Sunday 29 January 2012

Team Adventure - Tooth or Consequences

Our gallant band Elysia, Alurax, Alagon, Olaf and Cafaror (Zanurax was in Alurax’s pocket – somewhere nice and warm to sleep – and Ferros was slightly charred around the edges and not moving much) emerged from the watchtower to find the scattered bodies of the dead lying where they had fallen. It was night-time now and in the flickering light of their torches, the party soon noticed something odd – there were no troll bodies to be seen and Thorgrim and his employer were also missing. A search of the area revealed two things – firstly a trail of footprints (large ones) leading off into the night and secondly some ‘leftovers’ – a boot with a foot in it and a glove that was still enclosing a hand. These and a few scraps were all that were left of the party’s companions.

A more detailed search also uncovered a medallion that had belonged to Thorgrim (it still had bits of beard attached to the chain) and a metal key that had probably hung around the neck of the dead dwarf’s employer. Olaf recognised the medallion as a clan emblem; he said that as a fellow dwarf, he would have to take it back to the clan homeland to let the other clan members know that Thorgrim was dead.

Reluctant to linger long in a place that could not be secured and with three trolls possibly lurking nearby, the party decided to head off through the night, making for a more defensible resting place. They had no spells left and their cleric was dead.

About a couple of hours later, they saw the shape of the rocky outcrop where they had killed the ogres and decided to use this as a stopping place. They tethered the horses and while the rest of the party tried to get some rest, Alurax volunteered to take first watch. An hour or so after that, the horses started to become skittish and Alurax thought he heard something approaching through the darkness. He swiftly alerted the rest of the party who hurried down to join him. Sure enough, their suspicions were proved correct when three troll-like shapes could be seen by the light of the party’s torches. They swiftly constructed a barrier of burning oil and wood and shot some arrows towards the approaching danger.

Ha! They'll never cross that!

The trolls moved in but seemed reluctant to cross the burning barrier. The party opened fire with everything they had on the first troll and managed to bring him down, then switched targets, killing the second troll soon afterwards. The third one sloped off into the darkness, expecting his friends to join him as soon as they had regenerated their damage but the party was wise to this phenomenon by now and dragged the bodies into the fire, pouring more oil over them to hasten their demise. Cafaror was not too pleased that he was unable to claim his customary trophies but Elysia pointed out that it was likely a new troll would grow from any body parts he claimed, so he decided against it.

The next morning, wary of more monster attacks, the party decided to ride at top speed for the river and the Moat House beyond. As they plunged through the forest, Alurax, who was leading managed to pull his horse up with inches to spare in front of a pit dug into the ground, disguised with branches and leaves.

Oh, it looks so peaceful...what could possibly be wrong with a nice ride through the forest?

As he did so, the forest erupted with an arrow storm that rattled off everybody’s armour – except Elysia, who took some injuries. She fired off Sleep spells and then dismounted to crawl into the bushes to kill the comatose attackers who turned out to be a larger band of goblins, out to avenge their fallen comrades from the previous encounter.

Unfortunately for them, the outcome was more or less the same; thirty goblins were wiped out and only Elysia was badly injured, receiving healing from the hands of Alagon. Two goblins tried to steal the silver bridle on her riding horse, Flight but were put to the sword by the doughty paladin. Two wargs attacked Alurax’s war-horse Warnado but the brave steed gave as good as he got and with the help of Olaf, Cafaror and Elysia, he finished off the wargs.

We don't want any trouble; just give us the horses and we'll be on our way

The party had little time to gather themselves (and any coins the goblins had) for in the distance they heard more goblin war horns and the howls of more wargs. They rode hard for the river, Warnado leaking blood from wolf bites but trying his best to bear his master to safety.

They crossed the river and made it to the gates of the Moat House; the goblins stopped at the eaves of the forest on the far side of the river. They did not seem to be keen on making any further hostile moves – at present.

The party headed south downriver, aiming to get back to town as soon as possible. Although they could have rested some miles north of the gates, they were keen and unwilling to wait. At the gates, however, they got a surprise – the way was barred to them and the city guards were out in force.

Halt! Who goes there?

Managing to convince the troopers that they were of peaceful intent, the party entered the town and headed straight for the Council of Elders. They were again met by heavily-armed guards who took their names and checked their teeth!

Oh, it's just you lot again...

The party entered the Council chambers; Elysia and Cafaror went to see if Elador was in and the rest of the band took the body of Ferros to the Clerics to see if his spirit could be reunited with his body.

Elador had some grim news for Elysia; once he had heard his sister’s news, he explained that the town was in a state of alert because people were disappearing without explanation. The Council was busy trying to find out what was going on and Elador was conducting research in the town archives. When Elysia and Cafaror returned to their comrades (who had left Ferros in the chapel for the vigil of the clerics) the party suspected that this had something to do with the business in which they had been mixed up before leaving on their tragically aborted hunting trip, namely the activities of the Third.

The first place they decided to go was the house used by the enigmatic vampire; the night-dark streets were eerily quiet and nobody interrupted the progress of the party on their way to the house. The doors were locked and there was no sign of life within. Zanurax attempted to pick the lock on the front door but it resisted his efforts and Elysia blasted it open with a Magic Missile.

