Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Brief Excursion into the Zenopus Dungeon

Smelly Jelly, a 6'6" spell-caster with a particularly offensive body odor, and Bilzo Bogins, a burgling Halfling, decide they want to explore the supposed dungeon under the ruined tower of Zenopus on the hill overlooking the west end of Flingport aka Portown. They visit the Green Dragon seeking other interested parties, and they hit it off with a fighting man named Furyos.

Early next morning, the three friends make their way to the ruins and uncover the stairs leading down into the dungeon. Confronted with a choice of corridors, they proceed straight, which Furyos makes sure Smelly and Bilzo understand means they are heading west. Bilzo quickly picks the lock on the door before them, and they mildly search and find nothing in an empty room. Bilzo then quickly picks another door (he is on a  roll!), and Furyos, after some hushed argument, convinces Bilzo to let him open the door cautiously. Peering around the large chamber, he sees nothing at first; but as the three begin to enter, Furyos catches sight of three goblins—who also notice these uninvited guests. The goblins, seeing the plate-armored Furyos, as well as the head of a tall man behind him, flee for the opposite door. Before Furyos can finish thinking, Good riddance, Smelly and Bilzo are chasing after the goblins.

Furyos hurries up to support Smelly and Bilzo and the three attack the retreating goblins. Furyos’s sword whacks the big one good, but not quite enough to drop him. Seeing, then, that there is only one armored combatant, the goblins decide to not run but fight. The first two miss Bilzo and Smelly, but the big one pays back Furyos with a violent thrust between the joints of his plate armor, sending him reeling to the stone floor. Bilzo swipes air with his dagger, but Smelly slices through the medium-sized goblin with his sword. The two remaining goblins miss with their next attacks. Bilzo slams his dagger into the side of the big one, bringing him down. And then Smelly slays the small goblin.

Smelly and Bilzo search the room, finding two sacks filled with 500 silver pieces and a vial labelled GRO. Smelly opens a trapped chest carelessly, but is lucky when the gas dissipates before having any affect on him. Inside the chest are 2000 coppers, which Smelly and Bilzo split.

After discussing the possibilities, Smelly and Bilzo decide to bear Furyos back to town for a proper burial and service. They may sell his gear or use it to entice a new fighter (or two, for Furyos was well equipped) for another excursion into the dungeon.

On their way out, Smelly and Bilzo—the tall man and the Halfling awkwardly trying to get the heavy lifeless fighter out of the dungeon—are spotted by two goblins from the northern corridor. The goblins, though slight, smell blood and charge at the adventurers. As the goblins rush in, Smelly conjures a magic missile in the direction of one, while Bilzo hurls a dagger at the other. And just like that the goblins are dead. Bilzo reclaims his dagger, but finds nothing else of interest on the pair. Then Smelly and Bilzo pick up Furyos and leave the dungeon—to return at a later date.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

SOUND SYSTEM SUNDAY: Deep Purple - Black Night

My first conception of the mythical black knight was not from reading stories of King Arthur (varies, but generally a murderous sort) or Robin Hood (King Richard in disguise), not even from watching Monty Python (relentless!), but from listening to Deep Purple’s “Black Night” and conceiving of it as a Black Knight, particularly in the chorus “Maybe I'll find on the way down the line / That I'm free, free to be me / Black [k]night is a long way from home,” with its combination of hope (the possibility of freedom, as yet unrealized) and forlornness (driven home in the perfectly sung line “Black night is a long way from home” but also born in the tone of the lyrics throughout).

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sound System Sunday: Samhain - Let the Day Begin

From 1986, a song that succinctly, or really not-so-succinctly, captures the feeling of demonic forces unleashing themselves upon the world—especially true for me since I always thought the line “Nomadic waltz into light” was “Demonic waltz into light” (a happy mondegreen). Really, Glenn Danzig is right up there with Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin as one of the top all-time OD&D mood setters. I have a feeling this won’t be the only Samhain song I post, nor the last from their great November-Coming-Fire.

Let the day begin
Let the horror start
Let the fury swell
Let the skies all cry
Let the day begin

Let the fun begin
Let the worlds collide
Let the day begin
Let humanity spin
Let the day begin . . .

