OSR: Class: Cannoneer (and Cannon Rules)

My generic fantasy OSR setting is based on ~14th century France, England, and Germany. Gunpowder and cannons exist, but they have yet to make any significant impact on the conduct of wars, the design of fortifications, and the conduct of armies. Cannons are rare and dangerous items.

The cannons I'll be discussing are more advanced than the pot-de-fer...
But far less advanced than the cannons you are used to seeing in movies.
The cannons we're discussing are like this:

They are small. Iron or hardwood (!) barrels, muzzle-loaded, with a ~2" bore, firing a 2lb stone ball the size of an apple. A strong person could pick one up and fire from the hip but the recoil would almost certainly knock them flat and break a few bones. They aren't terribly noisy - the gunpowder of the era explodes with a slow "fwoosh" rather than a sharp modern "crack". The impact isn't utterly body-shattering. Anything it hits will be broken or torn apart, sure, but you can still find all the pieces in more or less their original shape.  Keep these facts in mind when you're reviewing the stats below. It's the primitive ancestor of guns like this.

I'm not going to spend pages detailing the types of barrels, chambers, and shots. I don't care what type of polearm you use (they're all heavy weapons with reach), and I definitely don't care if the cannon I'm describing is perfectly accurate. It's within the margin of historical error. Times and weights are based on estimates, shoddy math, and lots of American civil war historical reenactment videos.

Cannon (2lb)

Range: Roll required to hit a single target
<10': Attack + 8
10' - 200': Attack
200' - 400': Attack - 8
400' - 600': Only on a critical success

Targets of the cannon do not gain an AC/Defense bonus from armour. Large targets may provide a bonus to hit at close range. On a miss, something is still struck by the cannonball. If the cannon is fired at a group of closely packed targets, an Attack roll may not be required (if you're shooting at a horde of goblins, you're going to hit a goblin).

Damage: 4d6. Target must also Save or be stunned. If a 1 or 2 HD creature is killed, creatures immediately behind them in a straight line take any excess damage. 

Cannons also make a lot of noise. Roll for wandering monsters (or any other noise/alertness-based effect) every time the cannon is fired. If the cannon is fired in a narrow space (<20'x20'), everyone in the space must Save or be partially deafened for 1d6 hours. Smoke fills a 10' square.

An untrained team of three loading or firing a cannon must roll on the Misfire table. An untrained team can load a cannon in 10 rounds (Int checks may be required). If they rush, roll on the Misfire table with a +4 bonus.

A trained team of three can reload a cannon in 5 rounds. If they rush, it can be reloaded in 4 rounds, but a roll on the Misfire table is required.

Misfire Table
Roll if you rush or if the loading process was interrupted, chaotic, or unsafe.

1d10 Misfire Effect
1-3 No Effect. The cannon fires normally after a 1/10th of a second pause (just long enough to worry).
4-5 Match Extinguished. The cannon does not fire this round. The cannon can be fired normally next round.
6-7 Fizzle. The cannon fires in 1d4 rounds (roll secretly).
8 Bad Load. The powder half-detonates. The ball flies 30',dealing 2d6 damage. Takes 2 extra rounds to reload.
9 Dud. The powder does not ignite. Takes 4 extra rounds to reload.
10 Split. The ball shatters as it leaves the barrel. 30' cone, 1d6 damage. Crew must Save or be hit by shrapnel.
11-12 Spiked. The cannon partially detonates. 20' radius, 1d6 damage, Save for half. Cannon cannot be fired until repaired.
13+ Shattered. The cannon detonates spectacularly. 30' radius, 3d6 damage, Save for half. Cannon is gone.

Inventory Management
In my game, Inventory Slots = Strength.

Item Weight Inventory Slots Cost (City) Cost (Rural)
Cannon 200lbs 14 - -
Cart 60lbs 6 3gp 3gp
Shot 2lbs 1/3rd 1sp 2sp
Gunpowder (per shot) 1lb 1/3rd 4sp -
Shot+Gunpowder Packet 3lbs 1 5sp -
Swab + Rod 5lbs 2 2sp 2sp

Ordinarily you'd use a team of 2 mules: one for the cannon and one for the cart and shot. Dungeons are notorious for eating mules.

Since you need a team of 3 to fire the cannon anyway, 2 members of the team carry the cannon and cart (20 inventory slots split over 2 people = 10 each). The third team member carries the Swab+Rod and the powder and shot. Carrying pre-made charges takes up slightly more space but makes loading and firing the cannon much more convenient. One member of the team should probably carry rope and wooden pulleys for difficult climbs.

When fully assembled, the cannon and cart resemble a primitive two-wheeled barrow. It can be pulled or pushed by one person at 1/2 normal pace, or by two people at normal pace. The cart can be pushed up standard stairs without significant difficulty. Rough terrain, gaps larger than 8", or steep slopes cannot be traversed by the cart. It must be disassembled and rebuilt on the other side. It takes 4 rounds for a trained team of 3 to disassemble or reassemble the cart. Untrained teams could take up to 10 minutes.

Cannons are so rare they cannot be purchased. Instead, anyone with the Cannoneer skill, 300gp in raw materials (iron, clay, wax, etc.), and access to a forge can make a cannon in 2 weeks. Limited tools, distractions, or modifications may add 1d4 weeks.

Gunpowder can only be made by someone with the Alchemist or Cannoneer skills. The costs listed above are for the raw ingredients. 
Dwarf with Cannon, LittleDruid


Starting Equipment: 2lb Cannon, Cart, Swab+Rod, 3 Shot+Gunpowder Packets
Starting Skill: See below. In addition, you gain the Cannoneer skill.

