OSR: Mirrors, Cubes, Rods, Staves, and the Deck of Motley Things

I've written another 10 pages of the Treasure Overhaul (title pending), a condensed magic item compendium for old-school games. Unlike the first two previews, this PDF is only available on Patreon.

This new PDF covers Mirrors, Cubes, Rings, Rods, and Staves. It's a decent mix of classic D&D items in a new format and new problem-solving / problem-creating tools. It also includes the Deck of Motley Things, a 78-card tarot-compatible magic item designed to introduce a little chaos into a campaign.

In other news, the Monster Overhaul is back in stock in the USA, Canada, and the UK/EU.


OSR: Holy and Roguish Items, Pocket Debris, and the Ghastly Tomb Tinies

Here are another 7 draft pages from a potential "Treasure Overhaul" book. Combined with the previous PDF, that's 13 pages of free treasure.


Unique and legendary holy items (such as the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch) will probably go in a different section, or on a new page.

The Pocket Detritus page will go after a standard (well, relatively standard) Dead Adventurers section/chapter. The Ghastly Tomb Tinies are a fun list of 26 corpses (loot pending) in the style of Edward Gorey.


OSR: The Treasure Overhaul (?)

Some people have asked for a "Monster Overhaul but for treasure and spells." Here's a very early six-page draft attempt at compressing a lot of classic D&D items into an immediately usable format.

1. Magic Weapons
2. Magic Armour
3. Potions
4. Tools
5. Transport
6. Helms


Design Challenges


The plan for the Monster Overhaul eventually crystallized into 20 themed chapters of 10 monsters, an introduction, and indexes.

With magic items, the themes are more clear, but also less interesting. The draft PDF has six sections. The plan is to add themed section, such as:

  • Holy Items (holy avenger, holy symbols, icons...)
  • Wizardly Items (hats, orbs, staffs...)
  • Roguish Tricks (skeleton key, disguise kits...)
  • Elf, Dwarf, Gnome, Fey, Elemental, Dragonic, etc. Items (Boots/cloaks of elvenkind...)
  • Magitech / Sci-Fi (blasters, laser swords...)
  • Horror
  • Aquatic (harpoons...)
  • Mundane treasure (artwork, furniture, gems...)
  • Intelligent Items (talking swords, magic mirrors...)
  • Artifacts

I would also like to expand the current sections with "weird" followup tables. The current pages cover basic, standard, in-common-use items, but the real fun (for me) is weird items with highly situational uses. The compressed Magic Weapon page in the draft PDF could be followed by 1d100 (or more) specific magic weapons. They'll probably be less useful than +2 lightning greatsword, but that's part of the fun. 

This is why some sections repeat the Element d8 table; in the final project, they'll be separated by multiple pages from the next Element d8 table.

Duplicated Effort

The Monster Overhaul has a lot of items in it, and they're placed in a useful context. So does Magical Industrial Revolution, articles on this blog, and the rest of the internet. A book of magic items needs to rely on utility, density, and editorial choice to stand out.

Layers of Flavour

The monster entries in The Monster Overhaul follow a consistent pattern. Think of them as the sponge of the sponge cake. The generic locations are the icing or custard. The really weird tools, like Generic Life Cycle chart, are little bits of flavourful fruit. This isn't the best metaphor, but it will do.

With a book of items, there's a very real risk that the entire book is sponge, an endless series of unremarkable tables. Items do not have agency. They don't want anything.

(Well, intelligent swords might want things, but that's an edge case.)


The chapter title pages of the Monster Overhaul serve as landmarks. They break up the text into manageable and navigable chunks. With a book of treasure, the chapters feel either too long (all magic items, all spells) or too short (magic weapons, potions, etc.). This might be alleviated as the project continues.

Readers should be directed to important information on a page. The trouble with tables is that they can blend together. A crucial table that should be used frequently looks, at a glance, like a table that's just for specific situations or optional flavour. In a book of tables, how do you maintain at-table utility while still providing high density?

Power Level

With I like to divide non-weapon and non-armour items into two categories:

1. An item a PC will use all the time, in all situations.

E.g. a Belt of Giant Strength. If a PC gets a Belt of Giant Strength, and it improves their Strength, there's no reason to ever take it off. It's pure enhancement.

2. An item a PC will use situationally. Ideally, in situations not envisioned by the designer.

E.g. a Portable Hole. It might allow for some cool and unexpected solutions to a problem, but it can't assist with every problem.

This is why classic items like a Belt of Giant Strength and Gauntlets of Ogre Power don't appear on these treasure tables. They will appear somewhere, but I'd like to place them with items that enhance a PC in equally permanent most-situations zero-downside ways. Some items from the Tools section might make their way to this proposed section eventually.

Description and Variants

Magic items should feel special. They should have an aura of mystery and wonder about them. This can be difficult to evoke in a game about small integer math and dying in a hole for treasure.

I also want to balance utility with density. Yes, I could make a full-page magic armour description with dozens of adjective prompts and historical references, but is that actually helpful?

Useful Articles



OSR: Clerics of Pegāna

Here are some spells for Lord Dunsany's Gods of Pegāna (1905). If you need a ready-made public domain pantheon for your games and you don't want the standard Law vs. Chaos dualism of Anderson and Tolkien. It was a fun writing exercise, even if I chose to stick with the unfortunately gendered language of the original text.


The Testament of the Prophet Zoz

In the Temple in Aradec of All the gods save One, the High Priests of all the lands came to dispute and examine the matters of the gods. And a great debate arose touching on the games of the gods. Some said the gods play their games with dice, and some say they play their games with cards, and some said they use neither dice nor cards but only words and deeds. 

And the Prophet Zoz, who was the least of all the prophets, said that the gods play their games with dice, but rolled them only for the pleasing sound they make.

That night did the Prophet Zoz dream of a world where the gods attended to the prayers of men, and walked the Earth, and where the rattling of the dice of the gods could be heard on cold and still nights. Benisons and curses fell like rain upon the people, and they cried out: "Would that the gods did not attend to our prayers!"

When Zoz awoke, he wrote of this world, and would rebuke those who complained that the gods heeded not their prayers, saying: "Such a world have I seen in a dream, and it was not a pleasing world, for the prayers of men are foolish. Praise the gods, for they play their games in secret."

This is the testament of the Prophet Zoz, the least of all the prophets.

Raphael Lacoste

The Clerics of the Gods of Pegāna

Priests attend to the temples of the gods, but Clerics go among the people and do the will of the gods. One man may be a Cleric of Kib and a Cleric of Sish and a Cleric of Mung, if he thinketh he may please Kib and Sish and Mung and all other gods besides. For if he displeaseth the gods, they will set their faces against him, and his prayers shall go unheeded, and his hopes shall turn to ash.

