Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Optional Rules: Wands

The wand and staff are two of the most commonly recognized symbols of the magic-user. Whether simple or ornate, they are a symbol of status and  education within the arcanist community. They also serve several more functional and practical purposes as well. This article will focus on Wands.

A wand is the first basic tool an apprentice ever learns to craft. It is both an educational and personal experience. It takes months for the student to research, gather materials, and create their first initial wand. There can be no shortcuts in this intense process. Failure to craft a wand has spelled the end of many hopeful arcanist's aspirations before their careers have even begun.

The particulars of crafting a wand are left to each individual Referee. Because wands factor into even the most rural and humble of magical traditions, it is suggested that monetary costs not be a factor, but focus more on study and difficulty procuring the necessary materials. Of course, this process is already considered to have been successful for any character of the first level.

If a Referee wishes, it is suggested that a character crafting their first wand, roll as though learning a new spell, on the Intelligence Table. A bonus may be granted for extra preparation and quality of materials used on the student's behalf.

An arcanist will use their wand throughout their studies. Without their personal wand, they will be unable to perform many of the important experiments or cast the basic cantrips and glamours which are necessary to advance in their craft.

A magic-user is able to focus ambient personal mystical energies through their wands, allowing them to cast an arcane bolt up to  30 feet, doing 1d3 points of damage. Each day, they may cast as many bolts as points of Intelligence as the character has. Due to long familiarity and habit, a caster can draw, or re-holster, their wand without use of an action, but must have their hand free to do so.This ruling was put in place to make casters a bit more "magical", so they wouldn't have to stand around basically throwing lawn darts at opponents. 

If the Referee allows magic-users to cast Cantrips in their campaign (See upcoming article.. hint.. hint), then their personal wand will the be the only component needed to cast these simple spells.

A wand can not be used by anyone but its original creator. The Referee may rule that another magic-user may use a wand that is not their own, but only to cast arcane bolts, and with the penalty of taking 1 hit point of damage for each bolt cast through the strange wand.

How ornate or elaborate a wand is, has no bearing on game mechanics, but simply reflects the personal tastes of the item's creator. Referees may allow a magic-user to sense the general distance and direction of their personal wand up to a predetermined range, if they so desire.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Myths & Monsters: Bonnacon

Bonnacon (also Bonacon)

HD 3
AC 7 [12]
Atk 1 headbutt (1d6)
Move 18
Save 14
CL/XP 4/120
Special: Caustic Spray - Cone 30' long x 20' wide

The Bonnacon resembles a great bull, but with a shaggy mane like a horse. Its horns curl backwards, making them all but useless for goring in defense.

When startled or attacked, a Bonnacon will turn and attempt to flee, releasing a putrid spray of liquid caustic manure. This spray will cause 3d4 points of acid damage, and if a victim fails their saving throw they will be incapacitated by the stench for 1d10 rounds.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Adventure Seed: The Wyvern & Gnome

The Wyvern & Gnome, is a fortified inn, situated along a stretch of prosperous trade road that comes into close proximity to a lucrative river route. The goods and services exchanged between these two routes pass directly through the area controlled by the garrison stationed at the Wyvern.

Image Copyright - Maciej Zagorski, The Forge Studios
Important NPCs:

Strega Hammerhand - The resident smith, Strega can make or repair, tools, weapons, and armor, made of iron or steel. His apprentice does the small stuff, like nails, chains, and horseshoes. His left hand was lost to a gator down by the river. It has since been replaced by a mount for various attachments, used for holding, and working on the forge.

Ssel Orm - One of the lizardmen river traders. Ssel, speaks very good common so he was chosen to broker deals between the warm-bloods and his own people. If anyone needs something moved along the river, Ssel, is the one to see. While the Lizardmen care little for the "legality" of items transported, they do charge accordingly.

Ozimondi the Alchemist - A human magic-user and alchemist, Ozimondi's duties include assaying the content and purity of metals, and appraising the value of rare and exotic items for tax and sale purposes.

Quetar the Collector - Secretly a cleric of the God of Thieves, Quetar, poses as buyer and seller of rare and valuable items. Aside from his illicit fencing of purloined items, he actually does a brisk business in legitimate antiquities and rarities. Thieves and smugglers know very well not to attempt to double-cross him.

