The World of Xoth

Where cold iron meets non-Euclidean geometry!

11 March
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Echoes of Ibnath

Just came across a mention and short review of Ancient Kingdoms: Mesopotamia, a book I wrote for Necromancer Games back in 2004, over at the Planet Algol blog.

Bill Webb, co-founder of Necromancer Games, approached me back in 2003, and, based on my work on the Hyborian Age Campaign Website, basically gave me free reins to write whatever I wanted. After digging through my old files, here is the initial outline for a book that I submitted to Bill:

I’d like to present to you an idea I have for a mini-campaign. The main concept is the exploration of two lost cities connected to each other by magical gates (although they can also be reached by overland travel).

“City one” is a dead city of the great desert, buried for centuries beneath the desert sands. At the beginning of the campaign, a great sandstorm uncovers the ruins of the city. It is first discovered by desert nomads, but soon attracts the attention of adventurers, including the player characters. As they explore the ruins, they slowly uncover the history of the city and learn of “something” of great power buried in the tombs beneath the city. The ruins are crawling with undead and other foul monsters, of course.

Possible supporting material for “city one” includes:

  • The trek through the great desert, where perils include sudden sandstorms, desert raiders and predatory beasts.
  • Defeating monsters and finding treasure in an oasis near the lost city.
  • Interacting with the desert tribe that first discovered the city.
  • Hearing legends of an immense sand-worm that lives beneath the sand near the city, rumored to cause earth-quakes unless appeased with sacrifice by a worm-cult.
  • Exploring outlying towers or other outposts of the city itself.
  • Interacting with and/or defeating various kinds of undead and monstrous inhabitants of the city, such as a ghoul-queen, a terrible one-eyed bat, an immortal sphinx guarding secret wisdom, and spectral priests haunting the city’s temples.
  • Exploring the cyclopean architecture of the lost city, learning its history. The principal locations of the city include a great temple guarded by undead clerics, an artificial sacred lake, several gargantuan obelisks inscribed with powerful sorcery, and the trap-filled tombs beneath the city.
  • Finding the gate that leads to “city two”.

“City two” is a hidden city of the jungle, inhabited by a race of serpent-people and ruled by a powerful sorcerer (the grand villain of the mini-campaign). The city is surrounded by the lands of cannibal tribes worshipping foul, alien gods. The city itself is an immense labyrinth where all chambers are interconnected. During their explorations, the player characters might discover that the key to defeating the sorcerer-king of “city two” is to be found in “city one” (the desert city). The existence of a gate between the two cities allows the player characters to travel back and forth between the two settings, while also allowing the main villain to send his servants to harass intruders anywhere.

Possible supporting material for “city two” includes:

  • The lands of the cannibal tribes, with shamans worshipping strange gods.
  • A lake inhabited by a monstrous being whose strange dreams draw humans to it.
  • Labyrinthine, interconnecting chambers inhabited by serpent-people with strange magics and treasures; shrines dedicated to the ancient serpent-god; and sacrificial pits where huge snakes slither across the yellowed skulls and bones of countless victims.
  • An undercity inhabited by slime-covered, tentacled beasts, and albino savages who were once men but are reverting to ape-kind.
  • The deadly lair of the city’s sorcerer-king, guarded by his serpent minions.

The two cities of the mini-campaign will be set in a generic sword-and-sorcery location which includes barbarian warrior lands to the north, a great but corrupted city-state on the central plains, a great desert inhabited by nomads to the southwest, and savannah fading into dense jungle to the south.

I’ll be aiming for a feel combining elements of Robert E. Howard’s Conan, H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, mixed with the usual elements of fantasy adventures. The world will be dominated by humans (mighty warriors, evil sorcerers and beautiful women) and filled with exotic locales. Standard D&D magic rules apply, but magic items and flashy spells will be uncommon. However, there will be no shortage of tentacled gods, powerful necromancy and strange relics of bygone ages.

As it turned out, “city one” was enough for one book by itself; it became Ibnath, “a city of unspeakable antiquity”, also known as “the City That Worshipped a Thousand Gods”. (Side note: Perhaps if you want to use the original idea of two linked cities, you could use Dwellers of the Forbidden City as that second city, it would fit the bill quite nicely.)

Clark Peterson, the other co-founder of Necromancer Games, listed Ancient Kingdoms: Mesopotamia as one of his all-time Top Five books from Necromancer Games. He also happens to own the original cover painting by Rick Sardinha (hey Clark, if you ever need money, I’ll give you a good price for that painting! :-).

Inspired by a certain big award ceremony,  I’d like to take this opportunity to send a big thank you to Bill and Clark for giving me the opportunity to write a “real book” back in the heydays of Third Edition D&D. Who knows when Necromancer Games will be resurrected from the dead? You know, that is not dead which can eternal lie….

10 March
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The Dungeon ABC

Got my copy of The Dungeon Alphabet from Goodman Games today. There’s already a long list of glowing reviews of this book, so I’ll just join the choir of praise: This is a great book! Well worth 10 bucks.

My bookshelf includes a couple of other (more or less) system-neutral books that I have found useful when designing dungeons and wilderness encounters, including (in no specific order):

  • Toolbox from AEG
  • Wilderness & Wasteland from Sword & Sorcery Studios
  • Dungeon Builder’s Guidebook from TSR
  • Book of Challenges from Wizards of the Coast
  • Gary Gygax’s Insidiae from Troll Lord Games

Some of these may be (long) out of print, but are worth hunting down if you are interested in dungeon and adventure design. Most of them include a lot of tables for random generation, just like the Dungeon Alphabet.

