Saturday, December 9, 2023


(Sans any skills or martial-arts what-so-ever.)

On a world where your Nightbane transformation was PERMANANT, this is what you became...

A blend of leather and metal -- straps, chains, and spikes... But this is no armor, no true exoskeleton. This is your flesh. It doesn't come off, it can not be changed. Covered, perhaps. You can still bleed, a knife still cuts, a bullet, potentially fatal, but, probably not. You are tough. Tough as nails, tough as spikes. You can take... a lot. And give a lot more.

You hardly have a face, only a hint. Your lips will never again touch those of another. Do you have other options? Not your immediate concern.

You will almost certainly never walk the daylight again.

There's an invasion. A bleak mirror-world clandestinely attacks, ultimate motive, unknown. Do you defend? How can you when you are so shunned? Sometimes you have no choice but to engage and the more you fight, the more you appreciate what you are, nightmare it may be. 

Oh, how you love kicking ass.

So be it.


Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Spotlight: OSRIC Player's Guide

Charlie Mason of Seattle Hill Games has put together a Player's Guide for OSRIC.

It is 220 pages, soft covered, spined in orange, and contains all the information a player needs for 1st Edition AD&D... as presented in OSRIC. This isn't his version of OSRIC, this is OSRIC, word for word, at least, part of it, races, classes, equipment, spells, combat rules, etc.... just laid out better including much better art.

The PDF is free, and the print copy from Amazon is only $8.

Now, numerous times, I've contemplated contacting the right folks to acquire the current Black Blade Publishing copy of OSRIC, not because I need it, rather, because I want it. But I keep hesitating. Why? Because I'm not a big fan of the layout. It pains me to say that, considering the effort these fine folks must have put into producing the book. The major flaw is the fact that many charts are not contained on the same page or two-page spread... probably to save space. You should never have to turn a page back and forth to scan the contents of a chart. All charts should be contained on a single page/two-page spread and if this creates white space, so be it, add art.

Then I got wind of an OSRIC revision project in the works, perhaps still a couple years off from completion...

So, my question at this point: Is this Player's Guide a part of that current OSRIC revision project or is it just a stand alone thing? 

Because this book is nice. Well laid out and the interior art is PERFECT. If the revision of OSRIC is done exactly like this... It would certainly make for a fat tome, no doubt, but adding the rest of OSRIC to this exact book, in this exact fashion... I'd pay a king's ransom for it.

Of note, spells in OSRIC are listed alphabetically by class, whereas traditionally, they are listed by level by class. I'm a fan of alphabetical period, not by class, not by level. Any time I need to look up a spell, I know the spell I'm looking up, finding it should be easy. If you don't do it straight alphabetically, there should be some sort of tab noting what section of the spell descriptions you've opened up to, to help guide you to you're destination.

ERRATA NOTE: On page 4, in the section on Dwarfs, under Infravision, there is a reference to the Light and Vision rules on page xxx (it should say 162). If you know the diligent folks working on this project, kindly pass this along.

Anyhow, a few samples and link below...

Classic orange spine.




I approve.

Sample two-page art spread.



You can purchase a copy at the link below.

 OSRIC Player's Guide

Nicely done.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Boosting...TMNT Is Back!

As most of you probably know, Palladium Books has brought back the much beloved TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES & OTHER STRANGENESS Role-Playing Game. 

An absolute no-brainer for me!

I went in for the old-school black & white, with red editions.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Practical Insanity


So... After reading a page from the grotesque tome on the satanic alter, you must now save vs spells or roll for insanity... ah you failed... now you suffer from Equinophobia... the fear of horses... 


In most games, when you go insane, you accrue insanity points, which ultimately leads to losing your character, and/or, you roll on a phobia table to find your new fear. In either case, it's usually up to you to role-play the symptoms of your new affliction which may or may not make any sense at all.

On page 83 of the DMG, Gygax himself suggested that DMs should assume the role of insane characters.

Well, that's no fun.

Insanity should have real, immediate, in-game mechanical costs that make dungeon-crawling more difficult. Having an insane character should be an irritating condition that you'll want to be cured of, much sooner rather than later. In-game insanity doesn't have to resemble real world insanity. Your character is going mad and simply isn't functioning the way they're supposed to. Which leads to...

