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 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).

Personal Appendix N: T is for Two to Conquer

Two to Conquer is another Darkover novel sharing a setting Hawkmistress, although considerably later time wise.

It has stronger science fantasy elements combined with a weird Prisoner of Zenda type plot. The book opens with Paul Harrell, a criminal sealed into a stasis coffin, being summoned out of it to Darkover. He is the unique duplicate of Bard di Asturien and has been summoned to provide his duplicate. Bard is one of two leaders struggling to unite the Hundred Kingdoms. The novel covers the beginning of their union under the Compact achieved not by Bard, who is the novel’s principle character, but his rival Varzil the Good.

The book has several very game worthy ideas. The most interesting is the science behind not only the ability to summon Paul but why he had to exist: Cherilly’s law. The law states “Nothing is unique in space and time except a matrix; every item in the universe exists with one and only one exact duplicate, except a matrix stone.” A matrix stone is a stone native to Darkover (but also capable of being created) that amplifies psionic powers. Matrix stones and Cherilly’s Law could be a magical idea that could propel an entire series of adventures or even be a cornerstone of a campaign. Imagine a megadungeon which made prominent use of this principle.

There are a couple of other ideas that jump out at me. Among things in the Compact is the outlawing of distance weapons requiring those who intend to kill to place themselves at risk. The other is the novel recounts the initial interactions between the the Priestesses of Avarra and the Sisterhood of the Sword mentioned in the Hawkmistress entry which leaders to the Order of Renunciations.

S is for Suppressed Transmission

You know about the suppressed transmission, of course? No? Oh, well.

Consider the following list:

  • Hollow History
  • Emperor Norton
  • Airship sightings
  • Spring Heeled Jack
  • Le Comte de Saint-Germain
  • Chess
  • Conspiracy
  • The Tempest
  • Alternate Earths
  • The King of Cats
  • The Lamina
  • Captain Heinlein of the US Spaceforces

What do they all have in common?

They are part of the Suppressed Transmissions.

Suppressed Transmission was a weekly column by Kenneth Hite that ran in the online version of Pyramid Magazine for 300 columns. It covered a range of topics that Hite described in the first column as conspiracy, horror, secret history, and alternate history. Covering a wide variety of topics he mixed references to legend or odd facts with gaming interpretations in most columns. While there were plenty of references to GURPS, given the source, there wasn’t really any game specific materials. Some of his departures from the standard format were campaign reports on two different Unknown Armies campaigns, an annual analysis (in the aforementioned areas) of a Shakespeare play, and a couple of worked examples of applying the materials to a game.

While collecting weird has been something I’ve always done it was the Suppressed Transmissions that got me involving it in my gaming. At this point that usage has become a hallmark of my style. Much of the World After is directly influenced by material from columns and much of the rest is influenced by the style Ken Hite brought out in the columns.

Sadly, with the end of Pyramid Online access to the columns in no longer available. Those of us who still had subscriptions were able to download all the content although even then some Suppressed Transmissions are missing. Steve Jackson Games did produce two volumes collecting some columns. These volumes are excellent with extensive footnoting and cross referencing of the columns. Sadly, these volumes are still available in physical format. I say sadly because their poor sales have kept SJG from investing the time and effort needed to get more of the columns collected. There has been a Where I Read series of posts about them on RPG.net by someone who saved each column as it was written. One expressed purpose behind the series is to get the books sold out and the PDF version selling high enough to warrant more being done. Given the love of conspiracy porn these days I’m not sure a better effort isn’t getting the books read outside of the gaming community.

L is for Legion of Superheroes (A-Z catch-up post)

While The Knights of the Dinner Table are how I maintained contact with the broader gaming community while not gaming much it is not my one true love in comics. That honor is reserved for my first love in comics, The Legion of Superheroes. I still remember my first Legion comic. My grandfather bought me Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes Limited Collector’s Edition in the summer of 1976 and I fell in love. The book as a large sized reprint format both big comic makers tested in the 70s.

