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On the Thursday Trick: Sand

Hack & Slash - Thu, 01/03/2019 - 13:00
Sand (Category: Terrain, Vents/Sprays, Restraints/Hazards)

Trigger: AnyEffects:
Multiple TargetsSave: Strength

None Duration: SpecialResets:VariesBypass: varies
Description: This is less "sand" or "quicksand" as a trap. Sand is often ill-considered during play, and yet. . .

Sand is more deadly than wild animals. Holes, unstable footings, and instability cause more deaths than wild animal attacks. From 1990 to 2016, there have been 16 deaths just from sand pits used for making sandcastles. Sharks only killed 12 people during that span. Source.

Culturally, if there is no lumber or tree industry nearby, non-industrial societies have 'sandmen' who Collect and 'clean' sand to bring into cities. It is used as a cleaning, degreasing, and abrasive agent. Once a lumber industry is running, sawdust is cheaper and more effective, causing this job to die off. But for non-industrial societies, collecting, moving, and cleaning sand is a necessary industry.

Green SandSand describes a wide range of particles, from the large (64mm) to silt (.0004 mm). This consistency affects its behavior. You aren't going to sink into large grained sand. For example: Sand between .1 and .5 mm in diameter at the right humidity level will emit noises like whistling and barking. Video example 1, video example 2, video example 3.This can be up to over 100 decibels in volume. If you have a sand trap, where it pours in from somewhere, it could cause a terrible cacophony. If it happened elsewhere it could project the semblance of a terrible beast.

Sand near volcanic beaches can be straight up green. Olivine from the volcanic residue will produce a green color in the sand. Furthermore, sand can be beige or yellow. but also black, white, pink, red, gold, or purple, naturally.

Wizards who predict the future with sand would be called arenomancers. Arenolugry or Thaumoarenoists are sand wizards.

Areas with a lot of sand where it can be disturbed, (due to fights or fireballs) can put enough particularite matter in the air to cause illness, and if severe enough, cancer or death. Unprotected exposure to sand particles in the air can irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin, or flu like symptoms like runny nose, lack of breath, a terrible cough.

This isn't particularly helpful, but did you know some desert animals (like sand cats) are just so damn efficient that they literally never drink? They get all the water they need from the bodies of their prey. Like all desert predators they are nocturnal.

Sand, of the correct type, will often be sought by glassmakers, wizards, and other people who need specific grades of sand for glassmaking.

For sand dominated areas, feel free to to remember that heat and water are scarce in deserts.

QuicksandQuicksand is not limited to any specific climate or region. It can be found anywhere you find sand. A necessary component of quicksand is nearness to some body of water, whether underground or nearby.

What actually happens with quicksand is that it's super saturated with water. It's basically a deep pool, filled with a great deal of sand. The water volume is so high, that there's no friction, the pool is in a "colloidal" state and can't support any weight, any more than a swimming pool could, but the sand prevents you from swimming effectively.

You don't actually sink in very far. But the mistake most people make is that they try to push themselves out. Any attempt to "lift" out of the quicksand will cause another body part to push. This pushing disturbs the support and people sink further in.

Since the sand is more than twice as dense than the human body, you will not sink if you don't struggle. Falling head first into the sand can be deadly, being that you cannot remove your head, nor hold your breath long enough for your buoyancy to bring you to the surface.

FantasySail over the sand sea.
Giant worms snake through the sand.
Armies of the dead rest beneath the sands.
Burrowing predators harass characters in packs that swim through the sand.
Towers and whole cities rest buried beneath the dunes, the only entrance a single window at the top of a tower.
Balloons and parachutes allow sailing, held up by head coming off the dunes.
Mirages and illusions mess with dehydrated minds.
Wizards hide their towers among the dunes.
Sarlacc's and their cousins, giant dire antilions can be found among the sands.
Sandstorms ripe with magic bring thunder, lightning, and astral disruptions to the desert.
Sphinxes that live in the desert may take a dim view of you arriving to remove their valuable sand. Giant city like barges drift across the sands.
Silt striders, or other giant water bug like insects cross the sands, only their legs visible to players, their bodies far above the clouds.
In the wastes lie beasts like basilisks, sphinxes, and amphisbaena.
Victims of a sand necktie may be human or something else, often long dead, sometimes alive.
Creatures made from sand, or controlled sand shapes from sorcery nearby. (Video, nudity)

Detection/Disarming: Whenever using sand as an environmental variable, it's suggested that you explain to the players what's occurring and allow them to respond. Don't just immediately penalize them for sand exposure, mention that it's clouding the air and burning their lungs and eyes. If they don't take action to fix or correct the problem (Cloth over mouth, holding breath/closing eyes) then the penalties can apply.

The players need to be told about the hazard, before they get the chance to interact with it. Having quicksand or difficult terrain or pits on the battlefield, all should be described (if examined) before a player interacts with it.

Players should be told that sand is difficult terrain (double movement cost), but for sand that is actually hazardous (say full of pits), let people know that they will need to make a check to keep their footing. Quicksand is actually pretty difficult to spot, but allow players to take an action to try to identify which areas are unstable.

