Friday, May 31, 2019

MAILBAG - My first published thing!

It's here!

In the dying days of the legendary Google+ I jumped in on this project spearheaded by Eric Nieudan. I finally got my own copy, and it's just awesome. 40+ monsters created by 16 different contributors, including one very cool monster written by THIS GUY! This is the first time I've ever had anything published in print and I feel great, even though my parents will never understand.

There will be no "review" - the PDF is free on drivethru and the print version is only six bucks. So go download it, give it a read and buy it in print if you like it. Eric gets some money from each copy for all his hard work!

Monday, May 20, 2019

It's no reskin off my nose

So d4 caltrops had a great post about just using goblins for everything. Go check it out. Originally inspired by the absolute classic just use bears from TOTG&D.

I am a big fan of reusing and reskinning monster stats. I mean in classic editions it doesn't matter much either way - you can create a "brand new" stat block that's only barely mechanically different, or just reuse an existing one. Your players will barely feel the difference, probably.

In Pathfinder which my roommates like to play, it's a necessity. I would rather drive my car into the sun than sit down and tinker with all those fiddly rules when I could be using my imagination, so I need to either a) buy more monster books, b) develop the "pathfinder lite stat block (TM)," or c) adapt the monsters I already have to the creatures I make up!

In that spirit, and because I've been thinking about it for a while anyway, let's draw up a little list. This is, I think, all the OGL monsters that have stats in every numerical edition (0-5th). Surely enough that you'd never have to create new stats whole cloth again, yeah?



I started with the LBBs, then checked against Labyrinth Lord, AD&D, Pathfinder and 5th edition (anything in AD&D should realistically be in every other edition, but a few things didn't make the OGL cut and 5th was oddly missing a few as well).

What's left:

Black Pudding
Gray Ooze
Invisible Stalker
Ochre Jelly
Purple Worm

*Only technically. OD&D doesn't give you stats, just a suggestion for the animals' HD range based on size. Those LBBs were damnably vague on a few points, that's for sure. Terribly, there are no actual stats for bears in OD&D.

Still, we end up with a really tight list of monsters of varying sizes, shapes and attack methods. This is almost a Platonic D&D Bestiary. Let's break em down by category:


Goblin, Kobold, Orc, Gnoll, Hobgoblin, Troll, Ogre, Minotaur, Giant, Human, Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Medusa, Centaur, Dryad


Basilisk, Chimera, Cockatrice, Gargoyle, Dragon, Gorgon, Griffon, Hippogriff, Hydra, Lycanthrope, Manticore, Pegasus, Purple Worm, Roc, Treant, Unicorn, Wyvern


Skeleton, Zombie, Ghoul, Wight, Wraith, Spectre, Mummy, Vampire


Black Pudding, Gray Ooze, Ochre Jelly


Djinn, Elemental, Efreet, Invisible Stalker

Honestly this is still too many monsters to memorize stats for.

You could pick only one humanoid of each size eg: kobolds, humans, trolls, giants. That's a cool set right there. Memorize those stats for the system of your choice, and then spend the rest of your day working on the cultural finer points for the macaque-men in your new module, secure in the knowledge that whoever may play it has the stats in their monster book at home.

All the non-horse monsters with four legs: basilisk, chimera, dragon, gorgon, griffon, hydra, manticore. That's a great selection for any large beast - take the manticore's stats and swap out the tail spikes for a lightning bolt, there's your behir. See how easy it is?

The list of slimes is a bit lacking for my tastes, if only because these three are all highly dangerous. It's still easy enough to say "Stats as a 2HD black pudding."

If we remove OD&D and only focus on 1st edition and up, the list gets much longer (that's a post for another day though!). Next time you're writing a module, you can reference the stats for any of these creatures and rest assured that everybody will have them lying around. It doesn't matter which version of the game you play, you're ready to go.


Spin this while you're writing up that lost temple of the Ancient Ones that you've been putting off:

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Summoning Rules

Once again, check up on these first:


Rules For Summoning with Absturated Tomes
Introduction here.

The one and only Timo Ketola

Skim through all those links yet? Good. Here are my adapted summoning rules, more or less based on all the stuff above and adapted for my home game. Let's check it out:

Faded Ink, Missing Text - There is a chance the tome has become worn through long years of inactivity, its bloody inks becoming difficult to read or vanishing entirely. Roll percentile dice against the "% faded" number for each ritual in the tome. Any results above that chance are fine - no problems.

A result under this chance indicates enough missing text to cause a problem for that particular ritual. Note down the percentile die result: this is now the target number to beat (see below). Then roll on this disaster table to determine what goes wrong when the conjurer attempts the corrupted ritual.

