Fiendish Friday: Zarth Wars!

A small idea for a Convention game next year at the Seven Hills Convention (in Sheffield weekend after Easter weekend) which has a Sci-Fi RPG gaming theme. Here’s how I blend Planetary Romance, Spell Jammer with the magnificent evil that is Crypts and Things:

Few of those who crawl in the dust of ancient empires that litters the dying World of Zarth even suspect of the mayhem that rages in the skies above their heads. Of the wars fought between the evil Uzil and the insane Yikirk. The clashes between the Space Gypsy Skyships and the foul luminous floating discs of Olz. The insane gravity of the Topaz moon or the ominous silence of the Dark Star.
But the Grand Astronomer of the Crystal Moon summons you the appointed heroes from your Zarth bound life, to rise up into space to rescue the Princess Zarisula from the clutches of the Fiend who would be Emperor of known space.

So grab your flame lance, don your crystal armour, prime your needle gun and set sail on Rocket Ship Zargaz to the Obos, the moon of Infinite Doom!

Planetary Romance meets Swords & Sorcery using the OSR D&D rules of Crypts of Things.

Fiendish Friday: The village of Shek

A small dirt poor village for your Crypts and Things game, from the upcoming adventure module UK-S2 The Dark Path.


Shek is a small agricultural village, whose residents cling to the Old Religion of Earth worship. They are used to the intervention of the spirit world in their daily lives, and dotted  around the village are small little offering  shrines to local spirits,such as the Wee Man, The Lady of the Trees, Oddkin the Bodkin and Wee Lass (no relation to Wee Man). These spirits provide protection from the extremes of the weather and ensures the health and vitality of the villagers, their livestock (mainly goats) and their crops. Priests who try to convert the villagers to their religion usually get tarred and feathered, and Sorcerers s are  treated as if they are the most evil people on the planet.

Shek comprises of around 15 log cabins with thatched roofs, a big communal barn for livestock sits on the edge of the village, and big circular hall in the centre acts as a communal meeting place. For entertainment Shek folk drink Bog Beer (a dark almost black ale), take hallucinogenic mushrooms found locally in the Woods of Delirium   and start random, but harmless fist fights (aka. “Good friendly violent fun”).

Fiendish Friday: The Snakes of Severis

In a deserted temple on the Plateau of Pain stands a seven foot high statue of a long forgotten god. This robbed figure wielding a short sword held aloft is covered in writhing multicoloured snakes, ranging from between two to three feet in length. Baby snakes emerge periodically magically from the statues wide open mouth. The snakes are carried far and wide by an order of assasins who specialise in dissappearances. They know a magic word which paralases the snakes into a hard dart like form. They will then throw the snake at a target who on a successful hit must Save vs Poison as the snake’s fangs sink into exposed flesh. If the target fails they start to phase out of reality within twenty four hours (D20+3). Within that time the target becomes more and more insubstantial. Only strong magic can save them, such as Dispel Magic as cast by a ninth level Magician, or higher, or paradoxically the petrifying gaze of a Basilisk. If the target phases out of reality, their insubstantial form is transported to an isolated place in the Shroud, known as the Purple Room, where it waits for up to sixteen hours (2d8 hours) before being returned to Reality for its final damnation. For after they leave the Purple Room they are transported insied the Statue, where they become their essense produces the next batch of Snakes!

Fiendish Friday: Thuric’s Ring

God Emperor Thuric is almost forgottten by all but the most obscure scholar. This tyrant lorded it over the Continent of Terror in ancient times. He was completly sadistic and insane and attracted similar bad types to his court. Such as the evil Sorcerer Elbakem-El-Feng. This demon in a man’s form quickly intergrated himself with the Emperor’s inner circle, and soon became the sole channel of communication with him. Once he had isolated Thuric he bedazzled him with a series of gifts, each more extravagant than the last. First was an intricate jade ring, were two carved jade serpents lay tail to mouth, each swallowing the other. Then came magificent sets of magical arms and armour, exquistively crafted artefacts and jewelry to melt the heart of even the most resistant of women. More and more did Thuric become dependant on Elbakem’s gifts. Then one day he awoke alone. His treasures all gone and in the empty throne room only the mocking laughter of Elbakem. His shocked servants rushed to throne room to find that Thuric had disappeared. The only trace of him being the jade ring, placed neatly on the seat of his throne.

Crypt Keeper’s info.
The ring when first donned produces a warm resilent glow around the character, giving them +10 hit points and +2 when makeing saving throw.

Each following week a new gift appears in the wearers life (roll d6 on list below). Only the wearer may don them. If they try to give them away the gift crumbles into dust.

1. Golden Armour of Lions Ac 0 [19].
2. Silver blade of Servering, d12 damage +2 to hit.
3. The amulat of Seduction, -2 to Save to avoid being seduced ( equivalent of a Charm Person spell) by the person who gifts the amulat.
4. The wearer discovers a treasure horde worth 500 Gp nearby.
5. The Sheild of the Dragon, automatically protects against Fireball and Dragon fire.
6. Robe of Charming, wearer automatically has charisma 18 and is able to cast Charm Person, twice a day.

