Sunday, February 25, 2018

Optional Rules: Magnificient Mounts

OR, What Color Is My Horse?

"Young Wyatt's eyes were glued to the riders on either side of the jousting list. He couldn't believe how fast their mounts moved as they barreled towards each other, hooves thundering, their rider's armor flashing in the bright sunlight as their lances locked into place. It only took seconds for the horses to reach each other and the impact the lances made upon the opposing shields was tremendous, but the horses kept stride as if nothing had happened.
The 12 year old couldn't help but be fascinated by the horses. He started working with them at the age of 6 when he entered the service of Sir Aston Wyndham, a local knight. Because of his lowly birth, Sir Wyndham could not take Wyatt on as either paige nor squire. However, he did allow Wyatt to serve as a stable hand for Wyatt loved being around all the horses. He had a knack for getting them to behave. Especially Sir Wyndham's spirited Hobby, Shadow.
The cheers from the jousting field brought the boy's attention back to the riders. One of them had just been unhorsed and his squire was chasing after the knight's loose Courser. As the squire worked to get the wayward mount under control, the crowd started to murmur. Wyatt looked to the end of the field. He had only heard tales of how large and powerful a Destrier was, but he never imagined that he would see one. The horse was so big, the boy could have walked right under its belly without having to duck. His eyes were glued to the field as the riders lined up, the Destrier pawing at the ground, ready to charge. And then the thunder began. The rider urged the Destrier forward and Wyatt could feel the ground shake every time a hoof struck the dirt. He had to duck for cover as the rider's lances hit each other's shields. There was so much power behind the Destrier, that both lances exploded into splinters as the other rider was knocked off his horse, slamming into the dirt some feet away. Wyatt couldn't believe it! He had never seen anything like this before.
"Wyatt!" A voice called out. "Wyatt! Where are you? There is still work to be done!" Wyatt jumped. He was in for it now. He was supposed to be out getting water for Sir Wyndhams Courser. He had stopped to watch the joust instead. He climbed off of the fence that he had been using for a seat, dropped onto the bucket he had used as a step stool, then ran towards the trough as fast as his scrawny legs could carry him."

Horse breeding in medieval times was very different from modern horse breeding. Unlike modern times, where breeders keep track of breeds and bloodlines, medieval horse breeders did not. The animals were seen as transportation and tools for farming. But eventually, horses made their way on to the battlefield and people began to realize how essential a good horse was. They began to breed horses for selective traits. Most medieval horses were bred for a purpose and were classified into several categories. A break down of the various categories follows.

Destriers: Destriers were highly prized and admired for their war capabilities. They were well trained and required to be strong, fast, and agile. They were not very common and were well suited for jousting. While they were big, they weren't always as big as modern draft horses (ex. a Clydesdale). They were also encourage to be spirited and aggressive. These are the equivalent of a heavy war horse

Coursers: Coursers were light, fast, and strong. They were a cheaper version of a destrier and more common among poorer knights. While they were commonly used for battle, they were also used for hunting. They are classified as medium war horses.

Hobby: A hobby is a light weight war horse that is known for being quick and agile. It was commonly used by light cavalry for skirmishing or hit and run tactics.

Rouncey: A Rouncey was a general all-purpose horse. It could be used for riding or war. Commonly used by poor knights or squires. They can sometimes be used as pack horses, but never cart horses.

Palfrey: A Palfrey could be just as expensive as a Destrier. It was popular among Nobles and highly ranked knights for riding, hunting, and ceremonial use.

Jennet: A Jennet is a smaller horse or pony, favored by the ladies. They are easier to care for than a Palfrey and many ladies would use them for pilgrimages or traveling long distances. 

Cart Horse: These are horses that are not trained to handle a rider. They are only used for pulling carts.

Donkey : Mostly used as pack animals or work animals. They can be ridden, but only by light weight riders.

Mule: Mostly used as a pack animal. They are generally more docile and easier to handle than a horse, but it cannot be used to breed. They are bigger than donkeys.

