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22 March, 2009

Today’s Tabbloid

ROGUE FEED a single combat.

S&W; Psionics, Part II Like melee and missile combat, creatures engaged in psionic
MAR 21, 2009 06:21P.M. combat must select “weapons” and “armor” for the occasion.
Each round, players must choose an attack mode and/or a
Here’s the section on psionic combat I promised. I’m a bit ambivalent defense mode from among those available to their characters,
about it, as it stands now, so I’d appreciate criticism that would improve provided they can pay the power point cost for using them.
it. I want it to remain fairly simple to use and I want to keep psionics as a Power points are expended before the attack or defense is
side show by default, meaning that it never overshadows either melee or used, regardless of whether they prove successful. However,
magic. Ideally, though, it should be easily changed to work as a once activated, they may be maintained without any cost for
substitute for magic in certain kinds of settings, so keep that in mind too. the duration of the psionic combat. Activating a different
attack or defense mode, however, requires the expenditure of
I’m also toying with changing the number of power points available by power points, as does re-activating modes formerly
level, since, as written now, psionic combat would be difficult for low- maintained.
level characters to engage in for very long. That’s by design, but I do
worry it might be too hard as written. Once again, comments and Some attacks are more effective against certain defenses than
suggestions are welcomed and encouraged. are others. The following chart shows the bonus or penalty to
the psionic combat attack roll.
The material in the quote box below is hereby designated Open Game
Content via the Open Game License.
Empty Intellect Mental Thought Tower of
Psionic Combat
Mind Fortress Barrier Shield Iron Will
In addition to employing psionic powers (see below), psionic
creatures can also engage in psionic combat with one another Mind Thrust -3 +6 +1 +4 +5
through the use of psionic attack and defense modes. Psionic
combat functions similarly to melee and missile combat, with Ego Whip +1 -2 -1 -3 +3
an attack roll made against a target’s psionic armor class
(PAC). If successful, attacks deal damage that reduce the Id Insinuation -2 +1 -4 -1 +0
target’s current psionic power points, just as melee and
missile attacks reduce the target’s hit points. If psionic power Psychic Crush -5 +4 +3 +2 -3
points are reduced to zero, the psionic creature may no longer
use psionic attack/defense modes or psionic powers. Such Mind Blast +3 +0 -3 -2 -1
defenseless psionic creatures are even more susceptible to
psionic attacks than are non-psionic creatures, as noted
below. All psionic attack modes suffer a -8 attack penalty against
non-psionic creatures, except for mind blast, which gains a
Psionic Attack and Defense +4 bonus. Conversely, all attack modes gain a +8 attack
bonus against psionic creatures who no longer possess any
All creatures, psionic and non-psionic alike, have a base power points.
psionic armor classs of 9. The creature’s Wisdom bonus (if
any) affects the PAC. Psionic attacks are treated as if made by Attack and Defense Modes
a first-level character, meaning that a roll of 10 or more on
1D20 is necessary to succeed against PAC 9, adjusted by the Unless otherwise stated, all attack and defense modes affect
character’s Intelligence modifier (if any). A character’s only a single creature at a time. Likewise, a psionic creature
Charisma modifier may apply either to PAC or the attack roll, can always raise a defense mode as a reaction in response
at the discretion of the player. The modifier may be shifted to a psionic attack mode, even if he or she has already acted
between the two on a combat-by-combat basis, but not within in the round, unless the creature no longer possesses any

Today’s Tabbloid PERSONAL NEWS FOR 22 March, 2009

power points. Such a reaction requires the expenditure of Range: Self

power points, as usual, however.
Duration: Immediate
Ego Whip
Power Point Cost: 5
Attack Mode
This defense mode summons the strength of the higher
Range: 8ft psyche to create a powerful bulwark against psychic attack.

Duration: Immediate Mental Barrier

Power Point Cost: 3 Defense Mode

An ego whip targets the “I” or self and, overwhelming it with Range: Self
negative or vicious feelings that inhibit its ability to function
properly. As such, this attack mode is only usable against a Duration: Immediate
sentient being. A successful use of an ego whip deals 1d6
points of power point damage to a psionic target, while non- Power Point Cost: 3
psionic creatures are stunned for 1d4 rounds.
This defense mode draws on innocuous, repetitive thoughts
Empty Mind to shield the mind against unwanted intrusions.

Defense Mode Mind Blast

Range: Self Attack Mode

Duration: Immediate Range: 40ft.

Power Point Cost: 1 Duration: Immediate

This defense mode induces a low-level meditative trance in Power Point Cost: 9
which the mind of the creature using it becomes less distinct
from the world around it. This attack mode blasts the minds of all creatures in a 40-foot
cone with mental energy, dealing 1D12 points of power point
Id Insinuation damage to a psionic creature. A non-psionic creature is more
susceptible to mind blast than to other psionic attack modes.
Attack Mode On a failed saving throw, a non-psionic creature is stunned
for 3d4 rounds.
Range: 120ft
Mind Thrust
Duration: Immediate
Attack Mode
Power Point Cost: 3
Range: 60ft
Id insinuation attacks a target’s basest instincts, freeing them
temporarily from the control of his or her higher psyche in Duration: Immediate
order to induce confusion. A successful use of this attack
mode deals 1d8 points of power point damage to a psionic Power Point Cost: 1
creature, while non-psionic creatures are stunned for 1d6
rounds. This attack mode shapes mental energy into a “psychic
blade” with which to “stab” the mind of the target. This deals
Intellect Fortress 1d4 points of power point damage to a psionic creature, while
non-psionic creatures are stunned for 1 round.
Defense Mode
Psychic Crush

Today’s Tabbloid PERSONAL NEWS FOR 22 March, 2009

Attack Mode ROGUE FEED

Range: 25ft. [Lost Works] History of Empire

Duration: Immediate City, Part 2
MAR 21, 2009 04:17P.M.
Power Point Cost: 5

This attack mode uses neural impulses to assault the target’s

mind, thereby rendering mental activity more difficult. A Another installment on Lost Works: History of Empire City. This
successful attack deals 1D10 points of power point damage one covers World War 2 to the end of the 1950s. When I wrote this, I
to a psionic creature, while a non-psionic creature is stunned had a nice section dealing with the Communist threat, but that was cut
for 2d4 rounds. due to word count. I do not know what happened to that portion.

