Monday, April 16, 2018

(Another) Old Sketch from Ye Olden Dayes...

This old thing has been bouncing around folders and what-not for quite a while now. It might make it into some project or another eventually, but I'm more focused on producing new stuff for I may wind up re-drawing this one sometime down the road...

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Other Worlds (OD&D Inspirations)

A bit of inspiration from the Little Brown Books...

There should be no natural laws which are certain. Space could be passable because it is filled with breathable air. On the other hand the stars could be tiny lights only a few hundred miles away. Some area of land could be gates into other worlds, dimensions, times, or whatever. Mars is given in these rules, but some other fantastic world or setting could be equally as possible. This function is up to the referee, and what he wishes to do with it is necessarily limited by his other campaign work. However, this factor can be gradually added, so that no sudden burden will be placed upon the referee.

Gary Gygax, from OD&D, Volume 3: The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures

Sunday, April 1, 2018

RPG Blog Carnival: April 2018 Kick-Off

The Theme for this Month's RPG Blog Carnival is Journals, Grimoires and Spell-Books and we're hosting it right here at Hereticwerks. You can find out all the details about the RPG Blog Carnival and RPG Blog Carnival Archive by clicking over at the always excellent Of Dice and Dragons blog (well worth a visit!). The RPG Blog Carnival has been going on for years now (since 2008) and the Archive is a virtual treasure trove of great ideas and advice from quite a range of contributors.

If you're interested in participating, it's super easy; just post something pertinent to the month's topic and leave a comment below with a link to the post and at the end of the month the host (this month that's us) will write a round-up post for the moth and include links back to all the participants. Any questions? Just ask in the comments below or click over to the RPG Blog Carnival Home Page for all the details, including how you can sign-up to host one of the monthly carnivals at your blog!

Journals, Grimoires & Spell-Books

A 'Journal' could be a daily newspaper (including tabloids and scandal sheets), a periodical dealing with matters of current interest such as a magazine or an academic journal; a record of daily experiences, personal reflections, ideas or observations such as a diary; a record of transactions as in book-keeping, politics or gambling; or it might take the form of a journalist's notebook, a naturalist's sketchbook, the log book of a ship, or the daily records of an expedition into some previously unexplored region of time and space. There's a lot of leeway as to what counts as a journal so here are a few examples to consider:

Dracula by Bram Stoker
One of the best examples of a journal in fiction that you are likely to find, and that's just the beginning. Dracula is an Epistolary Novel containing newspaper excerpts, diary entries, letters, telegrams, log entries, doctor's notes--everything you could ever want in terms of inspirational examples for creating your own journals and whatnot and it's still a great book. Read it.

The Diary of Alonzo Typer.
One of the more infamous examples of how a doomed investigator into things probably best left alone manages to somehow scrawl details of his demise into his journal even as he is dragged away into the darkness by massive, inhuman paws in a manner reminiscent of the Caves of Caerbannog scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Completely demolishes any lingering tension or suspense and effectively kills the horror aspect of the story mostly because the author just wouldn't shut up. Delete the last sentence and you leave it hanging as a mystery of sorts...less of a farce.

Spurious Crypto-Diaries?
Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd was a truly great explorer who reached both the North and South Poles at a time few could have made such a claim. Byrd's actual career and accomplishments are plenty inspirational enough, but if you want to delve into conspiracies, hollow earth theory and ufos...then you might want to do a Google Search for "Secret Diary of Richard Byrd" and enjoy your journey down the rabbit hole...

Historical Journals
Townsend's offers quite a bit more than just cookbooks and youtube videos, including a selection of reprinted historical journals that are absolutely fascinating reading. The 18th Century Journals site provides access to loads of digitized examples of historical journals from (you guessed it) the 18th Century. Appleton's Journal as published in the 19th century and their archives are online for one and all. The US National Library of Medicine offers a lot of rare books, herbals, brochures, pamphlets, and more...much of it digitized and easily searchable. Just click on the Early Manuscripts and see how far that takes you. If that's not enough there's the Sixteenth Century Journal,
Wikipedia has an extensive list of Historical Journals if you want to dig deeper into this sort of thing...and there's also a nice listing of 19th Century British Periodicals to consider.

The Diary of Anne Frank
Very serious stuff. A young girl and her family hide from the Nazis for two years before dying of typhus in a concentration camp. Grim, heart-breaking and written in a child's voice that is more chilling and disturbing than any made-up horror story. If this is a bit too real, then there is a list of Fictional Diaries at Wikipedia to help you find something a bit more to your taste.

