Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Scenario Seeds: Obelisks III

Obelisks III

Javver huddled in the dark. Shivering. Bleeding. Praying that that thing snuffling around in the cellar couldn't smell his blood. No one had told him that there were Snouters under the old Apothecary-Shop. No one had warned him that the obelisk was a sending from some sow-queen of Kalkendru. His teachers wanted to see how he handled their little test.

What kind of a person carves an obelisk from the trunk of a tree dragged across the threshold from the Purple Forest? And in an attic no less. Why would they sacrifice all those penguins, bats and pigeons to the thing, smearing it all haphazardly with feathers and blood? Who is that behind you?

Oneiroliths are notoriously unstable. Half-solidified phantasmal residue left behind by inattentive Dreamers or sloppy Oneirists. The Red Watch maintains a watch-list of recently-reported oneiroliths, just like they chalk-up unverified spottings of Black Smoke and keep tabs on any rumors of Red Weed or Scarlet Plague outbreaks. They used to consider such things potentially dangerous. Some academic was concerned that the Red Weeds might latch onto one of these things and somehow grow into the local Dreamspaces. It hasn't happened yet. Not that anyone's reported. These days the Red Watch tends to concern itself with real threats and actual dangers. They just don't have the budget nor the manpower to do much more than maintain a list no one cares about any more. So when the report came in of an oneirolithic obelisk it caused a bit of turmoil back at the Main Office. Suddenly everyone wanted access to the list...

 Zoogruth trotted along leisurely, distracted by contemplation of abstract matters. The Fourth Theorem was troubling the old Phorain. She just couldn't reconcile it to her recent observations. Red dust coated her flanks, covered her taloned feet. It reminded her of dried blood. The old days. Not every mercenary managed to escape the mind-bondage most of the hard-line Zurian clans insisted upon. But then not every Phorain had her talent for sorcery. She turned West at the broken pillars of some ruin no one bothered with. Down the narrow defile behind the canopy of clutchy-thorns. Across the small trickling brook all milky-white with alkali-salts. Down. Around. Down some more. There was no path, save in her memory. No one else knew about this spot. This place. Her refuge. There. The obelisk loomed crookedly in the steep-walled crater. This was where everything changed for her. This was where she had learned her first spells. Each one deciphered and translated from the inscriptions on that obelisk. Her obelisk. She never heard Janeska's killing spell.

The old warlords who ruled over Rushtalm had struggled long and hard to overcome the stigma of having a human taint to their blood. For six generations each of them had waged terrible, costly wars upon all their neighbors. Each one was immortalized by an obelisk commemorating their victories. The seventh obelisk remains unadorned, its upper third broken off in the course of the sacking of Rushtalm following the death of the last warlord. No one will speak his name in Rushtalm. It is considered a terrible curse. A reminder of his failure and their loss and the city's fall from preeminence. There are whispered rumors and muttered prophecies of an Eighth Obelisk, the arrival of some heir to the tainted lineage of the old warlords, a return to the greatness of the old days. The janissaries patrolling the muddy streets of this dismal place just wish whoever it was would get on with things so they could either execute them or leave once and for all.

Here's the map. Like I promised. Thanks for the Black Mead. That'll help me sleep tonight. So look here. There are three islands. South of the third reef. Well past red-walled Viridang. They don't ever patrol this far South, so don't worry about them. Each one of these islands is less than a mile across at its widest. All three have a huge obelisk of heavy blue jade at their centers, surrounded by low-walled mazes and writhing vines and the like. The vines are harmless; the things will grab at your boots but they avoid fire. Don't leave any wounded behind, as the vines will take them. Slowly. The screams will last for hours. The bloat-fish with their massive, toothy maws are considered the worst of the prowling things one must keep on guard against. Especially the farther inland one goes. The waters surrounding these islands are fair infested with fist-sized poisonous crustaceans, green-shelled inedible things with stings and pincers. They'll avoid anything coated with mucous, so maybe you'd best see about making some sort of deal with an Octoscholar; they have a few spells along those lines that might prove useful. Just don't tell them where you're going. Not under any circumstance. Oh, and those trees drooping along the inner lagoons of these islands aren't trees at all. They're some kind of anemone. And they will be watching you every step of the way. Burn them. Or else. Damned things massacred my crew. I only barely escaped, far from unscathed, as you can see. Surgeon won't remove the thing. It is too deeply embedded into my flesh now. It's not a bad replacement-hand, all things considered, but it keeps me up at night with its sing-song warbling...

Monday, December 30, 2013

Obsolete Simulations Roundup: Fringeworthy

Exploring the Pathways to Infinity

One person in 100,000 have that unknown quality that makes them 'Fringeworthy.' You are one of them. These are your adventures...

Fringeworthy was first published back in 1982. I picked up my copy at the Little Tin Soldier shop on University Avenue in St. Paul after it was recommended to me by one of the shop's staff who was familiar with my writing efforts. We would discuss our respective writing projects and our respective gaming experiences fairly regularly. Those were good times. In any case, I was writing about gates in my stories and using them in my current campaigns. He handed me the blue covered Fringeworthy book and told me to take a look at it--this guy in Michigan had published a game based on gates. I flipped through the thing prepared to scathingly dismiss it as rubbish. You know how 19-20 year-old writer-gamers can be. Plus I was an artist sending out work to lots of small-press zines at the time. I could get pissy about the art as well. But I didn't. I bought the book.

108 pages. Durable softcover. Large, readable type. Two column lay-out. Packed with random tables (P. 94 has a one-page Alien Design sub-system made-up of random tables that Mr. Raggi might appreciate). There's a character sheet, world sheet and more in the back. This was the total package-deal. This one book was all you needed to go exploring the portals left behind by the Tehrmelern...oh yeah...those guys...

Ahem. More than a million years ago the Tehrmelern civilization established a network of inter-dimensional pathways that spanned time and space. These highly advanced beings explored and colonized and studied millions of worlds for a significant period of time, before they ran into a monstrous, implacable enemy that rapidly wiped-out the Tehrmelern civilization, leaving behind their inter-dimensional network of pathways.

Then, a team of Japanese scientists working in Antarctica discovered one of the ancient Tehrmelern gateways. It was quickly discovered that only a select few people, 1-in-100,000, had what it takes to get the portal to open, or for the ancient alien technology to respond. Those rare individuals became known as 'Fringeworthy,' and there you are. It's a very nice set-up for either a novel or a role-playing game, and in this case it was both. The creator of Fringeworthy, Richard Tucholka, a big Sci-Fi fan, was writing stories set in this universe from back in the seventies. The Fringeworthy setting grew out of his earlier attempts at fiction. There is a strong current of classic science fiction running through this stuff. Sure, the use of gates is nothing new, not by a long shot, and no one with any familiarity with the Sci-Fi of the Golden or Radium Ages would ever take seriously any claim that he 'invented' spinning, round gateways to other dimensions. But what Tucholka did was to make his version both engaging and intriguing, as well as playable. You can quibble about the rules, the lay-out, the typos, etc., etc. and most reviewers have; but the core concepts at the very heart of this game are fun and worthwhile and endlessly intriguing. That's why we see other games like GURPS Alternate Earths, Gatecrasher, Rifts, Torg, Lords of Creation, and so on. None of these games 'invented' this 'gates leading to alternate world/timeline stuff;' even Charles Fort had precursors. But each game, every author, makes the idea of cross-dimensional gatesways over in their own image, and provides a different approach to things. What Tucholka succeeded in creating was an engaging and unique setting. But we'll come back to that.

