The Planetary Abodes Above Panzoasia

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And now, a little “blacklight poster” inspired, space fantasy. Because Panzoasia is meant to be an an easily-approached, all-ages setting, I’ve tried to strike a balance here between the wondrous and the inaccessibly weird. There are naturally nods to some classic tropes of pulp sci-fi.

In the present of Panzoasia, no race of the solar system knows how to build large rockets, and only the light beings of the Sun can travel from planet to planet without magic. Three hundred years into the future, however…

The Planetary Abodes at a Glance

  1. A visitor from Earth observing the sky above Panzoasia would see what appears to be the same Sun, Moon, stars, and planets as in the northern hemisphere of the world they know. Although they seem to be identical, and occupy the same positions, the Planetary Abodes of Panzoasia are more fantastical than their mundane counterparts.
  2. The Sun of Panzoasia is inhabited by super-intelligent beings of living light who dwell in palaces made of solid force, and who can freely ride sunbeams to and from their home. They communicate with each other by altering their brightness, temperature, and color.
  3. The Moon of Panzoasia is dotted with jeweled cities, and gardens of mineral flowers, made by an insectoid race of living crystal.
  4. The Red Planet (mundane Mars) is a harsh world where deserts alternate with areas of hardy vegetation that is red in color, rather than green. The Red Planet is dominated by a hermaphroditic race of short, reptilian humanoids with extremely large eyes.
  5. The Opaline Planet (mundane Mercury) has a thick atmosphere of swirling, multicolored clouds wherein float inhabited islands of fluorescent rock. Its four-armed and four-eyed people possess strikingly-colored wings with which they fly from island to island.
  6. The Blue Planet (mundane Jupiter) is an ocean world with no continents, only scattered islands. Luminescent jellyfish with strange mental powers are the dominant race.
  7. The Green Planet (mundane Venus) is covered by fragrant jungles filled with plants that are both beautiful and carnivorous. Three main races dwell there: the colorful bird-folk who live atop the trees, the flower-headed plant people who live on the ground, and the three-eyed walking serpents who inhabit subterranean cities.
  8.  The Adumbral Planet (mundane Saturn) is so cold that its surface is inhabited only by terrible, semi-organic abominations. Below the surface is a network of tunnels filled with steam-powered machinery built by hairy dwarfs with twisted and evil minds.
  9.  Each Planetary Abode is also a conduit for energy flowing from one of the Perfect Celestial Spheres ruled by the Lord and Lady of Destiny. The positions of the celestial bodies are therefore studied by astrologers hoping to discern the intended fates of mortal beings.
  10. A Tezacan astronomer has recently invented a magical lens that can transform travelers into light, and project them to and from the Planetary Abodes. The lens is mounted within a 30 foot long tube mounted atop a pyramid in the city of Huizalatl. Wizards in Corthis and Hian are experimenting with similar devices.
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The Kung Fu Fighter for GROOVY Ghastly Affair

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Combining Gothic Horror and Kung Fu action might sound like a very strange mix indeed. Of course, that’s precisely what Hammer Studios did when they made “The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires” in conjunction with Shaw Brothers! And, of course, there’s also a certain later-era slayer of vampires known to regularly use kick-boxing against the undead… Accordingly, I give you the Kung Fu Fighter for GROOVY Ghastly Affair. Some Presenters may want to exclude it from their more “serious” Sagas, so this Class (along with the Empowered Person) will probably be presented as an Appendix in the eventual GROOVY Ghastly Affair Book. I thought about calling the Class by the more generic name of “Martial Artist”, but I think “Kung Fu Fighter” is simply Groovier!

Now, everybody get ready for some chop-socky terror!

KUNG FU FIGHTER

Through your devotion to the ancient martial arts of Asia, you have honed your body into a weapon. Relentless mental and physical discipline has unlocked the subtle energy of your body, known as Chi. Whether battling funky Werewolves on the mean streets of the Bronx, or Hopping Vampires in an isolated Chinese village, a Kung Fu Fighter like you is a match for any creature of the night!

Ability Adjustment: +1 Dex, +1 Wisdom
HD: d10

Kung Fu Fighter Special Abilities

DEADLY STRIKES: The punches and kicks of a Kung Fu Fighter inflict a full 1d6 points of damage (plus their Damage Bonus).

  • A Kung Fu Fighter can choose to inflict either Lethal or Nonlethal damage with their unarmed strikes.
  • At 5th Level, a Kung Fu Fighter can focus their Chi into their hand and feet. Thus they can even harm Spirits, and other creatures otherwise immune to normal weapons.
  • A Kung Fu Fighter above 5th Level can even kill a Vampyre with their bare hands, by ripping out the heart.

ARMOR CLASS BONUS: A Kung Fu Fighter that is awake and alert has an effective AC equal to their Level. This reflects their ability to dodge (or deflect) attacks from any source, including guns.

FIGHT MULTIPLE OPPONENTS: The Kung Fu Fighter can decide whether to concentrate on a single opponent in a Round, or attack multiple adversaries instead.

  • The Kung Fu Fighter can only use their Special Ability to Fight Multiple Opponents when fighting unarmed, or with a Kung Fu Weapon*.
  • The number of opponents a Kung Fu Fighter can potentially attack per Round is equal to their Level plus 1, but no single opponent can be attacked more than once.
  • If all their opponents for that Round are lower Level than the Kung Fu Fighter, the Kung Fu Fighter automatically gains Initiative.
  • The Kung Fu Fighter does not apply their Damage Bonus when they Fight Multiple Opponents.

FLYING KICK (OR PUNCH): If the Kung Fu Fighter has at least 10 feet of free space to run, they can attempt a Flying Kick (or Punch).

  • The Kung Fu Fighter must first make a Dexterity Check (with a +1 Bonus), and then a normal Attack Check.
  • If successful, the Kung Fu Fighter inflicts double damage (1d6 + Damage Bonus, times 2).
  • Whether or not the Flying Kick (or Punch) is successful, the Kung Fu Fighter cannot attack the next Round (but can move or Dodge).
  • If attempted, setting up and executing a Flying Kick (or Punch) is the only action a Kung Fu Fighter can take that Round.

ACROBATICS (+1): A Kung Fu Fighter receives a +1 Bonus on all Ability Checks involving balancing, jumping, tumbling, and running. Their Speed is effectively 10 when engaged in a Chase.

Kung Fu Fighter Weaknesses

CODE OF HONOR: The Player should make a list of eight rules that their Kung Fu Fighter lives by.

  • Every time the character violates a tenant from their Code of Honor, they temporarily lose a random Special Ability. This loss endures until the violation can be rectified.
  • For example, if the Kung Fu Fighter must be brave, but showed cowardice, they must thereafter display exceptional courage in a life-threatening situation. If they must be charitable, but failed to help the unfortunate, they must find a way to thereafter aid the poor. If they must obey their Teacher, but defied them in some way, then the Kung Fu Fighter must complete whatever quest the Teacher decides is appropriate.

DISDAINS MODERN WEAPONS: A Kung Fu fighter only gets their Damage Bonus when fighting unarmed, or with Kung Fu Weapons*. A Kung Fu Fighter could use a revolver if needed, but will it only inflict the base damage of 1d6.

Kung Fu Fighter Advancement Table

Experience Points

Level

Hit Dice

Damage Bonus

0

1

1d10

+1

10

2

2d10

+2

14

3

3d10

+3

18

4

4d10

+4

22

5

5d10

+5

26

6

6d10

+6

30

7

7d10

+7

34

8

8d10

+8

38

9

9d10

+9

42

10

10d10

+10

The Player of a Kung Fu Fighter can specify an real-world martial art for their character to practice, but doesn’t really need to. Although the Class is called “Kung Fu Fighter”, the character might actually fight using Karate, Tae Kwon Do, or another style that is not technically “Kung Fu”. In any event, the Kung Fu Fighter uses the kind of martial arts seen in movies (and TV shows) of the 1960s and 70s. If the Presenter can play “whooshing” “cracking”, and “screaming” sound effects (like those in classic Hong Kong martial arts films) when Kung Fu Fighters are in combat, so much the better. It’s probably taking things too far, however, to portray Kung Fu Fighters speaking out of sync with their lips!

A Typical Code of Honor for a Kung Fu Fighter

  1. Obey my Teacher.
  2. Honor the name of the Buddha.
  3. Defeat the ancestral enemies of my Teacher and lineage.
  4. Always fight face-to-face with honor, and never attack an unsuspecting enemy.
  5. Be charitable to the poor.
  6. Always tell the truth.
  7. Use my Kung Fu to defend the weak.
  8. Do not teach the secrets of Kung Fu to an evildoer.

