Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Map for The Dig + Cambrian Organisms

So here's the map for The Dig, a minidungeon on Hex 0905 of the Frogstar Peninsula hexcrawl.

I'm planning on sticking the map on the right side of a page, so the elongated shape won't be too annoying.

Basically, morlocks and their chelinausca master were digging a secret subterranean highway nearby when they noticed a bunch of humans excavating fossils a nearby hillside.  They've decided to kill all the humans.  Rocks from fossil beds (and oil reservoirs) are pretty much impregnated with about 1000 ghosts/cu. ft., so it wasn't too hard for the chelinausca necromancer to agitate the ghosts into forming a life node, which is causing the fossils to spontaneously reincarnate as organic ghost manifestations.  Their biologies are built from their own memories, so some details aren't quite right.  Anomalocaris, for example, is twice as big as it should be and can fly for some reason.

Monday, July 28, 2014

HEX 0312 The Fragrant Mother

HEX 0312 The Fragrant Mother

This is another part of my Frogstar Peninsula Hexcrawl, typed up all pretty.

I'm trying to fill it with bunches of minidungeons (see also: Blowhole Caverns) so that's what this is, pretty much.

A History Lesson

Once there was a big, semi-intelligent plant called the Fragrant Mother.  It looked like a toothy rose plant 40' high.  It was inhabited by bog mermaids, who lived inside it and took care of it.  Together, they did some pretty great things, including making immorality elixir (see Room 7) and keeping this part of the swamp safe from the Ape King.

But then all of the bog mermaids died, were driven off, or started hibernating.  So now pixies have moved into the Fragrant Mother.

The Pixies

They're capricious, flighty, and a bit na├»ve, but they're not malicious.  They aren't as good at taking care of the Fragrant Mother, but it's their home and they aren't leaving.  They'll defend their home against thieves and murderhobos tenaciously, but they don't like bloodshed and will try to avoid killing people when there are other options.

They know that the Fragrant Mother is a little bit sick, and they suspect that there's something wrong down in the root cellar (Rooms 8-13).  They're too afraid to look, though.  If an adventurer wants to get on their good side, cleaning out the basement might be a good place to start.

The Fragrant Mother

She's an old plant, and she's halfways sentient.  Or at least, she's sentient in her dreams.  When she's awake she's just a big, carnivorous plant that has a vague sense of who her friends are (or at least, these tiny creatures that scrape the parasites off.  She used to be a political power in the swamp, complete with mystic  powers and miracle cures, but now she's just a big dungeon fill of happy-go-lucky pixies.

Unless she has a reason not to, she'll spend most days spreading charm pollen into the air.  PCs who enter her hex have a chance to smell the potent, heady perfume of her scent.  Unless they leave the hex immediately, they'll walk right up her, dazed, a sleepwalker.  Then she'll pick up the person (gently), raise them to her mouth (a toothy rose 14' across) and give them a sniff.  If they smell like violence, fear, hate, or greed, she'll eat them.  Otherwise she'll let them go (but there's a 20% chance that she's hungry and will try to eat the person anyway).

The pixies are here often enough to be desensitized to the pollen.  Slapping someone who's under the effects of the charm pollen will snap them out of it.

FRAGRANT MOTHER: HD 14, AC 13, tendrils +9/+9 (1d8 or grab, 30' reach, arms have 2 HD independent or body and 17 Str), grabbed opponents may be squeezed automatically for 1d8 damage each turn if she wants to hurt you, after spending 1 turn lifting you, she can swallow you for 2d6 acid damage (stomach has 3 HD, if you want to try cutting your way out), MV 0, ML 9; Sniff—can vaguely read minds, emotions, and especially intentions by getting a good whiff; Charm pollen—sort of like the charm spell, except makes people walk up to her and stand there like dopes, 3 mile radius; Sleep pollen—as sleep spell, 100' radius

The Dungeon

Both doors to the Fragrant Mother are hidden, but the pixies come and go often enough that any observer who watching the Fragrant Mother for any length of time will figure out that there is some sort of entrance hidden behind the thick leaves.  (The doors are obvious from the inside.)  The second story entrance is 10' up in the air, so some climbing may be required.

Each room will have 1d3-1 pixies in it (min 0).  Pixie stats are listed in Room 2.

a Squeeze
There are two places in the basement where the passage is too narrow for a full grown human to move easily.

1 Table
15' long mahogany table, with white oak inlays, covered in squiggles, actually a very accurate map of the swamp.  A red bead marks the current location.  Pixies pushed table here to seal hole to Room 8 [Flood].  Scrape marks on floor from moved table.

2 Houses
5 pixie houses.  Look like elaborate bird houses made from flower stems and braided honey suckle.  Glowing flowers on wall.  Pet fire beetle (4' long) snuffles in his sleeping bowl. Sixteen fairies live here.

At any given time, 1d8 fairies are in this room and another 1d8 fairies are in the other rooms.  The rest are out foraging in the woods.

SMALL FIRE BEETLE: HD 2, AC 14, bite +2 (1d4), MV slow, ML 7; Spew Fire—15' cone, usable 1/day, does 2d4 damage (save for half) and outlines the target in boiling, phosphorescent liquid.

PIXIE: HD 1d6, AC 14, tiny sword -1 (1d4) or tiny iron arrow +3 (1d4), MV fast, ML 7; Each pixie knows a random level 1 spell that they can cast 1/day.  Their chieftain has HD 2d6 and is named Strongwillow.

3 Plants
Wall-mounted turtleshell planters hold a dozen different types of swamp flowers.  Irrigated by rainwater funneled in from outside.  Smells like dirt.  Pixies here will be singing to flowers, easily surprised.  Each flower is a “book”, and imparts its knowledge if smelled.  One flower is a spell book containing a single spell called guiding light (see appendix).  The stairs in this room resemble a stack of crocodiles.  Oddly enough it looks like someone has taken an axe to these carved crocodiles, and hacked them halfway to pieces.  Stairs up to Room 4 [Armor].

4 Armor
Slightly overgrown treasure room.  2 rusty spears and 1 rusty harpoon.  Opalescent pixie breastplate (let's a pixie read thoughts).  Armored sleeve (+1 AC piecemeal, masterwork) with cuniform on the shoulder.  3 Chicken Feather Arrows (see appendix).  The Saddle of Horses (see appendix).  3 crates containing rotted silk (worthless).  1 crate containing 16 sealed jars of spices, each one worth 30s and stamped with bogfolk cuniform.  Stairs down to Room 3 [Plants].

5 Fountain of Dreams
Fountain is the most prized possession of the pixies.  If drank, it will remove exhaustion and give a player opalescent skin.  The next time they sleep, they will be incorporeal until the morning, and able to fly at their full walking speed.  If the dreamer flies into the center of the Fragrant Mother's primary blossom, they'll be able to talk to her directly.  (She is bestial when awake, but Int 14, Wis 14, Cha 14 when asleep.)  There is a 3% chance that the character remains incorporeal and never wakes up.  Can be used to scout out adjacent hexes, but flight is slow.

A family of mice lives under the fountain.  It's magic has made them weird, and they will approach pixies, sing a rude song about mermaids, and run away.  The pixies think they're adorable, and tolerate them very well.

6 Wood
Beautiful tapestry (worth 100s) of different colored fish scales sewn onto human leather.  Depicts bog merfolk cavorting around a giant flower, drinking from yellow horns.  One plays on a glowing flute.  Also in room is a wooden carafe and what looks like a totem pole that is sticking out the backs of it's forearms horizontally so as to make a ladder up to Room 7 [Seed].  Totem pole-ladder will attack anyone who touches it without first washing themselves with water from the carafe.  It wants to keep Room 7 clean.

TOTEM POLE-LADDER: HD 3, AC 13, Punch +1 (1d8), MV slow, ML 12; Fall Over—can fall on someone for double damage on a hit, but then spends the next turn standing up; half damage from bludgeoning.

7 Seed
This is where the bog merfolk wizards once cultivated the immortality berries, which could be made into immortality elixir.

This room is softly lit by a pale red glow from the Fragrant Mother's primary bloom, above.  6 flower pots full of ancient, withered vines are covered in yellow-brown inlaid murals.  (If a flower pot is investigated, it is revealed to be covered in gold wire, and worth 100s each as art.)  Small bag of what smells like dried manure (actually magical neverending bag of manure, good for fires).  Small work table holds gardening tools and an unlocked chest.  Unlocked chest contains the remains of a giant tadpole skeleton, a packet of still-viable strangle vine seeds, and three vials that once held immortality elixir.

The first vial has long since dried up, and contains only dust and an immortal mushroom.  The second vial is filled with a murky brown sludge.  If imbibed, it kills the drinker (no save) and raises them as a mindless plant ghoul one round later.  The third vial still retains its potency.

