Friday, August 5, 2011

A Thief in the Tome of Horrors - Aberrant

A Thief in the Tome of Horrors
(Or Converting this Monster of a Book to 1eAD&D)


Frequency: Rare
No. Appearing: 2-12
Armor Class: 4
Move: 12"
Hit Dice: 8
% in Lair: 50
Treasure Type: C
No. of Attacks: 1
Damage/Attack: 2d8
Special Attacks: 1 (Thrown Object 1d10 dmg) Range 20/40/60 (To Hit +0/-1/-3)
Special Defenses: None
Magic Resistance: None
Intelligence: Low
Language: Debased Suel
Life Expectancy: 30 years (maturity age 12-14)
Size: 14 feet Tall - Extended Reach - These giant size creatures have an extended reach making it likely they can strike first against normal and small sized opponents.

Physical Appearance:
See Tome of Horrors Complete (S&W version) - Addition Description - Hair Brown or Black, Eye Color Same, Skin Color light brown to pale but normally grey or streaked with dirt.

Aberrants are a form of giant mutation developed after the great Suel/Bakluni war and the Rain of Colorless Fire. While often confused with Giants they are actually descended from human stock. In all respects such as what they can eat and how they breed and give birth they retain human characteristics.

Aberrant tribes will normally consist of 2-12 adult males, 3-18 adult females and 12-64 children. The men hunt and gather while the females do most of the work around the tribal dwelling. Adult females are consistent with the stats for adult males though with only 6HD on average and 1d10 damage from their attacks. Aberrant females will ferociously protect their young.

Females conceive about once per year and the infant mortality rate is about 50%. The leading cause of death for female Aberrants is childbirth.

Aberrants are extremely primitive. They build little though they do make use of cloth or hide for shelters and crude structures from the wrecks of wagons or buildings. These are extremely flimsy lean-to type structures that can be stripped down and taken with them in a few moments (mainly the cloth and rope or vines). Since most weapons and items they come across are not their size they mainly use crude clubs and stones for throwing. Occasional a human-sized sword may be found among them as a knife, but used more as a tool than a weapon.

World of Greyhawk Location:

Aberrants can be found along the hills and lower mountains circling the Sea of Dust as well as the Dry Steppes along the Sulhaut Mountains and the southern Crystalmists. They have been seen at the crux of the Jotens and the Crytsalmists at the birth of the Davish River, though not in great numbers and along the southern Jotens, the Crytsalmists and the Hellfurnaces in the Yeomanry. Sightings of Aberrants have been made in the Tors and along the arm of the Hellfurnaces as far as Hokar and as far south as the strip of land west of Jekla Bay and even where the Amedio Jungle runs against the Hellfurnaces in the far south.

Cyst Fist's Pass (Near the Hornwood - Geoff)

The trepidations of the Giants and their invasion of Sterich and Geoff shifted many a tribe and monster from their normal hunting grounds. Perhaps non-more so than Furgristle and his tribe of Aberrants forced north through the high mountains and down to the hills surrounding the embattled land of Geoff. Frost giants from the Jotens and tribes of Ogre's pushed these deformed and primitive creatures from their caves and now this small band raids through the forest of the Hornwood in preparation for the winter to come.

(See Tome of Horrors complete S&W version for the adventure hook)

Alfric watched the shaft fly true as it brought down the last of the deformed monsters. The two humans with him had feathered the giant creature with a half-dozen arrows already before it fell.

"Four..." said Oswin, a middle-aged man clad in mottled green and brown. He stood a foot taller than Alfric and pulled a longbow as big as the elf.

"The others appear to be out hunting," Alfric replied as he moved forward, another arrow nocked and ready.

The smell of roasting horseflesh was strong. Stronger even than the stink of unwashed bodies, the pile of refuse that stained the hillside and the rot of badly cured hides and decaying meat.

"Where has that little bastard gotten to?" asked Kellen, the third of their party. He was about the height of Aelfric but wide with broad shoulders and back. He'd slung his bow and drawn a long chopping sword, some type of falchion with a single-edge.

"I'm up here," cried a hushed voice high with panic. "Get me down!"

As the trio crested the hill they could see a large fire-pit and the carcase of a horse blackening on a spit above it. Nearby a tree stripped of most of its branches still held a single arm reaching out toward the fire and a crude wooden cage dangling about a dozen feet from the ground. Inside a peculiar little bird hopped about. Clad in the skin of an owl-bear a bruised and beaten halfling danced about pulling at the stout wooden bars.

"Hugh!" cried Aelfric. "How you managed to survive when the rest of those merchants ended up being eaten..."

"Those stupid giants. It was that owlbear hide," Hugh called back. "They think I'm some sort of birdman... I don't know, but they think it's funny. They'll be roasting me soon enough. Get me out of here!"

"What we need is a ladder," said Kellen.

Oswin looked from Aelfric to his blocky nephew. "You'll do," he said. "Get up on his shoulder Ael and see about cutting down our little bird."

"Make it quick! Make it quick!" Hugh chirruped. "There are a dozen more of those monsters around."

"Cut your squawking," grumbled Kellen, but up above him Aelfric went to work with haste on the vines that bound the cage together.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Oerthly Encounters Red Hanlan & Black Harris Part 6

#5 Kalib, human male, (5th Level Fighter) twin brother of Kalife
STR 18/89, INT 8, WIS 8, CON 17, HP 41, AL LE

AGE 30

Physical Description:

Kalib has a fringe of dark hair around this head but is otherwise bald. He has a heavy, black beard and mustache. 6"4' tall he is very heavy and very muscular, muscle-bound actually. He has tattoos over his right arm and shoulder. Across the right side of his chest is the tattoo of a demon showing half of its face. He has a large wide scar starting at the top ofhis forehead and running across the left side of his head.

He wears a large black poncho when on a raid with a chainmail shirt underneath. The poncho is simply a thick piece of cloth dyed black with a hole cut for his head and a belt across his waist. Over his face he wears the mask of a grinning pig-like face.

His normal wear is worn farmer garb. He dislikes his chainmail shirt and only wears it on raids or when Black Harris tells him to.


Kalib was born on a farm in Furyondy, His mother died in child birth and his father took it out on Kalib and his brother Kalife. At age12 the pair beat their father to death, gathered what money and belongings were on the farm and left.

They were quickly caught and placed in a prison where they were even more quickly sold as workers for a nobleman's farm. The life actually suited them. The nobleman was smart enough to recognize strong arms and weak minds, and violent tempers.

At age 16 the pair had grown from oversized murderous children togigantic musclebound adults. The nobleman had them trained, as much as possible, in the art of combat, and kept them on as bodyguards, and since he dabbled in the free market of the underworld, as enforcers as well.

After a few years the pairs' brutal methods became too much for the nobleman and he passed on his dangerous employees to a traveling merchant and fence for stolen goods. In their early twenties they ended up working as hired thugs living in the Old Town of Greyhawk, which is where they met and joined up with Black Harris.

Personality and attitude:

Kalib is loyal only to his brother and Black Harris. He and his brother have a surprising fondness for cats, dogs and horses and will not abide any form of cruelty to these animals.

If his brother is killed Kalib will stop whatever he is doing and will cradle his brother in his arms weeping and crying piteously. He will not defend himself and the shock will reduce his intelligence and personality to that of a five-year old's.

Chainmail shirt (+2)
Two handed sword +2/+3 versus Hill Giants (He is completely unaware of this aspect of the swords enchantement)
Draft Horse named Matilda

#6 Kalife, human male,( 5th Level Fighter) twin brother of Kalib
STR 18/99, INT 8, WIS 8, CON 17, HP 41, AL LE
AGE 30

Physical Description:

Kalife's appearance is similar to his brother's but he has no scar and his tattoos cover the left side of his body, a duplicate of Kalibs. He is a little more muscular but it is only apparent when the two are standing side by side.

He also wears a rough cloth poncho on raids with a shirt of chainmail underneath and a mask shaped like a donkey's with one ear is missing.

See Kalib

Personality and attitude:

Kalife is very quiet and he only talks to his brother or Black Harris. He will support either in any situation. If his brother is killed he will go into a berserk rage, ignoring wounds, and attacking his brother's killer with fanatical strength (+4 to hit/+7 to damage). He will then go on to attack anyone not a brigand who is nearby. Afterwards, If Black Harris is around he will follow him everywhere and not want to be separated from him. If both are dead he will run off and live like a wild-man or beast, and his effective INT will drop to 3.

Chainmail +2
Two-handed Bastard sword +2/ +3 versus the Undead (as with his brother he has no idea that the sword has any special enchantment except that he doesn't need to sharpen or polish it (which suits him fine).
Draft Horse named Sara

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Minstrel Tales Riddles Storm on Land


These are a collection of Anglo-Saxon riddles. The authors are unknown and the prose can be a bit obscure but they fit so well into my Greyhawk campaign that I have used them often.

Storm on Land

Who of men is ready-witted and wise enough to say
Who drives me forth on my journey,
When I arise in my strength, exceeding furious,
When I resound in my might?

Sometimes I move with malice through the land,
Shatter the people's halls, spoil the houses;
The sky rises up, grey over the roofs;
There is noise on oerth, the death-pang of men.

When I stir the wood and the druid's groves,
When covered with water, felling trees
Bearing upon my back, the dwellings of men,
The coverings of the oerth, the beasts of the land.

Say who it is who covers me,
Or what I, who bear those burdens, am called.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Oerthly Encounters Red Hanlan and Black Harris Part 5

#4 Zeffin, human male, (Level 2 Cleric) Salin's assistant
Wis 16 HP 12, AL LE, AGE 18

Physical Description:
Zeffin has the fair-haired pale-skinned looks of a Suel. He wears a closely trimmed beard and mustache. His hair is also trimmed very close to his head. He has the fine scarring, though a bit less, as that of Salin. In his case, though, it is much more noticeable. His scars show as redish lines against his pale skin, and the more recent have a purplish look to them. He is tall, 6", broad-shouldered and thin-waisted.

On raids he wore a chainmail shirt and black pants with a white, featureless face mask. He has a black ceremonial robe with a grey skull on its chest. He now wears this on raids over his chainmail. In town he dresses in his armor and plain grey or brown pants.

