Tuesday 27 September 2011

Been a bit busy

My apologies for the lack of substantial posts just recently. This is why.

Monday 26 September 2011

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Bad Medicine

Here's another Community Project. The travelling medicine show, although popular in the late 19th century would, I should imagine, have its analogy in the D&D world. Despite the presence of clerics and other healers - with whose treatment might come spiritual or theological attachments - the travelling potion peddler would expect no other payment than the metallic variety.

Usually, the bottles contain little more than coloured water and a touch of something to make it taste unpleasant, but sometimes, the potions actually work - although not in the way that the manufacturer intended. Sometimes, these bottles turn up in places other than the potion seller's wagon.

Suggestions are therefore sought for potions and concoctions that, whilst seemingly harmless or at the very most mildly discomforting, may have side effects that cannot, at the time of drinking, be anticipated. Name, effect, duration, cost and a few words on the colour and taste are what we need here.

It could be a d30 table or, if we get particularly creative, get bigger than that.

So far, we have....

Priapic Vigor:

Thick amberish liquid said to increase male sexual performance (allegedly made from extract of satyr musk, and other natural ingredients). 40% of the time it does absolutely nothing, 20% of the time it may cause priapism, and 20% of time the imbiber will be distracted for 1d4 hours due to recurrent thoughts of lascivious encounters and there prowess therein. Cost: 2-8 sp.


Dwarf Balm:

This jar of purpilish-brown grease emits a noxious odor similar to simmered Assassin Vine and is sold mainly as a unguent to salve minor cuts and abrasions. However, when rubbed on the belly or under arms, the balm has a 1 in 6 chance of increasing a dwarf's height by 3 feet for 1d6 days.

Of course, if this does happen to a dwarf, how will he fit into his armor?

Cost: 10-15 sp

(Matthew W. Schmeer)

"Your love is like a bad medicine" potion.

Upon imbibing this tasty peach-coloured solution, the PC will begin to feel queasy and ill whenever in the presence of someone who is in love, has a crush on, flirts with or is a family member on good terms with them.

The effect lasts 2d4 days, during which they receive -2 to all defenses while around loved ones or romantic interests.


Cap'n Jax Original Gargling Tonic

This shimmering sapphire-blue liquid, said to be based on the original elderberry vinegar formulae perfected by the legendary Cap'n Jax Ironshodson of the King's Expeditionary Force, is a powerful cleanser guaranteed to soothe a sore throat and clear mucus from your membranes.

There is a 2-in-6 chance (1-2 on 1d6) that an adverse reaction will render the user mute and turn the tongue pitch black for 2d6 days.

Cost: 20-25 sp.

(Matthew W Schmeer)

Doktor Bezoor's Linament

This noisome-smelling beige tincture is made to an exacting recipe. If applied to a poisoned wound within 3 rounds of the wound being made, it gives a second saving throw vs. Poison at a -4 penalty. It also depilates, removing all hair or fur from the wounded in 1d6 hours. This latter effect has ensured that Doktor Bezoor or his customers will never drink with a dwarf and live.
Cost: 100gp per jar (10 applications)


Dr. Perrywinkle's Esoteric Pineapple Periplaneta Extract (Revised)

This light brown fluid tastes surprisingly good, like chocolate with a fruity note. The drinker will be compelled to drink more. However, everyone who drinks more than one bottel in the course of 24 hours will develop a mild form of light sensivity (-1 to all rolls in broad daylight).
Cost: 1 gp per bottle, 5 gp for six bottles


Nizzzle Lozenges

These dark amber disks are the size of a human thumbnail and taste of fenugreek and anise. Said to increase sluggish blood and cure digestive ills, they do just that, but also turn the user's skin a silvery-blue for 1d6 days. If used for more than 3d6 times in row, the effect will be permanent and require a remove curse spell cast by a cleric (and only a cleric) of at least 2.5 times the sufferer's level.

Cost: 17 sp.

(Matthew W Schmeer)

Monday 19 September 2011

Aharrr, me hearties!

