Wednesday, July 3, 2024

d66 Monsters and Men of BIBLICAL CARCOSA!

Rodney Matthews. Don't know what it's called.

Biblically-accurate blood-soaked sci-fantasy hex-crawl across an Old Testament/Revelation para-apocalyptic fever-dream landscape that can be crossed in six days, or swallow up two million people (plus animals) for forty years.

Bruce Pennington covers (Book of the New Sun, Clark Ashton Smith, Dune); Rodney Matthews; Dark Sun; Kingdom Death; Mork Borg. McKinney's Carcosa, obvs.

System agnostic with the heavy stink of old-fashioned D&D-ish. 

Table not weighted for probability, because it's not really a random encounter table.

Roll d6:

1. Roll d6:

  1. Nephilim: 8’ tall extra-terrestrial cat-folk lion-centaurs; favoured weapons, bow and arrow. Some of them have six legs. Refer to each other with the honorific ‘Coeurl’. Can be paid in salt. 
  2. Lilin (Owl Women) (6-36): bird-featured, taloned hands and feet; otherwise human. Like to perch in trees, watching, with big staring eyes. Capable of dust/mud-caked suspended animation. Variously reviled as thieving monkeys and murderous succubi. Use small/medium flying humanoid stats (but no wings) of any type (including FF Berbalang). 
  3. Ur-Griffin (1): towering, startlingly colourful, wingless griffin; sounds like Godzilla. Doesn’t roll to hit, you roll to save – no real point trying to fight unless you have an army of giants.
  4. Gorgonians: snake-haired Amazons riding iron-scaled, fire- and gas-breathing bulls. Ruled by a medulich-queen. Seek mortal males to produce viable mandusas/maedar (rare, precious; no snakes; stone-to-flesh touch) to propagate their species. Fearsome, honourable, compassionate, inevitably practical.
  5. Land Whales (Behemoths) (1-6): breast-feeding, live-birthing dinosaurs with belly buttons. Dragon Men prize their milk, and to ride one, slung underneath while suckling, is a legendary feat.
  6. Leviathans (1-2): Ichthyosaurs, placoderms, plesiosaurs, zeuglodons – the biggest sea monsters and the longest dead. Vast, filmy and luminous, barely material - unconstrained by seas that no longer exist. You can survive being swallowed, as you are slowly digested over a thousand years.

2. Roll d6:

  1. The Leonine Men: anachronistic leper Knights Templar in local dress: cavalier/paladin abilities and attitudes. Favour huge two-handed swords. Special characters equivalent to Mummies and/or Were-Lions. 
  2. Moon Dogs: unsettling liminal beings, fluid to the mortal eye but more-or-less dog and/or human-like. Can see invisible, detect possession and telepathy. Enemies of disease and mind-control. Do not speak to mortals.
  3. Seraphics (Winged Victories): paramortal androgynes; prototype of Paladin and Vampire. Battlefield scavengers, feeding on spent lives and broken morale. Appear variously glorious, gorgeous or ghastly – the effect is glamour/telepathic feedback camouflage.
  4. Man Scorpions (1-3): morphologically similar to the Nephilim, but scorpions and bigger (range from large, through giant to gargantuan). Can have arms and/or pincers in any configuration. Smaller ones wield pole arms. Remarkably pleasant voices.
  5. Hooved/Horned Lions (1-6):  one or another variety of brightly-coloured, furred and/or feathered aggressive ceratopsian. If you could raise and/or tame one, it’d make an awesome mount.
  6. Cubes: their surface engravings are blueprints for constructing helical orbital tethers/space elevators. Capable of communicating - and presumably compatible – with the ones on the Moon.

3. Roll d6:

  1. The Dreaded Ones (Purples): Flagellants, poisoners, voluptuaries. Affectionately refer to each other as horror and terror. Why not name their great Lankhmar-by-way-of-Erelhei-Cinlu city as Sodom-and-Gomorrah?
  2. Silurians (Valusians): the Serpent People – deeply offended that their blood magic fuel-source is going to out-breed them into extinction. Invented magic, so have a chance to counter yours. 
  3. Diluvials (not these ones)To survive the coming Flood, they need all the resources and all the livestock. Brigands, berserkers, dervishes and pirates; possibly even a/the Barbarian Horde. 
  4. Opinicus (Flying Horses): a bustling crowd of dirty, noisy, ragged pegasi. Disturbingly omnivorous; mostly scavengers. Can be subdued/tamed, using kindness, fresh meat and/or brutality. Congregate in marshes. More like donkeys and jackasses than riding or war horses.
  5. Edenites: the beautiful people, jealously beloved of a/the Creator. Everything they do is automatically Lawful Good. Multi-classed Druid/Paladins. They are both Eloi and Morlock. 
  6. Annakim (Hill Giants) (1-3): not as bloodthirsty, cave-dwelling, dim-witted, gargantuan or lusty as renowned/rumoured. Sensitive, shy, woodland-dwellers, with psionic camouflage but a horrible stench. Can crush your skull with one hand.

4. Roll d6:

  1. Carnotaurus: scaly carnivorous aurochs. If there’s only one, it’s significantly bigger and older than normal; bad-tempered. Cow’s milk is pink and syrupy (with purple froth), salty, and prized by Dragon Men.
  2. Cherubim (1-4): Four-faced guardian obelisks that burst into grinding life as pyramidal killdozers with flame-throwers. “THOU SHALL NOT PASS”. Markers of places without honour, commemorating no highly esteemed deeds etcetera. And/or Eden.
  3. Manna Bees/Beetles: nanite-swarms and drone-units. Convert the aftermath of battles into sweet, flossy, nutritionally-dense material, carried away in great drifts on the wind. As long as the violence continues, none need go hungry.
  4. The Unfinished: misshapen primordial humanoids. Discarded clay, sparkless dust, withered fruit; misery of abandonment turns to envy and hate for the Creator and the Creation. So prototypical they are subject to neither Death nor Time.
  5. Anunnaki: extra-terrestrial Mi-Go as the vulnerable gooey centre of a Xorn/Xaren exo-suit in pseudo-Babylonian/Sumerian-style. Breeding/modding humans to mine elements they are otherwise deathly allergic to. Masquerading as glorious tutelary deities.
  6. Watchers (1-3): gargantuan baobab-cactus Elder Thing/Triffids. Glistening black eye-organ gives them 360 vision, heliographic communication and ability to focus available light as long-range death/heat ray.  You besiege or mine them, rather than fight them. Prefer to stay put, but have been known to uproot and travel (singly or in herds) – slow, inexorable.