If the third vial is poured in the mouth of a corpse, a small tree will instantly grow from the corpse, which will bear one cluster of berries after only a minute.  The person who eats all of these berries will gradually transform into the dead person over the course of two weeks.  At first personality traits will be adopted, then memories, then physical changes, and then finally the new creature will forget all of its former memories, and will completely resemble the deceased in every way, except that the new person will be the prime of their youth.  If the elixir is drank by a living creature, they will die (no save) and a plant will grow out of them in exactly the same fashion.  The elixir is nearly priceless.

8 Flood
3' of stagnant, black water on the ground, filled with scum and insect larvae.  This is where the pixies threw all of the bogfolk furniture that they didn't want.  Scoop-like couches.  Spiral beds centered around a thick pole (for bogfolk to curl up around).   Root-wooden walls have carvings of bogfolk daily life, but are badly defaced by deep gouges and scratches.  If examined, the gouges are also mirrored on the bottom of the table that blocks the hole above.  (These are scratches made by Gurdelgur trying to escape.)

Gurdelgur usually hides in the water here, watching the only entrance.  She is a bog mermaid ghoul, and she is very patient.  The most observant person in the party has a small chance to see her, and succeeds if they roll under their Wisdom -6.  Gurdelgur will wait until the party is distracted, and then attack the weakest looking person.  If the PCs leave the room, she'll follow, swimming along in the shallow, dirty water (this gives the most observant PC another chance to see her.)

GURDELGUR: HD 3, AC 13, Claws +3/+3 (1d4 + lung rot), MV average, ML 7; Lung Rot—target struck by a claw attack must save or endure their lungs filling up with necrotic swamp water.  This lasts 1d6 rounds and targets take 1d6 damage damage each turn unless they spend that turn coughing up swamp water.  (Bog mermaid ghouls lack the traditional paralysis, and inflict lung rot instead.)

9 Crackle
3' of stagnant, black water on the ground. Low-hanging roots scrape at head and shoulders of people at human height.  A few fat-bodied weevils parasitize the roots of the Fragrant Mother.  Make a crackling sound as they munch on the roots—heard before they are seen.  Gross but harmless.  Would take about an hour to remove all of them.

10 Mummy
3' of stagnant, black water on the ground.   Mummified bogfolk priest days named Morothmo is in here, coiled up inside a broad, flat, cylindrical sarcophagus.  Lid depicts his visage.  Cruel, calm, heady-lidded.  Inside is the priest himself, holding the Flute of Fair Weather and wearing a tarnished bronze torc with a black spinel the size of a baby's fist (worth 500s).  If the torc is stolen, Morothmo will animate 24 hours later and stalk the thief for three days, first leaving signs, then appearing in the corner of their vision, and then finally attacking them on the third day in order to retrieve his torc.  However, he will not pursue anyone beyond the boundaries of the swamp, and will not seek revenge if a PC sells his necklace--he's too dead to carry a grudge.

Gurdelgur is terrified of Morothmo and will not enter his room.

MOROTHMO: HD 6, AC 13, Claws +6/+6 (1d6 + lung rot), MV average, ML 10; Lung Rot works the same as with Gurdelgur, in Room 8.

11 Root
3' of stagnant, black water on the ground.  There is an indentation in the wall here that looks not unlike a chair.  Or at least a place to sit that has armrests.  If a person sits there, the roots will begin to mesh with the person.  A person could jump out safely when they realize what's happening, but if they linger more than a few seconds, the roots will mesh with their body and assimilate it.  All that will be left in the roots is a paper-thin husk of skin and hair.

Seven days later, the Fragrant Mother will bear a fruit.  77 days after being planted, the fruit will grow into a pod, which will rebirth the assimilated person whole, and free from disease and mutation.  The person will also lose 1 point of Dex and gain 1 point of Str.

If anyone repeats this process multiple times, the same thing happens, except that they will not gain a point a Strength on subsequent passages (they will still lose a point of Dex, however).  Too many uses of this fruit-based rejuvenation will turn a person into wood.  The pixies do not know about this function.

If no one tends to the fruit that grows, there is only a 50% chance that it germinates and grows into a pod.  Otherwise, the pixies eat it, or it falls into water that is too wet for it to survive, etc.

12 Worms
3' of stagnant, black water on the ground.  1 plump worm (3' long) gnaws on the roots here.  This is what is making the Fragrant Mother ill.  If the worm is attacked, two more worms will burrow up from the ground.  If these worms are killed and no further vermin are allowed to infest the Fragrant Mother, it will begin bearing immortality berries in 3 years.

PLUMP WORM: HD 1, AC 10, Bite +1 (1d6), MV slow, ML 8; Acid Blood—any weapon that hits a plump worm is damaged and gains a Notch or a Ding or just has a 50% chance to become useless.

13 Runes
3' of stagnant, black water on the ground.  The bog mermaid runes on the walls here spell out the history of the Fragrant Mother and the decline of the bog people.  It also describes how the immortality fruit was made into immortality elixir (but lacks a detailed recipe) as well as how the roots in Room 11 function.

A mound of smelly rubbish in the corner holds Gurdelgur's treasure: a leathery goat bladder containing 204 silver, 9 gold, and a magic blowgun (+1/+3 vs amphibians) made from blackened witch-reed, and engraved with the bog folk runes for “friendship”.

Appendix: New Items

Saddle of Horses
No, the name is not redundant.  This ancient saddle is made from horse leather.  The pommel is in the shape of a stylized horse's head.  And if the saddle is ever strapped to a creature's back, that creature will turn into a horse for as long as the saddle remains on.

The horse is just a horse.  It cannot talk or cast spells.  The only non-horsey part about it is its mind, which it retains from its previous form.  Since bucking a saddle onto someone is pretty tricky even when they're cooperating, it is only possible to put the Saddle of Horses on a willing or helpless target.  Horses cannot take their own saddles off.  You need thumbs for that.  Once you've been a horse you will dream about horses 1d6 times a week for the rest of your life.

The Saddle's last known owner was the famed bounty hunter Phineas Rage, who was fond of riding his bounties back to the sheriff's office.

Flute of Fair Weather
This is one of the most important artifacts in bog folk culture.  They'd do a lot to recover it (if they knew where it was), and they'd be very grateful it if were returned.

If the Flute of Fair Weather is played by a human, it will get windy after 1 hour of continuous playing, overcast after 2, rainy after 4, and stormy after 8.  If the human is not an experienced flautist, they will lose control of the magic in the worst way possible.

In the hands of a bog mermaid, the flute has more powers, all of them weather-related.  Notably, it can be used to calm down storms and summon up stiff winds (although it cannot control the direction).

Chicken Feather Arrows
A target struck by one of these arrows must save or flee in terror for 1d6 rounds.  But if the arrow is used to shoot an egg—and kind of egg—it will instead turn into a full-grown chicken.

Appendix: New Spells

Guiding Light
Magic-User 1
A ball of light shaped like a 6' goldfish flies from your mouth.  It is as bright as a torch.  The goldfish immediately tries to find the fastest “way out”, and then immediately swims in that direction at a walking pace.  The goldfish cannot be halted, slowed, or dimmed (though it can be dispelled).  As a mindless spell construct, the goldfish has no concept of safety or accessibility, and will swim right through doors without slowing (because that is a path you could take, see?).  Big or non-euclidean dungeons confuse the fish, but in general, it can lead you out of a dungeon no deeper than 1 level per caster level.  If there are no ways out, or there is no “out”, the fish will freak out for a few seconds and then explode.

Chelinausca and Morlocks

it is tough to find a cool centipede logo :(
A History Lesson

About 750 years ago, the world was ending in fire.  Volcanoes were erupting everywhere.  The skies turned black and the sun was forgotten.  Farms were buried in ash; farmers were cremated.  A tremendous number of volcano cults sprang up.  Whole villages were thrown into volcanos in order to appease them, but nothing worked.  It was a plague of volcanoes.

Anyway, no one had any idea how to stop this pyroclastic pox.  People had conventions, kings and wizards convened, all in the effort to figure out a way to save the world.  None of these had any effect except to launch a series of admirable-but-doomed plots.  The population of adventurers dropped rapidly in those days, even faster than the rest of the world.  Anyway, during one of these convocations of wizards and kings, Empress Kuth-Lassariac Boregal (KUTH luh-SER-ee-ak BOH-reh-GAUL) showed up, after a very, very long journey from her empire in the Darklands.

Digression: The Darklands

The northern boundary of maps in Centerra is the thick purple blob called the Shadowlands.  If I mention phrases like "chaos wastes" and "opium fever dream" and "flyblown corpse of Gaia" and "+Logan Knight's standard campaign setting" you'll get a pretty good idea of the place.  It's also about 2x the landmass of Centerra and has it's own cities and loose nations, none of which are human, and most of which are insane.  Honest Centerrans pretend that the Darklands don't exist, for safety.

don't visit the darklands
A History Lesson, cont.

