Friday, February 27, 2015
Leonard Nimoy has passed away and it is a time to honor his life. I will do so by watching my favorite episodes of my favorite series of his work; Star Trek.
He has left this stage and journeyed to the next. I hope he finds joy and love and adventure.
Posted by Jason Zavoda at 12:48 PM
Thursday, February 26, 2015
"What in the Nine Hells is that?" Harold asked.
The little thief stared at a broken form not much taller than himself but broad and muscular as an ape. It had a coat of greyish fur and a thick mane of black hair surrounding a face like a cross between a human's and a wolf's.
"That," said the ranger turning the dead body over with his foot, "that is a gibberling."
He bent and felt the muscles in its hand then touched its neck, the spine snapped like a stick. "Still stiff, killed last night, thrown, look at that stone, that's what broke its neck."
Underneath the dead beast's head was a rounded block, a large square of stone worn down by time.
"That is an odd stone," the ranger touched the grey rock, it was speckled with bits of black, cold and smooth under his hand. He pulled up a clump of weeds that grew beside it and revealed the corner, cut stone; a building had stood upon this spot, but long ago. "...as I thought."
"What?" Harold asked. "What do you think?"
"Here," he said pushing back a thick bush so that the stump of the plant was visible, "more stones. We're standing near the foundation of some building, or in it."
"Where?" asked Little Rat twisting around to see.
"Tumbled down," Harold told the orc. "Just stones now."
"Oh," Little Rat said in a disappointed tone.
"You two wait here for the others," said the ranger, "if there is one gibberling, there are a hundred."
"Are they dangerous?" squeaked Harold.
"Very," the ranger smiled. "But not in daylight. We have half the day to get beyond their reach."
North of where he'd found the body of the gibberling the ranger broke through the thick underbrush and stood within a wide swath of torn and uprooted plants. There was a circle where the trees were knocked down and the ground torn up, the oerth churned as if from a plowman's blade. Mixed with the dirt were the shards of bones, splintered, the marrow gone. A minute's search turned up a skull, stripped of flesh and cracked open then hollowed out. A giant fought and died here, then was eaten raw. The destruction ran west-east, the tracks, hundreds of them, pointed toward the east; they'd gone toward the rising sun. The dead and drying leaves were still alive the day before, sometime last night the gibberlings had passed, or so the ranger judged from the signs he found.
* * *
"Gibberlings," said Telenstil standing over the body.
"Strange to find them here," said Talberth.
"What are they?" asked Ghibelline, "Nothing of nature surely?"
"Drones perhaps, like ants, they may have a queen and spring from eggs, "said Talberth, "We studied them at university, I have seen one splayed open, preserved, they are not male or female, these do not reproduce."
"A wizard's creation, yes." said Telenstil."That is my thought. They are extremely dangerous, though not during the day."
"That is what Harald said," spoke up the thief.
"They are rare to find like this," mused Talberth, "they eat their dead. You only find their bones, or when the last of a herd has been killed."
"He said it was thrown, and that rock is part of a building."
Ivo bent and ran his hand along the stone as the ranger had done. "He was right, at least about this rock. And these, Telenstil, these are old, very old. This is not the work of gnomes or dwarves."
"Giants?" asked Talberth.
Ivo laughed. "Giants no, well not Nosnra's kind," he looked closer at the block, "not the giants of stone and rock either, I know their work; Human hands perhaps. Another mystery, back at that hill, a trail leading up to nothing, and here, something was built here."
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Talberth had never slept more soundly in his life, but he awoke with a terrible ache, every muscle in his body felt like it had been pulled apart and sewn back together with twine. It was sometime before dawn, he lay upon a bed of fir branches with his pack was beneath his head. The night had been cold but dry and with a second layer of branches piled over him he had been warm as if he'd been sleeping in a bed.
The sky was purple, day would be coming fast but already the others were astir, all except for the orcs. Boss, Meatstealer and the surviving pair, Halfknife and Brokenhand, would have preferred to travel by night. They liked the dark; the day was for sleeping more often than not. Months had passed while they had been the giants' slaves; day was when the torches burned, when they worked digging the tunnels beneath the steading. Night was when they were locked in their unlit cells; they had not missed the sun.
"Time to wake up," Ivo gave Talberth's shoulder a shake.
"I'm up," he yawned. "How long did I sleep?"
