Saturday 29 January 2011

It's here!

Just got my copy of Joe Abercrombie's The Heroes. Can't wait to start reading it. Lots of sharp weapons, lots of swearing, lots of blood. Oh yeah, colour me happy!

Oh, did I mention that this is my 200th post?

Tuesday 25 January 2011

An Adventure for Every Monster - Ant, Giant

This adventure takes place in a section of city sewers or a quiet area of the dungeon where there is an underground river. A colony of giant ants has made its nest here and now they have got onto the wrong side of a pack of giant rats, led by a group of were-rats who are trying to flood them out by building a dam and diverting an underground river or sewer.

The ants will try to use their hive mind to contact the party to see if they can take on the rats and save the ants’ nest. The ants will offer any treasure that they have to the party as reward (the ants have no need for it but they know that humans value it). This contact may take the form of crude telepathic communication (images and suggestions) or – if you want something truly memorable - the ants can use their smaller brethren to move corpses around using manipulation of muscles, pumping of lungs and tweaking of vocal chords. It might make an interesting sight if the party mistake this for a zombie or some such. They may also try using scratchings on the walls of tunnels or arranging detritus into arrows or basic symbols. It’s up to the DM to judge the form of communication that the party would find intriguing but not disregard. The ants, if encountered and attacked will not respond with violence but retreat back towards the nest.

The closer to the queen the party gets, the stronger the telepathic communication will get, accompanied by pheromonal messages to amplify the meaning.

The approach to the queen also means that the tunnels leading to the ants’ nest get smaller and smaller until they are at most a foot high or so. In places, they are littered with bones still within armour, discarded weapons and gems and coinage.

The ants’ offer may also include tracking down and bringing back objects and treasure that is in areas generally inaccessible to humans, either through space or hazards which humans cannot endure or confront.

The ants have their nest directly over the location of a set of Pipes of the Sewers that the were-rats need to unleash chaos on the city and profit thereby. It is quite a dig (30 feet or so) down to the location of the pipes, which are in a catacomb in a small temple, blocked by collapsed tunnels and rubble for more than a century. The catacomb is protected by a clutch of skeletons, who will activate if anyone crosses the original threshold. A precisely targeted shaft will come straight down into the catacombs, a misaligned one will come through outside and the intruders will have to cross the threshold. The skeletons are armed with blades that are covered in a weak poison (save at +2).

As well as the skeletons and the Pipes of the Sewer, there is a secret door that leads to a flight of stairs down about forty feet to a tunnel that is also blocked by rubble, although in this case, permanently. On the walls of this tunnel are a number of very old paintings that show a series of clues to a dungeon complex elsewhere below the city (if setting this adventure in a section of dungeon, the clues are to another section that the party has not yet encountered)

If the party either chooses to ignore the attempts by the ants to communicate or actively attacks the ants’ nest, the work of the were-rats will be considerably easier. They will unearth the Pipes within two months and their rat attack will begin thereafter, with imaginable consequences. The party may become involved in efforts to resist them.

And yes, we will be having adventures for rats and were-rats in their own right later in the series.

Ants, Giant
Frequency Rare
No appearing 1-100
AC 3
Move 18”
HD 2
% in lair 10%
Treasure type Q x 3, S
No of attacks 1
Damage per attack 1-6
Special attacks Warriors have poison sting
Special defences Nil
Magic resistance Standard
Intelligence Animal
Alignment Neutral
Size S (2’ long)

Treasure type Q gives an even chance of 1-4 gems and type S offers a 40% chance of 2-8 potions. If the DM wishes to change the treasure type to reflect that garnered by fallen adventurers, it might be an idea to change it to one roll of each treasure type J to N, multiplying the results by 10 or even 20 to give a reasonable haul.

Whilst the MM tells us that giant ant eggs have no market value, there may well be a demand for them as an ingredient in the potions of alchemists and apothecaries.

