Tuesday, 30 August 2011

review: the breaking of forstor nagar by rite publishing

Metric: Icicles  Given you're in a glacial city in a race against time with some rather toothy enemies, the artistic metaphor seems apposite.
DISCLAIMER: Review based on PDF copy & Maptools elements provided by Rite Publishing.
Overall: 5 icicles.  (Pay attention big guys. This may be the future...)
A Pathfinder module for 8th-level characters with Maptools support built in!  Evocative setting, slam-bang action, eminently re-useable villains and magical items.  The layout is a cut above many PDFs.  The Maptools elements get their own documentation and are fun to use.

Content: 5 icicles (a iconic and challenging race against time)
Entering a besieged city on a rescue mission is one thing.  A glacial city trapped by a cannibalistic legion of hellish warriors?  That might be a little bit harder. This scenario takes full advantage of the cold environment to give the players food for thought.  The siege provides entertaining encounter elements.  Iconic arctic encounters have twists, NPCs have their own ideas.  A party will need both tactical and social skills to get out alive with their rescuee.  Chances for reckless heroism and cunning strategy abound.  Risks carry reward - some tactics are preferred of course. 

The stakes escalate as the city falls apart, it's secrets revealed and the Hungering Legion gets ever closer.  This adventure draws on deep roots.  Elements of Band of Brothers, Kull the Conqueror, and A4: In The Dungeons Of The Slave Lords combine beautifully.  The sense of high adventure and dark fantasy about Forstor Nagar makes this scenario sing. The scenario is flexible enough to provide multiple routes to the key encounters.  It provides a raft of motivations to visit and following actions once the adventure is done though there's enough here to set up a campaign arc.

The MapTools elements mesh well and are well-crafted.  There's documentation and if that's not enough, video tutorials at Rite Publishing.  Those familiar with technology like MapTools and Google+ will find this useful.  The tokens can be adapted to cardstock if Internet access isn't essential at your table. 

Art/Layout: 5 icicles (coldly beautiful, has style and substance).
Tyler Bartley's cover is ominous yet gives away nothing.  Interior art by Bartley, Jonathan Roberts and James Hazlett convey the epic nature of the setting.  The cold colours help evoke the feel of the scenario. Layout is simple yet effective, text boxes are uncluttered and the page backgrounds are lovely.  Stat blocks are clear, concise and informative.  Visually-appealing encounter maps help speed setup and shading highlights information to the busy GM.

In conclusion, this is a blast of a scenario - Ben McFarland has created a rollercoaster ride, the art and layout make it pretty damned excellent.  Nods to Open Design's Midgard setting with pre-generated PCs show how well this scenario integrates with other settings.  With Forstor Nagar, Rite Publishing have provided an excellent introduction to open mapping support for scenarios - hopefully the first of many.

Monday, 29 August 2011


No. Enc.: 1d6 (1d12)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice: 3d8
Attacks: 1 (bite)
Damage: 1d6, see below
Save: F2
Morale: 7
Hoard Class: VI

These 5' long iguana are named by Aussarian natives for their strong jaws and sharp teeth.  Their bite is strong enough that on a natural 20, their jaws lock in place and worry the victim for 1d6 automatic damage each round.  They cannot be removed until either the lizard or the victim is dead.  Their heads have heat-sensing pits in the forehead allowing them a limited form of infravision to 30'.  They prefer to bask in places where there is a lot of heat, moving away from such places to hunt.

(inspired by the Forge-A-Monster challenge at Monsters & Manuals)

Saturday, 27 August 2011

inns & taverns: the blue owl

The two-storey tavern with walled garden sits apart from neighbours at the village edge.  A blue slate roof tops dark tarred timber and rough grey stone.  A blue horned owl watches from a circular white tile above the lintel.  Most locals keep their distance, preferring to brew their own, muttering about the owner being 'strange'. Visitors report it as "...indifferent, though well-appointed."

The recessed step up to the iron-bound south-facing door shelters from elements and sight.  The slate roof is distinctive and draws the eye from neighbouring houses.  The exterior is well-maintained and regularly cleaned by a local goodwife.  Her tuneless singing greets those in the morning.  The garden borders onto a rudimentary stable with one stall permanently taken by an aged palfrey and the stableboy.  Inside, the taproom's bar runs along the west wall.  A simple iron candelabrum lights the room.  Tapestries showing great heroes hang on the walls.  Tables and chairs are arranged in the corners. Stairs in the north wall leads up to a corridor of guest rooms and two locked doors.  One hides the rooms of Amfort and his extended family, the other is the owner's domain.  The west wall has the kitchen and a small private room for which Amfort has a key.

