Friday, December 30, 2016

Mini Review: Two Page Mini Delves

I recently downloaded Roving Band of Misfits free bundle of Two Page Mini Delves.  The pack includes five one-shots suitable for side quests, plot hooks, or when the pesky PCs wander off the map.  RBoF also has a number of $1 two-pagers, as well. But I'm exceptionally cheap.

I've looked at four of the five collected delves (excepting the 'Pale Reaver').  All include a small map (either by Dyson Logos or Matt Jackson) with a maximum of ten rooms or encounter areas, perfect for a single session.  The delves each have one or more suggested setups to help bring the characters into the scene.  The small adventures are all very serviceable and creative, with some elements of mystery and exploration.

As an added bonus for later plotting, or dovetailing the delves into a larger game world, each of the delves has a few end-notes with either suggestions or questions to the DM for future thought or adventure threads.

The delves are set up for D&D 5e (and have call-outs or page references to the associated DM's guide and Players' Handbook).  However, the setups are generic enough for any OSR, and monsters and spells can be easily converted.  Because of the small encounter areas, the amount of translation will take only limited effort.

What the delves each do well, is the third page.  Wait - the label on the box said two pages!  What is this sorcery?  The third page (or Appendix) is a quick and dirty how-to-use guide.  The delves are written with level flexibility in mind.  Therefore - monsters, traps, challenges, and treasures are written in very generic terms (i.e. 'undead', 'sword')  Being 5e - challenges are written with 'DC' terminology in mind, but this is also easily translatable for relative levels.

Additionally, the appendix lays out some guidelines for scaling the adventures to party level and size.  This flexibility is a welcome addition and guidance to any small pre-written adventure - especially when a pick-up game or side quest is needed,  Yes, there is a small amount of preparation, but with the framework, and a reasonably experienced game master could scale on the fly or with only a small amount of prep time (e.g. the 'spider' in Room 3 can quickly become a 1/2 HP large spider or 4HD Giant Fire Hell-Spider).  

So take a look at them, save them in your just-in-case folder, and have fun!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Armor fixin's

To follow up on my previous post on the availability of plate and better-quality armors to PC's, especially the lower-level proles, a bit of spitballing on the availability of armor repair or fabrication based on town size.

Does your character need armor repaired or fabricated (or upgraded, per my last post)?  Well, an armorer is necessary.  Will one be available in the next town down the road?

If you don't have a town spec'ed out prior to the characters' arrival, or need some stats to build one out, S. John Ross' Medieval Demographics is a good starting point.  Donjon has an automated calculator for ease.

Since this calculator, doesn't have an 'armorer' category, we can use blacksmiths as a surrogate.   Based on the demographics stats, not every town (especially smaller burgs) will have a blacksmith. A leatherworker would be better surrogate for a light armorer, but this particular calculator doesn't have that occupation, although the harness-maker could substitute in, as well.  Optionally, one can build out populations off Rob Conley's 'Fantasy Demographics' which includes both leatherworkers and metalworkers.


Not every blacksmith will have the skills to repair or fabricate armor.

Is an individual blacksmith sufficient skilled to work on armor (percentage)?

Small (<1000)              65          25         10
Medium (1000-8000)   90         75          50
Large (>8000)              90         85          75

If so - what is their fabricating ability (includes upgrading) for a particular armor type?  (percentage, cumulative)

                                        Light                Medium                Heavy
Small (<1000)               25/70/5             50/45/5                  75/20/5
Medium (1000-8000)    20/70/10           35/55/10                40/55/5
Large (>8000)               5/85/15             10/75/15                20/70/10

Coincidentally, Lum over at Built by Gods Long Forgotten posted up his own theory/houserule on OD&D armor a couple of days after my prior post.  Take a look.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Mini-Review: The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe

I just completed reading Kij Johnson's The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe.  (disclaimer: Kij is a friend of mine, met through a mutual friend and rock climbing).

The book is a direct descendant of H.P. Lovecraft's Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, and takes place within Lovecraft's Dreamlands.  Vellitt Boe, a professor at the Ulthar Women's College (the town with the cats) is awoken one night with news that one of the college's star students has disappeared, running away with a 'dreamer' - a person from the 'waking world' - our Earth.  The two have a head start, and through machinations of their own, appear to have escaped back to the dreamer's homeland.

Professor Boe is tasked with finding an alternate way to escape the Dreamlands, track down the truant student, and return her to her native land.  Because, it appears, the young woman is more than simply a love-smitten student, and her disappearance could have catastrophic consequences for both Ulthar and the Dreamlands.

Johnson returns us to the terrain first laid out be Lovecraft in his Randolph Carter stories, among others.  Boe, in her quest, makes stops at many of these locales, revisiting the places, people, creatures, and mad godlings created by the influential writer.

And, indeed, in her back-tracking, Boe (and Johnson) reacquaints us with Lovecraft's geography, not through the eyes of a dreamer, but via those of a resident of that dark and often-horrific land.

Boe travels across the Dreamlands, seeking counsel and access from a number of personages, including a couple from her own past.  Her travels in pursuit of the lovers gives her moments to reflect on her own youthful travels and loves, before settling in as a staid professor of Mathematics at the college.

