18 December, 2011

An Entry to Anglia

Traveling west from The Dark Country to Wessex, your caravan boss this time is an enigmatic man with long black hair and long black mustachios. He claims to be Italian, and goes only by the name Migellito. You believe you are somewhere in the Black Forest when you notice it has become much darker. The vaporous air hangs in an aphotic curtain. Passing through this preternatural twilight, you journey through trees grown rugose and monstrous, glowering down over your caravan. Lurid hints of golden light creep and lurk behind the wood’s black boles. The gloom-heavy forest splits, and you look out onto grey undulant hills hunched beneath a leaden sky. A damp and forbidding chill crawls along the turf and embraces you.

The caravan was bound west, but you have emerged going east. In the distance to the north you see the smoke of a small village. In the distance to the south you see a group of hills crowned with the sprawling scattered bones of a ruined castle.

Migellito speaks, telling you “this has happened before.” He points to the smoke. “There lies Bridgewater. It holds a smithy and an inn. What else, I do not know, nor do I wish to.” He points to the ruins. “There lies Nicodemus Castle. Some who chance there don’t return. Those who do bear heavier pockets, on the balance of it. We make camp here, and with the dawn we turn back into the forest and on to the lands we know. Do as you wish, but the caravan leaves at dawn.”

09 December, 2011

Black Goat of The Woods

You have trouble defining the feeling of these woods. They are not necessarily evil. They are.. Wrong.

When seen from a distance this goat looks unusual, but not impossible. It is dark. Black, in fact. It has 4 horns, which normal goats sometimes have. There is something disturbing about its back.

When you can see it properly, you see the dozens and dozens of moving eyes on its back and shoulders. The eyes are of many sizes. They gaze in many different directions. You dare not look closely enough to see if they are of many colours. Then you see the many mouths opening and closing.

Then you see the intermittent dripping. The dripping of eyes. The eyes slide down its sable hide to the ground and grow. They grow and transform.

1d6 eyes and mouths slide from the goat's back and shoulders each round, each growing to a full Spawn of Shub-Niggurath in one round. The goat itself is an avatar of Shub-Niggurath, and as such is virtually indestructible. As an instantiation of the Old Ones, it is also all but oblivious to mundane creatures, such as adventurers. Due to its constant propagation, it is horribly easy to follow its trail, though perhaps unwise to do so.

01 December, 2011

Messing With Magic Again

Little gnomes stay in their homes.
I’ve gone over this ground before, but today I’m riding it on a different horse. In getting ready to run a hangout game on G+, I needed to make a decision about two main things. Magic and hobbits.

It isn’t that I don’t like hobbits. I think hobbits are great. I love their anachronistic lifestyle, with waistcoats and sideboards and grandfather clocks plopped in the middle of a medieval milieu. However, I also think hobbits only really belong in Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Sure, there are little tiny people in lots of legends and myths and tales, but they’re not really hobbits. Leprechauns and brownies and hobgoblins are not hobbits. Hobbits are setting-specific.

Now back when I ran my old old game, I said it took place on Middle Earth.. just not a part of Middle Earth anywhere remotely near the events of the books. This let me put in hobbits and other things with a clear conscience. I think I’d like to distance myself from that idea though, and have events take place in their own world. Thus, for now at least, no hobbits. Instead, folk-myth gnomes. Smaller than hobbits, remotely similar anachronistic lifestyle, living in and under trees instead of in and under hills. A big difference is that these little gnomes aren’t skittish about adventures or magic.

That’s sorted! Now for magic.

The problem with magic is the same. The system used by DnD throughout most of the game’s history, and used also by the overwhelming majority of similar games, is setting-specific. The idea of only being able to hold, like bees in a jar, a certain number of spells within one’s mind, and then having them disappear to blankness upon casting, is very interesting. It makes spellcasters engage in some strategic decisions, which is a good and interesting thing. However, I also think it only really belongs in Vance’s Dying Earth. The majority of magic in old legends and tales just isn’t done that way.

The problem with all the ideas I was having about how to deal with magic boil down to pretty much one issue. How do I keep magic from being overused without adding more mechanics to the game? Spellcasters in stories clearly have something against blasting a zillion spells around all the time. Something to do with the balance of nature and not wanting to incur the wrath of chaos or dark outer gods or something, I’m sure. Spell points are too fiddly, I’ve decided. Besides, what are those points measuring? Fatigue of some kind? Fabled spellcasters only seem fatigued after certain specific things, not just everything. On the other hand, I hate it when perfectly interesting spells go unused for ages and ages because the likelihood of needing them is so low.

Here’s what I came up with!

Casters use the memorisation tables in the rules they’re currently using. For an OD&D magic-user, for example, this means 1 first level spell at 1st level, 2 first level spells at 2nd level, etc. They also say which specific spells they have prepared, just like usual.
Their prepared spells are just the ones they have at the front of their mind, ready at a moment. They can, instead, cast any other spell they know of the same level, but at twice the casting time. Have Sleep prepared and want to cast Charm Person instead? No problem, but it will take you 2 rounds to cast that Charm Person instead of just 1. A big difference when death is on the line!

What if your 2nd level magic-user has already cast two 1st level spells and needs to cast another? Same thing - it will take double the casting time to get it off. That’s not all though. For exceeding that spells-per-level number on the memorisation chart, you need to roll a good old fashioned save vs. spells when you cast it. If you make the save, no worries. Fail the save, and you have to roll on a spell failure table. Instead of creating extra work, rolling on a table if you fail should just create some anxiety and suspense, which are great things for a game.

Ooh, a table!
No, I didn’t make one of my own yet. I’ve seen several out there that looked pretty neat. If you’ve made a spell failure table for some reason, stick a link to it in the comments down there. :)

This also works if you want to let spellcasters attempt spells which are beyond their current ability, something which happens in the stories now and then. Apply penalties to the save vs. spells depending on how far beyond their abilities they’re trying go. I wouldn’t allow a 20 to always succeed in this case, either.

One more thing I’ve decided. A character can only benefit from one casting of any specific healing spell once per day. Once Dilbod has been healed by a Cure Light Wounds, the magic needs some time to sink in before another Cure Light Wounds will have any effect on him, regardless of who casts it. A different spell, like Cure Serious, could help him some more before tomorrow though. This may be fairly harsh, but I think it’s necessary if I’m giving casters a way to exceed their limits. I’ll allow people to bind open (only) wounds to stop bleeding and get back 1hp, once for each combat in which they get themselves hurt.

31 October, 2011

How to Scare Your Players

Because, after all, it really is pointless to try to scare the characters.

It’s a natural function of the human mind to want to understand and classify what it experiences. When a person is unable to do this, they begin to experience anxiety. This, my dear dungeon master, is your goal tonight.

A good example of this is the first Phantasm movie. Perhaps I should say ‘my recollection of the first Phantasm movie,’ because I haven’t seen it in a really long time. During the movie there are a ton of things you don’t know:
What are the silver balls, besides deadly?
What the heck ARE those little short dudes?
Why are they killing people?
What do they want with the bodies?
I found the movie really frightening, probably more frightening than Ringu or Juon, and it had ZERO to do with blood. Probably one of the most frightening I’d ever seen. Compare that with one of the later entries in the series, wherein they explain very fully exactly what the little jawa looking dudes are, where they’re from, and why they want to kill people. It was no longer frightening at all. Not in the least.

My players once encountered a vampire. Like any good vampire, he had a personality and didn’t just pop into a dungeon somewhere. They visited him after being warned not to, because he had information they desperately wanted. I showed them a picture of Emile Zola sitting at his desk. He was charming and helpful, but also very odd. They knew something was up, and they were well on the way to convincing themselves he was a vampire by the time hints started getting laid down during the dinner to which he invited them. They were looking for signs. They had already noticed (because one of them specifically asked, not due to observation roll) there were no mirrors in the parts of the house they’d seen so far. They tried to see his reflection in the silverware, but damned if the candlelight and things on the table prevented them from getting a clear look.

