Sunday, January 23, 2022

Land's End II: Peoples and Classes

My Land's End II campaign uses Melan's Sword & Magic rules, which are great. I have fiddled with this stuff enough that it seems worth posting about how it's going. We'll start with the playable character races in the setting.

Everything here is written to be player-facing, except what's behind the DM Notes.


Skin colours may vary, but no mechanical differences.
No level limits
+1 extra skill at start

DM Note: Land's End is in the Wilderlands, so the usual suspects are around: Orichalans, Tharbrians, Viridians, Altanians, all the wonderful primary-coloured folks! The PCs in this game have no idea of their origins because they all started as slaves to the lizardfolk. I rolled randomly for their human subtypes, but if the campaign started differently I would have given them a list to pick from.


Degenerated humans, or perhaps their distant forebears? It is unclear.
Crude features, slightly hunched posture.

+1 STR, +1 CON, -1 INT, -1 WIS
Level limits: Fighter *, Cleric 5, Thief 5, MU 0
Begin the game illiterate.

DM Note: The wildmen's exact nature is left vague intentionally. They are a broad category that might be "primitive hunter-gatherers" as easily as degenerated or mutated men, or Neanderthals. They can pass as normal humans some of the time.  Since I use cavemen where orcs would normally go, we can call wildmen the half-orc equivalent of Land's End. 


Savage tribesmen scratching out a living on the edges of civilization. Their mixed blood has driven them to strange practises.

Get the Find Tracks skill for free, and treat Read Signs as a class skill.
Can use bows even if their class is normally unable to.
Level Limits: Fighter 9, Cleric 5, Thief 9, MU 9


The doomed race. Once they ruled the world, now they are dwindling, rare & lost in the wilds.

+1 DEX, -1 CON
Treat Read Signs as a class skill.
Can use bows even if their class is normally unable to.
Immune to Sleep and +2 to save vs. Charm.
cannot be raised from the dead by ordinary magic
Level limits: Fighter 9, Cleric 7, Thief 6, MU 9

DM Note: I have tweaked these bonuses slightly to fit into the setting. Pure-blooded elves are hard to find, half-elves are commonplace. They usually live in the wilderness, barely scraping by, living off nomadic herding and raiding human settlements. Elves don't look super-elfy in Land's End - pointed ears, maybe a smaller build than the average human, slightly odd features (like a human with a bit of prosthetics and makeup, not like the anime-elves you see sometimes). Half-elves might be anywhere in between, and can often pass as human.


Spending their lives underground or in dark jungles has made them strange. Rumours of cannibalism & demonology keep most other races away from the ruined cities they infest.

+1 STR, -1 CON, -1 CHA
Darkvision - With no other lights, can see in the dark in a limited way. Black & white, very little detail.
Light Sensitivity - During the day, -1 penalty on perception/initiative/attack rolls due to squinting. -2 on bright sunny days.
Ghoulish - Once per day, consume the flesh & blood of a recently killed humanoid foe to gain back 1 hp/level, up to the maximum of your hit die (ie. M-Us max out at 4 hp this way, Fighters at 10).
Level limits: Fighter 9, Cleric 9, Thief 7, MU 6

Usually, less armour is worn.

DM Note: I don't remember where I got the idea for these guys, but I have seen similar things in the OSR here and there. Someone else probably deserves the credit. Nevertheless I think they are cool so they are here to stay!


Fearless hunters with their own sense of honour and tradition.
Usually they find "warmbloods" difficult to deal with, preferring to keep to themselves.
They follow no gods, instead seeking harmony with the natural world.

Natural bite attack (1d4+STR bonus). Can use in a grapple, or in addition to regular melee attacks with -5 to hit.
Natural armour (+2 AC - cumulative with light or medium, but not heavy armour)
+1 STR, -1 INT
Level limits: Fighter 9, Cleric 3, Thief 5, MU 3
One of their starting skills must be swimming.

