Picturing the Bogeymen of Panzoasia

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Here are some illustrations of various “humanoid” species in my Panzoasia fantasy campaign. My Orcs are boar-headed, my Kobolds are Old-School dog-lizard-rat things, and my Ogres are dumb brutes with a distant kinship to Orcs. I conceive of the Goblinoids as nightmarish creatures with distinctly bat-like features. As for the Trolls, I portray them as somewhat more human-like than the standard in classic Old-School rpgs. In the Ultimate West of Panzoasia, all these beings are encompassed by the term “Bogeymen”.

 

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Travel Times for Old-School Hex-Crawling

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Here’s the handy-dandy chart I’m using to calculate travel times for “province-level” hex-crawls in my Panzoasia Campaign. It’s keyed for a scale of “1 Hex = 1 League”, which I prefer because it corresponds to both the rate an unburdened person can travel in one hour, and the distance to the visible horizon on a plain.

Movement rates are given for various Old-School rules variations; “Classic” (including B/X, BECMI, the RC, and their corresponding retro-clones), “Advanced” 1st Edition and 2nd Edition rules, post 3rd Edition rules, and Ghastly Affair.

Time to Travel 1 League (3 Miles), by Movement Rate and Terrain

Time to Travel 1 League (3 Miles), by Movement Rate and Terrain

Click/tap image to make larger. Unfortunately, I needed to make this a PNG because of difficulties with properly formatting the table in the blog editor.

NOTES

Wet, muddy, or snowy conditions shift effective movement rate one column to the right (harder). Forested Mountains, Badlands, or already Icy areas without roads will become completely impassable.

Generally, a road shifts the effective movement rate 1 column to the left (easier)

Travel through a Mountain Pass is at the same rate as for Open Hills.

A horse can be ridden at its normal movement rate for 5 hours total, before it must rest for the remainder of the day. For each hour of forced movement past 5, the horse loses 20% of its hit points (rounded up).

A horse can be ridden at a gallop (triple normal speed) for a total of 10 minutes in one day, covering a total of 1 league on a plain or road. Once 10 total minutes of galloping is reached, the horse cannot be ridden, or otherwise burdened, for at least an hour. A horse can only safely travel for a total of 4 hours in a day when it has been ridden at a gallop.

The total number of hours a person can march per day without harm is equal to their Constitution score. This includes the 10-minute rests indicated in the chart above. A forced march past that point inflicts damage equal to 20% of the marcher’s hit points (rounded up) per hour.

The Fool Hare and Perdurable Snail

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Medieval scholars have long puzzled over the significance of the strange marginalia illustrations of axe-wielding rabbits and giant snails common in medieval illuminated manuscripts. The answer, of course, is that they are simply illustrations of two creatures frequently encountered in Panzoasia! Here they are, in a cross-compatible format for use with most Old-School adventure role-playing games.

Note: For the “Morale” entry, the number in parenthesis is for use with the 2nd Edition Advanced rules. For the “Move” entry, the first value in the parenthesis is for use with 1st or 2nd Edition Advanced rules, and the second number for use with post 3rd Edition rules.

Fool Hare

Number Appearing: 1 or 2
Size: Small (3’ high)
Alignment: Summer and Winter: Neutral, Autumn: Lawful (good), Spring: Chaotic
Morale: Summer and Winter: 3 (or 4), Autumn: 9 (or 12), Spring: 11 (or 17)
Intelligence: 6
Move: Walking: 90′ (or 9”, or 20 ft.), Hopping: 180’ (or 18”, or 40 ft)
Armor Class: 6 (or 13)
Hit Dice: 1
Attacks & Damage:
1 punch (1d3) or weapon (by weapon type), 1 bite (1d2)
Special:
* Natural Camouflage: 60% undetectable in natural environments.
* Always Surprises if undetected.
* Leap: 20’ horizontally, or 15’ vertically.
* Mad Gaze: Anyone meeting the gaze of a Fool Hare in Spring must Save versus Wands, or temporarily have their Wisdom reduced by 1d6 points for the remainder of the day. Victims cannot be affected again for the remainder of the day.
Saves: As Thief 1
Challenge: Four 1st Level Characters

Fool Hares are 3-foot tall, bipedal leporids that live throughout the temperate lands of Panzoasia. They are sentient, albeit dim-witted by human standards. They are incapable of actually speaking, but can comprehend the basic vocabulary of whatever intelligent creatures they live near. They can dwell in any environment that supports ordinary hares. Fool Hares usually make nests of leaves or grass on the ground in overgrown fields, but prefer an abandoned shack or shed when they can find one. They are adept are hiding in natural environments, being visually undetectable 60% of the time. An undetected Fool Hare always acts with surprise – although they will only attack during their springtime madness.