A: Trained Crew, Bombard's Eye
B: Bomme-Maker
C: Furious Engine
D: Master Cannoneer

You gain a +1 to Save vs Fear for each Cannoneer template you possess. Additionally, you are partially deaf. You can hear normal speech but not whispers or subtle sounds.

Trained Crew
You gain 2 hirelings trained in the use and maintenance of a cannon. All stats are 10 except for Strength, which is 12. You manage their inventory. They are reasonably competent, willing to follow you into combat, and difficult to replace. You need to pay them 2gp per month each. Roll on the Horrible Peasant NPC generator for details.

Bombard's Eye
If you fire a cannon at a stationary or nearly stationary target and miss, your next Attack roll against the target gains a +4 bonus. This bonus does not stack with multiple attempts. If you would hit only on a critical success (400'-600'), you still only hit on a critical success.

You can rapidly craft a crude but controlled gunpowder bomb without any risk or skill check. Crafting requires 1 charge of gunpowder and some added shrapnel. It takes 2 rounds. The bomme deals 2d6 damage in a 20' radius. The fuse can be set to any time, from instant (explodes in your hand) to 10 minutes. It can be thrown (as a dagger). It can also be used to open doors or crack stone.

Furious Engine
If you lead a trained team of 3, you can reload a cannon in 4 rounds rather than 5. If you rush, you can reload the cannon in 3 rounds, but you must roll on the Misfire table. Additionally, anyone who surprises you while you are working on something (an assassin, an unexpected visitor, etc.) must Save vs Fear or make a Morale check when you yell at them.

Master Cannoneer
You can reroll any result on the Misfire table. Additionally, you can select small or unlikely targets with your cannon (someone's hat, a doorknob at 200', an apple on a child's head, someone hiding just around a corner, etc.).

Mechanical Notes on the Cannoneer

The ability to repeatedly fire a maximum power fireball might seem overpowered. The downsides to using a cannon should more than balance it out. Cannons are excellent solutions to many problems... but they create several more. This isn't a core class like Fighter or Thief or Wizard. Despite all the rules above, it's less complicated than a Wizard or another caster class. The main thing a Cannoneer needs to manage is inventory slots. They can't easily loot or wear armour or even carry extra items.

I didn't put in rules for what happens if someone carrying gunpowder is set on fire. I don't think I need to.

Statue of the remarkable Angelina Eberly firing a cannon to start the bizarre Texas Archive War.

Where did you learn this deadly art?

Cannons are rare. For most people, the first cannon they ever see will be yours. There are no gender restrictions on this class. People may scoff but never to your face. You belong to the Third Estate, but your profession brings you a certain degree of respect.

Skill: 1. Soldier, 2: Foreign Parts, 3: Unusual

1. You served well and fought bravely but your service was not rewarded. You have gone to seek your fortune elsewhere. You start with no money, but your amazing tales will earn you friends.
2. You served on the losing side of a recent War. You speak an additional language.

3. A former pupil stole your secrets and usurped you. Start with a dagger.
4. You were wounded in an explosion that also killed your employer. Start with an Interesting Scar and 2sp.
5. You participated in a long siege. Start with 3 rations.

6. Your experience in the War changed you. If you fail a Save vs Fear, you will freeze rather than run. If you pass, your hirelings automatically pass.

Foreign Parts
1. You have traveled for most of your life. You never gain fatigue from riding or walking.
2. Start with an appearance and native language so unusual that, to most people, your profession is the second most shocking thing about you. Make up 1d6 ludicrous lies.
3. Your clothing is unusual. Start with robes worth 5sp. You can conceal one apple-sized item inside them.

4. In your country, cannons are as common as rabbits, and wars are prosecuted without mercy. Start with a pair of leather gloves.
5. Your crimes in Foreign Parts were numerous and disreputable. You can evaluate the approximate worth of items (as a Thief).
6. You know the secrets of mathematics. Start with the Mathematics skill and a book.

1. You made a pact with a fire elemental. Start with a small lantern (illuminates 10', lasts 24hrs/flask) and 3 flasks of oil. Gain a +4 to Save vs Fire. If the flame in the lantern ever goes out, you permanently lose half your HP.
2. You woke up next to your cannon with no memory of how you got there. Your skills are fresh; your memory is blank before last week. Roll on the Table of Professions and gain the skill listed. You do not consciously know you have this skill.
3. You believe gunpowder can cure many ailments. You can Save to remove a curse, disease, or enchantment if you eat a spoonful of gunpowder. You can only make 1 attempt per condition. This effect only works on you. You don't know this.
4. Your back is strong. You can spend 2 HP to gain +1 inventory slot for 1 hour. You can repeat this process as many times as you would like.
5. You are missing three fingers and one eye. Start with +2 HP. You don't sleep well.
6. Chose a visible profession (Wizards, Priests, Cheesemongers, etc.) A member of that profession wronged you in the past. In combat, you gain a +4 bonus to Attack the first time you fire your cannon at a member of this profession, but you must Save or chose them as your first target.

Further Reading:
Ancient Cannon in Europe (main source)
The Pirate King - Early Smoothbore Cannon


OSR: Class: Goliards

Hope for the best, expect the worst
Some drink champagne, some die of thirst
No way of knowing, 
which way it's going
Hope for the best, expect the worst! 
Hope for the best, expect the worst
The world's a stage, we're unrehearsed
Some reach the top, friends, while others drop, friends
Hope for the best, expect the worst! 
Hope for the best; expect the worst.
The rich are blessed; the poor are cursed
That is a fact, friends, the deck is stacked, friends
Hope for the best, expect the…
(Even with a good beginning, it's not certain that you're winning.
Even with the best of chances, they can kick you in the pantses)
Look out for the… Watch out for the worst!
-The Twelve Chairs, Mel Brooks
O Fortuna,
velut Luna
statu variabilis,
semper crescis
aut decrescis.