What the book does well, in its themes, is to return us to a point of inspiration and original discovery.  Johnson, in the liner notes, recalls first encountering Lovecraft in adolescence, and her own inspiration to return to those macabre lands.  Like many of us in writing, gaming, and other creative places - both taking inspiration, and wholesale re-tooling, from the artists who came before is part and parcel of the trade.  And, like many of us, the middle-aged Boe ruminates on her own past and path, and recalls her own adventures, both productive and foolish, which brought her to her current occupation and place in the world.  And, in spite of her dogged pursuit of the student, she has empathy for those passions of youth gone by.

All in all, a fun read, and a fine re-visitation of a geography and works that inspired many later writers and the genre.

Which reminds me, I need to re-read Kadath, myself...

And gugs never forget...

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A question of plate

Thesis:  First level PC fighters really shouldn't start out with the ability to afford plate.  Sure, they've got a massive 8-10 HP, so they need all the help they can get pretending to tank their way at the front of the party.

But that's not what that initial funnel is about, now?  It's about scrabbling through that first dungeon, avoiding the giant frog, learning how to skulk and retreat, and getting out with enough coin to get that coveted equipment upgrade...

So let's take a quick review of where a few version of the game sit with respect to the economy of armor.

For consistency, I'm just looking at the three basic armor types that are persistent through various versions of the game (at least the ones that I have laying about right now) - leather, chain mail, and plate mail.

The Moldvay/Cook books line out leather, chain, and plate at 20, 40, and 60 gp, respectively.

S&W spreads out the cost a bit more - 5, 75, and 100 gp.

Basic Fantasy prices the three types at 20, 60, and 300 gp.

1st ed. AD&D puts them at 5, 75, and 400 gp.

Labyrinth Lord costs are 20, 150, and 600 gp.

In the first case, an average-rolling PC (120-130 gp on a 3d6x10) can afford plate.  S&W can make plate available for strongly-rolling 1st level PCs, unless they skimp on other accouterments and supplies.  And plate is out of reach for 1st level characters in BFRPG, AD&D, and Labyrinth Lord

(Later on, 3.5/Pathfinder makes most medium and all heavier armors out of reach for 1st level characters, and perhaps even for 2nd or 3rd level depending on their treasure hauls: 10, 150, 600 for 'half-plate'/1,200 for 'field plate'/1,500 for 'full plate'.)

I doubt that many of these values have much grounding in any 'real' economy. There are limited resources on the historical prices of armor.  However, here is one that lists out some example costs for a few common armor types (typically chain mail, a few helmets, partial armor bits like curiasses, as well as some values for custom armor made for nobles.)

Anyway let's move on to starting GP for 1st Level PCs:

Prior to 1st Ed. AD&D, all character classes rolled the same starting gold - 3d6x10 GP. The OSR clones generally stick with this model.

Of course, we probably can all recall more than once a magic user PC rolling high and buying out the town market's daggers, oil and pack animals.  And a fighter rolling 40 GP and gamely heading out of town in their leather and spear, with a bag over their shoulder.

Then comes AD&D, and the starting gold values get skewed by class.

This skewing is not simply starting GP as buying power, it is also proportional to the types of equipment required/allowed by the classes.

But... perhaps another way to think about these variable starting gold values may actually be as part of the backstory for the individual PC.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Corrupted Potions

Another bit of rumination on Potions and their sensitivity to the environment around them, in contribution to Of Dice and Dragons' October RPG Blog Carnival topic.

Part 1 here.

While there are a number of spell failure tables and mechanics are available, I don't know if there are any for potions (or I'm just lazy and never looked).

I would theorize that, although potions are typically treated as infallible 'magic bullet' items in game-playing, that in 'reality' they may be more unreliable - concoctions brewed by sketchy alchemists, or enchanted by second-rate mage's assistants...

Additionally, if the potion is considered a distillation enchanted with a spell effect, would the fluid be susceptible to magical influences?

So... A consideration of a few things, in no particular order, that may have an effect on a lowly potion, minding its own business in its flask or vial....

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Temperamental Potions

Of Dice and Dragons is sponsoring this month's Carnival topic of potions.

Per Omas Qualor is an itinerant healer and alchemist who somehow glommed onto the party one or two towns back.  His pack clinks with vials, pots and retorts.  No one wants to get too close to him, as he reeks of rancid distillations and esters, but no one has come up with a way to ditch him, quite yet.

He goes on and on about his researches into the 'essential essences' of the various races, and how his potions are attuned to emphasize and amplify the the natural 'humors' of the individual.  Qualor claims to have distilled potions that are attuned to the 'internal chymistry' of the individual races.  "Wait! Don't go away, I have a number of vials here if you would care to sample!"

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Salt Dwarves (and salt golems)

The Salt Dwarves, in contrast with their mountain kin, mine the subterranean salt domes and evaporite basins eschewing their brethren's search for gems and precious ores, instead excavating the "buried ocean."  These mines extend deep into the ground, tapping the halides left by ancient seas and buried under eons of deposits.

