Monday 28 June 2010

Miniatures Monday - The Mind Flayer

I'm sure that everyone enjoys reading Dungeonmum's Portworld stories and of course, they feature the struggle against the tentacle-faced ones. I knew that I had a Mind Flayer figure somewhere in the box and here it is.

For sheer malevolence, this figure is hard to beat. The imperious stance says that this is a guy who is used to giving orders and expects them to be carried out. The yellow eyes, although featureless, send the message that he wants your brain and he's going to get it. The head and hands have a look of burnt skin about them, blotchy and entirely unearthly. I like the finish that Andy has given the skirts of his robe - the blue really does have the look of a satin material. I really get the feeling of alien decadence about this figure. The choice of a cream for the top half of his robes really sets off the skin colour and the Ming the Merciless collar adds to the image of Uber-villain that these guys play so well.

Not many people use psionics nowadays for obvious reasons but the concept of the Mind Flayer is still a chilling one. Recent Portworld posts have shown in gruesome detail just how they go about getting to their favourite meal. In my garden, we have thrushes who crack open snail shells to get to the meat inside. I've seen it happen a couple of times, and have found the empty shells more often. There is a great degree of foreshadowing in having a party find corpses with their skulls cracked open and empty. Lets them know who's waiting for them in the depths.

And there's worse to come - just Google Ceremorphosis for the grisly details. For sheer horror value, I reckon it gives Cyberconversion and assimilation by the Borg a run for their money.

Friday 25 June 2010

Art on Friday - Gary Gianni

A big shout to Trey on this one; in one of his comments on Monday Miniatures, he mentioned Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon and when I checked it out, I was presented with the artwork of Gary Gianni. Going to his site, I found that he had done artwork for several of REH's works, the ones about which Jamie Mal frequently waxes lyrical on his blog.

His style evokes the original pulp era; the sort of imagery which, regrettably, one tends not to see so often any more. When I was young, my mother had a set of Newnes Pictorial Knowledge from 1945, reprinted from a 1936 edition. Being a bookish lad, I read them from cover to cover again and again. The illustrations of historical events sank deep into my subconscious and encounters with the style of the 30s still bring the studious child out in me. N C Wyeth (1882-1945) was another illustrator in a similar style and last week, I mentioned Maxfield Parrish.

Solomon Kane

Kane again

Conan in chains

Some Romans on the hunt for Bran Mak Morn

More Puritan sword fighting

Bran Mak Morn has a little trouble with the Romans.

Here is a sample of Wyeth's work to illustrate the tradition in which Gianni is working.

Modern illustrators are fine in their own way but sometimes, the pulp classics cry out for a certain style. Wyeth had it and Gianni carries it on.

Monday 21 June 2010

Monday Miniatures - White Dwarf, the figure.

A long time ago, when Citadel Miniatures hadn't sold out and gone all Warhammer and White Dwarf hadn't done likewise, the former produced a selection of figures based on the characters in the latter. I have Thrud the Barbarian and Gobbledigook around somewhere but this one, the actual White Dwarf from the magazine's masthead is one of my favourites because it's actually one you can use in an adventure.

It's not wholly armoured (I do have a dwarf in plate but no picture of him yet) so it's given Andy a chance to do some non-metallic finishes. The trousers and jerkin that sits over the top of what you can see of his chainmail has been done out in a pale green, lighter than Lincoln - I'd call it sage. His metal cap has a tint of steel blue about it, as does the blade of his axe. Perhaps that's the colour that dwarvish steel is. They forge in mysterious ways, you know. Just ask Carter Soles.

The beard's texture lends itself well to a bit of highlighting and the brown of this chap's face fungus (tucked into his belt, as can be seen) has been dry-brushed in a sort of very pale cafe au lait. It gives the impression, to me at least, that this is not a particularly old dwarf.

Coupled to that is the non-combat feel about his outfit that makes me think that this is a dwarf in civvies. I suppose that they would wear some sort of armour about their persons even on their days off, but this is a dwarf who is not expecting a pack of Uruk-Hai to come haring around the corner any moment soon. Maybe he's taken the opportunity to pose for some tourists - humans or maybe even hobbits who've climbed all the way to the top of the mountain to see the dwarves.

We tend to have an image of dwarves as dour fighters, handy with an axe and somehow rather Scottish (thanks for nothing, Peter Jackson) although Tolkien said that he viewed them more like Jews - "at once native and alien in their habitations, speaking the languages of the country, but with an accent due to their own private tongue..."
(letter from Tolkien to Naomi Mitchison, 8th December 1955).

Jews with axes - interesting image. I've always imagined them in rather similar vein, having read that letter a long time ago (nearly 30 years now) although the notions of dwarves and beer remain inextricably linked in my mind. Not sure why - were they big drinkers in Tolkien or have I got my cliches mixed up again?

Saturday 19 June 2010

Hooks you can bank on

In this article, I’ll be offering up a glut of hooks, seventeen in fact, that involve bankers and banks in their various shapes and forms.

From the Lavish family in Terry Pratchett’s Making Money to Mauthis of Valint and Balk in the works of Joe Abercrombie, bankers in fantasy literature get short shrift from authors, and if we were to take a straw poll of gamers as to the image of money men in their campaign settings, we’d probably get words like greedy, amoral, sinister, scheming, with ‘evil’ popping in for good measure.