5. Roll d6:

  1. Men of Blazing Metal (Shining Ones): silver or gold, respectively roughly equivalent to Elf and Dwarf. Doomed to be out-bred by mundane humanity – silver will not go quietly; gold, neutrally accepting. Junior allies and trading partners of the Anunnaki.
  2. Men of Glowing Metal: bronze or iron; Living Statues as persons/people – they eat the same food, breathe the same air and range across the same moral and cultural continuum as you, but piss fire and shit gold. Cannot hide from infravision.
  3. Men of Shining Blood: Prefer very particular hot, wet environments and don’t stray far without grand designs. Guardians/hoarders/inheritors of Serpent People sorcery. They also invent(ed) fireball. No skin, except when going abroad in disguise. 
  4. Elohim: goat-horned mountain-guerilla/gorilla Clerics; tough, vengeful; armed with staves, knives and slings. They’re more numerous and sophisticated than the received wisdom has it.
  5. Dragon Men: bare- and barrel-chested. Cultivate keloids and cicatrices. Bifurcate tongues (penises, if they have them). Shout loud enough to knock you down/root you to the spot. Venerate, hunt, tame and ride the most draconic wild beasts. 
  6. Sea Monsters: all manner of toothy, tentacles, scaly, slimy things (including flamin’ SQUARKS!). Drag themselves ashore and head inland, looking for somewhere to die and something to kill. Carcasses attract verminous monster pests and smell atrocious.

6. Roll d6:

  1. d666 Locusts: half a HD, otherwise as Cave Cricket/Locust. Odds/evens, Demonic or Devilish for damage resistance/vulnerabilities. If one reaches your brain, has access to your intelligence and abilities. The noise of the swarm is deafening and maddening.
  2. Winged Bulls: exactly that. Wrongly ascribed wisdom and beneficence. Good eating if you survive the hunt. They also breathe fire, but can be broken, clipped, extinguished then yoked as beasts of burden (if you’ve got what it takes). Destined to be bred into the aurochs that will be wiped out in/survive the coming Deluge.
  3. Biblically-Accurate Angels (1-3): wheels, wings, eyes, blazing bright; practically invulnerable, utterly implacable killers robots transmitting “BE NOT AFRAID” like a fucking Dalek on all frequencies as they oversee the Creation. So many damage dice you'd think this was T&T.
  4. Sick Giants: minimum hp, heavy plate armour and shield. Very strong and well-armed (Fire, Frost, Fir-Bolg equivalents). Carry great iron-shod staves to lean and walk on. Constantly complaining, but not automatically hostile. Mercenaries.
  5. Devil Swine: basically RAW.
  6. EYE OF GOD! Azathothian astronomical event. Visible across all space and time. The heavens peel back. All are naked before it. Nothing will ever be the same. Forever and ever. Amen.

Commentary & What Was Left Out.

Initially inspired by a random encounter table on a blog I saw maybe five years ago and recall without specifics. Details sketchy, possibly about East or West of Eden, the Land of Nod (not that blog as far as I can tell), Old Testament as campaign setting. If anyone has any idea, I'd appreciate a link.

I'm not enough of a scholar to include bits of Mormonism and Scientology, but there's probably room for a stripe of each. 

If there is a One-True-God then there are lots of One-True-Gods, hustling for position. I'm pretty sure they eat each other.

Clerics only get basic spell access (1st and 2nd level), otherwise more like 5e Warlocks or Dark Sun Templars. Accessible and vulnerable patrons.

Competing apocalypses. All the imagery.

The pre-humans of Islam (including some unorthodox contemporary 'scientific' takes on the jinn) and Theosophy.

Carcosa-as-Jerusalem or Jerusalem-as-Tanelorn are both valid.

Chorazin, with its Black Pilgrimage and powers of the air.

The sin(s) of Sodom (and presumably Gomorrah): Ezekiel 16:49-50.

Noah as rapacious warlord from some comic I read that I can't remember the name of; Cain was the Conan/Eternal Champion-like hero. 21st Century; possibly French.

Actual Biblical characters and stories optional, including Vampire or Zombie Christ.

Thursday, March 7, 2024

ICE AGE MEGAFAUNA! - Back to Basic

It looks like all (and there weren't so many, really) the prehistoric mammals got wiped off the books along with the Dinosaurs.

Apply one or more of the following tags to the statblock of familiar modern specimens, from aardvark to zebra. 

Cave: +2 HD, all damage dice raised to the next increment

Dire: +2 HD, +2 damage per attack, +2 Morale

Giant: x2 HD, x2 damage, Armour Class as Chain.

Horned*: +2 HD, gives a charge attack, knockdown on a special.

Sabre-toothed*: +2 HD, bite damage raised to 2 dice or next increment if already multiple

Woolly: +2-7 HD (d6+1), +4 damage to main attack, +2 damage to other attacks

* and/or Tusked.

HD increases stack. Dice increments stack. Plusses to damage, take the highest. 

Damage multiplier applies to dice only, not adds.

Apply HD multiplier to the base statblock or after applying any other tags, or wherever it falls in your animal's descriptive title. 

