2022. október 2., vasárnap

First impressions: The Golden Age of Khares

This is a “psychedelic sword & sandal setting sourcebook”, by Sam Renaud, currently on Kickstarter.

Disclaimer: the authors of the game were soliciting reviews on the OSR Discord server, we got in touch, and they sent me the early PDFs of the books. I was aware of it beforehand, mostly due to the great samples of b&w art that were posted in a classic fantasy RPG illustration group on Facebook. I would have checked out this game anyway, because it’s very much up my alley…



Let me reproduce here the blurb:

“The Golden Age of Khares is a psychedelic sword & sandal setting sourcebook designed for the Tabletop RPG system Low Fantasy Gaming. In it, the Kharesian Empire is described, a fictional bronze age society made up of a collection of city states with a shared culture. The world of Khares is one of sword & sandal high adventure that takes inspiration from old Biblical Epics and Italian Peplum films.”

So, yeah, it’s Bronze Age, it’s peplum, it has weird psychedelic overtones.

I don’t have the capacity to do a full review, so I’m just gonna write up my impressions as I flip through the game test (I’m perusing a PDF with the full text, some art, but no layout yet).

System:

  • Low Fantasy Gaming. I played in two one-shot sessions of this system, because one of my mates is a huge fan of it. It was pretty good, easy to grasp if you know any other D&D-ish thing, etc. The system is not reproduced wholesale in Khares, but there are handy summaries and some additional rules to represent the setting’s unique features.
  • New classes: Boxer (boxing is the main sport/entertainment in the setting), with various martial arts feats; Drone (monster hunter special forces); Magus (sorcerer/witch types); Maqlu (exorcists), Mabed (sorcery-using priests); Nomad (ranger, survivalist); Penthu (healer).


Setting info:
  • The setting gazetteer is about 50 pages long. It’s a solid pulpy not-Mesopotamia with other ancient and medieval West Asian and African stuff thrown into the mix. It’s colorful and diverse, not just Orientalistic cliches, so I’m into it at first glance.
  • I think a summary would be good for these regions, like a table that just lists each region, terrain type, main geographic features, main settlements, trade goods. There are such summaries in the law & order section.
  • Speaking of law & order: I found it somewhat weird, that, while the Kharesian society is progressive in some matters, like LGBTQ rights + there is no slavery, there is still eye-for-an-eye punishment, flogging, branding, death penalty.
  • No world map in these preview materials yet?
  • I love the Kharesian Courirer Parrots. Overall, the section on culture & customs is pretty good, lots of stuff to use here. “There’s a festival today in the city, they eat this and that, and then they gather to watch a boxing match between the champions of two families…”
  • The District descriptions are good. Unlike most of the gazetteer, which is mostly text/narrative, these sections have the gameable bits upfront. Factions, major NPCs, rumors & hooks.


Monsters & Magic
  • I didn’t have time to go through this properly, but at first glance there are Jinn from the Astral Realm, rabisu (sorcery-created monsters), all kinds of spells and magic items, some are reskinned D&D staples, some are unique to the setting, so a good mix.
  • There are monster summaries in the appendix.


Referee tools/guide:
  • Guides for travels, sandbox play, handing out rewards and experience.
  • Yes, there are random generators!
  • Plenty of random tables, wandering monster charts and so in the appendices!!!
  • Random dungeons, called Complexes.
  • There is a tracking sheet for dungeon crawl procedures.


Sample adventure:
  • This is useful: a mini-setting with a starting village and a couple of dungeons. I like the “Tomb of the Vizier”.


Presentation:
  • Very good art! The Kickstarter will add more.
  • The Kickstarter says that editing and proofreading are done, but if the preview document is anything to judge by, then another pass is definitely in order! For example, the sample dungeon talks about a “bismarched Vizier”, the map is labelled with Roman numbers, while the key sometimes refers to Arabic numerals.


Overall, this is a nice book. Maybe too long for my use as-is (I tend to go for a different style of presentation, like big but brief hexcrawls, etc.), but lots of good ideas, imagery, useful tables.
Definitely delivers on the peplum part! As for the psychedelic aspect: there are the astral dungeons and the Jinn, the various types of sorcery, but I’d have to dig into it more to really get the vibe.

Good luck with the Kickstarter!