For sure, the events of the past couple of years have not done bankers many favours, yet the banking world is ripe with potential for tricky situations to throw in front of your players. These hooks should show that a bank is no longer just a place for the players to stash their gold, but a force in its own right with machinations and plans to match.

As usual, feel free to yoink as you wish; there should be plenty in here to keep you happy. Oh, and the tone of these banks is rather more modern than a strictly mediaeval setting would allow, so simulationists, stop reading now.

The party is out in the wilds, on their way to somewhere, when they detect something odd not too far off in some woods. As they approach, they smell the scent of rotting meat and when they arrive, they disturb crows and flies busy feasting on a collection of corpses. The bodies are fresh, only a day or so dead and they bear all the hallmarks of grotesque torture. There is, however, no sign of robbery, despite the bodies all being richly dressed and their jewellery and money still on them.

DM note:
The bodies are those of the bank’s head of operations and his staff who were out on a hunting trip before a big shipment of gold and gems is due to arrive in a few days’ time. Enquiries at the bank will be fruitless but a reward for the return of the bodies will be offered and another for the capture of the killers will be extended.

The twist is that the bankers were tortured not for any information they might have but to make it look as if they had given that information up. The delivery point for the gold and gems was too heavily fortified and secure to be raided but the bank had a back-up location in case anything went wrong and it is this second location that the killers have penetrated, albeit at a very low level. Anything is better than nothing, of course, and they had to prompt the bank to change the delivery point. Making it look as if the first venue was compromised was the perfect way to do it.

The party, if interested in the reward for tracking the killers, must find clues (there will be some but they will be obscure and difficult to understand) and follow the trail. The bank will not want to admit that its security systems are flawed.

A new and efficient security manager at the bank’s central office is keen to keep his subordinates on their toes. He hires the party to go to a distant town and test the security of the local branch by planning and staging a fake robbery. He will give the party a letter of authority that they can present to the local manager if things go wrong.

All is as presented. The security manager is on the level and really does want to test the local branch’s security. If the party play by the rules, nothing should go wrong. Except…

The local branch manager is keen on security too. So much so that he has a deal with the local thieves’ guild that he pays them an annual retainer and they ‘guarantee’ the safety of his bank. If he gets wind of the party planning a robbery (which he may well do if the party is not smart), he will assume that this is an unauthorised band of thieves trespassing on the guild’s territory and inform his contacts therein. The party will then have an angry group of thieves after them. If the manager does not twig what the party are up to, perhaps the thieves’ guild spies will do so.

A two-way hook: a sewer rat (an urchin or vagabond living in the sewers) or a small fry thief broke into an underground vault only to find it empty. He left again, careless of his own security since the vault was a dud. Except it wasn’t. It belonged to the city bank and should have been full of gold, backing up the national currency. However, through foolish investments, bad judgements or just profligacy, the bank has run out of gold and would rather no-one found out or the entire currency would collapse and chaos would sweep the city and the kingdom. The authorities realise the gravity of this and will aid the bank in keeping things hushed up.

The bank wants the party to track down the sewer rat and silence him (although they invent some cover story as to why this needs to happen)

The sewer rat is a friend or relative of one of the party and comes to them for aid when he realises that assassins are on his tail. The police/city guard/etc are in on it and have orders to detain and eliminate all who are with him in case he’s blabbed. Cue massive paranoia.

The party must rescue a bank clerk captured by humanoids. He knows the bank’s activities and needs to be rescued before he can be tortured to give them up, causing financial mayhem for thousands.
Twist – the clerk actually knows all about the bank’s illegal/illicit dealings and they want him silenced before he spills the beans. The party is only there to provide cover for an assassin who has been charged by the bank with knocking the clerk off. And of course the assassin will vanish the moment the clerk is dead, leaving the party to carry the can.

A paladin and a lawful good cleric approach the party. A banker has bought up nearly the entire town and is squeezing it hard, turning it into a den of vice and greed. Only one man can stand against him and rally the townsfolk but he has been falsely implicated in a financial scandal and has disappeared. The party must find him, save him and use him to get the townsfolk to rise up against the banker (but without impersonating guardian angels).
Twist – the banker has a party of adventurers of his own, who match the party man for man and are out looking for the quarry.

The hard-nosed chief of the bank is running it as if it were his own private kingdom, corrupt and oppressive. A group of LG clerics approach the party and ask for help in arranging a Damascene conversion for the banker. He is very heavily guarded and a hard-nosed cynic and rationalist to boot (money is his love, full stop). Persuading him of a miracle is therefore doubly difficult.

Linked to 6
The chief of a large bank has suddenly got religion after a strange experience and is instituting an overhaul of the bank’s finance system to make it more ethical. This has greatly alarmed the bank’s officials who would rather it stayed the lucrative way it is, thanks. The party need to disenchant him, or failing that, eliminate him. Unfortunately, the chief is now best friends with senior church figures, delighted by his change of heart and philanthropy and are keen to protect him.

The new King, young and idealistic, is horrified to find that his kingdom is in hock to a powerful bank to the tune of millions. They are stymieing his ideas for social change and financial reform at every turn. He cannot trust anyone in his administration, having found out already that several of his officials are in debt to the bank as well, and therefore has turned to outsiders, namely the party. He needs them to investigate the bank and find out who runs it and how he can get his kingdom back. The party has its work cut out since the bank has tentacles everywhere and is not averse to swatting irritating little insects.

