Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Space zombies for White Star

Shockingly, for a game which covers a vast swathe of sci fi tropes in its covers, the closest White Star gets to space zombies is their version of the reavers (space savages) or possibly the assimilants (totally not-Borg). Here's a customizable Space Zombie to liven up your White Star explorations...

Space Zombies
Armor Class 8 [11] (normal), 7 [12] (large), or 6 [13] (fast)
Hit Dice 2 (normal), 4 (large) or 3 (fast)
Total Hit Bonus +3 (normal), +4 (large), or +3 (fast)
Attacks slam and bite 1D6 (normal and fast), 2D6 (large)
Saving Throw 17 (normal), 16 (large) or 15 (fast)
Special hard to kill, possible contamination, other (see zombie specials below)
Movement 10 (normal), 12 (large) or 15 (fast)
HDE/XP 2/30 (normal), 4/120 (large), or 3/60 (fast)

Space zombies typically appear to be the dead or seemingly dead remains of spacers and other travelers to the stars who have somehow hideously reanimated and returned to some sort of unlife, with an insatiable lust for humanoid and living flesh, often (but not always) with an intense craving for brains. Zombies as presented here appear in three types:

Normal zombies are slow, shambling beasts who are either too degraded or too "out of it" to move very quickly. They are a threat in numbers but can usually be outrun by all but the stubby yabnabs.

Large zombies are mutated hulks, either of large infected aliens or normal humanoids who have been mutated by their zombification.

Fast zombies are usually zombies either early in their conversion stage (so tissue degeneration has not set in) or they are mutated naturally this way, perhaps even enhanced by the zombification process to make them dangerously fast, hungry predators.

Space zombies arise in various forms on various worlds (and sometimes in the depths of space) due to an array of unusual conditions. If you're looking for a reason they exist, roll a D12 and consult this table for some examples:

1 - exposure to a mutated virus on a hostile alien world or comet's tail
2 - Alien nanoweapon found by accident which reanimates the dead
3 - Exposure to dark energy in the depths of space had an unintended side effect
4 - Extremely strange radioactive substance, from either an experiment gone awry or an alien artifact
5 - Black ops for the Commonwealth/Federation/Empire's Special Intelligence Program leads to manufacture of zombie-like victims
6 - ASI (artificial super intelligence) creates a genetic bug which destroys humanoid's intelligence but leaves the feral part intact
7 - A bizarre side effect of hyperspace travel causes the effect but the reason and nature of the zombie plague is unknown
8 - Brain worms infect sentient humanoids and turn them into zombies
9 -  Hostile aliens use a powerful virus or chemical agent to turn enemy population on itself
10 - Other dimensional beings from a hell-like parallel universe invade the galaxy, using psionic magic to turn humanoids into their unwilling zombie army
11 - An ancient alien artifact warps the minds and flesh of those who hear its psychic all, turning all in to zombies (or worse!)
12 - An engineered virus manufactured by a bioweapons corporation is accidentally unleashed

Space zombies have two specific traits:

Hard to Kill: when a space zombie is reduced to zero (or fewer) hit points it makes a saving throw. If it succeeds, the zombie recovers at the start of the next round with 1 hit point. If a character targets the zombie's head (-4 chance to hit) then if the shot reduces the zombie to zero hit points it does not make this save.

Additionally, most zombies are not damaged by normal toxins, poisons, the vacuum or space or radiation...they're effectively undead or necrotic, even if it's through mutation or transmogrification in some manner. Special exceptions would be "living zombies" which are in fact still living and require the ability to breath, and are susceptible to attacks which harm normal humanoids even if they themselves cannot feel pain normally. Examples are noted below as either "necrotic," "undead" or "living" zombies, with undead in this case meaning they are really, absolutely dead and animated by forces beyond science.

Contamination: space zombies are often exposed to horrifying chemicals, viruses, nanotech or other reanimating agents which can be infectious. If your space zombies have a contagious risk, then any target which takes direct damage from a space zombie attack must make a saving throw or risk being contaminated in turn. Typically contamination leads to conversion in to a zombie in 1D4 hours unless there is a cure for the plague. Kindly GMs may allow the victim a saving throw each hour (with a +2 bonus if proper medical attention is received) to fight it off. Once the victim converts....he's a zombie.

Special Space Zombie Abilities: Each of the twelve examples of zombie origins above has one special ability that is optional. Increase the zombies HDE by 1 if you use these. The list as follows corresponds to the origin list above:

1 - Hostile mutating alien virus zombies (necrotic; exposure through bite, wound, see contamination above); these zombies begin mutating over time, and have a 25% chance of a hideous tentacle attack (1D6+1 damage, can grab and pull a target in and does +1 damage for each additional zombie attacking the same target).