Practical Insanity

1. Amnesia: You've forgotten just who exactly you are and now function at half of your current level as far as, to-hit, saves, spellcasting, and turning is concerned. Or -2 if you're 1st level.

2. Kleptomania: You now have the pick-pocket ability of a thief of half your level (even if you're already a thief, because now you're sloppy about it.) Any time the party takes a rest, you must save vs spells or attempt to steal a random item from a random party member. If in town, you must attempt a theft at least once per day against a randomly determined target. You will always deny your theft (but you might have one person that you secretly brag to about it.)

3. Catatonia: Melancholia to the extreme. When a stressful situation occurs, save vs spells or retreat into yourself. You won't do anything. You can be carried. Lasts 2d4 hours.

4. Schizoid: You think you belong to another class. Determine the class randomly (use the 4 archetypes, 1-fighter, 2-wizard, 3-thief, 4-cleric, reroll if you roll your class.) You fight and save as if you belong to that other class at half your current level. Wizards and clerics must save vs spells in order to cast a spell or turn undead, but only if someone else reminds them that they are capable of doing so.

5. Delusional: You think you're better than you actually are and wonder why you don't experience better results. In combat, you attack with a +4 bonus but only do half damage. Targets save vs your spells at -4, but your spells only do half damage or only affect half the normal number of targets and only last half the normal duration. You only receive half of your XP earned.

6. Suicidal: If a trap is discovered, you must save vs spells or purposefully trigger it. If a chasm presents itself, you must save or throw yourself over -- hopefully your friends will stop you. You'll be the first into combat every time.

7. Schizophrenia: Like Schizoid, but the other class changes daily.

8. Panic Disorder: Your anxiety is extreme and your fear is all consuming. When a stressful situation occurs, save vs spells or retreat as fast and far away as you can get. Your anxiety builds with every successful save you make against this disorder causing any subsequent saves to suffer a cumulative -1 penalty until at last you're overcome by fear and flee. The DM should make you call split second answers to right, left, or straight as you race through the dungeon away from the danger and the other PCs until you are alone and lost. Only then might you get a grip.

9. Melancholia: Save vs spells every morning to see if you have the will to live. If not, all rolls suffer a -5 penalty. Save vs spells to see if you'll even try to help in any given situation.

10. Obsessive/Compulsive: You insist on doing things a certain way even if it doesn't make sense. A fighter will switch weapons every round or with every foe or will insist on using his least effective weapon, how else will he improve? A wizard will cast spells in a certain order (who cares if you need fireball, it can't be cast before feather-fall!) A cleric will always waste the first round of combat in prayer or spend 1d4 turns ritually cleansing their equipment after every battle -- if they don't do this they won't be able to cast any more spells that day. A thief takes twice as many rounds/turns to do his thing, etc.

11. Manic-Depressive: On any given day, you're either (1-3) Hysterical or a (4-6) Melancholiac.

12. Hallucinatory: In combat there is a 25% chance, after you've resolved an action, that you did so against a foe that isn't really there. 

13. Sado-Masochism: In any given combat, you're either a (1-3) Sadist or a (4-6) Masochist.

14. Homicidal Mania: You will murder any NPC that you think has failed you, lied to you, betrayed you, or even looked at you funny (yes I know, this is every PC that has ever existed. God Damn murder-hobos!) Even other PCs need to look out.

15. Hebephrenia: Any time a stressful situation occurs, you must save vs spells or behave as if you are under a confusion spell for the duration of the stress. Someone may attempt to snap you out of it with physical contact (slap!) in which case, you get another save.

16. Paranoia: You don't trust anything, every door, staircase, chest, ladder, every thing is a potential trap. Your movement is cut in half. Actions take twice as long. e.g., picking locks, searching rooms. Every NPC is lying to you, anyone who thinks otherwise is a complete idiot. You must save vs spells to be healed, because, fuck-no you don't trust their God! You will only eat rations and use equipment that you brought along yourself. And all gold is cursed...

17. Hysteria: Any time a trap goes off, or a party member dies, or you run out of rations or light, or you're lost, etc., you have to save vs spells or FREAK THE FUCK OUT!... causing an immediate random encounter check at +1 probability (most likely now a 2 in 6 chance.) 

18. Sadist: When you slay someone in combat you will keep on attacking that target until it becomes pulp (this includes casting spells on it.) Save vs spells to snap out of it.