Giant Rat
Frequency Common
No appearing 5-50
AC 7
Move 12”/6”
HD 1-4 hit points
% in lair 10%
Treasure type C
No of attacks 1
Damage per attack 1-3
Special attacks Disease
Special defences Nil
Magic resistance Standard
Intelligence Semi-
Alignment Neutral (evil)
Size S

Treasure type C, as we saw last week, is a low-probability broad coinage and gem spread type which could mean that effectively, depending on the rolls, the rats and their were-rat masters have no treasure. It might be an idea therefore to assign treasure by character rather than using the rat and were-rat treasure type. The rats would have had any loot taken from them by the were-rats anyway.

Frequency Uncommon
No appearing 4-24
AC 6
Move 12”
HD 3+1
% in lair 30%
Treasure type C
No of attacks 1
Damage per attack 1-8 (sword)
Special attacks Surprise on 1-4
Special defences Hit only by silver or +1 magic weapons
Magic resistance Standard
Intelligence Very
Alignment lawful evil
Size S-M

The were-rats are three in number, the original infector, a thief who was injured and his colleague, who he lured to the sewers, once a cleric but now fallen and working as a fighter since the defection to lycanthropy. They have their lair in a cluster of small rooms that once formed part of a catacomb but have long since been cleared out. They are connected to the sewer (or main dungeon corridor) by a crudely hacked tunnel, the sides of which may still show a protruding bone or two (and the slim possibility – 10% - of some trinket of jewellery, worth at best 2 d20gp.

The DM may wish to roll randomly for the phase of the moon or have it that extreme stress triggers a change into the rat form.

Original were-rat (stats for human form) – former magic user
S 9
I 16
W 10
D 13
C 9
Ch 9

Level 2 (2 x 1st level spells per day)
HP 6
Weapons – 2 daggers, set of throwing darts, staff

Spellbook contains

9 x 1st level spells
1. Push
2. Magic Missile
3. Hold Portal
4. Jump
5. Spider Climb
6. Light
7. Identify
8. Write
9. Ventriloquism

This character will also have a collection of pestles and mortars, alembics, flasks, burners etc in his lair where he is concocting new forms of poison from the moulds, fungi and growths found in this area of the sewers. He has found nothing so far that will have an effect on the ants.

Thief (stats for human form)
S 17
I 7
W 11
D 15
C 16
Ch 8

Level 2
HP 12
AC 6 (Studded leather, shield – includes DEX bonus)
Weapons Short sword, dagger x 2, sling and bullets
The thief has a penchant for silver jewellery and there is a collection of this hidden in his quarters – the total value as silver scrap is 250gp but sold as individual items, could raise three times as much.

Former cleric (stats for human form)
S 14
I 12
W 16
D 8
C 10
Ch 9

Level 2
HP 10
AC 2 (plate mail plus shield)
Weapons – Footman’s mace, staff.
(note that it may be the case that the cleric, having fallen from the service of his deity, can use edged weapons. This is a decision for the DM to make – if this is the case, the cleric will also have a longsword +1)

The former cleric is torn between the delights of his new form and anger at the loss of access to deity and spells. This has become twisted in his mind and the walls of his quarters are now covered in charcoal renditions of a rat deity that he is coming to believe actually exists (it may be that there is such a deity in the DM’s campaign, in which case the cleric may attract its attention soon – for good or ill)

Tuesday 18 January 2011

An Adventure for Every Monster - the Anhkheg

Frequency Rare
No appearing 1-6
AC Overall 2, underside 4
Move 12” (6” burrowing speed)
HD 3-8
% in lair 15%
Treasure type C
No of attacks 1
Damage per attack 3-18 (+1-4)
Special attacks Squirt acid (8-32 damage)
Special defences Nil
Magic resistance Standard
Intelligence Non
Alignment Neutral
Size L (10-20 feet long)

This adventure takes place in an area of the campaign world that has been newly-won from the wilderness and is now in the process of being civilised.

The local lord is a high-level fighter who has now established his stronghold but is currently occupied with humanoid incursions and has little strength to spare to investigate the recent reports of anhkheg attacks in an area that he has subcontracted to local farmer settlers (he had promised them safe land and low taxes and is worried that if they don’t get the first, they may stop paying the second).

