The Wounded Warrior Project

As I’ve blogged about a couple of times, Matt Jackson, career enlisted man and gamer and mapper extraordinaire, has been raising funds for the Wounded Warrior Project. His efforts under the title Maps for Heroes reflect both the best of both military tradition and of our disparate, often cantankerous community of gamers.

I served eight years in the U.S. Army. But for the grace of God, I could’ve ended up a wounded warrior, especially if I’d decided to make the military a career, which was a serious consideration until I decided on taking my honorable discharge and getting into teaching. However much I do to help others, I can always do more.

So, here’s some more. From now until the time Matt reaches his $1000 goal, 100% of the sales from these four OSR PDFs goes to Maps for Heroes: The Quid Novi? Collection, That’s a Goblin!?, Rantz’s Fair Multitude, and Rewarding Roleplaying. At this link is a PDF with more information about these titles as well as links to discounts for each of them. The codes never expire. Use them. Share them with your friends.


July 19th, 2014  in RPG 1 Comment »

Friday Fun with Matt Jackson

Over on G+ today, Matt Jackson posted a pic of a little map with these words: “Let’s have some fun today. I made a map, let’s stock it! Write a short adventure for whatever system you prefer.”

I figured, Why not?

While you check out my small contribution to the fun, consider making a contribution of your own to Matt Jackson’s Wounded Warrior Project fundraiser. Speaking as both a gamer and a veteran, Matt’s fundraiser is double good.

Huah!, and welcome to Ean Illiam’s Cavern Stores!

Ean Illiam, ancient but spry merchant, set up shop more than a decade ago in a group of caves about a day’s ride outside the village. Rumor says Ean served the former king as a soldier. Or as an assassin, or maybe a warpriest. Such is the way of rumors. Ean himself denies these rumors with a wink and a toothless grin.

Whatever the truth, Ean offers quality goods for a reasonable price. He regularly receives shipments of common weapons, armor, and dungeon gear. Shoppers can almost always find whatever they need from these categories. If a trusted customer knows how to ask, Ean also supplies poisons. Services offered by Ean and his staff are more limited. Herman Aleš, a talented blacksmith, works for Ean, as does Mojca Marica, a chirugeon. A hot meal and ale can almost always be had, although Ean isn’t running a tavern, so don’t expect anything too fancy. Surely, stories about Ean arranging murders for hire cannot be true. Can they?

1. Entrance: Carved stairs lead up into the stony hillside. Ean almost always has a few guards on duty in or around this area. These guards often have well-trained mastiffs on hand to help emphasize the importance of behaving. Lanterns hung from hooks twisted into the ceiling provide light throughout Ean’s caves. Those who look before heading in may notice smoke billowing out from natural chimneys higher up the hillside.

2. Front Stores: Ean greets customers here. Shelves built along the walls display Ean’s more common goods. Clerks assist with the sales, and one doesn’t need to be alert to spot a guard or two keeping keen eyes on visitors. Sturdy tables and chairs are set up down the center of the cave, and a hollowed out section of wall serves as a cooking pit. A simple stew is almost always kept bubbling above the fire.

Ean Illiam
Devious, Hoarder, Intelligent, Organized, Solitary
Cudgel (b[2d8] damage)
12 HP
0 Armor
Instinct: To strike a deal

* Call for help
* Deal like a devil
* Move with remarkable speed

3. Rear Stores: Lesson common and more expensive goods occupy the shelves. A heavy curtain is drawn across the exits to the north up the stairs and to the south into the private stores. There might be guards behind those curtains.

4. Stairs Up: If asked, Ean or his staff say that the stairs up lead to private rooms off-limits to visitors.

5. Private Stores: Ean’s most exotic and expensive goods are kept in this cave, and access is granted to only his most valued customers. Mojca has a small clinic area set up in this cave.

Mojca Marica
Intelligent, Magical, Organized, Solitary, Stealthy
Scalpel (w[2d8] damage)
12 HP
0 Armor
Instinct: To heal

* Alert the guards
* Apply the healing arts
* Deceive the senses

6. The Forge: The heat and noise from this area spread through Ean’s caves. Herman Aleš labors here with hammer and tongs, assisted by surly apprentices.

Herman Aleš
Intelligent, Solitary
Hammer (1d10+2 damage)
12 HP
2 Armor
Close, Forceful
Instinct: To forge

* Grip like steel
* Look for imperfections
* Work metal

7. Rippling Waters: Is this is a spring? To where do the cool, clear waters flow?

July 18th, 2014  in RPG 1 Comment »

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.


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.

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 »