One of the Greatest Travelogues?
The Travels of Marco Polo remains a real classic and a great resource for developing a campaign based upon exploration and all sorts of politics, skullduggery, and adventure opportunities that come with traveling into the heart of a great empire on a 'trading mission.' There are quite a lot of Traveler's Accounts worth investigating if you're at all interested in this sort of thing. Some of the strangest monsters you're likely to encounter in RPGs such as the Arimaspians derive from old traveler's tales, so it can be quite entertaining to go digging around in these sorts of resources.

So that barely scratches the surface of just the Journals part of the topic...but it feels like a pretty fair start on things. Later this week we'll have more on Grimoires and another follow-up on Spell-books, including some examples and details of how we handle these things in Wermspittle and beyond.

What sort of Journals or Grimoires do you use in your games or campaigns? How do you handle Spell-Books?


"By polluting clear water with slime you will never find good drinking water."

No. Enc.: 1d6 (6d12)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 40' (120') [levitation]
Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice: 1d4 hit points, take half damage from fire.
Attacks: 1 (tail-sting) [limit 3 attacks per day]
Damage: 1d2+Poison (1d4 damage, Save or suffer 50% reduction to Movement and lose all DEX benefits for 1d4 days: Save only applies to Move/DEX effects NOT damage.)
Save: F4
Morale: 11 (nearly fearless)

Special: Most encounters (75%) with the Valg-Sindil are with slime-poisoned water-sources.

These blind, wriggling things with vestigial flippers, writhing palps and venomous spines inhabit damp, dark places and especially love infesting wells and cisterns where they secrete their eggs and introduce their noxious, toxic slime into the water. The slime is non-flammable, but often contaminates water sources, allowing these pests to affect scores of people who've never seen or encountered them.

The toxic slime of the Valg-Sindil persists for 2d4 days after being excreted into a water supply.

A simple Neutralize Poison spell will eliminate the slime's toxicity in the case of a water-source, but will not get rid of the slime itself, which will act to attract more of the nasty little creatures with its scent unless someone actually goes down there and physically scoops up the stuff and disposes of it appropriately, usually by boiling it down into an inert sludge or selling it off to various distillers or alchemists who use the stuff for the basis of various experiments or processes of no real commercial value. Or so they claim...

Foragers and Scavenger-crews are constantly warned about minor nuisances such as the Valg-Sindil since there doesn't need to be a direct confrontation for the vile pests to play havoc with a group of green recruits or for one mistake to cost a veteran dearly. No one wants to be dealing with toxic slime when their canteens are empty.

Some members of the Sewer Militia started their careers scraping Valg-slime from cistern walls or shoveling the gunk out of wells after the adults drove off the nasty things...usually.

Valg-eggs can be preserved in vinegar and are something of a delicacy in the Winter months, despite the very minor after-effects (50% reduction to Move, No DEX Benefits, for 1d4 hours).

Various tribes (Abhuman and otherwise) have been known to use the slime in trapping prey or against enemies by coating their darts, javelins or arrows in the stuff.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Actual Play Report from the Fringes of Wermspittle (Session Three; Happy Thanksgiving!)

Not everything wants to eat you...and it is always good to have friends, especially in weird places...

J's Notes from our Thanksgiving weekend game.

