Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Cool New Ymid Shirt by Denis McCarthy

Just received a brand new T-shirt designed by Denis McCarthy from over at Northport. It's an Ymid like the one from Clatterdelve--and it has a Yr-Go familiar! Great Stuff! Check out his other cool T-Shirt designs over at Tee Public. There's a really nice Cthulhu design...

Denis also has his stock art on sale now over at RPGNow and he was just interviewed for the new OSR Podcast with Troy T. Busy guy.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


"Hold still so I can bash ya dammit!"
Rutigar the Droll, Lord Protector of the Blue Trees of Trondelle

No. Enc.: 1d4
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 60' (shuffle), 180' (Leap)
Armor Class: 7 (as Leather + Shield)
Hit Dice: 2 (can advance as Fighters or Spell-casters)
Attacks: 1 or 2 (Can Wield Weapons and/or Magic Items)
Damage: 1d4+1 (Slashing Kick)
Save: F2
Morale: 8

Special: Nejaun can perform a double-kick once every 4 rounds for double damage. They can also forego their next attack in order to attempt to dodge an incoming attack by rolling as for a normal attack and if their 'To Hit' roll beats their opponent's, the Nejaun successfully dodges the attack and incurs no penalty to initiative. If they fail to dodge they take half damage and suffer a -2 penalty to initiative on the next round.

When sorely pressed (having lost more than 3/4 hit points in one combat) the Nejaun can rear back on their muscular tails and lash out with all three legs at +3, +2, and +1 to hit respectively, each doing double damage, but then the Nejaun collapses and is unable to continue attacking until it rests for 2d4 hours. This is only ever used in extreme circumstances and only as a form of last-ditch self-defense.

Smooth-skinned pseudo-saurials with three legs tipped with wickedly sharp curved blade-like claws and muscular tails, the Nejaun rarely wear armor or clothes. Nejaun prefer ranged weapons or wands when wielding anything in addition to their natural claws. Only spell-casting Nejaun wield staves.

Nejaun are fairly commonly encountered as summoned servitors or retainers in service to a spell-caster who has made the journey to the cliff-keeps of Jalamere.

The Nejaun are creatures that have languished in my portfolio for a long, long time and as I recently had the opportunity to go through things over the weekend and re-discover them, I've decided to let them see the light of day once and for all. They seem like a good fit for Jalamere and Wermspittle both...

Friday, August 11, 2017


Work-in-Progress: Little Tomb

...A Star


Update: Our Award-Winning Vintage One-Page Adventure

Long-time readers and followers of our blog know that back in 2011 Chris K. held an impromptu contest on his Hill Cantons blog and our weird little one-page adventure won. Ever since then it has been available from our Free Stuff folder at Box, but no longer. We've added a cover, as shown above, and uploaded it to DriveThruRPG / RPGNow where it can be found at either site for Free.

Nothing has been changed. It remains the same vintage adventure into Unspeakable Old School Randomness intended for use with Swords & Wizardry (White Box). It's just available from a different source now. Enjoy!

Actual Play Report from the Fringes of Wermspittle

The map is a work-in-progress...

We recently had the opportunity to run a session of Labyrinth Lord for our friends and their offspring, one of whom is about to head off to college later this month. Our first session went very well, considering that they all began in an isolated village being bombed during the night by unidentified airships...

The following Actual Play Report was written by Jody. We both hope you enjoy it. We're looking forward to the next session!

The party consisted of Q (Potentially a thief), N (Probably a Spell-caster), R (An archer-type Fighter), A (Fighter), and J (Another Spell-caster). Everyone drew a random index card for the gear they were able to grab on their way out of the village during the bombing and everyone had the opportunity to choose a Class for their character based upon how things went as we played through the morning after the bombing...

Session 1
The bombing stopped around daybreak. It had been a long night but the group I fell in with (five of us in all) managed to stay out of sight and uninjured, which is pretty good considering we met in our mutual runs for cover. Everyone was hungry and thirsty, though. We left the relative safety of the woods and walked a bit on the road toward the nearest village. We could hear a few other groups of folks rummaging around in the debris, looking for fallen comrades or fallen goods, but they were all on the other side of town.

The first house we came to still had its walls, more or less. We figured the stench from the flaming outhouse would keep the others away for a while so we decided to some scavenging. Q went first, entering through a broken window as the door was locked or blocked. We heard a bit of a scuffle and some squeaking from inside but no screaming so N and I decided to check it out. A quick peek in the window showed three short, black-furred critters doing their best to hang on to all the goods they’d gathered. Hobyahs. Q had one in hand, thus the squeaking. N decided to go through next to try to talk to the Hobyahs. After a few words and a lot of gesturing N was able to convince the Hobyahs that we weren’t going to kill them out of hand and that we could work together to find more goods, and maybe some food, if they could be quiet.

We met R and A outside. They had checked out the rest of the little farmstead and found an ax, a bucket, and a nice jug of hooch. The bucket would come in handy if we could get to the town well. Unfortunately the well was close to a bomb crater that showed all the signs of being contaminated with Black Smoke. Yuck.

The next closest building to the farmstead had been a blacksmith or arms storage of some kind. Now it was mostly rubble. No food, but we were able to dig out various bits of armor and weaponry, enough for everyone to have something they could use. Some of it had Franzikaner markings, others were Pruztian. The Hobyahs were more interested in the boxes the stuff was packed in than in the goods themselves. I took a nice Vinkin coat and hat and some Pruztian gauntlets. I gave the chausses to A as they fit him. I figure the better armored my companions are, the more protected I am.

