Stuffed Crocodile

Mazes, Martians, Mead

Jarandell – The Garden of the Magicians

The Chateau

I have been working on my own little D&D campaign world for a while, which I want to piece together from various sources, not all of them in English.

There will be B2 Keep on the Borderlands in there, and B1 In Search for the Unknown, The Caverns of Thracia, the original B3 Palace of the Silver Princess, and… I want to finally use Jarandell in there.

So lets talk about “Jarandell – le jardin des magiciens” (Jarandell – the garden of the magicians). It is intentionally inspired by Jack Vance and the illustrations of Brian Froud, so I will show some of the pictures from the article, because they are just fantastic.

I don’t see anyone else talking about it, at least in English. And neither in German or, according to my spurious Francophone Google skills, in French.

(actually, that’s not quite true, a month after I posted about the art on twitter a while ago someone made a video about it. Might just be a coincidence)


This small setting was published as one of several in the classic French Wargame/RPG magazine Casus Belli no. 59 to 60 (and maybe 61?) back in 1990 (!). This was way before even this old grognard got into roleplaying games, and in the wrong language to boot. Back in ’90 I could say Hello and Goodbye and even count to ten in English and was really proud of it. I might have been able to say merci and bonjour in French. And the Merci mostly because there’s a German chocolate brand called that.

(by the way, quick cross-cultural fact: Merci chocolate is a very popular thank you gift in Germany, for obvious reasons).


Luckily for me it was translated and reprinted in WunderWelten 40 to 42. Of course that meant that I didn’t have any clue if there were any references I missed. As far as I know this was the only Casus Belli article they printed, and while the article seems to be standalone there are a few spurious connections to other settings published by CB, e.g. the mention of a few cities and locations. 

So the question always was… did I miss something? Or was the mystery intentional?

It didn’t help that I only found the first two parts in German back in the day, and now that I have access to the French ones I am hamstrung by my lack of actual French skills…

For some reason most of the references I did find online seem to regard this setting as a Dying Earth location. That seems wrong, although the liberal use of Vancian tropes in there might be a reason for that. Rather than Dying Earth it seems to be a standalone expansion of the Laelith city setting CB published over a dozen or so installments in prior issues. Laelith was statted for D&D, Jarandell on the other hand has no stats at all.

The description of the place was amazing. Jarandell it turns out is a hiding spot created by a magician called Randell.

Randell created it to get away from some extraplanar threat. And the whole setting starts off with the description of the areas around Jarandell…


Lots of adventure locations already. In my own campaign setting I intend to use it as the place where the road northwards from the Keep on the Borderlands ends up at.

I will have to translate some of the place names. I mean, Shanpuir sounds amazing as a name, but the Raze du Lynx… hmm… The Lynx Wastes?

Ileterre at least might be just the Earth Island.

And then we zoom in into a single place in that area… which is again a fantastic adventure location obviously intended to make even finding the actual location of Jarandell as fun and entertaining as possible.


Jarandell it turns out is situated within one of the mills in the area (why a small village and a monastery need 4 mills is not explained, but 3 of them are abandoned).

Jarandell itself is in the attic of one of the abandoned mills, and you have to find a secret door and climb up a “diabolical” staircase that shrinks you the further you go upstairs…and then you reach the garden…

The Garden Entrance

It turns out Jarandell is a miniature world, secluded away in the attic of the mill. From outside its just a few feet across. On the inside it is large enough to house an expanding castle, a labyrinth around that castle, a village with at least 50 houses, a lake, and expansive “greens”…except they aren’t green, they are bathed in eternal twilight, only lit by bioluminescent flowers, wind created by giant flying turtles, with giant… well, actually normal-sized… bats left over from construction as a sort of megafauna.

The Castle

By the way, notice the pictures. These seem to have been a stylistic choice. Except for the maps and maybe two other paintings, the whole art in the article is pictures of dioramas and models. Remember, this was back in 1990. This stuff is all handmade, even the creatures and NPCs.

By the way, these seem to have been created by Franck Dion (@franckdion) who also did the art for Dixit Daydreams the last few years.

Dixit Daydreams

Jarandell is ruled by three magicians, the inheritors of Randell. They run a sort of magician’s school in their castle, creating new magic for some mysterious purpose. The whole place is littered with magic items.

Most of the actual magic is actually done by Sandestin, those enigmatic beings of Jack Vance’s fiction (Specifically the Dying Earth and Lyonesse stories). And much space is given as to how these beings act and behave.

