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.

Friday, November 24, 2023

DINOSAURS! - Back to Basic

The Mandela Effect has eliminated the 40+ dinosaur stat-blocks from Advanced and Basic D&D, leaving only scattered references - including that they're big stupid hungry reptiles.

Oh no! Have to make my own in a lonely-fun vacuum

Compatible with most old school D&D-alikes/derivatives.

(And apologies to dinosaur aficionados and experts).


They don't need species names: Big Hungry, Old One Eye, the God-Beast,

Hit Dice.

As they are equally huge and weird (see above for proof), dinosaurs can be built on the 1e AD&D Froghemoth, meaning they get 16 HD.

Armour Class.

Things like Pterodactyls are leathery so they have AC as leather (+2); most other dinosaurs are scaly so they have AC as scale armour (+3). The dinosaurs with armour plates (you decide if Stegosaurus is one of these) have AC as plate (+6)

Triceratops gets +1/+2 vs. missiles for having a shield round its neck - Stegosaurus might also qualify for back plates, if you've not already decided they're armour plated.

Pterodactyls can also get +1 to +3 for flying, or nothing if you think they're clumsy, ponderous fliers.


One big attack for 6d6, or can split the dice between up to six opponents. 

Pterodactyls always split three ways: beak and two wing buffets for 2d6 each (and see below). 

1d6 attacks are incidental bashes, blunders and buffets in the melee.

2d6 and 3d6 attacks are claws, kicks, flipper and tail swipes and so on. Includes the bites of small-headed herbivores.

4d6 and above are carnivore bites, single-target stamps, goring and tossing with horns. 

6d6 is the slavering jaws of the Tyrant Lizard King, being trod on by a Brachiosaurus, sat on by a Triceratops.

If you prefer, 4d6+ attacks don't need a hit roll, you save to evade.

Various 3d6+ attacks can cause hull damage; 4d6+ can cause structural damage.

Special Attacks.

On a successful hit of 19-20 vs. a human-sized target, the dinosaur inflicts a special.

(If smaller than human-sized, special on 14+)

The big carnivores swallow you whole; the big herbivores trample you underfoot. 

Auto-damage (save to resist for half) each round until you can escape/are rescued - you're pretty helpless while being digested/stomped. Various bits of equipment are at risk.

Marine dinosaurs knock you into the water or swallow you if you're already there; includes capsizing and holing boats.

The armoured dinosaurs with spiky tails knock you prone and you drop whatever you're holding - lose Initiative and no attacks for two rounds (one to pick up your weapon, one to get back up - in any order, or you can crawl away). 

You can also use this for rams, butts and tossing by the bone-headed and the horned dinosaurs.

Flying dinosaurs carry you off into the sky, or knock you down (like a spiky tail) with a wing buffet, or knock you off the branch/bridge/deck/ledge with same.

...unless they do an apocalyptic swoop - an AoE attack of up to 16 dice, but also suffers same number of dice damage itself. If you like, use massive damage instant death rules on it. Maybe it's also on fire because the volcano has erupted.

Special Defences.

Immune to spells that don't cause points of damage, normal fire and poison/venom.

Use your judgement - it'd be shame to spoil a cool improvisation or cunning plan for the sake of a statement. 

There's special cases to be made for all sorts of illusory tricks, setting things on fire, freezing the lake/river/swamp, casting disintegrate as the stinking jaws close round you like a cage, enlarging toads thrown into the yawning throat etcetera.

Stupid Dinosaur Behaviour.

At this stage, dinosaurs are pea-brained monsters of appetite and are easily fooled. 

Carnivores always attack and always attack the nearest largest suitable target. Includes siege engines, other dinosaurs, submarines, airships, lighthouses, mining equipment, atmosphere processors, time-machines, and trains (etc).

Herbivores generally only attack if attacked. If surprised (whether or not with hostile intent), they must pass a Morale Check or stampede - trampling you into the dirt (as special, above - and see below).

Horned herbivores can set vs. charge, but mainly do so against other dinosaurs (and similar, above).

All dinosaurs can fight on for d3 rounds at 0 to -16 hp (or if their head has been disintegrated in spectacular improvisational manner). 

