Thursday, October 31, 2019


I'm one of those people that thinks that ghosts shouldn't have stats.  Instead, ghosts are lingering bits of soulstuff, typically just a painful moment without context.  A ghost might materialize and go through some motions, but they are a type of recording, a recitation of misery.

They're meant to be interesting traps, where the players find success through cleverness, rather than rolling high with their most relevant skill.

by Luca Nemolato
How Ghosts Work

  • Pouring holy water on an affected person can pause the effects of the ghost for 1d6 rounds.  Everyone knows this.  (This works on possession, too, if they succeed on a Save.)

  • Ghosts can be laid to rest through some action, usually laying their corpses to rest, completing their unfinished business, or sanctifying an area.

  • If you don't want to do all this sanctification business, you can destroy a ghost by breaking both femurs.  This instantly ends the haunting and puts a curse on the person who broke the bone.
  • A cleric can also perform a funeral rite to appease the spirit.  This requires bathing the bones and singing to them.  It takes 2 hours.
If no trigger is listed, assume that the ghost triggers whenever you pass through the area.

By default, each ghost affects only a single person in the group; they get no Save.

The speak with dead spell can usually give you some big clues.  What does this ghost want more than anything else?  Ghosts are usually emotional wrecks, so it should be obvious.

So here are some ghosts:

The Fallen

Vertigo.  An intense fear of heights.  Intense pain in your shins, wrists, and head.  Everyone is the group feels this.

No one is allowed to climb in this area.  Ropes will be cut.  Rocks will shift under your fingers.

Half-buried in the rubble, a corpse with broken tibias, wrists, and a fractured skull.

Carry the skeleton out of this dismal hole.  Once the skeleton has been removed from the hole, the ghost is propitiated.  You can climb as long as you bring the skeleton with you.

The Starved

Intense hunger.  You feel like you just lost 20 lbs.  You did just lose 20 lbs.

You must eat a ration every 10 minutes or fall unconscious.  10 minutes later, you will die from starvation, having lost over 100 lbs.

Out of the many skeletons in this room, the skeleton with bite marks on its fingers.  (Ignore the other skeletons.)

An offering of food, placed direction inside the rib cage.  The ghost will be propitiated for as long as the food lasts.

The Drowned

Walking alongside the water, you catch a glimpse of your own corpse under the water.  A moment later, it is gone.

You feel hands on your back as someone shoves you into the water.  From this point on, you cannot escape the water.  If you try to crawl back to dry land, the water rises up with, weighing you down and dragging you back in.  With great effort, you can get within an inch of the surface, but no further.

Your allies can breathe air into your lungs, or you can breathe through a tube.

A skeleton, hidden in the muck.

Remove the skeleton from the drowning pool.

The Shackled

You can feel cold metal around your ankles and wrists.  Whenever you take a step, you can feel a chain dragging behind your foot.

You cannot leave the room.  Your wrists and ankles cannot cross the threshold of the doors.

There are many corpses in this room, some still shackled, some scattered across the floor.

You must destroy all of the shackles.  There are 4 sets in this room.  Bashing them out of the wall (or breaking the links with a hammer) will incur 4 wandering monster checks.  If you have a crowbar, you can do it more easily and quietly, and will only incur 2 wandering monster checks.  Either way, it takes two hours of work.

The Betrayed

Your companions are looking at you when they think you aren't looking.  You can hear snatches of whispers.  You suspect they are plotting against you.

You flee from your companions.  After 3 rounds, you can save every 1 round to end this effect.  When you recover, you can remember being stabbed between the shoulderblades by a green-jeweled dagger.  The ghost will manifest again in 1 hour until you leave the dungeon, or the ghost is propitiated.

A shriveled corpse with dagger wounds in its back.

Destroy the skeleton of the Betrayer.  Alternatively, destroy the green-jeweled dagger and return the corpse's coin purse.

The Betrayer

White-hot greed, so powerful it feels sexual.  You can't stop looking at the valuables your companions have.

Whenever new treasure is available, you will insist that it is yours.  If your allies force you to give it up or share, or refuse to let you carry it, you will pretend to agree, then grab the item and attempt to flee out of the entire dungeon.

A shriveled corpse with two coin purses and a green-jeweled dagger.

Destroy the skeleton of the Betrayer. 

The Sacrificed

You hear the chanting of the cult.  You feel the heat of ancient torches.  Your shirt is ripped open, and you can the feel the tip of a dagger resting on the skin over your heart.

Everyone hears the chanting now, repeated endlessly "The lord demands a gift".  You are stunned, and your chest is bared.  Everyone can see the deepening wound on your chest.  In 2 rounds, you will die.  "The lord demands a gift."

You can flee from the room, but you'll drop to 0 HP, the ghost will trigger the next time you enter the room, and you'll never have enough time to pry the gems out of the idol.

A skeleton on an altar.

Sacrifice someone else on the altar.  Alternatively, sacrifice a valuable possession on the altar.

The Abandoned

Your leg becomes stuck.  You call out for help, but all you see is receding torch light.  Your allies have abandoned you here.

You will become a useless ball of terror unless someone is holding your hand.

The shriveled corpse of a woman, hidden in the gloom of a pit trap.

As long as you bring the skeleton with you, she will not harm you.  You must treat her like one of the party, though.  If you forget to introduce her, the sense of terror will begin to return.  She takes up 3 inventory slots.

The Eaten
by Dunkey Halton

You feel a fat predator tongue scraping against you skin.  You feel a mouth sucking the marrow from your bones.

You must run and hide, squeezing into the first small space you can find, and squeezing in as deep as you can.

A cracked mass of human remains inside the belly of a nearby predator.

You must roughly reassemble the skeleton and rebury it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Scraps of Undeath

Ghouls and Paralysis

Ghoul paralysis sucks.  Don't use it.  Remember, the first precept is to give players interesting choices.  Paralysis fails this simple test.

I've been trying to find a good replacement for ghoul paralysis, all built around the idea of giving a player a more interesting choice.  My first attempt was Agony, but people didn't like it much.


Each turn a player can choose to writhe in agony, or act normally.