Yes, tis International Talk Like a Pirate Day again, so it is. Time flies when you're sailing the Seven Seas in search of booty. Seadogs and swashbucklers all, remember to splice the mainbrace, hoist the sails, Roger the Cabin Boy and last one up the Old Sea Dog gets a lick of the cat!

Sunday 18 September 2011

Team Adventure - The Joys of the Countryside

The group had decided to go off and do a bit of giant hunting. The first question, of course was – who had seen any giants recently? The party had encountered a lone hill giant in their adventure in the ruined chapel but he was dead and so would make poor prey.

Ferros hit upon the idea of just riding off into the wilderness and seeing what they found. I had just started to expand the scale of my campaign map to a 2-mile hex rate and welcomed the chance to put some more detail onto the landscape.

Once they had upgraded the armour on their horses and welcomed a new member into their ranks – Zanurax, the thief – they were on their way.

Zanurax's player joined the group this session, having been recruited by Junior and Mummy Grognards at school. I was very pleased with how quickly he fitted in with the party, although I did try to aim a lot of my "What are you doing now" questions specifically at him so that he didn't feel left out as play progressed. I await feedback with bated breath.

They followed the river valley north-west, at first having an easy time of it. However, it was not long before their horses began to get a little skittish. Wondering what could be causing the problem, the party began to look around and could hear something moving through the undergrowth towards them. As they were getting into a defensive formation, a mountain lion broke cover and hurtled towards them, keen to get its teeth and claws into their horses. Arrows and magic missiles flew from the party and the lion crashed to the ground dead; it had not even managed to land a blow on our heroes.

Heartened by their victory, the party pressed onwards and after several hours of riding, left the open plains behind and moved into more wooded terrain, where visibility was not so good and they would have to rely on other senses.

Those senses were called into play when they came across a tree that had been broken in two and had branches wrenched off it. There were also large claw marks across the bark, which suggested something big and dangerous. Then Adthar heard growling, snarling and the snapping of branches from down towards the river. He decided to lead the party off towards the source of the noise, only to find that he was confronting an irate owlbear. Nobody had seen one of these before and they launched into the attack, landing some good hits on the fearsome monster. It counter-attacked and managed to rake Adthar with both claws and a vicious bite with its beak. Despite this, the party soon managed to finish it off.

I was pleased when Owlbear came up on the encounter roll (I'd been wanting to use one for a while) and surprised when Adthar decided to go haring off after it. In the end, although he did take some considerable damage, the party was successful.

Evening saw the party finding a place to camp at the confluence of the river and a stream that came in from the east. They had set their camp and had got a good fire going when the howls of wolves sounded through the darkness. The natural reaction would have been to form a defensive ring and use the fire to keep the wolves at bay. With this in mind, Adthar decided to go off into the night. On his own.

Four wolves decided to share this tasty human morsel that had just been delivered to them in a shiny metal can. As Adthar fought to keep them off, Ferros raised the alarm, having gone to see what Adthar was up to. The rest of the party, with the exception of Alurax, Cafaror and Galzor rushed to take on the wolves and eventually killed them all, except one which had been slept by Elysia and then stung by Relic and put into a cataleptic trance. The three guarding the campsite used a mixture of torches and a burning sword (Cafaror pouring oil onto the blade and lighting it) to keep the rest of the wolves at bay.

Another encounter when the party's reaction prompted the combat. They do seem to be a little keyed up to earn XP, even if it means seeking out trouble that could so easily be avoided.

The next day, the party had little trouble making their way further up the river valley, eventually arriving at the ruins of the Moat House. The going was a little easier after the wolf encounter with the landscape slightly more open and marshy where the river became wider and had flooded recently. The party checked out the Moat House to see if anybody had taken up residence but found nothing. There was talk amongst the party of spending some of their increasing gold reserves on repairing the ruins and turning them into a base of operations for their journeys into the wilds.