Rai Ak the Necromancer - Exploiting a loophole in local laws, Rai Ak, deals in the sale of zombie and skeleton servants as laborers and servants. Because his business deals with the dead, it isn't considered slavery. Powerful merchants and nobles, that profit from the use of these workers, ensure that this unsavory trade is unhindered and remains completely legal in this region. (Recognizable local corpses are boiled to strip the flesh, and raised as skeletons.)

Mezgahn of the Purple Cloak - A failed magic-user apprentice, Mezgahn, turned to stage magic and thievery. He uses his "illusions" and trickery to pull of heists and con games. At no time does he bilk locals, maintaining a reputation of honesty and trustworthiness.

Tenam from Afar - A barbarian warrior from elsewhere, Tenam, has no filters. He doesn't sugar-coat anything, nor tolerate deception. 

Gaithkrac the Pious - Specializing in healing, curing, and removing various conditions, and even curses, Gaithkrac, can not use any other types of magic.

Philha Chor - Runs the local trading post within the Wyvern & Gnome.

Ael Ormo - Runs the tavern within the Wyvern.

Raylokra - Retired adventurer. Does the occasional odd job if it peaks his interest.

Ithsa - Retired adventuress. On and off again companion of Xorsa, she also occasionally keeps company with Raylokra. A powerful enchantment from a previous adventure keeps her Strength at 18 despite her advancing years.

Khailem Est - The local administrator. Khailem, oversees the orderly and honest collection of taxes on trade goods and large sums of money that pass through the region.

Xorsa Rin - The local garrison captain, stationed at the Wyvern. Xorsa (Zorsha), is a hardened veteran of numerous battles. Her garrison is made up entirely of dervishes. They are completely loyal unto death to their captain, and abstain from drinking, sex, and other worldly pursuits.

Local Garrison Troops:

  • One dozen light cavalry, with chain and shield, scimitars, crossbows and spears
  • One dozen footmen, with leather and shield, scimitars, crossbows and spears
  • Two additional cavalry Sergeants
  • Two additional footmen Sergeants
  • All dervishes fight with a fanatic focus, granting +1 to hit and damage in hand-to-hand.

The map and inspiration for this adventure location is brought to you courtesy of the good folks at, The Forge Studios (Click Here). If you like their work, please consider supporting their Patreon campaign, where you will gain access to further freebies and other benefits. The map used here is, The Wyvern & Gnome - Fortified Inn, available for free at DriveThruRPG (Click Here).

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with, The Forge Studios, or DriveThruRPG. Links provided are not affiliate links and I do not receive any remuneration or funds of any sort for providing them. This is simply my way of helping to support products I enjoy.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Optional Rules: Benchmark Level Racial Abilities For Dwarves

The following rule options are written specifically for both Swords & Wizardry Complete and Core Edition.
Dwarven healers attend to a patient in need.

A common theme in OSR game systems, emulating early D&D, has been the split approach on non-human races available to Players. Either these races are treated as separate character classes, or they are presented as a straight package of initial stat adjustments, a few abilities, and then given limited class progression caps. Both systems have their pros, and cons. This article does away with either approach, and gives a third alternative.. benchmark level racial class abilities.

These benchmark racial class abilities rules are based on the standard rules, for non-human Player Characters (PCs) with limited level progressions, but with a few additional benefits and abilities granted at certain levels. This helps encourage players to pursue playing non-human races, and helps alleviate some of the sting of level caps.

Dwarves - The dwarf player character has a +4 on saving throws against any magic, and easily takes note of certain features of stonework: sloping corridors, moving walls, and traps made of stone – in particular: falling blocks, rigged ceilings, and tiny arrow slits designed to release poison gas or darts. They can also identify whether stonework is recent or not. There is no established die roll or rule for using these abilities; exactly what a Dwarf does or does not perceive is up to the Referee. Dwarfs can see in the dark (darkvision), to a limit of 60 feet. This vision is black and white only.

Dwarven player characters may be Fighters, Thieves, Clerics, or multi-class in any two, or all three of these classes. Multi-classed dwarves are limited to 6th level maximum in all three classes. Multi-classed dwarves may not take advantage of any XP bonuses due to high ability scores.