* Kung Fu Weapons

The term “Kung Fu Weapons” includes the Chinese Sword, Katana, Spear, Guandao, Hatchet, Staff, Chain Whip, Ji, Meteor Hammer, Three-Section Staff, Deer Horn Knives, Emei Daggers, Hook Swords, Butterfly Sword, Wind and Fire Wheels, Nunchaku, Tonfa, Sai, Kama, Kunai, Shuriken, and all similar weapons associated with Asian martial arts styles.

 

The Golden Rule of Running RPGs – Some Advice to New Game Masters

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The most important lessons I’ve learned in 35 years of Game Mastering can be reduced to the following maxim:

“Design and present your game world and scenarios in terms of opportunities to be explored, challenges to be met, and consequential choices to be made.”

The Rule seems simple and obvious – so simple in fact, that it is easy to lose sight of it. Nonetheless, application of the Golden Rule solves many of the recurring problems that can drag down games.


To describe environments confidently, don’t try to create a perfect replica, mental or physical, of the adventure/scenario map in front of you. Instead, focus on what the PCs can possibly do because of the environment. The old “choose-your-own-adventure” books actually provide a good model here. In general, avoid getting bogged down conveying exact distances, dimensions, and positions, unless the PCs indicate that they are spending (valuable) time measuring such things. Instead, you might say say something like:

“The entire party can fit in this room without feeling crowded. You can exit it three ways – back the through the door you entered, by a door in the far wall, or by one on the right-hand wall. The stone walls appear ordinary, but in this dim light you would have to get closer to be sure. In the center of the room is a table with some potentially interesting objects on it. Do you want to investigate the table, more closely examine the room itself, leave, or do something else?”

This, incidentally, is why it can often be better to employ a somewhat abstract map. A gorgeous map seems to demand to have its details accurately conveyed, often at the expense of actual game-play. Even if you use a graphical battlemat, call attention to the specific choices the PCs can (or must) make as a result of the environment. This will help you to maintain pacing. By suggesting courses of action, you prevent the choice-paralysis that can occur when people are presented with too many possibilities. Of course, for some genres (particularly Horror), you should always describe some details of the environment before suggesting possible actions, because it will prime minds of the Players to make genre-appropriate decisions. Also, there is a difference between suggesting actions, and limiting them. The strength of a tabletop RPG is that the Players can do unexpected things.


You can prevent dull social encounters by remembering to make each one an obstacle to some goal, or a point at which the PCs must must commit to some consequential course of action. Perhaps the swordsmith is the only one who can fix your damaged weapons, but he doesn’t like your kind at all. The Duchess demands to know now, whether or not you will assassinate her rival. Always place some kind of complication on every social encounter that you actually play out, except those meant as narrative exposition. Run your social encounters this way, and you can encourage good role-playing even among combat-focused (who are really “challenge-focused”) players.


You can better structure your game sessions by remembering the Golden Rule. If your game revolves around exploring dungeons (or a monster-filled wilderness), each room (or “hex” on the map) should be an opportunity (for rest, perhaps), a challenge (from a monster or trap, for example), or a decision point (to possibly change the direction of travel). If your game is meant to be played out in narrative “scenes”, each scene revolves around facing a major challenge, or making a consequential decision. The scene begins with the setup of that challenge (or decision), and once it is faced (or made), the scene can end.


To avoid “Railroading”, remember that at every opportunity, the Player Characters must be able to make a choice that has consequences. If the plot of your game will continue along the same path no matter what the Players do, you must insert some real choices with potentially catastrophic consequences. Ask yourself: “Are NPCs causing every significant situation, and making every important decision? Will everything still happen the the same way if the PCs just stand around shooting each other with water guns?” If the answer is yes, you know what to do. Always give the PCs opportunities to change their environment. Allow for the possibility of failure.


Overcome creative blocks by conceiving a scenarios as a series of linked opportunities, challenges, and choices.

Give PCs opportunities to explore unknown places, meet important people, receive honors, find potential lovers, or obtain unusual retainers. Remember, the game is the PCs’ story, and from that point of view even the most important NPCs exist only to provide opportunities for the Player Characters.

Look at the abilities of the PCs, and create your scenarios around using them. Did someone take the (possibly assumed to be useless) “Pottery” skill? Good. Include a situation where accurately discerning different types of clay will give a vital clue to the identity of a thief or murderer. Or, perhaps knowing that a particular type of ceramic jar is intended to break easily might be vital to avoiding a trap. Design that trap!

You can make an entire night’s gaming by first writing down six to ten choices that must be made  (such as “left or right”; “forward or back”; “red, “green, or “yellow”; etc.), and then deciding why those choices must be made. For example:

  • The first thing the PC musts do when entering the dungeon is decide whether to go left, or right.
  •  If they go right, they encounter a seemingly unbeatable monster – do they advance, or go back?
  •  If the PCs had initially gone left, maybe they reach a wall with red, green, and yellow buttons – which do they press? Is there a clue, perhaps in the appearance of the monster in the right-hand passage?

So remember, when you feel anxious about how to design a scenario, or run a game, just apply the Golden Rule.

The Realms of the Ultimate West, Part III – Yep, There’s More!

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Here are the last four lists describing the Realms of the Ultimate West. The remaining realms shown on the map are actually parts of the Ultimate North and Ultimate South. 

No, nothing here is innovative awards-bait. I’m sharing it as an example of how you can present home-brew Campaign information in a format that will not overwhelm players. If you want to further develop an aspect of your Campaign world using the “Ten Points” method, simply take a statement from your “Ten Things to Know”, and write ten bullet points further explaining it. As you do so, always focus on things that will somehow affect the PCs, and to which they will eventually need to react.

See also:
Because What the World Needs Now is a New Fantasy Setting…
An Overview of Panzoasia and the Ultimate West
The Realms of the Ultimate West, Part I
The Realms of the Ultimate West, Part II

Ten Things to Know About the Free March
“The Steel Cantons”

  1. Free Marchers are famously skilled adventurers.
  2. The realm is inhabited by a mix of all Five Peoples.
  3. The Free March was formerly dominated by bloodthirsty Hobgoblins who killed or drove off all the previous inhabitants. This why those People who later came to the Free March had to be especially daring and resourceful.
  4. The realm was not among those liberated by the Immortal Heroes and Heroines. Instead, it was gradually freed and populated by immigrants from many surrounding realms.
  5. Because it has no single Immortal patron, inhabitants of the March commonly invoke the direct blessing of The King and Queen of the Angels.
  6. The Free March is a confederation of semi-autonomous Cantons who elect a Marquis as leader every 12 years.
  7. The Free March is rich in mineral wealth, but much more wild than other regions. The place is riddled with entrances to the Underworld, there are many remaining colonies of Monsters and Depredators, and incursions from the Wasteland still occur.
  8. Adventurers seeking their fortunes flock to the Free March, along with those who are (rightly or wrongly) not tolerated elsewhere. There is a network of “Adventurers’ Hostels”, especially in the eastern part.
  9. Most of the settlements in the Free March are protected by some kind of fortification – even the small villages.
  10.  Otherwise, a visitor from Earth would see many superficial resemblances to medieval Switzerland.

Note: The Free March is the actual starting location for my Panzoasia campaign.

Ten Things to Know About Maeland
“The Copper Chiefdoms”

  1. Maelanders are famously skilled musicians and bards.
  2. The realm is inhabited mostly by Humans, Elves, and Gnomes. It also has an especially significant population of Half-Elves.
  3. The People were formerly oppressed by the crude, pig-faced Orcs, which is why beauty and artistic expression is so valued.
  4. Maeland was freed by the Immortal Hero called “The Charming Lord”, who in life was a Elf.
  5. The Charming Lord is Neutral (good) rather than Lawful in Alignment, and Druids are the High Priests of his worship.
  6. The Chiefs of the Maelander clans are theoretically subject to a High King chosen by a series of military, athletic, and artistic challenges, but there hasn’t been a High King in 12 years.
  7. Anyone can attempt to become High King (or Queen) by completing the required challenges on the Isle of Testing.
  8. The Island of Occeney is considered part of Maeland, but is still mostly wilderness filled with Monsters.
  9. The witches of Maeland are particularly renowned for their potions.
  10. Otherwise, a visitor from Earth would see many superficial resemblances to medieval Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, and Wales.

