Friday, June 30, 2023

Friday Night Videos: Songs of the WASTED LANDS

Nothing gets me in the mood for working on a campaign or writing new material quite like a good playlist.

My memories of old-school gaming are inexorably linked to old-school rock and metal. In fact back in the 1980s we would stop our games if a particular video, mostly Iron Maiden or Judas Priest, came on MTV.

So here is a playlist from Jason Vey, author, and lead designer for the Wasted Lands RPG currently in Kickstarter.


Kickstart Your Weekend: Wasted Lands and Sherwood

A couple of Kickstarters close to my heart today.

Wasted Lands: The Dreaming Age Role Playing Game

A tabletop RPG of cosmic horror, swords, and sorcery in a savage lost epoch, 1000 years after the Old Ones fell to their eternal sleep.

Wasted Lands: The Dreaming Age Core RulesWasted Lands: The Dreaming Age Campaign Guide

I have been talking about this Kickstarter all month, and now it is live. Please check it out and give Jason your support.

Sherwood: The Legend of Robin Hood 5E

Sherwood 5e

Adam Thompson, brother of the late Jonathan Thompson, has taken over Battlefield Press and plans to get Jonathon's unfinished work completed.  And I, for one, could not be happier.

Jonathan was a great guy, and he had such a love for RPGs and everything about them. It is great knowing that there are still guys like Jonathan and Adam for every crappy person in this biz you meet.

I have only gotten to know Adam over the last few days, and he also seems like a great guy.  I can think of nothing more fitting than getting all of BPI's projects out there for gamers to enjoy.

Sherwood, here is something that should have been a no-brainer. Robin Hood, for D&D. Yeah. Let's make this one happen!

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 6, Room 30

Runu and Urnu lead the characters from room 27, to another room behind the statue of Orcus to where there is another statue of the Vampire Queen.

The Vampire Queen

Here she appears in her human guise. The statue is 20ft tall. 

Her hands are damaged, and on closer inspection, it appears that there were once rings on her fingers that have been chipped away.  One ring on her left hand still has a place for a setting, but no stone.

Runu and Urnu will say that by placing the Eye of Orcus into the setting the secret door to the next level will open. It symbolizes the "marriage" of the Vampire Queen to the Demon Lord.  Runu will state that "they were lovers, you see." in a dreamy way that makes you doubt her sanity.

Climbing up to place the Eye into her ring should not be difficult for a thief but a climb walls roll can be used. Grant them a +15% to success. 

Once the stone is placed in the ring an opening at the feet of the statue will open and a gust of hot fetid air will rush out.  If the gem is removed, the opening closes. Anything used to prop it open with be crushed. The closing doors themselves are heavy and weighted. Anyone caught in the doors when the close will take 5d12+25 hp of damage. The weights can be countered but only on the other side of the door on level 7.  Tying a rope around the gem to pull it in afterwards will not work.

Runu and Urnu want the gem. They are willing to fight for it but not die for it. They will mention a rumor of a secret exit on the Vampire Queen's tomb that would allow her to ascend to the surface without dealing with everything in between.

If worst comes to worst Runu and Urnu can kill the PCs, but they don't want too. Whoever is killed while in possession of the Eye of Orcus will haunt the killers.  So if the PC killed Urnu or Runu not only will the survivor try to kill them, they will also be haunted by the dead shadow elves.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Wasted Lands Playtest: Runu & Urnu

 One of the features of The Wasted Lands is the inclusion of the O.R.C.S. games system that first appeared in Spellcraft & Swordplay.  While the Wasted Lands uses the advanced O.G.R.E.S. for rules, it does include a chapter on using the O.R.C.S. as well. This gives the Wasted Lands a solid Old-School background and indeed a good OSR one with one of the very first clones ever made. 

I have been talking about Shadow Elves all month long, I thought it might be good to bring two of my Shadow Elf, or Dökkálfar characters to life.  I also want to compare them to their Spellcraft & Swordplay counterparts.

