Wednesday, June 25, 2014

[Midweek Roundup] A Week of Posts and More! Huzzah!

So far the experiment in trying to write a post a day is working. Just in case you've missed them, here's a run-down of all the posts I've made on the JMG Blog in the last week:

Wednesday June 18th: The Dailies!
Wednesday June 18th: [Wondrous Wednesday] Mageglobe, Magewand, and Ring of Defense
Thursday June 19th: [Throwback Thursday] Tharbrian Horse-Lords or Up Harzburk! A Morguhn!
Friday June 20th: [Freeform Friday] Stone Heads, Talking Paintings, and Spoon Goddesses
Saturday June 21st: [Free RPG Day] Remember, Olden Lands, Midzee and Adlerstein are PWYW
Saturday June 21st: [Saturday-Night Special] So I ran some v3.5 tonight...
Sunday June 22nd: [Sunday Driver] Touring the Olden Lands
Monday June 23rd: [Monstrous Mondays] Gyflegyr
Tuesday June 24th: [Chart and Table Tuesday] Bandit Clerics of the Olden Lands
Wednesday June 25th: [Wondrous Wednesday] Devil's Leap, Pit of Ghouls, and Throne of Thunder

Here's hoping I can keep this up... regular writing keeps the ol' mind going, and the more I write, the more I can write...

[JMG] Wondrous Wednesday: Devil's Leap, Pit of Ghouls, Throne of Thunder

Click here to check out the latest Wondrous Wednesday entry at JMG.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

[Saturday Night Special] So I ran some v3.5 tonight...

So tonight some guys I game with wanted to play Dungeons & Dragons v3.5, which, as most of you know, is not really my thing. But I figured, what the heck, it's a one-shot. All I asked was that they not create unbalanced, game-breaking characters. I figured, at 7th level, what kind of damage could they really do?

Well, I found out... hoo-boy, I found out. First thing I had to do was outlaw all Diplomacy checks. How a 7th level character can get a 20+ in Diplomacy is beyond me, but I guess there are the classes and feats to do it. Biggest rule I hate in v3.5 is Diplomacy (and that whole social-interaction rule chain). I know that the rules are that it isn't supposed to run roughshod over the campaign, but so many DMs just let it do so that when you don't let it do so, it just ruins a campaign. So I simply had to outlaw them, and rule that social interaction had to go classic -- play it out, no rules-lawyering character builds allowed.

Then I found out that most of the fighter-style feats being used were from rule books that came out after I gave up on v3.5... and they apparently made some incredibly broken stuff officially, as it was all from official books. 7th level super-multi-class Captain Cuisinart rolling four times to hit with swords that were acid/cold/lightning based and healing allies two points for every successful hit. Holy cats, where did that come from?

So anyway, broken stuff aside, it was still pretty fun. I started them in media res after a fashion, with them waking up after a two-week bender to find the city half-deserted and the massive Horde of Thuum almost at the gates, with the gates all locked, the port empty of ships, boats, and even fishing scows, and nowhere left to run or hide. The flower of the kingdom's chivalry and most of the army had been defeated at the furthest forts, and now the smoke and fires of the outriders were seen from the city parapets.

The Horde of Thuum consisted mostly of goblins and hobgoblins, with girallon-steeds (two goblin archers and a driver); manticores and serpenticores (wingless draco-serpent-manticores); and ogres and hill giants. The four characters (one elf and three humans, though one was dragon-blooded for no apparent reason and all were multi-classed to the hilt) woke up in the most expensive brothel in town to find everyone gone, then sought shelter in the great citadel, where the remaining citizens of the city were cooped up elbow to elbow. They were told to buzz off, unless they brought the guards the heads of some of the horde members... so off they went to find some scouts to scalp.

They encountered a girallon with goblin archers along the road to the High Dell; battle ensued. Here's where I found out that scouts are apparently one of the most broken classes in the game, able to add a bunch of damage to an attack Simply. By. Moving. yikes! But one hit by the Girallon caused the scout to run away and up a tree, which the girallon then shook vigorously, sending the scout flying. But Captain Cuisinart and friends made short work of the Girallon and crew, bringing back heads and two live goblins for questioning.