Like their hard rock mining cousins, the Salt Dwarves hollow huge caverns beneath the earth, for the mines are both their vocation and homes.  The mines are supported by elaborate timber and rope shoring and cribworks, proof against the slowly settling and flowing salt.  Massive water wheels and pumps evacuate the caverns of brackish water.

Periodically, the dwarves, with their salt-encrusted beards and cracked hands, will come to the surface of their mines, hauling their troves of salt to the surface. Salt dwarves, when encountered, tend to be kitted out in leather armor, with a thick, padded skullcap, and wielding a mining or war-pick. They wear no metallic armor due to the corrosive tendencies of the saline atmosphere within the mines.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Justinian's Demon

Demon - The 'Justinian'

Inspired by:
"And some of those who have been with Justinian at the palace late at night, men who were pure of spirit, have thought they saw a strange demoniac form taking his place. One man said that the Emperor suddenly rose from his throne and walked about, and indeed he was never wont to remain sitting for long, and immediately Justinian's head vanished, while the rest of his body seemed to ebb and flow; whereat the beholder stood aghast and fearful, wondering if his eyes were deceiving him. But presently he perceived the vanished head filling out and joining the body again as strangely as it had left it." - Procopius, The Secret History

Referred to only as a 'Justinian' (its true name unpronounceable, or lost in time) this shape-changer is a possessor and usurper of royalty, and its presence has led to the demise of more than one kingdom or empire.

The demon requires noble blood to posses a soul, albeit one in a weakened state. In its 'natural' state, the demon is relatively weak, but once fortified with a deceased noble, becomes significantly more powerful.  Consequently, the demon is naturally drawn to ailing leaders. The demon lurks along the periphery of plague-bound areas or kingdoms where the leader is known to be sickly or infirm.  Aware that a king or noble will be surrounded by priests, leeches, and wards during times of sickness, the Justinian, in its smoky, ephemeral form, will whisper promises and temptations from the dark until it finds a malleable watcher who may be swayed to let down their guard. With the attendant(s) thus dispatched, and the leader at their weakest, the Justinian will smother the poor soul, consuming the body and replacing it, effecting a "miraculous" cure.

The Justinian, in the guise of the noble, embraces its new, energetic "lease on life." Observers in the court will notice a marked change in their "noble's" behavior.  The leader now appears charged with nervous energy, barely sleeping, if at all.  Their actions become chaotic and often contradictory. These actions are also driven by greed, and the "noble" effects new taxes and decrees to seize properties of the unfortunate rich or perceived political foes.  The funds go to pointless wars and expansions of territory, or the construction of hubris-driven edifices and public works.  More than one kingdom has been bankrupted by this demon's depredations.  However, the demon is prideful, will surround itself with fawning sycophants, and may be influenced by charming speech and flattery.

The demon is likewise fatigued by its efforts to hold the form of the usurped royal, and will, in the dark of night, momentarily relax its form, becoming insubstantial for up to one hour, the illusion wavering to any prying eyes.

(S&W stats):
Incorporeal: HD 6; AC: 2 [18]; Atk suffocate (1d4+1d4/round until save); Move 12; Save 11; AL C; CL/XP 8/1,000; Special: +1 or better weapon to hit, magic resistance (10%)
Corporeal: HD 8; AC: 6 [13]; Atk (2) fists (1d8) or by weapon; Move 12; Save 10; AL C; CL/XP 10/1,400; Special: +1 or better weapon to hit, immune to disease and poison, magic resistance (20%)

Monday, September 26, 2016

More NPC's you may meet

The Bear-Ward Worrayskel & Thelimona:

Scarred and lamed by years of bear-training mishaps, Worrayskel was tossed out of the cities of the realm by decree banning circuses and other such 'base' or 'debauched' entertainments.

He travels with Babu the Bear, an aged trained black bear. Babu is toothless (bite damage 1d3) and nearly blind (to-hit at -2).  The large yet pathetic beast will 'dance' as well as perform simple gymnastics and mimes under Worrayskel's direction. The pair performs for a few tossed coppers at roadside performances and town markets far from the eyes of the authorities.  That said, they are always prepared for quickly break shop and move along upon the approach of the local constabulary.

Worrayskel secretly makes his way as an informant and occasional courier for an ousted faction in the capital...

Travelling with Worrayskel is his niece Thelimona, a girl of indeterminate age (somewhere in her teens).  Thelimona was training as a dancer and tumbler for the circus prior to the recent purges.  She now dances at taverns and has begun to ply her trade as a prostitute.  She is self-educated and both speaks and reads three regional languages, as well as her numerals.  She will have 1d3 books of varying value and topics that she has pinched in her 'visits' to literate clients.  Thelimona is a cunning and ambitious girl, with the goal of becoming a courtier or mistress, and marrying her way into her 'betters' and potential power.


Iann Vohem 

Vohem is a sallow youth with a haunted aura.  He asks to join the party to the next town.  The first evening, he graciously offers to take first watch.

Upon sleeping, goes dream-walking through PC's sleep and dreams.  Those observed may have vague memory of his presence in their dreams.  The sleep will be restless, and lost HP will not be regained while Vohem is present.

The youth has been corrupted by an oneiromancer as a dream-vessel. Vohem is used for remote-viewing of travelers as the magus searches for particular secrets and fears to feed his personal trove of dreams and nocturnal questings.


