“When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.”

-George A. Romero, Dawn of the Dead

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Mecha & Martians

This post seems to be getting a lot of play according to my blogger stats. I found this second trailer on You Tube and I still believe that this would make for one kick ass RPG campaign. Mechs, steampunk, political drama and action all rolled up into one.

As I thought about what system I would use to run this, it occured to me that the mecha niche seems to be missing the plethora of OSR clones and rules add ons. Thinking on it I would probably use Stars Without Number, with a few modifications. I noticed the Core rules have stuff about mecha in them so that might be worth checking out. In fact I've been considering adding yet another blog project called Mecha & Martians. Seems like it would be a lot of fun.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

I've known for while that this movie was coming. To be honest I didn't really give a shit. But I have to say after watching this trailer I think I just might like this movie. Hell I might even give the comic a shot. A friend of mine is following the series and says its pretty rad so maybe he's on to something here.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Lake Tower of Vara Ristk

I've been playing quite a bit of Magic: The Gathering these past few weeks. Theres been a few things about the game that have got me thinking about Magic and the relation to D&D.

Magic is the saviour of D&D. When TSR was floundering it was Wizards of the Coast that swooped in with the money from the wildly successful card game, bought the company and revived D&D with 3e, created the OGL and created a renaissance in gaming history.

Here we are roughly 14 years later and D&D has been replaced by Pathfinder and self published old school enthusiasts. While Magic still rakes in huge amounts of money, and is perhaps even more successful than it was when it first went mainstream.  

I can see the parallels between D&D 3e and later edition rules and Magic. Both games attempted to makes the rules clear and precise with key words and standardized abilities.  If you look at the Monster Manuals of 4e you can see how the creatures have more evocative names like the creature cards of Magic.

Ultimately I find it sad that the D&D design team hasn't come up with adventures or campaign settings like the evocative settings and ideas that the Magic team does. Every year Magic comes out with what is the equivalent of a unique campaign setting with an over arching storyline, filled with unique monsters, NPCs, magic items and treasures. Yet D&Ds adventures pale in comparison. Other 3rd party companies, Pathfinder in particular have stolen the show because of this. I firmly believe that Paizo's success lies partially in the fact that they didn't alienate the 3.x player base, but mostly in the fact that instead of focusing so much on a rules system they pumped out adventure after adventure.  

Anyway, enough of my rambling. Heres a little Swords & Wizardry encounter inspired by some random Magic cards.

The Lake Tower of Vara Ristk

The wizard Vara Ristk, like many of her profession is a little off her rocker. She lives in a lonely tower that rises directly from the waters of an island strewn lake. An ever present mist obscures and cloaks the tower from view from the mainland. The tower can only be accessed from deep below the water, and the approach is protected by Isle-back Krakens. Vara can not be bothered with menial tasks and her lair is filled with a variety of homunculus. Worst among them, for spellcasters at least, is the Oculus.

Isle-back Kraken

At rest these Kraken look like rocky small islands. As prey gets within attack range they rise up an attack with their tentacles. One can sometimes spot an Isle-back Kraken in advance when it uses one of its tentacles to grab an unfortunate bird that has mistaken the monster for a true island and landed on one for a rest.  

Isle-back Kraken: HD 20; AC 0[19]; Atk 6 tentacles (2d6), bite (3d6); Move (Swim 3) (Jet 21); Save 3; CL/XP 24/5600; Special: Ink cloud, constriction, control weather, create lights.

Oculus Homunculus 

This creature has a powerful gaze attack that can suck the magic out of another wizard and then either transfer it to its master or use it himself depending on how it was programmed. On a successful gaze attack the wizard makes a saving throw. On a failure the Homunculus absorbs a random spell from the caster.   

Oculus: HD 2; AC 6[13]; Atk 1 Gaze (1d3 + spell loss); Move 6 (Fly 20); Save 16; CL/XP 3/60; Special: Spell-loss Gaze.  

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Cosmology of Aerd: The Nine Worlds

This project started out with the idea of writing up a bunch of dungeon levels inspired by Erebor, the Dwarven Kingdom under the Lonely Mountain. Writing up that first level made me want to draw up a map of the environs outside the dungeon and fulfil another itch I've always had, writing my own hex crawl. This thing just keeps growing. I feel like the last two major things that needed to be covered in order for this to be a fully functional campaign setting is address the Gods of Aerd, and a write up of Enderfell, the starting home base for the PC's. This post will be the first part of two on religion in the World of Aerd.

