Sunday, March 31, 2013

above the reek and trampled dead

From the Lays of Beleriand of old did I memorise these lines of gnarled juvenilia referring to Morgoth, than whom none have a more awesomely metal name;

Unconquerable spears of steel were at his nod, no ruth did feel

The legions of his marshalled hate, On whom did wolf and raven wait

And thick the ravens sat and cried, Upon his banners black and wide

Was heard their hideous chanting dread, above the reek and trampled dead

Ho, ho, no ruth at all. It reassures me me that Tolkien produced sub-awesome stuff in his younger days.

What the hell am I doing a re-invention, palette-swap thing for? I am not sure really. I want a bit more from fluff than I feel I am getting from the stuff I am reading. Whatever it is that fills the role of killable entity roughly equivalent to a first-level fighter in power, the D&D orc is way too generic to be that for me in the context of the setting for which I am writing these coagulated word-clots. 'Twould be jarring to use the greenskins (which I have always fucking hated) or the buckle-punk muppets of post 3e imagery. What I like are Angus McBride's and John Howe's and Alan Lee's depictions which generally adhere to the spirit of the text (and little else).

John Howe: These are the quintessential orcs in my mind. Especially old matey with the morning star and blunt-toothed sneer
Alan Lee is brilliant
McBride: somewhat goofy

There has also been some love from the OSR for the Bakshi orc with which sentiment I concur. The heavily contrasted rotoscope stylings convey a strong sense of bad-acid-trip atmosphere to the orc scenes which I think is entirely appropriate and artistically effective. Those things are scary, not just bestial but lost in darkness.

In thrall to inhuman forces of destruction

However, looking to the canon of mediaeval art for inspiration I see nothing resembling an orc, the orcneas of Anglo-Saxon lore seems to be either too vague or generic or lacking in evidence to build a monster on. In terms of evil underlings however, we have lots of stuff like this;

But they don't really turn up in story as corporeal entities (outside of hell)

In my mind, orcs are the earthly manifestations of minor demons or the spawn of demons or thralls of demonic power; "legions of his marshalled hate". They are not cartoon banditos but dedicated monsters each possessed of the soul of a serial killer in the midst of an escalation in violence and savagery. Tolkien’s admission that his depictions of orcs was a polite adumbration of their repulsive and degraded true nature suggests a direction for the treatment of orcs that can draw from all the monstrous diversity of our more permissive age.

- In the Lord of the rings Orcs are shadows out of folk-tales, feared and despised but not experienced in the normal scheme of things. Not that everyday reality in a mediaevalised paradigm needs to be entirely mundane – rather the strangeness takes a rather different form, subtler and more sinister perhaps – not so out and out monstrous. Until one passes into the wild lands.

- Orc energy is the energy of the hateful and predatory other, but orcs are not merely bullies and bandits but those aligned with and motivated by the forces of Hell.

Orcs are: Orknies, Swart-Elves, Hob-grues, Swine Folk, Calibans, Pye-men, Privy-wights, Gongs, Jackanapes, Night-woses, Gimlets, Grunkies etc.

I - Orknies creep from the foetid leavings in cauldrons wherein sorcerous blasphemies are concocted. They bear about them the stench of the otherworld, shriek and caper like demented children and seek to turn everything utterly to corruption. They are scaled and taloned, griping fingers and blackened sinew and bristle, horns and tails and laughing hungry red mouths. Many are the spae-wives or mithers-o'-the-mawkins with orknies gimping in abject thraldom in their blasphemous hovels, and by their hellish servitude many are the devilries wrought upon the accursed world.

Orknies delight in cunning contrivances for the causing of harm, each group will have 1d4 of these;

  1. Naphtha bladders: squirting fire 20 ft. range, 1d10 dmg, ignores armour, 3 doses per bladder
2. Quicklime: thrown in great handfuls, -2 to attack and defense from streaming eyes and burning skin

  3. Iron Caltrops: Handful covers 10' radius DEX check each rd. or 1 dmg + slow until you take a rd. to pull it out

  4.Wasp-Gourds: 1 dmg/rd. to those in 10 ft. radius for d4 rounds until dispersed

  5. Vials of Foetid Ichor: as stinking cloud 10ft. radius

6. Jars of Caustic Bile: 1d8/1d6/1d4 each round or until washed off

 II -Swart-Elves are gauntly aristocratic nobility of shadowy and bitterest downfall. They are the lugubrious forlorn deep grey of eternal melancholia. It is their one consuming impulse to brood upon their immemorial defeat and banishment from sunlight into hollow black centuries. Crowned they are and sceptred in copper and tin adorned with green glass and immeasurable contempt.   The darkness has twisted them, they are become like stone-elves and slime-elves - the maggots of the darkling earth.

