Friday 9 December 2022

The Great North - Illustration and Content Teasers

Tom Kilian continues his work on illustrations for The Great North (formerly The Meeting of the Waters), soon* to be released by yours truly.

Here are some more of his developmental pieces. Lovely work, I am sure you'll agree. Accompanying text is from the book itself:



When the Emperor left the Great North, his mechanical servants remained. Whether this was because they had tasks allotted to them that were still incomplete, or simply because he had no further use for them, no one can now say. It certainly appears as though many of them are still mindlessly performing missions that were given to them in those ancient days - repetitive, laborious acts long ago rendered futile by the passage of time and the changes taking place in the world around them. Others, however, only seem to be standing in disconsolate stillness - as if one day the reason for their continued functioning disappeared and they have had nothing to do ever since but wait. 


There are seven basic types of automata, although there are also many sub-types. All are made of supernaturally hard porcelain and animated by some unknown force. They can communicate in the Imperial tongue if required to do so by their role, and are generally non-aggressive unless their role or task determines otherwise. They can also usually be commanded by the use of a special long-forgotten code words or phrases in the same manner as the spell of that name. Below is a guide for creating a typical example of each type; use the basic stat block provided and then provide it with all or some of the stated ‘additions’ accordingly. 


HD 1d3+1, AC 4, #ATT 1, DMG 1d6, Move 120, ML 12, Save as F[HD], TT None

*Suffers no damage from piercing weapons and 1/4 damage from slashing weapons 


Type I (Builder)

Typically humanoid, although frequently it has multiple pairs of arms, and specialist ‘hands’ for hammering, cutting or lifting. 


1 - Extra attacks (#ATT 2 or 3) from additional pairs of limbs

2 - Phenomenal strength (1d10 damage) 

3 - Telescopic limbs (can increase Move to 180, extend arms up to 12’, etc.)


Type II (Carrier)

Typically many-legged with a large, flattish frame. It may be dog-sized, horse-sized, or even larger.


1 - Extra HD (1d3)

2 - Ram/trample attack (triple damage if moving full rate)

3 - Increased speed (Move 150 or 180)


Type III (Miner)

Typically a squat humanoid, compact but immensely strong, and possessing limbs for tunnelling, rock-smashing, and wall-breaking.


1 - Pickaxe and/or shovel limbs (DMG 1d8+1)

2 - Shove attack (does only 1d3 damage but knocks opponent flat; opponent cannot then act in the next round except to stand, and is hit automatically if attacked)


Type IV (Clearer)

Typically a humanoid with axe, sickle, and/or shearing limbs, designed for clearing vegetation. 


1 - Axe, sickle or shearing limbs (DMG 1d8+1)

2 - Emits flame from a hand, the body, eyes, etc. (flame attack in 3’ diameter 6’ cone, DMG 1d4)


Type V (Dancer)

Typically a delicate, gracile humanoid, designed for dancing and ritualistic performance.


1 - Fewer HD (1d2)

2 - Mesmerising movement (opponent must save vs magic in order to attack)


Type VI (Guardian)

Can take any form, being designed to defend or watch over some fixed location: a soldier, a lion, a wolf, an eagle, etc. 


1 - Single-minded (+2 to initiative)

2 - Mighty in arms (#ATT 2)

3 - Emits poison or sleeping gas from the mouth, eyes, etc. (6’ cube, acts as a stinking cloud or sleep spell) 1/day


Type VII (Ranger)

Typically a tall, long-legged humanoid, designed for patrolling the borders of the Empire.





A handful of lost remnants from the time of the Empire, unable either to die or to perform their original function to any discernible end.


1d6+2 automota of the relevant type, and TT [?].





The automata are of a builder, miner or clearer type still attempting to perform whatever task they were assigned all those centuries ago, in a sisyphian struggle against time and the elements (for instance, they are excavating a mine which continually collapses, building the wing of a palace which elsewhere falls apart or become overgrown, clearing forest while the forest reclaims the area behind them, etc.)


The automata are of a carrier or guardian type whose task was rendered defunct eons ago; they now stand about inert and confused and overgrown by forest


The automata are of a guardian type and still actively guard an imperial ruin or other such site despite its gradual collapse (generate according to the appropriate adventure locale table)


The automata are of a dancer type and continually practice and perform odes, plays and songs in the ruins of a palace or amphitheatre 


The automata are of any type and have gone mad; they roam about a defined area or stand still, gabbling incoherently as though possessed by demons 


The automata are of any type and have developed sentience; they may desire integration into human society, the accumulation of power, revenge against the living, etc.




When the Emperor ruled the Great North, he brought men from the farthest reaches of his realm to fight for and serve him there. They are all long dead, and Imperial power has gone from the land, but loyalty to the Emperor himself does not fade easily from the human heart. Thus many remain, beyond death, clinging to the hope that he will someday return.


HD 2, AC 4 (scale mail and shield, unless stated otherwise below), #ATT 1, DMG By weapon (see below), Move 120, ML 8, Save as F1, TT [?]