Thought Shield World at War — 1940s-50s

Defense Mode The 1940’s saw changes in Empire City. With growing tensions in
Europe, immigrants flocked to Empire City seeking refuge. This influx
Range: Self saw an already tight job market became tighter. Mayor La Guardia
worked hard to stem the growing tensions among his citizens.
Duration: Immediate
Though the depression still gripped much of the nation, Empire City was
Power Point Cost: 1 not as affected. One reason for this was due to La Guardia’s fiscal
policies. The other was due to his seeking numerous New Deal grants
This defense uses ephemeral, surface thoughts to protect the and projects. These help fuel construction, and numerous public work
mind from attack. projects putting many back to work.

Tower of Iron Will War effect on the city

Defense Mode Seeking and winning re-election in 1941, La Guardia became the second
person in city history to serve a 12-year consecutive term. Many
Range: Self wondered what the next four years would hold for Empire City, but a
month later on December 7, 1941, the unthinkable happened, the United
Duration: Immediate States was attacked when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. With the
bombing of Pearl Harbor the U.S. increased production to supply the
Power Point Cost: 5 needed goods necessary for war. Increased production created numerous
jobs needing filling. This helped put many Empire City residents to work
This defense mode harnesses a creature’s determination and as the city began supplying the war effort.
mental resilience to fashion a psychic barrier so powerful that
it can protect other creatures, psionic or not, within a 10-foot As the months passed, naval and supply ships clogged Empire City’s
radius around the user, who gain the full benefits of this port. The streets teamed with soldiers and sailors enjoying everything
defense mode as if they were using it themselves. the city had to offer. Even though the city did not slow down, Broadway’s
lights dimmed at night during the war. To ensure Empire City remained
safe La Guardia also placed security guards on all her bridges, tunnels
and numerous factories.

The war attracted unwanted attention to Empire City. Numerous foreign

spies and saboteurs seeking to harm US war efforts snuck into the city.
Responding to this, a few cloaked and costumed crime fighters’ stalked
shadowed streets ensuring no harm befell anyone. Crimson Fist still
haunted the nights, but was soon joined by the mechanical man Elektro
and the dashing Lady Justice. La Guardia never publicly said anything,
but he aided the city’s heroes as best as he could. In this way, the mayor
ensured that the city remained safe from both crime and foreign

Today’s Tabbloid PERSONAL NEWS FOR 22 March, 2009

Empire Times The growth of offices

May 3, 1943
Crime Fighting Trio Stops Saboteurs at Brooklyn As the decade came to a close corruption once again rocked Empire City.
Bridge In a series of newspaper articles written by Aaron Goldberg appearing in
Once again, Empire City’s citizens must thank their trio of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle] alleging an alliance of police and judges
protectors for keeping her safe. Last night Crimson Fist, actively protecting close to 4000 Empire City bookies.
along with Lady Justice and Elektro, prevented a group of
Nazi saboteurs attempting to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge. At the same time a new masked vigilante known as Enigma, began
looking into the corruption and found evidence showing the current
Though events are still sketchy, what is known is that at mayor, Bill O’Dwyer, was on the take. A Goldberg front-page story on
12:33 PM last night Empire City Police and FBI Agents December 15, 1950, revealed that known bookmaker Harry Gross
rushed to the Brooklyn Bridge. They were apparently tipped contributed to O’Dwyer’s re-election. The revelation of Gross’ $30,000
off that saboteurs had been captured and where waiting to campaign donation lead to the mayor’s investigation.
be picked up. When authorities arrived, twelve Nazi agents
were found tied, and dangling from the bridge. Empire Times
September 13, 1950
Though Crimson Fist has been a staple in the city for years, Questions over Enigma
recently two new figures have made their presence known. For the past few weeks’ criminals have been wondering who,
The two have made an impression on the city’s criminal or what, the purple clad Enigma is. Though police have no
element. They also apparently work in conjunction with answers, the purple fighter of crime has made a name for
Crimson Fist. himself since taking to the streets.

Making his first appearance at the 1939/40’s World’s Fair, The first reports of Enigma are linked to a gambling ring
Elektro the Mechanical Man was designed and developed by reportedly broken up by him. Responding to an anonymous
Westinghouse and was a fixture at the Westinghouse tip on August 3, police arrived at Bronx warehouse only to
Pavilion. When the fair ended Elektro, was a distant find twenty known bookies and number runners hogtied,
memory until four months ago reappearing and stopping an with a purple question mark painted on their faces.
armed robbery at Tiffany’s. Though Westinghouse designed
and created the mechanical man, they continue to disavow Since then reports of a purple clad figure breaking up
all responsibility for his actions. known criminal hangouts continue to surface. It was only
last week that a name was associated with the lone crime
More is known of the beautiful crime fighter Lady Justice. fighter.
This ravishing fighter of crime continues to make headlines
as she fights against organized crime in the city. Making her On a balmy September 6 night, police responded to a
début two months ago she prevented robbers from stealing hostage situation only to arrive to the see the hostages freed,
mutinous from a harbor warehouse. Though beautiful, Lady and their captures knocked unconscious. When questioned,
Justice continues to show great skill and courage in her fight the freed hostages said that the room filled with purple
against crime, and no where is this more true with her smoke. Though they could see nothing, they did hear sounds
shutting down a white slavery link originating out of The of a struggle. When the smoked cleared, the criminals were
Bronx. badly beaten, and male figure dressed in a purple body suit,
was fleeing out the window. Before leaving, the figure
Though typically a loner, Crimson Fist has been seen in the turned and reportedly told the free captives that Enigma
company of these new crime fighters, and the three seem to was here.
be working together. With their vigilance, Empire City can
rest a little easier at night knowing their protectors watch Though no one knows who he is, or what his motives are, it
over them. is clear that he is fighting a war on crime.

