Monthly Archives: January 2012

Society of Light – Part 2

Part 1     Part 3     Part 4     Part 5      Part 6

The Enchiridion is the title for the collection of the holy texts of the Church of the Lords of Light. It is composed of thirty-six distinct texts, only twenty of which are available for any to read. By religious law, the Enchiridion is always written in Aleph, a mortal analog of Enochian (the langauge of the Host). Many of these texts are living documents, being updated and revised as needed. The following fourteen texts are commonly collected together as either a bound volume or a set of scrolls and is what most people think of when the term “Enchiridion” is used.

  • Record of the Proclamation of the Lord Sc Metatron – The words of the Lord Sc. Metatron on the formation and purpose of the Society of Light and the Church of the Lords of Light.
  • Book of the Evangelion – A description of the meaning and rewards of the Society of Light.
  • Record of the Knowledge of the Lord Sc Raphael – The words of the Lord Sc Raphael on the breadth and depth of the knowledge and authority of the Sarim.
  • The Trisagion – The text and music of the twenty-four hour song in praise of the Light.
  • Scroll of the Vale of ‘Aden – The story of the creation of humanity and their Fall from Grace.
  • Record of the Annunciation of the Lord Sc Gabriel – The words of the Lord Sc Gabriel on the birth and role of humanity.
  • The War between the Sons of Light and the Princes of Darkness – The tale of the Fall of the Angels as related by the Host, detailing both the reasons and the measures taken to avert it.
  • Record of the Battle of the Lord Sc Michael – The words of the Lord Sc Michael on the War Without End and the battle between Light and Darkness.
  • The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs – Starting with Enoch, the first Patriarch, this is recording of the earliest histories of the Church of the Lords of Light and the Society of Light.
  • The Lamentations of Istar – The history of the fall of Istar and the treachery of the Witch-King
  • Record of the Path of the Lord Sc Uriel – The words of the Lord Sc Uriel on death and salvation.
  • The Lost Temple – A mystery-chaunt of the lost Templum Archangelorum
  • Songs of the Cities – Tales of the Eternal City and its reflections in mortal history and institutions.
  • Record of the Revelation of Lord Sc Ratziel – The words of the Lord Sc Ratziel on the threat and signs of the Endtimes.

The following texts each contain so much information that they each fill a weighty volume on their own. In the case of the Rulings of the Most Holy Tribunal it fills multiple volumes and is constantly being revised with commentary. All of these texts have abridged versions, and some highly abridged versions may show up in single volume copies of the Enchiridion.

  • Codex of the Sarim – A list of the Sarim, their names, portfolios, and manifestations.
  • Codex of the Eternal City – A description of Heaven, the Eternal City, and it’s environs.
  • Codex of the Host of Heaven – A description of the Hierarchy and Choirs of Angels
  • Codex of the Illuminated Brethren – A description of the Blessed Spirits of the Society of Light
  • Tally of the Elections – A list of the Elect, their histories, and their portfolios.
  • Rulings of the Most Holy Tribunal of the Blessed Irin and Qaddisin – A collection of the laws and commentary on the rulings of the laws of the Church of the Lords of Light and the Society of Light.

There are nine restricted texts that, while they are considered part of the Enchiridion, are not commonly available. While not exactly heretical, they often deal with sensitive subjects and access is monitored within the institutions that have copies and restricted to those who can demonstrate both the need for the knowledge and the wisdom to use it with care.

  • Codex of the Fallen – A list of the Fallen angels, their hierarchy, names, and manifestations.
  • Codex of the Apostate – A list of the Apostate, their names and crimes.
  • Codex of the Pit – A description of Hell, the Pits, and the environs of the Fallen.
  • Codex of the Accursed – A description of cursed and dire beasts that have been born of Darkness.
  • Song of the Shadow – A poetic description of the Shadowlands, its peoples, environs, and dangers.
  • The Banishment of the Grigori – A description of the banishment of the Grigori for the crime of mating with mortals and bringing forth the Nephilim.
  • The Incarnations of the Maelstrom – A description of the dangers of the Maelstrom, the Ran, the Wyld, the Forsaken, and the Lords of Chaos.
  • The Permutations of Form – A description of the Great Elementals, their manifestations and servants, and the rules that bind them.
  • The Emanations of Mercy, Severity, and Balance – A description of the cosmology of the Greater and Lesser Realms.

Similarly, there are also seven primary texts that are actually suppressed. These deal with heretical subjects of the Fallen and Nephalim and are kept under close lock and key by the Church of the Lords of Light. It is believed that the seductive lies and the blasphemous truths of theses texts are too much for the uninitiated ear and unprotected mind.

