Solomon Kane Bootleg Comic-Con Trailer

If ever there was a soldier who took up arms against the Outer Dark it was Solomon Kane. This Puritan swordsman was created by Robert E. Howard, and he has become almost as iconic as Howard’s other famous sword & sorcery hero Conan. In many ways I actually prefer the Solomon Kane stories over those written about Conan. This is mainly due to Kane’s dark and sullen demeanor, the time period in which his adventures took place and the dark gothic atmosphere of the tales.

I have been following the production of the Solomon Kane movie since its announcement in 2006, and so far there has been very little information out on the net as to when it will be released. Well the silence has broken, and a new trailer was previewed at Comic-Con ’09. Perhaps this means the movie will soon see the light of day.

Trailer Addict has a bootleg copy of the trailer:

[Interview] James M. Ward

Troll Lords Games has an upcoming product called TAINTED LANDS, which is a fantasy horror roleplaying game written by James M. Ward for Castles & Crusades. TAINTED LANDS will be released in box-set form as a stand-alone Siege Engine product, and promises horror rules and a supernatural rulebook. I am sure I’m not alone in my excitement for this product, and what it can bring to the table for horror fueled sword & sorcery gaming.

The designer and writer of TAINTED LANDS is none other than James M. Ward of TSR fame. To my delight, Jim has agreed to answer a few questions for Swords Against the Outer Dark about TAINTED LANDS, as well as his career with TSR and Troll Lord Games. So without further ado…


Many gamers who have played Dungeons & Dragons for as many years as I have remember your work from back in the early days of TSR. I found a bit of your background information on Wikipedia, but I am sure there are those like myself who would like to know more. How and when did you find yourself taking up the hobby of role-playing games?

JMW: I met Gary Gygax in 1974 when the 1,000 brown box sets of D&D were first printed up. He told me he had a game where I could play Conan the barbarian and fight the forces of Set and I was hooked. He and Brian Blume taught be how to play the game on Gary’s side porch and I’ve enjoyed the game every since.

Seeing your credentials as a writer, game designer, and storyteller, I can't help but wonder if you found yourself naturally gravitating toward the role of game master early on when you entered into the hobby?

JMW: It took me months and months to figure out how to use the dice in the game. Once I did, I found myself drawing up my own crude dungeons. However, running games as the Dungeon Master was daunting in the company of Gary Gygax, Rob Kuntz, and Ernie Gygax. I started running games for Rob and Ernie, but they always said I gave out too much treasure. That’s where I first earned by nickname of Monty Haul. When I started writing the science fiction role-playing game METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA Gary joined in the fun and I learned how to run a balanced game.

Do you remember the first adventure you ran (or played in), and can you share a few quick details that you can remember from that game?

JMW: I remember every minute of that game. We were play testing Kong Island and I was a first level wizard. I had a light spell and I went with a group of fifth level characters. We were exploring a native village at dawn. I made the stupid mistake of casting a light spell in a large, dark thatch hut. The twenty native warriors boiled out of the hut and killed me as I stupidly stood there. Lucky for me Ernie Gygax had a wish spell and wished many of the dead party back alive.

How quickly did you find yourself writing your own game materials and adventures?

JMW: There were few people acting as DMs in those days. Gary encouraged everyone to write up their own things. Gary Gygax and his entire family got in the swing of things one way or another and I’m proud to be friends with the kids to this day.

Do you still find time to enjoy gaming, and do you have a regular gaming group?

JMW: I do a lot of play testing now. I have a group that plays every Friday. I also get some old hands like Tom Wham and Brian Blume to test my latest inventions.

If so, what game are you playing, are you running the game and can you share a few details of the game itself?

JMW: As I write this, I’m playing a board game called PANZER GENERAL it’s a card and board game based on an Ubisoft computer online game. I’m getting it ready for Gen Con that happens next week. Lately I’ve been making my living writing product for Troll Lord games. I manage the CRUSADER, a monthly magazine of theirs. At Gen Con this year, my hardbound book OF GODS & MONSTERS and my box set, TAINTED LANDS will be presented to the public for the first time.