Empress Kuth-Lassariac Boregal was a member of the Chelinauscan race (see below) and the leader of the largest nation in the world.  Anyway, the Empress proposed a joint venture.  Human forces would join with her chelinauscan legions, and she would lead all the armies of the world down into the center of the world, in order to face the fire at the heart of the world, and stab it until it was dead.  In return, all the nations of the world agreed to swear fealty to Empress Boregal upon her triumphant return.

And so the largest and most diverse army ever assembled dug down into the earth so that they could kill it.

And they possibly succeeded.  Nineteen years laters, the volcanos dried up.  So while modern Centerra is mottled with cinder cones and plains of jagged lava rock, you won't find a single active volcano.  (Except Lady Hellfire, but that's another story.)

And there was no sign of Empress Boregal, nor the Immaculate Legion.  And while modern people are familiar with the story of "volcanoes were destroying the world and an army of heroes went into the ground and stopped it", modern renditions tend to omit any mention of Empress Boregal, or her contribution.

And of course, the Chelinausca are returning.  Just a few scouts and heralds at first, but the huge armies of the Immaculate Legion are right behind them.  And of course, they want what was promised 750 years ago--dominion over the nations of Centerra.

This is one of the overplots of the setting.  Pieces of it are seeded all over the world.


They're centipede people, pretty much.  Or centipede-centaurs.  Above the waist, they resemble statuesque humans with vibrant colored skin (red, brown, or gold).  Below the waist, they're just giant centipedes, 15' long.  They're usually naked, except for all the precious metals and jewels that they constantly drape themselves in.

They're also big on perfumes, and each one chooses a distinctive smell that they wear for the rest of their lives.  Each of these perfumes is strong and distinct enough that even humans can determine which Chelinausca visited this area in the last 24 hours.  That's the whole point, of course.

Once they reach adulthood, they begin replacing their tergites (body plates) with metal ones.  These metal tergites are called batella (s. batellum), and among Chelinausca, they are a Very Big Deal.  First and foremost, they're armor (so older Chelinausca have higher AC).  Secondly, they're art pieces.  Each batella has enough filigree and wirework to put your friend's absinthe spoon collection to shame.  Thirdly, they're heirlooms; each chelinausca will wear the batella of their famous ancestors, and will pay large ransoms to ensure their return.  Fourth, they're currency; each batellum is worth about 100s when trading with the chelinausca, or about half that on the human market.

Above the waist, chelinausca look like humans, except for the last joint of each index finger on each hand, which grows long, black, and poisonous.  From their waist, they also have a pair of large pedipalps, long enough to impale a horse, heavy enough to crush a skull.

Chelinauscan nobility cut off these heavy pedipalps.  Instead, the nobility practice magic, and learn a martial art called ividauma, which focuses on poisoning an enemy and then redirecting their attacks until they succumb.

The chelinauscan knight caste instead cut off their long, poisonous index fingers, so that they are better able to wield weapons.

Chelinauscan society is as complex as ours.  While the PCs are probably going to interact with the military apparatus of the Empire, behind the ranks there are artists, entertainers, profiteers, smugglers, camp followers, and pacifists.

The chelinausca are also the only ones who have figured out how to make steel.  Not even the dwarves have figured out that much metallurgy.

The chelinauscan armies are composed entirely of human slaves called morlocks, descendants of the original human armies.  The basic functional unit of chelinauscan society is a house, composed of a mated pair of chelinauscans (who share a rank are treated as a single citizen for legal matters--chelinauscans are potent monogamists) and about 50-200 morlocks.


Two things have allowed the chelinauscans to forge the morlocks into weapons of mass destruction.  Selective breeding and loyalty.


750 years living miles from the sunlight has forced the chelinauscans to adapt to a new lifestyle.  While the old armies originally brought traditional lifestock with them, they've been forced to adapt to new sources.  Or more accurately, they forced the humans to adapt.

Each of the four sub-species of morlock is named after one of the ancient human generals, who led the armies 750 years ago, and became the Honorable Progenitor.

The Honorable Progenitors, May They Find Warmth, are venerated as saints in the chelinauscan-morlock culture.  You'll find small shrines to to the Honorable Progenitors all throughout the underdark.  Even chelinauscans will bow to the Honorable Progenitors when they pass their icons.  (However, shrines to Empress Boregal are even more common.  Morlocks are not worthy to pray to her, and so their prayers must detour through the Honorable Progenitors first.)

another morlock!
There are four sub-species of morlock.  I know I give some descriptions of them below, but honestly, they come in all sorts of skin tones.  Purple, white, black, brown skin.  White, black, red, yellow eyes (frequently slitted like a cat's).  Hair available in all the shades of black, white, and grey.
Two things most surface dwellers don't know about morlocks: they are diverse.  The shaggy white ape-things you fought two caverns back are distant cousins to the pale-skinned dudes currently shooting you with narcotic arrows.  And secondly, they're smart.  They don't talk much to surface-cattle, but they're savvy.

Killian morlocks resemble their human ancestors the most.  They are bred to resemble surface humans, and about 10% are indistinguishable from humans (though they usually dye their hair).  The other 90% have too many canines in their mouth, or have pronounced hunchbacks, or dark shadows swell and pulse beneath their skin, or their shoulders are far too broad, or have foreheads more protuberant than any human, or have eyes like cats.

They are the the most common caste of morlocks, and it is rumored that many of them have infiltrated human society as spies.

Granger morlocks are beasts of burden and livestock.  Bipedal, but with wedge-shaped heads and huge jaws.  Shaggy all over, like a great white ape, except for the head.  Like a cow, their eyes are widely separated, on each side of their head.  Can pull a plow.  Delicious in a mushroom stew.  They're about as smart as a child and can digest cellulose (also like a cow).  Constantly grazing on vast quantities of mushrooms and tefec reeds.  Notoriously flatulant.  8' tall, and strong as an ox.

They're also the shock troops in chelinauscan armies.  Usually covered in full plate that is then welded shut.  Then they're absolutely bedazzled with spikes.  Spikes on top of spikes on top of metal.

In morlock squads, one of the granger morlocks is usually saddled up, so a slavemaster morlock can direct the rest of the slaves.

aa stygian morlock
Stygian morlockare the psychics.  Exposed brains, eyes rolling madly in their sockets, focused on the abysso-pelagic pseudofauna of the World Behind the World.  Can read minds and see through walls. Most, but not all of them, are completely insane.  It is wise to fear a sane stygian morlock.  Little is known of them.

Varicose morlocks are the rarest and most feared of all the morlocks.  They're the size of children.  They're naked, except for their hands and feet, which are encased in gauntlets, each finger ending in a steel claw.  (They have monkey feet, and those have clawed gauntlets, too.  Their mouths have been filled with metal teeth.

They're feared because (a) they are tremendously stealthy when they want to be.  You haven't experienced shit-your-pants terror in the underdark until a trio of these little bastards drops down on to your column from between a tiny patch of shadow between two stalactites.  And (b) they fight like devils.  Or wolverines.  Disembowel one and it'll only run after you faster, now that it has less to weigh it down.  Cut off its arm and you've only given it a weapon to hit you with.  Stab it in the heart and you'll only piss it off.

No one is sure what makes varicose morlocks so angry and so durable, but scholars suspect that it is alchemical in nature.  Their corpses, for example, squirm and writhe like living things.  And several minutes after dismemberment, their internal organs appear to boil, hissing and popping with steam.  By the end of its death throes, a varicose morlock corpse is cooked well enough to eat.

(In game terms, varicose morlocks get a +1 to attack and damage for every round of combat, stacking up to +5.  Additionally, any damage that they take doesn't "arrive" until two rounds later.  Aaaaand they recover 1 hp per round, exactly like a troll, except that they cannot reattach lost limbs.)

granger morlock

Outsiders have a difficult time understanding the adoration that morlocks heap onto their masters.  For a long time, people suspected that they were magically compelled, or that the morlocks were gripped with so much fear that they refused to speak ill of their masters, even during torture.  They didn't understand it.  They couldn't put a word to it.

But then they realized that the correct word was love.

Morlocks love their masters in the same way that dogs love their masters.  It needs no elaboration.  Their masters are wise, just, and kind.  Sometimes there is violence, but it is only when the morlock has broken some rule.  And like dogs, they have very little desire to ever run away.  Happiness is a sheep dog.

But take this dog brain and apply it to a thinking mind as intelligent as any human's (killian morlocks are actually more intelligent than humans).  The result is a culture that has developed a deeply entrenched culture of loyalty.

As a rule, morlocks are not educated any more than they need to be, but in the depths of the Empire you will find erudite morlocks who can speak three surface languages and six underdark ones, and is willing to calmly and rationally explain why their enslavement is Good and True and Right.