Suggested pricing for horses:

  • Destrier 400g
  • Courser 200g
  • Hobby 100g
  • Rouncey 50g
  • Palfrey 150g
  • Jennet 40g
  • Cart Horse 20g
  • Mule 20g
  • Donkey 8g

A horse's coloring can be extremely varied. There are so many possible combinations of base colors, patterns, and markings that it became next to impossible to draw up a random horse table without it being 2 pages long. So after many failed attempts, and several moments where I ALMOST threw my computer out the window, I stripped it down to the most common markings and colorings. In order to use the table, first roll to determine your horse's color. Then roll to determine if the horse has any markings. Some results may increase the value of the horse. A lack of markings, or a pure white color, was really desirable. 
Colors: Roll 1d6 to determine the base color
1: Bay: Body color ranges from a light redish brown to a dark brown with black manes, tail, and lower legs. Can have Markings
2: Black: Solid black coat. Can have Markings.
3: Buckskin: The body coloring is similar to a tanned deer skin with a black mane and tail. No markings
4: Chestnut: Reddish body color with no black. The mane and tail are the same color. Can have Markings
5: Grey: Solid Grey coloring. Can have markings
6: White: Solid White Coloring. No Markings. Increase the horses value by 50% due to a rare coloring.

Type of Markings: Roll 1d6
1-2: No markings. Increase horses value by 10% 
3-4: Facial Marking
5-6: Leg Markings

Facial Markings: Roll 1d12
1: Blaze: Wide strip of white on the face that stops around the nostrils.
2: Stripe: A thinner version of the Blaze.
3: Stripe and Nose: Stripe that runs past the nose and across the lips.
4: Irregular Blaze: An oddly shaped stripe running across the face.
5: Interrupted Stripe: The stripe is broken on the horses face.
6: Bald Face: A wide Blaze that covers most of the horses face. The horse might have blue eyes because of this.
7: Faint Star: Horse have a very small white spot (usually shaped like a diamond) on its forehead.
8: Star: White spot on the forehead, usually shaped like a diamond.
9: Irregular Star: Oddly shaped white spot on the forehead.
10: Star and Stripe: Stripe on the face that blends into a star. The star must be wide than the stripe in order for this marking to be called a Star and Stripe.
11: Snip: Just a little white spot on the nose of the horse.
12: Lip Masking: White marking on one or both lips.

Leg Markings: How many legs are marked? Roll 1d8
1: Front Right
2: Front Left
3: Back Right
4: Back left
5: Front legs, both with the same marking
6: Back legs, both with the same markings
7: Front legs, both have different markings
8: Back legs, both have different markings

Type of Leg Markings: Roll 1d10
1-2 Stocking: white marking that extends at least to the bottom of the knee or hock, sometimes higher.
3-4 Sock: white marking that extends higher than the fetlock (ankle joint) but not as high as the knee or hock. This marking is sometimes called a "boot."
5-6 Fetlock: white marking that extends just over the fetlock(ankle joint), occasionally called a "boot."
7-8 Pastern: white marking that extends above the top of the hoof, but stops below the fetlock.
9-10 Coronet: white band just above the hoof , usually no more than 1 inch high

Age of Horse: Roll 1d6
1 Foal: A young horse that is under one year of age. It can be either male or female. Subtract 25% from the base price of the horse since it cannot be ridden until it becomes a yearling. Roll 1d6. 1-3 is Male. 4-6 is female
2 Yearling: A horse of either sex that is between one and two years old. Roll 1d6. 1-3 is Male. 4-6 is female
3 Colt: A male horse between the age of two and four.
4 Filly: A female horse between the age of two and four.
5 Mare: A female horse four years old and older.
6 Stallion: A non-castrated male horse four years old and older.

About the Author

Today's article is by our special guest contributor, Rachel Williams. Rachel is a manager at a popular national food franchise, and long-time gamer in both video and table-top media. She is an avid history buff and can often be found glued to the PBS channel and streaming documentaries.. usually far later into the night than she should.

She lives in Upstate New York, with her adorable cat and equally adorable husband (the Editior). 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

New Magic Items: The Golden Helmet of Mambrino

The Golden Helmet of Mambrino

Once belonging to the legendary giant warrior, Mambrino, this simple golden helmet was endowed with wondrous properties. When worn, the user is immune to decapitation. Furthermore, no blow to the head (while wearing the helmet, of course) can ever cause harm or death. However, blows to the helmet can still cause the wearer to be knocked off their feet, unhorsed, etc., as per normal.

