Lost Worlds Fantasy Combat Book Game

Earlier this week I wrote a post about vintage ads from the pages of Dragon Magazine. While taking that stroll down memory lane I came across one game in particular that had held a special place in my heart for a brief moment of time.

My original two game books

Designed by Alfred Leonardi and released by Nova Game Designs, Lost Worlds was a fantasy combat book game that debuted in 1983. Leonardi had already had a considerable hit with Ace of Aces, a WWI dogfighting game from 1980. Lost Worlds capitalized on the explosion of interest in fantasy games at the time and delivered a fun little diversion.

The game itself revolved around individual game books, with each game book representing a particular character. The characters themselves ranged from the fairly mundane “Man in Chainmail with Sword and Shield” or “Woman in Scale with Sword and Shield” to the more fantastical like “Skeleton with Scimitar and Shield” or “Giant Goblin with Mace and Shield.”.

Character Sheet

Each book contained a removable character sheet (listing various maneuvers that the character was capable of) depicted the character in various poses. Essentially a dueling game, the idea was that both players would come to the table with their own book and then fight it out until one was victorious.

At the start of play, you would remove your character sheet and then pass the booklet itself to your opponent. As the game commenced, you would turn to a pre-determined page in the book. The picture on the starting page would essentially give you a first-person view of your opponent’s character squaring off and ready to fight.

Looking at your character sheet, you would select the maneuver you wanted to carry out and them flip to the page with the corresponding number. Once both players were ready, they would exchange the number of their maneuvers, consult the matrix at the bottom of the page, and then proceed to the page that they were directed to.

Dragon magazine print ad ~1983.

Every time that you would turn to the results page you would be treated to a view of your opponent. If your attacks happened to land, you might see a damage amount and depending on the circumstances, you might be given specific text to read to your opponent (often limiting his/her actions for the next turn). The game would continue in this manner until one of the combatants lost all their body points and was knocked out of commission. Most fights would resolve in just a few minutes.

Skeleton takes a leg wound.

Early on, most of the game books were based on humanoid combatants of similar power levels. However, as years went on their ranks were joined by more monstrous characters like a unicorn, a drake, and even a manticore.

I played it in my teens, so I can’t provide a great deal of commentary on how balanced the system was. Certainly each book wasn’t of equal strength (but I don’t think you would want them to be). A skeleton fighting a hill troll would be in for a bad time. However, for the most part I seem to recall any two like-sized combatants having a decent chance of winning against the other.

Certainly other bits about the mechanics largely made sense. If I happened to do a wild swing maneuver at the same time that my opponent jumped back, there was a good chance that I would be spun around, leaving my back exposed to my opponent. Things like that were a nice touch and really made it feel like your choices were impacting the outcome of the game.

Here you can see the matrix at the bottom of the page.

I first encountered Lost Worlds at Gen Con in 1983. This was back when it was still being held at the University of Wisconsin Parkside. Nova Game Designs ran a tournament that year for anyone purchasing a game book. Along with your game book you were given a badge depicting the character from the book that you had purchased. You were asked to wear your badge, allowing other convention goers to see you as you wandered the halls. Then, when you saw someone else with a badge, you could challenge them on the spot and fight it out.

Due to the brief play time, Lost Worlds wasn’t really something that a group would sit down and play for hours. However, I remember it fondly as something we would often break out on our regular game day, while we were waiting for the rest of our RPG group to arrive.

I lost track of the development of the game in the late 1980s, as real life started to pull me further away from the hobby. It appears that the game has ha many publishers and occasional resurgences over the years, though it has been ages since I’ve come across any mention of it.

That’s all for now. Did you ever experience these Lost Worlds game books, either back in the day or in a more recent incarnation? Hope you have a good weekend!

Vintage Ads From Dragon Magazine #55

Earlier in the week I was flipping through the pages of some old copies of Dragon magazine. I found that I really enjoyed reminiscing and perusing all of the old advertisements. At any rate, I thought some of you might enjoy taking a peek at these as well.

This batch is from Dragon #55 (November 1981). Perhaps these were before your time or perhaps you remember them better than I do. Either way, I hope you enjoy.

St. Regis Dungeons & Dragons Notebooks & Binders

These were entirely lost from my memory until I saw the ad. St. Regis must have acquired the D&D license from TSR (probably not terribly costly in 1981) and produced a line of notebooks, binders, and folders. I’m getting old but it feels like notebooks, binders, & folders were a bigger deal in the 1980s than they currently are.

I’m not sure how wide of a release these had but I suspect it was fairly minimal. I remember finding them at the bookstore in my Jr. High School and wishing I could buy the lot. As I recall, I ended up buying a folder and calling it a day. You do what you can when you’re 11.

I remember the artwork on all of these as being quite striking and I do not believe I ever saw the artist work on any official TSR products. Apparently these were done by a fellow named Alex Nuckols. If you’re curious to see more, a quick Google search will yield some results. In particular, I’d suggest checking out this post from Scrum in Miniature.