Split their attacks between as many opponents as possible, and on a natural 20 (or a 1, if you prefer) they topple over (dead) on whatever they're fighting for a 6d6 AoE.

Morale for most dinosaurs is 8. On a double six, they go berserk and fight to the death, even turning on each other.

Morale Checks can also be triggered by 10+ points of magical cold/fire damage, or a similar amount of electrical damage, in a round.


These are the dinosaurs of Ray Harryhausen and Charles R. Knight and not as many Doug McClure films as I thought. They don't even aspire to Jurassic Park levels of accuracy, let alone have feathers.

I've noted elsewhere that my opinion is the older edition dinosaurs are high in number, low in inspiration.

I think the E/X of Basic D&D probably got it about right by having a limited range, even if they're otherwise unexceptional in their treatment. The Master set consolidation (particularly after the Latinate glut of the 1e AD&D Monster Manuals) was a sensible move, and was the spark point for this article.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

CYTHRONS (from 2000AD's Slaine) - Monster for Old School Fantasy & Horror


Glenn Fabry.

The Earth is a farm. We are someone else's property. (Charles Fort)

AC Unarmoured   HD 6+3 or 8+4    Movement 100% Normal Human    Morale 11

Time-travelling humanoid alien demons that inhabit Cythraul, a hell-dimension that is in fact the Earth millions of years before the appearance of earthly life. Imprisoned (in space, but crucially not in time) after losing a cosmic war, they are analogues in Slaine's world for the Great Old Ones and Old Ones/Elder Things.

They feed on the energy produced by human emotion, especially the negatives ones. As well as food, this energy can be harnessed towards the goal of awakening the dead/sleeping High Cythrons and freeing themselves from the Earth.

Alignment: We're nothing but stupid animals to them. Some of them like hurting us more than others. Some keep us (or merely a scrap) as pets. Mostly we're raw materials.

Three-way alignment, they're Chaotic, I suppose; nine-ways, they're a mix of Lawful and Neutral Evil - possibly representing the organic farmers (millions of year alien conspiracy) vs. the battery farmers (full-scale alien invasion).

Dexterity, Intelligence and Strength: min.12 in each; 13/15/13 min. array for 8+4 HD Cythrons.

Roll d6+12 for exceptional individuals. Modifiers as for stat/system.

Innate resistances: Half or no damage from cold, electricity and normal fire.

They are immune to acid, poison (inc. gas)/venom and the related abilities of jellies, oozes and slimes. These are variously cleansing, refreshing and therapeutic to Cythrons - they enjoy them.

Unless specially made, their armour, equipment and garments do not share any or all of these resistances.

And they hate it, spoils a good abduction.

Weapons and Armour: swords, axes, spears and pole arms of various levels of sci-fantasy sophistication but really anything they/you want, including their bare hands (prolonging their victory so they can feed on your desperate fear, puny mortal).

Can use leyser weapons (sci-fantasy magical energy weapons - swords, pistols, cannons) but - from the comics- favour minions, hand-weapons and optical leyser beams (see below).

Cythron Power Suit: the wearer look like a sci-fantasy ancient astronaut insect-skeleton stormtrooper (see above). Often look like ancient images/descriptions of deities.

  • As protective as chainmail, as encumbering as leather.
  • Activated by thought control:
    •  +5 bonus to AC* and saves vs. all attack forms, protection from normal missiles, resist cold, resist fire.
    • Non-Cythrons will need to be instructed or experiment in order to use the suits as more than passive protection, but even a brutal and unimaginative barbarian will find it easy enough.
    • 8+4 HD Cythrons get the added benefit of protection from mortals - immunity to non-magical attacks from 0 to 3rd level characters. 
  • Optical leysers: 2 beams per round for 2-12 hits, plus save vs. stun (1-4 rounds). Electricity or energy immunity works against the stun effect. Ranged touch attack, adjusted for cover (including shields).
  • Fly as a glowing energy ball. I'm going to rule that you can travel through any non-solid medium without ill-effect in this state.
    • Additional weight/living beings can be carried. In the comics, a Cythron abducts Nest (female human druid), and Slaine rescues both Tlachtga (female human fighter) and Ukko (male dwarf thief).
    • Non-Cythrons need to concentrate while doing this. Double-ones on 2d6 you botch landing/re-entry and materialise in an occupied space. 
    • I suggest contested saves to see who survives if it's a living being. If it's an object, roll, argue or judge to see if you have the reflexes and wit to turn back into energy and rescue yourself (still take a critical wound worth of damage). 

