Thursday, December 31, 2015

A look back at 2015

This year was pretty good, postings-wise. I did a lot of stuff for Old School Hack (and my twist on it called Neo School Hack), a goodly number of reviews for gaming products and movies, and a couple discussions on using technology at the table.  In the coming year I expect to be doing more of the same, generally speaking.

A new addition will be stuff for my "Cauldron Seven" campaign using Pathfinder and the Shackled City Adventure Path.  The original magazine articles and later hardcover book are packed with information but a lot is still left uncovered.  The forums on it at the Paizo website have a lot of additional content, alternatives, and links to blogs and campaign wikis with more.  I plan to fill in some gaps, starting with maps of key buildings in the city.  I will also be filling out my campaign wiki as a resource for others looking to run this adventure path.

Also, since I just got the fun board game Super Dungeon Explore I will be posting some thoughts on it, maybe some alternate rules, etc.  If I decide to paint the minis (which really cry out for a nice paint job) I'll post progress pics and thoughts.

A real-life scenario for Fiasco?

Okay, so I've been intrigued by the game Fiasco because I loved the movie Fargo.  It's meant to model criminal capers involving too much ambition, not enough brain cells, and a dose of gonzo.  So I came across this news item alleging racketeering by Gaston Glock, head of Austrian weapons manufacturer Glock Ges.m.b.H.  The article started out as a mildly interesting business news item about corporate insider sleaze but then suddenly went all Fiasco:

"Glock’s former business associate, Charlie Ewert, was christened with “Panama” by the press for the international shell corporations he set up for Glock Inc. At some point, Glock became suspicious that Ewert may have been moving some of the company’s money to places and accounts to solely profit Ewert, and in 1999, the aging founder set off for Luxembourg to confront his partner. Rather than be found out, Ewert engaged the services of Jacques Pecheur, a former French Legionnaire who also wrestled professionally as “Sparta,” to have his employer killed.

Ewert drove Glock to a parking garage where Pecheur waited with a rubber tire hammer. As Pecheur attacked Glock, Ewert ran away, and somehow Glock survived seven blows to the head and sustained choking without any serious injuries. (Both assailant and victim were in their 70s.) Ewert was convicted on charges of attempted murder in a Luxembourg court in 2003 and sentenced to 20 years in prison."

So, you hire a guy in his 70's to carry out a contract hit on someone using a hammer?  O.M.G.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Draft template for OoTS character portraits for Roll20

Okay, so earlier I posted some of the Order of the Stick style character portraits I made for a Roll20 game.  I made them using a pair of base silhouettes, one female and one male, which I embellished to create each character.  The silhouettes were made with a bordered 64x64 pixel square to work with Roll20.  Then it occurred to me that I could expand on the two base outlines to include elements which could sijmply be pasted on to speed up the process of building characters, including NPCs.

Drawing the various embellishments is slow and tricky, because I use MS Paint (I'm slowly learning Inkscape!) and a mouse, but I enjoy it.  For a lot of people, however, artsy stuff like this is way too much work and not particularly fun.  So, I figured if I could draw up a bunch of elements, eventually including equipment, hats, hair, shields, etc. then people could just paste them onto the base silhouettes, change colors with the paint can tool, and quickly make their own.

So here is my start on a draft of the template.  Ideally it will be just the one file but we'll see how crowded it gets.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Santa brought me...Super Dungeon Explore!

Okay, actually it was my very thoughtful wifey and daughter who went to the slightly scary game store and got me this fun game.

I've been looking at this game for a while now.  It looked fun but my gaming group is mostly into tabletop RPGs and computer gaming.  Board and card games usually only come out on the occasional "off night" when we don't have a quorum for one of our RPG campaigns.  Thus I have avoided buying board games in general, despite the fact that it was historical wargame board games that first took me from "playing with plastic soldiers" to games with actual rules and stuff.  But this Thanksgiving my family surprised me by suddenly being interested in playing a game.  So my wish list for Christmas this year was board games we could all play, including Super Dungeon Explore.  After excitedly unwrapping SDE and giving the rules a quick scan we ran a game and a half.  My quick scan of the rules just before and during play was kind of a fail so we actually missed out on a lot of the key rules but it was fun anyway.

As for the game itself, the first thing you'll notice is that the production values are very high.  The miniatures are excellent, there are plenty of dice for everyone, loads of marker counters, and all the dungeon boards are double sided.  You will definitely not be disappointed with any of the components.  The rules are not complex, but the rule book is not well organized and there is no index which leads to a lot of re-reading to find where that mention of topic X is hidden in the text.  Play is fast and fun.

So now I have to decide whether to take a plunge back into miniatures painting...I'd love to paint up the fun minis but my eyesight isn't really up to it anymore.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Review: D&D 4E Neverwinter Campaign Setting

Okay, so I stopped by my friendly local game store recently and picked up a couple books, including this one.  As I've mentioned before I love setting books no matter whether it's for a town, city, region, or entire campaign world.

This book covers the town of Neverwinter in the D&D Forgotten Realms world.  Well, actually it covers the town and the immediate region around it as well as a jaunt to the Shadowfell and the borders of faraway Thay.  The locations in town and nearby are given just enough detail to work with but almost not enough in some cases.  Several groups of baddies are included with key personalities and their on-going plans described.  Overall it's a great book for starting a campaign.  It even has a very nice pull-out poster map of Neverwinter, with the material plane version on one side and the shadow plane version on the other.

Even though it was published for D&D 4th Edition there aren't a lot of crunchy edition-specific rules bits inside.  For the majority of the creatures it simply provides references to earlier works.  This is good because it cuts down on space wasted repeating information you might already have in the other books and because it makes it reasonable generic so you can use it with other rules.

There were a couple things I wasn't totally happy with.  The main one is that although it is a setting guide with lots of locations, there are only a couple maps.  The maps they do include are great but more are needed.   Maybe I'm spoiled with what Paizo usually provides in their books and adventure paths but I can see GMs doing a lot of work making up maps. For example, there is a lost dwarven "Moria" type underground city complex which is described as huge but there no map and only a few locations are described.

Another thing was that descriptions of the groups of baddies give the impression that they each have a small army but this book is meant to take characters from level 1 through level 10.  Unless the baddies have a lot of easily killed minion types, which is apparently not the case, I'm not sure how they're supposed to fully defeat them.  Also, the town itself is beset by multiple violent threat groups and sources.  The impression is that there is almost constant violence of one sort or another.  But when you look at the map Neverwinter is obviously not very big--and one quarter of it is uninhabitable and another quarter is partially occupied by a group of orcs.  When you match up the threat group activities with the size of the town as shown it's pretty clear it wouldn't last long.

Now, on to read the huge Southlands campaign seting book...

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Pacing vs. "Making Progress" in campaign play

Okay, so this weekend I had the pleasure of re-uniting with the scattered members of our extended gaming group for another all-too-rare session of our buddy Steve's game.  The members have become scattered geographically over the years and it is a rare moment when we can all be in the area for a game.  The result is that for this particular game we only meet once or twice a year.  Yes, that's quite a massive lag between sessions.  Luckily for us Steve keeps meticulous game notes so he can give us a detailed recap at the start of each session.  But with so few sessions (and my Shackled City campaign is in the same boat) I pondered the question of pacing.

For me, role play gaming is meant to include plenty of interaction between players and interaction with NPCs outside of combat.  We get clues, learn lore, discover new friends and enemies, make contacts, and discuss plots, plans, and ploys.  But that means that entire sessions can go by without a big battle, travel to a new area, characters leveling up, or other major "events".  That can lead to the impression that we "didn't make any progress" in a session.

But does that even matter?  Yes, RPGs are about enjoying the journey rather than scoring goals.  However it is satisfying to clean out that dungeon, take down the big boss, finish that epic caravan trip, etc.  But if you want each session to include "making progress" then you are forced to trim it back to just the dungeon runs and major battles.  It then devolves into almost a miniatures wargame with character sheets.

My current game is using a published adventure path which was designed as mostly a series of set-piece major encounters anyway.  Thus I have not had to consciously decide between "roleplay" and "progress".  I have actually been fleshing it out on the fly but it's still mostly "dungeons" with travel and meetings in between to provide context.  I have, however, decided to review the upcoming chapters of the adventure with an eye to eliminating or shortening some so that we can play through to a satisfying finish in under ten years.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Neo School Hack: Prestige Classes and Templates

Okay, so I was reading through the next section of the Shackled City adventure path from Paizo which I am running for my group.  This particular chapter is about visiting a layer of the Abyss, going through some lame-ish "tests", and someone finally (maybe) becoming ruler of that layer.  It's clear to me now that this chapter is very heavy on backstory but not much fun to play.  This includes the "winner" who becomes ruler of the small plane being given (stuck with) a template which is almost pretty useless if you're not an evil spellcaster.

So that got me thinking about how to do a similar template for my Neo School Hack (NSH) rules (also applicable to the original Old School Hack), and that made me think about how I could extend that idea to make D&D 3rd Edition style prestige classes.  I was also drawn to the idea because I often think up a class concept but only can come up with three or four really good talents I'm excited about before I have to start forcing mediocre ideas just to fill in the last two or three.

In NSH, classes have six talents and races have three.  So a template or prestige class should have less than six talents and probably four maximum.  For a template I figure you could do three "levels" of template, minor, normal, and major:
  • Minor Template: one talent
  • Normal Template: two talents
  • Major Template: three talents
Prestige classes can also be Minor or Major:
  • Minor: two talents
  • Major: four talents

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Okay, so I haven't been posting a lot lately, mostly due to being busy reading some new books (reviews to come) and putting together my submission for Secret Santicore.  But I wanted to take time to wish everyone the best on this Thanksgiving and hope you have some good things (or even just one good thing) which you feel thankful for nowadays.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Braille Dice Kickstarter - I'm in!

Okay, so I was checking out Tenkar's Tavern as I often do and he had a post talking about a Kickstarter for braille dice for RPG play.  I got interested in the idea of braille dice and other play aids for people who are blind or sight-impaired a while back.  RPGs involve a lot of talking but you still need character sheets, rule books, and dice.  This kickstarter not only includes dice but at higher levels there are some other play aids and teaching aids as well.  I'm backing this project in part due to the "hey, that's pretty cool!" factor, but also because I'd like to help create options for visually impaired people to participate in our fun hobby.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Back from TridentCon!

