This page is part of the Swords of the Red Sun Monsters Project.

The Cult of the Machine God excelled in creating mechanical monsters it used as servants, guardians, and on occasion assassins. I’ve already detailed the most common guardian, the Clockwork Skeletons. Below we discuss the Clockwork Servant, which is as common as the Clockwork Skeleton but less dangerous and the rarely seen Clockwork Hunter, the Cult’s assassins.

Clockwork Servants
Armor Class:8[11]*
Hit Dice:1+1
Number of Attacks: See below
Damage: See below
Dexterity:3d6(avg 10)
Movement: 40
Number Appearing: 3d6 , rarely found in wilderness
Save as: Fighter 1
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: None

The Clockwork Servant were utility items created by the Cult of the Machine God. They were roughly humanoid shaped although their limbs looked like jointed pipe segments than organics. Their bodies were a flattened metal cylinder with a dome emitting light for a head. While the legs ended in feet the arms ended in sockets for various attachments. The clockwork servants performed a variety of tasks including cleaning, cooking, and basic maintenance of cult holdings. They were also imbued with a basic self-defense and guarding mechanism. They had a variety of attachments for various jobs and these attachments affect their damage from attacks and the nature of the attacks.

For a random encounter generally I roll a d4 for each d6 and the d4 determines the d6’s type.

Servant Types

  1. Carpenter Servant: This servant did basic carpentry. It has hammer and saw attachments. If it is attacking a character pinned against an object or even standing against something it will attack with hammer and nails for d6 damage. Each damage point is a single nail. Once it has driven in 8+ nails the character must save versus turned to stone or be held for a number of rounds equal to the nails in it. The servant will pick a new target if the character is held. Characters who are free-standing are as lumber to cut and attacked with the saw for d8 damage.
  2. Cleaning Servant: A janitor servant it has a broom/mop attachment and a bucket attachment. It can attack with both each round, each for d6 damage. Every round roll a d6 before attacking. On 1-2 the servant instead dips the mop/broom in the bucket then attacks with the mop/broom only. If it hit the target is doused with cleaning solution. Cleaning solution is a mild contact poison which does 1hp of damage each turn until the character rolls an even number (use any convenient die).
  3. Gardening Servant: A garden servant has pruning shears and bug spray attachments. It can attack with the gardening sheers for d6 damage in melee. If not in melee it will use the bug spray as a ranged weapon. The bug spray is 5′ wide by 20′ long cone and is a neurotoxin. It does 2d4 damage with a poison saving throw for half damage.
  4. Cooking Hunter: The cooking servant will defend itself with its selection of cooking knives and its cleaver. It has four chef’s knives and a meat cleaver. In melee it will attack with the cleaver (treat as a hand axe). Outside of melee it will throw the knives (treat as dangers) and throw the cleaver last. If it is out of weapons from throwing it will try to retrieve them. If forced into melee its paring knife does 1d2 damage.

Because of the variety of options servants bring to the table a combat with many servants of multiple types often is more time-consuming that you expect.

Clockwork Hunters
Armor Class:4[15]*
Hit Dice:4+4
Number of Attacks: 1
Damage: d8 or weapon
Dexterity:3d6(avg 10)
Movement: 40
Number Appearing: 1d3
Save as: Fighter 5
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: None

The Clockwork Hunter is an advanced Clockwork Skeleton clothed in artificial flesh. They also have an actual, if primitive, artificial brain. They are capable of open-ended tasks, asking questions (“What’s wrong with your eyes?”) , and even giving commands (“Your clothes… give them to me, now.”). The voice is stilted and at best people will think they are a moron. They have of 17 strength and do receive your system’s strength bonus to damage and to hit (if any).

Whenever a Clockwork Hunter has taken half damage it is a tattered form on the Clockwork Skeleton frame. Characters seeing it this way have to save versus paralyzation or be frozen in horror for d3 rounds. If attacked they will snap out of the daze.

Clockwork Hunters encountered randomly are on a given mission on 1-2 on a d6. Check reaction for hunters on a mission. If it is positive they will engage the characters in an attempt to gain information about their mission. If negative they will attempt to move on and will only engage in combat if attacked. If not directly in combat they will again try to continue with their mission.

