OSR: The Mystery of Uriah Shambledrake Session 13 & 14 - The Iron Tower

 In the Previous Installment, the PCs:

  • Traded some horses.
  • Radicalized some rats.
  • Imploded some snails.

The PCs are:

Tom Shambledrake
Electric Wizard and heir to the bankrupt Shambledrake estate. Inventor of the Lightning Accumulator and the Lightning Inverted, which, when combined, should revolutionize magical charge production in Endon.

Jonty Earl
Dandy. Assistant Professor at Loxdon College, and accidental inventor of the Jonty Suit.

Dr. Augustus Hartwell

Biomancer. A foreign doctor and self-described "quack", currently employed at Blumsworth Hospital. Ally of speaking rats, workers, and other vermin.

Lizzy Ramchander
Potion Wizard, former cook, former brewer, and current secretary to Doyle Wormsby.

Doyle Wormsby
Civic Wizard, Private Investigator. Motivated by truth, justice, and tobacco.
Nathanael Whale

Doyle slipped into the Hasselby Court Mechanics' Society, paid his penny into the collection tin, slipped his flat cap a few inches lower, and slouched in the back row of the lecture theater. He'd been attending these meetings for months, disguised as his alter-ego  "Michael Conan", a printer's assistant, general labourer, and taciturn misanthrope. The Societies were springing up like mushrooms all over Endon, offering quiet reading rooms, libraries, lectures, tea, and biscuits for a very moderate price. Far too moderate, Doyle had calculated, to support their expenses. Someone wanted these clubs to exist, and Doyle suspected the Project.

The Project, attentive readers will recall, is a mysterious alliance of wizards. Professor Tallerand, disgraced biomancer, and Edward Konivov the eccentric time wizard are certainly involved. Their scheme seems to be the conquest of death itself via time travel, memory extraction, and the creation of new and imperishable bodies. 

And Edward Konivov was a lecturer at the Mechanics' Societies. While other lecturers spoke on practical subjects such as housekeeping, mathematics, and natural philosophy, Konivov's lectures tended towards abstruse philosophy. The audience seemed to tolerate him because he was frequently seen with Benjamin Fits, the notorious labour agitator. Fits commanded the room whenever he appeared. 

Once, after following him and his cadre of scowling cronies to a tavern, Doyle saw one of Fits' attendants reveal a mysterious glass jar before Fits hastily signaled for him to hide it. The jar seemed to contain another, smaller jar, both full of a clear liquid. Doyle was intrigued, but could not find any further evidence of the jar's meaning. 

It wasn't a memory extracted by Tallerand. Those, Doyle knew, glowed blue, and judging by the burn scars on the scalps of several devotees of the Mechanics' Societies, Tallerand was hard at work behind the scenes, moving skills from one worker to another, and probably duplicating them along the way.

Reza Afshar
Meanwhile, Jonty embarked on a complex scheme to raise the group's finances from frustrating middle-class paralysis to the lofty realms of high capital. He spent several weeks discreetly investigating stock-traders and promoters by day and reading the relevant laws by night. Within a month, he considered himself one Endon's authorities on shady practices, stock-jobbery, and financial wizardry.

He proposed two companies. The first would support the calculating golems of John Huffman and Ana Hartwell. The second, a far larger concern, would support the development of the Lightning Accumulator and Lightning Inverter... and far more besides.

"It'll put magic accumulators out of business," Jonty said excitedly. "Instant magic! Just add lightning."

"But lightning strikes are arbitrary," Lizzy pointed out. 

"We could build a tower," Tom said, his eyes glowing more than usual. "A tower of iron! Lightning strikes the highest point available, and if we build the tallest building in Endon." Tom quickly sketched something on bit of newspaper and showed it to the group.

"It's the letter 'T'," Dr. Hartwell said. 

"It's a tower! Tall middle bit, and two arms. And then I can stand on top, where the head is, and look down upon Endon while casting my spells! Mwahaha!" Tom chortled, miming vigorously.

"What about when it's windy?" Lizzy said, flapping her arms up and down. "Boing boing snap oh many casualties, infamy, etc, etc." 

"Fair," Tom replied, sitting down and scratching his chin. "We should probably hire an engineer."

"One engineer? We'll need a whole fleet. We'll need a warehouse or two for the magic batteries and Lightning Inverters, and a large area on which to construct the tower."

"Needle Circus makes sense to me," Tom said. "We could even buy up the old Nortgreen & Louton Gel Refinery. I'm sure Nero would appreciate it."

Lizzy's eyes lit up. The things she could do with a proper laboratory space and some decent refining equipment..

"We'll sell magic by the kilothaum. No, wait, better. We'll charge up magic batteries and deliver them around the city, like milk," Jonty said. "A fleet of carts, with our livery painted on, delivering safe and reliable magic to your front door."

"A few charges, sure, but there's no way we could safely cart a really large magic battery around the city," Tom said. "They're wider than some of the streets."

"What about piping it like water?" Jonty suggested. "Thick warded cables to local firms that need dozens of charges a day, and delivery carts for households and smaller industries."

"Can you pip raw magic like that?" Doyle asked, then, before Tom could speak, added, "Safely, I mean."

"Proooobably," Tom replied. "Copper cables with a ceramic coating ought to work."

