Monday, December 11, 2017

Eleventh Hour Monster Monday - Shrieker

As usual, the holidays are screwing up my routine. It's going continue to happen until after the new year. That said, let us talk about shriekers.

Image found on Wikicommons.

Shriekers are a fascinating creature. They are not dangerous at all. Instead they attract other monsters when they are disturbed. They are a staple of megadungeons. Almost organic traps. Sometimes creatures use them as warning systems. Other use them as a dinner bell.

The shriekers near the Fallow Well are the only living creatures that the wraiths do not touch. The wraiths love the feeling of panic from adventurers and orcs as the shriekers scream.

Some myconids have bred shriekers in several colors. They do this trying to find a harmonic that will summon their demon queen, Zuggtomy. They have succeeded. Red, Red, Green, Blue, Blue and she will appear.

The orcs who now control the Finnius Brewery in Mord Mar have struck a deal with Acidander, the green dragon. Shriekers have been planted in the north alley of the brewery. When the shriekers sound, Acidander comes to their aid. For the grissly price of three warriors. He doesn't eat them, but is instead building his own army.

There is only one passage across the underground river in the Devil's Decision. A sea monster inhabits the waters.  It is attracted by the patch of shriekers on the far side. Chances are not everyone will be across when Dark Nessie shows up.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Megadungeon resources

Rhinegold and the Valkyries
licensed from Fat Goblin Games

I missed Monster Monday again. The holidays suck for schedules. What can I say. I'll try again next week. In the meantime, here's a few of the books and magazines that I look at when working on my megadungeon, Mord Mar. I am not including the books I listed here (my 5 important GM books.)

The Twisting Stair: I picked up copies of both volumes of this zine at North Texas, and they are both full of good ideas if you are building a megadungeon. They are well worth the price of admission.

Traps & Treachery: I'm not good at traps. It's a fact of my DMing life. I often use this book as a springboard for other ideas. You can find it cheaper than in that link, too. I think I found it for $5 at a FLGS somewhere in my state.

Dungeon Fantastic Megadungeon Design: Peter Dell'Orto has a great series of articles in that link. He also regularly posts dungeon play reports. He has a lot of great resources for free there.

Advice on building a megadungeon: Before the Marmorial Tomb, Benoist Poire wrote an extensive advice column for building a megadungeon on The RPG Site. It is worth the read. And probably taking notes.

Creighton Broadhurst's Dungeon Design: It is a short and sweet article that covers the basic design elements before hitting pen to paper.

Megadungeon search on RPG Now: I haven't read most of these. I looked at Megadungeon #1 today, and wasn't impressed. Too much not-megadungeon stuff. The best part, you can see which megadungeons are available on PDF today! (Those I HAVE read).

What other resources do you guys use that I didn't mention? Let me know in the comments or the S&W G+ page or the Silver Bulette FB page.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Tuesday's Monster Monday - Dryad

I missed yesterday's blog, because we were finalizing the Orb of Undying Discord (the link is a desktop version. RPGNow is weird about mobile/desktop.) Ian wrote a pretty good adventure, and it is a nice addition to the series. We've got it on sale for $3.99 for the holidays. January we will set the price at $4.99.
Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art (c) Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games

Enough of my sales pitch, though. We're here to talk about monsters. I've chosen dryad today because one is prominent in Orb of Undying Discord. Dryads are nature spirits, tied to a specific tree. In Greek mythology, they were tied specifically to oak trees, but the D&Dverse has mutated that to any tree.
Dryad's goals are usually pretty straightforward. They want to protect their trees, and themselves. In S&W, they have the ability to Charm Person to help accomplish their goals. Because of this, and their natural physical weakness, dryads are best used as oracles, or keepers of secrets.

Celania is a dryad deep in the forest around Redstone. She bonded to her oak almost 500 years ago. Through its roots she feels changes deep in the earth. She fears that something awful is moving up to the surface that will threaten both her tree and the city. In truth, three bulette have moved into the area, but have not yet reached the surface.

Almoris is a dryad very near the town of Stonemire. She often tells stories to the children of the area about nature and the land. Last week, while telling one of these stories she collapsed. Some villagers helped her back to her tree, where they found a new swamp rot infesting it. Without intervention from adventurers Almoris' tree will surely die. And worse, the rot will continue to spread toward Stonemire.

Barberea's tree is very unique. It is made of living stone, and grows and flourishes deep in the megadungeon. She knows where and how most creatures move in the deep passages, and can be persuaded to share this information for things that entertain her. Maybe a poem about earth would do the trick?

Ferne also has a tree near Redstone. But, she has been tasked by a powerful magic-user to guard the entrance to the Orb of Undying Discord's resting place. She was instructed to open the way only for powerful goodly people. But, she wants something in return. If you can find her grove, you are welcome to ask her the cost yourself.

Monday, November 27, 2017

No Monster Monday

Monster Monday didn't happen today. We were busy at Silver Bulette pushing out our newest module. You can find it here:

Silver Bulette has released their newest module, The Orb of Undying Discord! We've discounted it for the holidays, so it's only $3.99 for a limited time!

Written in S&W, it is the third in a series. The other two were written in SWL. (link above is a desktop link. RPGNow is weird about those.)

That's the post from some G+ sites. I will try to get my Monster Monday done tomorrow.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Monster Monday - Vrock

From Wikipedia, originally found in Monster Manual

It's amazing how little time there is between Halloween and Thanksgiving. It looks like we are only getting two birds for Monster Monday. I talked about doing roc, griffon, owlbear, harpy or hippogriff. And someday, I will probably do the majority of them.
Instead, I decided to do the vrock. The vrock is an instantly recognized demon that "somewhat resemble a cross between a human and a vulture. (Monster Manual)" Swords and Wizardry describes Vrock (First-Category Demon) as "vulture-headed with feathered humanoid bodies, and huge dark-feathered wings." Yup, demon-turkey-vulture.

As D&D has moved forward, the vrock has changed too. In AD&D, the vrock had 5' darkness, Detect Invisibility, Telekinesis, and 10% Gate chance. They had 8 HD, 0 AC and 5 attacks per round. Their magic resistance was 50%
In 2E, vrocks gain a spore attack that deals some damage, and eventually encases the recipient in vines. They also now have a 'screech' that will stun everyone within 30' for a round (save applicable.) In 2E, they cannot be hit without a +2 weapon enchantment bonus and their AC improved to -5. Vrocks MR changed to 70%. They also gain Detect Magic, Mass Charm, and Mirror Image. Second Edition also gave the vrock the Dance of Ruin ability. Their Gate becomes much more powerful, with a 50% chance of success, and more possible creatures to summon.

3rd Edition saw the vrock change a bit more. Their AC went to 25, which is not surprising due to the massive changes to the game. Their spell list expands to include Desecrate, and Detect Good. Their Gate ability drops to a 35% chance (and is renamed Summon Tanar'ri.) The vrock's darkness ability becomes the spell, with a 30' radius.

I don't have the 4E and 5E stats nearby, so maybe someone will fill us in.

In Mord Mar, I have a few vrock running around. Any of these vrock can be a foil for one or several sessions. Remember, I use 1E/Swords & Wizardry for the majority of my sessions.
Cul'cha free roams the halls, and has created a small force of chaos. Among his forces are an ettin (his lieutenant), a pack of gnolls (last counted at 10), a group of orcs (25-75 depending on circumstances) and a cockatrice (his pet). He is strong and dumb. He often simply throws resources at whatever his target is, relying on his reputation to soften his enemy's resolve. Cul'cha prefers to capture enemies alive and convert them to his cause, almost exclusively through intimidation.
Ean is a vrock who was summoned by Percy Vanswift. Percy did not bargain well and lost his life and holdings to Ean. Ean has gained control of a small subsection in the sewers of Mord Mar, and defends his holdings with oozes, slimes and jellies. Like cranberry sauce, but deadly.
Ezz was a vrock once, but through a bargaining with a night hag ascended to an altroloth. His gain in power was not without cost. Summoners do not need to know Ezz's true name. He generally resides on his home plane, because he is so easy to summon. Although he has ascended forms, Ezz is still of low intelligence. He is easily manipulated and often bargains poorly.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Monster Monday - Cockatrice

I've missed a couple of weeks of Monster Monday because of Gamehole. It was an awesome time, and the Silver Bulette crew made a plan for the rest of the year. Expect to see Ian finish his Undying Orb series and then I will make it into a full blown adventure! But, that's not why you are here today. You are here to see cockatrices and how they can be an interesting encounter.