General rules for all clockworks
Clockworks have a weird vulnerability to electricity that appears to confuse them, often causing them to run away in a random fashion or cease working. If a Clockwork is the target of an electrically based attack it and all skeletons within 20′ of it react as if they were undead of equivalent hit dice being faced by a cleric. Roll to turn undead at the level of the person wielding electricity. If turned they move about randomly without attacking until they make a successful save. The round after they save they return to normal action. If destroyed they are not physically destroyed but merely freeze in place and cease functioning (if using BFRPG or similar games that interpret D as damaged instead of destroyed apply damage as per those rules).

* For BFRPG add 1 to the AC, for LotFP use the conversion guidelines from DM book

As per the licensing page the material in this box is available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License or the Open Gaming License. Choose the license which best suits your purposes but I prefer the Creative Commons.

Red Sun Day: Magical Weapons and Armor Alignment and Attunement

Under the Red Sun the imbuing of weapons and armor is a task for clerics instead of magic-users. The clerics draw the animating spirit of the item from the spiritual realm. One consequence of this is all magical weapons and armor have alignment. They work perfectly well for wielders of the same alignment at low levels of power but may or may not for those of other alignments. More powerful items are not only keyed to alignments but the deity or spiritual force that imbued them and will only work for adherents or those closely aligned to the powers in question.

Determining weapon alignment

If a magic weapon or armor is part of in a treasure hoard roll a D20 to determine its alignment (under the Red Sun the five alignment system reigns):

Roll Alignment
1-8 Lawful Good
9-13 Lawful Evil
14-16 Neutral
17-19 Chaotic Good
20 Chaotic Evil

Why are lawful items more common with lawful good the most common? Permanent powers are more aligned with a lawful world view based on structure and consistency. They are less in tune with the ability to recreate oneself associated with chaotic behaviors and do not inherently aid in maintaining balance between order and freedom or good and evil. Evil powers, even hierarchical ones, believe in a strong ruling the weak ethic and are much more cautious about empowering those weaker than themselves or their agents.

Attuning Minor Weapons and Armor

Minor weapons and armor are those with a bonus of +2 or less or special abilities no greater than spells wielded by a magic-user or cleric of 3rd level or less (both in level and frequency). At the beginning of each combat or before each usage of a non-combat power a character whose alignment does not match that of the item must roll a d3 and obtain a result greater than the number of steps of difference between his alignment and the items. If he does the item works for the combat or the power works. If not it is a normal item for this combat. If the failure was on a power attempt that usage is lost but has no effect. After a number of consecutive function roles equal to the character’s level + 1 the item attunes to that character and will always work for him. Any failed role resets the process. Going up a level during a series of successful roles does not reset the process but does increase the number of consecutive successes by one.

As per the licensing page the material in this box is available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License or the Open Gaming License. Choose the license which best suits your purposes but I prefer the Creative Commons.

Swords of the Red Sun Monster Project

Rooting around so for something else I came across an old post by Jeff Rients listing the 65 monsters from Holmes D&D and it got me thinking.

One thing generally recommended for making a campaign your own is to replace the stock monsters, spell, and magic items with your own.

I’ve already got one, Clockwork Skeletons, on the blog for Swords of the Red Sun. Maybe we should go for the mystic 65.

Holmes Monster Swords of the Red Sun replacment
Bandits Cultists
Dragon, Bronze Hur Dragon
Giants Kaiju (prior discussion, Wikipedia)
Spider, Large Clockwork Servants
Spider, Huge Clockwork Skeletons
Spider, Giant Clockwork Men

Your Cleric is an Initiate

Most D&D style settings have a polytheistic religion that is simply either:

  1. An overly simplified Catholicism with the various deities being similar to saints.
  2. A modern mix of individual churches similar to Protestantism in the US.

I think we’re missing a real opportunity.  While the first model is probably close enough to the state polytheistic faiths in the ancient and Classical worlds for the general faith of the people I think it misses the boat with clerics.

In the Classical world there were a series of religions variously known as mystery cults, mystery religions, or just mysteries.  Enough is known on two to even result in cult specific articles on Wikipedia: the Eleusinian Mysteries and the Mithraic Mysteries.  In fact, I wrote up a “race as class” version of Mithras a couple of years ago.