They then bluffed their way in to the King, where they got themselves appointed to the war council (their history being one of well-known mercenary sort). They came up with a few very bad, very deadly ideas for the poor militia, numbering in the scores, to face off against hundreds of goblins, scores of ogres, girallons, manticores, and serpenticores, and a dozen hill giants, all as a feint for their own escape. Then the Priest of the Sky God came by and told them that the Sky God had sent him a cloud to take four heroes into the Heart of Darkness...

They followed the mysterious priest, who took them to a cloud in his open-air temple and flew them into the air. They flew over the Horde of Thuum and past the fires and smoke, into a devastated land covered in darkness. There they found a colossal stone wagon-temple being drawn by titanic spiders, the whole surrounded by thousands of goblins and fouler things. They were met in mid-air by a bat-winged dire shark, which nearly swallowed one of the characters. After slaughtering him, they flew down to the temple and entered via a work door in the tall dome. They went down several flights of stairs to the dark main temple floor, where they found a large pool filled with glittering rainbow water... which turned out to be a giant ooze, the eponymous Thuum of the Horde!

This cosmic entity sought to overthrow Man and his Gods, and offered the characters their heart's desire should they turn from their god-decreed path to follow him. After severe temptations of wealth, power, and concubines (these last for the elf, who was sly and lascivious), they rejected all the offers and attacked...

And here's where Captain Cuisinart really shone, slicing and dicing with his acid-resistant magic blades, slicing the ooze into ever smaller bits, cleaned up by the other characters. One of them did die, after being pounded one too many times in a row by the remaining large oozes. But slay Thuum they did, or at least, his immediate earthy avatar...

And thus ended the session.

They want to play again, also using v3.5. I told them that if I am to run, they need to start out with 1st level characters and limit themselves to the choices available in the Players Handbook (I, not II or III or XVII). From there, anything they might want to branch out into must be found in-game and earned in-game, not merely added as a build option out of the blue. Plus, no Diplomacy or Super-Bluff stuff. So we will see how it goes.

I'll be running them in the sandbox I'm working on, Castle Adlerstein and Environs, as opportunity permits. We're not really fully moved in here yet, so it needs to coordinate between my work schedule and available locations... so it will be an irregular campaign. And now I need to re-acquire the v3.5 books again.

So this should be interesting...

Friday, June 20, 2014

[Freeform Friday] Stone Heads, Talking Paintings, and Spoon Goddesses

So today as I sat to write, I mused out loud, “What should I write about today, as it is Freeform Friday…”

My wife responded, “Well, you could talk about our evening walk along the Avenue… or halflings. Halflings, maybe?” So…

The Avenue refers to College Avenue, the “main drag” and downtown shopping area of Appleton, where we live. Every third Friday night of the month they host an “Art on the Town” event, in which participating shops stay open late and host an artist – painter, sculptor, musician, what have you – and folks wander around taking in the sights and sounds. So for the first time ever, we went, and had a good bit of fun.

It doesn’t have the critical mass of people that, say, Chicago or San Francisco would have, nor especially any European city, but it was fairly well attended. A few things that stuck out in my mind, game-related wise, were the kind of shops that were still open and hosting artists… and the kind of art they produced.

The Vintage Garden, for example (“Shabby Chic”) was chock full of old furniture and bric-a-brac, though it was quite clean and well-lit, it still kind of reminded me of the kind of places you would find in strange fantasy cities. They had stone planters in the shape of old Greek gods, various classic iron angels re-painted, and old vintage photos in fine vintage frames. In fact, it reminded me of an upscale version of a shop you might find in The City. Here’s a little something inspired by the stone heads:

Planter of the Gods/Eikone: This is a stone planter, usually about two feet across and three feet high, shaped in the form of the head of a classical interpretation of a god/eikone. Any common plant can be grown in the planter; however, if a cleric/theurgist grows and tends herbs considered holy to the god/eikone in the planter, every season on the “high holy day” of that god/eikone, a number of magical leaves equal to 1d6 plus the Charisma bonus of the cleric/theurgist can be harvested and preserved. If these leaves are chewed/smoked/steeped in liquid and consumed or however the god/eikone prefers they be used in a special ritual, the cleric/theurgist will be granted visions of the future/present/past important to the individual and god/eikone. If otherwise consumed by the cleric/theurgist or a co-religionist cleric/theurgist, they grant the consumer a +1 bonus to the level of their next spell cast, provided the spell is cast within 10 minutes. Only one such leaf is effective at any one time.

