Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Secret of the Black Crag - Now on Kickstarter!

Secret of the Black Crag thumbnail
cover by Logan Stahl

Ahoy me hearties! My new adventure module Secret of the Black Crag is now live on kickstarter! 

Secret of the Black Crag is an island-hopping sandbox adventure module centered around a mysterious dungeon risen from the sea. The adventure is being published by Joel Hines of Silverarm Press, whom you may know from the Mothership module Desert Moon of Karth

It’s designed for Old School Essentials but compatible with most fantasy roleplaying game systems for a party of low level characters. Inspirations include Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Secret of Monkey Island.

So if you like swashbuckling, plundering, or dungeon-delving, you can check it out here.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Questions About Wizards

Just about every settlement has its clever folk; hedge magicians and apothecaries who peddle protective amulets and healing salves or the village elders who might know a charm or two to keep the fairies at bay, but none of these people would dare call themselves “wizards”. In fact, a common assurance you’ll hear from people practiced in spellcraft is “I’m not a wizard, I just know a few spells”.

Wizards are those who give up everything, their time, their health, and even their humanity in the pursuit of magical knowledge.

That “humanity” part is key, though wizards don’t always start out as humans. Doesn’t matter if they were human before, or elf, or frog-man, or whatever else. Once you become a wizard, you leave all that behind. You’re a Wizard now. Wizards are their own race, and as such, have their own culture.

A Wizard
A wizard. Note the outlandish clothing, sickly pale skin from lack of sunlight, inhuman yellow eyes, and threatening display of magic.

“Why do wizards have such odd names?”

Wizards go to great lengths to protect themselves from magical threats (read: other wizards). One of the greatest threats to a wizard’s safety is their own True Name. Names are very powerful things when it comes to magic. Weaving a target’s True Name into a spell effectively nullifies any protections they may have against it. So, to keep their names from becoming known, wizards take on new names. 

This new name could have something to do with the sort of magic they practice, but above all else the new name must be something that can’t be traced back to a certain country or people. Usually it’s just a bunch of nonsense, like trying to make a secure password by rolling your face across the keyboard. And because of their inflated egos, they tend to throw in a title or two with it. That’s where you get folks like Delriniath the Dark Seer, or Myzzithranax the Everlasting and so on.

“Why do they dress like that?”

You ever hear of aposematism? It’s that thing where poisonous animals advertise to other animals how bad it would be to try and eat them by being really brightly colored. Wizards do the same thing, in a way. Getting good at magic takes a long time and a lot of study, so a lot of wizards are either A). scrawny nerds or B.) old as sin, usually both. 

Such people are prime targets for bandits and pickpockets. But no thief is gonna want to steal from the old man with rune-stitched robes, a pointy hat, and a walking stick with a skull on the end. And most people will automatically treat you with more respect, lest they risk having their family line cursed with bad luck or something. Being a wizard is as much doing the magic as it is looking the part.

Now you enterprising adventurers out there might be thinking, “why don’t I just dress up like a wizard then?”. Don’t. It’s not worth it. The only thing guaranteed to unite feuding wizards is for someone outside their circle to slight them. Impersonating a wizard is suicide.

“Why do they build towers?”

Usually, wizards are paranoid loners. They’re all trying to get a leg up on each other, so they isolate themselves in towers out in the middle of nowhere to practice the Art in peace, and to make sure their secrets are kept secret.

The tower serves a double purpose as both fortress and observatory. Anyone looking to carry out an assassination or steal a few secrets will have a tough time getting through floor after floor of magical security to reach the good stuff at the top. And being so close to the Heavens makes it easier for them to track the movements of the stars and other celestial happenings, to know when their spells and experiments will perform best.

“Why do they all go mad?”

Most of them are mad to begin with. You have to be at least a little crazy to dedicate so much of your life to learning forbidden knowledge. Anyways, if one isn’t already mad, the spells will take care of that. Sorcery is, in a sense, a form of voluntary spiritual possession. To cast their spells, wizards are constantly shoving these elemental spirits into their brains and letting them bounce around until the wizard is ready to release them. All that bouncing around leaves permanent marks on the wizard’s mind. The stronger the spell, the bigger the marks. And while not apparent at first, years of casting spells will turn anyone into a madman.

