|Myconids by MOAI|
|Myconids by MOAI|
Whales come from hell--everyone knows that. They swim up from the blackest abysses. They are formed from the souls of gluttons, who's insatiable hunger inevitably led their swollen bodies back to the light of the living lands, where they can feed on the living. Either way, two things are certain:
|Faroe Island Whalers|
Piabon is a fairy knight, of course, one of the knights botanical. But he refuses to say who he serves.
What is your quest?
"I am gathering knowledge of your weaknesses for the coming war. Don't look so concerned! It won't be for a long time yet."
How long exactly?
"I find it best not to worry about such things. But tell me, how poisonous is cinnamon to the human constitution? Can you safely breath it?"
Piabon is accompanied by Gressa, an enormous white lion. Gressa speaks with a girl's voice, hates violence, and pretends not to hear or see anyone else except for Piabon, who she addresses with mild contempt. She is much lighter than she looks.
Want / Do Not Want
Piabon wants to learn about human weaknesses. He would be especially interested in seeing large amounts of humans fighting at one time. He has no interest in anatomy or dissection. He would be interested in a book of poetry that describes heartbreak (another human weakness).
Piabon does not want his face to be seen. He doesn't want people embarrassing him in front of Gressa.
Help / Harm
If Piabon likes you, he will accompany you (although not underground) and happily tell you about interested locations nearby and all the threats on the wandering monster table (he's traveled quite a bit).
If Piabon doesn't like you, he'll probably try to kill you.
There's actually four of him--brothers who share a name. One wanders around with Gressa, while the other three usually remain in their laboratorium sanctorum, atop Old Miss Thistle (a mountain).
Level 3 Armor as plate Morningstar1d8 War Bee 1d6 (see below)
Move as human + bumbershoot (see below)
Piabon loves alcohol, and a single drink will make him hilariously, chilidishly drunk.
Piabon's armor is made from spun sugar. It is light and strong, but melts if it gets wet.
Piabon's head, carefully concealed beneath his helmet, is that of a dandelion puff. If he is restrained, his helmet removed, and his head blown off, the blower gets a minor wish. The wish is limited to what an adult human could definitely accomplish with a year of labor. Build a wall, destroy a bridge, teach the blower to play the panpipes excellently, kill a merchant, etc.
Piabon's War Bee lives inside his magnificent neckerchief. He carries it in place of a bow, but treat it like a spiritual weapon. It requires an action on the first turn to sic the bee on someone. On the first turn and all subsequent turns, the bee makes an attack (using Piabon's bonus) for 1d6 piercing damage. Lasts until the target is dead or Piabon loses line of sight.
Piabon has a bumbershoot that allows him to fly up to any altitude, but only outdoors and only in the direction that the wind is blowing. It also allows him to cast featherfall on himself.
Which way is the wind blowing today? [d12]
1 - N
2 - NE
3 - E
4 - SE
5 - S
6 - SW
7 - W
8 - NW
9-12 - No wind today.
Level 5 Armor chain Claw/Claw/Bite 1d6/1d6/1d8
Move as lion Int 18
Gressa will not attack unless she is attacked first. If Piabon is attacked, she will stand there idly, criticizing Piabon and while pointing out advice and tactics. This gives Piabon +2 to hit and damage with his morningstar, and allows him to fight much more cleverly than he would otherwise.
Bonus: Dandelion Knight as GLOG Class
Template A - Bumbershoot (as above), Spun Sugar Armor, Wishing Head
Template B - War Bee (as above)
Template C - Condescending Companion (HD 5, random giant animal, as above)
Template D - Spawn SquireSpawn Squire
You sprout off a hechman. They are always level 0 (but can always advance as Dandelion knights, or any other knight botanical). If you would die, you can choose to have your squire die in your place. They are always named Pod (but may take a new name if they gain a level).
Have you ever read through some old adventure module and come across a room that has 40 orcs in it? You don't see that much anymore. Let's talk about that.
|Skeleton Army by Adrian Smith|
The Appeal of an Army
I don't think I need to defend the idea that it is cool as fuck to fight a horde of enemies. Orcs, hellhounds, traitor knights, vampire wolves. . . they're all cool.
They're also intimidating in a way that a dragon is not. Normally, in the boss fight encounters against a singular foe, the players have two advantages:
The Disbanding of the Army
Why don't we see armies like this anymore? The big reason is combat complexity. As editions of DnD got more complex, combat turns started taking longer and longer. How much did blur slow down combat in 3e?
