Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Review DCCrpg Adventure Starter - 2011 Free RPG Giveaway

DCCrpg Adventure Starter - 2011 Free RPG Giveaway
(16 Pages with attached cardboard cover)

A brief overview of the DCCrpg (pgs 4-6)
The Portal Under The Stars (pgs 8-12)
The Infernal Crucible of Sezrekan the Mad (pgs 13-16)

Written By: Joseph Goodman, Harley Stroh
Cover Art and Cartography: Doug Kovacs
Interior Art: Jeff Easley, Tom Galambos, Doug Kovacs, Peter Mullen, Stefan Poag, Jim Roslof

The DCCrpg Adventure Starter contains two extremely short, extraordinarily lethal mini adventures and a hell of a lot of illustrations. After seeing the Beta rules I am beginning to sense a trend here. I certainly don't mind. The company is welcome to ply me with artwork, bikini models and beer all they want (I'm still hoping for the beer and bikinis).

The cartography is a bit on the busy side. I realize it is part and parcel with a kind of pulp magazine style theme, but it is more than a bit distracting. I personally enjoy a nice, unadorned map, preferably on the inside of a detached cardboard cover like modules of old. It reminded me of the old Troubadour Press AD&D Coloring Book more than anything else.

On the cover is the same piece of art that adorns the DCCrpg Beta rules. A nice piece of work but I'd rather have had something unique and related to one of the adventures on the Starter. On the back cover are examples of three modules DCC #69 Sailors on the Scarless Seas, DCC #70 The People of the Pit and DCC #71 The Emerald Enchanter. They are fairly comic book like. I would have hoped either for old style covers such as the DCC line became known for or perhaps old Pulp Style covers in homage to magazines like Weird Tales or Amazing. It is interesting to see that they are going to continue with the old DCC numbering system that goes from the 3.X D&D, then the lamentable 4e line. I thought that they might decide to start fresh.

The interior artwork is extremely nice. I like the variety and will make good use of it, but very little of it seems related to either adventure.

Both adventures are very short. It seems like they wanted to fit in two differing examples to showcase low and mid-level play. I would have favored a single, much longer low level adventure. The DCCrpg Beta rules which are free for download are needed to play these as written. The first five pages are a waste of preciously limited space for a brief explanation of the game philosophy and a peek at the core rule mechanics, then directions to the website and Beta pdf.

After reading the mini adventures I felt they were designed along the lines of some of the old tournament modules from TSR. There was definitely a sprinkling of Tomb of Horrors about both. Unfortunately these are so short that what style and character of the writing exists feels a little forced. Quick, deadly encounters that offer no real roleplaying opportunities, unless it comes from interaction among the players. Both have some good usable ideas. More importantly both adventures can be adapted to D&D/AD&D with ease. Given the opportunity for longer adventures of more depth and character the DCC line promises to be everything I have hoped for though less distracting cartography would be appreciated.

If you can get a free or cheap copy of the Adventure Starter it is worth picking up. I've heard that they are charging $4.95 for a pdf of this giveaway. Not worth it from what I've seen. It just seems like this was a bit of a mistake in design. I was pretty disappointed when I read through it, but only because I had higher expectations and desires. The Dungeon Crawl Classics name led me to expect more, even from a free giveaway.

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.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Minstrel Tales Archers of Geoff

Archers of Geoff

What of the bow?
The bow was made in Geoff:
Of true wood, of Hornwood.
The wood of Geoff bows;

So men who are free
Love the old Hornwood tree
And the land where the Hornwood grows.

What of the cord?
The cord was made in Geoff:
A rough cord, a tough cord,
A cord that bowmen love;

So we'll drain our jacks
To the Geoff flax
And the land where the hemp was wove.

What of the shaft?
The shaft was cut in Geoff:
A long shaft, a strong shaft,
Barbed and trim and true;

So we'll drink together
To the Grey goose feather
And the land where the gray goose flew.

What of the men?
The men were bred in Geoff:
The bowman - the yeoman -
The lads of dale and fell

Here's to you - and to you!
To hearts that are true
And the land where the true heart dwells.

(Originally 'The Outland Bowmen' by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle from 'The White Company') (and thanks to Rip Wormer for adding the Hornwood)

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

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Minstrel Tales The Bold Soldier of Chendl

The Bold Soldier of Chendl

This is a tale of Chendl.