This post about sand may or may not have anything to do with my research for my Sandbox project. Get excited. If you think this post is good, and want to help make sure I can keep doing it throughout 2019, consider patreon!

The Tricks and Traps series examines original and classic traps discussing how to present the traps while maintaining the agency of the players. A complete list of sources and inspiration may be found here. The Tricks and Traps Index page contains a complete listing of all the tricks and traps on this site, or you may browse by tags.

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

A Sword & Sorcery Hundred Years War, Dark Albion, & More Classic X2 Castle Amber By Tom Moldvay ( sort of)

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 01/03/2019 - 07:36
'A desperate sorceress, a land wracked by war, & a very dangerous war open gateways better left closed. The mysterious Castle Amber, you find yourselves cut off form the world you know. The castle is fraught with peril. Members of the strange Amber family, some insane, some merely deadly, lurk around every corner. Somewhere in the castle is the key to your escape."The year is 1940 & Paris Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Faith of Solomon Kane

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Thu, 01/03/2019 - 04:59

June of 1930 saw Solomon Kane take the cover of Weird Tales with the first installment of a two-part serial. And man, it sure is a doozy!

It’s hard to believe, but within these pages Kane would become even more heroic, more imposing, more inspiring, and more awesome than his preceding tales could indicate. Even better, all the great fantasy elements of the 1920’s are here in vivid detail: pulse pounding jungle action, Atlantis, secret kingdoms in the heart of Africa, and beautiful and feral queens of ancient civilizations.

If “Red Shadows” was Fantasy John Wick and “Skulls in the Stars” was Fantasy Mad Max… then “The Moon of Skulls” is Fantasy Taken.

But before we get into that, a word about the cover. It is totally and awfully wrong. It depicts a generic thirties action here and not the dour Solomon Kane. The damsel in distress is not a red head in the story– she’s got curly blonde hair! And the femme fatale triggering the trap door? She’s supposed to be going the full Dejah Thoris by wearing nothing but her jewelry. (Margaret Brundage will have her work cut out for her when she would later come on board!)

But yes, this is an earlier prototype of the sort of tale you see in the Liam Neeson movie “Taken”. And the most striking thing about it is that the heroism, daring, and fearlessness the rescue entails is spread out over years of struggle and daring! It is truly awe inspiring. All the more so because Solomon Kane really doesn’t have any sort of personal stake in the girl he’s seeking to save. She’s neither his daughter nor a potential love interest!

What can possibly motivate the man under these circumstances? The answer is… something that you just don’t see depicted in the action heroes that have dominated the big screen for the past six decades: faith. I daresay that no character in all of fiction can match Kane for this particular virtue.

For one thing, the guy wholeheartedly believes he can take on Satan himself in single combat:

From somewhere in front of him there came a strange indescribable rustling. Without warning something smote him in the face and slashed wildly. All about him sounded the eerie murmurings of many small wings and suddenly Kane smiled crookedly, amused, relieved and chagrined. Bats, of course. The cave was swarming with them. Still, it was a shaky experience, and as he went on and the wings whispered through the vast emptiness of the great cavern, Kane’s mind found space to dally with a bizarre thought—had he wandered into Hell by some strange means, and were these in truth bats, or were they lost souls winging through everlasting night? Then, thought Solomon Kane, I will soon confront Satan himself—and even as he thought this, his nostrils were assailed by a horrid scent, fetid and repellent. The scent grew as he went slowly on, and Kane swore softly, though he was not a profane man. He sensed that the smell betokened some hidden threat, some unseen malevolence, inhuman and deathly, and his sombre mind sprang at supernatural conclusions. However, he felt perfect confidence in his ability to cope with any fiend or demon, armoured as he was in unshakable faith of creed and the knowledge of the rightness of his cause.

Also, he is never going to stop in his quest:

He was a man born out of his time—a strange blending of Puritan and Cavalier, with a touch of the ancient philosopher, and more than a touch of the pagan, though the last assertion would have shocked him unspeakably. An atavist of the days of blind chivalry he was, a knight errant in the sombre domes of a fanatic. A hunger in his soul drove him on and on, an urge to right all wrongs, protect all weaker things, avenge all crimes against right and justice. Wayward and restless as the wind, he was consistent in only one respect—he was true to his ideals of justice and right. Such was Solomon Kane.

How can he be so utterly unshakable in his faith? Well… that has something to do with the character of the One he has faith in:

“Oh, heaven!” she cried, clasping her small hands. “Home! Something of which to be dreamed—never attained, I fear. Oh, Captain Kane, how shall we gain through all the vast leagues of jungle which lie between this place and the coast?”

“Marylin,” said Kane gently, stroking her curly hair, “methinks you lack somewhat in faith, both in Providence and in me. Nay, alone I am a weak creature, having no strength or might in me; yet in times past hath God made me a great vessel of wrath and a sword of deliverance. And, I trust, shall do so again.

“Look you, little Marylin: in the last few hours as it were, we have seen the passing of an evil race and the fall of a foul empire. Men died by thousands about us, and the earth rose beneath our feet, hurling down towers that broke the heavens; yea, death fell about us in a red rain, yet we escaped unscathed.

