Hola, amigos. I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya. I vowed to myself not to post on this blog until after I finished my next book.  I’ve ordered a proof copy, so it’ll be released within a week or two most likely.  Onward…

“The Big List of 1980s Barbarian & Fantasy Movies” is the most popular post on this blog.  It’s just a list with very little commentary, so I figured it was time to recommend a few.

These aren’t necessarily the best 80s fantasy movies, but are those I find most interesting. One of my main criteria for choosing these five is that they aren’t well known. My general cutoff was movies with less than 1000 votes at IMDB.com at the time.

So here are the most interesting 1980s fantasy movies in the world:

Throne of Fire (1983)

I gave Throne of Fire a hard time in The Big List, but I’m fascinated by it. Throne of Fire a throwback: “60s castle and king cinema” with a large dose of 80s barbarian fantasy dope. By “60s castle and king cinema” I’m talking about Lion in Winter, Man For All Seasons, Becket, etc. Throne of Fire takes the castle setting of those movies, adds a mess of fantasy elements and the stupid fun of trashy Italian barbarian flicks…and wins!

I’m not talking Shakespeare, but Throne of Fire has a better plot than most fantasy movies. Sabrina Siani is drop dead awesome in this one.

Conquest (1983)

Conquest director Lucio Fulci must have had a violent epiphany of excitement when he saw Quest for Fire.  He’s more well known for gore movies and must have seen potential in cavemen as the vehicle for bringing his schtick to the bustling barbarian movie market.  Fulci’s next thought was probably “I can’t get Rae Dawn Chong in my caveman movie, so who do I know that has small breasts? SABRINA SIANI. Bellissimo!”

At it’s core, Conquest is a “buddy movie” with the same general setup as Midnight Cowboy. One guy is a bumpkin stranger who has introduced a powerful weapon to a grim land: Jon Voight.  The other guy is the street smart loner who wanders around scrounging for food: Dustin Hoffman.

As a movie, Conquest is rather sparse, despite having one if the more unique and interesting settings to be found in fantasy movies.  It’s better to think of it as a meditation. On what, I’m not exactly sure, and I’ll stop talking out of my ass about this movie now.

The Dungeonmaster (1984)

The two 80s movies with the most obvious D&D influence/coattails-riding are Mazes & Monsters and The Dungeonmaster (aka Ragewar: The Challenges of Excalibrate, aka Digital Knights). Both are set in the modern world and transport the characters to fantasy land via psychosis or dreams or something.

Mazes & Monsters is more well-known and apparently reviled by many. Great for laughs, at least.

The Dungeonmaster seems to have been retroactively gussied up to appeal to D&D fans. The movie itself doesn’t explicitly reference the game, but the plot structure could totally work as an example of one way that D&D was/is played:  short, unrelated, gonzo puzzle and combat challenges joined together in a quest to rescue the damsel from the evil wizard/Satan.  Very stupid and entertaining.

Also, this movie invented Google Glass before it was even a twinkle in Sergey Brin’s eyes.

Star Knight (1985)

By the mid-80s, the fantasy movie mania was at its peak. To get to the next level, a crossover hit was needed.  It finally arrived in 1987 with Princess Bride.

But several filmmakers had the right idea back in 1985, as both Legend and Ladyhawke were minor crossover successes.  But the true 1985 crossover champ is a forgotten movie made in Spain called El caballero del dragón, aka Knight of the Dragon, aka Star Knight.

I’m not saying it’s a great movie, but it has Klaus Kinski, is some funny, and should be at least a little more well known. I guess you have to be willing to mix aliens and comedy with your knights and castles.

Iron Warrior (1987)

By 1987, the barbarian movie fad was past its prime, but a half-decade of barbarian movie-making culminated in twin peaks that year: The Barbarians and Iron Warrior. The Barbarians is the more well known of the two, pushing all the right buttons (almost to the point of parody), resulting in perhaps the quintessential barbarian movie. But only because it treads familiar territory.

Iron Warrior deserves more attention. It gets overlooked for two opposing reasons:

First, it was kinda-sorta made as a sequel to Ator and Blademaster, two movies that wear the “bad movie” crown with pride.

