Codex Infernus: The Savage Guide to Hell


Really sad to relate that the Codex Infernus Kickstarter has been cancelled – due almost entirely to a slower than anticipated uptake and an increasing likelihood that it would probably only just make its funding target, project creator David Jarvis announced today that the project was cancelled.   There is hope however that the book will still see publication, albeit through a more traditional route at a later date.  We wish David all the best – we thought it looked like a cracking sourcebook.

A holy warrior fighting back infernal beasts on the precipice of a fiery pit. Cloaked figures chanting an incantation to bring forth a nameless beast. A man standing at a crossroads bartering with a demonic temptress for fame and fortune; the price of which is his very soul.Advisers to kings and queens, dictators and presidents, whispering lies at the behest of their demon lords with the fate of nations resting on whether or not the advice is heeded. A scientist examining a strange artifact found on a distant planet that, unbeknownst to him, opens a mysterious gate to a nightmarish dimension when a button is pushed.

These are just a sampling of the myriad images which come to mind when we think of Hell. Codex Infernus: The Savage Guide to Hell, brings those images to life and shows you how to plug them into your games, regardless of what genre you love to play!

And so opens the blurb of this new Kickstarter from David Jarvis/Gun Metal Games.

Now I’m going to start by saying that I think Kickstarter has become very important to the games industry – there are quite a few source books and games that wouldn’t exist (and some that shouldn’t) if it weren’t for Kickstarter.  I’m also going to throw it out there that the majority do not run smoothly and even the bigger companies can fall foul of the Curse of the Kickstarter.  So what is it about Codex Infernus: The Savage Guide to Hell that makes me want to put finger to keyboard this morning?  Well the answer is simple there are three things that stand out about this product.  Firstly, David Jarvis/Gun Metal Games have a decent track record, the previous Kickstarter Interface Zero 2.0: Full Metal Cyberpunk had some ups and downs but it delivered an exceptional product.  Secondly, I think that David did a good job of keeping people involved, providing updates, not oversharing the minutiae of his personal woes (as some authors seem to do) but actually keeping people appraised of the progress, the challenges and the final delivery.  Finally, he fell into the camp of positive Kickstarters that I like to feel treat their pledgees as investors rather than just a source of funding for pre-orders.  I felt a part of the development process for IF:2.0 and I’m sure the same will go for Codex Infernus: The Savage Guide to Hell.

So what is Codex Infernus: The Savage Guide to Hell?  Well one of the things I do like about  what I have read to date is that it is clear that this is not an attempt to produce a “One Size Fits All” single view of Hell which you’ll play and forget, or more likely disagree with – religion has many concepts of hell and RPG’s have even more!  A David puts it in his pitch:

Concepts of Hell, Demons, Devils, etc. mean many things to many different people. While this book includes a built-in, ready to use Infernal Realm, it also gives you everything you need to design a Hellish dimension that caters to your specific group, because the concepts  and rules we introduce in this book transcend genre, encouraging you to explore new possibilities for your Savage Worlds game.

So this is more of a Hell toolkit for YOUR Savage Worlds game, take hell to your genre, play in the wild west, the distant future, take it to Interface Zero! Or alternatively unleash the hordes of Hell into earth for your superheroes to deal with – its all possible.  Again using David’s own words:

How about a gritty, “Constantine-esque” type of setting where demons and angels fight a shadow war, with humanity caught in the middle?

Maybe an Over-the-top 70’s style super hero action game in the vein of the Nocturnals, Hellboy, Ghost Rider, Spawn, or Clive Barker’s Harrowers is more your style?

Perhaps you’re looking to run a fantasy game in the vein of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Timeepic, or the Diablo III and World of Warcraft franchises, where your heroes must confront the forces of darkness to save the world?

We’ve got you covered.