Into this situation have arrived a 7th level druidess and her 2nd level ranger associate. The druidess is concerned about the imposition of order on nature in the area and, having familiarised herself with the goings-on has decided that the anhkhegs must be assisted in their disruption of the farmers’ efforts.

Meanwhile, other forces are also eyeing up the situation. A neighbouring lord would very much like to acquire the land cheaply for his own purposes through anonymous agents and is therefore using subtle persuasion and not-so-subtle efforts to encourage the druidess in her campaign to drive the farmers out. The manipulative lord has of course realised that once the farmers flee, the druidess will continue her efforts against anything he tries to do to the land and therefore has laid plans to have her disposed of once she has fulfilled her purpose. He has hired an assassin to shadow the druidess and the assassin has a philtre of love which he intends to use to woo her away from her mission and ranger associate so that she can be more easily killed.

The farmers have also organised a low-level militia but it is woefully under-equipped to deal with even a 3HD anhkheg, let alone the full-grown version and at least three of its members have disappeared near the forest edge (the doings of the druidess).

Because of the very low intelligence of anhkhegs, the druidess has found it very difficult to communicate her motives to them and so has to content herself with fighting on their behalf and keeping out of their way if they get nasty.

The anhkheg lair is an old sink hole - near some limestone cliffs - that is now heavily overgrown at the top and very difficult to spot (unless you happen to be a ranger). They are unlikely to be in the lair but if they are, the youngest and smallest are the ones most likely to be present.

Treasure type C will be scattered throughout the sinkhole complex – no neat little bags or chests to carry it home in.

1000s of copper 1-12 20%
1000s of silver 1-6 30%
1000s of electrum 1-4 10%
1000s of gold nil
100s of platinum nil
Gems 1-6 25%
Jewellery 1-3 20%
Maps/Magic Any 2 10%

Treasure type C is a low-probability combination so the DM may wish to increase the chances of coin being present but keep it scattered so that the party can accrue wealth but will have to spend a long time in the lair (with the chances that more anhkhegs will arrive whilst the search is ongoing).

The anhkhegs’ hit dice are as follows

1) 3
2) 3
3) 4
4) 6
5) 7
6) 8

If the party locate the lair and find the smaller specimens present and attack, there is a chance that the cries of the young will summon either Anhkheg 5 or 6 – (15% each round) – if they do arrive, the threat to the young will enrage them and they will attack at +2 on the to hit dice.

The party may find that there is a good price to be had for the glands that produce the digestive acid. Dwarves and gnomes find it excellent for etching designs onto particularly tough metals.

The druidess has
S 11
I 12
W 17
D 7
C 9
Ch 16

Level 7

Spells daily (includes Wisdom bonus)
1st 6
2nd 6
3rd 4
4th 1

AC 4 (leather armour +1, shield +2)

2 daggers, +1 (these travel as a pair and are known as Seeker and Biter. The former, when held in the hand gives the wielder the power of a clairvoyance spell but only if he or she is standing on bare earth or rock – paving stones or flagstones will stop the effect. Biter, if thrown and a score of two higher than needed to hit is achieved will stick in the body of the target and if pulled out, a second damage roll must be made as hundreds of tiny spikes protrude from the blade)
Hammer, standard weapon
Scimitar +2, known as Greenfang due to the green tint of the metal. As the DM wishes, it may have some druidic or nature-related power.
Sling and bullets

Other equipment – a shoulder bag with several bottles of decoctions from plants and flowers, some of which have medicinal properties (count as Potions of Healing) and others cause sleep (as per the spell of the same name for whoever imbibes it), hallucinations, coma, etc. (DM to adjudicate these)

HP 38

The ranger has

S 14
I 15
D 10
C 16
Ch 8

Level 2

Banded mail plus shield (AC3)

Long sword, +1
2 daggers
Composite longbow

HP (includes CON adjustment) 26

The ranger looks up to the druidess and is keen to work with her to further his own career as well as serve the cause of nature. However, he is zealous in this latter cause and will take it badly if he feels the druidess is going soft on her mission.

DG note - further to comments last week, please feel free to change bits of this adventure idea if it makes it easier to incorporate within your campaign setting. If your party needs an added incentive to get engaged with the adventure, slot one in.

