Eddison’s “Styrbiorn the Strong”

April 6, 2014

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As I opine ad nauseam, E. R. Eddison is the best fantasy writer I’ve ever read; there are maybe a half-dozen genre authors fit to hold up his jockstrap.  I recently discovered that his saga-inspired first novel Styrbiorn the Strong is back in print in what looks like a good university edition in both paperback and e-reader versions, the latter of which I’ll be picking up as soon as I work through a backlog of planned reading.  I haven’t read it but I suspect at least the prose is of a piece with his better-known works, albeit without the classical references and explication of his eccentric personal philosophy.  That said, since his personal philosophy leans to “pagan,” I’m sure his Eddisonity will shine through.  It might also be a better introduction, as I can’t imagine it gets as weird as his non-derived material.

Here’s hoping that this heralds modern edition reprints of The Worm Ouroboros and the Zimiamvia trilogy, although I’m not holding my breath, especially for Zimiamvia.  (Ouroboros is available in an indifferent e-reader version.  Zimiamvia is not, and I can’t read my old versions without eyestrain and sneezing.  The annotated omnibus is dire and I would avoid it in favor of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy editions in any decent condition.)


Social media

April 1, 2014

I enjoy goofing off on social media.  I enjoy talking to other gamers.  Below is my information if you’d like to add me, join my echo chamber, and view my carefully crafted bullshit persona.  I mainly just talk shit and post the usual stereotypical stupid things on Facebook and Instagram, and about once a week I excise any old posts I don’t want preserved for posterity; my Twitter account is much more boring and likely to remain that way, as I just rejoined, have a few work-type people following me, and don’t have the option of customizing privacy settings on a publicly-viewable account.

OMG VALIDATE MY EXISTENCE LOL XOXO

facebook.com/fancywasmyname

Instagram:  buttlawyer

Twitter:  scottdriver304

 


Dwarf-Land Gazetteer

March 29, 2014

Someone just requested a copy of Dwarf-Land material.  This hasn’t happened in a while, so I wasn’t sure what I still had or where it was.  I found the main document and a partial Gazetteer I’d forgotten even existed.  I have literal folders full of stuff I’ve written while feeling “energetic” and then promptly abandoned.  Some of it is close to being complete enough to show people.  Some of it is pretty extensive and I have no memory of writing it and no idea how I forgot about it.  And somewhere I hopefully still have my Thool and Wilderlands stuff, not that I’ll ever get around to running them again.  I never remember where any of this crap is, I’m like a goddamn squirrel.

(If you never got the partial Dwarf-Land document and you want it, give me a holler at hugeruinedpile@gmail.com and I’ll send one out now that I’ve found it.)

Here’s what I found for the Gazetteer.  As much as I hate this phrase, it is what it is.  It’s all very sketchy.  Some of the entries have placeholder names, or just a stub note, or are completely blank, etc.  It’s meant to be filled in.  I haven’t gotten around to that.  There’s no formatting.  The language is overly precious and in need of a brutal edit, which I’d obviously perform at some point if I ever got around to finishing it.  (I almost certainly won’t.)  The whole thing is written for an idiosyncratic version of OD&D.

Anyway.

*****

HINTERLANDS OF HIGH DUDGEON

Geographical Features
THE ARCANE ARBORS

THE CABAL MOUNTAINS

CACOGENIA’S BOWERS: This forest is the domain of the Evil Gnome servants of Cacogenia, the sinister Sorceress of Castle Deathcap (q.v.). The Gnomes use poison, snares, and spells to bedevil intruders – especially hunting parties from the Fearful Fane of Vroonops, for Cacogenia hates the Men of Zoob and their perverse Gods. Captured Men will, if possible, be borne back alive to Castle Deathcap for slow torture. Dwarves and Gnomes of Dwarf-Town are treated per the Reaction Table.

THE DROOLISH DREGS

DRUDWAS WOOD

THE ELDRICHT ALPS

THE EVER-GLOOMS: The cypress-choked southern reaches of this wretched, seemingly endless swamp are shunned by all intelligent creatures except the Mournful Moops, vengeful vestiges of a lost race. (As Grey Oozes, but smart.) The northern reaches are infested by truculent flying insects of improbable size. Strange Lizard Men from the mounds to the east make sorties to hunt the brobdingnagian bullfrogs of the mires.

