Sunday, December 14, 2008


After a bit of dry spell creatively I've got some ideas in the works again. Well, not exactly in the works. I've got a scattershot few notions buzzing around my head but I'm stuck in the brainstorming stage. Which is cool because time goes a lot quicker at the gym if I've got gaming ideas to daydream about. But when the time comes to give shape to my mental riffing I get nowhere.
If I'm honest with myself it's laziness -- I've just got to sit down at the table, jab a pencil into my brainpan and work something loose.
Anyhow, here's what I'm kicking around:
  • Hex A folksong, fairytale and legend inspired hexcrawl I wrote about in my last post. Just picked up Bullfinch's Age of Fable / Age of Chivalry / Legends of Charlemagne volume and a half-dozen more books from the library as fodder for this project, and I welcome suggestions.
  • Wohoon Inspired by Cinder, Carcosa and Thool, with a name swiped from Dunsany via Scott the Invincible Overthool. I've been thinking about developing my own campaign setting, expanding on the notion of life in the aftermath of a magical cataclysm that I first posted about here. Polymorphic radiation, mutated magic-users, pterodactyl riding barbarians, mole-men. Also likely to include: bat-faced goblins, orcs that spawn like stalagmites, and an ancient civilization of demonic mantis-shrimp.
  • God City Sandbox I've moved my ongoing Encounter Critical play-by-post from theRPGsite to a blog of its own, and will be filling in the odd bit of setting detail and houserules as it strikes my fancy or comes up in play.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Red Rose Around Green Briar

Late autumn I usually end up listening to a lot of English folk music, so it's been nothing but Waterson:Carthy, June Tabor, Fairport Convention and Sandy Denny all weekend. It's inspired me to put together a folklore inspired hex crawl -- nothing so grandiose as a complete setting, just a small region of dark woods and sunny glades, drowsing maidens, broken-hearted knights, goblins, giants and witches.

Rackabello and his wee doggie: Dense, gnarled forest intercut with wide footpaths. Game is plentiful here, but the giant Rackabello regards the entire region as his hunting ground, and will be hostile to any camping or hunting here. His "wee doggie," an enormous wolfhound called Greyshanks, stands a full eight feet tall at the shoulder. The pair are encountered together half the time; otherwise they wander seperately. If either does battle there is a 1 in 6 chance per round the other will come to aid his friend. If Greyshanks is slain and Rackabello survives the giant will track the killers and seek revenge if at all possible.

The Rose Knight and the Briar Knight: Light forest and park land. A flat field in the northwestern corner of the hex is sectioned off by brambly hedges into a list field. At each end of the field a rose-briar shrub is somehow grown in the shape of a weapons rack, holding lances, swords and axes. By day the Rose Knight, a Lawful Fighting man of 4th level, will be found here. He is a dark-haired young man of fair aspect, his lance garlanded and his charger draped with roses. He will gladly joust with any challengers, but he speaks only a single word: "Margay."

By night the lists are deserted and the Briar Knight roams the region. He drives before him a flock of squealing wild pigs, and himself rides a huge boar. A Chaotic Fighting Man of 6th Level, his armor and gear is wrapped with briar, and the reek of rotten apples surrounds him. He will attack intruders on sight, stampeding his swine before charging with his lance. He will not remove his helmet, but if he is slain and his visor lifted, his features are identical to the Rose Knight, but much older. He does not speak.

If either knight is slain he and all his gear with wilt and crumble into dust, but the Rose Knight will ride again at noon of the next day, and the Briar Knight at midnight.

Three Queens of Soothern: The wreck of the castle Soothern stands on an outcropping over the river bend, covered completely in thorny vines. A band of goblins dwells in the woods nearby. They are a cowardly bunch unlikely to trouble well-guarded travelers, but they are terrified of the castle, and will act to prevent it from being disturbed by any means.

The castle itself is a ruin -- in some places the vines seem to be all that keep the walls standing. The thorn wall enclosing the castle can be hacked through, but it regrows almost as quickly as it is cut. If set afire the vines will animate and attack.

If the thorns are penetrated adventurers will find the castle to be a strange and bleak place, where no truly living soul dwells. The market ground and courtyards are tableaux of bones, skeletons of men, women, children and beasts frozen in scenes of everyday life, as if they had moldered away in the middle of a May morning. The castle towers are haunted by foul undead, and the place is ruled by three sisters, hags in the guise of pretty maidens. They are lovely, but their shadows are hunched, their footprints bloody, and their sorcery wicked.

MP3: June Tabor, Fair Margaret and Sweet William (Compact Disc - Download)

MP3: Waterson:Carthy, Rackabello (Compact Disc - Download)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A month since my last post...

...and I get inspired by Scott at WOD&D to stat up a sleazebag, drug-addled, disease ridden squirrel? My muse, she is a strange one.

Todd T Squirrel:
Drug runner (3),
Handy with a shank (3),
Frikkin' awesome van (3),
STD vector (2).
Hook: Death wish

(With apologies to Chris Onstad)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Weird Nightmare #8

Not that anyone but me will notice but I'm going to finish posting this mix if it takes me till next Halloween. Here's a trio of spooky jazz and doo-wop cuts, featuring two contributions from the inestimable Sun Ra and a spectral ballad from Little Jimmy Scott.

Sun Ra & His Astro Infinity Arkestra, October (Compact Disc - Download)

Jimmy Scott, Time On My Hands (Compact Disc or Box Set - Download)

The Cosmic Rays featuring Sun Ra, Dreaming (Compact Disc - Download)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Carcosa Revised. Again.

The fires raging over Geoffrey McKinney's Carcosa have mostly died out, aside from a few pyros still stoking flames here and there. I haven't yet gotten a copy myself, so I won't comment on its content aside from saying that the cool parts sound cool and the squicky parts sound squicky.

Part of my hesitation is indecision. I'm not sure which version to get. There's the original and its blasphemous rituals, as well as a forthcoming revision which redacts the grisly details of Carcosan sorcery. And just this morning I learned about yet another version:

A Bold New Take on the World of Carcosa

First came the controversial original. Then came The Expurgation. But now comes the most shocking Carcosa yet. Can you survive the horror, the madness, the hours of fun and laughter that is....

Carcosa Mad Libs

"Summon the Adjective Ones: This number-hour ritual can be completed only on a adjective related to weather night. The sorcerer must obtain the kind of food found only in ruined kind of shop, plural of the Snake-Men. The sacrifice is a noun number years old with noun. The sorcerer, after partaking of the kind of food, must verb the sacrifice number times, afterwards verb-ing it with its own noun. As it verb-s, 10-100 of the Adjective Ones will verb out of the mists."

(I accept all blame, but this post is probably where I got the idea.)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Weird Nightmare: Halloween Mix #6

Sometimes I like to write bad poetry:

Oh bleak branch and leaf in windy disjoinment
Sunday afternoon full of crows and disappointment
full of rattling twigs and clacking beaks
every window leaks
cold sunlight, slanting through the enjambment
a gritty balm for the wounds of the week

photograph copyright Susan Afferblach

MP3: Tom Waits, Flash Pan Hunter/Intro & That's the Way (Compact Disc - Download)
A pair of songs from The Black Rider make the point with less fuss.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Weird Nightmare: Halloween Mix #5

Not long ago, Reis at Geek Orthodox did a post featuring the classic cartoons and illustrations of Charles Addams. Perhaps less well known is another macabre humorist, the writer and illustrator Edward Gorey.

