Kocktails and Kobolds

Sometimes even the Beholder needs a 12 step program.

The Pseudo-Undead —

(Inspired by this image, the rest of the artists gallery is definitely NSFW. Stats can be found in the AD&D Monster Manual 2)

The Pseudo-Undead are living breathing humanoids who resemble, and strive to mimic, the undead. Their physical and cultural evolution has aligned itself with the traits of the undead so as to shroud and protect themselves with the myths and legends of men. The pseudo-undead possess some of the physical traits of those legendary undead monsters they resemble, but none of the inherent traits of undeath, they are not immortal, and they have no supernatural powers save those they learn or acquire through enchanted items.

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This post was inspired by the awesome artwork of Drachenmagier seen here and here. I started with the stats for a Grizzly Bear from the SRD, Then for the Dire Trout (inspired by Ray Trolls amazing art) I started with the stats for a Shark from the SRD.

Bear, Aquatic

HD 6
AC 6 [13]
Atk 2 claws (1d6), 1 bite (1d10) or 1 Tail Thrash (1d6)
Move 9
Save 11
CL/XP 6/400
Special: Hug (2d6).

It is said that a sorcerer of the north, who had a great fondness for hunting, would rework his beasts to include just enough of the prey animals to speed their assault. He crossed hound to fox, beagle to rabbit, bulldog to boar, and his prized trained hunting bears with the great dire trout of the north. In his madness he summoned what he thought the ultimate prey, an infernal prince from the bowels of the underworld. The Devil took him and many of his creations to places of pain living men cannot even comprehend, and only a few of the chimeric beasts disappeared into the night safely.

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Skinwalkers —

(no stats are presented as the SRD has stats for those forms. No XP or GP value is assigned as I havent worked out what they should be worth.)

When man was only slightly more than snarling savage beasts the witch queens (hags) ruled the northlands with withered and clawed fists. The Queens worked their witchcraft, blood magic and deals struck with elder horrors, on man and beast alike to build their petty fiefdoms. One, known as Caera Skin-stitcher, developed a way to enchant a skin such that when worn it would turn the wearer into the form the skin was clad to in life. With the help of her children, sired by beings to horrid to contemplate, she clad whole armies in the skins of powerful beasts and monsters, and gave her acolytes the ability to travel quickly to any part of her empire on wing or fin. Caera was undone by her own subjects when she was fool enough to teach a few of them the secrets of fire making, she was burned alive in her sacred bog.

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I’ve never been overly-fond of the Gorgon/Medusa situation from D&D. Its not that I think the Gorgon is a bad monster, its that the term “medusa” should apply to the specific individual from mythology and gorgon should describe a race of horrible women with serpents for hair, and terrible claws, who’s image is so horrific as the petrify the viewer!

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Fudge & Labyrinth Lord —

This is an organization of my thoughts on using Fudge Dice, and the Fudge resolution mechanic, to provide an easy way to make snap rulings based on PC ability scores and Levels using the Labyrinth Lord rule-system (and within the game systems it attempts to emulate). Fudge and Labyrinth Lord are both released under the OGL, as is this article if anybody finds use for it. These rules are also written with some notes about fudge as I won’t assume everyone has played it before, and it also assumes you enjoy tossing all manner of dice around the table.

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BookLog 2011.05.29 — Botany For Gardeners: Third Edition — Introduction to California Plant Life, Revised Edition —

Been a bit since I’ve posted anything here, luckily I can’t imagine I’d have “regulars” so I’m not in any way, shape, or form, worried about it. I’d imagine the only readers of this blog are those brought in by the occasional Google result. As my career/educational goals have moved from the technical to the botanical, so to has my preference in casual reading moved to more botanical horizons.

Botany For Gardeners: Third Edition By Brian Capon

As a long time home gardener pursuing higher education in Botany (or as its often re-titled, Plant Sciences) I found this while poking around for introductory works that would extend on that which I’d learned in my first biology course, and provide some framework for more centrally botanical classwork.