These are the Workings of the Clerics of Kib

Kib, Sender of Life in all the Worlds

Best-loved of Clerics are the Clerics of Kib. They cut not their hair, nor their nails, nor wash, and yet they are welcome in every home. The aspect of the beast is evident in them.

The touch of a Cleric of Kib healeth the sick and restoreth life to the dying, if it be the will of Kib.

Kib may awaken the mind of a beast, likening it to the mind of a Man, so that the Cleric of Kib may converse with it or command it in the name of Kib. And thereafter the beast may again be a beast, or it may be a Man, if such is the will of Kib.

Kib, who made all beasts, may make another beast to answer the prayers of a Cleric of Kib, but whether it be a sheep or a bird or a serpent of the deep is according to the will of Kib.

The Cleric may look at a stick and say: “This is like unto a serpent,” and behold, Kib maketh the Sign of Kib, and the stick is a serpent. Or the Cleric may: “This stone is like unto a tortoise,” and behold, it is a tortoise. But the Cleric may not gaze upon a statue and say: “This is like unto a Man,” for Kib, who made Man, liketh not the presumption of sculptors, and will surely abandon his Cleric.

And the Cleric of Kib may speak all the tongues of men, for Kib was the first broke the Silence of Pegāna.

These are the Workings of the Clerics of Sish

Sish, the Destroyer of Hours.

The Clerics of Sish are aged before their years, and wear rent garments or ashen rags, for the breath of Time is upon them, and the teeth of Time pass near their flesh. And they are burdened by sad knowledge of days long past, or strange thoughts of days to come.

The Cleric of Sish may petition Sish to hold back Time, which is the hound of Sish, from harrying a beast or a stone or any other thing, and, if Sish wills it, the thing may stand untouched, while all around falls to ruin. And a thing untouched by Time may not move or speak or think or do any other thing, but may only be, and remain so until Sish lets loose his hound once more.

Sish may also let Time fall upon a thing with ravenous hunger and unconstrained strength. And a thousand, ten thousand, ten million years may fall upon the object of the wrath of Sish.

And Sish may turn his head to the right, and then the Cleric of Sish may walk as swiftly as an arrow. And Sish may turn his head to the left, and then the Cleric of Sish may walk as slowly as a tortoise or fall as a gentle leaf. But Sish easily tires of such prayers.

Secrets hath Sish, but not Desires, for these are the domain of Yoharneth-Lahai, and not Causes, for these are the domain of Dorozhand.

Slid - Sidney Sime

These are the Workings of the Clerics of Slid

Slid, Whose Soul is by the Sea

The Clerics of Slid are fickle and restless, for the Song of Slid resounds in their ears and dances through their limbs. They find no rest in Slid, for the moods of Slid are felt in his Clerics, and Slid is never still. They that go down to the sea in ships offer gifts to the Clerics of Slid.

The chill of the deep is in the hands of the Clerics of Slid, and the warmth of the gentle sand. 

Slid may turn his Cleric to sea-foam and water for a time, so his will may be carried into dark and secret places. Or he may raise his Cleric on a column of spray, or preserve him from drowning, if that be the will of Slid.

And should the Cleric sing the Song of Slid, just as rivers and streams sing, it may pleaseth Slid, and beasts and men who hear the song may dance in joy, as waves dance upon the shore.

Slid may command the waters of the sea and the courses of rivers, calling them or forestalling them. Slid may call a spring from the rock and watereth the hills with his blessings.

Mung - Sidney Sime

These are the Workings of the Clerics of Mung

Mung, Lord of All Deaths between Pegāna and the Rim

Mung walketh behind the Clerics of Mung, and his hand resteth upon them. It is an awful thing to know the presence of Mung. For men forget that one day they shall meet with Mung, but the Clerics of Mung know this to be true always, and neither sleep nor drunkenness nor age will remove the dread of Mung from their hearts. Thus, whatsoever garment a Cleric of Mung dons, and whatsoever their practices, the knowledge and dread of Mung is plain upon their features.

Beasts and men mark the approach of a Cleric of Mung and know that Mung walketh behind, and know Fear in their hearts, and Terror at the Shadow of Mung. And the Fear and Terror of the Shadow of Mung maketh men blind, so that they flee heedlessly into the darkness, and may there meet with Mung.

And sometimes Mung maketh the Sign of Mung, and those before the Cleric know Death. And sometimes he maketh not the Sign of Mung. It is a hard thing, and terrible, to be a Cleric of Mung.

Yet the touch of a Cleric of Mung banishes Pain and Sorrow, for they flee when Mung appeareth. And also Pestilence, for where Mung is, Pestilence hath gone before.

It may happen that Mung maketh the Sign of Mung before a Man, and the Life of the Man goes forth among the Worlds, but the body of the Man persisteth in movement and speech, as if it were a beast. This is an abomination unto Mung.

There are no Workings of the Clerics of Limpang-Tung

Limpang-Tung, The God of Mirth and Melodious Minstrels

There are no Clerics of Limpang-Tung, or perhaps every minstrel is his Cleric, and every joyful heart does his will. When darkness falls upon the heart of Man, and he is troubled, the playing of the harp may sooth and refresh him.

Yoharneth-Lahai - Sidney Sime

These are the Workings of the Clerics of Yoharneth-Lahai

Yoharneth-Lahai, The God of Little Dreams and Fancies

The Clerics of Yoharneth-Lahai are full of gladness, and their rest is untroubled. Soft are their robes and soft are their feet, and soft too are their words, for sleep is the field wherein Yoharneth-Lahai sports.

The Cleric of Yoharneth-Lahai pray to direct the dreams of men, to send them pleasant repose or the Terror of the Shadow of Mung. Many secrets of the heart are known to the Clerics of Yoharneth-Lahai.

Yoharneth-Lahai may set a veil before the eyes of Man, such that they may wonder whether they dream or wake. For in the desert, the Mirage is the dwelling-place of Yoharneth-Lahai. And some men are not troubled for long, for they say “This vision is but a passing fancy.” But some men grow quiet, and wonder if they live or dream, or if aught before their eyes has substance or mere appearance.

Yoharneth-Lahai knows the desires of men, and may tell his Cleric if a man be just or unjust, wise or foolish. A lying tongue shall not avail a man before a Cleric of Yoharneth-Lahai.

A Cleric of Yoharneth-Lahai may cry “Rest!” And the Man will rest, if it be the will of Yoharneth-Lahai.