The bank has its eyes on property on the riverfront and would like to acquire it and clear it for luxury housing. Unfortunately, it is covered in old warehouses, derelict buildings etc and is infested with vagabonds, thieves, thugs and refugees from justice. Think Dickensian London’s slum underbelly. For a share of the new development, the party must work out a way to start the clearances without angering the city authorities who are happy to let sleeping dogs lie and don’t want the King finding out just how awful that area of the city had been allowed to become and what happened to all the funds they had been given to sort it out.

The bank’s strongroom is often used for storing valuables and other items that customers would like to keep secret. This has backfired on the bank because something in a casket has escaped and is now trapped inside the bank, which has been closed down and locked with the highest security. Rumours have got out that other strongroom items are compromised and the bank wants the party to go in and neutralise the thing and restore full security. They don’t know what it is, because of customer confidentiality and they are sending in a bank employee to make sure that the party do just what they have been told and don’t go anywhere that they should not.
Not that there is anything they shouldn’t see. The bank is law-abiding and everything is above board. Wink wink.

Imagine the looks on the party’s faces when they arrive back in town, stuffed with hard-earned gold and magic items, only to be arrested for theft.
What has happened is that the bank has had a clear-out of its old vaults and has found, stuffed away with the yellowing documents and other parchments, deeds to the land on which stands the very dungeon that the party have just raided. Keen to protect its investment, the bank is looking into sealing it off for its own investigation but in the meantime, some of those pesky adventurers need to be made an example of. And of course the bank has plenty of money to hire top lawyers, investigators, muscle, etc.

A local bank manager has been visiting old people on their last legs who owe money to the bank, and agreeing instead to write off their debts in return for some of the old junk that old folk have lying around their houses. Now his vaults are stuffed with all sorts of stuff, both valuable and completely useless. Chances are that one of the old folk had a son or grandson who was probably looking forward to inheriting and now sees their legacy sitting in the bank. Or perhaps something that one of the oldies acquired (perhaps when they were young adventurers themselves) is in fact rather valuable and desired by all sorts of interested parties.

An impoverished nobleman (of whom there seems to be an endless supply) seeks to marry into money and has borrowed a great deal of money from a local moneylender. However, his intended and her family would be horrified if they knew and so he has decided to smear the moneylender and have them arraigned for treason or some such. Their assets will then be confiscated and his debts go up in smoke.

He needs the party to fabricate some really juicy evidence of high treason against the moneylender in question (of course, the moneylender has plenty of debtors who he can use to help him)

The moneylender himself offers to hire the party to uncover the conspiracy against him.

If the DM doesn’t mind something a little contentious, the moneylender could belong to a particular ethnic group and the nobleman could start whipping up prejudice and hatred, hoping that a handy pogrom could sweep away his troubles.

The authorities are perturbed when it is rumoured that a big bank (that has branches in more or less every town on the continent) is eyeing up the city bank for a take-over. Hostile, probably. Surely there is something the party can do? The big bank has bands of mercenaries that could get rid of ‘uncooperative elements’ and its links to business and merchants mean that it can use economic muscle if military power doesn’t work.

A woman approaches the party, very concerned about her husband who works at a major city bank. He puts in long hours and works hard to improve his position. Just recently, there has been talk of him joining the Senior Partners as recognition for all his hard work. He should be delighted. So why is he terrified?
The truth is that the Senior Partners are all vampires. They monitor the best employees and then turn them, recruiting them into the Partnership. Those who join are never seen again, except perhaps very late at night, getting into carriages with blacked-out windows. The families of new partners are given generous pensions…seemingly forever. Some pensions are paid out to grandchildren of partners.
The vampires, having such long perspectives, make much better decisions than those who have only a few years to see the fruits of their actions. In fact, the bank is very good at what it does, but the partnership prefers to keep a low profile. Nor are they evil as such – they regard their unlife as a way of carrying on doing what they do best. For sure, they feed but only on poorly-performing employees and general low-life that the bank has a problem with generally.

As can be imagined, they would be less than pleased if the truth got out about their bank. Religious bodies and ignorant masses might start causing great trouble and that would be a shame, considering just how much the bank has invested in the kingdom over the centuries.

The bank is in trouble. Loans have been made that can’t possibly be paid back, confidence is waning. The King has been advised to send in the auditors to sort things out.
Of course, these are no ordinary auditors. They’re more like the worst debt collection agency you’ve ever seen. They have heavy duty help in the form of invisible stalkers and demons. They take souls in lieu of money if the borrower can’t pay. The law means nothing to these guys because they answer to a higher authority. And if their fees can’t be made up from what they recover, they make up the difference in some very unpleasant ways.
I hope the party don’t owe the bank anything.

The war in the south between State A and State B seems to be endless. Well, actually there’s no ‘seems’ about it. It is endless. Every time there looks like peace on the horizon, something happens to derail the peace process and the war breaks out all over again. It’s almost like someone doesn’t want it to end.
And that someone is the bank. Yes, for years innumerable, the bank has been sending supplies of weapons, mercenaries, agents provocateur etc to the war zone to ensure that there will be no peace until both sides have fought each other to a standstill and there is a desolate wasteland instead of two prosperous states. A wasteland that will be very cheap to buy up; lots of resources just lying around waiting for a visionary bank to grab and exploit. Lots of lovely property to develop. Through middle men, the bank has approached the party to either run weapons into the war zone, provoke another truce breakdown or just get down there and get their blades wet.

