Navah: The Cave of the Winter Wolves

Ian, Josette, and Ignar hunted the last of the winter wolves, assisted by Brendan, a hunter who had arrived too late for the main fight. Brendan was poorly equipped with leather armor for legs and arms, but he did have a visored bascinet and jacke armor for his body. He was accompanied by Erin, his wolfhound. Ian brought his last hunting dog, Sergei. Josette was followed by her fire elemental, the naked Lystdogga, and Fiona the Selkie.

The party tracked the wolves to a cave, where they made short work of the remaining three wolves, who were normal enough. They discovered a chimney heading up and an underground stream with three feet of air above it. They crawled down the stream until it connected with a second cavern system, which had a passage heading down and a puzzling set of depressions in the wall. They solved the puzzle of the depressions and a secret door in the stone appeared and opened. They left Ignar behind to keep the door opened and entered. They found a series of caverns decorated with snake and lizard motifs, and filled with deadly traps. Two humans had entered a thousand years before and paid the price.

The party avoided several traps, found numerous examples of art featuring snake-headed humanoids, perhaps the lost race of the Seveysas, known more commonly as “The Snakes.” At the end of a passage, they found a stone sarcophagus, but as they moved closer they felt warmth in the cavern, then a warm gentle breeze and the smell of orchids.

Turning, they found the tunnel behind them had been replaced by a dense tropical jungle, from which issued six man-sized lizards with pointed teeth, a razor sharp 10 inch claw on each foot, and evil dispositions (Velociraptors). They launched themselves angrily on the rear of the party with flying kicks with their toe claws. The mage was hit in head and leg and was knocked unconscious immediately, bleeding copiously. Sergei was cut in half, and Erin was ripped open in the hindquarters and fell whimpering to the floor. Lystdogga immediately ran to hide behind the sarcophagus, while Brendan and Ian readied their shields and moved forward to combat. The fire elemental, its master unconscious, floated motionless above them, illuminating the battle. Brendan’s new jacke armor saved him from several nasty strikes to the abdomen, but his leather armor did little to protect his leg. Ian was in half-plate, and as the best melee fighter in the party, he managed to evade every blow. The two men slashed the lizards to the floor, and Brendan then cut their throats while Ian wrapped the mage’s wounds. He failed to do so for poor Erin, so he called Brendan to assist. Brendan could do no better, but tenderly held Erin and wept as she slowly bled to death.

A velociraptor lunging to the right.

The Lystdogga chose this moment to leap out and shout, “Yay, we got them!” A moment later, he said, “oh, too soon?” and crept back to his hiding place. Brendan and Ian looked at each other and agreed silently. Ian took one of the lizard legs that had been cut off, and approached the Lystdogga. The small naked creature, sensing the malice directed at him, tried to grapple the leg away, but Ian swung the leg and its attached razor sharp claw down into the Lystodogga’s backside for a grisly wound that slew him instantly. They later told Josette that the Lystdogga had been killed by the lizards.

After skinning the lizards, they took the mage and skins back to the entrance of the cave, then built a fire and melted the snow enough to bury their two dogs. They spent the rest of the night there, and in the morning returned to the village, where Josette was healed by the village witch. The party sold their pelts, but the trader refused to buy the razor sharp toe claws that Ian had brought, claiming that they were demon claws.

The party returned to open the sarcophagus, and found both gold and jade worth about 4,000 s., a great haul indeed. As they left, Josette mentioned seeing a depression in one of the walls, of the kind that had opened the initial secret door. The party ended for the night, uncertain if they wanted to return to the caverns.

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A List of Lovecraft’s Arkham Characters

When I was prepping for an Arkham campaign, I went through Lovecraft’s stories and put this list together of all the characters he mentioned. If you are running Call of Cthulhu (COC), you might find it useful.

