Tuesday, July 2, 2013


In the jumbled corridors Below, a multitude of vengeful spirits writhe in the darkness, longing for the tactile satisfaction of physical form. They ache to fill any vessel no matter how meager.

The dangers of the twisted halls yield a battered bounty of broken bodies, void of their original inhabitants. No corpse lies still for long.

Even so, the sea of silent spirits seethes. No matter how many jars are spilled, there are never enough empties to  bottle the horde. There is always a remainder, waiting and wishing for teeth to gnash.

Every scavenger knows better than to turn his back on the deceased but deep in the maze of abandoned rooms, the spirits are taking up new forms.

Possessed Teddy
When the  glint of an eye belongs to the cast-off toy of a long absent child, a delver is likely to sigh with relief but Below, even the most innocent forms are often possessed by malevolence.

A teddy bear makes a poor vehicle of vengeance, and even filled with an angry spirit, the boneless toy can barely flop its way into a fray, and when it arrives, pillowy arms are incapable of piercing armor or rending flesh.

After initial surprise wears off, jerky movements and frequent tumbles may seem comical but these creatures are not harmless. It is not a deficit of strength that draws a spirit into such an inferior form, rather a surplus of desire. If a possessed toy can touch an open wound, it's inhabitant may enter the wound and claim the stronger body.

Hit Points: 1
AC: None. Cutting weapons, fire automatically successful. Immune to blunt weapons, bullets and mind effects.
Attack: 1d20 - 4 (stuffed limbs suck)
Damage:  On a hit, save vs. will or become possessed by the toy's spirit until you make a successful will save
Speed:  50% human

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Chessmen

This is my first entry for the Hack Vornheim Contest. I am running a little late (contest deadline was July 27, 2011) but since I don't actually care about winning anything, I think that's ok. I'll be attempting option #3, "expand something."

Without further introduction:

The Chessmen

In Vornheim, Large Chess is "A bizarre and repugnant indulgence," in which specially bred halflings act out a game of chess, dressed as the pieces they represent. In my campaign, these are the only halflings in the world.

Large Chess is a brutal blood sport. When a piece is captured, the capturing chessman delivers a single blow to the chessman being captured (who must accept the blow passively). If, after the blow, the captured piece is still able to stand, he can re-enter the game from the back rank.

The chessman are bred and trained to deliver a blow that is as debilitating as possible. Each piece has their own capturing move.

Pawns (Punchies): When capturing, a pawn throws a punch. One arm is disproportionately large and overdeveloped with an enormous bony fist. HD1, AC10, Damage 1d4, Speed 75% human.

Knights (Jumpers): These chessman must be able to jump over the heads of other pieces and so they have grotesquely muscular legs. For making captures, they wield a wooden cudgel. HD1, AC10, Damage 1d4, Speed 75% human walking. Can make 15' lateral or 8' vertical jumps.

Bishops (Kickers): Bishops deliver devastating kicks but their feet are broken and fused so often during training that they find it difficult to walk. HD1, AC10, Damage 1d4 (if using hit locations*, Bishops get a +2 bonus instead of a penalty for targeting an opponents legs) Speed 25% human.

Rooks (Splats): Rooks must hold a large stone block above their heads throughout the game. When making a capture they bring this block down on the opponent's piece with tremendous force. If a rook lowers his block for any reason other than a capture, he is removed from the game. HD1, AC10, Damage 1d8 but terrible at hitting moving targets, Speed 75% human.Can carry 150% what a normal human can.

Queen (Widow): Queens walk on 5' stilts and capture with polo mallets. If a queen falls from her stilts, she may be attacked by all opposing pieces until she regains her stilts or leaves the board. HD1, AC10, Damage 1d6, Speed 150% human.

King (The Coin): Kings walk on arm crutches and deliver powerful double legged kicks when they capture. When a game is lost the losing team's king is literally captured. Often, a king will be redeemed for a large ransom. HD1, AC10, Damage 1d4, Speed 50% human.

