Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dragones, Navidad, y Comida Mexicana

"Dragons, Christmas, and Mexican Food"

Se acabaron las fiestas. The parties are least for 2011. There's looking to be at least one more late nighter for the New Year, but the next few days should be on the quieter side. Kind of. I'm supposed to be singing Metallica covers with my wife's cousin's band at a bar tomorrow, part of a six-band set (I don't know what order we're in...sometime around 10pm) but I might bag it. The kids aren't bad, considering their age (about half mine or a little more), but only two of the members bothered to learn the song they told me to prepare (Iron Maiden's Hallowed Be Thy Name), and they want me to learn a SlipKnot song (*barf*) by tomorrow so I can "come in on the chorus."

I'll probably do it chances at "rock n' rollin'" these days are slim and far between, and I can pretty much do Enter Sandman and Master of Puppets in my sleep...besides that's a lot closer to "singing" than Pantera or Trivium (the band's main influences...oh, and Slayer, of course). The things I do for family (and ego)...

But up until tonight, the partying has been pretty much non-stop since I arrived. Let's Thursday, wedding on Friday, Christmas Eve (till 4am) on Saturday, Christmas Day (party, late night Mass, relatives, party) on Sunday, birthday party (for my son, who doesn't turn 1 till the 19th of January) on Monday (involving about 50+ assorted relatives), birthday party for my wife's other cousin (involving many, many more people) on Tuesday...

Today's Wednesday, right? Yeah, just (very loud) band practice and a quiet chocolate and churros with the wife and baby today. We did some laundry.

In between partying and stuffing myself with excellent food, I've managed to accomplish exactly 0 (zero) as far as writing is concerned. Hell, this is the first chance I've had to type ANYthing (the baby requires quite a bit of wrangling, too)...and I can see it's actually Thursday around 1:14am. And I should be hitting the hay soon.

However, I have managed to squeeze in enough reading time (on planes and busses and in quiet moments) to finish Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight, something I've long been meaning to do. What an utterly fantastic book...I see how it launched such a successful (critically and popular-wise) series. I'll have to pick up the sequels when I'm back state-side. Just ridiculously good and wasn't until about halfway through the thing I realized that it had not ripped off D&D's "chromatic spectrum" of dragons, having been written in 1969, well before Gygax and Arneson (and thus was probably part of the inspiration for the RPG).

And I have to say I prefer McCaffrey's version of dragons to those created by TSR. That is, her color/size/personality/role descriptives for dragons makes more "biological sense" to me than the different color = different breath weapon thang. And this despite the totally bizarre "telepathic/teleportation/time travel" abilities of the Pern dragons. I guess it's just a matter of taste, but her animal mounts had more personality and "reality" (for me) than any of the dragons in the Dragon Lance books (for example).

I have much more to say about the Dragonflight book (not pertaining to dragons), but I'll save that for a later post. I've had an epiphany or two reading these old school SciFi/Fantasy books (I'm halfway through MZB's classic Sharra's Exile, and I hope to finish it in the next couple days) and I want to collate my thoughts in a way that will be useful from a gaming perspective.

Now if you'll excuse me, I am going to bed. Have to get up early tomorrow and download SlipKnot.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Blasphemous Brewery of Pilz!

I’m not usually one to write reviews. I mean, not real reviews: certainly I like to wax enthusiastic about things I dig and criticize the hell out of things I feel are a stinking, heaping pile. But that’s not really the same thing as a cool, calm, collected ‘review,’ right?

But people like to send me things to read and review. One of the perks of having a blog (and one of the reasons I feel responsible for trying to keep it up, even when I have a gazillion other “priority” things on my mind). Usually, I DO try to read the things I’m sent, but I’m not always able to get around to a review. For example, I still haven’t had a chance to write a review of the Swords of Destiny books, and those have been sitting on the shelf now for months.

This morning I had the opportunity to read the adventure module The Blasphemous Brewery of Pilz! while enjoying a semi-leisurely breakfast at the Baranof, a quiet moment I am savoring before I begin the grueling work of preparing for a two week stint in Mexico. In the past, such a trip would have been a piece o easy, as my wife and I are masters of packing light and we’d be on familiar turf (i.e. the wife’s home country), seeing friends and family and simply worrying how to get all the good eating in between relaxing siestas. This time, though, we are making the trip with an 11-month old child, and we’re bringing not only Christmas gifts and car seats, but also stuff for the kid’s birthday party (which we’ll be celebrating twice apparently).

There’s more I could whine about, but I’ll stop now.

The Blasphemous Brewery of Pilz! is an adventure by Dylan Hartwell, the Digital Orc, designed for use with Labyrinth Lord (kind of) and intended for characters level 3-7. I won’t bother providing the synopsis of the main scenario, but I do want to quote the second paragraph of the coverleaf/blurb:

The Blasephemous Brewery of Pilz! is written as both a stand-alone adventure and, if you take a liking to the town of Shattenburg and its locale, a rich source for subsequent adventures. Contained within are maps of the Pilz Monastery and region, background information, multiple adventure plots, a new spell, and new monsters.

My review pertains to that stuff, and what exactly you’re getting for three-dollar PDF.

The PDF is 17 pages, 2 pages of which are legalese OGL stuff. Of the other 15 pages, you’ve got a one page cover leaf and four pages of maps (one map to a page). Add it up and you have 10 pages of “adventure.”

I’ll cut to the chase:
the ten pages are worth the $3.

That’s my honest opinion, and it should be understood that I am fairly tight with my cash. Now, having got that part out of the way (whether or not it’s worth your money), I’ll get down to my less-than-rosy feelings on the thing.

Because, lest anyone misconstrue, I don’t necessarily think the adventure proper (the blasphemous brewery) is any great shakes or necessarily worth cash out of my pocket. As I said, I’m tight, and I can write my own adventures and I LIKE my own adventures, thank you very much. Which is to say, I have a fairly high idea of my own abilities in adventure writing, regardless of my PLAYERS’ feelings on the matter…my objective in writing adventures is to challenge, entertain, and amuse myself as much as the players, and I can do that.

No, I wouldn’t pay $3 for the main scenario, even though it has a nicely drawn map and a couple new (nicely illustrated) monsters. My as-yet-unpublished Toad God Temple is both cooler and fiercer, in my not-so-humble opinion.

But that’s not what you’re paying the three bucks for. The Blasphemous Brewery is actually a mini-campaign/sandbox…or rather, has the potential for one. You have a small region outlined with multiple points of interest, i.e. dungeons (the brewery is only one), a nice little home base (with potential intrigue and political problems), richly textured conflict/history (without pages and pages of leaden exposition)…enough material to provide a gaming group with a multi-month campaign and several levels worth of adventuring, providing the DM is slightly imaginative and interested enough to “run with the material.”

Personally, I’m pretty lazy and I can see ways to get at least three or four months (at least) out of this material. And I mean EASILY (which is key for a lazy DM)…this is an excellent example of how a fairly small amount of effort can yield large returns.

The way Hartwell accomplishes this is by having a tightly knit set of conflicts within the region and just enough adventure to provide challenges to several levels of characters without any kind of artificial, linear progression. I did say “sandbox” right?

So that’s what your three bucks buy you, and as I said it’s worth it to me…especially if you’re starting a new beginning campaign.

And by beginning, I DO mean "beginning." I don’t think 2nd level is too weak for the primary scenario, especially with a moderate sized group (4-6 PCs plus retainers), and even three to four PCs of levels 4th to 5th will stomp all over it without breaking a sweat.

Now the LATER adventures in the mini-campaign could use high level characters, but even 6th and 7th level characters seem too powerful for most everything in the book, except for the Ghemin Caves. Well, and the dragon, of course (though nothing says the dragon has to be a LARGE dragon).

But that’s part of the reason I wouldn’t pay more than $3 for the book; despite the nice premise and clever ideas in it (I think both new monsters are good, for example), it feels at times like Hartwell doesn’t know his stuff (by which I mean B/X and Labyrinth Lord). For instance, there’s a “level 8” elf spell in the game. Last I checked, the highest spell available to elves was level 5, so I’m not sure who exactly would be using it. However, as it’s simply a type of curse/forced reincarnation (and a non-permanent one at that), 8th level seems inappropriate anyway.

The book is also a bit disjointed (for my taste) in its presentation. We receive an introduction, then some of the stronger “optional” adventure sites, then specific NPCs, then new monsters, then the main scenario, followed by wandering encounters for the wilderness, and finally ideas for “further adventures.” The thing could do with a better layout…sticking all the random tables on a single page, or sticking new monsters and spells at the end in an easily found appendix would make it easier for a DM to use the book.

As I said, it’s only $3. But I’m not just being a “nit-picky;” it’s a pain in the ass to find things, considering only ten pages of content (fortunately, the illustrations are helpful for navigating). I’d advise a careful read the first-time through, as it’s pretty easy to miss things just “skimming” the book due to the lack of logical progression in presentation.

