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All Through the Long, Dark Night (5e)

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 05/02/2020 - 11:11
By William Fischer Sneak Attack press 5e level 1

In generations past, the villagers of Widderspire marked the eve of the winter solstice by leaving out gifts for a fey creature named Ember John. After the Aruandans conquered the Runewild, Aldric Widderspire, the village’s new lord, became determined to end this practice. He trapped Ember John in an iron cage and sunk the fey to the bottom of Widderspire Pond. Today, the inhabitants of Widderspire commemorate Ember John’s defeat by gathering around Widderspire Pond each winter solstice to exchange gifts, drink warm cider, and skate on the pond’s frozen surface. Though banished from the mortal realm, Ember John is still alive. Recently, one of John’s sprites, the icy-hearted Jack-o’-Frost, located John in a frozen corner of the Fey Realm. Instead of setting free his master, Jack stole John’s magical staff and proclaimed himself the “Lord of the Long, Dark Night.” Jack and the other sprites now head to Widderspire to seek vengeance against the mortals who defeated them nearly a century ago.

This thirteen page adventure presents a winter-festival gone wrong and a journey in to the fey realm with a couple of combats and a decent number of skill checks. It’s got a coherent plot that is fresher than most, without pandering to the “gimmicky christmas special” components that ruin so many seasonal adventures. I can take exception with the skill check mechanism and the DM text length, but overall it’s not a disaster and provides a compelling vision of a fey centered campaign world without going over the edge.

Yeah! Solstice Winterfest! Cider, ice skating, roasted acorns, gifts, maybe a mistletoes kiss! And then the frozen pond cracks and some icy fey come out, killing some villagers and freezing others in a block of ice. Rumor has it that Ember John the fey is imprisoned under the ice, and his bag of embers can warm anything up! Down in to the pond you go to find Ember Johns Prison and get the bag of embers. All of which means fighting three ice mephits and a giant toad, as well as a bunch of skill checks.

The theming here is very good. I am quite fond of a fey adventure, or, more specifically, a folklore-like adventure. Done well they summon up those half remembered tales from childhood and books and become more than the sum of their parts. The winter fest in this, with its ice skating, mistletoe, roasted acorns, and the like, helps sets the idyllic mood. It’s seasonal without pandering to a certain holiday, being more solstice party and without any overtones that would lead the party to believe that something evil is going on. Its well done. And, then, the journey in to the icy pond through the crack, the ice toads cave under the pond, with great icicles hanging from the ceiling and swirling vortex of snow that’s a gate to the fey realm. A powerful blizzard to fight through to reach a peaceful winter glade, and Ember John in a cage made of iron to keep him contained … his only responses being grins and smiles. And, of course, a bag of embers. This all feels wintery and folklorish without it going overboard. I like the elements and I like how they fit together, which is something I seldom say. I take it this is a part of a series of adventures and an campaign setting, and it’s something I want to know more about based on just this adventure.  Quite the compliment indeed!

I’m not a big fan of the skill checks in this adventure. Some of it is preference, some of it is tuning, and some of it it just badly done. DC 8 to ice skate or fall. DC 8 to puck an acorn out of the fire without taking 1 HP of fire damage. DC8 to blah blahblah. DC 8, 10, 12, 15 to remember something about the legend of Ember John. This feels either like rolling for the sake of rolling dice or guarding certain information behind dice rolls. Just tell the players what they need to know about Ember John or make them talk to the villagers, without a skill check, to get the information. This is really, I guess, a personal preference. I don’t do skill checks for mundane things in my games and I don’t like hiding information behind a skill check. If it’s going to enrich the game and/or experience I like it to just be out there, or behind talking to an NPC or something.  Rolling the dice is to gain and advantage or not die.

Speaking of not dying. Make those skill checks! Roll 3 times to dive down in the icy pond to the cave underneath. (Frozen over pond on the coldest day of the year … I would have made the pond unnaturally warm also so as to hint the party could dive in it.) Anyway, fail your roll and take damage. There’s a lot of that. Endure X by making a skill check or take damage. When you’re lost in the blizzard after entering the fey realm you need to roll a 15 multiple times, each failure meaning 3 damage. There’s some real death possibilities there, from just BS skill checks that the designer has forced on you to complete the adventure. If the skill check is a blocker in the adventure, its a gate that must be passed through, then the skill check shouldn’t be open ended. Don’t roll until you succeed. Instead apply some sort of penalty to failure, if you must include the mechanism

DM text doesn’t get to the point, instead it is the usual long and drawn out affair full of random trivia and unfocused sentences that make it hard to pull of the information you need. There’s a knack to writing good DM text, text that is terse, clear, easy to scan and find information … and there’s some mental block in most adventures, especially 5e/Pathfinder, that seems to be endemic to the writing. Emulation of what others are writing? I don’t know. But it’s a pain to work with. 

There’s also a certain sort of aggressive genericism present, especially in the winter solstice festival part. The villagers can relate details to the party about folklore, but it’s not really spelled out, or good examples given. Villagers proper don’t get a decent summary, instead the adventure pointing to a campaign supplement. What NPC summary there is is more like an … index? The details are not really adventure focused. It seems afraid to get specific. A snowball fight instead of the specifics of a snowball fight. This is the time to build specificity in; bully John, or sweet girl Clara. And yet, it’s just not there and is a poorer adventure for it.

But, not bad. I do like folklore adventures and this is one of them. It tries, as best it can, to offer multiple solutions to some problems and decent dynamic combat situations with elements for the party to take adventure of.

This is $3 at DriveThru. There is no real preview, just one of those flip-book ones. Bad designer! Put in a real preview that shows some examples of the actual encounters!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

[REVIEW] Broken Castle

Beyond Fomalhaut - Sat, 05/02/2020 - 09:39
Broken CastleBroken Castle (2019)
by Gene WeigelPublished by Gene Weigel GamesLow to high level
In our lesser age, he is only a whispered legend. Most supposed old-schoolers do not know his name, and have not seen him in his mighty stride. In what is colloquially referred to as “the OSR Taliban”, the name brings more recognition. “The Human Torch”, as he had sometimes called himself, is half man and half force of nature. He had been the first to raise his mighty spiked flail against the beast Lorraine Williams, and her poodles Zeb Cook, Ed Greenwood, and “Skip”. For long, he had fought them from his hidden base in Brooklyn (or thereabouts). When his own comrades tried to tell him the war was over, and Lorraine Williams was long gone, he sent back their severed heads and kept on fighting. Gene Weigel takes no prisoners. He is still out there, fighting the good fight for AD&D’s soul, so that we may sleep peacefully and not have to know the ultimate price of our peace. Now he has gifted us with an adventure. Broken Castle is the realest deal in the old-school. Half Temple of Elemental Evil homage, half mega-campaign synthesis, and half teenage asshole DM fever dream, it is 150% pure Gygaxian AD&D. It is a whiff of gaming cocaine, and a barbarian mess.
To make more sense, Broken Castle is a really enormous 268-page module you can (and should) buy from Amazon. It provides a complete sandbox treatment of the Barony of Grogham, itself a part of the Fallen Kingdom of Skulldon, in an even broader setting called the Swordlands. It describes the eponymous village and castle, two more villages, several smaller locations, five dungeons, and Broken Castle, a huge central dungeon. This is a bit of an understatement, since Grogham Castle also has a big multi-level dungeon under it, as well as forty-odd businesses and thirty castle rooms described in the location key, just in case you want to go “Keep on the Borderlands” on the hapless residents. There are brief writeups on scattered farms, their problems, and what might be found there if the PCs visit. The module includes a small supplement’s worth of new monsters, a selection of magic items, NPCs, new classes and spells, and more. If 268 pages sounds long, it is because this book is packed to the gills with material – in most respects, not overwritten. It is just big, a campaign’s worth of stuff.
In its lineage, Broken Castle is best considered a successor to The Temple of Elemental Evil: it starts in an idyllic feudal village, proceeds to lesser, “moathouse-style” adventure sites, and ends with a massive and hideously lethal dungeon of pure evil. However, the Temple was Gary’s monumental folly, a labour of love that was never truly completed after years of promises and delays, to be finished in an unsatisfying manner by Frank Mentzer. This grand homage to T1-4 raises the stakes by being “The Village of Hommlet / The Temple of Elemental Evil, but bigger” in every sense – there is little here that has not been extended, multiplied or squared – and it succeeds where Gary and Frank ultimately failed. It fulfils a promise originally made in the 1970s – that of the AD&D-campaign-in-a-book. It is as if you didn’t just get the Keep on the Borderlands, but the whole freaking Borderlands, providing several months of adventure. (The recently published Hoard of Delusion follows a similar concept and structure, and actually shares some common history design with this book, but it is smaller and much less baroque. It will also be reviewed here.)
Below, I will examine Broken Castle from various aspects before providing a summary.
Mammoth Flank
Italics? What italics?Let’s get this out of the way. When I call something a gem in the rough, I mean it. This is one, and not in a middle of the road way. Except for the actual production (Amazon print on demand), everything about this book is homemade, and while a lot of that “homemade” is good, some of it is pretty dire. It is somewhere above the level of raw campaign scribbles, but it is barely edited. It is like someone heaving a bloody and still steaming mammoth flank on the table before thundering “Now make something out of it!” The bulk of the text is dumped on the page without care, avoiding such luxuries as “bold type”, “italics”, or even “justified text”. The only visual anchors are represented by ALL CAPS text (e.g. room names). It is a massive work and it is easy to get lost in, miss a crucial detail, or fail to find something in the appendices (some of which are in alphabetic order… mostly… and some of which aren’t… mostly).
StatsThe stats are quite something. This is the most AD&D adventure not to actually use AD&D stats. Most people these days don’t blink twice before publishing something with *cough* *cough* OSRIC stats. Not Gene. He knows Lorraine Williams and her lapdogs are still out there, somewhere, and they are just waiting to pounce on someone who wrote down the word “Thief”. This is why they are called “Stealers” in Broken Castle, which returns to the 1980s-1990s tradition of writing unofficial AD&D modules with heavily disguised stats “for any game system”. Hit Dice is “Man Calibre”, Hp is “Points”, the number of attacks is ROB (Rate of Blows), damage is “Sword Calibre” (expressed in terms of weapon ranges, so a squogg’s SOC is equivalent to a flail for each tentacle, while the swampyr is “claws as short swords and bite as dagger”), and so on. Experience is called Seasoning. A +10% sword is +2, and ability scores are expressed in percentiles (40% is 8, 80% is 16, etc.). The module uses a silver standard, an idea I can sympathise with, but then also uses copper and bronze coins liberally. If you have practice reading AD&D stat blocks, you will know what is what, but it is all quite useless, and makes for a mess when fast lookup is essential (try to decipher a high-level NPC on the fly and see the problem – then repeat the exercise with a high-MC spellcaster).
Likewise, while the module is meticulous on the encounter level, it is mostly lacking in an introduction that would provide a sense of who-goes-where (and why). There is a lot of background detail simply scattered through the individual encounters, while there is no discussion that I can find which tells us what actuallyhappened to Broken Castle (the dungeon), or how all this stuff comes together with the Baron’s schemes, the interests of outside powers, or the labyrinthine evil plots which crisscross the Barony of Grogham. Sometimes, the key is missing entries found on the maps (Broken Castle the dungeon has a lot of these). Something the sequence of the number key jumps around a level a bit too much.
In the end, it turns out this is a mammoth that’s not quite dead yet, and you have to club it yourself to submission. This is probably going to be a turn-off for people looking for something ready-made. However… when was the last time you had mammoth? Have you ever had a full one? I suppose one could always write a negative review based on the bizarro editing, or the weird stats. One could also stop being a philistine and recognise greatness where it is found.
The Gygaxian Milieu
“Into the Jaws of the Quasi-Mediaeval Fantastic” declares Broken Castle on its back cover. “Venture into the ruins of the nearby crumbling castle of mystery and other strange locales from the quasi-mediaeval Castle and Village of Grogham in full functional detail” it declares on the front cover. This is quite important. What we are seeing in the book, Gentle Readers, is a fully functional Gygaxian Milieu out in the wild. That is, this is exactly the kind of thing you will get if you build a world according to the ideas found in the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, while also adding your own spin to it. The DMG is the assembly guide; this is the applied result, and it makes for a hell of a demonstration. If you want to understand the appeal and grand vision of AD&D as God (and Gary) intended, this book will give you a complete walk through some guy’s campaign he ran for years. It is just as much a look into how one might construct a great old-school campaign, and I think this will be its main legacy.
The Fallen Kingdom of SkulldonThe bits and pieces about AD&D’s frontier baronies fall into place. Greyhawk’s “militant neutrality” is replicated in the fallen Kingdom of Skulldon, and its precarious balance between Law and encroaching Chaos. It is centred around sleepy rural communities living a very armed feudal existence, barons and knights who have to contend with orc raids, haunted ruins, and neighbourhood jealousy in equal measure. In true Gygaxian fashion, dark powers are slumbering in the hills and forests, and sending out agents to slowly pave the way for their triumph, while the forces of Law likewise turn to their own devices to prevent them from gaining the upper hand. You will see what kind of society this forms. Baron Marll’s castle is not a real mediaeval castle, but a quasi-mediaeval fortress built to thwart monsters, enterprising adventurer parties, and magical incursions. It has evolved to fill a niche. Baron Marll has an arena for monster fighting with its own Gamesmistress (a 10thlevel Fighter!). His dungeons have a pool of hallucinatory alligators, a hall of skulls, a wall of robotic arms, a pool of real alligators, and a chicken aviary (“The room is filled with wooden pallets and contains 1000 chickens […] as food for the alligators” – see, it makes complete sense!).
Everywhere in the barony are bits and pieces of intrigue and incidental detail. A podunk village hides a bizarre shrine to chaoticism; someone has left a carved demonic statue in an abandoned (?) home; a secret passage leads to a hidden meadow, and a villager is a high-ranking highwayman. Minor locations can contain full-day adventures, stumbled upon entirely at random. The depth of treatment is dazzling – for my preferences, sometimes overwhelming. On the upside, everywhere you go, Gene has left you an adventure to embark on, a mystery to ponder, a little find to make you say “Aha!” It is a bit like an Ultima game, with every corner of the world filled with oddities and personal touches. Broken Castle is filled with idiosyncratic wonder that could be Gygax, but it is ultimately a personal take. It is both standard and non-standard, based on which way you look at it.
Skulls. Why did it have to be skulls?It can be too much in some respects – like The Village of Hommlet, this supplement has a tendency of over-describing every village steward’s personal livelihood, every barrelmaker’s inventory (I counted 20 different barrel types from the tierce to the puncheon), and every guard’s coin stash (64 copper/35 copper/43 copper/53 copper/20 copper, etc.). Where does a moment of local colour (the barrelmaker shows you 20 different, bizarre barrel types you might never have heard of) turn into oversharing? Broken Castle has a very inventory-like approach to conveying a sense of the world, and it is not always to its complete benefit. Sometimes, it is an inventory of turnips (34/1 bronze coin value for 6) and beets (491/1 bronze coin for 15).
Just on the side, Broken Castle finally settles the age-old debate concerning fantasy heraldry. Lame storygame sop or quasi-mediaeval awesome? Broken Castle has a full page of banners and devices, most of which feature skulls, swords, and other kinds of heraldic excellence. This is the proper way to use heraldry in your game supplement. And use it – various heraldic signs periodically turn up in the various dungeons, where they actually serve as useful clues, if the players stop to think about them.
Advanced Dungeons & Designs
The last part of the review discussed the setting background; this section is for the “adventure adventures” in the book (inasmuch as you can draw an exact line in a monster-infested frontier setting). Five are on the smaller size, but this is a misleading statement. They are still about the size of a smaller early TSR module (say, White Plume Mountain or the Moathouse for Hommlet), with 30-60 keyed entries. They are also the opposite of overwritten – room entries are lean, punchy, and come in quick succession.
Two novice adventurers enter
Uncle Gene's dungeon (colourised)This is once again a mixture of AD&D design bedrock with an added layer of individual invention. The style is halfway between funhouse and Gygaxian realism. It is realistic “in context” (magical fantasy world with carnivorous gelatine and glowing superswords), and in respecting the cause-and-effect dynamic, while it is completely fanciful when dreaming up challenging and fun dungeon rooms. The Gygaxian flair is there in the design, with a similar playfulness, love for puzzles, and sense of wicked humour. In some ways, it is “high school killer DM”, but matured and perfected. Dungeons have room concepts like “The Pit of 3 Deaths”, “The Statuary of Death” (they are on facing pages), “Golden Room”, “Sword Golem”, “Hands of Death”, and “A Flame That Isn’t a Flame”. Challenge first, justification later, if at all; strange little ideas realised in a paragraph or two, before moving on. The dungeons reward a bold but careful approach, where the foolish die horribly, but the smart and ingenious can prosper. It is more challenging than the AD&D default – done with the full understanding that the players will play dirty, and therefore so can the DM. Welcome to Crazy Uncle Gene’s dungeon!
There are things to interact with, and sometimes break in fun ways (fucking around with a magical ice crystal used to cool food in a cellar can yield a darkly hilarious final result – “(…) eventually unstoppable if not contained before 6 weeks when it reaches 10000 million cubic feet (464.1589 feet on each side). At that point it rapidly starts covering the entire planet plunging everything into a new ice age.” [sic]). You find odd and awesome things in a fantastic Underworld, and there is always a promise of more things lying “beyond” where you are. A stairway suddenly descends 10,000 feet, and you find yourself in a foreign underworld realm, if only for the span of a few encounters. The “mundane fantastic” of monsters, wizards and dungeons is supplemented with the extra layer of the “fantastic fantastic”, things which would feel strange and a little awe-inspiring even to inhabitants of the fantasy world, and you can step from one to the other through the book’s stream-of-consciousness approach to the fantastic.
Orc Mound (revised and colourised by Settembrini)Each of the dungeons have their own design approach and individual identity. The Grogham Castle Dungeon is filled with “everyday” room types jerry-rigged with improbable magic stuff and defences; The Mine is an eight-level complex slowly conquered back from below by Underworld monsters; the Anchorite Tower is horror, with a seemingly benign religious order facing interior corruption, leading to a set of crypts, and eventually something really bizarre and unexpected; Orc Mound is a humanoid hack-them-up in a risky and exposed environment; and Cavern of the Man-Apes is more than what it seems, as it houses none else but… the Murder Cult! Yeah, those guys. The odd one out in my opinion is the mines, which are too big and too empty to be anything but a slog – the rest are all good stuff in one respect or another. Perhaps slightly more low-level material would have done the module good – this is more for the long mid-range. Note that the maps tend to be on the complex side – I would not dare to run this with the players mapping out everything, particularly the central dungeon, with its 3D cavern nightmare layout.
Murder CultistOf course, the crown jewel of dungeons is Broken Castle itself, which is to this module what The Temple of Elemental Evil was to T1–4. It is a legendary evil place so horrible, so depraved that it was swallowed up and undone by a magical catastrophe, literally split in two by a chasm cutting through walls, buildings, and two whole dungeon levels. What remains is an enormous pile of ruins, dead-ends, cave passages, new connections created by the chasm, and more. It is a bad place, starting from The Inn of the Manticore’s Testicles, and descending into two vast, deep levels with a total of 90 keyed areas, and some monster lairs which are nothing but nightmarish. It makes a very good job separating foolish adventurers from their life and valuables; it is filled with fair but tough “gotchas” and dirty tricks. Broken Castle the module is on the challenging side by default, and Broken Castle the dungeon is a test of all skills and abilities that adventurers have amassed so far. It gets odder as you get deeper, going from relatively realistic, to a place distorted by magical forces, where time travellers start appearing on the random encounter charts, greater undead and a demon make lair, and all bets are off. Just the first three rooms of the lower level include: a devious (but fairly obvious) killer trap playing on the greed of foolish adventurers; a word puzzle with an oblique but fair clue; and a room with “a dead dinosaur neck emerging from the east wall that seems to have cut it off” – a room that lets you travel back 6 million years and mess with stuff in the distant past.
Hey! What the hell?! I was just taking aThe dungeons are heavy on custom ideas, and custom stuff. It is actually not easy to create good monsters that aren’t just variants or reskins. These are quite good monsters, the kind that come from notebook scribbles and a good sense of the challenging and grotesque. Even the names roll off the tongue: caskeleton, swampyr, phantasmode, serpent ghoul, quggers, toll devil – yeah, this is the stuff that populated the better AD&D compendiums. The monsters are “gameplay weird”, in that they make no sense whatsoever, except in the context of an AD&D adventure, where they suddenly make perfect sense. So, uh, there are these man-shaped stone statues which are so lazy they just sleep in a lethargic stupor, but they love minerals so much that when they sense armoured trespassers, they suddenly become agitated. Let’s name them sleeping stonemen – we’ve got an AD&D monster right here. The magic items are quite good as well, and they represent both the mainstays (+1 swords and such, fairly common) and individual pieces (only found in tricky places, mostly one-of-a-kind). This is a rather good balance. The really good items are fairly rare, and tend to be very challenging to obtain (this may be the module’s least authentic aspect – it is much less magic-rich than AD&D modules tend to be). There is, also, a three-handed sword.
So this is Broken Castle. It is, surprisingly, not even a single book – at least two followups, THE CELESTIAL VACUOLE OF THE ASTERYX, and THE RUINS OF SKULLDON are mentioned. I am not suggesting you need to own this because you will run it – you probably won’t. It is too big for most of us, and perhaps we are not even meant to recreate it in full – it would be a folly to, because Gene has already been there before us. But if you need a great AD&D dungeon or three, the ones in the book are each worth a full old-school module (OK, I am still sceptical about those mines). The settlements and minor locations are as modular as anything. But above all, if you want to understand the appeal of Gygaxian fantasy at its greatest, or what makes for a great home campaign, this is an instructive book on how to develop your own, and make it fit together. Or if you just want to read someone’s published campaign notes for inspiration, this is a great one to pick up. It is the promise The Temple of Elemental Evil made, but never delivered on.
This publication credits its playtesters and several others, including “E. Gary”, in a full-page special thanks section. That’s class.
Rating: ***** / *****
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

A Walk through Harnmaster - Psionics

Bat in the Attic - Fri, 05/01/2020 - 23:32
PsionicsThis is a 8 page article. Four pages of mechanics, four pages of talent descriptions.

Psionics always been a bit of an odd duck in Harnmaster. Some referee used them some don't. Here they are presented as psychic powers. It important to keep in mind that unlike D&D's take, Psionics in Harnmaster do integrate with an important setting elements the Earthmasters.

The Earthmasters were an ancient races inhabiting Harn (and much of the world) predating the Elves. They disappeared leaving behind various enigmatic ruins. While Harn never spelled out in detail what the Earthmaster were, psionics abilities and artifacts are consistent theme.

IntroductionThe recommendation is that psionic talents be generated in secret by the referee and then solely revealed during the campaign. Once revealed they become a skill like any other although one that more supernatural in its effect. Of course if veteran characters are being created or if it happens to fit the campaign, it may be that the character starts out with knowing some of the talents they have. It works either way.

Psionic Talent Generation.The number of talents that a character has is based on Aura - 3d6 roll. Then a d100 is rolled and a table is consulted.

Each Talent is considered a skill and effected by the sunsigns like other skills are.

DormancyThe next section gives advice on how to handle dormant talents. Which is any talent that is Mastery Level (ML) lower than 21.

On raised past ML 20, psionic talents are developed like any other skills except when Skill Maintenance Points (SMP) are used. Instead of 10 SMPs per development roll, it takes 15. So a character can only make two development rolls per month instead of 3 if they are focused on improving psionic talents.

Invoking TalentsIt not particularly easy as even a marginal failure could cause the character to pass out.

Invoking talents is also fatiguing. There is a notation after the name of the Talent on how much Fatigue is accumulated after each attempt to use it.

There are two optional rules. On is for passive invocations of three talents: Medium, Prescience, and Sensitivity. The other is about Joint Invocation of Psionic talents.

Example Talents - Charm

Rob's Comments
I admit I am never of fan of psionics in a fantasy setting. But Harnmaster's take isn't half bad and it does fit given the lore. So far in three decades of Harn it hasn't come up in any of the sessions or campaigns I ran.

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Keep On The Marne - An Alternative Timeline Campaign Set Up for B2 Keep on The Borderlands By Gary Gygax Using The Siege Engine System

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 05/01/2020 - 19:14
German soldiers (wearing distinctive pickelhaube helmets with cloth covers) on the front at the First Battle of the Marne during World War I, taken in September 1914. Possibly staged for the camera due to the wearing of medals, which according to the source was not common practice in battle.The year is 1918 &  'The First Battle of the Marne' rages as the German forces try to take a small Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Incompleat RedStaff

3d6 Traps & Thieves - Fri, 05/01/2020 - 18:04
This setting is somewhat less fully realized than some of the other color-themed side-projects of mine. I have a clear base and tone in mind, but have yet to get many of the broad strokes down on paper. Still, the bits and pieces that follow should convey the overall intent - if nothing else.

