Monday, 30 May 2011


No. Enc.: 1 (1d4)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 60' (20')
Armor Class: 0
Hit Dice: 7d8 + 7
Attacks: 1 (bite)
Damage: 1d6
Save: D7
Morale: 7
Hoard Class: None

The vasteknos is a squat, great tortoise-like creature with iron plates covering it's shell. It stands 4' at the shoulder and lumbers through ancient caves and grottos.  It's colouring is a mix of greys and rust-browns while it's eyes gleam a wet red.  The vasteknos is omnivorous, capable of eating nearly anything. It's beaked mouth can shear through mail or flesh with equal ferocity.  They rarely attack unless provoked or unless the creature is helpless.  The vasteknos is sometimes hunted for it's iron scales by dwarves who can craft magical armour from it's scales.  Yet the beast is seldom killed for it's carapace protects it from many attacks.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

three things: regalia of the grotesque

Crown of the Grotesque - This horrific, ornate crown and head-dress is made of gold and strange-scented violet flesh.  Veins of an unknown green crystal run through it.  Compound eyes shine like jewels as writhing,  tentacles tipped with tiny whispering mouths veil the head and face.  The tines are sharp, bifurcated fangs.  Wearing the crown grants 360 degree vision, a +4 competence bonus to Perception checks and darkvision to 60'.  The wearer retains their Dexterity bonus to AC even when flat-footed, cannot be flanked but cannot close their eyes or avert their gaze from gaze attacks.  Casting light or continual flame on the crown blinds it for 1d4 rounds, daylight blinds it for 3d4 rounds.  The crown's whispering can affect a single creature within 30' with hypnotism (Will DC18) once every round as a free action of the wearer.
Market Value: 30,000gp. 
Creation: 7th level, Create Wondrous Item, Quicken Spell, polymorph self, hypnotism
Orb of the Grotesque - A grapefruit-sized, slimy eye with iridescent, slitted pupil and crystalline ruby iris.  The orb must be held without gauntlets or gloves, allowing the slime on the eye to touch and faintly yellow the skin of the wielder.  Only then can the orb's wielder use one of the following as a standard action once a round.
  • Brandishing it allows the wielder to charm monster (Will save DC17)
  • Gazing into it's pupil lets the wielder use clairvoyance (at 7th-level).
Market Value: 50,000gp
Creation: 7th level, Create Wondrous Item, charm monster, clairaudience/clairvoyance.

Scepter of the Grotesque - A slender rod of green-veined purple chitin ending in a scorpion-like pincer.  This can be used to attack as a +2 flail doing 1d6+2 crushing damage.  Against opponents of Small size or less, the scepter also initiates a grab when it attacks.  The rod reacts as an extension of the user's arm and can hold objects within it's pincer.
Market Value: 30,000gp.
Creation: 7th level, Create Wondrous Item, polymorph self, mage hand.

Monday, 23 May 2011


No. Enc.: 1
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 90' (30')
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 6d8
Attacks: 1 (bite)
Damage: 1d4, steam
Save: F6
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: None

This magical automaton appears to be a brass cobra, complete with hissing sounds and a faint wisp of steam rising from it's mouth.  If threatened it will rear up and spit a spray of blinding steam.  Victims can save vs. Breath Weapon or be blinded.  Cure blindness will restore sight.  The parnihad's bite injects boiling water into the injury, a victim must save vs. Poison or take 2d6 damage immediately.  As automata without true intelligence, the parnihad is immune to hold, charm or sleep spells and not subject to poison or gasses.

Monday, 16 May 2011

zombie, bloodboil

No. Enc.: 1d4 (2d6)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 2d8
Attacks: 1 (weapon)
Damage: 1d8 or weapon
Save: F1
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: None

Bloodboil zombies are an alchemical twist on the sinister magics used to make zombies.  They appear as bloated, grey corpses with blind, white eyes and swollen blisters around the eyes, ears, nose and mouth.  Unlike zombies they give off a faint, feverish heat and show up on infravision. If reduced to 0 hit points they burst in a cloud of boiling blood (10' radius) doing 1d6+1 damage (save vs. Poison for half damage) to anyone inside it.  They are susceptible to ordinary weapons but immune to sleep and charm spells.  Bloodboil zombies are as slow as regular zombies and attack last each round. 