“What if I want to become a wizard?”

If you don’t feel like summoning a demon into your home or haven’t got any tomes bound in human flesh on hand,  you could always become a wizard’s apprentice. But to do that, you’ve got to be the right fit for the job. Wizards only take on apprentices that can be easily manipulated, and won’t prove a threat to their lives. More often than not, these ideal apprentices are children, and children don’t usually want to spend all day cooped up in a tower reading books with some crusty old weirdo. That’s why all those creepy wizards in fairy tales always exchange their services for the hero’s first born son or something; gotta keep the craft alive somehow!

The apprentice isn’t taught much magic, they’re glorified errand boys the wizards use to do their chores, fetch magical reagents, or relay messages to other wizards through their apprentices. A smart wizard will only ever teach his student whatever spell would be absolutely necessary to complete a task for him, and they deliberately choose the least-direct solutions to such obstacles (whether the purpose of this is to teach lateral thinking or just because it’s funny depends on the wizard). Rather than teach the apprentice a levitation spell to cross a chasm, the wizard would most likely teach them magic missile and tell them to figure the rest out. 

But really, why would you want to be a wizard anyway?

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Black Wyrm gets a facelift

The new cover (sorry Rackham fans)

Been a while, huh? It took a bit longer than expected, but my adventure module The Black Wyrm of Brandonsford has been updated. As the title says, this change is just a facelift. The core material of the adventure, encounters, npcs, and whatnot, are left unchanged. I’ve added new art as well as new maps for the dungeons featured in the adventure. As for the cover, believe me, I make no claims to be a better artist than *the* Arthur Rackham himself, but I wanted the adventure to feel like something uniquely my own.

Both this version and the original are available as part of the pdf download, but this new version will be the one coming to Print On Demand. I’ll update this post with a link when that is available.

UPDATE: The POD is now available! You can get it here: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/327744/The-Black-Wyrm-of-Brandonsford

Sunday, May 16, 2021

The Tribes of Monstrous Men

Outside of the civilized lands, deep within the Wild places, are tribes of monstrous men. Similar to us in some ways, but very different in others. Today, I will detail a few.

Kobold Patrol!


The tiny, dog-like humanoids who hole up in abandoned mines, tunnels, and dungeons, laying devious traps to compensate for their small stature. When compared with the other denizens of their chosen living spaces, kobolds are relatively small and weak.

Because of this, kobolds will often ally themselves with larger creatures, offering them food, wealth, or otherwise in exchange for protection. Due to their symbiotic relationships with such dangerous creatures, the leader of a group of kobolds will not be the strongest, but the most clever.



No-one knows for sure where the pig-faced barbarians known as Orcs came from. Some believe that the Orcs were once human warriors. Soldiers for whom their entire lives were battle, and when those battles ended, they had nothing else to do. So they kept fighting. The restless warriors gave in to their primal natures, living only to fight, pillage, and revel. And slowly, they were changed into Orcs.

Orcs are fueled by a volatile mixture of testosterone and adrenaline. They live to fight. Often orcs can be found in nomadic warbands that raid the occasional human settlement for resources or just to get their energy out. If you ever encounter such a group in the wilderness, a good way to avoid being turned into a bleeding pin cushion is to give them a reason to fight each other instead of you.

Orcs can usually be reasoned with, but if someone draws a weapon, it's like throwing a bucket of chum into shark-infested waters.

Troglodyte Ambush

Troglodytes (or just Trogs) are lizard-men who dwell in dank caves and foetid swamps. They revel in filth and muck, gorging themselves on slime-pickled corpses and rotten fish. Their skin secretes a stinking slime they use to coat their weapons and combine with all manner of foul ingredients found in the flora and fauna of their cave systems to mix creative and deadly poisons. Many an enterprising and morally bankrupt sorcerer has traded with trogs, exchanging captured prisoners for their choice alchemical ingredients.