I always have wondered how good a setting this actually is. It certainly is an evocative one, but after the characters have found Jarandell and interacted with the people there for a bit… then what?


After some wonderful buildup and amazing art the whole thing seemed to falter I still don’t know what the extraplanar danger is that scared Randell so, and there are other hints that might or might not connect this to the wider setting Casus Belli had created in previous articles. I always feel like I am missing some context here.

This I will have to work out for my own campaign I guess. The whole place is more of a high level place anyway, so I will have some time until my players get there. Not that there are many players during these times anyway.

Besides Franck Dion, this was a collaboration of a few people from what I can see. One of them seems to have been @JBalczesak, the other collaborators were Denis Beck, Denis Gerfaud, and Didier Guiserix (most of which seem to have no twitter) the photographs are given as Yoëlle (Guiserix according to some Google searches). I cannot really find more of her work, except the other articles in CB (mostly the Laelith setting which seems to be connected). 

The Sandestin Phoboxen

I really wish there was more stuff in this vein out there, this combination of sculpture and photography as RPG art, especially in this style. But I think outside of some dioramas for the Laelith series of articles they might never have done more. and to be fair, sculpture and modelmaking might be a bit too much work just for some articles in an RPG magazine. On the other hand this is just some of the stuff RPG fans might be into.

Magic portrait

The (maybe) first D&D game ever played in Germany


Midgard 1st ed. 1981

Here’s an interesting anecdote about the beginnings of roleplaying games in Germany. It’s from an article by Manfred Roth on, must have been written around 2003, and the article itself it mostly is about the development of the German game Midgard. It traces the whole development from the foundation of the SCA-like fantasy interest group FOLLOW(“Fellowship Of the Lords Of the Lands Of Wonder”, yes, in English) in 1966, to the development of the first versions of Midgard (originally as “Empires of Magira“, yes, the title also was in English).


Cover of the Armageddon rules

Like in the English-speaking world the beginnings of roleplaying came from wargaming, or at least something close: One of the main activities of FOLLOW was a fantasy wargame/civilization building game called Armageddon, which soon developed an aspect of free roleplaying, not unlike in Diplomacy or wargaming circles in other places. People would get into roles associated with the cultures they were playing, do extensive worldbuilding, and take on various roles connected to that. The world of Magira was developed in this context, and was used for the first forays into proper tabletop roleplaying later on. It still is being developed in a much diminished context even today.

Which brings us to the following part, about what most likely was the first game of D&D ever played in Germany, or at least the first one played by Germans:

One of the first members [of FOLLOW] was Josef Ochmann, who later became known as the signature artist of the first MIDGARD-years (for example his rulebook cover that can (jokingly) be described as “mixed group of adventurers with Neuschwanstein”).


The referenced cover, of the Midgard 2nd edition

In the course of his studies (of Art and English, although he “only” became a teacher of these subjects later…) he spent half a year in England. There he got into contact with fans of SF and fantasy who partook in a “brand new” game, something with “Dragons, and Catacombs”; Dungeons and Dragons in the original edition. And it was about something that was called “roleplaying”.

He brought three small rule books to the Fest der Fantasy 1976 [1], they were not very expansive (about 50 pages each), badly printed and with lots of text and tables, technically only “thicker fanzines” and of course completely in US-English, but when you looked at it, and were interested, you could find it fascinating.


Cover of the first OD&D booklet

Unfortunately there was no time to really try it out, so it took a whole year longer before the first test game was run as a part of FOLLOW activities, during the Fest der Fantasy in 1977 in Gumattenkirchen (a forlorn little village in Southern Bavaria)[2]

Jens Ochmann acted as the referee (following the logic of him being the only one with the rules) and he commanded about 12 players and their player characters across the board for 8 hours, and through one of those so called “dungeons” [3] the game was about according to the title. Other participants were among others Elsa and Jürgen Franke, Edi Lukschandl (founder of Follow), Gustav Gaisnauer (later president of the EDFC)[4], Ludger Fischer (author of the Alba sourcebook), Karl-Georg Müller (first editor of “Gildenbrief” and “Mythos”[5]), Dieter Steinseifer (the grey eminence in every german fantasy fandom), and a few others (like the writer of these lines).