These are the Workings of the Clerics of Roon

Roon, the God of Going

Footsore are the Clerics of Roon, and strangers in any land, for they never cease to wander. Loath are they to return to a place or cross a threshold twice, save by a strange and winding road. Yet weariness is not in their limbs, nor the agony of toil, for Roon walks with them.

Before the face of Man a Cleric of Roon may cry “Go!” And, if Roon so wills it, then shall go, and walk the Earth without rest, until they meet with Mung. And some may become Clerics of Roon on this journey, for the ways of Roon are long and arduous.

Knowledge of paths and roads hath Roon, and of far-off lands and distant deeds. No lock may bar a Cleric of Roon, nor rope bind him, nor snare entrap him unless it is the will of Roon.

The winds are subject to the word of Roon, and may be called up or sent away at the will or Roon.

And the Cleric of Roon may walk upon the water as if it were land, or the air as if it were stone, should it please Roon.

These are the Workings of the Clerics of Dorozhand

Dorozhand, Whose Eyes Regard the End

All men are slaves of Dorozhand, but some are chosen for purposes known only to Dorozhand. A man may be a shepherd one day and a Cleric of Dorozhand the next, and knoweth it not.

While Yoharneth-Lahai knoweth the secret of dreams and vain ambition, Dorozhand knoweth the secrets of times yet to come and times gone before, and the causes of things. Nothing save the secrets of MĀNA-YOOD-SUSHA̅I̅ is kept from Dorozhand.

The knowledge of Dorozhand is terrible and true, and the Clerics of Dorozhand see much that they do not understand, or tremble to know. Great engines and the rustling of paper trouble the sleep of the Clerics of Dorozhand, and the Doom of Man, and the Last Fires, and the Slaying Mists, and other prophecies which the Clerics of Dorozhand keep from the ears of men lest they grow restless with foreknowledge. The fall of the dice of the gods sounds like thunder in the ears of a Cleric of Dorozhand, and they see what is writ thereon.

Dorozhand may whisper in the ear of his Cleric, saying what will happen, whether it be the outcome of a great battle or the fall of a die. Or he may withhold his knowledge, for the schemes of Dorozhand are subtle.

Dorozhand may make the Sign of Dorozhand before a man, that he may know both his beginning and his end, and all things between, and for what purpose he was made, and from whence sprang his joys and sorrows. And this knowledge crushes the Life of Man, as a millstone grinds meal. For Knowledge is the gift of Dorozhand, but never Hope.

And it may come to pass that a Cleric of Dorozhand enters a new city in a foreign land and finds a table prepared for him, and knows that it is the will of Dorozhand. For when the Prophet Ṣalmu-āru walked in the desert, he found a stick to aid him in his weariness, and he gave praise to Dorozhand, who planted the seed that became the tree that grew the branch that fell to the ground in the path of the Prophet Ṣalmu-āru. 

But when the Prophet Ṣalmu-āru fell into a pit, he did not praise Dorozhand, though Dorozhand had stirred up the men to dig for riches in that place, and set clouds before the face of the moon. And Dorozhand waxed wroth, and the Prophet Ṣalmu-āru swiftly perished.

MĀNA-YOOD-SUSHA̅I̅ - Sidney Sime

And whether there be Clerics of Hish and Jabim and Bofa and Triboogie and all the other gods save one, Zoz saw not, but he knew that there were no clerics of MĀNA-YOOD-SUSHA̅I̅.


Tank Scratchbuild: Painting the Schneider FA

In the previous posts (1,2) I designed and scratchbuilt an alt-history interwar tank, the Scheider FA. Now, I've painted and weathered the tank.

I used the French WWI and Interwar Camo set of airbrush paints from Vallejo for the base colours. I marked out the camo areas with putty, put down a colour, waited for the putty to dry, then

I wanted to use a canonical Schneider scheme for this tank, but interwar French camo schemes are not consistent or well-documented. After many hours of research, I decided to go with a made-up scheme, vaguely based on a Schneider CA1 scheme from 1918.

The black crosshatches near vision slits were meant to disguise their location from enemy snipers and anti-tank rifles.

The interior of the engine bay was primed with a dark red oxide primer, while the fighting compartment started with black primer, followed by a white layer, to create a few false shadows.

The crew models fit inside perfectly. I'm glad the sculpted uniforms and helmets turned out. I need to touch up a few interior details, but I wanted to get the bulk of the tank assembled first.

Loader, commander, and gunner in the turret, driver, backup driver/radio operator, and backup loader/mechanic in the hull.

Here's how the tank compares to two other classic French interwar tanks: the Char B1 and the Renault FT.

The Char B1 was converted from the Tamiya B1 Bis kit to resemble the Char B1 101 prototype created as a partnership between Schneider and Renault. The twin machine turret seems to be a Schneider specialty, as it (or derivatives) crop up a few times in the literature. 

The conversion involved replacing the engine deck, towing hook, and turret, as well as a few minor adjustments to the hull. This article from Panzerserra was very helpful. You can see how a good modeler would tackle the project, instead of my ambitious but somewhat eccentric approach.
The turret was sculpted using apoxie sculpt over a bottle cap, then detailed with plasticard and wire.
The towing hook was built from wire, plasticard, and spare bits of photoetch brass.
The Renault FT is a superb kit from Meng. I didn't convert it at all, except to add some more stowage to the trench-crossing rail.

"What's with the crudely painted yellow stars?" I hear you ask. You thought this post was just going to be tank pictures? Wrong! Time to learn.

The European Civil War, Continued

Alternate history is a good excuse to learn about actual history, provided you start with a plausible end goal and don't take shortcuts. If you want to answer the question "Why Didn't X Happen?" you need to be able to explain "What Did Happen And Why." Since no historian has ever successfully managed this feat, you're in for a delightful exercise.

To briefly summarize this alternate history (and to avoid overloading this post with citations and quotes), the Paris Peace Conference collapses in early 1919, partially due to the sudden death of President Wilson after the kidnapping of Kaiser Wilhelm. President Marshall is unwilling to enforce Wilson's vaguely explained Fourteen Points by force, and even less willing to keep American troops in Europe. Colonel House and Secretary of State Lansing are left to salvage the Peace Conference with only their economic and logistic support cards to play.

The prospect of renewed total war, on (as the public sees it) flimsy and bloodthirsty grounds, leads to mass desertion, unrest, and rebellion. The UK tries to extract her army from the continent to fight the spectre of Communism at home and abroad (and very real uprisings in her colonies). France and Belgium attempt to garrison the Rhineland with insufficient and demoralized troops. Grasping for an unambiguous victory to offset the moral opprobrium of the blockade, the Kaiser's kidnapping, and the tragic muddle of the Conference, Lloyd George commits to "expelling the Turk from Europe," with catastrophic consequences in India, Syria, and elsewhere.

