Thursday, March 13, 2014

Mutants & Mazes: Realms of Murikah

In the year 2419 the Golden Age of Man came to a cataclysmic end with the Great Rad War. The terrible weapons used in the war scoured the earth, razed mountains, boiled seas, turned the planet on its axis, and caused the very face of the world to change forever. Man’s civilization was cast into ruin, and the essential natures of men, beasts, and plants were forever altered thanks to the Glow of the Rad, which created whole new monstrous life even as it destroyed for all time other forms of life.

Five hundred years later Mutants – men, animals, and even plants – all but overwhelmed the remaining tribes of Pure Men. For a time it seemed that Pure Men might truly be extirpated by the descendents of those who suffered from the follies of their ancestors. But then, unto the Pure Men came the gods – or at least, beings claiming to be the gods. These first gods claimed to be the Old Gods of Law returned, to help gird the Pure Men in their battles against mutant-kind, to turn the tide of savagery back and hold aloft the light of Civilization. Odin and Zeus, Horus and Huitzilopochtli, the Angels Gabriel and Michael, and others – out of lost and garbled myth and legend these potent beings came forth and taught the disparate surviving tribes of Pure Men the rites and rituals that would perform divine magic.

And magic it was that turned the tide for the Pure Men. Slowly, haltingly, the tiny realms into which the mutants had thrust the Pure Men grew. Crusading priests of these Old Gods drove back the mutant menace; villages grew into towns, towns into cities, and cities built kingdoms. A thousand years after the Great Rad War the land of Murikah was divided into scores of petty kingdoms; most possessed a poor level of technology, at best on par with that of the ancient Dark Ages, as most of the Old Gods called for the rejection of the high-technology of the lost Golden Age as much as they called for the purging of the mutants from the lands held by Pure Men in the name of Law.

Slowly, the mutants were being driven back into the wilds, as kingdoms grew and empire building began again. Then two things happened at about the same time, both inimical to Law and Civilization built by the Old Gods, which would change the course of history.

First, the Other Gods appeared. The Other Gods are the gods of Chaos, the ancient, dread enemies of the Old Gods – Asmodeus and Tezcatlipoca, Set and Hecate, Tiamat and Tsathoggua, among many others. To oppose the Old Gods and their Pure Men worshippers, they patronized the mutant races, and granted unto them the same magical might that the Old Gods gave to the Pure Men.

Secondly, renegade Pure Men, who had chafed under the rule of the priest-kings of the new kingdoms, sought to gain the power of magic without being required to bow and scrape before the Old Gods. Whether they discovered it themselves or the Other Gods presented them with the needful information, these heretics and free-thinkers gained the power of Wizardry, the arts of arcane magic – the command of magical forces outside the dispensation of the gods.

But these budding wizards discovered the hard way that magic has a price – without the proper wisdom to rein it in, magic rapidly masters he who thought he was the master of magic. Over time, they discovered that this weakness could be mostly overcome through application of aspects of pre-Rad super-science. And so the Sorcerer-Scientists arose as a faction of the new wizardly groups. Unfortunately, a side effect of the application of super-science to the minds of these magi is that it usually drives them insane!

Thus, even as the kingdoms of the Pure Men were staging a great resurgence, the Chaos Priests of mutant-kind, the scholarly wizards and scientists of the renegade fringe of Civilization, and the megalomaniacal sorcerer-scientists of the wilds exploded into action. For a thousand years countless factions fought each other amidst the ruins of the Rad Glow. In some realms, wielders of divine and arcane magic learned to cooperate; in others they fought tooth-and-nail. Science was reborn, as men and mutants sought every tool in the battle for supremacy. Empires rose and fell; whole new races and civilizations grew and fell into ruin.

In the end the Sorcerer-Scientists allied with the Chaos-Priests of the Other Gods and their mutant followers against the forces of the Law-Priests of the Old Gods and their allied Wizards and Scientists. Chaos and the Sorcerer-Scientists won; the Kingdoms of Law were crushed, their lands and people split among the allied factions, and for most of the following thousand years a true and terrible Dark Age fell upon the lands of Murikah.

The forces of Law retreated into the wilds, there to hide, lick their wounds, build their strength, and bide their time. For they knew that the one great weakness of Chaos was that, by its very nature, its followers could only remain allied and at peace with one another for so long. And so it was; within a few generations the old alliances fell apart, and the factions began fighting one another for territory, dominance, or extermination. A century ago the last of the great Chaos Empires collapsed in civil war. Today, Murikah is a patchwork of Law and Chaos, Pure Men and Mutants, magic and technology and super-science.

