I’m leaving on a SE Asia trip soon and was thinking of having a big sale on the FitJ supplement while I was away.  Well, with all this “Free PDF” stuff going around, I figured I’d join the party.  Now the FitJ PDF is free!  Check it out:

The Fire in the Jungle Fantasy RPG Supplement Find out more on MagCloud

So, I’ll be gone for awhile.  My next post might not be for a month or so.  If you’re looking for some jungle action in the meantime, check out the list of Popular & Favorite posts here.

I’m getting a haircut tomorrow to reshape my mullet.  Since my last one a few months ago, the party in back has gotten pretty wild and the business in front has gone out of business. In honor of this, here are three mainstream jungle movies from the 80s.

The Mosquito Coast (1986).  Directed by Peter Weir.  Nice Belize jungle footage.  I distinctly remember when my family rented this movie about 20 years ago and we all declared it perhaps the worst movie we had ever seen.  I think I would like it better now.  The ice quest is a cool idea.  Bonus points for sweaty Helen Mirren.

Lord of the Flies (1990, filmed in 1988).  Directed by Harry Hook.  Great Hawaiian jungle footage.  I remember feeling like such a rebel when watching this with cousins at my grandparents’ house, maybe 20 years ago.  I was recently thinking about watching the 1963 b&w version directed by Peter Brook, but the trailer creeped me out.

Predator (1987).  Directed by John McTiernan and filmed in lush Mexican rainforest.   A classic that endures the test of time and stands out when compared to other macho/action/gun movies from this era.  I envisioned the crater spawn monster as a cross between The Predator and The Cookie Monster.  Check out this video about the gatling gun “Old Painless” used in the movie.

A great moment in "fire in the jungle" history.

Jungle in the Magic

June 21, 2011

Say what you will about Magic: The Gathering, but it is lavishly illustrated.   Say what you will about the quality of art on Magic cards in general, but there are some nice pieces.  Of course, jungle artwork is at the top of my list, so I recently assembled my favorites in a stack of 100 cards.  Here are some of the best:

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It’s not a playable Magic deck, just random stuff.  My plan is to have the stack handy whenever DMing a game in the jungle and pull a random card for bits of inspiration at any time.  Not only can the artwork jump start the imagination, but so can the card name, flavor text, or even special abilities.

A DM could also construct the stack to serve as a random jungle event and encounter generator, but I’m not taking it that far yet.  One technique that I DO plan on employing is using the stack as a random jungle hallucination/dream/nightmare generator.  Draw two or more cards from the stack and twist or morph the elements on the card into something weird that may foreshadow the future, give a hint from the past, or just plain terrorize.

For example, combining the following two cards could produce things such as:   Hallucination of being attacked by a gorilla/snake mutant.   Or a dream about being captured by a tribe of gorillas who worship a wise snake.  Or PC hears an imaginary voice whisper in his ear: “In the soil of enlightenment sprouts the scales of immortality.”  Just go crazy with it, ya know.

I was too busy today watching Dwarf Fortress videos on youtube to create a real post here.  The fact that the game exists blows my mind.  The fact that it’s still in development warms my heart.  Amazing what a mad genius can create if given 10 years time.

Anyways, the best jungle post today is at Hari Ragat.  Check out Dariel’s Haunters of the Jungle and Haunters of the Jungle II.

And…here’s a couple jungle pics floating around on my computer.

Images of The Jungle

June 16, 2011

I wish these could have been included in the Fire in the Jungle Supplement:

Big Muddy River and Swamps of Wak Wak Wa

The Pool of Dreams. Some say it is a gate to another world. (In real life: The Enchanted River in Mindanao, Philippines.)

The Old Ant Hills. Remants of the ant civilizations that ruled The Jungle long ago. (In real life: the Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Philippines.)

A dragon's view from high above the Emerald Mountains

Blood Beak
This huge bird loves the color red.  Its beak is the size of a small canoe.  It doesn’t eat meat or drink blood, but kills indiscriminately to bring bloody bodies to its macabre nest.

