Sunday, December 18, 2011
I very rarely recommend or review anything, but I give this my highest recommendation. I burned a toner cartiridge printing it out and burned my weekend reading it. I really, really dig it.
It is one of two published settings that I would even consider running an entire campaign in.
Not only do I want to run it, I want to play in it and I want to write a novel that takes place in the setting. I will almost certainly hack my house rules to fit the setting and use it in its entirety at some point.
In the immortal words of Jack Kirby- Don't ask, just buy it.
Monday, December 12, 2011
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Sorry, but there it is. You will be able to export and import things like critters with no real problems, but mechanics wise everything else is on the table right now. However, the setting itself will be compatible with whatever version of THE GAME you wish to use.
What the hell am I on about?
For example: I'm thinking that Dexterity = Armor Class; wearing armor actually detracts from AC, but provides a bonus on wound table saving throws.
Also I'm going to step away from the universal ST and replace it with a dual ST (physical/mental) system.
At this point I'm just about done with the character generation rules. It's slow going though, because I'm still committed to 2000 words a day on the novel and I'm trying to make headway on my comic project as well. and then there's the ICONS game...
By the way, that's a pretty old drawing up there, I still suck, but not quite that much.
Monday, December 5, 2011
This is (very) brief survey of some of the lost and hidden areas of the Earth Zero Universe, the setting for my icons campaign. I will be detailing them in play, and then writing them up here; Aquaticus and Island X are both soon to be visited by the heroes. The panels from page 6 of the Earth Zero comic (Cosmic Tales) I'm slowly putting together. The second panel is a redraw of something I posted previously. The artifact depicted is the Seer Sphere, the ultimate information gathering device. the doodz are Ord (the cybernetic looking fellow, and his brother... Aos (I can't be the only one who picked their online nick based off a character can I?)
No-space: a plain that lies between the parallel universes of Upper-space.
Hundulan: A Pleistocene world located in a hidden area of the Antarctic. Sustained by paleo-magic and ruled by sorcerous Neanderthal Priest-kings.
Posidinus: The remains of an ancient civilization hidden beneath the waves of the Atlantic. This civilization consists of 10 warring city-states.
Aquaticus: A second submarine realm, located in the pacific. Ruled by Nairamus, the Aqualord.
The Hollow: An alien constructed dinosaur preserve inside the moon.
The Nexus: The extra dimensional home of the Universals (space gods) possibly located in its own pocket dimension.
Dead Space: The primal universe, which lies outside of and is inaccessible from the multiverse. It predates the big bang and is largely energy depleted. It is the home of the No-gods, a group of evil space gods that staged and unsuccessful attempt to invade Upper Space 35 kya, using the Earth as their beachhead. They were driven back and the rift gate they created was destroyed, but the advanced Neanderthal civilization was destroyed in the process and many Universals were killed. They will stage another attempt at the close of the 23rd century.
Island X: An island inhabited by giant radioactive monsters somewhere in the pacific.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
I picked this up on a field trip to the awesome Black and Read books in Arvada, CO. I was actually looking for a copy of the Marvel Super Heroes (FASRIP) rpg but came up empty.
Whatever, I've been wanting a copy of the DMG for the last couple of years, but had missed it on my previous outings to B&R, because they'd moved all the old school D&D stuff out of the used RPG section and into another section of the store. They had a shit ton of stuff. I should have taken a picture; it was unbelievable. I had to force myself to leave the store with just two items. (I also scored a copy of the Moldvay basic book, but my wife decided that I'd actually bought that for my 10 year old son and I haven't figured out a way to get it back yet).
Anyway, it's been 20+ years since I've read this 1e DMG I'm looking froward to sticking my nose into it.
In other news, I'm thinking of launching a second blog for my ICONS stuff, because I feel wrong about posting it here, which leads to frustration on my part, which in turn leads to less posting over all on any topic as I feel (for lack of a better term) creatively clogged.
Returning to the topic of MSH, I must admit some frustration. I played the hell out of this game in the late 80's and I had numerous opportunities to buy it, but passed them all up. Now, I want a hard copy really, really badly and there are none to be found at what I consider to be a reasonable price.
That said, for the .05 of you who are unaware, the complete MSH catalog is available at Classic Marvel Forever for free to download. Sadly, whereas I prefer to read novels in electronic format (i.e., on the Kindle) I require hard copies for gaming books.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Well anway, NaNiWriMo ate my month (I made the goal). My ICONS game is going splendidly and next month, we'll be kicking off a brand new Metal Earth playtest campaign- which I'll be participating in as a player; how cool is that? I'm going to play a human that looks like a tatted up Jason Statham.
Anyway here's a novel excerpt for you:
As one, the warworms rose up and pounced on Ash. For a moment his world contracted down to cold wriggling flesh, clenching, sucking mouthparts and an unimaginably foul stink. He spent desperate struggling seconds dodging gnashing, snapping teeth before he got his sword arm free from the slimy press. The creatures tangled around each other as much as they did him. He lopped the head off one and then another. A third clamped its mouth down on his sword arm, swallowing it up to the elbow- sword and all. Ash drove the fist of his free hand through its eye mound; it did not release. Screaming in rage and pain, he whipped the thing around, smashing it into another worm, sending this one end over end into the boiling pool. It released an unsettling, infant-like scream as it died.
The last of the warworms bunched up on itself and backed away from him, hissing. Ash used the respite to pry its compatriot from his arm. Once loose, the arm bled freely; his blood spattered and sizzled on the rocks.
He raised his sword and took a step towards the hissing monstrosity before him. It roared and feinted, lunging forward, its mouth spread into a wide gory spectacle. Suddenly, it reared back, twisted itself around in a seemingly impossible fashion, and ran away.
Ash lowered his head and dropped his arms to his sides. His chest rose and fell like a bellows and the breath burned in his lungs. He wagged his head like a dog, looked at the record of destruction strewn all around him, and laughed.
Catching his breath, he tossed his head back and started to run. He came out of the canyon, and scanned the landscape. He caught sight of the boneman almost immediately. About 20 chains from where Ash stood, the undead creature had managed to marshal the fleeing warworm, and now attempted to climb into its saddle.
