Get this now GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Setting: Caverntown

Only $10 at warehouse 23 get it here

This comes very close to the way I run Northport.

What you get: 49 pages of how to run a slightly abstracted city that is built within bowshot of a collection of dungeons. There is significant interplay between guilds and a number of powerful (325-500pt) delvers who run the show, with agood feel for how they and your characters interact. No dungeons are presented, but plenty are suggested. It is a nifty and unique setting and a great way to base a campaign.

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Demonskin and upcoming products

orcus on tenkar

I have been drawing a lot of demons for an upcoming bundle.

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In addition to Orcus, seen above on Tenkar’s Tavern, which can be got on OBS in my Art of Nod 2 bundle, There are a Doombrat, a Not-so Petty Demon,  a Demon from Shane Ward’s Dusty Door adventure for BlueHolme Journeymanne, and a Type I-VI demons (minus the V, haven’t drawn her yet), plus an incubus. I want to bulk up a few more, but I am working on some commissions for Gabor Lux for two of his projects (Echoes from Fomalhaut 2 and the Barbarian King Module) and for Diogo Nogueira for Solar Blades and Cosmic Spells.

When I get done with those commissions, I will fluff out the demon bundle.

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In case I didn’t mention it, you can order a print copy of  Echoes of Fomalhaut directly from Gabor Lux. In addition to my art, it has art by Stefan Poag and comes with a map on on high quality paper, and a couple of good adventure tidbits.

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I recently also got my hands on a stash of Dimensions For Children demons, some of which might make it into the bundle as well. Long ago I had a set of the Dungeons of Castlelon and have been spending exorbitant amounts to get some of the toys from the set. I only need a fistful of those demons, so I might be willing to let go of some.

Recent developments in Northport.

I have currently two demonologists in play, each with allies. One has a petty demon familiar, a hell hound and a mentor; the other has a warrior of hell, who I equipped with a dueling bill rather than a sword and shield. The new group of players , which includes the hellfire armed leprechaun demonologist with the warrior demon, a halfling Alchemist, a dual wielding crossbow dwarf built off of the musketeer template, a halfling assassin, and an air infused mountain elf duelist, slaughtered a petty demon bearing a message before it had a chance to speak. It was determined that the remains would decompose rapidly, but if salted with two pounds of salt, and flayed with a successful dungeon butchery roll, the body would yield 2d sheets of vellum that would count as Fine quality if used to inscribe demonologist spells as a scroll, or with Demon Lore, effectively lending a +1 to the effective skill of the spell or Hidden lore. They of course intend to sell the vellum, but I thought it a suitably grisly ingredient, much in keeping with the suggestion in Monster Hunters that Hell makes information on demon summoning readily available. I think that distribution of this material is one of the “downtime” activities of summonable demonic allies, and even one of the reasons you can play a summoner  without being damned in the process, because your part in the grand scheme of Hell is to leave your spellbook and notes after you die for someone truly horrible to find.

Seven of the Best Things

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I have to start with Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain.

My first brush with an epic fantasy series, This was initially read to me, and I finished the series myself at a young age. Enchanters, Oracular Pigs,  the first undead I had heard of that were not Universal Monsters like Dracula or the Mummy, this series had the Cauldron Born and a Lich. Seriously, someone takes ego damage from a sword in this series, and the Ranger has an Animal Companion.  Awesome character arc, from assistant pig keeper to the High King. I later got hold of the rare children’s books that provide backstory to the tales, The Foundling, Coll and his White Pig, and The Truthful Harp, definitely the tale of how hard it is to become an old school bard. Also worth recommending from Alexander are The First Two Lives of Lukas Kasha, The Wizard in the Tree, and The Westmark Series.

The War Eagles of Arawn, King of Anwyn in The Chronicles of Prydain are also where I drew my moniker Gwythaint from.