Bad bank.

Friday 18 June 2010

Art on Friday

Today, I'd like to draw your attention, if it hasn't been drawn already, to the art of David Palumbo.

Not this one. Not that I'm saying he's not a good artist. I wouldn't want to offend anyone with muscles as wide as me.

No, his namesake. Someone not quite so...knotty. These pictures give a good idea of Palumbo's style and a demonstration of his superb talent. I'll let the art speak for itself, but do pop over to his site and take a look at the other stuff that is there.

I like this one and I reckon it could double as a picture of Drusetta from Dungeonmum's excellent Portworld fiction.

This one has the look of the 1920s about it, which leads me in to this piece from the great Maxfield Parrish, which has a hint of Palumbo about it.

And of course to show that there is nothing new under the sun, the Parrish piece was referenced by Enya for her album The Memory of Trees.

Pop in tomorrow when I'll have some more hooks for you.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Solo Dungeon Session 3 (or, this dungeon kills parties)

To cut a long story short, you (that is, Old 4 Eyes, Ruarigh and Dungeonmum) committed our brave stalwarts to Death or Glory. Well, to cut a short story even shorter, the next two rounds saw Sanathris and Wulfram ground down by the rats until they fell beneath the furry horde. Nasty way to go, that. Perhaps Garamar should have cast Find Familiar and hoped for a cat...

A week or so later, in town, Bishop Cuthbert summons one of his clerics, Flynn to his office. He informs him that they have lost contact with the colony on LB426...oh, sorry, wrong story, with Sister Sanathris and Brother Algo.

"Your mission, Flynn, should you choose to accept it, and since I am your Bishop" (ooh, another Aliens reference) "you have no choice, is to seek out the dungeon in which they were lost and bring back what is left of them for a decent burial. Right, off you go."

Flynn, a wise but not particularly bright cleric gathers his bits and bobs and sets off for the tavern where he hopes to recruit five brave adventurers for a bit of dungeon-delving. Let's see who he gets to come out and play...

There's Nigal the gnome thief, studded leather and a short sword (well, short for everyone else, that is)

Gavurak the half-orc fighter, longsword, bow, armour class 5

Dirk Average (there's a name I've not used in a long time) AC8 due to bad dexterity, short sword.

Chumley the magic user, AC10, darts and daggers, spells are Read Magic, Enlarge, Dancing Lights and Find Familiar.

Cassis (he says it's pronounced Cass-eese)the half-elf Magic-User/Thief, leather armour, dagger, sling, short sword. Spells are Read Magic, Magic Missile, Shield and Unseen Servant.

Well, that's the gallant party for the latest session. So far, we've lost eight dead in two sessions.

Off they set to the dungeon, two days' travel as before. On the first day (or should I say night) the dice decree an interesting encounter around midnight - merchants. Why, I ask myself, should merchants be skulking around at the witching hour? There's a story there, but I daresay we'll find out later, or perhaps one of you will chip in with a good idea.

The next day, further into the wilds, there are no further encounters. The party arrives at the dungeon entrance. You will recall that Room 1 has a choice of five doors. This being a brand new party, I'll roll to see which one they choose.

3 - a door that has not been chosen before. Let's see what's behind it. A room, 20' x 30', three exits, all on the far wall. Contents are treasure and monsters!

The treasure rolls give us 250gp and 1000sp, which is not bad stash for a 1st level party, provided they can find and keep it. Unfortunately, the eleven kobolds in the room might have other ideas. The party listen at the door, hear voices and decide to plan ahead. They pour oil all over the floor in front of the door and fall back to near the steps, missile weapons at the ready.

They start shouting and banging their weapons and out come the kobolds. The party lets the first six or so come across the oil, then set it ablaze, the final five taking 1d6 damage each. Three perish at once, two are blazing but still alive. They dive back through the door and shut it behind them.

Cassis, Chumley and Gavurak open fire with sling, darts and bow. Two kobolds hit the floor. The kobolds and the party clash into melee.

One kobold hits Dirk and does two damage. Dirk hits and kills his kobold. Everyone else in the melee misses.

There are now four kobolds against four characters - Flynn is hit for 3 damage and falls to zero. None of the party hits.

Round three - the party have much better luck this time, Cassis (coming in to take over from Flynn), Dirk and Gavurak hitting and now there is only one kobold standing, on 1hp. The alignment of the party is predominantly CN, with Flynn more or less out cold, so they dispatch him quick sharp.

First combat and victory to the party! Flynn casts a Cure Light and gets his HP back.

XP earned comes out to more or less 15 per member, except for Nigal, who gets 8. The treasure goes into the party kitty.

Okay, so which door to try next? The party try the far right one and the dice say that there is a passage straight ahead, running for 30' before the next check.

That check tells us that the passage turns 90 degrees and at its end, another chamber, 20 x 30 feet, zero exits and empty of treasure and monsters. Ah well, back to room 5.

A check of the middle door tells us that the space beyond is another room, this time 40 feet by 40 feet. Number of exits is zero. It contains monsters and treasure but a die roll tells me that the treasure is hidden in a secret room nearby. The monster in question is a pack of nine giant rats. Alerted to the furry menace, the party use the last of their oil bombs to fry most and scatter the rest.