One final note on this one is to notice the mention of “Free 28 sheet pack of gamers graph paper!” Graph paper wasn’t that easy to find in 1981. I’m sure adults managed to track it down. However, to kids my age it was a prized commodity.

Full Page Iron Crown Enterprises Ad

Most products from Iron Crown Enterprises (I.C.E.) were out of my reach as a kid. Nobody stocked their line close to me and my meager allowance wouldn’t have been sufficient to delve into their products even if they did.

Since I’d love to hear from someone who knows better than I do, I’m not going to go into a great deal of research here. Instead I’ll stick with my recollection.

Spell Law is the main product advertised here. It was a generic magic system, built to plug into the RPG of your choice. The was preceded by Arms Law (Martial combat) and followed by Claw Law, which I believe dealt with beasts and such.

As I recall, much of this line was eventually rolled together to become Rolemaster, a percentile based fantasy ttrpg. Rolemaster was one of those games that was always around but never end up directly crossing my path. Looks like later iterations of the game are still available on DriveThruRPG.

Their product that I did spend some time with was Middle-earth Role Playing (MERP). At least loosely built on the Rolemaster system, I believe this was the first officially licensed ttrpg based on Tolkien’s works.


Another item in the “blink and you would miss it” category was Dragonbone. This electronic dice roller was a plastic wand that allowed you to select your desired range (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20, or d%). Once you made your selection you would be provided a randomized “roll” via a little red LED.

I will say that when I was 11, I may very well have had some Dragonbone envy. That said, I think they missed the fact that people really dig rolling dice.

I believe I saw them in real life at the Gen Con exhibitor hall, back when the convention was held at the University of Wisconsin Parkside. However, I never saw one at the gaming table.


That’s all for now. Drop me a comment if I’ve left anything out of if you have a favorite product that’s largely lost to time.

A Classical Xanti Tomb Complex

In ancient Xanti, there is a common belief in reincarnation. Among the worshippers of the cult of Kaa, tradition dictates that wealthy nobles be buried along with their belongings, in elaborate tombs.

The tenets of their faith claims they will be reunited with their possessions in their next life. Whether this be truth or folly, only the gods know. However, woe to the dessert thief who tries to claim these riches for herself.

-Bhagiro Hatti, Gowandian Scholar

1.    Entrance

The entrances to Xanti tombs are often built into the side of canyon walls. Purposely left open, as a welcome to the gods, they are occasionally sealed off with sand from blowing desert winds. It is believed that when a tomb is sealed off in such a manner that the inhabitants will be forsaken by their deities and lose their opportunity for everlasting life.

A Kosantian adventurer faces off with reanimated tomb guardians. Artwork © 2015 Dean Spencer, used with permission. All rights reserved.

While not sealed, Xanti tombs are not without their protections. Necromancers place tomb guardians in the form of skeletal warriors at the entrance of the complex. This particular tomb holds 6 such guardians in niches to the left and right of the entrance.

Each armed with a khopesh, these skeletal figures will remain lifeless unless someone intrudes on the tomb. Once disturbed they will animate and seek to eliminate the threat.

2.    Dead End / Pit

This corridor halts at a dead end, with a 10’ deep pit. To the inexperienced, this may at first seem to be a very obvious trap. However, this is actually a very purposeful key to the tomb, placed by the architect.

Any who have studied ancient Xanti burial rights will know what this portends. This signals to any future caretakers that the safe pace through the tomb is to take the leftmost choice at any intersection.

3.    Offering Room

This room contains 4 ceremonial offering niches, where well-wishers could visit, prior to the tomb being sanctified. They would fill these niches with all manner of offerings for the departed, in a belief that this would curry favor for them in the next life.

In the center of the room a pool of water gives off an eldritch blue glow. The pool with radiate as magical if any with the ability to check for such things happens to do so. Exactly what its properties are is a secret lost to time. However, legends tell that supplicants leaving offerings would drink from the well to receive a boon from the gods.

The pictured tomb is that of a mid-level noblewoman. Of the present offerings, most are fairly mundane sundry items. There are sacks of old grain, olive oil, bottles of wine that have long since turned to vinegar, and bolts of linen. A close search will turn up a gold scarab pendant and a garnet ring that are both finely crafted.

4.    Shrine

This room is the shrine where priests of Kaa would give their final prayers for the departed. During these ceremonies, 4 earthen-ware vessels bearing cobras would be placed within the room as part of the invocation ritual. The reptiles are long since dead and likely nothing remains of them.

5.    Beetle Pit

Tomb beetle. Art by: gary@gdupuis.com

This floor of this room is littered with a number of old bones. The opposite end of the room is dominated by a well that is 10’ in diameter. After crossing the threshold to this room, PCs will hear a skittering noise coming from the well. Within 2 rounds of this, 4 giant beetles will emerge from the hole and attack until slain.

If explored, the pit will be found to descend 30’, though there are numerous tunnels branching off in other directions. These other tunnels have been created by the beetles. They are not large enough to stand up in, susceptible to collapse, and parties unwise enough to venture into them should meet more beetles promptly.

6.    The Burial Chamber

This ornately decorated room is the burial chamber itself. The noblewoman’s sarcophagus dominates the center of this pillared room, while those of her 8 attendants line the northern, western, and southern walls.