All right, that’s enough o the complaints. Here’s a summary of the highlights (from my perspective):
  • The magic artifact presented is perfect…I wouldn’t change a single thing about it as presented. Lots of campaign fodder, especially for a low-level (pre-Name) campaign.
  • The elven drama/conflict is also great. I would change the new spell (I’d probably just use a variation of reincarnation, or allow the elven ritual to help force the form instead of random assignment).
  • Both new monsters are excellent. The humanoids are great as a replacement for your standard troglodytes.
  • The Caves of Ghemin feel a little too deadly, but the idea behind the caves (their history, their powers, etc.) are nice…this is the kind of thing that makes a mini-sandbox like this work (a non-dungeon, site of interest that ties both to history and the current conflicts of the region).
  • The brewery scenario and its story are excellent, but again I’d judge it to be pretty weak for characters level 3-7. Also the rewards presented are much more fitting for low-level (1st through 3rd level characters). Personally, I would not list items value in “silver pieces;" otherwise, I wouldn't change anything about it, besides the suggested PC levels.
  • The town NPCs are all excellent. Shattenburg is just about right as a home base, nefarious intrigue site. Tasty without being over-detailed.
  • The wilderness map and region-specific wandering monster tables are good and also appropriate for low level characters (bigger monsters provide “teaching moments” in discretion being the better part of valor).
  • Any low level monster with (non-baby) dragon conflict is excellent. Good work.
  • Scalable conflict with a contextual basis (i.e. not an artificial “well this area is only open to 5th level characters” WoW-style). Dig it.
All right...gotta' get some stuff done. Later, folks.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Remembering Age 12

Seeing this post on Grognardia the other day, reminded me a bit of my days of youth. I owned several of the figures from this toy line: specifically Warduke (my favorite, of course) and his nightmare mount, Kellek, Srongheart, and Melf the Elf. Zartan (Zartak?) was also in the mix, though for some reason I am remembering him as my brother's toy. The family cocker spaniel gnawed the hand off the paladin one day (I've mentioned before the paladins have never received a warm welcome in my neck of the woods), but this actually made the doll cooler and more playable to me...the best characters have some scars, in my opinion.

[hell, now that I think of it, the monstrous canine gnawing off the hero's hand is a total echo of Norse mythology and the god cool is that?]

By the way, I did say "doll" not "action figure." I think it's been well established that "action figure" is just a euphemism for "boy-oriented-doll." I don't care; I dug on dolls as a kid and had a ton of different ones: from stuffed animals and bean-bag babies, to GI Joes, Micronauts, and Star Wars figures...heck, even some Strawberry Shortcake dolls (which I am half convinced are responsible for losing my sense of smell sometime in my youth...freakin' chemical warfare!).

However, by the time I got the D&D dolls, I wasn't really into action figures anymore...I was of an age that was "too old" for them (at least, too old to play with them in front of my peers...I'm sure there was at least a session or two of battles in the solitude of my own bedroom). I would imagine I was about 12 years old at the time, which (in my adult eyes) seems pretty young to give up the action figures...but there it is.

I can remember when the dolls stopped losing their luster for me personally (not just due to peer pressure). Up through Return of the Jedi (1983) I had been diligent in the acquisition of Star Wars figures. My parents didn't have the money to get me every space ship / terrain set that Kenner put out, but between my brother and I we managed to acquire at least one of every model made. That is, until Jedi. Around age 10 or 11 I just kind of "gave up" on trying to get "one of everything;" there were a bunch of random figures that it didn't feel like I needed (how many Han Solos in different outfits do you need? See, dolls! It's all about dress up!). I picked up Luke in his cloak and Jedi outfit, and a couple ewoks (I loved ewoks as a kid), but I just didn't play with the toys as much as I had between the ages of 7 and 9.

And it wasn't like I was switching over for more "manly" toys like GI Joes. I can specifically remember receiving an extremely cool GI Joe action figure from a friend for Christmas, circa age 11...some dude with a flamethrower and a mask and a yellow outfit, and thinking (to myself) "What the hell am I going to do with this?" I don't play with these things anymore!

The fact of the matter is, by age 11 or so I was 150% completely into Dungeons & Dragons and role-playing games in general. For gifts I wanted D&D books (or fiction/fantasy novels)...and that was pretty much it. From 1983-88 or so, there wasn't anything else I wanted or needed...for birthday gifts or Christmas.

My younger brother got me a copy of the Unearthed Arcana for my 12th birthday (November, 1985) and it was just about the most awesome gift he ever gave me...certainly, it's the only gift I remember him giving me for my birthday in his 36 years. And I know it was my 12th birthday and 1985 because he wrote in gigantic, crappy 10-year-old-kid handwriting, "Happy Birthday, Jonathan!!! (1985)" inside the front cover. In PEN. I was soooo pissed at him for doing this and "ruining" my pristine new book, I recall.

Now, of course, I'm grateful that he did so...I still have the book on my shelf, though it is totally decimated from wear and tear, and I have a second copy picked up years later for a "use" copy (should I ever start playing AD&D again).

My parents must have gotten the hint, because a month later there was a copy of the new Monster Manual II under the Christmas tree for yours truly, and that was just about my favorite gift that Christmas as well (at least, again, it's the only one I recall for sure from that year). But I think, my parents must have given me the D&D, "action figures"...that year, too. I mean I was still a kid and they did say D&D on the boxes. But maybe I'm mis-remembering and they got me those the prior year.

Yeah, between age 11 and age 14 (prior to high school) I really didn't do anything for fun/play besides Dungeons & Dragons. Frankly, I have no idea what kids who didn't play D&D found to occupy their time during those years. I mean, once I hit high school I had a WHOLE lot more on my plate: figuring out my identity, making new friends, trying to get a girlfriend (failing, usually), trying to make sports teams or the cut for the school play. No, I didn't do much actual schoolwork in those days...

But before high school? If I hadn't had D&D, I don't know what I would have done. What does a 12 year old kid do, if they're too old for playing "make-believe" with their dolls and toys? Learn to play a musical instrument? That's one I never did. Play peewee football? Didn't do that either. Watch a lot of MTV and read "teen" magazines? My family didn't have cable and I had no interest in "who was hot" in the Hollywood scene. Read comic books? I was already reading 400+ page novels! My interest in art (at the time) was mostly confined to doodling in class (something I continue to do in my meetings at work, I might add...ha! You NEVER grow out of it, Sister Claudia!).

I suppose kids these days would simply play video games...and maybe some of the kids back then did, too. My family was never much into the latest electronic technology (we had an Atari 2600...only brought out on rainy days. We got our first computer - an Amiga 500 - when I was in high school. I used an electric typewriter to do papers in 8th grade and that was a pain in the ass, let me tell you!).

Is that it? Are video games the only form of active entertainment/pastime for kids of pre-teen years with too much imagination? I suppose outdoorsy kids could go on camping trips and such and learn some useful survival skills (I dropped out of the Boy Scouts long before earning my Eagle Scout rank). But for "city-slicker" kids that didn't have horses to ride? What the hell are they supposed to do?

As the father of an almost-11-month-old child, I wonder what the hell my son will do. Who knows what the gaming industry will look like a decade from now (if there is such a thing as a "gaming industry" a decade from now). Certainly I don't plan on getting rid of my old books, so he can play those if he wants...but there's no guarantee he'll have like-minded friends with which to play. I'd probably be perfectly happy if he did not play peewee football (I've seen 12 year old children suffer multiple concussions in an 8 game season), and without any musician (or outdoors-loving) parents, will he have anything influencing him to go into those constructive pastimes?

Is he just going to watch TV all day? While surfing the internet on a laptop?

Well, he'll have his chance to play with toys and action figures...he has a baby doll right now that he really likes. He also seems to like destroying things (this, I am semi-convinced, is a genetic trait he inherits from yours truly). And he really likes music...and food. Well, he is a baby, right? I suppose I'll have plenty of time to worry about him in future years, I don't need to get all melancholy right now.

I will say this, though: Thank God I had Dungeons & Dragons growing up. If I had had to spend every recess playing "flyers up" and talking about the prior week's episode of Miami Vice I would have gone batshit crazy, I'm sure. Some people have the temperament for that kind of thing (I knew plenty in the 7th and 8th grade who did just this) but I never was one of 'em. If I hadn't had D&D in my life...well, I really can't even imagine how I would have spent my time during those middle school years.

Probably getting into trouble.
; )

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sorry, Folks...

The next installment of LAND OF ICE isn't quite ready yet...since I have yet to write it. thought I was doing this stuff up ahead of time and just spooning it out? I'm a LOT lazier than that!

Today was just a very hectic day at the workplace, and my lunch/breaks got cut a bit short. Fortunately, I was not all hungover from gaming (as was the case last Thursday...stuck to my gin this time around, and the Christmas cookies helped) so the day wasn't completely miserable on top of the business.

ANYway, we'll see how much spare time I get this weekend...maybe, I'll get a late night posting in this evening. Stay tuned!
; )

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Land of Ice (Monsters, Part 1)

As stated in the Basic rules, any creature not a player character is considered a “monster.” The following monsters include most of the usual encounters found in LAND OF ICE, including sentient species as well as the mega-fauna and super-predators that inhabit the planet. It is suggested that DMs using the LAND OF ICE campaign setting stick to the monsters in this list or create creatures that are appropriate to the setting; however, any monsters found in the B/X books should be (for the most part) compatible with the rules found here. Who’s to say what alien creatures might be encountered in the LAND OF ICE?

One major difference exists between the monsters here and the standard B/X rules; the LAND OF ICE campaign setting assumes there is no such thing as “infravision.” Some monsters have senses that exceed humans, but none of the creatures listed here see in the infrared spectrum. Another difference is the absence of “alignment;” creatures here will be motivated by their animal nature (if beasts) or by their own self-interests or sense of honor (if sentient). Let the description of the creatures be your guide to monster behavior, along with reaction and morale rolls.


Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 1+1*
Move: 120’ (40’)
Attacks: 1
Damage: By weapon
No. Appearing: 1-4 (2-24)
Save As: Alfr 1
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: E

One of the indigenous sentient life forms found in the LAND OF ICE, the alfar are an elder race that resembles the northmen newcomers, save that they are slightly taller and exhibit an inhuman beauty. In fact, it is speculated that their centuries of association with the northmen has been responsible for their present appearance; sensitive and empathic, their physical form may be an adaptation based on psychic impression.

Alfar seem a whimsical race, with some displaying a code of honor as violently passionate as any northman, and others exhibiting a base frivolity. Throughout the centuries, they have sometimes removed themselves from contact with the northmen, their existence fading into legend; at other times they have dwelled amongst the humans (though only in the northernmost settlements). They wear half-mail armor when girded for war, and their leaders and nobility usually carry pattern-forged weapons (see Chapter 7). All alfar are telepathic and have the abilities described in Chapter 2, though most never exceed one point of psychic ability. Their chieftains are the equivalent of PCs (roll 1D4 to determine level).


Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 1
Move: 120’ (40’)
Attacks: 1
Damage: By weapon
No. Appearing: 1-8 (3-30)
Save As: Thief 1
Morale: 7
Treasure Type: A

Bandits are outcasts from northmen society that have banded together to prey upon travelers and small villages. Most are not clever enough to become “adventurers,” but some groups are led by ambitious individuals that share the abilities of a PC class. Successful groups possess a good size hoard of plunder. Bandits are considered to have no honor.

Black Wing

Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 6*
Move: flying 360’ (120’)
Attacks: 1 bite
Damage: 2D8
No. Appearing: 0 (1-2)
Save As: Fighter 2
Morale: 9
Treasure Type: Nil

A native species of the LAND OF ICE, black wings (sometimes called “harpies”) are second only to dragons as dangerous flying predators. Appearing as something like a giant, blind vulture, black wings emit piercing shrieks to both navigate and detect prey, even in blizzards. Their screams produce terror in most individuals (save versus paralysis to keep from panicking and running for D4 rounds), when standing still and immobile could actually render targets “invisible” to their senses. Panicked individuals are subject to the black wing’s swoop attack just as if they had been surprised by the monster.

Cold Pudding*

Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 5*
Move: 60’ (20’)
Attacks: 1
Damage: 2D6
No. Appearing: 1 (1)
Save As: Fighter 2
Morale: 12 (9)
Treasure Type: Nil

A predatory slime found only in the northernmost mountain ranges or (cold) subterranean caverns, the cold pudding can dissolve metal and flesh within seconds of contact. Only stone is resistant to their touch, though they shy away from heat and open flame (the second morale score) and fire does double damage. The pudding is effectively mindless and is unaffected by most psychic abilities (pyromancy being an obvious exception).

Crag Bear

Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 6+6*
Move: 120’ (40’)
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite
Damage: 1D6/1D6/1D6
No. Appearing: 1 (1-2)
Save As: Fighter 2
Morale: 9
Treasure Type: Nil

One of the native mega-fauna of the LAND OF ICE, the crag bear hibernates during the darkest months of winter and then ventures forth to gorge itself for the following year. The crag bear attacks with two mighty paws and a snapping bite; if both paw attacks hit, the beast bears its target to the ground and mauls it for an additional 2D8 damage. Victims that survive a mauling are assumed to roll aside and scramble to their feet.


Armor Class: -1
Hit Dice: 10***
Move: 90’ (30’), flying 240’ (80’)
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite
Damage: 1D8/1D8/4D8
No. Appearing: 1 (1-2)
Save As: Fighter 4
Morale: 10
Treasure Type: H

Generally only found in mountainous regions, the dragon is arguably the most dangerous natural predator found in the LAND OF ICE. Dragons have some mild telepathic ability which enables them to locate their prey (generally large fauna and herd animals), even under extreme weather conditions; this ability allows them to “broadcast” their own feelings to creatures within 60 yards or so, generally causing abject terror and inability to move or act (save versus spells to avoid this effect).

Dragons have strong jaws and long-taloned claws with which to rend and devour prey (just about anything smaller than a frost worm; ice kraken is a favorite). However, they are feared most for their venom; a viscous, corrosive fluid that combusts within seconds of exposure to air. Dragons can spit their venom up to 30 yards, splattering an area ten yards wide with splashing, sticking flaming death for all caught in its area (10D8 damage, save versus dragon breath for half). A dragon can only spit venom three times per day before its venom sacs are expended; they will always spew venom in the first round of combat, and thereafter have a 50% chance per round of using the attack (unless it cannot get to its prey in melee).

As the top of the food chain in LAND OF ICE, dragons never check morale unless they are reduced to less-than-half their hit points. However, if their prey can escape or take shelter somewhere the dragon cannot reach, they will generally give up and search for food elsewhere. Dragons have a natural attraction to shining objects, especially metals, and will carry such items back to their lair to pad their “nest.” Whether this is due to some magpie-like obsession or the simple need for material strong enough to support the creature’s bulk, it has led to dragon’s well-deserved reputation for hoarding.


Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 3*
Move: 90’ (30’)
Attacks: 1 blow or throttle
Damage: 1D8
No. Appearing: 1
Save As: F3
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: B

Draugar are individuals that have succumbed to psychic corruption, ceasing to “live” as they once did, becoming gruesome parodies of the creature they once were. The body continues to function…and function at a high rate, its cells rapidly regenerating and instilling the body with unnatural strength, even without sustenance…but the creature is nearly mindless. A draugr retains some recognition of past people and surroundings, remnants of memory imprinted into its thought matrix, and this causes it to haunt familiar surroundings and hoard once-treasured possessions. The thing will be berserk and homicidal in its defense of its things and “territory,” but otherwise is fairly docile, if melancholy.

A draugr takes only half damage from weapons, and regenerates 1 hit point of damage per round unless completely destroyed and incinerated. They retain none of the past abilities of their class, cannot use psychic abilities and do not use weapons. Their presence generates a feeling of unwholesomeness that can disrupt the nervous system of those within 15’ or so (save versus paralysis or fall paralyzed for D4 turns).


Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 1 (minimum 3hps)
Move: 60’ (20’)
Attacks: 1
Damage: By weapon
No. Appearing: 1-6 (5-40)
Save As: Dvergr 1
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: G

These once-servants of the northmen’s ancestors are more fully described in Chapter 1 and Chapter 2. Their bio-engineered fortitude makes them exceptionally hearty and long-lived, though it is doubtful any dvergar still remain from their initial arrival in the LAND OF ICE.

Over the centuries, they dvergar have made their homes in subterranean halls and mountain strongholds, mining, carving, and forging to their own specifications. They are tireless workers and delight in craftsmanship and mechanical marvels, and have much lore for the creation of devices and machines that function in “magical” fashion (see Chapter 7). They generally go to war clad in full mail armor with steel caps and two-handed mauls. Their chiefs and heroes are the equivalent of PC adventurers (having 1D4 levels) and are often armed with enchanted gear.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Land of Ice (The Encounter, Part 2)

[continued from here]


Most weapons do D6 damage on a successful attack roll. Melee weapons requiring two hands to use (mauls and pole arms) do D8 damage. Characters with strength less than 8 reduce melee damage by one die type (to D4 and D6 damage respectively). With the exception of crossbows, all missile weapons do D6 damage with a successful attack; crossbows do D8 damage.

Enchanted weapons do not add their “plus” to damage; instead, they increase the damage die used based on their bonus. For example, a +1 sword would do D8 damage instead of D6, a +2 sword would do D10 damage, and a +3 sword would do D12.

Healing and Major Wounds

Most characters heal D6 hit points per day of rest; fighters heal D8 hit points per day of rest. In both cases, the roll is modified by the character’s constitution bonus (or penalty).

As explained in Chapter 2, when a character’s hit points are reduced to 0, additional damage is subtracted from constitution. Constitution points are recovered much slower: 1 point per two days of rest. A character does not need to recover lost constitution points before recovering hit points (though a lowered constitution may result in a reduced rate of hit point recovery). Remember that dvergar double the rates for healing damage (2D6 hit points per day and 1 point of constitution for every day of rest).

A character whose constitution is reduced to less than half its starting value due to damage suffers a major wound and becomes unable to act for the remainder of any combat encounter; the character is unconscious, in shock, or suffering such terrible pain as to be helpless. Major wounds have permanent repercussions; at the end of an encounter when a character has suffered a major wound, roll percentile dice to determine the lasting result:

Roll – Wound
01-20 – Nasty, permanent scar
21-25 – Loss of eye: -2 penalty to future missile attacks; two such losses result in total blindness
26-30 – Loss of ear/hearing: surprised on a 3 (as if wearing full steel helm); hearing rolls only succeed on 1 in 8
31-35 – Broken jaw: unable to talk for D4 weeks (fails all reaction rolls)
36-40 – Concussion: save versus death ray to wake from coma (checked daily), intelligence reduced 2 points, characters with psychic powers lose 1 point of psychic ability
41-55 – Broken ribs/torn muscles: -1 penalty to attack rolls and AC for D4 weeks
56-60 – Broken/sprained back: reduce strength and dexterity by 2 points, carrying capacity by half; save versus paralysis for effects to be temporary (D6 weeks)
61-70 – Internal organ damage: take D8 additional constitution damage, constitution permanently reduced 1 point
71-85 – Major wound to arm/hand: one arm is useless; roll save versus wands for effect to be temporary (D6 weeks).
86-00 – Major wound to leg/foot: one leg is maimed/useless and character’s movement rate is halved; save versus wands for effect to be temporary (D6 weeks).

Due to their genetically engineered fortitude, dvergar will eventually heal even “permanent” injuries caused by major wounds. It takes D12 months for a dvergr to regenerate a permanent injury (temporary injuries heal in one-half the normal time).