Zeffin is from Sterich. His family is old and established. Minor nobility. They are western nobles and after years of conflict with the humanoids of the Crystalmist and Joten Mountains they began to make deals with these creatures of evil. First it was simply allowing passage so that raiders would not attack their land, soon their descendants began acting as fences for goods which these raiders brought with them. Finally they embraced the evil which they hadallowed past their borders. Zeffin is part of a growing cult of Hextor among his father's family and retainers. He was assigned to assist Salin by the superiors of his order.

Personality and attitude:
Zeffin is a sadistic and brutal individual. He is fond of torture and would rather save a few of their victims to practice on. Occasionally the band will take a prisoner and squeeze information out of them. The brothers Kalife and Kalib had been in charge of this information gathering but Zeffin proved to have a greater skill and exuberance for such work. He is loyal to Salin and has a touch of hero worship for the successful cleric.

Horseman's mace
Heavy Warhorse: "Beast", Black, with white streaked forehead and 3 white socks

Friday, July 8, 2011

Oerthly Encounters Red Hanlan and Black Harris Part 4

#3 Salin, human male, (Level 6 Priest of Hextor)
Str 16 Int 10 Wis 16 Con 15 Dex 12 Chr 12
HP 35, AL LE, AGE:24

Physical Description:
Salin is a tall man, 6"3' with a slim sturdy build. He has a swarthy complexion and thick black hair. He has a fine network of scars over his entire body due to the practice of ritual scarring. It is part of the faith of Hextor as it was taught to him by his family and his temple. These scars form a very light spidery pattern covering his entire body. He continually adds to this with scars earned by his abilities and for participating in certain ceremonies. While to the uninitiated these scars are meaningless, they would tell a sage learned in the ways of this cult of the deity the story of Salin's life as a priest and disciple of Hextor.

Normally Salin only wears his black robes decorated with rings of grinning white skulls during ceremonies. During raids he wears a plain black robe and a white skull mask. Now he wears his robes of priesthood during raids, though he still uses the white skull-face mask. Beneath his robes he wears an enchanted shirt of chain and a steel skull cap under his mask.

In towns and villages he dresses as a fighter in his armor and plain, serviceable trousers.

Salin is a Perrinlander by birth. His father, a mercenary, was a devotee of Hextor. Salin felt a strong calling toward Hextor and was accepted as a novice, swearing an oath of blood and steel on his 14th

Salin has only been a part of Black Harris' band for the last six months (still before the breakup with Red). He was recruited by Harris in the Principality of Ulek. Salin had been involved in a mission in the Pomarj and was reporting in to his superiors at the city of Gryrax. After hearing from a young mercenary devotee, Bismon, about Black Harris and consulting his superiors, Salin volunteered his services. While not a follower himself, Black Harris respects the powers of a cleric and the warlike nature of Hextor, and gladly brought Salin into his band.

Personality and attitude:
Salin views Black Harris as a project and a potential warrior of Hextor. Red Hanlan never showed the proper respect, and his chaotic nature irritated Salin's sense of discipline. Then Salin came up with his plan, and introduced Tess, an agent of the temple, to throw discord into the friendship of these two men. Something has gone wrong. At first the plan went beyond his expectations, but Tess was supposed to assassinate Red Hanlan at her earliest opportunity. Now she seems to have gone rogue and become his partner and paramour. Salin desires the death of this traitoress with almost as much fervor as Black Harris. Her failure to complete his plan will be a mark, a physical mark, of shame.

1st) Curse/Bless, Command, Cause/Cure lt.wnds, Dark/Light, Cause/Remove Fear.
2nd) Chant, Enthrall, Flame Blade, Hold Person, Spir.Hammer.
3rd) Animate Dead, Prayer, Pyrotechnics

Chainmail +2
Hammer of Pain:
This Warhammer, usable only by those of an evil alignment, acts as a +2 weapon to hit and damage. 3 times every 24 hours its user can cause a jolt of pain which will stun an opponent for 1-3 rounds of combat (save vs rods and the victim will merely suffer a -2 on their chance to hit on the next combat round). There is a 10% chance that the pain will be inflicted upon the user every time this special ability is used (non-cumulative). Stunned victims cannot attack, cast spells, lose all dexterity bonuses and add 2 points to their AC (AC2 = AC4 while stunned)

Warhammer ( used for spiritual hammer spell, Salin keeps 2 a dozen of these among the pack animals.

Set of razor-edged knives and sharpening stone ( Salin will never use these as a weapon, they are for ritual scaring only)

Heavy War Horse : Blood, a dark reddish-brown coated stallion.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Oerthly Encounters Red Hanlan and Black Harris Part 3

#2 Falil, human male, (Level 4 Magic User) Lyndos' aid
Int 17 Dex 16 HP11, AL NE, AGE 35

Physical Description:
Falil is short 5"4', dark haired, fullbearded and stout. He is surprising quick and agile. He has an intricate tattoo on his forearm. It contains in code the words which will activate the magic wand he carries. He has a terrible memory.

He wears a black hood on raids, just a simple black cloth bag with eye and nose holes cut into it. Over his normal old brown robe he wears a large black cape.

Falil is the son of a Sterich merchant. His only interest was in magic and since he showed noaptitude for the family business he was apprenticed to a local mage of minor power. While studying with the mage a magical construct went awry killing the mage and the two other apprentices. Falil was accused of their murder but was actually innocent. He fled and was found by Black Harris sleeping along the bank of the Javan river. At the urging of Lyndos they spared the apprentice mage. Under the vigorous tutelage of Lyndos, Falil has proven to be an apt student, handy with languages and copying scrolls.

Personality and attitude:
Falil is devoted to Lyndos. He is a lazy unassuming character who would liked to have simply lived out his life on his father's estate.

Falil is able to memorize 1 less spell/ level than he would be allowed for his intelligence. He knows only those spells which Lyndos will teach him. He has no spell book of his own but normally has memorized;
Sleep, Magic Missile & Invisibility

20 steel bullets
Wand of Magic Missiles (12 charges)
Mule, Henry

Friday, June 24, 2011

Encyclopedia Magica Revised : Anything Item

Encyclopedia Magica Revised : Anything Item

It is said that in the dungeons beneath the ruins of the Mad Archmage's castle every item of magic and every spell can be found...

Anything Item

(Original Version):
Unearthed Arcana, Encyclopedia Magica Page #21

Somewhere between the third level below the lake of quicksilver and the gaping maw of living stone that was the entrance to the fourth the party found the workshop. The seven survivors of their party, which once numbered a dozen, found themselves on a wide landing in the middle of a broad set of stairs busily binding the wounds of those the archway had bitten when Gwen, a dwarven warrior-maiden noticed a chip on the wall. It was no more than the size of a pebble taken from the corner of a massive black near the bottom edge of the landing they rested upon.

"Kal," she called to the gnome illusionist who led them, "do you have that vial of quicksilver we found above?"

"Certainly, my dear," the old gnome fished into one of the dozens of pockets which lined his robe. Under his breath he spoke a Word and the small vial with the rough stone cap appeared in his fist. "Here. What use do you see for it?"

"That cap," Gwen answered. She bent and held it near the small chip in the stone wall. "It matches..." she began to say but as she brought the vial within a foot of the wall it sprang from her hand like a steel needle to a loadstone.

The capped end fit perfectly and joined the stone block with a klick. The quicksilver immediately flowed along the joins between the stones in a silver-metal line which formed an arching door. Silently the wall opened slowly inward.

"What have we here?" Kal wondered aloud.

The small party of explorers entered the room beyond the secret doorway. Inside they found a long chamber lined with benches and peghooks on the walls above them. Heavy aprons of varying type were on the pegs mixed with strange hats and hoods, thick gloves and goggles, some with dark lenses, some green, yellow, red or even clear. Beneath the bench were boots of different size, but all with soles padded deeply with cork.

A large double-door was set into the far wall. It opened at a touch, in fact one door came slamming down off its hinges with a boom that made the entire party jump. Harold, their thief, looked back at the other with a sheepish grin, then moved inside the room now revealed.

It was a fairly large room, wide, but still longer than its width. Several lanterns were hanging from the ceiling, still shining forth with undimmed light from enchanted stones. The rest of the room was blackened by fire and layered with scattered debris. All except one small workbench against the far wall which appeared in the light to be untouched.

"Wait," whispered Kal holding the thief back, "could be a trap."

"One that has already gone off by the look of things," Harold replied.

Whatever had caused the destruction had happened long, long ago, but still the magic lights burned overhead in a few of the remaining lanterns. Harold crept about the room while the Cuthbertian priest chanted from the safety of the doorway. The grace of the Saint revealed no dangers while Harold's search found only slagged metal, some of it precious, fragments of gems and a large amount of soot stained shattered glass. The only whole object was a small rod of quicksilver held by a crystal vice.

"What is it?" Harold asked Kal who had come to stand beside him.

Kal reached beneath the collar of his robe and drew out a medallion, a small metal disc with a ruby at its center. He rubbed it between his palms as if to warm it. A red glow shone brightly for a moment, the bones of his hands suddenly visible beneath Kal's flesh, then faded quickly so that the tanned leather of the gnome's old skin hid the medallion once more in his hand. Sagging for a moment, then forcing his shoulders back, he held the medallion to his eye and gave a startled gasp. The disc fell from his fingers and dangled on its golden chain.

"Ahhh..." Kal uttered, "that is what it first looked like."

"What? What?" Harold asked in an excited voice, he had a sudden vision of gold coins pouring into his hands.

Kal's eyes were half-lidded and he looked a century older, but he smiled at the thief.

"A very powerful item indeed. It can become any small object the holder desires, enchanted or mundane. It appears unused, untouched, perhaps freshly created and abandoned here..." Kal trailed off and looked about him at the wreckage all around. "What, waste, what knowledge lost, what power in this room and gone..."

Harold grinned back. "How much do you think we can get for it?"


Anything Item (Revised)

Only discovered in its original form once in the annals of the wise ( a cylindrical bar two inches in diameter and one foot long. It is composed of an enchanted metal appearing to be quicksilver, but bitterly cold to the touch, with an uncomfortably slick texture).

If the command word is known it can instantly transform into any non-consumable small object either enchanted or mundane (though of limited duration, 1 use or 1 hour and neither relic or artifact) that the possessor has held before (i.e. the has once held a ring of free action but not a rod of lordly might, he can transform the anything into a duplicate of the ring, but not the rod).

