Friday, 25 September 2015

Meet me at the Cemetery Gates. 60 Gravestone markers and their meanings chart

"Believe the word
I will unlock my door
And pass the
cemetery gates"

Pantera- Cemetery Gates

Something I was using last week when we were adventuring in Marrowhome ( a floating/travelling graveyard that houses the worst of the worst, and can only be gotten to via a rainbow) Enjoy!

Roll 1d4
1 Body Parts
2 Fauna
3 Occupations and people
4 Flora

Body Parts

1. Unadorned Skull-represents a person who lived an exceedingly long life
2. Winged Skull- represents the journey into the after-life and the ephemeralness of life
3. Skull with three eye sockets-  seer,  held  séances,  lifted the veil of the beyond
4. Gripping hands (pointing up)- symbolises the person has gone to their just rewards
5. Gripping hands with inverted torches (pointing down)- burning in the afterlife
6. Outstretched arms ending in no hands-  punished in this life, and the next
7. Two hands, one pointing up, the other down- symbolic of the duality of the after-life.
8. A giant eyeball- even in death they will be watching you
9. Shattered leg bones- death by punishment
10. A pile of bones beneath a grinning skull- achieved their life’s goal before the end


1. Lamb- taken too soon
2. Dog- was steadfast and stalwart in life
3. Spiders- devious and undecided in their actions
4. Bees- hard worker and industrious
5. Birds- a young female
6. Imps- magic worker who dabbled in creation magic
7. Rats- untrustworthy individual
8. Wolf- strong willed and dangerous
9. Rabbits- wildly popular individual in life
10. Leopards- had links to royalty (tenuous though)
11. Crow- a murderer
12. Raven- a priest (not a cleric)
13. Unicorn- a leader
14. Bloated leech- a physician
15. Hippogriff- a landowner
16. Sphinx- scholarly type
17. Sea monster- sea captain or person of naval distinction
18. Rooster- vigilant in life and death
19. Snake- sinner and neer’-do-well
20. Goat- Atheist

Occupations and People

1. Net- fisherman/sailor drowned at sea
2. Hammer and anvil- blacksmith
3. Sword, rope and torch- adventurer (weapon to denote character type)
4. Cards/Spades-Hearts-Clubs- Diamonds/ or games pieces- gambler
5. Sextant- Astrologer
6. Chisel and saw blade- Carpenter
7. Scythe – Farmer
8. Pick-axe and lantern- Miner
9. Wheel- wagoner
10. Vials and a puff of smoke- alchemist
11. Book- student of some sort
12. Book with arcane symbols- student of magic
13. Horseshoe- farrier
14. Bear-trap or a smaller trap- trapper/hunter
15. Hammer and chisel- stoneworker
16. Musical Instrument- A bard
17. Pile of coin- merchant
18. A mug of frothing ale- a publican
19. Any piece of armour- an armourer
20. A quill- a writer/sage/ a studious individual


1. A broken rose- taken too soon
2. A lotus- rebirth in the afterlife
3. A horizontal bushel of twigs- a witch
4. A broken branch- died before being wed
5. A tree stump- cut down too soon
6. A sprig of wolfs-bane- a possible lycanthrope
7. A string of garlic- a possible vampyr
8. A poppy- peace at last after intense struggle
9. A pinecone- a nature lover in the arms of the earth mother
10. An oak tree- a wise and beneficial individual who gave more than they ever received

Friday, 18 September 2015

d6: What's in the Witch's Oven

I don’t care if gingerbread gives you hives, you have your orders. Kick in that vokken door, and waste the witch! Don’t make me tell you twice…” Witch Hunter Braam Van Staaden