"What about the rain?" Dr. Hartwell said. "This will require a lot of storms."

"It already rains in Endon most days of the year," Jonty said smoothly. "Why worry? I'm sure it will be fine."

And so, Iron Spike Thaumaturgy Limited, with a nominal capital of 50,000gp, divided in to 20,000 shares, was quietly formed. Jonty added Professors Turnspit and Aster, the summoners from Loxdon College who were working on the Jonty Suit, as subscribers, and assigned them a generous 100 shares each. The fictitious Nigel Crustacean Ramchander, Lizzy's non-existent brother, received 2,000 shares, as did the very real and slightly bewildered Nero Krahlhammer. Dr. Hartwell and Jonty took 2,000 shares each, while Tom, as the originator and vital component of the scheme, took 4,200. The rest were sold to a variety of investors by Jonty, or held for later sale, or otherwise tied up in his convoluted financial chicanery.

"So... we're rich?" Lizzy said, a few days later.

"On paper, yes. I've had to allocate some of the capital to real estate projects. Advertisements. Miscellaneous expenses. But yes, we are rich." Jonty said.

"I would like 500gp for a special project," Lizzy said, extending her hand. Jonty stared at it, then cut her a cheque from Iron Spike Thaumaturgy's account.

One week later, in her newly appointed laboratory, she took careful aim at a vat of translucent green gel and cast a powerful spell. When she opened her eyes, she was beside herself in both the figurative and literal senses. 

"Hooray!" both Lizzy Ramchanders said. Dissatisfied with the limited duration of her duplicate self spell, Lizzy had worked out a way to use a gel matrix to stabilize the resulting flesh double, turning the spell's duration from minutes to hours and letting her get twice as much work done in a single day. The spell didn't duplicate clothes, and the process was likely to nauseate any spectators, but Lizzy worked out a sort of quick-change system for basic laboratory clothing and installed a very good lock on the door.

Doyle spent a week going quietly mad as his secretary appeared in two places at once. Eventually, Lizzy had to tell him. "At least it's not time travel," Doyle sighed.

Rio Skywalker
Jonty decided to see if the Minister of Trade, The Right Honourable Barbosa Crummies, could offer insight into clay deposits around Endon. Iron Spike Thaumaturgy might require a great deal of ceramics.

The Ministry of Trade seemed to consist of the Minister, an overworked secretary, and a stratified mesa of paperwork, maps, letters, and petitions that filled their adjoining offices. 

"Don't talk to me of ceramics," Kenwigs moaned. "I found out last month we've been importing all our plates and cups from Foreign Parts. We just passed a bill that increased the tariff a hundredfold. Didn't make the papers or anything, despite quite a good speech on my part. Now I find out we've got no domestic pottery industry to speak of. Nothing to protect, you see. And all the importers have already cancelled their orders. By this time next year we'll be eating soup out of our hats."

"My goodness," Jonty said sympathetically. He knew the Gumperts, the current ruling party, were widely predicted to lose the coming election, but this scandal could be the final nail in the coffin. The most prudent of rats, Jonty knew a sinking ship when he saw one, and politely excused himself. On his way out, he confidently pilfered a map of Endon's catacombs and a few assorted folders from the stacks of paper in the Minister's office. 

He pinned the map to the wall of his study. When Doyle saw it three days later, he let out a strangled gurgle, hailed a cab, and returned an hour later with a folder full of newspaper clippings. Each one was a strange cryptic advertisement placed by Edward Konivov in a newspaper. He started tacking them to the map. The lines and intersections of the catacombs of Endon occasionally lined up with the incomprehensible lines of the advertisements.

"Got it," Doyle said. "They're marking something. A supply cache? An experiment? A meeting place?"

"Not all of them line up with the map though," Lizzy pointed out. 

"It's not a complete map. Nobody has a complete map, probably. This is just the official government survey. See, it's concentrated around the Auld Grey Cathedral, but there lots of blank bits... and some passages marked with skulls. Ominous." 

"Those could mark... good places to find skulls?" Lizzy said, without much hope.


Tom, meanwhile, had been offered a suspiciously good deal on raw iron for his tower. Daniel Kenwigs, broker for the the Thaumaturgic Mining Guild, had eagerly agreed to meet with the "Lightning-Tamer". Tom's reputation, enhanced by his flaming eyes and his grand plans. Rumours of an "Iron Tower", the "Tallest building in Endon, and therefore the world" were spreading like wildfire.

After some preliminary small talk, Kenwigs opened with a very unusual offer. "400 tons of cast iron per Gel Knight?" he asked. "I understand you and your partners fund Nero Krahlhammer and own the old Nortgreen & Louton works."

"Gheht?" Tom gurgled, his face an impassive mask.

"500 tons? And how many Gel Knights can we expect?"

"How soon do you need them?" Tom replied, happy to be back on almost familiar ground. He wasn't sure how much iron the tower would need. Chastity Flintwich knew, of course, and she'd quoted some immense sum to him, but he couldn't visualize it. The more iron the better, he decided.

"As soon as possible," Kenwigs replied, starting to sweat slightly.

"Any special modifications or requirements? Livery? Functions?" Tom was also sweating. Some scheme was afoot, and he didn't like it.