Inside, they swiftly found the door to the cellar and hurried down the steps, then noticed that something was amiss – there was a rank smell in the room and the light of their torches fell upon a hole in the cellar wall, the brickwork roughly hacked apart and a diamond symbol daubed on the wall beside the opening. Elysia edged her way down the short tunnel that lay beyond the hole and found that it opened out onto a sewer tunnel, a narrow walkway running alongside oily and brackish water. Whatever it was that had made the entrance from the cellar was lurking down here in the dark.

Friday 27 January 2012

The Jukebox of Many Tracks - d100 Community Project

Right, since everybody had so much fun with the Cloak of Elviskind, I've decided to give the concept another, expanded shot. The same idea as with the Cloak, except that any artist is fair game. I've started you off with the first twelve. Let's see if we can get it to 100. As in Top 100.

1. Devil Woman – the player becomes convinced that the most virtuous female NPC in the campaign is in fact a denizen of the infernal regions in a very convincing disguise. They must try to convince everybody else that this is the case. No matter what the NPC tries to do to prove their innocence, the player will find a way of interpreting it as more evidence of their diabolic nature.

2. Bridge over troubled water – the player can create an invisible force field which will support him and anyone within 20’ of him when crossing rivers, streams and estuaries. It will not work further than 100’ into salt water.

3. I can’t go for that (no can do) - whatever plan the player proposes will be met with either scepticism, hostility or derision. If he has hirelings or henchmen, they will refuse to accept orders and nobody else in the party will blame them for doing so.

4. Addicted to Love – the player must spend each night with a member of the opposite sex or the next morning begin to suffer effects that are the same as those incurred by a broken geas.

5. Killing me softly with his song – the player will receive the ability to sing, once per day a melody that will send all who listen to it into a deep catatonic trance that will be 90% likely to be mistaken for death. Local bards will be very keen to either find out the secret of the song or silence the singer forever.

6. Kung Fu Fighting – the player acquires the martial arts abilities of a monk of the same level.

7. The way we were – on selecting this track, the player and everyone who hears it will revert to the 1st level version of their characters.

8. Walk like an Egyptian – the player acquires the head of a jackal and must locate the cure deep within a lost pyramid.

9. Brass in Pocket – when this track is selected, the player generates a field which causes all precious metal within 20’ of him to become brass imitations.

10. Stayin’ alive – when this track is selected, the player acquires the ability to survive beyond –10. However, once this power has been activated, they will effectively become a living corpse, not able to eat, drink, breathe or generate body heat. Any wounds will not heal and must be manually repaired.

11. Gypsies, tramps and thieves – somehow the player has inherited the leadership of a band of travelling folk who now look to their new leader to see to their welfare and help them out with the problems they seem to be having with the local law enforcement

12. You’re So Vain – the player will become convinced that he/she has 18 CHA and will get very irate if this is not recognised by all around.

13. Close to you - the character can command twice as many followers as normally allowed by their charisma

14. Princes of the Universe - the character will be treated as if they are a member of the ruling class

15. Search and Destroy - The PC may name a type of monster. They get +4 to hit and damage against that monster type until they kill one, at which time they may choose another monster. If they try to repeat a monster they've done before, this ability is lost.

16. Dancing on the Ceiling - Gravity is reversed for the PC and he falls to the ceiling, which is now his floor. Cannot leave the dungeon or will fall into the sky. Needs to be tethered like a lead balloon to a heavier object, brought to town and have Remove Curse cast by a name level cleric.

17. Hello, is it me you're looking for? - The next NPC the PC meets will become their stalker, follow them around, and basically show up when not wanted. Will turn dangerous if rebuffed, will also follow the PC into dangerous situations and need constant rescue.

18. Ring of Fire - the PC has a ring of living flame materialize around one of his/her fingers, which allows him/her to cast one randomly selected fire-based spell each day. The ring burns the wearer for 1D2 damage each day, until it is dispelled by remove curse.

19. Five Feet High And Rising - the PC gains the ability to raise the water level of small streams, brooks and rivers, but not lower it.

20. I Won't Back Down - An unfortunate lapse in judgment impairs the PC until this curse is removed. The PC will never consider retreating or stop from getting into fights where the odds heavily skew against him/her.

21. One Piece At A Time - the PC can clad him/herself in a magical suit of armor once each day. The armor has the properties of mastercraft full plate, is weightless, looks ethereal and lasts for the PC level x turns. The 23 separate pieces of the armor only materialize at a rate of 1 piece per round however.

22. Walk Like a Man – the player has an unfortunate effect on all women who come within 15’ of him; they acquire male…ahem…accessories. Other than that, they will still be women – just very, very angry ones, now with added testosterone!
(Daddy Grognard)

23. Always Something There to Remind Me - whenever the PC enters a town, building or meets anybody new, a sphere bearing a magic mouth will appear and begin to recite their adventures, exploits and achievements. This sphere cannot be struck or damaged in any way.
(Daddy Grognard)

24. Constant Craving - the player is overcome with an uncontrollable hunger which prompts him to consume the party's entire rations (unless stopped). If the party is in town, he will raid any food outlet. Once he is sated, he will rest for 1d6 hours and then wake ravenous again. If there is no food available, he will start on dead bodies and if there are none of those available...
(Daddy Grognard)

25. Thunderstruck - All within 60' are affected by a power word stun as a series of power chords from the jukebox causes the room to reverberate.

26. Hell's Bells - The jukebox tolls sonorously for 3 rounds, the first round summons an erinyes, the second round a barbed devil, the third round a horned devil. These will work together to cause as much mayhem as possible and steal the jukebox.