Fringeworthy is considered by some to be the first alternate history adventure role-playing game ever published. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. I can't say. It came out during a time when there were very, very few Sci-Fi rpgs out there, so this may well be true. It is also claimed that Fringeworthy may have helped 'inspire' the Stargate franchise, but this has never been acknowledged that I am aware of, and no lawsuit was filed, so the situation remains a bit murky. Seems like most, if not all, role-playing games tend to have skeletons and potential litigation lurking in their closets, doesn't it? Let's forget the claims and rumors and crap and focus on the game itself.

The first two editions of Fringeworthy featured rules derived in large part from The Morrow Project. This means that the rules for combat were Extremely Simulationist to the point that you could use a copy of Jane's Defense Weekly at the table as an in-game supplement. Hit location. Rate of Fire. Rate of Load. Hydrostatic Shock Modifier. Yeah. If you like guns, this system is very real world. It's also playable. I've played in a game where these rules were used and once you get used to it, especially if you have some ex-military types at the table. But it is not everyone's cup-o-tea, not by a long shot. I found it way too involved and clunky, but there are those gamers who really, really love this sort of crunchiness. So it's a matter of personal preference. A more abstract/simplified option might have been a good idea, but that's second-guessing decades after the fact...

The system used in the early editions of Fringeworthy is pretty much the same base system used in all of Tri-Tac's classic line-up of rpgs like Bureau 13: Stalking the Night Fantastic and FTL: 2448. You roll 4d6 and subtract 4 from the result for your character's Characteristics: Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Agility, Intelligence, Wisdom, Luck, Charisma. Then you roll a d100 and if you get 3 or under, your character has Psionic ability. There are the usual suspects like Hit Points, as well as Crystal Use; your character's ability to use the 'crystal keys' left behind by the Tehrmelern. You get Military Training (well-done on only half a page!), Body-building rules, Skills and Education, and Languages. Each section has examples; snippets from 'The Ed Power Story,' that really help it all make sense. The Difficulty Rating chart on P. 15 is an almost eerie precursor to the D&D 3.x approach, but using percentile dice, not a D20. There's also a Difficulty Randomization chart to change things up each time. The Annoyance chart on p. 16 always gives me a laugh; it's a nice variation on the stock Charisma Reaction roll. There are a lot of charts and things that could be ported over from Fringeworthy to the older editions of the classic game with little to no effort. You could also bring in fantasy characters to liven things up, if that's your thing. So character-building is somewhere between D&D and Traveller, but not as complicated as it might seem at first, and thoroughly old school-ish, meaning things aren't as streamlined, nor as well organized, nor as pretty as more modern rules. There's also not that much unique or special about the rules per se. They're fairly stock rpg rules circa the early Eighties. That probably makes them too clunky or excruciatingly lackluster for non-grognards looking for prose executed with contemporary sensibilities and shiny new mechanics. Most of the prose has the patina of classic Sci-Fi, and the mechanics are pretty old fashioned. So in that respect, this game is probably obsolete. It's a matter of taste, and tolerance. It is not the easiest game to play. Like any rules-set it could have been made better from some editing, revision and better lay-out. So could most new games released in the last year. But that's old news, like these links...

There is an entry at Wikipedia for Fringeworthy that has been sanitized for your protection and comfort (all unverifiable rumors and unsupported claims duly removed). RPG Geek has a review of the First & Second Editions of Fringeworthy, as well as a separate review of the Third Edition, though neither page offers very much information, and there's another page with all of that stuff rolled into an umbrella entry for Fringeworthy that includes the D20 Edtion as well. Grognardia did a nice summary/retrospective back in 2011. Steffan O'Sullivan did a fair review of the Third Edition. There's a slightly more critical review of the 10th Anniversary Edition at RPG.net. There was also a suggestion to fans of the old Sliders show that Fringeworthy could be adapted to play-out adventures in that fictional milieu.

So that takes care of the old, arguably obsolete aspect of the game. Now things get more interesting.

Fringeworthy isn't dead. Tri-Tac is still in business, despite a raid by the FBI back in 1994. Remember what I said up above about the setting of Fringeworthy really being the star of the show? Well, the setting is slowly spreading out into other systems. The game is still alive and well and has been adapted to the D20 Modern rules and there is an effort underway to convert Fringeworthy over to Savage Worlds...though there hasn't been much news on that front for a while now. In any case, there's a page devoted to the various editions of Fringeworthy, and you can still buy a pdf version of any of the editions you might be interested in, so you can slog through the classic version or try out the spiffy new D20-ified version of the rules to your heart's content...or your group's collective threshold for such things.

There's a weekly podcast. There's a slightly quiet Fringeworthy Yahoo Group. There are Forums dedicated to Fringeworthy as well as all things Tri-Tac, and the Tri-Tac website links to quite a few of their old games and a few handy resources.

So...Fringeworthy is not dead. Maybe the folks over at Tri-Tac could use some encouragement to help motivate them to complete work on the Savage Fringeworthy rules. I'm still waiting to see Mr. Tucholka publish his long-gestating Fringeworthy fiction...

The Obsolete Simulations Roundup blog-hop is being hosted by The Savage Afterworld blog. Thanks to Tim Snider for setting this blog-hop into motion!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Obsolete Simulations Roundup: SPI's Universe RPG

The Role-Playing Game of the Future.
A Comprehensive Presentation of the State-of-the-Art Science Fiction Role-Playing System.

(It says so right on the cover...)

As a game, Universe is most well-known for the large poster-map of the near stars. That map is still amazingly cool. It gives the spectral class, X/Y/Z coordinates, and a master table of distances between major star systems. This was as close to a 'real' star map as anyone had ever done for a Sci-Fi RPG. It evoked a sense of 3-D volume in a way that the hex-mapping in Traveller never really quite captured. It remains one of my personal, all-time favorite maps from an RPG. It's a really great map.

"It is the 24th Century. Mankind, searching for its destiny, has begun to explore and colonize the Milky Way. The stars themselves are now man's playground; they are also the seat of his greed."

From the Introduction

SPI, (Simulations Publications Inc.) brought out the Universe RPG in 1981. This was to be SPI's answer to the Traveller rpg. It was a full-blown science fiction role-playing game that came in two books (and one poster-map), in either a box set or a no-frills Zip-Bag set. I own the first edition Zip-Bag set of two books and the map. I picked up my copy from The Little Tin Soldier shop on University Avenue in St. Paul in 1985. The zip-bag set had gotten stuck behind some other stuff and consequently had been overlooked. My copy of this game has sat on my bookshelf for a long, long time. Every now and then I dig it out and read through it until my eyes glaze over and I put it back on the shelf. The content is generally fairly decent, for the most part, but the presentation is not particularly friendly; everything is laid-out in three columns of very small (10-point?) serif-type (justified), and without any illustrations, except for the planetary map samples in the back of the Adventure Guide. These are some densely-packed rules; nearly collapsium-level in their compressed and condensed presentation. The decimal notation can also scare off non-wargamers, but that's far less of an issue compared to the teeny-tiny type.