Everything they use is poisoned with tinctures and essences cunningly derived;

1. of Dwale: Save vs. poison or babbling delirium confused 1 turn

2. of Wolfsbane: Save vs. poison or crippled with paralysing nausea (hold person) for1 turn

3. of Deathcap : Save vs. poison or dead in 1 turn

4. of Thornapple: Save vs. poison or debilitating horrors (fear) for 1 turn

5. of Hemlock: Save vs. poison or 1 for 1d8 days

6. of Mandragore: Save vs. poison or sleep for 1 turn

III - Hob-grues crouch in desolate outlands and sneer and grimace in dim defiles, the sullen and squat embodiments of the predatory emptiness of the untamable beyond . They creep from tree stumps and tangled gulches to bludgeon and strangle. They are of stony bones and sod-crusted hide come bearing the violence of utter indifference to grace and light. If ever there was gentle or peaceful about them loneliness has bleached it away.
Real Hob-grues have less awesome hair

Hob-grue Encounter Terrain - d6

1. Bramble-Dyke: Surprise on 1-4

2. Beetle-Crag: Each time a character sustains injury DEX check or fall d4 x 10 ft.

3. Scree Field: move 1/2 speed or DEX check to avoid falling, 1 rd. to get get back up

4. Boulder Chasm: Surprise on 1-3, Hob-grues above at +2 to hit with thrown debris

5. Brackish Slough: save vs. paralysis each rd. or stuck, one rd. to free yourself

6. Hillside thicket: Combatants slowed, missile fire impossible

IV-Swine-Folk or the Ugsome Boors are the distorted reflections of mankind from a black and troublous dream. Rejoicing in cacophony and disorder, they adopt stolen jewellery and pretty things that they may all the more ironically cavort in unspeakable corruption. For the frippery of mankind is endlessly humorous to them, and vanity and joy in pretty things is a larksome game that they may all the more effectively wreak a hateful vengeance in plundered silken finery smeared with excrement, lulling their victims with mockery before the inevitable frenzied dismemberment.
That Hallebarde-Fork is based on a real thing

Special Accoutrements: Each is worth d100 groats dependent upon damage and soiling

1. Lavish Cosmetics from the Shining Lands
2. Chains of amber jewellery
3. Ornate headdress adorned with silver coins
4. Baroness Brundeburgha's exquisitely broidured wedding gown
5.  Tiara crusted with amethysts
6. Azure silken gloves

V- Gongs are squat and prognathous man-things with tarry hides and blazing eyes, they stink of blood and smoke. Less in height that a man but broad and stooping, they come clad in battle-harness of copper and brass and bronze wrought like fishes mail. They are utterly degraded. All they love is cruelty.

When they come it is always in the dark with the sound of brazen trumpets and drums and songs of hate and pain preceding them. Their voices are like the bellowing of beasts. They carry torches and tridents and arbalests and guns. They delight in fire.
Gongs seek to take prisoners that they may be tortured and degraded in their foetid hell-warrens and eventually (d6 years later) transformed into gongs themselves.
Each Gong has (d8);

1. A brazen pollaxe inscribed with fell signs (d10) and a copper scale corselet and pilos-helm (AC 7)
2. A bloodstained morning-star (d10) and a panoply of bronze with barbute and cuirass and bazubands and greaves (AC 4)
3. A mantlet* of blackened wood (AC 5) with a Shield-gong to carry it, an Arbalest (d8 1/3 rds) and an iron flail (d8)
4. Four flasks of naphtha (d6/rd for 3 rds), cuirass of bronze lamellar and buckler (AC 5) and a Falchion (d8)
5. A black banner* and brazen trumpet (d6 dmg, +2 Morale to surrounding gongs)
6. A hand-gonne (d8, 1/4 rds, ignore armour), a warhammer (d6) and bronze Thracian helm and gambeson (AC 7)
7. Iron trident (d6), brass fish-helmet and scutum (AC 7)
8. Naked but for a bronze belt (AC 8), 3 javelins (d6) and torch
*+Shields and banners bear blazon (d4);
1. Crimson Frog 2. Iron boot on skull 3. Sinister Polliwog 4. Green Cauldron

