R.O.U.S.

So this is a Grenadier model, from the period when John Dennett was doing a lot of horrific stuff and Grenadier’s monsters took a really frightening turn.  It is a “Giant Bog Rat” from the Dragon Lords “Horrors of the marsh” set.

 

Click to embiggen

Click to embiggen

He doesn’t have the buck teeth you might expect on a rat, but I like the lipless snout with all the teeth showing, and the boils or tumors all over its back are suitably gross. It occurs to me that it would be kind of creepy if those boils hatch rats, like those freaky toads that hatch babies on their backs.

Giant Bog Rat. Mv: 12″ AC: 6 (14) HD: 6 Att: 1 bite (d10 + venom) SV: F6 Ml: 7. Special: surprise, d6 pups hatch from back every round, for six rounds, after the GBR first takes damage; treat the pups as Giant Rats.

Giant Bog Rats (GBR) are a subspecies of the common Rodent of Unusual Size (ROUS), and like them has the ability to hide, despite their large size, surprising prey on a 1-4 on a d6.  GBRs are usually encountered alone, but during mating season they may be encountered in groups of 2-6. GBRs are true hermaphrodites, and can reproduce without a mate, but more typically mate with multiple partners who place fertilized zygotes on each others backs.  The zygotes bond with the GBR’s bald back and develop into amniotic sacks which look like large boils.  When agitated, the sacks may burst, exuding fully formed GBR pups who, unlike many rodents, are born with fur and open eyes.  They emerge ravenously hungry and attack any nearby creature on sight. Adult GBRs are more cautious and will attempt to use surprise to catch prey. They prefer to feed on humans and demihumans above all else, but will eat anything. Its relatively weak but copious venom causes those hit by the bite to save versus poison at +2 or die in 2d6 rounds.

****

I just looked at the insert that came with the Horrors of the Marsh set, and the GBR was statted out as having armor equivalent to “reinforced leather,” speed comparable to a leopard, 20-60 hp, and two attacks: bite for d12 and claw for d6; its special attacks are a 10% chance of inflicting disease with a bite, and on a critical hit, it drags the foe down and crushes it beneath its bulk (400-900 pounds!) for 2d8 damage; no. appearing 1 or a “large pack”.

Published in: on September 25, 2014 at 8:00 am  Comments (1)  
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Would you trust these murderhobos with your campaign?

So with the ACKS Barrowmaze campaign on indefinite hiatus, we’re trying out some fairly BtB AD&D 1e!

 

pcs-1

Click to embiggen!

The original idea was to have each player make 2 PCs, since we’ve all been so erratic about participation, but in the end six players showed up so we had 12 PCs the first night!  One guy is out-of-town tonight, but another is back from having a procedure.  The crew from the first session is pictured above — I don’t recall most of the names but have (left to right) a 1/2 orc Fighter/Assassin,  Human cleric, elf thief/MU, human fighter, dwarf fighter, elf Fighter/MU/thief, 1/2 elf cleric/MU, 1/2 elf fighter/thief, human druid, halfling fighter, human monk, 1/2 orc fighter.  The pairs (front/back rows) are each controlled by a single player.  The returning player, I hear, will run an elf assassin and a human ranger.

I think most of these minis have featured before on this blog.  The monk and druid are the oldest paint jobs, the rest having been painted in the last five years or so. Grenadier, Reaper, Heritage, Ral Partha, even TSR sculpts are on display, as well as a Citadel/Milton Bradley joint mini for HeroQuest.

They are all 5th level (or 4/4, or 3/3/3) and I believe we are playing in the Slavers series…though that is based mostly on the fact we’ve been sent to deal with bad guys in the Pomarj, the nature of whose crimes we never even asked, because hey, there is a bounty.