In some respects, Universe is a Sci-Fi heartbreaker. It was designed in reaction to Traveller, and while it does address some things that other games have tended to ignore or gloss over, it can go overboard in other areas, and it fails miserably in terms of providing enough details for the setting to become more than a very generic place-holder...

The setting is quickly sketched out in the one page introduction. There are psionic powers. Psionics provide the teleportation/hyperjump capability that allows for faster than light travel. Most of the habitable planets within 10-20 lightyears of Earth have been settled by ethnically-concentrated groups originally sent off by one of the old national powers. In the meantime, Earth itself was unified under a one world government, the Federation of Planets, and most of the current population and industry of Earth now occupies orbital space habitats. The Federation controls interplanetary trade, but generally tries to keep out of local affairs. Each planetary society runs things pretty much as it likes, on its own soil. Usually. The primary form of currency is the Tran, which is short for 'Transfer,' and not the usual, generic 'credit.' Robots are commonplace. Alien creatures are a major inter-planetary commodity, but so far there has been no contact with intelligent aliens. So far...

It's not a bad start...but there are not too many more details provided. In some respects Universe feels like a system in search of a setting. What little is offered in the Gamemaster's Guide feels extremely generic and woefully inadequate. Perhaps it would have worked better for SPI to have made the game a generic space opera rpg tool-kit. Maybe. But that's second-guessing decades after the fact. You could perhaps try to find out a bit more about the 'official' setting by taking a look at SPI's Star Trader and Delta Vee board games, or you could track down old, out-of-print back-issues of the original Ares magazine, or the Ares Section in some of the old  back issues of Dragon magazine. Or you could just drop the already minimal setting details and use the system to build your own galactic empire or whatever. If you like the system...

The System is very methodical and is backed-up with a bunch of charts, tables and log-sheets. You will need all those tables, charts and log sheets. And scratch paper. And probably a calculator. It might also help to develop a few planets first, then let players build characters based on the characteristics of those planets, since the character generation process takes into account the character's heritage and environmental background. The combat system is a nightmare, but then a lot of old rpgs have terrible, clunky, non-intuitive combat systems. The section on how to manage encounters is a deal-breaker in most instances. It was the final straw for my group, and the main reason the game has remained on the shelf, and not at the table, all these years. But aside from that...

Character Generation is very detailed, and is covered in 13 steps that take you from 4 Potential Modifiers (Physique, Coordination, Intellect, and Social Background), to Study Points, to determining the character's natural habitat/home environment (including skill levels in all environs, gravities, your character's preferred temperature range, and skill level in urban areas), to social standing (which affects family history, initial wealth, and skill points).  Then you spend those study points, choose initial skills, and determine the character's 9 Characteristic Ratings. After that, you choose a profession, decide how many years you practiced this profession, deal with aging effects, calculate skill points, choose the skills, then figure out what benefits you get. The Character Generation rules are parallel to Traveller in many respects, only the cashing-out phase of your pre-adventuring career is determined by one die roll on one table, which could probably have been handled better. It looks complicated, because, well, it is. But some of that detail is actually kind of cool. What other game has you determine how your character handles various environs (terrain-types), gravities and temperature ranges on a handy little graph right on the character sheet? The range of skills is pretty comprehensive and is not that different from other, more modern games that like to load things down with comprehensive laundry lists of skills. The tables really help make this go a lot more smoothly than it might, though an example or two might have helped a lot more. There are a lot of choices to make, and it is amazing just how much detail is packed into so few pages. Some of these ideas are really quite good, very well thought out. Making things like the gravity of your character's homeworld have a direct impact on their characteristics is a great idea.

The Solar System and World Creation rules are interesting. Very streamlined and relatively simple, compared to other games. Universe uses a set of circular maps that are more abstract than the usual approach, but then uses a variation on the tried-and-true hex mapping approach for the regions of a planet actually visited by the players. The circular planetary maps represent the world, moon or asteroid as seen from the poles. Each ring is a different temperature range and environmental type. There are examples of how to use the World Logs in the Adventure Guide, for the initial adventure Lost on Laidley. This is very different from the icosohedral and other approaches used to map out planets. It feels very arbitrary as well as slightly awkward, to orient everything from the poles, when most maps are oriented looking at the Equator, but it does map-out the variations in temperature, so it does have some merit. It just never really captured my fancy, so to speak. Apparently it didn't exactly spark a new mapping fad back in the day, either.

The Alien Creature rules are set up as a series of four increasingly detailed descriptions that are provided to the players when certain conditions are met. Each creature listing could easily fit onto a 3x5 index card with room to spare, and while that is kind of neat, this is a fairly weak part of the rules. This approach cranks out a lot of improvisation-fodder in a small space, but in the end these are all one-shot/gonzo monsters, not functioning members of a working ecology. The creatures are pretty silly in some cases, but how they are described to the players in-game is a very good idea that is well worth porting over to other systems. That might just be the one really cool thing I like most about this game. Next to the map.

The Robot Rules are based on a chassis that modular units are then mounted on. It works, but could be expanded a bit. There's a pretty good robot-building system in here, especially considering this was produced in the early Eighties. The idea of building a robot based off of a chassis, using modular parts, is a great idea. This approach could also be adapted for Automatons, Golems, Animated Statues, and so on in a fantasy context. Another good idea to borrow...

The Starship Rules were based on a set of 17 standard Hulls that you mix-and-match with various 'Pods' in order to customize the ship into whatever configuration you want. It reminded me somewhat of the General Products hulls from Larry Niven's Known Space stories. The modular rules for Starships in Universe may have inspired a similar system used in the Bughunters campaign from The Amazing Engine, according to one source. It is an interesting approach and is well worth looking at for some inspiration for how to make a modular approach to starship design really work, in terms of rules mechanics. This modular approach is another idea worth borrowing...

The Verdict...
Overall, the Universe RPG packs a lot of crunchy-detail into a small space, and there are some very good ideas in this game that could be ported over to other games. Some of the tables could be lifted and plopped down into another game with little to no effort. But as far as the game itself, it just doesn't feel complete. The setting is extremely sketchy, to the point that it could easily be jettisoned, allowing the rules to be used as an engine for an entirely new setting. But the rules are still somewhat clunky in spots, and the Encounters and Combat sections are a dire mess and need to be replaced. The psionics system is really weak, compared to the initial set-up in the Introduction. There are absolutely no rules in the core game for handling intelligent aliens, though there was supposed to be a supplement dealing with aliens in the works. The Creatures rules are woefully inadequate; there's no provision for domesticated beasts, pets, nor any sort of genetic engineering. The incompleteness of some sections invites tinkering, while the overly complicated sections invite revision and editing, if not total overhauling. But the lack of a setting on top of these things makes one wonder what's the point? Is there any point in adopting, adapting and revising a dead old sci-fi rpg? I'm not sure...

Reviving the Universe RPG?
Universe may be an orphan product/abandoned property. SPI was acquired by TSR back in the Eighties. Then TSR was acquired by Wizards of the Coast. Part of the TSR catalog was sold-off to Decision Games. In the course of all this, Universe may have fallen through the cracks. James P. Goltz has a note regarding the Copyright Status of Universe at Sourceforge. The Trademark was allowed to expire and does not appear to have been renewed. The full text of the game (and quite a bit of the SPI-produced supplemental material) is available for download, for free, online. For example...