19. Masochist: When in combat, you must save vs spells in order to attack, otherwise you just stand there and take it.

20. Psychosomatic Disorder: You keep insisting there is something wrong with you. Don't you see these sores all over my arm? And soon there will be. You must save vs spells or terrible sores start to appear on your body. They ooze puss and they bleed and you must save everyday to avoid this terrible malady from worsening. Every time you fail a save, more sores appear and you lose 1 hit point from your hit point maximum until you die or your insanity is cured. Once cured, your original hit point maximum will be restored minus 1 hit point per week afflicted.

On top of the above afflictions, all insane characters should suffer nightmares. A save vs petrification is required each night to acquire any benefits of a full night's sleep.

Only heal, restoration, limited wish, and wish spells can heal these afflictions. Natural healing is possible but requires two successive saves vs spells done on a monthly basis, one save at the end of each month.

Or something like that.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

The Dream House Of The Nether Prince -- Hell Done Right!

Of course I had to draw the Big Guy (sorry Hunter, different Big Guy, this one takes his cut in souls.)

Yes, Hell done right!

If you've ever entertained the notion of publishing a brutal dungeon based in Hell, don't bother, here it is...

Though technically, this is the Abyss, but to mere mortals, what's the difference?

A rare module I can read without falling asleep.

Seriously, I can't read modules to save my life, rulebooks yes, modules no, mechanics yes, bland room descriptions no. There are many boring adventures out there, we all owe Bryce, Melan, and Prince a debt of gratitude for laboring through them.

The Dream House of the Nether Prince is written by Anthony Huso, whose blog is here.

(This is not a proper review ((those have been done; a good one is here and another good one is here)) just my initial thoughts on something I find ridiculously refreshing in its darkness and complete and utter devotion to AD&D. It makes me want to drop everything else...) 

In the preface, Huso lists the AD&D core canon, in order of importance (to him) as...

1. Monster Manual 2

2. Dungeon Masters Guide

3. Player's Handbook

4. Monster Manual

5. Fiend Folio

Aside from some monsters scattered throughout various modules, he calls everything else, interpretive dance. He's not wrong, really, if AD&D is the pinnacle for you. Though I think he's the first I've seen to  put Monster Manuel 2 on top. I would replace Fiend Folio with Deities & Demigods.

Dream House is designed for at least 6, 14th+ level characters. There is a culture of sorts here and a currency. Demons are explained, summing up every drop of reference to them in  AD&D. Their ranks, how they're made, how they're unmade, their amulets, what they eat... oh yeah, Huso hits on a core truth in (actual reality) that HUNGER drives everything, all things consume other things, eat or be eaten. Those of you who see the universe as beautiful and harmonious... you are wrong. Demons want to eat you, and the fatter you are the better (they would love modern America, in more ways than one.) In fact, the very fabric of the Abyss itself is made of corpse matter, the bodies and souls of the damned are broken down and molded into new demons or the raw materials of such. Remember how Lovecraft spoke of the human mind's inability to correlate all of it's contents as being a thing of mercy? Huso has correlated all of  AD&D's contents on demons... roll for insanity.

There is no hex crawl here, no rumors nor overland random encounters. You are of a high enough level that you're expected to simply arrive at the Dream House, a sort of, vacation home of Orcus called, Caedis High. Linger outside too long and the weather will kill you.

There are core AD&D references all throughout this book and every one of them includes a page number -- you need those books. E.g., The Fulivium (Black Soul Rain) weather condition threatens mutation and calls for a roll on the subtable on pg. 194 of the DMG, and I thought -- there are no mutation tables in the DMG. Oh, but this is a clever use of Appendix D: Random Generation of Creatures From the Lower Planes. There is also a d100 table in the back of Dream House for generating random undead, 100 entries from all over AD&Dland, the Core books, Modules, Dragon Magazine, White Dwarf, etc., a somewhat useless table for most, but this book knows its core audience.

As with all things Orcus, doom is the name of the game. You are but pawns in the machinations of an ancient unholy grudge match. There are actual battles to be fought here. I'm not sure I'd even attempt to run the finale. No, I think for myself, I would slice it down to -- that thing/person you need/want is somewhere in Hell. How bad do you want it? You've been warned! Nobody's gonna survive this place; nobody's meant to. I find it hard to imagine a party even getting far. Huso's players must have been immensely powerful in their own right, not just 14th level characters. At times, you'll be fighting through literal hordes of demons. There won't be much parlay and if the demons don't kill you, there are plenty of save-or-fuck-you situations that will. 