This is when you poke a hole in their attempt to classify and understand.

“Is the silverware actually silver?”
me - “You’re pretty sure it is.”
“Is he touching it? A vampire couldn’t touch it, could he?”
me - “The tales you remember say that silver is very harmful to vampires.” Notice I didn’t say ‘All the tales you’ve heard.’ Introduce as much self-doubt as possible.
[more conversation about the McGuffin, while they stew over clues]
me - “He picks up his spoon and chimes his wine glass with it a couple times. The crystal rings out with a beautiful clear note.”
“A silver spoon?!”
me - “It looks just like yours.”

During dinner, the host (even the players have become reluctant to call him The Vampire now) never quite manages to take a bite of the food or a drink of the wine, due to conversation. At one point he even has food on his fork, but puts it down to talk. Yes, I answer, the food does indeed taste like it might have garlic in it.

The underlying systems have to be clear-cut and well defined. Explained and classified. It’s very important that you know exactly what things are, and why they’re that way. It then becomes your job to always keep this information just out of reach, just barely behind the veil, no matter how much you’d like to share it. Get your players to the point where they are absolutely brimming with questions, and then respond to them.. without answering any of them. At least not for sure, and certainly not a simple yes or no.

Then you hide the source of the anxiety. The master retires for the evening. The device sinks into the wall, and it seals up like it was never there. The children go around a corner and vanish. The wizard disappears in a puff of smoke. After the players have a chance to discuss and explore a bit, it’s now time for some incongruent meaningless hints. Odd noises, strange smells, an odd powder or fluid on the wall/floor/ceiling.. things that might mean anything. To you they should make perfect sense.. to the players they should be vague enough to further a dozen different suspicions without confirming any of them. Repeat until their anxiety peaks, then just after it starts to go down a bit.. HIT EM. The vampire attacks, the portal opens, the spawn of Shub-Niggurath pours out of the spear holes.

The most important thing to remember is that you will be tempted, and that you, the DM, must resist this temptation. You will know all the superawesomeneato details of who the professor is, how the dark ones open the door, and why the madman constructed the box.. but no matter how cool it is, or how proud you are of it, you can’t tell! Shhh!

Happy Halloween, and good luck!

28 October, 2011

You Meet in an Inn

Even so, you've used it. You didn't want to, but everybody had their characters rolled up, and you had to do something. Next time you're starting a campaign from scratch, and you're at a loss for how the characters meet, try one of these.

Can you think of another one? I'm sure you can, you're smart. Type it in the comments, and I'll add it to the list. I may tweak it a little, but what the hell.

  • You are all in jail together.
  • You all heard rumors of treasure, and you meet at the dungeon entrance. There is a man camping there who hires out as a lantern-bearer.
  • You are all captives of kobolds, goblins, bandits, etc. inside the dungeon. You were waylaid and brought here while unconscious, and your things are in a room nearby.
  • You all have copies of the same wanted poster.
  • You are all related, or grew up together.
  • You all served in the military or town guard together.
  • A local ruler, merchant or official has put out a call for mercenaries, and you are the ones who have answered.
  • Townsfolk inundate the inn, seeking help from all the guests. Insert 7 Samurai.
  • You all wake up together, lying on individual altar stones in a darkened room. A faint smell of ozone hangs in the air. In the floor of the room wisps of smoke rise from a charred corpse partially melted into the stone. A corpse with what appears to have been a sacrificial dagger clenched tightly in one hand.
  • You are all summoned to the reading of a recently departed friend/relative/colleague's will.
  • You are all traveling with the same merchant caravan when... 
  • You are shopping in the local market when a giant ship's anchor drops from the sky, smashing a nearby market stall.
  • You are survivors of a ship wreck. 
  • You wake up naked, buried in a pile of naked corpses. (stolen from Zak S.) 
  • You are brought together by a major event (refugees from a flood, plague, earthquake, zombie apocalypse, pirate attack, etc.) 
  • You are all outlaws, and are members of a bandit group. 
  • Goblins attack your hamlet. Your parents' old weapons are in your houses. Defend the town! 
  • You are all cursed, and have come together at a wizard's tower to perform a quest so that he will remove the curse. 
  • You are all members of the caravan guard on a trek across the desert to an exotic city of traders. 
  • You meet at a party. 
  • You are all students of the local adventurer's guild. This is your final test before you're thrown out in the world on your own resources. 
  • You all get strange (different) notes inviting you to the same place. The notes make some kind of sense when put together. 
  • You're all dead, and will adventure in hell or the outer planes.

21 October, 2011

Random Backgrounds

Unlike many of my tables, I'll try to make this one more general so it can be used over and over. This means it will require a lot more spur-of-the-moment icing from the DM (or player, depending on how it's used.) With that in mind, I may keep working to expand it a bit, probably in the style of Zak's multi-part tables in Vornheim. One thing about the table: the emphasis is on prior, so some glaring occupational holes exist where a background would necessitate a more profound effect on the character's current lifestyle. Also, if a background is more common in your milieu, have it occupy more spots in the table. Remember when doing so that it signifies a background which is both commonly held, and commonly left behind (thus the 'prior'.)

Prior Character Background

  1. Disgraced Noble
  2. Military
  3. Sailor
  4. Travelling Merchant
  5. Shopkeeper
  6. Caravan Guard
  7. Servant
  8. Bandit
  9. Farmer
  10. Farmer
  11. Farmer
  12. Builder
  13. Clergy
  14. Fisherman
  15. Woodsman
  16. Beggar
  17. Entertainer
  18. Laborer
  19. Laborer
  20. Courier
  21. Miner
  22. Husbandman
  23. Disgraced Scholar
  24. Criminal
  25. Criminal
  26. Criminal
  27. Student
  28. Civil Servant
  29. Scribe
  30. Professional Crowdgoer
  31. Town Guard
  32. Tanner
  33. Miller
  34. Military
  35. Courtesan
  36. Bon Vivant
What did I miss? Remember that entries like 'builder' can mean anything from carpenter to mason to boatwright. Also, I've avoided professions like blacksmith and jeweler, since they would have a more profound effect on the character's current life and abilities. Some things, like 'scholar' or 'wizard' probably wouldn't have much turnover.

-Edited to add some suggestions from comments. Town Guard could mean any police-like or security-related job. Civil Servant would include such jobs as the much-storied rat catcher. A Disgraced Scholar could be any teacher, scientist, historian, etc. A Husbandman could be any animal-related job, such as stableboy. A Shopkeeper is anyone employed in a storefront: butcher, baker, candlestick maker, barber, chemist, etc. A tinker, for example, could either be a Shopkeeper or a Travelling Merchant.

17 May, 2011

Crossbows Underground

Something obvious occurred to me just now. Bows send arrows in an arc, thus archery. Therefore, having their range converted from yards to feet underground makes perfect sense. Crossbows are favoured by underground denizens because quarrels don't arc - they depend on a relatively straight trajectory, more like a firearm. Therefore, crossbows should get to retain their range in yards underground, thereby conferring an appropriate reason to select crossbows for dungeon situations.

04 May, 2011

The Big Move

Our move is almost done! Of course, done in this case means a lot of stuff is in a storage unit and there are tons of boxes all over our new house and furniture in strange places - like a 7 foot TV armoire in our kitchen. But, most of the boxes are out of our old place, so I should be back to normal inconsistency instead of protracted absence by the weekend. Whee!