After all the gifts have appeared, another week passes. The wearer enjoys life. Then one morning they awake and all their possessions are gone (not just the gifts). All they can hear is the mocking laughter of Elbakem-El-Feng, who then steps into Reality to take the character back to his hellish Other World as ‘payment’ for their time with the gifts.

Elbakem-El-Feng in Demon form appears as a tall gaunt humaniod with stretched grey skin, horned head and long talons. It wears and uses all the gifts.

Elbakem-El-Feng AC 0 [19] HD 8 Attacks x 2 Damage Talons (d8) or Silver blade of Servering, (d12 damage, +2 to hit) Save 8 Special Rules: Posseses the Six Magical Elbakem-El-Feng. CR 10 XP 1,400.

Fiendish Friday: The City of Chun

The Scarlet City is named thrice – for the molten godblood that flows through its core, for the crimson hue of the rock from which it is carved and from the stains of blood that run across every part of the city – a mark of the excesses of the Crimson Lord. The City fell into ruin 5000 years ago when its stone buildings were shattered by angry gods. While the rest of the old human empire was drowned in Ash, Churn was drowned in the waste of its own excesses in vengeance for its ruler’s hubris. The city is the source of the fetid Stink River* and lies at the heart of the foetid swamplands.

The infamous city of Chun is home of the Crimson Lord himself. Dotted with bubbling smoking caldera whose lava pools – known as godblood by the people of Chun – are said to contain the pathways to the Gods themselves. Twisting tunnels, intricate caves and malevolent minarets have been painstakingly carved from outcrops of volcanic rock creating a partially hidden labyrinth of narrow thoroughfares, open spiral-pathed pits and fantastical bridges and towers that eerily emerges from the swamp and mist.

Within this demonic architecture live the surviving people of Chun, feral cannibalistic savages who are grouped into small clans whose every existence is to serve the Crimson Lord himself with tribute of flesh and blood. The people of Chun worship the Crimson Lord and who in return for this love, and their blood, protects them from the ravages of the wider world. His risen armies, drawn by blood sacrifice from the godblood pools, feel no pain or fear and when one fall, another rises from the pool.

The god blood pools are tended by the Godspeakers of Chun, one of the few remaining sects of foul unspeakable cultists who once terrorised the surrounding lands in the name of the Crimson Lord.

*The Stink River is in the Ash Plains and is mentioned in UK S01 Blood of the Dragon.

The above is from an upcoming C&T module, and was written by Neil Gow author of Duty & Honour.

Fiendish Friday: A Sky of Bones

So I missed a week, but we are back with this special weather event to cheer up even the most humdrum journey across the wastes of Zarth.

“I’ve experienced it four times in my life. It always starts the same. The sky darkens as if a storm is brewing. Indeed there is a rumbling of sorts but if you listen carefully you’ll hear it’s more of a grinding sound. Then suddenly the sky goes blood red, with clouds swirling around an angry red spot, which suddenly opens up and vomits out a blanket of human bones that covers the sky, blots out the sun and even the Locust Star. If you are not already locked up tight in shelter, now is the time to run as fast as ye can, because next comes a rain of the dead armed hideous for war comes screaming down ready to harm the living”
Hongra the Horny, Scout of the Ash Plains.

This is a magical disaster that can affect an area of up to five miles square.

It starts out as typical storm, before the sky turning red round a single vertex of bloody horror, which is actually a gate to a Hellish Other World, were all the armies of the Empire that was under the Ash Plain were taken by the vengeful Old Gods in punishment for their civilisations hubris.  The Sky of Bones vomits out from that Other World gate, and if you look closely enough it is an writhing mass of undead warriors held in the sky by some invisible force.

The storm lasts for d20 minutes, and each minute roll on the following table to see what drops from the Sky of Bones near the adventurers.

Roll d8

  1. 2d6 Skeletons
  2. 1d3 Ghouls
  3. 1 Wight
  4. 1d3 Red Zombie
  5. 1d4 Zombie
  6. 1 Mist Maid
  7. 1d3 Wind Wraith
  8. Roll again and double the number encountered.

Once the storm is over, any remaining undead are sucked back into the gate which then closes, leaving only clear peaceful skies in its wake.

It occurs mainly in the Ash Plains, probably due to its origins, but has been reported in other places in the Continent of Terror.

Fiendish Friday: The Skin of Oskmas the Traveller

Between the hellish Other Worlds and the Real World of Zarth is the grey netherworld of The Shroud. While most of the Shroud is comprised of featureless bleak hills, endless corridors, and dreary mist filled forests there are the occasional landmark. Strange castles filled with dead warriors, aquariums filled with dark fish or ruins of cities infested with ravenous Others are chilling examples.

Travel between these locations and Zarth is hazardous and random. While being distinct and logical in themselves they often have no fixed location in the Shroud, so travelling there in any predictable way from the Zarth is next to impossible. Only long forgotten rituals of the Ancients, themselves locked in deep dangerous dungeons,  can with any certainly facilitate travel. There is also the worry to even the most insane Sorcerer that such rituals in the past have caused cataclysms as such as the opening of the Locust Star, where  plagues of Others have taken advantage of the breach between Zarth and the Shroud and have come over to feed.   The only known ‘safe’ way is the following Magic Item.