Here are a few of his moody and mordantly funny illustrations, followed by one of his poems adapted by the eccentric cabaret act The Tiger Lillies.

MP3: Tiger Lilies, The Hipdeep Family (Compact Disc & Downloads)

WHY DID I NOT GET THE MEMO DEPT: The Tiger Lillies meet Alexander Hacke of Einsturzende Neubaten for a Lovecraft tribute? Man what?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Weird Nightmare: Halloween Mix #4

It's a bit florid, but I really love this arrangement of "Transylvanian Lullaby" from Young Frankenstein. "Haunting" is high on my list of words that should be permanently retired from music writing -- cf. "angular," "Dylanesque," and, ugh, "soundscapes" -- but is this melody, so lyrical and longing that it lures the monster from its bride-to-be, anything but?

Gil Shaham & Jonathan Feldman, A Transylvanian Rhapsody (from John Morris's Transylvanian Lullaby) (Compact Disc & Download)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Weird Nightmare: Halloween Mix #3

(5th level Illusionist spell)

Type: Enchantment
Range: 80"
Area: up to 5"x5" and see below
Duration: 1 round/level

The masque spell gives all creatures within the area of effect a grotesque, mask-like semblance, a visage of fear, rage, despair, or other strong emotions. Those who save against the spell will be shaken and unable to tell friend from foe. They will make all attacks and saves at -1, and suffer a -2 penalty to morale. Those who fail a saving throw will be overcome by the emotion depicted by their masks. Typical masks and effects include:

Contempt: scorn and loathing for all present; will refuse any parley or collaboration and seek to part with them at the earliest opportunity
Despair: crushing sadness saps will to live; -2 to saving throws and initiative rolls
Euphoria: giddy delirium overloads the senses, even pain is delightful; -2 to AC, +2 to all damage taken during the spell
Mockery: convulsive laughter; -2 to attack and damage rolls
Rage: attack a random target each round at +2 to hit and damage
Terror: panicked; as fear spell.

These effects last for the duration of the spell. Other masks such as lust, gluttony and envy are possible, according to the player's ingenuity and the DM's discretion. This spell has no effect on mindless creatures.

Masque has one significant drawback: the caster must also make a saving throw each round of the spell's duration or suffer the effect of one of the masks.

Variants: Domino allows the caster to don a mask of his choosing and cause its effects by gaze, without being subject to them himself. Bal Masque creates an illusory retinue of 2-5 ghostly images surrounding the caster, each wearing a mask and causing its effects by gaze.

MP3: Dave Douglas, Bal Masque (Compact Disc)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Weird Nightmare: Halloween Mix #2

Kind of Doom...

Bohren & der Club of Gore
, from the album Black Earth. Check out a track from their forthcoming album Dolores, here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Weird Nightmare: Halloween Mix #1

From now till Halloween, hoping I don't run out of bandwidth on my free file host, I'll be posting one of my favorite Halloween mixtapes, Weird Nightmare. Enjoy.

Anyone know where this cover photo comes from? Drop me a comment.
Elvis Costello sings the lead track from Hal Willner's eponymous Charles Mingus tribute Weird Nightmare, which brought together Mingus's music and poetry, great players from the New York avant jazz scene, and iconoclastic composer Harry Partch's incredible hand-built instruments.

Elvis Costello et al. Weird Nightmare (Compact Disc)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Tirapheg Week Concludes: Risus

Tig Harpe Sings Love Songs & Ballads
Tig Harpe

Crooner (4)
Thing That Should Not Be (3)
Three Heads are Better than One (2)
Mobbed Up (1)

Now appearing at the Fiend Follies, a supper club on the dark side of the moon. Two shows nightly.

MP3: Mel Torme, Swingin' On The Moon (Compact Disc - Download)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

As close to political as I'll ever get...

In the wake of Sarah Palin's stumbling interview with Katy Couric, the McCain camp accused Couric of "trap door" questions.

I'd be more confident in a Vice Presidential candidate that had the sense to pack a ten foot pole.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Now, when you least expect it, Tirapheg Week!

Fittingly enough given the non-sequential progress of tirapheg week, a being from beyond space and time! Statted up for Labyrinth Lord, with a dash of the epic pseudonatural template from 3rd Edition D&D. Previous installments of tirapheg week are here.


Alignment: Neutral
Move: 90' (30')
Armor Class: 6 (2)
Hit Dice: 13 (78 hp)
Attacks: 3 (or 6)
Damage: 3-6 each
Save: M-U 13 (+4 vs. Spells and Wands)
Hoard Class: XVII

Triskelion is a wizard-scientist of unknown origin. It travels the astral in a demi-planar orb several hundred feet in diameter, just large enough to contain its manse and laboratory. Though it is not exactly evil, its philosophy and ethos is utterly alien, and it values other life forms only as subjects for study. It collects all manner of creatures for examination, often suspending them in temporal stasis and creating clones as needed for dissection and magical experiment.

Although humanoid Triskelion's appearance is bizarre, with three heads, three arms, and three legs. Its heads are featureless, save for a ring of faceted eyes encircling the central head. Its arms are thin and double-jointed, ending in long, bony fingers; the two arms at the shoulders are fully mobile to the creature's front and rear alike. The outer legs end in rounded stumps, leaving Triskelion to balance on the three splayed toes of its central leg.

Strange though Triskelion's typical form may be, its true extra-dimensional form is far more terrible. When threatened its eyes shine with sickly light and its arms and fingers seem to bifurcate, splitting like bony branches. Its body seems to grow and shrink, stretching and receding into the distance or looming till it appears only inches away; this disorienting effect gives it an effective AC of 2. Worst of all, a huge circular maw gapes open in the creature's belly, revealing a black and starry void. On the round of its transformation, all those who gaze into this void must save against spells or be feebleminded.

Though Triskelion can attack with its bony claws up to 6 times per round in its true form, it casts spells as an 18th level magic-user so it is unlikely to melee unless hard pressed. Its spellbooks include several unique incantations, two of which are detailed below. In addition it can use ESP and comprehend languages at will and once per day an improved form of mirror image which creates from 2-8 images, each of which takes 8 hp of damage before being dispelled.

Crawling Wall
Level: 6
Duration: 12 turns
Range: 120'

This spell summons a wall of bubbling primal chaos into being, a writhing protoplasmic mass that takes a shape of the caster's choosing to a maximum of 1,000 cubic feet. The wall may not be conjured to appear in space already occupied by other objects, and it must initially rest on a solid surface. However it can be directed by the caster to move at a rate of 60' per round and to change its dimensions as needed as long as they do not exceed the maximum.

The wall will lash out at any creature within 10' of it -- including the caster -- doing 2-12 hp of damage. Each 10 cubic feet of the wall is equal to a gelatinous cube for the purposes of attacks against it (i.e. AC 8, 4 HD, immune to cold & lightning, ability to engulf foes).

Triphage Hex
Level: 8
Duration: Permanent
Range: 120'

Casting this spell sends three miniature black holes hurtling toward the target, sucking at flesh and soul alike. On a successful save the target takes 8d6 damage. On a failed save the victim is torn to pieces by the gravo-magical maelstrom, his or her remains scattered in the astral plane. There is a 1% chance per character level or HD that the victim's soul survives intact; otherwise it is sundered and lost forever.

