Sunday, February 28, 2010

Armies of Oerth, Part II: Mordenkainen

Using the Field of Glory wargaming rules & Dragon Magazine #37 for inspiration, I shall continue to represent Gary Gygax's Orders of Battle for certain renowned figures from the World of Greyhawk.

NOTE: As I explained in my first "Armies" post, the FoG rules state that each base of models could normally represent 250 men-at-arms. I had chosen a 25 men-at-arms ratio per base because it allowed an average sized army full of models to be placed on the game table. Now using this ratio, four of the first five armies range in size from 19 to 35 bases. Mordenkainen's Army comes in at a whopping 161 bases with 341 models (that's 682 counting the horses!). If this were the only army I was ever going to build, maybe I would go for it. To keep it more manageable, and comparable to the other four character armies, I will bump the ratio to 100 men-at-arms per base. This keeps it from being too unwieldy and will only require doubling up its size later.

An army this size is more in league with the larger state armies which I plan to represent later on. I will be using the standard ratio of 250 men-at-arms per base. Yes, the state armies will be THAT huge. For anyone feeling ambitious to build one of these armies in either scale, I will list the number of bases in both ratios. The number of actual models per base will be the same for both.

100 men/base will be listed in BLUE.
250 men/base will be listed in GREEN

So, here is...

Mordenkainen's Army List

Commander-in-Chief: Mordenkainen: (MU of 20th level)
= 1 base / 1 base

Medium Cavalry: 500 (Regulars) = 5 bases2 bases
(3 models/base; riders on horses, leather armour & moderate shields, hand weapons)

Light Cavalry: 500 (Regulars) = 5 bases / 2 bases
(2 models/base; riders on horses, no armour & small shields, hand weapons)

Light Horse Archers: 1,000 (Regulars), = 10 bases / 4 bases
(2 models/base; riders on horses, no armour & small shields, bows)

Light Horse Archers: 2,000 (Levied) = 20 bases8 bases
(2 models/base; riders on horses, no armour & small shields, bows)

This totals 41 bases with 86 models on them.
This totals 17 bases with 35 models on them.

This force was known to be Chaotic, possibly Neutral, with an absolute zero-tolerance policy towards Evil clerics.

If anyone else builds any of these forces, please let us hear about it. I would love to see your army. It might just be for nostalgia's sake, but I would love to see some of these legendary armies from the World of Greyhawk causing havoc on wargaming tables somewhere in the world...

Next up: Robilar


Friday, February 26, 2010

Armies of Oerth, Part 0: Field of Glory

Admittedly, I put the cart before the horse by presenting army lists adapted for a system that I hadn't taken the time to explain. Let me make ammends for this...

Field of Glory is a set of historical miniatures rules for ancient and medieval tabletop battles. The rules cover the ancient and medieval period (3000 BC – 1500 AD) from the rise of the earliest known armies through to the introduction of effective gunpowder weapons. The game scale is flexible and the movement and range distances are the same regardless of scale.

FoG is designed to play a battle with 10 – 15 battle groups in a 3 to 4 hour game. Each battle group is made up of variable number of bases, usually between 2 – 12 each, and are maneuvered by commanders as independent units which remain as a single cohesive block for the game. These battle groups move as a unit but the combat system allows the shooting and melee combats to be fought by those bases exposed or in contact. Battle groups are rated by type (cavalry, heavy foot etc) training, protection level, weapons and morale.

A standard turn consists of a set sequence of phases; an Impact Phase (charging and combat) a Movement Phase, Shooting, Combat Phase (in addition to the charge combat) and a final Administrative Phase which deals with a range of command and morale issues. The sequence is logical and straightforward to follow.

The command and control system rates commanders by levels of competence and applies the simple mechanic of distance from the commander to model the efficiency of the army command and control. Commanders can assist battle groups to maneuver, fight and rally. Under some circumstances a commander can provide benefit to a “group” of battle groups which is called a battle line. This simple technique seems to model the efficiencies of a traditional ancient battle-line quite well.

The move system is reasonably simple and intuitive. Move distances, formations and maneuvers (such as wheels and formation changes) are logical and well explained. One clever touch is the Complex Maneuver Test (CMT) which forces battle groups in close proximity to the enemy and who are performing a complex move to roll dice to complete the move. This makes you think twice about performing formation changes within charge range of the enemy! There is some complexity in the move sequence, fighting in two directions and the ability to feed parts of a battle group into an existing melee but the rules do cover these circumstances in sufficient detail to allow an understanding by the second or third game.

The combat system appears complicated but is actually quite straight forward and is well supported by a set of good charts and tables. There are more units able to shoot and skirmishers now take on the important function of forcing the heavy units to take Cohesion Tests from a trickle of shooting casualties inflicted over a long period of time. Melees now take many turns and the disintegration of battle groups is gradual and the effects are more subtle than one would normally observe in a game where each unit fights to the last man. For example the initial clash between an elite Roman Legion and a Gallic warrior band might see the legionaries “disrupted” and even lose some elements but often their better armour, better morale and close quarter training will allow them to (over 4 or 5 turns) whittle down the Gauls and cause them to break and run.