<Update: Ack! Fighter/assassin 3/3 and Fighter/thief 3/3.  Damn your eyes, wight!>

Published in: on September 24, 2014 at 4:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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For the birds

For no particular reason, I decided to clear a few bird monsters off the painting table — in this case, three cockatrices.

cockatrices

They are two versions of the Grenadier cockatrice (the earlier one, I think, is the single-piece casting; it was later reworked to have one separate wing, which I guess enhances the three-dimensionality a little but it never fit quite right on the model.  In between them is a casting of the Metal Magic sculpt, produced by MegaMinis.

The cockatrice is one of the many mythical creatures attested to in the Bible, so I guess some sizable percentage of the US population is committed to believing in them, like unicorns, dragons, and so on. Cockatrices are often confused with basilisks, since in folkore the terms are equivalent but in D&D they are very distinct monsters. Apart from the Book of the Dun Cow, my favorite cockatrice story is probably the cockatrice of Warsaw, since it is presented as true account.

The other bird-monsters are a pair of TSR Broobies, and a cheap plastic pelican which I painted to look like them.  The shape of the head and body are pretty off, and I made a rather poor effort to reshape the bill, but for as often as I’ll use them I guess it’s good enough.  One of the Broobies I bought back when it was in production (I liked the firbolg that was packaged with it, probably) and since his legs broke repeatedly, he’s got a piece of paper clip holding him upright (you can see it pretty well in the first pic). I always think of them as axebeaks, rather than broobies, for some reason.

axe-beaks-2

ax-beaks-1

Published in: on September 23, 2014 at 8:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The world’s laziest posts, part 1: GIS dungeons

I’m terrible at drawing maps, and designing rational floor plans.  Sometimes I’ll Google image search (GIS) things like crypts or temples, which is always turns up tons of great stuff. Like this Egyptian temple:

Khonsu Temple Floor Plan

and this plan of Olympia:

Or this abbey:

 

But sometihng you might overlook are other types of plans, particularly those for old gardens. If you GIS “garden plans” (or better yet, “historical garden plans” so you don’t get as many modern drawings that are actually illustrations rather than plans).

The garden a the palace of Versailles is particularly vast and you’ll find lots of images like this map:

or this elevation:

Weird symbolic plans can be inspirational too:

Whether you were planning to run it as an outdoor maze or an underground dungeon, the unusual layouts can help break the monotony of halls and rooms.

Limiting your search line drawings or black & white makes even generic searches for “plans” useful.

 

Published in: on September 19, 2014 at 9:01 am  Comments (1)  
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Dyson’s delves

Some time ago I got a pdf copy of Dyson’s Delves. I didn’t have to pay for it — it was a consolation prize to replace something else he’d tried to send to me and which was apparently lost or stolen in the mail — and he didn’t ask for a review, but it’s only fair to post one now because I have had some time to look it over and have even used one of the scenarios. <Edit: There is also a Dyson’s Delves II? I didn’t know about that until just now when I went looking for links. So this review is just about the first one.>

Anyway idea behind Dyson’s Delves is to provide both a set of usable dungeon adventures and a set of maps, ready to be keyed and stocked (with sheets of blanks provided on facing pages for those who want to keep a permanent record in their copy). Some of the maps and adventures have already been published on Dyson’s blog. They are all pretty good. There is a “mini-mega-dungeon” that was originally published on the blog as “Dyson’s Delve,” and which consists of eleven smallish levels (with room for expansion). This mini-mega-dungeon has multiple entrances, so higher level adventurers could bypass the goblins-infested uppers, and there are multiple paths through the dungeon — the party may need to go “up one, down two” to find everything. This dungeon could easily serve as the centerpiece to a dungeoneering campaign, and yes there is dragon in there somewhere. The dungeon is designed to take a party from first to sixth level. (I have a copy of the “deluxe edition” printed out that I keep on hand just in case I ever need to run something with no preparation… though I’d probably swap out the goblins for almost anything else.)