Magic Item: The Skin of Oskmas the Traveller
“Old Oskmas he travelled far and wide in a place not a place between the worlds. Until the Sorcerers of Magragore caught him and skinned him alive. Fleshless he crawls the buried underhalls of Magragore “
While alive Oskmas was a frequent traveller in the Shroud. It is unknown if it was necessity or mere curiosity that drove him to find out more and more forbidden knowledge about this shaded realm. During his life he had every location he visited symbolically represented as tattoos on his skin. By all accounts by the time of his death his body was black with inked markers. Death found him in the form of the Sorcerers of the buried city of Magragore, who slew him on behalf of the Sultan of the Shade City. The Sorcerers then had his skin cured, folded and held in a golden chest in the deepest vault in Magragore. It is rumoured that Sorcerers also preserved Oskmas’s essential salts in an a sapphire jar. Some versions of the tale say that the salts were used, and the fleshless screaming thing that guards the chest is Oskmas. Who ever possesses the skin can use the map to instantly travel within the Shroud to the location pointed at with a special enchanted bone wand, found in the chest with the skin.


Fiendish Friday: Achivements

Achievements are handed out by the Crypt Keeper as rewards at the end of the adventure in addition to XP and treasure.

They are partially to reward key points in the Adventure, but also to make up for the fact that unlike regular D&D, with its mass of magic items, there is no mechanism for imparting bonuses and extra abilities.

Achievements can also celebrate events in the scenario as well as being tied to specific locations.

Mostly give to hit, damage, skill or saving throw bonuses, with occasional special abilities or benefits.

Minor Achievements (Level 1-4)

+1 bonus to saves/skill rolls/to-hit etc. Small very specific new abilities.

e.g..  From Blood of the Dragon.

  • Minor: Ape Killer, +1 to hit Giant Apes (Awarded to the Player who killed the most Battle Apes during the adventure).

  • Minor: Understanding  of Battle Apes – can recognise the signs of Battle Apes (tracks, spore etc.) and have a rough understanding of their culture.

  • Minor: Serpent Knowledge – can recognise a  creation of the foul serpentine art of Vivimancy. (Awarded to the players who explored the lab and/or read the Serpent Men texts)

  • Minor: Navigate dangerous spaces. +1 to any skill rolls or saves when moving through corridors where there is a danger of collapse.

  • Minor: Read Serpentine. +25% bonus to Read Language roll

  • Freedom of the village of Cragspire.

Major Achievements (Level 5-8)
+2 bonus to saves/skill rolls/to-hit etc New abilities with broad application.

Heroic Achievements (Level 9-15)
The stuff of legends, powers outside of the normal almost magical in nature e.g. max damage with a particular weapon, always hits with sword, always acts first in combat.

Demi God Achievements (Level 15+)
The powers of the gods, eg Immortality, Touch of Death, Create Ice Castle from Water

Fiendish Friday: Man Rat

Welcome to Fiendish Friday, a new feature here where every Friday I shall post a snippet from “Pandora’s Box” for Crypts and Things and other Class/Level based games.


“My gods, a rat that big should not exist!” I thought. Then it turned to face me, still nibbling on Jaren’s severed arm. Then it hit me. The rat had a face. What abomination of Black Magic was this! Enraged I ran it through. It squeaked pathetically. I stepped back and wiped its blood of my sword. It was then that I heard a multitude of squeaking from the dark entrance of the sepulture. I knew then that the rat’s brothers and sisters were coming to eat!

Standing just over four foot, Man Rats are fast-moving rat-human hybrids, who spend much of their time scratching around for food. Created by the Serpent-Men during ancient times, they escaped the laboratories where they were born in and now infest the surrounding areas. They commonly live in small burrows, but are just at home in ruins and tunnels alongside their smaller brethren.  They attack in groups and while they have vicious claws and bite are natural cowards if numbers are not on their side. Although ancient as a race, this product of foul Vivimancy is still prone to instability and each individual has a one in ten chance of bearing 1d4 Khaos features.  Intelligence wise they are equivalent to a dog, but are often tainted by madness (3 in 6 chance).

AC 2 [17]
MV 24
Hit Dice 1-1
Attack 2 claws or 1 bite; Dam 1d4/1d4 or 1d6
Saving Throw 18
Special Rules 3 in 6 chance of madness
CR/XP B/10.

Man-Rat Madness table

Roll d10

  1. Berserker +2 to attack.
  2. Speaks gibberish in Common tongue.
  3. Knows a random 1st Level spell that it fires off immediately upon being attacked.
  4. Runs around blindly lashing out at anything in its way if threatened.
  5. Facial expressions falsely give the impression of high intelligence.
  6. Drools and slobbers.
  7. Twitches uncontrollably.
  8. Shrieks and yelps randomly.
  9. Will go straight up to any character and beg for food.
  10. Petrified of Water.