There was in the days before the War a house in the Inner City of Chendl that was as beautiful as the Royal Palace, if not as large; but after the war no one would live in it because it was haunted. At the stroke of twelve there came a ghost, that ran up and down the stairs; and when it struck one, it would place itself behind the street-door, and begin to howl so horribly that everyone felt pity for it. But by royal edict no priest was allowed to enter the house and no one else had the courage. So thus the house remained empty, although the ghost every night cried: "Release me! Release me!"

This had continued a long while, when an old soldier from the Wars came to the city, who, on hearing people speak of the house, said he would sleep a night in it, if a thousand gold pieces were given him beforehand. Belvor the King heard of this soldier's boast and summoned him to the palace. The old soldier said he feared neither goblin nor devil; for what his god protects is well protected. The king then said: "Give me thy hand as a pledge, and tell me with what I must provide thee." "Give me," said the soldier, "a good supply of wood cut small, a dozen bottles of wine, a bottle of brandy, and a pot full of dough, together with a good pan, that I may bake my cakes." "That thou shalt have," answered the king; and when the soldier had all he required, he went with it at nightfall into the house.

Having struck a light, he carried all his gear into a room on the first story, in which there still remained a table and two chairs, and then made a large fire on the hearth, by which he placed his dough, that it might rise a little. He next broke the necks off his bottles, and so did not long continue altogether sober, though he well knew what he said and did. Thirst being now succeeded by hunger, he took his pan, set it on the fire, and threw into it a good ladleful of dough. The cake promised well, smelt most temptingly, was already brown on one side, and the soldier was in the act of turning it, when something suddenly fell down the chimney into the pan, and the cake was in the ashes!

The soldier was not a little angry at the disaster, but reconciled himself to his fate and filled the pan anew. While the cake was baking, he looked at what had fallen down the chimney and found it was an arm-bone. At this the brave warrior began to laugh, and said: "You want to frighten me, but you won't do it with your arm bone." he then seized the pan, to take the cake out: but in the same instant a rattling was heard in the chimney, a number of bones fell into the pan, and the cake into the ashes.

"Now, by sweet voice," said he, "that is too bad. You ought to let me be, for I am hungry!" But every time he tried to bake his cake, one bone or another fell, and, at last, a skull, which the soldier hurled as far as he could send it. "Now the sport will end," said he, and began to bake, when a bell began to sound from a nearby temple. He counted; it was twelve. In the same instant he looked up, and saw that in the corner facing him the bones had united and stood there as a hideous skeleton with a white linen over its shoulders. The soldier called to it merrily: "Ha Sir Skeleton! How goes it? You are uncommonly thin. But come and eat and drink with me, provided the cake and wine will not fall through you." The skeleton made no answer, but merely pointed with its finger. "Well speak then," said he laughing; "but if not, then make yourself scarce." The skeleton continued pointing, but said nothing, and the soldier ate on leisurely, taking no further notice of its movements. The temple bells now struck half-past, and the skeleton striding out of its corner, approached the table. "Ah," cried the soldier, "say what you want, but keep at a distance, else we are no longer friends. I know the power of an undead touch." The skeleton made signs with its boney hands and pointed towards the door.

The soldier grew weary of this, took up his brandy and said: "Well, I'll go with you, do you only go first." The skeleton went first as far as the stairs, and made a sign to the soldier that he should go down; but he was prudent enough not to do so, saying: "Go you first, always first; you shall not break my neck." They thus descended into a passage, in which lay a heavy stone, having an iron ring in it. The ghost made a sign to him to raise the stone, but he laughed aloud and said: "If you want to lift up the stone, you must do it yourself." The ghost did so, and the soldier then saw that there was a great hole beneath it, in which stood three iron pots filled with coins. "Do you see that money?" said the skeleton. "Aha, you speak," cried the soldier, highly delighted, "that's capital. Yes, I see something that looks like gold."

"I was cursed while the treasure went unfound. You have released me, the treasure is yours." said the ghost. "A pretty fellow you!" said the soldier. "You first, down there and help me with the gold." The ghost reached out its hand and said: "I beseech you. Take the treasure before the bells ring again." "Much obliged all the same, no; I know you birds. I'll take your treasure, but you must fetch it for me." The ghost was silent for a moment, then jumped down into the hole beside the treasure. The soldier laughed and poured out his bottle of brandy atop the ghost. "Ho sprite-kin," cried he, "by the Laughing Rogue I bless you, may the wine of sleep put you to rest. Wander no more!" and with that the soldier slammed the stone lid shut upon the hole.

