Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: A Quick Review

In almost six hours it will be 2014 in my little corner of the world. So there’s still time for me to do a review of 2013!

The year didn’t start well for me, with me being ill and having trouble doing things I really enjoyed – like blogging. In July I came back to this blog and started writing Three Sad Wizards. Most of the posts I made in July and August were about this module. I really like how it turned out and, judging from reactions I got, other people do as well.

In September I completed the 30 Day Challenge. Not all questions on the list were interesting, but I tried to make something of every post, and most of the time I succeeded. And after a year of not being able to blog, this did feel as a real victory.

I also started a series inspired by the Planescape book Uncaged Faces of Sigil. I did six entries in the series Faces of Pretomournon. So far I’m pleased with how the series is turning out, but I think the entries may be a bit too long. Faces of Pretomournon will return in the new year.

In October I wrote my most popular post from this year: Orc Babies. It was a commentary on D&D Next’s “story elements”, that threaten to be completely uninspired and boring. To put money where my mouth is, I showed how I do orc babies in my campaign. Apparently, people liked that.

In November I participated in NaNoWriMo. I hoped I could continue blogging, but that proved to be unrealistic. However, I did write 50K words on my novel that is now almost finished.
So what will 2014 bring?

I’m writing a module called Lost Library of the Death Speakers, which is on hold until I figure out a way to make it less boring. I’m also outlining Valkyries vs. Amazons, an module which can be summed up as Female Fighters in Unreasonable Armor – the Module. However, I also have my Nanowrimo novel to finish, so it may take a while before I have time for it.

I’m also writing the DSA game, a clone of the first edition of Germany’s most popular roleplaying game. So far, I have most of character creation, about half of combat, and a lot of spells done. Still a lot to do though, so it will take time.

Happy new year to everyone, and see you next year!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Wild Hunt

Every winter solstice, the Wild Hunt rides from Castle Woden. A group of riders with black faces, a large pack of huge black hounds, and numerous spirits or fairy beings, in pursuit of a single mortal being. The Hunt rides over ancient paths and roads, now long gone. If they encounter a farm, a village, or another building in their way , it’s burned to the ground.

Master of the Hunt is the Dark Huntsman, demon-like figure with antlers and a leather mask covering the entirety of his face. He rides either a black horse, or a white one, depending if the Hunt hunts a guilty soul, or an innocent.

Some years (40% chance) Frau Hulda, the snow maker, rides in front of the Hunt in her chariot. If she’s with the Hunt, a terrible storm rages over the land, felling trees, destroying blowing down wooden structures like fences and barns, and sometimes making casualties.

People encountering the Hunt should avert their eyes or risk being swept up by it. Characters who see it must save vs. spells or become part of the Hunt. The fate of such a person varies wildly. Some join the Hunt as hunters, following the Master’s orders, even if they go against their alignment. They will be released after the quarry has been caught and the Hunt is over.

Others are not so lucky. Characters with WIS 7 or lower will join the Hunt as one of its black hounds. The unlucky character will start running on all four and turn into a huge dog. A smaller white puppy will stay behind in his place. After the Hunt is over, the black hounds evaporate and the persons are lost in the spirit world for a year. If his family takes good care of the white pup, the character will be released next winter solstice.

Beautiful young girls and boys (CHA 15 or above) will be kidnapped by the riders and taken back to Castle Woden, never to be seen again.

The Wild Hunt often rides through its quarry’s home town, destroying the village in the process. To prevent the village from being burned down, villages often cast out girls into the forest, hoping the Hunt’s designated prey is among them. These girls are often taken into the homes of gnomes or witches in the forest. Some of them are lost for good or are found the next day frozen to death. Most of them return to the village safely, with no memory of what happened to them that night.

The Hunt’s quarry is usually a girl, often guilty but sometimes innocent. She can always hear the hounds coming closer, and is under the influence of a fear spell during the hunt. The Hunt is over when it captures its prey and shreds it to pieces.

However, deep in the woods is an unnamed stone circle, overgrown and hardly recognizable as such. The bones of the Master of the Hunt are buried there. If the prey manages to reach the circle she’s save. The Dark Huntsman cannot enter the circle, and will release the prey. She will never be hunted again by the Wild Hunt in her life.

The Hunt can be fought, but it can never be destroyed. When the Dark Huntsman and his hounds are killed in combat, their bodies will disappear, only to reappear the next night. If their prey is still alive, the Hunt continues.

The Dark Huntsman: AL N; MV 180’ (60’); AC 2; HD 15; hp 80; #AT 2; Dmg 1d6+6 (spear +3 ); Save F15; M 10; XP 1900. The Huntsman usually attacks with his spear +3. He may also steer his horse to trample an opponent, for 4d6 damage.

