Interview with Timothy Brown @ Dorkland


I am all in on this Dragon Kings Kickstarter campaign setting, and this tantalizing interview with its creator makes my inner gibbering mouther drool and babble with obscene joy.

Project Status Report | Autumn 2013

I am in the midst of laying out UNDERWORLD LORE #2 and getting some great original illustrations for our "MAGICAL GRIME" issue, with material intended to fester in the cracks and cozies of your campaign world. If you'd like to contribute, how about providing an illustration for one of these Dungeon Poxes?

BTW Work on PETTY GODS is progressing. An established OSR creator and graphic artist is laying out a complete-as-possible Expanded PETTY GODS and doing a bang-up job at it. Just as a general reminder:

There is a TON of art assignments out there, floating dreamlessly in the Old School Aether. 
Will they find their way back to Gorgonmilk?

If you can get stuff to me soon, please do!

If you're interested in taking on an assignment, 
send a self-addressed, aetheric envelope to 



Gorgonmilk's Cinematic Horror Selections

Horror is extremely personal. What works for me is not likely to work for a lot of you. I tend to steer away from gratuitous gore-porn of the SAW and HOSTEL variety. It makes me uncomfortable in my gulliver --without delivering the intellectual fear-high that brings enjoyment.

In no particular order:

Candyman (1992) 
Based on a short story by Clive Barker, this movie explores the reality behind urban legends and manages to build up the dread as it chugs along. 

Ju-On: The Grudge (2002)
A ghost story in the Japanese style. Japanese culture preserves the notion that supernatural forces are a form of corrupting influence that infects the lives of those it touches. This film exemplifies that.

The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter fully explores the ways in which encountering a man-eating shapeshifter can be an awful, awful experience.

Society (1989)
One among countless iterations of the "monsters walk among us" theme -- but it's done with such style. Heebie-jeebies all around.

Lost Boys (1987)
So this film isn't particularly scary, but it's one of those movies I return to over and over. Excellent casting and wonderful homages to vampire lore. Plus it boasts both Coreys (Haim and Feldman).

The Howling (1981)
Ignore the sequels. This film accomplished everything needed from a modern-day werewolf flick. Amusing and creepy and perfect nightmare fuel for the youngins (they'll thank you later in life).

Videodrome (1983)
David Cronenberg at the height of weirdness. Figuring out what's happening is less important than just being along for the ride and soaking in the madness.


[Music] Dirty October Wizard Shits

Feat. Rival Consoles, Najem Sworb, CFCF, AAIMON and Funerals

Underworld Lore: Submit to the Zine, Earn Points in Gamer Valhalla

A huge, heartfelt thanks to all the folks who palpated their imagination glands and contributed to the first issue of UNDERWORLD LORE. Working with you guys and gals is like being a part of my own Lovecraft Circle -- and I guess that would make Matthew Schmeer our official HPL -- that man's creative output is truly Cyclopean! 

Truth: I have struggled with the task of collating and laying out PETTY GODS. As time goes by and this great material continues to collect dust, my guilt grows. This is a problem that I am actively using UNDERWORLD LORE to address. By serializing the Gods in each issue, I get to share the great writing and art and (by extension) HUGE FUCKING GOD-MONSTERS with you all.

Q: What's in store for UNDERWORLD LORE?

A: After issue #2 we'll be dedicating each issue to a particular theme (see below). If you've got input and/or material in mind that you'd like to share in the zine, contact me [flowthrake AT gmail DOT com] and we'll figure it out together. Each issue will come packed with at least one D30 table -- both new stuff and projects that we've put together through this blog already. I don't care if you're one of these sad sacks who say they're sick of tables -- You obviously haven't seen the sick stuff we're packing into UNDERWORLD LORE, where each entry is a revelation unto itself. And that kind of sums up what we're doing: Taking tried-and-true formats and illuminating them like monks tripping on LSA-drenched baked goods. It's not always ever going to be pretty. If you want sterilized and proper PG-rated RPG products, there are plenty of options out there. UNDERWORLD LORE isn't afraid of a little potty humor or Satanic Panic. In fact, we kind of like that stuff.