MP3: Sun Ra, And Otherness (Compact Disc - Download [beware: emusic has the track names for this album mislabled])

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dire Shark Week: Luchadorodon Carcharias

Don't blame me. I don't pretend to be any great shakes as an artist. But when an idea like this gets stuck in my head, who else is going to draw it? It's crowded enough in here without shark luchadores doing back flips all up in my dome.

Luchadorodon Carcharias

At least this time I get to share the blame, since this was entirely inspired by gremlin curator Berin Kinsman. Not only is it Dire Shark Week at Uncle Bear, but he's recently commented on the lack of wrestlers in Encounter Critical. And thus El Sharko was born. He's not here to make friends, chum, and if you act fishy he'll school ya.

And hey, why shouldn't Encounter Critical have wrestlers? Let's take care of that right now. Never let it be said that I don't put the bomp in the bomp-shoo-bomp:

The Wrestler Subclass

Wrestler is the class of grapplers, heels, prettyboys, luchadores and hookers (the ones that aren't doxies, that is). They are specialized in unarmed fighting and working a crowd. They are the same as Warriors save the following differences:

They do not receive a bonus to ranged attacks, and cannot wear armor. The wrestler uses the standard melee attack bonus usually only to unarmed attacks, or for improvised weapons such as chairs, tables and heavy championship belts. They get a bonus to hit points equal to their level. They also get a bonus to their Saving Throws of double their level representing dodging ability and toughness. Finally they receive 5 percentile points per level to distribute among Crowd Manipulate, Great Feat, Lesser Feat, Mistaken ID, Restore Courage, Survival and Saving Throw.

A wrestler's greatest ability is his or her Finisher skill. This is a special attack percentile for the wrestler's signature move, such as a spinning back fist, pile driver, leaping flip kick and so on. (The wrestler character should create a unique name for each Finisher move.) If successful the Finisher attack scores double damage, but if it misses the wrestler loses his or her next attack. Finisher chances are 30% at first level and increase by 5% per level thereafter.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ice Monsters of Vanth: EC meets Supra-Inframan

Every now and then, while flipping channels at random, browsing used CDs or plowing through my absurdly long Netflix queue, I'll stumble across a pop culture epiphany. The first time I heard Blue Oyster Cult's "Godzilla" was one. Another was when I finally caught on to Arrested Development during its final season. Moments that make me stop and wonder, "Where has this been all my life?"

Spider Style
This happened most recently when I discovered the Shaw Brothers' movie Supra-Inframan a few months ago. As a Hong Kong riff on Ultraman it's hardly an original concept, but it has a vivd imagination all its own.
Princess Dragon Mom in her badass crown Motorcycle chases! Skeleton warriors! Super science vs. alien magic! Witchy women in metal cone bras! A whip-cracking villainess called Princess Dragon
Mom! Fire-breathing laser-shooting Rubbersuit-monster kung fu fight scenes! It was like watching the uncounted happy hours of my youth spent watching monster movies and chop sockey flicks smashed into a single ninety minute ball of awesome.

I'm sure the main monsters from Super Inframan would fit in well with a lot of gonzo SF or science fantasy games -- Gamma World or Mutant Future, an especially wacky Rifts campaign, maybe even Robotech? But I knew from the moment I saw the movie I'd have to stat them up for the land of Vanth. It's only fitting -- I had the same kind of epiphany for Encounter Critical.

After the cut, Ice Monsters come out!

Plant Monster

Monster# ATTATT %
DamHPSaveEdible$ Value
Fire Dragon254%2-812-4828%76%188
Iron Armorbots377%1-6/2-7/
Long-Hair Devil173%
Mutant Drill266%
Plant Monster245%2-8
Spider Demon486%1-622-6048%27%210

Appearance & Special Powers:

Fire Dragon: A tall humanoid in dragonhide armor and horned crown, Fire Dragon attacks with kung fu and breathes fire (every other round, D 2-20, range 30'). He also can use true Invisibility with 97% chances. His armor is equal to Elf Silver Chain but provides a 100% Saving Throw against fire and heat.
Iron Armorbots: A pair of black iron robodroids, each has a tall beaked helm and a spiked morning star in place of one fist. The fist and helm can be shot forth on a long chain up to 30 feet with 55% ranged attack chances and retracted the next round. The fist strikes as a standard morning star. The helm does D 1-10 and can clamp around an arm or leg on a to hit roll of 36% or less (sneak ATT). They melt when destroyed.
Long-Hair Devil: A cackling shaggy creature with long red horns and the face of its last victim staring from its wide open fanged mouth. It is a weak melee fighter (D 1-4/1-4) but shoots double laser beams from its horns for D 2-16. It explodes if immersed in boiling water.
Mutant Drill: A lumpy rock creature with a drill hand and a wrench-like claw. It burrows at its full movement rate.
Plant Monster: One of the most versatile ice demons, Plant Monster is a twisted mutant with vines growing from its head and in place of arms. It can plant itself in the ground and grow into an enormous vine with 100-400 hp and up to eight attacks for D 2-20 each. If it takes 50 hp damage in one round it will be forced to its human sized form. In this form it attacks only twice but can teletransport itself and spit flaming acid (D 5-30, once per day).
Spider Demon: A orange-red spider with three jeweled green eyes. It attacks with a whirlwind of kung fu strikes, and can spit web grenades which capture one enemy in a spherical web. Every three rounds it can also breathe flaming webs for D 2-16. Once per day it can grow into a giant form with 100-400 hp which attacks for D 6-36; large amounts of electrical damage will force Spider Demon back to its normal size.
Witch-Eye: An attractive female with platform boots and long clawed fingers. She has the powers of a level 5 Psi-Witch (ESP & LEA 14). Her Double Secret Eyes, one in the palm of each hand, give her +10% to mentally Command others. If forced into melee she strikes with an electro-stilleto (as dagger + D 1-8 spark)

SEE ALSO: Princess Dragon Mom summons the Ice Monsters (and some goobers giggle along)!
SEE ALSO: The entire movie is up on Youtube -- undubbed, with fake subtitles in Spanish -- starting here.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Alas, Poor Wiskbat

The Wilderlands OD&D PbP I've been playing came to an abrupt end this week. While I'm disappointed, the DM's reasons for shutting down the game are entirely unassailable. If he starts the game anew I'll sign up but quick.

In the meantime, here's my first ever OD&D character, Wiskbat Tinker, half goat-footed Irish Clurichaun, half itinerant peddler out of Sholem Aleichem. Not sure where I got the idea to mix in Yiddish slang and proverbs with his dialog, but it sure made him fun to play.

Wiskbat is about 4 1/2 feet tall, with a wild mane of hair and bristly sideburns held down by a grubby cloth hat. A pair of hobnail boots conceal his hooves. His grin is usually brown with tobacco juice; he carries a pipe but always seems to misplace his tapers, so he just chews the leaf. His personal habits are slovenly and his gear generally poorly kept, though his blades are sharp. His fellow elves oft said of him, pinching their noses, "There's an apt rhyme for young Tinker, and it sure ain't thinker."

He holds to no gods, but is not uncommon found on his knees in the gutter after after a night's debauch. Whether this can be called a form of prayer is disputable.

MP3: Klezmatics, Mizmor Shir Lehanef (Compact Disc - Download)
AKA "Reefer Song." I feel certain Wiskbat would approve.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wandering Upchuck Table

Or, What Happens If You Eat the Tainted Meat?