N managed to get a pretty nasty cut in their hand digging through debris. I was going to clean it and bandage it up but as soon as I pulled out one of the bottles of wine I had reserved for medicinal purposes one of the Hobyahs became very interested. At first I thought it just wanted to drink it but, with more gesturing, I was pretty sure it was trying to say it could take care of N’s hand. Knowing I had more bottles I decided to see what the Hobyah could do and gave the bottle in hand to it. It took a drink and slapped N’s hand right over the cut. N held up their hand to show the cut was gone. Hobyah can be helpful creatures, apparently.

Things were getting noisier off to our right. At least two of the other groups were fighting over something in another pile of rubble. R and N decided this was a good time to head for the well and fill up all of our containers with water. Q wanted to keep an eye on the fray and snuck around to see what he could see. He’s pretty good at being quiet. A and I chose to stay in the mid-ground so we could go in any direction we needed to.

Pretty soon R and N returned with full water containers. The Hobyahs were playing around with the boxes we had found, trying to get in them. One finally managed to get the lid closed on itself. When its companion opened the lid, the Hobyah inside was gone! We had checked the boxes out pretty thoroughly and they didn’t seem to be designed for helping things disappear, so we decided it must be a Hobyah thing.

Q came back with a report that the fighting seemed to be done and the losing party was heading our way. He also said he had shared the observer role with a winged monkey who was on the other side of the rubble. You never know who you’ll run into out here.

We moved back into the trees to observe and avoid interaction with the wounded group, if possible. They followed the road where it spiraled just past one of the craters and, poof, they were gone. Most likely a Weak Point. Hopefully they ended up in a better place for them.

Once the coast was clear we decided to check out the crater to see if there was anything worthwhile left from the bombing. We got lucky and found a couple of storage caverns. N was able to grab a couple of nice books, with some help from the rest of us holding the anchoring rope. We also found a meat larder and grabbed some sustenance.

While things were still fairly quiet we investigated a few more buildings. One had been set up as a temporary camp for the “winning” group from the skirmish Q observed. Since they didn’t bother to leave a guard we relieved them of an electric lamp and a couple of other goodies. The winged monkey showed up again, watching us through a hole in the roof. We attempted to communicate but didn’t get very far. I guess we’re better at Hobyah.

The rest of the day is a little blurry. I don’t know if I inhaled some Black Smoke by that last house or if I was just too tired to make clear memories. I do remember hearing a tiger in the woods, which we were able to avoid, and that there were five or so Yeren involved in the rubble skirmish that also headed our way. The winged monkey made a beeline for the mountains so we followed. Good thing we did, too. Yeren are nasty critters and none of us were up for a fight.

Turns out the monkey was with a traveler who introduced himself as Gnosiomandus. Nice old fellow. He offered us the sanctuary of his camp for the night, which we gladly accepted. We could all use a good rest before we figure out where we go from here.

The group did very well for themselves and managed to gather a decent amount of usable equipment and avoid some pretty dangerous encounters. It was remarkable to see a group cooperate and communicate as well as these players did--and for most of them this was their first time at the table rolling dice and all that. I'm looking forward to seeing how N deals with the Hobyah Bond-mark and where the group decides to go from here.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Rough Map-Tiles from recent game session

I drew-up a few map-tiles on little card-stock squares I had lying around for use in our most recent Wermspittle game. We didn't use the Leaking, Fractured Sphere (Upper Left), nor the Scout Airship (Lower Right), but they might come in handy some other time. The Morlock Well (Mid-Left) and the Downed Tripod (Mid-right) both made it into the game, as did the Nasty Cloud of Black Smoke (Lower-Left).

We began with a roll of kid's sketch-paper from IKEA as the base map and just randomly drew-out the curly-swirly Yellow Brick Roads, the Craters and debris from the bombing, and then the various buildings that were left more or less standing at the beginning of the game. The tiles then were dropped willy-nilly onto the map and we got playing.

This worked very well for our group and I'm going to put together a set for the next time we go run something at a convention or elsewhere.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


"It is absolutely necessary, for the peace and safety of mankind, that some of earth's dark, dead corners and unplumbed depths be left alone; lest sleeping abnormalities wake to resurgent life, and blasphemously surviving nightmares squirm and splash out of their black lairs to newer and wider conquests."

H. P. Lovecraft

Squirmers [Original name unpronounceable by humans]
No. Enc.: 1
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120' (limited flight/levitation)
Armor Class: -4 [4] (as Chain)
Hit Dice: 6+1
Attacks: 2 (Slash, Ray)
Damage: 1d4x2, Petrify*
Save: F8
Morale: 10

Special: Squirmers perceive invisible, ethereal, astral, and other immaterial things within a 60' radius as though using True Seeing. They are immune to Charm or Sleep and unaffected by illusions. The Slashing Tail attack is treated as a +3 weapon to determine whether it can strike a given target, but does not add the bonus. Their Petrification Ray can be re-tuned after a delay of 1d4 rounds to either Dispel Magic (3-times per day, 120' range), or Annihilation (up to 3-times per day, does 3d12, range 60'). It is rumored that upon being destroyed a Squirmer will unleash a Lesser Sphere of Annihilation, but this has never been verified.

Ancient relics of some long-dead and forgotten empire, these things were originally astral parasites that were captured, bound, and armored so as to serve as monitors and watchers patrolling the ley-line keeps and fringe-world outposts of their masters. The version presented above is the more common variety, but there are others out there including at least one instance of a very tiny (3hp) version whose swarms infest the Dome of Urlantru and another smallish version that served as a Familiar to the wizard Damthuss.

