Saturday, December 30, 2017

Looking To The Public Domain For Game Artwork

Artwork draws the eyes, draw the eyes and you draw the attention. Artwork is a necessity for any visual medium, especially blogs and gaming content. If you want your work to catch and hold the reader's attention, you need to add visuals, even if they are only moderately related to the content.

But original artwork costs $money$ and very few of us have extra money available. Stealing artwork is out of the question. One should always give credit and attribution to artwork made available for public use by creators.

The Public Domain offers an enormous amount of freely available artwork for the cash strapped writer, or gaming creative team. But give care to where you get your artwork from. Though it may be in the Public Domain, some artwork has been altered, or modified, by many websites, and copyright issues can become a problem if you misappropriate their work. Always check your sources thoroughly.

Here is a list of artists in the Public Domain. It is by no means exhaustive, but should provide an excellent selection of various styles to choose from.
The Deluge, engraving William Miller, c.1844

Heinrich Aldegrever
John D. Batten
John Bauer
Ivan Bilibin
William Blake
Hieronymus Bosch
Harry Clarke
Gustave Dore
Ernst Haeckel
John Huss
Theodor Kittleson
Henry Justice Ford
John Milford
William Morris
Alphonse De Neuville
Adriaen Pietersz
Arthur Rackham
Lancelot Speed
Christian Von Mechel
Lucas Brandis
Louis Le Breton
Walter Crane
Albrecht Durer
J. M. Gandy
Arthur Hacker
Adolf Hiremy Hirschl
William Hogarth
Wenceslaus Hollar
Franz Huys
Paul Jamin
Alois Kirnig
Karel Vitezslav Masek
William McAusland
Evelyn De Morgan
Sebastian Pether
Edouard Riou
David Roberts
David Ryckaert III
Anton Seder
Sidney Sime
John Vinycomb
Marten Eskil Winge
Milo Winter
N. C. Wyeth

Eve Tempted by Serpent, c.1799-1800, William Blake

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Historical Maps of John Speed

John Speed is probably one of England's most celebrated map illustrators. His maps are amongst the most sought after by collectors. And fortunately for the gaming community, these beautiful maps also quite useful for adventure campaigns.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Polyhedral Dice: Keeping It Strictly Platonic

The five classic Platonic Solids, are the basis of the original polyhedral dice; tetrahedra (4-sided, d4), hexahedron or cube (6-sided, d6), octahedron (8-sided, d8), dodecahedron (12-sided, d12), and the icosahedron (20-sided, d20).

Original Polyhedral Dice from Creative Publications - included in early TSR products

Now days there are specialty dice with more and fewer sides, manufactured for various games. But the classic five are still the basis upon which most game systems stand. These other dice, often referred to as novelty dice, aren't really needed because the numbers they generate can easily  be duplicated using the five basic shapes. In our home campaign, we prefer to keep our tables and other materials limited to the basic platonic solids. Though we do include the ten-sider and "percentage" dice for further convenience.

Personally, I admit to being an old Grognard. I'm set in my ways and slow to change, unless given a really good reason to do so (including, but not limited to, being lazy, cheap, or convenience).

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Curious Creatures: Shadow Striker

Shadow Striker
Also called: Shadow Viper, Shadow Serpent

Hit Dice: 2 (9 hit points average)
Armor Class: 3 [16]
Attacks: 1 bite, for damage see below

Base Attack: +2
Saving Throw: 16
Special: Paralyzation, Drain Constitution, Immune to Sleep and normal weapons
Move: 12
Alignment: Chaos
Challenge Level/XP: 5/240

Shadow Strikers, are a strange aberration of necromantic and phantasmal energies, that have been around for untold ages. In their natural form, they appear to be living snake shaped shadows.

They live within the shadows of the natural world, flitting from one shadowed area to another, always staying out of fully lit areas whenever possible. If they must venture into an area without shadow, they will form an illusionary snake form to slither under, acting as its shadow. If this illusionary form is dispelled, either by dispel magic, or having Light cast upon it, the Shadow Striker will flee to the nearest substantial source of shadow, to take refuge. Shadow Strikers are completely invisible in shadows and make no noise.