After serving his city for twelve years, La Guardia announced his The Kefauver committee, which was already investigating organized
retirement in 1945. During that same year, the newly formed United crime, turned their attention to O’Dwyer and subpoenaed him to testify.
Nations met in their temporary headquarters at the Empire City Building Grilling O’Dwyer between March 19 and 20, 1951, in public hearings, the
in Queens. La Guardia, who actively campaigned to have the UN mayor admitted he knew of the police corruption and did nothing to stop
headquartered in the city, considered this a hallmark of his mayoral it. In addition, O’Dwyer admitted he was friendly with members of the
career. By the end of 1947, construction began on a more permanent Five Families. Even more damning was his admittance of accepting a
facility. Sadly, La Guardia would not see the completion of the UN campaign contribution from not only Gross, but also their leader Frank
Building, because on September 29, 1947 he died of pancreatic cancer. Costello. Though the evidence was damming, and O’Dwyer was

Today’s Tabbloid PERSONAL NEWS FOR 22 March, 2009

politically ruined, he was never convicted of any crime. Leaving the city
for Mexico City, the former mayor began stetting up his own private law ROGUE FEED
practice. Before taking his first client, O’Dwyer was found shot in his
Mexico City bed. Another Awesome Map
MAR 20, 2009 08:23P.M.
As the 1950s progressed, new buildings began springing up and
numerous high-rises were added to the skyline. Architects copied the
style of the UN Building with staggering results. New structures made
from glass and steel began reaching toward the sky looking delicate in
comparison to their older brick and stone counterparts. This new style of
architecture created airy plazas that opened up the city, giving the city a
face-lift. They showed that the old girl was still very much alive and
thriving. The first, and maybe the best example of this, was the Lever
House, and the 38-floor Seagram Building built in 1958. Other key
additions to Empire City’s skyline were the Chase Manhattan, Equitable
and Time-Life buildings.

Besides the building boom, the Lincoln Tunnel project saw completion in
1957. Plans for the tunnel were first drawn up in 1930 when the Port
Authority proposed a twin-tunnel underneath the Hudson River, linking
Manhattan’s West 38th Street, and Weehawken, New Jersey. The first
tube (today’s centre one) opened on December 22, 1937, and allowed
only one lane of traffic in either direction. The tunnel passed
expectations, and the heavy traffic forced construction of a second

Due to the World War II, the project experienced setbacks, but
eventually the second tunnel opened north of the original tube in 1945.
With the second tube, two lanes of east and westbound traffic were
This is the map of the Upper Catacombs beneath the surface ruins of the
allowed, but quickly, with the growth of not only Empire City, but also
monastery. It’s not part of the “true” dungeon levels, but I really like it.
New Jersey, the two tubes could not handle the increased traffic. Though
Combined with the ruins themselves, the Lower Catacombs, and the
plans for new tunnel were considered linking Manhattan’s 14th Street to
Hermit Caves, there’s plenty to do at Urheim before descending into the
Hoboken New Jersey, the Port Authority decided to construct a third
maw of Chaos itself. I’m really pleased by this set-up, since lots of lateral
tube of the Lincoln Tunnel. Construction began in 1951, and finally saw
movement and meaningful choices about how best to proceed are an
completion in 1957.
important part of designing a good megadungeon.

The 1950’s saw the start of an economic shift that would affect Empire
Thanks, as ever, to the talented Fr. David for his cartographic work.
City for decades. Before this time, and especially during the war years,
the city was the nation’s manufacturing hub. As the city grew
prosperous, and budget problems forced increased taxes, many factories
could not afford to do business in the city. Hitting especially hard was a
recession between 1953 and 1961 forcing many factories to either move
or close completely. ROGUE FEED

Various corporate headquarters moved into Empire City, filling the gap REVIEW:
left by the factories. One reason for the moves was the growing amount MAR 20, 2009 05:14P.M.
of office space available in the city due to numerous newly built
buildings. Though no one knew it, this shift in the economic base of the
city would affect the city in other ways.

Posted in Games Tagged: Empire City, Games, Lost Works, thoughts Short version: Much better than I’d expected but also much pricier than I
could justify spending (which is good, since Monte Cook very kindly gave
me a free month’s access).

Today’s Tabbloid PERSONAL NEWS FOR 22 March, 2009

Now, for the long version. just enough graphics to be useful but not so many as to create visual
clutter. I know some people have expressed disappointment at its
As people should know by now, I am very — how shall I say? — relatively “bare bones” look, but I personally find it refreshingly elegant.
protective about the term “old school.” I’m one of those rare birds who The pages load quickly and I never had any trouble figuring out where to
strongly believes the term is both meaningful and useful, which often find what I was looking for. There’s also a built-in search engine in case
puts me at odds with some of my fellow gamers, who, for different you still have difficulty, along with forums to which Monte regularly
reasons, would prefer that it be banished to the terminological responds with answers, even to technical questions about the site.
netherworld. Ironically, this fact hasn’t stopped lots of people from
throwing around “old school” to describe games and products that, by All dungeons live or die by their maps and Dragon’s Delve has some nice
any reasonable definition, are nothing of the kind. ones. First there’s a side view map of the place, which I just love. Not
only does it remind me of the best old school dungeons, such as Stone
But I readily admit that I’m an eccentric among eccentrics on this score. Mountain from the Holmes set, it’s got a lot of flavor in its own right. I
So, when Monte Cook conjoined the words “megadungeon” and “old love each level of a dungeon having a name that describes it and
school” when announcing his latest project,, I was apparently Monte Cook does as well. Level 1 is so far the only level to
among only a handful of grognards who took it as an affront (a “hissy have its own map, which is to be expected, since the site is detailing
fit,” one ENWorlder called it). There are several reasons I felt this way, Dragon’s Delve a couple of rooms a day. Level 1 is fairly small by the
the main one being that the old school renaissance is really hitting its standards of truly old school megadungeons, but Monte has indicated
stride right now. Lots of gamers are taking notice of our little corner of that deeper levels will be bigger. Personally, I think size is a fairly small
the Net and engaging our ideas in a way they never did before. “Old quibble, although I do agree that it would have been nice if Level 1 had
school” and “megadungeon” are now regular topics for debate and more obvious room for expansion, since near-infinite expandability is an
conversation on forums and blogs and I don’t think there’s any question important quality of the megadungeons of old. On the other hand, the
it’s because traditional gamers have done a great job of showing their map doesn’t strike me as too obviously linear, with lots of options for
continued relevance to the hobby. meaningful decisions.