There are several other keyed dungeons, ranging from single-level adventures to multiple-level dungeons. The dungeons have a variety of difficulties, which is very nice for DMs looking for a quick side-adventure in a campaign, as I am often am because I did not have time to prepare or because the players go so far afield of what I expected. There is a surfeit of first-level one-page-dungeons, so it’s nice to find delves here for mid-level parties. My favorite is probably The charmed grotto (for level 5-8 characters), which I ran  in my home campaign and provided a decent challenge to a mid-level party, but you’ll also find adventures for 3rd-6th level parties, ranging from the award-winning one-page The worm’s gullet  to another multi-level crawl, Erdea Manor.

The blank maps are generally very good.  Anyone who has visited Dyson’s blog will have seen his work, so there is not much for me to add about that.

It’s available in PDF, softcover, and hardback. No-one asked me, but if he did I’d tell him to see about offering in a spiral bound edition, as my experience with perfect-bound print-on-demand has been that they do not hold up well to use at table, especially if you’re writing in them. As it is I guess you could get the pdf and print yourself a copy and have it spiral bound at an office supply store. Or just three-hole punch your printout.

In any case Dyson’s Delves is great idea, well-executed and worth a look.

Published in: on September 15, 2014 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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Pages from a rutterkin’s notebook

The gaming group is has been pretty irregular over the summer, what with work schedules, vacations, and assorted BS.  One of our players is going to start an indefinite AD&D 1e game though — first we’ll try out a module with 5th level PCs and if we’re enjoying it, we might continue with him as DM for as long as he can stand our shenanigans.

So we each making two PCs, and naturally one of mine will be a half-orc fighter-assassin. 4th/4th then, and any equipment normally available in the PHB, but no poisons, elfin mail, strong bows or magic, as those are all the purview of the DM.  Sticking to BtB AD&D 1e, with only the MM, PHB, and DMG should be interesting.  That’s how I started D&D thirty+ years ago.

But who can resist poring over the books looking for a loophole? Not I. So I discovered some obscure AD&Disms that I had mostly never really understood or taken note of before.

ITEM: Belladonna and wolvesbane.  These two herbs are for sale in the PHB and easily overlooked.  In the real world, both are poisonous — belladonna (or “deadly nightshade”) is the most toxic European plant, and a single leaf or a handful of berries could kill, though it was also used medicinally and cosmetically.  Wolfsbane is also poisonous if eaten, but you’d need to eat a fair amount.  Belladonna was also supposedly used to make arrow poison at some point in history but I forget by whom or how effective it was — even I would not push that.  Anyway, Gornor stocked up on a few sprigs just in case he could feed it to something or someone in the game.  But then I started looking for rules related to them and I found that the MM and DMG both give somewhat contradictory information about how they are used to prevent lycanthropy.  The important bit for an assassin is: eat some belladonna, and there is a very small (1%) chance you’ll die.  But in any case you will be incapacitated for d4 days!  (MM, p. 63) I assume that is a very bad trip, given belladonna’s reputed hallucinogenic properties.  Still, no save is mentioned, so that makes it pretty useful.  There is no explanation of how wolfsbane drives away weres as it does in B/X.  DMG p. 220 only mentions that it is reputed to be a sedative and drive away werewolves.  NPC clerics use it (along with belladonna) in lycanthropy cures though (DMG p. 22).

Belladona image

Atropa Belladonna, from Wikimedia.

ITEM: Assassins can set traps pretty darn well.  The DMG (p. 20) clarifies that the Find and Remove Traps (FART) ability can be used to set traps, and that assassins set traps as thieves two levels higher than their level, not level minus two as with most abilities.  So my 4th level assassin sets traps as a 6th level thief, 45%, plus 5% for being a sneaky ass half-orc, or 50% chance of success!  Not too shabby!  Time to dig out my Grimtooth’s books.  :)

https://c2.staticflickr.com/4/3753/9153727363_9571123568_z.jpg

Church trap. Source: Aaron Muzalski, https://www.flickr.com/photos/sfslim/9153727363/

ITEM:  Assassins attacking with surprise and who choose to assassinate rather than backstab automatically cause weapon damage (it is not, however, multiplied as if it were a backstab).  So with surprise you might try the assassination table with a chance for automatic death and guaranteed damage, or go for a backstab, risking a miss but causing somewhat more damage.  We used to play that you had to make a backstab, and if you hit you roll on the assassination table, or something like that.  BtB looks like an improvement.  On the other hand the chance of an assassin moving silently or hiding is pretty weak at low levels so you’re really not likely to get a lot of surprise opportunities without careful planning.