  • Canticle of the Morning Star – A song praising the un-Fallen Morning Star.
  • Lament of the Lightbringer – The tale of the Fall, as related by the Fallen.
  • Song of the Black Dragon – The description of the methods used by the Fallen to corrupt the Faithful.
  • Song of the Seven Darks – A song that celebrates the great sins of the soul.
  • The Isa Dirge – A song of lamentation by the mother of the first Nephalim.
  • Revelation of the Dark Mother – The story of the First Woman and Mother of Monsters.
  • Chronicle of the Black Labyrinth – A description of the Void and the Dearth.
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The Society of Light – Part 1

Part 2     Part 3     Part 4     Part 5      Part 6

Huh, it’s always kind of funny when you look at your original documents for something and realize that you originally named something, something else. So the “Society of Light” is more formally the “Church of the Lords of Light” but I can also see how “Society of Light” gets used more commonly…

Also known as the Church of the Lords of Light, the Society of Light is a group dedicated to a greater community of service with and to the Sarim, who are also known as the Lords of Light and as the Tutelary Princes of the Angelic Host. There are two primary supernatural groups that are respected and venerated by the members of the Society of Light – The Council of the Elect, those mortals whose service has been deemed extraordinary and have earned a place in the Deliberations of Heaven, and the Sarim, the Lords of Light which consist of the mostly highly ranked angels among the greater Host. But the true strength of the Society is that of the Household and Community, these are the common people and the their lives, that they organize in Service to the Light and the pursuit of its Great Work.

The Faith is organized with essentially four levels of devotional service and practice; the Individual Oaths, the Household of Faith, the Community of Service, and the greater Society of Light. Service to the Light, and the Oaths one has made in that Service are the cornerstones of the individual life, and laid atop the bedrock of the three Testaments of Faith. Service to the Light is performed on each level of an individual’s life, and membership within an active spiritual community is the optimal form of large scale worship and service.

Community Testaments of Faith (“Taking the Gold”):

  • Always bearing a bladed weapon for the defense of the Community of Light.
  • Men wear their beards long, in the bound Babylonian style, and both women and men wear their hair long. Hair is cut only for mourning and in death, both men and women, save for the Orders-Militant who are always clean-shaven and wear their hair close cropped. This represents the sense that are always in mourning due their constant state of war and constantly prepared for death. They also dress in some version or some layer of plain white linens, the burial shrouds that they are buried (also known as tachrichim).
  • Always bear an ‘Argentos’ (Holy Symbol: a silver sword, Point down, with wings outspread from the hilt)
  • The Cord. Always wear a triple-braided cord of silver, gold, and white, the length of the bearers body. It is the measure of their strength in body, in spirit, and community.
  • Maintenance of the Epitaphion (tomb cloths) of the Saints, and participation in the Lamentation of the Grave (the Epitáphios Thrēnos) for the honored dead.

Household Testaments of Faith (“Taking the Silver”):

  • A Flaming Chalice is to be maintained at all times in representation of the Light.
  • Meals are to be shared as a celebration of Community of Light.
  • Marriage: As a sign of devotion to the continuance of the Community of Light.

Individual Testaments of Faith (“Taking the White”):

  • Chastity: For the discipline of the self and the Community.
  • Prayer 3 times per day: Dawn,Noon, and Dusk. This is done as a Community, Household, and Individual Testament of Faith in the Society of Light. Individual prayer is standing and facing the sun, arms in open embrace.
  • Learning and mastery of the holy and ritual language Aleph.
  • Anointed with Chrism, in birth and in death.

There are somewhat subtle variations within the various Rites and Rules of the Society of Light. A “Rite” is the greater or overall set of laws and customs which bind members of the Society of Light by physical area of authority (also known as a Congregation), a “Rule” is the same by type of organization.  For example there is a Kistathian Rite, an Istarian Rite, an Thulian Rite, etc. while at the same time there are Rules of the Orders Militant, the Orders Anchorite, and all sorts of other specific roles and organizations with both the Church of the Lords of Light and the Society of Light. All of these Rites and Rules are what make up the Church of the Lords of Light as a formal organization – and also represent how the Society has adapated to the different cultures that it has found itself embedded in. But there are other groups that fall outside of the Church of the Lords of Light such as the Warrior-Monk traditions (mostly famously the Warrior-Monks of Endor) or the Healers of Sc. Estor who answer directly to the Light itself and not to any mortal institution. These groups are considered to be part of the greater Society of Light even though they are not part of the organized Church of the Lords of Light.

Given the focus on marriage and chastity, it is also worth mentioning some greater specifics on the issues of sex and the customs of marriage. The Church of the Lords of Light does not condemn bisexuality any more or less than any other culture or those who follow the Old Faith or the En Khoda Theos Kirk. While the Society of Light encourages heterosexual marriage, and demands chastity, it accepts same-sex love and attraction as natural. The Istarian Rite focuses on heterosexual marriage with a chaste love for other partners – while allowing for multiple wives or husbands in a polygamous or polyandrous union. The Kistathian Rite permits and encourages group marriage focusing more on the happiness of the partners involved. Similarly, the Istarian Rite recognizes only lifelong marriage, with divorce only possible in the case of abuse or neglect while the Kistathian Rite allows divorce upon very little basis. Sexually the Society of Light is no more or less inhibited than the majority of the rest of Uerth While there are few Tantrics who belong to the Society, it is not unheard of. Sastra as an art is highly regarded in the Kistathian society and that is reflected in the Kistathian Rite, but the Heartlands are often considered less cosmopolitan in it’s acceptance of the art of sacred sexuality, and the Istarian Rite reflects that in turn. It’s notable that the smaller Loren Rite, from the southern Heartlands and highly influenced by the Old Faith, is much more accepting than the Istarian Rite.