Second, it has an experimental style and pretentious grandiosity feel to it at times, which has given it a bit of an artsy fartsy reputation.

Some people who do like the earlier Ator movies are put off by this different style.  People who don’t like the earlier Ator movies won’t bother with Iron Warrior anyways.  It can’t win with either crowd.

Iron Warrior is bizarre, but no more pretentious than anybody’s D&D campaign.  The artsy fartsy stuff works, partly because the movie is ruthlessly edited to keep it moving at a brisk pace.  Give it a chance and Iron Warrior may just end up being your favorite barbarian movie.



Edit 6/1/2014: I’m happy that Bryce liked my One Page Dungeon Contest entry.  Click here.  Actual quotes from his short review:



“And a hearty “Fuck You!” to the judges for not recognizing your genius Dustin!”

It seems bloggers are posting their contest entries on their blogs. Alrighty, here’s mine.  Click image to get the pdf…


Speaking of one page at a time, here’s a work in progress sample cover of the next jungle supplement I am working on:


Jungle Image Dump #12

April 14, 2013

Images below, but first some messages from the old news department:  The original Petty Gods with the sweet jungle cover has been released:


Also…an Expanded Petty Gods is being made by Gorgonmilk.  I actually got off my ass and contributed something this time.

In a fit of productivity, I also submitted an entry into the 2013 One Page Dungeon Contest.  Some fine jungle entries from previous years:






fantasy machine gun jungle dinosaurs cyborgs theropod 1920x1440 wallpaper_wallpaperbeautiful_50





First: Anybody going to Fablescon this weekend?  Let me know. I’ll be there.

Second: For non-jungle reasons, I’ve been lately browsing the first five Arduin Grimoires by David Hargrave, but it turns out there is some jungle in Arduin too.  To quote the author, Arduin’s multiverse contains “dead worlds, jungle worlds, worlds of monsters and worlds of light and reason–all impinging on the nexus.”

What beasts are stalking these Arduin jungle worlds?

Arduin jungle encounters
1. Gronds
2. Skorpoons
3. Ooze/slime
4. Earth elemental
5. Hydra
6. Red death cloud
7. Lash lizards
8. Octorillas
9. Tigers
10. Triceratops
11. Shiva
12. Tri-dragon
13. Ibathene
14. Teng swarm
15. Stingwings
16. Spiga
17. Phraints
18. Nite hounds
19. Furcoats
20. Floaters

I haven’t seen where Hargrave describes Floaters…hopefully they aren’t like Soakies, but he does describe some of those jungle monsters:

Red Death: boiling cloud of flesh-eating fog

Spiga: cruel and intelligent giant metallic spiders.



Teng: winged beetles that fling themselves at any warm or moving creature like living crossbow bolts, destroying themselves upon impact.

Skorpoons:  genetically engineered green-furred baboons with red claws and eyes and a venomous scorpion tail.

Phraint: 9′ tall metallic mantis/ant warriors. Incredible jumpers.  “They are cold, emotionless,and logical, a veritable bug Mr. Spock.”



Other Arduin monsters not on that encounter table but would be right at home in the jungle:

Quarl: Ebon cat beasts with six legs, one red eye, and black tusks.

The Helltide: swarm of large bright-green army ants.

Thermites:  red hot warrior termites.

Razor Vine: normal looking vine with razor core and lashing attack.

Arc-bat: Giant electric bat. Everything is better with electricity.

Emerald Death: Viper with venom of unsurpassed deadliness.

Sunderlegs: Giant ten-legged reptile/insect mutational crossbreed that live solitary lives well away from civilization in the dank and jungly areas of the world.

Thunderbunnies, Kill Kittens, Screaming Scarlet Itchies, etc. Ok, these aren’t exactly jungle critters, but they COULD be.

…and many more. Hargrave was a DM savant and puts my monster-making efforts to shame.

Fortunately for players, all is not terror and death for PCs in the Arduin jungles.  There’s a character class of interest and at least a couple magic items to seek out:

The Frogling:  This character class has a jumping ability that could make them an effective choice in wet jungle terrain.