If one was to come onto the mortal market, it would as likely trigger an actual war as it would a bidding war.

It's sufficiently advanced technology that it's indistinguishable from magic. How it interacts with magic (and dispel magic) is up to you and your setting/system.

* Can stack with the passive protection, because I've based the Cythron power suit mechanics on Oard technology. However, I'd make protection from mortals the main effect and only use the higher AC bonus - but that's because I'm a low-armour kind of fellow.

Communication (8+4 HD only) with anything that has equal or lower species-average Intelligence than they do.

This is a universal translator ability, but they can also use telepathy - especially with minions.

Cythrons invented Common, and then took it away as a joke/punishment (symbolised in the Tower of Babel). 

The 6+3 HD Cythrons have a lesser and non-telepathic ability to speak with anything that has a language (within the range given above).

See Aura (8+4 HD only): As well as your emotional state they can easily determine your alignment, experience level and whether you are under a curse/spell. They will not be fooled (or not long fooled) by (human) disguise, polymorph or invisibility. 

The ability is a biological function and blocked by things that would foil normal vision. I'm going to say this includes magical darkness. In fog and smoke, they can probably tell you have an aura, but not the specifics.

What Was Left Out.

The Guledig (Praise Be His Name!) and the High Cythrons (Cthulhuvian in their nine-dimensional glory).

Myrddin, sired on a human mother by the Guledig, and by implication, other half-Cythrons.

The niceties of the bio-welder and the organic blender. 

Cythrons can re-make living things, for amusement and for utility. Reskin any monster as various forms of Orgot (organic-robot). AD&D Mongrelmen and Broken Ones/Shattered Brethren serve as abandoned experiments and grotesque pets. All these things are, at some level, human.

Cythron regeneration. Only one featured Cythron does this (three times, shedding its skin as it does so and extruding sucking tentacles). Slaine claims it was feeding on his energy, but he doesn't seem to suffer for it.

Cythrons vs. charm etcAs Nest is able to use the Talisman of Venus to charm the Cythron, Oeahoo, so at least the 6+3 HD Cythrons are not immune to mind-affecting magic.

How this translates to a D&D-ish system is up to you, but a quick rule could be that 8+4 HD Cythrons are immune (so Knuckles the Medium can't charm Pseudo-Osiris) and the 6+3 need two castings and to fail both saves.

Relationship to the Laws of Macrocosm - acts of so-called Good and Evil tip the balance in favour of the other side. A game of rock-paper-scissors in which you have to tell your opponent what you're going to play, and the least worst way to win is for nobody to take a turn.

Earth Power. There's at least two (1) (2) Slaine rpgs, so there's rules out there you could crib.


I stopped regularly reading 2000AD after the first part of The Horned God (early 1990s - switched to Fortean Times), and tended to re-read the earlier stuff in the time since (stuff I actually owned) - with the first part of Time Killer being one of the gaps in my collection.

Because it's a lot easier to access nowadays, I've speed-read c. 40 years of Slaine recently and that's the spark that lit the where's-the-Slaine-old-school-homebrew tinder. 

I can see why the Time Killer/Tomb of Terror arc wasn't remembered fondly, comparing it to what came before and (some) of what came after. Maybe the story/worldbuilding suffers because it's an episodic comic strip, put together week-to-week? I don't think the dungeon-crawl role-playing game tie-in did it any favours, either.

BUT: I was always able to squeeze a lot of juice out of it, and Glenn Fabry's art is great.

If this exercise wasn't about the Cythrons, then you could use/reskin Oards.

If you think they're a little bit low-powered for god-like beings, then graft on some later-edition types & sub-types (Aberration and Outsider?) onto them, maybe give them a d12 Hit Dice into the bargain.

Ian Sturrock did a piece on leyser weapons and Cythron characters (+2 Strength, +2 Wisdom, -4 Charisma, +4 bonus when making magical attacks) for the d20 Slaine rpg. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

DILUVIALS (from 2000AD's Slaine - Time Killer) - Monsters for Old School Fantasy & Horror


Glenn Fabry.

