Monday, May 1, 2017

Looking forward

For reasons apparent to anyone that follows this blog, or checks my posting schedule, I'm very wary of making any future commitments, statements, or pretty much anything. However, I've come to two decisions recently.

1) I'll do up the random Arthurian characters tables (as taken from Culhwch & Olwen in the Mabinogion) as an issue of Secrets and put it as PWYW on RPGNow. I'm really taken with it, but I think it'd actually sell like shit and the audience of people that would actually be amused by it is probably limited to me.

2) I'm going to play around with Swords & Wizardry Light (visit Tenkar's Tavern for info on this). There's not a lot I like more than creating variants, alternatives, and additions for a game, and the skeleton of SWL is so slight it just seems like a (to be honest) low-investment way to scratch my itch. I like the idea of doing themed supplements (Forest Light, with barbarians, bards, druids, and scouts plus "forest" races"; Shadow Light with Shadowend specific material) or just setting out variant stuff like sets of races for different settings (ie forest, as above; Norse; Greco-Roman; Mars; Underdark; etc).  Plus, y'know, more monsters.

Not (3) A month or two ago I was playing around with creating different monsters that matched up to existing ones statwise. Ie, what might fill the role of a skeleton without being a skeleton? I've come up with at least two answers to that particular question that I'm kinda pleased with, and might explore it more via SWL and more developed game systems.  :)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

In which I wallow in nostalgia

I'd give my right leg to have not sold the 2e material I sold. And frankly, I wouldn't mind having the 3e material either. PDF is just not the same. I had shelves and shelves and shelves.  I understand why I sold it, and it still makes sense, but doggone it....

I'm (re)reading the Dragonlance Nexus's Adlatum gazetteer, a 300-page work detailing Krynn's 3rd continent. It's probably the most impressive fan-work I've ever seen, matching up to TSR & WotC in quality and readability, and ADDING new material to the setting, not simply rehashing old things.

I strongly and sincerely miss the setting-development TSR did back in the '80s and '90s. Nowadays it seems like it's all mechanics and systems, with page after page on the various internet sites filled with optimal builds and other crunchy tastelessness. OR, it's sniping at "modern" game systems and extolling the virtues of minimalism. Don't get me wrong; I love me some classic Greyhawk gold box, but sometimes it's nice to have meat on the bones. I'm a heretic - Carl Sargent's work was the high point of GH for me.

I guess I'm a grognard. :/

Sunday, February 12, 2017


I moved out of my house about 8 months ago, first into a sublet and then into an actual apartment with a roommate. Ironically, my roommate and I now seem to have -less- time to do things than we did when we lived separately. I consider her an on-the-go sort of person, but during one conversation she said she was amazed at how busy I was, bouncing between two households and my job and helping out other friends.

One of the things I'm working on is getting books out of boxes and onto shelves. It's a long process, because I don't want to fill every wall with books (at least not yet), but it's nice. I'm rereading a lot of material, including the First Law trilogy.

In the world of the First Law books, the Northmen have a concept of Named Men. Named Men are, literally, well-known fighters with established reputations. They don't have titles, but people follow them, and they in turn strike up alliances with other Named Men, or serve under them as de facto warchiefs.

Black Dow, Dogman, Caul Shivers, Glam Golden, Rattleneck, Crummock-i-Phail, and Harding Grim are all prominent Named Men. The Bloody-Nine is prominent enough to have a band of Named Men - those he's defeated in combat, but spared - as his followers.

It's essentially a literal, and more evocative, reading of reaching Name Level in D&D. Characters become famous, or infamous, enough to become a Name and attract followers. Most Named Men are fighters, but Dogman and Harding Grim are probably rangers, and Forley the Weakest could be a thief. (Forley was sent against the Bloody Nine by a village that wanted to send a champion, but knew it was hopeless - so they sent their weakest.)

I enjoy the First Law books a lot, but the appeal is really in the characters, not the world. Fading magic, burgeoning science, and weird-Earth history mashup cultures don't do much for me unless they're really well played. Top-notch writing, though.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

So now then....

Last year was....well, I separated from my wife and moved out of my house. Got a full-time+ job and lots of stress (seriously, the job is way more stressful than moving out. Probably a bad sign.) So...interesting year. I'm still eyeing this blog and it's slowly working its way back up the list of things to do.