2022. szeptember 28., szerda

Six Grasslands Lairs/Encounters

Six grasslands/steppe/open ground locations created using my quick lair generator and random encounters on the OSE SRD site.

  1. 4 Acolytes inhabit the hovel-like Shrine of the Sacred Plow. A barely domesticated (and thus easy to anger) Elephant works the farmlands around the temple.
  2. Three small burrows, surrounded by a stone circle. 34 Halflings live there, trapped inside the circle: the only person who can pass through the barrier is Sylvia, a psionic Halfling. She trades for food for her village and wants to find a way to break the spell.
  3. 3 Thouls, brothers, live in a small shack next to a fishing pond. They are equally eager to consume human flesh and/or serve as mercenaries. The eldest knows a lot of stories about heroes, champions, great warlords.
  4. A system of narrow underground tunnels criss-crosses the area: the work of the local band of 30 Pixies. They have the power to create and change these tunnels to their whim. The passages allow them to quickly disappear and pop up in a completely different place.
  5. 19 Driver Ants in the process of meticulously consuming a small settlement. The only thing they cannot chew is a set of magical armor in the half-eaten temple building. One of the ants behaves in a strange way – perhaps it is breaking away from the hivemind?!
  6. Permanent camp of 15 Berserkers, their rage triggered by the fumes emanating from a grotto in the middle of the camp. They are led by a married couple: Anadha and Ghear. Their herd of 34 Goats with braided fur grazes nearby.




2022. szeptember 26., hétfő

Six Desert Lairs/Encounters

Six desert locations created using my quick lair generator and random encounters on the OSE SRD site.

  1. 30 Nomads camping near a deep well. Unbeknownst to them, their leader Paranur was turned into an undead bloodsucking creature (like a Zombie, but sentient) by a cursed ring he’d picked up in the City Under the Sands.
  2. Abandoned military camp, back from the time of the Great War, yet the Cursed Lord’s banner still stands proud in the middle. A pride of 4 Lions lives here; the alpha male wears a jewel-encrusted collar.
  3. Spiritual retreat gone wrong: 6 Magic-Users, young, ambitious and foolish, rebelled against their elderly master. Now they are lost in the desert, haunted by things they summoned but couldn’t put down.
  4. A small village of craftsmen (weavers of magic carpets!) terrorized by a Wyvern. All children are given to the monster as provender.
  5. 50 Orcs who bury themselves under the sand during the day and terrorize caravans by night. Their chief, Oldhorn, carries the Blade that Sucks, a Cursed Sentient Sword created to detect magic and slay wizards.
  6. This red sandstone cave is home to Aloyseus the snake-charmer, with 2 Giant Rattlers in his service. He extracts their poison so the real danger lies not in the bite of the snakes (which mostly distract enemies), but in the poison darts he fires from a blowpipe and the numerous pit traps in the area.
I wrote some of these in a bad mood, and I think that is kind of noticeable? Sorry. Take care!



2022. szeptember 23., péntek

Six Jungle Lairs/Encounters

Six jungle locations created using my quick lair generator and random encounters on the OSE SRD site.

  1. A small burnt-out settlement. The natural steam vent (goes off every hour) attracted 4 Flame Salamanders. Valuable sulfur deposits crust the nearby ground and ruins, giving the place an eerie black-yellow look.
  2. 20 Brigands camp out here in tents. Their situation couldn’t be worse: they were recently defeated by a party of highly-skilled adventurers and lost their leader. Oh, and the adventurers took the treasure map the Brigands were following.
  3. 4 Spitting Cobras nest in a rock crevice, right next to a spring of fresh, potable (and untainted!) water. A cart with a broken axis stands abandoned.
  4. Two towers connected by a bridge at mid-level. For some reason, the place is always surrounded by mist. 6 Dracos, starving and weakened, cling the vines and masonry, ready to drop onto any unsuspecting victim. At the top floor of the second tower, there is a stash of six Potions of Flying.
  5. Well-built manorhouse, recently taken over by a swarm of 17 Killer Bees and their Queen (she even has a name, Elizzzzabuzzz III). The previous inhabitants are dead. Their treasured collection of expensive tapestries is intact on the walls of the main building.
  6. Herd of 13 Antelopes graze peacefully in an abandoned caravanserai (the trade route moved decades ago). The nearby pond holds tasty fish. It’s truly a paradise on earth! …or is it?