27. Highway To Hell - The jukebox belches smoke and shines with crimson light. Those who touch the jukebox are plane shifted onto the first plane of the Nine Hells.

28. She Blinded Me With Science - A female gnome in leather armour and various implements of alchemy and artifice pops out jack-in-the-box fashion and blows a cloud of dust into the face of whoever stands before it. They must save or be blinded for d10+2 rounds.

29. Uptown Girl - the PC has become the latest infatuation of the romantic daughter of a very important personage, either a rich merchant, noble or mage. The girl will shower her new beloved with presents appropriate to her status and try to persuade him to name the day. Her family, however, will not be pleased that their daughter has seen fit to try to bring an...ahem...adventurer...into the family. Think Shrek meeting Fiona's parents

30. Whiskey in the Jar - the PC now has an affinity for a particular beverage (not necessarily whiskey) and when he drinks a pint thereof, it has the same effect as a Potion of Healing. This only works for him.

Thursday 26 January 2012

If your name's not on the list...

Just a quick apology to the 16 blogs that I have recently started to follow but which are not appearing on my blogroll. For some unknown reason (it may have something to do with the new comments system, or it may be connected with the new Terms and Conditions) Blogger will not let me update my blogroll - I can add you but it refuses to save the additions.

Just as soon as I can, I'll ensure that you appear there.

Does anyone know when this might be?

Wednesday 25 January 2012

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud – Review

I’ve just spent a few days in the company of a djinni and a boy magician and loved every minute of it. I’m talking about Bartimaeus and Nathaniel, the protagonists of the aforementioned novel (2003) which, although aimed at the teen reader market is thoroughly enjoyable, fast-paced, very well-written and extremely funny to boot.

What’s it all about? Well, it’s set in an England that has all the hallmarks of the modern day (give or take a decade or two) but is ruled by magicians who summon and enslave the djinn, marid, afrits and various demonic entities of Arabic mythology. Imagine Harry Potter written by Michael de Larrabeiti and that gives you a rough idea of what to expect.

The viewpoint switches between the two main characters, with some backstory for Nathaniel, filling in some details on the world without going all Captain Exposition. The use of footnotes for Bartimaeus’ sections, in which he snarkily comments on the goings-on is a very witty and well-executed technique which had me laughing out loud on more than a couple of occasions. It certainly brings home the point of view of the summoned as well as the summoners. Something to think about when your magic user is standing in the middle of his pentacle, about to cast Spiritwrack.

I found myself making time to dip back into it in a way that I did not with some ‘grittier’ and darker adult novels and am delighted to report that there are two more volumes in the series and a prequel which came out a couple of years ago. All three have gone on my reading list.

Next on its way from the library for me is The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

An Adventure for Every Monster - Centipede, Giant

Frequency: Common
No. appearing: 2-24
Armour class: 9
Move: 15”
Hit Dice: 1/4
Percentage in lair: Nil (although in this adventure, that's where they are)
Treasure type: Nil
No. of attacks: 1
Damage per attack: Nil
Special attack: Poison
Special defences: Nil
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Non-
Alignment: Neutral
Size: S (1’ long)
THAC0: 20
XP value: 30 +1/hp

What the party find

The party happen across a large slab of stone in an overgrown ruin, complete with a large log lying nearby. By the edge of the slab is a headless skeleton in the tatty rotted and rusted remnants of armour. A detailed search will reveal another skeleton nearby, in the remains of wilderness gear. Both bodies are partially overgrown by fresh vegetation. A full search of the bodies will reveal that both have pouches of tobacco on them (amongst other things).

What actually happened

The log had been used to lever the slab up so another band of adventurers could get under it. Said band was not that bright and once they’d got the slab up, they all dived in to the earthen tunnel that was revealed, leaving their man-at-arms, Derik, waiting with the mules and Lollo the cleric, who had volunteered to stand guard. Derik heard the screams as the party was ambushed by the centipedes, then peered in to see what was going on only to see a giant centipede coming out at him. He was bitten and scrambled back; Lollo killed the centipede with a thrust of his sword and was about to plunge in after his friends when the poisoned Derik fell against the support for the log lever, causing the slab to come crashing down on top of Lollo’s head.
The strong tobacco that Derik and the party had been smoking reacted with the poison and drove them temporarily insane. Derik charged headlong into a rock, killing himself. The progression of the seasons and the depredations of local wildlife has caused the two bodies to become skeletons and slide slightly from the position of their deaths.

Going underground
Beneath the slab, there is a narrow tunnel leading down at a 45-degree angle. This leads to a network of more tunnels, with several small chambers where the centipedes lay their eggs. The layout of the tunnel network is such that the party can become easily lost and prey to ambush by the centipedes.

The remains of the adventurers that investigated the tunnels will be found if the party delves far enough. There were two fighters and a thief, none of whom had much of anything special (they were 1st level), but again, they have the tobacco pouches.

Weal Weed
The tobacco itself, when smoked, gives off an aroma of sandalwood. Smoking one measure will add +1 to any healing magic that is cast on the smoker, who becomes very mellow for 2-8 hours. During this time, the smoker will ignore all but the most immediate and unavoidable threats to their life. Smoking two measures will send the smoker into a dreamless trance that will last for 2d12 hours. On waking, the smoker will have healed 1d4 x 25% of all hit points lost.

The disadvantages are two-fold: firstly, the tobacco itself is mildly addictive, and secondly, when mixed with insect venom, it produces a reaction very like temporary insanity. The victims will experience potent hallucinations, either believing themselves to be animals or under attack from beasts (or other effects as the DM sees fit).