According to various records and fragments of lore, prior to their being taken-over by the Yithians, the Pnakotians fielded a prototype-version in their doomed war with the Polypous Things.

A number of specimens have been recovered from deep within the polar ruins of what is believed to have been a Hyperborean citadel that was modified and rebuilt by a succession of colonists and settlers over the course of uncounted millennia. Some of these specimens appear to have been modified to make them better suited to hunting and killing Mi-Go.

Though they are indeed Constructs, each Squirmer houses portions of the brain and body of the original parasite from which it was created. They are neither living, nor dead, nor undead, but rather are best classified as some weird in-between category unto themselves. This may be a major contributing factor in there being no known spells for banishing, dismissing, or releasing (nor protection from) one of these things in any of the more accessible sources.

Squirmers were inspired by the notion of what a weaponized bejewelled Mi-Go brain-case might be like and sort of evolved from there to become a peculiar sort of Watcher prowling about the ruined cities of dead worlds out along the rim of known space. It might be possible for a spell-caster to reprogram one to serve as a type of hireling or retainer or to serve as a body-guard or servitor...and wherever they might be left to patrol or to protect very probably still has some measure of loot or eldritch secrets just waiting for the taking...

Friday, August 4, 2017

Good Shirt: Expanding onto Tee Public

So yeah, we've set-up an online shop over at Tee Public. You can find my designs by looking-up Garrisonjames and I'll tag everything with Hereticwerks, Wermspittle, or whatever else might be pertinent to make searching easier. There are four designs up there now. I'll add a new design or two every few days or every other week, or something--still not sure what sort of schedule will work best. All the designs are on sale for the first three days, then receive a slight mark-up, but this seems to be a bit less expensive than Zazzle and I prefer it to some of the other options we've looked into of late.

Right now the first few designs at Teepublic are things we've already uploaded to Zazzle, but soon there will be unique designs only available at Teepublic. We're ordering a couple of sample shirts over the weekend and will report back about the overall quality of the products and how the experience goes.

You can still find us on least if you use our link. Trying to find anything on that site using it's in-built search function is a bit tedious. That's one major downside to using Zazzle--people can't really find your stuff unless a whole lot of people have already found you. But hey, we're working on that. One major advantage with Zazzle is that you (the customer) can really, really customize your shirts (or other stuff) with any text you want, re-position the image(s), and do quite a bit of personalization. You get to make things just the way you want them. There are a lot of new designs headed to Zazzle fairly soon and there will be an update on that once things start to appear there.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Vertaxian Robots

Vertaxian Robot
3 [16]
Pincers 1d4 each*
Neutrinium Alloy Body, Scanners, Self-Repair
12 (Negrav floater)

* Vertaxian Robots can attack three targets (-3 to hit each attack), or two targets (-2 to hit for each attack), or one target with all six pincers (-1 to hit for each attack).

Vertaxian Robots are a remnant of the ancient Vertaxian civilization that died out millennia ago in a conflict with an obscure Star Empire that has been meticulously stricken from all inscriptions or databases, and an alien menace known only as "The Annihilators." These ancient machine relics tend to be found only amidst ruins and dead worlds that were once occupied by their fore-bears where they tend to Great Machines or maintain the atmosphere factories and other mechanisms that sustain exotic alien biomes that have long since run amok.

These robots were never intended to be front-line combat models and so only engage in melee combat under duress. They know hundreds of dead alien languages and some suspect that their crystal-cores might actually preserve the disembodied minds of their progenitors, but this has yet to be verified.

Some individual Vertaxian Robots have shown signs of renewed interest in affairs beyond their age-old ruins. Perhaps they will prove to be benevolent...

Monday, July 3, 2017

Malignant Polar Entity

[Photo currently unavailable]

Is it invisible?
We don't know.

Can it pass through walls?
We cannot say for certain.

Can it fly or leap over obstacles like a Spring-Heeler?
Possibly, but no one really is sure.

Does it have great, nasty teeth? Perhaps.
We do know it has incredibly sharp talons.

Is it fur-bearing or some sort of reptile or vegetable-thing?
This remains a mystery.

Is it intelligent, or is it an unusually clever animal?
That remains to be determined.

Does it have any weakness?
It has been reported on multiple occasions that the beast was driven off by fire.

Why would anyone risk life and limb to hunt this beast down?
There are several competing rewards or bounties on the beast, depending on whether it is recovered alive, dead, wholly intact or in part, as well as simply acquiring definitive evidence of the thing's nature. Bring us this monster, in whatever form or condition and there is a rich pay-day awaiting.

Excerpt from A Very Special Third Anniversary of the Third Expedition Edition
of The Whisperer

Malignant Polar Entity 
(Currently Unidentified Antarctic Horror)
No. Enc.: 1
Alignment: Neutral (suspected, but so-far unverified)
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 5 (as Chain Mail)
Hit Dice: 6
Attacks: 1
Damage: 3d4 (Talons)
Save: F4
Morale: 9 (Decreases by 1 for every 6 points of fire damage taken)

Special: Immune to Charm, Hold, Sleep.
               All creatures within a 20' radius that are susceptible to Cold damage receive 1d4 damage per round.
               On any natural to hit roll of 20 the beast inflicts an additional 2d8 Cold damage.

