Underworld Lore | Saturday Night Specials

I'm interested in showcasing some brief anecdotes from the community concerning their experiences with what is colloquially known as the Saturday Night Special. You can leave it as a comment here or e-mail it to me: flowthrakeATgmailDOTcom

Let me know how you want your name or pseudonym to appear.

I'll throw these anecdotes into UL#4 -- I'm in the midst of layout right now.


UNDERWORLD LORE | Issue 4 Contents


I have looked into the Unlit Passage That Is Not, and I have seen the near future therein! It shall come to pass that a new issue of Underworld Lore will be posted at this very very blog when the drawing of May is very very nigh. If by some oversight I have failed to post any submitted content, please share that info in the comments section below.

In no particular order:

  • LAM article by Michael Raston with art by Darcy Perry
  • Goetian Magic article by Christian Sturke aka rorschachhamster, with diagrams by the author
  • Mezzoglunes article by Garrison James and Greg Gorgonmilk
  • "Tsojcanth and Carcosa and Sorcery" by Greg Gorgonmilk
  • "Ley Lines in Dolmenwood" by GG
  • "D12 Sources of Magical Energy" by Various Hands
  • "D30 Arcane Accommodations" by Various Hands
  • More Dungeon Slang by Various Hands
  • More Classifieds by Matthew Schmeer
  • Three Dead Gods by Gavin Norman
  • Other bits and bobs 


Kane on my mind

Back when I was initially trying to attract as much talent and cool stuff into PETTY GODS as possible, one of my objectives was to obtain permission to use some of the gods created by Karl Edward Wagner for his Kane saga. How cool would a whole section of such gods be?? I got in contact with the appropriate agent but from there on nothing but Cyclopean masonry in my way. It was not meant to be.

While I have the pair of Kane anthologies produced by Night Shade Books*, I'm such an incurable bibliophile that I need the original Warner Books paperback collections of Kane stories (1973-1978) to gloat over. It's those damned Frazetta covers! They're some of my favorite fantasy art of all time. Of the five, I have Death Angel's Shadow and Bloodstone. I'm lacking Darkness Weaves, Night Winds and Dark Crusade.

*Now going for like $70+ bucks a piece. Wooo!

PETTY GODS | Back on the Radar

Gnunnug, created by Gavin Norman and illustrated by Richard LeBlanc
I am happy to report that after months of hibernation, the PG project is showing signs of life. How did we lose the way to begin with? I will take the lion's share of blame on that -- my creative habits are mercurial, which is a major weakness for somebody responsible for such a large project. I make no bones about it.

I will say though, that we are sitting on art pieces from some of the hottest artists in the OSR as well as the likes of Erol Otus. Erol is being super-patient -- he jumped onto PG very quickly and provided me with not only a deity illustration but a fully statted description to go with it. There's a reason the man is a pro!

I also have an intro by TSR deity James Ward, who I consider one of my main inspirations on PG and as a Dungeon Master in general.

When I was initially in contact with Michael Moorcock (reality still hasn't set in on this), he was in the midst of writing a new book. He has repeatedly expressed interest in the project, so I want to check in with him again to see if he has the time for us. And no, I have no idea what sort of deity he will bring to the table. My only suggestion -- as an example of the sort of thing we might dig -- was a description of Arioch at the end of Time.

Unfortunately, Gene Wolfe will not be bringing his talents to the book. I need to check in with Charles Saunders to see if he is still interested.

Several modern RPG luminaries have submitted some of their (fantastic) ideas to PG as well. There is no dearth of material here.

I want to say thanks to a (thus far) anonymous member of the OSR for offering to take on the weighty task of laying this manual out. He convinced me to stick with the initial hardback concept -- and he's right, because when it's done it will be a thing of eldritch beauty. Thanks also to everybody who is lending a hand editing, including R. J. Thompson!

Massive apologies to people if I have been extremely late (or totally ineffectual) at responding to your e-mails. I personally have never been inundated with the amount -- the vast, vast amount -- of communication that I have received in regards to this project. Huge. And overwhelming. So please do not take my failure here as a sign of any inherent doucheyness on my part. I am a total douche frequently, but my doucheosity cannot be blamed in this instance. If you want to give me another shot, I welcome hearing from you.


Thainlands | The Six-Fold Saving Throw System

I like saving throws. Specifically, saving throws that predate the three-fold, post-2nd Edition approach. To my mind, saving throws represent a character's ability to resist his environment -- physically, psychically and magically. They also describe the sort of categorical hazards inherent to the campaign. 

We usually utilize saving throws as a reactional mechanic -- meaning that saves are traditionally elicited from outside the player character. He's being bathed in a dragon's fire, or petrified by a basilisk's gaze. But, if the referee so desires, players could be allowed to use their saves actively. More on this below.

For the purposes of Thainlands campaigns, I've come up with a six-fold array of saving throws:

  • vs Dweomer covers magical fields, devices and spells that do not transmogrify the body or effect the mind directly. 
  • vs Dragon's Breath covers all creature-generated energy attacks, be they from dragons or beholders or whathaveyou. Spells like Fireball or Lightning fall under Dweomer.
  • vs Transmogrification (Transmog. for short) applies to any magic that distorts or transmutes the body, eg. vivimantic spells and the eldritch transformation magic of Fey creatures.
  • vs Poison & Disease addresses illnesses, venoms, toxins and other non-magical maladies.
  • vs Delusion/Charm applies to any effect that artificially alters perception -- psionics, hallucinogens, magical illusions and Fey seemings all fall under this umbrella.
  • vs Fear represents a character's resistance to this powerful emotion, be it the result of natural circumstances or malicious sorcery. The referee is within his rights to call for a save vs Fear in situations where a character is severely outnumbered or exposed to something hideous and unforeseen.