Ten Things to Know About Ombratia
“The Brazen City-States”

  1. Ombratians are famously skilled merchants.
  2. The realm is inhabited mostly by Humans and Gnomes, with some Elves.
  3. The People were formerly oppressed by Minotaurs, which is why Ombratians love to eat beef (which they call “little Minotaur”).
  4. The realm was freed by the Immortal Heroine called “The Fearless Lady”, who in life was a Gnome.
  5. Ombatia is not a unified realm, but four sovereign city-states operating in a trade union.
  6. Ombratians love exotic foods, and often adopt customs from far-flung parts of Panzoasia.
  7. A beloved pastime throughout Ombratia is watching fights between specially trained warriors and various Monsters. The more exotic the Monster, the better.
  8. Ombratian Monster Dealers can be found in every port of Panzoasia. Many people dislike them, on account of the Monsters that are sometime unleashed during botched shipments!
  9. Ventona is a plutocratic republic, and the wealthiest city. Zinado is a monarchy, and the largest city. Tinsano is a direct democracy, and has the most diverse population. Coppalo is a hereditary oligarchy, and the richest in natural resources.
  10. Otherwise, a visitor from Earth would see many superficial resemblances to Renaissance Italy.

Ten Things to Know About Ydez
“The Silver Kingdom”

  1. Ydezians are famously skilled swordsmen.
  2. The realm is inhabited mostly by Humans and Dwarves.
  3. The People were formerly oppressed by the Cynocephali (or “Gnolls”), which why Ydezians tend to like cats, but dislike dogs.
  4. Ydez was freed by the Immortal Hero called “The Dazzling Lord”, who in life was a Human.
  5. The Kingdom of Ydez is an absolute Monarchy, and the King is a male-line descendent of the Dazzling Lord.
  6. Dragon Island is claimed by Ydez, but its jungles are still infested with Monsters.
  7. Lizard, Vulture, and Shark Island are home to whole communities of pirates, and others who would seek their fortunes from the sea. The King’s authority on the Islands is nominal at best.
  8. Ydezians love to gamble, and are constantly inventing new games.
  9. The mainland of Ydez has the richest silver deposits in Panzoasia.
  10. Otherwise, a visitor from Earth would see many superficial resemblances to 16th century Spain in mainland Ydez, while the culture on the islands has some resemblances to the Spanish West Indies during the Golden Age of Piracy.

The Realms of the Ultimate West, Part II

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Today I’m continuing to reveal the Ultimate West of Panzoasia, focusing on three places that are not actually considered nations, but which nonetheless loom large in the imaginations of the Five Peoples.

See also:
Because What the World Needs Now is a New Fantasy Setting…
An Overview of Panzoasia and the Ultimate West
The Realms of the Ultimate West, Part I

Ten Things to Know About the Sacred isle of Albelon

  1. Albelon is where the Immortal Heroes and Heroines of the Ultimate West gathered before they shed their material bodies and became Light.
  2. The most holy shrine of the Ultimate West stands at the summit of Albelon’s Holy Mountain.
  3. Pilgrims from across the Ultimate West journey to Albelon to receive blessings and miracles.
  4. Those powerful mortals who seek to become Saints in the service of the Immortal Heroes and Heroines must also go to the Holy Mountain of Albelon, where they will receive the quests that will prove their worthiness to dwell in the Light.
  5. Albelon is administered by a counsel of nine High Priestesses – one each from Auddisland, Bythebia, Maeland, Edister, the Free March, Corthis, Ombratia, and Ydez, plus a ninth elected by the other eight.
  6. The Nine Priestesses of Albelon are said to protect a sleeping King from a far away land, who will one day awaken to lead the righteous.
  7. The Holy Order of Paladins is sworn to protect the island, and especially the Shrine of the Holy Mountain.
  8. Ghost Ships from the Cursed island of Nerolan sometime threaten the western coast of Albelon.
  9. Weapons forged on Albelon are inherently blessed and able to damage even the most powerful of evil beings, even if not otherwise enchanted.
  10. Temples to the Immortals of the Ultimate West are oriented towards Albelon.

Ten Things to Know About the Cursed Island of Nerolan

  1. When the Realms of the Five Peoples were liberated, many Depredators and their followers in the Ultimate West fled to Nerolan.
  2. Nerolan is now the Kingdom of the Undead, ruled by the deathless Lich Vermadeus, who was in life the most powerful Depredator of all.
  3. It is rumored that the Depradators still look to Vermadeus as their leader – at least fear his wrath enough to obey his directives.
  4. As the righteous make pilgrimage to the Sacred Isle of Albelon, so Depredators and their cultists are said to journey to Nerolan to receive instruction and unholy blessings.
  5. The sky is over Nerolan is always cloudy – when it is not actually storming.
  6. Ghost Ships manned by the dead sail from Nerolan, raiding the coasts for corpses to be brought back to the island and reanimated.
  7. Sometimes, the Ghost Ships deliver Undead, to infest the dark places of Pazoasia and serve the Depradators.
  8. It is also rumored that the Ghost Ships ferry Depredators back to Nerolan.
  9. Among the inhabitants of Nerolan are the abominable Thouls, bizarre cross-breeds of Hobgoblin, Ghoul, and Troll created by the Depredators.
  10. Ghost Ships from Nerolan will occasionally attempt to raid Albelon, but so far have always been repulsed by the Paladins.

Ten Things to Know About the Wasteland

  1. The Wasteland was once green. But the greed and rapaciousness of the Monsters made it barren.
  2. There are rivers that flow into the Wasteland, but all of them end before reaching any body of water.
  3. There are several enormous depressions that were once a network of vast lakes and inland seas, called the Wells of Chaos.
  4. The Wasteland is not a sandy desert, but rocky, barren ground largely devoid of plants. What does grow there tends to be thorny, twisted, and useless.
  5. Above-ground life in the Wasteland clings to the few rivers that flow into it, and some scattered oases.
  6. Large sections of the western half of the Wasteland are canyons and badlands.
  7. There is supposedly a vast network of of tunnels and caves running underneath the Wasteland, constituting the heart of the Underworld. It is said to be possible to travel from one end of the Wasteland to another (and into the realms of the Five Peoples) without ever seeing daylight.
  8. The Wasteland is filled with the ruins of Lost Cities once inhabited by the intelligent Monsters.
  9. The Lost Cities are said to hold treasures beyond belief.
  10. Those who have returned from the Wasteland also claim to have see the bones of gigantic, primordial sea monsters – and not just in the Wells of Chaos.

The Future of the Wasteland

In my mind, in 250 years or so the area of the Wasteland will be occupied by the Phoenix States, a kind of fantasy version of the American Wild West.

In about 150 years Panzoasia will undergo an Industrial Revolution. The remaining Monsters in the Wasteland will launch a final, all-out invasion. By this time, however, they are at a truly massive technological disadvantage. Ha’wakuni firearms had long since spread across Panzoasia, and the Ha’wakuni themselves had developed the repeating rifle and the six-gun. The riders of Ha’wakun smash the hordes of Monsters invading their realm, and conquer the Wasteland. Settlers from Ha’wakun begin restoring the ecology. Rivers begin flowing back into the Wells of Chaos, and they become vast lakes again. The Ha’wakuni government invites immigration, and settlers of every People stream in from across Panzoasia. Eventually the number of non-Ha’wakuni equals (and in some places exceeds) those descended from the original Ha’wakuni settlers. The Tribal Congress in the City of Six Horizons decides that the New Lands cannot be fairly ruled by a far-away government. Rather, its current inhabitants should be granted the right to form independent states, with the proviso that all such states must be representative democracies in an eternal non-aggression pact with Ha’wakun. The new states remain separate entities for a decade, but come together in a plan to build a Great Railroad to link themselves together. That project hastens the joining of the Phoenix States together in a federal union. But, the place remains a wild land filled with both idealistic dreamers and amoral opportunists. Wandering gunfighters battle the last remaining Monsters (and each other), Halfling farmers and ranchers eke a hard living from the land, and the Elven Green Wizards develop (and sell) new magic to make the desert bloom again. And all the while work on the Great Railroad continues.

The Realms of the Ultimate West, Part I

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This is the third part in a series documenting the creation of “Panzoasia“, a new Old-School fantasy campaign designed to be suitable for all-ages play.

Also see the first part of the series (“Because What the World Needs Now is Another Fantasy Setting…”), and the second part (“An Overview of Panzoasia and the Ultimate West”).