Boreal Sea Bears, Gray Masses, Giant Albino Penguins, White Beasts and fossilized Polypous-things were not the only specimens brought back from a series of modestly-staffed, poorly equipped and questionably successful South Polar Expeditions launched by the Academy prior to the War. The first expedition claimed to have discovered a bizarre variety of aquatic crinoid and another more vegetative creature still frozen in a block of ice, both of which were apparently lost at sea when their airship was heavily damaged in a freak storm. The second expedition brought back a number of photos, ectographs, rubbings, sketches and maps from a so-far unnamed set of sub-polar ruins deep within an area of heavy volcanism from which they barely escaped when their airship caught on fire. Of the third expedition we know very little other than that they did indeed successfully return only to have their airship destroyed during a bombing attack during the War. Their records and manifest were lost, but it is almost certain that they are responsible for having brought a number of exotic specimens that were then let loose in the turmoil and chaos following the attack. Since then pretty much everyone blames the third expedition for unleashing the White Beasts and hordes of penguins and other such nuisances upon the city.

But out of all the nasty beasts and dangerous creatures removed from the Antarctic regions and dropped willy-nilly into the middle of Wermspittle the worst of the lot has to be the shambling horror that freezes its victims to death even at the height of Summer. At this time there are no pictures of this creature. It was never properly named. The members of the third expedition were all murdered or lost to Black Smoke attacks before any sort of formal report could be made. So a nameless, unseen, horror from the South Polar regions has taken up residence somewhere within Wermspittle and so far no one has managed to capture it, let alone document it...

The one good thing that has been noted about this creature so far is that it appears to go dormant over the Winter, confining its most brutal attacks to a couple of weeks around the Summer Solstice, a fact that has emboldened numerous cranks, con-artists, charlatans and astrologers to speculate wildly about the occult nature of the beast. Theories abound, facts are few; there's quite a lot of fame, perhaps even a good reward for anyone who can manage to discover more actual details about this beast...let alone capture it, or kill it.

Source of Inspiration: "A malignant entity, or cosmic spirit from the southern pole, which pursues a party of explorers and kills them one by one, leaving on each, even in countries of the tropical or temperate zones (where it has followed them), the marks of frost-bite."
The Thing from the Antarctic, an unfinished synopsis/fragment by Clark Ashton Smith which can be found at the Eldritch Dark website.

Friday, June 30, 2017


"Both the cockroach and the bird would get along very well without us, although the cockroach would miss us most."

No. Enc.: 10-100
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 60' (20') Climb Walls as Thief.
Armor Class: 7 (as Leather and Shield)
Hit Dice: 1
Attacks: 2 at -1 to hit, or 1 at +1 to hit.
Damage: Half of normal damage for Melee weapons.
Save: F10
Morale: 8 (Suffer -4 to Morale in Bright Light)

Special: Climb Walls, Hide in Shadows and Move Silently as Thieves. Some specimens advance as Thieves or Magic Users. All Roachlings are capable of extruding 'gut-crystals' and/or 'milk.'

Ranging from 1' to 3' tall when walking upright, Roachlings are rarely if ever encountered alone. They know full well the dangers of the Bright Places and avoid them as much as possible, except for a few demented or deranged individuals who have developed a taste for adventuring in the humanish world.

Roachlings can extrude a messy yellowish-pink goo that they dredge up from their mid-gut and work into a thick, viscous material that sets-up like a form of pinkish amber. This so-called 'gut-crystal' is packed with nutrition and is much sought-after by the Candy Makers and Confectioners.

They used to sell their 'milk' to anyone, especially during the harsh winter months, but during the First Pruztian Occupation the Roachlings banded together and made a contract with the Maidens of the Well who have held a monopoly over the roaches' 'milk' in Wermspittle ever since. This of course has led to some friction over the years with the Confectioners who likewise signed an exclusive arrangement with the Roachlings in regards to their 'gut-crystals.' To this day it is not uncommon to see gangs of Candystripers or Sweethearts ambushing or accosting lone Milk Maids. It is rumored that the Milk Maids are in negotiations with the Sisterhood of Swans to gain some protection from the Candy Maker's servants and agents...

"Beware of bugs in the above code; I have only proved it correct, not tried it."
Donald Knuth, as quoted by Alan Kay

Before the Great War there were rumors that a number of rival Orders and some Academic Libraries were using swarms of literate Roachlings to transcribe ancient scrolls, clay tablets, illicit manuscripts, and other sorts of things in secret. None of the groups accused of this crime have ever admitted to it and no one was ever punished for it, allowing many Yellow Journalists to decry this as some sort of hoax or fraudulent account. Nonetheless it would account for the Roachlings acquisition of both literacy and spell-casting capabilities...and their disturbing access to some extremely archaic forms of spells and rites few modern scholars know beyond off-hand mentions in the records of defunct organizations or the vague descriptions offered in decaying popular texts from centuries ago...

A more disturbing claim is that while employed as scribes and archivists by their various masters, the Roachlings slipped a few sarcastic comments, pornographic marginalia and even some critical yet subtle errors into the works they copied. Thus it is common practice to blame faulty spells, gibberish scrolls or mis-translated rites to the Roachlings...despite nothing ever having been proven.

There is a wonderful little article at Science Alert that gives a bit more detail on the 'Super Food of the Future, Cockroach Milk. Obviously, such a food-source would be critically important in the winter in Wermspittle...too bad it is in such short supply...

Monday, June 26, 2017

Straw Troopers

My life has been so short that I really know nothing whatever. I was only made day before yesterday. What happened in the world before that time is all unknown to me...