2 - Nanovirus (necrotic; body "explodes" when zombie dies, all within 10 feet must make the save to avoid infection); zombie has metallic skin (+1 AC) and often merges with metal weapons, even star swords, to graft on its limbs as weapons!

3 - Dark Energy Powers (necrotic; zombie does not infect until death; dark energy entity attempts to possess the target that killed the zombie); this type of zombie can use confusion once/day and can fire a ranged attack (dark energy burst) dealing 2D6 damage once per combat turn.

4 - Radioactive Zombie! (necrotic; zombie does not infect, but any exposed to the same radiation or killed by a radioactive zombie must make a save on hitting zero hit points or become a radioactive zombie in 1D4 turns); anyone within 15 feet of this zombie must make a save each round or take 1D6 radiation burn damage.

5 - Black Ops Zombie (necrotic; might infect, using normal rules); these are usually always fast zombies, and have rudimentary intelligence. They are usually armored with medium (+4) or heavy (+6) armor and usually carry mono-axes (1D6+2) and laser rifles (2D6). They are cunning but not "smart" so they can open or chop down a door but maybe not electronically hack into a sealed door.

6 - Wild Living Zombies (living zombie; do not infect, but the ASI that created them might do so through any attempt at a neural interface in computers it controls); these are usually fast zombies and just ravenously mad and hungry. Their aggressiveness gives them a +1 initiative due to ferocity.

7 - Hyperspace Zombie (necrotic; might infect at GM's discretion); these zombies can phase through walls as if they weren't there, and worse yet can make an attack roll to grab a target and then try to drag them in to the phased space, leaving them there. If the target fails a save after being so attacked, they take an additional 2D6 damage from being fused to part of a wall or other fixture, and may have to be cut out and hospitalized for a lengthy period.

8 - Brain Worms (necrotic or living; infectious if more brain worms burrow in to you; could be through saliva, or any physical contact with someone; some population  may be carriers but not actual zombies!); brain worms drive their hosts mad and control them even after death. The brain worms seem to be inimical to humankind and are keenly intelligence, using their undead hosts to spread more of their kind to the stars. 25% of brain worms have access to meditations, including charm person (3/day), confusion (2/day) and detect life (at will).

9 - Chemical Zombie (necrotic; only risk of infection is to an area saturated with the chemical agent, but some large zombies may "explode" on death releasing the agent for 15 feet around them!); these zombies were made through alien chemical weapon attacks and are usually incredibly dangerous, as the chemical was designed to turn the world's population on itself, making the aliens' enemies their own worst threat. Such zombies ooze toxi chemical blood; any melee attack that spills their blood requires a saving throw by the attacker to avoid getting 1D6 damage from chemical burns, and a 10% chance of exposure to the zombie chemicals.

10 - Zombies from the Devil's Nebula (undead; they don't infect, but their masters might); these zombies are horrifically dangerous and burst in to flame, causing an extra 1D6 fire damage on an attack. When a zombie is brought to zero hit points, if they make their save to come back they do so by levitating in the air in a nimbus of fire and return with 1D6 hit points instead of just 1!

11 - Warped Call Zombies (necrotic; these zombies don't infect, but the psychic broadcast of their ancient artifact might); these zombies come in all three flavors, each reflecting a stage of mutation. They actually strike with razor blade-like arms for 1D6+1 damage instead of normal attacks (2D6+2 for large zombies), and they seek to dismember; on a natural 20 attack, the target must make a saving throw or, if the attack reduces them to zero hit points, they lose a limb! The zombie will take the next round to retrieve the limb and meld it with it's own flesh, adding +1 to hit on future attacks.

12 - Biohazardous Zombie (necrotic; these zombies definitely infect with a bite, and infected become zombies in 1D6 combat turns); the madmen at Bumbershoot Corporation are at it again! The engineered virus of the bioweapons corporation is devastatingly fast, and that makes it quick to spread through large, dense populations. They also mutate! Each time a zombie kills someone, roll a D20 and if you roll equal to or under the zombie's current hit die it gains +1 hit die, +1 to damage (when at +3 already the next +1 makes it an extra D6), and modify the saving throw accordingly. The zombie may grow larger, take on extra limbs, or become deformed, growing extra eyes or other parts. When a zombie reached 10 hit dice it becomes a tyrant zombie and gains a horrific ranged slam attack where it projects its own limbs up to 30 feet, like battering rams or blades, to crush or eviscerate targets.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

What's Out and What's Hot: Mythras, Genlab Alpha, more Fifth Edition Fantasy and Fantasy Age Bestiary

Stuff just keeps rolling in! Here's some of the more exciting finds recently....

