Tag Archives: Undead

Charles Darwin Pulls Off The Mask…

This is a cool image from Dungeon Inspirations, the walking stick of Charles Darwin!


There’s a cool short write-up about the walking stick at the Dungeon Inspirations site and I recommend going to take a look.

I’m a rather big fan of science and hold Charles Darwin in high esteem, all the more for him having such a cool walking stick. But I can’t help imagining a scenario where he holds this staff aloft, lightning strikes, and is revealed to be Orcus, Demon Lord of the Undead in disguise.

I’m sure the reasons for this masquerade will become clear after his new tome comes out, Undead, Demons, and Unnatural Selection.

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Posted by on April 15, 2015 in Cool Stuff, History


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Design Ideas from History – Why is this Here?

Greetings Programs,

I just returned from a long weekend of celebrating my anniversary. For the last few years my wife and I have picked a state park lodge for our anniversary and spent the weekend hiking and poking around the area. It’s a nice chance to get away and relax.

This year our destination was Spring Mill State Park in Indiana. Among other features, Spring Mill has a fantastic pioneer village. They have around 16 structures dating back to the early 19th century that have all been restored to wonderful condition. There are several history interpreters on site who are knowledgeable and happy to talk at length on the village’s history, including a weaver who has been with the park over 20 years and a blacksmith who has been at the trade for fifty.

I had to laugh at myself. As I was walking through some of the homes I noticed that the walls must have voids behind them. Looking closer I noticed some walls of a different construction than the rest. I had succeeded in my Discover Recent Woodwork roll, but failed my Search for Secret Doors, as I didn’t see a way to access the voids. No doubt this is due to the restoration process.

After all, it was a large home two centuries old with a walled off room. What else could it possibly be?

The center piece of the village is an amazing three story grist mill. This impressive structure has three foot wide stone walls and a large mill that still functions. The mill is powered by a large fly-over water wheel that drives a maze of axles and gears, all made of wood, to turn the heavy mill stones. The mill is powered by water from a cave that feeds the stream flowing through the village. The stream is dammed and the water directed to the wheel by a long and impressive elevated sluice, with the flow controlled by a lever inside the mill. The whole thing still works and you can see it grind meal at the top of every hour. It is an impressive feat of engineering and I have never had the pleasure of seeing a structure like this in such outstanding condition.

The reasons why the village was founded on that spot and how the resources define its history struck a chord with my gamer-brain. It’s not something we always worry about when we’re setting up a map. Harbors and rivers make good locations, but moving inland we often don’t think about why a town is there. At Spring Mill the reasons are clear, right down to the name.

The heart of the village is the cave and the water that flows from it. It flows in abundance, allowing it to power the mill’s mechanisms. The flow is so strong that the villagers added a second, smaller wheel to power a small sawmill, which they attached to the grist mill. Except during the driest periods of the year the flow allows for both to run simultaneously. The cave keeps the water at a constant temperature, meaning that the water never freezes and the mills can work year round. The water is pure, a boon for the villagers, and proved to be good for distilling whiskey. This was a further draw when the village added a tavern and stagecoach stop. Spring Mill became a place where travelers could stop for lodging, clean water, food, and alcohol.

Everything in Spring Mill revolved around that water supply. It was a treasure worth more than gold.

Adventure Seeds:

Details like this do more than add verisimilitude to your game world, they provide foundations for your adventures. In the case of Spring Mill, the water is the life blood of the town. What happens when the water stops running?

Hobgoblins, Dam It:

The elders of the village approach the adventurers and ask for help. One week ago the water stopped flowing from the cave, bringing life in the town to a halt. A few men entered the cave expecting to find a cave in. They never returned. A larger group entered to search for them. That group also vanished.

The people are desperate and this situation is beyond their ability to handle. The mill has been prosperous, so they can offer a good reward, but unless the water begins flowing again the town will start to die.