Been there, done that

I have no problem with them doing this; I can put some figures together for the renovation and it'll be interesting to see if they can use it as a base for civilising the surrounding area. They are (with the exception of Elysia) 4th level now and could do with somewhere like this. Of course, it won't be easy for them if they do choose this course of action, but it will soak up some of the excess gold which, once it's served its function as an XP transfer medium, becomes just so much heavy metal.

But soon the party realised that they needed to move on if they were to find the giants that they had been intent on hunting. North they rode again but a little after noon, Elysia caught sight of something moving in the woods to their right. As they turned to see what it was, several shadowy figures emerged from the darkness between the trees. In all, ten shadows were advancing on them!

Although the party had found a potion of Undead Control in an earlier adventure, it was only good for using against ghosts. The scroll of Protection from Undead would only affect one person. So it was time for the party’s holy men to prove their worth.

Ferros and Galzor stepped forward, both holding up their holy symbols and faced with such a demonstration of power, the shadows turned and fled back through the trees. Opinion was mixed on whether they should be pursued but in the end, the party decided to mark this encounter down for a future investigation and rode on.

Another random roll that has now prompted me to select a hex and put something there to explain why ten shadows are wandering the woods. Probably a crypt with some unpleasant surprises but we shall see. I feel a trip to Dyson Logos' map page coming on.

The sun was setting when Relic started to get jumpy and excited. Elysia wondered what could be making the little familiar so chirpy and he flew off into the woods, reappearing a few minutes later with another pseudo-dragon. This was a real encounter roll, (honest!) and served as a very handy way of letting the party know about the proximity of the giants they sought.

The two little creatures darted hither and thither and finally settled near the magic-user. Elysia used her link to Relic to ask the newcomer if he had seen any trace of giants nearby. The other pseudo-dragon, Russet, was able to transmit images of a ruined tower perhaps four miles north, atop the ramparts of which strode a tall figure who could well be what they had come to find. Russet was also able to tell them that he had seen perhaps four or so of these tall figures over the previous days.

Elysia thanked Russet and the party bedded down for the night, reluctant to go blundering through the forest in the dark.

Up at a leisurely time, the party set off northwards and soon Relic reported back that they were approaching the tower. Soon, they were able to see it through the trees; two storeys high, with a front gate.

Thinking that there might be another way in, Elysia donned her cloak of Elvenkind (having bought it off Cafaror after the adventure at the Shadow House) and with Zanurax, they edged their way through the trees and undergrowth.

Soon, they could both smell something stale and sickly ahead. They realised that they were now not walking but wading through watery slime and mud that had a foul odour and an oily sheen to it. Ahead was what looked like a stream that fed into this stagnant mire. The stream flowed down from a tunnel entrance at the foot of the slope on which was built the tower. Iron bars blocked the entrance but Elysia managed to pull one slightly apart so that a single person could slip through.

They returned to the party to advise them of what they’d found and it was resolved to use this entrance, since it stood a good chance of going right into the heart of the stronghold. Unfortunately, as they made their way back through the mire, both Elysia and Adthar lost their footing and ended up going face first into the stinking muck. The figure on the battlements peered down but didn’t see anything and marked the noise down to animals. I'd had then all roll a d20 - a 1 would be a disastrous slip with shouts and cries to boot, but only Elysia and Adthar rolled 2, so I deemed they got a dunking but not so bad that the giants were alerted to their presence.

The party widened the gap in the iron bars and edged their way up the passage. It was noxious and, worried about the build up of methane, Elysia suggested to Ferros that he cast Light to overcome the risk of using torches. This he did, and on they squelched, since a stream of unpleasant liquid was running down the tunnel.

They arrived at the entrance to an octagonal chamber, high-ceilinged and with two sluices on the far walls, out of which more sewage was trickling. There was also something slimy and orange in colour blocking the entrance to another tunnel on the far side. Adthar peered through the door and heard a faint fluttering in the dark recesses of the ceiling. Elysia sent Relic through and up but the little pseudo-dragon came back very quickly, quivering with fear. Images of bat wings and sharp beaks passed through Elysia’s mind.