Those captured by morlocks are usually proselytized aggressively.  A steady regimen of mutilation, propaganda, and cycles of kindness-and-torture have proven remarkably effective at winning new converts.  It usually only takes a couple of years for a captured surface-dweller to become a slavish devotee of their chelinauscan master, frequently exceeding even native-born morlocks in a desire to please (they need to make up for lost time, you see.)

proud morlock slaves
Morlocks are slaves, it is true, but it is a slavery that they cherish.  They show their devotion to their masters by intricate scarification on their bellies and heavy piercings.  Steel bars anchored through the radius and ulna of their forearm.  Heavy piercings in their ears and lips.

And of course, the gifts of flesh.

A gift of flesh is when a morlock pulls a Van Gogh, and gives his or her master a piece of their own body, usually as a congratulatory gift after a military victory or the birth of a child.  After a great and successful battle, a chelinauscan commander can expect to receive dozens of ears, a fistful of nipples, a few teeth (that were coming loose anyway), and even a testicle or two.

pictured: morlock pain meditation
There's a whole ceremony for giving gifts of flesh.  The morlock approaches the master, who is standing atop a tiny ziggurat, and wearing a cloak of worm-leather.  The morlock cuts off the chosen body part with a push-dagger kukri and presses it into the master's hand, all without showing any emotion (this displays Devotion).  Then the morlock kisses the master on the poison-finger-spike (to display Trust).  Then the master eats the body part, also without any display of emotion.  Then the two look each other in the eyes--the only time a morlock may look his master in the eyes--and the two regard each other fondly for a moment or two (this is Respect).  And then the morlock returns to the slave pits and the next morlock approaches with another kukri.

Morlocks who are especially devout (and have given a few pounds of their flesh) are allowed to keep the ceremonial push-dagger kukri to keep (one of the few pieces of property a morlock is allowed).  The morlock then makes a sheath on their own scapula (in the backside of their own shoulder), where they will carry the kukri for the rest of their lives, brimming with pride and gratitude.

It's the most beautiful ceremony in the life of a morlock, and brings a tear to the eyes of the younger ones.

full of morlocks
When a morlock dies, it is eaten by the whole House.  The master gets the heart, of course, but the rest of the body is usually shared among the rest of the morlock's family.  However, if the slave was especially beloved, the master will honor him by consuming the entire body.

For the same reason, a chelinausca will never eat a surface human, nor an adventurer.  They would rather starve than taint their body with such unworthy flesh.  (Morlocks, however, will take great pleasure in turning a captured human into a delicious stew.  Human stew is the best, and is often the only source of meat in their diet when on a campaign.  Meat is scarce in the underdark.)

When a morlock gets old, or is too injured to be useful, the morlock is eaten.  Morlocks usually look forward to this final service.  The Last Meal is a great honor.

Using a combination of tourniquets and painkillers (chelinausca also have better medicine than the surface world), the morlock is allowed to perform their own butchery.  While seated in the center of the table, the morlock removes his or her own legs, and then directs the preparation of the meat.  The master tastes the meat, and if it is good meat and the morlock is a devoted morlock, orders the further consumption of the morlock.  The morlock then removes his or her own heart, and directs the preparation of it.  (A 1st-level spell makes this possible.)  Then the chelinausca eats the heart.  When the morlock finally dies, usually sometime around the second course, it is usually with a heart full of pride.  The chelinausca has a heart full of pride, too.  Not the one on his fork--the normal kind of heart full of pride.  That was a Good slave.

If the morlock was disobedient or wicked, the ceremony occurs differently.  After the master tastes the leg-flesh, the leg-flesh is declared to be unclean, the unhappy morlock is thrown into the cooking fire, where he will be burnt until he is nothing but ashes, so that not even the worms will be nourished by his flesh.  (In the scarcity of the underdark, this kind of waste is utterly blaphemous, and there is no greater shame.)  Then everyone goes home hungry and ashamed, the master most of all.

If a morlock commits a great dishonor, or is has performed traitorous actions, his master will call for him to perform the Last Meal immediately.  These are more akin to executions, and the morlock, of course, obeys unhesitatingly.  The morlock can die honorably, if he performs the Last Meal admirably and without emotion, some of that shame will be erased.

Feral Morlocks

Morlocks are like dogs, but even surburbia sometimes has packs of domesticated dogs that have gone feral.  These feral morlocks are usually hunted down and killed quickly and efficiently.

Feral morlocks have no desire to overthrow the Empire.  Obedience is still bred into them.  Obedience in in their bones.  If a chelinausca ordered them to cut off their own heads, they would still think about it.

But they are a wild card.  An unknown variable.  And that's interesting.

Could you have an adventuring group made up of morlocks?  Fuck yes.  There's even four subspecies to choose from.  The campaign would probably involve fighting both the chelinausca and the surfacedwellers, trying to carve out a safe slice of real estate before the pot boils over and the world drowns in war-blood.  (Thanks for the idea+Patrick Stuart.)

I haven't written out morlock race-classes, but I know one feature they'll have: they'll have to make a save whenever they want to attack a chelinausca, or whenever they want to disobey a direct order given by a chelinausca.  (This doesn't apply to running away.  You can always flee in shame.)

possibly a morlock
diversity, man
i have no idea about the head

Friday, July 25, 2014

HEX 0609 Blowhole Caverns

HEX 0609

Parties will find the blowhole caverns by either (a) finding an old pirate treasure map in a different dungeon, (b) hearing rumors about barnacle men dragging their captives back in this direction, or (c) just stumbling upon the burned-down inn in hex 0609 on my Frogstar Peninsula hexcrawl.

Notes: Pirate Treasure Map
It gives accurate directions to the blowhole caverns, but since it was written long ago, it makes no mention of the barnacle men.  The edges of the paper are singed, and if the map is heated, it will reveal hidden words that read: "Fire's hot breath yields these words, true, but ye'll find nothing but wisdom until the water swallows ye."

This is a clue to the treasure room that can only be reached by jumping into the whirlpool in room 13.  There aren't any other clues that might convince the party to jump into the whirlpool, so if the PCs arrive here without a treasure map, you might want to put the map somewhere in the dungeon for the PCs to find.  I recommend the pirate corpse in Room 7 [Drowning Room].

Notes: Tidal Cavern
This is a TIDAL CAVERN. The map below assumes that it is at low tide.  The tide comes in and goes out twice per day.  Unless you prefer a more complicated method, roll 1d12 when the party arrives at the dungeon to determine where the waterline is.
Low tide = 3 hours.
Tide coming in = 3 hours.
High tide = 3 hours.
Tide going out = 3 hours.
The tidal height is a whopping 9'.  None of the rooms in the dungeon are higher than 9' tall, and so they will all be underwater during high tide.  When the tide is changing, the water level changes by 1' every 20' minutes.

Due to wind and sea-spray, unprotected light sources have a 1-in-6 chance to extinguish themselves every 10 minutes (or whenever you make a wandering monsters check).

Notes: Barnacle Men
All of the barnacle men are male.  Young barnacle people are all female, and they are hidden in secret crevices and cracks out in the ocean, but within 300' of shore, where they are visited by barnacle men.  Only when they get older will they grow testicles and become ambulatory.

Barnacle men are disgusting, pink, insect-like humanoids that look like someone threw up in a conical shell after a seafood buffet.  They eat by sticking their heads out of their shells and waving their 5'-long "mustaches" into a plankton-rich sea current--but they much prefer the lifestock of the surface dwellers.  They eat people, too.

They have a long pair of crablike arms that they can use to claw at people, but they prefer to wield spears (which are too big to bring into their shell).  They also make use of a wide variety of deadly, semi-domesticated sea life, usually tidal organisms (you'll see).

They toddle around on a quartet of pink, crab-like legs, but at a very slow pace.  Since they are too slow to run away, whenever they fall to 1 hp or fail a morale check, they retreat into their shells, which are 6" thick and stronger than cement.

BARNACLE MAN: HD 2, AC 14, Claw (1d4) or Spear (1d8), Movement 1/4 that of a human.  Can retreat into their shell which makes them immobile but also makes them immune to all weapon damage (except bludgeoning, which does 1 damage per hit) until their shell is breached.  Their shell has HD 1 and AC 0, and after it has been breached you can just look down there and stab them in their stupid, screaming faces.  Or pour burning lamp oil in.  Whatever.

Some barnacle men carry DEATH CONE SPEARS, topped with a deadly cone snail.  They get -2 to hit with these, and do 0 damage, but the poison the snail injects is Save or Die.  The snails are highly visible and vibrantly colored, and I would also allow PCs to make an Int check to recognize the deadly coloration patterns even if they had never seen one before.