Members of the Larger Community, but who have sworn no special oaths, and follow the observances of the Community (this includes the all three of the above Testaments) are referred to as: Brother and Sister. This is the humble title, which all members of the Society can use to speak with another, no matter what their other title may be. It is also used for any individual who serves the Light, be they a member of the Church of the Lords of Light or not.

Lay Members of Society, those who have taken Minor Orders, refer to each other and are referred to as Frater or Sorer. With a full compliment of Minor Orders and a Dean (see below) a Community is able to function within the Rule without a Lightbringer present and are able to maintain the spiritual health and well-being of the Community except in dire circumstances. The Minor Orders are as follows:

  • Verger, the Master of Ceremonies
  • Cantor, the Singer of Sacred Texts and Caller to Worship
  • Sexton, responsible for Maintenance of Grounds and Graveyards
  • Ostiarius, the Doorkeeper and Guardian of theTemple
  • Exorcist, the Wardens of the Soul
  • Acolytes, the Keepers of the Sacred Flame.

Each independent, local community is lead by a Dean, who may also have other titles but has not automatically taken Minor Orders – the role is more secular in nature than religious. The Dean is responsible for everyone within that particular community and is advised by their Lightbearer, the priest or priestess who serves that particular community, and it is not uncommon for the Dean to have taken Minor Orders at some point in the past, though the responsibilities of being Dean may very well preclude them acting in these roles. Deans, Heads-of-Households, respected Teachers, Leaders, and Elders, are commonly addressed as Dom or Domina.

Finally, those who have often been initiated into the greater Mysteries of the Society are addressed as Pater or Mater (Father or Mother) – though they may very well be addressed as Dom or Domina due to the respect given to them by virture of role or wisdom. This includes Lightbringers who have reached 3rd Level. Lightbringers are those that bear the Holy or Major Orders of ordained priesthood, and will have been granted each and every one of the Minor Orders as well in the course of thier studies. They are the direct representatives of the Sarim in the Mortal Realms, and they are looked to for guidance and wisdom in all matters as they spend much time studying the Enchiridion, which is the multi-volume holy texts of the Church.

That final piece stated, the Church of the Lords of Light is the organization that the various Orders, Rites, and Rules organize around, and that the organized hierarchy of Lightbringers, Archons and Devas belong to. Archons are the senior Lightbringers that are responsible for the spiritual well-being over cities or other large areas, and who are directly served by Lightbringers known as Deacons. The Council of Devas resides in Kistath and is the highest mortal authority of the Church, and they are served by a set of Lightbringers styled as Archdeacons who act as their voice and hand. There are a limited number of High Archons which technically defer to the Council of Devas, but since the Council sits in the Kistathian Empire the High Archon of a distant land often has far more autonomy than might be expected.

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Player Responsibilities

A really nice post on the subject right here by Noisms.

I really don’t have anything else to add, but I thought it was worth boosting signal on.


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I’ve been laid up sick this weekend…

Gaming was cancelled yesterday, that’s how sick I was.

So instead I’ll post about how happy I am am with this announcement.

It looks like a couple of my players will finally be able to get ahold of the rulebooks for a decent amount of money, and I can buy copies of stuff and save the wear-and-tear on my old editions. I really hope the WOTC decides to (re-)release the whole catalog in some version of PDF or POD, but I’m not holding my breath.

I know that there is all sort of excitement over this announcement as well, but I could really care less. Since having my own personal OSR, I’ve really figured out that I could care lass about playing a retro-clone, I want to play AD&D, and 1E at that. I really don’t care what edition a module or supplement is in, if it is a good product it is a good product and I’ll do whatever conversion is needed in order to run it. That’s an”Old School” attitude, not whinging about how…

Hell, there just seems to be a great deal of people in the OSR who seem to think that someone else pissed in their Cheerios – not realizing that they did it themselves. If they spent a quarter of the energy that they spent complaining about gaming just sitting down and doing it, they’d probably be a whole lot happier.


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Points of Light, Points of Darkness…

I just realized something, as I was pondering the “Points of Light” concept that was the “focus” of 4E campaign design – I’m not sure how much campaign design ever really played into 4E based on what I read, but I’ll give them the idea at least. The concept is a rather old one, and is certainly a trope in many ways, the focus of the action is that there are pockets of civilization (the points of light) within vast seas of surrounding wilderness and savagery (the darkness). As a note, most modern day occult campaigns (or even historical occult/horror games like Call of Cthulhu) work off the opposite conceit, that there are Points of Darkness (Innsmouth, the Succubus Club, etc) that exist with the vast light of modern civilization.

This really does make an excellent basis for a open-ended hexcrawl, where the players start out in one point of light and then travel via exploration to the next point of light – or even in the endgame create their own point of light (pretty much the assumption in much of the OSR rulesets). But it doesn’t work so well in a game like mine, where at one point in the distant past it most certainly was a hexcrawl in some ways. It was a big world, much of it was undeveloped, and the players and I could just make stuff up as was needed.