Tyr Duash

A former sapper and adventurer, Duash has had his memory wiped and corrupted by a mesmerist of some great abilities.  Poor Duash often seems slightly addled, but appears to be a reliable guy underground, pointing out unreliable stone work and the occasional trap.  If under the influence of heavy drink or hallucinogenics, he will remember snippets of past "lives" but has no clear explanation of reason for his memory loss. The mysterious mesmerist's motives are not clear - Duash may be an experiment, or the mesmerist is simply meddling with the poor man's mind.  There is a 1d10 chance of Duash revealing some interesting or useful tidbit associated with the PC's current goals.  His addled rants and stories indicate multiple episodes of mind-wipes.  It is not clear if his memories are real or fabricated.

Padre Phred and the Cloistered Rabbits

A group of pilgrims - fervent, but mostly harmless - joins or requests escort by the PCs.  They will insist on praying three times per day.  The pilgrims carry a number of rabbits in cages.  The rabbits do not appear to be for food or sacrifice, but are to be 'cloistered,' if anyone inquires.  They are led by 'Padre Phred', a taciturn man of god.  However, he bears the calloused knuckles and cauliflower ears of a former pugilist. In evening conversations, after his flock has succumbed to sleep, Padre Phred may let slip a hint of a more adventuresome and worldly past before taking his vows (he carries a cudgel - +1 to-hit/damage, unarmed dmg 1d4, expert grappler, strikes as 4th level fighter).

Kalia, Per Glennis, and Private Enos

Kalia appears as an itinerant (and possibly runaway) teen.  While her dress appears rude, she is wearing good quality boots, and a keen eye will spot a fairly heft purse under her cloak. Those familiar with local gossip may recognize her as the daughter of a local noble who has gone missing. Kalia is on a 'quest' to recover alleged 'dragon bones' that have washed out of a nearby sea-cliff for study.  She will attempt to coerce the party to accompany her to the shale cliffs to assist her in her search.  Likewise, she is aware that several parties may be searching for her - some not friendly to her father - and a well-armed escort will be welcome.

She is accompanied by two retainers: her tutor, Per Glennis (sage) and a slightly be-smitten man-at-arms, Private Enos Awdel (leather, spear and short sword), They are equipped with a pushcart with minor provisions and tools for excavating and collecting the 'bones.'

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Myrma of the Crystalline Eyes.

Trippy art by the Critter
My stepdaughter has a penchant for slightly surreal sketches. She showed me a few pieces recently.   Flipping through her sketchbook, at first glance, this appeared to be a girl with crystals for eyes.  At second glance, it may be something else, but I'm going with my first impression.


Myrma Fromme, daughter of the wealthy ivory merchant Lorl Fromme, studies with the elementalist Qao Hianwou, who has recently been attempting to create gem-like elemental forms for the amusement and service of the fabulously wealthy.

Myrma, is a studious and well-meaning girl, but not the most observant... She set off an inadvertent chain reaction by tripping over a bucket of crystals and material components for Hianwou's research, igniting an explosion and becoming blinded by the shards....

Qao, crushed with guilt and beholden to the Frommes to care for their daughter, feels obligated to make things right... Withdrawing to the lab, he sorts through the remains of the elemental components and creats a pair of amethyst eyes for the injured young woman.

Recognizing that Myrma will one day likely inherit the family business, he incorporates a number of protections and benefits into the faceted orbs:

  • mild infravision
  • Protection from mind-reading or mind-effect spells,
  • Create an aura that hampers thieves (-10% or -1 for respective skill checks)

Unfortunately the faceted, unblinking eyes are off-putting, yielding a -1 to initial  reactions, and causing the already shy girl to be more self-conscious of her appearance.  Time will tell if Myrma becomes acclimated to the new eyes, and finds ways to grow her skills and confidence. especially in her first forays into representing the family business...

Monday, July 11, 2016

Mini-review: Tacitus' Agricola & Germania

Tonight, a brief review of two of the Roman writer Tacitus'  best-known works - The Agricola and The Germania.

Tacitus lived in the late First-early Second Century, A.D. and was an administrator, senator and writer during his life.  He weathered Domitian's corrupt reign, and served in the Roman colony in Britain, likely in some administrative capacity.

His time in Britain was spent under the command of Julius Agricola - the commander of the colonial military and Tacitus' father-in-law.  Tacitus had ample opportunity to study Agricola's leadership style and document it for posterity.  Agricola had taken command of the colonial forces in AD 69, approximately 9 years after Boudica's failed rebellion.  Agricola secured Rome's hold on the island, a well as expanded the empire's influence, both by military action and expeditions (including as far north as present-day Scotland) and by assimilation and 'civilizing', including construction of Roman baths and theaters.

Tacitus wrote a glowing biography of Agricola, describing his administrative and tactical skills in glowing terms.  Good way to stay on your dad-in-law's good side...  But more likely a not-so-veiled commentary on the corruption and graft of the Roman leadership and society.