Howling, sword over his head, blood streaming from his arms and trailing in the air behind him, Ash sprinted.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Level Two: The Murder Holes
Level two is contested territory. Once long ago the Lizardmen fought a terrible battle against Trox the Robolich and his minions; evidence suggests the lizardmen lost, but for whatever reasons, Trox currently the ruler of the lower levels, did not see fit to invest any of his energy in holding this level. For the last century the Insectress (see below) has ruled here; however, not long ago, a small and well-armed scientific expedition led by Dr Maxis, a yeti scientist, and backed up by a band of mercenary Sharkmen, has begun to create instability in the area. So far the Robolich has remained aloof.
This level is considerably more lethal than the first. Player characters who do not exercise caution here will surely die. Hard.
She is an elemental creature/insect demon queen, drawn to The Metal Earth by the unholy energies released by the Robolich during the course of his necromantic investigations.
Sounds, random and otherwise:
The noise of running water can be heard throughout this level.. The volume of this noise varies with proximity/acess to the river. Furthermore, there is a good deal of ghostly activity on this level as well as some other freaky shit. Sometimes, it’s noisy.
Random noise table:
Roll every now and again, at the referee’s discretion
- Loud heavy noise like the slamming of a door
- A woman’s maniacal laughter
- Screaming, goes on for 1d4 minutes
- Rattling chains
- Many drunken voices singing a tavern song. This noise waivers in and out
- The clang of steal against steal
- Monkeys or apes screeching
- Many voices, chanting. This noise seems to come from everywhere at once and will last for 1d4 rounds
Any attempt to follow any of these noises to their source should lead to frustration at the very least, but very possibly calamity. Furthermore, the more attention that is paid to the ghost of this level, the more likely they are to manifest in a visual or physical way. The exact ramifications of this are left up to the referee and should probably be improvised to fit the situation at hand. Anyway, if the PCs go looking for ghosts, they should find them and it should probably suck.
1. The Stairs and the Main Lobby.
Illumination: None. It is very dark and very quiet here. Due to some unknown force, perhaps an unholy residue of the horrible things that went on in the chamber during the great battle, no light source will create more than a 10’ sphere of illumination. A draft blows through this chamber from west to east, torches have a 1 in 4 chance of sputtering out each turn (minute). The intense darkness should make exploring the room slow going.
The lower reaches of the stairwell are covered in dust; ropey cobwebs hang down from above; the shattered remains of a makeshift barricade partially block the bottom of the stair. A careful search through this wreckage will yield a sack containing four bullets that will fit the revolver located on level 1 in room 18. Three of these bullets are normal, but one has a bright red casing and will function as a fireball spell as executed by an 8th level caster.
Secret doors: As stated above it is unnaturally dark in this area, so finding secret doors is going to be difficult. Secret door will be located on a roll of 1-2 on a d12. However, if the characters specifically search the floor for signs of traffic double the chance to 1-4 on a d12.
As the characters penetrate further into this chamber, it will become increasingly apparent that a great battle was once fought here. Strewn about the floor in various states, are the bodies of six lizardmen (some prone, others kneeling, one impaled on a sword blade, which can actually be drawn out as combat action on a successful to hit roll [+1/+2 vs. undead* renders user immune to petrify effect, see below] another with a caved in skull and another with a missing arm) all of who appear to have been turned to stone. These are in fact undead creatures. They will attack 1d4+1 rounds after the party passes the barricade.
Extra creepy option: Combine their initial rising up off the floor with option 8 from the random noise table above. In this fashion you can guarantee a general freak out every time this noise comes up later.
AC: 4 , HD 2+2, Attacks: Strike, Move: 10, XP 100, Special: Petrify:
These undead creatures are usually dormant; they become active only when the area in which they reside is disturbed. They will generally awaken with a terrible scream 1d4+1 rounds after such a disturbance occurs. Each and every body movement of a stone dead generates a noise not unlike the snapping of bones. Their eyes glow with a baleful blue light and they never stop screaming. Stone dead are notoriously relentless and they will never cease in their efforts to slay or infect an enemy.
Petrify: if hit character must make a saving throw or become infected with the stone sickness. Once the sickness sets in it will spread from the point of contact across the victim’s body in 2d4 days. The victim’s skin will turn to slowly transform into stone, and if the infection is allowed to run its course the character will at the end of the gestation period become one of the stone dead. The effect can be counteracted by a cure disease or remove curse spell or something determined by the referee to be equivalent of either. Characters can only be infected once, and if they survive the ordeal they are forever immune. *Characters utilizing magical weapons or armor specifically designed to combat the undead are also immune. Characters who die after being infected will transform at the same rate as the living.
Smell: Dead rat
This rough hewn passage leads several hundred feet to the north arriving at last at the dumbwaiter cabinet for this level. See Level One Area 8 for more details.
2. The Hall of Laughing Minotaurs
Illumination: Bright and cheery light emanating from glowing crystals on the ceiling 5 meters above.
Smell: Clean and fresh.
The wooden door is locked and decorated with a knocker carved in the shape of a smiling minotaur head.
The smooth walls of this passage are covered with perfectly rendered, larger than life pictures of minotaurs pointing outward (at the viewer it seems) and laughing. After the party turns the first corner a huge stone slab weighing some twenty tons will slam down, blocking the doorway. There is no way out. The noise of rushing water is especially loud at the end of the corridor and industrious characters may dig their way out and into Area 24 in 6 days (-1 day for each additional laborer with a minimum of 3 days).The door will automatically reset itself after 30 days.
Friday, November 4, 2011
For those of you that are interested, I'm on track with the novel- or rather I will be if I finish today's entry. I'd link you, but really, I don't dislike any of you nearly enough to point you in the direction of my first draft fiction.
Reminder: the map for this level is on the left and the tag at the bottom of the post will bring up the other entries in this series.
15. Wide Corridor
Illumination: Glow Strip Gold (Mellow, but very bright).
The floors are made of polished marble. Both double doors are of the same stuff, and ornately carved with the visages of serious looking minotaurs. The floor is cracked and fractured. The cracks radiate off a pair of large divets that appear to have been made by the impact of giant fists. Three desiccated bodies are pinned to the west wall with spears, about five feet above the floor. Once again everything herein is covered in dust and cobwebs.
16. The Garden
Illumination: Artificial Sun Yellow
Smell: Green growing things.
A crackling ball of orange energy hangs about 10 meters in the air above the center of the floor. The walls are covered in vegetation and the ceiling is lost in the mist above. A gentle rain drizzles down from overhead.
There are no animals in this room, and the only noise is that of dripping water and the sputtering artificial sun.