I have fulfilled a long time desire and begun to play OD&D using the Chainmail rules for combat. Tricky at first, but there is a tonne of source material out there to guide you. I am also using the concise spell book designed by the awesome Delta. It’s really handy, and I have two copies on the table when we play, one for me, and one for the mage. Also, somewhat controversially, we are using the Chainmail rules for spell-casting. This allows the magic-user to roll on a chart to see if the spell goes off, is delayed, or fails so badly that it can only be cast the following morning. This allows unlimited daily spell casting, if, you get your rolls right. The spell allocation is still the same, you still choose according to your level, you just get to cast more than once a day. I have also included the rules for counter-spelling, and spell duels. These were purloined from Chainmail, as well as from Fight On! (In my head, I always hear some surfer dude saying, ‘Right on…’) It just add a bit more depth for the players who run magic-users. We also use a single saving throw for everything, modified by class, so for example, a mage will get a bonus if saving versus magic. I also found a copy of Gygax’s house rules over at Cyclopeatron and have included a few of them into the mix.
Of course, it’s all d6 and that’s pretty cool. A +1 really goes a long, long way. I am using the Grey-Elf/ Conan hypothesis, that at each level you get more than a single attack on the man-to-man melee table. The fighters are on Hero level (4th Level) so they get four attacks per combat round. They thought this was the best thing, ever, until they realised that their opponents have access to the same ruling. Good times.
On the Fantasy Combat table, it is one attack, but you do half your level d6 damage, so if you are at 4th level, you roll 2d6 for damage instead of just 1d6. Again, this comes from the Conan inspired rule system. So far so good. No major hiccups, and the players are really enjoying the simplicity of it all. We also used the jousting rules a few weeks ago during some downtime in the city. I came up with some loose Carousing plot points for the players. They all put money into the pot and went at it. The knight-in-training went to the Lists for a bit of jousting action, and, because of his newbie status got great odds at the bookies. He started off at 9/2 but quickly shortened to even money for the last ride. The rest of the players were betting on him like crazy, and lo and behold, he won. That netted the group about 5000gp all in all. This then went into the arm-wrestling competition where the thief character slipped the opponent some hallucinatory mushrooms he had procured a few weeks before. Again, the player made it all the way through the competition and won the last bout with a natural 20, even though his nemesis was tripping balls. So at the end of it, they were up nearly ten grand. That could have been a problem, but then they got drunk and spent it all on wagons and golden armour and stuff. So they were all flat broke again, and in the market for some work.
While the others were off competing, the thief went scouting around town to do a little light purloining here and there, and came back with the awesome Rat-catcher sword found in the excellent (and free!) &magazine. The mage went through his collection bag and began to brew up some potions. Now, because the player really role plays this part of his character ( he is always going off collecting slime, fungi, and harvesting body parts from the fallen) I allowed him to create his very own spell , as well as some potions that we rolled for. He really enjoyed that. I recommend it.
So, I promised you a d6 chart didn’t I? Well, here you go. Enjoy!