I’m really hoping that the project hits its funding target – and there is no reason to think that it shouldn’t.  As well as the source book there are a number of neat addons that you might want to consider.  To start with there are the usual Savage Worlds accoutrements; Wild Dice, Bennies, Cards.  But much more significantly there are seven Adventure Packs; short adventures that are designed to take up one or two game sessions each. Each adventure focusses on  a different type of genre of play, and should really show and inspire you as to the best way to exploit the  hellish themes, and utility of Codex Infernus: The Savage Guide to Hell! If you were to pledge for the full set of adventure packs then you would have no less than 30 hellish adventures from some really exciting writers and game designers.

Speaking of the authors, contributing to the kickstarter – either through the source book or the adventure packs – are some real roleplaying royalty: Clint Black: Critically Acclaimed author of Necessary Evil, Shane Hensley: The creator of Savage Worlds,  John Wick, John Goff, Rob Wieland: noted amongst other things for his work on Shadowrun, Star Wars Saga Edition and Firefly RPG, Eddy Webb: Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition, Eloy Lasanta: owner of Third Eye Games, Jay Peters, Monica Valentinelli, and not forgetting David Jarvis himself.  (There’s plenty of info on all of this talented bunch over on the Kickstarter page).

We are wishing David and Gun Metal Games every success with this kickstarter, its new innovative and really exciting.  It has the potential to literally add a new dimension to you existing games and campaigns and take your characters on the journey of   a lifetime – and further.

Derek Mayne

The Download Stacks

Miskatonic_PDF_dwnldOver the many years that has been floating around the ether of the web we have shared a goodly number of downloads. Anything from house rules, GM resources, weapons cards, character sheets through to scenarios, pregen character packs and of course our much downloaded Cthulian Charades & Taboo cards.

For the first time we have collected all of the most popular downloads into one place to make them easy to find without having to go through the backlog of posts on the site.  So on the menu bar at the top of this page you will now find a link to the official Download Stacks.

Have fun with what you find there, all we ask that is that you bear in mind that all of the material is made available free of charge and ask that you respect the rights of the authors and any other attributions contained in the documents.  Furthermore, it is asked that where a banner or other reference to is included it should be retained.  No material available from may be sold or used for personal gain.

That’s just about all the legal mumbo jumbo covered, for more you can take a look at our websites legal disclaimer here.

Character sheets for Call of Cthulhu

Dear Derek...Over the last few days I have been tidying up a number of broken links on the site and reposting much of the older downloadable content, (more about that in a future post). We have a wide variety of content going back to the year 2000 and have been using every version of WordPress since 2005 and over time and some things have just got misplaced, lost or broken.

One thing that people continually come looking for here at are character sheets for Call of Cthulhu, and to be fair, we used to host copies of the official printable pdfs.  However, as editions have changed we never really kept up-to-date, so rather than post yet another set of pdf copies I thought it would be more useful to point people in the right direction.

The Chaosium Free Downloads Centre has copies of character sheets for all of their games along with the occasional scenario and/or other resource. Enjoy browsing.

Ia! F’tagn!


Lankhmar: City of Thieves

Back in 1985 TSR published a sourcebook for AD&D that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on, Lankhmar: City of Adventure.  At the time it was something really quite different.  At the time almost all published AD&D game material was set to take place in caverns, dungeons and the wilderness, with the Lankhmar source book your characters took a step into a new world of intrigue and adventure.

Now skip forward thirty years to 2015 and once again a Lankhmar sourcebook appears on our, now virtual, bookshelves.  New from Pinnacle Entertainment Group comes Lankhmar: City of Thieves. This all-new sourcebook for Savage Worlds contains details on the world of Nehwon and the City of Lankhmar, including Setting Rules, Savage Tales, monsters and foes, and persons of wide renown—including Fafhrd, the Gray Mouser, and their sorcerous sponsors.

Lankhmar: City of ThievesI have often wondered why no-one had revisited the worlds of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser for source material.  I grew up reading Leiber’s stories of this unlikely pair.  I was drawn to their almost anti-heroic nature, they were drunks, they were shameless thieves proud of their skills,  they had character flaws a plenty.  Yet to me they were  a breath of fresh air and a break from the all too good fantasy heroes of the time such as Conan or even Tarzan.  The seven books containing containing the bulk of the tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser (Swords of Deviltry, Swords Against Death, Swords in the Mist, Swords Against Wizardry, Swords of Lankhmar, Swords and Ice Magic, and finally The Knight and Knave of Swords) remain among my favorites and when I look back the influence that Lovecraft had on Leiber now comes as no surprise to me, although it was many years after I discovered Leiber that Lovecraft began whispering in my ear.