“Therein is—more than the hand of man! Nay, a Power—the mightiest Power! That which guided me across the world, straight to that demon city—which led me to your chamber—which aided me to escape again and led me to the one man in all the city who would give the information I must have, the strange, evil priest of an elder race who lay dying in a subterranean cell—and which guided me to the outer wall, as I ran blindly and at random—for should I have come under the cliffs which formed the rest of the wall, we had surely perished. That same Power brought us safely out of the dying city, and safe across the rocking bridge—which shattered and sundered down into the chasm just as my feet touched solid earth!

“Think you that having led me this far, and accomplished such wonders, the Power will strike us down now? Nay! Evil flourishes and rules in the cities of men and the waste places of the world, but anon the great giant that is God rises and smites for the righteous, and they lay faith in him.


This is of course the exact same Providence that in The Lord of the Rings saw the ring of power delivered into the hands of just the sort of hobbits that could put an end to Sauron’s bid for world domination. But note the freedom that Howard has in being as unsubtle in making the point as is conceivable!

It’s mind-blowing. It’s also the chief reason I would argue that Robert E. Howard is at least the equal to the Oxford don and one of the greatest fantasists of all time.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Whisper in the Crags

Fail Squad Games - Wed, 01/02/2019 - 17:20

The latest 5e / S&W “Quick Kick” adventure from Fail Squad Games is coming to a close tomorrow (January 3rd). There was only a little more than a week to find it and get in, but you only need $3 to get he full reward! Here we are now, doing better than ever…

When I first launched this idea for “Quick Kick” projects on Kickstarter with Falls Keep, I wasn’t sure if it was an idea that would stick. My intent was just to push out short adventures that were just a few pages and gave game masters some tools to have in their GMing box. I kept getting these fun ideas for short adventures that weren’t really enough for print, but more than just a Drivethru creation.

Quick Kick Projects

This is the second of Fail Squad Games’ series of “Quick Kick” projects which are super short, Kickstarter projects that cost just a few bucks to back and deliver short Sidequests in PDF form only.  The goal is for each adventure to be about one session long, 8-12 pages in length, and easy to pick up and run for the unprepared GM. Each adventure will be full color, and internally hyperlinked with an interactive PDF.

I have yet to wrangle one of these to under pages, but we’ll get there. No one complains when they get more than promised.

New Artwork

I commissioned my the skilled Raven Winter Metcalf to produce the art for this adventure. It was our goal to change the look and feel of the entire project from our usual ‘serious’ feel. This adventure is inspired by a musical piece “Curse of Milhaven” and we wanted the illustrations to reflect the theme, but carry a Burtonesque feel. In the end we landed on a project with a wonderful look and I couldn’t be happier with the departure.

The Future

The future of “Quick Kick” projects looks bright and we have many more lined up with new authors getting into the queue. For those asking, yes, eventually we may look at printing on paper, but for now, these are PDF only and add to the simplicity of the project when it comes to delivery.


The town of Lorview has seen numerous struggles from Fail Squad Adventures and Whisper in the Crags adds a sweet full-page upgraded map of the area. from the Kickstarter page: 

When the winds blow in from the east at just the right angle, the Whispering Crags north of Lorview howl and moan, giving rise to dark superstition and legends. Little Lottie Fisher has a secret friend who knows more than most about the crags.  That strange little girl, drawing her pictures and talking to the dark.

  “Lottie has a wanderlust,” her mother Rasel Fisher often says. “Even as a babe on the road, she wandered off for two days into the forest alone. She’s a blessing and a handful.”

What dark secret await the heroes in the city of Lorview this time? 

Want to get in the loop to be notified first when a Quick Kick launches? Join the Fail Squad Games Guild NOW!

If you’re reading this and it’s January 3rd 2019 or earlier – Back Whisper in the Crags NOW! 
Follow me on Kickstarter to get pinged about new projects as well.

Fail Squad Games is just getting traction and with each release we improve. Thank you for your support, backing, and sharing a love of this hobby that has enriched the world.

~Lloyd Metcalf
Fail Squad Games CEO

The post Whisper in the Crags appeared first on Fail Squad Games.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On the Hexporation

Hack & Slash - Wed, 01/02/2019 - 13:00

I've recently finished and published Hexplore: Borderlands, Raven Tower, Mill, and Abandoned Outpost!

You can get it here from DriveThruRPG.

It's the second borderland hex I've drawn, and it's a six-mile hex  with a raven tower in a mysterious forest, a bottomless pit, a haunted abandoned military outpost, a garden tended by spiders, a tomb for a powerful evil book, and the lair of an arrogant druid and his strange retinue. The document contains maps and encounters with space for your settings name and statistics. Four landmarks, three lairs, and four adventure sites, all for just a few dollars! This helps you make your game exciting in a new way!

 You can check out all the illustrations inside, in the free preview, but it's only $4.99 and you're ready with weeks worth of content when your players wander off in a random direction.

Here's a small .jpg of the hex covered in this Hexplore. The other image is an example of the illustrations contained within.

The other fun thing about this, is that I actually get to make the hex. You can see it right on the cover. See? It's the actual hex! Compare it to the map above!