That morning the old soldier went to the king and collected his bounty. The ghost was heard no more. The paladin Torc who had failed to protect his king from the servants of Nerull was finally at peace. The soldier left Chendl that day and was never seen again.

Adapted from "The Bold Soldier of Antwerp" retold by Benjamin Thorpe

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

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Minstrel Tales The Fall of Calbut

The Fall of Calbut

Here is a fragment about the fall of Calbut in Tenh.

Then the captain young in war spoke: "This is neither the dawn from the east, nor does a dragon fly hither, nor are the gables of this hall here burning, but they are launching a sudden attack: the birds are singing; the grey corslet rings; the spear clashes; shield answers to shaft. Now gleams the wandering moons beneath the clouds; now dire deeds come to pass which will enact the hatred of the Tenha people. But awake now, my warriors, grasp your shields, be mindful of courage, strive in the front of the fight, be resolute."

Then rose up many an armored guard, girded on his sword; then to the door went the excellent warriors, Zillah and Eaha, drew their swords; and Irad and Lamech at the other door, and Jared himself came behind them.

Then Nepheg exhorted Gershon that he in his armour should not risk so noble a life at the first onslaught on the doors of the hall, since one bold in attack was minded to take it away; but he, the daring-minded hero, openly asked over all who it was who held the door.

"Zillah is my name," said he, "I am a warrior of the Tenha, a hero widely known. Many trials have I undergone, stern conflicts; now is decreed for thee here what thou shalt gain from me."

Then by the wall there was an uproar of deadly struggles; shields must needs be in the hands of bold men, the helmet must burst - the floor of the fortress rang - until Gershon son of Kohath, fell in the fight, first of all the dwellers in the land; round him many valiant men. The flying raven circled over the bodies; dusky and dark brown it wheeled, there was gleaming of swords as if all Calbut was in flames. Never have I heard of sixty triumphant warriors bearing themselves better, more worthily in the battle of men, nor ever of youths making better requital for sweet wine than the liege-men of Ehyeh."

"Finnesburh" from a fragment By George Hickes 1705 with minor alterations.

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

Minstrel Tales Give Me Three Brave Swords Shielding

Give Me Three Brave Swords Shielding

The minstrels and bards from the Shield Lands sing this song when raising support for their struggle against the Iuz and the Horned Society. It has become quite popular among soldiers, in their camps and the taverns they frequent.

Give Me Three Brave Swords, Shielding

Give me three brave swords, Shielding,
Only three brave swords;
They will keep the little I have
Free from Iuz's horde.

I am dying beneath Iuz's heel, Shielding,
Dying beneath Iuz's heel;
And the agony of such a death
No balm may ever heal.

Iuz has gnawed me like a wolf, Shielding,
A wolf that is fierce for blood;
All the day, and the night beside,
Lapping at my blood.

I dreamed of freedom in my sleep, Shielding,
And the sight was welcome to see;
I awoke with an eager, beating heart,
But there was no freedom for me.

How can I look to you, Shielding,
How can I look to you
For swords to give to your ravaged land,
When you are swordless too.

For I read the defeat in your graven face, Shielding,
And in your eyes so wild,
And I felt it in your shaking hand,
And in your heart so mild.

What have the Shield Lands done, Shielding,
What have the Shield Lands done
That the Oerth looks on and sees us die,
Perishing one by one?

Do the nations of the Flanaess care not, Shielding,
The great ones and the high,
For the suffering of the Shield Land's sons,
Whether they live or die?

There are many still with a brave heart, Shielding,
Dying of want and cold,
While many escaped to safer lands,
Still strong and rich in gold.

Come nearer to my side, Shielding,
Come nearer to my side,
And remember me as I was,
Your homeland before I die.

Quick, for I cannot see you, Shielding,
The seeds of death are sown;
Shielding! dear Shielding! ere I die,
Three swords for your home.

Loosely adapted from 'Give Me Three Grains of Corn, Mother' By Amelia Blandford Edwards

Monday, June 13, 2011

Minstrel Tales A Prayer to Hextor

A Prayer to Hextor

This is an inscription found on the barrow of an ancient Oeridian War-Chief. It is still used today to honor fallen worshippers of Hextor who have achieved greatness in Hextor's cause.