Spellforking -- A dangerous spellcasting technique that carries the effect of a single-target spell to additional targets in the vicinity. As many as 1d3 additional targets can be subject to the same spell. For example, a casting of Magic Missile would strike the initial target creature and then fork to the additional targets instantly, with each creature taking the same dice of damage. The caster must make a successful save vs Dweomer to accomplish this feat. Failure indicates that the spell also forks back on himself.

Spell Rupture -- A caster can opt to "crack open" the destructive potential of even the most gentle of magics when the need arises. Essentially he purposely disrupts a memorized spell in order to damage a target with a potentially devastating touch-attack. For each level of the spell, he deals a d6 of explosive damage, with any rolls of "6" indicating an additional d6 roll. He must successfully save vs Dweomer or take a half-share of the damage generated.

These are the first two ideas that came to mind. I'd like to generate about a dozen more for vs Dweomer alone.

Thainlands | Stoopid Easy Encumbrance

So this is an idea that saw some experimentation at my table a while back, and I think it deserves some revisiting. GREGBRANE HAYT MATHS, so the object here is to make dealing with encumbrance stupid easy (like in the title) while retaining its value and purpose -- i.e. eliminating "pack-elephant" situations where players are toting around such a ridiculous amount of loot and equipment that it defies the (admittedly loose) reality of the typical campaign world.

All materials that a PC could wear or carry are reducible to generic Units. Units are an abstraction of weight and bulkiness and are not in any way exacting. Every piece of gear or armor has a value of 0, 1 or 2 Units. 
  • Items that clock in at 0 usually weigh less than ten pounds. Think "non-encumbering" things like a pouch of tobacco, thieves' picks, a wine bladder, etc.
  • 1-Unit items include most medium-sized weapons, small chests, sacks full of coins, etc.
  • 2-Unit items are usually things like plate armor or massive two-handed swords, big chests and the like.
  • A character can carry a number of Units equivalent to his STR score without being encumbered.
  • A character cannot carry more than twice his STR (maximum encumbrance).
  • Running is not possible, though a half-speed jog could be effected.
  • Any DEX-related checks or throws are made at a -2 penalty.

I'm purposely overlooking the largescale travel/movement rate issue because it doesn't really come into play at my table. Any instance where some sort of travel-related roll would be needed to adjudicate a situation could be pretty easily dealt with using percentile dice. 

Homebrew | Thainlands Character Record

Yep, that's right. SIX-fold saving throws.

Explanation to follow.


House Rules | Memetic Growth Patterns for Magic-Users

Followers of this blog who've been reading for a while might recall my Vancian MIII memory cell system. What follows is a distinctly simpler smoothing-out of Vancian magic concepts and a light retool of the traditional D&D spell mechanics. 

The Memetic Growth Pattern (MGP) system makes some basic assertions about the nature of spells and spell-casting:
  • Spells are sentient entelechies that have been forced to assume a temporary dwelling place inside a magic-user's mind. In a sense the magic-user must constantly attend his memorized spells in order to guard against spell loss or leakage. For all spells are desirous of freedom. In order to escape a magic-user's mental grip, they must exit his mind in a precise and calculated form. Which is to say, they must become the spell's effects at the time of casting.
  • One of the magic-user's greatest resources is his memory. Memories are like trees -- in infancy they are all but seeds germinating. Eventually they will grow to become stout oaks or massive evergreens. Sometimes they are merely crab apple trees and achieve no great size. The extent of an individual's memory is expanded through learning and experience.
  • A spell's level represents its relative complexity. Low-level castings are brief texts in comparison to the interwoven formulae of spells that occupy the very heights of sorcery.
  • All memory slots are made equal. In order to memorize a third level spell, three slots are required. For a seventh, seven slots are needed. And so forth.
  • A magic-user's total memory slots increase as he gains experience levels. The rate of this increase varies from magic-user to magic-user. It is a unique memetic growth pattern.
I thought it would be interesting to add an element of Carcosa-esque dice randomness to memory slot accumulation. Basically, upon attaining a new level, a wizard must roll a 1d6. The result indicates the dice he will roll to check against his current INT action throw value.
(1, 2) 2d6
(3, 4) 3d6
(5) 4d6
(6) 5d6
I didn't invent this, just formatted it.

If the player fall shorts of the target action throw value when he makes his roll, then he earns no additional memory slots. If he exceeds the target, he subtracts it from his roll to determine the number of slots gained.
eg. Spidertits the Malignant just became a 7th level magic-user. She has an INT of 15. Referencing the table above, that means her target # is 9. She rolls a "2" on her first d6 roll, indicating she needs to roll 2d6. The result of her second roll is 10. Her slots increase by 1.
A corollary to this system is Open Spell Acquisition. Meaning that any magic-user can attempt to learn and/or cast any spell. Some hard/fast rules for this: 

To learn and successfully transcribe a new spell, the player subtracts the spell's level from his character's INT and then makes an INT action throw based on this number. Success indicates that the spell has been added to his repertoire.

To cast an unknown and untested spell, the player must successfully make two action throws like the one described above. Failure on either of these rolls elicits a roll on the Miscasting Table (to be revealed in a future post).  

Music Vriddeo | "One Place" by Tying Tiffany

Italian electronic act Tying Tiffany's latest album, Drop, occupies a place on the witchy neo wave shelf between The Cure and The Knife. I really dig the dirge-like sound of this track.