These cults were highly secretive and consisted of levels of initiation. The closest analog today is probably Masonic and similar orders as well as groups like The Golden Dawn. Based on that you might consider mystery cults to be more appropriate to magic-users.  While both groups are occult organizations the modern groups rely on intellectual understanding of the universe being increased instead of a divine revelation.  Both fit well in a campaign.

“But Herb,” I hear you say, “how does this differ for being a follower of the god Foo in traditional D&D terms.”  The biggest changes are social although some powers issues come up.  In the traditional D&D world your know that Foo’s worshiper are healers so that’s the temple you go to for healing.  With mystery cults you don’t know much if anything about the faith including what powers they bestow or where to find a high priest of Foo or even the site of Foo worship.  In fact, even a PC cleric who is a member of Foo’s mystery cult won’t necessarily know the powers of those above him especially those significantly above him.  Thus, the indulgence system of gaining clerical favors (go to the temple and make a donation) is replaced with a series of investigations, favors traded, and possibly initiation for PCs.  Remember, much of the cult knowledge is secret and cannot be taught or shared.  This has ramifications for PCs (see below).

In terms of powers the customization would be similar in some ways to AD&D2 but different in others.  Instead of assigning schools to a given cult I would recommend drawing up several circles of initiation.  Each circle could consist of a mix of myths, symbols, titles, and spells becoming available as well as qualifications.  While certainly a level component should be part of a circle change other activities, such as quests or ritual combat similar to the Druid, the Monk, or the Paladin regaining status could be included at the higher levels.

One important idea is don’t have the spells map to 2nd edition and later domains.  Mystery cults don’t map well to normal deities of the “sun god”, “rain god”, “war god” style.  They are much closer to early conceptions of cults in Runequest.

The other important idea is secrecy.  Sure, your third circle cleric of the Foo mysteries recognizes that symbol as the sign of Bar from the myths of the Snafu over the wedding feast but you can’t communicate those details to the party with risking a religious violation.

To give an example of circles, tomorrow I present my Initiate of Mithras as rules for a cleric.

Monday Pointers, DragonCon 2011 Edition

D4: The breadth of inspiration
Rob Knutz’s recollection of where many items in his and Gary’s early campaign drew inspiration.  If you think that because you’re playing a fantasy game means Iron Man comics and the products of Campbell’s Golden Age are off limits you really need to read this.  He explains much better (by showing, not telling) the idea I was after with the big list.

D6: Opening Pandora’s Box again
Timeshadows is right.  I’ve played T&T since 1979 and it’s my go to game for one-shots and convention games.  Which is why I’m running it at Consticon.

D8: A Far Northern Land
Thanks to Lin Carter’s anthology Lost Worlds, specifically his two “collaborations” with Clark Ashton Smith I got interested in the idea of a Greenland that was tropical and temperate instead of covered in an ice sheet. Wikipedia identifies Smith’s Hyperborea with Greenland although I’m not sure why (anyone got some pointers on that). Regardless, Wikipedia also provides us a map of Greenland sans glaciers with an awesome inland sea.

D10: Infinite Stars
Stars Without Number now has its own fanzine.  While you’re grooving in post-Scream space check out the game’s blog (just click on its title) for a bunch of clippings: little editions including some previews of  a Terra Post Dust supplement and the merchant version of Skyward Steel as well as adding wizards from your favorite old school game to SWN.  You could also use SWN’s psi class as an alternative to supplement three psionics.

Alternate Elves 2

My second inspiration for alternate elves also comes from science fiction, not fantasy.  In fact, this inspiration treats elves as martians.   Specifically the martians from In the Courts of the Crimson Kings by S. M. Stirling.

Alternate Elves

One of the biggest complaints about a lot of fantasy (novels and RPGs) is elves and dwarves.  The big complaint is they’re straight out of Tolkien.  Actually, they are more straight out of what people think is Tolkien (a huge complaint about AD&D in the Golden Age was the elves weren’t Tolkien enough).

In working on The World After I tried to do a different take on elves.  My primary inspiration was Marvel’s Weirdworld with Elfquest as a secondary influence.  ElfQuest, especially, is an excellent source for a variety of hot elf chicks.