Morale rules are also important in determining the outcome of a battle. Supporting units, location of Generals, routing units, rallying units, “bolstering” (improving a unit’s morale) and the “Cohesion Test” are some of the techniques the game applies to model the impact of morale on an ancient battle.

The game is supported by a detailed set of annexes and a comprehensive glossary which is very useful for new players to this system. There is a range of 13 supplemental books containing specific Army Lists, such as Republican & Imperial Rome, Ancient Greeks, Late Medieval Europe, Byzantium, and the Far East. These books are not necessary for using the main rulebook, but they are well presented and illustrated and provide detailed lists of a broad range of historical armies.

In summary, Field of Glory is a well written and well explained system with lots of clear and colourful diagrams which will ease the pain of learning a new set of rules. The rules have a formed-unit approach that represents many of the aspects of ancient warfare with simple ease. The morale rules add a significant element to the game and are simple to understand and straightforward to apply. The combat rules are not complex, but they do require a methodical and measured approach. New players who rush will either make fundamental errors or become confused about who did what to whom. The rules have been assembled by a group of long-standing wargamers and several of the contributors are classical or history scholars in their own right.

From the designers:
In Field of Glory our most important objective is to make the game fun to play whilst retaining a strong historical feel. So whether you fancy being Alexander the Great or Ghengis Khan, it's up to you, happy gaming and may your dice roll high!


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Armies of Oerth, Part I: Bigby

Over the last year, I have been bitten again by the bug of wargaming. I confess to being an on-again/off-again “Armchair General” for many years. Sitting with my morning cup of coffee, evaluating military actions of the past…it smells like victory! Sure, it is Monday morning quarterbacking from the safe distance of the 21st century, but there is something satisfyingly tangibly three-dimensional about battles with miniatures. Moving through real space and time; recreating scenarios from Hannibal, Caesar, etc… it can be a lot of fun. Now, combine this with a love for fantasy role-playing games and the urge becomes almost irresistible.

I recently found a new wargame system to play called Field of Glory from Osprey Publishing. It drew me in with its nicely compact rulebook and supplements and offers a wide variety of armies and time periods to playout scenarios. About this same time, I was going through some early Dragon Magazines and digging up information on Gary Gygax’s World of Greyhawk. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across some information regarding the armies of Oerth.

One of the earliest gems I found was in Dragon #37. It has a great Sorcerer's Scroll article by Gygax on Greyhawk's evolution, and (at the time) its intended future. At the end of the article, he gave us an added bonus: Orders of Battle for certain renowned figures from the Greyhawk world - Bigby, Mordenkainen, Robilar, Tenser & "Erac's Cousin". Earlier in the same article, Gary spoke of having a set of rules to set forth the orders of battle of the various governing states of the Flanaess. Players would be able to fight the major battles which could affect the course of history in the World of Greyhawk. Knowing of his roots in wargaming and interest in military history, I would hypothesize the orders of battle given are entirely playable (with probably a few adjustments) for whichever wargaming system one was to use.

As I am currently experimenting with Field of Glory, I intend to represent these armies accordingly. Each base of models can normally represent 250 men-at-arms, but the rules quickly suggest to ignore this (I suppose a player should unless one has an incredibly large battle-table and lots of toy soldiers to fill it with!). The player is advised to treat an army as a coherant whole, representing whatever full-sized army its prototype usually fielded. It aims for reaching the correct shape and feel of the army for a more realistic representation of how it fought. Since this system was not designed with fantasy games in mind, it eliminates the use of magic. Still I think it will be a good system to experiment with. So, looking over the army lists, I have decided each model base should represent approximately 25 men-at-arms each. The reason for the smaller ratio is to allow more bases/models on the board to properly play with.

I would love to build and test all of these armies. But until I can collect sufficient models and have the available time, I am limited to using proxy bases marked for the appropriate troop types. Besides, there are several more related articles from other Dragon Magazines giving additional battle forces for some of the greater state armies. So, to help inspire any other "Armchair Generals" out there with some time on their hands, I will keep it simple and focus on these initial five lists. The first one to look at is:

Bigby's Army List

This army is actually centered in a very good area related to the City of Greyhawk and its surrounding Lands of Oerik, specifically somewhere between the Shield Lands & Bandit Kingdoms. Battlewise, this can bring them into oppostion with the Horned Society, Iuz, or even the Kingdom of Furyondy depending on which way this neutral-alligned force may wish to involve itself.

Commander-in-Chief: Bigby (MU of 18th level) = 1 base
One piece of triviaI found was "His personal symbol is an open palm behind a large, stylized bumblebee". I do not know if this is from his original beginnings when run by Gary Gygax, or if it was simply added to the character's history at some point later by others. Due to the thematic nature of many spells bearing his name, the 'open palm' is certainly a safe symbol to go with for now.