22 April, 2011

E is for Erstwhile Ended Entry Effluvia

It's a good thing I had the presentiment to not sign up Explicitly for the daily post alphabet challenge. We've been in various stages of trying to get into a new Edifice for a little over two months now, and it's kept my output even more Economical than usual. But, it's finally at an End, and we Exchange money for keys later today! Excelsior!!

Although this Equivocally means that my Efficacy will actually further Erode for a while, it also means that after a week or so it will Escalate and Expand to a much greater, Even daily, proliferation.


In coming up with a couple more names for unplanned npcs in my Greyhawk game, I realised something enter.. er.. interesting. I like making non-player characters. It entertains me. My favourite part of making them, and generally the only thing I do to make them, is coming up with a name and personality.

I don't roll stats at all unless I absolutely have to. Even for a man-at-arms hired by the party, I eschew stats. He or she gets their attack roll based on their level, which is most likely zero-level-human, and that's pretty much it. In the incredibly rare instance that an ability check is needed, I assume it's an 11 unless I've already established there is something unusual about them. What about hit points? Well, level one fighting-men get a d6 in ODnD. Goblins are a d6-1. Goblins are able to drive peasants before them, whilst enjoying the lamentation of the women. Thus, here is the simple breakdown on ye common folke. Children, elderly, infirmed - 1hp; clerks, maids, typical townies - 2hp; farmers, laborers, healthy lads and lasses - 3hp; the burly blacksmith and other buff stereotypes - 4hp.

I got a little sidetracked, but it went in an acceptable direction. Back to names! I enjoy making up names and personalities. I have no trouble making up diverse personalities, and there are some great tables out there if I did. I should come back and edit this to give a ballyhoo to a couple of them.. With names, even though I love inventing them, I sometimes worry that since it's one person coming up with all the names of all the npcs, they will begin to sound like they're all cousins.

Today, while making two names for a couple hired spearmen that I hadn't foreseen, I thought "hey, I'm trying to make this as much a Gygaxian Greyhawk as possible.. how did he come up with names?" Easy - in addition to the much-discussed anagrams, he used lots of old obscure archaisms, oft times adjusted a bit. This has the added bonus of enjoying some synchronicity with Gene Wolfe's writing, so that makes it feel even better. Thus, I now share a few great links to aid in this method of coming up with proper nouns for a campaign.

Grandiloquent Dictionary

Luciferous Logolepsy

Strange and Unusual Dictionaries dead

Worthless Word FOR the Day dead


16 April, 2011


Lots of great discussion and synergistic ideas are clicking around the osr about lock picking and trap disarmament. So far:
Rather Gamey
Zak Smith
Roger the GS

One thing that occurred to me was the similarity between some of these procedures and playing an old game of Mastermind. Every time I played Mastermind with my dad, he won. He always won chess too. Smartest person I ever met :)

Mastermind Info at Wikipedia
So, to use Mastermind for picking locks or disarming traps, it's pretty easy to vary the difficulty. You don't have to use all four slots. The fewer slots used, the easier the lock. Also, you don't have to use all the colours. The fewer colours used, the easier the lock, although I would suggest a minimum of 3 colours. The third way to adjust the difficulty is by limiting how many guesses (how many turns) are allowed before the thief fails the attempt. Failure meaning, of course, either jamming the lock or setting off the trap.

The only thing remaining for this method, then, is to assign some appropriate terms to the different elements of the Mastermind game.

The standard version has 6 different colours for the code pegs. I'm going to assume the colours might be different depending on the individual set one happens to have, so I'll list it out this way. Once you assign a colour to a technique, it should stay that way for all your locks. The basic lock techniques discussed on the other blogs above would require using 4 (and only 4) colours.

  • colour a - bump
  • colour b - probe
  • colour c - rake
  • colour d - twist
  • colour e - undulate
  • colour f - flick

It also has two different colours for feedback pegs, often black and white. These are the pegs the DM will use to simulate what the thief finds out about the lock as he's making his attempt.

  • black key peg - you used the right technique at the right time
  • white key peg - you used a technique appropriate for this lock, but you used it at the wrong time
  • left open (blank) - you used the wrong technique!

So, in this method the coloured clue pegs stand for different picking techniques. What do the slots stand for? Well, not tumblers. Generally, if I understand Wikipedia correctly, most locks are just one tumbler, or at least one tumbler per keyhole. A tumbler has multiple pins, but usually more than four. Thus, the four slots simply stand for how many techniques it takes to open it, or basically how complex the lock is on a scale of 1 to 4. The number of guesses allowed (lines on the board) shows how forgiving the lock is. Something made by gnomes to be highly pick-resistant might only allow 3 or 4 guesses. Some locks may require special techniques that most locks don't, thus using more colours of clue pegs.

How about Telecanter's example where an experienced thief just knows you should never bump a dwarven lock? Easy. If it's a dwarven lock, the DM doesn't put any bump-coloured pegs behind the codemaker screen on the board. Then it's up to the DM and player as to whether the player realises it's a dwarven lock, and knows what to avoid.

Now for the Suspense!!
Each line on the Mastermind board, each guess, takes one round of game time. This is where it really becomes exciting, because everyone knows that the thief picking the lock on the door to the escape route only has 4 minutes before that bugbear guard comes back this way on his patrol! Can he do it?!! They all want him to hurry, but they have to stay quiet!! Every time it's not right, that bugbear gets one minute closer!!! Or that insane cultist has nearly finished summoning Tsathoggua, and every round spent trying to put the right coloured pegs in the right holes to pick the lock on the Necronomicon brings the yawning black gulfs of terror one round closer!!!!
Are you excited yet?!!!?!

If you want to give an experienced thief more clues to reflect their knowledge, use their pick-locks chance (or disarm, as appropriate) to get hints. When you see a black key peg, for example, the picker usually only knows they used a correct technique at the right time (put the right colour peg in the correct hole.) They don't know which step (hole) they got right, they just know they made progress. If they roll under their chance, maybe they do know which step they got right, thereby drastically reducing how long it will take them to finish the lock. Many other types of hints are possible too, perhaps even allowing the thief to know which technique to start with (which colour to put in the first hole) just by recognising the type of lock.

13 April, 2011

P D eFfery

The ever-stylish and informative Matthew has brought the light of handy pdf-any-post goodness into our dark little corner of the universe. Visit Rended Press to partake in the greatness.

12 April, 2011

Tekumel 11

After you untie him, Chk-chk, the undead tinaliya, slowly sloshes up into a sitting position. He rises in a disturbingly mechanical way, a single slow motion, as though his muscles are merely tools and don't have the normal sensations of a living thing. He twists his head back to you in the same unnerving manner. "This is a labor.. labor.. laboratory of the Old Ones. Food may be anywhere, depending on what you are willing to eat. I do not think I need to eat anymore."

The small creaking creature slides down onto the floor, and walks over to the bejeweled metal table next to the first platform. "I do not understand this." He begins walking toward the archway into the room filled with unusual items and equipment, saying "what is in here?"

11 April, 2011

Engravings, Etchings and Embellishments

"..and its surface is covered with engraving. It looks like.."