Unknown to the villagers, a group of hobgoblins have entered the cave through other tunnels. They are well armed, organized, and well equipped. The hobgoblins have diverted the water so that it pours down a passage deep into the ground. They have set up a camp within the cave from which they manage the water flow. Patrols roam the caverns and traps are set up to deal with any incursions from the village. To save the village the adventurers will have to eliminate the hobgoblins, survive their traps, and destroy the dam. An astute party may realize that the hobgoblins’ attention is focused more on the abyss than the village.

Dwarven Jones Locker:

With the stream restored and the hobgoblins driven off the town seemed to be safe. However, their nightmare was only beginning.

The village was never the hobgoblins’ target. Unknown to the villagers, deep below the cavern that feeds their stream is a dwarven settlement; a temple and seminary for dwarven priests. The hobgoblin’s plan was to flood the settlement, then restore the water’s natural flow and plunder the dwarven treasure.

The first part of their plan was a success. The dwarves were caught unaware by the torrent of water that came crashing down into their town. The caves quickly filled with water, drowning many, and the hobgoblins kept the water flowing long enough to suffocate most survivors who had made it to air pockets. Any dwarves left alive would be weak from hunger and lack of air, making them easy pickings for the hobgoblin raiders.

However, they had underestimated the vengeful natures of the dwarven gods.

The slaughter of his followers angered the deity who placed a curse upon the town. The drowning victims have been empowered by divine wrath, rising up as undead warriors and climbing out of the deeps in search of those who had murdered them. A foe that has already been destroyed.

But the minds of the undead are cloudy and not open to reason. They know only a thirst for vengeance, and finding the upper caves empty some of them have emerged into the forest to follow the aqueduct down to the village.

Only a few will arrive on the first night, terrifying but quickly dispatched. Their bodies collapse into wet clay, their souls fleeing back to their watery graves beneath the mountain. There they will reform and spread the news of the human settlement. Each night more will come until the town is destroyed or a way is found to lay the dead to rest.






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Last game session my character dodged a bullet in the form of a curse. A very cool curse.

My character is a cleric of Rosartia, a deity described in the outstanding free book Petty Gods (an OSR resource worthy of its own post). Rosartia is the goddess of finding and hiding magical items, keeping them safe until they are needed.

If ever there was a suitable patron deity for adventurers…

Not long ago our party said, “screw level appropriate encounters!” and signed on to clear several wyverns out of an abandoned fortress. The keep turned out to be haunted, with an interesting history that emerged through exploration (an OSR trait worthy of its own post). There were losses among PCs and followers but in the end we cleared the wyverns, lifted the curse, and made off with a tidy bit of treasure. This included a frost brand sword that my cleric recovered from the undead lord of the castle.

The sword was a particularly good one, doing an extra 1d6 damage on every hit. That should have been my first clue that it was more dangerous than it seemed. Power never comes without a price and that’s a hefty amount of power. Yet I was oblivious and made good use of the blade. I relied on it heavily during one adventure in particular where, upon stopping the attempt by three evil cults to form a new dark pantheon, a saint appeared to my character and blessed the sword, removing its curse.

At which point I said, “curse?”

The DM then revealed the blade’s curse and the trigger that would have enacted it. The curse itself is wonderfully horrible, but the trigger was what sold it as particularly creepy.

The curse was tied to the haunting of the castle and the tale of cannibalism that formed its history. If the curse had been triggered, as described by my DM;

“That night, you would have dreams of killing children. You wouldn’t find these dreams unpleasant at the time of dreaming, so it wouldn’t interfere with your rest or ability to recover hit points through rest. However upon waking, the PC would be allowed to role play their own reaction to the dreams.

After that night, the PCs had a week to either kill a child with the sword or have Remove Curse cast upon them before things got worse.

During the second week, the PC would require twice as much food to avoid the effects of starvation. During the third week, the player would require three times the amount of food to avoid the effects of starvation. And the amount of food would also keep increasing.”
There were only three ways to end the curse; a Remove Curse spell, death, or the killing of a child. Removal of the curse wouldn’t remove it from the blade, it just made it dormant until triggered again.

The trigger was the second wonderfully horrible thing about the sword.

“To activate the curse, you had to roll a 16 during an attack roll.”