Mythras Core Rules

Mythras arrived in the mail today. I am basking in its impressiveness and especially enjoying the slick, easy-to-use, easy-to-read and easy-to-reference layout. It's not all that different, really, from RQ6....but a slight reformatting and better use of space works wonders for the books' utility, which is amazing. The book remains focused on fantasy and historical gaming, with the rules to simulate any realistic setting in which the verisimilitude isn't just for flavor, it's baked in to the mechanics.

If you haven't ordered a copy yet now is the time; check it out here. If you're into Runequest but not keen on Glorantha, then know that your bus has arrived, time to get on. If you're into all of it, then no excuses....this is a very comprehensive one-stop rule book for realistic fantasy gaming.

Fifth Edition Fantasy 

Goodman Games has been releasing lots of new adventures for D&D 5E, and the latest three present a level 5, level 8 and level 10 adventure module. Named The Castle in the Sky, The Fallen Temple and the Eye of the Leviathan, each of these modules brings classic Goodman Games style dungeon delving to D&D's latest edition, and are worth checking out. There are ten modules now in the Fifth Edition Fantasy lineup.

Genlab Alpha

The first big supplement for Mutant Year Zero (from Modiphius) is a cool exposition on playing funny animal animals in the Mutant Year Zero universe. It's an interesting expansion and is loaded with detail for fans of the core system. I admit, I've had a hard time really getting in to the MYZ system, and deep down inside wish Goblinoid Games could make a version of Mutant Future that played like MF but had the layout and art style of MYZ....but this book will be worth checking out for any weird apocalypse fan.

Fantasy Age Bestiary

It's out in print at long last from Green Ronin, and worth your consideration if you happen to be a fan of the Fantasy Age game system. It adds a hundred+ new monsters with lots of detail to make them interesting, and manages to provide an interesting roster that does not feel like another D&D Monster Manual rehash; these creatures feel distinct, and would contribute to a world of unique nature, as well as contributing to the distinct feel of the Fantasy Age system and its implied universes. I have plans to run Fantasy Age again, soon, although they need one more expansion book to really provide the range of character generation options my players crave in order for them to embrace the system.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

White Box!!!!! S&W Redux

Charlie Mason at the White Box blog recently released a cleaned-up, fancy version of Swords & Wizardry White Box titled (of course) plain old "White Box." It's not just a reprint with better layout and art: it includes a sort of redux edition of the cooler bits that many people (such as I) consider essential to our classic D&D experience. A few bits in White Box that are not in S&WWB Core include thieves, the elven fighter-mage spellcaster option, demons, dark elves, and other juicy bits that you had to collect from various other resources to make other versions of S&W complete.

I've got a print copy on the way and will comment more then, but if you're a fan of A: Swords & Wizardry, B: collecting every edition of S&W out there, and C: like your S&W full of thieves, elven warrior-ages an demons, then I suggest you grab White Box. Before you do, look at Charlie's blog first, as he has several versions available. I got the red dragon cover on the way in soft cover, but the blue cover is kinda neat, too.

Anyway.....White Box might meet the "minimum standard" I need in my White Box experience (ahem). Will I ever convince my players to go Back to Basics and try it out? Who knows....but sooner or later, my kid's going to be old enough to play D&D with*, and when that time comes, I plan on having this book handy!

*We've tried "No Thank You, Evil!" from Monte Cook Games and we sorta had fun but were making up a lot of rules as we did. As he's developing, I think five is going to be the "big age" when he starts showing a lot of comprehension for RPGs, based on where he's at now. We'll see...I can say this much, NTYE is good, clean kid-focused fun, but I suspect in the end it's no substitute for straight up classic D&D. But hey, Dad is biased!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Life vs. Blog

Just a note that I am not dead or missing.....but this is a very busy time for my work schedule, and I have (alas) not had even enough time to preload blog entries to simulate the appearance of my being around. More soon, when time permits!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Check out the new D&D 5E Ranger

Well, in the tradition of this century we now have a ranger revision to compensate for the arguably substandard ranger from the D&D 5th edition Player's Handbook. The new ranger can be found here, and is a full 20 level build for people to test out. I'd say tentatively, without seeing it in action yet that the new design for the class definitely addresses some of the issues with the ranger my game table noticed, and which I house-ruled a bit to fix.

