Friday, December 23, 2016

New B/X Character Class: Skinwalker (Free PDF Download)

I feel guilty for letting this blog sit so idle the past couple of months (I've been super-busy with client stuff the last couple of months, which is a Godsend, given how slow 2016 was for me business-wise). So here's something simple, and though fairly complete it's being given away as an "as is WIP"--a skinwalker class for B/X. Click here to download the free PDF of this B/X Skinwalker character class (clicking the pic will only get you a bigger pic).

Friday, November 11, 2016

Guest Post: Steve Marsh on Alignment

As the completion of art and editing for Steve Marsh's Shattered Norns draws imminently closer, and its publication looms, and editor always has to face the unfortunate truth that there is just not a place for EVERYTHING you'd like to include in the book. In this case, the thing I'd like to include (but just seemed to feel forced in wherever I put it), is a small insight penned by Mr. Marsh regarding his introduction to Gary Gygax of the Good/Evil alignment axis (thereby creating the "dual-axis" alignment system introduced in AD&D), and how it relates to Steve's concept of chaos (i.e., "anarchy"). Steve also nods to 5th Edition's acknowledgement of abominations (outsiders/forces of entropy) as this is particularly relevant in his Shattered Norns world where abominations abound.

In addition to Steve's commentary, I've included a graphic I recently created, taking all of the components of the various alignment charts that exist, as well as the SRD alignment content, and merging them into a single "go to" reference graphic for alignment.

On Alignment – My approach to alignment
by Steve Marsh

The original alignment system was based off of the law/chaos axis of Poul Anderson’s Three Hearts and Three Lions more than anything else.

Chaos was feral rebellion, both the immoral and the amoral, and everything that tore down creation.

Law was the harmonizing and creative force that organizes, creates and preserves the world.

Using this law/chaos polar opposition as an express part of a gaming world was a conceptual breakthrough by Gary Gygax that allowed it to be a natural driver for all sorts of things in the game world. The system fit a dark ages world very well. It creates a natural conflict and aligns with good and evil directly on the law/chaos axis.

The system had two problems, though. First, too many gamers were much more familiar with Michael Moorcock’s use of law and chaos. Second, I wanted a different type of nuance.

This is why I proposed an order/anarchy system with the poles of good and evil on a different axis. Anarchy can have natural nobility (determined purely by personal charisma and power), and Law can have democracy. For a long time in my personal campaign I used Anarchy or Tychism (a philosophical school) in the place of Chaos in order to focus the point on what “chaos” was.

Eventually, Gary agreed with me and migrated the game world to a 2-axis system where the law/chaos axis crossed with good/evil axis. It allowed for things to be feral without them being necessarily evil (old school “chaos”). It also allowed for characters to distinguish between the amoral (where being without morals = neutral) and the immoral (where those who are doing wrong = evil).

One thing I like about 5th Edition is that it acknowledges abominations (those from outside; generally forces of entropy, normally classified as “evil”) that do not necessarily fit properly into the law/chaos structure. My campaign world (Shattered Norns) is marked by having been marred by a massive intrusion by an abomination that was repulsed. I used to use the term “chaos” to refer to it, which led to confusion. Part of what I like about the 5e “abomination” category is that I can use the term “abomination,” and be clearly understood across the game categories, while using the standard law/chaos terminology as well.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A day of gaming in Wacko, Texas?

Okay Texans, I want some feedback on this idea/plan...

The idea came up a while back to do a 1-day game meetup in Waco, so folks from Austin and DFW would only have a 90m drive in and home. And only slightly longer for Houston-ites and San Antonians.

Saturday January 14th,, 2017, 10am-10pm
Comfort Suites Waco North

I've looked into the following: getting the meeting room at the Comfort Suites Waco North. It would accommodate 6 tables w/ 8 players each. I'm looking at getting the room from 10am to 10pm (which should pretty much allow two 5-hour-ish gaming sessions for the day with a break between at mid afternoon).

They would also arrange a block of rooms at a discounted rate for Saturday night (they can't do a block for Friday because they have a baseball group that comes in weekly and leaves Saturday morning).

If 40 people committed at $10 each for the room (I would do something like Eventbrite, so there might be a small surcharge on that) we could get the room paid for.

Also, the hotel would have no problem with people brining in their own food. I looked at the possibility of bringing in food (from non-hotel source), but don't think it's financially worth it, but there are plenty of close-by places to eat.

And now Waco isn't so dry anymore. The hotel actually has a "bar" (beer/wine; doesn't normally open until 5pm, but if they knew we were interested, they could arrange to have it open as early as noon; I'm not sure how much earlier we could arrange than that).

Could possibly do a 2-day deal if there was enough interest (for an extra $10/person).