"Five hours, a little more," laughed Ivo quietly. "You were out on your feet last night. You were asleep and snoring before Harald cut the last of the branches for your bed."
"I don't snore," muttered Talberth.
They ate a cold breakfast of half-cooked beef. Harald had found one steer that had burned longer than the rest, he hadn't mentioned the body of the giant he'd found roasted beneath it, avoiding any qualms that the others might have. The orcs had taken their own choice cuts, preferring their flesh raw or at most just kissed by the flames and nothing more. They were less squeamish than the others, a week rotting in a canvas sack just added to the taste for them.
"Which way now?" Talberth asked just before they set off.
The scorched beef had been passed around with fresh water from the spring.
"Muphlimm-umph," Ivo answered him then swallowed the mouthful of food he'd been chewing. "North, Harald's finding us a trail."
"He's back," Harold spoke up, pointing to the ranger weaving his way through the brush back up to where they sat. "I'll go get Ghibelline, he's keeping watch by the spring."
"Talberth, why don't you get those orcs moving?" Ivo asked the tall mage.
"They seem to listen to Ghibelline just as well," said Talberth.
"That was yesterday," Ivo replied, "they were just obeying the tone of his voice, they forgot he was an elf. Go on, they're scared of you, all the qualities that a leader of orcs needs."
"Since when are you an expert on orcs," Talberth said annoyed. He didn't enjoy his status with the orcs.
"Well this is a first for me," laughed Ivo. "But I know orcs, too well I know them, believe me."
"Well I've never had them on my side before either," said Talberth.
"Oh don't make that mistake," Ivo told him seriously, "they aren't on our side, don't trust them, if they think they can get away with it they'll put a dagger in your back, especially because they're scared."
"I don't trust them, I don't like them," Talberth replied heatedly, "I don't want them with us..."
"Easy there," Ivo said in a calm and friendly voice, "I agree, but they are with us for now. You are they best to deal with them. We need you Talberth, don't let us down."
"I'm sorry Ivo, I... I just needed more sleep," Talberth said quietly, "I'll go get the orcs."
The Island Fortress of Boyan the Wizard Part 1
Before the time of man there were the Gods. Perun the Thunderer was the strongest and Veles the Snake was his brother. They split the world and chose the realms that they would rule. The contest they fought over this choice raised mountains in ash and fire, caused storms that drained the sea and floods that swept the Earth bare. While Perun was the stronger Veles was smarter, crafty and skilled with magic.
The struggle went on for ages and they created allies from the seeds of life to be found. The early Lizard Kings and their beasts aided them, but while they were the first children of Veles many were swayed by the raw power of Perun and betrayed their divine father. As the strife continued and the ages passed all manner of bird, beast and finally man were created.
The northern top of the world was carved from the earth and moved to a place beyond time. It became a gateway to other places, other times and other possibilities. It became a place of legend. It became Hyperborea.
Boyan the Wizard is a servant of Veles. He has ruled the northern islands for countless years, but it has been years longer since he was last seen. Still the people of the islands have been under his rulership for all the years that he has been gone. Boyan's fortress is set upon one of a cluster of small islands near the northern coast. His ships and flying beasts kept the farmers and fisherman of the towns and villages under check, collected the tithes in slaves and treasure, and recruited boys to become soldiers in the wizard's service.
Then the storm came and with the crash of lightening, the lash of torrential rain, the wind that broke walls, uprooted trees and foundered ships, the secret worshipers of Perun rose up and struck against the servants of Boyan and regained their freedom.
For long weeks the last of the wizard's servants were hunted down, but to everyone's surprise there has been no sign of the wizard or his steward and the council of apprentices who rule in the name of the wizard. Finally an expedition has been put together; warriors, clerics of Perun and the hidden Gods, magicians (who are not entirely trusted) and even thieves from Debent, largest of the towns formerly under the sway of the Boyan. With a small ship and crew who will take them to the wizard's fortress and then retreat to the safety of the nearby islands to prepare a camp and wait for a signal to return, this adventurous group will set out to explore the fortress and report back on what they find.
This is an open ended adventure for 5 to 10 characters levels 4 to 6. A well balanced party is recommended. (Welcome to the 1st draft).
Saturday, February 21, 2015
They wandered down the trail to where Gytha stood beside Ghibelline. The ranger talked with them, straight and tall, the grievous wounds he'd received healed by the cleric's faith and prayers.
"...be more." said Harald.
"I know, they will be hunting for us, those wolves of theirs will track us down," Ghibelline said.
