Wednesday, July 18, 2012

or why massacres of cute goblin babies are not a problem in my games

I enjoy a moral dilemma as much as the next guy, but I don't find skewering baby goblins to be fun.
So, I've made some chnages to certain breeds of monster:

Orcs are organized like naked mole rats or hive insects. I got that idea from Harn, I think. They have no babies unable to defend themselves, just half-grown ‘runtlings’ that pop out of the cave-mothers multiple wombs, ready to fight from birth. Orcs have genetic memory (this is also taken from Harn) which ensures that they all have a roughly similar culture. It’s violent and savage, with strong tendencies towards what most people would call evil. The cave mother can to some extent control her hive with pheromonesand her black milk, so that orcish society can function with a semblance of order. The orcs don’t work well together when not under the control of a cave-mother. The control range is limited. Orcs go rogue, berserk , blind, or die if the cave-mother is slain (this is inspired by a scene in Return of the King). They amy also go rouge or perish if they wander too far from the hive.
In theory, a rouge orc might be Lawful or Neutral, but that's very rare. It is possible that he could be Chaotic but not espeically evil-- just unpredicatble and aggressive.

Half-orcs are sterile. They tend to be a little on the crazy side, but some can pass for ill-favored humans. As for how they are made, let's just say that an orc cave-mothers pheremones can't control a man's thinking brain, but can arouse certain physiological responses....ewww squick.

Goblins reproduce by possessing and transmogrifying the infants of human and demihuman races. Yes, that’s inspired in part by a certain movie with David Bowie. Hobgoblins and bugbears do the same. According to gnomish lore, the earliest goblins were Chaotic gnome cultists warped by a curse.

Trolls reproduce by fission, and are not very social creatures. Their grasp of language tends to be minimal. When a troll goes into ‘heat’, other trolls sense it and chase it down, then rip it apart and scatter the pieces. The pieces grow into new trolls.

Kobolds are actually little earth devils. New kobolds are mined from toxic ore veins and set to work for the older kobolds.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Longbeard isn't just a nickname—this tricky dwarf has a magic beard that moves at his will, much like the effect of a permanent animate ropes spell. He can use it to trip opponents, grab light objects, tickle sleeping people or beasts, etc. It grows back quickly if cut with ordinary blades, but it might be burned off or neutralized by magical means.

I haven’t read the old Slavic fairy tale which inspired the picture above, so I don’t know if my idea is close to the original type.

Monday, July 2, 2012

New Items for B/X (or any edition)

Rod of Flame-gout

This polished, hollow brass rod is cast to resemble a bell-mouthed dragon or serpent.  To use the rod, the wielder must first fill the hollow with lamp oil or a similar flammable substance, and then fired by depressing a concealed trigger (no command word necessary). Flame belches forth from the activated rod, in a small cone that grows from a few inches to 5 feet in diameter at 30 feet long. Damage=1d12. Targets may save against Dragon’s Breath for half damage. Because the area of effect is small, and the rod must be aimed, the wielder must roll to hit any targets in the area of effect. This roll gets a +1 adjustment, in addition to any DEX adjustment the wielder normally gets on missile attacks.

The fire is likely to scorch or ignite dry cloth, hair, paper, etc.

The rod may be used as many times per day as the wielder pleases—but every single shot fired requires a flask of lantern oil. The oil is utterly consumed. Reloading takes a round.

This item may be used by any class.

Nail-biter Rod

This hollow, rust-flecked iron rod is fashioned to resemble a bell mouthed dragon or serpent. To use this rod, the user must first pour metal coins, broken chain links, nails, or similar small metal objects down the muzzle. The rod is fired using a concealed trigger (no command word is necessary). Rusted, broken metal sprays from the open end of the activated rod, in a roughly conical burst that grows from a few inches to 10 feet in diameter at 60 feet long. Anything in the cone is subjected to 1d4 attacks. Each hit does 1d4 damage. Large targets, like a man standing very close to the muzzle or an ogre at any distance, will block the effect for anything behind said target.

The wielder must roll to hit, using the range table below.

Range= 15/30/60

DEX effects this attack in the same manner as any thrown or missile weapon.

The rod may be used as many times per day as the wielder pleases—but every single shot fired requires a pound of small metal bits.  The metal ammunition is broken, corroded, and generally rendered worthless by the action of firing. Even gold coins are ruined. Reloading takes a round.

The rod is quite loud; firing it in a dungeon may attract wandering monsters.

This item is prohibited for clerics, but may be used by any other class.

NOTE-- I may edit both items a bit, after I get some feedback on them. These are basically fantasy boomsticks/guns.

 My current campaign setting does include simple blackpowder weapons, but those are unreliable and pretty rare.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Fake Dinosaurs= 'Real' Monsters

I had these as a kid! I've got no idea what happened to them.

Many D&D fans will recognize the bottom two as the rust monster and the bulette.

My assumption is that Gygax, or one of the other DMs in his circle, bought a bunch of plastic 'dinosaurs' and used those as miniatures.

The cute monster in the upper left quadrant looks like the love child of the Tarrasque and a Fiend Folio carbuncle. Carrasque? Tarbuncle? Maybe it has a jewel buried in its head, which can be removed from its dead body by means similar to those needed to extract huge diamonds from the Tarrasque?

Okay, that’s a bit goofy even for me.

It could be fun to stat both the upper figures. What are they?

I’ll probably come back to this. I’m working on my math studies now, and I have some serious writing projects to do a bit later.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


(These posts will deal with stuff outside Thunder Rift. Nothing is offical yet, and things may chnage bfore the PCs see any of these places. A map will nail things down-- but it's a bit soon for that.)

The Ogre Despotates—a collection of petty dominions ruled by brutal and surprisingly clever ogres.