VI - Pye-Men are cackling feral lunatics that run upon all-fours and gibber at the sky . The lands beyond the pale echo with their thronging madness, they run down whatever they can catch to gorge themselves in ghastly moonlit revels. In the Meagre-Lands those who too gluttonously devour and rut and leer are known to be the get of pye-men by the seed of an ill-omened moon and burned and flayed alive.
Following Scavengers  1d6
1. Reeking Foulmarts (3d6)
2. Rabid Swine (1d3)
3. Wildcats (1d20)
4. Wayward Lurchers (1d12)
5. Gore-Crows (2d10)
6. Hagfish-Bats (3d10)
One of the major ongoing debates in biological taxonomy is between the lumpers who tend to group together various similar specimens under the same taxonomic designation and the splitters who tend to create new taxa based upon minor differences. Teratologically speaking, I am a lumper. I think there is a self-indulgent proliferation of practically indistinguishable stat-blocks cluttering up rulebooks everywhere. Surely room could be made for more self-indulgent fluff.

Edit: Gongs come from very early Tolkien, they get no description saving vague reference to them being like orcs. I think they are mentioned three times in the Books of Lost Tales. Should I publish* they'll have to become Gnogs or Boakie-Men or Oafish Gloones.

*I won't

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Shopping list

Bear-hunting suit
Lantern Shield

Pata, gauntlet sword from India, traditionally dual-wielded by windmilling lunatics
Tarch, Russian gauntlet/sword/shield for when you really don't want to stick your hand in there 

The notorious lantern-shield, gauntlet, spike, sword-breaker,sword combo from the Kunsthistoriches Museum in Vienna
A jack: textile armour, actually remarkably arrow-proof
Another jack, this is what light armour was really like
Polynesian coconut husk and rattan armour, primitive light armour from across ye sea

Asian ring mail, ineffective light armour for unlikable hirelings

Executioner's Sword for disobedient hirelings

Bespectacled helmets with big stupid horns actually impose a morale penalty on adversaries

Dussack, brutish simplicity of functional form epitomised

Chu-Ko-Nu, Chinese repeating crossbow, short range, very inaccurate but very high ROF

Fairly ridiculous halberd

Grenado, note shrapnel segments

Cranequin Arbalest, a beautiful piece of killing technology

Various nasty flails

Mustachioed helmets impose a more severe morale penalty

Armour for Dwarfs, halflings and belligerent children

Extra thick sapper's armour, bullet proof but obscenely heavy

One of these things

These are the tools of whatever passed for the constabulary of feudal Japan. On the left is a tsukubo, essentially a mancatcher, designed to get caught in the garments of the criminal and twisted to immobilised the individual, though I am sure this thing could be used to batter someone to death should the need arise. The middle weapon translates as "sleeve-entangler" though I imagine you could get it entangled in someone's ligaments if need be. The third weapon I don't know.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

building the primitive arrows

Hang on, this is supposed to be the Realms

There's this thing called values dissonance and it exists in cases where two viewpoints are separated by a significant period of time or in scenarios where a member of one culture is exposed to an idea from and entirely different culture. According to a National Geographic I read many years ago there is or was a phenomenon in a part of Papua New Guinea called a cassowary war. This occurs when two different tribes (or villages or groups or whatever) have a conflict. The conflict is resolved by each side sacrificing as many cassowaries as it can. Because cassowaries are  a unit of currency of primary importance and produce goods of value to the group, the group with the strongest will to makes sacrifices, literally and figuratively, and, to an extent, the group with the greatest wealth, wins by virtue of having slaughtered the largest number of enormous primordial jungle birds.

Now some people may think this is an admirable way of resolving conflict. It's essentially a series of  ritualistic actions that have nothing to do with the conflict save as a referentially exuberant abstract sign. My guess is that the people to whom such a sign holds value see it as an unarguable mandate of the universe. If your tribe doesn't kill enough cassowaries you have inherited the subordinate position with regards to this particular issue and are required as if by some force of nature to defer to the victorious faction.

I just so happen to think that such behaviour is fairly insane and struggle to conceive how such a thing took root. I understand that there is this thing called sacrifice that stands in as a kind of proxy action to assuage an anthropomorphised universe that extracts suffering from individuals in exchange for whatever it may be that individual might want, but I reel with vertigo in contemplation of the conceptual chasms that lie between me and whoever thinks like that.