"General-purpose guard duty. No livery or markings. In fact, if they could be, err, conditioned to attack recklessly on command, that would be for the best." 

"I think we can manage an order of 10 within the week," Tom bluffed. He had no idea how many Gel Knights were available, but 10 seemed sensible.

"Excellent, excellent," Kenwigs said. "We're running a railway line to Needle Circus in any case, so we can deliver the iron directly to your building site."

"Splendid," Tom said. He'd heard of the railways, of course. Engines powered by coal and water (not magic; far more efficient to use natural means) criss-crossing the countryside, but they had yet to reach the metropolis itself. Too many issues with land ownership, too many new suburbs.

Half an hour later, Tom burst into Doyle's office and relayed the very odd conversation. Doyle slouched into action. According to rumour, many iron mines and foundries in the hills west of Endon had suddenly closed. This should, Doyle knew, drive the price of iron up, and yet Kenwigs was practically giving it away. 

Dinner with a few commercial travelers and labour advocates provided half the picture. Kenwigs feared a rising tide of unemployed, unhoused, and hungry miners would see him and his company - correctly - as the source of their misfortunes, and presumably wanted Gel Knights to protect his interests.

The rest of the pieces fell into place when Doyle used Nero's scrying orb to locate the origin of a bit of iron scraped from a fresh shipment of girders. After an hour of fiddling with the knobs and dials of the orb, Doyle eventually got the device to work, but was dismayed to see that all it showed was a glowing red eye. He stared back at the symbol. After a few moments, it faded, revealing inky blackness.

"You've got it set underground," Tom said helpfully, peering over Doyle's shoulder. "Here, let me try."

"I can control the horizontal and the vertical perfectly well," the Private Investigator said, fiddling with the dials again. The orb flickered, briefly showed gravel and grass, then revealed a desolate landscape. Mine works stood silent. Smokestacks conspicuously failed to smoke. Octagonal iron pillars emerged along a ridge.

"Industrial-grade control metal or a related spell," Tom said. "Some sort of slow but persistent enchantment, I think. Enough to draw iron out of the earth and purify it. No need for miners or foundry-workers. Just a handful of men to fell the iron like wood."

"Did many people work in the mines?" Doyle asked. He already knew the answer, and didn't wait for Tom to guess. Endon was already crowded. If a space had a wall and something to keep off the rain, someone was living in it, or working in it, or painting it a dismal shade of greyish beige and trying to rent it as a studio apartment. Even the most menial position attracted scores of applicants.

Doyle didn't know much about mining, but he had the vague notion it was an organized, regimented, deadly business, with crews and leaders and camaraderie. A thousand out-of-work famers could trickle into Endon with nothing more in common than a shared accent and astonishment at urban prices, but a thousand miners could march. Ten thousand miners? Who knew how many?

That evening, while skulking through one of Endon's shadier alleys, Doyle ran into Victus Crane, the mysterious Copper employed to solve magical crimes. The two men evaluated each other with considerable frostiness. "The forger you caught escaped," Victus eventually said. "Disappeared from his cell. Did you do it?" 

"Why would I catch a forger only to break them out of the most secure prison in Endon? Don't you have the place warded against teleportation magic and all that?"

"We do. And yet he's gone. And according to my superiors, it's not a magical crime, and I cannot investigate it. I think someone is setting me up for a fall. Setting us both up," he hastily added.

Doyle considered this. It seemed far too plausible. But was Victus looking for an ally or a scapegoat? Did he truly believe that Doyle and his unsavoury friends were innocent?

"What do you want me to do about it?" Doyle said.

"Finish the case. Find the forger."

"Can't you scry for him?" 

"No results. He's powerfully warded. Conventional tinker-tailor wards we can break, but scrying is never infallible. Now that you mention it, did you use a scrying spell earlier today?" Victus asked politely. 

Doyle shrugged. Victus reached into his coat and pulled out a blurry iconograph of Doyle's face, distorted as if seen through a fishbowl. "Scrying is currently legal," the Deeker said, "emphasis on the word 'currently'. New legislation. This is just a friendly warning."

A range of unfriendly replies flickered through Doyle's mind. "A friendly warning in return. The iron mines are closed. New method. In a week, iron will be cheaper than the new whale steaks."

"What do you want me to do about it?" Victus said, slightly taken aback.

"Put a bed in your airing cupboard and rent it to a family of four. That's what everyone else will do." Doyle lit a cigarette and pointed at the door. "That, or prepare for mob violence on a scale never-before seen in this or any other city."

Designs for the Great Tower for London. Whitepointed files here.

"What do you mean, memorize it?" Tom said, pointing at the blueprints spread across the table.

Chastity Flintwich gave him a look that could curdle milk at fifty paces. "Memorize it. You need to be able to visualize the tower completely, in every detail, if you want to raise it with control metal."

"It's very complicated," Tom said plaintively. "What if I get something wrong? Can't I just correct any errors are the tower rises?"

"Possibly. The errors will compound and the tower will collapse like soft clay and kill hundreds of people."

"Ah," Tom said.

"Memorize it," Chastity said forcefully.

"Do you have any helpful suggestions as to how I might do that?" Tom asked. 