We also stopped in the Trout Museum of Art, a local art gallery. Currently, it has an exhibit of Time Magazine covers called, appropriately enough, “Moments in Time.” All the covers were from the ’60s and ’70s, and each was signed by the person depicted on the cover, whether in art or photography. An interesting collection. This one, of course, reminded me of the old classic, first featured in Tegel Manor, of the living painting. As one of the covers featured a painting of astronauts leaping to the moon, I was also reminded of Clark Ashton Smith’s classic story, The Door to Saturn. I think that both ideas are perhaps underused these days, even though the “living painting” featured quite prominently in the Harry Potter stories… something I need to consider when working on Castle Adlerstein.

Finally, no walk around Appleton would be complete without a stop at Windows of Light-Angels Forever, a New Age store that is one of our favorite stores in the city. You can find all sorts of cool and interesting stuff there, from tons of books including Isaac Bonewits’ Real Magic, crystals and gems galore, incense, statuary, Tarot cards, and regular sessions with a psychic. The special artist guest at this evening’s event was an artist who works with fiber materials and “up-cycled” wares. She was showing off her “Spoon Goddesses” tonight; these are creations in which she takes an old, antique spoon, unites it with an art-deco style face, and adds such materials as to create a one-of-a-kind miniature goddess figurine. She says that as she is making them, they speak to her and tell her their names. An interesting and, dare I say, likely ancient tradition.

It reminded me of the Godmakers in Lin Carter’s Gondwane series; these were artisans who created not art, but gods themselves, for those who paid the fees. Some were poor and lowly godmakers, and made simple and poor gods; others, such as Ganelon Silvermane’s foster-father were grand masters of the craft, working in exotics and magical materials and using ancient and esoteric magical and scientific arts to create great and potent gods. Often today it is assumed that a cleric in a fantasy world must worship some esoteric and ethereal astral being; what if, instead, the cleric carries his god around in his backpack, or even in his pocket, or on a chain around his neck? What if the cleric makes his own god, and it is his mission to take his simple, small god and make him a great and powerful god? Kind of like the satellite gods in AnomalousSubterranean Environment… but instead of being picked up by a mad AI, the cleric created his very own, very personal god in a drunken stupor or moment of divine inspiration… Here’s an idea. Next time a player rolls up a cleric in your game, after he has bought his equipment, tell him to roll an item he purchased at random… and that is the cleric’s god.

Sooo… that took rather longer than I thought. Lots more interesting stuff I could talk about from our evening walk, and I haven’t even gotten to the halflings yet… vicious little buggers. I much prefer their hobbitish cousins. Maybe next time…

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

[Wondrous Wednesday] Mageglobe, Magewand, and Ring of Defense

These solid metal orbs, a heterogeneous composite of silver, gold, and platinum, glittering with gem-dust, are between two and four inches in diameter and are incised with tiny runes, sigils, and formulae in eldritch tongues. Developed during the height of the Second Caliphate, the magi of that realm used these devices to better target their area of effect spells such as sleep, stinking cloud, and fireball.

When held in hand prominently during the casting of such a spell, any allies caught in the area of effect receive a +2 bonus to save against the effect of the spell. Conversely, when there are no allies caught in the area of effect, and the caster can concentrate solely on targeting enemies, the enemies get a -2 penalty to save against the spell effect. The globe is useless if used on a target of a spell that only targets a specific individual or individuals, rather than a broad area of effect.

The globes are rated based on the maximum spell level at which they are efficacious. This also determines their cost to manufacture:

Least: 1st level, 250 gp
Lesser: 2nd level, 500 gp
Minor: 3rd level, 1000 gp
Major: 4th level, 2500 gp
Greater: 5th level, 5000 gp

If at any time an ally critically fails with a “Natural 1” a save instigated by a spell modified by the globe, or similarly if an enemy makes a saving throw with a “Natural 20,” the globe temporarily loses its magical calibration and becomes non-functional until the wizard spends one hour plus 1/10th the cost of making the globe in a ritual to re-calibrate the globe.

