Friday, February 27, 2015

Have A Nicer Trip

So, overland travel.  Hexcrawls and pointcrawls.  We all do those, right?

If you're like me, you probably have a wandering monster table like this:
  1. 2d6 vikings
  2. 2d6 undead vikings
  3. 1d20 wolves
  4. 1d4+1 dire weasels
  5. 1d3 murderbirds
  6. 1 owlbear
I also use omens/signs/foreshadowing, where you get a clue to what sort of creatures might be lurking in an area without having to actually encounter them.  The party might see the gouges on a tree, the half-eaten corpses, the torn-up ground of a hasty bivouac, or hear them howling in the hills.

I roll on the wandering monster table for these.  It's been easy enough to make up omen/evidence on the fly.

I've also been using an encounter behavior table.  You've probably seen them
  1. Hunting.
  2. Sleeping.
  3. Playing.
  4. Eating.
I've seen it proposed in a bunch of places, but basically it boils down to: roll the encounter, roll the behavior, and then combine them, yielding results like "sleeping owlbear" and "hunting owlbear".  

I don't like this method because, while it sometimes yields interesting results, it also yields a whole bunch of rubbish, like "zombies playing".  What I really want to see is a set of scenarios for each monster on the list like this one for goblins. (And if I ever write a MM, that's what I'll include.)

But since I'm just doing a hexcrawl, I've been using something like this: each random monster gets a couple of scenarios.   Here is a pretty close approximation to what I've been using for my current viking-ish game:
  1. 2d6 vikings.  
    1. They are going to war and will challenge the PCs to state which clan they are loyal to.  If the PCs give no answer, or the wrong answer, they will attack.  Otherwise, they are exceptionally friendly.
    2. Desperate bandits, their leader has HD 2, a pet attack-weasel living in his beard, and a horn of preturnatural volume.
  2. 2d6 undead vikings. 
    1. Dragging a funeral barge through the trees.  Kingly corpse has 500sp of jewelry and a cursed shield shaped like a woman's face.  They are marching away from the ocean; they will take the barge back to the necromancer.
    2. Solemnly removing the bones from a dead mammoth; they will bring them back to the necromancer.
  3. 1d20 wolves. 
    1. Rabid wolves, Save vs disease on bite.  Led by a zombie worg (HD 3) wearing tarnished silver collar (40s).  It escaped from the necromancer.
    2. They think you're stealing their kill: a huge caribou and it's rider (both wounded but alive, the man is a Wolfencrest messenger).
  4. 1d4+2 dire weasels.
    1. Teaching their young to hunt, will coordinate to drag prey away. 
    2. Hunting for shiny things to impress a mate.  Adventurers are covered in shiny things.
  5. 1d3 dire crows. 
    1. Claw out your eyes (-4 to hit) as gifts for their mate, flying away as soon as they have them. 
    2. They will follow the party from the treetops, attacking as soon the party is distracted, vulnerable, or asleep.  Fucking birds.
  6. 1 owlbear.
    1. Battering down a tree to get a nest.  It is wounded; it's face is peppered with tiny, blue-fletched arrows (fairy arrows from the Snow Queen's folk).
    2. Territorial aggression display; absolutely terrifying.
Roll a random scenario each time, or . Replace them as you use them.

The idea is to tailor the random encounters to the setting, and also to give them connections to other things on the hex map.  I try to write them as carefully as I would a room in a dungeon.

The other thing I have on my random encounter table is non-combat encounters (usually NPCs).  These are expanded the same way the random monster entries are.
  1. 1d20 refugees.
    1. Fleeing the city of Chainwater, anticipating a siege.  One of them carries the plague.  They are wary and will not admit that they are carrying a cart of grain.  They want bodyguards as far as the next town.
    2. Women and children with frostbitten feet.  They need food.  If they starve, one of the women will go on to become an HD7 wendigo.
  2. 1d6 merchants.
    1. A family of longstrider merchants.  They are on their way to a wedding and will try to sell the party silverware, wedding presents (textiles), and 1d3 random scrolls.
    2. A married couple: a cleric named Rook and a bard named Anniwine.  They offer healing and good cheer.  These are free to poor folks, but if you look rich, they won't even blush when charging you outrageous fees.  They are friendly and sociable except with each other.
  3. 2d4 x 10 armed men.
    1. Mercenary company, recruiting for war.  They'll offer the PCs generous joining packages.  Led by Bjarna Furisdottr, who can bite through iron.
    2. Mutinous vikings from the Rat Tail clan.  They have abandoned their jarl and planning a raid.  Security is very lax.  Evil and friendly.
  4. 2d8 pilgrims.
    1. Stole a baby from a cult.  The cult is pursuing them, because the baby is the daughter of the cult leader.  The pilgrims will lie about this.  They want help escaping.
    2. Disheveled and disheartened--the pilgrimage site is full of orcs, and some of the pilgrims are injured/dead.  They want help recovering their holy site.
  5. 1d4 hunters and 2d4 dogs.
    1. They are hunting a vor-mammut that killed their shaman.  (Link goes to a Gorgonmilk's Underworld Lore #3, an OSR fanzine with a monster o' mine.)  They want people to join them--their first assault on the beast failed horribly (though they will be loathe to admit it).
    2. They are hunting a elven stag, with antlers that are literal gold (worth 2000s).  If they catch it (and they probably will), they will kill each other to possess it.  They need food, but don't mind if the PCs tag along.
  6. DM's Choice.
    1. Rival adventuring party.
    2. Migrating herd of mammoths.
And last, I want to include the chance that some inter-party drama might happen, or at least interesting things around camp.  A focus on the banal, as my friend +Alex Chalk might say.

  1. Conflict.
    1. Two of the NPCs are fighting.  If no one interferes, both NPCs lose 2 points of morale.  If a player describes how they settle the dispute in favor of one NPC, only the unfavored NPC loses 2 points of  morale.  If the PCs try to break up the dispute equitably, both NPCs are resentful and lose 1 point of morale each.
    2. NPC fights with one of the PCs.  Maybe they want higher pay or more respect or something.  Depending on how they handle it, the NPC might gain 1 morale or lose up to 3.
  2. Amity
    1. Two NPCs are best buddies now.  Raise both of their morale's by 1 point.
    2. NPC decides to befriend one of the PCs.  This could take the form of gifts, flirtation, or simply the announcement of "I've got your back, and if anyone fucks with you, they fuck with me."  That PC's morale improves by 2 points.
  3. Domestic Bliss.
    1. Circumstances allow for an excellent meal to be prepared.  If the players can describe their delicious meal, their maximum HP is raised by 1 HP per level (lasts until morning).
    2. Something funny or cheering happens.  It can be someone telling a good joke, the sun breaking through the clouds after days of rain, or a massage circle.  If the players can describe this event, their maximum HP is raised by 1 HP per level (lasts until morning).
  4. Snag.
    1. Random player loses a random item.  This is assumed to be a minor item (because they're probably holding important stuff tightly) but could potentially be a major one if there is a reason for it.  Lost (or stolen) items can sometimes be recovered by backtracking.
    2. Something shitty happens to put everyone in a bad mood.  It can be bad mosquitoes, a reminder of a past defeat, or the discovery of something sad/traumatic.  Describe their shitty event, and their maximum HP is reduced by 1 HP per level (lasts until morning).
  5. Prowess.
    1. If the players can describe how one of the party members discovers it, the party discovers a shortcut, shaving (at least) half a day off their journey.
    2. Whatever the party needs most right now (food, water, torches, curse removal), they stumble into it.  It might not be free, but it isn't impossibly costly, either.
  6. Poor Health.
    1. Random party member must save vs disease or contract something.  Probably a cold, but potentially something really nasty.
    2. Delay.  Random party member is injured and must rest for half a day.  Perhaps they took a tumble, got bitten by a snake, or a tree branch fell on them.  Either way, they get a save/check to negate this.
Right now, I'm doing 1 roll per hex entered (and they'll enter 2 per day, on foot) and 1 roll per night.  If they are staying in the same area, it'll be 1 day roll and 1 night roll. 

Random Travel Encounters (d6)
1. Monster Event
2. Monster Omen Event
3. Non-Combat Event (not during night)
4 Mundane Event
5-6 (none)

I've also been working on different things that the PCs can do while they travel, such as:
  • Hunting.  Slows the party down a lot and costs some ammunition, but might yield a lot of food.
  • Foraging.  Slows the party down a little, but might yield modest amounts of food.
  • Befriending NPCs.  Can raise their morale.  If you talk to an NPC all day and make a successful Charisma check, roll a d12.  If the result is higher than the NPC's current morale, it improves by 1.  Requires a tiny bit of roleplaying.
  • Herbalizing.  Slows the party down a little, but might yield valuable medicines and antidotes.
  • Just chatting with each other.  Awards a tiny amount of XP, like 10xp per day traveled in dangerous wilderness.  Requires a tiny bit of roleplaying.
  • Scouting.  Slows the party down a litte, but gives them a chance to find a defensible/hidden place to spend the night.  Also gives a higher chance of finding hidden locations in the hex.
  • Training.  If someone is willing to teach, and someone is willing to listen, you can get checkmarks to learn/improve a skill.  This requires a week, and the trainer can't raise the trainee's skill rank any higher than their own.  (You can't teach what you don't know.)