  • #3 is the Hyborian Issue. Includes James Mishler's masterful write-up for CROM, god of the mountain; some monsters inspired by the writings of Robert E. Howard; random breast-size generation chart inspired by Dave Hargrave (male and female versions!); an article on the Chainmail Bikini as practical dungeon-gear; and more!
  • #4 is the Occult Issue. New spells from hag-magic to reality-alteration; sources of Magical Power; rules for wizard-cults (coteries); some PETTY GODS of magic; and (you guessed it) more!
  • #5 is open for suggestions!
  • #6 is the Vancian Issue [edit]
  • #7 is the Dunsanian Issue [edit]
Here's a sneak-peak at the cover for Issue #2:


Ovoyyamar is a web-comic by artist Alan Brown. Essential reading (or viewing, really) for any of you cats who like your fantasy dark and weird.


FREE PDF: Underworld Lore #1

UNDERWORLD LORE is a new zine chock full of OSR community-generated content for your fantasy campaign! For the premiere issue we've got a bangin' table of magical gems found in the eye-sockets of select animated skeletons, a whole mess of crazy mushrooms ripe for foraging in the deep dark below, a never-before-seen PETTY GOD & more besides. Click on the cover to download the RAR archive containing the PDF as well as exterior and interior cover files (in TIF format). I expressly designed this thing with printing in mind, but it looks rather swank on the screen too.



"Proper English" is a myth; the grammar police are wrong

I have gotten into heated debates about this very topic, so I have no grounds to begrudge the hordes of online anal retentives who compulsively need to correct everyone else's mistakes. All the time. Everywhere.

Maybe this is a weird stance to take from a guy who purports to edit things in his non-professional capacity as an editor of PDFs, but I don't assert my opinion here out of personal convenience.

The idea that languages -- in this case we're going to talk about English, but what follows applies to ALL living languages that aren't Klingon or Sindarin or otherwise invented by nerds as a kind of intellectual exercise and/or artform -- 

The idea that languages have static rules and possess an inherent proper form is bunk and can only be construed as non-bunk in the sense that there is a tacit social agreement among societies that this must be so. Artificial rules of language begin to be indoctrinated into English-speaking humans shortly after birth with the expectation that everyone will be on the same page by the time they reach maturity. 

Like how we're on the same page regarding AIN'T.

We will all know that ain't isn't a word. 

And yet, AIN'T has form (note the letters and symbol that make it up) and meaning. We are all secretly aware that it makes a fine substitute for ISN'T in the sense that it conveys the same relationship equally well, and yet some of us hate AIN'T for the sole reason that it isn't proper.

What a bunch of cunts.

"Proper" loses its meaning very quickly as we back away from the timeline of History and actually consider how much "Proper English" changes, mutates, absorbs, adapts, devolves, evolves in relatively short periods of time. People did not stop speaking Middle English because some advanced linguist discovered Modern English and everyone agreed that it was better. The very boundary between Middle and Modern is a blur of linguistic indistinctness. 

The notion of Proper English itself isn't all that very old.

The point here is that language never stops changing, and notions of Proper English erode and partially collapse continuously. 

Bitching about it is like bitching about the weather.


[Underworld Lore #2] 30 Messages scrawled above the shitting hole at the Slatternly Mermaid

For inclusion in the second issue of UNDERWORLD LORE.

Post your short messages (no more than 30 words) and/or descriptions of crude or obscene drawings in the comments below. These will be reorganized into a d30 table. Specify a result number if you wish.

The Slatternly Mermaid is a mediocre watering hole nestled between the warehouses and dockside tenements of [A CITY FROM YOUR CAMPAIGN WORLD]. It is old enough to have accumulated a number of legends. Many of these stories speak of a carefully hidden door in the sub-cellar that opens unto a dank, ever-curling stairwell that leads one down into the Underworld. Other tales tell of the (fictitious?) family of grimps* who live at the bottom of the shitting hole.

[Thank to Carjacked Seraphim (I think?) for providing the fishgirl illo.]

*A grimp is a deformed and diminutive member of the troll family, possessing the regenerative abilities of their larger cousins but none of their ambition.


[Kickstarter] Adventures of the East Mark

Everybody interested in 
OSR goings-on take note:

Our Spanish OSR cell made this really sweet retro-clone/setting called (accurately translated?) Adventures of the East Mark, and now some wise English-speaking cats are Kickstarting it into the English. AND IT COMES IN A RED BOX with booklets and fold-out maps and stuffies!