The Gamemaster's Guide, Adventure Guide, and some other things like the Delta-Vee tactical space combat game are available for download at the Universe RPG project pages at Sourceforge.

There's a pretty detailed and well thought-out Review of the Second Edition (1982) at RPG.net.
The entry for Universe at RPG Geek is fairly light, but might be of interest.
Wikipedia has a very detailed page devoted to Universe.
The venerable Grognardia did a retrospective on Universe back in 2010.
There is a Yahoo Group. John Rauchert maintains a webpage detailing a bunch of resources for Universe. There's also an archive of one brave soul's efforts to meld Universe with GURPS.

It also looks like there is an effort to revive Ares Magazine, with a kickstarter set to launch in January 2014. You can read more about it at the One Small Step Games blog.

Maybe there's some life left in the Universe rpg after all...maybe...I don't know. Even after all these years, Universe leaves me ambivalent. I really do still like the map though...

The Obsolete Simulations Roundup blog-hop is being hosted by The Savage Afterworld blog. Thanks for setting this into motion!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

WIP: Square Two

My hand still hurts. I'm taking another day off. Hope to be back tomorrow for the blog-hop.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Oneiric Encounters I

 have just begun to navigate a strange region; we must expect to encounter strange adventures, strange perils...
The Terror, by Arthur Machen

Oneiric Encounters Table I (1d20)
  1. A swarm of beetle-pigs stampedes past. They leave quite a mess behind them.
  2. A smallish Oneiric Vortex shimmers and fluctuates in the immediate vicinity for 1d4 Turns, then collapses with a wet popping noise.
  3. Six mice in blue surcoats, armed with tiny rapiers, are on a quest for a great green cheese. They scurry past and quickly descend into a rabbit-hole that closes after them.
  4. A bed flies overhead. Someone is riding the thing. They wave as they go past.
  5. (1d4) Dream Snails have caught your scent.
  6. A school of moth-winged fish flutter past. There's a 30% chance that some prowling predator may be following the school.
  7. A wave of roiling, boiling Dreamscum rolls across a section of the surrounding area at an angle quite different to your own orientation.
  8. A slightly larger Oneiric Vortex swirls into close proximity and spins menacingly for 1d6 Turns before dissipating without a trace.
  9. (1d4) Transparent Giant Spiders with 1d8 scowling faces in place of eyes. They are always bickering among themselves. Those with fewer than eight faces are always looking to add one more.
  10. A very disoriented Miasmagaster Spawnling mewling and spewing for its siblings. Even in dreams, these things stink terribly.
  11. (1d4) Feral Simulacra fight and claw their way up out of some barely coexistent region of nightmare. Each one resembles a distorted version of whomever first observes them. They are desperate to switch places, even going so far as to assault their originators with the intent to cast them into the nightmare realm in their stead. They are naked, unarmed, but will have access to spells equal to their originator.
  12. Things start to look kind of wet. Then you realize that you've blundered into the midst of a massive Dream-Jelly. Thankfully it is currently occupied with the frenzied mob it is manipulating in the material regions of some world you're unfamiliar with. Perhaps you can avoid attracting its notice.
  13. A 6 HD Mind Slime floats past, completely oblivious to everything. It is under the effects of an Oneirist's Dream-Binding. Interfering will break the binding and release the ungrateful, nasty creature.
  14. Foul, miasmic tendrils of gellified madness and congealed hatred twist and writhe within the immediate dream-vicinity of a dying Harpy Tormentor. Come closer. She would appreciate a final victim before her passing.
  15. Someone recently cast Oneiric Bubble on a space that impinges on the Dreamscape close to here. You can see it shimmering and shiny in the near distance. There's someone inside. It looks like an Aegogur. The new wand it was trying-out did not do what the Jaladari said it would do.
  16. (2d4) Umbral Troglodytes slither out from the Vortex in pursuit of a more physical existence outside of the regions they used to occupy deep within the collapsing umbral-substrata of the Oneiric Cacophony of Zalchis. They thought they had found a point of entry, but that Oneiric Vortex collapsed, trapping half their number somewhere they can't reach any more.
  17. (2d4) Grunters are out hunting and gathering on behalf of their Mistress, an ambitious young War-Sow from Kalkendru. They do not realize that they have become disembodied dream-things enslaved to their mistress. It probably wouldn't make much of a difference if they did know the truth of their situation. She did not select them on the basis of their critical thinking ability, only their loyalty.
  18. A Rarebit Fiend has noticed you. Maybe they want to be friends?
  19. The shriveled black gem-shard of a broken Hasnamuss streaks past on its doomed trajectory. You can almost hear its fossilized screams as it passes.
  20. A Saiitii Manifestation has taken root in an abandoned attic lined with Yellow Wallpaper...and there is a Loathsome Mass leaking into the room from next door. This has created a weird oneiro-fungal infestation that has completely baffled every curious oneirist and incautious dreamer it hasn't out-right consumed or infected. Perhaps there are experts and scholars at the Academy who might reward those who alerted them to such a thing?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Bujilli Delayed

Jim scalded his left hand, making typing difficult, so Bujilli will be delayed. Please feel free to continue to cast your votes and make suggestions on Episode 72.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Nadume of the Ashen Maze (Zalchis)

"It is also said, in a more quiet voice, among the nihilomads who send their young girls to wait at one of the sacred wells for Nadume, that she might teach them certain spells and grant them such blessings as are in her power to bestow. Of course such things come at a price. But what use is a soul, what value does it hold for those who prowl the fractured perimeters of broken universes, rifling through the ruins of shattered worlds and places that by rights ought not to exist any longer? Of course it is not only the Nihilomads who seek out Nadume. There are others who would bargain with Her..."
from: Elegy of the Ashen Maze

The Lady...
Not quite a goddess. More than any mere demon. Nadume walks a dim and twisting path haunted by more things than just ghosts. For a small quantity of your blood she can tell you your fate and for a portion of your soul she can help you to forget. She will condense your liver into a gem or armor your brain within a labyrinth of glistening metal, if you meet her price. She also knows how to open the way to many desolate and abandoned places where a clever person might find something of more than passing value. But one must be careful in bargaining with Nadume, for she has many uses for men's souls.

Lamias fear her, succubi revile her, the barren hags of the razor crags mock her, but none of them can claim to have rejected the Tyrant Himself, who once sought to make her one of his sacrificial concubines. It was on account of the unwanted advances of the Tyrant of Zalchis that Nadume first donned her smooth, silk-silver mask to conceal her once legendary beauty. No one has seen her face in over a thousand years. Some say that Nadume no longer has a face any more, that she has become an empty spirit, one cursed to spend the rest of what days remain wandering the ashen wastes where once a mighty forest grew...

The Ashen Maze...
Bitter, barren and twisted...the Ashen Maze is a place beyond mere death, past destruction. Once it may have been some sort of interstitial wilderness, a verdant place full of life and living things that coiled and wound about thousands of worlds and underneath or behind multitudes of universes. Oh it was a marvel to behold then. Before the Tyrant of Zalchis murdered a cosmos and brought death unto the Hidden Forest.