Image found on Wikimedia Commons

Cockatrices (cockatri?) trace their roots back to at least Roman times. They were said to be the result of a chicken egg incubated by a snake. Modern D&D mythology sees them as an amalgamation of the two. The description in the 1E Monster Manual reads "The serpentine tail of the cockatrice is yellow green, its feet and beak yellow, its wings are gray, its feathers are golden brown, and its wattles, comb, eyes, and tongue are red." Swords & Wizardry has the following description "A cockatrice resembles a bat-winged monster with a long, serpentine tail." The S&W stats (Monstrosities pg 70) are:
Hit Dice: 5
Armor Class: 6 [13]
Attack: Bite (1d6 + turn to stone)
Save: 12
Special: Bite turns to stone
Move: 6/18 (flying)
Alignment: Neutral
Challenge Rating/XP: 8/800

According to D&D (1E) cockatrices are found in temperate to tropical regions, both above and below ground. S&W lists them in the dungeon, forest, grassland, and hills terrain tables. They aren't listed in the jungle table, surprisingly.

With that all said, here's a few ways that I have used or seen cockatrices.

A nest of cockatrices beds at a major crossroads between cities, preventing caravans from going through. The city guard hires adventurers to clean up the nest, but they find the mayor (or king) has already been there, and has been stoned. 

The ranking member of the church in the party's village was ambushed by a medusa. Now, the party needs to find cockatrice feathers to make the Stone to Flesh potion to turn him back.

An unkillable monster resides deep in a cavern. Sages say he can be defeated, though. All that is needed is to have him turn to stone. Capturing a few live cockatrices and sneaking them into the monster's lair can't be that hard, right?

Monday, October 23, 2017

Monster Monday - Rats

As Halloween season pushes to a close, I feel it important to discuss another ubiquitous "monster." Rats are often found as beginning level creatures to battle. They are rampant in early levels of dungeons, in cellars of taverns, and sometimes found in the thrall of vampires.

purchase rights to publish from that link (I have)

Why aren't rats found later in deep dungeons? Why do they always camp in the basement of taverns? Well, because they really are a "training" monster. Vampires offer  a glimpse on using them at later levels. They can be a creative opponent, if done correctly.

Because rats are so ubiquitous, we should see them everywhere. Why don't goblins ride trained rats? Paizo gave us "goblin dogs" in Pathfinder. But they're not really rats. Why don't orcs have cages of rats (of all sizes) in their torture chambers? Being restrained on a table with 4 or 5 starving rats climbing on me sounds like true torture. Lizard-men and Yuan-Ti should carry cages of rats around, and randomly grab out one to snack on during conversation. Even orcs, goblins, ogres or trolls may do the same. That type of detail gives a whole new inhuman aspect to a negotiation.

Rats in combat are boring. They are ho-hum compared to fighting green skinned slimy humanoids. They are a little too here, and not enough fantasy. We deal with them as enemies because they are a trope. But, they don't have to be.

Imagine a colony of rats that have developed a rudimentary hive mind. Not just a "rat swarm" but something that uses position and numbers to their advantage. Over the centuries, in Mord Mar, a colony of rats has made holes throughout a well traveled room. They have about 75 rat-holes in the ceiling, walls and floor. All of them are interconnected behind the walls. The hive mind has developed a tactic. When the colony is hungry, they attack from all four walls, pushing the prey to the center of the room. Then rats pour from the ceiling attacking those with "soft skin" (no metal armor) relentlessly. Good luck casting a fireball with 200 rats biting at you, Wizard. When a victim falls, the rats open wide enough to let the others retreat, and feast upon the hapless adventurer.

An evil and powerful fighter was polymorphed into a giant rat some time ago by a goodly wizard. Recognizing the battle lost, he fled and began to form a colony of rats of his own. Maybe the evil fighter marks his rats by biting the left ear. Those rats in the cellar have a hook behind them now. This colony has come to the sewers of the city where the goodly wizard lives, and begun to reek havoc. The rats never stay in one place long, using the sewers to search for a way into the wizard's tower. The mayor asks the party for help removing the rat problem. A mystery for the party to sink their teeth into.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Monster Monday - Zombie

Undead have always been my "DM thing." I love them, as you can probably tell from the blog. Today, I present a zombie that I love. They aren't typical, and are barely a threat to anyone.

In the world of Mord Mar exists a book, the Book of Eyes. The demonic text contains rituals to pull power from others into the caster. One such ritual involves removing their eyes and turning them into zombies.
The caster cannot control the zombies. The zombies wander aimlessly, and only attack if struck. They are often found facing corners in out-of-the-way rooms. The eyeless zombies seem to have a replacement for sight. Demonologists speculate that using the "sight" causes the zombies pain, and that's why they are often found in dark corners. Any person bitten by an eyeless zombie can also become an eyeless zombie. When a person transforms, they attempt to travel to where the zombification ritual was most recently completed. If they arrive there, they remove their own eyes and depart.
The caster gains the power to look through any eye disembodied by the ritual (or placed on the altar after). The caster becomes disoriented, and it takes a measure of control to see through whichever eye they want. Most casters give their followers a necklace with one or more eyes from the ritual on it.
Other dark secrets reside within the Book of Eyes, but no adventurer in Mord Mar had the fortitude to delve too deep into the book.

As a bonus, here's the Walking Death disease. Originally written for Mord Mar in Pathfinder by Adam Brown, I have adapted it to S&W.
Walking Death Disease: When a person is struck or bitten by a zombie infected with walking death disease, they must make a save. Failure of this save indicates the character has contracted walking death. Over the next 24 hours, they will spike a high fever and feel chilled. Within 24 hours of the onset, they become unable to walk due to weakness and vomiting. Within 24 hours of vomiting, the victim dies and rises as a zombie about an hour later. From infection to death never takes more than 3 days, and cases of less than 15 hours have been observed.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Monster Monday - Bog Hag

I have been trying to get the Haunted House module done. I really have. But, it's not my style. As much as I enjoy horror, I don't think it will be finished. I don't know how to write it well enough. But, October is still Halloween month, and we still need creepy creatures, right? Well, here's one that has been floating around in the marshes outside of Stonemire that has never been found. (As usual, presented in S&W stats.)

Bog Hag
Hit Dice: 8
Armor Class: 1 [18]
Attacks: 2 claws (2d8), 1 bite (1d8)
Special: Breathe underwater, death gaze, spell use
Move: 12, swim 24
Save: 8
Alignment: Chaotic
Number Encountered: 1
Challenge Level/XP: 13/2300

A bog hag's death gaze is usable 1/day. Commonly it is used as a group rounds a corner to get as many as possible in the gaze. Bog hags may use the following spells 1/day each: Charm Person, Sleep, Darkness 15' Radius, Invisibility, and Speak With Animals.
Speak With Animals allows a bog hag to communicate with any animal, but most animals flee from their presence. Only carrion eaters and alpha predators will respond.

Greta, the hag near Stonemire, is a very intelligent adversary. She uses charm person to separate a member from a group, and takes them far away. She never takes living prey to her lair. Greta often uses speak with animals to communicate with crocodiles and gators, who are glad to send her after prey they cannot handle.

Currently,  Greta is looking for a young girl to mother in the ways of being a hag. She will target a young girl with charm person if she gets the opportunity. When she finds one, the parents will contact the party, hoping to locate their missing child. Unknown to the party, the ritual to turn the child into a hag must happen on the new moon, so an invisible clock is ticking. . .

Friday, October 6, 2017

Spiders Part 2

Since I missed last week's Monster Monday, I decided to do a part 2 to this week's! Here's some more ways to make your players hate the arachnids.

How about a bridge made of spiderwebs crossing a chasm (lava pool, lake, acid pool)? As the first character gets half way across, a spider lowers itself from the ceiling, telepathically demanding payment. Add more fun by having the spider remove a humanoid's head, and fill the resulting cavity with its thorax.

Do your characters just grab loot like armor and helmets, and just throw them on? Put a poisonous spider in one, and have it bite. They may look a bit closer next time.

Ever seen a zombie spider? Seems more nightmarish than a normal one.

Speaking of undead spiders, I once had an evil wizard put nests of spiders inside of his skeleton army's armor. A rib cage makes a great place to put a tangled spider web.

Matt Finch includes a giant invisible spider in Monstrosities. Invisible webs are a hazard you don't want to run into. To make them more fun, put them in a pit trap.

