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Mastodon – Asleep in the Deep

June 22, 2015

I count at least 27 gameable elements in this video.

Petty Gods in corporeal form

May 23, 2015

The postie tried to deliver this yesterday, but it wouldn’t fit through my letterbox (you can see why!) so I had to go and collect it from the sorting office this morning. Unfortunately then I had to go to work, so I’ve only had time to glance through the pages, but what I’ve seen so far is pretty bloomin’ marvellous.




After all these years, it is a treat to behold Petty Gods in the flesh, as it were. I will have more to say anon.

Remember, you can get a copy (hardback, paperback or FREE PDF) from one of the links here.

Expanded Petty Gods is out now

May 18, 2015

EPG-PDF-CoverPreviewIn case you haven’t already heard, after a long and fitful series of events and processes – conception, gestation, stagnation, revivification, presentation (as Original Petty Gods), revision and expansion – Petty Gods is now available in hardback or paperback formats (at cost) or as a PDF (absolutely free)! This thing is almost 400 pages long, and those pages are stuffed to the gunwales with godlings, minions and servitors, divine items, spells and, er, foodstuffs (black death pudding, anyone?) to weird up your old-school fantasy RPG of choice.

Doubtless I’ll have more to say when my hardback copy arrives and I can read this thing properly. (I’m not a fan of PDFs, although when they’re free I certainly don’t complain.) Meanwhile, hats aloft if you will to Blair Fitzpatrick, James Maliszewski, Peter Gifford, Greg Gorgonmilk, Matthew W. Schmeer and Richard J. LeBlanc, Jr., whose ideas and (appropriately herculean) efforts have brought forth this behemoth from the combined imaginations of the old-school role-playing community, much as the Greek gods split open the braincase of Zeus to bring forth Athena. Or something.

Get your copy here.

Trouble in Trollwood: An Old Norse-inspired adventure for Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day

April 17, 2015


Gamers & Grognards is hosting/coordinating this year’s Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day. I am pleased to participate.

Last time we did this, I wrote about my love for Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox and posted one of my “daft wee dungeons” written for that system. This time around, for the sake of variety, I present a mini-hexcrawl adventure written for the S&W Core Rules. Naturally, being S&W, it’s playable with any TSR-era version of D&D or clone or whatever, with (at most) minor tweaking.

That’s one of the reasons Swords & Wizardry appeals to me; it’s simple and consequently extremely flexible. Tweaking the rules is easy, and it’s actively encouraged throughout the text. One only has to look at the range of games that have sprouted from the fertile soil of S&W – including John M. Stater’s Blood & Treasure and Pars Fortuna, Christian Mehrstam’s Whitehack and Dave Bezio’s X-Plorers – to appreciate the extent to which one can “genetically engineer” Matt Finch’s creation, producing “designer baby” games in a variety of genres and styles.

Both of this blog’s regular readers will know that I’m fond of the Icelandic sagas and all things Norse. They may also recall that I hold David “Zeb” Cook’s Vikings sourcebook for AD&D 2e in high regard. That book, and each of the other similar volumes produced at the time, struggled (and mostly succeeded) to tweak and twist the AD&D rules to fit a particular historical milieu. They were, at least in part, collections of setting-specific house rules. That sort of thing is immeasurably quicker and easier to do with Swords & Wizardry.

Hence my Old Norse campaign notes.

You can use those house rules to play “Trouble in Trollwood” if you want to enhance the distinctive Old Norse flavour. However, nothing in the adventure assumes that you will.

That’s enough blether. Here’s “Trouble in Trollwood”, an adventure inspired by the Eddas and some of the fornaldarsögur. It’s suitable for a party of 4th- and/or 5th-level characters. I hope you enjoy it.


Edit: Damn. Just spotted a mistake in Isgerd’s spell list. It’s fixed now. If you’re one of the first five people to download the PDF, you might want to do it again. Apologies.

Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day 2015 – Spread the word!

April 12, 2015

If you don’t already know, R.J. Thompson at Gamers & Grognards is hosting Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day this year. Hats off to R.J.! The last one, curated by Erik Tenkar two years ago, was a roaring success, producing a veritable cornucopia of old-school gaming goodness tailored to fit S&W. (If you missed it, a list of links to 144 contributing blogs can be found here.)

This year, the date for your diary is the 17th of April. That’s this Friday. If you want to participate, get in touch with R.J. soon. Complete instructions here.

Last time, I extolled some of the many virtues of the Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox Rules and threw in a mini-dungeon adventure to boot. Expect another adventure this year, but this time it’s a bit different. It’s a mini-hexcrawl, for a start.

Meanwhile, spread the word!





March 14, 2015

I disapprove of having music playing during RPG sessions. When I’m writing and prepping adventures it’s fine and dandy (though I choose carefully to create or enhance whatever mood I’m striving for) but I find it intrusive and distracting when I’m actually playing a game.

Not everyone feels this way. Luckily for me, one of the people who didn’t was Dave, GM of perhaps the most enjoyable campaign I’ve been involved with. In 1986-87, Dave ran a Stormbringer campaign called “Sundial”, inspired by this Rodney Matthews painting:


Dave played background music while Exendar the merchant, Lemi the barbarian and Yokraith of Melniboné, sorcerer and all-round bastard, pursued their exploits in the Young Kingdoms. His tastes ran to Boston and Styx, as I recall, then one evening he put on something that made me sit up and take notice. (See, I told you music was distracting.) Floaty, trippy avant-jazz-rock with shout-out-loud awesome drumming. Male and female vocals intoning incomprehensible lyrics about Radio Gnome and “love projectors”. Whimsical spoken sections. Prostitute poems. Curiouser and curiouser. “Would you like some tea?”