D6: What’s in the Witch’s Oven?
1) A semi-comatose Hansel, who is eternally thankful for being saved. He’s young, but handy with an axe, and has the potential to be a fearsome warrior. He has a natural hatred of witches and evil step-mothers. In fact, he can smell them from one mile away. Apparently they smell like over-ripe, Wensleydale cheese. He will do nothing without his sister. He is also a keen huntsmen and will be an able forager for the party; but not so hot on finding his way around a forest.
2) Gretel. Alive, but fuming. She will agree to join the party but only after she has taken revenge on her step-mother, and, only if Hansel agrees to join the group. She is definitely the brains in the Hansel & Gretel operation. High intelligence, and is destined for a life in magic, or maybe, a life of crime? She will grow to be a formidable companion to the group. She will make pets of three legged cats, tailless lizards, in fact any animal that has been abused at the hands of man, will become hers. They will flock to her and could number in the hundreds if the DM allows.
3) A swirling vortex of purple and royal blue. It will detect as magical, and gives off the faintest whiff of unicorn scat. If anything is put into the vortex, say, a ten-foot pole or something like it, the player will experience zero resistance. If something is thrown in, then something will be thrown out. 1- A fish with toes instead of fins. 2- A large amber toad with human teeth. 3- A three headed snake that mewls like a kitten and has sleek, velvety hair, instead of scales. 4- A new-born, albino bat that will grow to be a loyal servant to the first person that feeds it. 5- A twig with three, withered, berries on it. If one of the berries are consumed, it will allow them to Hear Evil. If another is consumed, it will allow them to See Evil. If a third is consumed, it will make them invisible. All berry magic will disappear one hour after ingesting. If all three are consumed then nothing happens except the player gets a terrible case of the trots, or the ‘goblins’, as we like to call it over here at Iron Rations. 6- A small sewing box, filled with brightly coloured buttons, swatches of material and a pair of brass scissors. This is not an ordinary sewing kit. It is a hex box, and will allow those in the know to craft particularly virulent curses against those who have displeased them. All that is required is the hair, or nails, of the intended victim, in fact, any body part will do. (If someone were to climb inside the vortex, or even stick their head in, they would see a vast landscape before them, unlike anything they have seen before. Twin suns, like low-hanging testicles, are setting over red fields of short cropped grass. The blades of grass are thick and weeping, like the stems of severed roses. Large, shadowy, man-shaped figures on stilts wield scythes and sing melancholy tunes while they work. The language is guttural and unintelligible. The sky is salmon tinged, and glowing. This is a long way from home. The player will not be able to breath and must in fact leave before death occurs. In the distance, a bell tolls.)
4) The oven attacks! AC: Solid Iron- (treat as plate and shield) HD: 6. Attacks: 2- (Bite- 2d6) (Jet of flame, as well as spitting cinders- 1d6) Move: (not sure, as far as you need it to I suppose) Save: 35% or F5. Special: It draws on the malevolent energy inside the witch’s house/hut to repair itself by attracting any, and all, ferrous metal toward it. Loose cutlery, pots and pans, a carelessly guarded weapon or dagger, even helmets are fair game. Every second round it will attempt to ‘draw’ these items toward it. If successful, it will restore 1d8 hp in that round. Sooner or later the room will run out of metal, but there is usually enough to last five or six rounds of combat. It can also attract a weapon that is being brandished against it. Have the player make a Save vs. Paralysis or it becomes part of its iron skin. All edged weapons will do half damage, while bludgeoning attacks do full damage. Immune to fire damage, sleep, and charm spells. It is semi-intelligent and speaks Aga fluently ( a middle-class dialect of the realms, primarily spoken by a tribe called the Posh) while its handle on the common tongue is a little rusty…(hahaha)
5) A bubbling pot of bouillabaisse. At first glance it is just sitting there, simmering merrily away, but it is cursed. If someone takes a sip of this meal, make a Save vs. Spells or begin to gag and retch uncontrollably.  The skin of the victim will begin to blister and bubble and calcify into barnacles and other assorted molluscs. The fore-arms and hands will thicken and morph into crab-like pincers. Total transformation takes less than two minutes. Speech as we know it will cease, instead, the cursed player must use the click-click-click of his claws to communicate. Obviously armour class becomes better, but whatever they were wearing is considered broken and beyond repair. If magical though, allow a save. The afflicted party member can be cured by the normal means. Cannot use weapons or any other ‘handheld’ items. Claws do damage as per Giant Crab.
6) A book so rare, it was considered to be myth. It’s called ‘Mages & How to Cook Them’. Inside are several rituals that may be performed by the chef. The key ingredient is a dead magic wielder, (not a Cleric, as they are merely vessels for the god) with the caveat that said magician MUST have been killed by the hand of the person preparing the spell/recipe/ritual; and that the person performing the rituals is also a magic-user. One body is good for one ritual and not multiple.
 Ritual the First: The Litany of Latem. After singing the requisite verses over the body, the ritual completed, it will allow the magician to cast Scorching Steel once per day. Range: 0 to 10m. Area of effect: One item worn by an individual that would do the caster harm. Casting Time: 2 rounds. Save: None. Duration of Spell: Six rounds (and the magic user must concentrate the entire time. Round 1: Very Warm, deals 1-3 dmg. Round 2: Extremely warm 1-3+1. Round 3: Hot, deals 1-6 dmg. Round 4: Fekkin Hot, deals 1-6 dmg. Round 5: Scorchio! Deals 2d4 dmg. Round 6: Inferno, deals 3d4 dmg.
Ritual the Second: Skull Smyth. Also known as, Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar?
Decapitate foe. Boil head. Scoop of all that rises to surface. Sauté with garlic and onion, and nibble away. Remove skull. Cast appropriate incantations over it, and voila! Take the skull out, hold it in your hand, stare longingly into the empty eye sockets and you are able to cast, Clairaudience, Wizard Eye, and Clairvoyance, once per day.
Ritual the Third: Hand in Glove. Also known as the Ritual of the Red Right Hand. Flay skin from the right hand, soak in bile, blood and the juice from two eye balls. Leave to soak for a week then rinse and leave to dry. Place the hand over yours like a glove and watch the fun unfold. When in place, it will glow red and enable the wearer (after a successful to hit roll) to drain one level from their foe. If saved however, nothing happens. A level worth’s of hit points will be transferred to the wielder of the glove for the duration of the combat. Once over, the hit points fade.  It is good for six rounds of use, per day, but beware, the glove may become sentient after repeated use, and could turn on them.
Ritual the Fourth: Bite the Hand that feeds you. Extract teeth from the dear departed. Put them on a string and wear around your neck for a week. When you have successfully killed a foe in mortal combat, swallow one of the teeth, along with one of your deceased foes, and you could possibly animate them. The success rate is up to you, but I generally start at HD 1 = 100% success, HD2 = 90% success, all the way down to just 10% chance.
Ritual the Fifth: Sinister and Dexter. Also known as, The Adams Family,click,click. Sever the hands from the body and bury on the beach for a week. They will come back to you at the beginning of the new moon, and will follow simple commands of no more than 8 words. Use stats for Crawling Hands. If somehow destroyed, they will be back in another seven days...
Ritual the Sixth: Skin of many pockets. Also known as, It puts the lotion on its skin, or it gets the hose again . Self explanatory really. Skin the body, then sew it to the inside of your robe with 100 gp worth of silver thread. Once dry, it acts as a mini bag of holding, with precisely half of the bag's statistics, regarding the weight, and length of what it can store.

