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Monthly Archives: March 2011

[Traveller] 2d6 Random Space Pilgrim Garb Table

2d6 Random Pilgrim Garb Table

2. rough and uncomfortable looking hempen clothes, straw hats
3. dressed in uniform/habit
4. recycled plastics/garbage
5. wide robes
6. synthetic garb with phrases from the holy books moving all over it in strange patterns
7. plain white robes
8. completely veiled
9. nudist
10. sexy nurse uniforms (even if male)
11. leather and lace
12. space opera jump suits

Yeah, what an oddly specific table. But I thought about having a few different groups of religious pilgrims in my game. Think of that time in Babylon 5 where all these aliens came to the station because something connected with their faith had appeared at this place. Think about all the fun that could be had with different groups of believers battling for supremacy over a holy site.

Well… okay, fun might be the wrong word here.

[One Page Dungeon] Ancient Ark of the Atlanteans

And here it is, my entry for the One Page Dungeon Contest 2011. I would lie if I was saying it was planned from long hand, I just realized the contest was on a few days ago, and in between I did not even know if I was going to participate. Then I got into thinking about it a bit better.

I wanted to have something different this year. Last year it was a rather simple and too railroady fantasy cave system, this year I wanted to do something more science fiction.

I created this with Traveller in the back of my mind, but a few things were influenced by Labyrinth Lord and Mutant Future (see all those radioactive signs?). I even dropped a few cavemen in the middle of it, figuring that it even made a bit of sense considering the backstory.

The problem with the design of dungeons for a science fiction setting is that science fiction is not very dungeon-centric. At least not as much as D&D. Traveller, as the first really successful science fiction rpg, did a few dungeon crawls in the beginning (Annic Nova comes to mind), just to drop it after a while and go for planetary or space adventures.

This one is supposed to be a take on the genre and it’s own version of dungeons as they appear in a few novels: megaconstructions. Think Ringworld, Rama, and all the others. The scales on this one are completely changed as a result of course: where normal dungeons cover a small area of space this one is a whole, hollowed out moon. But then the possibilities of the characters, if they are not actually native to the Ark, are different than those of their fantasy counterparts.

This doesn’t mean they HAVE to have fliers and gravs and zeppelins and spaceships inside the Ark, but they could have. And anyway, I think this one is played best with a wide mixture of techlevels. Personally I would give the white apes at least some gunpowder and the technomads some ballons or zeppelins. One fascinating thing also would be if there still was at least one (mostly) working train line from the highlands up to Serpent City. Then we really could railroad at least part of the plot. 🙂

Download Ancient Ark Of The Atlanteans as .pdf (ca. 1mb)

YĂĽce and why I started roleplaying

Posting about Elfenblut and it’s cover art got me thinking about why I actually started with roleplaying games in the first place. I can’t really claim there was much deep thought to be found behind it: I just always loved the covers of the boxes and modules for Das Schwarze Auge (The Dark Eye) when I saw them in the toystores. And yes, even in the 90s it was still sold in German toystores pretty much everywhere.

I don’t mean the covers the line features now,  those can be good sometimes, but even the they lack that certain something. Mostly I mean those of artist Ugurcan YĂĽce, a perennial favorite for the fans of DSA (mostly because he was the one who did most covers from the 80s to the 90s). His heroes most often are the epitome of true heroes with a distinctive germanic bent : barechested, wearing winged helmets and sporting awesome mustaches, or clad in chainmail and other armor barely hiding wonderfully female physique the protagonists of his cover art are just being so damn alive.

After seeing the picture on front and buying and then reading whatever it was that was written in the module, I often felt cheated out of a wonderful adventure. He sometimes took some creative license with the actual contents of the stuff he was illustrating there, but his illustrations so often were more interesting that anything the authors of the module came up with inside the book.Not all of them were masterpieces after all.
And yes, basically the only reason why I looked at those strange things in the store were those wonderful covers. When I actually was able to look into these books and see what they were about I was mystified: mostly text, a few illustrations of characters, plans of buildings. That was odd. At one point I had gotten to know Hero Quest because someone told me it was somehow similar, but it still was way too different from the boardgame. I guess the only reason why I desperately wanted to have the starter box for DSA was to see what the whole fuzz was about.