For the most part, characters have the same saving throws in LAND OF ICE that are found in the B/X rules. Saving throws versus psychic abilities are always made using “saves versus spells;” most northmen consider psychic talents to be the same as “magic” anyway.

Saving throws by class are as follows:

Fighter – NM, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Poison/Death Ray – 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4
Wands – 15, 13, 11, 9, 7, 5
Paralysis/Petrifaction – 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6
Dragon Breath – 17, 15, 13, 10, 8, 5
Spells – 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8

Huntsman – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Poison/Death Ray – 11, 9, 7, 5, 3
Wands – 12, 10, 8, 6, 4
Paralysis/Petrifaction – 14, 12, 10, 8, 6
Dragon Breath – 16, 14, 12, 10, 8
Spells – 15, 13, 11, 9, 7

Magician – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Poison/Death Ray – 13, 11, 8, 6, 5
Wands – 14, 12, 9, 7, 6
Paralysis/Petrifaction – 13, 11, 8, 6, 5
Dragon Breath – 16, 14, 11, 9, 7
Spells – 15, 12, 8, 6, 4

Skald – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Poison/Death Ray – 13, 11, 9, 7, 5
Wands – 13, 11, 9, 7, 5
Paralysis/Petrifaction – 15, 13, 11, 9, 7
Dragon Breath – 15, 13, 11, 9, 7
Spells – 15, 12, 9, 7, 5

Thief – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Poison/Death Ray – 13, 12, 10, 8, 6
Wands – 14, 13, 11, 9, 7
Paralysis/Petrifaction – 13, 11, 9, 7, 5
Dragon Breath – 16, 14, 12, 10, 8
Spells – 15, 13, 10, 8, 7

Alfr – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th
Poison/Death Ray – 12, 10, 8, 6
Wands – 13, 11, 9, 7
Paralysis/Petrifaction – 13, 11, 9, 8
Dragon Breath – 15, 13, 10, 8
Spells – 15, 12, 10, 8

Dvergr – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th
Poison/Death Ray – 10, 8, 6, 4
Wands – 11, 9, 7, 5
Paralysis/Petrifaction – 12, 10, 8, 6
Dragon Breath – 13, 13, 10, 7
Spells – 14, 12, 10, 8

Psychic Corruption: Every time a character with psychic abilities earns a point of corruption (whether voluntarily or by rolling “snake-eyes”), the player must roll a “corruption saving throw.” The target number for success is equal or greater than the character’s total number of corruption points. If the save versus corruption is failed, the DM rolls D12 on the Corruption Table to see the impact on the character:

Roll – Corruption Result
1 – Character goes berserk, attacking friend and foe alike until restrained and/or left alone for 1 turn
2 – Character lapses into a coma for at least D4 days; save vs. death ray daily to regain consciousness
3 – Character is catatonic and drooling for D4 hours, conscious but unable to act or move
4 – Character goes blind in one eye (as Major Wound); eye takes on startling color/appearance
5 – Character’s hair changes; roll D6: 1-3 permanently goes white; 4-6 permanently goes bald
6 – Character’s loses large chunks of memory and is reduced one level of experience
7 – Character develops a shaking palsy; lose five points from dexterity (minimum 3)
8 – Character acquires a personality disorder; once per session, DM can take control of PC for 1 turn
9 - Character’s skin takes on a permanent pallor, bruises easily, veins readily visible
10 – Character loses ability to speak for at least D4 weeks; save versus spells or permanent
11 – Character undergoes a radical transformation; see below
12 – Roll save versus death ray or die; if character survives, reduce all abilities by 1 and reduce psychic corruption points by 2D6

Transformation effects differ depending on which psychic talent caused the corruption point to be gained. If the psychic talent was adrenal stimulation (“berserker”) the character becomes a ghoul; if the talent was molecular agitation (“pyromancy”) the character spontaneously combusts taking 4D6 damage directly to Constitution. Otherwise, a northman become a draugr. Alfar never become draugar or ghouls; instead they become wraiths. All these creatures are described in Chapter 6.


Morale for NPC hirelings and retains is determined based on the employer’s level: morale is equal to 5 + the employer’s level of experience. If the PC employer has a reaction bonus or penalty due to her charisma score the adjustment is added to (or subtracted from) the morale.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Land of Ice (The Encounter, Part 1)

[once again, the following only addresses changes to the standard Encounter rules found in the B/X system; unless a specific change is noted, all information in the Basic and Expert set books still applies]


Outdoor encounters in LAND OF ICE often occur in snowfall conditions due to the normal weather patterns of the continent. When this situation occurs, random distance is rolled as for indoor encounters instead of outdoor encounters (i.e. 20-120 feet instead of yards). In blizzard conditions, visibility conditions should be treated the same as underground “darkness.”


Characters wearing a full steel helm are surprised on a 1-3 instead of 1-2. In a party where some characters wear helms and others do not, the GM still rolls one die for the party: on a result of “3” the party rolls initiative as normal (assuming the monsters are not surprised) and combat conducted normally, except that characters with full steel helms are unable to act in the first round of combat.


Initiative is rolled normally to determine order of action; if a tie occurs, attacks occur simultaneously between two sides. The following exceptions apply to the normal initiative order:
Fighters: fighters receive a bonus to initiative equal to their level, but ONLY when fighting alone. See Chapter 2 regarding fighter advantages.

Pole Arms: in the outdoors, pole arms have a reach advantage and always strike first in the first round of melee combat. After the first round, initiative with a pole arm is standard. This bonus only occurs in the outdoors where there is sufficient space to use a pole arm; they are next to useless in cramped environments (like underground or indoors), always striking last.

Psychic Abilities: a non-psychic (fighter, huntsman, skald, thief) using a psychic talent as an action always acts last in the round. Talents used by multiple non-psychics occur simultaneously. Psychic talents used by magicians and alfar always occur in normal initiative order.

Two-Handed Weapons: there is no initiative penalty for using a weapon two-handed. Crossbows, however, can only be fired every other round of combat, requiring one round to load.


Player characters in LAND OF ICE are renowned for their deeds and accomplishments as skalds and locals tell their tales of adventure. Among the civilized peoples, there is a percentage chance that NPCs encountered will have heard of the PCs; this chance is called the PC’s reputation. Reputation is based on level as follows:

1st – 0%
2nd – 20%
3rd – 40%
4th – 60%
5th – 80%

Noteworthy ability scores (see Chapter 2) can also add to this percentage, and a character’s reputation is bolstered +2% for each major wound survived.

When the caller or party spokesman attempts to communicate, she may boast of her reputation, earning a +2 bonus to the reaction roll if the reputation check is successful, indicating a degree of awe or intimidation the character’s name carries. Non-humans (alfar and dvergar) should divide their reputation in half when interacting with anyone other than their own kind, and northmen should divide their reputation chance in half when dealing with any non-human species.


[I am not even going to try putting a table on blogger: folks will have to fill out their own PC combat matrix based on the following]

Character Level – THAC0
1st – 19
2nd – 18
3rd – 17
4th – 16
5th – 15

Remember that fighters receive a bonus to all attack rolls equal to their level. Huntsmen receive a bonus to missile attack rolls equal to their level. Thieves receive a bonus to attacks against an unaware opponent equal to their level.

NPCs and monsters use the normal monster attack matrix.

Melee Combat

Breaking Weapons: On any natural (i.e. un-modified) roll of “1” to attack in melee, there is a good chance the character’s weapon breaks becoming useless. For most melee weapons, this chance is automatic, for others there is a chance to mitigate the breakage:

Battle axe: Roll D6; 1-4 weapon is useless, 5-6 weapon is fine

Short sword: Roll D6; 1-3 weapon is useless, 4-6 weapon may still be used as a dagger

Sword: Roll D6; 1-2 weapon useless, 3-4 weapon may still be used as a dagger, 5-6 weapon may still be used as a short sword.

Enchanted weapons are normally unbreakable unless used in combat against weapons of equal or greater bonus, OR against monsters whose hit dice exceed three times the weapon bonus. For example, a +1 sword only has a chance of breaking when used in melee against monsters of 4 hit dice or greater or against opponents wielding weapons of +1 or greater enchantment.

Mounted Melee: Characters in LAND OF ICE do not use lances, but there is still an advantage to attacking while mounted (either on a horse or war sled): mounted characters enjoy a +2 bonus to attack rolls against non-mounted opponents. Mounted characters only enjoy this bonus when using a single, one-handed melee weapon.

Shield Defense: a character with a shield may forgo their normal attack in combat to gain a +2 bonus to armor class. This can only be used when a character could normally attack (for example, when advancing or performing a fighting withdrawal, not when running or retreating). Remember that in LAND OF ICE fighters receive an additional bonus to armor class when using a shield (see Chapter 2).

Two-Weapon Fighting: a character may use two one-handed weapons in melee combat (instead of a shield, for example). The character still only makes one attack roll, but on a successful hit the player rolls damage for each weapon separately (usually D6 for each) and keeps the better damage roll. If the attack roll is a natural 1, roll randomly to determine which weapon checks breakage (even chance of either).

[to be continued]

Monday, December 12, 2011

Another Busy Weekend

But what else is new?

Holiday parties, birthday parties, shopping forays, and (of course) football...all the usual distractions that make getting things done (from a blogger's perspective) such a chore.