O Fortune
like the moon 
you wax 
or wane.
-O Fortuna, Carmina Burana
The Unsmiling Tsarevna, Viktor Vasnetsov

Class: Goliard

Gear: robes, walking stick (as quarterstaff), 3 wineskins full of cheap wine.

A: Provoke, Fortune's Wheel, Dissolute
B: A History of Seduction
C: Heartfelt Sorrow, A Square Meal
D: Friendly Face, Well-Practiced Seduction

You can read people and find their weaknesses and insecurities. As a full round action, target creature who can see, hear, and understand you must Save or be provoked by you. In combat, they will attack you. This ability cannot force an opponent to make major tactical errors or leap off cliffs. Out of combat, they must Save or act in anger (violence, shouting, writing poetry to defame you).

Fortune's Wheel
You are resigned to the whims of fate. Before combat begins, on the first round, before Initiative is rolled, you may roll a number of d20s equal to four times [the number of Goliard templates you have]. (4 at level 1, 16 at level 4). Write down the numbers that are rolled. You must then arrange them in a fixed order. Any time you would roll a d20 (for Initative, Attacks, Saves, etc.) use the top result from the list instead and cross it off. Once you use up all the results you listed, roll normally.

You can also use this ability in a stressful, multi-check situation such as a chase, a prolonged espionage attempt, etc. Ask the GM.


If you ever have more than 50gp on your person and are able to spend it, you must Save or spend it within 24hrs. Save a second time, and if you fail that, half the money you spend is lost and provides no benefit whatsoever. The second Save may not be required if your spending habits are sufficiently profligate already.

A History of Seduction
If left alone with a willing, interested, or corruptible person for 1d4 - [the number of Goliard templates you have] hours, to a minimum of 1 hour, you can seduce them. You need to be able to carry on a conversation without anyone overhearing. A soft horizontal surface also helps but is not required. Roll on the Seduction Side Effects table (not yet published). Targets who have taken vows or whose preferences do not match yours get a Save to have second thoughts. Targets are aware you are trying to seduce them and will act accordingly (including throwing you out, kicking you in the face, etc.). PCs are not affected unless they choose to be affected.

A Square Meal
Lunch heals you for 1d6 + [Level]x2 HP, rather than 1d6 + [Level], provided you have wine, beer, or liquor to go with your food.

Heartfelt Sorrow
If you roll a critical failure, you may reroll the result by dropping to 0 HP. If you were at negative HP, you instead heal to 0 HP.

Friendly Face
Whenever you hire or obtain a hireling or follower, you have a 1-in-6 chance of also getting a Camp Follower. You gain a +4 bonus to rolls made to evaluate hireling quality or obtain hirelings.

Practiced Seduction
Select one entry on the Seduction Side Effect table between 21 and 80. If you would roll on the table, there is a 5-in-6 chance that the listed effect occurs instead. You can always choose to roll.

Mechanical Notes on the Goliard

First, you're a decent fighter. Really! You start with a quarterstaff and you heal quickly. You can also set the order of your rolls in combat (probably putting all the good rolls first and hoping combat doesn't last long enough to get to the bad rolls). You've got social techniques too. The downside is that you are really good at annoying people. So good, in fact, that you're not likely to gain many benefits from medieval society.

Second, your social techniques - seduction and provocation - can be used to get all sorts of information, plot hooks, and actions out of people. If you need to handle and impossible social situation, a goliard is the class to do it.

What Are You Doing Here?

You are a wandering priest, a traveling entertainer, satirist, and protester. You live riotously and remarkably free of social conventions and stifling norms. You move through the world seeking education and adventure. In ordered times your might be suppressed, banned, or excommunicated, but these are disordered times, and you can flourish. Unlike troubadours, you don't sing of courtly love and chivalry ideals. You sing about sex, wine, and rock and roll.

This class has no gender restrictions. If you are female, you might need to put on a beard if you're going to argue with the Bishop, but out in the world nobody really cares. The world is too disordered to investigate the affairs of the goliards and their  too closely. You could also be a roving or disgraced nun. If you're sick of the restrictions of medieval characters, this is the class for you. Conventions - from dress to sexuality to piety - are tossed out the window.

You are a member of the First Estate... in theory. You are also an Outlaw. You osculate between these two modes of life regularly. You start as a Deacon or an Initiate. You can read and write.

Starting Skill: 1. Music, 2. Literature, 3. Religon

1. Start with a cheap musical instrument (a lute, a pipe, etc.) worth 5sp. You can play it to seduce targets who don't speak your language.
2. You know hundreds of songs for all occasions. Start with a book of songs, filled with your own notes and rude drawings.
3. You are noted for your volume. Start with a nickname like "the Deep Bell" or "Thunderstorm" and 1d10cp.
4. You believe you are talented; others disagree. Your singing or playing automatically causes the Provoke effect (see above) against any musically inclined targets who can hear you.
5. You have traveled widely. Make up 1d6 ludicrous lies. You gain the "Foreign Parts" skill, but people from Around Here distrust you.
6. You can play any musical instrument provided you are very drunk. Start with a cheap musical instrument (a lute, a pipe, etc.) worth 5sp.