Can you share how you came to work with TSR?

JMW: I was playing games with Gary and the TSR crew and in 1975, I went to begin a teaching career at West Grant High School. As I moved I told Gary any time he could afford my teaching salary (at that time $9,500), I would happily come and work for him. During Christmas and Thanksgiving, I would come down to Lake Geneva and game with Gary. While I was teaching, I wrote GODS, DEMIGODS & HEROES, and DEITIES & DEMIGODS. I also helped proof read the first AD&D Players Handbook and the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Finally, in 1980, they could afford my $13,800 salary and I moved back to my home town of Elkhorn and started working for TSR.

One of my favorite products for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was DEITIES & DEMIGODS. As most can guess, the main reason for this is because it included the Cthulhu Mythos, but I also particularly loved the entries for the Nehwon, Melnibonéan, Norse and Arthurian Mythos as well. Other than the AD&D Players Handbook, DEITIES was the rulebook I spent the most time reading. I am curious what your involvement was with this book?

JMW: I wrote almost all the entries for DEITIES & DEMIGODS. I would pass over written pantheons to Gary and he would tell me if this or that god was too tough. It was an early work and I did lots of things far differently in the OF GODS & MONSTERS hardbound.

Wikipedia has you credited for the creation of the nonhuman deities in DEITIES & DEMIGODS. Can you share which of the mythos presented can be credited to you, or was the writing of DEITIES more of a collaborative effort? Did you write the entries for the Cthulhu Mythos?

JMW: I wrote all the entries you mentioned: Nehwon, Melnibonéan, Norse, and Arthurian. Rob Kuntz wrote the Finnish mythos and I did the rest. There were lots of debates about the work on the editorial end and things changed along the way, but I’m proud to have authored the work.

You also helped write Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes (Supplement IV) for the original edition of D&D, and if memory serves, there was an entry for Hyborian gods and heroes in that book. I am curious why those entries from the Robert E. Howard Mythos were not carried over into Deities & Demigods for AD&D?

JMW: I submitted an outline for the hardbound and there just wasn’t room in the larger work for the Conan material. We had planned on doing a second volume, but there just never seemed time to get that one done.

Troll Lord Games

With Troll Lord Games you have written a whole slew of new Illusionist spells for the fourth printing of the Castles & Crusades Players Handbook, published TOWERS OF ADVENTURE and now the upcoming releases TAINTED LANDS and OF GODS & MONSTERS. Can you take a moment to explain your involvement with the Trolls, and how you came to work for them?

JMW: Gary Gygax was kind enough to suggest I take over the Managing Editor duties for CRUSADER magazine. It wasn’t coming out that often and everyone at Troll Lords wanted the magazine to become a strong marketing arm of the company. The magazine started coming out more often and Steve Chenault and I would talk about product that might sell well for the company that I could design. I’m pleased to say that I have always delivered my designs ahead of schedule and with a professionalism that Steve has found refreshing.

Is there a future product you are working on that you would be willing to talk about, and possibly give us a glimpse into?

JMW: I have to say no to this one. I have several projects suggested to Troll Lords, but they wouldn’t want the news to leak out so that someone else could copy the idea.

TAINTED LANDS / Castles & Crusades

I see that both horror rules and a supernatural rulebook are listed as part of content for the TAINTED LANDS box set. Can you elaborate on what rules we can expect to see included that will help run a horror themed fantasy game? Are there any new classes, spells or monsters included in these rules, and if so can you give us a few preview details?

JMW: There are four new character classes; there is a good slug of spells the Castle Keeper knows to use with Nonplayer characters, but the player characters will have to learn by bargaining for them; there are lots of new magic items; and there is only one way to escape the TAINTED LANDS.

What about rules for handling terror and mental stability?

JMW: I have played a lot of horror games and I’ve never liked the mental stability rules in any of them. I give lessons in the referee’s guide on how to run horror and I hope they are enough to bring out the fun horror theme.

Are these an extension of the Castles & Crusades rules, and as such can be used in any C&C game?

JMW: Absolutely, the TAINTED LANDS fits into the Siege Engine and C&C rules in every detail. There is even a set of quick start C&C rules in the box set.

I have read some internet chatter that states that TAINTED LANDS is a particularly deadly setting as compared to a standard C&C game. Is this a true statement? If so, can you elaborate as to why?

JMW: Life is extremely dangerous in the TAINTED LANDS. There are lots of things to support the player characters, but they have to be found.

What are the future plans for TAINTED LANDS? Can we expect to see additional materials released to supplement the core box set?

JMW: The Troll Lord people want to see how the game does before they commit to lots more product. I did get them to agree to a TAINTED MONSTERS & TAINTED TREASURE monster and treasure book. If the game is popular, there will be adventures and other products, I’m sure.

With the TOWERS OF ADVENTURE box set you provided more of a toolbox for game masters to pull from to help create the adventures they wanted to create for whatever campaign they happened to be running at the time. TAINTED LANDS sounds less generic and more campaign based. Can you share some details about the setting, and a bit of the back-story?

JMW: Portals begin appearing in the lands and kingdoms of humans, orcs, dwarves, and elves. If characters aren’t cautious, they are sucked into these portals, never to be seen again. There are fantastically valuable gems on these portals, but stealing them, makes the portals immune to all forms of attack. Once in the TAINTED LANDS characters focus on escaping. They soon discover that there are seven lichs’ that need to be destroyed before they can leave the lands. A dense fog surrounds the TAINTED LANDS and entering this fog is highly dangerous. Bad news for the world includes the fact that the fog grows out and eventually envelops the portals that have appeared in every land. What’s a poor character to do?

Obviously, TAINTED LANDS is a horror themed fantasy campaign. I am curious if there was something that inspired you to write this particular game, and why you chose a horror theme for the setting?

JMW: I debated long and hard about the genre to present TAINTED LANDS in, and there were lots of choices. I finally decided the fantasy Middle Ages was the best because that was the time all of the normal C&C players knew best. If the game is successful at all, I certainly want to do a Wild West, Modern Day, and Science Fiction version of the game.
Sales was the primary motivator for the writing of that book. I’ve talked to Steve Chenault many times about doing Siege Engine sets that appeal to different factions of the role-playing audience. Horror has great appeal to all ages of gamers and it was a natural first start.

In my current game, I tend to look to the triumvirate of weird tales writers for inspiration -- H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith. Are there any particular writers you found inspirational when writing and designing TAINTED LANDS?

JMW: I actually went to the Hollywood movies for inspiration. Hollywood has been doing horror since the very beginning of silent pictures. I made lots of notes on delivering horror to an audience. It was important to me to never have players say, “Yeah right,” when they encountered horrific role-playing scenes. The TAINTED LANDS is designed to teach the Castle Keeper how to present horror as the movies present horror. I’m really looking forward to the response to the game because the C&C fans have no problem telling an author if they have done a good job or not.

Everyone knows that zombies make everything better. Can we expect to see a lot of zombie killing action in TAINTED LANDS?

JMW: Undead are very important to the story line in TAINTED LANDS. Naturally, I had to put my own brand on those zombies. Characters will find the TAINTED LANDS version to be highly intelligent and very fast. There is even a class of Ultra Undead, much like BOSS monsters in arcade games that should present interesting times to the player characters.

Is there any advice you can give game masters who are running horror themed games when it comes to building an atmosphere of terror and dread in their game?

JMW: To my way of thinking, it’s vital to try hard to not kill the player characters. You want them nervous, afraid of every shadow, and thinking about just giving up. However, in that effort there will be times when a Castle Keeper’s players feeling they are being cheated and the game is unfair. I try to counter this last feeling, by giving them superior magic items and spells. I want them saying, “Wow, I have this great new sword and shield. Nothing can stand before me and live.” Then I present encounters where the creature is totally resistant to the new weapon.

Thanks for your time Jim.


The Day After Ragnarok

Ever wanted to step out of the archaic world and fight the Outer Dark in a more modern setting? How about in the apocalyptic aftermath of World War II, will that work for you? Well get ready to take up your sword and sidearm, The Day After Ragnarok is on the shelves and daring you to play.

Written by Kenneth Hite, who describes the game as, “’Conan the Barbarian: 1948’ meets ‘Quatermass and the Giant Snake’”, Ragnarok is an alternate history game set in a world of swords, sorcery, super science and pulp adventure. This is one of the coolest sword & sanity settings I have ever read.

Imagine if the Nazis wanted to summon forth the Midgard Serpent, and unleash it upon the world. Now imagine it worked, ushering forth the day of Ragnarok. Jörmungandr is released upon the face of the earth, along with global chaos and mass destruction. As a last ditch effort the Allies initiate “Operation John Henry” and a lone B-29 named Strange Cargo armed with atomic explosives is sent on a suicide mission to slay the beast. The plane reaches its target, and miraculously manages to kill the Serpent with a megaton atomic blast to the head. But this was not a victory. The earth was changed… spoiled. Atomically radiated venomous blood rained down, and the body of the Midgard Serpent fell, causing tidal waves and earth quakes. Its carcass lay dead stretching from Scotland to Sicily. Madness ensues, and adventure begins…

The setting offers many challenges, including: giants, hydra, serpent cults, mutated animals and insects that have grown to monstrous proportions (giant snakes abound), and don’t forget the other survivors of the apocalypse. Characters can range from arcane scholar to barbarian, secret agent to outlaw, and many other possibilities. Sounds fun, huh?

The Day After Ragnarok is a Savage Worlds setting (HERO Edition coming soon) published by Atomic Overmind Press. Even if you do not use Savage Worlds as the game system I feel the setting presented it strong enough to purchase this book anyway. Use the setting and power it with whatever game system you like.

If I haven’t convinced you this should be the next game you buy then maybe the press release will:

Know, O Prince, that between the years when the Serpent fell and the oceans drank America and the gleaming cities, and the rise of the Sons of Space, there was an Age undreamed of, when nations guttered low and flared brilliant across the poisoned world like dying stars – California and Texas each claiming the flag of the West, France torn asunder and facing the desert, harsh Mexico, slumbering Brazil, Argentina where the seeds of Thule lay waiting, ancient lands of Persia and Arabia and Iraq between two empires, the coldly clutching Soviet Union whispering behind its Wall of Serpent, Japan whose warriors wore steel and silk and khaki. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Australia, the last green and pleasant land, ringed around by its dominions and bulwarked by the sea.

Welcome to the world at the end of the world. The skies are shrouded with burning, oily smoke, the Earth groans under a poisoned corpse, and the only way out may be deeper into the belly of the beast. This is a world about a flavor and a feel as much as it is about extrapolation. That said, this world has something of an edge to it – it’s a world nearly killed by the death of wonder, although far from all the wonders are dead. Put the “grim” back in “grime” and see the world outside the smeared Perspex windscreen.


[Denizens of the Outer Dark] Serpent People

Kull with a single mighty leap hurled himself into the room. Tu spun, but the blinding, tigerish speed of the attack gave him no chance for defense or counterattack. Sword steel flashed in the dim light and grated on bone as Tu toppled backward, Kull's sword standing out between his shoulders.

Kull leaned above him, teeth bared in the killer's snarl, heavy brows ascowl above eyes that were like the gray ice of the cold sea. Then he released the hilt and recoiled, shaken, dizzy, the hand of death at his spine.

For as he watched, Tu's face became strangely dim and unreal; the features mingled and merged in a seemingly impossible manner. Then, like a fading mask of fog, the face suddenly vanished and in its stead gaped and leered a monstrous serpent's head! "Valka!" gasped Kull, sweat beading his forehead, and again; "Valka!"

Brule leaned forward, face immobile. Yet his glittering eyes mirrored something of Kull's horror.

"Regain your sword, lord king," said he. "There are yet deeds to be done."

Hesitantly Kull set his hand to the hilt. His flesh crawled as he set his foot upon the terror which lay at their feet, and as some jerk of muscular reaction caused the frightful mouth to gape suddenly, he recoiled, weak with nausea. Then, wrathful at himself, he plucked forth his sword and gazed more closely at the nameless thing that had been known as Tu, chief councilor. Save for the reptilian head, the thing was the exact counterpart of a man.

-- Robert E. Howard, “The Shadow Kingdom”


NO. ENCOUTERED: 2-20, 10-100

SIZE: Medium

HD: 4 (d8)

MOVE: 30 feet land / 60 feet water

AC: 15

ATTACKS: 2 Claw (1d2), Bite (1d6 + poison) or by Weapon

SPECIAL: Poison, Darkvision, Fast (+2 Initiative), Sorcery, Black Magic (Illusionist, Wizard or Cleric 1st – 9th)


INT: High


TYPE: Humanoid


XP: 60 + 2/HP (additional + 5, +7 or +10 if Spell Caster; Level 1-3, 4-7 or 8+ respectively)

The Serpent People are a vastly ancient race who built an expansive kingdom called Valusia that rose to glorious heights long before the Mesozoic age of dinosaurs. Worshipers of the Great Old One Yig, father of all snakes, their cults are known for religious fervor and devotion to the Great Serpent. It was this blind devotion that proved to be their undoing when a cult to a rival god rose up among their own people, causing a schism in their society and the downfall of Valusia.

Physically somewhere between men and snakes, Serpent People possess ophidian heads, scales and tails, but walk upright on two legs. Their taloned hands allow them to wield weaponry, or slash with claw attacks. In combat they will attempt to issue a poisonous bite, even when armed. Their venom is similar to that of normal snakes, and can range from Type 4 to 6 (see “Snake” entry in Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure) in toxicity level.

Their knowledge of the black arts is extensive, and the Serpent People have proven to be particularly adept at illusionary magic. Their arcane knowledge and training gives them access to a vast arsenal of spells. It is known that when the earth was still young they helped develop the arcane Aklo letters and words. Aided by sorcery they plot and scheme in hopes that someday they will reclaim their former station as rulers of the earth. One tactic they use quit often when infiltrating human society is to change their appearance through sorcery, making themselves appear to be human and work their way into positions that allow them to be close to those in power. With methodical precision they will maintain this ruse for years if need be, waiting for the right moment to strike out at their enemies.

The game mechanics discussed can be used for any edition of Dungeons & Dragons, but are specifically written for Castles & Crusades. As with most game materials I will present, this article is considered Open Game License (OGL).


[Denizens of the Outer Dark] Deep One

I think their predominant colour was a greyish-green, though they had white bellies. They were mostly shiny and slippery, but the ridges of their backs were scaly. Their forms vaguely suggested the anthropoid, while their heads were the heads of fish, with prodigious bulging eyes that never closed. At the sides of their necks were palpitating gills, and their long paws were webbed. They hopped irregularly, sometimes on two legs and sometimes on four. I was somehow glad that they had no more than four limbs. Their croaking, baying voices, clearly wed tar articulate speech, held all the dark shades of expression which their staring faces lacked.
-- H.P. Lovecraft, “The Shadow over Innsmouth”
NO. ENCOUNTERED: 1-12, 10-100
SIZE: Medium
HD: 2 (d8)
MOVE: 30 feet land / 60 feet water
AC: 15
ATTACKS: 2 Claw (1d2+2), Bite (1d8+2) or by Weapon (+2)
SPECIAL: Amphibious, Darkvision 60 ft., Strong (+2 Damage), Fast (+2 Initiative, +4 in water), Immortal, Sorcery, Black Magic (Wizard or Cleric 1st – 3rd)
INT: Average to High
TYPE: Humanoid
XP: 35 + 2/HP (additional + 5 if Spell Caster)

Deep Ones are an ancient race of amphibious beings that serve and worship Great Cthulhu, who lies dead but dreaming in the undersea city of R’lyeh. Lead by Father Dagon and Mother Hydra, their natural habitat is the deepest depths of the ocean, but they surface on occasion to seek out human consorts for ritualistic mating in hopes to produce hybrid spawn. Lurking just on the fringe of society these vial creatures will stop at nothing to see the human race perish, and be reborn in the blasphemous likeness of their Father and Mother.