Unfortunately the die rolls to find a secret door are pretty bad and the party returns to room 1 without having found anything.

Let's try another door. The motto of this dungeon is "There's always another door to try" and we know where most of them lead, don't we?

The d4 with the attitude decrees that the party try door 1 - another untried option. What lies beyond? Well, the dice tell me it's a room, unusual shape and size - how unusual? Will a 2000sq foot oval do you? It has two exits but I'm going to put them on as displayed on the map because they won't really fit anywhere else.

I roll for contents and guess what? Monsters and treasure! The treasure is 1000cp and 750ep in pottery jars, no hidey, and guarding it is a gang of nine orcs!

Yay, mass combat! And we're out of oil bombs!

It might get a bit confused and the figures might go a bit wibbly-wobbly but stick with it and here we go.

Round One, and as the orcs come hurtling towards the party, Cassis finally remembers he's got Magic Missile and fires it for three damage. Chumley hurls a dart and misses. Gavurak (being a half-orc, does he have a conflict of interests here?) fires his arrows, hits with one and does two damage.

Clash! And battle is joined. One orc hits, and does three damage against Gavurak. Another hits Nigal for three damage. Gavurak hits and kills an orc, Chumley wields the dagger like a madman and does three damage, Cassis clips Orc number 6 for 1 damage.

Round 2 - it's all melee now, no chance for missile weapons. An orc hits Gavurak for six damage, knocking him spinning into a pool of blood on the floor. The party fight for their lives, Cassis clipping Orc 6 again for another 1hp, Chumley hits and kills orc number 3, Dirk does 2 damage on the fourth orc. Flynn misses.

Round 3 - Cassis gets the business end of an orc spear for six damage, Dirk does five damage to orc 2 and Flynn follows this up with a footman's mace blow to the head that sends it into the arms of Gruumsh.

Round 4 - an orc manages to get Nigal with a hammer blow that floors the gnome, leaving him on -2. Chumley gets 2 damage against orc 4, Dirk kills orc 7 with five damage, Flynn sends another one to the floor with six damage.

Round 5 - with Cassis on -6, Gavurak the same and Nigal on -3, things are not looking quite so rosy for the party. Still, press on...

An orc knocks Chumley to the floor, reducing him to zero. All three party members miss.

Round 6 - the tough orc who hasn't really been hit yet knocks Flynn down to zero but before that, the doughty cleric has killed orc number 4 (at last). Dirk misses his attack but is determined to do better next time.

Round 7 - Chumley and Flynn crawl across to the fallen party members and start to bring them round for a bit of first aid. Dirk squares up to the orcs and with a 19, he inflicts 4 damage on orc number 1, killing it. For all his toughness, the surviving orc legs it.

Round 8 - with all Flynn's Cure Lights used, the party is now on the following hp

Chumley 0
Flynn 0
Dirk 8
Cassis 2
Garuvak 1
Nigal 0

Party kitty is


XP for the orcs is 20 per party member, added to the earlier totals gives all but Nigal 35, the gnome on 23.

They're not getting any worse but they're not going to get any better for quite a while. The only sensible course of action is to make haste for room 6, where they can rest up, Flynn can pray for more Cure Lights and they can ready themselves for the next session.

So, with no obvious choice for party action this time, perhaps we could have a think as to what those merchants were up to at midnight? All options will be given a good hearing.

LATE EDIT - it being midnight by the time I'd finished the post, I'd forgotten to give you the next two tables in the Random Dungeon Generator. Here they are:

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Solo Dungeon Session 2

Taking the advice of both commenters on the last post, the party decides that it would be a good idea to head back towards the entrance. So that's three hundred and forty feet, checking for anything untoward every sixty feet or so.

That works out at five checks, so let's roll the d20 of doom. Remember that because we're going back over known territory, we'll only pay attention to a 20, which means wandering monster.

1st roll, 5.
2nd roll 15
3rd roll 19 - ooh, a close one.
4th roll 5
5th roll 4

And off they set to town, which I'm ruling is a couple of days' travel away. It always seemed odd to me to have a base town literally on the doorstep of the dungeon. And it never got raided by monsters wondering where all these guys in armour kept coming from.

According to the DMG, page 47, there is a 1 in 10 chance of an encounter, morning, evening and midnight. I roll the d10 for day one and it tells me that there is an encounter in the morning. A check on page 184 of the DMG tells me that a pack of wild dogs is encountered, but they lope off after a couple of arrows have been fired at them.
Day Two sees an encounter in the evening. The dice are rolled (page 186 this time as it's an inhabited or patrolled area) and Leprechaun comes up. They would probably not have anything to do with the party at present, so nothing happens.

Morning of Day Three and they reach town. I turn to the town encounters table of the DMG and roll 11, City Guard. Well, that makes sense.

On the way to the tavern, I roll and get Band of Mercenaries. The party tags along, figuring that this is the best way to get new recruits.

At the tavern, a roll of 18 reveals that City Officials are there. Possibly tax inspectors? I roll a d6 to check their attitude, 1 being very friendly, 6 being the exact opposite. A 6 comes up - the officials are hostile. I wonder why? Perhaps they don't like mercenaries and think the party is associated with them.

I'll say that 1d3 days pass by before they can recruit two new members for the party. A quick roll shows that it is 3 days. Money is getting low now, so let's hope they find some gold on their next dungeon crawl.

