Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Real Life Intrudes...

...so I probably won't have anything posted till tomorrow. Sorry, folks!

Monday, January 30, 2012

I Am A Jerk

There really is no graceful way out of this for me. Except perhaps by keeping my damn mouth shut...but that's not really my style.

As I wrote earlier today, I got axed from Alexis's on-line AD&D campaign. Cashiered. Shit-canned. Later, Alexis wrote a post about what a jerk I am. A bunch of folks wrote me nice words. Someone posted an off-topic remark on Alexis's game blog (please don't do that). I thought I might just let it go, but I feel there's been enough back-and-forth wasted that I probably ought to elaborate a bit on my own feelings/thoughts on the matter.

I was being an asshole. Alexis was totally within bounds to kick me to the curb.

I am an arrogant, stubborn, opinionated guy who has the insufferable quality of thinking he's right most of the time. You may have noticed my blog is littered with evidence of this.

I also have what my friend Michael once called a "tendency" to be "inflammatory." Honestly, I really have tried to blunt my Scorpio sting over the years and I'm much more mellow than I once was. I used to be downright mean, and fairly unrepentant of things I said and wrote. These days, I try to be kinder (and curse less), but I can still be terribly obnoxious. Especially when I get my ire up. You may have noticed more than a few rants posted to this blog on a variety of subjects.

And today I was angry...about a number of things, most unrelated to gaming (it's been a rough couple days), and it certainly carried over. That's not meant as an excuse or justification: I'm nearly 40 years old and know how to be polite and mature, regardless. I was pretty short on both those qualities this morning. That's inexcusable for a man my age.

Alexis, in my opinion, was acting to protect his players and his game...its quality, its integrity, its longevity. No matter how else he couches it...that he won't tolerate assholes, or PVP or whatever...it boils down to that. I certainly can't fault the man for that.

I appreciate his passion for the game. I admire his dedication, energy, and effort. What's more, he supports and promotes role-playing, a subject very near and dear to my heart. It doesn't matter that our style of play differs or not, I want the same thing he does: for the game to continue. Period.

Now, as I said, I was being an asshole. Never mind what anyone else was doing, I can only control my own actions. And I didn't like what was occurring and I handled it poorly. And my actions drew scathing remarks from Alexis and I handled that poorly, too. And he still gave me a chance to get back in the game and I blew that...because just as Alexis is too old to put up with assholes at his table, I'm too old to kiss ass just to stay in a game where clearly there is a clash between playing styles or semantics or game expectations.

And perhaps a simple apology for not playing by the rules (his rules, those rules that I had agreed to abide by when I first signed on) would have been enough. Perhaps...but I don't know. I'd already acted like a pretty big asshole...I was surprised to even have a chance at redemption once the shit hit the fan.

So there. Alexis runs a tight ship with very specific expectations of play. I tried to interpose my own expectations (like an asshole), rather than play nice...and I got exactly what I deserved. As I said, I don't bear Alexis any hard feelings (and he can say whatever he wants on his blog...Lord knows I talk enough smack about people on this blog, myself!).

For me, the worst part of all this is my embarrassment at my own actions. I realize I can be over-the-top, obnoxious, and a pain in the ass...but I really thought I'd reign it in for this game. I didn't, and it's too bad, but life goes on.

And that's about all the self-flagellation I'm going to do on the subject; I really hope others will let it drop as well. I've got a ton of other things to prep this week...including a Super Bowl party...so I don't have a whole hell of a lot o time to wallow in self-pity.

[original title of post: All Too Human]

Don't Sass an Assassin (Part 4)

Or not! I have been axed from the campaign!

For my part, there are no hard feelings; I dug my own hole on this one.

It does, however, mean I will be getting back to my normal B/X posting.

Don't Sass an Assassin (Part 3)

What does a AD&D assassin look like?

For me, this is an important question, perhaps THE most important question. Can a member of the assassin class distinguish himself (or herself) from other classifications of adventurer. And if not, why not? Better yet, if not then do you really need such a class?

After all, all adventurers are in the business of "killing folks for money," what we'd commonly call "assassination." Some get there cash by robbing their victims, some claim it as a reward (assassin's fee) from some noble or wizard that hired 'em in a tavern. Often, they get paid from BOTH ends...after all, it's not like the target will be complaining (and the party probably killed all his friends and family when they invaded his cave network lair). Adventurers kill EVERYthing...monsters, humans, demihumans...if it has loot in a locked chest and makes the mistake of living in a hole in the ground, it's simply a matter of time before someone's character comes kicking down the door.

So it's not enough (for me) that when I ask "what niche does the assassin fill in the fantasy milieu?" you say, "well, he kills people for money." They ALL do that, boy-o.

Let's step back for a moment, shall we? What is it that inspires a player to want to PLAY an assassin? Assuming, of course, that the player rolled a Charisma greater than 5 and so is not forced to play an assassin.

The idea of the hired killer is fairly ubiquitous in today's cinema. One doesn't have to stroll very far through the video isle (action section, please) to find many motion picture jewels featuring assassins and "hit men." Ninjas, of course, are popular (Ninja Assassin being perhaps the last film of this type in the theater). You can find the weird assassin movie (Wanted) or the sentimental assassin movie (Mr. and Mrs. Smith) or the Hong Kong action assassin movie (Chow Yun FItalicat in The Killer and others) or French assassin movies (anything with Jean Renau, naturally) or the big budget Hollywood assassin movie (Assassins with Stallone and Banderas) or the stupid direct-to-video assassin movie (Direct Hit with William Forsythe...yes, I have watched it) as well as Oscar-winning movies about assassins (No Country for Old Men).

Hell, there are even geriatric assassin films (here I'm thinking RED, though watching Tommy Lee Jones take on Benito Del Toro in The Hunted might fit the bill as well).

Hired killers, CIA hitmen (gosh, I forgot all the Bourne Identity movies!) and ninjas (the films of the early 80s and the better done 1995 Lambert film, The Hunted)...these are all over the silver screen and DVD store, and the image most folks get when they start thinking about AD&D assassins...or maybe Dwayne Johnson from the first Scorpion King movie (wasn't he supposed to be some sort of "assassin?" I think so).

Me, I get a different cinematic image in my mind: the fat poisoner in the 1994 French film Queen Margot.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find an image of the guy...he was only a minor (if important) character in the film, after all. And at that, his appearance is fairly nondescript, no more unkempt than any other 16th century Parisian, certainly not as "courtly dressed" as others in the palace, portly and middle-aged. He's no ninja, exhibits no "bad ass" attitude, nor does he appear to be any type of hand-to-hand combatant. And he's no cold-eyed sadist either...hell, he's downright jovial with the young ladies, and as interested in an illustrated text (uncommon for the time) as any hobbyist scholar.

But there is no doubt he is an assassin. He has no scruples about sending a younger girl to her death as a living weapon, doing so with total nonchalance. Likewise, it's no skin off his nose to poison a member of the nobility at the behest of his employer...and when he accidentally offs a member of royalty with his weapon of choice he doesn't bat an eye.

THIS is an assassin...not some caricarture twirling his "evil" moustache. Not some guy who talks in a Clint Eastwood whisper and perpetually buried in a shadowy corner. Certainly not some ninja with a black skimask.

A normal enough looking individual, nondescript, easy-going, friendly enough...and no scruples whatsoever when it comes to the task at hand. And that task is the murder of individuals by stealth and subterfuge, for the right price.

In a medieval society, even a fantasy one, you're talking about a person who must be able to work in social circles. Not a person living the loner lifestyle (like Jean Reneau in the Professional). A person without friends and family...without connections...is going to stick out like a sore thumb and be picked up by the local constabulary. Or lynched by the rabble if he's protected by the powers-that-be.

Better to hide in plain sight. Better to be an upstanding member of the community. Better to have people whisper about your reputation behind closed doors, but have no proof of your involvement...or be protected from on high against those who do have evidence of your deeds.

I'll make a final post on this subject later today or tomorrow, in which I'll discuss my latest character.
: )

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Don't Sass an Assassin (Part 2)

Another post on my new favorite class!
Part of the problem that 14-year-old players buy into that kind of bullshit is that the idea drifts upon the wind that assassins in D&D are something like the modern day syndicate Hit Man - a fellow who takes contracts for money. Gygaxian Logic dictated that a 'guild' had to be created where said contracts could be distributed out, where assassins could get together for coffee and cakes after the job, and of course the local officials paid just to look the other way. So once again, there's another trope ... the assassin stomping into your campaign and asking you straight up, "Hey, where's the assassins guild? How much do I pay them? Have they got any contracts for me?"

Can I just say: do we need more proof in this world that the originators of D&D were a bunch of really, really, flabbergastingly stupid pud-pounding morons?

The first time the assassin is introduced to the Dungeons & Dragons game, it is as a specialist hireling in Volume 3 of the "Little Brown Books" of OD&D. The cost to hire such a specialist is 2000 gold pieces per mission, and the total description is confined to a single small paragraph:
Assassin: The role of this hireling is self-evident. The referee will decide what chance there is of his mission being accomplished by noting he precautions taken by the intended victim. Assassins are not plentiful, and some limit on the number employable during any game year must be enforced.
Certainly there were assassins in medieval times. In Europe during the middle ages up through the 17th century there are are number of high profile assassinations, including both Henry III and Henry the IV of France. For the most part, these assassinations were close range stabbings or shootings (William of Orange)...or kidnappings followed by murder. Often, an assassin (or would-be assassin; many attempts were foiled) would be captured after committing the deed, tried, tortured, and executed. The idea of hiring an assassin for a one-time mission at an exorbitant price is not all that far-fetched.

But that isn't what Alexis is talking about.

It is in the Dave Arneson penned Supplement II: Blackmoor...the same book that introduces the monk class (as a sub-class of cleric)...that we first see the assassin class introduced to D&D lore. Arneson's assassin, later incorporated into Gygax's PHB, is less detailed than the later version, and there are several differences, but this is first place we hear of an assassin's guild.