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Book of Dvang-Ungal

Here is my rejected submission for +James Raggi's thing.  It's based on Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius by Borges and the book from The God That Crawls.

The Book of Dvang-Ungal 

This is a huge tome.  The cover is made from acid-etched aluminum and cochineal-dyed leather.  The cover depicts a bearded man wearing a coat of stars and holding a scepter and a globe.  (Upon close inspection, the globe is actually a startling accurate map of the world.)

Once translated, the book details the thousand-year-long history of the Dvang-Ungali people.  They had a highly advanced empire before they fell into decadence and decline, eventually succumbing to the more primitive but infinitely-more persistent barbarian tribes that surrounded them.  They built three-sided ziggurats.  At their peak, they were sorcerer-kings of shocking power and childish cruelty.

For every week spend studying the book some new intriguing information is gathered.  (This is the bait on the hook.)  See the table below*.

Several things about the book are odd.

#1. They describe facts about the world that were only discovered recently (Cape of Africa, discovery of the Americas, I don't know history or years).

#2. They describe facts that are incongruous with the common knowledge (e.g. the book might propose that earth revolves around the sun, in a setting where this known to be heresy.)

#3. The authors don't seem to be human.  The speak of their "inner eye" and the unpleasantness of when the inner eye receives "unexpected visitations".  They also describe the conception of a child as requiring three parties: the father, the little mother, and the birth mother.

#4.  The book seems to change subtly each time it is read.  

The first time the book is read, the Dvang-Ungali civilization is described as ending 700 years ago, a burnt-out shell of its former glory.  With each week spent reading the book, however, the date becomes more recent, and the empire in its final days is described as being more vital and adroit.

Each week, advance the end of the Dvang-Ugali civilization forward by (75%) 1d200 years, or (25%) 1d500 years.

Histories of Dvang-Ungal can be found in other books in other libraries.  These books are not magical, and will corroborate whatever the most recent revision is.

In fact, the Empire of Dvang-Ungal is resurrecting itself, clawing out of the ashes of history into the present day.

With this progression, the following things happen:
- Maps change.  Roads shift to different locations.
- People change.  Their skin becomes paler and more translucent (this is the old Dvang-Ungali blood reasserting itself).
- Accents change, becoming stranger.
- Laws become crueler and more draconian.
- Magic talent becomes more common.

These changes start out subtle, but by the time Dvang-Ungal has almost caught up to the present-day (say, it ended less than 200 years ago) the changes have become drastic and impossible to miss.

The PC can stop reading the book at any time, but if Dvang-Ungal ended less than 300 years ago, scions of the dead empire will appear after 1d20 weeks in attempt to reclaim the book.  These scions will usually be (50%) powerful archeologist-wizards with fossil golems, or (50%) powerful ancestor-worshipping aristocracy attempting to engineer events from a distance.

*Information Gained By A Week's Reading

1. Political useful information (knowing the true ancestry of the current monarchy allows for many blackmail opportunities).

2. The location of a hidden burial ground (which possesses a profitable high reward:risk ration)

3. A rare or previously unknown spell**.

4. A rare or previously unknown knowledge***.

**Previously Unknown Spells (d3)

1. Conjugal Venom
Level 3 Magic-User Spell
When this spell is cast upon a person suffering from a poison, all of their immediate family members suffer similarly.  More distant family members have milder, more cosmetic effects.

2. Innocent Revenant
Level 4 Magic-User Spell
When this spell is cast upon a creature that died in the last 3 turns, it immediately returns as an undead version of itself with full HP.  This revenant can never gain HP, and loses 1 HP every hour until it is destroyed.  The revenant is unaware that it ever died, even ignoring obvious signs of death (no heartbeat, cold flesh, gaping wounds).  However, if someone else insists on confronting them with evidence of their own death, they fly into a rage, becoming a mindless undead.

3. Summon Fish
Level 1 Magic-User Spell
A random fish within 1 mile is compelled to swim as close to the caster as easily possible.  5% chance of disaster (e.g. sea monster).

***Previously Unknown Knowledge (d5)

1. Recipe for nitroglycerin.  (dynamite does 5d6 damage)  Requires wyvern semen and gunpowder, but a more potent version can be made from dragon semen.

2. Construction plans for a catapult of superlative design.  

3. The oaths of undeath, words which, if spoken with the proper intonation, supposedly guarantee safe passage from undead, as part of an ancient treaty with the emperor of Dvang-Ungal.

4. A remarkably accurate map of the world (although all of the names are bizarre).

5. Germ Theory.

Curses and Stuff from my Viking Game

Phoenix Cloak

A person who dies wearing this cloak will be resurrected in 1d6 minutes with full HP, as long as they are still wearing the cloak at that time.  It is brilliant and unmistakable, and also gives you +4 to save against cold.

Monkey Paw (Cursed)

You cannot get rid of the monkey paw.  If you burn it, throw it away, eat it, etc, it will reappear in your pockets in the morning.

You get no good sleep while carrying the monkey paw.  You will wake up exhausted and covered in small scratches, as if from a monkey.

Short of dying, the only way to get rid of the curse is to make a wish on the monkey paw.  The monkey paw will grant any wish as long as it is directly harmful to the wisher.  Wishing for benevolent or beneficial things will be twisted, subverted, or ignored entirely.  For example:
  • If you wish that someone will kick you in the balls, someone will kick you in the balls.
  • If you wish that someone would kick your enemy in the balls, someone will kick them in the balls and frame you for it.
  • If you wish to freeze to death, a storm containing freezing rain will descend on you the first time you venture outdoors unprotected.  It might kill the people you are travelling with, which might have been your intention.
  • If you wish for the whole world to freeze to death, you will die in a fire.
Basically, the monkey paw is going to try really hard to make you regret ever using it.  It's sort of an asshole.

Food from Grandfather Gurgan's Table (Cursed)

Functions as a potion of cure light wounds and then, if the eater fails a Con check, bestows a random mutation.

Magic Prison Painting

Anyone trapped in this painting can reach out (3' reach) and touch someone with a successful attack roll.  Someone who is touched must succeed on a save or be sucked into the painting, switching places with whoever is trapped in the painting.  Only works on living, sentient creatures.  If the painting is destroyed (it is not especially durable) the person in the painting dies (although it might be possible to restore the painting if you visit a painting restoration expert in a museum or something).

Spider Tattoo (Cursed)

This tattoo is on your cheek.  Every day, it will crawl closer to your eye.  On the ninth day, it will reach your eye and rip it out, and a creature from the Outer Darkness will enter through your bloody eye socket, devour your soul, and wear your mortal body as a shell.

This tattoo is sometimes given by powerful evil creatures as a form of geas.  When the expected task is completed, the tattoo dispels itself, crawls to the person's back, and becomes a (relatively) mundane tattoo.

Curse of the Fairy Queen

Over the course of 3 turns, all non-fairy creatures in the Snow Queen's palace will turn into HD 1 rabbits (bite for 1d4).  Creatures that escape before 3 turns are over are safe.  Curse lasts until the wedding is over.

Fairy Key

Can unlock any lock, but cannot be removed until the chest/door/whatever is closed and locked once again.  Can also be used to open people's ribcages (save or die), but this requires a successful attack roll.  Removing it from a rib cage also takes a round.

Star Child

Found sleeping.  Once you wake it up, it will behave much like a normal newborn.  Every day it is alive, it will age 1 year and gain 1 HD.  After 18 days, it will leave the planet to rejoin its people among the stars, becoming a star itself.

During its time on our planet, it will soak up language and morality like a sponge.  If it witnesses kindness, it will grow up to be kind.  The same is true for violence, greed, duplicity, and that sort of thing.  At HD 2, it can cast dominate monster once per day per HD.  At 3 HD, it can cast cure light wounds once per day per HD.  At 4 HD, it can fly and use ESP once per day per HD.  At 5 HD, it can cast fireball as a wizard of equal level, once per day per HD.  At 6 HD, it can cast divination once per day per HD.  Beyond that, make up your own stuff, but its basically turning into a godling.

It is valued by evil creatures because of its value as a sacrifice.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Districts of Lapidir, pt 2

This is part 3 in my rambles about Lapidir.  It has the final three districts.

Here is part 1: An overview of Lapidir.
Here is part 2: It has the first three districts.

this is an airship
fuck you, it's 2 am
and this isn't even my wine
Brassica - The College Crematorium and the Early Market

Inn: The Clam and the Cob.  Sign depicts a pornographic union between a corn cob and a clam.  The patrons here play red rover every night.  Many of them are civil engineers and snake psychologists, and they will happily tell you stories of the underground as long as you promise to stay the fuck out of there.  A sign on the wall offers rewards for any information about fire cult anarchists.