If the item has a single use effect the Anything Item can be used for that one effect. If it has a permanent effect (such as a Helm of Underwater Action) that effect will last for 1 hour. (i.e. if changed into a +3 dagger, the +3 bonus would last for only 1 hour before becoming a dagger with no bonus at all). If commanded to become a mundane item it remains in that form until commanded to change.

The Anything Item can be changed into a specific form only once, then can never take that form again. It can be commanded to change only 3 times by an individual and will remain in the last shape it is commanded to duplicate till someone else takes over ownership and commands it to change once again. The object cannot be traded back and forth. Once it has been used by a new owner the old owner, even if only 1 change was commanded, has lost ownership of the item forever.

1. May transform into any non-consumable small object magical or mundane upon command.
2. The Anything Item radiates magic regardless of its shape or magical or non-magical abilities.

1. Can only duplicate an object that has been previously held by current owner.
2. Can only perform a single magical effect of duplicated object
3. Enchantment disappears after one hour even if duplicated objects magical effect or ability has not been used (i.e. a Horn of Valhalla duplicated but not used becomes a mundane horn after 1 hour). A duplicated item with a permanent magical effect or bonus also becomes a mundane item after 1 hour.
4. No item can be duplicated twice. (i.e. If a previous owner changed the Anything Item into a Ring of Free Action it can never be changed again into a Ring of Free Action regardless of new ownership).
5. An individual can only command the Anything Item to change a maximum of 3 times. The next owner can command a change a maximum of 3 times and so on.
6. Once used ownership is established, but should a different individual take hold of the Anything Item and command a change then they are the new owner and the previous owner may never again command the item to change, though anyone may make use of the changed item (within the limitation of class restrictions) if given by the current owner or taken from them.

Saves As:
The Anything Item saves as Metal, Hard (+5) at all times and in any form. If damaged it turns into a small pool of quicksilver which evaporates in a single hour.

In the Greyhawk Campaign;
Only 7 of these Anything Items are known to exist. No mage claims the ability to construct these items.

After the Giants The Ruins of Nosnra's Steading Part 2

The Demi-Plane of Dreams (Dreamland)

Whenever we sleep we enter the Demi-Plane of Dreams, but only our dream-selves and our oerthly bodies are untouched. It is possible to cross over with our physical forms but the Demi-Plane or Dreamland has its own laws which are not those of the Prime Material Plane. Physical traits such as Strength, Dexterity, Charisma and Constitution become meaningless, while Intelligence and Wisdom are paramount. Magic and the Divine power of the Gods in most ways function as normal but the Demi-Plane is so thick with illusion that the effects of spells are hard to judge. A mage, for example, might cast a fireball only to find that the distance judged by his senses is actually inches rather than feet and find himself consumed in his own spell. Material components become unnecessary as there is no physical world around him only a shifting dreamscape.

Travellers entering the Demi-Plane will find themselves adrift in a world of translucent spheres. Within each sphere is a unique dreamland created by a dreamer from the Prime Material Plane. The Demi-Plane has no existence in itself only in relation to its intersection with the Prime Material. The great power and the great danger in entering the Demi-Plane is the ability to cross into the dreamscape of others. A skilled traveller may enter into the dreams of others and injure or slay the dreamer, but what they may face in such a dreamscape might also consume the traveller. To die in Dreamland is to be lost forever.

Losing oneself or becoming trapped within the Demi-Plane is far too easy. Dreamscape may revolve from pleasant fantasy to hellish nightmare without warning. Dreamers may be children, the demented, the weak or feverish on the Prime Material Plane but their Dreamland may present them as nigh invincible, or a twisted land that makes no sense and have no exit for the traveller.

Those who deal in illusion find the greatest rewards from travelling through the Demi-Plane and the dreams of others. The experience they gain from such a journey is twice that of any other. They may discover new spells or ways to increase the power of spells that they already possess. Treasures and artifacts that might be taken from Dreamland normally fade upon leaving the Demi-Plane but there are said to realms within that belong to no single dreamer and items of great power within to be won within these dreams.

Some of these dreamscapes existing outside of the normal dreams of others are said to belong to creature which have taken form within the Demi-Plane. Others are said to be dreamscapes taken over by travellers who have become lost within Dreamland. Somewhere among all the spheres of dreams is said to be a land ruled by the Dreaming King and a species of beings native to the Demi-Plane, but no traveller who may have found this land of dreams that live has returned to confirm such a legend.

Nosnra's Lands

The land surrounding the steading is not quite the Demi-Plane and is no longer the Prime Material. It is as if a thick fog has descended upon the area and all within it is distorted. Some of the laws of the Prime Material still operate such as the physical attributes of creatures, but both time and distance have become greatly affected by the Demi-Plane of Dreams. Illusions have become real and the physical world has become illusion.

Without aid a creature trying to cross the physical landscape of the hills will become confused and lost. Time will speed by or slow. They will find themselves reliving moments, seeing themselves at distances, or fading from the land altogether and slipping into the Demi-Plane of Dreams completely. While it is possible to wander free of the hills and back to the Prime Material this becomes harder and harder the closer to the center of this distortion is reached. Once nearing the steading there is really no return for an unaided traveller.

Slivers of the Demi-Plane fill the landscape. They are impossible to avoid. They cannot be seen but once entered they are self-contained like the spheres in Dreamland. Crossing through these slivers is a matter of confronting the dreamer or dreamers who inhabit these areas. Unfortunately many of these creatures are the spirits of the dead returned to the Prime Material. Their dreams are mostly strange, distorted and nightmarish. Because of the merged nature between the Demi-Plane and the Prime Material these creatures are a combination of life, dream and undeath. They are similar in many ways to the undead of the Prime Material, mostly in appearance, but with different strengths and weaknesses. They also exist in a series of layers, their dreamselves, their memories of life and their undead form. They are the Unshriven.

Progress toward the steading even for those aided or guided is difficult. The slivers of dreamscape lead forward only with certain types of resolution in each encounter, but the party may slay those who seek to help and find they can flee from dangers without resolving conflicts. To reach the steading may require traversing only a few of these slivers or the party may find itself having to cross many more or even returning to the slivers of dreamscape they may have escaped previously.

A dozen encounters before the players reach the steading are provided. It is recommended that at minimum the players successfully resolve three to five of these encounters before they reach the steading.

(Some handy terms)

Dreamer - Within the Demi-Plane the various spheres are normally created by a single individual who may be the only real inhabitant of the sphere. Within the area around Nosnra's steading there is often more than a single dreamer creating the sliver of Dreamland that is encountered.

Dreamscape - the landscape within a particular dream created by the dreamer

Sliver - The area of land around Nosnra's steading has merged with the Demi-Plane of Dreams but in a fragmented way. The slivers are a combination of the Prime Material Plane and the Demi-Plane of Dreams and the physical laws within them are also a combination of both Planes.

Sphere - Within the Demi-Plane spheres are realms created by dreamers. They can be of any size and the nature of reality within is illusion. They normally are inhabited by a single dreamer.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Oerthly Encounters Red Hanlan and Black Harris 2

Lyndos, human male, (Magic User level 7)
Str 8, Int 18, Wis 11, Con 10, Dex 12, Chr 11
HP: 22, AL LE, AGE 33

Physical Description:
Lyndos is pale with thin ash-blond hair. 5"9' and skinny. He is clean shaven but his fine thin hair is hardly noticeable even if he does not shave. He has no scars or tattoos.

Lyndos wears a dark hooded cloak on raids, he has a mask which looks like a grinning devils face horns and all which he wears under the hood, (he salvaged it from a group of wandering entertainers that the band ambushed on the road in Keoland).

In towns or away from the brigands he dresses in dark blue robes with occult signs, actual charms woven into its make-up, ( a charm against detection and a charm of protection +1) He wears a dark blue, wide-brimmed hat to protect his fair skin from the sun.

Lyndos has served as Black Harris' lieutenant for the last three years and outside of Smashnose has been with the band the longest, (a total of four years). His mentor Stesil Hin, a mage of great experience and evil, had an estate outside of Hardby. After catching Lyndos borrowing spell components Stesil expelled him and Lyndos left Hardby only seconds ahead of one of Stesils' lightning bolts. Luckily Stesil failed to notice the old traveling spellbooks which Lyndos had borrowed earlier.

Down on his luck, Lyndos survived hand to mouth in the City of Greyhawk. Without cash or connections Lyndos owned only his stolen spellbooks, a bare minimum of components and a single set of worn pants, shirt and shoes. Then he met Black Harris and he has followed him ever since.

Personality and attitude:
Lyndos is meticulous but lacks patience. His greatest desire is to expand his knowledge of all things wizardly but he does so regardless of the cost in pain and suffering to others. Lyndos had been in on the planning of all the major raids for the past few years. The sudden change in Harris' attitude toward the band's attacks and his lack of care in matters of security have forced Lyndos to make plans of his own.

While he bears no sense of loyalty to Harris he has been amply rewarded in the past and greatly profited due to his membership in the band of brigands. He receives all books, scrolls and magical items which are meant for a mage's use as well as a senior member's cut of all treasure. But now he feels that the rewards are coming at too high a risk and his counsels are ignored. He is gathering his resources and his courage, awaiting a time to break with the band unless he sees a change come over Black Harris and a return to the old ways.


Lyndos has a secret cache of spellbooks hidden away in Veluna City. He only carries a traveling spellbook while raiding.

Travelling Spellbook:
1st) Alarm, Comp. Languages, Detect Magic, Identify, Magic Missile,
Read Magic, Shield & Sleep
2nd) Flaming Sphere, Invisibility, Knock, Mirror image, Ray
Enfeeb., Web
3rd) Fireball, Haste, Hold Person, Lightning bolt, Pro.Norm.
4th) Imp. Invisibility, Minor Globe Invuln., Wizard eye

Ring +2 of protection
Staff of Shielding:
This staff allows the user to cast the shield spell twice every 24 hours at the casters current level of experience.
20 +1 sling bullets
10 Silver sling bullets
3 glass spheres holding dust of sneezing and choking, held in an ivory container that has a carrying strap.
Dagger +1

Riding Horse: Mare, named LuLu.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Review: The Strategic Review #7 April '76

The Strategic Review #7 (The Last) April '76

(24 Page Zine)

The first color cover and the last issue of The Strategic Review. At 24 pages it could almost be called a magazine, but it was at heart still a zine. In that respect a certain magic was lost in the transition from SR to Dragon. As a small niche hobby D&D would have grown into something far different than the large business and mainstream game system that it became. The years of slick and glossy yet vacuous products would never have occurred. It seems like it has taken over 30 years for the hobby to turn full circle. Today we are seeing a return to the origins of D&D and a release of modules and supplements that should have been produced decades ago. Just a sense that sets like Gygax's Castle Greyhawk with all its levels would have been completed and published years ago if dungeons and dragons had not become so popular, if zines like The Strategic Review had served just a little longer.