AC +5    HD 1+4    Move 100% Normal Human    Morale 8

Beetle-skeleton tribal humanoid monsters. Plucked from the remote past to serve as minions.

One weapon attack per round for d8 (or by weapon).

Champions have +6 AC, 2 HD and 9 Morale. One champion can act as leader for 2-12 lesser Diluvials.

Leaders have +6 AC, 3+1 HD (min. 16 hp), 9 Morale and +1 to damage. They are accompanied by 2-12 champions as bodyguards.

The special weapon of the Diluvials is a bone-conch triple-horn that acts as a horn of blasting that can also transmute rock to mud once per day.  These are non-magical durational effects (10 minutes) and 50% of lost hit points/structural damage is recovered if the target is not destroyed/slain in this time.

Maximum of one horn per 10 Diluvials. Must be wielded by a champion or leader.

Diluvials not commanded by a champion or leader will:

  • stop fighting and feast on fresh kills on a 1-2 on d6 each round
  • switch allegiance to the most obviously physically powerful character/monster if they fail a Morale Check

Diluvials of all types will not seek cover from magic or missile attack, nor do they make Morale Checks when subjected to same. This is because they are stupid.

Further Elaboration.

The triple-horn does damage tagged as sonic/sound/vibration, and its powers can be adapted to transmute rock to lava and stone to (lifeless) flesh. 

Transmuted flesh is permanent and used to feed the mass of Diluvials. 

They also like to use the triple-horns to liquify living victims so that they can drink them (traditionally irrevocable short of a wish) - this delicacy is usually reserved for leaders.

Higher-level Threat.

While they remain minions/sword fodder, use the leader statblock for all Diluvials to make them a higher tier threat. 

Number appearing is 2-12.

If there are at least 10, they have a triple-horn. Or, each has a 10% chance of carrying one.

Horror Monsters.

Number appearing is 1-3. Use the leader statblock. Claw/claw or claw/claw/bite if they are unarmed.

There is only one triple-horn.  It has all of the possible abilities. The Diluvials do not necessarily possess it at start of play.

If there are two Diluvials, together they can produce an infrasonic moan (as a Cloaker). If there are three, they can generate lethal vibrations (as a Death Watch Beetle, Giant).

These are the ones I'll convert for Call of Cthulhu.


First appear in Time Killer (1985), and that's where most of the basic information is drawn from.

Mechanically, they're the Giant Beetles with a bit of Goblin mixed in. 

There've been at least two Slaine rpgs and the Diluvials never made the cut.

Monday, June 12, 2023

The Human Werewolf.

art by Lucas Cranach the Elder

In a fantastic world where people can turn into animals for real, is there room for this version? Maybe.

Fear them, pity them, hate them, utterly misjudge them - this is the werewolf of human suffering. Their transformation is a property of their own minds and/or the accusations against them (not mutually exclusive).

This werewolf could be a beggar, a shepherd, a grand prince, a king, an unconventional therapist, a dressmaker, a wealthy farmer, a pedlar, a tailor, a mad duke, you, a lonely old woman, a grandiose peasant, a babe in the woods, a mooncalf, an eminent psychiatrist, a dishonourably discharged soldier, a noble baron, a creepy little kid.

As well as people who believe themselves to be monsters, it also includes monsters who claim to be human, and unfortunates being mistaken for monsters.

Human werewolves behave like humans, and wolves, and how they think wolves and werewolves behave, and how other people think wolves and werewolves behave. And sometimes they do this to a timetable, or for an audience, or when triggered. Can be gradual (even over weeks) or abrupt.

For example, the mad duke might go out howling at night, digging up graves and telling people he's a wolf, but spend the day doing his ducal duties and political scheming. He might act as if he is (or genuinely be) unaware of his nocturnal personality.

Remember also, some people only realise they're a werewolf when told they are by the bloke with the red-hot pincers and thumbscrews. You can roll d12 on this table to determine how someone thinks the transformation is accomplished.

Genres: crapsack, historical, (folk) horror, low-level, modern, mystery.