DM Note: Simplified versions of 3.x edition lizardfolk. Extra attack & natural armour are balanced by fairly harsh level limits and reducing the skill selection a bit. Also interspecies tensions may arise. They are my favourite humanoids and I like using them everywhere, especially since Land's End is a tropical climate, mostly jungle and swampland.


One-in-a-million freaks of nature? Children of demons? Nobody knows. Each is infused with otherworldly forces. Their features are "angelic," "demonic" or partake of one of the four elements. (An "air" planetouched might have hair that constantly moves in an unseen breeze, an "earth" might have coal-black skin or gemlike fingernails). Rude people call them "Demonbrood."

Each planetouched has +1 to one attribute and -1 to another, and level limits ranging from 3 to 9. Otherworldly nature, attribute bonuses, level limits and appearance are all generated RANDOMLY by the DM!

Inspired by, but not exactly like this.

DM Note: Some may call into question my old-school credentials for allowing Tieflings, Aasimar, and whatever the elemental ones are called. In my defense, I make all the rolls behind the DM screen. This eliminates the asinine "build" aspect of character creation - picking Air so you can get +1 INT in order to play an M-U, or whatever. This is for advanced players who want to try something new and don't mind letting the dice fall where they may! 

Putting all these types in one category also reinforces the in-game ignorance and fear that would attend them - is that guy with red horns touched by Infernal forces, or is he just a fire-guy? Nobody knows, and why take the chance? Tar & feather him!!

There are no rerolls allowed! If the player doesn't want to play the character that's been rolled up, that's fine - but the DM should note all rolls made, just in case. Some of the special abilities are powerful, but I feel it's fair since there is no way of knowing what you'll get. The DM might also want to limit these characters to 1 per group or something since they are so rare, but it depends on your milieu.

Planetouched Type (%)
01-06 - Celestial: +1 CHA, -1 STR, Cleric 9, Fighter 9, Thief 3, M-U 3
07-28 - Fire: +1 WIS, -1 CON, Cleric 9, Fighter 3
29-50 - Air: +1 INT, -1 DEX, M-U 9, Thief 3
51-72 - Water: +1 DEX, -1 INT, Thief 9, M-U 3
73-94 - Earth: +1 CON, -1 WIS, Fighter 9, Cleric 3
95-00 - Infernal: +1 STR, -1 CHA, Thief 9, M-U 9, Cleric 3, Fighter 3

Classes not mentioned have a level limit of 6.

Planetouched Attributes

The descriptions of the elemental-kin are a list to pick from. Not every single one looks exactly the same. Most of the following is from the 2nd edition Planeswalker's Handbook, or the Pathfinder SRD. I've just streamlined and adapted it for the system.

Air Attributes: light blue skin/hair, sometimes with swirling markings; surrounded by constant breeze; distinctive breathy voice, strange inflections; flesh is cool to the touch.

+1 on saves vs. air magic, additional +1 at 9th
Can go without breathing for 10 mins/day/level

Earth Attributes: brown, black, grey or white skin & hair; metallic sheen to skin; hair like crystalline spikes; blocky features, thick torsos & limbs; rough, gritty flesh; deep, slow, rumbling speech; eyes like deep black pits or sparkling gems.

+1 to saves vs. earth magic, additional +1 at 9th
Natural Armour +2 AC (stacks with everything)
Natural understanding of stonework
Climb skill for free

Fire Attributes: deep red, coal-black or brassy skin; scales of charcoal; red or mottled horns; deep red hair moving like waving flames; voice crackling like a fire; perpetually warm or hot flesh; fiery red eyes.

+1 to saves vs. fire magic, additional +1 at 9th
60’ infravision

Water Attributes: blue-green skin or hair; blue-black eyes; light layer of scales; fin-like ears; webbed hands or feet; hair waving and swaying as if underwater; muffled voice resembling underwater sounds; cold, clammy flesh.

+1 to saves vs. water magic, additional +1 at 9th
Breathe underwater 30 mins/day/level
Swim skill for free

Celestial / Infernal Appearance: (%)
Roll twice. 
Results before the slash are for Celestial-blooded, results after for Infernals.