If they choose to writhe in agony, they take no damage, and take no actions.

If they choose to act normally, they take 1d6 non-lethal damage.  This damage is reduced by 1 point for every round that has passed, so Agony would only deal 1d6-2 (min 0) damage on the third round.

from the 3rd Edition Monster Manual

Each turn, a horrified character can choose to accept the horror, or to deny the horror.

If they deny the horror, they lose their turn, and the horror die decreases 1 size.  They spend their time mumbling "no no no" and trembling.

If they accept the horror, they take 1d6 non-lethal damage.  If they take 6+ non-lethal damage from this, they gain 1 Trauma. 

So, a character who spends 1 round denying the horror and then accepts the horror on the next round would only take 1d4 damage.  1d6 becomes 1d4 becomes 1d2 becomes 0.  Big things can use a larger horror die, of course, but the default is a d6.


A character who is terrified gets -4 to their Defense and their Save.  This penalty ends once they are safe from whatever terrified them.  If their HP drops below 0 while they are terrified, they gain 1 Trauma.

In combat, this usually means running out of the room and hyperventilating briefly in the hallway. 

A player can also choose to risk staying in combat.  After all, they might be terrified of the corpse shark, but still manage to destroy it with their next attack.  And of course, the best path to safety might be a interesting question in itself.



The lungs of all living creatures within 50' are filled with water.  They will need to make Con checks after 3 rounds (18 seconds of high-exertion combat) in order to stay conscious.  If you can breathe water, feel free to ignore this effect.

This introduces a new defeat condition into combat.  Players can choose for themselves how long they want to risk staying in combat. 

To utilize the mechanic to the fullest, the arena cannot be something that can be exited at a moments notice.  Give them a grapple-happy enemy, or require a Movement check to exit the room.


Can only be seen by characters who are blind, or who possess at least 1 Madness.

All non-magical damage is reduced to 1, unless dealt by a character who is at death's door (0 HP).  Can only be permanently killed by a character at death's door.


Half of all the damage that they deal is cursed damage, and does not heal normally.  You can remove the curse by visiting a church, or by appeasing the mummy.

Appeasing the mummy involves sacrificing one of the mummy's enemies at the local altar and begging for forgiveness.  The enemy can be a tomb robber, a particular ethnicity, or the mummy across the hallway.  (And if you are going to put mummies in your dungeon, they need at least this level of context.  Mummies have history.)

Horde Dead

Undead combo packs.  Must be created from a specific relationship.

So, in my last post, I talked about how undead are created by inviting demons into a corpse.  Those are lesser undead.

Greater undead are created by imprisoning people inside their corpses, and dominating their ego through trauma.

Candle Family

Made from killing a woman's children, rending them into tallow before her eyes, and using them to make a candle.  1d6+1 wicks emerge from her neck and shoulders, one for each bound soul.

Candle Mom
Lvl Claw 1d6+ignite

As bright as a torch BUT creates darkness around itself for 20'.  The only thing its light illuminates is itself.)  Usually travels with 1d6 skeletal children (HD 1) who are hidden inside her enveloping darkness.

The Lover and The Beloved

Made by removing all of the teeth from a pair of lovers, and forcing them to swallow the other's teeth.  Only then are they killed, both pierced by the same black iron spear.  The necromancer must then keep their hearts on their belt.

HD Claws 1d12

Any damage that the Beloved would take is instead redirected to the Lover.

If the Beloved is ever separated from the Lover, it rots into heavy dust.

HD HP 50  Caress 1d6 cold

Damage that is redirected to the Lover appears as grievous wounds.

If the Lover is ever separated from the Beloved, it flies into a rage, gains a bite attack that does 1d20 damage, and drops to 1 HP.

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Tangled Cladistics of the "So-Called" Undead

There's a problem with the word "fish".  The word "bug" has the same problem.

In both cases, the word was coined and propagated by non-specialists, describing something without any need for precision.

A bug is any little creepy-crawly with more legs than a decent Christian should have.

A fish is anything that swims in the water and breathes water.  Even the beaver can be classified as a type of fish, with a bit of squinting.

(Don't resent past generations for their shitty systems of classification.  Their systems served different needs.)

Intentions notwithstanding, the end result was still overlapping systems of poorly-defined categories, which leads to labyrinths of conflation whenever anyone tries to have a technical conversation about them.

This is the exact problem that the Lesser Undead currently have. 

Classifying the Undead

The term "zombie" and "skeleton" do not apply to any specific thing.  They can refer to the same thing (because zombies must surely decay into skeletons at some point), which is an idea that Gus first impressed upon me. 

And conversely, the word "skeleton" can refer to two very different things.

Let's start with negative energy.  There is not such thing, and any scholar still insisting on the existence of such a material deserves to be fed to ants.

Platypus Skeleton
by Katrina Mengchen Zhang
The Demonic Undead

Let's start with the obvious.  There is no such thing as negative energy.  There is no such thing as positive energy either, and anyone who tells you otherwise deserves to be eaten by ants. 

The very idea of negative energy (as something that is simple, sterile, and easily harnessed) endangers any aspiring necromancer by hiding them from the true powers animated every shambling corpse.

The truth is that corpses are invested by spirits summoned from hell.

These may be demons, but more commonly they are just lost souls (and in hell, there is little distinction between the two).

Negotiating with the damned is usually a fairly straightforward affair.  They are usually eager to sell themselves into an interminable servitude in exchange for nothing--the chance to feel air on their skin again, for example.  A great many of them can be lured into a corpse merely by the suggestion that they may get to see a loved one.

The exact type of investiture determines the nature of the Undead.  They are usually not allowed to have any free will at all.  Lesser undead are usually created to be an extension of the necromancer's own will.

But the soul's jail is not without its cracks.  If your skeletons hate you (and they probably do), you may notice them staring at you.  They may stand too close to you when you sleep.  They may find ways to deface their bodies, grinding down their feet in order to slow their paces, or allowing their hands to be crushed in hinges.  This is why experienced necromancers are always instill self-care into their undead.