Okay, so when I say "back from TridentCon" it sounds like I just finished an epic road trip or something.  Actually it means I pretty much drove like two streets over.  Anyway, it was a great little convention.  Due to scheduling constraints I could only attend the 1:30 and 6:00pm slots on Saturday but I got into two very nice events.  The DMs were friendly, patient, and well-prepared.  My fellow players were all great.  Come to think of it, it was better in every way than the last con I attended--nice job Erik!

1:30pm: Break!  DM: Reynaldo Madrinan.  I've been following Rey's website and blog for a while now, vicariously participating in the development of the anime-inspired Break! RPG.  Thus I was quite excited to see that he'd be here in person to run a session of the game for us.  There were five of us playing and Rey recorded the audio of the session for Grey Wiz, the artist who is collaborating with Rey on the game.  The plot involved our group of adventurers being hired to solve mysterious thefts of components from a huge magitech battle mecha slowly under construction in the town of Sprocket.  Not surprisingly, there was a lot more going on in the little town and the surrounding area.  My fellow players were great and we all had fun.

6:00pm: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game.  DM: Eddie Guida.  I play the Pathfinder RPG a lot with my current group but I'd never played the new card game.  To prep I watched several review/how-to videos on YouTube and it seemed to share the characteristics of the RPG: simple mechanics with loads of modifiers on top.  One of the reviews called it "the game Talisman wanted to be".  That caught my attention because I used to play Talisman a lot; it had a lot of potential but just took way too dang long to play.  It's a well-constructed game and I think the cards could be used to run a tabletop "Pathfinder lite" RPG (hmm?).

And there were some dealer tables. I love dealer tables--and it's a rule that you may not leave a con without buying at least one thing.  I bought two, with the CthulhuTech book completing my collection for this cool game:

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Review: Rogue Trader

Okay, so I've been looking for a good go-to set of sci-fi RPG rules for a very long time.  Since 1978 in fact.  I started with Traveler, but it was too limited, too "hard sci-fi", and the concepts were boring.  Quite a bit later I came across d20 Modern and d20 Future.  This was better and catered to concepts I wanted to use but suffered a bit from being kind of "d20 stodgy".

A couple years ago I downloaded some free Warhammer 40,000 (WH 40K) quick-start rules (or other free thingy like that) and ran a decent one-shot about a group of imperial inquisition troubleshooter types arriving on a frozen mining planet and investigating chaos tainted trouble down the mines.  I wasn't super excited about the rules mechanics themselves but the WH 40K universe clearly had a lot of potential for the sort of "non-hard" sci-fi gaming I was seeking.

I didn't buy the books then but I've been watching the new books coming out from Fantasy Flight Games and putting them on my wishlists.  Finally they came out with Rogue Trader and I decided to take the plunge.

Now, going in I was expecting a sort of "Traveler 40K" game: a bunch of random-ass WH 40K types goes around in a small ship trading, pirating, exploring, adventuring etc.  But the book makes it abundantly clear that your little band is much, much more than than.  A Rogue Trader is a unique and powerful person possessing a Warrant thingy to be a Rogue Trader and only people with some Serious Background can get one.  And being a Rogue Trader implies that you are part of a larger organization with resources (represented by a Profit rating) and you are out to accomplish Big Things.

It's like you're supposed to be the East India Company in space, or a space-faring version of Sir Francis Drake on the Spanish Main.  I was actually pleased to see this relatively British take on things.  Most RPGs are American made and tend to use "the frontier" and the Old West as the models for space.  There's a lot of that "rugged individual" and "manifest destiny" type crap built in.  This is refreshingly different.

Character generation has a really nice system where you use a cascading Path chart to work out your character's background and those choices add to skills, etc. which reflect that background.  I like it a lot.  It's simple but effective.  Then you have eight career paths (classes) to choose from. These are all very useful for the setting and absolutely 40K flavored.

But it still left me with the question of just what is this game about, exactly.  Okay so we have this small group of spacer-types in one ship--like the TV show Firefly--but we're supposed to be out colonizing planets, wiping out pirates, and other Big Things--more like Star Trek(?).  Even the ship is supposed to have a crew of hundreds, if not thousands of people.  Maybe the game is actually supposed to play a bit like Star Trek, where you have a big ship with a big crew doing Big Things, but the stories are all about the handful of lead characters.  So, more "Star Trek 40K" than "Firefly 40k"?

For the campaign, the game master is supposed to set up Endeavors, such as "Establish a Cold Trade From Dead Xenos Worlds".  These are usually divided in to three phases (sub-adventures) which lead to accomplishment of the Endeavor once all three are completed.  Naturally there is room for side adventures, interacting with NPCs, etc. but it's all on the way to accomplishing your Endeavor.  A series of Endeavors, related or not, is the course of the campaign.  The book includes an example Endeavor, NPC opponents, and campaign setting to start you off.  It is very self-contained.  You can easily run an entire campaign with just this one book.

Bottom line: I like this book.  I like the career paths, the background Path chart, the campaign setting included with it, and the whole Endeavor concept is way beyond my (somewhat unimaginative) initial expectations.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Finished my huge painting!

Yup, I just finished it today.  There are a couple small touch-ups and then it goes up on the wall.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

There and Back Again: Maryland RennFest 2015

Yup, I love going to the Maryland Renaissance Festival.  I've gone almost every year since it opened.  Over the years they've added to it judiciously, presenting more while maintaining a reasonably intimate feel and keeping it well shaded with trees for those hot summer weekends.

More recently I've planned my visits there around the appearances of...wait for it...The Mediaeval Baebes!  A truly excellent group from the UK, they do primarily mediaeval/renaissance themed music.

And yes, I did the whole fanboy (I prefer the sobriquet "Patron of the Arts") thing--bought the new t-shirt and new album.  I mean, I had to buy the new CD--otherwise I wouldn't have all their albums, now would I?

The falconry demonstration was thrilling (although I was thinking it would be even cooler if they did it with giant bats):

But alas, there was no sign of the furries who were all over the place last year.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Dang, now I really have to go (TridentCon)

Okay, so I headed over to the Severna Park Community Center after work for my (semi) regular workout and what to my wondering eyes did appear but a poster for the upcoming TridentCon!

So there pretty much goes my last excuse for not going BECAUSE IT'S BASICALLY RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET FROM MY HOUSE!  And I would like to throw in a heartfelt thank you to Erik Jensen for thoughtfully setting it up here just for me.  I know I can be a bit high maintenance sometimes but this was really (almost) more than I deserved.  Thanks Erik!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Painting progress

Okay, so I had a couple chunks of time this weekend to work on my large painting inspired by classical Chinese art.  The bamboo is done and I'm pretty happy with the shading.  The characters all came out nicely but I'm worried they're a bit small to fill that space.  Originally I planned to fill in the whitespace around them with black background to provide a nice sharp contrast.  Now I'm re-thinking it and may 1) just keep the white squares but tidy them up a bit, or 2) tidy up the edges and also paint over the three black spacers between the characters to create one big white rectangle, or 3) add an outer border of purple, which will include making the three spacers purple as well.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

So, I watched this Korean pirate movie last night...

...and it was suprisingly very good.  Let me backtrack a bit first and mention that I generally find pirate-themed stuff to be kind of hokey or campy.  All the clothing looks like Halloween costumes.  There always has to be some guy with an eyepatch, some guy with a pegleg or hook, etcetera.  If it's done well, like in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, it's entertaining and I'm quite happy to watch.  But I generally prefer to sail clear of them.

So last light I jumped on Netflix to find something to watch.  For weeks (maybe months) now this Korean pirate movie called, um, "The Pirates" (duh) has been lurking in my suggestions and daring me to do something about it.  So I figured okay, let's just get this over with.  What's the worst that could happen?   Well, THIS is what happened: [Warning: contains cool images from random internet sites!]

And it was really good!  Take three parts classic Korean historical/war/court drama/martial arts stuff, carefully blend in one part western pirate tropes, and serve immediately.  Lots of sailing around, cannons, duels, guy with eye patch, wacky sidekicks, dude with mohawk and scar, gunpowder blowing up, romance, awesome pirate warrior princess, a missing imperial seal from Ming-dynasty China, and even a baby whale are in there.

Okay, we got our characters all rolled up!

I think if I ever run a pirate type game I'll have to sandblast the traditional campiness off the genre and do up a properly re-skinned version like this movie.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Movie: The Admiral: Roaring Currents

Okay, so I had some time to movie watch tonight and spotted this Korean film called "The Admiral: Roaring Currents".  It is based on the actual battle of Myeongnyang in 1597. 

Now, in the past I've found Korean films to be hit or miss.  Either they're kind of awful or really good.  Luckily this one turned out to be one of the really good ones.  As a historical war movie you've got tons of scenes of serious-looking dudes in cool-looking armor all over the place.

  The ships were very cool and actually looked like something you might want to fight in, as opposed to some of the silly designs you see in fantasy films.

And the battle scenes were great, particularly the desperate boarding melees.

[All images from random internet sites]

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Some thought on using Hero Lab at the table...

Okay, so last night we had another of our rare but much anticipated sessions of our buddy Steve's campaign.  As with most of our group's fantasy genre games we're using Pathfinder.  Our group generally likes and is comfortable with very crunchy systems like Pathfinder and Mutants & Masterminds.  Crunchiness means a lot of record-keeping and fact-checking when building and leveling characters and so Lone Wolf Development created Hero Lab is a great tool for PF.  For Steve's game, and mine to a lesser extent, we're almost all using Hero Lab for our characters.

Hero Lab is almost as massive and crunchy as Pathfinder.  It supports other games as well but I've only really used it for Pathfinder (and indirectly for Mutants & Masterminds).  So it is a great tool for managing the crunch overload of Pathfinder.  It can be used not only by players to build and level their characters but for GMs to make NPCs.  GMs can also load in the players' .por character files, sent via email or Dropbox, for reference and thus make notes real time during play, such as during combat.