And (also as usual) it ain't over yet: my day off means spending quality time with my boy (now napping) and then chores around the house, etc. I will also be attending tonight's Monday Night Football extravaganza between the Seahawks and the Rams (which promises to be a cold, cold evening...especially for St. Louis fans) followed by a loooong bus ride home. So expect the "regular blogging" to commence manana (assuming I get a bit o sleep tonight with my teething infant).

I will say I had a chance to read up the entire blog of How Not to Run a Game Business (thanks to Greyhawk Grognard for pointing me to this site) and its overflowing negativity towards amateur designer/publisher monkeys like myself. I know I've seen similar blogs (or blog posts) in the last couple years discussing how terribly terrible it is for OSR folks (or proponents of the pen-and-paper RPG industry) to continue to cling to the past when the future is so obviously video games or social media-network games or WotC 4E style box sets...and, well, I'm sorry, sometimes I do feel like a dinosaur with my interest in this kind of stuff. But then I sometimes feel like a dinosaur for reading books instead of Kindles (or whatever) or listening to music that doesn't include sampling from past musicians who made music (instead of sampling). Hell, I've accepted I'm an anachronism, and I fully intend to instill the same weird, anachronistic values in my offspring. Hopefully he won't be laughed at too much by his Call of Duty-playing buddies in school.

Besides as Casey down at Gary's pointed out to me, if it wasn't for "amateur independent designers" we'd be missing a lot of cool RPGs that currently stock the shelves of the game store.

[though I suppose brick-and-mortar stores are an anachronism, too]

Anyway, enough weepiness from moi...I've got some things to do before the hijo wakes up. Cheers!

Friday, December 9, 2011


Some mornings you just can’t find the right pithy phrase to name a blog post. Today, I’m just going to go simple.

Last night was round 2 of play-testing for my space game. Again, I was limited to two players (of four) players due to prior commitments. Also again I was operating on very limited sleep…about two to three hours…and a loooong work day. And, yes, while I stayed away from the whiskey, I did quaff (most of) a pitcher of beer…

BUT, I am going to call the game session successful. Much more so than last week. In fact, I’d say it went better than any prior iteration of the card mechanic RPG (Out of Time, MDR) due to certain changes I instituted…namely, the need to spend cards to utilize ANY thing more than “average effort” in a success check.

This had all the desirable types of results I was looking for:

  • Cards got spent and played, depending on the “stakes” necessary
  • In turn, this led to decreased effectiveness over time as resources ran slim. This is the way I had originally envisioned the game being played, but previously the dice mechanic was too “easy” with players steering tests into areas of high suits and not needing to expend cards for extra success. NOW they do the same thing, but once the cards are spent, they have to switch to a different “arena” (where they still have cards).
  • Players were forced to use different avenues to accomplish tasks (see the last note) because of running low on cards. This was also how I imagined the game being played, and forcing card expenditure accomplished this, causing players to take different tactics when one suit ran low.
  • The use of cards provided the “game balance” I was looking for…as one player ran low on cards, the other player was forced to step in and step up. Perfect…everyone gets their turn in the spotlight.
  • Doing the card play in this way made ALL the cards important. Whereas before players would short suit themselves during character creation to keep a bunch of Aces and faces, now having “depth” in a particular suit is just as important (if not moreso)…at least if you, as a player, are attached to a particular style of play. For example, if you want to solve problems with your fists, you better have a bunch of clubs. Heron had a single Ace of Spades and had to hold on to it until he REALLY needed it since it was his only spade. This was cool…though now I’m thinking a 7 card hand might be better than 6.
  • Or Not: Drive points (given as a reward for role-playing certain aspects of your character) can be utilized much like cards. By limiting the cards in a player’s hand, it forces them to complicate themselves in order to “regain effectiveness.” This makes for interesting play, and I imagine it will come faster and easier as players get more comfortable with the concept (I hope).
  • The complication die/card draw (what Josh calls “the calamity die”) worked well in practice, helping to add depth to a roughly sketched scenario…in addition to being fun.

Since the wholesale change of the system turned out to be so effective, it means I will need to rewrite much of what I’ve previously written (doh), AND I will also have to re-tool many of the character advantages (double-doh), and probably the entire credit/purchase system (triple-doh!). However, that’s a small price to pay for sporting a system that does what the game designer (me) wants it to do…pretty exciting stuff, in my opinion. It was a great session from my perspective and the only thing that kept me from being more giddy was my extreme fatigue and the knowledge that I would have another looong night with sick baby once I got home.

[and I did, too]

Some other random thoughts of things learned from last night’s playtest:

Classes work well with the system, even the new rules. Unfortunately, for long term play some of the classes seem mutually exclusive. For instance, Josh’s “mole man” (a fringer/survivor with a home environment advantage of “space station”) worked great for this session that happened to be ON a space station…but Heron’s spacer pilot didn’t get to do a whole helluva’ lot of flying. And if they HAD taken off in Heron’s ship, what would Josh have done? The key may be a lot of cut scenes and environmental (scene) changes…or possibly finding a way for PCs to operate towards the end of a single scenario objective even when separated. Think Return of the Jedi (Luke’s on the Death Star, Han and Leia are on Endor, Lando flying the space mission).

NPCs (named versus mook) worked well enough for me, but needs to be even MORE simplified. This may just be my own leftover baggage from wanting “major villains” to be as competent as PCs (think my favorite Star Wars baddie, Count Dooku, who kicks an incredible amount of ass). However, there are ways to do this withOUT assigning cards. I’m going to have to mull over this.

ALSO (regarding NPCs), I have a rule about bestowing names on NPCs automatically gives them significance and importance. This actually came into play during the session, when Heron christened some nameless mook “Butt-Boy” (or something equally descriptive). Under the terms of the rules I should have dealt him some cards and converted him to a “major NPC;” instead I skipped the step as it was too complicated for the quickfire action of the time. In retrospect, I think dealing a “named” mook a single card (and assigning hit points) would have been an easier, simpler way of accomplishing what I wanted. I’m going to have to mull over this as well.

Frenetic pace and lavish card spending was definitely the way to go. I think Josh had more fun doing this then he had in previous sessions (he tried both Out of Time and MDR). He definitely seemed more engaged in the action of the game…but then, he was also digging hard on his mole man character (“Jub-Jub”).

Finally, although it’s a space opera trope to have the occasional alien protagonist, I’m thinking of making non-human PCs a completely optional side rule, and getting rid of the Jokers all together (dammit! I forgot about the Jokers!...they need to be revamped for the rule changes, too!). It’s just more fun to do “humans in space” and keep the aliens as NPCs or sidekicks (sorry, Spock). Even a weird human (like Jub-Jub) is easier to grasp (as a concept) and relate to than a “mostly human” type o character. Dralasites and vrusk are cool and all, but…well, I don’t know. It’s another thing I’m going to have to think about.

All right, that’s enough debriefing for now. I’ll be working on the space game over the holidays (hopefully getting some writing done in Mexico)…at least when I’m not pestering my artists to get their submissions in for the new book. I don’t plan on doing another space opera play-test till 2011 (got to get back to Heron’s BX game and I understand the DCC experiment may be finally over as well…we’ll see what’s up next down at the Mox)…but you never know. It’s certainly possible that we’ll run another session before Christmas.

: )

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gingerbread Donuts

May just be the most fantastic idea ever invented. Over at Mighty-O Donuts in Greenlake (the Food Network's National Donut Champion), they've got this holiday special that...well, it's like gingerbread cookie dough molded and baked into a donut shape. Vegan no less (how do they do that?)...though I suppose that means no whip cream.

Just about the most delicious donut I've ever tasted.

Anyway...uummmm...I may not have a chance to post the latest section on Land of Ice today, but hopefully I'll have it by tomorrow. Instead. I'll be prepping once again for tonight's playtest.

(*sigh*) Once again I will be operating on two hours of boy picks the most inopportune evenings to pull the all-nighters. HOWEVER, this time I have promised myself to stay the F away from the demon whisky!

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to my second pot of coffee and the remaining donuts in my bag.
; )

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

More Polar Bear

I haven't been getting a whole heck of a lot o feedback on my recent Land of Ice posts, and I don't know why. I'm not saying that it surprises me, I'm saying I literally don't know.

Not that I couldn't hazard a guess or two...but really it doesn't matter all that much (I wasn't complaining). Well, it matters that people find it interesting and useful (or inspiring for their own games) 'cause that's why I write this type of stuff (usually). But I'm having fun with it anyway, so I'm going to keep posting till I get to the end of the series.

HOWEVER, it occurs to me that perhaps I haven't been gonzo enough with the setting...I may have been modelling it too close to "real world" Vikes and the kind of human-human conflict (psychic or not) found in MZB's Darkover novels (a major inspiration, in case you couldn't guess). It may be that the stuff I've been putting out there just isn't "D&D enough" other words, not weird enough for use in your average (or below average) D&D game.

So I will be endeavoring to get some more weirdness "stuck in" to the mix. In reviewing my notes for a different B/X setting concept (one based on Dark Sun, of all things) I can see I had plenty of magic mixed in with the psychic weirdness and the monsters were certainly fit for the blasted post-magic-apoc setting. I probably need MORE weirdness in mine: talking polar bears and psychic snowflakes and such...otherwise what are characters supposed to DO in this setting.


Anyway, we haven't gotten to Chapter 6 yet, so there's still time for me to up the ante on the strange and bizarre. We'll see if I can find it in my heart to do so...
; )

Land of Ice (The Adventure, Part 2)

[continued from here]


Characters in LAND OF ICE do not have as many levels of experience as the normal B/X rules, being limited to 5th level for most classes and 4th level for the non-humans (Alfr and Dvergr characters). Likewise, the experience point tables are a little different from the standard ones found in the B/X rules, due to the compressed nature of leveling.