Here is the College Crematorium, a civic edifice with a rich and lauded history, and a wizarding college of modest means (although they will tell you otherwise).  It is the second-largest engineering college that I have spoken of.

The College Crematorium has weird architecture, as much of it is formed by a projection of the city's cupric understuff.  On cold days, the wall slouch and are in danger of falling over.  Whenever the engineers want to expand the college, they build a huge bonfire, which pulls copper out of the ground.  Fire builds.

Now, understand that Centerra's science is not too savvy to the laws of nature, and has never sniffed even the first scent of empiricism.  The pursuit of science is mostly tied to observing the most interesting things that you can find or assemble, and then arguing about what it means.  It's also inextricably linked to wizardry and religion.  You can't be a scientist unless you are religious and also know a bit about spellcasting.

So, although the College Crematorium has no concept of Bernoulli's principle, they've still manufactured airships.

The airships looks like giant hot dogs, two hundred feet long.  They have rows of propellers, and the airship itself serves as the axle for these propellers, so the propellers revolve around the body of the airship proper.  They move slowly enough that you can have a sword fight atop one, ducking behind the slow-moving blades all dramatic-like and shit.

The airships have a tail, which holds the box kite and also a the docking apparatus.  They land on their tails, like bumblebees, if bumblebees landed on their stingers.

The College Crematorium gets its name from the Anti-Enigmatic Crematorium.  This is a room that is burns bodies.  It is shaped like an lightbulb, open to the top.  Corpses that are burned here release their knowledge in their smoke.  Professors and other VIPs can then smoke the crematorium and gain the knowledge of the deceased, along with a ragged, blinking high.

Yes, it looks like a giant hookah.  No, you may not borrow the Crematorium.  Only faculty can use the crematorium.  Why are you still here?  Are you a student of the College?

Most of the College is composed of forges and forums, where engineers argue with each other, but also sometimes with snakes.

The market is called the Early Market and markets bore me.  Perhaps they remind me too much of grocery shopping.  Interesting things about the Early Market: Airship tickets.  Broccoli-based cuisine.  It is a crime to scuff, gouge, or discolor the polished copper floor.

Event #1 - Airship lands atop a small (three-story) clocktower and throws a few corpses off the side.  A bunch of fire cult anarchists yell from the portholes that they have captured this airship, but have accidentally killed the only guy who knew how to fly it.  The first person who can get on the airship and help them fly it to Meltheria (1000 miles away) gets a cut of the profits when they sell it for cash.  Anyone else who is sick of this shitty city can come, too.  In 1d20 minutes, Lapidir officials will attempt to recapture the airship with 3d6 civil engineers and a plumbing golem*.  If the airship gets off the clocktower (and it probably will), it will be pursued by another airship.

Event #2 - Slave day at the marketplace.  Malakeja the Inquisitrix is selling a minotaur, raised from birth and guaranteed to be a faithful hireling.  Bidding starts at 500sp but will probably go much higher.

The Wheelhouse - Central Palace and Control Panel for the Whole City

It is shaped like half of a wheel, a stone rainbow arcing over the city.  Main street runs below its central arch.  It is also shaped like a castle, with battlements and all that jazz.  The royal family lives in it.

The King of Lapidir has only a token role in the city, and generally obeys whatever orders given to him by the Administration.

The King of Lapidir is a human, one of the last terrestrial humans.  His family is also human.  He's a simple man, uneducated except for children's books, which he reads to his children every night.  He doesn't have a name.  The palace is vacuum sealed, and the king's needs are seen by a small army of wobbly brass golems.

In case you're like "wut no humans", read this.

Sometimes the King of Lapidir goes up to his blast-proof windows and waves to his citizens.  They rarely wave back.  This doesn't deter the King of Lapidir.  He likes waving at the people.  This is one of his only duties, and he takes it very seriously.

Somewhere in the heart of the Wheelhouse is the Console, the control panel that controls the sewers, plumbing, agricultural irrigation, and temperature of the city.  It's also capable of raising the whole city up 100' as defense against invaders.  Most of the buttons in the Console have unknown effects.  The King of Lapidir doesn't touch those buttons.  They give him nightmares.

There is also a countdown that must be reset every 11 hours.  It is unclear what will happen if the timer is allowed to reach zero, but the king and his family are careful to never let this happen.

The Console is rumored to be guarded by an IOUN stone beholder-golem.

Palpum - Civil Administration Edifice, Civil Services Building, and Snaketown

Inn: The Ascending Column.  This four story inn has a small footprint.  It is frequented by snake psychologists and the occasional civil serpent with Int 10 (who drink out back, with the horses).  It is decorated in faded French rococo.  A midget sleeps in one of the cabinets, coming out every few minutes to clear the plates.

The real power in the city is Administratrix Varalicta.  She's 6'6" (2m) tall when barefoot, and she likes to wear heels.  (Varalicta's Heels: feather fall at will, heels +3 vs peasants).  

The administrative buildings are all distinctive, compared to the rest of the city.  They're squat cylinders, arranged in hexagonal grids.  Only the Administrators know why this is so.

The administration buildings often have short, trumpet-shaped chimneys going from them.  This is part of the smoke mail system.  You write a note, place it into a tiny (3" cube) incinerator, and burn it up.  Then the smoke flies over to the recipient and reforms the note.  This mail system only works in the Palpum District.  

This is why it's a crime to interfere with smoke within the city.  You could be fucking with important city communications.

It's possible to catch the puff of smoke in a large bag (think butterfly net) and centrifuge it down into the original communique.  Spies do this, and anyone with a sack on a stick is suspect.

The Municipatorium is the largest building.  It's shaped like a two-tiered wedding cake.  This is the most important building in Lapidir.  It's where Administratrix Varalicta rules from.

Despite all the boring names, Lapidir isn't really big on beauracracy.  It mostly runs on graft and nepotism, like any other civilized city.  They just style themselves this way because all the sunlight reflecting off the copper has gone to their heads.

The snakes don't live in the Reptile House.  This is a common misconception.  Although you can stand on the Millstone Bridge and watch the civil serpents file into the Reptile House, all that the snakes do there is clock out.  (They are very well trained.)  The snakes mostly travel through the Serpentine Aquaduct.

The snakes live below the Civil Services Building (which is basically a huge garrison with filing cabinets in it) in a place called Snaketown.

Snaketown is a smaller model of Lapidir, lit by a small amount of light let in through the skylight.  The snakes have their own crude society down there.

Remember that civil serpents have an Int of 5.  Remember that 10% of them have an Int of 10, and can speak.  The snakes are not clever, but they have a dogged persistence and a ready knowledge of the city's laws.

The Reptile House is where the snake handlers live.  They manage, direct, and discipline the civil serpents, with snake-catching spears, live rats dipped in bourbon, and brothel vouchers.  They are lead by Comptroller Uzira Delomangusa, who is 6'2" and therefor inferior to Administratrix Varalicta, whom she schemes against.  The Comptroller is a sorceress of no small talent.  She lays the eggs that grow up to become civil serpents, and oversees their legal education.

Event #1 - A man in a small, steel-barred crate promises accurate maps of the underground if he is freed.  He is about to be wheeled off to the Civil Services Building, where he will be fed to the civil serpents for the crime of copper theft.

Event #2 - A bunch of the snake psychologists were recently poisoned by fire cult anarchists.  Administratix Varalicta agrees to commute their sentence if the PCs take the snake psychologists' places for a few weeks while proper replacements are found.  If the PCs are not guilty of any crime, the Administratix will discover something (such as scuffing the floor, or disturbing the smoke with their shouting).

Their first task is to remove the purple, bloated bodies from the Snake Psychology Office within the Reptile House.

The second and ongoing task is to manage the civil serpents.  This involves finding lost snakes, delivering orders to snakes in Snake Town, beating unruly snakes back into docility if they've had too much to drink (no lethal force allowed), comforting the snakes when they've had a bad day, and occasionally accompanying the snakes into the Mechanism to do some task that they are unable to do, such as turning a doorknob.

Ten Splendors - Poverty and Fire Scars

Inn: The Giant Mouse.  The common room is a maze of long benches.  It is so crowded after working hours that you'll have to rely on your neighbors to pass your beers to you.  There is a trio of dire rat skulls over the bar.  Every night, patrons pay 10sp to play Scaldine's game (she's the owner): make her laugh, and win 1000sp (nailed individually to the ceiling).  No one has ever won it.

The poor collect in Ten Splendors, like dirt under the fingernails.  The buildings here are the oldest, green-rusted copper and brittle wood, made light by long fires.  It smells like a pot of boiling water after you let all the water boil out, but forget to turn off the heat and all the precipitated shit paints the inside of you pot white.

The name of the district refers to the fountains.  There are ten of them.  If you bathe in one, you'll get a new save against any ongoing diseases you have.  In the morning, the fountains will be filled with children, and will smell faintly of urine.  At night, the fountains will be full of lepers, massaging each other's sores.  The water is always clean (despite any smells) and there is no risk of contagion.