These alternate 1920s are at least as tumultuous as the real world, but with the added chaos of a divided France. Communist uprisings (including the Three Day Soviet of Paris), the militant National Front created by Marshal Pétain in the Rhineland, the battered Third Republic, and a variety of industrial/technocratic corporate states vie for control of France.

Western Europe becomes a mirror of Mexico and China, prompting John Gunther to write, with some exaggeration, that "An unbroken belt of warlordism stretches from Lisbon to Shanghai."

Yellow Socialism, Eugene Schneider II, and The War That Will End Peace

Yellow Socialism, or Syndicalisme Jaune, sought to avoid dreaded Communism, or any form of collective bargaining, by the creation of corporate-funded (and essentially domesticated) unions. The movement (if it can be called that) was created and largely funded by Eugene Schneider II. Incidentally, you may notice very different tones in the English and French Wikipedia articles on the topic.

Eugene Scheider II was also interested in empire-building. In this alt history, he makes the leap from building with capital backed by state power to building with capital backed by borrowed state power. Le Creusot and Rhône basin pay lip-service to whatever central government is currently recognized. A shadow-state, more flamboyant than most.

Total war proved to be unprofitable for everyone; almost as unprofitable as total peace. Laws capturing excess profit (and were) circumvented by investing in capital, which was not taxed. All that built-up capital in factories, machine tools, raw goods, and skilled labour would go to waste (or require costly readjustments, or be sold below its war-inflated purchase price) if the threat of war vanished completely. 

There is a limit on what the consumer will pay for a refrigerator, even if it is stuffed with features. It's a big box that makes things cold. Diminishing returns kick in. But if there is a development limit on a "kill-someone-waaaay-over-there-machine" we have yet to reach it.

The most desirable state, from the perspective of post-WW1 industrial conglomerates, seems to be peace at home (the circumscribed model factory-home, where wages pass through a worker like rented beer), a lopsided peace with major trading partners, war scares on the borders, and a few wars in unprofitable and unsympathetic parts of the world to serve as testbeds, advertisements, training, and cautionary tales. That this system, in this alt-history thought experiment, accidentally slipped into warlordism cannot be surprising.

Eugene Schneider II seemed to want to create a model community to match his ideology, like Henry Ford's Fordlandia or Pullman's Pullman. In this alt-history, he added an army to defend it.

These two hundred men, the cream of financial France, are an  amazing plutocracy. They are as snobbish as a vintage sardine or a Rue de la Paix hat. Mere wealth cannot buy its way into this  velvety inner circle. The two most flagrantly conspicuous of modern French millionaires, Coty the perfume man, Citroen the automobile manufacturer, were not members of what is customarily called merely the ‘oligarchy’. The chosen insiders combine the 6hereditary distinction of family as well as the contemporary command of wealth. They rise straight from pre-Revolutionary times; they were the upper bourgeoisie during Napoleon; they worked  together, consolidated their power under Louis Philippe and Napoleon III. The last person really ‘taken in’ by the oligarchy is supposed to have been Eugene Schneider, the steel and arms merchant, about thirty years ago.

-John Gunther, Inside Europe, 1940, pg. 167.

The root of the munitions problem is the fact that only highly industrialized countries can profitably manufacture appreciable quantities of arms. These countries sell to those less industrialized. Ninety eight per cent of the total arms exports of the world comes from ten countries; about sixty-five per cent comes from Great Britain, the United States, France, and Sweden, the four greatest exporting countries. France, typified by Schneider-Creusot, supplied in 1932 no less than 27.9 per cent of the world’s total output of arms.

Schneider-Creusot, like all great arms companies, is several things — an arms firm, a myth, a steel works, a microcosm of the munitions industry, a national institution, a nightmare to pacifists, an idol to patriots, a military necessity to more than one country, and a whale of a good business. The directors of Schneider and the other firms in the Comite des Forges which do munitions business are quite mild-mannered gentlemen. They do not seem ferocious; but their business is the invention, manufacture, and sale of implements of death.

The arms companies are as incestuous as white mice. They play together and breed. This is because they are in a signal sense noncompetitive; good business for one means good business for the others; obviously if Schneider, say, gets a big order from Country X, other companies will have a better chance of business from Country Y, which is X’s unfriendly neighbor. As soon as one country buys a new military invention, other countries must buy it also. Arms firms may underbid one another for a contract in a single state; but internationally they all stand to gain.

Extraordinarily interrelated and intertwined, the arms firms lace the whole world in their net. Schneider and Vickers were connected through Sir Basil Zaharoff, munitions salesman extraordinary. Schneider controls Skoda, the great Czechoslovak munitions firm, through a French holding company, the Union Européenne. An allied bank finances a big Hungarian bank, which provides loans for Schneider sales. The Schneider interests are believed to  control an Austrian bank also, which is interested in the chief  Austrian steel company, the Alpine Montangesellschaft. But the Alpine concern is ‘owned’ by the German Steel Trust! And through a Dusseldorff firm, Rheinmetall, Schneider is believed to be linked to Krupp.

It is, of course, an old story that arms firms maintain an extreme  political impartiality in their business. They sell to each side in  any war. They sell to friend and foe alike. Pluck a bullet out of  the heart of a British boy shot on the North-west Frontier, and like  as not you will find it of British make. Paul Faure, deputy in the  French chamber, is in possession of photographs showing representatives of Turkey and Bulgaria buying arms at Creusot before the War which during the War were used against French troops; he has also a precious picture of Eugene Schneider on a yachting party with the Ex-Kaiser Wilhelm. French munition traffickers helped arm Abdel-Krim in his Morocco campaign against the French. The Turks used British cannon to beat the British at the Dardanelles; British battleships were sunk by British mines. 

-John Gunther, Inside Europe, 1940, pp. 172-173

Management and paternalism

Whilst capitalising on technical innovations and diversifying the productions (steel, iron ships military machine guns, tanks and artillery, then electricity and civil nuclear power), each generation of Schneider contributed to extending the factories and improving the town’s urban development.

In addition to their economic achievements, the Schneiders developed Le Creusot into a model industrial community by introducing a paternalistic policy and enforcing it in all aspects of the workers daily lives: housing, education, recreation, healthcare. Their visionary, philanthropic business model was paternalistic in the sense that the Schneiders provided employees decent and affordable houses, amenities, welfare provisions and overall improved living conditions.  They shaped the town’s architecture and at the same time, ruled the economic and social life of Le Creusot. . Within a few years, they acquired a worldwide reputation and hosted many visits from customers and Heads of States from France and around the world.

