Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A long time coming. An infinitely-sized "Thank you."

So this post is a long time coming.

At the NTRPGCon, many of you have had the distinct pleasure of meeting my beautiful, funny and eternally-patient wife Terri--either at my vendor table, or maybe having a drink or dinner at the hotel.

The truth is, if it weren't for her, there would be no d30 books, no BX Psionics, really there'd probably be no New Big Dragon at all.

The old saying that behind every great man there is a great woman, that's true. But I can't really call myself great. I can call her great, though. Because she is. She's an eternal optimist, and her smile brightens my life.

She understood my need to game and create, and she indulged it.

And I'm the schmuck that never thought to even include a "Thank you," to her in any of my books.

So this is really just a late and extremely-overdeserved "Thank you," and "I love you," and a small statement to the gaming community to profess that, even in this small way.

Monday, September 3, 2018

"Where in the infinite layers of the Abyss have you been?" (Plus BX GM Screen PDF, plus Fifty Fiends, plus BXΨ GM Screen, plus free BXΨ stuff. Oh my!)

With summer gone and hardly a peep from me round the interwebs, I'm guessing a few of you might be wondering, "Where in the infinite layers of the Abyss have you been?"

The short answer is, I've been crazy busy—and unfortunately not with RPG stuff.

The longer answer includes: 1) picking up a summer design class to teach (which is on a shorter, and therefore-more-demanding, timeline than a Fall or Spring class), 2) having a (thankfully) heavy roster of client work (always good for a freelancer), 3) spending an inordinate amount of time with my wife prepping our house to get it on the market (we're talking about 2 near-Hoarders-level estate sales and innumerous trips to Catholic Charities to donate the stuff we didn't sell), and 4) looking, looking, and more looking for a new house. We haven't moved yet, but we've got a contract on the house we want, and are closing in a possible sale of our current house. (St. Joseph, pray for us.)

In the meantime, I've been hired to temporarily fill a full-time design communication professor spot for the 2018-2019 academic year at the college where I've been part-time teaching for the last twenty years. Except for still having a good amount of freelance client work going on, this is actually a really good thing for my schedule. I have to keep office hours, but those hours aren't always consumed with class-related work.

And now, thanks to Labor Day weekend, I've had the opportunity to get some files prepped (that have otherwise been languishing unattended). This should help clear my RPG workload to focus back on Steve Marsh's Shattered Norns and figure out the best way to birth the final product into the world. So there's a lot of stuff to talk about...

Old School Adventures™ Accessory FX1: Fifty Fiends

From the cover...

Extra-planar beings come in many forms, and for outsiders hailing from the lower planes, almost every one of them comes in some shade of evil. From the vicious malevolence of the demons of the Abyss, to the merciless schemes of the devils of Hell, to the psychopathic sadism of the yamadutas of the Naraka, the planes provide an unending parade of cruelty, immorality, corruption, and depravity.

Collected herein are 50 fiends from the darkest reaches of the outer planes, including the Abyss, Hell, Naraka, Pandemonium, Limbo, the Dreamlands, and the Beyond (a terrifyingly remote place of madness, aberration, entropy, and pure chaos.

This book is designed for use with classic (BX/BECMI/LL) editions of the world’s original role-playing game, and with Old School AdventuresTM Accessory PX1: Basic Psionics Handbook. It additionally provides information on dual-axis alignment, the planes of existence, languages spoken throughout the planes, and descriptions for a number of planes- and fiend-related spells and magic items.

Available as a $1 PDF from RPGNow >>
Available in print for $9.95 + shipping from the NBD Storefront (US only) >>
Available in print for $9.95 + shipping from (best int'l option) >>

Old School Adventures™ Accessory GM1a: Games Masters Screen PDF Pack

This is a PDF pack of the various components that were part of the physical screen kickstarter.

