Monthly Archives: August 2009

Zombie Braingnawer


Part of Zombie Week here on! It shuffles, it shambles, it eats your brains. What more do you want?

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Z Is For Zombie…

Z Is For Zombie

So I had this brilliant idea that daily stuff would be easier if I had a weekly theme. The hard part then, is finding a theme. As I staggered out of bed this morning, the answer was quite literally staring me in the mirror — zombies.

Zombies have become a recent trend, much like pirates, and, of course, pirate zombies. It’s interesting in that pirates and zombies symbolize opposite concepts. In modern lore, pirates represent maximum freedom and independance, the same role the cowboy or the knight errant represented in earlier decades, but without the baggage of being something our parents liked. Zombies, meanwhile, represent the ultimate end of individualism, all identity lost as one becomes a ravening member of a mindless horde, whose only desire is to destroy anyone who is not one of them. Cue Ayn Rand.

At the moment, Zombie: The Shuffling is unlikely to come out from White Wolf anytime soon. Almost any RPG dealing with zombies assumes the players will be stopping them, as it’s pretty hard to have an RPG about doing nothing but mindlessly eating. (Supplements about halflings and weresharks aside.) So for purposes of this theme week, I’ll be assuming that the sole purpose for which the living dead rise from their graves is to be put back in them again.

Traditional Dungeon and Dragons zombies are mostly shuffling grave guardians, found only in the kind of places adventurers tend to go. Most modern horror, however, has zombies as invaders, and worse yet, plaguebearers. Once the dead rise from their graves, they turn all others into creatures like themselves! Thus, this series of Breakfast Crunch will mostly provide bits and pieces which can be used to that end.

Read on, then, for the Infected Brain Eating Zombie!

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Strange Brew

Strange Brew (aka Drinking And Dragons, Part 3)

Hey, eight days of Breakfast Crunch! If this were a typical "daily" updated webcomic, this would have taken two months! (It would also have a lot more readers, especially if my main character was, I dunno, a big-breasted catgirl and her sidekicks were something which is homocidally sociopathic but which looked cute, and a guy who was stupid, self-centered, and grossly immature, but everyone loved him just ’cause, y’know, he’s him. But i digress.)

I never intended "Drinking & Dragons" to stretch on for three days — that it has grown this much is made even stranger by the fact I don’t drink. I also don’t skewer orcs on pikes, slog endless miles through trackless wilderness to save the innocent from a terrible fate, or call forth demons from the briny deep, nor would I want to. Nonetheless, I like both having and writing rules for all of the above, so why not for drinking?

This last section, like so much of my work, owes a debt to Dave Hargrave and Arduin. (See also Green Slime Golem) He was the first game writer I encountered (please note, for the quick-to-correct people (like me)) that this is not the same as "first game writer to do it") who included random little notes and asides about day-to-day life in the game world, in ways that made it seem both exotic and familiar. Because much of the detail was sketchy, implied, or unexplained, I found his work inspirational rather than restrictive. I take a great and strange joy in tossed-aside names and references, because they seem to create a larger world, a world that exists outside the boundaries of the page. I like to ponder names and what they imply. A reference to "the lost and fabled continent of Zarn", or whatever, is inspiring to me, because it might make me think of what sorts of "lost and fabled" continents my own world might have. A 256 page "Zarn Explorer’s Handbook", complete with maps, charts, and 25 ready-to-run dungeons…. not so much.

(I also find it interesting, in terms of unexpected synergies, that a feature I’d intended to be nothing more than quick-and-easy Crunchy Bits has become a platform for me to rant about whatever interests me in terms of game design. Go figure.)

(Given how many pointless digressions my writing includes, you’d think I would have loved Tristram Shandy back in college. But I loathed it. What’s that saying? "What you oppose, you become.")

OK, enough asides. On to assorted interesting beverages for inclusion in your Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition games. (Yes, that was a blatant and crude attempt at getting search engines to notice this page. It’s very irksome that even if my site is nothing but Cool Roleplaying Stuff, I apparently have to work the actual words into the content of the article because people lie, cheat, and manipulate metadata so much that most search engines now ignore it.)