I'll roll three random encounters for the three days - I get Cleric, Pilgrim and Tradesman. Maybe the city has a popular shrine and the tradesman is a relic seller. The character of the city is slowly starting to emerge.

Two new characters present themselves to join the group.

Wulfram the dwarven fighter, a tough guy with 10hp who I've given AC5 and a battle axe and crossbow.

and Hendrix the magic user, whose spells I rolled up as

Read Magic
Unseen Servant

It doesn't take a genius to know that he's memorising Sleep. Garamar is looking a bit envious of the new guy's spell book. Hendrix has the habitual daggers and darts.

Off to the gate then. Rolls of 54, 00 and 08 tell us that another band of mercenaries is at the tavern or thereabouts (perhaps there's a war on or for some reason, lots of soldiers are needed), a werewolf (but the party don't know this, of course) and a beggar at the gate to whom Brother Algo gives a silver piece.

Rolls for countryside encounters reveal gnomes at more or less the same place where they encountered the leprechaun on Day 2. Clearly there is activity by the little people in this area.
Day 7 sees the party encounter a nest of large spiders but they wisely steer clear when they see the webs.

Day 8 - back to the Dungeon. Let's roll the periodic check dice again and see if something nasty encounters the party on their way back to the point at which Athgal was crushed by the rocks.

1st check 10
2nd check 16
3rd check 19 - close; there's clearly something about that area.
4th check 20 - encounter!

The encounter happens about sixty feet before the trap so just by the secret door but probably more likely to be that door on the right that they decided to bypass.

They're on level 1, so I'll check the table and roll - a 6 tells me to check the 1st level monster chart from which a roll of 56 reveals that a group of orcs has appeared through the door. Yay! First encounter and it's an OSR classic. Encounter number is 7-12, so 1d6 gives me a 1, plus 6 is seven orcs. As the party draw their weapons, Hendrix casts his sleep spell. He rolls his d4 and gets 3,2,1 and 1 which is exactly seven. Down go the orcs and the party quickly put paid to them.

Each individual orc has treasure type L, which is 2d6 electrum pieces, and some quick d6 rolling tells me that the total garnered by the party is 44ep.

Now we have a choice - go down the corridor from which the orcs issued or press on in their original direction. They're a fresh party but they've just shot off their only sleep spell. The next combat may be tougher as a result. However, the way they were going is equally uncertain.

I'll let the dice decide again - 1-3 onwards, 4-6 down the orc passage. I roll a 2, so onwards it is.

Sixty feet after the trap that killed Athgal, there is a chamber. I roll its size, which gives me 20 feet by 20 feet. I'll check for exits - a roll of 19 on the exits table tells me there is one. The direction is straight ahead, and it's a door. The contents table reveals that the room is empty.

The party moves on nervously, in case any more orcs appear. Their new marching order is

1. Ralgaz
2. Algo
3. Garamar
4. Hendrix
5. Sanathris
6. Wulfram

Now we roll for the space beyond the door and I get a 10 - 45 degrees passage behind/ahead. It can't be behind, so it has to be ahead. A d6 tells me it heads left. Thirty feet further on, another periodic check reveals another side passage, 45degrees right this time. I wonder where that goes?

The party decides to bypass it and press on but thirty feet further on, they come to another side passage, this time on the left, curving and 45 degrees. I'm not sure exactly what the DMG means by this, but I think it looks like this

Note by my use of the letter D that an 18 on the periodic check table gives us a dead end. The party turn around and head back to the junction. A quick d6 check tells me that they decide to investigate the 45 degree side passage that they passed thirty feet back.

As they wend their way down this passage, a die roll reveals that it forks into a Y junction. Always the choices, this dungeon. The party decide (okay, the dice decide) to go left. Thirty feet on, the dice reveal that they have come to a chamber. Further rolls tell me that it is 20 by 30 feet, with two exits and there is something in it - monster and treasure.

Table 5G lets me make two treasure rolls because of the presence of the monster, I get 97 and 37. That's a piece of jewellery per level and 1000sp per level. The treasure is in metal urns and let's see what's protecting it?

Well, it's a trapdoor six feet in front of the treasure. The party has no thief. I'll just check to see what the monster is. On table 1, my percentile dice say that the party has encountered shriekers. They've never seen them before and go blundering in with their torches. Of course, the shriekers do their stuff and before long, something is coming.

Before that, however, I need to dice up who goes to investigate the treasure. 1d3 of the party will probably do so - a roll tells me that one person will get caught by the trapdoor. The dice say it's Brother Algo. His intelligence is only 6, so that probably explains it. Down the hole he goes, and takes a d6 of damage. It comes up a 5 and Algo is on -1.

The party rushes forward to see if they can get their comrade out of the hole before his hit points ebb towards -10. As they are uncoiling their rope, there is a scuttling and scurrying sound; they turn and see ten giant rats coming at them. The fight is on and Hendrix wishes he still has his sleep spell.

Round 1, Sanathris misses.
Ralgaz misses.
Garamar hits with an 18 and does 1 point of damage. The rat had 2hp.
Hendrix misses
Wulfram misses

Rat attack! They need 10 or better to hit the magic users, 15 to hit AC5, 14 to hit AC6

Ralgaz takes 1hp damage and is down to 5
Sanathris is safe
Garamar takes 2hp and is at zero.
Hendrix takes 6 damage and is now at -4
Wulfram is not hit.