The second piece in the collection is the Germania, which may almost be considered a follow-up to Caesar's Gallic Wars. The Germania focuses on the tribes beyond the Roman frontiers formed by the Elbe, Danube, and Rhine rivers.  Tacitus catalogs the German tribes, telling of their sizes, dispositions and cultures. But again, he couches them in a sideways commentary on the Roman leadership, describing the honor and self-discipline of the 'uncivilized' Germans.

These two books are classics of early 'histories' along with Herodotus, Prokopius, Caesar, and other contemporaries.  Tacitus' writing style, as translated, is a straightforward, clear read.  I pounded through the whole book on a 2.5 hour flight.  Like his contemporary historians, he played fast and loose with details, and there are many geographical errors, as well as descriptions based on hearsay.

But where the books are useful, especially Germania, are as snapshot resources/inspirations for tribal groups a party may encounter in their journeys.  Tacitus describes various traditions, leadership, martial styles, and appearances of the various tribes - any of which may plucked wholesale, or mixed and matched for colorful and useful NPC groups. The Suebi have elaborate hairstyles, the Semnones may only enter a sacred grove while bound by a particular cord, Chatti warriors wear an iron ring until they have killed their first opponent in battle.  Some elect kings, or make decisions in raucous congresses, some are cheered in battle by their women. Fleet-footed warriors keep up with their own cavalry.

So a good piece of found inspiration - grab a copy or download and pick and choose your next barbarian horde!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

NPC helpful and bane

Have been off writing for a while. I need to get my muse back. That said, I have a notebook full of outlines and a list of writing goals, so stay tuned. In the meantime, six quick NPCs to throw into a campaign or scene...

Big Mary
Mary is a scarred, burly woman sitting at the back of the bar. She bested many men as a pugilist and veteran of the pankration ring.  However, she fled the coliseum after being accused of throwing a match. She seeks employment and shares in an adventure in hopes of securing sufficient gold to quietly disappear to her home country, but will only join a party who appears to be well-sorted, with a strong fighter in the lead.  She speaks a bit slowly, and has short-term memory loss from much time in the ring (10% chance of forgetting a name or some piece of information, per day). Likewise, Mary has a limp from a chronic knee injury and is partially blind in one eye. She is a stout unarmed fighter, and wears a pair of stained cestus (1d4+2, 2 attacks), but can also wield a club or staff with efficiency.

“Sir” Willard DeVroy
Sir DeVroy is an exceptionally lanky mounted fighter or knight. He rides a donkey, but is so tall that his feet nearly drag the ground.  While he appears slightly comical, DeVroy is deadly with the lance.  He is not allowed in tourneys because of his “substandard” mount; however, in impromptu challenges on the road, he and his well-trained mount charge and dodge, the stout donkey outmaneuvering a massive charger.  DeVroy wears a battered gold-plated archer’s ‘kettle’ helm.  When turned upside down, it fills with water twice per day.  He will not go underground.  “Too tall,” he says (claustrophobic). He has the habit of singing poorly-translated foreign ballads.

“Boss" Taite
Thin and greasy, with a protruding potbelly, this knave is a fence and broker of illicit goods along Wharftown. He knows all the entrances to the “Warehouses below the warehouses”. The Boss has an unpleasant penchant for pale-skinned boys and girls, some of which he brainwashes and/or coddles into luring other youth into his slaver pens.  “How dare you accuse me of being a slaver, sir! However, can I help it if an urchin or two finds themselves on a ship for ports abroad?...” For parties of flexible morals, he has work transporting/escorting particularly valuable chattel to discerning clients.

“Lost Lily”
Found on a forest road, this youth of indeterminate age claims to have been abandoned by a caravan, lover, etc.  Tearful, she wiles and distracts travelers, before absconding with several items of value and disappearing.  For parties of substantial wealth, she will lure them to a local bandit band for a share of the loot.

Aleghetha Horsewarden
This exiled tribal queen lives incognito among the community.  She clandestinely seeks a party to assassinate the so-called ‘usuper’ conqueror-governor, allowing her return into the power vacuum.  Aleghetha discretely wears the iron torq of her royal office.  The torq allows her to either calm or panic horses within a 50 foot radius.  There is a low chance that it will be recognized here, several kingdoms from her homeland.  She is an able warrior and rides well, but prefers the chariot, where she rains a quiver of javelins against foes.  Horsewarden is accompanied by a mute guard wielding a bronze-bossed shield and spear.

Brother Orph
A pious itinerant preacher, living on an austere vegetarian diet, he seems wracked with conflict and guilt.  The brother has become afflicted with a moon-bound lycanthropism, transforming him into a were-tiger.  He seeks a cure for the curse, and hopes to find a party to escort him to a Were-priests of Inagha, who have reportedly secured a curative boon from the moon gods. Any party accompanying him must proceed with caution, for if travelling during a transition, there is a high likelihood that he will pick off one character during the night.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

One Page Dungeon Entry, 2016

The instigators of the 2016 One Page Dungeon Contest are at it again, sponsoring the annual contest of brevity and (hopefully) wit.

My writing has been off this year, but I prepared a small hex-based adventure with an alien threat.  I don't think it came out as evocative as I hoped, but I do like the idea of assisting critters normally thought of as foes, or at least nuisances, in restoring their 'god' who has been infected by something horrible.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Cinolth Citadel, manning some more Dyson Logos real estate

From Dyson:

The citadel sits on a chunk of generally unprofitable land surrounded by poor farming land, making it unappealing for most nobles. It generally sits quiet and cold, manned by a small garrison at most, a skeleton staff of four to six men and a single priest out of favour with the church at worst.