But of course, shivering slave-shades are not the only spirits that can be invested in a corpse.  Higher demonic spirits can also be housed by the shabby walls of flesh, and these more powerful spirits have waxed in wit and puissance.

Remember that every human possesses seven souls.  Four that pass into the afterlife, and three that remain with the corpse. (How else could the speak with dead spell work?  You merely speak with the meat, not the eternal.)

A demon that possesses a corpse can capture, torment, and control the three early souls.  Although the fleshly souls are not a person, they contain a bloodless recitation of all the body's early deeds, and this is what the demon can use to gain power over the living.

A demonic corpse may know all the names and histories of the corpse's former associates.  It may even know certain secrets (although many secrets are beyond his grasp.  The flesh remembers the smell of the lock, but not necessarily the combination.  If it remembers a number, it may not remember the meaning or the significance.)  Still, when these memories are combined with a demon skilled at impersonation, resultant creature can accomplish great things.

There are also people who argue that necromancy is a victimless crime, since the undead can till a farm and produce food.  These people are fools.

The three worldly souls suffer.  The damned souls suffer (though less, perhaps, than if they had remained in Hell).  And when the Undead slip the leash, as they invariably do eventually, they are incapable of anything except hatred, cruelty, and self-destruction.

The Butcher's Heresy

Before we can talk about Skeletons, we must talk about Flesh.

According to the Butcher's Heresy, Flesh preceded Soul. 

In the earliest days, Flesh grew in the seas, and coated the rocks.  But it lacked breath, and it lacked mind.  They drifted without thinking.  They had watery spears and crude pumps, but they struggled to wield their own biology effectively.

And so these earliest tissues--plant, animal, insect--hatched schemes to give themselves some executive agency.  Their most successful plots involved the capture of the Soul from the Places Outside, where it would be scrubbed clean and invested into the Flesh.

Once laundered and installed, the Souls would believe that they were the body, and they would toil ceaselessly in the service of the Flesh.  They would fight for the Flesh, they would breed the Flesh, they would raise the Flesh's children as their own.  The Soul would forever be a slave the Flesh and its vicissitudes.  And it would be the ideal slave--one that always thought itself to be free.

The First Skeletons

Many allegiances were struck in those earliest days.  The Beastly Kingdom of Flesh was the first one to negotiate an alliance with the great spirits of Earth, who had begun to take notice of all the workings of the Flesh.

From that allegiance was struck the Covenant of Bone.  (Or the Covenant of Flesh, as the Skeletons call it.)

The Covenant in a Nutshell:

We, the Elders of Earth, will allow Calcium to swear obedience to the Beastly Kingdoms of Flesh.  Calcium will form an endoskeleton, so that the Beastly Kingdoms will have greater protection, stature, and strength.  In return, once the Flesh has failed, the Skeleton will be granted use of the Soul, in perpetuity.

The Skeleton People live far to the west, beyond the dying of the sun.  The land is dim and pale, and there is no wind.

They look like skeletons.  They walk.  They talk.  They carry backpacks.

They hate us, because we have forgotten the Covenant.  Only the whales still keep the covenant, and journey west to die.

They do not come here often, because the skeletons of whales do not swim as well as they used to, and the skeleton people are usually destroyed when they arrive.

But if left to their own devices, the Skeleton People will usually rescue their peers by killing humans and animals.  They know how to awaken the Skeleton inside (the Skeleton remembers the covenant, even if the Soul does not).  Then, they help the bloody skeleton out of the corpse.  Lastly, the newborn Skeleton rinses off the traitorous fluids and joins their brethren in a welcoming dance.

Awakening as a newborn Skeleton is a startling thing.  He is still Otho the Chemist, Husband to Marlia, but he is also a million grains of Calcium.  He has spent a millennia on the seafloor, fighting for better representation among the Salt Princes.  He is of Earth, and he is finally free of the machinations of that nauseating Flesh.  There is no question as to where his loyalties lie.

And so Otho the Skeleton is joyous to remember his true life.  His new friends are also joyful.  The least he could do is to go home, in order to share this same gift with his wife Marlia.

The Skeleton People are not much concerned with us.  We are oathbreakers.  They would punish us, if it were within their power. 

But they are creatures of Earth, and the Skeleton King follows his Father above all else.  We are the least of their problems.

from The Last of Us
except that it's not quite right for Falcabrina
A human mind inside a fungus would have notions of grooming/beauty, for example
Legion (Falcabrina)

Once there was a God of Fungus.  He was called Shendormu.

He was assimilated by the Hesayan Church, as the Authority dictated that all lesser gods must be.

Except Shendormu wasn't completely assimilated.  A piece was left behind.  A death cult that eventually regrew into something entirely different, a sect that worshipped a particular aspect of their former religion.  They called themselves The Falcabrina.  They preached Oneness.

Or perhaps Falcabrina was another fungal spirit, sliding into a vacant chair.

Or perhaps Falcabrina was a cleric of the cult, who found a way to deify herself, and insinuate her godhood into her god. 

Certainly anything is possible when hallucinogens are taken in these quantities.

Of Falcabrina, only this much is certain: there is a throne.  And upon the throne is the corpse from which grows the goddess.  And around the throne are the colonized faithful, each alloyed together into a singular will.

And so Falcabrina is a fungal hivemind zombie hoard (that is distinctly not-Undead), except it's not that simple.  The hive-mind connections are imperfect.  They are not instantaneous.  They leak.  They disagree.  And so Falcabrina has reproduced through violent fission.

What is cancer, except a cell that outgrows its parents?

Falcabrina has been limited by these disruptions.  When a contingent of her bodies begin to dissent, she must purge the cancer from her body.  But these civil wars can never be launched in secret, since their minds are still joined at the roots.  So while you might see fungal zombies dismembering each other with clumsy efficiency, for Falcabrina, the experience is more like a wolf chewing off a leg that has become infected.

Still, the purges have never been perfectly effective.  She attempts to rule the ruined city of Mosphorai as well as she can.  You can buy food from her farms, and she will certainly not attempt to infect you, but the city is plagued with a population that exceeds the grasp of a single mind.  And so disruptions are not uncommon, and are frequently fatal for travelers.  Because what better way to better fight your jailer than to recruit new bodies to your cause?