Fool Hares are best known for their changeable dispositions and colors, both of which vary by the season. In Summer, the Fool Hare is Neutral in Alignment, brown in color, and avoids contact with people. In Autumn, however, the creature’s pelt turns Gray, and they become Lawful. At this time the Fool hare is sociable and friendly, and those who live near human farmers may even try to make themselves useful! Of course, since the creatures are infamously hare-brained, their attempts to be helpful are often quite comical. In Winter the Fool Hare turns white, and once again avoids people. In Spring, however, the Fool Hare turns Chaotic, which is reflecting in its variegated white, gray, and brown fur. At that time the creature is actually feared, because it becomes quite erratic, and often aggressive. Fool Hares afflicted by their springtime madness have been known to steal weapons and attack travelers, or commit acts of random vandalism. Some are even seen riding Perdurable Snails!

In the Spring, Fool Hares become potentially dangerous in another way – those who meet their Mad Gaze are known to lose all self-control for the remainder of the day, represented by the temporary loss of 1d6 points of Wisdom (to a minimum score of 3). Luckily, a person can only fall victim once per day. Affected people might confess repressed affections, reveal secrets, compulsively steal small items, or even start fights over trifles. Panzoasians embarrassed by their own impetuous springtime behavior will often say they “met a Fool Hare”. Importantly, Fool Hares are not immune to their own Mad Gaze – a fact that probably accounts for much of the strange behavior they exhibit during the Spring.

Because they are intelligent (however dimly), wantonly kill Fool Hares is generally considered immoral, and actually eating them is completely verboten. The evil Humanoids have no such compunctions, of course, and Bugbears and Ogres are particularly fond of roast (or raw) Fool Hare. It is also not unknown for unscrupulous furriers to trade in Fool Hare pelts, which can be nearly impossible to tell from those of ordinary hares, once sewn into a garment.

Note that certain Fairies (particularly the mischievous Pucas) are known to assume the form of Fool Hares, which also contributes to most people’s reluctance to harm them. Most Fool Hares nonetheless come to bad ends at the hands of their numerous predators. Those that don’t, can live up to 12 years.

Perdurable Snail

Number Appearing: 1 (10% chance for a protective companion under the influence of the snail’s Dart venom. Roll on the Wandering Monster table, ignoring creatures with HD greater than 6).
Size: Small (1 – 3 HD), Medium (4 – 6 HD), or Large (7 – 9 HD)
Alignment: Neutral
Morale: 11 (or 17)
Intelligence: 1
Move: Slithering: 30′ (or 3”, or 10 ft.)
Armor Class: Body: 9 (or 10); Shell: 3 (or 16) (50% chance an attacker is faced with either per Round)
Hit Dice: 1 – 9
Attacks & Damage: 1 rasping “tongue”, by creature Size:
Small: (1d4)
Medium: (1d6)
Large: (1d8)
+ possible Dart
Special:
* Shoot Dart: The Snail makes a normal to hit, as an melee attack. Dart inflicts 1d4 points of damage. Victim must Save versus Poison, or be compelled to defend and care for the snail for the remainder of the day. Usable once per day.
* Immune to Disease.
* Burned by Salt: 1d6 points of damage per pint.
Saves: As Fighter 1 -10 (as per Hit Dice)
Challenge: Four Characters of the Same Level as the Snail’s Hit Dice.

Perdurable Snails are dangerous creatures found throughout Panzoasia, only not eradicated because their bodies are valuable resources – and the horrible things will not breed in captivity. They can be found in the same environment inhabited by other land snails, and hibernate in their shells during the winter. In form they exactly resemble enormous garden snails, except their slimy bodies are usually shades of blue and purple. Like other snails, they leave a glistening track of slime wherever they go.

Perdurable Snails are worrisome for two main reasons. For one, they are aggressive omnivores that are known to attack sleeping or restrained livestock. Secondly, they are effectively immortal, unless killed by violence, poison, or salt. A juvenile Perdurable Snail has a body almost 3 feet in length, and is about 20 inches high. They add a foot of length (and a Hit Die) each year, eventually growing up to 12 feet long, and 7 feet high at the top of their spiral shells. Luckily, they are not fast animals, and it is possible to keep most of them from reaching such a frightening size.

Those unlucky enough to come into contact with a Perduable Snail with be attacked by the rasping, tongue-like radula that shoots out of its mouth. Furthermore, the Perdurable Snail can shoot a dart into the body of anyone within melee range. The dart is coated with a psychoactive venom that causes victims to regard the Snail with affection – breaking off any attacks, and even going so far as to bring the monster food! For its part, the Snail will not attack a creature under the influence of its Dart venom, and will allow the envenomed creature to accompany it, until the effect wears off. Luckily, the creature can only carry one dart at a time, and it takes a whole day for it to form another. The effect of the venom is automatically broken once the Snail dies.