Monday, July 20, 2015

Thunderhall Mini

Prior to vacation I wrote up a d6 version of my Thunderhall “rules”—Thunderhall Mini—including random dungeon tables based on some I had downloaded from some corner of the Web some years back. I can’t draw a final conclusion as to the overall success of the rules (I’ll err on the side of assuming they’re less than stellar) because my kids and I never made it past about a dozen or so rolls of the dungeon creation on two separate attempts. We had printed and played Dungeon Robber quite a bit a couple of years ago and I thought this would be similar, but no, rolling to determine the dungeon and then drawing it out did not work well at all. There were just too many distractions and down time for at least one person even though I distributed the tasks of rolling and drawing. We ended up spending most free time on vacation playing the online version of Dungeon Robber. It had been a couple of years, as well, since we played a lot of this, and coming back to it was just as much fun as the first time around.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Magremore, An Abstract Map

To go with yesterday’s notes on Magremore—not really a map, more of a site location chart (done in Excel), with much to still be filled in—an abstract look at the regions of and around Magremore.

Monday, July 13, 2015

So What Is Magremore?

Thunderhall may be in the northern badlands of Magremore, but what the heck is Magremore? Magremore is a campaign setting I started to develop a couple of years ago. I added a lot more detail last year, but have not done much with it since. I’ve not used it any official way in the scattered games I’ve run with my kids. It’s definitely a work in progress that may well change a lot. I hadn’t ever gotten around to reading The Song of Fire and Ice series until earlier this year (and I’ve never seen an episode of the show) and so there are some things (e.g., a King of the North) which I would not likely have typed into the history if I’d read that seemingly ubiquitous storyline first. My eleven pages of notes, including a list of The Magrenian Kings and their accomplishments, or key events associated with them, and a kind of geographical glossary, are now uploaded to Google: Historical and Geographical Notes on Magremore.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sound System Sunday: Fleetwood Mac - The Green Manalishi (with the Two Prong Crown)

In the 80’s I thought this was truly a Judas Priest song. My cassette (for the record we called these things tapes!) of Hell Bent for Leather was recorded from a friend with no mention of the track as a cover, and this was not one of the many Fleetwood Mac songs you would hear on the radio. In retrospect, the green manalishi is clearly a metaphor, arguably with misogynist undertones. But it was fun, in those days before the Web and instant Google satisfaction, to try to imagine just what in the world a green manalishi literally was—the assumption being it had to actually be something, right?!? If I was a more imaginative, or maybe just more active, gamer I would have statted up a Green Manalishi. Oh well. Thinking about this this morning I’m liking it as a possibility for my slightly customized version of the clumsily-named ogre mage first presented in Greyhawk. I like that the name creates greater separation between what are really two separate species (or, at least, subspecies). So the manalishi (maybe there is a purple manalishi as well as a green?) might be distantly related to the ogre, but the difference in abilities, intelligence, geography, etc., is more apparent by its having a different name. Or something.

Anyway, here is my song of the week . . .

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Monster Sheet: The Orc

Here is my Monster Sheet for another of the classic D&D monsters: the hog-headed orc. I think there are really two species here—the orcnea, which is the more full-blown boar-faced variety, and the orc, which is the more advanced of the two, has a much less pronounced snout, and is completely hairless. But I’ve stopped short of making this distinction “official” in the description just yet. My orc collage is based off a sketch by Captain-Jesse, but I replaced the head with a piece of boar-head clip art, and then I plopped that combination over some cool background I downloaded from I don’t know where.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Monster Sheet: The Goblin

Here is a monster sheet for one of the most common D&D foes: the goblin. This is another collage. The sketch of the actual goblin was by someone named DougP. I downloaded it, I think, two or three years ago, but can’t find it online now to link to. I changed the symbol on the shirt and added the background.

Free Art Friday: Léon Lebèque - The Bird in the Cage

Put a little spice in your pious cleric’s life . . .

from One Hundred Merrie And Delightsome Stories . . . (1899)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Credo: The Rules Don’t Really Matter

I’m not endlessly tweaking the OD&D rules because they’re inadequate or there’s something wrong with them. I’m doing it because it’s fun. The rules don’t really matter: there are great games with thieves and without thieves, with clerics and without clerics, with THAC0 or with Target 20 or with complex matrices, as long as you have the right group of people, a good time is likely to be had. The ultimate thing that is the draw to OD&D is the sensibility implied: the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, stick-a-McDonalds-in-the-corner-of-level-six, gonzo refereeing/adventuring.

OK, off to work . . .

