Sunday, October 15, 2017

Inktober 15....

"Mysterious"

or perhaps just Dr. Suess-y....


I'd wondered why my sketch pad wasn't taking the ink quite right, then realized I was doing my sketch on the inside cover....  Blame post-workout crash....

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Friday, October 13, 2017

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Inktober 11

"Run"

Mirriam-Webster has over 30 definitions of 'run.'  I think I have about 3-4 imbedded here...


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Inktober 10

"Gigantic"

The vicious Chicken of Bristol may have been more impressive than one was first led to believe...


1/3 of the way through the month and holding....

Monday, October 9, 2017

Inktober 9

"Screech"

I tried to do an owl, but I can't draw owls.  I can't draw pterodactyls, either, but here they are....


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Inktober 8

"Crooked"

A bit of a puzzle to find a safe pathway through a trapped corridor...

Download

Monday, October 2, 2017

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Joining the Inktober game


Crap, I've been unproductive - well, there are a lot of notes in a notebook that haven't gotten transcribed and translated, but creative intertia has been in force...

I need a deadline.

Thanks +Dyson Logos for pointing out the Inktober initiative.  31 inspirations for 31 days...

As soon as I can get Max to move.


Day 1: "Swift" - quickly interpreted as a series of rapids for a party of adventurers to surmount:

Download


Sunday, August 20, 2017

RPG Blog Carnival: Eclipse Magic

It's been a few months since I contributed to the RPG Blog Carnival, so here I am...

Kobold Press is hosting this month's RPG Blog Carnival, entry, themed 'Magic', with open-ended options on where to explore with the topic.

Sooo...  I think I'll noodle around on the topic with respect to another event this month, the August 21 total solar eclipse...


Although a lot of the online references/resources talk on the magical elements of eclipses with respect to the wiccan/pagan tradition, I'll leave Timothy Brannan to discourse on that...

However, taking a few of the traditional superstitions and themes of the eclipse...  An eclipse is: 1) a focal event, 2) a symbol of compressed time (a day in minutes), 3) an event of reformation/rebirth, and 4) a moment of the Moon suppressing the sun, and

I'm not providing many specific mechanics/spells/items, but more of a meditation on the themes and hopefully some seed ideas...


Focal Event:  The conjunction of the lunar and solar powers loosen the gateways and wards between planes of existence, and of the elements.
  • Conjuration or summoning of extra-planar beings is eased.  Servants are summoned, demons more readily called to their binding circles (Although the bargains they press are still just as hazardous)
  • Elementals may be summoned by lower-level mages and elementalists, and the command more stable, with the risk of loss of control reduced.
  • The dead come closer to the veil of the living, their communications clearer, answers less ambiguous.  
  • Perhaps even the gods bend a bit closer to the mortal plane, and entreaties to their ineffable ears heard with more clarity and openness.

Compressed Time:  A day is compressed into mere minutes, and those attuned will take advantage of the event as a catalyst.
  • Spells and processes requiring time become instantaneous. Scrolls are transcribed immediately, potions brew spontaneously. 
  • Caster levels required to utilize certain spells are reduced during the eclipse, temporarily allowing lower-level casters a glimpse into the powers they may eventually grasp.  This, as all magic, should be approached with great caution, or only under extreme circumstances, as the consequences of failure (or of the end of the eclipse during such machinations) can be catastrophic.
Reformation/rebirth: As the walls between the planes are thinned, the eclipse may offer a multitude of opportunities for reformative events.
  • The deceased have an increased success for resurrection or reincarnation by the priests, with better outcomes, or fewer detrimental side-effects...
  • Curses are more readily lifted, as positive energies may be accessed to wash away the liabilities.
  • The pallor of the undead's touch is healed. Levels lost, such as from powerful undead, may be regained, bringing characters back to their hale and hearty selves. Likewise, faded attributes from magic, poisons, or disease may be recovered...
  • The deities may show a certain forgiveness or clemency.  There may be chances for restoration of lost abilities, particularly lost Divine powers, especially those associated with lunar deities.
"Moon Power":  Like any celestial event, not all is positive energy.  The Night temporarily overcomes the Day for the briefest of moments, allowing dark forces a momentary advantage and freedom...
  • The weakened boundaries between the planes don't benefit only the just, as the powers of Darkness, too, may be unleashed or amplified.  How many plot lines of devices has required the gateway of the eclipse to unleash a particularly maleficent force?
  • Likewise, as the boundaries between the living and dead loosen, the necromantic arts feel a temporary amplification of powers - Creation or animation of the undead is catalyzed, and armies may be raised...
  • Curses may be cast, having greater effects upon individuals, or ranging across wider areas...
  • There comes a sudden eruption and fury of creatures of the dark. Knowing that their opportunity is brief (10-15 minutes of dusk, 2-7 minutes of totality), they mass at crypt doors, at sewer lids, waiting to flood forth.  Storming under the corona's haze, they swarm and feed in a frenzy.  Their numbers and powers magnify, making the turning powers of the holy warriors ineffective against their mass....