Before any discussion could take place about what to do, Adthar had strode into the chamber, aiming to poke the mysterious orange slimy pool with his sword. Before he could get there, a swirling mass of leathery wings descended and he was surrounded by angry creatures, all trying to stab at him with their proboscides.

Ferros and Cafaror weighed in with mace and bow respectively and soon earned a swarm of their own. Alurax and Zanurax opened fire with their bows and knocked several out of the air. Adthar was stabbed once by one of the creatures which hung on and started to suck his blood. He abandoned his attack and managed to grab it, pull it out and wring its neck. Ferros suffered similar attacks but by the time he had managed to kill both of those sucking his blood, the rest of the swarm was dead, including one that was pinned to the far wall by a perfect arrow shot from Zanurax.

With the threat of the stirges – for such they were – out of the way, Adthar now felt free to prod the mysterious orange pool of slime with his sword. It reacted, slithering towards him. He hurriedly retreated, then Ferros, Alurax and Adthar started pelting it with oil bombs until it blazed merrily and a nauseating oily black smoke rose up from its burning bulk. I had the party roll under their CON on a d20 and Elysia, being the only one who failed, lost her breakfast.

Now the way was clear to enter the next tunnel. The party had seen some small, odd looking shapes earlier – but had been too busy with the stirges and the ochre jelly – to worry about them. Now, they found that they were facing some waist-high giant mushrooms with holes all over the tops of them.

Worried about being sprayed with evil spores, Alurax fired an arrow at one but even though it hit, nothing seemed to happen. Adthar and Ferros stepped forward and as the light fell upon the first of these strange things, they began to emit a very loud, high-pitched scream that caused everybody to clap their hands over their ears. Adthar had to remove his hands in order to douse the corridor with oil and set it alight, whereupon the shriekers caught fire and the sound soon stopped. Adthar, however, had blood running from his ears and could not hear a thing.

At the end of the passage was a staircase, leading upwards. What lay at the top and what might be waiting for them?

I had wanted something reasonably large but not too big that five giants might be dwarfed by the size of the complex. I found Hell's Portal in White Dwarf 27, ripped off the two top layers, pruned back level 2 and used the basement level as the sewer entrance. I'd selected a number of minor monsters to beef up the giants and scattered them throughout the dungeon to give a bit of variety. I also noticed, while looking at the large scale map that the ruined castle and the chapel where they had met the lone hill giant were not that far apart and there may well have been a link there.

Next time, we'll see how it all works out.

Sunday 11 September 2011

Team Adventure - Shadow Dancing

Our session began with some debate as to where the party wanted to go next. Whilst they were thinking about it, the results came in from the search of the town archives – the archivist had managed to find, in a hundred-year old book of fairy tales and myths a story about a peddler finding a secret cave, releasing a dragon, a battle between a band of knights and the dragon and the intervention of a bold princess whose skills managed to overcome the dragon and save the life of the handsome knight who she married and with whom she lived happily ever after. In one of the illustrations, the princess was depicted wearing an emblem that matched very closely the seven-pointed star that the team had found in the tomb.

All very nice and pleasant reading, but the party soon realised that if this was only a century old and the tombs themselves were at least six to seven hundred years old, there should be older versions of the story and asked the archivist to see if he could track down any more iterations of the tale. I have those two earlier versions written up and of course, if and when they find these, I shall share them with you.

Whilst she was digesting this information, the jeweller from the previous session came back to Elysia with some more details on the ivory and silver headpiece that she had brought to him for valuation. He said that he had seen something very like it in an illustration in a house to which he had gone many years ago for some bespoke jewellery orders. He said that he would try to find it again and take the party there.

Their trail led them to a quiet side street where they found the house boarded up and overgrown with weeds and ivy. Nobody had lived there for quite some time. Rumours in the neighbourhood said that the man who lived there had disappeared one day, never to be seen again and people who had gone in to try and find him never returned either. The Council had ordered the building sealed to prevent anybody else losing their life. Not letting a little thing like that deter them, the team prised off the boards from the front door and managed to get it open.

They stepped into a large reception hall, its tiles cracked and stained, a flight of stairs ahead of them, and two passageways either side. Two doors opened off the hall.