But this is where Hero Lab fails to keep up.  During combat there are situational modifiers, spell modifiers, spells and arrows expended, hit points lost, hit points healed, etc.  Unfortunately all of that has to be laboriously entered by hand for each and every PC and NPC each round, round after round.  The program hold and tracks all of that very well but it's just too damn slow to operate.

Combat can be a wearying grind in may systems and Pathfinder is on the edge here.  You can fudge stuff and push things along to keep up a pace (like I usually do), or you can go by the book and make sure every T is crossed and every +1 accounted for.  Using Hero Lab naturally moves you in the direction of the T-crossing approach.  That's not a wrong thing, because the rules are actually written that way, but by actually slowing combat down Hero Lab becomes sort of an anti-aid.

I suppose the obvious cure is to go full 21st century and have every player equipped with a computing device connected to the GM's.  That way the data entry work is distributed  and all data shows on everyone's copy with only one person entering any one bit of data.  This character casts a buff, notes it as cast in Hero Lab, checks the boxes for all other characters affected, and clicks "send" or something about like that.  Almost everyone in our group has a device or could borrow one so that will work for us if the folks at Lone Wolf Development decide to add networking in the future.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Review: Ronden Marr Campaign Setting Player's Guide by Jesse Morgan

(Okay, so I need to start this review off with the disclosure that I was one of the people on Google+ providing feedback and suggestions to Jesse as he crafted this nice bit of work.  He kindly included me in the credits with the other helpers.  Although I got a pdf of the final product free from the author I bought a publication copy anyway to express my support for the project.)

Ronden Marr is a campaign setting for a fantasy RPG.  It is a generic setting not tied to any specific game system.  This first publication is the Player's Guide, a 77-page pdf available at  Even though it is a player's guide it provides a complete enough description of the central setting (the underground city of Ronden Marr) that a GM could base a game on it.  Additional core documents are planned, as well as adventures and some D&D 5th Edition specific rules; there is a Patreon available if you want to help the project along.

The setting is the underground city of Ronden Marr.  Originally it was a dwarf city but a devastating calamity rendered the surface of the world too hot to inhabit.  Refugees of many other races were allowed in.  As far as its current inhabitants know this overcrowded city is the only remaining inhabited place left in the world.  The city has had a bloody history since then, with uprisings, genocide, enslavements, and now a brutally enforced peace.  Below the city is The Undercavern, a deep, dark place filled with dangerous creatures but much potential.  (I think Ronden Marr can be run as-is out of the box just fine or you could plop it into an isolated corner of your existing world with some adaptation.)

The player's guide posits that the characters will either be "consultants" who serve as oath-sworn troubleshooters for the dwarf overlords or be "freelancers" who make a living doing odd jobs which often require not asking too many questions.  There are plenty of adventure hooks to keep the players busy no matter which path they take.

It's an interesting campaign world in one compact, well-written pdf.  At just $1.99 you can't go too wrong getting yourself a copy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

FFTA School Hack - The White Monk Class

Okay, so I just thought I'd throw out an Old School Hack version of one of my favorite jobs (classes) from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance: the White Monk.  In FFTA this class can only be taken by Bangaa race characters but this one is non-specific.

White Monk

- A White Monk is a martial artist specializing in using holy chakra energies to vanquish evil and heal the suffering.  Their style has a focus on hand techniques using different styles of clawed gloves.

Classic Weapon: clawed gloves (many types available).

Whirlwind/focus-encounter: gathering momentum with bold spinning movements you strike all enemies around you; allows the monk to make one attack against up to four adjacent enemies, but with -1 to each attack after the first.

Air Render/focus: you project a bolt of chakra energy at one creature up to 30 feet away; allows you to make a normal attack as a ranged attack instead; clawed gloves must be worn as a focus.

Earth Render/encounter-focus: you channel chakra into the earth to activate elemental Earth energy; blasts Earth and chakra energy up from the ground in a 30 foot long patch out from the monk; each creature on that path must pass an Awareness check or suffer 1 wound; clawed gloves must be worn as a focus.

Far Fist/rested-focus: a variant of the Air Render technique which causes a blast of chakra energy at 20 to 30 feet from the monk, injuring all those within a 10 foot radius; each creature in the blast radius is allowed an Awareness check to avoid injury; clawed gloves must be worn as a focus.

Holy Chakra Sign/rested-focus: by summoning your chakra energies and projecting them into a wounded or suffering creature you heal them of 1 wound and all diseases and temporary ailments (such a blindness, paralysis, etc.) no matter the source.

Exorcise/encounter-focus: striking a special holy stance you project your holy chakra energy outward, driving back undead; undead within 20 feet must pass a Commitment check or flee, not returning for 24  hours.
Clawed Gloves
The clawed gloves used by the White Monks come in a variety of styles and constructions.  They have claws, blades, and plates to protect the monk's hands and inflict greater damage.  Clawed gloves come in lighter leather types (counting as Light Weapons) and heavy metal gauntlet types (counting as Heavy Weapons).

Saturday, July 25, 2015

OMG, More Neo School Hack Stuff! The Knight

Okay, so I promised (well, not actually promised) that I was coming to the end of my Old School Hack/Neo School Hack design binge.  I mean, I can actually stop any time I want to--but just not yet.  So here's another class:

The Knight

- A knight is an aristocrat born and bred to be a warrior.  They are sent from home at an early age to be a squire at an allied household and train and learn the craft of war.  It is their way of life

Classic Weapon: Lance

Surely You Joust/constant: the Knight's favorite activity is jousting; you get +1 to attacks with a lance while riding a mount and +1 AC against jousting attacks while riding a mount.

Sword & Board/constant: the Knight's second favorite activity is melee combat with a shield and a one-handed weapon; in each combat round the Knight may choose to emphasize the weapon (+1 to hit) or the shield (+1 to AC).

Heraldry/constant: growing up in chivalric social circles a Knight learns to recognize heraldric coats of arms and similar devices; +2 to Awareness checks to know who a particular sign belongs to and a little bit about their background; the player also gets to design their own unique coat of arms for their family.

Under Armor/constant: the training of a Knight includes wearing armor and exercising in it constantly; you have the special encumbrance capacity of one extra Heavy Thing for the purpose of wearing armor or carrying a shield.

Courtly Love/focus-rested: a Knight is a lover as well as a fighter; +2 to attributes to romance the apple of your eye.

Falconry/focus: Knights love to go hunting when not jousting or romancing, especially the high class and expensive method using trained falcons; +2 to any attribute roll involving falconry; and you get one trained falcon and a basic set of gear (such as a glove, hood, lure, etc.) [Falcon: AC-10, 1 HP, 1 x 2d10 attack (claws) for 1 wound]

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Reaper Miniatures Bones 3: I'm In!

Okay, so Reaper Miniatures is running their third "Bones" Kickstarter offering a huge set of miniatures.  I was hesitant to join the first one as it seemed over-ambitious despite the massive response.  I joined the second one, adding several extra optional sets to the large core set.  It took quite a while to receive my shipment because the early shipping waves booked up early.  When my package arrived, however, I was quite pleased with the minis in every way.  So I jumped in on this one--but once again I'm in a later shipping wave (circa September 2016) due to massive response.  At the time I pledged there were already over 8,000 backers and over $836,000 on the site.  All the optional rewards are unlocked so the core set will be quite a plump morsel.

As an aside, I'm thinking that these Kickstarters must be huge windfalls for a small company like Reaper.  I certainly hope they spread that around by handing out some bonuses to all the employees.  When I get a bonus at work I like to give everyone in the family a share of it for random spending cash.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Criminey, more art.

Okay, so after months of sketching, looking for inspiration, and some desultory roughing out in pencil I finally put some paint on the dang canvas.  Yes, it's just slapping on some background but it's the principal of the thing.  The long white bits on the left will eventually be bamboo--haven't decided about any leafy bits yet--and the blank bit on the right will have my favorite Chinese chengyu phrase in gold.  The orange origami paper is just there to help with visualization, but I kind of like they way it looks anyway.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Neo School Hack - The Witch Class (updated)

Okay, so in my buddy Steve's Pathfinder game I'm playing a witch.  Early on in my work on making new classes for Old School Hack I considered doing a witch.  Eventually I decided to stay with just the Wizard as the only arcane magic class.  I figured on maybe doing a grimoire of witchy spells which you could use to make a witch-flavored wizard.

But whatever--I totally changed my mind and so here's a proper witch class for my Neo School Hack rules.

The Witch

Classic Weapon: broom (or wand)

- A witch is the student or apostle of a strange, mysterious entity who grants magical powers (and sometimes cats) in return for attention, tea, and occasional live sacrifices.  Witches may learn spells from spell grimoires in the same manner as Wizards do.

Swept Away/rested: hopping astride a broom you fly up into the air and quickly away; you can fly for one hour per point of Commitment bonus (but a minimum of one hour)

Bubbling Cauldron/focus-rested: from a small cauldron full of weird ingredients bubbling over a fire you can draw off one potion or handful of dust containing any spell you know; a person hit with the dust or ingesting the potion is affected by the contained spell.

Hex/focus-encounter: with a creepy cackle you hex a creature with black magic; creatures are allowed a Commitment save, otherwise they will suffer -4 to all rolls for 24 hours; may be cast in reverse to remove the hex; hexes may be placed on objects so that anyone touching them is hexed.

Frog!/focus-encounter: you turn a living creature into a frog (or a newt); the victim gets a Commitment save or will remain a frog for 24 hours; may be cast in reverse to un-frog the person; this spell can also be broken by the kiss of a princess.

Black Cat Familiar/constant: you have a magical intelligent black cat as your constant, devoted companion; it can talk and with a moment of concentration you can see and hear what it sees and hears (and vice versa); AC-14, 1 HP.

Lovely Complexion, Dearie/constant: your skin becomes infused with arcane weirding and permanently turns green; only magical spells can conceal it; all Charm rolls are at -2 but you permanently gain one of two boons: +2 to Commitment saves vs. magic cast on you OR victims of your magic are -2 on Commitment saves vs. your spells.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

First session with Hero Lab at the table.