A dwarf that is purely a Fighter may advance beyond 6th level only if the dwarf has a Strength of 17 (maximum 7th level) or 18 (maximum 8th level). Such a fighter may also take advantage of any XP bonus due to a high Strength score to gain experience more quickly.

A dwarf that is purely a Thief may advance beyond 6th level only if the dwarf has a Dexterity of 17 (maximum 7th level) or 18 (maximum 8th level). Such a thief may also take advantage of any XP bonus due to a high Dexterity score to gain experience more quickly.

A dwarf that is purely a Cleric may advance beyond 6th level only if the dwarf has a Wisdom of 17 (maximum 7th level) or 18 (maximum 8th level). Such a cleric may also take advantage of any XP bonus due to a high Wisdom score to gain experience more quickly.

Racial Class Benchmarks:

  • At 2nd level, dwarven fighters do not count the weight of any armor worn towards encumbrance totals, nor does it count against them for movement purposes.
  • At 4th level, dwarven fighters battle with vigorous ferocity, granting them an additional +1 to hit and damage bonus in hand-to-hand combat.
  • At 6th level, dwarven fighters gain an additional +6 to their total hit points, and gain +1 additional hit point for each fighter level beyond 6th if applicable.
  • At 8th level, dwarven fighters may build a stronghold, instead of the usual 9th level as per the normal rules for fighters.


  • Dwarven clerics do not receive the standard clerical ability to turn the undead.
  • At 2nd level, dwarven clerics master powerful runes and may scribe one cleric spell on a scroll. This takes one week of time and costs 150 gold pieces per level of the spell inscribed. These scrolls are only usable by that particular character, and no more than three such scrolls may be carried at one time. The character may only scribe spells that they have access to be able to cast normally.
  • At 4th level, dwarven clerics may cast Detect Magic, Find Traps, and Light once per day. These are in addition to their normally allowed spells.
  • At 6th level, dwarven clerics add the following magic-user spells; Darkness, 15-foot Radius, Explosive Runes, and Locate Object, to their third level clerical spells list.
  • At 8th level, dwarven clerics may establish a religious stronghold, instead of the usual 9th level as per the normal rules.


  • Dwarven thieves never gain the standard thief ability to Read Magical Writings.
  • At 2nd level, dwarven thieves gain an additional +1 (for a total of +3) on saving throws against devices, including traps, magical wands or staffs, and other magical devices.
  • At 4th level, dwarven thieves may make traps, recover traps, and set/re-set traps. The referee will decide on the particulars for their campaigns.
  • At 6th level, dwarven thieves gain an additional +10% to their chances of defeating magical traps.
  • At 8th level, dwarven thieves may establish a guild, instead of the usual 9th level as per the normal rules.
Future articles will feature similar rules for Elves, Half-Elves, and Halflings.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Optional Rules: Backstabbing Sonsabitches

Backstabbing, just the thought of it makes most players cringe. It's sneaky, lowdown, betrayal at its worst, used by the most despicable and dishonorable of scoundrels. On the other hand, it's also one of the best ways to take out sentries without raising an alarm.

Image in the Public Domain
While undoubtedly thieves and assassins are the most well-versed in this ungentlemanly art of betrayal, it's not something that they alone can perform. The following optional rules allow characters of other skill sets to attempt to backstab (now called Sneak Attack) should the necessity arise. Note, if these optional rules are used, discontinue using the ordinary backstab rules also.

A Sneak Attack may only be performed upon an unsuspecting target. If the target is reasonably suspicious of the character, and actively taking precautions to avoid a possible attack, then that target may not be sneak attacked. Of course, the target must be aware of the character, and keeping a close eye on them.

Only small to medium weapons may be used to perform a Sneak Attack. Large weapons, or weapons that require a lot of room to wield, do not lend themselves well to precision and speed, and may not be used. However, some reasonable exceptions can be made, such as stabbing with a spear, etc.

Ranged weapons may be used to perform a Sneak Attack, if the target is completely unaware of the attacker's actions.. such as performing a sniper attack from concealment. Such attacks are only allowed at short range for the weapon involved.

A Sneak Attack requires full concentration, allowing only one attack that round.