The Charcoal House is full of burn victims.  It's actually a church (like the one in Wychenpither), except that it shepherds a much poorer flock.  They also sell charcoal and torches.  The torches are considered lucky.  Buy ten and you'll get a small but vicious dog.

There are many burn victims in Ten Splendors.  They leer out of doorways like sullen mummies peering out of crypts.  Like the mummies, they often wonder what day it is, and why their lips hurt so much.

Ten Splendors has seen the worst of the misfires and combustions that mark a "successful" action of the Mechanism.

In Ten Splendors, the sewer sinuses are open to the sky, and it is from these garbage-choked holes that the Mechanism shoots its fire into the sky.  It's just that when the sewer sinus is filled with garbage (as is often the case), it also results in a lot of burning garbage raining down on the slums.

There are blackened craters in Ten Splendors, some of them as large as a city block.  If you look at Ten Splendors on a map it looks like it has the pox.  Most of these craters are filled with several inches of rainwater or steam condensate.  Packs of feral dogs congregate near these weed-choked ruins.  They lounge in the brackish water; it cools their burns.

This is a superstitious district.  They believe in spirit-folk called brooskas, which look like tiny men mad of soot who only drink cream and only communicate by humming.  They supposedly herd vast herds of fleas the way ranchers work their cattle.  As long as you leave them a bowl of cream every so often, you'll never be tormented by fleas.

Many of the poor in Ten Splendors are tormented by disease.  The city of Lapidir has some magic that prevents the spread and progression of disease, but some cases are so grievous that they linger on, even through infections that would have normally killed them.  Behind some closed doors and curtained hallways, you will find the sickest people in the world.

Mama Mothwing is one of these.   She's old enough to have spawned a clan of ashen-faced, phlegmatic offspring.  She is so weak that she can only communicate by lifting her finger, as she is dying of consumption.  She has been dying of consumption for the last twenty years.

Most of the street gangs are unaligned, or ally themselves with the fire cults.  But the Whiskey Pups hate the fire cult gangs, and work to destroy them.  They hide liquor in all sorts of secret places around the city, so that no matter where they end up fighting, they'll have a bottle at hand.  Woe to those who steal their liquor, even unknowingly.  They are led by a man named Beggar Twosie.

Event #1 - Slavers snapping up loose victims.  If the PCs don't look tough, they'll be targeted like all the other poor dopes who didn't have the sense to lock themselves indoors.  If the PCs look dangerous, they'll be ignored, and get to watch 1d20 people caught.  There are 3d6 slavers (1 HD fighters) and a single cage golem*.

Event #2 - One of the fountains has turned to poison.  Mama Mothwing is paying a small fortune for anyone who can discover the cause and reverse it.


Plumbing Golem
HD 6, AC 15, Fistsx2 1d8/1d8, Move 9
- Immune to magic, except for stuff that affects water or stone golems
- Create Plumbing.  The golem sits its ass down on the ground and shits out a length of pipe, which installs itself across 20' of ground.  Only works in cities.
- Sewer Geyser: Existing plumbing erupts with water, dealing 2d6 damage to anyone standing in that particular spot and then launching them 1d4 x 10' into the air.  If they survive, Save vs filthy sewer-water disease.  A successful Dex check takes half damage from the geyser and avoids the launch.
- Sewer Travel.  Incredibly, the plumbing golem can travel through pipes like Mario, although it sounds like a buffalo chewing a bunch of rocks.

Cage Golem
HD 8, AC 16, Bite 1d8 + capture, Move 9
Looks like a cage the size of school bus, with a blunt-toothed crocodile head.  It walks on six legs.  It's a cage, so every part of it is wireframe.
- Immune to magic except for the stuff that affects iron golems.  Casting freedom of movement on the cage golem causes it to fall apart on a failed save, or take 5d6 damage on a successful save.
- On a hit, a target much succeed on a Str check or be swallowed.  Cage golem has Str 20.
- Swallowed targets are trapped inside the cage golem.  The inside of the golem has 2d6 cowed prisoners and 2 ghouls, who have been commanded to cow all prisoners inside the golem, so that they are not trying to escape.
- Escape from the cage golem is impossible unless a character has a crowbar and succeeds on bending the bars OR the golem's controller orders the golem to spit the prisoners out.
- It is shaped like a fat, smiling dog.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Districts of Lapidir

This is part 2.  Here is part 1.

So part of making a city for DnD is making it useful at the table (not just in the author's head).  Here are some more ground-level views of Lapidir.

How to Use This Scheiße

Let the players wander around the city and discover the shit that you have planned for them.  Each neighborhood has two random events that you can spring on them whenever.  Each neighborhood has an inn that your PCs can stay at, if they wish.

Insert lots of your own stuff into it.  Make it your own city.

Here are three districts of Lapidir.

Rupture - Anarchists, Immigrants, and Burning Streets

Inn: The Pickled Mouse.  Full of knife throwers.  A dark heron drinks dark rum in the kitchen.  This is the innkeeper's pet.

Hottest part of Lapidir.  People walk through the huge clouds of steam, barely wearing any clothes at all.  Days without steam (1-in-6 chance) are the most dangerous of all, because fire will shoot up through the cracks in the street.

These days are holidays, and no one works on them.  "When the streets cookin," they say, "the boss ain't looking."

They'll fry steaks on the street, picking them up with long-handled bardiche-guisarmes.  Street urchins sometimes run past with all of their clothing wrapped around their feet, scoop up a steak or two, and disappear into a heat-hazy alleyway.  Everyone laughs at this, but if they catch one of the urchins they'll beat them badly.

The men laugh on these holidays and share bottles of wine, throwing them from balcony to balcony, across the street.  There is an art to this.  The smaller women will shimmy along the laundry lines, or walk atop them (many of them can do this reliably, surprisingly),

Half of the people are Fafren immigrants, who speak their language here freely (which they share with some of the more voluble monkeyrats).  They drink a lot, and you can sometimes see them weeping on each other's shoulders, at the back of the tavern.  They have freckles and fierce red hair that grows in patches (and not always in the usual places--they have more variation than most humans).  They love jokes and hard work.  They are telepathic with other Fafren within 100 feet.

There is a black market here, but it is underground, through narrow hallways.  You can hire an urchin to take you there, but if you threaten the kid or refuse to pay him, he will lead you to a sharp corner of the Mechanism, and he will slip out while the walls slide in, and you will boil inside your skin.

The black market is run by a man named Doolie the Mook, who has a golden hand and is not afraid of death.

Doolie knows a secret about the Mechanism. . . a way to reach the third level in one fell swoop.  Above all, he desires to see Jubilation (see Wychenpither) shamed publicly, or convicted of some crime.  Doolie blames the priest for his first wife's death.

This is also the neighborhood with the greatest presence of Fire Cultists.  They have many contacts, many cells, and many agendas, but they all want to see the city destroyed, and Lagganoth free from his Conceptual Eggspace.  One such anarchist is Zilvago, an ambitious young wizard who is about 10% of his way towards his goal of becoming a fire elemental.  His familiar is the shadow of a dead woman, who appears but never moves.

Event #1 - Fire cultists (mostly Fafren) are culling the civil serpents, and the PCs have wandered into the middle of it.  The PCs will walk into an intersection that has been barricaded into a dead end.  Behind them, a fire cultist is ringing a gong with a feather (this is the Snakefeather*), and the noise from this is driving a bunch of civil serpents into the kill zone.  If the PCs help, they may make some friends among the fire cults.  If they try to save the serpents, they will most certainly make enemies.  The anarchists have molotovs and rusty spears.

Event #2 - Scary-looking men lounge on a patio.  They are drunk, and call out to the PCs to come tell them a story, they want to hear a good story, they're sick of hearing about Bulgar's story about his dog getting sick.  They are decent men who are also Doolie's bodyguards on certain days.  If you tell them a really funny story, you'll have friends for life.

Wychenpither - Death and Religion

Inn: The Piebald's Pony.  Sign shows a piebald man riding a white pony.  Three ashen-headed priests are engaged in an arm-wrestling contest.  This is also the home of Vincent, the smartest and friendliest dog in the world.

Site of the carousel-gallows.  Witches (and other condemned criminals) are hung from the carousel-gallows, which then begins rotating (death is by strangulation, not spinal fracture).  The carousel-gallows is powered by the Mechanism.  After minutes or days, the dead persons neck snaps, and the corpse shoots off in a random direction.

It will invariably land in the yard of one of the surrounding houses.  This is a good thing, and a sign of the Authority's tolerance, if not good-will.  The family whose house caught the corpse may move forward one row of pews within the local church.

In the unfortunate cases where the head lands in one yard and the body in another, a feud is sure to develop.

The houses are all nice ones, belonging to wealthy and virtuous people who keep their hands powdered with sugar and wrapped in silk gloves (like all decent aristocrats).  The upstairs duplexes all have large balconies that jut out, like dogs sticking out their tongues.