Bonus:
Here’s what you’ll see where you live.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Tomb of the Warrior King (a one-hour map and adventure...)

So I had to send some documents to my stepdaughter back east, and y'know, that envelope felt sadly thin.  So, knowing that she and her boyfriend enjoy various tabletop games (and she's gamed with me in the distant past), I stuffed the envelope with a copy of SWL, a few blank character sheets and a quick and dirty hand-written map and adventure...

Here it is, very slightly cleaned up and edited.  Still quick and dirty, with a somewhat uninspired title, but hopefully a passable low-level or introductory adventure, with a small puzzle, a bit of treasure and a couple of magical treats and threats...

Download here
Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

So Your Cleric Pissed Off Their God…

Haven’t posted for a while, so here’s a list…

So your cleric, inadvertently or otherwise, betrayed their deity or violated their vows.  Maybe they offed some orc kids, huffed fungus-man spores, or hooked up with a half-elf of questionable mores…

Regardless, there they are, without spells or turning powers, and entreaties to their god are met with silence…

Better see what it’s gonna take to remedy this…
1. Shit-ton of cash (one level equivalent)
2. Scarification/branding/ordeal (visible scars, perhaps dismemberment)
3. Oh, you wanted to confess and gain forgiveness??  That’s not this temple – you have to go to the central/original/obscure temple (far away….)
4. Oh, sure, just go find this particular relic.  I think a dragon is using it as a pillow…
5. Fasting and penitence…
6. Naked and begging down on the corner
7. Commit a selfless act.  It had better be Medal of Honor-worthy.
8. Read a really big, obscure book of the religion.  Better yet, memorize it.
9. Go plant a tree.  In a sacred grove, it’s a rare specimen.  Watch it grow for a while.
10. Take on a “lost cause”
11. Preach and teach to others of the errors of your ways as an object lesson.
12. Sorry buddy.  Not happening.  You’re now a middling fighter with a mace and a holy symbol…

Ok, so you got your god to let you off the hook, but nothing comes without a cost:
1. You are reinstated, but at 1d3 levels below your original.
2. That port-wine stain marks you as having betrayed your vows.
3. Stigmata.  Preferably at awkward moments.
4. You are blinded to the spiritual world.  One eye goes cloudy, and you can no longer cast detection spells.
5. 1d3 point charisma loss and associated effects on followers and reactions.
6. Armor burns you!  Rely only on the protection of your god – unarmored…
7. Turn undead at 1d3 levels below your current level*
8. Variable effect spells cast at -1 (time, healing, number affected)*
9. Opponents save at +1 vs spells*
10. Loss of class-based saving throw bonuses*

* - lasts for a period of a year and one day.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Infesting Malleth's Canyon (another Dyson Map Desecration(tm))


Populating another Dyson Logos map, this time Malleth's Canyon, a clutch of mini encounter areas/dungeons that he made up a few years back.  I figured that the separate areas had the potential for factions or multiple adventure threads/challenges.  I've poked at it on and off for the last couple of weeks.  Of course, a couple of the elements got away from me, taking on small lives of their own.  And in a couple of cases, items found in the canyon may lead to further adventures and/or complications for a party with them in their possession...

Written up with S&W Complete or Light in mind, but generic enough for other system use.  Enjoy and modify to your heart's content...

Source

House:  Overlooking the drainage is a surprisingly intact abandoned house.  The door opens easily, and although empty, the house does not show the expected depredations.  Dust and cobwebs cover the few remaining pieces of furniture, and nothing of value is found.  Even the roof seems mostly intact, a luxury. It doesn't appear to have been raided, odd, considering the neighborhood.