Anyone reading through the book gets a DC 20 spellcraft check to notice something is amiss (assuming the book doesn't come out and TELL you - not all these tomes are talkative).

Recovering Lost Text - The book needs blood, for it is alive - in a way - and can re-write its contents through absorbing vital fluids. Every HD of sentient being (INT > 3) sacrificed to the book will reduce the "% faded" by 5%. These improvements to a tome are permanent (in the span of most adventurers' lifetimes, anyway). Once the "% faded" chance is below your target number (noted previously), the ritual is totally safe to use.

Sacrifices that do not make it to the target number are still useful. Each sacrifice allows a re-roll on the disaster table with a -1 modifier per HD, although results will never go below a 1. Kind DMs might elect to keep an old result if the new one is worse, but this is your call. Or you could just add the modifiers to your previously rolled result.

Red Herrings - Millennia-old sorcerers preserved in book form do sometimes fuck with you. Occasionally extra steps in the ritual or additional components will be listed that aren't actually necessary. These will never lead to a disaster, but cost more money and time and generally make life more difficult for PCs.

Extra Clues - If the conjurer sacrifices enough to bring the '% faded' chance to 0, some useful detail will appear - perhaps an extra magical component, an extra verse of the incantation. It will grant the conjurer a bonus to his skill check when conducting the ritual itself. [These are specific to each ritual and detailed in their individual entries]

Summoning - Once the conjurer has the necessary components, he performs the ritual. Assuming no disaster occurs as above, he must make a skill roll. The DC varies, each entry will have its own details. The text of the tome itself includes information on its difficulty and how likely the conjurer is to succeed. [You can tell the player what target numbers he needs to roll]

The outcome will be one of three things:

Success: The player made the roll.The ritual works. Great job! Now the conjurer can summon the entities involved anytime, with the relevant spell.

Partial Success: Failing the roll by a margin of 5 or less. The ritual worked, but the conjurer's control is not total. Something will go wrong. Maybe not right now, but eventually.

Failure: Failing the roll by 6 or more (or rolling a natural 1). You're screwed!


The first summoning tome in my game world is called Tanith Loraxalin. More information can be found in part one of this series. This is the first binding ritual detailed within:

Binding of the Men of Peace (0% faded)

Gentle dwellers of damp underworld caves, these humanoids are short and reptilian with translucent bluish bodies. Also called "Anemone Men" because instead of heads, a cup of glowing fronds opens up from their necks. These can stretch out a great distance, and the Men of Peace use them to sense vibrations nearby, allowing them to "see." They aren't malevolent but every part of their bodies is extremely poisonous.

The ritual itself is one of the simplest as these things go. It must be conducted in total darkness, mimicking the nighted caverns where the Men of Peace sleep. The slightest glow from moon, star or torch will prevent their appearance. In this darkness the conjurer pours out a pool of shallow water, covering at least a 20'x20' area. Placing several hunks of raw meat on the ground, he intones the words, tempting the Men from their sleep to come and feed. A soft blue glow will emanate from the water, one rarely seen above ground. In this light alone the Men of Peace will come, and if his offering is accepted they will remember it even in their deep dreams and come at his summons in the future.

Mechanics: The minimum level for performing this ritual is 2nd. The player makes a DC 16 check with a bonus equal to: character level + spellcasting stat modifier (INT, WIS or CHA depending on class).

Success: The Men of Peace will appear and feast on the offering. Later, they'll recognize the conjurer in their dreams. He can summon 1d4 by casting Monster Summoning I, and none will ever attack him. Unlike other summoned creatures the Men will remain indefinitely until destroyed. Mostly they just sleep, and like to stay in one area instead of following the caster around. As long as they remain summoned the conjurer cannot regain the spell slot used to summon them. It is bound up with their presence. When they are all destroyed or banished he may memorize a new spell normally.

In addition, summoning the Men of Peace does not give the caster any special power to 'banish' or dismiss them. The only way for them to leave is to destroy them.

Anemone Men: AL Neutral, Init +1, Per +8, Reach 10', Move 20'
2 HD, Atk touch +1 (poison sting), Fort +6, Ref +1, Will +3
AC 10, BAB +1, CMB +1, CMD 12, Morale 9
Poison: Fort DC 14 (roll twice) - Pass twice, excruciating pain (1d6 damage & a morale check). Fail once, the blue sleep (dream-filled coma for 1d6 hours). Fail both, agonizing death.