As a magical item, the helmet will perfectly fit whomever places it upon their head. Only intelligent humanoids may attempt to wear this item.

Rembrandt, Man in a Golden Helmet, circa 1650

According to legend, the giant, Mambrino, challenged the noble paladin, Sir Varidor, known to wield a vorpal sword. Immune to the sword's magics, Mambrino, battled the paladin from sunrise to sunset, with neither able to strike a fatal blow. As the day drew on, both combatants agreed to stop for rest periods and meals. Only in the late evening, tired, hot, and weary, did the giant forget to replace his helmet before rejoining the combat. Sir Varidor, was finally able to strike the final blow that ended the giant's life.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Optional Rules: Situational Bonus

Image courtesy of
Situational Bonus - Sometimes, if a player fails a die roll by 1 point, I'll watch to see if the player (not character) stuck their tongue out during the attempt. If they did, I give it to them.

And if they catch on, I roll a d6 to see if it counts depending on where the tongue was sticking out.

1-2   player's left side of mouth
3-4   player's mouth, center
5-6   player's right side of mouth

Why? Because it's a game, and we play to have fun.

P.S. Funny faces, vocal sound effects, and appropriate movie quotes have been known to invoke bonuses now and then.

The Evolution of Our Mascot

It took over a year to complete the visual evolution of our mascot, Redcap. The original image was a black and white sketch of a Brownie from page 212 of "English Fairy Tales" (Jacobs, J., 1895 New York: Grosset & Dunlap), found in the public domain. We chose it because it looked comical and fitting for our "nasty little blighter."
We wanted our own mascot that people could identify with our work, similar to Flying Buffalo's iconic Grimtooth the Troll from the infamous "Grimtooth's Traps" series. We named our mascot Redcap after a group of evil little tricksters who supposedly kept their caps red by dipping them in the blood of their victims. We imagined Redcap as a comical Fey "Dungeon Master" who takes great pleasure in the misfortunes of their players. (Addendum: No harm has come to the actual players in my D&D campaign.)

While I'm not very artistically inclined, I did make the original black and white image's cape red. Although it was okay, it was still pretty generic and needed personalizing. We had to find an artist who could bring out the imp's personality to represent our blog.

After following artist James V. West on-line, we quickly realized that he was perfect for the job. While many talented artists exist, West possessed the exact style and artistic vision we needed for such an important project. Redcap isn't just a cartoon character; it's our brand, and it had to represent the spirit of our work.

Once we chose James, we left it up to him to capture the character visually, except for necessary background details. We believe that you don't tap a creative artist and then restrict them. An artist must be free to create, and you want them to feel like the subject is as much their child as yours. That's how you inspire the best work, and James delivered within hours. He took the reins and ran with it!

We are proud to present to you our gleeful little reprobate mascot, Redcap. James V. West created the images on the left, while the image on the right is the colorized version of the original public domain image we used in 2017.
Image Copyright Gerald Williams, created by artist James V. West

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Friday Freebies: The Pool

This Friday's offering (yes, we know it's a day late.. shhh) is from the talented artist, James V. West. We encourage you to visit his website..

The Pool, a FREE PDF, courtesy of James V. West!

The Pool is a very simple game system that promotes player and GM creative collaboration through an easy dice pool gambling mechanic. This is a game system only. Bring your own imagination.

ALSO from James is the fun old-school fanzine, Black Pudding, which you can purchase as PDF or Print On Demand.

PWYW first edition of Black Pudding magazine in PDF format, from

Glorping and shlorping along, the Black Pudding zlorts upon your party! What do you do? Read it, of course. This is an OSR-style zine of RPG goodies rendered in a highly visual style. Within these 24 ooze-soaked pages you'll find magic swords that make cuts no one can heal, monsters that shoot gold pieces, black knights, catgirls, chainmail chicks, and evil temples!

2 character sheets
7 character classes
2 one-page dungeons
9 monsters
1 book of new spells
8 NPCs

House rules and tons of art!