After having read just the first few chapters I did find some information which assisted in this path, but the text is clearly written for the gardener who craves to dig a little deeper into the botanical processes they observe every day. The book sets itself the task of explaining why plants grow towards light, how plant roots work, some basics on plant reproduction (an incredibly broad topic in itself), and explanations for the sometimes counter-intuitive effects of pruning. Though this text only concerns itself with the basic science, that’s exactly what the home gardener would like to know.

This is definitely a good entry into a basic understanding of the botanical life sciences, though not quite delving as deep as I personally would like. For any Gardener who finds himself unable to answer basic “why does it do that?” questions it will definitely provide you with the tools to answer them.

Introduction to California Plant Life, Revised Edition By Robert Ornduff Revision By Phyllis Faber & Todd Keeler Wolf

While looking for a good text on the vegetation of my Native state of California I found this, and the original edition, to be widely reguarded as the seminal works on the subject. I found the book to be a great overview of the wide diversity found in the state, and more an overview of the regional variation in species, and less a gee wiz text on specific plants. In no way would this text wow, excite, or even interest someone with no interest in native plants. This is a book by a California native plant lover for students of California’s unique flora, and not really for anyone else.

Ok, so the text could find use among those who’s interests coincide with knowing the flora of the state, such as bird watchers and hikers, but its not really organized as a field guide, rather its organized such that it can easily be used as a reference after a single read through. I have already found myself referencing information about some of the floral communities I don’t know quite as well as I should. Overall its an easy read, and a great work on the topic that has weathered well, and only required the most basic revisions to stay current.

BookLog 2010.04.14 — Bonk by Mary Roach — Hackmaster Basic from Kenzer and Co — Pathfinder by Paizo —

I’ve picked up a pile of books lately, but haven’t had much in the way of time to read them. I’m in the middle of writing a module for Labyrinth Lord, I’ve been trying to go to the gym (and playing hookie as I write this), and I’m plotting a special getaway next week with someone, all of which eats time. I’m going to continue reading Bonk by Mary Roach I think. I put the book down a few chapters in just after I moved back to Bakersfield and never got back to it. I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t get back to it, its actually a pretty good read, and well worth getting back to. I find myself enamored with her right on the face of it style of writing, she doesn’t take the attitude that the science of sex has always been 100% above board, or the attitude that its entirely sleezy. The first chapter very honestly and openly talks about the nature and controversy of early sexual research, and the “lets bring a bunch of students round to my place” attitude of some researchers, while at the same time making it clear that a semi-serious study of human sexual biology and culture answers very important questions about who we are and who we want to be. Illustrations mark each chapter, although not in any significant way. While there were a couple that really stand out (an image of a farmer stimulating a pig sticks in my mind) generally speaking its not a strong point of the book and was done strictly for presentation. I”ll write more when I’ve actually read the entirety of the book, but so far I’d have to say its well worth picking up.

As you can no doubt tell from my OSR Podcast I am an avid fan of “Old School” role-playing games, these were games published between the 70′s to early 90′s that, due to being groundbreaking new concepts at the time, generally had a very rules-lite/intellect-heavy feel to them. These were games with which you could pretty much adapt any historical on fantasy text into source material for play. Publishers moved to more marketable fields as they started having to compete with Computer games, and while I’ve always held this to have been a mistake, I’ve never been able to bring myself to calling these games bad, just that they weren’t games I had any interest in playing. Well my interest has been peeking as of late and as such I’ve picked up two new books, one the modest page count, but large format paperback Hackmaster Basic from Kenzer and Co, and the massive tomb Pathfinder from Paizo publishing.