If HD rise to 8 or above, you can instead handle the prehistoric mammal as if it was an 8 HD dinosaur with 3d6 attacks. Such animals are between the size of a modern rhino and an elephant, and save at +4 vs. spells that don't inflict damage and vs. poison/venom.

If HD is approaching, reaches or exceeds 16, then you could treat the mammal as a 16 HD dinosaur with 6d6 attacks. They're as big as Dinosaurs (of course), and immune to spells that don't cause points of damage and poison/venom.

Armour Class as the original, or equal to Unarmoured or Leather. Mega-armadillos and mega-porcupines etc can have Scale to Plate protection.

Prehistoric mammals live in arctic and subarctic conditions, are immune to normal cold, and save at +1 and take -1 damage per die vs. magical cold. Because it's the Ice Age. Always. Unless it's a steamy jungle-type Lost World Beyond the Ice.

They must make a Morale Check if you use fire or firearms against them. 

Specials (19-20 vs. human sized etc) will be bear hugs, tramples or rending/auto-bite. Swallowing you whole can be a possibility, but doesn't seem as thematically strong for mammals as it does for dinos.

Walruses, weird whales, ice-breaking horned manatees and long-necked seals can sink boats and/or snatch folk from the deck. Porcupines can fling a volley of spikes like a Manticore. Spiked and clubbed tails are in the mix.

The idea of Horned Sabre-toothed Giant Woolly Vampire Cave Bats is of course ridiculous.

All herbivores are delicious and nutritious and go a long way.

Carnivores have at least one organ of such concentrated nutrition that it will kill a modern human(oid), but is a delicacy to Cave Men.

Cave Men are equal to Bugbears, and have at least 16 Strength, immunity to normal cold and bonus/resistance as other prehistoric mammals. 

The language barrier between them and modern humans cannot be overcome by either comprehend languages or speak with animals

If they don't think you're gods, they might think you're food, and they possess a plentiful resource unrecognised by them as useful or valuable to modern people.

Flavour according to your setting and the last thing you read/saw about prehistoric human society.

Since 2003, you're allowed to include Cave Hobbits. Either 1+1 HD and Basic Halfling abilities or use Athasian Halflings.

Neanderthals are Neanderthals, RAW or seasoned as you like.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

JUDGE DEATH (2000AD) for Old School Fantasy and Horror

Psionic humanoid undead immortal outsider.
(Art: Brian Bolland)

Inter-dimensional alien super-fiend. 

Declared life to be illegal (as it is the living who exclusively commit crime). Carried out summary execution of his entire home world - billions of lives. This was centuries before he started dimension hopping. 

Doesn't care whether yours is a fantasy, historical or sci-fi setting - you're all lawbreakers (especially the elves).

Looks like a zombie or mummy dressed in a mockery of a Mega City Judge uniform. He doesn't need to wear anything, he chooses to - his office has standards to uphold.

An immortal spirit, Judge Death can partially or totally possess a living being, or reanimate a handy corpse, but only a vessel properly treated with the Dead Fluids allows him to bring his full abilities to bear.

All details preceded by an asterisk (*) are even more optional than the rest.

Hit Dice: as an undead type that you think best represents the temporary host body and/or the power and threat of Death in relation to your setting, system and table (I'm imagining Judge Dredd and Judge Anderson as min. 4th level characters).

As a zombie-type, Juju (3+12) or Lord (6) works; Lich (11) or Mummy (5+1) fit his appearance in the comics.

As a villain, he's at least Vampire/Mind Flayer tier (8+4).

*He can use d12 for hp instead of a d6/d8.

Treat an improvised/untreated corpse host as a Zombie (2 HD).

Armour Class: Unarmoured as Plate (his uniform is equal to Leather, but does not stack).

*Or as undead type for Hit Dice.

Invulnerable Monster: immune to normal weapons, bullets, crits, impales, massive damage effects.

Undead, clearly. *Immune as undead type for HD.

*Immune to charm, sleep, feeblemind, polymorph, cold, lightning, death spells (including reversed healing).

*+2 or better weapon to bypass Invulnerability, and these sever limbs on a crit/nat 20.

Half damage from all attacks.

Attacks with Filthy Claws for d4 hp each vs. metal armour (including the thick animal/monster hide equivalents of Chain and Plate); d6 otherwise.

*Save vs. disease if you've been wounded to see if you contracted Mummy's rotting disease (your preferred iteration).

He can wield weapons, use devices, grapple, throw objects etc. *and Cleaves like a Fighter of equal level vs. low-level opponents.

Grasp Heart: his signature move - phasing his hand into your chest and squeezing. 

Automatic vs. helpless victims or if he rolls 4 more than the number needed to hit (*or three consecutive hits, or a crit) - auto-kill on Death's next action if he wants to (and he really wants to).

*Save each round he holds your heart or take d4 non-lethal hp and 1 Strength damage. He knows if you're lying to him, and can read your surface thoughts if you're below 4th level.

If Death suffers damage in the interim or he chooses to, you are released.

Stench of Death: as a Troglodyte, and if you crit fail, you're sick as if poisoned by a Giant Centipede.

*Make three saves in a row or roll a crit, and you're immune to the effect for the rest of the encounter.

Mournful Charm: as a Vampire, one target per round, by gaze, gesture or communication.

*50% per appropriate time period he cannot resist the urge to pass sentence of death on a helpless target.

*Superhuman Strength: equivalent to an AD&D Vampire (18/76 Exceptional Strength), or your setting/system maximum for humans, or the bonus increment above this.

Making him fully and messily capable of grasping your heart without using his special ability.

You Cannot Kill What Does Not Live: as long as his host body has hit points remaining, it regenerates 1 hp per ten-minute turn.

*Severed extremities do not regrow but can be reattached or replaced, Frankenstein-style.

At 0 hp (or at will), taking a full round, Death abandons the host in gaseous form (as a Vampire). 