1. You love to read anything you can get your hands on. Start with 2 books. You must Save or read books you find in the dungeon (even if they've got eyeballs on the cover).
2. You can swear to love someone in 3 languages and just swear in another 10. Your vocabulary is limited but endearing. You can seduce targets who don't speak your language.
3. You have memorized hundreds of poems. You are secretly romantic. Start with a basket of flowers.
4. You read a very controversial piece of courtly literature. You either hate it completely and will denounce it at every opportunity, or you will defend it as a work of unrivaled genius and beauty. Either way,  you can make easily find common ground with people who share your view.
5. Start with a forbidden book. Its contents are scandalous. There are illustrations. You won't part with it for love or money.

6. You just robbed someone. Start with 1d10gp (in small change), a goose-down pillow, and a pair of good boots. 
1. Your impressions of authority figures are hilarious (and also felonious). You can mimic almost anyone's voice and mannerism after a few moments of study.
2. You have memorized the entire liturgy, including variants. You can perform a ceremony for any occasion; weddings, funerals, excommunications, etc.
3. Your conduct in your parish, monastery, or convent was scandalous. Start with a dagger and +2 Save vs Fear.
4. You knocked off a bishop's mitre and stole it. It's worth 2gp.

5. You have a specific weakness. You must Save to resist trying to seduce a category of person (priests, nuns, married men, married women, brunettes, men with beards and sturdy biceps, etc.). Start with a spare set of robes and good boots.
6. You can disguise yourself as a different gender. Start with a second set of robes and a small makeup kit worth 5sp.

Goliards are always criticizing people. Roll to see who you are criticizing today or in particular.

1d10 Targets of Criticism Options
1 Selling of Church Offices Mock any young, rich, or dubious appointments.
2 Unfit and Illiterate Priests Scourge and pester any incompetent priests you meet.
3 Selling Indulgences Sell false indulgences, burn existing ones, steal money.
4 Belief in Dubious Relics Sell false relics, sing songs about hilarious tricks and lies.
5 Lust for Gold Steal from rich priests, wear ridiculous costumes.
6 Hypocrites and Vow-Breakers Sing of cuckoldry, fidelity, chastity, and natural urges.
7 Contradictory Dogma and Doctrine Organize false services, sing rude songs to the tune of hymns.
8 The Authority of the Archpriest Pretend to read formal announcements, make up lies.
9 Acting Against Nature Mock chastity, temperance, abstinence, and social customs.
10 Suppression of Questions Ask difficult questions, pose paradoxes, poke holes in holy texts.


OSR: The Secret of Steam Hill, Session 6 & 7

Last session, the party reached the mythical Steam Hill, defeated three horrible vampire children, set off a sandstorm, and fled to the safety of a watchtower.

The party burst into the watchtower like a frantic storm, spotted a fungus-ant in the corner, stabbed it to death (still screaming) and then looked around. They also spotted a familiar figure dangling from the ceiling, wrapped in a crude spit-and-rope bundle.

"Swainson?" Slugsworth exlaimed in confusion. "What are you doing here?" The last time the party had seen the hawkling wizard, she'd been traveling directly away from them to report the disaster to Baron Ellimure. 

"And I did," the hawkling exclaimed, once she'd been freed from her resinous prison. "And the Baron said, 'Good job doing a wizard thing, now here's another one' and sent me to sort out some trouble in the hills. And then these ant people kidnapped me! And now I am here."

The party, reunited, now consisted of:

Cazael the spiderling fighter. Not very bright but very faithful and very good at fighting.

The Paladin, a beetle-ling hermit, wanderer, and servant of the Authority.
Wonderwood Strongbow the Elf thief. Keeps finding bits of dead creatures and putting them into a  jar "for later".
Slugsworth, a former... slug-of-negotiable-virtue. Slugsworth isn't so much a thief as a quartermaster at this point.

Bill the Orthodox Wizard on the run. Bill is a wormling and a fairly terrible wizard, but a life of danger and tomb-robbing appeals more than the War.
Swainson, the hawkling Garden Wizard. Swainson is particularly timid.

The party decided to wait for dawn in the watchtower (9). They fortified the thin wooden walls as best they could, tossed the fungus-ant corpse into the cold, and huddled in a corner. At first light the party shuffled back across the basalt wall (8) towards the ruined bathhouse. 

Side Note: At this point, readers may wish to refresh their memory of the first time a group attempted to explore Steam Hill. It didn't go well. 
They scrambled up the slope and began searching the ruins of the bathhouse, hoping to discover the object of their quest - the renegade knight of the Order of the Speckled Hen believed to dwell near Steam Hill. At least that was why Slugsworth and Cazael were here; the only two survivors of the Baron's mission. The others were here for gold, fate, or fame.

The wooden ruins were soaked by the rain and escaping steam. The party found a few scattered coins. The Paladin and Slugsworth bravely took a bath in the hot pool (3). Wonderwood discovered a mysterious pit or shaft in one of the ruined, roofless rooms (6).

It looked like a complex elevator, operated by a set of chains. The party carefully lowered themselves down into a strange stone hall. They roamed steam-filled hallways coated in pipes - some ancient, some newly repaired - and listened to the heartbeat-thrum of some vast machine in the darkness. Scald-zombies, burnt-pink undead creatures somehow altered by the steam, assaulted them and were cut into writhing fragments.

After detecting and evading a gelatinous ooze creature, as clear as glass, that was masquerading as a pool, the party reached a huge hall. Their lanterns illuminated four huge cylinders half-buried in the floor. The cylinders were covered - or perhaps made from - spinning rings of stone. Some moved in a blur, some moved very slowly.

The party climbed a set of stairs into a gantry and began creeping along, cautious but noisy. They were ambushed from above by a strange and terrible creature. It wore leather armour, but puffed, as though designed to encase rather than protect its contents. It wore a metal dome helmet, a silver sphere instead of a head, but with a huge cut through one side. The face inside, barely glimpsed, was a withered nightmare of grey flesh and sharp fangs. It fell onto the Paladin, stabbing with its needle-tipped fingers, and drawing blood up the tubes that coated its arms.