Heavy Cavalry: 50 (Elite) = 2 bases
(3 models/base; knights on horses, heavy armour & barding, hand weapons)

Medium Cavalry: 100 (Regulars) = 4 bases
(3 models/base; riders on horses, leather armour & moderate shields, hand weapons)

Light Cavalry: 100 (Regulars) = 4 bases
(2 models/base; riders on horses, no armour, small shields, hand weapons)

Light Horse Archers: 100 (Levied) = 4 bases
(2 models/base; riders on horses, no armour, small shields, bows)

Armored Infantry: 50 (Elite) = 2 base
(4 models/base; foot troops, helm, chest armour & substantial shields, hand weapons)

Heavy Infantry: 180 (Regulars) = 8 bases
(4 models/base; foot troops, heavy armour & substantial shields, hand weapons)

Light Crossbowmen: 100 (Regulars) = 4 bases
(2 models/base; foot troops, no armour, small shields, crossbows)

Heavy Crossbowmen: 50 (Regulars) = 2 bases
(4 models/base; foot troops, heavy armour & substantial shields, crossbows)

Pikemen: 100 (Elite) = 4 bases
(3 models/base; foot troops, leather armour & moderate shields, pikes)

So, this totals 35 bases with 103 models on them.

It is mentioned this force has been occasionally allied with:

Elven Infantry: 200 = 8 bases
(3 models/base; foot troops, leather armour & moderate shields, swords/hand weapons)

Kron Hills Dwarven Infantry: 150 = 6 bases
(3 models/base; foot troops, leather armour & moderate shields, axes/hand weapons)

With another 14 bases and 42 models among them, these two additions lend themselves as a nice expansion with more modeling opportunities.

Next time: Mordenkainen


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

From The Desk Top: Hither, Tither and Yon

From the Desktop:  Hither, Tither & Yon

Just a smattering of things, updates, thoughts, links and think...

I will be moving very soon, so PPP is not committing to any new release because of that until after I am settled in the new homestead.   I am working on getting most projects into publishable form up and until then.  This includes:

*Castle El Raja Key:  Levels 1-3 (@11,000 words)
*Dungeon Trappings #1 (editing/layout)
*Drystaff the Wizard:  Four Fabulous Tales (proofing/layout)
*Citadel of the Fire Lord (outlined with maps finished and intro written)
*The Boreal Level (Map finished, Intro written, extensive outline and appendix designs complete)

LOTGD blog will probably see less posting during the move time, so I encourage all authors here to take their stab at posting something of creative interest.  If not, then please enjoy the sound of silence until I get back online and situated.  If you wish to become an author here, please email me with what you have in mind:  I will be announcing the exact move time in the next two weeks.


GaryCon2:  I will be running Castle El Raja Key during the Con, March 19-21.  I am looking forward to reconnecting with the Gygax family, Flint Dille,Tom Wham, Mike Carr and a host of peers, fans and gamers.  I will be acting as an airport shuttle for my friend Allan Grohe, and no doubt he and I will  have a great discussion during the ride to the con in Lake Geneva.


NTRPGCon Event:  I am designing a 4th-6th level dungeon based on Ramsey Dow's Dungeon Sets maps for North Texas RPGCon in June, entitled, "DUNGEON of DEATH".  Yeah.  Happy times ahead for adventurers in that... ;)


OUT OF THE BOX:  I will be doing some supplementary design work for Kyrinn's upcoming Urutsk World of Mystery RPG, specifically adventure material related to that as well as some editing and consulting work.  More on that as it develops.  The main idea is to provide some extra polish if and when needed to what Kyrinn has already accomplished through her hard work and devotion to this highly creative project, her baby.  It is an honor to do so.  Kyrinn's moniker here & there is Timeshadows, and this die-hard designer has been working hard and long to do justice to the idea of not only a new world constructed from top to bottom like my own World of Kalibruhn, but she has made solid strides in fashioning game rules which mesh with that world in a cohesive way, thus, and in my estimation, furthering such holistic design bases as revealed in predecessors like Empire of the Petal Throne. I will also be posting updates here on my participation within such projects and have invited Timeshadows to author here on this or other related subjects when she has time to do so.


Dan of Goblinoid Games furnished me with review copies of LABYRINTH LORD, ADVANCED EDITION COMPANION and MUTANT FUTURE.  I was most excited about seeing Mutant Future, as it takes a step towards something else besides another OD&D clone and associated adventures, which IMO are beyond their saturation point.  Now, having read major portions of it, I give it a thumbs up, particularly for that reason--it's different, just like MA was different to D&D back in 1976 when we play-tested it (my PC sawed itself in half with a vibro-blade, and I still don't like those flow-charts that Ward invented and would never use them myself, but it was funny in a grim sort of way...).  Honestly, though, and as I have stressed time and time again here, at PPP's forums, and elsewhere, I feel that more innovation is needed with these types of products.  What I mean by this is "uniqueness."  Whereas MF shows some of this I will single out the monsters, not all of them, but some; and of course the monsters/critters are sculptable by adding in the mutations, I really feel that there's a lack when a black pudding comes at us again.  Now some of us may love black puddings, and of course I was exposed to my first back in 1972--but isn't this just a way bit beyond being passe? My nicely put challenge to GG and anyone else stuck in coming up with this stuff is to wait rather than fill in designs with concepts that have already been done. If the author gets stuck, hey, contact some imaginative whiz like E. G. Palmer, or someone else.  E.G. creates these things for a living at his blog. I think he does it in his dreams and then wakes up and writes them down.  Anyway... Make use of the creative talent out there and bring some imagination to bear on the concept of endless fantasy.  My two cents.  I like the quality of GG's products, btw, and appreciate Dan's overall great attitude and above-board communication standards.  There are sparks in MF, and I hope that these sparks lead to a great roaring fire of imaginative products for it in the future. Quite honestly, attitude has everything to do with proper direction, so GG already has a step up in that category.  It feels good because it is presented with no pretense, and as I noted, it is of very good physical quality and has some good to superb interior art.  Given some extra creative design flourishes, heck, I might even be tempted to add a gaggle of creative mutations myself, such as an assemblage of interesting spider-like creatures that I have in mind. 