The flesh of a Perdurable Snail is delicious when properly prepared – and the larger the snail, the better the taste. It is particularly valued as a delicacy in Corthis, Ydez, Agidea, and Xidu. The creature’s slime is a reagent for Potions of Elasticity, Fortitude, Growth, Healing, and Longevity. The liquid from its dart is harvested, and often put into the cup of wine shared by newly married couples. Finally, the whorled shells of Perdurable Snails can be cut into highly decorative (but quite functional) shields (which are particularly favored in the Ultimate South of Panzoasia). The soft body of a Perdurable Snail is worth 75gp per HD (but only a quarter of that if the slime has been ruined by salting). The shell is worth another 50gp per HD.

Chimeric Snails:
The magical nature of Perdurable Snails causes 1 in 10 to be Chimeric. A Chimeric Snail has the same abilities as any other of their species, but their head exactly resembles that of some other creature. Commonly seen variations includes snails with the heads of horses, bulls, dogs, goats, and snakes – or even dragons, and people! Note that a Chimeric Snail attacks with a bite, rather than the rasping tongue of a “normal” Perdurable Snail, but the damage inflicted is the same.

The Creation of the Worlds Beyond Panzoasia, Told Five Different Ways

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Europe a Prophecy, copy D, object 1 (Bentley 1, Erdman i, Keynes i) British Museum

There are five Bibles in Panzoasia: The Gospels of Light, the Aphorisms of Chance, the Classic of Destiny, the Book of Darkness, and the Epic of All Life. Each one gives a different version of the creation of the Supernal, Infernal, and Sublunary worlds – from the Good, Chaotic, Lawful, Evil, and Neutral perspectives receptively. Although all accounts broadly agree on the order of events, each disagrees with the others on the exact details.

Which story is correct? Perhaps all of them, and none of them. Some sages speculate that the Divine Powers do not exist in a single timeline of past, present, and future, like mortal beings. Instead, they have minds that embrace several alternate pasts and futures simultaneously. Therefore, the ongoing conflict between Alignments is actually the struggle to make one of the stories the “true” one among the mortals of the Sublunary World. The war is not just for control of Space, but also Time and History.

The essential points of the Panzoasian creation story are these:

  1. In the beginning there was an Ultimate God, who became divided into separate Divine Powers.
  2. In the Emptiness that was once filled by the body of the Ultimate God, the Divine Powers created the worlds, and Spirits to inhabit them.
  3. A Terrestrial Paradise was made on Earth, containing every kind of plant and animal.
  4. The Divine Powers created a First Person, who was double-gendered like the Ultimate God.
  5. The Dragon was uplifted from among the beasts, in order to be the guardian and instructor of the First Person.
  6. The First Person was split into the male and female ancestors of the Five Peoples, by means of a magical fruit offered by the Dragon.
  7. There was a war in the Supernal Worlds.
  8. Spirits took inhabitants of the Terrestrial Paradise as mates, and bred monstrous children who were then cast out.
  9. The remaining Five Peoples of the Terrestrial Paradise created something in the middle of it which could be used as a conduit to all the worlds.
  10. The Five Peoples had to leave the Terrestrial Paradise, and come to Panzoasia.

(The story is, of course, a twist on the more-or-less familiar one from the Book of Genesis.)

What follows is how each Bible of Panzoasia interprets that story, point-by-point.

The Creation of the Worlds and Five Peoples, According to THE GOSPELS OF LIGHT:

  1. The Ultimate God contracted into the Empyrean, and emanated Our Lord of Light. He made four other Powers: the Lord of Darkness, the Lady of Chance, the Lord of Destiny, and the Lady of Life. The Lord of Light did this because he wished to eventually create Worlds to which he could be benevolent.
  2. Our Lord of Light alone created Supernal, Infernal, and Sublunary Worlds. Originally, all the spirits were Angels of Heaven. Because he was the original leader of all the Powers and Angels, the Lord of Light is also called the Lord of Hosts. The other Powers (who at that point were simply the mightiest of the Angels) were directed to administer the physical elements, planets, stars, plants, and animals, under the direction of the Lord of Light.
  3. Our Lord Light directed the Lady of Life to plant the Terrestrial Paradise.
  4. Our Lord of Light created the First Person, male and female, in the image of the Ultimate God.
  5. The Lord of Darkness suggested that the Dragon be uplifted and made into the First Person’s instructor, because he secretly wanted to corrupt the beast into his service.
  6. The Lord of Darkness told the Dragon to give the First Person the Apple of Malice, eating which caused the Person to fall asleep, and wake up as ten People. As punishment, the Dragon and its descendants were cast out from the Terrestrial Paradise by the Lord of Light.
  7. Out of pride, the Lord of Darkness started a rebellion to seize control of Heaven. The Lady of Chance took the opportunity to desert, and seized control of the Whirl of Limbo. Those Angels that followed her became the Daimons. The Lord of Destiny seized control of the Celestial Spheres, and his followers became the Archons. The Lady of Life refused to take any side, and fled to the Corner of the Sublunary World she called the Summerland. The Angels that followed her became the Fairies. Finally, the Lord of Darkness was defeated. His exiled army of fallen Angels seized control of a portion of Limbo that they called Hell, and became the Devils.
  8. Our Lord of Light found a sinless virgin, who was the most virtuous of People, and crowned her as Queen of Heaven and the Angels. The Lady of Chance took the first lawbreaker as her husband, and made him King of Limbo and the Daimons. The Lord of Destiny took the first Astrologer as his wife, and crowned her as Queen of the Celestial Spheres and Archons. The Lady of Life found the man who best understood the plants and animals of Nature, took him as her husband, and crowned him the horned King of the Summerland and Fairies. The Lord of Darkness found the first sorceress and poisoner, the most wicked of all People, and made her Queen of Hell and the Devils. Before she descended into Hell, the Lady of Darkness gave birth to the Demons and Monsters that were eventually expelled from the Terrestrial Paradise by Angels.
  9. The Lord and Lady of Darkness tricked the People of the Terrestrial Paradise into building the Tower of Perplexity, tall and deep enough to link Heaven and Hell. Our Lord of Light ruled that the People must leave the Terrestrial Paradise, because they had creating a means by which the forces of Darkness could invade the refuge of Light.
  10. Angelic warriors were sent to protect the Terrestrial Paradise and Tower of Perplexity, and The Five Peoples were shepherded by their Guardian Angels to the Ends of the Earth.

The Creation of the Worlds and Five Peoples, According to THE APHORISMS OF CHANCE:

  1. The Ultimate God was bored, so it became the Twins of Chaos – both of whom are simultaneously Lord and Lady of Chance. They gave birth to the Lords and Ladies of Light, Darkness, Destiny, and Life. Among them, the Lord and Lady of Destiny were definitely the dullest and least talented. To avoid further boredom, Our Lord and Lady of Chance told each of their children that they were they first and best, which caused entertaining discord. The Twins of Chaos found it particularly enjoyable to see the idiotic Lord and Lady of Destiny proclaiming their own importance and power. What remained of the Ultimate God became the Empyrean.
  2. The Twins of Chaos reserved a portion of Emptiness for themselves, and let their children play in the remainder. Soon the lesser Powers of Light, Darkness, Destiny and Life had created Heaven, Hell, the Celestial Spheres, and the Sublunary World. The Twins of Chaos then decided that it would be fun to make Daimons who would help them spread mischief, catastrophe, and strife. As a joke, the Twins of Chaos told each of their children that their World was the best one – better even than the Whirl of Limbo their parents had created!
  3. The Lord and Lady of Life proposed to their siblings that they should all cooperate to create the Terrestrial Paradise, in order to impress their parents, the Twins of Chaos.
  4. The Divine Powers all tried and failed to create a First Person in the image of the Ultimate God. Finally, the Person was secretly created by Chance. The Twins of Chaos decided to tell the Lord and Lady of Light that they were the ones who had actually succeeded. The Twins also did the same with all their other children. Our Lord and Lady of Chance greatly enjoyed the squabbling that resulted.
  5. The Lord and Lady of Darkness persuaded the other Powers to uplift the Dragon, because they wanted it to become their servant, who would convince the First Person to be their ally in Evil.
  6. The Twins of Chaos thought that Darkness’ plan was boring, so Our Lady secretly gave the Dragon the Apple of Discord, and told it to give to the First Person. After eating the Apple, the First Person split into a Human male and female. Darkness’ scheme was ruined, the Dragon was blamed for it all, and Our Lord and Lady of Chance had a great laugh!
  7. After much goading and intrigue, Our Lord and Lady of Chance succeeded in their plan to provoke War throughout the spiritual Worlds. They did this in the hope that something truly surprising would occur. It did, when the combined armies of of Darkness and Destiny decided to attack the Whirl of Limbo simultaneously. Daimonic freedom fighters succeeded in expelling the Archons (whose strategies were completely predictable), but the forces of Darkness occupy their stolen lands (called Hell) to this day. Those former Daimons who were trapped in Hell are now called Demons, and exist only to destroy. Even through Our Lord and Lady essentially lost the War, they do not regret how interesting it was.
  8. Some Daimons went to the Terrestrial Paradise, took mates, and bred offspring who were the most strange and wonderful Monsters. Refugee Angels took mortal spouses, and bred the Giants. Some Fallen Angels of Darkness took mortal spouses, and bred the various humanoid Monsters. The Fairy Folk took mortal spouses, and their children became the Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, and Gnomes. To the dismay of the Lord and Lady of Chance, the People of the Terrestrial Paradise cast out all the most interesting children, except for the Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, and Gnomes.
  9. Our Lord and Lady of Chance inspired the remaining Five Peoples to build the Tower of Perplexity that would link all the Worlds together. For some reason, this angered the unimaginative Lord and Lady of Destiny, who hurled lightning bolts at the Tower and Terrestrial Paradise.
  10. The Five Peoples fled the Terrestrial Paradise, and were led by the Daimons to the more interesting, Monster-filled Ends of the Earth.