Some of the context of this article is with regards to how WotC needs to approach such larger rule changes in the future for D&D, which up to now they have preferred avoiding. From the looks of it, they have plans in the (near?) future to publish an Unearthed Arcana rules tome with new rules, house rules, alternative class builds like this and other things. For my money, I hope that book comes sooner than later, simply because my table loves more options than less.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Film Review: Morgan

Morgan (2016)

(Mild spoilers in the review)

It's possible you'e heard some not-so-nice reviews about this movie, but I will squelch that right now: this is a really good film. It's not a perfect film....I have more than a few questions about some of the implied dynamics of the near future universe Morgan resides in, especially the ethical and experimental controls that the corporation behind Morgan exercises, but all those aside, this was a compelling mix of SF and horror....with a lot of horror toward the end. Also, a touch of existentialism, framed from the view of what is essentially a tale of the origin of Blade Runner's replicants.

Morgan's tale is set in the not too distant future, when controlled experimental live hybrid AI are a thing under development: techniques described which seemed (to me) to suggest implanting programmed nanites into a host egg allowed the nanites to control and direct the creation of a unique sort of life form. Android might be one word, but anyone knowing Ridley Scott's son is the director will immediately think "replicant." In a great many respects this film feels like it's taking place in that universe, the one where Dekker hunts down rogue replicants......and we're getting to see another, similar kind of hunter in Morgan.

Anyway, a corporation is funding research into this hybrid "human" which is grown to adulthood over a space of five years, directed by the nanites in her system that make her uniquely NOT human. Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy) is the result of this experiment, one of several it is suggested, including the alluded to Helsinki event in which it sounds like we have the makings of a future "prequel" movie. Morgan herself appears to be a somewhat emotionally disconnected teenage girl, with a grey tone to her skin and and interesting affect. She's surrounded by a research team in a remote woodland location which is utterly dedicated to her.....she is clearly perceived as their first great success story, an artificially intelligent being which has "grown" a human body from donated tissue/egg cells, directed toward specific and intense purpose and intelligence by the nanites suffusing her very being.

Until, of course, a little incident that starts the movie off, in which Morgan displays a sudden burst of psychotic anger and badly stabs one of her caretakers. In comes a company Risk Management Assessor, a "cleaner" named Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) who is a no-nonsense professional here to protect company interests and ideally insure that the asset (Morgan) is retained for further study and use, if possible. Lee is very business focused and no-nonsense.....and has an agenda on behalf of the company, to get the mess cleaned up by any means.

As Lee pieces together what has gone on at the research location, she sees scientists deeply invested in Morgan, who have seen her grow up over five years from a baby to a little girl to adult, at a rapidly accelerated pace. Each of the scientists have their own private agendas clouding their judgement, of course....the couple who see Morgan as like the child they cannot have, behavioral psychologist Amy who has projected deep emotional feelings on to Morgan, Dr. Ziegler and Dr. Cheng who see Morgan as their chance at redemption for the failings of Helsinki and other prior experiments in the field.

Amidst all of this is are even bigger problems, revealed slowly over the course of Lee's investigation: not the least of these is the fact that despite the research team aiming for an artificial being who is emotionally capable, Morgan is in fact part of an experimental weapon project. Also, Morgan kind of likes killing things, but she doesn't know why (yet), though visiting psychoanalyst Dr. Shapiro (played as always to the hilt by Paul Giamatti) will, ultimately, get down to the brass tacks on this problem.

The film has a slow but steady build up, with an increasing level of menace that just oozes with every word, every unpleasant engagement with the powder keg brewing at this research station. It's not a conventional horror film in this sense, and if you came to the movie expecting a more conventional terror ride you will be disappointed; there's a level of psychological malice at work here that does a fantastic job of setting the mood for later, when the shit really hits the fan.

Ultimately the film gets to where it's been building up, as Morgan proceeds in the way we've all been anticipating since the first second of the movie, leading to a brutal finish. There's a surprise or two along the way, of course, but at a couple moments I really felt a sort of resonant throwback to Rutger Hauer's performance in Blade Runner....not in any dialogue so much as the "feel" of where Morgan is at, what she is. If you wonder why, in Blade Runner, replicants are built with short lifespans....well, this movie is explaining it to you.

I had mentioned some plot issues earlier. SPOILER ALERT!