Tuesday 11 January 2011

An Adventure for Every Monster

Okay, so here's the start of a new series for 2011. What I'm doing is taking the Monster Manual and working my way through it, trying to come up with a mini-adventure, hook, dungeon section or plot idea for every monster therein. I'm not going to tackle dinosaurs because they are an acquired taste and not everyone's got a lofty Amazonian plateau just sitting there waiting for adventures.

Certain treatments of monsters may deviate that tiny bit from the 'official' version but that's done to make the adventure that little bit more interesting. If it bugs you, change it.

Some adventure ideas may work for you; others you may find lame and uninspired. I intend to have one post in this series each week (gotta give myself a chance here) so this could run and run, given the size of the MM.

And without further ado, here is Adventure Idea One:

Aerial Servant

Frequency Very rare
No appearing 1
AC 3
Move 24”
HD 16
% in lair 0
Treasure type Nil
No of attacks 1
Damage per attack 8-32
Special attacks Surprises on 1-4
Special defences Can be hit only by magical weapons
Magic resistance Standard
Intelligence Semi
Alignment Neutral
Size 8’ tall

This mini adventure takes place in a section of the dungeon that the party have just encountered. It is traversed by wandering monsters but not on a daily basis.

The cleric who summoned the aerial servant will be at least 11th level – he is investigating this part of the dungeon with a view to setting up a temple to his deity and has found an area that is to his liking except that it is particularly grubby, dilapidated and squalid.

He conjured the aerial servant and ordered it to “get this place cleaned up”. Unfortunately, whilst the aerial servant was busy taking care of the cleaning, the cleric pressed on further into the dungeon and fell into a trap that injured him and confined him but otherwise did not harm him.

Since his confinement, the aerial servant has finished cleaning the section of dungeon but with no new command from the cleric, has concluded that the cleaning up needs to continue. As such, the section of dungeon is particularly well-kept, with no bodies, no detritus and no treasure. If monsters come into this section of the dungeon and cause any damage, it is very quickly cleared up. If a party enters the area, they will find that if they kill any monsters and ‘leave them for later’, bodies, treasure and magic items will not be there when they return. Marks made for the purposes of mapping and tracking will have disappeared.

There is a chance that the party will catch the aerial servant at its cleaning duties by pure chance (10%) but generally the only chance of finding out what is going on is to lay a trap for it. That having been said, such is the power of a frustrated aerial servant that the party will have a hard time of fighting it.

If it is prevented from carrying out its duties, it will become insane and head off to find the cleric, intending to attack him. It will take it only a few rounds to break open the holding cell in which the cleric is trapped. If the party follow the aerial servant and manage to save the cleric from its mad attack, the cleric will be very grateful, both for having been saved and for being freed from his confinement.

The party may have a chance of finding the place to which the aerial servant is taking the rubbish it cleans up. The best way to do this by following it (without preventing it from its duties). If they do find it, it will be in a natural cave shaft that is accessible via a very narrow fissure (the aerial servant of course has no problems with this, being an air elemental) and there is a 20% chance of the leading party member getting stuck (unless they are of hobbit size). If this happens, the party will need to come up with a particularly cunning plan for extricating their comrade.

At the base of the shaft, the refuse and items form a layer about eight to ten feet deep. There is rubble, general detritus, dungeon growth, bodies, armour and of course the chance of magic and treasure, none of which is of particular interest to the aerial servant. The bodies are of course of interest to a colony of rot grubs. There is also a cluster of yellow mould on one wall of the shaft (depending on which wall the party uses on its way down, they may well miss this – or not).

The treasure itself is of types J,K,L,M and N (1d12 occurrences of each), 1 occurrence of type S and one of type T. The DM can adjust upwards or add other treasure types but they should be the sort of treasure that could realistically be expected to have been collected from fallen bodies.
No matter when the party encounter the aerial servant and its doings, it will still have 1d10 days of its service to the cleric left.

DG note – I have taken some liberties with the aerial servant as written and the spell for summoning it but purely for the purposes of making an interesting encounter for the party.