There's a whole process of figuring out what I actually enjoy and still want to do that's ongoing. And how to occupy time now that I'm alone a lot more often.

Just thought I'd throw that out there.

(I'm actually doing really well. The separation thing is going about as well as I could ever ask; I've got a great apartment and a great roommate; I just need to figure out how to cook for just myself...).

Monday, April 4, 2016

A-Z Challenge and Lulu

So I'm completely flopping on this A-Z challenge thing. We'll see. Maybe today. I haven't got big goals, so....  :)

Lulu has a free shipping coupon today, APRMAIL. Shipping usually equals about 30% of my order, so this is cool and gets my attention where 10% or 20% coupons don't. I'm slowly building up my print collection of NOD: I just got 1-3, have 24-27, and just ordered 4-6.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Warding Hills & the White Hills

Last night I started off cleaning & organizing papers, and ended up reading through a bunch of my old Shadowend information. This seems to happen every few years, and helps remind me of the parts of this hobby I really enjoy. So hopefully there'll be some new material soon, possibly including a redraw of the map - I feel like some things need to move around a bit. ;)

In the meantime, have some hills.
(Edit: I just realize I'd posted the White Hills about five years ago. In my defense, it was five years ago. Still, Toadstone Hall is new.)

Warding Hills
These hills define the boundary between the Woodmarch and the Glittering Plain. Many of the hills are bald or partially so, the granite crowns exposed after many centuries of grazing and erosion. Numerous human thorps and gnomish warrens are tucked away in secluded valleys, along with goblin and kobold redoubts. The highlands are thick with the ruins of keeps, holds, castles, and dungeons; despite the fall of Asavar the Warding Hills are close enough to Roen and the Greenvale to foster settlement by those seeking seclusion but not exile.

Ierisstone Tower: Lodged deep in the hills, Ierisstone Tower is the lair of a very old, and very cunning, feathered manticore known as Truest. The tower is little more than a hollow shaft leading into a stone-roofed crevasse where Truest dens along with a small band of indigo-skinned goblins and several lascivious harpies. The harpies are a recent addition with a fondness for stealing children, a trait that Truest is trying to curb before it brings unwanted attention.

Warding Guard: This sprawling fortress lies in the southern hills, at the very edge of the Glittering Plain. Roenish soldiers stationed here patrol the southern verge of the hills and protect the hillthorps that seek their aid. Adventurers of every ilk are actively recruited here for missions into the Plain, to gather information or subvert, delay, or destroy any possible threats.

White Hills
These chalky hills are threaded with gnomish warrens, and the White Hills form the center of gnomish power in the Woodmarches. Travel here is swift and pleasant if the little folk are pleased with you, and nearly impossible if you have offended them or worse. A number of giant owls nest in the hills, and the gnomes have alliances with them, granting them the ability to fly swiftly and safely over the terrain to warn other gnomes or seek reinforcements if necessary. Gnomish control is not complete here, however, and a number of warrens and dungeons have been abandoned or lost over the years, primarily to magical or underground forces.

Toadstool Hall: An old but stately manor in the gnomish tradition (ie, mostly underground) located on the edge of the White Hills near Asavar, the lord of Toadstool is an elderly gnomish werebear, and a staunch defender of the region. Toadstool functions as a meeting place for a number of local factions allied against Asavar, including druids, the rangers of Eoghin, Roenish soldiers and patrols from Everglass, and the gnomes themselves.

Volgabaern Warren: The goblins and their allies hold this vast warren (once the gnomish winterhall Cynwualf) in a strategic location in the center of the hills. Attempts by the gnomes to regain the winterhall have met with defeat as the goblins have called upon powerful allies from deep beneath the earth.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Notable Warriors of King Arthur's Court