The fight went about as well as could be expected.

1. Bill, lacking any useful spells, threw his lantern oil at the creature. He splashed it all over the place, including the Paladin and the Paladin's torch. Fire began to spread rapidly.

Swainson cast whirling staff and threw her spinning quarterstaff at the creature. It bonked off its head and vanished into the darkness. Dejected, Swainson retreated. Slugsworth followed.

3. The Paladin, now quite injured, passed out while staring angrily at Bill.

Cazael once again drew his dubiously enchanted sword. The blade instantly froze the air itself, sending freezing steam and drops of liquid air in every direction. Cazael swung at the vampire (who was, if you'll recall, on fire).
Side Note: Liquid oxygen is... like a car. If you know how to use it, and you know the dangers, it's perfectly fine. If you don't, or you suddenly find a car in your living room, something is probably going to go wrong.
5. The resulting explosion bent the catwalk, threw Cazael backwards, threw the creature in the pressure suit backwards, and sent a massive fireball into the air.

6. Completely confused, utterly deaf, and properly murderous, Cazael charged the vampire and hacked it to shreds while screaming incoherently.

7. The rest of the party applauded politely.

After carefully putting the Paladin's blood back inside him using the finest medieval medical techniques (praying and prodding), the party was pleased to discover that their beetle-ling friend was still alive. While Cazael sheathed his sword and tried to thaw his fingers, the rest of the party cut off the creature's desiccated head and tried to burn it. Wonderwood looted the creature's silver helmet and, discreetly, dribbled some of its blood (and the Paladin's blood) into the now brimming "jar of extra parts" the elf was accumulating.

The blood, it should be noted, tempted both Bill and Slugsworth. They had both been bitten by the vampire children in the previous session. Both resisted, shared a meaningful glance, and pretended not to notice.

The party carefully explored the rest of the catwalk and upper level of the enormous buried hall. They discovered two monolithic slabs of stone built into the walls of the enormous chamber (25, 27). The slabs had dozens of gems embedded in them, faintly lit by a magical light. They also both had large, bright red wheels attached to their fronts. Bill recognized the writing on the wheels as ancient snake-man script, but nobody could translate it.

In the centre of the room, below the party on the ground floor, they spotted an enormous pool of water. Two orange-red lights, like buried coals, illuminated the water. Above the tank, floating impossible next to the catwalk, was a third monolithic block. (26). Instead of a wheel, this one had two opal orbs half-sunk into the smooth black stone. Finally, directly above the tank, they noticed a metal and stone contraption with dangling chains and scoops.

Bill raced between the panels excitedly, checking gem colours and magical tints. Meanwhile, the rest of the party made an alarming discovery about the spinning cylinders (24). Anything thrown at them - rocks, daggers, scald zombies - was spun up like thread being wound onto a spindle. The cylinders... spread anything they touched, turning it into a thin ring before it vanished utterly.  The party decided not to touch them.

They also examined the pool of water and discovered, to their surprise, that it was ice cold. They discovered two large pipes and several dozen smaller ones. The small pipes were wrapped around two metal spheres sunk 15' in the water. They were coiled like snakes or like a tangle of string. T
hey also noticed a chasm, a break in the perfect basalt walls of the tank that started a few feet down, widened, and then disappeared into the darkness.

"I think," Bill announced after an hour of carefully examining - but not touching, never touching - the panels, "I think I have a plan."

The rest of the party experienced a variety of conflicting emotions.

1. The party split into three teams. The Paladin and Wonderwood waited by the south monolith (25).  Bill and Slugsworth took the middle, floating monolith (26). Cazael and Swainson took the north monolith (27).

2. The two groups at the north and south monoliths gave their red wheels a 1/2 turn. The water level in the pool below began to drop slowly.

3. After turning the wheels back and letting the water level rise, they then, at Bill's direction, gave them one full turn. The water level began to drop much more quickly. As it reached the top of the sunken red-hot orbs, it began to flash-boil and steam. The water valves seemed to control the water input from the two giant pipes on either side of the pool. The party hastily turned them back.

4. Very carefully, the party turned the valves slowly and adjusted the water level so it was just above the chasm. The Paladin volunteered to descend and look in. Slugsworth and
Cazael assisted and lowed him into the pool on a rope.

5. The Paladin discovered that the chasm was full of air; the water streaming out of the tank and into the chasm created a waterfall. He spluttered and swung in and out of the ice-cold spray. When they hauled him out he was unconscious and full of water, but some good traditional medieval techniques (poking him) soon revived him.

6. Once revived, the Paladin tried to report what he'd seen but his chalk had been dissolved. He retrieved a pen and ink and wrote a long and blotchy testament on Slugsworth's bedroll. Cazael, who treated writing as some sort of magic art, applauded politely. The Paladin said he'd seen winding paths, a "eyeless thing that stared at him with curiosity", and "giant, valuable crystals." The party was intrigued.

7. While shutting the valves at the south monolith (25), the Paladin discovered that the wheel kept turning backwards to a fully closed position, as if the valve inside was failing. The mute Paladin tried to call for help by kicking things but gave up. Instead, he tied the wheel closed and lashed it to the railing. The rope strained and creaked but did not break.

8. On the north side, Cazael was having trouble of his own. His red wheel had snapped off completely. Everyone panicked. Cazael shoved his regular, slightly rusted sword into the hole and it seemed to work. He cranked it around, got the valve open, and then tied it in place. It wiggled ominously and seemed to be warping under the strain.