Strohtruppen (Straw Troopers)
[also referred to as Mulltruppen (Junk-Troops)]
No. Enc.: 3d6
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120' (40'0
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d6 (Weapon)
Save: F4
Morale: 12

Strohtruppen, or Straw Troopers, are soft automatons constructed from the uniforms of the fallen, captured regimental banners, bloody bandages, blanket-rolls and then packed with straw, moss, rags, more bloody bandages, tent flaps and anything else that can be scrounged. They are equipped with whatever weapons are to be found, usually pole-arms, bayonets, broken rifles, make-shift clubs and the like. No one expects them to do anything except follow whatever orders they receive without question or hesitation, no matter the danger or the stupidity. They have no true intelligence and can only carry out the simplest of commands and then only if they are delivered at high volume, as these things tend to be hard of hearing. They also cannot see much farther than 200', though they can see as clearly in the dark as they do in the daylight. In addition they are unaffected by Hold, Charm, Sleep, ESP, most forms of glamer or illusion and Fear effects. There are rumors that a specialized form of Hold spell has been developed by the Franzikan Military College, but if this sort of thing does exist, it is not in open circulation at this time.

Straw Troopers are so very similar to the crude Fodder Golems and Corn Dollies crafted by farm communities in the Low Lands that most scholars agree that these things are essentially the militarized, modernized versions of those more humble, rustic forms of soft automatons.

Commandant Zulmer of the the Wall Guard has come under intense criticism for allegedly approving a plan to bolster the units along the Inner Ramparts with an unverified number of Strohtruppen and salvaged Fyters. Some of the most scathing condemnation has come from the ultra-conservative Black Rose Coalition who control nearly a third of the Security Council. Representatives of the Black Rose demand that instead of resorting to such inhuman things as Straw Troopers to reinforce the ranks of the seriously depleted Wall Guard units, that they instead return to the time-honored practice of utilizing undead soldiers...

Soft Automata include Fodder Golems, Bannerbearers, Leatherim, Corn Dollies, Teerkinder, and others. They lack the inherent toughness of traditional automata and are most often employed in a short-term, disposable manner.

Source of Inspiration: The Scarecrow from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, as seen through the lens of Mr. Frazer's The Golden Bough, with a touch of Arthur Machen: " is my belief that an awful lore is not yet dead."

Friday, June 23, 2017


Hit Dice: 1 to 3
Armor Class: 8 [11]
Attacks: 1 (eye-beam for 1d4+1)
Saving Throw: 14
Special: Limited ESP, Telepathy, Telekinesis, Suffer Double Damage from Poison.
Move: Innate Levitation
Alignment: Neutrality
Challenge Level/XP: 5/240+

Equally at home underwater or the surface world, Illardin are intensely curious beings who are fascinated with all aspects of magic and spell casting. If the Illardin recognize someone as a spell-caster of any sort whatsoever, they will attempt to convince this person to become their mentor. Anyone agreeing to teach the Illardin must Save or fall under the effect of a Geas making it impossible for them to advance any further within their primary spell-casting class until such time as they have successfully taught one spell to the Illardin. Successfully teaching a spell to these creatures eliminates the Geas, however there is a base 30% chance that the Illardin will recommend the player character's services to their friends and family, resulting in more 'students' appearing every few weeks.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Arctic Fireballs

"An Arctic fire-ball had traversed the sky, showering abroad, a sulphurous glamour over the snow-landscape. Before the intenser blue of its momentary shine had passed away, I saw Wilson stagger forward, and drop. And him and his lantern I buried deep there under the rubble ice."

The Purple Cloud,
by M.P. Shiel

Arctic Fireballs
(Polar Irrlicht)

No. Enc.: 1
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Movement: 360 (120)
Armor Class
Hit Dice: 6
Attacks: 1 (constant / area effect)
Damage: 1d6 (20' radius)
Save: MU6
Morale: 8

Special: Anyone looking directly at one of these creatures must make a Save or go blind for 1d6 Turns. Repeatedly gazing into the searing blue light incurs a cumulative penalty of -1 on all subsequent Saves. Failing a Save three times in a row results in the blindness becoming permanent.
Damage inflicted within its area of effect alternates randomly between extreme heat and extreme cold.
When reduced to zero hp the creature explodes as an Incendiary Cloud (75%) or Ice Storm (25%).

Shimmering immaterial horrors from beyond the Arctic Circle, these effulgent orbs of preternatural azure flame plunge headlong through the night leaving trails of sparks and sulphurous fumes in their wake. Unquiet beasts of uncertain provenance, they make a fearful and easily distinguishable roar in their travels. It is described as being something akin to a stuttering sort of thunder one feels in their bones more than it assaults the ears, according to the accounts of various survivors. Even before the uncanny sound might be heard, a searing blue light will sweep across the landscape evaporating shadows and blinding any foolish enough to look too closely into the source of this weird radiance.

Unnatural things, intrusive forces from some Parallel Realm or malign sphere of existence few know anything about, there are many unanswered questions regarding these mysterious, sinister creatures and too few definite answers...

There are those who would reward any intrepid investigator who successfully uncovers a clue as to the actual identity of these things or any facts regarding their ultimate nature. Divinations and prognostications do not work on these things necessitating the gathering of intelligence by the time-honored process of discrete pursuit and patient observation...

