Archive for the ‘ RPG ’ Category

Bellicose Sisters of St. Sebastian

The Bellicose Sisters of Saint Sebastian live in well-fortified abbeys wherein they practice the arts of war in addition to devoting their time to prayer and service to the poor and the orphaned.

When the first packs of varulfs invaded the Commonwealth’s northern frontiers, the Papal Legate’s soldiers proved barely adequate to the task of repelling the lycanthropic threat. Saint Sebastian of Narbonne appeared to Abbatissa Elisabet via locution. The martyr pulled an arrow from his body and fired it at a charging varulf, piercing its heart and killing it instantly. He then handed his bow to Elisabet, at which time she awoke from the vision intent on forming a martial order of nuns to protect the Commonwealth’s marches.

At first, the Papal Legate opposed Elisabet, but after several years of prayer and penance, her request was granted by Pope Hadrian IX. The first company of Bellicose Sisters established an abbey at Haguenau. Within a year, the nuns met a varulf company near the banks of La Moder. The bloodshed was horrific. Most of the nuns died, but the varulf company met with total annihilation. The order’s fame spread, and young women rushed to join the Bellicose Sisters.

Today, the Bellicose Sisters command nearly a dozen fortified abbeys, and they number in the hundreds. Varulf packs still hunt the frontiers, but the ravaging packs that once threatened entire communities have been either destroyed or driven back into the savage wilderness beyond the Commonwealth’s reach.

The stats below are for the Bellicose Sisters’ rank-and-file. Senior nuns have more Hit Dice and cast Cleric spells.

Bellicose Sister of St. Sebastian: HD 2+2; AC 7 [12]; Atk 1 melee weapon (1d6), or 2 arrows (1d6); Move 12; Save 16; AL L; CL/XP 3/60; Special: +2 saving throws against paralysis and poisoned, blessed arrows

Blessed Arrows: Against the forces of Chaos, a Bellicose Sister’s arrows are especially effective. Treat a Bellicose Sister’s missiles as +1 arrows, modifying attack rolls and damage appropriately. Against Chaotic lycanthropes, a Bellicose Sister’s arrows also inflict double damage.

August 22nd, 2015  in RPG No Comments »

Death Shuffles on Two Feet

One of the great things about Swords & Wizardry (and the original fantasy RPGs that inspire it) is the lack of pages and pages of detailed rules about how monsters function and are built. S&W embraces my favorite paradigm, which is that the rules for the players and their characters are not the same rules for Referees and their characters.

This paradigm facilitates introducing new monsters and variations of old monsters to adventures. The players probably know the stats for, say, a zombie. They’re right there in the book and are available on-line. What the players don’t know, however, is that this time the zombies their characters face should be handled with a little bit more care.

The Walking Dead

Zombies are mindless creatures. Their origins are uncertain. Some blame evil magic commanded by necromancers. Others hold a disease responsible. Another theory posits that Hell is full, and the souls of the damned are being released to make room. Whatever the truth, zombies pose a serious threat to any community.

A zombie attacks by grabbing, twisting, and tearing at flesh. If both hands hit a single victim, the zombie grabs hold and attempts to bite, requiring an attack roll with a +2 bonus and inflicting 1d4+1 points of damage if successful. Anyone bit by a zombie must make a saving throw to avoid suffering 2d4 points of damage per round until dead as flesh begins to corrupt, starting at the wound and spreading out from there. One who dies from a zombie’s bite rises as a new zombie 1d6 rounds later.

Zombies are most often unarmored, but they are typically encountered wearing whatever they wore at the moment of death.

Zombie: HD 2; AC 9 [10]; Atk 2 strikes (1d4); Move 6; Save 16; AL N; CL/XP 3/60; Special: deadly bite, grab (open doors check to break grapple), undead.

August 15th, 2015  in RPG No Comments »

Dungeon Lord’s Metamorphosis Alpha Benefit Raffle

James Ward is ill. He posted on Facebook:

Got terrible news today. I need lots more hospital time with several more foot operations. How am I ever going to get work done in a situation like this. Bills are mounting and I have to be home to get much work done. I don’t remember when I have been this miserable.

I don’t know Mr. Ward, but I cannot help but feel affection for him. He co-designed the first edition of Gamma World, one of the games I cut my RPG teeth on way back when. I still adore that game.

Taylor Frank over at Dungeon Lord has set up a raffle fundraiser for Mr. Ward. Please check out the details by clicking on this sentence. If you can, please contribute.