Monday, October 10, 2016

Today is 5 years minus 1 day. Tomorrow is 5 years.

I'll keep this short and sweet for now (as I hope for a longer post tomorrow morning).

Tomorrow (Tuesday October 11, 2016) is the 5-year anniversary of my very first post at this blog. And it is 5 years to the day... it was a Tuesday on the day I first blogged, and it is a Tuesday tomorrow.

In honor of this occasion, I will be running a crazy special at RPGNow. Starting at midnight tonight (Monday night at midnight), and running through tomorrow at midnight (Tuesday night at midnight), PDFs of the following titles will be on sale for $1 each (but only for the 24 hours that are Tuesday, October 11, 2016):
d30 DM Companion
d30 Sandbox Companion
Creature Compendium
Basic Psionics Handbook
Valley of the Five Fires

That means you can get all the major NBD titles for a total of $5! And, as a special bonus, Module PA1: Vault of the Faceless Giants will become free indefinitely.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Free PDF Download:
New BX Character Class - Half-orc

Almost a year ago, I mentioned that the Character Class Codex would include a half-orc, which I saw as a way "to fill in the BX need for an assassin (but using a race class to do it)."

This statement last year was not how I envisioned a BX half-orc, it was how I'd already written it. Yes. This class has existed for about a year, and I'm just sharing it now. That being said, I do believe I made this an option during my "Cold Fingers of Fate" game at NTRPGCon this past year (and IIRC, somebody actually played it; I just don't have my notes from the game handy to confirm).

Enough of my jibber-jabber. Onto that link...

Click here to download the
Half-ord character class PDF.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Really Old Old-school Artist: Austin Molloy
(aka Austin Ó Maolaoid, AóM)

Many of you may notice that the art of today's featured artist Austin Molloy (1886–1961) bears a striking resemblance to illustration legend Harry Clarke. So it may come as no surprise that Molloy was friends with Clarke; they met at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art (now named the National College of Art and Design) as students, then Molloy went on to teach there. Tell me the last image below doesn't reek of Harry Clarke.

Molloy (aka Austin Ó Maolaoid, AóM) had a pretty prolific career, serving An Gúm (The Scheme), a government initiative in Ireland started in 1925 to publish books in Irish, as his main client for many years. All the images below pre-date 1925, but many of them could have been done in the last 40 years by someone like Russ Nicholson (specifically the boy fighting the hound, or the Grummsh-looking mother-effer below it).

I can't remember exactly how I stumbled across his work, but I do know it was during a recent " expedition" (what I call those times I sit front of the TV with my feet up, my laptop in my lap, and I just keep poking around until I find something relevant-but-previously-undiscovered-by-me).


Monday, August 22, 2016

New Oe/1e/BX Monster: Ambler

This is something I drew a while back and shared on Google+ as an illustration only.
Now it's a fully-statted creature.

An ambler (a contraction of the words “armored” and shambler”) is an elemental creature created from the massive sphere of armor and weapons located at the center of the Demi-plane of Electro-magnetism. When one of these anomalies escape their home plane (e.g., ported in by a powerful magic-user), the ambler appears as a shambling mishmash of mismatched pieces of armor in a vaguely humanoid form with 1-4 usable limbs, each of which has a 75% chance of holding a small-to-medium weapon (hand axe, dagger, 1-handed sword, etc.).

Because producing an ambler requires it to be summoned (as opposed to being conjured from existing material), control of the ambler is not automatic, nor will it serve any creature (even its summoner), so it will not follow orders unless compelled to do so my some additional force (e.g., a charm or control spell). The ambler can understand any language that was possessed by the previous owner of any piece of armor used in its composition, or weapon it holds (usually this will include common, dwarvish and elvish, though it is not unheard of for this to also include halfling and orcish; other languages known are at the discretion of the DM but is suggested that there be a 90% chance of the ambler knowing any common language, 30% for any uncommon language, 10% for any rare language, and 1% for any very rare language, assuming the language in question is spoken by species that normally wears armor).

The electromagnetism in the ambler is so strong that should a successful melee strike be made against the ambler by a normal (i.e., non-magical) weapon made of a magnetic metal (e.g., steel or iron), there is a 50% chance that the weapon will become “stuck” to the ambler, and useless by the attacker.

Amblers are affected by protection from evil spells, and can be returned to their home plane by dispel magic, but can also be dealt with using extraplanar dismissal or banishment. If dismissed or banished, any weapon stuck to the ambler will be transported with it.