The Alba sourcebook by Fischer

It was the first, the wild, the pioneer age, and it was beautiful and funny. You used 3d6s, because percentage and other dice formats still were in the far future; the values from the D&D-lists had been converted by Josef; then you received your character statistics “without mercy” (once rolled they staid, even if it was Constitution = 01)[6], fantasy money to equip with (from lists that nowadays would be almost laughably simple and easy to use)

Gustav Gaisbauer’s character had Appearance 100 [7], but only 1 copper piece, which wasn’t enough for anything but a loincloth (which had to be bought, because even today roleplaying in Germany is a rather prudish affair…), so he went as a longotian (a folk from Magira) pretty boy. In the first room there was nothing to see than a heap of clothes in the corner. If you picked them up 3 gold coins fell out (a fortune!). The Longotian had something to wear, and two rooms down the road he died of the plague he contracted from the clothes (yes, back then diseases were fast and hard and saving throws brutally high…) – the first “casualty” in the epoch of FOLLOW roleplaying games.

Monsters were wonderfully ugly and powerful (I especially remember slime-spitting frogs and giant spiders oozing acid), the combat round took 1 minute, the movement round 10 minutes, and the referee had, according to the rules, roll 1d6 every movement round, in addition to all the dangers with the rooms. Which he did, and constantly had new “wandering monsters” appear when he got a “1”. And when these appeared first we had to determine what it was on the next table.

If you went in a file down a long but only half-meter wide corridor and your armor scratched and scraped on the walls left and right, then (table is table!) a centaur appeared and charged the first in the group with a lance, through this narrow corridor, in the dark!

That’s how it was back then (and it is doubtful if  so much changed for the better in the logic used by these games since then). After 8 thrilling and amusing hours the final showdown took place, when a warrior amazon blocked the path of the group and beat up the strongest guys, until Lugh macBeorn (aka Ludger Fischer) checked his character sheet, realized he had “learned Don Juan”, and lifted his chainmail shirt (!), which distracted the amazon with the things under it so much she could be overwhelmed. The epitome of true roleplaying! [8]

All this was 26 years ago. We never checked thoroughly, but this first game could have been one of, if not even the first, roleplaying game by Germans in Germany (and much earlier, we found out 3 years later at a con in the US-base in Frankfurt, American soldiers and employees didn’t play it here either).

[1] the FOLLOW convention is still ongoing once a year, although they seem to have let the registration for lapse

[2] Gumattenkirchen is just down the road from Braunau am Inn on the Austrian side of the border, a picturesque but otherwise rather boring part of Bavaria]

[3] the word “dungeon” has become well known as a term in German RPG circles. You can assume that many of the specific terms used in D&D during this game were left untranslated. Germans have a fascination with using English loan words, and the group described most likely had English as a second language in school. The use of English terms did continue into the first published German roleplaying games. Empires of Magira kept terms like “hit dice” intact.

[4] Erster Deutscher Fantasy Club (“First German Fantasy Club”)

[5] Gildenbrief was the official Midgard magazine from 1985 to 2015, Mythos (later SPIELWELT) was a more generic RPG magazine running from 1978 to 1992, and technically as a part of the magazine WunderWelten technically until

[6] the author describes the OD&D chargen method of 6x3d6 in order, but transposes the Midgard rules over it.

[7] here he also transposes percentage-based Midgard rules over the description of the OD&D session. I assume the character had a Charisma of 18 instead

[8] not really sure what having “learned Don Juan” is supposed to mean. I assume after 8 hours of play there was a need to end the session somehow

[Labyrinth Lord] Low Primary Characters

One of the neat little quirks of B/X-style D&D (and by extension Labyrinth Lord which I use most often) is the fact that the four core classes (Fighter, Cleric, Magic-User, Thief) don’t actually have minimum stat requirements.
It would be absolutely possible to play a weak-ass warrior, a stupid magic-user, a clumsy thief, or a foolish cleric. All of them would have some problem gaining the maximum of XP though. Having a weak primary stat gives you some heavy XP penalties.
I guess most people would never even dream about doing it, but this morning I was wondering if these would make good characters in themselves.

I guess they might. But I guess it also easily might lose their allure after maybe a session of playing.

A weak fighter does work at least. Warriors gain at least one hp per level, and do at least 1hp of damage. It would be a supremely ineffectual character, but at least it could work even at STR 3.
* a wimpy kid forced into a world of warfare
* an old man really into stories of chivalry


A clumsy thief also works. Basic LL doesn’t even give any negative mods for using thief skills. also ineffectual but works in general.