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A book we had knocking around the house, which a recent conversation with Zeb Cook informed me was actually inspirational to the Monster Manual, is Barbara Ninde Byfield’s The Glass Harmonica, A Lexicon of the Fantastical. Since republished as Book of the Weird, it can be got used from Amazon with some difficulty, as all kinds of gamers are trying to snatch this baby up.  It is an Encyclopedia of weird and witty entries of all kinds of things medieval and really fits with the style of gaming I like. I loved the art and the complexity of the entries.

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The 1978 Dawn of the Dead, with everyone trying to survive zombies in a shopping mall got me on the Zombie train early. I had always loved horror, but I saw this one with my Dad, and it resonated as gaming inspiration immediately. I could not get enough of this genre, much to the disgust of my wife. I even tried to incorporate some of it into B2, keep on the Borderlands, and have been statting out every building I worked in in a variety of systems for Zpoc survivability.

 

My Dad’s Pulp Collection

Most of Appendix N was on that set of shelves, from Fritz Leiber to Michael Moorcock, Lin Carter, Sprague De Camp, Robert E Howard, A. Merrit, and H.P Lovecraft. When my folks split, I swallowed these things whole, embarking on a multi-library quest to read through the list in the back of the DMG. The Goblin Tower, The Unbeheaded King, The Clocks of Iraz, The Tritonian Ring, all of it awesome stuff. And then there was this.

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Elidor, the Owl Service,  and the Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Gardner.

The Owl Service was more Welsh Mythology, Like the Chronicles of Prydain, and Elidor was pretty Narnia-esque. Brisingamen on the other hand, gave me the willies. I have very mild claustrophobia, but this like few other things (The Descent and As Above, So Below) gave me heart palpitations.Such a visceral read for a piece of YA Fantasy. A really great depiction of both Dwarves and Goblins in this thing.

 

The Magenta Box

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Originally intended as a gift for my Fantasy loving older sister, I claimed the Moldvay Basic set with the Erol Otus cover as my own, along with the Trampier covered PHB that we got at the same time as my own. That shit made ideas explode in my head, and I just loved all of the art. I wanted to be Tramp! I love the Willingham dragonstrike, and the Erol Otus giant snake. What really flipped me out though, was

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The Fiend Folio.

Man, I love me some Russ.. My whole drawing style is cribbed from him. I won a costume contest back in college dressed as a Githyanki, and I am going out on a limb here, and saying that that dude on the cover is wearing a helmet, the line pattern that Russ uses for hair is hella tight compared to that thing. I loved the weirdness, the warty, age spotted creep factor of Nicholson’s art in that book, and when I made the mistake fifteen years ago of giving my stuff away, the Fiend Folio was one of the first that I bought.to back to rebuild my collection. Absolutely one of those times when the PDF does not cut it..

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 15 – Henchmen.

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Peter Dell’orto wrote a blog that got me back into gaming, called Dungeon Fantastic. Since then I have gone whole hog into this game system, which is now a standalone game . I played a lot of 3e GURPS in the eighties and early nineties, mostly playing horror games using the Chaosium Call of Cthulhu sourcebooks and the GURPS ruleset, but this is something different, Old school feel with what I think of a better mechanics. The henchmen book is full of templates for building lower power characters, and Peter wrote that too. Regular DF runs at 250 points, roughly equivalent to characters who are 6-th to 8th level in AD&D, and the lower point templates bring back the feel of the kind of games I was always starting with my friends. We rarely made it past 5th level, and only once did I make it to 8th. A while back I put out a supplement for it.

 

Honorable Mentions:

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Steven Brust’s The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars

This book, by the same author who brought us the D&D inspired Vlad Taltos series, is a frame story about a group of artists in a shared studio, wrapped around a Hungarian folk tale told by one of them about a fantastic quest,. The fairy tale is interesting, the description of the process of painting was really striking to me, having read the book while studying fine art, and the chapter headings are all titles of paintings that establish a third layer of story.  There is a lot of other good work by Brust, including Brokedown Palace, and To Reign in Hell, The Phoenix Guard, to say nothing of Agyar, one of the best stories in its genre that manages not to tell you what genre that is until three quarters of the way through the book.