The target must have a physical form that the attacker can reasonably be expected to attack effectively with the weapon at hand. Normally the undead and certain other creatures are immune to Sneak Attack but exceptions can be made.. while using a dagger is worthless against a skeleton or zombie, using a sword or mace to crush their skulls is reasonable. Driving a stake through a vampire's chest is reasonable. Trying to "get the drop" on a Black Pudding is just silly.

Sneak Attacks gain a +4 to hit.

Non-thieves do full normal weapon damage (plus any bonuses) + 1 additional point of damage per character level. (A fourth level character would do an additional +4 points of damage.)

Thieves and assassins do full normal weapon damage (plus any bonuses) + 2 additional points of damage per character level. (A fourth level thief would do an additional +8 points of damage.)

If a Sneak Attack does more than half the target's total/full hit points, then the target must make a saving throw or drop to 0 hit points, and begin bleeding to death at the rate of 1 hit point per round if those rules are used, otherwise they simply die.

An additional side note here - Sneak Attack is applicable to hunting game.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Optional Rules: Large and In Charge

Playing In The Big Leagues

Giants, and giant-like creatures, are fearsome foes. Above and beyond their prodigious strength, their size and mass allows them to perform incredible feats.

Strength ratings are not given for giants. Their massive strength is already figured into hit and increased damage rolls. DMs are encouraged not to double dip.

Send 'em Flying: If a giant succeeds in an unarmed attack against a character, they may knock (kick, shove, or throw) that character away from them.. preferably into something or someone else. At the giant's discretion, the character may travel up to 5 feet for each die of damage the giant is capable of doing, and takes normal damage from the giant's attack.

Sweep: Instead of attacking a single target, a giant may choose to sweep all targets in front of them, with one massive swing. This attack only does half damage, but effects all targets within reach of their weapon. No attack roll is needed, but all targets are allowed a saving throw to escape the attack without taking damage.

Stomp 'em Flat: If the giant so chooses, they may use an unarmed attack to simply knock the character prone, doing full damage, and pin the character underfoot. Unless the character escapes next round, or help arrives, they will be crushed like a bug. A giant may only pin one character underfoot at a time.

Bull Rush: If a giant charges a smaller character, they may perform a free attack on that character, and continue up to their full movement. However, characters so charged, may set any spears or polearms to stop the rush. On a successful attack roll, they do double damage (roll twice the damage dice, any bonuses apply just once) and the giant is stopped from going further.

Now for the characters - 

Beware Stinging Gnats: Giants must be mindful of smaller creatures attacking their legs. If characters specifically attack a giant's legs and manage to do 1/3 the giant's hit points in cumulative damage, the giant will no longer be able to perform any of its special attacks.

"Q: Why do giants always throw boulders?
A: because they often engage numerous, smaller humanoids in conflict. Smaller humanoids don't like to be squished, so they stay at range if they can. Giants only carry giant-sized spears and other ranged weapons when expecting to fight other giants, so boulders become their weapons of choice. A giant will typically carry 0 to 5 (1d6-1) throwing rocks in a bag on their hip."

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Random Tables: Winding Streets Encounters

Winding Streets - 1d12 Random Table

  1. Someone empties a chamber pot from above.
  2. Object falls from above.. loose tile, body, etc
  3. Someone/thing has just slid a sewer grate closed from below.
  4. A zombie servant is on its way to deliver a message, package, etc.
  5. A woman approaches the group and throws her child into the arms of one of the party that is carrying anything. She will grab anything dropped and run. The "child", a halfling, will immediately attempt escape.
  6. A little monkey grabs something within reach from a character and escapes up a wall and through a window.
  7. A hungry puppy, or kitten, begs attention from one of the party.
  8. A scoundrel grabs a street urchin (child) and drags them kicking and screaming to sell them to a work house.
  9. A sketchy man approaches the party and offers to sell them Black Lotus. 1 in 3 chance it's Haga instead.
  10. An escaped bull is running rampant through the street! If not stopped, it breaks into a pottery shop and destroys everything.
  11. An Amazon shield maiden, of equal level, challenges one of the party to a duel for eyeballing her.
  12. The party is approached by a nondescript man and given a sealed scroll inviting them to participate in the local underground "Fight Club".