Okay, so I bought Hero Lab some time ago.  Mostly I wanted to see how a modern character sheet worked.  Our group is big on Pathfinder, and was big on D&D 3.5 before that.  Those two rules sets are famous (notorious?) for their massive crunch factor.  Even for non-spellcasting classes you will need at least two pages to hold all the info.  Also, as a GM I was finding it very time consuming to build higher level NPCs.  As a player that crunch gives you a lot of room to develop your character but as a GM it creates a steep curve as your game moves into the mid and upper levels.

Until recently my use of Hero Lab was mostly to play with "off line" because I didn't have a tablet or laptop.  But this month I got a nice little convertible laptop for my birthday (thanks wifey!)--and Saturday our buddy Steve graciously ran his Pathfinder game for us.  Steve has been using Hero Lab at the table to support his DMing for a while now and he has Hero Lab character (.por) files for all our characters. 

This time I not only brought my character sheets electronically with Hero Lab but also dispensed with all hardcopy game books.  At Steve's I connected to his home wifi and used the website for rules references.  I own a ton of Pathfinder stuff both in pdf and dead tree versions but that's a lot to bring along.  This time it was just the laptop/tablet and my dice bag--and once I find a good dice app I can skip the dicebag too.  No more massive bookbag for me anymore.

So how did it go?  Well on the little screen the print was tiny and fiddly to zoom in and out on.  As my eyes get older that becomes more important for me.  But I loved the hover-over pop-up information boxes for everything on the character sheet.  And I mean everything.  Once you have Hero Lab up you hardly ever have to look up anything else because it's all there in the program.  Skills, feats, spells, abilities, modifiers, etc. are all right there.  For me that was a huge time saver because with a spellcaster character (witch) there are a lot of spells, hexes, etc. which I keep checking details on.  The program was slightly slow when it came to switching tabs, which seemed odd since I only had Hero Lab and Firefox up, but not so much as to interfere with play.

The bottom line: from now on it's Hero Lab for me when I'm playing.  I may bring a print out in case technical problems crop up but don't expect to need it often.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Cult of the Octomom

Okay, so I had the opportunity to play Old School Hack again today--plus the opportunity to meet a couple members of our "rival" Castles & Crusades group.  Our DM Bill has been running two groups through his C&C campaign and this was the first time I've met the mystery players from the other group.  They'd also played Old School Hack not too long ago using my "Long Ride to a Short Death" scenario.  This time it was OSH again with Bill downloading a scenario from the esteemed Fictive Fantasies site.  Three of the players from the previous game continued with their characters but two of us started with new characters.  In my case I decided to try the paladin which I'd designed earlier as a playtest.

Since this was a silly game I decided my paladin worshiped an octopus deity--or, wait, no an ocean mother sea goddess with an octopus as symbol.  And for corresponding personality I decided he was a surfer dude type (buff, tan, long bleach-blond hair, Hawaiian print tunic, flip-flop sandals, and a classic surfer dude accent).  His primary equipment included a trident, surf board, and coconut tanning oil.  Hmm, but what was he doing in the middle of the desert?  Well obviously he was a missionary bringing the worship of the Octomom to the heathen masses far from the sea!  So tonight I thought I'd throw together some details for others wishing to follow the most excellent and totally gnarly path of the Octomom.

Cult Holy Symbol: octopus wearing a crown and holding up a fish, a trident, a ship, a seashell, seaweed, a branch of coral, an oar, and an anchor.

Cult Goal: to truly know what is tubular and what is bogus and help everyone to surf the gnarly wave of tubular while steering clear of a bogus wipe-out.  Also, stay tan (easier for some followers than others).

Cult Favored Weapons: trident, oar, and harpoon

Holy Water: sacred coconut tanning oil

Cult Battlecry: Surfs up!!!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Neo School Hack: The Ranger

Right, so I'm closing in on the end of design work for Old School Hack.  The last two classes are the ranger and druid.  I tossed some ideas together, then brought in my ranger class consultant (hi Kirk!) for a critique.  Here is the result:

Classic Weapon: bow

Deadly Shot/focus-encounter: taking careful aim at an enemy's vital point, the ranger scores +1 wound on a hit

Boon Companion/constant: the ranger gains a loyal companion creature which is much more intelligent than ordinary ones of its type.  The player decides on the animal type, but it may not be larger than a large wolf.  The critter has statistics of AC = 10, HP = 3, with an appropriate single 2d10 attack (with Face Dice) doing 1 wound.

Survival/constant: the ranger is a master of wilderness knowledge and easily finds food and shelter in normal wilderness situations, and gets +2 to Awareness rolls to survive in unusual environments

Natural Shadow/focus: with a few moments of preparation the ranger blends into nearby natural terrain, gaining +2 to Cunning rolls to avoid being noticed

Down Boy--Here Kitty/focus-encounter: using your charismatic presence and animal lore, you turn away (Daring check at +1) or lure closer (Charm check at +1) one animal-like creature; may be used on multiple animals per encounter but only once per animal.

It Went That-a-way/focus: taking a few moments to study the scene the ranger tracks quarry easily, if slowly, in favorable conditions (soft earth, etc.), and gets +2 to Cunning rolls in difficult circumstances; this talent may be used in reverse to cover tracks

Monday, May 25, 2015

"This one goes to 11"...looking at level caps in Neo School Hack

Okay, so I had a dive back into D&D 4E reading the three "Power" books I bought recently.  Old School Hack, which is the huge inspiration for my Neo School Hack, borrows a bit from 4E in the Talents which each character class gets.  In the original OSH and my NSH each class has six unique talents.  To that I've added separate races which each have three unique talents.

When a character levels up they get to add 1 to an attribute, plus gain either a talent or a hit point.  Characters may multi-class by taking talents from other classes, with the restriction that they may not have more cross-class talents than talents from their starting class.  So with six base class talents, three race talents, and a maximum of six cross-class talents, there is sort of a cap of 15 levels.  Yes, there will be boring "empty" levels where the character gains a HP rather than a talent.  But a maximum of 15 levels isn't necessarily a bad thing.  Early editions of D&D (and modern OSR rules like ACKS) run out around 14.  So a cap of 15 levels is well in keeping with the spirit of the rules.

But I'm not sure whether I really like the idea of characters essentially being forced into multi-classing.  As a fighter you'd have to scrounge around to keep to only fighter-appropriate talents from other classes to stay "pure".  And then there's the problem with wizards learning spell-talents from grimoires.  Wizards have a talent which allows them to gain to get access to a new six-spell grimoire (each of which costs a talent gain to learn).  So they can keep leveling for as long as there are more grimoires to acquire.  None of the other classes is that open-ended.

And clerics get their basic six talents plus access to the six domain talents for their deity.  If the domain talents count as class talents (which I suppose they could), then that's six basic talents, six domains, three racial, and up to twelve cross-class.  So clerics can keep gaining talents for 27 levels.

And alchemists have lots and lots of sub-talents to explore as they level up.  The druid class I'm working on will have a couple Circles of six talents which are a bit like cleric domains.

Hmm, okay so there's a bit of design imbalance here.  Obviously there are two approaches to re-balancing things: limit the more open-ended classes or provide more talents for the other classes.  Re-balancing the problematic classes can be accomplished simply by treating the class-specific domain/spell/circle talents as cross-class talents.  But that still leaves the other classes with fewer options to have fun with.  Eventually I should look into providing all classes with a couple additional six-talent sets of talents, like combat style schools for fighters.  The character could buy into the class sets in the same way a wizards buys into a grimoire.

But I'm really torn about adding so many talents--yes, we're talking rules bloat here.  One of the charms of Old School Hack is its simplicity.  Players can review all the classes, make an informed decision, and jump into play with a character very quickly.  My Neo School Hack rules take the lovely simplicity of OSH but add bulk in the form of more classes, races, and talents.  It's still very simple mechanically but a new player has many more options to review before deciding on what to play, or before even deciding what talent to take on leveling up.

Overall I'm coming up on the last of my work on NSH because I've finalized what I want to have in it and because I want to place a hard stop on rules bloat.  All I have left now are the final two classes: druid and ranger.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Neo School Hack: The Paladin

Right, so here's my paladin class for Neo School Hack, which is my version of Old School Hack by Kirin Robinson.  The basic template for classes is six talents unique to that class.  However, I have already experimented with variations on that base and this class has a new variation.  The paladin has five regular talents, plus a special talent containing a set of three thematic sub-talents called "Devotion".  The Devotion talent may only taken once and one of the three talents contained in it must be chosen at that time.  Once chosen it may not be changed--unless the character has a compelling in-character reason and even then must complete an appropriate quest worked out with the DM.

The Paladin

Detect Evil/focus-encounter: concentrating, the paladin listens to the surrounding auras and will sense any evil creatures in a 90-degree area out to 30 feet.

Lay on Hands/focus-rested: pausing to pray and gather holy energy, the paladin lays a hand on an injured person and heals them of 1 wound.

Sacred Immunity/constant: filled with holy essence, the paladin is immune to all diseases, normal or magical.

Aura of Courage/focus-encounter: the paladin's inner resolve makes fear impossible, not matter what the circumstances; and with a declaration of holy purpose, all companions and allies within 15 feet are emboldened, gaining +2 to any rolls against fear.

Glow/focus-encounter: pausing to pray and express inner holy essence, the paladin glows with a golden light like a divine torch.

- Divine Avenger/focus-encounter: channeling holy energy into a held weapon, the paladin gains +1 to hit and +1 wound of damage to attacks against evil creatures.

- Divine Protector/focus-encounter: channeling holy energy into a held shield, the paladin gains +2 AC and +2 to saves when attacked by evil creatures.

- Divine Knight/focus-rested: the paladin gains a loyal, divine riding creature which is much more intelligent than ordinary ones of its type.  It can be called with a special prayer; once called it remains until dismissed to return to the heavens.  The mount is saddled and armored, with AC = 14, HP = 3, with an appropriate one 2d10 attack (with Face Dice) doing 1 wound.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

I read a steampunk book and I think I liked it.

I have an ambivalent relationship with the steampunk genre.  I love the whole look of it--the two decades straddling the turn of the last century have a great aesthetic.  But as a gamer I don't find the idea of gaming there very interesting.  For me it's really all about the visuals of steampunk.