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Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Cycle, featuring Kvothe the…bard?

Not only is it superior to both Harry Potter and The Magicians for describing life in a magical university, and mind you I love both Rowling and Grossman, but it is the most epic telling of the building of a multiclassed character. Kvothe is introduced as an innkeeper, and was a travelling performer, a professional musician, skilled alchemical artificer, magician, swordsman, and he knows the secret name of the wind. None of these accomplishments came to him easily, and his attitude keeps him from getting things his way.  There are elements of Patricia McKillip’s Riddlemaster series here, but unlike the protagonist of that series, Rothfuss’s character drives his own fate instead of having it written in the stars.

 

 

 

Demons and survivors

About a year ago, my Wuxia DF group fought a bunch of conjured petty demons. As they had a celestial in the party, the demons attacked the BBEG’s troops in order to get through to her.  Di San Ge Er Zi, also known as Number three son, is one of the hardened guardsmen who survived the fight and quit working for his evil boss, becoming ronin. This is one of those cases of an NPC rolling exceptionally, and being found to have been underestimated, as per page 31 of DF15. I first discussed the Battle Hardened template for guards here,  and this is how he turned out, later making a bit of an alliance with the PC’s, and another group of PC’s who dealt with the effects of the unleashed toxifier reanimating all of the salt packed corpses…

Di San Ge Er Zi

125 pts
St 13 [30] dx 12 [40] iq 10 [0] ht 12[20]
T/s 1d/2-1 naginata 1d+2 imp or cr/ 2d+2 cut or 2d+1 cr
Hp 12 per 10 will 10 fp 12 DR 3 overall
Bs 7 mv 6 [5] dodge 10 parry 10
ADV:
15 Combat reflexes,
10 High pain Tolerance
4 Hard to kill +2
5 Higher purpose, slay Demons
1 Sacrificial Parry,
1 teamwork
1 Guild membership
Cultural Familiarity: Sahudese
0 Sahudese Native/Native
1 Aralaise Spoken only, broken.
DIS:
-15 One Eye
-1 Distinguishing feature (scar accross forehead/cheek)
-10 Social Stigma: Minority (Sahudese)
-10 Code of Honor: Soldier’s
-10 Enemy: Akira no Aku’s men

Brawling 1 12 wrestling 1 11 knife 1 12
Naginata (Polearm) 16 16
2 handed sword 8 14
staff 8 14
shortsword 2 12
Tactics 2 9
Armory: melee weapons 1 9
Carousing 1 12 gambling 1 9
Demon Lore 1 9
Climbing 1 12

Equipment:
Jingsah (DR 3)
Lamelar Armor DR 3 (Torso, arms, legs)
Cheap shortsword
basics in a pouch.
boots DR2

This is a survivor of a Demonic attack. Two demons faced in play included a Not-so-petty demon, who was gravely wounded by a couple of axe blows by one of the 125 point characters, who fled the fight by becoming intangible, and then was chased off with a turn spirit spell cast by Razakeel.

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Not so petty demon
St 15 dx 12 iq 10 ht 12
Hp 18 per 12 will 10 fp 15

T/s 1d+1/2d+1

Claw 2d cut
Bite 2d cutting

Im to met hazards im to mind control high pain threshold
Very rapid healing
Night vision 5 sharp talons sharp teeth, striking st+2

Monstrous, bully, callous, sadist, bloodlust
Cannot harm innocents, selfish, social stigma monster
Intimidation 14 brawling 15

Can assume spirit form (intangible )for 10 min for 5fp

Affected by True Faith, Pentagram.
Speaks in backwards Armenian

(All of my demons can speak the language of whoever has ever summoned them, and can do so backwards.) At this point, he probably has the one eye disadvantage as well.