New Magic Item: Annulum de Immortuos

New Magic Item

Annulum de Immortuos (The Black Ring of Thanos)

"And so it came to pass that in a last bid to cheat Death itself, Thanos the Necromancer, poured his knowledge and power into the, Annulum de Immortuos, the Ring of Undeath. But in those last minutes, the Servants of Arawn, breached his sanctum and captured the wayward wizard for their master, but not before Thanos used the last of his power to send the ring away to safety. With their prize in hand, the Servants of Arawn, dragged Thanos screaming into the Underworld."

The Ring of Undeath, also called The Black Ring of Thanos, is an artifact. It should not be found by random chance, but placed carefully and deliberately into a campaign. Arawn, the Lord of Death himself, will seek after anyone known to possess the ring, sending his Servants to secure the ring and to capture those who would dare attempt to cheat him.

Minor Powers:

  • Animate dead (1 figure) (by touch) - 7 times/week
  • Speak With Dead - 1/day
  • Command/Turn Undead (and only Undead) as a 12th level Cleric - 3/day
  • Acts as an Amulet of Proof Against Detection and Location
  • Wearer will not age, nor be affected by aging effects.
  • Acts as a Ring of Regeneration, can only be removed upon death or voluntarily.


  • Arawn seeks the wearer's capture and punishment.. and anyone with them.
  • Wearer can not be healed by Cure spells, though spells without "Cure" in the name will work.

How the ring may be destroyed is entirely up to the DM. Destruction of the ring will stop Arawn from taking vengeance upon the wearer and their companions.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Game Review: Blood Dark Thirst from Kort'thalis Publishing

Blood Dark Thirst
Kort'thalis Publishing
Rating: 5 out of 5
Complexity: Minimal
Maturity: Recommended for adults, deals with adult topics and horror
Value: A steal at $4

Okay, so received my copy of Blood Dark Thirst and printed out the Print Friendly version. It's not a huge book, only 12 double-sided pages, for a 24 page count, so it won't kill your printer or break the bank if you have to have it printed out elsewhere.

First, the fonts used print clear and dark. That's important, because if you have older eyes it helps you to read the material easier. This is often a peeve I run into with new products. Light print and small fonts make game material frustrating for older customers. Thankfully, the folks at Kort'thalis take this into account. Thank you!

I'm a newbie to the system, so I read the rules through as a first time player just learning the ropes. It didn't take long, the rules are pretty straight forward, and not complicated. If you're an experienced tabletop rpg player, then you'll be able to play with a minimum of setup. If you're a newblood (pun intended), you'll still be able to play the game, but it'll take a bit more prep work on your behalf. Not to worry though, the system is solid and laid out well, so you'll do fine.

You'll need one 20-sided die, and three 6-sided (normal) dice. If you don't have a twenty sider, you can find dice apps readily enough for your phone or online. Or simply use take a deck of cards, pull out two suits of cards from Ace (1) to 10, and shuffle them together. One suit will stand for 1-10, while the other suit represents 11-20. Replace and reshuffle the cards after each draw.

The art is amazing. It evokes the imagery of the game, both sensual and sinful. The quality of the artwork reflects the quality of the production value. Kort'thalis takes pride in their work. The customer is getting value for their dollar.

And best of all, the VSd6 system is similar to the other Kort'thalis game products, so you learn one, you'll be able to play them all. Or if you play other OSR products, you can add Blood Dark Thirst as a ready drop-in resource to your games without fuss. As either a stand alone game, or an added game resource, you can't fail with this title.

You can currently purchase this product at DriveThruRPG, for $4. Click Here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

New Magic Item: Vegvisir

New Magic Item

Vegvisir (VEGG-vee-seer)

Translated from Icelandic, “That Which Shows the Way"

"If this sign is carried, one will never lose one’s way in storms or bad weather, even when the way is not known." - excerpt, Huld manuscript

This item is especially useful for campaigns involving Hex Crawls, but is not a foolproof means of keeping oneself from becoming lost. In order for the Vegvisir to work, the wearer must have a destination in mind, such as a specific mountain, lake, etc. They will then feel themselves lead to follow the safest and most direct route (travel-wise), to their destination. However, this only means that the character will be directed along the safest route relative to any other routes available, it does not avoid any dangerous encounters along the route. The route given isn't necessarily "safe", just the least physically dangerous.