The World After was also influenced by my take on elves from a stillborn AD&D2 campaign. I was cleaning up some computer files and found the notes on those elves.

The Bidden: The Elves. Little is know in the north about how they organize themselves or their history. What is known is 1000 years before the coming of The Tribes and about 500 years before the coming of the Kindreds they departed the world. The reappeared a little over 1000 years ago and almost immediately made war upon the Adeuian Empire, a human dominated state the occupied most of the known world.

The idea behind The Bidden is the Elves had moved and were sent back to the world to punish and rein in humanity. The Adeuian Empire, as well as other human cultures, was killing off dwarves and gnomes as well has halflings to a lesser degree (because unlike The Kindreds of Stone halfings were among the Tribes of Earth with men). This idea was taken not from fantasy novels but a science fiction story by Ben Bova, “Stars Won’t You Hide Me?”   It is anthologized in Escape Plus which Tor offers as a free download).

*Spoilers (go read the story, it’s free and it’s interesting)*

So, the idea that the last man is running from aliens who had been forcefully returned from somewhere (heaven?) to punish mankind a second time for a crime they committed really struck me. Elves are ancient, mysterious, and powerful. Their peak, however, was in past. Instead of a decaying races leaving this world, a la Tolkien and D&D canon in the Forgotten Realms I decided to run with Bova’s aliens. Elves, in this world, are not the long time enemies of dwarves, but their allies and protector against the crimes committed by humans. In the end, the campaign world was to have two kinds of elves: Royal elves who decided to reform humanity by ruling them and Vengeful elves who are still human hunters. The Royal elves fill the traditional elf role somewhat. Their royalty would intermarry with the last Emperors and the new empire spreading across the world is ruled by half-elf linages. The rest act aloof and tend to lecture and instruct humans using their superior wisdom. The Vengeful elves fill the “evil” elf role taken by the Drow but are more Lawful Neutral and driven to punish humanity so they may move forward on the cosmic wheel.

I have recently read a short story and a novel that have each inspired other “new takes” on elves. I’ll write them up as I get the time. My broader point is that what is in the D&D books is just a starting point. You can make elves (and dwarves, gnomes, and halfings) much more alien while still having some broad outlines that fit the rules and player expectations. Elrond, especially Hugo Weaving’s “Mr. Baggins” interpretation, would be right at home as a Royal elf and is only a tweak away from being Vengeful yet both concepts are far from Tolkien.

A is for APEMaN

The pride of the US Army in the period right before The Night of Blood and Tears was the Extended Mobility and Neutralization piloted robot. Designed for long term survivability they were the first successful attempt at larger than human sized fighting armor. While very few were deployed prior to the war they were very effective against demons, dragons, and inter-dimensional beings. As society collapsed one or more pilots were able to build fiefs by protecting the local populace with the suits as the stiffener to local militia.

While not hugely common between their strong survivability and the occasional unit found now and then in military caches they are still seen. Most suits are family heirlooms and most of those are held by de facto or outright noble families ruling over a small barony or county across the country side. Many adventurers fantasize about finding a suit and becoming a baron in their own right. While they are able to stand up to an individual dragon or demon, massed contemporary combat equipment, such as deployed by Superior and the other Lake States, can defeat an individual unit or even a small squad despite the individual superiority of the EMaN robot.

As Superior drives to expand they are pushing many barons out of their fiefs and the few that survive with their armor intact, or more often their children after a coup, have taken to the wilds as mercenaries and adventurers look for revenge or a new home.

Creating a APEMaN (Armor Pilot, Extended Mobility and Neutralization)

Requirements and abilities

Dexterity Requirement: 10+
Weapon and Armor Restrictions:APEMaN are trained in warfare and, as such,
have no restrictions on the kind of weapons or armor they can use.
Saving Throw:APEMaN receive a +2 bonus on saving throws vs. death and
poison (if using the alternative “Saving Throw Matrix” save as a fighter).
Experience Bonus for Dexterity: The APEMaN’s prime attribute is Dexterity and he thus gets a 5% XP bonus for a Dexterity of 15+.
Initial Skills: Armor Pilot and Field Mechanic at 2. Survival all at 1.