Jump forward 32 years and the world is pretty well-developed. Now, I’ve certainly created and maintained areas that are hexcrawlish – but the wilderness is dangerous and it really isn’t that suitable for low-level types. I don’t think that Daniel Boone, Lewis and Clark, or Sir Richard Burton were 1st level characters…

So what the hell do you do?

One of the problems with Points of Darkness is that they have to be either very secretive or very powerful or both in order to survive in a world full of light. I think that this is what makes some of those classic modules work well – T1 The Village of Hommlet, U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God, and even something like A1, Slavepits of the Undercity were all about hidden threats within civilized lands, the characters know that there is a “problem” but it’s true extent isn’t understood and the characters must uncover it in order to be successful. These were, in all seriousness, much more like a good Call of Cthulhu scenario than a “dungeon crawl”.

In modules like L1 The Secret of Bone Hill there was a bit more of a Point of Darkness vibe, the same with modules S1 Tomb of Horrors, S2 White Plume Mountain, and s4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojanth (along with it’s companion WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun). The characters know that there is a “bad spot” and specifically go out to deal with it, often in a very dungeon-crawl-like manner. Now, in the A-Series and the U-Series the characters are drawn further out into the “Sea of Darkness” and away from the safety of the “Point of Light” – but it certainly isn’t a hexcrawl in any way shape or form and it is all predicated on the success of the initial investigation and adventure.

Similarly, as much-loved as they are, the G-Series and the D-series are neither points of Light or Darkness. The former are simple Special Forces or Navy SEAL search and destroy missions, while the latter is a basically one doozy of a LRRP (Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrols, a Vietnam-era designation) mission that combines recon with assassination. This is likely an artifact of the tournament design of the modules, but it also made for a very simple game. You went in and killed everything, with a minimum of puzzle-solving, or you snuck around and hoped to survive till you reached your target (when you killed everything).

I’ve realized that part of my struggle with B2 has been to reconcile the “Point of Light” style of the module with a campaign world that isn’t very “Point of Light” in nature. I’ve made it work, and even though I’ve just come up with a rather radical and horrifying turn of events for Castle Seraph itself, I need to keep in mind that my world isn’t a OSR hexcrawl and trying to treat it as such is just frustrating for me (and the players I think, mostly because my own frustration with things or inability to quite make things work in my own head comes out in my DMing).



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Mountain Dwarves, the Dwaedurinar (1e)

“The first thing that you humans need to remember if you would treat with us is that we are a honorable people, with traditions that go back to the First Age and the Deeps. The second thing to remember is to forget what you know of the Dwimmervolk that dwell in your cities, they are shield-brothers and axe-kin, and skilled in their own way, but we are earth-blooded and stone-boned and  do not suffer foolishness in our dealings with others. Third, we dwarves are forged by the riddle of steel and we have hewn down more goblins, trolls, and worse in the Deeps than have ever walked the surface in our serach for the answer to the riddle of steel. The last thing that deserves consideration is that you humans seem to think that we have a need of you.

We don’t.”  – Thralin Deepingaxe, Ambassador to the Gynarch of T’zarr.

As can be seen, Mountain Dwarves are a proud, dour, and taciturn race of warriors. They are devoted to their craft, have a deep and abiding hated of goblins, trolls, and worse, all with a darker reputation for greed and jealousy. Now, there are other Dwarves elsewhere, the Dwimmervolk that dwell primarily aboveground and in human cities, the ash-skinned and black-eyed Dwarrow of the Shadowlands, but the Mountain Dwarves, the Dwarves of the Underdark, or the Dwaedurinar as they call themselves in their own language, think of themselves as the true Dwarves and the keepers and inheritors of the greatest secrets of their race – which includes some of the most technologically advanced secrets known to mortals. Known as the “Mountain Folk” or the “Kings Under The Mountains” because the upper reaches of their cities inhabit the exposed spine of the world. Dwarven society itself is divided along family and clan lines, and then further organizied into kingdoms – though the reviled outcasts known as Derrokin always scrabble at the edges. They are an intensely private people, who keep thier language and lore secret from outsiders and rarely trust non-Dwarves with anything of value.

Appearance: Male Mountain Dwarves stand 48″ tall (+1d6 or -1d4), and weigh 150 lbs (+2-24 or -2-16) while female Mountain Dwarves stand 47″ tall (+1d4 or -1d4), and weigh 145 lbs (+2-20 or -2-16). They tend to have stout builds and pale skin with a stone-like hue. Even young Dwarves tend to have features that look old by human standards, with deep lines and pronounced features, but this is not universal. Dwarven hair begins in generally dark hues, with occasional reds and blonds, but as in humans, it goes gray or white as the Dwarf ages. Dwarves tend to wear thier beards and hair long, often with simple braiding to keep it it of the way in forge or fight. The Dwarven beard is a mark of pride and honor and insulting a Dwarf’s beard is a tried and true method of starting a fight with not just that Dwarf, but all thier kin as well if it is dire enough. Dwarven eyes are dark, blacks, browns, and greys, but they glitter underneath craggy brows.

Lifespan: Mountain Dwarves are young adults at age 40, considered mature adults at around age 60, and can live up to 525 years of age. They generally begin play at 40 + 5d4 years of age.