The Creation of the Worlds and Five Peoples, According to THE CLASSIC OF DESTINY:

  1. The Ultimate God retracted its being into the Empyrean, in order to begin the process of ordering the Cosmos. The mind of the Ultimate God then resolved itself into Our Lord of Destiny, also known as The Demiurge. Our Lord separated the female from the male within himself, and made Our Lady of Destiny. Together they create the Powers of Light and Darkness. To balance the Light and Dark, Our Lord and Lady created the Powers of Life. In the Emptiness where the Ultimate God once was, the Lord and Lady of Chance (also known as the Abominations of Chaos) coalesced from the leftover detritus of Creation.
  2. Our Lord and Lady of Destiny turned to the Emptiness, and began ordering the spaces within it. First, they made the Perfection of the Celestial Spheres as a home for themselves, and created the Archons. From the beginning, Our Lord and Lady had the plan to eventually create the Five Peoples, so they made Heaven as a reward for the lawful, and set the Powers of Light to be its King and Queen. They made Hell as a punishment for the lawless, and set the Powers of Darkness to be its King and Queen. They made the Sublunary World to be home of living bodies, and commanded the Powers of Life to fill it with plants and animals, following the dictates of Natural Law. The Powers of Light, Darkness, and Life were also given Archons as servants. While Our Lord and Lady were busy ordering the Cosmos, however, the Abominations of Chaos invaded Hell, and corrupted a portion of it into the Whirl of Limbo. They infested Limbo with their spawn, which they called Daimons.
  3. Our Lord and Lady of Destiny created the Terrestrial Paradise to be the perfect garden where every plant and animal existed in its proper relationship to each other. It was guarded by Archons with flaming swords, to protect it from the Powers of Chance.
  4. The First Person was created and placed in the Terrestrial Paradise by Our Lord and Lady of Destiny. The First Person was made double-gendered to reflect the Ultimate God, but Our Lord and Lady always planned the eventually division into male and female.
  5. Our Lord and Lady of Destiny were alone responsible for uplifting the Dragon, and charging it to be the instructor and guardian of the First Person. The Dragon was told to prevent the First Person from eating the Apple of Division, before the proper time had come.
  6. One day the Powers of Chance lured the Dragon out of the Terrestrial Paradise. They convinced it to fly back, and give the Apple of Division to the First Person. The Dragon did so, and after eating the fruit, the First Person was split into ten People. The separation of the First Person into many People thus occurred long before its destined time.
  7. The Abominations of Chaos fomented rebellion against Our Lord and Lady of Destiny. The Lord and Lady of Light seized Heaven, and their Archons became Angels. The Lord and Lady of Darkness seized Hell, and their Achons became Devils. The Powers of Life entrenched themselves in the Corner of the Sublunary World they called the Summerland, and their Archons became the Fairies. Towards the end of the war the Daimons of Limbo invaded Hell, and when their armies were repulsed, many were left behind in the retreat. Those Daimons became the Demons of destruction.
  8. Many of the rebel Archons deserted their armies and took mortal mates. They bred the various Monsters which were had to be cast out from the Terrestrial paradise by Our Lord and Lady of Destiny.
  9. The Abominations of Chaos inspired the Five Peoples to build the Tower of Perplexity, in the vain hope that People would be able to raid the records of the Celestial Bureaucracy, and write their own fates.
  10. As punishment for their lawlessness, the Five Peoples were cast out of the Terrestrial Paradise and into the Ends of the Earth, now infested with Monsters.