Dodomeki

In folklore, Dodomeki or Birds eye women, were a type of oni who had been thieves in life, and have hundreds of bird’s eyes on their arms as a punishment reflective of the small square holes in the center of coins, also called bird’s eyes.  In Northport, the Sahudese use large  quarter size copper coins with small holes, worth $4 each. The Aralaise locals use dime size coppers wort $1. A string of cash is consists of 20 of these coins looped on a copper wire, and are worth $80, the same as a gold coin.

For their second raid on Akira no Aku’s holdings, the Wuxia adventurers made a raid on his casino, which is in the basement of his restaurant, which I made very similar to the one in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. They caused a bar fight for diversion, and made the trip to the casino down a hidden stair accessible form the balcony level.  There, after a ninja led bit of surveillance, they discovered that there was a “box” area where customers exchanged cash and coin for paper betting slips and painted ceramic tiles, and could cash out. Periodically, a team of naginata wielding guards accompanied by a pair of dragon blooded brutes would wheel out a meteoric iron strongbox with a one way lid (like a mailbox), and collect the receipts from the box. From there the loot was taken back to a counting room.  The dragon men had keys to the box room, and to the shackles worn by the women in the counting room, and to their quarters. The magic proof strong box and a larger puzzle chest, also reinforced with magic proof locks could only be opened by the keys held by the supervisor of the counting room, a Dodomeki. Within the room, the money from the strongbox was counted and tied into small bag, and then transferred to the large chest. Eventually, Akira no Aku and his men would come through the undercity to collect the week’s receipts and haul them off with a large party of armed men.  The chest was a puzzle, the kind that needs either direct instruction or woodworking 20 to open, much like the puzzle box in Lost Inheritance.

My stats on the dodomeki are a little limited, as her HT was barely of consequence due to the highly specific means needed to kill her.

Dodomeki, Demon

ST 12 DX 14 IQ 12 HT 12

HP 12 WILL 12 PER 17 FP 12

DR 0/4 on hands MV 6

Claw 1d+1 impaling

Shriek: causes 1d6 sonic damage, affliction:Deafness, resisted by HT
Must have eyes put out and be be decapitated and wrapped in red silk
or have all of the eyes covered with pierced coins to be killed

Traits:

Immune to metabolic hazards, immune to mind control, high pain threshold,
Very rapid healing, Penetrating voice, 360 vision,
weakness to touching coins. (Takes 1d Fp/second when in contact with them)
Compulsive behavior, counting small things, Bully, Callous, Sadist, Cannot Harm Innocents. Affected by True Faith, Pentagram. Truly evil, will not negotiate.

Can only be killed by having her eyes put out and her bird eyes wrapped in red silk. This will kill it, but will cause the body to erupt into two hexes of starlings, doing damage as a swarm of strix.

 

Two cursed swords

One of these was a requested part of a character build, the other was an option one of the characters bought into, claiming it as a reward for a successful mission.

The Butcher’s blade:

This is an ugly black blunt-tipped broadsword. It has Pussiance+1 and induces Bloodlust in the owner.  Using the DFRG rules, Pussiant Weapons have an added value of $5000, which amounts to 10 character points. Combined as a package with its disadvantage, the point cost is a flat 0, upped to one point for signature gear.

 

Hyppäävä Miekka, the blade that leaps.

This one was a little more difficult to parse; I worked with Ghostdancer on costing it out.