The one that is the most unaffected is the Cleric actually. The Labyrinth Lord basic rules give a foolish Cleric some negative mods on saving rolls, and of course you don’t get additional spells. But other than that a WIS 3 cleric is basically the same as a WIS10 one.
The Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Rules at least give some possibility of spell failure, but even that is limited to 20% at WIS 9. I guess nobody ever thought anyone would play a Cleric with less than WIS 9. Technically there should be another 5% of spell failure for every point under 9. By WIS 3 this would be 50% of spell failure.

Which still is better than the magic-user. The basic rules of Labyrinth Lord basically make it impossible for a magic-user to do any magic if under INT 9. Or maybe INT 6, but even that is debatable.


Characters in Labyrinth Lord can only read simple words with an INT of 6, and only can fluently read with INT 9. An INT 5 character does not have any way to learn MU spells from written sources. I would say an INT 8 one doesn’t either according to the rules.

The AEC actually softens that up a bit, because it does give options: It gives a low percentage of chance for actually learning spells for low stat magic users. It also gives a stat for minimum spells known: After you fail to learn any spell of any level TWICE, you automatically gain at least this amount of spells. But not more than your maximum amount of spells.

Rincewind chased

So-so intelligence, but high wisdom. At least high enough to run away when needed. 



So a magic-user according to the AEC can learn at least 2 spells per spell level, even if at INT 3. And of course you get three at first level.

But he/she can’t read or write.


I guess they could work with diagrams. Or words are just not needed to understand spells and learn them from books. Depends on the setting I guess.

Of course the question is if anyone ever would volunteer to play a character like that. Even with 6x3d6 in order you would be more likely to just choose something else that would fit the stats better. The only way this character even then would even exist was if every other stat was abysmal as well and the DM wouldn’t allow to reroll it.

State of the Crocodile 2

I am still here. I was just… uhm… so there’s this global pandemic going on and… well there’s this site called twitter, you might have heard about it.

So yes, the last few months I have been tweeting a lot. And I didn’t really have much time to do much else. Tweets are just nicely short and easy to fire off. Poland went into lock-down mode pretty early on, my company moved everybody to home office within a week, and I spent a few months trying to work with my kids running around. We managed to do one more session of my Keep on the Borderlands campaign via Discord. It worked, somewhat, but it made it clear to me that having this session from home and doing game prep wasn’t going to be something I was doing with two toddlers around. I actually did like using Discord for it. I don’t use minis in my campaign anyway, so just a few overview sketches were enough. I had great success just showing them an illustration of a Gelatinous Cube in a hallway and having them work from there. 

The last few days I joined a German Discord server, managed to get the owner to create a channel for tabletop games, and now we are in talks of doing a small beginner session for some of the people on there. A lot of the people on there seem to have wanted to join a game beforehand, but had bad experiences due to various stuff.

So lets hope that works out. 

I got more interested in painting miniatures, but I might have painted maybe a dozen or so in these last few months. Way less than the amount of minis and paints I ordered in the meantime. By the way, did you know that some of the companies from the ads in Dragon magazine in the 90s still exist?

Oh. I can maybe mention: I got into a new position at work, and the reason I got there was my Labyrinth Lord campaign. Turns out two of my Greyhawk players were looking for someone and for some reason I was the one they were thinking about. That was pre-Covid though, and I didn’t hear anything about the position until one of my players from the brief Harn-campaign tried to canoodle me into joining her project. All of a sudden I was transferred to that first position I didn’t hear anything about since January.

Writing this I just realized that I can describe my whole career advancement lately as based on my skills as a DM. I also realized again that all my players work in my company. Maybe I should find some that don’t.

Uhm… we bought a garden plot in a local community garden colony. After the worst restrictions of the pandemic were loosened already. We were going insane sitting at home with two hyperactive toddlers, and the government went a bit crazy banning access to all public forests.

So now I have a place to grow some herbs and barbecue, and maybe even do some RPG sessions there. Well, lets see what the neighbors are like. I have the bad suspicion they will think of us as devil worshipers or something.

Other than that… not much was happening to me personally. I noticed I am way better suited to deal with self-isolation psychologically than my wife. Not being able to go out didn’t faze me that much. Physically was another issue though. Four months of sedentary work, no proper rest, and unhealthy food have taken their toll, and I right now am trying to cut down on a lot of stuff. 