Some one-liner items that could also be found.
1) An oven in an oven in an oven in an oven all the way down to a tiny sacred flame that burns blue when witches are around. The tiniest oven is small enough to be worn on a necklace.
2) Imp. Dead.
3) Meat pie. Mystery meat
4) Unicorns head
5) A human body, stitched together, but all wrong. Arm is where head should be, foot where nose was etc.
6) Cat. Alive and pissed off
7) Spider
8) Scroll
9) A curved dagger
10) A wooden puppet
11) Blueberry Muffins
12) Strawberry tart
13) Gingerbread man. Becomes a golem if someone tries to eat him.
14) Werewolf teeth
15) Skull and bones
16) Ashes of the wake
17) A portable hole
18) Blink dog droppings
19) Black ooze
20) A disembodied voice
21) A flame meffit
22) A twenty sided dice
23) A raven
24) Crows head soup
25) Black flame
26) A tiny set of pots and pans that will grow when used to prepare food
27) Russian nesting dolls
28) Corncob pipe
29) A pie with 24 blackbirds baked  inside
30) A jar of flies

Other oddities to be found, but this time, on the walls and floors etc.
1) Stuffed children’s heads
2) A centaur skin rug by the fire
3) A werewolf skin blanket on the bed
4) A little red hooded cloak behind the door
5) A carved wooden walking stick
6) A large wheel of cheese shaped like a mouse
7) A large mouse shaped like a wheel of cheese
8) A biscuit barrel
9) A furless squirrel in a cage with blackbird wings sewn on to its back
10) A beehive
11) A Farmer’s Almanac
12) A milking stool
13) A butter barrel full of green butter that glows
14) A large white snail shell
15) A dried newt the size of a good sized dog
16) A hangman’s noose
17) A scarecrow behind the door
18) A broom made from twigs next to the privy
19) A privy
20) A large cage filled with a huge pile of assorted clothes of all different shapes and sizes