One of his catchphrases.
Art: Frazer Irving

Effectively indestructible, this form can use Stench of Death as a touch attack, exercise Mournful Charm, or attempt to possess a new host (automatic vs. helpless target; otherwise use your preferred possession sub-system).

Clerical Turning works like a Holy Symbol vs. Vampires against his gaseous form only.

A dissolve result vs. undead type by HD will drive Death from a host not yet treated with the Dead Fluids, and is no more effective than a Holy Symbol vs. Vampires against his gaseous form.

Vulnerabilities: Takes full normal damage from fire.

As an Invulnerable Monster, he's immune to normal damage, but not non-lethal/secondary effects, so can be pushed, pulled, grappled, entangled, tripped, thrown, disarmed, knocked back, knocked down, skewered and pinned to objects, dismembered, buried in cement, locked in a lead box and dropped into the Marianas Trench etc. 

Effectively helpless for 1 round when changing to gaseous form - this is your best opportunity to stop him getting away and taking a new host.

An interpretation of the comics would suggest trapping him in a Gelatinous Cube is an option.

I don’t know enough about D&D-adjacent psionics to comment specifically, but Judge Death appears to be (normally) vulnerable to psionics (for an entity of his status) - including telepathy, as a sapient being. 

Can be fooled (at least once) by feign death or similar.

Living Hosts are fragile and will deteriorate - mentally, physically and spiritually - the longer Death maintains a hold on them. They share none of Death's immunities/resistances or special abilities, unless/until treated with the Dead Fluids.


More classic catchphrases.
Art: Alex Ronald; Colours: Gary Caldwell.

It's been established that he was once Sidney D'Eath, son of a serial-killing dentist, whose wholesale genocidal tendencies showed long before he turned undead, but there are various other iterations.

In the primary 2000AD timeline, Death is both an apocalyptic supernatural threat and not entirely to be taken seriously. Sometimes works for me - this juxtaposition is a common tonal feature of the Judge Dredd setting. Dead Fluids flow frequently.

Judge Dredd: Lawman of the Future (1995 movie tie-in comic): Death is the undead alternative-universe Judge Dredd (apparently the original idea for the 2000AD archetype). Has a soulgem that powers his suite of special abilities. No Dead Fluids.

Judge Dredd: Final Judgement (2012 movie tie-in comic): He appears to be Sidney D'Eath from the primary (movie) universe, while also being an entity from a parallel universe of perfect entropy. No Dead Fluids, but plenty of stuff I liked.

Batman/Judge Dredd: Judgment on Gotham and Die Laughing: I have finite tolerance for the zany comedy antics of Judge Death in the mainstream 2000AD strip, so these two crossovers are a low point from my perspective. Visually interesting, though. Can't remember if any Dead Fluids.

Fall of Deadworld: Kek-W and Dave Kendall's non-stop parade of death metal album covers, telling the tale of how Death's homeworld was turned into Deadworld - and what the Dark Judges were doing before they turned their attention to the primary 2000AD universe. Absolutely saturated with Dead Fluids.

For Brits of a certain era, compare with Joey Boswell (Peter Howitt, not Graham Bickley) - another black leather-clad sex-symbol who announced himself with 'Greetings'.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Lone Wolf (Kai Lord) for Basic Games


Joe Dever and Gary Chalk did this; Gary Chalk also did the illustrations/covers (initially).

Charisma 13, Constitution 14, Dexterity 16, Intelligence 13, Strength 16, Wisdom 16 

Ranger 4/ Monk 4 (5d8)

Last of the Kai Lords on a mission of vengeance against the Darklords of Helgedad.

He looks, sounds and acts a bit like YOU, now that I think about it (pronouns as appropriate, then).

This treatment is an approximation of the starter character for the first five books (the Kai Series).

Armour: Lone Wolf's monastic training gives a +3 AC bonus in lieu of Dexterity when Unarmoured.

Otherwise, Lone Wolf generally uses Low Armour Settings.

Weapons: Favours the hand axe and the sword, but proficient in all the usual martial tools.

Lone Wolf dual-wields without penalty, as per your system.

Monastic training gives Lone Wolf a +2 damage bonus with all weapons if this is better than the bonus for Strength.

Bows don't become a feature until Book 6, but that doesn't mean Lone Wolf can't use one.

Extra Attacks: as well as dual-wielding, Lone Wolf gets an additional (single) attack at the end of every fourth combat round. 

This is resolved after all other business.

Favoured Enemy: +4 attack bonus and -4 reaction penalty when faced with the forces of the Darklords.

Surprise: Lone Wolf surprises opponents 50% of the time (1-3 on d6) and is only surprised on a 1 on d6.

Thief Skills: standard probabilities and backstab adjustments for a 4th level character with the given ability scores (your edition may vary). 

Hide in Shadows and Move Silently are effective in dungeon, rural and urban environments. 

Does not normally carry tools for Open Locks and Remove Traps.

Alignment: Like a Paladin, if they were chosen rather than made, Lone Wolf is likely Lawful Good in the nine-alignments system; Lawful in the three-way. 

Or Neutral.

Kai Disciplines.

As an Initiate, Lone Wolf has learned five Kai Disciplines.

All these abilities use the local version of psionics/ki to complement mundane knowledge and experience.

Animal Kinship: This skill enables a Kai Lord to communicate with some animals and to be able to guess the intentions of others.

Use speak with animals and 2e AD&D Ranger animal empathy ability as a guideline.

Healing: This Discipline can be used to restore ENDURANCE points lost in combat.

A pool of 8 hp (per day) that can be used to heal self or others.

Lone Wolf can administer to others during combat but not to self.

Mindshield: The Darklords and many of the evil creatures in their command have the ability to attack you using their Mindforce. The Kai Discipline of Mindshield prevents you from losing any ENDURANCE points when subjected to this form of attack.

Either play this straight as the Monk's ability (ESP is only 30% effective), or have Lone Wolf be immune to psionics of 4th level/HD or less.

