is 1% per level of spell learned and 1d3% per rune learned, cumulative over time. There is no saving throw against this effect; however, the new storm giant must make a saving throw against Magic or go insane, homicidally and maniacally so, being transformed into a being of pure rage and hatred. In the case of a player-character who makes his save, the character is retired and turned over to the Judge for use as an NPC.