|This can be you!|
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|Conan depicted with a 4 star horse he tamed in the wilds of Aquilonia|
A Brief Aside on Types Horses
|This can be you!|
|For more participants just make a larger bracket|
|Conan depicted with a 4 star horse he tamed in the wilds of Aquilonia|
1) Alignment is not a mere philosophy but indicates allegiance to supernatural forces.
2) Human Characters start off as Neutral and become Lawful or Chaotic through the course of a campaign.
3) Magic is either granted or stolen from Demons of Chaos.
When normal men see sorcery or otherwise identify a character as aligned with chaos a reaction roll is made followed by a morale check.
Failure to hold morale with a positive or neutral reaction would result in men fleeing the powers of chaos. Failure to hold morale and a hostile reaction roll would have those men flee and later enact machinations to expel the powers of chaos from their midst.
Barring tactical blunder, men who hold morale and have a hostile reaction roll will attempt violence against the powers of chaos. Those who hold morale and have a neutral reaction roll would treat them with scorn not offer them hospitality and make efforts to expel them from their midst. Those who hold morale and have a positive reaction would treat with the powers of chaos with unease but not make moves against them.
|Morale Lost||Flee||Flee||Flee then Plot to Expel|
Men worshipping a lawful deity would treat the intersection of the morale and reaction rolls as shifted a single column to the right, with those holding morale and a neutral reaction roll resulting in violence against the power of chaos rather than seeking to expel them.
Men worshipping a Chaotic Demon or ruled by a Sorcerer would treat the intersection of the morale and reaction rolls as shifted a single column to the left, with those holding morale and a neutral reaction roll resulting in unease against the power of chaos rather than seeking to expel them. (Of course this assumes that the chaotic agent does not serve their chaotic god).
Similarly, men worshipping a Chaotic Demon or ruled by a Sorcerer would follow the above protocol upon identifying a character as aligned with law.
The table above could also be used to determine the reactions to demi-humans who could not pass for human within civilization.
While 6' mile hexes are prefered as they allow the horizon line to match human sight from the center to the edges, characters would be able to see mountains and hills further in the distance. While this is more things to remember during wilderness travel, it easily managed by the use of a ruler while running a game. The visibility of Hills, Mountains, and Mountains whose peaks are covered in snow could be easily determined by the use of a ruler or protractor. Further the sightline of a character who ascends a peak could be determined in the same way. A referee who wishes to implement this aspect of a milieu would also need to be aware of the effects of weather on visibility.
The following table describes the sight lines from which hexes can be seen (tops) and the range of hexes visible from characters being in different terrains. Thus a character who is amid the hills on the sunny day would be able to see 2 hexes out from their hex as opposed to someone who stands amid plains in a storm and would see 0 hexes out from their hex. Further the effects of precipitation limiting visibility are described.
| Seas / Plains / Forest
Swamps / Desert / Lakes
|Mt top (1000')||7||5||2|
|Snow Mt (4000')||12||8||4|
|Snow Mt Top (5750')||15||10||5|
Let's consider a character standing outside Akureyri village, on the map below. Using most horizon description descriptions he would be able to see that to the north is an expanse of woods, south and east are plains, and to the west is the sea.
Thus a character standing outside Akureyri village would be able to see: to the north is an expanse of woods, south and east are plains, and to the west is the sea. Far north is a mountain range which expands west. To the northeast are taller mountains which extend west. To the east is a single mountain visible far away. Closer and south of that single mountain is a volcano from which black smoke rises. Looking south of the volcano another mountain range can be seen extending south. Looking west of Akureuri village a character would be able to see several peaks past the sea. Further looking northwest a character would be able to see two volcanoes, one of them distant.
Conversely a ship which is sailing from Virhiem to Lysborg during a storm would be unable to see the volcano northwest of it. They would then need to use the island peaks to orient themselves.
It also important to consider when elevation would block the sightline of other elevation. This is rather easily done if one simply visualizes the horizon and notes where the closest elevation is. Thus a character looking northwest of Svassheim would not be able to see the mountain hex directly north of Njaravik as there would be snow-covered mountains in the way.