Or break out a psionics system.

Sixth Sense: This skill may warn a Kai Lord of imminent danger. It may also reveal the true purpose of a stranger or strange object encountered in your adventure.

This is why Lone Wolf is only surprised on a 1 on d6. Could also be used as a 1 on d6 chance of reveal(ing) the true purpose.

Tracking: This skill enables a Kai Lord to make the correct choice of a path in the wild, to discover the location of a person or object in a town or city and to read the secrets of footprints or tracks.

Use Bushcraft/Tracking mechanic/subsystem. Works in dungeons, but not as well - you might be able to retrace your steps in a maze (and realise the walls have been shifting when your back was turned), but it wouldn't automatically help you find your way out.

The Sommerswerd.

Lone Wolf's signature weapon. It can only be wielded by a Kai and Lone Wolf is the only one left.

Like a Paladin, it's not subtle in its righteousness.

Has the powers of both a sun blade and a sword +5, holy avenger (treat Lone Wolf as a Paladin of the same level).

Sometimes, for climactic purposes, it can launch a lightning bolt that explodes as fireball that dispels evil.

It definitely has some of these effects during dramatic battle-scenes.

The +10 dmg vs. chaotic evil applies to the Darklords and their servants in particular, and is inflicted by mere touch. You decide whether this stacks with double-damage vs. undead.

It's hard to pretend that you're not a champion of Good/Light, if not The Actual Lone Wolf, when you're carrying the Sommerswerd, and some beings will be alerted by its very presence, even if concealed. 

The Other Kai Disciplines.

Lone Wolf gets a new Discipline each time you complete a book in the series, so individual Lone Wolfs (Wolves?) could have different ones to those given above. My choices were suggested by the existing features of the source classes.

Also a starting point for running your own Kai characters.

Camouflage: This Discipline enables a Kai Lord to blend in with his surroundings. In the countryside, he can hide undetected among trees and rocks and pass close to an enemy without being seen. In a town or city, it enables him to look and sound like a native of that area, and can help him to find shelter or a safe hiding place.

+ 10% to Hide in Shadows and Move Silently; effective in dungeon, rural and urban environment. Porous border with performance and survival skills.

Hunting: This skill ensures that a Kai Lord will never starve in the wild. He will always be able to hunt for food for himself except in areas of wasteland and desert. The skill also enables a Kai Lord to be able to move stealthily when stalking his prey.

Covers the surprise bonus. Self-sufficiency in the wilderness; debatable whether it could help support others.

Mind Over Matter: Mastery of this Discipline enables a Kai Lord to move small objects with his powers of concentration.

Approximately mage hand, and can substitute for tools to Open Locks and Find/Remove Traps. 

A limit on uses per day seems fair (suggest as low as 1, soft cap 3, hard cap 4), as Lone Wolf rarely seems to use it more than once or twice an adventure (in my experience - and I stopped at book 12).

Or break out a psionics system.

Mindblast: This enables a Kai Lord to attack an enemy using the force of his mind. It can be used at the same time as normal combat weapons and adds two extra points to your COMBAT SKILL.

If the target is not immune (Mindshield), they attack at -2. Or this could be represented by the +2 dmg bonus with all weapons. 

Or break out a psionics system.

Undead are not universally immune to Mindblast, though this would seem logical.

Weaponskill: Upon entering the Kai Monastery, each initiate is taught to master one type of weapon. 

If taken at the start, it's with the Axe or Quarterstaff (50/50); taken later on, it'll be with the Sword.

Treat as weapon specialisation (+1 to hit, +2 dmg).


Sprang almost fully formed from this comment by Kelvin Green on a previous post.

Serendipity. Lone Wolf looks like a Ranger. The Kai are (Warrior) Monks. If you combine the abilities of the 1e/2e Ranger and the 1e Monk, you end up with something not very far off the Lone Wolf starter character from the first five books (the Kai Series). 

Ability scores follow the minimum requirements (boosted to XP bonus values) for the AD&D Monk and Ranger.

Some Monk abilities were dropped, but could be reintroduced once Lone Wolf becomes a Magnakai.

There is no Ba5ec Lone Wolf: it wasn't as neat as the older edition Ranger/Monk.

Lone Wolf feels more fragile than other fictional heroes, because you're in control of their fate, rather than the author - hence sticking with the 1e Ranger d8 HD, rather than boosting it to 5e's d10. This should be more than counterbalanced by the Sommerswerd and the panoply of abilities.

(There is a d20 and a 5e Kai Lord class out there if you want to compare and contrast, and I think the Kai Lord would work really well for Epic 6)

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Non-Plussed - d36 Magical Weapon Properties

Hand Weapons of Mass Destruction/ Victor Naumenko

Most suitable, I think, for the lower level/magic end of the game scale, or for when you don't expect to go beyond a few sessions.

Some things aren't going to work the same (or possibly at all) due to the niceties of various similar systems. Eg. even across AD&D, Chainmail OD&D and LotFP a 4th level Fighter is different.

System agnostic but reeks of D&D.

I've generally got swords in mind here, but why not axes, spear, hammers and bows, too?