*Turned as ghouls

*Undead, and hence immune to sleep, charm, command, and other mind-altering spells



Century of 2d20+40, with a 3 HD centurion






Lusitania (sword, heavy javelin [d8])

The auxilia protect the tomb of an imperial prefect and his family heirlooms 


Iberia (falchion, heavy javelin [d8])


Dacia (two-handed sword)

The auxilia protect an Imperial Artefact of great power (generate according to the Imperial Artefact table)


Gaul (spear, sword)


Baleares (sling, javelin, hard leather armour [AC 7])

The auxilia are in conflict with a rival century nearby, arising from mutual suspicion about each other’s loyalties to the Emperor 


Graecia (sarissa, sword)


Germania (spear, short sword)

The auxilia are engaged in a campaign of conquest against a nearby band of heron men, tritons, brags, hobgoblins, etc., who they aim to bring under the Emperor’s rule


Illyria (short spear, short sword)


Thracia (javelin, rhomphaia/falx [d10])

The auxilia have turned to rebellion in the absence of contact from their superiors over the centuries, and are accumulating slaves and loot and the other spoils of war


Arabia (spear, sword)


Syria (short bow, sword)

The auxilia are under the control of a grindylow or other sinister power who has managed to convince them that she represents a Prefect or some other Imperial functionary, and is manipulating them for her own purposes



Wicked man-shaped things made of gorse and matted grass given hideous tensile strength, and with pale yellow eyes like amber. They act with clear purpose, as though playing a part in some great but inexplicable scheme, and may travel long distances to put those purposes into effect.


HD 1+1, AC 6, #ATT 1, DMG By weapon (stone axe)+2, Move 120, ML 8, Save as F2, TT: [?]




1d20+20 bogles, with a a 2 HD leader and a 3 HD wizard, casting spells as a 3rd level magic user






Stealing children

In caves beneath a great boulder


Killing travellers and stealing a specific organ or body part (heart, brain, eyes, hands, etc.)

On top of a wind-swept heugh amongst gorse


Waylaying travellers and stealing a specific type of item (copper coins, steel blades, leather, etc.)

In a long-abandoned bastle house


Freeing livestock and chasing it into the wilderness

In the branches and hollow of a huge sprawling oak  


Setting forest fires to make wide clearings

In the ruins of an old fort or holdfast


Damming rivers to cause floods

In a dense thicket in a copse of trees in a hidden dene




Violent and spiteful animal-headed spirits with a romance for cruelty. They lurk in wild places in the open air, oblivious to, or even savouring, the bite of the cold wind and the seeping wetness of the rain.


HD 1, AC 6, #ATT 1, DMG By weapon (club, sling, spear, axe), ML 7, Save as F1, TT [?]



20d10 brags, with a 3 HD leader and five 2 HD champions, and a 5 HD wizard, casting spells as a 5th level magic-user



Head Type




The brags are poisoning the water supplies of local manors



The brags are attempting to raise the spirit of one of the Emperor’s mightiest dead servants from an overgrown mausoleum so he or she can help them on a campaign of conquest



The brags have kidnapped the son or daughter of a nearby lord and are sending him small pieces of the captive’s body from time to time



The brags know of a secret passage into the vast catacombs of a long-vanished Imperial cult 



The brags have d6+3 human slaves, one of whom is connected to a significant NPC in Joyous Garde, Dolorous Garde, Deadyoungestson or Killers’ Path



The brags worship a broken-down Imperial statue which is imbued with magic (treat as an Imperial Artefact)


Dragons came to live in the wild, high places in the Great North in the world’s adolescence, long before the existence of the emperor or even the elves, and they will be the last to leave, when the ancient hills collapse into the sea. 








Under the Harrow Bog, an expanse of mire on a high moor, in a web of caverns magically kept dry, but whose entrances are all flooded



In the network of caves atop High Cove, known for being haunted by the whispers, cries and pleas of those the dragon has slain




A labyrinth with its entrance in the side of the steep promontory called the Captain’s Tongue, which is said to reject climbers with rockfalls and landslides



In the Hog’s Mouth, a vast cavern which sits at the top of a long, high, narrow cleugh and from which spills the Quick River from its birthplace deep within the earth




In the roots of Dovehole Crag, reached through a small hole with stone steps going down, hidden amongst bracken, through which the dragon comes and goes in human form



In Three Corner Wood, a thick copse of wizened and wind-shrivelled trees, hidden in a cleft in the hills; some of the trees are quickwoods 




At Blakehope Nick, a high cave above a nearly sheer drop of scree, hundreds of feet high, from where one can look out upon lands stretching as far away as the distant sea




In caves cut into the side of Coal Cleugh, whose waters run thick with black sediment; in the caves themselves lurk black dweomerlings and other carbonite spirits




In the vast underground river system below the Grey Mare’s Moor, accessible only by a series of wide or narrow caves burrowing vertically down for a hundred feet or more 




In caves accessible through a wide crack at the foot of Buzzard Crag, which were carved into the root of the hill by things much older yet than the dragon himself

*In this context, 'soon' should be interpreted to mean 'not any sooner than a year'.