Common Alignments: Dwarven culture promotes Lawful ethics and Good morals as the ideal, though there are plenty of more Neutral and even Evil Dwarves. Dwarven psychics tend to be Chaotic in alignment, as their very nature puts them at odds with many of the most tightly held Dwarven beliefs and attitudes. Most chaotic Dwarves will effectively voluntarily exile themselves rather than risk being labeled Derrokin and have their names struck from the rolls of thier families.

Common Classes: Mountain Dwarves are most commonly Fighters of some sort, with Templars and Scouts running a close second. They can multiclass, but many Dwarves retain a somewhat single-minded focus on a single character class. Rogues are not common, but not exactly uncommon either – but Scouts are generally more common than actual Thieves. Other than Templars, and even then uncommonly, Priests are rarely found adventuring. Dwarves also have Oracles, but these adventure even less than Priests.

Common Professions: Mountain Dwarf culture is entirely self-sufficient, so any profession is possible. That said, Mountain Dwarves have a reputation as metal and stoneworkers and their smithwork is fabled in human lands and history and all Dwarves have a certain basic knowledge of these fields. Unlike human society (let alone Elven) Dwarven ethics do not allow a leisure class, and even Dwarven nobles work to excel at a craft of some sort – that being the highest of all aspirations of a Dwarf. All Dwarves are also all skilled warriors though few will make a sole profession of arms.

Common Religions: Dwarven religion is an even more private matter than the rest of thier affairs. Dwarves have a great deal of reverence for the Great Gods and even a grudging respect the human religions of the En Khoda Theos Kirk (the Great Elemental Dragons), but their primary spiritual pursuit is pursuing “the riddle of steel” though “forging their souls” by trial and perseverence. They also venerate thier ancestors, living and dead, holding up the best and the worst as exemplars of the best and worst of Dwarven nature. Dwarven Priests are the “Ancestor Lords” – those that have a special connection to the Ancestors, while Dwarven Oracles are skilled with both Runes and “Stonesight”.

Statistic Bonuses: +1 to Constitution, -1 Charisma, -2 Comeliness.

Languages: Local Human Language, Dwarrune, Dark Tongue, Trollish (Int15 +1, Int 16 +2, Int17 +3, Int18 +4). Dwarves can also speak with Spirits of Elemental Earth.

Special Abilities:  Detect Grade or Slope in Passage, 75%; Detect New Construction of Passage or Tunnel, 75%; Detect Sliding or Shifting Walls or Rooms, 60%; Detect Stonework Traps, 50%; Determine Depth Underground, 50%;  +1 to Hit Goblins; -4 to be Hit by Larger than Man-Sized Creature; Highly Resistant to Poison (+1 to saves per 3½ pts of Constitution); Highly Resistant to Magic (+1 to saves vs. Spells, Rods, Wands, & Staves per 3½ pts of Constitution); 60′ Infravision; All motionless Dwarves are Invisible in areas of natural rock or stone, 90%; At 4th Level, non-Psychic Dwarves can use Stone Tell 1/day; at 8th level non-Psychic Dwarves can Conjure Earth Elemental 1/day.

Special Vulnerabilities: In bright light, Dwarves have thier vision reduced to 30′ and they are -1 to Hit. Dwarves are also unable to swim and sink like, well, rocks in water. As a result they all tend to have a fear of deep water and the idea of sailing on seas or oceans can terrify them into a quiet panic. They are short, though not as short as gnomes. Their hatred of other races is matched in turn and goblins, ogres, trolls, and drakes will tend to attack Dwarves in preference to other races and thier settlements are often the targets of attacks. Dwarven reputation means that they generally suffer a penalty of -10% to Reaction Rolls with humans and elves. Dwarves also suffer the standard nonhuman penalty of -10% to experience for each character class.

Character Class Limits: Entertainer – N/A, Mage – N/A (Alchemist – 6th), Priest – 8th, Psychic – N/A (Oracle 8th), Rogue – 9th, Warrior – 7th, Warrior-Monk – N/A. As always, this is for Prime Attributes of 15 or less, 16 is +1 level, 17 is +2 levels, 18 is +3 levels, and 19 is +4 levels before the XP penalty is doubled from -10% to -20%.

Psionics: None inherent for Mountain Dwarves, though they have normal chances to roll for Major Psionics.

Additional Proficiencies or Skills: All Mountain Dwarves gain one free weapon proficiency to be applied to a Crossbow or a Firearm (Handgun or Longarm). They also have one more free proficiency that can be applied to Axes or Hammers. Dwarven Warriors also have one additional weapon proficiency.