A chart used in my Encounter Critical Play-by-Post game, God City Sandbox.


3. Mutation, permanent. Use EC chart or variant

4. Madness, permanent. Roll on EC Psychic & Magic Diseases/Curses chart

5. Dreadful daymares. Incapacitated and raving for 2-8 rounds

6. Mutation, temporary. 24 hours less ADA score

7. Madness, temporary. As AD&D confusion spell for 1-6 rounds

8. Skin turns random color. Roll d8 on ROYGBIVX. X=roll twice and combine. Lasts 20 days less ADA score

9. Hallucinatory projections. Stars, birds, skulls, punctuation marks, etc appear to orbit victims head for 2-8 rounds. Vigorous head shaking or a slap in the face will dispel.

10. Tummy ache. No further effect.

11. Allergic reaction. 1. Hives 2. Rash 3. Sweating 4. Narcolepsy 5. Chilblains 6. Double vision 7. Giggling 8. Boogie fever

12. Convulsive heaves. 1 hp damage, saving throw to avoid fainting

13. Debilitating hiccups. -5% to all ability chances for 1-6 hours. Creative hiccup remedies may cure at JM's discretion

14. Severe halitosis, 5' radius. 10% penalty to all LEA abilities for 2-12 hours. Basic dental hygiene counters this effect

15. Sudden growth of chest hair. Permanent, subject to depilatories. Roll basic ADA roll for chance of 1-6% addition to Consume Alien Food chances

16. Insane, ravenous hunger for favorite food. Acquiring it becomes the victim's monomaniacal passion, overriding all other concerns

17. Projectile barf. Literally; roll 3-30 on ranged weapon chart to determine range and damage. Roll ADA x2 on % or fire uncontrollably. D4 ammo, must be used up within a day.

18. Upchuck of Luck or Suck. Roll on AD&D Wand of Wonder chart

MP3: Jack Walrath - Meat! (Out of Print - Hella expensive used compact Disc)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Gaming out the Earholes

Been a little quiet this month at Malevolent & Benign. Can't help but feel a little guilty (how vain, right?) but I guess that's what RSS feeds are for.

Truth is, my muse has deserted me. She was all like "You don't appreciate me" and I was all "Is this about that thing with Calliope? We were drunk, and nothing happened" and she was all, "Well Melpomene has a different story" and I was all like "I need to work on my writing" and she was "Oooh, your writing? You mean your blog? The Diary of a Mad Geekboy?" and I was "I can't believe you said that" and she was "Damn right I said it. You think you're Gary damn Gygax or something?" and I was "I need my space" and then she totally went off on me in Greek and moved out to stay with her sisters.

Well, no, nothing like that really. Just too busy with gaming stuff to write much about gaming stuff:
  • Playing in a semi-biweekly 3.whatever cum Pathfinder game (character: Runt, obese half-orc wizard with a 5 Strength). Fun, if a bit loosey goosey, but...
  • ...the DM just invited me to his main group, playing a 1st through 3rd edition hybrid, starting this weekend. I'm pretty excited about that.
  • In addition, I'm in the excellent PbP game Scott/Driver's been writing about at Wilderlands OD&D (character: Wiskbat Tinker, stinky goat-footed elf)
  • And just today I took over an Encounter Critical PbP we've been trying to start up. The Journey Master has been incommunicado for a week, so I did as Thrazar would, seizing the game by the lapels and lashing myself to the reins. Into the great blue yonder, wahooo!
All that, and I've gotta get back to work on my EC project, Gods From Outer Space, and at some point Rondo and I are gonna work on something together, and Fight On! #3, and...

...and you know what? It's awesome. I feel like a real live gamer.

P.S. I just won a copy of Arduin Grimoire #1 this afternoon, literally (and by literally I don't mean figuratively) in the last 10 seconds of the auction! Rawk!

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Useless Post

Blogging on a Friday afternoon is pretty useless, especially the weekend of GenCon. But hey nonny nonny and what the hell. Storyteller of Beneath the Screen posted notes on a not-quite-cursed magical garment, the Robe of Useless Items. Cursed magical treasures seem to have faded from the official versions of D&D in the last couple editions, and that's a shame. Pranking players with tricky magical items is a great way to mess with their expectations. So I salute the spirit of Storyteller's post.

He asked for suggestions for a Greater Robe of Useless Items, and I'm happy to oblige:

Bottomless Inkpot and Stylus, filled, naturally, with invisible ink and requiring some unreasonably rare, costly and/or dangerous substance to reveal the writing.

Bronze Dog: When commanded to Sit, this bronze statuette animates into an enormous mastiff. The dog is untrained, and gentle as a kitten. Any efforts at training the creature as a mount or war dog will be doomed as it reverts to bronze each evening and forgets all it learned. It can be taught basic tricks like rolling over, begging or shaking hands -- but not fetch.

Nesting-Box of Holding: A simple metal coffer which is entirely filled up by a slightly smaller Box of Holding, which contains a still smaller Box, and so forth. Each box collapses with a loud clatter on removal of the box within.

Strumpet Trumpet: When sounded, this serpentine horn plays a lewd wah-wah ditty, summoning 2-5 ladies of ill repute (or hustlers of unwholesome habit, as you like it) who will loudly proposition all and sundry, insulting those who refuse their advances (and rolling those who yield to them for all the coin they have). Repeated soundings of the horn or any assault on the strumpets summons their pander, a fearsome efreet.

Xeno's Rope, a coil of sturdy rope capable of extending to just short of whatever length is needed.

Now We're Feeling Zombified

Another excerpt from my Encounter Critical project, Gods From Outer Space, which matches handily with Jonathan of The Core Mechanic's RPG Blog Carnival. For those wandering by who might be unfamiliar, you can find a review of the gonzo gamer's wonderland that is Encounter Critical here. Visit the game's webpage here to download the game for nil, nada, zip, zilch, zero -- that's free, dig?

Zombies of Vanth

Redhead Zombie Hotrod Vixen, Monstersbymail.comOne of the least understood races of Vanth is the zombie. Symbiotic spores from space? A black magic curse spreading across the land? Cannibal spirits in human form? Or merely victims of a severe life deficiency? The answer is unknown -- as is often the case on the planet Vanth, seekers after the truth are advised to hedge their bets and mark their answer sheet 'all of the above.'

Despite common myth, it is known that they are not undead like vampires and mummies, since strictly speaking true zombies are never alive in the first place. Their curious biology has so far been impenetrable to scientific inquiry. They do not breathe and have no pulse yet they require sustenance and are as vulnerable to magic and disease as other humanoids. They breed true among their own colonies, but have been known to mate with all of the common races of Vanth.

Most Zombies dwell in the Holdings of their Unnamed Princess, who is said to be an ancient yet ageless Warlock. Her appetites at the banquet table and in the boudoir are legendary and strange. Her Holdings are notably rich, and caravans happily brave the Goblin Hills and the Empire of Darth Viraxis to trade with the zombies. Despite the fortunes to be made in the Princess's lands, the prudent merchant is never without a steel skullcap to discourage the wilder and more ravenous of her subjects.

Known as the Burial Playground of the Eastern Shore, the green and rolling coast of the Zombie Holdings is a vast cemetery. The hillsides are kept in perfect order, a tidy necropolis of stones and monuments from every faith and kindred stretching for fifty miles or more. Folks from every corner of Vanth come here to enjoy the beaches and bury their dead.