As noted above the book was reprints. The principle story was a reprint of Adventure comics #369-379 which were the first appearance of Mordru the Sorcerer, one of the greatest of villains the Legion would face. He was the creation of Jim Shooter who was about 15 at that time having written his first Legion story about a year earlier. His run is the Legion’s first Golden Age and saw not only the introduction of Mordru but also the Fatal Five, my favorite super villain team of all time, and the death of Fero Lad, one of the few genuine deaths in superhero comics.
I would go on to semi-collect the comic for the rest of the 70s starting with issue #226 which introduced Dawnstar. I suspect the fact she was long my favorite Legionnaire and inspiration for my first RPG superhero (a heroine called The Nightingale who I created for Champions and played in Superworld). This was during the Legion’s second golden age with Paul Levitz writing and Dave Cockrum (later famous for helping reboot the X-Men) and then Mike Grell drawing. Dave’s classic costumes are still THE costumes for many of the Legionnaires in my mind, especially the side laced Princess Projectra and Phantom Girl costumes. I also followed the Karate Kid spin-off comic at that time.

I would drift away for the book about 1980 until 1983 when spurred by the purchase of Champions I would ride my bike to every nearby convenience store to purchase comics. I just missed the classic Great Darkness Saga although I did get Annual #3 as it was released which included the story’s epilogue. My actual return issue was #298 and I would be a regular reader until I joined the Navy.

I would be an irregular reader after that until about the same time I started up with KoDT. By this point the Legion was in its first reboot. While the rebooted Legion was interesting I enjoyed the Threeboot Legion that would begin in 2004. It’s run, including the very enjoyable Supergirl and the Legion of Superheroes period would come to an end with the return of the DC Multiverse. Starting with the Lighting Saga that ran in both JSA (my other favorite DC super team which I followed during its 70s All Star run) and JLA, the original Legion is back in mainstream DC continuity although the other two teams remain official in alternate universe and even worked together in Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds. The Legion returned with the return of Adventure comics and now once again have their own book. The run in Adventure now features the Legion Academy.

I’ve skipped a ton of stuff including the short lived Wanderers comic and the first reboot Legion becoming the New Wanderers, the time the Legion joined the annual JSA/JLA cross-over, the bouncing from Action to Adventure to Superboy to kicking Superboy out of his book to different series, and tons of other great material. With a history as long as the JLA and nearly as constant a presence there is a ton to mine.

While as noted above Dawnstar would show up in my Champions learning experience and as a character in a Superworld game, although melded with Black Canary, I never ran a Legion game or, despite loving the Legion, the JSA, Infinity Inc., and the All Star Squadron owned the Mayfair DC RPG. I have tried to generate interest in a Legion oriented game or at least a Legion influenced game. My recent alternating Thursday campaign pitch is an example of the later. I’m not sure why I never got the MEGS DC Heroes back in the day. I had bought the earlier MSH (I had dutifully collected X-Men like all good early 80s geeks as well as Defenders which is the only Marvel team I ever really bought into until recently). I think it was a combination of the game coming out as I left high school, already owning several supers games (Champions, Superworld, MSH, V&V, and Superhero:2044). It wouldn’t be until I started collect the reboot Legion that I got Blood of Heroes. I did eventually get both Legion books and the Time Trapper adventure series. If the M&M derived DC game comes out with Legion books I’m sure I’ll get them (and wind up upgrading M&M).

R is for Rifts

Okay, who didn’t see this entry coming?

For the three of you out there who don’t know what Rifts is the following is the description from the Palladium catalog:

Rifts® is a multi-genre role-playing game that captures the imagination unlike any other. Elements of magic, horror, and the supernatural co-exist with science, high technology and the ordinary. The game spans countless dimensions, making anything and everything possible. Players are truly limited only by their imaginations!

That really doesn’t capture it. A better example is this ad from the Dragon twenty years ago when it was released. The ad also mentions the first three supplements Palladium produced for the game. The Sourcebook openly admits to being material cut from the core rules for space and it includes some excellent if whacked setting info (more about it below). The first two world books, Vampire Kingdoms and Atlantis, include some great ideas. Vampire Kingdoms features a central America ruled by vampires invulnerable to all human weapons but vulnerable to wooden stakes and running water. It was evocative enough that almost two decades later while reading the Dresden Files novel Changes I couldn’t help but imagine the Red Court Vampires of Central and South America in Rifts via the same supplement. Atlantis includes magical tattoos and the inter-dimensional slavers the Splurgoth and their Blind Slave Women who were on the cover of Rifts first addition. Either of these books would be a great supplement for an old school science-fantasy campaign.