These three walls are adorned with detailed paintings depicting scenes from the life of the departed. The eastern wall is reserved for images of what she hopes for in her new life.

7.    Fire Trap

Those foolish enough to cross the threshold from the burial chamber into this L-shaped hall will immediately hear an audible click. However, nothing else will happen at this time.

If anyone walks forward to the right-angle and then follows until the dead end, they will be in for a surprise. As soon more than 5 lbs. of weight is placed on the 5’ section of tile at the dead end, 7 gouts of flame with shoot out from holes on the right side of the wall.

The flames will persist until there is less than 5 lbs. of weight being applied to any of the 3 east-west floor tiles marked with flames on the map. However, after 4 rounds the mechanism will run out of fuel.

If specifically searching, perceptive characters may notice the small holes in the wall.

8.    Treasure Room

This room would contain the worldly treasures of the departed. While there would certainly be some coins and gemstones, other items dear to the individual would be here as well. Bolts of fine silk, oils, and incense would be common among such items. In addition, books of arcane knowledge might be stored here for safekeeping until the afterlife.

Final Notes

That wraps up another week. Again, this isn’t intended to be a full-on adventure but I thought perhaps that this might get the creative juices flowing for some of you. Please let me know if any of this sets your mind to wandering. Hopefully, instead of dreading the new work week that is quickly approaching, you’ll be able to let your thoughts drift a bit to future sessions around the gaming table. Good gaming and have a great week!

5. The Stables

Continuing my series about the town of Cross Tree, this week I am covering location #5, the Stables. As previously mentioned, I will keep this as system neutral as possible. There won’t be any in-game stats provided. Instead, I will focus on what you would need to know, should your players opt to visit the stables.

The Stables

Enough travelers pass through to keep the operation worthwhile for its owner. However, she is new to the town and inherited the property after it had been allowed to go downhill for a number of years.

Taryn Keen

Taryn Keen is a young human woman who appears to be in her mid-twenties. She has green eyes and auburn hair that falls below her shoulders. Taryn bears a tattoo of a black dragon, just below her collar bone, on her left side. Under normal circumstances, she dresses quite plainly in wool breeches with a linen shirt.

Taryn Keen. Art by: Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art @ Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games. http://www.fatgoblingames.com

Having inherited the stables from her uncle Benjamin, Taryn has only been in town for a little over a year. She grew up in a large city to the west, where she spent her youth working in her father’s stables.

An adventurer in his younger days, Benjamin Keen had owned the stables in Cross Tree for over 25 years, until he went missing 2 years ago. Townsfolk claim that he had an unhealthy fixation on legends of a lost city somewhere in the vicinity of Cross Tree.

Rather than operate and take care of his business, Benjamin was known to wander off into the woods for days at time. It is believed that he was obsessed with finding the lost city. On one such expedition, Benjamin failed to return.

When it was clear that the stablemaster was not likely to come back, word was sent to the family and Taryn arrived within the year. Having had a good deal of previous experience, she set about to putting things back in shape. The house itself still needs work but she is getting there.

Besides boarding, Taryn grooms the animals left in her charge and provides medical attention as necessary. She supplements her income by caring for the other beasts of burden and livestock around the town. Her rates would be considered modest compared to whatever is standard in your game. While her operation is too small to carry equestrian equipment, Astolpho & Gina at the mercantile, carry all of the basics.

1st Floor

The eastern portion of the ground floor is comprised of Taryn’s living quarters, while the room to the west is what she uses as an office.

2nd Floor

In addition to Taryn’s bedchamber, the 2nd floor consists of a meeting room. While not generally accessible to the public, she may invite the PCs up here for counsel, or to discuss future plans.

Plot Hooks & Encounters

As previously mentioned, Taryn’s uncle Benjamin went missing 2 years ago. What the other residents of Cross Tree are not aware of is that fact that Taryn’s father Adam also vanished around the same time.

  • Knowing that both her father and uncle had been adventurers in their youth. Taryn suspects that the legend of a lost city was what lured Benjamin here. It is reasonable to think that she might attempt to hire the party to find out what became of them.
  • While out on a ride two weeks ago, Taryn discovered some stone tablets with odd runes on them. She might hire the party to travel to the nearest city and try to decipher them.
  • Adam Keen owned a cabin located 3 days west of Cross Tree. Taryn has not been there since she was a young girl. However, she faintly remembers that he kept journals there, detailing his exploits. If she trusts the party, she may give them directions to the cabin and ask them to go retrieve the journals. Obviously, with this and any of the other previous tasks, she would be willing to share any resulting bounty.
  • Finally, if the party is simply in needs of funds and willing to put in some hard word, there is plenty to be done. Taryn would certainly be willing to hire party members to clean the stables or assist with the process of fixing up her living quarters.

Closing Notes

That will conclude another post about the town of Cross Tree. Two more installments to go and then I’ll start using this basic town to produce some adventures. Thank you for taking the time to stop by and share in this hobby. Good gaming!