Sometimes I think I am embedded so deeply in my own constructed reality I can't begin to imagine what's going on in others'. People are embroiled in passionate dialogues with one another and their motivations are so opaque that, to me, they don't pass the Turing test. I am unconvinced that they are alive and real and made of the same universe-in-motion as I am. In part I think it's because I'm such a fucking aspie but I think it's also because I am way out here beyond the left teetering on the edge of genocidal eradicationism from contemplation of the entropy we accept to be the price of our profligacy. It's like Cthulhu is awake and wandering around with his morning cuppa, yawning his tentacled yawn and thinking about how what he's going to do today is going to make the Permian extinction seem fairly minor, and folks are still arguing about whether Wizards are going to support Fourth Edition online. This makes me want to vomit with terror for a number of reasons.

This is what people are like

So, I guess the point is; it's all a big cassowary war, nothing you do is without cost, the machine in which you are embedded will destroy ancient miracles in order to give your biscuit a creamy mouthfeel and I'll never understand you.


The world is a hellish place, and bad writing is destroying the quality of our suffering.”
Tom Waits

Sorry, Tom.

So, Joesky, I haven't forgotten you, though many have. As it happens I became convinced that you were actually the meticulously orthographically inaccurate alter-ego of a Kiwi girl who is a nuclear furnace of creative energy. But as you were always more of a universal constant of the universe than a person whose origins are even conceivable by such a mortal as I am, I shall question nothing but obey your edict.


Rendering fats from slaughtered hogs for greasing heirloom armour is the epitome of the subjugation of the physical and sensual to the machinery of hate*. The mechanisms of mortality and mortification, the rampant doctrines of the imperial church that wrench all the beauty from the world are adopted and upheld by the northern clergy in multifarious forms but infected and shot-through by the undercurrents of savage paganism and ancestor worship, for the dead are the precurors of all things and they hold sway, grandfather-bones and beast-hides and masonry are the forces at work here. Devil-fear and Church-fear and the fear of the wild unconscious that is beyond the palisade of hewn wood and piled stone and inside the living skin. As such it is always the screaming black horses in the snow and the rattle of bones on fell standards and totemic death-cult warriors of the otherworld, always the dissonant chanting of apostate zealots, always the drunken braying hellsongs of blasted renegadoes on purgatorial paths a-stumble. All the crusaders are lost upon the roads of abandoned provinces staggering back from the shining lands or the dread realms of pagan kinglets incinerated in HIS holy name.
Life in the service of death

1. Erastus Cronesmite, elongated petitioning half-saint grown huge of deepest ardent longing for transcendence. All bones and ropy sinew he is and tonsured gaunt head. His very glance is piercing profundity as awakens a whirling vastness in the breast and a starveling hunger for solitude and unyielding devotion. The mighty staff he bears is shod and banded with bronze to righteously correct those who seek not the light with sufficient zeal.
2. The Lang Man of Osterwick: twenty foot tall enormously bearded bestial thunderstorm of a man. Characterised by a constant deafening roar of furious ranting and gurning and gnashing as strikes fear into bravest hearts. Kicks men sky-high like a football or grabs them by the feet and dashes their brains out. Throws trees and bowls great stones.
3. Codricke the Tarnie Wight: Known as a Fishy Bastard , on a stony shoreline of lake in the mountains he squats among altars of stones and fishbones, singing with a rich and croaky voice in the muddy haze of dawn, playing a song of drowning on a harp of bone and braided sinew. A Priapic toadfish idol of bronze in his house in the silty deep of the tarn allows 3+ level MU to magic jar 1/day. 9 ft tall and clad in fishskin, wields huge bone harpoon.
4. Old Mabba: Sits in hollow hill of ruin knitting bone and flesh and glands into Gristlebairns like wretched gnawing children come groping in the night to eat your skin. She muttering maintains a soliloquy gleefully decrying the woes of mankind and cursing all sunshine and life . She seeks to consume beauty.
5. The Baronet of Clunderfrith: To whom the world is a splendid masquerade of horrors. Grins and strides like an allegorical epitome of plunderous lusty hate. Attired as a Doublesoldier ten feet tall and brimful of darkly vehemence and flourishing of preposterous great-sword gleaming like moonlight.
6. Marrow the Ragman: always watches from afar, wrecks peaceful sleep so nobody can heal. Sullen gaze and cloud of drifting dust motes drags the mind into realms so utterly forlorn that oblivion beckons abominably enticing. Eleven feet tall.
7. Skewbald Jack: Man-high gamboling prankster of gaily tinctured muscle and bone and tattered motley, grotesquely festive and ludicrously deadly. He chuckles as he dances and hops and plays jauntily vehement upon a hurdy-gurdy. Riled, he leaps upon men and tears them asunder, laughing at the secret colours of their entrails.
Can't be bothered with crunch right now but I'm not sure it's necessary here.
Two things; 1.What an interesting choice for the pose of the horse and 2. Haven't dragons been crammed into a tiny little conceptual space of late? This guy is like someone's duodenum grown fanged and furious

* I read once about a Roman legion passing through a district where they commandeered and slaughtered all the pigs belonging to the locals to render for fat to suppress rust on the armour of the 5000+ legionnaires,leaving the locals hungry and impoverished and the pigs dead. Armies are monsters. It doesn't matter what side they are on.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

earth devours man

What follows is a thick green miscellany.