Rogue Bonuses: Slight of Hand: No Bonus, Open Locks: +10%, Find/Remove Traps: +15%, Stealth: No Bonus, Climb Walls: -15%, Acrobatics: +5%, Tumbling: +5%

Perception / Hear Noise: Base 10%

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23 Answers for Zak

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be? I think that it would be merging Cyberpunk 2020’s Lifepath system with the Advanced Career Generation systems of Traveller for my CyberTraveller game. It’s simple and straightforward and people love to sit and kibbitz while everyone makes their characters, figuring out how everyone knows one another.
2. When was the last time you GMed? Two Sundays ago, we play again this Sunday.
3. When was the last time you played? Sometime last year? My spouse and I flip back-and-forth sometimes and she’s been busy with work lately.
4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven’t run but would like to: Fight your way out of Hell and back your life.
5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things? Listen to them, scribble things down that I think of in the moment, go use the toilet, whatever.
6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play? Usually some chips make their way into my belly.
7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting? Exhausting, rarely. Tiring? Amost always.
8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing? The thing that comes to mind, though I’m sure that there are examples after this, is killing another PC because the way they were acting it seemed like they were a bad guy. The rest of the group agreed 100%, but I continue to think about that – and it ended up being an epitomizing moment for that character. He turned into someone that the group knew that they could always turn to for help, would always do the right thing, but the way that it would happen could be terrifying.
9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither? Of course! Both directions, and so do I, that’s part of the fun of gaming.
10. What do you do with goblins? They are deceptively easy to kill, but have a cunning tactical sense and desire for self-preservation. Low HD, but they come in increasingly larger groups, use weak poison, and fighting them is a numbers game. If the players stack the deck in their favor they are almost certain to win, if the players don’t take them seriously then the goblins can easily overwhelm them.
11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)? I’m pretty regularly plundering historical fiction and non-fiction for ideas not just for my AD&D game but for my Call of Cthulhu game as well – Cyberpunk too.
12. What’s the funniest table moment you can remember right now? I’m answering these out of order, so, see #16, below, but the party ended up drowning another PC that they found in the middle of the module in the moat because the player was an idiot. I’ll have to relate that story in a post all by itself at some point here…
13. What was the last game book you looked at–aside from things you referenced in a game–why were you looking at it? I was reading a bunch of old Dungeon magazines this morning looking for inspiration for a solo adventure for my spouse.
14. Who’s your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator? It really depends upon the genre of the game. For fantasy it would be David Trampier or Angus McBride (did all of the old ICE MERP illustrations) – though  I also love P.D. Breeding Black who did all of the original art for Talislanta. For science-fiction it would be probably be William H. Kieth Jr. who did tons of old Traveller art, but I loved style direction of most of the both the Cyberpunk 2020 and the Warhammer 40K merchandise lines. Plus I also love Blair Reynolds work for Pagan Publishing (and elsewhere, he did some Megatraveller artwork as well IIRC).
15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid? Yes.
16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn’t write? (If ever) Probably running T1, The Villiage of Hommlet about 2o years ago.
17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in? I had a dedicated game room at one point, that was pretty cool. But anthing where I could get people at one table comfortably would be good. Somebody had the suggestion of a Gentleman’s Club, and that would be pretty fun as well – except I have my 14-year-old son playing with us and I’m pretty certain the scenery would end up being pretty distracting.
18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be? I really like a generic supplement that I have that is simply lists of names and surnames, arranged by language. I’m constantly looking for inspiration for names and that was a life-saver. In a completely different vein, I really love Listen Up You Primitive Screwheads which was the Cyberpunk 2020 referee handbook and guide. It was (and is) one of the most cogent discussions of running not just games but also campaigns out there.
19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be? My early and ongoing interest in religion, spirituality, and occultism opposed by the multi-day family backpacking trips as a teenager (plus spelunking with my father, uncle, and cousin). From intellecual and ethereal to the gritty and muddy physical.
20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table? Someone who likes to role-play, is willing to take risks, and is a team-player. You can’t be afraid to lose a character, but at the same time suicidal nonsense that gets everybody else killed isn’t appreciated by anyone.
21. What’s a real life experience you’ve translated into game terms? Studying the martial arts, plus the experience of the fights I’ve been in. That’s certainly influenced the way I think about combat, across systems. There are certainly more, but that’s a pretty obvious one.
22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn’t? My programable 3D Hologram table for running combats and dungeon exploration on…
23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn’t play? How do those conversations go? Nope.

From here

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Now what..? – Session #15

So we ended the last session with the players having managed to kill an Adult Fire Drake, this begs the question of what do you do with a fifty-foot-long, several-ton-body  of a highly magical beast right on top of the area that you want keep exploring?

You send the teleporting Dwarf and the mage off to the big city to negotiate with the Mage’s Guild to sell the body.

There was the possibility of dealing with the Druids, but nobody even really spoke up for the that option, so the Mages and Alchemists Local #314 pretty much won by default. Also, incidentally, cementing one of the local power groups offering Vesna (the mage) a spot in their ranks, so she has now joined the Ebon Cabal (as has the dwarf Gryphon as well, not that the group knows).

The Guild sent out a representative to confirm the body, and come up with a number to offer the group. and then sent out a retrieval team to chop it up when they accepted. It wasn’t really that hard of a decision, first they didn’t really have much of a choice, and second, it is hard to turn down 60K in cold, hard, cash silver when someone offers it to you. It hurts, because you know how much it actually has to be worth if they are handing over 60K to you, but at the same time it is such easy money after then fact. For those who care, I simply came to the number with a simple formula of 1K per HP – which would be adjusted by the types and manner of damage it accumulated while being killed.