Just a block away is the church.  It is called the House of Nine-Tenths and it vibrates on hot days, when the Mechanism is at its most feverish.  It's head priest is a man call Jubilation, and he spends his days atop the church tower with a telescope and a shout cone, calling out all of the sins that he witnesses.  He witnesses a great deal; the church tower is tall.

Encounter #1 - There is a great brawl in Wychenpither square.  A sweaty man wearing only silk gloves, yellow pantaloons, and a canary-feathered codpiece thrusts a purple silk bag into your hands.  His name is Oswick Pendle-Over, and he tells you that must bring this bag to a certain address (1 Marblethrop Place), where you will be rewarded with 500sp as long as you don't look in the bag.  The bag contains a head, of course.  While the man's offer is genuine (and may lead to some noble patronage in the future, with the Pendle-Overs), if the PCs want to take the most direct route to the address immediately, they will be stopped by no less than 1d6-1 groups of flamboyant noblespawn armed with epees and painpipes, all demanding to look in the bag.

Encounter #2 - Gas leak (clammy green-gray oil-mist).  Everyone in district must save or pass out for 1d20 minutes.  After 2 minutes, one of the cobble-plates in the streets is pried up, and 1d20 thieves (1 HD) in gas masks sally forth, picking pockets and looting storefronts as quickly as they can before vanishing into the creamy green mist.  50% chance that Father Brill (a HD 3 paladin in full plate who can fly like superman for reasons he's never been able to articulate, like shoe metaphors) will show up half way through to fight the thieves.  The thieves carry blackjacks and might try to trade knowledge of the green gas in exchange for their freedom (if captured).

The Ballistradium - Growing Delicacies at the Steam Pit

Inn: Gabber's Garden.  Home to Gabber, a carnivorous plant that weighs about as much as a grown man.  Patrons usually throw their leftovers in his slavering, toothsome mouth.  Everyone swears that the Gabber can talk if you get it drunk first (this is untrue).  Bartender wears an expensive fake eye worth 50s, made from solid lapis lazuli.

Built around an enormous, square pit, each side as long as a football field.  Plumes of steam billow out of it constantly, except for a single hour every 11 hours.  The steam is hot enough to deal 1d6 points of heat damage every 10 minutes of exposure.  Despite the danger and limited access, this is still one of the more popular ways to enter the Mechanism.  You just need to rappel four stories down the side of the steam pit onto a ledge shaped like half a turtle (roughly).

The buildings around the steam pit are terraced.  Neighbors grow exotic plants in the tropical steam, some of which form a small-but-vital part of the Lapidirian diet.

Fecund orchids grow from every balcony, providing Lapidir's famous singing orchids.  (The orchids do not sing, but if you eat enough of them, you will learn strange songs.  Each season provides another song.) And the walls provide numerous rust-colored fungi, cultivated to produce edible macro-asci, which provide slatterhorn bitters (required in cocktails) and skelembrious modge (essential for making serpent-meat palatable).

Encounter #1 - Rival adventurers!  Moxo the Strangelet wants to sell you a (somewhat flawed) map of the first floor of the dungeon.  You have a minute to decide, as she's in a hurry.  (In truth, she is being pursued by a trio of Civil Engineers and their Urn Demon, who seek her arrest).

Encounter #2 - Four gourmands demand that you find a grandsome dianta* at the bottom of the Steam Pit and eat it while it is live.  This will cause 2d6 translucent fruit to grow from your forehead over the next 1d12 hours.  If eaten, they cause euphoria and terminate charm and emotional effects.  They want to eat four diantafruit--you will be allowed to keep any extra.  If you do not agree to this, they will put the starving curse on you, and all food that touches your tongue will turn to ashes.  They have singled you out because you are a foreigner, and they are bullies.

Other Neighborhoods

Brassica has the engineering college and the marketplace.

Palpum has the Civil Administration and Reptile House.

Ten Splendors has crushing poverty and fire scars.


Snake Feather - Magical Item
If you bang it on a gong, you force a morale check for nearby serpents.  Subsequent gong-ringing does nothing.  If you eat it, you are cured of any mundane poison you are currently suffering from, and the next thing you bite today must save or suffer the same poison.

Civil Engineer
HD 2, AC 13, Int 13, Morale 6
50% chance of carrying a mancatcher, 50% chance of carrying a war pick and a shield (of amber and copper).  (These shields give you +4 to save against electrical attacks.)  Each carries 1d20sp and a bundle of worthless blueprints in a dense, crabbed hand.  Names: Osric, Blueholme, Tatterdale, Pinkett.

Urn Demon
HD 3, AC 14, slam 1d6, minimal damage from non-magical weapons, move human, Int 12
- Normally moves by rolling on an edge.  Must be carried up stairs.  Cannot jump
- Targets slammed by an urn demon must save or become quickly agoraphobic for 1d6 rounds.  Agoraphobic characters must squeeze themselves into a small, non-threatening space (such as an urn) if at possible, or flee towards such a place if none is available.  If nothing else is available, they must jump in the urn.
- Inside the urn, they attack at -2 (because they are cramped) and the urn demon attacks always hit.  The urn demon looks like a cross between a small chimpanzee on steroids and a pink alligator, but you'll only learn this if you stick your head inside its (magically darkened) urn.

Grandsome Dianta
HD 1, AC 15, sting 1d8, fly at human running speed
-Look like a foggy gelatin roughly in the shape of an anorexic manta ray.  About as long as your forearm.  Will invariably run away when encountered, only attacking when cornered.  Str 5.  If it ever tastes alcohol, it will immediately turn into a 2 HD cloaker.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Five Mounts

NOTE: Horses are HD 2 and have a movement of 18.


HD 2, AC leather, claws 1d6, move 24

These are big riding birds, taller than a man.  They are carnivores, and kill with claws and pecks.  Although their listed speed is faster than a horse, they tire after half a day of overland travel, and cannot sprint more than a few hundred feet.  (Overland travel 2/3 of a horse.  Sprint 150% of a horse.)

In a wilderness area, orns have a 60% chance to be able to find the nearest water source within the hex or any neighboring hexes (~12 mile range).  They will want to spend half a day bathing and preening; if you prevent them, they will sulk, bite you, and possibly run away at the first chance.

nailed it

Witch Weasels

HD 3, AC leather, claws 1d6, move 18

Step 1: Kill a dire weasel and render down all of its fat.  Step 2: Kill a white-haired witch (this is the hard part) and cut off her scalp.  Step 3: Slather the witch scalp with yellow weasel grease.  You've just create a witch weasel wig.

The wig bonds to the first person who scalps themselves, then slaps the wig onto their own head.  It'll permanently fuse, assimilated at the cellular level.  It is now your hair.  It's voluminous like a thundercloud, and about three feet long.  It's healthy, and looks normal (though enormous).

At your command, the hair can leap off of your head and form into a Witch Weasel, large enough to ride.  The weasel has its own mind, but is entirely loyal to you.  If it travels more than 100' from you, it takes 1d6 damage each round until it dies.  If it dies, you'll regrow the hair in a year.

While the witch weasel is active, your hair is short.  Both you and the weasel must be reunited for either one of you to sleep (which is impossible if you are separated).

Bottled Steeds

HD 2, AC leather, hooves 1d3, move 18 (fly)

Among the wizard loot, you may sometimes find a smoky glass vial that contains roiling purple smoke.  If the vial is uncorked, the purple smoke will pour and and form a semi-permanent version of a phantom steed.

The phantasmal horse is made of purple smoke that is shot through with sparkling stars and flickers of distant lightning.  It feels solid as a real horse, though, even to the point of feeling warm to the touch.

It doesn't heal normally. You can heal it by casting spells into its mouth.  Each spell cast this way heals it for 1d6+1 HP.   It obeys the orders of whoever holds its bottle.  If it gets more than 100' away from its bottle, it will die after 1d20+20 hours.  If it dies, it dies permanently.

subtract the wings and horn and you've got it
Faerie Horse

HD 3, AC breastplate, hooves 1d4, move 18

These delicately scaled horse-beasts grin cheerfully.  They have ostentatious tails and a pink-to-green color gradient.  They are surprisingly intelligent and have a penchant for eating hats, which they prefer more than any other food.  They do not whinny, but instead laugh.

When urged into a gallop, they will begin leaping and bounding, leaping 100' feet into the air, accelerating until they are effectively going 10x horse speed.   They will run in as straight a line as possible for one hour.  Getting the fairy horse to stop, slow turn, or turn requires an appropriate check or a small bag of sugar cubes.  They will do this once per day.  They can do it more often than that, but they're surly.

They are never hurt by falls (a combination of strong knees and a half-strength version of feather fall).  They fall like cats.  Riders share in this protection.

pic unrelated
because I couldn't find any pictures of slime bears
(I don't know why I bother paying taxes)
that slime girls are apparently a real common fetish

HD 5, AC none, bite 1d8, move 6

These are sentient lumps of jelly, related to dungeon slimes.  They possess no strong acid, and attack by biting.  They don't really look like bears, except maybe gummy bears that died in a microwave.  Their bite attack is a bit bearish, though.