This past summer I watched the Avengers cartoon series on Netflix. It was a great series and I was sad to see it end. One of the things that stuck with me was Marvals adaptation of Norse mythology that makes up part of their universe. I've never really been a fan of the planes and they way they are presented in D&D. But the idea of planes as planets just really resonated with me. I decided to hijack Norse cosmology and twist it to my own needs.


According to the Sages of the Nemitical Order, it is written that in the First Age the Elder Gods descended from the heavens of Valtherium to the world of Aerd. They were the progenitors of the Primordians, the first Men of Aerd. TheElder Gods were the Lords of Law, and masters of Magic and Knowledge. They bestowed on the Primordians many gifts, taught them to wield magic, build fantastic cities, heal the sick, raise the dead, and pass to this knowledge on to their own earthly children.

The celestial children of the Elder Gods, who hailed from the heavenly realm of Ampharion rose up in jealousy and made war with their parents. They wanted Aerd to be theirs. This war brought about a terrible Dark Age known as the First Cataclysm. The Primordians and their great cities disappeared from Aerd. From the ashes of this cataclysm the Ampharion stood victorious. Eventually after much time had passed, a second age of peace and prosperity reigned.

The Second Cataclysm occurred when the Lords of Chaos attacked Aerd. They brought hulking Giants, Demons, and worst of all Dragons. They warred with the Gods of Ampharion, The Elven Gods of Fellanthia and Elaeron, and the Dwarven Gods of Zirquanok. It seemed for a time that the forces of Law might win. But then the Dark Elves of Elaeron in a surprising act of treachery and betrayal turned on the for Forces of Law. The weapons and magic of both sides tore Aerd asunder. It seemed all was lost until some of the Elder Gods arrived and helped to turn the tide of the war.

In the aftermath of the God War, Aerd underwent a second dark age. It is from the shadows of this latest dark age that the people of Aerd are slowly creeping out from under. The majestic time when the Gods walked and communicated directly with the people of Aerd are no more. Some say the Gods are dead, or at the very least have abandoned their people. The great cities and epic magic of that time can no longer be reproduced. Ruins and relics of the last two ages lay scattered about the land, a legacy of a better time.

The Nine Worlds

There are nine main worlds that make up the Cosmology of the campaign setting. Others obviously exist by these are the ones that hold the most importance for the setting. There are two factions, the Lords of Law, and the Lords of Chaos. The Lords of Law hail from Valtherium, Ampharius, Zirquanok, and Fellanthia. The Lords of Chaos hail from Elaeron, Yotaurus, Antenoria, and Fyrrion.


Aerd is the jewel of the nine worlds it is at the centre of all the other Worlds, and the main setting for the campaign world.


This is the home world of the pantheon known as the Elder Gods. Few of the Elder Gods are worshiped any more on Aerd though there are cults, or lone worshipers that can be found scattered across the world.


This is the home world of the of the current pantheon of Gods that are worshipped on Aerd. They grant their clerics power but rarely interact directly with their worshippers. Instead they send angelic emissaries. These Gods do tend to meddle in the affairs of the men in order to achieve their own goals. The Gods of this pantheon are always in conflict with one another.


This is the true home of all Giant Kind.


This is a world of water and ice. All manner of creatures of this type originate from here. Cold hearted Gods of storms and chaos live here.


This is the world of all dark fey. The court of the cruel Goddess of the Dark Elves rules here.


The red and mountainous home world of the Dwarves and gnomes.


This is green forest world, home of all the Light Fey. The Gods of the halflings and Light Elves hail from here.


The hot ash filled home world of Earth and of Fire creatures. Foul devils serve cruel masters. This is the Hell that all men fear. Ruled by the Lord of the Pit.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Golden Plains of Afzhaal and Beyond

Artwork byJohn Avon

The Plains of Afzhaal

These fertile plains are the breadbasket of the City-State. Here farms dot the land. Scattered acroos this land small villages sit admits vast golden fields of wheat and fruit trees and grazing beasts of burden. The nomadic Afzhaali ride their six legged reptilian Gorlax, while they trade with the local villages and hunt wild Trinoceros and Lions. Dactyl Raiders will swoop down from the mountains to raid and quickly fly off.

Plains Encounters

Roll 1d10

1. Bloody Paw Goblins
2. Afzhaali Gorlax Rider's
3. Trinocerous
4. Wild Gorlax
5. Lions
6. Knights of Bryndor
7. Farmers
8. Legionnaire Patrol
9. Dactyl Raiders
10. Prairie Scorpions

Sites of Interest

The City-State of Kossuth (Hex 0515)

The City-State has fallen on dark times. Once a prosperous city the shadow of the Cult of Mem'Dathou has fallen over Kossuth. The young King is kept distracted by those that seek to use him and the kingdom for their own ends. Greed and corruption runs rampant and most people stay indoors at night for fear of disappearing never to be heard from again. Caravans and trade have gradually began to stop travelling to the city. The God King of Negrathia looks south towards the City-State with hunger while Bryndor looks from the south with the eyes of expansion and protecting their own kingdom from the depredations of the north.

