Direbane is an abode to share artifacts, simulacra, histories, and other items of note related to ongoing years adventuring.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Witchcraft - Suicide - Violence

I happened to encounter a pamphlet, "Dungeons and Dragons - Witchcraft Suicide Violence," from a controversial time during the 1980s for The World's Most Popular Role Playing Game. My gaming group by 1980-83 had essentially moved on to DIY campaigns as a result of TSR's T2 delays and Judges Guild losing license to publish scenarios and settings using 1st edition rules (Judges Guild began using the "Universal System"which is in retrospect a pretty darn useful tool), so I actually missed the "seriousness" of all the controversy at the time.

The focal point of protest was from a group Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons (B.A.D.D.) founded by Pat Pulling, whose son had committed suicide in 1982. The controversial connection between The World's Most Popular Role Playing Game and teen suicide resulted in a 1985 segment on the news program 60 Minutes, but was thoroughly debunked in "The Pulling Report" by Michael Stackpole. Pulling essentially used news articles and police speculation to support her claims, not scientific research.

I had never heard it mentioned before, but suppose there is some significance to note that the medical doctor most commonly associated with Pulling, Thomas Radecki (who also appears in the 60 Minutes segment), had his medical license revoked in March 1992 by the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation for a five-year minimum as a result of his "engaging in immoral conduct of an unprofessional nature with a patient." In September 2012 Radecki voluntarily surrendered his Pennsylvania medical license while facing allegations of unprofessional conduct with patients that included claims Radecki traded drugs to patients in exchange for sex.

A detailed analysis of this pamphlet has been posted on The Escapist. My interest is how closely this pamphlet resembles a vintage gaming supplement or current DIY product. Ha, there is actually so much info cribbed in the pamphlet from game rules it would be interesting to see if a game could be run solely using "Witchcraft Suicide Violence."

(click photo for .pdf copy of pamphlet)

Friday, November 6, 2015

At long last... THE NECROMICAN!

Fantasy Art Enterprises was an undertaking by Mathias Genser, Paul Reiche III, and (just about the quintessential old-school artist) Erol Otus. I've written about their rare tome on monsters and items called Booty and the Beasts, which is pretty expensive to buy but if you hunt around in the usual file-sharing services (*caugh* scribd *caugh*) you "might" find a PDF copy of it.

The gents in 1979 also produced a companion book of magic user spells called The Necromican. I have seen copies on eBay running for around $400, but this book is rare! So I've had this little project where I was culling spells and art from different reviews and putting together a copy that just gave me some flavor of what this book is like. Anyhow, I was using my little assembled version as inspiration for some traps down on the 10th level of Underport and I just thought "well someone has to have posted a PDF of this thing somewhere..."

Lo and behold, after braving the murkier side of the interweb, and for purely historical reasons, I found it!!! Ssshhhhh.... and I'll provide a little taste of Erol Otus art and an interesting spell.
(P.S. here is a link to my "fabled" Necromican, formatted to print booklet-style in Adobe Reader)

 BENIGN BOOTS, (8th Level)   Duration: Until caster's body is safely home or until dispelled. No. Affected: Caster only. When cast, this spell will create enchanted boots around the mage's feet. These boots will act completely normal until the wearer dies. When this happens, the boots transport the corpse and themselves into the astral plane and then run at 3 times man's speed per turn to a predesignated place of safety. During this journey the corpse should be treated as though a preservation spell had been cast on it.

(Don't know why, but I find this spell strangely refreshing!)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

FInally, Te'kumel at DunDraCon

"You of polite anonymity are invited to science-fantasy adventure 100,000 years in the future. On Te'kumel, demons and devils are real, magic possible, politics treacherous, slavery, sacrifice and assassination routine..."

Here at last, for DunDraCon (The West Coast's Premier Game Convention), is a game I intended to run at DunDraCon 38, but had to retake a certification exam (blast), and again at DDC 39, but 5e came out and I participated running a game celebrating that release, so here we are two years later. (heck I was even in my forties back then!)