Round 2
Algo is on -2 now and there are still 10 rats.
Sanathris hits and does 3 damage to a rat that has 4hp
Ralgaz, Garamar and Wulfram all miss.

The rats carry on gnawing. Ralgaz takes a hit, 1 damage means he's on 4hp
Garamar takes 2 damage and is down to -2
Sanathris takes a hit and she loses 2hp, down to 6.
Wulfram escapes damage.

Round 3 - ten rats versus three characters. Holy Moly!
Algo is on -3, Hendrix on -5

Sanathris hits, kills her rat.
Ralgaz misses.
Wulfram hits and kills his rat.

Eight rats launch their attacks. Sanathris is lucky - no hits. Ralgaz is hit by all three (19,16 and 15) and takes five damage - he's now on -1
Wulfram takes a hit and suffers three damage. He's now on 7.

So, we have a decision to make. There are only two members of the party left standing. They face eight rats. What should they do?

Fight it out and risk a TPK?
Run for it, leaving their comrades to be rat food?
Some other cunning plan?

Your suggestions are welcomed, and as always, I'll go with the consensus.

And here are the next two tables in the Random Dungeon Generator series. Collect them all and play along at home.

Tuesday 8 June 2010


"Dear Enemy, I curse you and hope something slightly unpleasant happens to you. Like an onion falling on your head."


D&D goes into scant detail about curses. On page 47 of the Player’s Handbook, we have the Spell “Remove Curse”. It’s a third level cleric spell, which means that a cleric must be fifth level, a Prefect, in order to cast it.

The spell itself is reversible and therefore can be used to bestow curses. But what curses are there to bestow?

The bestow curse spell in D&D lasts for one turn per level of the caster, and will do such things as
*Lower an ability of the victim to 3
*Reduce the victim’s to hit and saving throws by –4
*Cause the victim to drop whatever it is that they are holding

Or, as the book says “it is possible for a cleric to devise his or her own curse and it should be similar in power to those shown”

I must admit that those seem pretty mild by comparison to the sort of curses that chill the blood and strike fear into those who suffer them. No need to go off on a quest to lift a curse that’s going to expire anyway in five turns.

What we need is something beefier, something that is really going to put the wind up those who get on the wrong side of a curser.

I propose the following:

A curse is a conduit through which the malicious intentions of one person are empowered by dark energies and inflicted on another. A curser channels the energies and binds them into a protocol that remains in force until it is either lifted or its victim dies. The agencies of darkness who grant the curser raw power to create a curse may well feed off the misery that it causes. Prolonged contact with both books of curse lore and the agencies of darkness will warp, corrode and corrupt a curser so that in the end, they pay a heavy price for wielding such terrible power.

(a possible method of representing this in game terms is to deduct a point of Charisma for every year that the curser practices their art and, if Sanity rules are being used, a commensurate deduction from that as well)

Levels of Intensity

A curse can come in three forms, mild, medium and severe:

For a mild curse, the curser need only know the name of the cursee and something about them to distinguish them for the curse.
For a medium curse, the curser needs to see the cursee and have touched something of theirs at some point in the past seven days
For a severe curse, the curser must have in their hand at the time of cursing a piece of the cursee, although this can be as small as a fingernail or lock of hair.

Curses that only come in mild forms tend to be those cast by hedge cursers, such as sterility and/or miscarriage in both humans and animals and inducing blight and disease in crops. More powerful cursers tend to view these as mere cantrips and not worthy of attention.

A curse can also be placed on an object that the cursee will take into their possession. In this case, the curser need only fulfil the conditions of the minor curse, place the curse (of whatever intensity) upon the object and the victim must freely accept it into their possession or home.

Of course, the victim, if they discover that an object is the source of a curse, may just get rid of it. To overcome this problem, the curser will often use either the Affinity curse or the Return Curse.

An Affinity curse can be cast upon the object to ensure that the cursee feels a strange affinity for the object and will be reluctant to part with it.

The Return curse ensures that even if the cursee gets rid of the cursed object, it will make its way back to them by a strange set of circumstances.

The different types of curser.

There are several levels of curser:

1.Hedge Curser – the crazy old woman in the last house in the village, knows a few incantations but just how powerful are they?

2.Curser – knows the proper incantations but is still a novice in the true art of cursing and tapping the dark powers that fuel the really powerful imprecations.

3.Maledictor – has studied for at least five years, often under a more senior curser.

4.Imprecator – has studied for at least fifteen years, learning from an execrator and has taught an apprentice, either a curser or a maledictor.

5.Execrator – feared and shunned by all except those who really need their services. Their contact with dark power has scarred both body and soul and a cold detachment enables them to do what they do with little regard for the consequences. They often have a court of minor cursers, maledictors and at least one imprecator, who they will be nurturing and tutoring to take their place when life finally ebbs from their wracked bodies.

Each level gives more abilities regarding the curse, including the ability to strengthen the curse so that it is harder to lift.

The above are the base percentages of casting the specific level of curse correctly first time.

These are the percentages for casting the curse correctly first time.

Lifting the curse

There is a chance that the curse may be lifted, but it requires either
 the consent of the curser – to find them and persuade them to do so is a task in itself;
 the possession of a curse object if it is bound to the owner;
 the possession of a curse object if it is cursed to return to them.