The title of this post come from the most interesting search term used to find this blog of late. I am sufficent of a pontificator that I feel obliged to point out the humble tragedy encoded in the lowercase usage of that term. Planet Earth does not devour all mankind, earth devours man, soil consumes an individual bloke. How sad. How very glum and dreary and quietly beautiful.

I have quite a thing for soil. It is everything to us as biological entities living our allotted span betwixt spawning and senescence, and if anything is holy, dirt should be holy. It is a living substrate consisting of planet-dust and dead ancestors and it can magically transubstantiate into whatever the fuck we need to survive. Hundertwasser also considered it something of a necessity for human survival that shit be considered holy. I tend to agree, taking out nutrients from the soil and then throwing them away is unforgivably stupid and destroys civilisations as sure as any ravening horde ever did.

Recycle your shit


I get a lot of inspiration from contemplation of psychedelic experiences. Most of my own are half a life ago.  I am, however, aware that the building blocks of every hallucinatory experience are available to some extent to the conscious mind. Additionally, I've read a lot on the matter, enough to know that numinous experience, in all its grandeur and terror and unflinching ferocity is available to everyone, all they need are the tools and techniques - be they Baptist gospel choirs, shrooms, self-flagellation or Tolkien.

I also know that numous experience is responsible for art just as much as art is responsible for numinous experience and that so much of what is called fantasy is fundamentally about visionary states.

Of particular interest to me is  Northern Renaissance painting and its depictions of psychedelic hellish Weirdness. With which stuff I shall now bombard thee.

There is nothing like this stuff in D&D

Ryckaert painting translated as Dance of the Leprechauns (!)

Like nothing else in the world

It should be noted that these are produced by extremely pious individuals at a time of religious ferment and that the Reformation probably played a role in inspiring these apocalyptic images. That said, this shit is fucked up in a very particularly psychedelic way, very similar to the hallucinatory style of John the Revelator's book and potentially influenced by the outbreaks of ergotism that afflicted Northern Europe in them days. I don't think that this stuff is necessarily produced under the influence of hallucinogens but I think it was produced in a time and by a culture seriously obsessed with visionary experience. Likewise, I don't subscribe to the idea that Jesus was a mushroom but I do think it a lttle bit weird that this fringe apocalyptic visionary cult has become such a force for the suppression of individual visionary exploration.

And I'm veering into the political again.


Here's some fluff from the Middenmurk which I will preface with an explanation. In Tolkien's On Fairy Stories (which someone should publish together with Lovecraft's Supernatural Horror in Literature, they are deeply resonant with one another those two essays) the good Prof. laments the diminishment of the original fairies from noble and wild otherworldy entities to cutesy little flower sprites. I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment and am interested in a parallel departure from the incredibly fucking boring WoW-style contemporary unflappable sexy person elf to something more intellectually disabled or dissociative or flamboyantly maniacal and fey. So Elfland is a weird place and elves are inherently transgressive, like this guy;

I don't know who made this photo but its impact is undeniable

-A Howe: 'neath a grassy mound on shrouded moors is a inverted kingdom of brilliantly hued strangeness. Elongated greenish heron-folk, Twiggy-men and barely coalescent dwimmer-crafty courtiers attend the Equinoctial Court. Blasted grim and silent chicken-footed geezers toil at weaving and smith-work, and capering Hinky-punks prostrate at the feet of the wayward angels who seem ostensibly to reign for the majority of the time. These three are; Salmagunde, who is the Bride of Badgers, clad in autumnal leaves and greyish mucus, and Chymic Flankette who is a horned man of bluish stony visage, and the Laird Impregnable - Magister of Silt and invisible for centuries, all are stewards of carnivorous twilight.

Mostly these three seem to reign but for the frequent Holy-Days when stolen human children are given sceptre and diadem and the Oranges of Infinite Justice and called upon to arbitrate various untranslatable infractions, the punishment of which seems always to be recitation of substandard poetry, or flaying alive for less serious transgressions.