Lovecraft’s characters in Arkham

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Village & Town Maps

My players tend to be wanderers, moving from one town to the next. That means I have to have a lot of town map templates ready for them. One way I do this is save every town map I can find on the web, and index those as “town of 200 houses,” “town of 41 houses,” etc. But since those are copyrighted, you’ll have to find them yourselves. There is, however, a random settlement generator available at Wizardawn. It is called the Mutant Settlements generator, and it generates a map, numbers the buildings, and then creates a description of what is in each one. I didn’t like their content generator, so I built my own to fit my milieu, but the numbered maps were just the ticket! One of the issues I ran into was that the maps I wanted were too large to be taken as screen captures, and there was no download feature, so I pieced some together. I’m sharing a few of those out with you here, so you don’t have to go through that trouble (unless you want to!). The nice thing about these is that if you need less houses, you can just take the map into a Paint program ( is my favorite) and remove the ones you don’t need.

Map of village of 178 houses

map of village of 178 houses

Map of village of 299 houses

map of village of 299 houses

Map of village of 436 houses

map of village of 436 houses

Map of village of 635 houses with Mechland. This was Ostenfeld village in my Mutant World campaign. A Mechland is a farm run by robots.

map of village with 635 houses & a Mechland (robotic farmland)


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Stone are My Walls

I got into an argument with the missus, who claimed that the performances on the Shai Dorsai! CD were different from those on the Songs of the Dorsai album from 1983. I claimed they were exactly the same and used Jacques Chretien as an example, but she insisted that some of them were different. An hour of surfing later, I think she was right. Some of the performances are definitely the same, but there are others on the web who agree with my wife. Apparently there was an acrimonious break-up of the group that put out the first CD that may have rendered it difficult to use some of the original performances. And I’m sure a few were remastered in hopes of improving them. At any rate, here’s one of our favorite songs from that first CD. Music and Lyrics by Ann Cass.

Stone are my walls, and my roof is of timber,
But the hands of my builder are stronger by far.
The roof may be burned and my stones may be scattered,
But never her light be defeated in war.

I am the heart and the core of the Morgans.
Many the battle, around me, was fought.
Many the year has gone by since my building.
Each of my stones, by a life, has been bought.

Long was the work and hard was the building
From under the hill and the forest so wide.
My stone, that is piled in the place of her choosing,
Is mortared with bone of the men who have died.

Blood paid the price of this hill that I rest on
And blood pays the price of these lands that I see.
The price; it is fair for the rights that it purchased.
Within my gray walls, ye shall ever stand free.

I am the heart and the core of the Morgans.
Amanda; she built me and I shall remain
A home for the heart of the men that may leave me;
A beacon for bearing their way home again.

Stone are my walls and my roof is of timber,
But the hands of my builder are stronger by far.
The roof may be burned and my stones may be scattered,
But never her light be defeated in war.

PS: I got hooked on these songs when I went to a science fiction and wargaming convention in South Bend, Indiana, in 1980. Robert Asprin (1946-2008), a member of the Dorsai Irregulars, was the guest speaker and he invited everyone up to the Presidential Suite on Saturday night to drink his liquor and sing Dorsai songs. As a 17 year old kid, that was a pretty awesome experience, and it left its mark. Thank you sir!

Songs of the Dorsai cassette tape cover, by Kelly Freas 1983

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More Paper Miniatures

Ok, here’s some more I’ve been working on. First the Gamma World Post-Apocalypse ones…

Next, some women in armor, and a couple of guys. Enjoy!

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MERP: An Adventurer’s Pack & Kit (Equipment)

As an aid to others building their ranger kit in MERP, and perhaps for others building kits in other games, Araluth offers the following list. First, his clothing. Clothing, weapons, and armor do not count against encumbrance in MERP, if worn. They do, however, impact one’s Perception and Maneuver Movement skills:

Item Weight (lbs.) Encumbrance (lbs.)
High leather boots 2.5 0
Hooded cloak 1 0
Pants 1 0
Shirt 0 0
Tunic 0.5 0
Total 5 0

Then there is the rest of his standard load, which he carries whenever traveling or adventuring.