Some barnacle men carry PURPLE URCHINS, which they launch from slings.  On a hit, the poisonous urchin does 1d3 damage for two consecutive rounds.  The target must also make a save or have a random appendage be paralyzed.  Paralysis lasts for 1d6 hours if the save is failed, and 1d6 minutes if it succeeds.

Blowhole Cavern

0 Burnt Out Bed and Breakfast Hotel
This burned down wreck is atop the cliffs.  It used to be a quaint little bed and breakfast until the barnacle men burned it down (burning down human habitations is beautifully ironic to them).  It used to be two stories, but has now been well-scattered across the yellow grass.  Nothing useful can be found, except for a couple of ropes tied to a thick beam (which the barnacle men sometimes use to temporarily tie up prisoners and captured livestock).  An obvious and well-traveled path leads down the cliffside.

Off to the east is a blowhole, spouting water out of the rocks every few seconds.  PCs investigating the blowhole will not notice anything of interest unless they actually climb 50' down the extremely slippery rocks while getting blasted by water, which they can do if they have an iron spike and a hammer. See Room 16 [Blowhole].

1 Treacherous Cliffside
Switchback paths.  Narrow paths descend 60'.  Safe as long as you travel slowly and have a free hand.

2 Helican Rock
This smooth-sided rock sticks up 10' above the high-water mark.  It is white-slick with helican shit.  The helican is a 400 lb bastard of a bird that is constantly squatting atop it like a constipated gargoyle, leering with red, watery eyes.  It's smart enough to avoid well-armed groups, but if someone is alone, or if the party decides to go for a swim, it'll fly over and try to gulp someone down.  (Anyone who gets swallowed by the blowhole and ejected out here will also be quickly assaulted by the fucking bird.)

If the PCs watch the helican for any length of time, they'll see it regurgitate a half-digested dolphin, break it up into smaller pieces, and then swallow the pieces.

HELICAN: HD 4, AC 12, 1d6+1 damage + automatic grab if so desired (it can rake with talons if it doesn't want to swallow someone, or if its mouth is full), Morale 9.

  • First attack: attack successful = 1d6+1 damage + grab in mouth.
  • already in mouth: attack roll successful = 1d6+1 damage + swallowed.
  • already in pouch: 1d6+1 damage automatically (and helican will go sit on its rock)
  • Players can crawl from pouch to mouth, and mouth to freedom, with a strength contest (vs Str 17) or can cut their way out with a small, sharp weapon (gullet has effective AC 12 and HP 5)
3 Black Rock Beach
Steep, rocky beach.  Masses of dried, stinking kelp + flies that are interested in stinking kelp. Obvious entrance to Room 6 [Drowning Room] on left side of the beach.  Three black boulders on the right side of the beach.  

The highest boulder hides another entrance to the dungeon that leads to Room 8 [Crab Man].  The entrance will be noticed if PCs investigate it, and can be shoved by a mob of people with a combined Str score of at least 40, or the crab man (the crab man is freakishly good at moving rocks; that's what the barnacle men keep him around for).  Call for a Wisdom check to see if the PCs notice the Halfway Hidden Beach.  

4 Halfway Hidden Beach
Contains an intact oar, a broken oar, a small length of chain, and an intact glass fishing-net buoy (filled with the exhalations from an ancient glassblower, worth 5s).  A hidden sea-tunnel near the beach goes to Room 16 [Blowhole], but the PCs won't discover that unless they have diving gear, see that entry for more details.

5 Hidden Beach
Will only be noticed if the PCs swim/paddle around the outcropping.  Leads to a choke point guarded by the pair of barnacle men in Room 15 [Trophy Room].

6 Drowning Room
Northeast corner of the room is underwater, even at low tide.  The water hides a plethora of harmless starfish and an underwater tunnel to Room 8 [Death Cone Farm].

Southwest corner of the room has what appears to be part of a stone boat (dragged here from Room 9).  A small hatch appears to hide a small compartment "belowdecks", and can be opened by pulling on a stone ring (requires a combined Strength of 20).  However, opening the hatch only triggers a trap: a huge boulder falls from its perch above the door, and traps PCs in the room.  Like the boulders outside, the rock can be shoved by a combined Strength of 40 but only from the outside.  PCs trapped in the room are usually quite trapped.  The inside of the hatch compartment contains only a simple mechanism and a grinning human skull with a penny in each eye socket.

Northwest corner contains a narrow passage to Room 7.  Halflings can slip through readily enough, but humans will have to squeeze (and remove bulky armor) to fit.  Barnacle men are way too bulky to fit through.

7 Dead Pirate
This room is too small to hold more than 3 people at a time.  A tiny sliver of sunlight is visible 50' above, but nothing bigger than a rat could escape this way.  On the wall, scrawled chalk reads "no way out" and "no treasure no treasure no treasure no treasure no no"

A pirate skeleton is here, clutching an empty bottle of rum and a rusty-but-still-sharp cutlass engraved with "Don't Fuck It Up".  In his pocket is a piece of chalk and 34 pieces of silver. 

8 Death Cone Farm
This room is completely underwater (and is extremely dark).  If there are at least 3 torches back in room 6 or 8, there will be a tiny bit of light, enough to make out that the floor of the room is covered with dozens of brightly colored cone snails.  The snails are enclosed by "fences" made from iron spikes and fishing line, which the snails cannot climb over.

Any PC who swims down the bottom of this room or messes with the snails is inviting some stings from the Death Cone Snails (save or die).  Any PC who feels along the roof will soon find the other exit leading to Room 9.

It takes about 3 turns to swim into or out of this room.  Since a PC who hyperventilates before diving can hold their breath for a number of turns equal to their Constitution before beginning to suffocate (save or unconscious), most PCs will have a few turns to grope around before continuing.  Characters with Con 12+ can even reach air on the far side with half+ of their oxygen left.  The far side is, however, quite dark.

9 Crab Man
The center of this room is the wreckage of an ancient boat.  It's alabaster white, even after the eons.  It is absolutely covered in starfish, of all the colors of the rainbow.  The boat is magnificent and mysterious (how did it even get through the too-small door?) has long been stripped of anything interesting or valuable (and you can even see the crowbar marks).  The water is filled with large, ghostly crabs, which are both timid and harmless.

The crab man lives on the SW side of the room.  He is an ex-slave, a refugee from the fish people.  His body bears the scars from the harsh lifestyle (and a linguist might be able to read the graffiti that has been carved into his scarred shell, but that linguist would probably blush).  He escaped here with two of his companions, one of whom died from injuries sustained during the escape, and the other died from shell rot shortly after.  (They have since been laid to rest in Room 10.)  The crab man is supposed to stand guard here, but he spends 50% of his time sleeping in the shallows and the rest of his time moping.  He has a spear wound in his side that has now grown infected (inflicted by a barnacle man as motivation to keep watch more diligently).

If he spots intruders, he will attack half-heartedly, and make a Morale check when his HP falls below half.  He will react to food with hesitation, and to kindness with an obscene amount of gratitude (though he has trouble expressing it).

SAD CRAB MAN: HD 4, AC 16, Claws +1/+1 to hit, 1d6/1d6 damage, Morale 5.  Amphibious, but in danger of drying out.

10 Sea Cucumber Farm
Little underwater gates keep the sea cucumbers from wandering into Room 11 (Crab Man Graveyard). There are 221 large sea cucumbers here, each of which is sufficient for a day's rations (although they weigh 3x as much, unless dried).  They can be tasty if you know the recipes, and extremely disgusting if you do not.  A single barnacle man is here, tending the farm.

BARNACLE MAN: HD 2, AC 12, Claw 1d4 or Spear 1d8, can retreat into shell, Morale 7, Movement 1/4, will retreat into water at first sign of trouble.

11 Crab Man Graveyard
The exoskeletons of two crab men can be found on the floor here, laid out in a pleasing pattern.  They are slowly growing moss.  They can be made into effective splint mail, if you find the right kind of armorsmith.  However, disturbing the remains will enrage the sad crab man in Room 9, and actually trying to steal them will make him your implacable enemy.

12 False Hoard
A huge, wooden chest dominates this room, halfway buried under sand.  There are a few visible bricks against the wall, behind the chest.  The chest shows signs of having already been forced open, and contains only seashells (with a human skull at the bottom, a copper penny in each eye socket).  The inside of the chest's lid has some letters carefully carved into it.  The letters read "If ye hope to get your hands on my treasure while keeping them dry, think again.  But prithee, take a hat for your troubles and a tuppence for a grog.  Ye deserve that much."

If the chest is removed and some of the sand is cleared away, it will reveal a small trap door.  Beneath the trap door is a half-flooded, narrow (2' wide) tunnel that leads to Room 18 [Giant Starfish].  If it is not low tide, this tunnel is completely underwater.