List of articles reviewed

The Dungeons & Dragons Magic System
What Price Gold & Glory
Hints for D&D Judges
Mighty Magic Miscellany
Out On A Limb
Creature Features
Ancient And Medieval Standard Military Symbols
The Missile Weapon in Classic Warfare
Thief Bonuses For Dexterity
To The Everlasting Glory of the Petal Throne
D&D Is Only As Good As The DM

The Dungeons & Dragons Magic System
By Gary Gygax (Pg 3,4)

A short history of the origins of magic in D&D, but more importantly a grounding in some basic truths and philosophy of the game. It is interesting to hear about the inspirations for the D&D magic system but the explanation of the original system from its creator is invaluable regardless of the incarnation of D&D being played. It was more than game balance that created the sometimes frustrating magic system and even in its earliest applications gamers twiddled the knobs to make magic and magic users even more powerful. As Gygax states, D&D is a freeform system and, variation was allowed for and even encouraged, but such superpowerful games have their pitfalls. Starting players with a more limited system offers great experience and great challenges which cannot be equaled when abilities and power are just poured into the players lap.

This article may help any D&D or AD&D player or DM understand the magic system as designed to a greater degree. It certainly expresses the concept and reasoning for the original system of magic and the D&D game itself.

What Price Gold & Glory
By Jim Hayes (Pg 9,10)

A short, short story from the days of D&D when reincarnation turned you into a pixie and an entire extremely large party of adventurers could die beneath the clashing mandibles of half-a-dozen giant scorpions, and it was just another good days work. I remember playing in games not far different than this story described. It was a blast. We had no idea what we were doing but it was incredibly fun. You had to think about whether it was worth naming your character because they died so often. The story is worth the read just for the fun of trying to figure out how many people they actually had in their group.

Hints for D&D Judges
Part I: Towns
By Joe Fischer (Pg 10,11)

This may be the first write-up on creating a base of operations for a campaign that was ever published. Everything said in the article is as valid today as it was 33 years ago when SR7 was first printed and said in a way that is plain and simple good advice. There are supplements aplenty today, but even modern day publishers of adventure modules seem to overlook the importance of providing a base of operations for players, a town, a village, pub, inn or small keep lurking on the borderlands. Personally I'd shy away from using crazed magic shop owners with Balrog butlers, but that is depends entirely on a DMs taste in running their campaign, high magic, low magic, even no magic.

Mighty Magic Miscellany
By Neal Healey (Pg 11)

Three massively powerful items for D&D. The first is actually the least powerful and a true classic of the game system.

The Cup and Talisman of Akbar

This is an artifact. It can be massively powerful and therefore can shake up a campaign if just handed out to players. First it's gold value is massive. If using such values to generate experience points then acquiring this item is equivalent to raising almost any low or mid level character an entire experience level. The item itself has the ability to generate potions of various strengths once per week, 75% of the time this is simply healing potions but 6% of the time it will generate potions to raise dead or act as a restoration spell. If a DM puts the artifact away for a time when the players are fairly high level it will prove valuable but in no way unbalancing.

The Staff of the Priest Kings

This is a monstrously powerful staff for D&D. It appears only in this zine and the Encyclopedia Magica (EM) from what I can tell. The basic staff combines 8 spell powers. There is no mention of a difference in spell charges that these would take, or limits on their daily use. The staff can hold 200 charges and no mention if it can be recharged. There are five staves that take the basic model and add extras. As written this staff feels incredibly unbalanced, and the more powerful staves have even more powerful abilities. It has a monty haul feel to it and I can't imagine it being used in an original D&D campaign. For AD&D the basic staff might work with a high level campaign, but without alteration a player could cast Earthquake or Hold Person 200 times, or Raise Dead Fully over 65 times from a fully charged staff.

The Brazen Bottle

Another item that does not seem to have seen print beyond SR7 and the EM. While amazingly powerful, the bottle lets you compel djinn, efreeti and balrogs into captivity, it does not turn them into servants. It seems to imply that when the bottle is uncorked the captive is released making the bottle an item that can only be used once with any degree of safety. For a high level AD&D game the Brazen Bottle does not seem out of place, merely powerful.

Out On A Limb
By Gary Gygax (Pg 14,15)

The Letters column makes its first appearance. History the gaming and convention industry at the time, nothing to add to the D&D or AD&D game system, yet definitely noteworthy

Creature Features
(Pg 15)

Two new creatures. One to become a classic and the other to be forgotten.

The Denebian Slime Devil

The name, at least, lifted from the Trouble With Tribbles episode of Star Trek. This would have suited an April Fool's issue, never my favorites, and DMs may find the concept of the creature useful. It can be played as a farce, to lighten a campaign, or easily changed to a darker type of creature that while harmless haunts the player it has attached itself too, perhaps changing into shapes of creatures the player fears, or enemies he has slain, or loved ones. There is the germ of an idea in the creature.

The Catoblepas

A creature which made it into the AD&D Monster Manual (but never into any of my games). This first write-up doesn't contain the full statistics list but the creature is basically the same as its later incarnation. I just can't see inflicting a creature whose stare causes instant death with no saving throw upon players, but D&D could be a merciless game.

Ancient And Medieval Standard Military Symbols
By Gary Gygax (Pg 16)

A handy thing to have for any D&D or AD&D game reaching beyond man to man combat. Most of the symbols are useful for a fantasy campaign (so you can label cardboard chits and push them around a map) and the reader can easily extrapolate what symbols to use for units particular to fantasy ( the out line of a dragons head, a magicians hat, a holy symbol for clerics, etc...).

The Missile Weapon in Classic Warfare
By Gary Gygax (Pg 18,19)

The historical uses of missile weapons in the ancient world should be of interest to any DM. The article goes into some depth regarding the sling, a weapon commonly used in D&D and AD&D but usually misunderstood. There is a great deal more that can be easily researched on the use of slings and early bows but Gygax's article is as good a place to start as any that can be found, and better than most. While not written for D&D the article shows the thinking behind statistics for these weapons found in the D&D and AD&D rule system.

Thief Bonuses For Dexterity
By David Klempa (Pg 19)

Not a word of explanation for these tables, but it should be noted that this early addition to the D&D rule system applies a percentile roll to a natural roll of 18 for the dexterity stat.

To The Everlasting Glory of the Petal Throne
By M.A.R. Barker (Pg 20 - 22)

Invaluable to anyone running an Empire of the Petal Throne campaign, the article is written as a report from one NPC within the campaign to another, the Emperor. The form is done with much praise to the emperor at the start of every paragraph, something which a DM may copy or lift wholesale to flesh out an encounter in their own campaign. The description of events within the realm may inspire a DM to create similar events or adventures. Definitely worth reading and plundering for ideas.

D&D Is Only As Good As The DM
By Gary Gygax (Pg 22,23)

You have to be cruel to be kind, and Gygax believes in leaving the bark on when he beats down on Monty Haulism and super powered gaming. His advice and recommendations are spot on. The best sense of reward is always against great challenges. It is up to the DM to not only tell an interesting story and master the rule system but also to maintain a sense of challenge and danger in a purely intellectual game.

Useful Illustrations:
Cover: War Elephant
Pg 3 - Dragon's Head
Pg 5 - Maiden on Altar
Pg 8 - Men in Armor
Pg 11 - Dragon
Pg 18 - Wall Relief of Slingers and Archers
Pg 20 - Female Swordswoman
Pg 21 - Armored Priest/ 4 armed headless monster
Pg 22 - Armored Priest

So ends the The Strategic Review and the era of Dragon begins.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Oerthly Encounters Red Hanlan & Black Harris Part 1

Oerthly Encounters

Red Hanlan & Black Harris

This pair of Brigands has been highly successful raiding across the lands west of Greyhawk, such as Furyondy, Veluna and Bissel, as well as the lands of the Yeomanry, Keoland, Ulek and Gran March. Recently, however, they have parted company and now Black Harris pursues his former partner. Red Hanlan now rides with his new partner Tess Bywater or "Laughing Tess" as she is called.

Periodically after a successful raid or series of raids the band would split up, each going their separate way, to enjoy the ill-gotten gains of their labor. Some traveled in pairs like the brothers Kalife and Kalib, but most set off on their own. At an appointed date the band would gather again and it was common for both Red Hanlan and Black Harris to return with a string of new recruits.

Having successfully left a bloody trail of robberies and murders along the paths and roads between the Dreadwood in Keoland to the Lorridges in Bissel, the evil band gathered together once more in a small but growing market town named Fountainspring set within the heart of the Kingdom of Furyondy. Red Hanlan came with a half dozen followers but Black Harris brought along only Tess. While in town the raiders were on their best behavior, but as the reunited group celebrated one last time before leaving town Tess killed a long time member of the band who 'insulted' her. Black Harris and Tess had a shouting, then throwing, match and finally Tess stormed off, with Red Hanlan. Later that night a now staggeringly drunk Harris broke down the door to Red Hanlan's room and the struggle which ensued wrecked the tavern and scattered or killed those who supported Red Hanlan.

Since that time Red has been on the run. Only Tess followed him from the broken tables and smashed chairs of the Inn.

Black Harris has sworn a dark oath of vengeance, but while his followers understand his desire they have more practical concerns, namely loot. Always bloodthirsty and merciless Black Harris has raided and robbed with a brutal cunning. Now he has grown careless. Robbing only to pacify his followers, his thoughts are turned to tracking down and exacting a painful retribution on his brief one-time lover and his faithless former partner. Previously the band would raid only after studying the layout of the land and the composition of the merchant caravan or train, though they would not hesitate to waylay a small party or individual whose bodies would be hidden among ditch or bramble, unlikely to be seen again. Now they strike without preparation. So far they have been lucky and their casualties have been
few, but their luck is not likely to hold.