And it is also a city that must be navigated cautiously.  The process of fission is not a binary one, where a faction of bodies decides one day to rise against Falcabrina.  It is a gradual one, where every cell of her body secretly conspires against the whole, and must be suppressed by the rest of her body.

In fact, its entirely possible that nothing is left of the original Falcabrina.  Certainly the slouching heap that sits in the throne is just a figurehead.  Nothing makes that cluster of mushrooms any more significant than any other in her corpus.

Lastly, we musts mention that Falcabrina is constantly seeping into the world.  Pieces of her body (in the form of dozens of fungal zombies) sometimes develop autonomy faster than the rest of the body can react, and flee into the world.

Each of these pieces of Falcabrina is a complete organism.  They can grow (infest), adopt new philosophies, and are even capable of undergoing the same type of violent fission that Falcabrina herself did.

The most common form of these factions are animalistic, violent shamblers.  Nearly blind from their cranial growths, the mostly hunt by sound.  As a category, these creatures are called Legion.  Their bite is usually infectious.

But they are not the only of Falcabrina's children to depart.  Some of her rebellious organs are singular individuals.  Not a hoard, but a person with an agenda all of their own.  A person who happens to be piloting a human body.

Falcabrina and her brood are staunchly opposed by paladins of Shendormu.  These brave men and women strive to protect the innocent with all of the powers of the Sacred Shroom, the Holy Mold.

Paladins of Shendormu

Paladins of Shendormu can cast illusion in the minds of those that they strike with their spear (no save).  Their Mount is the psilocybin mushroom.  When one of them dies, you can plant their head in compost and the character will regrow.  They will regrow smaller, though, and will return with -1d3 Str and -1 Int.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Monsters of the Mythic Underworld

These monsters are natives of the Mythic Underworld.  The Dungeon beneath all dungeons.  The darkened halls that we all visit in our earliest nightmares.  The liminal ur-space that borders Hell as well as your grandmother's cellar.

These monsters don't necessarily have a full history, biology, or psychology.  (This is probably because I couldn't come up with anything good.)
That's okay.  They're still good monsters.

I've mostly not bothered with full stats.  Assume AC as chain, improvise the rest.  You'll be fine.

a False Hydra by NisseLindblomArt
Buggy Birds

Level 1

Actually an insect, a buggy bird is about the same size and shape as a heron.  They look majestic in profile, but a bit ridiculous the rest of the time.

Pedants will point out that, actually, they should be more accurately called "birdy bugs".  This is why the traditional punishment for pedantry is Impalement by Buggy Bird.

Spend one round retracting their head, inflating their chest, and cooing.  On the next round, they attack for 3d6 damage and make a horrible BWEAGH noise.


Level 2  Dagger 1d6

About the size of the smallest guy in your high school class.  Tusks like a boar.  Nose like a skull.  Each eye is a gem worth 10s.

Can shoot webs from their hands and swing from them.  Can shoot webs onto foes, entangling them.  Can create bungees and slingshots.  Can spend two rounds shooting a web to two points, and then create a line between them.  Can create inelastic webs if needed.  Capable of huge leaps.  Can climb up sheer walls.

Can the DM think of a new way to use this ability every turn?  The DM can, because the DM can google spiderman as well as anyone else.

Attercops hate spiders.  They hate being compared to spiders.  They hate anything spidery.

Attercops don't lay eggs or weave webs.  (Although they do weave tripwires, alert wires, ropes, and nets.)

Attercop is a last name.  They are an example of what happens when a cult successfully completes their master plan.  They are irredeemably evil, and believe that everyone else is prey.  But they are a family in the Legal* sense.  If you marry into the family, you will gain their mutation and skewed perspective.  If one of their sons disowns them and everything they stand for, you will lose it.

*I mean legal in the sense that the Authority recognizes your marriage, and therefor the universe does as well.


Level 3  Weapon 1d8

Rapacious -- The demonoid makes two melee attacks against its target.  The target makes one melee attack against the demonoid.  All three of these attacks happen simultaneously.

A demonoid is what happens when a demonic possession is never cured.

This is not to say that the demon that is possessing this poor man is the same demon that originally possessed them.  It is far more likely that the original demon sold the body after they tired with it, and so on and so on, over the long years, until the body ends up in the possession of some idiot.

'Orrible Gregory

Level 4  Claws 1d8/1d8  Climb

They look like bipedal crabs with the heads of fat-necked vultures.  They are famously ugly, but adore cute things.  (Their babies are famously cute.)

Can replace one of their claw attacks with a hook pull, which pulls the target creature adjacent.  Str/Dex negates.  30' range.

Their tendons can be harvested for use as ropes.  They take up 1 slot, but are twice as long (100').  They will rot in 3 days unless preserved.  They hang out near ledges, bridges, and dark cave entrances.

Replaces hook horrors, which are kind of lame.


Level Grab  Fly 10

The most well known of the wind golems.  It looks a bit like a complicated octopus made from ropes, prayer ribbons, and metal coins.  At the center, something like a dream-catcher woven around a brass ring.  

Once it grabs someone, it starts casting scatter to the winds.  Everyone has one turn to react, but if the target is still in the zephrus' grasp at the end of that time, they are teleported to a random room.

A zephrus "in the wild" will teleport you to a random room on the same floor.  A zephrus that is created for a particular purpose will probably teleport you to a furnace, a cage, or a pit next to a wyrm's nest.

There is at least one story that tells of a thief who painted himself gold, held very still, and tricked a zephrus into teleporting him into the vault.

If killed, the brass ring of the zephrus can be used to cast scatter to the winds simply by passing an object through it.  (Object size must be between a chest and a large human.)

Ancient Eldrox

Level Grab/Grab/Grab
Fly slowly
Casts as a level 4 transmutation wizard.  You can cut off tentacles fairly easily, but it takes no damage until you crack its obelisk by dealing at least 6 points of bludgeoning damage it.  If they grab you,

Basically just a flying obelisk with a bunch of tentacles coming out the bottom.  Smart people avoid reading anything on it.

