February 13, 2021

Nod by Nod - September 2010 (#4)

Over at https://landofnod.blog/ you can find posts by John Stater called Dragon by Dragon where he reads through an issue of Dragon Magazine and gives his thoughts about it. I recently bought a big pile of NOD Magazine and thought I would return the favor and go through each issue similarly.

NOD #4 is 106 pages and is almost entirely the hexcrawl. It begins with the Medieval Bestiary which is 10 pages of strange creatures from European folklore. My favorite is the Panthera, which is a feline the size of a leopard that can create a cloud of perfume that acts as a charm spell.

Eastern Venatia is the feature article, a 75 page hexcrawl that also talks about the larger area that includes this hexcrawl and the ones in NOD #1-3. 

The next two articles are adventures, more detail for two of the hexes detailed in Eastern Venatia. The first is The Pleasure Palace of Izrigul, a seven level dungeon that only has the first level detailed in this issue. The second is The Ruins of Timulus, which is a complete 8-page adventure for mid-level adventurers.

Next is Gods of the Golden Sea, which has the same format as the previous articles on gods. This one is based on the mythologies of the eastern Mediterranean. 

Lastly, we get Phantastes, Part 3. The game notes talk about the nature of Fairyland and shadows. 

NOD Magazine continues to be quality material. You can get the PDF of issue #4 at Lulu or in print at Lulu.

January 09, 2021

Nod by Nod - July 2010 (#3)

Over at https://landofnod.blog/ you can find posts by John Stater called Dragon by Dragon where he reads through an issue of Dragon Magazine and gives his thoughts about it. I recently bought a big pile of NOD Magazine and thought I would return the favor and go through each issue similarly.

NOD #3 is 123 pages and starts with Beastmen of Nabu. You may recall that NOD #1 had an article on beastmen but that was a generic race for gnoles, orcs, ogres, hobgoblins, etc. This article is for specific beastmen that can be used as races or classes. There are very many of them in this article's 16 pages!
  • Goat people are great climbers, can see spirits, and can cast spells. (There are 24 new spells included in this issue!) 
  • Monkey people are fast climbers, acrobats, great at picking pockets and magic tricks, and are masters at low comedy and vulgar insults. They also go berserk when brought down to 5 or fewer hit points. 
  • Bear people are master brewers and wrestlers. Their mead can heal light wounds. 
  • Falcon people are quick, can spring around and use whirling death during combat. 
  • Lion people have a mighty roar that can cause fear in creatures with less hit dice. They also have a charge attack and can command animals. 
  • Cat people have keen hearing, are light-footed, and have an evasion power. They can also cast a small number of spells. 
  • Sheep people have a defensive stance, can ignore 1 point of damage, and have trap sense. 
  • Onager people are fearless, stubborn, charioteers. 
  • Horse people can command more henchmen, have better horses, and are better in mounted combat. 
  • Fox people have great perception, can move silently, and know herblore and a few spells. 
  • Night raven people are great at thievery and can prepare body parts to make them foci for casting spells. 
  • Camel people sings desert psalms that can ward away animals and the undead also know 2 more languages than normal.
  • Swine people are great dungeon delvers who have a nose for gold and can decipher ancient texts.
The next article is Gods of Nabu which covers Egyptian gods. This is the same format as Gods of Nod: Ophir in NOD #1 and describes 37 gods in 10 pages.

The Nabu Wastes is the feature article, a hexcrawl covering in 80 pages the eastern portion of the map in NOD #1. It is an Egypt-like land with dragon men, ant man, giraffe centaurs, along with the beastmen covered in the first article. There are also quite a few ancient tombs to explore.

Next is The Elementalist, a class that commands the elemental spirits to do their bidding. In effect, they can cast certain spells by performing a ritual and having an elemental spirit perform the spell. There are 12 new spells included.

Then there is The Druids of Nod, which gives us the druid class and 26 new spells.

Lastly, we get Phantastes, Part 2, which like in Part 1 found in NOD #2, we get some game notes. This one has notes on fairy food, Sir Percival, and the Alder maidens (tree spirits). 

I enjoyed NOD Magazine #3. You can get the PDF of issue #3 at Lulu or in print at Lulu.

December 30, 2020

Nod by Nod - June 2010 (#2)

Over at https://landofnod.blog/ you can find posts by John Stater called Dragon by Dragon where he reads through an issue of Dragon Magazine and gives his thoughts about it. I recently bought a big pile of NOD Magazine and thought I would return the favor and go through each issue similarly.