Red Hanlan has been on the run since that night. Nearly overtaken outside of Littleberg, he has since laid low, living rough along the edge of the Gnarly Forest. Once a ranger of Geoff, Red has used the skills learned in his early days to pick hidden and secure camps and hideouts for the band amid the wild. Now he uses these skills to hide from Black Harris.

Black Harris chases Red Hanlan. He will pursue him wherever the trail will lead. Red cannot remain hidden forever but will appear again, while Harris will follow carelessly in a wake of death and destruction till he is pulled down like a mad beast by the forces of order in the lands he afflicts or till he at last runs down his quarry, Tess and Red Hanlan.

The Brigands:

As an early precaution against detection the brigands took to wearing masks and black clothing on raids and making sure to dress differently if they were in a town or village. Several months before the group split apart they attacked a group of wandering players. The loot was poor but it contained many different theatrical masks which the brigands adopted. Unfortunately Black Harris and Red Hanlan also adopted a policy of no quarter. No survivors, no witnesses. It proved highly successful from their point of view. Merchant caravans and travelers simply vanished, their wagons, baggage and bodiesabandoned in woods or rough terrain. The careful and merciless tactics of Red Hanlan and Black Harris have kept their identities separate from the raiders who plague an area for a few weeks then disappear only to reappear leagues away in a different country or kingdom.

Black Harris, human male, Ftr Level 9
Str 17, Int 12, Wis 12, Con 17, Dex 12, Chr 10
HP 89, AL LE, AGE 36
Physical Description:
6"2', Thin and wirey. Brown hair and eye, brown mustache. Scars over his left eye, on right cheek, wide scar across upper right chest. Tattoo of a grinning skull on right bicep, an eagle holding a bloody dragon in its claws on his left.

On raids Harris wears black. black boots, pants, a black tabard over his chain mail and a black plume from his helm. He was a man of careful habits and grooming but now is lax and usually needs a shave. His mustache once neatly trimmed is on its way to becoming a soup strainer. While in towns or villages Harris would always wear colorful and fancy clothes of fine quality. In his current obsessed state he wears whatever he puts his hands on, leaving such garments on till their stench is strong enough for him to notice.

Called 'Black Harris' because of his grim and merciless nature. It's rumored that he grew up in the Hold of the Sea Princes and spent part of his life as a pirate but no one knows for sure. He is merciless but maintains a rough and comradely discipline among his men. He demands obedience but does not play favorites and will not break his word. His followers know that they can expect honest and fair dealing from him but cruel and swift punishment if they should cross him or violate the oaths that they have sworn to Harris. He has deep respect for magic both wizardly and divine and will go out of his way to recruit practitioners of these arts.

Personality and attitude:
Harris is now obsessed with the desire for vengeance. Once a careful and cunning planner he now simply rides in with the full strength of his band and overwhelms any guardsmen or outriders, then falls upon the body of the caravan or merchant train. He cares nothing for what treasure or valuables are harvested from these raids, though he still takes his cut. He uses this wealth only to pay informants or recruit more men in his quest against Red Hanlan. Only his lieutenant, the wizard Lyndos, and Lyndos's aid Falil, object to Harris's current actions.

The evil priest Salin, a follower of Hextor, approves of this direct action, "Attack, Attack, Attack!" is his motto.

Black Harris has a taken a step from evil into madness and the light from his fiery obsession burns in his eyes.

Chainmail +2
Saber +1 of wounding. (1d8s-m 1d8-l)
Shield +1
Lance +2
Gauntlet of crushing grip:
This single gauntlet can be commanded by the wearer to attempt to crush anything in its grasp 3 times every 24hours. It can easily crush a flagon or snap an unenchanted blade. An arm or ankle would be pulped and perhaps severed. This gauntlet crushes slowly, taking 4 rounds to fully close. With a resisting opponent the user of the gauntlet must make a successful To-Hit. On the first round no damage is inflicted, the gauntlet merely grips what it will then proceed to crush. On each following round 1d6+7 pts of damage will be inflicted. The victim has the opportunity to pull away from the grip if they save vs their Dex on the first round for no 1d6 damage. Each subsequent round the victim will get a more difficult save, first at -2, then -4, and finally -6 as the gauntlets fingers sink deeper into their flesh. If successful they receive half damage as they pull away from the crushing steel fingers of the gauntlet. The gauntlet will not damage enchanted items. Its fingers would not even scratch enchanted plate mail but a shirt of chain, while itself undamaged, would not keep what is between its links from being pulped.

War Horse:
Obesdian, is the fourth Heavy War horse of that name which Harris has ridden. As its name implies it has a glossy black coat.
HD: 4+4 AC7 HP:31
6 potions of extra healing (private stock)
1 potion of Hill Giant Strength
1 potion of speed

Black Harris's Band

#1 Lyndos (level 7 Magic User) Harris's lieutenant
#2 Falil (Level 4 Magic User) Lyndos's aid
#3 Salin (Level 6 Priest of Hextor)
#4 Zeffin (Level 2 Cleric) Salins assistant
#5 Kalib (Level 5 Fighter) twin brother of Kalife
#6 Kalife (Level 5 Fighter) twin brother of Kalib
#7 Smashnose (Level 4 Fighter) 1/2 Orc
#8 Travis (Level 5 Thief) leads thief contingent within band
#9 Costos (Level 3 Thief)
#10 Halvas (Level 1 Thief)
#11 Dursus (Level 1 Thief)
#12 Bismon ( Level 3 Fighter) Follower of Hextor
#13 Quisson (Level 2 Fighter)
#14 Tras (Level 2 Fighter) Follower of Hextor
#15 Arrash (Level 1 Fighter)
#16 Cruther (Level 1 Fighter) Follower of Hextor
#17 Sasor (Level 1 Fighter) Follower of Hextor

Friday, June 17, 2011

Oerthly Encounters The Thief in the Night

Oerthly Encounters

The Thief in the Night

Taldas Fei is a thief who specializes in burglary, especially the robbery of merchants, adventurers and any likely residents of a tavern, hostel or inn.

He will first stay as a guest under an assumed identity, a merchant, warrior, scribe, etc... always a different persona for a different town or village. Then he will carefully and cautiously explore his surroundings, keeping careful record of each room, door, window and lock. He will stay long enough to learn the local gossip and become a familiar face to the residents but avoids close contact with other travellers.

Taldas will never attempt a burglary on his first stay at an inn or tavern. He will first prepare the ground, then leave and return at a later date adopting the persona which he dedicates to that particular locale. He will, in larger towns and cities, sometimes take on a second, third, or more, persona if he feels that he can get away with it. Taldas gathers information and has a journal which he carries with him and a master journal which he has safely hidden away in his only permanent residence, a house in the City of Greyhawk. This journal contains notes and maps about each place that he has prepared. It also has notes on merchants, caravan routes, wealthy travelers, ceremonies and festivals as well as rumors and gossip about everything from dragon's hoards to the possible marriages of the nobility or wealthy; anything which might have potential for relatively unsecured treasure to find its way into first, one of his prepared inns or taverns, then into Taldas's pocket.

Taldas performs his burglaries only at night and will not be in residence when he does so. Instead he will have left the inn or tavern the night, or perhaps even a few days, before if he feels that his target will be safely ensconced within for that much time. After dark Taldas will return and enter through a carefully studied way; an upper window or roof access, the doors through which kegs of beer are rolled into the cellar, etc... Whichever way that he has discovered is the most vulnerable and unattended. He will then make his way to the room of his victim and attempt a robbery, hopefully without violence.

Taldas is aided in his craft by three magic items.

#1 Ring of Silence

This ring, when activated, creates a sphere of silence around the wearer in a 5ft radius. No sound of any kind passes from outside or into this sphere. It can be activated once every 12 hours for a duration of 30 minutes. It can also silence an individual, the wearers choice, within a 15ft range of the wearer for 10 minutes once every 24hours. These functions cannot be performed at the same time and the durations of these effects cannot be altered by the wearer.

#2 Gloves & boots of Spiderclimb

These magic items must be used as a set, a wearer missing a hand or foot could not activate their power. These are made from a slim, silky material and will fit any humanoids from small to large stretching or conforming to the size of their hands or feet. They must be worn directly against the skin of both hands and feet but luckily provide protection against sharp or piercing objects such as broken glass, razors or caltrops. They have no effect on crushing blows. Once all four items are donned they immediately begin to function and will only cease when either one part of the set is removed from the -wearer or if the wearers limb is severed. This set grants the wearer the same abilities as the magic-user
spell spiderclimb.

#3 Catseye pendant

This pendant is of gold in the shape of a cat's head. Two green gems form its eyes. This pedant allows the wearer to see with a much greater degree of night vision (range 80 feet) as well as the ability to see well in direct or sudden bright light. When activated the wearer's eyes take on the form of a green-eyed cats. This pendant can be activated three times every 24hours for a 1 hour duration.

Taldas is patient and methodical. He is intelligent and chooses his targets with great care. He is unlikely to rob a powerful magician or priest and will back away from an excessively well-guarded item.

He approaches his craft almost as an art-form and is no throat-slitter or bash-and-grab thief. He would fight or even kill to escape from capture but will first just try to run away. He carries several defensive items to aid him in this. He might have any one or several of these on hand at any time.

#1) A pouch containing small steel sling bullets. Taldas is adept with the sling but would also use these to toss behind him and hopefully trip up his pursuers.

#2) A glass bottle of oil, he would use this only to make steps or floor slippery not to set fires.

#3) A pouch of caltrops. Not something Taldas would normally carry but he might if going after a high reward high risk item.

#4) A coil of strong twine or preferably wire. He would string these along a stair or passageway at ankle height.

#5) a glass jar filled with bees, wasps or hornet, depending upon their availability.

#6) several rags rolled into balls soaked in lantern oil and dipped in wax. If lit these will produces thick smoke but are unlikely to start a fire.

#7) a glass jar filled with glass marbles (if available) otherwise this will be a glass jar lined with wax filled with steel sling bullet. These marbles or bullets will also be greased. These would be used before the regular sling bullets.