The second reason I felt as I did was because it wasn’t someone I Each room receives its own page on the site, complete with an image of a
strongly associated with old school D&D who was launching this site but bit of Dwarven Forge dungeon terrain constructed to represent it. I think
Monte Cook, whom I primarily connected to the decidedly not-old school that’s a great idea, actually, first because it provides the referee with a
Third Edition and Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, a module I better idea of what the room looks like, and second because it keeps the
both disliked as an adventure and that I felt misrepresented Greyhawk level map uncluttered with too much detail, a flaw common in many
lore. To be fair, Monte did a lot of stuff I did like, such as his various modern dungeon maps. As you can see by looking at a sample room, the
Planescape products, but I don’t consider Planescape “old school” by my descriptions are exhaustive, far moreso than I generally like. This is true
definition. Finally, I was miffed by the subscription model, which I think even of otherwise empty rooms, since Monte has stated that, “Each
is problematic when you’re dealing with an electronic product. I realize [room] will have something of interest, and most will be fairly elaborate.”
that most professional game designers aren’t going to follow the This is a case where I think the realities of his subscription model —
approach of the old school renaissance and give things away for free, but providing something “meaty” every day — has trumped old school
there’s something about paying for the privilege of having a product dungeon design principles, which demanded not only a large number of
parceled out to you in small pieces over many months rubs me the wrong otherwise empty rooms but empty rooms without much of interest in
way. them.

Combined, my first reaction to was probably Looking back at the sample room, you can see a few features that I think
irrationally over the top, even if it was understandable. Having now had are telling. As noted, they’re highly detailed, meaning you can just read
a chance to explore the site at much greater length over the last week and the description and run with it; there’s little need to wing it. Whether one
a half, I’m in a much better position to evaluate it on its actual merits considers this a good or a bad thing is a question of taste, I suppose. The
and flaws rather than on what I presumed it would be like. What I found information is presented very clearly and is well organized, however.
was something that was decidedly more old school than we’ve probably You’ll also immediately notice how unwieldy 3e D&D is, since game
seen from a big name designer of the 3e era. By that I mean that, if mechanics, particularly the stat blocks of unique NPCs take up a lot of
Monte Cook is a poser, he’s doing a very good job of it. Dragon’s Delve, space. You’ll also see that pretty much everything in the dungeon is
the megadungeon he’s constructing, hits most of the right old school quantified, with Difficulty Classes aplenty, not to mention formulae for
notes. There is in fact a great deal to like about it and I’m not ashamed to calculating the effects of spells, etc. I recall Monte Cook stating that he
admit I may even steal an idea or three from it. At the same time, was amazed at how “light” the mechanical component of also highlights how much WotC D&D has strayed felt to him, but, from my perspective, I found it the
from its heritage, both mechanically and philosophically. opposite, but then I play Swords & Wizardry these days. Many rooms
also include a “Revisit” entry, which explains what the room will be like is a very straightforward and easy-to-use website. once the PCs have cleared it of its original inhabitants. That’s a nice
Navigation is simple and intuitive. Each page is nicely presented, with touch and one that goes a long way toward conveying that a proper

Today’s Tabbloid PERSONAL NEWS FOR 22 March, 2009

megadungeon isn’t a static place. There are also wandering monsters, for
which I give Monte bonus points.

Overall, the site is extremely slick without being soulless. It’s easy to use
and has lots of nice features, like the ability to download every page (or ROGUE FEED
print it off) as a PDF, as well as hyperlinks to the D20 SRD and other
useful outside sites. I hope there will be an ongoing compilation of the The Monastery of St. Gaxyg-at-
entire dungeon, as the Greyhawk Grognard is doing with his The Castle
of the Mad Archmage. That would go some way toward making up for Urheim
the lack of a print product associated with the subscription, since those MAR 20, 2009 01:54P.M.
who let their subscriptions lapse would still have something to show for
the money they spent beyond some disjointed PDFs. In addition to the The monks of Saint Gaxyg (popularly called “the Gray Monks,” after the
aforementioned forums, Monte also has a blog where he discusses the color of their habits) were a Lawful order that undertook devotions, good
design of Dragon’s Delve and related topics. A lot of it would be of works, and scholarship in equal measure, thereby winning them the
interest to old schoolers, I think, but much of it is also well known to us esteem and affection of the folk throughout the land. So zealous were the
and there are also times when it’s clear Monte has very different interests monks in defending the realm against the depredations of Chaos that
and priorities than we do, at least some of which stem from the design they established a monastery upon the crags of Urheim, under which
philosophy behind 3e. existed a series of caves that not only spawned foul aberrations but
whose supernatural taint drew monsters and evil men alike to itself. is a very ambitious project and a good enough idea
that I’m going to be imitating it in broad terms. I would still balk at The monks valiantly undertook a generations-long project of cleansing
calling it “old school” without qualification, since both its native rules set Urheim of its contagion by venturing deep into its subterranean recesses
and the nature of the subscription model demanded compromises I don’t to confront its denizens with holiness, magic, and steel. As part of their
consider wholly congenial. Despite that, there are many nifty things in plan, they worked the very stone itself, giving it a Lawful pattern and
Dragon’s Delve, as I said, and, in most cases, you can “retro-fit” its sanctifying it in the name of St. Gaxyg. Slowly but surely, despite the cost
contents to make it more amenable to the TSR editions of the game. And to themselves, the Gray Monks did more than just contain Chaos; they
there are times, such as in the presentation of puzzles, where Monte pushed it back, defeating it in its very lair, in the process amassing items
seems to understand the limits 3e places on play and so abandons of mysterious origins and magical potency, along with other treasures, all
mechanics entirely to make it a challenge to the player rather than his of which they either put to good use or stored away, lest they fall into the
character. This isn’t revolutionary to old schoolers, but I imagine it might wrong hands.
be to a lot of younger gamers, for whom 3e is the first D&D they ever
knew. In this way, might prove an unexpected ally to While the monastery stood strong, it was a beacon of light in a darkened
the old school renaissance, by disseminating its ideas outside of the world. Pilgrims flocked to it in order to venerate the memory of the saint
narrow confines of our community, but it’s too early to tell. in whose name the monks labored and to gain spiritual edification from
their example. Novices regularly entered the monastery, swelling their
In the end, my biggest beefs with are the price and numbers and ensuring that Law carried the day in the battle beneath
the subscription model. At $10 a month ($8 a month if you subscribe for Urheim. Many warriors pledged themselves to the monks and joined
12 months, reduced to $7 a month if you do so before the end of March), them in their great task, which further strengthened their cause and led
it’s too rich for my blood, considering that I already have my own some to believe that the Chaos beneath Urheim might finally be defeated
Dwimmermount, not to mention Urheim, and a host of other for all time.
megadungeons available for next to nothing. That’s a shame, because I
do think shows great promise and hope its possible Alas, the taint of Chaos touches all things, even a bastion of Law, such as
success will prove beneficial to the Old Ways. However, I’m not sure I the monastery of St. Gaxyg. After several centuries and a succession of
can justify the cost in my particular case. weak abbots, the Gray Monks grew indulgent, preferring wealth and
influence to wisdom and piety. Slowly, the blasphemous spawn of
Presentation: 8 out of 10 Urheim reclaimed the caves as their own, pushing the monks out and
Creativity: 7 out of 10 reversing the hard-won victories of the centuries. Rather than fight
Utility: 6 out of 10 them, as had their predecessors, the monks simply warded the entrance
to the underworld and settled into a comfortable laxity. No longer
Buy This If: You’re a fan of Monte Cook, are looking for a new exemplars of law and goodness, the wealth of the monastery aroused the
megadungeon, don’t mind a subcription model for content and/or don’t envy of local lords, who eventually sacked it, putting the remaining
find the 3e rules a distraction. monks to the sword, and seizing their treasures. Greedy though they
Don’t Buy This If: You can’t stand 3e rules, already have a were, these monks knew well enough than to disturb Urheim, leaving it
megadungeon of your own, and/or dislike content being parceled out in safely warded by the holy magic of St. Gaxyg.
small chunks over time.