Zalchis. Uttering the name in this place smears broken glass in a festering wound. It is blasphemous to speak that name here where the cancerous mechanical influence of that damned and doomed place lingers like an open and gangrenous wound of malevolent sorcery and toxic spite. It also draws the attention of unsleeping, unliving things that endlessly prowl the burning and bleeding edges of this realm where the age-old wrath of the Tyrant continues unabated, implacable and relentless. The region of ashes grows. The Old Woods die. In their place an empty place of sour echoes and poison shadows grows.

The burning, the killing, the despoiling continues. It is the will of the Tyrant. It is the price of Nadume's freedom. It is the intolerable bargain she struck for Herself...

Symbol: Her name inscribed as a cartouche within an opal, usually in a dead language.
Talisman: Silk-Silver Mask
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 14 (Regenerates 2 hp per Turn)
Attacks: 1
Damage: 2d6 (Life Drain), or by weapon
Save: C14
Morale: 10

Immunities: Charm, Domination, Gaze Attacks, Hold, Hypnosis, Illusion, Sleep, and Trap the Soul.

In addition Nadume only takes half damage (none if she Saves) from poisons, toxins or venoms (including radiation).

She cannot be summoned, but she can be Communed With and Contacted, if one knows the proper spells or has access to one of her opals.

Nadume Turns Mechanical Organisms and Machines as a 14th Level Cleric turning undead. (see p. 9, Labyrinth Lord.)

She uses spells as a 14th level spell-caster. Spells per day: 6,5,5,4,3,3,0. She has access to a formidable repertoire of unique spells, some of which are featured in the three Glyph-posts (links directly below). Full details of Nadume's grimoire of spells will be provided in The Ashen Maze pdf.

Spells of the First Glyph-Stone | Spells of the Second Glyph-Stone
Spells of the Third Glyph-Stone

Nadume appears most like a humanoid female. Her silk-silver mask obscures her features, large, hollowed-out opals cover her eyes allowing her to Discern Souls, Detect Magic and possibly more. Her shadow will sometimes slip away on strange errands all on its own. Her gloved hands can either harm or heal for 2d6 per touch. Sometimes she wields a weapon. Usually she prefers her spells.

The Veiled Hags of Ashadan claim that Nadume is immortal and will survive the ultimate death of Zalchis. The Sibylls of Kalrush refuse to speculate about such things--they fear this woman who spurned the Tyrant. The other Powers active within Zalchis tend to ignore or dismiss Nadume as she is trapped within the Ashen Maze and of little consequence to their schemes. Most suspect that her realm will collapse into nothingness soon after the final ending of Zalchis. If not, it will be of no matter; the Tyrant's Wrath will not end with Zalchis, if anything it will continue to destroy her realm for the rest of forever. In that, if nothing else, Nadume has indeed achieved some measure of immortality.

Nadume trades in souls. She is revered by the Soulless, despised and reviled by those faiths that would claim their follower's souls for their own purposes. Her favor comes at a steep price. It is left to those who pay her to decide if it is worth the cost.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Lorveer's Mask

Lorveer's Mask

Psyche:  8, INT:  12, Willpower: 23 , Morale: 6 (can be improved by wearer's CHAR bonus, as hireling/henchman)
AL C, AC 3, HD 6 (withstands 40 hp damage before crumpling into a sizzling, green mess of molten metal that slowly flows from one plane to another for the next 1d100 years.)
Communication: Telepathy (only with wearer).
Languages: Crowmish, Viletongue, Wermik (Lesser and Casting-Cant), Sibillant. Note: No other languages can be used by wearer while the thing is in-place. The mask does not recognize them as legitimate forms of speech.
Detection Powers: See Invisible, Detect/See Magic, Discern Intangible, all at will, while mask is worn. Wearer can attack or perform spells normally while using these abilities, as they are considered to be always in effect. Darkness and Continual Darkness have no effect on the wearer of this mask.
Spell-Like Powers: Clairaudience (up to three times per day, but must remain stationary), ESP (up to twice a day, but cannot perform any other action while in use), Vision of Other Planes (once per day).
Other Powers: Wearer gains +2 bonus to Saves versus other-planar effects and is rendered immune to draining attacks from undead under 10 HD. When worn, the mask grants the wearer a +4 bonus to their AC, but also forbids them to wear anything heavier than studded leather. Those who don this mask can never use Holy Word ever again, if it was in their repertoire. The wearer can negotiate with the mask to perform Plane Shift. Details of such an arrangement are left up to the parties so involved.

Vain, ancient and not entirely of the same plane upon which it was discovered, Lorveer's Mask has wandered across numberless regions and zones of consciousness and experience, and it will tell you all about it, if you prove yourself worthy of its hard-won wisdom and guidance. Fashioned from seamless panels of hammered and burnished Plattnerized brass over a thin layer of lead and lined with a speckled violet and gray fuzz, the mask is very comfortable, once it allows itself to be worn. The single eye-gem takes some getting used-to, but it provides excellent depth perception, despite being cyclopean--literally--the eye-gem is a crystallized cyclope's eye. At least that's what the current lore surrounding this mask asserts.

There is a growing body of information regarding this particular relic-mask. Mostly this consists of warnings and advice along the lines of what former wearers wished they had done way back when they had the chance. Even the most scathing reviews and critical assessments of this mask agree that the thing is quite good at what it chooses to do, what it is interested in doing, and completely terrible at all else. Willful, stubborn and highly opinionated, Lorveer's Mask tends to be egotistical and very restrictive, always setting conditions and requiring negotiation for every little thing, unless one can overcome its vaunted ego or break its will. Many have tried, few have succeeded. Those that have made the mask a partner or colleague have gone on to impressive things, but then they also left the mask behind once they got there. Many modern scholars consider entering into an arrangement with this mask to be a means to an end. One should probably have an end in mind before taking it up. Or not.

No one claims any real expertise in dealing with this uppity mask from beyond. The most common practice is to use the thing for a specific task, rite or ritual, then hand it off to some other sucker host. It is sometimes passed-off as a gift to students deemed to be getting too big for their britches.

Upon encountering Lorveer's Mask for the fist time, each person involved should perform a Reaction Roll as though they were a potential retainer. A negative result causes the Mask to remain inert and disinterested in the character. Any further attempts (limited to one fresh attempt every 1d4 days) will require some sort of sacrifice or offering before-hand. All subsequent failures at this Reaction Roll will result in the Mask using one of its powers to cause mischief (30%). There is a cumulative 10% chance of it teleporting away with each failed attempt.

On a successful Reaction Roll, Lorveer's Mask will deign to allow the character to wear it. The Mask grants the wearer a number of advantages, all of which it will point out in excruciating detail over the next hour or so. It will also specify the ground-rules as it desires things to be from now on. The wearer must then either accept the mask's dictates, or attempt to re-negotiate. Every sacrifice or offering given to the mask nets the wearer an additional +1 on their Reaction Rolls for one day.*

Surrendering the mask to another, potentially more worthy wearer (someone who rolled a good Reaction Roll), allows the former wearer to relinquish the mask with no ill effects. Should the new host fail their Reaction roll, the mask will inflict 2d6 damage on the current wearer and deny them use of the mask's powers and abilities for 1d4 hours. It cannot be removed during this time, however it can be removed afterwards. Each time the mask is removed incurs a -1 penalty on subsequent Reaction Rolls. Every hour the mask goes without a host wearing it also incurs an additional -1 penalty to Reaction Rolls. If the mask is abandoned, it will Plane Shift away...but it will never forget, nor forgive the one who abandoned it.