Historically, women are not front-line combatants. Mythologies and folk histories are full of tales of memorable men with women fulfilling a supporting or object role. There are numerous tales of women who take up the male role in societies or garb themselves in arms and armor and ascend from their prescribed societal role in order to become heroes. In this event they are contrasted from the rest of their female counterparts as taking on the male role and in many cases disguise themselves in order to do so.
The players rules document explain that every character rolled is male. This creates uniformity of sex among the characters and facilitates the integration into domain play by marriage. If every character is male then the procedure for marriage can be modeled on a man asking for a woman's hand or a woman's hand being offered by her father. Obviously if your setting does not assume a patriarchal historical marriage norm, you may need to discard or adapt these rules
The Amazon class is then the female character or a female-as-race class, in the same way that an elf class is a race as class. In order to qualify to play an Amazon a character rolled requires a minimum of 12 on their charisma and has a maximum of 12 in Thews (strength). In my games the attribute roll is a 2d6+3 which results in 22.4% of characters qualifying to play as an Amazon. The Amazon is not listed in the player rules document, and a player is only informed of their ability to play one by the roll of the dice. This makes the choice to play one have to be a deliberate action from the player.
While wearing a helm an Amazon is mechanically equivalent to a fighting man of an equal level, but the removal of her helm results in a new reaction roll. The requirement of a minimum 12 of charisma results in the lowest possible reaction roll being a 3, which means that with the removal of a helm an Amazon cannot cause immediate attack (roll of snake eyes) and instead has roughly a 73% chance of turning a encounter with a hostile reaction roll into a neutral one. This is to model the cultural effect of revealing a woman who has taken on male societal roles. This results in the XP requirement of an amazon to be 120% of a fighting man's or 200% of a thief's.
The only other difference from a fighter is that an Amazon does not roll on the dismemberment table. Instead all results are treated as if rolling a 5 aka internal wounds resulting in a subtraction of 1d6+1 from a character's maximum HP. I do this to avoid having to go into graphic depictions of violence against women at the table as they are slain by monsters in the underworld.
My dear friend Wizzzargh has been writing a series of posts on how he changes the aesthetics and dynamics of the inhabitants of the AD&D monster manual since 2019. I have enjoyed these posts and he suggested I do the same. This a look at the monsters (not men nor beast) detailed in Basic '81 as how they may be utilized in a iron-age swords and sorcery milieu. The "playable" demihumans have been omitted as they are not traditional underworld denizens.
3HD, 3 in 6 surprise, +1 damage
So in the older editions these are depicted with jack-o-lanterns for heads. Surprisingly there is another monster which also has a similar appearance and aptitude.
“It was huge, like the harvest moon, huge and amber. But this Moon had eyes that burned in its pallid, pitted face. They were for all the world like wounds, those eyes, as thought someone had gouged them in the flesh of Rawhead's face then set two candles to flicker in the holes. Garrow was entranced by the vastness of this Moon. He looked from eye to eye and then to the wet slits that were its nose, and finally, in a childish terror, down to its mouth. God, that mouth. It was so side, so cavernous. It seemed to split the head in two as it opened.” Rawhead Rex - Clive Barker
Raw-head Rex appears as a tall lanky and hairy creature with a moon-face smooth like raw meat. I think this may have been the original inspiration of the monster.
In the original story, RR acts as a very phallic symbol and is implicit with the horror of rape. The fear of pregnant women or those menstruating isn’t something needed in my game as that’s crossing over past the PG13 territory and further doesn’t really have a place in any game focused on physical exploration of dangerous places. Also my games assume all male characters with a female-as-class which has attribute requirements for play, so it doesn’t seem like a good way for players to demonstrate their skill of understanding the milieu.
Thus bug-bears are forest dwelling spirits of destruction worshipped by ancient men. They appear at night and fight with no weapons, instead possessing a supernatural power strong enough to rip men in half.