The beer is a brown ale from many miles north with a sulphurous aftertaste.  A syrupy barleywine, damson and gooseberry cordials are available at reasonable prices.  For food, a saltfish and carrot broth of notable vintage is always available.  More palatable fare of black bread, pickled onions and chunks of smoked pork sausage can be bought for a few silver.  The menu sometimes includes attempts to ape courtly favourites with more mundane ingredients.  The success rate of these attempts are wildly variable.  Some are edible in comparison to courtly fare.

Amfort, the landlord is a burly widower better at cracking skulls and counting coin than serving ale.  Wise enough to know, he lets Nila, his sister-in-law handle minutiae like paying customers.  Nila's charm soothes the roughness of the Owl's menu.  Nila's aunt doubles as cook and cleaner, her uncle works in the cellar.  Amfort's son, Kars, tends garden in the day and works as a linkboy to and from the Owl at night.  The stableboy, Jurd, is a foundling taken in by Nila.  Amfort would not miss Jurd if he left unexpectedly.

The stables are rudimentary enough.  Up to eight rooms can be rented for a few silver a night.  Here the Blue Owl redeems itself.  The rooms are simple and warm, each with comfortable beds, a jug of water, covered chamberpots and flowers.  Noise however will bring down the ire of the Owl's owner.  Tharsal is a sage who works on commission.  He dwells in the inn's stateroom, surrounded by rare manuscripts and a pair of cats.  He keeps himself to himself, has a little magic and his meals delivered promptly to him.

Tharsal prefers to keep out of sight.  His knowledge of otherworldly phenomena make him valuable to powerful figures.  His choice to live in ease atop an inn is a deliberate snub to those figures.  They are forced to be subtle as a result.  For all his foibles (the Owl's menu are Tharsal's favourites) both Amfort and Nila prefer him to other employers.  The locals avoid the Blue Owl because of Tharsal.  Some of his employers have distinctly infernal tastes.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

ebon zikkuract reloaded

Over at the prolific netherwerks, the latest implementation of Planet Algol's commandment to seed our worlds with black ziggurats has provoked nostalgia for the ebon zikkuract of Algolia and it's hyper-geometric shadow-worlds.  I'm pondering a revamp but wonder which system(s) to flesh them out with?  Not as if I don't have enough choice so I'm going to throw this out to the readers.  I could FLAILSNAILS it, leaving it to the individual GM/DM/Keeper/Game Leader to fight it out of course.  If you've any thoughts or preferences, leave a comment or use the poll below.

Which system should I use for revamping the Ebon Zikkuract?
4th Edition D&D
Labyrinth Lord
Basic Role Playing
Other (post in comments)

seriale online gratis

Monday, 22 August 2011

tattooed alaunt

No. Enc.: 1 (1d4)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 150' (50')
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 2d8
Attacks: 1 (bite)
Damage: 1d6
Save: F1
Morale: 7
Hoard Class: None

These war hounds are tattooed using magic to make them more aggressive and loyal to their owners, usually unscrupulous mercenaries or decadent pirates. As fierce attack dogs, they fight alongside and for their owners. A quirk of the magic in the tattoos means tattooed alaunts will not breed with each other, even if they have the same owner. However, if they breed with other dogs, the pups will have the distinctive tattoos. More than one border lordling has a kennel full of tattooed alaunts loyal to him.

(inspired by Noisms' recent posts on dog variants and Zak's table of war dogs).

Friday, 19 August 2011

review: fold-n-go castle kit #1

Metric: Guards. They may or may not have an outrageous French accent but they might have a grail, which is nice. Just don't draw their attention or they'll taunt you.
DISCLAIMER: This review based on a copy provided by Lone Tree Games.
Overall: 5 guards.  Classy stuff, Castle Oooh! rather than Castle Argh!
This modular kit becomes greater than the sum of it's parts when fully assembled.  A lot of the modules don't require glue, but where needed a little glue and finesse goes a long way. Photo tutorials help to master this kit.  Assembly is intuitive with great results.  Brian Bartlow and Jonathan Roberts have made something well worth your time here and the re-usability of the component modules makes it an excellent choice.

Contents: 5 guards.  Lots of reusable bang for your buck.
Towers of varying heights, two houses (one storage, one bunkhouse), parapets, wall sections, gatehouse, keep and portcullis. The signal mound even has wood to ignite!  The utility of each section as a stand alone component ensures you have plenty of vignettes for a fantasy game or even more contemporary pieces depending on selection.  Assembled they make an excellent border castle and the kind of place adventurers and soldiers hang out.  Functional fantasy rather than fairytale, excellent nevertheless.

Artwork/Layout: 5 guards.  Excellent detail and helpful pictorials go a long way.
This is where the meat of the product lies. The attention to detail is excellent. From shutters on bunkhouse windows to wood on the signalling mound.  The little touches make a difference.  The detail doesn't limit it's utility either - unlike some floorplans I've used before.  In the PDF there's plenty of pictorials showing how to assemble the sections.  Some glue and manual dexterity is required.  That said, there's a lot of quick wins here for a beginner.  The experienced modeller will get plenty of hacking utility out of this possibly building massive fortresses from the templates here.