Well, except for that pesky ghost. Anyone resting in the house overnight will be harassed with a whispered "story?  Story.  Story!" It may be turned by a cleric as 4HD undead, but will return in two hours, still demanding a story.  Other turn attempts will be unsuccessful.  PCs will not be able to rest/recover while it is present.  Perceptive PCs will recognize the spirit to be a ghost-child.  Telling it a bedtime story (best if player role-plays, heh) on nearly any topic will satisfy the spirit and it will leave the party alone. The spiritual presence dissuades wandering critters.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Free RPG Day Fun: One Map, Four Adventures...

Good Morning!

Realized that it has been a while since I've done the exercise of creating multiple scenarios for a single map, so I gave myself the deadline of Free RPG Day to write up a few scenes.  Dyson's Grizzly Eye Cave made for a very evocative space, appropriate for a number of small encounters and challenges...


The adventures were all written up with Swords & Wizardry Light in mind, although they are neutral enough to other systems...

1. Nemar's Truancy:  A prince has retreated to the cave, shirking his official duties - set up as a non-lethal roleplaying opportunity (and bear-wrestling).

2. Ale's Well That Ends Well:  A tavern's stores have been looted and the miscreants appear to be holed up in the cave.

3. Trakohr's Bath:  An ogre must be eliminated, just don't disturb his bathtime...

4. Sand Trap:  A mysterious creature prevents would-be rescuers from entering the cavern to release a pair of hostages.  Using a modded critter from one of my favorite modules.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Divine scrolls - a consideration...

I've been pondering divine scrolls and their synthesis.  A common thread of the rulesets for scrolls is time plus a certain value of consumable components to create the scroll. Based on the trope of the arcane class, the scroll is created via research or transcriptions, and the material components are likely associated with spellcasting or using rare materials for ink/illuminations to bind the spell to the scroll.

However, cleric/divine spells are not traditionally held within a spellbook, but are granted via prayer or inspiration from the cleric's deity.  So how would a divine scroll be transcribed?  And how is the monetary equivalent used?

Is the material value may be spent in tithes or proper sacrifices to curry the deity's favors (e.g. the 'fatted calf')? That could work.  Or...

Source
Perhaps, since the cleric is the recipient or conduit for spells, then they may also act as the catalyst for scroll creation.  Therefore, that 'conduit' must be expanded to generate the energies necessary to transcribe divine forces onto a scroll.  And a common traditional method for a priest/shaman/cleric to get into strong and direct communion with the divine was through mind-altering substances.

So, like the above arcane components necessary to create a scroll, the cleric may require a rare drug (its quantity/value/rarity proportional to the level of the spell) to descend into a trance to best prepare themselves as the device through which the spell is communicated.  The spell is then transcribed via automatic writing or some similar trance-device.

Just came up with this while theorizing on what might inspire a cleric to be searching out loot or rare materials, which then descended into a thought-experiment of how were they going to transcribe those scrolls, anyway?  So feel free to take it or leave it...

"Yes, I'm Br'er Rombur of the Divine Zhiver.  I understand that you plan to delve the Caverns of Leromos.  I understand there are stands of a certain fungus found there that I use in my, umm, worship..."

Sunday, May 7, 2017

One Post-It Dungeon


Found this on the table a couple of days ago - an ink doodle left by the kid or one of her friends:


It looked like somewhere, to me...

The Iqaiga Atoll is found out in the Southern Sea, past the Doldrums, and the last stop (if they can be found) before sea explorers cross the Great Deep to the Austral Lands...

The atoll is the last chance to refresh water before the long trek farther south, from small springs and rainwater catchments on the larger islands.  Additionally, some game and limited vegetable food may be foraged to ward off the effects of scurvy prior to the final long push south.

The outer islands of the atoll (red outlines) are the remains of a volcanic seamount, typified by basalt cliffs and black sand beaches.  The inner islands are the spines of submerged reefs that fill the former caldera.  Interesting sealife has been drawn to the reef, with its healthy habitat and nutrient-rich waters.

Mer-folk hold the northern islands. Reticent and reclusive, they are mostly glimpsed watching a ship anchor at the atoll from afar.  However, they are not above charming and drowning an errant sailor who strays too far from landing parties.

The mer-folk skirmish with sahuagin who encroach along the southern edge of the atoll, competing for the sparse island territory.  The sahuagin are not as retiring as the mer-folk, and have been known to attack an anchored ship, particularly at night.