Recent Developments

  1. An Ill-Advised Attempt at Binding one of these things has resulted in the death of four students, leaving three others horribly burned and their Student Advisor Miss Kalisham missing and presumed either Displaced or possibly disintegrated. The Board of Inquiry is seeking the advice of anyone with what might pass for a reasonable amount of credible knowledge in these sorts of matters i.e. direct, personal experience in dealing with malevolent Irrlichts and related things.

  2. Mandival Kosrigand, a nearly destitute disgraced scholar with a penchant for exotic forms of Black Liquor claimed to have captured a specimen of what he prefers to refer to as an Effulgent Azure Orb, if only to annoy his detractors and rivals. When a group of his peers broke down the door to his study all they found was his charred corpse and what remained of his papers scattered in total disarray. Perhaps his method worked and someone moved to snatch it away before he could share it with anyone else. Maybe he was the victim of spontaneous combustion and there's nothing more to the matter. All that is certain is that someone would do well to take a closer look at things, just in case some sort of sorcerous skullduggery might be afoot...who knows who might be the next victim...

  3. A lone Forager who was presumed lost for three weeks reappeared just recently telling a bizarre tale about a strange series of caverns where all the exposed surfaces were vitrified to the point of being nearly glass-like due to the efforts of a '...radiant blue sphere of corruscating flame wreathed in a halo of sulphorous fumes that resented all intrusions upon its secret domain.' Allegedly the Forager was able to escape, but became lost in the Middle Deeps and was forced to wander through numerous unmapped areas before finally stumbling across a Sewer Militia Antekeep on the banks of a deep, cold river. They've only just left the custody of the Sewer Militia and word of their misadventure has spread quickly.

  4. Nasigallir of Greft, renowned for her research into photovoltaic phenomena has put out a call for research assistants and support staff, including a contract with a notorious fully licensed band of Pruztian deserters mercenaries...rumor has it that she intends to hunt down and either capture or destroy a number of Arctic Fireballs as part of her ongoing efforts at weaponizing various forms of Irrlichts under her grant and Letter of Patent & Marque bestowed upon her by Baron Ludrivarca Bollingern, master of one of the 'violently independent freeholds' that have seceded from the Empire now that the War has descended into anarchy and chaos. The Baron is not a man who abides chaos. At all.

Inspiration: The quote from M. P. Shiel's The Purple Cloud was the starting point for this nasty luminous horror that was somehow brought back from the Arctic by some ill-fated expedition or another. Perhaps it is somehow connected to the Inner City at the Two Magnetic Poles and the Dno-Hna Formula or is it one of the ancient and shining foulnesses that fester between the angles of Yr and Nhhgr? Possibly...

Monday, June 19, 2017

Zinn Soldiers (Combat Automata of Wermspittle)

The Soldier is a splendid manWhen marching on parade,And when he meets the enemyHe never is afraid.He rights the wrongs of nations,His country's flag defends,The foe he'll fight with great delight,But seldom fights his friends...

Bad translations of the surviving interrogation transcripts leaked by Yellow Journalists during the collapse of the First Pruztian Occupation have led to many inconsistencies and much speculation regarding the origination and derivation of the various forms of combat automata known as 'Zinn Soldiers,' so-called because of their special alloy-plating.

Zinn Soldiers (Conscript Demi-Automata)
No. Enc.: 1d4
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 90' (30')
Armor Class: 3 (as Plate Mail)
Hit Dice: 2+
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d6, or by weapon
Save: F2+
Morale: 11

Special: Unlike Fyters, Zinn Soldiers gain experience in their respective class(es). Most are Fighters, but some are more specialized and a rare few are dual-classed. Also Zinn-plated portions of these soldiers gain a +4 bonus to all Saves versus acid, corrosion, Black Smoke, Purple Vapors, etc. However Zinn Soldiers still need to breathe, even if their face or head has been reconstructed, thus they remain at risk from poison gas and can drown or suffocate.

Zinn Soldiers are conscripted troops that have been rebuilt from the shattered remains of badly wounded and dismembered soldiers recovered from the battlefield. Originally the process was something of a progressive and aggressive replacement of lost body-parts with cheap zinn-plated prosthetic limbs. Zinn Soldiers usually retain some portions of their original human bodies whereas Fyters never had any experience of the flesh, having been turned out as fully functional automata from the factories.

Those troops, including a few higher echelon officers and the like, that have only received a simple replacement hand, foot, arm or leg were returned to their units with little fanfare. Those unfortunates that required more extensive efforts on the part of the battlefield surgeons lost more than just their human appearance as they were summarily conscripted into special infantry units made-up entirely of survivors like themselves, all of whom were now relegated to permanent service with no chance of release until after the cessation of hostilities, and even then only by special dispensation in recognition of outstanding service. These units, while often small in number, served as shocktroops and kommando units, often being the first ones in and the last ones out, especially if things went badly. Having already been documented and listed as killed in action, these troops were seen as eminently expendable by the High Kommand.

In the last months of the Great War a number of Zinn soldiers refused obviously suicidal orders, opting instead to either desert or rebel against their commanders. As more and more of the Zinn soldiers became troublesome and rebellious, they were replaced by Fyters, combat automata that had never known life of any kind and lacking sort of flesh or remnants of humanity. The introduction of the first Fyters resulted in a majority of Zinn Soldiers withdrawing from the field of battle to either go back to their homelands or to march off in a random direction in search of some place they could claim as their own. Not being at all sympathetic to their once-loyal troops, the Pruztian High Kommand condemned these traitors and set specialized units of Maschine Killers the task of hunting down and destroying disloyal Zinn Soldiers.