Bug Bear [3HD, armor as leather, ripping claws or bite 1d8+1, 3 in 6 chance to surprise, morale 8]
A group of beings stand before you, each lankly and covered in matted fur. Each stands two heads taller than a man and it's arms end in great claws. The head of each is utterly hairless, deathly pale, and larger than a pumpkin. Two eyes, deep set like stab wounds, are set above a pair of slit nostrils. A cavernous mouth opens cleaving the head into half spheres revealing predatory teeth.
3HD, 8 paralytic attacks, walk on walls
In my games these turned into a less hardcore xenomorph from alien. So there are 3 stages, egg, larva, and adult. Adult is the classic example. Eggs rupture if a person steps within 5’ or if a torch is brought within 10’ with the baby carrion crawler reacting to body heat. They are essentially a save vs paralysis for 2d4 minutes. If the character fails to save, it crawls down their throat and emerges into a larval version (1HD) exiting from their intestines in 2d4 days killing them. The larval version’s paralysis lasts for 2d4 turns. The larval versions will lay eggs into the stomachs of their paralyzed prey and then depart.
Also I think 8 paralytic attacks is a bit much, so I just turn it into 4 attacks but with a range as long as a spear allowing the carrion crawler to attack the 2nd rank. The adult carrion crawler itself does not lay eggs into people, only setting up the eggs as traps.
Carrion Creeper Egg [Carrion Crawler eggs will have their progeny emerge in response to body heat. A character who approaches within 2' of an egg will have 1d6 child carrion crawlers burst forth and the character must then roll save vs paralysis for a number of minutes equal to the child carrion crawlers. The carrion crawlers will attempt to crawl into the paralyzed victim and in 2d4 days will mature enough to burst forth as Young Carrion Creepers. If a torch, or a similar source of heat, is brought within 5' of the eggs all of them will burst with the creepers seeking the heat.]
Four 3' tall, pale green oval-shaped almost spherical shapes stand together each covered in gray ichor.
Young Carrion Creeper [1 HD, armor as leather, 4 tentacle strikes which cause a save vs paralyze for 2d6 minutes or bite for 1 hp, crawl up walls, morale 8]
A vibrant green caterpillar twice as long as a man's leg squirms forward, four tentacles writhe as it rises upwards like a snake, opening its maw.
Adult Carrion Creeper [3 HD, armor as leather, 4 tentacle strikes which cause a save vs paralyze for 2d4 turns or bite for 1d8, the tentacles may attack as longspears, crawl up walls, morale 9]
A massive green caterpillar nearly 15' long crawls forward, four tentacles, each 5' long undulate seeking flesh as it opens a maw of churning teeth.
4HD, transform into anything it sees
In my games these are the biological creations of Egg of Tenyks as opposed to the metal men which normally carry the Egg’s banner. They can not only mimic the visuals of those hey see but can also mimic the voices of others that they hear. They are sent to sow destruction and discord and travel in groups of 1-6 (wow that’s enough to replace most of a party) and will present themselves as heralds wishing to meet with local men of authority. They will then impersonate those men and commit violence as they attempt to pass themselves off as them. The tell of a doppleganger is that they can only blink manually, much like how the Teethousand would not blink when firing his firearm.
12HD, flying, breath weapon as HP, lots of treasure, may have multiple heads
In my games, each one has a name (like The Black Dragon) and only appear in a wilderness lair or dungeon room but never as a random encounter. Civilization knows where a dragon is and avoids those places. A dragon whose hoard is robbed will exit it’s domain and begin destroying the countryside as in Beowulf. Dragons do not lay eggs, instead arising long after the breaking of a great taboo by greed such as slaying one’s own brother to obtain treasure as in Fáfnir.
4HD, Armor as plate, immune to non-magical weapons, 4 attacks, fly, immune to charm and sleep
Mechanically these are monsters which require players to think beyond “I cast sleep” or “I attack”. These are obstacles to be overcome by tying them up, activating a trap on them, or locking them behind a stone door. I think that is the core identity of a gargoyle as opposed to a flying statue that comes to life and potentially slays 4 different characters per turn.