In other words I was playing Russian Roulette and I didn’t realize it. This is what sent a chill up my spine, even though the curse had been banished from the sword. It’s the nervousness you get when you realize something Very Bad just missed you, that sinking feeling when something you trusted turns out to have been ready to drop you into the void. In that moment I wasn’t thinking about how the curse had been lifted, I was wracking my brains to remember all the die rolls I’d made since finding the sword. I was acutely aware of several 17’s I had rolled in that game session.

It didn’t matter that I was now safe. My imagination was captured by what might have been and even in escape it had left its mark. My cleric will still pick up any magic item he can get his hands on, but there will always be a hint of trepidation involved. Is this item all it appears to be? Or is it a ticking time bomb.
That’s the brilliance of this curse.

What if I’d discovered the curse ahead of time? Would I have stopped using the sword or would I have risked the curse? Magical weapons are rare in our game. A magic weapon that does another 1d6 damage is powerful. Powerful enough to change the course of a fight and we have faced desperate odds on many occasions. Add to that the divine mandate from my deity to recover and safeguard powerful magic items, and there is little chance that I would have discarded the weapon. At best it would have sat in its scabbard, slung over my back while I used another weapon.


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Posted by on March 13, 2014 in Gaming


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I love October.  Halloween is my favorite holiday and the movie selections available this month are enough to make my hard drive beg for mercy.  Turner Classic Movies, always one of my favorite networks for frightful films, has really been knocking them out of the park this year.

Among the classics they’ve been showing is the 1932 movie Vampyr by director Carl Dreyer.  Produced in German and French, this movie is known for its heavy atmosphere and creative filming tricks that create an eerie dreamlike quality.  The original masters of the film were lost long ago, resulting in poor quality and heavily edited versions being released.  But new restoration techniques have done wonders and in 2008 the Criterion Collection released a two-disc edition of the complete German version of the film.

The story of Vampyr is a straight-forward affair.  Allan Gray is a student of the occult who happens upon the village of Courtempierre where he seeks lodging for the night.  He wakes before dawn to find a strange and disturbed nobleman in his room.  The man urgently tells him that, “she must not die,” then leaves him a sealed package with the instructions to open it upon the event of his death.  He then leaves.

Gray exits the inn and has a series of ghostly encounters, including entering a coffin maker’s shop where he sees spirits on the walls, a one legged guard whose shadow can leave him, a mysterious doctor, and a strange old crone.  Once back outside he is lead by more spirits to the manor of the man who had visited him during the night, where he witnesses the guard’s shadow shoot the man.  Gray, now enmeshed in the story of the family, meets the staff and the deceased man’s two daughters, one of whom is under the curse of a vampire.

The story itself is a straight forward and good, if predictable, affair.  Events unfold in front of our protagonist rather than as a result of his actions and the final resolution is handed to the characters through the book contained in the package left by the deceased father, a book that Gray is repeatedly interrupted while reading.  In truth, the plot of Vampyr is unremarkable.

What is remarkable is the atmosphere Dreyer conjurers.  He makes great use of shadows, including scenes where the silhouettes of musicians and dancers are seen on the wall though the camera has panned over an empty room.  Shadows lead Gray from one strange encounter to another, as if the spirits of those claimed by the vampire and her minions are seeking revenge.  Shadows also offer menace through the one-legged guard, who uses his shadow to assassinate the nobleman’s father.

Dreyer also used tricks like double exposures to create other spectral effects, such as a girl dancing along the shore, seen only as a reflection in the river beneath an empty riverbank, or the vengeful spirit of the murdered father coming back for the vampire’s henchmen.  The biggest use of these tricks is an extended scene where Gray leaves his body, his astral form seeing a mix of the villains’ current actions and a dream of his own body being placed in a coffin and carried to the graveyard.  The coffin has a glass pane over the corpse’s face and we see much of the scene as if we were lying in the casket, looking up at the passing trees and looming church steeple.