The historical assassins (the semi-legendary Hashashin of the Middle East) were active from the 11th to 13th centuries, killing political rivals and military targets. An organization situated in a mountain fortress, they were more like a modern day terrorist organization...like Al Quaeda...complete with a blurry line between political ideology and religious rhetoric. Their killings are said to have also been close range, stabbing types and they were said to refrain from causing civilian casualties (they were all about avoiding "collateral damage"), so getting up close and personal to a target would have been ideal for proper identification. Suicide bombing would probably have been "frowned upon."

It is the Hashashin, complete with their "Old Man of the Mountain" leader that would seem to be the basis for the guild assassins presented. But for me, this fits perfectly within the context of Arneson's Blackmoor...a more exotic, eastern-type supplement for the OD&D game. Blackmoor itself feels quite a bit more sword & sorcery (in the old school literary style) than the saintly paladins of Gygax's Greyhawk supplement. Much of S&S blended curvy (eastern) swords and warm climates in their tales...not to mention the SciFi-mix found in Temple of the Frog. In a fantasy world (like a John Norman Gor), why not have guild-card carrying assassins? The motivations and predilections of the fantasy culture itself may be less than wholesome or righteous.

Recall that one finds no Christianity in Deities and Demigods.

Arneson's assassins only go to level 13 (Prime Assassin) with an extra title, "Guildmaster," obtainable by challenging the local Guildmaster to a duel to the death. No experience point total is necessary to achieve Guildmaster status, any 13th level assassin can choose whether or not he wants to challenge. Arneson's rules are explicit that:
...there is no actual level above Prime Assassin, although there is power attained with the rank of Guildmaster.
The maximum hit dice for an assassin is 13 (as a 13th level "Prime Assassin"). The only benefit, besides acquiring followers and the ability to build a stronghold or control a barony, is a marked increase in assassination chance: +20% across the board. This by itself might be motivation to pursue the "death duel" route; unfortunately, Supplement II offers no real guidelines for when and how to use the assassination chart (unlike the AD&D books). As with many things in OD&D, it was probably a house-ruled issue. Perhaps it was only meant to be used for NPCs of the "specialist hireling" list. Arneson builds upon the original entry in Volume 3, clearly stating that specialist charge is based on hiring a 6th level assassin (he also extrapolates out the payment rates for lesser and greater skilled murderers). Remember that the original specialist text states, "The referee will decide what chance there is of his mission being accomplished..." Perhaps this percentage table is to serve as a guideline for the referee when it comes to hired NPC missions. Again, there is NOTHING in Arneson's text for the assassin class that indicates:

a) that an assassin has a chance to auto-kill (i.e. "assassinate") an individual
b) that an assassin achieving surprise has an special "assassination" attack

Here is what he does say are their abilities:

- thief abilities (though as a thief 2 levels lower)
- ability to use shields and ANY kind of weapons (including any magic weaponry)
- disguise ability (as the PHB)
- extra alignment languages (with an intelligence above 16)
- an ability to freely use poisoned weapons (including the ingestible type)

That is IT. One might even presume their backstabbing ability is two levels less than a standard thief, based on the text given. The "greater power" Arneson refers to regarding Guildmasters may indeed only mean the addition of followers, a stronghold, and the possibility of controlling a barony...all things that WOULD mean considerable power in a game that involved more than personal combat on a small-scale, dungeon-crawl. Note also that in Arneson's Blackmoor, any thief that meets the requirement to become an assassin (a strength, dexterity, and intelligence greater than 11), MUST be a part of the guild. In Blackmoor:
"All assassins are part of the Assassins Guild."
Thus, the guildmaster has absolute control over all such killers in the area (defined as a large city or 2500 square mile area). This might serve as additional impetus for a 13th level assassin to seek the office (all assassins under the guildmaster are required to give 10% of their earnings to the guildmaster!).

It is Gygax, working to fit Arneson's work into AD&D, that hammers the class into a different shape.

In AD&D, assassins MUST be evil. In Blackmoor, the requirement was that assassins MUST be Neutral...again, in a sword & sorcery fantasy (non-historic) world, such "killer guilds" must remain impartial and "business only" in order to not be eradicated by the local powers that be. But in a world of paladins and rangers, how could such beings be allowed to exist? A sticky quagmire for sure...one solved by making them evil and forcing them underground, I suppose.

Which I would guess is the way MOST AD&D campaigns treat assassins guilds (if they allow them at all). I know that's what I've always seen in campaigns that included assassins.

While Arneson linked GP cost of missions to character level, it is Gygax who links the "assassination table" directly to the class as a form of special attack (allowed only in surprise situations). As I wrote in my earlier post, my old campaigns (those I ran and those I played in) never saw the assassination percentages ever rolled, as no assassin PC ever took the time to "plan" an assassination (as specified in the DMG). However, the more I look at it, the more I wonder if this was EVER intended for use by PCs, prior to Gygax's book.

Gygax also makes "Guildmaster" into a 14th level, one only reached through the dueling of a rival, and adds a 15th level ("Grandfather") to lord it over ALL the evil assassins of the AD&D campaign world. This is especially ridiculous in the context of the AD&D assassin class: no assassin player character is REQUIRED to be a member of an assassin guild. And if you ARE a "solo assassin," what's to prevent you from seeking out your own city and starting your own guild? Why must you work your way into someone else's network when you've spent the first 13 levels of your career as an independent operator?

In some ways, it feels like Gygax was basing his assassins guild on the Corleone family of Mario Puzo's Godfather novels. Coppola's first The Godfather film came out in 1972, The Godfather II was releases in 1974. The AD&D Players Handbook has a copyright date of 1978. Could it be that the 15th level "Grandfather" is a Gygaxian substitute for "Godfather?" These movies revolve around the violence and murder of rival crime families, with a single powerful leader (the head of the Corleone family) to whom all others are beholden...unless, of course, they can take him out and assume leadership and the title of "Godfather." Considering EGG's penchant for including literary references and pop culture, such an inspiration for his version of the "assassin" would come as little surprise to me.

Hmm...more on this later.
; )

Friday, January 27, 2012

Don't Sass an Assassin (Part 1)

I know I've been waxing nostalgic about AD&D lately. This post might well have a bit more of that.

I've posted before how far back in time my relationship with the assassin class goes...way back to my primordial beginnings on the playground (circa age 7 or 8)...long before I ever laid eyes on a D&D book or rolled a single strange-shaped dice. In the realm of elementary school recess, when we "played D&D" (i.e. "played pretend") there were only ever three character "classes:" the fighter, the magic-user, and the assassin. That was OUR Big Three, thank you very much, and nary a cleric in sight (well, other than the nuns and priests of my Catholic elementary school, but that was, of course, different).

However, I wouldn't lay my hands on a copy of the AD&D Player's Handbook till age 11 or so. And as it was only 2010 that I laid hold of Supplement II, age 11 was my first introduction to the official assassin class.

[interestingly, we had been using the DMG and the MM for close to two years, in conjunction with the B/X rule sets. Imagine our surprise at multi-class characters, bards, psionics, druids, etc. Hell, previously we'd had a ton of frustration whenever trying to use a monster that had some spell-like ability NOT detailed in the B/X books. Crazy!]

Anyway...by the time we actually picked up the PHB, no one really wanted to play an assassin. Jocelyn's main character was a fighter. Matt had a cleric. Scott always played magic-users. And Jason had a long established Thief. While my younger brother often played with us, he was generally relegated to a "shorty" role like dwarf or halfling (later his penchant would change to barbarians). No one was interested in a class that maxed out at level 15 while other (human) classes stretched onto infinity.

No one but me, that is...but I was usually the group's designated Dungeon Master.

And even when I DID get to play (when we started trading off the roll of DM in the campaign), I spent the bulk of my playing time as a bard...in those days of "high level" play, I would never have settled for a character that was limited to 15 levels.

[yes, high level...once you reach a certain level in the game, death becomes a fairly moot point given the access to wishes and resurrection-type magic. The real problem with sustaining high level play is giving players something to play for...which came for us because we were heavily invested in the campaign world, i.e. that play that happens AFTER one achieves the "end game" conditions in D&D]

But the assassin class was always fascinating to me. To many of us, really. There was no "ban" on evil characters in our campaign and most of us ran characters on the darker side of Chaotic Neutral anyway. In fact, now that I'm reminiscing there were a couple-three assassin characters in the campaign, though they were all "secondary" characters to a player's "main" PC.

There was Shadowspawn (yes, named for the Thieves World character), played by Matt. Matt's main character was a lawful good cleric of Athena, but he was a big TW fan, and Shadowspawn was based heavily on his namesake, wearing black leathers and carrying knives in every conceivable location.

Then there was Dark Flame ("Darkflame?"), played by Scott. Scott's characters were almost all wizards of some sort, and DF was no exception, being a Drow multiclass magic-user/assassin. He had a reversible cloak/outfit and would generally portray himself as an elven magic-user so as not to get thrown in the hoosegow. As if anyone would F with a drow anyway.

Even one of my bard characters incorporated a bit of assassin, being a fighter-assassin-bard mix (you can blame Gygax for that one, as his character Gellor in the Gord series was a ranger-thief-bard; once we read that we ruled sub-classes were okay for bard advancement if Gary said it was okay).

Oh, yeah...and my little brother played an assassin (briefly) named "Dirty Harry."

All of these characters were, of course, capital-E "evil" as per the alignment requirements of the PHB...but being cold-blooded killers didn't mean they necessarily went out of their way to be disgusting assholes...they just didn't have much love in their hearts. And while they were capable of murder for pay (what adventurer isn't?) they still found a way to interact with their fellow player characters without their career choice getting in the way (probably helped that no one ever played a paladin in our games).

And yet, I don't recall a single "assassination" ever taking place.

I was reading Alexis's post on assassins the other day (natch, since it directly pertains to the character I am currently running in his AD&D campaign...more on that later), and while I grokked his point, it was far and away outside my experience as a player.