The Creation of the Worlds and Five Peoples, According to THE BOOK OF DARKNESS:

  1. The Ultimate God spat out the Lord of Light, as one spits out a bit of phlegm. Then, Our Lord of Darkness was drawn forth from the Body of the Ultimate God by the self-important Lord of Light. The Lord of Light did this so Our Lord would carry him, and make himself even brighter by contrast. It is for this reason that Our Lord is also called “Light-Bearer”. The Lord of Light then insisted he wanted to create Worlds upon which he could shine, in order to glorify himself. Our Lord pointed out to the Lord of Light that if they must create Worlds, they would need other Powers. Therefore they cut the Lord of Destiny, the Lady of Chance, and the Lady of Life from the body of the Ultimate God. Our Lord, however, did most of the actual work.
  2. Our Lord of Darkness and the Lord of Light collaborated to made Heaven and the Angels, but once again, Our Lord did the bulk of the labor. The Lord of Light then told Our Lord to oversee the other Powers as they made the Celestial Spheres, Whirl of Limbo, and the Sublunary World. Finally, Our Lord made himself a beautiful palace in Hell, far more lovely than anything in Heaven. Naturally, the Lord of Light was envious of Our Lord’s strength and talent.
  3. The Lord of Light decided to claim a portion of the Earth the Lady of Life had made, filled it with examples of all the plants and animals she had created, and displayed it to the other Powers as an example of his own ingenuity and magnificence.
  4. The Lord of Light compounded a poor imitation of the Ultimate God out of animal parts, dung, and earth, and called it the First Person He then gathered together all the Powers and Angels, and made them fall down in front of his flawed creation, in order to humiliate them. Our Lord of Darkness, however, refused to bow down to the obviously imperfect First Person, which greatly angered the egotistical Lord of Light.
  5. The Lord of Light wanted the First Person to be his exclusive slave. To that end, he decided to uplift the Dragon, and make it powerful enough prevent the the other Powers from educating the First Person about the Lord of Light’s true nature.
  6. Our Lord of Darkness was outraged at the way the Powers had been disregarded and humiliated, so he told the truth about things to the Dragon, and showed him why he shouldn’t blindly obey the Lord of Light’s orders. The Dragon agreed. Our Lord gave the Apple of Knowledge to the Dragon, for the First Person to eat. When the First Person consumed the magical fruit, it realized it was simply a bundle of dirt, dung, and meat, and broke itself into ten different People. The angry Lord of Light then sent Angels to exile the Dragon from the Terrestrial Paradise, and chop it up into many different, lesser Dragons.
  7. The Lord of Light flew into a rage, and demanded that every Angel and Power swear a oath to obey him without question. Finally, our Lord of Darkness, allied with the Lord of Destiny and the Lady of Chance, led a Rebellion. The cowardly Lady of Life, however, refused to take sides, and fled to the Sublunary World. Her Angels became the Fairies. The Lord of Destiny and Lady of Chance proved to be unreliable allies, since they were as interested in defeating each other as much as fighting the Lord of Light. The Lord of Destiny retreated to the Celestial Spheres, and his Angels became the Archons. The Lady of Chance retreated to the Whirl of Limbo, and her Angels became the Daimons. Betrayed by his allies, Our Lord and his Devils were defeated and forced back to Hell, whose beauty was vandalized and ruined by the victorious Angels. Dissatisfied with the craven capitulation of Chance to Heaven, and vowing to destroy all the works of the tyrannical Lord of Light, many Daimons fled Limbo and settled in Hell as Demons.
  8. While visiting Earth to find and punish those Devils who had deserted in the battle for Heaven, Our Lord of Darkness found the wisest of all women, took her as his Queen, and made her Our Lady. Before returning to Hell, they had children who were the ancestors of the humanoid nations now unfairly despised by the Five Peoples. Also on the Earth were Angels who had been abandoned by their armies. They took mortals as spouses, and bred the Giants. The Lord of Destiny made the first Astrologer his Lady of Destiny, and took her up to the Celestial Spheres. The Lady of Chance similarly made the first bandit her Lord, and brought him to Limbo. Those Daimons who had fled to the Earth during the War in Heaven bred monstrous children from various animals, before they too returned to Limbo. The Lady of Life found the man who was most knowledgeable in the lore of Nature, and made him the Lord of Life. When the Lord of Light saw the Humanoids, Giants, and other Monsters, he sent Angels to chase them (and all the spirits) from the Terrestrial Paradise.
  9. As a final attempt to free the Five Peoples who remained in the Terrestrial Paradise, Our Lord and Lady of Darkness inspired them to build the Tower of Perplexity, which would link the worlds and enable them to travel as they willed. When the Lord of Light realized what was occurring, he sent Angels blast the Tower and kill the workmen.
  10. The Lord of Light expelled the Five Peoples from the Terrestrial Paradise, and sent them to to live in the Ends of the Earth. – where he had already exiled the Monsters. The People acquiesced to this demand, and so Our Lord and Lady of Darkness came to finally realize that the mass of them were worthless and weak, with only a few exceptions who were fit to be co-inheritors of the Worlds.