There are plenty of ideas to inspire gamers.  The movie focuses more on the vampire’s henchmen, who seem to be less dominated by magic than by the allure of evil.  This gives them more agency than a character like Dracula’s Renfield.  The shadow spirits, leading the investigator on, but whose motives are unclear is also a good trope, as is the guard’s use of his shadow as an agent for murder.  And while the use of the book is one of the weaknesses of the plot, the information gleaned from it is both a good dose of vampire lore and an example of the value of a good investigation skill.

Though it lacks the horror of Nosferatu, the dreamlike quality of Vampyr is sure to please, making it a must-see for fans of early cinema and classic monster films.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Dreyer also directed the masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc, another film no fan of early cinema should miss.

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Posted by on October 16, 2013 in Horror, Movies & TV, Reviews


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Houska Castle – Adventure Seeds Pt. 3

Finishing out the 13 Adventure Seeds for Houska Castle!

Here are the links to the History & Legends post and Adventure Seeds Part One and Two.

10. Game of Death – In the mid-13th century Ottokar II sent his knights into the mountains to deal with a satanic threat.  A necromancer of frightful power had built a fortress using animated skeletons as slaves and warriors.  From there he terrorized the surrounding lands, his forces slaughtering the people and dragging their corpses back to join his undead ranks.

The knights fought a brutal battle, eventually laying siege to the fortress.  High in the tower of the necromancer they confronted the villain and cast him down, the Earth opening beneath them and swallowing the tower whole.  The knights were victorious, but they knew the necromancer was not dead.  They built Houska Castle over top of the chasm to seal him forever beneath the mountain.

Many years have passed and Europe is destroying itself in the horrors of the 30 Years War.  In the midst of this chaos the great leaders have each received a strange messenger.  Undead ravens have come bearing a challenge from the necromancer.  He has transformed the hell pit beneath the castle into a series of levels filled with traps and unholy monsters.  The necromancer will provide all the power of his dark arts to the side whose adventurers reach the bottom of the cavern first.

It is a truly Faustian bargain, but the war has already transformed central Europe into a landscape from Hell.  Besides, can anyone risk such power falling into the hands of their enemies?

11. Souls of Vengeance – When Houska Castle was built the old timber fortress before it was demolished as well as the homes of the peasants who were then forced to construct the new castle.  Conditions for the workers were brutal and scores died in accidents or from the harsh treatment of their overseers.

When the castle was completed the king brought a great treasure of gold and jewels taken from the pagans during the Northern Crusades.  He hid the wealth in the caverns beneath the castle, then ordered the remaining workers slaughtered to keep the secret.

The castle now lies empty and no priest has said prayers in its chapel for many years.  The new king has granted the castle and its lands to a group of adventures in thanks for their service, but the return of residents to the castle has caused the unquiet dead to stir in their forgotten vaults.

12. The Forgotten King – King Arthur, Emperor Barbarossa, Prince Vlad Dracula; occasionally a hero will rise up to embody the dreams of an entire people.  A warrior who achieves such power can transcend mortal life and when they are cut down they are taken into the Earth.  There they sleep until the day comes when they will once more take up their swords and lead their people in battle.  These are the Kings in the Mountains

In the 6th century such a king arose, a Celtic warlord who lead his people against the advancing Slavs.  He was a just lord, fierce in battle, and ultimately fell while holding a mountain pass single handed.  So great was his heroism that as death came for him the Morrigan herself turned the final blow aside, swept him up, and secreted him away in a hidden cavern.  There he would sleep as a King in the Mountain, waiting for the day he would once more lead his people.  But something went wrong.

His people did not stand against the invaders.  Instead they fled and the tales of the king and his deeds were lost.  Now his tomb lies forgotten beneath the mountain and Houska Castle rises overhead, it’s chapel covering its hidden entrance.  Christian prayers drift down to where the old king sleeps and have disturbed his dreams, telling him of the fall of his people and the loss of his legacy.

In the heart of the mountain the old king’s anger grows.