Chastity thought about it for a moment. "Be less stupid," she said forcefully. "And work harder." On a chart of socially graceful creatures, Chastity Flintwich rated near the bottom, alongside scorpions, earthworms, and some of the smellier types of algae. She went through at least one assistant a week. All of her words were fighting words, and, as the first and only Loxdon College Female Ambush Boxing League Champion, she was more than happy to back up her words with deeds.

"I have a better plan," Tom said slyly. 

Chastity stared at him. "Doubtful," she said.


Tom's plan was eventually admitted to be better. He hired an illusionist, had them memorize the plans (with their illusionist training). All Tom had to do was control thousands of tons of iron to match the illusionary form projected in the air. "Trivial," Tom assured his friends, with more confidence than he felt. Wizards of old had raised castles and towers instantly, but no one - as far as he knew - had attempted a tower of iron. He'd need to balance a mind-melting thaumic charge with a delicate concentration-based spell. 

"So you don't want an audience," Jonty said.

"Ideally, no."

"Ah. That may be difficult..."

"Jonty's sold tickets," Lizzy said in a smug sing-song tone. "It will be the social event of the Season. I'm going to buy a new dress."

"You're selling tickets to the tower-raising?"

"For a moderate fee, to keep out the rabble. We will have guards and viewing stands. Concessions. Patriotic flags. I've found a workshop that will make quite tasteful souvenir models from an amalgam of tin and lead. Stockholders get in free, of course. And we will sell stock at the event." Jonty looked giddy.

"And you've purchased all the land we require?" Tom asked.

"Almost. There's one warehouse I'd like to buy, but the owners..."

"Won't sell?" 

"Want too much money."

"Jonty, we have too much money."

"A tiny bit of arson and we'd have almost as much money..."

"No arson, no threats. Buy them out and get the foundation slabs in," Tom said, with renewed authority. 

Judge magazine, March 5, 1927. Via Yesterday's Print.

While Tom and Jonty bickered over real estate details, Doyle delved into an ever-growing maze of conspiracies and plots, and Lizzy enjoyed her new found plurality, Dr. Hartwell was fomenting a revolution in the basement of the group's townhouse.

Dr. Hartwell initially summoned rat swarms using a call vermin spell. After providing cheese, bread,  and apologies to the intelligent rats thusly summoned, attempted to establish diplomatic contact with various groups and factions. He was bewildered by the continually shifting priorities of the rats, but was able, after a few weeks, to create a sort of neutral rat meeting space, complete with speech-amplifying trumpets.

He also used a crate of potions of rat-form to speak with the rats on their level, which impressed many of them. He wasn't the first human to try and insert himself into rat society, but he was the first to speak with them nose-to-nose, and to offer assistance without asking anything in return. He discovered that the odd and stilted speech of the rats was a function of their size. They had to scream to be heard. At rat-scale, they were as conversationally adept as any Endoner.

A few days later, Doyle invited the group for a delve into the catacombs, to seek out the secrets of Edward Konivov and his mysterious newspaper advertisement. Jonty demurred, pointing out that he was far too busy. Everyone else happily agreed to a bit of trespassing. Dr. Hartwell brought along the urchin Perry Pint as his assistant.

 Like many river cities, Endon was primarily built on Endon. The water table was, for half the year, an inch above street level. New buildings used old foundations, old buildings sunk and added new stories on top. The Auld Grey Cathedral had, for centuries, kept pace with Endon by building roots of stone buttresses and wedges. 

The expedition started in the abandoned cellar of a wine merchant, descended through a drainage tunnel and pump room, and crept along a sludge-encrusted drain pipe. The sludge turned out to be an ooze, which rose, smashed Doyle backwards, and began to flow into the room with unmistakable intent.

Dr. Hartwell ran to Doyle's side. The ooze's pseudopod had smashed the detective's ribs and punctured a lung. "Damnation," the doctor grunted. "Keep that ooze away from me!"

Tom blasted the ooze with a full-power lightning bolt, but was astonished - and a little intrigued - to find that it had no effect. "It's immune to lightning!" he yelled.

"WHAT?" everyone else replied, their ears ringing.

Lizzy, always willing to help, drew her kitchen knife and charged the ooze. She sliced wildly but ineffectually. The ooze, in response, began to engulf and swallow her. Unfazed, Lizzy cast grease on herself to protect her clothes from the ooze's digestive juices and kept slashing.

Dr. Hartwell cast fix flesh on Doyle, healing him instantly but, in a mild biomancy mishap, temporarily transforming Dr. Hartwell into Doyle's doppelganger. Doyle woke up to find a copy of himself wearing Dr. Hartwell's clothes, shrugged, turned, and ran.

"Could I get some assistance?" Lizzy asked politely, as the ooze reached her neck. Dr. Hartwell examined the situation and acted decisively. He pulled out a potion of rat-form, poured it into Lizzy's mouth, tossed the flask upwards, deftly caught the falling rat-Lizzy inside the vacated ooze tunnel, stuffed her into his pocket, and followed Doyle out of the catacombs.

Lizzy stuck her head out of the doctor's pocket and cast - or vomited - cone of dense foam at the ooze, reasoning that the smell and texture of the spell would dissuade pursuit. Tom, caught on the edge of the foam, was not pleased. 