Blood in the WaterHow many generations should be enough to forget? The elderly tell stories of the “old days” to anyone that will listen. Children sing distorted pieces of history in their silly games. And, somewhere in all the dust-covered accounts and annals of what came before, there is bound to be a nagging worm of truth. But, we know what the ultimate fate of a worm tends to be…
Red Staff? Baton Rouge? After a fashion. A fashion known as Bayou & Sorcery. With flavors of Southern Gothic horror and fantasy noir. Where adventurers, mercenaries, and opportunists abound – but heroes are found mostly in romantic stories and weathered monuments. This is a realm under a magocracy – challenged by theocrats ­– administered by local Hag Queen bosses.
Blood will tell? For some, blood is all there is. Family and ancestry. Name and legacy. This is a land that craves blood – especially human blood. So hot, sweet, and full of vice. Everything takes its share. From the mosquitoes and ticks, to the gators and vampires – all the way up to the Gods Themselves. In this setting, pure blood is about as elusive and precious as pure water.
Where does your value lie?
Lay of the LandRedStaff is a setting built from the ground-up. During the earliest Days of Settlement, parcels of dry land were raised from the wet. The land is greedy and treacherous. The swamps are old and patient. The Gods sit comfortably at the top of the food chain, served by the elemental Aspects of Stone, Wind, Metal, Sea, Thunder, Soil, Blood, and others.
The past will not be buried. With dry land at a premium, interment of the dead has come to be either a costly proposition, or an expedient one. Aboveground mausoleums serve to contain the fortunate dead, while the hungry swamps receive many, many others. Still, there are those who may not rest after death – obligated to pay off debts as undead slaves. Necromancy is a thriving industry.
Know your history. Honor your bloodlines. Respect the land. Pay your debts.
Strangers to These ShoresThese are the New Colonies – we lost the old ones. Almost 500 years ago, people came to this forsaken land in search of new opportunities and with hope for a fresh start. Within fifty years, all contact was lost. It took nearly another thirty years before a proper expedition could be funded to reach the site of the first of the five “lost colonies.” Those brave souls were never heard from again.
Out with the old – in with damnation. There was big magic in those early Days of Settlement. Not all of it was big enough, and not all of it was human. Laws were established, and almost immediately broken. Dark deals were made. Hasty oaths were sworn. Lives were lost and souls were tainted. Those days, there were eager and merciless devils in the details. Just before the end, a lesser evil stepped forth to offer salvation.
Your freedom is your greatest magic. Your choices are as the casting of spells.
That Olde Black MagickThe wise women emerged from the swamps. Let’s call them what they are: witches and hags. The surviving remnants of ancient covens, and keepers of precious secrets. Caretakers of a tradition that transcends arcane spellcasting and denies theurgic obligation. They brokered new deals and negotiated better bargains. In no time at all, the land was defined by peaceable townships and settled parishes – governed by hags.
The Realm of Immurcie. This is now home. Measured not in good or evil, but in gain or suffering.  How much others must suffer for those who gain. How much suffering is caused by that gain, or – how much suffering may be alleviated by one’s gain. Because, make no mistake, there are powers abroad that crave mortal suffering. Terrible entities that must be appeased for the benefit of all. Unless they could be fought…
Will you be in a position to give mercy, or must you simply hope to receive it?
This New Redde MagickThere is magic in the blood – some more so than others. Bloodlines have become vital and arranged marriages more common among the elite. Arcane dynasties and Mage Houses. Some have turned to blood magic (sanguimancy), necromancy, and other questionable pursuits. A few bloodlines have proven resistant to necromancy. Blood and Family are held in higher esteem than Good and Evil. Visions in red-tinted gray.
The ebb and flow of magical tides. These breeding efforts aren’t producing more powerful wizards or sorceresses. They are a desperate measure to maintain the human presence in the magical community. It is not widely known that each human generation seems less capable in the arcane arts than those before. The blood is thin. The will is weak. The gods of the land make their offers.
Is the value of your blood measured in power, or in sacrifice?


The history of this land is similar to an elaborate work of stained glass art with many fractures and missing panes. Colorful, elaborate, broken, and incomplete. Each major race has its own account of the Settlement, and each has its own share of shameful secrets. Nearly five centuries past, human colonists came to ­­­­Immurcie. They struggled to establish five colonies. All five colonies disappeared: one claimed by floodwaters, another by wildfires, another by hurricane winds, another by savage earthquakes. The fifth simply vanishes. More than a generation later, the expedition sent to determine their fate also disappears without a word, or a trace. It would take more than fifty years for human vessels to once again reach these marshy shores. This time, the gods were waiting: Irde, Falav, Nirji, and others. Fortunately for this latest wave of colonists, the gods were not so terribly hungry as before.

The first human settlement surviving to this day is Bitanrue. A 300-year-old village grown into a town that longs to become a city. Traditional home of the Ardam Rau – the Red Mage. Despite its harried and humble origins, the Township of Bitanrue is laid out and constructed with a devotion and precision bordering on ritualistic. Some of the oldest families trace their precious bloodlines to their elders still residing in Bitanrue.
The road to civilization was treacherous and wet. So much of the newly-settled land had to be drained and bolstered. By magical means, new areas of dry land were also raised from the bayous themselves. A new realm was being formed of Parishes and Townships. Parts of this realm were claimed by those who had brought the solid land into existence, whether by engineering or spellcraft. These were the first true land-owners – the propriet.
Land has become precious as a means of defining and perpetuating the systems of value and position within the Commonwealth of Immurcie. It is a little-known fact that the magic which brought forth many of the land parcels of the early propriet also established tenuous mystical links between the masters and their titled soil. In many cases, the condition of the land has been reflected in the health and well-being of the owners. In rare circumstances, these links have been passed entirely to individuals known as Stewards – those who maintain the land for members of the propriet that can no longer do so themselves. Stewardship has created an entirely new class of land-nobility, but one that has yet to gain equal respect.
Waterways equal freedom to those who refuse or fail to claim land of their own. While fancy riverboats offer diversions and entertainments to those who can afford them, there are a great many houseboats and floating villages to be found upon the water. Buildings on stilts, rafts, or pontoons remain in fashion. Since the settlement of land rights, skirmishes and outright wars over navigable waters continue to flare. From river parties to river pirates, inland water routes are vital to nearly every community.
Nobility and ignobility serve to define and govern both sovereign states and petty territories.  Some of the oldest and most respected noble families have become land-rich or property-rich and cash-poor, barely able to cover the expenses necessary for maintenance and upkeep. There are quite a few nobles-in-name-only. And then, we have the ignobles of the streets, alleys, squares, courts, or parks. Little more than legitimized gang leaders, these individuals will be in possession of a Writ of Ignobility that defines their territory and position. Some examples include the Squire of Golden Hare Alley, the Demimonde of Charwood Circle, and the Petty Count of Reverie Park.  
The eternal wetlands will not be denied, and will never submit entirely to becoming mere foundations for human civilization. More than one early city has been claimed in whole by marshy waters. The swamp favors humans for being so short-lived and adding more regularly and reliably to the decay. It also finds human more prone to fear and base lusts. The Aspects of the Land gather lifeblood, vital energies, souls, and whatever else for the gods of the land.
Beyond the swamps the land becomes rugged and, eventually, mountainous. Stony hills define the north-and-west reaches of the continent, while long stretches of towering mountains extend down the western shore and to the southern bounds. Most of the Commonwealth is found within the swamps and recovered lands of human civilization. Outside, there are established realms and cultures far older: Anakra (scattered dominions of the Dragon Dukes), Juarokand (land of the Divine Jaguar), and Purachau (mountainous empire of the gleaming black Mummia Kings) – by way of example.
Excursions into the underworld have been the downfall of many adventurers who seek riches and glory. The land has few stable cave systems and certain terrible creatures dig burrows or hidden lairs for their own use. Places known as dungeons may be partially flooded and on the verge of collapse. A number of sunken ruins have been excavated, but tend to offer more danger than reward. But, still, we have not trespassed upon the true Underworld. The domain of degenerate races and resentful gods. A realm of the dead, but not an afterlife. Where souls may be lost, found, bought, and sold.

·         A “Gothic Fantasy” domain with a Louisiana “Bayou & Sorcery” flair.·         Human colonists come to ­­­­Immurcie. They struggle to establish five colonies. All five colonies disappear. One claimed by water, another by fire, another by wind, another by earth. The fifth simply vanishes (void). Subsequent investigative expedition disappears.·         The realm is named Immurcie. Rugged in the NW and descending into delta in the E and SE. Ruins in SW inhabited by weres and mummies. ·         “Southern” magic and monsters. Magic more difficult and less common for humans, with each generation less capable than those before. ·         Possibility of multiple breaches between the material world and a coterminous plane just beyond the veil. ·         Bloodlines have become vital and arranged marriages more accepted. Arcane dynasties and Mage Houses. Some have turned to blood magic (sanguimancy), necromancy, and other dangerous pursuits. Some bloodlines are resistant to necromancy. Good and Evil not as important as Blood and Family. Shades of gray (red).·         Bitanrue: Heavy corruption of “Baton Rouge.” A false village created to guard and hide the Rod of War (the Red Stick). See Red Staff under ITEMS & STUFF, below.·         Humans tried to adapt the land to their needs, but they found themselves changed instead.·         Rule by magocracy, challenged by theocracy. Permissive, but not lawless.·         Class of artificially-created servants for magocracy and class of voluntary undead (indeadtured) servants for theocracy. Animate Dead as cleric spell? Indeadtured uprising?·         Flavors of New Orleans (300 years old), France (Paris is about 800 years old), Haiti, Africa, Caribbean, Jamaica, Southeast Asia.·         So – a “lost colony” from about 500 years ago, then, the “new colony” of about 400 years?·           Stilt buildings, pontoon buildings. Aboveground tombs and crypts. Newer structures built upon older foundations.·         Old families, curses, dangerous magic, ghosts, talismans, old money, lavish excess, river boats, sunken city, disease/fevers/parasites, slavery, possession, music, parties, mummers, gambling.·         Ties to land/property, family/tradition, church, city, art, guild.·         Islands of prosperity raised from the swamp.·         Wetlands/bayou, lake lands, plantations, canals, river parties, gypsy camps, hot springs, faerie absinthe, rum, bourbon, whiskey, cordials, brandy, smugglers, pirates,·         Water rights and passage:·         Land rights: Parishes and Townships.·         Hunting regulations:·         Dungeons: Ruined, collapsing, partially-flooded, accursed. Underground dungeons are even more treacherous than usual.·         Parts of the land itself will sometimes rise to attack – resembling spell effects and requiring saves.·         Hagsfell: “A fell is a high and barren landscape feature, such as a mountain range or moor-covered hills.”·         Possibly combine with Violet Grimoire for one shared setting. Veriscine to the north.·         Damp, rot, rust.·         Firearms?·         Heroes are few and far-between. Adventurers tend to be mercenaries, opportunists, looters, and hunters.·         Raiders/pirates from the outer isles:·         Drifting islands within the marshes.·         Boat villages:·         Undead labor:·         Blood Debt:·         Blood Points: Hit Die + Con bonus + Size adj + Race adj + Class adj.·         Up to 12 pints of blood in the human body (9-12). D6 hit points for an average human. 1 HP = 2 pints of blood.·         The swamp favors humans for being so short-lived and adding more regularly and reliably to the decay. It also finds human more prone to fear and lusts/greed. The Aspects of the Land gather lifeblood, vital energies, souls, and whatever else for the Gods.·         Isle of the Dead·         Place Names: Anakra, Bascova, Chievrul, Ertaine, Estomar, Felascau, Ghaile, Juarokand, Lath, Mouse Hole, Owlslae, Puracha, Riscillaine, Sulane, Vado Sethria, Viscinae, Wendlow, Widderdam, Wythe.
·         Aquatic race claiming sunken ruins. ·         Aspect: A sort-of replacement for the elemental as an influential and interactive creature. Aspects of: Stone, Wind, Metal, Sea, Wood, Sky, Thunder, Rain, Soil, Blood. Possibly representatives of the “Color Gods.”·         Bookwyrm:·         Cephalopod, Freshwater:·         Coffer Corpse:·         Crabmen: Pirates and slavers.·         Crimson Death:·         Cultists:·         Dwarves: Tend to be bankers, judges, lawyers, or similar professions.·         Dragon Dukes: Serpentine dragons with qualities of Pan Lung and other Oriental Dragons – especially Scaly Command. In human form, they assume roles similar to wealthy gentleman farmers and plantation owners. Wealthy and influential, but rural. Dominion of Anakra.·         Dragon Turtle (alligator snapping): Lifespan of 800-1000 years. Some have lived for 2000 years.·         Dragonfly, Giant: Black, blue, green, red, white, gold. Ravenous hunters and fierce fighters.·         Elemental, General: Unlike Avremier, elementals will be extremely rare and often bound by magic. Introduce the Aspect.·         Elemental, Water: Tainted, Zuvembie.·         Elves: Privateers sailing forth against the interests of the Hag Queens from fortified islands. Prefer to avoid the mainland. Influence over wind and water. Mage of Sail? Value freedom and independence. Dabbling with skyships. Cultivating alliances with dragon turtles (alligator snapping). Rare as PCs.·         Exquisitor:·         Fae: Savage and warlike, or noble and courtly.·         Gatorfolk: Larger and more savage type of lizardfolk. Possible PC race.·         Ghoul, Gluttonous: Torso splits open to consume grappled prey.·         Ghost, Shroud: Formed of the deceased’s burial shroud. Much like a ‘classic’ sheet ghost. The shroud itself could bestow certain ghostly properties to a living being that wears it.·         Ghost children: Not undead, but “fey.”·         Gnomes: Bayou Clans. Black bear, coyote, fox, otter, raccoon. Bayou hunters and trappers that dabble in dark magic and swamp alchemy. Fetish shapeshifters.·         Goblin Water Viper: Elite fighters/assassins and swimmers.·         Gorgon, Swamp: Amphibious and serpentine. Possibly a type of hag.·         Grendel: Possible PC race.·         Guevel: Like a satyr, but with march hare traits instead of goat.·         Hag, Blood·         Hag, Brood·         Hag Queens: A unique coven of witches with increased power and influence within their specific demesne (each ruling a city or parcel - territory). Not major villains – more like crime bosses with somewhat benevolent intentions. Can be employers, patrons, allies, or enemies for the PCs. Control ley lines and nexuses. Wyrdmills. Always well-dressed and put together. Very matronly or business-like. Commanding and unyielding. Hag-tied. Humans developed hags into a ruling class, quite by accident. ·         Halflings: River traders who deliver messages and goods with the help of giant otter allies. Explorers and mapmakers. Tinkers and spies. Sometimes use lost ruins as makeshift ports and bases of operation. Crude submersibles. Selkie traits.·         Hydra, Swamp: Serpentine body with giant viper heads. ·         Indeadtured Servant: A living person who dies with a serious debt might be raised as a shade or zombie in servitude to an individual or organization. Their spirit or corpse works to pay off the debt accrued in life. A shade is commonly consulted for information and is unable to perform physical labor. A zombie performs manual labor until its term of servitude has ended, or it falls apart from wear. “Working your fingers to the bone” is a literal expression that originates in an indeadtured zombie working itself into a partial skeleton. Some indeadtured servants end up lost, abandoned, or forgotten and go wandering in a fugue state. See: Undead, Fugue.·         Infernals: Mostly run/own gambling dens and brothels. Patrons of Hellfire Clubs.·         Kraken: Allies of the Hag Queens. Influencing shipping lanes. Attacking privateers.·         Lizardfolk: PC race.·         Some monsters are just as inclined to come to you.·         Manticore, Jaguar: Native to Juarokand.·         Merfolk ruled by orca-based merfolk that can become massive humanoid orcas.·         Mudmen: Form crude little societies/villages deep in the swamps – built around the source of their magical animation.·         Mummia: Powerful mummified undead with gleaming black skin hard as stone. Created through embalming treatments of alchemical bitumen. Rulers of Purachau, a realm of half-elves.·         Mummy, Swamp·         Palatine:·         Pirate Lords:·         Plague Fly: Giant insect, large enough to use as a mount. Some will have Plague Knight riders.·         Render, The: Name for a horrible serial killer.·         Sanguine Jelly/Blood Pudding:·         Shadar-Kai: Probable elf replacement race – for PC and NPC. Entirely hairless.·         Shifters: Term used instead of lycanthropes.·         Siren: Possibility that these are somehow failed hags. Feeding on whatever men or other creatures they can lure and catch. Hoping to regain their chance at hagdom. Possibly fallen hags as well.·         Sphinx, Jaguar: Native to Juarokand.·         Swamp Sisters:·         Swinehead: Devil Swine slavers, slumlords, and bandit chieftains. Less influential than the Hag Queens, but arrogant and scheming. Devil Swine will be more powerful and influential. Some are attempting to become Devils in more than just name. A heavy wereboar (pig) with magical powers to acquire slaves and treasure as signs of status and for its own unspeakable purposes. Lavish tastes but not very discerning, preferring gaudy and tasteless extravagance over true value or art. Charm Person by voice within 2", one person ata time. Polymorph Others, butonly into pigs. Locate Object and Telekinesis once each perday. Once the swineheadmakes a bargain, its word is binding, but it will twist the intent to its own advantage. Ordinary wereboars commonly serve as henchmen and are immune to the monster's Charm and Polymorph abilities. The swinehead is cruel, sadistic, and cannibalistic.·         Trusc: Deep-sea race of dwarvish humanoids, partially covered in chitinous plates and coral growths.·         Undead Boatman: Possible long-lived Fugue Undead.·         Undead, Fugue: Usually (but not always) applied to some form of zombie, these are former ‘indeadtured’ that were never released from servitude, but are no longer under direct control. Tend to be found in repetitive actions, or wandering alone. Rarely last very long, tending to fall into a true-death state within days or weeks of losing the necromantic binding.·         Undead Lords: Those who have the most influence over the channels to their undead type.·         Undead Pirate Lords:·         Vampire, Absinthe: Grendel PC race?·         Vampire, Swamp: More feral and associated with disease. More like nosferatu.·         Vampires that feed on specific types of blood to advance their own power and condition. See: Blood Ascension.·         Werejaguar: Favored caste of the hobgoblin civilization of Juarokand. Ruled by a God-King and Priest-Knights (kind of like paladin-samurai with bishop-shogun). Also a caste of jaguar monks.·         Will-o-Lich: Glowing, flying demilich skull that creates will-o-wisp slaves from drained souls. When the ‘wisps feed upon the lifeforce of their dying victims, a portion of that energy is channeled to their maker. The ‘lich has all the properties of a will-o-wisp, able to become nothing more than an immaterial globe of light and unable to utilize its “death howl” ability during that time. If choosing not to glow, the immaterial ‘lich is effectively invisible. It is thought (hoped) that only one of these monsters exists, and the identity of the will-o-lich in life is unknown.AC -7, Move 15”, HD 75 hp.·         Zuvembie:·         Shrimp, other crustaceans, wading birds, pumas, owls, gators, lesser dragons/drakes, bats, water rodents, turtles, frogs, bugs/swarms, snakes, fish, eels, waterfowl, will-o-wisps, shamblers, lycanthropes, zombies, ghouls, oozes, vapors, carnivorous plants, orchids, lotus, water lilies.
·         Bard variants: See Carrow, below.·         Breaker (Thief): Specializes in gaining access to places, and to information. Licensed guild.·         Carrow: Strolling gamesman and itinerant gambler. Dextrous. Irish-Scot origin. Setting-specific rogue/bard.
  • Cartomancer: Spell-like effects and manipulations of fate through tarot cards. Able to throw cards, and other small hand-held objects, as weapons. Wield exceptional control over magical cards – like Deck of Many Things. Sleight of hand. Alternate card suits: Beetles (Scarabs), Moths, Crows (Ravens), Flames, Apples, Moons (Crescents), Knots (Bows), Rings (Hoops), Lanterns (Lamps), Harps, Bells, Daggers (Knives, Blades), Thorns (Claws), Chains (Links), Coils (Snakes, Serpents), Pines (Firs), Towers (Turrets), Scythes, Horns (Trumpets, Heralds). Alternate face cards: Baron, Baroness, Count, Countess, Duke, Duchess, Herald, Knight, Lord, Lady, Mage, Page, Prince, Princess, Squire, Tyrant
·         Chandler (Candlemage): Candle magic. Oils, ointments, unguents, renderings – minor alchemy. ·         Chivalier: Instead of Chevalier – this is not a horseman. This is a knight of the highest (possible) nobility and honor. Paragon.·         Digger: Recovery expert. Notoriously unsqueamish. History and anatomy.·         Effete Mage:·         Entromologist: Chaos practitioner.·         Fetch: Possibly Spellfetch.·         Hagsworn: In service to one hag, or a full circle. Resist magical effects of other hags. Marked as the favored of hag(s). Able to communicate with patron hag. Causes some discomfort or issue for certain alignment/ethos. There is always a condition or set term for release.·         Necropaladin:·         (Color) Priest:·         Witchdame:
·         Ancestor Worship:·         Blood Ascension: Sub-campaign arc where some elite vampires consume selected sources of blood (dragon, devil, armiger, hag, fae, etc.) to elevate themselves toward some kind of undead divinity. Some also pursue biological alchemy toward this effort.·         Bloodletting spell.·         Clerics with very personal patrons – not all deities.·         Cultist Deities: Named for their prevailing colors and setting-specific variants of Mythos Deities. Annual (or once every six years?) festival to appease and honor them all. In a procession, the Black God is always first – the herald with a horn. Sort of Mardi Gras meets Day of the Dead. Each god corresponds to a two-month period of the year. One’s birthdate becomes important as an auspice. Each god has its own monolith or stone.1.       Black: Chaos, deception, knowledge – Nyarlathotep. “Nirji.” Plays the horn. Earth and death. Scorpion, North. Quiet, direct, plain, aloof, and cold.2.       Blue (Indigo): Gates, magic, sky/space – Yog-Sothoth. “Caeru.” Plays the flute. Air and night. Turtle. West. Solemn, dignified, commanding, and patient.3.       Green: Evolution, providence, sea – Dagon/Hydra. “Irde.” Plays the cello.4.       Red: Blood, creation, rage – Shub-Niggurath. “Ubrul.” Plays the drum. Fire and sun. Tiger. East. Bold, fierce, brazen, watchful, and merciless.5.       White: Control, dominion, secrets – Cthulhu. “Alhab.” Plays the violin. Breath and life. Owl. South. Gregarious, giving, evasive, mysterious, elusive.6.       Yellow: Decadence, greed, madness, pleasure – Hastur. “Valaq.” Plays the harpsichord.·         Cults, Forbidden:·         Dark Druids:·         Ebony Plague: Similar to the Ebony Swarm, this is a far greater number of Ebony Fly Figurines within a container, that grow and animate as Chasme demons when released. They are under no one’s control and will wreak havoc until destroyed. The number of Flies can be anywhere from hundreds to Apocalyptic. The container will be an artifact jar similar to Pandora’s “Box.” An artifact jar (Shoacteffe’s Ebony Jar), like a Greek pythos, contains thousands upon thousands of Ebony Fly Figurines that animate as Chasme demons when released - forming an apocalyptic plague to threaten the land. Lord of the Flies. Shoacteffe (SHOWK-te-FAY).·         Gods will be largely Diabolic, Demonic, or Eldritch. Gods known as Powers.Ara: Salamander-goddess of waterways and openings. “Witch goddess.”Cob: Toad-god of secrets and bindings. “Witch god.”Pip: Serpent-goddess of wisdom. Setting-specific lyshau variant of Apep. About 50’ long in snake form. “Witch goddess.”Xeb (“Sheb”): Alligator-god of the Bayou. Setting-specific lyshau variant of Sebek (Sobek). Patron of the Dragon Dukes. Ruler of reptiles (except serpents). Savage and dark. “Witch god.”·         How best to take dominion over a new land? Kill/usurp the native gods.·         Legal magic:·         Ley line usage:·         Nectar Curse:·         Summoning practices and wards:·         Taximancy: Animating stuffed corpses.·         Voodoo:·         Witchcraft·         Wizardry, Hedge:·         Wyrd holds sway over Ohd.
·         Coffin Nail: Magical properties from legend and folklore.·         Cordial: Delicious potion/elixir type.·         Jam: Magical concoctions with properties of sustenance, irresistibility, sugar rush, or adhesive.·         Red Staff: The greatest magical artifact, held by the Ardam Rau (Red Mage). There will also be a Black Staff, held by the Ardam Mor (Black Mage), and a White Staff, held by the Ardam Per (White Mage) – neither of which will be an artifact.·         Stained Glass Shield·         Trophy Head: Ritual treatments in the swamp. Fashioned into mace heads or shrunken fetishes.
  • “He started talking out of nowhere, speech slurred like a drunk after a serious bender. It startled me after such a long silence, and he kept going on and on in that annoying rambling way he had - so I shot him again.”
·         His helm once bore a crest, but no longer. Brown of hair and of eye, tanned skin. A mélange of accoutrements from countless campaigns. Declining to speak, there was no accent to fix him upon any map. He was all but nameless, a ghost, and that made the others nervous.
·         It rippled or shimmered as it drifted through the chill moonlight. To my mind was suggested at first some kind of gigantic deep sea jellyfish, but one that swam through the upper air instead of the murky brine. A languid multitude of tendrils and tentacles waved in such patterns as would imply effortless swimming. The longer extensions split near the ends into articulated feelers that recalled horrific fingers. These occasionally brushed against the trees and stones of the marshy vale, lingering as if fondling a lover. Though the sight of the thing felt like a phantasmagorical dream, the acrid ammonia reek it gave off left me undeniably awake and in tenuous possession of my crumbling faculties.·         Pitiful, thin moonlight exposed more shadow than shape beneath the trees. Hollow trunks of bleached wood slouched in staggered disarray like so many forgotten grave markers from a time before words in prayer books. Heads choked by creeper vines and roots drowned in stinking rust-streaked water that clung to the feet and ankles. Everything clung here. Gripped and twined. Smothered and buried. But nowhere worse than at the fetid heart of the forest. The lowest point. Where the water lay deeper and blacker. Broken limbs and pitted stones covered in leprous patches of lichen and mold fungus. Glistening mockeries of the dead. Decayed branches in attitudes of final repose with bent knee or curved spine. Lank mossy hair. Slick mushroom skin. The nouveau rot. The decline before the fall. Gleaming and taut like the caul over a newborn’s red and sightless face. The first convulsive breath pulling at nothing but membrane. Denied the clean air. If only to break the surface, making the breach from gestation into being. Distinguish shape from shadow. Leave behind the watery grave where growth took place in darkness and roots found purchase in warm, nurturing flesh. Everything clung here, before casting out. Gripped and twined, the twisting cord. Finally, I take a breath. Fill my greedy lungs. Open my eyes to the furtive moon. Separate and free. Air tainted by decay, it festers inside. Teems with textures and tastes. And I remember, a little. Saturated with sensation and purpose. I am reborn. I am myself. I am hunting. 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Weird Revisited: A World Unconquered

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 05/01/2020 - 12:47
I originally uncovered this map in 2013...