The insanity effect is in fact highly prized by some esoteric cults who use both the tobacco and insect venom in their rituals. A party might be hired by such a cult to obtain both substances.

Further on and further in

It might be thought that there is not much in this adventure but this is not the case, as one of the tunnels deep inside the network opens onto a mass of tumbled stone which is the collapsed wall of a mausoleum. Its original entrance has long since been buried under masses of soil and vegetation (so there’s no way out that way). The occupant of the mausoleum is a wraith which has been laying dormant for centuries. An intruder into the mausoleum will trigger a Rune of Wakening which will cause the wraith to rise up and defend its crypt.

A Rune of Wakening can be cast by an evil cleric of 5th level or above. When it operates (triggered by somebody walking either straight over it or within five feet of it) it drains 1d8 hit points and transfers the energy to the undead creature which uses this energy to revive from its dormant state. The Rune can be used only with undead that use energy draining. The person drained to activate the undead will recover the hit points at a rate of one an hour – if they survive the encounter, that is.

The wraith’s mausoleum contains its treasure – suitably trapped, of course, although the traps are hundreds of years old so they may work perfectly, intermittently, unexpectedly or not at all.

The Pay-off

All the coins are several centuries old.

269 copper pieces. 56 of these are glued together into a jumbled mass by some sort of resinous secretion. If the resin is hacked open, a swarm of tiny spiders comes bursting out and makes an attack on whoever is nearest. Their bites are harmless in ones or twos but can inflict a nasty rash or a mild fever on the victim if inflicted en masse.
1639 silver pieces, of which 67 are held in a clay pot with a design of swirling dragons. They are triangular in shape.
952 electrum pieces; 10 appear to have a picture of an octopus on one side and on the other a mysterious runic symbol (each is different). The runes are in fact numbers and form a combination to open a vault in a city that is now fathoms beneath the ocean following a cataclysm caused by divine wrath.
1074 gold pieces – 998 of these are in the form of small rods, each containing the same amount of gold as a single coin. Each rod ends in a bulbous formation on which has been engraved a grimacing head. Ten of the 998 are enchanted to discharge a curse that causes a week of nightmares to whoever takes them. There is no way of telling which ones have the curse.

1 Gem – Jet, worth 115gp

Magic: Scalebane, a bastard sword with a normal magical bonus of +1. Its special bonus of +4 applies to all reptilian creatures. Its name is not recorded anywhere on its blade, hilt or scabbard. The finder will have to conduct research in order to discover this. A clue may exist in the shape of the hilt, which is in a design of a man (the grip as the body, the pommel as the head) stamping down on a twisting, writhing scaly worm (the crossguard). The sword remains a +1 weapon (with an XP value of 400) until the wielder is fighting any creature of reptilian nature and shouts out the name of the sword. At this point, the full bonus comes into effect (and the wielder will receive the remaining XP).
The sword, however, carries with it a curse that befell one of its owners when it was used to fight a black dragon, whose blood imbued it with a malign power – if the wielder rolls a natural 1 to hit, they will begin a slow transformation into the very reptile that they are fighting.

Thursday 19 January 2012

Statting up the Cloak of Elviskind - a d30 Community Project

About four years ago or so, on a Giant in the Playground forum, someone came up with a Cloak of Elviskind as a goofy magic item (amongst many others - check it out here) and that set me thinking - what special effects could it have? I thought I'd kick things off with a few suggestions and see if we could expand it to a d30 table for this coolest of magic items.

Thank you very much!

EDIT - the Cloak is made of white satin and is decorated with rhinestones. To activate a power, the wearer must press a rhinestone, swivel his hips and utter the command phrase "Uh-huh!"

2nd EDIT - yay! We have our 30! Thanks to everybody who contributed - expect a pdf anytime soon.

1. Hound Dog - the wearer can summon a war dog that will fight for them for 1d12 turns or until killed

2. All Shook Up - an earth tremor hits a 100 square foot area around the wearer, causing everyone to save vs DEX at -5 or be flung to the floor.

3. Always on my Mind - the wearer is able to maintain a telepathic link with a chosen subject until that person is killed or the cloak is removed.

4. Way on Down - the wearer will be able to teleport 1d6 levels further down in any dungeon at will.

5. Blue Hawaii - the wearer is able to summon ice blue drinks that taste vaguely of coconut, one per party member. The drinks are liquified iron rations.
(Matthew W. Schmeer)

6. In the Ghetto - the wearer is able to dissolve grief associated with a loved one's death.
(Matthew W. Schmeer)

7. Blue Suede Shoes - the wearer is able to calmly respond to any taunts and dangers and will be calm and collected throughout any battle, automatically sensing the correct path of action. However, if anyone steps on the wearer's foot, he goes into berzerker mode and gains all the attack and save bonuses of a berzeker two levels above the wearer's current level for the remainder of the combat encounter. This effect can only happen once a month.
(Matthew W. Schmeer)

8. Viva Las Vegas - wearer gains +10% to all gambling attempts while clothed in the Cloak of Elviskind. Additional percentage advantages for gambling may be added at the will, discretion of the GM. Also entitles wearer to one free drink per game round from the house (Casino/tavern) while gambling.
(Chris Creel)

9. Promised Land - wearer and his companions may be teleported at will to their home base at will once per month. Cloak of Elviskind grants wearer a +1 to their Charisma stat when traveling on a Holy Quest or in search of a religious artifact or location.
(Chris Creel)

10. Jail House Rock - grant wear and companions release from jail, dungeon or other holding facility once per game month through political influence (increased Charisma), mistaken identity (charm person or group), prisoner release/ pardon program or other circumstances determined by GM.
(Chris Creel)

11. Don't be Cruel - all evil creatures who come within 10 feet of the wearer will experience a sudden alignment shift to Neutral Good. This lasts only as long as they are in the area of effect.
(Daddy Grognard)

12. Return to Sender - ranged attacks & spells targeted at the cloak's wearer are redirected back at the attacker. This effect only works once for each 'sender' each day.