The book from Pinnacle happens to be almost identical in page count with TSR’s earlier offering, but I can assure you that is where the similarities end.  Whilst the TSR campaign book devoted many pages to excerpts and summaries of the tales of Lankhmar Pinnacle do no such thing, the focus of their book is much more on how to play a game in that world and to adapt the Savage Worlds system to bring to life the characters and setting of Lankhmar.  As you would expect it covers what you need to know in order to create meaningful characters for the genre.  It includes details of Races (including Ghouls and Ratlings), Traits, new Hinderances and Edges, Equipment and provides a more than sufficient amount of background for the setting.

The magic system presented in Lankhmar: City of Thieves has been heavily modified to fit the style described by Leiber in his books.  This includes two new Arcane Backgrounds which are meant to replace those from the core books, there is also a strong ruleset for ritual magic which fits incredibly well with the dark, subtle and incredibly powerful magic in those original tales.

In the Gamesmasters section there are some 25 pages given over to detailing the setting, introducing key concepts such as the guilds of Lankhmar as well as physical geography, history and necessary background.  There are two Savage Tales to get you started with your adventures in Lankhmar and surrounding Newhon.  In the first tale “Tears of the Gods” a chance encounter with a drunken courier and the recovery of a mysterious bottle leads to adventure.  Whilst in “The Shrouded Corpse” the player characters are tasked with disposal of a body, a task which they soon discover isn’t as simple as it seemed and that very much puts them in peril.  Both of these tales are a good introduction to Lankhmar and to the intrigue and danger that players can expect.

In truth I think Pinnacles book with less page space given over to regurgitating the stories that Leiber wrote actually gives you more material with which to create your own, story driven roleplaying adventures in Lankhmar: City of Thieves.  The book delivers what you need to play games set in an interesting and very different setting. It might make you want to read Leiber’s stories, but won’t turn doing so into a necessary chore.

Also currently available for pre-order is a  detailed map of the city of Lankhmar, the center of the world of Nehwon and likely home to your Lankhmar game.  The map is double sided and the flip side features the world of Nehwon as Leiber described it, from the lands of the East to the Steppes of the Mingols, from the Inner Sea to the Parched Mountains.  The double-sided poster map (24” x 30”) has a coating that is wet, dry, and permanent marker erasable.  As the physical product is only available for preorder we have not had a chance to take a proper look at it, however both maps are available as pdf downloads from DriveThruRPG and the cartography is pleasing although I was slightly disappointed that it was only a general map of the city and did not (as in TSR’s 1985 publication) break out the various districts into more detailed maps providing more than just an enlargement of the map given in the sourcebook.  That said it is still a thing of beauty and I am sure would look great gracing the gaming table.

To summarise this ramble through Lankhmar: City of Thieves, the sourcebook provides something different, it pays appropriate homage to among the best classic fantasy of the 20th century in a way that is practical and playable.  In short we like this a lot and hope that it reaches as wide an audience as it deserves.  If in doing so it introduces some new readers to the classic stories of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser then that can only be a bonus.

Lankhmar: City of Thieves

A footnote: Leiber and Lovecraft.

Fritz Leiber’s first stories were clearly inspired by H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos and letters between the pair clearly show that encouragement from Lovecraft during 1936 was instrumental in Leiber’s decision to pursue a literary career. After Lovecraft’s death Leiber wrote several essays on the great man some of which are believed to be pivotal in driving the serious critical appreciation of Lovecraft’s life and work.

“The mystery of the black outer gulfs, and of the deepest cognitive processes within us, must always remain unplumbed – and against these imagination must always frantically pound.”

From a letter to Fritz Leiber by Lovecraft – December 19th, 1936.