The Town of Durnwich (Hex 0520)

The Village is about a days travel from Kossuth. The town acts as the hub for river trade in the south and the villages on the plains. Often this is the farthest north traders will travel these days as rumours of the rising evil in Kossuth spreads. Adventurers will often use the town as a launching pad for the exploration of dungeon ruins of Ghadira.

Ruins of Ghadira (Hex 0218)

The origin of this ancient ruin has been lost to time. The upper levels find themselves cleared and refilled time and time again. Adventurers and explorers come searching it for whatever treasures they can. Access to the lower levels is blocked by a strange door.

Legionnaire Outpost (Hex 0524)

This Legionnaire Outpost has been overtaken by an alien presence. A sentient black ooze lives inside the troops and officers of the post. The legionnaires body's are all that remain and acts in symbiosis with the alien intelligence. For now no ones seems to notice that anything is wrong as the aliens use the memories of their hosts. What plans they have remains to be seen.

The Star Crater (Hex 0923)

This crater was made by a meteorite that crashed her some time ago. The star metal is magical and already has been harvested by prospectors. Those who spend too much time in this area are transformed and mutated by the radiation.

The Lands Beyond

These are the lands that border the City-State of Kossuth.

The Wastelands of Negrathia

To the North is the desolate land of Nergrathia full of beastmen, Skrael barbarians, and demons. It is lorded over by powerful tyrant known as the God-King of the North. In time he plans to invade the City-State and claim it's riches for himself.

The Empire of Hykiria

To the West is the expansive and decadent land of the Hykirians that can trace its origins back to the Age of the First-Men, a time before the First Cataclysm. This Empire of Man is dominated by powerful noble houses and the Holy Church of Nabanadon.

The Kingdom of Bryndor

To the South sits Bryndor. This militaristic kingdom is controlled and dominated by a secretive order of knights. They are aggressive and expansionistic and are planning on annexing the City-State and its lands. They are aware of the Negrathia's designs on the City-State, and are in fact engineering things to encourage the country to invade. They will then offer aid, move in troops and then once entrenched take full control of the country.

The Yoshan Empire

Little is known of this Empire to the West and over the Everdusk Mountains. The Jade Emperor rules This vast Empire. It has an oriental flavour combining Chinese and Japanese traditions. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Bones of the Earth & River of Blood

Artwork by Ray Bender
The City-State of Kossuth claims two mountain chains, the Everdusks and Thule, and one major waterway, the Rubyrun River.

Rubyrun River

The Rubyrun is a wide and deep fresh water river rich in iron giving it it's ruby red look. The water is fresh and clean. There is much river traffic. The river acts as a major trade route to the south west into the lands of Hykiria and Bryndor. Most halflings in the City-State are river folk. They live on barges, and fishing boats traveling up and down the length of the river. Two major threats exist on and below the water. The first is the river pirates that plague boat traffic and raid riverside villages. Despite an increase in the City-State's naval presence the pirates always seem to be one step ahead. The second, and less frequently encountered threat is the Crayfish-men that live in villages below the river. Something has been causing them to be more active recently, though what that might be is anyones best guess.

River Encounters

Roll 1d10
1. River Pirates
2. Halfling River Barge
3. Fishing Boat
4. Crayfish-Men
5. City-State Naval Patrol Boat
6. Funeral Pyre Boat
7. Giant Pike
8. Goblin War Raft
10. Floating Debris

The River Road Encounters

Roll 1d10
1. Human Merchant Caravan
2. Gnomish Merchants
3. City-State Legionnaires
4. Highway Bandits
5. Elven Blockade
6. Bloody Paw Goblins (see Tharzad-Dul, Mountain Door)
7. Farmers
8. Woad Barbarians
9. Broken Down Carriage
10. The Black Rider (See the Witchmire)

Everdusk Mountains

The Everdusk Mountains act as a natural border for the City-State and divides it from the Yoshan Empire to the East. These mountains hold many mysteries and have yet to be fully explored. Like the underworld of Aerd, the high places of the world tend be have thin borders to other worlds and gateways to the weird. Giants and Yeti crawl the mountains as well as other more bizarre creatures hailing from from far away lands.

