Friday, 28 December 2018

The Giant's Tomb

The Giant’s Tomb is a short adventure written for the Bare Bones Fantasy rules. The adventure is suitable for 3-5 players of rank 1. The adventure was designed with beginning players in mind.

Adventure Background

Cornear valley is located in the north of the Keranak Kingdom. The valley is a rocky one with pockets of grassland. Small farm villages dot the valley. The hamlet of Hartlepool is known for its grain farms and for the nearby barrows of long forgotten kings. The locals have dug into most of the barrows over the years finding human bones and little more.

Recently, a pair of adventurers came to Hartlepool asking about the location of a “long barrow” they were seeking. The village reeve, Esdras Reel, directed the pair of adventurers to an open tomb located in the hills to the north. The pair were not heard from again. Ever since that day livestock has gone missing from farms north of the hamlet. Farmer Owen Giles, whose farm was the furthest north came into the hamlet with stories of seeing two new blue stones shaped liked humans in the field before the Long Barrow. It was not long before stories of a demon that turns mean to stone were being told to traders passing through Hartlepool.

The players have heard these stories of a demon guarding a King’s tomb near Hartlepool and have come to seek their fortune.

The reeve of Hartlepool, Esdras Reel, can direct the players to Owen Giles farm and the Long Barrow that is thought to be the lair of the demon.

Approaching the Long Barrow

Approaching the Barrow

A short distance into the meadows beyond the Giles farm there is a weathered bluestone sitting upright. Owen Giles insists the stone just showed up a week ago. The stone looks like it was worked by human hands centuries ago into a vaguely human shape and size. But it clearly looks like it has been sitting in the field for hundreds of years.

As players approach the barrow, they will see it is a large, artificial mound (at least 100 feet long and 30 feet high). One end has a cut out where it appears the ground was dug out recently revealing large stones and an open doorway. In the dugout area is another human-shaped blue stone.

Inside the barrow dungeon, the floor is rough dirt. The walls throughout the dungeon are stone blocks stacked without mortar. Large stones are placed atop the walls holding out the dirt above. The dungeon corridors are only 5 to 6 feet wide but the walls are 10’ tall which seems very strange if it was built as a tomb by humans. There is no lighting in the dungeon. The entrance provides some light, but once players make there way 20 feet inside they will need to provide their own light.

Entrance (Map location A)

Large stones once blocked the entrance to the tomb. They have been dragged aside revealing the entrance. Inside the corridor descends about  10 feet over a 30-foot distance. Players will easily notice the change in grade.

First Tomb (Map location B)

Near the entrance, a small side alcove heads south. The chamber is only 15 feet long by 5-7 feet wide. A large, rectangular stone rests on the ground (only 3 inches are above ground). On the stone is a bare skeleton that looks unnaturally clean.

The skeleton will animate and attack if disturbed (if a player comes within 5 feet of it). Once the skeleton animates and attacks the skeletons in locations C and D will also animate and join the fight. Check if they surprise the players from behind. The Players should make a normal LOG Resistance check if they are checking their surroundings or a Challenging check at  -5 if players are completely unaware. If they fail, they are surprised (-10 to actions).

STR 40, DEX 50, LOG 0, WIL 0, BP 10, INIT 1, DR 0, MOV 6, Rank 1, Nature Evil, Claws 45%, Damage 1D. Immune to Charms and Cold based attacks.

The stone slab the skeleton rest on is too heavy to shift. It is 5.5 feet by 2.5 feet and 1 foot thick.

The Skeletons do not wish to be disturbed

Remaining Tombs (Map locations C and D)

There are two more tombs holding skeletons which can animate and attack. The chamber is the same as location A. There is nothing else of interest in the tombs.

Empty Tomb (Map location E)

Near a bend in the dungeon corridor is a small alcove, only 5 feet square. The alcove might have been built to be a tomb but there is no evidence of that now. There are a few stacks of extra stone bricks for the construction of the tomb.