While attempting a burglary Taldas will dress in black, wearing a black cloth mask and hood as well as a small pack and a belt with equipment. He wears no armor but has a +2 ring of protection. He carries a sling and a half-dozen throwing knives. Taldas has 1 packet of dust of disappearance which he will only use in a dire emergency. He also keeps a scroll tube on hand with a tattered an ancient map inside. If captured he will claim that it is a map to a lost treasure which only he can interpret correctly. A small section of the map is missing and Taldas will swear, truthfully that he has memorized it. Taldas picked up the map several years ago. It shows the lands along the western borders of the Duchy of Geoff, but he has no idea where it leads to. Notes on the map make mention of an ancient burial ground of a sorcerer king and of vast treasure, but Taldas is a burglar not an adventurer and prefers to get his treasure the old fashioned way, by stealing it from sleeping merchants.

He is of average height and appearance with blue eyes but otherwise his hair and general appearance are continually being altered. In Greyhawk, when he resides at home, he has sandy blond hair and a fair complexion, clean shaven and shorthaired and appears to be in his mid-thirties.

Taldas Fei, Human Male Thief level 7
Str 13, Int 14, Wis 12, Con 11, Dex 17, Chr 16
HP 29
Skills (without armor)
Pick pockets 25
Open Locks 95
Find/Remove Traps 95
Move Silently 25
Hide in Shadows 90
Detect noise 15
Climb Walls 70
Read Languages 0

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review: The Strategic Review #6 (Vol II No.1) Feb 1976

The Strategic Review #6 (Vol II No.1) Feb 1976

(16 Page Zine).

Nothing says Christmas more than World War One fighter aircraft, well maybe with Snoopy flying a Doghouse, but the cover of SR#6 always gets me thinking of the Snoopy and Red Baron song. I liked the cover, and since they were mailing these things it certainly made sense to have a cover, but I'd still have liked having two extra pages of content.

In The Cauldron - editiorial By Tim Kask (Page 2)

Just a quick note on the mini-figs miniatures developed especially for D&D and a set of Empire of the Petal Throne miniatures rules that TSR was getting set to release.

The Meaning of Law and Chaos in Dungeons & Dragons and Their Relationship to Good and Evil
By Gary Gygax (Page 3-5)

This was a real Pandora's Box of an article.

There is no more contentious topic in D&D or AD&D than the alignment system. Presented here is an attempt by the creator of the game to give specific guidelines on determining alignments, explaining what they are and a system of how they are used in the game.

This is definitely worth a read for players of any edition. I was initially shocked and dismayed at the large and very empty graph on the first page of the article. These zines are small and content is limited so I would gladly have exchanged three quarters of the graph's space for more text. But the graph and the filled in example on the following page do illustrate the system that Gygax was introducing. It is an extremely detail oriented system where the DM keeps track of the players actions from session to session and shifts the characters alignment in relation to their actions.

Too much bookkeeping for my more free-form style of gaming but I did like the more general terms related to each alignment rather than specific definitions. While most character classes would not suffer penalties from alignment change those that would such as clerics, paladins, and druids, have such penalties and chances for amends and atonement left entirely up to the DM.

A very interesting article indeed. A major addition to the original game system, and the first bit of kindling to feed the flames of alignment wars for decades to come.

Triumphs & Tragedies
(Pages 5 & 15)

While not containing D&D content in itself, this column is a listing of the various fanzines from the distant past of 34 years ago. It is a bit of treasure map to D&D content. Definitely worth making a list of these zines and tracking them down.

Statistics Regarding Classes: (Additions) - Bards
By Doug Schwegman (Page 11,12)

Easily the most difficult class to roleplay well in any D&D system, this introduction to the bard presents a very different entry into the game than later versions. Here bards simply begin the game as first level characters. They appear to be more than just a jack of all trades (and master of none). Instead this early version of the bard presents a very powerful class with multiple abilities and skills. A magic-using fighter and thief that can charm and use his skill in lore to identify items magical or cursed with devastating effectiveness at higher level.

Players in an OD&D campaign should love this class, and DM's find it to be a bit of a problem, especially at higher levels. Simply rolling dice for the bards many abilities takes the color and depth from this class, but most players are not the jongeleur at heart, able to sing, chant and charm their way through a game session.

This addition to D&D player classes has a much more detailed introduction and discussion of abilities than previous classes such as the ranger and the illusionists. The historical background paragraph alone is twice the length of the entire non-tabular write-up on the ranger. The paragraphs covering abilities is somewhat rambling, and a few charts would have been in order.

(It is worth noting the mention of hobbits in the bard experience level table to show how early a version of the D&D rule system the bard was created for).

Mighty Magic Miscellany
By Doug Schwegman (Page 12)

This is a companion article to the introduction of the Bard class. Five increasingly powerful harps for use by a bard character. These are all quite powerful items and can be used at fairly low level. The first harp usable by bards of levels 2-4 grants spell like powers once per day including a 3rd level spell, protection from evil, a 2nd level shield and a first level continual light. Considering the low level bard has now spells above 1st level this harp is a major increase in abilities. The next harp is even more powerful, including all previous spell abilities, doubling their use from once a day to twice a day, and adding two additional spell-like powers, invisibility and strength.

As the bard begins to rise from low level to mid level to high level the advantage of these harps has a lessened impact. The give the bard a nice low level arsenal of spells, but not the higher level spells that a magic-user would command.

The idea itself is excellent and the harps interesting creations, but they can supercharge a fairly powerful character class, especially at lower levels.

Sage Advice
By Theronius (Page 14)

The first in the long line of Sage Advice articles. This article is a selection of errata from the D&D Greyhawk supplement (a collection of additional game system material for the original D&D not to be confused with the Greyhawk Folio which detailed the Greyhawk setting), It covers two creatures, the Homunculus, with a small paragraph of information, and the Golem with just a small line of information. The last three are magic items, Rod of Resurrection, Gauntlets of Dexterity and the Gem of Seeing. All classic and well used creatures and items that have stayed with the game for decades.

Almost all of the early D&D material presented here is either important additions to an original D&D campaign or primal introductions to D&D that are well worth comparing and harvesting for ideas for a AD&D DM.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

After the Giants: The Ruins of Nosnra's Steading Part 1

After the Giants: The Ruins of Nosnra's Steading
(With revision work inspired by Robert Holdstock)

The Ruins of Nosnra's Steading is a 1e AD&D (pre-Unearthed Arcana) Adventure for 8-10 player characters levels 8-10. It is recommended that players run at least 2 characters or more to meet this number of PCs rather than run fewer, higher level characters. Possession of Module G1 is necessary to run this adventure.

A storm lashes the Jotens. Lightning flashes and thunder cracks. Torrents of rain cut through the forested slopes and valleys like miniature spearpoints, piercing, stinging and cold.

Night has fallen early and even the predators of the dark have hidden themselves from the wrath of the storm. An almost completely overgrown path leads to the bald head of a great hilltop.
In the gloom walls of wood rise at its center, a gigantic structure, a small forest of roughly trimmed tree-trunks.

In the flash of lightning the scars of war can be seen. The doors of the mighty steading lie asunder, the wood split and burnt. A great portion of its roof now naught but a gaping hole charred around
its edges. On closer inspection the wear of unkempt years lies heavy upon the timbers of its outer walls. Vines and shrubs climb, root and dig at the dead wood. Mold and fungus spread unchecked. Gaps between one trunk and another gape open by this invasive growth, but it is between these broken boles that the life existing among the corpse of this once mighty hold gleams out. Fire, a warm light which flickers amid the gloom. Somewhere within the ruin the spark and beat of life still pulses.

Nosnra is gone and his steading in ruins but while its walls may be broken it does not lie empty. Here is a scenario dealing with the now ruined steading.

The Dead That Dream

Nosnra and his clan fell to their foes and lie unshriven amid the fields and ruins of the steading. The great war against the giants went on for years with both human, demi-human and giantish populations decimated. The spirits of these fallen giants were never released to dwell among their ancestors and Nosnra's spirit more than any other is greatly restless.

Upon the oerth lost souls often rise again, and so it happened with the giants; their flesh, their bones, their dark spirits animated, but the spirit of the clan with Nosnra as its focus became so lost that they have warped the land around them. Nosnra and the spirit of the clan in death have begun to dream.

It is years since the giants invaded the human lands below their hills and years since they were driven back again, but hill giants have been seen again along the edge of the wilderness. Giants that raid and kill, loot and burn, but giants that blades will not cut, though wounds appear and fade across their flesh, that arrows will not pierce, that magic used against them does not touch or slow.

A force of several dozen hill giants attacked and destroyed a frontier outpost, a small fortress and the town that was being built around it. A group of rangers tracking these giants saw them make a rough camp for the night, but as the moon began to rise they watched the flesh peel from the raiders bones and rot, or some fade till they were a translucent haze or others darken to till they were wavering blackness deeper than the night. By morning they were gone; the loot they had gathered left were it had been placed and their captives half-mad with fear.

The land further up into the hills has become a place of restless dreams and nightmares. Time does not pass as it should, night falls and lasts for days or for hours or moments, daylight can find the sun overhead as if at noon and in an eyeblink set or rise or hang in the sky unmoving. Men who sleep fade before waking or are beset by nightmares that drive them to madness or leave them torn or bleeding, or dead. Giants, ogres and wolves drift across the hills. Some are gathered as if to raid. Others walk the hills alone or in groups of hunters. They may pass by men in the open and not see them or track them down only to disappear in the midst of battle. Few who have entered these cursed hills have returned. The land blinds the eyes of sages and the divine who look from afar. Wizards who have used the power of flight or creatures who can fly or ride flying beasts lose themselves quickly beyond the border of civilization, some crashing to the ground, others circling back only to find that hours or days have been lost.

What Has Happened.

The spirits of Nosnra, the clan and the individual giants slain in and around the steading have, in their restless unlife, caused a sliver of the Demi-plane of Dreams to intersect with the Prime Material. The Demi-Plane of Dreams is easily fragmented and impinges constantly with the Prime Material through dreams, but normally it has little to no effect to most dreamers themselves and especially not to the reality of the Prime Material. But the invasion of the giants and the wars that raged above and below the oerth weakened the barrier between the planes and a fractured piece of Dreamland has become stuck.