13. Girls! Girls! Girls! - the wearer of the cloak can summon 3d4 young women in varied revealing outfits. These girls have no special powers or weapons other than their natural charms.

14. "only fools rush in..." - the cloak-bearer may sacrifice a temporary point of WIS to immediately seize the initiative in a combat. The WIS restores itself 1d3 hours later. Note the potentially addictive nature of this power, given that each time the wearer gives up some Wisdom, giving up even more Wisdom seems like a better and better idea.
(Erik aka VectorSigma)

15. Mean Woman Blues - Upon donning the Cloak he cloak-wearer finds a word stitched into the inside layer in thread of reddish-gold. Upon saying this word aloud, either a marilith or a succubus (DM's choice, according to party strength) is gated into a spot directly in front of the wearer. The entity is probably very irritated, to say the least...

16. "...Has Left The Building." -- Wearer and 3 closest Lvl 0 henchmen automatically teleport to the mouth of the current dungeon.
(Justin S. Davis)

17. Love Me Tender - The wearer is transported to a room at the local inn that is already occupied with a lovely lass. Roll on Random Harlot Table.
(Matthew W. Schmeer)

18. Suspicious Minds - The wearer is able to cast true seeing without material components. The spell lasts 2 minutes per level of the wearer.
(Matthew W. Schmeer)

19. (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear - The wearer is transformed into a child's teddy bear for 1d12 days. During this time, the wearer is sentient and will retain all memories of what she has seen and heard and is also protected from detect magic and true seeing spells.
(Matthew W. Schmeer)

20. Hard Headed Woman - The wearer suffers a -5 to hit any female combatant wearing a helm.
(Matthew W. Schmeer)

21. '68 Comeback Special - The wearer and up to 68 allies are automatically transported to the Comeback Inn in Blackmoor.
(Matthew W. Schmeer)

22. (Marie's the name of) His Latest Flame - the wearer has somehow attracted the amorous attentions of a female fire elemental who is now intent on proving her love - by showering him with gifts (typical of the Elemental Plane of Fire) and 'protecting' him from harm - unfortunately she is rather over-zealous when it comes to interpreting the concept of 'harm'. She will be very difficult to dump but if the wearer does so, she will switch her attentions to another member of the party and bear the wearer deep enmity.
(Daddy Grognard)

23. You're The Devil In Disguise - Wearer may appear as a barbed devil (as per change self).

24. Poison Ivy League - Wearer is the centre of an outbreak of poison ivy (as entangle spell; those who fail must make a save vs. poison or be -2 to hit until they next bathe).

25. Any Way You Want Me (That's How I Will Be) - on encountering a new monster or creature, the wearer will immediately polymorph into an attractive female version of that monster (or male, if the monster is female). The monster will be very taken with its new friend and will react favourably to any requests made of it. However, the monster will also be keen to take the friendship further - if you know what I mean. Any consequences of intimacy whilst in the monster form will condemn the wearer to remain thus until it has given birth.
(Daddy Grognard)

26. Are You Lonesome Tonight? - The wearer can summon a familiar for 1d12 days. Roll 1d10 on the SRD familiar table.
(Matthew W Schmeer)

27. It's Now or Never - The wearer has a 95% chance to convince others to listen to and follow his plan of action .
(Matthew W Schmeer)

28. Surrender - If the wearer brandishes his weapon, his enemy immediately capitulates.
(Matthew W Schmeer)

29. Kentucky Rain - the wearer may cast rain of fire without material components.
(Matthew W Schmeer)

30. Crying in the Chapel - The wearer can cast resurrection without the required material components.
(Matthew W Schmeer)

Tuesday 17 January 2012

An Adventure for Every Monster - Centaur


Frequency: Rare
No. appearing: 4-24
Armour class: 5 (4 for leaders)
Move: 18”
Hit Dice: 4
Percentage in lair: 5%
Treasure type: M, Q with each; D, I, T in lair
No. of attacks: 2 (hooves)
Damage per attack: 1-6/1-6
Special attack: Human weapons (club, bow, shield/lance)
Special defences: Nil
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Low-Average
Alignment: Neutral/Chaotic Good
Size: Large
THAC0: 15
XP value: 85 +4/hp

The party is approached by a centaur representative of a tribe that lives in an area of sylvan forest about three days’ travel north of the party’s current location. He (or it could be she) explains that the tribe is in trouble and they need brave souls to search for something that they need to end their woes.

The problem is this; when centaurs breed, they do not always produce young centaurs. This table shows that centaurs and horses are genetically compatible and that the offspring depends on both the sex and the species.

Recently, something has happened to the tribe and their matings are producing more and more horses – intelligent horses but horses nonetheless – and fewer centaurs. The tribe’s chieftain is concerned that if something is not done soon, their kind will die out in this forest.