1st Level – 0xp
2nd Level – 800xp
3rd Level – 8000xp
4th Level – 40,000xp
5th Level – 80,000xp

1st Level – 0xp
2nd Level – 700xp
3rd Level – 7000xp
4th Level – 35,000xp
5th Level – 70,000xp

1st Level – 0xp
2nd Level – 1000xp
3rd Level – 10,000xp
4th Level – 50,000xp
5th Level – 100,000xp

1st Level – 0xp
2nd Level – 600xp
3rd Level – 6000xp
4th Level – 30,000xp
5th Level – 60,000xp

1st Level – 0xp
2nd Level – 500xp
3rd Level – 5000xp
4th Level – 25,000xp
5th Level – 50,000xp

1st Level – 0xp
2nd Level – 1500xp
3rd Level – 15,000xp
4th Level – 75,000xp

1st Level – 0xp
2nd Level – 900xp
3rd Level – 9000xp
4th Level – 45,000xp

In LAND OF ICE, experience points are earned for the same things as in B/X: acquisition of treasure and defeating opponents. 1xp is earned for every gold mark (gm) worth of treasure recovered or earned for an adventure. Experience points for opponents are earned at the same rate given in the B/X rule book.

Experience points are distributed at the end of an adventure (i.e. each game session), evenly divided amongst all surviving party members. Once the individual awards are determined, individual bonuses and penalties for Wisdom (see Chapter 2) and Honor (see below) are calculated. If the party has a skald, all PCs earn additional XP based on the skald’s level, as explained in Chapter 2.

Earning a level has several effects: hit points and class abilities are increased as explained in Chapter 2 and attack and saving throws increase as explained in Chapter 5. In addition, player characters earn one advance for every increase in level. An advance is a special bonus, earned as a reward, used to distinguish characters from each other based on their own personal focus. Players can choose from the following advances upon reaching a new level of experience:

Ability Increase: +1 to one of the character’s ability scores
Extra Hit Points: +1D6 extra hit points (no Constitution modifier)
Psychic Power: +1 additional psychic point (only if character is already psychic)
Psychic Clean-Up: Subtract 2D4 corruption points (minimum 0)
Saving Throw Bonus: +2 bonus to one category of saving throws
Weapon Specialization: +1 to attack and damage rolls with specific weapon

A saving throw bonus can only be taken once for each saving throw category. A character can only take weapon specialization once for each weapon. Non-psychic characters (other than dvergar) that raise their Intelligence to 14 develop a psychic talent (with 1 psychic point) just as if they had started the game with a high Intelligence score.


Honor is an important aspect of the northman’s character, and a major source of confidence and ego to human characters. Failing to act “honorably” results in characters devaluing themselves; in game terms this results in penalties to experience points earned during a play session.

While the alfar and dvergar know and understand the honor of the northmen, being non-human they have different ideas of what is “honorable behavior” and they don’t allow considerations of honor get in the way of adventuring. Thieves are outside the normal expectations of “honorable society” and never face honor penalties for their actions.

What constitutes honorable action differs between character classes, as listed below. Whenever a character acts dishonorably during an adventure, the DM should make note of it. When experience points are distributed at the end of an adventure, penalties are assessed on the character’s individual share. Some penalties may be assessed more than once per session, at the DM’s discretion.

All Characters (except thieves)
Allowing insult to stand unchallenged: -10%
Breaking oath or word of honor: -100% (-20% for non-humans)

Backing down from a worthy* fight: -10%
Fleeing combat: -25%
Surrender against long odds: -10%
Surrender without a fight: -50%
*a worthy fight is against an opponent of equal or greater level/hit dice.

Admitting own abilities insufficient: -10%
Asking for assistance: -25%
Failing to defend own goods/property: -20%
Refusing a solo assignment: -30%
Waste: -10%

Displaying envy/greed/lust (by word or deed): -10%
Displays of power for vanity: -5%
Fighting with mundane weapons: -10%
Wearing armor for battle/war: -20%
Wearing armor otherwise: -50%

Choosing sides for greed or whimsy: -10%
Failing to maintain splendid appearance: -5%
Initiating combat without discussion: -25%
Losing instrument: -25%
Refusing a request for performance*: -30%
*not applicable in combat situations, of course!

Refusing a social drink: -20%

Giving a gift without recompense: -20%

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Land of Ice (The Adventure, Part 1)

[as stated in the Player Character section, these rules update the B/X for the specifics of the LAND OF ICE campaign setting; if information from Chapter 4 of the B/X rule books is not specifically addressed/modified herein, players should use the standard B/X rules]

Organizing a Party

Parties should use the standard instructions when organizing an adventuring party; a good mix of character classes is generally desirable. Remember that the presence of a skald will increase the amount of experience points earned by party members, though only if the skald survives the adventure. Remember also that a party may not contain more than one skald.

Movement and Encumbrance

The optional encumbrance rules are not used in LAND OF ICE. Characters are considered to possess the standard movement rate (120’) unless heavily burdened. A character can carry the following gear without being heavily burdened:

1 suit of armor (including shield and helm)
Up to 4 weapons*
A dagger
Reasonable adventuring equipment
One-half their treasure allowance (see below)

*any weapon marked as “two-handed” in Chapter 2 counts as two weapon choices. Daggers count as one-half a weapon choice.

A character’s maximum “treasure allowance” is dependent on a character’s Strength score:

3-7 = 50# of treasure
9-13 = 100# of treasure
14-18 = 150# of treasure

Remember that in LAND OF ICE, 25 coins weigh 1 pound.

Characters that carry more than the listed amount are considered heavily burdened and have their movement reduced to 60’.

If a player character is carrying the body of a comrade, he may do so by dispensing with ALL his treasure or half his treasure AND all his normal adventuring gear (if the comrade is carried by two characters instead of one, each must drop one-half their treasure OR their “reasonable adventuring equipment”). Carrying a fallen comrade always counts as being heavily burdened, unless a strong (STR 14+) character dispenses with all equipment, treasure, and extra weapons.


Except along the southern coast, terrain in LAND OF ICE is often cold and snow-covered due to the long (6 month) winters and the high latitude of the planet’s main continent; and sudden snow-storms and treacherous ice packs are not uncommon, especially as one gets closer to the northern mountain ranges.

Travel over snow is at one-half normal rate. Sleds have the same movement as for carts and wagons (60’ or 12 miles per day), but are only useful in snow (wagons and carts cannot be used in snow conditions at all). Characters on-foot and equipped with snow shoes can increase their over-land speed to two-thirds normal. Horses and animals cannot wear snow-shoes.

In blizzard conditions, movement drops to one-quarter normal, and even sleds are unable to operate. Characters will suffer D4 points of damage per hour of exposure unless suitable measures are taken to protect against the cold. A snow storm increases the chance of being lost, even with a guide (see Chapter 8 for more information).


All specialists listed in the B/X books are may be hired in LAND OF ICE, though availability of some specialists may be scarce (especially alchemists, engineers, and sages). To determine the monthly cost in gold marks (gm), divide the standard B/X cost by five. For example, a sage (if available) would cost 400gm per month to hire.

The exception to this is seamen; while the cost of captains and navigators is unchanged, the only ship found in the LAND OF ICE is the Viking longship, which is crewed by warriors who also act as sailors and rowers. When hiring a crew, you must pay the purchase price of either light or heavy footmen (see below).

Mercenaries in the LAND OF ICE are more limited. Except for alfar, non-human mercenaries are NOT available for hire, and alfar may only be hired by alfar (they will not fight for northmen). The type and cost of available mercenaries are as follows:

Thrall/peasant (AC 8) = 6ss/month
Light footman (AC 6) = 18ss/month
Heavy footman (AC 3) = 30ss/month
Archer (AC 7) = 21ss/month
Crossbowman (AC 7) = 15ss/month
Light horseman (AC 6) = 2gm, 5ss/month
Heavy horseman (AC 4) = 3gm, 8ss/month

Alfar mercenaries cost twice the listed amount, though crossbowmen are not available.

[to be continued]

Monday, December 5, 2011


Just FYI:

I've edited the psychic powers chapter of Land of Ice so it's less fiddly and more "psychic friendly."

Sorry about the earlier weirdness.
; )

Land of Ice (Psychic Powers)

[unlike B/X, Land of Ice does not use the typical Vancian spell system; the following rules replace the normal magic rules and spell lists]

[***EDIT: Upon reflection, I decided the rules as written are a bit too fiddly for my taste...also they skew PC choices in a way I don't like (I want players to always feel there's an option to use their psychic powers, rather than having a "two-strikes-you're-out" rule). As such, I now have a psychic corruption table with mixed effects/disorders, not all of which are terribly debilitating. Yay!***]

Seidhr is the name given to the practice and use of psychic talents, the powers of the mind developed centuries ago by the alfar and the ancestors of the northmen, mainly the vanir. In the current age, these powers are little understood and often regarded with suspicion; those who study the seidhr discipline are viewed as “sorcerers” by many northmen.

Psychic talent is genetically inherited, but unless developed through training it remains little more than a "lucky" or magic talent, one passed along certain bloodlines from parent to child (though sometimes skipping generations). Characters of the magician class are those who have undertaken the training to develop their natural ability; characters with an Intelligence of 14 or better have natural psychic talent that will manifest even without training. Dvergar never possess or develop psychic ability.