The blade that leaps is an intelligent, Fine, Ornate, Thrusting Broadsword, and fairly powerful. It’s name is written in runes on the blade. It is a Dancing Sword, and a Loyal one, and has Pussiance +1. Quite the bundle of positive features, it has a number of drawbacks.  The owner has the trifecta of Phantom Voices, Nightmares, and Light Sleeper as a result of its constant telepathic babble (These are considered charged to the PC’s disadvantages).  The sword is Noisy, thrumming loudly whenever drawn. The weapon is Jealous of all other blades, and its owner will find it in their hand any time they reach for another edged weapon… making cutting one’s meat a little difficult.  The weapon Also has bloodlust, and must draw blood daily. The impulse to do so can be resisted by will, but it costs the user 1 fp per day to resist.  Finally, the dancing ability also draws fatigue from the user, one point per minute. The item, with these complications, is treated as an artifact, topping out at a mere 25 point cost (30 points -5 points for the fatigue drain.) Built on a straight points for cash, would run it up to something like 140 points, so the character who owns it is very greatful I charged it out this way.

 

I had previously posted about the surprise I had when few of the PC’s in my game had bothered to attempt to build characters owning magical or silvered weapons as part of their character concept. This player walked in with the aim of being a fighting wizard with a dancing blade and the ability to cast magic missile and dimension door. I was willing to build an Apprentice with the 100pt “Haha now I can teleport” and 25 points worth of  the wizard/knight lens, but the player wanted something weapon focused.

I used a stripped down version of Squire+ Adept, and added the sword, half elf and magic bolt, for a moderate multiclassed character.

Session Recap of Beneath the Fallen Tower Playtest at Manhattan Minicon 3

The Swords & Wizardry Continual Light game I just released, Beneath the Fallen Tower had a warm reception when I ran it two weeks ago at the Manhattan Gamer’s Guild event. Players included Erik Tenkar and his wife Rachel, Noah Green, Miguel and Patrick. Miguel rolled a spectacularly average halfling thief, even though we were playing with all three suggested house rules (max hp at first level, bonus clerical spell for high wisdom, and humans swap their lowest stat for 15). Because there aren’t really ability checks, or ability based skills like GURPS, and no penalties for low stats, the character, a ratcatcher working for Keela at the Wayside Inn, was very successful.

Patrick played a swashbuckler. Swashbucklers are usually a prestige class, with an extra cost for experience, but are no different in ability from thieves at first level, as everyone has the same basic hit bonus of 0 when starting. Nevertheless, his play style made the Dashing Swordsman very effective. We opted in a quick ruling from SW Complete for dual weapon use of giving the attack +1, and he made full use of it.

Rachel played an elf ranger with 15 Strength, and stacked her anti goblin bonuses effectively.  Her character was our tank, but unfortunately was cut down by the goblin chief.  I allowed a save vs death, and her character lived but was out of commission until magically healed on the way out of the dungeon.

Noah, having read the blurb about a necromancer, played a cleric of Nodens. The route they took did not end up giving him an opportunity to use his turn undead ability. A few more hours of play certainly would have done so, and his one cure wounds spell gained from a high wisdom score was very important.

Erik played a magic user, armed with the “Death spell”, sleep. He also rolled the highest stats, and being human snared an additional 15, which left him a combat monster with 15 Strength, 15 Dexterity, and 14 Intelligence. pretty much everyone took Charisma as a dump stat. When I used to play AD&D, I used Len Lakofka’s 5% tables from The Dragon, that disadvantaged sedentary types at low levels, and made fighters more effective, and the DF lite stats I worked up pretty much echoed that frame of mind. Erik’s character would not be a 75 pointer, but something closer to 150 points, and far more effective in combat because of the flatly even attack rolls everyone had.

I was calling the group the Champion Wiffle Ball Team because of the sheer amount of low die rolls going on. Erik disarmed himself at least twice during the game, and the only advantage was that their opponents were largely in the same boat.

Due to low charisma, very few rumors of use surfaced, and the group was focused on rescuing Wyatt.Wyatt0001.png Wyatt Ferris is a gamer who left us far too soon, and in this game, he was a merchant and 1st level bard, who attempted to take his four retainers and 3 mules laden with goods through the long abandoned north road through the forest, instead of taking the long way around. The group had a lot of fun flashing his wanted poster while holding their hands over the part that spelled out a reward.