THE FOREST OF CREEPING KUDZU

THE FOREST OF GNILDA

THE FOREST OF WRITHING ROOTS

THE GLISTENING GLADES

THE HOOBMUCK

THE JOYFUL FOREST: This verdant deciduous paradise is home to frolicking woodland creatures, dancing Hamadryads, majestic Unicorns, and avuncular Ents. All are fey and Chaotic; depending on the Reaction Table, a given denizen of the forest may treat travelers generously, lead them astray, or seek to murder them. The endless twisting trails are patrolled by Petty-Elves from Elf-Town and the forest castles. The wilder creatures of the wood are generally well-disposed towards the Elves so long as the proper protocols are observed, but their tolerance does not necessarily extend to Dwarves, Gnomes, and other outland fairies.

LAKE ALBERICH

LAKE PORPHYRY

LAKE SEETHING

THE LEFROUS GROVES

LIMPET LAKE: On an island somewhere in Limpet Lake lives “The Dragon of the Lake”, once a magician so evil and greedy that a passing President of Hell took notice and turned him into a Dragon. (As largest Black Dragon, speaks but has not retained spell ability.) The Dragon of the Lake occasionally extorts maidens and gold from the Men of Flonkerton, but mostly sleeps curled around its treasure-stuffed tower. The Dragon evinces a protective attitude towards the safety and vitality of Flonkerton – owing to what it considers a proprietary interest – and it takes a dim view of anyone other than itself harming the Flonkrons.

THE NORTHBROOD MOUNTAINS: The Monarch of the Mountains.

THE PEAKS OF PERIL: This mountain range is known for its many hazards. An especially brutish and sullen tribe of Giants roams the western mountains. They do not make their victims into stew and cold cuts as do most of their kin, instead hauling captured unfortunates to the Cave of Despair, where they are delivered to an unknown doom. Barrowpedes infest the eastern hill-tombs, having picked the barrows clean of organic matter but presumably leaving behind the interred treasures. Finally, vicious Harpies soar above the passes, snatching up and tearing apart goats – or, preferably, travelers – with their red-hot iron claws and teeth.

THE PHALKWOOD: Werepigs and Wererats who flee the Dwarvish realm often find their way here in search of the legendary Court of their kind, over which an unknown monarch presides. There is thus a relatively large population of these Lycanthrope types within the Phalkwood. Although the shapeshifters keep mostly to themselves and rarely menace the valley between Isp and Malifer, it is unwise for travelers to stray too close to the woods, particularly on nights of the full moon.

QARNAX VALE: At the southern end of the Eldricht Alps, north of Lake Porphyry, is a mysterious vale about which little is known save its name, and that only from Sagely consultation. Mist perpetually shrouds the vale, foiling even magical divinations and aerial reconnaissance, and animals shun the vale at all costs. No one has successfully entered the mists and returned to tell of what he found within. Some find themselves turned about, exiting the vale no matter how many times they attempt to enter; some return greatly aged, or raving mad, or of the opposite sex; some leave the vale before ever having entered it, causing paradoxical complications and distress when they meet themselves on the path.

THE SMARAGDINE MOUNTAINS: This long, low range stretches from Lake Porphyry south to the sea, where it terminates in a godforsaken wasteland of haunted crags. To the northeast are the hunting grounds of the Nightstalker Oprestog. The Assassins of the Fearful Fane of Vroonops and the Whirling Dervishes of the Temple of Termagant perpetually skirmish in the great river valley, and the Zoobish metropolis of Gorlas sends patrols to guard emerald mining operations in the foothills.

THE STINKING FENS

THE WITCH MOUNTAINS

THE WOODS OF THE GREAT GOD PAN: These woods are haunted by braying, goatish Satyrs, the pipers of the even more awful Great God Pan. Travelers never enter the woods except to avert sudden death, and sometimes not even then. Most who do so disappear forever, but a handful return, women always pregnant – men sometimes so – with memory of little other than weird piping, an awful agglomeration of tumescences, and the smell of rancid soil. These poor haunted souls most often commit suicide or are slain by their horrified loved ones; those who live steal back and vanish into the woods as their gestation nears fruition.

THE WOODS OF WOE: Gnoles.

THE WORTMARCH: Fungus, Evil Pixies.

WRAITH’S DEEP

Settlements
Except in special instances such as haunted castles, the arable land around each population center such as a castle or town is likely to be surrounded by smaller settlements and farms and to be patrolled by appropriate troops from the population center. Assume, unless circumstances suggest otherwise, that the area immediately contiguous with each population center is ‘civilized’ and that one may encounter any number of villages, hamlets, thorps, farms, inns, and the like therein.

***DWARF-TOWN***. q.v., main entry.

ELF-TOWN. q.v., THE SNICKERING CITADEL.