Sword & Sorcery comics of the seventies usual got around to supplying a map at some point, and Claw the Unconquered was no exception. Though it ran only 12 issues (from 1975 to 1978), Claw featured a map in issue #5.  Wikipedia seems to think Pytharia is the name of Claw's world--and it may be--but it's also the name of one of the country's in the "Known World," as you can see. Interestingly, Claw shares this world with another sword-wielding DC hero: Starfire, who's part Red Sonja and part Killraven, living in a post-apocalyptic alien-overrun future.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure there's some game inspiration in this.

A Walk through Harnmaster - Physicians

Bat in the Attic - Thu, 04/30/2020 - 22:57
PhysicianThis is a four page article.

So now we get into how your heal from the injuries you suffered in combat.

Society of PhysiciansThis section gives some details about the life of physicians on Harn. The main difference is that they know the value of basic antisepsis (keeping things clean) although don't know why it works the way it does. And there are magical options available although they are covered elsewhere.

Injury RecoveryFrom the previous example Bjorn has a S2, Serious Slash to the Thorax from the fight. How does he heal? He has to be treated and there is a table for that.


From the previous post, Bjorn is going to need surgery i.e. his gash needs to be cleaned and sewn up. A physician roll will get +20 as his cut not that complex to deal. This number comes from the EML (Effective Mastery Level) column. The next five columns list the result of the different levels of success plus what happens when there is no treatment (NT). If the Physician rolls a marginal success (MS). Bjorn's player now records that injury has a Healing rate of H5.

Each injury is treated separately.

Rob's Comment
The bonus EML for different injuries means a party member without anybody with a physician roll can take a stab at treating their friend. As you can see even a Critical Failure is better than No Treatment. (Sorry misread the table). The skill open up automatically at SBx1 when the attempt is made. There are also Herbs that give a further bonus by either knocking out the character to fighting infection. However there is a risk in a critical failure being rolled making the injury worse.

HealingOnce Bjorn has been treated he can now begin to heal. From the previous example he has a H5 rate. This means every five days of rest, he can make a healing roll. A healing roll is roll against the Healing Rate (H) of the injury time Endurance. In Bjorn case his Endurance is 12 so with a H5 healing rate he makes his healing roll verus 60%.  Also for human characters the healing roll is made every 5 days irregardless of the Healing Rate.

The goal of the healing roll is to have the Injury reduced to zero. For the first five days of rest Bjorn rolls a 56 and gets a Marginal Success (MS). His serious slash goes from 2 to 1. The second five days Bjorn rolls a 72, a marginal failure, and has no healing. The third five days, Bjorn rolls a 35 which is a Critical Success (CS), and heals the remainder of his injury. I would probably rule that he is healed three days in with that result. So Bjorn is out for 15 days healing from his fight.

There are spells, herbs, etc that can speed this up. The most common are herbs. For example injuries treated with Ichor of Agrik/Berilik Balm a paste made from Berilik Herb (Dragonhead) have half the normal chance of developing an infection. So if a Critical Failure (CF) is rolled and Berilik Balm is applied, roll a d6. On a 1-3 the infection doesn't happen.

yeah the Herblore article even has pictures of each type of herb.

There are two optional rules. One is how to treat Bloodloss if that rule is used in combat. The other adding a Diagnosis roll which add a bonus to the Effective Mastery Level (EML) either +10 for a Marginal Sucess (MS) or +30 for a Critical Success (CS). The authors leave to GM's discretion whether to apply a penalty for a failed roll. I don't recommend doing that, Harnmaster is pretty brutal to begin with.

There also mechanics covering how to use this for disease. Basically diseases are given a contagion index and a healing rate. You multiply the character's endurance by the Contagion Index (CI) to see if they save against the disease. If they fail then they contract the disease starting at the listed Healing Rate. A C1/H1 disease will kill most of the population.

Lingering effects of poisons are handled in the same way.

Instead of Injury levels going down, the healing roll for disease raise and lower the Healing Rate. At H0 the character dies and at H6 the character is free of disease/infection/poison. This healing roll is made every day.

That it for injury recovery, there is a lot packed into four pages of mechanics and like a lot of Harnmaster it handle the details in a straightforward manner that feels like how it would go in a medieval setting.

The previous post was Combat Part 2; The next post is Psionics.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Incompleat Violet Grimoire

3d6 Traps & Thieves - Thu, 04/30/2020 - 18:06
So, Grayharrow was my first serious side RPG project since I started work on Avremier sometime around 1980. In rapid succession, I started slamming down notes and outlines for other 'color-titled' mini-settings. It just felt good to work on something other than Avremier for a little while.

Grayharrow is meant as a contained setting - not an entire campaign world. More like a collection of realms in one defined region. But, as I got distracted by the other entries in my side projects, it became clear that these individual settings could easily share a campaign world.

We'll see how it goes, but I'd like to share what I have of the Violet Grimoire setting so far. As with Grayharrow, this is the culmination of my brainstorms and design sessions. Not yet ready for prime time. Not fully developed. Not suitable for wide release. Not everything is guaranteed to make sense. These are mostly raw ideas, torn directly from my mind. Some may be processed or trimmed, but not all. No guarantee of quality is offered or implied.

Centered upon the great city of Veriscine, which is the capital of the Imbraiac Regency. A metropolis with a rather baroque surface, covering decay and darkness beneath. Power, intrigue, desire, betrayal, fear – there must be fear. Always an undercurrent of something terrible lurking just beneath the decadent surface. Of madness concealed behind a crumbling façade of urbane civility. Buildings gain a spirit of purpose after generations of specific use or dedication. Some buildings spawn monsters from their very structure.
Veriscine lies at the mouth of a broad river meandering to the shore through a number of valleys and hollows to the north. Upriver, Fort Avres is the traditional home of the Baron Viceroy. The open waters beyond the mouth of the Lower Danaaru River are home to a dense archipelago shared amongst locathah, a’amuk merfolk, and others. Above the valelands lie windswept steppes and countless lakes. To the east, along the shore are marshlands and stretches of windswept, grassy dunes. To the west lie broken lands, fissures, canyons, and sinkholes - beyond which lie mountains.
The Imbraiac Regency is a civilization in complacent decline. The arcane and alchemical arts have been at their peak for generations. Much of arcane science is pursued for the benefit of those that can afford it. Pleasure and longevity are the most worthy goals.
The entire region is named Mysphanae, with the regional language known as Myspha.
In the campaign area, there are three settlements that may serve as a “base town.”
  • Veriscine: Capital of the Imbraiac Regency and greatest city in the setting. It is possible to pursue adventure within the city itself.
  • Indar: This modest town is largely responsible for commerce west of the Lower Danaaru River and is meant to serve as a more traditional ‘base town’ for adventurers.
  • Grimmenfast: An old castle that once served as the royal court for an earlier kingdom, Grimmenfast is a place that welcomes those of influence or interest, but can also offer challenges and dangers for the unwary.

In proximity to the main settlements of the region, there are a number of distinct sites for adventure.
  • Carrion Isle:  
  • Dalgorim, Ruins of: Castle Dalgorim was home to a deposed prince who lived in debauched exile. The place is partially fallen into decay and said to be haunted by the corrupt prince, his degenerate court, and their defiled victims. Adventurers approach the site overland through Banewood, or by the Mercy River.
  • Pillar of Thunder: A stone karst found in the Lower Danaaru River, at the base of three towering waterfalls. The stack is a little over 120 feet high and ranges from 30 feet at the base to 60 feet in width nearer the top. This natural formation once served as a holy site and temple. Ancient spells and natural stone formations have helped preserve the Pillar through the ages. Chambers and passages can be found within, worked long ago by monks and temple artisans. Five other stacks of smaller stature serve as monuments and tombs for the greatest high priests of the order. Danaaru is a water elemental-deity and the river is named thusly.
  • Pyramids: At four points where a river forks, there is a pyramid to blame. Each is a monument dedicated to one of the elemental deities: Aea (air), Danaaru (water), Hakhor (fire), and Oem (earth).

  • Lifeless Vale: A valley blasted by necromantic energies and left a bleak and silent waste suited only for the undead. There is a small accursed human settlement.
  • Wythe: Former military outpost turned into a fortified town. Somewhat wild and lawless compared to life nearer the capital.

A post-apocalyptic fantasy setting where the apocalypse passed almost unnoticed, and very few can be bothered with the business of recovery.
A central MacGuffin for the setting, this volume is said to contain the secrets of true immortality. A legendary treasure (artifact) that has been the goal of countless adventurers and other seekers. It has been the lifelong pursuit of Andraeun Nemacae, with the reluctant support of his wealthy and influential family. There is said to be an equal-but-opposite book called the Crimson Codex.
The reality of the Violet Grimoire is variable – depending on the goals and flavor of the campaign. The Grimoire offers immortality, but of what kind – and, at what cost? Let’s list some possibilities.
  1. Accursed: You are immortal – in one form or other, but at a terrible cost.
  2. Avatar: Your physical form is a vessel for some outer being or divinity. It is possible that your body will be altered to better suit the occupant. It is also possible that your body will not survive the transformation.
  3. Immortality: You do not age. You are impervious to most forms of harm. You have no need to eat, drink, or breathe. You are no longer mortal.
  4. Possession: Your physical form is the shared host for a being that preserves you as best it can for its own good.
  5. Regenerating: Not only have you stopped aging, but you recover quickly and completely from harm. You are very difficult to kill. In fact, you would somehow have to be destroyed utterly to keep from being restored.
  6. Reincarnation: Yes, you can die – but you will somehow be reborn in a new form, with  memories and experiences of previous lives.
  7. Spirit: You are a disembodied spirit. You will not pass on to the afterlife and are able to possess the living with effort, for limited periods of time.
  8. Transference: Your intellect and consciousness are placed inside an alternate physical shell. In theory, this can be continued indefinitely as long as there are viable shells available and the means of transference.
  9. Unaging: You do not age. Period. Barring incident, you could live for a very long time.
  10. Undead: You become some sort of free-willed undead monster, like a vampire or lich.

Then, there is the nature of the book itself. Is there such a thing? Is it really what legends claim?
  1. The Grimoire is a myth. There never was such a thing.
  2. The Grimoire is a myth, but someone is trying to create it themselves.
  3. The Grimoire is a myth, but many of the spells and formulae do exist.
  4. The Grimoire exists but is next-to-impossible to decipher.
  5. The Grimoire exists, but as a scattered collection of pages, scrolls, illuminations, and engravings.
  6. The original Grimoire is gone, but there is at least one questionable copy.
  7. The Grimoire exists, but not as described. Its true power may deal with the nature of time.
  8. The Grimoire exists, but is a dangerous, diabolical trap.
  9. The Grimoire exists, but is exceedingly dangerous for the unready or unwary.
  10. The Grimoire is actually an otherdimensional gateway or entity of some sort.

Courts: There is a Low, Middle, and High Court. The Low Court deals with crimes or disputes where no real status is involved. The High Court deals with crimes or disputes where one or more parties of high status are involved. The Middle Court tends to deal with the rest.
Government for the people is represented by the Regency Council.
  • Archdeacon: Spiritual leader. Subordinates are Deacons.
  • Baron Viceroy: Highest military authority. Subordinates are Knight Baronets.
  • Lord Chancellor: Academic leader. Subordinates are Vice Chancellors.
  • Lord Chief Justice: Highest legal authority. Subordinates are Lord Justices.

The gods were shown to be false. Their idols had been cast down. What need of deities representing forces or ideals long since mastered? Then, the otherworldly horrors of the Unquiet Dark began to stir – turning their attentions upon the world. Mortalkind became fresh prey for the ravening monsters from Beyond. In desperation and ignorance, the people turned to long-forgotten figures of ancient myth for deliverance and protection.
The OverNine: Nine Gods of Order with comforting human forms. Nine Lords of Hell that play at being gods – preferring  dominion in the mortal world over eternal war in the Infernal Regions. Diabolic overlords, now residing in Veriscine. Rarely seen outside their Deco-style tower of eleven floors. The Undeciment. During their reign, humanity has suffered little from the predations of alien horrors. The OverNine have proven exceedingly effective governors. Ruling through bureaucracy. Better the devil you know. Focus on the seven deadly sins as reliable anchors to the mortal realm.
  1. Agnazael (Lord of Hosts)
  2. Curichos (Lord of Brass)
  3. Diabolas (Lord of Lords)
  4. Eibur (Lord of Smokes)
  5. Hepastre (Lord of Lies)
  6. Nephronym (Lord of Songs)
  7. Ochrys (Lord of Secrets)
  8. Scathe (Lord of Punishment)
  9. Tarcheron (Lord of Demands)

It is possible that the Lords of Law will merge into a single cooperative Overlord to meet a potential crisis or disaster.
Nine Gods of Disorder
  1. Inchoatia
  2. Doomspiral
  3. Guivre
  4. Mulacchi
  5. Stokke
  6. Gremur
  7. Odleah
  8. Irizaar
  9. Chrysalis

The Lords of Chaos could devour or absorb one another, until only one remains as a single conglomerate.
There is something of a silent conflict between the Fungal Lords and the Faerie Realm that takes place in the background and underground. A fungal network spreads underground and has taken over a great deal of ordinary plant life. The Fae are not pleased by this development. Humanity generally sides with the Shrooms over the Fae in any overt conflict. This may backfire as the Fungal Lords seek only to multiply and spread – having no regard for human prosperity or future. The Fae can at least be reasoned with and somewhat related to. Some humans take on fungal infestation as a means of escaping the influences of the OverNine. Sacrificing a measure of humanity for the illusion of freedom.
  • Human, Accursed: The Accursed is a type of free-willed undead that chooses to exist within living society. They see their condition as an affliction, or curse – hence the name. Many will belong to an Accursed Society, which gives them a measure of legitimacy within the Regency. The Accursed Spellcaster Society and the Accursed Warrior Society are two of the oldest and most respected of their kind. Quite a few Accursed turn to hunting other undead. After all, who is better suited to the task? Similar to undead ghouls, but have retained their minds and most of their humanity. Have a deathly pallor, hair and nails that no longer grow, and sharper teeth. Can unhinge their jaws to gape their mouths wide for a vicious bite. Tend to be very lean, with a somewhat bestial cast to their features. Keen sense of smell. Powerful leap. Strong grip. Impressive stamina. Immune to Fear and Paralysis. Resistance to Sleep and Hold. Receive an involuntary save vs. Cure spells, with success indicating failure. Have a trace charnel scent and tend to unnerve domesticated animals. Detect living. Able to go without breathing for long periods. Not all are Evil, but few-to-none are Good. Even if the character is not of evil alignment, he is affected by magic as if evil. If hungry, there is a chance for berserking in combat or other stressful situations. Often ignored by unintelligent or bestial undead as undead themselves. Those with experience levels are affected by energy drain, but cannot be taken below 1st level – in other words, an accursed cannot be slain by energy drain alone.
  • Human, Awakened: Certain bloodlines (and individuals) have been given special attention by the OverNine, allowing some humans to take an evolutionary leap. While still ‘human’, these people are generally taller, healthier, smarter, and without visible flaw. The least of these still belong to a kind of upper middle class in Imbraiac society.
  • Human, Dormant: Standard human PC race. Casteless individuals whose genetic potential seems slow to waken. Gaining experience levels is one of the only ways to “jumpstart” these sluggish genes and achieve status. Cannot pursue the magical arts. PCs tend to be fighters and thieves, often from humble origins.
  • Comar: Potential character race based upon mushrooms, these creatures are essentially humanoid mushrooms about the size of dwarves. Dwell underground and in shadowy woodlands. Darkvision 90'. Leathery skin for +1 AC. HD: d6. Very quiet. Resist mental effects and illusions. Resist cold.
  • Cleric: Receive spells from devils or icons (iconolator), sigils (pictriarch), or symbols (symbolist). Clerics of Law? Rule? Order?
  • Drau (“draw”): “Corpse elves.” Angular features. Drau are those that have chosen to remain in this world after death, but diminished. Necromantic traits. Near-dead. Magic as sorcerer. No spellbook, but fewer spell slots.
  • Druid (Hedge Witch/Wizard): Devoted to the Fae Lords. Assume such animal shapes as erushae, faerie dragon, firefriend, gloomwing, peryton, or unicorn. Serve the natural forces of gravitation, electromagnetism, weak nuclear, and strong nuclear. Call themselves Hedge Witches/Wizards to minimize scrutiny and threat. Witch/Wizard is an archaic term with a nostalgic connotation (Mage is the modern term). Druidism is associated with Drau and the elemental deities, both of which are still viewed with suspicion by society. Their spell list may include some magic-user/elf spells.
  • Dwarf, Fantoc: Disturbingly child-like, with oversized heads and large, soulful eyes. Males tend to be balding except for small beards and bushy brows. Very mechanically-inclined, the fantoc are known for artificial implantation and augmentation of the physical body. Tend to be elaborately scarred and/or tattooed. Consider their bodies to be no more than blank canvases to be adorned and simple clay to be molded. Often difficult to tell gender (if any) at first glance. Favor rich colors and complex patterns. Fantoc fashions tend to be rather baroque and fitted in layers. They love wigs and makeup. Fantasy-themed cybernetics with a steampunkish aesthetic. Known to humans as manikins, and to many others as moppets. PCs tend to be gadgeteers, trapsmiths/locksmiths, musketeers or pistoliers, snipers, assassins (with exceptional anatomical knowledge), and duelists. Their mechanical weapons are almost always crafted to be used only by fantocci with the proper implants.
Deepsky Solace: Occupying a massive crater,  Deepsky Solace is home to more than 7000 fantocci. Two high waterfalls plunge from the forested heights into the broad lake below. Major industries include mining (gold, some rubies, and tin), marble quarrying, fishing, furs (great white wolverines plague the kingdom in colder months), and spice (pepper, sage, and dill). Deepsky Solace is also known for its beautiful dyes and intricate weaving. They produce decent leathers and fine wool from the mountain sheep herded on the mountainsides.Deepsky Solace is ruled by King Filspeg and Queen Hespera of the Goldenoak Dynasty. Filspeg is the fourth ruler of that name and Hespera is the second. Popular rulers known for their elaborate parties and celebrations, Filspeg (a bard) and Hespera (an illusionist) keep a lively court filled with unusual and talented nobles. Courtly names.Benardei Hornblower: Batonneure (Head Conductor and Composer) to the Court (Bard). Rather stuffy unless performing. Ipatchistro “Patches” (no surname): Chief Tinker (Hornblower is always commissioning new and more elaborate instruments from Patches).Anadrienne Foxglove: Keeper of the Royal Purse (no character class, just a darn good accountant). Female.Tambour Mosswater: Royal Apothecary (druid).Gildesta Starshimmer, Countess: (sorceress). Female.Bartoliette Cloudgather: Chief Cook and Fortuneteller (diviner). Female.Mirundra Tallowfell: Castellan of the Summer Palace.Fletcher “Fletch” Brindlebow: Pathwarden (ranger).The king is said to have a long-standing hereditary pact with one of the major earth elementals and may sometimes call upon that entity for aid in times of great need.A circle of druids keeps a haven on one of the lesser-inhabited mountains.Houses are usually built half-underground with extensive root cellars and tunnels between some homes. Underground waterways lead to the lake. Kind of a Renaissance Italy/Provincial France sort of air.
  • Effete Mage: Focused on magic to the exclusion of most else. Poor combatant. Tend to be awkward in social interaction. Moral flexibility. Trade proficiencies/skills for spell slots. Magical savant. Can swap out physical ability score points for academic ones during character creation – more so than usual. Improvement of Int, Dex, and Cha ability scores in much the same way as a 1e cavalier (by %). Notice magic in favor of most else. May have nimble fingers and talented hands, but tend to be hopeless with athletic or martial efforts. Bard-like knowledge. Bonus spells for high intelligence. Bonus spell slots for high charisma.
  • Elf (Fae), Dullagh: A playable variant of the dullahan. Slender humanoid figure with a jack-o-lantern head. Body affected as an elf, while the head is affected as a plant (such as by mind-affecting spells). May cause head to glow from within (phosphorescence, not flame) to see in darkness. Expressive faces. Able to speak, hear, and see. Dislike gold (will not possess any) and can possibly be turned by a strongly-presented golden holy item. Tend to wear dark, elegant clothing. Can remove head without harm. Unaffected by decapitation. Possibly startle opponent or onlooker for first round, when seen. Knock, Haste, truename magic (Finger of Death). Also known as Scarecrows, mostly by humans.
  • Etun (Ettin): Double saves vs. mental visual effects. One head is usually awake and alert at any given time. Surprised only on a 1. Ambidexterity – though the left arm does slightly less damage than the right arm. 8’ tall. See well in the dark. Each head is an individual, and will have its own name.
  • Gnome, Attercop: Near-subterranean gnomish race with longish arms and oversized upswept eyes that allow a wide field of vision. See very well in darkness. Natural skin markings/patterns determine ancestry or family affiliation. Some throwbacks have a venomous bite, but most do not – though they still have prominent fangs. Still, attercops resist poison and can sometimes process it in their system through blood alchemy – producing one of a handful of effects within their own body, such as Cure Wounds, Neutralize Poison, Cure Disease, or simply make themselves poisonous to creatures that bite. Agile, quick, and fine balance. Climb exceptionally well (including ropes or cords) with empty hands and bare feet. Silk glands that produce strong cord. Natural talent for traps/snares. Hair on the head and face tends to be white or silver, and very silky. They grow long spines of their forearms and shins that cause damage in close combat/grappling, or can be plucked and thrown like darts. Scavengers that utilize almost any found materials for their crafts or construction. Known carrion-eaters. Attercops have an affinity for spiders and are known to have giant versions as pets, companions, guardians, and mounts. Often come to the surface to hunt or trade, but dislike bright light. Tend to wear clothing woven from attercop silk, and will sell such to others.
  • Lizard, Bluetongue: Similar to elves in PC traits. Tall and lithe. Not prone to emotional outbursts or overreaction. Get along well with most other races. Known as Blues by humankind. Banded skin of pale blue or albino white. Eyes are always a shade of blue or blue-violet. Evasion. Escape bonds. Fit through small openings or spaces. Climb well. Jump. Move well upright or on all fours. Leathery skin. Diet of fruit, meat, insects. Language of hisses, clicks, and whistles.
  • Lurighan (Smallfolk): A leprechaun PC race for the halfling. Luck and legerdemain. Elusive and evasive. Mastery of cantrips. Hit-and-run. Throwing skill. Movement not slowed by underbrush, loose rubble, or similar impediments that can be squeezed through. Burst of speed or action, constitution-based…cannot be encumbered or fatigued.
  • Magician: Part alchemist, gadgeteer, and artificer. Possibly with fewer spell slots, but with the option of having a dedicated familiar to pick up the slack. Spellcasting can be taxing or unreliable. Skilled at identifying and using magic items – even those not normally suited for a spellcaster.
  • Saigu (Weretiger): Mostly human appearance, with some superficial tiger features. Can manifest individual tiger traits at will (claws, eyes, tail, head, etc.). Can transform into half-tiger or full-tiger form. Physical features can change with mood. Tracking. Difficult to surprise. Nightvision.

Heroism is what you make it. For even the direst of villains may choose Humanity over the Howling Black, in the end. Law and Chaos may prove more dependable than Good or Evil. Do you stand with your own kind, or do you embrace the Void?
The diabolic overlords represent Law and the potential for humanity to have a future - even if it is a future of servitude. Those other...Things...waiting just beyond the fringes of the wavering light - they know only hunger and chaos. Villains have goals and philosophies. Predators simple prey.
Violet Grimoire offers a range of horror elements that run from Gothic to Mythos.
  • Ability score damage.
  • Deceptive evil.
  • Delusion: Persistent “mental illusion.”
  • Domination: Deep mental control.
  • Encountering monsters that are truly unfamiliar, or that seem impossible somehow.
  • Forced morale checks for PCs.
  • Friend or loved one turned into a monster.
  • Losing control of character by delusion, domination, or possession.
  • Possession: Spiritual control, possibly tainting the victim’s soul.
  • Surprise encounter where the creature is not clearly described and the DM deals out damage before even declaring surprise.
  • Threat of becoming a monster yourself.
  • Unwanted transformation of character.