It is rumored that many Zinn Soldiers have since found aid and support among the Borderland Keeps and other Pruztian settlements located outside the Imperial City and those enclaves directly connected by Unterrail or other means. A sort of outlawry has arisen along the frontier of the Empire with Zinn Soldiers taking over various Lakeside Manors and other fortified locations and engaging in acts of banditry and subversion against the Nobility and their lawful representatives and agents. Some few are making names for themselves as disciplined units of Freikorps and perhaps they shall one day redeem their reputations and force some sort of reconciliation with the empire. Others wantonly destroy everything in their way as they wander across the wilderness, rootless and aimless and ripe for some well-spoken warlord or other such opportunist to set them to nearly any sort of mischief.

Based upon actual reports from the battlefields and given unofficial sanction by certain highly placed individuals who spoke under condition of anonymity, lurid horror stories concerning a few flawed individual Zinn soldiers, possibly damaged in combat, caught in the attempt to replace portions of their zinn-plated limbs or internal systems with bits of flesh taken from corpses or in some cases still-living victims. Nearly all of those aberrant individuals were summarily executed upon discovery of their hideous acts. Thankfully this seems to be a relatively rare thing, but all manner of macabre rumors and horror stories are in circulation and fill the pages of Nickle Dreadfuls and less reputable scandal sheets.

Since the end(?) of the War few specialists have the skills or knowledge to construct Zinn-prosthetics or to attach them to still-living human remains. Those few who do possess this specialized knowledge tend to be kept under close watch deep within the most heavily-guarded and fortified sections of the Imperial City or one of the major redoubts used by the High Kommand.

There are of course numerous rumors of undead Zinn Soldiers, but there has been no verifiable proof of their existence and the High Kommand strenuously denies that any such thing is even possible...

Zinn is an alloy (98% tin, 2% lead, antimony, and other elements including a trace amount of Green Powder used in the Plattnerizing process) that is highly resistant to acids, poisons, fungi, mold and to some extent even the milder forms of Black Smoke. The exact formulation of Zinn was classified as a state secret by the Pruztian High Chancellery and knowledge of the formula was strictly limited on a need-to-know basis for more than fifty years and zealously guarded by the descendants of the Baumhoffer family until some agent or agents unknown managed to steal the notebooks, records and original test samples from the Baumhoffer family vault. The Prustian Imperial Laboratories have never been able to successfully duplicate the original formula for Zinn, though they have come up with a number of other useful alloys and compounds.

Inspiration: The Tin Woodman of Oz by L. Frank Baum which is available at Project Gutenberg, Wikisource or at Open Library.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Yellow Brick Roads

"It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour."
Charles Dickens

Yellow bricks do not seem all that threatening, except perhaps in the midst of a riot when someone might lob one through a window or something, yet the yellow brick roads leading to and from the Jumbles, the Barrier Woods, the White Orchard, the Inner Ramparts, and especially the Eastern Rampart are a lingering source of dread and an ever-present reminder of the implacable, ever encroaching, inhumanly patient things that rule over the ruins of more than one Adjacent World.

After the bombs stopped falling and people got on with the hard work of surviving and re-building things no one gave much thought to the yellow bricks they dug out of the wreckage and ruins. Even fractured, chipped and half-broken bricks were put to use in reconstructing hearths, homes tenement walls and market stalls. No one realized that the bricks were infected, no one would have cared that all the roads paved with these bricks led back to centers of pestilence, hotbeds of disease and infection. By the time anyone started to ask questions about something as commonplace and ordinary as bricks and the old roads originally built from them, it was well past the point of doing anything about it.

The old roads had been there before even the Three Camps were first established on the plateau where Wermspittle was in time founded. The yellow brick roads were older than the mounds where the rocks are cut with spirals of Aklo. Only the Blue Walls deep below are older, according to the descendants of the Etrurian outcasts who interred their honored dead and kept the Mystery Rites of their people in the outer caves. A few academics quibbled over increasingly esoteric and rarefied theories as to who built the roads and why, but for the most part people just took them for granted.

Crude, rectangular blocks of some dense, yet porous and highly durable unglazed ceramic; the old yellow bricks had endured millennia of exposure to the elements and to the ravages of all out war. It was only natural that the survivors put the bricks dislodged and torn loose by the bombs and artillery barrages to work patching their walls and shops and homes.

It wasn't until after the rebuilding effort was well underway that something terrible happened at the Eastern Section of the Inner Ramparts. The Guardhouse is surrounded by blazing pyres and quarantined under penalty of death. The survivors have all been issued flame-throwers and a small group of Puritans have been welcomed to assist with the constant burning of whatever has infected the lower levels of the all-but-abandoned Guardhouse.

Commandant Zulmer has sent scouts along the winding, twisting lengths of the various branches and by-ways of the old yellow brick roads. The way leading into Wermspittle from the Eastern Keep has been closed to all civilian traffic, unless they are transporting loads of 20 gallon glass jars of acid back toward the Guardhouse. All through the city yellow bricks are beginning to soften and to seep a sweet-smelling fluid with the unmistakable aftertaste of corruption and decay...and people exposed to the fluid began to chuckle until their mouths bled, their faces contorted in a hideous rictus that was somewhere between a scream and a smile. The lucky ones died well before their bodies blossomed into wet fronds of long dormant fungi...

