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Friday, 1 September 2017


When Oliver Johnson and I were working on Questworld in the early 1980s, we inherited the geography of the continent from Chaosium but had freedom to add our own towns and other features. The project felt a little too control-freaky to work as a shared world, so we weren't too sorry when it fell through -- apart from the fact that we'd written an entire campaign pack and never got paid, but that was par for the course in my dealings with Games Workshop in those days. Let me tell you about the Adventure RPG sometime, or the series of gamebooks that GW supposedly planned to publish after the success of Warlock of Firetop Mountain.

One of our own additions that we liked was the Miasmos swamp. On the map there you can see "Fuju'se" on the western edge; that was the original name of Cinderbrake Castle which featured in the recent "Sweet is Revenge" scenario.

Here is a taste of the Miasmos region with some of the special encounters we planned for it. It's nice to think that thirty-five years after writing all that stuff, we finally have somewhere to use it. Maybe I'll wheel out some more of the Questworld scenarios if there's enough interest.


In addition to the obvious danger of running into a group of mausogoths or other monsters, Miasmos holds many insidious threats to an adventurer's life. Leeches, trunju fungi and swarms of kissgiss (a species of mosquito) all harbour disease. Every 1-6 days, each character must make a luck roll to avoid exposure to disease. There is a 75% chance of a minor infection (see Cults of Prax, the Mallia cult) and a 25% chance of a more serious disease such as soul waste. A character exposed to disease makes the usual hit point rolls to determine whether or not he contracts it.

Special Miasmos encounters
A roll of 61-00 on the Special Encounters subtable provides the referee with the opportunity to introduce a special event or mini-scenario. Such events help to convey the eerie, fantastical nature of this haunted swampland. They need not directly threaten the characters' lives (though they frequently will) as the major purpose of these encounters is to provide atmosphere and drama. Some examples follow.


These are said to be the souls of mutinous sailors cast overboard during the Long Voyage frcm. Glorantha, but if this is true it is not clear why they are only encountered in Miasmos. The plummeting soul will first be sighted as a pale green glow up in the night sky, plunging out of the heavens towards a party. Characters who spot this (by rolling their Perception bonus or less on d100, if awake) will have 1-6 rounds to activate spirit block or spirit shield. The light will then strike like a shooting star, engulfing one character (roll randomly for which) in a coruscating aura. The character is subject to the soul's attempt to entrance him. This is like normal spirit- combat possession, but the soul's attack is at +20%.

The moment he is entranced, a character is subject to the effects of vigour, fanaticism and ironhands 4. He will turn on the other members of his party indiscriminately, his form superimposed with the greenish image of the soul – a wild-eyed, cackling parody of a human. If the character is slain or incapacitated, the soul engages his in spirit combat in an attempt to destroy it, and then dissipates. (The plummeting soul will also dissipate immediately if its target had already made himself impregnable to its takeover attack with spirit block.)

Plummeting souls can be bound, but are useless for memorizing spells because of their animal-like intellect.


These are undead manifestations encountered in the Miasmos swamps, typically in shoals of 6-24 hands. Where they come from is not known, and the popular folktale among adventurers, that the hands are those of travellers lost over the centuries in the rivers and bogs of the region, is as good a theory as any.

They are pallid, ragged-nailed, dark-bristled hands, bloated and slimy as though having been in the water only a few days. Under cover of mist or darkness, they crawl up the sides of a boat like white crabs and then swarm over its occupants, draining them of vitality.
A party of adventurers might be traversing Miasmos in a small barge as dusk closes over the drear landscape. One of the party lies sleeping in the stern, perhaps feverish from kissgiss bites. No one notices the pale shapes scuttling aboard out of the dark water until a scream rings out. The awakened adventurer half rises, grappled by disembodied hands, unsure if he is yet dreaming. More clamber onto him as he stumbles about in the semi-darkness, fumbling for his knife. He can fight these creatures only with fist (including grappling to hurl a hand away), cestus or dagger. His comrades, rushing aft now with lanterns, can strike at the hands with any weapon, but excess damage will wound the grappled character as well as the hand struck. If another character strikes at a hand and misses, he must roll DEXx2 or less on d100 to avoid hitting his comrade instead.

Each round after grappling its victim, a hand matches its POW against his in an attempt to drain him of 1 point of STR or POW (random as to which). This does not cost the hand POW. Drained STR recovers at one point every six hours. Drained POW recovers at the normal rate. The hands’ touch reaches through armour but is unlike a vampire’s in that POW drained does not go to the hand.

A hand regenerates damage at 1 point/round unless disrupted or burned. Each hand adds ½ point of ENC to its victim as it tugs at his limbs and entangles itself in his clothing. Once grappled by more than four hands, the terrified victim must roll MDF x 4 (see Appendix) or less on d100 or collapse from fear.


Overheard in The Fortune of the Rabbit eating-house in Lamentation. The speaker is a burly fellow dribbling ale into his beard:

“I was on point, just a dozen yards ahead of Wishbone and the Ancient. They had me in sight, following me through the fog by the red light of the lantern I was carrying. The mud was sucking around our ankles and I was looking for a stretch of the old road, or at least firmer ground. Just as I ducked my head under a branch I glanced up and saw something up there. Not in the tree, you understand. In the air above it.