That is the power of Rifts. It is the Arduin of the 1990s combining classic fantasy tropes in a Gamma World setting being invaded by demons from hell whose depredations are opposed by mecha pilots. Every complaint about Palladium rules I mentioned in my Palladium post are present in spades. In fact, many of those complaints apply to Rifts exclusively or nearly exclusively.

Rifts also has an excellent off-shoot/subsetting: Phase World. This intergalatic campaign divided among three galaxies is perfect for Legion of Superheroes or other space supers campaigns or wild anime style space opera as well as classic Edward “World Wrecker” Hamilton and Doc E. E. Smith space opera. Among the great additions in Phase World are the Cosmic Knights which I’ve described as “The Green Lantern Corps with a Knights of the Round Table Questing Knight image instead of magic rings.”

Still, I find myself buying Rifts books on the used market regularly. My anger over the company’s internet policy has softened enough that the latest Phase World supplements I may buy outright. I started off this month with my RDR (Rifts Done Right) material and tomorrow will include a more mundane post in that series. Rifts is a constant source of discussion and dismay over on RPG.net, mainly a desire to find the right system to run it (hint, Palladium or some other classic D&D variant is a requirement IMHO).

For the old school Rifts, more than almost any other Palladium line except perhaps fantasy, is a set of overlooked classics. If you want gonzo, metal, comic book science fantasy you owe it to yourself to find a ley line and walk into the Earth of Rifts.

K is for Knights of the Dinner Table (A-Z catch-up post)

While I was married I did very little gaming and came close to losing all connection to the hobby. When my wife and I separated I started to regain my connection to gaming in general and, in many ways, the older side of the hobby through one principle mechanism, a comic book. That comic was The Knights of the Dinner Table (KODT for short).

The comic wasn’t new to me. I had kept reading magazines during the 90s in between rare games. I even have several issues of Shadis prior to 10 including #2 with the first appearance of the Knights…well, of BA and Bob. It was hanging out at the Dragon’s Lair in Hartford, Connecticut (or was it New Britain, they were close to the line) on a Friday night that I bought my first issue. I soon collected all the back issues I could and have been a regular reader ever since.

For those not familiar with the comic it’s primary story concerns the exploits, mostly but not exclusively, at the game table of the titled group. The consistent members have BA, a long suffering DM; Bob, the archetypal power gamer compensating for lack of control in his real life; Dave, a specimen of that rare breed, the jock gamer (if only mild as a jock); Sarah, book club loving specimen of the women Vampire brought to the hobby; and Brian, rules lawyer and con man who you keep around because when the chips are down loyalty rules over everything else. The game they most commonly play is Hackmaster which became popular enough to become a game in it’s own right. They have also played several other games from the same company including Hacknoia (X-Files), Cattlepunk (Western), Spacehack, Scream of Kachooloo, and Heroes and Zeros (supers). Two other groups have appeared more than one: The Black Hand Gaming Society and Patty’s Perpetrators.

The world of KoDT is arguably an RPGer’s dream, where large associations and conventions are common and the FLGS is still the meeting place and hang out. The stories often involve convoluted plots in the real world that are attempts to gain advantage or revenge in game. Those convoluted real world plots are one of the great aspects as you and buddies have tried those very plots in game multiple times.

In fact, the greatest strength of KoDT is it’s realism. It’s not realistic in the traditional sense of the plots mirror the real world. Instead, the character bring the realism. Each of the regulars including the Knights, Black Hands, and the preps are people we’ve with whom we’ve played games. My current group is a mix of the Knights and the Perps and I would jump at a chance to play with either group (although I’ll admit I’d prefer the Perps).

It’s that realism that reconnected me to gaming when I came back. It reminded me of where the real fun of gaming is. It’s in sitting around a table with a bunch of people who if they aren’t friends they will be after a few sessions. It’s in the slightly off personalities we all bring to the table. It’s the obsessions that come through in our characters.

KoDT is all of that writ larger than life.