01-04 – swirling patterns on forehead / horns on forehead
05-06 – unicorn horn / horns on temples
07 – halo floats above head / single horn on forehead
08-09 – long, thin face
10 – metallic lips / fangs
11 – pearlescent teeth / pointed teeth
12 – musical voice / forked tongue
13-14 – pointed ears
15 – catlike ears / webbed fanlike ears
16 – long nose
17 – tiny or nonexistent nose
18 – long eyelashes
19-21 – amber eyes / red eyes
22-23 – white eyes / black eyes
24 – feline eyes
25-26 – glittering eyes / deep-set eyes
27-28 – neon hair / murky, slimy hair
29-30 – metallic hair / animated hair
31 – multicoloured hair
32-33 – six digits
34-35 – burned-looking knuckles / extra thumbs
36-37 – fingers leave contrails / black fingernails
38-39 – glowing palms / red glowing fingernails
40-41 – fingers 1” longer than normal
42 – arms 6” longer than normal
43 – legs 6” longer than normal
44-46 – birdlike legs / horse legs
47-49 – feline legs / goat legs
50-52 – small feet / goat hooves
53-55 – androgynous
56-57 – fox tail / aquatic tail
58-59 – tiger tail / lizard tail
60-62 – lion’s mane / spiny ridge on back
63-65 – vestigial wings / spiny ridges all over body
66-68 – totally hairless
69-71 – body covered in short fur
72-73 – body covered in striped markings
74-75 – glittering skin / greasy skin
76-80 – scaly skin
81-83 – metallic skin / leathery skin
84-85 – feathers instead of hair on d100% of body
86 – prismatic skin / greyish skin
87 – sparkling skin / translucent skin
88-89 – special side effects
90-94 – roll twice
95-00 – roll three times

Celestial/Infernal Special Abilities (%):
Roll once.

01-15 – roll on Appearance table
16-25 – roll on Special Side Effects table
26-40 – random 0th level spell 2/day
41-51 – random 1st level spell 1/day
52-55 – 1/2 dmg from fire
56-59 – 1/2 dmg from cold
60-63 – 1/2 dmg from electricity
64-67 – 1/2 dmg from acid
68-71 – darkvision 60’
72-75 – infravision 30’
76-79 – +1 to saves vs. fire
80-83 – +1 to saves vs. electricity
84-87 – +1 to saves vs. poison
88-91 – +1 to saves vs. cold
92-95 – +1 to saves vs. acid
96 – +1 to Fort saves
97 – +1 to Reflex saves
98 – +1 to Will saves
99 – roll twice
00 – roll three times

Special Side Effects (%):
Roll as directed.

01-10 – no odour / ashy odour
11-15 – outdoorsy odour / sulfurous odour
16-20 – perfumed odour / rotting odour
21-25 – skin glows / skin exudes ashy grit
26-30 – winged shadow / casts no shadow
31-33 – clothing billows in invisible winds / no reflection in mirror
34-40 – susceptible to anti-outsider spells (protection from evil/good, cacofiend, dispel evil, etc)
41-50 – outsiders of opposite type react as though you are an enemy
51-60 – causes unease in animals
61-65 – causes unease in humanoids, reaction rolls -1
66-70 – touch causes plants to grow / wither
71-75 – claws or talons (natural attack for 1d3)
76-80 – high heat, touch inflicts 1 dmg
81-85 – cold, touch inflicts 1 dmg
86-90 – strange skin, base AC 8+1d6
91 – cannot reproduce
92 – unholy/holy water deals 1d6 dmg
93 – can be turned by clerics of evil/good
94 – cannot enter unholy/holy areas
95 – gains DR 5/silver or magic
96-00 – speak/understand a random ancient language

Basic Colour Table (d10):
1 Red, 2 Orange, 3 Yellow, 4 Green, 5 Blue, 6 Indigo, 7 Violet, 8 White, 9 Black, 10 Roll 2x

Extra Colour Table (d16):
1 Maroon, 2 Red, 3 Orange, 4 Yellow, 5 Olive, 6 Lime, 7 Green, 8 Aqua, 9 Navy, 10 Blue, 11 Purple, 12 Fuchsia, 13 Jale, 14 Dolm, 15 Ulfire, 16 Roll 2x 

There you have it, my foul origins in the '90s hellscape of 2nd edition are revealed. Oh whale! Folks may also wonder at my rearranging of the attribute bonuses, but those with eyes to see & ears to hear may notice what scheme I am working from.