"My days have run, A servant I
Worshipper, of mighty Hextor;
Student of war and battle, Hextor's lore;
I have called his battle-cry;
Fulfilled his red and bleeding feast;
Held my enemies heart within the flame;
I am set free and named by name
Honored by the War-God's priests."

An altered fragment of Aristophanes

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Minstrel Tales Black-Eyed Dwarf Rye

A small ditty from the streets of Greyhawk. It is considered rather rude and disrespectful of the Watch, but is sung throughout most of the city's inns and taverns.

Black-Eyed Dwarf Rye

Now Jak was a watchman whose post was Old Town
And she was a damsel, the street she skipped down
Said the damsel to Jak as she passed him by
Would you care for to purchase some Black-Eyed Dwarf Rye?

Thought Jak to himself now what can this be
But the finest dwarf whiskey from the Barrier Peaks
Smuggled down in a basket and sold on the sly
And the name that it goes by is Black-Eyed Dwarf Rye.

Jak gave her a gold piece and he thought nothing strange
She said, hold on to the basket till I run for your change
Jak looked in the basket and a child he did spy
I'm a goblin says Jak, if this be Black-Eyed Dwarf Rye.

Now to get the child fostered was Jak's next intent
For to get the child fostered to the priestess he went
Said the priestess to Jak, what will he go by?
Your worship says Jak, call him Black-Eyed Dwarf Rye.

Says the priestess to Jak, there's a very strange name
Your worship says Jak, 'twas the strange way he came
Smuggled down in a basket and sold on the sly
And the name that he'll go by is Black-Eyed Dwarf Rye'

Now all you bold watchmen who roam on the town
Beware of the damsels who skip up and down
Take a peep in their baskets as they pass you by
Or else they may sell you some Black-Eyed Dwarf Rye.

(Very lightly adapted from Quare Bungle Rye a popular song from Limerick)

Minstrel Tales The Amedio Fishers

Here is a song/poem. It is translated from the native language of the dwellers of the Amedio Jungle who live along the edge of the Azure Sea. Silvertongue the Bard first sang this at the Low Seas' Tavern in Greyhawk's River Quarter several years ago. Since then it has become popular among sailors from Jeklea Bay to the Solnor Ocean.

The Amedio Fishers

Rise, brothers, rise; the wakening skies pray to the morning light,
The Wind lies asleep in the arms of the dawn like a child that has
cried all night.
Come, let us gather our nets from the shore, and set our long boats
To capture the leaping wealth of the tide, for we are the kings of the

No longer delay, let us hasten away in the track of the seagull's call,
Lydia is our mother, the cloud is our brother, the waves are our
comrades all.
What though we toss at the fall of the sun where the hand of Xerbo
He who holds the storm by the hair, will hide in his breast our lives.

Sweet is the shade of the deklo glade, and the scent of the kara
And sweet are the sands at the full o' the moons with the sound of the
voices we love;
But sweeter, O brothers, the kiss of the spray and the dance of the wild
foam's glee;
Row, brothers, row to the edge of the verge, where the low sky mates
with the Azure sea.

"The Coromandel Fishers" By Sarojini Naidu (with trivial alterations)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Minstrel Tales, Songs & Poems of the Flanaess

In my campaign, Bards, Skalds and Minstrels are fairly widespread across the Flanaess. They are sources for information, but much of what they convey is in the form of stories or song or poetry. I'm no poet, or lyricist so I normally convert Earthly songs and poems for Oerthly use.

A Prayer to Lolth

(The Priestess speaks)

She is Evil and huge and beautiful! She is our mother!

She is lustful and lewd! - Spider Queen; we have none other!

In the day she was hidden from us, but we found her moaning in the

We shudder and give her our will in the darkness; we are afraid.

(The Drow reply)

She sends us pain,
and we bow before her;

She smiled again
and bade us adore her;

She solaced our woe
and soothed our sighing;

And what shall we do
Without her guidence?

(The Priestess speaks)

She is hungry and eats our children; - how shall we feed her?

She takes our young males and our maidens; - ours to obey her!

We are loathed and feared and reviled of all Elvenkind; that is our pride.

She feeds us, protects us, loves us, and kills us; no longer shall we

(The Drow reply)

Death is strong;
But Lolth is stronger.

Time rules long;
But She rules longer.

She solaced our woe
and soothed our sighing;

And what shall we do
Without her guidence?

"On the Death of Smet-Smet, the Hippopotamus Goddess" By Rupert Brooke 1908 (with minor alterations for Greyhawk).