FREQUENCY: Very rare
MOVE: 6"
% IN LAIR: Nil
1-6 or by weapon
+1 or better
needed “to hit”
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

HIT DICE: 5-8*
MOVE: 60'(20')
DAMAGE: 1-6 or by weapon
SAVE AS: Fighter:5-8

Sunday, August 21, 2016

One Crazy Summer

Well, I haven't sailed in any regattas to save a singer's grandfather house, or been buried up to my neck on the beach beneath a guy in a folding chair eating chili, but it has been one crazy summer.

Nothing terribly bad, mind you, just a summer full of distractions. Just as summer began (you know, during the week of NTRPGCon), my wife quit one job, started a small re-sale business during June, then took a new job at the end of June. That meant a lot of furniture moving for me (3 carloads out of her old classroom, 3 carloads to the antique mall/mercantile space, and 2 carloads to her new classroom). July and August saw me dealing with a small, but annoying medical thing (just a small sore on my leg that is taking forever to heal properly which is eating up my schedule with trips to the wound care specialist). Not to mention a super-hectic workload all summer-long; in addition to a couple of sizable paying projects, I've been working with a couple of start-ups with a personal ownership stake. (In the 16 years I've been working for myself, I have never before contributed time to start-ups for two reasons: 1) I have heretofore not had faith in any of those proposed to me to be successful, and 2) the motto of all designers should be, "Fuck you. Pay me." However, the 2 start-ups in question are: 1) both being started by past clients who have brought me a lot of business/income, and 2) I do truthfully believe in the possibility of their success.)

So that brings me to the real point of this blog post... I'M BACK BITCHES!

My wife is back on a regular school-year schedule, which means I'm back on a regular schedule. I've already got three new blog posts loaded for the upcoming week, and Welbo and I are back full-force on the final preparations for Steve Marsh's Shattered Norns 5e book. And for those who've been waiting patiently, we'll soon be adding a batch of the Classic Edition GM Screen for sale on the New Big Dragon Storefront.

It's good to be back!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Typographic Pet Peeve #3: Inch Marks and Foot Marks and Apostrophes and Quotes (Oh My!)

Today's post (compared to post #1 and post #2 in this series) will be short and to the point. It has to do with the differences between (and the correct usage of) inch marks, foot marks, quote marks and apostrophes.

So here are the basics...
Quote marks and apostrophes are curved. Inch marks and foot marks are not.

Again, AS ALWAYS!, it comes down to the fact that the computer thinks it's smarter than you, and "smart" quotes are only as smart as the person typing.

If you leave smart quotes "on" in your software, then every time you type a measurement, it looks like this...

If you leave smart quotes "off" in your software, then every time you type a quote or apostrophy, it looks like this...

Now, I'll be the first to admit that when it comes to online things (e.g., this blog), I use the default marks (" and ') instead of the more proper marks ( “, ” and ’), because hand-adjusting the html code with the proper ascii codes is a pain in the ass. But I think people are generally forgiving of this. However, when it comes to layout, I do not tread lightly when it comes to the differences between the marks. In fact, on one proofing review of the Creature Compendium (print copies of which are now on sale for 20% off at, I did nothing more than check the foot marks, inch marks, quotes and apostrophes for proper formatting (yes... one entire round of proofing just to check those marks).

BE IT KNOWN THAT NOT ALL FONTS INCLUDE PROPER QUOTE MARKS AND APOSTROPHES! In these instances (usually for the title type of a book), I will try to find the visually-closest font that includes them, and just change the typesetting for those individual characters in the title type. And if I can't find anything usable, I create the type element as a standalone image (e.g., in Adobe Illustrator), then use the comma from the typeface and move it, copy it and rotate it as necessary to make the type work. That may sound like a lot of effort, but it's these little things that make the difference between "average" and "superior" graphic design (and prove how much/how little the designer cares).

So that's it. And before you start asking "How do I turn smart quotes off and on?"... here are some resources for you.

Key combo for proper (curly) quotes on mac (assuming smart quotes are off):
  • for left/open quote: Option-[
  • for right/close quote: Option-Shift-[
  • for left/open single quote: Option-]
  • for apostrophe/right single/close quote: Option-Shift-]
There is no key command for foot and inch marks on Mac. You will need to make sure smart quotes are off to type these.

Turning smart quotes off/on in Adobe InDesign >>

Turning smart quotes off/on in Adobe InDesign (Scroll down to "Use Smart Punctuation")

If you want to know how to turn smart quotes off and on in Photoshop, you won't get any help from me. Photoshop shouldn't be used for type. (Sorry. That's one of those places where I won't back down on my design snobbery.)