Emerald Silk: A translucent green silk of legendary durability, derived from a nasty variety of wolf spider found in the trackless southern jungles of the Green Hell.

Amulet of the Amazon Mother:  A silver phallus and scrotum impaled on a golden arrow.  Whoa…after reading that description, does anybody even care what it does?

The Land of Tiny Castles

February 16, 2013

Across the Wide Dark Jungle mentions a portal to The Land of Tiny Castles. Actually it’s called a Dimension in the book, but what difference does it make, Hillary?

This is my interpretation of The Land of Tiny Castles…

The Folk
There are no humans in The Land of Tiny Castles, only halflings, elves, and dwarves. Let’s call them Folk, collectively.

The halflings are like this…


Hi, I’m looking for “XP = gold pieces”…and a clean pair of shorts.

The elves are short, like the yellow shirted one in this old D&D advert. They don’t make toys or cookies.


High quality adventuring.

The dwarves are short and round. Like on the cover of Dragon 180.  They get angry if called gnomes or “garden sentinels”.


Dragon 180. Them are dwarves I tell you.

The three folks generally get along, but with the usual mix of spats, feuds, and traditional grudges.  It’s not unusual for castles and adventuring teams to contain a mix of Folk.  If you want to add more detail to these races, I recommend Kesher’s Devil’s in the Details tables.

Any human PCs in The Land of Tiny Castles are “visitors”.

The Rule of Visitors:
A player can only have one human PC in the land of Tiny Castles…the visitor. If that human dies, the player must play Folk PCs while the campaign remains here.


Rock piles that cover dungeons.

The Land
It’s is mostly rolling plains dotted with patches of trees, marshes, and rock piles. These piles hide the dungeons that become castles. It’s these many castles, perfectly sized for the Folk, that give the land it’s inter-dimensional moniker. More on the castles later.

The Land is a precise rectangle of unknown size…nobody has thought to measure it. Around its perimeter is The Ditch, a mist shrouded chasm, beyond which is unknown.

More often than not, exploring The Land actually IS a walk in the park. Dangerous monsters are usually found below ground, not above. Most overland hazards are seasonal and the only year round threats are the wolves and the Fox Guys, anthropomorphic fox bandits (Haha…totally not trying to make a funny about the fair and balanced news source.)

A walk in the park.

A walk in the park.

The Seasons
A power known as the Intractable Overlord creates the four seasons…

Winter is the season of snow and white and treasure gathering. Winter Obstacles: blizzards, snow dunes, and the winter wolf.

Spring is the season of melting and grey and cleaning of castles and treasure.  Spring Obstacles:  Flooding, mud, and the tattered wolf.

Summer is the season of sun and green and castle construction.  Summer Obstacles: thunderstorms, construction crews, and the lazy wolf.

Fall is the season of morning frost and brown and dungeon finding. Fall Obstacles: wild fire, dungeon prospectors, and the hunting wolf.

The Castles and Dungeons
The two main industries of the land are treasure hunting and castle building.  All else is in support of those two.

Finding a dungeon is like drilling for oil. Once found, a castle is built on top.  Everybody lives in these castles.  Rich dungeons lead to larger, more elaborate castles being built atop. Some castles are eventually abandoned when the dungeon is out of treasure. Discovery of another level in a dungeon is greatly celebrated, because it ensures the prosperity of the castle for another generation.

The dungeons are the domain of the Inscrutable Underlord..of unknown relation to the Intractable Overlord.

The Adventurers
Among Folk, money and fame are explicitly the most important considerations.  By their nature, they are inclined to seek out treasure.  Folk will usually suggest a treasure hunt as the solution to most problems.

Adventuring parties usually have Sponsors. Most often the sponsors are taverns in their home castles. Along with this is a “Contract of Adventure”. Treasure hunters are under oath to recover a quota of treasure from the dungeons, and give a percentage to the castle and the sponsor. In return, the adventurer receives benefits such as outfitting expenses, “fame insurance”, death coverage, and carousing forgiveness.