"That ooze was immune to lightning! Fascinating! I wonder if we can use it as a sort of lightning-absorber?"

"Like the ground... right?" Lizzy suggested, tracing a lightning bolt with her finger.

Tom frowned. "I suppose. Still, we should capture that ooze. Lizzy, can you get a few of the ooze-minders from the Gel Knight works to capture it?"

Capturing a lightning-eating oozes was just one of Lizzy's projects. With doubled efficiency, she had recently developed, tested, and (with Jonty's help) marketed a new brand of liquid refreshment. By feeding whale offal from the Leonine Cartel to a specially bred ooze, she could turn useless and nauseating slop into a delicious mint-green beverage.

Dr. Hartwell refused to endorse it on principle, but Lizzy pointed out that milk in Endon was heavily adulterated, usually spoiled, watered down, or otherwise unsuitable for human consumption. "That last batch of cream we tested was thirty percent chalk dust, ten percent tallow, and one percent caustic soda. And Jonty had it with his coffee."

One week later, before dawn, Tom examined the site of the tower. It was a level square, a plain of huge stone blocks and chalk markings. Stacks of iron bars, cut crudely to length, rested along the edges like firewood. Jonty had paid considerable sums to drive foundation piles deep into Endon's silty soil, buying layer after layer of limestone and iron in an effort to give the tower as solid a foundation as possible. The tower couldn't be directly connected to its iron roots or the captured lightning would simply vanish into the earth. 

Soon crowds of Endoners would fill the tasteful grandstands around the edge of the site. Tom had insisted on a 50' exclusion zone, reasoning that most minor blasts wouldn't reach spectators 50' away... and a major catastrophes wouldn't have a minimum safe distance. 

Little did Tom know that, from rooftops and alleyways, through scrying orbs and telescopes, persons of ill intent were watching him and enacting schemes to bring about his ruin.

Will the Iron Spike ever rise above Endon? Will Jonty's stock-trading schemes catapult the group into eternal prosperity? What of the escaped forger? The miners? The other tangled threads of conspiracy and counter-conspiracy?

Find out next time.


OSR: The Monster Overhaul Megapost

The Monster Overhaul is now on sale. Tell your friends! Heck, tell your enemies.

Check out these retailer lists to see if your local game store can order a copy.

What’s a Sphinx without a riddle, or a Minotaur without a labyrinth? What’s a Dragon without a hoard, or a Peasant without a grievance?

The Monster Overhaul is a massive Role Playing Game bestiary designed for at-table utility. Monsters are presented alongside useful tools, ready for immediate use in any scenario.

This book aims to provide a GM with the tools they need, as they need them, without slowing down a session. In the middle of a game, a GM doesn’t need to be told that Bears live in caves or that Ghosts haunt graveyards. They know that. What they need are interesting prompts that are difficult to invent under pressure; names, details, motivations, secrets, riddles, maps, twists, etc.

Numbers are calibrated around old-school fantasy adventure game principles. This book should be compatible with, and has been tested against, the most popular and enduring old-school systems.

This 336 page book contains:

  • 200+ Monsters.
  • 160+ Pieces of original art.
  • 20+ Maps.
  • Random encounter tables, indexes, and a host of other useful tools.

Editing by Dai Shugars.

Art by Lucas Roussel, Robin Carpenter, Iguanamouth, Logan Stahl, Ash Rudolph, Nadhir Nor, Crim_Reaper, Naf, Luka Rejec, Erin Kubo, Conor Nolan, Frenden, Scott Wegener, and Dyson Logos.


The Monster Overhaul (Skerples): From art to organization, this is shaping up to be to monster manuals as Tomb of the Serpent Kings is to dungeon adventures - the sort of thing that takes the fundamentals and applies long-needed functionality updates.

-Dan, throneofsalt.blogspot.com. The Monster Overhaul won three Salty Awards for “Best Book That Is Not In Book Form Yet”.

It’s amazing. Lots of fun. Very thoughtful. Incredibly actionable. Basically my go to Monster Manual at my table.

-Reddit user acluewithout

It's a massive, useful, inspiring bestiary, and it's applicable no matter what fantasy game you run. Seek it out.

-Mark Finn

I'm at the stage of my DMing career -- in the neighborhood of 40 years, yikes -- where I want things to be immediately useful at the table. (I have inspiration for days at this point, thanks.) A book that instantly gives me a list of names for NPCs when my players would rather talk than fight, a random table of colorful descriptions, other things that answer the needs of an actual DM playing the actual game? Yes, please.

Too many books seem to have never been playtested and, moreover, have little to no connection to how they will be used in actual play. This is the exact opposite of that, and I love it.  

-Whizbang Dustyboots

All around a great tool, broadly useful, but opinionated enough in it's decisions to avoid being a milquetoast kind of generic. One of the few monster books that covers the entire "generic fantasy rpg" gamut, while being actually a useful tool.

To make best use of it you will probably want to be playing a Dungeons and Dragons style game, but I think even if you're running something like a pulp or sci-fantasty type game you'll be able to get mileage out of it.

-Josh G

As if I'd been waiting for it for 40 years. If you must keep only one, this is this one. This book should be mandatory. What a monster manual should always have been. Instant classic.