2022. szeptember 21., szerda

Six Forest Lairs/Encounters

Six forest locations created using my quick lair generator and random encounters on the OSE SRD site.

  1. 2 Centaurs, Roxtrix and Rebha, live in a moss-covered hovel. They are lovers but cannot bear child. A domesticated pack of 13 Wolves serve them.
  2. 4 Merchants and 12 Caravan Guards hiding out in a gorge. They were attacked by a Basilisk and left their precious cargo behind (two wagons full of mummified bodies from the tombs of the Beast Tyrants – such bodies fetch great prices at the arcane black market).
  3. 30 Orcs squat in a tower with a magical mysterious water cycle – rising on one side and falling on the other. Their leader is the ambitious Maradok, who is currently trying to come up with a plan to profit from that weird feature.
  4. Smoke and the noise of metal against rock betrays the presence of 13 Bugbears running a mining operation in a small valley. Little do they know that they are actively digging towards an ancient cursed artifact buried underground.
  5. Crashed metallic flying vessel, encampment of 3 Cyclopes – explorers from another dimension, two of them (Jad and Hrau) want to find a way back home, while the third (Zes) secretly likes it here and thwarts the attempts. He hid an important element of the vessel in a nearby cave.
  6. Overgrown, but intact shrine to the patron god of travelers, staked out by 4 Warp Beasts. Fresh grave marked with stone actually hides treasure.



2022. szeptember 20., kedd

Six Mountain Lairs/Encounters

Six mountain/hill locations created using my quick lair generator and random encounters on the OSE SRD site.

  1. The log chalet of Adalbert the Weretiger, with 24 Goats in a nearby enclosure and a nice smokehouse. The dwelling might look abandoned at first – Adalbert is suspicious (but also curious) of people. He lives here as a hermit, conflicted about his double nature.
  2. Old copper mine occupied by small tribe of 21 Goblins, under the leadership of the young and cunning Sheila the Bitter. They are on the payroll of the lord of the nearby stronghold and hold the lord’s ambitious younger brother in prison (supposedly “gone missing” during a hunt).
  3. High up in the mountains stands Keep Agher, a foreboding blackstone castle, surrounded by abundant springs. Four towers topped with large brass spheres – an elaborate weather control device. 3 Cloud Giants (Ergha, Gareh and Hraeg), identical triplets, live here, unaware of the function of the device. 16 Dire Wolves patrol the area.
  4. Doomsday prepper cult of 40 Brigands, swayed by the paranoid visions of their charismatic leader, Lukretis, who thinks the end is neigh. Snares and pit traps all around the place. They also obsessively dig wells.
  5. 22 Troglodytes serve Abglu, the hedonistic Stone Giant. Abglu has grown lazy and near-immobile, he just hangs out at his cave, and waits for the next meal to be served. He is especially fond of human meat and strong mead. The Trogs keep a couple of prisoners in a covered pit.
  6. The tower-like temple of a long-forgotten hawk-god is now occupied by 6 Harpies. The monsters bicker a lot and can never decide how to divide up the prey. The god’s statue is covered in silver feathers.



2022. szeptember 18., vasárnap

Six Swamp Lairs/Encounters

Six swamp locations created using my quick lair generator and random encounters on the OSE SRD site.

  1. Camp of 16 Lizard Men rebels, in opposition to the Reptile Lord. The group is led by Garmorzu, a one-eyed beastmaster, who successfully trained 3 Giant Crabs to serve as mounts.
  2. Large decrepit manorhouse with seven gables, constantly surrounded by 4 Wyverns. Embullion the Wizard hides in the basement: he stole a Wyvern egg for his magical experiments, but drew a protective circle around the building. The circle will hold for 3 more days.
  3. Half-flooded cave, home to 3 Trolls. The eldest has a laser blaster (an ancient alien artifact) attached to its arm. Inside their cave, there is a magical spring that grants the power of regeneration, but turns the imbiber into a troll after 12 days.
  4. A creepy fairground, half-sunken into the morass. 21 Skeletons (former carnies and visitors) continue their routine of riding the merry-go-round, firing rifles at the shooting gallery, devouring toffee apples... An animated Cave Lion skeleton inhabits a cage.
  5. Five-strong adventuring party (2 Dwarfs, 1 Thief, and 2 Magic-Users who always bicker) at the entrance of a haunted cave. They plan to sacrifice somebody at the altar in the first chamber to rid the area from the ghostly presence.
  6. A herd of 5 Pegasi with clipped wings guard a shimmering amethyst grotto. Inside, there is a map of the local ley-line network carved onto black rock.



