Archive for Fantasy

The Airship of Fools: The Gun Kingdoms Volume II

Posted in Steampunk with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2013 by Kullervo


Check out the Kickstarter campaign to fund Scott Taylor’s new fantasy/steampunk novel, The Airship of Fools:

In 2012, David Deitrick and I started a journey together into the realms of the Gun Kingdoms. That first volume was on the beginning, and now we are asking backers here on Kickstarter to give us another chance to continue our tale.

The Gun Kingdoms is a chaotic time tucked inside the 13th Age of the Nameless Realms where elementally devoid Samaya rule feudal nations that via for power amid a world where their former masters, the Enlightened have been hunted to the brink of extinction.

Our series revolves around Captain Kaleb Cross, freebooter and rogue captain of an experimental vessel left over from the great war between the Samaya and the Enlightened. His crew are his family, and among this rag-tag band of adventures is Skylla, a half-Enlightened slave who has worked her way up to being Kaleb’s second in command.

After our first volume, David and I knew what was next, and this painting became our inspiration. ‘The Consultant’ as it is called, shows our intrepid hero, Kaleb, ready for action as an airship drifts behind him. What better way to show fantastic steampunk action than with airships, and a pulp adventure that follows a crew in search of legendary craft and the treasures they hold.

The top-level backer’s reward is pretty sweet: you can get the original David R. Deitrick painting that inspired the novel! But if that’s too rich for your blood, there are also levels that give you a new original sketch from the book, or a print of the painting. And of course, you can get the novel…

D&D Classics Is Live! Hot Damn!

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons, Swords & Sorcery with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2013 by Kullervo

Hot damn! Wizards of the Coast has pdfs for sale again! I can’t tell if the price point is the same as when it was all taken down in 2009 (I seem to recall a lot more $4.99 products and a lot fewer $9.99 products), but it all still looks very resonable, and in any case cheaper than what you have to pay on the secondary market.

Honestly, I had stopped buying anything from Wizards of the Coast awhile ago and I had basically written them off (played 4e and liked it but didn’t love it; have no interest at all in 5e/Next; am now only really interested in older editions), but it looks like they’re back in the game. This was pretty much the only way they were going to get me to give them my money again, and they’ve done it.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go demonstrate with my wallet that this was a sound business decision (on the other hand, I promise you right now that my productivity for the day is just shot to hell). To start with, I think I shall purchase…

C1: The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
HR7: The Crusades Campaign Sourcebook
Manual of the Planes (AD&D 1e)

But I have a bunch of other stuff in my wish list that I’ll be getting in short order–lots of classic modules and 1e hardback/sourcebooks. Oh, and I fully intend to buy every single Planescape pdf they release.

Endurance Reading: The Hour of the Dragon

Posted in Meta with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2011 by Kullervo

An old friend of mine started a new blog where he reads and reviews pulp and classic sci-fi and fantasy, starting with Robert E. Howard’s The Hour of the Dragon. Tune in!

D&D: Monster Motivations

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2011 by Kullervo

This was my entry for Fight On!’s fantasy gaming tables contest, spruced up and tweaked a bit since the initial entry.

Roll a d% on this table for a monster or group of monsters to discover what its primary motivation is when it encounters a group of player characters.  Roll a d% on the most appropriate column, depending on if the monster is Chaotic, Neutral or of low (animal) intelligence.



Animal Intelligence





Evil.  The monster simply enjoys killing and causing pain.  If reasoned with, the monster will look for opportunities to betray the player characters or otherwise gain the upper hand.




Fear.  The monster is as afraid of the player characters as they are of it.  An assurance of good intentions before blood is drawn could turn an enemy into a friend, or lull the unsuspecting brute into a false sense of security.  This monster may (d% 1-40) have a -1 to its usual Morale.




Glory.  The monster is out to defeat worthy opponents and take trophies from them as evidence of its victory.  If the player characters appear to be beneath the monster’s valor, it may hold them in contempt but let them alone, or it may decide to kill them anyway, out of pity.  This monster has a +2 to its usual Morale.