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.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

City of Greyhawk Southgate - Southgate Bridge (South Bridge)

City of Greyhawk Southgate - Southgate Bridge (South Bridge)

NOTE: So far I have not found a reference to the name of the river that flows around the east of the city and connects with the Selintan nor a name for the bridge directly south of Southgate. I have used the information in Gygax's Yggsburgh's campaign as an inspiration and guideline for detailing the bridge and its guards.

Southgate is perhaps the busiest of Greyhawk's many gateways. Some may argue for Rivergate with its constant flow of goods into the city from the docks outside the walls, but the road south of the great city matches each cart, pack and wagonload through the Rivergate and surpasses such numbers with travellers on foot, horse, carriage and fantastic beast.

As the traffic flows into the city so do the coins from the tolls of South Bridge and the gates. While South Bridge is not part of the Southgate complex of walls and towers, as the bridge is nearly 250 feet from the city gate and the tollhouse at the south end of the bridge, the small detachment of guards (1 serjeant and 4 troopers as well as 2 recruits during the daywatch) are part of the gatehouse commander's garrison. The toll collector is a minor functionary of the city bureaucracy.


Southgate Bridge or South Bridge as it is now more commonly called is a massively impressive structure. It was constructed at the same time as the gates and outer double-wall which surrounds modern Greyhawk. Cyclopedian blocks of stone were used to form its supporting pillars, (12 sets which span the swift moving Eastbend River as it curves around the city to merge with the Selintan). The surface of the bridge is formed of 8x8 foot stone slabs which can be replaced if broken or worn, but beneath them is a cradle of wooden timbers and a cunningly interlocked stonework that allows the bridge a great deal of flexibility.

The bridge is 80 feet wide and rises in a shallow arc to a high point at its center. It is nearly 250 feet long. At the south end of the bridge are two short pillars. A thick, iron chain is anchored about 3 feet above the ground to the eastern pillar. A groove is cut into the roadway so that when the chain is slack it fits flush with the road causing only a small bump to passing vehicles. The chain runs across the 80 foot width of the bridge and passes through a hole in the western pillar then runs another 10 feet into the east wall of the tollhouse. Inside there is a drum crank which is used to wind in the chain, taking up the slack so that it will run across the southern end of the bridge at a height of 3 feet. There are 3 wooden supports for the chain, used as the legs of a table for the toll collector during the day, that are used to keep the chain from sagging between the pillars. (The top of the table is a simple rectangle of wood kept in the tollhouse at night).

Along the sides of the bridge 15 foot high poles are set at intervals of 30 feet. At the top are open lanterns containing a round stone enchanted to give off continual light. At night the light from these lanterns illuminates the entire bridge except for a band of darkness about twenty feet wide at the center. The stones are a gift from the clerics of Fharlanghn who help to protect the Southgate entrance to the city.

Beneath the paving stones near the northern edge of the bridge is an enchanted brazier. The commander of the Southgate garrison possesses a torch made from crystal; (it hangs on the wall of his meeting chamber in the round Southgate tower). By touching the crystal torch to any source of fire and speaking a command word, (the name of a fire elemental, Xyphnryx) he summons the 16HD elemental to perform a single task. The creature will appear in the enchanted brazier beneath the bridge and consume the center of the wooden beams supporting the roadway. The elemental can burn through enough of the wooden supports to collapse a 1 foot section of bridge surface every 2 combat rounds. It's geas is for it to burn through the entire 250 foot length of the bridge supports. It will continue to do so unless attacked, then attempt to destroy or force its attacker from the bridge. It will then continue to burn through bridge supports unless halted by the crystal torch being plunged into water and the command word Xyrnhpyx pronounced. At that point the elemental will return to the elemental plane of fire and will not return. The crystal torch and brazier must be re-enchanted and another elemental bound to the summoning brazier. Once fired the wooden beams and stone slabs of the bridge surface will fall into the river. The pillars and stone skeleton of the bridge will be unharmed needing only new beams and stone slabs to be completely repaired.


The tollhouse is situated at the south side of the bridge and set 10 feet west of the west stone pillar. The building is 20 feet wide and runs 30 feet south. The walls are foot-thick stone fitted together with the same craft as the bridge and the walls of the city. At the south edge of the east wall there is a stout oaken doorway that can be barred from the inside (the doorway can withstand 150 HP worth of damage before splintering). Piercing weapons cause no-damage unless magic and then only any magical bonus damage, blunt and slashing weapons cause half damage, but chopping weapons cause full. The door requires no to hit roll but if critical hit charts are used a d20 should be rolled, where a 1 is a normal fumble and a 20 double damage.