Changing quotation mark format in Microsoft Office Products >>

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Typographic Pet Peeve #2: Default (and/or Bad) Letterspacing/Kerning

In the first of this series of "Typographic Pet Peeves," I addressed the issues associated with leaving leading (pron. "ledding") on automatic, particularly when using connected type elements of different sizes. Today's post is concerned with the spacing among and between letters (BTW, those are 2 different things as you'll see below), particularly as related to "bad" typefaces (something I addressed way back in a post titled "Some good examples of bad type."

For the sake of today's discussion, we're going to need to make sure everybody is familiar with two different type terms, and the difference between them: 1) letterspacing and 2)kerning.
Letter-spacing (a.k.a. tracking) refers to the amount of space between a group of letters to affect the overall density and texture in a line or block of text.

Kerning, on the other hand, applies specifically to the spacing adjustment of two particular characters to correct for visually uneven spacing (i.e., a "kerning pair").

For my visual examples today, I'll be using another mockup for a non-existent retro-clone, using the title type ("Simple Fantasy") and attacking a series of issues (and insights) one-by-one. Unfortunately, a lot of the factors we'll be discussing today are not controllable in programs like MS Word (which I should remind everyone is a word processing program, NOT a layout program, regardless of what Microsoft tries to sell you). However, all the main Adobe Products (Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop) do give you the control necessary (though Photoshop is clunky for this, since it is also NOT a layout program).

Formatting type in Illustrator:
Formatting type in InDesign:

At first glance, there's nothing really glaringly bad about this title type... and that's the pitfall! Like Peeve Post #1, the issues are going to come down to the fact that the computer does a lot of things automatically for you, and takes the responsibility for how good, bad, or average, your type looks. As this post progresses, and you see all the things you CAN control, you'll see how we can take a header with "average" visual presence and "strengthen" it.

So let's review the basics of this title type:

Typeface: Goudy Text MT
Point Size: 64 pt.
Kerning: Metrics (usu. the default)
Tracking: 0 (zero)

Now that we've got the "control group" set up, let's move to our first topic...


I have always been a huge proponent of the idea that the FIRST thing you should change in the type dialog box (for headlines OR body copy) is the kerning setting. There are a couple of exceptions:
a) connecting script fonts (if you change the setting to "optical" for these kinds of fonts, the script lines won't "connect" properly; I plan an entire Type Pet Peeve post on this topic alone)

b) types that are intentionally meant to be monospaced, and the use requires them to be such (e.g., when character count per line is important, like in writing screenplays)

In this example (#2), the kerning setting is set to "optical" (it is set to "metric" in #1). You may not see much difference because it's subtle. But it IS there. Look at the spacing around the "l" in "Simple"; you'll see how it's a little narrower in #2 than #1. Optical spacing tends to "even out" the spacing between each of the kerning pairs (every 2-letter set in the headline is a kerning pair... "Si", "im", "mp" et al.)

Now that we've taken a look at that, let's move on to kerning's cousin...


Again, letter-spacing is the overall amount of space "among" a group of letters. In this example (#3), I've decreased the tracking (letter-spacing) to "-30." I'm a fan of tight letter-spacing. To me, it tends to make the type feel more cohesive (i.e., more "intentional" than "accidental").

One thing that adjusting the letter-spacing tends to magnify though (especially as it is "tightened"), is that the blank spaces in many display/ornate faces is just TOO DAMN BIG!

Which brings us to something I find myself having to do on almost every single title I ever typeset for an RPG publication...


It might surprise you to find out that in this example (#4), I've altogether taken out the blank space between "Simple" and "Fantasy." Theoretically, the title is typed as S-i-m-p-l-e-F-a-n-t-a-s-y. I did, however, have to select the "e" (alone) and change the letter-spacing to "0" (from "-30").

Depending on the typeface and program you're using, there are a number of alternate ways to adjust this issue, including:
a) change the point size of the blank space to make it smaller than the rest of the type (e.g., 10 pt. blank space with 80 pt. type)

b) change the horizontal scaling of the blank space to make it narrow (e.g., 10% instead of 100%)

And so we move on to...


In example #2 above, I changed the "type" of kerning I was using (optical over metric), but kerning is actually the space relationship between 2 individual letters. As I get close to finalizing a piece of copy like this, I always try to review the spacing and see where it could be evened out even more. Look back to #4 for a moment. Though I liked the overall tracking in that, the word "Simple" felt a little too tight, and I'm not happy with the uneven spacing around the "s" in "Fantasy."

In this example (#5), I opened up the letter-spacing (tracking) on "Simple" from "-30" to "-20", then in the word "Fantasy" I adjusted the kerning between the "a" and "s" (made it tighter) and the "s" and "y" (made it looser).

Overall, I liked where this type specimen ended up compared to where I started (#1). Compare them for a moment before we move on to my final tweak...