Here's my beef: the film establishes that other "incidents" have taken place, in which bad stuff happened (Helsinki). In fact, it implies that this is "round 3" of the program. So if there's a really bad track record for these projects, why not include a greater level of control and security? Sure, they run the program in the boonies, far from civilization.....but it's clear that wasn't going to cut it, no matter what. Maybe the charisma of the lead researchers was enough to persuade their employer that they could do it this time? But even so, five years of limited supervision, with a team of researchers who all have hidden psych issues that have "psychotic android AI" as a key trigger....well, I guess it wouldn't be as exciting if they were all balanced and had lots of heavily automated weaponry protecting the place, would it?

There's also a scene where Lee has to escape from a location deep in the secured bunker where Morgan is normally held. Morgan's been there five years and never escaped on her own, but Lee does it in a few hours. the scene where Morgan first makes a break for it, power goes off. There was no explanation (that I could detect) for why this happened. The vague reference to her "precognitive abilities" couldn't have been a hint, could it? How would precog have allowed her to do so? She also seemed to know a heck of a lot about people she had never met, but it was never established in he movie just how she knew this.

And finally: I love Paul Giamatti when he shows up to chew the scenery as "batshit crazy middle aged dude with an agenda" in any film, but I really felt it was a bit odd that he was apparently operating with a death wish, because if his specialty was evaluating the pysche of potentially rogue AI experiments, what on earth prompted him to goad Morgan like he did? Her referencing his teen daughter? The fact that he apparently had no idea how violent she could be because he didn't review the footage of her prior acts of carnage?


I don't know if Morgan is deliberately intended to suggest it belongs in the Blade Runner universe, but it resonates very well with that film. If you're in to an intense blend of near-future SF, psychological horror and brutal down-and-dirty murder-porn, Morgan is going hit all of your buttons at least once or twice. For me this was a sleeper gem, flawed but fascinating, which I almost ignored until I (luckily) read up on what it was about. If you want some cool SF and horror but the barest minimum of CGI, this is a good choice.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Art of Guillem H. Pongiluppi

Check out his site here and at Artstation here. I'm really impressed....I don't often talk art on this site, but the imagery Guillem conjures up is singularly amazing (even the really odd stormtroopers & sith vs. Aliens panoramas!)

Some examples (last one is slightly NSFW):

Dystopian Cyberpunk Barcelona

Dawn of Time

Sith Lord vs. Xenoforms...!!!

Avoiding zombies

Avoiding zombies with less success

Ummm....good question...???

Monday, September 5, 2016

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Second Edition

Along with the announcement that all copies of The Mystery at Port Greely had shipped (I got mine over a month ago, and yes, it is as cool as we've come to expect of North Wind Adventures), this graphic was attached:

As cool as the boxed set was in all its mighty retro-ness, a deluxe hardcover of 2nd edition is really more functional for the kind of game table I run, so I will definitely be backing this one. October 21st, mark your calendars!!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Dungeon Fantasy RPG powered by GURPS is a Real Thing

ENWorld breaks the news! Look at it right here:

UPDATE! Kickstarter is Live. BACK IT NOW!!!! NOW!!!! BACK IT NOW!!!!!!!!!!

Short version:

It's a full featured stand-alone edition of the game tailored for dungeon fantasy gaming

Box includes five books, maps, cardboard flats and dice

Will incorporate some changes/udates to the 4E GURPS rules

Sounds like its slated for a 2017 release

....If SJGames makes this happen, I will be very pleased. I'm sincerely hoping this does well, as it's exactly the kind of stand-alone product that I and many other GURPS fans have said the game needs, and a boxed/print set, no less!!!!

We could see some GURPS revivalism in gaming in the near future all of a sudden. Print remains the "living" realm for gaming, no matter what PDF fans might say....gaming is very tactile, very much an experience in physicality for most gamers who aren't invested in Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds, so a product like this is necessary for the "health" of a game system. Very exciting!

EDIT: If you're not 100% sure about this, imagine for a moment two scenarios:

1. A realistic fantasy gaming system that goes for verisimilitude on a level unparalleled, while still delivering to you a genuine dungeon crawling experience
2. A revival of The Fantasy Trip, or as close to it as we can get in the 21st century

If either of those appeal to you, then this is why you must back Dungeon Fantasy!!!!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Lingusia - the Age of Strife: Fire Knife Assassins in D&D 5E

So the rule of thumb is: as soon as I invest time in another fantasy game, I start pining for D&D 5E again. With that, I offer you the 5E version of the Fire Knives for your enjoyment....