2022. augusztus 14., vasárnap

PARALLEL DUNGEONS - a dimension-shifting OSR adventure

I wrote a new adventure! It is a gimmicky one, but also playable & fun. Imagine that there are three dungeons that occupy the same physical space, and the player characters can shift between these three parallel dimensions by using a device. The three dungeons are quite different:

  1. Cave of the Demon Corsairs = hide-out of brutal pirates in pact with dark forces
  2. Mining Tunnels of Q-3296 = abandoned asteroid mining operation
  3. Tranquility & Transcendence = monastery of meditating monks
The area descriptions are presented in three parallel columns, so whenever the party shifts to a different dimension, you can just look to the next column and find the area's description in the parallel dungeon.

I ran a playtest in Esoteric Enterprises, the players were the commando unit of an occult secret agency. They were taken to an island to explore the weird caves. The pirate and asteroid parts proved quite deadly... but the dimension shifting device saved the party's asses a couple of times, and they also used it to circumvent hazards.

Get in on itch.io! (free/PWYW)






2022. augusztus 11., csütörtök

Piles of Downloaded Files... #1: browsing the dreadful "Unsorted" folder!

We all know what PDF really stands for… PILES OF DOWNLOADED FILES! If you are an OSR-nerd like me, then you probably have a folder full of RPG-related PDFs. Downloaded from blogs, retrieved from the Way Back Machine, pirated or purchased or “PWYW” from DriveThru, or worse – bought in a bundle of approximately one thousand files… They are all there, in an unorganized heap, unread, unused, forgotten.

BUT THIS CHANGES TODAY!

Or, at least, it changes a bit…

I’m going to open the dreadful “Unsorted” folder, and check a couple of old documents.

 

The Tomb of Sigyfel, A Labyrinth Lord Quick Play Adventure by Daniel Proctor

Or, as mysteriously titled in the folder: ll00Q1.pdf! This is a two-page introductory mini-dungeon from 2008. This is free from DriveThruRPG (https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/57863/The-Tomb-of-Sigyfel). Ten room tomb, branching out into three sections after the entrance area. It is very ur-D&D, evil cleric, orcs, traps…

 

Mediterraneo by Andrea Angiolino

This is a curiosity from 1992, an Italian RPG about Greek mythological heroes. 32-page booklet, with rules, monster stats, and a sample adventure, “The Island of the Amazons” (a handful of wilderness locations and a 6-room dungeon). I don’t speak Italian, but I love ancient myth/history based RPGs, so I was happy to find it here: https://caponatameccanica.com/mediterraneo-un-gioco-di-ruolo-di-andrea-angiolino/ I also have PDFs of Mitico! and Kalevala from the same game line.

 

The Metamorphica Revised by Johnstone Metzger

This should be moved to the “Random tables” folder… I have the original Metamorphica (2012) there, this is the 2016 expanded edition. Hundreds of mutations and transformations, great if you are running a post-apoc game. https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/198038/The-Metamorphica-Revised

 

Minor Arcana Generator by Jeremy Strandberg

I had to do some googling, because the PDF itself doesn’t have credits. This is a 7-page generator of weird artifacts, probably for the author’s “Stonetop” Dungeon World setting. Bonus points for including eight worked examples – always a good thing for random generators released into the ild! There is a perchance version: https://perchance.org/81gg8njnn9

 

Holmes Ref 2.0 by Zenopus

Reference sheets for the Holmes Basic Set, compiled by the gentleman & scholar from Zenopus Archives. Apart from the numbers and charts, terse spell overviews, monster stats, it also has “Holmesian Random Names”, random character backgrounds and pregens. Useful! https://sites.google.com/site/zenopusarchives/home/holmes-ref

 

Join the fun... if you dare!





2022. július 22., péntek

[Adventure] Beyond the Edge of the World - a small psychedelic hexcrawl

I wrote a small psychedelic hexcrawl for a friend's birthday... Inspired by Roger Dean album covers and Adventure Time. Judges Guild style terse descriptions and weirdness, on two pages.

Download PDF

Owl-people, a mountaintop sage with 2-mile long hair, ants, cacti, etc...