Runu & Urnu

Runu and Urnu are reoccurring characters in my various game. They were "born" while I was walking to the Daley Plaza "El" station (which is actually underground at that point). From here I imagined two evil drow elves, exiled from their society not because they were good, but because of their perversions in necromancy. As children, they were raised by my Necromancer Magnus and became devotees of Orcus.  They became two of my first playtest characters for Eldritch Witchery

They are twins, already a bad sign among the drow, with Runu being slightly older than her brother Urnu. I further make their "inversions" complete by making Runu a warlock and Urnu a witch.

These are not misunderstood drow. They are evil. They are the type that reasons that if someone doesn't do what they want, they can always kill them and get their corpse to do it. 

In my playtests for Monster Mash for OSE they became Shadow Elves with Runu as a Profane Necromancer, and Urnu as a Gothic Witch. 

In the Wasted Lands, they are a Necromancer and Sorcerer, respectively. 


Class: Necromancer
Level: 10
Species: Dökkálfar

Alignment: Dark Evil


Strength: 11 (0)
Agility: 12 (0)
Toughness: 13 (+1)
Intelligence: 17 (+2) N
Wits: 15 (+1) N
Persona: 17 (+2) A

Fate Points: 10
Defense Value: 8
Vitality: 35 (10d6)

Check Bonus (A/N/D): +5/+3/+2
Melee Bonus: +2
Ranged Bonus: +2
Saves: +5 to Persona based

Special Abilities and Spell-Like Abilities

Channel the Dead
See Dead People
Summon the Dead
Command (Spirits)
Protection from Undead
Turn Undead 
Taste The Grave
Death Knell
Vampiric Touch
Charm Spirit
Life Drain
Slay Unliving
Call the Reaper

Divine Notes: Death

Background: Outsider


Leather armor: DV 8
Dagger: 1d4


Class: Sorcerer (Wits Aspect)
Level: 10
Species: Dökkálfar

Alignment: Dark Evil


Strength: 12 (0)
Agility: 11 (0)
Toughness: 13 (+1)
Intelligence: 15 (+1) N
Wits: 17 (+2) A
Persona: 17 (+2)  N

Fate Points: 10
Defense Value: 8
Vitality: 30 (10d4)

Check Bonus (A/N/D): +5/+3/+2
Melee Bonus: +2
Ranged Bonus: +2
Saves: +5 to Magic based

Special Abilities

Arcana, Arcane Powers


1st: Bane, Black Flames, Phantom Lights, Sleep

2nd: Defile, Find Traps, Invisibility, Vampiric Augmentation

3rd: Fly, Globe of Darkness, Zone of Protection vs. Good

4th: Black Tentacles, Kiss of the Succubus, Life Drain

5th: Commune w/ Deeper Dark, Shadow Armor

Arcane Powers

1st: Arcane Bond: Runu (and spell of "self" also affect her)

4th: Exorcist

7th: Incubus

10th: Shadow Walking

Divine Notes: Death, Witchcraft,

Background: Outsider

Urnu and Runu

Neither have divine touchstones since this is not their destiny.

Like this The Wasted Lands can be played as a gritty Swords & Sorcery game. 

Don't forget to check out the Kickstarter happening right now.

This Old Dragon: Issue #261

Dragon #261
I have a few of my original Dragons left from my big box of old musty Dragons I acquired a few years back. I recently picked up a couple more collections in my desire to explore more of the 1990s and AD&D 2nd Edition.  The 90s were an interesting time for me. I began the 90s living in the dorms at my University working on my undergrad degrees and I ended the 90s married, a new baby, and working my first Ph.D. Quite a lot of difference. I also in that time "gave up on" D&D and moved to other games; something I can relate to again now.  But for right now let's focus on this issue #261 from July of 1999 of This Old Dragon.

Our cover is an amazing one from Fred Fields and his nod to Sandro Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus."  For this one, "The Birth of Night" Fields had his then-girlfriend (now wife) Sandy do the modeling.  I remember this from back then and I really liked then, still do. 

Dragons from this time period are very different than the ones I have done in the past. This Dragon (and many from the 3rd edition era when I picked it back up) was published by Wizards of the Coast, has a bunch of names I don't normally associate with Dragon (but with other RPG products), and the format has all sorts of changes. All in all, this is going to be just as much as an adventure as ones from the 1970s or early 1980s.