Some believe there are true gods out there. Divine beings of compassion and justice who will embrace humanity and raise it above the misery and tyranny of its current state. Others feel that humankind should take control of its own destiny and deny all gods or divine pretenders. These people are of the opinion that no entities of such power could possibly have mortal interests at heart.
Annulator.Cobblecade.Endarkenment.Structuralists: Law extremists.
Mortalkind once explored the myriad planes and shared their own world with a multitude of alien species. That ended long ago with the Planewrack and the creation of the Twilight Rampart. The Regency now works to defend the world from abominable threats from Beyond, and maintains isolation from most other planes.
Generally, planar gates are unstable and detrimental to those that use them. Disorientation. Period of acclimation on the other side. Temporary loss of one or more senses. Possible hallucinations. Open gates also create a field of localized distortion. For the most part, stable planar gateways are creations and property of the Lords of Law.
The Unquiet Dark is the merciless Void that lies beyond the familiar and the sane. Beyond that is the Howling Black of primordial chaos.
  • Accursed: A type of free-willed undead that chooses to exist within living society. They see their condition as an affliction, or curse – hence the name. Many will belong to an Accursed Society, which gives them a measure of legitimacy within the Regency. The Accursed Spellcaster Society and the Accursed Warrior Society are two of the oldest and most respected of their kind. Quite a few Accursed turn to hunting other undead. After all, who is better suited to the task?
  • Alchemental: Artificially-created elemental-type creatures that exist through dangerous alchemical processes.
  • Amethyst Matron: Pale, slender woman with a head of amethyst crystal. Tend to act and behave normally when encountered – as if they can see, hear, and speak perfectly well – though they do not require light of any kind to see and their voice resonates with crystalline harmonics. Not undead, but not alive. No anatomy to exploit, such as with backstabs or critical strikes. Immune to mental and emotional effects. Immune to effects that require vision or hearing. Immune to poison or disease. No alignment. Do not need to eat, breathe, or sleep (immune to Sleep effects). The crystalline head is vulnerable to sonic effects, and the matron can live without its body – at which point the crystal may float and act independently. Body is vulnerable to petrification, but the head is not. Able to manipulate time in a localized area, including Time Stop, Haste or Slow effects. Detect Magic, See Invisible, ESP, Prismatic Wall/Sphere. Miss Chance, Miss Hap, Miss Step: Amethyst Matrons of West Ending. There are always three amethyst matrons in proximity and one trio is rumored to be caretakers of the Violet Grimoire.
  • Ankheg: Worker-type of a species that includes the Umber Hulk as a warrior-type.
  • Arathid: A species of mind flayer with a spider-like head. Served by a type of six-armed umber hulk and often accompanied by creatures resembling intellect devourers with spidery legs instead of the usual leonine legs. Also known as Web Flayers. Will replace the illithid in the setting entirely. The arathid culture is based upon permutations of the number eight and much of its organization is focused upon that number. The most powerful arathid have multiple arms and receive more respect than usual. There is some genetic disease or mutation that is creating degenerate versions of the arathid that are more spidery than ‘flayer. The creatures are desperately seeking a way to solve the problem. Elaborate banners of spidersilk are common among arathid houses and nobles. They craft many items themselves, from their own silk. Wood, ivory, and bone are also common raw materials. Arathid are not as “sophisticated” as standard mind flayers and tend to serve as lieutenants and researchers for the tyrathid host. Strangely, these creatures do not particularly enjoy the company of spiders. Only their own monstrous creations are likely to be found within arathid enclaves. They are very talented alchemists and have an instinctive understanding of chemicals and genetic traits. The biological fluids of other creatures are both intoxicant and resource to the arathid. These creatures do not devour the brains of intelligent beings, but they do intake spinal and cerebral fluids.
  • Ascomoid: Weaponized by the myconid drug-lords as bouncers and bodyguards of all sizes.
  • Attercop: Subterranean gnome race with spider traits. Also a PC race.
  • Baelrohk: Indigo balor with actinic blue-white “fire” that flickers and crackles. Lightning sword and thundercrack whip. Metal-wielding foes suffer electrocution and burning. Local weather control – only toward violent storms for powerful winds and lightning strikes. Immune to electricity and cold. Able to fly in any conditions. Shocking Grasp at will. Create blinding flashes at will. Not affected by light-based blinding/dazzling effects. Create fog. Call Lighting to strike foes or strike itself (healed by electrical effects). Dimension Door-type effect by traveling through lightning strikes.
  • Banes: A Dread that gains enough power and influence may claim a territory surrounding its lair to establish itself as a Bane. They usually keep the title they had as a Dread, but change the Dread to Bane. Some will name themselves for a singular hero that they destroyed. Moonfire’s Bane, for example. Banes are also known for gathering followers and servants to carry out their wishes, while Dreads are solitary – only surrounded by native or incidental monsters. One of the moryga.
  • Banshee: Attached to established families of “true blood.” A sign of status and respectability.
  • Basidirond: Domesticated by the myconid drug-lords, these creatures function as ambulatory “beds” in which clients can lounge within individually tailored, spore-induced, hallucinogenic sessions. These basidironds are not limited to the 1d8 effect table.
  • Black Toad, The: Grossly obese (disgraced) monk with a small stone in his forehead. The stone is thought to be ornamental, but is actually a black Toad Stone partially embedded in his skull. Wears beautiful garments and suits of black silk patterned with toads and otherworldly scenes. The Black Toad is an expert martial artist and swordsman, though he prefers gunsen and chain weapons. His bulk serves as partial armor – in fact, part of his bulk is in the form of hidden subdermal armor. He is much faster and more agile than most opponents expect. As a villain of the setting, the Black Toad is involved with underworld dealings and the acquisition of magical items or antiquities by any means necessary. Though he prefers his (full) assumed title, the Black Toad’s given name is Kūrik Mūgo – though very few know of it. Calling him merely “Toad” is an offense sure to be punished. He is a eunuch and utterly hairless. His skin is very pale and he affects black lips, nails, and eyeliner. He is also heavily tattooed. Enjoys being surrounded by water, even if not immersed himself. Also favors steam and humidity. Though entirely human, the Black Toad has somehow infused himself with the ichor of selected oni (possibly through his tattoos), giving him some of their properties – such as massive strength. Implanted with artificial gills. Often wears a toad-skull mask.
  • Blackbird: Officially – the state police force. Also, spies and assassins. Nicknamed for their black uniforms/armor, though Blackbird has become an unofficial title in common use. Twenty-four is the traditional number for a complete unit.
  • Blackbird, Redwing: Elite officer types. Nicknamed for their crimson shoulder armor and sleeves.
  • Butterflies and cocoons.
  • Cobkin: Race of spider-centaurs. Stand at about medium-height, but closer to large-size in overall bulk. Able to climb and cast/spin webs like a spider. They are white, gray, or violet in hue. Each color type will have a different kind of venom.
  • Corvugriff: Entirely black griffon with the features of a raven instead of an eagle. Very intelligent and capable of limited speech.
  • Dark Creeper: Traits for possible dwarf race.
  • Dooms: Among the most powerful moryga. Elevated after the destruction of an entire city, kingdom, or people.
  • Dragon,
  • Drau(gr): Replacement for Drow. Engineered from the draugr. Black “elves.” Also a PC race.
  • Dreads: Huge and ominous, Dreads inhabit places of legend and infamy. Places that draw heroes, explorers, fortunehunters, and adventurers. Dreads feed upon the glory and might of those they destroy, growing larger and stronger with each worthy victim. It is possible that Dreads started as Viles who gained power and stature through trickery and murder, allowing them to evolve into something more. Dreads are named for the location of their lair – the better to draw new victims to them. The Dread of Banoth-Khol is one such monster. One of the moryga.
  • Efreeti: The City of Brass is now part of the Infernum, and is ruled by Curichos. Solemn efreet can be found as executive assistants to the Infernal hierarchy.
  • Elf, Imbrae: Degenerate elvish race so driven from nature and their homelands that they have turned to alchemy and mechanical sorcery to combat their enemies. Not generally evil, but definitely disturbing.
  • Ettin: Engineered to become elite guards or soldiers. More evolved and intelligent. Trained in weapon use. NPC versions are larger than the Etun – closer to 10’ tall.
  • Eye of Fear and Flame: Elder of a cursed/damned monastery.
  • Eye of the Dark: A creature of the Unquiet Dark, superficially resembles an Eye of the Deep. Probably with a mass of tentacles instead of claws.
  • Fae, Court: Tall and “ethereal” beings with some traditional qualities of vampires. Often feeding on mortals by draining them of vitality. Not exactly evil, but definitely amoral, selfish, uncaring, and ruthless.
  • Fae Hound: A version of the Blink Dog, but far more menacing and large enough to ride. Possibly a version of the Enfield. The Enfield will have the head and hindquarters of a fox with the foretalons and wings of an eagle. Guardians against desecration of leaders fallen in battle. Subtlety, cunning, fierceness, and fortitude.
  • Forever and Ever: Twin diabolic characters.
  • Forgotten, The: Blanket term for those undead that are true monsters, lost to the Void.
  • Fungi, Ghost: Large, white morel-type mushrooms that can drift through the air for short distances. Similar to violet fungi, but their touch withers/ages.
  • Fungi, Violet: Basis for an entire ecotype. Sometimes, the touch of violet fungus infects the victim, but not with rot. Violet patterns (like lichen) appear on the skin.
  • Ghost: Ghost or other spirit that wields a sword whose hilt is made of bone from his former body and the blade forged from chains binding him when he died. Ghost possesses the body of its murderer, then forces the murderer’s spirit out to hunt it down.
  • Giant, Stonebear: At least one tribe of stone giants has embraced a form of lycanthropy to become werebear berserks.
  • Giant, Storm: Rulers of the seas.
  • Gibbering Mouser: Kind of like a rather horrific cat.
·         Golden Orchid, The: The Golden King upon the Orchid Throne. Orchidelerium - golden orchid. Seeking the rare flower...and what occurs along the way. Twin, distant suns (like eyes). Black stars – visible in the brief and awful twilight. Hyades (singing). Dim. Appeared on the Lake. May sit upon the water - or upon the far shore. Towers seem to be behind the moon as it rises. The Golden Glyph. The Orchid Mask. The Phantom of Truth. Orchid vampires.·         Hermit: A terrible creature resembling a hermit crab takes up residence in a homeless person’s skull. The eyes are now the crab’s (on stalks) and it can extend its legs through the mouth. The victim is barely aware and not really in control of his own actions. Observers just assume he’s a little crazy – but in a harmless way.
  • Hippogriff: Prized steeds.
  • Horrors: One species of the chaos monsters of the Unquiet Dark known as the moryga. Horrors are seemingly mindless creatures of mutable form and savage temperament. No static or recognizable shape. Gaseous Horror, Gelatinous Horror, Tenebrous Horror, Tentacled Horror. Spend much of their time in a dormant state, rousing themselves to hunt. Subjects of Juiblex.
  • Horse: With tendrils for mane and tail. With thorny vines for mane and tail.
  • Hydra: There will be many types, and these creatures will serve as partial replacements for dragons as opponents.
  • Infernal:
  • Jack-o-Legion: Order of pumpkin-helmed knights.
  • Juiblex: Shub-Niggurath? Ulhob?
  • King Pin: Tall, angular, emaciated figure in tattered evening clothes. Finely dressed and appointed. Clatters/chimes softly when he moves. Carries a walking stick that is actually an oversized pin. Fights with pins the size of knives or swords. If he draws blood from an opponent with a pin, he can use it to pierce a rag doll that then becomes linked with that victim. Served by a veritable army of animated rag dolls of all shapes and sizes (the Scarecrew). King Pin is thought by some to be made of pins beneath his suit. May alternately be pierced by thousands of pins, pulling pins from his own body for use – with the ability to alter their size at will.
  • Larvae: A singular gigantic entity of the lower planes made up of thousands of wriggling larvae. A swarm entity able to form rough humanoid shapes at need. Adjustable for a variety of encounter levels as the number of larvae can be assigned as needed – allowing for variations of size and hit dice. There may be one larva in control, or there may be a small collective “hive mind.” Alternately, Larvae could be a spirit entity that inhabits/possesses one or more portions of the swarm. In this fashion, Larvae could be on the path to demonic evolution on a massive scale. Progenitor of an entirely new race of demons – or something worse.
  • Leprechaun: The monster version will be quite cruel and mischievous. There will also be a PC version, the Lurighan (see above).
  • Leucrotta: An exotic mount for villains or exceptional riders.
  • Lizard Man: Not an uncommon sight in civilization. Will also be a PC race. Reference the white Blue-Tongued Skink.
  • Locathah: Occasional allies of humanity. Trade relations. Beautiful and exotic in appearance. Brightly-colored and elaborately-patterned locathah regulate much of the shipping and fishing trade. Can be engineered to breathe air for extended periods of time, but lose some ability to breathe water in the process. Any locathah PC will be of the engineered type.
  • Lycanthrope, Weretiger (Saigu): Have formed a distinct race of tiger-featured humans. Controlled shifting. Society of castes. Retain copper-hued skin with striped markings in human form. Eyes do not change and are always catlike. They have a ruler called Lord or Lady Tiger (possibly similar to the Cat Lord). Summer Tiger (orange-and-black) and Winter Tiger (white-and-black).
  • Marrow & Morrow: Pair of construct assassins. Marrow possesses a biological nanovirus attack while Morrow has limited time jumping ability.
  • Merfolk, A’amuk: The only species in the setting has the traits of sharks, not fish. They are savage and deadly. Sort of a mer-sahuagin crossing.
  • Morkoth:
  • Moryga: General group name for the Viles, Horrors, Terrors, Dreads, Banes, and Dooms.
  • Moss, Corpse: Grows like hair on dead bodies. Able to animate and control the corpse.
  • Mournolith: Terrible creature of immense size and power. The result of a cursed artifact never meant for this world. The creature is actually an enormous suit of construct armor with someone attached to the core. The construct spends long periods of time recharging after a frenzy of activity. The victim inside struggles for control. Started out as a normal-size suit of armor that grew as the wearer vanquished foes.
  • Myconid: Influential drug-lords that dominate some aspects of seedy “underground” culture in the city through their domestication and employment of certain fungoid creatures. Also known as the only reliable source for certain pharmaceuticals, toxins, and antidotes that are often in demand. Hold positions of wealth and influence by operating within, and at the fringes of, the law. Most of their homes and businesses are located quite literally underground. Myconids of the city have no king, but there are a number of “bosses.”
  • Naga: Clergy of the Nine, and their heralds.
  • Nightmare: Personal steeds of the Nine, and their chosen.
  • Nymph: Quite a few Fae Ladies are Nymphs.
  • Oozes: Ruled by the Underlord. Realm of Middenmarch. There will be domesticated oozes – some with specific purposes.
  • Otter, Giant: May serve as mounts for brief periods. Killing one will anger the Fae (especially Nymphs).
  • Owlgryph: Particularly savage owl-snow leopard gryphon that is difficult to train and control. Striking appearance, and mostly white.
  • Peryton: Possible alternate type with the hindquarters of a stag – in the fashion of a hippogriff. Perygriff? Normal version may be known as the vulture-stag.
  • Plagues: Humanoid creatures shrouded in tattered robes. There are only four. Blight: Wears algae-stained rags of olive green. Brings disease and destructive insects such as locusts. Decay: Wears rust-colored rags smeared with filth. Brings rot and frogs to reduce all to a primordial ooze. Dust: Wears rags of pale gray smudged with ash. Brings drought and spores to destroy water tables and hoard moisture. Fever: Wears yellow-tinged rags splotched with black. Brings bacteria with rats and mosquitoes to spread disease to all. Ancient writings claim the four Plagues will eventually converge upon a single site if they continue their patterns of wandering. When this happens, the world will end.
  • Pseudo-Dragon:
  • Quasit: Agents of Chaos. Possibly trying to ascend to true demonhood.
  • Salamander: Infernal shock troops.
  • Satyr:
  • Sea Lion: Mane like kelp? Aquatic lycanthrope?
  • Sins, Deadly: Small group of individuals that exist to serve as living prisons for various demons. Tend to inherit the role from an elder member of the family. Display supernatural traits, abilities and moods. One is accidentally murdered in a mugging – releasing the demon within. A specialist in bizarre murders is called in to investigate the killing. The victim of the mugger is shot right in the head and falls to the ground – only to get back up while the mugger is looting the body. The victim then proceeds to torture and then kill the mugger in a particularly hideous fashion. The demon is now free, but remains in the dead body until it is no longer usable – then it finds another body. In the meantime, it seeks out its fellow prisoners trapped in other bodies in an attempt to free them or destroy them. One of the other seven will be called in to assist the investigator – with hints along the way that he or she is not entirely normal or human either. The adventure has options for a resolution that leaves the outcome ambiguous and to leave room for the demon to be been defeated – or has ended up in one of the PCs. There are seven demons – one for each of the Seven Deadly Sins: Luxuria (Lust) - Asmodeus, Gula (Gluttony) - Beelzebub, Avaritia (Avarice) - Mammon, Socordia (Sloth) - Belphegor, Ira (Wrath) - Amon, Invidia (Envy) - Leviathan, and Superbia (Pride) - Lucifer. The mortal containing each demon exemplifies the Holy Virtue that is the Sin’s opposite: Chastity, Temperance, Charity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, and Humility. Lilith could be mother to them all (Lil or Lilis).
  • Slithering Tracker: Fanatical assassins in service to Juiblex?
  • Spectre: Major domo for an Infernal Lord? Elite herald?
  • Splinterjack: Like a massive, fractured scarecrow with multiple jack-o-lantern heads. Makes horrible creaking sounds when it moves. Every melee strike threatens oversized splinters.
  • Sporehound: Using the Akata (PF Bestiary 2) as a template, this monster will see some slight rework and share an ecology with the vegepygmy. Becoming a fungus creature, the Akata (Sporehound) will spread Russet Mold instead of Void Death, thus prompting the spread of Vegepygmys.
  • Sylph(id): Comprise most of the remaining Fae Ladies (other than Nymphs). Fewer and rarer. Qualities of moths. Dislike touching the ground. Natural levitation, able to maneuver with wings. Often drawn to the breath of certain exceptional individuals as singers, poets, orators, or magicians. Some go dark and crave the dying breaths of those individuals. Almost impossible to surprise as they sense the slightest disturbance of the air. Have a high chance to notice invisible creatures nearby. Able to discorporate and become gaseous. Gust of Wind when angry or desperate.
  • Terrors: Strange and sudden, appearing unexpectedly. Chattering Terror, Howling Terror, Shrieking Terror, Silent Terror, Weeping Terror, Whispering Terror, Whistling Terror. One of the moryga.
  • Toad, Ice: Small groups found atop snow-capped mountains. Average intelligence and “have their own weird language.”
  • Treant: Some are Fae spies, found in towns and cities. Can disguise themselves as specific trees.
  • Umber Hulk: Related to the ankheg. Possibly a warrior-type of the same species, and the ankheg is a worker. Ankheg warrior.
·         Vampire, Absinthe: Unlike the green liquor common in more mundane spheres, one form of absinthe really does come from faeries. This tantalizing and dangerous drink is known as blood absinthe or noble absinthe. It is with this substance that the following is concerned. There is a rare form of absinthe distilled by the fae and generally kept out of the fumbling hands of mortalkind – though absinthe vampires form a hedonistic and opulent subculture in civilized regions. This glamer-infused liquor, imbibed by the fae as a particularly potent beverage, tends to have an entirely sinister effect on those mortals that foolishly partake of it. Those who succumb to the effects of undiluted blood absinthe almost always die in the process, and those who survive will become absinthe vampires, or grendels. A grendel is a wretched, undying thing created most often by a ritual process in which one or more participants quaffs a carefully measured infusion of blood absinthe, baneberry juice, and amber honey poured through a portion of white shademoss. There are two results of this process: death or death-and-restoration. Those who rise again become vampire-like immortals enslaved by the lure of faerie glamer. Grendel is a corrupted form of the antiquated term “green devil,” a name by which these creatures were once known. Such a creature craves and thrives on noble absinthe, and is immortal as long as the liquor is available. Once the grendel stops imbibing noble absinthe, the powers and traits gained by the transformation begin to fade and the years denied for so long will rush to overtake the unfortunate creature at the end. The mark of the grendel is one physical feature that permanently turns green. Sometimes, an individual will acquire more than one green feature. The most common marks are green lips and/or tongue, green eyes, green nails, or green hair. The green hue is always one that closely resembles the color of noble absinthe and is nearly impossible to dye or cover with cosmetics. Even an individual that possessed green eyes before the transformation will acquire an otherworldly green tint that could not possibly be mistaken for normal. A development list of potential grendel attributes, for future consideration.1.       Ageless: The grendel no longer ages and is immune to aging effects. When denied noble absinthe for a suitable period of time, the creature begins to age at a rate proportionate to the number of years denied by the transformation.2.       Anosmic: A grendel has no sense of smell or taste.3.       Blood: The grendel has noble absinthe for blood. This renders the creature immune to effects that rely on blood for a catalyst. This also makes bite attacks problematic for the biting creature. 4.       Charm: The grendel may attempt to charm victims of its delirium touch. The creature is also especially vulnerable to most faerie charm attempts.5.       Delirium: The touch of the grendel may confuse and weaken a victim. The target is usually disoriented and nearly helpless.6.       Glamer: The grendel feeds on faerie glamer and is able to enhance its own abilities this way. While noble absinthe is the ideal source of glamer for a grendel, the creature may absorb glamer from other sources, but this energy will not serve to keep it vital for long.7.       Gossamer: The grendel may assume a nearly weightless and translucent form, similar in many ways to the effects of a gaseous form spell. The creature does not lose its own shape, but is mostly insubstantial and able to drift about, almost as if flying. Alternately, the creature may manifest gossamer wings that permit true flight.8.       Green: Able to enter the demiplane known as The Green. May also traverse The Gloom.9.       Immunity: The grendel is immune to poison and cannot be affected by potions.10.   Iron: Cold iron inflicts normal damage to a grendel, even in gossamer form, that cannot be regenerated.11.   Regeneration: The grendel regenerates hit points lost to most forms of damage, but not in direct sunlight.12.   Sight: The grendel gains fae sight.13.   Sunlight: Direct sunlight burns the absinthe from a grendel’s body, but does not harm the creature itself. This form of dehydration usually renders the grendel powerless and dangerously close to remission.14.   Undying: The grendel has the Undying type and is not undead. The creature is a creation of fae alchemy, not of necromantic energies.
  • Vampire, Minyades: Possible vampire origin story. Cursed by Dionysus to become bats.
  • Viles: The least of the moryga, the viles are of general human size and form. They prefer darkness and pursue their goals through trickery and deception, but will quickly resort to murder if things don’t go their way. Named for their preferred environment? Cave, Cellar, Sewer, Well.
  • Wasp, Mirrorwing: Creates displacement or duplication effects in flight.
  • Were, Urban Gamin: Child lycanthropes adapted to the city. Cat, crow, dog, rat, and others.
  • Zygom: The pale blue “milk” is refined by servants of the myconid drug-lords into alcohogenic beverage enjoyed by humans and a few other races in “milk bars.”