Centaur legend tells of a mythical being called the White Stallion, who, it is said, can bring vigour and renewal to the centaur tribe. If this creature could be found, the chieftain believes that the tribe’s troubles would be over. However, the White Stallion is rumoured to live in an area many miles to the north, full of hazards and dangers. The tribe wish the party to voyage to this area, find the Stallion, entice him to return to the tribe and do what must be done to reinvigorate the bloodline. It is believed that all couplings involving the White Stallion will bear centaur offspring and that those offspring will breed as they should do.

The chieftain can offer little more in the way of information; he has always believed the White Stallion to be a legend but tales say that a White Stallion is born once every generation and that he is found and cared for by a dedicated order of priests who protect him in a place called the Valley of Singing Stones.

All of this is true; there really is a White Stallion and his involvement with the tribe would bring the return of the bloodline and the birth of centaurs again. Or at least it would if not for some dark interference.

Certain powers of the lower planes detest the harmony and peace of the forests. They are convinced that the centaurs are to blame for this, along with the satyrs (and they have plans for them as well). Not too long ago, they learned of the problems facing the tribe and, ever keen to use this misfortune for their own end, resolved to do just that. Two succubi were sent to eliminate the druidic guardians of the Stallion and replace them, whilst another demon assumed the form of the legendary horse and killed the original. The bodies were buried; it was the plan of the demons to lure the centaurs into the Valley, whereupon they would be charmed and their females impregnated with demonic seed, later giving birth to an infernal half-breed, a hybrid of horse and demon, ready to wreak havoc throughout the valley.

What the demons did not anticipate was the involvement of the party. They were confident of their ability to gull the centaurs, who are only of average intelligence at best. A band of adventurers, ready for trouble is not on the demons’ schedule.

The party will arrive in the Valley of the Singing Stones to find it a quiet place, a glen lined with overgrown burial mounds, marked with monoliths which have passages and holes carved within them. The wind passes through these and produces the eerie singing noise. Their presence will soon be detected by the demons and they will be given a friendly, if guarded welcome until their true purpose in the Valley is revealed. At this point, the succubi will use their guile and charm to persuade the party that all is well and that they will be more than happy to return to the centaur tribe and assist them in their hour of need.

Of course, the ‘druids’ are quite unable to perform real druidic spells but they will try to use their demonic powers to convince the party that they do have such abilities.

If the DM is feeling in a playful mood, the party can, on its journey north to the Valley, encounter a trapper or tinker who is going south, having had a run of bad luck and is down to his last few silver pieces. He has a mangy mutt who he is more than happy to sell to the party at a reasonable rate. If the party decide to buy the dog, then after some rather annoying scrapes, it may well go haring off and start investigating the burial site for the real Stallion and his druidic guardians.

It is suggested that the DM use the Sylvan Encounter tables on page 187 of the DMG. Lose the Men encounter and the Carnivorous Ape (this is a more Northern European setting I’d envisaged). The setting will be Forest until the party gets to the Valley of the Singing Stones and then Hills.

The succubi in their guise as druids will, of necessity be attractive as druids’ CHA needs to be 15 or more. It might be a bit obvious for them both to be beautiful young girls, so perhaps one could be young and the other more mature but still attractive. The impostor Stallion will still appear as a white horse but his demonic nature will leak out from time to time, explained away by the ‘druids’ as the high spirits of a vigorous stallion.

If the party succeed in uncovering the demonic plot (and it will take some convincing to get the desperate centaurs to believe this) then the chieftain will still give them their agreed fee but reluctantly.

The centaur treasure in their lair consists of

450cp, held in a bag of finest purple velvet with gold embroidery. It has the crest of a notable noble house.

975sp. 210 are tied up in a greasy piece of unidentified animal hide and it will be noted that they have been clipped. This may well be a capital offence wherever the party try to spend them.

675ep; nine of them are marked with a particular image, each relating to a month of the year. If all twelve are found and sold as a set, they could fetch 60gp.

1750gp; 300gp of this is made up of ivory tablets edged with silver on which are engraved letters of credit to a merchant house several hundred miles to the south. If they are taken there, the merchants will honour them; they are worth ten times as much as the material of which they are made. The merchant house in question is currently engaged in a vicious trade war with a rival concern.

330pp, their worth being in the form of six delicately carved crystal bottles, stoppered with golden figurines, stored in a box made of the finest woods, hinged and decorated with silver designs that depict winged lions. Inside each bottle is a small measure of a brightly coloured liquid that, if imbibed, will do the following to the drinker’s requisites (bottle 1 for STR, bottle 2 for Wisd, etc)

1-4 raise it by 1d3
5-8 lower it by 1d4
9-10 bestow a curse

Curses will relate to the requisite and are left to the DM to decide.

8 gems, being:
Rhodochrosite, worth 12gp
Eye Agate, worth 15gp
Jasper, worth 65gp
Amethyst, worth 550gp
Pearl, worth 350gp
Obsidian, worth 14gp
Rock Crystal, worth 40gp
Banded agate, worth 8gp

4 pieces of jewellery

Platinum belt with gems, worth 2000gp. Its buckle is engraved with a circle of letters in an alphabet which nobody seems to recognise.

Goblet of carved jade, worth 1800gp. This was looted from an eldritch temple by a band of adventurers many years ago. Their gruesome fates are recorded in a scroll which is locked away in the library of the Patriarch and may have something to do with the twisting serpentine pattern that is carved round the rim of the goblet and the shape of the goblet’s stem which seems to move if glanced at out of the corner of the eye.