In both the latter cases, it may well be that the object has been made invisible so that the victim has precious little chance of finding it.

The above percentages assume that the lifter is of the same level as the curser. For every level that they are above the curser, add 10% and for every level below, deduct 10%

The chance of lifting the curse decreases with the length of time that the cursee has been under the curse. For every six months that the victim has been under the curse, 10% is deducted from the lifting roll.

Various magical protections, charms, talismans and such like will lower the chance of a successful curse casting and increase the chances that a curse can be lifted.

A curser may also impose conditions on a curse that, if fulfilled, will dissolve it. This added level of complexity reduces the chance of success by 10% although successful fulfilment of the conditions automatically lifts the curse, no further roll required.

Sample Curses

"Dear Enemy, may the lord hate you and all your kind. May you turn orange in hue, and may your head fall off at an awkward moment."


The following curses are examples of how one curse can be intensified by degree. There are twelve here, but with three levels of intensity for each, it’s really thirty-six curses.

A rash of irritating health problems will plague the victim’s family and friends.

The victim’s family and friends will suffer debilitating and painful illnesses which will plague but not kill them.

The victim’s family and friends are struck down with horrible diseases which will kill them in a matter of days

The victim is hit with a series of bills that must be paid at once, even though they can’t afford it

Several things go wrong at once that will cost a lot to repair and will get more expensive to rectify if delayed.

A financial meltdown means that the victim’s investments are wiped out and the value of any property they hold goes through the floor

The victim rolls each to hit roll twice and take the lower of the two rolls. On a 1, rather than a fumble, the weapons shatters or breaks.

On every to hit roll, a score of 5 or less means that the victim’s weapon shatters or breaks

Every single weapon that the victim touches will shatter in combat, break or malfunction in a way that will damage the wielder

Incessant rain accompanies the character everywhere he goes.

When the character stops for more than 12 hours in the same place, a ferocious storm hits that place.

High winds and torrential rain strike in a five-mile radius of the character’s location at all times.

If the character is in a relationship, it is plagued by arguments and if a remark or conversation can be taken the wrong way, it is.

A close friend of the character is gravely offended by something the character says and becomes an implacable foe

Inadvertently, the character has offended his home town/tribe/family, who decide that the offence is so grave, it must be expunged. Permanently

Cats and dogs hiss and bark at the character whenever they see him

The character is subject to attacks from predatory animals. Other animals flee at the sight of him

No animal will come within a quarter-mile of the character

Food and drink taste slightly iffy if consumed by the character and his friends.

Any food and drink in the same house as the character starts to putrefy at once

Any foodstuffs within a mile radius of the character begin the process of putrefaction

Everyone around the character starts to have bad dreams that cause sleepless nights and fatigue

Elements of the bad dreams start to manifest as shadowy and intangible reality

The nightmare sufferers find that they wake to find themselves stuck in the dream with no hope of escape

The victim starts to obsess over their appearance, finding flaws and blemishes where there are none

The victim is convinced that they are a malignantly ugly version of themselves and resort to stranger and wilder remedies in order to combat this.

The victim now sees their image in any reflection as a hideous apparition and will destroy all mirrors and avoid reflections wherever possible.

The victim starts to become lucky. All his to hits get +1 as do his saving throws. He wins at gambling more times than he loses, seems always to be in the right place at the right time for freebies and good fortune. However, with the increase in luck comes a commensurate decrease in popularity as he suffers a penalty of 10% on reaction rolls

The victim is now very lucky. His rolls have a +2 bonus and in his daily life, it is almost as if plums are dropping into his lap. However, his image in the eyes of everyone else is worsening by the day. He suffers a 20% penalty on all reaction rolls and the initial reaction of anyone meeting him is antipathetic.

The victim is now uncannily lucky. His rolls get a +3 and the sort of good fortune that happens to him defies the odds of probability. He is however reviled by all who meet him; no-one wishes to have anything to do with him. He has a 30% penalty on reaction rolls and the initial reaction of anyone meeting him is hostile to say the least.

The victim becomes fixated with a certain locale or landmark and will somehow find himself passing it or visiting it sufficiently often that it becomes odd. If he is somehow prevented from doing so, he will experience symptoms of disquiet and anxiety

The victim now thinks about the locale or landmark a great deal and can see it clearly in his mind even when he is not there. When he passes it or is nearby, he is inclined to stay there, and leaving it will cause shaking, sweating and palpitations.

The victim can see the landmark all the time, in dreams and with his eyes closed. He cannot move further than a few dozen yards without very severe headaches and nausea. If he turns away from looking at it, he will shake with a very severe anxiety attack.

Friends and relatives start to have trouble remembering the victim’s name and personal details. He will find others helping themselves to his belongings although they are not sure why.

The victim’s name and personal details are unknown to his friends and relatives although they still recognise him but only through a nagging sense of familiarity. If he insists that he is known to them, they will become hostile and drive him away. If he has done anything notable in the past year, it is now attributed to someone else who was there at the time. Anything he owns is now believed to be the property of others.

The victim is not recognised or known by anyone who he knows. There are no records to be found of his existence or past history. If he has sired any children or done anything significant, those achievements have disappeared, to be replaced either by nothing or by an alternative version of events.

I hope that you find this article useful for livening up curses. They can make very interesting situations for characters and with a little imagination can really ruin a party's day.

Happy Cursing!