Troglodytes live in symbiosis with the oozes and slimes that slither around in dungeon depths. They feed the oozes until they grow fat enough that excess slime sloughs off that they can eat. Troglodytes, surprisingly, are seemingly immune to the flesh melting properties of most oozes.

Trogs often do not wear armor, as their slimy scales protect them like thick leather and because wearing armor would hinder their uncanny ability to change their color to blend in with their environment. 

Gnoll Raiders


The ravenous, dog-headed gnolls are creatures of Chaos. One could reason with an orc or a kobold, but gnolls have no reason. This might make them seem like mere cackling beasts, but they exhibit a sinister intelligence.

When gnolls raid a village they do not simply kill to take what they want and leave, they do not raid to survive, they raid because they want you to suffer. They torture and maim. They set fire to houses with families locked inside. They drink the blood from freshly severed heads and gnaw on the bones of children. And they laugh while they do it.

This brutality is not exclusive to their human victims. Gnolls will habitually eat their own at slightest sign of weakness. Unlike the kobolds, the gnoll leader will be the biggest, strongest, and most ruthless member of the group.

It is because of their evil nature that gnolls are associated with many superstitions. It is a commonly held belief that a child born while gnolls laugh will grow up to become a murderer. Not only that, but bits of gnoll are integral reagents in many black magics. For example, gnoll hide is used to create the many magical belts and capes that allow men to transform into wolves in the old legends. Gnolls are also known to keep wargs as mounts or as attack dogs, as witches do.

Monday, April 19, 2021

d8 Polymorph Spells

  1. Fionn’s Amphibious Charm. When cast, a fish-shaped mark is branded in a visible location on the target’s body. For the duration of the spell, whenever the affected character gets wet, they transform into a salmon. The character will change back when completely dry. (Whether “getting wet” includes things like drinking water is up for the GM to decide...)

  1. Circe’s Porcine Curse. This spell transforms its target into a pig. The type of pig depends on the size of the target (halfling: piglet, human: standard pig, ogre: giant warthog, etc.). 

  1. Incantation of Transfiguration. The spellcaster begins chanting a magical song, and all characters that can hear the spellcaster must save or be transformed into a harmless critter. The transformation lasts as long as the spellcaster keeps chanting.

  1. Animorph. The target of this spell can transform into an exact copy of a creature they are physically touching, keeping their own mental stats and personality. The transformed character can change back whenever they choose, but if they remain in animal form for more than two hours they must succeed a save vs. spells or be stuck as an animal permanently.

  1. Zzildra’s Battle of Wits. The spellcaster makes a check against the target's INT. If they pass, the target is transformed into a sheep. If they fail, they are transformed into a sheep. The transformation lasts 1d6+6 turns.

  1. Lecto’s Dark Mirror. This spell transforms a target into its “opposite”. What a character’s opposite may be is up to GM discretion. Predator/prey animals are easy enough, but this becomes more subjective with humanoids and other inanimate objects. Go with your gut on these. The opposite of a goblin could be a dwarf or a gnome, the opposite of a fork could be a spoon, and so on. 

  1. Etymos’s Rhymic Remaking. This spell can transform an object into another object with a rhyming name. Change a sword into a board, a cat into a bat, and so on. For humanoid or other sentient characters, the “name” to be rhymed could be their actual name, character class, occupation, or rank.

  1. Arakhir’s Hallucination. The magician conjures a dazzling display of prismatic lights and magical smoke with a 30’ radius. Any creatures caught inside the spell must save vs. spells or believe that they have been transformed into a snail. No physical transformation actually occurs, but the target will only be able to act like a snail, wriggling sluggishly on the ground. In this state salt deals damage to them as fire oil, but if brought to 0 hp the character simply falls unconscious. Someone affected by this spell can be slapped back to their senses as with a sleep spell.

Friday, April 16, 2021

DRAGONS: Sea & Dream Dragons

This is the second of my series of my personal dragon bestiary (draconiary? draconomicon?). Click here for Part 1. 