4. The Mercantile

Continuing my series about the town of Cross Tree, this week I am covering location #4, the mercantile. I will list the pertinent information about the store and its inhabitants. As previously mentioned, I will keep this as system neutral as possible. There won’t be any in-game stats provided. Instead, I will focus on what you would need to know, should your players opt to visit the mercantile.

The Mercantile

The mercantile is owned and run by Astolpho Fuchs and his wife Gina. The store is quite large for a settlement the size of Cross Tree. Characters with higher than average perception, will likely surmise that the place must survive due to the extra business brought in by travelers passing through.

Astolpho & Gina Fuchs

Astolpho Fuchs. Art by: Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art @ Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games. http://www.fatgoblingames.com

Astolpho is a fit man of roughly 50 years of age. He has black hair, with a neatly trimmed beard & mustache that is starting to show patches of gray. His clothing consists of a simple tunic, woolen breeches, and soft leather boots.

Gina is the same age as her husband, though she appears roughly 5 years younger. She has shoulder length flaxen hair and peaceful green eyes. A sturdy woman, Gina nearly matches Astolpho’s 6’ and it is clear that she is no stranger to manual labor. A simple linen dress in earthen tones would be her typical attire.

Gina Fuchs. Art by: Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art @ Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games. http://www.fatgoblingames.com

The pair came to Cross Tree 12 years ago. Having been through the area earlier, they came to “get away from it all” and create a new life in this tranquil setting.

Unbeknownst to the other inhabitants of the town, the couple are in hiding. Gina was the eldest daughter of a wealthy merchant family in a large city and Astolpho was a member of the thieves’ guild. Already madly in love when the guild decided to target Gina’s family, Astolpho couldn’t stand idly by.

The pair turned the tables on the criminal organization by tipping off the city watch. In the ensuing chaos, they plundered the guild’s coffers and rode off into the night. Knowing that they could never dare return home, the couple eloped and didn’t look back.

They spent years traveling but ultimately settled on Cross Tree as a destination. They have enough wealth to live their lives comfortably but the store allows them to blend in. As previously mentioned, the store is a bit too large for such a small settlement but Gina suggested that storing some of their wealth in excess goods rather than gold coins might be prudent.

1st Floor

The western side of the ground floor is open to the public and contains all of the common trade goods, crafting supplies, and tools that might be required by the citizens of Cross Tree. The items would all be priced in a typical manner to what the PCs would expect to find in a large city. This will probably stand out to some characters.

While arms and armor would really not be in great demand (save for perhaps arrows), the couple do stock quite an array of these items behind the counter. If the PCs inquire about items of this nature, there will be an 80% chance that they stock any common item that might be available based on the game system you are using.

I run a low fantasy game, where magic items are quite rare. That said, if you happen to have the type of campaign where PCs need a place to stock up on potions, scrolls, and the occasional magical armaments, I suppose you could add those to the stock on hand as well.

2nd Floor

The 2nd floor of the mercantile consists of Gina & Astolpho’s residence. While not generally accessible to the public, they may invite the PCs up here for counsel or to discuss future plans.

Plot Hooks & Encounters

As previously mentioned, the couple are on the run. Should anyone from their past find them, it could mean their end. They are rather guarded but if the couple gets to know the party, they may open up to them.

  • Parties stopping in Cross Tree along the way to somewhere else, may be provided information about their destination. Both have traveled extensively and willing to provided trusted PCs with tips about the workings of nearby larger cities.
  • Someone from the Thieves’ guild may come looking for the pair and they may need to enlist aid.
  • Astolpho may receive word that an acquaintance from his underworld days is in trouble. Unable to help himself, he may hire the party to assist.
  • Gina may approach the party and offer to hire them to transport some valuable merchandise to another settlement.
  • Possibly Astolpho chose to settle in Cross Tree because he had heard rumors of an ancient lost city hidden away within the depths of the forest. Legends claim that there are fabulous treasures there.

Closing Notes

That will conclude another post about the town of Cross Tree. Until I write again, good gaming!

3. The Church

Location #3 on the map of the town of Cross Tree is the church. I will list the pertinent information about the tower and its inhabitant. As previously mentioned, I will keep this as system neutral as possible. There won’t be any in-game stats provided. Instead, I will focus on what you would need to know, should your players opt to visit the church.

The Church

The church of Cross Tree burned to the ground under mysterious circumstances roughly 15 years ago. At the time, it was a largely unused structure, as it had been quite some time since the settlement had been home to any members of the clergy. The site sat vacant for nearly 5 years, until its current inhabitant came to town.

Leagis Kormou

Leagis Kormou is a 42 year-old human woman. She has olive skin and long, white hair that trails down nearly to her waist. While she has a stern brow and piercing green eyes, there is a sense of peace about the woman that is disarming to guests.

Leagis Kormou. Art by: Daniel Comerci – danielcomerci.com

It will immediately be clear to PCs that Leagis is not originally from this area. In my game she hails from a chain of islands far to the south, though select her place of origin based on what works for your campaign setting.

Leagis is a priestess of a nature deity. If your world lacks a divine being who happens to be focused on nature, any good-aligned god or goddess should suffice.