04 March
9Comments

Random sword and sorcery table

The following is a randomly ordered table of various items, events, names and creatures that would appear in sword and sorcery tales.  Use the table to spur your imagination when designing or running sword and sorcery adventures.

For example, rolling three times on the table gives me “Amoth“, “human vice or addiction“, and “Amoth” (again!). What do I get out of this? Well, perhaps there is a minor noble called Amoth who is secretly addicted to some kind of insidious lotus drug. He has an unknown twin brother (also called Amoth, see!) who commits heinous crimes in an attempt to blame and depose his brother. Amoth the innocent does not remember anything because he was drugged out when the crimes were committed, so he hires the player characters to investigate before he is lynched by the angry mob. Or something like that… got your creative juices rolling?

Update (March 10, 2010): I have incorporated the suggestions left in the comment section, and split the list into multiple tables (each having a maximum of 100 entries).

TABLE I

1  curved dagger
2  Dao-Khee
3  caravan or caravanserai
4  jewelry or gem
5  pirate ship
6  corrupt advisor
7  sewer tunnel
8  temple guardian
9  feat of desperate strength
10  cursed artifact or weapon
11  burglary or kidnapping
12  treachery or betrayal
13  naked female captive
14  perverted aristocrat
15  Amoth
16  sorcerous trap
17  drunken orgy
18  ancient law that demands a life be taken
19  blood-red
20  gladiatorial pit
21  mad magician or ancient mummy
22  old god from the stars
23  Pathar
24  maze of city streets
25  barren wildlands
26  savage or neanderthal
27  girdle of silk
28  elaborate human sacrifce
29  double-crossing
30  smuggler
31  peacock feathers or ostrich plumes
32  ancient chariot
33  spider or spiderweb
34  escape under of cover of night
35  well-guarded fortress
36  oath or exclamation
37  human vice or addiction
38  living for the day
39  port
40  concubine or temptress
41  black
42  dungeon
43  high priest
44  pyramid or ziggurat
45  forbidden tower
46  local guide
47  chance meeting
48  chieftain or prince
49  ghoul
50  pantherish grace
51  poisoned weapon or drink
52  cannibal or head-hunter
53  tent city
54  masked nomad
55  winged demon
56  slaver or kidnapper
57  arrogant noble
58  tyrannical government
59  wealthy merchant
60  secret society or hidden complex
61  carnivorous ape
62  king of thieves
63  slave
64  yellow
65  grinning bronze or ivory idol
66  inhuman skull
67  Zhuul
68  lotus-flower
69  two-handed sword
70  fist-sized gem
71  blue and gold tapestry
72  prison
73  ambush
74  sleeping giant snake
75  Ykhanthra
76  duel
77 eunuch
78 marketplace or bazaar
79 incense-burner
80 voluptous princess
81  raiders or brigands
82  steaming jungle
83  forgotten tomb
84  shipwreck
85  scroll or book
86  battle or battlefield
87  were-beast, she-wolf or half-human hybrid
88  strange stone or metal
89  pygmy or dwarf
90  wine or drunkenness
91  cult or secret organization
92  revenge or blood feud
93  heresy or persecution
94  murder or slaying
95  mystic from the East
96  perverted or degenerate entertainment
97  Urkhab
98  T’ntaa
99  cold iron
100  lost or degenerate civilization
TABLE II
1  oath or honor
2  blood
3  mammoth or elephant tusks
4  legend or lie
5  dying or inherited curse
6  betrayal or deception
7  temple prostitute or temple virgin
8  plague
9  servitude or captivity
10  banishment or exile
11  king of kings
12  desert or wasteland
13  corruption
14  dragon or giant reptile from a lost age
15  moon or moonlight
16  tentacled monstrosity
17  arcane or sacred ritual
18  snake-people
19  heir or chosen one
20  childbirth

Can you help me fill out the last next 20 entries? Leave a comment below!

04 March
2Comments

Hello World (of Xoth)

Here is a map of the of the World of Xoth, at least the part of the world that is known to the inhabitants of its central western landmass (click map to see full size):

The World of Xoth map

The map can be downloaded here.

04 March
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The mighty have fallen!

It’s been almost a decade since I launched hyboria.xoth.net, the roleplaying campaign website for Robert E. Howard’s Hyborian Age setting. The website still attracts thousands of unique visitors every month.

The Hyborian Age website was created because at the time, there was no officially supported role-playing game based on this setting. Then, in 2004, Mongoose Publishing released the Conan RPG. Over the years, they published a dozen sourcebooks for the Conan game.

Now, however, Mongoose has essentially ended the Conan line of products, due to licensing issues with the owner of the Conan intellectual properties.

So, until another major publishing company (Paizo, are you listening?!) picks up where Mongoose leaves off, it’s back to an existence powered only by fans like you and me for the Conan roleplaying game, and hyboria.xoth.net will continue to be the natural place to find game-related materials for the Hyborian Age setting.

That said, I also enjoy working on my own sword & sorcery campaign setting, called the World of Xoth (what else?!). A couple of years back, I set up Xoth.Net Publishing and released a 200-page book filled with background material and a big collection of adventures, called The Spider-God’s Bride and Other Tales of Sword and Sorcery. It’s available in print from Lulu, or as a PDF directly from me.

And in this age of social media and web 2.0, this blog will enable me to publish various snippets related to fantasy role-playing games and weird fiction in general, and sword and sorcery in particular.