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Faux-Alcoholism, Redux

Faux-Alcoholism, Redux

Why does imaginary drink play such a strong role in, erm, role playing games? Is it because a lot of us started as teens and couldn’t drink, so we pretended to? Is it because Ale And Whores are such strong genre tropes? Is it because such activities, which usually have either no game benefit or an actual mechanical detriment, help ground the world in a kind of reality — there’s more to the universe than the Adventurer’s Supply Store and the Dungeon, there’s also the Tavern? Is it because so many adventures, ripping off Tolkein, begin with "You all meet in an Inn…."?

Got me. I just ask the questions. Y’all can answer them. I’d put up a little survey thingie, but I think I’d be depressed at how each day would go by with no one clicking on it. Honestly, I sometimes think I could write hard core porn here and no one would notice. "The Tiefling sorceress quietly slipped away from her partners at the inn. She made her way to the stables, where she saw Hans working diligently, his hard, tanned, body glistening with sweat. Slowly, she began to unfasten her…"


Building on yesterday’s little foray into mechanizing the Tragedy Of Alcoholism (hey, I forgot addiction rules… oh well, maybe some other time), I figured I could move onto the Outdrink Your Rivals skill challenge, and then a few beverages to use with said rules.

Read on!

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Roll The Dice To See If I’m Getting Drunk!

Roll The Dice To See If I’m Getting Drunk!

(Those of you who do not recognize the title, it’s from the classic and hilarious Dead Alewvies radio sketch, which came before the widely-distributed machinima often called “Summoner Geeks”. I have nothing against the machinima, it’s well done, it’s just that a lot of people don’t realize the true source, and I believe that creators deserve credit for their work.) (I spent some time trying to find a source for Just The Sounds that wasn’t a fairly scary looking, probably virus-laden site designed to get fake Google hits, and I finally found this guy’s blog. Those who want “The one with the big demon in the fridge”, you can just click here. Philistine.)


Imaginary consumption of alcohol is as much as part of D&D as the imaginary slaughter of orcs and the imaginary seduction of tavern wenches (or, depending on gender and preference, the hunky stable boy, Hans. He is always named Hans, even if the game is set in some faux-Asian or faux-Arabian environment. This is a rule.). The first edition Dungeon Master’s Guide contained about a page of rules for the effects of alcohol (it contained a page of rules for everything), but later editions contained no such rules. This makes sense with Second Edition, which exemplified the Great Big Wuss era of D&D history, the age of No Nipples and No Blood and No Gays, but you’d think Third Edition, with it’s “What the #$%^& is a Baatezu?” attitude would have brought them back. No need, really, since there were plenty of third party supplements to cover it. Fourth Edition also doesn’t have drinking rules, probably because they couldn’t decide if “Chugging” should be at-will or per-encounter. Snerk.

I am here to remedy that situation.

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Green Slime Golem

Of Arduin And Green Slime Golems

To my mind, the pinnacle of gaming is/was the Arduin trilogy by David Hargrave. The later books were alright, but nothing matched those original three volumes, with their “Percent Liar”, their incoherent layout, and their random, contextless, rules snippets. Please, please, please do not misunderstand me — none of the preceding was sarcasm or irony. I would probably grab my well-worn and well-read Arduin books first if I were rushing to save my collection from a fire (after I’d taken care of the cats, natch.) They embodied, and still embody, the essence of all that was wonderful about those first early years of roleplaying. Pure imagination, unfettered and untrammeled, not bound by ideas of either graphical sophistication or internal consistency. And the writing! This wasn’t some holier-than-thou game designer pontificating on the right way to play, or the product of marketing and legal departments producing puerile pap carefully calculated to appeal to key demographics and focus on core gameplay values while enforcing brand identity and building corporate synergy. This was a guy just like you (well, since I was 15 at the time, a guy just like I wanted to grow up to be…. and I did), talking to you. The prose was chatty and informal, but not lowbrow — like Gygax, Hargrave had a vocabulary and wasn’t afraid to use it, and he figured if you were smart enough to be playing RPGs, you could figure out the words, or look them up. He is, really, the greatest influence on my game writing, and when I am free to write to my own standards and not my editors, it’s how I write. Like, you know, this piece.

What’s this got to do with Green Slime Golems, you ask?