Behind-the-Scenes Cooperative Project:  I can finally hint at this... This has been in the works for the last 6 months and is finally coming forward. It went from my desktop, to Andy Taylor, back to me, and then on to Journalizer (Lauren Hawkins).  I cannot  say much about it for now other than this is being worked on in concert with NTRPGCon's host and co-founder, Douglas Rhea and with further involvement at the primary level by a prominent ex-TSR artist.  There will be an official announcement on this soon.  I will tell you that it does involve a dragon and some castles...  Much more in a couple of months.  


Black Festival & Drystaff:  The Cimmerian nicely noted our recent fiction release of Black Festival in an encouraging article which also mentioned my intentions for publishing the Drystaff cycle of fiction.  I am very appreciative for this exposure and will not disappoint. Their website is professionally at the TOP, by the way. Great content.


A New Wolfar Story in the Works:  After an email exchange with Timeshadows I was encouraged to start outlining a new Wolfar story, "A Blight of Wolves."  Thanks for the inspiration TS!  It's funny where one can derive inspiration from if you remain open to it.  I have proceeded to write it, as one must strike when the iron is hot!


Two friends/fans (an artist and a major businessman) have recently encouraged me to consider publishing my Supplement V (see original MS here). As well, in an email discussion with another designer, the subject of my SAVING THROW system outlined in that supplement came up.  My question to the fans, followers and designers here: would there be any interest in this?  


Back to packing and cleaning and other.  I will be silent posting for the next 2-4 days unless it is to answer posts/emails.  Ciao!


Monday, February 22, 2010

One of my Top 3 Favorite Movies

It should be required viewing for all future directors and screenwriters.  With an ensemble cast and Henry Fonda in the only evil role of his acting career and making Darth Vader look like a Boy Scout by comparison.

This is part of the opening sequence.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Kings & Things to be Released in 2010

(New Cover, 2010)
(Old Cover Art, sans lettering, 1985)

[Original Design as KoTT from The Dragon Magazine #77, Tom Wham and Rob Kuntz, with Illustrations by David Trampier (see at BoardGameGeek) ]

For those who keep up on my board game designs you will be pleased to know that this year ZMAN Games will be re-releasing Kings & Things.  Note the link at BoardGame Geek.

It has been OOP for too long a time, IMO.  As it was an award winner, that makes it a double treat to see.  :)