…to boldly go…

And there I was, two weeks ago, arguing that a D&D power scale would not transfer well over to something like Star Trek. I just had gotten my wife to watch TNG with me as a preparation for Picard, and Star Trek was on my mind.
And then the next day in the shower a thought came to me: why exactly not? Why wouldn’t it work as D&D? There’s already a power scale in the setting, after all, they even have level titles like Ensign, Lieutenant, Captain…

One could, conceiveably, make a Star Trek game based on old school D&D.

And on I went: yes, you could have a certain amount of bridge personnel as the main characters, but you would have to change the classes, but that’s easy enough.

And we need different races, but that’s also simple, just make up Vulcans and Klingons and a few others.

And we don’t do money, because the Federation doesn’t do that, so we have to figure out who gets what stuff, and experience is gonna be mission based, and and and…

I already sat down and started changing my Labyrinth Lord based house rules into something I briefly called “to boldly go”, when I realized something: I am not that creative. Someone was bound to have come up with something like that before.

And yes, there were multiple Star Trek RPGs beforehand, but those were not really D&D, so they weren’t what I wanted.

But Taxidermic Owlbear pointed my to X-Plorers, Colonial Troopers, and Hulks and Horrors. The closest to Star Trek of those was X-Plorers. Still, it didn’t feel quiet like it. It felt more like some 50s pulp SF setting. Which is good as well, but not what I wanted.

And then I was thinking… wasn’t there something with a cover of nearly Star Trek uniforms on a bridge? Yes there was.


Back in 2012 Dan Proctor published Starships and Spacemen 2nd edition. It’s the second edition of a game from 1977(!) and the reason I wasn’t thinking about it at first was because I had it mentally filed as a different game system than D&D.

Which is not really the case. It’s based on Labyrinth Lord, so copious amounts of files were employed to create a B/X D&D clone in a Star Trek setting, with all the serial numbers lightly filed off.

It is amazing. It was exactly what I was looking for. I think I might have to create a few scenarios for it.

It’s a bit of a pity that it is not more widely used though. It has the benefit of being compatible with a lot of old school type systems, so one could conceivably use monsters from all over the place in it. But it also is quite limited: it’s really a system that focuses on your usual Star Trek episode shenanigans, so even playing in the wider world of the quasi-Federation in the game becomes a bit of an issue. Well, in a similar way to normal D&D I guess.

The normal classes are replaced by some that evoke the usual classes of a starship. We got your command officers, science officers, engineers… and we have enlisted men who have a shorter experience track.

There are 8 races in there, most of which are broadly analogous to races in Star Trek (Taurans are clearly Vulcans).

Equipment is handled differently than usual. We don’t have money in the utopia of the Federation.sorry, CONfederation. But we can get equipment to use on our missions according to our rank. Cool, cool.

Starships and starship battles are rather simplistic, but one element that I love is the energy management mini-game that makes it necessary for players to plan out when to use transporters teleporters and when to use shields. Yes, you can beam yourself anywhere. But if you do that too often and there’s an attack you won’t be able to run your shields. Or run, period.

Monsters are like in Labyrinth Lord, with the exception of the hoard class, sentient aliens are treated differently and given random tables to allow to make unique humanoid aliens in the vein of the shows. The highlight being, of course, the 1d100 graphical table of various rubber foreheads. An idea so stupid and brilliant it shines.

The book only gives the scarcest outline of the setting. We are members of the space fleet of the Galactic Confederation and boldly go into the unknown. Sometimes we meet other races from rival star empires, like the slightly oriental looking Zangids and the fanatically religious Videni.

All of this is made to be adapted to the DM’s own table. One could make the Confederation smaller, with only the playable races as members, standing against the Zangids next door, or one could make a Confederation of hundreds of races and planets standing against a gigantic Zangid empire.

Or one could just replace the names of the races and use the background information from Star Trek, or maybe the Orville, instead. It would still work.

One also can use monsters from Labyrinth Lord in there. Rust monsters might be a fearsome threat to a starship. and why not have a small polity of mind flayers hidden in the darkness of space.


Overheard in the Dungeon 3

Ranger: I don’t like that Castellan. He sounds like a prick. Doesn’t even let us in to meet him. You know who I liked? That hermit in the forest. He was welcoming us into his house. That’s my kind of people…

Druid: He tried to stab you.

Ranger: It was just a wooden spoon.

Druid: He still tried to stab you.


[Labyrinth Lord] Campaign on the Borderlands – Session 5


map of orc caves by Dyson Logos

Session 1 Session 2 Session 3 Session 4 Notes

And with this I am current. Session 6 is planned for tonight.