Today’s Tabbloid PERSONAL NEWS FOR 22 March, 2009

Chaos still issues its siren call, drawing evil beings, both human and For those just joining us, Shadow, Sword & Spell is a new game
otherwise, to Urheim. Rumors have spread that someone — or James and I are working on. The game deals with fantasy, or as James
something — has found a way to enter the hidden caves once more, recently put it:
seeking both the wealth and evil power they reputedly hold. If true, the
darkness the Gray Monks once fought could escape its prison and pour It’s our take on the “humanistic fantasy” of the 1930s through
out across the land, heralding a terrible future ... 1960s — Howard, Leiber, Fox, Vance, Pratt, De Camp, and so
on. Like Thousand Suns, it’s intended as a “tool box”
game, so that each referee can use it to create his own vision
of the swords-and-sorcery genre. The full game is scheduled
for a Fall release, but a playable preview should be available
at GenCon this August.
The first question, and it is one that I have gotten in tweets as well as
Slow Day email, is a simple one:
MAR 19, 2009 05:30P.M.
What is humanistic fantasy?
Tired and swamped with work, so posting may be light today. My
apologies. Without getting philosophical (I leave that for James to do), I am going
to share what I feel is humanistic fantasy. This is a topic I have been
thinking about for awhile, and it is one predating not only Shadow,
Sword & Spell, but Rogue Games. It is the thinking that inspired the
creation, in part, Colonial Gothic. In a nutshell, humanistic fantasy is
fantasy divorce of demi-humans as playable races. In essence it is putting
ROGUE FEED the emphasis on humanity, and using humanity to highlight the fantasy.

Yet More on Wargames Upon reading Howard, Leiber, Fox, Vance, Pratt, De Camp, Lovecraft
MAR 19, 2009 02:42P.M. and the like, the first thing you notice is that they heroes are humans.
Using humans, it allows the fantasy, where it intersects with reality,
I’m not much of a wargamer — thus making me a poser when it comes to stand out. Applying this to a fantasy game, taking the traditional (and
the “grognard” title — but I am very interested in the history of the not so traditional) fantasy races out of the gaming equation, it puts
hobby, both in general and in how it relates to the development of fantasy back into fantasy.
roleplaying games.
So why are we doing this? Genre burn out. When one plays, or works,
So, it’s with great pleasure that I read Zach Houghton’s post today that with fantasy, there is always the desire to go all out and throw as much as
includes some fascinating historical documentation about Strategos, the you can into the soup. After awhile it is boring to have just an “elf,” or a”
post-Civil War era game that inspired the Braunstein scenarios run by dwarf,” or a “goblin.” You need to have cat people, birdmen, and a every
Dave Wesley. This is very cool stuff and Zach’s to be thanked for digging growing hodgepodge of playable races because the same old same old, is
it up. no longer fantastical.

So why humanistic fantasy? Is it our desire to be pro human? No. It is

about our desire to get back to the roots of fantasy, and allow things to be
mystical again. In order to allow for the type of fantasy we want to
explore — pulp fantasy — we need to strip away the trappings we are
ROGUE FEED accustomed too. Doing this, allows the fantasy to stand.

[Shadow, Sword & Spell] In So what does Shadow, Sword & Spell give you? The options to play
pulp fantasy game inspired by not only Robert E. Howard, but Clark
which we begin… Ashton Smith and H.P. Lovecraft.
MAR 19, 2009 02:28A.M.
Yes, you read that right.

This is not going to be a “Conan Game.” Or a “Deamlands” game. It is

I have been silent when it comes to Shadow, Sword & Spell. This has going to be a game about tone and feeling. Horror and discovery. Lost
now changed. and mystery.

Today’s Tabbloid PERSONAL NEWS FOR 22 March, 2009

It is going to be a game about fantasy. growing hodgepodge of playable races because the same old same old, is
no longer fantastical.

So why humanistic fantasy? Is it our desire to be pro human? No. It is

about our desire to get back to the roots of fantasy, and allow things to be
mystical again. In order to allow for the type of fantasy we want to
explore — pulp fantasy — we need to strip away the trappings we are
ROGUE FEED accustomed too. Doing this, allows the fantasy to stand.

[Shadow, Sword & Spell] In So what does Shadow, Sword & Spell give you? The options to play
pulp fantasy game inspired by not only Robert E. Howard, but Clark
which we begin… Ashton Smith and H.P. Lovecraft.
MAR 19, 2009 12:22A.M.
Yes, you read that right.

This is not going to be a “Conan Game.” Or a “Deamlands” game. It is

I have been silent when it comes to Shadow, Sword & Spell. This has going to be a game about tone and feeling. Horror and discovery. Lost
now changed. and mystery.