I really like doing these and I hope you like them too! If you'd like to get them for free, along with 600 .dpi files for use with virtual table tops like roll20, they are all on my Patreon!

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Charnel Pits of Reynaldo Lazendry

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 01/02/2019 - 12:16
  • By Jeremy Reaban
  • Self published
  • OSR
  • Levels 2-4

After 200 years, a bold band of adventurers plunded the first level of the dungeons beneath the ruined tower of Reynaldo Lazendry. What horrors await upon the second level of the insane mage?

This fifteen page adventure describes level two of Jeremy’s dungeon, with 56 rooms and a Frakenstein/revivification theme. It’s inconsistent and, it seems, jeremy’s heart just isn’t in it.

I’m always happy to see large dungeons, even when they arrive in installment plan mode, like this one. Big dungeons, exploratory things, are what the game was designed around and really show off the strengths of D&D. The mechanics of the game, at least up until 1e, work well with what large dungeons have to offer. To that end, the map here is an excellent exploratory map, with loops and moderate complexity that really allows the game to show off how it works. Loops, bypassing, dark corridors that anything could be lurking down … it’s all present here.

The theme here of a Frankenstein lab level, with some Herbery West thrown in, is a good one. It allows for a lot of room for weird effects. Stitch some new abominations together, give some severed body parts life, and fill in a lot with creepy things floating in strange liquids in jars. This is expanded upon with other moments, like couches whose seats can be searched for loose coins. If you accept that every waterfall needs a cave behind it then you must also accept that couches need to have things in the cushions. Life has a logic to it and D&D should play to that logic. Players LUV it when their theories and logic make good.

But, all os not good in Charnel Pit land. For every washroom with buckets full of weird eyes and baby shoggoths with attachment issues there are also fifteen rooms where not much effort was put. The food storage room, two, tell us the door is hard to break through but can be picked … and nothing at all about the room other than that. Normal food? Body parts? Anything evocative at all? No. Still, room four, the morgue, tell us that it is as cold as the food storage room. So … it’s the same temp as every other room in the dungeon, because the food storage room told us nothing. Room seven tells us, exhaustively, how many wigs are present of each color even though it has no bearing on the adventure?

The rooms are focused on history and backstory rather than interactivity. The Torture pits tells us that “Twelve of these pits contain people who Lazendry brought back from the dead using the revivification process but were incomplete or somehow not right as referred to by ancient wizards as liveliest awfulness.” So rather than focus on the occupants ,the sights and the smells and how the party might interact with them, we instead get a brief bit of history, justifying why the creatures are here. They are here because we’re playing D&D tonight. Or, we want to anyway.

Monsters, especially in something inspired by Lovecraft, should be awful. In this they are … present? We get descriptions like “strange pre-human beings not unlike ogres with very large mouths” or “appear to be a misshapen human shaped mass of flesh, often with bones exposed and large gaping maws. They are ferociously hungry, even though they don’t need to eat.” You can see hints in these descriptions of something better, but its abstracted to the point of providing little of concrete value to inspire.

Jeremy has a style that he likes to write in, and I don’t always agree with his choices, but in this adventure he seems to be slipping even from that. It feels more like a first draft, or rough notes, than it does a complete adventure. Still, coming from Jeremy, that makes it better than most.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $.50. The preview shows you the entire adventure, something I wish more designers would do. From it you can tell exactly what you are buying before you buy it. Note page three, the first page of rooms, for some of the writing style issues, and then page four and page ten for some light humor and heavier monster descriptions.–The-Charnel-Pits-of-Reynaldo-Lazendry

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Jaka from Talislanta [5e Race]

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 01/02/2019 - 12:00
Art by P.D. Breeding-BlackJaka are humanoid species with features resembling both wolves and panthers. They are covered in sleek black fur and have silver-gray manes. They hail from the beast-haunted wilderlands of Yrmania, particularly the area of the Brown Hills.  With a reputation as peerless trackers, Jaka easily find work as scouts, guides, and hunters of both men and beasts.

Jaka Racial Traits
Ability Score Increase. A Jaka's Dexterity increases by 2, and Wisdom increases by 1.
Age. Jaka reach adulthood around age 12 and typically leave to around 80.
Alignment. Most Jaka are neutral.
Size. Jaka are Medium.
Speed. Base walking speed is 30 feet.
Languages. Jaka can speak, read, and write Low Talislan and are fluent in Wilderness Sign of the Talislantan tribes folk.
Darkvision. Jaka have a cat’s keen senses especially in the dark. They can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. Jaka can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
Natural Tracker. Jaka have proficiency with the skills Survival and Perception.
Scent Marking. As a bonus action, a Jaka can mark one creature it can see within 10 feet. Until the end of the Jaka's next long rest, its proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability check to find the marked creature, and the Jaka always know the location of that creature if it is within 60 feet. A Jaka can’t use this trait again until it finishes a short or long rest.
Sixth Sense. Jaka have the uncanny ability to sense danger, or even potential danger within 30 feet. They cannot necessarily discern the type, location, or degree of danger, but they know it is there on a successful check of their Passive Perception (Wisdom). In cases where they are actively looking for threats they have an advantage on their Perception (Wisdom). They are particularly sensitive to magic and add 5 to their Passive Perception checks if magic is involved and +2 to their active checks.
Jaka Weapon Training. Proficiency with the shortsword, shortbow, and spear.

Wednesday Comics: The Good Stuff I Read in 2018

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 01/02/2019 - 12:00
I read a lot of superhero comics in 2018, but a minority of them were new (within the past couple of years) but here, in no particular order, are the ones that stood out:

X-Men: Grand Design: I'm not sure the X-men needed to be woven into one sprawling narrative, and doing so has Piskor making some odd choices, but I like the retro approach and the Marvel Saga-esque dive into the past.

Green Lantern (2018) #1-2 and Earth One: Wonder Woman Volume Two: Middle tier Morrison (though with only 2 issues extant, the jury may still be out on Green Lantern) is still better than most stuff.

Supernaut: A little bit Morrison, a little bit Warren Ellis, this is a sci-fi superhero yarn very much of the exposition heavy "mad idea" school. And from an indie, no less. There's a trade, but Amazon doesn't seem to carry it. Comixology has the issues, though.

Martian Manhunter #1 and Electric Warriors #1-2: Both of these are written by Steve Orlando. MM has a take on Mars I found really cool. Electric Warriors has an interesting concept (covering some of the period between the Great Disaster at the time of the Legion). It's early in their runs, but I'm going to be optimistic.

Final Frontier #1: I'm not sure exactly when this was released, but it's a Tom Scioli take on a rock 'n roll band Fantastic Four, so you should read it.

A Dungeons & Dragons Summoning Spell Reference

DM David - Wed, 01/02/2019 - 11:15

Many summoning spells in fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons explicitly allow the player to choose the creatures summoned. Others only let the player choose from broad options. Typically players choose the quantity and challenge rating of creatures.

This reference lists typical creatures summoned by each conjuration spell. Download a Markdown version, or a PDF version or a low-ink PDF formatted using the The Homebrewery.

Spells Where the DM Determines Summoned Creatures

Spells that let players choose broad options work best when the dungeon master selects the specific creatures summoned. The Sage Advice Compendium issued by D&D’s designers explains, “A spellcaster can certainly express a preference for what creatures show up, but it’s up to the DM to determine if they do. The DM will often choose creatures that are appropriate for the campaign and that will be fun to introduce in a scene.”

To help DMs make these selections, this reference lists the common monsters summoned by each spell. To make random selection easy, the creatures are numbered.

Conjure Animals

You summon fey spirits that take the form of beasts.

Land Beasts Qty CR Creature 1 2 1: Giant Boar, 2: Cave Bear, 3: Giant Constrictor Snake, 4: Giant Elk, 5: Polar Bear, 6: Rhinoceros, 7: Saber-toothed Tiger, 8: Swarm of Poisonous Snakes 2 1 1: Brown Bear, 2: Dire Wolf, 3: Giant Eagle, 4: Giant Hyena, 5: Giant Spider, 6: Giant Toad, 7: Lion, 8: Tiger 4 1/2 1: Ape, 2: Black Bear, 3: Crocodile, 4: Giant Goat, 5: Giant Wasp, 6: Swarm of Insects 8 1/4 1: Axe Beak, 2: Boar, 3: Constrictor Snake, 4: Elk, 5: Giant Badger, 6: Giant Bat, 7: Giant Centipede, 8: Giant Frog, 9: Giant Lizard, 10: Giant Owl, 11: Giant Poisonous Snake, 12: Giant Wolf Spider, 13: Panther, 14: Swarm of Bats, 15: Swarm of Rats, 16: Swarm of Ravens, 17: Wolf

When you cast this spell using certain higher-level spell slots, you choose one of the summoning options above, and more creatures appear: twice as many with a 5th-level slot, three times as many with a 7th-level slot, and four times as many with a 9th-level slot:

Swimming Beasts Qty CR Creature 1 2 1: Giant Constrictor Snake, 2: Hunter Shark, 3: Plesiosaurus, 4: Swarm of Poisonous Snakes 2 1 1: Giant Octopus, 2: Giant Toad, 3: Swarm of Quippers 4 1/2 1: Crocodile, 2: Giant Sea Horse, 3: Reef Shark 8 1/4 1: Constrictor Snake, 2: Giant Frog, 3: Giant Poisonous Snake Conjure Minor Elementals

You summon elementals.

Elementals Qty CR Creature 1 2 1: Azer, 2: Gargoyle 2 1 Fire Snake 4 1/2 1: Dust Mephit, 2: Ice Mephit, 3: Magma Mephit, 4: Magmin 8 1/4 1: Mud Mephit, 2: Smoke Mephit, 3: Steam Mephit

When you cast this spell using certain higher-level spell slots, you choose one of the summoning options above, and more creatures appear: twice as many with a 6th-level slot and three times as many with an 8th-level slot.

Conjure Woodland Beings

You summon fey creatures.

Fey Creatures Qty CR Creature 1 2 1: Darkling Elder*, 2: Meenlock*, 3: Seahag 2 1 1. Dryad, 2: Quickling 4 1/2 1: Darkling*, 2: Satyr 8 1/4 1: Blink Dog, 2: Pixie, 3: Sprite

Creatures marked with an asterisk appeared in Volo’s Guide to Monsters.