Lair of the Beast (Map location F)

This is a very, large chamber, the roof is held up by stones supported by old tree trunks resting on the walls. In the center of the chamber is a seven-foot-long rock that has been carved and worked to look like a crude lizard creature with a tail and eight legs. The stone does not appear to match the local stone.

The stone is actually the guardian of the tomb and can animate and attack. The creature will wait until all of the players enter the chamber before attacking.

Stone Basilisk
STR 75, DEX 50, LOG 35, WIL 40, BP 40, INIT 1, DR 5, MOV 7, Rank 2, Nature Evil, Bite 75%, Damage 3D. Tail Slap 75%, effect 2D and knocked prone. The Basilisk also has a Stone Gaze, range sight, resist STR or be paralyzed. If paralyzed twice they are petrified.

Players petrified by the beast will turn to stone. However, they will appear to be an old weathered, blue stone in a roughly human shape. All of their equipment is also turned to stone. This is the fate that befell the recent tomb robbers.

In the corridor leading to this chamber, there is a crumpled silver disc 6 inches in diameter lying in the dirt on the floor. The disc is inscribed with runes on both sides. This disc created a barrier keeping the basilisk in the tomb but it was damaged when the tomb was recently entered by the treasure hunters and now the basilisk can roam free. It does not leave the tomb unless chasing tomb raiders. When the recent tomb raiders fled the tomb it chased them until each was petrified. On its return, it did kill and eat a few cows and sheep. The silver disc is worth 40 gold coins.

Fire Trap (Map location G)

There is a narrow hall that might have been meant to be a tomb leading off the main hall for 15 feet. Visible at the back of the tomb is a stack of three rocks arranged like a marker. Players entering into this tomb will most likely be struck by a burst of flame that fills the chamber and billows out into the corridor extending 5 feet down the main corridor in both directions. The trap is magical in nature triggered by a rune inscribed silver plate set in a small open space in the wall on the left as you enter. The plate is only 2 inches in diameter and is worth 30 gold coins for the value of silver alone.

Fire Trap: Avoid DEX Resistance check at -20, Notice Thief -5, Disarm None, Usage Once per day, Effect 1D, bypasses DR, Slowed and Stunned for 1D turns.

The trap can be found and removed but the problem is that it still goes off once per day when within 5 feet of a person. So if a player puts it in their pack they are in for a surprise the next morning.

The Giant’s Tomb (Map location H)

The corridor curves around to the left and enters a large tomb that is 20 x 15 feet with a 10-foot high ceiling. There is a 7 foot by 3 foot (by 2 foot high) smooth, black stone block lying in the chamber. Atop the block is the skeleton of a giant holding a sword and wearing a gold crown. The giant skeleton will animate and attack driving players out of its tomb if possible. It will not pursue players out of the tomb.

Giant Skeleton
STR 55, DEX 35, LOG 0, WIL 0, BP 30, INIT 1, DR 1, MOV 5, Rank 2, Nature Evil, Sword 45%, Damage 2D+4. Immune to Charms and Cold based attacks.

The giant skeleton is actually not one of the giants of legend. He is only 7 feet tall. He was just an exceptionally tall human. His sword is a serviceable two-handed sword in need of some cleaning and sharpening. His crown is worth 800 gold coins if taken to a merchant in large town. If the players want gold now they could melt it down and sell the gold for 500 gold coins.

Tomb Map

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Bare Bones Fantasy

Since I a still not getting in any playing time here is another game review.

I have had Bare Bones Fantasy since it came out and I browsed through the rules once before. But this time I took the time to take notes and observations as I read through the rules.

Bare Bones Fantasy is a product from DWD Studios. A fairly new Games company but one that I was aware of through their Star Frontiersman digital magazine. It is an OSR style fantasy role-playing game with a fair amount of support.

The Basics

Bare Bones Fantasy uses a Dice Standard of two 10-siders, so it is a percentile based system that feels a little like Chaosium’s Basic Fantasy in its conflict resolution. Characters have four abilities, Strength, Dexterity, Logic and Willpower. Abilities are rolled as 5d10+30.