Until today, Le Creusot celebrates the memory of the Schneider family, the paternalistic leadership and culture they left behind. Doted around town, a series of statues immortalize each of the iron masters, while streets and working-class districts echo their names. Boulevard Henri-Paul Schneider for example is named after a tragically lost family child, or the miners’ district called Jean and Françoise Schneider. Throughout town, you will find evocative street names that plunge us back to industrial times.

To get a deeper insight into this charismatic family of iron masters and understand the scale of their impact on Le Creusot, a visit to the Chateau de la Verrerie, their former residence, is highly recommended!
-Creusot Montceau Tourisme (accessed 2024/01/02)
The Wipers Times
Tumblr Shitposts (1916 edition)
Further Reading:
  • 'European Diplomacy Between Two Wars, 1919-1939', (1972), Quadrangle.
  • 'The Secret International: Armament Firms At Work' (1932), The Union of Democratic Control.
  • Fredrick Manning, 'Her Privates We', 1930, Serpent's Tail Classics. (Which, as an aside, contains the first appearance of the phrase "fucked up" in print.)
  • Harold Nicholson, 'Peacemaking 1919', (1933), Constable.
  • Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919 (1942), particularly Vol. 3.
  • Jamie Camplin, 'The Rise of the Plutocrats: Wealth and Power in Edwardian England', (1978), Constable.
  • John Gunther, 'Inside Europe', (1940), Harper & Brothers.
  • Robert Lansing, 'The Peace Negotiations', (1921), Houghton, Mifflin Co.
  • William A. Schabas, 'The Trial of the Kaiser' (2018), Oxford.
  • Samuel Kalman, 'The Extreme Right in Interwar France: The Faisceau and the Croix de Feu', (2008), Routledge.  
  • Modris Eksteins, 'Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age', (1989), Lester, & Orpen Dennys.
  • James E. Sheridan, China in Disintegration: The Republican Era in Chinese History, 1912-1949, (1975), Macmillan.
  • John Gunther, 'Inside Asia', (1939), Harper & Brothers.
  • Edward A. McCord, 'The Power of the Gun: The Emergence of Modern Chinese Warlordism' (1993), University of California Press.
  • Carol Willcox Melton, 'Between War and Peace: Woodrow Wilson and the American Expeditionary Force in Siberia, 1918-1921', (2001), Mercer University Press.

I am also working through:

And knocking billowing clouds of rust off my French in the process.


OSR: The Monster Overhaul is the Best RPG of 2023 (according to some people)

According to this list from GeekNative, The Monster Overhaul was the 6th bestselling fantasy RPG on DriveThruRPG in 2023.

That's astonishing, considering the other works on the list! I'm delighted that people are enjoying the book.

I don't run advertisements or manage a marketing campaign for my books. The Monster Overhaul relies on word-of-mouth recommendations and unsolicited reviews. I'm grateful to everyone who's taken the time to recommend the book, talk about it on a podcast, review it on youtube, post about it on whatever forms of social media remain, order it at their local game store, or shout about it from the rooftops. After many years of work, it's amazing to see the book out in the real world, helping GMs everywhere.

Polygon: The best tabletop RPGs we played in 2023

The Monster Overhaul, by Skerples, reimagines not just the monsters, but the very notion of what a bestiary can and should be. The book is divided into 20 categories, each containing 10 critters that hew to a theme. The categories are unusual: There is “Dragons,” of course, but also “Summer” and “A Wizard Did It.” “Summer” monsters include the Froghemoth and Pyromancers. Some of these may sound similar to classic D&D monsters, others are entirely new. Tables galore help build and flesh out encounters. “Summer” has a set of generic swamp hexes; other entries have lairs and dungeons. There is an entire flowchart table for populating a megadungeon. Every page of this book is designed to make the reader think about monsters, how to make them feel new, or to recontextualize them, or to simply subvert player expectations. Like all great RPG supplements, The Monster Overhaul not only offers answers for these questions and more, it also teaches the reader how to continue answering them long after these published tables and suggestions are exhausted. A monstrous achievement that should be on every GM’s shelf.

Cockatrice Nuggets CN230: Best RPG Books of 2023

This might be my favorite release for 2023. I have gotten more use out of this book than most of the things I have bought this year. I have gotten more use out of this book than probably the 5E Monster Manual, and I ran 5E for a long time. This book is not just monsters. [...] The way this book is put together makes a lot of sense to me. The stuff that's in here! Most of these monsters have a lair attached with them. If they don't have a lair they have something else. [...] There is so much good stuff in this book that I keep coming back to it. This is my new monster manual. When I want a monster, I come here first.

-Rich Fraser

 If you're not sure what this book is all about, check out the megapost.


OSR: Rereading OD&D: Normal Men, Hobbitouison, and the Orcian Way

If you want a cleaned-up modernized one-volume OD&D rules set, you have a lot of options these days, but the original texts, without the benefits of decades of polish and revision, are well worth analyzing. 

The previous post has been described as full of "wilful misunderstandings and wilful misreadings" of OD&D. It's not. Well, not completely. It's textual analysis; not what you think the text says, or what you think the text should say, but what it does say. (What the text means is an entirely different and equally perilous question.) It's an analysis that wilfully ignores Chainmail, The Strategic Review, other publications, and decades of analysis, and concentrates solely on the three LBBs.
Stepan Alekseev

Take the issue of magic-users wearing non-magical armour from the previous post. A GM familiar with the fantasy trope of a robed, bearded, and unarmoured wizard might say, "Obviously OD&D Magic-Users shouldn't wear armour." 

A GM who's skimmed the rules might say, "The rules say Magic-Users can't wear mundane armour" and not worry about the grammatical details.

But a close reading of the text suggest that yes, in the rules, Magic-Users in OD&D can wear non-magical armour. Was this intentional or an oversight? Who knows. But it's in the text. And now a GM who's read the rules can say, "That's silly. Magic-Users can't wear armour" or "Perhaps there's a reason the rules let Magic-Users wear mundane armour?"

The rules are not the game. They are tools to create the game. They are not laws or proscriptions. You can (and should!) adjust, interpret, or ignore them. These OD&D examination posts are not advocating for blindly following a non-traditional and/or nonsensical interpretation of the rules; they're an exploration of possible interpretations, overlooked aspects, or amusing incongruities.

If the LBBs were religious texts, there would be wars over whether or not Hobbits could be resurrected. Hobbitiouisian vs Hobbitouison.