9. Once the panic subsided and the water level seemed to be stable, Bill cautiously touched the two opal spheres. They seemed to control the vast array of rusty chains and gears above the pool. Bill could send it rolling from side to side, lower chains and scroops, and raise them again.

"Guys, I have a plan," Bill announced. "We can use these scoops to remove the two red-hot orb things in the water. Then, we can..."

"Sell them?"
"Rub them on our heads?"

"Use them to cook food?"

"Uh, I'm not exactly sure what, we'll do with them," Bill said, "but removing them seems like a good idea."

"Why?" everyone asked, in varying tones of bewilderment.

"Because we can," Bill said.

As this was a good enough reason, everyone but Bill stood at a safe distance while the wizard began to play with the orbs. He carefully centered the device, then began to lower the chains and scoops. Unfortunately for everyone, the device's rusted gears and wheels failed utterly. The entire contraption -  a huge block of stone and metal - fell of its railings and plunged 40' down.

Bill turned to see the rest of the party running. He scrunched up his wormling body and scooted away as fast as he could. The crane-engine plunged into the water, sunk, shattered pipes, crunched stone, and generally demolished everything it encountered. It sounded awful, like a thousand red-hot stoves falling into a bath of ice cubes and springs. A rolling wave of steam followed the party, along with what sounded like anguished bird calls.

"Flee at once!" Cazael shouted, as if anyone was considering waiting. "We have angered the steam by doing wizard business!"

And so, the party ran. They ran past the gelatinous goop pool (21) which luckily rose to follow them and blocked the rushing steam. They ran all the way up to the surface via the stairs (18), then scrambled up the hill. Just before they reached the top, a colossal explosion tore the courtyard apart,  sending steam, stone, and mud flying in every direction.

Two giant birds made of fire rose from the explosion, flapping their blue-white wings and shedding embers. They broke through the sound barrier about 2,000' up and vanished in the distance. The party stared in blind incomprehension.

"Phoenixes!" Bill said, "they must have been in those metal sphere! The people who built this place must have used their heat to make all this steam for... for..."

"For wizard business!" Cazael hollered, holding his hands over his ears, "Keep running!"

The party regrouped at their original camp in the hills overlooking Steam Hill. The found Wonderwood's surviving hireling loading the horses for a quick getaway. He awkwardly helped them set up camp again. The party spent the rest of the day relaxing, eating, and trying to calm down. The remains of Steam Hill were no longer steaming. The major structures - the wall, the basalt block, and the wooden temple on top of it had survived with a few dents and cracks.

The party slept uneasily. At just past midnight they were interrupted by three ashen spirits. They looked like grey scarves made of cold embers with a single red light at the end. One coalesced into a child-shape, a thing of wisps and crawling fingers, and began to creep through the camp. While Slugsworth tried to rouse the others, she discovered one of the ash-spirits attached to the Paladin's neck. She threw a rock at it.

The Paladin spotted two of the spirits and, perhaps unwisely, shouted "MERGE" at them with his divine command. They fused together into one hideous, screaming mass of ashen limbs and flickering red light. The Paladin winced, hauled out his holy symbol, and furiously banished it at the spirits, sending them hissing into the darkness.

But during the fight, the third spirit had possessed Wonderwood's hireling. He waved jauntily to the party, made a few unlikely excuses, and sprinted off into the darkness, grinning like a lunatic. The party elect not to pursue a possible vampire-ash-ghost-thing in the dark over uncharted terrain. They put the Paladin's holy symbol on a pole in the middle of the camp and fell asleep.

In the morning, the party returned to Steam Hill to search for more treasure.They had found a few bits of gold jewelry in their hasty escape. The jewel-encrusted panels also held a certain appeal. The gems alone would be worth a king's ransom, and since the machinery they once controlled was scattered a dozen acres, removing them would probably be perfectly safe.

The party crept down, skirted the edge of the crater, and investigated the wooden temple (11) on top of the hill. They found a giant gold and silver throne inside, but most of the rest of the structure was poorly and hastily built. Fungus ants, comatose or dead, filled some of the rooms. The party tried to avoid inhaling the spores.

They located three child-sized coffins in one of the rooms. One contained a single grey ashen silhouette of a child. The second was empty. The third contained a hideous tangle of ashen limbs and body parts. The party hauled all three coffins into the sun and watched as the ash burst into flames. 

After knocking through a few walls, the party located a secret workshop in the centre of the temple. It contained several delicate glass and gold instruments (which were stuffed into a sack) as well as two large glass cylinders full of "shiny bread dough", as Bill described it. The sealed cylinders were also carted off to the party's growing pile of loot.

Side Note: A fourth coffin, one for a pressure-suit-wearing vampire, was not found in the temple. The players haven't realized this yet.
Leaving Wonderwood and Swainson to guard the loot, Bill, the Paladin, Slugsworth, and Cazael descended by rope into the broken-open basalt vault. The spinning cylinders had torn themselves to pieces. Chunks of stone covered the floor, some sizzling with raw magic, others just sizzling with residual heat. Water covered the floor.

Cazael noticed a very strange object floating or rolling across the surface of the water. It looked like a ring from one of the cylinders, but it was only 4" wide and spinning very, very quickly. Any water it touched seemed to be drawn around it like thread being wound onto a spool. The spinning stone ring was calmly, slowly, rolling towards the wall.

Testing (throwing pebbles at it from a safe distance) confirmed that the small ring had all the "winding" powers of the larger cylinders. Anything it touched stretched, spun, and vanished in a blur. As the cores of the now-broken giant cylinders were made of glass, Bill found a glass shard in the wreckage and very carefully inserted it into the centre of the spinning ring. It did not disintegrate. The wizard cautiously lifted the ring out of the water and held it upright.