The Significs of Harewood Fragment

The Significs of Harewood
©2010. Robert J. Kuntz

... The notion appealed to Drystaff, though he wondered what a ‘roost’ was, and he said, “Agreed! My need for a real drink has been too long postponed.”
The old man smiled hugely and his teal blue eyes twinkled with youthful delight. He clapped his grimed hands twice while saying, “Start to Finish, Done and Well!* I will meet you at yonder red building,” he directed, pointing down the street at the appropriately colored structure. “Order the hen toddies. Tell Buerthwigh that Sorsyp will take his with a sprig of mynch and a side of plum things.” The man walked briskly into his house, whistling merrily. 
Drystaff strode to a building that many costumed people were entering. He queued behind a person with black plumage, a wooden beak tinted yellow, and a red feather bonnet. The doorman dealt with the pecking order in turn, issuing small bags to those who requested these and accepting coinage in return. 
It became Drystaff’s turn and the man said, “Roost or non-roost?” He emphasized the latter option by an offhand look at the wizard’s attire.
“Non-roost…for now,” answered Drystaff. The man nodded and issued him in.
The building’s interior offered a rectangular room with a service bar and crates for stools. Drystaff stopped to view its most interesting feature: projecting from the ceiling was a pylon from which were suspended twelve wooden seats by as many stout cords. Several costumed patrons were mounting to different seats, into which an attendant strapped them. Soon half the seats were filled. This satisfied the portly barkeep and he nodded to the attendant, who responded by thrusting forward a nearby lever. There was a loud grating noise and the pylon, obviously part of some greater mechanism, slowly revolved upwards above head level. Three musicians began a shrill piping with recorders as it gathered speed, carrying its screaming and jeering riders into harnessed flight. 
Drystaff moved to the bar and motioned to the barkeep. “You are Buerthwigh? Good! I’d like to order drinks, but a question, first.”
“Of course. For you are a stranger and find the entertainment indecipherable, correct?”
“You strip away the nonessentials and expose my point exactly.”
“The explanation is simple. Haras is located far in the wilderness. Most of our customers are farmers who lack any diversion except drink. Times being hard and clientele light, we have made this a theme inn. This month’s spectacle is by the horologist Quimkwok, who created the circling device especial. It is our best show to date.”
“And the costumes fit the theme,” said Drystaff.
“Yes. Now, what would you order, sir?”
“I order for two: a pair of your best hen toddies, a sprig of mynch in one, and a side order of plum things.”
Buerthwigh gave Drystaff a serious look. “You order for Sorsyp?”
“Yes. Is there a problem? I have coin.”
“Sorsyp is not always welcome here.”
“What has he done? Is he a scoundrel?”
“No, not in that sense. His wife, Hareengu, leads the other wives in a consortium against such merrymaking,” said Buerthwigh. “She often gathers the hens when her rooster flies the coop. Excuse the jargon, but the theme does imbue one so.” Buerthwigh mused aloud, “I hope she keeps distant today. The patrons are many and lively.” He then prepared the order and set it before Drystaff. 
Drystaff watched the circling show for a time, noting that each rider’s bag contained feathers that were gleefully showered upon the area below them. 
While Drystaff was removing a feather from his toddy, Sorsyp appeared. The man had changed his grey work clothes for a costume of black and red feathers interwoven with silver thread and pinned with many brass-like eggs. His purple bonnet represented a rooster in a nest, eyes crossed in confusion. Sorsyp favored his tail feathers as he sat next to the wizard. Drystaff noted that these were partially burnt – probably the result of some practical joke, but thoughts of an irritated wife with flaming brands soon came to mind.
As Sorsyp munched plums stuffed with minced juk fruit and pine-meat, Drystaff questioned him. “What of the wise man?”
Sorsyp slurped his toddy through a reed straw and, nodding his headdress vigorously, said, “Yes, much returns after a single sip. The man you describe always appeared during Harfest. He purchased herbs I gathered at that time.”
“And his name?”
“Never was it given.”
“Did he indicate his dwelling place?”
“Not directly.” Sorsyp grimaced in thought and leaned forward. Drystaff avoided the rooster headdress, which almost pecked his own hat. 
“Phaustwood! That’s it.” Sorsyp shivered. “But the Phausts brought evil to that place.”
“Where is this wood? And what are Phausts?”
“It lies southwest. A short walk for the stout-legged, but the only water available for many leagues thereafter is in the woods. The Phausts,” said Sorsyp between slurps, “were a band of brigands who based their raids from its depths. One day they attacked Duke Caffalafha’s royal carriage as it passed near the forest and the archducal wizard, Xommph, blasted them with a curse.”
“Of what type?” queried Drystaff.
“As I recall, the brigands were magically impelled to a riddle game. Failure brought mayhem upon the participants – it is believed they strangled one another. The brigands dispersed but the curse is thought to be timely still, attending all those who enter Phaustwood.”
Drystaff was about to elicit more information when the inn was beset with a commotion. Many women armed with clubs, rolling pins, brooms, and other bludgeoning devices burst through the front door, trampling Buerthwigh as he attempted to stop them. Leading the group was a large, grey-haired woman armed with a wooden mace and ugly features. 
There was no time for argument as the women separated to their spouses and started an almost idle routine of shouts in between clouts. Many feathered frolickers fled with wives in pursuit, and soon the inn was cleared except for several rigid-faced women, Drystaff, Sorsyp, and the remaining patrons still circling above. The latter squealed as their mates struck at them with brooms and poles, but they were soon lowered and went screeching from the inn as well.
Hareengu approached Sorsyp. “You lout! There are roots to be pulled! You promised that by week’s end our coin total would be enough for my hair dye! And here you sit, swapping profits for stupor!” Sorsyp merely cringed, rejoinderless.
“And who is this?” she said, eyeing Drystaff with equal vehemence. “Another of your costumed cabal, or I’m a princess! See here,” she exclaimed, while repeatedly patting the head of her mace in one open hand, “your jubilations interfere with my man’s work!”
Drystaff stood and addressed the woman. “I am but a wayfarer seeking information about a sage. And having found that he dwells in Phaustwood, I will be about my adventure.” Drystaff turned to issue Sorsyp a farewell but managed only to say, “Sorsyp…” before Hareengu, having misinterpreted the moment, shouted, “You’ll not take my man away on some devil’s quest, you toddy swiller!” 
Drystaff ducked and dodged mace blows as he was chased from the inn. As he ran before the mad woman, other women, still returning home with their mates in tow, became re-enraged--no doubt in answer to a renewed boredom attendant upon their completed raid--and supportively fell in behind Hareengu. Drystaff reached the outskirts of Haras and ran onto the plain beyond it. Behind him, a mass of screaming women offered a variety of curses and brandished weapons to properly energize his flight. ...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Drystaff the Mercenary Fragment