New Magic Items: Cat's Eye Amulet

Woven Wire Evil Eye Jewelry by Twisted Sister Arts

This amulet allows the bearer to see in low light conditions as a cat might. It acts as a light source that only the user can see. If held aloft, it acts as a lantern, with a 30 foot radius in all directions. If worn around the neck, it only provides light in front of the wearer, because the user's body blocks the rest behind.

The users will only see in black and white, not in color.

Some DM's may rule that anyone the user is touching, may also see by the amulet's magic light.

10% of these amulets also allow the user to see invisible creatures and objects within the radius of its light.

Friday, February 16, 2018

New Magic Spells: Effigy


Spell Level: Magic-User, 5th Level
Range: Referee's Discretion
Duration: Permanent

An Effigy, is a copy of a living being, but not an exact duplicate. It does not possess the memories, mannerisms, or skills of the original. It must be taught how to speak, care for itself, and perform tasks, however it will learn at a rate of days, instead of months. Under no circumstances can an Effigy learn to cast spells of any sort.

Effigies are magical constructs, not actual living beings, and will be detected by a Detect Magic spell. The creature will obey its creator, unless it goes insane.

The creation of an Effigy requires a sample taken from the being to be duplicated, and placed within a wax sculpture (or other appropriate process the DM decides upon). The creation will possess nearly similar Statistics as the original, but with a -1 to Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma, since they neither possess life experience, or extensive personalities.

For the purposes of combat abilities, treat an Effigy as a generic "monster" with 1 Hit Die per level of the caster above 8th. Their artificial nature improves their armor class by two steps, in or out of ant armor worn. Unarmed, an Effigy has two hand attacks, for 1d6 damage apiece.

Effigies have the uncanny ability to stay absolutely still, appearing as life-like wax statues. When moving, they look, sound, and feel almost indistinguishable from living people. They do not need to eat, drink, breath, or sleep, but imitate such behaviors in an effort to seem normal.

Like similar spells, such as Simulacrum, and Clone, if an Effigy becomes aware of the person it is replicated from, it will become extremely curious about where it comes from, and will desire to search out clues about the original. A high likelihood of insanity is not uncommon, with murder-suicide often resulting.


The creation and possession of Effigies is highly illegal in most civilized lands (causing fears of impersonation), but very lucrative in the specialty slave market! 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Optional Rules: Holding Your Breath

There are several occasions that can occur during a game when a character may wish to hold their breath. Unfortunately, not all systems provide rules for this. Of course, you as DM, can create your own rules for these circumstances, but then I wouldn't have anything to write about today.

In our home campaign, we use the following rule. A character can hold their breath for one (1) round (minute), plus one (+1) round per point of Constitution over 10. Thus, a character with a Constitution of 15, could hold their breath for six (1 + 5) rounds (minutes). Characters are not penalized for having lower Constitution scores. Characters with a Constitution of 10 or less can still hold their breaths for at least one round.

A character holding their breath, may do so and still perform non-strenuous tasks, such as walking (or swimming slowly), carrying light loads, picking locks, etc.

Character that are running, carrying heavy loads, fighting, etc., can only hold their breath for half the time (divide by 2 and round up), with a minimum of one round.

Characters that attempt to hold their breaths longer, must roll a Save or they become unconscious that round and will then die the following round. Each consecutive round beyond accumulates a -2 penalty to this Save. Forcing yourself to hold your breath can be fatal. Of course, a healer can attempt to revive a "mostly dead" character, if the DM agrees.

Characters that are doing nothing at all, but holding their breath, may do so for twice as long.

As DM, you may rule that some characters, such as those that are excellent swimmers, clean outhouses for a living, etc., may hold their breaths twice as long because of practice. Yes, this means an excellent swimmer, doing nothing but holding their breath, can hold their breath four times longer overall.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Optional Rules: Torches and Dark Lanthorns

The fighting combination of weapon and fire has been around since prehistoric times. Fire being the only form of light available to early mankind, it only makes sense that it would be used in conjunction with some means of attack during nighttime conditions. However, self defense against predators isn't the only time the combination has been of use. Not only can torches and lanterns provide light for an attacker to see by, they also provide a means to temporarily blind one's opponents. This is a fact often unrealized or ignored in game rules.