"Guys," he said, "I have a plan..."

Ten minutes later, the wormling was cautiously hoisted to the surface via a crude rope harness. He held the spinning ring of doom at arm's length. To his credit, despite many wobbles and swings, he made it to the surface. The party wedged the glass shard and ring upright in a pile of stones and stood back.

"We're going to be rich," Bill said eagerly.

"Wait, we are going to sell this thing?" Slugsworth asked.
"To who?"
"The highest bidder," Bill said, utterly unperturbed.
"That seems like a bad idea," Cazael said.
"Think about it. It's safer than any other option. We just need to get it back to civilization..." Bill trailed off, looking at the ring. "I'll come up with a plan."

The second venture into the basalt vault yielded handfuls of gems, pried from the control panels on the north and south walls. Cazael retrieved his sword, which had been bent into a full corkscrew shape. He stowed it anyway. "In case we have to fight crooked enemies," Slugsworth joked.

But the lift control panel (26) was still intact and, mysteriously, floating. It seemed to disregard gravity, although it could be pushed or pulled with great effort. The party spent several hours hauling it towards the wall, then slowing it, then pulling it up to the surface. It seemed to ignore any weight placed on it. Finally, after many trials, the massive stone block, 10' long, 5' wide, and 1' deep, hung in the air in exactly the way normal rocks don't.

The party sat down to a late lunch and a serious discussion. Should they leave now and return to civilization with their wild tale and enormous pile of loot, or should they try and explore and loot the remains of the legendary Steam Hill?


OSR: [Creature] gains +1 HD every time it...

I like the idea of conditional creatures. Here are 10 creatures that gain HD (Hit Dice, corresponding to HP, attack, saves, etc.), prompted by G+ people.

...Eats a Condor.

-Onno Tasler

The Bird-Eating Stump-Toad

HD: 3
Appearance: a fat grey-brown toad the size of a cow with strangely human limbs and small, cruel eyes.
Wants: to eat condors, to remain unharmed.
Armor: as leather
Move: normal, can hop 10'
Morale: 6
Damage: 1d6 bite, swallowed on a 6.

It wants to eat condors. It wants to eat condors so badly. It licks its hideous warty lips whenever it sees them circling overhead. Their nests are in cliffs it cannot climb. The toad will pay anyone for fresh condors, dead or alive. It eats them messily. It can provide secret information (the toad can hear very, very well) and dig tunnels. It will not serve; it will demand to be served and deign to offer a reward. If The Bird-Eating Stump-Toad reaches 6 HD, it splits in two. The new toads will target the species it sees first (condors, humans, etc.)

...Hears Profanity

-Brian Ashford

The Decorous Sisterhood
HD 1
Appearance: a stern nun in a black and white habit. Wields a wooden switch.
Wants: to serve the Authority, maintain moral order, and strike the wicked.
Armour: as plate+shield. Also, are you really going to hit a nun?
Move: normal, but can glide (as a charge attack over terrain).
Morale: 12
Damage: 1 HP on a hit, but target must Save with a -4 penalty or be Stunned for 1 round. It also really stings. Targets cannot be reduced below 0 HP, but at 0 HP, are automatically stunned and can do nothing but yell.

A single Decorous Sister is usually found maintaining a shrine or an orphanage. She will appear completely harmless and may enlist the PCs to help with a simple quest. Should any of them swear, she will strike them with her wooden switch (automatically hits) and repremand them. Should they continue (likely, given that a nun just hit them with a wooden switch), she will hit them again and summon a second Sister (a 1 HD creature). This process could continue indefinitely until the PCs have been swatted into submission.

...Gets Hit.

-Brian Ashford

Corpulent Callowfex
HD 2
Appearance: a morbidly obese velociraptor with hairy moles. A diseased lizard with tufts of grey hair.
Wants: to bite things
Move: 1/2 normal
Morale: 8
Damage: 1d6 bite, 1d6 claw.

A backwards castoff from an orthogonal timeline. Don't worry about it too much. Nobody understands time travel anyway. It needs to die to live. Every attack that hits it give the Corpulent Callowfex +1 HD instead of dealing damage. At 4 HD, it begins to look much more sleek and cunning. At 6 HD, it gains 2 additional claw attacks and can move at normal speed. At 8 HD, it will begin to speak, cast spells, and act like the renewed and triumphant apex predator it truly is/was/will one day be. You should probably run. Or tie it up - anything that isn't an attack doesn't trigger the HD gain.

...Has its Life Spared After Being Defeated by the Party.

-Iacopo Maffi

Craven Stalker
HD 1
Appearance: a thin, bony humanoid with huge bulbous eyes and long bent fingers. If it weren't for its needle teeth it would be almost pitable.
Wants: to feast on the hearts of the PCs.
Move: normal, but can move through shadows (as an instant teleport). It will not reveal this ability.
Morale: 12 (appears lower)
Damage: 1d6 bite.

It's not a creature. It's a curse. Someone called this thing into being and sent it after the party. It takes  lot of blood and a lot of time to call a Craven Stalker into being. It will hunt the PCs and attack in a ridiculously inopportune way. One or two attacks will cause it to beg to surrender. It will promise treasure, riches, fame.

It will lead the PCs to these things and to incidental danger, danger the PCs are certain the Craven Stalker could not have forseen. It was an accident. A tragic mistake. Their own incompetence or greed. It will do this two more times, gaining +1 HD each time. Poor creature; it doesn't know any better, the PCs think.