When you cast this spell using certain higher-level spell slots, you choose one of the summoning options above, and more creatures appear: twice as many with a 6th-level slot and three times as many with an 8th-level slot.

Summon Lesser Demons

Roll to determine the number and challenge rating of the demons from among the possibilities.

Because official D&D lacks challenge rating 1/2 demons, DMs can either rule that summoning 4 demons brings lower CR demons or they can ignore that possible outcome.

Demons Qty CR Creature 2 1 1. Maw Demon (Volo’s Guide to Monsters), 2: Quasit 4 1/2 None 8 1/4 1: Abyssal Wretch (Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes), 2: Dretch

When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 6th or 7th level, you summon twice as many demons. If you cast it using a spell slot of 8th or 9th level, you summon three times as many demons.

Spells Where the Caster Chooses Summoned Creatures

This reference lists the likely options available when players choose summoned creatures.

Conjure Celestial

You summon a celestial of challenge rating 4 or lower.

CR Creature 2 Pegasus 4 Qouatl 5 Unicorn

When you cast this spell using a 9th-level spell slot, you summon a celestial of challenge rating 5 or lower.

Conjure Elemental

Choose an area of air, earth, fire, or water that fills a 10-foot cube within range. An elemental of challenge rating 5 or lower appropriate to the area you chose appears in an unoccupied space within 10 feet of it. For example, a fire elemental emerges from a bonfire, and an earth elemental rises up from the ground.

CR Creature 5 Air Elemental, Earth Elemental, Fire Elemental, Salamander, Water Elemental, Xorn 6 Galeb Duhr, Invisible Stalker 7 Air Elemental Myrmidon, Earth Elemental Myrmidon, Fire Elemental Myrmidon, Water Elemental Myrmidon 9 Frost Salamander (Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes)

All elemental myrmidons appear in Princes of the Apocalypse.

Infernal Calling

Uttering a dark incantation, you summon a devil from the Nine Hells. You choose the devil’s type, which must be one of challenge rating 6 or lower, such as a barbed devil or a bearded devil. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 6th level or higher, the challenge rating increases by 1 for each slot level above 5th.

CR Creature 5 Barbed Devil 6 White Abisai (Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes) 7 Black Abisai (Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes) 8 Chain Devil 8 Bone Devil 10 Orthon (Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes) Summon Greater Demon

You utter foul words, summoning one demon from the chaos of the Abyss. You choose the demon’s type, which must be one of challenge rating 5 or lower. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 5th level or higher, the challenge rating increases by 1 for each slot level above 4th.

CR Creature 5 Babau (Volo’s Guide to Monsters), Dybbuk (Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes), Shadow Demon 5 Balgura, Tanarukk (Volo’s Guide to Monsters) 6 Chasme, Vrock 7 Armanite (Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes), Draegloth (Volo’s Guide to Monsters), Maurezhi (Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes) 8 Hezrou, Shoosuva (Volo’s Guide to Monsters) 9 Glabrezu 10 Yochlol
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Long Time - No Me

3d6 Traps & Thieves - Tue, 01/01/2019 - 18:01
Happy New Year to all. During the past few months of relative quiet, plans have been developing and changes have been implementing. I'd like to touch on a few of them here, and then finish with a look at the future.
  1. I am officially retired from working a day job. I am home, and I am full-time Mothshade Concepts. This means I should finally have the time to produce multiple projects in a more timely fashion. Details and updates can be found at the Mothshade Concepts Facebook Page.
  2. The initial five-volume OD&D set for the Avremier campaign setting is finished and published. While more Avremier material will be forthcoming, there are many more projects and product lines already in the production schedule. The five Avremier supplements can be found on the Mothshade Concepts DriveThru RPG Store.
  3. This blog is due to be updated to something more useful and productive. That's on the To-Do List for January. Stay tuned.
So, everything is new and full of promise. I am going on an adventure, and I'd like to take as many of you along as possible.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Death & Darkness In The Zothique Wastelands - Clark Ashton Smith Inspired Zothique Actual Play Session Report Four

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 01/01/2019 - 17:13
We seven players had been playing in my buddy Steve's Zothique game using a variety of OSR resources including the  Zothique D20 Guide hosted on the  The Eldritch Dark website. Bits & pieces of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea & Amazing Adventures! rpg by Troll Lord Games But my second time lost  wizard from Alexandria had incurred the wraith of a demon by associating with my Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Solomon Kane and the Specter of Modernity

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Tue, 01/01/2019 - 01:24

June 1929 saw the publication of the third Solomon Kane story, this one more of a flash fiction piece of the sort Fredric Brown would become famous for.

If you’re reading Robert E. Howard stories specifically to beef up your D&D game, this one is the sort that could be used with practically no changes at all. Everyone has a bandit of Gaston the Butcher’s sort that has gotten away from the players at one time or another. The Inn of the Cleft Skull can be placed in just about any forested area on your campaign map. All characters encountered by Solomon Kane in this story are in great need of killing, so they will fit seamlessly into any old school D&D session.