Zarak!

Surprise! Zarak attack! From the D&D cartoon & action figure line. Source: http://www.dungeonsdragonscartoon.com/2009/08/zarak.html

 

Published in: on September 7, 2014 at 4:15 pm  Comments (2)  
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St. Guinefort of Lyons

This is what they did recently in the diocese of Lyons. When preaching there against sorcery and hearing confessions, I heard many women confess that they had carried their children to St. Guinefort. I thought he was some saint. I made inquiries and at last heard that he was a certain greyhound killed in the following way. In the diocese of Lyons, close to the vill of the nuns called Villeneuve, on the land belonging to the lord of Villars-en-Dombe, there was a certain castle whose lord had a baby son from his wife. But when the lord and lady and the nurse too had left the house, leaving the child alone in his cradle, a very large snake entered the house and made for the child’s cradle. The greyhound, who had remained there, saw this, dashed swiftly under the cradle in pursuit, knocking it over, and attacked the snake with its fangs and answering bite with bite. In the end the dog killed it and threw it far away from the child’s cradle which he left all bloodied as was his mouth and head, with the snake’s blood, and stood there by the cradle all beaten about by the snake. When the nurse came back and saw this, she thought the child had been killed and eaten by the dog and so gave out an almighty scream. The child’s mother heard this, rushed in, saw and thought the same and she too screamed. Then the knight similarly once he got there believed the same, and drawing his sword killed the dog. Only then did they approach the child and find him unharmed, sleeping sweetly in fact. On further investigation, they discovered the snake torn up by the dog’s bites and dead. Now that they had learned the truth of the matter, they were embarrassed that they had so unjustly killed a dog so useful to them and threw his body into a well in front of the castle gate, and placing over it a very large heap of stones they planted trees nearby as a memorial of the deed.

But the castle was in due course destroyed by divine will, and the land reduced to a desert abandoned by its inhabitants. The local peasants hearing of the dog’s noble deed and innocent death, began to visit the place and honor the dog as a martyr in quest of help for their sicknesses and other needs. They were seduced and often cheated by the Devil so that he might in this way lead men into error. Women especially, with sick or poorly children, carried them to the place, and went off a league to another nearby castle where an old woman could teach them a ritual for making offerings and invocations to the demons and lead them to the right spot. When they got there, they offered salt and certain other things, hung the child’s little clothes on the bramble bushes around, fixing them on the thorns. They then put the naked baby through the opening between the trunks of two trees, the mother standing on one side and throwing her child nine times to the old woman on the other side, while invoking the demons to adjure the fauns in the wood of “Rimite” to take the sick and failing child which they said belonged to them (the fauns) and return to them their own child big, plump, live and healthy. Once this was done, the killer mothers took the baby and placed it naked at the foot of the tree on the straws of a cradle, lit at both ends two candles a thumbsbreadth thick with fire they had brought with them and fastened them on the trunk above. Then, while the candles were consumed, they went far enough away that they could neither hear nor see the child. In this way the burning candles burned up and killed a number of babies, as we have heard from others in the same place.

One woman told me that after she had invoked the fauns and left, she saw a wolf leaving the wood and going to the child and the wolf (or the devil in wolf’s form, so she said) would have devoured it had she not been moved by her maternal feelings and prevented it. On the other hand, if when they returned they found the child alive, they picked it up and carried it to a swiftly flowing river nearby, called the Chalaronne [tributary of the Saône], and immersed it nine times, to the point where if it escaped dying on the spot or soon after, it must have had very tough innards.