At the start of its turn, all held creatures take 1d12 damage from biting and/or neck-wringing.

They're very evil, but their machinations are directed elsewhere.  Humans have little ability to help or harm their plans.  Because of this, they're also kind of friendly. 

They usually start off by essentially asking you a trivia question.  If you get it wrong, they decide that you are useless and will be hostile.  If you get it right, they will decide that you are useful.  They will give you a small reward (fancy boot, bottle of pear cordial, a kitten) and ask if you want to be friends.  This is a pact of mutual non-aggression and nothing else--they will still be suspicious and weird.  If you give them a gift, they will give you a slightly better gift from their stash.  They will not be out-socialized by a mere human.


They may offer to rent you by implanting an embryo inside you.  (It will puppet your body for 1d3 sessions in a distant location, during which you'll have to play an alternate character.)  Afterwards, the embryo will remain with you, visible inside your abdomen (because it can make your skin translucent), where it will let you cast a random spell per day. and happily dispense Forbidden Knowledge.  If anything weird happens while you're sleeping, it can kick your kidneys to wake you up.

The unborn eldrox will be sad because you are not smart enough, nor big enough, to carry it to maturation.  Although it could attempt to grow to maturity inside you, it knows that such an attempt would probably result in the death of you both.  If only you could somehow get much bigger and smarter, we might be able to make a deal. . .


Level 7  Def plate  Sword 1d12
Can cast ganonball and fear.  2 MD.

An floating, armored giant with a single eye and no legs.  Magnificent cape.

Gaze Attack -- If you meet the gaze of the Panoptigore, you instantly create a side combat.  The side combat lasts 1 round and takes place inside the Panoptigore's eye, a spherical space 50' in diameter.  All of these sub-combats occur instantly, and are always 1-on-1 fights.

If six people lock eyes with the Panoptigore, then six separate 1-on-1 fights occur instantly.

New Spell: Ganonball
A ranged attack roll that does 2*[sum] damage.  Opponent can reflect the ganonball at a new target by beating your attack roll with an attack roll of their own.  (If it can make an attack roll, it can reflect a ganonball.)  Ganonballs can be hit back and forth as long as people keep rolling higher than the previous roll.  All this back and forth is resolved instantaneously.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

d7 Goblintown Arena Fights

Once, there was a dream called Goblintown.  My players were imprisoned gladiators there, the only humans in an entire city of goblins.

Greasy, giggling, cruel, playful, clever, stupid goblins.

Anyway, here are the fights that your party might go up against in Goblintown. 

The fights are semi-lethal.  The audience wants there to be a clear winner and loser, but they don't particularly care if anyone dies or not.

Whenever you drop unconscious (or pretend to), your opponents have a 0-in-6 chance of stopping to coup-de-grace you.  This increases by +1-in-6 if you have previously killed a teammate of theirs, or if you are unpopular.  Choosing to deal non-lethal damage gives you a -2 Attack penalty.

If you "kill" an opponent by bringing them down to -3 HP or less, they will die in 1d3 rounds.  If you "kill" an opponent by dropping them to 0, -1, or -2 HP, they will probably survive the battle.

Things that make you unpopular with goblins:

  • using the same tactic twice
  • always being cruel
  • always being kind

If you are unpopular, goblins will pay the Arenamasters to give you disadvantages.  Examples:

  • Replacing your weapon with a turnip on a string.
  • Making you fight naked, with a funny puppet on your genitals.  (Enemies will target this.)
  • Getting you really drunk (expanded crit fail range) and making you fight while wearing a pig head.
Things that make you popular with the goblins:
  • Showing off, e.g. saying "I don't need this sword to FUCK YOU UP!" and then throwing your sword into the audience.
  • Good insults.  (Criterion: did most of the players laugh?)

You can escape from your shoddy jail cell (the walls are literally made of garbage) but you have no where to go.  Everyone is goblins, every third person recognizes your face (and will happily recount your exploits/defeats), and the surrounding wilderness is much more lethal than the arena.

Above the circular arena are the audience stands, the announcer's box, and Gorp son of Gorp's skybox.  Above that is a bunch of catwalk and rigging.

Below the arena is a bunch of empty space, mechanisms, and the beast elevators.

Anyway, here are some random fights that you might get matched up against.

looks like Gorp, Son of Gorp to me
by Redeve
1. Flying Cows

The party is put atop of a huge platform, 20' in diameter and 10' off the ground.  Suspended from the rigging are two cows, each at the end of a 50' rope pendulum.  Each is ridden by a goblin (dressed like a human and armed with a bucket), and each can make a charge attack every other round.  (One cow attacks each round.)

You can climb on a cow with a combat maneuver.  If you hit a cow hard enough, you can get the cow spinning, which reduces the damage that it does.  Bigger impacts can tangle the cowlines, trivializing the encounter.

2. The Pope

Three goblins, dressed in a very crude approximation of the human pope.  Face painted pink (like a human's) and with a bunch of garbage wrapped around his fingers like rings.

You'll have to fight another team during this fight.  During the fight, the Pope will shout commandments.  Whoever doesn't follow them gets shot by the two goblins under his robe (each wearing a crossbow).

No looking at me!  (Everyone fights with eyes closed.  First person to open them gets shot.)

Everyone pray!  (Everyone makes Initiative checks to drop into a prayer position.  Slowest two people get shot.)

Everyone be nice!  Everyone has to stop fighting and hug each other.  Anyone who is mean gets shot.

Okay now fight some more!  Resume fighting.

Gimme some money!  Whoever gives the least gets shot.  (NPCs each donate 1d20-10 (min 0)).

Eat this bread!  Drops a loaf of bread on the ground.  Everyone has to take a bite.  Lasts person to take a bite gets shot.

The floor is lava!  Last person standing on the floor is shot.  (Climbing on the pope is okay.  There's also a couple of chairs around here, but not enough.)

3. The Dragon

Basically just a big pile of garbage on wheels.  Piloted by a trio of goblins who ride around on top of the "head".