Storms can still blow a character off course, but they will be able to find their way back on course afterward.. should they survive

The wearer can not set the destination of their travel to a person, or other mobile point. It must be a fixed destination known to them, either personally, or one they've seen, even if from afar. For example, "Show me the path to that split topped mountain I see across the valley".

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

New Magic Item: Six Demon Bag

New Magic Item

Six Demon Bag
Contains: "Wind, fire, all that kind of thing."

A Six Demon Bag is similar to a Medicine Bag. It contains powerful reagents, fetishes, and other user-specific talismans that have been previously prepared by the owner in order to help focus and enhance their spells.

When a spell-caster uses their personal Six Demon Bag, they cast all spells as if one level higher, for purposes of duration, range, and effect. It does not allow a caster to cast higher level spells than they are normally capable of casting.

The cost to make a Six Demon Bag is calculated: Character Level x Highest Spell Level Available To Caster x 500 gold pieces.

A Six Demon Bag has to be completely remade from scratch (at full cost) upon attaining a new level that allows access to a new higher level of spells.

[Addendum] Each bag will contain 1d3 + Highest Spell Level Available To Caster. These items will generally be more costly than difficult to procure (hence the expense), but the DM may require the character to adventure to acquire a special item or two.

Old bags should be destroyed when no longer needed. Should someone steal or acquire a character's Six Demon Bag (old or current), the owner will suffer a -2 on Saving Throws against spells cast against them by the holder.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Random Tables: Unusual Character Traits

Unusual Character Traits, are peculiarities that a character may possess, that make them standout from others. These quirks are more pronounced than ordinary physical or personality traits, often making the character unique.

Not everyone possesses a trait that stands out. Players may choose whether or not to roll once on the following table at the time of character creation. Even then, there is a 50% chance that no Unusual Character Trait is possessed, a 25% chance of having a negative trait, or a 25% chance of having a beneficial trait. If a player chooses to roll on the table, they ARE bound by the result for that character!

(-) Negative Trait, (+) Positive Trait

Roll on

Trait Description
No Unusual Character Trait possessed.
Poor Eyesight
Keen Eyesight
Hard of Hearing
Excellent Hearing
Poor Sense of Taste and Smell
Heightened Sense of Taste and Smell
Poor Sense of Touch / Numbness
Keen Sense of Touch
Over Confidence / Big Mouth
Competent / Self Assured
Belligerence (Argue at the drop of a hat, even with friends)
Amiable (Gets along with anyone, even jerks)
Particularly Poor Hygene or Appearance
Well Groomed
Can Sleep On Demand
Pronounced Limp/Walks with Cane
Fleet of Foot
Sensitive Digestion
Cast Iron Stomach
Ugly (Independent of Charisma)
Physically Attractive (independent of Charisma)
Stammer (Trouble speaking during emergencies)
Command Presence
Unusually Short
Unusually Tall
Can't Handle Alcohol
High Tolerance for Alcohol
Abstains From Alcohol / Substances
Bad With Animals
Good With Animals
Can Not Swim / Fear of Water
Swims Like A Fish
Throws Like A Wuss
Accurate Thrower
Always Hungry (Twice normal food intake)
Eats Like A Bird (Half normal food intake)
Fear of Heights (Poor climber)
Climbs Like A Monkey
Clod (Clumsy / Not Sneaky)
Graceful (Elegant / Sneaky)
Can't Whistle
Can Whistle VERY LOUD
Butter Fingers
Nimble Hands
Unusual Appearance or Physical Characteristic (perceived negatively)
Unusual Appearance or Physical Characteristic (perceived positively)

Some Unusual Character Traits may give a character a small bonus or penalty, when performing related actions. Others affect the way the character is perceived by others. And still others are just unusual abilities not common to most people.

Players are encouraged to work with their DM to help define their particular trait, making it distinctive to their character. Not all traits have a direct effect upon game mechanics, but are more for role-playing purposes.

Edit (11/27/17): Corrected errors in the table. Deleted duplicate entries.