-The Merry Mushmen 

Absolutely gorgeous, superb quality materials, and I am in love with the "old school" artwork. This is one of those rare TTRPG items that cut out all the fluff and wasted space, this book is so crammed with information WoTC would have split it into 4 middling volumes. Lives up to its name, a proper overhaul of bloated systems condensed and packed expertly into a single volume.


What a wonderful book - absolutely chock full of useful, inspiring ideas. Clearly a labour of love from the author and sets a very high bar. Well done, its a triumph!

-Ken McLennan

I have to say that this is absolutely one of the best quality books I've ever owned. Truly an amazing physical specimen. Also, it's my new favorite bestiary and it's going to take a LOT to de-throne this thing. Amazing.

-Robert Wiberg

This is one of those books that, when it showed up and I cracked the cover and flipped through it, I was immediately like, "Oh, I need to not flip through this. I need to set this aside because I need to devote a bit of time and space. I need to respect the book, because it's capital I Important." And I think that my gut reaction is correct. I think that this is a fantastic repurposing and reimagining of monster manuals... There is such an abundance of thought on display for every single monster.

-Vintage RPG Podcast

That book is absurdly good. Even after reading so many glowing reviews it still exceeded my expectations. The way the book is organized, the quality of writing, the usefulness both at the table and in advance, it’s probably the best monster manual I’ve ever seen, full stop. I can’t recommend it enough.

-Reddit user voltron00x




I wanted to create a utility-focused monster manual with a ton of cool art, useful maps, and handy tools. Planning started back in 2019; check out the tag for more WIP posts and background information. After many years of work, it's amazing to see the book out in the real world, helping GMs everywhere.

Thank You

Thanks again to Dai Shugars, the artists, the playesters, all my Patreon supporters, all the Kickstarter backers, and everyone else who helped make this book possible.


OSR: 1d100 Library Research Results

"Library Use" is a vital skill in Call of Cthulhu. I remember having a character who quipped, "You have a your revolver; I have my library card." to a fellow investigator. Later in the session, as hideous swamp-things from beyond space and time pursued us through the gathering darkness, the gunslinger called out, "Quick! Show them your library card!"

The internet has made archival work much easier, but sometimes, you need to get in the stacks and start flipping through paper. Like Joseph Manola's "Publish or Perish" table, the following results are drawn from experience. See also: Courses at Loxdon College.