Zombie Player Characters

Ability adjustments:
-1 DEX, -2 LEA, +1 ROB, +1 STR.
In addition a zombie gains +30% to Consume Alien Food, +15% to Survival, and +5% to Psi-Resist. All true zombies have the mutation Cannibal Urges; zombie hybrids have a 50% chance of this mutation. How assiduously they resist their hunger is up to the individual but it's worth mentioning that zombies must consume raw living flesh to properly balance their diets.

In some cases a non-zombie character may be resurrected as a zombie hybrid. For instance, a character with the Zombie Gene mutation will rise as a zombie hybrid if he or she is reduced to 0 Hit Points and survives. More rarely, a zombie rebirth might occur due to curse, affliction or necromantic locales. In these circumstances the JM might require the PC to adventure for a time as a simple living dead (HP 1-12, DAM 1-4, Save 10%, low Intellect) before achieving full zombiehood.

MP3: Oingo Boingo, Dead Man's Party [Party 'til You're Dead Mix] (Compact Disc - Download)
MP3: Green Monster, Zombie Party Rock (Myspace)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Fight On Outtake: Omeneiros Goblins

I considered writing this up for the short article I wrote for Fight On #2, but it's so strongly influenced by Julian May's Saga of Pliocene Exile that I didn't feel right publishing it under my own name. Nonetheless, what with all the goblin talk recently from Noisms and Ripper X, I thought I'd type up a variation of my own.

Omeneiros Goblins

Though they are no stronger on average than ordinary goblins, omeneiros clans are usually found much deeper in the underworld than their kin. Hobgoblins shun them and even bugbears give them wide berth. Though they can be fierce fighters, omeneiros goblins defend their warrens mainly through cunning, craft and illusion. Shifting walls, strangely angled rooms and tricks of perspective distort distance and scale in their maze like lairs. A dwarf's knowledge of stonework is of use only 1 chance in 6 in these surroundings, and an elf is no better than the other races at detecting an omeneiros secret door.

Even more deadly to those who confront them is the omeneiros goblins' innate skill with illusion and fear magic. Intruders in the goblins' warrens must save vs. spells once per hour or be subject to disturbing waking nightmares -- half-seen visions and whispering voices which cause penalties to hit, damage and morale (as a curse spell). Furthermore, a group of seven or more omeneiros goblins radiates a panicking aura akin to a confusion spell: each round their foes must save or (2d6) 2-5 flee for one round; 6-8 do nothing, cowering in fear; or 9-12 attack the nearest creature, whether friend or foe.

Omeneiros goblin clans are organized along lines similar to their lesser kindred, with stronger subchiefs and guards according to their numbers. Larger groups are led by chieftains or clanmothers who cast spells as magic-users of up to 7th level in ability. Chieftains, clanmothers and the strongest warriors will be Fevercloaks, who go to battle girded with horrific illusionary bodies. Each takes on a unique visage -- serpentine spiders, huge jewelled scorpions, flayed ogres and grotesquely mutated goblin forms have all been observed. Fevercloaks attack as 3-6 HD monsters, doing damage by weapon type, though to all appearances they attack with the claws, fangs or stingers of their chosen form.

Painting by Minerva (Daniel Higgs)

Fevercloaked Omeneiros clanmother

Those who behold a Fevercloak in its nightmare form must save vs. spells or be stricken with fear. Creatures under 2 HD will flee for 2-8 rounds, and be shaken even on a successful save, taking a -1 penalty to attacks and damage; those of more than 2 HD will be shaken only on a failed save (cumulative with the waking nightmare effect described above). If a Fevercloak hits with a natural 20 its foe must save vs. death magic or collapse in terrified paralysis, apparently dead as far as the victim's companions can tell.

When slain a Fevercloak reverts to its normal goblin form. In addition, they appear in their normal forms when viewed in a mirror. This may give a smart party the idea of attempting disbelief if confronted by another of its ilk. While the illusionary form will persist, disbelief will allow an additional save against the Fevercloak's fear effects.

Yagatz Moon-Eyes, sample Fevercloak: AC 5 (chainmail), HD 4, hp 24, MV 60' (20'), #AT 2, D 1-6/1-6 (2 short swords), Save M-U 4, ML 9.

In Cloaked form Moon-Eyes is a spindly horror, a shriveled goblin torso crawling on elongated spiderlike legs and arms. A drooling toothless mouth mumbles obscene limericks as he scuttles into battle. Huge cloudy eyes stare from a shrunken and malformed skull, and a pair of slashing chitinous mandibles thrust forth from enormously distended nostrils.

MP3: Leviathan, Vexed & Vomit-Hexed (Compact Disc, search "Tentacles of Whorror" - Download)
"Fear steals a voice / The price paid for dreaming / This is the cloud that lumbers across vision / A canopy of paranoia threatening light at its sting / Visions of existence appear and recede".

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Warlock Mimes: BHMK excerpt

Silent Killers

Tall and long-limbed, the warlock mimes are slender humanoids of unknown species and origin. They dress in close fitting white and black striped clothing. Like all members of the Black Hole Metal Kult their faces are white and etched with black runes and symbols, but in the case of the mimes this is not corpespaint but their natural complexion. They never speak, but their faces are incredibly expressive and they move with exaggerated yet fluid gestures. Their eyes, however, are blank and untouched by emotion.

The mimes are a mystery even to the leaders of the Kult, who rely on their mystical abilities but do not fully trust them. One is male, the other female. The other kultists speculate they are brother and sister, or lovers, or both, but none know for sure. One thing that is certain is the sadistic enthusiasm with which the mimes participate in kultic rites.

As noted, the warlock mimes never speak or vocalize in any way -- indeed they make hardly a sound at all, moving in near complete silence at all times. Their spells and magic are worked using somatic gestures only (The unabashed JM is encouraged to act this out, and might even consider charades if an attempt to parley is made).

Ximox, the male, knows the spells Fire Blast, Trapped in a Box (victim is trapped in an airless, slowly shrinking cube), and Howling Wind (blast of wind impedes movement). Xomix, the female, knows Spectral Body, Masque of the Mummen (mask projects incapacitating emotion such as maniacal laughter or sniveling terror against one foe), and Mocking Mirror (imitation of one foe's actions is so annoying and distracting that it causes a penalty to all attacks, skills, and saves).

Art by Christian Conkle, the Evil Schemer!  Click through for his webpage

The Warlock Cafe

MP3: Varis, Roussin, Torchinsky, & Mahieux, Reve Bohemien (Compact Disc)

This room is furnished in the style of a charming streetside cafe, with a cobbled floor and tables and chairs to seat up to ten people. Sunbeetles in glass jars give the room a sunny afternoon glow. A vase of cut flowers stands on each table, and potted ferns and ficus trees add a touch of greenery. A low raised stage takes up the eastern third of the room. A concertina rests there on a stool. At any given time there will be from 2-7 people here, seeming at first glance to be having a lovely time.

A closer look will show that everything about the room is a horrid lie. The cracks between the cobblestones are stained with gore, and the no amount of cut flowers can completely cover the stink of old blood and filth. The cafe guests are here for the depraved sport of the warlock mimes, who amuse themselves by subjecting their captives to torture and pantomime (which are not, of course, mutually exclusive). The food and drink is drugged to make the captives docile and prone to suggestion. Though they remain conscious of their actions the guests are compelled to do whatever they are asked. Their eyes are glassy, and their feet are nailed to the floor.