The ogre-lords are mostly descendants of Karabas the Shifter, an ogre wokani who had mastered the art of shape-changing. Karabas built a kingdom where ogres ruled and other races served, but his feuding children tore the realm apart within weeks of the his death. Some territory was lost to neighboring human lords, but the rest of the land remained under ogre rule.

The ogre elite in these dominions tend to be of higher intelligence than common ogres (INT 9 instead of 6, in game terms; spell casters are more common than among typical ogres.)The rulers ape human fashions, holding court in crudely built keeps and manor-houses. Goblin jesters caper and blaspheme for the amusement of the ogres. Captured humans and elves are forced to fight in bloody‘tourneys.’ Guests may be shown a crude sort of hospitality—but visitors are advised to beware trusting the ogres. It’s not unheard of for an emissary who displeases an ogre king to end up as part of the next royal banquet.

Common ogres here tend to work as bully boys serving the various ‘kings.’ These common ogres are no more intelligent than their cousins in Thunder Rift.

Among the ogres of these lands, housecats are regarded as the bearers of curses.

Ogres may sometimes hire out as mercenaries. They get plenty of practice fighting one another.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012




The gnomes of Thunder Rift are mostly enslaved by goblinoids, and do not have functioning governments of their own. Among the gnome slaves, there exists an informal division between three factions; collaborators, resisters, and non-resisters. An individual gnome may move among these three groups over the course of his life.

A small number of free gnomes live in the low hills south of Wizardspire, not far from the Brichtwood. These free gnomes have no government because their numbers are too low to require one.

Some few gnomes live as common citizens in Melinir or as guests among the dwarves of Hearthhome.

Outside Thunder Rift, many gnomish communities are ruled by hereditary lairds, the ‘rulers of rock and rill’ who govern mining and water rights in the hilly gnome-lands. A few communities are governed by councils of scholars and artisans.


Gnomes believe in a creator god, much as do many other peoples. Three main sects exist within a shared gnomish religious tradition; Lapidarians, Gearsmiths, and Phantasians.

The conservative Lapidarian sect teaches that the Creator is a divine jeweler, who fashioned the celestial jewels –sun, moon, and stars- from stones he dug out of the deep earth. The Lapidarians greatly honor master jewelers. These gnomes keep relic tools used by the ‘old masters’ inside jeweled reliquary boxes. Divination by watching the light reflected off faceted stones, or by use of a prism, plays a role in Lapidarian religious rites and daily life.

 The new-fangled Gearsmiths see god as a careful builder who made the universe to function like a clock. The Gearmsiths see engineering and invention as a divine gift. Master tinkers and their inventions are objects of veneration.

The gnostic Phantasians conceive of god as a trickster and illusionist. To a Phantasian, the world is a layered illusion on top of a spiritual inner reality. Phantasians see the study of illusion magic as a sacred calling. Master illusionists are often seen as guru-like figures of special wisdom. Death is ultimately just another illusion, so Phantasians sometimes pray for the intervention of dead illusionists.


Most gnomes are not madcap technologists, but the race does show an inclination towards clever artifices and cunning design.

Pickman the Sage (of Melinir) has theorized that this technological edge developed because gnomes are often short on labor force, always small in individual size, and not often skilled at magic other than illusions. Given all those factors, labor saving devices and technological fixes for problems are arguably more attractive and more needful for gnomes than for some other races.

A minority of gnomes show an uncanny talent for building machines. These inventors tend to be eccentric even by gnomish standards. Their devices are often wonky one-offs, difficult to copy. Oddly enough, the weirder gadgets seem to work best for gnomes (especially the ones who built or designed them in the first place) and tend to break down when used by non-gnomes. *

Examples of gnomish technology at the bleeding edge include mechanical gnomes, self-propelled wagons, diving bells, and other odd devices.

*Gearsmiths may explain this phenomenon in religious terms.




Hereditary squires and elected sheriffs hold sway in of most independent Halfling communities. Squires are the heads of old, landowning families. Sheriffs are the chief enforcers of laws.  In some places the squires are more powerful than the sheriffs, or vice versa. In old, well-established communities, it’s not unheard of for the office of sheriff to be the unofficial property of a prominent family, with the election being merely nominal. Newly settled or reclaimed Halfling shires, on the other hand, provide an excellent chance for up and coming Halflings to become sheriffs.

The Halflings of Thunder Rift don’t really have a separate government or separate settlements. ‘Sheriff’ is an old title that is currently not in use, but might be revived if an individual Halfling of prowess and charisma came to be seen as a leader of a distinct Halfling community.  


Halflings tend to see the Supreme Being as a mother-figure, the source of agricultural bounty and all other good things. Most Halfling societies do not have a separate clergy. It is common for heads of families to perform religious functions.

Some Halflings in Thunder Rift have adopted human religious notions, often by combining these ideas with traditional Halfling religion.

Folk heroes play a role in Halfling religion similar to the religious role played by ancestors in the dwarf religion and saints among the Lawful humans.


Halflings in Thunder Rift and several other places grow tabac (tobacco)They smoke it. Some rustic Halflings chew the stuff, and refined Halflings sometimes take snuff.

The custom of smoking tabac is seen as unhealthy or strange by some non-Halflings, but it has caught on with people of various races in Thunder Rift.

Fumbleweed, also known as five finger fumbleweed, is another plant associated with Halflings. It is related to common hemp. This plant produces a mild euphoria and dulls the wits and reaction speed of chronic users. In Thunder Rift, the use of fumbleweed is associated with lazy rascals and ne’er-do-wells; nobody respectable would be seen smoking it in public.

NOTE- I am mortally certain that I got fumbleweed from an old Elric! supplement, but I can’t recall the name of the adventure. Where the authors of said adventure got the idea is pretty obvious. J