  1. The flowing script of an archaic language. If interpreted, it details part of the history of an ancient society, including clues to their lost city.
  2. Circles and arcs of varying size and width, with ornate symbols. A wizard or astrologer will recognize it as alignments of planets, stars and planes.
  3. Arcane sigils and glyphs, which form a still-potent magical ward.
  4. The chiseled runes of dwarven master craftsmen. If interpreted, it contains metallurgy hints.
  5. Intertwining vines and leaves.
  6. Symbols, twisting script and repulsive depictions of evil rituals.
  7. The symbol and heraldry of a Great Kingdom, the rule of which once included this area.
  8. Repeating geometric patterns.
  9. Weird shapes & pentacles, and strange symbols & script, arranged in patterns which a mage or cleric can tell was intended to contain an otherworldly entity.
  10. Intertwining serpents.
  11. Arabesque patterns of lines and ornate curves.
  12. Circles and triangles of glyphs, narrow angular lines and patterns of tiny circles, all glowing with a dim light. If the surface is broken, the engravings continue to occupy the same points in space as before.
  13. The story of the ascension of a deity, depicted in intertwining consecutive images.
  14. Faces. Unless you look directly at it - then it just looks like chaotic lines and shapes.
  15. The hieroglyphs of an ancient empire which covered the lands all around. Those who are able may read of their society, and perhaps be forewarned of an ancient curse.
  16. The text of a recent religious tract, but illustrated with forbidden rites.
  17. Stylized flowers, acorns, leaves and pine cones.
  18. Lines of crude atavistic pictographs. Given time and perspicacity, anyone might glean their meaning.
  19. Warriors and athletes of an ancient civilization.
  20. Nightmare depictions of Elder Gods and ungulate horrors from the black gulfs of chaos. Save versus insanity.

10 April, 2011


“We go around the corner.. what do we see?”
“After another twenty feet, you see what seems to be a door. It is...

  1. Solid Iron with a one foot square window. The window has iron bars, and sits at a height of 5 feet. It opens away from the party with a locking latch handle on the left. Hinges are on the side away from the party, on the right.
  2. Heavy iron-bound wood. It opens toward the party, with a simple round iron pull hanging from the centre of the door. It possesses no lock, but is stuck tight in its frame. The party can see the hinges, on the left.
  3. A collection of old boards across an old door opening, nailed into the wooden frame. Roll to open normally to burst through.
  4. A rough stone cave opening, natural and un-worked.
  5. An empty archway, carved with ornate patterns and glyphs. Attempting to pass through will loudly damage one with electricity, unless the warding glyphs are dealt with.
  6. Heavy iron-bound wood. It opens away from the party, and no means of opening, hinges, or other hardware are visible from the party’s side. It hinges to its frame on the right.
  7. Solid stone. No means of opening is apparent, but the unusually wide door pivots easily on its centre.
  8. A round wooden door with a large brass knob in the centre. It opens away from the party, swinging on hinges on the right. It was painted once, but is now heavily scratched. A keyhole lies in the centre of the knob.
  9. Solid iron with a turn-handle on the right. It opens toward the party, with visible hinges on the left. A lock sits above the handle, only on the party’s side.
  10. Heavy iron-bound wood. It opens away from the party. Unseen by the party are hinges on the other side, on the right. On the party’s side, a simple iron handle is on the left. Unbeknownst to the party, a heavy bar sits in brackets on the other side, preventing all but the strongest from breaking in.
  11. Heavy iron-bound wood. It opens toward the party, with a simple iron handle on the right. Hinges lie on the left. Heavy iron chains are sunk into the 4 corners of the frame, and are joined by a large iron padlock at the centre of the door.
  12. A thick mat of webs. It will take 10 minutes to cut through, or 1 minute to burn through.
  13. Heavy iron-bound wood. It opens toward the party, with a simple iron handle on the right. Hinges lie on the left. Opening past 2/3 open sets off an arrow trap on the other side, firing 3 arrows at anyone in the doorway. Roll the arrow attacks as a monster with dice equal to the level on which the door is found.
  14. Heavy wood, with an iron pull-ring in the centre. It opens away from the party, swinging on hinges on the right, which the party can’t see.
  15. Heavy wood, with a simple iron pull handle on the left. It opens toward the party, on hinges to the right. A heavy wooden bar lies across the door in brackets on the party’s side. The door itself is stuck tight.
  16. Solid iron with a turn-handle on the right. It opens toward the party, with visible hinges on the left. A lock sits above the handle, only on the party’s side. Turning the handle springs a hidden poisoned needle out of the door, scratching the hand. Failing a poison save results in death after a number of minutes equal to the victim’s constitution score. Success leaves an ominous burning sensation.
  17. Heavy iron-bound wood. It opens away from the party. Unseen by the party are hinges on the other side, on the right. On the party’s side, a simple iron handle is on the left.
  18. Heavy wood. It opens away from the party, and no means of opening, hinges, or other hardware are visible from the party’s side. It hinges to its frame on the right.
  19. A series of heavy iron chains, hanging vertically. Both top and bottom are sunk into the surrounding material. The chains are four layers deep, each layer slightly offset, and one inch away from the layer next to it, so that it is nearly impossible to see through. A close light source on the other side will be apparent, however. Only those both strong and sveldt might be able to squeeze through, and would be ‘held’ in the chains for 4 to 8 minutes as they did so. A hidden catch releases each layer of chains at the bottom.
  20. A heavy iron portcullis. The raising mechanism is out of sight on the side opposite the party. The bars are set close enough to prevent passage by anyone larger than a halfling child.

09 April, 2011

Tekumel 10

The tinaliya finally produces some sound from it's moving beak, croaking "chk.. chk.. chk.. chk... my name is now Chk-chk" in a flat and unemotional drone.

The shen is encouraged somewhat by the fact this thing is speaking Shen. C'nor is surprised to hear his native tongue. Johannes hears the tinaliya's answer in German.

As you reach up to re-adjust the apparatus, Chk-chk says "may I get up first, master?"

08 April, 2011

My Troll Babe

The Grumpy Old Troll is, of course, married to a Troll Babe. Not Ron Edwards' awesome game, which I can't recommend highly enough.
image by the awesome E James Heil

No, my own Troll Babe, who has just started up her own blog.

03 April, 2011

Chests for The Discerning Dungeon Master

"Peruse our wide selection of fine containments."

1. The Black Dougal
2. The Standard - wooden barrel-top, bound in iron, unlocked.
3. The Ironsides - all-iron flat-top, locked. Our heaviest model.
4. Hat Box - leather covered wooden two-foot cube, flat-top, locked. Handle on top.
5. The Pirate - wooden dome-top, iron-bound, locked. Waterproof! With side handles for easy minion toting.
6. The Steamer - leather covered wooden flat-top. Brass-bound with locks and latches. Side handles. Pressure gauge and chronometer.
7. The Old Vic - iron-bound wooden dome-top, locked. Numerous trays, lined, decorative painting inside lid.
8. The Trickster - animate monster 'mimicing' a chest. Sharp!
9. The Russian - looks like our Standard, but blades spring from the bottom when opened.
10. The Toy Chest - like our Standard, with four legs! Walks as fast as a halfling. Caution - small decorative exterior items become real when removed.
11. The Hemingway - iron-bound wooden dome-top with lock. Front folds down into a writing desk. Compartments trapped with poison darts.
12. The Solo - like the Pirate, but false bottom hides a three inch deep compartment. (not waterproof)
13. The Trapdoor - looks like any of our other models, but built-in. Open bottom reveals steps down to next level. Opt for a trick bottom and it doubles as storage! (next dungeon level not included)
14. The God Box - iron-bound wooden dome-top, unlined. Locked. Closure opens a conduit to one random entity of power. Cannot be opened from inside, regardless of force. Opening or breakage severs the connection, though items or substances may be left behind. It is rumoured that special keys exist which will open the chest without severing the link. Keys may or may not be attuned to specific entities. (not sound proof)
15. Jack - looks like the Old Vic, but unlocked and tray-less. When opened, a young knight springs forth and attacks. 2 in 6 hold bards instead.
16. The Schrödinger - looks like our Hat Box, but able to resurrect cats. (note, we cannot guarantee cats are either alive or dead until the box is opened)
17. The Barker - brass-bound wooden cube. No apparent lid or opening method. Slides apart into two identical 'U' shaped parts.
18. The Barter Box - any item placed within vanishes when closed. Two openings later, something is in its place. For extra-large, specify The Caligari.
19. The Mason - all stone flat-top. Hinge-less chain and padlock closure.
20. Chest of Drawers - 4 foot by 2 foot iron-bound wooden dome-top. False bottom reveals wooden stairs leading down, starting at one end. Eight steps descend to a wooden extra-dimensional room, 8x8x8. Drawers of widely varying dimensions cover the walls from floor to ceiling. (light source not included, do not close while other extra-dimensional products are within)

Security of contents not guaranteed. Not responsible for damages or injury due to poison or transdimensional collapse.