When I was I kid I grew up watching digimon and I remember seeing a very strangely shaped one called Shakkoumon. It remember later learning that it was based on an old japanese artifact known as Shakōkidogū which were discussed in Chariots of the Gods as representing ancient alien visitors wearing a spacesuit. The design of the Shakōkidogū was also present in the 3rd generation pokemon games as Claydol, a pokemon which I really liked aesthetically. The games give the following lore about it:
Claydol are said to be dolls of mud made by primitive humans and brought to life by exposure to a mysterious ray. This Pokémon moves about while levitating. - Ruby
Claydol is an enigma that appeared from a clay statue made by an ancient civilization dating back 20,000 years. This Pokémon shoots beams from both its hands. - Sapphire
While gargoyles existed in Egyptian and Grecian antiquity, they strike me as very much a gothic architectural element. I much prefer using the Jomon period constructs as they could be buried guardians which predate the player characters and thus have reason to be within a dungeon. The Shakōkidogū remind me of the golems/robots found within Laputa Castle in the Sky, and the notion of ancient constructs powered by psychic energy capable of unleashing beams of destruction fits the swords-and-sorcery aesthetic very well for me.
"Gargoyle" aka Shakokidogu [4HD, armor as plate, 90' line of destruction dealing damage equal to HP save vs half or slam 1d8, must wait 1d4 rounds between firing lines of destruction, immune to non-magical weapons, immune to charm and sleep, able to fly, morale 11]
Before you stands a construct of stone shaped to be a man thrice the height of a normal one. The figure's arms hang down past it's knees and it stands on all fours as a gorilla. Repeated patterns of auspicious petroglyphs repeat upon it's skin and a single vertical red eye has been painted upon it's forehead. The figure turns it's head towards you and suddenly an orb red light begins to coalesce around the vertical eye.
2 HD, 3 attacks, paralysis, undead
Ghouls are one of my favorite monsters in fiction. I think they’re a great monster to put in a dungeon as they could simply show up to eat the corpses there. My only issue is with the paralysis and that they are not intelligent as they were in Lovecraft’s works. The paralysis, alongside 3 attacks makes them effective at destroying a party as they are encountered in groups and are always hostile.
In my games I decided to remove the paralysis and replace it with being able to dig through the ground using their claws. Further I made them intelligent rather than beastial to allow better use of their burrowing abilities. Instead of being man-like beasts which haunt dungeons they have become cannibals who can burrow beneath a house to feast on the flesh of the inhabitants.
Ghouls are also a possible race-as-class in my games if the players make friends with a den of them or become on by a curse.
Lovecraftian Ghoul as Class
Unless otherwise stated: as a Chaotic Fighting-Man
Ghoul [2HD, armor as chain, bite and claws 1d8x3, fast, may dig through earth as worms, morale 10]
A bestial figure, impossibly gaunt, stares at you with a smile that stretches to its clavicles. The figure pulls its mouth open with its claws, the jaw dropping open from its clavicles unfurling a lashing forked tongue.
2 HD +1, +1 damage, 12 morale
When I first read this entry I noticed the 12 morale as rather significant. Lizard men will never lose morale and retreat from combat. This alongside their 2HD and their +1 damage made me think of this as an artificial race created to wage war. Alternatively these could simply be fanatical warriors who would fight to the last man. In a Homeric game these could be Maenads.
I would declare these to be the servants of the reptile god whose empire was destroyed by a cataclysm which sundered the very plane of existence. Through that gaping wound they fled into distant caves of lava. There they found the crystals which refracted the folding light and the unfolding light. They used these to unfold themselves and pass as men and folded others to serve as their beasts of burden.
(Now you might say, wow Lungfungus what a daring synthesis of lizard-people conspiracies and hollow earth. Bro, this is just the plot of the Super Mario Bros movie. The world evolve use to mean unfurl/unfold so devolving could mean folding.)
No need to change these, except maybe the non-wolf lycanthropes being lame.
2HD, +1 damage
What I noticed when re-reading the entry was that each group of Neanderthals is lead by a pair of 6HD much larger Neanderthal and that Neanderthals will generally not be hostile unless attacked. The giant taller version reminded me of the K’n-yani aka the Xinaian from Lovecraft’s the Mound.