Classes in Land's End

The core of Sword & Magic is the same 4 classes we know and love.

The fighter has 5 subclasses (plain fighter, sailor, archer, barbarian & amazon) each with a few minor special abilities. I called the sailor class 'hunter' because it fits the jungle theme of the campaign, at least for beginning characters. Magic-users are subdivided into regular M-Us and illusionists. While illusions are tough to adjudicate sometimes (I am halfway through that insane 40-page article on Phantasmal Force from Footprints #25), the class has style, flavour and lineage, therefore it must stay. Clerics and thieves are good just how they are with sneak attacks, turn undead, etc. all working like we're used to.

I couldn't help noticing the lack of bards, assassins, druids, monks, paladins or rangers though! I decided that paladins and rangers probably wouldn't fit the jungle-survival-horror setting. Assassins are great but with a comprehensive skill system they are not mechanically different from the existing thief. Bards? Not interested.

Druids do belong in the setting since so much of Land's End is about struggling through dangerous natural landscapes. I had a place for monks, too, in the hidden shrines and monasteries that would dot the region - I was already thinking of unique monk techniques from different schools, that sounded like fun. I thought it would be a fun challenge to elevate the class from the usual "dudes from fantasy-Asia get parachuted into ren-faire England" thing. 

At this point I looked back to Pathfinder. While I hate the system, some of the character classes are really good. Was the witch worth keeping? (maybe... I have yet to see a good witch class in any edition) How about the alchemist, psion or occultist? (nah) Sorcerer? (HELL to the no) The oracle? (definitely!!) 

This gave me an expanded class list rooted in the classics with a sprinkle of the new:

Fighters (Fighter, Hunter, Archer, Barbarian, Amazon)
Cleric, Druid, Oracle, Monk
Magic-User, Illusionist, Witch(maybe)

In the future, look forward to write-ups of these other classes, starting with the oracle.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Improve your D&D game with this one simple trick!

The other day, I had bought some new three-ring dividers and was rearranging my gaming binders. You know that feeling when you say to yourself: "What order do these go in? Should it be wilderness rules - encounter tables - monster stats - hex key; or wilderness rules - hex key - encounter tables - monster stats?" Or is that just me... 

Anyway, they were looking pretty lame. Plain white binders didn't really convey any sense of adventure. So I got on to and and started poking around for high-res images.

In an hour or so of fiddling with GIMP, I desaturated them for a more vintage feel and played around with brightness/contrast for a kind of halfway-posterized look (this mitigated the graininess of a few that were lower-resolution than optimal). Added some text in my favourite font (Imperator Bold) although I now realize I missed an opportunity to aim for trade dress porn. Then drove down to Staples to print 'em out. Pretty cool, right??

Anyway, it looks like after a holiday hiatus I am back in action with a vengeance, DMing two games this weekend - Land's End II is tonight, then City-State of the World Emperor online tomorrow. More play reports and other fun is in the can, so check back soon!

In the mean time, I got turned on to this music by a legendary old-school gaming forum troll, but don't let that stop you from enjoying it:

Monday, January 3, 2022

[Play Report] Land's End II, Session 2 - Escaping the Tunnels

Unknown in-game date


Iron-In-Blood, Lizardfolk
Heka, Wildman
Floros, Human
Xenia, Planetouched
Pale-Heart, Lizardfolk
Duul, Wildman
Pallas, Human
Agàta, Human
Kazik, Human
Dimemnu, Chthonic Elf


The slaves continued their exploration of the complex beyond the Room of Stars.