"There are a few tricks to throw them off our trail," Harald glanced up and down the path. "But this place, they may lose our scent among all these bodies and blood."
* * *
Telenstil had been right. The moons were up and still the party was on the move. It was slow going, and despite Harald's best efforts they were leaving an easy trail. They were heading north and west, away from the hills and up into the mountains, but they hadn't left the woods behind.
Low branches slashed at them, roots and stones caught their feet, made them trip and stumble; they followed a deer trail that weaved through the underbrush. The ground was rough and uneven, the trail narrow and lined with thornbushes, they moved with a slow and awkward pace.
Harald had gone ahead, some said that he had the elven sight but it wasn't true. It was Talberth and Gytha who had the worst of it, neither could see far in the dim moonlight. Gytha at least had some woodscraft, she'd lived within the hills and mountains of Geoff all her life, but Talberth had been born and raised in Greyhawk, the hub of the Oerth as he called it. The young mage knew much about the arcane crafts, had served as an apprentice to Telenstil and seen the world beyond his city's walls, but he had never been far from a campsite or an inn. He was not used to wandering through the woods at night, looking for a place to camp, forced to sleep out under the stars, his pack as a pillow and his arms folded about him for a blanket.
They traveled single file, the orcs last in line carrying Derue, the thief and young orc leading the others over the trail. The two humans were kept at the center of the file where those with the nighteyes could keep them from falling in the dark or straying from the path. There was a hiss, low and subdued, it came from the halfling and it brought them to a halt.
"There is a clearing up ahead," Harold whispered to Telenstil and Ivo.
"Where is Harald?" the elven mage asked.
"I have no idea," Harold snapped back. "What do you want us to do?"
"Did you see something?" Ivo asked him.
"Nothing but the end of this trail," said the thief. Harold was not pleased to come upon a surprise when his friend the ranger was somewhere ahead and nowhere to be seen. "He should have come back to warn us. I don't like this."
"Can you circle the clearing?" asked Telenstil.
"I can," said Ghibelline speaking over the gnome's head. "Let me go, I'll see what has happened to the ranger."
"I can do it," Harold said with a huff.
"You're as quiet as a mouse in slippers," said Ivo, "but Ghibelline has the woodscraft."
"Shhh..." hissed Ghibelline.
"Yea, quiet down." a voice said from nearby. Harald worked his way slowly from beneath a thornbush.
"Where were you?" demanded the thief.
"Sorry, you made better time than I expected," Harald replied. "I found us a decent spot. There is a spring up here and a small rise just beyond the clearing where we can camp."
"We nearly had to go looking for you," complained Harold.
The ranger shrugged. "Good practice for you, out here you never know, scouting ahead is dangerous work, sometimes you don't come back."
"Harald," said Telenstil, cutting off the thief before he could say anymore, "Show us this place. We can all use the rest."
Thursday, February 19, 2015
NOTE: Reposting this old review because I will finally be sitting down and reviewing the other issues of The Manor (I'm only a few years delayed, but I've been busy)
The Manor Issue #1
(24 page digest-sized 'zine
Cover Art: Jason Sholtis
Interior Art: Jonathan Bingham
Introduction: By Tim Shorts
The Salt Pit: By Tim Shorts
There's Something Shiny in the Troglodyte Dung Heap 1d12: By Jason Sholtis
Rural Pennsylvania: Ghoul House: By Tim Shorts
Poetry Slam: By Rusty Battle Axe
20 Random Forest Encounters: By Tim Shorts
Street Vendor: Oren's Boots: By Tim Shorts
There are a few things that always please me in a 'zine. A good cover, a few good ideas and a little of the magic that takes me back to the days when TSR meant Gygax and Co., Dragon Mag wasn't glossy and Judges Guild was just starting to crank out their first guidebook supplements/adventures and Dungeonneer was itself a digest-sized 'zine. Tim Shorts' The Manor succeeds in all of this for me.
To start with, I love the red and black troglodyte cover. It is begging to be used as an adventure hand-out and I intend to write a suitable encounter around it. That clawed hand is reaching for you! And note the pointy teeth. Definitely some claw/claw/bite headed the player's way.