The cleric spent her youth traveling the world, possibly even clocking in some time as an adventurer. As the years passed, she found herself more focused on her religion and wanting to settle down. Cross Tree provided a logical place to put down roots. Nestled deep withing the forest, Leagis can commune with nature while also sharing her faith with her modest flock.

Arriving in town roughly 10 years ago, Leagis began restoring the old burned church structure on her own. As the days passed, other townsfolk would come to lend a hand. Often they would work together by day and then take part in her fellowship and break bread together in the evening. Some of the materials for the new church were brought from the ruined town to the northeast of town.

Whether Leagis possesses any magical abilities from her deity will be left to the GM’s discretion. It is certainly possible that she may have the ability to casts lower level spells. However, I would suggest drawing the line at allowing her to have the power to raise the dead or even heal very serious afflictions.

The priestess is very welcoming to outsiders and will certainly be curious about their travels. Having travelled extensively herself, Leagis may be able to share information with the party about areas far from Cross Tree.

1st Floor

The nave and sanctuary take up most of the 1st floor of the church. Both are decorated simply, in woodland colors. Both the pews and altar are fashioned from downed oaks found in the forest.

Close to the entrance are two storage closets. Tools are kept here for tending the graveyard, as well as decorations for different festivals throughout the year. Leagis also keeps a small office on the first floor.

2nd Floor

The 2nd floor of the church consists of Leagis’s residence. While not generally accessible to the public, she may invite the PCs up here for counsel or to discuss future plans.

Plot Hooks & Encounters

As previously mentioned, Leagis has travelled extensively. She should provide you a good tool for disseminating information to your PCs. It is also possible that she may have use for their help herself.

  • Parties stopping in Cross Tree along the way to somewhere else, may be provided information about their destination.
  • As a priestess of a nature deity, Leagis may enlist the help of the party to investigate some strange goings-on within the forest. Perhaps some strange malady is affecting local wildlife or a queer blight is killing off vegetation.
  • Leagis recently buried a traveler who died while staying at the Cross Tree Inn. The man’s only personal effects were a strange metallic device and a map to a location that would take two days to travel to from here. The cleric may enlist the party’s help in learning more about the map and the device.
  • From her traveling days, Leagis may be aware that there is rumored to be an ancient lost city hidden away within the depths of the forest.

Closing Notes

That will conclude another post about the town of Cross Tree. Until I write again, I thank you for reading and hope that you may find yourself enjoying a game soon. Cheers!

2. The Ruined Tower

Location #2 on the map of the Town of Cross Tree is the ruined tower. I will list the pertinent information about the tower and its inhabitant. As previously mentioned, I will keep this as system neutral as possible. There won’t be any in-game stats provided. Instead, I will focus on what you would need to know, should your players opt to visit the tower.

The Ruined Tower

The tower itself predates the town of Cross Tree by over 100 years and none of the locals, aside from possible Nicodemus (see below), have any recollection of who built it. Characters with any type of architectural knowledge will easily be able to identify that this structure is from another time.

In my own game, the tower represents one of the last standing traces of a previous civilization. Deep within the outlying forest, there are cave entrances that lead into still accessible areas of this ancient settlement. Swallowed up by the earth itself, a lost city waits to be rediscovered. I may explore some of these locations once the rest of Cross Tree has been covered.

If this doesn’t work for your game, the tower could have an entirely different background. The idea here is to simply give you some interesting locations for your players to visit, without you having to do a lot of work.

PCs exploring the area around the tower will find all manner of debris. Some of this is from the collapse of the upper floors of the tower. The rest consists of odds and ends brought here by the tower’s sole inhabitant.

Unless the party is purposely attempting to be stealthy, the double doors to the tower will swing open enough for a frail figure to emerge.


Nicodemus has lived in the ruined towed for nearly 5 years now. Prior to that he had been a frequent visitor to the area but none of the locals knew too much about him.

Nicodemus. Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art @ Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games. http://www.fatgoblingames.com

The general thinking of the townsfolk is that the tower is not safe for habitation and they are likely right. However, Nicodemus doesn’t interact a great deal with anyone from town. Every so often, Killian from the Cross Tree Inn will try to persuade Nicodemus to take up residence at the inn but up to this point these attempts have failed.

Play Nicodemus as a bit mad and a bit mysterious. He exists here as a device for you to feed information or plot hooks to your players. Outside of possibly Leagis (from area #3, the Church) Nicodemus is the only resident who you could really call “worldly”.

He knows a great deal about a great many things but should always be a bit cagey about what he reveals and how he reveals it. Whether Nicodemus actually has any magical abilities is largely up to the GM. Here are some possible angles for Nicodemus, to allow him to fit seamlessly into different styles of games.

  • Perhaps you make him a great mage, having him be the wise mentor who knew the party was fated to show up on his doorstep.
  • He could be a part-crazed soothsayer who constantly mutters to himself, while reading tea-leaves and tossing chicken bones to foretell the future. Whether charlatan or gifted fortune teller will be up to the party to decide.
  • Nicodemus could be an arcane dealer of sorts, prepared to sell different potions, charms, or wards to the party.
  • Possibly he plumbed the depths of a lost city in his prime, only to be left behind by his comrades. Having spent years as the prisoner of some unnamed horror, he is now quite mad.