1. Roll d6:

  1. Won't break through normal use. Creative misuse, specialised technique or a feat of great strength to destroy. Still needs sharpening.
  2. A blade that won't bend or blunt. You can shave with it, hack apart doors and vines, run through countless armoured foes, and you'll also have to institute damage & degradation subsystems for other weapons, or it's not really worth a damn. Can still be broken.
  3. Invulnerable Monsters are vulnerable to it. But this pre-supposes a setting where immunity to normal weapons is much more special than in vanilla fantasy, or maybe a monster whose Invulnerability is a function of its great size.
  4. Raise your Strength to the next adjustment/bonus tier (eg. penalty to no penalty, no penalty to bonus etc) while wielding the weapon. Maximum benefit is superhuman/one tier above human maximum.
  5. Raise your Dexterity to the next adjustment/bonus tier (eg. penalty to no penalty, no penalty to bonus etc) while wielding the weapon. Maximum benefit is superhuman/one tier above human maximum.
  6. When you wield the weapon, you go berserk until there are no suitable enemies in range to engage (as 1e AD&D Cavalier?). At which point you immediately take any negative effects. Use variations of 3e+ Barbarian Rage, DW Blood Rage, or any other suitable berserking mechanics.
2. Roll d6:
  1. Ignore non-magical protective value of leather armour.
  2. Ignore non-magical protective value of metal and leather armour.
  3. Ignore protective value of all armour.
  4. A shield or helmet will only protect against the weapon by being Splintered.
  5. When wielding the weapon you roll to hit as a higher level Fighter (suggest 4th or 8th).
  6. When wielding the weapon you Cleave as a higher level Fighter (suggest 4th or 8th).
* Unarmoured monsters' high protective value are only bypassed if the weapon is specifically enchanted to harm them, whether randomly or as plot device.

3. Roll d6:
  1. Boost the Morale and Loyalty of your allies when wielding the weapon in their presence. 
  2. Reduce the Morale and Loyalty of your enemies when wielding the weapon in their presence.
  3. A successful hit forces a Morale Check on the victim.
  4. A successful kill forces enemies nearby to check Morale.
  5. Enemies nearby must take Morale Checks when you draw (to attack) or brandish/flourish (foregoing your attack that round) the weapon.
  6. Anyone fighting you makes all rolls with disadvantage/penalty.
* I suggest HD/level limits for who or what is affected; further suggest 1-3 levels, but HD limit might vary to exclude/include various beasts of war (mainly normal fantasy-setting animals).
* Effects could be specific to a particular type associated with the weapon/wielder.

4. Roll d6:
  1. All hits cause min. average damage per die.
  2. All hits cause max. damage per die.
  3. All hits are crits/double damage. You cannot use this weapon to inflict non-lethal/subdual damage. 'Double crits' are spectacular killing blows, enough so that they will shock onlookers - even the weapon's wielder.
  4. Any mortal wound is incurable except by extraordinary means. Successful death saves/recovery rolls only means you linger for another day/week, remaining at 0 hp/casualty state. Might feel like cold, might feel like poison; might be accompanied by creeping shadows drawing ever closer, or a little white bird refusing to look you in the eye.
  5. Any crit also inflicts a cumulative level of fatigue. This is now the most rested/restored the victim can be unless treated with extraordinary means. Some more powerful opponents get a save and will be alerted to the risk.
  6. Any crit immediately reduces enemy to 0 hp/casualty state, regardless of their current hp. Some more powerful opponents get a save and will be alerted to the risk.

5. Roll d6:
  1. Weapons wielded against yours much save vs. normal or crushing blow (1e/2e AD&D DMGs) each round or break. If you already have weapon breakage rules in place, this weapon is more likely to do it. Not necessarily resistant to breakage itself.
  2. As above, but also affects armour and shields. 
  3. The weapon vibrates/hums/screams/chimes/bursts into ethereal flames/twists in your hand when enemies (or treasure or secret doors) are within range. This is sometimes helpful.
  4. A dazzling (blinding?) flash when drawn in dungeon darkness, gloomy wilderness or the fog of war. As well as illumination and dazzling, this could also extend the range of Morale/Loyalty effects.
  5. The weapon is always at hand when needed. This is more subtle (and also maybe more unnerving) than it just teleporting to your hand. You can still be disarmed and have to pick it up. It can be taken from you and held hostage
  6. As long as it's within range, the weapon comes when called (command word, concentration, whistling etc). It travels at least as fast as a thrown missile. You could conceivably fumble the catch, but have it jump into your hand on the next round.
6. Roll d6:
  1. Make your attack/combat rolls with advantage. Negated vs. an equally or more powerful magic weapon.
  2. Your opponent makes their defence/combat rolls at disadvantage. Negated vs. an equally or more powerful magic weapon.
  3. When using the weapon against a more powerful (higher HD/level) opponent, you attack and defend at their ability, rather than your own. 
  4. The Fighter is the traditional enemy of the Magic-User (and the Evil High Priest) and this weapon is the exemplar. You make all your saves vs. their magic with advantage/bonus - on a critical success, you are immune to their spells for the rest of this encounter. You must be holding the weapon.
  5. When using the weapon against a more powerful (higher HD/level) opponent, they attack and defend at your ability, rather than their own.
  6. Every hit connects, regardless of target's armour, agility, damage resistance etc. Roll to hit, but only for crits and fumbles. Crits as normal, but a fail takes you straight to 0 hp/ Casualty state as the weapon turns against you. If you survive, you can never wield it again. You can make max. 1 attack per round with this weapon, but can dual-wield if appropriate.

Further Thoughts.

Multiple properties for individual weapons. Of course. Why not? You can see that some abilities above are geared towards the mass combat and even social/downtime portions of the game, and don't have much application in dungeon-bashing.

Magical weapons are intelligent and controlling. No independent personality or speech (unless they're a spirit or demon bound to the object) - they're just addictive objects that get you into all sorts of scrapes.

And you can also use their stats to decide which magic weapon is strongest when their effects clash with/contradict each other.

Magical weapons are unique. I think I might have said this somewhere before, but each magic weapon is the only one of its kind - if you find a +1 shortsword, then that's the only one that exists in the game. 

This is not entirely compatible with the d66 presented above, but I'm calling them alternatives and options, not another canon.

Except when they're not. The shared characteristics of (say) Dark Elf knives and Wood Elf bows is down to the materials and traditional skills of the users. But you can't just pick them up and expect the same bonuses.

You can/can't craft your own. Following on from the third point above, you can't make a second +1 shortsword if one already exists in the game - you certainly can't churn them out in your downtime. You could make a shortsword of venom instead, or a frost brand, and so on. 