Session 5 – 25th of January 2020

Campaign Date: 27th of Goodmonth, 576 C.Y.

The story so far

In the last session our heroes ventured forth from Kendall Keep to subjugate the king of the Yellow Claw Orcs together with his son, Blood. Unfortunately that failed, so instead they decided to do something about the bandits that allied with the orcs.  


Adventure 7

The PCs went back to the forest to take care of the rest of the bandits. Unfortunately those birds had left their nest, and they only found the bodies and remains of the previous occupants. Mort managed to track the ones that fled outside the forest though, and soon enough found the tracks lead back to the caves. 

Here the remaining bandits had seemingly taken occupance of the former Ogre/Bear/Troll cave, and the horses were visible in front of the cave. 


The heroes, well aware about the connection between the former goblin cave and the Bandits’ cave decided to enter from the back, through the secret entrance. 

Unfortunately after waiting until nightfall (and the dwarf cutting a few wooden spears to train some weapon-making in what turned out to be the most randomly appropriate roleplaying choice of the session) they sneaked into the former goblin area. They soon enough encountered another problem in a strange, large, and bug-like creature with long tendrils munching away in the entrance area of the Goblin cave. 

The ensuing encounter basically stripped Rickhord from all armor besides his helmet and his wooden shield. Yes, it was  a rust monster, a being that was completely new to the characters. 

Luckily the wooden pikes created by Rickhord came in use, and the being was slowly but surely poked to death. 

The being was fast to attack and was found to disintegrate metal during the fight. The fight was rather tough, but was solved by the crude wooden spears Rickhord had carved during the time they waited  for nightfall. 

A discussion broke out on the use of this monster’s skin for armor, which was ultimately not resolved, but the group hid the rest of the monster’s body in a corridor in case they’d need it again.

The group sneaked into the ogre cave via the secret door. They first were greeted by horse backsides, but managed to pass those without causing undue noise. Then Mort killed the guard at the cave entrance with a skilled shot, and Sharn slit the throats of 3 of the 4 remaining bandits that were sleeping in the place.

They woke up a confused and panicking bandit who tried to ask for mercy. Asking about the location of his leader they found out they already had killed him. 

In the end the poor sap was killed even before they could ask the location of the bandit’s loot. 

They left with the head of the bandit king, and as it was still nightfall, they decided to use the early morning hours to check the bandit camp again for further tracks leading to their stash.

Thanks to some good tracking by Mort this was successful. A short distance to the south they found a small cave with a chest inside.

Inside they found two bags, one of which attacked them. 

After they dispatched the mimic, because that was what it was, they looted the chest and went back to the Keep.

They collected the loot for the bandit chief, and told him about the cultists.

Their further investigation into the matter also lead them to the chapel of St. Cuthbert, where they got introduced to the local priest, Father Ruediger the Calm.

They facilitated a meeting with the advisor of Castellan Rufus, an elf called  Illurian Stardust, talking about a magic ring they found, the rust monster, and the cult in question. They also mentioned the elven ruins close to the Caves.

Further investigations also found Fenrigar and Sharn make contact with Brother Barthomelew, a jovial cleric who healed them, but something seemed off with him. Questioning him brought no immediate answers. 

Then they set out again. 


Adventure 8


Afterwards they started investigating the elven ruins, and there found themselves to be stalked by a strange raggedy person. 

A bit of a chase and some friendly demeanor later they were talking to someone who claimed to be called Rufus, and told them over tea about all those bad things going on in the woods and his head. Unfortunately it was hard to seperate the two and in the end he started to stab the heroes. Fortunately at this point he only had a wooden spoon so this didn’t get far. 

Some more investigation of the ruins brought some orcs that were slaughtered. This spurred them to go back to the caves and see what could be done about the orc caves. 

They went and killed the two orc guards standing in front of the first orc cave, then found a remnant of orcs in the former common room, mostly women and children. The situation became quite tense as the group discussed what to do with them, but in the end they were let go, with the exception of one orc who was killed as a warning measure to the others. This horrified some of the other players.

The next orc cave also was was quick work off. The dwarf fell into a net trap as he charged into the caves, but the orcs that came afterwards were not really much of a fight while Fenrigar freed the dwarf. The six dwarves were killed almost instantly. 

They found another group of orc non-combatants and proceeded to chase them out of the cave. 

In the end they chased down the orc chieftain and killed him and his bodyguard. Then they went back to the keep, slashing their way through another group of recently arrived orcs. 