The system uses classes but oddly the decision was made to call them skills. Logically, it makes sense but after a lifetime of playing games with class and skill, it is a little off-putting. I don't really have any game logic issue with the decision. The eight “skills” are Cleric, Enchanter, Leader, Scholar, Scout, Spellcaster, Thief and Warrior. The skills are rated in level from 1 to 6. During character creation, you pick a primary skill and give it a +20. Then you pick a secondary skill and give it a +10. As characters advance more skills can be purchased.

The system has the standard fantasy races, human, elf, dwarf, and halfling. The race chosen gives some changes to abilities.

Conflict Resolution

For Actions roll a d100 and compare the results to your Ability or Skill and any other modifiers. If you roll equal to or lower than the number you succeed. The rules allow for automatic success and failure. Any reasonable action succeeds on any roll of 00-05, and action with a reasonable chance of failure does so on a roll of 95-99. For example, if you want to pick a lock you would use your thief skill.

There is also a chance of Critical Success and Failure. Any time you roll doubles and succeed it is a critical success. Any time you roll doubles and fail in your roll it is a fumble.

On Contested Actions, both characters involved in the action make a roll. There must be a clear winner. Rolls are made until one contestant fails and one succeeds on the same throw.

Resistance Checks are made in reaction to some threats (like saving throws) to the character. An ability check that negates or reduces the otherwise successful threat. Resistance checks are actions. Each action taken after the first (in the same turn) results in a cumulative -20 to skill and ability checks.

Body points (BP) represent how much damage your character can take before falling down. When creatures reach 0 BP they are dead. When characters reach 0 BP they are unconscious for the rest of the battle. After the encounter, they must make a STR check. It is a save or die type check. If treated after a fight, 5 BP of damage can be healed (if it is recent). Characters heal 2 BP per day naturally. The system would appear to have fairly dangerous combat.

If you hit in combat, roll damage for the weapon used. The damage is reduced from the opponent's body points. There is also Damage Reduction (DR). If the opponent has DR, he may subtract his DR from the damage he would have sustained.

For a mage to to cast a spell, the mage must have at least one hand free, be able to speak freely and succeed in a spellcasting skill check. Spellcasters can cast any number of spells (if their usage allows) each counts as an action. Only characters with levels in spellcaster or cleric can learn spells. If a spellcaster is the character’s primary skill he knows 2 spells per spellcaster level. Otherwise, he learns only one spell per level. Once a spell is known, the character may use it as often as its Usage allows.

Each spell has a different usage. For instance, Heal can only be used once per day but Dispel Magic has unlimited use.

GM Advice

The Gamemaster section of the rules goes over success modifiers, resistance checks, and disadvantage. Disadvantage is a situational modifier, a character is considered to be at a disadvantage in his resistance check for a few special situations. If an opponent hits a defender with a weapon in melee and the defender has no weapon. If the defender is hit by a ranged weapon. If the defender is not aware of the threat. Disadvantage causes your resistance check to be halved.

The rules include a simple list of spells and monsters. There is an an adventure idea generator and a random dungeon generator.

Keranak Kingdoms
Finally, there is a provided generic setting, Keranak Kingdoms. It is land of one kingdom that was formerly ruled by a monarch with near-divine powers provided by a crown. When the last of the line died recently, anarchy ruled as all fought for the crown, until the Knights of the Rose banished the crown. The lands await a ruler judged worthy of the crown.

It is a pretty plain setting, which can be a good thing if you want to just plug in standard fantasy adventures with little work.

Bare Bones Fantasy is what it claims to be. A simplified rule system for Fantasy role-playing. It appeals to me. One of my favorite systems was RuneQuest 3 which also uses a percentile system but it much more complicated. Bare Bones Fantasy does have levels, but I think they are not going to affect play very much. A new character should be almost as big a threat as a more experienced player. This very much appeals to me. If I have one major complaint with D&D it is the levels which results in characters who are eventually way more powerful than the average person. They in turn have to be countered with exponentially more powerful monsters. I prefer a system where you could reuse your favourite low-level monsters and have them be a worthy challenge (kobolds again?).