We went to the place and assembled the people and preached against the practice. We then had the dead dog dug up and the grove of trees cut down and burned along with the dog’s bones. Then we had an edict enacted by the lords of the land threatening the spoliation and fining of any people who gathered there for such a purpose in future. —  De Supersticione, Stephen de Bourbon

It’s probably worth noting that the legend of St. Guinefort, like so many saints, grew out of older folklore. There is a pretty solid disentangling of the story at Lapham’s Quarterly. Basically, the ‘faithful hound’ story (which has Welsh, Indian, and other versions) was apparently incorporated into the story of an actual saint, and garbled together.  The healing ritual described by de Bourbon is itself probably a sensationalized version of an older pagan ritual, as de Bourbon was a sort of inquisitor, rooting out heresy.  So there is probably a “real” saint somewhere … filtered through folklore, superstition, and an inquisitor’s penchant for finding the Devil behind things.

As far as I can tell there were not a lot of animals revered as saints. In fact the only other case I can think of is St. Christopher, who was often depicted as dog-headed (but ultimately still human).

The hagiographies of many human saints involve many animal-related miracles, such as animals raised from the dead or healed, animal companions, and extraordinary encounters with helpful wild animals.  For example several Irish saints resurrect animals like geese during their lives, and a number of English saints, working posthumously through their shrines, raised cattle and horses from the dead. Other saints speak with animals, are given warnings by birds, or are offered protection by wild animals.

Published in: on August 18, 2014 at 11:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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Off the rails in the Undertavern

This weekend I had the rarest of game-related things, now that I’m older: a Saturday night game!  I’m happy with the mid-week campaigns I’ve been playing and running but there is a nice bit of nostalgia when you play on a weekend like a student.  More or less out of the blue, one of my old friends from back in high school suggested getting together for some gaming, so four of us used to be in a gaming circle gathered to reminisce, catch up on our respective stories, and do a little gaming.

I ran a one-page dungeon when I realized, at the last minute, that we hadn’t really talked about who GM or what we’d play.  I ran it in ACKS, my regular group’s current flavor of D&D, and used Telecanter’s “The undertavern”.   (Go ahead and check it out.)  I loved the central idea of a monster chained to a track that limits his mobility, but I had never read it through and unfortunately I realized there is a lot that DM needs to fill in … all the reasons for the bizarre scenery and NPCs.  Why all the blind baby mice? Why the straw dummies and model tavern?  What the hell happened with the beached behemoth?  What the hell is the undersky? (The Word version, also at the link above, is more detailed with NPCs etc. but never answers my questions either.)

If this had been more than a one-shot adventure for us — if I were going to run a campaign with this as an early side-adventure, I might have liked this more.  For one thing, the undersky area would be a neat entrance to a mythic underworld type dungeon.

However, I thought the whole thing was a little unsatisfying as a one-off, and really failed to work as a one-page dungeon, at least for me, since I expect OPDs to save me some time as DM.

The session was fun, despite a number of complications.  Since this was a one-shot, I unabashedly railroaded the party into taking the bait and going under the tavern.  I hate railroading but in the circumstances it was ok.  Another complication was the early PvP conflict, which changed the nature of the adventure considerably, though in a fun direction.  Also, the party was badly mauled by the main monster but managed to defeat it early on, so that the tension of having Gulo chase them did not work out.  In hindsight Twitch might have been a good ersatz pursuer (I should have just made him wear a straw cloak and drag the chain along the tracks to scare the PCs away).  In the event though I used a lot of the victims/prisoners as sources of replacement PCs, and good thing I did — two of the starting PCs had to be replaced early on, and a third replacement was needed a little later.

We certainly had fun, and I’d run the Undertavern again, but only with some careful planning to provide some veneer of explanation as to what all the rat references were about!

Published in: on August 11, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Nate’s minis

A while back a visitor here sent me some pictures of some of his minis, and I asked if I could share the pictures because while they not terribly hi-res, they are damn cool and show off a nice collection.

beholders from then top now

A line up of beholders, from ancient Grenadier models to WotC plastic.

Hirst temple-house

Some adventurers and NPCs. The three guys in the front are Citadel flagellants.