In the lands of the Midzee, the vast freshwater sea where once stood the five Great Lakes, Chaos still has a strong hold in the Mighoomee Isles, in the city of Granpoor, in the Thunderlands, and in the wastelands of Zhawg, Kahmzoo, and the other ruins of the great cities left from the Great Rad War. Of the forces of Law, only the Ahntaryo Republic and the Empire of Man oppose them. And in-between there stands a patchwork of petty kingdoms, decadent city-states, savage tribes, Glow-ridden ruins, and mutant-haunted wilderness…


This pack includes two maps to begin with, the Geopolitical Map and the Settlements and Ruins Map. Further Midzee maps will be posted here; a gazetteer will be sold separately. The map pack is [b]Pay What You Want[/b]!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Stuff and Writing and Bloggery

Well... that didn't last long. As I noticed, in fact, a distinct drop in readership while doing the Blog Hop, perhaps it is a good thing I didn't continue...

I've reached an impasse on the Cimmeria Gazetteer. Lots of good stuff so far, but then ::BAM::, my writing hit a brick wall. I think what happened was I picked up a Conan pastiche and tried to read it. It (and its otherwise excellent author) shall remain nameless, but after only reading the original unaltered Howard Conan tales, it really was quite jarring. I think I need to pick up those original Conan stories again and read through them to get back on track...

After that, the Next Big Project will be the Deshret Gazetteer for the Olden Lands. But I'd like to work on some smaller stuff first, to cleanse the creative palate, so to speak. Something non-Olden Lands, something in the 24-pages realm, a bit splat-bookish and also sandbox-y gazetteer-ish. Here are some things I'd like to write; what of these would people be most interested in reading? Or perhaps more pertinently, interested in paying a nominal price to read?

1) Kingdom of the Morlocks (Labyrinth Lord)
2) The Book of Dwarfs (Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea if I can make that work)
3) Cacodemonomicon: A Grimoire of Beasts Demonic and Most Vile (LL/C&C, maybe also AS&SH if I can make it work)
4) A Sandbox for Mutants & Mazes (Labyrinth Lord/Mutant Future Mash-Up)
5) Hercynian Grimoire #2 (A melange of stuff for LL/C&C and maybe other systems)
6) A High Weird Science Western Fantasy Town... something appropriate to drop into an Encounter Critical campaign.

Post below to let me know what you are all interested in seeing me work on next... and if you can't decide, roll a d6 and let me know your result!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

[40th Anniversary Blog Hop] Day 2: First Person I Introduced to D&D PLUS Joesky Tax!

Q2: First person who you introduced to D&D? Which Edition? Their first character?

A2: This would include by brother John, our neighbors Rob and Ted (brothers), and our other neighbor Mark. Ted was my age, Rob and Mark were John's age. I introduced them to Moldvay; one might say I experimented on them, with Moldvay, as I was merely a few chapters ahead of them with the game. I've no idea what characters they created; I'm sure my brother made a fighter and Rob probably made a magic-user, though this is based on later general impressions of their gaming styles.

Rob and Ted stuck with gaming for some time after our first games; Mark dropped out entirely, while my brother wasn't interested unless it was Twilight 2000 or some other game that he could use a gun (like Top Secret).

A lot of these "firsts" are so very long ago, I only have general impressions of what was going on back then...