[Labyrinth Lord] Campaign on the Borderlands – Credit where credit is due


map of the Castellan’s Keep by Dyson Logos

So, I have been gamemastering a Keep on the Borderlands campaign. As you might have gathered from a few posts lately.

You might also have noticed that I adapted module B2 (Keep on the Borderlands) for my own use, with the aid of some additional materials and maps from all over the place. Which is of course how this module should be used.

B2 was written by Gygax in a week or so, but it shows that he knew what he was doing at this point. The module is both simple and expandable, a single keep and a complex of caves nearby, and if you want you can drop it anywhere you want.

In fact I have the sneaking suspicion that Seattle in the 1st edition of Shadowrun was just a reinterpretation of this all, it being a remote outpost surrounded by hostile lands and all that.

The setting

The setting is the land of Eor, south of the Dreadwood, in the Southern Flanaess.

The Flanaess is of course the name of the campaign area of the Greyhawk campaign setting. The land of Eor here is a rather forgotten part of the Kingdom of Keoland and originates in I2 Tomb of the Lizard King. I am unsure if it will really move towards this particular module in the end, but at least it gives some nice background for the surrounding lands.

Eor, in my view, is a basically forgotten part of Keoland. It’s south of the Dreadwood, and therefore even less accessible than the rest of the rather empty Keoland (I am subscribing to the interpretation of the empty Flanaess). The Keep is a fortress intended to keep the trade lines through the Dreadwood, and to Saltmarsh open, and to keep the monsters of the wilderness out. The placement of Eor in this area seems to originate in the old RPGA Living Greyhawk campaign, but I have drawn it from Anna B. Meyer’s fantastic maps of Oerth.

By the way, if you look at them and investigate closely you might notice that the placement of the locales of I2 is completely whack. You could not run the module with this map as the places are basically randomized over the area. According to Anna this was the doing of the people from the RPGA campaign and she only took the information from their material.

I added a few other things:

The name Kendall Keep, Sir Robin and the vanishing tower both come from Return to the Keep on the Borderlands, that 90s revival module published in the waning days of TSR. Unfortunately that module is otherwise less than stellar. It has a few ideas that can be used to supplement the original B2, but is pretty much a mess otherwise. This begins from the introduction where it states that in the Flanaess Kendall Keep should be located in the Yeomanry, in a spot where many of the described features would never appear in the first place. Some people have noticed that the whole module was written in a way that might place it on Mystara rather than Oerth, but at the point it was published Mystara was dead as an official setting, and all overt references were scrubbed.

There’s a few ideas I got from three threads over at I don’t even remember most of it, but the orc Blood comes from there, as does the secret manual they found in Session 5, and the fact that the bandits all wear paper crowns. Other ideas might have informed some of the game as well.

The friendly lizard man was inspired by some ideas on the Fear of a Black Dragon podcast about exactly this encounter. It helped that the reaction roll was very similar.

I am using a slightly adapted wilderness encounter chart from Semper Iniativus Unum who made one specifically for this module.

I have also been using the faction development ideas from the Alexandrian. The article itself is technically a meditation on how to do this for whatever dungeon, but as he is using B2 as an example I still can just use it like that.

I don’t use the maps from the module, but rather those from Dyson Logos. They just look better. And are easier to use.

[Labyrinth Lord] Wheelies

The footsteps that you heard – which really ought to be called ‘handsteps’ – belong to three WHEELIES which now roll down the passageway towards you, forcing you back to the door. These creatures are peculiar beasts, having, instead of legs, an extra set of hands. They move by cartwheeling along at quite a rapid pace. Their heads – or at least their faces – are set in the centre of their chests. Whilst they are not well-practiced at swordsmanship given their awkward means of movement, they are excellent knife-throwers. Grasping knives from their belts as they spin along, they can launch them at a rapid-fire pace, like large catherine wheels. At the moment, three such knives are speeding their way towards you..

from Citadel of Chaos

One particular picture from the Fighting Fantasy books always staid in my mind: The Wheelies.

They are just so… bonkers. The more you think about them the less sense they make, but they also look so charming with their vicious grins and flat trousers. You just know that in real life they would

I love them. Even if they don’t make any bloody sense. No, I love them because they don’t make any bloody sense.

I think they come up in The Citadel of Chaos, and later in The Ridding Reaver.