From the central chamber with the fire-shooting statue, they ventured to the right into a small tomb. Seven grave niches held loose bones topped with primitive humanoid skulls - perhaps they were wildmen? Primitive metal armour, weapons & funerary masks were displayed prominently next to each collection of bones.

"Gross," said Xenia, touching some of the bones with one bluish foot. "Maybe these masks are valuable, though?"

As the group sifted through the grave goods, a sinister clattering arose. The mounds of bones sprang to life, rolling in unholy bundles towards the group! The slaves stood in the center of the room, laying about them with their stone picks and the butt-ends of spears. The abominations were destroyed, but not before one pile of bones got a lucky shot in - Xenia the planetouched lay dead, bleeding from a grievous neck wound.

A few weapons and a suit of armour were recovered. They were of antique design and slowly rusting away, but far better in battle than the slaves' crude stone mining picks.

Returning to the central room, they took the left exit. This led to a sort of throne room. A stone chair faced a wall made from grey, cracked glass. Tablets lining the walls depicted winged visitors from the skies granting magical gifts to ground-dwelling humanoids. These earthbound peoples used the gifts to wage war on an army of demons led by a goat-headed, bat-winged monstrosity. Finally the winged beings departed, promising to return at some future time. Were they supposed to be angels, gods or something else?

On a table at the back of the room lay the shattered remains of glass vials, clay jars & tablets. A few intact vials held strange fluids: one clear green & cold, the other soft milky blue. The slaves took these, wondering what they might do. Beside them, a clay tablet showed pictograms accompanied by unknown text: a wounded man drank from a bottle and got back up, a fighting-man drank from a bottle and struck his foe, and a man poured a bottle into a river and then walked over it.

"Hmm, three sets of instructions, but two potions" said Pallas"We'll have to try out which is which later."

On another table rested a small black metal box with a handle on top, adorned with shiny metallic protrusions & crystals on one side. Pallas noticed that a small panel on the bottom could be opened up. Inside was a mess of coloured threads & strange metallic pieces, their functions obscure to him. With a little bit of fiddling, he managed to install one of the threaded metal cylinders they found earlier [last session].

The box came to life! Coloured lights danced around the metallic knobs & dials on the front face. Buzzing, crackling noise filled the room. Frightened of this strange magic, Pallas managed to fiddle with the controls enough to turn down the volume. He could hear distant voices buried in the waves of distortion, but wasn't able to clear up the signal. After some more fidgeting, he removed the metallic cylinder (some kind of power source. Was it magic, or something else?) and the box quieted again. The group brought the black box with them, intending to plumb its secrets a later time.

Through the last door in the large chamber, they entered a darkened room lined with pillars. A shallow pool of water ran through the centre, shimmering with underwater lights. A few lumpen, crystalline golems shuffled towards the group with unknown intentions. They moved slowly, but the slaves weren't taking any chances with a fight. After some experimentation, Kazik realized they were attracted to the groups' lamps. He left one brazier burning in the corner, and the crystalline creatures surrounded it, warming themselves by its light.

Giving these odd beings the slip, the group ventured down a spiral staircase at the end of the room. They next found themselves in a long room with two large tables. Toy battles were set up with tiny clay miniatures showing humans, lizardfolk, elves and stranger beings battling amongst hills, forests and cities. Not understanding this game, Dimemnu the elf took a handful of the figures in case they might be valuable or useful later.

There was only one door left, at the end of the hall of miniatures. It opened onto another room full of clay soldiers - only these ones were life-sized! Under the watery light of a great crystal sphere, a clay general rose from his throne, pointing an accusing finger at the invaders. Seventy clay soldiers began to animate, climbing up from the pit they had been preserved in and moving towards the group.

"Never mind!" said Iron-in-Blood, slamming the door. With no desire to fight ten times their number, the slaves hustled back up the stairs, past the slow-moving men of crystal and back out towards the Room of Stars.