After reading speculation that St. Nick is partly a memory of the Bishop of Turkey and partly an avatar of Amanita muscaria I thought it would be interesting to use what I know of shroomlore to create a more interesting midwinter festive figure.

Upon the Night of Blackest Yule there is a sound on the roof of the hovel and an elder shaman antler-crowned and skinny climbs through the smoke-hole to bestow magic piss into the mouths of the sleepers. When they awake it is into a dream of fierce and brilliant vitality. In their minds they run like young horses across a steppe with the winds of a gathering storm rippling the grass, waves of gleaming sunlight racing across the bright-green sea. Then they are plunged into grey darkness, embedded in a glutinous substance and screaming through densest silence. Then they are unity itself, then splintered into such a multiplicity that they can never, ever, ever get back together. When they wake a second time they are changed.

Save vs. poison, success means transcendental insight is gained (+1 WIS), failure means an ill-dream of anguish and forgetfulness haunts the waking world (level drain)



Victor Ambrus is awesome

So I'm working fecklessly on a project and striving to find the middle road between railroad-y prescriptiveness (which I hate) and gonzo randomness bereft of a strong sense of internal consistency. I'm a Tolkien fiend from childhood and am very enamoured of the seamless sense of an internally consistent world the Professor achieved at the cost of tremendous labour and which would probably have seen him rewrite everthing several times over had he had the chance. I am also very fond of the elements he allowed into the mythos which were a little bit jarring and which might have been effaced later on in a moment of sobriety had not the pressure to publish precluded the opportunity. Bombadil is one of these, the primordially avuncular nature spirit (or whatever he is) cops flak from those to whom mawkish jollity is anathema but to me there is something wonderful about him. Beorn is another, once we get into the grim seriousness of LOTR post-Rivendell, dudes do not turn into bears or have helpful serving-goats, that would be silly, but I like these wrinkles in the composure of the story. I like the fucked-up steampunk monstrosities that destroyed the walls of Gondolin before Tolkien decided that was a bit too gonzo and I like Melko getting chased up a pine tree in some early scrap of bootleg juvenilia before things get mythically consistent in a way myth never was.

However, I think that the combinatorial randomising approach that the OSR has embraced and, to an extent, improved upon, is potentially less than optimal for creating and maintaining a tone unless that tone is specifically absurd and chaotic and open to the intrusions of discordant elements. I understand that, of course, the game is about communal goofing-off as much as it is about cohesive narrative but all I am striving for is a balance between the two poles.

N.C Wyeth in understated mode
One of the significant issues I face in pursuit of this end is my tendency to codify everything in turgid little prose poems with a distinctly unplayable quality. I can't really help myself. It is a compulsion. My intention is to convey as much as possible the style and tones and generic conventions of the setting without resorting to blocks of faux history and faux geography which I cannot bear and cannot read and certainly cannot write.

So little nuggets is it then, in a style like the guy who wrote Eye of Argon doing a pastiche of Clark Ashton Smith doing Poe doing Pilgermann*  and describing only that which can be mechanically codified or lead to further opportunities for expanding the narrative.

 I like bandits. I remember Dr. McGrogan writing (in the thread that lead to his big old Monster pdf and which was my  introduction to the embryonic OSR back in late '08 while I was teaching in some shitty nowhere town in the desert) that it would be great if someone did a Monster Manual consisting entirely of humans. I agree, I think humans are the best adversaries. Almost all of the decent minable-for-ideas literature out there deals with human conflict and that which ostensibly does not really does 'cos that's all there is. That is what we're pretending to do, really (kill people).

So I guess this would be part of a big old Crossing the Fells table and would appear like this;

 roll d10
1. Mouldering Hugo and his Wherrymen
2. Coney Skinners
3. Helgafel the Mummer-queen
4. Runagate Pikers
5. Groote Hans
6. Bartholomaeus Crumpe
7. Magisterial Bombardiers
8. Bridge Churls
9. Lost Crusaders
10. Pontifical Harquebusiers

1. Mouldering Hugo and his Wherrymen attack with kern-darts and six-foot morningstars at the ford. They are bow-legged grizzle-beards in smocks of dun and Jarrowneck green. Hugo is a grinning oaf of poetic distractions who fights with Lang-dirk and targe. The seven Wherrymen sing the Ballad of the Frisky Mule (or suchlike lacklustre peasant ditty) as they wade to the attack. All are sick with grippe and casually sadistic.

