Swords and Wizardry Appreciation Day

I had hoped to participate in Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day but the same forces of real life that destroyed my A-Z this year have gotten me here too.

I got interested in S&W about the time I discovered what would become the OSR. That said, S&W never really became my mainstay for traditional D&D style gaming. My first shot and most recent shot at returning old style D&D (ie, how I played from roughly 1978 to 1985) was with Basic Fantasy. In between I did run a Labyrinth Lord game.

Where S&W always shown to me was in being class/level gaming striped to its core, first with what became S&W Core later with S&W:White Box.

In the past I’ve tried to develop ideas as diverse as a weird Star Wars/Dune hybrid/Dune hybrid. There was A Demon Haunted World which was Dungeons and Buffy.

The one I’ve put the most work into, though, is redoing Rifts on a S&W:WB chassis. What other game could you graft scaled damage and use the different hitpoint types to make cyborg fighters (that character option is easily in the top 5 of my favorite creations on this blog).

I had hoped to add to the RDR posts with the Motorhead (my juicer type fighter…named after both the Hawkwind song and the slang term) today but I just didn’t get it done. Hopefully I’ll get some time this weekend

Doing a Kickstarter Right 2: Majus

I’m a sucker for contemporary fantasy games. Despite not being a huge vampire fan I have both editions of the same named White Wolf game. I have nearly all of their new World of Darkness, a complete Nightlife collection, and so on. My favorite games, and books, in the field are the ones about wizards. Mage the Ascension was my first WW game and its successor was my first new World of Darkness game. I have the PDFs of the two classic DaveB actual play threads on RPG.net.

So, it should not surprise you that I jumped on the Kickstarter for Majus as soon as I heard about it.

This is a good example of a Kickstarter done right. First, it meets my write it first rule. While the Spears of the Dawn Kickstarter offered the alpha, art free version to all backers once the Kickstarter funded Goblinoid Games has gone one better: as soon as you pledge you get access to a PDF of the current version. While it does need another proofreading (it shares rules with Rotworld and a few zombie apocalypse references are still there) the game is complete and playtested. Even if this Kickstarter doesn’t found everyone who pledges, even if only $1, gets a PDF of the game now.

Another nice feature is the lack of stretch goals. I think some Kickstarters get so obsessed with bonuses that they risk delay due to them. Instead, the author and artist will get profit sharing from money over the goal. I’d rather overage go to the creators, especially ones with the wisdom and character to write the game first and then raise funds, than go into bling that might delay delivery.

Finally, I have great memories of Star Ace from Pacesetter back in the day. Chill, of course, is a classic. I’m hoping some success with Majus will encourage Goblinoid Games to get the rights to them, especially the later, and get them back in print. I’d especially like to see Chill rules aligned to the rest of the Pacesetter Games.

I’m in at the $65 level for softcovers of all three Pacesetter Games put out by Goblinoid Games. If you have fond memories of Chill, Star Ace, or Timemaster or would like a nWoD/Dresden Files game with rules that allow for pick up and play gaming (10-20 minutes to create a character, 10-20 minutes to explain the rules. so about the same as BX) I recommend taking a look.

I had been considering trying to start a Mage but I’ll be starting a a Majus one instead (admittedly heavily influenced by the former). The ability to just pick up and play makes starting the game and getting people much easier. It also involves less sunk cost if the game doesn’t take off. This is a key feature of Pacesetter Games (and most old school games in general) and as someone without a strong, years old group due to regular moves a vital feature.

If you’d like more information, Michael Curtis (of Stonehell, The Dungeon Alphabet, and Realms of Crawling Chaos fame), the author, has three posts on his wonderful blog about it: One, Two, Three

For details on the Pacesetter System see the Goblinoid Games forums: Part 1, Part 2.

A-Z Challenge: Dragons

This page is part of the Swords of the Red Sun Monsters Project. The Hur Dragon replaces the Holmes Bronze dragon.