In LAND OF ICE, psychic ability is measured in points. Any character with Intelligence greater than 13 has 1 point of psychic ability; magicians and alfar have 1 point per level of experience, in addition to that received from high Intelligence (if applicable). Points are assigned to specific psychic talents (power categories), with more points indicating a higher chance of success. Non-psychic character classes (fighters, huntsmen, skalds, and thieves) are limited in how these points are applied; magicians and alfar are not.

All psychic talents have three levels of power, called stages. To use a psychic ability, the player chooses the stage he is attempting and rolls two dice; the type of dice rolled depends on the number of points assigned to the ability:

1 Point – Roll 2D4
2 Points – Roll 2D6
3 Points – Roll 2D8
4 Points – Roll 2D10
5 Points – Roll 2D12

Each die is reviewed separately. In order for a psychic ability to take effect, the number on each die must exceed the stage of effect the character is attempting to use. For example, if a character with 2 points in a talent wants to attempt a stage 2 power, the player rolls two six-sided dice and needs to roll a 3 or better on both dice for the power to take effect.

Using the powers of the mind is physically draining to the character: a successful roll does D4-1 points of damage to the character, representing fatigue. If this reduces a character’s hit points below 0, damage is applied to the character’s Constitution, causing nose bleeds, brain hemorrhaging, aneurisms, and stroke.

Failing on a psychic roll does not cause damage to the character, but the character runs the risk of psychic corruption. If the dice roll results in “snake-eyes” (i.e. a double roll of “1”), then the character gains 1 point of corruption (see below).

When a character fails a psychic roll but does NOT roll snake-eyes, the player can choose to gain a point of corruption in order to change the failure to a success. The character takes the usual damage (as if the dice roll had succeeded), and the power succeeds. When exchanging failure for success in this way the stage of the power cannot be higher than the character’s level of experience (for example, a 1st or 2nd level character could not choose corruption to succeed at a stage 3 power).

Psychic Corruption: Harnessing the power of seidhr can be dangerous for the undisciplined mind. Whenever a character gains a point of corruption he must make a saving throw with a target number equal to the character’s total number of corruption points. Failure indicates the psychic must make a roll on the Corruption Table found in Chapter 5: The Encounter.

Non-Psychic Characters

Fighters, Huntsmen, Skalds, and Thieves can possess psychic ability, though ONLY those with an Intelligence of 13 or greater. However, even those characters that do have psychic talent tend to be focused in specific areas, determined by class. This may be due to psychic manifestation being appropriate to temperament (temperament leading to certain classes), or it’s possible that certain bloodlines of psychic talent are drawn to specific classes.

Regardless, each non-psychic class is associated with a specific talent. Only 1 in 6 classes have a different talent than that associated with it; players that wish their character to have a different class must roll D6 (with a 1-5 meaning they get the normal talent) OR receive the DM’s permission to choose a different talent. The natural psychic talents associated with non-psychic classes are:

Fighter – Adrenal Stimulation (“Berserk”)
Huntsmen – Animal Empathy (“Beast Ken”)
Skald – Emotional Projection (“Enchantment”)
Thief – Mental Obfuscation (“Wraith”)

Psychic Characters

Alfar and magicians may distribute points to any of the psychic abilities listed below. Every time a psychic character earns an additional level of experience, a new point may be invested in a new psychic talent or an existing one (making the character more proficient in a particular specialty). The following is the complete list of psychic talents available:

Adrenal Stimulation (“Berserk”)
Animal Empathy (“Beast Ken”)
Atmospheric Field Manipulation (“Weather Magic”)
Cellular Reconstruction (“Healing”)
Emotional Projection (“Enchantment”)
Genetic Re-Pattering (“Shifting”)
Mental Obfuscation (“Wraith”)
Molecular Agitation (“Pyromancy”)
Probability Tracking (“Divination”)
Structural Manipulation (“Shaping”)
Telekinesis (“Moving”)
Telepathic Manipulation (“Mentalism”)


Adrenal Stimulation (“Berserk”)

Range: Self Only
Stage 1 – For one combat encounter, character receives +2 bonus to melee attacks and +D8 extra hit points; character can fight even after suffering a major wound. These benefits fade when the fight is over.
Stage 2 – As stage 1, but character receives one extra melee attack per round and adds an additional +D8 extra hit points (total of +2D8).
Stage 3 – As stage 2, but character does double damage with successful attacks and adds an additional +D8 extra hit points (total of +3D8).

Animal Empathy (“Beast Ken”)

Range: Sight
Stage 1 – Can “communicate” with unintelligent animals via emotion/feeling. Communication is two-way; check standard reaction roll.
Stage 2 – As stage 1, but can compel animal to do simple favors for the character.
Stage 3 – As stage 2, but can assume control of animal, controlling its actions and sensing through its senses.

Atmospheric Field Manipulation (“Weather Magic”)

Rage: Sight
Stage 1 – Sense and detect weather patterns before they occur (a day in advance).
Stage 2 – As stage 1 but can perform minor weather manipulations (starting/stopping rain, making it snow in winter, etc.).
Stage 3 – As stage 3, but can perform extreme weather manipulations (conjure lightning from a cloudless sky, summon tornadoes and hurricanes).

Cellular Reconstruction (“Healing”)

Range: Touch
Stage 1 – Heal character of 2D6 damage
Stage 2 – Cure disease and poison
Stage 3 – Revive a mortally wounded character if used within a few minutes

Emotional Projection (“Enchantment”)

Range: Sight
Stage 1 – Character can instill emotions/feelings in a target, moving the individual to laughter or tears. Characters of level higher than the psychic are allowed a saving throw to resist. Ability has no affect on unintelligent beasts.
Stage 2 – As stage 1, but power can affect all individuals in sight of the psychic.
Stage 3 – As stage 2, but can instill intense emotions causing extreme reactions: orgiastic lust, angry rioting, suicidal depression, etc.

Genetic Re-Pattering (“Shifting”)

Range: Self
Stage 1 – Character can alter form to that of a small animal (bird, fish, wolf, etc.) or alter appearance to become uglier or more attractive; effect lasts until character chooses to return to his original form.
Stage 2 – As stage 1, but character can alter form to that of a creature of equal hit dice (or fewer) or alter appearance to that of a specific individual.
Stage 3 – As stage 2, but character can alter form to that of a creature of up to double the character’s level in hit dice.

Mental Obfuscation (“Wraith”)

Range: Self
Stage 1 – By remaining still and quiet, character becomes undetectable (i.e. ignored by those who pass by) as if the character wasn’t even present. Animals are unaffected. Dvergar receive a saving throw to detect the character. Effect lasts until character moves, makes noise.
Stage 2 – As stage 1, but character can move (quietly) amongst people without being detected. Effect lasts until character chooses to end it or until character makes an attack on someone.
Stage 3 – As stage 3, but character can “vanish” from plain sight.

Molecular Agitation (“Pyromancy”)

Range: Sight
Stage 1 – Character can create small fires, doing 2D4 damage and setting flammables alight (doing additional damage of 2D4 per round until extinguished). Side effects of this power can be exceptionally dangerous, especially when used inside wooden structures.
Stage 2 – Character can create large fires, doing 4D6 damage, ruining metal goods, and causing nearby combustibles to burst into flame.
Stage 3 – Character can create huge fires, setting the air aflame and incinerating most targets (6D8 damage). The character is unaffected by her own flame (except when suffering the effects of corruption), though may be deprived of oxygen if used underground or in closed/cramped spaces.

Probability Tracking (“Divination”)

Range: Self
Stage 1 – Character gains flashes of future occurrence of events that directly the psychic. The future is always in motion, and may be influenced by the characters actions so specific visions may not come to pass (for example, a character may see his own death at the hands of an assassin; though the attack might occur, actual death might not due to knowledge of the attack).
Stage 2 – As stage 1, but character can see future events that affect friends, loved ones, or even acquaintances.
Stage 3 – As stage 2, but character can see future events that affect places and objects to which the character has a connection, not just people.

Structural Manipulation (“Shaping”)

Range: Touch
Stage 1 – Character can sense and manipulate the molecular structure of solid, inanimate objects, shaping them as desired; items as hard as wood or bone can be manipulated.
Stage 2 – As stage 1, but character can manipulate items as hard as stone.
Stage 3 – As stage 2, but character can manipulate hard metals and alloys.

Telekinesis (“Moving”)

Range: Sight
Stage 1 – Character can move light objects with the mind alone; used as a weapon, character can do D6 damage (no attack roll necessary).
Stage 2 – As stage 1 but characters can move larger objects (up to the size of a horse), doing up to 2D6 damage if desired.
Stage 3 – As stage 2 but character can move huge objects or crush opponents for 4D6 damage.

Telepathic Manipulation (“Mentalism”)

Range: Sight
Stage 1 – Character can project his own thoughts, and read the surface thoughts of others. Characters are allowed a saving throw to resist. This ability does not work on unintelligent creatures/animals.
Stage 2 – As stage 1, but character can read a target’s deeper hidden or secret thoughts or access memories in the subject’s subconscious.
Stage 3 – As stage 2, but character can warp and/or erase the subject’s memories, freely tinkering with the target’s mind.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Crap on a Stick

My coffee maker's broken.

I've got a pound of Diva's special dark roast, I picked up half a dozen donuts this morning, there's football on the tube, and I have no coffee. This is a very bad thing. For folks who don't know me, I drink coffee like I used to smoke cigarettes...a pot a day up to two pots on the weekend.


I have a (*phaug!*) french press, that I am using due to the emergency nature of the situation, but I am going to have to make a trip to Fred Meyer today as this situation cannot be allowed to continue.