I don't know much about it aside from what I've gleaned from the KS, but the art (see link above) and maps are things of friggin beauty:

Underworld Lore Zine #1 -- DRAFT

So here's the first 14 pages or so (+cover) for the first issue of UNDERWORLD LORE in a rar archive.

I'm looking for submissions for the section entitled "Dungeon Fruits" -- if you'd like to submit some weird and edible fungi, post them in the comments below.


Endorsed by the Kurgan

(It's so mutual, the K.)

Impromptu Appendix N Swap Request

I'm looking for The Carnelian Cube:

And I have an extra copy of Gardner Fox's Thief of Llarn (same edition as depicted below) for trade:



Aklo: An Occult Language

In my current campaign, witches are a distinct racial cousin of mankind who dwell in the haunted land of Baphomir. They revere the Red Norn, a distant and merciless demi-god said to dwell beyond the end-wastes. The Red Norn is said to have given the witches the language of Aklo. More than a collection of sounds and glyphs, Aklo is a magical dialect that shapes the thoughts of those who hear and use it:

  • It is impossible to lie in Aklo; most witches avoid straight-forward conversation and prefer to speak in riddles and metaphor.
  • A true name scrawled in the spidery letters of Aklo gives the witch power over the named one, provided she is using the blood of the victim or a close family member for her ink. Male children are bound in this way shortly after birth (before a complete moon cycle has transpired). The true names of all female witches that have ever been born and ever will be may be found in the Nigronomicon of the Red Norn.
  • Spells written in Aklo cannot be used by standard magic-users who are not fluent in the language. The bulk of the witches' spellcraft may be found in the seven-volume Icols of Dzypt

Much as the necromancer communes with the spirits of the dead to achieve his aims, the witch bargains with a community of unborn phantoms native to the nightmare zones who actively seek to obtain flesh-bodies in the material plane. Coteries of witches exist solely to have congress with this-or-that polymantic transient. Phantoms utilize this sexual energy to (a) make brief manifestations in our world or to (b) inseminate a mortal vessel with their demon-seed. Powerful witches are typically accompanied by several invisible servants (called thralls) who work in exchange for a steady diet of blood and other fluids.


Lulu OSR Goodies

Lulu is offering 20% off right now with the code "PUMPKINS" (remove quotes). I'm using this opportunity to grab print copies of Rob Conley's Scourge of the Demon Wolf and The Outpost on the Edge of the Far Reaches by The Warlock's Home Brew.

Are there any new(ish) must-have items out on Lulu? It seems like most OSR print-on-demand books are found on RPGNow and DriveThruRPG these days.


LotFP Resources?

I've spent the last hour googlin' for stuff like
  • lotfp reference sheet
  • lotfp referee sheets
  • lotfp charts
  • lotfp resources
And I'm finding very little.

Anybody know where I can find stuff along these lines?


Troll Questions Answered

The Random Wizard asks us...

(1). Should energy drain take away one level of experience points from the character? Yes or No? If no, what should level drain do?

While I appreciate the cruelty of energy drain from a DM's perspective, I hate the busywork it immediately creates for the player. From my vantage that's undesirable -- it takes up valuable time at the table and breeds distraction from the flow of the game. So big NO to level drainage.

As an alternative, I would treat energy drain as a loss of material substance. Characters so afflicted would be like living ghosts -- able to pass through walls but unable to affect the physical plane without the use of magics. Additionally they would be vulnerable to attacks by entities dwelling in the Ethereal Plane.

(2). Should the oil used in lanterns do significant damage (more than 1 hp in damage) if thrown on an opponent and set on fire? Yes or No? If yes, how much damage should it do?

If a magical fireball cast by a fifth level wizard can do a minimum of 5d6 damage, a natural fire fed by an ample amount of lantern oil should do at least 3d6 within a 1d10 foot radius, I'm thinkin'.

(3). Should poison give a save or die roll, with a fail rolled indicating instant death? Yes or No? If no, how should game mechanics relating to poison work?

Only specific poisons should be insta-death with a failed save. Other poisons should be slow-working (eg. kill the character in a number of turns or days), or do different sorts of damage (eg. render the victim paralyzed or turn him into an INT 5 dunce).

(4). Do characters die when they reach 0 hit points? Yes or No? If no, then at what point is a character dead?