Strikers are immune to the effects of Sleep, and normal weapons. They are affected by Snake Charm.

A Shadow Striker attacks by "biting" its victim, forcing a Save vs Paralyzation or the target collapses for the duration of the attack, becoming incapable of any voluntary motor functions. The Striker then drains one point of Constitution per round, up to the total hit points the Striker has when at full health. Should the victim is drained to a Constitution of 0, they must make a System Shock roll or die. A successful System Shock roll means they lapse into a coma for 2-7 (1d6+1) hours, after which they regain consciousness with full Constitution.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Curious Creatures: Axxor


Hit Dice: 9

Armor Class: 4 [15]
Attacks: 2 claws (1d4), 4 tentacles (2 each)
Saving Throw: 6
Special: Enfeeble Mind
Move: 12/12 (flying)
Alignment: Chaos
Challenge Level/XP: 14/2,600

The Axxor are foot soldiers of an ancient and terrible race that serve the Dark Ones. Often they are sent out to kidnap important victims, or to bring back "food" for those they tirelessly serve. Otherwise they will be guarding the lairs of their masters without question or deviation, never needing to check Morale within their dark tunnels.

In combat, if an Axxor hits a target with both claw attacks, then the victim is drawn in and immediately attacked by four tentacles. These tentacles need only make a melee touch attack against the target to latch on. Each tentacle then automatically does 2 points of damage per round, taking eight rounds (-1 round per tentacle attached) to suck the brain from the victim, killing it. Victims losing all hit points are considered sucked and dead. Should the victim be rescued, or break free of the grapple, the process needs to be started all over again. Victims of  Enfeeble Mind will not be able to struggle to free themselves.

Axxor can perform the following abilities at will; Fly (as per the spell - unlimited duration), Darkness 15' Radius (the Axxor sees through this darkness), Summon one other Axxor (10% chance per round), Enfeeble Mind (as per the Feeble Mind spell, works on all victims, turning them into drooling vegetables, -4 Saving Throw).

These horrid beasts are immune to Poison, Acid, Sleep, Charm, and Blindness spells and affects.

Axxor may guard treasure, but will never possess any of their own. They do not use weapons, magic items, or anything else whether for attack or defense.

The graphic of the Axxor is based upon a statuette of Cthulhu, available on-line as, Cthulhu Rising".

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Optional Rules: Starting Attributes and Character Growth

In the earliest days of the hobby, having high attribute scores offered very little in the way of bonuses to character performance. Also, there was no system¹ for the growth of a character's attributes, though there were plenty of ways to have various attributes lowered.

At most, a character would enjoy a +1 bonus for having a score of 15 or better in a characteristic. These ranges and bonuses were later expanded upon, and only in later editions of the original game were rules put into place to allow characters to increase attribute scores as they progressed in levels.

Character generation also had a fair chance of creating characters with dreadful drawbacks, such as crippling low strength, intelligence, health, etc. It is true that some players can, and do, enjoy role-playing the hell out of such characters, for the most part such "hopeless" characters were scrapped and new characters had to be re-rolled, wasting everyone's time.

The following rules, written for my home campaign, allow character generation of solid, playable characters, and allow room for growth as they progress in level. These rules also go hand-in-hand with the optional rules for using attribute scores as percentages to  determine if a character's actions are performed successfully or not. (See this article here.)

As always, these rules are guidelines and may be adjusted as you, the DM, see fit for your own campaign. This system is intended for Player Characters only, not NPCs.

Instead of standard rules of using 3d6, characters are generated by rolling 2d4 and adding 7 to the total. Starting attribute scores will range from 9 to 15, with average starting scores ranging from 11 to 13.


Final Score

Players may add +1 to any one attribute of their choice upon attaining levels 3, 6, and 9. If the DM wishes, an additional +1 may be added to a character's prime attribute only for every three levels beyond 9th. If a character possesses more than one prime attribute, it is up to the DM to decide which may be raised.