  1. Camping in field outside Gadra's tomb. N hears horns and dogs barking on other side of river, calls on the Hobyah (using their Mark on her hand) and asks them to check it out. We break camp and head toward the yellow brick road away from the sounds. I almost step in a dodo nest. Take 3 intact dodo eggs. They're as big as ostrich eggs!
  2. The new-new-kid S (N's guest) comes running toward us, hands bound, chased by three Pruztian hunters and dogs. We cut her free from her bonds. All of us run up hill to hide. One hunter leaves with his dog, we guess for reinforcements.
  3. We spot three 9-foot albino penguins in the Red Weeds on other side of hill. N asks her Hobyah allies to scout so we can avoid them. Hobyah discover penguin-diving -- literally jumping into the gaping maws of the huge birds, sliding down into their stomachs and them disappearing only to come back and do it again, and again, and again. The Hobyah are immensely pleased and soon there are close to a hundred of them diving into the highly distressed giant albino penguin's mouths. Hunters hear the noise, approach the spot and are quite befuddled. Penguins are traumatized. The hunters leave.
  4. We cross river away from hunters. Shallow water, but everyone falls. No injuries. Supplies soaked, some lost. Feels like we're being watched. There are Basajun, Woses, Jub-Jub Birds and Slithy Toves in the area, so it might only be something like that--some inoffensive being or animal not ouot to eat us all...besides there are three huge penguins lying exhausted and weakened behind us for any predators to go dine on at their leisure.
  5. Farmstead downstream. Lots of bomb craters. One UXB, Franzikaner make. We decide to check out the farmstead. Avoid Slow Sand and Black Thorns getting there. Fields of mega cabbage and radishes. Hobyah use cabbages as trampolines. S makes comment about eating farmers. Morlock blood? (Dice were rolled, S does indeed appear to have some slight Morlock lineage in her background, but it is not entirely definite--she needs to be tested).
  6. Farmstead has house, barn, mil; all bomb damagde and / or overgrown. No signs of recent habitation.
  7. Check out house. 3 levels. Lower 2 looted or filthy from blown leaves, rain and elements. Seed company calendar on wall. Attic looks fairly intact. Q (The Thief-to-be) climbs up. He discovers a well-built Shooting Platform, where the farm families would fight-off the Biters and such over the long. dark winters. Lots of homemade weapons. He tosses down what might be useful, including family's Farmers and Mechanics Manual
  8. Mill is overgrown. Sara uncovers a fox nest and takes red speckled fox egg. since when did Foxes lay eggs? Weird...
  9. Barn empty except owls and mice. Root cellar under barn. Door has Achuin lock with symbols for cleanliness, air quality, and pest control. Door is clear of debris and footprints. N consults books (currently carrying Every Good Child's Guide To Things To Bash and Burn, a gardening book, Our First Blue Book written in Etrurian, and the Farmers and Mechanics Manual) and turns off wards. Q picks lock. A (the Fighter) opens door. 12 steps down. A stays top as guard. Cellar has smoked meat, veggies, and herbs. We all take what we can. Go back up stairs. 3 Landsvattir at top. We think that they knocked A out. These things don't immediately attack us. N quickly consults her growing arsenal of books again. These creatures are protectors. They have watched over the farm for decades. Now that it is abandoned, they need to be released, or else in time they may curdle, spoil and turn into something rotten, vile and nasty. The group need to find their pact-anchor to release them since the family is gone. Leave all cellar-goods behind, so as not to offend the creatures, walk past landsvattir. They seem sad. Let us pass.
  10. We dig through rubble. N calls on her friends the Hobyah for help. Eventually we find the anchor-object, a ceramic vessel that clearly radiates a slow, deep magical aura. We give it to landsvattir. They are released from their pact and we take cellar-goods. Landsvattir withdraw back to the Tulgey Wood, what we now can see was once an orchard.
We camp at farm for the night.

One of the funnier moments came after the game session was wrapping-up, when people started to realize that there was no way that Q could carry anywhere near as much loot as he was lugging around, all rolled up in his carpet...which was definitely magical.

The Hobyahs have really taken a liking to N's character, especially now that she helped them invent 'Penguin Diving,' which will cause no end of stress and turmoil back in Wermspittle when these little creatures start spreading the word to their fellows and they begin launching themselves into the attic-pens of the Tsalalians...

J did not get into the details regarding how the group handled the Pruztian hunters and their dogs--they were hunting after whomever stole the local Castellan's new armor and short sword from the shop back in Kridlist in our first game session. Not only did the group avoid getting spotted, the Hobyahs muddled-up all the tracks and signs of their camp-site that the hunters were not able to figure much out, other than a small group had spent time there recently...and this being a notorious area filled with nasty beasts, bandits and worse...there was no guarantees that it was a small group. Then they followed the sounds to find the penguins and Hobyahs and pretty-much decided it just was not worth it. Besides they now had a story worth telling back at their base-camp. something that might earn them a few free drinks, and that beat trudging about in the thickets on a fool's errand.

It was also quite a lot of fun to watch a group really make use of things they've found in the course of the game to solve a situation that might otherwise have gotten really, really ugly. Now besides the Hobyah's, the group has three friends out in the Tulgey Woods who might remember their act of kindness someday...