Now that I've taken out all that spacing that the title didn't need (but the computer gobbled automatically), I have a bit of extra space which allows me to make my type bigger and give it more presence. So I went from 64 pt. to 70 pt. And it does make a difference. My title now has more visual presence and impact... things I couldn't have given it except for the fact that I took it back from the computer that tried to eat it.

So here are #1 and #6, side-by-side for comparison.
I have now put this knowledge and power in your hands.
What are you going to do with it!?

Friday, July 8, 2016

Typographic Pet Peeve #1: Automatic Leading on Titling with Type Elements of Multiple Sizes

I'm starting a new series on the blog, in the hopes that revealing pet peeves as a practiced graphic designer will find fertile ground with OSR self-publishers who are doing their own layout and hoping to improve their skills.

Ultimately, as this (hopefully) series unfolds, you will find that most of my typographic pet peeves all come down to a single root problem... the computer doesn't care what your layout looks like! That's root of today's problem, and one that I see proliferating to an unbearable degree as more and more would-be designers take up the tools of the trade.

Today, I look at the use of automatic leading on titling with type elements of multiple sizes. This goes for both cover titling, as well as interior/section/chapter titling. For today's discussion, I'm using the following two examples (mockups of a non-existent retro-clone).

Please note, that on the sample to the left (the obviously inferiorly typeset version), I did NOT intentionally make the type spacing look bad. I did nothing more than choose a typeface, and set the type size for each element: 1) the name of the book, and 2) the author's by-line. I should back up for a second. While I did say "obviously inferiorly typeset version," it is quite possible that it's taking some of you a few moments to actually see the difference between the two versions, so I'll point it out... look at the spacing between "Swords &" and "Citadels," then compare the spacing between "Citadels" and the by-line.

I'm going to introduce the non-designers among you to a term few non-designers know... "chunking." This is a catchy way of saying that like typographic elements should be treated as a single visual element. For example, the title "Swords & Citadels" is on two lines, but in the left example "Swords &" and "Citadels" are treated as 2 separate chunks, where on the right they're treated as 1 graphic chunk. I'll even go so for to say on the left example, that "Citadels" and the by-line (because of the automatic leading) are accidentally chunked.

Here's the issue: When a designer leaves the leading set for "Automatic," the computer is making decisions for you based purely on mathematics, and not on aesthetics! Yes, I did bold and italicize and underline that, and then make it orange — because it's THAT important to remember.

Here's the solution (and it's VERY simple): NEVER LEAVE THE LEADING ON AUTOMATIC!!! Even in MS Word, there are ways to specifically set the leading in points (instead of variations on line-height).

In both examples, I used Adobe Illustrator and the typeface Trattatello, with the title set in 60 pt. and the by-line set in 36 pt.

In the left example, the automatic leading for type set at 60 pt. defaults to "(72 pt)" and the leading for the type set at 30 pt. defaults to "(30 pt)." I use the parenths to make a point... in Adobe products, any default leading shows up in parentheses to help remind you that the leading is set for automatic. See that! Even Adobe warns you you've left the leading on automatic! So back to those numbers for a second... based on the defaults, the space between line 2 of the title and the by-line is HALF of the space between the 1st and 2nd line of the title.

In the right example, I did nothing more than change the leading for the whole thing (all 3 lines) to 60 points... that's it! The size of the two type elements (title and byline) does the chunking all by itself. But you can change each line individually; adjust this recipe as you see fit.

So that's it. That's the basics of what happens because the computer thinks it's smarter than you, and because a lot of designers allow it to be. Be forewarned, when the computer starts making these kind of chunking adjustments on it's own, I fear we'll be nearing the point where computers overtake humanity!

Put the computer in its place! Manage your leading like the human you are!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The System Surpasses 9,000 Downloads

It seems like the only time I mention The System on this blog is when it hits another download milestone (which is because the only time I mention The System on this blog is when it hits another download milestone). 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

Well... some time over the last few days, the free downloads of The System from my MediaFire link surpassed the 9,000 mark (which does not include downloads from co-located downloads, like the one at 1KM1KT).

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 just-over-cost print copy of The System from Lulu (for $3.95), head over here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Really Old Old-School Artist: Dora Curtis

It's been a while since I've done one of these "Really Old Old-School Artist" posts, but it's also been a while since I stumbled across someone with whom I was unfamiliar. Like a few of the other artists I've featured here before, there is little on the Web about her (and her Wikipedia entry mentions only her participation in an anthropological/naturalist expedition, with no mention of her art at all, or even her dates of birth or death).