Jade Slime
This slime’s texture and colors give it the appearance of wet jade. It ambushes its prey and eats through everything except stone and hair within a minute.  After eating through armor or clothing, it will eat through any non-hairy flesh on its victim within a minute. Jade Slime is immune to most attacks but is harmed by fire and killed instantly when touched by honey.

Rust Rhino
Large beasts with a hide of iron.  The hide can be harvested and fashioned into makeshift armor (AC 3), but its rusted state causes it to deteriorate quickly.  Deals 2x damage when charging.

Crater Spawn
Vile, mutant, emaciated apes born of the toxic crater pools in Scarred jungle regions.  They are solitary and wander the Scarred jungles at night in search of prey.  Eventually they get into the ant tunnels, from which they terrorize the entire jungle.  Their eyes have evolved into large white globes protruding from the tops of their heads, giving them infravision and superb vision in darkness.

Is the Jungle Neutral?

June 14, 2011

The Jungle Is Neutral by F. Spencer Chapman, first published in 1948.  The journal of a British officer conducting guerrilla operations in Malaya against the Japanese occupation.  This work is often cited as a classic of jungle guerrilla warfare and survival.

Check out the wonderful journals and photos by Keong as he retraces part of Chapman’s path through the jungle.  Keong’s site, My Rainforest Adventures, is a great collection of journals, photos, and tips by and for a modern-day jungle trekker.  Lots of ways to start a fire in the jungle.  Especially cool is the fire piston, a precursor to the diesel engine.

The myth of the jungle is that it is a wicked, inhospitable place.  What does “the jungle is neutral” mean?  It means the jungle does not care and is not a factor in determining if you live or die in the jungle.  You are the deciding factor.  Keep your head and your senses and your feet and the jungle will help you.  Lose them and the jungle swallows you.

Bolo Men/Women are the daring heroes of the jungle clans.  The most famous is Ceptaar.  You too can play a Bolo Man!

The Bolo Man character class is a lot like the standard thief class, but with a few differences that emphasize it’s role as a “jungle specialist” instead of an actual “thief”:

  • Always carries a Bolo, but may have other weapons too.  (check out some sweet Bolo variations here)
  • Cannot use metal armor, but can use shields made of animal hide or bark or other jungle resources.
  • Instead of the Pickpocket skill, a Bolo Man has a Vine Swinging skill.
  • Instead of the Open Locks skill, a Bolo Man has a Beast Riding skill.
  • Uses an additional “reinterpretation” of thief skills.

For example, here are the skill percentages of a Level 1 Bolo Man:

  • Beast Riding: 15%
  • Vine Swing: 20%
  • Remove Trap: 10%
  • Move Silently: 20%
  • Climb Wall/Tree: 87%
  • Hide in Shadows: 10%
  • Hear Noise: 33%

Standard thief skills often involve dangerous tasks that, upon failure, can seriously mess up the thief or get them into trouble. For this reason a thief player may sometimes be discouraged from using thief skills, especially at low levels. The Bolo Man reinterpretation of thief skills makes them less risky and encourages their usage.  Here is the key:

The thief skill percentages don’t measure the chance of successful action, but instead measure the chance of the thief properly assessing the situation/obstacle in relation to his own capabilities.

For example, consider a Bolo Man examining a tree to climb. A successful climb roll means he determined that he is sufficiently skilled in this situation, so he climbs. A failed climb roll means he decided that he is not skilled enough to make this particular climb, so he doesn’t even try.   No risk of falling.

In essence, the action isn’t performed until after a successful skill roll has been made.   If the skill roll is not successful but the player insists that the PC attempt the action anyway, the judge can treat it the same as if a non-thief/Bolo Man were attempting the action.

This reinterpretation of thief skills is best used in conjunction with the possibility of a “fumble” to allow for an occasional dangerous failure. A fumble would indicate the Bolo Man attempted something he thought he could do, but either misjudged or fell victim to an unforeseen circumstance. For example:  an unseen twig foiled an attempt to move silently, a loose section of wall caused him to fall, a trap had a devious fail-safe mechanism, etc.  Fumble occurs on any double roll (00, 11, 22, 33, 44, 55, 66, 77, 88, 99), but only if the skill roll failed.