One new thing. Lots and lots of websites! Sadly many are no longer active. 

We get a big ad for the Planescape Torment video game. 

The Wyrm's Turn is the Editorial section that discusses this issue's theme, The Dark. Dave Gross is the editor at this time. 

Fun ad for the 25th Anniversary tour. We are reminded throughout that this is the 25th Anniversary of D&D. We are nearly at 50 now. 

Sage Advice is still here and Skip Williams offers a lot of advice about various AD&D 2nd Ed rule questions.  I half expected to see this one phased out, but there was still a need for it and not everyone was on the Internet just yet (but close). I do have to point out that Sage Advice is still by postal mail. No email address yet. I am sure this will change sometime in the next few months.

The letters section is now D-Mail. They DO have an email address you can use along with the standard postal one. It might even still be active. Just to be 100% clear, I am not sure when a lot of these changes happened, I had what we called "Grad School Guilt." That is where if you read anything not directly related to your subject matter caused a lot of guilt. So I was not reading Dragon all that much from like 1992 on until the 2000s. Oh. The letters. Right. So in something else of a red letter day for me, I recognize one the names of someone that sent in a letter! So Joe Kushner, I hope you got your answer! Later on in the same feature, I see another name I recognize from online interaction.  D-Mail is long, longer than the letters section used to be.

The general consensus in D-Mail is that Dragon Magazine has improved with Wizard's purchase of TSR. While of course they are going to publish that, and yes there is plenty of evidence to support this claim, I would personally pick the magazine back up in subscription about a year or so from this issue.

Nodwick appears as a comic strip on page 13. An order form for back issues of Dragon with issue #70 as the earliest one you can still get. $8.00 and it can be yours. This is about to get less attractive as we will see later in this issue.

Ray Winninger is up with the Dungeoncraft column. This covers building something for your game. This one starts with the notion of building up the PC's base of operations. He covers some rumors and other background building of the area and ends with a map of the tree base. Rather interesting really and set up to be easily added to anyone campaign or game. In fact I am not seeing anything here that could not be used in an OSR game or a 5e game. 

Dungeoncraft Dragon #261

George Vrbanic is next with the PC Portraits feature. This time 14 pictures of Dwarves. An ad for Baldur's Gate follows.

We get to our themed featured articles now.  Up first, Wizards of Dusk & Gloom by Tony Nixon. This covers some options for the AD&D Player's Options books. I actively disliked the Skills & Powers books. That being said these options and kits are pretty cool and add a lot of flavor to the wizard class. There are three options here, the Shadow Caller, the Shadow Seeker, and the Shadow Hunter. There might some 3e equivalent prestige classes out there or some 5e subclasses. There are also three "Books of Shadows" which gives us 17 new shadow-based spells. From what I can tell these spells did make it to the giant Spell Compendiums released by Wizards.

Dragon #261 Ads
An interesting set of ads. A single page with a bunch of companies and their web addresses. Among them are Guardians of Order (with a Sailor Moon book), Eden Studios (featuring the Abduction Card game), and RPGnet.  

By Any Other Name covers Dwarven Names from Owen K.C. Stephens. A fun little set of tables to build a new dwarf name. 

Objet d' Art is from Dawn Ibach and details the types of treasure you can find in a hoard. Very detailed and quite extensive really. Also can be used in any edition of the game.

Our fiction section is from J. Gregory Keyes, The Fallen God

Me and My Shadow continues our Shadow and Dark feature.  This article is by Spike Y. Jones. This covers a number of shadow-centric magic items.  This flows into the next article Conjuring in the Dark. This covers 13 new shadow-based spells. 

Johnathan M. Richards is next with an Ecology of... article, this time Ecology of the Dark Naga. The article seems longer that the previous Ecology articles. While it seems more detailed than the previous ones from the Golden Age, but lacking some of the charm of the old Ed Greenwood ones. Though this one is good, just not sure if the fiction elements live up to the rest of the article. Call me weird, but my preferred Ecology of articles always treated their subject as some sort of scholarly discussion. 

Ecology of the Dark Naga

Peter Whitley gives us something that will be something more and more common; AD&D monsters from a computer game. This time some monster from Myth: The Fallen Lords. There are four new monsters in AD&D Monstrous Compendium format.