Friday, 4 September 2015

Gulch. If the fallen angels don't get you, the whores will

It begins, as it so often does, in the darkness, in the nothing, under a heavy blanket of silence.
There’s an almost epochal stillness between the breaths, or the screams, as old collapses into fiery oblivion and gives way to the new.
 (It all depends on what kind of day the universe is having)
At first it is just void, then there is something tiny, yes, understandably so, but a fuck lot bigger than what was there three seconds ago. Three seconds ago, there was absolutely, bloody, nothing.
The something twists, and turns, and grows, and surrounds itself with an embryonic sac of light, and it is the first, of the first things, to grow.
Soon, others will follow.
It has become. It thinks. It thinks, ‘I am hungry’.
But there is nothing for it to eat because that has not been created yet. All in good time, all in good process. Strange fruit will sadly come to bear.
Then it cries. Loudly. And all hell breaks loose.
More light, more sparks, more creating, more, everything. Anything to shut it up. It smells the nourishment all around, as it darts its heads forward, pecking at the universe. It eats till it can eat no more, and then it retches.
The contents of its innumerable guts flow out into the spaces around it; stuffing vast, purple, cavernous stretches of emptiness, like deserts of midnight, with celestial vomit.
Spinning droplets are coalescing, becoming moons, becoming planets, just thrilled to be becoming something, rather than endless, nothing.
It grows, as it should. It is now fully formed and large in thought and kinetic deed. For what would be the purpose of tiny, inconsequential, creators? They must govern entirely, or not govern at all.
 Its breath frosts in the cold, creating the stars, fixing the heavens.
It is now the largest being in existence. It comprehends its heft and finds it good. It cups its genitals and finds it even better. It is both light, and dark. The beginning, and the end. The taker, and the sustainer. It is life, and life begets life.
It shoots it seed out into the void.
Countless, glowing, spiraling spermatozoa, like shooting stars, are sprayed into the dark to seek the thrumming, squirming, eggs that lie at the centre of the planets. The asteroids scour the endless cold for the warmth of a liquid core; their tails corkscrewing them onward to fulfill what they were made to do.
And when the pulse of warmth is felt, when a planet displays its heated nucleus to the heavens, the asteroids adjust their path accordingly, and slam into that surface with the force of the cosmic rut that begot it. The space travelers winnow their way down through the seas and sediments, until they can go no further.
Of such dalliances, gods are made.
And when they are ready to be expelled (the gods, fully-formed, with a willingness to govern and have others follow) their planets explode, massively, sending them off into the universe to find another home and make a kingdom for themselves. A place to call their own. They leave behind naught but debris, and a hole so black and powerful that not even light can escape its clutches.
But they are jealous gods, and will often go to war, because they seek to become the dominant force and sole focus of adoration and endless, ululating, worship.
But who knows their ways and paths better than themselves? Not I, I wouldn’t dare, lest they smite as they see fit. It is not for me to report on that, I tell all I’ve been privy too.
However, what I can state, with a certain degree of certainty, is that not all asteroids make it all the way down to the swollen, vulgar, baboon buttocks, at the centre of a world.
Some die, flopping and gasping, like a fish out of water on the surface, or just below it.
Over time it fossilises, and is known as Aether, by the elves, Manna by the dwarves, Godsmack or Godspit by the clergy, and Angeldust by the humans. It is the most costly element in the universe. And it attracts all sorts of madmen and women to try and find it. It is hailed as a ‘God-in- a-bottle’ and its restorative qualities are legend.
It can be mined, like its poorer cousin gold, it can also be panned in the rivers and streams of the high places, lying there, glittering, glowing
 It is everywhere, you just need to know where to look for it.
One place it was rumoured to be, in abundance, was north of the Vergil Corridor, on the Highveld, in a small settlement called, Gulch. A rough and ready place if ever there was, and believe you me, if the fallen angels didn’t get you, the whores would…