Some undead and other creatures are not effected by normal weapons, but are not immune to fire damage. Not every campaign is the same, so do not make assumptions. Always consult with your DM first.

Torches do 1d4 fire damage. While they may be used as a club, they are not as weighty as a proper cudgel. Each time a torch is used to beat something, it has a 1 in 6 chance of accidentally going out. If dropped, a torch will go out in 3-6 (1d4+2) rounds.

Lanterns are neither heavy, nor hardy, so using them as a bludgeon isn't an option. Yes, they may be used to strike a target, but usually only once, doing 1d4 damage. Intentionally breaking a  lighted lantern upon a target will do 1d4 fire damage, and 1 more point of damage per round for the next 2 rounds, and will also destroy the lantern.

Lanterns and torches may be used in combat to defend against small light weight melee (hand-to-hand) weapons. When used as such, improve the defender's armor class by one better. When used for defense, a lantern or torch can not be used to temporarily blind opponents, or as a bashing weapon.

Care must be taken, for if used in hand-to-hand combat, a lantern can be targeted by an opponent. On a successful attack against leather (plus any dexterity modifiers), a lantern can be broken, causing flaming oil to splash on the carrier (see above).

When in darkness conditions, lanterns and torches may be used to temporarily blind opponents in hand-to-hand combat. The attacker must call out their intention before making the attempt. Making the attempt does not count against the number of attacks the attacker may make that round, but does disallow the light source from being used offensively or defensively, that round. An opponent must make a Save, or suffer -1 on all to-hit rolls that round. Defenders actively using shields or cloaks to help block the light need not make Saves.

"Dark Lanthorns" (dark lanterns), or bullseye lanterns, carried by armed individuals with weapon in hand, is considered a crime in most cities, and brings stiff penalties. Thieves and ne'er-do-wells, use covered lanterns to carry out their crimes in secret, or to blind good people when setting upon them with nefarious intent.

Friday, February 9, 2018

New Magic Spells: Zero Level Spells I

The following are some zero level spells (Cantrips) for magic-users. This article does not include rules for zero level spells, just a list of such spells.


Sometimes called, the "Jedi Mind Trick", by players. The caster creates an aura of disinterest around themselves and those standing close to them. Individuals and ceatures of up to three hit dice, that fail their Save, will lose interest in speaking to the caster and ignore them. This spell lasts for one round (Minute) per level of the caster.

Note: This spell will automatically fail against targets that are trying to activavely kill or capture the caster. Nor will a target ignore the caster if the caster is doing something they shouldn't be doing, like trying to pick a lock or take something that the target is guarding.

Perfect Fit

When cast upon non-magical clothing, footwear, and accessories, the items will permanently alter themselves in shape and size (up to plus or minus 50%) to fit the caster perfectly, or person the caster designates the clothing to fit. Once altered, the items stay that way, unless altered again with another spell.

Unless the DM specifies otherwise, this spell does not affect non-magical armor or weapons.

Fisherman's Friend

When cast on a fishhook or lure, it will attract the attention of any "good-size" fish is in the area. Note that this could in turn then unintentionally attract the attention of any "good-size" predators in the area as well. This spell lasts for 10 rounds (minutes).

Stay Fresh

When cast upon a container, sack, backpack, etc., anything placed within will be kept fresh, and free of pests. Any aromas and whatnot will not escape the container, thus keeping it from attracting critters looking for food. Note that this spell does nothing to keep containers waterproof, or protected from the elements. This spell lasts for one day, per casting.

Hold Water / Waterproof

This spell will make one item waterproof, thus allowing it to hold water, or keep water out. This spell is often cast on clothing and footwear to keep the wearer dry, or cast upon sacks and similar items so they may carry water.  The spell does nothing to make the item stronger, so a cloth sack could still rip if you filled it with too much water. This spell lasts for one day, per casting.

False Purse

When cast, if anyone attempts to pickpocket the caster, they must make a Save of else they will inadvertently filtch the prepared false bait purse/item over any other valuables. Of course, this spell requires a false purse or other target item upon which to cast the spell. This spell lasts for one hour per caster level.