There's also the push for more complexity in monster abilities. Each monster has been loaded down with more and more bells and whistles. This creates more of a burden on the DM, to use and track these abilities effectively. I'm not saying the trade-off isn't worth it--sometimes it is. But we should be aware of what we're giving up when we start giving bonus actions to lowly orcs and goblins.
(I've made the argument before that there is a lot of worthwhile differentiation that can come from behavior, rather than the stat block, but that's a different conversation.)
OSR combat moves fast. A fight against thirty orcs shouldn't be out of the question
Rules for Facing Armies
How many people can you catch in a single fireball? Maybe 3 if they're wisely spread out. A dozen if they're densely clustered. On any other round, tell the wizard that their best fireball opportunity is 2d4+1 (rerolling it every round--let the wizard decide when the best opportunity is). Armies that are trying to spread out (and have the space to do so) will limit themselves to 1d4+3 within the range of a single fireball.
Can you split up an army? Easily, if your foes are unintelligent. Intelligent enemies will avoid splitting up into overly small groups. If they search for you, it will be with scouting groups that will retreat and seek help, rather than allow themselves to get drawn into a pitched battle.
The most important rules will probably be facing rules: how many orcs can attack your fighters simultaneously?
In a hallway 10' wide (or other chokepoint, I'd say that 3 people fighting abreast is the maximum, while 2 people fighting abreast would be the minimum to hold the line.
While totally surrounded, a cluster of at least 5 PCs has 2 enemies facing each of them. Smaller groups will have 3 enemies facing them simultaneously.
Armies will, of course, fight as intelligently as they can. This includes, but is not limited to:
This all basically grew from the idea of What If Spirited Away, But D&D?
Also everyone is children:
|by Sunga Park|
An otherworldly place, always located between two sufficiently distant locations. Whenever anyone sets out on a journey that they cannot feasibly complete in a singular lifetime, they may be able to travel through the Underworld and complete the journey nonetheless.
And halfway to their destination they will pass by the Inn Between.
In truth, the Inn is a refugee that fled the dim depths of Hell, and now floats upon the upper conceptual layers of the Underworld like a soap bubble atop a frothing sea.
If stone hands reached into the graves of dead civilizations, scooped up all of the bits of loose architecture, bundled some lost souls by their hair, and then those stone hands raised the whole mess up through dreams and bedrock, you would have an idea of what the Inn Between looks like, because that's exactly what it is.
The Inn Between requires a constant supply of gold to stay afloat. None of the denizens can leave. If they were robbers and killers, no one would visit their vaults. And so the Between has been forced to become a place of hospitality and industry--against the instincts of its inhabitants.
It is a huge building on a small island, in the middle of a river called the Winterwine.
These are dead children, the lowest caste of speaking people you'll meet in the Between. The PCs come from their ranks.
After death, every soul filters down through the Underworld to Hell. Unless a psychopomp snatches up your soul and diverts you to your religion's afterlife, this is your fate.
As it turns out, many children die unbaptized and alone. The underworld is full of their sobbing ghosts, wandering randomly-but-inexorably towards the hottest fires. For the most part, even the foulest demons and sternest paladins take pity on these children. A bonebreaker demon that comes across a lost child in the Underworld will probably sigh, take them by the hand, and lead them to the Inn Between, where the child at least has a chance to keep an Occupation. Without an Occupation, they'll mortify even faster.
Mechanically, fullbrats are identical to human children except that they have tiny red ants for blood.
The Underworld's price cannot be dodged, bribed, or swayed, and mortification is the fate of all. Fullbrats eventually become halfbrats as they forget the last memories of their mortal body. They are forced to recreate their body through any method they can.
Some wear sheets with a couple of eye holes punched out.
Others stuff their jackets with pillows, and use a carved pompkin for a head.
Yet others mold themselves into puppets--or stranger things.
Mechanically, every time a fullbrat dies (or spends a full year in Hell), they lose a level. If they have no more levels to lose, they become a halfbrat NPC.
Halfbrats tend to forget everything except for their Occupation--or very nearly. They rank above the fullbrats.
Halfbrats that have mortified even further become Quarterbrats. There's nothing left of them except a pair of shoes.
The shoes amble around, generally obeying the Halfbrats. There's no invisible body attached--it's more like a mage hand effect welded to a pair of shoes. The shoes trundle over to the broom, which then begins to sweep the floor.