Their trip up the road led them to encounter the Duke’s men, who were only satisfied that they weren’t bandits when they partially displayed the poster. They ran into the deer being chased by the wolves, and lost a mule to them. Then they encountered the pilgrims, who were going to “hasten the arrival of the god who comes” but avoided hostilities with them, even though they suspected them of being evil cultists, partly because they also ran into the fleeing peasants and some elves who gave them elven rations. both groups had suspicions about the shrine, and a little interaction between Noah’s character and the pilgrims confirmed the bias.

One thing about SWCL that I really liked, is that there is no alignment. While this certainly promotes conflict free murder hobo behavior, it also promotes a lot more parlaying, and makes things like wholesale slaughter more morally ambiguous.

They also encountered the young ogre, who they fed and added to their party.  He proved himself useful punching out wolves in the dungeon, and successfully returned him to mama on the way back.

The route by which they entered the dungeon proved very fortuitous; out of the three possible entrances, they took the covered well used by the bugbears. Now there were multiple ways in and out, but I had them all drawn fairly close to each other, so I cannot say that the dungeon was well Jacquayed. Janelle Jacquays does a lot in her designs to avoid railroading and creating quantum ogres, and my dungeon pretty much led directly to the goblins no matter which way you entered, but there was a certain advantage to sneaking in the back way; it put them two doors away from the prisoners and let them achieve their objective with minimal combat.  On the other hand, they used their one sleep spell to get rid of the Bugbears who were attacking them in the secret tunnels and their one healing spell immediately afterward, and had to rely on their wits from that point.

Naturally, there was an immediate plan to use a keg of oil to attack the goblins, but they used it to block their pursuers instead of risking catching the ogre in the flames.

They suspected Wyatt of having colluded with the goblins, until they realized he had just charmed the jailor in order to hold out until the ransom was paid.  I had included other prisoners Keep of the Borderlands style as potential replacement characters, but with only one near fatality, and a short time to play, they weren’t needed.

On the way back, they met with Mama ogre, the tinker, and a bunch of bandits wearing the soldier’s gear, who they promptly Slept, and took back to town as prisoners for a reward. All totaled their main loot came from the reward money, with only a few coins pocketed along the way; a good thing I wasn’t calculating out experience based on GP.

This adventure was set up with 4 different boss level fights, but the group only dealt with one, the bugbears, and avoided conflict with the ogress by returning her son safely. As to Aurelia and Melchior, they never met them.

As an added note, I really have to thank Mike Badolato for helping me with the vast amount of editing that had to be done after my initial passes through spellcheck. the late stages of the manuscript for the adventure had oodles of GURPS references in them ( like 1d-1 instead of 1d6-1) and all kinds of formatting issues that came about because I had used google docs on phone, tablet, chromebook and Word on PC to edit. I don’t recommend that to anyone. There were some issues I could not repair, like the unfortunate placement of a 2d6 table in location 12, that made location 13 conform to the formatting from that section… Word whatever are we going to do with you?

Grab the game, and enjoy it!

Beneath the Fallen Tower now on sale

My little game that I premiered at Manhattan Minicon 3 with Noah Green and Erik Tenkar is now on sale- get it here

 

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I had originally designed this adventure to be a dual system, using both GURPS Lite DF/Swords & Wizardry. Naturally, I could never sell such a thing, but I had a bit of writing about it here. Some of the conversions were simple; the ogress was built on a guard template, as were both the bandits and the military patrol. The young ogre built using the half ogre stats with pitiable, noisy, social stigma: child, and arachnophobia. The tinker was a 125 pt Adventurer, like Moligi.

The Necromantrix an apprentice with the necromancer package. The goblins had straight stats, the bodyguards  built as guard plus goblin, and the chief used my Hardened warrior lens, (combat reflexes, born war leader, 8 pts in primary weapon, a point each in tactics and leadership). The cultists, were of course, built on the cultist template, their demon, something less than a demon of old, and the rumored dragon, a fire slorn.