Luckily for us in the OSR community, the things we do have of Dora are here illustrations from the books The Lances of Lynnwood (by Charlotte M. Yonge), Stories of King Arthur and His Round Table (by Beatrice Clay), and Granny's Wonderful Chair (by Frances Brown). There is a version of Fairy Tales of the Arabian Nights (by T.H. Robinson) that includes Ms. Curtis's illustrations. While an illustrated version is available as an ebook, and the book itself is in the public domain, there is unfortunately no copy at with the illustrations included (though there is a version with the illustrations stripped out). There is, however, an online version with low resolution versions of the images at I've found a physical copy for sale that's not terribly pricey, so I hope to be ordering that later today, and possibly posting images when I receive it in the post.

Okay, so let's get on with it. Here you go...

Thursday, June 23, 2016

New Oe/1e/BX Monster: Gibbershroom

These fungoid creatures appear as a large (2'-3' diameter) greenish-white toadstool. On its cap, it possesses a number of mouth-like openings equal to its hit points (e.g., an 8 hp gibbershroom has 8 openings). Should any creature approach within 30' of a gibbershroom, these “mouths” will begin “gibbering.” In truth, this gibbering is created by the fluttering of its gills, amplified through the openings. As these mouths open and close, it creates a sound similar to loud human gibbering. Each point of damage inflicted on a gibbershroom will cause one of its mouths to cease functioning. Any creature near gibbering gibbershrooms will suffer an effect as determined by the total number of gibbering mouths within 30' of the creature as outlined below:

Number of
Gibbering Mouths

21+ death (on failed save vs. death)
16-20 stun (no save)
11-15 stun (on failed save vs. paralysis)
6-10 confusion (as MU spell; on failed save vs. breath)
5 or less none

The effect continues while the gibbering persists, plus 1 round for each mouth that was gibbering during the round before the gibbering ended.

During each round a cluster of gibbershrooms is gibbering, there is a 5% cumulative chance per active (i.e., gibbering) opening that a nearby creature will be attracted (maximum chance of 95%).

Should a spellcaster attempt to speak with plants with a gibbershroom, the caster must save vs. spells or be confused (as the MU spell) for the duration of the spell. No coherent conversation may be had with a gibbershroom, even on a successful save vs. spells or by creatures/character with an innate ability to speak with plants/fungi.

% IN LAIR: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

ATTACKS: Special
DAMAGE: See below
SAVE AS: Fighter:1

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

New Oe/1e/BX Monster: Pouncer

These subterranean burrowers and dwellers are non-psionic cousins to intellect devourers, although they share an immunity with their genetic relativesto charm and control (including similar psionic abilities). The rubbery skin over their frog-like bodies is mottled with light and pale gray, and their ivory-colored eyes stare blankly forward.

Though their eyes do not see, they are sensitive to sound impressions. Combined with ticking and clicking (from the pouncer’s mouth), the creature is able to “see” without the aid of sight. A silence spell will effectively “blind” them, and extremely loud noises will drive them off. Their extraordinary sense of smell also aids them in rooting out prey (even if unaided by their tick-click radar). Any attempt to blind a pouncer by normal means (e.g., a light spell cast against its eyes) has no effect.

Like intellect devourers, pouncers attack by jumping on a victim, digging in with all four claws, and simultaneously biting (separate “to hit” rolls are required for each claw attack, as well as the bite). In addition to the 1d6 damage done with each successful claw attack, a successful bite attack does 1d4 and, on a failed save vs. poison, injects a toxin into the victim’s nervous system that causes blindness and deafness for 1d6 turns (cumulative for each bite).

FREQUENCY: Very rare
MOVE: 15" (9")
% IN LAIR: 45%
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

MOVE: 150'(50') (90'(30'))
ATTACKS: 4 claws/1 bite
DAMAGE: 1-6(×4)/
NO. APPEARING: 1 (1-4)
SAVE AS: Cleric:9

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

New Oe/1e/BX Monster: Mistwraith

These negative energy beings are natives of the Quasi-elemental Plane of Steam. They appear as clouds of mist that are vaguely human-shaped.

The touch of a mistwraith (on a successful “to hit” roll) does 1d6 damage from negative energy (restores hp to undead), does an additional 1d6 damage from heat, and drains 1 level.

As normal undead, mistwraiths are immune to sleep, charm, hold and psionics. They are additionally immune to silver and normal weapons, and are unharmed by heat and fire. Cold attacks do +1 point per die of damage to a mistwraith, as does holy water. A part water spell will dispel a mistwraith, as will dispel evil, and a mistwraith can be turned by a cleric as a normal wraith.

Three times per day, a mistwraith may cast obscuring mist as a druid of a level equal to the mistwraith's Hit Dice.