There are optional mechanics in here (for the final confrontation) pulled from a book called The Primal Order by Peter Adkison, published in 1992. Huso praises it here.

In the appendices there are new demons, new spells (Become Legend stands out), new magic items including some technology, and artifacts. All worth reading; equally as entertaining as the dungeon-crawl itself, if not more so, but that's the rules side of me kicking in.

And the art... by Valin Mattheis, stylized, a mixture of color and black & white, the closest comparison I can give is Scrap Princess. For all of this book's adherence to AD&D, its appearance (layout and art) does not. One critique I have is that stat blocks are literal blocks of text, lots of comas, not fun to read.

Many of the rooms are vast; not your standard little 20'x20' chambers. And with the rule of the Abyss that no vision exceeds torchlight (unless under the Abyssal sky) I wonder how this plays out at the table for those that use theater-of-the-mind. Hand-waving I suppose, lest the players hug all of the walls and rarely experience the center of a room. Yes, just set the mood as dark and give monsters an edge when it comes to ambush.

Properly run, this place is not for the squeamish. Glass-eyed corpses abound and they often whisper. Roll on a random table to see their crime, and then I suggest whispering something vile into the ear of the appropriate player. Creep them out. Did I mention that dead babies are a form of currency here? -- if that is not evil...

The Dream House of the Nether Prince. I think I've said enough.

As someone who has rarely run other people's stuff, I would run this.

No question.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

The SHIFTERS Campaign

Circa 2006.

A one on one campaign.

Was supposed to be one on two, but you all know how that goes.

Using my own rules for a gritty-as-fuck, realistic super-hero setting called SHIFTERS. The premise was a dipole reversal, during which a chaotic lightning storm covered the planet. Those in the vicinity of the multihued lighting, if they survived, were "shifted" into super-human status. This was street-level stuff, the strongest could maybe lift 20 tons.

The system, of which I had three editions, was an amalgamation of Cyberpunk 2020, Mutants & Masterminds 2E, and Palladium's Heroes Unlimited. There were no hit points, but a damage track involving Stun/KO/Death checks and negative modifiers, what some refer to as a death spiral. All attacks were opposed rolls.

Hunter, a Wolverine type detective, was the main character, with Crow, an all black teleporter showing up later.

It was set locally, for us Detroit. It was bloody and gritty, involving missing persons, pimps, whores, and sex-trafficking. There was a trans-dimensional succubus brothel, a fundamentalist organization seeking to eliminate SHIFTERS called S.N.O. (The Society for Natural Order), evil SHIFTERS, ninjas, and later, an African Civil War. 

Part One: A missing girl who would never be found, but the search involved taking down sex-traffickers, pimps, drug-dealers, the usual scum of the earth type stuff, with an epic tangent involving a gunfight/melee with an agent of S.N.O. in a raggedy liquor store. Ultimately, a succubus brothel was linked but not responsible. Oh, and an epic showdown with ninjas!

My campaign notes...

Part Two: Civil War in Monrovia, Liberia. Members of the press and civilians in need of rescue. The government reluctantly contracts the SHIFTERS to attempt an extraction, a potential act of war. Heavily inspired by the Sierra Leone Civil War and the movie Blackhawk Down.

Hence: Monrovia Down.

Cobra was killed by Hunter on a rainy rooftop after a brutal hour long fight in an abandoned factory district. Shot in the head. 

Haraka was killed in the final battle of Monrovia Down, being thrown out of an office building window several floors up.

Ruby assisted Hunter and Crow during Monrovia Down.

Vertigo, A European mercenary, nearly ended the heroes, but was also killed in the office building battle.

First page of 16 I drew for another story in the SHIFTERS universe.

The SHIFTERS binder.

Version 3 of the rules, not the rules used in the above adventures. 150 hand-written pages.

Including a section for Fantasy.

Who knows, maybe I'll organize, rewrite and publish someday.

Don't hold your breath.


Sunday, June 18, 2023

Between Two Cairns Reviews: DATE OF EXPIRATION

A thoroughly in depth, entertaining, and glowing review of DATE OF EXPIRATION by Yochai Gal and Brad Kerr of Between Two Cairns.