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

1d100 Library Research Results
1 Author has a brazen disregard for safety and best practices. The results speak for themselves. Well... scream for themselves.
2 Turns out two authors with the same name published books that share a title. Subject areas overlap slightly. 
3 Revolutionary method condemned  to obscurity by author's verbose style. Do you credit them or "discover" it yourself?
4 Everyone cites the book, but has only read the summary in another book. The original text is nothing like the summary.
5 Warning scrawled in the margin. Beware of... bees? Beets? Beams? Dreams?
6 Author's disreputable lifestyle left the manuscript flammable, perfumed, sticky, and stained.
7 Despite the dull title, it seems this book was just an excuse to publish lewd engravings and salacious tales.
8 Book is largely useless, but the papers used to bulk up the covers are intriguing. Do you dare cut the book apart?
9 Folio bound in gold and gems. Actually read it? What a novel suggestion. Couldn't possibly allow it though. Far too precious.
10 Raw information is excellent, but the subsequent analysis is laughably biased and insubstantial.
11 Found an ingenious solution to your specific problem in a footnote on a reference book about earthworms. 
12 Patron's child used pages from the book to make a novelty hat. Will throw a howling tantrum if hat is disassembled.
13 In a fit of future-proofing madness, author converted all numbers to base twelve and all spelling to phonetic characters.
14 Littered with translation errors, speculative etymology, and unique orthographic choices.
15 Horrible truth. Induces depression, apathy, tendency to drink, contempt for the entire field.
16 Midway through the document, the author confesses to a long string of crimes. Never mentioned again.
17 Listed as the implausible 97th print run, with an equally implausible original publication date.
18 Introduction written by someone passionately attracted to the long-dead author, but in denial.
19 Less of a "translation", more of an "adaptation". Less of an "adaptation", more of a "complete farrago of invented nonsense."
20 Archivist claims anyone who reads the manuscript is doomed to die by drowning. Cannot provide details or name victims.
21 Elaborate typographic puzzle broken when the type was reset for a second edition. Apologetic note pasted in back by a reader.
22 Proof you need is in a "forthcoming volume". Yeah, sure. Pull the other one.
23 Precisely the information you need, with a clear explanation and diagrams. A stunning victory.
24 Book is autobiographical and seems to be accurate, but is treated as fiction by subsequent scholars.
25 Vindictive rival bought and destroyed all copies of the authoritative reference work on the subject.
26 Inside cover stamped with "Return To Publisher For Destruction." Probably wise not to mention it to the librarians.
27 Author uses constant allusions to an obscure play cycle. "Like Vothgar's hammer, this..." "As Prismabene on Mt. Gorthod..."
28 Insufficient detail. Author is alive and will reveal the real story if you buy them lunch.
29 Bootleg copy of the book cuts off the bottom two lines of every page.
30 Almost identical to a work published a decade earlier, but with slight wording changes.
31 Fraud all the way down. Original research was faked, and all subsequent researchers covered it up.
32 Author assumes everyone has shared their life experience. Casual references to the normalcy of unusual passtimes.
33 Handwritten marginal notes link every passage to its equivalent in a holy text. Concordance gone mad.
34 Vital illustrated plates cut out and presumably sold to a collector.
35 Book was printed with small type, three columns, and no margins to cram in as many irrelevant tangents as possible.
36 Satirical work treated as a serious account by famously humourless historian. Entire period may be misunderstood.
37 Author references a map or figure that is not printed in this edition of the book. 
38 Water damage and black mold. Whatever is in this book had better be worth it.
39 Relevant information spread across half a dozen issues of an obscure bulletin, in alternating letters and counter-reviews.
40 Book was printed with large type, wide margins, and thick paper to make it look more impressive and authoritative.
41 Expects readers to know about an undocumented method. "The Kirchbranch Procedure", "The Restovane Inversion", etc.
42 Circular reference to the original document that sent you down this rabbit hole in the first place.
43 Author cites and quotes a non-existent supporting source with total confidence. A daring bluff or something far stranger?
44 Only allowed to read the document in a small room on alternating Tuesday. Cannot bring in food or writing materials.
45 Book used to pass love letters between two library patrons. Charming, but the letters stained the pages with cheap ink.
46 Every chapter peppered with a long and irrelevant  anecdotes from the author's childhood.
47 "Detailed and graphic descriptions" turn out to be a lot less detailed and graphic than you were hoping.
48 Page number gap in manuscript suggests a chapter was removed before publication. But when, and why? And where is it?
49 Oversized book is clad in metal with brass page protectors. Incredibly noisy to consult.
50 The work is surprisingly good, but its reputation is proverbially awful. Revealing that you used it would be career suicide.
51 According to to the introduction, the author hid a ciphered message in the text. May reveal the truth, but takes hours to solve.
52 Sudden realization that the author is just a pen-name of their supposed rival. Long academic joke or a socratic debate?
53 Book is wedged in the shelves. Structural binding. May bring down half the stack if you pry it out.
54 Book is just an eclectic heap of ideas the author couldn't publish elsewhere.
55 Misprint infuriatingly omits the one page that may contain the information you need. Must find the manuscript or proofs.
56 Book is always checked out every year by the same patron, on the same date you checked it out. What an odd coincidence.
57 Conclusions explained via an elaborate seafaring metaphor. 
58 Signed by the author three years after their death, if you're reading the handwriting correctly.
59 Due to a printer error, each page is 28" tall and 2" wide. Each line contains three or four words. Sadly, not a volume of poetry.
60 Greenish paper and covers seem to produce an allergic reaction. Sneezing, itchy red bumps, watering eyes. 
61 Author spends most of the wordcount explaining how their work will revolutionize the world, and not on how it works.
62 Agonizingly vague citation with no useful context. "See Smith et. Al." At least a dozen prolific Smiths in the field.
63 Author applies the popular (i.e. wrong) interpretation of a recent scientific discovery to an unrelated field.
64 Last reader apparently clipped their toenails while flipping through the book. At least you hope those are toenails.
65 Author's early work is good, but later work takes a jingoistic, cruel, and irrational turn.
66 Author is fond of acronyms, but does not provide an index or reference page.
67 Dire warning not to try what you're about to try, but no explanation as to why not.
68 Book has a peculiar odour that clings to fingers and clothes. Like incense and rotting pork.
69 The information you need is in a rare book, and the only copy anyone knows of is in the private library of a rich recluse.
70 Hypothetical experiment described by the author in worrying detail. They couldn't have actually done it... right? 
71 Could be a forgery, but it's so much more interesting if it it isn't. Evidence is inconclusive.
72 Author retracted and disavowed their early work, but in a suspiciously vague way. What are they trying to hide?
73 Archivist misread "fronds" as "fonds". Original work buried in crates filled with the author's dried fern and palm collection.
74 Book is a work of fiction, but is cited as a reliable source of historical information by subsequent scholars.
75 After hours of analysis, you realize the author makes no actual claims, but writes as if they did. Subtle implied statements.
76 Confusing explanation. Author is alive and will insinuate themselves into your schemes given half a chance.
77 Cheap binding glue slowly oozed out. Only the outer half of each page is readable. Inner half is a fused brick.
78 The book you need does not exist. Inserted in the catalogue by rivals/cultists, as a trap. They are on their way.
79 Library refuses to let you view the document unless you fill out many invasive and tedious forms.
80 Intriguing reference to a slow-burning academic feud. Shots fired in print every decade or two.
81 Deliberately idiotic thought experiment by the author has relevant applications to your problem. A bit worrying.
82 The book you need was checked out just before "the incident". It should still be among the wreckage/evidence.
83 Illustration of the author bears a remarkable resemblance to the librarian, who will sullenly deny it.
84 Author makes a minor translation error on page one, but builds and expands on it for the rest of the work.
85 Manuscript is extremely delicate, like dry pastry. Letters sometimes fall off the page.
86 Original work is lost, but it may be possible (if tedious) to reconstruct the core from reviews, summaries, and quotes.
87 Found an ambitious reference work. Only volume covers AA-AC before the author collapsed from nervous exhaustion.
88 Text is useful, but the illustrations (drawn by the author) are crude, unpracticed, and obviously inaccurate.
89 Author was clearly having personal issues by their later works. Cloying sense of depression and futility.
90 Book is a reprint of an update of a gloss of a translation of an old work on the subject. Novel claims are just noise.
91 Author uses swarms of footnotes, endnotes, and inline citations to conceal the fact that they rely on no credible sources.
92 If the author performed all the tests they claim, it would have taken five years of non-stop work. A bit suspicious.
93 Author's smug and oily tone inspires contempt, even if their work is relevant.
94 Extremely subtle fraud. Most people involved are dead, but a few are retired and could be blackmailed or shamed.
95 Book's index and footnotes are published in a separate volume. Only one is allowed in the reading room at any given time.
96 Author proposes a revised chronology to match their thesis. Requires two extra kings, an eclipse, and a temporary land bridge.
97 They say manuscripts don't burn, but someone clearly tried.
98 Introduction to the second edition denounces critics in ways that inadvertently reveal the work's many flaws.
99 Work itself is unremarkable, but the choice of what words are indexed suggests the author had unusual interests.
100 The book of adventure tales next to the book you wanted on the shelf seemed far more interesting. Enjoyable distraction.