Medallion of silver with gems 2000gp. It is a Medallion of Dwarvish Succession and was lost long ago by a tribe of dwarves, who used it ceremonially to bestow the kingship on the chief’s successor. Dynastic strife was caused by its loss and the dwarves would very much like it back. Very, very much.

Ring of wrought silver, 300gp. Rather mundane and without significance.

Potion of Human Control, works on elves and half-elves
Cloak of Protection +1
2 scrolls; the first is a clerical spell, Feign Death. The second is Protection from Magic.

If the DM wants to spice up the encounter tables above, the Forest Giant from White Dwarf 26 might be an idea to use. Credit to M Newton and D Healey for this one.

There are three types of forest giant: the rancorous and eschel (the female) are rare while the sentinel is very rarely encountered. All have wood-brown skin, but range in hair colour from sandy-brown to a golden colour for the sentinel, black for the rancorous and red-brown for the eschel.
All can use a large shield which would increase their armour class by 1; but do this rarely as their preferred weapon is a large battle-axe. They can attack by hurling rocks, for 2d8, or dead trees or branches, for 2d12 - at -2 for Id12 in thick forest. They are seldom (20%) encountered in their lair.
Forest giants have a strong affinity with their surroundings and have certain spells of which they can use up to a maximum of 4 per day: pass without trace; purify water; locate animals; animal friendship; Detect snares & pits; entangle; locate al weapons are: plants; warp wood; plant growth; and tree.
They can only be surprised on a 1 in 6. Rancorous occasionally use wyverns as steeds.

Sunday 15 January 2012

Team Adventure - Westward Ho!

The next day, our gallant band held a debate about which way they should go on their hunting journey into the wilderness. They knew what lay south and northward lay the ruined castle in which they had taken on and defeated the hill giants. West across the river was another story – nobody knew what was out there. The party resolved to try that direction and crossed to the other bank with little difficulty. Shaking the water from their boots and bridles, they rode off into the forest.

Pretty soon, there were unmistakable signs that they were not alone in the woods. Broken branches, tracks in mud, here and there a scrap of cloth on brambles. They started to become more cautious in their progress but nevertheless were taken by surprise when arrows started shooting out of the undergrowth on both sides of them. They rode forward to get out of the ambush but goblins raced out to block the track ahead and behind them.

It's hardly worth the XP, is it?

Whilst the fighters dealt manfully (and elf-fully – sorry, Cafaror) with the goblins on the track, Elysia slept the archers on the right, then slipped into the undergrowth with her dagger to finish them off. There were seven of them.
Alurax plunged into the bushes on the left and took on two goblin archers with his Trident of Doom. Elysia emerged from the undergrowth with brambles in her hair and blood on her knife blade, then promptly slept the remaining archers; she and Alurax shared the spoils from that.

It was not long before the rest of the party managed to finish off the goblins. Twenty-two lay dead, a fair-sized band this deep into the forest. The party left the bodies for the woodland scavengers and set off west again. Some hours later, as the sun reached its zenith, the party began to move out of the forest and into rougher terrain; far fewer trees, more rocky gullies, cliffs, outcrops and the like. It was one from these that, as they were riding past, two large spears came hurtling down. They just missed Alagon and Ferros and the party scattered to take up defensive positions. Nobody could be seen atop the outcrop but it was from there that the spears came.

"We'll just ride up this vertical rock face...or on second thoughts, we dismount"

Alurax, Ferros, Alagon, Cafaror and Olaf started to climb the steep sides but Cafaror and Olaf slipped and fell to the foot of the slope. They tried again but Olaf ended up at the bottom once more. The less than dexterous dwarf resolved to stay at ground level whilst the elf finally made it to the top.

Alurax and Ferros, quickly joined by Alagon, found themselves confronted by two ogres, who were very intent on defending their little eyrie. Their determination came to nought as Alagon swung in with his sword and decapitated an ogre with one blow. The other ogre was swiftly finished off and then the rest of the party were brought up on ropes to begin the search. Eventually, Elysia found an area of trampled grass and bushes which concealed a slab of stone under which they found the ogres’ stash. There were sacks and chests of coin, a suit of studded leather armour that gave off a tingling aura and two potion bottles, contents as yet unknown. There was also a small leather pouch that held four gems, a piece of jade, sardonyx, a spinel and an onyx. Elysia resolved to have them valued when she got back to town. This reminded me that I need to get some gem values and types pre-rolled because rolling each one individually at the table takes forever, even though it adds flavour to the game.

A cracking fight that led to a great morale boost for the party, particularly for Alagon's player; it was only his second session and now he'd killed his first ogre with a double 20 - instant decapitation in my house rules.

The outcrop was a high point for some distance around, and whilst they were searching, several of the party had spotted, some way off to the west what appeared to be a ruined tower. The keen eyes of Cafaror spotted that there seemed to be a ribbon of smoke rising from it. Eager for adventure, the party set off again, riding through the rough terrain towards their target.

When they arrived, the shadows were lengthening. Standing guard at the steps leading up to the gate were two bugbears and the heads of two more bugbears and a troll could be seen atop the crumbling battlements. None of the party had ever seen a troll before and they had no idea what they were about to face.

Who am I? You'll find out soon enough...