I'm reading the PHB right now, and I can see that an assassin is allowed an assassination attempt if he (or she) achieves surprise. But I honestly don't remember ever simply allowing an "assassination attempt" (and it wasn't very often an assassin, working solo, achieved surprise...especially in a dungeon or "marching order" type setting). Our guide was more of the blurb in the DMG (page 75) about achieving "optimum conditions" - gaining "absolute trust" from a target, attacking someone asleep, or drunk and unguarded. It also says:
If the assassination is being attempted by or in [sic] behalf of a player character, a complete plan of how the deed is to be done should be prepared by the player involved, and the precautions, if any, of the target should be compared against the plan.
See, no one ever took the time to prepare a PLAN of assassination...and just happening to surprise a guard or monster doesn't mean you have time to formulate "a complete plan;" you get one or two segments of surprise, period! In our campaigns, if an assassin was lucky enough to achieve surprise, he'd generally just try to backstab the opponent in such a spur of the moment circumstance.

So, no, we didn't have any "magical" assassinations. Even though we were playing AD&D in the age range of 11-15, we could still read the books, and we took the rules as canon (the same reason we incorporated speed factor and other minutia into our game).

Likewise, while there were assassins guilds (we had a rather infamous one in the town of Willip in the Greyhawk campaign), none of our assassins were members of one. Per the PHB (page 29) player characters did not have to be members of a guild...and since we didn't want to be beholden to anyone, we chose not to belong.

Which meant there were never any "assassination assignments" and never any "fees for assassination" paid out. Duh!

In practice the idea, or concept, of the assassin was cooler than the practicality of playing one...that is, unless you were really interested in working the concept. And because assassins in our campaign were secondary to our main character (or, in my PC's case, secondary to the prime role of "bard"), none of us dug deep into what it meant to be an assassin: seeking clients, earning a reputation, jockeying for guild status. None of the assassins in our campaigns ever got higher than 9th or 10th level so the issue of challenging guild masters (for higher level advancement) never came up.

In review, I feel there was never an issue of "playing the class right," but there was a missed opportunity for exploration of an interesting character concept. And as I'm older and (somewhat) more mature, I find myself having some regrets that I didn't "take the plunge" and run with it.

Which is the main part of the reason I've decided to play an assassin in Alexis's AD&D campaign.
; )

[I find I have more to say on the subject of assassins, so it appears this might develop into a series of posts; oh, boy!]

Land of Ice (Treasure, Part 2)

[continued from here]


Unless otherwise stated, all swords function as “+1 swords” unless psychic attunement is achieved. A wielder is never forced to attempt psychic attunement with a weapon. Bonus is added to wielder’s attack roll, and increases the damage die rolled (as described in Chapter 5; for example a +1 sword does D8 damage and a +2 sword does D10 damage, rather than the standard D6).

Magic weapons are less likely to break in combat: a magic sword will only break when being used in melee against a weapon of equal or greater enchantment (i.e. equal or greater “+”), or when wielded against a monster with hit dice greater than three times the weapon’s enchantment (for example, a +2 weapon would never break against a monster with less than seven hit dice). Always count a weapon’s highest bonus when determining its chance to break, regardless of psychic attunement. A broken sword that is still useable (as a dagger or short sword) has a 50% chance of losing any psychic imprint powers, although it will still retain a value of “+1” for the duranium with which it is constructed.

Sword +1: a finely crafted weapon of duranium alloy.

Sword +1, +2 vs. Beast: (stage 1) additional bonus is applicable against any non-psychic creature of animal intelligence (like bears, wolves, frost worms, etc.) found in LAND OF ICE. In addition, the first time a subject creature is struck with the weapon, it should make a morale check adding the weapon’s bonus to its roll. These abilities only apply when the weapon is attuned.

Sword +1, +2 vs. Proto-Human: (stage 1) as a sword +1, +2 vs. beast but bonuses apply against sub-human creatures found in the LAND OF ICE (snobolds, trolls, and troglodytes).

Sword +1, +2 vs. Psychic: (stage 1) as a sword +1, +2 vs. beast but applies to creatures with psychic ability (including magicians and witches) and psychically corrupt (like draugar, ghouls, and wraiths). Creatures not normally subject to morale checks must check morale when struck as if they had a morale score of 9 (sword bonus applies to roll).

Sword +1, +3 vs. Dragon: (stage 2) as a sword +1, +2 vs. beast but bonuses apply against dragons.

Sword +1, +3 vs. Jotun: (stage 2) as a sword +1, +2 vs. beast but bonuses apply against jotun.

Sword +1, Berserker: (stage 1) a psychic character sees a blood-red haze around the blade of this weapon. When attuned, character is able to enter a frenzy when in melee combat, gaining a 2nd melee attack, a +2 bonus to all attack rolls, and D8 extra hit points (which disappear at the end of combat). Once all opponents are downed, the character must make a save versus petrifaction to stop fighting, or will turn on his own companions to slake his blood lust.

Sword +1, Firebrand: (stage 2) to a psychic character, this weapon seems to glow with a. When attuned, the weapon becomes white-hot in its wielder’s hand, doing an additional 2D4 damage to opponents struck (unless they are immune to heat and fire, like jotun), and capable of setting flammables alight. Wounds caused by the firebrand cannot be regenerated by a draugr.

Sword +1, Illumination: (stage 1) when attuned, this weapon can exude illumination upon command, equal to a very bright lantern or bonfire. Primitive sub-humans (trolls, troglodytes, etc.) must make an immediate morale check or flee in superstitious dread. The light lasts until sheathed or the death of its wielder.

Sword +1, Necromantic: (stage 2) to a psychic character, this weapon seems to have a deathly pall about it and is cold to the touch. When attuned the blade acts as a vampiric conduit, draining D4 constitution points from any creature hit, and awarding an equal number of hit points to the wielder. Monsters that do not have constitution points lose an additional D4 hit points instead (the number drained being added to the wielder of the blade). Lost constitution returns at a rate of 1 point per day of rest. Hit points awarded to the blade’s wielder cannot exceed the character’s maximum (though they will heal any damage taken to hit points and constitution).

Sword +1, Pathfinder: (stage 1) when attuned, the wielder can use the weapon as a sort of divining rod to direct him towards any object on which he concentrates. The object of desire must be within 50 yards of the character; the blade points in the proper direction. Useful for finding lost friends, metal ore, and running water the blade always picks the closest object when more than one option lies within range. Using the blade in this weapon is draining; the sword wielder takes D4 damage from using this ability.

Sword +1, Resurrection: (stage 2) a psychic who handles this weapon will see a golden aura of healing light about its blade. When attuned, the wielder may use the weapon to save a mortally wounded character from death. The ability must be used within D4 turns (10-40 minutes) of death, and the deceased body must be present (not disintegrated or in the belly of a frost worm, for instance). The dead character is brought back to 1 constitution point and cured of any effect that may have caused death (for example, poison or disease; the effects of major wounds remain, however). Using this power is very draining; the sword wielder takes D8 points of damage just attempting the resurrection. If this damage would incapacitate the wielder, then the blade will NOT function; the damage suffered is too severe for the power of the blade (and its wielder) to heal.

Sword +2: (stage 2) save for its psychic imprint, this weapon is much like a +1 sword. When attuned, it is capable of damaging wraiths.

Sword +2, Enchantment: (stage 3) as a sword +2; in addition, the character can use the weapon to mentally control another individual. The target is allowed a save versus spells to resist; control lasts until the blade wielder releases the individual (the controller can take no other action while controlling the target). The process of control is exhausting; the sword wielder takes D6 damage upon release of the controlled subject.

Sword +3 (Runeblade): (stage 3) a duranium weapon covered in ancient runes denoting a particularly powerful psychic imprint pattern. Openly carrying such a legendary weapon gives the character a +2 bonus to reaction rolls with northmen, or a +1 with alfar and dvergar.

Sword +1, Flawed: although this weapon appears to be a standard duranium weapon, a flaw in its construction makes it as brittle as a standard sword; further it will immediately shatter if an attack roll achieves maximum damage. 25% of these weapons have a corrupt psychic imprint; they give off a psychic resonance as a normal imprint item, but any attempt to bond with the weapon increases the character’s corruption points by D4 and forces a save versus corruption.


Except for leather jacks, all armor is made from light-weight, super-strong duranium alloy and weighs one-half its normal weight (though see the notes on encumbrance in Chapter 4). All armor and shields with bonuses of +2 or greater, and all leather jacks, require psychic attunement to function at the proper level; however, characters are never forced to attempt psychic attunement. Armor must be worn to attempt attunement.

Shields subtract their bonus from a character’s armor class, improving AC (in addition to the normal improvement afforded for using a shield). Armor bonuses do NOT change the wearer’s armor class; instead the armor’s bonus is subtracted from the damage roll of any successful attack. For example, a character wearing +2 half-mail has an armor class of 6 (as per half-mail armor) but reduces any damage sustained by 2 points from the damage rolled. If the damage is reduced to 0 or less, the attacker immediately checks to see if the weapon breaks (see Chapter 5). Monsters using natural weapons (claws, teeth, etc.) take D4 damage instead.

When mail is rolled check on the following table to see which pieces are found:

Roll D% – Metal Armor Found
01-10 – Full Helm*
11-30 – Full Mail
31-45 – Full Mail + Full Helm*
46-80 – Half-Mail
81-00 – Half-Mail + Full Helm*
*a full helm, when worn, will reduce damage taken by 1 additional point, so long as it matches or exceeds the bonus of the mail worn. A helm +2 or +3 is a psychic imprint item and must be attuned separate from the suit proper or else it will function as +1 only.

Leather Jack +1: (stage 1) this ancient leather armor is a psychic imprint item incorporating very little duranium metal. As the northmen’s technological ancestors ran low on duranium supplies, they sought other ways to create defenses, and many of these leather jacks were crafted. With proper attunement, the armor becomes +1 (absorbing 1 point of damage from attacks); without attunement it is simply a nicely crafted suit of leather armor.

Jack & Shield +1: (stage 1, armor only) as for leather jack +1; however, this set includes a matching shield of duranium (+1) that does not require attunement.