One thing stands out about the Solomon Kane stories in contrast to H. P. Lovecraft’s and even A. Merritt’s horror tales. Having an explicitly Christian hero from a wilder time, there is no need for the sort of skeptical protagonist that holds out for the shred of a chance that he’s really just seeing something that appears supernatural and which (in his mind) no doubt has a perfectly naturalistic explanation.

Like Lord Dunsany, Howard had the capacity and the desire to write stories where the specter of modernity was is not accommodated even in passing. It makes for intrinsically better storytelling— particularly when dealing with the sort of collision between fantasy and horror elements you have here.

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Baseline D&D Combat Simulator

Bat in the Attic - Mon, 12/31/2018 - 19:41
For my final post of 2018, I am posting a link to a DnD combat simulator.

DnD Combat Simulator

While having two combatant whack at each other until one of them is dead is not very realistic in terms what goes on in a campaign. It is a useful baseline to have while designing a combat system.

The source code for this can be downloaded from.

DnD Combat Simulator Source Code

I developed a similar utility to use with a Majestic Wilderlands RPG based on Fudge and confirmed the feedback I got from my players that a +1 advantage seems to tilt the odds by a lot. No matter how I tweaked the combat procedure the steepness of the bell curve of 4DF dominates how bonuses work.

Ironically it wasn't until two years later I found d6-d6 fixes the issue as the bell curve is now the same as rolling 2d6.

With this utility one get a rough idea of how the changes over various DnD editions effected combat by plugging the various numbers as they existed in ODnD, ODnD+Greyhawk, ADnD and so on.

Hope this proves useful for your campaigns and I wish everybody a Happy New Year!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Weird Revisited: Hyades Plains Drifter

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 12/31/2018 - 12:56
This 2015 post is a bit recent for revisit, but playing with Hero Forge over the weekend and designing Tex Hex from Bravestarr brought it back to mind...

Take McKinney's Carcosa, remove whatever homology to Masters of the Universe is there, replacing it instead with echoes of Bravestarr. For the more literary minded: take out some of the Lovecraft and replace it with elements of King's Dark Tower series. Now you've got a weird western on an alien world.

A Bone Man, probablyDrop those sorcerous rituals that upset some people and replace them with drugs. Now you've got an acid weird western on an alien world. That ought to be enough for any game, but you're a jaded bunch with a decadent palate so don't let the alien thing keep you from borrowing from Forteana related to the America West: tombs of giants, tiny mummies, underground lizard (or snake) men. Thunderbirds. Season to taste with Shaver mystery.
Saddle up, cowboy. Lost Carcosa awaits.

Double Death In The Desert - OSR Play Session Report Two

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 12/31/2018 - 07:19
" The Earth is striking a blow against the Martian invaders with the 1964 military expedition back to the launch point city  for the 1895 invasion of Earth. Strange radio transmissions & weird lights were seen on the Martian surface after the Atomic War of 1960. The Earth is united in its commitment to destroy any trace of the Invaders!'In our last game the players have been attacked have Needles
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Solomon Kane, Mad Max, and Vengeance

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Mon, 12/31/2018 - 03:15

January 1929 saw the release of the second installment of Solomon Kane’s adventures.

And it is interesting to see this action hero mashup of Keanu Reeve’s John Wick and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-1000 spring up crystal clear in a time when people might suspect something that awesome couldn’t exist yet.

But what’s truly intriguing are the things this tale contains that have been gone for so long, they are almost unimaginable today.


There above the dead man’s torn body, man fought with demon under the pale light of the rising moon, with all the advantages with the demon, save one. And that one was enough to overcome the others. For if abstract hate may bring into material substance a ghostly thing, may not courage, equally abstract, form a concrete weapon to combat that ghost? Kane fought with his arms and his feet and his hands, and he was aware at last that the ghost began to give back before him, and the fearful laughter changed to screams of baffled fury. For man’s only weapon is courage that flinches not from the gates of Hell itself, and against such not even the legions of Hell can stand.


Here you get not just horror with its metaphysical aspects still intact as opposed to being reinterpreted through a materialistic or naturalistic frame… but you get a surprisingly profound take on the nature of truly transcendent courage. Platitudes that might seem patronizing coming from the pulpit of some small town church are here made viscerally real.

More surprising than that is the reactions of the town folk to Kane at the conclusion:

“Life was good to him, though he was gnarled and churlish and evil,” Kane sighed. “Mayhap God has a place for such souls where fire and sacrifice may cleanse them of their dross as fire cleans the forest of fungus things. Yet my heart is heavy within me.”

“Nay, sir,” one of the villagers spoke, “you have done but the will of God, and good alone shall come of this night’s deed.”

“Nay,” answered Kane heavily. “I know not—I know not.”

Now, this final scene here is very reminiscent of the famous ending to the 1979 Mad Max film where the title character has finally tracked down the last nomad cyclist responsible for the deaths of his best friend, his wife, and his child. It takes an entire film, but this guy finally snaps and becomes at least as brutal as the cycle gang that was terrorizing pre-apocalyptic Australia.

And we all loved that movie, right? Max was not some goody two shoes “white hat”. He was an anti-hero. He was cool. He was… well… Mad!