13. Vault of Chrome and Silicone – Ziny Flatline is the best hacker ever to dance through Cyberspace.  At 13 she’d run two megacorp mainframes.  By 16 she’d made her first smash-and-grab on the international bank-net, melting their black I.C.E. with software she’d written herself.  She dodged her first assassin less than 48 hours later.  For her 17th birthday an unknown corporate player sent her a gift courtesy of an attack drone.  She had just enough warning to escape before a missile turned her apartment building into a crater.  The rest of the residents were not so lucky.

It was all fun and games when it was only Ziny’s neck on the line, but seeing the collateral damage changed her outlook on life.  She used the funds she’d stolen to buy an abandoned pile of stone called Houska Castle and in the caves below it she set up a data vault of her own design. Then she assembled a team of like-minded hackers and they set out on a mission to fill the vault with a most unusual collection.

They collected malware of every kind.  Viruses, worms, trojans, rootkits, spyware, every piece of malicious code they could get their digital hands on.  They created the largest library of computer viruses ever assembled.  Now they take the viruses apart, examine their code, and compile new and more dangerous programs.  Their latest acquisition is a rogue A.I.

Ziny Flatline hasn’t said what her endgame is but you can bet it will be spectacular.



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Lich Convention!

Holy chrome!

It’s a lich convention!

I knew of this book from a posting earlier this year, but some of these photos are new to me.  These warm my Clark Ashton Smith-loving heart.

“Are you interested in seeing a dilapidated old church in the forest with a skeleton standing there covered in jewels and holding a cup of blood in his left hand like he’s offering you a toast?”

None for me thanks, I’m driving.

Against all reason and common sense, I would definitely go see a church filled with these amazing relics.  I guess I am an adventurer at heart.  Hope I have enough hit points.

“In other cases, leads—which he gathered through traveler’s accounts, parish archives and even Protestant writings about the Catholic “necromancers”—did pan out. He found one skeleton in the back of a parking-garage storage unit in Switzerland. Another had been wrapped in cloth and stuck in a box in a German church, likely untouched for 200 years.”

I am definitely in the wrong line of work.

“Accomplishing that was no small task. Nearly all the skeletons he visited and uncovered were still in their original 400-year-old glass tombs.”

Which explains why all Europe isn’t a necropolis.

“When he returned to that original German village several years later, for example, he found that a salvage company had torn down the forest church. Beyond that, none of the villagers could tell him what had happened to its contents, or to the body.”

The hand of the Bavarian Illuminati is clearly seen here.

There are so many ways to use this for role playing games.

1) Several of the most powerful liches in the world gathered together for a great ritual.  Unbeknownst to them it was a trap set by the unlikely alliance of Loki and Balder.  They were all imprisoned in crystal coffins and hidden away, but now shadowy forces are trying to release them.

2) The Thule Society backed by the SS are collecting these relics from forgotten corners of Germany.  The OSS isn’t sure what their plan is, but three psychics have gone mad since the first reports came in.  The allies are sending in a commando squad to find out what is going on and stop it.

3) To celebrate 50 years of peace the royalty of the 12 Kingdoms came together for a great banquet.  An evil witch cast a terrible spell, trapping their souls and corrupting their lands.  The kingdoms will remain haunted lands until the Divine Right of Rulership is released from the corpses imprisoned in their glass chambers.

4) The first expedition to Regulus VI has found something unusual, a crypt filled with jeweled skeletons.  The ruins above bear no resemblance to Earth architecture, but these venerated relics are disturbingly human in form.

5) The year is 1968.  In an attempt to improve relations with the west, the East German government has allowed a fantastic exhibition of these Catholic relics to visit Paris, London, and Washington DC.  Western agents uncover a plot to sabotage the exhibit, but are surprised to find KGB agents behind the plot.

6) The end times are drawing near and demons are slipping into our world, sowing chaos and pain in their wake.  After rescuing the skeleton of an ancient martyr an archeologist finds herself granted with divine grace, power enough to fight back.  Now she is in a race to rescue more of the martyr’s skeletons as well as others worthy to bear their holy gifts.

How would you use these macabre marvels?


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Posted by on October 1, 2013 in Cool Stuff, Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction


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Favorite Dragon and Favorite Monster

It was a busy weekend so I’ll play catch-up today.