*Appropriate sacrifices for Lorveer's Mask consist of feeding it werms, worms and anything similar. Each HD of worm-like thing fed to the mask will placate it for an hour. It will also accept serpents, with some complaining and reluctance. It will not touch grubs. No one has discovered why it is reticent in this regard, at least not yet.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Malevolent Vestiges (Zalchis Bestiary)

Malevolent Vestige
No. Enc.: 1
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 200' (Immaterial/Levitation)
Armor Class: 3
Hit Dice: 8+
Attacks: 1
Damage: 2d6, or 1d4 per Round within Area of Effect
Save: F8
Morale: 6

Special:Unaffected by Charm or Sleep spells. Completely silent, they Move Silently (80%), and if that fails it is because of the reverberation of their internal psychic echoes being felt by their prey. They cannot Hide in Shadows, as they are made up of phantasmal wisps of light and energy. Darkness spells cause them damage (usually 1d6 per level of caster). Continual Darkness forces them to Save or collapse into a form of gritty residue for 1d10 hours. Every 4 points of damage they inflict allows them to drain 1 point from any Attribute for the next 8 turns. Any Attribute drained to zero will cause the victim to become undead (CON), a mindless drone (INT), a quivering host (STR), a petrified fossil (DEX), a mind-draining voidskull (WIS), or a hideous residuum (CHAR).

Broken, fractured things that were once living, thinking beings. They are mindless emotional echoes now, the lingering psychoplasmic residue of the defunct, the fallen, the extinct. Pure instinct and reflex, intuitive and irrational, these vile remnants seek out the vulnerable and the weak to consume their lifeforce. They are the appetite that remains after all else has gone. And they will devour the mind, body and soul of the unwary if given half a chance.

Intro to Zalchis | Zalchis Index | Zalchis Bestiary | Zalchis Grimoire

Player Resources: Zalchis | GM Resources: Zalchis

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday Summary: 12/16 to 12/21, 2013

Here's a quick summary of what we've posted to the blog for the week of  Monday 12/16 to Saturday 12/21, 2013.

The Rarebit Fiend managed to escape our hard-drive after over two years of being trapped in a forgotten file of rough-drafts. Now we'll be making up for lost time. We have a few more Windsor McCay inspired posts to polish-up and get posted once and for all.

Princess I---, is the second Pre-Generated Character for the impending Zalchis Scenario: Cold Start, that we'll be hosting at Con of the North this coming February. The character sheets for these Pre-Gens will be made available in pdf format once all eight intro-bits have been posted, one at a time, at Midnight. Prince S--- also went up last night. We're purposefully not giving these characters a specific name, only a beginning initial, so that the players can choose a name they prefer. It's the least we can do, what with them all having fallen more or less into the clutches of The Machines of Ludenja...

The Blunderbore also escapes from our hard-drive after years of digital wandering. This denizen of the Public Domain is also a survivor, after a fashion, from our very first campaign. An outcast half-giant brigand. They only ever got three chances to do their thing, back in the Seventies. Maybe they'll do better now that they've been slightly updated...

Lord H-- has now entered the ranks of those potentially going to Zalchis this coming February...

Yellow Creepers escaped from our hard-drive, finally. We have a few more things in the key of yellow that will be showing up shortly.

We also posted our Behind the Scenes Overview for The Gravelands, our set of inter-connected adventures for Swords & Wizardry. With luck we ought to have one or two of the pdfs up and ready to go at DriveThruRPG either really soon, or after the Holidays, depending on how the schedule works out. (Having missed three months has really taken a toll on this year's schedule...) The pre-release/raw versions of Taglar's Tomb and Baljessor's Crypt are already available at our blog, but both have been revised, expanded and converted into a pay-what-you-will pdf. Two of these adventures, Grave-Robbing in Xanibet and Shifting Sands will make their debut at Con of the North in February.

Lady C--- has claimed her place as a possible Player character for the Zalchis: Cold Start Scenario we'll also be running at Con of the North, using a modified mash-up of Labyrinth Lord & Mutant Future.

Bujilli: Episode 72 Screams. Blood. Monsters. We're really back in Wermspittle now. There's a poll for this Episode. We'd appreciate your feedback!

Field Officer L--- is now available as a Pre-Generated character to consider for the Zalchis: Cold Start game.

One more long-delayed post finally makes it out to the blog, this time it is the dreaded Saiitii Manifestations, inspired by William Hope Hodgson's The Whistling Room, one of our favorite Carnacki tales. We'll be getting the Vermiform Appendix, our Wermspittle-centric version of Appendix N posted soon.

We're also gearing-up for the Obsolete Simulations Roundup blog-hop, hosted by The Savage Afterworld blog.

Champion A--- joins the cast of Pre-Gens for Zalchis: Cold Start.

We revealed the First Glyph-Stone, one of the strange opals one might encounter within The Ashen Maze, Zalchis and certain points beyond. We'll be detailing three of these gems, for now. Nadume knows of dozens more.

Warrior Z--- is now an option for Zalchis: Cold Start.
One more to go, then the set of eight will be fully introduced. Then we'll post the Character Sheets.

Next Week
A few things got moved around again. The Queue is full, but things might shift about some more, so we'll skip mentioning what's in store, aside from mentioning that we are planning on posting our contribution to The Zones collaborative cross-blog project hosted by the FATEsf blog, and we're working on a pair of entries for the Obsolete Simulations Roundup blog-hop being instigated and hosted by The Savage Afterworld blog, as well as getting things in order for our hosting the January 2014 RPG Blog Carnival with the theme Transitions. More details to follow as things get done and scheduled.

Checking Comments Every Tuesday (Bujilli)

From Now On...
I'll be checking and responding to the comments on each episode of Bujilli every Tuesday. This will give readers a regular reminder about the current episode, as well as facilitate a bit more discussion. It'll also allow readers to ask questions, get answers, and then respond based on the new information. 

Series One  |  Series Two  |  Series Three  |  Series Four
Series Five

Introduction: The Story So Far...

Starting Page  |  Central Index

Bujilli's Spells | Little Brown Journals | Loot Tally | House Rules

Series One (Episodes 1-19): Quick Index  Episode Guide
Series Two (Episode 20-36): Quick Index  Episode Guide
Series Three (Episodes 37-49): Quick Index  Episode Guide
Series Four (Episodes 50-68): Quick Index  Episode Guide
Series Five (Episodes 69-Ongoing): Quick Index  Episode Guide

Labyrinth Lord

ZPG8: [Transmission Glitch]

"Where am I? This doesn't look anything like the brochure..."
Intro to Zalchis | Zalchis Index | Zalchis Bestiary | Zalchis Grimoire

Player Resources: Zalchis | GM Resources: Zalchis

 Zalchis: Cold Start
Cold Start Pre-Gen Characters

ZPG 1  ZPG 2  ZPG 3  ZPG 4  ZPG 5  ZPG 6  ZPG 7  ZPG 8

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Spells of the First Glyph-Stone (Nadume/Zalchis)

Not just any opal, this precious stone pulses and flashes with the rhythms of a soul that resides within. It is, if anything, an animate object. A living thing. In its own way.