Caught Red Handed

When this spell is cast upon an item, or object, the next living thing to touch it without first speaking the pre-set password, will end up with a completely red hand. This spell lasts for up to one full day, or until it is triggered. The red stain lasts for a full 24 hours after touching the guarded item, and can not be removed without magic or dismissed by the caster. The stain works through gloves. There is no Save.

Water Wings

This spell causes the target to float in water (or other liquids), even if wearing armor. The character effectively floats enough to keep their head above the surface comfortably. This spell lasts one hour per level of the caster. This spell can be cast underwater.

Jam the Door/Lid

A weaker form of Wizard Lock. This spell makes a door or container harder to open. Opening something "jammed" will take effort and time, most likely being a little noisey too.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Optional Rules: Potions, Edibles, and Other Consumable Magic Items

When we think of "potions", we usually think of one-shot items that we ingest, to manifest the stored power within. Unlike scrolls, the user need not be able to read the esoteric inscriptions, inscribed upon the specially prepared parchments, to activate the item's magic. "Potions" also tend to be less powerful than scrolls. In later editions of D&D, potions are equivalent to spells of the 1st to 3rd Spell Level (not the level of the caster). This is a good rule of thumb when deciding how powerful to make new "potion" equivalent items in your campaign.

In our home campaign, we've expanded "potions" into a category of one-shot magic items that are consumed (not necessarily ingested), to take effect. These items can be created by either traditional spell-casters, or alchemists (a semi-NPC-only class). Like traditional potions, they are consumed, applied, crushed, whatever, and expended in one use. All rules that apply to typical potions (duration, etc.) are generally the same for these new items.

You may choose the form of any "potion" found in your game, or roll 1d8 and consult the table below.
  1. Potion - Typically imbibed
  2. Ointment/Salve - Usually applied externally
  3. Drops - Dropped into eyes
  4. Essence - A "magic cloud" that infuses the user upon release from whatever item it was contained in.
  5. Biscuit/Cookie/Candy - Any form of edible can be used
  6. Herbs - Usually eaten, or worn as a charm
  7. Fumes/Gas - Inhaled
  8. Powder/Dust - Sprinkled over the user

Saturday, February 3, 2018

New Magic Items: Magic Swords I

Whip Sword - Tail of the Dragon

This longsword, acts as a normal +2 magical weapon of its type, but once activated becomes a bladed whip that stretches twice its length. When in whip-form, the wielder threatens all adjacent hexes around them, allowing them to defend an area 15 feet across, not just the normal. In whip-form, the wielder can attack opponents using reach weapons, such as halberds, as though they themselves also possess a reach weapon. 

Unfortunately, because of the sweeping, twisting motions needed to use the sword in whip-form, it can not be used with friendly combatant standing close to the user, nor in tight spaces.

In whip-form, the Tail of the Dragon does 1d8 +2 damage, and it adds +2d6 when attempting disarming, and tripping attempts. (See Swords & Wizardry; unarmed combat.)

Lantern Shield

The original lantern shields were created for use during duels fought at night, and early dawn. The light from the concealed lanterns could be un-shuttered, and used to temporarily blind opponents, giving the attacker the advantage.

This magical variant, uses a Continual Light spell for the same effect, while posing less danger to the user than an oil fueled lamp. The aperture can be completely closed to fully conceal the light within, or adjusted from a crack to fully open to control the amount of light is revealed. Fully open, the lantern will cast a beam of light out to about 30 feet.

If used in combat during darkened conditions, the light can be shown into an opponent's eyes, whereupon they must Save or be dazzled for 1-3 rounds. Dazzled opponents roll all attacks twice, taking the worse roll as the result. This lasts until they are no longer dazzled. Using the lantern in this way uses one of the user's attack actions. Attackers attacking the dazzled target roll all attacks twice, taking the better roll as their result. This also lasts until the target is no longer dazzled.

The Lantern Shield attacks and does damage as a +1 short sword, and acts as a +1 small shield. The short sword blade can be extended or retracted back into the shield, easily. Lantern Shields are considered dubiously legal at best, by authorities.