Prehistoric beasts, including a variety of Dilophosaurus, live on the northeast island feeding on a variety of prey, including birds and fish from the shallows. The Dilophosaurus are stunted, a result of island dwarfism.  Unfortunately, the rats that they feed on suffer island gigantism. Winged reptiles patrol the skies around the atoll.

Caves within the northeast island contain obscure volcanic crystals that have value as foci for wands, particularly those involved manipulation of reality or time.  The crystals are found in crevices within still-steaming volcanic vents.  Although there is no chance of eruption, the vents release scalding steam and asphyxiating gasses, making any attempt to recover a few of the crystals a very hazardous affair.

The inner atoll is hazardous to pass through, and many ships are found rotting here, their crews long gone - preyed upon by the 'natives' or otherwise succumbed to elements and depredations.  It is best to circumnavigate the shoals and atoll with a ship and explore the inner atoll independently with small boats and landing parties, if at all.  Limited valuables reward parties who send longboats and divers to explore the atolls and wrecks.  Hazards include becoming trapped in the submerged hulks, toothy and tentacled fauna, patrolling/raiding sahuagin, undead accursed sailors, and the like....



Wednesday, May 3, 2017

OPD 2017 Runner-up 2 - The Forest of the Shrike

Per my previous post, this is adventure 3 of 3 in my attempts at coming up with a serviceable One Page Dungeon contest entry.  This is actually the first of my three drafts, something that had been rattling about in my head for a bit.  My intent was to take a familiar undead monster, but to reskin it to make it much more dangerous and challenging due to a hidden resource.  I think that, although the idea was sound, that the scenario overall didn't have quite enough depth to really create an evocative environment, even with the 'butcher bird' imagery. That said, this idea is something I may return to/refine at some other time - I think that the idea of a hidden resource or link is a good theme.

Runner-up 2 - The Forest of the Shrike.


Map - Click for adventure download
A similar-appearing wraith (though differently-powered, and slightly sillier) shows up in my final entry, and the map has similar layout (I think this one turned out a touch better).  Oh, the Clockwork Knight also shows up, as does the druid that is referenced in this adventure, but who I had to cut due to space and overpowered magic concerns. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

OPD 2017 Runner-up 1 - The Pyramid of Lake D'Juna

I sorta simultaneously worked up three One Page Dungeon contest entries, working from the theory of not getting to wedded to a single idea or conceit in my creative process. The three adventures are different in objective and tone (although there is a little overlap in encounters in two). So they weren't apples-to-apples when I was either writing or choosing my final contestant version.

I'm not sure if it created a better single product in the end, but bonus!, I have two spare dungeons to share.  I was having enough of a challenge to select one of the three, that I put up a vague G+ poll to allow the hoi polloi to assist in my selection process...

No. 1 is the runner up on my poll:  The Pyramid of Lake D'Juna - PCs are quested to recover a relic from a shrine located in a subterranean lake. The Shrine is accessed by two routes, the PCs can select either one, I think the challenges are comparable, but each is unique.  Once they get to the lake there are still a couple of 'environmental' challenges lurking, as well as having to solve a number of riddles to enter and exit the shrine safely....

Map - click to download OPD
One thing that I have to confess is that this is not all-original material - I recycled the "interesting fungus" from my treatment of Dyson's Owen's Mine map (variation 1). So although the rest of the content felt good, having shoehorned in some old content didn't feel quite genuine.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

OPD 2017 - "You have acquired the deed to a ruined tower..."

In spite of having to overcome insurmountable obstacles between me and my drawing tools...


and simultaneously writing three competing dungeons over the last couple of weeks (leading me to put up a poll on G+ to help in my selection process), I sent in my One Page Dungeon entry this afternoon. 

Donjon's Random Pickpocket Loot generator (among others) will occasionally spit out, among the small coins, sets of false teeth, and 'blob of iron' is the "Deed to a ruined tower."  I always thought it was a bit of an evocative device, ripe for a side adventure, or for use as a base for clearing an area and carving out one's own place in the world.

So I wrote one up this year.  Come on down and meet the neighbors.

Download link
I'll post the runners-up over the next couple of days.

Still not helping...

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Monster: Bog Mummies




Source

Victims of sacrifice, the condemned, the shunned... many of these souls were fated to end their days immersed in the ooze at the bottom of a bog, their remains interred into the mud.  As more doomed souls join these increasingly restless dead, the bogs preserve and give un-life to these corpses.