I would have to try the magic system to see how it works in practice, but it does appeal to me. Rather than fire and forget each spell has different uses per day.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Talislanta The Savage Lands

I just recently purchased Talislanta: The Savage Land. It is not a ruleset per se, it is really a rules addition for running a Talislanta campaign using existing rules. There are three versions, 5E, d6 and original. I purchased the 5E version so I do not know, but I assume original uses Talislanta rules?
The Savage Lands is I believe something new for Talislanta. Before the setting assumed a Renaissance level setting with nations, cities and a fairly advanced civilization. The Savage Lands takes place in the distant past. A “Great Disaster” has recently occurred and all that remains are devasted wastelands populated by savage tribes. As in the original, Talislanta is populated by a large number of unique species many of which are playable races. There are none of the traditional fantasy races (elves, dwarves, halflings) but there are various races of humans or near-humans.
There is the dragon-like Drakkan, the plant-based Narada, the lion-like Shaka and a number of near-human races. Each has various pluses attached to choosing that race. Only a few have negatives attached to their attributes.
The Savage Lands is a low-magic setting, the rules recommend banning all magic-using classes in D&D and removing spells from Rangers. There is also an interesting option to run the game without classes. Under this method, all characters start with rolled ability scores but their proficiencies are the same. As they advance, new proficiencies are learned to create more and more unique characters. An intriguing idea for me.
Proficiencies are skills, languages, tools, and in this case medium armor, and martial weapons.
In Savage Lands, everyone is assumed to start as a member of a tribe. Each of the races has carved out their own territory and there are few races that travel indiscriminately between regions. The gazetteer for the Savage Lands reads like a more primitive and brutal version of Dark Sun. There are no nations, towns, or villages. Just tribes wandering wastelands.
A very good list of fairly unique monsters that fit well with the Savage Lands Setting is included in a bestiary. It is rounded out with an extensive list of demons. Random Encounter Tables per region are provided. Making this useful for a good sandbox style game.
Included in these random encounter tables is the chance of encountering a magical storm know as the Gyre. Another table is provided for random results of the Gyre. It is a magical storm that deposits misfortune wherever it goes. A Plague of Demons, a rain of monsters, curses and the like.
The setting and rules are very playable. Open wastelands with a legitimate reason for tombs, ruined cities and monsters is simplicity for a Dungeon Master. But there are also no cities, towns, villages, civilization or agriculture. Just wandering tribes defending their territories. This makes it very hard to have a party of mixed races. It makes it very hard for the player characters to find food and water or trade what they find in that ancient tomb. There is no coinage, only barter. Coins could be traded but only in the value of the metal. There is an extensive section on trade goods and their value to help the Dungeon Master.
I can see easily running a single adventure in a ruin or a sandbox style game for a short period of time but beyond that, I think that "tomb of the week" could get tiresome. Rules are provided for the players to run the entire tribe and advance their tribe in addition to their characters.

Finding a Colossus in the Wastelands

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Fantasy! RPG Review

Another in my continuing series of reviews of products I have bought on RPGNOW and finally got around to reading. Only 600 more to go (I am only exaggerating a little).

Fantasy! (yes they have an exclamation in the official title) is a translation of a Swedish OSR Fantasy roleplaying game. They also have games called “Action!” and “Sci-Fi!”. It comes from a company called Saga Games.

On the first page, the editors put in a disclaimer warning that this is a translation to English done by people who do not speak English as a first language. It is noticeable, but we are reading rules and not a novel so it is not really a problem. If you are someone who gets annoyed by the use of the wrong word on occasion this product is not for you.

There is one funny spot in the main core rules where there is an entire sentence in Swedish. I used Google translate and it turns out it is repeated in English in the next sentence. The sample adventure in the back of the rules does have a lot of instances where the original Swedish was retained in the room titles. It makes the rooms sound grimmer than they actually are, “En mork korridor urthuggen ur urberget” is something like, “Dark Corridor”.