Prior to review, Steven Russell said this would be something special. That's a modest assessment. This is something a modelling klutz like me can manage to build something classy out of.  Individual modules are eminently re-useable. If you play a game where maps and positioning are significant, get this. You will be pleased with the result.  Those of you with a copy of Kobold Quarterly 18 who want to run the Who Watches the Watch Fires? scenario have the perfect model with this castle.  Additional support is available via the Lone Tree Games website.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

animal cunning

This month's RPG Blog Carnival post is about animals in RPGs hosted by Tower of the Archmage.  While many naive individuals claim animals are 'dumb brutes' or 'inferior to humans', that's a matter of opinion. Animal tactics have inspired humans for time immemorial and some species have had millions of years to develop them.  While some games treat animals as minor threats, the following tactics can be used in any system.

Crypsis: Or stealth. Using camouflage, moving quietly and keeping still to avoid motion-based senses are used both in offence and defence.  The preying mantis shows incredible patience by keeping still before striking and assassin bugs use camouflage like debris or leaf mould to hide before striking.

Run away to fight another day: Most animals do not blithely fight to the death, in some cases injury will inevitably mean starvation.  Some lairs like badger setts have multiple entrances/exits to enable escape.  Hit-and-run tactics employed by some predators weaken prey who could ordinarily resist them.

Setting traps: Spider webs are the archetype including orb-like structures or even trapdoors with tripwires that warn a spider something is outside.  Ant lions are another example, waiting at the bottom of a steep-sided sand pit that makes escape difficult.  Angler fish have naturally developed lures and jaws that close on reflex as the lure is contacted.

Safety in numbers: The ethos behind herds, packs and swarms alike, animals in this situation rarely fight fair if the numbers are in their favour.  Even in predator satiation, where you rely on the bodies of your peers to stop a predator eating you, there is a survival strategy.  Wolf pack tactics show sophistication often missing from party combat.

Tool Use: Crows go to Macguyver-like lengths to improvise tools and drop stones into a bowl of water to elevate the water level for a drink.  Chimpanzees created stone hammers 4,300 years ago, orangutans craft whistles to scare predators and gorillas use sticks to test water depth (an example of natural 10' pole use).  Even veined octopus use coconut shells for portable shelter.

These are just a handful of tactics commonly used.  So if your party isn't using them, does that make them dumber than beasts?  Enquiring minds...

Monday, 15 August 2011


No. Enc.: 2d4 (3d6)
Alignment: Lawful
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 1d8 + 1
Attacks: 2 (howling stick/bite)
Damage: 1d6+1/1d4
Save: F1
Morale: 6
Hoard Class: VI

Man-sized apes with red-tipped dark fur, faces with luminous, intelligent eyes and prehensile feet. They are renowned for creating and using tools like stone choppers or walking sticks. In fights they prefer the howling stick, a heavy club shaped with fluted edges and holes so when swung it makes an eerie wailing. Those facing a niamis wielding a howling stick in battle must make a save vs. paralysation or suffer a -1 penalty to hit while in their presence. A niamis can climb walls with 70% ability and often runs along tree limbs to approach or escape foes. They live in tight-knit packs and co-operate with other primates against larger foes, something unscrupulous races take advantage of.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

three things: headgear

Head-dress of the Ice Rager
This head-dress is adorned with ram horns worn at the brow, a mane of white hair gathered from three different arctic beasts and black leather thongs braided and decorated with teeth and bone icons of gods and totems.  The head-dress is activated by entering a berserk fury, such as a barbarian's rage ability or that caused by a rage spell.  The head-dress binds to the head, giving the wearer a gore attack with the horns for 2d4 damage.  The wearer gains an +4 enhancement bonus to Strength until the rage ends.
Market Value: 24,000gp
Creation: 5th-level, Create Wondrous Item, rage or rage ability, alter self, bull's strength.

Turban of the Stone Tyrants
This turban is made of terracotta and umber-coloured silk embroidered with arcane inscriptions in gold thread topped with a skullcap of glyph-inscribed copper inlaid with malachite.  The turban offers it's wearer the ability to meld into stone once a day by invoking the glyphs inscribed in the skullcap and offering an blessing upon the rulers of elemental earth.
Market Value: 15,000gp
Creation: 5th-level, Create Wondrous Item, meld into stone.