Drystaff the Mercenary
©2010. Robert J. Kuntz

His decision made, Drystaff exchanged his wizard’s hat for a cap of fine haxel fur that Gandal had given him for cold nights. He pulled his tattered grey robe close about him, and with a bounce to his step and as cheery an attitude as he could summon he walked through the gate, staff in hand and a bulging sack slung over one shoulder.
Minutes after he departed a litter carried by two red-liveried man-servants appeared from the north and stopped before the gate. A man in red and black robes dismounted from it clutching at a crutch to prop himself, favoring his right leg. The man-servants stood disconsolately as the passenger regarded the area about the gate with an air of suspicion. He turned his head to and fro as if having sensed something, then, shrugging, he hopped in a tight circle by means of the crutch and confronted the litter bearers.
The foremost servant spoke, “Will you now enter the city, Lord?” The man’s toady expression masked any other purpose beyond servitude.
“Mindless fool! You shirk your instructions!” The man propelled himself haphazardly toward the servant, aiming a hand for his throat as if he meant to throttle him. The servant back-peddled out of reach and the man stopped.
“So you avoid punishment as well? So be it. Since my servants now number but two, I shall no doubt have to sustain such antics!”
The servants looked down at the ground, properly chastised.
“Now repeat the instructions I spent so many hours impressing upon your dull minds!” The man said this while throwing up his arms too far, which lost him the crutch, and he fell to the ground shouting, “Fools! Help me!”
After being righted he looked at the first servant, who said, “‘You will not mention my name in or near the city of Garnash.’” The man looked at the second servant.
“‘Avoid taking me under any conditions into the palace quarter, where the Duke’s aides now reside.’” The man looked back at the first servant.
“‘Treat me as a common merchant who has been injured, not as one of any higher or lower stature.’” The man punctuated his servant’s words by vigorously nodding his head twice, once when he said “higher” and once at the mention of “lower.” He then looked to the second servant.
“‘You will obey all my commands until released from service or until passing to that final resting place only Axallaxa dares to tread.’” 
The man looked about and then raised his free hand to his forehead in mock distress: “Now is that so hard to remember?”
The servants stared at him, mouths open as if to spur their thought processes to suitable responses. 
The man shook his head dejectedly, but said, “Shagan! Margoon! You are the cadre of my future cohorts! Remember, last in loyalty is but first in reward!” With these exaltations complete, the ex-baron Wynquyt and his two enlightened servants entered Garnash.


Garulam noted Drystaff’s look. “Ah! You recognize the Wand of Ziff? Good. I earned it from my master for many years of competent service. Prepare yourself, then, if you still hold spells, outcast!!”
Yuug intervened before spells or blows were exchanged. “Surely not in the inn! I will meet both of you out back after I convene with the innkeeper about the matter.”
And so preparations were made and minutes later the two mages faced each other across a rectangular cobbled courtyard. Drystaff was at a loss for what to do. Evoking a spell would reveal his inability to Yuug, and fighting hand-to-hand would allow Garulam his chance with the wand. Drystaff decided on his spells. They floated in his mind like apples in a tub, but every time he dunked for one he found his mouth without teeth and his jaws rubbery and thus procured none, or worse, only gained part of a power. He gritted his teeth, and turning his attention from Garulam, who stood tapping his wand on his hip, he regarded Yuug, who had just placed an hourglass near the edge of the yard. The glass had a small measure of sand in it: ten minutes worth, as had been agreed upon. The remaining mage, or the one having the advantage at the end of the allotted time, would be granted the post.
Thefol Yuug marched to the center of the yard and held up his hands, “You will begin as I lower my hands and clap my thighs.” With hands held high he walked to a side of the yard. Turning, he then brought them down with a meaty clap.
So began the shortest spell contest in unrecorded history. 
As Garulam ran forward, wand held high and a smile of victory already smeared on his face, Drystaff cast the first spell that came to mind. He intended to loosen the wand from his antagonist’s grasp, thus giving him the advantage in melee. The spell instead caused Garulam’s robes to lift above his head, blinding the mage, who then began staggering about the yard in confusion.
Drystaff was about to run forward and club his assailant when Garulam tripped and pitched forward, landing headfirst on one of the cobblestones. There was a nasty thumping sound and Garulam collapsed, unmoving. Drystaff strode up and claimed the wand. Putting one foot on Garulam’s back, he struck a statuesque pose and looked at Thefol Yuug, “Need more be said or done?”
“Indeed not,” said Thefol Yuug, his expression changing from one of utter astonishment to joviality as he came forward and regarded Garulam. “You are hired as first captain in the van. Report to the caravan outside Southgate tomorrow. I will give you orders and a monetary advance at that time.” Yuug bowed, and then with a swift motion stooped and lifted Garulam’s inert form. Yuug then disappeared into the inn.
Drystaff stood amazed but satisfied. What luck! And now with the wand he’d have a chance of defending the caravan if the need arose. As he walked to the back door, he couldn’t resist the urge to cry out, “I did it! I vanquished the mage!” He then entered the inn.
Moments later a faint light illuminated the ground as if issued from a source up high. 
The Baron had heard the voice again, and now he leaned almost fully out the window with a lamp to scan the courtyard, squinting at the shadows and feeling a chill that he did not immediately blame on the evening air. He roused his servants, but they had heard nothing. The Baron closed the window, and later as he sat drinking a glass of milk he felt the dread feeling subside like withheld gas. He looked at Margoon, who stood with ready pitcher. Margoon smiled absurdly as the Baron burped; and he shook the pitcher, offering another glassful. The Baron waved him away and then retired once again to sleep the sleep of the tortured.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Drystaff and the Pot O' Gold Fragment