Baron Nichol Ondrae never cared for the family's scheming and machinations to overthrow the last dynasty, and after the last attempt on his life, possibly from Duke Augh-enryn, or perhaps his own cousin Enoch, it was time to put some space between himself and the fractious infighting of the capital.

So when the Black Pox created a opening for custodian of the Citadel, Nichol took it as a sign.  The gambles of remaining too close to the capital (and family) have become too rich for his blood.  Time to take in a new view.  With a few loyal retainers, and what second-rate soldiers were begrudgingly offered for the post, Nichol took his family and moved west to the isolated outpost.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Itzultzaile* Spider

Left or found at certain places of ancient rendezvous and crossroads, this bio-mechanical creature, although extremely off-putting, is a critical catalyst for allowing communication.

The spider, although intelligent, doesn't speak, itself. Instead, its venom acts as an agent of translation, allowing individuals to understand the spoken work of a counterpart.  Anyone bitten by the spider will understand and speak any other verbal language for 1d4 days.

The spider must bite an individual wishing to gain the benefit, crawling on their back and biting the individual's spine.  "Failing" a save vs poison (at -2) causes the venom to go into effect, a "successful" save merely renders the victim unconscious for 1d4 turns.

The spider's venom can't be milked for later use, or for utilizing an alternative, less-ghaslty method of injection.  Once the venom has been removed from the spider's body, it is no longer viable.  l

The spiders are rather long-lived, as necessary for a watcher or ward at a crossroads or meeting-place.

4HD, AC6, Move 3"/30" (ground or web), atk: 1d4+translation poison, Special: Intelligent (equiv to Int=10)

* -  'translator' in Basque, because messing around in Google Translate is fun.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Spider Jellies vs Jelly Spiders

Two squishy critters to lurk and crawl in your subterranean habitat of choice (Statted per S&W, easily convertible):


HD: 6, AC: 7, Move: 6, Save: 9, AL: N, CL/XP: 8/800, Attack and Specials, see below:

These gray-green "limbed" ambulatory jellies creep across walls and ceilings by pseudopods, moving quickly for their ilk. The jellies leave a network of filaments in their wake, hence their name.  The filaments are tough and may be used by dungeon denizens as sutures, tripwires, and small snares.

They attack by pseudopod bash (2d6 dmg), plus incorporating a painful sting (-2 all rolls for 1d4 turns) from filaments embedded in the target.

After a successful hit, a victim will be stuck to the jelly by its filaments and partially entangled (a filament may be broken by rolling a successful to-hit vs AC2). Additionally, the jelly secretes a digestive enzyme, dissolving cloth, leather, and wood after one round.

Although immune to normal fire and flame attacks, the jellies are susceptible to magical attacks, which cause double damage.


HD: 1-1, AC: 8, Move: 3, Save: 18, AL: N, CL/XP: 1/15, Attack and Specials, see below:

These brightly-colored, bloated arachnids, are generally slow and torpid, and prey from funnel-webs. Smallish (1-1.5 feet in diameter), they occur in groups of 1d4+2.

The spiders may bite (2d4 damage, save at +2 halves) or spit a sticky globule (save or be stuck as web spell). Their soft exoskeletons and organs can deform from physical attacks, decreasing damage (Blunt: 1/2 damage, edged: -1 damage).

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Trap, Shower of Gold

Murder-hobos, scavengers, and looters are drawn to the lure of unguarded gold. And the mythical image of being rained with gold and treasure may be too much to resist....

The trap is baited with runes along passages or elsewhere declaring that anyone entering a particular room will be showered with gold.  Those blinded by greed will not realize it is a warning, a literal mis-translation.

The trap is a typical, empty, 10x10 room. Gold flecks and spatters may be observed scattered on the floor.

Anyone looking up will notice a grid of small holes covering the ceiling.  The floor is rigged to be pressure-sensitive, requiring at least 400 lbs to trigger the trap as trespassers enter the room to scavenge the  "gold" detritus.

After two minutes, a warm whoosh will emanate from the ceiling, followed by rain of molten "gold" - an alloy-tinted lead melted by alchemical means.

Those caught in the molten rain will receive 2d6 burn damage, distributed between all those in the room (characters wearing metal armor and/or helms reduce damage 1 point), with 1d6 damage the 2nd round (minimum of 1 point damage per character). Additionally, removing the solidified metal that has embedded itself will cause 1d2 additional damage.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Santicore 2015 entry

 I made a contribution to the 2015 Secret Santicore project.  For those unfamiliar with this holiday extravaganza - contributors make a "gift" request for a bit of gaming material - a list, dungeon, plot, items, etc. and receive a random request from another contributor to fulfill.  The whole kit and caboodle is eventually compiled and put out for public consumption.  The project hasn't hit the streets yet, so figured I could post up my contribution for funsies.

