What’s Happening Lately?

Since the beginning of July, I’ve completed three PDFs and put playtest drafts out there for the public.

Aquatic Depths & Denizens focuses on adventuring underwater for Swords & Wizardry. It includes rules for swimming, drowning, fighting and spellcasting under the waves, five player character aquatic races, an assortment of aquatic spells, and a plethora of marine monsters. Download your copy and playtest today.

Optional Skill Resolution Rules presents a flexible system for resolving skill checks usable with Swords & Wizardry (and likely compatible with other OSR games). With OSR2, the Referee and players define a character’s skills based on race, background, and class. No skill lists restrain those choices. Do you want your Magic-User to be a ladies’ man? There’s a skill for that. Do you want your Paladin to have studied Forbidden Cults? There’s a skill for that. Download the playtest version of these rules today and see if they work for your game.

Here’s the playtest version of Astounding Archetypes: Bloodhand Gang. Presented in this Pathfinder-compatible PDF are five archetypes: dragon warrior, jotunkin, telekinetic monk, warp thief, and yo-yo magus (my personal favorite). I originally featured these archetypes on my website. I’ve tweaked all five a bit here and there, trying to clear up unclear rules, streamline class features, et cetera. I’ve also put together one villain for each archetype.

Of course, helpful folks who playtest the PDF and/or provide feedback receive credit in the final PDF. They also receive a free copy of the final PDF, providing I have an e-mail address. To further sweeten the incentives, playtesters/feedbackers may also select any single PDF from my on-line catalog to receive for free (again providing I have an e-mail address). My email address is mark at spesmagna dot com.

Kisima’s Tomb

Heavy loads stone slung over shoulders, workers climb up the logs leading to the low-ceilinged cave leading to Kisima’s tomb. It’s not an easy climb, but the only other point of ingress, a stone shaft rising more than 70 feet to the surface, doesn’t leave a better option.

At the shaft’s bottom, supervisors from the Imperial Cartographical Society loiter around the shallow pond at the bottom of the stone shaft. Other workers carry jugs of water from the lower caves, emptying the containers into the pond, which drains away in trickles and traces some distance away from the wooden ladder.

In the lower caves, workers labor with picks, shovels, and ropes to break up and haul away stones. Much of the work has already been done, and the ornate carvings stand out boldly in the flickering torchlight. Serpents intertwine intricately. High up on the wall, a lizardman king stares down, his stance imperious. He holds a human skull in his left hand and a spear in his right. The stones that remain block a descending flight of stairs.

The Imperial Cartographical Society believes those stairs lead to the tomb of Kisima, the last of the kings who ruled in Salmagunderland before lizardman civilization fell into its current state of barbarity. It’s only a matter of time before a sufficient quantity of stone is shifted out of the way and the stairs stand unblocked.

At least that’s what the foremen hope. The workers murmur about curses, and yesterday’s accident, several large rocks that fell, crushing three men, hasn’t helped the mood. The tension and fear are palpable, made worse by the drums echoing through the jungle each night.

Dangers

The Imperial Cartographical Society (Cabal)
Impulse: To expand frontiers

Grim Portents
* The ICS oversees the excavation of the tomb.
* The stairs are cleared and the lower chambers revealed.
* The lower chambers are explored and the sealed door found.
* The seal is broken.
Impending Doom: Pestilence

Lizardman Tribe (Horde)
Impulse: To drive out intruders

Grim Portents
* The drums’ noise draws nearer.
* Venomous serpents become more common.
* Lizardmen skirmishers attack the camp.
Impending Doom: Destruction

Description & Cast
Kisima’s tomb rests undisturbed, sealed centuries ago. Kisima died of a terrible plague that has not died off since the lizardman king’s corpse was interred. Rather, the pestilence has grown, becoming a virulent biomass. The local lizardman tribe learned that intruders were violating taboo territory, and they are gearing up to massacre the foreign trespassers if they do not take heed of the warning drums.
* Renata Cottee, Ranking ICS Official
* Sessih Besmil, Lizardman Scale-Talker
* Dridsa, Influential Laborer

Custom Move
When exposed the wasting pestilence in Kisima’s tomb, roll+CON. *On a 10+, choose 3. *On a 7-9, choose 1.

* You do not suffer the weak debility.
* You do not suffer the sick debility.
* You do not suffer the shaky debility.
* You do not become highly contagious.

Stakes
Can the pestilence be cured? If so, how?