Mouldering Hugo - AC: 6 (coat-of-plates, targe) HD: 3 hp: 17 Dmg: 1d6+2 (lang-dirk, STR) ML: 10

Wherrymen (7) - AC: 8 HD: 1 hp: 4 each Dmg: 1d6 or 1d10 ML: 8

Booty - sack of 77 groats hidden in a barge amongst the weeds by the riverside, Hugo has a silver Tetrarchic Signet Ring worth 25 groats, anyone wearing this will be hunted by the Tetrarchic Heterodoxy

Special - Fighting waist-deep in the ford imposes a -1 penalty to AC. Anyone coming into contact with these men must save vs. poison or contract grippe.

2. In a steep land of moss and scree and stony echoes an ambush launched by green-stained youths befalls the party. Babbling, feral and mostly naked they roll down great rocks and hurl bones and shards of stone from inaccessible clefts above. The Coney-skinners may be placated with offerings of food or frightened off with fire but they cannot speak for they are immeasurably mad.

Coney Skinners - (17) AC: 9 HD: 1/2 hp: 1 each Dmg: d2 (rock) ML: 4

Booty - a dented bronze cauldron worth 2 groats hidden in some brush

Special - 6 working together are able to roll 1 boulder every three rounds which will require one character to take evasive action (forgoing that round's action) or be forced to save vs. petrification to avoid taking 1d8 dmg. One of the youths is the wayward heir to the Earldom of Scroggscombe lost on a hunting trip three years prior.

 3. Heralded by a discordant trumpeting in the distant gloaming comes Helgafel the Mummer-Queen and his gaudy entourage in tempestuous purple and jaundice-green. They come from a night of ghastly rapine glittery-eyed and bedaubed with night-soil, arrogant and queasy beyond mortal ken.

Helgafel - E3 AC: 6 (jupon, burgonet, DEX) hp: 12 Dmg: 1d8 (estoc) ML: 9 Spells: sleep, charm, invisibility

Revelers - (8): E1 AC: 8 (jupons) hp: 3 Dmg: d10 x 5 (ranseur, brandistock, feather-staff, war-scythe, military fork) d6/d4 x 3 (crossbows/ballock daggers) ML: 9 Spells: light (polearm users), sleep (crossbowmen)

Booty - Brightly coloured animal masques of silk and painted leather - 20 groats apiece, 1d12 groats apiece in spangled purses, plundered amber, ivory and silverware worth 1d20 groats apiece, 3 brazen bugles worth 15 groats apiece, Helgafel's estoc and burgonet are particularly fine and worth 100 groats apiece.

Special - The light spell will be used in an offensive capacity (to blind). Anyone displaying items seized from this troupe will receive a -3 reaction penalty in the Lowlands such is the fear and dread in which Helgafel and Co. are held. It may be possible to raise an angry mob aginst them.

4. Driving a dozen shackled slave children through mud and sleet come five Runagate Pikers with the black man-tyger of Scroggscombe blazoned on their mottled tabards. They bear half-pikes and scars and are hollow-eyed with fatigue. They reek of the battlefield and unforgivable sin. Crows follow them.

Pikers (5) - AC: 7 (jack, kettle-hat) HD: 1 hp: 4 each Dmg: d8 (half-pike 2-handed) ML: 6

Booty - 50 groats worth of tackle

Special - The children are kidnapped from the Petty Baronies of Framgarth, though the pikers be deserters their association with the Earl of Scroggcombe is sufficient to raise tensions between the two demesnes.

5. Sitting on a waystone at a desolate crossroads is Groote Hans, seven-feet tall and broad of beam, with battleaxe and bearskin and piggy little eyes. He greets danger with affable scorn for arrows will not pierce his gleaming byrnie nor bloodshed detract from his good mood. From all who come he demands tribute and servility. He may be persuaded by invocation of ancient rite to take part in a drinking contest for none can best him under heaven.

Hans - F3 AC: 5 (byrnie, spangenhelm) hp: 20 Dmg: 1d10 + 3 (Carle's Axe) ML: 12

Booty - Pewter goblet worth 5 groats, Antler-handled eating-knife worth 7 groats

Special - Byrnie of Blunderous Grylde; huge mail shirt of double weight and completely impervious to normal missiles but bestowing complete fearlessness such that the wearer is completely incapable of retreat.