You know the tale of Sleeping Beauty? What if a spider made its home in her mouth while she was "asleep." That's a kiss that would never be forgotten, I promise.

Tired of your 4 minute adventuring days? Have some spiders infest the trail rations of the party. That should keep them moving.

Spider symbolism is a bit more difficult than encounters. But, there are some things that most groups should be able to understand.

Two spiders have been carved into the ceiling above a door. Both are spinning the same web. In Mord Mar, I may use this to denote a fateful moment. What happens beyond that door weaves part of the fate of the entire mountain.

A statue of a spider, sits in the center of a room. Does it mean that everyone will be trapped inside, as if in a spider's web?

Have a particularly confusing or difficult area to map in your dungeon? Mark the entrance with spider webs. This allows for two things. First, it gives decided boundaries to the difficult area. Secondly, it warns the players that something is going to be sticky, or hard to escape.

Well, that's enough for now. Talk to you all on Monday!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Working on Stonemire

A grizzled man in his mid-thirties, sporting the strong, even physique of a former builder has walked through the doors and finds the nearest seat at the bar. A young half-elf boy follows the man, carrying a weighty backpack and glancing around nervously. The boy sets the bag down with an audible *THUNK* and sits next to him.
“Barkeep! A strong ale for the lad. He’ll need it for his nerves. Today is his first day as an adventurer! And one for me, too!” The man stacks payment on the bar.
“Well, then, if it be yer ferst day adventurin’ yer needen somein better’n ale!” The dark haired dwarf pulls 2 earthenware tumblers from behind the bar and produces a dark bottle from under it. He fills the tumblers halfway, and grabs a second bottle and tops them off.
“That’ll be 4 Silver Fangs from ye. None of dem downlunder coins’ll do ‘ere.”
As he finishes, “ . . . and that’s when we ran from the crocogator. Those lizardfolk are nuts to have them around.” is heard coming from one of the other tables.
-An unedited intro to Stonemire

Monster Monday - Spiders

I began to write this last week, but have been sick. I'm trying again this week. Spiders are ubiquitous to dungeon delving. Even outdoor adventures run into the eight-legged monstrosities. They may pop up in cities.
Spiders come in sizes ranging from fingernail-sized, up to (and maybe beyond) the size of a pony. Some are poisonous, and some are merely environmental hazards.
Spiders are essential to megadungeons. They are more important than goblins, trolls, dragons or any other fantastic beast. They lend an air of realism to the dark places. They can tap into dark fears of players.
But, it's what they do inside of the game that makes them shine as monsters.
Want a section of dungeon to look undisturbed for a long period? Cover the hallway in cobwebs.
Want to remove the orcs from an area and replace them with something else?
Leave their web-wrapped, desiccated corpses in corners, and out of the way places.
Need a magical component for Leather Armor? Send the PCs to the lair of Kk'eez, the Spider Demon. His webbing is said to be of great strength, and light weight. He will not give it in an easy bargain, though.
Speaking of Kk'eez, he can be a phenomenal long term villain. His plans spiral out like a spider's web. They touch things that don't seem connected, until the investigators are in the middle. . .

Artwork: © Jack Badashski, 2016 (bought rights on RPGNow)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Monster Monday - Gibbering Eyes

As I continue to slog through my "haunted house," I am looking deep inside more soul for twisted things. One such creature that has spewed from the depths is the Gibbering Eyes. Take a look for yourself:

© Jack Badashski, 2016 
find him on RPGNow

Gibbering Eyes
HD: 4 + 4
AC: 1 (18)
Attacks: Bite (1 hp)
Save: 13
Special: Eye rays, gibbering, spit
Move: 3
CL/XP: 8/800
In addition to using gibbering or spit, the gibbering eyes can use 1d4 eye rays per round:
1. Darkness 15-Foot Radius, as the spell, it targets one person, who gets a save to negate the ability
2. Obscuring Mist, as the spell
3. Telekinesis as the spell 
4. Sleep as the spell, except one target, who gets a save
5. Feeblemind as the spell
6. Heat Metal as the spell
7. Hold Person as the cleric spell
8. Lightning Bolt as the spell

All eye rays are cast at 4th level proficiency (so a Lightning Bolt would do 4d6 damage)

Gibbering: All creatures within 60' of the sound of a gibbering eyes must make a save or be confused (per the spell).
Spit: A gibbering eyes can spit up to 30' a glob of acid for 2d6 damage.

The stuff of nightmares. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Monster Monday - Old Crawler!

(From Monstrosities): An "old crawler" is a withered human hand severed at the wrist, black and mummified in appearance.
I am still working on my "haunted house" module. And it is still Halloween season, so a creepy monster is mandatory.

Old Crawler (Monstrosities pg 361) fits so well into the "haunted house," that I can't help use it. I intend to have them create an ambiance. "The party hears a scratching skitch-skitch-skitch sound." But they never see the crawlers following them in the walls. They are minions of whatever is "The Evil" of the house. They attack stragglers or loners, and retreat before the group arrives. They will ratchet up paranoia throughout the house.

I really like this creature. The remind me of Crawling Claws from 2e, with a bit more punch. Gangrenous rotting? Disgustingly fun. But, I think it can be more than that. . .

How about a mummy version? A hand jumps out of the darkness and contaminates an adventurer with Mummy Rot? Adventurers won't even suspect mummy rot for hours if they aren't in a pyramid.

Maybe there was a forgetful mage that programmed Old Crawlers to show him the way to his lab. These crawlers now show anyone that isn't aggressive the path. Would your players attack on sight and lose the guide? I know mine would.

There was once a lich who removed his own hands. He needed them separate from his body to complete a profane ritual. Adventurers destroyed his body, but not phylactery or crawlers. Now he has the ability to cast spells through his old hands and his new body.

A wight had his hands removed by a very skilled warrior, and died soon after. Now his old crawlers search for living beings to destroy without an intelligence behind them. So far, they have created three new wights, and the number will grow if adventurers can't find the source of the infestation.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Over 1000!

Silver Bulette had its 1000th download earlier today! Thank you to everyone who has checked out our work so far!

Monday, September 4, 2017

What's Up With Mord Mar pt 2 (GAMEHOLE!!!)

Yesterday, I teased that something cool is happening at Gamehole Con with Mord Mar. I am running a game at 10 am on Friday, in S&WL. GHC has horrible data entry skills, so here's what they actually have as the event description:
Welcome to the megadungeon, Mord Mar. This players choose where the adventure goes! Everyone will roll 1st level characters and they will be allowed in other Mord Mar games!
I promise that's not what I sent in . . . But, here's the deal with GHC Mord Mar. I have been working on 1-page adventures in and around Mord Mar. We are calling them "Bounty Board Adventures" for now. Several of these will be available to be chosen for the adventure(s) at GHC. I am hoping to have at least four done, and really pushing for five. Which adventure do the players want? I don't know. Go looking for the lost shield of a dwarven clan? Or hunt down a thief? Maybe rescue a lost person? We'll see where they go . . . Here's the "cover" of the first that I have been working on.

Monster Monday - Flowershroud

In my quest to write a horror module before Halloween, I have been searching high and low for monsters that can instill dread. In S&W Monstrosities, page 173, I found such a thing, the Flowershroud. "A flowershroud is a carpet-like floral growth . . . move slowly from place to place when it is seeking new food . . . carnivorous plants that hunt down their prey." (excerpt by Matt Finch.)

This fits well into my horror theme. Flowershrouds look like any other garden, but can hunt you down. The normal is the strange. I can't wait to utter the words "it's probably just your imagination, but the flowers look closer to you than they were."

I know that I said a Ghost Ship module was my next project. But, I have found the setting too limiting. I haven't exactly decided where the horror/suspense will take place, but I know that it needs to be on land. I will probably do a castle or mansion (how original, right?). The flowershroud will be a great garden or greenhouse surprise. Don't even be shocked if they show up as potted plants in some fair maiden's bedroom.

Looking at their use for a wider campaign, I can see flowershrouds having a symbiotic relationship with a dryad. The dryad wants her tree protected, and has planted a flowershroud to make sure that nothing gets too close.
Imagine an ancient flowershroud that has a giant bee hive embedded in it. The flowershroud roams the land, carrying the bees to new pollens, and in return the bees help slow down prey for the flowershroud.
Another option to pair the flowershroud is with an undead. A particularly deranged necromancer may have planted a flowershroud on the back of a giant crab exoskeleton. He entwines the dark energies of necromancy with the strange nature of the flowershroud, making them a singular force. These hybrids are what guard the entrance to his home.