I missed entering/contributing to the prior installation by one day, so watched my calendar more closely for the Santicore's 2015 announcements.  (I don't remember what I asked for at this moment - I think a list of interesting hats.)

Here's the request I received.

I've been a good person this year (except for those poor goblins) and I'd like more gonzofantasy material about goblins, possibly expanding on previous gonzogoblin material you previously delivered.
I'll leave the eggnog and the goblins hogtied in the usual place this xmas.

OK, I could work with that withing the two-week deadline.  What I came up with:

Gonzo Goblins, part the nth.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Cerantai, a seafarer's goddess

A petty goddess to add to the pantheon - inspired by this animation:

(slightly nsfw for nekkid cartoon butt and boobs...)

Name: Cerantai: Goddess of the Hanged Sailor
Symbol: An octopus riding a broom
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Movement: 60' (fly)
Armor Class: 6
HP/HD: 38/8 (Cerantai): 20/4 (head-octopus)
Attack: Octopus tentacle slap (up to 6/round)
Damage: 1d3, successful called hit to foe's weapon hand will disarm
Save: M10
Morale: 10
Treasure: nil
XP: 2,400

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Moleskine Maps stocking #2 - Drokki's Tomb

I previously reviewed and stocked a random dungeon from +matt jackson's Moleskine Maps IV, so time to desecrate, er, stock a random map from Moleskine Maps V.

Like MM IV, the maps are compact one-pagers, suitable for quick populating for one-offs and the like.  I rolled the die, and set to making a story for the second map in the booklet.
P. 5-6 of Moleskine Maps V, numbering mine.
It's not often that you're asked to put something back into a tomb.  After all, you're tomb robbers...

But here you are, with the skull of Drokki Flintbraid, tasked by his older brother Flokki to inter it into Drokki's tomb.  Drokki tried to follow his brother's footsteps as a warrior against the under-fiends, but was slain, his head becoming just another trophy on some ogre chief's war-staff.  Fortunately, the skull was recovered in a subsequent battle, and through some clever auguries, its original owner was identified.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Dayden Fort: Staffing a Dyson Logos joint.

Via the indomitable Dyson Logos, a stout roadside fortress, which needs a brief write-up and scenario.

Original post
Dayden Fort watches the South Road leading to the Citadel at Sabre Lake.

The fort is commanded by Halvard Gega (FTR 7, 28 HP, plate, Longsword+1 ['Hellbringer - foes slain by this blade are consumed in flames], 411 gp, gems worth 30, 40, 60, 110, 130 gp, potion of cure moderate wounds, potion of remove fear). Halvard appears to be a loyal subject to the Lord of the Citadel, but chafes at being passed over for command of the Citadel Gatehouse, a promotion he felt he deserved, if it weren't for political pandering by his colleagues.  So now, he festers away in this tiny frontier redoubt, watching an isolated ford along the South Road for merchants to toll, Adaqian spies and smugglers of hallucinogenic 'dragon-bark'.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Moleskine Maps quick review and dungeon-stocking

I recently won one of Inkwell Ideas' Geomorph Mapping contests, and the prize package included two volumes of Matt Jackson's Moleskine Maps.  

The maps are typically mini-dungeon size, most having 10-12 encounter areas. Each map is paired with a complementary notes page for keying the map with a brief outline of background, locations, critters, and treasure. This makes for a very usable on the fly creation format for a side adventure, ancillary area for a larger scenario, or when those pesky PCs wander off the map...

Matt's mapping is spare and clean, with features indicated but not crowding the spaces (along with the ever-popular crosshatching borders...).  Plenty of information, or inspiration, is hinted at.  And for being small dungeons, several have either multiple entrances, or enough tortuosity, that they aren't a bunch of one-way streets.  

Matt is one of the more proficient and prolific OSR mappers.  His Patreon maps include colored variants, as well as designs suitable for SF gaming, such as maps intended as futuristic bases or spacecraft interior layouts.  

So, I randomly selected a map from Moleskine Maps IV, and did a evening's worth of populating and storyline creation:
P. 19-20 of Moleskine Maps IV, numbering mine.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Village of Baegsveit

The Village of Baegsveit

A crossroads village, commanded by a stout stone tower.  The village population is comprised of approximately 80% human and 20% gnome.  The gnomes are natives of these parts, and hold a slight animosity toward the big-un's who built the trade road and tower through their lands. However, the industrious gnomes have capitalized on the humans' presence, establishing a number of shops in the settlement.

The stone tower overlooks the junction of the local trade road to the south and east, and is home to garrison, commander, etc.  A small stone blockhouse watches the bridge.  The bridge is rigged to collapse by removal of a series of linked lynch pins in the event of a significant hostile force or hazard.

Greta Salel, the tower commander, was granted a charter of land in the area in exchange for her past service campaigning (5th level fighter, 23 HP, Chain and shield (AC 4/15), heavy crossbow, Axe +1, 269 gp, jeweled dagger (300 gp), gold and topaz brooch (200 gp), potion of cure light wounds). She owns a fat mastiff war dog ('Arrowmagnet' 10 HP, AC 7/12, Atk: Bite 2d4).

She commands a small force that mans the garrison and patrols east and south:

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

RPG Blog Carnival - Gates and Portals - 2

A second brief meditation on this month's Blog Carnival - Gates and Portals - hosted by Phil over at Tales of a GM...