Monster Sheet: The Chthonictopod

The second monster sheet I made is for an “original” Lovecraftian/Cthulhu-inspired creation: the chthonictopod. Of course it’s not very original as many others have made monsters based on Cthulhu, and it’s more than just “inspired by,” as my write-up includes text that matches word-for-word Lovecraft’s first description of his deity, including the scaled but rubbery body, the prodigious claws, and the long narrow wings. I give these creatures an 8 HD mean, armor class equal to chain plus shield, and a special attack that I think may be unique in execution if not concept. The art for this one is an original collage that didn’t come out quite is well as I had hoped. I futzed with it a little too much, darkening the head more than I should have and not having saved a draft that I can easily get it back without undoing all of the other touch-up work I did on it. Oh well. It’s for me and the kids anyway, right? Or me.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Monster Sheet: The Troglodite

I’ve been creating what I call Monster Sheets: A page with a single monster description (brief, OD&D style), basic stats (HD, AC, #AT, DAM, and MV), and an illustration (not original because I can’t draw for anything). While the one monster per page format does not lend itself to elegant design, it is functional, allowing for individual creatures to be updated, or new ones inserted, without having to reflow any of the other entries: just print, punch, and place into binder. I’ll be uploading them to Google Docs as individual PDFs. Here is the first one: The Troglodite. Based on the original Lost Caverns of Tsjoconth, they’re getting 3 hit dice (rather than the traditional 2, although this is really the mean since all of my monsters have weaker/stronger versions), but I have them attacking strictly with claws and bites (two attacks, as opposed to the traditional three, again based on the original tournament module).

UPDATE: New version posted with small change to habitat (from “often near wetlands”  to “beneath ruined cities and unpopulated moorlands”).

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

URFAD: The Barbarian

This is the bonus class I would be most likely to introduce into my campaign, because it proceeds from a grounding in its history and geography (though with the exact details still to be worked out). Unfortunately it’s also the most complicated bonus class (the only one extending over a single page) and it still needs work as far as the special weapons/attacks go. A lot of streamlining has taken place—the first version of this from a few years ago relied on introducing mana points, from there the special attacks were relegated by Wisdom + level, then later Constitution + level—and this also has been walked back from being mistaken as a berserker class thanks to wisdom gained from reading a couple of threads over at From that forum, also, I procured the idea of a penalty to reactions. As always, I’m open to suggestions (except, perhaps, as concerns the level titles, I had a lot of fun with those and the only pause I have right now is whether to replace “Hellbreaker” with “Destroyer”).

Barbarian Level Progression

Barbarian in this case refers to any member of the various nomadic clans, remnants of the lost civilization of Barbairos, who share the same mysterious heritage. Outsiders among the kingdoms, the barbarians mostly keep to themselves and their own ancient customs and rites. And though definitely a minority, barbarian clans may be found in any sparsely populated region. Barbarian warriors believe that the power of their gods and the spirit of their ancestors are manifest in their weapons as achieved through ritual incantations and engravings. Each warrior’s “spirit weapon” has a magical property, allowing special attacks.

Barbarians have the level progression, hit dice, and attack bonus of fighters. They may use any weapon without penalty, including slings. Barbarians do not wear armor (at least not unless they find themselves settling down as the head of a castle or stronghold), but they do use shields and helms. Barbarians with 13 Strength and 13 Dexterity can dual wield as per fighters.

The prime requisites for barbarians are Strength and Constitution. A barbarian with a score of 13 or greater in both Strength and Constitution receives a 5% earned experience bonus. Barbarians with a score of 16 or greater in both receive an earned experience bonus of 10%. Barbarians must have a minimum score of 13 in Strength and 9 in Wisdom and Constitution.

Barbarians with Intelligence 9 or higher will be familiar enough with Common to speak it, but only those with Intelligence 13 or higher will read and write it. Barbarians will not rely on hirelings or retainers (unless, again, they have built, or are in the process of building, a castle or stronghold at level 9 or 10), but they have been known to reluctantly accept followers.

Barbarians have a +2 bonus for disease- and poison-based saves. They have a –3 for all reaction rolls with other humans (may be partially offset by high Charisma), but any human who does follow a barbarian need not check loyalty (assuming no blatant maltreatment).

Each barbarian’s spirit weapon has a special attack that may be used once per day per every third level (round up), but no one special attack may be used more than once in a single battle. Barbarians may wield their spirit weapons one-handed or two-handed. Their battle axes and great swords are treated as per the weapons table. Their clubs and hammers deal 1–6 damage (one-handed) or 1–8 damage (two-handed).

Determine starting weapon as follows:

Barrel Hammer
Walloping Club
Thunder Axe
God Sword


2–7 + stun 1 round

1–4 (from fall)  + stun 2 rounds

Level/2 (round up) in 6 chance of cracking open ground—foe must save or fall d6 × 10' into opening; if saves, then 1–4 (from fall) + stun (rounds = to dam)

Mysterious Wallop
2–12 (one-handed) / 3–18 (two-handed)

1–6 (+ str) + stun 1 round (hammer returns)

1–3 damage (from fall) + stun 2 rounds

1–6 + level + stun (rounds equal to the d6 dam roll)

1–6 + thrown d6 × 10' + stun (rounds per tens of feet)