Saturday, August 28, 2010
Goodwife Sera wrung her hands together in the candlelight, her tiny children beside her nervous with glistening cheeks. Across from the bed stood her wrinkled old gran, watching intently as Jiro, the village physician, worked on Sera's broken husband. Sera had warned her husband about buying the ill-tempered Loro: even she knew plow-beasts should be docile and determined. Some warrior would have gotten better served by the thing, and now here her husband was, trampled nearly unto death.
Or unto death.
The physician stood up, put his instruments away, shook his head sadly at Sera, and left the family alone to watch as the unconscious farmer's breaths grew shorter and more ragged, and then stopped altogether. Well, that was that then, thought Sera, by necessity putting her tears aside - her family would need her to be strong now, at least until she found a new man to support them. She reached out to pull the blankets over her dead husband's face, but then jerked her hand back with a stifled scream.
He was burning hot! Within seconds, the famer's body was consumed by heat, dissolving into a hissing steam that quickly dissipated into the humid air of the cottage, leaving behind only sterile bones, and clothes and blankets seemingly unmarred by the heat. Sera and her children gawped.
Gran looked at them, her toothless mouth open in a lop-sided grin. "Ayup," she said with a chuckle, "told ya so!"
Death and Alignment in the world of Omegea
When the vast majority of human Omegeans die, their bodies slowly and normally decay, for they are Unaligned (or "Neutral"), and no supernatural forces hold sway over their bodies or souls. But for those who have committed themselves to the service of Law, or of Chaos (or have been born to one or the other, such as with the races of Aelfar and Trogha), death is not so natural and gentle a process.
The bodies of those sworn to Chaos spontaneously combust, their flesh consumed by heat, fire, smoke, and steam (or some variation thereof), leaving behind only a clean, white skeleton. Strangely, the heat of this consumption never harms anything the body is laying upon or touching.
Conversely, the bodies of those who obey the powers of Law quickly stiffen and petrify, turning into white marble. These marble bodies do not weigh much more than their living selves, for they are somewhat hollow, and can be crushed if one tries hard enough.
The bodiless souls of most, unaligned, folk go to the endless Underworld beneath Omegea. The souls of the servants of Chaos, however, return to the raw essence of the world. Some become spirits of the water or air, others of the fires in the roots of mountains, and some even become mindless parts of the unseen magical energy that twists and winds through all things.
The souls of the servants of Law go to the wide Land of Steel and Crystal, where lies the City of the Gods, where they tend the endless gardens, pleasure domes, palaces, and bureaucratic institutions of the gods (ironically those of both Law and Chaos, it is rumored).
Naturally, those who serve both Law and Chaos have been promised an afterlife of unimaginable Paradise once one side or the other wins the Eternal War. But the majority of souls, those great masses of the Unaligned, haunt the endless corridors and pale gardens of the Underworld, engaging in the search for passed loved ones, crying out to the heavens for succor, holding grand fetes and poetry readings, and other unliving pursuits, as they wait for the End of All Things.
Coming Back from the Dead
Bringing someone back from the dead is a complicated and iffy process. Of course there are infamous spells of "Raising the Dead" and "Resurrection", but all they really do is open a portal to the Underworld (or the Spirit World or the City of the Gods as the case may be). It is up to the mortals wishing to retrieve them to actually go in there and do so - and they'd better have a damned good reason to, or they risk drawing the ire of the gods.
Friday, August 27, 2010
Originally for "The Moon Maid", by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The centaur-like creature (called a "Mantaur" in WotRP) is particularly savage-looking in this painting, which is cool, because they're a bunch a real bastards! Interestingly, this "snapshot" of the mounted maid appears to be on the surface of the moon, whilst most of the book's action takes place deep within the craters you see in the background there.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
"Millenia ago, before the continents of Omegea had travelled across the One Sea to meet again on the other side of the world, the great war between the lords of Chaos and Law began, plunging mankind and its bastard children into a dark age they would never recover from. Taking pity upon them, the Immortal Kn'Deesh travelled to the scattered enclaves of man and instructed them in the construction of many eldritch stone rings. The great menhirs were carved and pulled from the deep places, and Kn'Deesh blessed them so that, if one knew the proper commands and rituals, one could travel from one civilized community to the next, without having to brave the long, Chaos-tainted miles in between, thereby helping to keep the fires of civilization burning.
Even today, my young apprentice, the portals exist, though the stone rings have often weathered beyond the point of all recognition. What's more, they still work! I myself have traveled from the stone ring in the Commons Park beyond the Grey Market of Majinta to the stone ring looking out across the tumbling ice cliffs of the Salindra Fjord. Guard well this scroll, and the arcane rhymes within, for it is the key to traveling the wide lands of Omegea without wasting several lifetimes sitting upon the blister-inducing back of a Loro! Exercise caution, though - the paths between the rings are not always empty!"