Level Advancement

Use the experience point totals, hit points, to-hit, and saving throws from the S&W Whitebox Edition.

In addition, starting at level 2 the APEMaN gains one skill point per level.

Starting Equipment

Armor Selection 2d20
2-4 No armor
5-10 Fully Functional Teutonic Armor
11-15 Hospitaller Armor with max half-hitpoints
16-17 Fully Functional Hospitaller Armor
18-19 Templar Armor with max half-hitpoints
20 Fully Functional Templar Armor

APEMaN characters also start out with 3d10 rounds of rail gun ammo. The rail guns can be armed with improvised ammo but with two effects. First, improvised ammo does 1d6 Extraordinary Damage, not Superhuman. Second, on a roll or 1 on any attack roll with improvised ammo the rail gun will jam. Clearing it in combat is hard task and fumbling it makes it impossible to clear in combat. Clearing can be done automatically in 1d8 hours outside of combat.

Given PC APEMaN are wanderers despite their equipment they tend to have little money. They start with 2d4x10 gold pieces or Superior Dollars (their choice).


  1. The EMaN Robot will be described on Wednesday, April 6 as the E entry in the challenge.
  2. The hit point and damage types will be described on Tuesday, April 5 as the D (damage) entry in the challenge.
  3. Skills are chance the chance in 12 on a d12, the same as finding secret doors in the S&W rules.

All RDR material is seriously alpha at this point. My first play test game will be the first Saturday in May.

Rifts Done Right

RDR (maybe call it Radar) is a tag that I’ve added a couple of times. It is my latest probably not to be finished project. Specifically it stands for Rifts Done Right. It won’t technically be Rifts converted to a retro-clone given Palladium’s rather nasty policy of sending C&Ds to anyone who posts conversions of their material to other systems. Despite that routinely threads turn up at about converting Rifts or doing it right. Most talk about converting it to a “better system” with as diverse a list including EABA, Savage Worlds, Mutants & Masterminds, FATE in several incarnations, Hero, and GURPS regularly coming up. I think that’s misguided as the “clunky, broken, and unbalanced” system Palladium uses is a big source of the gonzo fun that makes Rifts work.

Instead, I’m working on a retro-clone based (probably Swords & Wizardry White Box) game inspired by Rifts: a gonzo post-nuclear and magical apocalypse game about guys in powered armor adventuring with dragons in order to kill demons coming to Earth via tears in reality. After all, if you want weird gonzo science fantasy after the end of the world why not go back to the original “balance, we don’t need no stinking balance” game style. Palladium’s house system has it’s roots in the late 70s/early 80s old school style. In fact, they are arguably the last great old school gaming company.

Why am I bothering to post all of this? Because in surveying my A to Z Blogging Challenge planned posts I see just how many are RDR based. Given that I figured explaining it up front was worth while.

Sure, after April it might turn out to be another Space Monks or Demon Haunted World but I hope not. Both of those projects died for lack of players for me to test my ideas. After this Saturday’s Stars without Numbers game RDR will be what I run at local meet-ups. I find it hard to create RPG material if there is no game to use them. I’m hoping it’ll be a hit at the Meetup and become a monthly game.

What Do Welsh Porn Stars Know About D&D

The Welsh Piper expanded upon an excellent idea from Zak at Playing D&D with Porn Stars. GM oriented materials, especial setting materials, are written wrong. They are long tomes of text resembling histories or fiction instead of stuff you can use at the table.

Zak has since done a couple of posts that one could see as GM exercises similar to writing exercises. The first, as part of the original post, is “What’s Chewing On That Carcass? Table For The Last NonDungeon Place Your PCs Were…(roll d6)”. The second, a day later was “d6 Why Did that Happen?” table for the last city or settlement your PCs visited. The first seems less useful to me but the second is great in terms of explaining the secret behind what to me was just an event that the players fixated on.

Yet even the first, is useful if you look at Erin’s reasons this is so brilliant. It’s a weird, simple encounter table which makes it easier for me to customize my encounter/random event tables.

What really struck me is how my “5 & 23” idea for gathering PDFs of The World After info falls into this. It’s also a cheap and easy idea for blog posts.