Greed.  The monster is keen on the player characters’ treasure and items, and is willing to kill if necessary, but it will also look for easier ways to get the player characters’ valuables.



Hatred.  The monster has a deep antipathy for humans (d% 1-30), elves (d% 31-60), dwarves (d% 61-90) or halflings (d% 91-00).  The monster will refuse to parley with the object of its hatred, and is unlikely to be willing to parley with any adventurers who associate with the object of its hatred.  In combat, the monster will attack the object of its hatred and will continue to attack it until it is dead.




Hunger.  The monster is looking for something to eat.  Combat can be avoided if the player characters can somehow provide a more suitable meal.  If the player characters pose a significant threat, the monster may be willing to look elsewhere for an easy meal, but if food is scarce, the monster may be desperate, thus the monster may have -1 (d%1-40) or +1 (d% 91-00) to its usual morale.



Machismo. These swaggering monsters want to impress each other.  As long as more than one of them is present, these monsters have +2 to their morale.




Pain. The monster is wounded and lashing out in pain.  The wound may be obvious (d% 1-60) or hidden (d% 61-00).  In either case, the players have a chance to make an ally if they heal the wound instead of causing more wounds.  But pain can cause the monster to act unpredictably, and thus the monster may have -1 (d% 1-30) or +1 (d% 71-100) to its usual Morale.




Rage.  The monster is in a killing frenzy and is unlikely to retreat or bargain unless somehow calmed first.  The monster’s rage may be its natural state (d% 1-60), or a result of disease (d% 61-80) or magic (d% 81-00).




Territory.  The monster is defending what it thinks of as its territory, and sees the players as trespassers or invaders.  Although the monster may be unlikely to be willing to parley first (d% 1-25), it will be satisfied with merely driving the player characters away.



Vengeance.  Whether correctly (d% 1-30) or incorrectly (d% 31-00), the monster blames the players for a great wrong that has been done to it, and seeks vengeance.



Zealotry.  The player characters are an affront to the monster’s faith, and it is willing to sacrifice itself to scour them from the earth.  This monster has a +3 to its usual Morale.

Thoughts on Dungeon Crawl Classics

Posted in Swords & Sorcery with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 10, 2011 by Kullervo

The Dungeon Crawl Classics beta playtest rules are out and they’re what everyone is talking about (at least everyone who writes gameblogs I read…), and as I have had a chance to briefly flip through them, I thought I would toss my two cents into the palaver circle.

I’m not incredibly wild about fantasy roleplaying in general. I like D&D, by which I mean Dungeons and Dragons in a motherfucking dungeon, fighting monsters, like a motherfucking dragon. I like dungeon crawl games. They’re fun.

But I don’t really love medieval fantasy for medieval fantasy’s sake. I have no interest in an epic high fantasy adventure story. I have no interest in a Game of Thrones. I like to read a little swords and sorcery, but I don’t even know how bad I would want to play it.

So my interest in fantasy RPGs is relatively limited, and mostly already served by the existing OSR games out there. That said, I do love new and interesting variations, especially ones that I think look fun, or that add the stuff I like and don’t clutter it with the stuff I don’t like. Back on the other hand, i am not thrilled anymore by learning new rules systems or reading RPG manuals for the sake of reading RPG manuals. I would rather play an RPG and read a real book.

So, with all of that on the table, here’s what I think about DCC: If someone else was going to run it, and I thought they would be a good DM (because most DMs are honestly just atrocious; there, I said it), I would be in it in a heartbeat. I think the charts and tables for spells look awesome, and I think the magical patron rules look rad. I usualyl like to play fighters and barbarians, but I would most definitely play a magic user in DCC because it looks, first and foremost like thay have made magic hellafun and flavored with awesome.