FLONKERTON. Flonkerton is a quiet lakeside village inhabited by a sober race of Men who make their living through fishing, crafts, and trade with the lands beyond the Limpet Lake. They avoid the Joyful Forest. Despite a robust economy, the town’s coffers are never filled, its daughters never secure; once a year, the Dragon of the Lake demands that a rowboat full of gold and a single comely maiden be delivered to his island. The townsfolk dare not defy him and will lend no aid to would-be Dragon-slayers for fear of reprisal.

GNOME KNOLL.

GLUMEN VILLAGE. Evil Dwarves and Men.

ISP. Men (Zoob). “Jester King”.

NACHTMOG. Other.

NILMERG. Men (Zoob). Elite Zombies (with Heroes and Super-Heroes).

NUCKLELAVEE. This great forest castle and surrounding town and hamlets are the last real bastion of the Elder Race of Men who once inhabited Dwarf-Land before the advent of the Zoobish. These Men are subject to the same vagaries and vicissitudes of other Men, but are at least properly observant of the old ways, producing a disproportionate number of shining knights, virtuous rustics, beautiful maidens, harridan stepmothers, and foundlings of clandestine but serendipitous paternity. The King is prolific, with seven princess daughters of ascending pulchritude; the Court Wizard is a bit dotty but snaps to it in a pinch. Dwarves and other fairies are not necessarily friendly with the Men of Nucklelavee, but at least find in them a certain comforting familiarity.

PLETRA. Men (Zoob). Stangg.

TARKA. Men (Other).

THREEN. Men (Zoob).

ULV. Men (Zoob).

Castles
Under normal circumstances, each castle has a garrison and attendant civilians, staff, courtiers, and other non-combatants. Unless otherwise noted, assume usual leader-types of the same racial stock as the castle’s main inhabitants.

***CASTLE BLITZENDRANG***. Dwarves and Gnomes. King Flim IV (Myrmidon), the Mabs. q.v., main entry.

CASTLE BLIX. Blix is the domain of Agrapax the Orc-nea, the aged, childless, brideless lord of the castle. Despite his epithet, he is neither dead nor possessed, and is not even particular malevolent by Zoobish standards. His nickname derives from his long-ago service as a knight in a far-off campaign where he was a terror, skewering countless enemies with his magical estoc, Foliot. Though decrepit, he is still shrewd and capable of bursts of ruthless action when not addled by the opium he takes to ease the pains of age and grievous old war wounds.

THE TOWER OF CHMORD. Squiglpix, Ingolpen, and Wheedl are three Sages of Nucklelavee who relocated to this tower for some portentous Sagely reason perfectly clear at the time. Each specializes in a field so narrow and picayune as to render pointless any attempt at explanation to the layman. Like all academics, they argue incessantly over trivialities and are pained by such vulgar concerns as upkeep and expansion of their personal libraries, maintenance and replacement of orreries and stuffed crocodiles, and so on. They will therefore entertain obtuse questions from grubby little strivers, even outside the bailiwicks of their specialties. The mechanism by which they guard their stores of the exorbitant fees thus garnered is unknown but efficacious.

CORMORANT CASTLE. Cormorant is the castle of the Wizard Delfius, a friend of the Dwarves, who provide a garrison in return for his services. Of the greatest daily significance is his Rookery, a tower from which hundreds of crows, ravens, magpies, etc. fly forth to survey regional goings on, reporting back to the Wizard, who knows their speech and relays information to King Flim. Delfius is of an unknown race of Men, and claims to hail from a very distant place indeed.

CASTLE DARKDURDLE. Dwarves. Crown Prince Flam (Swashbuckler). Ring of Protection 5′ Radius, 10 magic arrows, Scarab of Protection from EHPs, Shield +1.

CASTLE DEATHCAP. Evil Gnomes. Cacogenia the Gorgon Sorceress with 1 Talking Basilisk. Wand of Fear, Potion of Giant Control, Potion of Treasure Finding, Potion of Invisibility, Scroll of Yucinth (Protection from Normal Missiles).

CASTLE DRASMETH. Drasmeth is the fortress of Lord Teersing, a grizzled old Werecat considered fickle and dangerous even by his fellow Elves. His intervals as a beast grow frequent and lengthy. He has announced his intention to transmit his condition to an heir but has not selected one; his children are simps and flibbertigibbets, and he has been known to bat one around the hall for a bit when he feels peppery.