Magic, Items & Materials
  • Black Hemlock: 33-197 feet tall. Gray or reddish-brown bark (tannic acid in bark). Baskets woven from bark. Flat needles (needle tea – not poisonous). Needle oil in perfumes. Small cones. Black bears shelter in hollow trees. Wood for building and furniture. Wool dye extracts. 400-800 year lifespan. Found near water – cool and damp.  
  • Briarrose Flail: Chain fashioned to resemble thorny vines with head like a metal rose in bloom.
  • Couture: Applies to some armor and magical garments. Symbols of status. Affects social standing and image.
  • Dust of Magic Detection
  • Familiar spirit that can duplicate the effects of certain low-level spells. Can glow with Light. Knows a number of languages. Can mimic voices. Has two or three base forms of small size.
  • Familiar, Ancestral: Appears as a fetish object or keepsake. Communicate with the dead.
  • Familiar, Nature: Always resembles a small animal, but with magical features. Available to “hedge wizards.” Can “possess” spellcaster to allow druid-like shapechange into animal or “bestial” form.
  • Hats: Magical hats of all kinds. A top hat that becomes a small cannon, for example.
  • Heirloom Items: Items of enchantment that function only for those of a specific bloodline. Some items will function for any qualified user, but have additional powers that function only for those of the bloodline.
  • Honeytrap Grenade: Bursts into sticky strawberry honey that holds the victim(s) and tempts those nearby to taste.
  • Illusion Duel: Street magic practice with an audience to determine the talent and creativity of the contestants. The loser is obligated to supply the winner with an original illusion spell.
  • Items inhabited by spirits.
  • Jotunium: Always cold and very difficult to heat, with an exceedingly high melting point. Has a “frosty” surface finish. Found in glacial settings.
  • Magical oils, ointments, ropes, chains, whips, flails.
  • Magical shield, usable by magic-user, that can be made to become a Floating Disc.
  • Myrmidon Armor: Made from treated giant ant carapace. Worn by Blackbirds as part of their standard uniform.
  • One form of recreation is to ride along within the mind of a creature as it hunts, flies, swims, or mates. Humanity has become more and more decadent, seeking new distractions and pleasures.
  • Opalwood: A major building material for the city of Veriscine.
  • Poisons, drugs, diseases, intoxicants, and madnesses.
  • Powder: Pale skin is in fashion and the effect is often achieved with powder. Some is made with sugar, to be licked off. Some is made with cocaine, to be snorted off. Some is made with both.
  • Practice of summoning/contacting entities to aid in ritual magic.
  • Pyrotechnic Pistol: A breechloading firearm that uses special cartridges.
  • Scroll, Invocation: Calls upon a specific entity to perform a service. Usable by anyone.
  • Spellcasting through dance.
  • Spells: A magic-user generally knows the process of working magic, but is unsure of the actual source or nature of those energies. A high Intelligence score allows for the control of lower level spells, but it requires special components or rituals to produce spells of higher than 3rd level. Int 13-15 for 1st level spells, Int 16-17 for 2nd level spells, and Int 18 for 3rd level spells.
  • Sword with a spiked hilt. Wielder takes damage each round that translates to magical bonuses to hit and damage for the sword.
  • Tantric ritual magic.
·         Weeping Window:
  • Worm Star: Meteorite that looks like coral – made up of hundreds of worm-like creatures from space.
  • Antipathy: Character name. Annie, for short.
·         Bellhollow: Creepy “Halloween” town that appears on a “black moon,” usually at a crossroads. Town built around a central belltower on a small hill that tolls the hour. Residents and Puppets.
  • Bonuses to relevant checks based on appearance, scent, movement, etc.
·         Candelabrum as a fantasy urban setting for stories. Built upon a conjunction of ley lines, a river was diverted and the landscape was altered to accommodate the city as the site was not originally suited quite so well for its presence. A showcase for the Arcanaflow system of magic. The City of Myriad Towers. Research possible similarities to Eberron’s city of Sharn to avoid unnecessary overlap.·         Card Duels: Ritualized and sometimes complex contests with serious consequences. Duels are typically arranged in much the same way as duels of swords or pistols, but with ornate and somewhat oversized playing cards. Between the two duelists will usually be a small, folding table. The players hurl their cards to the table. The practice started with a game much like War, but has spawned a number of variants.
  • Carillon (Caril): Character name.
  • Catacombs and Chimerae: Tabletop miniature role-playing wargame popularized by the idle rich to recreate the historic dungeon delves of olden times.
The opening line of the story was, "You find yourself on the other side of the Moonwidow Gate, ready to undertake your quest." That was the first of many lies. Never was I ready, and...I may never find myself.
  • Cavortium
  • Character dies during an adventure and wakes up in Hell, not realizing they’re no longer among the living. The day starts badly and steadily becomes the worst day of the character’s life. Then the next day starts as badly as the previous day ended. Goal is to break the cycle and get free.
  • Clangor: Character name.
  • Combined setting with RedStaff? Immurcie to the south.
  • Dragons: Assume human form, often posing as ambassadors and minor nobility from foreign lands. Thrive upon the machinations and opulence of modern civilization.
  • Drimble: Character name.
  • Fortuneseller
  • Glass: Windowpane art as signs. Lots of glass and enclosures of glass.
  • Gravely: Character name.
  • Heartbroker
  • Encourage role-playing and non-combat resolutions. Combat may be more of a swashbuckling affair. Attitude, deceit, and wit will be valuable traits to cultivate. Rhetoric, satire, and innuendo become dangerous weapons.
  • Fae are wealthy visitors to human society and no party or gala is truly complete without their attendance. Beautiful, ruthless, and magically adept. The fae are too tempting for most mortals to resist for long.
  • For, while the two dead men lay locked in desperate strangling grips which would require forcible removal with surgical tools, the corpse of the unfortunate captain was as fresh as though he’d breathed his last mere hours before – while the remains of the man who was his killer showed the decay of many months!
  • Gloaming Seat, The:
  • Gutbag: Character name.
  • He was a man with friends in hard-to-reach places.
·         Her eyes were an acrid and volatile shade of envy that I found difficult to ignore.·         I found myself sinking into the bed while the ceiling receded away from me. Soon, I realized I was sinking apart from my body, which remained upon the bed above. I could see my body aloft, and I could see the ceiling as well. The ceiling became as vast as the sky and a part of it tore slowly away to reveal black void beyond. From the edge of the hole came a hand, but the fingers were like the legs of a scorpion, or a spider - or maybe both. What the hand might be attached to, I had no idea, but somehow knew that I was leaving my body behind as a kind of sacrifice so I might survive - whatever I was then. Just as an immense shape seemed about to lean into view from above the hole, I think I drifted off to sleep.·         I wanted to get her some flowers appropriate to the occasion but poisonous, weeping, black roses were damn hard to come by this time of year. In the end I settled on a nice bunch of nightshade and foxglove.·         "I was there when the lightning struck the flower and the butterfly rejoiced."
"...What in the Shining Golden Hell are you smoking?"·         "I wish I had your eyes."
"Have you considered corrective enchantment? It did wonders for me."
"No, I mean, I don't have quite that shade of blue in my collection."·         If you render a person whose cells are no longer growing down to their essential elements, then consume them, you gain however much natural lifespan they had left added to your own.·         Immortality: True immortality transforms the recipient so that they can no longer properly interact with the physical world. They become something of a ghost in the mortal world and have the urge to “ascend” to the plane just above this one – thus becoming something on the lesser order of gods. Then, they begin to forget and to fade unless anchored somehow to the mortal world. Yes – the gods are little more than very elaborate and vigorous spirits.·         It may be difficult to see in the dark but too much light can blind you permanently.·         "It's what's inside that counts."“Sadly, my possessing demon agrees.”
  • Janglene: Character name.
  • Knight of the Pen (or Quill): Ink-dipped lance.
  • Ladies’ Garden Clubs: Societal niche wherein women of substance and influence maneuver for control and position while waging secret wars in the shadows.
  • Lament (or LaMent): Character name.
  • Lampblack: Surname.
  • Licious: Dee and Ma.
  • Lieutenant Baker: Leader of an elite band of twelve soldiers. Baker’s Dozen.
  • Lords Eponymous, Sonorous, and Vicarious.
·         “My eyes feel like frozen marbles, cracking and dissolving ever so slowly in a light and fizzy acid.”
  • Mettle fatigue: Colorful term for "cowardice."
  • Misters Ladder and Tidings.
  • Mushrooms growing in statue’s nostrils and/or mouth.
·         Necropits of Shavan-Vaul·         "No, I do not want you dead.""Really?""I like my food to struggle."·         Realm of Want: Common name for one of the Hells.·         Red Market·         Requiem: Character name.·         Runic: Character name.·         Screamstress:·         Series of murders where each victim has a similar diabolic tattoo - with ink made from devil’s blood.·         She stopped. She turned. She smiled. The light from the lanterns gleamed from her perfect white fangs. I was aroused. It made running for my life difficult.
  • She was a gorgon. I was a poet. My friends said it would never work between us. My mother wept. My father ranted. My sister…well, my sister had run off with a centaur last summer. I should say ‘astride’ a centaur, in all honesty. Some could blame a troubled home life but I knew better. I brought my love bouquets of asphodel. Somewhere I’d read the flowers were a balm for snakebite. She found them pretty and delighted in the fragrance. I left it at that. Some said that she used to turn her lovers to stone in the very midst of the act. It was the only way she could keep them…attentive enough to reach her own threshold. I guess I didn’t have that problem.
  • Sleepless: Character name.
·         “Some people claim I have no heart. To those slanderous naysayers I offer as proof contrary my sizable cabinet of carefully harvested and preserved cardiac organs, each in its own clearly-labeled jar.”·         “Sometimes I think the sky was made a delightful blue on purpose, in an effort to keep us all calm. It failed, of course.”·         The disturbingly sweet burnt cotton candy smell of damnation.·         There is a hole in the sky and the night comes pouring through.
  • Thresher: Character name.
·         Tidings Manor. Lord Tiding. ·         Towns with patron wizards, represented by statues in the town square. Each statue fashioned to hold a staff.·         Vampire's ghost manifests at the place of its destruction every night, bursting into flame at sunrise. Has started to lure living victims to the spot,  embracing them at sunrise to share its fiery doom.·         Velvet Blade, The:
  • We had arranged to go hunting together, she and I. On the night of the “hunter’s moon,” as he called it. It was the new moon. A time where the advantage goes to those with the best night vision. Definitely not the prey, in this case.
·         “What I thought was the first snow of the season turned out to be the gleaming white ash of a thousand burning angels.”
  • Whims: Alchemically-crafted slave caste. Serving Whims, Pleasure Whims, Guardian Whims, Labor Whims, etc. Often customized to the buyers preferences.
·         "Why kill me? I am no threat to you.""You would give me over to those who are.""No, I swear --""They will threaten, then torment, and you will forget how much more dangerous I am than they." ·         “Would you describe this friend of yours as housebroken?”“Well, he breaks into houses – but I doubt that’s what you mean.”·         “You must have been born under an angry star.”·         “You’re going to drink my blood and make me one of you?” Her voice was heavy with dismay, but colored just a little with desperate hope.The impossibly pale woman replied with a soft, cultured chuckle. The other figures that kept to the shadows erupted in far less polite laughter.“My dear,” said the woman, “we are not vampires. Your blood shall stay in your veins where it belongs.” Her agreeable smile brought a similar one to the girl’s ashen face.The laughter from the surrounding gloom came to a sudden and heart-stopping end. The air was suddenly saturated with a musky stench, tainted by the odor of decay.“But-” started the girl, and then found she could not continue.“But we areghouls,” stated the elegant woman, her face stretching in an impossibly huge grin filled with jagged teeth and glistening drool.The multitudes surrounding the pair leaned into the wan light and displayed similar predatory smiles.“And we aregoing to eat you,” the woman concluded in a voice filled with joyous expectation.The girl began to sob. The sobbing degenerated into a choking retch. Finally, she launched into a scream.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Review & Commentary On the Free Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure book by Stephen Chenault , & Robert Doyel

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 04/30/2020 - 17:59
"Upon the Edge of Battle Lie the Spoils of GloryUpon wind-swept battlefields, they seek their glory. With weapons of steel,stout shields, and sorcery, they drive ever onward, seeking the grandeur of conflictwith creatures of terrible wrath or beasts of legend. In all hours of every day,they gird themselves for war and struggle, to drive those evil beings of foulintent to doom and oblivion. Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Upon Further Reflection

The Splintered Realm - Thu, 04/30/2020 - 02:10
So I was toying with the idea of a revised and updated version of Sentinels of Echo City. I could update the rules to align with some of the minor tweaks that I've made with Tales of the Splintered Realm. I could upgrade the layout and give the entire art an overhaul. I could really tighten up the presentation and the layout, cleaning up text and refining some of the rough edges out of it.
Then I read the first half of the book again. I'll finish reading it tomorrow.
But I love it. It's just a bit quirky. And free-wheeling. And just shy of polished. It's clean, and well-presented, and bursting at the seams with good ideas. I haven't actually sat down and READ the thing in two years, but I had to admit it. Despite the little grammatical things I now know how to clean up, and the breezy layout, it's a gem of a game.
It's not a perfect, tightly-edited product. It's a great, high-energy, burst of superhero love. It captures what I wanted it to capture, exactly the way I wanted to capture it. In some ways, it is lightning in a bottle. I could tighten it up and refine it, but that might just kill the thing I love most about it.
One of the things that separates the better creative people from others is their knowledge of when to stop work on something. Could it be cleaner? Sharper? More professional? Yes, yes, and yes.
But would it be BETTER? I don't think so. 
I accept that Sentinels of Echo City and Tales of the Splintered Realm, although sharing the same basic engine, are actually different games. The differences in the two books are surprisingly stark to my eyes. I love them both. Tales is going to college and will have health insurance. Sentinels is going to tour the country in his van for a bit. But they're both fantastic kids. And I am going to do what I can to support them both on their journeys forward.

The Incompleat Grayharrow

3d6 Traps & Thieves - Wed, 04/29/2020 - 23:28
Yeah, 2020 has been kind of a wash so far. Still, I am hacking away at various projects. What follows is the entirety of my development file for the Grayharrow RPG setting. It is presented as-is. Without explanation or apology - not even for the formatting. Just to share. Perhaps someone will get something out of it. Someday, it may even be finished. This is not meant for immediate use. It is not ready for wide release.


Gray: lacking cheer or brightness in mood, outlook, style, or flavor.   : having an intermediate and often vaguely defined position,           condition, or character.Harrow: a cultivating tool set with spikes, teeth, or disks and used            primarily for breaking up and smoothing the soil.            : torment, vex.

Grayharrow is a high fantasy project in what we’re calling the Sword-in-Gaslight Psiberpunkgenre. What does this mean for you? Well, there is plenty of magic, in a world unlike our own in so many ways. Select details and aspects will reference Gothic, Victorian, Edwardian, Georgian, or Regency influences, to convey some of the lines and shades of the setting backdrop. A period hint of the familiar. Even so, swords and armor remain the order of the adventuring day, and the range of psionics options will not only be available to some characters, but will help define important aspects of the setting itself. The land, as a whole, is named Ithylwae.
Ithylwae is a land ruled by monsters – but not all are monstrous. The human monster, a Crown Lich, reigns over Vythakhar, the most influential of the seven-or-so recognized realms. This makes Humanity the dominant race at the time of this writing. Smaller than a world, but larger than a single kingdom, Ithylwae is designed to be used for single game sessions, or for an extended campaign. Play it alone, or drop it into an existing milieu. Make it yours. The lands comprising the setting can be situated in the corner of a continental map. They can form a small subcontinent set off on their own. They can be taken apart and made to fit in whatever circumstance or arrangement suits best. If you want, take just the Vythakhari city of Imharra and haunt the dreams of your players.
The goal is for a setting that feels intimately epic, in that the spaces involved are fairly small, but the details and stakes can be built upon a grand scale.


Vythakhar was an unused realm in the first iteration of what is now the Avremier setting. It was a place of strange magic and an atmosphere I could only describe as, “eldritch.” It was a weird place created by a very young me, and none of my players ever reached it. When I set out to bring Avremier “to the masses,” I found that Vythakhar just didn’t fit my current vision of the setting. So, rather than attempt to force a triangular peg into a round hole, I decided to create an  Avremier spinoff, of sorts. Not that Vythakhar is part of Avremier. It is just a mini-setting that takes much of its flavor and detail from the early days of Avremier’s development. Like an archaeological site recently unearthed for study and possible appreciation. What you have here is Vythakhar placed within a more suitable setting, developed by a more mature and experienced me. It is my hope that both have aged well.
Setting History
Vythakhar today is the realm of His Undying Majesty, Lokkan Thaul, whose capital city of Imharra rests in the titanic, skeletal hand of a long-dead god. While Vythakhar has long been a magocracy, there are those who would worship and elevate the enormous Dead God, claiming to hear his whispering voice above even that of the King. Defined by the authority of Law, Vythakhar is a place where Good and Evil are concepts left to philosophers to debate.

By Vythakhari reckoning, history is divided broadly into, “Before Fallen God” and, “After Fallen God.” In the age before the God fell, much of the region now known as Vythakhar was named Lorucheim. Little is known or recorded of that lost dominion, but what follows is generally accepted by scholars and historians.
In the Old Kingdom of Lorucheim, magical lore was held by the ruling class, and largely forbidden to the common people. Its former despotic ruler, known as Shroud, enforced his/her will through powerful servants called the Bloodless, that hid behind concealing garments and armor in varying shades of white. Regional Governors, with Imperial Advisors, oversaw administration of the land on a local level, while Armigers from the oldest noble houses ruled their own ancestral fiefdoms. For the most part, life in Lorucheim was said to be a good one, where its loyal citizens could expect the chance for prosperity and justice throughout their span. Before the end, there was said to have been a terrible coup attempt, with the support of diabolic allies. This was just before the God fell.
The impact of the Dead God (or, Fallen God) was a cataclysmic event that effectively destroyed Lorucheim at the start of what is historically considered its decline. Even as archaeological evidence, very little is known to remain. And, not much of that is entirely understood.
No other civilized race would settle among the divine remains, leaving the land to monsters and scavengers. Thus, when the first Vythakhari people arrived, the entire region was essentially theirs for the taking. With varying degrees of curiosity and trepidation, the neighboring nations watched the birth and development of what is now Vythakhar.
Last of the Mage-King dynasty of Vythakhar, Lokkan Thaul died in defense of his throne from threats originating in planes beyond this one. Soon after, he rose as a lich, wielding mighty psionic powers along with his mastery of arcane magic. Reclaiming the throne, the realm’s first Crown Lich rules as a “benevolent despot” to this day.
Lokkan Thaul is merely a title in the High Speech of arcane spellcasting, meaning Ancient Words. His true name is a well-kept secret. The Crown Lich has learned to duplicate many spell effects psionically, thus preserving spell slots for later use. He also wears a magical mask, to keep others from viewing his unsettling visage. The mask lends authority to his words in the form of a Charisma-based bonus, not Charm or Command.
Setting Rules
Cascade Effects: These are consecutive successes or choices that allow for a cumulative advantage in an encounter or situation. The idea is to encourage or reward cooperative player action and in-character thinking. Sort of a chain of events where (for example) one PC realizes just what kind of monster may be nearby, leading to another PC recalling that this particular monster of this specific region uses a special type of weapon or attack in combat, leading to another PC recognizing a critical weakness or flaw of this special attack, leading to the entire group receiving a bonus to combat rolls vs. these particular monsters using these particular weapons in this particular encounter – because they observed, communicated, and cooperated.
Fidelity: Loyalty. Duty.
Honor: Measure of worth or achievement.
Propriety: Behavior. Morality.
Player Character Races
Vythakhari contest with elves and dwarves over arcane resources. As the non-human races leave their homelands, their magical abilities and traits start to wane – but never fully leave. Thus, PC dwarves, elves, gnomes, and halflings will start with fairly impressive magical abilities – but they will be able to rely upon them less and less the more they adventure in other lands. This is one reason why humans are the dominant adventuring race. This is also why you don’t see as many high-level non-human adventurers, since many return home before too long to avoid losing their racial identity entirely.
Max HP/Class) Fighter: 109 (14th), M-U: 68 (14th), Cleric: 86 (14th), Thief: 73 (14th). Max HP/Race) Dwarf: 108 (12th), Elf: 83 (10th), Halfling: 75 (8th).

Human Character Classes)

Grayharrow will be presented using the original B/X rule set. Except for humans, the other races are given under the race-as-class model. In a  society dominated by Law, the prominent class types will be paladins and monks.
For game purposes, the Vythakhari race is human. They just look a little strange. Skin tones are in ranges of pearly-gray, with some being paler and some darker. Hair is black, gray, or white, and has nothing to do with age. Eyes are brown (30%), gray (60%), or (rarely) a very pale blue that is almost gray (10%). To outsiders, a Vythakhari may look washed-out and colorless. Those with any color in their eyes beyond brown or gray will have nightsight up to 30’.
Cleric of the Cleansing Flame: These are human worshippers of Iblis, though they hide their faith behind symbolism and abstraction. To the unenlightened, theirs is a religion that honors the sun. Those of the inner circle are known to worship the Polychrome Flame.


Level Title Required XP Hit Dice Bestowals 1 2 3 4 5 1 Faithful 0 1d6

2 Initiate 1,500 2d6+1 Divine Favor 1

3 Aspirant 3,000 3d6

4 Adherent 6,000 4d6+1 Divine Favor 2 1

5 Devotee 12,000 5d6
2 2

6 Pursuant 25,000 6d6+1 Divine Favor 2 2 1 1
7 Osseoan 50,000 7d6
2 2 2 1

Vythakhari society supports very few religions beyond worship of the Dead God. The “Osseoan” Cleric is a follower of the Dead God that gains spells by use of rituals drawing power from proximity to what is essentially a gigantic holy relic.  Unbeknownst to most worshippers, this faith is directed to the Unborn God as it gestates within the skeletal remains of the fallen deity.
The prime requisite for an Osseous Cleric is Wisdom. A Wisdom score of 13 or greater gives the Osseous Cleric a bonus on earned experience points.
RESTRICTIONS: Osseous Clerics have six-sided (d6) hit dice. They may wear any armor and use shields. They are trained in “hafted” weapons, including axes, mace, morningstar, flail, club, pole arm, spear, and war hammer. The traditional (preferred) weapon of the Osseoan Order is a mace or morningstar with a skull-shaped head. Hand axes and war hammers are fairly common weapons among the rank and file. Battle axes, pole arms, and spears are ceremonial weapons permitted to temple guards, itinerant, or adventuring clerics. No member of the Osseoan Order is trained in the use of swords or missile/ranged weapons.
SPECIAL ABILITIES: Note that the cleric’s ability to affect undead is Akashic in nature - as is their “spellcasting.” Turn or discorporate undead. Discorporated undead cannot reform in less than a number of hours equal to their hit dice. Add Charisma modifier to HD of undead affected by turning attempt. Gain choice of turning categories, depending upon deity? "Stall Undead:" A cleric may hold undead creatures slightly above their usual turning level at bay without forcing them to flee. Those affected cannot approach within 10' (or more?) of the cleric.
Becoming a cleric of the Dead God awakens the Akashic potential of the character.

Level Title Required XP Hit Dice Special Ability 1 Legionnaire 0 1d10 Thought Shield, Pugilist 2 Stalwart 2,200 2d10 Stalwart 3 Pillar 4,400 3d10 Defensive 4 Warder 8,800 4d10 Pugilist +1 5 Guardian 17,000 5d10 Body Discipline 6 Bulwark 35,000 6d10 Defensive 5’ 7 Aegis 70,000 7d10 Pugilist +2
The myrmidon is engineered for combat, selected and trained to stand against any onslaught. For the Grayharrow setting, Myrmidon is a class descriptor, not a 6th level title.
The prime requisite for a myrmidon is Strength, and characters with a score of 13 or greater gain a bonus on earned experience points.
RESTRICTIONS: Myrmidons have ten-sided (d10) hit dice. They may use any weapon, even those designed for wielders of a larger size – assuming the character can manage the weight. They may utilize any type of  armor or shield. Player character myrmidons must have a minimum constitution score of 9.
Level 1: Their extremely disciplined training gives the myrmidon a basic resistance to akashic attack, as the Thought Shield defense mode. Even when unarmed, the myrmidon is a dangerous pugilistic combatant, able to make two punch attacks per round, inflicting 1-4 + strength bonus damage per hit. At 4thlevel, the bonus increases by 1 damage (2-5) and the character’s unarmed attacks are equal to +1 magical weapons against those unaffected by mundane attacks. At 7th level, the bonus and the magical equivalent both increase to +2. Level 2: and an impressive ability to endure punishment or fatigue. Reduce damage taken from direct non-surprise attacks by 1. +3 to saves or checks against fatigue or magical sleep.Level 3: Their martial skill allows them to parry and deflect in combat (taking to hit and damage bonus from strength and adding it to AC for that round – fighting defensively). Level 5: Body Discipline (Mind Over Body)Level 6: Their parry and deflect can be extended to an adjacent ally within 5’.Level 9: Body ControlLevel 13: Body Mastery (Cell Adjustment – self only)
Level Title Required XP Hit Dice Spells 1 2 3 4 1 Scrivener 0 1d4

2 Limner 2,500 2d4

3 Inkantator 5,000 3d4
2 1

4 Pagician 10,000 4d4
2 2

5 Scrollcaster 20,000 5d4
2 2 1
6 Tomeaturge 40,000 6d4
2 2 2
7 Bibliomancer 80,000 7d4
3 2 2 1
Among the highly competitive and wildly esoteric community of arcane spellcasters, the Grimoirian is something of a traditionalist. They can’t claim exotic and otherworldly ancestry. They’re not willing to consort with profane powers from distant and nightmarish dimensions. The grimoirian got where she is through intense study, mind-twisting mnemonic exercises, sleepless nights among dusty library shelves, more study, rigorous practice, still more study – and just being smarter than everyone else. This is essentially the default magic-user class for the setting, learning and recording spells with a book – or, grimoire.
Have full access to arcane spells and have the potential for bonus spells with high intelligence. May use the grimoire as a shield and as a limited form of familiar. Relies on a big book for spells, but can use that hefty sucker as a shield and as a source of information and powers beyond just spells. Book can float much like T*****’s Floating Disc. Will be able to send the book flying like a weird bat. Will be able to "auto-write" onto unused pages. Can hold the book up as a shield against physical and magical attacks. Can prop the book open and expand it into a simple tent. When latched and locked, the book is like a solid slab of leather and metal. Makes an effective shield, and can even be swung upon its chain like a flail. Minor weapon damage via paper cuts. Resists fire, acid, ice, water, electricity, worms, and rot. Bookwyrm. “Burn” pages to avoid hit points of damage, and for other effects. New pages can be added at considerable cost – as long as there is room within the binding. Book can communicate through writing on its own pages, or by drawing images. May also record words and images in much the same manner.


Level Title Required XP Hit Dice Manifests 1 2 3 4 1 Æther 0 1d4 Force 1

2 Ividrian 2,500 2d4

5,000 3d4 Fire 2 1

10,000 4d4
2 2

20,000 5d4 Storm 2 2 1
40,000 6d4
2 2 2
80,000 7d4 Cold 3 2 2 1
Magic-User, Ividrian: May open dimensional and planar portals to manifest spells – particularly elemental attacks (fireball, cone of cold, lightning bolt, etc.). Such attacks need not originate with the caster, as portals can be opened at range.
RESTRICTIONS: Ividrians have four-sided (d4) hit dice.
SPECIAL ABILITIES: By more discreet portals, the Ividrian can dimension door for short distances, or manifest “planar phantom” duplicates of themselves. Some convert outside arcane energies directly into spell slots for later use.
It generally takes one ‘casting action’ to manifest a planar aperture, and another casting action to evoke an elemental strike or other manifestation. May create defensive portals to absorb or redirect some attacks. Portals that increase the effective range of missile weapons by eliminating distance between start and end points. Beware portal flux or instability. An Ividrian can create dimensional storage similar to L******’s Secret Chest. They are the creators of Bags of Holding and Portable Holes. Passwall-type portals. Recursion loops. Portals to redirect falling creatures or objects to a safe(r) landing.
False Step: Portal that returns a moving creature to its starting point.


Level Title Required XP Hit Dice Akashic Talent 1 Awakened 0 1d6
4,000 2d6
8,000 3d6
16,000 4d6
32,000 5d6
64,000 6d6
120,000 7d6

Monks that employ the psionics of Akashic teachings to bolster and extend their abilities. The prime requisites for an Adept Gray are Wisdom and Dexterity, and characters with scores of 13 or greater in both gain a 5% bonus on earned experience points. If both Wisdom and Dexterity are 15 or greater, the character gains a 10% bonus on earned experience points.
RESTRICTIONS: Adepts Gray have six-sided (d6) hit dice.
SPECIAL ABILITIES: The awe-inspiring abilities of the Adept Gray have their source in the study and manipulation of the akashic force. Unlike typical psionic users, the Adept Gray supplements their own disciplines with the elusive and subtle energies of the Akashic Plane. The most basic manifestation of this mastery is the spontaneous creation of weapons and shields formed entirely from akashic force. At a certain level, the character’s default movement is always considered “Moving Silently,” as the Thief ability. Manifests: shields, then melee weapons, then ranged weapons. Bonuses to AC, to-hit, damage, or specific saves.
Level Title Required XP Hit Dice Disciplines 1 2 3 4 1 Keeper 0 1d8

2 Steward 4,000 2d8

3 Custodian 8,000 3d8

4 Constable 16,000 4d8

5 Warden 32,000 5d8

6 Marshal 64,000 6d8

7 Shrieve 120,000 7d8

Akashic paladin class – mostly NPC. Lawful Neutral alignment.