Although the room appears to be a healthy garden comprised of many different sorts of plant- there is actually only one plant: the huge, aggressive, and semi-sentient club moss.
AC 10 HD: 6 Move:0 [but can reach anywhere within the room]. Attack: Bash 1d6 (3 X round) XP: 600
The club moss will attack 1d6 rounds after the characters enter the room or when they reach an area far from the door- whichever occurs first. It takes ½ damage from fire.
If the characters decide to probe the artificial sun, any object (e.g. sword, pole) that touches it is instantly consumed and the wielder must make a saving throw or take 2d6 damage. Any living being that touches the artificial sun is instantly consumed.
17. The Processional
Smell: Dust and mildew
It appears the walls in this room were once covered with tapestries. These have long since decayed and fallen to the floor, as evinced by the several piles of ragged remnants. Two of these piles are actually Raglings, and will reconfigure themselves into giant mummy like creatures 3 rounds after the room has been entered. AC 4  HD 2+2 Move:12
Illumination: Ever burning fire in the room’s center
Smell: Moldering books
The books in this room have mostly fallen to dust. A loaded (4 chamber) revolver and spell book [contents referee’s discretion] lay on a writing desk in the NW corner of the room A wheelbarrow loaded with a pile moldering foodstuffs, four bottles of fine wine and a moth eaten sack containing 200gp rests beside the table.
19. Stairs down to level 3.
Illumination: Dull green glowstrip to the end of the corridor, the stairs are dark
Smell: Hot metal and excrement
There are fresh bloodstains smeared along the floor, ceiling and walls of corridor and trailing on down the stairs. The noise of dripping water can be heard faintly, coming up from far below.
20. Stairs to level 2.
Illumination: Spill over from area 15, which fades away to darkness near the bottom.
Smell: A rank, but unidentifiable odor.The staircase is a wide affair of polished limestone, cut from the living rock. There is no noise or motion.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Just a little warm up as I begin today's novel plod. I've put a direct link to the map on the left, just click on the image and it will expand and shit. Furthermore, the tag at the bottom of this post should take you to the other entries.
I'm thinking of doing a new drawing for the header, if anyone has any ideas please share them in the comments.
11. The Coat Room.
Illumination: Glow Strip Yellow.
Scuff marks on the floor lead to both secret doors. They can be found in 1d6 rounds each of searching.
12. Narrow passage of natural stone.
Rats and small lizards scurry away at the first sign of light. There is nothing to see here but the skeletal remains of several unfortunates.
14. Main Dining Room
Illumination: Magical torches (6)
Smell: Dust and Carnivore droppings
Despite the cheery torchlight, this room is as dusty and unused as the others. Here too, there is evidence of a struggle. Chairs and tables are overturned. Dark stains, visible even beneath the thick coat of dust, mar the walls and floor. Faded murals of Minotaurs engaged in all manner of activities, ranging from feasting to copulating, adorn the walls.
Anyone who bothers to look can see many paw prints of a medium sized quadruped trail through the dust, on the floor and up the walls.
The door in the west wall leads only to a wall of natural stone.
Three ceiling sloth live in the ornate chandelier. They have acid for blood and live in near continual state of pain. As a result they hate everything that lives.
AC: 6  HD: 1+1 Move: 6 (can walk on walls and ceiling at same rate) Attack: Tail stinger 1d6 Special: on a hit from the tail stinger ST or paralyzed for 20 rounds – Constitution score. XP 100. The ceiling sloth’s preferred tactic is to drop down on individuals from above as they cross the center of the room. They will however, attack within 1d4 rounds after the room is entered.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Book One: The Stolen Sun
Chapter One: The City at Twilight
Sometimes, when the dust thinned and the light of the faded silver sun came up, priests of Idoran’s dying ab-god, Marl, would leave the temple and raid the city for food.
I've written quite a bit of fiction in the past (I've even brushed up against publication on a couple of occasions) and i know that the clunker above, if not the entire beginning I'm writing now, will almost certainly be replaced before I'm done, but I thought I'd share it anyway.
Good luck to everyone else who's giving this a shot. As for me I have Robert Britan's excellent punctuation guide; a handful of grammar books; and a bunch of random text books in which to dig for inspiration. Surely, if Moorcock can do it in three days, we can do it in thirty.
I'm at 600 words, right now. Wish me luck.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
This is pretty text heavy. I know some of you don't dig that, so, you know, sorry and all. This level has actually been play-tested; although, it was a spur of the moment incident and not a a planned event. So don't like get to thinking I've got my shit together. I've got the rest of this level keyed waiting a proof read and some stat block additions; the other two are in varying stages of completion; when it's all done I'll do some drawings and make a pdf. I'll probably make two more levels in addition to what I've drawn already, and then i'll get back to Madling Isle, or, maybe, I'll do it the other way around. Or start something else. Who knows? I'm not to be trusted.
Anyway, it's been like 2 months since the last post, where the hell have you been?
1. Entrance point.
Illumination: Dim and flickering red.
Smell: A musty and cloying cocktail, comprised of one part sulfur and two parts stagnant water.
Details: A large, circular teleportation pool is located at the center of this room. The pool is only partially functional. It can be used to enter the complex, but not to exit. Once the players emerge from the water the pool appears to be nothing but a mundane cistern of algae covered water. The floor is covered in carpet of broken bones. A mural of two minotaurs wrestling decorates the north wall, the other walls are covered in floral patterns rendered in flaked pastel paint. A flickering crystal mounted in the ceiling (5 meters above the floor) casts an inconstant blood red light over the room There are no obvious exits. A search of the osseous detritus strewn across the floor will yield a three sided, 30cm long, finger-width sliver of silvery metal, which is taped at the ends and marked by runic etchings. Any character touching the object with bare flesh takes one point of damage per round of contact. This damage will take 4days to heal/point, and the character so inflicted will experience sleep sweats and disquieting nightmares all the while.
The room contains two secret doors. The door on the east wall can be found with a roll of a 1 or 2 on a d6; if this door is opened it will release a blast of frosty, fetid and stale air, the character opening the door and anyone else adjudged to be standing within five feet of the door must make a saving throw. Failure results in 1d4 rounds of unconsciousness, but no further ill effect. The door on the south wall can be found on a roll of a 1 on a d8.
