Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wastelands Big Honkin Random Monster Table

The Wastelands is a sandboxy hex-crawl style setting. As such, I needed to create a series of random encounter tables for the numerous geographical regions. I had originally drafted a d20-based table for each major region (Bandlands of Paj, Kreth Verdant, Steaming Jungles of Su'Janga, etc.), but soon realized that a d20 randomizer did not produce enough variation within each region to satisfy my personal Creature Feature Quotient--meaning I needed more monsters!

Really cool Artisan Dice from
So as I often do when pondering dungeon mastery-type things, I consulted the definitive work of Grand Master Gygax, the 1st edition DMG. Therein, as usual, I found my solution: d100-based random tables delineated by predominant terrain type. I have moved away from d100-based tables in recent years, mostly because they require a lot more fiddly maths and sometimes produce too many options for my personal tastes. However, for this purpose, and to satiate my CFQ--I wanted roughly between 20 and 40 possible random creatures for most regions--the good old d100 tables worked perfectly.

Thus, I reorganized my separate regional d20 tables into one big honking d100 table broken out into predominant terrain types (arctic, badlands, forest, desert, and so on) similar to what was done in the DMG. The table can be downloaded here (.pdf) should you good readers wish to use it as-is, or here (.docx) if you'd like to tinker and customize it.

The creatures on the table include a few of the regular suspects from the Monster Manual (it goes without saying that I mean the AD&D version--but I guess I just said, or wrote, it anyway!) But with this campaign setting I wanted to mine the other monster manuals for lesser-known and/or infrequently-used critters. For example, monsters such as the crysmal, kampfult, solifugid and xag-ya from Monster Manual II, and the caterwaul and skulk (and the humanoid aarakocra, grimlocks and quaggoths) from the Fiend Folio will turn up randomly in some areas of the Wastelands.

I also included the thanoi, or walrus men, from the Dragonlance Adventures book (and DL6 Dragons of Ice). Mostly because I like the idea of warrior walrus men. I never liked much from Dragonlance, but I always thought the thanoi were cool. Coo coo ca choo! Bad puns intended. ;-)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Wastelands Inspirational Art - Alex Ruiz

As I had mentioned previously, my Wastelands setting is inspired by pulp adventure, fantasy and science-fiction stories, as well as films and music influenced by those stories.

There are also a number of visual artists whose work I admire (I mentioned Frank Frazetta here recently), so I thought I would offer up some artwork samples from time to time here on the blog for others to enjoy.

Some of these art pieces may not have directly influenced any specific aspect of the Wastelands (there are a few that have however), but certainly the pieces have influenced or in some way resemble what I envision in my head as the "look" of the Wastelands.

Today I present several pieces by Alex Ruiz, a very talented visual artist ... and obviously twisted. I mean that in a good way! :-)

I'll let Alex's own bio sum up his artistic vision: "The visions of Alex Ruiz range from dark and disturbing, fantastical to sci-fi, and all the way to vomit inducing cuteness and hilarity. In his paintings, the creatures of his thoughts crawl off the page and transplant themselves into your unsuspecting brain, hopefully taking residence there as well."


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Montreal Gaming & Food

Montreal is an amazing city. It's a place where old world charm and ambiance meets modern style and joie de vivre. I have the pleasure of visiting Montreal several times a year as my wife was raised there and her parents still reside there. Whenever we visit the family there are two places in town I absolutely MUST patron, even if it's only a quick drop in.

One is Le Valet d'Coeur. Le Valet is an incredibly diverse gaming store on rue Saint-Denis. It has all the stuff you expect from a store where you buy tabletop RPGs, and a huge selection of traditional board, strategy and card games, as well as puzzles and toys. There is always a gaggle of gamers there hanging out at the tables in the back playing Magic or D&D or some other game. The staff are very knowledgeable and friendly.

The second is Schwartz's Deli. This palace (hole in the wall, really--but all the best places are dives!) of smoked meat on boulevard Saint-Laurent is pure awesome and a Montreal institution. Get there with time to spare because you'll be waiting in line for at least 15 minutes. If you go to the take-out side of the deli, the wait time is less and the food is just as delicious. It's getting to be pretty expensive for a Schwartz's sandwich these days (almost $9 each) but the smoked meat is so good I didn't even blink at the price when I ordered two for lunch this past weekend. :-)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Heroic Dice! [LL Option]


Heroic Dice in action! lol
Heroic dice are extra dice you may use in place of poor or undesirable dice rolls. They represent a well of inner resolve, an unrelenting drive, a will to succeed, or simply sheer blind luck that distinguishes adventurers from everyone else.

When you make a bad roll, you may declare to the referee you are spending a Heroic Die to re-roll a single die. A Heroic Die may be any die type and may be spent in any situation—attack roll, damage roll, saving throw, proficiency (or skill) check, and so forth.

You may only spend one Heroic Die on any single bad die roll—you cannot keep spending Heroic Dice to re-roll until you get a favorable result. If a Heroic Die roll is equal to or worse than your original roll, use the original roll. However, that Heroic Die is still spent.

You gain more Heroic Dice to spend as you gain levels. Heroic Dice refresh at the start of each day.