Attribute Bonuses/Penalties Table:


Optional: Spell-casters are limited in the level of spells they may access directly related their prime attribute score. A character may only cast spells of a level for each point their prime attribute is over 10. If a magic-user only has an Intelligence of 11, then they are limited to first level spells. If they have an Intelligence of 14, then they are limited to a maximum of fourth level spells. This system is meant to be used in conjunction with the optional multi-classing rules which will be covered in a future article, so be sure to subscribe to this blog for that upcoming update.

¹ - Magic tomes found in random treasure tables, or the occasional odd magical statue or fountain, do not count as a system!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Friday Freebie: DragonQuest

DragonQuest is a fun little tabletop RPG from 1980. It went through two editions before being acquired by TSR and a third edition published in 1989. The game has since been abandoned By Wizards of the Coast, though there is a thriving on-line community of die-hard fans.

Files for the game system have been published on-line with permission by WotC.

DragonQuest does not use character classes, but instead uses a system of professions with skills. It is NOT a clone of Dungeons & Dragons by any means. First and second edition are both the same, though cleaned up and clarified in the later.

Third edition was put out by TSR when they took over the property. No real differences from 2nd edition, except some spells and colleges of magic were removed to avoid the, "Satanic Panic", of the 80's.

A very well-done character sheet. A necessity for keeping track of the many details found in the DragonQuest rules system.

There is still a large, active, community of DragonQuest players online, with many links to fan-made materials.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Bazaar of the Bizarre: Merchants & Open Market Stalls

Sometimes my players decide to "go shopping" at the nearest open market, with very little warning. This forces me to generate a quick number of merchants and temporary shops on the go. Personally I suspect my players do this just to see if they can catch me unprepared, or to perhaps catch that momentary glimpse of panic in my eyes on the rare occasion.

The following tables are provided as a simple guide. You don't have to roll on all the tables for each stall visited, as some results will help you decide on other aspects of each shop yourself. Completely random results could easily contradict each other, so use common sense.

The merchant is selling from:
  1. A small foot drawn/push cart
  2. A wagon
  3. Under a tent
  4. Rugs on the ground
  5. A semi-permanent stall
  6. A permanent stall

Source of Merchandise:
  1. Merchant makes/grows themselves
  2. Merchant outsources
  3. Business partner - Legitimate
  4. Merchant buys and trades elsewhere
  5. Merchant buys and trades locally
  6. It's best not to ask

Quality of Merchandise/Consumables:
  1. New / fresh
  2. Like new / still good
  3. Used / still usable
  4. Poor / questionable
  5. Bad / barely usable
  6. Trash / unsafe

Initial Asking Prices:
  1. Fair market value
  2. Slightly high
  3. Slightly low
  4. Insultingly high
  5. Priced to sell quickly
  6. Reasonable offers accepted / Haggling welcome

Merchant is doing:
  1. Bustling, selling out quickly!
  2. Brisk business
  3. Average, as to be expected
  4. Slow day
  5. Very slow day, needs sales
  6. Practically being shunned

Merchant's Appearance:
  1. Well-dressed
  2. Modestly attired
  3. Plainly attired
  4. Obviously a hired worker
  5. A foreigner
  6. A beggar

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Friday Freebie: Marvel Super Heroes (FASERIP)

For all of you die-hard fans of the original, and advanced, Marvel Super Heroes RPG (FASERIP) system, we bring you.. everything.. FREE!

Yes, we know this is only Thursday, but as it's Thanksgiving, we thought we'd give you your treat early.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday Freebie: Talislanta - Still NO Elves!

In 1987, every game was beginning to look a lot like another. Just about every fantasy game system was chock full of halflings, gnomes, dwarves, and of course.. elves! So when an ad appeared in Dragon Magazine that said, "No Elves!", many players new and old perked up.

Bard Games, published, The Chronicles of Talislanta, the first in a series of books about a role playing game called, Talislanta. The fantastic artwork of P.D. Breeding-Black and a quirky world setting influenced by the works of author Jack Vance soon earned the game something of a cult following in certain circles, as well as some pretty good reviews.