Partial Success: The Men are bound successfully, but the conjurer's likeness is forgotten in their deep blue dreams. When they are first summoned everything is fine. If the conjurer leaves their presence for at least a day, the Men will not recognize him in the future - treating him and his friends like any other trespasser in their territory. This process repeats anytime the Men are summoned.

Failure: 1d4 Men of Peace arrive during the ritual, confused and half-awake. Not sure what is real and what a dream, they attack the closest thing that moves, attempting to sting it, remove its eyeballs and eat the rest. After a given Man has poisoned one victim and eaten a little, it wakes up somewhat and can make a reaction roll on this table.

Red Herring
: None now.

Extra Clue: With this ritual completely restored, Tanith remembers the use of Mandrake Root. Growing in darkness and moisture in the shape of a human, this plant's magic resonates sympathetically with the Men of Peace. Obtaining a whole root and offering it along with the meat will add +2 to the conjurer's skill roll.


Example of Play

Guzboch the goblin cleric of Tsathoggua wants to bind the Men of Peace - there is a standard 20% chance that Tanith's text for this ritual is faded or incomplete, but if he's lucky he can still pull it off. The DM secretly rolls a 3%, so missing text has caused a problem. Rolling on the original d20 mishap table, the result is a 16 - that's Not What I Expected! When Guzboch performs the ritual, the way is opened for an Abhorrer. Absalom Glop, the Excruciator, steps through the portal to make everyone's life miserable.

After some soul-searching Guzboch sacrifices an underling to Tanith, reducing the chance of corruption from 20% to 15%. This is still well above the 3% roll, and Guzboch is going to need plenty more victims. However, the DM re-rolls on the disaster table. Too bad! A 19 is rolled, with a -1 modifier giving an 18 - You Will Never Be The Same! The goblin cleric has begun his slow descent into occult madness.

Sacrificing a few more goblins, Guzboch brings the % faded to 0. Tanith also recalls that the ritual uses mandrake root, which grows in the dark near standing water. If Guzboch can find some, he will make his next summoning check with a +2 modifier.

After a thorough search by his underlings, Guzboch has the mandrake root. He makes his DC 16 summoning roll with a +9 bonus: +4 for being 4th level by this point, +3 for WIS (this is the statistic he uses to cast spells - Wizards can't have all the fun), +2 for using the mandrake root. He rolls a modified 18. Finally, a success! The Men of Peace come to feed, and later he summons them to guard his treasure vault.


[In Land's End there really isn't anywhere the players can 'go research things,' unless they hand the question off to Vantadel, an expensive sage. I needed a different way for characters to solve the problems posed by corrupted texts and ritual disasters, and the absturated tomes of Incunabuli seemed a perfect fit! Be careful to avoid DM dick moves though, since the tomes can communicate with the PCs but may give them false information that could get them killed...]

Next up, binding rituals for the rest of Tanith Loraxalin, and maybe ideas for some other terrible tomes scattered around the campaign world. I can't tell you how excited I am to have my home players deal with the presence of this terrible tome one way or another!

Play this on your next dimly-lit dungeon crawling marathon:

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

New Album Cover!!

Look up there. Yeah, right at the top. It was long past time for a visual update around here. In this awesome piece by Penny Melgarejo, Aercius squares off against the Dead Legion in the fight that cost him his arm, and the shield on it.

Bask in the talent, or go drop the highly talented Penny M. a line on mewe or instagram if you need some drawing done yourself!

More Summoning rules, play reports and other great shit coming up soon...


Saturday, May 4, 2019

Sage's Report 2 - A Diary and a Curious Book

Many sessions ago while deep in the sub-basements of the goblins' inn, the party stumbled on a bundle of notes written in code. After handing them off to a sage for translation they resumed adventuring, not really troubling themselves about it.

Now they've been decoded, though. And the game might not be the same again!

Let's get this out of the way:

Fire on the Velvet Horizon - Did you buy this and find it too out-there and experimental for your vanilla fantasy world? Then it's perfect for what comes next.
Textual Corruptions and Ritual Disasters - It's hard out here for a wizard... Finally!


"Gentlemen and Lady, here is the closest translation from the Gobbo language I could make after decrypting the author's coded diary. I have taken the liberty of adding my own numbering to the relevant pages. I believe this places them in the proper chronological order. The goblinoid sense of time & date is unreliable, especially as these depth-dwellers normally don't reckon by the sun and seasons, such as they are of late. My guess is these entries span many years, at most a decade of irregular writing.