HD HP 30  AC leather  No obvious forms of attack
Move slow  (and can't turn around very fast either)

Secret Attack #1 -- Frontal Flame Thrower
1d6 in a 20' cone, usable every 1d4 rounds

Secret Attack #2 -- Rear Flame Thrower (Hilarious)
1d6 in a 20' cone, usable every 1d4 rounds

Secret Attack #3 -- Bag of snakes
Usable twice.  30' range.  Garbage wings glued to each one.

Secret Attack #4 -- "Claws"
1d10 damage, save vs Tetanus.

Halfway through, the wheels will break and the goblins will call for a timeout to fix it.  Respecting the time out will increase their reputation.  Ignoring the call for a timeout will reduce their reputation (unless they can do it in a funny way).

4. Death Match

The PCs are forced to fight another team.  Only one person can win, everyone else, including their teammates, must lose.

It'll essentially be a team-vs-team fight that must transition into a free-for-all. 

Once at least 50% of the combatants are downed, the goblins will release a couple of methed-out warthogs covered in chili powder.

5. Death Cake

The PCs are delivered an enormous cake in the dead of night.  It's big enough to hold a person.

The cake contains 2 huge centipedes.  As soon as this is discovered, a crane pulls down one of the garbage walls, revealing the audience, which now erupts into applause.

6. Chicken Fight

The PCs are forced to fight another team.  The only caveat is that you are not allowed to harm anyone unless you are riding on someone's shoulders.  (Bottoms can still do non-damaging things, like shoving or spitting.  Triple-stacked PCs are theoretically possible but come with enough penalties to be inadvisable.) 

If the PCs have an odd number of people, they will be loaned a teammate from a third team.  (Letting them die with make permanent enemies out of the third team.)

After the first round, the arena begins to fill with a choking fog.  It comes up to a person's thighs.

After the second round, the choking fog comes up to a person's neck.

After the third round, it covers the bottom people.  They are blind and must hold their breath.

After the fourth round, a bunch of trapezes are dropped from the ceiling.  Goblins will hoist you 20' up in the air if you grab hold of a rope.  From now on, the rules are reversed: the tops must hold onto the rope while the bottoms kick each other.

7. The Other Dragon

Two teams will work together to kill a sludge dragon.  However, the winning team will be the one that delivers the death blow.  They will get the money and prestige-the losers will be stripped and spanked by Gorp, Son of Gorp.

This fight is a Big Deal, and will be accompanied by fight promoters, coffin makers, and interviewers.  ("Do you think you'll enjoy being eaten by the dragon?")

A sludge dragon would normally be a pretty fierce opponent, but luckily, this one is heavily intoxicated.

Drunk Sludge Dragon
HD 10  Def Plate  Atk 1d6/1d6/2d6
Move as dwarf  Int drunk  Mor drunk

Drunk -- Triple the range of fumbles.

Breath attack -- Usable every 2 rounds, and used preferentially to the claw/claw/bite.  Effects are a bit random, however, so roll a d6:

1 - Watery vomit.  No mechanical effect.  The first time this happens, a goblin in a dead clown costume is also ejected(and disappointing Gorp, Son of Gorp, who was promised a surprise clown--he loves surprise clowns.)

2 - Hurbek the Mighty, a level 2 dwarf.  He deals 1d6 damaged to whoever he collides with.  He will join the fight against the sludge dragon.  He swears so much he is nearly incomprehensible.  If this result is rolled a second time, the dragon belches painfully.

3 - Sludge.  20' radius, 50' range.  Dex negates.  Anchored to the ground until successful Str check.

4 - Bile.  30' cone of acid, 1d6 damage on the first turn, 1d5 damage on the second, etc.  Dex for half.  Can be washed off with water (or vomit).

5 - Broken cutlery.  3d6 damaged to one poor bastard who gets hit by the whole pile, and 1d6 damage to the dragon.  Dex for half.  Anyone digging in it will find a decent spear.

6 - Fire, somehow.  It must be sick.  30' cone of fire, 2d6.  Dex for half.

Monday, October 21, 2019


On the Taste of Wyrm

When Emperor Mando first tasted the meat of the purple wyrm, he declared it to be unrivaled among the bestial meats.  His bounties on the great wyrms made them a rarity east of the Elterspines, and you can still wander among the enormous bones of the failed Amaranthine Ranch in Mount Baldero.

While the emperor and his family claimed that the flesh of the wyrm was delicious, everyone who has eaten wyrm in recent time reports that the flesh is as vile as gall.  The sole exception to this is Queen Chessaline, who attended several wyrmhunts in her youth and has spoken highly of the meat.

The first theory claims that the taste of wyrmflesh was exaggerated by the sycophants and courtiers that thronged the palace like feathers on a cock.

The second theory maintains that there is something quixotic in wyrmflesh, which is only pleasing to the nobility, while those of common stock will merely be repulsed.  After all, it is not meant for them.

from Elminage Gothic
On Dragons and Wyrms

Dragons are enthroned among the blues and whites of the clear sky, and their bodies are filled with purest fire.  In their chests, the heaviest organ is their heart.  They speak dismissively of their cousins.

Wyrms dwell in the earth, and their bodies are filled with poison.  Their heaviest organ is the liver, which is of an incomparable solidity, being nearly as dense as lead.  They speak constantly of dragons, and of the theft of their birthright.  Where dragons can be roused to wrath, wyrms are melancholy and obsessive.

While dragons will collect, catalog, and display their collections, wyrms will compulsively swallow their hoards.  It is believed that the gold in their bodies leaches into their blood, and is the source of both their great poisons and their great bitterness.

The other behavior unique to wyrms is dust-eating.  They compulsively swallow vast amounts of silts and clays, only to regurgitate it when they become too bloated to breathe.  In some parts of the world (primarily sections of riparian Underworld), vast tracts are composed of this regurgitant.  It is a fertile soil, but nothing woody will grow upon it.  Wyrmlands are filled with enormous recumbent ferns and mottled fungi.

The Inheritance of Wyrms

To believe the drooling stories of wyrms is to believe that they once soared through the sky on a dozen black wings.  They could turn the winds to poison, and their shadows burned anyone they passed over.