Regardless of which route you take Nicodemus is a good natured sort. He will size up the party and if he believes they have good intentions, he will try to help them. That’s not to say that he will necessarily be forthcoming with his help or information. It’s certainly possible that he may speak in riddles or test the PCs in order to ascertain their intentions.

1st Floor

If the party is friendly from the offset, it is likely that Nicodemus will invite the party inside. The double doors open to a chaotic scene and the heavy scent of smoke and incense.

All manner of junk is piled up within the 1st floor of the tower and the old man has a campfire burning away right near the doorway. Any characters with reasonably high skills of perception are likely to notice a mouse (or other small mammal) skittering for cover as the party enters the room.

Despite the clutter and debris, Nicodemus seems to know his way around the mess and is always able to deftly find what he is looking for amongst the rubble, crates, and boxes. A pile of hay against the wall seems to serve as the old fellow’s bed.

There are drawings and what appear to be maps scrawled with charcoal on the walls. What they depict and whether Nicodemus will discuss them is largely up to the GM. Two desks are arranged on either side of the room. While they are cluttered, it does appear that they have been painstakingly laid out, allowing Nicodemus to focus on his studies.

A spiral staircase leads up to the 2nd floor.

2nd Floor

Every bit as cluttered as the first floor, the wall of this section of the tower has been breached on the northeast and southwest. This allows the weather in, along with the occasional bird or bat.

Arriving from the first floor, it will be immediately evident that the stairway going up to the higher reaches of the tower is completely blocked with rubble. Rubble is strewn about on the creaky wooden floor and PCs who are invited up to this level of the tower, should be made to feel that the floor could cave in at any time.

Plot Hooks & Encounters

A lot of what Nicodemus has to offer is going to depend on your game, the level of magic in your world, and what role you need him to play within your campaign.

  • Other townsfolk might direct the party to Nicodemus in order to identify some item they have found or to seek answers about some quest that they are on.
  • As with Karia from the Cross Tree Inn, Nicodemus may charge a young party with venturing out into the woods to secure certain components for him.
  • Perhaps he knows of some impending trouble threatening the area and identifies the party as being just the right group to tackle it.
  • Seeing a yearning for adventure in the party, Nicodemus might share with the party what he know about a lost city, deep within the forest.

Closing Notes

That will do it for this week’s entry from the town of Cross Tree. Until my next post, I hope you have great adventures!

1. The Cross Tree Inn

Location #1 on the map of the Town of Cross Tree is the Cross Tree Inn. I will list the pertinent information about the inn and the people who work there below. As previously mentioned, I’m trying to keep this as system neutral as possible. There won’t be any in-game stats for the inhabitants of the town. Instead, I will focus on their personalities and what you would need to know to run them as NPCs.

#1 The Cross Tree Inn

The inn is both the geographical and social center of the village. Especially during the evening, it is likely some of the other residents will be found in the common room, enjoying a meal or tankard of ale.

Killian Merric

The proprietor is a stout man named Killian Merric. At 50 years of age, Killian was raised in a large city but relocated to Cross Tree and inherited the Inn from his uncle Tobyn. That was 20 years ago and Killian has been running the place ever since.

Killian stands 6’2” tall and weighs roughly 280lbs. His dark hair, beard, and bushy eyebrows. are starting to give way to a good deal of gray. The large man dresses simply, wearing cotton breeches and a simple tunic, On most days he’ll also be wearing an apron, adorned with splashes and dashes of whatever happens to be on the menu that day.

Nearly always sporting a grin, the innkeeper is nothing if not hospitable. Killian will greet guests warmly and take an interest in their adventures. He knows a fair bit about the local area and is generally willing to share information with travelers, if he feels that they have good intentions. For information he may lack, Killian is certainly well acquainted with the citizens of Cross Tree and able to suggest someone else who may be able to help.

The innkeeper loves a good tune. Any customer who happens to break out in song or play an instrument while visiting the inn is likely to be rewarded with a complimentary meal. If it’s particularly good, it wouldn’t be unheard of for Killian to take off his apron and dance a little jig in the middle of the dining room.

Despite being a fairly large fellow, Killian has no practical combat experience.

Killian keeps a simple room for himself at the inn. While he has had various employees over the years, his niece Karia is currently his only employee.

Karia Merric

Karia Merric is a young woman of 25. After the passing of her mother, two years ago, she relocated to Cross Tree and has been helping her uncle Killian manage the inn.

A no-nonsense woman, Karia usually keeps her blonde hair pulled back and wears simple, woolen dresses.

While she adores her uncle, Karia was also interested in relocated to Cross Tree due to it being nestled in the wilderness. She has been studying herbalism for a number of years and her move has allowed her to pursue this passion. When not serving drinks or helping out at the inn, Karia spends her time collecting specimens in the forest and furthering her studies.

