Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate now available

This is something that I've been looking forward to for a long time. Back when I was writing The Golden Scroll of Justice, my own take on a fantasy wuxia/Chinese folklore based RPG supplement, I came across Brendan Davis's Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate RPG, which covers roughly the same sphere. We exchanged some emails, since we obviously shared common interests, and now he's ready to show his work to the world.

In fact, you can buy it here at RPGNow.com. It's PWYW, and the main version clocks in at a mighty 492 pages! The table of contents alone is 20 pages long.

Of course, there are bound to be differences in our approaches, and the most significant is that he's written a completely new RPG system to support his vision, where I went with a supplement for OSR type games.

I've just downloaded the book, so this won't be a full-blown review, but there is a lot in here that looks very interesting for fans of the kung fu / wuxia / Chinese fantasy genre. There are nearly 200 martial arts moves, different "sects" which are set up as threats to the PCs, and a pretty well-developed setting to go with the rules. I heartily encourage anyone who's interested in this sort of fantasy to check it out. Even if you don't end up playing the game entirely as written, there's tons of material here to mine for your game. I'm looking forward to getting elbow-deep into this book soon. A more in-depth review may well be forthcoming, but for now, buy it.

You can buy it here at RPGNow.com.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Worldographer: Hexographer 2 Kickstarter

The new Kickstarter for the next generation of Hexographer, now christened Worldographer, is now live. You can find it here.

Looks like there are a ton of great new features, a whole new selection of isometric icons and terrain features, an undo/redo feature, a really easy to use coastline generator (where, oh where was that when I was using Hexographer to make my Beyond the Flanaess maps???), and a lot of other neat stuff.

Hexographer is my go-to tool for wilderness mapping. I can't recommend it highly enough, and the new version looks like a great improvement on an already great product.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Shore Leave 2016

So I got back from this year's Shore Leave convention and had an absolute blast. The highlight for me was getting to meet Michael Forest, the actor who played Apollo in the classic Star Trek episode "Who Mourns for Adonais?" and reprised the role in the Star Trek Continues episode "Pilgrim of Eternity" this past weekend at the Shore Leave 38 convention.

He was really great to talk to, very nice and patient with all the attention he was getting from everyone, and had some fun behind-the-scenes stories. I saw him Friday night when the crowds weren't there, and got an autograph on a pic of him as Apollo crying with regret at the very end of the episode (one of my favorite scenes in any Trek series).

There was a game room open for the duration of the con, of course, and to my surprise, my daughter actually got really into playing Warhammer 40k. They did a scenario called "King of the Hill", and she was really into it. Heaven help me; my daughter might be getting into minis. If only it wasn't Games Workshop...

Anyhoo, here are some pics of the con, including the gaming and a lot of excellent cosplay. Enjoy!

A presentation about restoring the TV model of the Enterprise for the Smithsonian

Monday, July 11, 2016

Fantastic Worlds of Grenadier Kickstarter

Hey all!

Just wanted to give a very quick plug for the Fantastic Worlds of Grenadier Kickstarter. It's a book basically describing a nigh-unknown corner of early RPG history; Grenadier miniatures, which were quite the staple in our gaming group in the early 1980's and beyond.

They seem to be stuck in the mid-KS doldrums, but it would be a shame if a suitable spotlight wasn't shone on this corner of the early days of our hobby. So much attention has been spent on TSR and other publishers, I'd love to see a really good in-depth treatment of the minis side of the house.

Do check it out:


Friday, July 1, 2016

Thoughts on Q2

Timothy Brannan over at The Other Side blog has an interesting post about the never-extant module Q2, a hypothetical sequel to the (in)famous Q1, Queen of the Demonweb Pits. He makes an interesting point that, as published, Q1 sort of stands out as a sole solitary example of its series; even the intentionally stand-alone S series had several entries.

He proffers several possible stand-ins from published works, mostly looking for something that brings the action back to the material plane and involves more drow, even postulating a possible civil war. It's an interesting idea, but I wanted to explore it a bit in light of what we know Q1 was originally supposed to be.

I've discussed this before, in the context of the Temple of Elemental Evil and possible tie-ins between the two adventure lines, but in a nutshell, the original Gygaxian concept for Q1 had nothing to do with mechanical spiders or invasions of other worlds. It dealt specifically with the god of the Eilservs, the Elder Elemental God (EEG). Indeed, it was the worship of that eldritch deity, rather than Lolth, which set the whole chain of events in the Giants series of modules in motion, and most specifically set the vast majority of Lolth-worshiping drow against the renegade EEG-worshiping faction led by Eclavdra Eilserv.

Originally, the module was supposed to set up a possible confrontation between Lolth and the EEG, as the players attempted to complete the latter's banishment to "a distant star":
I had what I consider a much more interesting plan for the conclusion of the G-D series, one in which the PC party could loose the Elder Elemental god or send him into deeper isolation, thus assisting Lolth to become more powerful. By very astute play, they could have thwarted the designs of both evil entities. The Demonweb Pits were indeed envisioned as maze like, but there were to be no machines therein. -- Gary Gygax on EnWorld, August 2006
So in Q1, originally, the PCs would either help Lolth by increasing the shackles on the EEG, free the EEG inadvertently, thus setting the stage for a final confrontation, or thwarted both. Players being players, that last outcome is doubtless unlikely in the extreme. Ahem.

But this does give us an intriguing idea as to what a potential Q2 might have been. Assuming that "Q" in the name refers to Lolth as the "Queen" of the Demonweb pits, what we inevitably end up with is the ultimate climax to the adventure as a whole; a showdown between Lolth and the Elder Elemental God, with the PCs being at the exact point of the balance between the two, trying once more to thwart both mighty beings, possibly by playing one against the other (that's how I'd set it up, anyway).

This also works with the larger meta-narrative that seems to have been originally intended for these modules. If the low-level T1 was the start of that meta-narrative, and Q1 (or a hypothetical Q2) was the capstone, that leads us from Hommlet to the Temple of Elemental Evil (first introducing us to the EEG, although not in the published version), to the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth and the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, to the three "giants" modules, to the Descent into the Depths of the Earth series, to the final confrontation with both Lolth and the EEG, who are the true protagonists behind what's been going on all along, and who are at odds, as Lolth was either responsible for the EEG's original imprisonment, or for his continued confinement by her protection of the keys to his release in her Demonweb.

A drow civil war would certainly be possible in such a scenario, as the newly resurgent EEG would be able to flood his followers with power, while the followers of Lolth would be scrambling to contain them. The PCs, flung back to the Vault of the Drow after their misadventures in the Demonweb Pits (having inadvertently freed the EEG) would have to deal with the mess and try to defeat both. It's entirely possible that the conflict would have the PCs going far afield; maybe even returning to the Temple of Elemental Evil, or the caverns beneath the Fire Giant's hall or the Hill Giant Steading, where shrines to the EEG still exist.

Basically, Q2 would be a second chance for the PCs to stop both Lolth and the EEG, if they failed to do so in Q1.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Friday, March 11, 2016

Giant rat

Dude, this is seriously the "rat, giant (Sumatran)" from the Monster Manual.

Here's some trivia - the (Sumatran) part of the entry header comes from a throwaway mention in one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "Sherlock Holmes" stories. In "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire", reference is made to "...the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared." I'm certain Gygax was aware of the line, and that made its way into the header.

(h/t Sky News)

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

5E Sorcerers of Greyhawk

Sorcerers are rare on Oerth, but not completely unknown. More often than not, those with innate sorcerous ability will hone their skills with more traditional wizardly study, becoming truly formidable spellcasters combining the learned magic of a wizard with the intuitive understanding of a sorcerer (in game terms, this means that single-class sorcerers are exceedingly rare, and more often those who begin as sorcerers will switch classes to gain levels as a wizard).


Sorcerers in the World of Greyhawk may choose the following alternate origins if they wish.


The Serpent, known as Mok'slyk to the ancient Ur-Flan, is a creature whose origins are obscured in the mists of time, and whose very existence is doubted by many sages. Some sorcerers, though, know the truth. Mok'slyk does exist, and on very rare occasions, it will come to someone and instruct him or her in ancient and terrible ways of magic.

Some say that the Serpent is the very personification of magic, while others believe it to be one of the so-called “Ancient Bretheren” who predated the gods themselves. Still others believe the Serpent to be an aspect of Asmodeus, the Arch-Fiend. It is whispered that the arch-lich Vecna was one so Bitten in ages past, and some believe the Serpent to be nothing more than a figment of his twisted imagination, brought to life. Its true nature may never be known.

Mok'slyk is possessed of all the knowledge of those sorcerers in the past whom it has touched in this way, and with good reason. Once someone who has been Bitten by the Serpent dies, the Serpent consumes his or her soul, gaining the knowledge and life experience of that person, and using it to help the next person to be so touched. Still, those who are Bitten deem it a worthy trade in exchange for all the power and knowledge that the Serpent can bring. While not all those who are Bitten by the Serpent begin their sorcerous careers as evil, none who are, can escape that eventual fate.

Serpent’s Tongue

Starting at 1st level, you have better than normal powers of persuasion. Whenever you are making a Charisma check to persuade an NPC of something, you may add your proficiency bonus to the roll. However, if you fail the roll, the NPC has a “bad feeling” about you, and you may never use your proficiency bonus when attempting to persuade that same NPC again.

Coils of the Serpent

Starting at 2nd level, you can use your action and expend one Sorcery Point to attempt to wrap an enemy in the coils of the serpent. The target must be within line of sight and no more than 30’ away. He must make a Wisdom saving throw. Failure means he becomes incapacitated for the remainder of the round. If he succeeds in the saving throw, the intended target cannot be affected by the coils of the serpent for the next 24 hours.

Serpent’s Venom

Starting at 6th level, you can spend sorcery points to spit venom from your mouth like a snake as your action. The venom will have a range of 5’, and you must make a successful “to hit” roll. If you successfully hit with your venom, the victim will take 2 points of poison damage for every sorcery point you spent. You must declare how many sorcery points you wish to spend prior to either the “to hit” or saving throw rolls being made.

In addition, anyone of good alignment will by this time be moved to a neutral alignment if they have not already. Thus, lawful good turns to lawful neutral, and chaotic good turns to chaotic neutral.

Power Locus

At 14th level, you can imbue a part of your body with special magical power. Select exactly 18 spell levels’ worth of spells known to you. As long as that body part is available to you (i.e., a hand is not chained, an eye is not covered, an ear is not removed, etc.), you may cast the selected spells without preparing them, as long as you have sufficient spell slots available. Casting the spell expends the slot.
In addition, anyone of neutral alignment will by this time be moved to an evil alignment if they have not already. Thus, neutral turns to neutral evil, and lawful neutral turns to lawful evil.

Summon the Serpent

Beginning at 18th level, you are able to summon the Serpent to manifest within you directly; those with true sight will see the semi-transparent form of the Serpent wrapped around your body, glowing with a dark radiance. Doing so costs a number of sorcery points as listed below and counts as your action. Doing so allows you to select one of the following effects:

  • You radiate fear in a 60’ radius until you lose concentration. All non-friendly creatures within the radius of the effect must make a Wisdom check or be frightened until the effect ends. Those creatures who make a successful Wisdom check cannot be effected by any Commune with the Serpent effect for 24 hours. This effect costs 5 sorcery points.
  • You may cast the equivalent of a commune spell and ask the Serpent for its wisdom directly. This effect does not use up any spell slots, and only you will hear the Serpent speaking in response to your questions. This effect costs 3 sorcery points. 

In addition, the alignment of the sorcerer will change to neutral evil, the purest form of evil, and will not deviate therefrom for any reason, short of the intervention of a deity or the effect of an artifact.


The Wind Dukes of Aaqa are the stuff of legend. Ancient champions of Law native to the Elemental Plane of Air, they battled Miska the Wolf Spider, and it was only through their use of the Rod of Law (now shattered into the Rod of Seven Parts and scattered to the far corners of the multiverse) that Chaos was stopped from conquering all of reality. Since the battle of Pesh, which took place north of what is now known as the Nyr Dyv, the weird energies released by the shattering of the Staff of Law still manifest themselves in strange ways that are unpredictable to mortals (there are suggestions that these manifestations follow some incredibly intricate, if unfathomable, regular pattern).

While those who are Touched by the Wind Dukes are more likely to hail from the lands north of the Nyr Dyv (particularly the Shield Lands/Bandit Kingdoms), they could conceivably come from anywhere except its most remote regions, as long as an ancestor may have lived, or even passed through, the region. They will all be of Lawful alignment, however, whether they be Lawful Good, Lawful Neutral, or Lawful Evil.

Predictable Spellcasting

Starting at 1st level, you may choose to avoid random chance when casting any spell that normally requires a die roll to determine damage, duration, etc. Rather than rolling, you use the average possible value, rounding down. For example, if casting the spell magic missile, you would not roll 1d4 and add 1 to determine damage. You would take the average roll (1+4=5, divided by 2 = 2) and add 1, for a consistent damage of 3 with each missile. The average of a d4 is 2, a d6 is 3, a d8 is 4, a d10 is 5, a d12 is 6, and a d20 is 10.

Light as a Feather

Also at 1st level, you have a natural ability to float slowly down through the air instead of falling. Functionally, this is the same effect as the spell feather fall (the ability will not have any effect on others). You must have a short rest between uses of this ability. No metamagic effects can be used on this ability, as you are not actually casting a spell.

Shield of Law

Starting at 6th level, you have resistance against Wild Magic surge effects and all magical attacks from extra-planar creatures of chaotic evil, chaotic neutral, and chaotic good alignment. You can apply this resistance to a number of attacks equal to your level. Once you have used up this power, it is restored after you have taken a long rest.

Lifted by the Wind Dukes

At 14th level, you have a flying speed equal to your walking speed.

Hammer of Law

Beginning at 18th level, you may spend 1 sorcery point to gain advantage on any single attack roll, or to get a bonus of +5 to damage on an attack. You may choose to spend 2 sorcery points to get both advantage and the +5 damage bonus. You may not spend more than 2 sorcery points per attack.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Greyhawk's College of Balance for 5E Bards

Bard characters in the World of Greyhawk may choose from the following college, in addition to the choices listed in the Player’s Handbook.


Bards in the College of Balance are closely aligned with the Old Faith of Druidry, and are talented performers who are interested in seeing that no side in the cosmic struggle for dominance – law and chaos, good and evil – ever completely dominates the others. Their tales spoken in glades in deep woods, or songs sung in smoky urban taverns, emphasize the eternal nature of struggle, the cyclical nature of history, and how even the most seemingly-invincible foe can be overcome, only to start the cycle anew.

While they may not be always formally recognized as agents of the Cabal (see “factions”), bards of the College of Balance are most certainly informally aligned with the same goals; to prevent the dominance of any extreme alignment over the Flanaess, and ensure that Balance is ultimately restored should any alignment come to ascendance.

Members of the College of Balance seldom gather in formal settings, preferring to spread news between one another as they wander around the Flanaess, and will also use druid networks of followers, priests, and agents to spread and learn information.


When you join the College of Balance at 3rd level, you can speak three additional languages, one of which can be an exotic or secret language. You gain one additional language every three levels.

You also gain proficiency with medium armor.


Once you join the College of Balance at 3rd level, you may choose from either the Bard or Druid spell lists when selecting new spells to learn, including the additional cantrip you learn at 10th level. You still use the bard tables to determine cantrips and spells known, and spell slots.

In addition, you do not need to prepare the spell legend lore. You can always cast it as long as you have an available spell slot. 


Also at 3rd level, you can project a naturally affable and likeable manner that can have an influence those around you. You automatically have advantage on the first social interaction check you make with any new creature. You only get this advantage once per individual creature, and only on the first social interaction check you make with them.


Starting at 6th level, you can use your superior knowledge of music and sound in several different ways. When using any magical item that relies on sound (the horn of blasting, for instance), the bard can, at his or her option, re-roll any 1’s or 6’s rolled for duration or effect. When using your bardic inspiration ability, the target creature will have resistance to thunder attacks and sound-based magical effects such as the luring song of a harpy, in addition to the other benefits of bardic inspiration.


Starting at 14th level, you do not need to prepare the spell charm person. You can always cast it as long as you have an available spell slot, and the target creature always has disadvantage when making its saving throw, unless you or your companions are fighting it, in which case it will have advantage.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

5E Barbarians of Greyhawk

Barbarians hail from either the extreme north or the extreme south of the Flanaess, and come in three general types. Those in the north hail from one of the four groups of horseback-traveling nomads – the Tiger Nomads, Wolf Nomads, Rovers of the Barrens, and Hold of Stonefist. Those in the northeast of the Flanaess – the Fruztii, Schnai, and Cruskii – are more settled and are excellent seafarers. Those from the steamy jungles of the south are more primitive than their northern counterparts, but no less savage. Many will be of Olman, Suel, or mixed heritage.
In addition to the primal paths listed in the Player’s Handbook, barbarian characters in the World of Greyhawk have access to the following additional path.