People of Gulch
Gunther Glass: Mayor of Gulch and first known discoverer of Godspit. Ranger 5th)
Gunther Glass, a trapper, near death from parasites and bear trauma, rolls off his mule and falls head first into a freezing mountain stream. He goes under, several times, each one longer than the last. He feels the warm embrace of death on his august frame and is ready to surrender to its inevitability. His hands drop to his sides and rest upon the stream’s floor. Someway, somehow, he makes one last attempt to live, and his frozen hand grabs a nugget of pure Godspit from the bottom of the stream. He described it later to me, as if he had been hit by a bolt of pure lightning. He told me that he fairly flew out of the chilled mountain and onto the bank to thrash about blindly, like a trout on a hook.
He said he’d never felt so alive. Just by holding the glowing rock, he had given himself a new lease on life. He had the energy to build himself a fire, make a shelter, and hunt down a pair of klipspringers (rock jumpers) for his supper. In the morning he was up before the sun examining the element that had made him whole again.
The early morning light had robbed it of its ghostly glow, but it still shone brightly, none the less. It was verdant green, with flecks of mercurial silver, and banded by stripes of urgent red. There were many other hues to behold but his untrained eye grasped the obvious ones first. After he eats his breakfast he heads back to the stream to find more, and spends the morning panning but to no avail. There was none to be found. Six days later though, higher up the tributary, and using a rock pool to create a primitive sluice, he uncovers a chunk the size of the palm of his hand, and when he reaches out to grab it, he is rewarded by the familiar shock of pure energy, and the wild taste of sweating copper in his mouth. After several weeks of panning and primitive mining, he needs to frequent a town of sorts so that he may purchase enough supplies to see him through the upcoming winter, as well as aid him in further exploration for this most holy of minerals.
I do not know how much he got for those first few, fragile, ounces of Godspit, but he was wise enough to not flood a non-existent market with all he had. It was enough however, to see him return to that place with a wagon, mules, lumber, and suitable supplies for the task that lay ahead.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Gunther, far from it. The mountains are dangerous at the best of times, doubly so when you have your head in the ground seeking what the gods have cast asunder. Orc, ogre, wolf, both dire and timber, all tried- unsuccessfully- I may add, to snuff out Gunther once and for all, but the nuggets of pure Godspit he kept on his person had somehow managed to change him, to heighten his senses, and make him more than capable of seeing off any would be aggressors.
Once though he lost a great deal of his right thigh muscle in a savage fight against several wolves who were hunting below the snow line. He thought he was done for, as help lay many, many leagues away. But in his pain and delirium, he heard a voice as if coming from above, and it told him what to do. He crumbled one of the smaller pieces of the Godspit into a fine powder then added boiling water to it so that it became a paste of sorts. He plugged the wound with it, covered it with torn strips of cloak, and waited. Less than a week later it was if nothing had happened. His leg had not only had fully recovered, but had never been stronger. He truly felt as if he were getting younger, and stronger.
And so it went for at least two years, Gunther mined where he could and sold what he had, but always slowly, he didn’t want to give the game away. But the Godspit had entered society (albeit on the extreme fringes) and people talk. A loose tongue is more dangerous than an unsheathed sword any day of the week. The Godspit was sold by the local merchant (who had taken to grinding it up and sniffing it, to experience the most incredible sense of euphoria he had ever felt) to a wandering mage, who tried some in a fiery conflagration spell and nearly burnt down an entire forest instead of just roasting a horde of attacking goblins.
 Godspit, like most things, should be used in moderation. But these were early days, heady times, where people were still in the experimental phase and paid no heed to the potential consequences, and believe me when I tell you, that there were consequences aplenty; with fallen angels being the least of them…

(To be continued)