I'm expecting the follow-up to What's Up With Mord Mar to come today as well. Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

What's up with Mord Mar?

I have been doing a lot of posts lately that have little or nothing to do with Mord Mar. I feel like an explanation is in order.
As many of you know, I have co-founded a digital (and hopefully someday print) RPG products company. This will someday be the instrument that brings Mord Mar into the wider world. But, recently this has driven me to push away from Mord Mar.
A couple of contests have been completed. It wasn't best to set the pre-determined monsters inside of Mord Mar. Besides this, the word limit imposed in the contests limited the ability to expand lore inside of the modules.
My next (solo) project is a Halloween module. I hope to have it done by October 1-10. Again, the setting precludes the use of the megadungeon. I could evoke the suspense and creepiness. But, that's not the flavor of Mord Mar. At least not where I am at in development and writing. . .

There is good news for those of you looking for more Mord Mar. The writing experience of this summer has drastically improved my abilities. When you finally get to see Blood Pharaoh, you will agree. Pulling away from Mord Mar has helped me to rediscover myths and legends that will be incorporated in different places of the megadungeon. The world around Mord Mar is expanding. Instead of just Var Nae and Stonemire, we now have Redstone, Gilramore, a temple of Hephestus and other cities and ruins to explore.

Having these other places allows me to give Mord Mar a lore and history outside of the dungeon itself. Over time, they will influence each other.

For those of you travelling to Gamehole Con, I am running a Mord Mar game Friday at 10 am. Come check it out if you are interested. Expect another blog on the subject soon. (There will be an exciting reveal IMO)

Why I got away from New School

It's early Sunday morning, and I can't sleep. I'm not aware enough to work on one of the 4 projects I have going, so a new blog post it is!

I played Pathfinder for a long time, and D&D 3.X for a while before that. But, I became tired of it. Here's a list of reasons why I moved away from 3.X as my primary game:

  1. I don't have 10 hours to make a character anymore. I can paint some minis, or work on a module, or hang out with the kids. Those hours are just too precious now.
  2. I want to get through more than one combat in a session. Tactics are fun, don't get me wrong. One combat, two at the most in a four hour session just doesn't move the game forward.
  3. There are too many options. Although this is the reason for #1 and #2, it must be stated separately. 3.5 died from it. Pathfinder is in the death throws from it. Starfinder will suffer the same fate - sooner or later. 
  4. I was tired of buying books. There are at least 25 PF hardcover books. And probably double that in softcover. There are somewhere around 60 hardcover 3.5 books. Don't get me wrong, I probably have 20 S&W hardcovers. But only one of them is a rule book.
I'm sure there are more reasons, but, like I said, I'm tired. But, the positives of switching to an OSR system outweigh the negatives of staying in the PF era:
  1. Five minute character creation rules! I have made 15 characters at conventions in the past year or so. None of them took from playing time! 
  2. Combats only take up as much time as character creation. It's quick and deadly. I don't have to count out squares, or worry about attacks of opportunity. I can just roll some dice and let luck happen. There is still strategy in the OSR; it is much more abstract. 
  3. There are plenty of options without being overwhelming. A lot of the OSR rules sets are comparable (if not directly compatible.) In S&W there are 9 classes in the Core Rulebook. Doing a quick "OSR class" search on RPGNow brought up another 2200+ items. I'm sure that they aren't all actual player classes, but even if 10% of them are, there are way more classes than for PF and 3.5 combined.
  4. I can buy exactly 0 books and play. Seriously, Frog God Games is amazing at giving out their rules set. Core Rules;  Complete Rule BookSwords and Wizardry Light (all of those are links to the FREE downloads of the rules, directly from FGG.)
  5. I can easily convert 1e to S&W. They are essentially the same system. S&W doesn't have gnomes, and the XP chart is a bit different. There are a few other small changes, but nothing that stops me from using Keep on the Borderlands or Temple of Elemental Evil in S&W.
  6. Megadungeons are easier to run in OSR. 
  7. I can play with 2 people or 20. The rules don't care at all. Can you image a 20 player Pathfinder combat?
  8. The OSR conventions are better. NTRPG and GaryCon are the best conventions in the country. 
  9. I don't have to look up a rule or feat every 20 minutes.
  10. (Comment if you get the joke!) Everything! Everything, Everything!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Monster Monday: Ghost

I have finished the project for Lee's contest. Done with the desert for now. The judging has begun. It ended up being named "The Blood Pharaoh."
I have begun to turn my eye to Halloween. In that vein, I am "editing" (read: rewriting) my cousin-nephew-son's (CNS) module. Once that is done, I am moving on to a Ghost Ship. . .
But, how does this all get me to ghosts? My CNS has a benevolent spirit in his. I don't want to say too much, but a ghost fits best. But, what are ghosts in S&W?
Monstrosities page 190 states: "There are innumerable types of ghosts with varying qualities, often depending on the nature and circumstances under which the person died." The Swords & Wizardry Complete Rulebook tells us to pretty much make up our own.
Ghosts will probably feature prominently in our next couple of modules, and here are some of the ideas that we have had thus far:

A corporeal undead (probably a ghoul) that when killed releases its spirit. Maybe it will be friendly, or maybe it will be another combat.

A ghostly guide is a possibility in the Ghost Ship.

A child's ghost that just wants to play.

A ghost that takes control of people's bodies. Similar to Magic Jar.

An ettin's ghost. One head realizes it's dead, and the other doesn't.

Mord Mar has a ghost that is infused into the stone. It's a deus ex machina device that can infuriate and help PCs through the entire mega-dungeon.

I'm looking for really creepy ideas for ghosts. Got one? Tell me about it. You can leave a comment here or on the Mord Mar Facebook page. . .

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monster Monday: Dessicator Demon

Still working on the Lee Autry contest this week. I found I needed to create a new monster for a plot driven encounter. This was the mini it is inspired by:

Stolen from Lee's Facebook post
This is how it got stated up:
Demon, Desiccator (Ammit)
Hit Dice: 8 (35 hp)
Armor Class: 2 [17]
Attacks: Punch (1d4), bite (1d6)
Save: 8
Special: Immune to fire, lightning; magic resistance 25%, +1 weapon required to hit, all who die bitten by a desiccator demon rise as a zombie 1d4 rounds later.
Move: 12, 6 (flying)
Alignment: Chaos 
Challenge Level: 11/1700

Ammit carries a Devouring Rod. Any creature it is pointed at must make a save or their soul is sucked out of their body and destroyed. Bonuses to magical saves apply to this.

How did she get her name? The following is from wikipedia

Ammit (/ˈæmt/; "devourer" or "soul-eater"; also called Ammut or Ahemait) was a female goddess in ancient Egyptian religion with a body that was part lionhippopotamus and crocodile—the three largest "man-eating" animals known to ancient Egyptians. A funerary deity, her titles included "Devourer of the Dead", "Eater of Hearts", and "Great of Death".[2]

This project has been a lot of fun. I've had to do a lot of research, as I am not that familiar with desert mythology. Ammit is a result of the research. On a side note, the module should be done tomorrow or Wednesday!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Monster Monday: Otyugh

Lee Autry is doing another module contest for his minis. The last time he had this contest, The Oracle Of Stone And Flame was born. This time I will focus on a monster from his new contest, the otyugh.

The otyugh has always been a favorite monster of mine. They are dumb, but can speak, at least in D&D lore. They have a reason to exist. They are garbage eaters! Cities, sewers, and dungeons will all welcome an otyugh.

 Jacob E. Blackmon
from Rogue Genius Games

The Otyugh appears in Swords and Wizardry's Monstrosities (page 367)

Hit Dice: 7
Armor Class: 3 [16]
Attacks: 2 tentacles (1d8), bite (1d4+1)
Save: 9
Special: Disease
Move: 6
Alignment: Neutral
CL/XP: 8/800

I love using an otyugh to be an intelligence hub. They are smart enough to listen, and dumb enough to speak. For little more than last night's stew, adventurers often get valuable information on the location of things in Mord Mar.
In the upcoming adventure, how I will use otyughs is still a secret. I would expect to see that adventure on our publisher page in November. ;)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Silver Bulette "sales" update

As of earlier today, Silver Bulette had 672 downloads! We are proud of what we have accomplished so far, but this is just the beginning. What a beginning it is!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Monster Monday: Stoneflower

I may get a Monster Monday out on time (nope, it's after midnight now . . .) Today's subject is the Stoneflower, from Monstrosities (page 462).
I chose the Stoneflower because I have this cool new artwork (search for Custom Art by Smitty on Facebook). It also happens to feature prominently in the module I just released on RPGNow. When I was finishing up Denizens of the Citadel, I needed a monster that could be trapped for hundreds of years, but still be alive. It also needed to be a good encounter for low level (2-4th) parties. Digging through the Swords and Wizardry monster tomes, I came across the Stoneflower, and fell in love.