2. Rough hewn passageway
Smell: Musty and stale
Details: The corridor is very cold; breath turns into mist and spots of frost mark the walls. A heavy door of rusted iron terminates the eastern passage. The door is jammed.
Smell: Bad meat; very bad meat.
This room is freezing cold. Any characters that are wet will take 1 hit point of damage every round they remain in the room.
Barrels, casks and crates of ancient foodstuffs line the walls. Many of them are full, or nearly so. Roughly a dozen cleaned and dressed carcasses hang by hooks in the room’s center.
Three corpses, two minotaurs and a shae, hang amongst the frozen meat. Judging by their wounds, all three died in the midst of a savage battle. The shae has a pouch containing ten 10 GP coins. One of the minotaurs has a parchment stiff with ice crystals and frozen blood. It has a cluster of untranslatable ruins upon it that cannot be translated by any means, magical or otherwise (subject to the referee’s discretion).
4. Smooth walled passage.
Illumination: dull green glow (mold)
Smell: Dank, sulfurous.
Huge loops of cobweb hang across this hallway. A wide crack mars the ceiling; viscous purple ichor of unknown origin drips slowly in from above, and vanishes in to a black edged hole in the floor. Anyone who ingests the ichor must make a saving throw or die. The ichor can be used to coat weapons with poison. However, the venom will burn through all substances besides glass. If a glass vial is used, enough ichor for 10 doses can be collected in an hour. The ichor has a strong sulfurous stink, known to the living creatures of the complex.
Note the doors to rooms 5 and 6 are difficult open.
5. Dry Storage (stuck door)
If the door is forced it will disintegrate into a puff of foul smelling wood rot, and thousands upon thousands of black roaches will explode out of the opening. They will swarm about, flying and crawling all over anyone in the hall for 1d6 rounds. ST or scream like a girl. The room beyond is completely empty, except for some broken crates.
6. Wine Cellar:
The door to this room is wedged shut with two spikes identical to the one located in area 1. A skeleton, clutching a pistol in one hand and an empty wine jug in the other, occupies the southwest corner. A large collection of empty bottles is spread out around the remains. There are 27 small, regular scratches on the adjacent portion of the western wall. A small sack containing 300 gp in gems lies beneath the bones. The pistol is old and rusted beyond repair or even recognition.
The wine racks lining the room are predominately empty, but there are 1d6 bottles of wine each worth 1d4 X100 GP. There is also a bottle of Dream Oil (worth 1000GP).
7. The Kitchen:
Several long stone stables stretch across this room situated along the east/west axis.
Four gigantic cauldrons line the north wall of the room. There is a large Kexoke (feathered serpent) hidden in the eastern-most cauldron. AC:8  HD: 4 Attack Beak 1d6 +venom attack. Move 12. Venom attack: slow poison 3x daily, only works once per victims. Save or move and attack at ½ normal rate for 1d4 hours. The Kexoke will lie in wait and attack any character searching the cauldrons. If the combat lasts more than three rounds, the 3 quite ones from Area 8 will become roused, enter the kitchen and attack the PCs.
There is a dumbwaiter in the NE corner of the room; the shaft leads down to levels two and three.
A fire pit dominates the center of the north wal; the chimney shaft leads up out of the complex. The vent is far above, and in shadow; subsequently, no light enters the room through this channel. The climb up the chimney shaft could be accomplished in roughly two hours. A Rock worm patrols the chimney. It will attack midway through the climb.
8. Office of the Chef
As the PCs enter this room, four Quite Ones (AC 5 HD:1 Move: 8 Attack: Spiked limbs 1d6 Special quite ones project a 10’ sphere of silence) shamble towards them out of the darkness- unless they have already attacked during the fight with the feathered serpent in area 7.
Countless spikes (each identical to the one found in on the floor of area 1) pierce these desiccated rotting corpses of these undead Sasquatch zombies. The shimmering remnants of their defiled souls flicker and flash over their skin like unholy lightning.
A large writing desk dominates the southern wall.
A rack of gold and silver pots and pans lines the entire length of the eastern wall. It is rickety. If any one attempts to remove a single pot or pan the entire rack will fall across the entire room, inflicting everyone within with 2d6 damage; save for ½ damage.
9. Short Passage
Illumination: Glowstrip green (flickering).
The floor is covered in an eight inch layer of dead bugs and their desiccated casings. Walking over and through the insects generates a sticky sounding crunch.
Jaws of death: Each character has a 1 in 4 chance of triggering the man trap that is hidden beneath the insect carcasses. If the trap is activated, the character must make a saving throw. Failure results in a roll on the wound table.
Illumination: Glow strip orange (pulsing)
The door latch is broken and the door swings gently open. A thick layer of dust covers everything herein, but cannot conceal the fact that, long ago, a violent struggle raged through this room.
Shelves are down; smashed dishes are everywhere. A minotaur in rich robes lies twitching on the floor transfixed by a bone bladed sword. The sword called "Bane" is a relic of the Wars of Unreason. Its victims cannot die while the blade remains embedded in their flesh. If someone removes the sword from the minotaur will scream out “no” right after the sword is free, and then vanish in an explosion of black dust. Attempts to communicate with him will most likely prove fruitless, as he has been on the edge of death- in unimaginable agony- for thousands of years, and his mind is essentially gone.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
The move is over at long last, so (semi) regular posting will now resume. I want to thank everyone for their feedback on the maps I've been posting.
Anyway, lets get on with it!
AC: 7 
Special: Dive 2d6 on first attack.
Move 15 (fly)
These large birds (wingspan 15 feet) travel in hunting groups of three. During the summer months Icyopteryx primarily nest and hunt in the mountains; however, during the winter and during freak summer snowstorms, they will descend to the lower elevations in search of prey.
Icyopteryx hunt in groups of three (known as triads) and will not hesitate to attack large prey animals. They have an uncanny ability to see and navigate during the heaviest weather and will often accost prey during the peak of a blizzard.
Special Dive: prior to the first round of attack Icyopteryx will climb high and then dive, adding the benefit of inertia to their strike and therefore doing double damage.
AC 4 (16)
Attack: Gore 1d6/ Trample 1d6
Special: Breath Weapon
Na-mammoth are large mammal like creatures, which live year round on the Wasted Plain and in the Dire Hills. They are omnivores and will eat virtually anything. A Na-mammoth can breath 40 foot cone of fire, 15 feet wide at its base, twice daily. During winter months this ability is often used to soften the turf in order to access buried plant food .