For those just joining us, Shadow, Sword & Spell is a new game It is going to be a game about fantasy.
James and I are working on. The game deals with fantasy, or as James
recently put it: Posted in Games, Rogue Games, thoughts Tagged: design notes, fantasy,

It’s our take on the “humanistic fantasy” of the 1930s through Rogue Games, SS&S, thoughts
1960s — Howard, Leiber, Fox, Vance, Pratt, De Camp, and so
on. Like Thousand Suns, it’s intended as a “tool box”
game, so that each referee can use it to create his own vision
of the swords-and-sorcery genre. The full game is scheduled
for a Fall release, but a playable preview should be available
at GenCon this August. ROGUE FEED

The first question, and it is one that I have gotten in tweets as well as [Lost Works] History of Empire
email, is a simple one:
City, Part 1
What is humanistic fantasy? MAR 18, 2009 10:14P.M.

Without getting philosophical (I leave that for James to do), I am going

to share what I feel is humanistic fantasy. This is a topic I have been
thinking about for awhile, and it is one predating not only Shadow, Note, this chapter is now four years old. To save my time, I am posting
Sword & Spell, but Rogue Games. It is the thinking that inspired the this as is. I have done some spot editing, but I do not have time to give
creation, in part, Colonial Gothic. In a nutshell, humanistic fantasy is this the full tweaking. Consider this series of posts to be a glimpse into
fantasy divorce of demi-humans as playable races. In essence it is putting the archive. I will be posting the chapter every few days.
the emphasis on humanity, and using humanity to highlight the fantasy.
The Jazz Age 1920-30
Upon reading Howard, Leiber, Fox, Vance, Pratt, De Camp, Lovecraft
and the like, the first thing you notice is that they heroes are humans. The end of World War I ushered a new era to Empire City. A nation
Using humans, it allows the fantasy, where it intersects with reality, weary of war attempted to forget that time, and lose themselves in the
stand out. Applying this to a fantasy game, taking the traditional (and endless party known as the Jazz Age. The Jazz Age ushered in a time of
not so traditional) fantasy races out of the gaming equation, it puts gin, music, money and crime. At the centre of this party was the lady,
fantasy back into fantasy. Empire City.

So why are we doing this? Genre burn out. When one plays, or works, The Party and the Crash
with fantasy, there is always the desire to go all out and throw as much as
you can into the soup. After awhile it is boring to have just an “elf,” or a” When famed French architect Le Corbusier visited the city in 1920, he
dwarf,” or a “goblin.” You need to have cat people, birdmen, and a every was asked for his impressions. In response, he stated: “A catastrophe,

Today’s Tabbloid PERSONAL NEWS FOR 22 March, 2009

but it is a beautiful catastrophe.” Nowhere was this more evident than in Anthony Rosewood The Stork Club’s maître d’.
Manhattan. With its mix of neighborhoods, the newly built Equitable
and Strauss Building, the Paramount Theatre, Gimbel’s Department Though events are still sketchy, police sources confirm that
Store, McAlpin, Ambassador Hotel, Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, and Madison at 11:15 PM five gunmen stormed into the club attempting to
Square Garden spoke to this beauty. assassinate Alfred “Pretty Boy” Nunzio, who was busy
entertaining friends in the exclusive Cub Room. As they
The city enjoyed herself, but the good times ended on October 24, 1929, stormed into the room, many fled fearing for their life. Those
with the stock market crashed. The aftermath took a heavy toll on staying behind, state that the room suddenly went black and
Empire City, evidenced by Mayor Jimmy Walker firing 1,100 teachers in filled with silence. Once the lights went back on, not only
1931 in order for the city budget to meet expenses. Residents responded were the five gunmen unconscious and tied up, but Pretty
to this in outrage, but the ever smooth talking Mayor Walker, assured the Boy Nunzio and three companions were tied up as well.
public Empire City would suffer from no more cutbacks. By 1932, one- Pinned to the men was a flyer printed with a red fist.
third of all Empire City factories closed and nearly one-fourth of the
population was out of work. Police are reluctant to answer any questions, but this
reporter has learned that at least two witnesses heard a
Completion of the Chrysler building in April 1930, showed that though man’s voice during the altercation. This voice is said to have
many were hurting, the city did not stop growing. Enjoying a one-year been powerful and filled with hatred toward the gunmen.
reign as the world’s tallest building, the Empire State Building eclipsed it
on May 1, 1931. That same year also saw the completion of the Holland So, who is Crimson Fist? Is he a hero or menace? Only time
Tunnel and the George Washington Bridge. will tell.

Completion of these two roadways made traveling between New Jersey Together they not only discovered corruption among numerous judges,
and Empire City easier. Besides growing buildings and bread lines, there but also within the women’s court. Governor Franklin Roosevelt
was another growth hidden from view—corruption. expanded the investigation after a key district attorney witness was
found murdered, and by April 8 the entire city government came under
Corruption runs deep scrutiny.

The discovery of Empire City’s corruption court system by US Attorney Seabury, with help from Crimson Fist, discovered numerous city official
Charles Tuttle in 1930 led Judge Samuel Seabury’s investigation into the taking bribes; money missing from budgets; the Vice Squad controlling a
city’s government. Seabury’s probe had the assistance of the shadowy prostitution ring; corrupt judges; and more importantly ties to Charles
figure the press dubbed: Crimson Fist. “Lucky” Luciano’s gang. Even more disturbing were Mayor Walker’s ties
to Luciano, and despite the allegations, Walker carried on as if nothing
Empire Times was wrong. It was after a public hearing that saw Seabury grilling
August 30, 1930 Walker, the mayor resigned in disgrace on September 1, 1932.
Rocked by her share of gang problems, Empire City has a Even after Walker was out of office, the corruption continued, and
new protector in the battle against crime. This figure, Empire City slowly sunk deeper into debt. It would not be until January
known by some as Crimson Fist, has been waging a one- 1, 1934, when Fiorello H. La Guardia became the city’s 99th mayor, that
man war against city crime. the city would begin the long road to recovery.