Given time, the bogs accrue the negative and tragic energies of these dead, transferring these energies to those sunk into their muck and ooze.  And eventually, a tipping point is reached, and the bog mummies may arise to stalk from the muck in search of some retribution.



Source

Bog mummies are characterized by their tough, leathery flesh, well-preserved in the anaerobic and acidic environment of the bog bottoms.  The mummies will be tannin-stained to a dark red-brown.  Many will bear evidence of their means of death or maltreatment and torture prior to death - nooses, manacles, lacerated flesh. Well preserved, the bodies may appear fresh-dead, but for these ghastly features.

An individual mummy, upon arising, will have a target of its revenge - typically the source of its misery and death, whether it is a magistrate, shaman-priest, or members of the lynch mob.  For those who have been interred long enough, their original tormentors may too have crossed the veil.  For these, they will seek a member of the same class, or perhaps a descendant of their original killers.  The mummies will resolutely seek out their condemners, and are a bane in areas where sacrifice and justice are meted out in the bogs.

Sunk into the anaerobic, acidic environment of the bog, the body is preserved, and the tragic energies distill the hate and pain of the victim's death.  The skin is toughened, yet still pliable.  In addition to clubbing or clawing damage, the touch of the bog mummy causes acid damage, corroding armor, degrading clothing, and dissolving flesh.

Source
Bog Mummy (Generalized OSR Stats):

No Encountered: 1d3
HD: 6
AC: 4/16
Attack/Damage: 1d8+Acid Touch (1d6 1st round, save or addtl 1d6), +2 to hit vs 'favored' opponent
Save: as Cl5 or equivalent
Move: 6
Special: Hit only by magic weapons.  Individual mummies will pursue either individuals or equivalent classes of their original condemnation and death and receive a bonus in attacks against them.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Mini-Review: Off the Beaten Path

So, this arrived a few days ago....



I supported +Thom Wilson's Kickstarter for the project, opting for the system-neutral version of the book.  The book also has a variant printing published with adventures statted out for Swords and Wizardry Light.

The setup for this book of encounters and mini-adventures is to fill space and opportunities in case the pesky PCs wander off the map, need a small side-challenge, or a light on-off is necessary.  Thom prepared 23 one- to two-page adventures, typically with a single challenge or objective.  The encounters are classed as 'Easy,' 'Moderate,' and 'Hard' for a range of levels up to around 6.

Of course, with the un-statted nature of the system neutral version, modding critters or challenges would be achieved fairly readily.  Likewise, although some treasure or magic items are fairly clearly delineated, plenty are left blank, such as the 'Magical Short Sword' shown below:


Which allows the GM to craft an item appropriate to the level (or perhaps needs) of the party members.  I appreciate this format, and mentioned it before in my review of The Staff of the Last Hill Chief.  Coincidentally, Monkeyblood Design crafted several of the maps in OTBP, so may have had a hand in influencing this open concept.

Speaking of maps, due to the single encounter-area or mini-dungeon typical of the scenes, most are fairly simple and brief.  Thom and Monkeyblood shared mapping duties.


The adventures provide a variety of baddies to combat,as well as a few traps and puzzles to worry out.  Per its title, all of the OTBP scenes take place in the wilderness, to be encountered along the road, or in the boonies if the PCs wander off the road to check out something curious, camp out, or otherwise stray from the path...  Thom reports that he is working on a follow-up desert-themed collection via his Patreon.

While most of the encounters are standalone, four of the adventures can be linked through items found in individual scenes (maps, clues, etc.), which could either drive a few sessions of play, or pop up in later adventures.  One quibble - the linked scenes are referenced by Excursion #, but neither the page headers or table of contents number the scene titles.  Edit:  Thom pointed out that the Excursion numbers are printed along the footer of the pages - I hadn't noticed them in my read-through.  Doh! Thanks for the correction.  That said - adding the #s to the TOC will be a help.

From my read-through of the collection, the scenes are well-written, with sufficient but not too elaborate descriptions.  Because of Thom's one to two-page limit per scene, even the 'largest' areas have no more than 10 encounter areas.  

Thom did also fall victim to box text (shaded in this case) but we'll forgive him this.  