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the na-mammoth is it’s life cycle. These creatures have a unique form of asexual reproduction. Every spring, the na-mammoth gives (live, pseudo-vaginal) birth to one of the humanoid creatures known as mammoth men. Mammoth men are born full grown, but despite their name, and their brutish hairy appearance, these creatures are actually sexless. Mammoth men and na-mammoth work in concert to find food. Mammoth men take their nutrition directly from the na-mammoth, drinking a milky blood-like secretion from pseudo-mammary arrangements on the na-mammoth’s underside.
When the Na-mammoth dies, the mammoth men eat its corpse. Over the next several days they work in concert to spread their excrement over a small section of tundra. The high acid content of their dung softens the earth. Once this task is complete, the creatures engage in a horrific orgy of violence, during which, they kill and eat one another. The final survivor burrows its way into the softened earth, and generates a mucus sheath around its body. After this, it hibernates for 6 or more months and transforms; a fully formed juvenile na-mammoth emerges from the earth at the beginning the following spring.
For game purposes, each na-mammoth is accompanied by one mammoth man per hit die.
Attack: Club 1d6/ Tusks 1d6
The larval form of Na-Mammoths, these creatures are roughly humanoid in appearance, although they sport thick coats of coarse hair and large upward thrusting tusks. They are possessed of a rude intelligence, but have no culture or language and exist only to gather food for the Na-mammoth that spawned them.
Next time: I haven't a clue, really, but, possibly, a more detailed look at Madling Isles.
Monday, August 1, 2011
I'm not sure what there is to say really. I've finished keying level 1. I think I'd like to play it before sharing it here. I'd do so via one of those funky google+ games that are all the rage right now, but I'm in the middle of organizing a state to state move.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
My favorite blog these days, is without a doubt, Dyson Logos' A Character for Every Game it is all gaming, all the time. Dyson generates tons of awesome content- much of which I haven't even gotten to yet. He avoids pretty much every OSR kerfuffule, and his underground maps have made me aware of something that I'd never given much thought to before. I'm not certain if I can articulate this properly, but players need to get a groovy dungeon vibe from the referee; the ref's descriptions, the way he runs encounters and traps; what encounters, traps and dungeon dressing are included in the first place and so on. However, before she can share it, the referee also needs to get this groovy dungeon feeling. The problem, of course, for the ref is finding it. Dyson's maps give me that feeling. Also, they kick ass, and there are like seven million of them. Thanks man.
So, anyway, as an example of the sincerest form of flattery, here is my impoverished attempt to emulate his style (I've stolen the cross hatching technique wholesale), combined with some of my own notes (which were previously posted here in a slightly altered form back in 2010). A key will be forthcoming. This stuff actually does tie in to the current Madling Island project, because these levels are situated beneath the Tower of the Changer.
The Halls of the Hidden Prince
The combined cavern/room complex beneath the Tower of the Changer was constructed in stages. During the waning epoch of the Minotaur Empire, a disgraced imperial aristocrat and his retinue came to the Crumbled Mountains looking to create a new summer labyrinth far from the intrigues at court. Unfortunately, the aristocrat in question, whose name has long since been forgotten by history, had in his employ a shae sorcerer, who, not long after the completion of the complex, manifested an unexpected desire for power, coupled with a previously unexpressed talent for necromancy and a rather excessive amount of bloodlust. Anyway, good times ensued, which ultimately resulted in an empty complex- empty of the living, that is.
The next to come were a group of agrarian Lizardmen from Ssaur who were trying to create a utopian colony. Although, they installed many grow-vats and laid the foundations for a bitchen’ subterranean ecosystem, they were eventually, after a years long battle, driven out or destroyed by the undead. The undead, however, were decreased in number by this conflict, and since that time, as a result, several attempts have been made to re-inhabit the complex; a few groups, as well as many animals (eager to access the food that grows within) have made some headway, but no one controls the space.
There are four basic varieties of Architecture- natural, lizardman, minotaur and lich; although, some other groups and individuals have made modifications as well. Minotaurs like to decorate, so there are a lot of minotaur busts, murals, busts bas-reliefs. Minotaurs also like to bathe, so there are lots of baths, some of which were converted into vats or something else by the lizardmen. Furthermore, the lizardmen planted a lot of food fungus and algae on the walls, they also seeded pools with plankton, algae, fish and other stuff. They constructed mostly with metal and plastic, their machines are everywhere. Strangely, enough they were also fond of murals.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
The Wasted Plain and beyond, continued.
Tundra and sub-glacial areas are often exceedingly dry; however, the same process* that results in the drainage which fills Lake Brood and, in turn feeds the River Sphere, holds the Würm in check and results in a fairly constant level of humidity and precipitation in the region surrounding Ssaur.
Note: The Rüinlands calendar is a simple affair. There are 10 months each of 35 days. A buffer period of roughly 15 days (taken up by The Festival of Promadealus**) is situated between the end of one year and the beginning of the next. Years are not numbered or otherwise counted, but named after animals. The months are numerically named thus: Onemonth, Twomonth and so on through Tenmonth. The first day of Onemonth is coincident with the spring equinox. However, aside from the gradually lengthening days, the true effects of spring are not felt, during most years, until towards end of Twomonth. Summer is in full swing by the second or third week of Threemonth. The weather turns cold near the end of Fivemonth or the beginning of Sixmonth. Winter begins a month earlier and ends approximately half month later in the mountains.
There are only two discernible seasons in the Ssaur region, summer and winter. Spring and autumn come and goes so quickly that they are hardly noticeable. The soil of the wasted plain never thaws beyond a depth of 6-8 inches even in the hottest years.
* the exact nature of the process is unknown. Some scholars postulate that the heat from a natural magma vent, contained somewhere within the vast expanse of the Würm, erodes the glacier at about the same rate that it grows. Others believe that an ancient weather control station (similarly located) performs an identical function.
** This is basically a winter festival, characterized by overeating/drinking and gift giving; the significance of the name is unknown.
Summer (Check twice daily) 1d6: 1-2 rain. 3: Cool and dry. 4-5: Warm and dry. 6: Hot and dry.
Winter (Check three times daily) 1d6- 1-2: clear & cold; 3: cold & snowing (1/2 move). 4: Really cold & snowing (1/3 move). 5: Blizzard- (1/4-0 move) characters may be snowbound. 6. Freak weather (referee’s discretion).