02 April, 2011

Books Magical and Mundane

"You see an ancient and musty tome before you. The cryptic writing on the cover resolves into.."

1. Zarathustra's Atlas - A massive folio volume with non-euclidean maps of the multiverse. Shows time-space locations of portals and gates, transitory, migratory and fixed. Several pages are enchanted with illusions to illustrate working models of worlds, systems and planes.
2. Gormenghast's Bestiary - Each page gives information about a different animal or monster. As soon as the book is opened to a page, an individual of that sort is instantly summoned forth.
3. The Vitiform Codex - As long as this heavy book is kept damp and exposed to at least four hours of sunlight each day, each page grows a different herb (loosely defined, may include fungi, etc.) Raised texture resembling vines pervades the volume, rising up into actual vines in the centre of the page to present the herb detailed on the opposing leaf - even those not generally associated with vines. If left on the ground for long enough, it will put down roots.
4. Holy Scripture - The sacred text of a local religion, but containing bits of heresy in several of the passages. Was this its original form? Includes several clerical spells within the writings.
5. The Book of Faces - Once a person, or a part of the person's body, has touched a blank page of this tome, a simple sketch of the person in their current environment will reside on that page when next the book is opened. Certain conditions and incantations can increase the quality of the image up to a fine painting. Though the image is unmoving, it will 'update' each time the book is opened.
6. Gnomes - A detailed study of a small, mostly woodland-dwelling people. Those in this volume are from six to twelve inches in height, and frequently wear pointed red hats. They make their homes inside trees, large mushrooms, or occasionally underground, biding their time and drinking their wine.
7. Piracy on The High Seas - Rather than a narrative account or record of legal codes, this unusual book proves to be a manual of instruction for prospective privateers and freebooters. Includes several Jolly Roger designs and advice for selecting parrots.
8. Pie - Recipes for a wide variety of sweet and savory pies. Several are purported to have effects similar to simple potions.
9. Ledger - The records of a local shop, business or bank. Examination will show a decided lack of honesty in the proceedings.
10. Journal - The first third of this book details the trials and tribulations of a group of explorers or adventurers, including a handful of maps. The hand of the writing changes suddenly about halfway through, then abruptly stops, leaving the remaining pages blank.
11. The Warlock of Zeveste - A fictional account of the adventures of a weretiger warlock, filled with dangerous trolls, scantilly clad women, thrilling sorcery, and narrow escapes.
12. Asenath's Art of Fine Brewing - Detailed information on the creation of a wide variety of beer, ale and mead. Includes guidelines for distilling faeries.
13. Science - A hand-written treatise on the basics of astronomy, physics, biology and chemistry. Trapped with a blinding curse.
14. On Faeries - A thick tome full of pressed faeries, pixies, sprites and more. Pressed between the pages, and annotated with text, much in the manner of a traditional herbal.
15. Dreams of Evaericar - This appears to be an old but unused journal, and is found with random coins tucked in the pages, totalling no more than 2 gold. If at least one copper coin is placed inside, then the book placed under one's head before going to sleep, more coins will be found within the next morning, totalling no more than 2 gold. Additionally, a narrative of all the sleeper's dreams for the previous night will be recorded on its pages. At some point within the first 1 to 8 nights, one of the unremembered dreams thus transcribed will be terribly disturbing, testing the sanity of the dreamer when they read it the next day. After one week of consecutive use, the sleeper will find themselves able to lucid dream. After one month, they will discover the 77 steps of lighter slumber, leading down to the cavern of flame. After sleeping with the book under their head for one year and one day, their physical body will be transferred to the dreamlands as they sleep, leaving the book behind, now blank.
16. A History of The Royal Family, by Telgar Vosk - A study of the royal family of a nearby kingdom. A thorough reading will reveal that the current ruler does not actually belong on the throne.
17. The Verses of Dimloth - A book of poetry. When opened, the pages generate a warm light in a five foot radius.
18. The Book of Ning - This ancient tome, bound in some questionable material, contains frenetic descriptions of a multitude of unwholesome rituals. Extended ritual versions of several magic-user spells are contained within.
19. Codex of The Silver Key - Careful study of this lengthy and sanity-trying volume will eventually empower the reader with knowledge of how to part the veils of reality. The gate thusly formed will lead to entities which must be entreated for passage to the desired destination. The entities themselves may well prove too much for all but the strongest minds to endure.
20. The King in Yellow - Once begun, the reader will find this convoluted and paradoxical manuscript of a play very difficult to put down. If the entire play is read, the reader is rendered irrevocably insane (although not necessarily unplayable.) See this link to convey partial details of the play to the unfortunate reader.

01 April, 2011


"The slippery bognad before you stands out amongst his kind. He's wearing a.."

1. Waistcoat - it may have been satin, silk or even velvet. Now it's just used.
2. Monocle - with a chain of brass, silver or gold.
3. Jeweled Leather Harness - criss-crossing his chest, the gems are surely paste. Or are they?
4. Lupin - like a feather in his cap. Only slightly wilted.
5. Eyepatch - black leather.
6. Tophat - black and slightly dinged and dingy.
7. Red Cape - may or may not be black on the outside.
8. Kilt - complete with sporran.
9. Pair of Long-Toed Curling Shoes - probably sans jester bells.
10. Liripipe Hood - independent of shirt or coat.
11. Bandolier - designed for darts.
12. Rope Belt - with pots, pans and utensils hanging from it.
13. Hollow Skull - as a helmet.
14. Pointed Hat - leather and creaky, with a stuffed reptile wound round.
15. Book - strapped flat to his chest.
16. Pennant - from a pole on his back.
17. Sack - over his head, with eyeholes cut out, and covered with runes.
18. Holy Symbol - of a random deity.
19. Pair of Striped Hose - separate for each leg.
20. Animal Fur - complete with head and claws.

29 March, 2011


Yikes, another long dearth of blog posts. My genius is suck.

In my Labyrinth Lord version of Eberron, I find it entirely inappropriate to refer to the train as The Lightning Rail. I do like the fact that it exists. One of my first favourite films was the 70's Murder on The Orient Express with the huge raft of stars from the period, including Albert Finney as Poirot. I think Sean Connery was in it too. Anyway, I find the idea of the train itself to be a wonderful fantasy possibility, but the name makes little sense for a very compelling reason.

There are no rails.

The train moves along above a series of relatively small stone pyramids. This isn't an upgrade from a time when it ran on actual rails, and there are no other rail-utilising technologies screeching around Khorvaire. Somehow 'The Lightning Stones' or 'The Lightning Pyramids' just doesn't convey the idea of any kind of transport, let alone a train. So what should it be called?

I know! I'll turn to you, rarified niche of the internet! Please tell me what I should call The Lightning Rail.