MOVE: —/18"
% IN LAIR: 25%
Energy drain
+1 or better “to hit”
ALIGNMENT: Neutral evil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

HIT DICE: 4+1**
MOVE: —/180'(60')
ATTACKS: 1 touch
DAMAGE: See below
SAVE AS: Fighter:4

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Planes of Nakara

In (slowly) developing the Basic Atlas of the Planes, I'm trying to make sure I look to Eastern influences as well as Western (mainly because these resources act to support the foundation of the Basic Psionics Handbook. Nakara is the hindu concept of hell... arguably 21 or 28 layers (I'm going with 28), where each layer reflects a particular type of sin. I'm leaving the sin references out, and taking some latitude with the appearance of the layers since the sources don't really describe them. So here's where I've ended up for now...

1. Tamisra (Darkness). A realm similar in appearance to the Prime Material Plane, except that it is consumed by total and complete magical darkness. No forms of light (magical or normal) function here, even for the briefest periods of time.

2. Andhatamisra (Blind-darkness). This realm consists of a massive winding web of underground tunnels and caverns, with no natural sources of light. While magical and normal lights work here, any time a fresh source of light is illuminated, all within sight of it must save vs. spells or be permanently blinded (until it is negated by cure blindness or remove curse).

3. Raurava (Fearful/Hell of Rurus). This realm appears as an expansive jungle broken by massive active volcanoes and rivers of flowing magma. This realm is populated by savage serpent-like rurus.

4. Maharaurava (Great-fearful). A cracked and barren realm with no life or sustenance to speak of, save for the kravyadas (flesh-eating rurus that appear as human/animal hybrids).

5. Kumbhipaka (Cooked in a Pot). A rocky realm pocked by a seemingly infinite number of pits filled with boiling oil. A putrid cloud hangs over the entire place, and the smell of burning hair and flesh is pervasive.

6. Kalasutra (Thread of Time/Death). This realm is made entirely of copper and extremely hot, heated by fire from below and the red hot sun from above.

7. Asipatravana/Asipatrakanana (Forest of Sword Leaves). A metallic forest where everything is composed of metal, and the trees have razor-sharp swords for leaves. This realm is populated by whip-wielding yamadutas who will attempt to beat any creature they encounter.

8. Shukaramukha (Hog’s Mouth). A massive prison complex guarded by yamadutas with fists so powerful they are able to liquify anything they squeeze.

9. Andhakupa (Well with its Mouth Hidden). A great forest at the bottom of a great pit. The forest is overrun with birds, animals, reptiles, mosquitoes, lice, worms, flies and other creatures that attack endlessly all intruders to the realm.

10. Krimibhaksha (Worm-food). The main feature of this plane is a 100,000 mile diameter lake filled with worms (instead of water). Anyone who dies here is reborn as a worm who must spend every spare moment devouring worms, or be devoured by the other worms (to be reborn again as a worm).

11. Sandamsa (Hell of Pincers). A massive dungeon complex filled with unimaginable sums of gold. The demons dwelling here torture prisoners with red-hot iron tongs. The realm is overseen by an omnipotent presence known as The Great Rakshak.

12. Taptasurmi/Taptamurti (Red-hot Iron Statue). A landscape of red-hot iron populated by iron golems armed with iron whips.

13. Vajrakantaka-salmali (The Silk-cotton Tree with Thorns like Thunderbolts/Vajras). A thorny, brambled realm that surges with electricity.

14. Vaitarni/Vaitarna (To Be Crossed). A river that both occupies its own plane while forming the boundary of Naraka (accessing all layers of the Nakara at one point or another). The river is filled with excreta, urine, pus, blood, hair, nails, bones, marrow, flesh and fat, and it is lined on both banks with fire. The realm is populated by fierce, flesh-eating aquatic beings that spit boiling oil.

15. Puyoda (Water of Pus). An ocean of pus, excreta, urine, mucus, saliva and other repugnant things. Its waters surge and it difficult to traverse without swallowing (accidentally) its disease-riddled waters.

16. Pranarodha (Obstruction to Life). A forested realm where yamaduta archers hunt to kill all humanoid intruders to the realm.

17. Visashana (Murderous). A rocky, mist-filled realm is populated by whip-wielding yamadutas who attempt to beat to death any creature of status. It is believed that the great maker of chaotically-aligned astras (the weaponsmith that made Pashupatastra for Kali and Trishul for Kali) calls this plane home.

18. Lalabhaksa (Saliva as Food). A sea of semen, devoid of any plant-life.

19. Sarameyadana (Hell of the Sons of Sarama). A massive kennel populated by 720 ferocious dogs (the sons of Sarama) with razor-sharp teeth, who act in service to their yamaduta handlers.