Manticores from then to now

Manticores! Ral Partha, Grenadier, WizKids, WotC, and Citadel, I think.

owlbears1

Owlbears! Grenadeir, Ral Partha, a “great horned owlbear” by Kenzer, and a couple I am no sure about.

owlbears2

Another view of of the same because owlbears, fuck yeah!

scale creep ropers

Ropers! Four Grenadiers and huge, more modern one I can’t place. Love the Easter Island idol in the background.

minotaurs

We’re gonna need a bigger labyrinth. Mostly Citadel and Marauder minos, I think, with a few other makes.

snailattack

Nate also sent in-play shots. The giant snail is a garden decoration, I think.

Published in: on August 9, 2014 at 8:14 am  Leave a Comment  
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FSS, Bugbears again? (a little ranty)

I used to joke that every few months the OSR blog-o-sphere blows up with some bullshit controversy or other.

 

DSC04397More recently though there has been a increasingly ugly thing going on where some people don’t like to see that people with opinions on things they disagree with have had some influence on 5e.   So they post stuff on various blogs (no links for the wicked) and whatnot saying these guys are … well the charges keep changing, apparently.  At first the accused (Zak S. and RPGPundit) were supposed to be anti-LGBTQ, then they were cyberbullies or something, and now the charge is something like: they send coded messages that send internet trolls (Manchurian commenters?) to harass their enemies.  No, really… get your tinfoil hat.*

And if you ask for proof well that’s harassment right there.

And it gets “better,” I guess, if you are a student of human stupidity and assholery, because now people who spoke out in defense of the first two guys (who frankly seemed able to speak for themselves…) are actually being harassed — I mean they are actually able to give evidence of it.  I’m just glad the guys making up the charges against Zak and the Pundit are decidedly not part of the OSR community.  They make whatever community they are part of look awful.

The irony is that no-one reads the sites where the original accusations were raised but the two guys being attacked felt affronted enough to defend themselves on their more public sites and asked for people to show support, calling out the lying liars and their lies.  At this point no-one I play games with is probably even aware of all this BS.  I was only vaguely aware of “RPGPundit” and had only heard of one of the shitty people calling him and Zak S. transphobes or whatever.  From what I can tell, most gamers don’t know anything about all this.  Hell, I know some gamers that don’t even know there is a 5e. And WotC is certainly not commenting on any of this, for reasons of their own I guess.  I’d keep the hell out of it too.

So naturally I’d been ignoring this for the last week or so but then I saw that one of guys who’s been fending off the baseless accusations is in the middle of dealing with a health crisis on the part of his long time girl friend and for fuck’s sake.  Enough already. 

My advice to RPGPundit and Zak S. would be to ignore these losers.  But it’s not my name they’re dragging through the mud so I guess they gotta do what they gotta do.

I can’t really say anything about RPGPundit though I suspect that it’s all lies about him; what I do know of Zak makes the charges so ludicrous as to merit no attention.

Granted both of them argue a lot and doubtless hurt people’s feelings at various times, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that every person who’s been offended by RPGPundit’s “swine” comments and Zak’s unrelenting debates in comments areas and forums has come out to attack them or reblog the original attack.  How sad.

At this point I should be posting something, anything, else as a palate cleanser, but I’m tired.  Maybe later this weekend.

=========

* (To my discredit I gave some credence to the notion that their rabid fans might secretly be bugging the people they named & shamed.  I hereby apologize for the indirect damage that might have been done by my entertaining this idea in the comments on someone else’s blog. Asking someone to stop lying is NOT harassment.)

==========

<Update … and it turns out the RPGPundit dude is indefensible for completely other reasons. He’s a plagarist. And not just a garden-variety plagiarist ripping off stuff he’s seen and failing to give credit. He apparently has gone so far as to talk a lot of crap about Empire of the Petal Throne, then ripped off the magic system wholesale (see link) and go on and on about how hard he worked on the magic system. And when someone illustrated exactly how baldly the rip-off was made, he won’t even own up to it. Classy.>

Published in: on August 7, 2014 at 10:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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