We start off Nod #2 with Cloak and Dagger, an article giving us a Thief and Assassin class. They're fine classes but there's nothing that really stands out with them. 

Next, we get Urban Adventures which gives a lot of detail about urban areas. Mr. Stater recommends giving city-states alignments to use as a shorthand for the society. He then talks about population and how that corresponds to the number of manors, shires, burhs (markets), and abbeys in the area. He also recommends giving a theme (genre) and vista (sights, sounds, and smells) to each city-state. Then we get some pages about the citizens, the social classes, and notable citizens like alchemists, animal trainers, armorers, barbers, beggars, blacksmiths, bowyers, engineers, fences, guides, healers, herbalists, innkeepers, jewelers, lawyers, merchants, nobles, priests, prostitutes, rakes, sages, sailors, scribes, spies, students, tax collectors, torchbearers, and traders. Each get a paragraph and a 2-line statblock. Next, there is a bit about taxes, tolls, tithes, and money changing. Then there are civic organizations like colleges, companies, guilds, mercenary bands, thieves' dens, and universities. We also get a few paragraphs about manorial villages outside the city-state. Lastly, there are events and random urban encounters. It's a total of 12 pages long and quite useful.

Into The Wild follows and it is a 7 page article on travelling through the wilderness. It gives travel times, types of wilderness terrain one might encounter, natural dangers you might encounter, battle conditions, random encounters, and strongholds. Another article that is very useful.

After that is the article Barter & Trade, which gives tables of goods equivalent to 100gp, 1000gp, and 5000gp. Along with that is a merchant class, The Venturer, which can appraise, haggle, smuggle, lead, know languages, and sense danger. Good stuff!

The feature article of this issue is not a hexcrawl but detail on Ophir The Wicked, a city of corsairs located in the previous issue's hexcrawl. There's 23 pages on 61 buildings and their inhabitants. Since it is a city with black market and slave trade, Mr. Stater does state up front real slavery is real bad and this is but a pulp fiction version. Also, as a little joke, the slave auctioneer is a literal talking weasel.

Continuing to the next article, Sword Or Axe?, we get 4 pages on differentiating weapons from each other. Mr. Stater recommends giving axes more damage, bows more attacks (with a penalty to hit), crossbows more damage, daggers less damage but with a bonus to hit, flails with a bonus to disarm, javelins more damage, spears with a bonus to initiative and damage, and swords with a bonus to hit. In short, it gives a reason to choose one weapon over another. I think more could be done with this but it is a good start with slight touch.

Eureka! is an article about a scientist class who can make inventions. It's a very cool 3 pages that talks about research costs for formulas and inventions and gives a page of sample inventions. These inventions are costed by comparing them to a spell so are not strictly scientific. Sounds fun to me!

Next is Books & Scrolls which is 2 pages about the forms books came in (e.g. clay tablets, bamboo scrolls) and even what material the paper is made out of (parchment, vellum) and even the kinds of reading material. 

The next 14 pages are devoted to printing the first part of George Macdonald's Phantastes, a novel about a young man entering the world of faerie. Mr. Stater does add gaming notes to the story and talks about Fairy Sight, Fairy Blood, Flower Fairies, Goblin-Fairies, The Ash, and The Beech (the latter two are trees).

Ships & The Sea is next. It's 6 pages on different sizes of ships, stats for those ships, enhancements for ships, and ship to ship combat (including the effect of spells). Very useful if you campaign at sea.

The Elan is another class, psychic knights based on E. E. Smith's Lensmen series, which I have not yet read. You must first be a Psychic class (from issue #1) and then when reaching level 4, can become an Elan. Elan retain their psychic powers and also get mindblades that get stronger as they level up.

Then there is Candle Magic where we get 2 pages of many candles and the different magic they produce. These are made by those Wise Women and Cunning Men from issue #1. Good stuff!

Finally, we have Pars Fortuna. This is not the complete game that Mr. Stater wrote but a preview of it which generated three race-classes. They are alien and weird and fit perfectly into a fantasy world.

I enjoyed NOD Magazine #2 and can't wait to read issue #3. You can get the PDF of issue #2 at Lulu or in print at Lulu.

December 22, 2020

Nod by Nod - May 2010 (#1)

Over at https://landofnod.blog/ you can find posts by John Stater called Dragon by Dragon where he reads through an issue of Dragon Magazine and gives his thoughts about it. I recently bought a big pile of NOD Magazine and thought I would return the favor and go through each issue similarly.

NOD #1 came out in May 2010 and is 85 pages long. Mr. Stater starts (after the Table of Contents) with Welcome to NOD! where he gives some of his campaign design philosophy: only make what matters in game and also make a wide world of many cultures to explore. NOD Magazine is going to show us what he means.