Well, among the many, many, many, oh, gods, too many to list Truly Nifty Things about Arduin was the page of various golem types and their costs. Please note there were no stat blocks for said golems. There was just a price list, with costs for various features such as speaking or magical defenses. You were left to decide for yourself exactly what a Green Slime Golem could do. Dave basically published random fragments of what I imagine were truly voluminous binders of notes and house rules, all under constant revision, and all deeply, profoundly, personal. Dave died far too young. He should have made it to now, should have been remembered the way Gygax and Arneson were. Great, now I’m depressed.

Oh, right, Green Slime Golems.

One of my goals for this site has always been to combine the feeling of those old-school days with modern rules design. Let there be kobbits (kobold/hobbit crossbreeds, duh!), but let them be balanced and playable. Let there be ninjas adventuring with star-powered mages (the latter another of Dave’s brilliantly iconoclastic creations, or maybe he adapted it from a book, in those days, no one told and no one cared (cough) displacer beast (cough)), but let them both be designed well. Let there be freedom of concept and imagination without missing, incomplete, broken, or contradictory rules — or at least not so many. Let rogu thieves climb walls with ease, but let the fighting-man and the magic-user at least try as well, relying on more than the DMs whim to determine if they succeed. And let there be green slime golems, fully statted up and ready to unleash on the players!

(Note: Most of the “Breakfast Crunch” is contained in the same article as the introductory rant. Since I have a monster section on this site, I’m posting the actual golem there, so that casual browsers looking for monsters don’t need to go all over the site — same as I’m doing with creatures from the Abyss Project, except when I forget, like last night. Bugger. Got to edit that. Anyway, any Joomla experts know how to post one article in multiple categories? Is there an ‘aliasing’ system?)

Stat Block For Green Slime Golem


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Green Slime Golem

Green Slime Golem

At first, this creature appears to be a puddle of stagnant liquid, or a thin sheen of mold growing over a surface. Only when someone comes within its programmed ranged (usually 20 squares or so) or if the “puddle” is attacked will it reveal its true form, that of a massive, vaguely man-shaped creature ten feet in height, vaguely translucent. Flecks of dark matter can be seen within its body, and it is only when you are too close that you can tell they are fragments of human bone…

Green Slime Golems use their Malleable Monster ability to hide in places otherwise far too small for them, emerging when their instructions compel them to. They prefer to engulf the first foe they see, then battle with their fists while he dissolves.

Green Slime Golem Level 9 Lurker

Large natural animate (construct, ooze, blind) XP 400

Initiative +13 Senses Perception +6; blindsight, tremorsense
HP 76; Bloodied 38
AC 23; Fortitude 21; Reflex 22; Will 20
Resist 5 acid; Vulnerable 5 Cold (slowed)
Speed 6

m Slimy Fists (standard; at-will) • Acid
+14 vs. AC; 2d6 + 5 and target takes 5 ongoing acid damage (save ends).

M Engulf (standard; at-will) • Acid
+12 vs. Reflex; 1d8 + 4 acid damage, and the target is engulfed (save ends). While engulfed, the target takes ongoing 5 acid damage and is restrained. While a target is engulfed, attacks that target the green slime golem deal half damage to the slime and half damage to the engulfed creature. The golem may attack other creatures with its fists while it has someone engulfed. The golem may not use its Malleable Monster power while it has someone engulfed. The golem may engulf only one creature at a time. It may “spit out” a creature as a minor action.

Rapid Dissolution
A green slime’s attacks deal 1d6 extra acid damage to a creature that is taking ongoing acid damage.

Malleable Monster (move; at-will)
The Green Slime Golem may move as if it were a Small creature for purposes of squeezing.

Alignment Unaligned

Skills Stealth +14

Str 16 (+7)
Dex 20 (+9)
Wis 14 (+6)
Con 16 (+7)
Int 3 (—)
Cha 3 (—)
(Thanks for the inspiration to Dave Hargrave.)

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013 The Everburning Forest

The Everburning Forest

Many are the layers of the Abyss which resemble, in some way, the forest and jungles of the mortal world. The Forest of Shrouded Pines is of course well known, as is the Jungle Of Gears, and many others. The Everburning Forest is a slightly more unusual destination, as it is a particularly difficult place for non-natives to survive in, even by Abyssal standards. Searing flame, lung-destroying smoke, and storms of blazing ash are just some of the many attractions… and then there’s the locals, tormented beings of living wood, as eternally aflame as the surroundings….