Mail +1: a suit of well-crafted of duranium metal alloy.

Mail +2: (stage 1): as mail +1, but with attunement provides a more stable defense, bolstered by latent psychic energy. Still functions as +1 armor without attunement.

Mail +3 (Rune armor): (stage 2): duranium metal armor covered in intricate runes insuring the attuned wearer receives the maximum defense possible (functions as +1 armor without attunement). Openly wearing this legendary armor provides a character with a +2 bonus to Reaction rolls with humans, alfar, and dvergar, and reduces the morale of sub-human creatures (snobolds, trolls, and troglodytes) by -1.

Set: Mail & Shield +1: armor and shield of matching style

Set: Mail & Shield +2: (stage 1, each individually) as a set +1, but this matching set is psychically imprinted. Each piece of the set (shield plus armor and/or helm) requires individual attunement; will function as +1 without psychic attunement.

Shield +1: a lightweight, duranium alloy shield, often crafted into fantastic (if practical) shapes.

Shield +2: (stage 1) as a shield +1 but with psychic attunement can actually provide a stronger defense. Without attunement, still provides benefit as a shield +1.

Mail, Flawed: although this armor appears to be a standard duranium suit (+1), a fatal flaw in construction renders it unsuitable as protection. The armor shatters into pieces the first time the wearer is struck with a successful attack. 10% of this armor has a corrupt psychic imprint; it gives off psychic resonance as a normal imprint item, but any attempt to bond with the armor increases the character’s corruption points by D6 and forces a save versus corruption. Flawed helmets increase corruption by D8.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Riding that Nostalgia Train

I can only take a certain amount of Aerosmith

I’m back at the Baranof, knocking back a stiff martini, and have Wolfmother piped into my headphones as I type. Why? Because Janie’s Got A Gun was just calling up bad memories. Not even memories really (there were no images attached); just weird-ass, hinky feelings. That song was popular at a time when…well, I don’t remember exactly what was going on at the time, but it couldn’t have been all that great, as I’ve apparently blocked it out. Let’s see: per wikipedia it was released in 1989 with Pump. Yes, I remember that. Peaked at #4 on Billboard in 1990 and was probably on extensive radio airplay the same year. In 1990 I was 17…that was the year my father left my family. (*sigh*) 

High school was not a fantastic time (for a lot o folks it ain’t; that’s nothing special). There were certainly some high points to go with the lows, and things actually started up-swinging for me in a lot of ways with 1991 so I won’t complain (plus I still have a pretty positive, if distant, relationship with my Dad, which is more than a few o my friends can say). But I was definitely pining for Dungeons & Dragons in 1990, that’s for sure. I stopped playing the game, pretty much cold turkey, sometime around 1987 or ’88. Shortly before the release of 2nd edition, which happened around that time. No, it had nothing to do with 2nd edition D&D; if I’d still been playing when 2E was released, I probably would have jumped on the bandwagon and bought into the Forgotten Realms and all that nonsense. No, my reason was both more simple and more complicated…I didn’t have any players. At least not the players I wanted. 

In high school, I did play role-playing games…a number of them, many of the Palladium or White Wolf or Chaosium variety (how’s that for a “grab bag?”). Hell, I made some pretty good friends in high school, some of whom lasted through college and beyond, and who did indeed play (1st edition) AD&D, even in high school. Plus my younger brother still played for awhile (as did his best friend or two) and I acted as a 1E DM for them on multiple occasions (as I’ve talked about before in this blog). But my little brother and his buddies…and even my peers who were in the same age and class as myself…were not “my type” of gamers. I really don’t know how to talk about this without sounding insulting or snobby, but I’ll give it an (admittedly half-assed) shot: none of ‘em were mature enough to play MY brand of AD&D. 

Prior to high school, I had spent…oh, let’s say five or so years playing hardcore with a small group of friends. Five years is an eternity to a kid who’s 14…more than a third of his life. I’m 38 now…I haven’t even been married for a third of my life, and I’ve been married for more than 11 years. Five years is a shitload of time for a kid that age. And consider how much time we spent on the game of D&D. Sure we had sports, we did Boy Scouts or family activities, and school (of course). But we played at school…the same way people “play” on the internet when they’re supposed to be working at their jobs. And we didn’t have jobs or careers…no soul-crushing 8 hours torn from our waking hours. Hell, we could talk D&D on our “commute” (to and from school, via foot and/or dirt bike) as we wanted. We could talk on the phone after school. We could see each other on the weekends. The only relationships we were bent on maintaining were our friendships…and those imaginary ones created in the game. 

My little circle of friends tired of dungeon-crawling pretty fast, as I’ve discussed recently. After that, it was more about creating a real, living and breathing (if imaginary) world. A world in which we were the “movers and shakers.” Our characters had loves and hates, likes and dislikes, friends, allies, and enemies. Hell, we had “turn-on’s and turn-off’s”…all noted on our (rather extensive) character sheets. All aimed at trying to flesh out the imaginary avatar. Give it life, the way authors do their characters. 

Crazy kids. 

AD&D was our jump board to a “higher state” of role-playing. You may disagree that there’s anything “higher” about it (just “different”), but I’ll stick with the term for a moment. We were still “going on adventures” but the adventures had more to do with the characters themselves than with anything insidious in the virtual environment. And little had to do with “backstory.” 

For example, one girl (yes, members of the opposite sex like RPGs) who played with us, Crystal, created a female fighter named “Tangina.” By virtue of random rolls from the DMG, we discovered Tangina was pretty goddamn strong and over 6’ tall…an f’ing amazon, if you will. Tangina also had plenty of gold to equip herself and spent it on half-a-dozen plus weapons, including both a two-handed sword and a man-catcher (“in case I need to catch me a man!”). Typical low-level character derived from random generation. Her “backstory” was pretty short…her family had tried to marry her off to a minor noble who was an asshole (or she just didn’t want to get married, I forget), and she fled to pursue an adventuring life. No one got killed, there were rumors that her ex- was still “searching for her” but I don’t recall a single appearance by him or his henchpeople. Mainly, she was just a wanderer with a simple story explaining why she wasn’t a medieval (very tall) housewife. She had a Halfling henchman named Shorty who was none too bright (in our games, halflings were always NPC comic relief, never as heroic player characters…I don’t think any of us had ever read Tolkien at that point). The point is, with minimal “characterization,” Crystal was able to drop into an imaginary life completely alien to her 13 (maybe 14 or 15?) year old self. Interacting with NPCs (not just killing orcs), looking to make a good (if imaginary) life for herself and NOT worried just about “gaining XP and leveling up.” 

And Crystal was a very minor player in our circle. There’s a lot of talk (at times) in the Old School realm about “D&D’s endgame:” build a castle, gain a dominion, settle down. See, for us, that wasn’t the end of the game but something around the mid-point. Getting the castle and the followers put you on a footing to interact with other landholders (kings and barons and such). It opened up other “adventures,” more interesting than simply “going down the hole looking for loot.” Political machinations and alliances, romances and marriages and betrayals, power and land grabs, revenge and vendetta…not to mention the quest for godhood (a personal favorite, none of this silly “quest for immortality” schtick from Mentzer…I’m talking about displacing Olympians in the celestial pantheon through right of conquest or occult subterfuge). 

These were the games I played as a kid. This was the type of campaign (and we had several) that we adapted to the AD&D vehicle. This was the kind of campaign I was running as a DM (or running IN, as a player), form circa 1983-1987. And I started playing the game in ’81 or ’82. But I lost those friends when I went to high school: Matt, Scott, Jocelyn, even Jason and Rob. It doesn’t matter terribly why our circle ended…I’ve kept in contact with those folks (off and on) over the years…but we did stop gaming together. 

And while I continued gaming, finding new folks that wanted to game, they weren’t interested in the same things I was. They wanted to go into that hole in the ground looking for loot. They wanted to fight through 20 levels of The Temple of Elemental Evil. They wanted to set-up simulacrums of their high level magic-users, blissfully constructing magic items on other planes for fun and profit. Role-playing was still fun…but when you played AD&D, it all came down to who had the biggest sword. 

And I didn’t want to play that. So when I did game with them, we played other RPGs. Sometimes incoherent, poorly designed games…but at least it wasn’t AD&D. Because I couldn’t bear to play a poor excuse for something that had previously lived and breathed and transported me…as both a player and as a DM. 

And why do I bother to write all this tripe? Who cares, right? Stop living in the past and get on with the good gaming available now…people who care (like me) know AD&D is a pretty crap system as is. [and, yes, I still think that to a great degree] But I’ve started playing in Alexis’s AD&D campaign, and its quickly becoming obvious the guy cares a great deal about the game world he presents…more than anyone I’ve met since those friends from my childhood. His approach is different from mine…more logical, more reasonable, more intelligent…but underneath, driving it, is a very similar passion. 

Look, I am very happy to be living in the time and place and real world that I am. I would not prefer to have been born in a medieval-type world with magic and dragons…I like electricity and running water and not needing to carry a sword on my way to work in case there are highwaymen about. I don’t go to RenFairs; I don’t belong to the SCA. 

[I DO own a real (non-replica) sword…but then, I was a fencer for a number of years and when you’re in Toledo, you owe it to yourself to pick up a piece of Spanish steel when presented with the opportunity]

I am NOT saying that I prefer fantasy to reality. What I’m saying is I greatly enjoy and appreciate a chance to dissolve into fantasy as an escape every now and then. And on a regular basis, if at all possible. And in order to do that, you have to have a certain level of “buy in” that meets your personal expectations. Mine are high. Alexis’s are off the fucking chart. I dig on that. 

All right, that’s enough for now. I’m just glad I’m getting a chance to play AD&D with some like-minded folks after so many years (you should see how these players get into character…and there are no funny voices or accents involved. Nice). Can't wait to get me some land grants and titles.
; )

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Once More Into The Breach

Wasn't it just last Thursday I was comparing my relationship with AD&D to an on-again-off-again romantic fling with a neurotic significant other?

Yeah, it was.