After the warlocks perform for them, the captives are sacrificed to the space gods.

The warlock mimes will be found here 30% of the time. They will attempt to hypnotize and interrogate anyone unknown to them using Ensorcel and Read Minds. Those found to be enemies will be attacked using spells. Note that a party may not even be aware of any danger until the mimes strike. Their spellcasting blends seemlessly with their pantomime, appearing to be no more threatening than the attentions of any normal street performer.

MP3: Dead Raven Choir, The Silence (Compact Disc: search 'Selenoclast Wolves')

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Popular Science: Rondo's JM Screen

When I entered Rondo's Fugly Dice contest I has no expectations of anything but a novelty prize. All the man promised was loot swagged from an old stone's crib, after all. Maybe if I get real lucky, I thought, he sends me a souvenir shot glass from a nudey bar called Beansnappers.

But Rondo had a grander plan. Behold, True Scientific Realism, DIY style...

Groovin' High

And lo, there shall come...The Cat!

The mighty Thrazar faces a ferocious feline foe in...Trapped in the Duo-Dimension!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

BHMK: Gods from Outer Space

My dad sells real estate for a living, and every now and he'll pass along something interesting he salvages from a vacant house. Odd bits of knick-knackery, old LPs and paperbacks, etc.

He recently sent me a package containing a brown accordion file labeled "Kelly Pollock - game notes." The file is splitting on the bottom, held together with brittle old tape, and just crammed with gaming stuff: a few early 90s Dragon mags, some Gamma World modules, a copy of Keep on the Borderlands sans cover (just for fun I might have to redraw the maps from memory), pages cut out of a Michigan county almanac annotated with encounter ideas and Pitz Burke style names for the cities, and page after page of loose leaf notes.

The folder also contains, in one of those coincidences so common among EC fans, an incredible collection of Encounter Critical material! Along with a copy of the Second Corrected Edition, there are a couple issues of Daniel David's "Journey Masters Journal," and even the ultra-rare EC module Asteroid 1618, all gathered in a ziplock bag with a price tag from Ludington Goodwill.

Judging from the Dragon issue dates and clues in the notes, this kid was running Encounter Critical as late as 1995! I've never heard of another sighting of the game "in the wild" that late, not till it was rediscovered a few years ago.

And what's more, a bunch of the game notes in the folder are homebrew EC stuff, including a three part adventure, "Gods From Outer Space" The adventure makes it pretty clear that Kelly and his crew were big-time horror fans -- there are references and ripoffs of everything from Lovecraft to Michael Myers to Troma. I've been trying to polish it up for World Adventure Writing Month, but it's in a rougher and more disorganized state than I realized and I keep riffing off it in my own directions, so it won't be finished for a couple more weeks.

In the meantime, I took a few minutes tonight putting together an inspirational mixtape. Some of the songs and bands are namechecked directly in the adventure or Kelly's notes, especially the middle adventure "Black Hole Metal Kult." Others are my own tribute to Kelly and his gonzo crew. Track list after the cut.

BHMK: keeping it kvlt
Black Hole Metal Kult: Gods from Outer Space

Frank Sinatra - Old Devil Moon
Mayhem - De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
Dinosaur Jr - Freak Scene
Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians - Brenda's Iron Sledge
Syd Barrett - Clown & Jugglers (Octopus)
Venom - Black Metal
Blue Öyster Cult - Black Blade
Emperor - I Am The Black Wizards
Sonic Youth - Silver Rocket
Hawkwind - Space Is Deep
Tales Of Terror - Gods From Outer Space
The Mountain Goats - The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My Life as an Axe and Other Tales from the Sixth Grade

Noisms of Monsters & Manuals and SirLarkins of RPG Corner have both posted today about the dearth of truly excellent RPG fiction. I have nothing to add to that conversation -- aside from one Dragonlance book and the odd short story in Dragon I haven't read any fiction with direct RPG connections (though once or twice in my feverish youth I wrote my own game inspired short stories).

However, on the subject of the campaign background stories he wrote as a teenager, Noisms commented, "Most of them involved lots of severed limbs, blood...if I remember correctly." That sounds awful familiar. Only my stories weren't written for gaming purposes. No, they were for the creative writing unit in my 6th grade class at St. Joseph Elementary. I'm proud to say that with the stirring tale "My Life as an Axe" I single-handedly kick-started a fad among my classmates for violent splatter-gore. For a few weeks a classroom full of Catholic kids in tasteful uniforms was churning out head-chopping, vein-ripping, blood-spraying mayhem like we were auditioning for Fangoria. That we got to read our two page murderfests aloud in formal presentations only spurred us on.

To her credit our teacher handled it with utter composure. Never once was she ruffled, not even when the chirpy Summer (or was it her twin sister Daydream?) read aloud a tale that featured an unlucky time traveler getting bitten in half by a tyrannosaurus (I was extremely annoyed that the T. rex picked up its meal with its forearms before chomping it. I'm certain you will sympathize.). No, the late Mrs. Matasky tolerated our grade school Grand Guignol with mild amusement and a deflating unflappability. If she was shocked or disgusted by us she was far too stern and savvy to let on, and put the whole craze to a stop one afternoon by calmly instructing us to find a different subject. We did; we knew better than to test her patience.

Monday, July 21, 2008

WoAdWriMo Update: Slacker

I gotta confession. Almost from the moment I decided to do something for World Adventure Writing Month I've been stricken with Homework Syndrome: it's this dumb thing where something fun seems like homework as soon as there's even a semi-formal commitment involved.

For example: reading the NYT Book Reviews online or in the paper? Fun and interesting! But subscribing to a daily email update? Two or three of those pile up in my inbox and they become a chore. And so it is with my adventure. Brainstorming encounters and critters and NPCs? Love that pschitt! Writing it all down on like paper or a computer? Shoot, I'll start tomorrow. The Tour de France just started  is in the Pyrennes  is in the Alps.

Boiling it down I guess I'm sort of a lazy dilly-dallier. In the words of Professor Impossible I'm "a daydreamer. A sassmouth! And, not infrequently, a bit of a gigglepuss." So I'm behind. But it's not like I've done nothing. I've got a page of new monsters roughed out and a draft of the first adventure of a three-parter.

And this afternoon I drew up the map for part two. Made a notebook sketch first:

Click to embiggen
And here's the final map, finished save for shading and numbering. I think it turned out pretty good.

Can you find the Evil Cult's Secret Temple?
Hey presto, getting the map down on paper has me revved up to start keying it, so here's to progress!

MP3: Meads of Asphodel, Sluts of the Netherworld (Compact Disc)
Here's a song that goes out to Rondo's Graveyard Tramps, who make an appearance on this level.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

In memoriam: Elmo

[My gaming readers can feel free to skip this if they like. It's an elegy I wrote for the coolest cat I've known, who died a year ago today, and I post it mainly for my wife and friends who read this page.]

Sir Walter Scott wrote, of dogs, "I have sometimes thought of the final cause of [their] having such short lives and I am quite satisfied it is in compassion to the human race; for if we suffer so much [the loss] after an acquaintance of ten or twelve years, what would it be if they were to live double that time?"

Maybe so. But at the moment, fuck that guy. Elmo died almost a week ago at the age of only eight and it is stony comfort indeed to imagine a grief more sharp or a loss more aching if we had but had more time together.

