Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Beyond the Mountains of Magnatz

Cugel at last extracted several gold coins from the landlord together with a parcel of bread, cheese and wine. The landlord came to the door and pointed. ‘There is but a single trail, that leading south. The Mountains of Magnatz rise before you. Farewell.’
Not without foreboding, Cugel set off to the south. For a space the trail led past the tillage of local peasants; then as the foothills bulked to either side the trail became first a track, then a trace winding along a dry riverbed beside thickets of prickle-bush, spurge, yarrow, asphodel. Along the crest of the hill paralleling the trail grew a tangle of stunted oak, and Cugel, thinking to improve his chances for going unobserved, climbed the ridge and continued in the shelter of the foliage.
The air was clear, the sky a brilliant dark blue. The sun wallowed up to the zenith and Cugel bethought himself of the food he carried in his pouch. He seated himself, but as he did so the motion of a skipping dark shadow caught his eye. His blood chilled. The creature surely meant to leap upon his back.
Cugel pretended not to notice, and presently the shadow moved forward again: a deodand, taller and heavier than himself, black as midnight except for shining white eyes, white teeth and claws, wearing scraps of leather to support a green velvet shirt…

        (Vance, 1966, p. 67)

A shade over ten years ago Pelgrane Press published the Dying Earth Roleplaying Game by Robin Laws, John Snead and Peter Freeman. This was based on the Dying Earth sequence of novels by famed author Jack Vance, featuring a setting so far into the future that it effectively becomes a fantastical past. The role-playing game was followed by a wealth of supplements, of which my top three picks would be the Compendium of Universal Knowledge, the Kaiin Player’s Guide, and the Scaum Valley Gazetteer. When the game license expired two years ago there was a pre-expiry glut of orders for both digital and physical copies of the game by enthusiasts, myself included. Part of this I suspect is that while I may never run the actual game in session, its various supplements make for enjoyable reading for any fan of the Jack Vance canon and the Dying Earth in particular.

Which brings us to now. Pelgrane Press have reacquired the license and reopened the vaults to their Dying Earth stock. Better still, we have a new publication: Beyond the Mountains of Magnatz by Ian Thomson (who I once sketched some Dying Earth monsters for, a long time ago in a galaxy far away). It’s the latest in his sequence of Dying Earth scenarios entitled ‘In the Footsteps of Fools’, and is a 97 page PDF packed with gaming goodness, including:

  • Magnatz! The eponymous entity of said mountains.
  • Various encounters with bestial half-men, friendly or otherwise.
  • The noted sorcerer Pharesm.
  • The Basilisk-haunted Vale of Dharad.
  • Gazetteers to the village of Vull and the city of Mar.

It’s great to see the series back in action and I for one will be purchasing any new release to add to my expanding stash of Dying Earth lore. I bought my copy of Beyond the Mountains of Magnatz here.


Vance, J. (1966). The Eyes of the Overworld. USA: Ace Books Inc.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gone fishin'...

Astral Shark

I apologize for the complete lack of recent updates - I've been alternating between bouts of study, watching late night Champions League games, and a holiday down at the beach [not to mention an absolutely useless broadband connection for the past four weeks]. It hasn't been completely wasted though, as I did take Family Fantasy Game Book to the local Rayong Aquarium where we got to see all kinds of cool stuff! What follows is a brief look at some of the denizens of the deep we encountered, along with a batch of Advanced Fighting Fantasy stats for the gaming purists among you. After this, more maps by Steve Luxton and discussion on Titan geography to follow...

First up, my favourite, the Crocodile Needlefish (Tylosurus crocodilus)!  


Nearly two meteres long and capable of launching themselves through the air to impale unlucky fishermen (Test for Luck to avoid), CROCODILE NEEDLEFISH appear superficially similar to Barracudas but are actually more closely related to the edible Garfish. A menace to all who trawl the equatorial waters of Titan!

The Pharaoh Cuttlefish (Sepia pharonis) is perhaps not as big as some of its relatives, but for Titan purposes we can always extrapolate!

 GIANT CUTTLEFISH [SKILL 9 STAMINA 10, Small claw or Large bite, 4 Attacks]

As well as their more mundane capabilities, the blinding colour changes of the GIANT CUTTLEFISH function as a Sleep spell for those unfortunate enough to view it underwater! These enormous cephalopods grow to three metres in length and are among the most intelligent of their kind.

Moray Eels are snake-like reef-dwelling fish that grow up to four metres long!

MORAY EEL [SKILL 7 STAMINA 12, Large bite, (from Jackson, 1986, ref#98)]

MORAY EELS live among rocks and coral in tropical marine waters and will defend their territory aggressively with a mouth full of large needle-like teeth. Their flesh is poisonous to eat. Giant Moral Eels have been reported from the vicinity of Solani Island off the southern coast of Allansia.

Biggest of the reef fish are the enormous Groupers - huge predators that grow to three metres long and weigh over 600 kilograms!

GROUPER [SKILL 8 STAMINA 12, Large Bite, (from Jackson, 1986, ref#119)]

Despite their size, GROUPERS prefer easy prey and if they are hit twice in succession in two Attack Rounds they will usually try and Escape. However, if they roll a double 6 when calculating their Attack Strength then they have swallowed their victim, who will then take 2 STAMINA points damage per Attack Round until they are dead or they have cut themselves free.

All photos by me!


Jackson, S. (1986). Demons of the Deep. London: Puffin Books

Friday, April 8, 2011

Geography of Titan (Part 3)

This has to be the coolest map of Titan I have ever seen (thanks Steve)! Click on it to see the big version - it really is a work of art!

A new climate map of Titan by Steve Luxton.

It's similar to the very rough climate map I made for part two of this discussion, but obviously Steve has put a lot more thought into deciding why and how the oceanic currents and atmospheric conditions actually work. Everything on it looks good and I've just got a few tentative minor issues as follows:
  • Atlantis (the dot on the north-western edge of the map), should be closer to Fish Island and Skull Island on the equatorial eastern edge of the map. The events of Demons of the Deep reveal that these locations are fairly close together. Also, for the final map, we have to remember to change Atlantis to a cross, not a dot, as it is a sunken city not an island (which it looks like now).
  • I like the Hotspot Anomaly of Allansia centred around the Desert of Skulls. Do we have anything from Fighting Fantasy canon that can confirm the Caarth snakemen are engaged in sorcery to expand the desert? I just had a look in Titan but couldn't find anything relevant.
  • The Hotspot Anomaly of Khul is obviously the Wastes of Chaos and the Twin Sun Desert. Case closed?
  • Can we reverse the currents on the east coast of Khul? This area is relatively cooler than the lands to the west (and so is the Arrowhead Archipelago). As these currents then come down from the equator they could bring warm water to the tropical northern parts of the Isles of the Dawn.
  • The south-eastern coast of the Inland Sea could be a shade warmer, as that's where the jungles beyond the city-states of Marad and Shurrupak lie...
What else can we add? Are there any other suggestions?

Part one of the discussion on the geography of Titan can be found here, and part two is here.