13 Whirlpool
This room contains a whirlpool. When the tide is going out, the whirlpool is expelling water up (where it runs into small rivulets in the wall and is lost).  When the tide is coming in, the whirlpool is sucking water down.  During other times, the water is still.  The whirlpool is about 80' deep, and the walls are lined with (non-poisonous) urchins.  At the other end is Room 14a [Genuine Treasure Hoard].  The amount of time it takes to swim to Room 14a depends on the tide.
  • Tide coming in, whirlpool sucking = 6 rounds, -1 round if Str check passed.
  • Low Tide = 2x as long.
  • High Tide = 2x as long, then +2 rounds.
  • Tide going out, whirlpool expelling = 3x as long.
  • Unless you can see+swim well enough to avoid bumping into walls, a swimmer will take 1d6 damage from the urchins, unless the tide is coming in and the whirlpool is sucking, since laminar flow keeps you off the wall.
13a Genuine Treasure Hoard
If a PC claws their way out of the water, they'll find themselves in a small (20' diameter) round cave, with a couple of (usable) torches stuck onto iron spikes.  On the other ends of the room is a pile of coins with a skeletonized pirate captain sitting atop it.

High-backed wooden chair holds an imposing pirate skeleton, wearing a dusty red coat with gold embroidery (worth 10s).  Heavy, buckled boots hold a silver dagger (worth 30s).  And a magnificent pirate hat crowns its head. The skeleton still has a big, black beard, braided into knots, into which 4 gold coins have been tied.  He also holds a bottle of rum, and a skeletonized parrot sits on his shoulder.  There is a cutlass at his side.  This is the Dread Captain Crippley, famed for his wit, greed, and swordsmanship.

All of this is atop what appears to be a small mountain of gold and silver coins.  Actually, it's a mound-like rock, since the half of the cavern that the Captain sits on is a good 5' higher than the other.  The coins are carefully arranged to give an appearance of value, but it's really just one layer of coins.  Still, there are 100 gold coins, 300 silver, and 900 copper.  (This game uses the silver standard, 1s = 1xp). His mug and his sword are magical (see Appendix).

As soon as anyone touches a coin, approaches the Captain, or messes with the Captain, the skeleton will speak.  "Oh?  Do you supposed you've earned that gold, lad?" or something.  Really, the Captain just wants to taunt the PCs for a couple of rounds before leaping out of his chair and attacking them, which he will do at the moment that he judges is most dramatic.

In death, as in life, this is all just one big game to Captain Crippley.  He will joke and taunt.  He will even wink, which is quite the feat if you've got no eyelids.  "Why are you fighting so hard, boy?  Death ain't nearly as bad as it's made out to be."  "Bah!  You fight like a dairy farmer!" Etc.  His parrot will fly around only for as long as the captain is still standing.  If Captain is defeated, he will compliment the party and ask them one small favor: to leave the coins in his beard behind.  If he was particularly impressed by their wit and swordsmanship (and if they leave his beard-coins behind), he will offer to come along and offer his piratical wisdom and swordsmanship lessons (otherwise he's going to move on to afterlife).

Swimming from Room 13a back to Room 13 [Whirlpool] is the same as swimming in, except the direction of the whirlpool is reversed.  During high tide this room will fill halfway with water, but the air has no where to go, and so it will not be fully underwater at high tide (while two people can hold onto the captain's chair, everyone else will need to tread water for 3 hours, which requires a Constitution check. Letting tired people switch off allows them to make Constitution checks with bonuses).

CAPTAIN CRIPPLEY: HD 5, AC 12, Scimitar 1d6+2, Morale 12, If an opponent attacks Captain Crippley with a held weapon and misses, they must also beat the Captain in a Dexterity contest (Dex 18) or be disarmed (their sword sailing off into the water), Crippley is also a skeleton, and takes half damage from weapon attacks that aren't bludgeoning.  He is resistant to being turned.

CRIPPLEY'S PARROT: HD 1d6, AC 16, Claw 1 damage, On a critical hit, he plucks out an eyeball and scratches the other eyelid, blinding that PC until the bleeding is bandaged and the eye rinsed out.  If there is only one light source in the room, the parrot will also attempt to rip it away (Str 8 for this purpose) and throw it in the water.

14 Purple Urchin Farm
Another underwater farm with fishing line fences.  33 purple urchins in the water, and 3 slings hanging from the east wall.  Next to the slings, a single barnacle man tends to the farm.  If he is attacked he will pull a sling off the wall and begin launching urchins.

BARNACLE MAN: HD 2, AC 12, Claw 1d4 or Sling urchin (1d3/turn for 2 turns, save or 1 limb paralyzed 1d6 hours), can retreat into shell, Morale 7, Movement 1/4, will retreat and raise the alarm if it looks like PCs will make it across.

15 Trophy Room
Gruesome displays.  Walls are covered with captured fishing nets (worth 40s).  Tangled in the nets are 12 fishermen skeletons.  Their flesh was eaten (knife marks on the bones) and then they were redressed and hung up here as a symbol of barnacle man superiority.  There are also 18 oars hanging on the wall, most of which have been defaced with barnacle man carvings, depicting anti-human violence.  There is a rowboat hanging from the ceiling, which has been covered with spikes to look more fearsome.  2 barnacle men stand guard here, watching the entrance from Room 5 [Hidden Beach].  They have spears and shields (!) and are prepared to control this choke point (since the tunnel from Room 5 to the Trophy Room is only wide enough for 1 person).  They will, however, be surprised by PCs approaching quietly from the west.

BARNACLE MAN: HD 2, AC 13 (w/ shield), Claw 1d4 or Spear 1d8, Can retreat into shell, Morale 7, Movement 1/4.  

16 Blowhole
Unlike every other room in the dungeon, this one is lit by natural light coming from above.  The floor isn't flat, and actually slopes into the blowhole on the SE half of the room.  Anyone in the room must make a Dexterity check whenever they charge, run, or are struck in combat. Failure means they fall into the blowhole.  Barnacle men have suction cup feet, and so they never risk falling into the blowhole (but attack shrimp do).

The blowhole is extremely powerful and erupts every 1d4+1 rounds.  A player who falls into the blowhole while it is erupting gets a small chance to grab hold of the rocks (Roll half Dexterity or lower) or else they take 1d6 damage and are blasted up onto the rocks on top of the cliff, near Room 0.  

If a player falls into the blowhole when it is not erupting, they are slurped outside of the dungeon.  They take 1d6 damage from banging into rocks and emerge 1 round later from a cave beneath Room 4 [Half-hidden Beach].  This puts them in proximity of the Helican (Room 2) who usually attacks.  It takes 15 rounds of swimming and a Str check to get back to Blowhole via this tunnel, due to complex and weird hydrodynamics, where they must suffer being blown up as described in the last paragraph.

Three Barnacle men sit by the N wall in this room, eating sea cucumbers and playing a game involving shoes stripped from fishermen.  One carries a spear, one carries a death cone spear, and one carries a 4' bamboo spear.  When they notice the party, the first two will engage while the third runs to summon the attack shrimp in Room 17 (by blowing bubbles in their pool).  The attack shrimp will arrive 2 rounds later, and the waddling barnacle man the round after that with a sling and 3 purple urchins.  Attack shrimp are extremely noisy, and constantly chirp, scream, and warble.

BARNACLE MAN: HD 2, AC 12, Claw 1d4 or Spear 1d8 or Sling urchin (1d3/turn for 2 turns, save or 1 limb paralyzed 1d6 hours), Can retreat into shell, Morale 7, Movement 1/4.  Death cone spears get a relative -2 to attack and deal 0 damage, but they have a lethal poison.  After one sting, the barnacle man will remove the snail (takes a turn) and fight with the spear as normal. 

17 Kitchen
5 Barnacle men use a small oven (stolen from Room 0, the bed and breakfast) to cook kelp, carrots, and a fisherman's leg.  Two human captives (Molly and Ol' Gimlet) are tied up against the wall.  One of the barnacle men is a chieftain with a fancy hat, HD 3, a spear, and a sling (3 urchins in a bag at his waist).  His hat has 10 gold coins hanging from the brim on fishing line, like a pom-pommed sombrero.  The chieftain is larger, crueler, older, and smarter than his peers.  Smart enough to speak Common, actually.

18 Giant Starfish
A gigantic fucking starfish lives in this pool, 15' from tip to tip.  The barnacle men feed it garbage, and hope to grow it large enough to one day attack the human town of Angelspit.  The starfish is very passive unless attacked, or if more than one person splashes around in its pool, which contains some scattered coins (10g, 25s) and a mermaid figurehead from some ship (worth 50s but very heavy).  Some brickwork is visible on the western wall, going down to the floor, which is also partially bricked (though completely obscured by sand).  If the sand is cleared away, it will reveal a trapdoor, which leads to a secret, half-flooded, 2' wide tunnel to Room 12 [False Hoard].