It doesn't do a lot of damage (d3). It can spread attacks around (1d6 attacks per round).It has a weird magnetic effect. A perfect monster, right when I needed it. Matt Finch does great work. Sometimes weird monsters are perfect monsters. . . 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Monster Wednesday (Skullfish)

It's been a busy week around the household. Boating on Sunday, Michigan Adventure on Monday. 3D Printer showed up on Tuesday, so I need to play catch-up. Here's another monster that shows up in the Stonemire region:

Hit Dice: 1d4
Armor Class: 3 [16] or 7 [12]
Attacks: Bite (1d6)
Saving Throw: 18
Special: None
Move: 18 (swim)
Alignment: Neutral
CL/XP: A/5

*Skullfish are difficult to hit with any weapon that isn't piercing. The better armor class is when someone is not using a piercing weapon (like a spear or trident)

Skullfish are about the size of a sunfish or crappie. They derive their name from the exposed skull bones. They have no eyes, and no holes for eyes. The skin and muscles attach at the base of the skull giving these fish a distinct, horrifying look. They travel in schools of 10 to 50, and relentlessly attack anything that moves with their tiny dagger-like teeth.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

(Not) Monster Monday

I didn't have time to write a blog today. But, I got the central AC fixed! That may help moving forward. . .

Monday, July 10, 2017

Top 12 Undead (catching up on Monster Monday)

I've missed the last couple of monster Mondays. The 4th of July and life happen. I hope to make it up throughout this week and one fashion or another.
Today, I thought I would do a list as I haven't done one for a while. So without any fanfare, here is my top 12 undead creatures:

12. At the far end of The Dirty Dozen we have skeletons. These low-level undead are staple in pretty much every mega dungeon in one fashion or another. Whether it is the 111 Skeleton Trap or just a mob of bony undead, skeletons are great. They are so good, that there are dozens of variants: the common skeleton, skeletal knight, even skeletal mages.
11. Ghouls (and their stinky cousins, ghasts) are scary thing for anyone. Well, except maybe elves. They can be mistaken for zombies, they have paralyzation and usually they are accompanied by a stinky ghast.
One of my favorite tricks with a ghoul is to have them at the bottom of a pit trap or someplace where a party member can be easily separated. In this case even one or two of these foul beasts can be very dangerous to a mid-level party.
10. Ghosts are at the upper end of the top 10. They can be a great foil, piece of information, arch enemy, ghosts can be pretty much anything.
I like to use ghosts in a way to juxtapose the situation. The ghost is the only good thing in the haunted castle.  The vampire is in love with the ghostly maiden. The fallen king's ghost appears in the middle of his bastard son's court are some ways I have seen them used in the past.
9. Eye of Fear and Flame is a baddy that is under-used and under-appreciated. This image is found in the Fiend Folio and is owned by WoTC. In spite of all of its weirdness, I fiend myself drawn again and again to the FF. This guy may not be undead, but he sure looks like it. In my world, they definitely are.
The Eye is a paladin killer. They can speak in alignment tongues and convince people to do evil things. An Eye, when played properly should get the good party to do all kinds of evil things. Convince the paladin to slay the drow child. He will grow up to be a warrior who single-handedly brings down a dwarven hold. Convince the paladin that the thief needs to be killed for his role in a bank heist three years ago. The possibilities are endless with this wolf-in-sheeps-clothing.
8. Vampires are one of the best villains in all of the D&D world. Strahd is the most well known, having spawned an entire line of 2e materials. They are tough to kill. They have legions of rats, bats, and wolves to harry the outdoor adventurers. Vampires are a GM's dream and a player's nightmare. Entire campaigns (and TPKs) can be centered around the actions of a vampire, and hunting him to extinction.
One of my favorite hidden levels of Mord Mar is Lita Fuller's domain. She is an incredibly old vampire who has carved herself a nice living space near the dwarven burial grounds. She uses the death energy of the area to experiment with creating new undead creatures. Lita is always glad for company, and does her best to be a good hostess. It makes her hunting much easier.
7. Shadows are one of the creepiest undead around. They blend in perfectly with their surroundings underground. In S&W they drain strength and spawn new shadows through the stat drain.
Shadow tactics usually include attacking the squishy, weak characters like mages and thieves. Preferably when the party is already fighting something else. They follow, slinking along floors and ceilings waiting for the perfect time to strike.
6. Liches, demi-liches, and draco-liches are some of the most powerful undead. Like vampires, they are usually found at the end of a campaign, or a character killing session. Powerful magic-users who have defeated death are the worst type of magic-user.
Liches are the kings (and queens) of their domain. At NTRPG this year, we entered Mythrus Tower and found a way to destroy 2 of them. But, they had set up their domain so that the party was trapped inside, and that a giant freaking laser cut through the middle of the group. It was a gruesome experience.
5. Mummies drip with exotic flavor. Everyone immediately imagines pyramids and grave robbing when the word is used. Mummy rot is one of the most feared diseases in all of the games we play. Requiring TWO mid-level clerical spells to remove is a dastardly thing indeed.
There are no mummies in Mord Mar, yet. They are a great undead, but require a special care in use. They can't just be thrown into a dungeon like a common zombie. These were human-gods and should be treated as such. A treasure map leading to a mummy's tomb would be a special enough thing for these bandaged baddies to make an appearance. 
4. Zombies are the rank and file of the undead. They come in a huge variety: fast, slow, rotting, diseased, infectious, armed, and unarmed to name a few. Every necromancer needs a cadre of zombies.  What makes zombies particularly sweet is seeing the very person a group is searching for shambling towards them in full undead glory.
Most recently, zombies were found in Mord Mar in a horde of 20, controlled by a cult of Orcus. Although the adventurers were victorious, they burned through a lot of resources for such common undead.
3. Poltergeists push us into the top three spots. Again, a monster that began its D&D carrier in the FF. In S&W, poltergeists are pretty weak (2 hd, AC 7[12]) but they are a great tension reliever. A goblet flies through the air, and hits Sir Stuffy Shirt in the back, spilling wine all over him. 
If I were to use a poltergeist in a dangerous encounter, I would give it synergy with another nearby denizen. For example, a potion maker doesn't want to be disturbed, so he brings several flasks of acid to the room haunted by a poltergeist. The poltergeist then throws the flasks when the party disturbs its prison. . . 
2. Wraiths are some great undead.  In S&W they are really tough to deal with at range (only taking 1 point of damage from arrows). Add the level drain, and they are fearsome 4 HD critters.
In the swamps around Stonemire, there is said to be a wraith that rides an undead swamp cow (catoblepas). He hunts for the killers of his family. But, the killers are long dead.
1. Finally, we come to the favorite undead (at least this week). My #1 is Corpse Candle. They appear in the Tome of Horrors Complete (published by Frog God Games). Scott Greene is credited as the author. Here's the stat block for S&W:
Corpse Candle

Hit Dice: 6
Attacks: Incorporeal Touch (1d6)
Save: 11
Special: Hypnotic Lights
Move: 6/18 (flying)
Alignment: Chaos
CL/XP: 8/800

It's those hypnotic lights that make these things amazing. I used them in a PF adventure a while back where they almost caused a TPK. The party had to work to save their drowning friends, instead of combat the monsters at hand. It was glorious.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Lizard-men of Mord Mar (Monster Monday)

The lizard-men of the Swamp are a prehistoric hangover. They were the first humanoid race in the world, but not even they realize this fact. The lizard-men use an oral tradition to tell and re-tell their histories, and have never developed a written language. They are not dumb, however. Occasionally, a member of the tribe has been known to learn Common, in both oral and written form.