Joesky Tax

D10 Specials
1. This gelatinous cube is the size and shape of a hill giant, with the same locomotive ability. In the "head" is a giant-sized brain, the actual brain of a hill giant that was immune to the digestive abilities of the gelatinous cube, and now is the brain of the slimy thing. Thinking it is still a hill giant, the thing picks up opponents and drops them in its "mouth," there to be swallowed in one gulp and digested in the "torso" of the creature as per a normal cube.
2. This 2' square metal cube is covered in knobs and dials. When properly operated, it emits a ray that acts as a heal spell and restores 10 years of age as per a potion of longevity. However, the wielder must roll a saving throw versus Magic, with a +4 bonus if properly trained; of the save fails, the item is used improperly, and the wielder suffers the effects of a harm spell and ages 10 years. Use of the ray more than once every 28 days causes the user to suffer a -4 penalty to the save per time it is used beyond the first, cumulative.
3. This 18" long mechanical iron dragon construct is built around a scroll tube. The tube can be filled with scrolls or other items such as might fit in such a tube, and locked with a key. There are usually only two keys made for each such dragon; the lock is enchanted with a wizard lock spell that requires the use of the key to open. When so ordered, the dragon flies unerringly to the possessor of the other key at a rate of 480' (160'). It has an AC 0, 3 HD, 24 hp, and can bite once per round for 1d8 points of damage; it will not stay to fight if captured, doing all it can to escape and flee.
4. This living statue of obsidian is animated by a wraith; it thus possesses all the abilities of a crystal living statue and a wraith (including immunity to non-magical weapons). When it suffers half its total hit points, the obsidian shatters to pieces, freeing the wraith within.
5. A chicken in a dungeon? Yes, a chicken in a dungeon! But of course, it is a trap. If anyone eats the chicken, they must make a saving throw versus Polymorph or be polymorphed into a chicken after 1 turn (10 minutes).
6. The yawning carved mouth, complete with eyes and nose and ears, that leads into the corridor is normally quite unremarkable, but when an elf or half-elf passes beneath it, the large nose twitches and sneezes, exploding a gross amount of snot that acts as per a web spell centered under the nose of the face. The thunderous sneeze also has a 3 in 6 chance of attracting wandering monsters.
7. This needle trap is covered in a terrible poison; if the saving throw is failed, the victim, over a period of 1 turn (10 minutes) slowly grows ever more and more gassy, producing volumes of gas such that he cannot expel it nearly fast enough, causing his body to bloat up like a balloon... and at the end of the turn, he explodes like a fireball, dealing 6d6 points of damage to all in the normal fireball radius (as usual, save for half).
8. This velvet-lined box contains a 6" diameter crystal sphere, plus 1d6 smaller 3" diameter crystal spheres. The holder of the larger sphere can contact any holder of a smaller sphere and hold visual and verbal conversation at any distance, though a holder of a smaller sphere can only contact the holder of the larger sphere. When contact is trying to be established, the spheres blink a garish red and give off a small beeping sound, audible within 30 feet.
9. This ancient forge and anvil look like they were used yesterday, for no rust rests upon the anvil or tools, and the coals still burn bright. If an intelligent being is sacrificed by being cast into the fires of the forge, a  wraith-like figure rises up from the flames and takes up the hammer and tongs, awaiting orders. For each additional sacrifice beyond the first, the phantom smith can forge a magical power or ability into a sword or like weapon, chain or plate armor, or shield, though never any Lawful or Good abilities. Each +1 is one ability, an additional bonus versus a specific type of creature is another ability, and so forth. Each ability requires the sacrifice plus an hour of labor on the part of the phantom smith.
10. The holder of this small magical box can, with a successful bare-handed melee attack, attempt to take out the heart of a human, demi-human, or humanoid victim. The victim must make a save versus Magic; if the save fails, the holder rips out their heart, though they do not die. The heart is then placed in the box, and the one whose heart has been stolen is under the effect of a charm person spell. The holder of the heart can tell where the victim is and what they are thinking whenever the heart is held, and with concentration can mentally communicate with the victim at any distance. The holder of the heart can kill the victim any time by simply crushing the heart or otherwise destroying the heart. While he is missing his heart, the victim gains a +4 bonus to save against all mind-effecting spells cast by anyone other than the holder of the heart. The heart can later be placed back in the victim with no physical harm done. These boxes are usually found in groups of 1d6; there is a 1 in 6 chance per box that it already holds a heart.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

[40th Anniversary Blog Hop] Day 1: Introduction to D&D

I've not done much on the blog for a while, so I'm going to try to keep up with this month's blog challenge:

Depending on how work and other scheduling issues go, I might have to play catch-up. But I want to try to blog every day. And since a lot of folks aren't into this kind of thing, I'll also pay a Joesky Tax.

Q1: First person who introduced you to D&D? Which edition? Your first character?

A1: I introduced myself to D&D, effectively. I got the Moldvay Basic Dungeons & Dragons boxed set for Christmas back in '81. My parents saw it in toys R' Us and thought it might be something I would be interested in. In fact, I had seen it before, for several years, and even brought it to my parents' attention from time to time, but my mom thought it was kind of iffy-looking, what with the nude, supine woman on Eldritch Wizardry and all. But apparently they didn't associate the new Moldvay set with the old LBBs, so there it was one fine Christmas morning. I read through the book all that day and was hooked...

I do not remember the first character I rolled up. Never got a chance to play it, as I was the only one in my local gang of friends who had the game, and by default became the DM... a situation which has obtained for most of my gaming life...