The notable warriors of King Arthur's court, as listed in Culhwch and Olwen. Roll 1d20 to randomly choose a notable. (Other warriors: Warriors I; Sons of Kaw; Sons of Erbin, Ermid, Iaen, Erim, and Nmyvre)
  1. Gwynnhyvar mayor of Cornwall and Devon (the ninth man that rallied the battle of Camlan).
  2. Gilla Coes Hydd (he would clear three hundred acres at one bound: the chief leaper of Ireland was he). 
  3. Sol (He could stand all day upon one foot .)
  4. Gwadyn Ossol (If he stood upon the top of the highest mountain in the world, it would become a level plain under his feet.)
  5. Gawdyn Odyeith (The soles of his feet emitted sparks of fire when they struck upon things hard, like the heated mass when drawn out of the forge. He cleared the way for Arthur when he came to any stoppage.)
  6. Hirerwm & Hiratrwm. (The day they went on a visit three Cantrevs provided for their entertainment, and they feasted until noon and drank until night, when they went to sleep. And then they devoured the heads of the vermin through hunger, as if they had never eaten anything. When they made a visit they left neither the fat nor the lean, neither the hot nor the cold, the sour nor the sweet, the fresh nor the salt, the boiled nor the raw.)
  7. Huarwar the son of Aflawn (who asked Arthur such a boon as would satisfy him. It was the third great plague of Cornwall when he received it. None could get a smile from him but when he was satisfied.)
  8. Sugyn the son of Sugnedydd (who would suck up the sea on which were three hundred ships, so as to leave nothing but a dry strand. He was broad-chested).
  9. Rhacymwri, the attendant of Arthur (whatever barn he was shown, were there the produce of thirty ploughs within it, he would strike it with an iron flail until the rafters, the beams, and the boards were no better than the small oats in the mow upon the floor of the barn). 
  10. Hir Eiddyl (attendant of Arthur).
  11. Hir Amreu (attendant of Arthur).
  12. Gwevyl the son of Gwestad (on the day that he was sad, he would let one of his lips drop below his waist, while he turned upon the other like a cap upon his head). 
  13. Uchtryd Varyf Draws (who spread his red untrimmed beard over the eight-and-forty rafters which were in Arthur's Hall)
  14. Yskyrdav and the Yscudydd (two attendants of Gwenhywyvar were they. Their feet were swift as their thoughts when bearing a message).
  15. Bwlch, and Kyfwlch, and Sefwlch the (son of Cleddyf Kyfwlch, the grandsons of Cleddyf Difwlch. Their three shields were three gleaming glitterers; their three spears were three pointed piercers; their three swords were three girding gashers; Glas, Glessic, and Gleisad. Their three dogs, Call, Cuall, and Cavall. Their three horses, Hwyrdyddwd, and Drwgdyddwd, and Llwyrdyddwg. Their three wives, Och, and Garym, and Diaspad. Their three grandchildren, Lluched, and Neved, and Eissiwed. Their three daughters, Drwg, and Gwaeth, and Gwaethav Oll. Their three handmaids, Eheubryd the daughter of Kyfwlch, Gorascwrn the daughter of Nerth, Ewaedan the daughter of Kynvelyn Keudawd Pwyll the half-man).
  16. Clust the son of Clustveinad (though he were buried seven cubits beneath the earth, he would hear the ant fifty miles off rise from her nest in the morning)
  17. Medyr the son of Methredydd (from Gelli Wic he could, in a twinkling, shoot the wren through the two legs upon Esgeir Oervel in Ireland)
  18. Gwiawn Llygad Cath (who could cut a haw from the eye of the gnat without hurting him)
  19. Ol the son of Olwydd (seven years before he was born his father's swine were carried off, and when he grew up a man he tracked the swine, and brought them back in seven herds)
  20. Roll twice

Bonus content from Strange Races

This is a small set of races that wound up on stickers on the backs of some of the copies of Strange Races. I'm rather fond of them, and will probably expand the setting a little bit in the future. It's north and a bit west of the Feathered Realm.

Akephaloi: The akephaloi are a humanoid race with their faces on their chests. They are broad of build, and live in underground caverns excavated from the earth. They are a friendly and hospitable people that prefer peace, but strong warriors, and even stronger earth-mages well able to defend themselves against anyone that favors war.

Aten: An elegant race with silver-hued skin, violet hair, and golden eyes. They were once ruled an empire, but were overthrown and now live surrounded by the crumbling remnants of their glory. They have minor psychic abilities and are gifted mimics. They have fallen far, and now do whatever they have to to survive.

Jouri: A pale skinned race, with red hair and yellow, cat-like eyes. They are tall and lean, with grim expressions and an indomitable nature. They claim to have been the aristocracy of an great kingdom, but no trace of this land remains. They are rare in this age, and live only in the ancient city of Imre, in the desolate northern mountains. Their natural craft is war, from martial combat to poison, and they work as mercenaries.