Note: blizzard conditions should continue for 1d4 days, obviating the need for further weather checks during this time.
Insect bites: All living creatures crossing through the Dire hills or the Wasted Plain during the summer months are accompanied by a personal cloud of biting, stinging, feeding and breeding insects. Characters without adequate protection, during summer will lose 1d3 hit points a day to insects bites.
Bugway Grease, is a foul smelling, bug repellant salve for sale in Ssaur (and it can sometimes be found in Shards as well). A supply sufficient to protect an individual for one week costs roughly 10gp in Ssaur and twice that in Shards. A character with the forage proficiency, access to a forest and a supply of animal grease can gather the materials to make four times this amount for 1gp in 1d3+1 days. The grease itself takes four days to cook. This process is extremely odiferous, and if done anywhere within the walls Ssaur, besides the Horn, it will result in an arrest and a level 1 punishment.
Boilfly Fever: Many species of biting insects lay eggs in the soil, just above the permafrost layer, prior to the onset of winter. These eggs hatch in the early spring, inflicting three months of stinging agony upon the inhabitants of the plain and any other creatures unfortunate enough to find themselves there.
Successful boilflies, however, lay their eggs within the body of a living host during the final weeks of summer. The host then contracts boilfly fever. If the fever is fatal, and it often is, the corpse of the host usually freezes with the onset of winter. When the thaw comes in the spring the boilfly larva eat their way out of the host, and spend their summer much like the other insects of the tundra, feeding on aurochs and other beasts. Despite the fact that only eggs lain at the end of summer are likely to survive the winter intact, boilflies mate constantly and are always on the look out for a living host in which to deposit their eggs.
For every day spent on the plain, without being smeared in bugway grease, characters have a 2 in 6 chance of being bitten by a pregnant boilfly. Characters bitten must make a saving throw. Failure results in coming down with boilfly fever in 1d4 days, at which point another saving throw can be made. Failure of the second saving throw results in a coma and death in 1d6+1 days. The disease can be cured by a cure disease spell any time after the first failed ST. If the second ST is successful, the character must make one further ST in order to successfully fight off the disease; otherwise they will fall into a coma and die in 1d6+1 days.
Due to their scales Lizardmen receive a +5 to all initial Saving Throws vs. boilfly fever. the second saving throw, however, is made as normal.
Freezing to death: Each day that a character spends out in the harsh conditions of the tundra or high country winter, they run the risk of freezing to death. The weather attacks the character, treating their constitution as armor class (ascending). If the attack is successful, the character must make a ST. A failed ST results in a temporary loss of 1 pt of constitution. The next day the weather attack will be against this lowered number. Three successful attacks and the character falls in to a incoherent state and dies in 1d10 hours- if not gotten to shelter. Sufficiently warm cloths provide a +4 to ST vs. Freezing. Due to their thick coats, Sasquatch characters receive a +5 to all STs vs. Freezing.
All lost Constitution points can be regained (1d6 hours per point) once the character gain access to a sheltered environment.
Well, we’ll get to those Mammoths and mammoth men (and some other critters) next time. This one went off in an unforeseen direction...
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Part one is here.
Note 1- click on the pic for a larger image,
Note -2 links to Ssaur, The Forgotten Depths, and The Tower of the Changer can be found on the left, I did not link them again in the post.
Madling Island 2
Getting there and reasons to go:
Preliminaries: reasons to go.
In my one on one face-to-face Metal Earth play test we’re about a session or two away from Madling Island right now. I wont force the issue, of course, but Scott (my player) has already taken his Shae sorcerer and henchmen (Two Minotaur adventurers and a Grey) through the Tower of the Changer and down into the Forgetten Depth (and found the teleportation pool back to Ssaur located in Hex 0703 of the Depths). He’s in the city right now, but I’m pretty sure his lust for magical treasure will goad him to the island as soon as he hears a rumor of it- which will be at the beginning of the next session.
As for how he got to the Tower of the Changer in the first place, at the beginning of our first session, I simply handed him a cruder version of the map above (hard to believe such a thing could exist, but it does) and said, “You left Ssaur several days ago, searching for a pathway in to a fabled hidden land that is supposedly rich in magical treasure; you’ve been dodging a band of Mammoth Men for three days and you’re just about out of food, You see a tower high up on the side of a mountain to the west.”
This above is pretty good example of my preferred method with which to start a campaign; it saves me from an evening of, “So you are all in a tavern,” which I find extremely painful. Furthermore, once the initial session (or two) is over (we played the Tower and the beginning of the forgotten depths in roughly 5 hours total play time) the players are likely to have a pretty good feel for the basics of the setting and some sort of idea of what to do next.
However, I am aware that not everyone likes to do things this way. And, although, I am doubtful anyone is actually going to use any of this material ‘as is’ I feel compelled to offer some alternatives to my rather draconian and ham-fisted starting procedure.
- Characters are lost somewhere southwest of Ssaur. They spot the tower. The party comes up with its own reason for being there.
- In Ssaur, there is an unnamed wine shop along the wall that divides Market Town from the Horn. The shop is frequented by members of all the races that can gain entry to the city, and by many lower and middle class Shae. Higher caste Shae will occasionally patronize the place while in disguise. One such individual, a Shae woman of obvious wealth and breeding approaches the party and offers to pay them a large sum of gold (referee’s discretion) to recover the body of her son Aldra, who 20 years ago ventured into the forgotten Depths in search of a fabled island supposedly stocked with treasure. She will give the players a copy of the map above- or one very much like it- whatever, it’s up to you (obviously).
- The payers are caravan guards. You know what to do.
- The players otherwise acquire the map (e.g. they buy it; win it in a card game; inherit it, or find it on the victim of a mugging).
- The players find the abandon temple in Ssaur that contains the teleportation pool to Hex 0703 and start exploring the depths.
- Some combination of the above.
I’m sure I could come with some more, but I’m sure that everyone reading this can as well.
Features of the Map:
The map features an area of indeterminate scale located to the southwest of the great city of Ssaur. The level of accuracy and the scale of the map are matters best decided by the individual referee. If one looks at the larger setting map, the scale and accuracy of which are also unknown at this time, one will see there is plenty of room to move on both of these issues. As a point of information, in my own game, I have decided not to decide- and I feel really, really fucking good about it.