Drystaff and the Pot of Gold
©2010 Robert J. Kuntz
The clouds were puffs of gold-rimmed white sprayed upon a yellowing sky as Drystaff stopped on the road. His vestments were simple: a tattered gray robe drawn closely by a threadbare cord tasseled with two small copper bells, cracked leather boots of some dark origin with a thick coat of dust currently obscuring their true color, and a pointed hat, also dust-ridden, that nearly tottered from the perch of his long, black hair as he craned his neck to survey the road sign above. 
Drystaff steadied himself with his staff as he swayed heel-wise and boomed, “Must the accursed baron of these lands post the distances as well? Lucky it is that I am in a good mood for all my exertions, or I would level a spell of calamity upon this land, and none but those who collect dust would traverse it again!” He stamped his feet and a great cloud arose to choke him. He spat and coughed, waving his free hand about defensively, and then staggered ahead toward the city of Garnash, the direction of which had been indicated by the sign.
Fields loomed up around him after a short walk and he halted before one to regard the workers therein. The closest batch was near at hand, and no doubt they had food, he thought. Drystaff tugged at the cord about his waist that he had tightened too often since departing Silverscall, the mansion of his former preeminept Evvelon the elf-witch, overseeress of the Order of Magicians Purplex. He would strike even with that witch someday! There were spells to gain and allies yet to make. Much would be changed and restored, including his temporary loss of memory, before he entertained the desired upliftments and recompenses due him for the many outrages he’d suffered! Momentary weaknesses called for nourishment, however. He scrutinized the toilers again, routinely noting their sunned and dirt-smudged faces, and thought, “No doubt they’d turn me away, deigning to defend every last food scrap for this or that reason!” 
Drystaff raised his head high and bellowed, “Thirteen turbid curses upon the gods of morbid amusement! But laugh only shortly, for Drystaff, as your beguilers have named me, will not play this act. I cannot! Beggary is beneath me to begin with, but rejection from such as these? The moons would freeze over with haranguu* excrement before such an event transpired!” 
  Satisfied with this outburst, he then considered a side pouch containing his last silver od. Though he had counted the coin for a bath and other refreshment upon reaching Garnash, he now acquiesced to the notion of buying some of the peasants’ provender. He stepped forward and was mounting a fence when he felt a tap on his back. 
Drystaff stepped from the rail and regarded a man of slim and sharp features, blue eyes, greasy brown hair smelling of cheap perfume, and vested in a cloak, tunic, and pantaloons of dusted black. The man carried a bag slung over his shoulder and winked at Drystaff, motioning to the fields. 
“No good there. They’re scrappers, those. The baron’s worse.”
Drystaff sought amplification. “Scrapers…or tillers, you mean.”
“Scrappers, scrapers, whichever. They’re cryms. Cut your throat without so much as saying ‘gourd’.”
“You talk oddly. Cryms, it seems, alludes to their alternate stations?”
  The man assented, pointing to his neck. “They’re cryms, minding the fields for the baron to get a day’s worth before they stretch.” The man motioned upward with his fisted hand while making a “ycch” sound, indicating the inordinate stretching of the neck. 
Drystaff nodded, “It is properly understood.” He gestured to the man’s bag, “Perhaps we could better depart upon such subjects by imbibing mixtures to heighten the degree of sensitivity.”
“What? Oh, the bag! Yes, it’s mighty thirsty work, walking, and without food as well. It can become....”
“Famishing,” said Drystaff, his eyes following the bag as the man moved it back and forth like some tempting pendulum. He soon became perturbed. “Your manipulations are uncalled for, sir, since I am willing to pay for such viands as you have.”
The man checked an offended look and then opened the bag. Moments later Drystaff was pulling from a skin of wine. “Ah. The bacchans are indeed worthy this year, though a trifle wetted.”
“Walks are long, and only greater pleasures attend those who are patient.” 
Drystaff considered the obscurity of the comment, but only grunted - with mind to his future payment - and withheld argument. The man pulled forth a large loaf and, breaking it almost center-wise, handed Drystaff the larger of the two pieces, only to pull it away as the wizard made to grab it.
“Such frivolity! It does sour the palate!” said Drystaff.
“Payment in kind fills the pocket, however,” rejoined the man. “Your bill, with this breakage,” he said, while repeatedly flipping and catching the bread with one industrious hand, “amounts to five mars.”
“Outrageous! The wine was cheapened! The bread flakes as you handle it, indicating severe decrepitude!”
The man shrugged, and made to place the bread back in the bag.
“One moment,” Drystaff countered. “I concede to your total, but I have but one silver od. Perhaps after our repast we could settle the account at Garnash.”
The man said, “I have change for the od.”
Drystaff grimaced but accepted the bread, bringing forth the od and trading it for the change pouch offered him. The man then hoisted his bag and made off down the road with hurried steps. Drystaff, somewhat surprised at his sudden departure, shouted after him while crunching a mouthful of bone-dry bread, “Why the impatience? Surely good deals deserve good meals!” Drystaff said this while slapping the change pouch, which emitted unfamiliar clicking noises. He opened the pouch and examined its contents: five wooden slugs.
Acting quickly and casting aside the bread, he pointed his staff at the man and shouted, “You have earned a wrath unlimited!” The man broke into a run as Drystaff pronounced archaic words to summon potent powers. The spell proceeded without restraint until the closing hex pattern confounded him, but he spit forth the curse amid particles of bread nonetheless. “Deeble and Gleeble! You are Feeble!” For the next twenty minutes Drystaff sat bewildered, wondering who he was, how he came to be where he was, what he was to do, and why. Another spell had gone amiss.
Drystaff jumped to his feet after the enfeeblement desisted. He immediately noted a peasant leaning against the fence, feasting on mouthfuls of his hard-bought bread. The man looked at him with great surprise, no doubt having been lulled by the wizard’s former immobilization.
“Return what you’ve misappropriated!” said Drystaff, shaking his staff at the man. Dismayed, the peasant ran into the field. Drystaff realized that his own prowess was in no way equal to that of his adversary, so he turned his thoughts to the road ahead and began walking. He lurched along, hurling curses to the air and stomping so hard and long that a constant trail of dust marked his progress.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Four Blogs I Almost Never Fail to Read