I’m not going to run the game though. And I’m probably not going to buy it, unless I do wind up playing it and loving it. My rule for years has been to not buy any RPG product that I don’t think I’m actually going to use, and until I know I’m hot for DCC, I know i’m not going to be using the book or the funky dice.

In summary: the game has some really cool-looking stuff about it, I don’t mind the awkward dice because I think there’s value in weirdness for weirdness’s sake, I would like to give the game a spin, but I’m not going to buy it, read it, or run it until I already know I love it.

Fading Suns: The Sinful Stars

Posted in Fading Suns, Space Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2011 by Kullervo

My best friend Ben bought me a copy of the Fading Suns fiction anthology, the Sinful Stars, and it came in the mail this weekend. It’s game fiction, but I don’t care. It’s Fading Suns and I fucking love Fading Suns.

I’m only two stories in so far, but I’m having a blast with it. Usually I am totally disinterested in published game settings, unless they’re a licensed property or something. Sometimes I sit around wishing I could have pretend Star Trek adventures or pretend Conan adventures, or whatever media I am excited about at the moment, but I basically never sit around wishing I could have pretend adventures in some world invented primarily for a roleplaying game.

That’s not to say I have a hate-on for published settings; I just don’t usually get all that excited about them. Most of the time I am of the opinion that I can come up with something just as good on my own.

But there are some exceptions, and Fading Suns is the big one. I love Fading Suns with a true and perfect love, but I have only been able to run it a bare handful of times, and I have only been able to play it never. I suppose I could push harder for it, but I kind of think I would be diasppointed unless the other players in the group were also at least modestly excited about the setting. Also, despite my rumblings about wanting to convert it to some other system, RedBrick is coming out with a third edition soon that looks good, so I’m honestly just going to wait for that.

In the meantime, I have this here fiction anthology. And you know what? When all you really want is to have imaginary adventures in an imaginary world, it turns out that reading about adventures in an imaginary world is almost as good, or sometimes even better. So for now, this book scratches the itch. Thanks, Ben.

New D&D Monster: The Blightling Priest

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2011 by Kullervo

Blightling Priest

No. Enc.: 1 plus 1d6 Blightlings (3 plus 3d6 Blightlings)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 90’ (30’)
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 3+1
Attacks: 1 (sacrificial dagger)
Damage: 1d6 plus poison (see below)
Save: C3
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: XXI
XP: 88

Blightling Priests are the monstrous leaders of the Blightlings, responsible for feeding the hunger of the loathsome forest gods that the Blightlings serve as well as for perpetuating the Blightling race and the corruption that they spread to wilderness areas. Blightling Priests stand slightly taller than ordinary Blightlings, they dress in voluminous black robes, and they carry long, twisted cold-iron sacrificial daggers that drip with an eerie green poison (save versus poison or die in 1d4 turns).

Blightling Priests are granted magical powers by their gods, and as a result can cast hold person, cause fear and cause light wounds once per day each as a 3rd-level cleric.

Like ordinary Blightlings, Blightling Priests are undead (and thus immune to charm, hold person and sleep) but are generally immune to turning by a cleric, except by clerics that specifically serve deities of nature or nature itself.

Illustration by David Deitrick

Jeff Rients: The Dungeon As The Psyche

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 20, 2011 by Kullervo

In response to a recent open thread on Grognardia, Jeff Rients posted the following comment:

I believe that the descent into the dungeon is a symbolic representation of the rational mind attempting to understand the irrational, unconscious self. Therefore dungeons should have something important to say but they are under no obligation to make any sense.

I don’t know how seriously he meant this, but I think it might be one of the most, if not the most, important things ever said about roleplaying games. I will be thinking about this pretty intensely, so expect a more substantial post about it soon.

Cavalier: WTF

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 25, 2010 by Kullervo

I just unwrapped the D&D Essentials book Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms this morning, and I’m sitting here perusing its pages, but I am baffled completely by the Paladin Cavalier class.

cav·a·lier /ˌkævəˈlɪər, ˈkævəˌlɪər/ –noun, 1. a horseman, esp. a mounted soldier; knight.