Unfortunately we did not encounter the Jabberwocky, any Damned Things, nor the Bandersnatch...this time...but we'll see what happens next time!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Tomb of Gadra: Actual Play Summary

Recently we were able to run a second session for our friends who had their first adventure just outside the village of Kridlist. This time we started off safe within the bounds of the camp set-up by Gnosiomandus. After a good night's sleep the party did an inventory of their loot and considered where they might want to go from there. The old man and his two companions were headed off to Wermspittle with the newly-captured tiger (the same one that the party had managed to avoid previously). Since it turned out that the tiger was in fact pregnant, Gnosiomandus was in a good mood and offered to barter with the group to help them get themselves together so they would be prepared to face whatever lie ahead of them. Q took advantage of the opportunity to unload some of the bulkier items he was lugging about and was interested in acquiring a good short sword or something along those lines. When J's character, a run-away from one of the three circus families in Wermspittle, offered Gnosiomandus the little pouch of White Powder she had recovered last time, he was in a tremendously good mood and offered everyone their personal choice of any three weapons or what-not contained within his traveling fold-box panoply (literally a tesseract-container fitted-out as an arsenal filled with all manner of weapons, devices, mechanisms and such-like).

While the group did a bit of shopping, the winged-monkey that they had found earlier took off to go scout a number of limestone formations in the vicinity that might have caves or some other sort of explore-able locations in, on or around them.

In short-order the group finished-up their various transactions, said farewell to the sleeping (and very pregnant tiger), and headed off to a likely looking location discovered by the winged-monkey, who led them to the spot, pointed it out, and left to rejoin its master Gnosiomandus who was in the process of trundling down the closer spiral of the yellow brick road on his way back to Wermspittle.

The location in question was none other than The Toxic Tomb of Gadra, an adventure that has been in dire need of some play-testing for a good long while now. Oh, to be sure, there were several other possible locations available, but this was the one the group settled upon, so it is where they went. The only rail-roading around here is underground as part of the Unter-rail...and they have not yet found a way down to that yet... are J's notes:

Here are my raw notes for Gadra. They're numbered to make them a little easier to follow.

1. Gnosiomandus's flying monkey scoped the area for us and pointed us to the outcropping where we found the tomb.
2. On the way there we went through some ferns and avoided a poppy field.
3. We found a cave opening that had been sealed with glazed yellow bricks. Most had been removed and stacked to the side.
4. There was an inscription at the entrance that said Gadra and the words for "toxic" in Pruztian, Franzikaner, and Achuin. They glowed purple.
5. There was a pit with spikes that had already been released. There was a dead child's body.
6. There was a chamber with a vent shaft to one side.
7. The corridor went down and up. We used R's pitchfork to trigger another pit trap and used rope to cross it.
8. New chamber. Walls have been scraped clean. Floor did have mosaic tiles. Three spiral mounds. One mound chipped at the top. Chipped area has had something removed.
9. R (the Archer) found a gold and silver pendant with a teardrop pearl. Pearl has a purple sheen. Chain is unclasped. She keeps it.
10. We opened a mound. It's a Minken barrow. Bottom falls out, no one hurt. We pull the casket out. Dart trap sprung. Each person takes 1hp damage. Open the casket. Spider-hand symbol on inside of lid. N thinks it's moving. We move the body. Casket has a false bottom. We count 14 hand spider eggs in it. 7 are crushed in extraction. R has other seven eggs.
11. We hear second party come in. We wait to ambush them. They get as far as the gas trap. They trigger it. Two looters dead, the kid leading them leaves quickly (Scared). Gas sinks, is heavier than air, leaks through cracks in lower walls, revealing a chamber below.
12. Open third mound. Uncover then open an ornate casket. Smash another nasty hand spider. Take six more eggs.
13. Come to a spinnable door. Room behind it is weird, "feels bad." Door shuts once we're in. Open chamber, painted white, metallic under dust. Cinnabar carvings, mercury dripping from ceiling. We break through a wall section. Air quality in here is really bad. Something in the walls hurts our eyes when we look at it, especially N (the spell-caster).
14. Chamber with pool of mercury and a man-sized sarcophagus. Q figures out how to drain pool and raise sarcophagus. R's pearl necklace is pulled toward the sarcophagus. We decide not to open it and it's too heavy to take with us but we have info to sell.
15. Tomb is spirally. Use rubble in final chamber to build ramp to entry corridor so we don't have to go back through everything, then re-seal hole in corridor wall and leave.

As you can see, this place included some nasty traps, some of which were already set-off by previous explorers...and one of which was set off by a trio of opportunists who followed the party into this place.