But I picked up a book a little while ago on a whim and finally got around to reading it.  The Court of Air by Stephen Hunt is set in a fantasy version of late 19th century England, with other fantasy surrogate nations nearby.  And we've got airships, gear-work people, fey magic, druid-y earth magic, clock-work computers, and ancient lost cities in the mix.  But it also has some weird elements like kings who get their arms amputated for their coronation, and creepy human transformation bio-engineering.  It starts out pretty well, with two protagonists from miserable backgrounds who turn out to be a complementary pair of heroes pulled into a massive plot to destroy the world.

But that's where it sort of fell down for me.  The first half or so of the book is solid steampunk, just the sort of thing I was looking for.  I was in the groove for mystery, murder, intrigue, and cool bits of fey and clockwork spicing things up.  But then it spins into a rather over-the-top massive war with ancient evil gods and stuff.  The shift in the latter part of the book kind of threw me off.

But overall a good read.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Adding to my 4E collection...really, I mean it.

Okay, so you're probably thinking "Dude, 4E is stone cold dead. Why are you clogging your gaming shelves with it?"  Well, I've only played the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons twice but I liked the design concepts.  I was glad to see the designers were bold enough to stop polishing the same apple over and over and try something new.  When the game was announced I pre-ordered the core books at my FLGS and was pleased with what arrived.  Alas, 4E seems to have pretty much died before I could play it more fully somewhere--and few of my group seem enthusiastic about trying a campaign with it.  Nevertheless, I have had several 4E books on my wish list to get in order to go a little deeper into the system and be ready in case I ever end up in a group which wants to play.

So I just recently bought three of the power books to add to the Arcane Power book I purchased earlier.  The core books were good but obviously the options for characters were limited and I wanted to have these "power" expansions.  If I ever run a game it will be the core books, the 2nd and 3rd player's handbooks, and these four power books as the basis.  The only other 4E books left in my wishlist now are the Shadowfell and Secrets of the Elemental Chaos setting books.

As for my three new books I will say that the art (the first thing I go through a book for) ranges from good to great.  The content is good stuff, although I thought that they had more paragon paths than anyone will ever use, and crazy amounts of feats.

Hirelings and Henchmen for Neo School Hack

One thing which was typical of old school D&D was hirelings and henchmen.  Roughly speaking, hirelings are minor servants and guards, but henchmen are more like the sidekicks to your hero.  So for Old School Hack I'd borrow from the given monster classifications as foundations for building these two types of companions.   An easy approach is to make hirelings a type of "minion" and henchmen like a weaker PC class character.

HP: 1
AC: 8 or 10 (light armor) when hired, but can be equipped better by the characters
Attacks: 1 x 2d10 (but no Face Die)
Weapons: only cause 1 wound no matter the actual weapon type

HP: 2
AC: 8, 10 or 12 depending on class and may have a shield if appropriate for their type
Attacks: 1 x 2d10 (do get a Face Die)
Weapons:cause damage normally for their type
- Henchmen have a race and class, usually selected from those available to the players for PCs; however they start with only one talent instead of the two a PC starts with.
- Henchmen attributes come from an array of one being -1, one being +1, and the rest being 0; the +1 is usually in the attribute most useful for that henchman's class.
- Henchmen advance in class level whenever their patron PC goes up one; however, unlike PCs the only increase on gaining a level is to take a talent from their original class or race; once all the class talents and race talents have been taken the henchman may no longer go up in level.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hmm, cool-sounding RPG from France (mais oui!)

So over at ICV2 ("The Business of Geek Culture") a little while ago I was surprised to see an item about Paizo getting ready to distribute an RPG from France:

"Paizo Publishing has inked a distribution deal with French company Gob In Tux Publishing to release the company's tabletop RPGs, boardgames, and novels in North America. The first title will be the sci-fi roleplaying game Polaris, which will be the only 2015 release under the new arrangement.

Polaris is an RPG set in a post-apocalyptic undersea world. Mankind has been forced to abandon the world of sunlight and is now dwelling at the bottom of the oceans, where human nations continue their endless wars. Sea monsters and looters harass mankind, along with the mysterious Polaris effect. The 400-page Core Rulebook is planned for October release.  MSRP is $50.00.

Additional Polaris RPG products will include a Game Master's Screen and sourcebooks:  Bestiary, Technology Guide, Hegemony, Priates, Surface, Coral Republic, Polar Alliance, Mediterranean Union, Amazonia, and Secrets. "

There's not a lot of information about Polaris that I could find, but the artwork looks great and I like the ideas.  It's a bit like the Cerulean Seas books from Alluria Publishing.  I've always been interested in RPGs from non-English speaking countries but they are hard to find (for me, anyway).  I'm seriously thinking of buying this when it's available.

Friday, April 10, 2015

So, how about a Star Wars version of Battlestar Galactica?

Okay, so I haven't been posting much lately.  It's been due to a combination of lots of other stuff going on and only having big post ideas which are entire projects.  But I saw this fantastic piece of art in my Google+ feeds just now:

On Patrol by nova1701dms (
...and I immediately thought about a story/game where an imperial star destroyer ends up fleeing with a small fleet being hunted by the Yuuzhan Vong--sort of a Star Wars version of Battlestar Galactica.

I like the idea of a "Star Destroyer Galactica" (or "Battlestar Tatooine") game.  I usually have trouble coming up with workable concepts for science fiction campaigns but the Galactica model is easy to adapt.  Since they are refugees, you can have any and every type of Star Wars character in the fleet somewhere.  The imperials, jedi, random people, and bounty hunter scum are all thrown in together to survive.  The fleet can have any sort of ship you need for a good story, since each ship is a space-going plot device.  And, since they're wandering beyond the fringe somewhere, you can have them run into anything.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Our first Roll20/Google Hangouts test session

Okay, so last night we finally got our schedules together and did a test session logging in to Roll20 and Google Hangouts to see if we could get it all to work.  My friends Kirk and Steve came over to my place, with Kirk kindly bringing a couple laptops to share.  The rest of the crew, Mike, Bill, Kaiser, and Doug, all logged in from their respective domiciles.

Logging in to Roll20 was easy and some of us spent time filling in details on our character sheets in the online campaign space.  We played around with the die rolling functions, spell casting macros, chat area, and moving our character icons around.  At first I was annoyed by the size of the video windows on screen for the other players, but I found the controls to shrink them down out of the way of the starting tavern map.  I plan to work on tailored macros later but for 1st level characters you don't need much.  Moving the icons is very easy and the on-screen drawing functions worked well.

Not everyone found it easy to get into Roll20 but eventually all of us did.  Google Hangouts proved a bit more difficult.  The audio came and went occasionally.  Part of the problem may have been that most of the time we were trying to use both simultaneously.  Also, at my house the wireless bandwidth may not have been up to carrying three laptops running two video and audio feeds at the same time.  In future I'll be on my desktop which is cable connected to the router.  I did find that when I moved my headphones back from the borrowed laptop to the desktop where they had been all sound was weird.  I'm still working on figuring that one out.

So, we're just waiting for Bill to finish getting the campaign ready, Doug to finish his character, me to make a portrait for Doug's character, and (maybe) to see if Alex wants to join as well.  I expect we'll have our first session in a couple weeks.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Quick Potion Characteristics Tables for Old School Games

Okay, so here is a set of simple tables for quickly rolling up the characteristics of potions (or poisons or other liquids).  Roll one each of d4, d6, d8, d10, and d12 and check the tables.  I'm thinking these are best when the characters first encounter a particular potion.  They can check out the color, scent, and other characteristics, including a small taste by maybe dipping a finger in it before actually quaffing it.  As each potion type is determined, write down the rolled characteristics for future use.  For instance, when they again find a potion which is Hot, Opaque, Bubbly, Orange, and Mushroomy, they'll know it's an invisibility potion without needing to magically identify it.

Potion Temperature (1d4)
  1. Hot (almost too hot to hold or drink)
  2. Warm
  3. Cool
  4. Cold (almost too cold to hold or drink)
Potion Appearance (1d6)
  1. solid/opaque
  2. swirly (roll one or more extra colors on the color table)
  3. floating spots/particles/chunks (roll one or more extra colors on the color table)
  4. silty
  5. clear
  6. glowing
Potion Texture (1d8)
  1. fizzy
  2. bubbly
  3. smoking/vaporous/steaming
  4. thick/lumpy
  5. watery
  6. gritty
  7. slimy
  8. contains small crunchy bits
Potion Color (1d10)
  1. red
  2. green
  3. yellow
  4. blue
  5. purple
  6. orange
  7. black
  8. white
  9. gray
  10. brown
Potion Scent/Flavor (1d12)
  1. Flowery
  2. Earthy
  3. Acrid/Bitter
  4. Bloody
  5. Salty
  6. Musky
  7. Mushroomy
  8. Cinammony
  9. Herby
  10. Fruity
  11. Smoky
  12. Buttery

Monday, March 2, 2015

Hooray! My Bones II Kickstarter minis are here!!

(Review and more pix later.  FYI, if you look closely at the lower right hand corner of the Thank You card, you'll see the signature "Jeff Vader".  I'm pretty sure it's a reference to the hilarious Star Wars Canteen sketch by Eddie Izzard.)

Saturday, February 28, 2015

My Bones II minis are on the way!

So I just got the official email from Reaper Miniatures that my set of Bones II minis from the kickstarter are on the way--estimated arrival this Tuesday.  I can hardly wait for this stupid weekend to be over!!!!  (Er, wait, what am I saying?)

Some Thoughts on Converting AD&D Monsters to Old School Hack

 Okay, so I'm not quite done with my current design obsession with Old School Hack.  A little while back I posted some ideas for future design projects along this line.  If there's one thing I have little problem doing, it's coming up with new ideas.

Recently I was looking over the D&D classics pdf versions of old modules on DrivethruRPG.  I was pleased to see that they had the old AD&D Desert of Desolation modules.  I ran these for my group using the Chivalry & Sorcery rules back in the day.  We had a lot of fun with them even though my conversion to C&S was pretty rough and ready, especially when it came to AD&D creatures which my game didn't have.