This particular cover  comes from a  classic of the line: Ein Stab aus Ulmeholz (A staff of elm wood), for many players that played mages THE first adventure. So many indeed that in later editions some references were dropped about that particular wood somewhere in the Middle Realm, where half the young wizards of the continent got their staffs and then slept with the lady in the nearby castle. Even the female ones. DSA was always rather open about sex and homosexuality. The story was rather simple: the player is a young mage who has to get his first staff. There is a forest somewhere where the elms produce perfect wood for staffs. And so he goes there to get some. (pun intended)

Soloadventures were of course choose-your-own-adventure books, set in the world of DSA and played with the rules of the game. For some reason the producers of the line managed to keep the format alive long after most books of that sort disappeared of the shelves everywhere else. Even nowadays the occasional Solo gets published and bought. For players it was a good way of giving the character some background story. Even if all the mages in the group had the same

[Labyrinth Lord] Drop Bears

 Drop Bear

 No. Enc.: 1d6 (2d6)

 Alignment: Neutral

 Movement: 40′ (20′)

 Armor Class: 7

 Hit Dice: 2

 Attacks: 1

 Damage: 1d10 (drop), 1d6 (claws), 1d4 (bite)

 Special Attacks: Special, see below

 Save: F2

 Morale: 7

 Hoard Class: VI

A truly vicious beast these larger, carnivorous cousins of the Koalas have found a niche for themselves: they wait patiently in the top of trees or other high altitude points until a prospective victim walks under them, then they drop onto it, effectively stunning or even killing it by the onslaught of their own weight. They mostly rely on their initial surprise attack but can hold their own in a fight for a while, thanks to some vicious claws and sharp teeth. These animals hunt in small packs, so if attacked by one a few more might be nearby, just waiting to drop on the rest of the party. The drop attack can normally only be used once, at the beginning of a fight.

Yes, not my own idea. These are a famous urban legend from Down Under. Still I was wondering why no rpg I know of ever jumped onto this urban legend/cryptid, and made it into a recurring monster. After all D&D even had the Piercer, a kind of living stalactite, which always struck me as a spectacularily bad idea. The only occassions I know of where drop bears actually do appear is Terry Pratchett’s The Last Continent and Warren Ellis’ Nextwave, and in both their appearance is rather tongue-in-cheek.

Speaking of Cavemen…

Asia Obscura has a short report about modern day people in Shanxi living in caves. Not too surprising for me, the climate in them lends itself to be lived in I guess. I still remember from work a few years back that being in the cave in summer was not the worst part of it: It was cool there when outside the temperatures were soaring. The real shock came when coming out of the cave.

And when I was working there in the winter the cave at least kept one warm (-er) Well, it still was only 9 Celsius in there, but it was better than sitting outside in the cold. Yeah, my employers didn’t really think people working in  a wooded hut at 10 below freezing might need, well, heat.[1]

People still are using this principle, but as so often the tradition is slowly eroded by modern life: only the old live there now, the young ones having moved away to the big city. Yeah, THEIR children will be back I guess, but then they’ll built their own caves with wireless internet and running water. Or something like that.

Anyway, interesting post about people living in caves, and nice pictures going with it.

Read more of this post

[Labyrinth Lord] Prehistoric Encounter Tables

And for the sake of playtesting: some encounter tables that would fit in with the character I posted a while ago. Nothing too fancy,  just some things I threw together.

2d6 Wilderness Encounter

2. Raiding Party

3. Mastodon

4. Sabretooth Tiger

5. Tribal Gatherers (Roll on Tribal Party Table)

6. Aurochs

7. Boar

8. Stag

9. Tribal Hunting Party (Roll on Tribal Party Table)

10. Cave Bear

11. Wolf

12. Warg

2d6 Cave Encounter

2. Morlocks

3. Goblins

4. Cave bear

5. Sabretooth Tiger

6. Bats

7. Troglodytes

8. Tribal Party (Roll on Tribal Party Table)

9. Ropers

10. Dwarves

11. Grey Oooze

12. Troglodytes

2d6 Tribal Party Table

2. Elves

3. Centaur

4. Hobbits

5. Neanderthals

6. Humans

7. Humans

8. Humans

9. Neanderthals

10. Goblins

11. Kobolds

12. Orcs

The picture above is from The Cave Boy of the Age of Stone by Margaret A. McIntyre, illustrated by Irma Deremeaux.

[Traveller] Diplomatic Heavyweights

Diplomatic Heavyweights
This assumes the characters have their own spaceship: When visiting a planet (maybe an ocean world) the local authorities approach the characters and ask for a small favor: there is a team of diplomats from this world who have to be transported to one of the neighbouring star-systems for some urgent crisis management. And they need to be there by yesterday. An quick start is necessary and within hours the characters should be on the way out of system, even though the jumpwill, of course, take at least a week. But the characters are getting paid handsomly for this little transport.

Possible directions for the adventure:
1. The diplomatic team is really just a diplomatic team which is sent to one of the neighbouring systems to take care of some minor fracas with sensitive tradegoods. Everybody’s happy and the characters get invited for a drink afterwards. It might even seem the only reason to get there at all was to have a few nice parties with the colleagues from the next system.

2. As 1. but it is a rather major fracas: the sensitive tradegoods were biological/nuclear exports that spilled and created a small scale catastrophy in the other starsystem. A lot of damage management is needed, promises of support and reparations have to be made.