Ssaur: soon to be remapped and updated, but the current version, available on the left, is close enough for now.
The Tower: in my game this is the Tower of the Changer. You must do as you will, of course.
The Long Stair: a leagues long, monster infested, storm prone, stairway cut in to the living rock. It leads to the Tower.
The City in the Mist: in my game this is the ruin located in Hex 0301 of the Forgotten Depths, it’s also probably important to mention that the scale of this map is completely out of whack with reality in my game. Anyway, I am eventually going to detail this location, but if you wish to use it in the meantime you are on your own, which is kind of nifty, really.
The Dire Hills and The Wasted Plain: both of these regions are dominated by large herds of dangerous herbivores and blood thirsty hominids known as the Mammoth Men.
The River Sphere: a wide, frigid and fast flowing river. Plied by steamships, manaships and barges, but also plagued by mutant pirates.
Next time: Critters- including, but not limited to, Dire Mammoth and Mammoth Men (neither will be quite what you expect, I assure you) as well as the legendary one eyed monster mammoth and terror of the wasted plain: Squint. Also, some encounter and weather tables for the region southwest of Ssaur.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Over the weekend, I went through the entire blog and fixed and regularized many tags. I also added links to and reorganized the resources (on the left) under a variety of subheadings. Furthermore, I went through a couple of old entries (notably The City Ssaur) and updated them bring them in to better alignment with my current version of the setting. I even fixed a few spelling and punctuation errors; however, their number is legion still.
Anyway, feel free to peruse an comment on any of the old posts (I still get notification, so I see it all).
The fellow in the pic is ORD of the Universals, a Celestail being obsessed with classification and organization; he is a character from my (in development) web comic and an NPC in my current ICONS game. His legs are in pencil because my design ideas more or less stalled out at he belt.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
(map is not entirely to scale)
According to popular legend, as related in the wine shops of Ssaur, the so called Madling Island, located in the Purple Lake of The Forgotten Depths, is the site of an abandoned factory, which, during the Lost Wars, was used for the production of Skeletal Warriors. Supposedly, a powerful Madling sorcerer took up residence in the old factory several centuries ago, and abides there still, engaged in an attempt to reactivate the factory's eldritch apparatus in order to raise an army with which to conquer Ssaur and the Rüinlands. The sorcerer is said to have a vast store of treasure. This horde is reported to be made up of magical, monetary and technological constituents. All of this is, of course, hearsay, and it is impossible to identify anyone who has traveled to the island and returned. Thus, the claims of legend remain unvalidated, and true knowledge of the place is scant, if not completely nonexistent.
The truth of the matter is that the rumors are largely accurate, but they tell only a little about the strange and terrible place that is Madling Island.
Madling Island, Some Facts:
The island exists inside a time-space depression (TSD, henceforth); it actually occupies far more land area than it appears to from a distance. Although, at less than a kilometer away, the Island appears to be roughly 15 km from end to end, it is in truth, roughly 10 times as long. Furthermore, time flows differently there; for each day that passes on the island and in its immediate environs, a month passes in the outer world. Obviously, there is no missing the change in physical scale as one approaches the island; however, individuals within the TSD cannot detect the temporal aberration, as the day-night cycle is absent therein, replaced by an endless, brooding and blood-red twilight, punctuated only by the pulsating sullen glow of Godmount.
It is possible that a careful observer from outside the TSD might notice a dull flickering over the island, the cause of which would be difficult to ascertain.
The cause or causes of these strange conditions are poorly understood, although it is likely that the powerful reality warping magic utilized in the creation of entire armies of Skeletal Warriors- and the many other experiments and activities that took place on the island may have been among the causative factors.
Next Time: Reasons to go and how to get there.
I like big settings, but I also like mini-settings; what I like best, though, is a mini-setting nested within a big setting. I discovered this whilst running my first full on Metal Earth game (with True20) about five years ago . During the course of that campaign, we thoroughly explored the island of Skeeme, and many of the ideas, which have come to represent the foundations of the larger setting, came into being during the course of that game. I believe the Forgotten Depths has at least four relatively self-contained mini-settings: The Abandon City (Hex 0301); the top of The Fin (Hexes 0704, 0803,0802 &0902); the Weather Control Station/City of the Sharkmen/Megadungeon (Hex 0907); and Madling Island. This is the first in what will be a very long series of posts detailing the last of these.
Soundtrack for this post Led Zepplin: Immigrant Song
AC: 4 (see below)
HD 1+1 (see below for attack)
Attacks: Sword or Javelin (1d6 damage)
XP: 100 X number of individual Talons (see below).
Mür are cloned beings based upon human DNA. They are vat grown in the city of Zil, located in the North Rüingulf. Mür are organized into individual bands; each band is known as a Claw (usage is the same for singular and plural). Each individual within a Claw is referred to as a Talon. A Claw is governed by a group mind. All the members share a personality, and are for all effective purposes different components of the same body. All Talons are completely unsexed androgynies. Furthermore, all Talons are albinos.
Mür claws have 2d6+1 talons. With the exception of their ruler (see below), ranking of Claw within Mür society is based upon the number of Talons. Claw larger than 13 in size are known, but rarely encountered.
In combat, Talons receive an attack bonus equal to ½ (round down) their total number (e.g., if a Claw has 7 conscious Talons, each of them attacks with a +3).
A Mür Claw is a Sorcerer equal in level to its number of Talons. One Talon stays behind and casts spells while the others engage in physical combat.
Mür gain their armor class due to segmented armor made from vat grown chitin. This armor is usually highly stylized and its appearance differs radically from Claw to Claw. Claws are very individualistic and competitive amongst one another.
Going where they will in their magically propelled longboats, the Mür are the terror of the entire Rüingulf and its coastal environs. They view all other groups as inferior. They raid often, and take many slaves to serve as domestic workers and agricultural laborers on their Islands. They place the highest value on human genetic material, and will stop at nothing when attempting to capture human prisoners.
Some scholars argue that the only thing that keeps the Mür from conquering the entire region, if not the world, is the inability for the various Claw to put aside their endless competition with one another and unite.