For those readers who are too young to know what I'm talking about, let me paint you a picture. This is a standard type of coming-o-age experience found amongst folks who spent their 20s in the USA during the 1990s. Those of us born in the 70s, often coming from broken or "semi-broken" homes (with regard to the nuclear family) had an interesting mental dichotomy when it came to relationships...being brought up to hold that monogamy and "till-death-do-us-part" was an ideal, and yet all the libertine freedom from convention that had been built up in the wake of the swinging 70s, the hedonistic 80s, and the "intellectual" (pseudo-intellectual?) 90s. Leading us to have relationships with people when we really didn't know what the hell a relationship...or even a real commitment to another human being...entailed. That is, trying to make a relationship work without the actual work and sacrifice that goes with it (and which helps develop character and growth in an individual), but instead trying to be "true to yourself" even though "yourself" was a selfish, insecure, and/or inconsiderate bastard.

And, yeah, it went both ways.

For male heterosexual folks, like myself, this generally manifested in the long-term relationship with the "neurotic" girlfriend..."long term" being more a state of mind than anything else (three months, a year, multiple years...the point is, it felt long). Neurotic is the term generally given to the girl in the situation because she seems to have multiple personalities...sometimes the sweet, sexy person you want to spend the rest of your life with, sometimes the "crazy bitch from hell." That's the male perspective.

The thing is, there was really nothing wrong with the girl, save for the same lack of maturity and unrealistic expectations found in both parties. You'd stick together, trying to "make it work" when often you weren't doing any work on yourself...leading to break downs and then break ups. And, sometimes, repeat cycles where you'd start the relationship back up and go through the whole damn thing again.

The problem was, no one was learning a damn thing. Relationships spur growth in a person and help one develop into a higher level of human being...if you let it. But it takes awhile (and some practice) to get ahold of THAT little lesson. Oh, yeah...and some letting go of one's own ego. I know for me it took several relationships and a number of years to grasp the concept. Once I did, I met my wife...and we've been married since 1998. And still happily (despite our individual foibles).

So, yeah, AD&D...when you first get AD&D (assuming that, like me, you start with some "basic" edition of the game: Holmes, B/X, BECMI) it feels like you've finally found the Holy Grail of your fantasy role-playing. I mean, look at it! How awesomely wonderful it is. It's complex and complicated compared to the basic editions, but most of its complexity is simply elaboration, and for the most part it's all stuff you WANT to have elaborated. Look at all these classes! Look at all these new magic items! Look at these awesome spells and diabolic monsters! Look: saving throws for equipment! Look: drowning rules and astral plane wandering monster charts! Look: ingestible poisons and ranger followers and NPC personality tables and Secondary Skills and using weapons in your off-hand, etc.

Things that you always wanted to know, but had to "make rulings on" before. Things that you didn't know you wanted to know...like gambling dens and wandering prostitutes and random urinary tract infections and other diseases. The seedier side of medieval fantasy!

Demons and devils and liches and golems and Bigby's Clenched Fist and a well of many worlds. Really, what more do you need for your fantasy adventure? Look at all the different pole arms! Look, you can buy chickens and pigs! Look at all the special powers of monks! And new class choices for demihumans that don't have level restrictions (not to mention multi-class characters and "exceptional strength" and druid shapeshifting, etc.). It's everything you ever wanted...everything you think you ever needed.

And so you play AD&D. My friends and I played AD&D...we played the hell out of it, for years. And we pushed it and pulled it, and added to it, and tweaked it in little ways to make it work better for our particular game group and incorporated rules and ideas from Dragon Magazine.

Well anyway, that was a loooong time ago. Years ago, like 1997 (with maybe a "one-off" adventure or two in '99 or 2000). The reasons for AD&D falling by the wayside are many, but some include over-complexity, poorly designed systems open for abuse, lack of agreement/uniformity in which rules are "important/necessary," excessive "power creep," and the silliness of its particular hodge-podge of fantasy/literary tropes.

And, of course, now that I've spent a couple years analyzing and deconstructing D&D, I've come to love the B/X edition...and have come to see AD&D as simply one man's house ruled version of the "original fantasy role-playing game." Not a bad thing, but my adult mind has different wants and needs for a role-playing experience and AD&D feels lacking in many areas. As a kid, I wanted it to be "the game" so much that I was able to look past its flaws...or I was simply blind to them. Now I want a game that will help me grow, either by spurring my imagination (and leaving some questions unanswered) and/or by providing a rule system that "gets the hell out of its own way" and lets me get down to the role-playing. Now, I don't have the same rose-colored glasses I once did when it comes to AD&D.

Only nostalgia.

So then, it's a tribute to how sick I've been lately (I spent half of Tuesday at the doctor, being poked and prodded, x-rayed and medicated for this stupid bronchial infection) that I've jumped head first into Alexis's on-line AD&D campaign. I haven't been to work a single day this week, but I've managed (in between sleeping jags) to create a new blog for my character and tally up a page worth of equipment, calculating the encumbrance to the ounce and noting the location of every scabbard and small belt pouch...engaging in the complexity that I profess to loathe. Hell, I spent my time in the waiting room Tuesday playing 30+ rounds of rock-paper-scissors just for the privilege of doing so.

And I find I'm REALLY looking forward to running in this guy's game.

[see why I hold onto these books?]

I've been on antibiotics for a couple days now, and the doctor says I'm clear to get back to work tomorrow, so I'll be working up more LAND OF ICE posts for those who've been waiting (treasure lists are easy to write up, right?). But readers can expect the grim possibility of some very un-B/X game reports and/or observations to be posted here in the near future as I take a wild ride in an elaborate, exotic AD&D landscape.

Heck, I nearly considered playing a halfling thief. Ha!
; )

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Land of Ice (Treasure, Part 1)

[this is a long one because I want to get all the tables down in a single post. Because of my poor knowledge of HTML, the tables are simply text, not nice little grids. If LAND OF ICE is ever published in a different form (print, PDF) the tables will be presented in a format that is easier on the eyes...but, hey, reading the blog is free, right?]

Treasure placement in the LAND OF ICE is a little different from the normal B/X game. Treasure types listed for monsters include the type of treasure actually accumulated and possessed by creatures. Most monsters in the LAND OF ICE care nothing for treasure, and any treasure found in a creature’s lair is incidental or accidental.

When the DM determines the size of a treasure hoard randomly, the total treasure found can be considered the total value of the treasure. A treasure trove need not be completely composed of coins: pelts, furs, ingots, collectable artifacts, furniture, books, food supplies – even hard, scrap metal (so scarce in the LAND OF ICE) – all can take the place of coins.

The treasure types listed in Chapter 6 correspond with the table below, rather than the charts found in other books. NOTE: value of coins found are in the 100s, not 1000s.

Treasure Type – Coins (the number of coins found is in the 100s)
A – CP (35%, D6x10), SS (40%, D6x10), GM (30%, 2D4)
B – CP (50%, D8), SS (25%, D6), GM (25%, D3)
C – CP (20%, D12), SS (30%, D4), GM (Nil)
D – CP (10%, D8), SS (15%, D12), GM (25%, D6)
E – CP (5%, D10), SS (30%, D12), GM (25%, D8)
F – CP (Nil), SS (10%, 2D10), GM (45%, D12)
G – CP (Nil), SS (Nil), GM (50%, D4x50)
H – CP (50%, 3D8x10), SS (50%, D100x10), GM (50%, D6x100)
I – CP (Nil), SS (Nil), GM (Nil)

Treasure Type – Other
A – Gms/Jwl (50%, 4D6), Magic (30%, any D3 items)
B – Gms/Jwl (25%, D6), Magic (10%, any sword, armor, or weapon)
C – Gms/Jwl (25%, D4), Magic (10%, any 2 items)
D – Gms/Jwl (30%, D8), Magic (15%, D3 items, no weapons)
E – Gms/Jwl (10%, D10), Magic (30%, any 3 items + 1 potion)
F – Gms/Jwl (20%, 2D12/10%, D12), Magic (30%, any D4 items)
G – Gms/Jwl (25%, 6D6/25%, 2D10), Magic (40%, any D4 items + 1 rune work)
H – Gms/Jwl (50%, D100/50%, D4x10), Magic (20%, any D6 items)
I – Gms/Jwl (50%, 2D6), Magic (15%, any D3 items)


To determine the value of individual gems roll on the following table:

Roll D% – Value
01-20 – 2gm (25ss)
21-45 – 10gm
46-75 – 20gm
76-95 – 100gm
96-00 – 200gm

As stated in Basic rule book, once the total value of gems in a hoard are determined, gem values can be grouped according to the DM’s preference to increase the variety of stones found. Gems are NOT the same as power crystals.


The value of individual pieces of jewelry is determined by rolling 6D6 and multiplying the result by 10 gold marks, getting a result of 60-360gm per piece. As with gems, single pieces of jewelry can be split into smaller value pieces and multiple pieces can be consolidated into single high value pieces.

Remember that in LAND OF ICE, the conversion rate is:

2 gold marks = 25 silver shillings = 250 copper pennies

Characters earn 1 XP for every 1 GM worth of treasure found or earned while adventuring.


Magical items in LAND OF ICE are somewhat different from those found in earlier books. Although considered “magical” by the northmen, most are based on ancient or lost technology rather than any supernatural enchantment. In addition, items that appear superficially similar to magic items in other editions may have subtle differences to how they are used in play; it is important that DMs carefully read the descriptions of any magic items placed in the game.

IDENTIFYING MAGIC ITEMS: Most of the items listed here are readily identifiable as “magical” by their appearance. Potions and rune work are obvious, and other items are extremely old and/or exquisitely crafted in a fashion beyond the skill of any but a dvergr. Unless otherwise stated, all magical weapons and armor incorporate the element duranium to some degree. Duranium is an exceptionally light, hard metal not found in the LAND OF ICE, but cannibalized and recycled from the starship and machinery of those who came to the planet so long ago.