Yes, interpreting the ambiguous units in OD&D to allow Magic-Users to create a titanic 10'x100'x240' Wall of Stone is unusual... but it is, just barely, an interpretation supported by the text. Of course, most GMs would entertain the idea for a few seconds, decide "that's silly", and choose the equally supported, probably intended, and far more sensible units, but it's still a valid interpretation that might lead to a very interesting campaign and setting. 

Finally, these articles are not advice, in the same way that saying, "Blood can be used as a substitute for eggs" does not mean, "You should make blood-flavoured cupcakes for your next office party."

Reading Turn Undead

There's not much to read. The image above is everything presented in OD&D. It's one of the most notoriously confusing rules in the booklets. (The most confusing is, of course, what a "turn" is, but that's a different sort of turn.)

The general belief is that the Turn Undead ability arose in the Blackmoor campaign, where we known the cleric was created, so priests could function as vampire hunters. If it is true the turn undead ability was a Twin Cities thing, it would explain why the normally verbose Mr. Gygax said virtually nothing about turn undead in the 3lbb’s.
-DHBoggs, Hidden in the Shadows

The general consensus is that "turned away" was intended by Arneson to mean "held at a set distance from the Cleric" rather than "compelled to flee."

Viy (1967)
By that interpretation, Arneson's Turn Undead functions a bit like Gygax's spell "Protection from Evil".

Protection from Evil: This spell hedges the conjurer round with a magic circle to keep out attacks from enchanted monsters. -Men & Magic

How often it can be used, and what it the ability requires, are up to the GM, as the books provide no guidance. "Once per round..." or "Once per set of undead..." and "Instead of attacking, while brandishing a holy symbol..." are traditional, but they're not suggested by the text (except, arguably, in the Vampire monster entry.)

It is also possible to interpret "Clerics vs. Undead Monsters" and its proximity to the spell tables to mean that whenever a Cleric casts a spell (and at no other time), they make a roll on the table and turn away/destroy nearby undead. 

The rules proposed by Fred Funk make a lot of sense to me, if you're looking to expand OD&D. At low levels, Turn Undead protects the Cleric, not the party.
Additionally, beginning at 7th level, the creatures that are affected, either by a successful roll, or natural talent, give ground at the rate of 5 ft./level of cleric, a radius on the cleric. As an example, when Macduff reaches 7th level, the Skeletons and Zombies that he turns will stay at least 35 ft away from him at all times, and so would a Specter, on a roll of 16 or better. This enables him to extend protection to members of his party. -Fred's World: the Clerical Companion

Misreading "Turn Undead"

It's possible to misread "turn undead" as "turn into an undead creature." This interpretation is not supported by the text, which clearly states "monster turned away," among other clues.

It still happened (though I think it was in AD&D...). It's very silly, but hand-on-heart, it happened. I can't find other stories mentioning it on the internet, but I'm sure it was a relatively common misinterpretation, especially among young and enthusiastic gamers who only read their character sheets and not the rulebooks. "Turn" as in "turned to stone" is more common than the LBB usage of "turn" as "deflect", as in "turn aside" or "turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways."

There's a table of monsters and hit dice corresponding to your Cleric's level. Lycanthropes are in the game. Clerics could be... Thanatothropes?

So a level 6 Cleric (a Bishop) could turn into a Vampire on an 11+, a Spectre on a 9+, a Mummy on a 7+, and Wight or a Wraith automatically, but they'd be destroyed if they tried to transform into a weak undead like a Ghoul, Zombie, or Skeleton. 

Below level 7, Clerics don't have to pick an Alignment (see below). Undead are aligned with Chaos, so presumably a Law or Neutrality Cleric who turns into an Undead creature (by this method, by vampirism, etc.) also changes their alignment to Chaos, but below level 7 this does not necessarily make them an evil Cleric.

Is this a one-time effect, for a set number of rounds, an at-will ability like the Vampire's gaseous/bat form, or until sunrise? Who knows. It's very silly. In OD&D, Lycanthropes don't have any folkloric guidance on when, or even if, they change shape (in contrast with the Vampire entry's detailed rules), so we can't use that as a guide.

Evil Minions and Chaotic Leaders

Note that Clerics of 7th level and greater are either "Law" or "Chaos", and there is a sharp distinction between them. If a Patriarch receiving the above benefits changes sides, all the benefits will immediately be removed! -Men & Magic 
Anti-Clerics: Evil Acolyte, Evil Adept, Shaman, Evil Priest, Evil Curate, Evil
Bishop, Evil Lama, Evil High Priest. -Men & Magic
Character Alignment, Including Various Monsters and Creatures: Before the game begins it is not only necessary to select a role, but it is also necessary to determine what stance the character will take - Law, Netrality, or Chaos. Character types are limited as follows by this alignment  [...] Chaos: Evil High Priest. -Men & Magic

Evil and Chaos are not equivalent in OD&D. Chaos seems to be a theological upgrade to lowercase-e-evil. Presumably you learn about it at a training seminar. Either at 7th level (Lama or Evil Lama) above 7th level (Patriarch or Evil High Priest) (the rules above disagree), a Cleric must pick Law or Chaos, but before then, merely being evil is not a firm commitment to Chaos. Clerics are the only class with built-in alignment-altering moments.

Finger of Death: [...] A Cleric-type may use this spell in a life-or-death situation, but misuse will immediately turn him into an Anti-Cleric.) -Men & Magic

Evil is a very nebulous concept in OD&D. At its core, it seems to be about intent. The GM needs to make a ruling every time.

Detect Evil: A spell to detect evil thought or intent in any creature or evilly enchanted object. Note that poison, for example, is neither good nor evil. -Men & Magic

So Detect Evil wouldn't detect poison in a chalice, but would detect the poisoner. But what if the poisoner was poisoning someone who was going to blow up an orphanage? Discuss.

Stephen Oakley (currently here).

Just Normal Men

Attack/Defense capabilities versus normal men are simply a matter of allowing one roll as a man-type for every hit die, with any bonuses being given to only one of the attacks, i.e. a Troll would attack six times, once with a +3 added to the die roll. (Combat is detailed in Vol. III.) -Monsters & Treasure

On discord, DymeNovelti noted:

Even without Chainmail we can see evidence that the 10th level Lord isn't a "normal man" -- see Book 1 p 19's table saying normal men are first level fighters, and Book 2 calling out leveled bandits etc. as "super-normal types." So trolls would make 6 attacks versus bandits or soldiers, not against a Lord.

This is a very good point. What qualifies as a "normal man" in OD&D?