The wyrms will tell you of how the dragons stole this from them, although the theft seems to be less of a robbery and more of a wrongly-assigned inheritance.  Dragons, they will tell you, were originally meant to be small, clever companions, much like cats.

And then the wyrm will sigh, and jealousy will seep from the cold tonnage of their livers.  They will eat you without ever thinking of you, fixating only on this great injustice.  Every time a wyrm bites, or crushes, or poisons, the wyrm will imagine that it is harming a dragon.

It is the hateful equivalent of calling out the wrong name during sex.


Wyrms dwell in the wild places of the world.  Both Celestialists and the naga regard them as semi-divine creatures, and so have some passing interactions with them.  Notably, the princes of Abasinia must be knighted by Glauroch, the Conqueror Wyrm, before ascending to the throne.

Glauroch knights them with his tail spine, which is as long as any sword, and twice as thick.

Wyrms are intelligent and wise, but they are also melancholy and quick to hate.  They cannot easily be reasoned with, and most successful interactions with wyrms involve nurturing resentment towards a third party.


Like bedbugs, wyrms practice traumatic insemination.  That's what the tail spike is for (contrary to most published bestiaries).

Once they reach adulthood, wyrms are almost always solitary.  During periods of loneliness, they will seek out members of the opposite sex that they encountered in their juvenile years.

Wyrms undergo a form of metamorphosis, changing between three different color morphs: white, red, and purple.  These changes seem to be driven entirely by respect.  A wyrm that is respected will darken to purple, while a wyrm that has especially low self-respect will eventually become pallid and thin.

None of this applies to tatzlwyrms (green wyrms) who appear to be a separate species.  Other wyrms consider them to be closer to common serpents than to themselves.

They live about twice as long as dragons.

by Ville Sinkkonen
Combat Stats

All wyrms can burrow though dirt about as fast as a man can walk.  Stone is difficult, but not impassible.  They have terrible vision, but incredible hearing (and tremorsense).

All wyrms have a particular poison.  These poisons never affect anyone who is currently poisoned, or any creature that is poisonous.  These poisons apply to both their bite and their breath attack.

Wyrms are immune to all poisons, but ingested poisons cause a pleasant intoxication the first 1d3 times a wyrm consumed a new poison.  Cure poison spells deal damage equal to [sum] without any Save allowed.  Bezoars (antivenom) deals 1d6 damage if eaten, while a carbuncle deals 1d6 damage each turn until the wyrm is dead.

Def plate  Bite 3d6+swallow
Burrow 4  Int 10  Mor 10

Breath Attack -- Usable every 1d4 rounds, and affects an areas within 50'.  The air is as opaque as fog for 1 round.  This inhaled poison is slow, and does not take effect until the end of the target's next turn.  However, the poison is especially potent, and all targets Save at a -4 penalty.

Whirlpool -- Usable when burrowed in dirt, after a minute of preparation.  Creates a whirlpool 100' across.  Creatures who fail a Movement check fall 20' and are subject to a free Bite attack.

Tatzlwyrm (Green Wyrm)
HD 7

Tatzlwyrms cannot burrow.

Tatzlwyrm Poison - As sleep.

Albicant (White) Wyrm
HD 8

Albicant Poison - 1d6 damage, ongoing until Con save.

Rubicant (Red) Wyrm
HD 9

Rubicant Poison - 2d6 damage, ongoing until Con save.

Amaranthine (Purple) Wyrm
HD 10

Amaranthine Poison - 2d6 damage, ongoing until Con save.  While you are poisoned, the Amaranthine Wyrm can read your surface thoughts and remember your memories.  You get -4 to hit it, and it gets +4 to hit and Save against you.  Each round, it has a 1-in-6 chance to remember something extremely useful from your memory.

Aura of Authority - All authority is diminished within 200' of a purple worm.  Characters get a penalty to all d20 rolls based on their social status.  -4 for beggars and weirdos, -3 for decent folk, -2 for respected gentry, -1 for nobility, and no penalty for royalty.

Glauroch, the Conqueror Wyrm
Stats as an amanranthine wyrm.  Max HP.  All damage from non-royalty is reduced to 1.  Wizard.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

d6 Dungeon Merchants

I've been playing Crypt of the Necrodancer and I've realized that I like the idea of bumping into merchants in the middle of a dungeon.

Among other things, it makes the dungeon able to replace one of the functions of the city, without making it any safer.

from Crypt of the Necrodancer
1 - Dungeon Bugs

Something like long-legged roaches, each as tall as a child.  They scamper like children, and laugh like goats with a mouth full of dice.  They're friendly, but callous.  You'll find them on the ceilings of rooms,

They taste terrible, and so are largely ignored by predators.  They have little interest in any task requiring their attention for more than a few moments, and are all competing with each other to collect enough shiny crap to attract a mate.

No one has ever seen a female dungeon bug, or knows what happens when a dungeon bug gets hitched.  The dungeon bugs themselves might not even know.  They rarely talk about their secret nests, except to boast of them.

A voice from the ceiling, "By the seven fucks, no, you don't want to go that way.  Two silver and I'll tell you which way is most goodwise!  And a refund if you don't thank me when you go to bed tonight!"

"That's my corpse!  Look, I marked by it by biting off the earlobe--I have it right here.  I was saving it for later, times like these.  You can have the pockets, though, for 20 silver.  Eat my eyes if I can go any lower.  Just eat em!"

"Just climb down this shaft and head towards the smell of seaweed. That's my cousin's store!  You can buy a pickled piercer for a penny!"  (The Pickled Piercer costs 30s.  You can buy a barrel of pickled goblins for 200s, though, which counts as 100 rations.)

2 - The King of Hens

A ponderous thing with pale skin like a drowned man.  A full head taller than a tall man.  Thin limbs, stretched and slightly bent, like ghastly taffy.  The hands are huge flippers, like hands that have been run over by a cartoon car.  They open and close slowly.

The feet are chicken feet, and they are strong.

The chest is huge, and the belly is stretched to bursting.  It is wearing the remains of a red robe, fallen off the shoulders and only held on by a belt around the waist.  It is filthy and matted, but it was once silk.  It's back, chest, and arms are all covered with lashes, both old and new.