  • Five art panels (including cover) featuring artwork by the legendary artist Arthur Rackham
  • Seven GM screen content pages with all the pertinent information any Classic (BX/LL) GM needs to run their game.
  • 8 Master Character Sheets (1 Generic Sheet + 7 Class-specific Sheets): Each of the 7 class-specific character record sheet contains the most pertinent information each player needs (e.g., notes on which types of weapons & armor may be used by the class, additional experience earned based on prime requisites, and special abilities like clerics' turning and thieves' abilities). In addition to the 7 classic character class sheets (cleric, dwarf, elf, fighter, halfling, magic-user, and thief), an 8th "generic" sheet is usable by any character class.
  • Spells Record Sheet: This record sheet is usable by any spellcasting PC, and includes places to list each known spell's name, range, duration, and area of effect, as well as other pertinent notes.
  • Character Record Log: This record sheet provides a place to write the information a GM needs for up to 6 PCs or NPCs, including the basics (name, class, hp, level, AC, etc.) as well as ability scores, saving throws, equipment/inventory, and other notes.
  • 8-page Cleric Spell Handout: The cover of this digest-sized piece notes spells gained by level, and the inside includes all the key information (e.g., range, duration, spell notes, etc.) for all the cleric spells contained in the classic red and blue rule books (plus a few additional core spells from other early editions).
  • 12-page Magic-user Spell Handout: The cover of this digest-sized piece notes spells gained by level, and the inside includes all the key information (e.g., range, duration, spell notes, etc.) for all the magic-user spells contained in the classic red and blue rule books (plus a few additional core spells from other early editions).

Available for $10 as a PDF bundle from RPGNow >>

Old School Adventures™ Accessory GM2: Basic Psionics GM Screen Pack

A few of you were lucky enough to pick this up at this past June's NTRPGCon. Now it's available in print exclusively from the NBD Storefront (includes a complimentary PDF).

2-panel (4-page) Referee's screen designed for use with Old School Adventures™ Accessory PX1: Basic Psionics Handbook. Includes the key information any GM running BXΨ needs at their table, including: the psionic combat sequence, the psionic and attack mode combat matrix, psionic-related attack and saving throw modifiers, saving throws for mystics and monks, chakra attainment charts, PSP costs for discipline use, psionic conversions for adapting creatures and characters from other editions, and key information related to psionic items, magic spells that mimic psionic affects, and how psionics interact with relevant magic spells. [Printed on 110 lb. cover stock.]

5 Individual Card Stock Master Character Sheets (1 Generic Psionic Character Record Sheet, 1 Mystic Character Record Sheet, 1 Monk Character Record Sheet, 1 Disciplines Record Sheet, and 1 Modes/Conditions/Disciplines Record Sheet. [Printed on an 80# uncoated cover stock.]

Also includes the new limited edition "Psi" button.

Includes a PDF copy of everything included in the print package (sent as free download code from OBS to your email address).

Available in print for $9.95 + shipping from the NBD Storefront (US only) >>

Old School Adventures™ Accessory GM2a: Basic Psionics GM Screen Pack (FREE PDF!)

Referee and player materials designed for use with Old School Adventures™ Accessory PX1: Basic Psionics Handbook.

Includes the key information any GM running BXΨ needs at their table, including: the psionic combat sequence, the psionic and attack mode combat matrix, psionic-related attack and saving throw modifiers, saving throws for mystics and monks, chakra attainment charts, PSP costs for disciplines and modes, psionic conversions for adapting creatures and characters from other editions, and key information related to psionic items, magic spells that mimic psionic affects, and how psionics interact with relevant magic spells.

Also includes the following BXΨ Character Sheets: 1 Generic Psionic Character Record Sheet, 1 Mystic Character Record Sheet, 1 Monk Character Record Sheet, 1 Disciplines Record Sheet, and 1 Modes/Conditions/Disciplines Record Sheet.

Available as a FREE PDF from RPGNow! >>

Okay. That does it for now. (As if that wasn't enough for a while.)

(Comments are now locked due to consistent spam comments on this post.)

Sunday, June 24, 2018

New Oe/1e/BX Monster: Forsaker

As was mentioned on my Google+ post of this image, it was inspired by beholder doodle from Dyson Logos. It's a a forsaker (the opposite of a beholder?). Instead of one gaping maw and a bunch of eyes, it has one eye and a bunch of gaping maws with different bite effects. So here is the full set of stats/description as promised.

The forsaker (mouth slave, flail of many mouths) is the stuff of nightmares—an aberration likely originating from the kind chaos that can only be birthed from the Beyond. These freakish things are found mainly underground but encountered occasionally in desolate wilderness locations.

The “body” of this savage is a central unblinking eye, set on all sides by a septet of gaping maws filled with dagger-like teeth. They are often referred to as “mouth slaves” for they are servants to their own insatiable appetites, always on a quest to eat, to consume, to devour—never fulfilled. Ironically, it moves regretfully slowly about as it wills through the power of levitation. Nonetheless, those who encounter such a beast have their work cut out for them.

Any seeing creature that gazes upon its unblinking eye must save vs. spells or flee in fear for 2 turns, and those with 3 Hit Dice or fewer fail automatically.