17 March, 2011

Tekumel 9

Inspect glassware and clockwork: 89
Get another corpse, tied up: 40
Open remaining boxes: 100
Try finding controls on the cabochon: 23
Examine the hat: 81
Prise out gems: 9

You press several of the other gemlike protrusions around the cabochon, testing them for possible removal as you do. They resist any attempt to loosen, and seem to have no response when touched. After cautiously manipulating it for a few minutes, you are left with the impression that you've had no effect. If the baroque and esoteric designs scribed into the surface truly divide it into sections, they seem to be only decorative, yet their form troubles you at an atavistic level. It is almost as though you can see them more clearly when not looking directly at them.

You head back into the room with the long row of occupied tables. The sheeted occupants await your experiments blithely. Another examination of the gemmed table at the near end discourages your attempts to pry any of the glittering morsels free, and you are left with merely attempting to manipulate them. Several begin glowing at your touch, but there seems to be little result. Remembering the precaution of tying one up, you select a table from the line and remove its cover. A short creature, less than a meter long is revealed. It has four bowed-out legs, two arms with three-clawed hands, and a bulbous midsection, now somewhat deflated-looking. It is one of the gnomic tinaliya. The enormous eyes above the beak-like mouth are a dead filmy grey. You bind it to the table, ripping the cover into strips to do so. The thick brown hide of the creature creaks as you tighten the bindings.

With some difficulty, you force past the will of those more wary within you and begin uncomfortably pressing the dull gems and spidery arms of the contraption on the ceiling above. Suddenly, almost as though a vein has been opened in the air itself, a column of shining blue-tinged blackness pours forth into the quiescent form. You are shocked backward. The small form tries to rise, struggling slowly against its bonds. As it moves, the bulbous little segments making up its body slosh disgustingly. It slowly turns its opaque dead-grey eyes on you and the beak-like mouth moves. No sound emerges.

Part of you wishes to immediately repair to the laboratory, busying yourself with instruments, alembics and coggery, but what will you do with this new arrival?

08 March, 2011

Location f of Entero Island

f - the tower
The tower is a ruin. Its upper floors are long-destroyed, but still evidenced by jutting remnants of its outer shell and traces of stairway. It is now occupied by a wizard, one Rimbodd, who came to the island in search of the tower itself. It purportedly still held the spellbooks of its ancient master, but Rimbodd has never found them. He is marooned and has gone completely insane.
Rimbodd casts as a 5th level wizard, but his spell choices are entirely random. Whenever he casts a spell, for any reason, roll 1d3 to determine spell level. Then, roll randomly to determine which spell of that level he actually casts. His is not limited in the spells he might ‘know,’ nor is he limited in how many spells of each level he might cast in one day. He will remain convinced that any spell he casts was the perfect choice for the situation, but will then often (2in6) claim he is exhausted and curl into a deep slumber for 1d3 hours. Upon waking, he believes he must study his spellbooks and memorise his spells for the day. His spellbooks, despite his insistence to the contrary, are useless wrecks of waterlogged parchment, their writing blurred and unreadable. If somehow separated from his useless books, he will believe himself “Powerless and Doomed!”
Secreted in a small hidden compartment of the stone wall in the lowest level, once found by Rimbodd but now long-forgotten, is a small brass box with a hinged lid. Inside is a wand-sized length of deep black stone. At first glance it will seem to be obsidian, jet, or some other stone. With closer inspection, the surface seems to sink away from the viewer, falling away into a black abyssal gulf of cosmic proportions. Any failing a save vs. spells will feel overcome with vertigo and fall to their knees. If the wand is touched to the surface of the obelisk in the grotto (d) the obelisk will activate, sending a torrent of pulsing violet-black energy down into the earth. The effect of this activation, as well as its relationship to obelisks on other islands, is left to the GM for purposes of a possible unifying theme for their Sea of Os’r campaign.

03 March, 2011

Representation of Taxation

"We go through the city gates and head for the.."
"Not so fast! All entering the city today must pay the:

1. Wheel Tax - 1 silver for every wheel on any cart, wagon, carriage, etc.
2. Sword Tax - 1 silver for every bladed weapon larger than a dagger, yes that axe too, mister.
3. Purple Tax - 1 gold for every purple article of clothing. "Show me the waistband!"
4. Sewer Tax - 5 copper for every adult, though I don't mind the smell myself.
5. Road Tax - 2 copper per person for road repairs, 1 silver per horse or mule.
6. Holiday Tax - 1 silver per adult, the Feast of Barnabus nears.
7. Bag Tax - 3 gold per bag of spoils carried, and you're lucky I don't look inside.
8. Staff Tax - 5 gold per magic item carried, scan em' Dan'o.
9. War Tax - 1 silver per person. Troops are mustering and need supplies.
10. School Tax - 5 copper per person, for the new university.
11. Shield Tax - 5 silver for each person or mount in medium or heavy armor.
12. Fey Tax - 4 silver for each non-human, mounts and livestock excluded.
13. Library Tax - 4 gold for each book carried.
14. Brass Tax - 3 gold for each clockwork device.
15. Spoils Tax - 1 silver for every pound of treasure carried, on the scale buddy.
16. Bow Tax - 1 silver for every bow or crossbow, and unstring it.
17. Minstrel Tax - 2 gold for every musical instrument.
18. Crown Tax - 1 silver per adult, the King's visit must be grand.
19. Holy Tax - 1 gold for each holy symbol not of our city's deity, heathen.
20. Tithe - 5% of all coin carried, for the new cathedral.

These may either be in lieu of or in addition to the usual gate fee to get into the city. They in no way obviate the standard taxes for any sort of trade goods brought into the city. Trade goods are always taxed, regardless of whether the bearer claims intention to sell them or not. Remember that if your dwarven friend likes to carry around a barrel of stout in your cart.

Big merchant caravans will usually camp well outside the city, protected by outriders and goons.. er, guards, to avoid paying taxes in every city they might need to pass or sleep in. If they start setting up too close, perhaps 100 yards or so, the guard will send a detachment to politely but firmly run them off. To enjoy the city's protection, you have to pay her taxes.

02 March, 2011

New Episode of a Great Series

Yes! A new update of Atland is out! I find this web comic very entertaining, and (unlike many) relatively non-WoW influenced.

Coming soon.. less links, more substance :)

Old School Art

Just a couple links for 2 masters who deserve more traffic at their sites and/or blogs.

Revel in the startlingly British graphic sensibilities of:


28 February, 2011

Starting Spells

I've used many different methods for determining what spells magic-users (and sometimes clerics) have scribed in their first spell book when they enter the game. Sometimes it's all first level spells, sometimes it's just one, or one plus their INT modifier. Sometimes it's according to the (surprisingly restrictive?) table on page 8 of the Greyhawk supplement. Sometimes the spells themselves are picked by the player, or randomly determined, or sometimes a mix of both.

In your campaigns, what do 1st level magic-users get in their first spellbook? Please let us know!