Though police officials have publicly stated little, Lucky Luciano and Empire City Crime
eyewitness’s accounts paint the same vivid picture of the
city’s protector. For the past three months a man wearing a Born in 1897 in Lercardia Friddi, Sicily, Charles “Lucky” Luciano and his
black trench coat, black brimmed hat, and a black scarf that family arrived in Empire City in November 1906. From an early age,
covers all but his eyes, has taken down nearly fourteen Luciano engaged in mischief and crime. It would be his lifelong
criminals connected to cities gangs. friendship with Meyer Lansky that led to the creation America’s most
powerful mob families.
With increased bloodshed connected to Empire City gang
fighting, criminals are finding themselves not only dodging Luciano’s criminal career began as a child when he started a protection
rival’s bullets, but also the shadowy vigilante’s fists. Many racket; by his teens, he was selling narcotics. This led to his becoming the
feel he is nothing more than a legend, but last night’s events leader of the notorious Five Points Gang in 1916. This propelled him into
at The Stork Club (East 53rd Street) have changed many the profitable bootlegging business. By the Prohibition Era, Luciano
opinions. (along with Lanksy, and partner Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel) was extremely
wealthy from this business. It was bootlegging that brought him into
“He’s ten-feet tall, and his hands are blood red,” claims contact with other Empire City crime bosses. One boss in particular took

Today’s Tabbloid PERSONAL NEWS FOR 22 March, 2009

an interest in Luciano, and that was Joe Masseria. States. For this to happen Muranzo saw two obstacles standing in his
way. The first was the head of the Chicago mob, Al Capone. The second
Masseria was the main figure in Empire City crime. Seeing a chance to was Lucky.
monitor a rising star, Masseria brought Luciano in, and they formed a
partnership. Though powerful, Masseria was reluctant to move into new Lansky tipped his friend off to Muranzo’s plan, and in response Lucky
businesses and diversifying his empire. More importantly, Masseria, like sent four gunners to his office to kill him. With Muranzo dead, Lucky
the rest of the older gangsters, did not want to do business with non- was now in charge. Not only was he head of the Five Families, but also he
Italians. Masseria’s old-time beliefs were the cause of the two continued was the undisputed crime boss in Empire City. To this day, the Five
arguments of the running of the business. Families that Lucky headed and strengthened still exist in Empire City.

Suspecting Luciano was going to muscle him out, Masseria had him Now known as La Costra Norsta, they stand as a testament to Lucky’s
handled. While standing on Sixth Avenue, Luciano was forced into a limo criminal empire. Unlike the modern era, the crime threatening the city
and abducted. While the limo was driving, Luciano was repeatedly was not the metahuman. Much of the bloodshed stemmed from the
beaten and stabbed. Thinking he was dead, Luciano’s abductors left him Prohibition Era which brought a new wave of crime, and in its’ wake
on a beach. Amazingly, Luciano limped to a nearby hospital where he came corruption. Because the threat was more mundane, then Jade
recovered. Police tried to get him to testify as too who had beaten him. Naga, there was not the number of superheroes present to stem the tide.
Luciano refused to answer any questions telling police: “Don’t you cops Those more likely fighting this growing crime were government agents,
lose any sleep, I’ll handle things myself.” police and the few citizens who took matters in their own hand as
costumed vigilantes.
Surviving his brush with death, Luciano dubbed himself Lucky. He knew
someone wanted him dead. Lansky’s discovery of Masseria’s double Though many felt all police and city officials were on the take, this was
cross would have the biggest impact on Empire City crime. Convincing not entirely true. Those not corrupt tried fighting back and they had
him it was time to act, Lansky advised Lucky to join forces with some assistance from the small hero community of the time. Crimson
Masseria’s enemy Salvatore Maranzano. Though reluctant at first, Fist was one such hero. After all, his work brought down a mayor and
Lansky’s arguments were persuasive. Meeting Maranzano in secret, helped keep the Five Families in check. Also making appearances in
Lucky switched sides, and doing so set off the largest gang war in Empire Empire City was Reverend Temperance, who earned the ire of Lucky
City history: Castellammarese War. Luciano over the targeting of his bootlegging operation.

Starting in 1928, the Castellammarese War was a bloody battle of control With Lucky’s control of Empire City bootlegging, the Reverend caused
between the older and younger Mafiosi. Gone were old alliances and Lucky a large share troubles. Throughout the era, Reverend Temperance
rivalries, instead forces loyal to the younger Maranzano fought old shut down numerous speakeasies, distillation plants and distribution
timers associated with Masseria. With both sides busy killing each other; centers. All of Reverend’s work cost Lucky not only in profits but also in
Lucky was busy cementing relationships with the younger leadership of embarrassment. At one point, Lucky placed a $150,000 bounty on the
both bosses’ gangs. The reason for this was due to Lucky realizing that Reverend’s head, and though many attempted to collect it, no one was
the only outcome to the war was the death of both bosses. With both successful. With the end of Prohibition, the Reverend’s threat ended, but
gone, and much of the older leadership gone with them, the younger Lucky’s problems were still not over.
members would take control, leaving Lucky as the boss of all.
Crimson Fist caused Lucky the most problems. When he was not busy
With the fighting still going on in 1931, Lucky began seeing a shift in the fighting crime in Empire City, he was busy uncovering the vast
battle. Up until this point, police ignored the killing. As long as innocent corruption links back to the Five Families. Also aggravating was the fact
people were not caught in the crossfire, the police easily looked the other that it seemed Crimson Fist knew of Lucky’s plans before his own people
way. Crimson Fist’s appearance inspired a silent public to voice their did. Though he always felt someone within his inner circle was a traitor,
outrage over the police’s lack of effort in stopping the killing. Lucky was never able to find any solid proof or evidence of one.

With Crimson Fist taking down criminals on both sides of the battle, Order Restore
Lucky realized that if the killing did not stop, a bigger attempt to deal
with the problem would materialize. With Lansky’s and Siegel’s help, La Guardia came into office with the city facing a $30 million budget
Lucky had Masseria assassinated in a Coney Island restaurant. With his deficit, 142,000 families on relief, and only $29 million left out of a $70
enemy dead, Muranzo proclaimed himself the “Boss of Bosses” and million federal government relief loan. To fix the budget he raised taxes,
created five crime families under him. The Five Families, as they are reduced civil service salaries, and fired city workers. Though harsh, his
commonly known, were given areas of Empire City to control, with actions led the city back to financial stability.
Muranzo in charge of it all.
La Guardia acted quickly to fight crime and started by ordering the arrest
Though in charge, Muranzo was not content with being Empire City’s of Lucky Luciano; he purged city departments of corrupt workers, and
boss. He wanted to be the boss of all organized crime in the United tackled corruption in the police department. Appointing Louis Valentine

Today’s Tabbloid PERSONAL NEWS FOR 22 March, 2009

as Police Commissioner, he eventually removed 244 bad cops from the Posted in Games Tagged: Empire City, Lost Works, thoughts, writers
police force during his tenure. His actions made it very difficult for the
numerous gangs and the Five Families to do business in Empire City.