It was the album Angel’s Egg – my introduction to the green/invisible planet Gong, its mythology and its Earthly emissaries the Pot-Head Pixies. I hitched a ride aboard a flying teapot, took a trip along the Oily Way and never looked back.

Some years later, after seeing Dances With Wolves, my friend Rob (who played Yokraith in that campaign) bestowed upon me my “Sioux name” – Listens To Gong. I bear it (and a small Gong badge) with pride to this day.

Chief among those musical visitors from a happier sphere was poet, composer, singer and glissando guitarist Daevid Allen, who died of cancer yesterday, aged 77 but retaining to the end that child-like, playful-profound, optimistic outlook that informed and enhanced all his work. Obituary here.

Given that Gong’s most significant and enduring work – the Radio Gnome “trilogy” consisting of the albums Flying Teapot, Angel’s Egg and You – was recorded and released in 1973-74, I wouldn’t mind betting that some early D&D campaigns (in the UK at least) were influenced by the saga of Zero the Hero, Captain Capricorn, et al. Surely somewhere, buried in old files and faded jotters, someone has game stats for the Octave Doctors and their Crystal Machine. I know one game designer at least who, somewhat later, was inspired by the mythos; here’s part of the map from Garry Robson’s Faerie Wood RPG:


If any of this means anything to you, then I urge you to put a flying teapot (“green as an emerald in the blue”) in your next game session. You can even have your characters feed fish and chips to a witch’s pussy if you like; I don’t know how your games work.

I don’t have much more to say. Farewell to Daevid Allen (aka Bert Camembert, Dingo Virgin, Divided Alien, etc.) – countercultural prankster, creative artist, psychedelic troubadour, founding member of Soft Machine, father and figurehead of the extended Gong family, a man who made the world a more interesting, colourful, joyful place.

Have a cup of tea. Have another one. Have a cup of tea.


Daevid Allen (1938-2015)


Bird-folk for Alien Orifice

January 5, 2015

Happy New Year! I have made a rash resolution, to wit: my Alien Orifice campaign (you know, the one I’ve been banging on about for two and a half years) will debut before the end of February 2015.

I have a folder full of notes and maps. It’s time to pull things together into playable form and set some PCs loose on Inanna to explore, fight and die horribly win treasure.

The inspirational sources for the campaign are three-fold, like so:


See if you can work out where these fellows fit in.


Intelligent avian aliens, they resemble humanoid birds. They are intensely curious, and many become adventurers and soldiers of fortune like humans. Bird-folk have all the abilities of a robber (of a level equal to the creature’s Hit Dice), minus the climbing ability (they can fly). They communicate telepathically among themselves but not with outsiders. Since they do not speak, communication with non-bird-folk consists of elementary sign language. Lots of pointing, in other words.

HD 2 (base); AC 5 [14]; AT 1 weapon (by weapon); MV 6 (flying 18); AL N.

A bird-bloke deftly appropriates an IOUN stone from a distracted wizard.

A bird-bloke deftly appropriates an IOUN stone from a distracted wizard.

Claw’s Carvery 1: Free PDF zine thing featuring the least worst bits of this blog

December 28, 2014

I trust your Yuletide festivities passed merrily. Perhaps you overindulged. I understand; those roasted parsnips were irresistible. Fear not, dear bloated reader! A visit to Claw’s Carvery won’t add a single pound to your already grotesque bulk. For the Carvery is but a weightless electronic document compiling a few mini-adventures and other assorted bits (and indeed bobs) from this humble blog.

Mini-adventures! – Tomb of the Mantis Khan and Ynys Bach
Magic items! – Flute of the Forest and Prebasang’s Melancholy Marionette
Random tables! – Villainous cognomens and drifting vessels (expanded)
Old Norse gubbins! – Grim Aegir and duelling rules for Norse campaigns
OGL! – Everything is statted for the Swords & Wizardry Core Rules.

20+ pages of reheated giblets. You’re welcome!




The Comb

December 19, 2014

I’ve been reading A Red & Pleasant Land and enjoying the gags in the bestiary chapter.

I also appreciate Zak’s reading/viewing/listening list (“Things to Read and Look At”, p. 27.) and his remarks regarding tone (“The Unreasonable”, p. 28). The mood of cock-eyed Carrollian logic, the Eastern European aesthetic and the recurring motifs of dreams, doubles, mirrors and topsy-turvy gravity-defying architectural space all put me in mind of the mysterious, oneiric films of the Quay Brothers, especially “The Comb” from 1990. Add this gem to your viewing list, right after Švankmajer.

Christmas has come early

December 16, 2014

… and it is red and pleasant.


Thank you, Jim of Finland. And thank you, Zacques des Sabatons. This book is every bit as classy and beautiful as we were led to believe.


Nanoblock stegosaur for scale, obviously.




If you want A Red & Pleasant Land for yourself, dear reader, then I suggest you get your skates on. As of this writing, there are fewer than 150 copies (from a print run of 3000) remaining in the LotFP store.

Now I’m off to read as much of the book as I can before I have to go to work.


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