Catching up with the 30 Day D&D Challenge!

Question 21:

What is your Favorite Dragon Type?

This is another tough one, but I’ve got to go with the classic, a fire-breathing red dragon.  From Smaug to the dragon who slew Beowulf, the fire-breathing dragon is the classic breed.  Burned cities and fields are the signs of their passing and forests of ash herald their lair.  I like all the evil dragon types, the blue in particular appeals to me with its lightning breath, but the red reigns supreme.

Question 22:

What is your Favorite Monster Overall?

My favorite monster overall is going to be the undead in general.  The undead are flexible, menacing, and iconic.  You can have an army of skeletons lead by a mummy, a vampire stalking a town, or a lich menacing an entire kingdom.  If you want to build a world with only one flavor of menace, the undead would be a great choice.  And as mentioned in my earlier post, the lich is my favorite undead.


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Posted by on September 23, 2013 in Gaming


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Zombie Jamboree

Zombie love is at an all time high, once again proving that gamers are ahead of the cultural curve.

Geeks, represent!

And when you’re going to fill out your army of undead, the zombie is an excellent choice.  Zombies are also flexible and easy to tailor to your specific gaming genre.  Modern day games have zombies born of disease who propagate through their bite, in fantasy they are the creations of necromancers and the children of the demon-lord Orcus, and when it comes to horror the classic Voodoo zombie is hard to beat.

But why stop there?  Here are some variations on the zombie theme that will help keep your players guessing.

1. The Conqueror Worm – The Fiend Folio introduced us to my favorite of the official zombie variations, the Sons of Kyuss.  “These ghastly undead appear as animated putrid corpses with fat green worms crawling in and out of all their skull orifices.”  The description goes on to tell of zombies that will pummel you to death, if you are lucky.  If you are not lucky a worm will leap from the Son and land on the hapless PC, burrowing into their skin like a rot grub, then bore its way to the victim’s brain.  “If the worm reaches the brain, the victim becomes a Son of Kyuss, the process of putrefaction setting in without further delay.”  The rules allow several opportunities for the victim to destroy the worm, both while it is burrowing into his or her skin and through spells while it works its way towards the victim’s brain.  But the player needs to think of these measures and carry them out, most likely at the same time the battle is still raging with the Sons.  Frantic terror is the result.

Sons of Kyuss are truly horrific beings that can bring all new terror to the classic zombie horde.  A good way to use them is to mix one or two in with a mob of regular zombies, which will have the added result that your players will never take a mass of shambling corpses for granted again.

2. A Fungus Among-Us – Another zombie creation trope is one that relies on fungus, spreading their infection through spores.  This is a popular one for modern day and science fiction settings, which is appropriate since scientists have discovered a gruesome real-life zombie fungus that thankfully only attacks ants.  At least… for now.  Again the Fiend Folio provides us with an excellent example with the yellow musk zombie, created from the pollen of the yellow musk creeper vines.

Fungus zombies also prey on our fear of airborne pathogens and open the potential for chemical weapons.  This is a great way for an evil mastermind to terrorize the populace, be it a wizard, mad scientist, or pulp alien invader.

3. Mind over Matter – Mind control is another staple of fantasy and science fiction and it makes a great tool for zombification.  Mind controlled zombies may be created via hypnosis, such as subliminal messages in film or backmasking in music, or direct mind control from a powerful psionic being.  Mind Flayers are good candidates for this, but there is a different kind of horror that comes from a powerful mind that lacks intelligence.  Unleash a telepathic creature who is capable of mass mind control, but whose motives are animal in nature; safety, food, reproduction.  The result would be something like the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  

4. Exorcise Routines – A variation on the mind control theme is divine or demonic possession.  Clerics of an infernal being capture subjects and enslave them to diabolic spirits who take over their bodies.  These slaves range out in hordes to capture more victims and drag them back to the demon’s temple.  When the cult has created enough thralls the demon will be unleashed on the world.