If Hit Points are supposed to represent a character's proverbial fight, then zero HP would be no fight at all -- meaning the character would be rendered defenseless and susceptible to a final coup de grace from his enemies. If not immediately executed, a character at zero HP might bleed-out and die on his or her own provided the wound is severe (criteria for "severe" could simply mean the character took a critical hit at some point in this combat).

(5). Does the primary spell mechanic for a magic user consist of a "memorize and forget system" (aka Vancian)? Yes or No? If no, what alternative do you use?

Primarily, yes.

(6). Should all weapons do 1d6 damage or should different weapons have varying dice (1d4, 1d8, etc...) for damage?

I have no real opinion here. Damage inflation effects both sides (monsters and players) identically. Ultimately it just helps PCs die faster.

(7). Should a character that has a high ability score in their prime requisite receive an experience point bonus? Yes or No?


(8). Should a character with an strength of 18 constitution get a +3 bonus to hit points, or a +2 bonus to hit points, or a +1 bonus to hit points or no bonus to hit points? And should other ability scores grant similar bonuses to other game mechanics?

Low-balling ability bonuses is preferable to going crazy with them. Also, why should strength affect to-hit rolls? A bonus to damage makes sense. Maybe give players the option to apply their DEX bonus to to-hit rolls or AC.

(9). Should a character have 1 unified saving throw number, or 3 saving throw types based on ability scores (reflex, fortitude, will), or 5 types based on potential game effects (magic wand, poison attacks)? or something else?

I prefer the last, but the 3-type system works just fine. One saving throw seems silly and needlessly simplified.

(10). Should a cleric get (A) 1 spell at 1st level  (B) no spells at 1st level (C) more than 1 spell at 1st level?

At least one spell. No spells is just mean.


PETTY GODS Update #666

Do any of you have advice on the subject of using deities in campaigns that you'd like to share in PETTY GODS? I'm putting an appendix together that deals with this very subject. Contribute by commenting below. Something between 300 and 600 words. I'll publish the best six or so.


[Music] October Witch House Selections

WITCH-HOUSE (aka drag) is an occult-themed house music genre, heavily influenced by the chopped and screwed hip-hop movement created by DJ Screw in Houston, Texas during the 1990s.

[Music] "Helena Beat" by Foster the People (Com Truise Remix)

Sounds like: New Wave with a nice crunchy bass frequency, processed vocals

Flustery at a Glance

Flustery was given as weregild to a bastard son of the Crustmarten clan, whose house was destroyed in the laughable Battle of Fatbeards to the advantage of the Red Princes. It is a neglected and half-wild territory visited by merchants during the warm seasons only, when its roads and trails are for the most part passable. By bestowing this "gift" unto Grogwalter Crustmarten the Younger, the Princes elevated him to the status of Baron under certain terms. In brief, they required that all of Grogwalter's sons be bastards born and that the least gifted of these should become his successor. Grogwalter's legitimate sons were smothered at birth. His daughters were wed to craftsmen, became midwives or joined popular cults. This bastardly tradition has persisted into modern times, with each baron found to be more or less competent in the areas of commerce and governing. Of late the line has diminished in physical stature, but by slow increments the descendants of Grogwalter Crustmarten have achieved a degree of cunning. They all share a deep and abiding hatred for their princely patrons to the south. 

Adventurers and wandering treasure-seekers are drawn to Flustery by tales of the dark hole in Oldwell and the halls of riches found at its bottom. They know of the talk of shadowy things of legend said to watch over these treasure caches. Yet as self-professed realists and cynics, your general run of adventurer-types tend to disregard such stories as fanciful bunkum. A cottage industry of adventurer services has long profited from the steady influx of clientele. (For example, the Hirelings Union discussed in the previous post.) 

-Bastardshire [town]
Seat of the Realm, where reigns the Bastard-Lord, the Baron of Flustery, Vassal of the Red Princes.