Yes, the arrow on page 89 points inside the structure, a valid critique for sure.

And I absolutely LOVE the art of Bill Sienkiewicz -- right on target here!

Thank you guys!


Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Field Trip: John K. King Books Detroit


One of the largest used book stores in the world lies about 20 minutes south of me in downtown Detroit, with a much smaller satellite about 20 minutes northwest of this one.

John K. King Books, here is the website:

View from the parking lot.

Just outside the front door.

Burroughs section. More Tarzan books than you'll ever see in the same place. 

Most endcaps look like this.

One of the Fantasy aisles. Some of these shelves have books behind books. The dust is thick.

There was a glass case on the other side, but I saw no games.

Just to give you an idea of the scope, one of the perimeter aisles on the third floor. You receive a map of the layout upon entry.

Found no Tolkien here nor there.

Tons of old DAW books scattered throughout.

Glass case stuffed with books. Is that a copy of the Necronomicon? The Book of Skelos?

Even the stairs have books.

This was just a scouting mission; I bought nothing. Was kind of hoping to stumble into some Appendix N classics or some Clark Ashton Smith material. They could have been there. Your Holy Grail could be in there and you would never know.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Three Hearts And Three Lions

One of the inspirations for D&D as listed in Appendix N.

Poul Anderson, Three Hearts and Three Lions, 1953/1961.

You have:

  •  a paladin and his loyal and fierce warhorse
  •  a shady witch
  •  a dwarf (probably a ranger)
  •  the exact swanmay from monster manual II
  •  the land of Faery
  •  devious and seductive elves
  •  Law vs. Chaos
  •  a fire-breathing red dragon
  •  an ogre/giant and it's cursed purse of gold
  •  Morgan le Fey
  •  a werewolf
  •  lay on hands is mentioned
  •  a magician and his invisible servant
  •  a Saracen knight
  •  a beautiful but treacherous nixie, monster manual accurate
  •  druids mentioned.
  •  cannibal barbarians 
  •  flint and steel and the need of a torch-bearer
  •  a roughly 10x10 passage at the back of a cave
  •  a mini dungeon crawl
  •  the exact troll from the monster manual
  •  the wild hunt
  •  and a sword of destiny.

Great cover! There shouldn't be any plate mail though and the dwarf should have white hair.

Unfortunately, this cover is much more accurate.


  • I find, Holger, unlikeable. Whines to himself too much. Can't stand protagonists that feel sorry for themselves, even a little.
  • Didn't like the real world connection and Holger's scientific solutions to problems. Cursed gold coins are radioactive. Defeats a dragon by throwing water in its mouth. Would have preferred this story if it was simply about a paladin with amnesia, from wound or spell.
  • Morgan le Fey and the swanmay arguing over Holger like junior high brats nearly killed my desire to keep reading. This scene was downright stupid. I expect better from Morgan le fey.
  • Not really a con, but the Saracen Knight seemed pointless, or incomplete, maybe I missed something. Strictly to make Holger jealous of the swanmay?
  • Plenty of darkness and adult themes despite some silliness, even the old hag at the beginning wants the hero. Werewolves eat babies. There's human sacrifice. Combat is surprisingly brutal compared to the tone of the book. Action scenes were good.
  • The nixie, troll, and swanmay are direct verbatim inspirations for their D&D counterparts. The troll fight was fierce and followed a mini dungeon-crawl. The nixie scene was awesome (except for the magnesium dagger, conveniently acquired earlier.) The swanmay, while flying, would change to human form and fall, then change back to swan just in time for the thrill of it, reminding me of a trapeze artist -- very creative and insightful of the author. 
  • The werewolf scene stands out, almost too much, as if it belongs in another book, but good none-the-less. Paladin almost becomes Inquisitor here.
  • No wasted space, like all older fantasy, gets right to it, unlike the thousand page epics that sprang up in the late 80s/90s that were mostly hot air.

I finally read Three Hearts and Three Lions because I've been reading Brian N. Young's, Codex Celtarum, for Castles & Crusades where Poul Anderson is briefly mentioned and I figured it was high time... BTW, The Codex Celtarum is probably the best D&D source on Faery out there. 


(Sans any skills or martial-arts what-so-ever.) On a world where your Nightbane transformation was PERMANANT, this is what you became... A b...