Reality is warped around the hills and the borderlands. This rift between the planes has been growing slowly over the years but only recently has it become strong enough to spring into being, and slowly it is spreading.

The great druid Cathabach is the only person to have passed into the hills, reached the steading and returned. He has crafted a dozen charms from the bones of dead giants and the wood of the steading that will allow others to enter into this fragment of dreamland without suffering the worst of its effects. Cathabach is gravely wounded in both body and soul and cannot return, but he can offer advice and is sending a lesser druid Caithach and a ranger Manandoun as guides.

End Part One

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Review: The Strategic Review #5 Dec 1975

The Strategic Review #5 Dec 1975

(16 Page Zine)

SR almost crosses from zine to very small magazine with this issue. The first to have a cover and a cover illustration. The illustration is a darkly drawn ink rendition of a wizard or shaman. Surreal and rorschach-like, at first glance it always appears to me to be something of a dark cloud, then I catch the face and the upraised hands. Definitely usable as a game handout. The players see a dark amorphous shape at the edge of their vision (give them a quick glance at this illustration then take it away and let them puzzle at what they saw).

Rather than just going page by page it is now best to review these article by article. With The Dragon fast approaching and the greater amount of more in depth D&D and AD&D content it is no longer possible to do a quick scan of the pages and spot each relevant bit of information that is being referred to in the review.

1). In The Cauldron,(page 2 continued on page .
Editorial By Tim Kask

This issue begins with an editorial by Tim Kask. All ancient history but exciting history waiting for each of the supplements to be released. And more important glimpses of the past are the short autobiographical blurbs from E.Gary Gygax, Robert Kuntz, Tim Kask, Theron Kuntz, and Brian Blume.

2). Sturmgeshutz & Sorcery
How Effective is a Panzerfaust Against a Troll, Heinz? (Page 3-6)
By E. Gary Gygax

The great thing about D&D is that it can go in any direction. It is limited only by the imagination. Maybe it was the wargamer inside many of the early players of D&D, but fighting Nazi's seemed a perfect addition to the game. Whatever the reason this mix of history and fantasy, or one like it, can be immensely fun to play.

The article gives the composition of a motorized SS platoon and rules regarding the fighter level equivalent of the troops and a conversion of the weapons used into D&D terms. There is also an unarmed combat table. Weapons range and movement speeds of vehicles are not included (these were taken from the TRACTICS rule set and it is unlikely the will be available to most DMs today). The vehicles themselves are not defined in terms of hit points or armor class, or damage they could inflict if used to run down opponents. Someone recreating an original campaign should have little trouble adding this type of scenario to their game, and information about WWII vehicles and the range of weapons is readily available in books or online. The main questions to answer about the vehicles are simply how fast and about the weapons, how far. Conversion to 1st edition might require more work, but if the concept as presented appeals to a DM then the work will be worth the effort. Such an encounter can be treated as a bizarre sidetrack in a regular fantasy campaign or the start of a beautiful friendship merging fantasy with history.

D&D is a set of guidelines that a DM uses to create a world of his imagination. Sturmgeshultz & Sorcery shows that the game is not bound to any one setting. From its earliest inception D&D made it clear that anything was possible.

3). Mapping The Dungeons (Page 7)

Just a touch of history, back when a list of Dungeon Masters was a possibility in something smaller than an encyclopedia. It is, who was playing, what was going on briefly in the world of D&D roleplaying, supplements to be released and supplements that could be worked on. A seminar at Gencon IX hosted by Gygax, Arneson & Kuntz. That would have been something to tape.

4). Mighty Magic Miscellany (Page 7)

Two magic items introduced to the game which quickly became classics.

Robe of Scintallating Colors.
A massively powerful item in this incarnation giving users an eventual 100% chance not to be hit and also to hypnotize opponents. No time length for the duration of the hypnotism is given or restrictions on commands to the hypnotized. It would definitely make for a tricky game trying to take down an NPC with this on. The original D&D is more about workable guidelines than rules set in stone. The expectation is that DMs will alter any rule, any monster or any item to fit their campaign and style of play. It does make it a little harder for a DM to pick up and play, or just grab an item, monster or spell and instantly drop them into a campaign.

Prayer Beads.
A fairly powerful set of items lacking a few definitions of use. How often can the beads be used? Can they be used more than once a day? Are they destroyed on use like charges on a staff or wand? The beads of atonement, for example, give an 80% chance to reverse an alignment transgression. It would seem that this should only be used once per transgression, otherwise a player could simply keep using the bead to beat any transgression

They are at the very least a great idea for a clerical magic item. The small list could easily be expanded. Beads that worked like scrolls or potions, healing, taking the place of spells, adding protection or enhancements. The concept of the beads inspires a DM to take them further, to define their use, and of course to make the item his own to fit into his campaign.

5) Creature Features (Page 14)

In this final D&D related article The Rakshasa, The Slithering Tracker and The Trapper are introduced and added to the game.

Though not of the greatest HD (only 7) the Rakshasa was incredibly powerful. Negative 4 armor class, needing +3 or better weapons to hit and immune to spells under 8th level as well as possessing ESP and the ability to appear as a friendly creature to their opponents, Rakshasa's were truly high level monsters but one with an Achille's heel. A crossbow bolt blessed by a cleric will kill them. An interesting combination of incredible power and fatal weakness.

The Slithering Tracker is powerful in its own way. Commonplace HD and AC, but its invisibility and paralyzation make it a dangerous opponent. It is a bit all or nothing though. The creature can be extremely deadly, or if the paralyzation is resisted, fairly easily killed and no damage is listed against an unparalyzed target.

The Trapper is very similar to the Slithering Tracker. Dangerous but with relatively commonplace HD and AC. They are both rather amorphous creatures, both depend mainly on holding their victims helpless though the Trapper does immediate physical damage.

These three monsters add more of the sense of fantasy to the game. They force the players to think in terms of a world filled with invisible, amorphous, illusionary opponents. The Rakshasa with its not-quite invulnerability and its use of extraordinary abilities. The Slithering Tracker and The Trapper adding an unnatural danger to the lives of the PCs. Not just an orc or goblin, ogre or giant, to confront in a face to face fight, but monsters that require thought and caution to counter.

D&D began as a small change to historical miniatures wargaming but with each new supplement and each new issue of The Strategic Review we see it growing into something limitless and ever more fantastic.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Review: The Strategic Review #4 Winter 1975

The Strategic Review #4 Winter 1975

(12 Page Zine)

With issue #4 SR leaps to 12 pages. The D&D content is still not overwhelming though it is the main thrust of the zine. The connection to wargaming and historical miniatures is very strong with TSR and the zine reflects this. But beyond the history of TSR and D&D are mentions of other sources in the development of D&D in independent zines and obscure newsletters such as The Great Plains Game Players Newsletter, Liasons Dangereus, Urf-Durfal, Kranor-Rill and the better known Alarums & Excursions.

Back to D&D and Chainmail combat rules, Gary Gygax expands on his article about polearms, providing a few more illustrations and a small weapons table for the Jo Stick, the Bo Stick and the Quarter staff. Dry and familiar stuff to a gamer who has sifted through various published arcana; great additions for someone recreating an original D&D campaign or someone just discovering D&D for the first time. And for a gamer interested in reading what the creator of the game had to say and add about D&D from its earliest beginnings, articles such as this are gems.

The next article is a major addition to the campaign; The introduction of the Illusionist class. I've always found the Illusionist to be one of the most roleplaying oriented of classes. So many of their spells have non-direct applications and used well they can be of amazing versatility and effect. The description is brief, with a short level advancement table and spell list going to 5th level spells, but the following page is dedicated to a description of Illusionist spells. Many are small alterations on magic-user spells from the published set, but some are new spells available only to Illusionists.

What follows is a very long (for SR) article by M.A.R. Barker on the development of the Tsolyani language for his Empire of the Petal Throne campaign, and a detailed table for generating Tsolayni names as well as a translation table for the symbols of the Tsolayni alphabet. This is a goldmine for any detail oriented campaign, but even if a DM is only looking for an intricate new alphabet they can use the lovingly scripted cursive letters of Barker's design.

Finally there are two short article, the creature feature column and the introduction of a new magic item.

The clay golem is introduced, very briefly described, but more than enough information is provided to drop the monster into an established D&D campaign that needs to face a fairly powerful new challenge. The cost and level requirements for creating the clay monster are listed, but any particulars regarding its construction are undetailed ( and thereby left to the DMs discretion). The monster itself is not listed in the standard form but instead its abilities are described in a short paragraph. No illustration is provided.

The last article introduces the Ioun stone to the game and credits the Jack Vance short story "Morreion" for their origin. This short story is a definite must read for D&D gamers and DMs (It can be found in several old anthologies such as Flashing Blades #1, and hopefully in other more accessible locations online). It provides a picture of the D&D magic system (extremely high level magic and magic-users) and is itself an excellent story by a talented fantasy writer. The SR article provides a table of various types of Ioun stones (expanded from those created by Jack Vance with his permission) and a brief description of their use.

With this 4th issue of SR the announcement of Dragon Magazine is foreshadowed (announced only as The Dragon is coming without explanation or details that it is a magazine at all). The Strategic Review is past its halfway point as a series and already the growth and development of D&D is requiring longer articles that demand more and more space within the zine. A full size magazine for the D&D game cannot come too soon.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Review: Dungeon Crawl Classics #11 The Dragonfiend Pact

Dungeon Crawl Classics #11 The Dragonfiend Pact By Chris Doyle
(16 page d20 adventure for 4-6 2nd level player characters)

Front Cover Artist: William McAusland
Interior Artists: Jason Edwards, Brad McDevitt
Cartographer: Jeremy Simmons

If you are planning on playing in this adventure STOP READING NOW! - You'll go blind and hair will grow on the back of your hands.

For the original $2 cover price this module was quite a bargain.

There are some good ideas included though the plot is poor and some of the concepts are flawed. One of the main problems is that by making the town described in the story so unique it limits the placement and usefulness of the adventure. There is just too much concept for the 16 pages being provided.