1). Journalize This.

2).  Joe the Lawyer's Wondrous Imaginings.

3). Old Guard Gaming Accoutrements.

4).  The Grand Tapestry.

All of them have many things in common in their own distinct ways: Unique voice, out of the box thinking, creative focus, manifold curiosity and inquiry combined, a professional mind-set (though Joe might argue with me for that...), a no-holds-barred approach.  But the most striking feature of all, all of them are asking, or portraying, WHAT IF?  To me that's worth the price of admission.

I have talked personally by phone with all of these stalwarts except Lauren at 'Journalize This' and I am sure we shall do that some time in the near future.  I not only commend what they do out of a distinct understanding and appreciation for this type of mind-set, a type that just won't let go--call it part of  a perfectionist nature which drives the best in us to do better--but I heartily support their endeavors in whatever way I can, this reaction out of what is decisively being sought by all of them:  the path of creative and unending, stand-apart-from-the-rest, expression.

Whether it's personal discovery, extending your creative range, finding the humorous mixed with the serious, or a hard look at World Crafting, and sundry other subjects ranging the creative rainbow in between, you just can not go wrong with these folk and their quests.

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Novella's Release Date!

Here it is:  Black Festival.  20,000+ words of Swords & Sorcery to dig into.  :)

Available February 17 from Noble Knight Games (link above).  If you wish to receive an email update when this is released, just go to NKG and subscribe to their mailing list, simple as that.

Additional Update (This is being emailed to PPP Customers & Fans)

"Pied Piper Publishing and Noble Knight Games are pleased to announce the availability of Mr. Kuntz's first published novella - Black Festival!  Black Festival is a 36 page"chapbook" available for the low price of only $9.95. It tells the tale of the Barbarian Frank, Wolfar, who dominates this novella of 20,000+ words along with his off-and-on companion the rogue, Thekela.  It is written in the style of Gardner Fox's and REH's Kyrik and Conan tales. It also includes several full page interior acrylic illustrations by Eric Bergeron.

To make the release of this product even more special and to reward our most devoted supporters, preorders will receive one of the following:

This product is a 1st printing, limited edition of only 150, signed and numbered by Mr. Robert Kuntz.  Aaron Leeder, owner of Noble Knight Games, has witnessed the signing in house here at our location in Janesville, WI. The first 20 copies are signed in red ink with the remaining 130 signed in black. 

Mr. Kuntz has also generously offered to include in the mix five AUTHOR copies!  These author copies are part of a limited edition of only 15 (fifteen), all hand signed and numbered in gold ink and featuring the official Lord of the Green Dragons seal!!  Past author copies of PPP products have commanded over $100, each, and have never before been generally available!


In the past PPP products have been available first come, first served. With this product we are trying a new way of disbursing the orders, a drawing (held in house) will decide the lucky winners of the earliest numbered copies and the 5 very special author copies!  In order to be eligible, you must order on the first day of preorder availability, Wednesday, February 17th, from 12pm to 12am CST.  The product will then ship out Thursday, February 18th. If you're wondering why we are doing it this way, this gives everyone preordering an equal shot at getting the earliest most collectible numbers, and a shot at one of the 5 author copies, and prevents one person from gobbling up the first 5 issues at once.  Also, some like to combine other items with the purchase to minimize their shipping costs. This isn't possible when "racing" to checkout.  We will assume that everyone ordering would like an authors copy or the earliest remaining number possible, depending on the number they draw.  All the authors copies and the lowest #'s will be mailed out to preorders! We will notify anyone preordering of the number(s) they will receive.

At any rate, you're guaranteed a copy of the limited edition 1st printing and a great afternoon read!!!! :)

You can preorder more then 1 copy if you wish to receive additional entries, limit 5 copies per order.

Dungeon Set #1 - Levels 1-6 $9.95
Dungeon Set #2 - Levels 7-12 $9.95
El Raja Key's Arcane Treasury $21.95
Fan Appreciation Pack #2 $41.95
Daemonic & Arcane $9.95
Tower of Blood (2nd Printing) $14.95
Stalk, The (Ziplock) $10.95
Stalk, The (Limited Collector's Edition) $11.95
Bottle City (Limited Collector's Edition) $17.95
Cairn of the Skeleton King (2nd Printing) $29.95 *extremely limited supply on hand"

If there are any questions please email me: