A snip of the first draft: Trouble with Rats

I’m posting this snip from my first draft in order to build my courage and confidence in writing first drafts and not being ashamed of their condition.

In this bit, Artur the bald celtic warrior who can talk to animals has left the farm with two Rhino Men in search of a cure to a wasting disease afflicting the Rhino villages.  He leaves behind his wife Diana and his children.  It is here I begin to flesh out the character Diana and how she fits in (and doesn’t fit in) to the story.    I hint at the age of seventeen beng the Age of the First Adventure, but presently do not describe it.  Also, I introduce the major villains of the novel…

Diana stood with her daughter Tana and watched her husband and the two Rhinos for about half an hour until they were out of sight over edge of a distant hill. She always hated when her husband left for adventures. Despite his being a great warrior, there was always a chance he would not return. Among all the tribes of men, adventuring took its toll. It was not uncommon to have six or seven children, but losing two or three to the hazards of adventure was also not uncommon.

The hazards of adventure. Diana’s hand went to her belly, remembering the orc arrow from so many years ago. Tana was only an infant then. A precious little bald butterball. Now the precious six year old girl next to her began to fidget, and Diana ran her fingertips over the girl’s smooth head. “This is my only child,” she thought to herself.

The sons of Artur had joyfully embraced Diana as a second mother after she married Artur. Anyone who could wield the Frostbane, they said, was worthy of being part of the family. But they were teens then, and now all had established their own farms and trades, except the youngest, Troy, who would be seventeen this year. The age of the First Adventure. She turned away from observing the unoccupied horizon to look for Troy, who had set to work at hitching a cart to a donkey. The bald young man talked frankly with the beast, and the creature seemed to enjoy the companionship.

All Artur’s children had the Gift, and as such Diana always felt a little like an outsider. The animals were friendly enough when treated properly, but this psychic intimacy shared be her adopted family and her real daughter was something she would never understand.

Abruptly, Diana realized she was spiraling down a sad road, and shook herself out of it. She had a family who loved her, and despite being from the Frog clan, she was respected among the Pigs as a warrior and The Mrs Zootaloot of Zootaloot Farm. Wielder of the Frostbane. Singer to the Bees.

She joined her son and daughter on their trip out to the garden. The beans were fat and needed to be picked. The three sang happily as they worked, plucking green, yellow and purple pods and plunking them in the baskets. Sometimes the Donkey would hee-haw along with Tana and Troy, or grunt to the rhythm of the song. After filling their baskets and loading them in the cart, the three headed back to the farmhouse to process them.

They spent the better part of the afternoon laying out the pods so they could dry properly, nibbling fresh beans as they worked. They rotated the previous crop of dried beans from the racks worked at shelling the pods. Like much farm work it was tedious, but not difficult.

They finished their work before sunset, and Diana sheathed Frostbane and took her daughter for a walk in nearby woodlot. Cicadas were buzzing in the evening heat, and dragonflies flitted about catching insects. Some birds were singing their bedtime songs. Tana understood them to be tales of the events of the day:

Worms at sunrise

Bugs at noon

Berries at supper

oh what a boon!

A man on an adventure

three more in the field

rats in the treetops

oh what a deal!


Yes I see them there!

Carrying spears and swords

taking babies



And there was a ruckus halfway up a pine tree. A blue jay screeching and cawing. Tana pulled her mother’s tunic, “Mama there’s trouble up there. Rats stealing babies!”

“Don’t be silly.”

“I’m not. Look Mama!”

And Diana stepped back until she could see what her daughter pointed at. And indeed there were five or six rats in the tree, a most bizarre sight in itself, but they had little weapons and were stabbing at the blue jays who flitted about trying to protect their babies. This was unnatural, even for a world where bizarre creatures and events were known to occur.

“Tana get your brother,” Diana said, and drew her sword. She felt silly, for how could she climb thirty feet up a tree and hack at bizarre rats with a sword? She drew her sword by instinct. It was a useful instinct on most occasions, but not this one.