Lizardmen (from Swords & Wizardry)
Hit Dice: 2+1
Armor Class: 5 [14]
Attacks: 2 claws (1d3), 1 bite (1d8)
Save: 16
Special: Underwater 
Move: 6/12 (swimming)
Alignment: Usually Chaos
Challenge Level/XP: 2/30

Image found on Pintrest

The lizard-men are a very spiritual people, but they worship what mankind terms "Forbidden Gods." All known lizard-man gods are evil, and most demand blood sacrifices. These differ by the tribe's oral histories. Some sacrifices are simply "shaggy beasts," and other tribal interpretations require blood from "tusked men." Some are not at all specific, only requiring that the sacrifice is breathing. Over time, almost all human and demi-human sacrifice has been removed from lizard-man culture. Men and their ilk are simply too powerful to raid. However, a group of men stumbling into their territory is a great sacrifice.
A small sect of lizard-men worship Nobback as a god made flesh, and will sometimes attempt to lure creatures to the large alligator. The sect is all males, who keep this godling hidden from the matriarchy.
Lizard-men society is matriarchal. The males are known to be hunter-gatherers while the females tend to societal issues. These include: Oral histories, incubation of eggs, rearing young, making ceremonial instruments (headdresses, sacrificial daggers, altars, jewelry of station, etc) and making or upholding laws. Shamans are almost exclusively female.
Lizard-men near Mord Mar are blood enemies with goblins and kobolds. The dwarves of Stonemire trade swamp cow meat for dyes from the lizard-men. Occasionally, lizard-men will trade with caravans traversing through the swamps.

In the Sanctuary of Water is a separate tribe of lizard-men, that dwell exclusively underground. Their secrets will be revealed on another day.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Monster Monday: A Little Late

Monster Monday is late. It happens. Why is not important (my brother's boat broke down, and I spent 3 hours trying to help him). On to the RPG goodness.

I want to expound on last week's topic, the word monster. More specifically, I want to put a "monster" into a campaign. As most of you know, I'm working on a mega-dungeon called Mord Mar. Outside of the dungeon is a swamp, with Stonemire as a possible base of operations. In a fantasy world, there should be some famous creatures in the wilderness that people avoid the territories of. It's time my swamp had some of these:

Nobback: a 15 foot long gator, who is known to seek out anything larger than herself in her territory. About a generation ago, the old timers say that Nobback ate a chimera.

Spiketooth: a huge boar, the size of a horse. Said to have a taste for goblin meat. Spiketooth generally stays to the west end of the swamp (near the goblin homes).

Zielony: a great wyrm green dragon who roosts in an abandoned temple at the south end of the swamp. She generally leaves Stonemire alone, but will occasionally harass merchants for things of interest.

Garbanzo: a weeping willow treant. Garbanzo is usually friendly with humanoids it crosses paths with, but sometimes it takes offense to small things.

Scales: a giant viper that traverses the swamp. Believed to actually be several snakes, all over 10 feet long.

Grumbleskin: a hill giant that lives near the mountain. He has made a lot of money by ambushing adventurers and caravans.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Monster Monday: MONSTER!!!

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to travel to NTRPG Con. I was even more fortunate to have the ability to hang out with the Frog God games crew. Bill Webb was the one who originally inspired this regular feature on this blog, and he reminded me of it this past weekend.

A paraphrase from Bill: "When I use the word monster, that's what I mean. It is something dangerous, and not easy to defeat or destroy. They are a threat that common people cannot handle."

And that's the topic today: "Monster." Here's the first definition from "a legendary animal combining features of animal and human form or having the forms of various animals in combination, as a centaur, griffin, or sphinx."

This definition only scratches the surface of what we, as gamers, mean for "monster." For example, a living statue would be a monster, but not meet that definition. We need a better definition than the standard one.

I would also humbly add to the definition of monster. A monster is something that instills a fear within people that face it.

So what is a "monster?" We'll start with Bill's definition and work forward:
  1. dangerous, difficult to destroy, threatening to most
  2. legendary animal (or person), with combinations of features
  3. instills a fear into people that see or face it.
One of my earliest Monster Monday posts had to do with goblins. Does a goblin meet the new definition of monster? Let's look:

  1. individually, no, goblins do not meet this criteria. However, as a society of chaos, they absolutely could threaten a village, be difficult to destroy and have enough weapons to be dangerous.
  2. subjectively speaking, goblins could meet this criteria, based on description (elfish ears, a smashed, pug-like face) 
  3. adventurers nearly never fear goblins, but they could be crushed by the weight of a tribe and see true fear.
Although there are arguments for goblins being a monster, the definition or creature has to be stretched to accommodate it. Now, I will give an example of a monster from Bill's game Friday night. We found a treasure horde at the bottom of a pool of water. Investigating, we found the horde was midships on a broken galleon (or some other largish ship). We removed a seal, and were attacked by a creature that stayed in the water, and turned things it touched to ice. We knew it was undead, but our 8th level (!) cleric was unable to turn it. Working as a team, we found a way to destroy it.

The rest of the story: after it was not turned, panic set in. Those of us with high level characters refused to get in the water with it. And we never destroyed it. We found a way to immobilize it, but I'm not saying how in case you ever play in one of Bill's games.

Does this monster meet the requirements? It was definitely dangerous, difficult to destroy, and threatening. It was undead (combining features of people and the dead.) And it instilled a fear into the highest level party members: a 9th level thief, an 8th level cleric, 5th level fighters and thief, and even a 4th level paladin (or at least his player.)

Although I know the name of this monster (thanks to being friends with the DM), it's not important. We defeated (but not destroyed) a MONSTER in Mythrus Tower's wilderness environs!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Monster Monday: Green Dragons

It's another Monday and a holiday to boot. To all of the service members who lost their lives: words cannot express the gratitude that I have for your sacrifice. May your families endure well in your absence, and you drink in Valhala (or Heaven). You are not forgotten. Dad, enjoy the Great Rest.

*EDIT* After working the long weekend, I wasn't able to finish this on Monday, so Monster Tuesday today!

That said, on to the RPG stuff! There has been a challenge thrown for designing a green dragon's lair, so, green dragons are my topic this week. Dragons are an interesting dichotomy in 1e/OSR. They are the flagship monster, but "relatively" weak for their stature.

HPs are not what makes a dragon the flagship monster though. They are iconic, intelligent, and deadly. Dragons being iconic doesn't really need to be explained. If it really does, google St George, Beowulf, Dragon's Lair, Dragonslayer, or even Never Ending Story. They have been in the social consciousness for 100s of years, if not longer.

Intelligence is an attribute that I think most GMs overlook. Green dragons have an intelligence of "average to very" according to the 1e MM. Average intelligence means that they will stay out of harms way if possible, attack weak party members (aka wizards), retreat when being beaten, have escape routes, etc. Dragons should always use intelligent options when available. This makes a huge difference in difficulty.

The fear aura makes an adult dragon an awesome foe for low level (less than 6th level) party (this isn't in S&W as far as I can tell, but the contest specifies a version of D&D.) The breath weapon is what truly makes dragons dangerous. 3 x day a dragon can breathe damage equal to its HPs (save for half). In my dragon's case that's 72. That's a LOT of HP of damage. 2 salvos like that, and most parties are done, even if they make the save! And, in 1e, dragons can breathe round after round. Dragons can also choose to use three melee attacks per round: 2 claws (1d6 each) and a bite (2d10).

Now that the nuts and bolts are out of the way, let's move on to personality. For my adventure, I have been researching how green dragons should be role-played. There's not a lot on the subject for 1e, so I have room to play around. Here's what we know from the Monster Manual:
  • The innate cowardice of dragonkind is shown by the fact most can be subdued.
  •  Dragons’ egoistic nature makes them subject to flattery
  • Greed and avarice are major motivating factors in all but the loftiest of dragons
  • they are subject to manipulation by very clever persons or the prospect of actual treasure and the promise of more forthcoming.
  • ALIGNMENT: Lawful evil
  • They are very nasty tempered and thoroughly evil.
What I see is that green dragons are vain, cowardly, greedy, mean and evil. But, they have a clear goal: get more loot. As green dragons are lawful evil, they will adhere to a bargain struck, but will attempt to exploit loopholes as they see fit.
With that much information, I can finally develop a personality template for the dragon I'm currently calling Bertha:
Bertha will converse with interlopers, as she has an ego that needs to be fed.  This can also gain her information on the intruders, treasure hoards, and other potential information.
If she is insulted, Bertha will attack. She is willing to strike a bargain, even with weaker creatures, if they can further her agenda. The weak creatures had better offer something extraordinary to enter into the bargain, though.
Bertha's lair is set up for her to retreat to a high, safe location if her "guests" begin to overwhelm her. She can even leave through a large vent in the ceiling. I intend her to be able to be a recurring threat.