John Kovalic is up with Dork Tower

A Little Bit of Magic from Lloyd Brown III covers how to measure out magic items in a campaign to keep it from going too Monty Haul.  Examples include magic items with Noncombat Effects, Intermittent Effects, Self-Destructive, Limited Time periods, and items with charges. Advice is given to avoid armor and weapons with pluses to all things.  So a sword +1 is great but it means you will need bigger and better (and more magical) ones later. A sword that just +1 vs say undead keeps the players excited for any magical sword. Or armor that is magically light, but doesn't provide any better protection than normal armor of the same sort. While it was far to late in the game for me at this point, this would have been good advice for me to revisit later on in the 3e and 5e days.

In something that seems really familiar, some Marvel characters. Though this time the Marvel SAGA system (if I am remembering correctly). This time we get Dark Phoenix (Jean Grey) and Phoenix (Rachel Summers) writeups from Jeff "Zippy" Quick and Steve Miller.

Role Models gives us some Alternity alien minis. 

The Convention Calendar gives us the best conventions for the Summer of 1999. A couple of things to note for me. There is a Capitol Con XV at the Prairie Capitol Convention Center in Springfield, IL. That not only was not very far from where I grew up, it was new when I still lived there! I don't think I ever knew about it. Despite it being listed in Dragons before. I can't find any more details on it. Interestingly enough there are listings for August, but Gen Con is not one of them. 

The Ares section is back, this time with Alternity branding. Stephen Kenson (of Green Ronin fame) is up with The Twilight Jungle. This not only continues the magazine's main theme, but the aliens here look very much like something you could find on Pandora from Avatar, only 10 years before the movie came out. The article is fun but highlights the fact that I always wanted to try out Alternity. Something about it just always grabbed me and I just never got the chance to play it or even read it much.  Maybe one day I'll get back to it. 

Dragon Mirth has our comics of the month, plus a sort of find a word puzzle that looks fun. There is a Love Canal joke that I am not sure many would get these days. 

Knights of the Dinner Table has a two-page spread. 

TSR Previews (yes it is still called that) gives us new products for the next couple of months. A few books listed still have their concept covers. Of note are the Forgotten Realms interactive atlas (which I never owned) and the Dragon Magazine CD-ROM which I grabbed the moment I could from my FLGS, which was now for me actually local (and the same one I still use today). A few novels including two I would later read; Ru Emerson's "Against the Giants" (which I only sorta liked) and Ed Greenwood's "Silverfall: Stories of the Seven Sisters" (which I enjoyed more than I thought I would).

TSR News lets us know that the 25th Anniversary Edition boxed set will be released in August. Better grab one of these while you can, the after-market prices are going to crazy! In other news, Gary Gygax will be at Gen Con in August, running games, holding seminars and signing copies of the 25th Anniversary boxed set. 

Finally in Profiles, Steve Kenson gives us some background on cover artist Fred Fields.

So really a good issue. I had a lot of apprehension about approaching this era of Dragon/TSR. I can recall sitting on my couch reading one of the first WotC-produced TSR Ravenloft books and thinking maybe the company and game I had enjoyed for so long but was feeling quite apathetic too was turning around. This issue of Dragon redoubles that. There is a sense of optimism for the future of the game that I had not personally experienced in the late 90s and did really feel until the 3rd Edition Era.  Wizard of the Coast did save D&D and the proof is in these pages.

While many will debate the various "ages" of the game; when was the Golden Age, when did the "Silver Age" begin and what was the time post-Gygax and pre-WotC? One thing for certain for me is that the time between say 1994 and 1999 is a big mystery to me that I did not get to investigate in any detail until I got my Dragon Magazine CD-ROM. Even that only took me to Issue #250.

Dragons in print and pdf

For this new exploration of Dragons, I am setting my "end date" as Issue #275. It's a nice number, it takes us just inside the changes for 3e and it was just before I resumed my subscription.  I guess by that logic I am setting my "starting" Issue at #151 or so. I have already done some past that. 

Personally, I think these "newer" Dragons will be every bit as interesting to me as the ones from the late 70s and early 80s.