PSYCHIC IMPRINTING: Many of the items listed (all weapons and armor with special abilities or +2 or better enchantment, all crystals and crystal weapons, and most miscellaneous items) rely on a lost technology of psychic imprinting; the item bonds with its owner to make its powers accessible for use. These items are crafted in such a way as to set up a psychic resonance; a person picking up such an item immediately understands that the potential for bonding, can then attempt attunement with the item. A character does not have to possess psychic powers to bond with such an item; the psychic imprint item resonates with latent psychic energy found in the brainwaves of all sentient creatures.

All psychic imprint items have a staging number, similar to the staging number of psychic talents (see Chapter 3). Any human or alfr attempting to bond with an item roll 2D6 to attempt the bond, and both dice must roll over the staging number for the bond to occur. Dvergar and the humanoid creatures found in LAND OF ICE (trolls, snobolds, troglodytes) only roll 2D4 for a bonding attempt. A character can spend an advance (see Chapter 4) to increase the chance to bond with an item, just as if increasing the chance to use a psychic talent. Such an increase will hold for ANY item of the specific type later found (for example, a fighter finds a firebrand sword and spends two advances to increase his chance of bonding with it from 2D6 to 2D10. If he ever encounters another firebrand sword, his bonding chance remains 2D10, not 2D6). Dragur, ghouls, and wraiths cannot bond with psychic imprint items and lose any attunement previously possessed.

Failure to bond with a psychic imprint item causes psychic backlash: D6 damage if one die fails to roll over the staging number, 2D6 damage if both dice fail the roll. A character that rolls “snake-eyes” on the attunement attempt takes damage AND gains a point of corruption (and requires a saving throw; see Chapter 3 and Chapter 5 for more information on corruption and corruption saves).

USING ITEMS: Potions function by drinking; rune work provides their benefits to those who can decipher their writing. All other items require wearing, wielding, and possible psychic attunement to function.

Weapons and armor do not have to be psychically attuned to use; however, without psychic attunement no weapon or armor will function at better than +1 ability (and none of the weapon’s other powers will be available, in the case of swords). Unless stated otherwise in their description, power crystals, crystal weapons, and miscellaneous items will NOT function without psychic attunement. Each item must be individually attuned; attuning one runeblade (for example) does not allow the automatic attunement of another such weapon.

CHARGES: Some items have charges (notably power crystals and those items that use crystal technology); the knowledge of how to recharge such items has been lost. Once all an item’s charges have been expended it ceases to broadcast psychic resonance and becomes a “non-magical” item in all regards.

Magic items are determined using the following tables:

01-20 – Swords
21-35 – Armor
36-45 – Misc. Weapons
46-70 – Potions
71-80 – Rune Work
81-85 – Power Crystals
86-90 – Crystal Weapons
91-00 – Misc. Items

Roll D% – SWORD
01-30 Sword +1
31-36 Sword +1, +2 vs. Beast
37-42 Sword +1, +2 vs. Proto-Human
43-48 Sword +1, +2 vs. Psychic
49-52 Sword +1, +3 vs. Dragon
53-56 Sword +1, +3 vs. Jotun
57-60 Sword +1, Berserker
61-64 Sword +1, Firebrand
65-69 Sword +1, Illumination
70-71 Sword +1, Necromantic
72-76 Sword +1, Pathfinder
77-78 Sword +1, Resurrection
79-83 Sword +2
84-85 Sword +2, Enchantment
86-87 Sword +3 (Runeblade)
88-00 Sword, Flawed

Roll D% – ARMOR
01-20 Leather Jack +1
21-30 Jack & Shield +1
31-43 Mail +1
44-48 Mail +2
49-50 Mail +3 (Rune armor)
51-60 Set: Mail & Shield +1
61-65 Set: Mail & Shield +2
66-85 Shield +1
86-90 Shield +2
91-00 Mail, Flawed

01-12 Arrows +1 (1-20)
13-15 Arrows, Incendiary (1-8)
16-26 Axe +1
27-31 Axe +2
32-39 Bow +1
40-56 Dagger +1
57-60 Dagger +2
61-67 Mace +1
68-70 Mace +2
71-82 Maul +1
83-84 Maul +2
85 Maul +3 (Rune weapon)
86-95 Spear +1
96-98 Spear +2
99-00 Spear +3 (Rune weapon)

Roll D% – POTION
01-10 Animalism
11-20 Anti-Venom
21-23 Berserking
24-30 Courage
31-40 Fire-Proofing
41-45 Hallucination
46-65 Healing
66-68 Longevity
69-73 Pain Resistance
74-78 Poison
79-80 Prophecy
81-85 Psychic Potency
86-90 Strength
91-00 Venom

01-15 Map to Treasure
16-25 Psychic Trainer
26-33 Treatise – Ability Score
34-37 Treatise – Armor
38-67 Treatise – Common Knowledge
68-71 Treatise – Crystal Weapon
72-75 Treatise – Misc. Item
76-79 Treatise – Misc. Weapon
80-83 Treatise – Power Crystal
84-95 Treatise – Secret Lore
96-00 Treatise – Sword

01-09 Awareness
10-12 Command
13-20 Damaged Crystal
21-29 Defense
30-39 Elemental Resistance
40-42 Enlightenment
43-46 Levitation
47-52 Mental Projection
53-57 Mind Barrier
58-60 Mind Trap
61-64 Pyrokinetics
65-69 Regeneration
70-94 Spent Crystal
95-98 Telekinesis
99-00 Teleportation

01-05 Cold Projection
06-10 Entropic Increase
11-20 Expended Weapon
21-30 Fear Inducement
31-35 Fire Projection
36-38 Gravity Control
39-45 Healing Rays
46-55 Life Detection
56-60 Lightning Projection
61-70 Metal Detection
71-74 Psychic Detection
75-77 Psychic Negation
78-87 Stunning
88-92 Thundering Strike
93-00 Trapped Weapon

Roll D% – MISC. ITEM
01-05 Amulet of Empathy
06-10 Amulet of Mind Shielding
11-15 Circle of Pain
16-20 Circle of Telepathy
21-25 Death Implant
26-30 Globe of Destruction
31-35 Horn of Blasting
36-40 Invisible Blade
41-55 Junk Item
56-60 Language Implant
61-65 Levitation Boots
66-70 Psionic Mask
71-75 Scrying Crystal
76-80 Shift-Suit
81-85 Sky Sled
86-90 Strength Harness
91-95 Troll Gloves
96-00 Warp Cloak

Friday, January 20, 2012

Treasure It

I know there are those chomping at the bit for the next chapter o Land of Ice and I've got the first seven pages written (I'm just writing this thing in order folks, as it comes to me). Unfortunately, I do have to rewrite a couple paragraphs in the middle regarding magic item use and identification before I can start the Chapter 7 posts and I do NOT have time for that right now, as my wife and I prepare our house for the celebration of our son's FIRST BIRTHDAY!

Yes, Diego turned one yesterday (the 19th) and I forgot to mention it because...well 'cause I'm a dumb-dumb I guess. I DID sing happy birthday to him twice yesterday (once at 4am when I was trying unsuccessfully to put him back to sleep...it was a loooong day yesterday). And anyway, the party is tomorrow and that's what's on my mind now.

So stay tuned; I'll get the next chapter up on the blog as soon as I'm able. It's been a crazy week, people!
; )

Hot Buttered Writing

I’m down at the Baranof on a snowy Thursday night, drinking, and doubting that anyone is going to be showing up. Not surprising due to the snow (not to mention I really didn’t make much of an effort to organize anything…been too busy the last couple days). But that’s fine…it gives me a chance to do some writing, which I’ve been missing for awhile.

It’s 9:03pm…I don’t know when this post will go up since I have no access to the internet at the moment (a bunch of closed WiFi networks surrounding me…once upon a time they were open, and I never needed to ask the local businesses for passwords. Now, they’re all closed for the evening). However, this is just a “warm-up” missive anyway (as I finish my drink)…after this I’ll be getting down to some other stuff.

I’ve had the opportunity to consider the whole AD&D re-print thing (yes, I first read about it early this morning, just wanted a bit of time to digest). I’m honestly not sure what my feelings on the matter are. But here are my thoughts for those who care:

- I played AD&D for a looong time. Even after 2nd edition I continued to play 1st edition. Even in college (early to mid-90s) on the few occasions we played D&D at all. Later on, too, in the 21st century I had the opportunity to play and run AD&D 1st edition with like-minded folks who, like myself, got fed up with some of the aspects of 3rd edition. Call AD&D my “first love” when it comes to the on-again-off-again romance of D&D.

- Having said that, I’ve played no edition but B/X since 2009, and for good reason. If AD&D was my first love, it’s one of those neurotic types that are really bad for you, that keeps dragging you back into bad habits rather than helping you grow and progress as a self-actualized human being. I’ve had one or two of those in my life (um, with regard to girlfriends, that is). This is something I think most of us grow out of, and you don’t feel all that bad letting it go.

- Having said THAT, does that mean I’d never play AD&D again? Umm…I honestly don’t know. I retain my old AD&D books, both for reference and for nostalgia and “just in case” (so I don’t have to buy them on eBay should the whimsy strike me). Would I like them to be in better condition? Yeah…thumbing through one or two recently, I was surprised and a bit horrified to find that somehow they were missing chunks of pages.

- Is it worth the money to pick up new copies of the original books with (presumably) great new cover art? Probably not. UNLESS WotC/Hasbro is going to allow some AD&D-version of the OGL (in which case, it might be good to have references for writing AD&D modules or something).

- Or not. I actually have no interest in writing adventures for AD&D. I just don’t like the system all that much compared to B/X.

- Is it ETHICALLY worth it to purchase the new books? (*sigh*) Probably not. I happen to agree with a lot of what Sword & Shield has to say on the subject. Not only that, but I’ve written before that the only way to get a point across to WotC/Hasbro is to VOTE WITH YOUR WALLET. That is, don’t buy their shit. Don’t buy it and then complain about it. Don’t buy it and wish it were better. Simply close your wallet and put your money into something you really want to support. I don’t want to support WotC’s craziness, but they don’t give a shit if they’re making money…it’s a business, folks, not a goddamn labor of love (as much of the OSR stuff is). Close your wallet and support something that cares about more than its f’ing profit-margin.