The Congo River snakes through jungle, then savannah, then into the mountains where Dr. Livingstone was found

Talysman has lately been writing brief summaries of some of the existing hexcrawl generation systems. He won’t be reviewing the Source of the Nile system, so I’m here to grab that baton…

The Source of the Nile hex generation system

The SotN rule book actually contains two hex gen systems. They are virtually the same except one is card-based and the other chart-based. For the solo campaign I conducted a couple years ago, I used the cards because they provide a little more detail and seemed faster. In a nutshell, the system involves drawing a series of cards (or rolling on several tables) to determine the hex details…

2 of the 108 cards used to generate the map of Africa

2 of the 108 cards used to generate the map of Africa

Draw a card to determine if the new hex will be a continuation of neighboring terrain or not.  See on the cards where it says “Terrain” followed by two numbers?  Basically, if either of those two neighboring hexes are already generated, this new hex matches the terrain type of that neighbor.  Otherwise the new hex is of the indicated type.  What ends up happening is that the number of “already-explored” hexes surrounding a new hex increases the likelihood that the new terrain will match a neighbor.  If the new terrain type doesn’t make sense, adjust according to a few simple rules. For example: desert and jungle can’t be neighbors…so the new hex is changed to savannah/veldt instead.

Draw more cards to determine natives, special discoveries, and water features. Due to the focus of the game on exploring Africa’s waterways, additional complex rules govern river generation. Sans the river rules, the system would be streamlined enough for improv RPG hexcrawl play.  As is, it’s maybe too fiddly for that purpose.

The hexes generated are about 100 miles across and the game turns are a month long, so larger scale than what most RPGs use, but I think the system would work just as well at a smaller scale.

Pros: Makes sensible maps of satisfying complexity and detail, with neighboring hexes strongly influencing terrain type of a new hex.

Cons: Tailored for large scale Africa terrain but system could be generalized.  Crazy complex river gen rules…

Flowchart for generating rivers!!!

Flowchart for generating rivers!!!

Regarding rumors

SotN also has a basic method of incorporating rumors into the map:  Eight markers are placed on the blank map at the beginning if the game. Four are blank (false rumors) and four indicate legendary discoveries (King Solomon’s Mine, Lost Tribe, Lost Civilization, and Dr. Livingstone).

Here’s a special rules supplement for SotN that includes an additional rumors system when Dr. Livingstone is found. The concept could be adapted to RPGs. The basic idea is that specific rumors come from specific NPCs.  When creating an NPC, make note if any areas on the map that the NPC may know something about. When the players meet that NPC, add the NPC’s knowledge to the map, perhaps in sketchy details only.

Another idea I had for rumors in an improv map gen system dates back to when I was thinking of ways to use Magic cards with D&D.  Use different stacks of land cards to randomly create different regions on a map and when a rumor is told about some specific place, put that card into that stack.

For example, say you have a region on the map called Habadabump that consists primarily of forest and mountains. The DM makes a stack of mostly Forest and Mountain cards. When the players hear a rumor of the Howling Mine in Habadabump, the DM adds the Howling Mine card to that region’s stack. So the players know the general direction to the mine, but not the exact location. When exploring Habadabump, eventually the Howling Mine card will be drawn.

Regarding starvation

Bonus secttion…because Telecanter posted about simple survival rules the other day.

In SotN, rations are only consumed when hunting fails. Hirelings desert if they aren’t fed.  Explorers (i. e. the PCs) get sick if no food is available and must be carried by hirelings (except the hirelings have probably all deserted!).  If you are fortunate, you can crawl back to a port city.  Or you can try your luck with the natives.

In Isle of the Ape, Gygax’s take is similar to SotN (not surprising since Gygax played SotN)… Lack of rations can lead to disease instead of direct HP damage. Disease then causes Attribute damage, which eventually leads to death (when attributes reduced to zero) if not treated. One thing I like about this is how Cure Disease, Create Food, and Purify Water spells can directly overcome the harsh conditions, but not Cure Light Wounds.