Joesky Tax

D10 Specials
1. This round room appears to be at the bottom of a long, deep well that opens to the world above. In fact, if the lever on the wall is pulled, the floor of the room shoots up through the well above as though it were a cork in a bottle, flying half as far into the air above the ground as it is deep beneath the ground, then dropping itself and the adventurers back to the ground...
2. A large chunk of trans-polar un-meltable ice stands atop a pedestal; the ice is sovereign even against dragon fire. If the ice is touched, the character must make a saving throw or be instantly transformed into a statue of solid ice. While the ice chunk cannot melt, the frozen character easily does so...
3. The snake's venom is not a normal poison, it is a transmogrifier. If the victim fails his saving throw against polymorph, he slowly and painfully transforms into a snake of the same type as the attacker in 1d6 turns, during which he can only hiss and writhe in pain.
4. This book appears to be blank. If, however, a drop of blood is placed on it, blood-red writing appears in the native language of the one whose blood was used. The writing reveals the being's life story, though only for 1d6 turns before it fades. Each turn of reading the reader may make a saving throw versus Magic; if successful, he has gleaned a secret from the thus-revealed history.
5. This horned demon's skull has 1d20 teeth remaining; if a tooth is pulled and immediately thrown on the ground, a quasit bursts forth with a terrible foul stench. The quasit served the one who threw the tooth for 1d6x1d10 turns (10-minute turns), then the summoner must make a saving throw versus magic; if successful, the quasit returns to the Abyss. If the save fails, the quasit attacks the summoner and seeks to slay him and take his soul to the Abyss.
6. This small, chipped statue of a gnome will, when held by the hat and the nose is tweaked, teleport without error the holder, the statue, and all the holder carries and wears, to any destination the holder has ever been to... however, every time the owner uses it he must roll a d6. If the number rolled is equal to or less than the number of times he has used the gnome, he is instead teleported somewhere he has never been, though still on the same planet. 
7. This small silver hand mirror contains a reflection of a random humanoid creature of random gender. If gazed upon, the one gazing into the mirror must make a saving throw versus Magic or have their face transformed into that of the creature in the mirror; their own former visage replaces that which the mirror once held. The mirror never works on the same being twice in a row.
8. This strange device looks like a crossbow stock made out of a glassy green jade; there is however no crossbar, and rather than a lever the handle has a button. A small hole is at the further end of the device, below where the bolt would loose from. If held with two hands, aimed, and the button is pushed, a globule of green slime (a 1 HD slime) shoots out of the hole with the same range as a light crossbow. The device hold s1d6 globules of green slime when found, and can hold up to 10; it can be "recharged" by touching the tip of the device to a green slime; if the slime fails a saving throw against Magic, it is sucked up by the device adding 1 charge per HD to it.
9. This room contains a bright pillar of flame, like a cross between a roaring fire and the Aurora Borealis. If the flame is merely touched it deals 2d6 points of damage with no saving throw. If it is entered bodily and wholly, the one who enters it must make a saving throw against Magic. If he fails, he is disintegrated. If he succeeds, he exits the flame unharmed and gains thereby 1 point to his Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma (determine randomly). If he ever enters the flames a second time, he is disintegrated, no saving throw.
10. This round room is dominated by a large statue of a great ape. At the center of the ceiling is a large opening; it goes up and up as far as the eye can see, even far beyond the ground above, and there is seemingly no end to the tunnel nor exits, other than the one into the room with the ape statue. The ape statue has, as its eyes, two great diamonds, each apparently worth a king's ransom. However, the diamonds, if removed, turn out to be glass. If the statue is ever touched, 1d6 apes of random sort drop (unharmed) from the endless tunnel above and attack the infidel defilers with berserk fury (+2 to hit, no morale checks). If a second person touches the statue, 2d6 drop; a third, another 3d6 drop, and so forth...

Sunday, January 26, 2014

[James Mishler Games] Dungeons & Dragons 40th Anniversary Sale!

In honor of the 40th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons, have placed all James Mishler Games products on sale for 40% off.

Note that I do NOT have sales. Normally I have a low price for first adopters, then adjust up to a normal retail when I release a new product... but as it has been a while, and the 40th anniversary of D&D only comes around once, I figure what the hell...

If you miss it this time, you can wait for the 50% off sale in another 10 years...

I'll run the sale for a week; then the Dread Groundhog God shall take the sale with him when he flees his shadow on February 2nd...