The Glyph-Stone is very much aware of its surroundings and awake, even intelligent. Often more so than those who would covet or carry the thing.

Psyche: 8, INT: 12, Willpower: 22, Morale: 10
AL N, AC 3, HD 4 (Withstands 36 points of damage before exploding in a 4d8 fireball).
Communication: ESP (30' radius) and Telepathy (touch).
Languages: Aklo, Ashadanix (Hag-Speech), Vorut, 1d4 random additional languages.
Detection Powers: Clairvoyance, Detect Magic, Read Languages, See Invisible.
Spell-Like Powers: Banishing Glyph: Disperse Saiitii InfluenceOneiric BubbleProtection from Aethyrial Intrusion, Safeguard Against Outermost Forces, Thought Wall, and Zone of Normality.
Other Powers: Carrying the Gem will slow one's aging process by a 12-to-1 ratio, in other words every twelve years they only grow older by one year. Unless they lose the Gem, in which case they must make a Save for every deferred year of aging, each failure aging them one full year instantly.

The Gem will gladly bargain with anyone who carries it longer than an hour.

A Dubious Offer
For one year of the bearer's life, the Gem will teach them any of its Detection Powers as a spell, or it will teach them one of its Spell-like Powers for two years of their life. If the bearer knows Nadume's Mark, the Gem will settle for 1d4 months in exchange for any one of the spells.

What the Gem does not mention is that the time exchanged is not simply drained-away, it is the amount of time that the Gem is allowed to take possession of the body of the person making the bargain.

A Better Deal
The First Glyph can be used pretty much as one would use a Holy Word spell. It can be unlocked by those willing to make an investment of 1d4 hit points for an additional 5% chance to 'unlock' the First Glyph. Success in this effort imprints the First Glyph onto the psyche of the investor, making it a spell castable as any other in their repertoire, but outside of the usual spell-slots. It can be cast once per day, even when all the spell-slots are used-up. However, the glyph consumes one language slot. If the character does not have an open language slot, they will lose one of the languages they already have learned in order to accommodate the first glyph. Those who unlock the First Glyph accrue a cumulative 1% chance per month to access another spell from the Gem for a similar investment of hit points as before. In this manner one can avoid the Gem taking possession of their body.

A Final Offer
The Glyph-Stone can, if the one holding it so desires, transfer one of their non-physical Attributes (INT or WIS) into itself for safe-keeping. Doing this grants the bearer a permanent +4 bonus on all Saves against Mental, Emotional or Oneiric attacks or effects. It also renders them effectively immortal. They no longer age and gain a form of regeneration; they regain 1d8 hit points of damage per level of spell they sacrifice to the Gem. Spells sacrificed in this manner are permanently lost, so the Gem will suggest that they use other people's grimoires, not their personal spell-books. Scrolls deliver double the usual amount. The Gem can also teach them how to drain magical items in order to convert those energies into replenished hit points. If asked correctly, the Gem can also reveal several methods for vampirically draining life energies from living victims. But in each instance, the gem will seek to bargain for more and greater concessions from its host.
Nadume is the only being to whom these Glyph-Stones owe any sort of loyalty. They serve Her as though She were a Queen in Her wasted realm. They come when She calls to them. They obey Her commands. They do not serve Her enemies.

Spells of the First Glyph-Stone | Spells of the Second Glyph-Stone
Spells of the Third Glyph-Stone

ZPG7: Warrior Z---

What use is a warrior without their legs? Without the use of their right arms? With only half a face? It is a shameful way to die, to out-live the glory in such a broken body.

It cost a great deal. But living out the remaining days in such a state was intolerable. Unacceptable.

It is amazing what becomes acceptable under such circumstances.

In Zalchis things would be different...
Intro to Zalchis | Zalchis Index | Zalchis Bestiary | Zalchis Grimoire

Player Resources: Zalchis | GM Resources: Zalchis

 Zalchis: Cold Start
Cold Start Pre-Gen Characters

ZPG 1  ZPG 2  ZPG 3  ZPG 4  ZPG 5  ZPG 6  ZPG 7  ZPG 8

Friday, December 20, 2013

Saiitii Manifestations in Wermspittle (Red Bestiary)

The development must have been going forward through centuries, to have produced such a monstrosity. It was a true instance of Saiitii manifestation, which I can best explain by likening it to a living spiritual fungus, which involves the very structure of the aether-fibre itself, and, of course, in so doing, acquires an essential control over the 'material substance' involved in it. It is impossible to make it plainer in a few words...
The Whistling Room, by William Hope Hodgson

These things are an invasive species of insidious spiritual fungi that infest abandoned properties, empty rooms and forgotten places. Saiitii Manifestations tend to be slow-developing threats that build-up over time. They are also quite intelligent, but along lines very differently ordered than rational human beings. They will often attempt to mislead investigators into believing that they are confronting a poltergeist or something similar, all the while feeding upon their growing confusion, fear and despair. The Saiitii grow fat and powerful on the suffering and turmoil of incarnate beings.

According to the available literature and incomplete records of various intrepid survivors of encounters with these dreadful Manifestations, the Saiitii spirit-fungus may be susceptible to Holy Word (they must Save or be driven into the Near Aethyr, if successful on their Save they suffer 1d6 damage per Level of Cleric. They gain a +1 bonus on such Saves per HD/Level, so this is most effective when applied early on in the infestation process.)

So far there has been no substantiation of the claim that wounds incurred within the area of effect of a Saiitii Manifestation have an abnormal chance of becoming infected or diseased. Needless to say, any proof in this regard would be of great interest to Unnatural Philosophers and other such scholars who have an interest in these sorts of things.

Saiitii Manifestations
No. Enc.: 1 (Special)
Alignment: Chaotic (Outer Zones/Evil)
Movement: n/a on physical plane, extend across Lower Astral and Aethyrial regions.
Armor Class: Improves by 1 per Level from a base of 9. See Immunities below.
Hit Dice: Gains 1d8 per Level
Attacks: 1 (Pseudopod, Spell or Persistent Phenomena)
Damage: 1d6 per Level, by Spell, or Pervasive Fear Effect (using a modified version of the Cleric Turning Table), or Persistent Phenomena (see below).
Save: As Cleric of Level equal to HD.
Morale: 11

Special: Saiitii Manifestations grow increasingly impervious to most physical attacks, gaining a +1 to their Save against physical attacks (Failure means half damage, Success means no damage). They perceive events around them through a combined form of Clairvoyance and ESP that operates continually in a ten foot radius that expands an additional ten feet per HD/Level. Saiitii Manifestations cast spells as a Cleric at a Level equal to their HD. They also have a number of Persistent Phenomena that they employ both as a form of defense and as a way to cultivate and create negative emotions upon which to feed.

