Wednesday, May 21, 2014

D&D 5e

They've announced some release dates (I think) and the new covers.  Personally I don't care as I'm a Hackmaster boy these days (although many RPGs have something worthwhile).  Lots of love the cover hate the cover nonsense - I really could care less.  However, this is an excellent alternate cover set.  Well done.  Very Olde Schoole.

Some folks ask why D&D 5e is a big deal.  It isn't.  It is just another iteration of rules.  It won't bring old schoolers back into the fold, 3.5 kids will likely remain where they are and 4e people who spent the cash will be hesitant to drop another $200, and fanboys will declare it the BEST THING EVER.

I'll download and peruse when they are available (SCANDAL!) but likely never play and almost definitely never buy.  Heck - these days I'm only buying indie RPG products (d30 sandbox companion and kickstarter location cards for example).  I haven't even bought anything from Kenzerco because I'm frankly unimpressed. 

What do other people think?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Lore of the Land: Al'Kadarir

The dark yellow sands shift slowly and shimmer red in the setting sun.  The soft cornered remains of once grand temples dot the landscape near what is left of this oasis.  Figures in flowing crimson robes stand silent with their curved silver blades atop iron shafts watching from just out of sight - these are the guard of Lurac-Lunhan, Lord of the Oasis and King of the Al'Kadarir.

The specifics are difficult to pinpoint because, frankly, it is in the middle of the most gigantic crazy desert ever.  The Ptocnik is massive in scale and things like distance or time quickly become irrelevant.  With that in mind, Al'Kadarir is generally thought to be on the northern end of things - traveling west one can see great mountains and eventually to the north as well - the northwest seems clear indicating a likely (but unverified) passage in the Parched Steppe.

Sights & Sounds
  • The dark sand whispering in the endless wind
  • The echo of a far-off stone falling from one of the great columns of red stone
  • Shattered remains of long abandoned settlements
  • The base and outline of a series of small pyramid now worn down and rubble
  • The quickly fading tracks of travellers moving toward the great oasis
  • Flashes of red cloth and the sound of a strange bird whistle and chirp
  • Winged beasts circling the high peaks of the Basalt Obelisk
  • The sounds of a terrible and tremendous battle mixed with the echos of a hundred men shouting and cheering
  • The rumble of something passing deep under the sand
  • Bones of a giant bleached and cracked
  • An area of absolute desolation - the reminder that something powerful stalks this region
  • Laughter and the roar of an open market once Al'Kadarir is found
  • The slow jangle of a caravan of merchants making their way to or from the oasis along secret routes
  • The chanting of the enslaved wizards that cause the merchants to fade into the sands, carried along by the clacking bones of a thousand dead warriors
  • The smell of spice is always on the wind...

Other Notes
The Lord of the Oasis delegates most of the day-to-day tasks to his crimson minions, but takes a special interest in those that are from far-off lands.  He does not believe in the underworld or the portals and is often inclined to believe them spies of strange and enraged gods.

The crimson guard are constantly battling a huge group of bandits that have settled a few days away in a strange place.  It is rumored that two cursed heroes representing divine light and malign darkness battle for eternity in the crater of a fallen star.  This pat has attracted the bandits who throw prisoners into the fray to get slaughtered as collateral damage.  They also raid any caravans they can get close to.

Something big lives off to the southeast and has either just settled in or woken up.  No one is sure what it is, but the few who have seen it and survived are gibbering fools - drooling from slack jaws and unable to speak from tongues bitten off in terror.  The few that manage to get something coherent out shout about eyes within eyes upon wheels entombed in fire.  "He is Risen!" they shout.  Obviously some sort of religious fervor to explain a terrible beast.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Underworld Bestiary: Orcs of the Black Fortress


Orc is a general term for all manner of beastmen.  There are generally humanoid body parts right until you get to the head which has some terrible bestial features from a jutting muzzle to a full ferocious animal head.  Within any given band of orc one can find any handful of weird heads, strange weapons, and cobbled armor.

The orc of the Black Fortress, however, are all very similar.  They stand about a head taller than a man and are wider from both girth and muscle.  Their skin ranged from drab olive to a forest green - their eyes are yellow and sickly.  Unlike many other beastfolk tribes, they all share characteristics of a boarlike nature - porcine snouts, tusks, and thick black bristled manes.