July 3rd, 2014  in RPG No Comments »

Atanasija’s Lyre

Dunwick Rossignols sang like an angel, but he had the heart of a devil. He used his charm and music to ingratiate himself into the life of Nafasi, a prosperous village situated near an important crossroad. Dunwick prospered. He also systematically seduced many of the village’s maidens and wives. The wicked bard delighted in the strife caused by his many conquests. He deliberately sowed seeds of jealousy and false hope, plucking on people’s emotions as deftly as his finger plucked his lyre’s strings.

Dunwick played his cruel games too long. His machinations provoked the widow Atanasija into a cold fury. She lured Dunwick to her home with carnal promises. As soon as he entered her home, Atanasija struck him a stunning blow to the head with a bronze candlestick holder. Her cold fury blazed white hot then, and she strangled Dunwick to death, crushing his windpipe with the candlestick holder. Horrified by her crime, Atanasija fled into the night, vanishing into Mabonde, the nearby forested valley. Dunwick was buried, and the villagers made a half-hearted and failed attempt to apprehend Atanasija. Little by little, life in Nafasi resumed something resembling what it was before Dunwick.

Months after Dunwick’s brutal murder, Atanasija, now mad, crept into the village’s cemetary. With ragged fingernails, she clawed Dunwick’s remains free from their grave and stole the bard’s skull. Back in her cave in Mabonde, Atanasija fashioned Dunwick’s skull into a macabre lyre. The mad widow played and sang her most beloved songs by Dunwick. Before the last echoes of her tortured voice faded in the darkness of her cave, Atanasija took her own life.

Decades went by as the widow’s corpse rotted away before a group of adventurers pursuing goblin raiders stumbled into the cave and discovered the Atanasija’s lyre.

Barbarians of Lemuria

A minstrel can play Atanasija’s Lyre and make a tough (-4) mind check modified by minstrel ranks. If the minstrel succeeds, 1d6 corpses within earshot of the lyre’s morbid notes rise up and attack the nearest living creatures, continuing to do so as long as the minstrel plays. If the minstrel’s check results in a natural 12, double the number of corpses that animate. If the minstrel’s check results in a natural 2, one or more of the lyre’s strings break and must be replaced before the lyre functions again.

Dungeon World

Whenever you play Atanasija’s Lyre near one or more corpses, roll+CHA. *On a 10+, several corpses animate as zombies under your musical control. *On a 7-9, several corpses animate as zombies.

Swords & Wizardry

Atanasija’s Lyre is a magical item usable by any non-Lawful character. As long as the holder plays this musical instrument, up to 2d6 nearby corpses animate as skeletons or zombies. Each round this lyre is played, there is a 10% chance the undead slip the musicians’s control and attack the nearest living creatures. In this latter case, the zombies and skeletons remain animated until destroyed.

July 2nd, 2014  in RPG No Comments »

Maps for Heroes

Matt Jackson does some great maps. Seriously. If you don’t believe, check them out on his site. I’ve narrowed the search for you right here.

Matt’s currently putting his maps to good use by supporting the Wounded Warrior Project. You can read more about it at Matt’s site by clicking here. If you want to donate, you can do so via his site or by clicking on the picture to the right of these words.

Hooah!

July 1st, 2014  in RPG No Comments »

Jabalitika

The windswept, arid heights of Mlima-Wa-Moto support little life. The plants that grow there are small and tough. An aggressive, burrowing species of large wingless wasp crawls around, its mottled hair-like covering allowing it blend in with the terrain, providing camoflauge against the shaggy-furred rock badgers that feed almost exclusively on the insects. As for the wasps themselves, they survive on sticky umande, the jabalitika’s dewy excretion.

The jabalitika grows lichen-like on rocks. This strange plant has a rapid growth cycle. Spores take root in a rock’s tiny fissures and quickly mature, spreading over several square feet in just a few days. A mature jabalitika has a thickness of about one-quarter inch (or 0.635 centimeters). Via enzymes, the jabalitika converts minute quanities of the rock’s surface into a micro-stew of minerals and water that the plant uses to survive. Of course, being a plant, the jabalitika also engages in photosynthesis. The aforementioned dew-like excretion, or umande, is a waste product of the jabalitika.

Umande is highly nutritious but slightly punguent. A half-pint (about a quarter of a liter) provides sufficient nutrition for an adult human for a full day. Umande also increases the efficiency of respiratory systems in animals, making it easier to breathe Mlima-Wa-Moto’s thin, high-altitude air. A square foot (a bit more than 900 square centimeters) of jabalitika produces about a half-pint of umande under optimal conditions.

The rugged mountain people of Mlima-Wa-Moto cultivate jabalitika to harvest umande. They domestic rock badgers to help keep their jabalitika fields as free of wingless wasps as possible. While those insects are not especially dangerous, their stings are extremely painful, capable of incapacitating a grown man for several minutes.

June 24th, 2014  in RPG No Comments »