The art of creating these devices was spread far and wide following the flight of the magi at the fall of the Caliphate, though their creation is beyond the simple arts of the typical hedge mage. Any wizard schooled at the better colleges of magic in Itlania, Elysion, the Septarchy, Gyrax, Alspadia, or the South has a chance equal to their chance to learn a new spell to have the knowledge of how to manufacture one at character creation. Otherwise the formulae and rituals can be found in various tomes and grimoires.

A wizard can create a Mageglobe of any rank equal to any spell level they can cast. Creation of a Mageglobe requires silver, gold, platinum, gem dust, and a pint of blood or ichor from an aberration or cosmic entity with HD equal to the level of the highest-level spell that will be able to be cast using the Mageglobe. If the wizard obtained the blood or ichor himself, he gains a +10% chance on his roll to successfully enchant the device (equal to his chance to learn a new spell less 5% per level of the device). Time required is one week per spell level.

Few wizards, once they have manufactured a Mageglobe, sell them, as a weaker globe can be enchanted to a stronger globe over time with further enchantment and cost (simply subtract that already expended from the new cost). However, adventurers who have found these in treasure hoards have been known to sell them at two to five times the cost of enchantment.

Note that the Gregorian Church is leery of the manufacture and use of these devices, as the formula requires the use of blood or ichor of questionable provenance.

These simple wands, also known as dueling wands, are a basic enchanted item that can be created by even a 1st level wizard. In fact, in the Olden Lands, one is not considered a true wizard in magical circles until one has a self-made Magewand ready at hand. These wands are enchanted to provide the wizard with a basic magical weapon, something flashy to impress and threaten the yokels and something that civilized wizards can use to resolve simple, petty feuds.

The wand is pointed at the target and the wizard utters the magic word – unique to each wizard and her wand – that sends off the bolt of magical force. The range of the bolt in feet depends on the level of the wizard:

1st to 3rd: 10/20/30
4th to 6th: 15/30/45
7th to 9th: 20/40/60
10th to 12th: 25/50/75
13th to 15th: 30/60/90
16 to 18th: 40/80/120
19th plus:  50/100/150

The wizard must roll to hit as per a normal attack, as, though the bolt is magical, it is still a normal physical attack. If hit the target does not get a saving throw. Note that though it is magical, it has no bonus to hit, thus the bolt cannot hit creatures that require +1 or better magical weapons to be hit, though it can hit any creature that merely requires any magical weapon to be hit.

The bolt, which has the color and appearance and generates a sound as the wizard who made the Magewand so dictated at the Magewand’s creation, deals 1d4 points of damage plus the highest spell level the wizard can memorize; thus the bolt of a 1st level wizard deals 1d4+1 points of damage, the bolt of a 7th level caster deals 1d4+4 points of damage, and the bolt of an 18th level wizard deals 1d4+9 points of damage. The wizard can, at the time of shooting, decide whether the damage is lethal or subdual damage. Most duels are performed with subdual damage… most.

A wizard can use another’s Magewand, and the Magewand’s range and damage is based on that of the creator (if the creator is dead, it is based on his level at the time of death). However, using another, more powerful wizard’s Magewand causes the user to suffer a penalty to hit equal to half the difference between the maximum spell levels useable by the wielder and the creator, rounded up. Thus, a 1st level wizard using a 7th level wizard’s Magewand would suffer a -2 penalty to hit ((4-1)/2).

A wizard trained to use a Magewand possesses a number of power points equal to his Intelligence score plus his current level as a wizard. Only one charge may be used per attack. These power points, which are separate from and unrelated to spells known or memorized, are regenerated at a rate of one point per 10 minutes spent exclusively in meditation for the purpose. All points are regained after a full night’s restful sleep.

Any properly trained wizard can make a Magewand in one day’s time and by expending 100 gp in petty magical materials (eye of newt, wing of bat, nose of goblin, etc.) and a successful roll against his chance to learn a new spell. The appearance of a Magewand can vary greatly; most are simple wood, others are of metal, the more ostentatious are crystalline rods or gem-encrusted. A Magewand can take the form of a wand or even a rod, scepter, or staff. Many of the more potent magical wands, rods, and staffs known today began as a Magewand, with the wizard further enchanting his personal wand as he grew in power and knowledge.

A wizard can have more than one Magewand of his own creation in existence at one time; however, for each such Magewand in existence beyond the first, the wielder of any of the wizard’s Magewands suffers a -1 penalty to hit, cumulative.