He was a cat of outsized emotions: both fiery and 'fraidy, smart yet screwball, "one half boneless cuddler and one half manic nutcase," as I wrote a few weeks after he came to live with us. He raised so much hell the first month or two we had him we thought he was defective. He had a bit of a mean streak, it's true, yet in the end I have known no cat more loving or more eager for human companionship. He wasn't much one for being picked up and petted, but he was quick to find my lap when I settled down to read, or to scooch next to Anne when she knitted on weekend mornings. Hardly a night has passed in years that he did not sleep at my feet.

He ate, played, begged, bit, stretched and slept with gusto, damn, you bet. I sometimes feared he'd burn out quickly, so fiercely did he live. To our heartbreak this has proven true. Healthy and strong till almost the last, Elmo died on July 17th of acute renal failure. We gave him every chance we could, but an intense course of IV therapy could not flush his busted kidney, and on his second day in the hospital, after he gained two pounds of fluid in 12 hours, we said goodbye. He died without dignity, great patches of fur shaved, eyes red-rimmed and leaking, swollen like a balloon, till the vet came and let the life out of him. No dignity, but there is no small grace in the end of his suffering, no matter how much or how long ours might linger.

When we stepped into his enclosure at Wisconsin Humane six years ago it was to look at another cat, but Elmo chose us. He crawled into my lap and, not gently, mashed my chin with his forehead and cheek and it was clear that there would be no other cat for us. This is no less true now that he is gone: he will always be my cat, the cat, to whom all others will be compared.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Creeping Crud

Something has gone terribly wrong with my submission to Rondo's Fugly Dice competition, and I now fear I may be responsible for an outbreak of...

The Creeping Crud

Numbers 1 swarm
# ATT 1
ATT % melee 40
Damage 1-10 pt
Hit Points 1-100
Save 50%
Edible 5%
% Lurk 06%
$ Value 42 per seed
Special pratfalls, itchiness & dolor

Creeping Crud is a fast spreading swarm organism born from pentagonal trapezohedronic seeds from space. It is the scourge of the Amalgamated Postal Corps throughout Vanth. The seeds are highly sought after by collectors of gewgaws as well as the Sect of The Ten Faced God, who often trade them through the mail. Unless the correct phasic precautions are taken when the seeds are transported an outbreak of Creeping Crud swarms may occur (An example of poor packaging would be wrapping a seed in a few squares of TP and hoping for the best).

A Creeping Crud swarm attacks by rolling on the floor underfoot, waiting for the unwary to slip and fall (sneak attack 77%). When this happens they engulf the victim and attack with painful stings. The sting causes an itchy and depressing rash over d% of the victims body (-10% ATT values, -20% Seduce, victim will feel a crushing sense of disappointment about how his or her life turned out, which may explain why postal workers can be so surly) and unless a successful roll of Consume Alien Food is made the victim will produce a new Creeping Crud seed in 2-20 days in a manner left to the reader's imagination.

MP3s: Memphis Jug Band (CD or Download)
* Gator Wobble
* Fourth Street Mess Around
Got nothing to do with the above, but sure do make me feel better.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tirapheg Week Resumes: Mazes & Minotaurs

Sticking more closely to the original beast, here's a version for Revised Mazes & minotaurs.


Taxonomy : Animate
Description : Living stone guardians with three arms, three legs, and three heads, seeming not so much carved as fused together from broken statuary. The heads may be male, female or bestial. The central arm is formed into a grasping claw, while the other two are shaped into fists or wield stone weapons.
Size : Large
Ferocity : Dangerous +2
Cunning : Alert +1
Mystique : Eldritch +2
Movement : 90’
Initiative : 15
Melee Attack : +6 (3 attacks)
Damage : 2d6 (claw and fists or weapons)
Defense Class : 18
Hits Total : 24
Detection / Evasion : +8 / +4
Mystic Fortitude : +4
Special Abilities : Camouflage (ruins or stone walls), Crushing Damage (claw), Grapple (Might 20), Mindless, Multiple Heads, Natural Armor, Sixth Sense, Stealthy.
Unique Ability : Extra Attack. A Tripodocephalos can attack up to three times per round instead of twice as most Large creatures do.
Awards : Glory 220, Wisdom 40.

Additional Lore : Tripodocephaloi are found in crumbling ruins, underground vaults, and desecrated holy places. They act as guardians for shrines, tombs and other sites and are never found wandering without purpose. Their origins are mysterious: some point to legends telling of temple thieves cursed into stone by the gods, while others feel the tripodocephaloi are constructed by mortal priests or magicians. A few eccentric scholars even argue they are made by gorgons as some cruel sort of artwork or jest.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ten Sides of Crusty

Got crappy dice? Maybe you got one that's old and rolled out, or the dog chewed on it, or it dropped behind the radiator never to be seen again till you got the carpets cleaned before moving out of that one apartment with the ant problem. Maybe it sat in a damp basement for a few years while you pursued a more "normal" hobby like bowling or fantasy baseball.

Well, now you can trade 'em in. Got a hankering to win a booby prize stolen from an old stoner's bedroom? Check out Rondo's Fugly Dice Contest. Maybe you'll win a thirty year old copy of Penthouse Digest, or a groovy poster of that one poem about heroin. Maybe an out of date Rockford Fosgate catalog or a bandanna with a hole burned in it where a hot ember broke off a stick of incense. Fantastic prizes can be had from any damn contest, but only Rondo guarantees the sort of crap you wouldn't pay a quarter for at a yard sale. So check it out!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Neither Bug nor Bear

Tirapheg Week will resume, but the topic of the day seems to be pumpkin-headed bugbears, whether in the Driver's Wilderlands where they mix freely with their more hirsute brethren (Gob' maiden to father, "Da, this is my new mate, Gordie"), or in Sham's Solstice where they grow from seeds in a weird kind of goblin horticulture.

While at first I was all for the Pumpkin-Heads, today I had a terrible thought. I saw a glimpse of the (mutant) future, and it has convinced me that the bugbear is a menace that must be stopped, indeed, a weed of the very vilest sort...

Bug Burr

No. Enc: usually 1
Alignment: Neutral
Move: As host creature
Armor Class: As host creature, but at least AC 6
Hit Dice: As host creature + 2hp per die
Attacks: Bite or caustic pulp, plus any other attacks of host creature
Damage: 2d6, or 1d6, plus other attacks as host creature
Save: L7
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: Usually none

Bug burrs are invasive symbiotes, carnivorous mutant gourds that hunt and reproduce by taking root in the bodies of other creatures. The body of a creature that is overgrown by a bug burr is encased by tough greenish fibers and may sprout leafy tendrils. Its nervous and circulatory systems are completely entwined by innumerable tiny roots, and a brightly colored pumpkin or squash-like fruit with a toothy maw and sunken optical pits replaces the host creature's head.

Bug burrs are skilled, intelligent predators but not sentient. They attack with a vicious bite in addition to whatever other natural weapons their host creature possesses. Up to three times per day they can spit a gout of caustic pulp and seeds in a 20" cone. All creatures within range take 1d6 damage and must save versus poison or be implanted with bug burr seeds. Those affected will not feel any immediate ill effects, but after 2d6 hours they will suffer severe pains as the seeds begin to sprout. The seeds do not inflict any damage, but are so agonizing that victims take a cumulative -1 per day penalty to all attack and melee damage rolls, and a 10' per day penalty to their movement rates. After 1d4+4 days they will be barely able to move at all, and will seek a secluded place to finish their transformation into a new bug burr.