The K’n-Yani appear physically terrifying. They are extremely tall some as tall as five meter and have yellow-grey skin. They have broad noses, and high foreheads and cheekbones, as well as a large, wide skull which elongates strangely in the back. Their teeth are broad and flat, and double rowed. Their hair ranges in color from black to wiry red.
I would rule that further these Neanderthal would be the proto-beings which later became men. They may not be the stereotypical cave-men but they would be instead any possible predecessor of humanity. These could range from those who once swelled within the terrestrial paradise and the K’n-Yani being the wielders of the flaming swords placed at the east, to them being ancient men of the Iron Age who survived their drowning by Cronus’s Bane and the K’n-Yani being their Othrysian attendants, or even them being first men carved from bark and the K’n-Yani being the giants born of Eiocha.
2HD +2, 5in6 surprise, sap strength, immune to charm and sleep, immune to non-magical weapons, morale 12, cannot be turned
Like the lizard men, shadows do not fail morale and retreat from combat. They also are immune to the incapacitating level 1 spells and non-magical weapons. Further they only have a 1 in 6 chance of NOT surprising the party and when they do, they decrease the strength scores of characters. If we ignore the sapping of strength on a hit, we’re left with an entity that catches it’s foes unaware, is immune to mundane weaponry, is not effected by the level 1 incapacitation spells, and relentlessly fights and pursues it’s foes.
Slasher villains come to mind, especially Candyman or Jason Voorhees. They appear from the shadows surprising the cast, are largely impervious to weapons, and continue to chase after their targets. Similarly so do the Erinyes from Greek myth.
Shadows are the psychic vestiges of violence and vengeance which coalesce to spill the blood of man. They may take many forms: some appear as shadowy figures ascending to grasp an additional dimension, some resemble those wronged bearing their wounds, others wear the guise of beasts of ill omen with glowing red eyes.
Sidenote on Ghosts:
Ghosts are not monsters, they may exist alongside shadows and present way to end their existence, but they are not combat interactions. Ghosts present a great deal of interaction with the milieu and should not be reduced to a mere combat. They should be placed around the wilderness and underworld as means of changing it. Perhaps a ghost of tomb raider bars passage across a doorway until it’s corpse is brought up from the underworld and given a funeral. Perhaps a ghost resides in the ruins of tower and can tell of a safe path through the forest man-eating trees in exchange for a wineskin. Perhaps a ghost of a king walks the ramparts of a castle and may tell the player character of correct alignment that he was murdered allowing a character to slay the usurper and enter domain play. The cultural significance of ghosts presents such a wide array of interactions that to turn them into mere combat encounters is an excess of reduction.
So in my games I got these confused with Ghasts or Wraiths or something. Thus they don’t have level drain but instead have a aura of weakness around them which imparts a -2 penalty on all rolls. I like to think of them as Nazgul as drawn by Ralph Bakshi. Ghastly figures which drain the life essence of those near them as they menace with their dark swords and leer with their glowing red eyes.
Wight [3HD, armor as plate, phantasmal sword 1d8, all within 15' incur a -2 penalty on all rolls, immune to non-magical weapons, morale as undead]
You torch light suddenly reveals cloud of shimmering darkness. A moment passes and the cloud coalesces into several shadowy red-eyed armored warriors each holding swords.The figures seem immaterial and almost illusory, but you feel your strength being sapped away in their presence
These have no special abilities and just increase in HD. You can just make your own low HD monster-men. These are just demihumans who live in the underworld. I claim that the vast majority of them should simply be men of some sort.
Within the underworld you could have a temple to a chthonic god populated by black robed clergy wearing horned masks, the training halls and vaults of a order of warriors, or even the bazzar of a once great empire stolen neath by a swarm of bats.
These are as above but undead! I just use “walking corpses” as generic 1HD undead and try to make each more significant undead stand out by tying their death to their attributes. Men burned to death might rise as skeletons which are on fire and are able to point a finger and force objects to save vs catching a light. Similarly I try to have higher HD undead unique to specific burial rites of ancient dungeon making civilizations. The ancient Ytori bound the souls of men to their bones by golden masks and then placed them within giant urns of mud. Now those ancient spirits arise from the urns as gold masked mud-men who are able to envelop intruders in their muck and drown them. I don’t think it difficult to make these unique, and I think it adds a great deal to the created milieu.