So then I was thinking, hey, what if I convert the Desert of Desolation modules to Old School Hack?  Hmm, well being the the real-world Lawful alignment that I am I immediately knew that I needed A System for that.  Now, Old School Hack contains many of the general concepts from the old school D&D games, but it's absolutely not one of the "clones".  That means that in some areas a simple conversion rule will suffice but in others I need to actually do a bit of thinking.  Since I want to be able to convert entire AD&D modules the conversion rules need to be quick and easy to apply.

So I jumped right into the first module, Pharaoh, and grabbed one of the first encounter tables.  This table has a wide range of creatures, which makes is a good starting place.  Here is an excerpt:


Dervish Hunting Party (AC 6; MV12"; HD 4; hp 4d10; #AT 1; Dmg 1-8 + 2; AL LN)

Symbayan Airlancers (AC6;MV12";HD4;hp4d6;#AT 1; Dmg 1-8+2; AL LG) fly overhead in the distance on the
backs of Pegasi (AC 6; MV 24"/48"; HD 4; hp 4d6; #AT 3; Dmg 1 -8/1 -8/1 -3; AL CG

Purple Worm (AC 6; MV 9"; HD 15; hp 54; #AT 1 and 1; Dmg 2-24 (2d12)/1-4; AL N; tail has death poison).

Okay, so we go from 4HD dervish hunters to 15HD purple worms all in the same table.  The main characteristics we will have to convert are these six (well, okay, so the last one is a generic catch-all):

Attack Bonus
Hit Dice
Number of Attacks
Special Stuff

Let's take them one by one:

AC - In OSH, AC is a roll-over system rather than roll-under and go from 8 (no armor) to 16 (Uber armor).  The AD&D ACs go from 10 (no armor) to -2 or more.  So we can do a rough conversion chart like this:
10 = 8
9 = 9
8 = 10
7 = 11
6 = 12
5 = 13
4 = 14
3 = 15
2 = 16
1 = 17
0 = 18

Move - Hmm, well OSH doesn't bother detailing movement rates; the easiest thing is just use the rates from AD&D.

Attack Bonus -  In AD&D character classes get increased attack bonuses with higher levels and monsters get bonuses which rise with the number of their hit dice.  OSH is a very flat system, where characters basically start with and stay with 5 HP and there are almost no increases to attack bonuses.  The easy fix is to go with what's in OSH, which basically means ignoring bonuses for all NPCs and monsters.

Hit Dice - The easy way is one AD&D HD = one OSH Hit Point; there, that was easy.

Number of Attacks - what it says.

Damage - Okay, here's where it gets tricky.  In AD&D, damage has high granularity ranging from 1d2 to multiple dice of varying sizes such as the 2d12 for the purple worm above.  OSH attacks, however, deal "wounds" which are low-granularity lumps of damage.  OSH damages is more "yes or no damage" versus "high or low damage".  Plus, OSH damage comes in three classes, normal (one point of damage), heavy (two points), and very heavy (two points, or three if you roll well over the opponent's AC).  Wow, this is tough.  We can simplify it down to:
1 damage die = 1 damage
2 damage dice = 2 damage
3  damage dice = 3 damage
4 or more damage dice = 4 damage

This damage conversion approach is very rough and I don't think it will properly reflect the AD&D damage ranges.  A more "accurate" approach would be based on working out the average damage for the creature's attack and using that as the value for conversion to OSH damage.  However AD&D has many, many different dice combinations for damage and I really don't feel like making up a huge chart of them all and working out all the averages.  The above chart is much simpler.

So then, back to the encounter table above.  Applying the conversion rules above we get:


Dervish Hunting Party (AC 12; MV 12"; HP 4; #AT 1; Dmg 1; AL LN)

Symbayan Airlancers (AC 12; MV 12";HP 4; #AT 1; Dmg 1; AL LG) fly overhead in the distance on the backs of Pegasi (AC 12; MV 24"/48"; HP 4; #AT 3; Dmg 1/1/1; AL CG

Purple Worm (AC 12; MV 9"; HP 15; #AT 1 and 1; Dmg 2 / 1; AL N; tail has death poison).

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

This post over at WotC would make a good contest.

Okay, so over at the Wizards of the Coast D&D site there's a new article entitled "Campaign Backbone".  There's a great looking old-school style map and a set of NPC bust sketches.  I immediately loved the map and thought I could definitely make up a campaign using it as the "backbone".  The NPC sketches each cry out for a background story.

Well, that all would make a great design contest wouldn't it?  Use the map for hex crawl locations and work in the NPCs as minor or major characters.  Hmm, maybe for an upcoming blog carnival...

Friday, February 13, 2015

Review: The Slave Trenches of Hakotep (Pathfinder adventure path)

Right, so this is the fifth book in the Mummy's Mask adventure path.  This adventure takes place in a sprawling outdoor maze of huge trenches with lots of small dungeons and outdoor encounters areas.  And all that exploring is with the goal of activating a magic tractor team to bring down the flying pyramid (did we mention there are flying pyramids?) of the main villain.  It is a major undertaking for the PCs and will tax their endurance.

The adventure actually starts with the PCs defending the city where the entire path starts from a menacing smaller flying pyramid, one of a fleet fanning out over Osirion.  This is a fun albeit small dungeon and it foreshadows the big, nasty flying pyramid in the final book in the series.

As with the other books in the series this one has an extra article revealing the background of the ancient Shory empire, who ruled from flying cities.  I've been wanting to find out more about the Shory since I first came across them in the Serpent's Skull adventure path.  So this was a very welcome inclusion.

The art throughout is excellent, as it is in the earlier books in this series.  There are also more magic items, in this case with more extensive background lore.  The fiction story continues.  I'm not sure I like having bits of fiction in these adventure paths, since it's not why I brought the product, but they are good for getting you into the atmosphere and always include a small map handy for GMing.  The monsters at the back were pretty good this time, although I'd probably only use about half of them in my games.

Bottom Line: The overall format of this adventure was a pleasant surprise and the article on the Shory was welcome extra.  I'd recommend buying it if you're at all interested.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Review: Secrets of the Sphinx (Pathfinder adventure path)

Okay, so I'm doing up reviews of the rest of the Mummy's Mask adventure path books from Paizo Publishing for their Pathfinder game.  This path is set in the part of their game world which is a fantasy version of ancient Egypt called Osirion.

This adventure is split into two parts: a sandbox hex crawl, then a huge dungeon.  The hex crawl locations were great, lots of variety to keep the players guessing and challenged about what's coming next.  Among the encounters are several interesting NPCs who could re-appear in later adventures if you wanted.  One possible problem with the hex crawl, typical to all hex crawls, is what to do if the players take it into their heads to go totally in the wrong direction and off the map.  I guess that's where the GM's creativity comes in.  The big dungeon, which is actually inside of a huge sphinx, is quite a challenge.  The encounters in here are also quite varied and will keep the players challenged and entertained (even if they don't survive). 

The book also has two extra small encounter areas which can be added to the hex crawl or any adventure.  There is a great section on curses to inflict on the PCs, a set of monsters which I actually liked this time, a bit of fiction (part four), and new items.  The major NPCs get extensive write-ups in a section at the back, which is very handy for GMs to reskin them for re-use later.  The art was excellent, as it has been in the previous three Mummy's Mask books.  I'm glad to see them continue applying ancient Egyptian themes successfully in the NPCs and creatures.  I have six of Paizo's adventure paths and this one compares very well to the others.  Some I buy just for the ideas, but I would actually run this one if I got the chance.

Bottom Line: yes, this was worth the money and I can recommend buying it if you're at all interested. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Neo School Hack: Combat Maneuvers

The original Old School Hack rules didn't specifically cover some areas (because, well, it's old school).  One of these is the various attacks or combat maneuvers other than normal weapon attacks.  Games like Pathfinder and D&D have a lot of specific rules for these--probably too many rules.  But here are some ideas on handling them in OSH.
  • Bull Rush: just make a Brawn vs. Brawn check
  • Disarm or Sunder: attacker makes a normal weapon attack roll (but declared before rolling as disarm or sunder) versus a Cunning check by the defender
  • Feint: attacker first must win a Cunning check against the defender's Awareness check; if win that contest, then follow with an attack roll with +1 bonus; if fail then defender gets immediate free counterattack (no bonus)
  • Grapple/Toss/Drag/Push/Pull: just make a Brawn vs. Brawn check
  • Breaking on-going Grapple/Toss/Drag/Push/Pull: make a Brawn vs. Brawn check to muscle out, or a Cunning vs. Daring to wriggle out

Monday, February 2, 2015

A megadungeon concept based on Sword Art Online

Okay, so I just finished watching the first two story arcs of the anima Sword Art Online.  As an anime it was okay, but I wasn't really excited about it.  Anyway, the basic idea of the first story arc is that fully immersive virtual reality gaming becomes a reality and the main game is called Sword Art Online.  The catch is (spoiler alert!) that the person who programmed the game has rigged it so that once you log in you cannot log out and if anyone attempts to remove your VR helmet while you're in, it will kill you.  The only way out for the trapped players (whose real bodies end up on life support in the meantime) is to beat the game--all 100 levels of it.  But another catch is that if your character in the game is killed, your VR helmet will kill the real you.

A game based directly on SOA doesn't appeal to me and in practice the real-life part outside the game wouldn't really affect play at the table.  But it gave me some ideas for a megadungeon, who which I'd add a bit of City of Ember for extra flavor.

The setting is that players live in an underground city-state, sealed there for ages for some reason (lots of scope for campaign deep background) but now their little world is dying/collapsing/etc.  Someone finds a secret way out, maybe revealed by the gods/ancients who put them there in the first place or whatever.  But this way out only leads into the big megadungeon which was actually out there all along without anyone knowing about it.

So they have to clear a path through the huge megadungeon to get their people out.  This doesn't mean they have to clear the entire thing, just create a safe path to the outside.  Monsters have to be killed, enemy groups neutralized, and friends and allies made.  The collapse of their home area provides a constant time pressure to get on with it.  In the archives of their little world will be many clues to the huge dungeon, most of which were previously thought to be mere legends and myths.  Some will mention the various intelligent peoples/races, some the monsters, some particular regions of the dungeon, and several the "promised land" which might lay beyond.