Chessman are born in pairs. It is considered disrespectful to your opponent to play with unmatched pieces and most leagues forbid the practice. As a result, any chessman whose twin is debilitated becomes unplayable. These leftovers can be purchased very inexpensively at the slave market.

Chessmen know nothing about the world outside of their game. If they are freed or if Large Chess is banned, they are sure to come to wretched ends.

*I use a hit location similar to Zak's except that I allow players to target specific locations with a penalty to hit.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Slothful Arbus, Galumphing Compheathalan and

The following monsters were created using the Spawn of Shub Niggurath Table in Carcosa (Geoffrey Mckinney, LotFP).

The critter names were created by mashing together the first syllables of 1d6 random Wikipedia article titles.

The first creature I rolled up had a multicolored insectoid body with a suckered hide, 5 eyes and multiple beaks. Thus, the arbus:


Arbuses use the suckers on their backs to adhere to the underside of branches or mossy cave roofs with their legs dangling like vines. They wait for prey to pass underneath, drop on them from above and attack with their beaks.

Number Encountered: 1d4
Armor Class: 8 [11] Tough rubbery skin, covered in suckers

Hit Dice: 1 (3 hit points)
Move: 30 ft. Can climb across walls and ceiling at full speed.
Attacks: 1d4 beak attack.


The next creature I rolled was a feathery brown plant creature with 5 eyes and multiple suckered mouths. Introducing the compheathalan:


This strange feather-fronded tree looks very out of place in the icy glade where it lurks. Beady eyes stare out from crevices in its trunk and when it spots movement, it uproots itself and ambulates at an alarming rate on a swarming mass of its roots. It runs over the top of its prey and a host of small mouths at the nexus of its roots strip the victim clean of flesh.

The compheathalan's tiny eyes can only see moving objects.

It has been eating local villagers for years, so unless adventurers have angered the populace, they are likely to be warned of the vegetal predator and rewarded for its destruction.

Number Encountered: Unique
Armor Class: 7 [12] The soft bark and wispy branches are vulnerable to fire, invulnerable to cold.
Hit Dice: 5 (15 hit points)
Move: 50 ft. Accelerates and decelerates slowly. Wide turning radius
Attacks: Overuns victims. Save vs. Reflex (to jump out of its path) or die.


Finally, a four-eyed fish-bodied flier with a circular gaping maw. Not that any campaign world really needs another flying land shark, but that's what came up on the dice.

The Augmy:

A fierce, flying fish found far from the surf. The augmy floats over the fecund Flats of Flubel.  If found, flee!

Number Encountered: Unique
Armor Class: 5 [14] Hard, natural scale-mail.
Hit Dice: 4 (14 hit points)
Move: 60 ft. floating above ground. Short bursts of flight (10 ft.).
Attacks: 1d8 chomp. Often attempts to bite off a targets head.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Little Churches

I was goofing around with a couple little church designs. They might be nice as drop-in hex contents or random city structures.

A shrine to an obscure saint. Galleries along the outer walls display murals of his exploits and trophies of his victories. The blessed walls protect these items from magical detection but if the treasures are removed, they will definitely attract the attention of malign entities. 

 A trendy new cult worships here. Their god demands novel sacrifice and so the cultists are eager to find previously unknown creatures to slay on Her altar. Several wealthy merchants are adherents and they will pay top dollar for live specimens.

"Scanned" with my camera phone.

Feel free to use these for whatever purpose you see fit.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Awake oh sleepers!

The PCs wake up in a large windowless room. Each lies in the middle of a chalk circle drawn on the floor. They have no memories of their pasts.

In the middle of another circle, in the center of the room, a twisted, withered corpse can be seen slumped over a few tomes lying open on the floor. The ground inside this circle is covered in esoteric symbols and scattered candles.

When the PCs attempt to leave their circles, any magic users find themselves trapped, as if an invisible, impenetrable cylinder. They remain imprisoned until a non-magical friend smudges, crosses or otherwise breaks the edge of their chalk circle. 

If the body in the central circle is examined, its robes crumble away like ash at the slightest touch. The corpse is so disfigured that it is impossible to determine its age or sex. Under close observation, it will be revealed that the body has a third eye socket in the back of its head barely obscured by the stringy remains of hair. Also their appears to be a lamprey like mouth in place of a belly button.