Item Weight (lbs.) Encumbrance (lbs.)
Dagger in belt sheath 1 0
2 quivers, 40 arrows total, 2 extra bow strings sealed in wax paper 4 0
Belt pouch (salt) 0 0
Belt pouch (star compass, coins wrapped in small cloth) 0.5 0.5
Belt pouch (flint & steel, w. tinder, housewife) 0.5 0.5
Long bow 3 0
Longsword 4 0
Scabbard 1 0
Waterskin 0 0
Weapon belt 1 0
Large wooden spoon 0 0
Total 15 1

While his traveling coins are in a belt pouch (wrapped to prevent clinking), he often has items sewn into the waist of his trousers. Right now, that is 2 emeralds and 5 rubies that were plucked from the head of an evil magical skull, which the party then crushed into dust and dropped into the Sorros.

Some of you are probably mystified by the Housewife in his belt pouch. It is a small sewing kit, as small as Araluth can make it.

Then there is his armor. Araluth does some channeling magic, so he typically wears rigid leather (no minuses on his casting ability). His standard armor is:

Item Weight (lbs.) Encumbrance (lbs.)
Rigid Leather armor 14 0
Kite shield 10 0
Total 24 0

So that is his standard load when scouting. Only 1 point of Encumbrance so far. He has another suit of armor (full chain armor), but keeps it on the mule usually. He unwraps it only when there is need, and then he wears it instead of the rigid leather. It doesn’t add to his Encumbrance but it has a huge impact on his spell casting ability. The rigid leather (and other stores) are usually hidden and cached when he goes delving.

Next is his pack. He uses a pack and frame, which he will carry if necessary but which will be loaded onto the mule otherwise. There are two parts to the pack. The first is his camp gear, which is in a backpack at the top half of the pack:

Item Weight (lbs.)
10 wooden stakes 2
3 extra shirts wrapped around the oil flasks 0
Bedroll 5
Cooking pot 1
Oil Flasks (5) – 12 hours light for each 3
Tarp cover 4
Bullseye lantern 2
Total 17

At the bottom half of the frame is his climbing gear. This is pretty heavy.

Item Weight (lbs.)
Carabiners & climbing gear 2
Crowbar 5.5
Flat hammer 3
Grapnel (Grappling Hook) 2
Metal pitons (climbing) 3
Rope (superior) 150′ 9
Total 24.5

The pack and frame can hold 45 lbs, and the knapsack can hold 20 lbs., so keeping the knapsack at the top of his frame means he can pull it off easily if needed, and also that he can drop the whole frame (camp and climbing gear together) if he needs to fight. And if he wants to take just his backpack and keep his Encumbrance under 15 lbs. (no minuses), he can jam one of the 2 wool blankets that make up his bedroll into the frame and again be under 15 lbs.

Finally there is the mule. He can carry 250 lbs. and normally his load is:

Item Weight (lbs.)
Trail rations (8 weeks) 112
Water keg (can fill 20 waterskins) 20
Camp & climbing gear, in pack frame 44.5
Chain armor (when not worn) 20
Total 196.5

And of course, there’s always room for a bottle of Anduin wine or two, if desired.

So that’s it, at least for mountainous delving where Araluth rides another mule as well. In open territory, he would ride a horse, and then he would keep his camp gear in his saddle bags, so he always has that with him.

Hope this was helpful to you!

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MERP: Return to Don Tirbirath

The party drifted across the small lake to the eastern wall of the Dark Valley. Landing on the rocky shore, Freya kept watch while Araluth and Elentari began to meditate. Hamrammr and Jor scrambled up the rocky slope and found a well-traveled trail circling the valley and torchlight to the north. Not a good sign.