Plus, about half the party ended up needing to take some time to train and advance. This was that sweet moment for Vesna and Frater Nikolai both when they made it to 5th level – and Vesna for once actually made her roll and learned Lightning Bolt instead of having to run through a handful of spells before finally making her roll. A number of other characters also leveled up, and Brother Gregor has actually survived to 3rd level and full Paladin status. But the party now has a cleric with third level spells and a mage with third level spells – life is about to get interesting for everyone…

We also rotated characters a bit. CB had to bring in a replacement for Arvid (slain by the Owlbear) and so Sorer Isabella, a half-elven Cleric/Mage of the Society of Light made her appearance and my son had managed through role-play to get Tier back to the Mortal Realms from the Shadowlands (with some significant changes) so he rotated out Taloth for Tier. We decided that Taloth was travelling south to take the coins and sword of Arvid back to his family, and maybe we’ll end up with a small solo adventure or two along the way.

So, the party split up treasure (including a cool 6K in silver for each surviving member of the band) and bought equipment and gear with which to hopefully manage to finally explore the rest of the Caves of Chaos – and actually came up with a series of ideas to simply block off the smaller caverns and only explore the main one so that they could move on quickly to perhaps figuring out where the Fire Drake’s lair is and looting it.

The day ended with a short combat against a lone, runty Hill Troll that was more terrifying than actually dangerous. Next session will be about exploring the Caves of Chaos, but also with a short visit from someone who the players will recognize but the party has never met – and something that will in turn likely freak both party and players out and provide everyone with a certain amount of amusement as well as groans about general the unfairness of DMs…


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My ultra-cool, uber-geeky, gamer-gift from my son this year…

Ok, so I had mentioned awhiel back that I was waiting for a gift from  my son that hadn’t arrived yet. It came a short bit later and I simply forgot to post about it – mostly because it also demands pictures to accompany the post. First here’s a picture of the envelope that it came in:

It’s blurry because it also has the senders name, address, and telephone number on it. Now, for those of you who have used them before, you might be able to recognize the international potage label and the customs declaration.  It needed this because it was shipped in from… Mongolia.

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia to be specific.

Yes, my Yule present was late because it was literally shipped in from Mongolia.

Central Mongolia rather tha Outer Mongolia, and the capitol of Mongolia at that, but still. That gets some cool points.

So I open up the package and inside I find the following:

The gift bag is a nice touch, we figured that the seller literally walked over to the local tourist gift shop and bought the product and stuck it in the bag to send to us. Even more amusingly, the seller left the reciept in the bag (in case we wanted to return it?) and it is regular old register tape – using rubles. But in any case, I then get to the next layer of the onion:

This is a hand-stitched felt pouch. I have no idea is the flowers (?) or the color is significant, given what came inside, but it is actually pretty nice and has a nice hand to it. But truthfully, it was what was inside that really proved how cool my son (and how helpful my spouse) is:

Yup, those are actual knucklebones. I’ve had an old set of “d6 knucklebones” that he has looked at for years, and I’ve talked for that entire time about how cool it would be to actually have a set of real knuckle bones. So this is what he thought of when it came to gifts.

How is that for a cool son?

They are bigger than I imagined, and there was a small set of divination rules that came inside the felt bag. But they have a great weight in your hand and a nice smooth feel that is a bit odd for bone. I’ve actually handled a fair amount of bone in my life, and these have kind of distinctive texture unlike pretty much anything else I’ve handled.

I’ve warned the group to watch out for Magic Missiles in the future…

Now, the very cool spouse comes from the fact that she was willing to eventually order them from Mongolia when after research she found out that even all of the SCA folks were complaining that nobody was making these any more and it was a real pain to get ahold of some. Know her, if she’d had more time she would have just made some herself!

But these are my ultra-cool, uber-geeky, gamer-gift from my son this year and I love them!



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Half-Elves, the Tudarin (1e)

“We are the children of joy and sorrow, sometimes born out of love, more often born of illicit desire and as mistakes.  We have the passion of our elven heritage matched to the determination of our human blood, and we have numbered some of the greatest heros, and villans, of the Heartlands, amongst us. But even at the best of times and with the best of us, elves look down upon us for what they see as human weakness and humans fear and distrust us because of our elven otherworldliness. That is, at least, when our exotic nature doesn’t inspire a prurient interest that both races can barely forgive themselves for. Is it surprising that we finally created kingdoms of our own in the wake of the Mad God’s War? We stand with the legacy of the Thrice-Blessed and the Thrice-Cursed ever at our shoulder, and there are those who would slay us out of hand as perversions of nature merely because we had the misfortune to be born and live our lives unbound and unafraid.” – High Princess Aliannatulian of Silverveil

The Half-Elves, also known as the Tudarin or the “People of Two Paths” in the Faerie tongue, are a race that is both blessed and cursed by their heritage. While none would deny their beauty or their skills, they are often viewed with suspicion and disdain by others simply for the fact that they exist. The taboo against cross-racial sexual relations is a strong one, and the children of such liaisons bear the brunt of it. Always a small and persecuted minority at the mercy of those in power, this has started to change since the Mad Gods War with the founding of the twin realms of Silverveil and Mistvale by half-elves that refused to continue to be outcasts, slaves, or servants. Increasingly there are “half-elves born of half-elves” and some sages predict a time when the term “half-elf” will not apply and some new term for the race that will have come about will be needed. Half-elves are mature