And that is just the cover. Tim has managed to stuff his 'zine with a nice amount of material without making the font too small for me to read. As I get older the more I appreciate non-tiny font. The first article is tiny, a micro-adventure. On its own it is an itsy-bitsy adventure but it ties in nicely with other aspects of the 'zine and can be easily expanded. Just reading it over I can see several ways to run it and provide a few surprises to spring on the players. The Salt Pit would be handy as an encounter near the Village of Hommlet or somewhere near The Keep on the Borderland. With all the talk about zero-level funnels dropping a group of them down the Salt Pit is definitely an idea.
Jason Sholtis of roll1d12.blogspot.com comes up with excellent and varied random tables. His 'There is Something Shiny in the Troglodytes Dung Heap' is another of his short and amusing offerings though I needed to replace the car keys.
Rural PA: Ghouls House is a good inspiration for fantasy horror or somewhere that Lovecraft should have included in his stories. Pennsylvania is home to number of mines, abandoned farms and even towns that need very little work to use as an rpg setting. Tim has a found an excellent spot, the photos and description are good idea sources, though perhaps a little heavy on the ghouls.
Sadly the Poetry Slam did nothing for me, though I did like the Umber Hulk illustration.
20 Random Forest Encounters is a useful little table of encounters for a mostly low level part. There is a nice balance between those that could hurt, help or amuse the player characters.
Street Vendor: Orsen's boots presents a trio of useful NPC's and a trio of adventure hooks to go with them. These characters can be used as toss-away one time encounters or NPCs that can be used again and again.
The Manor Issue #1 is a successful entry into what seems to be a growing world of 'zines. I'd recommend going for the subscription.
You can find Tim Shorts at:
Sunday, February 8, 2015
#3) Gizurr - Berserker - Northman
-Ftr 6th Lvl - HP 56 (94 when Berserk) - AC 9 (4 when Berserk) +1 To hit (+3 to Hit/ +3 Dmg when Berserk). Immune to all spells and effects which attempt to slow, bind, charm, transmute or render unconscious while Berserk.
Gizuur lives in the hills above the fjord. He has been blessed by the Raven God with the red strength that comes from the old blood of bears. He is a sworn man to Rolfr and accompanies him on raids or when called upon at the settlement around the Fjord. When not raiding or fighting for Rolfr he works as a miner in the old caves and sells the red iron ore to the local smiths.
Once per day he can choose to go berserk (see Note). As a berserk wearing armor or even clothing is difficult as his muscles increase in size and he can split seams or cause damage to himself from the leather straps or chain links. He chooses to wear no shirt and only a loose kilt-like wrap of animal fur around his loins. For a weapon he wields an old axe called "Skull-Splitter" which can split a man from pate to breast bone on a natural '20' (double-damage on a save versus death magic otherwise an instant kill). Only those in a Berserk state can wield 'Skull-Splitter' properly and it is considered a holy weapon blessed by the
Note: Those blessed by the Raven King can go into a wild state called Berserking once per day. They can summon this state in a single combat round and it will last for 2 combat for every point of their constitution.
Their strength becomes exceptional and they are at +3 to Hit and +3 to Damage. Their AC becomes AC4 unless they are wearing armor of some sort which raises them to AC6 till it is removed. Many berserkers fight in the nude and at the very least fight bare-chested. Wearing metal armor causes 2HP of damage per combat round and leather armor will split and fall from their arms and chest.
Berserkers gain HP equal to their maximum for both their level and their constitution bonus with a 10HP bonus. Thus a 6th level fighter with 18 constitution would have 94HP while berserk. If a berserker is injured beyond his natural HP he will collapse after leaving the berserk state, if he is injured to a point more than 10HP below his natural HP he will die immediately upon leaving the berserk state.
While in a berserk state the berserker is immune to all spells and effects magical that would cause him to be bound, lose consciousness, be hasted or slowed, charmed, or transmuted. He is immune to natural poison, pain, or injuries that would render him unconscious.
Once all enemies are dead a berserker will turn on his friends and most save versus spells to keep them for every combat round that the berserk state is in effect. A berserker cannot control the length of his berserk state (2xConstitution in combat rounds) and must remain berserk for the entire duration. Once a Berserker has left his berserk state he will be at -4 to Hit and -4 damage till he has rested for at least 12 hours.
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
I am starting a new blog to archive images while I keep this blog for creative work. Here is the link to the new blog
Since I will be posting a considerable amount of material on the new blog I will not be sending the posts to G+ but just posting them to the blog so as not to overwhelm the stream of anyone following my posts.
Posted by Jason Zavoda at 8:24 PM