Should you ever deal with the author of this journal, or his mysterious correspondent, I pray for your souls. Under the one hundred and thirty-seven celestials I remain yours,

-Nicomaeus Vantadel, esq."

Page 1

...told him he could eat mud if he didnt like it. We got kicked hard by the big lizardskins last year and none of us left to fight back. Now there is commotion at the front door, maybe hunters returning. I'm hungry. All of us are hungry.

Was not hunters. The rock-takers came back from the old pinkmans stone building. They dodged the big golem and got some good rocks. They found a book. A big book. They brought it to me instead of the boss. Said they found it inside the walls, behind the bricks.

Its old. Pages are dark brown. Like the river mud outside. Ink is so faded that some pages are blank.

Page 4

Looked through the book again tonight. Instructions for the Men of Peace. The writing difficult to follow. Some words missing. The book asks for strange things. Water that glows. A crystal like a blue eye?

Other things in the book. Different magic. Maybe they are not for me.

I am never afraid. Until now, of this book. Never seen one like this. Not in all the years. The outside feels like skin of a hairless dog. Or a pinkman. The inside is all black and red and brown. Who made it? How?

Page 11

I did what the book says. The Men of Peace did not come! 

Something else did. It is called the Excruciator. It wants things. Bargains, deals, contracts, trades. I trapped it in a circle but it talks to me. Always talks... What have I done?

Page 30

Tanith told me of the Excruciator. Said it came because I made a mistake. Said she would write the missing parts of the ritual for Men of Peace if she remembers. She is old, much older than I, memory not good. Told me that blood would help in her remembering. Fresh blood.

But all sacrifices are due to the devourer, great Tsathoggua whose gullet ever hungers. Can I spare one for Tanith, to help me? Not many gobs this year. Few children. Even so, nobody will miss one.

Page 36

Tanith remembered. As the blood ran from the gobling, I wrote for her and she remembered. Tanith remembered the words. New words, she showed me.

Page 61

I am afraid. The ritual failed again. It hurt, knives in the brain. Tsathoggua preserve your servant!

The Men of Peace are never coming, will never come. How can I? Tanith says I must do it right. Tanith wants to remember more, wants more words more letters. More letters of blood, I will write. I will. I am right.

I tell everyone the lizardskins got them. But it was me, me, me, I did it. Not for Tsathoggua, the hungry one, but for me. For Tanith, for the remembering! Told me of the strange root. That grows in the water and dreams it is a man! I must have it, send the scouts to find it!

Page 77

The Men of Peace finally came! One almost touched me when they came through. I was afraid but did not run. They shrieked at me, asking questions. Asking like squealing, squeaking, strangled children. Always asking! Is this a dream? Is it real?

Now in my temple, it is quiet. They sleep outside to guard me. They are mine, and the boss watch out.


These notes record the goblin cleric Guzboch's attempts to conduct dark pacts with otherworldly entities. He found these rites in a book called Tanith Loraxalin, which he keeps on his person at all times. If anyone could obtain it and attempt the foul incantations described within, having his notes would give them vital clues.

Tanith Loraxalin contains these conjuration magics, some unknown in the current age (Italicized entries from Frog God's Book of Lost Spells. Sub in your own or whatever you like): 

Aerial Servant
Ash Storm
Mage Armor
Summon Monster I
Summon Monster II
Yellow Smoke

The bulk of the book is taken up with three binding rituals:

Binding of the Men of Peace
Binding of the Flammeous Lads
Binding of the Curselings

In life, Tanith was a minor dabbler in conjuration magic. Of minimal power, she was lucky enough to be born a high elf during the flowering of their lost civilization, with sufficient wealth to have herself absturated after death [you read the links right?]. Passed down through the years among wizard's libraries, forgotten, rediscovered, eventually sealed away as a heretical text in the walls of an old Imperial mission, abandoned when the Empire withdrew above the Barrier. Since the goblins discovered the building and have been breaking it down for raw materials, they eventually cracked through the walls and found her.

Her remaining personality is weak, but she is still the ambitious and petty social climber she always was. Encouraging her reader to leverage the small power she can give into more and more, she will dole out her advice carefully, always seeking to steer him in the desired direction.

Tanith and her ilk are fed by blood. It is the ink on her pages, all her spells are written with it. Write on her pages in blood (yours) to communicate, or sacrifice sentient beings to help her recall the rituals and renew her faded text. This sacrifice is not religious or overly ceremonial, but does require a few minutes to conduct. Anointing the relevant pages, reciting the book's name, etc. It can't be done in the middle of combat.


Adapted rules will follow for summoning in Pathfinder. In the mean time, let's have some fun.