Frau Hulda: AL C; MV 120’ (40’); AC 3; HD 12; hp 72; #AT 3 (2 claws, 1 bite) ; Dmg 2d6 (claw) or 1d8 (bite); Save M12; Special: Spells; M 10; XP 2000. Frau Hulda specializes in spells concerning the weather. She can ride her chariot over victims, for 3d10 of damage.

Hounds (3d4): AL C; MV 120’ (40’); AC 4; HD 6; hp 25 each; #AT 1 (bite); Dmg 1d6; Save F6; M 9; XP 570. The Hounds of the Hunt can cause fear in any mortal being.

Call Forth the Wild Hunt

 Level: Druid 4
Duration: up to 10 days (see below)
Range:  0

This specialized ritual should be cast in the ten days between the winter solstice and the new year in the stone circle where the Dark Hunter was buried. The spell costs thirty minutes to cast, and requires an item belonging to the intended victim. Once the ritual is complete, the ghost of the Hunter will appear and listen to the caster’s reasons to call the Hunt on someone. No matter if the reasons for doing so are just or not, the spell compels the Hunt to obey and pursue the quarry designated by the spellcaster.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Review: Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary

Adventures Dark and Deep is Joseph Bloch’s thought experiment made real: “What if Gary Gygax had been allowed to go through with his plans for a second edition of the world’s most popular role-playing game?’

The result is an AD&D variant vastly superior to the original: it’s better written, has better art, and has more options for players to try out. The game is a magnificent achievement, and raises the bar for OSR products. The game’s Players Manual and the Game Masters Toolkit are both great, but the best book, and also the one easiest usable with other OSR games, is the Bestiary.

It’s 457 pages hold over 900, monsters, animals, and other creatures. It includes all creatures from the SRD, a great number of monsters from other OGL sources like the Complete Tome of Horrors, and some original creatures as well. So we have seen most of these monsters before in other sources.  The original creatures are mostly new expressions of old ideas that don’t have an OGL version yet (for example, the Fairy Courts).

So what makes this book so good? It has everything. It’s got all the basics covered, and a lot of the extras as well. For the first time, everything’s in one book. If you’re like me, you don’t want to have to reference multiple monster books and magazine issues to stock a dungeon. As a result most of the monsters encountered in my campaigns were from the 2nd Edition Monstrous Manual, formerly my go-to monster book.

Is there something I don’t like about the book?

Some of the art is great, but some of the art relies too much on tracing it’s reference, instead of referencing it. What’s worst, the design of the book is very basic. Some of the art doesn’t get the space it needs and falls a bit cramped, other pieces are printed too large and falls a bit flat. Tellingly, there’s no designer or art director credited. However, I acknowledge the achievement of having that much art in a small OSR publication.

The cover of my copy is a bit blurred, and some of the black-and-white art inside is a bit pixelated, making me think the printer worked from low resolution images. My copies of the Players Manual and the Game Masters Toolkit do not have these flaws.

All-in-all, the Bestiary is the best monster book currently available for any system. If you play any old school variant of D&D, you should check it out. If you play AD&D, you should take a look at the rest of the Adventures Dark and Deep rules as well.


Here’s a small issue I came upon when using the Bestiary for an B/X module. In the Bestiary, Morale is given as an adjustment on morale checks , which in Adventures Dark and Deep are rolled on 1d20. This is an improvement over AD&D’s percentile system, but it makes it harder to use with B/X, which uses 2d6, or 2nd Edition AD&D, which uses 2d10. So I made a conversion chart:
Morale Conversion
2nd Edition
Unreliable (2)
Unreliable (2-4)
Unsteady (5)
Unsteady (6)
Unsteady (7)
Average (8)
Average (8)
Average (9)
Average (9)
Average (10)
Steady (11)
Steady (11)
Steady (12)
Steady (12)
Elite (13)
Elite (13)
Elite (14)
Champion (15)
Champion  (16)
Fanatic (17-18)
Fearless (19-20)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Check Out This Awesome Blog List

+Charles Akins has compiled an impressive list of OSR related blogs. Each blog gets a short description what it's about and how frequently it's updated. For example, my blog is:

A fun, meandering blog that tends focus on most everything related to the hobby. Inventive and clever. A good place to start in the archives is Orc Babies and you'll know the tenor of this blog from the get go. Updates: Dark since October 30, 2013.

Inventive and clever. Yes, that made my day.

The list is already the most complete overview of the OSR blog-o-sphere, and Charles is updating it with blogs from the comments. It is a great resource to discover new blogs to read.

Check it out!