What follows are are four of the lists I created as quick introductions to the distinctive features of each realm on the map of “The Ultimate West”. As with the other informative lists I distributed to players, they were printed on 4″ x 6″ index cards. Each player was able to look through the cards, and was given the one corresponding their character’s realm of birth.

Ten Things to Know About Auddisland
“The Iron Union”

  1. Auddislanders are famously skilled armorers.
  2. The realm is inhabited mostly by Dwarves, Gnomes, and Humans.
  3. The People were formerly oppressed by Giants, which is why small, highly detailed things are especially treasured.
  4. Auddisland was freed by the Immortal Hero called “The Untiring Lord”, who in life was a Dwarf.
  5. The son of The Untiring Lord is King of Auddisland.
  6.  There are enormous deposits of high-grade iron ore in the uplands.
  7. Many Dwarves across the West consider Auddisland as their true homeland.
  8. Auddisland is also protected by 9-foot tall armored automatons created by the Gnomes.
  9. Kobolds from the Underworld remain a constant problem – sometimes burrowing into people’s basements!
  10. Otherwise, a visitor from Earth would see many superficial resemblances to late-medieval Austria and Hungary.

Ten Things to Know About Bythebia
“The Golden Republic”

  1. Bythebans are famously skilled military tacticians.
  2. The realm is inhabited mostly by Humans and Halflings, with a consular class of Gold Dragons.
  3. The People were formerly oppressed by Red Dragons, which is why the color red is considered especially evil and unlucky.
  4. Bythebia was freed with the help of Gold Dragons, rather than an Immortal Hero.
  5. The People elect a Senate, which in turn elects one of the Gold Dragons as High Consul for a 6 year term.
  6. The original language spoken by the inhabitants of Bythebia was used as the primary basis for the Common tongue of the West.
  7. The laws of Bythebia are mostly fair and just, but Depredators and their allies are zealously pursued (often by bounty-hunting adventurers ).
  8. The Bytheban Golden Circle teaches magic in the Draconic tradition throughout the Ultimate West, and is an alternative for those not wishing to be caught up in the intrigues of the Seven Orders of Magic.
  9. Bythebia has the largest gold deposits in Panzoasia.
  10. Otherwise, a visitor from Earth would see many superficial resemblances to the Byzantine Empire.

Ten Things to Know About Corthis
“The Platinum Magiarchy”

  1. Cothisians are famously skilled conversationalists and wits.
  2. The realm is inhabited mostly by Elves, Humans, Gnomes, and Halflings.
  3.  The People were formerly oppressed by stupid Ogres, which is why mental acuity is so valued.
  4.  Corthis was freed by the Immortal Hero called “The Peerless Lord”, who in life was a Human.
  5.  Magic-users and Elves bear non-hereditary noble titles, such as Baron, Comte (Count) and Marquis, but day-to-day government is administered by a class of hereditary Chevaliers (Knights).
  6. The nobility of Corthis are known to hire agents (often Edisterian) to steal magic items (or information) from other nobles.
  7. The Seven Orders of Magic are headquartered in Corthis.
  8.  Almost any excuse is used to hold a costumed parade or procession in Corthis.
  9.  Besides producing platinum, Corthis is also a major exporter of food.
  10.  Otherwise, a visitor from Earth would see many superficial resemblances to France under Louis XIV (except for the absence of gunpowder).

Ten Things to Know About Edister
“The Pewter Commonwealth”

  1. Edisterians are famously skilled spies.
  2. The realm is inhabited mostly by Humans and Halflings.
  3. The People were formerly oppressed by sneaky Bugbears, which is why Edisterians learned to be stealthy themselves.
  4. Edister was freed by the Immortal Heroine called “The Clever Lady”, who in life was a Halfling.
  5. The Clever Lady is also honored by the Thieves’ Guild throughout the West.
  6. Edister is the only realm of Panzoasia whose Immortal patron is actually Chaotic (albeit good).
  7. The realm is traditionally ruled by a Queen elected by the titled aristocracy (many of which are descended from wealthy adventurers who bought their titles). The current Queen was once the daughter of a fishmonger.
  8. Edisterians (both Human and Halfling) are well-known for their strange senses of humor.
  9. Although they are renowned for their skill at stealth and espionage, Edisterians are also accomplished merchants.
  10. Otherwise, a visitor from Earth would see many superficial resemblances to Elizabethan England.

Note

When a Campaign world is assembled from preexisting cultural components, players understand expected in-character behaviors much more quickly. So, each realm of Panzoasia is assumed to be similar to some specific real-world culture in many ways, but fundamentally different in certain others. Accordingly, the last listed fact about each realm is the society (or societies) which it superficially resembles, and which can be used as a rough guide for creating background details for such things as clothing styles, food, architecture, etc.

I don’t feel it is necessary to present every aspect of a fantasy culture with perfect fidelity to the real-world culture that inspires it. It fact, one probably shouldn’t, because it’s fantasy. It can be a pleasant surprise when something that at first looks familiar and mundane is suddenly revealed to be fundamentally strange. Naturally, however, I urge anyone who takes a similar route to avoid portraying any fantasy culture in a way that inflames prejudice against real world groups. But if, on the other hand, the fantasy version of a culture sparks a desire to learn more about its real-world inspiration, so much the better.

An Overview of Panzoasia and the Ultimate West

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The Ultimate West of Panzoasia

The Ultimate West of Panzoasia

This is the second part of a series outlining a new, “all-ages” fantasy setting for Old-School gaming. If you’ve come to the blog for Ghastly Affair material, don’t worry – I’ve definitely not turned my back on Gothic Romance! I’m just stretching my creative legs a little. Perhaps this will turn into something more serious down the line, perhaps not. Right now I’m just enjoying myself.

Read part one in the series to learn what precipitated my current foray back into fantasy.


What follows are four lists that I provided to the players in my new Old School campaign, printed on the fronts and backs of two blank, 4″ x 6″ index cards. Also, each player was given their own map of The Ultimate West (shown above). The condensed, index-card format was well-received by the players, and I recommend it to all GMs. The idea of a “Top Ten” list is already quite well established, and in my experience information provided in that format tends to generate immediate interest. Also, I think the the physically small size of the index card helps to make whatever information is on it feel more manageable.

Ten Things to Know About Panzoasia

  1. 200 years ago the Five Peoples of Panzoasia lived as tribes and clans who had not yet learned to make steel, had only the most basic forms of magic, and had built only a few cities.
  2. The lands of the Five Peoples were colonized by Monsters that invaded from the Underworld and Wasteland. They relentlessly plundered, and despoiled nature.
  3. At the time of the Great Invasion, many of the intelligent Monsters (especially the Hobgoblins) possessed better technology than the Five Peoples .
  4. While the Monsters reigned, they were aided by Clerics of evil Chaos called “Depredators”.
  5. The Reign of Monsters continued for two generations before the Immortal Heroes and Heroines were born. They discovered better technology and magic (which they spread throughout Panzoasia), and led the Five Peoples to eventually overthrow the Depredators and Monsters.
  6. The Immortal Heroes and Heroines are referred to by poetic titles – never by the names they bore before becoming Light.
  7. Panzoasia is situated “at the ends of the Earth”. It is possible to deliberately travel between it and Earth (and even more fantastic lands), by sailing the Ocean in the correct direction, in the correct manner, and at the correct time. Objects and people from Earth are sometimes lost in Panzoasia – and vice versa.
  8. The realms of Panzoasia are grouped into four regions: The Ultimate West, The Ultimate East, The Ultimate North, and The Ultimate South. Each was liberated by a different group of Immortal Heroes and Heroines.
  9. Each region of Panzoasia has its own Common Tongue created by the Immortals. A person from Corthis can understand someone from Ydez, but neither can understand someone from the Ultimate East.
  10. Even now, colonies of evil Monsters and Depredators persist in many places – especially the Underworld and Wasteland. The treasures they have stolen wait to be reclaimed.