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 6, Room 29

 Archway 5, Room 29: The Chamber of the Shadows

The last room on the right (or the first if going counter-clockwise) opens up to another dark chamber.

Room 29

This room is filled with shadows. The shadows are thick and suffocating, and they seem to move of their own accord. The only sound in the room is the sound of the party members' breathing. As the party moves in, they notice a glow on a dias set up on the far end of the room. The stillness is interrupted with a light murmuring and muttering they can't quite place.

Soon the muttering grows to a persistent babble.

On an initiative roll the party is attacked by four of the shadows. 

These shadows are Allips. Like all other undead these Allips are harder to turn. They are turned as 5 HD undead.

There is no treasure in this room. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Wasted Lands Playtest: The Dark Elves of the Wasted Lands

 The Wasted Lands Kickstarter is up and moving along nicely.  As you can imagine from my posts here, I do have a campaign in mind and potentially my own setting. BUT that is far off and in no way official yet.

But I can play around with ideas. One thing I need to overcome first is this:

How do I get my D&D 5e players away from D&D and into the Wasted Lands?

Wasted Lands > D&D 5

Look. I love D&D, I do. But in the last six months, I have been turned off and looking for other options. I have presented some of those options here and I do have more. One today is can I use the Wasted Lands as a Dungeons & Dragons replacement?

Jason has touched on this topic on his blog; Will Wasted Lands Be a Retroclone? But I want to go a step deeper. And in particular, can I use the various races/species that my D&D 5 players are wanting to play? Again, Jason touches on this, Races (Species) in Wasted Lands: The Dreaming Age, but while his rationale is to move WL away from D&D (and a good rationale it is too) I am using the same logic to give my players a D&D experience with better rules.

To do this I want to start out with something on my mind a lot this month, my Shadow Elves.

The Wasted Lands has al sorts of human-like species running around and to be clear these humans are not the humans like you and I. They operate in and occupy the same ecological niche as do humans and maybe, just maybe, they pass on something (DNA, Collection Unconsciousness, the Akashic Records) down the millennia to us. This is why we remember them as gods. Though not all characters will become gods, as I pointed out yesterday

So to kill a few birds with one stone, I want to talk about the Dökkálfar of the Wasted Lands today.

The Dökkálfar, or the Dark Elves, are not to be confused with the D&D Drow, though obviously, there are connections. Since elves, the fae and other near-immortal creatures have drifted into myth and legend there is no reason not to assume that they once lived during the Dreaming Age.

Appendix 1 of the Wasted Lands Core Rules gives us examples of how to make other species. This might change a bit, but here is how I'd implement a Dark Elf, or more to the point, one of my Shadow Elves.


Size: Medium (5 feet tall)
Vitality Die: As class.
Saves: Dökkálfar gain +1 to Persona saves, +1 to Agility saves, and +2 to save against spells and effects that read or transmit thoughts or emotions.
Move: 30 ft.
Senses: Dökkálfar have darksight, enabling them to see in near-absolute dark for up to 60 feet. This sight functions in all but the most absolute darkness; so long as there is any ambient light, they can see, albeit fine details may be difficult to discern in the darkest caverns.
Weapons and Armor: Dökkálfar are proficient with all bows and swords. They can wear armor up to chain mail.
XP Cost: 1,750

Urnu and Runu

All other details are, in a sense, cosplay.

Do they have pointy ears? What color is their skin, hair, eyes? What sort of society do they have?

None of that needs to be handled by the rules. It can be determined at your table. The rules are "old school," but the spirit is "new school."  Want to play Dragonborn? Aarocka? goblins? orcs? SURE! come on in. The rules are not going to stop you.

Are these Dökkálfar the Chaotic Evil Drow that everyone loves? Maybe. Are they my Lawful Evil Drow? Could be. Are they my Shadow Elves? Again, it could be. It will depend on the campaign at hand. 

Likely I will make them similar enough to my Shadow Elves so that when I finally get done with my Tomb of the Vampire Queen adventure, I can use these Dökkálfar in place of the Shadow Elves.

Tomorrow I'll put this into practice and convert some Spellcraft & Swordplay characters to Wasted Lands.