Since then, Talislanta has been through 5 different editions, including a D20 edition, and a 10th Year Anniversary edition. The background information for the setting is simply amazing. And now, celebrating its 30th year, every edition of the game rules has been made available to you, FREE of charge.

You can download everything from, HERE.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Optional Rules: Ability Checks and Fatigue

Not all OSR game systems have skill lists, or even formal rules for professions. Like the original game system they spawn from, the Referee usually makes a quick ruling and players then roll dice accordingly. Often these rulings are based upon the attributes of a given character, i.e. Strength, Intelligence, etc. However, this informal system can quickly degrade into a series of endless dice rolls, without taking into account the eventual fatigue and declining rate of returns for doing so. The following is a simple system proposed to help balance over-use, or even abuse, of rolling against attributes.

A character is considered to be able to perform any number of reasonably easy to moderate tasks throughout the day without rolling Checks against their attributes. Only when performing a task that requires concentrated effort that challenges a particular attribute will a Check need to be made. Basically, any task that requires major effort by a character, or one that has consequences should they fail, require a Check. 

Usually a character may roll a Check against a particular attribute with a score of 9 to 12, up to three times a day before becoming Fatigued. Characters with weaker attributes, ranging from 3 to 8, may only roll two such Checks. While characters with stronger attributes of 13 to 18, may Check up to four times per day. Once a character has used up their Checks for the day, or has failed a Check roll, they are considered Fatigued and any subsequent rolls will be made at a penalty (decided upon by the Referee) which will progressively get worse for every attempt that is made after.

A Referee may decide that any character making Checks against their Prime Requisite attribute (for their class), may do so an additional two times per day.

Once a character has become Fatigued from over-using any one attribute, they are considered Fatigued for any and all other Checks against other attributes for that day as well. Thus, a character that has spent the day lifting rocks, isn't going to have a clear head for figuring out riddles that evening. Or if a diplomat has had to spend all day in Court schmoozing (Checking against Charisma), they certainly will be too knackered to play a challenging game of darts later.

Fatigue lasts until a character has rested for eight (8) hours, after which they have recovered and may begin anew.

Referee's are encouraged to create their own Check system, but in our home campaign, we use the following:

Roll 2d6

  • Strenuous task requires an 8 or better to succeed
  • Difficult task requires a 10 or better to succeed
  • A very difficult task requires an 11 or better to succeed

Checks are made whenever the Referee decides that individual character is challenged. If a task does not challenge the character when performing it, there is no need for a Check roll to succeed. It is possible for some tasks to be considered a challenge for a character with a weaker attribute, but not one with a stronger attribute, and thus will not require a Check from the stronger character.

For example - Bob (Strength 9) is lifting hay bales for four hours. This is back breaking work for him, so the Referee asks Bob's player to roll a Check. Aragrond (Strength 15) is working beside Bob, the Referee decides Aragrond only needs to roll a Check at the end of eight hours.

Alternatively, some Referees may take a character's attribute score and use it as a percentage base to see if the character succeeds at a task. This alternative uses a sliding scale as follows:

Roll % Dice

  • Strenuous task requires a roll of Attribute Score x 4% or less to succeed
  • Difficult task requires a roll of Attribute Score x 3% or less to succeed
  • Very difficult task requires a roll of Attribute Score x 2% or less to succeed
  • Impossible task requires a roll of Attribute Score x 1% or less to succeed

Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday Freebie - Faster Monkey Games

Faster Monkey Games began operations in February of 2010, but sadly closed shop in November of 2016. However, the Sparks Brothers, were generous enough to make their entire Product line available FREE to the gaming community!

Originally these adventures and game aids were created for  the Labyrinth Lord system and Mutant Futures, but they can still be used with most OSR retro-clones of the original fantasy role-playing game system.

Detailed descriptions of each product are available at DriveThruRPG, where you may download them free of charge.

Ignore Free Gems and Free Jewels, as these are limited preview products for All The Treasures Of The World, Gems and Jewels.