The party tried the left-hand door first and found a dilapidated dining room, the pewter plates and cutlery tarnished and dusty, the table itself covered with cobwebs and mould. The room was also dark since the windows were boarded up.

The next room they tried, down the left-hand passageway turned out to be the remains of an office. There was a desk and several shelves’ worth of ledgers, stained and mouldering. Cafaror examined one of the ledgers and found that the last entry was from seven years earlier.

Ferros suddenly called for quiet and when everybody was still, he listened to some faint bumpings and thumpings from upstairs. The party clustered that little bit closer together as they tried the final door on the passageway, which was the kitchen of the house. Again, there was no clue as to what had happened to the inhabitants. The back door of the house, a heavy oak one with wrought iron fittings opened onto a cobbled back yard surrounded by a wall topped with iron spikes.

The party headed back into the house and tried the first door on the right hand side of the reception hall. This had old sofas, comfortable chairs and couches in; they were soiled and mouldy beyond repair. Hanging on the walls were several pictures of members of the same family, with a man and woman present in nearly all of them. Their fashions were elegant but slightly outdated.

As the party moved down the right-hand passageway, nobody noticed that Alurax had climbed the central staircase and was now on the landing. Elysia sent her newly-acquired pseudo-dragon familiar Relic to have a scout around but by the time he reached the landing, Alurax was already searching one of the rooms and did not get noticed by the little creature. Elysia also scurried up the stairs but saw nobody; three doors faced her and there was a door at either end of the landing. She returned to the party, mystified as to the whereabouts of Alurax but decided to concentrate on the majority of the party.

Keen-eyed readers may wonder at the sudden appearance of Relic. Mummy Grognard had seen this figure

on the net and bought it to use as her mini. It had a tiny dragon (she's always been fond of them) and I let her know that there was such a thing as a pseudo-dragon and that you could get one by casting Find Familiar. A bit of handwaving by the DM later and voila, Relic is part of the party.

The right hand passage had two doors on the right-hand side and one on the left, which the party suspected must lead onto an under-stairs area. They checked the first right-hand door and found themselves in what appeared to be a study. It had a desk, larger than the one they had already found, shelves of books and, most crucially, several faded areas on the wall where pictures had once hung. If the picture for which they were searching was going to be anywhere, it would be here but had somebody beaten them to it?

The final room seemed to be a spare one, with chairs pushed up against the walls, leaving the majority of the room free. Nothing of consequence could be seen and the party came back out into the passageway. They were just about to try the final door when….


Something crashed into the reception hall from the landing above. It was a naked, hairy human figure with long claws and the head of a savage dog-like creature. It had been hewn by sword and battle-axe.

Alurax was fighting another of these creatures on the landing, having already sent one to its doom. The party surged out into the reception hall and up the stairs, lending a hand to assist Alurax in killing the second of these creatures. It was soon slain by a combination of arrow, sword and magic missile and Ferros and Adthar moved through the left-hand door and found themselves in a long and grand bedroom. A door stood closed at the far end.

Meanwhile, Alurax and Cafaror were surprised by the appearance of another of the hairy menaces from the right-hand door. They leapt into the fray and slowly beat it down until it was on its last legs. At this point, it fled, running the length of the upper floor and finally squeezing through the gap where a board had been removed from one of the windows. Alurax and Cafaror fired an arrow each but failed to hit it.

Meanwhile, Ferros and Adthar reached the closed door and opened it, stepping in to find themselves confronted by a human in plate mail, closing in to attack them. They leapt into action, Ferros on one side, Adthar on the other with his two-handed sword. There was clearly something magical about the armour as both party members had a great deal of trouble landing effective blows.

Eventually, Cafaror and Alurax arrived in the room and along with Elysia managed to put their tough opponent down. Their reward was a pile of bags and boxes full of coins in one corner of the room. And of course the magical armour. Alurax correctly surmised that they had been facing a band of werewolves; fortunately nobody had been sufficiently badly injured that they ran the risk of contracting lycanthropy.