-Bogtwaddle [hamlet]
Situated in the Lower Boglands region. Reputedly the townsfolk have carnal dealings with the tree-dwelling race of fabulously endowed aboriginal beast-men who stalk the bogways. Bogtwaddle's fish-eyed half-man degenerates are fond of stringed instruments and idle, aimless chatter. In recent years the hamlet has dwindled to less than thirty residents.
-Dimwick [village]
Situated near the north-eastern edge of the Lower Boglands. Its people are fanatic devotees to the Cult of the Yellow Redeemer, who is rumored to descend from the stars and cavort with his followers on moonless nights. They have no inns or taverns but are oath-bound under the will of their spiritual master to provide meals, shelter and gospel to any outsiders in need.  
-Oldwell [town, uninhabited]
Ghost town found in an ancient grove that has no recorded name. It is located near Flustery's northern border with Brackenwold. The walls of Oldwell are mostly rubble, and its buildings and streets are skeletal and weather-beaten. Few trees or plants grow there, and animals aside from crows and vultures shun the place. At the heart of the ruins is a courtyard of toppled statues and monoliths that encircle an ancient well. In folklore this well is associated with the legend of the town's evacuation. Various fictions attempt to explain the reasons behind the evacuation, but no history found in Bastardshire's famous Hall of Adequate Knowledge even mentions the event.   

Ye Charter of Ye Hirelings Union

Breakdown of Rights Under Employ
1. Allowment of one half-hour break per day, four hours of sleep per night
2. Payment of two meals per day
3. Payment of three gold pieces per month
4. Payment of one pint of booze or strong drink per month
5. Allowment of two holidays per calendar year 

Maximum Term of Employ: Six years (negotiable)

Consequences of Mistreatment
1. Placement on Union blacklist (Published quarterly in urban areas)
2. In severe cases: imprisonment or execution

Headquarters: The Crow and Cockerel Publick House, Bastardshire, Realm of Flustery

Elected Chairman: Dougal Greybeard

Emblem/Symbologia: The Black Dog Rampant, sometimes depicted smoking a long pipe and carrying a bludgeon

Membership in the Union is not optional for professional or part-time bravos. Any individual discovered practicing the art of paid-henchmannery will be imprisoned for a term not less than three years, after which he or she will have the option to enter the Union or win his or her freedom at the dice table against the reigning dice-mistress. Failure at this juncture results in an indentured term of three years spent cleaning latrines and scrubbing soiled laundry at the Crow and Cockerel. Upon the satisfaction of this term all serviles shall be considered free persons.

Areas of Competency
1. Loyalty to the Union
2. The henchman-client relationship
3. Proper wood-gathering
4. Satisfactory personal appearance
5. Acceptable levels of bravery
6. Practical usage of bludgeons
7. Crossbowmanship
8. Horse- and mule-riding
9. Torch-lighting and -carrying
10. Maintenance of equipment
11. Watch-keeping


Dragon Kings Kickstarter

Viddy this.

Yeah, it's a Kickstarter by Timothy Brian Brown, co-creator of TSR's Dark Sun setting. In a vein similar to Monte Cook's re-fab/serial#scrape-away for Planescape called Numenera, Brown is giving Dark Sun the Renaissance treatment. Additionally there's a musical component -- a concept album that acts as a sort of "tour" of the world of Khitus. There's also a nice coffee table book that illuminates the album and expands on its relationship to the Dragon Kings setting.

Now there are tons of options for potential pledgers, as Erik Tenkar mentioned here. So many options that at first glance a reader may be overwhelmed. But after studying the KS page for a bit I opted to go with the $80 "Champion Gamer of Khitus" reward package:
CHAMPION GAMER OF KHITUS: The print and PDF versions of the Dragon Kings World Book, the print and PDF versions of the Gazetteer book, plus the print and PDF versions of the Exclusive Poster Map, and the print version of the Exclusive Cover Poster, both the Pathfinder and Savage Worlds PDF rules supplements plus all unlocked Rules Supplement PDFs. Also includes free US shipping and any digital extras unlocked via the Kickstarter. 

Estimated delivery: Apr 2014
Add $40 USD to ship outside the US
Prog-rock is tangential to my music tastes, but I'm less into that side of Brown's project than I am the sweet books and the Gerald Brom and Thomas Denmark artwork. The above option seems to include all the really sweet bits I'm interested in. I'm not sure if it's in the cards, but it would be nice to see an OSR system book for Dragon Kings if the various stretch goals are met. I'm thinking Labyrinth Lord or Swords & Wizardry would be especially useful. Not sure what I'll do with the Pathfinder and Savage Worlds pdfs... Delete them and scan my computer for viruses? :)


Clark Ashton Smith gets the Penguin Classics treatment (finally!)

Coming out next March. 368 pages! Click the cover below (featuring CAS art, no less) to go to the Amazon pre-order page. Not sure about which stories (aside from the classic in the title) will be included just yet. Thasaidon will be most pleased.