Ten Things to Know About the Five Peoples of Panzoasia

  1. The universal symbol of the Five Peoples is a pentagram with the point upwards, while the upside-down pentagram symbolizes the evil Monsters and Depredators.
  2. The Five Peoples (Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, and Gnomes) originated in the Terrestrial Paradise, but left it for Panzoasia thousands of years before the Monsters came.
  3. Humans native to The Ultimate West usually have pale to olive complexions, with any color hair and eyes. Northerners tend to have pale complexions, with light hair and eyes. Southerners usually have complexions ranging from dark brown to tan, with eyes and hair that tend towards dark colors. Easterners tend to have complexions that range from pale amber to deep tan, also with a tendency to dark eyes and hair. Many Easterners have uncreased, almond-shaped eyes (especially in Amikura, Hian, and Xidu), as do some Southerners (especially in Tezaca).
  4. Because they are all one race and freely immigrate, Humans from any region of Panzoasia can actually have any possible complexion, eye, and hair color.
  5. The Elves of Panzoasia can have hair, skin, and eyes in any shade of any hue – including pink, purple, green, and blue.
  6. While Elves can live for a thousand years or more, they can only remember the last 70 years (or so) of their own life.
  7. Dwarves tend to share skin and hair tones with nearby Humans, but use body paint made from clay earth pigments, chalk, animal fat, and charcoal on their skin and hair. Their jewel-like irises can be the color of any gemstone.
  8. Because of their eye colors and body paint, there is a popular rumor/joke that Dwarves are made of earth and stone.
  9. Halflings tend to have the same skin, eye, and hair colors as the majority of the local Human population, although their complexions tend to be ruddier in all cases.
  10. All Gnomes tend to have deeply tanned complexions, with gray or white hair; and blue, green, or gray eyes.

Ten Things to Know About alignment & Religion

  1. In addition to being Lawful, Neutral, or Chaotic, Players can also choose to indicate if their PCs are also Good or Evil, by writing it in parentheses after their main Alignment.
  2. Most people pray to the Immortal Hero who freed their realm, but there are ten greater powers who are actual Gods.
  3. The cosmic patrons of those who are purely Lawful are the Lord and Lady of Destiny, who are King and Queen of the Archons, and reside in the The Perfection of the Celestial Spheres.
  4. The cosmic patrons of those who are purely Chaotic are the Lord and Lady of Chance, who are King and Queen of the Daimons, and reside in The Whirl of Limbo.
  5. The cosmic patrons of those who are Lawful (good), Neutral (good) and Chaotic (good) are the Lord and Lady of Light, who are King and Queen of the Angels, and reside in The Refuge of Heaven.
  6. The cosmic patrons of those who are Lawful (evil), Neutral (evil) and Chaotic (evil) are the Lord and Lady of Darkness, who are King and Queen of Demons and Devils, and reside in The Outer Darkness of Hell. Note that the Chaotic Demons and Lawful Devils hate each other.
  7. The cosmic patrons of those who are purely Neutral are the Lord and Lady of Life, who are King and Queen of the Fairy Folk, and reside in The Harmony of the Summerland.
  8. The Immortal Heroes and Heroines who freed the Realms of the Five Peoples were all Good and served Heaven. Most were Lawful (and aided by Destiny), but The Clever Lady was Chaotic (and succeeded by Chance).
  9. In the Ultimate West, the holy place of pilgrimage for those who are (or aspire to be) good is The Sacred Isle of Albelon, while The Cursed Island of Nerolan is the most unholy site for the Depredators (and other evil beings).
  10. The Depredators who aided the Monsters were aligned with evil (rather than pure) Chaos, and served the Outer Darkness.

Ten Rules Modifications

  1. Magic Users start play with their choice of either a random minor potion, or a scroll of one random, 1st level spell.
  2. Magic Users can make an Intelligence check to know some bit of arcane knowledge, identify a Monster or obscure creature, translate a scrap of lost language, or discern a general idea of what a magic item does.
  3. Fighters can make an Intelligence check to identify a strange weapon or piece of armor, discern the workmanship of arms & armor, or identify their materials.
  4. Thief Abilities are all 66% at 1st Level. They increase by 1% each Level. Alternately, the character instead receives 8 additional percentage points each Level, to be allocated among their Thief Abilities as desired.
  5. Thieves can make an Intelligence Check to quickly appraise items, or know how many coins are in a hoard without needing to count them.
  6. Thieves who successfully appraise will be told the information privately – they can choose to lie, or honestly share what they know.
  7. Clerics can make an Intelligence Check to remember lore relating to the Immortals, the Gods, or the entities that serve them.
  8. Clerics can promote Law, Chaos, or Neutrality as abstract concepts, instead of serving a specific spiritual entity.
  9. Druids are all Neutral in Alignment, but they can be Neutral (good), and be aided by the Angels of Heaven; pure Neutral, and be allied with the Fairies of the Summerland, or Neutral (evil), and serve the powers of Hell.
  10. Gnomes are a playable Class.

Tomorrow, I’ll begin posting the lists of “Ten Things to Know” for each realm shown on the map of The Ultimate West.

Because What the World Needs Now is Another Fantasy Setting…

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This weekend I ran a game where the age range of players was between 11 and 46. A tween, a teen, and four Gen-Xers (including myself). It was the eleven-year old’s first real game as an actual player, while her 15 year old brother had already played with the group a few times. Since many young people’s first association with RPGs is “Stranger Things”, I thought it would be nice for her and her brother to experience D&D the way is was actually played in the mid-80s. So, out came my original Rules Cyclopedia! Now, I had a previous campaign world, called “Vaozum”, that I used for Old-School style games. The problem is, there are mature themes baked into that setting. So, I set myself the challenge of creating a “PG-rated” campaign world that could be easily explained to an eleven year old, but would still be interesting enough for the adults present (who were among the original “Ghastly Affair” players). I actually welcomed the chance to stretch myself creatively beyond the adult-oriented Gothic material I’ve been focused on for a few years now.

I set myself the following design goals:

  1. This setting is meant to be a positive, “all-ages “ one, deep enough for adults, but not dwelling on topics unsuitable for young people. I have already created an RPG specifically for adults to explore mature subjects – this is for families, mixed-age groups, and public play.
  2. This is a game setting, meant to be played rather than read. Everything will be minimally defined.
  3. Each chunk of setting info is to be presented in an impactful and easily referenced “list of ten” format that can fit on one side of a 4” x 6” index card.
  4. The setting is meant to be compatible with as wide a range of OSR fantasy games as possible, and to be defined loosely enough that third-party modules and adventures could be easily “slotted-in”.
  5. This is meant to be a fun and accessible setting, which doesn’t take itself too seriously. Humorous characters are OK.
  6. Every dungeon / adventure should be “winnable” with minimal bloodshed (if the players so choose), and good play should be rewarded. No “nega-dungeons”.
  7. It is possible to make the world a better place, and although there is still a tremendous amount of evil and danger, positive change is happening.
  8. Any reasonable, rules-legal concept a Player has for their character should be possible. The setting will be written to accommodate the players’ most probable desires.
  9. Areas are to be specifically left open to accommodate stronghold building and domain creation by Player Characters.
  10. I will use the “fantastic twist on a real-world historical society” conceit, so that Players can quickly grasp the setting. The unique twists on each culture must be easily remembered, so other details can be filled in as required from general knowledge, without any worry about contradicting an intricately detailed setting “canon”. Likewise, there will be many echoes of real-world legends and mythology.

I decided to use the name “Panzoasia”, which I’ve had lying around among my creative notes / half-finished work for years now.

Ten Distinguishing Qualities of Panzoasia

  1. There was never a Golden Age or great empire. The technology of today is much better than that of the past.
  2. None of the Five Peoples (Humankind, Elfkind, Dwarfkind, Halflingkind, and Gnomekind) has an older history than any of the others. Rather, they have always lived together. Humans are not less developed or sophisticated than Elves, for example.
  3. The current nations of Panzoasia are all relatively young – no more than a century old.
  4. Each realm was once colonized by large numbers of a certain kind of Monster, which left an especial impact on the realm’s modern culture and society.
  5. The Monsters aren’t horrible because they look and act differently, but because they cannot, or are unwilling to, live in harmony with the Five Peoples. They can’t be tolerated, because they they do not tolerate others in return. Those creatures who are willing to live with the Five Peoples as equals, however, are accepted – and not considered “Monsters”. The Monsters are invasive species that waste resources, pollute their environments, and ruin local ecologies.
  6. A character’s realm and culture of birth is generally more important to them than their kind of People. For example, an Elf from the realm of Corthis would generally consider herself to be primarily “Corthisian”, and only secondarily “Elven”.
  7. People are not seeking to expand their wealth and territory at the expense of indigenous Monsters, but engaged in an ongoing effort to win back all the wealth and territory the invasive Monsters once stole from them.
  8. Many of the realms are some variety of republic or elective monarchy.
  9. Ruined castles, ancient cities, and ancient magic items found in treasure hordes are likely to have been created by intelligent Monsters.
  10. There is assumed to be ongoing contact between the mundane Earth and Panzoasia, although the average inhabitant of either place is unaware of the other.