Level Title Required XP Hit Dice Spells 1 2 3 4 1 Scion 0 1d6

2 Heritor 4,000 2d6

3 Mage Errant 8,000 3d6
2 1

4 Mage Bachelor 16,000 4d6
2 2

5 Mage Banneret 32,000 5d6
2 2 1
6 Mage Peer 64,000 6d6
2 2 2
7 Mage Palatine 120,000 7d6
3 2 2 1
Paladin, Peerage Mage: Vythakhari nobles take pride in offspring trained to pursue both the martial and arcane arts as peerage magi. Both knight and wizard, each is elevated to a status worthy of their family standing and honor. They train in knightly arms and armor, as well as the “Noble Arcana” – magic-user spells worthy of study by casters of such station.
Vythakhari noble families take pride in producing offspring that can be trained to pursue both the martial and the arcane arts. These peerage mages are both knights, and wizards, elevated to a status in society that reflects upon the standing and honor of their family. Their training includes knightly arms and armor, as well as the “Noble Arcana” – those magic-user spells deemed worthy of study and usage by casters of such station. The prime requisites for a peerage mage are Strength and Intelligence, and characters with scores of 13 or greater in both gain a 5% bonus on earned experience points. If both Strength and Intelligence are 15 or greater, the character gains a 10% bonus on earned experience points.
RESTRICTIONS: Peerage magi have six-sided (d6) hit dice. They are permitted any armor or shield, but lose honor if they wear armor considered beneath their station. Wearing leather armor at 2ndlevel or higher, anything less than chain mail at 4th level or higher, or anything less than plate mail at 6th level or higher, is considered dishonorable. They may use any weapon, but the sword is traditional – except the short sword. Their spellcasting training never allows them the usage of spells higher than 4th level.
SPECIAL ABILITIES: Peerage magi cast arcane (magic-user) spells from a specific list known as Noble Arcana – magic (up to 4thlevel) considered worthy of a knight, and useful in knightly pursuits. Other magic-user spells can be learned outside of the established training regimen, but their usage is considered dishonorable, and each spell is cast from a slot of one level higher. Thus, if the character chose to learn charm person (a 1st level spell), he would have to use a 2nd level spell slot to memorize and cast it, as it is not part of the Noble Arcana. When wielding a long, or two-handed sword, the peerage mage can cast Noble Arcana spells without needing a free hand for gestures, channeling the spell through the sword itself. He still must be able to speak the spell incantation.
Knight of the: Barbican, Dolmen, Oaks, Path, Tapestry, Wreath. Argent Knight, Barren Knight, Brazen Knight, Fallow Knight, Grim Knight, Simple Knight, Stalwart Knight, Tenebrous Knight.Order of the: Coffer, Inkstone, Lantern, Thistle, Tower.

Level Title Experience Hit Dice Special Ability 1 Masquer 0 1d6
2 Mummer
3 Mocker
4 Mimetic
5 Manifold
6 Multifar
7 Myriad

Thief, Outsider: Someone who barely exists in society, except as a painstakingly-built social construct. Identity buried under layers of assumed roles, each with unique skill sets and personalities. Can assume an alignment almost at will, while mental effects struggle to grasp her mind. The outsider lies without hope of detection, and is whomever she claims at the time. A concealed weapon against psionic tyranny.
The prime requisites for an outsider thief are Dexterity and Charisma, and characters with scores of 13 or greater in both gain a 5% bonus on earned experience points. If both Wisdom and Dexterity are 15 or greater, the character gains a 10% bonus on earned experience points.
RESTRICTIONS: Outsider thieves have six-sided (d6) hit dice.
SPECIAL ABILITIES: A thief can take a 15% penalty to Open Lock or F/T Trap for attempts to do so without making noise in the process. Blank mind. Elusive mind. Spies and assassins.
Level Title Experience Hit Dice Special Ability 1 Scaler 0 1d6
2 Roofer
3 Breaker
4 Intruder
5 Lifter
6 Mover
7 Handler

Thief, Shingler: Climbing, entering, evading, accessing, assessing. Incapacitate. Evaluate. Improvise. Certain thieves and monks develop a parkour-like movement ability in urban or dungeon environments. 10’ per Dexterity bonus point, but only when taking full movement with no other action. Combat advantage, flanking, surprise. Ignore some terrain features as obstructions to movement. Scouts and burglars.
Non-Human PC Races (Standard)
A Page From History
Elves and dwarves went through generations of war with one another. The reasons will vary, depending upon who you ask – or what you read. Still, they would go to war, while the gnomes subjected them, and everyone else, to their frequent and enthusiastic raids. The elf-dwarf wars came to an uncertain end when their rulers met in single combat on the field of battle. As their respective armies stopped and looked on, both rulers died in that historic duel. In a stunned gesture of peaceful cooperation, each side took the remains of the other’s fallen sovereign (and mount) back to their respective lands to be entombed in proper honor and majesty. On the anniversary of their deaths, elves and dwarves travel to pay their respects to their former ruler within the homeland of their former enemies. As a result, each race now possesses a powerful relic from the other culture. The elves have the immortal ‘golden fleece’ from the dwarf king’s mount, while the dwarves keep the elven king’s ‘bright sword’. 

Level Title Required XP Hit Dice Spells 1 2 3 4 1 Smoke 0 1d8

2 Ash 2,200 2d8

3 Ember 4,400 3d8

4 Cinder 8,800 4d8

5 Brand 17,000 5d8

6 Flame 35,000 6d8

7 Burn 70,000 7d8

Dwarves that leave their fiery homeland to pursue adventure will lack some of the elemental traits of their birthright. Physically, they resemble small fire giants, with skin tones in the darker ranges of basalt, hair of bright red, copper, or white, and eyes of smoldering crimson, gold, or white. Dwarves stay mostly in their volcanic mountain fastnesses, but are also able to make those mountains walk. They resemble nothing so much as little fire giants.
The prime requisite for a dwarf is Strength, and characters with a score of 13 or greater gains a bonus on earned experience points.
RESTRICTIONS: Dwarves have eight-sided (d8) hit dice. They may use any armor or shield, but prefer those that can stand up to extreme heat. Though a dwarf cannot effectively wield a longbow, those with at least a 15 strength may use a two-handed sword. Sluggish in cold environs (penalties to Dex). Player character dwarves must have a minimum constitution score of 9.
SPECIAL ABILITIES: Immune to natural extremes of heat and fire. Successful saves vs. magical fire reduce damage to zero. Limited ability to Heat Metal – takes a round-or-two to “warm up.” Must use one action for the heating process. Tend to use on own weapons to add heat damage in combat.

Level Title Required XP Hit Dice Spells 1 2 3 4 1 Skylark 0 1d6

2 Cloud Walker 4,000 2d6

3 Wind Speaker 8,000 3d6
2 1

4 Cloud Dancer 16,000 4d6
2 2

5 Skybounder 32,000 5d6
2 2 1
6 Wind Rider 64,000 6d6
2 2 2
7 Storm Caller 120,000 7d6
3 2 2 1
Elves inhabit flying citadels wreathed in cloud, able to manipulate the weather on a large scale. They look very much like small cloud giants, standing 5’ to 5 ½’ tall, with slender builds, and skin of palest blue. Their eyes and hair colors change according to the clouds overhead (if any), but tend to both be white or very pale gray. When the clouds darken toward storm, so do their eyes and hair.  Known as Lios.
The prime requisites for an elf are Strength and Intelligence, and characters with a score of 13 or greater in both gain a 5% bonus on earned experience points. If Strength is 13 or greater and Intelligence is 16 or greater, the character gains a 10% bonus on earned experience points.
RESTRICTIONS: Elves have six-sided (d6) hit dice. They may use any armor or shield, but these can be impediments to spellcasting. To cast a spell while wearing armor, the elf must have enough total modifiers from Strength, Intelligence, and/or Dexterity to compensate for the weight and restriction of armor worn. A score of 13-15 in any one of those abilities gives a +1 modifier. A score of 16-17 gives a +2 modifier. A score of 18 gives a +3 modifier. The character must have at least a total of +2 in modifiers to cast spells while wearing leather armor, +4 to cast in chain mail, and +5 to cast in plate mail. For every 1 modifier point below the minimum total required, the elf has a 10% chance of failure when casting a spell in armor. A shield cannot be counted against AC in the same round in which the elf casts a spell. Player character elves must have a minimum intelligence score of 9.

Total mods forStr, Int & Dex Armor permittedfor spellcasting +2 Leather +4 Chain +5 Plate

SPECIAL ABILITIES: Elves can see up to 60’ in total darkness. In daylight conditions, they can see twice as far as normal. They have a 2 in 6 chance of finding secret or hidden doors when searching. Against missile weapons, the character gains a +1 bonus to AC as long as they are aware of the attack and able to move (dodge). Once per day, the elf can levitate (as the 2ndlevel magic-user spell). If the character has at least a 15 intelligence score, he can levitate twice per day. If the character has at least a 17 intelligence score, she can levitate three times per day.

Level Title Required XP Hit Dice Spells 1 2 3 4 1 Prowler 0 1d6

2 Roamer 2,100 2d6

3 Wayfarer 4,200 3d6

4 Raider 8,400 4d6

5 Waylayer 16,800 5d6

6 Stomper 33,600 6d6

7 Stormer 67,200 7d6

Gnomes have an isolated realm in the cold south, known as Eska. They share a superficial resemblance to frost giants, but also display certain traits of spriggans – notably the ability to change size. Light blue or blue-gray skin, with white, light gray, or silvery hair, and eyes like colorless or blue diamond – depending on the light. The gnomes clash often with goblins, wolvsarks, and their giant wolverine mounts. Their favorite furs and pelts come from these foes. Immune to natural extremes of cold. Seafarers and Viking raiders. The prime requisite for a gnome is Dexterity, and characters with a score of 13 or greater gains a bonus on earned experience points.
RESTRICTIONS: Gnomes have six-sided (d6) hit dice. They may use any armor or shield (scaled for their size), but prefer materials that will accommodate their size change (see below). Sluggish in warm environs (penalties to Dex). Player character gnomes must have a minimum constitution score of 9.
SPECIAL ABILITIES: May increase/decrease their size. Clothing or armor made from natural materials (cotton, linen, silk, hide, leather, carapace, etc.) will change size with the wearer. Magic items inclined to change size for the user will do so. One item held in each hand will increase in size, but returns to normal once it leaves the gnome’s grip. An item picked up once the gnome has increased size does not increase in size. The gnome can manage up to three size increases per day. Returning to normal size does not count against this number, and a gnome cannot reduce in size except to normal stature.
Size Category Strength Added HD Move Use/Day Hefty (8’ tall) As ogre +2 30’ 3x/day Big (12’ tall) As stone giant +4 40’ 2x/day Giant (16’ tall) As frost giant +8 40’ 1x/day
Level Title Required XP Hit Dice Spells 1 2 3 4 1 Homebody 0 1d8

2 Homesteader 2,100 2d8

4,200 3d8

8,400 4d8

16,800 5d8

33,600 6d8

67,200 7d8

Halflings carve their homes into massive boulders or rocky outcrops, and can be found just about anywhere. In many ways, they resemble little stone giants.Very tough and sturdy, tending to be vegetarians. They look like little stone giants, with tough skin in tones of brown or gray, short hair like green or brown moss, and deep-set eyes so dark that they can hardly be seen beneath their beetling brows. They gather in small settlements, but have no true domain or homeland.
The prime requisite for a halfling is Dexterity, and characters with a score of 13 or greater gains a bonus on earned experience points.
SPECIAL ABILITIES: Able to cling to stone, and climb if unencumbered and unburdened. Somewhat druidic and throw well. Tough skin (+1 AC). Camouflage in stony surroundings. Limited passwall spell like-ability? Resist Fear and Confusion/Misdirection. Always know north.
Known for their stone carvings, especially the large stone heads that measure up to 12’ tall (similar to those of the Olmec).
SAMPLE NPC: Brother Sand. Halfling temple thief named Brother Sand (because I learned inner peace through tending the rock garden) (your time is up only when I run out) (the harder you grasp the more I slip through your fingers) (I may be tiny but I'm tough as stone). Seeks out and recovers unholy relics - often by burglary.

Non-Human PC Races (Optional)
Level Title Required XP Hit Dice Spells 1 2 3 4 1 Hunter 0 1d10

2 Stalker 2,200 2d10

3 Reaver 4,400 3d10

4 Ravener 8,800 4d10

5 Enforcer 17,000 5d10

6 Intimidator 35,000 6d10

7 Bogey 70,000 7d10

Bugbear: Tend to be royal guards, elite troops, and enforcers for the barghest rulers of the goblin confederation. As bugbears are typically honored citizens of Feralheim, an individual choosing a different life will probably have a compelling reason.
Level Title Required XP Hit Dice Spells 1 2 3 4 1







Able to fly for short periods, determined by constitution. Maneuverability determined by strength and dexterity. Use wings to buffet or to shield. Possibly use wings to stab or slash. Blacksight 30’. Excellent hearing. Natural armor. May wear armor, but cannot fly.
Level Title Required XP Hit Dice Special Ability 1 Growler 0 1d6+1 Claws (1d4 damage) 2 Howler 2,200 2d6 Teeth (1d4+1 damage) 3 Gnawer 4,400 3d6+1 Hide (+2 AC bonus) 4 Gnasher 8,800 4d6 Transform (wolverine) 5 Ripper 17,000 5d6+1 Speed (+2 to-hit) 6 Tearer 35,000 6d6 Ferocity (+2 damage) 7 Beastie 70,000 7d6+1 Giant wolverine

An optional PC race, in exile from the barghest confederation of Feralheim. Goblins are an optional PC race for the setting, mostly those who have fled the barghest-ruled confederation of Feralheim. The few that do not become bandits or slaves may pursue the adventuring life. Their most savage warriors are famed for the wolvsark, where, in a berserk state, the goblin becomes partially, or entirely, a massive wolverine in battle.
The prime requisite for a wolvsark is Strength, and characters with a score of 13 or greater gains a bonus on earned experience points.
RESTRICTIONS: Goblins have six-sided (d6) hit dice. They may use any armor or shield, Player character goblins must have a minimum constitution score of 9.
SPECIAL ABILITIES: In times of battle, or extreme duress, the goblin can enter a state of wolvsark, where he becomes a wolverine, in part or in entirety. Claws may be manifested at 1st level. Teeth may be manifested at 2ndlevel. Thick hide may be manifested at 3rd level. At 4thlevel, the character can manifest a full change into the wolverine form – sometimes, without wishing to.
As wolverine: +2 AC, +2 HD.

Level Title Required XP Hit Dice Spells 1 2 3 4 1







Quite possibly the rarest and most unusual playable race is the Graelyng. A gray ooze that grows large enough and old enough to develop psionic ability may also consume a number of intelligent creatures to increase its own intellect beyond animal range, and then into an enveloper. In very rare circumstances, the enveloper may spontaneously evolve into a Graelyng. The graelyng is a sentient ooze of medium size (being unable to maintain a larger form) and exceptional intelligence. It tends to seek out other intelligent life for companionship and understanding. In its efforts to adapt to a new existence, the graelyng will assume a rudimentary humanoid form. Still, it retains the ability to alter its shape in limited fashion, but is unable to adopt specific facial features or settle into a form with more or less mass. A graelyng is at least latently psionic. It can assume a limited range of shapes, or alter an existing shape - such as lengthening an arm or becoming taller and thinner. The graelyng cannot reproduce, except by asexual budding. It has no internal organs or anatomical weak spots, and may squeeze through small openings. The graelyng has a +2 bonus to natural AC and to saves vs. spells. It is unaffected by natural (non-magical) ranges of heat/cold. Causes slow acidic corrosion of metal by prolonged contact (sweat) - ruining metal armor worn or items carried over time. Graelyng PCs may be fighters, thieves, monks, or assassins. They may develop their rudimentary psionic abilities, but cannot become spellcasters of any kind. A graelyng that is taken to 0 HP will be reduced to a standard, living gray ooze of medium size, with no awareness, memory, or personality beyond that of any other gray ooze. It cannot be restored to graelyng form except by a Wish made within one day of death. As the resulting creature is not actually dead, it cannot be Raised, Reincarnated, or Resurrected.

Level Title Required XP Hit Dice Spells 1 2 3 4 1







Wings are underdeveloped. Able to break fall or glide short distances if lightly encumbered. No true flight. Pinion Knight?
Level Title Required XP Hit Dice Spells 1 2 3 4 1







The Dead God and OthersLong, long ago, a gigantic god fell to earth, and died. Only the titanic, fossilized skeleton (about 200,000’ long – or 38 miles) remains as a major part of the Vythakhari landscape, and it lies partially buried. The eye sockets have filled with water to create lakes. Part of the ribcage is responsible for a bizarre mountain range. One exposed hand holds an entire city. There are those that claim the god whispers to them and is worthy of worship. They believe the living brain of the god remains inside the skull, and that glory awaits for those who can reach it. Worshippers believe that they are safe and blessed within his hand – they are said to have a secret temple in the other hand. Earthquakes are attributed mostly to unseen movements of the Dead God, and Vythakhar is mostly established around its physical remains – determining the original borders of the kingdom.
The biggest secret regarding the Dead God is that she (yes – she) was pregnant when she fell. The fetus still lives and lies buried – awaiting the time of its eventual birth. All the worship given to the Dead God actually goes to the Unborn God, and adds to its power. Earthquakes are often attributed to unseen movements of the Dead God, but are actually caused by the Unborn God. This entity cannot develop fully within the corpse of its dead mother, but it also cannot die. Eventually, it will emerge as a titanic “stillborn” fetus within an amniotic sac. The amniotic fluid is infused with divine energy. The Unborn God can never mature beyond this stage, but is still a deity. It will exist within its amniotic sac and move about by flight.
Vythakhar is mostly established around the physical form of the Dead God – determining the original borders of the kingdom. Determine how much of the skeleton is exposed, and where. Her name is Akasha (the element of sound or æther).Vythakhar acknowledges no deities beyond the Dead God, and even that religion is more of an overt underground cult. The Vythakhari are not a superstitious or god-fearing people. Theirs is a society built upon logic, order, and science. Not to say that they don’t acknowledge the presence of divine entities, but their culture is not a worshipful one. On the other hand, religion is not strictly forbidden, but churches are neither popular nor encouraged.Through the centuries, the odd smokes and vapors of Imharra have somehow gathered into an entity of some power and influence. This “smoke deity” is served by poisonous djinn (which become servants of the high priesthood), as well as a “Smoke Assassin Cult.”
Sphinxes: At the start of the campaign, there will be a great archaeological project to unearth four buried sphinx statues. The statues are immense, and they are from the time of the rule of Loruchiem – well, such is the theory, but they are far older. The Archesphinx (see below) is speaking directly to the Lich King, urging him to unearth the statues. Note that there are no living sphinxes (as the monster race) in the setting. Only the stone titans.Monosphinx: Titanic stone sphinx – two white and two black. Situated at the “compass points” of Imharra.Archesphinx: Largely unknown and unseen fifth god-sphinx of Imharra. A gray titan at the center of the city. Determined to become the center of all things. Ranked supreme above the others. Pierces the skeletal hand of the Dead God like a crucifixion nail.
The stork-people of the Naratus marshlands worship a dark deity known as Iblis, or, the Peacock King. Will be an option (a risky option) for patron deity of cleric PCs. Traits of grief, despair, and confusion. A tempter who disdains humanity. Punished for refusing to bow. Jinn, not an angel. Created from fire, not light. Colors of blue, green, black, and gold.
The lamiae of western Mysintaine worship their ruling God-Queen, a multi-armed lamia noble with the lower body of a great serpent (okay – she’s a marilith demon).
The goblin fiefdoms of Feralheim honor malign nature spirits or dark and savage demonic entities as gods.
Setting Layout
This is a collection of small kingdoms where it takes days to cross with a fast horse – not months. The detail and the scope make for an epic feel and potential challenges. Set in the southern hemisphere of the world, the entirety of the land is named Ithylwae.
Vythakhar is the greatest of the domains of Ithylwae. It is set in the northeastern extent of the map, and will have at least one coastline. Vythakhar itself is a magocracy, currently ruled by His Undying Majesty, Lokkan Thaul – a Crown Lich. The government recognizes a council of community leaders. Rule by the Cognoscenti, known affectionately as Cogs. The highest ruler, beneath the King, is the Lord-Archon (Curen Aeothald). The Castellan (Gilmur Torm) is responsible for the High Castle, where the Lord-Archon lives. The Magister is the overseer of all Magistrates (Liraile Namburan). Justice is meted out by Lictors, who serve beneath the Magistrates. Lictors often use axes made from paired sickles (sharpened on the outside) inserted into a wooden haft. The Viceroy of Veils governs planar portals and manifest pocket dimensions in Vythakhar. The societal alignment is LN.
There is limited trade and interaction with a small number of other planes and worlds in a sort of black market atmosphere.
While there is no formal college of magic, a circle of individual mages are often willing to take promising apprentices, on occasion. There are a number of wizard’s towers, many of which float and drift.
Al-mi’raj: Will be prominent in Vythakhar. Known as the Horned Hare. There is also a “Crowned Hare” version.
Imharra –City of Black Angels
To the Vythakhari, the capital city of Imharra is the center of the world. Crownward is a direction that points to the King’s Court in Imharra. Imharra may be from 2-3 miles wide. So, the palm of the Dead God would have to accommodate the size and that would make the entire skeleton about 40 miles long.Symbolized by an owl with a bat-shaped shadow. City of Black Angels. City of Arcane Streets. City of Brooding Smokes. City of Unexpected Corners. Architecture is angular and precise, building up more than out – but with Gothic flourishes. Open and airy. Large windows, skylights, breezeways, elevated walkways, atriums, towers, gables, steeples, spires. Ghost alleys. City laid out in a specific arcane pattern. Gaslight is the common means of illumination in Imharra. Incandescent gasses. Ventlight is also accessed through shafts to geothermal sources.Stoves and furnaces are popular, with a tradition of colored chimney smokes. Red: long-running low heat. Orange: mid-range medium heat. Yellow: high heat for metalwork and similar needs. Green: anti-disease/illness/evil. Blue: general protection. Purple: powerful protection. Imharra is divided into Quarters - each with an identifying glyph laid out in street patterns. Every major street (and some lanes or even alleys) has a narrow metal rail down the center. Some of the city exists in the abstract, with architecture created entirely for balance and symmetry. Architecture is often designed to ward off intruders/invaders: armored shutters and doors, roof tiles/slates rigged to plunge into streets and alleys, gates designed to form walls/barriers. Not much is wasted, but it tends to be artful and aesthetically pleasing. Georgian and Regency lines, but with Victorian embellishments and Edwardian spacing. Colors tend to be muted, and in the cooler palette range. But, they are often applied in dramatic contrasts against extreme darks – almost a chiaroscuro effect. City of Black Angels alludes to strange statues found throughout Imharra, all hooded and winged, with no faces to be seen. To harm or interfere with these statues is strictly forbidden. They are known to sometimes change location, or disappear entirely. Some statues are black stone. Others are simply stained black. Many have small offerings left at their base.
“Imharra, City of Black Angels. Where the streets, squares, and circles are laid in precise, arcane patterns, seen for what they are only from above. The owls know their meaning. The bats are beginning to suspect. No one has asked the angels. But who can tell what they see from beneath their hoods? My task was the cataloging of the winged, robed statues atop their high corbels, all throughout the city. Then, one day, looking down from just the right rooftop, I think I saw what they must have seen. I now know why they cover their eyes. I must cast my gaze still higher.”
"Aspen. Wake up."
"What day is it?"
"Half-past three."
"Right. I'm up."
"You were going to tell me which you favored this season."
"Bottle first."
"You said that last time."
"Which time?"
"Empty. Why give a man in my delicate condition an empty bottle?"
"It's the bottle you demanded."
"Couldn't you say 'twas empty?"
"Which do you favor, Aspen?"
"This season?"
"This season."
"Definitely owls."
"Owls it is. By how much?"
"Not even a quarter. Close one this time."
"The bats have taken Mulberry Tower, you know."
"Right. Half a quarter, then."
Owls and Bats
The city is also known for a number of owl and bat species that vie for dominance of the night skies and rooftops. Many assume the city's nickname refer to these ever-present creatures. Many owls are transformed angels and many bats are transformed devils - fighting a great war in lesser shapes to avoid starting an even greater conflict. They battle and maneuver in secret - and in disguise. As Imharra is more a kind of Purgatory, neither the owls nor the bats are entirely good or evil. Imharra is supposedly an earthly "mirror" of the "City of Heaven."
Bats: Red Arrow, Boneripper, Monk's Hood, Silverwing, Laughing Gaunt, Wraithsong, Soulbiter. Coloring tends toward black, blue, and purple. Related to wyverns. Each species corresponds to a type or style of gargoyle. “Bat sections” of the city have a Gothic look. Cabals and Fanes of Bats.
Owl: Gutter, Ivy, Moon, Slate, Sooty, Whistler. Coloring tends toward white, gray, and brown. Each species corresponds to a type of angel. Owls = wise = magi. “Owl sections” of the city have a kind of Art Deco look. Sacred owl feathers. A looming of owls. Hosts and Orders of Owls.
Owl, Sooty: Found exclusively in the city of Imharra. Salt and pepper markings and large red eyes. Immune to smoke and ash. Resistant to heat. It is a crime in Imharra to harm one, and the owl is the city’s unofficial mascot. Once known as the City Owl, its name has been corrupted and repurposed.
"We are certainly angels. By no means Fallen, but resigned to service far from the Light. The ones that get their wings dirty without losing the feathers. Our halos may be tarnished, and set at a more rakish angle, but we kill in the Name better than anyone."
Places, Sites & Landmarks
Aetheric Vault: Arcing over the City.Chthonic Vault: Dark reflection of the Aetheric Vault – found beneath the city.Crown Arc: Upper part of glyph, formed by the High Processional.Gadfly’s: Popular watering hole for the powerful and the important.Sign of the Horned Hare (inn or tavern). See: Al-mi’raj. Silent Court, The: Secret auction site. Known for rare and/or illegal items and goods. Access usually gained by placing a temporary intraplanar gate in a doorway with a rug at the entrance. Threads from the rug are woven into rings and given to attendees beforehand. Only those wearing threaded rings can enter the planar gate after stepping onto the rug.Ways and Miens: Collection of specialty shops catering to those of rare tastes and deep pockets.Imur: – The City Below
Imharra is built upon the ruins of at least two older civilizations - one of which was known as Imūr. Originally a sacred site and center of trade. Volcanic eruption buried Imur and dungeons of the older cities can be found far beneath modern Imharra. The Forgotten City. The Old City. The Lost City. Isolated portions are still inhabited. Most are difficult to find. There are Low Roads/Low Ways (lost streets), Side Ways, and Deep Roads/Deep Ways even further down. Probable hiding place for surviving Bloodless.
Bloodless, The: Garbed in layers of white robes that are almost always in motion, as if in a breeze. Miss chance similar to concealment because of the layers and the motion. Wear bone masks of varying design and complexity. Speak in voices of layered echoing whispers. DC for Sense Motive checks will be very high due to this effect. Classified as constructs (similar to arcanstructs) but often mistaken for undead…a fact that they are quick to take advantage of. Often seem to float just above the ground and may become temporarily incorporeal. Five Bloodless are all that could be maintained. Shroud frequently disguises herself as a Bloodless when she leaves the Spire. The White Lady has a duplicate Pale Mask for each Bloodless, that she uses for communication and control. Each mask is made from bone taken out of the original body of the Bloodless itself. Each Bloodless is a powerful alchemical construct made to resemble the original body.
Elven cloud citadels are broken pieces of Avalon (Aphallen). Every cloud citadel is set upon a floating mass of stone called a tir, surrounded by an orchard/grove of (golden) apple trees. It is possible that the trees themselves hold the tirs aloft. Apples of Immortality – contribute to the long lifespan of elves. Healing waters or springs/fountains. There are nine citadels in all, each ruled by a Matron (Arjente and Myrgen being two). The “head matron” will be an analog of Idunn (Duinna). Guardians of the Apples of Immortality, the Ruling Sword (Galabrand), and the Gilded Panoply. Holy treant that carries the body of a fallen hero within its trunk – to be restored at a time of great need. The nine tirs are: Aphallen (Avalon – Isle of Fountains), Aunfyn (Annwn), Byrithe (Hyperborea – Isle of Winds), Camhaloth (Camelot – Isle of Glory), Elisya (Elysian Fields – Peaceable Isle), Glestyng (Glastonbury Tor – Isle of Glass), Hysperi (Hesperides – Golden Isle), Trynoch (Tir na Nog – Sunset Isle), Ulthyl (Ultima Thule – Far Isle).