Another mainstay of wizards above the hedge-wizard level is the ring of defense, a simple enchantment that even a 1st level wizard can readily manage. These devices are purely personal; no one else can ever benefit from a wizard’s ring of defense, though such items often evolve, of their own accord and through eldritch means, into proper magical rings of protection.

The enchantment on these rings grants the wizard a bonus to his Armor Class. The bonus is equal to the highest level spell he can memorize or his Intelligence bonus, whichever is higher.

The bonus can be used a number of times per day, defending against a single attack roll per use, equal to the level of the wizard plus his Intelligence bonus. The number of uses per day resets at dawn, noon, sundown, or midnight, as determined by the wizard when he creates the ring.

When attacked, provided the wizard is not caught surprised, he can assign the bonus to his AC instantly, before the attack roll is made. If an attacker has multiple attacks, the wizard must declare which one he is using the bonus on, though if he has enough daily uses remaining he can use one charge per attack.

If the ring’s bonus successfully provides a defense, there is a scintillating flash from the ring that interposes itself between the attack and the wizard; otherwise, if the bonus did not help in defense, there is no physical effect.

If the wizard is ever hit by a “Natural 20” in an attack in which he used the bonus from the ring, the ring’s magic is destroyed, and the ring itself melts, shatters, or dissolves, as is appropriate for the material used.

A wizard can create a ring of defense in one day’s time and at a cost of 50 gp in minor magical components per point of bonus to AC the ring provides.

The Dailies!

So after almost two years of being “between places,” my wife and I have finally once again settled in at our own home (though we still need to get everything out of deep storage, those poor books haven’t seen the light of day in years). This finally allows me the time and space to get serious about writing; though my highly variable work schedule might still cause issues, generally I now have the ability to write every day, should I so choose.

The gazetteer for Hex 02-2322 (JMG25HEX01) is first up, and proceeding along nicely. “Much sooner than later” seems an honest estimation of its due date at this point. Thereafter… dunno. Whatever comes to mind and is inspirational, I suppose.

My blogs have long languished; I see cracks and weeds everywhere. So that is going to change. The idea going forward is themed days, to afford some structure. I won’t say I have a plan to make a post every day; I don’t make plans any more, I simply have ideas, and hopes. If I manage to actually make four posts in a week, I’ll consider myself to win that week. Here are the themes of the day:

Monstrous Mondays: Mondays are dedicated to monsters… friends and fiends, enemies and allies, common to unique, fine to colossal. Sometimes new, sometimes old, always something interesting, and usually tied in with the Olden Lands, though also quite useful otherwise.

Chart and Table Tuesdays: Tuesdays will be all about interesting and useful charts and tables.

Wondrous Wednesdays: Wednesdays will feature magical items, relics, artifacts, and eldritch and wondrous locations and sites.

Throwback Thursdays: Thursdays will be dedicated to discussion of and expansion and support for old products I wrote in the AGP days, or support for currently-available products from JMG.

Freeform Fridays: Whatever strikes my fancy on Fridays.

Saturday Review: Saturdays will feature a review of someone else’s product. If I get the time and more than enough to review, maybe several products will be reviewed each Saturday. You got a product you want reviewed? Contact me at

Sunday Driver: Sundays are dedicated to the Olden Lands, traveling around and pointing out interesting locations, bits of history, important personages, and anything that strikes my fancy, much like going on a drive in the country on Sunday afternoon.

Random Campaign: As part of the whole settling-in thing, I will once again be running a local campaign… ideally, two of them, an OldenLands Labyrinth Lord campaign and a Realms of Murikah Mutants & Mazes (Labyrinth Lord/Mutant Future) campaign. I’ll post on these as events occur.

These days I write mostly for the enjoyment of it, and to support my gaming habit as a game master. But of course, every bit of cash helps (snack and dice money is nice), which is why most of my major works will still be sold on DriveThruRPG through James Mishler Games. If you like what I publish here on the blog, please check out my other products at that site (or RPGNow, if that is your flavor of choice).

I’m also not above taking donations, green-backed kudos, from those so inspired; such can be sent via Paypal to You can also contact me there off-blog if you have any questions or concerns, or any ideas for what you might like to see covered more in depth in the blog or in JMG products.