The first article is one page about coins, how much they weigh, how much a character can carry, and how much they're worth. It gives us a good baseline for the loot that will be shown later.

Next, we have Fighting-Men of Nod, which details six classes: the fighting-msn, the barbarian, the bard, the monk (or swashbuckler if a monk does not fit in your campaign), the paladin, and the ranger. Each of thee classes get some special abilities at 1st level, and a few more as they progress in levels. All look fun, well made, and the abilities are light touches suitable for an OSR game.

Speaking of abilities for OSR games, the ensuing article Boons & Benefactions is all about abilities that characters can choose at 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 12th level. There are 43 of them and and a great way to do feats in an OSR style.

Then we get the biggest article, The Wyvern Coast. It is a sandbox complete with a two-page hex map and hex descriptions. We get a description of the area: the grasslands, the sea, and the coast, along with encounter tables and creatures. This article is 60 pages long and is a sizable adventure area just by itself. I don't want to say too much about it so as not to give spoilers but it is very imaginative and looks very fun. The black & white map is hard to read, however, and I suggesting getting the color maps Mr. Stater provides at https://landofnod.blog/nod/.

The article after is Wise Women & Cunning Men which is about adepts, practical spellcasters of rural folk. They are magically less powerful than clerics or magic-users but they have another skill that serves their community. (Pick one of alchemist, animal trainer, armorer, berserker, guide, healer, or sage.)

Next are Gods of Nod: Ophir which details the gods of the Wyvern Coast, based on the gods of the ancient Phoenicians. I like these god descriptions as stats are not given but instead we get the god's name, other names it is known by, who worships the god, what weapons the god uses, what are the god's minions, symbols of the god, alignment of the god, and what the god grants its priests (which is a unique spell detailed in this article). It is a great way to do gods.

After that is Random Villages which is a couple pages of random tables to create a village. An example village rolled on these tables is given: 200 cowardly shellfish fishermen that live in brick huts protected by a thicket getting their water from a cistern ruled by a council of elders have a den of assassins or highwaymen, and are famous for their dark secrets.

Denizens of the Dark Continent gives stats for some legendary creatures of African folklore. I especially like the Abatwa.

Beastmen, Centaurs & Mechanical Men is next and it details 3 "races" to put in to differentiate your campaign from the "traditional" fantasy campaign.

The last article is Your Mind Will Bend, detailing a Psychic class. there are twenty psychic powers to choose from and a psychic gets one at 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, and 11th levels. To use a psychic power, you must succeed at a saving throw and the target must fail at their saving throw. Looks very interesting yet still simple, which is a hallmark of Mr. Stater's.

I very much enjoyed NOD Magazine #1 and look forward to reading more! You can get the PDF for NOD #1 for free at https://landofnod.blog/nod/ or you can get it in print from Lulu at https://www.lulu.com/shop/john-stater/nod-1/paperback/product-11387029.html.

August 27, 2020

Kung Fu Classics

Do you play the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG? Are you interested in playing in or running a wuxia campaign? Please take a look at this and please let me know any comments or criticisms you may have or if you would you like to collaborate to expand on these ideas! 

Kung Fu Classics

July 31, 2020

The Sword of Shannara, in conclusion

In conclusion, yes, Sword of Shannara is highly derivative of The Lord of the Rings but that doesn't make it bad. There a lot of cool twists and turns in Sword of Shannara and the ending especially. In the end, Shea is rescued from the gnomes by Panamon Creel, a one-handed warrior, and Keltset, a mute troll. This unlikely trio find the sword but do not recognize it. It just looks like one of many pieces of junk found on the battlefield.

While the others spy on troops, rescue the king, and muster the human forces, these three slowly realize that this is THE sword and that Shea must face the Warlock lord with it. They are captured by trolls and Keltset eloquently (through bearing and sign language) pleads their case. And the trolls are persuaded and bring them to face the Warlock Lord.

And this is where I think it gets really interesting. The sword doesn't do anything sword-like. It might as well be a rock or a shoe. All it does is reveal truth. First Shea faces the truth about himself and then he forces the Warlock Lord to face the truth about himself. Unfortunately, the truth about the Warlock Lord, like any undead being, is that he should have been dead long ago. So he dies.

Have you done that sort of thing in your game? Give the evil forces information that turns them to your side? Use revealing truth in a devastating way? In what seems to be a story derivative of another, I like how this story changes things in interesting ways. Don't be afraid to let things change in your game!