The walls are pierced with loopholes at a height of 7 feet above the ground. The ceiling is very high, 12 feet above the floor. There are 4 loopholes in the east wall, 6 on the west, 3 on the south and just 2 on the north (a fireplace is built into the center of the north wall and the loopholes are on either side). There are six wooden chests that are used by the guards to stand on to fire their heavy crossbows through the loopholes. Their vision is limited so to hit rolls are made at -3, but they receive almost complete cover inside the tollhouse and their armor class for return missile fire receives a+10 bonus.

The interior of the tollhouse is lit by two lanterns each with a small continual light stone inside and suspended from the roof by a chain which can be raised and lowered, (another gift from the clerics of Fharlanghn). Near the fireplace is a table and five chairs, and a chest containing foodstuffs; iron rations at the bottom (3 day's worth for 7 men) and whatever fresh food the guards bring along when they begin their duty shift. There is a large water barrel (hidden inside is a large skin-sack of ale) and several cups are on the top lid of the barrel in the north-east corner. Above the fireplace there is an old dented shield and across the mantel is a rusted mace. If the mace is struck against the shield it causes a loud gong to sound on an identical shield kept in the main hall of the circular gate tower. This item is used only in the direst emergencies to signal that city. Each use causes the shield to become more frail and dented and the mace to be eaten more deeply by rust. There is a 30% chance that the next use will destroy both shield and mace, though the gong will still sound within the tower hall. Every use will increase this chance of dissolution by a further 5%.

Along the west wall there is a weapon rack that can hold 6 halberds. There is another rack that can hold 8 heavy crossbows, though no more than 5 are usually found among the guards; (they carry both halberds and crossbows with them from the gatehouse and return with them, while the nightwatch does the same). Beneath the rack for the heavy crossbows is a chest containing 10 cases of 20 crossbow bolts. One of the cases of bolts is dyed red (the others are black). Inside the red case are bolts whose ends are covered in pitch and wrapped with waxed paper to be used as a signal to the gatehouse in an emergency. A second chest contains sharpening stones, weapon oil, rags, bowstrings and small tools that can be used to make adjustments to the crossbow and larger tools that can be used on the ballista on the roof.

At the center of the west wall metal rungs are bolted that lead to a trapdoor in the roof. The trapdoor can be bolted from either side but is normally left open for ease of access, air and light during the day. It is normally shut only when it rains. A rain barrel is set near the ladder and is pushed beneath it to catch leaking water when it does rain.

Near the rain barrel there is a small pile of wood for the fire and a chest filed with coal, (for use with the brazier kept in the roof). A coal scoop and a bucket sit on top of the coal chest.

The roof of the tollhouse has a 4 foot high wall around its edges with merlons set with 3 foot gaps. Archers firing from the roof receive 50% cover providing a bonus of +4 to armor class. At the south edge of the roof there is a ballista mounted on a circular platform. Two levers are set into the platform. One can unlock the platform so it can be spun and the ballista turned to face any direction. The second can be used to raise or lower the platform so that it can fire above the merlons or dropped so that the crew can take cover behind them. When the ballista is raised for firing the crew receives no cover and no armor class bonus. There are two large chests near the ballista. Each contains 10 bolts for the siege engine. A much smaller chest is near the center of the east edge. It contains 20 glass bottles filled with lantern oil. They are capped but beneath the cap a rag has been stuffed into the neck of the bottle. It takes 1 combat round to prepare the oil bottle and light the rag if a flame source is available. A small metal brazier with coal is kept smoldering day and night.

Requires a crew of 2
Maximum range is 320 feet
Targets within 30 feet are at point blank (+2 to hit, Double Damage)
Short Range = 30 to 90 feet
Medium Range = 90 to 180 feet (-1 to hit)
Long Range = 180 to 329 feet (-3 to hit for 1/2 damage)
Damage size S-M = 2d10 Large = 3d10

Oil Flask
Short = 0-10 feet
Medium = 10-20 feet (-2 to hit)
Long = 20-30 feet (-5 to hit)
A shattered flask of oil will form into a 10 foot diameter pool and splash oil in a 10 foot radius. Anyone in the pool of oil will suffer 2d6 damage on the first combat round (save versus breath weapon for half damage) and 1d6 damage on the 2nd round (or half damage rounded down if the initial save was passed). Anyone between 5 and 10 feet of the initial impact will be splashed with burning oil which will burn for 1-3 segments causing 1 hp of damage per segment, (save versus breath weapon for no damage). Any items caught within the pool of fire must save versus normal fire or be destroyed.