The level of mercury fumes in this place varies a bit, but no one can last for very long before showing signs of mercury poisoning. Luckily for the group, they managed to open some ventilation and moved past the worst of the traps--even avoiding a couple of deathtrap situations by using good, common sense and a bit of intuition and strategy. For first-timers and newbies, this group played more old school than I've seen in ages and it was truly grand. They managed to get a lot of loose low-end loot here and there, which made the Thief-in-training very happy, but they also managed to acquire some very valuable information regarding this tomb that they can now sell to some interested party, including a rough map outlining the known hazards, identified traps, and the spots best left alone by the next group...unless they come prepared with gas-masks and hazard-suits.

Now I am at work revising the adventure a bit to take advantage of the group's feed-back to make things run a little more smoothly in places, and to incorporate some of the changes they've made into the final version of the manuscript.

Thank you to all the members of our little adventuring crew. I hope you all had as much fun as I did exploring Gadra's Tomb!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Dekapus [Wermspittle]

“I believe in everything until it's disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it's in your mind. Who's to say that dreams and nightmares aren't as real as the here and now?”
John Lennon

No. Enc.: 1
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120' [40'] (Levitation)
Armor Class: Head/Torso 5 (as Chain Mail), Limbs 7 (As Studded Leather)
Hit Dice: 3+1 [Advance as Thieves, Spell-casters, and sometimes Fighters.]
Attacks: 2 (Improves by HD/Level)
Damage: 1d4 (+2 to hit), 1d4 (+2 to hit), or by Spell
Save: F4
Morale: 7 [12 if combating Mucoids]

Special: Affected by all spells that target 'Humans.' Dekapus can opt to convert one of their Attack rolls to a Dodge (Roll as 'To Hit,' and if successful they avoid one incoming attack. They receive double the normal bonus for using bucklers/small shields, but cannot use normal or larger shields. They can only wield Light weapons until achieving 4 or more HD/Levels at which point they can use Medium weapons. It is very rare that a Dekapus would ever wield a Heavy weapon and they would likely require serious augmentation to do so effectively. Dekapus receive double the normal DEX Bonus to all their Thief skills. All Dekapus can cast BlurHypnotic Pattern, Obscuring Mist, and Hypnotism once per day and Misdirection up to three times per day.

[Percent Liar: 72%]

The Dekapus is a pseudo-octopoid...these dishonest creatures are actually mammalian, possess ten limbs and claim to be descended from humans. Fierce enemies of the Mucoids and others, the Dekapus are notorious Oneiromancers, Mountebanks, and Thieves skilled in the arts of misdirection and obfuscation alike. Their appendages terminate in a pair of soft-seeming boneless fingerettes that can split into multiple smaller tendrils as needed, granting them a level of close-up finesse much envied by surgeons. For some reason, some claim it is squeamishness, the Dekapusians rarely, if ever enter into any sort of medical profession.

Actors, Performers, Jugglers, Troubadours, Poets (both Accursed and otherwise), Pantomimers, Puppeteers, Artisans, Repairers of Reputations, Insinuationists, Saboteurs, Spies, Observers, Dreamers (Lucid, Deep and otherwise), Reporters...Dekapus have taken on a great many roles throughout Wermspittle, primarily in order to carry on their ages-old conflict with the Mucoids. The mutual antipathy between these two peoples is legendary, fierce and abiding, having persisted across centuries with no clear-cut resolution in sight.

Most commonly Dekapus are Thieves of every sort, but an appreciable number of them become Spell-casters such as Illusionists (including Projectionists), Oneiromancers and Druids with a penchant for the Tulgey Woods, Purple Forest, the White Orchard  and other such Weird Woods.

The few Dekapus that take up the path of Rangers specialize in hunting down and slaughtering Mucoids and have developed a number of peculiar and unique weapons and harmful devices exclusively designed to kill, maim, or incapacitate Mucoids. Their unwavering hatred of the Mucoids is so severe that Dekapus Rangers will also sometimes deign to hunt down Rooftopi, Octoscholars and any other Cephalopodians who resemble Mucoids in even the least bit.

Other Dekapus go to great lengths to ingratiate themselves with all other forms of humanity, no matter how distorted, Infected, teratogenically Afflicted, or aberrantly inclined...just as long as they have no connection to their ancestral enemies...

"My dreams are of water. And my nightmares..."
Siouxsie Sioux