Oh, and demon-hide canoes.

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Is This A Dagger I See Before Me?

Is This A Dagger I See Before Me?

Yes, and it’s headed for your spleen. ("Spleen" is one of those guaranteed funny words. Like weasel. "Weasel Spleen" is a)incredibly funny, and b)a good name for a rock band. Yes, I ripped off Dave Barry. Like he’s ever going to see this page.)

Anyway…. daggers…

Daggers are the traditional enemy of the rogue… both those who literally take the class, and those of all roles who find they must engage in sneaky fighting. Daggers are small and light, easily hidden on one’s person, and have many utility uses, so that even in places where swords or bows are illegal, most folk other than slaves or the lowliest of serfs will be permitted ownership of a small blade. It is no wonder, then, that the enchantments placed upon daggers often serve duplicitous ends… while the following weapons should show their utility in almost all situations, they shine most in urban environments.

Read on, then, for the Dagger Of Venomous Rebirth, the Dagger of Deadly Disguise, and the Blade Of Obsidian Anguish

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Fragments From The Silver Grimoire

Fragments From The Silver Grimoire

Before the Rivenning, before the Aeld became three races, they were known as the greatest masters of the Arcane on Cret. The Books Of Metal — the Iron Grimoire, the Copper Grimoire, the Mithral Grimoire — were legendary, and to have one’s own work inscribed on those foil pages and added to a tome was the greatest achievement a wizard of the Aeld could imagine. (Well, the greatest we’re willing to discuss here… ) After the destruction that consumed most of the Aeld cities, the Grimoires were scattered and forgotten — but not destroyed. While no volume remains complete, pages — seemingly indestructible — appear here and there, offering new powers to those who study them. The Silver Grimoire, the Grimoire Of Bindings, is one of the most desired — for in its final pages are the spells which led to the Elfwar, the spells which summoned, but did not quite bind, the great Demon Lords of the Abyss. Those pages are still thankfully unknown, but lesser pages, small scraps of knowledge, are sometimes traded (and more often stolen) among the arcanists. Here are a few of those lesser — but still potent — pages.

On Spellbooks, And More

I’ve always loved spellbooks — they were my favorite part of Classic D&D, i.e, AD&D 1e, back when Bards were a munchkin class, grappling was a nightmare, and dragons were color-coded for your convenience. When the DMG had paragraphs dedicated to making sure that Magic User (what you young punk kids call "Wizards") PCs couldn’t just add spells to their precious spellbooks willy-nilly, if you found a tome in some dungeon, you were thrilled! I loved the many unique books, books with covers of obsidian or pages of dragonskin parchment.

While 4e is all about not putting the kind of "Screw you, players!" roadblocks into the game that AD&D 1e merrily encouraged, there’s no reason that spellbooks can’t be a kind of loot. Gaining access to a power which few others have, which isn’t just another spell/exploit/prayer on Page XX of Supplement Y, is cool.

And since everyone has the same "structure" for powers in 4e, you can have "spellbooks" for everyone! Fighters and Warlords can find tomes which instruct them in new martial techniques. Clerics can find ancient prayers or references to lost rituals which let them use their divine investment in new ways. Warlocks can discover dread lore which speaks of forgotten… and forbidden… pacts.

Nothing here should allow extra powers, though — merely different ones. If you find a book with a new Level 5 Daily, you need to retrain your old one.

How DMs want to handle these "discovered" powers is up to them… you can just say "You found the book, learn the power if you want it." I’d recommend that only one PC be able to learn the power — you can have the book dissolve into dust when done, or you can just declare it as a metagame construct to follow dramatic convention. Or you can demand a resource cost — for example, a Feat must be taken to allow the choice of the power (said Feat will not grant the power itself), or you can say "Access to this power is your magic item for this level."

For purposes of future development, I am assuming a Feat cost, and this means the powers I create here will be slightly — very slightly — more potent than others of their level. DMs who do not wish to require a feat may choose to tone the power down a little bit, or just let it stand, especially if aquiring access to it was difficult. You can always change it later — "The spell seems to have lost potency as the etheric forces have shifted" or "The ancient fighting techniques you used required special exercises to fully maintain" or whatever.

Anyway, on to the actual crunch!


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