Like her uncle, Karia is quite friendly. However, her mind is often occupied, thinking about different tinctures and ointments. She may not be outwardly chatty, though if any travelers come by with obvious wounds or ailments, she will immediately offer to help. Depending on the rules system you are using, I would allow Karia to at least provide some basic healing to injured party members.

If any travelers happen to come through town and mention having a background in herbalism or another similar skill, Karia will be fascinated and try to gain as much knowledge from them as possible.

Food, Drink, & Lodging

You can assume that pricing for food, drink, and lodging will run on the lower end of what is typical in your game system. Killian is a wonderful cook and accommodating host but this is a modest operation.

Highlights of the inn’s menu include flapjacks with locally made maple syrup, a fabulous “restoring” stew, and roasted potato wedges.

Killian has 4 modest rooms for rent. Three of these have a single bed, while one has two. However, a simple sleeping cot can be added to any of the single rooms if it becomes necessary to house more guests. While he wouldn’t rent out his own 2nd floor room, on occasion Killian will allow cots in the common areas upstairs, to accommodate extra guests. Obviously, this would be offered at a reduced rate.

Legend of the Cross Tree

As the Cross Tree Inn is the first stop for weary travelers, Killian will often be asked about the name of the town. On such occasions, he will be more than happy to pull up a chair and share the tale.

Whether there is anything to this legend or whether it is a simple folktale is up to you. Go with what works for your game. However, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to drop in little bits to keep your players on edge. The inn is an old building, so there will certainly be strange creaks from the floorboards or the occasional cold draft.

*See location #2 once I have posted it

Plot Hooks & Encounters

If you already have plans for future adventures, it should be easy enough to drop in any plot hooks while the PCs are visiting the Cross Tree Inn. There is a message board in the common room and Killian, Karia, or any of the other townsfolk could be used to reach out to the party and ask for their assistance.

Left to their own, both Killian & Karia have a few tasks that they might approach a party of travelers for help with.

  • Killian might offer the party a fair price to go on a hunt for a day and try to bring back a stag or wild boar.
  • Karia might hire the party to help her locate certain herbs or mushrooms, only available in the deepest part of the forest.
  • It’s rare that the innkeeper the ability to make the trip to a city. If Killian gets to know the party well or they stop at the inn frequently, he may hire them to bring back certain spices or ingredients.

Thanks for taking the time to stop by. If you’re taking the time to read this, I hope you have a good week.

Good gaming!

Cross Tree – Starting Town

Every adventure needs a place to start. The maps in this post feature the town of Cross Tree, from a fantasy setting. Moving forward I plan to flesh the place out a bit. I will post a about what can be found within the town, its citizens, and the area at large.

For the time being I think I will try to keep much of what I post as system agnostic as possible. These days, I am most likely to be playing 5e Dungeons & Dragons but I’d like to put content out there that would be useful to just about everyone. I’d be curious to hear what fantasy system you’re playing.

Where possible, I’ll try to post stuff that would be equally useful for D&D, Pathfinder, WFRP, Savage Worlds, or whatever you may be into. Whether you put your players through their paces in the Forgotten Realms, Golarion, or some other campaign setting, I hope to make it easy enough to file off the numbers and make things as useful as I can.

In case anyone is curious, I created these using the Cities of Schley Symbol Set from Campaign Cartographer. I have included a version with just the title, one with labels, and also one with labels & a grid. Feel free to use these as you like for your own games or simply as inspiration for something more grand.

As of this writing, I have not had the time to explore the world of virtual table-top gaming. I know that it has become quite popular and that the pandemic has only increased its popularity. The thought occurred to me to do some investigating and include maps that would easily import into the popular VTT platforms. However, since part of my purpose in undertaking this endeavor was to interact with people, I decided against it.

If you are a VTT game master and you stumble onto something of mine that would be useful to you, if only it were scaled differently, had a different grid, or certain tweaks, please leave a comment. I can’t swear to it but I would certainly do my best to make an edit and get you what you need.

50 Wilderness Oddities

For today’s post, I have put together 50 odd occurrences to toss at your PCs while they are traveling from point A to point B.

Sometimes you don’t want the day to pass uneventfully but a wandering monster would burn too much precious time. Even if you’re largely handwaving their journey it can be nice to have something interesting happen along the way, so roll a d100 and see where the fates take you.

Each of these could be nothing more than what they appear at face value. Alternately, with a few tweaks you could easily expand them into a full blown encounter, or even an adventure hook.

-Good Gaming!

Art by: Donnie Maynard Christianson https://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/9116/Sqeezi-Games

01-02: Party stumbles on a patch of incredibly large mushrooms. Are they edible? Toxic?

03-04: After breaking camp for the morning strange tracks can be seen all around the perimeter of the camp. These weren’t present the night before and nobody noticed anything during the night.

05-06: A pair of rough looking men step out of the brush carrying a large, spiked collar. They claim they are looking for their lost dog.

07-08: Party finds a white stag trapped in a snare.

09-10: Over the course of a two mile stretch, various items of clothing are found by the roadside.