I would run it where there are several "promised lands" mentioned.  Some will require the party to actually go all the way there to confirm what it is, others will be revealed by clues found in different dungeon locations.  Also, the intelligent creatures/races of the dungeon will have their own legends, myths, and stories.  Some of those will confirm the information from the character's sealed world, some will offer different versions, some will be completely new.

I think this is actually a better start for a megadungeon than having the players outside delving in.  The problem with delving in from the little starting town or whatever is that there's always the distraction of wandering off to see the rest of the outside world.  And there's no pressure to get on with it.  They can totally take their time resting up, training, crafting, etc. and go down whenever they're fully rested and ready.  The "reverse dungeon" approach would work well for a megadungeon setting tailored for it.

The Journal of Katherine, Entry 61

I rested, but did not sleep.  Deep inside me, the Light is strong and I feel It renews my energies. 

Today, we return to the palace, and the captain of the guard tells us the Kalif left yesterday.  This is not correct.  He is lying.  We avoid a major confrontation, so we leave the palace grounds.  Brute tells me there are guards loyal to the Kalif, and other guards, rougher, that seem to take their orders from the captain.  Brute wants to meet the loyal guards where they can speak freely.

We wait until evening and go to the tavern, as Brute must meet with the guards. Trevor wants to celebrate.  He did provide the invisibility for us all to escape without being noticed.  As Brute starts talking to the guards, Trevor orders a fine wine where the barkeeper must fetch it from the back room.  A few coins transfer hands, and Trevor takes a sip from his glass.  I turn away from that scene of smugness to focus on the meeting.  There is smoke in the air, and a strange smell.  Then I begin to relax.  I don't hear much from Brute's talk with the guards, but I am in awe.  Brute has a natural way to converse with these guards.  It is effortless.

Then my mind returns to the orphanage.  We see Cass, bloody and hurt.  She explains that one of the three prisoners left.  She tried to restrain him and was hurt.  Ohm Uri runs towards the palace hoping to catch him.  We gather our selves for another night to slip into the palace.

We catch up to Ohm Uri, who found the man, dead on the ground.  This is just strange.  Maybe the palace guards found and killed him.

We quickly enter by the servant's gate, and make our way, with Cass' help, to find the Kalif.  When we find him he is in a charm, the same charm as the other man.  Then, he speaks.  The words do not come from him, but we hear his words in our heads...

The Journal of Katherine, Entry 60

Ohm Uri dashes past me and up the gentle slope of the passageway.  Brute and Kull continue to battle the monstrosity.  Cass and I move out of reach of it and find Trevor.  We survey the scene, which does not seem real.  Unconscious children lay all over the passageway.  Before we can think on what we should do, Ohm Uri starts pushing a wagon to roll towards us.  Is he mad, or has he an idea?  He must intend to guide the wagon into the monster.  But, he is waiting, he is holding the wagon back.  The children are in the way!  I help Cass and Trevor move the children to a safe place. 

Without thinking, I close my eyes, and the forbidden power is there, ready and waiting.  I mentally reach for it, and mold it with my hands.  I shape it into a force flying but motionless, above the ground.  We lay them on it, as many as we can.  Then I move them to wide spot of the passageway. 

Mindlessly, I continue to move all of the children out of the wagon's path.  We signal it is clear.  Ohm Uri is awkwardly trying to hold the wagon and get a torch from the wall.  If he stumbles, the wagon will roll over him.  I motion for him to come, and yell to him that I can set the wagon on fire.  Then in an unbelievable display of agility, Ohm Uri jumps into the wagon, steering it as it gains speed.  He bumps into the wall on the far side, sending sparks into the air.  He wants to keep it from steering into the children.  He passes us and jumps.

The sorcery energy waits impatiently for me, a second time, and jumps at me when I think about it.  In an uncontrolled push, I thrust it to the wagon.  With a will full of rage, I think of the people that died to feed this creature's appetite, I think of the children possessed by it, I think how can the Kalif be so diabolical to harbor a creature like this.  The raw power, in seconds, tears into the wagon, breaking splinters off, making it an uncontrolled rolling mass of wood, metal and liquid fire.  It leaves a burning trail as it smashes into the creature, creating a huge fireball, and sending it back to the depths of its home.  I had forgot that Brute and Kull were still fighting the monster.  We run into the room, and find them safely behind the gong.

We take the children up the pathway to a second wagon, and we carefully place each child in it.  Trevor waves his hands in strange gestures, says words that I don't understand, and strangely cannot remember.  Then, all of us, including the children and the wagon disappear.  Ohm Uri makes a timely diversion, which confuse the guards and they open the gate in confusion.  This is our queue.  We steer the wagon right past the guards.  Ohm Uri gets up, running in the opposite direction from where we are going.

When we return to my orphanage, and I have my two acolytes get my other students from the temple.  I am exhausted.  We unload the children, putting them safely under blankets to keep them warm.  Kull makes swift work of turning the wagon into firewood to keep the chill away.  Brute checks on Veronica.  When my students return, they take control of the children, and of the saved prisoners.  Time will help them heal.

I retire to a corner of the room and record the events.  Upon reading my journal, I sob, dripping tears on the parchment.  Twice, I broke my vow not to use It.  The first time, was to help.  The second, was to destroy.  My anger used the power in rage.  What fate is for me at my temple, when I tell them?

Friday, January 30, 2015

Long Ride to a Short Death, an adventure for Neo School Hack

Now that I've done some design work for Neo School Hack, I thought it only proper that I do a beginner adventure (sorry, no boxed set).

The adventure begins with our heroes relaxing together at a small riverside trading post.  They arrived here yesterday to await the post coach which will take them to the market town of ut-Frienne inland north of here.  The region between the river and the town is deserty wilderness and travel with other people by coach is much safer and faster than going it alone on foot.  A major combined festival and market day is starting at ut-Frienne tomorrow and the party member plan to attend.  It's a great place to have fun, buy items outside of the usual, meet interesting people, join in religious parades, and make lucrative arrangements.  [The players can decide whether they all came here together or arrived from separate places and got acquainted while waiting here.  They also can decide on what their individual reasons are for traveling to ut-Frienne.]


While they relax on the veranda overlooking the river a river barge arrives, apparently one of the regular packet boats which travel up and down making deliveries and carrying passengers.  A few scruffy sailors are on deck and the old man who runs the trading post, Postmaster Battu, sends his young son Yanny down to help with the ropes.  However, one of the sailors leaps onto the small dock and holds a knife to Yanny's throat.  More pirates swarm up from the hold where they were hiding.  The leader of the river pirates, for that is what they really are, demands that the postmaster bring out his strongbox or the boy dies.  The fat old postmaster begs the heroes to rescue the young fellow.

River Pirates
Captain Sa-granet: AC 10, HP 3, 2d10 attack/sword, dagger, small shield, leather armor; treasure: 2d10 gp
Pirates (minions, two for each party member): AC 8, HP 1, 1d10 attack/sword, dagger, small shield; treasure: 3d6 gp

The post coach arrives from ut-Frienne just before noon.  Tierre the driver and Marchamp the guard, outlanders both, bring in a large wooden box with packages and scrolls mailed from the market town.  Two remarkably similar merchants in purple turbans alight and get their luggage and baskets of something from the back of the coach. [The two merchants, Ju-thoth and Chu-thoth, are wizards as well as merchants.  If the party asks, they have a spare scroll with the spell Darkvision which they will sell for 300 gp.]  The driver and guard each grab a quick mug of ale and it's back on the coach to return towards ut-Frienne; the players must pay 1 gp for the two-day ride.  [If asked, the two (human) coachmen are quite ready to regale the party with tales of the dangers ahead, most of which are greatly exaggerated but none totally fictitious.]


The countryside is desert, but varying from sandy flats, to dunes, to scrub land, to cactus forest.  About two hours after leaving the post a band of masked marauders on camels gallops out of a cactus grove and heads for the coach, clearly intent on robbery or worse.

Camel Marauders
Chieftain: AC 12, HP 5, 2d10 attack/sword and 2 javelins; mail shirt and small shield; treasure: 6d6 gp
Marauders (two, plus one per party member): AC 12, HP 2, 2d10 attack/sword and 2 javelins; mail shirt and small shield; treasure: 3d6 gp

[The marauders ride up alongside the coach and throw all their javelins at the coachmen and passengers.  If no one is killed or badly wounded by the time they are out of javelins they break off the attack and retreat back into the cactus grove--they enjoy a good fight, but not if it's a fair one.  The marauders have a camp of tents deep in the grove.  Along with ordinary camping supplies they have a chest with 150 gp in coins, a bit of amber with an irridescent green beetle in it (120 gp), and a Heal potion (heals 1 HP).]


Late in the afternoon, some hours after the contretemps with the marauders, a short but intense thundershower sweeps through the area.  As it passes they spot their destination for the first evening of the trip: an old abandoned caravanserai.  However there is a flock of huge vile vultures swarming around several carcasses near the gate-less entrance.  The vultures are hungry and flocks of the vile variety are extremely aggressive towards interlopers.

Vile Vultures
(one per party member) 1 HP, AC 10, 2d10 attack/beak; treasure: none

The "meals" which the vultures were swarming are the body of a male civilized humanoid, probably half-elf, and his pack mule (Shairat Ulumu and Stinky).  The body has a shortbow, a quiver with arrows, an elven shortsword, 32 sp and 4 cp on it, an old glazed tile with an ochre-on-white design of a stylized demon face, and a map.  The mule has sacks and pouches with two dozen hardtack biscuits, three full water skins, a small tent, lantern, two blankets, 50 feet of rope, an old sledge hammer, a frying pan, and a map.  [Hand players the no-labels dungeon map.  Pro tip: use of a real dead mule as a fun prop for this encounter is not advised.]  Despite the rain shower it is easy to see tracks indicating that the dead guy came from the northwest, where there is a mile of open scrub land leading to a large cactus forest.

Night begins to fall and the coachmen bring the coach into the courtyard of the caravanserai.  The walls of the old place delineate a square about 100 feet on a side, lined on the north and south sides with the remains of several roofless buildings.  Although abandoned long ago [when the well ran dry] it still makes for a useful overnight stopping place.  The coachmen cut fronds of deaththorn from nearby and arrange them in a barricade at the gate.