The product was delivered promptly after the end of the project.  Thom planned ahead well, with the majority of writing (and booklet cover) pre-prepared, leaving him only stretch goal additions (adventures, mapping) to create at the end.  

Overall, this looks to be a useful resource and inspiration for keeping the party from wandering aimlessly in the woods!

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Village of Devsay-Hough

Haven't done a village for a while....

The Village of Devsay-Hough stands at an almost-literal end of the road, overlooking the River Igleri gorge. The bridge crossing the gorge collapsed nearly five years ago, and the powers that be can't be bothered to engineer a replacement. Prior to the collapse, Devsay-Hopugh was a moderately successful border village overlooking a river crossing to West Lien. With the bridge loss, traffic moved to a ford to the north, and an intact bridge to the south.

The village was originally home to nearly 500 citizens, but is slowly dwindling, as travel through the area has dried up.  Approximately 200 people remain in the core area of the settlement, with houses and farms in the surrounding area abandoned and left to be reclaimed by the woods.  With the loss of the bridge and its associated administration, more questionable souls, who are fine with being off the beaten path, have arrived.

The village has struggled to remain self-sufficient in its impoverished state.  However, it still maintains a several trades-folk and professions to serve both citizens and those few travelers who pass by on the Marginal Road.
Download

Friday, March 10, 2017

RPG Blog Carnival: Things in the Dark

Moebius Adventures opened up their figurative doors to host this month's RPG Blog Carnival, with the topic of 'Things in the Dark'...


...whether they are critters, environments, or just making one's way around in the dark places that PCs have a bad habit of exploring.

So, I will, as I often do, grab a bit of real history and bend it a bit for a little gaming goodness...

Mining.  Deep underground, dirty work in the darkness.  Personal illumination to safely and effectively work was important (well, effectively, safely came later...)

Trouble is, mines and other similar confined spaces can have a problem of atmosphere - Not enough oxygen, too much oxygen, explosive dusts or gasses, or poisonous atmospheres.  These so-called 'damps' (from the German dampf, or vapor) were a constant hazard.

And open flames can exacerbate those problems - especially in the cases of explosive environments or oxygen-enriched environments (where combustion can accelerate or spread rapidly).  Since miners often relied on open flames, such as helmet-mounted oil lamps (below), there was an incentive to find a less dangerous alternative, or at least methods to assess an atmosphere before working in an area (the fabled canary could only do so much, after all...).

Source

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Lost Tomes 5

....wherein we find more books to seek, stumble upon, or suppress....

Source

Funerary of Ildar:  A hide-bound book of resurrection of the dead.  The book contains powerful texts for the retrieval of the soul from beyond, and re-securing it to the mortal body.  However, the subject of the resurrection must now permanently keep the book in their possession to maintain their revivified status.  Physical separation from the book will sever the person's hold on life, rendering them permanently dead.  The book will be found with a decayed corpse a few feet away, in the attitude of crawling toward the volume.

The Mortuaria of Radow: A clandestine directory of maps to a dynasty's King-barrows.  It was compiled by generations of tomb-builders (and grave-robbers) in deepest secrecy.  If the map-book's unique cipher can be broken, the directory shows the locations, contents, and hazards of dozens of tombs.  Map fragments secreted in the book's cover consist of partial information, requiring a complicated sequence of overlays and foldings to depict the barrow locations. There is a likelihood that a number of these tombs may remain undefiled. If found on a person by the Dynasty's forces, the copy will be immediately destroyed, and the person and their companions buried alive in punishment.  Two copies are rumored to exist.

Worm-caller's Scrolls:  Stinking, fetid skins wrap parchment written in the runes of a mysterious subterranean cult.  The cult claims to speak the languages of and communes with various monstrous burrowing annelids.  The bearers of the scrolls may pass through giant worm-burrows without harm.  The odor of the scrolls identifies the bearers as 'worm-talkers,' causing generally negative reactions from other subterranean dwellers.  Mastering any of the associated worm-cants will allow communication with a number of species of giant hell-worms known or rumored in the land.

Source

Onieromancers' Somnambularium: A spellbook of an Onieromancer - an arcane practitioner and manipulator of sleep and the night.  The book contains numerous spells associated with the discipline,  including various 'dreamwalking' spells for the viewing and manipulation of dreams (and dreamers...).  The book's deep black cover imitates a moonless night sky. Any non-onieromancer handling the book must save vs spells or fall into a deep trance, simply staring at the book's cover until the book is removed or covered.