The Creation of the Worlds and Five Peoples, According to THE EPIC OF ALL LIFE:

  1. The Ultimate God was alone, and so sought to no longer be lonely. First the the God concentrated into the Empyrean, and separated itself into the opposites of Chaos and Law, Good, and Evil. Then those powers separated themselves into the Lords and Ladies of Chance, Destiny, Light, and Darkness. After the other Powers had left it, the remaining Power of the Ultimate God separated into Our Lord and Lady of Life.

  2. Where the Ultimate God once was, there was an Emptiness, in which the Lords and Ladies made spaces for themselves. The Lord and Lady of Chance made Limbo, and there created raging Fire, howling Air, rushing Water, and the Daimons. The Lord and Lady of Light made Heaven, and there created Day and the Angels. The Lord and Lady of Darkness made Hell, and there created Night and the Devils. The Lord and Lady of Destiny made the Celestial Spheres, and there created the Planets, Stars, and Archons. Our Lord and Lady of Life made the Sublunary World, and created all of Nature, as well as the Fairies to enjoy it. Originally, every kind of spirit could come and go freely in every World.

  3. The Ten Divine powers looked upon the worlds they had made, and agreed to make a center to decorate Creation. They planted a Garden in the Earth, and called it the Terrestrial Paradise. They gathered into it every variety of living thing that Our Lord and Lady of Life had made.

  4. The Divine Powers agreed to make a Person in the image of the Ultimate God they had once been. The Ladies of Chance, Destiny, Light, Darkness, and Life all gave birth to the First Person simultaneously – all five were the Mother. Like the Ultimate God had been, the First Person was both male and female.

  5. Each of the Divine Powers sent their spirits to speak to the First Person, who in turn taught the superiority of Chaos, Law, Goodness, and Evil. The Person became confused, not knowing what to believe. The Lord and Lady of Life then proposed to the other Divine Powers that the Person should have only one educator, who would teach a balanced doctrine. Since it was already the most wise and powerful beast in Paradise, the Divine Powers selected the serpent called Dragon to be the Instructor of the First Person. Each pair of Divine Powers gifted the Dragon with extraordinary abilities.
  6. The Lord and Lady of Darkness became suspicious that the Lord and Lady of Light were planning on turning both the First Person and Dragon against them. They spoke to the Dragon, and said that because it was obviously wiser and more powerful than the First Person, it should be the Ruler and Possessor of the Terrestrial Paradise. The Lady of Darkness then gave the Dragon an Apple of Malice that would cause the First Person to become many People, divided against each other. So divided, they would no longer be a threat. The Dragon then gave the trusting First Person the Apple. After falling asleep, the First Person woke up as ten people! In the forest of the Terrestrial Paradise a male and female Elf awakened. In a cave of the mountains there was now a male and female Dwarf. In a planted field awakened a male and female Halfling. In the rolling hills was a male and female Gnome. And in the bed where the First Person had first fallen asleep, a male and female Human opened their eyes.

  7. The Lord and Lady of Light demanded that Lord and Lady of Darkness explain what they had done. Instead, the Lord and Lady of Darkness immediately attacked Heaven with their army of Devils. The Powers of Chance and Destiny then accused the other of harboring secret plots, and began fighting. Our Lord and Lady of Life tried as best they could to stop the war, but the other Powers wouldn’t listen.

  8. The War devastated the spiritual worlds, and in the end resulted only in every Power retreating to their own World. However, during the fighting many spirits deserted their armies, and came to Earth. There they took mortal mates, and had monstrous children. The Angels and their spouses gave rise to the Giants. The Devils and their spouses created the various humanoids – Orcs, Goblins, Kobolds, etc. The Daimons took both people and animals as their mates, and thereby created many strange and bestial Monsters. The Lord and Lady of Destiny, incensed that there were now Monsters who not part of their original plan of Fate, sent armies of Archons to drive the creatures out of the Terrestrial Paradise. More People were accidentally killed as a result of the Archons’ battles, than from the attacks of the Monsters.

  9. As a last effort towards restoring harmony, Our Lord and Lady of Life gave the People the seed of the World Tree. The tree grew so large that its roots extended to Limbo and Hell, its trunk twisted through all the Ends and Corners of the Earth, and its branches lay in the Celestial Spheres and Heaven. But the Angels, Devils, Archons, and Daimons turned the World Tree into just a convenient means to raid each others’ worlds.

  10. Because it was no longer safe for them there, Our Lord and Lady of Life showed the Five Peoples the way out of the Terrestrial Paradise, and into the Ends of the Earth..

Note: The Epic of All Life doesn’t actually account for how the blindly destructive Demons of evil Chaos came to exist, other than insinuating that they a disease afflicting Reality.