Appearance: Male Half-Elves stand 68″ tall (+1d6 or -1d6), and weigh 140 lbs (+1-20 or -1-20) while female Half-Elves stand 66″ tall (+1d6 or -1d6), and weigh 130 lbs (+1-20 or -1-20). Both sexes have with average builds that tend towards the slender, and fair complexions rarely marred by either scars or sun. Female Half-Elves are considerably more buxom and curvaceous than Elves, but are generally slimmer than Humans. Their eyes are commonly grey or blue, with hazel occurring sometimes, and the violet or emeralds of an elven relative appearing rarely. Similarly, their hair tends to come in the same shades as human hair, with the occasional appearance of the silver-blonds, snow-whites, and blood-reds of their elvish heritage appearing as well. One significant difference with Half-Elves is that they are able to grow beards as full as any human’s and those desiring to pass for human will usually do so.

Lifespan: Half-elves are young adults at age 24, considered mature adults at around age 40, and can live up to 325 years of age. They generally begin play at 21 + 3d4 years of age.

Common Alignments: Any, though Half-Elves lean slightly towards the various Neutral Alignments.

Common Classes: It is difficult to say what professions are common among Half-Elves, what is most common is that Half-Elves invariably multi-class rather than single-class and that these are dependant upon social class and upbringing. Common multi-classes are Warrior/Mage, Warrior/Rogue, Ranger/Druid, Warrior/Priest, Warrior/Mage/Rogue. Half-Elves often find a haven as Bards and other types Entertainers, as well as many forms of Rogues if they do not find acceptance elsewhere.

Common Professions: Outside of Silverveil or Mistvale, Half-Elves tend to be born to the adventurous, and in turn tend towards professions that reflect a yearning for something other than a quiet and staid existence by a hearth. Mercenaries, explorers, merchants and travellers of all sorts – these are the sorts of professions that often appeal to Half-Elves as they search for a place and people that will accept them. Their half-blood status also means that many find a welcome home as courtesans and Tantrics, their good looks and partial blood making them both exotic and attractive to those interested.

Common Religions: Half-Elves will tend to follow the religion of their parents. The Old Faith, the En Khoda Theos Kirk, and the Godlings of the Lords Tarot seem to be quite well represented, while the Society of Light is less well represented. Half-Elves raised among the Elves will tend to follow the precepts of Li’vicor.

Statistic Bonuses: +1 to Comeliness for all Half-Elves, Half-Elves raised in Faerie also gain +1 Power and +1 to Talent.

Languages: Local Human Language (Normal Intelligence Bonuses). Half-Elves raised in Faerie or one of the Tudarin kingdoms will speak a Human Language, Faerie, and Dark Tongue – again with the normal Intelligence bonuses.

Special Abilities: 30% Resistant to Sleep and Charm; When traveling with Elves, Half-Elves, or Gnomes or alone (or 90′ Distant) have a +2 to Surprise; Detect Secret Doors: 1/6 (Notice) or 2/6 (Search); Detect Concealed Doors: 2/6 (Notice) or 3/6 (Search); Half-Elves may use Cantrips as a Mage, but gain no level bonus unless they are a Mage or other spellcaster; 60′ Ultravision, Half-Elves raised in Faerie are Invisible in wilderness settings: 60%.

Special Vulnerabilities: Half-Elves do not normally suffer from any specific vulnerabilities, but do suffer from a fair amount of prejudice from Humans and Elves due to their mixed heritage. Half-Elves suffer from a -15% penalty to Reaction Rolls from most Humans and Grey Elves, and suffer from -30% penalty from Wood Elves and High Elves. For Half-Elves raised in Faerie these penalties are reversed Half-Elves also suffer from the standard penalty of -10% to Experience for each class. Finally, Half-Elves raised in Faerie must save vs. Poison or take double damage from Cold Iron weapons and creatures with a Cold Iron talisman as simple as a ring or a bracelet gain +2 to thier saves against any magic that a Half-Elf from Faerie casts upon them.

Character Class Limits: Entertainer – 11th, Mage – 7th, Priest – 5th, Psychic – 7th, Rogue – 11th, Warrior – 6th, Warrior-Monk – 3rd. As always, this is for Prime Attributes of 15 or less, 16 is +1 level, 17 is +2 levels, 18 is +3 levels, and 19 is +4 levels before the XP penalty is doubled from -10% to -20%.

Psionics: None inherent for the majority of Half-Elves- they may roll for Major Psionics as normal. Rarely, there are Half-Elf/Half-High Man individuals who exhibit the full range of psychic abilities of a High Man. Half-Elves raised in Faerie are Minor Psychics and begin with the Minor Devotions of Rapport and Lights.

Additional Proficiencies or Skills: None.

Rogue Bonuses: Slight of Hand: +10%, Open Locks: No Bonus, Find/Remove Traps: No Bonus, Stealth: +5%, Climb Walls: No Bonus, Acrobatics: +5%, Tumbling: No Bonus

Perception / Hear Noise: Base 10%

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