They can be "tamed" by anyone willing to collect the 20+ different pheromones and solvents (cost 100sp, but hard to find) required to "steer" a jellybear.  Steering a jellybear involves smearing the pheromones and unguents on a sharp stick, and then stabbing the stick into the jellybear's jellybrain.  (Don't worry, this doesn't hurt a jellybear.  Their jellybrain is one of the more resiliant parts of a jellybear's "anatomy".)

Some riders sit atop hydrophilic blankets.

Most riders get naked, strap their gear to the side of the jellybear, slather themselves in grease, don a long snorkel and goggles, and ride inside the jellybear.  It's much safer in there (they can only be hit with reach weapons) and they can attack out with spears.

Sludge vampires sometimes employ them, as they can control the jellybear effortlessly, and are invisible when riding inside one (they share a refractive index).

St. Jelly Girl, Martyr

Lapidir, the City of Secret Fire

The Mechanism of Lapidir

The city is built on top of machinery.  What sort of machinery?  No one knows.  It's a flat wheel in the ground, about half a mile across, made from green-tarnished copper.  There are access panels.  You can go into the machine if you want, disappearing amid a cloud of green-grey rust dust.

The center of the city is the center of the mechanism, and this is the Wheelhouse, a castle.  In the castle is the Console, which controls the city.  It flushes the sewers, and controls the venting of gases in the winter.  It is said that there is only a rudimentary understanding of these controls, and that the king himself only dares to push a tiny fraction of the buttons on the console, whose effects are already well known.  

It is also rumored that the console continually counts down, and must be reset every 11 hours.  It is unclear what will happen if it is allowed to reach zero.  

Other rumors state that the city is a weapon.  Or, more popularly, a bomb that will kill the planet.  (This is sometimes used to explain the arrogance of Lapidisians.)

Things that the Mechanism is known to do:
  1. Sewers.
  2. Temperature Control keeps it mild in winter and cool in summer.
  3. Aquifer Pumps provide huge amounts of fresh water to an otherwise dry environment.
  4. Infectious Diseases don't seem to be infectious within the city's boundaries.  Anyone who soaks in one of the city's fountains gets a new save (but only one) against an ongoing disease to cure it.
The city of Lapidir has no walls.  This is because the city can elevate itself, like a screw unscrewing itself out of the ground.  The city lifts itself like a cylindrical plateau, it's flat-sized spiral lifting itself up to 100' in the air, exposing the esoteric strata of an abandoned machine.  This is a slow process that the King of Lapidir only invokes in dire times, since this measure is always accompanied by small disasters.  There will be d4-1 disasters, each described by a d6.

1 - City tilts.  Water pours out of fountains, cows go tumbling down the streets.
2 - Steam.  Unprotected persons in the streets burn for 1d6 dmg/minute.  Lasts 1d20 minutes.
3 - Fire-maddened Civil Serpents.  1d8 of them boil up through the copper cobbles.
4 - Collapsed building + fire outbreak.  1d6-2 people need saving.
5 - Misfire.  Pillar of fire shoots out of one of the sewer sinuses, flies off like a small comet, and does 3d6 fire damage to everything in a random area within 50 miles (100' wide killzone).
6 - Mass Possession.  1d20 people in an area become possessed by ancient ghosts for 1d20 hours.  They will work tirelessly to build some strange device (50%) or engage in strange performances of ancient aristocracy, such as doing strange waltzes in the streets (50%).  They speak dead languages and are hostile (but not immediately aggressive) towards interlopers.  They do not know that they are dead.

Steam Tunnels

The interior of the city is riddled with tunnels and mechanisms.  They are used by thieves and refugees.  Many of these are filled with hot air.

The city lives in fear of copper thieves.  Once, the city worked beautifully, and the mechanisms whirred smoothly, and all was good.

But when a series of unfortunate coincidences caused the collapse of civil order and mass looting, numerous pieces of copper machinery were been stolen from the Mechanism of Lapidir.  The trend has only continued, and every day the city functions more poorly than before.  It is breaking.

The city owes a great deal to Grand Comptroller Uzira Delomangus, because it was she who first began breeding the civil serpents.  Each of these great snakes is attuned to the city, and can smell copper theft from a hundred paces.  They patrol the steam tunnels of Lapidir, and their golden eyes can discern copper thieves from innocents with uncanny accuracy.

Others claim that such a claim is utter nonsense, and that the serpents merely roam the steam tunnels and eat everyone they come across.

Either way, visitors to the city are fond of the bridge the runs over the Serpentine Aquaduct.  They like to watch the snakes entering and exiting the Civil Services Building at the ends of their shifts.

The steam tunnels are cramped, hot, and shift occasionally.  This makes current maps obsolete and sometimes crushes the less agile engineers.

The deeper one goes in the steam tunnels, the hotter it gets.

Level 1 - no heat damage.
Level 2 - 1 dmg per hour.
Level 3 - 1d4 dmg per 30 mins.
Level 4 - 1d6 dmg per 10 mins.

Overheating damage cannot be healed until you go to a cool place and rest for at least an hour, preferably while drinking something with ice cubes in it.

Civil Serpent Generator

AC (d4)
1 - skin (AC 11)
2 - scales (AC 12)
3 - coppery scales (AC 14)
4 - leaden scales (AC 16, speed halved)

HD (d6)
Ranges from HD 1 to HD 6.

Head (d8)
1 - Snakey
2 - Leonine
3 - Horse
4 - Eyeless snake
5 - Tubular snout snake (spits acid, 1d6 for 2 turns)
6 - Snake skull (counts as undead)
7 - Snake tongued (on a bite, tongue also bites for 1 dmg + poison (1d12 poison dmg, save for half))
8 - Ouroboros

Feature (d10)
1-5 None
6 - Travels by rolling self up into a wheel.  (2x movement speed)
7 - Super long with anchor tail.  On a hit, Str contest (Str 15) to drag prey away.
8 - Flying.
9 - Intelligent and vocal.  Knows 1 level 1 Magic-User spell.  Probably sleep.
10 - Poisonous.  Save or have a seizure for 1d6 rounds, taking 1 damage each round.

Number Appearing (d12)
Roll a d12 and divide by the snake's HD.  Minimum 1.

Civil Engineers and Discourteous Engineers

There is a quiet war being fought beneath the city.

Thieves will steal essential parts of the Mechanism and sell them to the salt-trains coming out of Truaga.

The city's own Civil Engineers (job requirements: bachelor's degree in engineering, a fondness for snakes, Con 9+) work to undue this insidious erosion of their beloved city.  They index all the parts of the Mechanism, and when one goes missing, they forge a new one to replace it.

This is difficult, because the "rooms" inside the mechanism move around sometimes, and the original parts are of excellent quality, and because they sometimes get eaten by serpents.

The Civil Engineers are directly opposed by the Discourteous Engineers (job requirements: bachelor's degree in engineering, a hatred of snakes, Con 9+), who work to oppose them at every turn.  They are members of the old Fire Cults, or at least sympathizers.

Fire Cults

The Church of Centerra primarily displaced the old Fire Cults.  (This is a misleading name, because not all of their gods were fire gods--just most--and there were as civilized and formal as the Church that replaced them.)  The fire temples have all been shipped to the Holy City of Coramont (where they have been piled together to form the Holy Mountain) and the fire gods have been bastardized, franchized, and married off the sundry undergods of the Church.  

(The Church doesn't destroy religions, it assimilates.  Centerrans believe that gods literally live in their temples, so by kidnapping the temples, they have kidnapped their gods, and now the Church writes their mythology.  See also: god prisons.)

Because the Mechanism of Lapidir is associated with fire, some of the fire cults believe that one of their gods is imprisoned within the city.  Specifically, Lagganoth Who-Remembers-Volcanoes.

City Culture

But most of the stuff in the article isn't immediately useful.  It's not what PCs will notice when they enter the city of Lapidir.  Things they will notice.

- It's not steampunk.  It's not industrial.  Don't let the smokestacks (steamstacks) fool you.  It's more like a family of mice living inside a tractor engine.

- The pillars of steam above the Wheelhouse.  They go up and up and do not become diffuse.  They look like columns of chalk stretching unsteadily into space.

- The Festival of Pretzels.  Especially notable are the pretzel swords, with which dueling is common.  Winner gets to eat the loser's sword. 

- Their mint their own coins, which resemble loops or rings.  These are carried on strings, and a string of pennies is an especially common weapon in a street fight.

- An abundance of green and copper-colored clothing. 

- It is illegal to go barefoot, except for prostitutes and bakers, who must go barefoot at all times.

- Everyone eats mints, like, all the fucking time.

- The actor-beggars.  Each beggar has a professional persona that they assume during the day.  One will claim to be Mismerelda, Queen of Lost Lykorum, and another will be Turamooth, her assassin, who is destined to kill her (and will "kill" her, every day, around 2pm in the marketplace).