Each round, the first four of its mouths may strike to its front side and the last three may strike to its rear side. Those strikes to the rear suffer a –2 “to hit” penalty due to limited scope of vision. Sneak attacks to the creatures rear (e.g., theives’ backstabbing) are unaffected. Each successful attack not only does 2d4 damage from the bite, the victim of such a bite must save vs. poision or suffer a venomous effect that coordinates with each mouth as outlined below:
  1. confusion (as spell): 2d4 rounds
  2. charm (as philter of love, with the forsaker as its love interest): 3d6 turns
  3. paralysis: 1d4 turns
  4. acid: +1d6 damage
  5. slow: movement halved, –1 “to hit,” and +1 AC for 2d4 rounds
  6. disease: temporary loss of 1 point of Strength and 1 point of Constitution until cured, then recovered at a rate of 1 point of each per full day’s rest
  7. blindness: 4d4 turns

Rarely does a forsaker establish a true lair, opting instead to take up residence only temporarily in the den of a previous victim, resting as needed before continuing on its quest to consume. However, it has been known for some forsakers with a slightly higher intelligence to stay in locations that potential prey is known to frequent (e.g., watering holes in the wilderness, places where treasure hunters regularly seek reward, etc.). The latter conditions are represented by the Percent in Lair and Treasure Types indications noted in parentheses above.

Forsakers speak deep speech (barely), and have their own language which is incomprehensible when spoken (even with the use of an ability like comprehend languages). Telepathic communication with a forsaker is possible, but mentally draining on the creature trying to communicate with it. Those communicating telepathically with a forsaker must save vs. paralysis each round or temporarily lose 1 point of Intelligence (recovered at a rate of 1 point per full day’s rest).
FREQUENCY: Very rare
MOVE: //3"
% IN LAIR: 0 (30%)
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil
SIZE: L (15' across)
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

MOVE: //30'(10')
ATTACKS: 7 bites/1 ray
DAMAGE: See below
SAVE AS: Fighter:7

What Makes A Good Monster Book?

I'm sure many (if not most or all) of us share one of two different first experiences with a monster book... OD&D's Monster & Treasure book, or AD&D's Monster Manual. My first experiences with monster stats were those ubiquitous red and blue saddle-stitched paperbacks of classic D&D. But those are simply not monster books. As I define it here, I'm talking specifically about those books which were (and are) filled cover to cover with monster stats, preferably with pictures.

While I doubt many of us rarely stop to critically examine monster books as I'm suggesting here, I'm sure that many of us know by osmosis if we like a monster book or not. We may not be able to objectively state that the Monster Manual or the Fiend Folio are far superior to Monster Manual II, but we know it... we know it.

So what happens when we start to look critically at monster books? Well, I can't speak for all of you (though the comments below will give everyone plenty of chance to chime in), I can tell you what does or doesn't stand out to me about various books noted below.

OD&D Monsters & Treasure
There's no doubt this is the great-grandaddy of all monster books. Though it be very skimpy compared to later monster descriptions, there's something very important happening here that I think is crucial to a good monster book... IDEAS! I'm not just talking about ideas on the part of the writers. I'm talking about the kinds of monsters that give DMs ideas, particularly those kinds of ideas that act as fuel for dungeon designing and adventure building. It's a given that the classic monsters of myth and literature are here (gargoyles, dragons, orcs, etc.), but there are also some interesting inventions here: the purple worms, gray ooze, yellow mold, and gelatinous cube. How many of you didn't fall in love at first sight with the idea of the gelatinous cube? And springing it on those unsuspecting friends of ours that had never heard of such a thing (because they didn't own the book)?

AD&D Monster Manual
If M&T is the great-grandaddy, the Monster Manual is the grandaddy. Hands down. For somebody that was introduced to D&D by red/blue (as noted above), the Monster Manual stat blocks were a revelation. To this day, the one stat in that block that continues to stand out to me is the monster's intelligence. 13-year old me had no concept of monsters that spoke, or bargained. They were simply dangerous things that needed to be killed so you could take their treasure and/or earn experience points. The more important thing about the MM that stood out to me was that close-to-every monster entry had an accompanying picture. To me, this is a critical componentn of a good monster book. I can't be the only idiot who looked at the caecilia image on page X28 in the Cook/Marsh Expert Rulebook for the first time and thinking it was supposed to go with the blink dog entry above it. Sure, after you read the entries you know with which entry it's supposed to go, but to this day those caecilia eyes keep staring at me, without blinking, mocking me for thinking it was a blink dog. So apart from things like Intelligence stats and pics for each entry, how does the Monster Manual do on the idea front? Admittedly pretty well. Granted, many of the classics came from Monsters & Treasure, or had already appeared in Dragon Magazine, but given that I didn't pick up my first copy of Dragon until issue #68, this was the first time I saw many of those creatures. And there are more of those ideas there. However, what the MM really does is say, "Okay... here are all of the ubiquitous classics you're going to need, and a few cool new fun things that you'll want."