Bug burrs do not use technology, weapons or tools, nor do they value treasure. On occasion a humanoid victim may still carry goods or coins if its gear and clothing have not yet rotted away. They are solitary and agressive, but are sometimes tamed by pumpkin men (Mutant Future, p90), who have learned to control their seed growth.

Physical Mutations: As host creature plus Accumulated Resistance, Moderate Natural Armor (Plant)
Mental Mutations: Nil

Example: Cave Bear Bug Burr

No. Enc: 1
Alignment: Neutral
Move: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 7 + 14
Attacks: 3 (2 claws, bite or caustic pulp)
Damage: 1d4/1d4/2d6 or 1d6
Save: L7
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: None
Special Attack: Bear hug for 2d8 damage if both claws hit

MP3: Andrew Hill, Pumpkin (Compact Disc - Download)

Tirapheg Week: Encounter Critical

Greta Hipp, Pirate Limb-Taker

The Chopping Blokes are a freebooting band of limb traders who maraud across southern Vanth on the hovercraft Guillotine. Sailing land and sea alike they leave a trail of hook-handed and stump-legged victims in their wake. Though by no means a gentle bunch they work fast and clean, processing their "donors" with the self-sharpening and auto-cauterizing limb slicers that equip their ship.

The captain of the Guillotine and queen of the Blokes is Greta Hipp. A freak Lamarckian mutant born to champion three-legged racers, Greta has multiple detachable limbs--three each of arms, legs, and heads. Ordinarily she wears her own heads and arms but affects a pair of peg legs, but naturally she maintains an arsenal of specialized limbs for battle and adventuring. Her eyes are green and grey and blue, and she's a natural blond, brunette and redhead.

pin-up art by Donald Rust Greta, rather fetching with her extra limbs detached

Her crew is steady and loyal. Greta keeps their pillaging in check, but their violent urges find an outlet in frequent skirmishes with other limb traders, bandits and privateers. When battle is certain the captain arms herself with brawny wooky or frankenstein fists and a robodroid arm with built-in grappling hook. She often dons grimacing gargoyle faces or blank manikin heads to unnerve her foes. Her weapons of choice are twin rock salt pistols, cutlass, and a stingray whip.

Stats and pirate songs after the cut.

Greta Hipp (Pioneer 5)

ADA 14
DEX 12
ESP 11
INT 12
LEA 16
MAG 10
STR 10

HP 29
Saving Throw 28% (43% with armor)
Melee ATT/DAM 50%/-
Ranged ATT/DAM 84%/+4

MUTATIONS: Detachable Limbs, Unusual Locomotion

Rock Salt pistols (D 2-16, 7"/25", distance penalty -4)
Stingray Whip (D 2-12 + pain causes 20% penalty to skill rolls for one round, 4" reach, 55% scare)
Squid Ink and Skunk Bombs

SEE ALSO: The Pin-Up Files. I only visit it for character portraits, honest.

MP3: Stump - Chaos (Out of Print - Used Compact Disc - Download)
If you listen to only one pirate anthem from an obscure 80s band this week, let this be the one!

MP3: Firesign Theatre, Ralph Spoilsport's Going Out of Body Sale (Compact Disc - Download)
A limb trader's gotta unload her plunder somewhere.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Because No One Demanded It: Tirapheg Week!

Ah, the original Fiend Folio. Many gamers dislike the book, and apparently it was so poorly received that after two separate negative reviews in Dragon Magazine* the Folio's editor Don Turnbull was allowed a rebuttal in a later issue. The book sold reasonably well but was allowed to go out of print after only two years. Reportedly Gary Gygax himself thought poorly of the book.

None of which lessens my love for it one iota. In fact the often reviled Tome of Creatures Malevolent & Benign gave this blog its name, and inspired several of my earliest posts here! It has its share of goofy monsters, like nearly all monster books do. OK, perhaps more than its share. But I love the Folio's homebrew roots, its sense of humor, the fantastic art by Russ -- as distinctive a stylist as Erol Otus in my book. And in fairness it contains many of the game's more memorable foes as well: the gith and the slaadi, the drow and svirfneblin, the revenant and the death knight.

Of course it also has the spectacularly inexplicable flumph, which has earned a sort of mascot status among gamers of a certain stripe, and was notably featured in a running gag in the D&D webcomic Order of the Stick. Even more bizarre though, is the tirapheg, a spike-armed, stump-legged manikin man with a mouth in its belly and a craving for carrion. I suppose it's a pretty silly monster, yeah, but it has always fascinated me. There is something eerie about its blank faces and staring eyes, its tentacle-whiskered mouth and grasping claw. It teeters on a line between the absurd and the horrific.

Enough apologetics. All of this is mere prelude. From now till Friday it's Tirapheg Week here in my corner of the web, a new variation each day. Making the Best of My Very Worst Ideas. That's the Malevolent & Benign Promise.

If you're still with me, take a jump into the Mutant Future just after the cut.

* Ed Greenwood complained that the "Flat taste didn't go away" and the other review related the "Observations of a semi-satisfied customer." Ouch!

Not too long ago Edsan of Clanless/Mutants posted a great write up of the flumph for Mutant Future, so I thought I'd kick things off likewise.

Broken Men

No. Enc: 1-4 (3-12)
Alignment: Neutral
Move: 90' (30') but see below
Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 7
Attacks: varies, see below
Damage: 1-4 per attack
Save: L7
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: VIII (gizmos) or IX (drugs, chemicals or medical devices)

When gene sequencing programs go haywire or nanoviruses infect the spawning vats, clone manufactories sometimes produce the strange mutants called Broken Men. They vary wildly in form, their blandly human appearance twisted by misshapen limbs and multiple legs, arms and heads. Arms grow into spikes, claws or whips. They hop, limp and crawl on backwards feet or serpentine legs. Some have two or three heads and some have no heads at all, eyes and mouths gaping from their chests or elsewhere. The tables below can be used to determine the forms of individuals or groups encountered.

Broken men are semi-intelligent at best. They mumble and titter amongst themselves but have no semblance of language or culture. They are motivated chiefly by hunger for decaying flesh, and have no compunction about devouring their own dead. Some venture from the clone factories to rob graves and even to hunt live prey, travelling only at night since 90% suffer from the albinism mutation. A broken man attacks with whatever natural weapons it possesses, up to 6 attacks per round based on its number of functional arms. It may also attack with its mental mutations.

Mutations: albinism, bizarre appearance. Each broken man has one mental mutation, plus one per head.

Heads: Roll d4-1 for quantity

1-3. Normal
4. Echolocation
5. Thermal Vision
6. Ultraviolet Vision
7. Unusual Senses (e.g. 360 vision, motion sensitivity, heightened scent)
8. Unusual Sense (precognitive sight: +1 to hit and saving throws, never surprised)

Arms: Roll d6 for quantity and d8 for type (once per individual or once per arm)
1-3. Normal
4. Claw
5. Spike or blade
6. Stump (arm useless for attacking)
7. Telescoping (up to 10' reach)
8. Whip

Legs: Roll d4 for quantity and d8 for type (once per individual or once per leg)
1-3. Normal
4. Backwards
5. Serpentine or tentacled
6. Springing (leaps of up to 20' once per round)
7. Stilt-like (Movement 120' [90'])
8. Stump (GM's decision whether this limb affects movement)