Gnoll-codex:  A discredited sage's study of the matrilineal lines and mating habits of the gnoll clans of the Outer Plains.  The illustrations are exceptionally detailed and hint at quite personalized research in the matter.

source
The Cog-Rhack: Developed by secret castes of dwarven majicker-smiths, this iron-bound manual secured with complicated clockwork specifies the creation and operation of mobile automatons for the transport of ore and other heavy hauling.

Songbooks of Ghamoskel: A collection of chants and psalters of marginalized non-human gods.  The texts include:

  1. Fungus Lord Hymnal  - Songs of hallucination and decay in dedication to the spore-gods. 
  2. Insect Anthiem - Trilling songs of the hive and communal goals.  Certain phrases within the verses allow a disorienting gateway to the compound visions of the hive minds.
  3. Labyrinthinos - Paeans to the minotaur-gods of the mazes and lost twisted places. The supplicant, while keeping up the songs, will not be misdirected in a maze.
  4. The Yiap - Calls to an alien, one-legged saltating god of the plains.  With great leaping bounds it attempts to stomp out the unworthy...
  5. Oestern Ent-songs - Sonorous, ponderous chants of the tree folk - takes days to complete a single verse.  Full choral symphonies in the language can outlast a human lifetime.
  6. The Torhoninahin -  Subsonic moans and meditations of the near-immortal god-mammoth that tracks among the frozen northern wastes and is worshiped by the Hatgarrak Wanderers as the Tundra-lord.


Source

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

An Encounter Matrix for Multiple Factions

Hi all, a quick, final post for this month's RPG Blog Carnival theme: Rethinking Encounters.


Within potential encounters in a larger area of action, one element that must be considered is encounters with different groups or factions within a setting, as well as their relationship to one another.

And to perhaps consider the benefits or liabilities of both positive or negative interactions with the various groups.

So here is a brief scenario, as well as a reference matrix, for tracking several groups in an area:

A - A bunch of cultists who have occupied an abandoned hill-fort on the edge of civilization. They are recent immigrants, fleeing a more restrictive environment.
B - A settlement of orcs near the confluence of two rivers.  They moved in long enough ago to build a rough palisade and establish rock and wattle structures.  While they mostly hunt in the forests, they are certainly not above a good raid now and then.
C - A band of raider orcs, attempting to expand their tribe's influence and territory into the region.  They have been preying on travelers on the Border Road, as well as isolated farmsteads.
D - A goblin clan that lives in a series of sandstone caves along the river banks.  They have been here longer than any of the groups, and have weathered the ebb and flow of 'civilization' in the area.
E - Corrupt soldiery tasked with peacekeeping in on the border, but more focused on looking the other way if a share of bribes and loot pass in their direction.

These groups have relationships with one another-  either as Allies (A), Enemies (E), or Neutral (N).  Tracking these relationships might be busy, so a quick matrix to highlight who's who and where they stand with respect to one another is helpful:


Ok.  So now our erstwhile adventurers need to retrieve an artifact, the Scepter of Harambe-kamen.

Trouble is, it got broken in two pieces while being used as a nutcracker a few years back, and its respective components are now in the hands of two groups: the cultists (Group A), and the raider orcs (Group C).

Provided our team can't physically defeat one of both of these groups, they are going to have to use some diplomacy.  Of course, these two groups are at odds, so utilizing and intelligence of the relationships (and territories) of the various faction may be useful.

For instance, the soldiers and cultists tolerate one another, but the soldiers have also come to team with the raider orcs, who have proven to be quite lucrative.  Conversely, getting on the cultists' good side may also gain influence with the local orc tribe, who hate the interlopers horning in on their territory, and may be happy to have an excuse (and temporary allies) to help push them out of the area.

Now, if the team wiped out the cultists in pursuit of part of the scepter, and the local orcs learned of it, then not only will they not assist, but now they are another belligerent faction to deal with.

Conversely, getting on the soldier's good side may make headway (or at least hopefully a 'safe' introduction) with the raider orcs, although once the two groups understood that something of value was to be found, the chances of double-crossing goes up significantly.  And the soldiers would likely not get in the way if those pesky cultists got ousted from the old fort.  Provided their tithing boxes got dropped along the roadway as the players made their way out of the area.