Everdusk Mountains Encounters

Roll 1d10
1. Dreaming Monk
2. Yeti
3. Giants
4. Dusk Drake
5. Prospectors
6. Explorers
7. Shantank
8. Mountain Goats
9. Moon-Beast
10. Black Sky Barge

Sites of Interest

Hydra Mountain (Hex 1716)

Hydra Mountain, a place of power, riddled with caves, dungeon levels, and secrets. Location of the mega-dungeon of Tharzad-Dul.

The Dungeon of Tharzad-Dul (Hex 1716)

The eponymous mega-dungeon. Once the home of the dwarves.

Giant Fortress (Hex 1720)

In the days before the first cataclysm this was was a might fortress from which the giants ruled the surrounding lands. Today it stands in ruins and is held by the most powerful and charismatic of the Giant Warlords. Their is a faction of these giants that seek to overthrow the current leader. They plan to do this by brining back a powerful giant warlock from the grave. All of Giant-Kind ounce hailed from the world of Yotaurus. Their history tell of a time when they were much more than the barbaric tribes that they are today. Prophecy speaks of a future day when the glory of the giants will return.

The Valley that Time Forgot (Hex 1723)

This valley has remained hidden from the world. This is because an enchantment on it acts as a temporal trap. Creatures and people can go into this jungle paradise, but cant leave. This powerful enchantment was placed on the valley in order to trap a terrible God and imprison it here forever.

The Demonsbreath Pass (Not shown)

This dangerous pass is used by bold travellers to navigate the mountains in order to have a quicker route to the Yoshan Empire beyond.

The Monastery of Orsoom (Hex 1808)

This difficult to reach monastery teaches martial arts, meditation, and other mysteries to those that they deem worthy. Usually this involves the potential acolyte to perform some sort of dangerous mission. Even then success does not necessarily mean entry. The library here contains many rare texts and histories.

Yotarian Gate (Hex 1805)

This deactivated gate leads to Yotaurus, the home world of the Giants. It is protected by yeti and other monsters. Some time in the near future the gate will open and the true Giants armed with powerful magic and weapons will arrive bent on conquest. They will use their barbarian brethren as shock troops and do not consider them to be true giants, but some pathetic throwback.

The Thule Mountains

High in the Thule mountains lives the wizard Lhurwyn, his magic is powerful and many come to him for advice. Deep below the Mountains lies the ruins of a once glorious city of minotaurs who's barbaric descendants war with a race of ogres and orcs augmented with a variety of body enhancing implants.

Thule Mountain Encounters

Roll 1d10
1. Xarlum Minotaur
2. Steelspine Ogre
3. Pilgrim
4. Shriek Hawk
5. Silverfoot Faun
6. Night Gaunt
7. Goat Shepard
8. Ironhand Orc
9. Crag Monkey
10. Lhurwyn the Mad

Sites of Interest

Xarloon Minotaur City (0214)

The Xarloon minotaurs are another race from Yotaurus. At their peak they were great magicians and warriors. Now few if any of this race can cast the simplest of spells.

Tower of Lhurwyn the Mad (Hex 0613)

Lhuryn the Mad, can see into the future and perform great feats of magic. He is a lewd and disagreeable old man. He has no need for money and will only aid those who bring him young nubile women and men for him to sate his lusts. He is served by enchanted crag monkeys who perform a variety of tasks including spying, cleaning and fetching things for him. His tower is guarded by magical guardians and traps.

True Lair of Khysophax (Hex 0711)

The true lair of Kysophax is located deep in the mountains here. It can be reached by descending a deep fissure in the mountain, or by long twisting cave tunnels back to the Shadowheart forest.

Vault of Ersetu Sheen (Hex 0313)

Ersetu Sheen is a hybrid of machine, man, and centaur. He is obsessed with creating and augmenting life. His two greatest creations are the Ironhand Orcs and the Steelespine Ogres. The Orcs all have their right hands removed and replaced with a random weapon, including circular saw blades, flamethrowers, shock-flails, or a iron fist mounted on a chain that can retract back into the arm. The Steelspine ogres have a reinforced spine surgically implanted on their backs. They typically have regenerating steel spikes that can be launched at targets at range.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Shepherd Of Fire

                                                   I'm a strong believer that every campaign should have a theme song. Even if it's just for the GM to get a little pumped to run the game. I find that music can often have cool elements in them that can be stolen for inspiration. For the Tharzad-Dul mega-dungeon I chose Shepherd of Fire. It has an energy and a dark side to it that works for me. You can be sure that somewhere in the dungeon there will be an NPC known as the Shepherd of Fire! Now go on and rock out with your cock out to A7X.