25 February, 2011

Location e of Entero Island

e - the breakwater
This narrow strip of wet, icy, rough black rock presents a considerable movement hazard, providing the characters have no means of flight. Swimming would result in checking for hypothermia, as well as the 3-in-6 risk of being dashed against the rocks for 1d6+1 damage. Even if flight is available, the characters will have to contend with high winds. Clambering along the rocks, the characters will progress at ⅓ their usual movement rate. Unless the characters come up with a means of safely traversing the rocks, for every 100 yards traveled they will also need to make a dexterity check or a dexterity based saving throw (DM’s choice - the saving throw will allow higher level characters to make use of their experience in navigating obstacles) to avoid falling and tumbling down the jagged rocks for 1 point of damage. Rolling a 1 on the save (or a 20 on the check) will result in the character tumbling into the rough, frigid water, with the risks mentioned above. For every 2 turns spent on the breakwater, the DM also rolls for waves. The waves will be 1d12 feet in height, with a 2-in-6 chance of damaging ice chunks. Ice chunks will do 1d6-1 damage to everyone on the breakwater (0 pts. min.) with a dexterity based save allowing half damage.
At the point labeled ‘e’ on the map, there is a submerged cave. It is home to 2d6 crabmen. In the cave there will also be a number of females equal to twice the number of males, young equal to the number of males, giant crabs as pets equal to ⅓ the number of males, several sandy areas of buried eggs, and 1d6 individuals undergoing molting. The molting crabmen (and/or women) are currently soft-skinned and buried up to their necks in sand for protection. There is an area of trapped air inside the cave, which includes the sandy molting area. If characters fall into the water near here, crabmen guards will take them to the trapped air within their cave and revive them with a distasteful but effective algae dish. They are distrustful of humans, due to the nature of the villagers, but will return kindness with kindness, potentially providing provisions (fresh water, oysters, mussels, lobster, mushrooms, and a nourishing but bland unbaked kelp & algae ‘bread’.) The crabmen are familiar with the evil influence of the Sea Mother, and wish she and her brood were not on the island, but they have so far avoided confrontation.
If met randomly on the rocks, the crabmen will be cautious, but if befriended can guide the characters safely along the breakwater (they will be guided through areas blocked in one way or another from wave action, and will only need to roll one more save or ability check.) They will be accompanied by giant crab pets equal to ⅓ their number. They will warn characters against the wisdom of visiting the ‘haunted tower,’ but will point out the old rowboat grounded on the rocks at the end of the breakwater if the characters are determined to go out there.

breakwater random encounters - 1 in 6 chance, rolled every turn
1 - 2d6 crabmen (Fiend Folio)
2 - 1d4 giant crabs (Blackmoor, Monster Manual I)
3 - giant clam
4 - small pool, 50% for poison urchins
5 - strangleweed (Monster Manual I)
6 - bits of old wrecked boat, 25% chance for lockbox/treasure chest
7 - driftwood
8 - angry seabirds, diving and pecking forces an immediate falling check

18 February, 2011

Tekumel 8

Yikes, 8 days?! My apologies! Been focusing on my PbP games and offline complications.

You pull the nest-like mass out of its chlen-hide box. As you do so, some of the slick, brightly colored strings and ropes fall away from the nest. Placing it on your head, you could use two or more of the dangling pieces to tie it on under your chin. It doesn't seem to be intended for this purpose, but you could probably get it stay in place without too much effort.

Scooping a bit of the musty dirt into the viscous green fluid, it sits on top for a moment, then slowly settles downward. After reaching the center of the box, the dirt begins (with about the speed of a crawling beetle) to disperse evenly throughout the entire volume of fluid. It does not dissolve, but is suspended.

You pick one of the raisin-hearts and deftly toss it at the scintillating cabochon. It vanishes just at touches the surface.

Our energetic shen capitalises on momentum, and pitches the now-empty nest box and the dirt box at the gem as well. They vanish without incident. He is about to follow through with the green fluid, when a chlen-hide box top suddenly appears, charred and blackened, in front of the cabochon, and falls to the table, smoking.

While most of you ponder this odd development, the shen heads over to the pile of refuse in search of fabric. It doesn't take long to find a couple of old leather straps and some cloth which can be fashioned into a harness capable of carrying one of the boxes. Taking the materials over to the table in front of the cabochon, you begin fashioning a sort of pack. The work is unusually easy as you find yourself drawing upon the inspiration of dozens of different crafting traditions.

As you work, a small charcoal-like object appears in front of the gem and falls to the table, odorous black smoke rising from it. It was once the raisin-heart. Soon after, a box appears from thin air, looking melted and warped, and falls onto the table heavily. It is full of hot, smoking dirt. As you move this box closer to see the contents, another appears, even more melted and blackened, and falls lightly to the table. In the bottom of this box some of the few remaining nest-bits have been melted flush into the material of the box.

10 February, 2011

Locations c and d of Entero Island

c - the lookout
This is the only place from where the shipwreck at location ‘g’ can be clearly seen, due to the wreck being almost entirely submerged, though shallowly, and its view being occluded by underwater rocks. Six feet of the wreck’s mast extends above the waves, and can be barely seen from the shore northwest or southeast of the hills. It cannot be approached by shore, however, since this part of the coast consists of steep 75 foot (on average) cliffs, extending from 250 yards north of ‘c’ to 200 yards east of ‘c.’

Unfortunately for any viewers, this is also the location of a yeti cave. There is but a single yeti, the last member of a nearly extinct population. This condition has done nothing to help his already sour disposition. His simple cave is littered with goat bones and giant crab shells, though he has no treasure. The treasure usually associated with his kind is instead subsumed in the booty within the sunken ship at ‘g.’ 

d - the grotto
At the very back of a deep fissure cut into the cliffs here, down 100 feet from the top of the overhang, is the entrance to a sizable cavern. The entrance lies mere feet from the surface of the sea, and at high tide the briny water intrudes into the lowest portions of the cavern, leaving tidal pools in the first few low yards of the floor. This natural cavern is a wet, dark place of sharp black obsidian and basalt. It is roughly in the shape of a triangle, one point being at the seaward entrance. The distance from the entrance point to the base of the vague triangle, at the back of the chamber, is 60 feet.

Ascending the sharp rocks of the interior, one enters the demesne of the Sea Mother. The upper half of her body is that of a 4 armed, voluptuous, full-figured woman. The lower half of her body is similar to the enormous rear thorax, abdomen, and tail of a gigantic blue lobster. The gradation from walking legs to swimmerets is so gradual, and their nature so similar in her case, that functionally she glides about repulsively on 16 disturbingly insectoid legs. Her colouring ranges from blue to iridescent green across her entire body, and in place of hair, she has upon her head innumerable prehensile eels.

She fully utilises her 4 arms, allowing her to attack once with a weapon, and cast one magical spell, both in the same round. She has 3 hit dice, and fights as a 3rd level fighter. She casts spells as a level 3 magic-user, as well as a level 3 cleric. All her spells are contained in her ancient spell books, separated by level and class, and securely stored here in her grotto. For this reason, the DM is encouraged to choose the Sea Mother’s spells to fit his or her unique campaign, as her spellbooks constitute a good portion of the treasure gained through her demise. She employs as her main melee weapon a +1 short sword. The blue-green sword is ornately designed with a flowing-shaped iridescent blade and a hilt in the form of a mermaid. It continually ‘sweats’ saltwater from the surface of the blade when drawn from its sheath, and can produce up to a gallon of liquid per day in this fashion. It will do an extra point of damage per hit to fire-based foes, but one point less to water or ice-based enemies.

Additionally, once per round her head-eels may attempt to turn one of her opponents to stone. This is an active attempt, so not only must the target be looking at the Sea Mother, and be able to see her, but she must also roll to hit them for the glowing green-white beam of the eels’ combined energy to strike and penetrate any armor. The target is further allowed a saving throw vs. stone to avoid the effect if hit, being slowed to half movement if successful. This petrification is cured if the resulting statue is entirely submerged in seawater for 1 round.

Accompanying the Sea Mother in her grotto are 6 brood minions, less if any have been killed at the stones of location ‘b.’ They are similar to the Sea Mother in appearance, but are all male, bald, and have only 2 arms. Also, their 8 walking legs are distinct from their smaller swimmerets, with their abdomen and tail being carried slightly aloft behind them. They are armed with spears and have 1 hit die, but possess no independent spellcasting ability. Depending on the strength of the party, the DM may consider increasing the brood minions to 2 hit dice, as well as providing them with shields.

Also within the grotto, in a prominent position near the high back of the chamber, is a large, irregularly shaped black obelisk. Despite the best efforts of those examining it, they are unable to determine if it is a projection of the native basalt, or if it is some later addition. Concealed behind the obelisk (but not a ‘secret door’) is the opening to the tunnel leading to the secret door at area ‘b.’ If approached from this direction, the only possible random encounter within the tunnel are the black garbugs.