Spell Level: 3rd (Magic User)
Duration: 1 round per level
Incanting this spell activates the slumbering magic of a Stone Ring of Kn'Deesh, opening a shimmering black doorway into a winding complex of tunnels, chambers, and doors (some with runes indicating their destination), not unlike the scene one would find in an Escher painting. Exiting through the doors in this demiplane brings one to the middle of another stone ring. Unfriendly creatures sometime haunt these passages, and referees should check for wandering monsters if players linger overlong.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Centuries ago, when the Mindlords of Dyskatyr threatened to overrun the free lands, an order of knights was founded, both to combat the minions of the Mindlords on their own terms, and to protect those psychically-sensitive youths so often targeted for kidnapping and subversion. After decades of conflict, the Mindlords were defeated, and only a few Psychic Knights survived. The fickle populace of the free lands, ever fearful of powers they did not understand, eventually turned on the order, and the knights were driven out of civilized lands, into the steaming Western Wastes or the frost-rimed Mountains of Phoone.
Lately, men have appeared again on the borderlands bearing the Black Starburst sigil of the lost order. Have the knights truly returned? If so, why? Do they seek to redress past wrongs, or have they emerged from their exile to fight some new dark power that threatens civilization?
Psychic Knights are psychically-sensitive men and women who have been trained both as warriors and to harness the prodigious powers of their minds. They often live a wandering life, seldom returning to the secluded enclaves out in the wastes where they were trained, and their motives are often inscrutable. They tend to be suspicious of "normal" people, as the past has taught them some extreme lessons of the difficulties of being "different".
Prime Attribute: Charisma 13+ (5% xp)
Hit Dice: 1d6+1 (max 9d6+9)
Armor/Shield Permitted: Leather, Studded Leather, Chain Mail, no shields.
Weapons Permitted: Any
XP progression chart: as Magic User
Combat chart: As Fighting Man
Psychic Enhancement - the Knight may focus his psychic abilities to affect his attacks, damage, or armor class (only one at a time, stated before initiative). This is a bonus applied to the attack, damage, or armor class of +1, which increases to +2 at 4th level, +3 at 7th level, and +5 at 12th level (Psychic Master). At the referee's discretion, the player may also use this bonus to temporarily affect the Knight's speed, height of jumping, strength rating to bend bars, etc.
Psychic Aura - The Psychic Knight constantly projects an aura of psychic power visible to other psychically-sensitive, sentient beings. The intensity of the aura is often directly proportionate to the level of power of the knight. This aura can conflict unpredictably with magic items, and Psychic Knight will avoid such trinkets (never, ever possessing more than 3, and less is best), usually favoring interesting devices and artifacts of lost technologies.
1st level: Mind Blast - The Psychic Knight can stun one sentient target within 90' - the target must successfully save vs. the attack or fall into a drooling torpor until awakened (as per the sleep spell). The knight can Mind Blast once per day at first level, twice at second, and a maximum of three times per day at third level and above.
2nd level: Detect Psychic Ability - The Knight can detect Psychic ability within 90'. This is most often used to find new recruits.
3rd level: Psychic Soporia - The Knight can Mind Blast a group of weak sentient beings, as per the sleep spell, once per day.
4th level: Clairaudience/Clairvoyance - The Knight can use these abilities (as per the magic user spells) once per day at 4th level, twice a day at 7th, and thrice a day at 10th level.
5th level: Suggestion - as per the magic user spell, once per day at 5th, twice a day at 8th, and thrice a day at 12th.
6th level: Fly - as per the magic user spell. Once a day at 6th, twice at 9th, and thrice at 13th.
7th level: Phantasmal Force - as per the magic user spell, once per day.
8th level: Confusion - as per the magic user spell, once per day.
9th level: Feeblemind - as per the magic user spell, once per day.
12th level: Psychic Master - the Knight may use one of the following once per week: Legend Lore, Project Image, or Teleport.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Looks like Swords & Wizardry is teaming up with Frog God Games (the current incarnation of old-school vets Necromancer Games) to bring classic gaming fans a whole lotta new adventures and other goodies.
"Frog God Games, the successor to Necromancer Games, is pleased to announce that effective immediately, Mythmere Games, headed by award-winning author Matt Finch, will be joining up with the Frog God Publishing team to produce even more of the true old-school gaming resources that Necromancer Games and Frog God Games have always been known for...
Frog God Games will now produce game supplements for both the Swords and Wizardry™ game and for the Pathfinder Game™ (published by Paizo Publishing of Bellevue WA).Swords & Wizardry builds and supports free-form role-playing games.That is to say, games where “light” rules create a framework instead of trying to cover every detail, every rule, and every situation. Over 30 books are currently in production for release in 2010 and 2011."
More at the link.
Update: Looks like charioteer Denis Sustare is on board with this too. Also, an expanded revision of the Swords & Wizardry core rules.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Open Game Table 2 is out, and, like the first volume, is filled with creative gaming goodness from the intarwebs. Includes articles from folks like James Maliszewski, Lorne Marshall, Zachary Houghton, Michael Shorten, and even that ne'er-do-well from Beyond the Black Gate.