- WHY is WotC doing this exactly? I’m guessing they want a cash infusion and feel they can milk the nostalgia of folks that once played the game. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the Red Box 4th Edition with the Elmore cover art probably suckered a lot of people…and surprised Hasbro with the response. Unless I see evidence otherwise, I’m going to guess this is simply a canny business move, something like “well, we got a lot of positive feedback (ca$h) simply using the recycled look, but hardback books have more profit in them than box sets and there’s this huge nostalgic following of people who played (and still play) AD&D and who would TOTALLY buy new copies of the old books…at Barnes & Nobles or Amazon or whatever…simply to have a fresh copy, rather than a stinky eBay wreck. AND so long as we don’t support the line, we don’t have to worry about it wrecking our 5th Edition plans…if anything, it might get people’s mouths watering for MORE “D&D” and drive them right into the waiting sales department of our 5E Marketing team. A win-win situation: fire & forget, ca$h infusion, Pavlov dog-bell salivation. Let’s do it!”

- Does that sound cynical?

- And here’s the real kick in the ass, people. I LIKE that WotC is doing this. I won’t buy their books, for reasons of both principle and practicality, but if they were to, say, re-print the B/X boxed sets that I got for my 9th/10th birthdays as a kid, I would TOTALLY pick them up, EVEN THOUGH the same cynical thoughts would be in my head. But that’s not the “kick in the ass” (that’s just my admission of hypocracy)…the KICK is this: they will NEVER re-issue B/X, because if they release any version of “basic D&D” it will be the Frank Mentzer BECMI version. Why? Because most folks consider them identical, with Mentzer’s version simply being an update and reorganization. Such is not the case (and the last couple days I’ve been getting into heated discussions on the issue at an unnamed Classic D&D on-line forum), for reasons I have explained on this blog over the last several years…but just because *I* can distinguish the difference doesn’t mean anyone at Hasbro can…all they will see is “basic D&D” and the fact that BECMI sold the most copies of any basic D&D set of all time (probably due to it reaching the height of its popularity and coinciding its release with a certain Saturday Morning cartoon). So even though I’d sell out myself to get a fresh box or two of B/X, I probably will never get the opportunity.

- AND (last thought), if *I* am such a flawed individual that I would compromise my principles on the matter, I can only imagine that WotC/Hasbro is going to make a killing on their AD&D reissue. It seems a bit ironic (disgusting?) that money from the sales will go to building a Gygax Memorial, even as they donate that money from whoring out his works in base fashion.

No, you don’t think so. Okay, that’s your opinion. Me, I’m going to go get another hot buttered rum, and then work on an RPG project or two. Cheers.

: )

POST SCRIPT (9:51pm…just sipping my second drinky):

It occurs to me that the things I’ve written (in this post and in others regarding game design) may incite resentment and anger in other game designers. I realize, for example, that there are people that like skill systems A LOT and could not conceive of writing an RPG that didn’t include one. There are designers that simply build on what they already know or have experienced in games, rather than puzzling out the reason why something was an initial choice of design in the first place. They don’t CARE, and what they DO care about is that the game works and is fun and if they play-test it and it meets those requirements than who am I to piss all over their efforts?

I could rant against people being crazy or ignorant or simply selfish and/or obtuse…despite being nice, intelligent people who probably make more money than me…but even if they were guilty of those things, who am I to judge? I’m self-centered and selfish and ignorant in my own ways as well. And the games I design may be just as insipid and retarded and downright stupid in their own way…moreso, because I waste a ton of time considering things that may need no consideration and spending hours of my short mortal life crafting something that will only make me a small handful of money…not even enough to pay my mortgage.

Look, I can’t turn it off, folks. I’m going to say things that sometimes sound (or are) hurtful, because I have very strong opinions on things I care about…this silly hobby for one…and my opinion may be diametrically opposed to your own. But I do want to say, just for the record, that I really, REALLY appreciate the effort and creativity that 99% of game designers put into their work. Frankly, I’m in awe every time I walk into Gary’s Games, something I try to do several times a week, even when nothing new has come in to the store. The sheer amount of creativity and artistry on display is overwhelming to consider…the hours and hours that hundreds (thousands?) of people have put into these immensely imaginative works for such a very, very little money. Now THAT will blow your mind…it blows mine.

AND it makes me even more resentful of WotC/Hasbro and their “easy road” of brandification and recycling ideas just to PREY on consumers in pursuit of profit. Wow…how can that NOT make you angry? Pathfinder may be a dumb game (in my opinion), but at least they’re putting out original work.

Okay. That’s enough ranting. Later, 'gators.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Whiteout (Redux)

The governor has declared a "state of emergency" in Washington due to heavy snowfall, and my office is closed for the day.

Which means I have to stay home, which means I will have little opportunity for reading or writing (since me son is the priority, folks).

I don't know if I'm going to have the chance to bone up on Top Secret today, in other words. Though at this point, I'm not sure who (if anyone) is going to make it out in this weather. For me, at least, the bar is just two blocks down the road.

No, D! Don't eat that!

(gotta' go)

: )

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Welp, the snow was fast, if not exactly thick today, and I stayed home from work because of it. Not because I couldn't get to the job...I'm walking distance from my day gig. But my wife is not, and so needed to work from home, and that meant someone else had to mind the boy (me) since we had no nanny in the snow.

But that's cool, because I love Diego and he and I get along famously (though he's not quite ready for the gaming scene...some day, some day). I even got a couple naps in myself, which is always a good thing. Plus we got to walk around in the stinging, icy, fast-falling snow. I put five layers on the kid and he fell asleep in the Baby-Bjorn. I tell ya', he just wants to be snuggled and rocked.

[which is a good thing, because if he'd inherited the wife's penchant for motion sickness we'd ALL be in trouble!]

Being out and about in these conditions, not to mention seeing nothing but white outside my window all day, led me to thinking about an old Top Secret adventure: Operation: Whiteout. Written by none other than Merle Rasmussen, creator of Top Secret, Whiteout appeared in the July 1984 issue of Dragon magazine, one of the first I ever owned (I still have it, but it's so old I'm missing the cover, which is why I can't cite the issue number).

Operation: Whiteout is a very cool adventure: players infiltrate an installation in Antarctica to find out to what extent a group of neo-survivalists might be up to nefariousness. Similar to TS:0 (Operation: Pisces, included with the TS game), it provides a site based adventure with many numbered encounters, a list of NPCs, and several pre-gens. It's non-linear in design, and while there is a plot (so to speak), there's no designated timeline of events to push the action. PCs are able to work in their own fashion and the bad guys will go about their daily business. It's pretty cool, a good example of what a nice Top Secret adventure should look like.

On the other hand, looking at it makes me think: wow, that is a crapload of work Mr. Rasmussen put into it. Lots of specific rules for Antarctica (including weather tables, vehicles and movement rates, random crevasses and systems for identifying them and what happens if you don't, etc.), plus the installation itself, complete with individual named and statted NPCs (close to 50...all with varying degrees of knowledge about the operations, day and night encounter areas, job occupation, etc.). A tiny little microcosm world of adventure...and if the PCs do what they're supposed to do, in an intelligent manner, they'll bypass most everything Merle bothered to write-up. He's just accounted for a ton of different possible contingencies.

Just thinking about what went into the writing of this simple Dragon magazine adventure makes me exhausted. It would take hours of research on the scientific outposts in Antarctica alone (not to mention the history of the continent and various international treaties) to do this...and 1984 was long before the internet and wikipedia. Wow.

I don't know if I'm just lazy or if Rasmussen is just uber-dedicated.

Between that and re-reading Haven: City of Violence the other day, I've got Top Secret on the brain (or so it would appear). Maybe I need to run a game of TS. Last Thursday I played a board game down at the Mox which was fun but less-than-satisfying. I could probably be up to snuff on Whiteout by tomorrow...assuming anyone comes out in the snow (I doubt I'll be driving to Cafe Mox...I wonder who I can get to show up at the Baranof).

Top Secret...gosh, maybe I need to do a series of post on that. I wonder if I'll be going to work tomorrow...
: )

Land of Ice (Monsters, Part 4)

[continued from here. The snow is really coming down now (and sticking) and while I could still walk to work from my home, I have no nanny for today so I am staying home with my boy. This is the last section in the Chapter 6: Monsters for LAND OF ICE. Tomorrow, I should start posting the treasure section]

Snow Viper

Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice: 1-2 hit points*
Move: 90’ (30’)
Attacks: 1 bite
Damage: Poison
No. Appearing: 4-16 (4-32)
Save As: Normal Human
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: Nil

A small, poisonous land predator, the average snow viper is only 2’-4’ in length, and generally avoid attacking humans unless their nests are disturbed; however, as they generally lair within shallow snow drifts it is easy enough for an unwary party to accidentally blunder into a nest of vipers. Their strike is exceptionally quick (they always gain initiative) and a shield is little defense against their attacks. The venom of a single viper bite isn’t generally enough to kill a human: one bite will make the character woozy for D10 hours (-1 to attack rolls and saves), a second will reduce the character’s speed by one-half for a day, and a third bite will render the character comatose with paralytic shock (save versus death to awaken in D8 hours but then suffers all other effects and treats Constitution as one-half normal until recovered). A character is allowed a save versus poison against every bite to avoid the cumulative effect.


Armor Class: 9
Hit Dice: 1D4 hit points
Move: 120’ (40’)
Attacks: 1
Damage: By weapon
No. Appearing: 1-8 (3-18)
Save As: Normal Human
Morale: 6
Treasure Type: A (whole village)

Humans residing in the (slightly) warmer southern regions. The climate has made them softer and their lives easier than that of the northmen, who will raid their settlements and towns during winter months to supplement their meager supplies. For the most part, they are equivalent to the Normal Humans described in the Basic rule book.


Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 1+1
Move: 120’ (40’)
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite
Damage: 1D4/1D4/1D4
No. Appearing: 1-8 (2-40)
Save As: Fighter 1
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: Nil

An extremely primitive, proto-manlike humanoid living deep beneath the mountains where the warmth of geothermal springs are insulated from the cold of the surface. Dwelling in absolute darkness, they use heightened senses of smell and hearing to track their prey: any stray creature that wanders into their underground world. As should be expected, they are expert climbers and spelunkers, and are able to surprise opponents on a 1-4 within their familiar underground environment. They possess nothing of value.


Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 2
Move: 120’ (40’)
Attacks: 1
Damage: By weapon
No. Appearing: 1-4 (1-8)
Save As: Fighter 2
Morale: 10
Treasure Type: As NPC

By life of a northman is far from peaceful, and raids and war can take a great toll on a settlement’s fighting force. Over the centuries, a tradition has developed in many villages whereby a special cadre of female warriors, called valkyrs, will act as the defenders and champions of a settlement. Fierce fighters, these individuals never go adventuring or raiding; their sole duty is to act as guard and defense against creatures that would threaten their people. Valkyrs train their own, only accepting the strongest and bravest maidens into their ranks. When they marry, a valkyrie generally “retires” from service, but many valkyrs remain single their entire lives; others return to valkyrie service upon the death of their spouse and adulthood of their children.

Viking Warrior

Armor Class: 3
Hit Dice: 1
Move: 120’ (40’)
Attacks: 1
Damage: By weapon
No. Appearing: 2-8 (3-30)
Save As: Fighter 1
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: See below

Viking warriors are northmen skilled at both fighting and sailing, and are the general raiding and war party one will encounter in the LAND OF ICE. A longship can carry approximately 75 such warriors, though smaller ships with contingents of 30-40 are not unknown. Vikings encountered are 50% likely to be led by an NPC fighter of 1st through 3rd level (roll D6 and divide by two). Vikings returning from a successful raid will carry Treasure Type A; otherwise, they carry no valuables aside from their weapons and gear.


Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 1-4**
Move: 120’ (40’)
Attacks: 1
Damage: By weapon
No. Appearing: 1 (1-4)
Save As: Magician
Morale: 7
Treasure Type: As NPC

A witch is the name given to natural psychics who have mastered the arts of seidhr without the benefit of formal training, usually through experimentation and meditation in isolation; this includes any psychics found among the southlanders. A witch should be created as a magician of 1st through 4th level (roll D4), but they never receive more than 1 psychic talent point per level (i.e. they cannot spend an advance on an additional psychic talent point), nor can they “clean” psychic corruption. On the other hand, witches care nearly as little for honor as thieves, and never lose XP for breaking the taboos listed for magicians in Chapter 4.

Woolly Mammoth

Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 9
Move: 120’ (40’)
Attacks: 2 tusks or trample
Damage: 2D4/2D4 or 3D8
No. Appearing: 0 (1-20)
Save As: Fighter 3
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: See below

Although covered in long, shaggy hair and sporting incredible curved tusks, the mammoth is not noticeably larger in size than the Terran elephant (about 10’ at the shoulder). Their tusks are worth 40-160 gold marks (4D4 multiplied by 10). If a reaction roll indicates attack, it will charge an opponent, striking with its tusks for double damage. On every round that follows the creature will either attack with tusks (25% chance) or trample (75%), gaining a +4 to attack rolls when trampling man-sized and smaller targets.


Armor Class: 3
Hit Dice: 3*** to 7***
Move: 180’ (60’)
Attacks: 1
Damage: See below
No. Appearing: 1-4 (1-8)
Save As: Alfar 3
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: F

A wraith is an alfr that has undergone a terrible transformation due to excessive psychic corruption. The creature becomes an incorporeal, ghost-like thing, malicious and hateful of the living. They have a hit dice equal to their original level +2 (reroll hit points) and while they possess their former psychic abilities, they are unaffected by the psychic talents of others. Wraiths are exceptionally dangerous.

In combat, a wraith may use its psychic talents or may attack a creature with its touch. A successful attack reduces the target’s Strength score by 1D4 points. Unless reduced to 0 these strength points are recovered at a rate of 1 per day. A character reduced to 0 strength becomes a wraith with hit dice equal to its own level divided by two (round up); such a being is completely in thrall to its creator wraith. Individuals that do not have a strength score (like normal humans) take D10 damage to hit points instead, becoming a wraith of one-half its normal hit dice if slain. Creatures with less than one hit die in life become shadow wraiths, unable to attack, simply existing in a perpetual half-life of silent misery, communicating through gesture alone.

Wraiths cannot be damaged by normal weapons, or even those of +1 (“old craft”) enhancement. Only psychic imprint weapons (+2 or better, see Chapter 7) can damage or kill a wraith. A wounded wraith heals one hit point per day. Being incorporeal, wraiths do not usually wield mortal equipment (a wraith with telekinesis can utilize a physical weapon in combat instead of its touch attack); however, many retain a small hoard of worldly possessions from their past lives.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Land of Ice (Monsters, Part 3)

[continued from here]

Long Fang

Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 5
Move: 150’ (50’)
Attacks: 2 claws + bite
Damage: 1D6/1D6 (+2D6)
No. Appearing: 1-2 (1-4)
Save As: Fighter 2
Morale: 9
Treasure Type: Nil

This mountain cat is yet another of the super predators inhabiting the LAND OF ICE. Nearly man height at the shoulder and covered with a shaggy pelt, the long fang is incredibly stealthy (surprising foes on a 4 in 6). It takes its name from its huge, downward canines. The long fang’s normal mode of attack is to bear its foe to the ground with its great weight after which it sinks its teeth into its prey, puncturing organs and severing arteries (the long fang must hit with both claws in order to deliver its bite attack).


Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 1* or better
Move: 120’ (40’)
Attacks: 1
Damage: `D6
No. Appearing: 1 (1)
Save As: Magician
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: As NPC

The magician is a trained psychic, skilled in the use of seidhr (see Chapter 3). Create the magician as a normal character of level 1st through 4th (roll 1D4). The XP award for a magician should be increased by one “*” for every level above 1st.


Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice: 2
Move: 120’ (40’)
Attacks: 1 kick or bite
Damage: 1D4
No. Appearing: 0 (1-8)
Save As: Fighter 1
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: Nil

Mules are a hybrid species bred from horses and small herd animal. The resulting animal is smaller and stouter than both with only vestigial antlers and a nasty temper, but a capable pack animal for the cold northern mountains.


Armor Class: 8 or better
Hit Dice: 1D6 hit points
Move: 120’ (40’)
Attacks: 1
Damage: By weapon
No. Appearing: 1-6 (1-20)
Save As: Normal Human
Morale: 7
Treasure Type: A (whole village)

The descendants of the starfaring race that first came to the LAND OF ICE centuries ago, as detailed in Chapter 1. They are a proud people if prone to melancholy and bouts of drunkenness, and made of sterner stuff than those men and women found in the warmer southern climates. Northmen will generally wear heavy furs for insulation from the snow (average AC of 8) when not otherwise girded for war. All are capable of fighting and are ready to prove it in defense of their honor. The stats listed are for the average northman; northmen of exceptional ability and ambition should be created as a normal character class.

Sea Snake

Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 6
Move: 150’ (50’)
Attacks: 1 bite or crush
Damage: 2D6
No. Appearing: 0 (1-12)
Save As: Fighter 3
Morale: 9
Treasure Type: Nil

The cold sea abounds with huge, amphibious serpents of varying size. The statistics given are for the average of the species, though smaller sizes (3 hit dice) are found within the fresh water (lakes and rivers) of the continent, and creatures of double the size are not unheard of in colder waters. Damage should be correspondingly adjusted for larger and smaller sea snakes.


Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 7
Move: 180’ (60’)
Attacks: 1 bite
Damage: 2D8
No. Appearing: 0 (1-4)
Save As: Fighter 2
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: Nil

A huge and dangerous predator only found in the sea, these creatures can be driven to frenzy when blood is in the water (Morale increased to 10). They have been known to attack ships.


Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 4*
Move: 120’ (40’)
Attacks: 1 bite
Damage: 1D8 + poison
No. Appearing: 1-3 (1-4)
Save As: Fighter 1
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: I

Legends state these genetically engineered monstrosities were created using jotun technology in an attempt to create a domestic guardian, but if such is the case the experiment went terribly wrong: the monsters are some of the worst and most feared creatures the northmen are likely to encounter. Sleipnr are huge arachnids, most about the size of a horse, with terrible mandibles and a venomous bite (save versus poison or die within 10 rounds). They are exceedingly cunning and adept at ambushing their victims (surprise on a 3 in 6 chance), clinging to the walls and ceilings of dark caves and canyon walls before launching themselves at a likely victim. They do not spin webs but create nests using debris and the bones and possessions of former victims.


Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice: 1D4 hit points
Move: 90’ (30’)
Attacks: 1 weapon
Damage: 1D4
No. Appearing: 3-12 (6-60)
Save As: Normal Human
Morale: 6
Treasure Type: C

Another of the semi-sentient humanoid inhabitants of the LAND OF ICE snobolds, like trolls, live in clannish family units and are capable of (primitive) tool use. The smallest of the indigenous humanoids, snobolds are only about half the height of a northman; however, they are quite vicious, dangerous in numbers, and possess cannibalistic tendencies. There is little honor in killing them, but they are cowards in the face of superior opposition.

Snow Rat

Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 1D4 hit points*
Move: 120’ (40’)
Attacks: 1 bite
Damage: 1D2 + special
No. Appearing: 2-12 (2-20)
Save As: Normal Human
Morale: 7
Treasure Type: Nil

The only rodent of note in the LAND OF ICE, these creatures are as long as a man’s arm and capable of delivering a vicious bite. They are also known to carry a particularly virulent strain of rabies; at the end of any encounter with snow rats, any character bitten must make a save versus poison or contract the disease. Over the next D8 hours, an infected individual will transform into something equivalent to a ghoul, though without the psychic contagion/attraction. Snow rats are generally found in the mountains, though a similar species is known to exist in the forests of the southern coast.