The project is as I left it back in November 2013. The rules booklet for players is almost complete, I have two panels to finish for my judge's screen, and prepared scenarios for mercenary, mission, and (almost) Jakallan underworld. Ha, sorry, if the team wants to run arena battles at first level probably that's not going to end well for the combatants (if only because, gosh darnit, stupid arena combat may confuse my brain with DarkSun).

Anyhow, it was very nice of Mark Schynert to spotlight the game again. Empire of the Petal Throne really is a rarity in the annals of RPGs and should receive greater attention. 

Hailing from a decade when the lines between sci-fi and fantasy were blissfully more fluid, EPT garnered a reputation for the complexity of language and social conventions in the setting. Essentially, the conceit is a non-European flavored feudal realm, preferring instead metaphorical expression from India and the South and Central Americas. At it's heart, however, Empire of the Petal Throne is a game with incredible options for exploration and adventure as a direct result of the genre-bending, millennium-spanning background.

Unfortunately, character death remains a real possibility. Thus in whatever scenario pursued by the adventurers I won't dwell on the language and social "niceties" so much and rather keep a stable of NPC nearby for a player to sub-in once PC bids aeternum vale.

(click through link and scroll waaay to the bottom for DDC game listing)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Best "Dark Dungeons" Parody

This is absolutely the best parody of the Chick Tract "Dark Dungeons" although it disappears online from time to time. I don't know if the posters received cease & desist or what.

Anyhow, for your enjoyment. Ha, however it is becoming more dated with the D20 references.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Ever Be Another City-State?

I would sorely like to create a city state for my campaign, but given the blasted troubles I've had creating the mega-dungeon the task appears far more daunting.

Judges Guild was unable to duplicate my favorite, the original version of City State of the Invincible Overlord (City State of the World Emperor was similar, but in many respects incomplete compared to Invincible Overlord).

Mapping: How does one map multiple-story buildings?
State Blocks: What are the minimum stat blocks for inhabitants?
Random Encounters: How different are the quarters of the city?
Dungeons: A large city should have large catacombs, so write them together... or separate a'la Wraith Overlord?

Given that a city is not really an encounter-based dungeon (although Invincible Overlord was for our thief-based campaigns) and most shops will never be entered, perhaps large swaths of a city could be mapped in generalities. Only major encounter-based locations would be drafted in detail while tables could be used for butchers, tailors, and candle-stick makers.

Of course, what sort of game judge would a city be designed for? One who is supposed to "design" on the fly i.e. keeping notes of all the randomized encounters (so they would be there for the party next time), or someone who expects a certain consistency that's what's here is here and what's there is there.

Now, M.A.R. Barker's Jakalla in Empire of the Petal Throne (1975, TSR) has a wonderful map (see below) and then merely designated 77 important locations on the map - no stats for inhabitants or detailed descriptions beyond "40. Harbor of the Imperial Squadron 41. Barracks of the City Guard" etc. That may be the way to go because the focus would be on map design and game judges would just have to make encounters fit their particular group, perhaps with some standard examples for guards, secret police, moat critters, and stuff like that. Hmmmmm.

**** Jakalla in E.P.T. also has an 8-paragraph description directed to foreign characters visiting the city, as well as random encounter and mission tables.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Booty and the Beasts - Galactic Dragon!

Image of Galactic Dragon by Erol Otus.
So, Ms. or Mr. Game Judge, are your gaming PCs getting too big for their britches? That's where Booty and the Beasts comes in, a gaming supplement published in 1979 by Fantasy Art Enterprises (Erol Otus, Mathias Genser, and Paul Reiche III). While there are less powerful creatures, the volume contained many monsters, "... of a more powerful nature than will be found in most fantasy role-playing campaigns ... (to) provide a greater challenge and incentive to those more experienced playes who, since fantasy role-playing has been around for a number of years, must be acquiring higher and higher level characters." Booty and the Beasts contains 87 creatures (including various demons and robots) and 52 items (both magical and technological in nature).