No. Enc.: 1d6 (6d6)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 80’ (40’)
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 1 +1
Attacks: 1 (weapon)
Damage: 1d6 or throwing dagger
Save: 0 level human
Morale: 4
Hoard Class: III (XX)

These beings might be one of the oddest things dungeon explorers have ever come across. These creatures do not seem to have any reason for existence. Nobody even knows how they eat or procreate. Larger groups often are found circling each other in rooms that allow it, smaller ones roam the levels of dungeons looking for trouble.

In many cases they will first throw daggers at any enemies they encounter, then try to bump into them if that does not work. If it doesn’t they are more likely than not to flee and try to restock on daggers

They often find employment as guards for wizards and other Lord.


Edit: I have been meaning to publish this post since… uhm… 2013? Wow. That was in my drafts for a long time. In the meantime someone else already published an article for, I think 3rd edition.

FB_FFL_Wheelies_largeAnd also neat, someone made them into miniatures. Because of course they were made into miniatures.


[Labyrinth Lord] Campaign on the Borderlands – Session 4

Japanese Magpie and Waterfall illustration from Pictorial Monogr

Japanese Magpie and Waterfall illustration from Pictorial Monograph of Birds (1885) by Numata Kashu (1838-1901) provided by

Session 1 Session 2 Session 3

This session was the last one before Christmas, and we were down two people again. As one of them was our usual host we met in a different location this time. Something of an adventure in itself as parking spaces were hard to come by.

The story so far

In the last session our brave heroes found themselves yet again in Kendall Keep in the lands of Eor, a half-forgotten province of the Kingdom of Keoland wedged between the Dreadwood Forest and the Hool Marshes.  They descended into the Caves of Chaos nearby and generally maimed, killed, burned and massacred the denizens thereof. They also found a few captives, rescued a few of them, killed one, and made friends with an orc. 

Adventure 5

The adventurers found themselves in Keep Kendall again. Previously, on the day before, bandits and orcs had attacked here and caused some loss of life.

Burmark and Jules were found to be alright, as both of them had been away from the Keep on their own business. They were rather surprised at the additional man-at-arms in the party, and the friends the party made in the meantime.

Burmark: I am gone for two days and you are now best friends with an orc prince?

After waiting for the next day and shopping at the market, they (minus Rickhord) headed towards the caves again, where they met with Blood during the evening hours.

The owlbear from one of the upper caves was rather active at this time, and was shrieking audibly up ahead.

The team decided to infiltrate the orc cave they had been in earlier. During a quick assault they took care of the lookout in the wall of heads with a quick arrow to the head, then made short work of the remaining guards in  both rooms. 

They did not encounter resistance in the cave itself and under Blood’s guidance made their way to his father’s room.

There the fight quickly spiraled out of control and the king managed to kill Blood, which made all the promises he made to them beforehand kind of useless. 

After looting the place they quickly went out of the cave again, but encountered the owlbear prowling the night. A fight ensued which led to both the owlbear and them scampering away into the darkness.

This all was hampered by the two NPCs carrying a large trunk they got from the orc cave. They decided to go back to the keep to open the trunk, only to realize that the ranger had had a crowbar in his backpack that he had forgotten during the adventure. 

Mort: I don’t think about my crowbar all the time.

Adventure 5 

High on these “successes” they decided to instead look for the bandit camps, as the bounty for the bandits had just been increased on account of, well, them raiding and attacking Kendall Keep. 

During the search they first caught sight of a tower at the bend of the road northwards, but when they checked the place in person it had disappeared. This mystified them a bit. They previously had been made aware of a disappearing tower in this area, but they still don’t know what to think about it all. 

They decided to go south into the fens to check for the bandits, but found not much they could use. They came upon the idea of using a druid spell to talk to some animals, and found a magpie to try this on. 

Jeckle, as he called himself, was very helpful, and gave them hints towards a nearby mound where beings like them lived. All big and without wings and with arms and legs.

Mort decided to investigate and did come across an entrance or at least a hole there, where he met a rather friendly lizard man (the roll on the reaction table was outstanding). The lizard man pointed out that yes, they had seen bandits, but that those had come from the direction of the south-west.

They investigated the woods in the south-west further and did find a few bandit sentinels standing guard. A use of some canny investigation by a combination of Jeckle and Sharn’s skills showed even more detail. Most of the bandits were drunk. A less proficient use of Mort’s abilities led to the camp and surrounding woods catching fire. Hard fighting ensued, with the drunk bandits trying to make their way out of this death trap while being slaughtered by the PCs.