AD&D Fiend Folio
I have to admit that I love the AD&D Fiend Folio mostly for the illustrations. While I know that Russ Nicholson has influenced many an old-school artist, I'm an Alan Hunter man all the way. Granted, I love Russ's work, but Hunter's style is one of the biggest influences on me. Too this day, the hook horror and crab men illustrations are among my favorite old school RPG illustrations. But I think the FF art is reflective of the "slant" of the things inside — there is very little in the way of ubiquitous classic (formorians, e.g.), and much more in the way of interesting takes on classic archetypes (e.g., the blindheim or the carbuncle). Why is this? Is it because these things were created by Brits? Was it because they appeared first in White Dwarf Magazine, which means you're not creating creatures to serve an adventure, but rather to grasp the reader? Neither? Both? Who cares? It's fun and funky and it works! (BTW, I've heard many comment that my Creature Compendium reminds them of the Fiend Folio. That is one of the best compliments a guy like me could ask for.)

Monster Manual II
To me, this is an example of what not to do with a monster book. It feels like filler, gathered from the back pages of modules and the innards of Dragon. Why does the Fiend Folio (which has similar beginnings) seem to work, while the MM2 seems to fall short? My take here is that there are two issues which lead to the shortcomings of this book: 1) it's much too "specific" in some places, and 2) in other places it's trying WAY too hard. What do I mean by specific? Well, let's just say, unless you're traveling the planes, those 5 pages dedicated to modrons isn't going to do you much good. And past a certain point, aren't dinosaurs just dinosaurs? Don't get me wrong. I think there is some good stuff in Monster Manual II. It just doesn't give me enough of that "smile in the mind" feeling as I'd like in a monster book. As I'm writing this, I'm starting to figure out what it is about this book. Take for example the vegepygmies. In the context of a monster book, they're not much more than "vegetable-men." However, in the context of a good adventure (in this case, Expedition to Barrier Peaks they come alive. I think maybe that's what it is about this book — if you've got a good adventure, then there's stuff here that's going to work for you. But, on the whole, these monsters don't give me ideas for adventures.

Creature Compendiums
So with the Creature Compendium, I tried to create monsters that, even without to much ecological information scripted out, DMs would have ideas for how to use such creatures in their adventures and encounters. And that's what I'm trying to do as I continue (albeit slowly) to flesh out Creature Compendium II.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

New Psionic Oe/1e/BX Monster: Ghaozeg

This is an adaptation of the guardian creature from Robert E. Howard's story The Fire of Asshurbanipal. The creature is unnamed in the story (and is referenced only as the "guardian"), so I created something to that lived alongside some of the other things in the campaign world I've been developing over the last few years (to support the BX Psionics stuff I've been running off and on).

If you've never read it/heard of it, check out this blog post from Black Gate.

Originating from the Beyond, a ghaozeg is gigantic, black and shadowy thing—a hulking monstrosity that walks upright like a man, but like a toad too, winged and tentacled.

Borne of the eternal chaos of the Beyond, ghaozeg are primordially tied to the Elemental Plane of Sand. When these things are encountered in the Material Plane, it most often in lost desert cities, guardians of soul gems and jarred demons.

A chill hangs in the air about this atrocity. Even unseen, its mere presence is detected up to 60' away as a drop in temperature of approximately 5°. In shadow, this creature is near invisible, surprising on a 1-4 (on 1d6) when emerging from or encountered in shadow or low light conditions (even if the drop in temperature has been discerned). Ghaozeg are immune to damage from both heat and cold.

The loathsome visage of a ghaozeg causes stark black madness. Creatures looking upon such a thing must save vs. death or fall into a coma-like state for a number of days equal to the difference between the target number and the result of the saving throw (e.g., a result of 9 when a 12 or better is needed results in 3 days of the coma-like state). This state cannot be removed or negated by any means. After the victim awakes, an additional save is made vs. paralysis: on a successful save, the victim is conscious but stunned for a number of hours equal to the number of days spent in the coma-like state, then returns to normal; on a failed save, the victim awakes but indefinitely remains in the conscious-but-stunned state. At any time after the victim emerges from the coma-like state, the woken catatonia may be negated with a remove curse spell or the psionic discipline psychic surgery.