Under the Red Sun dragons are most know as having been the backbone of the Last Empire. While their magics and their never having left earth are major differences between the Imperial Elves and the Lunar Elves (and man for that manner) you only have to consider the other name for Imperial Elves, Draconic Elves, to understand how important the dragons were to the empire’s spread and how their slumber is to the empire’s decline.

For if there is one thing to understand about dragons it is that they slumber. While the need to slumber between campaigns had always been a limit on the empire each cycle is growing longer. Whereas in the early days of the empire it might be a month between dragons’ waking periods with perhaps a season after a long campaign it is now measured in years. In fact, the imperial war dragons have slept since the campaign of Kiyomoro twenty-three years ago.

The other thing about the dragons is their fatalism about the Red Sun. The last known dragon birth was nearly half a millennium ago. Those who have studied and dared to ask dragons have gotten an impression this is due to the closeness of the Red Sun’s final day. The dragons have decided no dragon will die under a cold sun.


Unlike most D&D like games ACKS uses dragon age to define Hit Dice, AC, damage, and other dragon characteristics. In the stats below a / separates the ancient and venerable except for damage and spells where the | is used. Under the Red Sun dragons come in two age categories: Ancient (400-700 years old) or Venerable (700+ years old). On a d4 any roll but a 1 indicated a venerable dragon. The HD ranges below cover the two age ranges above. The last listed power is only available to venerable dragons.

Hur Dragon
% in Lair: 70%/90%
Dungeon Encounter: 1d2/1
Wilderness Encounter: 1d2/1
Armor Class:11/12 (S&W: -2[18]/-3[19])
Hit Dice:18/20
Number of Attacks: 3/4 (claw/claw/bite/tail) plus breath
Damage: 1d12/1d12/4d10|3d4/3d4/5d8/5d8
Dexterity:3d6+3(avg 10)
Movement: 240′ swimming
Save as: Fighter 1
Treasure Type: R/R,N
Alignment: Chaotic
Spells: 3/3/3/2|3/3/3/3/2

Breath Weapon: 90’x30′ steam cloud for HDd6 damage up to 3 times a day
Rot of the River Muck:: Characters within 20′ of the dragon must make a Saving Throw versus Poison or be nauseated by itsoverwhelming stench. Nauseated characters suffer -3 to attack throws and damage rolls for 1d4+4 rounds after leaving the dragon’s vicinity.
Acrid Blood:Any opponent successfully hitting the dragon in melee must save versus Poison to avoid being splashed with highly venomous blood. A failed saving throw results in death.

The longest river of the world is also the abode of its last swimming dragons. The Hur Dragons are long swimming snakes who long ago lost the ability to take to the air. They can breath blistering steam and have the stench of river muck where they spend most of their time wallowing. Their lairs are deep depressions in the river created by their wallowing, usually with a sandbar forming against their back and solidifying over time on the upstream side. Sometimes this bars form small islands.

Hur Dragons are rarely found sleeping (1 on a d20 for ancient, venerable never) and then only in their lairs.

The “saving” grace of the Hur Dragon is they are lazy. All have the power of speech and often, especially those whose wallow has created an island, will collect tolls on the river instead of hunting. Some river traders have been know to call them “river trolls” (although never in a dragon’s hearing) due to this feature.

A-Z Blogging Challenge: Cultists

This page is part of the Swords of the Red Sun Monsters Project. They are the Swords of the Red Sun replacement for Holmes’s bandits.

Lethargy and decadence are not man’s only response to the dying of the sun. As with just about everything else in human history the Red Sun and the cooling earth have become a cause for fanaticism. There are two major divisions in types of cults: those who wish to prevent the Sun’s death (and perhaps even reverse its cooling) and those who wish to hasten it.

Both are generally chaotic forces in the world. Sacrifices of various kinds are common solutions presented to the sun dying. Many cult leaders are sincere but plenty of con arts will use “sacrifices” of worldly good to enrich themselves while the occasional sociopath will use it to justify wholesale slaughter. A handful of cults, exclusively of the save the world kind, attempt to restore the sun by getting man on a moral path. While some of these are lawful, and you expect them all to be, many have become so fanatical that those who will not embrace their sun saving codes are put to the sword.