Tomorrow I’ll start posting the resulting setting…

Random 18th Century Villages for a Gothic Sandbox

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Thomas Rowlandson - View of the Church and Village of St. Cue, Cornwall - Google Art Project

What’s a Gothic story without an isolated village filled with dark secrets? The following random tables will help you design small European communities with populations between 100 and 1000 people, of the kind that might be constitute part of an 18th century aristocrat’s estate. In conjunction with Appendices A, B, C, and D of “A Ghastly Companion to Castles, Mansions, & Estates”, they let you procedurally generate a complete countryside of horrors for PCs to wander at will.

If you would like your villages to be more Jane Austen and less Matthew Lewis, simply ignore Tables 16 and 17.

Table 1a: The Basic Layout of an Inland Village

d12

The buildings primarily cluster…

1

along a straight section of road

2

along a section of road that curves like a “C”

3

along a section of road that curves like an “S”

4

around an “X”-shaped crossroads

5

around an “X”-shaped crossroads enclosed by a ring.

6

around a “T”-shaped crossroads

7

around a “Y”-shaped, three-way crossroads

8

around a trident where two roads converge at angles on a third.

9

around a star-shaped, six-way crossroads.

10

around an “H” of paths, one leg of which connects to the main road.

11

around an especially large square or green, through which the main road passes.

12

in a gridiron of streets forming short blocks, like a miniature city.

There will also be 2d4 minor lanes branching off from the main paths(s) towards the surrounding fields.

Table 1b: The Basic Layout of a Maritime Village

d6

The buildings primarily cluster….

1

along a section of road that hugs the shoreline.

2

around a “T”-shaped crossroads, with the top of the “T” hugging the shoreline.

3

in a gridiron of streets forming short blocks, like a miniature city.

4

around a triangle of paths, with one side on the waterfront.

5

on a square of paths, with one side on the waterfront.

6

away from the shore, and resemble an inland village. Use Table 1a to determine Basic Layout.

d8

The waterfront has…

1

a long embankment with bollards.

2

a long embankment with bollards and a single long pier.

3

a long embankment with 2d4 short piers.

4

a single long pier.

6 – 7

2d4 piers.

7 – 8

a beach, upon which boats are pulled.

There will also be 2d4 minor lanes branching off from the main cluster of buildings, leading inland.

Table 2: The Main Source of Fresh Water

d6

Most of the water used by villagers comes from…

1

1d4 streams.

2

a canal. 50% chance a lock is located in or near the village.

3

a lake.

4

1d4 ponds.

5

a spring.

6

1d4 wells.

Table 3: Overall Impression of the Village

d20

At fist glance, the village looks:

1 – 6

perfectly ordinary.

7 – 8

very clean and tidy.

9 – 10

very dirty, with filth and garbage everywhere.

11

quite new, as if all the building had been constructed in the past decade.

12 – 13

exceptionally ancient.

14

gloomy and depressing.

15

decrepit.

16

partially deserted.

17

overcrowded.

18

like there was a recent fire (or other disaster).

19 – 20

bucolic.

Table 4: Village Population

d20

Population: Land-owning families (besides the primary landlord):

1

100 + d100 0

2

200 + d100 0

3 – 5

300 + d100 0

6 – 10

400 + d100 1

11 – 15

500 + d100 1

16 – 17

600 + d100 1

18

700 + d100 2

19

800 + d100 2

20

900 + d100 2 or 3

Divide the population by 8 to find the total number of cottages. If the village looks partially deserted, divide by 4. If the village is overcrowded, divide by 16.

About 90% of families of most villages will be directly involved in food production of some kind – whether farming or fishing.

In Poland, Russia, Prussia, and the Kingdom of Hungary, a village may be inhabited mostly or wholly by bound serfs.

In the Kingdom of Hungary, up to 10% of the population may be impoverished (or “sandalled”) nobility – barely distinguishable from peasants in their economic circumstances, but possessing the legal rights of aristocracy.

Table 5: Building Density

d8

The building density in the village is…

1

Very high – almost every building shares a wall with those on either side.

2 – 4

High – there is perhaps a few inches between buildings in the central cluster, with only one or two outlying buildings.

5 – 6

Moderate – there is 1d4 feet between buildings in the central cluster, with a few outlying buildings.

7

Low – there is 4+1d10 feet between buildings. 50% chance that a house has a wall or fence around its lot. The walls or fences of adjacent lots connect. About 25% of the buildings will be up to a ¼ mile away from the main cluster.

8+

Very low – there is 15+d20 feet between buildings in the central cluster, most of which are in the middle of walled or fenced lots. Half or more of the building are scattered up to a ¼ mile from the central cluster.

Modifiers:

-2 for villages in Italy, Spain, Portugal, or Provence.

+4 for villages in Poland and Russia.

A village will be built in the “vernacular” style of its region. There will always be a blacksmith, a grain mill, and a church (the presence of which distinguishes a village from a hamlet). A logging village will also have a saw-mill. Mills may be wind powered (common in colder regions), water-powered, or turned by draft animals. In beer-drinking regions, there often be a malt house (a large building with an open interior, where barley is malted to make beer). In a wine-growing region, a village will have a wine-press instead. In the Italian States, Spain, and southern France, a village may also have its own olivepress. Mills, wine-presses and olive-presses will be usually be owned by the village landlord, who will charge the villagers a fee for its use. Often, there is only a single bread (and roasting) oven in the village, and villagers are likewise charged for its use.

There will be few (if any) shops in a village. Villagers make their own clothing, make most of their own food, repair their own houses, and often make their own beer (or wine). Cutlery and worked iron can be commissioned from the blacksmith. A local woman may be willing to sew (or repair) clothing for visitors. There might be a doctor and/or apothecary in a larger village. Except in those parts of Britain which are already industrializing, most finished goods a village produces (such as cloth or ceramics) are made by its inhabitants in their homes, and then collected by an agent of the landlord (or commissioning merchant). Such commodities may be available for legal purchase – with several days notice. Goods and services that villagers cannot provide themselves must usually be obtained from the market in the nearest town, or from itinerant merchants (who might pass through the village once a week or so, from spring to autumn). Such visiting merchants might work directly for the landlord, or pay him a fee (unless they are Gypsies who visit irregularly, and sell illegally).

Table 5: The Village Church

d20

The village church is…

1 – 3

too small for its congregation.

4 – 6

too large for its congregation.

7

very plainly decorated.

8

ostentatiously decorated.

7 – 9

in very bad repair.

10 – 14

neat, tidy, and in good repair.

15 – 16

filled with strange and disturbing art.

17

apparently a popular place for trysts!

18

of a different denomination than the official state Church.

19

actually two small churches that seem to compete for congregants.

20

an abandoned ruin – where do the villagers worship?

Also see “Twenty Creepy Churches in Isolated Places” in the supplement “A Ghastly Potpourri”.

Table 6a: Landmark of an Inland Village

d100

The most noteworthy location in or near the village is…

1 – 4

the local church.

5 – 8

the estate house (or castle) of the local landlord.

9 – 12

the pleasure house of an aristocrat (other than the landlord). A Villa, Lustschloss, Maison de Plaisance, etc.

13 – 16

a nearby fort where a company or regiment of soldiers is stationed. If the landlord is titled nobility, they may also be the force’s commander.

17 – 20

a local ruin. See Appendix C of “A Ghastly Companion to Castles, Mansions, & Estates”.

21 – 24

a complex of subterranean tunnels. See Appendix D of “A Ghastly Companion to Castles, Mansions, & Estates”.

25 – 28

a network of underground caverns. See Appendix D of “A Ghastly Companion to Castles, Mansions, & Estates”.

29 – 32

an ancient tree.

33 – 36

a stone circle.

37 – 40

a lake.

41 – 44

a bridge.

45 – 48

a natural spring.

49 – 52

a marsh or swamp.

53 – 56

a roadside shrine.

57 – 60

a corpse road.

61 – 64

a hill (if lowland) or valley (if upland).

65 – 68

a small patch of woods that is supposedly haunted.

69 – 72

another whole village, apparently abandoned.

73 – 76

a monument to a local hero.

77 – 80

the village cross.

81 – 84

a large, oddly-colored rock.

85 – 88

a rock formation that resembles something else (a person, animal, monsters, etc.)

89 – 92

a former battlefield, now a mass grave.

93 – 96

the remains of a defensive wall.

97 – 98

a monastery (or school for boys, in a Protestant country).

99 – 100

a convent (or school for girls, in a Protestant country).