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Elven Warbands

This is a elven warband generator, based on my last post about elven culture and magic.  It's also partially a response to +Robin Zink's excellent post about plant-elves, which, although it is super cool, is not as super cool as my elves.  My elves, I mean, MY elves wear heels when they run through the treetops.

Roll once for a leader and twice for elites + troops.

this is the perfect example of why elf art is best art
no quiver
no scabbard
and stupid clothes
I love it
all of my elves are going to look this good
Leader (1d6)

1. Violet Lord Vor Asura (F/MU)
is a high elf clad in lunar silk (which changes colors to match the phase of the moon) and a breastplate of 7373 armored, purple spiders, each of which is paralyzed but not dead (and the whole thing can be activated to form a spider swarm).  She wears noble kohl* around her eyes.  He knows the spells mass charm, elegant judgement*, and floral salvage*, among others.  Her spellbook is a ruby on a chain, which is held in the mouth to access the contents.  She rides a permanent phantom steed named Mare Imbrium, who is actually her transformed lover.  At nights, Mare Imbrium turns back into an elf.  They have a complicated relationship.

Violet Lord Vor Asura's troops have glowing violet eyes, bleed glitter, and get +4 to save vs magic.

2. Fleshcrafter Vyrinculembria (F/MU)
is a high elf who cavorts in the nude.  Those who behold him are awestruck at his beauty and cannot attack him until they succeed on a Wisdom check (one allowed per turn).  He can change gender and skin at will.  Every morning, his troops collect their own blood in a bucket, which he uses to paint his body.  He can jump 100' and has a poisonous bite (save or be stunned for 1d6 rounds while gaining a new mutation).  Once per day, he can shed his own skin as he jumps out of it.  This heals him for 1d6+1 HP and ends all ongoing effects on him (even things that don't affect his skin, like charm).  He regenerates 1 HP per turn and can even recover from death (unless burned).  He has only prepared a single spell today: dominate appendage*.  His spellbook is tattooed on the skin of a charmed human girl (Commoner 0) of uncanny beauty named Mia who wears a sundress, works as a servant, and would happily die for her "brother".  He is going mad (Zala Vacha speaks to him) and has already killed another high elf who was beginning to suspect that Vyrinculembria was due for a mental "rebalancing".

Fleshcrafter Vyrinculembria's troops have an extra arm (and a weapon for that arm), which lets them do +2 damage.  50% of them are also undead, but this is indistinguishable except for the fact that they don't speak or bleed.  If any (living or dead) are destroyed, they can be resurrected.

3. Warden Palladar (F/MU)
 is a wood elf who rides a manticore.  The manticore's name is Acerax, and its wings have been clipped in order to make it more docile.  Each of the manticore's spines has a detailed pastoral scene painted on it, along with a message.  Painting is Palladar's only passion, and it is what he hopes to return to when allowed back into high elf society.  The messages contain the equivalent of elven bumper stickers.  Samples: "Suffer no ugliness." and "Wisdom is a happy home."  Palladar is an excellent tracker and archer, and can fire two arrows in the same round.  He has the following spells prepared, among others: rain of arrows*, serpents of the earth*, and dominate animal.  His spellbook is built into his quiver.  1d6 of her arrows are magic (roll a d50).

Warden Palladar's troops all have bows in addition to their regular equipment.  If they already have bows, they get +2 to hit with them.

4. Treespeaker Quenlaia (F/MU) 
is a pregnant wood elf who wears living armor made from mosses and honeysuckles (as leather, self-repairing, requires water).  She rides an enormous treant, whose branches contain a 3-room minidungeon (1 - pool of dew that doubles as a bath and a scrying pool, 2 - seedling chamber that contains mandrakes among other things, 3 - hospital containing beds for troops, salve for treant injuries, and a trove of healing + antidote potions).  She rains down arrows and commands, while being surveying the whole battlefield from her vantage point, 50' in the air.  The treant, named Rowanoak, is old and stiff and cannot attack people climbing his backside (however, there is a symbol of stunning halfway up).  She has the following spells prepared, among others: entangle, mass warp wood, sleep, and lightning bolt.  Her spellbook is a bunch of animated origami that lives in her satchel.  She is secretly plotting against the high elves, and is trying to plant treants that will only be loyal to her.  She especially wants to kill Fleshcrafter Vyrinculembria, who's baby she carries.  She carries 3 epic acorns.

Treespeaker Quenlaia's troops surprise with a 4-in-6 chance while in the forest.

5. Mercenary Captain Travion (Fighter) 
was probably extremely handsome before his nose was cut off.  He now wears a prosthetic nose (with a strap, like an eyepatch).  If his nose is ever removed, he will flip the fuck out and abandon everything else to get it back.  He wears a locket around his neck, which contains a portrait of Avannalia, an elven noble that he serves and is in love with.  The locket is worth 200g for its materials and craftsmanship, but it is also a scrying device, and allows Avannalia to scry on and communicate with the wearer.  Captain Travion wears plate mail and rides an alchemically-enhanced charger (stronger and faster than a regular horse, but has a 30% chance of its heart exploding at the end of every battle).  He wield a lance + shield on horseback and a sword + shield on foot.  He wears a belt of woven oaks* and is an brilliant tactician.  His armor is mithril, and is worth a fortune.

Mercenary Captain Travion's troops get +2 morale will always fight with ideal tactics.  They also carry twice as much gold as they normally would.

6. Disgusting Hatebeast Vekkay (Assassin/MU) 
is one of the skull people, a faceless elf.  He wears a mask that depicts a green monkey face with bulging eyes and a mane of purple feathers.  He rides a black orn* trained to respond to a click-language of Vekkay's own devising.  In combat, the two fight in fearsome synchronicity--if they attack the same target simultaneously, Vekkay does +100% damage.  He wields a cryptic dagger, poisoned with hagsblood (2d6 damage, Cha check for half, only works once).  Vekkay can climb as spiderclimb and can spit acidic webs (as nets, 1d6 dmg/rnd) twice per day.  , He can also be stealthy 5-in-6 (surprise, hide in shadows, move silently, etc).  He has the following spells prepared, among others: speak with birds*, invisibility, darkness, faerie fire, dimension door.  He's likely to creep around the party and ask them questions in his rasping, groaning voice, careful not to give them a clear shot at him.  "Why do you wear such disgusting faces?" "Who do you serve?" "What is wrong with your heart?" He's (genuinely) more curious than he is cruel, and he's plenty cruel.  He enjoys wearing faces of his victims under his mask and cutting himself.  He also enjoys lying at the bottom of streambeds with a heavy stone on his stomach.

If Vekkay is the warband's leader, there is a 90% chance that you should not roll on the Elites/Troops tables and just roll on the skull people tables instead (at the very end of this post).

Disgusting Hatebeast Vekkay's troops poison all of their weapons, each of which deals an extra 1d6 damage on their first hit (save negates this poison damage).

elf secret #37
All elves think that they're Drizzt
They're all broody and artistic and think they're rebelling against a corrupt establishment
Elites and Troops (d12, roll twice)

1 - Lightning-Struck Treant (Elite)
Boatloads of HP and AC.  Immune to fire.  Hits like a fire truck on bath salts.  In his branches are either some troops with ranged weapons or an enormous wasp nest (that can be thrown like a grenade), DM's discretion.  Moves slowly, but is not slowed by forests (other trees get the fuck out of the way).

2 - Two Unicorns (Elite)
Gore attack with horn, trample with their shiny shiny hooves, charm, will attack the most promiscuous member of their opponents (unicorns hate sluts!)  Can heal their allies.  Horns cure all diseases and curses (even if you are impaled on them).  Have a death curse: their killer loses 1d6 from their highest attribute until they sincerely apologize to unicorn's ghost and then create a work of immortal beauty in the world.

10% chance that the unicorns are undead unicorn husks.  These unicorns have beautiful black coats and look alive, but they have no magical powers.  If they are killed, their skins collapse and a crackling blue gas escapes, filling a 50' diameter area.  Those in the gas are paralyzed (convulsions and vomiting), but get a save each turn in order to act normally (1 turn only).  Each turn they remain in the gas, they take 1d6 damage and 1d6 strength damage and 1d6 charisma damage as their body putrefies and sloughs off, because that's what unicorn-killers fucking deserve.

If there elves, they might ride the unicorns, DM's discretion.

3 - Three Eunuch Ogres (Elite)
Clad in full plate mail, covered in spikes (ogre stats with higher AC).  Each armor is a beautiful work of art, and each helmet depicts an androgynous face.  Each ogre can cast invisibility 1/day.  The ogres are eunuchs because their vulgar genitalia offended elvish sensibilities.  They carry the dried, offending bits of flesh in a pouch around their necks.

4 - 1d4 War Ashakkas (Elite)
HD 6, AC 15, Fly 15, Slam 2d8, Morale 12, otherwise treat them like wood golems that can cast wall of force, magic missile (3 missiles), and a variant of force cage  that is channeled and therefore interruptable.  Each 1/day.