Tana took off across the pasture land shouting for her brother, leaving her mother watching the rats. A bluejay fell, bouncing off branches and thumping dead at Diana’s feet, with little tiny arrows sticking in its belly. She didn’t know what else to do, so she began shouting.

“Hey there! Rats! You stop that! Ho! Hey!”

Just then a tiny needle of an arrow pricked her shoulder. The rats above squeaked and chattered in their own language. “Get lost bitch!”

More tiny arrows zinged down around Diana, and she retreated behind a pine.

The volley of arrows stopped, and before long the rats descended the tree carrying dead birds. Diana could see now that there were more than five or six, but rather a few dozen. Some had tiny metal helms, and little swords, and tiny bows with tinier arrows. By this time Troy was on his way at a sprint carrying his sister and four of the farm cats trotted at his side. Now the rats were forming a marching column, carrying their prizes, and not having a shield Diana could only watch for fear of their arrows. She took the frostbane and held it to a thick fallen branch until it began to smolder and then it lit afire, and she hurled it into the column or rats, crushing one and scattering the rest.

Startled, the column began to spread and draw their little bows. They showed a discipline only seen in trained warriors. Now Troy had arrived with the cats and his sister, and the rats all cried out “Cats! Cats! Shoot them!” A dozen little darts flitted at the cats, who were not accustomed to rats being able to fight back. After taking many hits that felt like terrible bee stings, they bolted away.

The rats hefted their prizes and fled into the woods. Being shocked seeing such a thing, there was nothing the three people or the four wounded, limping cats could do. Rats weren’t supposed to make weapons, or shoot arrows, or marching in columns, or hunt birds in the trees.

When the rats had gone, the three humans carried their wounded cats back to the farmhouse, and set to tending their wounds. It was difficult to extract the arrows, which were barbed. Examining the arrows, Tana could see they were porcupine quills, and this gave them all the chills. How did rats get porcupine quills? How did they make little helmets and spears and swords? And why had they never heard of these rats before today?


World Creation is fun, but don’t get bogged down

It’s not uncommon folks to get excited about building a world.  The book I’m working on is a dualistic project: to tell a story and to create a game world in which to play fantasy role playing games.   Telling the story doesn’t require an extensive world, unless it’s pertinent to the story.  For example, a troll under the bridge is just a troll for the purposes of a story.  Fantasy gaming settings demand a greater degree of detail in the world setting.  You want to flesh out what part of the world trolls can be found, what kind of trolls they are (cave trolls, hill trolls, bridge trolls, etc).

So if and when a troll is introduced into my story, the important thing is to just write the story, but later I’ll need to go back and flesh out where the trolls can be found and how they behave.  Perhaps by inserting rumors into tavern conversation: a gang of hill trolls has come down from the mountains to steal sheep, a mean but not necessarily violent troll exacts heavy tolls for crossing his bridge, and so on.

The thing I’ve bogged my mind down on for a few days was the cultural folkways of the different tribes of humans.  It then occurred to me that those particulars could be filled in later when I revise the story.  When I realized this, my writing became more productive.

That’s all for today.  I wish you well in your writing and your gaming.


The Real World

I haven’t posted in months.  This is in part to my having cancelled my internet service back in May of 2018, but also due to the fact that I find the world of the internet less compelling.  I think disconnecting my service has helped push this along.  I only log in using public wifi and as such I have to prioritize my internet usage.

I used to spend hours reading about people’s fantasy RPG adventures, their solo plays, their group plays, their variant rules, and now I find I really have no need for it.