Ugh. Garbage. As my wife would say, tastes like sock tea.

In other news, I'm sorry for the delay in the next chapter on Land of Ice. It's coming, hopefully today. The weekend responsibilities have, as usual, taken over but I've been mentally scripting the chapter in my free time.

Ugh...this is truly terrible. I'm going to need to run to the coffee shop. Sorry.
: (

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Rough Thursday Outing

Thursday night's play test didn't go nearly as well as I had hoped. We were shy a couple people anyway, but the chargen process took much longer than I anticipated. In addition, the characters that got created turned out to be much more exciting/interesting than the scenario I'd written up for the play test.

I think the main thing that didn't work, though was ME...I was coming off my third (fourth?) night of less than 4 hours sleep, and shooting a whisky to start the evening was a stupid, stupid idea (especially as I'd had a beer earlier with dinner, but I was watching a pretty good Seahawks game). By the time I'd been slurring along for a couple hours, my energy was completely sapped...and being less than enthused for my own adventure (not to mention, being two weeks out from when I'd initially written I didn't remember it all that well), made it a less-than-memorable event.

I think I need to fall back on the old space opera trope of starting in media know, an action sequence with blasters firing and starships swooping and all that jazz? Or maybe not...I mean, if the session is supposed to play like a symphony, shouldn't it start slow and build to a crescendo?


My players have been generous enough to give me one more week of play testing as we didn't make it very far last session. I shall be re-tooling the adventure between then and now to "spice things up."

One thought that's been drumming on my mind, I think there may be too many cards in play. OR maybe there just isn't enough incentive to use them. Ugh...have to ponder this, but it sure seems like guys with a good hand really don't need to expend all that many cards (unless they're taking damage in a fight...and the smart money can find ways to avoid fights). I'm going to have to think about this...I really, really want cards to get spent in play.

Maybe I need to charge characters a "toll" card for ANY action that requires a roll. Or any action where they wish to roll more than one die. Hmmm...something to consider.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Land of Ice (PC Information, Part 2)

[continued from here]


As stated there are seven class choices in LAND OF ICE. The northmen (the descendents of those space wanderers that crashed so long ago) who choose a life of adventure fall into one of five classes: Fighter, Huntsman, Magician, Skald, and Thief. There are also two non-human classes players can choose for their characters: Dvergr and Alfr. Non-human adventurers do not exhibit the same variety of focus as the northmen; as such, all dvergar share the same capabilities, as do all alfar.


Most northmen adventurers are warriors and many warriors of the northmen race style themselves as adventurers. As explained in the Introduction, the northmen valorize martial prowess and most children receive at least some training in the use of arms for the defense of the community. Fighters, though, are professional warriors who do nothing but train for battle.

Fighter Advantages: Fighters roll D8 per level to determine hit points. Fighters receive a bonus to melee attack rolls equal to their level. Due to their training, fighters receive an additional +1 bonus to AC when using a shield. Fighters are decisive in combat, and receive a bonus to their initiative when fighting in single combat ONLY; this bonus is lost in group combat as the fighter must coordinate his efforts with his companions.

Fighter Limitations: Fighters are expected to be bold in battle, and seek out combat. They lose honor for being cowardly in battle, which penalizes their earned experience points. See Chapter 4 for information on honor. Fighters may achieve a maximum of 5th level of experience.


Some northmen live outside the community by choice; they do not mix well with their fellows, or they simply prefer a life of solitude in the wilderness. They may still have good relations with nearby settlements, trading the product of their labor (hunting, trapping, and fishing) for crafts they are unable to manufacture themselves. They are used to operating alone, and can provide valuable skills in the wilderness.

Huntsman Advantages: Huntsmen roll D6 per level to determine hit points. Huntsmen receive a bonus to attack rolls with ranged attacks equal to their level. They can travel very quietly and make good use of cover in the wilderness (being detected only 20% of the time, and surprising opponents on a 4 in6 chance), but only when operating independently or with other huntsmen.

Huntsman Limitations: Huntsmen lose their stealth abilities if wearing armor heavier than leather (any type of mail, for example). Huntsmen are expected to be rugged and self-sufficient. They lose honor for relying on other for help, which penalizes their earned experience points. See Chapter 4 for information on honor. Huntsmen may achieve a maximum of 5th level of experience.


Some northmen are born with a measure of psychic ability, genetic gifts that tend to run in particular families and bloodlines (especially those whose ancestors mixed with the native alfar). Those who develop these abilities, called seidhr, are viewed with equal measures of awe and suspicion by most northmen, but there is no denying the power they grow to wield.

Magician Advantages: All magicians are trained in the seidhr crafts and use “magic” as described in Chapter 3: Psychic Powers.

Magician Limitations: Magicians are expected to hold themselves aloof from “mundane affairs” and lose honor for being interested or mired in “baser” concerns (greed, romance, politics, etc.). Likewise, there is an expectation that magicians will rely on their magical abilities for their advantage; wearing armor like a warrior or using other mundane equipment can also result in a loss of honor for a mage, costing him in earned experience. See Chapter 4 for information on honor. Magicians may achieve a maximum of 5th level of experience.


Skalds are a combination of scholar, poet, and musician. They are responsible for chronicling the history of the northmen people, keeping record by memory, and sharing that history through story-telling and song. Many are wanderers that take tales from one settlement to another, recounting legends and learning new ones. Others reside in a single location, keeping the history of the place, and passing it on to both residents and visitors. Skalds occupy a place of honor in northman society second only to warriors.

Skald Advantages: Skalds roll D6 per level to determine hit points. Skalds can expect to enjoy hospitality (food, drink, and lodging) from any northmen encountered, and are generally considered “neutral” (even in wartimes) until proven otherwise by their actions. They receive an additional +1 bonus when making reaction rolls. Skalds have a chance to recall or know useful information on most any subject, checked by rolling their level or less on a D6. A skald can sing the exploits of his travelling companions, earning all party members a bonus to earned XP of +2% per level of the skald, so long as the skald survives the adventure (the skald herself does not receive the bonus).

Skald Limitations: Skalds must have a stringed musical instrument (cost: 4gm) to identify their trade. In exchange for hospitality, skalds are expected to entertain their host. Failing to do so can cost the skald honor, which penalizes her earned experience points. See Chapter 4 for information on honor. Skalds may achieve a maximum of 5th level of experience.


Not all northmen have the disposition for fighting, the skill of the skald, the ruggedness of the hunter, or the mental discipline of the magician, and yet still aspire to something more than the simple life of a farmer or craftsman. Such individuals are called thieves, for they seek to win fame and fortune not rightly theirs. To the northmen’s perspective such should be the reward of honest effort, not opportunist action.

Thief Advantages: Thieves roll D6 per level to determine hit points. Thieves add +1 pee level to attack rolls made against an opponent who is caught unawares. They can perform bits of petty larceny (picking pockets, jimmying locks, concealing objects, etc.) by rolling equal to or less than their level on a D6 roll. Thieves enjoy more than their fair share of luck to make it as adventurers; they may reroll a number of dice per game session equal to their level (for example, a 3rd level thieve can reroll up to three times during a game session). Any dice roll the thief’s player has made may be rerolled, but the result of the second roll must be accepted (i.e. it cannot be re-rerolled).

Thief Limitations: Thieves receive a -1 penalty to reaction rolls with northmen due to their poor reputation. Thieves may achieve a maximum of 5th level of experience.


The alfar are an indigenous species to the planet, and have been in the world far longer than the northmen. Immortal unless killed and inherently psychic, the alfar resemble northmen in many ways, but they are tall, slim, and exceedingly beautiful in appearance.

Alfr Advantages: Alfar roll D6 per level to determine hit points. The alfar enjoy the same psychic abilities as a trained magician (see Chapter 3: Psychic Powers). While not a particularly martial race, all alfar are trained to defend themselves against a hostile world and have many years of practice; they enjoy a +1 bonus to attack rolls (melee or missile). Alfar are telepathic and can freely communicate mind-to-mind with any creature they can see (though most animals have little to say); over the centuries, they have also learned the northmen’s language and can speak this as well. An alfr has especially keen senses and enjoys a +1 bonus to notice things; they are only surprised on a roll of 1.

Alfr Limitations: Alfar may achieve a maximum of 4th level of experience. Player characters must have an intelligence score of 9 or better to play an alfr.


The dvergar species was genetically engineered long before the northmen ever came into this realm. While diminutive (about half the height of the northmen), they are strong for their size, fully as capable as taller adventurers. Exceptionally long-lived, the dvergar are also exceedingly clever, especially with machines and smithing. They tend to live in the mountains, closer to scarce sources of metal, for use in their crafts and wares. Their small size makes them ideal spelunkers. They speak the same language as the northmen. They have no natural psychic talent.

Dvergr Advantages: Dvergar roll D6 per level to determine hit points. Their genetic engineering makes them a hearty race, and they receive an additional +2 hit points per level. In addition, a dvergr has natural healing abilities that allow them to recover damage at double the normal rate, and they will eventually heal even major wounds; see Chapter 5 for information on damage and healing. All dvergar are excellent smiths and craftsmen, dvergar with an intelligence of 13 or greater have the ability to manufacture machines that function like “magic.” They have excellent senses of smell and hearing and a good directional sense; dvergar are never lost underground.

Dvergr Limitations: As stated, Dvergar never develop psychic talents even with an intelligence greater than 13. They receive a -1 penalty to reaction rolls with northmen. Dvergar may achieve a maximum of 4th level of experience. Player characters must have a constitution of 9 or better to play a dvergr.