Here an excerpt from the tome showing a type of creature you'll find in this rare book:

"GALACTIC DRAGON: Hit Dice 172. Armor Class 0. Dexterity 12. Movement light speed. Feared even by Gods, this extremely rare and legendary beast can be found roaming through interstellar space, foraging for debris, small asteroids, starships, and other fodder. Using its vast fins to catch the solar winds and its ability to manipulate gravity, the Galactic Dragon is able to sail up to light speed, but remains in space, never landing or entering atmosphere for fear of damaging its frail body. The Galactic Dragon feeds by breathing, up to three times per day, a 20 foot diameter blob of diffuse anti-matter that expands to a one-mile diameter blob at the range of five miles, which then dissipates. Everything caught within the blob must make a save at its base level with no pluses, protects, or resistances. If the saving throw is failed, the object is totally annihilated, needing 1-10 simultaneously cast wishes performed at the place where the object was annihilated to retrieve that which was lost. If the saving throw is made, one of the following will occur, determined randomly:
1. Teleport 1-10 light years away.
2. Move away at light speed.
3. Disintegrate.
4. Become anti-matter.

"The energy released by the matter-anti-matter reaction is collected by the colossal fins that wreath the Galactic Dragon's body. (NOTE: the matter-anti-matter reaction will not destroy the universe or have any other effects than those listed.) In addition, once per melee round, the Dragon may use its fins to focus light into beams, hitting as A.C. 9, and delivering 20-400 points with each of the two large fins and 7-42 points of damage with each of the eight small fins. A save results in half damage for both large and small fin attacks. Finally, the Galactic Dragon is capable of biting antagonists with its massive maw, easily engulfing objects the size of a Lunar Landing Module, doing 15-300 points of damage to those bitten. The Galactic Dragon saves vs. everything on a 6 to no effect regardless of minuses, cuts and resistances, and is immune to energy, heat, cold, disintegration, poison gas, diseases, gravity attacks, and all charms and controls."


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Chasm of the Drow!

I've been intending for the past couple of years to do a write-up of a similar scenario that J.A.S. rans us through, oh, about 30 years ago - "The Chasm of the Drow!" - as a submission for The One-Page Dungeon Contest.

J.A.S. ran his through a world without magic, but rather "mag-tec" - technology that was just about the same thing as magic. (Something to do with his now-ex-wife and The 700 Club, ha, don't ask...)

Anyhow, I figured the Drow Chasm would be a good candidate because it was basically just shit-loads of drow doing what drow do until we snuck and fought our way to wherever we needed to be. Chasm also had some unique elements such as the setting, caverns set into the walls of a vast crevase, and also these floating top-looking things that would shoot out damaging rays at us.

So what happens is I discover this year's One-Page Dungeon submissions are due at 6 pm Pacific Time today! No worries, I get my work done for the morning and set out to craft my one-pager of Chasm of the Drow. I'm all ready to submit, with about a minute to spare, and I discover you must have http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0 printed somewhere on the page. So's I scramble getting this thing on there and I'm a minute late with the submission.

Oh well, so anyway, here is the submission for anyone who's interested - Credit to J.A.S. for running us through the original. (This one doesn't have Creative Commons because it hosed my format.)

P.S. Also, thanks to Sick Rick for the Zippo Knights, just thought I'd throw them in for something wicked at the bottom.

P.P.S. Yes, I know, it always pays to read instructions!

P.P.P.S. AND I miscalculated the UTC calculation and missed the deadline by an hour!!! Well, I have a keen head start for next year.  :~) 

P.P.P.P.S. Shenanigans! Ha, well it looks like my submission made it in after all. Unfortunately it's the version without the drow warriors having blasters and glue guns. Wah!

(click to link and download PDF version.) 

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Ok, I want to award parties treasure after encounters. I really do. However, I must confess I have a lot more fun working on the encounter itself i.e. maps, monsters, the occasional trap (enough to make them think about it, but not so much that looking for traps doesn't seem to become... necessary, until. Oops.).

The end result is that sometimes I put in treasure how and when I feel like it, or when I remember.