I currently play in a weekly game of D&D (a heavily modified version of 3.5).  It scratches my gaming itch, even if it’s not the ideal setting or game system.  I get to play with my neighbors.  I get to know them better, and form some real life relationships.  I’d prefer to play with my favorite games: Pits & Perils or Blood of Pangea.   I’d prefer to play with folks who shared my preferred fantasy settings and play style, but I’m not complaining.  I’ve learned to take less than perfect situations and make the best of them, and I have a good time playing with these people.   My current life situation is such that I probably won’t get to play my favorite games and settings those with anyone for the foreseeable future.

I have, however, been reading more, watching my small collection of movies, and spending more time with friends (playing D&D and otherwise).  I’ve tried to spend more quality time with my cats, and letting them play outside as much as I can without them getting in trouble.  I often sit in my recliner and listen to the radio, and three of the four will climb on my lap or my shoulder to cuddle.  That is time well spent.

I also have finally broken my writer’s block, and gotten back to working on my book.  I have figured out that first drafts are shitty.  They’re always shitty, and there’s no way to get around it.  I’ve written more in the last two weeks (at two hours per session) than I have in the last year.  I stopped being afraid of my shitty first drafts.  What matters is that I get the story down, and then in the subsequent drafts I can compost this shit into rich fertilizer, eventually resulting in the blossoming of my finished story.

I also figured out how to name the characters from the various tribes.  I’m just going to use languages of the various ethnic groups that inspired them.  The Pigs will use Celtic and Anglo names, the Frogs will use French names, the Cows will use Swahili (though my friend who inspired the Cow tribe speaks Ngala — I think finding Swahili names will be easier) and so on.

It doesn’t even matter that much if I use the right languages names, it’s just a rule of thumb that helps keep the characters straight in my head.  If somehow the Mongolian inspired Eagle tribe has a leader named Fred because it just seems to fit, then there’s no harm in that.

And so I bring this meandering post to a close.  I don’t know when I’ll be on to post something else.  To those of you who write, keep on writing.  To those of you who game, keep on playing.  To those of you who love your animals, cherish the time you have with them.





I went back to work on and revise a home brew adventure which occurs in a crossover of Alice In Wonderland and Winnie the Pooh.

I just discovered the copyright to Winnie the Pooh won’t expire until 2026.  That’s fine, for if I just play privately with some friends, no problem.  But I’d like to release an adventure for Pits & Perils and Blood of Pangea.

If want to release an adventure supplement themed about these living stuffed animals for Pits & Perils or Blood of Pangea, I must change names and species.  I can work with this, but it won’t have quite the same appeal.

The odds of getting a Disney license for a small print game is next to zero, and even if I could the cost would probably be astronomical.

So over the next couple months I’ll post bits and pieces of this Not-Pooh adventure as I work on it.

Write While You Can

I went to the Emergency Room last Friday on account of chest pain.  The good news is I didn’t have a heart attack, and there’s no obvious blood clots.  The bad news is that the pain is still undiagnosed, and I won’t know for some time until my primary care physician can order some more tests.  It’s really weird going about life when it feels like a hand is in your chest squeezing my insides.  I’m not fishing for sympathy, that is not the point of this post.

The point I’m driving at is I don’t know when I’ll die, none of us do.  When I was laying in my hospital bed, my three mains fears were 1) I won’t be there for my cats anymore, 2) I might end up hacked up and disabled, and 3) I won’t finish my writing.  If you’ve had an idea kicking around your head for game supplements, fiction, or anything else you would want to write about, then do it now.  Don’t wait for an emergency to clarify what you’re meant to do with your life.  I’m meant to write.  So long as I have a computer, typewriter, or paper and pencil (even a quill and ink well), I’ll write.  If I’m reduced to chiseling poetry on stone, I’ll write (let’s pray it doesn’t get there).

After getting home I worked with new zeal to finish my Goblin character supplement for Pits & Perils.  In my eagerness to get this thing uploaded, I overlooked one editing mistake, and had to ask them to hold off on posting it until I fix it.    I have one last edit to do, and then I’ll submit it again to James & Robyn for the archive.

