Archive for Magic

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…

New D&D Monster: Dark Druid

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2011 by Kullervo

Vercix, the Dark Druid

No. Enc.: 1 (plus 2 Foul Hounds)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 120’ (40’)
Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 5
Attacks: 1 (sickle)
Damage: 1d6
Save: C5
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: XV
XP: 365

Vercix was once a guardian of nature before he came into contact with powerful forces of corruption that drove him murderously insane. Now he practices an evil, twisted from of nature magic, doing the bidding of the dark whispers that he hears in his dreams and spreading corruption wherever he can.

He stands tall and straight, clean-shaven and bald with thick, ugly features. Vercix wears a crown of poison ivy and a mouldering gray hooded robe trimmed with thorny vines. In combat, he wields a wickedly sharp sickle forged from an ill-looking green iron. He is always accompanied by two Foul Hound companions, gifts from his insane masters.

Vercix receives a +2 bonus to saves against fire and electricity effects of any kind, and he has the ability to pass through thick vegetation with no movement penalty. He may cast the following spells once per day as a 5th-level cleric (some of these spells are found in the Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion): entangle, putrefy food and water, darkness, cure light wounds, obscuring mist, barkskin, charm person, cause disease, and insect swarm.

Illustration by David Deitrick

Warhammer Storm Of Magic: Games Workshop Uses The Magic Words

Posted in Warhammer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2011 by Kullervo

So, I’m not a big Warhammer Fantasy Battles player. I have a dwarf army and a clutter of other GW miniatures that I use for Warhammer Quest, but I haven’t actively followed the game for nearly fifteen years.

My brother, on the other hand, is a serious enthusiast, so he sent me some of the preview links from the new Storm of Magic supplement for the latest edition of WFB, and it looks like it’s the perfect combination of slick and quirky. He’s worried about what it does to game balance, but I thumb my nose at game balance. I hate game balance. I only love game awesome.

And this has game awesome, as evidenced by the web team’s use of two of my favorite words:

There’s a fantastic collection of spells and monsters in this book, from the old to the new. Who thought we’d ever see Zoats again, or the Fimir? And who could forget Assault of Stone, where the wizard can literally re-shape the battlefield around him? There are new spells for all races and even the Dwarfs get to join in with special Ancestor Runes that really are as potent as they sound.

I’m just hoping Ambulls get in this thing somehow, too.

It’s probably not enough to make my buy back into the game, but it sure is enough to hope my brother gets this so I can play with his.

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.

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

Warhammer Quest: Death By 1’s

Posted in Warhammer Quest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 16, 2011 by Kullervo

I played a bunch of Warhammer Quest with my 5-year old son this weekend. He can’t quickly do the math and he doesn’t understand all the rules, but does grok the basic ideas really well (turn sequence, 1’s in the power phase mean unexpected events, rolling high is good, the guy with the lantern explores the next room, when you run out of wounds you die, etc.) and WHQ doesn’t have so many options that he gets overwhelmed. Also, it doesn’t hurt that he can read really well. In any case, he can hold his own well enough that playing is legitimately a fun time even beyind the basic fun of spending time with my kid.

We decided to go ahead and play campaign-style, so we will be able to visit settlements, spend treasure, train up to new battle-levels, etc. At least in theory. The problem is that at battle-level 1, Warhammer Quest is hilariously lethal. The “roll a 1 phase” phenomenon can quickly devolve into cascading events, most of which are monsters, very quickly, and the players just drown in a sea of evil. Accordingly, we have yet to actually complete a dungeon without all dying gruesomely.

I don’t think it’s a bug though–it adds an urgency that is a lot of fun and feels realistic without being strictly a simulation. If you spend a lot of time fighting and making a ruckus, you run the risk of attracting the attention of other monsters in the dungeon. So it’s not unreasonable that a protracted fight would eventually bring the whole house down on you. And that’s precisely what happened to us.

Yesterday, while descending a staircase, we (Elf and Dwarf played by my son; Dwarf Trollslayer and Wizard played by me) were set upoon by a group of goblin spearmen. Alone, they were not much of a threat and we were well on our way to cleaning them up when we rolled another 1 in the power phase and drew another event: the ceiling collapsed! Suddenly we had two turns to get out of the staircase before the whole thing came down on our heads (this is stressful because it also means that if you decide to go out the wrong door, you stand a chance of permanently cutting off the objective, or worse, locking yourself in a dead end–we played it safe and backtracked so we could at least make it back to civilization even if we couldn’t “win” the dungeon).

But the next turn, before the colllapse had even actually happened, we rolled a 1 again, and drew a mass of orks and ork archers. We were down a few hit points from the goblin fight, and the goblins were not all dead either, and we had spent a turn running away from the cave-in instead of killing the last few goblins, so this was troublesome.

The other problem with roling a lot of 1’s in the power phase is that it means that the wizard does not have much power to draw on, which means he can’t cast a lot of healing spells (or area attack spells, or spells of any kind), so the cascading monster ambushes are compounded by the fact that the wizard is basically running on empty. When the orcs strolled in, I had the wizard burn up all of his reserve power to heal up everyone as much as he could, but that meant he was stuck with whatever the power die gave him for the rest of the game.

And of course, the power die kept coming up 1, which means we kept drawing encounters and the wizard kept not being able to cast spells. The turn after the orks showed up, a mob of skeletons strolled in, and our characters started biting the dust: first to go was the Wizard (which is a problem because the elf’s healing potion was already gone, which means all our sources of healing for the rest of the game were now off the table) and then the Trollslayer. The
Elf went down in short order, as well. There’s only so much you can do when compeltely surrounded by ork and skeletons, and taking fire from ork archers down the hall at the same time.

So the Dwarf was left all alone in a sea of monsters, taking his last stand Davy-Crockett-style. In his last turn he rolled yet another 1 in the power phase, and a gang of skaven pounced on him. The monsters were overflowing into nearby rooms at this point. The Dwarf acquitted himself manfully (dwarffully?), but he didn’t stand a chance. Another party of adventurers never to be seen again.

But we had a good time! My son doesn’t get upset when his guys die; he only gets upset if the game ends too early (so the other night when we drew 3 minotaurs in the first room and all got instantly slaughtered ended in tears). So he was happy as a clam because we got to play for a long time. So was I.

We’ll just have to try again.

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.