Normal men equal 1st level fighters. -Men & Magic

BANDITS: Although Bandits are normal men, they will have leaders who are
supernormal fighters, magical types or clerical types. For every 30 bandits there
will be one 4th level Fighting-Man; for every 50 bandits there will be in addition
one 5th or 6th level fighter... -Monsters & Treasure

BERSERKERS: Berserkers are simply men mad with battle-lust. They will have
only Fighting-Men with them as explained in the paragraphs above regarding Ban-
dits. They never check morale. When fighting normal men they add +2 to their
dice score when rolling due to their ferocity. -Monsters & Treasure
NOMADS: These raiders of the deserts or steppes are similar to Bandits as far as
super-normal types and most other characteristics go: -Monsters & Treasure
BUCCANEERS: Buccaneers are water-going Bandits in all respects except com-
position of their force. -Monsters & Treasure

PIRATES: Pirates are the same as Buccaneers except they are aligned with Chaos. -Monsters & Treasure  

By that logic, a 6+3 HD Troll fighting ten hirelings lead by a 5th-level Fighting-Man can either make one attack against the 5th-level Fighting-Man or make six attacks (one with a +3 bonus) against the hirelings. 

(The intention behind these rules becomes a lot clearer if you have access to Chainmail, but for the purposes of this experiment, we don't.)

When Do You Stop Being Normal?

This table, along with the Bandit entry in Monsters & Treasure, suggests that until a Fighter hits level 4 (Hero), they're still a Normal Man. "Hero", for both Bandits and PCs, marks the transition from "disposable meatshield in a uniform" to "character who gets lines in the screenplay or a separate figure in a massed battle wargame", and therefore from "gets shredded by a Troll" to "fights a Troll one-on-one."

It's equally valid to treat the line "Normal men equal 1st level fighters" as the end of the matter. By that logic, a 2nd level fighter is no longer a Normal Man.

One Attack Per Target?

It's possible to interpret the monster HD-based multi-attack rule, and OD&D's vague alternative combat system rules, to suggest that only one attack can be assigned to each target in each round. It's "versus normal men" not "versus a normal man."

Under this interpretation, a Troll fighting four normal men can attack each one once (with one attack getting a +3 bonus), and the two excess attacks being wasted.

The Cusp of Heroism

This is probably crossing the line between analyzing the rules and wilfully misreading the rules, but if:

  • Monsters get one attack roll for every hit die against Normal Men.
  • Monsters can only assign one attack to each Normal Man. 
  • A Swordsman (a level 3 Fighting Man) is equivalent to 3 Normal Men according to the table above.

Then could a Troll assign three of its six attacks to a level 3 Fighting Man?

It would create a very odd difficulty curve, where level 2 and 3 Fighting Men are increasingly vulnerable, but stop being squishy at Level 4. 

It makes very little sense from a game design perspective, but OD&D isn't concerned with fairness or balance in the modern sense. Heroism must be earned. A Swordsman must leap into the fray, take disproportionate risks, stand out from the nameless rabble, and fight terrible foes in unequal combat to rise from the depths of minonhood to the safe plateau of Heroism. 

PCs with Multiple Attacks?

Remember, we don't have access to Chainmail, The Strategic Review, etc. We're stuck with the 3 LBBs. Based on those books alone, do PCs get multiple attacks?

Attack/Defense capabilities versus normal men are simply a matter of allowing one roll as a man-type for every hit die, with any bonuses being given to only one of the attacks, i.e. a Troll would attack six times, once with a +3 added to the die roll. (Combat is detailed in Vol. III.) -Monsters & Treasure

This rule isn't limited to monsters. PCs get hit dice too. Yes, this rule appears in the Monster part of Monsters & Treasure, but so do humans, elves, dwarves, etc.

By that logic, a 6th-level Fighting Man makes 6 attacks against Normal Men or 1 attack against anything else. A level 1 Fighting Man (with 1+1 HD) makes 1 attack with a +1 bonus. Ditto for Clerics, Magic-Users, etc. Do not underestimate a high-level wizard with a dagger!

However, this creates a small problem with the Fighting Capability column.

Fighting Capability: This is a key to use in conjunction with the CHAINMAIL fantasy rule, as modified in various places herein -Men & Magic
Unlike the Fighting Man, the Magic-User and Cleric Fighting Capability columns do not line up 1:1 with their Hit Dice. A 9th level-Magic User (a Sorcerer) has 6+1 Hit Dice, and therefore can make 6 attacks against Normal Men (one with a +1 bonus). But the Fighting Capability column doesn't list "6 men", it lists "Hero+1. From the Fighting Man table, we know that a Hero is equal to four Normal Men, so that's four attacks (one with a +1 bonus).

There is no easy solution. If they're not using Chainmail, the GM needs to decide which column to use (if either).

In any case, Normal Men are in trouble in OD&D. I'm surprised there are any left!

Alexander Mandradjiev

Normal Ghoul Paralysis

GHOULS: As stated in CHAINMAIL for Wights, Ghouls paralize any normal figure they touch, excluding Elves. -Monsters & Treasure

"Normal figure" is not defined anywhere in the LBBs, so it's less of a case of textual analysis and more a case of inventing a ruling. "Figure" is used sparingly in the books, but does crop up in one very relevant entry.

Charm Person: This spell applies to all two-legged, generally mammalian figures near to or less than man-size, excluding all monsters in the "Undead" class but including Sprites, Pixies, Nixies, Kobolds, Goblins, Orcs, Hobgoblins and Gnolls. -Men & Magic

If you put the emphasis on "normal", then "super-normal types" (i.e. Fighting-Men of level 4 and above, Magic-Users, Clerics, Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, and all monsters) are immune to Ghoul paralysis.

If you put the emphasis on "figure", and note that the rule specifically point out that Elves are immune suggests that other creatures that might fall into the Elf category are not immune, then the Charm Person target restrictions make sense.

Kibri model No. 37304,
N-Gauge model of Branzoll Castle
a.k.a Castle Blackmoor

Primordial Silliness in The First Fantasy Campaign

Whimsy is one of the founding principles of D&D. Compared to early games, giant stone walls are practically sensible. Dave Arneson's The First Fantasy Campaign is a rich document for anyone trying to understand Blackmoor and pre-D&D. Here are two of my favourite silly stories. 