OSR: Industrial Wizard Towers

Towers are currently seen as archaic in Endon. A wizard's lair is a well-appointed office decorated with rich mahogany, velvet, and oil paintings of dyspeptic ancestors, attached to a bustling factory floor by a discreet marble corridor with potted plants and simpering flunkies.

And yet, in their hearts, many wizards yearn for the days where a wizard on the rise would trundle into the wilderness, raise a tower from the bones of the earth, and challenge the fundamental forces of reality and real-estate laws at the same time. 

The enormous rise in the supply of iron, and the increasing density of Endon, means towers may once again be viable, but these will not be the cold and drafty stone stumps of old. 

In preparation for such a day ,I've scanned and whitepointed all 68 towers from Descriptive Illustrated Catalogue of the Sixty-Eight Competitive Designs for the Great Tower for London. (1890). Here's the folder. Full text on archive.org, commentary on publicdomainreview. Enjoy!

"Wizards always used to build a tower around themselves, like those ... what do you call those
things you find at the bottom of rivers?"



"Unsuccessful gangsters."

"Caddis flies is what I meant," said Rincewind. "When a wizard set out to fight, the first thing he always did was build a tower."
-Sourcery, Terry Pratchett

The Columbian Exposition of 1893 also produced some excellent designs intended to out-Eiffel Eiffel, though it's difficult to tell if some of the designs were ever intended to be taken seriously.

Chicago Tribune

A competition held by the Tribune brought a wave of implausible proposals. C. F. Ritchel of Bridgeport, Connecticut, suggested a tower with a base one hundred feet high by five hundred feet wide, within which Ritchel proposed to nest a second tower and, in this one, a third. At intervals a complicated system of hydraulic tubes and pumps would cause the towers to telescope slowly upward, a journey of several hours, then allow them to sink slowly back to their original configuration. The top of the tower would house a restaurant, although possibly a bordello would have been more apt. 

Another inventor, J. B. McComber, representing the Chicago-Tower Spiral-Spring Ascension and Toboggan Transportation Company, proposed a tower with a height of 8,947 feet, nearly nine times the height of the Eiffel Tower, with a base one thousand feet in diameter sunk two thousand feet into the earth. Elevated rails would lead from the top of the tower all the way to New York, Boston, Baltimore, and other cities. Visitors ready to conclude their visit to the fair and daring enough to ride elevators to the top would then toboggan all the way back home. "“As the cost of the tower and its slides is of secondary importance,"” McComber noted, "“I do not mention it here, but will furnish figures upon application."” 

A third proposal demanded even more courage from visitors. This inventor, who gave his initials as R. T. E., envisioned a tower four thousand feet tall from which he proposed to hang a two-thousand-foot cable of “best rubber.” Attached at the bottom end of this cable would be a car seating two hundred people. The car and its passengers would be shoved off a platform and fall without restraint to the end of the cable, where the car would snap back upward and continue bouncing until it came to a stop. The engineer urged that as a precaution the ground “be covered with eight feet of feather bedding.

-The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson


1d10 Reasons To Build A Tower
1 To loom over your enemies, see them scurry beneath you, and avoid the lamentations of street musicians.
2 Because your rival has built a tower and you simply can't have that.
3 To increase public confidence in your ludicrously ambitious scheme. Spend a million to steal a hundred million.
4 To project something. A bright light, a bubble shield, a weather deflector, or a death ray.
5 A creeping sense of personal insecurity.
6 To escape fog, smoke, smog, forog, frogs, floods, and the peculiar odours of Endon.
7 To show the Hated Foreigner that Endon is the greatest city in the world.
8 To celebrate a centenary / octogintary of an important event.
9 To leave your mark in the history of the world.
10 There's a chronic housing shortage in Endon. You can charge higher rents for a more prestigious building.

New Brighton Tower
Unlike the other entries in this post, this building was actually built, and is probably one of the best industrial wizard lairs I've seen.