James and Robyn, if you don’t hear from me for a month, post the draft I sent you so folks can play with it.  I’d rather people play with something decent than have nothing because I suddenly took the dirt nap.


–Abraham Gray


New Crossbow Weapon for Pits & Perils

I adapted the Prodd to Pits & Perils after creating a cleric with a background of a Bowyer.

The heavy bullet firing crossbow

With twice the cost of a regular crossbow, it’s main purpose is to provide the clerical class with an easily trained projectile weapon that doesn’t offend their sensibilities about shedding blood in combat.

A bag of 20 round lead bullets cost twice that of arrows or quarrels.

It is a heavy weapon that must be braced and cranked to reload.  As such, it only fires every other combat round.  It could also be loaded with small clay pots of holy water for destroying undead at a distance.

If I were to read this, my first question would be, “Why buy this when I can buy a sling for 5gp and twenty shots for 1gp?”

Good question.  The crossbow is better suited for dungeons as it does not need the extra room to be twirled about as a sling might.  And by my own optional rules, if the crossbow wielder is loaded and ready to fire, but loses initiative, he can still fire.

For twice the cost, the cleric gets a decent projectile weapon. And anyone wishing to kill without leaving a blood trail can do the same.




Fighters for Pits & Perils

After creating a draft for adapted AD&D classes, Google+ user Michael Julius inspired me to create basic P&P characters, each with a different stat and background. I want to see how far I can push the basic rules and create a variety of characters. And so, I will make a version of all four basic human classes, each with a single stat and a secondary skill. I will assume average money rolls, rounding up, and therefore give them 40 gp to work with.

For those unfamiliar with Pits & Perils stats, for each character you roll 2d6 and consult the stat chart.  For whatever stat comes up, your character excels in that ability.  For example, on a roll of 2 you character has strength, where on a 6 or 7 the character has Wisdom.  On a roll of 11-12, you can pick two stats to excel in.  So a fighter with Strength could be called a Strong fighter.

This post will cover the Fighter class with one stat.

The Strong Fighter

background: farmer

Gear: pack, bedroll, rations(7), flail, hand ax, dagger, sling, stones(20), leather, waterskin, tinderbox, rope, sack, Mule

Fred is a poor farmer known for being a fierce scrapper and his knack for wrangling livestock without any help. After a bad harvest, he was forced to eat all his animals except his best friend Ford, a mule. Fred set out with Ford to seek his fortune as an adventurer.

Wise Fighter

background: hunter

Gear: pack, bedroll, rations(7), short bow, leather, hand ax, dagger, cloak, rope, mallet, wooden stake(6), tinderbox, torch(6), waterskin, arrows(20), 1gp

Abel makes his living on animal pelts and wild herbs. He’s used to sleeping in the wild, and in fact prefers it to civilization because there’s less noise. People talk to much, and say too little. Animals, on the other hand, talk little, but say exactly what they mean: “go away”, “I don’t mind you”, “sure I’ll have a bit of that you’re cooking”, “I know you caught the fish but I’m taking it.”

Intelligent Fighter

background: Merchant

Gear: pack, bedroll, rations(7), Longsword, chain, dagger, waterskin

Bruce served as a merchant caravan guard, but learned the rudiments of appraising various trade goods. Pottery, rugs, silks, and wines (the last one, especially) are his expertise. After pursuing a clever mountebank over some fake jewels, only to be outnumbered by his hired goons, he decided that risking his life for other people’s profit wasn’t the lifestyle he wanted.

Dexterous Fighter

background: Fisherman

Gear: pack, bedroll, rations(7), short sword, dagger, net, leather, cloak, rope, waterskin, sewing kit, lantern, oil, sack, 3gp

Charlie made his living on a fishing galleon as chief of the topmen, spending more time in the rigging than on the deck. He made a name for himself when he helped repel a boarding party of sea elves, swinging from the ropes and cutting them down with his short sword. After that experience, he decided he could earn more as a hero than a fisherman.