Deep Ones have been granted the boon of immortality by the dark gods they worship, and will only die if mortally wounded. Given just how ancient this race is, their evil nature and the dark powers they serve, Deep Ones have easy access to various forms of blasphemous magic, and many (50% of their population) are accomplished sorcerers. If engaged in combat under water, Deep Ones suffer no penalties to their movement, attacks or casting of spells.

The game mechanics discussed can be used for any edition of Dungeons & Dragons, but are specifically written for Castles & Crusades. As with most game materials I will present, this article is considered Open Game License (OGL).


Tainted Lands

A new product coming soon from Troll Lord Games is Tainted Lands, designed and written by Jim Ward of TSR fame. Tainted Lands is a horror fantasy setting that promises horror rules and a supernatural handbook. Sounds like a fine addition to any sword & sanity gaming library.

Jim has graciously agreed to allow me to conduct an interview about his gaming career, Tainted Lands and the work he has been doing for Troll Lord Games. I hope to have it available in the very near future.

Here is the Tainted Lands press release:

“But this madness is no longer contained in the Tainted Lands. It spreads, filling the empty places around it with the dread of horror, polluting the world one small step at a time.” Maegrin the Sage

This all-in-one Siege Engine Role Playing Game is brought to you by the makers of Castles & Crusades. Created and written by famed game designer James M. Ward, Tainted Lands is an RPG of Fantasy Horror. Utilizing the simple Siege mechanic Mr. Ward allows the Game Master to plunge his characters into a world of unrivaled horror where the supernatural dominates the adventure!

Upon the far slopes of the Turmberg Mountains, where the northern shores of Lake Vanhir lap the Plains of Cos lie the fog-enshrouded Tainted Lands. In the Days before Days hosts of dark hearted Val-Ehrakun settled here even before the sun and moon rose in the heavens. They shaped the earth, molding it with hysterical delusions. In their delirium they befouling the land, polluted the waters and staining the very air with madness. The land itself, filled with this poison became twisted, a living embodiment of the horror of nightmare. But as with all things, this too passed and the Tainted Lands became a wasteland of forgotten dreams and misspent sorcery. For eons it lay dormant, suffering under the yoke of time.

But now, the shroud of its winter has given way and the Tainted Lands have come alive again. The earth groans and spits its necromantic horror in the air. Monsters, dread and foul rise from the muck of corruption and stalk the wastes. And the dreams of gods rise as nightmares from the blasted heath.

Nothing good is born in the mists of the Tainted Lands. Those who enter can survive there, some even thrive there, using the nightmare landscape to hide in. But as often as not the very magics that corrupt the lands consume them, they are twisted and driven mad, turning on all those and anything that stand before them. Still others fall into he oblivion and never rise again, their bones soaked into the earth and forgotten by history.

It’s not enough to leave such things alone and hope for the best. If the festering dread isn’t rooted out and destroyed, it will continue to grow and consume the world at large. Only true heroes, or perhaps fools, go through the growing Tainted Portals, knowing if they don’t act their people and lands are soon doomed by the corruption.

It isn’t enough to know that creatures, plants, the land itself is twisted and filled with dread, the wise must learn to control their panic, resisting the staining touch of evil as they explore to find the pools of horrific power. Those who survive their journey into the Tainted Lands come back a little twisted themselves, tainted with the evil of those blasted wastes. Their hair white, and for the observant the look to their eyes that wasn’t there before.

Come play in the tainted lands and survive the horrors that walk behind you, spring at you from the fogs all around, and grow from minor things into alarming corrupted creatures of awesome power; always hungry for those who accidentally become pulled into a nightmare of creatures and lands filled with horrific death.

A Siege Engine Box Set Played with Castles & Crusades

Included within:

  • Castles & Crusades Rules of Play
  • Horror Rules for the Abomination Lord
  • Supernatural Rule Book for the PH
  • Introductory Adventure
  • Six Playing Dice