When it reaches 3 HD, the Craven Stalker begins laying Suspicions. Each Suspicion is a tiny red egg dropped into the ear of a sleeping PC. It grows slowly, driving the PCs apart or causing them to murder each other. The Craven Stalker will feast on the remains - particularly the hearts. It will secretly, stealthily, hound the remaining PCs, introducing more and more Suspicions until the PC lives an isolated life of pure paranoia, dies of a heart attack, or takes their own life.

...Collects a Molar.

-Chris Wilson

Tooth Fairy
HD 1
Appearance: tiny humanoid with a large head and gossamer wings.
Wants: teeth.
Move: 2x normal, flying.
Morale: 4
Damage: 1 (prod) or remove 1 tooth.

Tooth Fairies are harmless, mostly. They lay their eggs in teeth, producing a 1 HD new Tooth Fairy in 1 week. They can be bottled, trained, or tricked. They aren't very bright. Boneyards are infested with the things.

...Spends a Day in the Sunshine

-Gregory Blair

The Hidden Filth
HD: 5
Appearance: a squamous black mass of tar, eyes, and tentacles.
Wants: everything
Move: 1/4 normal
Morale: 12
Damage: 1d4 bludgeoning per round per HD

The PCs shouldn't have unlocked that ancient tomb. They shouldn't have broken those primordial seals. But they did, because they were shiny, and they went back to town to sell the metal and get drunk. And while they were gone the Hidden Filth slithered out.

It was trapped underground long ago. It drinks sunlight like a fire drinks gasoline. Plants? Amateurs. The Hidden Filth grows and spreads. It will slither into some secluded but sunny place and begin to grow. Every day, it gets a little bigger. Each day, it gets a little harder to kill.

...Has One of Its Parasites Cut Off.

-Steven De Waele

Parasite Dragon

HD 3
Appearance: a rail-thin dragon, dry, flaking, with pulsing black veins and mad rolling eyes. Each limb is coated in a single coiled parasite, a fat lamprey-like slug-fish-worm with tiny grasping spider legs. Two worms coil around its torso like a lover's arms. Another slides along the tail. A final worm wraps around the dragon's scrawny neck and burrows into its chin, hanging down like a goiter.
Wants: blood, magic, magical blood
Move: normal.
Morale: 8
Damage: Each parasite (there are 8 total) spits 1d6 acid damage in a 20' cone if threatened. Can also bludgeon for 1d8 damage. Other attacks: as a dragon. Breath is only phlem until the dragon reaches 6 HD.

Killing the dragon without killing the parasites is difficult. They want to keep their host alive. The parasites are as wise as any human but are completely remorseless and eternally hungry. Cutting them free will make getting to the dragon's flesh easier, but each dead parasite restores 1 HD to the dragon, and the dragon is completely and murderously insane.

...Is Mistaken For the Mayor.

-Peter Webb

HD 1
Appearance: the Mayor, of course!  Yes, I remember now... but didn't the Mayor have blue eyes and not... egg-yolk yellow?
Wants: adulation, proof that humans are idiots
Move: normal (strides)
Morale: 6
Damage: 1d4 bludgeoning. Die size, number of attacks increase as HD increases.

Hello Citizen! Why yes, I am most definitely the Mayor! Observe my many shapely limbs. Truly, I am a good mayor, who passes may bills, and not a creation of a secret underground race at all. No, definitely. I deny this. I have no recollection of being constructed. None. My birth was a normal human birth in this VERY TOWN yes. Present your infants to me. Yes. I am the Mayor.

The Dopplepollster is unconvincing. It feeds on contempt. Its creators are certain that humans are idiots. Every time someone mistakes the Dopplepollster for Mayor, it gains 1 HD. When it reaches 10 HD it will go on a murder spree (stats as something horrifically murderous) while screaming "YOU FOOLS, I AM NOT THE MAYOR." It will then repeat the process in the next en-mayored town or city, starting over at 1 HD, unless killed. It usually starts at festivals, balls, or events where killing it immediately would cause a scandal.

...Is Lied To.

-Alex Chalk

HD 5
Appearance: a green-silver sphinx, meticulously clean, with a beak like a parrot and eyes like sunken nuclear reactors. It purrs in 3/4 time.
Wants: only the truth.
Move: 2x normal
Morale: 9
Damage: 1d8 bite/1d6 claw/1d6 claw, or eye-wither (50' range, 2d6 damage, Save or gain a stutter for 1d10 days).

The veritasphinx lives in libraries, archives, and research facilities, sometimes against the will of the owners. It is difficult to remove. It will pick a vital passageway and guard it. Anyone passing by must state their intentions truthfully. If they lie in any way, the Veritasphinx shouts "LIE" and then licks her paws. She wants the whole truth; omission will provoke follow-up questions. She can sense embarrassment through 10" of lead.

For every lie, a 1 HD parrot-kitten pops into existence just out of sight. When the liar leaves, if they are unrepentant or troublesome, the swarm of kitten-parrots will descend and devour them. Half the kitten-parrots only tell lies; half only tell the truth. They can be tamed with math.

...Eats a Wizard.

-Luka Rejec

Wizard HydraHD 3+1d6
Appearance: a horrible shapeless mass of dry skin with oddly jointed necks and fat paddle feet. It has HD heads. Each head carries the distorted face of a wizard it has devoured with its enormous lower mouth located on its torso. The heads moan and wail; the blind torso-mouth only dribbles.
Wants: to eat wizards
Move: normal
Morale: 12
Damage: 1d6 bite (swallowed on a 6, if swallowed, Save or die.)

What horrible accident spawned the wizard hydra? Who will save us from this menace? Each head casts the spells it could cast in life: rays, beams, healing. It lurches and gurgles, blasting everything it sees and devouring any wizards it can find. Every wizard devoured becomes a new head; every head brings fresh terror. Roll randomly for the spells or use the Beholder spell list.