Vigilant Skull-case
This magical open-faced helmet is made from a large humanoid skull.  The back of the skull is carved open to allow the face to show, with the skull's face worn on the back of the head.  The skull-case provides a +1 deflection bonus to Armour Class.  It is worn with the skull's face on the back of the head.  The wearer becomes aware what's behind them and cannot be flanked.  Once a day, the skull's jaw will open and scream loudly if a shapechanger moves within 30' behind the wearer.
Market Value: 21,000gp
Creation: 5th-level, Create Magical Arms & Armour, countless eyes, mage armour, magic mouth.

The contents of this post abide by the Open Game License (OGL 1.0)

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

recession-proof gaming XIII: victory lap edition

Serious kudos to Old School Hack for their Gold Ennie award for 'Best Free Product'.  With the new levels of financiapocalypse, I thought it may be wise to collate more free things for your delight.

108 Free Character Portraits - Courtesy of Duane O'Brien & Jeff Preston.  Thanks Nevermet Press!

DM/GM/Referee Tools
DungeonWords / WilderWords - Tables of words, useful for inspiration from Risus Monkey.

Geomorph Collections courtesy of Netherwerks.

Classic Marvel Forever - A massive site full of classic Marvel Super Heroes (MSH) RPG stuff & rules!
Gaslite - A PocketMod format steampunk/weird future system from Black Hole Diaries.
Small But Vicious Dog - A B/X edition set in the world of Warhammer Fantasy from Vaults of Nagoh.

Monday, 8 August 2011


No. Enc.: 1d2 (1d6+1)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 90' (30')
Fly: 150' (50')
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 2d8 + 1
Attacks: 2 (claws, 1 bite, see below)
Damage: 1d4/1d4/1d6
Save: F1
Morale: 6
Hoard Class: XXI

This awkward, gangly creature is the size of a carrion crow.  It has the body of a hairless bat with large wing-claws, slender stiff tail and a frilled lizard head.  Named for the barking noise it makes, the qut-qua scavenges carrion.  If forced to fight, it lashes with it's wing claws and spits a gout of flame in a line 10' long and 5' wide.  The fire does 2d6 damage (a save vs. breath weapon halves any damage).  This breath can be used three times a day and the qut-qua will use it 50% of the time each round until the breath weapon runs out or it flees.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

review: midgard bestiary volume 1 by open design

Metric: Beasts.  This being a bestiary, this seems fairly obvious. 
DISCLAIMER: This review is based on a PDF review copy from Open Design.
Overall: 5 beasts (nicely done, hopefully the first of many...)
A grim grimoire of Midgard monsters.  Open Design fans will see plenty of familiar faces adapted to AGE spread across the settings.  The mechanics provide challenges for characters at varied levels and in varied environments. Entries range from sellswords to young dragons.  AGE game masters are going to find these new monsters welcome additions to their arsenal.

Contents: 5 beasts (a balanced mix of monsters)
This being Midgard, theres's plenty of automata action and the undead are well-represented.  Amazingly more goblins than kobolds as well!  A mixture of terrains gives a GM additional options and monsters for each level which bridges AGE Sets 1 and 2.  From the tempestuous ala to the relentless zobeck legionnaire, there's no shortage of flavour .  Adaptations of familiar monsters (like the kobold slyblade) stand alongside original works  into AGE stats provide a GM with a baseline to work from for other manuals or compendia they own.  This is a surprisingly versatile collection of monsters.

Artwork/Layout: 5 beasts (simple, uncluttered, decorative)
The cover is a wonderful piece by Aaron Miller.  Interior pieces by various artists showcase the monsters. Statblocks are intuitive and where needed, additional options for weapons are set out for use by players or GM.  Each monster fits onto a page which makes for quick use and layout is uncluttered.  A mix of colour and monochrome art avoids the blandness of pure monochrome.  More interior colour would have made this book perfect and in keeping with Green Ronin's own presentation.  The art is very good and some pieces really evoke the danger of some of these monsters or provide a suitable whimsy for certain entries.

In conclusion, this is an excellent source of monsters for an AGE games master.  The price is good and this offers a flavour of how AGE will be supported in Midgard.  It's encouraging to see this is the first volume, it looks like there will be more coming along.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

inns & taverns: drinking the depths

Another three pub crawl, only this one is connected to a series of cave complexes so you have basecamps for your megadungeon.  Starting from the all-new Cave Inn then underground to Aulog's Garden where the fish and fungus go large, then to the Ties that Bind, a drow tavern in The City of Razored Webs.  Some expansions on the Garden and the Ties (which got nastier on the rewrite).  All with tariffs and plot hooks as well as some details on the creatures and some dubious-looking patrons.

You can download the PDF here or from the downloads page.  Maybe the next one will appear in different formats?  Though the PDF is still widely accepted in most places.

This one is on me again.  Creative Commons Noncommercial Sharealike so use as you like within those terms.  If you have preferences, feedback or just want to say you've used it, link back or leave a comment.  Have fun with it.
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