Table 6b: Landmark of a Maritime Village

d20

The most noteworthy location in or near the village is…

1

the local church.

2

the estate house (or castle) of the local landlord.

3

a small chapel on an island offshore.

4

a monastery or convent on an island offshore. Abandoned if a Protestant country.

5

the pleasure house of an aristocrat (other than the landlord).

6

a nearby fort where a company or regiment of soldiers is stationed. If the landlord is titled nobility, they may also be the force’s commander.

7

a local ruin. See Appendix C of “A Ghastly Companion to Castles, Mansions, & Estates”.

8

a complex of subterranean tunnels. See Appendix D of “A Ghastly Companion to Castles, Mansions, & Estates”.

9

a network of underground caverns. See Appendix D of “A Ghastly Companion to Castles, Mansions, & Estates”.

10 – 11

a lighthouse / beacon

12 – 13

a supposedly haunted island offshore.

14

a rocky, supposedly inaccessible island offshore.

15

a wrecked ship (just offshore, or even washed up on shore)

16

a large, oddly-colored rock.

17

a rock formation that resembles something else (a person, animal, monsters, etc.)

18

offshore reefs (or rocks) that must be navigated carefully. 25% chance there is also a beacon.

19

a sea cave.

20

several picturesque cliffs.

Villages, whether inland or maritime, are often named for their Landmark.

Table 7: Accommodations for Travelers

d12

Travelers looking for accommodations will find…

1 – 4

nothing at all – apparently everyone drinks and socializes in each other’s homes. 50% chance a family is willing to host travelers who pay in cash.

5 – 6

a tavern with a single common bed.

7

a tavern with a single private room for rent.

8

an inn with a common bed, and 1d4 rooms.

9

a rooming house, with 1d4 rooms available.

10 – 12

a Coaching Inn.

13+

An exclusive Coaching Inn for wealthy travelers. Note: only possible if Village is on a major road. There will also be a separate Tavern, where ordinary villagers go to drink and socialize.

Modifiers:

+3 to the roll if the village lies directly on a major road.

-3 if village if off a major road.

See Appendix A in “A Ghastly Companion to Castles, Mansions, & Estates” for more information on travelers accommodations in the Ghastly Age.

Table 8a: Famous Produce of an Upland Village

d100

The village is best known for its…

1 – 4

butter and cheese.

5 – 9

cattle.

10 – 13

charcoal.

14 – 17

coal.

18 – 21

copper.

22 – 25

distilled liquors.

26 – 29

gemstones.

30 – 33

gunsmiths.

34 – 37

gypsum.

38 – 41

iron.

42 – 46

lead.

47 – 50

lime (mineral).

51 – 56

lumber and firewood.

57 – 61

medicinal plants.

62 – 70

mutton.

71 – 80

quarried stone.

81 – 84

salt (mined). In France especially the production of salt is heavily regulated, with ordinary people being required to purchase a minimum amount of heavily taxed salt a year.

85 – 88

tin.

89 – 92

hard cider.

93 – 96

wine and/or beer.

97 – 100

wool.

Table8b: Famous Produce of a Lowland Village

d100

The village is best known for its…

1 – 3

apiary products (wax and honey).

4 – 6

butter and cheese.

7 – 9

cattle.

10 – 12

ceramics (tiles, pots, etc.).

13 – 15

cloth.

16 – 18

cutlery.

19 – 21

distilled liquors.

22 – 23

dyestufs (indigo, etc.).

24 – 26

eggs.

27 – 29

flax.

30 – 32

flowers.

33 – 35

freshwater fish (village must be near a river or large lake)

36 – 38

grain (wheat, rye, barley, rice, oats, etc.)

39 – 40

gunpowder.

41 – 42

gunsmiths.

43 – 45

gypsum.

46 – 48

hops

49 – 53

lumber and firewood.

54 – 56

medicinal plants.

57 – 60

mutton.

61 – 65

pigs.

66 – 70

poultry.

71 – 72

quarried stone.

73 – 75

region-specific crops (almonds, olives, oranges, saffron, etc.).

76 – 80

salt (mined). In France especially the production of salt is heavily regulated, with ordinary people being required to purchase a minimum amount of heavily taxed salt a year.

81 – 83

smithing.

84 – 88

tanned leather.

89 – 90

tree fruit (apples, pears, apricots, olives, etc.).

91 – 96

wine / beer / hard cider.

97 – 100

wool.

Table8c: Most Important Produce of a Maritime Village

d100

The village is best known for its…

1 – 5

apiary products (wax and honey).

6 – 10

boats.

11 – 15

ceramics (tiles, pots, etc.).

16 – 20

cloth

21 – 25

cutlery.

22 – 30

distilled liquors.

31 – 35

flowers.

36 – 40

fresh fish.

41 – 45

glassware.

46 – 50

medicinal plants.

51 – 55

oysters (or other shellfish).

56

pebbles (used for rocaille decorations)

57 – 61

quarried stone.

62 – 66

rope.

67 – 71

sailors (half the male population will be away at sea at any one time).

72 – 75

salt. In France especially the production of salt is heavily regulated, with ordinary people being required to purchase a minimum amount of heavily taxed salt a year.

76 – 80

salted fish.

81 – 83

seashells (used for rocaille decorations)

84 – 88

shellfish.

89 – 94

smoked fish.

91 – 95

stockfish.

96 – 100

wine / beer / hard cider.

Table 9: Class Relations

d4

Overall, relations between the social classes are…

1

Good. The local landlord is charitable, rents are reasonable, and the average villager is content with their lot. The landlord does not enforce any onerous feudal obligations. There is no crime or violence to speak of. Re-roll results of 13 or above on Table 10.

2 – 3

Average. The rents are a little higher than the villagers would like (but not impossible to pay), the tradesmen usually charge fair prices, and the landlord occasionally takes an interest in the welfare of the villagers. All ancient feudal obligations are enforced, but exceptions are made in cases of extreme hardship. There is some domestic violence, and the occasional drunken fight between villagers.

4

Poor. The rents are outrageously expensive. The landlord and his family zealously enforce any feudal obligations, and are completely disinterested in the misery they cause. The tradesmen frequently price-gouge. The ordinary villagers support and aid the local bandits. There is a significant black market. Many villagers support radical political ideas. Significant crime and violence occurs. Re-roll results of 7 or below on Table 10.

Examples of ancient feudal obligations that may still be in effect include:

  • Having to pay a fine to the landlord for each young woman who gets married.
  • Having to labor for free in the landlord’s fields (in addition to the rent one pays for one’s own field).
  • Handing over a portion of all crops grown in one’s rented field.
  • Unpaid labor on the local roads.
  • Unpaid labor at the landlord’s house or castle.
  • Having to pay to use the landlord’s mills and presses, and not being able to use any other.
  • Having to pay a toll to the landlord each time one crosses a bridge, and not being allowed to use any route that avoids that bridge.

Few (if any) feudal obligations would still be in effect in a British village, while all of the above might be suffered by a French peasant before the Revolution.

Table 10: Disposition of Villagers

d20

The general disposition of the villagers seems to be…

1

virtuous.

2

honest.

3 – 6

friendly.

7

polite.

8

amorous.

9

hot-tempered.

10

fanatically pious.

11

impious

12

crude

13

unfriendly.

14

dishonest.

15

frightened.

16

menacing.

17

gloomy.

18

envious / resentful.

19

fatalistic.

20

criminal. If Class Relations are good, the villagers simply flout needlessly repressive laws, and the village landlord tries to ignore their otherwise harmless behavior whenever possible.

Table 11: The Unofficial Village Leader

d10

The average person in the Village looks for leadership from…

1

a wealthy farmer who owns a substantial tract of land. Roll again if Class Relations are poor.

2

a tradesman involved in the village’s primary produce.

3 – 4

the priest/parson.

5

the blacksmith.

6

the owner of the local tavern or inn. Roll again if there is no such establishment.

7

a retired military officer.

8

a retired sea captain.

9

a retired professor.

10

the local highwayman (or pirate), who only targets the rich. Roll again if Class Relations are good.

Remember, this an unofficial leader – as a rule an 18th century village does not have any formal government of its own, but is administered by the landlord who owns most of the property.

Table 12: The Wealthiest Villager

d12

Besides the local landlord, the wealthiest person in the village is…

1 – 3

a farmer who owns a substantial tract of land. Some villagers might actually be renting land and/or a cottage from this person, rather than the community’s primary landlord. Where serfdom persist, the wealthy farmer might even own their own serfs. The village’s primary landlord, however, will still be the legal authority over the village as a whole.