Ordali: They are short and slight of build, with serpentine hair. They have organized, logical minds, and are proficient engineers and musicians. They were once servants of another race, but rebelled and escaped en masse. They worship the god that led the revolt and brought them to freedom, and clerics have great power among them.

Tumae: A tall, sturdy race of humanoids with golden skin, dark hair, and blue eyes. They live in small underground city-states, but travel frequently and have established many hostels, inns, and waystations where they meet and trade information. They have an affinity for magic, and their rulers are powerful but corrupt magicians.

Verex: A large, ogre-like race with spines in their scalp and arms. They are violent raiders that inhabit the western plains beyond the mountains. Although verex raiding is frequent, the various tribes are scattered and disunified, so they rarely form hordes large enough to pose a serious threat. They worship an eclectic and bloodthirsty pantheon headed by a thunder god. The jouri of Imre are the only people to have defeated the verex on every occasion, and the verex fear them accordingly.

Saturday, February 6, 2016


My job is two different aspects. In the build season, I travel. In the off-season, we stay put. This is my first off-season, so it's a whole new set of tasks. Up until now my bosses have worked out of their homes (or coffee shops, as boss #1 has 3 young kids at home AND his wife runs a daycare), but two weeks ago we moved into real offices. Now I've got a nice, warm (everyone else bitches about it; I don't understand what's so terrible about having circulation in my fingers and getting to wear a t-shirt in February) office that I share with one other person. I've never had an office. It's all very exciting.

This is an amazing time. Specifically, the internet is amazing. Last week I was using Google Street View to "drive" through a small town in Romania. This place is small enough and remote enough that horse-drawn carts are still a regular thing (the google van passed at least two), and I can sit here and see it as my leisure. You want to lay out a realistic village? Everything you need is at your fingertips.

I'm happy about the 5e SRD and the fact that it uses the OGL. I can honestly say WotC exceeded my expectations in a good way. The DMs Guild setup is excellent as well. There's a good chance I'll dip my toes into some of it, but as a casual exercise and (to be honest) to make a little scratch. Convert some stuff from 2e; something along those lines.

I'm not feeling a super-strong urge to tinker with 5e, just to kind of poke at it a bit. I do feel that a lot of my strength in RPG design is in riffing off of existing material; I don't feel I get the epiphany idea very often that lets me draw something out of nothing. I like making lists and seeing what clicks, and crossing different ideas. I need a starting point.

I have a few lists of 3rd-part OGC character races that I might toy with converting, and I'm seriously considering digging out my 2e material to sort through the kits. Basically make a list of all the 2e kits from the various books, and probably all the 3e class variants from Mongoose's Quintessential books, and look for stuff that sparks ideas (the mongoose books aren't great mechanically, but they usually got a lot of ideas packed into a small space and are good places to start if you want a lot of concepts fast).

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Winter Tidings

The winter and early spring months are my primary writing time. December through April, more or less. Sometimes it stretches into May or June. A big chunk of that is due to weather. I more or less grew up out-of-doors. My family is big into hiking, camping, canoeing, skiing, and other outdoorsy things. I don't play computer games, and tv-watching is just about nil (I do watch Netflix, but binge-watching for me is two movies or 4 episodes in a week).

This year, I also started a new job that requires intensive travel in the fall and spring, which means I've been away for much of the past 4 months. I put in 13-14 hour days on the job, which means I get back to the hotel room, read a book for a bit, and fall asleep.

I just finished the last build of the season yesterday. I'm home. It's getting cold out. And my "game-brain" has started waking up. I've got old business to take care of (reprint Secrets 1 & 2), stuff that's been intended but not finished (Secrets 3; something for NOD; revise The Basic Illusionist for print sale; the Complete Illusionist), and new things I want to work on. I make no promises about any of it, but I'm not dead yet.  :)

Stuff For Sale

I'm cleaning house, and have put a few things up for sale on Amazon. Feel free to  email me at nellisir at with questions. I'd love to get rid of these ASAP; they are literally sitting in padded envelopes ready to go out right now. (Edit: I might cut you a bit of a deal if you contact me directly, but I'm not going to give them to you.)

The Scarlet Brotherhood
Thunder Rift
Tome of Horrors II
Way of the Thief
Way of the Daimyo
The Hidden Emperor
Complete Exotic Arms Guide

I have a few other books that I'll post about later. I don't put items on Amazon that aren't hopefully going to get me at least $12-$15, so it's mostly lesser-valued books.