A ghaozeg has soul-shakingly foul breath. All caught in its 30' diameter cloud must save vs. breath or have their sleep filled with nightmares for 1d6 days’ worth of restless sleep. After such nights, spells cannot be memorized and PSPs cannot be restored through meditation. Remove fear will cause the nightmares to cease (restoring restful sleep), but remove curse will not. It may use this breath weapon once every 3 rounds in lieu of its bite attack.

The touch of each ghaozeg tentacle drains 1d6 hp (on a successful “to hit” roll), and its bite does 1d4 damage.

Surviving the unearthly horror of a ghaozeg bolsters one’s resilience to the horrors of the world and the chaos beyond it. For 24 hours after encountering such a thing, survivors make their saving throws vs. fear as if 1 level/HD higher.

FREQUENCY: Very rare
MOVE: 12"/24"
% IN LAIR: 65%
Immune to heat and cold
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil
SIZE: L (10' long)
Attack/Defense Modes:

MOVE: 120'(40')/240'(80')
4 tentacles/
1 bite or breath
1d6+special (×4)/
1-4 or special
NO. APPEARING: 1 (1-2)
SAVE AS: Fighter:6

Attack modes: ego whip, id insinuation
Defense modes: mind blank, mental barrier, thought shield

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

d30 PDF Download: d30 Minotaur Variations

Now that life is settling back in from being uber-crazy for the last 6 months or so, I'm going to try to start making some regular posts to this blog.

This table is one that prepared for the d30 Adventure I ran at this year's NTRPGCon, only the players didn't make it to this level of the tower before time ran out. I prepped 15 tower levels (each was essentially 1 encounter area--some as a single large room, others with several rooms to go through). The minotaur was on Level 7, and they had just made it past Level 5.

Here's the deal, I just can't go an NTRPGCon without an adventure that includes a labyrinth and a minotaur. This year, there were two labyrinths... the d30 players didn't make it far enough to reach theirs, and the intro level animal class party chose a different route in their game. The animal class players heard "labyrinth" and assumed "minotaur"; there was a labyrinth, but there was no minotaur there. Instead, they fought a wave of undead. But I digress...

Here's the minotaur d30 table I created for the d30 adventure at the con. Enjoy!

Click here (or on the image below) to download
a free PDF of d30 Minotaur Variations PDF from MediaFire.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The System Surpasses 10,000 Downloads!!!

So it seems that while I've been asses and elbows over the last few months with real-world client work, PDF downloads of my generic RPG The System surpassed 10,000 total downloads! The System is the universal RPG that I originally wrote as a high-schooler in 1985, abandoned when I realized GURPS had hit the market, then finally resurrected when I discovered the OSR back in the early part of 2011 (though had yet to understand what a retro-clone was... which The System is definitely not).

As a published RPG product, it predates the other things for which I'm known (including the d30 DM Companion, the otherwise first of my published products). It has been available as a free PDF download (direct from this link) and in print-on-demand from

If you've never heard of The System, here's the topline overview... I originally wrote/designed this in late 1985/early 1986 (when I was about 16 years old) before other universal role playing systems were available on the market. As I was getting ready to playtest it with my friends, a guy in our gaming group brought in a copy of the (then) newly-released GURPS, and I shelved my system in the disappointment that comes with having someone beat you to the punch. In 2011, I "rescued the from oblivion" (that is, I scanned the old daisy-wheel printed version that came from my dad's word processor at work), gave it a (very) quick polish to the ruleset, and typeset it with a decidedly retro (1st generation) RPG feel to it.

As stated previously, I'm quite willing to admit the game has its flaws... I mean, c'mon, I was 16 or so when I wrote it. (e.g., there is a very convoluted constitution-to-hit-point system, and there is an innovative but ultimately ill-conceived initiative and movement tracking system, and while it purports to handle supers among its genres, I can't claim that it actually scales to reflect the expanse of power levels between the weakest and strongest heroes). But over time, I have more and more appreciation for the fact that it uses d6s only, and led to some underlying things that Welbo and I would like to see become part of a "2nd Edition" of The System. (Should we ever get back to it, but may something it takes us 10 or more years to complete.)

• If you want the full story on The System, check out this post.
• To download a free PDF from MediaFire, click here.
• To buy a deeply-discounted print copy of The System from, head over here.