The purges had a fringe benefit as well; they helped fight crime.

Despite her troubles, Empire City grew and became synonymous with ROGUE FEED
wealth and culture during the 1930s. With the closing of the decade, the
city played hostess to the World’s Fair and many looked toward what the More on Wargames
future held. Little did they know that the future was about to grow MAR 18, 2009 08:29P.M.
Here’s another perspective on the present and future of wargames. It’s
Posted in Games Tagged: Empire City, Games, Lost Works, thoughts also a few years old, but was written more recently than Greg Costikyan’s

Thanks to Rob Kuntz for the link.


Cleaning out the folders

MAR 18, 2009 10:10P.M. ROGUE FEED

Final Megadungeon Update

MAR 18, 2009 07:50P.M.
Back in 2002 I was contracted to write the history chapter for the
Empire City Source book that Guardians of Order was to release for I’m nearly read to go content-wise. I’m still waiting on a couple of maps
their Silver Age Sentinels rpg. and images and I need to complete something of my own, but otherwise
we’re very close to being ready. I think, barring any big problems, you’ll
For those who remember SAS this was a super hero RPG, set in a world see something online before the end of the week. If it carries over till
that was like ours, but slightly difference. The big change was that New next week, them’s the breaks when you’re doing this on the fly.
York City, was renamed Empire City.
In any case, I’d like to once again thank everyone who’s provided me
Still, that is besides the point. I took the contract because I really enjoy assistance in various ways. I think the end result is going to be pretty
writing history (as if Colonial Gothic is not proof of that), and I enjoy cool. Like a megadungeon itself, it’ll be an evolving project, one that
fitting real world history into a believable game setting history. Sadly, the starts humbly but will grow over time. I also think that, once the
book was canceled, and all the work I did to make Empire City beginnings are out there and online, it’ll give many people a better
believable, was put in the Wish It Worked Out File. handle on just what I have in mind, which’ll make it easier to contribute
in the future.
There is some good stuff in there. I created a few heroes and villains that
predated the game’s main heroes. I weaved in the game’s heroes, and set Anyway, just wanted everyone to know I’m still barreling ahead with
up a believable progression of how the game’s setting got to where it was this. It’s going a little slower than expected, but it’s still going to appear
when the game came out. Hell, I even weaved in the famous New York imminently. Next time I mention it, you’ll be able to see for yourself.
Daily News headline “Ford to City: Drop Dead.”

Empire City, seemed real.

Yet, all this great work just sits in the Wish It Worked Out File
mocking me. Still, I figured, it was time to release this back into the
world. It also keeps off something I plan to do regularly, clean out the
folders of things that will never see the light of day regularly.

So why is this chapter so important? It taught me how to work with real

world history and set it logically in a game. This is something I continue
to do with Colonial Gothic

Today’s Tabbloid PERSONAL NEWS FOR 22 March, 2009

ROGUE FEED The basement of my current home has this enormously ugly bar built
into it. When I say “enormously ugly,” I do not exaggerate — it’s a
Retrospective: Dungeon monstrosity of faux green marble and “stonework” paneling that I have a
hard time imagining that anyone in the 1970s (when it was undoubtedly
Master’s Screen constructed) finding the least bit attractive. I’ve been meaning to destroy
MAR 18, 2009 02:00P.M. it for years, but, because it sits on top of a water turn-off valve, I know
that eliminating it would mean moving the valve, making it a rather
involved project. When I first moved into the house, I used to stand
behind the bar when I was refereeing. It was my neo-Dungeon Master’s
screen. I could rest all my books back there and roll my dice easily. Like
its cardboard predecessors, it was fairly unwieldly — I had to walk over
to the game table if I needed to inspect anything there — but there was a
certain “aura of power” about it that provided focus to our sessions,
which was important since our group grew quite large.

Despite all this, I’m not sure I could go back to using a referee’s screen.
Somehow, the idea of it makes me feel self-conscious now. I’m not sure I
can explain why, particularly given how readily I like to experiment with
the Old Ways. And goodness knows I could use a handy collection of
reference charts and tables rather than having to flip through books to
find what I need. I just don’t know if a screen is the way to go, at least for
me. So, if anyone’s looking for “dirt” to use against my old school
credentials, enjoy!

I haven’t used a referee’s screen in many, many years, mostly because I

rarely get the chance to sit at a table large enough to accommodate all
the people with whom I play, never mind unwieldy gaming
paraphernalia as well. And referee’s screens are unwieldy, at least in my
experience, none moreso than the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Screen. This
product consisted of not one but two cardboard screens, each being a
three-paneled gatefold. The insides of each screen were covered with
charts and tables from the AD&D rulebooks, while the outsides were
mostly festooned with artwork (incuding a rare example of color Dave
Trampier art), though one panel on each was dedicated to player-
oriented charts, like weapon damage or experience point requirements
for each class.

In my younger days, though, when we used to play D&D while seated at a

ping-pong table, I used screens religiously and not just for the charts.
Back in those bygone days, having a screen up conferred a weird kind of
authority to the person sitting behind them and establishing one’s
authority was important. Heyday of the “imperial referee” it might have
been, but it’s often forgotten that one became emperor by making your
players believe you were emperor. That is, simply being the guy who
bought a module and was willing to run it for the group wasn’t enough to
make one a referee. At one time or another, all the players in my old crew
did this. However, only I was ever the Dungeon Master and part of the
reason why is that I did all the little things that conferred this august title
upon me: I was flexible but decisive, tough but fair, and, above all,
someone the players wanted to beat at his own game. And I had a screen.
The combination of these elements was a strange alchemy that elevated
me in the eyes of my friends and contributed greatly to the feel of the
game and it was that feel that kept us playing almost non-stop for years.