Further if encountered as a wandering monster roll, either in the underworld or the wilderness, another roll should be made for the type of undead being. I weigh my wilderness encounter tables to have a 3:2:1 ratio of men, beasts, and monsters which would lead to 50% of undead as walking corpses and another half as in-human carcasses or skeleton creeping from the darkness. If you have never hit your players with an animated skeleton of a hint crocodile emerging from waters I strongly suggest it!
I've seen some different interpretations of how to make rulings about stealth in OSR games, but I have rarely seen surprise involved in those discussions. The two are very connected and a proper understanding of what surprise and stealth mean in an OSR game would allow referees to make rulings on the matter easily. [This post came from some discussion with Wizzzargh]
Implicit in the surprise roll, is that characters who are surprised by a wandering monster are not aware of the monsters until they appear and possibly attack.
When possible, surprise is rolled for each side of an encounter. - Basic
This means that certain conditions remove the chance of surprise. Consider a chamber which contains ghouls feasting on a corpse past a door. A character who listens at a door and hears the sound of chewing and breaking bone would eliminate the party’s chance of being surprised by the ghouls as they would be aware of the entity past the door. Another thing to consider is what happens when the party is surprised by an enemy which rolls snake-eyes for their reaction roll, should that enemy be allies to slay their targets? Because if a character was able to successfully sneak up on an enemy with a dagger, I would absolutely rule that they could slit their throat.
Certain OSR rules grant increased damage for ambushes, such as LotFP’s sneak skill, or they divide character HP into Flesh and Grit and allow ambushes to deal damage directly to Flesh. But the reaction roll only has a 2.77% chance of encountered creatures attacking instantly. Coupled with the base 2 in 6 chance of being surprised this works out to be a 0.93% of characters being ambushed by a wandering monster encounter where they would be slain by being ambushed. The issue that arises in play is that even if monsters do not slay characters on an ambush and instead deal regular damage, it is often enough to severely disadvantage the players to where they will die. It feels like bad sportsmanship to include a random chance of death every turn.
I think a much more useful combination of surprise and the negative reaction roll is to create disadvantaged situations for the characters, surprised being more of ambushed. Consider an encounter with a lion where it has surprise and rolled a negative reaction. I think the lion pouncing from the tall grass atop of a player and clamping it’s jaws upon his throat to be a better use of the surprise round. That character is as good as dead without the quick thinking and wits of the other party members. This works well in conjunction with a negative reaction roll as hostility similar to how it would result in a group of sentient beings demanding a toll for passing rather than just being hostile before attacking on rolls of 3-5 of the reaction roll.
Further this view of the encountered creature generating a disadvantage that the players must overcome, is a usable heuristic with different creatures using unique tactics. This would allow players to prepare against them and outwit their opponents just as they outwit traps. If the mermen of the Blue River always throw weighted nets over their foes in an ambush, the players would be wise to carry blades on their persons with which to quickly free themselves or to favor light armor so that they do not drown.
The knowledge of an entity existing is an important consideration when making a ruling on stealthy movement. A character would not have a need to have dice decide the nature of their sneaking if no one is aware of them. Surprise must then be considered when a character (usually a thief) attempts to “stealth” for infiltration or ambush purposes. If the entity attempting stealth is aware of the other entities he would not roll to be surprised, but they still would be. In this way the 2 in 6 chance of being surprised would supersede the move silently/stealth roll. If the other entities were not surprised then the character’s stealth chance would be applied, essentially as a saving throw. This can further be a expanded to attempting to sneak past those aware or those unaware. Consider an assassin sneaking past guards to slay the king. If the guards were not aware of him entering the palace he would gain both the surprise chance and then sneaking save in his favor. Had the assassin killed the guard outside the King’s bed chamber, the guard may have dropped his mace which would have made the king become suspicious of an attacker. The assassin would not get the benefit of surprise over the king.