This breed of zombie should be imbued with a sinister cunning.  Because they long to increase their numbers they will attack from ambushes instead of the traditional zombie wave attacks.  They will stalk and surprise travelers and isolated communities, leading to the players entering empty villages that show signs of recent habitation.  “They mostly come at night.  Mostly.”

5. All that Glitters – This breed of zombie is a trap conjured up by a necromancer of especially insidious nature.  The party will encounter a zombie whose eyes have been replaced by diamonds.  After dispatching the beast the party will likely follow the standard, “loot the bodies,” procedure and pry the jewels from their sockets.  Then the curse begins to take effect.

Anyone in possession of one of the gems must make a saving throw each midnight or lose 1d10 HP.  If the character possesses two gems, two saves must be made.  If someone dies while possessing a gem they will be reborn as a zombie, their own eyes having hardened into diamonds.  The curse is on the gems, so disposing of them or casting Remove Curse on the diamonds will solve the problem.  Anyone killed by one of these zombies will likewise be transformed.

If the players sell the diamonds they may have a nasty surprise waiting for them the next time they visit town.

For a cyberpunk twist on this, replace the diamonds with a valuable skill chip that rewrites the user’s brain and writes itself to any other skill chips slotted by the victim.  Bad luck choombata.

There are plenty of additional ways to come up with new breeds of zombies and if you have ideas I’d love to hear them.  Two rules of thumb to keep your creations zombie-like are;

1) Zombies are mindless.  They may have an innate cunning or be guided by an external intelligence, but the zombies themselves have no will.

2) There is some method of spreading their numbers, a threat that the players and populace will join the shambling ranks.


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Favorite Immortal or Outsider

Day 18 of the 30 Day D&D Challenge.

Today’s question:

18. What is your Favorite Immortal?

“I am Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. I was born in 1518 in the village of Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel. And I am immortal.”

Running back to the outer planes, I’m going to go with the demon lord Orcus.

With his goat-like appearance, his rod of death, and claiming dominion over all undead, Orcus is an outstanding combination of classic demon imagery and fantasy notions.  His massive size and bloated form further combines power with decadence, as befits a demon.  I’m not sure why later editions began drawing Orcus as if he’d gotten a gym membership and a celebrity pharmacist to supply all his steroid needs.  Give me the classic Orcus any day.

Though I must admit to having one other favorite immortal.  Hey, I can’t be the only one whose gaming group kit-bashed rules for playing Highlander.

An immortal’s got to pay the bills too.


Posted by on September 18, 2013 in Gaming, Movies & TV


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Favorite Undead

We have hit the half-way point for the 30 Day D&D Challenge!

Today’s question:

15. What is your Favorite Undead?

The undead make some of the best monsters.  They touch on primal fears about death and the afterlife and remind us of our own mortality.  There’s a wide variety of undead, perfect for finding just the right horror to touch on your particular fear.  From skeletons to vampires, ghosts to wraiths, the undead are vomited up from the darkest parts of our psyches.  Perhaps the most horrific aspect of the undead is that they were once as we are now, that perhaps the only escape from mouldering in our graves is the cursed existence they represent.

There are a lot of great undead.  For low level nightmarish legions I have always preferred skeletons over zombies, no doubt due to the influence of Ray Harryhausen.  For sheer grotesque horror I have a great affection for the Penanggalan taken from southeast Asian folklore and first detailed in the Fiend Folio.  But ultimately there is one undead that reigns supreme, standing skull and shoulders over the rest.

The Lich!

The Lich!

The lich!  The most powerful of magic users who seek to gain immortality through blasphemous rites that transform them into sorcerers nightmares.  The lich is one of the apex predators of Dungeons & Dragons, able to wreak havoc on entire kingdoms.  Often they are the architects of the dungeons our delvers venture into, filling them with traps and monsters that defy rational sense.  With dark reality-shaping powers at their commands the adventurers can never know what to expect and the players know that everything they encounter is just a warm up for the undead master itself, lurking somewhere below.

The lich represents power and evil in a way few other creatures can match.  You can base entire campaigns on battles with these master-villains.


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Posted by on September 15, 2013 in Gaming


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