The goblins would just rather be left alone.

Since these relationships aren't necessarily linear to one another, there is ample potential for negotiation, subterfuge, and double-crossing (on both plate and NPC sides).  Anyway, as I said, a brief approach for building and tracking relationships in an area to give both color and complications to an area, and quite likely, the party's goals.  Enjoy.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Magic Item: Saint Iriabel's Censer of Alliance


Tabletop Terrors is hosting this month's RPG Blog Carnival, with the theme of 'Rethinking Encounters': including rethinking encounter mechanics, making them memorable, redefining encounters, and creating items associated with encounters...

And I've found that if I don't take advantage of some inspiration as it strikes, it tends to dissipate into the aether.

So here ya go - 15 minutes of inspiration and Wikipedia....

Source

Saint Iriabel's Censer of Alliance

The Way-Priest Gegar Iriabel was a missionary-explorer to the Chaos-lands that encroached on (and periodically overran) the boundaries of the tamed lands.  Rather than simply smiting Chaos as he found it, he was known to proselytize to the 'Darkness' and occasionally found some success, as evidenced by his periodic entourage of hobgoblins and orcs.

For Iriabel found it much more profitable, and less hazardous, to create small alliances, or sway factions within Chaos forces to either support him, or at least allow him passage in his greater crusading goals.  These goals often included recovering hostages, retrieval of lost or stolen artifacts and relics, and re-sanctifying desecrated places along the edges of civilization.

In this pursuit, he fortified his own faith and powers of persuasion with a chain censer blessed to magnify the powers of a wandering priest in hostile lands, such as himself...

The Censer was made of silver worked with rare examples of lapis and topaz.  Swung by a short chain while burning certain blessed charcoals and incenses, the Censer creates the following effects for a Law-aligned cleric (or class allowed use of cleric magic items):

  • +2 on reaction rolls with potentially hostile or unknown parties.  Irabel blessed the device to have its greatest benefit when encountering an unknown individual or group in unfriendly territory.  While the Censer may not have the outward benefit of a charm spell, Irabel found that, along with his own powers of persuasion, such an amplifier was quite suitable to create voluntary temporary allies.
The Censer grants bonuses to the following common encounter-based spells
  • An additional +1 bonus to saves (and corollary -1 penalty to chaos forces) Protection from Evil, (For Protection from Evil, 10' Radius, the radius if doubled)
  • An additional +1 bonus for a character under the benefits of a Bless spell
  • An additional -1 penalty to creatures affected by a Prayer spell 
Other bunuses granted by the Censer include:
  • +1 on undead turning rolls
  • While the Censer is burning, any ally within 10 feet is protected from contracting disease due to its protective smoke and fumes. 

Bonuses will last while the Censer is burning,  The Censer will burn for 1d2+1 hours with each charge of charcoal and incense.

After Iriabel's death and canonization, the Censer was housed in his fortress-monastery in the northwest of the kingdom,  Ironically, the monastery was overrun by Chaos warbands a decade after his death, and the Censer itself was stolen away.  Perhaps a brave and clever party will seek to recover it...

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Hitting things with sticks (and Swords & Wizardry Light)

Been poring through Tenkar's Swords & Wizardry Light treatment.  Erik was kind/brave enough to leave a Word copy laying about unattended, so I was making some personal edits and additions, including adding pared down interpretations of the four additional S&W Complete Rules classes (Assassin, Druid, Monk, and Ranger).  I was working on the Druid, when I noticed that the S&W druid doesn't have 'club' as a weapon option on the equipment list.

Source
I was bit confused by this, as the AD&D 1st Edition, where S&W gets a lot of its inspiration and mechanics, includes the club as a druid weapon - after all, the class is often constrained to non-metallic weapons, in addition to armor...

So I'm not sure if this was an oversight or other simplification.  But anyway, my S&W druids will be allowed to swing clubs. Likewise, my Light version of the druid will be issued a club or spear as part of starting equipment.

Which brings me to a very brief rant.  Ok, I know that D&D,etc. isn't specifically 'realistic' or sometimes even internally consistent, but after all these years of reading the rules, I noticed that there is only one other class that can't wallop things with a cudgel.

Come on folks, anyone can pick up a stick...  no skill or significant strength required... Give the poor magic users a club.

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Anyway, here's my tweaks and additions to Erik's original document - feel free to swipe for use and abuse.