4 – 5

a shrewd tradesman involved in the village’s primary produce.

6

the priest/parson

7

a wealthy dowager.

8

the miller.

9

the blacksmith.

10

a retired military officer.

11

a retired sea captain.

12

a Mad Scientist whose laboratory is here.

Table 13: The Village Scapegoat

d8

The first person who will get blamed for any catastrophe is…

1

a mentally-challenged vagrant.

2

the local “freak”, who suffers from a congenital birth defect.

3

a Gypsy who who has settled on the outskirts.

4

an old spinster who lives alone.

5

the “foreigner” who recently settled in the village.

6

the local prostitute.

7

the most recently arrived stranger – and that means the PCs!.

8

the Mad Scientist whose laboratory is here.

Table 14: The Most Beloved Villager

d20

The most beloved person in the village is…

1 – 2

the priest / vicar / parson.

3

the landlord. Roll again if Class Relations are poor.

4

the landlord’s spouse. Roll again if Class Relations are poor.

5

the mistress / lover of the landlord (or their spouse).

6

the daughter of the landlord. Roll again if Class Relations are poor.

7

the son of the landlord. Roll again if Class Relations are poor.

8

the beautiful young daughter of a villager.

9

the handsome young son of a villager

10

the local midwife.

11

a generous dowager.

12

the blacksmith.

13

the blacksmith’s wife.

14 – 15

the proprietor of the local tavern/inn/rooming house. Roll again if there is no such establishment.

16

the local prostitute, known for her charity and kindheartedness.

17

a retired soldier.

18

its wealthiest inhabitant (other than the landlord). Roll again if Class Relations are poor.

19 – 20

the local highwayman (or pirate), who only targets the rich. Roll again if Class Relations are good.

Table 15: Current Events

d100

Besides events in the landlord’s Estate House, everyone is also talking about…

1 – 10

an upcoming wedding – and wedding feast!

11 – 14

a pair of young lovers whose love has been forbidden by their parents.

15 – 17

the death of a beloved villager.

18 – 20

the recent arrival of Gypsies.

21 – 23

the upcoming religious festival / procession.

24 – 26

the upcoming village fair and dance.

27 – 29

the discovery of an adulterous affair.

30 – 31

the upcoming pig slaughter. Late autumn/early winter only.

33 – 35

a puzzling and mysterious death.

36 – 38

a dog that became rabid.

39 – 41

the disease that is sweeping through the village.

42 – 44

the recent death of a whole family from spoiled food.

45 – 47

the abduction of a child.

48 – 50

the recent increase in rents.

51 – 52

a puzzling decrease in rents!

53 – 54

a recent boxing match.

55 – 56

a charlatan who recently breezed through the village.

57 – 58

the strange, localized weather event that recently occurred. See Twenty Ominous Weather Events in the supplement “A Ghastly Potpourri“.

59 – 60

the recent birth of a strangely deformed child.

61 – 62

the child who was recently discovered to be a Fairy changeling.

63 – 64

the miraculous healing that recently occurred in the church.

65 – 66

the sighting of a diabolical figure dancing atop the roof of the church.

67 – 68

the exposure and arrest of someone for “crimes against nature”.

69 – 70

the theft of a domestic animal.

71 – 72

the recent attacks on livestock by predators.

73 – 74

a haunting that has recently begun.

75 – 76

the desecration of graves in the churchyard.

77 – 78

an apparently unbeatable fighting cock (or dog).

79 – 80

the statue of a saint that has begun bleeding / exuding oil / crying holy water. Roll again in Protestant countries.

81 – 82

the villager who just experienced a vision of the Virgin Mary. Roll again in Protestant countries.

83 – 84

the “foreigner” who has decided to settle in the village. Note: a “foreigner” could be anyone from a place more than a day’s journey distant).

85 – 86

the mysterious stranger who recently came into town.

87 – 88

the group of soldiers (or Gendarmes) that recently passed through and bullied everyone.

89 – 90

someone’s recent encounter with an Immortal Wanderer.

91 – 92

a recent visit by someone whom the villagers believe to be a member of the Royal Family in disguise.

93 – 94

the recent visit by a demagogue preaching subversive politics.

95 – 96

a recent visit by an artist searching for picturesque landscapes to paint.

97 – 98

the poet that has taken up residence in a cottage.

99 – 100

a monstrous corpse that has been unearthed (or washed ashore).

Table 16: The Immediate Danger

d20

Villagers would welcome help with…

1

a pack of wolves.

2

a bear.

3

a rabid dog.

4

a gang of bandits.

5

normally non-aggressive animals that have suddenly turned vicious.

6

a Ghoulish Revenant.

7

a wandering Mindless Revenant.

8

a Vampyre.

9

a Werewolf.

10

a Ghost.

11

a family of Cannibals lurking in a nearby cave.

12

a monster lurking in the woods (or offshore).

13

a person suspected of being a witch (or warlock).

14

a Demoniac.

15

children who have gone missing.

16

the local Mad Scientist – pitchforks and torches are ready!

17

a press gang that has targeted the men of the community.

18

crimes committed by soldiers recently billeted in the village.

19

Ruffians employed by the local landlord to collect rents. Roll again if Class Relations are good.

20

a Fairy who who has abducted someone.

Table 17: The Village’s Dark Secret

d100

The villagers don’t want outsiders to know about…

1 – 4

a terrible crime committed there in the past, for which no one was ever brought to justice.

5 – 8

a recent crime committed by one or more respected members of the community.

9 – 11

all the inbreeding. Use Appendix L: Inherited Peculiarities of Inbred Noble Families from “A Ghastly Companion to Castles, Mansions, & Estates” to determine the distinguishing characteristic of native villagers. Only roll once – the most inbred villagers are nowhere near as inbred as the aristocracy!

12 – 14

the Vampyre that they secretly serve.

15 – 17

the many werwolves who inhabit the place.

18 – 20

the nearby caves that shelter monsters.

21 – 23

the evil that lurks in an abandoned mine.

24 – 26

the ancient temple complex the village is built atop.

27 – 29

the Pagan worship that persists in the Village.

30 – 32

the human sacrifices they make to preserve the fertility of the fields.

33 – 35

their devotion to Satan (or another diabolical figure).

36 – 38

their highly unorthodox Christian worship.

39 – 40

their secret practice of Judaism. Openly Jewish villages exist in Poland, western Russia, and the Kingdom of Hungary. Elsewhere, the openly Jewish population tends to be urban.

41

their secret practice of Islam.

42 – 45

their reverence towards a local Fairy.

46 – 48

their hunger for human flesh!

49 – 51

their practice of swapping spouses.

52 – 54

the fate of the travelers that recently disappeared after visiting the village.

55 – 57

the purpose of the talismans hung everywhere.

58 – 60

the local gang of bandits (or wreckers).

61 – 63

the coven of witches who meets nearby.

64 – 66

the reason their church was abandoned.

67 – 69

an abandoned house, and the awful people who once dwelt there.

70 – 72

the ruined castle nearby.

73 – 75

the buried treasure that was recently unearthed.

76 – 78

the local haunting. See Appendix O in “A Ghastly Companion to Castles, Mansions, & Estates”.

79 – 81

the village demoniac.

82 – 84

the desecrated graves in the churchyard.

85 – 87

the revolutionary who is hiding out there.

88 – 90

the young aristocrat who is hiding there with their lower-class spouse (or lover).

91 – 93

the powerful magician who lives here.

94 – 95

the dragon that must be placated with the sacrifice of a virgin girl every 10 years.

96 – 97

their interbreeding with Fairies, or something monstrous.

98

the upcoming wedding of a young woman to Satan.

99 – 100

the landlord’s shocking practice of jus primae noctis.

Yesterday’s Official Rule Changes OFFICIALLY Rescinded!

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I woke this morning to find that somebody had made supposedly official changes to the Ghastly Affair rules. I have no memory of making any such alterations. I do remember finding the door behind the plaster in my wine cellar, following the passage beyond to my grandfather’s long-lost laboratory, and accidentally breaking a stoppered flask filled with some unknown vapor. The next thing I remember after that is waking this morning in bed, with torn clothes and mud-entrusted shoes. Anyway, any supposedly official rules changes are hereby officially rescinded.

Now, I need to investigate the unsettling reports of a short, brutish fellow seen prowling in the vicinity of the townhouse just last night. A similar person was also apparently seen keeping company with the criminal class in the most disreputable part of the city. I believe, however, that the two people are unconnected.