Mür Madlings: A lone Talon that becomes separated from its Claw by more than 1km will go through a painful process of separation, which last for 1d4 days. If not reunited with its unit within this time frame, the talon will develop an individual personality, and over the course of several weeks will sprout sex organs, and otherwise become completely human. This hyper puberty is extremely painful and distressing, Madlings are extremely unstable during the course of it. Unlike other humans, however, Madlings can wield sorcery. On the downside everyone, including other Mür hate them (even more than regular humans). Their albino appearance makes them instantly recognizable. Strangely enough, Autocrix Mandolo Boneaxe, the millennia old ruler of the Mür, is a Madling. How this came to pass is unknown.
Player characters may be Mür Madlings. (I need to work out the exact details for this).
Friday, July 15, 2011
One of the oft repeated rubrics by which the quality of super hero games is measured is what I'll call The Green Lantern Test. Many consider the ability to adequately model the Green Lantern a key indicator of a SHRPG's flexibility. The thinking is, of course, if the game can allow you to create a playable GL, it can likely do just about anything else you need it to in terms of character generation. In the universal sense, it's not a perfect test. For example I'm fairly certain that one could adequately model GL in Mutants or Masterminds, but, given my limited intellect, I would still find it unplayable. However, if one likes the game play of a certain system and it can model GL, chances are (keeping in mind no game is perfect all the time) it will facilitate a benign SHRPG experience.
When it comes to Sword and Sorcery or Science Fantasy RPGs, GL's role is perhaps most properly assigned to Conan. Conan is at various points in his a career, a warrior, a thief, a sailor, a bandit a forager in the wilderness and many other things. Class and level based games have, by and large, two distinct ways of dealing with Conan.
The easiest method, at least in terms of book keeping, is best exhibited by OD&D 1974. Essentially everyone is either a Fighting Man or a Magic User, and the actions of players outside of their two main oeuvres are constrained only by the imagination of the player, the ruling of the referee, and the parameters within which the group can collectively suspend disbelief. As a referee I am perfectly content with this system. In my experience, players, however, like to have options. They want their adventurers to differ from one another. Occasionally, despite, the repugnance of it all, a conscientious referee must take the wishes and desires of players in to account.
This leads us, as it did the earliest formulators of the game and their successors, to the second method, found in the supplements of OD&D and every iteration of the game released henceforth: a proliferation of character classes, e.g., Thief, Fighter, Ranger, the noisome Cleric, and so on. Many of these classes model one or another part of Conan's career, and, quite obviously, go well beyond its boundaries. None of theses classes, however, adequately model Conan's entire career.
I would find this frustrating enough if the problem stopped with Conan. It does not. What if someone wishes to play a character very much like the Grey Mouser? What class should the select? The facile answer is, of course, under 1e rules, a simple Thief. I would have to disagree, though; Thieves do not fight so well as Fighters, and I never felt that the Mouser was any less of a swordsman than Fafherd or, Conan, for that matter. What if a player wants to emulate Severian from the Book of the New Sun or that Beast Master guy from that 80's movie of the same name?
Setting aside the straight OD&D option for the reasons mentioned above, how can this problem be solved, without resorting to the semi-solution of cumbersome and fiddly multi-classing? Furthermore, as has been pointed out by others, as soon as an ability (e.g. pick pockets) is given to a specific class, it is more or less taken away from the other classes.
I submit, therefore that the proliferation of character classes is an inadequate solution to the Conan/Grey Mouser/Severian problem, and, furthermore, as a phenomenon, introduces more problems to the game than it solves.
These problems have stalled my own design efforts, bringing me, in reality to a dead stop for the last couple of months.
Yesterday, I cracked the code (to my own satisfaction, anyway).
Before you continue, keep in mind that I still view OD&D 1974 (or S&W Whitebox) as nearly perfect just the way they are (the way they are practically necessitates house rules, but that's another conversation, altogether) and all my Metal Earth rule modification are modular, and any adventure material I create, or have created, can be used with the additions or without them.
The admittedly nascent system proposed below is linked to some of my earlier ideas, namely saving throw based task resolution. If you don't want to read about the stuff, just keep in mind that I use a simple system of saving throws and modifiers for non-combat task resolution. Just by reading that sentence you have been introduced to about 90% of that system.
The Fighting-man class has been, in my Metal Earth game, replaced by the Adventurer class. Other classes will be the Sorcerer, and, possibly the Mastermind.
I know it's unseemly to beg, but some comments on anything you've read here today, would be smashing .
Anyway, here it is:
A member of the Adventurer class can be a Wanderer, warrior, thief, sailor, soldier or, at one time or another, all of the above and more. The ability to survive lies at the core of this class.
At first level and every 2 (3rd, 5th, 7th) levels thereafter the members of the adventurer class may select one competency from the list below. For the purpose of skill advancement, the level at which the character picks a competency is treated as first level when calculating modifiers. For example if Kronark the Barbarian selects the thief competency at 5th level, this level is considered first level when calculating all die rolls).
Offensive fighter: Offensive fighters gain +1 to attack rolls and a +1 to all damage rolls- including results on critical hits tables.
Defensive fighters: Defensive Fighters gain a +1 to their AC (unless taken by surprise) and a +2 to all saving throws vs. wounds/critical hits.
Badass: A Badass character can deal lethal damage (including critical hits) and receives a +1 to hit with unarmed attacks.
Advanced Badass: (Prerequisite, Badass or Defensive Fighter): An advanced Badass has an automatic 4  AC (against melee based attacks) without armor.
Survival: Characters with the survival competency gain a +2/level to all survival related task resolution saving throws, including foraging and overland navigation.
Sailing: A sailor knows how to handle themselves aboard a ship. This includes competency at basic ship board tasks, such as getting under way and stowing cargo, and setting sail as well as more advanced tasks such as navigation.
Thief Skills: A character with the thief skills is adept at such activities as picking locks, climbing walls, and picking pockets. The character receives an initial +2 and +1/lvel to all task related saving throws whilst using these skills.
Marksman: A marksmen receives a +1 bonus to hit and to damage with firearms (including critical hits at close range).
Torture: Character that have been schooled in the art and science of torture receive a +2 per level on all interrogation based saving throws.
Art: An artist is especially skilled at some sort of creative expression. While in a city performers musicians, dancers, jugglers can earn 1d20 Zorms a week. If they are left to depend upon their creativity for sustenance, other artists will almost certainly go hungry, unless they can somehow arrange for a wealthy patron to subsidize their lifestyle.
Beast Mastery: A beast master has way with animals and can effectively charm Lvl +2 hit dice worth of creatures.
Keep in mind these are just samples, and the players and referee can easily create their own sets of abilities.