A ring of keys can be found amidst the ash of the destroyed robe.

There are three tomes. All three are bound in plain leather and are equipped with a locking latch (like some diaries). They can be unlocked with keys on the dead mage's ring.

The first book is a densely written volume, which when deciphered will reveal a basic spell book. There are four spells inside:
  • Circle - Allows the caster to draw a perfect circle (of any size). The circumference cannot be crossed by any magical being until it is broken by its creator or a non-magical creature. Sufficiently powerful magic users can power through the circle at the cost of 1d10 damage per level of the circle's creator.
  • Sight - When active, Sight allows its user to see magic and magically invisible creatures. Sight comes with risk. While active it conveys a -4 penalty to normal senses and opens the user to certain arcane dangers.
  • Shield - From whatever D&D rule set you prefer.
  • Hold Static - The caster grabs a creature, their clothing etc. Until released, the target is rigid and paralyzed.
The next tome is open to its final page. It is ornately illustrated with elaborate diagrams and illuminated paintings. It contains one complex, extraordinarily difficult ritual:

  • Absorb - Allows the caster to absorb the life experience of its targets. The results of a failed casting are obvious.
The last book, written in code is the dead mage's journal. Stamped into the leather on the back cover is a message: "If found please return: Lander Place, Belmont Street, Wilburton. 100 coin reward."

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Rat Men

Their hunger is never satisfied. The wilderness overflows with packs of savage scavengers, willing to risk life and limb for a bite of meat. 

deviantART by Mablox

While traveling outside of the city walls roll 1d10 (+2 if any traveler is bleeding) each day. This is in addition to any other wandering monster roll. Replace used results as necessary.
  1. No rat men
  2. No rat men
  3. No rat men
  4. No rat men
  5. No rat men
  6. 2d4 rat men gnawing on the corpse of another rat man.
  7. 2d6 rat men gnawing on the corpse of a horse and rider.
  8. 2d8 rat men attempt an ambush.
  9. 2d10 rat men attack in the night.
  10. 2d12 rat men caught unawares.
 Rat men stats: 1HD (d4). AC 10 (unarmored). Speed as human. Attack at +0, 1d4 damage.

Image via Chronowraith's Corner

I typically don't use grappling, but for rat men I use these rules from Swords and Wizardry:

What's scary about rats? Getting pulled down by the swarm. Held by the weight of their numbers while your throat gets cut.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Everyone has a Price

Put money in thy purse; follow thou the wars; defeat thy favor with an usurp'd beard. I say put money in thy purse.

Rather than trying to devise some sort of elaborate pricing system, I try to map game world costs to approximately similar real world costs. 

In my campaign the basic unit of currency is a small silver coin, called a klink. This coin is worth about $10. 

A restaurant meal costs about 1 klink.

A room at an inn costs about 10 klinks.

Military style rifles start around $1000 and go up rapidly in price. Swords start around 100 klinks.

You can get a crappy car for a couple grand on Craigslist so you can buy a worn out mule for a couple hundred klinks. A new sports car will cost about $50,000. You can buy a war horse for 5000 klinks. If you want a Maserati horse, you can buy one for a Maserati price. 

Prices vary according to quality and circumstance. Generally, you get what you pay for.

Simple, right?

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Right Tool for the Job

The rules I use are very loosely based on those in Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Role-Playing. Mostly, because they are free.

In these rules, all classes start with a +1 bonus to hit (except the fighter with +2) with the assumption that characters will be using standard military weapons.

My campaign does not make that assumption. Military weapons are highly controlled and those possessing them without authorization are subject to severe legal consequences (slavery, mutilation, death).

Characters do not start with a +1 bonus and military weapons grant a +1. Thus:

Fighting for your life with a re-purposed tool rather than a dedicated killing machine adds a feeling of desperation.

I am also hoping that the original functionality of the implements will inspire some creative problem solving. Proverbially, when all you have is a hammer, all your problems look like nails. What does the world look like when all you have is a sword?