Sturdy Fighter (constitution)

background: performer

gear: pack, bedroll, rations (7), mace, shield, crossbow, bolts(20), waterskin, tinderbox, balls, 2gp

Desperate Dan entertained with the absurd, and it paid well: snake handler, flame spitter, brick breaker. No snake bite, no burn, no concussion could deter him from his calling. That is, until he juggled poisoned knives, and cut himself. He survived a dose that would have knocked down a bear. Upon recovering, Dan decided it was time to stop temping fate for coppers and do it for gold, and set out adventuring.

Charismatic Fighter

background: Beggar

gear: pack, bedroll, rations(7), quaterstaff, dagger, sling, stones(20), leather, waterskin, mirror, cloak, lantern, oil, set of ragged filthy clothes, 6gp

It is said that Eleanore could deceive the gods themselves with her acting skills. Faking helplessness and distress was her bread and butter, her wine and meat, and her gold and silver. She learned the arts of combat brawling with other beggars for territory.  Caught trying to scam an undercover sheriff, she knocked him out and fled the city.

Adapting Rhino Men to Pits & Perils

Below is a character class for Rhino Men adapted to my game world in development.  This is inspired by the Rhino Men from Fighting Fantasy.   Perhaps you may like to run them in your setting.  For simplicity’s sake I used the male pronoun, but you can of course run Rhino Man female characters all you like.

It is my goal here to define the Rhino as a warrior class without treading upon the standard Fighter of Pits & Perils.  Note that the Rhino does not get a +1 attack bonus.  That is the domain of the Fighter Class.

I have yet to play test this Rhino.  Consider this a rough draft to help flesh out character concept.

Rhino Men

The Rhino men are a hybrid creation of the High Elves, blending human and rhino traits. Originally created to be a servile soldier class, the human free will and conscience combined with rhinoceros stubbornness made them unreliable soldiers, often disobeying unjust orders and instead killing their elvish commanders. Rhino Men joined the coalition of humans, dwarfs and sea elves in the Great Rebellion that eventually destroyed the Empire.

Adult rhino men are very tall and broad, ranging six to seven feet tall, and easily 250 to 400 pounds. Rhinomen live in tribal villages, and their homes are usually thatched houses spartan in furnishing. They have a very martial culture, their main professions being mercenaries and caravan guards. Some take to the wilds alone or with Wanderers of other species to protect the trail-ways and back-ways from being overrun with monsters.

Rhino culture values honor and heroism, and their bards create extravagant operas and orchestral hymns that are performed at seasonal festivals. Despite having only three fingers, they are adept at playing bagpipes, flutes and drums. Their great voices range from soprano to deep bass, with many of their marching hymns having multiple overlapping harmonies. The rhinomen, while learning the written languages of other races, have no written language of their own. They dispense knowledge through song, rhyme, and poetry. Rhinos are well regarded in human settlements.

The tough rhino hide gives all Rhino Men +1 armor. Due to their great size, tough hides and sharp rhino horns, if a Rhino Man charges 20′ or more, he can add +1 damage for any hit (melee or thrown). Rhino Men have Strength plus whatever else they roll. Rhinos have an acute sense of smell, but like their rhinoceros relatives they have poor eyesight. Ranged attacks beyond 60′ feet are at -1.

Rhino men gain combat maneuvers at level 3, and every third level afterward.

As their combat prowess increases, so too does their ability to withstand combat damage. Rhino men gain +1 armor at level 3, and every third level thereafter.

At 9th level Rhinos gain 2 attacks per round.

Rhino Men are vegetarian and do not eat flesh.

Rhino Men speak the common trade lingo of men, their own tongue, and can speak with wild rhinoceros.

Level HP XP

1        10   0

2        12 tbd

3        14 tbd

4        16 tbd

5        18 tbd

6        20 tbd

7        22 tbd

8        24 tbd

9        26 tbd

10      28 tbd