My preference is to not meticulously track supplies.  Whenever a food shortage event occurs, movement rates are reduced by half.  Basically, a food shortage doesn’t kill directly, but indirectly due to the increased number of encounters inherent in a slower movement rate. Death comes in adventure, not in emaciation.

So I wanted to spice up the Gorilla class a little…show that it can be more than just a “grunt and smash” class.  Introducing…

The Gorilla Padre

The Gorilla Padre

The Gorilla Padre is the spiritual leader of the gorillas and the only known gorilla that can speak a human language. Because gorillas are highly immune to the effects of radiation, he is able to wander the apocalypse jungle, attending to the needs of his flock, performing rites and calming disputes between gorillas and humans.

The Padre plays both sides of the growing conflict between The Resistance and the Phantom Soldiers, but works as an agent for The Resistance.  He has a secret library of gorilla and human texts from before The Green Fire (aka The Gimmick, aka The Blast. )

His motto is “I don’t think so…but I can try.”  Sometimes he leaves off the second part.

So what does a motto do besides just being a nifty thing to say?  I decided to make it a bonus mechanic tied to Wisdom, which is sometimes the ignored stat.

Mottos are not made at character creation, but emerge at opportune moments during play.  You say something cool in-character and somebody else says “Hey, that could be your motto.”  Then you say “Yeah, you’re right.” Now you have a motto.  Or maybe you’ll say “Nah, that’s not my motto.”  Maybe the DM will want some input into the decision.

Anyways, the first time a motto is used is the most powerful. That player can choose a roll in the near future (within ten minutes or whatever) to be “inspired”…the roll gets a bonus equal to the character’s Wisdom.  So if your Wisdom is 14 you get +14 on that roll.  This inspiration bonus can apply to any roll performed by or directly relating to the character that created the motto.

Characters of average or less Wisdom can get that initial “inspiration” bonus, but no more motto bonuses for them after that.  The motto can still be a fun or useful roleplaying catalyst, of course, but mottos with lasting effects should be born of exceptional wisdom.

Characters with above average Wisdom get a “daily affirmation” bonus equal to the amount by which their Wisdom exceeds 12.  So a score of 14 would give a +2 bonus and so on. This can be added to any roll, once a day or whatever frequency decided by DM, but the player must invoke the motto and it should be relevant to the situation.

Understood in any language...

Understood in any language…

The Ruins of Corregidor

January 22, 2013

I would guess that when people think of ruins in the jungle they usually think of something in Thailand, Cambodia, or Mexico.  Some great ruins there, but for something a little different, consider these…

6 Ft. Mills Hospital

4 Overturned pedestal Battery Ramsey

4 Topside Barracks

2 Battery Cheney

2 Topside Barracks rainy seaon

Middleside Barracks hallway

Battery James before clearing

3 Walkway to Middleside barracks

1 NCO barracks

All these pictures are of Corregidor Island and posted with permission from Steve and Marcia on the Rock. Check out their blog for a treasure trove of photos and stories from Corregidor.

Corregidor Island is the most well-preserved World War 2 battlefield. The remaining structures have a familiar look, but an otherworldly feel to them.  One of the most bombarded 3 square miles in the world, it hardly had any vegetation left after the war.  But you can’t keep a good jungle down.

The ruins of Corregidor have been repeatedly used as a movie set (for better or worse), either as themselves, a battle stage in a Vietnam war movie, a gang hideout in a post-apocalypse flick, etc.  This post is a reference list of movies that feature the ruins of Corregidor. More will be added as I find them. Let me know if you come across a filmed-on-Corregidor movie not on this list (not including stock footage).

The “Cirio H. Santiago” category. Cirio seems to have been the most prolific director on Corregidor. First is one of his Post-Apocalypse movies, then a bunch of Vietnam War entries…

Wheels of Fire (1985)
Corregidor ruins show up for about five minutes as a post-apocalypse militant gang hideout. Also of note is the painting of additional ravaged ruins into the scene during an outdoors shot of one of the batteries (perhaps Wheeler). Makes it look extra epic. Cirio recycled the same painted ruins scene for a few seconds in Raiders of the Sun (1992).