Their Pervasive Fear Effect is based off of the Cleric Turning Undead Table (see Labyrinth Lord, P. 9). [Results of "-" means those within the thing's area of effect are aware of the all-pervasive atmosphere of psychic oppression but otherwise unaffected. A Result of "T" means that the person affected must make a Save or succumb to the effects of a Cause Fear spell; those who successfully Save suffer a draining of 1d8 hit points per Level of the Manifestation. Results of "D" mean that the victim suffers 1d8 damage per Level of the Manifestation as well as being affected by the Fear effect with no Save. Where a number is indicated, the Manifestation must roll 2d6, as a Cleric would, and roll higher than the number listed to affect the victim. Those so affected are allowed to attempt to Save, otherwise they suffer the effects of a Cause Fear spell.

Persistent Phenomena
Saiitii Manifestations can maintain one of these area effect Persistent Phenomena for 1 hour per HD/Level. They must cease the Phenomena in order to cast spells or use another form of attack.
  1. Sporadic Mad Piping: Inflicts a -1 penalty to Saves against madness and insanity every hour exposed. 
  2. Contemptuous Hooning Mockeries: Disrupts concentration, makes it impossible to regain spells while in effect. Clerics exposed to this effect must make a Save every hour they are exposed or suffer a complete loss of all spells for one hour. Clerics cannot recover their spells while this Phenomena is in effect, and they must leave the area of effect for 1d4 hours and it is strongly recommended that they make use an Atonement or Bless to facilitate the complete recovery of their spells, preferably from another Cleric.
  3. Seemingly Incessant Whistling: Causes a cumulative -1 penalty to all Saves versus Fear Effects. Also deranges victim's sense of the passage of time, causing those affected to feel as though minutes were hours or vice versa. This time distortion effect randomizes the ongoing healing process of those affected, as well as spell recovery rate, and rest. Fighters and other action-oriented characters must make a Save each hour or become restless and agitated, with a cumulative 20% chance to go berserk.
  4. Pernicious Whispering Echoes: Disturbing voices at the very threshold of awareness make sleep impossible, cause a -1 penalty to Morale every hour exposed, and reduce any CHAR Bonus a character might have by -1 each hour as well. Spell-casters (other than Clerics) must Save or suffer a form of paranoia coupled with intense dread; they must make a Save to cast any spells while they remain in the area of effect of the Manifestation. This effect will pass within 1d4 hours of no longer being in the area of effect. Optional: missing the Save could result in a spell casting mishap...

Eight Spells Attributed to Saiitii Manifestations
Brutally Malignant Note
Level: 3
Duration: instantaneous
Range: 10' per HD/Level of caster.
Causes all exposed to suffer a -3 penalty to Initiative, -2 penalty to all Saves, and a -1 penalty to Hit/damage rolls for one hour. The Manifestation can repeat this effect once per day per HD/Level.

Create Malignancy
Level: 4
Duration: Permanent
Range: 10' per HD/Level of caster.
This spell spreads the Saiitii fungal infestation by one cubic foot for every 20 hit points the caster has drained from victims. Once cast, the Saiitii entity has a 30% chance to gain one HD or Level. The cost in terms of hit points drained increases by a cumulative 20 per casting, even if the spell fails to give the creature an increase in HD/Level. Saiitii Manifestations can only cast this spell once per month.

In some cases, it is suspected that certain instances of Saiitii Manifestations have been able to improve their intrinsic HD without going up in Level, but this deviation from observed practice has yet to be acceptably verified.

Fist of Shadows
Level: 2
Duration: instantaneous.
Range: 10' per HD/Level of Caster.
Caster forms a massive, shadowy fist to strike out at victims. The fist is equal to a +1 weapon for purposes of determining a successful hit. It inflicts 1d4 damage per HD/Level of the caster, however the victim gets a Save, success indicating only half damage is taken.

Fungal Growth
Level: 2
Duration: 6 Turns
Range: 10' per HD/Level of Caster.
All non-magical fungi within area of effect expand and grow rapidly, producing a host of troubling shapes, disturbing stains and a foul-smelling region surrounding the caster that lingers until purged by fire, acid or spells.

One Mad Yell
Level: 3
Duration: 6 Turns per HD/Level of Caster.
Range: 10' radius.
Victims must Save at -2 or suffer the effects of both Cause Fear and Confusion spells for the duration of the spell.

Residual Depletion
Level: 2
Duration: 1 day per HD/Level of Caster.
Range: 10' per HD/Level of Caster.
Those exposed to this effect lose all bonuses from exceptional attributes, including their Prime Attribute for 1 day, per HD/Level of the caster. This draining effect can be immediately remedied by resorting to a Bless spell.

Shadow Surge
Level: 2
Duration: instantaneous.
Range: 10' per HD/Level of Caster.
Causes all shadows in area of effect to coalesce and flow rapidly towards target. Those struck by the condensed shadow-stuff must make a Save or suffer effects of Cause Fear spell. Successful Save means that the victim gains a +1 bonus to subsequent Saves. Failure causes a lingering -1 penalty to such Saves that persists for 1 day per HD/Level of caster.

Spore Barrier
Level: 2
Duration: 2 rounds per HD/Level of Caster.
Range: 10' per HD/Level of Caster.
Forms a fetid, shimmering haze of spores that gum-up lanterns, surround torches and open flames with smoky, choking clouds that reduce visibility and movement by 50%.

"Once, about midnight, I did break the seal on the door, and have a quick look in; but, I tell you, the whole Room gave one mad yell, and seemed to come toward me in a great belly of shadows, as if the walls had bellied in toward me.Of course, that must have been fancy. Anyway, the yell was sufficient, and I slammed the door, and locked it, feeling a bit weak down my spine. You know the feeling."

The Whistling Room

The Saiitii Manifestations originally appeared in William Hope Hodgson's excellent Carnacki the Ghost Finder series as the source of a peculiar form of haunting as detailed in the case of The Whistling Room. Hodgson has had a tremendous influence upon our work on Wermspittle, Zalchis and other projects. His novels The Nightland (at ProjectG) and The House on the Borderlands (at ProjectG) are incredible, we love them both dearly, but they are only two of the amazing stories Hodgson produced before an untimely death. Besides Project Gutenberg, you can find a lot of his work on Wikisource. His Carnacki stories are some of the best in the Psychic Detective genre and we highly recommend them to anyone interested in things pertaining to investigative horror, ghost-hunting, etc., whether at the table in a game or fiction. Carnacki is very much like a Sherlock Holmes of the supernatural. You can find most of the Carnacki tales online at Project Gutenberg, or you can click over to Mr. Rowland's wonderful forgotten Futures site and take a look at what he has done with the Carnacki tales for his Forgotten Futures game. It's really quite good and we're hoping to get the opportunity to play in a FF game one of these days. You might also enjoy clicking over to the Nightlands website and the William Hope Hodgson blog, both are quite excellent resources for all things Hodgsonian. And yes, we are still at work on a series of digital paintings inspired by Hodgson's Nightland, so that one work-in-progress that we posted last December won't be so lonely for much longer.

We cannot over-state Hodgson's overall impact and influence on Wermspittle and his works are some of the first entries we've added to the Vermiform Appendix; our list of influences and references for Wermspittle that somewhat parallels the Appendix N of classic D&D. You'll be seeing more Hodgsonian inspired monstrosities and fungus-things in the weeks ahead as we finally get a lot of the accumulated back-log of old drafts posted once and for all...