August 11th, 2015  in RPG No Comments »

Tsar Dadon the Glorious

What follows is a retelling of The Tale of the Golden Cockerel by Alexander Pushkin. The illustration is by Ivan Bilibin, originally published in 1906.

Buyan sits in the sea more than 2,000 miles away from Ismailli, now in ruins but once a powerful city ruled by Tsar Dadon the Glorius. A strange tale of brutal ambition and cruel revenge links the Vanishing Island to that ghost-haunted place.

In his youth Tsar Dadon waged war against his neighbors, taking their lands and wealth for his own and subjugating their people, reducing thousands to a level barely on par with serfdom. For decades, Tsar Dadon ruled Ismailli and the surrounding, conquered realms. In his twilight years, after the death of his queen, the tsar set aside his war-like ways, believing Ismailli secure and feeling confident that his son, Prince Dadon, would rule one day.

But, as Tsar Dadon relaxed his iron grip, unrest spread through the conquered realms. The people nurtured deep-seated resentments against Tsar Dadon, and soon rebel armies formed. Surrounded on every side by determined enemies, Tsar Dadon grew frightened, for he never knew from which direction the next threat would come. Rumors to the west resulted in Prince Dadon leading Ismailli’s armies toward the setting sun, but then rebels struck from the east. If the armies marched to the north, rebels attacked Ismailli from the south.

“How can I defend my beloved Ismailli,” cried Tsar Dadon, “if I cannot meet the enemy on the field of battle?”

A stranger stepped from the crowd in the tsar’s court. He wore the ornate robes of an astrologer and wizard.

“O, Tsar Dadon the Glorious! Please heed my words,” the strange said, bowing low. “I am Nikto, and I alone possess the means to protect your beloved Ismailli.”

Tsar Dadon commanded Nikto to explain himself, and the wizard pulled a sack from his sleeve, and the pulled a fantastic golden cockerel from the sack. Its feathers gleamed in the sunlight spilling through the high windows in the court.

“Place the Golden Cockerel atop the highest spire in the center of Ismailli,” said Nikto. “When any enemy army approaches to within eight days march of Ismailli, the Golden Cockerel shall face their direction and cry out an alarum. Thus, O Glorious Tsar, you will be able to meet the enemy on the field of battle.”

Tsar Dadon said, “If what you say is true, return to my court in one year’s time, and I shall grant you any wish to just short of half my kingdom.”

“I accept your terms, O Glorious One, but be warned: Forget your promise, and doom shall be your reward.”

With that, the wizard vanished, leaving behind the Golden Cockerel. Tsar Dadon ordered the fabulous bird be placed atop the highest tower in the center of Ismailli.

A few days later, the Golden Cockerel faced to the south and cried out loudly, “Enemies approach from the south! In eight days, they reach Ismailli’s walls!”

The watchmen brought word of the alarum to Tsar Dadon, and he sent Prince Dadon out at the head of an army. They met the enemy on the field of battle four days away from Ismailli, and Prince Dadon returned victorious to be covered in glory. During the next several months, the Golden Cockerel performed just as Nikto had promised. Each time, Ismailli’s army commanded by Prince Dadon met the enemy on the field of battle and emerged victorious. Nearly a year passed, and the Golden Cockerel sounded another alarum. Prince Dadon rode away at the head of the army toward Shamakhi, Ismailli’s fiercest and oldest enemy.

More than a week later, Prince Dadon had not returned. Tsar Dadon, frantic with worry, commanded his armor and sword be brought to him, and he himself sallied forth at the head of an army for the first time in years. Near the western border of Shamakhi, the tsar looked down into a valley and the great slaughter that had taken place there. In the middle of the field of battle stood a lonely pavilion flying Shamakhi’s ancient flag.

Tsar Dadon rode to the pavilion and stumbled from his horse when he saw Prince Dadon sprawled dead on the matted grass in front of the pavilion. As he gathered his dead son into his arms, a beautiful princess of Shamakhi exited the pavilion.

“Welcome, O Tsar Dadon the Glorious,” the princess said. “Please enter my pavilion so that I may ease your grief.”

The tsar entered the pavilion. The princess washed his hands, feet, and brow, and bade him sit at a kingly table. She fed him fine foods and filled his flagon with excellent wine. Tsar Dadon ate and drank his fill. The princess bade him sleep on a kingly bed, and throughout the night she tended his grief-haunted sleep.

The tsar woke in the morning and said to the princess, “You shall return to Ismailli as my bride. You shall be mother to my new heir.”

The princess lowered her head and smiled. Tsar Dadon and the princess rode back to Ismailli. The people there lamented the loss of Prince Dadon, but they rejoiced that their tsar had a new bride of such exceptional beauty and grace.