Fire Knives
Group Alignment: Neutral Evil
Leader: Shadulos Elas Boron
Headquarters: An anonymous guild hall in the Guild District
   The Fire Knives are an international organization of illuminated conspirators who have supporters within Hyrkania, Octzel, and Jhakn. Rumors indicate that there are even members operating within the empires of Persedonia and Galvonar to the south, and maybe even as far east as Cretea and Namintha. The Fire Knives are a vicious predatory political organization, motivated less by religious or moral principles than they are by political gain, despite their origins as a cult to Haro, the god of murder. The mysterious Council of Thirteen are a secret council of dissident political radicals from across the Middle Kingdoms who work together to maintain long distance ties and support. Their agendas are many and varied. Some employ magical prowess which is often learned from the Cabal of Southern Hyrkania, while others practice bastard magic, culled from the books of Blue Robes and Geomancers who dared to cross their path. Most members of the guild are common men and kindred folk who rely on stealth and swift assassination to accomplish their nefarious deeds.
   At its roots, the guild looks like some sort of thug-enforcer type of thieves’ guild that seems to have little obvious direct connection to their actions. In some cities, such as Octzel, their movements are silent and unobserved by most people. In Krythia, they wear their shield of stars surrounded by a weapons symbol proudly, and are believed to be a mercenary's guild by most people. In Jhakn the existence of the Fire Knives is unknown, as their movements are so carefully concealed and hidden that not even close allies know who they are dealing with.
   In Octzel, the Fire Knives have few allies and many enemies, often coming to blows with rival organizations and guilds. Of the many thieves and mercenaries guilds in Octzel only the Order of the Blade maintains neutral relations, and is willing to hire out sellswords to the Fire Knives for any unsavory deeds.
   The Fire Knives have the primary support of three Barons, and possibly other nobles, in Octzel. House Boron, House Killaman, and House Agrapor are the primary backers. House Boron, of the Merchant Lord Shadulos Elas Boron, and his wicked daughter Teylayurana Sorinos are the most dangerous members. Hallergan Blacknails is an infamous orc assassin of the order.
   Beside the illegal and secretive activities which likely take place in the shadowed chambers of the manors of each noble house, the Fire Knives own property through indirect channels throughout the city. They own a trade and import shop in the Marketplace which leads to a secret meeting place. They own a Guild Hall that is rented out regularly, except on dark, moonless nights when they convene for a recap of their actions. They own warehouses by the docks, where imports of special relation are often kept, or where bodies can safely be dumped. Members of the Fire Knives learn as much as they can about the back alleys, secret passages, sewers, and catacombs beneath the streets of Octzel.
   Some would say that the Fire Knives go beyond being a society of political assassination and into the realm of a secret society for the sake of secretiveness. Much of this is due to the fact that the three barons behind the house lack the backing or funds of a major political interest, and it is believed that none of them belong to the Thirteen. Yet, since some claim that Fire Knives in Hyrkania, such as Dame Magna Mordent, say that there is a member of the Thirteen in Octzel, then who is he or she, and what are they planning?

The Thirteen
   The Thirteen are an entity unto itself, operating in utter secrecy throughout the Middle Kingdoms and the East to further its diabolical ends, using assassination, slavery, and the sale of opiates (especially of the blue and black lotus) to manipulate the political currents of the realms.
   An agent, follower or servant of the Thirteen is likely to be a lower order member of the Fire Knives, but someone could also have a conflicted relationship if they revere the god Haro, or are independent assassins, and an adversarial relationship could stem from any number of cases where one would see cause to oppose the actions of a murderous guild-cult.