I: Super Berries

Due east on the road to Bramwald lies the Super Berry Woods wherein the Berrium Maximus is found. It is a timeless place where all who enter lose track of time. As with the Siren’s call and the island of the Lotus Eaters, there is no desire to leave. If the proper spells are cast ahead of time (each turn you are in the wood, you must make a saving throw vs. Charm Person spells) you can enter and leave normally (even with a saving throw vs. Charm Person each turn you are in the woods will equate with 1-6 turns outside the woods).
The main fruit of these woods is the great Super Berry which are as large as big pumpkins (the whole creation was a result of using some HO/00 scale trees which had great orange fruit on them; since these things were always infesting the board by dropping off, they became Super Berries and were saved - that’s what you do with imagination), and are endowed with Magical properties (the exact nature of which changes with the season of the year, phase of the moon, maturity of the berry, if it is cooked, boiled, dehydrated, sliced, diced, made into juice, wine, soup, mush or eaten raw). Since my players are far from figuring out the details, I will not reveal them here. -The First Fantasy Campaign

There was a tree. It was off a railroad game and it was supposed to be an orange tree, but the oranges were about the size of basketballs in proportion to the people. So he called 'em "Super Berries." So I was able to take the Super Berry and, say you're a fourth-level Magic-User, and you could throw spells and stuff that are for higher people. A fourth-level Magic-User could throw first- or second-level spells, but with a Super Berry, you could go to fourth or fifth or sixth level.

[And this just came out of Dave's head one day?]

Well, part out of Dave's head, and everyone else put in their two cents in, you know that works.

-Pete Gaylord, interviewed in Secrets of Blackmoor.

The Blackmoor magic-system was very different than OD&D's approach, was not well documented, and is poorly understood, even today. It was probably impossible to systematize for publication.

Tim Kirk

II: The Orcian Way

All spelling and grammar is original (in every sense). Append one big [sic].

The first six levels of encounters were prepared in the last two years for convention games, and set up along "Official" D&D lines. The last (7th-9th and the Tunnel Cavern System) are originals used in our game. Additional crazy characters that got into the game over the years have been the Orcian Way and Sir Fang the Vampire. 

The first is a great glowing stairway (with Orc Music, Rule Britannia played backwards!) that goes directly from the 1st level to the 10th level magically, although the players seem to be walking down an endless stairway. Upon entering the stairs, the Orcs, Ghouls, Wraiths, and Balrogs at the bottom are warned of the adventurers approach, and composition. If too strong, the expedition will descend the stairs forever with no apparent way out. If weak enough, the Orcs and Company, will attack and try to take them all prisoner, sacrificing them to a great feast. There are two Balrogs, six Wraiths, 200 Ghouls, 50 Ogres and 750 Orcs waiting at the bottom. They are all that is left of King Funk's Orcs' Grand Army that took Blackmoor.

Should the players ascend the stairway. they will reach the top at about 250 feet where the stairs end in a small room (10' x 10'). In the ceiling of the room is a trap door. When you open the trapdoor, all you can see is sky and what is apparently a small platform 3' x 3' with a one foot wall around it. When the players reach this platform they seemingly (to those in the room) continue on through the trapdoor and vanish out of sight. Actually those that are passing through the trapdoor suddenly find the entire structure (trapdoor. platform. dungeon, etc.) vanishes and they fall towards Blackmoor Bay some 5-100 feet below them. Any rope that is holding them is broken and they hit the water. They must then avoid drowning (I ask them while they are falling what they are doing; if they are in Plate Armour, I give them a 1/10 chance of getting it off in time; other must make a throw less than their Dexterity rating when they are wearing some other Armour). When in the water, there is a one in six that the Great Kraken of the Bay will capture and eat them each turn as they are swimming (generally two throws) to shore. When they reach shore they are destitute by alive.

The entrance to the Orcian Way is marked by a great bronze tablet:

Orcian Way
Orc Public Works
Erected by Funk I
King of All the Orcs
It too, glows in the dark and is inscribed in the Common Tongue. Once you are on the Orcian Way, the only way out is the trapdoor or fighting your way through the Orcs on the 10th level. It has nailed many a party. It's nature is now well known, but it still claims it's victims regularly.

-The First Fantasy Campaign
Tim Kirk

Orc Music

For your listening pleasure, Orc Music: Rule Britannia Played Backwards. To make it more orcish, I've create a second version pitch-shifted it one octave lower

You may need to download the .mp3 files to get them to play; Google Drive doesn't always want to play them in browser.

The result had me in stitches. The presence of "Soron" (Sauron!?) in the reversed music might explain the orcish connection (if Arenson used a reversed record/tape)... or it might be a coincidence. 

Sbyeen seebla
Schanamen namen namen urahsneep
Sneer galdoo vignats der
Vegnatsy groo

Sbyeen seebla
Schanamen namen namen urahsneep
Sneer galdoo vignats der
Vegnatsy groo

Gner snee ya
Shosneyverbraa ya-ah
La lachbromis gostop
La stromis gospe

Veer brosnya
Iquemalock soron
Lamback soron

Veer brosnya
Iquemalock so-o-o-o-ron
Lamback slemback sneegnasy bleh

It's unlikely to be a karaoke hit, but you can sing along at home. The original file, in case people are worried about copyright, is in the public domain. The files I've created are also in the public domain (so feel free to distribute them), although you could make your own in any audio editing program in under a minute.

How did Arneson (or Fred Funk, the player who constructed the Orcian Way) produce this "Orc Music"? The gag doesn't work as well if you just say "Rule Britannia played backwards". It needs the audio accompaniment. A tape recorder or a record player would work... or perhaps, and this is an alarming thought, Arneson learned to sing it backwards. 

Does anyone know? Perhaps I should contact the crew at Secrets of Blackmoor.

Finally we came to an open stairway with circular stairs down which we heard music playing. Richard stumbled down the stairs immediately. The rest of the group halted and tried to decide to follow him or not, Tindell urging them on. As we walked down, we heard the orc national anthem (don't blame me; it's Arneson's dungeon; how could orcs have one nation?) played backwards. This brought a horde of orcs on us from in front.

-Bill Paley, Alarums & Excursions #15, transcribed here.

Obvious Traps

I think that the best trap is usually a known trap, and I've said as much in print.

Some of the traps in classic funhouse dungeons seem like jokes designed for the module’s author and the GM to share, with the poor players left frustrated and baffled. I’ve tried to make Magical Murder Mansion entertaining for everyone; even the deathtraps and surprises should get an joyful “oh no, I can’t believe we walked into that one” from the players. The GM knows it’s a trap. The players know it’s a trap. But someone’s got to open that door. - Magical Murder Mansion

I suspect Arenson's players, when first confronted by a the glowing "Orcian Way" sign, felt the same way. Of course it's a trap. Horrible death is expected. The fun is finding out what sort of horrible death awaits and, if by luck, guile, a half-forgotten inventory item, or fleeing madly in all directions, it can be avoided.

Final Notes

If you have a favourite odd OD&D rule, ruling, or fact, feel free to leave it in the comments.