Basic profile: a Normal Human, a Berserker, any NPC, a PC.

I'm writing in ye olde D&D-adjacent, but it's all system agnostic really.

Nebuchadnezzar, eating grass not babies, being retrospectively diagnosed with porphyria

Combat: improvised weapons, in the mechanical and the narrative sense. They'll beat, bite, grapple, scratch and strangle as needed, even reach for a handy rock, broken bottle or piece of cutlery (if they're not too deep in the wolf delusion).

There's nothing but their own beliefs, delusions and preferences to stop them using any armour or weapon, even firearms.

In less casually violent settings, it might just be their willingness to do damage without worrying about the consequences that makes them dangerous.

Optional: Infected Wounds, whether their teeth and nails are tainted with grave-earth and rotten viscera, or just because the human mouth is apparently a filthy place. Treat as in your setting/system, but with an increased chance (+1% per point of damage, for instance).

Double 1s on 2d6 and victim thinks they're turning into a werewolf too.

Optional: Ferocity. Attack as a Giant Shrew - you can have the Initiative bonus, double attacks, the whole stat block if you like.

Optional: Battle Rage. If you aren't already using the Berserker stat block, you get the +2 attack bonus, +1 hp and 12 Morale - plus the deranged behaviour.

Special Qualities: Pick, or roll d12; not compulsory.
  1. +d2 AC for thick hair, toughened skin, pain tolerance etc.
  2. -1 to all rolls in normal daylight; -2 in bright sunlight.
  3. take 2 hp damage per time unit (pick or randomise) in direct sunlight; this does not heal naturally, unless recovery time spent in darkness. Bits will eventually drop off.
  4. Animals (mammals) - initial Reaction is Unfriendly.
  5. Cats and Dogs - initial Reaction is Hostile.
  6. Ghouls - initial Reaction is Neutral.
  7. Wolves and Werewolves - initial Reaction is Neutral.
  8. Wolves and Werewolves - initial Reaction is Hostile.
  9. Wolves - initial Reaction is Friendly.
  10. Appearance, behaviour, reputation and/or unsettling presence reduce Charisma by 3 (or a Reaction Roll penalty).
  11. Appearance, behaviour, reputation and/or unsettling presence reduce Charisma to 3.
  12. Can eat raw meat, spoiled food, cadavers and assorted carrion without (debilitating/significant) ill effects; +4 save vs. ingested poisons & diseases, and a save of 16+ if one is not normally allowed.

As well as having a higher than normal chance of spontaneously rising from the grave as a vampire, human werewolves are likely more susceptible to a vampire's charm/mesmeric ability (even becoming Pawns to their Liege).

Their circumstances and/or habits make them ideal candidates for ghouldom or ghasthood, as well as making them attractive to bad spirits and demons.

And their fellow humans might shove them in a cage and tour them, charging a silver piece to see the captive werewolf, and giving them only meagre, stinking provender to eat and a worn, filthy blanket against the chill.


Historical werewolves have been medically ascribed:

  • Hypertrichosis. Petrus Gonsalvus (1537-1618) was educated and toured the courts of Europe within the same time frame as the Gandillon family, Gilles Garnier and Peter Stubbe were being executed for werewolfism. Even though Petrus wasn't seen as completely human (he was also a slave), he wasn't subjected to torture and put to death for it.
    They didn't think he was a werewolf, or his hairy children, either.

  • Porphyria. This article from 1964 seems to be the source for this gaining popularity. But porphyria was recognised as far back as Hippocrates, and the disfigurement it causes is not unlike that of other diseases, such as leprosy. Sensitivity to garlic and sunlight as symptoms apply more to vampires; more to our modern ideas, in any case. And porphyria gives you superpowers in much the same way as an origin-story dose of radiation doesn't.
  • Rabies. Well known to the ancients (4000 year old laws about dealing with rabid animals) and contagion by bite is characteristic of the 20th Century werewolf.
  • And, crucially, Lycanthropy as a disease of the mind (a form of melancholy) was recognised as early as the 7th Century. See also the case of wee Jean Grenier, who was tried as a werewolf but judged to be suffering from lycanthropy - at a time (c.1604) when similar cases resulted in sensational confessions and brutal executions.