A Mother's Touching Request

Recently, on social media, we came across the following message -

Julie Waggoner (Wyatt's Mother): "Last week my 17 year old son Wyatt Ferris took his own life after suffering a traumatic brain injury. He was very active in the gaming community, both as player and GM. In order to show our endless love for Wyatt and to honor his countless hours at the gaming tables, we're asking GMs and storytellers around the world to add Wyatt as an NPC in your games. Wyatt was a paladin, cavalier, war priest, rogue, swashbuckler, investigator, Hellknight bodyguard, and more. Please see the photos here of Wyatt and use the hashtags #Play4Wyatt #WyattNPC so we can follow his continued adventures. Thank you for helping this broken hearted mother mend after this tragic loss. I love the gaming community for starting this for my son. My Twitter is @baddicebad."

Well, Julie, we've heard your call, and are currently working on a character for Wyatt to place in our long-running campaign. It is always a tragedy losing someone, especially one so young. Our hearts and prayers go out to you and your loved ones during this difficult time. Rest assured that many of us in the gaming community will immortalize young Wyatt in our various ways, as tribute to his spirit and passion. Thank you for reaching out with your beautiful request. We are honored to participate

#Play4Wyatt #WyattNPC

Dear Readers, if you, or anyone you know, are in need of someone to talk to, please don't ignore the warning signs. Seek help. ALL calls are confidential. 1-800-273-8255

Thursday, November 2, 2017

DM's Toolbox: Polyhedral Results Using Only D6

Okay, you've grabbed everything for the big game and drive across town to where the group is gathered, only to find that you've left all your dice at home! Don't panic. We here at Portcullis, have you covered. All you'll need are two standard six-sided dice, commonly found in any board game.

Generating numbers 1-2 (1d2)

Roll one six-sided die (1d6)
A result of 1, 2, or 3 = 1
A result of 4, 5, or 6 = 2

Generating numbers 1-3 (1d3)

Roll one six-sided die (1d6)
A result of 1, or 2 = 1
A result of 3, or 4 = 2
A result of 5, or 6 = 3

Generating numbers 1-4 (1d4)

Roll one six-sided die (1d6)
A result of 1, 2, 3, or 4 = 1-4
A result of 5, or 6 = ignore and re-roll

Generating numbers 1-5 (1d5)

Roll one six-sided die (1d6)
A result of 1, 2, 3, 4,or 5 = 1-5
A result of 6 = ignore and re-roll

Generating numbers 1-6 (1d6)

Roll one six-sided die (1d6)

Generating numbers 1-8 (1d8)

Roll two six-sided dice separately (or two dice of different colors at the same time)

First die = 1d4

Second die =1d2

A result of 1 = +0 to first 1d4 result (1-4)
A result of 2 = +4 to first 1d4 result (5-8)

Generating numbers 1-10 (1d10)

Roll two six-sided dice separately (or two dice of different colors at the same time)

First die = 1d5

Second die =1d2

A result of 1 = +0 to first 1d5 result (1-5)
A result of 2 = +5 to first 1d5 result (6-10)

Generating numbers 1-12 (1d12)

Roll two six-sided dice separately (or two dice of different colors at the same time)

First die = 1d6

Second die =1d2

A result of 1 = +0 to first 1d6 result (1-6)
A result of 2 = +6 to first 1d6 result (6-10)

Generating numbers 1-20 (1d20)

Roll two six-sided dice separately (or two dice of different colors at the same time)

First die = 1d5

Second die =1d4

A result of 1 = +0 to first 1d5 result (1-5)
A result of 2 = +5 to first 1d5 result (6-10)
A result of 3 = +10 to first 1d5 result (11-15)
A result of 4 = +15 to first 1d5 result (16-20)

Generating numbers 1-100 (1d100)

Use 1d10 method twice

First 1d10, subtract 1 for 0-9

Multiply by 10 (0, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50,  60, 70, 80, 90)

Second 1d10 add to first 1d10 result (0-90)

Total 0-99 (0=100)


A special Thanks goes out to, Joel Priddy, from over on, An Abominable Fancy, for laying this out in InDesign, and turning it into a downloadable PDF (HERE). Joel, also improved the original method of generating 1d100. Outstanding!