Monster Lore

  • They aren't wearing black iron armor - their skin is actually made of sheets of overlapping flesh and iron
  • Each black iron weapon is grown from a part of the orc which is why they are all so strange
  • Black Orc are not from the Underworld - they are from elsewhere
  • All other orc are their fetid spawn - they are the father race
  • If one can learn their language, the black orc can be negotiated with
  • The Black Fortress is built around a well leading directly to the Hell of Yuur

Sightings & Encounters

The Orc of the Black Fortress are most often seen in the Vault of Pain looting and enslaving.  They most often travel in small bands and have a distinct leader.  Worst of all, however, is they use some rudimentary tactics.  While it is expected that the average black orc is not much smarter than a toddler, imagine an angry toddler with a 4' black iron sword who doesn't want to take a nap and thinks you ate her cookies.  Don't underestimate them.

Notes on Combat

They are smart - this is the first things to know.  Some are said to travel with an orc wizard.  Rumors of a poison infused into their blades is common but unverified.  One thing for sure, though, is that want to take you prisoner and, if that happens, you won't be seen again.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Session Report: The Perilous Halls [O3]

The Fools

Dirk Pisspot a smelly fellow with a dagger fetish.
Dirk Lovejoy recently returned from being a dungeon phantom.
Thad Kirkwood who happens to be good at picking locks and finding traps.

The Highlights

  • The party encountered a Grue (or possibly The Grue) when crawling about with no lights
  • Lovejoy took a severe wound and didn't fall to his death (thanks to the dwarf bones he picked up earlier)
  • Dirks and Kirks dealt with some terrible gnashing and masticating pits
  • Some grubby mutant children were put down
  • A huge and terrifying door was opened into a Desert Land Unknown
  • Some looting of the ruins uncovered a few treasures
  • There was  LOT of laughing and good times

Demented and Sad, But Social

Sometimes the role playing needs to take a back seat to the social aspect of the game.  After all we are getting together to have fun and if the fun is riffing on some innuendo (IN YOUR ENDO!) for fifteen minutes, so be it!  We only have a 30 minute window to play and while some would argue that the game is most important, I'll argue that fun is and if everyone is having fun, who cares what you are up to.  The Perilous Halls of Sorrow are a seriously fucked up dungeon crawl that sometimes devolves into full grown men snickering at things like we were twelve.  It is demented and awesome.


I love Hackmaster combat at the table, but it is still a little slow online.  I'm going to write up a simple cheat sheet for the guys and any new players.  It seems like a good way to help move things along.  I'll throw a quick skills and doing other stuff and topside activities notes on the other side.  two page mechanics summary.  This, I think, is why so many people dig on the B/X and BECMI and 0e version of D&D - simplicity. 

Underworld Bestiary: Paragons

There are some things that are just ... well ... more than others: beasts of unholy intelligence, terrifying abominations, colossal examples of otherwise huge creatures.  These monsters are thankfully rare, but they are powerful well beyond expectation.  These are the Paragons.

Paragon Encounters
The region inhabited by a paragon usually takes on some of the paragon's form.  The Dungeon reacts to the existence of something it created that has drown well beyond the normal confines.  Some sort of huge weaponized slug mat live in corridors that smoothly spiral.  A cannibal ogre paragon likely stalks a region where the walls are made of bloody bones and the floors stink of putrid bile.  No matter what the environment, though, paragons are far more powerful than their kin.  If the Underworld seems to be changing keep an eye out for a terrible encounter

  • The name of a paragon has power over the creature
  • Paragon's are created from leaks from the Patchwork into the Underworld
  • All paragon's have a secret weakness that can be exploited
  • Most paragons are raised up by the King in Yellow or the Red Witch of Jer
  • The paragons, like adventurers, are pawns in some terrible game between the Yellow and the Red
  • The paragon's themselves are often the most fabulous of treasures - a claw from Kerik the Lord of Berzerks was said to be once sold for nearly $500
Known Paragons
  • Kerik the Lord of Berzerks
    • Seen in the Vault of Pain
    • The essence of rage in the form of an man
  • Shuol Guot of the Many Mouths
    • Known to crawl in the Signs of Madness
    • A gigantic snail created by a Follower of Ktuth
  • Tycho Trollking
    • An underworld troll grown fat by devouring his kin
    • Skin of stone is immune to fire and acid
  • Lop the Rabbit
    • An undead abomination that roams the Tomb of Dust
    • It is said to "heal" wounds by pilfering from corpses in the tombs
  • Zerlwar the Enormous
    • A giant's giant deep in the Machinus
    • He cannot refuse a bet (but is a terrible cheater)
  • Stik & Stak - the Boar Brothers 
    • A pair of underworld boar that have been fused into a single beast
    • If you survive the charge of iron tusks beware the biting tails