There is a struggle for leadership of the town. The idea behind this seems fairly muddled and implausible. A town with an elected mayor, though the mayor is part of some kind of aristocracy, and a magistrate who is a cleric, but one who turns to evil when he can't become mayor. And the mayor's young naive daughter who becomes mayor herself when the magistrate hires an assassin to kill the mayor. Then there is the magistrates plot to rob the town and use rats to smuggle the goods outside of the town. There is an evil pseudo-dragon who sways the magistrate to worship an evil god of trickery (he's the cleric btw), and finally a plan to have the town raided by a goblin tribe so he can kill the mayoress and become the towns hero. Blah... way too much. I think I saw this plot on an old Andy Griffith show with Don Knotts as the evil magistrate and the actor who played Ernest T. Bass as the Were-badger.

The adventure itself isn't bad. The use of the rats is intriguing, but a better reason for using them needs to be provided. I'm not sure just how much wealth could be smuggled out of a frontier town via rat-back. Might be handy for a city adventure with a jewel thief, or a mining town and someone smuggling out gold dust, but there really isn't much reason why the thief couldn't smuggle the valuables out by himself. Such things as what is being stolen and how are left to the DMs imagination, as well as particulars about the town.

The dungeon could have a small plot operation and be dropped into the Idylls of the Rat King adventure fairly nicely.

I wouldn't recommend this for a DM looking for a quick and easy adventure and the amount of work necessary to make it playable might as well be spent in adding it to an adventure with a better plot, or creating one. For the $2 it cost, it was still a bargain as an adventure aid. Semi-decent maps and some good ideas. It would have been better off without the attempt to make into something more.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

City of Greyhawk Labor Quarter

City of Greyhawk Labor Quarter

SooC = Saga of Old City

SooC P14, 15
... at the edge of the worst part of the Slum Quarter near the better sector where menial laborers and others of that ilk lived. This was unsafe territory for an urchin as these working people didn't want Gord's kind around...

Gord slid into the narrow space of a boarded-up doorway... The narrow alley he was in gave onto a wide lane just ahead. He saw occasional figures passing the mouth of the passage... glancing up, Gord saw ... a line of washing hung out to dry on the rooftop across the way.

... he ascended the gap by pressing his feet against one wall and his back and palms against the other.

...entered Killcat Lane from disused alley...

NOTE: Slight map discrepancy. The edge of the Slum Quarter and the Labor Quarter appear to be separated by the south-west corner of the Brewer's Quarter. The narrow and disused alley could be a passage from the Slum Quarter through the Brewer's Quarter and come out on Killcat Lane in the Labor Quarter. The border lines of the various Quarters are also noted as not set in stone so the Labor Quarter north-west corner could have shifted and connected with the slum quarter.

NOTE: Unnamed narrow disused alley connects with Killcat lane. Narrow, boarded-up doorway within alley. Cloths hung from rooftop. Alley is narrow enough so that a small boy can climb to roof by putting back against one wall and feet against the other. (3 foot width?)

SooC P15
From the look of him he could have been one of dozens of lads who traveled in this vicinity, a link-boy or bound-boy of some sort on an errand for master or mistress - perhaps even the son of a local resident. A closer look might have brought a question to the observer's mind, however. Although the worn blouse and baggy trousers were clean, the wearer most certainly was not. And where were the lad's sandals?

NOTE: Link-boy, bound-boy professions. Young boys travel unattended through the Labor Quarter. Boys are normally clean and wear sandals. Blouse and baggy trousers and sandals are normal garb.

SooC P15
... he could move freely through this part of the quarter to the Foreign Quarter nearby.

NOTE: Possible map discrepancy. The distance between the Slum Quarter and the Foreign Quarter should be nearly one and one-half miles (if the scale of the City of Greyhawk is as presented in the City of Hawks novel; 3 miles to the inch). The flow of the narrative is suggestive of a much shorter distance

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review: The Strategic Review #3 Autumn 1975

The Strategic Review #3 Autumn 1975

(8 Page Zine)

A lot of history to start this issue; Chainmail and D&D being slammed, and Gygax slamming back.

D&D and Gygax won.

The D&D content of this issue focuses on new monsters. Nine new creatures for the game, most would become well used classic additions. The Yeti, Shambling Mound, Shrieker, Piercer, Lurker Above, Naga and Ghost. The Leprechaun and Wind Walker seemed to be least used in my own experience.

The Yeti, Ghost, Leprechaun, Lurker Above, Naga, Shrieker, and Wind Walker all have stats and descriptions very close to their later incarnation in the AD&D Monster Manual, though no illustration accompanied any of the monsters appearing in this issue.

Only the Piercer and Shambling appear to be greatly changed. Anyone putting together an original D&D campaign will find this issue very welcome for the introduction of these monsters alone. They tend toward the powerful, some 10HD monsters included here, while a few are low HD but can fit into any level of the game. The Shrieker acting as a warning to other creatures, the Leprechaun a supreme annoyance, the Piercer deadly in great numbers. Even the Yeti as a 4HD monster can be effective against more powerful characters with its near invisibility and paralyzing gaze.

A humorous article follows. Roughly D&D it always seemed a waste to me to take up space with joke articles, but maybe it can add some inspiration for DMs looking to lighten their campaign. A taste of Zagyg style insanity for a level of his dungeon perhaps? (I'd much rather have had the space used for illustrations or more monsters).

Personally I place poetry in the same boat with humor most of the time. The Unicorn Song is easy to glance over and dismiss, but I've always liked inflicting bards on my players, or if a player runs a bard then part of their burden is the use of poetry in the game. If they have no ideas of their own I never hesitate to supply them with such ditties as the Unicorn Song to stand and read to the other players.

D&D history rears its head again in the Mapping the Dungeon column, but rather than just a description of DMs and upcoming conventions, a mix of world war II and D&D is mentioned, related by Dave Arneson. Nothing like fighting Nazi's in a D&D campaign. I don't remember if they ever did publish the conversion rules for relatively modern historical time periods to D&D or not, or if they ever worked the bugs out, but it is something an adventurous DM should give a try.

Finally Jim Ward offers a description and city generation for a Burroughs style Barsoom campaign in his article Deserted Cities of Mars. This is a non-game system specific set of tables with descriptions sifted from the John Carter series. It can easily be adapted for use to generate a ruined city with an alien flavor for any campaign.

SR is not just a D&D magazine, and with only 8 pages all articles and information is fairly compressed, but a great deal was put into each small issue. There are ideas here useful to players running AD&D campaigns today, and invaluable additions to someone putting together an original campaign.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review: Dungeon Crawl Classics #10 The Sunless Garden

Dungeon Crawl Classics #10 The Sunless Garden By Brendan LaSalle

(A 32 page d20 adventure for 4 to 6 player characters levels 6-8)

Front Cover Artist: Erol Otus
Back Cover Artist: William McAusland
Inetrior Artists: Jason Edwards, William McAusland, Brad McDevitt
Cartographer: Jeremy Simmons

If you are planning on playing in this adventure then STOP READING NOW! Or I will be forced to summon Hastor, Hastor, Hast... oops...

There is a slightly lovecraftian feel to this module as well as a sprinkling of humor.

This is a vast adventure stuffed into 32 pages. Well written but missing a few elements. The Otus cover is fantastic, the balance favors the players but it seems challenging enough and interesting. I pick apart a number of elements in this module but this is a very good adventure that I feel could have been a truly great adventure.

The plot involves a Treant corrupted by a fallen meteor in a somewhat Color out of Space concept but with less dismal cancerous wasting and more mutations. It would involve a little work on the DMs part but this could easily be converted to a much darker adventure, the spots of silliness removed, such as exploding apple grenades, cavorting owlbears, and the invention of toothpaste and peanut butter, and replaced with more gruesome and perhaps lovecraftian touches.

LaSalle is an excellent descriptive writer and his concept is creative with many interesting touches for a garden/wilderness adventure but 32 pages just did not provide enough room to cover the size of the area he tries to describe. The interior map is bland, as are most of the DCC maps in the first 10 adventures in their line. The text makes note of the vast size of the map, 50 feet per square, or more accurately 2,500 square feet per square. Each section of this underground garden is huge, the ceiling high above, the center of the cavern accommodating trees of over 100 feet. Unfortunately LaSalle only has a few paragraphs to touch on each section. Each area has some detail, challenging, humorous, intriguing, but not enough for the ground being covered. I have no doubt that this adventure could have been incredible, instead of merely excellent and flawed, if it had been allowed to grow in description and detail to a fuller page count.

The main theme is a corrupted treant's war against despoiler races such as humans, (though for some reason it has no problem with bugbears who fill in the empty chambers within the former smugglers den it calls home that would otherwise need to be filled with something more creative). Why not a race of mutated bugbears, or plantmen, or a merging of the two? The use of the bugbears feels out of place in view of the plot of the adventure and so easily changed to a mutated form that it makes me feel that they were slapped on like a hastily blotted background to a detailed portrait thats creation has perhaps passed its deadline.

To combat humanity the treant has found a mutated growth which can be used as a poison. This poison turns humans and humanoids into trees. This substance, Black Moss, will potentially effect the players and I was expecting to find it detailed in the appendix section. A paragraph on page 3 titled Effects of the Black Moss were surprising in their lack of information about the effects of black moss. One paragraph describes that a check is needed when tasting infected water, but the next three paragraphs describe how it was made, the antidote, and effects of the antidote, and prevention. What is not described are the actual effects in game turns. How long does it take to be overcome, what happens to characters infected before they are turned into trees? What is the effect if it is inhaled? Do you only need to save once against it? Some of the information can be pieced out from other paragraphs in the adventure. It seems to take 3 days to be turned into a tree, and the character will be slowly petrified though there is no description of the actual process. In the end it will be up to the DM to actual work out the mechanics of this poison. A definite flaw in the modules design.

The adventure itself is straightforward. There are few allies to be found and little or no misdirection. The monsters and mutations are there to be killed or overcome. The wide undescribed sections of the garden could be filled with brief encounters of unsettling but non-hostile plant life or glossed over lightly, as the characters pass trees, bushes, or walk over grass or weeds till they come across the written encounters. The vastness of the garden could be shrunken and encounters combined into a single section rather than spread out over 6 or more areas hundreds of feet across. There is a great deal of room for expansion in this adventure, and even more as suggested at the end of the module, this may not be the only meteor.

A good adventure, even an excellent one, especially the concepts involved, but the execution is missing detail that would have made this a great adventure.