Hamrammr & Jor snuck down the trail to investigate the torch light, while the rest of the party hid, except for Tum, who snuck off somewhere unnoticed. A few moments later, a warg and rider ran past, headed for the torches. They didn’t see anyone, and from their concealment the scouts could see a gate tower protecting a river that exited from the valley. Three orcs, one in chainmail, were talking with the orc with the warg. The warg and rider returned past the party again while the three orcs in the tower went on high alert and lowered the portcullis over the river exit.

The scouts returned and a plan was made. The raft was kicked loose and allowed to drift slowly down to the portcullis. Jor cast a shadow spell and the party advanced on the towers. The three archers (Freya, Araluth, & Elentari) began the assault on an orc on the tower, while Hamrammr ran to the tower. Jor began preparing his lightning spell. The second round of arrows killed the orc, and Hamrammr entered the tower, engaging the orc captain (in chainmail) and another orc with him. The northman severed the orc’s spine and he dropped, after which the second orc fled towards the archers. Jor’s spell did little damage, but Elentari and Araluth drew swords and engaged, slaying the orc. Hamrammer came out of the tower to help, and received arrow fire from the tower and the remaining orc as a reward. The northman ran in and killed the archer with a single horrific cut, which brought the total number of orcs killed since the part entered the Dark Valley to 28. Not bad.

The party then assembled on the raft and held it in place while Hamrammr raised the portcullis and then joined them. They drifted down the underground tunnel for some time, eventually passing through a waterfall and to the outside once more. The sun felt wonderful and the party would have liked to camp and heal, but they continued on as the sun set.  After 8 miles, they passed a trailhead aimed north, but continued another 4 miles before making camp deep in the woods that surrounded the river, and letting the raft loose to head downstream without them. In the morning, they walked 6 miles along the river until it joined with the Sirros, and then another 15 miles until they once again reached Don Tirbirath, where they were greeted, wined, and dined. Plans were made to rescue Osric from Ughluk, the Goblin King, and though Freya wished to accompany the party, she was urged to continue to Maethelburg in hopes of avoiding further bloodshed among Dunedain, Northmen, and Hillmen. The warriors were given chainmail and mules, along with Arborang weapons. Araluth kept Acharn (a Mithglin longsword, passed down in his family for generations) but accepted a dagger of Arborang gratefully.

Map from Maethelburg to Dark Valley



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Creative Juices

Two webcomics just appeared at the same time that illustrate the DM’s Dilemma: Do I kill the party to satisfy my ego or do I satisfy my ego by demonstrating how awesome I am in other ways? Check it out:

giggling dungeonmaster pvp20170404

Dm can't kill anyone 970

Unknown to players, there is a state of mind beyond DMing, and that is writing for its own sake. The players become superfluous; the story becomes of the greatest importance. One wakes up at 3 am and works feverishly for 2 hours, then drags one’s butt through the day’s work. Of course, after a lot of that, DMing starts looking good again!



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MERP: The Party Escapes

With the goblins pounding on the door (aren’t they always?), the party rappels out the window to the roof below and then down to the parapet. They avoid discovery and enter an arch, go down two levels and enter an unused  passage. At the end they find a secret door leading into an orcish chapel. They wait and heal for several hours, then two goblins investigate the tunnel. Hamrammr, Araluth, and Elentari hide around the edge of the tunnel and attack the orcs as they come into view. They are doing well when Jor decides to throw a lightning bolt into the melee and Tum follows up with a thrown dagger. Here’s Araluth’s reaction, captured by Tum’s phone.

Araluth face palmsAraluth face palmsAraluth face palms

Luckily, neither Tum nor Jor hit the fighters, and the orcs are quickly killed and their bodies hidden. The party enters the chapel and steal the evil magic skull of the orc priest. Assuming it is going to come to life and try to bite them with its jeweled teeth at some point, Araluth puts it in his copper pot, ties it up with his dirty shirt, then puts it in a bag, ties THAT up, and puts it in the bottom of his backpack.