The face is shambles, perhaps from unlucky birth, perhaps from a creative torturer.  The face has little to do with a chicken's, and even less to do with a human's.  It is, at least, a bit beaked, where the cleft palate climbs into the sinuses.  The dark, watery eyes are entirely unlike poultry, however.

The King of Hens is accompanied a quartet of small, loud women.  They are the king's court.  They will announce what is for sale today, and what the prices are.  If you agree to buy something, one of the hags will stay with you while the other three lead the creature around a corner.  After listening to a few minutes of cracking whips and ragged sobs, they will return with a bloody egg.  Inside the egg is your purchase.

Suggested Items (Roll a 1d6 twice)

1 - A nutritious egg.  (Counts as a ration.  DO NOT INCUBATE IT.)
2 - A random curse. Latches onto the nearest person when the egg is broken.
3 - Black sugar.
4 - Midnight wind.

3 - The Hive Dead

A cyclopean door.  On it, someone has written "Put the sword on the ground and step out of the room.  Wait until they offer the right payment.  Stay away from their holes."

Inside is a cavernous room.  The center of the ceiling is dominated by a huge crack, going upwards.  You seem to be at the bottom of a very deep abysm.

The walls are studded with holes, each one about two feet wide.  The holes are roughly circular, and are arranged roughly as honeycombs are.  (This is the most efficient way to stack circles.)  There are several hundred of these holes on the back wall of the room, and several hundred more up inside the ceiling crack.

Each hole is home to an undead.  They are not visible in the gloom, but they are watching the center of the room with an unblinking intensity.  When an item (or items) is placed in the center of the room, an undead will approach it after 1d6*1d6 minutes, and place a roughly equivalent item across from it.

If you enter the room and take the offered item, you have just sold your original item.  If you wait another 1 hour, the undead will return and reclaim the item it offered as a trade--there is a 50% chance that another undead will appear after 1d6*1d6 minutes and make a similar offer.  If you reclaim your original item, the deal will be cancelled, the dead will be offended, and all future responses will take twice as long.  If you take both items, all 660 corpses will attack you.  (Stats as zombies, Int 10, movement as human.)

Some items that might be offered:

  • The bones of a horse.
  • A suit of plate mail in perfect condition.
  • The lost crown of a local principality.
  • A spellbook (contains 3 pyromancer spells).
  • A large package of ancient tea.  (Worth 1000s).

If anyone dies in the room, the undead will command the dead to rise.  The fallen character will arise as a new undead, painfully gag down all of their coins and gems, and dig a new hole in the wall.

4 - Charlie Pox

He looks more like a flock of freckles than anything else.  He appears on your belly, using your bellybutton as a mouth.  He's cheeky and talks fast.  He'll crack jokes to put you at ease.

Buy something why don't ya!  I've traveled all this way!

This is Charlie.  You probably caught him from a rat bite or something.

The purchase will be produced from your own body.  If Charlie likes you (and Charlie likes most people), this will be orally.

If you try to hold Charlie hostage, you'll get sick.  Real sick.  Best just to buy something and let him pass one.  The prices aren't even that bad, don't ya know!  He's doing you a favor!

Once he's gone, all he leaves behind is a patch of freckles in the shape of a winking smile and a mild cold.

5 - Sir Gavin Ghastlecrumb

A brute in a suit.

Picture a man shaped like a gorilla.  Wrap him in the most expensive clothes that money can buy.  Give him a fierce beard and a brilliant top hat.  Make him love violence the way that scared soldiers love their mothers.  Make him loud and brusque and ambiguously British.

When you find him, he's spooling intestines from a naga, draping them over a fire, and eating them, all in a single continuous assembly line.  He has a little silver fork.  (It's a regular fork.  It just looks small in his hands.)

He hopes you will give him a reason to kill you, and will tell you as much.  He is a devout Hesayan, and if you are also a member of the flock, he cannot attack you unprovoked.  He has his afterlife to consider.

Why is he selling things?  He has too much loot to carry.

  • 16 swords.  Must by all of them.  50s
  • A magic bird that can learn any song, and will invent new ones besides.  100s.
  • A duke's son from a nearby city, worth 1000s in random.  300s.

The other stuff in his bag is equivalent to a dragon's hoard, but he's not selling it.

Stats as a giant.  If you miss him with a melee attack, make a Str check.  If you fail, Gastlecrumb breaks it.  If he fails a Save, he can choose to lose 10 HP and reduce the effect of whatever he just saved against.

6 - Machinduma

A coiled machine sits alone in a dark room.  It looks like the polished extrusion of some massive crustacean, with gently fluted crests and warped gullies.  The front is the tallest part, and you must slip between some flying buttresses to reach the "front" of the machine.

You can only see the seams if you look close.  (Those who have seen both will recognize similarities to the Egg of Drume.)

There are two alcoves here, set into the machine like eye sockets.  Above them, you can read the words "One is taken, the other is improved."

If you put two objects into the alcoves, the chambers will slowly recess and then close off.  Out of the two objects, the more valuable one will be taken by the machine.  The less valuable object will be returned in an improved form.

Shitty swords will be made excellent.  A magical sword will be made amazing.  A non-magical item may be made into a magical one, but the enchantment will be a trifling one.

A living creature that is improved will be given a random beneficial mutation.

If you do a lot of exchanges with the Machinduma, and if you show a certain ambivalence for human life, it will start offering you fetch quests.  It will extrude soft white disks with writing on them, which dessicate and crumble away from the warm, bloody interior of the machine.

People that are taken by the Machinduma are not lost.  You will see them again, in a different city, at a different time, on some different business.  They will have a different name, and they will not recognize you.  They will have a different history and speak accurately of a different home town (very far from where they are now).  They are always fetching an item.

The Machinduma has stats as four ogres in full plate, fighting in tight square formation.

See Also

Dream Merchants




Stuff to Buy

The Metal Earth has finally birthed a book.  Check it out here.

Patrick has translated Gawain and the Green Knight, which seems like an immensely Patrick thing to do.  You should buy it in order to one-up that one guy who won't stop talking about how much Appendix N he's read.