A Brief Overview of the Worlds Beyond of Panzoasia

  1. The three Supernal Worlds are conceptually “above” the Sublunary World They consist of:
    • The Empyrean, a boundless expanse of pure light and flame generally considered to be the last echo of the Ultimate God.
    • Heaven, where the Blessed Souls of the Good reside. There are Seven Gardens of Heaven tended by the Angels.
    • The Celestial Spheres, where the Justified Souls of the Lawful reside. There are Eight Celestial Spheres administered by the Archons.
  1. The Supernal Worlds are accessible through the starry gulfs of the Astral Plane, in which float countless small Dream Worlds.
  2. The Sublunary World lies at the conceptually “center” of the Cosmos, “under” the Lunar Celestial Sphere. It consists of our Earth and material Universe, but with additional hidden dimensions called the Four Ends and Eight Corners.
  3. The Four Ends of the Earth are actually another way of referring to the Ultimate West, East, North, and South of Panzoasia.
  4. The Eight Corners of the Earth are:
    • The Vault of Air, including the cloud Kingdom of the Sylphs (and other Air Elementals).
    • The Underworld, or Chthon, including the subterranean Commonwealth of the Saganic Gnomes (and other Earth Elementals).
    • The Eternal Sea, including the underwater Commonwealth of the Undines (and other Water Elementals).
    • Fiery Purgatory, including the volcanic Kingdom of the Salamanders (and other Fire Elementals). Purgatory is also the point in the Sublunary World where the Supernal and Infernal Worlds meet, and so functions as both a way station, and place of purification, for souls and spirits on their way to other places.
    • The Pillars of the Earth, a chain of mountains so vast they pierce the sky.
    • Shadowland, including the gloomy cities of the Shadow People.
    • The Antipodes, inhabited by the upside-down Antipodeans who express sorrow with laughter, and happiness with tears.
    • The Summerland, a beautiful Otherworld of isles inhabited by both the Fairy Folk, and the souls of the Honored Ancestors who embraced harmonious Neutrality.
  1. The misty Ethereal Plane is coterminous with the Sublunary World. Becoming Ethereal enables rapid travel between the Ends and Corners of the Earth.
  2. The three Infernal Worlds are conceptually “below” the Sublunary World. They consist of:
    • Limbo, where the Lost Souls of the Chaotic reside. Limbo has an infinite number of Dwellings inhabited by the Daimons.

    • Hell, where the Damned Souls of the Evil reside. There are Seven Pits of Hell which imprison the Devils.

    • The Emptiness, an endless void once filled by the body of the Ultimate God. It is inhabited now only by incomprehensible things long exiled from the Cosmos, and expunged by the records of history.

  1. Like the Supernal Worlds, the Infernal Worlds are accessible through the Astral Plane.

(The few of you who are long term readers of this blog may recognize material adapted and altered from the “Fantasy Cosmology” series I did a few years back, as well as the “Spirits of Heaven and Hell” ebook available in the Downloads section).

Hex Maps of the Ultimate West, at Three Different Scales

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Here are three hex maps from my current “Panzoasia” campaign world for Old-School adventure role-playing*. I’m sharing them as examples for newer DMs and GMs, who may be curious about how to properly create and scale such maps. I created these maps from scratch using InkScape, but there are many useful hex mapping programs that can potentially make the job a lot easier for you.


The first map is the “Ultimate West” region of Panzoasia, broken down into 432-mile hexes. The positioning of the green hexes might seem off, but it is a deliberate attempt to make each one enclose as as rich an area for adventuring as possible.


This next map shows Hex # 9 from the 432-mile scale map above, broken down into 36-mile hexes. Remember, the scale is the distance between the centers of two adjacent hexes.


This last map shows Hex #97 from the 36-mile scale map above, broken down into 3-mile hexes. This is the area around the town of Osterm, and where the PCs from my new Campaign have begun their adventures. Notice that while the terrain type shown in the 36-mile hex is predominant among the 3-mile hexes, there are actually several other environments also present. I chose a 3-mile scale for the hexes (rather than the the more common 6-mile one) because three miles (or, one league) represents the distance a healthy person can travel over level ground on foot in one hour. Also, three miles is the approximate distance to the horizon for a person of average height standing on a plain. This means that travelers in the center of a 3-mile hex can usually see to at least the center of every surrounding hex, provided the view is not obscured – by trees, for instance.

You will notice that I have not named every village directly on this map, but simply keyed them with a single or double-letter code – for example, (A), or (AA). That’s because even in a sparsely-populated frontier land such as this there are so many small farming villages that indicating all their names would create an illegibly busy effect.

*Note: I’m currently using the 1991 D&D Rules Cyclopedia as my core rules set for adventures in the “Ultimate West” of Panzoasia, but the setting is meant to be compatible with the broad range of Old-School retro-clones, and related OSR games.

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.

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.