In the night a gaunte creeps up outside the gate, attracted by the smell of tasty horses.  It sniffs around the site of the dead guy and mule then sits motionless and observes for a while.  If only one person is awake in the camp it will attempt to sneak in, subdue them (reduce to 0 HP), then carry them off to eat later.  It has no interest in battle and will flee if confronted by two or more opponents (unless one or both is very badly injured).

AC 14, HP 6, two 2d10 attacks/claws; treasure: may be skinned for a lovely pelt worth 100gp
Shadowblend (constant): the rich black velvety fur of the gaunte allows it to blend into darkness almost anywhere in uncanny fashion, allowing it to reroll any failed rolls against anyone trying to spot it in the dark.
- The gaunte is a solitary nocturnal creature.  Its appearance is rather like a tall (8 foot) humanoid black panther, with long arms and deep yellow eyes.  Gauntes are almost as intelligent as people, making them exceptionally cunning predators.


[If the party decides to follow the tracks to explore the dungeon on the map (which they should if they want to have any fun at all) the coachmen explain that they have to stay on schedule, but they will be back in four days.  Their route takes one more day to ut-Frienne, two days to go out and back to yt-Marbala, then one day returning from ut-Frienne en route to the trading post.]

The dead guy's trail leads northwest across the mile of scrubland to a cactus forest.  However, once in the forest the trail grows faint and peters out in a clearing.  There appear to be three possible traces continuing on from the clearing: one going northwest (with the craggy top of large jebel visible a couple miles beyond), one to the north, and one southwest (with the flat top of large jebel visible a couple miles beyond).


Northwest trail: two miles of cactus forest and come to deep, narrow cleft in jebel which leads about 100 yards in to a small cave screened by dry brush.  A mother giant scarab is sleeping in the cave with her newly hatched swarm of hungry scarablings.

Giant Scarab
AC-14, 4 HP, two 2d10 attacks/claws; treasure: none

Scarab Beetle Swarm
AC-8, 4 HP, 3d10 attack,biting swarm
- Swarm/constant: it takes a lot of work to kill off a swarm of small critters; -2 to hit with non-magical ranged and melee weapons.


South west trail: three miles of cactus forest, ambush by guardian cactus sprites (small humanoid intelligent cactus people) on the way, then up a winding path to a Painted Stones Shrine atop the jebel to an elemental dust devil.

Cactus Sprites
AC 10, HP 2, 2d10 attack/spears; treasure: necklace of shiny rocks (1d10 gp)
Ouch, Spikey (constant): cactus sprites are covered in inch-long cactus spines which cause 1 wound to anyone grappling with them.
- there will be one sprite per player character

Elemental Dust Devil
AC-12, HP 8; treasure: 2 matching yellow gems (5d10 gp)
Gravel Storm/constant: the dust devil is a constantly whirling cloud of dust and gravel; anything in a 10 foot radius must make a Daring save or take a wound and be blinded for one round.
Rock Toss/focus: the devil forms a heavy rock and tosses it up to 50 feet; does 2 wounds


North trail: one mile of cactus, then a very ancient tomb with the stone door recently smashed open by an old sledgehammer (by the dead guy); see the Forgotten Tomb below.


The Forgotten Tomb of Ra-Nefesh IV

[Doors: all the doors in the tomb are large, heavy, and made of bronze with a fairly clever lock.  Each door is AC 14 with 3 HP, but light weapons and pokey/stabbing or slicing weapons cannot do significant damage.]

Portico: Two life-sized stone statues of lions on platforms flank an open doorway on a now roofless portico.  A pair of stone doors lie in ruins, smashed open quite recently.

Shersher (animated stone lions)
AC 14, HP 3, two 2d10 attacks/claws; treasure: none
- Shersher are magical statues place to protect places; the two here will activate only if someone tries to leave with the royal signet amulet from the Royal Crypt of Ra-Nefesh IV .

Antechamber: This room is dominated by a large statue (10' tall)  of Ra-Nefesh IV.  The faded wall frescoes show Ra-Nefesh IV living in power and luxury as a lord over servants, soldiers, slaves, and captives.

West Hall: this wide, dusty hallway has frescoes on both walls, showing a funeral procession of mourners, headed away from the antechamber.  There are a few scattered human bones on the floor.  [Trap: a floor tile halfway down the corridor has a lever under it which triggers dart tubes in the ceiling when stepped on.  An Awareness check can spot the trap.  If triggered, all creatures in a 10' x 10' area must make a Daring save to avoid being hit (for 1 wound).]

East Hall: this wide, dusty hallway has frescoes on both walls, showing a soldiers marching in formation, headed away from the antechamber.  There are a few scattered human bones on the floor.  [Trap: a 20' section of the floor halfway down the corridor has poison dust instead of normal dust, which is stirred up as creatures walk over it.  An Awareness check can spot the trap.  If triggered, everyone in the section must make a Brawn save or take one wound that round and another the next round.]

West Ossuary: this large hall has a high arched ceiling and six stone pillars, flooded to a depth of 3 feet, probably by seeping groundwater.  The walls have multiple rows of large slots with bones piled in them.  There are also bones on the floor to a depth of 2~3 feet.  These are probably the bones of the mourners at Ra-Nefesh IV's funeral who were depicted in the frescoes in the hallway.  The water and piled bones restrict movement to half normal walking pace.  [Two rounds after a living humanoid enters the room, skeletons will arise from the bone piles and attack. Initially two will arise for every living creature in the room, plus one more each round that they remain in the room.  The skeletons will not leave the room and collapse back into bones once an hour has passed with no living creatures in the room.]

Skeleton Mourners (minion)
- Creepy Undead/encounter: On first meeting, Commitment check or freeze for a turn
AC 10, HP 1, 1d10 attack/clawed bony fingers; treasure: small gold trinket (1d6 gp)

East Ossuary: this large hall has a high arched ceiling and six stone pillars.  The walls have multiple rows of large slots with bones piled in them.  There are also bones on the floor to a depth of 2~3 feet.  Scattered in amongst the bones are helmets, spears, and shields.  These are probably the bones of the soldiers at Ra-Nefesh IV's funeral who were depicted in the frescoes in the hallway.  [Two rounds after a living humanoid enters the room, skeletons will arise from the bone piles and attack. Initially two will arise for every living creature in the room, plus one more each round that they remain in the room.  The skeletons will not leave the room and collapse back into bones once an hour has passed with no living creatures in the room.]

Skeleton Soldiers
- Creepy Undead/encounter: On first meeting, Commitment check or freeze for a turn
AC 10, HP 1, 2d10 attack/spear, shield; treasure: small gold helmet badge (1d8 gp)

Hall of Noble Pillars: This room is a massive ceremonial funeral hall.  At the south end is a large (20') richly painted and gilded statue of royal pharaoh Ra-Nefesh IV.   It faces down between two rows of thick pillars carved to look like noble lords and ladies, males on the east and females on the west.  [Trap: nobles were strictly segregated by gender at court functions.  If a male humanoid enters the west half of the hall or a female one the east half of the hall then they must pass a Commitment save or be teleported back to the Portico.  Also, four mummified priests wander here still fulfilling their sacred oath to protect the tomb from defilers and the unrighteous.  They will attack anyone carrying a gold trinket or badge from either ossuary and anyone not of LN alignment.  There are 50% more priests than party members.]

Mummified Priests

AC 12, HP 3, 2d10 attack/mace; treasure: a polished silver skullcap (100 gp) and matching bracelets (25 gp each)
- Creepy Undead/encounter: On first meeting, Commitment check or freeze for a turn
- Bonecurse (focus, encounter): casts a curse on one victim (30' range); if victim does not pass a Commitment save their bones warp for one day (24 hours), causing a -2 to all rolls for physical activity during that period.

Tranquil Grotto: This round, domed room has a deep pool of beautifully clear water in the center.  Lovely frescoes on the ceiling depicting the smiling goddess Hathor surrounded by rosy clouds.  [Trick: a drink of water from the sacred pool bestows +1 Commitment; a person may receive this benefit only once per day.]

Chamber of the Ancestors: this rectangular room is entirely lined with slabs of blue-and-white marble, giving the impression that it is floating amongst the clouds.  Halfway down the room a statue stands in an alcove on either side.  The statues are of fierce armored sebeki (crocodile people) warriors with spears and shields.  The rest of the room is blocked off by a hanging tapestry showing condemned souls burning in lakes of hell fire.  [Trap: the tapestry is a warning to those who would continue on and desecrate the final resting place of Ra-Nefesh IV.  The statues will blast anyone getting between them with magical frost (Commitment save or take 1 wound from each statue).  The magicked marble statues are AC 16 with 3 HP.  Their magic cold attack can be neutralized by casting any fire-based spell on them or casting any water-based spell on them in reverse.  The tapestry is also deadly: anyone touching it (even if wearing gloves, etc.) must make a Brawn save or be paralyzed for one week by the poison dust on it.]

Royal Crypt of Ra-Nefesh IV: This room contains a large stone sarcophagus of dark gray granite containing the mummy of the pharaoh.  The walls and ceilings are completely covered in frescoes of the finest quality showing the pharaoh enjoying the afterlife in grand style.  In each corner is a tall bronze urn.  If anyone disturbs the sarcophagus or the urns the mummy of the pharaoh will push off the massive stone lid and attack any living creatures.  He will pursue throughout the tomb, but not leave it.

Royal Pharaoh Ra-Nefesh IV
AC 12, HP 10, 2d10 attacks/heavy mace (2 wounds); treasure: magic +1 heavy mace, 4 bronze urns with 250gp each, royal signet amulet (gold and carnelian, 500gp), 1d6 ancient historical scrolls (50gp each)
- Creepy Undead/encounter: On first meeting, Commitment check or freeze for a turn
- Mummy's Curse/encounter: all opponents nearby must make Commitment save or -2 to all rolls until the mummy is destroyed
- Touch of Death/constant: the mummy may attack with an open hand (in addition to a normal attack with mace); if successful, victim must pass a Commitment save or the mummy drains 2 HP from the victim and adds them to its own HP
- Bonecurse/focus, encounter: casts a curse on one victim (30' range); if victim does not pass a Commitment save their bones warp for one day (24 hours), causing a -2 to all rolls for physical activity during that period.