NOTE: A thrown flask of oil must go somewhere even if it misses its target.


The small squad of guards at the tollhouse is broken into two duty shifts. A different group is assigned to these shifts every 6 days drawn from the garrison of the gatehouses. This duty is regarded as onerous and tends to make the guards a trifle more surly than their brethren at the gates.

The duties of the daywatch are:
1) Escort the toll collector from Southgate to the bridge.
2) Relieve the nightwatch guards.
3) Place a guard to walk the bridge and make sure the lightstones are not stolen.
4) Guard the toll collector while he performs his duties and more importantly, the money box. A dead toll collector can be replaced, stolen coin cannot.
5) Every 2nd hour escort the toll collector inside the tollhouse where he empties the money from the coinbox into an iron strongbox.
6) Keep order among the line of travellers as they approach the toll collector.
7) Crank the bridge chain into place at dusk and place the wooden supports beneath the links every 20 feet.
8) Send a runner to the fort at midday or at any time something unusual or dangerous occurs.
9) Clean up the tollhouse for the next duty shift.

The daywatch consists of;

1 Serjeant Ftr Lv4 HP24 AC3
Chainmail +1, Helm, Bronze Badge of Fharlaghn ( an enchanted pin in the symbol of Fharlaghn that gives +1 on saving throws and +1 on armor class). He is armed with a longsword +1 to hit. Heavy Crossbow. Dark red tabard with the device of Greyhawk on the front (his bronze pin is on his right shoulder)

4 Guardsmen Ftr Lv1 HP6 AC4
Chainmail, Helm, Copper badge of Fharlaghn +1 bonus to armor class), Halberd or Heavy Crossbow, Longsword. Dark Red Tabard with the device of Greyhawk on the front. Their copper pins are on their left shoulders.

2 Recruits LV0 HP3 AC8
Leather armor, short sword (-4 to hit)

2 of the guardsmen are assigned to stand by the toll collector while the other two man the ballista on the roof. The serjeant acts as their relief so they can take breaks during their duty shift. The 2 recruits patrol the bridge and act as runners to take messages to the gatetower. The recruits also perform all the scut work such as cleaning the tollhouse, emptying the slop bucket. setting the wooden blocks up as the table for the collector, setting them up at dusk under the chain and operating the crank to wind in the chain.

The toll collector is a 2hp AC10 functionary. He has on his person the keys to the iron chest and the coin box, but is not allowed to carry any coins himself (and is searched when he returns to the citadel at dusk.

At dusk a wagon with a serjeant and 4 men-at-arms (FTR LV2 HP12 AC5) Chainmail, Longsword, Light Crossbow, 20 quarrels , comes to collect the coin box and the toll collector and return both to the Citadel. Soon afterwards the squad of nightwatch guards appears.

The nightwatch at the toll house is identical to the daywatch with the following exceptions. There are no recruits and 2 of the guardsmen are either half-elves or dwarves. The 2 possessing infravision are posted to the roof and man the ballista. The other 2 guardsmen guard the chain and keep anyone from crossing the bridge. One of these guardsmen will act as a runner if it is necessary to send a message to the gatetower. If anyone approaches the bridge after dark the guards direct them to the Bastion to the east of the city, or back along the road to one of the several inns or taverns, (the nearest is an inn called 'South-of-the-Bridge' just a half-mile down the road ).

The duties of the nightwatch are:
1) Relieve the daywatch
2) Man the ballista
3) Guard the bridge and make sure no one steals the chain or the lightstones
4) Lower the chain when the daywatch and toll collector arrive in the morning.


The toll for crossing the bridge is:
1cp per traveller of size S-M.
10cp per mount of normal size or large travellers.
50cp per wheel of a wagon or cart with a small to medium load
1sp for large to giant-sized mounts or giant sized creatures or heavily loaded vehicles
Extremely heavy or large creatures or vehicles require the permission of the city oligarchs in order to make use of the bridge.

NOTE: I have used the bridge toll costs from Gygax's Yggsburgh campaign setting as a basis for the South Bridge toll.