3. As 2. but the major fracas in the meantime developed into something barely short of a war. Only imperial policy keeps the planet from launching their own fleet against it’s neighbour. The characters and their passengers are highly unwelcome.

4. As 3. But the other system. imperial policy be damned, already sent a small attack fleet to system A as a response to what the 24h newschannels now call a “terrorist attack” on the natural biosphere of the planet.

5. The diplomats are not the most usual of diplomats, highly specialised they nevertheless are a bit unusual, maybe some tentacled beings (Githiasko) or a small school of dolphins in their tanks…

6 … or a whole uplifted whale! With a bad sense of humour too: he finds wet bipeds hilarious! And that diplomatic business? Ah, that’s just killing him.


The adventure module I was talking about earlier: Elfenblut was the 11th adventure module in the slowly developing success story that was Das Schwarze Auge in Germany. I just realized when looking at the cover again that it was intended as a adventure for levels 11-15, which means it must have been combat intensive as hell. It technically is a mystery story, but even the detective stories had something to fight back in the early days of the game.

I never actually played or owned this module myself. The sheer amount of modules published for DSA alone barred me from that, in addition to the fact that when I got into roleplaying (the late 90s) many of the earlier adventures were out of print and did not fit into canon anymore. Only a few would get some classic reprints, but many people never saw some of the real classics, mostly because some of the earlier tries were, well, silly.
This one actually qualifies for that as well: as mentioned before the neanderthals on this cover were not supposed to be there. But when the publisher got the art and noticed they already had paid for it they threw in some cavemen into the adventure to make it appropriate.

I’m not really sure WHY, many of the earlier covers of the line had absolutely nothing to do with the contents of the adventure themselves. They looked awesome though.

[Labyrinth Lord] The Neanderthal


Requirements: CON 9
Prime Requisite: DEX
Hit Dice: 1d8
Maximum Level: 8

Cousins to the humans these humanoids often are assumed to be brutish due to their large brow ridges, receding chins, and slightly shorter, denser bodies. Nevertheless when found in human cities their physical closeness to “normal” humans makes them blend into these societies comparatively easy. At heart they are wilderness dwellers though, and only a few of them ever will find it necessary to move closer to their human cousins.
However, though they live a seemingly primitive lifestyle, they are as intelligent as humans. They often utilise more primitive weapons they can craft themselves, often only stone blades or traded bronze, but they are not above using other weapons if they find it necessary.Their society is one that values strength and fighting spirit and only the strongest one may become the leader. This often leads to them going wandering on their own to become more experienced to be able to become leader at one point.
They can Climb Walls and Hear Noise like a thief of equal level,
Reaching 6th Level: After reaching 6th level a Neanderthal can start a settlement of his/her own and become the leader of a tribe. Neanderthals revere cave bears, and will hunt them for rites of passage and religious purposes. They despise kobolds, goblins, and morlocks, but enjoy the company of gnomes and dwarves.

Neanderthal Level Progression
Experience……..Level…….Hit Dice (1d8)

For some reason the neanderthal, or caveman, is one of these ‘monsters’ that always showed up in early roleplaying games, yet for some reason they always were kind of underutilized. Or can you remember more than one or two modules that ever had them appear in any way? I can remember exactly one, a German adventure for Das Schwarze Auge. The authors had to write in some cavemen because the cover art their publisher bought  featured them too prominently. Obviously the module was intended to be about elves, but can anything be bad when there are cavemen on the cover?

On the one hand their appearance actually makes a bit of sense, after all in most fantasy worlds humans are living right next to a plethora of different races, why should the neanderthal die out as he did in our world?

On the other hand the picture of the neanderthal we have, and as it was propagated by these roleplaying games, is in a large part a fantasy themselves. Neanderthal society was quite sophisticated from everything we can see from their remains. This stereotype of the brutish caveman is more one of modern media. Which is of course the only place where we find any depictions of neanderthals at all. It’s kind of a vicious circle.

[Labyrinth Lord] Reanimated Ogre

Reanimated Ogre
No. Enc.: 1d4 (2d6)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 90’ (30’)
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 5 + 1
Attacks: 1 (club)
Damage: 1d10
Save: F4
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: None

Sometimes killing the beast might not be enough. One has to completely destroy the body before it loses it’s will to kill. That, or some necromancer was not satisfied with the power he had over human bodies and wanted something… bigger. Whatever it is, an undead ogre is nothing if not scary, and where a normal ogre can be a scourge on hte land, this one can be even worse, killing indiscriminately, trying to gorge down anything he comes across without being able to hold those things in his decaying body.
Undead ogres are susceptible to ordinary weapons, but are immune to charm and sleep spells.

And another one from that other blog. More a way of filling that embarrassing emptiness of an early blog.