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.