Character Level
Heroic Dice per Day

This is a pretty straightforward house rule I've encountered in many variations over the years. Some referees divvy them up into specific pools for spellcasting or combat, and others call them luck dice, drama dice, fate points and such.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wastelands [Overview, Part III]

Continuing to collect my rough campaign notes into some semblance of order...

Legends tell in the distant past a great civilization flourished in the Wastelands. Powerful and just empires ruled the lands and majestic cities were centers of knowledge and culture and commerce. Sailing ships traveled every sea and brought wealth from all parts of the world. The Free Races were contented and prospered, joy and happiness abounded for all, children sang.


Then the Dark Years came with a sickening thud.

Stars crashed burning from the sky, hideous creatures appeared and stalked the lands slaying all in their path, and evil magic corrupted the hearts of good people. Bad people got worse, aligned with evil forces and stole power. Bloody wars ensued. Empires fell. Civilization crumbled into dust and all recorded knowledge of the glorious past was lost.

Now that’s more like it.

Since the coming of the Dark Years, most folk forget the Old Gods and worship all manner of strange deities, spirits and forces. New cults appear regularly as charismatic leaders seek to convert followers and gain influence and power. Prominent amongst these cults are the worshippers of T’Ssalik the two-headed Serpent Lord, the Children of Odamar the Lord of Light and Darkness, the Faithful of Faresh the three-eyed Prophet of True Sight, the cultists of Synculon the Master of Knowledge and Order, and the Hedons of Sinistar the hermaphrodite god of Hedonism, Pleasure and Pain.

Two moons exist in the heavens of the Wastelands: The Slumbering Dragon (or simply “The Orb”) and The Doom Eye. The Orb is slightly bluish-silver in color and appears regularly and predictably in the sky. The Doom Eye is erratic and has no patterns, except that it is always full on three nights each year—the Night of Sorcery, the Night of Blood, and the Night of Madness. Typically, the Doom Eye is greenish-yellow in hue, but it also appears purple (Night of Sorcery), red (Night of Blood), or even multiple colors at once (Night of Madness).

Most of the races from the rulebook are available for characters in the Wastelands. Except gnomes. Fuck them. Those annoying tinkerers got squashed like the bugs they are by evil forces during the Dark Years.

Collectively these folk are known as the Free Races. There are four human subraces available to choose from—common, mercatian, nirothan and vragnak. (These will be detailed later, as appropriate for the game system used for the campaign.)


Blood Kin: The Blood Kin are a loose guild of mercenaries made up of former soldiers from all regions of the Wastelands. The Blood Kin help each other in times of personal need or distress, resolve conflicts amongst themselves by duels, and have established a code of honor as well as rules for hiring mercenaries. Warlords and rulers who hire mercenaries obey these rules to varying degrees, but those who outright disregard them may swiftly find their hired swords fighting for their enemies. Various orders exist amongst the Blood Kin—notably the Bastards and Bitches of Shuul, the Knights of the Silver Baldric, the Dragons of the Dust Sea and the Obsidian Order.
Symbol: While each order has its own insignia, all kin identify each other by carrying an obsidian coin inset with a blood ruby.

Children of Odamar: The Children worship Odamaar the Lord of Light and Darkness and the Purifier of Souls. His followers believe his eyes are the two moons, his breath the wind, his body the earth, his heart the molten fire within the earth, and his power and wisdom pierce all souls through flame and shadow.
Symbol: A blazing golden sun within a white circle and two orbs without the circle at its poles.

Cultists of Synculon: These cultists believe that the god Synculon is master of all knowledge, understanding and the ordering of the world. All things should be taken apart and experimented with to better understand their workings and functions and to improve upon them.
Symbol: An eight-spoked gear

Order of the Prism: This arcane order is dedicated to studying and understanding magic. They believe with magic power comes responsibility and they have a code of rules for using magic. The Tower of the Prism in the city-fortress of Magmar is the order’s school and citadel. Few wizards apprentice at the tower, but those who do graduate travel the lands to take on apprentices. The Order of the Prism tries to root out followers of the Dark Pact at every opportunity.
Symbol: Prism reflecting beam of light (a la Dark Side of the Moon, the Floyd man!)

Sentinels of the Steel Ring: This secretive order protects the knowledge of forging steel. They work in tandem or sometimes against warlords and rulers who covet smiths. The order maintains a library and forges hidden in the (yet to be determined).
Symbol: Steel ring

The Dark Pact: (Placeholder name) This evil society of sorcerers, warlocks and necromancers plots to rule the Wastelands. They crave dark magical powers and align with evil otherworldly entities and demons. The Pact was once part of the Order of the Prism but split in a bitter conflict that nearly destroyed the Tower of the Prism. They mercilessly hunt down powerful members of the Prism order and assassinate them.
Symbol: The Pact has no single sigil. Various factions within the Pact bear their own symbols—such as a black skull, a skeletal hand, a purple orb, a black dragon head, and other similar devices.

Yuan-ti: These cruel intelligent snake-people worship T’Ssalik the two-headed Serpent Lord and have many human followers and slaves. They basically mess shit up for everyone whenever they can. The yuan-ti have built a temple in the Tar Pits of Gazkrul.