Monday, 9 May 2011


No. Enc.: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 180' (60')
Armor Class: 4 (without Dexterity 7).
Hit Dice: 2d8 + 2
Attacks: 3 (2 claws, bite)
Damage: 1d4/1d4/1d4
Save: M4
Morale: 6
Hoard Class: IV

These yowling beasts are born of a cursed witch's cat and full grown in six months.  They appear as gaunt, hairless cat-humanoids with crazed yellow eyes.  As tall as an elf and swifter, it's claws and bite are needle-sharp.  Always hungry and extremely territorial, one will attack larger or numerous foes in a series of hit and run attacks.  Skreewoede feel no loyalty to anything and often cruelly sport with injured or helpless creatures.  They will also spray a victim's corpse with foul-smelling musk once they've eaten the choice parts.  A pouch full of catnip will quiet and pacify them for 1d4 turns.  Skreewoede are talented climbers (Climb Walls 80%) but their constant yowling makes stealth impossible.  Their vile shrieks increase the chance of attracting wandering monsters by 1 in 6.  These are usually hostile due to sleep deprivation.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

inns & taverns: the miller in black

A distinctive inn, The Miller in Black is it's own sign.  This pitch-caulked windmill standsproud atop a hill.  Bawdy drinking songs accompanied by the clunk of the windmill carry on the wind luring visitors in.  The paths here are well-trod, rarely if ever seeing monstrous incursion.  Within a mile of three client villages, the Miller is neutral ground, vital yet still apart.  The village priests rail against it's iniquity.  Everyone else enjoys the good beer brewed there.

Outside the Miller, a wooden sign directs those needing grain grinding to go around the back. Stone benches strategically placed near the entry provide a pleasant view for drinkers on warm evenings. Inside, the walls and floor are rough-hewn timber.  Decorative corn dollies are popular fixtures. The V-shaped bar-room bustles with activity.  Three serving maids tend benches seating twenty to thirty.  Local farm workers and artisans drink, game and sing.  A brindle-coated pet goat imperiously hunts for scraps. 

The Miller serves wheat beer in various forms. Two beers are ever-present: Amberfair, a limpid goldenrod mild wheat beer with hints of cloves and Stormcloud, a darker, stronger bock.  Other beers vary by season.
Spring: Goatbrace is an expensive, popular dopplebock of ridiculous strength with malt and chocolate tones.
Summer: Furst Ale is a pale wheat beer made with gorse tips.  Faint coconut scent and malty, nutty taste.
Autumn: Rascal is a pale tart raspberry lambic favoured by refined palates, quite weak yet refreshing.

Barleywine and raspberry wine is also available for those who don't enjoy beer. Drinks are reasonably priced with the exception of Goatbrace which is priced for the connoisseur.  The only food available is dark-crusted bread, a hard mild cheese and salt pork.  All are bought in so the prices for food are a bit higher than you'd expect (+20%).  Most people are here to drink in any event.

The bar staff are friendly locals hired by the current landlord Alnoir.  He bought the Miller after a protracted, violent feud with the previous owners.  This scandal soured ties with local village clerics.  Sharp-eyed, gaunt and energetic he works diligently to keep the Miller free from local politics.  His diminuitive wife Kailin brews prodigal amounts using halfling techniques.  The final permanent resident is the landlord's pet goat. The staff quietly encourage it's hunting for scraps and eating choice bits of clothing from helpless drunks.