Using both the cover of evening and the Cloak of Elvenkind, Elysia proposed scouting around the periphery of the tower to see if there was another way in. The memory of the Hill Giant castle was obviously strong in her mind. Alurax, on the other hand, keen for fighting and glory, declared that he would attack from the front! He strong-armed Thorgrim the dwarf (the bodyguard of the big-game hunter who had, you will recall, originally bankrolled the expedition) and they headed straight for the two bugbear sentries. Drawing their weapons, they charged in and battle was joined.

What happened next was the start of one of the biggest battles that the party had ever been involved in. Alurax’s Trident of Doom (a very handy weapon which allows him to punch above his weight in melee) put paid to two bugbears straight away but then two more arrived and a troll, who charged straight for the doughty fighter. Battle was joined and soon two more bugbears and a second troll turned up from inside the tower, as did the rest of the party who had circumnavigated the perimeter of the tower and found no other way in. Keen to share the action, everybody piled in and confusion reigned. Ferros scored what must have been the victory of the day, downing a troll with one very lucky blow of his mace (the d30 proving its worth again). Thorgrim was ground down by the attacks of two bugbears and finally fell. Alurax managed to reduce the troll that he was facing to virtual collapse, but it seemed somehow to be getting stronger the more he fought it. Then he took horrific damage from two rending attacks and a savage bite. Elysia used her magic missiles and Alagon shot at the troll with his bow until it finally fell. If the party thought that this was the end of the battle, they were wrong because the troll that Ferros had killed promptly got up again and pressed its attack home.

Well yes, I was dead but that was three rounds ago...

That had come as a nasty shock; two of the players knew what to do to keep trolls down but as their characters did not have that advantage, I ruled against any attempt at metagaming and backed up my ruling with dark looks and muttered threats of "losing a level".

Alagon managed to put it down and this time, Elysia sawed off its head with her knife, hoping that this would kill it once and for all. The troll that had been fighting Alurax also made a spectacular comeback before being downed again and similarly decapitated.

Pausing only temporarily to cast their healing magic (and in the case of Alagon to use his laying on of hands power) the party pressed on through the gate and into the tower itself, from where they had heard noises which told them that they had not finished off the entire defence force. Before them lay a room with three possible exits – ahead, right and left. The latter led them to a dingy room in which was a filthy pile of straw and some gnawed and bloody bones. To the right was a long vaulted hall at the end of which was an archway through which the party saw two more bugbears coming to investigate the noise of intruders. The bugbears hung back, enticing the party to come to them. Unfortunately, Ferros charged straight through the arch without stopping to wonder why and triggered a flame trap which incinerated the doughty cleric. He had lost a lot of hit points in the battle and was still not up to full; he also failed a save vs Breath and took 4d6 of damage, which reduced him to below -10. That, by my house rules, is permanently Dead.

Elysia cast Stinking Cloud on the bugbears, who collapsed to the floor choking with nausea. Alurax and Alagon went through the arch, avoiding the trap trigger and put the bugbears to the sword, having of course covered their noses and mouths to avoid the noxious vapours.

Even as the party was pondering its next move, the choice was made for them as another troll appeared at the end of the vaulted hall. Alurax fired an arrow at it and it started to retreat, perhaps reluctant to meet them on advantageous ground. They poured back into the hall and deployed to attack. Elysia used her Wand of Illumination to cast Sunburst but even though she used it twice, the troll was undaunted and pressed home its attack.

Witness the might of light...having no effect whatsoever

Olaf, Cafaror and Alurax faced it, with Alagon towards the end of the hall, using his bow to launch ranged attacks. The troll proved a tough opponent but although it floored Olaf, it was eventually backed against the wall, brought down and its head cut off by Cafaror.

There was nothing that could be done for Ferros at present. The party was now without a cleric and Elysia was out of spells. They explored the rest of the ground floor and located the stairs to the battlements and a room at the rear of the tower where a solitary bugbear was stationed. He at once surrendered to the party and told them in halting common that there was treasure in an antechamber and that a flight of stairs going down was “very bad” and that “troll pet” awaited them. Alurax bound the captive and got him to open the door of the treasure room in case it was trapped. It was not, and they found within a very substantial haul of coins, a suit of plate mail, a magic dagger, some magic arrows and another potion bottle. While the rest of the party was counting this out, Alurax crept down the stairs and peered into the chamber he found, where he saw a huge owlbear tied to an iron ring in the wall. There were three doors opening off the chamber but in their weakened state, the party did not feel like investigating any of them. Licking their wounds, they decided to call it a day but little did they know that there was something that they had not counted on; they would find out what it was very soon.

I'd prepared the dungeon some weeks in advance and placed it in that hex, thinking that the party might one day stumble across it; I'd used one of Dyson Logos' maps, found here, stocked it up and left it. There are a couple of other hexes with dungeons waiting to be found but I really need to get on and do some more so that if the party decide to head off in another direction, I've got something for them to find. It just goes to show that dungeons don't have to be massive to be fun.

On a sad note, I learned this weekend that the player who ran Adthar and then Olaf is pulling out of the group. He's nearly 14 now and academic pressures are mounting so there just wasn't enough time for him to give a full Saturday to the group. We wished him well and I offered any materials or support he needed if he was interested in setting up a gaming group amongst his contemporaries.

Friday 6 January 2012

A mind is a terrible thing to lose

If, over the course of the coming months, you notice my posts becoming progressively repetitive and incomprehensible, this will explain why.

I'm 47 this year.