Eye of the Eagle (1987)
Corregidor is the headquarters of a “lost command”. Lotsa shots of the ruins and Battery Way throughout the movie, culminating in an explosive finale. A couple pictures in my Guide to Cirio’s Nam Movies show Corregidor ruins.

The Expendables (1988)
Terminate shirtless Vic Diaz and rescue the kidnapped nurses from the ruins in Cambodia!

Nam Angels (1989)
This contains the infamous gasoline torture scene involving the unfortunate South Vietnamese capitalists tied to the big guns at the abandoned fortress.

Field of Fire (1991)
In the other Nam movies it’s the “bad guys” that control the Corregidor ruins. This time it’s the US soldiers that defend the “Fort Bien Hoa” ruins.

Kill Zone (1993)
Corregidor as weapons depot. Brief exterior shot and some interior shots that may actually be from Intramuros, Manila.

The “Corregidor as Corregidor” category…

Impasse (1969)
This movie has a common theme: find the gold hidden in post-war Philippines. The gold is on Corregidor, of course, so the final 35 mins or so is among and under the ruins. Notable for starring Burt Reynolds AND Vic Diaz.

Fortress of the Dead (1965)
A moody ghost tale by Ferde Grofe Jr. set on Corregidor Island with great B&W shots of the ruins and tunnels.  Warning: this contains a totally unexpected and eye-popping wet t-shirt scene about mid-way through the movie.

The ‘I haven’t seen these yet” category…

The Hell Raiders (1988)
Another one by Ferde Grofe Jr. I haven’t watched this or ever seen it available anywhere, but the Dutch VHS cover clearly shows scenes filmed on Corregidor, as seen at When the Vietnam War Raged…in the Philippines.

Island of the Living Dead (2006)
One of Bruno Mattei’s final movies and it looks like a hoot. Looks like I need to rewatch some of the earlier Mattei movies to see if he ever used Corregidor previously.

2012 was the year of the homemade digest booklet here in the jungle.  The limitations of the format were actually liberating in a way and I cranked out a couple last year.  Best of all is that they were cheap to send to anywhere in the world.

Well, at some point last year Magcloud significantly lowered its cost for international shipping.  So I’m heading back onto the print-on-demand service (actually never left…as the original FitJ Supplement has always been available there.) and the first order of business was to get Across the Wide Dark Jungle on there.

It’s ready!  Bigger and better than before…

Across the Wide Dark Jungle Find out more on MagCloud)

Click the image above to order. $5 for the book+PDF combo. $2.50 for just the PDF.

What is it? The table of contents page describes it well:


Additional preview of the book can be found at the Magcloud page. This is the same format as the original Fire in the Jungle Supplement: 16 full size pages (including covers) of heavy stock paper. Order both together to save on shipping. 😉

This book was originally published as a homemade digest in June 2012. This new edition has the full text of the original (slightly changed to fit the new layout) plus a few more small sections such as a Resurrection Quest table, an expanded Hunter Band Names table (including groaners such as Ded Lyppyrd, Blue Örangutan Cult, and Trampled by Monkees), and new Tribe Peculiarities tables based on the What Makes Them Special system. Plus another dozen old jungle woodcut illustrations.

Featured in the book is The Sacrifice Pit, a ready-to-play adventure location that starts out as a low-level mundane jungle hack, but gets weird, weirder, and utterly bizarre. Here’s the intro to the location and a section of the Pit’s map:



So the digest edition of Across the Wide Dark Jungle has been discontinued.

To get completely out of the business of printing, folding, stapling, stuffing, addressing, and stamping, The Rise and Fall of Zamzer is also no longer available as physical digest.  Instead, it’s now a free PDF download, with which you can create your own digest in the comfort of your trophy room.

Escape from the Dark Cathedral on the Mountain lest you become…”A Eunuch for Zamzer”!!  Amateur Illustrations by yours truly.  I’m very embarrassed by it…check it out.


Jungle Alert! CASCADA film

January 15, 2013

Check out CASCADA, a new short film about kayaking over waterfalls in Mexican jungle…

I likey.  Reminds me of when ol’ Mossy Hayes plunged over the falls.