Therein lies a problem. Say I have a horde of 40 some-odd critters, all of a certain treasure type. Not only do I have to roll on all these tables to figure out what's there, but often some stuff is dorky so I end up picking things just because they look cool to me.

I should have thought of this earlier, the interweb knows all eh?, but this person over at donjon has developed applications for all these tasks! You just put in the details of what you're looking for and voila!!! Not only that, he has adapted table from AD&D through 5e plus Pathfinder and other games like Microlite.

Any how, this site relieves a HUGE amount of the boring part of dungeon crafting, yet still provides a framework for me to think, "Yeah, the gold and gems and stuff are cool, but what this horde really needs is a pair of magical dancing dwarf boots with were-fairy ability!"

(The only time I want to roll dice is for attacks & damage!)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Monster Lead Miniatures!

Well. One of these days (I'm going to cut you into little pieces... whut?!) I'm going to have to figure out how to properly organize a bunch of photos in a blogspot post. Anyhow, here are several of our beloved monster lead minis. All painted by hand using Testors model paints, which is probably why the paint rubbed-a-dubbed off so easily over time.

If you click on one of the photos you'll be able to scroll through them at a larger view. Sorry that some are out of focus!

We had masses of orcs, really like 50, that stood in for just about any type of army against the characters. Also goblins, the little yellow bastards!

As for the painting schemes, we used the colors indicated from the Monster Manual descriptions, which is how I learned what mauve and ochre look like.

The beholder below is one of my favorites, with his pretty blue eye!

Ha, we have representations of all the giant types, but had to use them all for whatever giant-type we fought at the time.

Cave Bear. Important tip I learned recently. If you need some monster on the fly, start with Cave Bear stats and work out from there with whatever else you need.

This troll is another favorite. I have a cool ogre with his testicles hanging down, but I don't see the picture here. It may not have came out good enough to save.
We essentially bulked up our set of minis during the great hobby store bust of 1984 or so. Our local store went out of business and the prices kept dropping until everything was sold.

Too bad, Pleasanton Hobbies was our place for many years.

Lead Minis!

Hand-painted metal miniatures were a big part of our game for a couple decades. For my part until I was able to establish a large enough collection of the pre-painted plastic ones that proved to be less time consuming to get in play (no need to spend a week painting) and above all, and this surprised me although it should not have, so much physically lighter in weight to move around.

I literally have about a 2'x2'x3' chest that weighs less than the two 18"x12"x8" wine crates I used for lead miniatures. (Yes, I still always call them lead minis, although I'm unsure how many are actually lead.)

The cool thing about selecting and painting your own character mini was the ability to select a good character fit in terms of armor, weapons, equipment, etc. then paint to match personal and racial characteristics.

Hear are a number of favorite character minis... (I'll follow up with a monster minis post)

Nicodemus, long-played
Grey Elven Fighter-thief.

Please No Name, J.A.S.'s strange fighter
with glowing orbs under his hood.
Sumerled, my brother's barbarian
from before there were barbarians.
Warmanjg, Deangul's long-suffering,
one-eyed dwarf.
Just about every 1st level mage...
Just about every high-level mage.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Surprise in Encounters

The simple and elegant surprise tables from Judges Guild "Judges Shield" circa 1977.
(Interesting. The Party never gets a free round of attack, only Monsters...)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

My Favorite RPG Covers

Zak Smith posted about his favorite RPG covers over on Playing D&D With Porn Stars.

I absolutely love cover art, although it's pretty much rooted in old D&D since that's about the only role playing game I run (albeit in various formulations). So here are seven favorites that came to mind for me of RPG covers that bring a smile to my face every time.

Maps is art! (What other purpose serves an unenterable room...?)

Truly, it never hit upon me the woman was neked until the cover became all controversial...
Could've picked any of the Arduin trilogy covers.
Original cover 1e DMG. I had the Easley cover maybe why I loved City of Brass.
This is terrific art because... LOOK AT ALL THE SHITS YOU GET FOR $9!!!
Phil Barker did all his own art for this RPG. Awesome. (Still need to play it...)
Damn well have viewed this cover a million times, just have to love it. What D&D's all about, eh?