Feralheim, a loose confederation of goblin fiefdoms ruled by barghest pack-lords, lies to the south of Vythakhar. The most influential fiefdoms are named Clangorous, Jharuul, and Nolgarat. In open battle, they are famed for their savage light worg cavalry and heavy (giant) wolverine cavalry. The barghest lords are rumored to have arcanadaemon advisors (Horned Minister) from the dark planar realms. These advisors are escorted by jackalwere (khursha) attendants – see below.
Gnoll holding that survives within the borders of Feralheim. A region of torn land with stunted growths of grayish trees and reeds along a colorless stream. Inhabited by small, skittish deer and a variety of striped hyena. A sometime place of congregation for scattered gnoll tribes who meet to share news, trade, and consult tribal elders in council.
Goblin: Inhabitants of Feralheim, under barghest rule. Those who flee that realm tend to become bandits or adventurers.
Jackalwere: A kind of very low rakshasa (khursha) that succumbed to bestial impulses and degraded itself into this inferior form. Pledged to servitude in an effort to regain status.
Khavost is the volcanic dwarven homeland, found to the south and east of Vythakhar. Geothermal activity, hot springs, poisonous and hallucinogenic gasses and vapors, mineral salts, steam and geothermal power, rich volcanic soil, lush vegetation, exotic plants and flowers, thriving drug and orchid trade, volcanic glass, volcanic mud.
Stormspiral Howe: The spiral dungeon containing the gem known as the Eye of the Storm. Formed something like a triskelion, the dungeon has three entrances - as well as a few false entrances. Reference: triple spiral. Each entrance to one of the three spirals starts as a passage tomb. The rising sun of the autumnal equinox shines directly into one of the three entrances. All three entrances are designed as court cairns (horned cairns) leading to a passage tomb. Each spiral represents a different element: air, earth, and water. There is a triangle in the center of all three spirals that represents fire. In this central chamber will be Sindral's tomb, where she is surrounded by a perpetual ring of fire. Her body is perfectly preserved and the sword, Leviathan, sticks up from her breast. Her skin is marble-white and her hair is flame-red. Her lips, eyes, and nails are black. Leviathan may possibly be formed of petrified wood. Drawing the sword dispels the fire and causes Sindral’s body to deteriorate into ash.
At least one mountain fastness sits in a lake of lava.
Underworld of the derro and grell. Hallucinogens, mirages, visual and audial distortion, battles of will. Advanced and alien tech. Derro attend the Bleak Market. Akashic monks with monastic domains. Quaggoths in much the same role as yeti, related to bugbears?Derro (Jinu): Known in the setting only as Jinu, the derro have pale violet skin and white or pale yellow hair. They will be a major adversary, and a threat to the ”akashic dominion” of Vythakhar. Derro have split personalities from devotion to the grell Psiclave. Immune to occupation by Intellect Devourers. Their split mind baffles some psionics and magic. Able to combine their mental energies into group psionic efforts. Sporedart Gun: The strange amalgamation of ballistics and mycology, a sporedart weapon uses special ammunition made from certain types of fungi and is normally found only in the hands of the enigmatic dwarves of the deep cavern realms known as Lokrajinur (LOKE-ra-GIN-yur). To see a sporedart weapon in the hands of anyone other than the Jinu is a rare occurrence indeed. The workings of the firearm itself are basically clockwork in nature but the ammunition is carefully fashioned from exotic materials and has not yet been reproduced on the surface. Aside from a muted ‘clack’ sound and a faint ‘poof’ upon firing, the weapon makes very little noise. Dangerous spores are vented through the top of the weapon with each shot and many wielders of this gun will wear filtering masks during use. This is a rear-loaded weapon.
Mysintaine, land of the lamia noble, is found to the west, and a little south, of Vythakhar. Possibility that Mysintaine and Naratus were once one realm, but now divided by spiritual and philosophical differences – but with physical aspects.
Lamia Noble: The realm of the lamia will be Mysintaine (The Silent Land). Alignment is more good or neutral than evil.
Lamia Royal: Marilith. Apex of the lamia species – a “Lamia Royal.” There will be only one known specimen and she is the Queen of Mysintaine.
Snakes: Trained to guard, steal, kill, and deliver messages. Native to Mysintaine, but often sold to outsiders.
Naratus, marshland of the stork-like eblis, lies north of Mysintaine.
Eblis: Found in the marshy lake region of Naratus, and worshippers of Iblis. Believe their race was born from the tears of Iblis – hence their water affinity. Aspire to be reborn in fire, like a phoenix, to be closer to Iblis and as a path to immortality – possibly as lesser jinn. Potential to become a kind of stork-headed jinn (pavresha lord) of dark fire. Their name means, “Of Sorrow.” As Iblis is said to embody the serpent and the peacock, perhaps the lands and peoples of Naratus and Mysintaine were once one. Symbolically, birds will represent evil while serpents represent good.
Iblis: Main villain – adapted to the needs of the setting. Symbolized by the peacock (and a variant of the fenghuang). Iblis will appear in all ways as radiant and resplendent as possible, usually adorned with peacock feathers. In opposition to Simurgh.
Rakshasa, Pavresha: Combining the features of a standard rakshasa with those of genies, these creatures have the heads of birds. Air rakshasa have the heads of raptors such as eagles, falcons, or hawks. Earth rakshasa have the heads of scavenger birds such as crows or vultures. Fire rakshasa have the heads of phoenixes or firebirds. Water rakshasa have the heads of wading birds such as egrets or cranes.
Shahai: Setting-specific version of shaitan. Minions of Iblis.
Simurgh: Radiant Queen of Naratus. Appears as a peacock with the claws of a lion – sometimes, however, also with a human face. The simurgh is inherently benevolent and unambiguously female. The simurgh has teeth. Has an enmity towards snakes, and its natural habitat is a place with plenty of water. Its feathers are said to be the color of copper. Iranian legends consider the bird so old that it had seen the destruction of the world three times over. The simurgh learned so much by living so long that it is thought to possess the knowledge of all the ages. The simurgh was said to live 1,700 years before plunging itself into flames. The simurgh was considered to purify the land and waters and hence bestow fertility. The creature represented the union between the Earth and the sky, serving as mediator and messenger between the two. The simurgh roosted in the Tree of Life, which stands in the middle of the world sea. The plant is potent medicine and is called all-healing, and the seeds of all plants are deposited on it. When the simurgh took flight, the leaves of the tree of life shook, making all the seeds of every plant fall out. These seeds floated around the world on the winds and the rains, in cosmology taking root to become every type of plant that ever lived and curing all the illnesses of mankind.
Thoth: There may be an analog to this deity in the form of an ibis-headed opposite to Iblis. Perhaps merely a pavresha lord.
Vodyanoi: Found mostly in Naratus. Foes of the eblis.
Changes colors throughout the year. Starts out pearl, then runs through opal, blue, violet, red, orange, yellow, and white. Each color for about a month-and-a-half. Still has phases as well. Vythakhar is on a lunar calendar.
Magic & Technology
Technology will be restricted mainly to upper Vythakhari society, the Black Market, and Mysintaine. The dwarves and the elves have integrated tech into their cultures in other ways.
Black Lightning: Possibly caused by the buried Monosphinxes. The strikes tend to be at the burial sites.
Imurric magic is very much an underground pursuit – pun unintended. While human wizards sometimes seek out this buried knowledge among subterranean ruins, the craft involved is not built around the structure of their minds or thoughts. Simply put, the people of Imur were not human, and their physiology was vastly different from that of modern Vythakhari. Even with access to the writings of Imurric mages, a human student still cannot retain or cast spells without access to a Silver Censer. It is thought that the censers produce smoke from burning incense, but the vapors inhaled by those seeking Imurric magic are actually composed of fungal spores and gasses. Once inhaled, they will eventually form fibrous strands into networks among the caster’s brain and nervous system. By casting and re-memorizing spells, the caster is feeding and extending the network throughout his own body. Also, the ink used in written spells will have semi-hallucinogenic mnemonic properties that introduce chemicals into the reader’s skin – then bloodstream – then brain. These chemicals trigger the caster’s brain to reproduce the original spell formula as best it can. Sometimes, the formula is incomplete or corrupted. Both Silver Censers and Imurric spellbooks are rare finds and archaeological expeditions are sent into the depths for the sole purpose of their discovery and retrieval for wealthy patrons.
The Akashic Plane
Designer’s Note
The option of psionics in the sword-and-sorcery setting was never an appealing one for me. I didn’t want the denizens of my campaign world thinking about the structure or manipulation of molecules and cells, or bothering with egos and ids. It just wasn’t the flavor I was going for. Grayharrow embraces the concept of psionics, if not the specific nuances. For example, there will be no reference to psionics. The setting replaces the term with akashics. So, look for references to akashic energies and the Akashic Source. If you prefer psionics as a term, go ahead and use that instead. Akashic is a setting-specific term, and there is a reason. Still, the world won’t come to an end if someone calls it all psionics.
The Lich King, as far as is known, wields the greatest akashic powers. It is rare and dangerous for living humans to have akashic ability, but those that do tend to be of noble blood. Otherwise, only certain undead, alien monsters, otherplanar entities, and divinities will manifest akashic ability.
The pinra is a kind of “third eye” gained by those that have tapped the Akashic Source. It starts as a kind of “benign tumor” in front of the pineal gland of the brain. As the psychic gains aptitude, the “tumor” builds up translucent layers, like a pearl, and pushes a little forward. In true masters, this “third eye” can even push partially through the forehead, with no harm to the individual, to make itself visible. After death, some rare few adepts have manifested their full consciousness within the pinra, creating a kind of psionic demilich or will-o-wisp.
Crystallect Devourer: A primary species in the setting. The Lich King will have a number of crystalline variants (Crystallect Devourers) as hellhounds and enforcers. Communicate and hunt through crystal harmonics. See invisible. Sonic blasts and shields. Crystalline structure refracts certain attack types – reducing or redirecting damage. Vulnerable to Eblis beak-strike and low-range sonics, such as thunder, cloaker moan, etc.
Vampire, Psychic: Favors victims of high intelligence and charisma. Drinks cerebrospinal fluids.
Other Planes
There will not be any real focus on interaction with other planes – beyond the Bleak Market. In fact, the actual planar structure won’t be much of an issue. Possibly use the Teloen Core planar structure, with no real access to the Axis. Creatures from other planes come to Vythakhar when summoned. Ividrians open tiny, temporary rifts to nearby planes to power their spells. The planar flexibility is thought to come from the city being held in the hand of a god.
The underground market that deals with goods and services from other planes does not go to other planes. Temporary pocket dimensions are created as a kind of “common market” for those that participate. Trade for truly exotic goods and technology. When there is a need to deal in absolutes.
“Wudjalike?” Typical marketseller greeting.
The planes beyond the “prime material” are, at the very least, unpleasant for mortals. At the worst, the environs of the other planes are so alien to human minds and physiology that they would be harmful just in proximity. The temporary planar bubbles created for the Blank Market are the safest way for humans to experience the other planes, without powerful protective magic. Traversing the other planes could cause madness, illness, discorporation, absorption, poisoning, transformation, ascension, descension, fragmentation, alignment change, memory loss, altered perception, or simply death. Planar travel is dangerous – period. There is a Lovecraftian-Mythos taint to much of the universe.
Ettercap: Combine with phase spider for a “phase ettercap.”
Monsters & Villains
The Grayharrow setting presents many races or species of monster as citizens, neighbors, colleagues, or rulers. There are a number of monsters created just for the setting, as well as variants of existing monsters designed to better suit the Grayharrow milieu.
Instead of being listed in one section as a bestiary or menagerie, the monster entries will be found in those sections of the guide suited to their inclusion. So, you’ll find goblins and barghests under Feralheim, lamias and couatls under Mysintaine, crystallect devourers and psychic vampires under The Akashic Plane, and so forth.
A’col-Faiche: An Imur name translating to Silent Penitent, this creature is said to be one who transgressed against a specific deity and forced to serve that deity as a kind of sub-avatar. Such a creature is made to appear as a variant of the deity itself, as represented by religious idols or art. It must serve the will of the offended deity for a set period before it can be released of the obligation. If it fails to do so, its soul is forfeit. An a’col-faiche receives diluted forms of the deity’s abilities in the form of divine spell-like abilities and may be commanded by faithful clerics of that deity’s following. The a’col-faiche may not harm a worshipper of its divine master and must try to aid the faithful when they are in need. These creatures are often found in the service of an archon or other influential religious leader and tend to perform guardian duties or exceptionally dangerous missions on behalf of the church. An a’col-faiche that dies while in service is instantly freed of obligation and the soul goes to its just reward. Silence 20’. Bursts into a cloud of Lich Dust when slain. Possibly undead type. If not, then most likely Outsider type. Or, both.
Angel, Cinder: Part elemental and part celestial.
Blankface Killer: Takes victim's faces. Not by cutting, but by magic. Possibly a rogue agent of Broodstone.
Coleoptaur: Human torso and lower portions of a giant beetle. The human torso is partially armored with chitin. Extremely strong.
Corby, Blood: Crimson hue. Weregryphs.
Corby, Dire: Fearless and savage subterranean race. Leap/pounce. Climb nearly any stone surface.
Corby, Pale: White. Colorless.
Demon: Unwelcome in the overall setting as their nature warps and degrades the structure of planar and akashic access. Most races and major players are too Lawful or Neutral to tolerate the raw Chaos of demonkind.
Devil (Infernal): Some devils will be found in service to the throne, often as inquisitors (torturers). Librarians and sages. Possibly even judges, magistrates, and lictors. All are carefully bound and committed to a specific term of servitude.
Devil, Styx: Repurpose to some form of greater gargoyle.
Dragon, Hooded: Native to Mysintaine and nearby environs. Swift and deadly dragons with cobra-like hoods. Very intelligent, but largely amoral and prone to cruelty. Serpentine forms much like Oriental Dragons.
Drelb: An undead creature that limits or reflects psionic power? Giddyup!
Enveloper: Advanced form of ooze, but not yet to the point of becoming a Graelyng.
Ghule: Wasted, evil humans who formerly had psionic ability. The result of a psionic human burning out and succumbing to one form of akashic madness. Essentially, a psionic ghoul.
Golem, Lamppost: Ornate iron lampposts light parts of the city at night. They turn on and off at will to confuse trespassers. They walk about and remove their own lamp heads to hold out in front of themselves.
Grell: Will be related to intellect devourers, brain collectors, and mi-go. Replacing mind flayers in the setting. Using variants, the grell can effectively replace the brain collector, mi-go, and illithid. The mi-go variant will be that which travels through interstellar space and inhabits other worlds. The more standard grell will be the terrestrial version, adapted to the campaign world. And, there's no reason why either couldn't store the brains taken from victims. The grell becomes psionic (akashic) - definitely. Now, it not only resembles a brain, but it also seeks to gather them. For what purpose? Food? Trophies? Knowledge? All three? Whatever suits the campaign. They have a mass of tentacles and it won't be hard to give them a couple designed to extract brains from living victims. Some appendages adapted to surgical work and finer manipulation. Getting rid of the beak allows us to create other orifices for various purposes. They can be hidden until needed. Giving them links to the intellect devourer and the mi-go, the grell can receive a bit of an armor upgrade in the form of a coral-like outer growth, or a chitinous exoskeleton (respectively). Not that their AC of 4 (same as the intellect devourer AND the mi-go) is anything to sneeze at. The grell of Grayharrow will have physical aspects of coral, and of fungus. They will be able to handle a wide range of environments. You'll be able to find grell underwater, or in the void of space. They will be more intelligent, and organized. Some grells are “huntmasters,” able to control and direct intellect devourers. At first, grells will be encountered as immaterial projections. They will be mistaken for the ghosts of past psionic masters. Some will even receive veneration from fringe cultists.
Inevitables: Merged with Modrons. See: modron, below.
Lava Wisp: Burning, gaseous creature resembling a will-o-wisp. Natives of the heat vents.
Lich, Crystal: The only one of the setting will be the king. A crystal lich started as an arcane magic-user, but developed psionic ability at a later point. A crystal lich has levels of magic-user and psionics. It has a crystalline brain which has broken through the top of the skull and lies partially exposed. The lich is now essentially the crystalline brain, with the body serving as container and locomotion. If the King is killed, or otherwise incapacitated, Broodstone will try to create another crystal lich to serve its purpose.
Lompagi: Race of little quasi-humanoid manticores built more like winged monkeys with prehensile tails bristling with quills at the end. Manticore teeth, claws, and wings. About the size of a halfling or gnome.
Luminary: Individual from an “Upper Plane.” Many are found in Imharra – in disguise.
Modrons: Went to war with the Inevitables. Neither side won, but essentially merged into a hybrid race. Administrators of the Bleak Market. Inhabit a planar node of metallic crystal with stable gateways.
Modrone: Monodrone thru Pentadrone. Communicate in “glyphs” of data.
Modaton (Ministers): Decaton thru Quarton (all with akashic ability).
Modrant (Tyrants): Tertains and Secundi.
NPC pairs or trios of adventurers. Maugrim and Avrune being the most famous.
Nycadaemon: Repurpose into a type of “gargoyle lord.”
Panjandrum: Any otherplanar power visiting Imharra in the guise of a foreign diplomats or dignitary. Everything from Greater Daemons to Dukes of Hell.
Psidead: A category of undead animated by akashic energies.
Qinraku: A clan/cult of oni (ogre magi) wearing magical/cursed ki-rin pelts that turn them into a kind of lycanthropic humanoid ki-rin. Torn between LG and LE, these creatures balance serenity and cruelty as best they can – often with disastrous results. They radiate Law, and the beauty of their outward appearance is often enough to enamor those they meet. Qinraku are creatures of great power, but equally great internal conflict and torment. They have all the abilities of the ogre mage and the ki-rin, but are not always able to manifest the ki-rin powers reliably. The ki-rin pelts cannot be removed and the qinraku are essentially one with these items. In other words, the head of the ki-rin pelt is the actual head of the ogre mage – not just a covering or mask. The qinraku pelt improves the wearer’s armor class and hit dice by 4, while increasing intelligence and charisma each by 2.
Refractor: Beholder-like spawn of Broodstone, resembling a faceted crystal sphere with orbiting crystal shards. Broodstone does not let refractors be summoned or controlled by others.
Skeleton Warriors will serve as major threats and movers in the setting. They will be created through psionics, not necromancy. Original Knights of the Crown, unable to end their service, even in death. Their circlets are linked to the king’s crown.
Wraith, Gravemold:
Yaotl: A type of werejaguar that also feeds on the dying breath of victims. It’s name means, “enemy.”
Zombie, Gray: A “psionic zombie” created by Akashic zealots. Grouped into “cells” under the control of, and linked with, a single zealot. The zealot can direct the zombies and utilize their limited akashic abilities remotely. A gray zombie is immune to most akashic attacks and effects, as their minds are no longer alive.
Items & Treasure

Bulwark Shield: Tower shield with pneumatic grounding bolts to allow for a freestanding defense.
Chain weapons are becoming very popular and fashionable.
Crystal Brain Fungus: Myxarium nucleatum.
Crystal Eyes: Items with Wizard Eye traits that convey information to Imperator handlers.
Crystalline Panoply: Three grades of protection. Start as a translucent covering as protective as chainmail. DR of 2. Intermediate layering equal to platemail. DR of 4. Some bonus to resist mental/psionic effects. Final stage is a mechsuit-like construct up to 10’ tall. DR of 8. Greater bonus to mental/psionic effects. Created by alchemical suspension.
Earrings: Improved hearing, comprehend language, protection from sound-based or sonic effects.
Glassteel (and variants): Bonesteel. Icesteel. Stonesteel. Woodsteel. All for sale to the discerning buyer.
Kohl: Vision-based effects - protect against gaze attacks or blinding, true seeing, read magic, read language, detect trap or hidden, darkvision.
Magic rules, but is not generally for sale. Wizards are secretive and guard their knowledge. Magic also tends to be more risky or dangerous. Still, there are certain arts or specialties that are commercially available.
Nerve Lash: A type of technorganic whip that accesses the nervous system of the target, allowing the wielder to control them like an erratic puppet as long as contact is maintained. Victim saves vs. paralyzation or filaments burrow into the body to establish biological connections. The whip inflicts damage on a successful hit, and more damage if removed.
Potion: Capsules, powders, concentrates.
Potion, Black Draught: Turns drinker into sentient black pudding. Minimum duration + added time chosen by drinker. Must make a Will save to return to normal form if extra time is chosen. Otherwise, drinker may get “lost in the pudding.” Penalties to save for each added unit of extra time.
Potion vintages (year, batch, and distiller) can affect efficacy in a number of ways – most commonly in duration and potency. Others can display added or altered effects. Certain vintages can become extremely valuable and sought-after, particularly when they age and mature. Licensed distilleries. Layered potions.
Pyroglastic: Of the nature of volcanic glass that is tempered through alchemical processes such as mineral salt immersions and the application of specific types and ranges of heat created from selected fuels. The resulting material has the appearance and consistency of glass, but the hardness of steel. As the raw materials are not always available, pyroglas items or weapons tend to become available in limited waves. Pyroglastic swords are known for their exceptionally keen edges and lighter weights.
Rings that are more powerful when worn as a matched set on one hand. Arc of Day: Rose gold (thumb), yellow gold (first finger), white gold (middle finger), brass (third finger), and copper (little finger). Protection, light, fire, vision, life. Possibly have to don them in order for them to function as a unit.
Strobe grenades and lanterns. Disorientation and possible seizures.
Tears of Iblis: A form of black oil or water that causes utter despair, originates in Naratus.
Vivomancy is an advanced art among Vythakhari society. For those that can pay, an extended lifespan is almost always possible. Of course, there have been side-effects…some are rather interesting, in fact – but I digress. Through the centuries, some vivomantic byproducts have (literally) seeped into the populace. As a result, the natural Vythakhari lifespan is currently 130 years.
Weaveblade: Signature weapon of the Peerage mage. A long or two-handed sword made from three lengths of metal, woven into a braid-like blade. Few of these are made today, and most are symbolic family heirlooms. Stronger than normal blades. Bonus to disarming chances.
Artifacts & Relics
The Crown: An artifact that gives psionic powers along with spellcasting ability. It also imposes a LN alignment upon the wearer. If the wearer’s alignment deviates, all psionic powers are lost. The crown is an unassuming circlet that has been embellished over the years to look more regal and impressive. The original circlet can no longer be seen from the outside.
The Throne: A sphere that opens in the front for the occupant, this is another artifact – one that protects the occupant. It can also be made to fly. Together, the Crown and Throne broadcast a low-level psionic field of cooperation throughout the kingdom (the range of which established the original borders of Vythakhar). This is not control, but it is influence. The throne room lies within the Chiaroscuro Palace.
Broodstone: The great crystalline entity that influences or channels psionics, and spawned the crystallect devourers. Possibly originated as the pinra of the Dead God, but is now greatly diminished. It may be found imbedded in the divine skull itself, or it might have moved elsewhere throughout the passing centuries. Much of what others assume is done by Lokkan Thaul is actually Broodstone. The Lich King just takes the blame. Ultimately, Broodstone wants another god to influence and is awaiting the birth of the Unborn God. Physically, Broodstone is an ovoid of pale violet crystal with veins of silver within. Or, it could possibly be a brain-like geode stone, shot through with veins of silver, and pale violet crystals within. It can manifest clawed legs, just as a Crystallect Devourer, using these veins of silver. The silver veins can also be used to lash out as weapons or grappling appendages, up to 10’.