The articles cover a satisfyingly wide selection of subjects, from D&D's roots up to the latest edition, and lots of great advice on different campaign designs and character styles, sandbox prep and even sex & D&D (phil would approve). It's kind of like an accidental issue of "Fight On!", but the kind only possible through the hard work of Jonathan Jacobs and the other editors and artists involved in the project.
Get it here on .pdf or here in print.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
4 Items to add a dash of Sci-Fi to your fantasy campaign.
The Bejeweled Shield
Next time your players face off with a hideous abomination like a Black Pudding, or Owl Bear, or somesuch, let them know there is a square, golden, shield-sized panel encrusted with multi-colored, flashing gems of various sizes. The shield does not radiate magic. It slowly stops flashing as the creature it is attached to dies. The players will likely take the item with the intent of exploring its possible uses or selling the gems. The shield's true purpose is to turn a human into an abomination in 1d6 days, and it will lash out at any humans nearby once the transformation is complete before returning to guard whatever location the first abomination was guarding. What lost alien race created the item?
The Raven Lance
This item appears to be a 12' long lance made of some lightweight black metal (a type of aluminum) with a pointed end flanked by two sharp flanges, giving the tip a raven-like appearance. Four thumb-studs are visible next to a rubbery handle-grip further down the shaft. Depressing a button causes a blast of energy to emit from the end of the Lance (Lightning, Cold, Fire, or Radioactivity depending on the button pushed) which causes 6d6 points of damage in a cone up to 120' long and thirty feet wide. Only 3d5 charges remain in the Lance. The Lance was used by a famous, long-dead hero of old to defeat a great demon. The Hero claimed he was given the Lance by an angel that had descended from the heavens in a fiery chariot. The Lance now stands forgotten, along with a suit of normal plate mail, in a dusty corner of the local museum.
The Silver Gauntlet
What at first appears to be an elbow-length, chainmail gauntlet is actually made of some lightweight cloth. The cloth is covered in strange, neat-looking heiroglyphs of unknown origin. It only has three fingers and a thumb, but a human can cram two finger into one space without too much discomfort. The Guantlet is indestructable for all intents and purposes, and can therefore be used to reach into fire, acid, etc without harm. It can also be used to block blows in place of a shield (treat as non-magical shield +1). The Silver Gauntlet is found on an odd looking humanoid, possibly some sort of mutated orc or something...
This appears to be an animated stone statue about 2' tall of a man with a large head and small body (see Moai of Easter Island). It is, in fact, a living, immortal, intelligent, alien being (though silicone-based rather than stone). It's name is "Aahxa", and this is the only word it can speak (and it certainly does love to speak alot "Aahxa, Aahxa, Aahxa!"). Aahxa is typically found locked in a treasure vault or down in a pit trap, hoping someone interesting will come along and rescue him. He will then travel around with his rescuer for a while, causing mischief at times, helping out at others. He is very wise, and very old, though he has difficulty imparting his wisdom ("Aahxa!"). Its possible that at some point a fiery chariot may descend from the sky to take Aahxa back to the stars. He's pretty good at climbing walls, sneaking around, solving complex puzzles and riddles, and is immune to damage from fire, poison, electricity, acid, cold, and slashing or piercing weapons. If harmed, he regenerates at a rate of 1hp per turn. HD4; hp20; AC0; Atk 2 fists; dmg 1d6 each; Save F4.
Monday, August 2, 2010
In 1979, TSR released the Dungeon Master's Guide, a hardcover tome packed with referee info, including a nice selection of magical artifacts. One of these is the infamous "Baba Yaga's Hut".
Obviously, this "artifact" is a bit different than your run-of-the-mill magic sword. What does one do, exactly, with the giant, chicken-legged, mobile hut of a notorious witch? And who is Baba Yaga, anyway?
"In Russian tales, Baba Yaga is portrayed as a hag who flies through the air in a mortar, using the pestle as a rudder and sweeping away the tracks behind her with a broom made out of silver birch. She lives in a log cabin that moves around on a pair of dancing chicken legs. The keyhole to her front door is a mouth filled with sharp teeth; the fence outside is made with human bones with skulls on top — often with one pole lacking its skull, so there is space for the hero's. In another legend, the house does not reveal the door until it is told a magical phrase: Turn your back to the forest, your front to me."
Baba Yaga seems to have not been necessarily good or evil, but rather acted upon her own whims or mysterious motives. This, in my opinion, makes her the perfect sort of NPC to involve in a campaign. Nothing is taken for granted, and any aid given by this entity may perhaps be balanced out by cooking the party thief for a nice luncheon.
Mobile huts, of course, were not unknown to the nomadic folk of the Russian steppes, though they were moved about by more mundane means. But the concept of this powerful, enigmatic force for Chaos is an intriguing one to me, made all the more accessible to just about any campaign setting or world by the fact that the PCs don't necessarily have to stumble upon her - she can come to them!