The party then goes up to the parapet, drop into the back courtyard and again go down to the barrel room from the back balcony. Rope has been our most valuable weapon in this adventure. Tum hides below the barrel room, and silently rages as Araluth instead enters the room above him. Araluth finds four orcs inside, two of whom are about to descend to the dock below with a load of barrels. He cuts the rope just as the orcs on the platform come eye to eye with the hobbit. One orc is reduced to a gelatinous mess by the fall; the other swan executes a perfect swan dive into the moat, avoiding injury. Narlag, the orc underneath the platform, is unimpressed and splatters under the weight of the barrels. One of the remaining orcs in the room cuts Araluth twice for 57 hits before Araluth cleaves him down the middle. The second orc attacks, but Araluth and Tum kill him and unsuccessfully try to drop both of them on the orcs below. Araluth and Freya shoot the remaining orcs until the last tries to swim away and is electrocuted by Jor. The party descends, and floats away on the platform, rowing with barrel staves under arrow fire from above. During their time in the castle, 35 orcs died. At the end of the night, it is remembered that one of the three Northmen stayed with them to help, but everyone forgot him. The GM decides that he left with the other two earlier. The Theyn and some of his men may have been sold to Ughluk, so there is a chance they might yet be saved. The party still has to escape the dark valley.

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MERP: Still in the Damn Castle

The party is faltering. Jor has been captured. Araluth, Elentari, and Hanrammr are badly wounded and fighting four orcs on the stairs. And Tum is running higher and higher in the tower.

Jor is taken before the goblin chief and questioned, though he gives little of value in response. Tum runs opens the next door, surprising four orcs. He runs through the room and up again, finding himself on the tower’s top. There’s a broken bridge to the next tower, but it’s a 10 foot jump, so the hobbit instead crawls over the lip of the broken bridge and tries to hide under it, out of sight of the pursuing orcs. It’s a desperate plan, and it doesn’t work. He slips, and falls 30 feet onto the roof of the building, which is rotten with age and collapses under him, dropping him another 30 feet to the chieftain’s hall, next to Jor.

The orcs continue beating them and asking questions. Jor insists that there are hundreds of men assaulting the castle. Tum starts shouting, “Tens of Thousands” and won’t stop. Finally the chieftain loses patience. “Toss them in the cells. We’ll give the hobbit to Grond first.”

Meanwhile, the Dunedain and Northman are retreating down the stairs as the orcs score hit after hit. Elentari and Araluth retreat into the room while Hanrammer continues down the stairs, allowing both groups to attack the lead orc. Hanrammer is knocked unconscious, but the others manage to stop the orcs. The door they sealed earlier starts to bang and then buckle, so they retreat. Araluth sends two of the Northmen down to the barrels and instructs them to escape and get help. Elentari tells them how to get into the valley. Yosef (one of the Northmen) stays to help. The Dunedain climb out the window and up to the roof of the balcony, and then haul Hanrammer and Yosef up as the orcs break into the room. The orcs don’t see them and the other two Northmen get away. Once the orcs leave, the party secures themselves on the roof with ropes and rests for six hours, after which they meditate and heal.

They descend when they hear cries of “Grond! Grond!” coming from the ruined cathedral. It seems like a good distraction for their continued search of the castle. They are about to head up the spiral stairs when they hear Jor in the dungeon. They go down and save him, but don’t engage the guards. They then head upstairs, stopping to remove the bar from Grond’s door (again). They know Tum is in the room with Grond, but what they don’t know is that Tum is still alive and hiding in the muck and feces on the ground, trying to stay awya from Grond, who is searching from him. When the door opens, the party runs for the spiral stairs, followed by Tum, covered with muck. They head up again two flights to a door behind which they hear grumbling orcs. Below, there are shouts from orcs and Grond. The party bursts into the room and kills the four orcs, one of whom falls from a window. They open the next door and find the Theyn’s daughter. They bar the door and begin to rappel out the window to the battlements while the orcs advance up the stairs. Twenty-five orcs have died since the party entered the castle.


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