Grayharrow Campaigns or Plot Hooks

Discover the truth behind the Dead God to help establish or suppress a burgeoning religion designed to create a race of psionic zombies.
Eliminate the source of akashic power before humanity goes collectively insane.
End tyranny by resisting or confronting the Lich King.
Gain “heroic” levels and possible noble titles.
Support Vythakhar by resisting or confronting Iblis and his minions.
Woman studying Imharran architecture/sculpture discovers a gargoyle that just appeared overnight, leading her to learn that many gargoyles are human souls consigned to a form of "lower Purgatory." Almost bad enough for Infernum, but not quite. The gargoyle is her recently estranged and deceased husband, brother, or father.
Grayharrow Adventure Trilogy
The Center Cannot Hold
The Blood-Dimmed Tide
The Ceremony of Innocence

What is Grayharrow?
·         Small domains are ruled by such monsters as the lich, modron, lamia noble, eblis, and barghest.·         Civilization is built around the titanic skeletal remains of a fallen god – and the faithful pray to a dead deity.·         The psionic noble elite wield tyrannical power over human civilization.·         Psionic paladins pursue criminals with the aid of crystalline intellect devourers as hunting hounds.·         Talented human magic-users open temporary gateways to other planes to manifest their spells.·         Dwarves resemble miniature fire giants, elves resemble miniature cloud giants, gnomes resemble miniature frost giants, and halflings resemble miniature stone giants.·         Elite goblin berserkers change into savage wolverines in the heat of battle.·         Elite human fighters enter battle encased within ten-foot-tall construct suits of crystalline armor.·         A hidden Black Market offers trade with other planes of existence – including Hell.·         Death is not always the final option. Neither is undeath. Beware psionic ghouls and psychic vampires.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

A Walk through Harnmaster - Combat Part 2

Bat in the Attic - Wed, 04/29/2020 - 21:59
Combat Part 2Melee Attack SequenceSo now you are engaged and ready to attack. This section use the Harnmaster Combat Tables which you can download.

The attacker declares what aspect of their weapon they are using (B/E/P) and whether they are aiming High (-10), Mid (0), or Low (10)

Athelstan with a 55 sword skill attacks with the edge of his broadsword (impact bonus of 5) aiming for the mid section (+0)

The defender either ignores the attack due to various circumstances, or if is active whether they Counterstrike, Block, or Dodge.

Bjorn with a 46 shield skill elects to block the swing with his round shield.

Both sides rolls, the attack uses his Attacker Mastery Level, and the Defender uses his Defender Mastery Level

  • Athelstan will have to roll equal to or less than a 70 (55 ML + 15 A)
  • Bjorn will have to roll equal to or less than at 66 (46 ML + 20 D)

The success levels are compared and the result apply

  • Athelstan rolls a 55 a Critical Success
  • Bjorn rolls a 68 a Marginal Failure

If the result is an injury, strike impact is rolled, strike location is rolled, and the armor protection is subtracted. If the result is 1+ then an injury has occured.

Cross indexing the two success levels results a A*2 results. Which means you roll 2d6 + 5 (the impact bonus of the edge of the broadsword).

Able rolls a 6 giving an 11 impact. Able rolls a 58 for Strike Location hitting the Thorax

Bjorn is wearing a Leather Vest over a Cloth Shirt giving a protection value of 5 versus Edge impacts. So Bjorn suffers a 6 impact.

Other resultsAF, DF, and BF are fumbles, you have to make a fumble roll or lose your weapon (or shield).

Block means the defending weapon (a shield in this case) intercepts the attacking weapon (the Broadsword). If you use weapon damage then the lower quality weapon has to make a save first or be functionally destroyed. If the save is made then it is the higher WQ that has to save. I recommend using this optional roll. It is a 3d6 roll low versus the weapon's WQ. There even a more brutal variant where even you make a weapon save its WQ is reduced by 1 although it still works. This seems a bit unrealistically harsh. If you want to do this drop the WQ if you make the save exactly or by 1 anything lower the weapon is fine.

A DTA is a Defender Tactical Advantage, once each turn a character may gain a Tactical Advantage. They are allowed to take another action that turn. The most extreme result is that Athelstan attacks rolls badly, Bjorn gets a Tactical Advantage and attack back also rolling badly, Athelstan gain a Tactical Advantage and attack again hopefully not rolling badly again. Any further DTA are ignored.

Injury DeterminationSo now Bjorn got slashed across the thorax (upper chest) with 6 impact. Now it time to figure out his injury. We cross index the hit location with the impact to get a injury level. In this case an S2 results or a Serious Thorax Slash 2. It is recorded on the character sheet as Thorax S2.

The 2 is now added to the character Universal Penalty and for this injury the character has to make a shock roll. Remember the Universal Penalty is Injury + Fatigue but not Encumbrance. For every point of UP you roll 1d6. In this case Bjorn roll 2d6. If Bjorn rolls over his Endurance (average of STR, STA, and WIL) he collapses in shock. Now Bjorn has 14 STR, 12 STA, and a 10 WILL giving a END 12. He not going into shock for this injury.

If you look at the arm location above the Thorax there is a diamond. This is a symbol for a fumble roll as it is the arm. For the legs it is a stumble roll. Some Grievous wounds to the Legs and Arms also have a upside down triangle this is a amputation roll. K results are potential instant kills. If the character doesn't die then it is converted to a Grievous wounds now the character has to make a shock roll.

The end result is that after combat the character will have a list of injury they suffered. The total of which is applied to their Universal Penalty.

Rob's Comments
I generally don't like to use tables when refereeing. But these tables are excellent to use and don't slow down play. The bright layout makes it easy to figure the result of any strike. If one wants details for combat this is an excellent way to go.

More than any other system, I find the injury system of Harnmaster gets the players invested in their character. It tersely but graphically illustrates every injury and blow the character suffers. And it just adds something to experience that other system don't have.

The sidebar to injuries give several options rules. I recommend using Bloodloss. If a grievous injury is not bound up within 1 minute (6 rounds) then the character will suffer 1 Bloodloss that adds to the UP. If the total BP exceeds Endurance the character dies. Each grievous wound counts separately for bloodloss.

Beastly BlowsThis section give special combat rules for Wings, Tails, and Tentacles

Missile CombatWorks similarly to Melee Combat. Defenders can Block or Dodge (or has to Ignore). The AML of the attack is modified for range. And potential impact is modified for range as well. Missile use their own combat matrix which generates hit or miss results.

Initiative Testing & MoraleFor NPCs initiative is used for Morale Checks. This page covers the details and the results.

Mounted CombatThis section covers mounted combat in six pages.
The different Horse breeds are covered and their statistics along with the use of Riding Skill, Horse movement, how to command the horse in combat, and how actions work when mounted. Being mounted is an advantage especially in the impact rating generated for hitting and gives some damage opportunities not available on foot like steed trampling.

JoustingThe final two pages of Combat covers Jousting. There are some specific rules and notes covering the non-lethal aspect of the joust. Along with a unique combat matrix for resolving Joust strikes.

Next up is Physician cover what you do about all those injuries and why the battle isn't done when combat ends

Previous post was Combat Part 1, Next Post is Physican
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Matters of Dungeons & The Specter of Green Violence - Another Ecology of the Goblin For Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 04/29/2020 - 20:21
Lady of Hat's art rendition of the classic Dungeons & Dragons style goblin.  Lets hit one of the green spots in Dungeons & Dragons, the lowly dungeon dwellers the goblins. There's supposedly a bunch of prejudices associated with the little green chaotic murder machines as well. Again I've been hearing this since the dawn of time & gaming. This goblin plagued blog entry is gonna depend upon Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Print Edition of Tales Update

The Splintered Realm - Wed, 04/29/2020 - 17:49
A copy of the print rules is on its way to me! Once I get a chance to proof it one last time, I'll update the files on Drivethrurpg and put it live for sale. Probably about two weeks...

Here's the wrap-around cover, as a proof of life.

More LULU Trouble

The Splintered Realm - Wed, 04/29/2020 - 13:09
Oh snap. Since I expect you want the good news before the bad news, I'll do that.

The good news: Lulu is up! It works. I can login, and I solved the problem of why my pdf files were not uploading. I can now proceed with a layout for Tales.

The bad news: I have to make a list. There's a lot of bad news.

1. Almost all of my old files have broken covers. Either (A) the covers have not finished porting over yet, and Lulu is still getting things up to speed (crosses fingers); or (B) the covers are not compatible with the new Lulu system, and I have to re-do them. Which sucks. So, I'm going to wait and see.

2. Lulu will not let me create a saddle-stitched book at 52 pages. Yes, it's divisible by 4, but that's not enough for Lulu. I created a dummy version where I cut 4 pages, and was able to create a saddle-stitched print edition. I am at a crossroads. I could (A) reduce the campaign setting information to a one-page overview (get rid of encounter tables) and cut the three tombs adventure - to get to 48. It's a solution I could live with. Or, I could (B) add 12 pages of content. I am leaning towards A, because I could see the campaign setting being its own setting book with significant expansion, and the three tombs could then be ported to that book as one of a series of adventures in the Splintered Realm. That's actually a workable solution to me. But, it means less game in the end. But 48 pages makes my heart happier, and sounds like a model I can replicate for the next book (the campaign guide). I see two more books right now: the Vault of the D'Ro and the Campaign Setting. If my target for each is 48 pages, I see a lot of possibility for both projects. I could always just put the three brothers up as a free adventure, or as the first in a series of free pdfs to support the game... or I don't know what. But it could easily be 'out there' without it being in the core rulebook.

The Place of the Skull

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 04/29/2020 - 11:11
By Mark Hess Self published LotFP

A Sci-Fantasy adventure for old school gaming. A princess has been kidnapped, the players must save her by infiltrating a strange fortress of unknown origin. Weird tech, mutants, and evil swords abound.

This eighteen page adventure uses five digest pages to describe thirteen rooms. A little sci-fi, borrows from Conan and He-Man (and probably others) and uses a minimal format … although a decent one that concentrates on the right things. Still, a little light on the encounters for  my tastes.

So, kings daughter has been kidnapped by Skull face. King brings out platter of rubies and throws them at party, saying that riches mean nothing next to the love of your daughter. Oh, and she’s a warrior princess virgin, so in addition to Conan and He-Man we’ve got some She-Ra stuff going on also. And probably more. There’s the Fun Guy, who has fungo growing from his head. It’s got some sci-fi elements to it, broken computers, a couple of plasma rifles and so forth. And also magical elements, like the Doomsword, which turns you chaotic and melts your face off so you can be the next Skill Face. It’s over the silly line for me. A little too on the nose with cultural references. Instead of allusion it’s direct reference after direct reference. Maybe as a silly con one shot but, as always, comedy and references are tough in adventures. Placed in directly, there’s no buy in and the game suffers. Referenced tangentially, they allow the DM and players to refer to those memories and the expanded meaning that they refer to.

There;s not much to this, just eighteen pages overall and just thirteen rooms over about five digest sized pages. That keeps the descriptions terse, all right! “The cave entrance branches to the right and left, only to meet on the other side. A hewn hallway leads to a set of stone double doors. The doors may be pushed open.” The hewn part is good, nice imagery of a hewn tunnel, I think, even if the right/left just repeats the map data and doors opening are doors opening. The throne room has “A large chamber with a wicked looking throne of shaped stone. The throne and the raised dias it sits on are surrounded by an anti-magic field.” That’s it. Large is a boring word. Wicked is a conclusion, but would be used ok if  the throne stones were described as jagged or something like that. But, basically, this is all there is to the rooms. A kind of abstracted description with a little bit of iconic imagery referenced and not much beyond that. There’s just not much here to work with. MAYBE one thing per room, a little abstracted at that. You can see where the designer wants to take it but it never reaches any potential.  There’s just not much here. It’s almost like an outline rather than an adventure.

This is $2 at DriveThru. There’s no level range given, but the preview is six pages and shows you the first four rooms, and the lead in information. So, decent preview, EVEN IF THE LEVEL RANGE IS NO WHERE PRESENT ANYWHERE.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Fourth World Re-Read

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 04/29/2020 - 11:00
I have not read the entirety of Jack Kirby's run on his so-called "Fourth World" titles at DC in the 1970s (Forever People, Mister Miracle,  and New Gods, and ok, it starts in Jimmy Olsen, but I'm not reading that) since the black and white collections of 1999, so I seemed like the right time.

These titles were supposedly an attempt to write a new mythology for the modern age, an idea Kirby had had at Marvel, but never got to execute. The titles are interrelated but not strongly interlinked (not unlike Morrison's Seven Soldiers over 30 years later). Last night I read Mister Miracle #3 and 4 both published in 1971.

Mister Miracle tells the story of Scott Free, a man form another world, who befriends, and then assumes the stage persona of an aging escape artist known as Mister Miracle. While Free's athletic and escape abilities are impressive, he accomplishes most of his escapes by using advanced alien technology. Scott Free is being hunted by agents of the planet Apokolips. So far, we've seen their human, organized crime agents, Intergang, and the monstrous orphanage matron, Granny Goodness.

Issue #3 introduces us to Doctor Bedlam. Bedlam is a being of pure thought, and very malign thought at that. His psychic assault upon Mister Miracle and his assistant, Oberon, is almost Satanic (or maybe Outer God-like) in intensity--only Free's "Mother Box" device protects them.

Bedlam draws Free into a trap in an office building. After a confrontation with what is essentially an android body possessed by Bedlam, Free must make his way through 50 floors of people turned into violent suffers of psychosis by Bedlam's "paranoia pills."

Bedlam is a great concept, particularly within the Apokolipsian pantheon, who all are some sort of aspect of oppression. His name comes from the nickname of Bethlehem Royal Hospital, which at one time represented the most frightening and dehumanizing aspects of mental asylums. Bedlam seems a personification of the snakepit asylum. He is almost literal madness in human form, or rather in the form of a number of faceless automata--suggesting the evil of systems, not individual actors.

Free's escape through 50 stories is likewise a great story conceit that would work well today. The choice of a single office building and an urban setting as opposed to some sort of small town or even city street, seems to suggest the deleterious effects mental effects of corporate employment, or maybe the paranoia induced by office politics. It's not hard to see Kirby's experiences at Marvel as informing these choices.

As good as it all is, Kirby seems to have a dilemma as to how to deal with the amazing feats of his super-escape artist. The "trick" of the last three of Mister Miracle's daring escapes are related to Oberon as he and Scott make dinner and all involve the use of one really versatile device. Oberon's response seems to sort of lampshade the shakiness of it all:

The other weak spot is a couple of panels of Big Barda (who is introduced this issue). Perhaps is was the inker (Vince Colletta) that let him down, but I suspect being a one man band essentially on some many titles just sometimes led to him being rushed.

A walk through Harnmaster - Combat Part 1

Bat in the Attic - Tue, 04/28/2020 - 22:45
CombatThis is a 26 page article

First off if you have trouble following any of this I strongly recommend downloading and reading Bill Gant's Harnmaster Combat vs D20 Combat Essay.

Scale and ComponentsHarnamaster supports miniatures and this section has the author's recommendation on what scale to use. Namely 1 inch = 5 feet, that you use 25 mm miniatures, and a hexgrid is preferred. It also goes on to say that if you don't use a hexgrid then just multiply all references to hexes by five to get the number of feet.

Combat ProfileExplains the combat profile portion of the character sheet and its most import elements

  • Endurance: The ability to tolerate and recover from physical ordeal. It is the average of Strength, Stamina, and Will.
  • Move: The number of hexes a character can move in 10 seconds (a round). It equal to the character's agility so a human can move up to 50 feet in a 10 second round.
  • Dodge: An automatic skill that opens at Agility x 5. This can be improved as a skill.
  • Load: The information is repeated from Characters. Basically the weight the character carries divided by Endurance.
  • Encumbrance Penalty: see above

WeaponsHarnmaster has a variety of choices for weapons. It not exhaustive like GURPS Martial Arts and focuses on the medieval along with some selections from the Roman Era.

Each weapon is rated for the following: A - Attacking skill bonus; D- Defending skill bonus; WT - Weight; WQ - Weapon Quality; Impact Values (B/E/P) - Bonus to impact for Blunt, Edge, and Point; Then Price in d (silver pennies);

ArmourNext combat discusses Armor. Just as weapons have impact bonuses for different aspects (Blunt, Edge, Point) Different types of Armor defends better against various weapons aspects plus there is a rating for resisting fire.

While tersely written, it is a fiddly part of Harnmaster/ Like many of the other fiddly parts it is front loaded onto the character sheet before play.

Armor nuancesHarnmaster is at the high end for the number of hit locations. You buy armor in pieces and layers of armor stack on top of each other. Eventually the weight will radically degrade your combat capabilities but for most characters there is a sweet spot of protection for what they can carry.

For example you don't just wear a Chain Hauberk you also wear a Quilt Gambeson. This give the extra padding especially for blunt attack to resist injury.

If you get the boxed set you will also get a GM Screen that has a chart listing the totals for common combinations of armor layers.

The good news if you armor your character like you see an medieval illustration you will be just as protected in-game as in real life.

There an optional rule to damage armor if the character suffers a high impact injury. The high impact creates or tears a hole in the armor. It fiddly and I have never used it as it involves an extra roll in future rounds.

MovementThis section explains movement. Basically a walk is half move, a jog is a full move, running is double move, and sprinting is triple move. The primary mechanical effect is how much fatigue you gain while moving. It doesn't come up often in combat as sprinting causes 1 FL per 1 minute (6 rounds) of sprinting.

Engagement ZonesLike some other RPG, active characters exert a zone of control. Harnmaster sets this at five feet around the character. The effect is that if you are engaged you can only move one hex per round (any direction). If you were not engaged before moving next to the opponent you must stop movement. Engagement Zones can overlap and a single character can be engaged with up to six opponents.

There is an optional rule allowing the Engagement Zone to be extended to 10 feet for long reach weapons.

Another optional rule is the reaction zone. The reaction zone extends as far as the character can move. If an opponent starts outside of the character's reaction zone then the opponent must stop if they move into it. If the opponent starts within another character's reaction they can move normal. The point of the rule is to give the character a change to intercept somebody if they move within their move range.

Combat SequenceHarnmaster uses 10 second combat rounds.

The character with the highest initiative goes first. If two character are tied then go with the higher skill base, any further ties resolved with a 1d10 or 1d6 roll.

You can do one action: Res, Pass, Free Move (up to running or move x2) , Engage (half move and optionally attack), Charge (full move and must attack), Disenage (move 1 hex, and do a half move), Rise, Grope (using anything with DEX), Melee Attack, Missile Attack (Load or Fire for a crossbow, Load/Ready & Fire for everything else), Grapple Attack, Esoteric Attack (magic or psionics).

There are optional rules for

  • Surprise
  • Engage Initiative: when engaging first time both roll initiative, if the defender has a higher success they can perform an attack
  • Combat Fatigue: Two variants for suffering Fatigue during combat. I recommend #2 each character suffer 1 Fatigue for every 5 minutes (30 rounds) of combat.

Previous post is Skills, Next post is Combat Part 2
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Half A Can of Whoop Ass - Another Ecology of the Half Orc For Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 04/28/2020 - 20:17
Ever since I was a kid I've had to deal with the ins & outs of the ;real world; vs  'table top world of original Dungeons & Dragons. Everything from the Satanic panic to the full on nose sticking fun of folks delving into the 'true' meaning of Dungeons & Dragons. The game I love in all of its editions & incarnations has endured despite the attempts to the contrary. Which brings meNeedles
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Gary Gygax’s Dungeon Building Spells (and the Ones He Should Have Made)

DM David - Tue, 04/28/2020 - 11:15

Since 1975, every single player of a wizard or magic user has read the Magic Mouth spell, and then chosen to skip it. Prove me wrong.* Who wants to use a 2nd-level spell to put a message on a wall when a piece of chalk works as well? While Magic Mouth never gets used by players, Glyph of Warding only ever gets misused. Recently, I saw a player use glyphs to manufacture explosive arrows. He overlooked the sentence that says that a glyph breaks if it moves more than 10 feet. That limitation exists now because players of earlier editions dreamed up the same stunt. Without the exploit, no player prepares glyph. Judging from the spell lists in the Monster Manual and Volo’s Guide to Monsters, non-player characters shun these spells too.

Why does the Player’s Handbook include spells that players virtually never use? Part of the appeal of these spells comes from nostalgia. Both date from the 70s. Mainly though, the spells appeal to the game’s dungeon architects and dungeon masters. For example, magic mouths and glyphs of warding appear in at least three of the Dungeons & Dragons hardcover adventures.

Compared to chalk, Magic Mouth offers more portentous way to deliver a message. Glyph of Warding adds a common magical trap. The spells weave useful magical effects into both the lore and the rules of the game. They give DMs ready-made tricks for their dungeons. Players enjoy recognizing these familiar bits of spellcraft mixed with the fantastic.

The game’s original Players Handbook includes even more spells aimed at dungeon architects instead of players.

At level 5, Distance Distortion made a corridor appear either twice as long or half as long as its actual length. D&D’s co-creator Gary Gygax loved to confound dungeon mappers. I imagine a party of lost players at Gary’s table, growing sore, and insisting that Gary described something wrong. Gary laughs slyly, opens the Player’s Handbook, and points to page 80.

At level 6, Permanent Illusion appealed to a few players, but dungeon masters gained a way to trick or terrify characters and to disguise pits. The spell evolved into fifth edition’s Programmed Illusion.

At level 8, Glassteel made glass or crystal as strong as steel. A few players dreamed of transparent weapons and armor, but I suspect Gary Gygax mostly sought a way to add durable windows to his tricky dungeon rooms. Between the scientific flavor of a name torn from sci-fi and they way walls of force did the same job better, dungeon builders never embraced glassteel.

To last, a few of these dungeon builder spells needed the help of the 8th-level Permanency spell. In fifth edition, Magic Mouth lasts until dispelled, but originally that same duration required an 8th-level spell and a lost point of Constitution. If I were a mad mage building a dungeon, I would opt for painted signs instead.

Permanency helped dungeon architects extend spells like Wall of Fire, Gust of Wind, Wall of Force, and many others. Edition 3.5 featured the best realization of Permanency.

As I look back on the spells for dungeon makers, I see a missed opportunity. D&D could benefit from more spells that filled gaps in the toolkit of Keraptis, Halaster, Galap-Dreidel, and all the game’s other dungeon builders.

The architect of the Tomb of Horrors, Acererak, creates dungeons to trap the souls of heroes, but he faces a problem: Before adventurers die, they keep wrecking stuff. In Return to the Tomb of Horrors and Tomb of Annihilation, Acererak recruits unliving maintenance crews to repair damage for the next party of doomed adventurers arrives. Now imagine an infomercial featuring an exasperated archlich saying, “There has to be a better way!”

Spirit of Remaking

6th-level transmutation
Casting Time: 1 hour
Range: Touch
Components: V,S,M (a jewelled hammer worth 500 gp, which the spell consumes)
Duration: Until Dispelled
Save: None

You touch an object or section of construction of large size or smaller. If the target suffers damage, the spell repairs the damage. If the target includes mechanisms, the spell returns these mechanisms to their original state. So for example, traps can be reset.

This spell repairs at the pace of a skilled laborer. The spell will not function while its target is observed.

In Tomb of Annihilation, Acererak uses adamantine parts held together with Soverign Glue to prevent adventurers from breaking his magical puzzles and traps rather than engaging with them. Can you imagine the building expense? Every dungeon builder needs some way to keep adventurers from simply cutting the Gordian Knot.

Ward of Sequestration

6th-level abjuration
Casting Time: 1 hour
Range: Touch
Components: V,S,M (a powder composed of diamond, emerald, ruby, and sapphire dust worth at least 500 gp, which the spell consumes)
Duration: Until Dispelled

You cause a Large-sized or smaller object to be warded so that if it’s damaged or manipulated in certain ways, then it vanishes to an extra-dimensional space, safe from harm. You set the ways that manipulating the object will cause it to disappear. Also, you can set how long the object will remain in the extra-dimensional space. For example, it could remain sequestered just a minute or 1,000 years. If the object is built into a larger construction such as a wall or door, then when the target disappears, it’s replaced with stone, metal, or similar materials that blend with the surrounding construction. If the replacement materials are removed from the construction, then they disintegrate.

In the early days of D&D, many DMs suffered a common embarrassment: Players would dare to enter some dungeon sealed for millenia, and find it stocked with living creatures who somehow survived the ages in their monster hotel rooms. Some smart-assed player would start asking quetions, and soon the whole group starts mocking the absurdity of the DM’s creation.

To avoid ridicule, DMs learned to fill their vaults with undead, constructs, and elementals, but that leaves so many fine monsters unavailable.

Temporal Prison

8th-level transmutation
Casting Time: 1 action
Range/Area: 60 ft (20 ft)
Components: V,S,M (an hourglass)
Duration: Until Dispelled or Triggered
Save: None

You attempt to imprison creatures in spaces where time slows to a near standstill. Creatures within 20 feet of a point you choose within range are affected in ascending order of their current hit points. The spell affects up to 175 total hit points. Subtract each creature’s hit points from the total before moving on to the creature with the next lowest hit points. A creature’s hit points must be equal to or less than the remaining total for that creature to be affected.

Inside a temporal prison, a blink of an eye can take hours. This slowing of time means that imprisoned creatures do not grow older and their body functions virtually cease. These prisons take a crystaline shape that envelops each creature. To the touch, the prisons feel solid and glassy. Bright light that passes through the prisons appears dim and dim light cannot penetrate. The prisons provide total cover to the creatures inside. Moving the prisons by any means other than teleportation breaks the spell

You can decide on triggers that cause the spell to end. The condition can be anything you choose, but it must occur or be visible within 120 feet of the target. The most common trigger is approaching within a certain distance. You can further refine the trigger so the spell ends only under certain circumstances or according to physical characteristics (such as height or weight), creature kind (for example, the ward could be set to affect aberrations or drow), or alignment. You can also set conditions for creatures that don’t end the spell, such as those who say a certain password.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 9th level, add an additional 75 hit points to the total number of hit points affected.

*My friend John P. Jones plays a character who casts Magic Mouth on his arrows so they deliver a mix of messages and terrified screams when they hit. John plays a bard and you know how they are. My outrageous generalizations about wizard players stands. John’s trick works because Magic Mouth now lasts until dispelled. John can prepare arrows in advance and still adventure with all his spell slots.

Related: 5 Reasons Someone Might Build a Dungeon Filled With Clues, Tests, and Riddles

The Dungeons & Dragons spells Gary Gygax never meant for players

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