Shadulos Elas Boron
   The guild master of Fire Knife operations in Octzel, Boron is a local merchantman with family ties back to Hyrkania. His rise to power on the surface appears to be one of a shrewd businessman, but behind the scenes he is suspected of being ranked as one of the Thirteen, relying on the bloody death that his guild can heap upon those who stand in his way to further his ambitions.
   Boron has locked down the city for the Fire Knives, eliminating most other rival guilds, and now schemes to find ways to dislodge the Black Lotus and the Guild of the Spheres.
Level 12 Human fighter, NE
CR 6 (2,300 XP)
STR 12 (+1)     DEX 16 (+3)     CON 18 (+4)    INT 15 (+2)      WIS 17 (+3)     CHA 20 (+5)
HPs 114 (HD 12D10+48)         AC 16              Saves STR +5, CON +8, DEX +7
Initiative +3
Skills Intimidation +9, Perception +7, Persuasion +9, Sleight of Hand +7, Stealth +7
Multiattack Shadulos Boron may make three rapier attacks or three ranged dagger attacks (or any combination) as an attack action.
Melee Rapier Attack +9 attack, 5 foot reach; 1D8+5 piercing damage; any attack may be sacrificed to attempt a disarm: the target must make a DC 18 DEX save or become disarmed (see additional details below).
Ranged Poisoned Daggers +9 attack, 20/40 range; 1D4+4 damage and target must make a DC 17 CON save or become paralyzed for 1 minute (target may make a save each round to end). If Shadulos rolls a critical hit the target also takes 4D8+2 poison damage.
Disarming Personality Shadulos has learned a little magic in his time and may cast charm person 3 times per day and charm monster once per day. Shadulos has subjected his very body to complex rituals to allow for unnatural magical guile.
Entourage Shadulos rarely travels alone. Typically he travels with 1D6 assassins in his presence at all times.
Equipment scale mail, Rapier +2 of disarming, a bandolier of 2 dozen poisoned daggers, 3 vials of paralytic poison (6 doses per vial), 1,230 GP pocket change

Teylayurana Sorinos
   The bastard daughter of Shadulos Elas Boron, Teylayurana has worked her way up the ranks in the Fire Knives to become the premiere assassin in Octzel. She is ruthless and efficient, though regarded as unstable by those who have seen her succumb on occasion to a bloodlust driven by her madness. Some believe that when she experiences these “episodes” she is actually channeling the spirit of Haro himself; no one knows for sure, but her skill has nonetheless attracted the attention of Celiobantes Astiriate in the east, and within the guild it is rumored the two have had relations.
   About two years earlier Teylayurana also traveled with the adventurer Cassius Augustus and was lured into a war between the Fire Knives and the Guild of the Spheres. This conflict led to ongoing enmity between the two guilds.
Level 14 human rogue, CN
CR 9 (5,000 XP)
STR 14 (+2)     DEX 20 (+5)     CON 13 (+1)    INT 16 (+3)      WIS 12 (+1)     CHA 14 (+2)
HPs 77 (14D8+14)                   AC 19              Saves DEX +10, INT +8
Initiative +9
Skills Acrobatics +10, Intimidation +7, Perception +6, Sleight of Hand +10, Stealth +10
Multiattack Teylayurana may make three twin dagger attacks (at 2 attacks per strike) or three ranged crossbow attacks (or any combination) as an attack action.
Melee Twin-Dagger Strike +12 attack (twice), reach 5 ft against 1 or 2 targets; 1D4+7 piercing damage per strike and target is subject to blue lotus poison (see below).
Ranged Hand Crossbow +12 attack, 1D6+6 piercing damage, and target subject to blue lotus poison (see below).
Blue Lotus Poison target must make a DC 19 save vs. CON or target is incapacitated (save each round to end) due to intense and sudden hallucinations.
Sneak Attack if Teylayurana has advantage on the target then she deals an additional 7D6 damage on a single successful attack.
Evasion if Telayurana rolls a successful DEX save she takes no damage. If she fails the save she takes ½.
Blindsense Teylayurana does not roll for disadvantage on attacks and actions in total darkness or while blinded.
Equipment Leather +2 (wyvernscale), 2 daggers +2, 6 vials of blue lotus poison (5 applications per vial), one hand crossbow +2, a case with 30 bolts, pocket change of 500 GP

Hallergan Blacknails
   Hallergan Blacknails is Shadulos Boron’s right-hand man. He is an accomplished mage, a tough fighter, and a tricky devil. Hallergan is approaching middle years, but has worked hard to keep a lean figure, and avoid the bloatedness so characteristic older male orcs. His snout is stubbier than usual, perhaps due to some forgotten human blood in his ancestry, and he will often pass without question in the city streets if he wears heavy robes like a priest. He is a master tactician when it comes to weaving his magic, and he can bring down some rather impressive foes with little difficulty.
Level16 Orc fighter/warlock, CE
CR 7 (2,900 XP)
STR 20 (+5)     DEX 12 (+1)     CON 18 (+4)    INT 15 (+2)      WIS 14 (+2)     CHA 20 (+5)
HPs 141 (11D8+5D10+64)      AC 19              Saves STR +10, CHA +10
Initiative +5
Skills Arcana +7, Intimidation +10, Perception +7, Stealth +6
Multiattack Hallergan may make two axe attacks as an attack action.
Melee Great Axe of the Beheader +13 attack, reach 5 ft; 1D12+7 slashing damage. On a natural 20 the axe deals triple damage and if the target reaches zero hit points is automatically decapitated.
Ranged Spectral Syphon +10 attack, reach 60 ft (one target); 4D8+5 psychic damage and target must make a DC 18 INT save or target gains -1 AC and Hallergan gains +1 AC. This effect continues each round dealing damage and making a save until the target succeeds; AC gain/loss is cumulative and lasts five minutes. This terrifying and unique warlock power Hallergan has taught himself drains spirit energy from the target and does not stop until forcibly interrupted or the target succumbs.
Warlock Abilities Hallergan has a Spell Attack modifier of +10 and Spell Save DC of 18.
Cantrips: eldritch blast, true strike, blade ward
Warlock Spells (3/day): invisibility, Dream, Hallucinatory Terrain, vampiric touch, tongues, dimension door, hunger of hadar, crown of madness, contact other plane, misty step, shatter
Equipment Great axe +2 of the Beheader, full plate +1, loose change of 225 PP and 1,500 GP