While many folks have been envisioning a myriad of gates and guards and devices for opening and closing of portals, both magical and mundane, let's take a quick look at wards...

And, for a bit of inspiration, how about a story perhaps familiar to many of us. The Passover.

(Disclaimer: I'm not Jewish or any sort of Biblical scholar. I know the Passover via the book of Exodus (and that movie with the former head of the NRA), so if I get anything incorrect, please feel free to correct me. Additionally, I don't think that the stories and mythologies of the Bible get a lot of Appendix N love...)

Most familiarly, the Passover is associated with the 10th Plague brought upon the Egyptians during Moses' petitions to free the Israelites.  To recall, any home not properly warded would be visited by the Angel of Death, who would take the life of firstborn children.  Any warded home would be 'passed over' and left unmolested.

Here is the evocative scene from 'The Prince of Egypt'...

The ritual and 'material components' of the warding are very specific:  "3 Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, 'On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers' households, a lamb for each household. 4 Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. 7 Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. 10 And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire. 11 Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste-- it is the LORD'S Passover.…"

According to my half-vast research of wikipedia and other such hallowed sources, the Passover actually predates the Exodus as a springtime warding or protection rite, and   the prescription includes using a hyssop bough for painting the blood onto the lintel.

Not having read this since teen Bible study, something interesting that I hadn't noted before is that the blood is both spread on the lintel, and consumed (along with the meat of the sacrificial lamb), thus extending or fortifying the protection from the portal to the inhabitant as well, as sort of redundancy (or perhaps an early form of 2-step authentication).

Now, this isn't a unique traditional warding by any stretch of the imagination - many cultures have wards of one sort or another.

A quick summary - a sacrificial animal meeting particular criteria, its blood both spread on the door lintel and consumed, and its meat cooked in a specific way and consumed with accompanying foodstuffs, all while wearing your travelling clothes.  Oh yeah, and don't go outside...

So to create some veracity in a game/story environment, perhaps add the necessity of collecting rare components or knowledge as prerequisites for the ward itself... Building tension and time-pressure before the approach of a physical, magical, or spiritual threat could create some excellent game moments or opportunities. Likewise, it can add to the living nature of the cultures or systems in place in the game world.

"Ok, Dingwall, here's what you need to do to protect your castle from the Wight-bear.  Take the bark from the foo-tree collected under the gibbous moon, mash it into a poultice with some tapioca using a rubber-tipped arrow. Wipe it on the portcullis with a Backscratcher +1, and dab the rest under your armpits, as well as those of everyone in your household.  Eat of the Sacred Chicken Pot Pie of Swänsön.  Oh yeah, all while wearing a thneed."

Sunday, January 24, 2016

RPG Blog Carnival, Gates...

Phil at Tales of a GM is hosting this month's Carnival, themed 'Gates & Portals'

I had a bit of an alien incursion scenario - mentioned here, Let's flesh it out a bit...

Standing Stones of Leth:

The stones are scattered throughout the Lowlands.  Their original masons and erectors are a mystery, and the stones themselves are not native to the country, appearing to have been transported a great distance.  Scarred and exfoliated by lightning strikes, these stones glow pale blue under a full moon.

In spite of their allochthonous and mysterious origin, several settlements have grown up around the stones in the belief that they provide some sort of protection or good fortune.  Indeed, gardens and orchards appear to grow more verdantly in the vicinity of these stones.

The stones were placed for more alien reasons, to allow entry into this world by ephemeral shades. Lightning strikes upon the stones provide enough impetus to temporarily open a gateway to a dimension of incorporeal beings, the Shades of Leth. During a storm, 1d6 shades will pass through these temporary gates into our world.
However, a Shade of Leth can not survive in this plane for more than four hours without finding a 'vessel' - an intelligent host. The shades will take advantage of the surrounding village or thorpe and possess the first humans they encounter.

A possessed human will have the blue glow of the stones in their eyes.  A captured vessel is 'ridden' by the shade in its inscrutable mission.  Anyone possessed in such a way will likely be exhausted and spent by a shade, requiring replacement every three to five days, wracked by dehydration and shock. An abandoned body, if still alive, will be mindless and hopeless for revivification.

Shade of Leth: 5HD, AC0 (AC2 if possessing human), Atk: 1d6+1, touch, (save or 1 CON loss, permanent), not undead, incorporeal resistances (resistances transfer to the possessed body), destroying the shade also kills the host body. Save vs death (or equivalent) is required to avoid possession (CON bonuses apply). A shade loses 1HD per hour outside of a host, dissipating after four hours.

The shades, once crossed over into this world, attempt to convene upon a central location in the Lowlands - a massive, buried hearth stone of the same composition as the standing stones.  When sufficient shades have arrived, the stone will arise, allowing not only shades, but their home dimension to spill through, wracking the world in unreality and making it a hospitable colony for the shades.

So far, insufficient simultaneous lightning strikes have occurred to allow a critical mass of shades through to activate the core stone.  However, there is rumor of misled or manipulated apocalypse cults intending to artificially create simultaneous lighting storms in the stones' vicinity...