THE FEARFUL FANE OF VROONOPS. This imposing ebon-domed fortress-temple is a major center for the sinister Cult of the Weird God, the primary cult of the Empire of the Men of Zoob. The God is portrayed as a giant anteater with the ears of a jackass and the legs of a cassowary. Under the command of High Priest Brilhasti ap Tarj [placeholder name], the Fearful Fane traffics in poison and slaves. The wavy-bladed daggers of its Assassins are much feared, but much of the Fane’s evil power derives from the Martian White Apes serving Brilhasti, who summons and controls them with some magical device. The Fane is currently ascendant over its regional rival, the Tenebrous Temple.

GLUDIF CASTLE. Elves.

HEXIP CASTLE. Tansia, the lady of this Elvish fortress, is an Enchantress and a voracious seductress. When she tires of a paramour – she always does, and quickly – she palsies him with a special paralytic poison, strips him of valuables, and tosses him into an oubliette to languish until he is happened upon by the Thing living in the oubliette. This unknown Thing is toothy, anthropophagous, and starts with the feet.

CASTLE KROOG. ‘Dungeons of the Black Prince’. Evil Dwarves. Black Prince Xerxy (Myrmidon), 4 Swordsmen. Scroll of Protection from Elementals, Potion of Diminution, Platemail +1, Cursed Scroll of the Pustulent Flux (disease, fatal in 3 turns unless healed).

MALIFER CASTLE. Malifer is a Zoobish fortress ruled by Cringish the Caitiff, a sanguinary libertine infamous for his shocking predations on the surrounding villages. He enjoys having his Ogres break the limbs of his victims, who are then buried up to their necks in his Hothouse of Horrors.

CASTLE ORLOCK. Men (Zoob). “Lady Orca”, Demoness.

PAK’S PERFIDIOUS PAGODA. China-Man Brigands. Warlord Pak (Evil China-Man Fighting Man [Kung Foo], 9th level) with Hopping Vampires. Bodyguards: the Ten Terrible Toxins [Kung Foo].

THE PEERLESS PAGODA. “Lawful Dungeon”. Oriental Gold Dragon, 2 Guardian Lion Statues. Neutral Flaming Sword, Censer Controlling Air Elementals, Mirror of Life Trapping, Potion of Invulnerability, Potion of Healing, Scroll of Protection from Elementals.

CASTLE PHUME. ‘The Fortress of Feculent Fear’ is a ruined castle of the old race of Men, now a pavane-hall for Ghouls and their Nobles. Holding court over the cavorting dead is Vladovarius the Wight Wizard. (As Lich.) Vladovarius possesses the Master Scroll of Othivin (Pyrotechnics, Lightning Bolt, Hold Person, Confusion, Wall of Ice, Fear, Wall of Stone), a Bowl Commanding Water Elementals, and a Staff of Power. One of the mightiest and most perspicacious magicians of yore, Vladovarius grows bored after centuries of little conversation save arguments over the minutiae of minuets and the most savory cuts of Man-flesh. He therefore welcomes visitors. Unfortunately, his hospitality is absent-minded and rusty from disuse, and he may forget to provide suitable provender for living guests, or to shield them from the ever-hankering gaggles of Ghouls.

CASTLE PLUGH. Dwarves.

CASTLE RURSLIV. Men (Zoob).

CASTLE SAWBLEED. Men (Zoob).

THE SNICKERING CITADEL: The spectacularly opulent castle of the Elvish King, Queen, and their Court, the Snickering Citadel is constructed of gleaming roseate marble and luminous crystal, augmented by enchanted gingerbread and marzipan, all in intricate Rococo style. The Citadel garrison is made up of elite Royal Guard infantry and dragoons; Elvish military units exhibit indifferent discipline but unimpeachably elegant uniforms.

THE TENEBROUS TABERNACLE OF VROONOPS. The Tenebrous Temple is the main rival of the eastern Fearful Fane (q.v.), which it resembles in most particulars save temporal power. Its High Priest, Shlozorp the Shorn, is insanely jealous of the relative superiority of the Fearful Fane. He will attempt to press suitable (gullible or spellbound) proxies into murdering its pontiff and bringing back the unknown device with which Martian White Apes might be summoned and controlled. (His own Assassins have been returned to him in shocking configurations.)

THE TITAN’S TUMULUS, TEMPLE OF TERMAGANT THE TERRIBLE. Whirling Dervishes. Patriarch (11th level).

CASTLE UNDRAL. Brigands (Zoob). Helleboros the Harrower (Necromancer) with 7 Werewolves. Vithalmord (Lawful Sword +1, +3 vs. Dragons, Intelligence 7, Egoism 4, Empathy, Detects Magic), Boots of Traveling and Leaping, Ring of Weakness.