"I hope those clay soldiers can't follow us through this magic door..." Agàta mused.

the deep obsidian caves

The slaves continued exploring, progressing downslope from the Room of Stars. They entered a vast cavern filled with a darkened frozen lake, seemingly frozen in mid-wave! It was not cold or icy to the touch, but some kind of greenish glass. The group could see dim shapes buried underneath the surface, and a few shattered sections that looked as if something once frozen inside had busted out.

Walking on this strange lake was like a maze amongst the breakers. The slaves were accosted by the faint, ghosts of hunched-over, hulking humanoids. Attempts at communication were met with impatient hand gestures. The ghosts seemed to understand a little bit, but couldn't speak themselves. They didn't seem hostile, and the group was at a loss until Floros asked if they knew a way out. The ghosts led the slaves back the way they came, to the edge of the frozen lake. They indicated the group should head up the tunnel to the Room of Stars, then slowly faded out of view.

After this enigma, the slaves returned to the underground river through the Room of Stars. Curious about some of the items they'd brought, Floros decided to don the strange silver helmet garlanded with thin wires. "I can see it! I can-" he exclaimed, before the poor fellow died messily, his eyes exploding from their sockets in a shower of fluid!

Mourning Floros, the slaves explored further into the tunnels. The hopping piranhas were gone now, and the river safe to walk by. Turning back down an unexplored tunnel, the slaves came to a set of three stone statues in alcoves. One of a humanoid man with an elongated, ovoid head, wearing robes and an ornate circlet, pointing a scepter upwards to the ceiling. The second statue was the same man holding a shield, his open hand pointing downwards. The third statue was covered in mineral deposits and unrecognizable. Writing in an unknown language lined the statues' bases and each one had a small bench or step in front of it. 

Duul was interested in the humanoid with the sceptre, and stepped closer to investigate. When he touched the bench, he began to levitate! After some experimenting, it seemed Duul could float upwards or downwards under his own power, but not sideways. The effect wore off after a few minutes. The group decided this was their chance, and each stepped up to receive the statue's blessing in turn - then their friends pushed/pulled them towards the river, before shoving them until they floated to the opposite side. The statue's magic ran out before everyone could be levitated, and Pale-Heart had to jump across into the waiting arms of her companions. Luckily, nobody fell into the swift & cold mountain stream.

Beyond the river, a narrow tunnel extended deep into the mountain. The slaves walked on, with only the flickering coal's light to illuminate their next step. They were all accustomed to fatigue and hunger, but it was impossible to know how much time passed in those dark tunnels. After perhaps one work-shift of walking, at the end of their endurance, the slaves reached the end of the tunnel. A crumbling, rocky opening led out into a lush, rainy mountain valley with a river running lazily through the center. Signs of cultivation were apparent, but nobody was around. 

Have the slaves found a safe place? Will the clay army take over the caverns? What about those ghosts on the frozen lake? What's the deal with that black box? Plenty of unanswered questions remain...

Monsters Defeated:

7 bone-piles


some antique armour & weapons
7 funerary masks
2 colourful potions
tablet with writing & pictures on it
black box that makes noise
a few clay figurines


1000 xp each for escaping slavery


Phew, the holiday hangover is beginning to wear off! Thus shall we work through the play-report backlog. Session 3 and 4 were short and exposition-heavy affairs, shouldn't take too much effort to transcribe although memory does play tricks on me sometimes. Our next session is upcoming in a week, and I am hoping for some action!

Anyway, for this dungeon the gang did fairly well, only running away at the very end when things got crazy. I also removed one of the monsters (in the throne room) because they already had to venture through a monster-infested dungeon just to get there, and it didn't exactly fit the theme.

I don't think you should run a DCC level-0 funnel every single day, but I am glad I gave it a try. It is easy, fun, and a nice introduction for rookie players. Nobody has to pick skills or even classes, or worry too much about anything - we just jump into the game! From such humble beginnings, who knows what heroes will emerge?