20. Avici/Avicimat (Waterless/Waveless). A barren, craggy realm filled with razor-sharp, wave-shaped rocks, and a peak 100 miles high at its center. Visitors to this realm become weaker the longer they remain away from their home plane. Each fall causes cuts that cannot be healed while the intruder remains on the plane, but neither does the intruder die from these cuts (though those so injured often beg for death).

21. Ayahpana (Iron-drink). A steamy, rocky realm strewn with rivers of molten iron. The yamadutas that inhabit this realm will stand on the chests of captured victims and force them to drink this molten iron.

22. Ksarakardama (Acidic/Saline Mud/Filth). This realm is similar in appearance to the Slime Pits of the Abyss, but with muck and filth instead of slime.

23. Raksogana-bhojana (Food of Rakshasas). A great jungled realm that is home to the rakshasas (tiger-like asuras). The ruler of this realm, Bha Hsankarh, is believed to be the progenitor of both the rakshasas and the rakastas.

24. Shulaprota (Pierced by Sharp Pointed Spear/Dart). This realm is composed of an almost endless sky, spotted by an occasional small floating island featuring a small outcropping of trees. The realm is populated by ferocious carnivorous birds like vultures and herons with razor sharp beaks.

25. Dandasuka (Snakes). While the geography of this realm varies wildly, its climate ranges from tropical to sub-arctic. It is pervasively pocked with snake pits and dens, and populated by seven-hooded snakes.

26. Avata-nirodhana (Confined in a Hole). A vast prison realm of caverns lined with dark wells and hidden crannies, and filled with poisonous fumes and suffocating smoke.

27. Paryavartana (Returning). This realm appears as a vast forest filled with small-to-medium sized trees. It is populated by hard-eyed vultures, herons, crows and similar birds which attempt to pluck out the eyes of every living (non-avian) creature.

28. Sucimukha (Needle-face). This realm appears as a massive landscape stitched together from the flesh of all manner of creatures. The yamadutas here are armed with massive needles, and each of their victims becomes part of the ever-expanding patchwork landscape.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Fifty Fiends

One of the things I've been doing over the last couple of months, as I've had a spare few minutes here and there (between working on Kickstarter stuff, dealing with work stuff, and living up to family commitments), is draw some fiends.

Originally, the drawings were just things I had planned on piling up into the material that may (or may not) eventually become the Creature Compendium II. But having 50 lower planes natives in CC2 seemed a bit to weighted toward one type of creature (since my CC goal has always been a good mix of stuff that fits all types of adventures/campaigns), so my objective shifted a bit.

My new goal was to come up with 50. That's enough drawings to do that alliterative thing that I (and Stan Lee) seem to love so much, allowing me to name them as the "Fifty Fiends," with a potential (but-as-yet unconfirmed book... Fifty Fiends). Some are based on demons from historical sources (like Collin de Plancy's Dictionnaire Infernal), and a couple are based on PD comic book images, but most are just of result of my placing pencil to paper and drawing until I was done.

I was originally planning on dual-statting them (as with the Creature Compendium. However, I realized how textually cumbersome that would become with the need to add resistances, immunities, psionics, etc. Instead, I'm planning on going with the basic B/X stat block, an additional stat block for immunities/resistances (e.g., damage from fire, ice, etc.), and a B/X psionics stat block. This does a couple of things that I like. First, it makes things pretty easy for Oe and 1e players to convert (e.g., I'm planning on including some info so Oe/1e players using first gen psionics can convert the psionic stats). Second, it helps keep things in line with any information that might be included in the Basic Atlas of the Planes (which itself may take years to finish).

So a week or two ago, I finished the drawings. Then, in those spare few minutes here and there over the last week or two, I've been naming them, assigning them a native plane (and planar layer, where appropriate), and noting who (or what) they serve (or their place in an existing planar hierarchy).

So to whet your appetite, here are all 50 illustrations compiled into a handy-dandy visual overview (that is roughly alphabetically by fiend name!

As a side note, if the book does publish, I am considering auctioning off all 50 original illustrations as a single folio.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Really Old Old-School Artist: René Bull

It's been quite a while since I've done one of these posts. But it's also been quite a while since I stumbled across a new artist that I felt like I wanted to cover. I'm not sure what had me looking through copies of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (well, actually I do, but I'd rather not say... yet), but I found an edition with which I was unfamiliar. This one features the art of British illustrator and photographer René Bull. I'll let you go to the Wikipedia link (just there) if you want the skinny on this Dublin-born son of a French mother and British father.

Bull's color work reminds of Edmund Dulac and Howard Pyle, in terms of tone and painting style. On the other hand, Bull's B&W work is, in a lot of ways, the overall "look" I had in my mind for the higher level mystics when I wrote the Basic Psionics Handbook. Particularly the image below that looks like the guy is floating on pillows.

Without further ado, here you go...