19 Harem
This is the chieftain's harem.  A miniature reef has been built here, out of chunks of a real reef.  5 barnacle women grow on the rocks here.  They are the size of children, completely immobile, no smarter than dogs, and will sing lovely, dissonant songs if it is low tide and they are above water.  One of them wears a tiara worth 50s.  Another one has earring cemented to it (worth 25s if pried off).  If any barnacle-wives are killed but some barnacle men are left alive, the barnacle men will stage a retributive strike against the town of Angelspit in 1d6 days, involving 4d6 barnacle men, 4d6 attack shrip and firebombs.

BARNACLE WOMAN: HD 1, AC 12, Claw 1d3, Can retreat into shell, Morale 2, Movement 0.  

20 Attack Shrimp Pens
This is a shallow pool where the barnacle men keep their attack shrimp, each the size of a small wolf and with a mouth like a cutlery drawer.  They will attack if they see humans in the room, or if their caretaker (in Room 16 [Blowhole]) summons them by blowing bubbled into the pool.  The pool is too murky for PCs to see anything, but it contains 7 attack shrimp.

ATTACK SHRIMP: HD 1, AC 13, Bite1d4, Morale 11, Movement 1.5x.  If they do max damage on a bite, they attach onto a person's face and deal automatic damage on subsequent rounds.  They can jump 30' easily.  They are as tenacious as wolverines, and each one killed has a 25% chance to stagger to it's feet next round with 1 hp.

Two shelves containing twelve jars of spices and jellies.  Jar #8 contains a saffron gel that functions a potion of dominate person (same rules as a love potion).  Jar #11 contains green slime.  A translucent glass sphere in the center of the room is filled with bubbling, boiling water in which a set of human bones percolates indefinitely (functions as a crystal ball).  Painted shark jaws adorn the walls.  A broad-lipped bowl in the corner (4' wide, 1' deep) contains a family of softly glowing seahorses.  A small jar beside the seahorse bowl contains shredded, dried sea cucumbers.  The seahorses are telepathic, and function as a spell book.  If anyone feeds the seahorses (they only eat dried, shredded sea cucumbers), they will be telepathically contacted by the seahorses, who are eager to discuss interesting spells (and their spellbook nature will be obvious).  

Spellbook contains 3 first-level spells (sleep, grease, ink spray) and 2 second-level spells (octopus gambit, ESP).

Beside the seahorses, a similar bowl contains a family of tiny, striped cleaner shrimp.  (See Appendix). In a corner is an tall jar containing 500s, 500c and a heap of piratical tricorn hats stolen from the chest in Room 12 [False Hoard].

In the center of the room is an even larger bowl filled with black syrup, where the shaman does his work.  Soaking in the black syrup will restore 1 hp per minute.  Two of the shamans mutated, dominated servants guard the west side of the room, formerly bog mermaids, now glassy-eyed freaks.  They will not attack unless attacked, or if the shaman commands them.  The shaman will be sitting beside his black syrup bowl, meditating inside his shell, with a death cone spear in a water jar beside him.  He will be instantly alerted if someone attacks his mind-slave servants, but will not hear anything else (barnacle men have atrocious hearing, and the blowhole is quite loud).  Hilariously, his defense has a huge flaw: anyone who gently shoulders the two servants aside and saunters into the room will not alert him (he is pretty deep into his meditations).

If the shaman is killed before his servants, they will be freed from their compulsions.  Make a roll to see if they rush out seeking immediate vengeance against the barnacle men, break down crying, or attack the PCs anyway (equal chance of each).

HOOK-HANDED BOG MERMAID: HD 3, AC 11, Hooks 1d3/1d3, rends for 1d6 if both hooks hit, Movement 3/4.

ARMOR-TAIL BOG MERMAID: HD 3, AC 11, Tail slam 1d6+1, if tail slam hits and the number showing on the attack roll die is an even number, the PC is wrapped up in the tail for automatic constriction damage on subsequent rounds, Constriction 1d8+1 (Str 14)

BARNACLE MAN SHAMAN: HD 3, AC 12, Claw 1d4 or Spear 0/1d8, Can retreat into shell, Morale 7, Movement 1/4.  Death cone spears get a relative -2 to attack and deal 0 damage, but they have a lethal poison.  After one sting, the barnacle man will remove the snail (takes a turn) and fight with the spear as normal.
Spells prepared: sleep, ink spray, octopus gambit

obligatory barnacle pokemon

New Spells

Ink Spray
Magic-User 1
Sprays a 15' cone of ink.  Everyone in that cone who fails a Save is blinded for 1d6 rounds, or until they spend a round wiping their eyes.  Creatures of HD 4 or less get no save.

Octopus Gambit
Magic-User 2
One target within 30' who fails a save is suddenly covered with 1d6 octopi, who are appear already attached to the target.  Each octopi deals 1 damage each turn until removed, and effectively has HP 1 and AC 10, but can be pulled off with a Strength check (Octopi have 3 strength).  Still, a player cannot remove more than 1 octopus per turn by themselves.

New Items

Captain Crippley's Mug
This mug can be used to find the nearest tavern.  Whenever the mug is pointed at the nearest barrel of alcoholic drink, the holder will taste it in his mouth (illusory taste).  Range: 100 miles.

Captain Crippley's Scimitar
This is a magical scimitar +1 that counts as a +3 when fighting paladins, policemen, town guards, or other lawful folk who are trying to arrest/kill you.  Once per day, it can also allow you to instantly escape from a grapple, hold, or restraint.

Enchanted Cleaner Shrimp
These long-legged shrimp will clean your teeth if you open your mouth and hold still.  They'll also bind your wounds and treat your diseases.  In in synchronized attack, they'll froth bubbles and quickly scrub a rock clean of green slime.  They can give a sufferer a new chance to make a saving throw against a disease or poison.  They can purify poisonous food by frothing onto it.  And if they are eaten, they function as a potion of cure light wounds.  However, whenever a shrimp is eaten, the remaining shrimp must make a morale check or run away (Morale 10).  There are 5 shrimp in this family, but they can be bred in an alchemical laboratory or a common tide pool.  They need water and food, and will dry out after 1 hour if not submerged.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Heralds of the Immaculate Morning, pt 2

Here's part 1.


The Heralds of the Immaculate Morning are a cult (although they would say that they are the last real religion) dedicated to the end of sentience.  They desire this because they believe that they live in a world where evil has already defeated good and brought down a billion billion years of sorrow.  They believe that humans were never meant to endure sickness, old age, or death.  In order to restore the world, they must first tear down the machinery of suffering.  They must bring on the night in order to hasten the New Dawn.

They recruit cultists from peasants, farmers, cripples, and kind-hearted people.  Most members of the cult are lay members who don't do anything except attend secret masses and donate money.  Many of them are good people.

Their leader is the Radiant Maiden, who is very obviously a god (or at least an angel).  Her clerics and servants strive to minimize suffering in the world, while simultaneously striving to minimize the number of living people.  Their magic/miracles are powered by the Light, which was leftover from the Dawn of Creation (or so they claim.)

Musical inspiration should be more like this, not like this.


These are the lowest ranking members of the Heralds.  They fight with nets, preferring not to inflict pain.  They fight with blunt weapons (clubs and quarterstaffs), prefer not to spill blood, and believe the spears are a tool of the Great Opponent.  When they are killed, their last words are usually "I forgive you." or "Please forgive any pain that I may have caused."  Most of them carry a stoppered jar around their neck containing poisoned honey (for themselves if they are captured, but they have been accused of giving it to children before).  They are famous for coup-de-graceing fallen opponents, even if it costs them their own life.  They wear no uniform, but all of them own a white silk handkerchief, and the boldest of them actually carry it on their person.

High Priests

Similar to Cultists, except that they actually have some divine powers.  When they're on the job, they wear white silk vestments with a golden-orange sunburst.

  • Any light source that they carry sheds light 2x as far and provokes morale checks from 1 HD undead.
  • By touching someone's forehead with their thumb (thumbnail pointing down towards the mouth) they can instantly kill someone.  This is only possible on helpless, sleeping, or restrained creatures.  They use this method to coup-de-grace.  This also heals all wounds and suffering, and the corpses often wear a peaceful expression.
  • Access to clerical spells.  They favor things that can immobilize without causing pain, such as hold person.  They can cast sleep as a clerical spell.  They rarely prepare healing spells (why preserve life, when life itself is the problem?)
  • Their powers are high during the day, and highest at noon.
  • Their powers are low during the night, and lowest at midnight.
  • Like Cultists, they also commit suicide if captured, except their suicide is less mundane.  They spontaneously combust, self-immolating in a pillar of golden-white flame.