But now jump back to 1929. When Solomon Kane is working through almost precisely the same sort of scenario (ie, “sentencing a man to death in cold blood”)– not only does Kane have the unanimous support of all the townspeople, but when he expresses his regret about it the townspeople flat out tell him that he is doing the will of God.

That’s how much our culture changed in the span of a mere fifty years. What was almost self-evident in the twenties could only be perpetrated by a madman in the seventies.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Gods of Hell & Murder - Thoughts on the Ecology Of The Devil King Thasaidon 'ruler of the Seven Hells' & 'Lord of All Turpitudes'

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 12/30/2018 - 19:25
"Thasaidon, lord of seven hellsWherein the single Serpent dwells,With volumes drawn from pit to pitThrough fire and darkness infinite —Thasaidon, sun of nether skies,Thine ancient evil never dies,For aye thy somber fulgors flameOn sunken worlds that have no name,Man's heart enthrones thee, still supreme,Though the false sorcerers blaspheme.-- The Song of Xeethra"'The Dark Eidolon' (1935) by Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Playing with Heroforge

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 12/30/2018 - 15:00
Heroforge, a custom 3D printed miniature design site is pretty cool. My wife and I were playing with it over the holidays, and while there are some frustrating lacks, it already has an impressive array of design elements. Here are a couple of the characters in my Land of Azurth campaign:

Kully the Bard:

And Kairon the Demonlander (i.e. Tiefling) Sorcerer:

 Its inclusion of Western/Victorian elements not only helped Azurth designs, but also my old Wampus Country character, Horvendile Early:

And there's sci-fi stuff. Here are the three characters from the cover of Strange Stars:

Solomon Kane’s Pitch Perfect Debut

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Sat, 12/29/2018 - 21:00

From “Red Shadows”, published in Weird Tales magazine in 1928:

The man whose long, swinging strides, unhurried yet unswerving, had carried him for many a mile since sunrise, stopped suddenly. A movement in the trees had caught his attention, and he moved silently toward the shadows, a hand resting lightly on the hilt of his long, slim rapier.

These are the first sentences describing Solomon Kane and check it out: just one brief aside about the way he walks and you catch the fact that he’s basically The Terminator. Unhurried yet unswerving. This guy has a mission and he will not be distracted from it even for a moment!

This is a note Howard will touch on yet again before the first section break:

Slowly he rose, mechanically wiping his hands upon his cloak. A dark scowl had settled on his somber brow. Yet he made no wild, reckless vow, swore no oath by saints or devils.

“Men shall die for this,” he said coldly.

Mechanical… like a death machine robot from some dark future.

And yet it’s tempered. He can betray a strain of gentleness when speaking to a dying girl, sure. But more than that… this is someone that works for the guy that instructed his followers to “swear not at all”.

Let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

The sermon on the mount is serious business– especially when there are men that need killing! Speaking of which, how do these guys stack up against words that will not pass away?

“Hell’s devils!” cursed the Wolf, hauling him upright and propping him in a chair. “Where are the rest, curse you?”

“Dead! All dead!”

“How? Satan’s curses on you, speak!” The Wolf shook the man savagely, the other bandit gazing on in wide-eyed horror.

Ugh. Now too well. Those oaths look pretty tacky now…!

Of course, Kane himself is far from perfect. But just the fact of his slipping up on something like this is going to be a bad sign:

“Le Loup, take care!” Kane exclaimed, a terrible menace in his voice, “I have never yet done a man to death by torture, but by God, sir, you tempt me!”

The tone, and more especially the unexpected oath, coming as it did from Kane, slightly sobered Le Loup; his eyes narrowed and his hand moved toward his rapier.

Who is this guy?!

We have to have this hunt range half way around the world and on into the darkest depths of Africa to find out:

“Why have you followed me like this? I do not understand.”

“Because you are a rogue whom it is my destiny to kill,” answered Kane coldly. He did not understand. All his life he had roamed about the world aiding the weak and fighting oppression, he neither knew nor questioned why. That was his obsession, his driving force of life. Cruelty and tyranny to the weak sent a red blaze of fury, fierce and lasting, through his soul. When the full flame of his hatred was wakened and loosed, there was no rest for him until his vengeance had been fulfilled to the uttermost. If he thought of it at all, he considered himself a fulfiller of God’s judgment, a vessel of wrath to be emptied upon the souls of the unrighteous. Yet in the full sense of the word Solomon Kane was not wholly a Puritan, though he thought of himself as such.

What a guy!

And yet there’s so much more here. This is not a straight ahead tale of vengeance a la John Wick. It moves from rapier and dagger action in France to the excitement of a Tarzan style jungle story, yes… but then on to the bizarre black magic, talking drums, and dark gods of a truly weird tale!

I haven’t seen any recent Solomon Kane adaptations, but I suspect there would be a strong tendency to edit out this sort of thing in contemporary handlings of this character. Kudos, however, to anyone that dares go against the tide on that! Because you know that nine times out of ten, people are going to replace the awesome with ill conceived backstory, unnecessary character arcs for the protagonist, and lame scenes that compromise the very concept of the character created by Robert E. Howard.

Fortunately, the real thing is freely available and you don’t have to settle for cheap knockoffs!

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