Magic arrows (and other ammunition) are something of an exception, but - unless it's just a single special arrow of slaying - any set of arrows will include a cursed one that you won't know about until you nock it. As is tradition.

The scarcity of magic weapons and the desire/need for them in the fiction means that making them should be part of the adventure anyway; every weapon is, at some stage, Sacnoth.

That weapon? It's not yours to keep. You need to be a particular type of epic hero to get a magic weapon for keeps. Even then, it will inevitably betray you and lie in your tomb for countless centuries until a new epic hero stumbles upon it, to continue the cycle and keep everyone's fate suitably tragic.

Magic weapons have an unfortunate tendency to switch owners when a more suitable (or less wilful) one happens along, as well as being objects of desire.

More powerful entities than you will take custody of weapons so that you don't try and raise yourself into the place of the Dark Lord you just vanquished.

Plus, sometimes you just want to put the weapon down so the killing will stop.

Monday, December 4, 2023

Slaine and Ukko for Basic games.

Massimo Bellardinelli

Stats for the duo up to about Dragonheist (before the time-travel and mysticism kicks in). The system is approximately BX/OSE.

Slaine Mac Roth.

Black-haired warped warrior, exile, adventurer, time-traveller, hero, thief, king; analogue of Conan, Cu Cuhlainn, and the Eternal Champion. Celtic barbarian in the time before the Deluge.

Charisma 15, Constitution 18, Dexterity 18, Intelligence 9, Wisdom 11, Strength 18

Fighter 4/ Thief 4 (4d12)

Brainbiter: a stone- or metal-bladed battle- or great-axe. It is Slaine's favoured/ signature/ specialist weapon. It is not a specific axe, except that it's the one he's using.

Wielded one- or two-handed, or thrown - all without penalty. Damage die can be d8, d10 or d12.

Other Weapons: sword, spear, gae bolga, bow and arrow, tathlum. Anything he likes, really - he's strong, skilled and adaptable.

He can dual-wield without penalty. He can also use the Fighter options in the BECMI Companion set, if you like.

He wears a sword in his early career, but always prefers Brainbiter. 

Unarmoured Fighter: does not wear armour or carry a shield; sometimes fights naked. 

Slaine gets +8 AC bonus for his Dexterity. He can still benefit from a shield and/or cover.

At this stage of his life, he will punch you if you even suggest he wears a helmet.

Salmon Leap: Slaine can do a standing jump as high as his own forehead.

Whether he uses it to strike over an opponent's shield (+2 attack bonus), or to dodge an attack (+2 AC/relevant save), he needs to make a successful Dexterity check. 

Usable once per encounter.

Spear Catch: Slaine can pluck a spear from the air and throw it back at his attacker if he has not already made an attack that round. Needs a successful Dexterity check.

Usable once per encounter.

Thief Skills: rarely uses them, except for climbing. 

Slaine probably has no Open Locks or Find/Remove Traps ability, these mechanisms not being part of his cultural background.

His code of honour does not stop him using Backstab/Sneak Attack, Move Silently or Hide in Shadows, but his warrior outlook means he rarely does.

He is illiterate and cannot Read Languages.

Warp Spasm: once per day, at will, for 8 rounds; +4d12 temporary hit points and double-damage.

Treat as ogre-sized.

If 3 HD/3rd level or less, make a Morale Check when being attacked by Slaine during a warp-spasm. 

Bellardinelli again. The first warp-spasm I was to see.

Saving Throws: Slaine saves as a 4th level Fighter normally and as an 8th level Fighter during a warp-spasm.

As a brutal and unimaginative barbarian, he receives a bonus of +4 to saves vs. illusion, fear, madness etc.


Dermot Power.

Slaine's larcenous sidekick, future royal parasite and immortal, companion in adventure and adversity.

His astute mind and artistic talent are keenly focussed on lechery and greed.

Surprisingly courageous for a coward.

Charisma 8 (16), Constitution 13, Dexterity 18, Intelligence 13, Wisdom 8, Strength 8

Dwarf/Thief 5 (5d8)

Non-combatant: except for the odd Backstab/Sneak Attack, Ukko will not engage with enemies and will retreat to a safe distance or cower behind Slaine.

Unarmoured: he gets a +4 AC bonus for his Dexterity.

He also gets a +2 AC bonus vs. adult human-sized (or larger) opponents, as long as he does not make an attack in the same round.

Can still benefit from a shield and/or cover; frequently does.

Thief Skills: Ukko is an especially accomplished Thief, and has higher skill % because of this.

  • Climb Walls 91%
  • Find/Remove Treasure Traps 50%
  • Hear Noise 1-3 on d6
  • Hide in Shadows 45%
  • Move Silently 60%
  • Open Locks 60%
  • Pick Pockets 60%

Dwarf Abilities: Ukko has the Basic Dwarf abilities of detecting construction tricks, detecting room traps, and listening at doors (1-2 on d6).

Dwarves in Slaine's world don't have infravision.

Ukko after using his Charisma/ Mike McMahon.

Charisma: as a Dwarf, Thief, sidekick and known con-artist, Ukko is viewed with contempt and suspicion wherever he goes.

He uses the higher Charisma value when dealing with Dwarves, Thieves, drunkards and rubes.

Saving Throws: Ukko always use the most advantageous saving throws of Dwarf or Thief.

He gets a +2 save vs. curses, taunts and humiliation.

Further Complexity.

Ba5ec Slaine: You will need to look up some 5e D&D, where you start out as heroes not zeroes.

Give Slaine the following Fighter abilities: Great Weapon Fighting, Second Wind, Action Surge (which he can use to have a warp-spasm), Martial Archetype - Champion with Improved Critical and Remarkable Athlete.