A Sea Dragon
Sea Dragon

Massive (80’) serpent-like dragons with silvery scales and feathery red fins. They dwell in the vast oceans, inhabiting vast coral reefs and sunken ruins. 

AC 3 [16], HD: 14* (63 hp), Att: 1 x bite (3d6) or 1 x squeeze (2d10 hull damage) or breath, THAC0 9 [+10], MV: swim 240’ (80’), SV D8 W9 P10 B10 S12 (7), ML 9, AL Neutral, XP 1,350, NA 1, TT H + pearl

  • Breath Weapon: 100’ line of pressurized water (save vs. breath or be pushed). The sea dragon must spend one combat turn swallowing water to use this attack again.

  • Lunge: Up to 40’ out of water to use bite attack.

  • Squeeze: Coil around and crush a vessel (of equal size or smaller).

Sea Serpents, Fish Drakes, Water Dragons. These piscine behemoths claim vast swathes of ocean as their territory. While they tend to be non-aggressive, the sea dragons hold a strict code of etiquette one must follow to pass through their waters; throw offerings of treasures and fresh meat overboard and you may proceed safely.

These dragons were originally known as “sea kings” because of how other aquatic animals behave around them in nature. The other creatures do not avoid the sea dragon, instead they live alongside it, treating it almost like an alpha of their pack. The other creatures give the dragon a wide berth and allow it first pick of the food. In exchange, they are protected from larger predators; like peasants paying tribute to their lord.  

Some more intelligent animals like octopi and dolphins have been seen to offer tribute to the dragon in the form of shiny trinkets and shells.

Every sea dragon naturally forms a pearl beneath its tongue that grows larger as the dragon ages. These pearls are believed to contain the dragon’s spirit, and there are many rumors surrounding their magical powers. 

Sailors believe that the pearls can be used to control the dragons, or to harness their power over the seas. The dynasties of the west peddle the belief that they can use dragon pearls in a secret ritual to transform themselves into sea dragons to defend their coastlines from invaders, and the imperial family keeps a dragon pearl as an heirloom.

If you are suicidal enough to want to steal a sea dragon’s treasure, their lairs are found in great shipwrecks, ancient Atlantean ruins, or inside towering pillars of coral, all teeming with beautiful and dangerous sea life.

When a sea dragon discovers some of its hoard has been stolen, miles of ocean are made impassable. The angry dragon sets the sea to boil, stirring up tall dark waves and attacking vessels indiscriminately. The only way to stop it is to return the stolen treasure or slay the beast.

The Crystal-Eating Dream Dragon

Dream Dragon

Fleshy, wingless dragons with greenish scales and crystalline growths that spend most of their lives asleep. They dwell in crystal-laden caverns.

AC: 3 [16], HD: 6** (20hp), Att: [2 x claw (1d4), 1 x bite (2d8)] or breath, THAC0: 14 [+5] MV: 90’ (30’)/240’ (80’) flying, SV: D10 W11 P12 B13 S14 (6), ML 8, AL Neutral, XP 725, NA: 1 TT: F + crystal growths

  • Breath Weapon: Cloud of sleep gas (50’ long, 40’ wide, 20’ high, save vs. breath or fall asleep for 4d4 turns). Can be used up to 3 times per day.

  • Sleeping: 60%. If asleep, may be attacked for one round with a +2 bonus to hit.

  • Manifest Dreams: While asleep, the dragon’s dreams manifest in the physical world as illusions that disappear when touched.

  • Telepathy: Can communicate telepathically within 60'.

Credit where it's due, I ran my players through Gavin Norman’s new adventure The Incandescent Grottoes which featured the crystal-eating dream dragon. I liked the idea so much that I decided to expand on it here and draw my own interpretation, seen above.

Dream Dragons are some of the most naturally skilled dreamers in the world. When they dream, their psychic manifestations are so strong that they become visible in our world as phantasms. Sometimes their dreaming can be so strong as to pull creatures from the Dreamlands from their reality into our own.