% in Lair: 30%
Dungeon Encounter: Cell (2d4)/ Mystery (1 Cell)
Wilderness Encounter: Congregation (1d10 Mysteries) / Synod (2d6 Congregations)
Armor Class:By armor type, normally unarmored
Hit Dice:1
Number of Attacks: 1
Damage: 1-6/weapon
Dexterity:3d6(avg 10)/ 2d8 x d10 in lair
Movement: 120′
Number Appearing:
Save as: Fighter 1
Treasure Type: None if not in lair/H in lair
Alignment: 1-10: Chaotic 11-12: Lawful

For every 30 bandits there will be a 4 level fighter serving as a leader. For every 50 there will be a 5th (1-3) or 6th (4-6) level fighter. Fighters generally have leather (1-7), chain (8-11), or plate (12) armor and a sword and shield or pole arm.

Over 200 cultists have a 25% chance of a mage of 8th level. They also have a 25% chance of a fanatical cleric of 10th (1-4) or 12th (5-6) level. These clerics are not attached to an order but draw on the fear of men of the world ending. They cast from the standard list but can only cast the reversible version of reversible spells.

Fighters have a 1% per level chance of having magic armor, shield, and weapon (roll separately for each). This is increased to 5%/level if a cleric is present given enchanting armor and weapons is a clerical power under the Red Sun. Such weapons will be attuned. Clerics have the same 5% chance per level for the same items.

Mages have a 5% chance per level for wands/staves, rings, and miscellaneous magic.

Cultists are generally unarmored and use clubs or daggers. If a fighter is present there will be three times his level will be armored one level below his armor (minimum of leather) and similarly armed.

A-Z Challenge: Beggars of Baslim and Brewers of Papazian

Today we feature two more clerical orders of the Red Sun: the Beggars of Baslim and the Brewers of Papazian. This two work some of the oldest paths of the Soul of Man: the seeking of alms and information and the creating and imbibing of alcohol.

The Beggars’ patron is actually relatively recent, coming from the myths about man travelling to the stars. Of course, even the elves traveled no further than the moon so Baslim’s home was a forgotten city and not another world. While Baslim did in fact beg for alms for the poor like so many of the beggars and other unnoticed he also dealt in secrets. Today his spiritual decedents beg for the money to support their alms houses but the members support themselves primarily in espionage by hearing conversations only the unnoticed can hear.

Beggars in ACK

Holy Symbol:Tin beggars cut with “all the worders for beggar” engraved upon it.
Temples:Alms houses
Allowed weapons: Beggars use the typical clerical weapon array. The most common is the staff which is often used as a walking stick or crutch as many beggars appear lame.

Spell Substitutions
Beggars use their powers more in efforts of spying than in efforts of succor although they are often second only to the Physicians of Holmes in healing.. As a result make the following spell substitutions to the stock divine list:

Still working on their spell list

Beggar Template:
Proficiencies: Lip Reading, Sensing Power
Starting Equipment: Tin beggar’s cup (holy symbol), quarterstaff, , peasant tunic and pants, sandals, blanket, small sack, 2 week’s iron rations

If the beggar is one of man’s oldest professions the brewer cannot be far behind. From the first spoiled berry juice to the first water-logged grain to the first still man has enjoyed indulging in drink. The Brewers still enjoy it today. While it might seem brewing does not allow for much use of power in the world the Brewers can create a variety of potent spirits that smack of alcoholic alchemy. Their spells are often those of fortifying the spirit as well as the body, sustaining both through stress and strain. They are so focused on fortifying spirits that they do not use holy water but holy wort or must (unfermented beer or wine).

It should also be pointed out that the spreading decadence under the Red Sun has created many desiring to follow the paths of pleasure. Many a glutton can be numbered among the Brewers.

Brewers in ACK

Holy Symbol: A very charismatic wooden spoon used to stir holy wort or must.
Temples: Speakeasy or Beer Garden (the later are more common rural areas where members grow their own grain, fruits, and hops)
Allowed weapons: Brewers may wield the normal clerical array but prefer to use scythes (treat as a flail).