The party gathered themselves together and returned downstairs to check on the door to whatever lay under the stairs. They were confronted by another staircase, going down in the basement. Adthar led the way and when he got to the bottom of the steps, felt a section of floor move under his foot. From holes in the wall, clouds of gas poured out but although he felt groggy and dizzy-headed, he did not collapse. As he stepped forward, he noticed that of all the shadows that his flickering torch cast, one was not moving as it should. In fact, it was coming towards him, reaching out. He felt a chill coming off it. Ferros was indecisive for a moment – should he cast Protection from Evil or try to turn it, even though he didn’t know what it was. He chose the latter and raised his holy symbol; the sinister patch of darkness fled across the room and down the passage on the far side.

The party followed it, armed and ready. Unfortunately, Adthar managed to fall into a pit trap and found himself at the bottom of a ten-foot hole just as two more shadowy forms came at them from a second chamber. Ferros tried to turn them but they were more determined than their fellow and continued their advance.

One swooped down into the pit and attacked Adthar while the second tried to attack the rest of the party. Alurax hurtled over the pit and took on the one that Ferros had turned. Ferros joined the brave fighter but soon discovered what the shadowy forms could do if they managed to touch their victims. A chill of weakness spread over Alurax, Ferros and Adthar whilst Elysia and Cafaror managed to put paid to the third attacker.

Galzor entered the chamber to cast healing magic on Ferros, who was getting very close to unconsciousness. Once partly revived, the cleric weighed back into the fray and between them, Ferros and Alurax managed to destroy their opponent (despite Ferros coming very close to becoming one of the dark entities himself!) and Adthar put paid to his attacker. Elysia helped Adthar out of the pit and they began to search the basement. They found piles of coins hidden in old wooden chests, a potion, a scroll case and a long weapon with a three-pointed head. It radiated magic but nobody knew what it was.

As well as these items, Elysia found, stuffed away behind the chests, a frame in which there was a picture of a wall carving, a figure that wore the same head-dress as the one that she had taken to the jeweller. As she picked up the frame, the picture shifted within it and she prised it open to find that behind it was a piece of parchment on which was a map. But to what, and where?

The mystery had deepened still further!

For an adventure that I had only thought up the day previously and sketched out on scrap paper while Mummy Grognard was reading the gang the most recent blog post for catch-up, this didn't go too badly. A lot of creeping around empty rooms, wondering what was going to jump out and when. I wanted something reasonably scary but not too overwhelming. 3+3 and 4+3 HD monsters gave the party a good run for their money and (except in the case of Ferros, who came within 4hp of becoming a shadow himself) didn't threaten a TPK.

The treasure rolls for the monsters gave some interesting results - all courtesy of those idionsyncratic dice. The scrolls turned out to be 5th and 6th level spells - good when Elysia gets to those levels (one was Cloudkill - yay!) but just filling in pages until then. The werewolves ended up with a set of +2 plate mail which it seemed perfectly fitting to allow one of them to wear as he was turning back into his human form. There was also a Trident of Warning in the shadows' hoard - first time I've ever come across one of those. The gold, kills and magic items tipped three characters over the level-up barrier (in fact four if we count Galzor, whose player wasn't here today and so profited from the gold but not the kills).

I'd not realised that Ferros had come within one damage roll of becoming a shadow; that might have been very tricky to resolve. I'd have either had to research the process of rescuing somebody from the status of undead or shrugged and handed his player the 3d6. Being in mortal peril, even if you don't realise it at the time, is what makes the game all the more fun - victory is only made meaningful by the realisation of how close defeat walks in its footsteps.

More clues for the team's investigation into leads that had started with the Poor Knight's Tomb adventure - what they do with them and where they go is another matter. Next time might be very interesting as both Cafaror's and Adthar's players have suggested a Giant Hunt (i.e. a hunt for giants, rather than a very big hunt). I'm not sure that it'll be quite as easy as they think and they might end up on the wrong end of a boulder but one thing's for sure - it'll be a whole heap of fun!