“It must have been huge. A hundred yards or more across, and floating maybe twenty yards above our heads. At first all I could make out was a shadow in the fog, but then I could see it was a large pyramid with the top cut off. Truncated, they call it. The sort of pyramid the Ancients used to build as tombs, only they built theirs on the ground of course.

“All sort of silvery it looked, picking out the light and reflecting it like metal would. No, not my lantern. I couldn’t have seen it by just that. It was a column of bright blue light that shone from the base of the thing down to the ground. A broad pillar of light, so as you could almost imagine the thing resting on it. Anyway, we watched it drift slowly overhead, completely silent. The column of light passed by about twenty yards off. I could have gone over and stepped into it, but you know what they say about bold adventurers and old adventurers.

“Later the Ancient said it was the tomb of a heretic king or high priest of his race, condemned by the edict of their gods to drift in the mists of Miasmos. Believe that if you want. I heard another story in Tekoa that it was the palace of Nebr, and that anyone stepping into the column of light is taken up into the pyramid. You think you could help yourself to a sackful of loot and then drop back down? More likely you’d shiver up there with the spirits of the dead fondling at you and mewling nasty things in your ear till you flung yourself out. Nobody knows, do they? Stumbler Goodhaven told me he once met an old hermit who’d been taken up into the pyramid and when he was noticed by the servants of Nebr and cast back out, he found that sixty years had gone by and his wife and all his sons were in their graves.

“Anyway, we got back to Deliverance and I went and gave thanks at the temple, like you should, and I mentioned it to a priest there. He said I’d had river fever and had just been seeing things. There’s no truth to be had anywhere in this world, is there?”


Waylayers (sometimes known as Road Folk or, with typically bleak adventurers' humour, Toll Collectors) are gaunt warriors with pale, almost grey, skin and sunken eyes, equipped with rusting arms and armour of antique design. They are variously believed to be the living-dead revenants of soldiers lost in the swamps of Miasmos or else some kind of semi-demonic creatures, but the truth is uncertain. They are infrequently encountered. Sometimes groups of travellers on the Via Arcana roadway which criss-crosses Miasmos will spy hunched figures ahead in the dusk. As they approach, more of the Waylayers will appear as if from nowhere, hauling themselves up onto the road around the travellers, skulking forward and circling, occasionally gesturing or pawing at items which the party carry. These items must be handed over or the Waylayers will become violent. They presumably store their plunder in hidden lairs, for they are never found with any equipment except their swords and armour. These are iron, but if taken from a fallen Waylayer the spell that preserves them is broken and they will inevitably corrode into uselessness within days. Waylayers use no spells and never speak. They are usually encountered in groups of 4-14.


  1. I do like reading all this stuff. I appreciate that the mechanics of the fabled lands type posts are important (it's what brought me here in the first place back in September 2010) but it's the escapism of exploring a different world through scenarios or peices like this that really does it for me, with Dragon Warriors being at the top of my list. Anyway I just wanted to say thank you for keeping the blog going for all this time and for all the fantastic content you post.

    1. And thank you for coming here. The roleplaying posts are what interest me, especially Dragon Warriors and Tekumel, but I know there are a lot of gamebook fans out there too. We try to cater to the whole gamut of fantasy gaming tastes!

    2. So I hesitate to ask - appreciate you are busy and there is alot of work involved - but is there any chance of the tradition of seasonal Dragon Warriors scenarios being continued this year? All Hallows Eve draws closer and Yule won't be far behind...

    3. We will indeed have a Christmas scenario set in Legend. It's by Tim Harford and judging by the reaction of the group here who played it last December it quite probably is the best yet. But, you know, really we shouldn't even be thinking of Christmas for months yet!

    4. That does sound exiting!

      I agree with you on the Christmas point, but I appreciate that there must be a fair amount of planning involved in the future content of the blog, not to mention in the drafting of the scenario, so I wanted to make sure I got the request in before the ship sailed.

      Speaking of ships sailing, with the last day of September looming inauspiciously on the horizon like some unrecorded doom it feels like a (scarcely justified) opportunity to highlight the potential for seasonally themed scenarios presented by the last day of October - surely one it would never never do to miss? Or is that pushing things too far?

    5. Our autumn special for this year had been scheduled for Oct 29, making the lure of a Halloween themed adventure all but irresistible. Unfortunately we've had to move it to early November, and in doing so the theme has been lost. But maybe next year...

  2. I kind of hesitate to comment because this is a system I almost never use for a world I'll almost certainly never play in (or GM). That said, it's an interest look. These Questworld/Runequest/Tekumel posts are interesting as kind of RPG museum exhibits.

    I admit the bit with the plummeting souls would be a pretty cool sea-based encounter for a Fabled Lands book, since spirit combat is kind of a thing now. Also, the Pyramid in the Mist would be a heck of a location for an adventure in just about any game.

    1. Thanks, John -- I think. That is, I hope some people actually play the Tekumel scenarios, and there are people out there for whom RQ, Heroquest, Mythras (sic), and its other incarnations aren't just museum pieces. But yes, this Questworld stuff definitely has the musty odour of Old School fantasy. I might use something like the Drowned Men's Hands in a game today, but it'd be less of a random encounter with stats and more of a horror set-piece. As long as the roleplaying hobby continues to evolve to give players a deeper and more memorable experience (which usually means moving further from its tabletop roots) then everyone's happy.