11-12: Having passed a simple traveler walking along the road on the previous day, the party encounters the same fellow on the following day. However, he is headed in the same direction as he was the day before and claims to have no knowledge of meeting the party.

13-14: The smell of smoke increases throughout the day until the party realizes that their path forward has been blocked by a forest fire.

15-16: Party comes across the shed skin of a monstrous snake.

17-18: A bountiful berry patch lines the side of the road, allowing the party a delicious snack.

19-20: Colorful birds are seen in the trees. Knowledgeable party members will be able to identify these as only coming from warmer climes.

21-22: A patch of small flowering plants are discovered. Knowledgeable party members will be able to identify these as an effective insect repellent. May be burned or used topically.

23-24: Pleasantly fragrant plants are found. Knowledgeable party members will be able to identify these as being used by locals in the region to mask scent from predators in the wild.

25-26: Is that bullfrog singing? Surely that bullfrog can’t be singing.

About the Artist: “Bag” twitter.com/bagthebaghttp://twitter.com/bagthebag

27-28: Party finds a smoking crater where a meteor has landed.

29-30: Party comes to a clearing. There are a number of toy dolls hanging from the trees all around the edges of the clearing.

31-32: An alabaster monument juts up out if the ground in the middle of the forest. It bears a plaque but the language is foreign to all of the party.

33-34: Party hears the occasional sound of crying. However, the sound ceases whenever they stop to listen closely.

35-36: A possum pops out of the brush briefly before running back into the woods. If followed, it leads the party to a sinkhole where three racoons are trapped.

37-38: Party encounters a simple traveler who offers to share a meal with them before heading on the way. Upon reaching their destination, the party sees a wanted posted for a notorious highwayman and the description matches that of the traveler.

39-40: Mosquitos plague the day’s travel, making everyone uncomfortable and causing them to appear afflicted with the pox for d4 days after.

Art by: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/9116/Sqeezi-Games

41-42: Party passes a small caravan owned by a showman who display oddities and curiosities at festivals throughout the realm.

43-44: Wild boars are about! If there is anyone capable of hunting within the party, it will be an easy hunt.

45-46: A freshwater spring yields tasty trout, to anyone with the skill to fish them out.

47-48: The rhythmic beating of drums can be heard in the distance. It seems to be getting closer toward nightfall.

49-50: Party encounters strange formations of sticks bound together with twine.

51-52: An abandoned cottage is found. It appears that other parties have passed through and used this as a shelter recently. What appears to be a map is drawn on the wall with charcoal.

53-54: A large fish lays flopping in the path. The party is not aware of any water nearby.

55-56: Party passes a caravan of prisoners being lead from on settlement to another. The party members recognize one of the prisoners.

57-58: A trail of pieces of bread leads off into the forest.

59-60: Party comes upon a disheveled man who has amnesia.

61-62: An onyx statue of a bull is found deep within the forest.

63-64: A loud buzzing sound leads the party to a beehive the size of a man.

65-66: 3 wooden barrels of rum are found, poorly hidden within the forest.

67-68: Party encounters a religious zealot and his entourage, traveling from one settlement to another. They encourage the party to throw down their arms and join them.

69-70: Without warning, the forest fills with cicadas. Their song drowns out all other noise, to the point on being nearly deafening. This lets up within an hour, without explanation.

71-72: Party encounters a man wearing wrist and leg irons. He claims that he was falsely imprisoned and barely escaped with his life. Is he telling the truth?

73-74: An abandoned campsite is found, neatly laid out. There is a tent, modest belongings, and prepared campfire. However, there are no signs of who left it.

75-76: An incredibly large, winged beast can be seen circling above the canopy of the forest.

77-78: Deep within the forest, the party finds 3 incredibly lifelike statues who are all posed as if shielding their eyes in horror.

79-80: A stone altar it found, topped with the carcass of some woodland beast.

81-82: Strange tracks end up leading to a massive hollowed out tree. However, upon arrival there is no trace of whatever made the tracks.

83-84: A raucous band of revelers, celebrating some religious festival pass the party. Party members are encouraged to throw down their weapons and join them.

85-86: The party comes upon a coach that has thrown a wheel. An obnoxious noble verbally abuses the coachman and demands that he fixes it quickly. Will the party assist?

87-88: A blight has taken over the portion of forest that the party is traveling through. All vegetation has died, with no apparent reason.

Art by: Donnie Maynard Christianson https://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/9116/Sqeezi-Games

89-90: Deep in the forest, the party discover what appears to be a shrine built for a deity that none of them are familiar with. Small offerings are scattered about.

91-92: A circle of tall standing stones are covered in moss. Standing within the circle, party members can feel a steady vibration.

93-94: A shaft of sunlight shines down through the canopy. Figures can be seen dancing in the sunbeam.

95-96: A massive tree stump have pooled with water. Characters looking down into the water see bizarre images.

97-98: A magpie attempts to snatch a small trinket from the party’s camp. If successful, it flies up and deposits it in a nearby tree. If the tree is investigated, a small cache of other treasures will be found.

99-100: A short, cactus-like bush is found along the trail. Knowledgeable party members will be able to identify these as having limited healing properties.