Inspiration: The Yellow Peril by M. P. Shiel provided a meaningful (if slightly sordid) detour through some troubling history that was actually more than a little pertinent to this stuff, even if it isn't necessarily immediately obvious; Mister Sardonicus and The Man Who Laughs both contributed a little to the proceedings; Mr. Lovecraft's The Shunned House; Ambrose Bierce's An Inhabitant of Carcosa; Mr. Chambers' The King in Yellow,..and of course L Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of well as a certain song from 1973. And Yes, there is a definite, distinct connection between the Yellow Brick Roads and the Sickly Yellow Phantoms and Yellow well as the Inner Ramparts.

Monday, June 12, 2017


"Writing fantasy lets me imagine a great deal more than, say, writing about alligators, and lets me write about places more distant than Florida, but I can tell you things about Florida and alligators, let you make the connection all on your own."

No. Enc.: 1
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 60' (20')
Armor Class: 5 (as Chain Mail)
Hit Dice: 6
Attacks: 1 (Bite or Tail-slap)
Damage: 1d6+2 (bite), 2d4+2 (tail-slap)
Save: F6
Morale: 6

Special: On a natural to hit roll of 20 the creatures' Bite does half damage but it then locks its jaws and begins to roll or thrash about causing 3d4 automatic damage until it is dislodged. Likewise on a natural 20 to hit with the Tail-slap the target must Save or be knocked flat.

Vicious pernicious predators that slither and skulk in shadows and sewers, the Palegator is one of the more fearsome beasts that the Sewer Militia must face on an all too regular basis. The record for largest Palegator encountered to date is 27' at over 1,800lbs. Larger specimens are believed to lurk within the Middle Deeps or lower regions.

Heavy Leather armor fashioned from Palegator hide is much sought after by non-commissioned officers within the Sewer Militia mostly due to the legends and lies that have grown up around their regular encounters and hunting efforts. Many of them have sustained grievous wounds or injuries in the course of hunting, trapping and killing Palegators and so have taken to wearing the hide as a mark of honor. It is also worth noting that Commissioned Officers who have never actually been involved in one of these hunting expeditions are 'informally banned' from wearing this particular type of armor as it is seen as an insult by most of the rank and file.

A smaller, more agile sub-type of Palegator is to be found exclusively within the White Orchard. These creatures are notorious for ambushing unwary visitors who allow themselves to get dazzled or distracted. A small number of these beasts were recently acquired by a small clique of sorcerers who are rumored to be attempting to breed these things so as to create miniature varieties that might serve as either familiars or servitors. Of course this is all based upon the statements of a group of disgruntled adventurers who claim that they were not adequately compensated for their efforts. The sorcerer's identified in this claim have made no official statement.

There is a thriving market for Palegator eggs, especially in the Autumn and Winter months. Hatchlings are notable for their mottled coloration and while less desirable due to the attendant risks and hassles of handling them will still fetch a modest price year round. However, a hatchling that is nearly devoid of all markings is worth a great deal to some spell-casters, certain cultists and a few collectors of peculiar things. Should one encounter such a thing, it is best to remain discrete lest one tempt some interested party to resort to cheap and quick violence instead of haggling with opportunists...

Source of Inspiration: "Boys shoveling snow into a manhole discovered a 6-foot gator trying to make his escape from the sewer. The boys lassoed the sickly saurian with a clothesline and dragged him up to street level. Because the gator snapped at the kids (and thus convinced them he could indeed be dangerous), they attacked him with shovels and killed him. Speculation was the gator had fallen off a passing steamer, swum to shore and found the entrance to the sewer."
The New York Times, February 1o, 1933. More such urban gator-tales at Snopes.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Obscure

While fame impedes and constricts, obscurity wraps about a man like a mist; obscurity is dark, ample, and free; obscurity lets the mind take its way unimpeded. Over the obscure man is poured the merciful suffusion of darkness. None knows where he goes or comes. He may seek the truth and speak it; he alone is free; he alone is truthful, he alone is at peace...
by Virginia Woolf

There may be three or perhaps only five scholars and connivers who have achieved true Obscurity. Free from oversight, devoid of any restrictions, they relish their intellectual and personal autonomy. They walk through the halls of academia unnoticed and unacknowledged. Their watch everyone, observe everything, always quietly keeping to themselves and not getting involved. They are patient in their plotting and deeply resentful of their co-conspirators. It is disconcerting to know that one is not alone after all, that they each share their subtle anonymity with others, no matter how few in number.

Years they have wasted, each attempting to thwart the other, to derail the plans or machinations of their fellows...but always at a safe distance and under completely deniable circumstances. They have falsified records, hidden evidence, planted rumors like seeds sent forth on the wind, always working diligently from behind the scenes, uncredited and unsuspected.

No one noticed the deaths of their fallen colleagues. Even among themselves they remained only vaguely conversant with the rude outlines of one another's efforts, more an inferred presence than anything verifiable. They only started to pay attention when they realized that there were other players operating under other rules, others who were intruding upon the dawdling game among academics. The Unseen were very jealous of their position, the Murkim were apprehensive of their reputation, the Perdu would suffer no challenge to their prestige. No one noticed how one obscure academic after another met an untimely, unfortunate end. At least not until one of them attempted to speak out for fear of their life...

But who would listen to such a story? Who would care? Who could they turn to?

Perhaps a group of player characters...

Source of Inspiration: Orlando by Virginia Woolf, which you can read about at Wikipedia, or actually read the thing yourself for free via Project Gutenberg Australia, or purchase a copy via Amazon or watch the movie with Tilda Swinton...