He also gets the following Barbarian abilities: Unarmoured Defence (CON bonus added to AC), Danger Sense, Reckless Attack, Path of the Berserker (bonus attack when warp-spasming).

Only comparable heroic characters get these extras - everyone else has to stick to the rules. Ignore anything that's incompatible with the target system.

(Slaine already has some benefits of the 1e AD&D Barbarian)

Slaine the King: He's now a 9th level Fighter and he can use his warp-spasm twice a day, for a total of 18 rounds.

If he's also Ba5ec Slaine, he gets additional abilities as a 9th level Fighter and Barbarian in 5e.

I toyed with modelling him after a 1e AD&D Bard - he becomes more mystical in his kingship and beyond. Also not a terrible plan for Gandalf.

Ba5ec Ukko: he can have the non-fighting abilities of a 5e Rogue of the same level.


Older edition D&D is surprisingly resistant to producing the heroic characters it is claimed to be based on, and has to break its own rules for most iterations.*

Obviously, I'm exhibiting my own bias and interpretation here:

Gray Mouser and Cugel have to be 10th level Thieves so that they can use magic. While this might work for Cugel, Gray Mouser's spell-casting comes much earlier in his career - he starts out as a wizard's apprentice.

Conan and Fafhrd both have to have Thief and/or Ranger levels because the Barbarian class doesn't yet exist, and still won't be a great fit when it does.

Is Elric that accomplished a swordsman or sorcerer without his ring and sword and ancestral demonic pacts? He is a pawn in a cosmic game (also, to a lesser degree, the Mouser and Fafhrd), not master of his own fate - he doesn't need hit points if the higher powers don't want him to die until they see fit.

* And later edition D&D feel/look like they tried to address this - it's a criticism of 5e vs. OS, for instance. It's legitimate to draw on those later editions, particularly as they're broadly mechanically compatible and mostly freely available, and I treat The Game like Lego plus off-brand compatible blocks, rather than a 3D printer.

As well as spotlighting 5e as a source, there's also:

  • 1e and 2e AD&D to boost Ukko's Thief skills (racial and high Dexterity bonuses).
  • AD&D for Ukko's Dexterity bonus to AC.
  • 1e AD&D Unearthed Arcana for the Slaine's (Barbarian) hit dice and Dexterity bonus to AC.
  • 2e's Celts Historical Reference, for Slaine's Salmon Leap and Spear Catch feats (without the WP and NWP requirements).

The idea is that these kinds of celebrities should be more powerful than the PCs, but not so much that they utterly outclass them. As long as the players are participants rather than spectators, it should be fine.

Slaine's warp spasm could be a whole sub-system, but here it's just the druidic animal growth spell. Another possibility: use the AD&D enlarge spell, with warped Slaine as an Ogre (stats a bit too close to the regular Slaine in this iteration) or a Giant depending on how powerful his rage was.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Three Foods of The Land Beyond The Great Forest

There's three dishes that really stand out.

Blood Soup.

Rich, red and warming. Packed with paprika. Normally made without blood, but a concentrated base of pork (or less commonly, beef) stock. 

Recommended to build you back up when you're a bit pale and drained from sleeping badly the last few nights. Traditionally a remedy for anaemia - hence the name.

Variations include floating chunks of pickled beetroot, much much more garlic, or absolutely no garlic at all. Sometimes served in a hollowed-out stale loaf.

When served chilled and congealed, it is sliced like sausage as an accompaniment to strong drink in the open air. The gelatinous texture is an acquired taste.

Hunter's Broth.

A simple soup of bone broth, salt and a mix of alliums. Traditional peasant dish, to be enriched with leftovers. 

It is thought that it gets its name from being fed to those injured in hunting accidents to determine the severity of stomach wounds. The distinctive smell would indicate internal perforation, and the poor soul would prepare for death. 

This may also be reflected in the tradition of adding a symbolic drop of crushed belladonna to the soup as it is served.

Another theory is that it's an example of ironic peasant humour. Surely no hunter would attempt to stalk animals after eating something so heavily seasoned with garlic that it scents your sweat.

The tourist recipe is significantly milder with edible berries in place of the belladonna, and served with toasted (or stale) bread floating on top. Sprinkled with cheese, and/or shredded dried meat.

Red Velvet Chicken.

According to folklore, a meal personally prepared and served by the head of a noble household to a guest of more humble station. 

Red and glossy. A powerful symbol of hospitality, it is purported to encourage restful sleep and agreeable conviviality.

Originally a simple, rustic chicken dish, the recipe now includes expensive imported spices - the different combinations and proportions said to reflect the characters of both past and current armigerous clans.

The brightly-coloured example in the nicer coaching inns is more affordable. Contains lots of paprika (and sometimes garlic), instead of the rare and precious spices.

The most authentic-looking (and expensive) tourist version contains cumulatively poisonous (but surprisingly palatable) metallic dyes. The locals aren't fooled, by appearance or by taste, but the adulteration is overlooked by less-conscientious authorities as long as adverse reactions are few, rare and restricted to tourists. 

System Agnostic Mechanics.

Blood Soup: double-rate recovery from health and attribute damage from blood-loss, blood-disease and assorted haemovores and energy drainers, living and (un)dead.

Hunter's Broth: belladonna for bonus vs. surprise by vampires/minions, and resistance to lycanthropy; stench vs. vampires as (eg) Troglodyte, and penalty to surprise/stealth.

The tourist version has no mechanical effects.

Red Velvet Chicken: disadvantage/penalty on saves vs. sleep, charm and hold. Can be specific to the villain, or more generally. 

The tourist version lacks the psychoactive compounds - it's tasty but usually overpriced. 

Tainted meals give a cumulative 1% chance of getting really sick per portion consumed. The poison is purged at a rate of up to 5% per week after last dose.


Thanks to what is now Strange Studies of Strange Stories for the idea/image of the Count making Jonathan Harker his supper.

The soups seemed thematically appropriate without being too light-hearted.