If the shoes are ever more than a few feet apart, they become inert. (This is as simple as kicking one of the shoes away.) Bring them back together again, and the quarterbrat will re-awaken.
There are storerooms of sleeping quarterbrats beneath the Between. Storerooms filled floor to ceiling. Every spring, when the matrons need more space, hundred of them are dumped into the Winterwine.
There's very little of the child left at this point. They still respond to their names, though, usually carved into the bottom of their left shoe.
The owner of the Inn Between. You will not encounter her unless she wants to meet you. You will always walk into a room a few minutes too late, the air still heavy with the scent of cloves and cinnamon.
She is a huge old woman, bent-backed and long-nosed, and wearing several layers of coats and dresses. When you meet her, you will think that she is wearing a wrinkled wooden mask, but you will be wrong. She is an immensely powerful sorceress--but she typically chooses to act indirectly, through her dogs.
Long ago, the Rat King robbed Mabinyaga, taking all of her jewelry and hiding it throughout the island. In retribution, Mabinyaga killed the Rat King several times--so many times that he forgot where all of the items were located. These are the Treasures that you must seek out.
If you return a Treasure to Mabinyaga, she will return a memory to you. (This is how you gain levels. Remembering your days of pickpocketing is the same as taking a level in thief. Remembering your mother's protections gives you the strength you need to gain a Knight template.)
The Rat King
The Rat King rules the Basement, which is the big, obvious dungeon beneath the Inn Between.
Whenever the Rat King dies or gives up hope, the next cleverest rat in the Between becomes the Rat King. And because there are always rats in the Underworld (it is probably where rats originated from), there is always a Rat King. All of the rats serve him.
The Rat King appears as a regular rat, but can speak in the booming voice of a titan if he so wishes.
If you wish, you can give a Treasure to the Rat King instead of giving it to Mabinyaga. If you choose to do so, he will open up new avenues to you, and tell you the most valuable pieces of information.
He is the furnace demon. He lives inside the central furnace of the Inn Between. If you want to talk to him directly, you'll have to step inside the furnace yourself. This is possible if you go at night, when the furnace is nothing but embers, and you wear thick boots soaked wet.
In exchance for a steady supply of gold, Fornax keeps the Between from sinking back down to Hell. He also heats the water for the baths, and is a great lover of tea. He appears as a pot-bellied old man made of metal. Fire burns behind his open mouth, and behind his smile.
The golems serve him, but they rarely leave the furnace.
He hates Mabinyaga, who hates him just as passionately. However, since they both need each other to survive, they have sworn an oath of non-violence towards each other. Instead, their malice takes the form of pranks, inconveniences, and humiliations.
If you throw one of Mabinyaga's Treasures into his furnace, he'll roar with laughter as he melts it down and sends it to the storerooms of Hell. He'll reward you with a fine magic item.
The Gameplay Loop
Gossip is more important than treasure.
1. A guest comes to visit. The PCs are in charge of satisfying that guest. If they do well, they are rewarded with the only type of reward that they are ever issued--free time. Perhaps 4 days if they do excellently, but only 1 day if they perform poorly. (If they perform especially well, they may even get a juicy piece of gossip.)
2a. You'll have a chance to explore and talk to NPCs. Eventually you'll figure out the location of one of the many small dungeons hidden around the Between. Each dungeon has 1-3 pieces of Treasure inside it. Some of these dungeons are quite non-traditional, such as the Very Busy Kitchen.
All of the dungeons are hidden, except for the Basement (but you'll have to bribe the Rat King if you wish to access all of it, or else defeat all of the rats).
2b. Alternatively, you might figure out how to solve all of the Problems of an NPC. Once you solve all of an NPC's Problems, they become your Friend. This pleases Mabinyaga, who will call you into her office and give you another memory (and therefore another Level).
3. Redeem your Treasure with either Mabinyaga, Fornax, or the Rat King. Eventually you'll be strong, well-equipped, and have access to the entire Between.
4. The endgame really depends on how you allied yourself.
If you solved everyone's Problems, Mabinyaga will offer you the Inn Between. She's old and wishes to enter the Winterwine for a good long rest.
If you found all of the Treasures, the Rat King will confide in you that he has stolen a Holy Infant from the surface of Centerra. With the Holy Infant, you can ransom yourselves back to life, and live a normal life.
Lastly, if you kill everyone (a genocide run), you can become new Princes and Princesses of Hell. This is power enough to return to the surface, where you can bless it or blacken it.