Spell Substitutions
Brewers concentrate on sustaining the mind and boy. As a result make the following spell substitutions to the stock divine list:

Still working on their spell list

Brewers Template:
Proficiencies: Alchemy, Craft(fermenting and distilling)
Starting Equipment: Charismatic wooden spoon (holy symbol), scythe, chain mail armor, crafter’s tunic and pants, low leather boots, leather belt, a wineskin filled with good wine, a wineskin filled with good beer, 1 week’s iron rations

A-Z Challenge Plan

Now that I’ve finally gotten my A post out on Monday some notes on my plan.

For this year’s A-Z challenge I will be presenting information from my Swords of the Red Sun setting. In keeping with the ideas of Zak among others I’m trying to keep the fluff writing to a minimum. As a result I plan to have each day’s post include usable game content. This content is designed for Adventurer Conqueror King but will work usable for all versions of Classic D&D.

I hope those of you who play RPGs will find this odd world of the far future entertaining and perhaps even inspire you to give RPGs a whirl. I hope my fellow gamers find some inspiration for their own games.

A-Z Blogging Challenge: Abolitionists of Tubman

One of the oldest sins in the Soul of Man is slavery. Consequently one of the oldest currents tapped into by clerics is opposition to it. The most common clerics under the Red Sun to tap into resistance to slavery are the Abolitionists of Tubman. Their patron in the Soul of Man is a woman of middle years who always appears in a drab shawl with a scarf about her head.

The Abolitionists strive to free slaves of any kind with their abilities. They are not an exceptionally martial order. Instead, they free their charges by stealth instead of the sword. They are commonly known to hire those of questionable character for their stealthy abilities.

Although they claim to have always been with us, the Abolitionists rose to their current prominence at the height of the Last Empire. Stealing away slaves from the Draconic Elves they were in many places the only resistance to the Last Empire for decades. As humans and others began guerrilla resistance to the Last Empire it was common for them to use Abolitionist Stations as assembly points. When open resistance began they played a less prominent logistical role but continued as a core ideology.

As the sun has cooled the order continues to work. The Last Empire has mostly shrunken to the Islands of Morning Calm but many of its successors, even in places where the Abolitionists were key to the resistance, continued slavery. In a feat of irony some Stations began to shuttle more Draconic Elves escaping slavery by humans than humans escaping slavery (the later at human and elven hands). As the world grows more decadent and people want to lounge in luxury waiting for the end slavery has become more, not less, common. As they have since the days of their patron, the Abolitionists will stand against it until the sun goes out.

Abolitionists in ACK

Holy Symbol:Set of broken shackles or a latern with lenses of red and green
Allowed weapons: Abolitionists use the typical clerical weapon array. They often assemble broken shackles on a poll as their most common weapon (treat as a flail). Also common is the quarterstaff (which doubles as a walking stick).

Spell Substitutions
Abolitionists lack access to spells that steal the will of their target. Instead, the tap into powers allowing for stealth and escape. As a result make the following spell substitutions to the stock divine list:

1st Level: Replace Command Word with Pass without Trace (from the ACK Player’s Companion).
2nd Level: Replace Hold Person with Obscuring Cloud (from the ACK Player’s Companion). Replace Snake Charm with Water Route (see below).
5nd Level: Replace Quest with Invisibility, 10′ radius (same as Arcane third level spell).

New Spell: Water Route
Divine 2
Range: 0′
Duration: 1 turn per level

One of the best ways to flee is over water as it leaves no trail or scent. This spell allows the person it is cast on to walk on water at their normal walking movement rate. It also keeps them above water and dry.

Abolitionist Template:
Proficiencies: Navigation, Disguise
Starting Equipment: Flail made of broken shackles, banded plate armor, crafter’s tunic and pants, cloak, checkered head scarf, leather belt, high boots, waterskin, small sack, holy book (The Exodus of Moses), 1 week’s iron rations, red and green lensed lantern and a flask of common oil (holy symbol).