Definition number one: a cavalier is a dude who fights from horseback. Based on the name alone, and since I reasonably assumed that the class had nothing to do with the English Civil War, I thought that the Cavalier class was going to be some kind of mount-oriented paladin. And I was excited about the prospect.

But apparently that would be too obvious. Unless I’m missing something, the class has a grand total of one mount-related ability, a class feature that comes in at level four that gives you +2 speed while moving mounted.

That’s it.

30 pages of virtuous defender powers and features, and only one +2 bonus that’s even remotely related to fighting from horseback (or griffonback, or lionback, or whatever suits your paladin’s fancy). That’s total nonsense. Its like they just made a generic paladinesque class, looked up “paladin” in their thesaurus, and just picked the first thing that sounded cool with no regard whatsoever for the word’s actual denotation or connotation.

Anyone see the Friends episode where Joey wrote the letter to the adoption agency for Chandler and Monica and he used the thesaurus for every word? That’s pretty much what happened here.

I’m sure it’s a fine class, well-designed and fun to play. But the name had me anticipating something completely different, and I am disappointed about it.

Wizards of the Coast, you’re on notice. Good thing the Hexblade is pretty much the most awesome class ever invented.

The Black Priest: An Adventure Idea

Posted in Swords & Sorcery with tags , , , , on May 18, 2010 by Kullervo

The other day, my brother asked me for an idea for an adventure he could run for new players to D&D, and this is what I came up with, more or less on the fly.

The players are drinking and carousing in a tavern when one of the bar wenches tells them that the hooded man in the corner has bought them a drink and would like them to join him.  He turns out to be Marco Oloterbo, a prominent, wealthy merchant in the city.
He explains to them that like the players, his son was a young student of the dark arts, interested in treasure and adventure, but he disappeared a month ago, when he went out to search an old ruin, one of the structures reclaimed by the swamp during the last cataclysm.  His son had a family heirloom, a talisman, that Oloterbo wants returned.  He will pay the players handsomely to go out to the ruin and return the talisman.  He has done his research, and can provide a map to the ruin.
If the players ask around, they can find out that the ruin is reputed to be haunted: it housed a reliquary of some kind, and dark rumors of dark pacts hold that the priest charged with keeping the reliquary never left.
So the players set out into the treacherous swamp.  Along the way they are ambushed by brigands, wolf’s heads and cutthroats who hide out in the swamp.  If the players subdue and question one of them, he knows nothing about Oloterbo’s son, but he does know about the cursed ruin, and he says the outlaws avoid it because of the dreaded Black Priest who haunts it.
The ruin is a small chapel, with three rooms, stacked on top of each other.  The ground floor is a tiny chapel with an alter. Everything is befouled.  Up a rickety ladder is an attic/small belltower, home to a massive and deadly constricting snake, typical of the swamp but grown large and bloated with the malevolent energy that inundates the ruin.  A hidden hatch from the ground floor leads down a cold and foul stone staircase, into a wet tunnel, with roots hanging.  Partway down the tunnel is a trap–a scything blade or a skewering spear trap.
At the end of the tunnel is a locked stone door with holy symbols carved into it.  The door leads to a small crypt with a saint’s sarcophagus and several dark apses.  The ground is flooded with muddy water, maybe ankle-deep.  The rotting body of Oloterbo’s son is sprawled out by the sarcophagus.  The talisman is still around his neck.  As the players move in and investigate the room, they hear sloshing footsteps from one of the apses.  The Black Priest, now a foul monster, an undead being with only the barest semblance of life, shuffles out and attacks the players.  If they defeat him, he does not die–he just retreats into the apse, and disappears into shadow.
Oloterbo’s son has some equipment, including an occult tome written in an ancient language.  The sarcophagus has long been plundered: all that remains are the saint’s bones.