Does this sound like what a green dragon should be to you?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Working toward the Kickstarter - Tuesday Talk

I'm moving forward in the Kickstarter planning stages. One of the most important things for a KS to be successful is to have an engaged audience. I have been actively promoting the blog on FB and G+ for a few weeks now to move toward that goal. What I haven't done yet is start asking what people would like to see in a Mord Mar product.
I have a vision and a lot of writing done for the campaign. But, it does no good if that's not what people are looking for. With that in mind, I am beginning a new weekly blog article: Tuesday Talk!

In this week's Tuesday Talk, I'm asking about the setting. It's important. I mean, it really is everything in a campaign like Mord Mar. For those of you who don't know, I will give a short exposition.

Mord Mar is a great mountain, in which dwarves lived for centuries. The dwarves built a huge city, also called Mord Mar within. They prospered under the Greybeard clan's rule for hundreds of years. Like any successful city-state, they warred with their enemies, namely drow, goblins, and orcs, but the city was always triumphant. Part of this military dominance came from the great teleportation system that connected all of the parts of the city.

Then, the armies of chaos banned together to destroy their structured enemy. Orcs and goblins attacked remote parts of the dwarven homeland, while drow and other magic wielders infiltrated within. The very tools that kept Mord Mar powerful were its downfall. The infiltrators taught the orcs, goblins, and other races that joined in for spoils of war to use the teleportation system. Soon, enemies were appearing out of thin air, and striking down dwarves where they stood. The only area of the city that stayed safe was Var Nae, or Grand Entrance. That section of the city didn't have teleporters to use against the dwarves, and they were able to hold a small piece of their once grand city.

It is rumored that below the base of the mountain, in a deep subterranean cavern, is a device, spell or artifact that can turn a mortal into a god. Many scholars believe this was the very reason why Mord Mar was attacked. Goblins, orcs and their like must dream of immortality. When your society is kill or be killed, there is nothing more tempting.

After the fall of Mord Mar, Var Nae was overrun with refugees from the chaos deeper in the mountain. Many of these dwarves left the comfort of the stone and embarked outside. They found a suitable place near the great mountain, and began to build a city in the swamp. These people benefited from the ancient dwarven discipline of "stonecalling." Some dwarves could move the stone with their voice. A few of these came with the refugees from Var Nae, and build a solid foundation of stone for their new city, Stonemire.

The people of Var Nae understood that they could not reclaim their lost city from the chaos. So, they began an adventurer's guild. Many people from many races came to try their hand at pulling treasure out of the mountain. Many died, a few were successful, and a couple even became rich. It is rumored that at least two members of the guild found how to become gods.

Recently Var Nae has come under drow occupation. They locked the great doors to the outside world.

This is where the 1st Kickstarter book will begin. "Stonemire" will be a setting book, with the city, swamp, and a few nearby dungeons that can once again unlock the Great Doors of Var Nae. Is my premise sound? Would you enjoy reading or playing this product? Please let me know!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Monster Monday: Goblins

So last week, I talked about description again. This was my scenario:

The Setting:
Low level characters have been hired by the burgomaster of Stonemire to find out who stole the fireworks for the upcoming celebration. Witnesses report that short cloaked people were seen near the warehouse last night. One witness swears he saw a long hooked nose, and green skin. Another said there were about 10 of them, well organized and being led by a taller fellow.
The group knows there are the following nearby: a goblin village, a kobold cavern, an orcish tribe, a halfling burrow, and a lizard-man encampment.

Where do they head first?

On one of the Facebook posts, someone brought up that AD&D goblins were red. Honestly I never knew that. I think that green goblins started with Fighting Fantasy gamebooks in my mind and have been cemented ever since.
Looking through my collection, the first reference to green goblins I found was in Castles & Crusades, copyright 2005. I know that I've seen goblins as green a lot longer than that.

Even in Mord Mar, I have different types of goblins that look different:

Dreg: An underground goblin. Usually a brown-gray mottled color. Skegs and Dregs constantly interbreed.
Skeg: A swamp goblin. Usually a green-gray mottled color. Skegs and Dregs constantly interbreed.
Ferg: A forest or jungle goblin. They are rarely seen near Mord Mar, but are stronger than their local counterparts. Their skin is usually a forest or kelly green.

But, this brings us to a different question. Should goblins be uniform throughout most (or all) D&D games? Sure, if they are uniform, it is easier to identify when goblins are the foe. But is that a good thing? Should goblins look similar everywhere and still have different cultures?

Feel free to comment!

Monday, May 15, 2017

What Creature Is This: Follow Up

Last week, I asked the audience "what creature is this?"

The Setting:
The adventurers had been contracted by a city to look into the disappearance of some less influential citizens. Most were homeless, but one had been a lesser noble's son who had been on a drinking bender in the slums. The trail led the group to an old mansion at the top of a bluff. After finding some grisly remains in some closets and hidden rooms, the party has made their way to the basement.

Coming down the stairs, the party sees the following creature:

A dirty humanoid is there, with crazy hair. His fingers are elongated, with sharp claws at the fingertips. His clothes are ripped and threadbare. Through the openings in his shirt, you can see his skin, paper thin and pasty white. He stands there, smiling a visage of needle-like teeth. His dull eyes seem to have a malevolent red tinge, but do not reflect the light of your torches as a living being's would.

Here's the breakdown of the answers that I noticed:

  • zombie
  • ghoul x 2
  • ghast
  • wight x 4 (correct answer!)
  • "skeleton not enough meat for a zombie"
As you can see, there was no real consensus among the respondents. Let's do another one, this time not undead:

The Setting:
Low level characters have been hired by the burgomaster of Stonemire to find out who stole the fireworks for the upcoming celebration. Witnesses report that short cloaked people were seen near the warehouse last night. One witness swears he saw a long hooked nose, and green skin. Another said there were about 10 of them, well organized and being led by a taller fellow.
The group knows there are the following nearby: a goblin village, a kobold cavern, an orcish tribe, a halfling burrow, and a lizard-man encampment.

Where do they head first?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Monster Monday - Bulette

One of my favorite monsters is the bulette. Every game needs a tank that can burrow under the protagonists, attack without warning, and leave without dying.
From the title page of the 1st Edition D&D Monster Manual

I may get the details on this wrong, as it is oral history, heard from Tim Kask about 3 years ago at GaryCon. I asked him about his hand in creating the bulette, and to the best of my knowledge this is paraphrasing what I was told:
Gary was always on the lookout for new monsters. He found some Taiwan toy "dinosaurs" that didn't look anything like dinosaurs at a dime store. He brought them back and told the TSR employees  to make monsters for D&D out of them.
Tim grabbed what we now know as the bulette.
Dwarven ponies were running rampant in Tim's game at the time. He decided a predator was in order. As the party was resting with the ponies tied to a tree, a pair of bulettes burrowed up and grabbed the ponies. They ripped them apart, and once their bellies were full, left again. (I don't know if the adventurers actually killed one.)

Bulette are a stereotypical monster. They are big, tough, and stupid. They are a complete mystery, rising from the depths to cause havoc and destruction, with no known reproduction or social habits. They exist to feed and to strike fear into adventurers hearts.

Monster Monday - Guest Post

A friend of mine wanted to add to the Monster Monday mayhem! So, today, for the first time, we have a guest post. The following is written by Ian McGarty.

Oh $&*# Run!

The rumble of galloping horses died down as the group slowed to a halt near a large tree standing alone on the flat grasslands. The group seemed perplexed though as some rumbling sound continued. A keen-eyed elf scanned the horizon, a robed wizard looked to the skies, a warrior and priest drew forth their weapons and shields, and a slight dark clothed figure dismounted and pressed a hand to the ground. At that moment, the ground collapsed in under the wizard’s horse and all of the mounts spooked at the scream of pain and terror from the horse being pulled under. A sickening crunch followed as the wizard scrambled out of the hole. The group ran towards the tree. The elf screamed as a 15’ long creature of armor, sinew, and muscle shot from the ground with a single push of its powerful clawed legs. A mouthful of razor sharp teeth claimed the elf who had little time to react. The warrior and cleric rushed forward and slashed and banged their weapons against a thick armored body of the torpedo like creature to no avail. The slight man threw a fusillade of daggers which bounced harmlessly against the creature which continued to crunch chew upon the elf.