Core Rules

The game uses only 6-sided dice and characters are describes by four attributes (Constitution, Coordination, Intelligence, and Presence) and start with 5 abilities. The system does not have classes but there are optional archetypes that can be chosen, Ranger, Warrior, Assassin, Knight, and Thief. You notice there is no magic using class. The system is geared toward a low fantasy human-centric setting. Mages are assumed to be NPC’s but there are suggestions for including magic wielding characters.

Spells cost different mana points to cast. Non-magicians can use Power Words to do small magical tasks. Characters decide the number of mana points to use for Power Word and then roll that many extra dice in the resolution roll. The limit is 3 mana for a single Power word.

Dwarves and elves as playable races are also presented in the appendix. But the setting assumes dwarves and elves are rare.

The rules use hit points but they are fairly static. There are ways to improve them slightly. You do also have Temporary Hit points which are added hit points removed first and represent your experience at avoiding damage. Temporary hit points can be increased with advancement.

Humans pick 5 abilities to start play, demi-humans pick 4. Since any ability can be chosen customization is open. If this is to much work for you, there are optionally the five sample archetypes to choose from.


In the rules assuming the action is not automatic (simple) or impossible a die roll is made. A Resolution Roll is a roll off as many dice as your level in the Attribute. Extra dice are added for abilities that fit the situation. On a 4-6 it is a success, less than 3 are failures. The number of successes is compared to the difficulty of the task. For every die that comes up a 6, you get to roll 1 more die.

The tasks difficulty is a fairly standard ladder of 1-easy, 2-normal, 3-difficult, 4-insane, 5-heroic, 6-Legendary, 7-Forget about it.

There is an added element of risk of spectacular failure if at least half the die rolls are 1’s.

After Play

The suggestion is that after each game session the characters each receive 1 experience die. The next time they play the character can add 1 experience die to any roll. The maximum experience dice you can hold is 10. After 10 you need to spend the dice. For me, the rules were not clear on this point.  The Experience die is also needed to improve your character. So is it either or? The note in the rules states, “When you spent your ED to improve die rolls you of course get them back the next game session”. So if you spend them on improvements you cannot get them back? Logically that is the way I would rule it.


Combat includes attack and defense rolls. You have a number of combat dice based on your attribute used to attack (CON or COR). You have to split these between attack and defense with at least 1 die always being held back for defense. If your number of successes is greater than the defender's number of successes the attack succeeds. You could also find yourself splitting your defense dice between multiple attackers. This is an interesting system and reminds me of one of the versions of RuneQuest I have used (RQ 3 I believe).

On defense, you also add dice from any armor or shield.

There are special rules for being caught unaware (you get only 1 defense die) or for having flanking protection from allies (1 extra die to defense per protected flank).

Armor gives defense dice and absorbs the Armor modification amount of damage.

As befits a low fantasy setting the healing of hit points is quite grim. HP heals at a rate of 1HP per day in the care of a healer or 1HP per week if just resting.


The entire core rules section is only 23 pages. It covers everything an experienced role-player needs to play the game. Not every situation is covered by the rules and for an OSR game, it should not be. The gamemaster section has more information on running games, campaigns and handling magic (since the base assumption is that mages are NPCs). No example spells are provided. Instead, players should tell the gamemaster what they want to attempt with a spell and the gamemaster sets the difficulty. There is also a fairly standard section of the rules listing monsters.

The rules close up with a simple setting called the “Distant Dales”. There is enough information here for at least a half-dozen adventures. There is also a 3 dungeon level adventure called “The God in the Mountain”. It has the feel of something that has been done before but any reasonably experienced gamemaster can take the bare bones of the idea and expand upon it.


These are simple but complete OSR style fantasy rules. Perfect for someone who wants to run a magic light setting and enjoys customizable characters and no levels. Given that class and level is one of my least favorite parts of D&D I can see running some adventures using these rules.