At the north corner of the chamber, in a narrow vertical crevice, are several small natural ledges and a collection of giant clam shells crammed into the rock. These hold the Sea Mother’s spellbooks, as well as her treasure. They are not split apart, but rather connected at the joint, and arranged so that the top half will lift to allow access to the inside. There are 4 of these, with the largest one at the top. This one contains all her spellbooks, and is trapped with the spine of a sea urchin. Anyone springing the trap will begin feeling numb and die in 6 rounds, unless a save vs. poison is made, or unless some other measures are taken to neutralize the poison. The remaining shells and the ledges contain the rest, consisting of: 900 silver coins; 500 gold coins; 2 large pearls (50gp ea.); 3 small pearls (25gp ea.); 10 pieces of tableware including goblets, cups and plates, of both metal and glass (10gp ea.); a silver fork(5gp); a gold comb(20gp); a silver mirror(30gp); and a spyglass(50gp). There are also numerous other items commonly found on boats and ships, but all are broken and worthless.

Grumpy Eberron - an NPC on 'Forged

Lieutenant Albrecht Jung is a young officer in the Karnnathi military. Currently, he is an artificer specialist assigned to the military garrison in Vulyar. He was brought in after the end of the Last War with an assistant and two sections of ten warforged. Their job is to assist in repairs around the badly damaged county.

"Frankly, I don't think the captain even believes thinkers exist. I've only been at Vulyar for a year. I came with my corporal and two sections of warforged to assist in the repairs. I didn't fight in the war with these men.. I've been trying hard to.. well, fit in with them. As an artificer, it is always difficult to be seen as an equal with experienced fighting men, and there is little room in my duties for my theories."

You are touring the work sites around the outlying areas of Vulyar. As you travel, Albrecht, who you realise is probably not much over 20 years old, begins to speak. "As an artificer, it is part of my vocation to understand and work with the arcane motivators of the warforged. In addition to being a sort of complex clockwork, a warforged is suffused with an enchantment which serves as its engine, which brings it to life, so to speak. These things are not completely understood by any artificer I have met, though we base our work on manipulating this. For those who produced the warforged during the war, I believe it was much like the farmer who may grow bushel upon bushel of grain, though he knows not how the seed functions."

"Anyway.. I believe that the thinkers result when various different parts or factors common to all warforged within their minds, certain opposites for example, come together in a sort of agreement. This is, perhaps, what allows them to become unique.. a thinking individual.. that these separate factors are incredibly numerous, and have come together in a unique way in each case. I have done certain experiments.. " He pauses and looks at the three of you in the party still on the wagon. "Experiments which even my assistant, Corporal Meier, does not know about.. which suggest I may be correct. Yet, I have no proof, and so far no real success."

09 February, 2011

Tekumel 7

You remove the lid from one of the boxes and peer inside. It takes a moment to process what you see, at first appearing to be some sort of reddish brown, oddly shaped roots. You then realise the box is full of mummified hearts. To the distaste of many of the identities within, the shen has to fight down the urge to devour several of them when he realises they are undoubtedly no longer good to eat.

Another box, carefully opened, reveals musty, odd smelling dirt. A third box contains a thick but semi-transparent green liquid. The liquid moves viscously within the box, but with what seems to be a disturbing delay of one or two seconds. The fourth and final chlen-hide box (in this part of the laboratory) contains what at first glance appears to be a multi-coloured bird's nest. The nest, or nests, fill the box, and the pieces making it up are long and flexible. They have a dull shine, not unlike chlen hide. At the ends of at least some of the strands are small metallic rings and needles.

Taking a precautionary step backward, you gently fling the last box top toward the large buzzing ornament. The instant you hear it contact the great central cabochon, the box top vanishes. Its disappearance is completely without spectacle - it simply and instantly ceases to exist.

What do you do now?

08 February, 2011

Motor City - This is What We Do

I was just thinking earlier today about how many bloggers and others in the osr are in the Detroit area. I know of 2 or 3 already, but I thought I'd ask.. how many of you out there are in Detroit metro? Do you have a regular DnD group?

Location b - the stones

b - the stones
In the midst of this area of grass-covered hills, on top of a hill somewhat shorter than those surrounding it, lies a group of large, rounded, heavily weathered stones with a number of large glyphs deeply incised upon each of them. These boulders are roughly 3 feet in height, and generally measure about 8 feet long by 4 feet wide, with a variance of about a foot in either direction. There are 8 of them, arranged at the points of the compass. Around the bottoms of each of these stones are a number of blunt projections, appearing somewhat like stunted legs. In the center of the arrangement of boulders is a large, circular stone, the Focus Stone. This central stone is about 12 feet in diameter, and is flat and flush with the ground. It is deeply carved with complex glyphs and long, sweeping lines and curves.

If the players are unfortunate (or unwise) enough to find themselves waking up bound to these stones, the function of the blunt projections is clear. They will be tied, immobile, with heavy woven-grass ropes to the stones, with the projections used as anchors or tie-offs. From the moment the first PC awakens, they have 1d12+10 minutes before the Sea Mother appears! She will be accompanied by 1d4+1 of her inhuman brood. They will arrive via a secret opening in the flat central Focus Stone. If the PCs have not managed to free themselves before this time, they are at least not gagged. However, they will have to be glib indeed to dissuade the Sea Mother from her intended course of action, which is, quite simply, the ritual sacrifice of all the PCs, one at a time.

The ritual begins with 1 round of casting, involving not only the Sea Mother, but all her accompanying brood as well, gathered in a tight circle around her at the center of the Focus Stone. At the end of this round, a brilliant (even if it happens to be daylight) green-white pillar of light will audibly blast upward toward the heavens, out of sight. The minions are now free to guard her, or undertake other actions, but will default to standing around the circumference of the circle while events proceed. If left to her designs, the Sea Mother will then begin using a large ceremonial knife to uncomfortably dispatch the PCs, beginning of course with any hapless henchmen or hirelings. With each sacrifice, the glyphs of the poor unfortunate’s stone glow with bright greenish light. A brilliant green-white shaft of light then springs horizontally from the blood-soaked boulder to join and strengthen the pillar of light at the center. If she completes the ritual, and some PC is somehow yet left alive (perhaps watching from a nearby hilltop, the coward!) the Sea Mother grows 3 feet in height and length, grotesquely sprouts yet another pair of arms, and gains 2 hit dice.

At the DM’s option, one last chance exists for each of the PCs as she, in turn, tries to send their souls to her dark god. If they can make a dexterity-based saving throw, they manage to interpose a woven rope between their flesh and her glittering blade. They thereby free a limb of their choice, and may begin a desperate last-ditch struggle for survival.

If the PCs arrive at the location in more agreeable circumstances, they have the usual chances to discover the secret door. Opening it will require dripping fresh blood (the door is not picky about whose) into the shallow, 6 inch bowl-like depression in the center, then using this liquid to trace 8 small glyphs on the surface of the Focus Stone. Each of these glyphs is near the perimeter, each one ‘aimed’ at one of the surrounding boulders. (Remember, the Focus Stone is bare to the elements, making any blood stains terribly faint) The Focus Stone will then grind open, iris-fashion, revealing a very steep, time-worn and lichen encrusted stone stair. The stair leads to a tunnel, which then snakes its way through the earth to location ‘d.’

The only random encounter possible in the tunnel (unless the Sea Mother knows strangers are on the island, in which case a lone brood minion may be patrolling) is black garbugs. The chance is 1 in 6 for every 30 minute period. Roll a d30 to determine when (and thus where) the encounter occurs.