Role-playing design notes

Random notes on the design of Gods & Monsters, and maybe even Men & Supermen if I can remember what I was drinking when I wrote it.

Gods & Monsters Fantasy Role-Playing

Beyond here lie dragons

Skin a module 3: Thracia to The Lost City

Jerry Stratton, May 2, 2015

Ostrusha Mound fresco: “A fresco of a noble woman with golden necklace and earrings on the ceiling of the main chamber in the Ostrusha Mound near Kazanlak, Bulgaria.”

(Ivo E. Stankov, CC BY-SA 2.5)

When I first started gaming back in the early eighties, I heard about Judges Guild, but I never saw anything from them. We had no game store near us until my cousins started a game rack in their parents’ dime store, and that contained mostly, if not all, TSR. By the time I got to college, Judges Guild had already lost their license to produce official AD&D products1 and had pretty much stopped publishing. I’m not sure I saw any Judges Guild stuff in the otherwise well-stocked game store on the Ithaca Commons.2

But I had heard about them—supposedly amazing adventures such as Dark Tower, Tegel Manor, and The Caverns of Thracia. I had dabbled in buying gaming stuff over the Internet in the old days of Usenet, when I picked up a zine or two and managed to score an OD&D box set. But it wasn’t until the dawn of eBay that I began to discover these old treasures. And then Noble Knight became a reliable source as well, a kind of Mile High Comics for gamers.

Most of my changes for Thracia (PDF File, 727.3 KB) are changes in names; I added a reason for the lizard-king to be waiting: he’s studying one of the Tablets of Enki. And the means that player characters arrive is by means of the teleport pads; once, all the ancient temples were connected; the controls have been destroyed, but the controls were merely mankind imposing their will on the divine. The pads themselves work still. So they enter the caverns by way of a teleport pad inside of the Temple of Apuiporo in the Yellow Forest on The Road.

Athena became Ishtar, Zeus Dupater, Apollo Sin, and Thanatos Enki, who appears draped in seaweed. These gods are all associated with the older religions, and Thracia is part of the empire of the first city of man. Lizard-men became saurians, not a big change, but the gnolls and dog-brothers became degenerate mananubi, the servants of the dragon Tifá. I already knew that these Anubis-styled creatures wandered the wastes outside of the City, and wanted to introduce them before they reached the City.

Winged Victory became Tifá’s servant, the demon Ebeorie from Helter Skelter.

I stole directly from Land of the Lost for the surface around Thracia: the Guardian of the City is pretty much Alice, the dinosaur that the Marshalls had to avoid whenever they entered their own lost city in that bright and venerable television show.

I added some notes on what spirits the priests of Enki carry and some flavor text whenever I needed to ensure that I remembered to note certain things to the players. Thracia is a very complicated and intertwined adventure; I needed those reminders. Similarly, because I’m using somewhat different rules (it appears that Thracia is a combination of D&D and AD&D), I spelled out, so to speak, the lizard-king’s spells and where to find the originals in case I needed clarification. In modern terms the lizard-king is a boss and he’s not an easy opponent to run.

There’s a sentence in my lizard-king notes that reads “The Red Dragon Sword in the Immortal Lizard King’s lair is one against Water Dragons.” I switched the sword to a different kind of dragon sword because I knew that there were going to be water dragons involved in the destruction of the City at the end of the Road and I wanted this to be related somehow. Later, I decided that this sword was the Sarshuharu Shulimkagul, the Sword of the King of the Four Gates used by the King of Thracia to aid the City against the dragons of Tifá. I have a tendency to run just slightly ahead of the players, knowing generally what’s around for them to choose, and then solidifying and expanding on that only after they have made their choice.

The saurians were a combination of the Sleestak and your generic lizard aliens. Some (but not all) of the bears became jaguars, just to keep the jungle theme going.

Despite the amount of text here (I enjoy making tables, if I hadn’t, I would have just used the originals in the Thracia book) this was one of the easiest reskins I’ve done. Just about everything in Thracia fit exactly what I needed from the lost city that was once part of the domains of the ancient First City of Man.

  1. …perhaps a good example of the importance of avoiding tying yourself to official supplements.

  2. Itself now long out of business.

  1. <- Fell Pass reskin
  2. Caspar David Friedrich ->