“O, Tsar Dadon the Glorious! Please heed my words,” said Nikto as he appeared in the tsar’s court. “One year has passed, and I’ve come to claim my reward.”

“Welcome, Nikto,” said the tsar. “The reward is yours. Claim anything just short of half my kingdom.”

The wizard leered. “I claim the princess of Shamakhi.”

“Never!” Tsar Dadon said. “She you may not have!”

From a high window, the Golden Cockerel flew like a bolt from a crossbow. It landed on the tsar’s shoulder and pecked him once on the forehead. Tsar Dadon the Glorious staggered from his throne, fell to the floor, and died. The princess of Shamakhi walked to Nikto, and, when she placed her hand in his, both she and the wizard vanished. Shortly thereafter, Ismailli’s enemies triumphed, laying Tsar Dadon’s beloved city to waste.

Today, the Golden Cockerel sits atop the highest spire in the center of Retra, one of the two cities on Buyan. Nikto and the princess of Shamakhi live there as well, and neither one seems to have aged.

July 27th, 2015  in Product Development, RPG No Comments »

Koschei the Deathless

In my last post, I introduced Buyan, a magical island found in Slavic and Russian folktales and myths. Today, we meet Koschei the Deathless. If you’d like to read a tale featuring this villain, here’s a link to a PDF of “The Death of Koschei the Deathless” taken from The Red Fairy Book by Andrew Lang.

So tall he towers over the tallest men, emaciated yet vigorous, unkempt hair and beard grown into ragged and long strands, completely naked. Koschei the Deathless, sorceror and kidnapper, lives in a decaying fortress lost within a rugged highland forest. From this lair, Koschei rides out mounted on his remarkable steed, one of Baba Yaga’s magical horses given to Koschei by that monstrous witch. Koschei abducts women, especially the wives of aristocrats. He locks them up in his fortress’s dungeons, guarded by frost giants and winter wolves, often for no reason other than to enjoy slaughtering those who come to rescue the ladies.

Only Koschei’s deathlessness overshadows his legendary wrath and cruelty. In ages past, Koschei took his soul and hid it within a needle. He put the needle inside an egg. A duck carries this egg in its body, and, in turn, a white-furred hare holds within its body the duck. Koschei locked the hare inside a sturdy chest constructed from iron, crystal, and gold. He buried the chest beneath the roots of an oak tree that grows in Buyan’s forested wilderness. As long as Koschei’s soul remains protected, Koschei cannot die. No force mundane or magical can kill him.

Anyone fortunate enough to locate the oak tree, dig up the chest, and open the container must still contend with the hare, which then races away, seeking to evade capture. If pursuers catch and kill the hare, the duck bursts forth and flies away. Should the duck be caught and killed, the hunter can extract the egg and use it to control Koschei, who sickens and loses his great strength and his sorcerous powers. Cracking the egg open to get the needle breaks this control and restores Koschei’s might, but breaking the needle instantly slays the villain.

Koschei’s steed, which he addresses only with various insults such as “jade” and “nag”, has magical powers. It gallops faster than any mortal horse, and it speaks several languages. It tracks victims for Koschei with its remarkable sense of smell, and no one has ever thrown the horse off their trail. Koschei also possesses at least one amazing magic item, a normal-seeming handkerchief which, when waved three times, transforms into a strong bridge long enough to span any river or chasm. Once Koschei crosses the bridge, it reverts to a handkerchief.

This link takes you to a PDF containing game stats for Koschei the Deathless, making this miscreant usable for Dungeon World, Fate Accelerated Edition, Mini Six Bare Bones Edition, and Swords & Wizardy. Koschei’s stats for Barbarians of Lemuria appear below. Huzzah.

Koschei the Deathless
Attributes: Strength 4, Agility 0, Mind 3, Appeal 0; Brawl 2, Melee 3, Missile 2, Defence 0
Careers: Gaoler 2, Hunter 1, Scholar 1, Sorcerer 3
Lifeblood: 12
Protection: 0 (no armor)
Weapons: Scimitar d6+6
Special: Koschei is deathless as long as his needle is intact. He ignores all damage to Lifeblood.

Koschei’s Horse
Attributes: Strength 3, Agility 1, Mind 2
Offence: Attack with hooves +2; d6 damage
Defence: 2
Protection: d3-1 (tough hide)
Lifeblood: 20
Special: Koschei’s horse speaks several languages. Its swiftness is legendary. It can accurately track a target via scent.

July 26th, 2015  in Product Development, RPG 2 Comments »