Accommodation is not available here.  Those desperate enough work for floorspace in the store after carrying grain sacks to the grindstone.  The villages can provide shelter afrer a mile walk.  Alnoir is strongly against 'guests', directing them to clerics in the village, "I run a business".  A mill worker gang ejects those chancing their arm.  Violence has been known here. Regulars turn a blind eye while local clerics tend wounds and preach on hospitality after incidents.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

villainy springs forth - review: kobold quarterly 17

Metric: Shrunken kobold heads.  Having done kobolds for the last few issues and given this issue is about villainy and getting ahead, it was time for a change.  Anywho...
DISCLAIMER: Review based on PDF copy provided by Open Design
Overall: 5 shrunken kobold heads (little touches elevate it).KQ has always looked good but this issue has little flourishes.  Labels to show the game systems that the articles relate to.  Consistently high standards of artwork including Open Design's use of classical artists.  While there's less of a theme than usual, the variety is consistently good and quality system neutral articles lets KQ offer something for everyone. At risk of repeating myself, if you want to produce a PDF zine, this is the standard to aspire to.

Articles: 4.5 shrunken kobold heads (villainy, shrunken heads, fireworks, food and more...)
So We Meet Again (Michael Kortes) - 3.5 shrunken kobold heads (Pathfinder).   This suggests mutually-agreed abilities for NPCs and PCs based on antagonism.  An interesting idea, some GMs may make cards for these rules.  Others may work out situations where the abilities make sense.  Different strokes for different folks and adaptable to superhero games using d20 I reckon.
The Right Way To Do Wrong (Brandon Hodge) - 4.5 shrunken kobold heads (Pathfinder).  Scams and grift for rogues of all stripes.  Handy flavour for big city encounters and suggested costs for items which PC rogues may want to try out.  Of course, your GM may want to try these on your party first.  And bonus drinking games which will be tried at conventions and LARPs I'm sure.
The Scourges of Vael Turog (Stefan Styrsky) - 5 shrunken kobold heads (4E/Midgard).  Magical plagues have always occupied a valued place in a DM's arsenal.  Here are several takes on disease (as disease, hazard, ritual and even creature) showcasing 4E's versatility and provides some very interesting opponents and encounters for 4E players who have been there, done that...
Ambush in Absalom (Mark Moreland) - 4 shrunken kobold heads (Pathfinder/Golarion) is an Official Pathfinder Society Quest.  A recovery job in Absalom's sewers?  Can't be that bad surely?  Well maybe the sewer-dwelling kobolds might feel differently.  Those going in gung-ho are in for unpleasant surprises.  Looks like plenty of fun.
On The Streets and In The Books (Quinn Murphy) - 5 shrunken kobold heads (Dragon AGE) deals with chase scenes and research.  The mechanics look interesting and the results are distinctive, entertaining and varied. This makes a major difference to some systems which allow limited variation in success.
Elf Needs Food Badly (Matthew J. Hanson) - 4.5 shrunken kobold heads (4E).  Humour has it's place in games and these magical foods help.  +1 for Gauntlet reference title.  Some would work with the feasts in Courts of the Shadow Fey.  From dire bacon to poysenberry pie, the jokes fly thick and fast.
Secrets of the Four Golden Gates (David Adams) - 4 shrunken kobold heads (4E).  Societies and magical items for the much-neglected monk class.  Each mystical items has flavour and the associated societies provide limited supporting fluff.  As for the Golden Gates?  That mystery needs greater contemplation.
Value of the Monster (Monte Cook) - 5 shrunken heads (System Neutral).   Monte waxes sage on how to make monsters monstrous.  Taking a look through lenses of threat, fear and revulsion he provides concise insight into what makes for memorable monsters.
Magical Squibs, Crackers and Fireworks (Jonathan McAnulty) - 5 shrunken kobold heads (Pathfinder).  Since Lord of The Rings was written there's been a shortage of magical fireworks.  This article goes some way to repairing this woeful state of affairs.  Some are less obvious than others.  There are plenty of ideas for a GM to unleash on their players and accidental misfires are always fun.
The Black Goat (Richard L. Smith II) - 5 shrunken kobold heads (Pathfinder/Midgard).  A tavern with a magic show, dancing Kariv gypsies and an eldritch secret.  There's always room for taverns, particularly those redolent of Hammer Horror and certain New England authors.   A map of the Black Goat lurks on page 75 to ensnare the unwary.
Feats of Stunning Might & Brilliance (Jeff Tidball) - 5 shrunken kobold heads (Dragon AGE/others). This is a breakdown of the stunt mechanic used in AGE and considers how it can be adopted to other systems. An interesting concept, thought-provoking and treated well.
Lackeys, Hirelings and Henchmen (Tom Allman) - 4 shrunken kobold heads (System Neutral).  Where the great lead, others must follow.  The common-sense approach differentiating between these makes it easy for new GMs to use.  An excellent counterpoint to last issue's articles about minions.
Group Concept (Mario Podeschi) - 5 shrunken kobold heads (System Neutral/Midgard).  Examples of how the band get together provide useful hooks not only for player character parties but also for NPC groups with a common purpose.
Getting Ahead (Ben McFarland) - 5 shrunken kobold heads (Pathfinder/3.xE).  This is one set of magic items that players will remember for some time.  The create shrunken head feat is a nice twist on those who think that Create Wondrous Item ought to cover every eventuality and there's inspiration galore...
It's Not Supposed To End This Way (Scott A Murray) - 4 shrunken kobold heads (System Neutral) offers suggestions for when the badly-timed death derails a plot.  Options abound and while some players will likely balk at experiencing these fates, there's always the alternative.
Seven Secrets of the Seven Cities (Wolfgang Baur) - 4 shrunken kobold heads (Midgard) reminded me of the classic Minarian Legends articles from Dragon Magazine.  Snippets of intrigues and plots to inspire GMs offers more flavour on the different parts of Midgard.