CASTLE XYZZY. Men (Zoob). “Judge Frollo”.


Champions tabletop campaign

March 6, 2014

I was talking to an old friend about comic books last week with the unexpected result that I’m now running a 4th edition Champions game every couple weeks for a small group of friends.  Our baseline for tone is going to be Astro City + Claremont-era X-Men, i.e., an updated version of the heroic Silver Age sensibilities with some high melodrama, bombast, soliquizing, and general sturm und drang mixed in.

I ran Champions an awful lot when I was younger.  3rd edition, then 4th, and I wasn’t playing any Hero System games by the time 5th came out.  The way I think a Champions campaign should be run is almost directly opposite to the way I run FRPG campaigns, so it should be interesting to work that way again.

Here are some portraits I’ve banged out for some of the rogues’ gallery, as well as for several simple pregens for the inevitable drop-ins.  (Hero System is not conducive to generating a character quickly, so it’s best to have a few ready-to-play characters on hand.)

1620569_1454502554781032_526244417_n 1653429_1454342081463746_460923430_n Apex, the Perfect Man Gargantuo Gorgon Grandmaster Mind Jill Frost Kid Efreet Millicent Miracle Girl Nuamoc, the Living Mummy Solar Man1013344_1454244331473521_1773650103_n 1621792_1454236788140942_1164753334_n


Two undead monsters for Darkdurdle Dungeon

February 9, 2014

This is how I write up my monsters for T&T.  I don’t mess with Monster Ratings at this point, I just want an idea of what the monster looks like and the roles it plays “ecologically” and for adventuring purposes.  These two monsters are what happens to the remains of delvers killed in the dungeon; those unlucky enough to be captured alive are turned into something else.

Denizens 1


T&T Kindred again

February 9, 2014

After the discussion so far re: my previous post on non-human Kindred characters in T&T 5th, I’ve given the matter some thought and I’m going to try designing the dungeon for the default assortment of weirdos one generates in a rules-as-written T&T game.

My instinct the first time I read T&T was that the Kindred system was unbalanced to the point of mechanical derangement and I immediately changed it.  (I still think I’m right, by the way.)  But my policy since I started exclusively playing and writing about old games again however many years ago has been to try things out as written first, then make changes.  I wrote up an entire little rationale for alignment languages in OD&D, and if you’re willing to do that, you’re willing to perform some vigorous mental gymnastics.  So I’m not sure why I never took a similar tack with T&T to try it with the instructions before kitbashing.

While I don’t like spending more than a page or so on setting and backstory prior to beginning a dungeon-based campaign, I happen to still have my Faz stuff around and it’s obviously perfect for a kitchen-sink pickup game, so I’m going to use that as the setting for Darkdurdle Dungeon.  (Faz is a WILD AND CRAZY CITY setting somewhere between City State of the Invincible Overlord and Alpha Complex.  Here’s some of the old local news.)  If there’s one place I’ve got where a leprechaun, a werewolf, and a mummy can hang out together, it’s the Weird Quarter of Faz.

So I’m going to have a look through the main rulebook and Monsters! Monsters!, pick out the Kindreds I can see using (dragons and shoggoths might be problematic), and give it a go.  The worst thing that can happen is I run it, I don’t like it, and I go back to a humans-only game, since adjusting power scale is pretty much a matter of scratching out the old Monster Ratings and writing in new ones.


T&T Darkdurdle Dungeon intro draft

February 8, 2014

I have a 9-page draft of the introduction to the dungeon I’m working on for Tunnels & Trolls 5th edition.  That’s just what it is – a draft of the introduction.  There’s scant reference to game mechanics and there’s no “meat” yet.  It requires editing.  I don’t (and won’t) waste time on setting for a dungeon write-up.  It’s more of an example of how I do things than anything vaguely useful at this point.

That said, if you’re interested in seeing how I’m proceeding, drop me a line at hugeruinedpile@gmail.com and I’ll send you a .pdf of the scant amount I actually have typed in.  In practice, I’m much, much more terse in my own notes, but I’m more verbose when I plan to show something to other people.  I like to hear what people think or I wouldn’t be blogging.

As with anything I put out there for gaming, I don’t care what anyone does with any parts of the dungeon once they have it.  Anything that doesn’t implicate someone else’s intellectual property is public domain as far as I’m concerned and I don’t care if I get credit or not.  Not an issue at this point but I’ve had to mention it before with other stuff.

Sketchy Mushrooms


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