A few of the High Priests are supposedly not mortal men and women, but actual angels who joined the Radiant Maiden.  They can appear as beatiful, serene humans, but when they want to resume their beatific countenance, their skin turns to gold as they shine as brightly as a torch.  They have all the abilities of a High Priest, and then some more:
  • Fight with flaming swords.
  • So glorious!  Creatures must make a Save before they can attack the angel for the first time.  This effect ends immediately as soon as they witness the angel taking offensive actions.
  • So beautiful! All who gaze upon it must make a Save or feel ugly, petty, and spiteful.  This effect suppresses any positive morale bonuses and prevents allies from helping each other (because everyone feels mean and resentful).  This ability has the opposite effect on fellow Heralds, who automatically make their morale checks and Saves vs fear, and also get a +1 bonus to hit.

New Spells

Blessing of Pacifism
Cleric 1
Unwilling targets get a save to negate. Target gets +2 to their Save.  The first time they kill a creature, they gain a negative level and this spell ends.  (When the target is first affected, they instinctively know what they'll lose a level by killing a creature.)   Can also be ended by remove curse.

Blessing of Harmony
Cleric 2
Unwilling targets get a save to negate.  Target gets +5 to their attack roll.  Each time they make an attack roll, the bonus drops by -1, all the way down to a -5 penalty.  This is permanent, but can be ended by remove curse.

Gift of Ascension 
Cleric 3
This spell only works outdoors with open access to the sky, and targets get a save to resist.  For 20 minutes, the target is affected as if by reverse gravity, after which they are affected by feather fall for an hour, or until they float down to the ground.  Assume they fall up at 200' per round and down at 70' per round.  This is high enough to cause them to take 2d6 points of cold damage if they are unprotected.  If this spell is cast at higher altitudes, it may cause significantly more damage, especially via asphyxiation.

Gift of Transfiguration
Cleric 1
Your skin glows as bright as a torch, you can fly at your normal speed, take half damage from non-magical sources, and gain a level.  This lasts 3 minutes, and the end of which you die.

Prayer of Peace
Cleric 2
While kneeling and chanting fervently, you can maintain this spell as long as you maintain your concentration.  Each turn, a random creature (including yourself) within 100' takes 1d6 damage, no save.  The damage is painless and joyful.

New Items

Angelhead Pin

This 4" silver pin is affixed to one of the buildings in the center of town, into the wood of a doorways headboard.  As long as it remains there, no humans (nor humanoids) within 3 miles will be able to conceive a child, and any pregnancies brought into range will miscarry.  If the pin is removed/dispelled/whatever, 1d20 cherubs (HD 2, AC 14, +2 to hit, 1d6 damage + charm arrows) will leap off the head of the pin and attempt to reinsert it.  If the silver pin is inserted into an undead or other creature weak to silver, it will gain 1 negative level for as long as the pin remains inserted.

Blade of the New Dawn

This magic sword has a small sapphire set into the pommel, and the grip is luminescent amber that shines through the leather bindings.  It does +1d6 damage to sentient creatures and undead.  However, all creatures within 10' (including the wearer) get -4 to save vs death.  If you are using a death and dismemberment table, the Severity rolls are 4 points worse as well.

Mace of Mercy

This magic mace does secret damage.  It doesn't leave a wound, nor cause any pain, but when the PC has accumulated enough of it, they die.  The DM must track the damage secretly.  Secret damage is healed only after all normal damage is healed.  Additionally, it can cast cure light wounds 1/day.

Martyr's Robe

50% of all intentional damage done to the wearer of this robe is reflected onto the person who did the damage.  So if an attack would deal 10 damage to the wearer, the wearer takes 5 and the attacker takes 5.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Brackles, a PC Race

Inspired by a sweet picture over at Dungeons and Drawings, those mayfly fairies I wrote up that one time, and this video about cicadas.

My goal here was to create a player race that was all about depleting a non-renewable resource and then dying.

Brackles are plant people that live in forests.  They are born in the spring and die in the winter. Because of this, they are only suitable in a campaign where the DM keeps track of the weeks and the seasons.

They have angular faces with no visible eyes.  Their mouth resembles a beak.  While most of their body has the same proportions as a thin, wiry human, their heads are frightening clusters of thorns.  Despite their freakish heads, they are gentle creatures.  They sleep in trees, especially willows.  They call to each other by vibrating their heads.  It sounds a bit like a cicada.

They are hermaphroditic.  Brackles are born with approximated memories from their ancestors, so they remember basic history, geography, and language.  They even remember some of their parent's close companions and enemies.  (Woe to the man who angers a brackle--he may have a dozen more seeking revenge next year.)  They are fond of forests but tend to hate elves, who they see as impatient, inflexible, and terrified of change.  (They hate ents even more.)  Brackles are about moving, living, acting, doing, and dying.  They have healthy appetites, and get really excited at the prospect of drinking fresh water.

Despite (or because of) their short life span, brackles tend to be very focused on the future.  Most of them are concerned with only the future viability of their offspring, but some of them travel widely and take up other causes.

Each brackle is born anew.  (And PC brackles always start at level 1.)  They usually imitate their parents, so if a wizard brackle will spawn more brackles that will probably want to be wizards themselves.  But they're flexible, and will practice whatever craft pleases them.  Some of them live in cities, briefly, but only until the fall when a powerful instinct drives them to travel widely to plant their seeds.  (This is also when they grow wings.)

Nearly all of them write poetry.  A lot of it is quite good.  (Not poetry like sonnets, but poetry like haikus.)
In this world
we walk on the roof of hell, 
gazing at flowers.

Centuries of past incarnations are remembered in brackle brains, like half-remembered dreams.  When two brackle meet, they often discuss their memories to see if they share some ancient ancestor.  But they exchange pollen first, of course.

Brackles don't have cities, but they do maintain a few holy sites for their old pagan religion.  They cluster around these monoliths at the start of winter and then all die together, forming a miniature forest of dead brackles.

Not all of them are pagans, and missionaries have brought many of them to the Church.  Quite a few brackles will approach a Church at the start of winter, in order to donate their worldly possesions and die politely in the graveyard.


Each brackle is born with 3d6 razor-sharp needles from their heads, which they can shoot as accurately as arrows.  The thorns deal 1d8 damage on a hit (except for Winter, see below).  Once fired, these needles can never regrow.  But on the upside, they never count as inventory items.

Brackles also get +1 Con and -1 Cha.

They have different racial abilities based on what time of the year it is.

In the Spring, brackles still have their baby scream, much like a mandrake.  They usually busy themselves learning as much about the world as they can.  Although they might speak perfect Common and have a head of their parent's memories, they might have forgotten what a cow is called, or that fish exist (followed soon after by the happy discovery that fried fish are delicious!)
  • Small size (as halfling, 3'-4' tall)
  • Shoot Thorns (1d8 damage)
  • Scream 2/day: All creatures in 30' take 1d6 damage.  Brackles are immune to this. Save for half.

In the Summer, brackles develop a wide range of horrible pollens.  They also develop brilliant plumage from their heads and shoulders.  This is also when they seek out other brackles for pollination.  Brackles compulsively pollinate each other when they meet.
  • Medium size (as human, ~5'-6' tall)
  • Shoot Thorns (1d8 damage)
  • Pollens 1/day each.  10' Cone.
    • Sleep: Targets save or fall asleep for 1d4 minutes, as the sleep spell.
    • Paralyze: Targets save or are paralyzed for 1d4 rounds.
    • Poison: Targets save or lose 1 hp per round for 2d4 rounds.
    • Fertilize: Useful for when you bump into another brackle.

In the Fall, brackles travel far and wide in order to plant their seeds in good locations.  They are very instinctual creatures.  They develop wings in this phase, and most of them are elated by the ability to fly.
  • Medium size (as human, ~7' tall)
  • Shoot Thorns (1d8 damage)
  • Can fly at double normal speed.  Can only take off by running down a 100' hill, jumping off a 50' cliff, or leaping into a stiff headwind.  (By default, assume that the average day has a 50% chance of having a stiff headwind.)  They are clumsy in the air, though, and require large amounts of open air to make turns.
  • Develop 3d6 seeds over the course of the fall.  A brackle that doesn't plant all of these seeds by winter will go irrevocably insane.  Planting locations must be widely spaced, in fertile ground, and safe from predation.

In the Winter, many brackle have nothing else to live for, and so they lie down and die.  Brackles that are adventurers sometimes stick around to help their friends or a particular cause.  They are so close to death.  They feel like they are dead.  These brackle can be very selfless, and will not hesitate a second to sacrifice themselves for the greater good.
  • Medium size (as human, ~7' tall)
  • Shoot Thorns (1d4 damage + deadly poison.)
  • Lose 3 points of Str, Dex, and Con.
  • Automatically fail any saving vs death.
  • Ignored by non-intelligent undead, intelligent undead feel a vague kinship with them.
  • Can get +10 on a single action, but will then die immediately afterwards.