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Journalist Kit Sharp came tantalizingly close to discovering a lost city on her previous expedition.  She wasted no time in forming a new expedition and approaching the rumored lost city from the north, bypassing the swamps and desert that had blocked her from the south.

A mountain river valley was found that climbed to a high altitude swamp.  And there hid the Lost City.  Kit approached in a peaceful manner and was accepted as a guest of the city.  They spoke ancient Greek.

Kit learned that a tyrant warrior-king ruled the city, but she had no problems the first month she lived there.  It was a most pleasant life, but finally decided to leave.  The tyrant refused her departure and imprisoned her.

Later, she learned of a young noble that aspired to overthrow the king.  He offered to help Kit escape during an upcoming rebellion.  Perhaps the king learned of this plan, because he soon ordered Kit to be thrown into the sacred pool to be devoured by a mosasaurus, a gigantic aquatic dinosaur which had miraculously survived the eons in this lost city.

Desperate, Kit attempted another escape and was successful.  Upon her return to Europe, her story seemed too fantastical to be true, and it didn’t sell well.  She scraped up a small expedition in hopes of completing her exploration of the White Nile, but a herd of stampeding elephants and an ambush of natives cut it short.

Kit now had very little money available to continue exploration.  Then more bad news:  Leski was rumored to have died during his latest expedition.  Now she was the only remaining member of the Cairo Confidential.  What about Leski’s treasure from King Solomon’s Mines?  He had told her about the remaining riches that he had cached in a secret location.  She had just enough money available to fund a small expedition to retrieve it.

But it wouldn’t be easy.  Leski had befriended several tribes in the area near the Mines, but that wouldn’t help Kit.  She must befriend them to gain passage to the Mines.  Not only that, but because she couldn’t afford enough rations to last the entire journey, she needed the natives to feed her too.

Fortunately, the journey to the treasure cache and back went off without a hitch and now Kit was swimming in money to fund more exploration.

All that was left to explore in the Nile basin was the region west of The Sudd swamps.  It would be quite a challenge, because the swamp and desert terrain in the area made foot expeditions the only option.  Kit organized a massive expedition of footmen and partially explored the area before being wiped out by a thunderstorm in the desert and flash flood.

Another very large foot expedition was formed.  A variety of hardships were endured:  baboon attack, spoiled rations, sick musketeers, flooding, food-stealing chimps, sunstroke.  Finally, the final hectare of the Nile basin was mapped: a lonely region of desert not far from Khartoum itself!

As it turns out, the actual “source of the Nile” was in the mountains south of Lake Kentucky, discovered nearly a decade and a half prior.  Just over the ridge from where Dr. Roger Smalley had mapped the Rufiji River so long ago.   (In fact, not too far from the actual source of the Nile and Lake Victoria!)

Well, that does it for the Cairo Confidential.  I suppose I could keep playing out this campaign until Kit dies, but I’ll let her retire in peace.  Besides, even though she’s still very good looking as she approaches 50 years of age, she’s just not quite as smokin’ as she used to be.

See all Cairo Confidential posts.

Botanist Leski Osmonov set out to explore the entirety of the lake he discovered previously.  He was successful, but not before his expedition was wiped out by natives and he explored alone for much of the way.  He named it Moon Lake for its crescent shape.  Still to be explored are the lands north of the jungle/swamp on the lake’s north east edge.  Next, Leski followed rumors of a Lost Civilization northwest of King Solomon’s Mines, but the rumors proved false.  On his way back, he visited his cache of treasure near the Mines and took out as much as he could carry.  Vast riches still remain there.

Journalist Kit Sharp successfully completed her exploration of the eastern basin of the Nile.  All that remains now is to explore whatever lies west of The Sudd.  She heard rumors of a Lost Civilization to the west of Lake Kentucky, but her way was blocked by swamp and a sea of desert.  Then tsetse flies sickened her entire expedition, killing several men and horses, and delaying her for three months.  Next, she picked a fight with a tribe and lost all her men in the battle.  She stumbled back to port and feverishly wrote up the story for publication in Europe.

Dr. Roger Smalley had planned to complete his exploration of the Congo basin.  Nobody has heard from him and he is presumed dead.

See all Cairo Confidential posts.

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