I think Michael Hague always wanted to be Edmund Dulac, perhaps because Dulac was so very good

6. One Bartholemaeus Crumpe, excommunicated Scrivener of the Archimandrite’s Judiciary, waits in a dark grove. Crumpe bears the marks of torture – he wears a wooden nose and his ears are gone. With him are his eight hooded henchmen with torches and knives. All are cannibals. All are hungry.

Crumpe - T2 AC: 6 (brigandine) hp: 7 Dmg: 1d6 (war-knife) ML: 8

Henchmen - AC: 9 HD: 1 hp: 3 each Dmg: 1d4 (torch or knife) ML: 6

Booty - 1d4 groats apiece in filthy undergarments

Special - Crumpe's wooden nose would be of interest to agents of the Archimandrite

7. Away on a plain of long grass burnt yellow by the frost are toiling a troupe of Magisterial Bombardiers with iron ordnance and heavy tackle, their hose long since abandoned to the dysenteric flux that spatters their legs. From afar the wind carries the stink of filth and sulphur and the sound of their deaf and braying voices bawling out a marching song.

Bombardiers - (12): AC: 8 (cabassets) HD: 1 hp: 3 each Dmg: 1d4 (stiletto) or special ML: 7

Booty - 1d6 groats apiece in grubby wallets, Rusty Iron Mortar 500 groats to the right individual, 3 exploding shells - 60 groats apiece, Powder keg, half-full - 50 groats, Sundry articles of tackle 50 groats

Special - Mortar causes 3d6 dmg to all within 20 ft. from exploding shrapnel but Bombardiers need to hit an AC 3 to get within 20 ft. ROF 1/7rds, Range 150/250/300, first shot will obscure area with smoke, Will explode on a 1 for full effect to those firing, Bombardiers can talk but not hear.

8. Half a dozen shambolic Bridge-Churls on an ill-fated jaunt into banditry have barricaded a dilapidated bridge in a forsaken region and demand an unreasonable toll and any and all spirituous liquors from those who would cross. They are desperate and humourless and armed with rough and knotty war-bows and mauls. Their barricade is a paltry affair.

Churls (6) - AC: 8 (barricade) HD: 1 hp: 4 each Dmg: 1d6 (arrow) or 1d8 (maul) ML: 6

Booty - 15 poorly cured hides worth 1 groat apiece

Special - Such is their disillusionment with this venture that they will gladly join the party should they fail a morale check.

9. In the interminably dreek Marish-folds, emerging from the fog astride gaunt and archaic destriers come two septuagenarian Lost Crusaders in rusty harness. They are veterans of the Schism of the Accipitrine Concordat and half a hundred other campaigns. One will formally demand seizure of goods and chattel as a tithe to aid completion of the uncompleted 31st Crusade against the Leper-King of Blaskinforthe. The other will take exception to the heraldry, courtesy or theology of anyone present and demand judicial duels by pollaxe, by flail, by jousting and by wrastling.

Sir Umberton Nunsputter - F3 AC: 1 (plate harness, heater shield) hp: 17 Dmg: 1d6+1 (war-hammer, STR) or 1d10 x 2 +1 (couched lance at full tilt, STR) ML: 10

Don Romualdo the Intransigent - F2 AC: 2 (Plate, rotella) hp: 14 Dmg: 1d10 x 2 (couched lance) or 1d10 (pollaxe) or 1d8 (flail) or 1d2 (wrastling) ML: 10

Destriers - AC: 7 HD: 5 hp: 22 Dmg: 1d6 (bite/stomp) ML: 10

Booty - 3d10 groats apiece, Sundry weapons, Map with markings clearly indicating the lairs of a tatzelwurm, a haunt of Hob-grues and Codricke the Tarnie-Wight

Special - The destriers would be worth 500 groats or more apiece but their savagery makes such a transaction unfeasible.

10. Crouching in the wiry brush behind boulders atop a rocky knoll are five Pontifical Harquebusiers in ragged regalia. They seek to prosecute an ambuscade with terribly inefficient and complicated martial pomp and thunderous reeking fusillades and shouting, They are mustachioed and starving and heedless of mercy.

Harquebusiers (5) - F1 AC: 8/7 (morion, buckler) hp: 4 each Dmg: 1d8 (harquebus, ROF 1/3 rds) or 1d6 (pigsticker) ML: 8

Booty - 1d10 groats apiece, Scarlet Episcopal vestments of broidered silk in a hidden chest, worth 60 groats.

Special - The Harquebusiers do not know that the Seventy-Years-War ended long since and that the Pontificate and the Magisterium are united in the Crusade against the Lacustrine Apostasy.

* The best novel in the world. I shit you not.