Four adventurers prepare to enter the dungeon of The God in the Mountain.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

How the Mighty have Fallen

I had an idea for a 5th Edition adventure for a campaign I was running. But it never got used as the campaign ended. The idea was for a low-level city adventure. The players are asked to help out a local good aligned temple where an accident has occurred.  I called it How the Mighty have Fallen.

The temple had commissioned a new statue of their god. A particularly big, stone statue. Unfortunately, the floor of the temple gave way and the statue fell down into some old ruins below. The idea was that it was an undercity of sewers, old cellars, and buildings overrun by troglodytes. The temple guards had been sent below and did not return. The temple sent for help.

I was doodling a map this weekend and finally put this idea onto a map. There is not a write-up for this yet but I did quickly create something to visualize it.

Who wants to go down the rope first?

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Stillwater 3D Rendered

Quite some time ago I loaded a quick post on the village of Sillwater (here). I was one of my more popular posts. At the time I was new to blender so I did not try to create any art for the post. I have since become marginally better and the thought has occurred to do a full 3D walkthrough animation of the village. It is really not that difficult but it involves a fair amount of work.

To get things started I built the epi-center of Stillwater, the Toppled Tankard Inn. Right now it is just an Inn floating in the vast darkness of the 3D mesh. But here are some shots of the exterior and the interior of the Inn.

The Toppled Tankard

The Toppled Tankard Inn, one of the few places to rest indoors in Stillwater valley. You will have to sleep on the floor but it is fairly clean and it is warm in the winter.

The Tap Room

Monday, 29 October 2018

Knave Rules OSR Style minimalist rules

I have come across the knave rules a few times on the internet forums so I downloaded it took a look at it. The rules are written by Ben Milton.  The rules are minimalist. The rules check in at only 7 pages and 2 of those pages are spells (and some magic rules).

The rules are written with the intention of allowing you to run OSR adventures with only a few changes. There are a number of minimal rulesets online but these take a different approach. The six standard attributes are still here (called abilities) but they do not modify rolls. Instead, they are used as ability checks whenever a character attempts something. The attributes are also created differently. You roll 3d6 and keep the lowest roll. That number is the bonus and 10 is added to it for the “defense” of the attribute.

There are no classes or class like abilities. Any character could fight, wear armor, pick locks or perform any action.

In a move not unlike a computer game, characters have equipment slots. In this case, based on their CON defense. So if you have a CON of 12 you can have 12 items. That includes worn or held items. Small items like coins fit multiples in a slot (in this case 100). Hit points are d8 based and are re-rolled at each experience level.

Saving throws, which are the basic roll for attempting actions, is a d20 roll with relevant ability bonus. A 15 or greater succeeds. Opposed rolls are a little different, instead, you use the opposing character’s relevant defense. There is the possibility of advantage and disadvantage.

Combat is an old-fashioned d6 initiative for each side. Attack rolls are d20 + STR for melee or WIS for ranged. WIS because I believe they wanted to make every ability relevant. If the attack is greater than the defender armor class it hits. Standard weapon damage is applied. There are a neat weapon and armor quality rules that come into effect on fumbles and critical rolls.

There is a provided option to allow players to make all of the rolls, in other words, attack rolls when on the attack and defense rolls when being attacked.

Healing is d8+ CON bonus after a meal and night’s rest.

The rules suggest that standard OSR Monsters can be used with few changes.

Magic is very different. Spells are cast from spellbooks that must be held in both hands and read aloud. A spell can be cast once per day per book. Each spellbook contains a single spell and takes up 1 equipment slot. This could lead to a lot of high CON mages. Spellbooks must be found. They cannot be transcribed or traded. Spell success is based on the relevant save by the defender so anyone can cast spells.

Would I use these rules?  Possibly, I can see that these rules would be great for new players or online games. If I did run it online I would be tempted to allow the players to make all of the rolls so I could concentrate on the world-building. I wonder if all of the characters might not feel about the same. I think it might only be the player personalities that come to the fore.

The rules suggest creating a character using a completely random method for the statistics, equipment, and even the character’s personality.  I decide to roll up a character and came up with Oddmantle (below).