The Furnace

So the creative part of my brain was engaged last night, helped on by a couple of Hobgoblin beers (see previous post), and this is what I threw up for my game for Furnace:

The Furnace
The Iron Moon hangs five kilometres up in the sky, held in place by giant iron chains it looms over an ancient necropolis city, which is known as the City of Eternal Shadow.

The Moon was pulled down from the heavens by the Nine, a group of powerful ancient immortals, to act as a prison for an evil megalomaniac known only as The Mad Tzar, who once threatened all with his plots for world domination.

The Moon may be a prison, but itโ€™s also rumoured a Furnace for the Tzarโ€™s desire for vengeance and schemes to rule the world.

Two weeks ago a piece of the Iron Moon fell to Earth in the City of Eternal Shadow a sure sign that the Mad Tzar is about to break free.

Summoned by the last of the Nine, the White Wizard Arkasal, your small group of heroes must travel to the Iron Moon and stop the Mad Tsar. Remember the future of the world depends on you.

An Old School D&D game, for up to six characters of 5th Level.

I’m going for 5th Level characters, because as my Albion Adventures co-conspirator Sacha says ;

5th level is good. Fighters will have an extra attack every other round. MUs and Clerics will have access to 3rd level spells. Thief abilities should be over 50% in most cases if you factor in DEX and racial bonuses. As the DM you can start throwing in more interesting encounters and dangerous monsters. Clerics automatically turn skeletons, zombies and ghouls so the scarier undead beasties become an option too. Basically 5th level is where the PCs are becoming hardy, seasoned adventurers.

Even though the adventure blurb suggests a higher level characters, I’m sticking with 5th Level since this the power level I feel that I can handle as I ease myself back into DMing after a 20 odd year break.

I’m either looking at using Swords and Sorcery for quickness and speed, or Adv Labyrinth Lord, either of which I can print off and give the players a copy of. I shall of course be sitting behind my Ad&D DM’s screen, that I recently got in my amazing AD&D Ebay haul (more of this in a later post) ๐Ÿ˜€

The concept behind the Iron Moon was inspired by seeing my son’s 1st Birthday balloon, a helium filled thing, hovering over his Happy Land space station in the living room. I love the creativity that is being unlocked by this old skool trip ๐Ÿ™‚


This is my favourite beer, Hobgoblin ale brewed by the Wychwood Brewery in the Cotswolds.

Some Newt related triva.

  • On my honeymoon, the good lady took me to the town where they brew it. Unfortunatly they didn’t do brewery tours then, but I had my first couple of hand pulled pints in local pub. I could have stayed all afternoon, but the missus was driving ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • Biggest regret of my attendance at the old GenConUKs held in Loughborough was that we never popped out of the con and went to the Wytchwood pub near the train station on the over side of town.
  • Jon Hodgson who does most of the D101 books covers, including the Savage North and the upcoming Life and Death for OpenQuest, has done several labels for Wychwood beers (although alas not the Hobgoblin himself).
  • I was lucky to have a bottle tonight ๐Ÿ™‚

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain

So I start this blog’s journey proper with what for alot of UK gamers was their entry point into the hobby.

My original copy of the Warlock of Firetop MountainThe Warlock of Firetop Mountain.

First published in 1980 by Puffin this was the first of Ian Livingstone’s and Steve Jackson’s (a Uk based chap, not the owner of the US games company that bears his name) “Fighting Fantasy” series. This pair play a big part in the 80s UK role-playing scene, and will be the subject of a future post for sure, but for now its worth mentioning that these two men had already set up Games Workshop, which at this point specialised in selling Dungeons and Dragons and other US RPGs of the time to the UK market. Fighting Fantasy was their successful attempt to put D&D in a ‘choose your own adventure’ format , where you go though a series of numbered entries each of which gives you the choice of what to do next which in turn leads to another bit of description. The genius of the FF series was that Ian and Steve married this successful format with a very simple RPG system; Three Stats Skill which was used for practically all skill tests (Fighting, detecting traps etc), Stamina – your hit points as you take damage this stat got marked down, and Luck which was used whenever the situation called for completely random resolution – but with some indication of how ‘Lucky’ the character is.

Warlock was not the first FF book I read. That honour goes to the second book in the series “The Citadel of Chaos”, which I found in my high school library in about ’84. I was hooked on the spot and I knew from a quick skim that this was for me and was going to be ‘my thing’. It was the beginning of my journey through Fantasy role-playing games, but it was an influence that has stayed with me always.

How FF has influenced my game design
This line from the Hints and Tips’ section at the start of the book has always stuck with me;

“The one true way involves a minimum of risk, and any player, no matter how weak on initial dice rolls, should be able to get through pretty easily.”

I interpret this in many ways, which would probably make a post of its own, but this phrase has influenced me more in my reffing and adventure writing over the years than any other piece of GM’s advice. However that’s not to say I’m a push over, because…..

Grit, I like my fantasy Gritty and dark. Warlock and subsequent FF books had this in bucket-loads, partially down to the wonderful art of Russ Nicholson. This is probably why I was never impressed by things such as Dragonlance and other fantasy that had shiny soft rock happy looking heroes on the front cover.

Its out of this world Fantasy. Almost as counterpoint to the gritty ‘realism’ evident in the books, there are moments of Fantastic almost whimsical fantasy. One of my favourite examples in Warlock is where you come to a dead end and there are a bunch of magically animated tools digging the tunnel to the tune of “Hi, Ho, Hi, Ho its off to work we go…”

There’s always a strong narrative both in the back story and in play. Even if its merely the search for a chest of treasure, as is the case with Warlock (although Ian Livingstone later gave the Warlock a name and a more detailed back ground in Return to Firetop Mountain FF Book 50 – but by then I had long given up on the series).

For me The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, and the next six game books (up to The Island of the Lizard King), really do sum up all that is good about Fantasy UK roleplaying in the 80s. And the good news is that none of this is out of print – Wizard Books currently publish a range of FF books including the Warlock, as well as bringing it to the IPad/IPhone (see links below).

Finally here’s Russ Nicholson’s iconic illustration of the Warlock himself

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain by Russ Nicholson



…to a journey through the misty forests, dark mountains and dangerous cities of Old Skool fantasy role-playing from a UK perspective.

So while we’ll be talking about D101’s own OSR products (the D100 OpenQuest and the upcoming Albion Adventures for Level Based Old Skool Dungeon Develing games), there will be a fair bit of discussion about 80s UK publications like; Fighting Fantasy, Warhammer Fantasy First Edition, TSR UK D&D modules and White Dwarf magazine.