Usually, dream dragons will settle to feed on crystals. They might not be tasty, but the crystals provide the dragon with much needed mental clarity. In addition, they cannot properly digest the crystals, so what results is a strange sort of symbiosis. The crystals grow within the dream dragon’s body, growing outwards and appearing first as wart-like bumps on the dragon’s skin before piercing through as fully-formed crystals.

The prismatic fumes that the dream dragon exhales induces a deep sleep of vivid, often prophetic dreams. People subjected to the fumes have described the transition as almost seamless: “One instant you’re standing in front of the beast, and the next you’re at the helm of a silver ship, sailing on the clouds among floating islands.”

Despite their fleshy bodies and lack of wings, dream dragons can actually fly. To do so, they take in a huge gulp of air, letting it fill their body as they stretch to their full length and twist through the air like a windsock. Close the dragon’s mouth, and it will crash in a heap.

Dream dragons are intelligent, and their mastery over their own minds allows them to speak telepathically. They have been known to ally themselves with adventurers, getting favors from them in exchange for cryptic prophesies of the near future, knowledge of their surroundings, and rare spells captured from the dream realm.

It would be wise to not make an enemy of a dream dragon, for if left alive, it will make sure you never have a good night's sleep again. They will corrupt your dreams with rogue nightmares and in extreme cases, abduct your psyche and maroon it in the dreamlands that you might never wake...or that something else wakes in your place.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

[B/X Class] Traditional Dwarf

The Dwarf race-class as it stands I think does well enough at letting you play as the modern idea of the dwarf. You know the one; the elf-hating, axe-or-hammer-swingin’, beer-swillin’, grudge-bearin’, gold-lovin’, scottish accented dwarf that everyone thinks Gimli is but is really more like a Warhammer thing? Yeah, that one.

I wanted to cobble together some class features that would make my dwarves better represent the “miner fairy craftsman” sort of dwarf. The ones that whistle while they work and make wondrous things from the metals and jewels they mine from the earth. Something that combines parts of all the little demi-human races with some fairytale flair. Hopefully, this does the trick.


Traditional Dwarf

Demi-humans that resemble short old men with long noses and beards, possessing strength much greater than their size. They dwell in tunnels within the earth, where they mine for gems and ore.

Hit Dice, To-Hit, Saves, Experience: as Dwarf

Armor: Any, including shields.

Weapons: Any.

Languages - Along with the common tongue, dwarves can speak the secret language of burrowing creatures, and can converse with animals like badgers, moles, rabbits, and ferrets. While these animals can talk back, they can't communicate complex ideas.

Low Light Vision - You’re used to working in dim light. You can see perfectly well in moonlight, and see twice as far in torchlight.

Hiding - When in an environment of natural or carven stone, you can take one round to vanish, hiding so well you can only be found with an extensive search (4-in-6 chance to remain hidden). You can also hide in other environments with sufficient cover (2-in-6 chance of success). Hiding requires the dwarf to remain silent and motionless.


  • When looking at a piece of craftsmanship, you have a good idea of who made it and what its function is.

  • You can spot geological and construction features with a 3-in-6 chance of success. These include secret passages, concealed traps, unsafe construction, thin walls, and metal ore veins or gems.

  • With one round of close examination (touching, sniffing), you can tell if an item is magical or not. 10 minutes of close examination allows you to make an Intelligence check to learn more about it. (shamelessly stolen from the GLOG Wizard)

Stone Friend - Stones are always listening, but are usually too lazy to bother speaking. For dwarves, they will make an exception. Speak to a stone and it has a 1-in-6 chance of participating in a conversation

(Note: The success chance is per stone, so the player can't "spam" the roll to make it talk. How much time would have to pass for a stone to be ready to talk may vary, but this shouldn't be immediately repeatable. The success could also be modified by the dwarf's CHA.

See Skerples’s take on stone elementals for what I’m going for here.)

Metalworking - Given the proper raw materials and equipment, you can craft any metal weapon, armor, jewelry, or tool with masterful quality. Once in your life, you may craft your Masterwork, a powerful magic item of your own creation.