The Path of Vatun is available only to those barbarians who hail from the Thillronian Peninsula; the lands of the Schnai, Fruztii, and Cruzkii. They are dedicated to the Great God of the North, Vatun, god of cold, winter, and arctic beasts. Those barbarians following the Path of Vatun in Stonefist would have originally come from one of the barbarian lands to the east. Those who follow the Path of Vatun are inured to cold and the hardships associated with it. As followers of the god Vatun, barbarians who follow this path are naturally antagonistic to followers of Telchur, and after CY582, Iuz.

Vatun's holy symbol - a sunrise
over an icy plain
Rune of Frost

Starting when you choose this path at 3rd level, you are resistant to cold when you rage. In addition to the normal resistance to weapons, you also have resistance to all cold-based attacks. In addition, time spent in frigid water while raging does not count against the normal time limit.

Rune of Snow

Starting at 6th level, you radiate freezing cold in a 5’ radius while raging. Any creature in this sphere (friend or foe) will take 1 point of cold damage per minute.

Rune of Ice

Beginning at 10th level, you can freeze enemies with your icy gaze as your action. To do so, select one creature within 30’ who is in line of sight. If the creature can see you, it must make a Wisdom saving throw (DC 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma bonus) or be paralyzed. If you can keep your gaze fixed on the creature, you can extend the effect until the end of your next turn. The effect ends if you end your turn out of line of sight, or more than 60’ from you. If the creature is successful in its saving throw, you cannot use this feature on it for 24 hours.

Rune of Sleet

Beginning at 14th level, you can cast the sleet storm spell once per day.


Those barbarians who choose the Path of the Totem Warrior (as described in the Player’s Handbook) are constrained in their choice of animal by their homeland. In addition, four new animal totems are available, and are marked with an asterisk in the table (specifics regarding the new totem animals are given below).

Totem Animal Tiger Nomads Wolf Nomads Rovers of the Barrens Hold of Stonefist / Stonehold Ice, Frost, or Snow Barbarians Hepmonaland or Amedio Jungle











Totem Spirit (3rd Level)

Crocodile. While raging, you have resistance to all physical damage except psychic damage. The spirit of the crocodile ensures that your hide shrugs off physical harm like the scaly hide of an crocodile.

Horse. While raging, your base speed is increased by 10’. The spirit of the horse gives you speed and stamina.

Jaguar. While raging, you can make either a standing long jump or standing high jump that covers full distance, rather than half, and if your jump requires a DC check, you have advantage. The spirit of the jaguar allows you to leap into the midst of your prey.

Tiger. While raging, your strength is temporarily increased by 1 (maximum 20). You have the strength of the spirit of the tiger.

Aspect of the Beast (6th Level)

Crocodile. You gain the patience of a crocodile. You can remain stock-still for hours on end, gaining advantage on any Dexterity (Stealth) checks while so doing, and gaining advantage on your initiative check when attacking a surprised foe after being so concealed.

Horse. You have the speed and endurance of a stallion. For up to an hour at a time, you can sprint like a galloping horse, covering twice the normal distance in that time. Once you have sprinted for an hour, you cannot sprint again until 8 hours have elapsed.

Jaguar. You have the stealth of a jaguar. You gain advantage on all Dexterity (Stealth) checks, and can use stealth while traveling at normal pace.

Tiger. You have the stealthy hunting instincts of a tiger. you have darkvision with a 30’ range and advantage on all Dexterity (Stealth) checks.

Spirit Walker (10th Level)

This functions as described in the Player’s Handbook.

Totemic Attunement (14th Level)

Crocodile. While you’re raging, you automatically have advantage on all grappling attacks. You may also grapple a creature up to two sizes larger than you, and may move a grappled creature at normal speed.

Horse. While you’re raging, you automatically get advantage on any attack where you are able to move at least 10’ prior to attacking. You also get an extra dash action every turn.

Jaguar. While you’re raging, you get an additional attack each turn, as long as it is with a slashing or piercing weapon.

Tiger. While you’re raging, you may let loose a snarling growl of challenge that will cause all enemies within 15’ to be frightened (as per the condition) if they fail to make a saving throw vs. Wisdom. If you cannot be heard, the growl has no effect. You need a short rest before you can growl again, and the effect lasts for 10 minutes.