Hackmaster is the product of years of dedicated mockery. Hackmaster had its start as the name of an entirely fictional Dungeons and Dragons game. Because despite appearing in a licensed D&D publication (Dragon Magazine) Knights of the Dinner Table [4] was not actually licensed to use TSR’s properties. Being a spin-off of the Knights of the Dinner Table comic strip, the game had its start as a fairly decent lampooning of classic Dungeons and Dragons, but with some interesting rules mechanics, and in Hackmaster basic the game takes on a slightly more serious demeanor. For starters the game is written in very arrogant prose within the fictional identity of Gary Jackson, a man who is for the Knights of the Dinner Table game design team what the Gorillaz are for the artists collaborating. The arrogant prose is funny at first, but thankfully lightens later in the text or it would get tiresome. The game bills itself as having that Old School feel, and to be honest it does read like those classic games I love soo soo much, but it also adds a little more crunch than you’d see in any of the real classic D&D retro-clones, still it is the first game of this style that really makes good use of slight vagaries of ability points, and overall I think it’ll make for some fondly remembered evenings of dragon slaying and treasure stealing. One thing I do wish was there, or at least available as an expansion, was a full description of the earlier editions setting Garweeze Wurld, or even an overview of the later editions setting Kingdoms of Kalamar, instead the game is presented in a rules only format with very little setting material, although some discussion of hot to game, and an entire chapter on dice that you’ll probably only read for a laugh once.

Paizo who by the by Sell the above Hackmasters print edition,were the publishers of Dragon Magazine, Dungeon Magazine, and with the coming of d20 various other materials for Dungeons and Dragons until the coming of 4th edition and the end of their license to publish Dragon magazine. At that time they found themselves in a bit of an odd situation, due to new licensing and player disinterest in the new edition they had little interest in continuing along Wizards of the Coasts chosen path, but at the same time they had adventure paths for the third edition that were doing very well, so they used the D20 srd and built up their own game that takes off where D&D 3.5 left off. Calling themselves (unofficially) 3.75 they’ve cleaned up alot of the rules, simplified where possible, and generally created a massive volume that holds all the basic rules you’ll need (sans monster descriptions) to play, and can be used to beat bullies to a bloody pulp with. I’m not exaggerating when I say this is the biggest Role Playing book I’ve ever owned, while its about the same thickness as Shadowruns third edition (a terrible investment since they came out with a fourth edition nearly immediately after) its definitely a taller and wider form factor. Its worth the price of admission, I don’t generally play the sort of “fantasy superhero’s” style that 3rd edition focuses on, but occasionally it could be fun.

Stepping back from my nerdgasm, I have recently come to posses a rather large pile of WW2 books from my grandfathers stash, adding to my already full literary backlog. Most of these books have found a nice cool home in my storage space, while a select few have taken up residence in my room awaiting a good read. Back to work I suppose.

BookLog 2010.03.29 — Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body —

Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body

Well I finally finished this one, and I have to say I was still loving it to the very last word. Living in a nation that, more often than not, has seemed to turn its back on the sciences and any semblance of progress it’s quite the breath of fresh air to read a best-selling popular science text. Your Inner fish presents human evolution from fish to man in vivid, exciting, and down right alluring detail. This book really gets to the heart of what makes us so wonderfully, or sometimes woefully, complex. In fact in the course of reading this book I found out the convoluted reasons behind several medical issues in my own personal history.

Even those of us who have been dragged into the “evolution debate” by some horribly and willfully ignorant individual sometimes forget that, by its very nature, evolution doesn’t have a recent beginning. Man does not “come from apes” man is an ape, and before that he was a tree-dwelling mammal, and ground dwelling mammal, a proto-mammal, an amphibian, a walking fish, and a fish. One in three men has a hernia of some sort at some point in his life because his testes start their development in the same place as a fish, namely his chest. I didn’t even know that, developmentally, the testes did develop near the chest before reading this book.

Like any good science text it has a Bibliography and suggested reading portion, and thankfully it is well annotated and sorted by chapter, meaning this book can be your gateway into a better understanding of any of the topics presented. I’d also add that the “Vintage” edition I purchased included an additional afterward not present in earlier printings in which the author discusses some interesting new discoveries about Tiktaalik, a fossil intermediate which serves as a large part of the text in the first few chapters.

I have been a bit hectic with starting a new Gym ritual, and the ongoing job hunt, as well as my new dice fetish, so I haven’t made much progress with any of the other books I’ve been working my way through, but in true book addict style I’ve still managed to accumulate piles more. Yay me…

I am working on a new module for Labyrinth Lord based on Faerie Magic, or to be more precise Renaissance magic, gone awry. Nerdy I know, but such I am, and to quoth Popeye, “I yam what I yam.” No details until I’m sure something is going to happen with it.