Monster. The word evokes imagery of fantastical creatures for all of us who are enamored by fantasy games and role-playing. Its roots come from Middle English and Old French and the word monstre  meaning ‘to warn’. RPG’s have changed in focus from tricking, trapping, and avoiding monsters to a grind to assault and slay them all. This has in part been made possible by the changes which have occurred in more ‘rules heavy’ game systems like Pathfinder which has diminished the ferocity and deadly aspects of many monsters. Myself, I prefer the ‘OSR’ monsters that can kill in a single pass, with a single failed saving throw, and must be overcome with more wits than rolls.  It seems that these newer systems have lost that original meaning and warning about the monsters.
For example, let’s compare the creature described in the interlude above, the Bulette. In first edition, this creature had a nigh-impenetrable shell, unless you discovered its weak underbelly. The damage dealt by this creature was massive and could kill a player in a single swipe. Paizo’s bulette has lost its teeth and can be killed by a group of 3rd level characters! The danger of monsters has been watered down and this has made players less clever in my opinion. Danger breeds creativity.

So what are the effects of this change? In my opinion, it has caused players to become less creative and more reliant on a simple die roll to determine everything, from what plan they can enact and think of, to the swing of their swords. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. Some people crave a game with structure and tactics that have clear, intricate rules to describe any possible outcome. These people want to participate in a game that has a rigid and static order and procedure they can rely on. The resurgence of the OSR type games has also been excited by groups of players that want more than just a die roll to determine what their characters can figure out.

Thursday, May 11, 2017


A poster on the Old School Gamers group on Facebook asked a simple question tonight:
Today's random word is statues. How have you used statues and golems in your campaign?

It sounded like a great topic for a blog post, as they really are one of my favorite tools in my gm's toolbox. Statue creatures are pretty common in FRPGs. Some common ones include: caryatid column, gargoyle, and living statue. But this isn't where they shine.

Statues are a tangible thing that links the past to the present. They are the physical representation of the dark god that cultists worship in the darkness. Statues are the effigy to heroes long past, and kings of yore. They are the divine's likeness in a town square. Yes, statues are many things.

Statues can play many roles in a FRPG game. They can be quest givers, like in Clash of the Titans. They can be quest enders: "destroy the statue of Orcus, and the undead will stop walking the night." Statues can be warnings. You know you've entered a medusa's lair when you see statues of heroes, all with surprised looks. Statues can even be rewards. Try giving the party a statue of them, in the hometown. Remind them of it when they walk by, and you will see many sly smiles.

My two favorite roles for statues are information and puzzles. Statues are born for these tasks. For example, when a GM wants to expound on the past of the campaign world, it is easy to add a Hall of Kings, with statues from every king, and their accomplishments listed on a plaque. A well known puzzle that could be used is the Eight Queens Chess Puzzle.

Here are 3 scenarios that I have or will use involving statues in Mord Mar:

  1. Minotaur Statue: The party comes across a statue of a minotaur on a pedestal. It is made of obsidian, and holds a double-bladed battle axe. As soon as a party member touches the statue, it comes to life and attacks the party member. If the party member dies, it returns to the pedestal, unmoving until another person touches it. If the party defeats it, the minotaur respawns in 24 hours, stronger, and hunts the person that touched the statue. The party must find a way to defeat it without destroying it. Examples may include: leaving it in a portable hole, locking it in a room that it cannot escape from, or appeasing it in some other way (with a GM's clues.)
  2. A statue stands in each corner of a room. They can be turned 360 degrees, but not moved. For the secret to be revealed, none of them can look at a wall or each other.
  3. Deep in a cavern below the old city, the party finds a statue of Auror Oaktooth (high god of Mord Mar). It is badly defaced, but still recognizable. If the party restores the statue, and surrounding room to temple quality, Auror will give a great boon to them. 
Statues are one of the most versatile tools available to a Game Master. Don't just look at them as monsters to overcome, terrain to battle around, or treasure to be traded for gold. They can be so much more.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Chronomega Kickstarter Launch

My buddies over at Vorpal Chainsword have launched their newest Kickstarter: Chronomega. I don't do a lot of Kickstarter recommendations, but the VC gang blew me away with their first release, Ravingspire. They did an amazing job, and released a unique product.

I've seen a bit of Chronomega in action. At GaryCon this year, the crew broke out the demo game, and it looked like a blast. Everybody wants to shoot their friends out of an airlock once in a while, right?

UPDATE: The Chronomega Kickstarter has been canceled.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Teleportation: an expanded view (warning: longer than normal)

"Ingress and egress are vital components of a megadungeon. As such, they must be well designed." -me on Facebook earlier today.

While writing my Mord Mar Monday post last night, I talked about teleportation in Mord Mar. I asked some friends on Facebook about the subject. I received some excellent responses. Here was my post:

"A question for the historians of Dungeons & Dragons: Did Gary gygax allow teleportation to be used in castle greyhawk? I dimly remember reading something about it a long time ago, but my google fu is weak.

Follow up question: Do those of you with your own Mega dungeons allow teleportation in them?"

Having my Facebook friends respond to my post was very enlightening. I found that Gary Gygax did in fact allow teleportation into and out of Greyhawk Castle. And, it seems most megadungeon creators do allow for teleportation to work within their creations. Undermountain colored my perception more than I had realized.

To recap, here's what I said was going to happen with the Mord Mar:

"My conclusion to the Teleport Dilemma is a randomization. As I was thinking about the teleport nodes that line the entrance corridor, I decided that Egg devised the system. He built it, but it is pervasive throughout Mord Mar. 50% of the time the teleport spell taps into the system, and dumps the people being teleported into the nearest teleport node (or activation point). 25% of the time, they teleport as intended (with the usual teleport chances of failure), and 25% of the time the spell simply fails."

In 1E AD&D, teleport has a casting time of 2 segments, with only a V component. So, it is quick and easy to cast. The weight limit may factor into successfully using the spell in combat. I just looked up the S&W version of teleport, and I'm a bit surprised. Here it is, from the newest printing of the Complete Rules:

Spell Level: Magic-User, 5th Level Range: Touch Duration: Instantaneous

This spell transports the caster or another person to a destination that the caster knows, or at least knows what it looks like from a picture or a map. Success depends on how well the caster knows the targeted location, as follows:

1. If the caster has only seen the location in a picture or through a map (so that knowledge is not based on direct experience), there is only a 25% chance of success, and failure means death, for the traveler’s soul is lost in the spaces between realities.

1. If the caster has seen but not studied the location, there is a 20% chance of error. In the case of an error, there is a 50% chance that the traveler arrives low, 1d10 x10 feet below the intended location (with death resulting from arrival within a solid substance). If the error is high (over the 50% chance for a “low” arrival), the traveler arrives 1d10 x10 feet above the targeted location – likely resulting in a deadly fall.

1. If the caster is well familiar with the location, or has studied it carefully, there is only a 5% chance of error. On a 1 in 6 the teleport is low, otherwise it is high. In either case, the arrival is 1d4 x10 feet high or low.

This version of the spell obviously does not provide enough advantage to warrant a problem. It is only a single person. It honestly seems a bit weak for a 5th level spell. Looking at Labyrinth Lord, it seems to be very similar to the S&W version. This may be why settings like Barrowmaze, Rappan Athuk and Castle of the Mad Archmage don't mention teleport.

Compare that to the Pathfinder version, which is HERE. PF ramps up the power level considerably for this spell. I would assume D&D 3.0/5 would be about the same.

HERE is the 5E version, for reference as well. Again, a very different spell than LL or S&W. Also considerably more powerful than 1E.

This brings me to the conclusion that the rules system for the game will have a large impact on the effectiveness of teleport. Mord Mar started as Pathfinder, which may be the root of my consternation.

"Mega's are all about navigation- at higher levels PCs have more options and should be able to use them. That said, high level GMing for Megas is about challenging resources - so I limit teleportation. In my newest Mega, the dungeon itself has MR you have to overcome"

Mister Z said that. I want to study it for a moment. The first sentence is why I have the Teleportation Dilemma. I agree that players and characters should have access to the things that they earn. It's beginning to look like I should re-revisit teleportation in Mord Mar.

Another friend of mine, JJ, said "With the additional possibility of spell failure? Why not?" This makes me think that I am on the right track.

For now, I think I'm modifying the original percentages: 25% to hit a node, 25% to hit a  rune, and 50% chance to work normally.