Zine Stuff: 4.5 shrunken kobold heads (meta is better...)
Editorial (Wolfgang Baur) - 4 shrunken kobold heads.  Evil Willow and Severus Snape at conventions and the lure of rational villainy.  Extremism and ignorance can be as horrific as any rational or insane villainy.
Interview with Jeff Tidball (Jeremy C.L. Jones) - 5 shrunken kobold heads.  Jeff is definitely one to watch and is worth your attention.  Sound advice for freelance designers and players alike.
From The Mines (Letters page) - 4 shrunken kobold heads.  Jiro with wings, lively positive discussions and some more stuff on Adopt-A-Soldier.  Did I mention Jiro with wings?
Cartoons (d20 Monkey/Stan!) - 4.5 shrunken kobold heads.  d20 Monkey waxes lyrical on shabby party members (who don't do traps) as Bolt get sizist over Quiver's new look. 
Ask The Kobold (Skip Williams) - 4 shrunken kobold heads.  This month goes to the dogs with questions on guard dogs, riding dogs and magical items.  Does a hat of stupidity mean an upgrade for some?
Book Reviews (Various) - 4 shrunken kobold heads.  The books are interesting though the predominance of game tie-in novels makes me a little wary, as there's no shortage of good fantasy out there.
Advertising: 18%  Convention time is coming around, a good mix of in-house, big and small companies.

Artwork (various) - 5 shrunken kobold heads.  Colour art from the awesome Alison Theus cover to colour panels by Mark Smylie and Pat Loboyko.  Monochrome mayhem is provided by Rick Hershey (goblin with fireworks are scary) and Kevin Crossley while whimsy from Darren Calvert keeps things from becoming too Grr! Argh!!

Kobold Quarterly is matching it's draconic predecessor in the best ways.  Where there are references to Open Design products, these are done in ways that encourage portability into other settings.  It shows the strength of KQ that it appears to offer more support for classic 4E in it's pages than WOTC does without  a paywall.  The support for Green Ronin's AGE and Paizo's Pathfinder show that being the Switzerland of the Edition Wars is working out well.
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