Other Fire Knife Assassins

Use the assassin in the MM but substitute blue lotus poison and black lotus poison (below) for master assassins.

New Magic Items and Gear:

Great Axe of the Beheader
Very rare (attunement required) weapon
This +2 great axe deals triple damage on a critical hit. If the target is reduced to zero hit points as a result of being struck by this axe, the target is automatically beheaded (or equivalent, if target does not have a head).

Rapier of disarming
Very Rare (attunement required)
This +2 rapier makes disarming an opponent incredibly easy. Whenever a strike connects, instead of dealing damage the wielder may declare a disarm attack. The target must save vs. DEX at a DC equal to 8+DEX Mod+Proficiency+2 of the wielder or the target’s weapon lands 1D10 feet away from him in a random direction. Target may save at advantage if it is a two handed weapon or larger.

Blue Lotus Poison
Uncommon (poison); typical retail value 250 GP/vial
The blue paste that is made from the leaves of the blue lotus poison is well known for it’s strong hallucinogenic properties, which seem to cause distressing feelings of madness and entrapment within the walls of the City of Nith in the Dreamlands of Ethenur; some mages speculate that the person’s astral self is actually displaced by this poison.

When used the target must make a DC 19 save vs. CON or target is incapacitated (save each round to end) due to intense and sudden hallucinations. One vial contains 5 doses, and each dose will last for one combat.

Black Lotus Poison
Rare (poison); typical retail value 4,000 GP/vial
The incredibly deadly black lotus leaf, when treated correctly with a special alchemical ingredient known only to assassins and poisoners, can be applied in food (for ingestion) or to a blade (for wounding). The poison in minuscule doses causes severe hallucinations and catatonia (DC 19 save vs. CON or become incapacitated) for 1D6 hours; a DEX check (DC 18) is needed to correctly apply the dose at this level (proficiency in alchemy or poisons will grant proficiency bonus to this check). At full doses the user must make a DC 15 DEX Save to avoid accidentally making contact with the poison, subjecting him or herself to its effects (roll at advantage if wearing thick leather gloves; cloth won’t do). Once applied, a single dose will last until a target drinks or eats the poisoned product, or a wound is made. The target then makes a DC 18 CON Save or immediately drops to zero hit points and begins making death saves. If the target stabilizes he or she will remain catatonic and unconscious for 1D6 hours.

A typical vial of black lotus poison contains 3 doses and comes with measuring tools, pestle, and the “vitae mortae” liquid added to bring out the lethal component of the leaf. Rumors that the liquid is derived from the blood of medusae are not entirely unfounded.

Fun notes about statting for 5E vs. 13th Age:

In working out comparable stats for both systems I realized that 13th Age is much quicker, but also very floaty, since you can pretty much make up anything you want as long as you confine your design to something that makes sense....and be ready to revise when it doesn't work as intended in actual play. The incredibly basic core stat block of 13th Age is also a real boon for quick monster design. It's not the fastest system for statting NPCs and monsters (that honorific necessarily goes to Tunnels & Trolls) but it's probably the fastest one for D&D, short of Swords & Wizardry.

D&D 5E has more precision in it than one might realize, since you have lots of design rules and guidelines (those who say otherwise are coming from Pathfinder and 3.5, where the mechanical complexity makes 5E feel spartan), and compared to 13th Age it's rather complicated in that regard. But you can "template" classes as a base of design without having to rigidly adhere to all features of the class (as I did above), instead focusing on those elements relevant to the likely encounter. It takes longer than 13th Age....but if you get used to 5Eisms and memorize the process it can be almost as speedy.