5 - 1d4+1 Winter Wolves (Elite)
HD 5, AC 14, Move 15, Bite 1d8+1 + trip attempt, Morale 10, can breath a cone of cold (5d6) and vanish in snowy conditions.  Some of the troops might ride them, DM's discretion.

6 - 1d4+1 Elementals (Elite)
Equal chance of being air or water elementals.  HD 5, AC 15.  Morale 12.

Water elementals slam for 1d8+1, but are also fond of engulfing opponents and then freezing.  They'll stay frozen until dead (can be attacked by third parties at this time, all attacks automatically hit), commanded to unfreeze by their commander, or until they take fire damage.  Frozen people take 1d6 cold damage per turn, cannot breath, and have a 0-in-20 chance of escaping each turn, modified by their Str bonus.  Move 12.

Air elementals slam for 1d4 damage, but are also fond of grabbing people (their Str is 16) and flying straight up until they can drop them.  They deal 1d4 damage each round while flying upwards.  Any arrow that enters a 10' space around an air elemental is automatically grabbed and redirected (the air elemental makes a new attack roll with a new target).  Whenever they hit someone, that person is prevented from spellcasting for 1 round as their voice is sucked straight out of their lungs.  Fly 24.

this is how ridiculous my beautiful elves look
just look at each piece of this drawing
take it all in
I'd rather lose a PC to dire rats than to her shitty bow
7 - 2d4 Elven Sword Dancers (Troops)
HD 3, AC 16, Move 12, Sword 1d6+1, Morale 10, Backstab x2, automatically counterattack whenever a melee attack misses them, AC 20 vs arrows (knock them out of the arrow), as stealthy as a 6th level thief

8 - 2d6 Wood Elf Scouts (Troops)
Level 1 elves in leather armor, bows, scimitars.  Uncanny ability to jump from branch to branch, and prefer to fight from the trees.  Impossible to surprise in a forest via mundane means, normally (they keep a tight watch).

9 - 1d8 Wood Elf Rangers (Troops)
Level 1 elves in breastplates, bows, scimitars.  They all have an animal companion (equal in number to the elves).  Roll a d4 for the whole troop: 1 - hawks (1 HD) trained to pluck out eyes, 2 - wolves (2 HD) wearing feathered necklaces, 3 - black bears (3 HD) with elaborately dyed hair, 4 - A single giant webspitting spider (6 HD) for the entire troop.  If they have a chance to defend, they will set up ingenious forest traps: snares and deadfalls and punji sticks.

10 - 2d6 Elven Mannikins (Troops)
These are soulless elves with visible perfections.  They are made by elven fleshcrafters from left-over body parts.  They have water for blood and abnormal internal organs.  Treat them as elven clerics (HD 1) in leather armor.  They get +4 AC against any weapon that isn't 100% clean (this usually means cleaning your weapons/arrows before the battle).  They each know a level 1 cleric spell, usually bless, cure light wounds, or command.  Morale 6.

11 - 2d6 Orc Mercenaries (Troops)
Orcs (2 HD) armed with glaives.  They wear immaculate white armor and have beatific, beautiful masks locked onto their heads.  (Their leader holds the key.)  They will praise the elves--their beautiful, kind benefactors--with their dying breaths.

12 - 3d6 Human Mercenaries (Troops)
Humans (1 HD) armed with longswords, shields, and breastplates.  1d3 of them ride horses (lieutenants).  Half of them also carry crossbows.  If captured and questioned, they will mostly talk about how beautiful and wise the elves are.  50% chance that one of them is a 4 HD changeling agent of the elves.

this picture is unrelated to elves
no wait
this is what an elf party looks like before the band shows up

Magic Items

Noble Kohl
Magic Makeup
Wearing this cosmetic gives you +4 AC as long as you seem lordly and beautiful.  The effect ends at once if (a) it washes off, (b) the wearer takes any damage, (c) the wearer gets dirty, or (d) the wearer performs anything embarassing or undignified.  This jar has 1d4+1 doses remaining.

Belt of Woven Oaks
Magic Belt
You can step into a tree and exit through another tree up to 50' away.  If you are riding a mount, you can share this ability.  Alternatively, you can hang out inside a single tree, which protects you.  You can see and hear out of the tree, and breath normally.  This belt has 1d8+2 charges remaining.

Cryptic Dagger
For the next 10 minutes, the character's body erupts in injuries (cracking bones, lacerations, epic nosebleeds) that have no mechanical effect, but make it impossible to track how injured you actually are.  Tell the player that you are going to keep track of their (now secret) HP total, and then do exactly that.  In the hands of a PC, this is usually enough to force a  morale check on a group of monsters if you hit their leader.

Epic Acorn
If planted, they instantly grow into a 30' oak tree.  If eaten, the function as a potion of giant growth.


Elegant Judgement
Wizard Spell
As fireball, except the damage is necrotic (purple flames) and the targets make a Cha check instead of save.  Creatures with 17 or more Charisma are immune to this spell.  Casting this spell involves snapping your fingers at the end of the incantation.

Floral Salvage
Wizard Spell
Flowers (caster chooses the type) erupt from the target's wounds.  Target takes 1 damage for every point of damage it has already taken.  (So a target with 7 out of 12 HP would take 5 damage.)  Save for half.  If this damage kills the target, their corpse is entirely consumed by plant growth, and turns into a beautiful tree covered in flowers.  Height is 2d4 x creature's HD in feet.  Elves use this spell to salvage creatures they can't make any better use of.  Violet Lord Vor Asura always chooses violets.

Rain of Arrows
Wizard Spell
As fireball, except that the caster fires an arrow into the air (which turns into a multitude) and the damage is all arrow damage.  (1 arrow per 1d6 damage.)  Doesn't work in places with low ceilings (less than 100').

Serpents of the Earth
Wizard Spell
Cast on a section of natural soil or stone, 1d6 enormous serpents of HD 1d4 crawl up from the dirt.  They have AC 13 and deal 1d6+HD damage, except for the 1 HD serpents, which are small and bite for 1 damage + deadly poison.  Serpents are not controlled by the caster.  They're just pissed off snakes.

Speak with Birds
Wizard Spell
If there is a party of 3-6 adventurer's moving through the forest nearby, a random songbird has a 60% chance of knowing where they are and if they're doing anything extra weird.  Birds of prey are rarer, but more observant.


Beast of Burden
These are riding birds, sort of like chocobos but more like aepyornis.  Compared to horses, they are faster and deal more damage with their claws, but they cannot run for more than a few hundred feet, and they are more fragile.

behind that mask is a faceless rictus
remember not to use your lips when you do their voices
Skull People (1d4, roll twice)

1 - 2d6 Skull Lancers
Skull people (as 1 HD elves) in leather armor, spears.  Uncanny ability to jump from branch to branch, and prefer to fight from the trees.  Like to drop down from the trees atop their spears (dealing 2x damage as if from a charge attack).  After their death, corpses retain the power of speech until the next new moon.  Heron masks.  Morale 6.

2 - 2d6 Skull Poisoners
Skull people (as 1 HD elves) in leather armor, kukris.  Each one carries a sling and a vial of toxic gas (1d6 acid damage each round of exposure, thick as fog spell, lasts 1 minute) and are immune to toxic gases due to filters on their masks.  Penalties for fighting in fog are halved.  After their death, corpses retain the power of speech until the next new moon.  Frog masks.  Morale 6.

3 - 1d4+1 Holy Divers
Skull people (as 2 HD elves this time) without armor, kukris.  Each one is capable of possessing a target by jumping into their target's body and dancing inside their blood.  While inside, a holy diver can either (a) make a bloody exit that deals 2d6 damage to the target, or (b) control their actions for one turn.  Possessed people can make a save each turn to expel the holy diver, which stuns the holy diver for 1 round.  After their death, corpses retain the power of speech until the next new moon.  Rabbit masks.  Morale 6.

4 - 1d4+1 Leatherbacks
Skull people (as 2 HD elves this time) in breastplates, scimitars.  They crawl around (at running speed) while wearing the skins of boars, bears, and wolves.  While crawling, they can bite (1d6 damage + save or fear 1d6 rounds).  They can also throw off their skin and attack normally (1d6+1 with their scimitars).  After they throw off their skin, the animal skin will continue to fight, attempting to grapple opponents (treat as a net that does 1d6 damage if it hits you, and has Str 12).  Unless someone throws the beast skin, all they can do is crawl around feebly and bite anyone foolish enough to step on them.  After their death, corpses retain the power of speech until the next new moon.  Pig masks.  Morale 6.

elves really do fight in outrageously fashionable costumes
they are also always clean
and smell like raspberries and new car smell

If your players strip any wood elves of their armor, remember that they don't have any genitalia.  They're just like barbie dolls down there.  While some wood elves might treat other races as semi-equals, high elves have nothing but contempt.

Also remember that elves will be loathe to kill a beautiful PC (Cha 16) or higher, and will instead try to capture them, either because they want to induct them into elven society, or simply harvest them for attractive body parts.

so sorry
but this is too perfect
elves start every day off with 1000 crunches