June 30, 2011

Treasure Type: Plants

This began as a simple list of spices to use as treasure.  Then I thought I should add plants used as alchemical ingredients.  Then I added medicinal herbs and poisons.  Then I thought it might be fun make it a random chart instead.  And on, and on, and on.

Now I have this... thing.

It can generate valuable plants for any type of setting.  It was originally intended to be used as a treasure table, but it seems far too unwieldy to use during play.  I feel like this table is a rough draft, but I'm setting it aside for now.  I'm posting it here until I decide exactly what I want to do with it. 

To use the table in it's current form, just roll a d20 for each column (except "Special").

"Function" shows the basic reason why people are willing to buy the plant. It's up to the GM to come up with specifics.  Crafting might mean that it is a component for alchemy, or something more mundane.  It could be that the wood is prized for making musical instruments, or the resin might be used for making a strong glue, or the powder might be useful to blacksmiths for strengthening steel, or whatever.  A result of Special means that the plant has some quality that appears magical and might be useful to anyone, roll on the "Special" column to see the type of effect.  Special plants are highly prized, especially by alchemists, so any gp amount from the "Price/Unit" column can be multiplied by 100.

"Form" shows the part of the plant that is valued. It might also have been processed into a powder, oil, or whatever.  This combined with the results from "Color", "Taste", and "Scent" help in describing to the PCs what exactly they have found.

"Region" shows where someone is likely to find these plants growing wild.  It's up to the GM to determine if the plant is common or rare; found in many regions or only this one type.  This column only shows the terrain type where the plants are most likely to thrive.

"Price/Unit" and "# of Units" are the treasure table columns.  These determine the size and number of containers that the PCs have found, as well as the standard price for a full container.  Notes about container sizes and equivalencies can be found back here.

The "Demand" column is used when the PCs try to buy or sell the plant.  It shows whether the locals feel strongly enough about the plant to have a special reaction, or if the standard sale price should be adjusted. Litigious means that the plant is illegal for some reason.  Taboo means that anyone carrying the plant is frowned upon, and may be asked to leave.  Usually this is because of some crazy custom or superstition, but maybe some local monster really is drawn to the smell.  Extreme demand means that the PCs could sell the plant for up to 3X its normal value, garner favors, and become very popular with the locals.  Fanatical demand means that the locals are zealous about getting the plant, they may even be highly addicted to it.  The locals will refuse to take no for an answer, and might even try to kill the PCs just to get as much of the plant as possible.

June 29, 2011

Low Ability Scores are Cool Again

I've always had a soft spot for characters with low ability scores.  They usually end up with a lot more more personality than the cookie-cutter superdudes who have multiple 18s.  The abrasive cut-purse, dumb warrior, or weak and sickly wizard are all welcome in my games, tragically stereotyped or not.

The real challenge has always been convincing the players that these characters are worthwhile.  Rolling a bunch of low scores can make a player feel defeated before they even begin to play.  No one likes starting out with negative modifiers, especially when compared to some "better" character at the table.  I hate starting a session when someone is disappointed with their character.  It kills the mood for everyone.  I don't like point-buy systems, or re-rolls, so I used to try bribery.  I'd give out magic items to these characters, family heirlooms that only worked for members of their bloodline.  It helped to remove some of the sting, but wasn't an ideal solution.

Recently, Roger the GS showed me a better way.

Non-humans as consolation!  I should have been doing this ages ago.  No better time to start than the present.  I've been dragging my feet about which species are playable for my Ezzin setting, but I can at least lay out some groundwork and plug in the Ezzin races later.

Ability Scores  ___  Modifier
  • 3  __________  -3
  • 4-5  ________  -2
  • 6-8  ________  -1
  • 9-12  _______  0
  • 13-15  ______  +1
  • 16-17  ______  +2
  • 18  _________  +3

The basic idea here is that all characters default to human.  Other species become available if you roll some low ability scores and end up with a negative modifier.

Species  _________  Requirements

Halfling  _________  Str of 8 or less
Half-Orc  ________  Int of 8 or less
Gnome  _________  Wis of 8 or less
Dwarf  __________  Dex of 8 or less
Elf  _____________  Con of 8 or less
Tiefling  _________  Cha of 8 or less
Goblin/Kobald  ____  2 Scores below 6

These aren't all going to be available options in my Ezzin setting.  Some of them will end up getting replaced by more exotic choices like cyclops and lizardmen, I'm still pondering the setting.  Still, I think that this chart is a good place to start.

June 22, 2011

Containers, Capacity, and Units of Measure (made easy?)

This all started out innocently enough.

I wondered "How many flasks can be filled from a full barrel?".  I didn't like the container sizes in some of my various game books, so I started doing a few calculations of my own.  This quickly spiraled into creating a home-brewed system of measurements for my world of Ezzin.

I don't really know what compels me to do these things.  No doubt the alcohol helps.  Even so, I doubt many others would enjoy a couple days of researching and comparing Sumerian, Roman, Imperial, Metric and US systems of measurement.  I guess I'm one of the lucky ones.

In making this, I had two main goals.
  1. A slick, unified system that's easy to use. 
  2. A system that gives the impression of strange and antiquated units, difficult conversions, and odd fiddly bits.  For the sake of flavor and atmosphere mostly.
The metric system fulfills the first goal, but not the second.  So I set about making my own weird thing.  As a whole, I think it turned out pretty well.  However, I'm probably biased.

Weight/Volume of Coins
 On Ezzin, all coins weigh the same.  In truth it's to streamline gameplay, but I think I'll blame it on a powerful guild of merchants who've successfully standardized most systems of measure.

50 coins = 1 pound

A lot of containers will tear open from the weight before they are even half filled by any type of coin, so making the weight identical expedites most bookkeeping on the character sheets.  Still, there may be a "weightless bag" or some other craziness requiring me to know just how many coins can fit into a given container.  So I compared densities, crunched the numbers a little, and came up with this. 

Pp: is about the size of a dime.  30 per in3
Gp: is about the size of a penny.  25 per in3
Sp: is about the size of a quarter.  10 per in3
Cp: is about the size of a thick quarter.  8 per in3

These "amounts per cubic inch" are mainly just to give me some rough guidelines for my estimations.  There will always be gaps between the individual coins based on how they randomly fall and stack inside the container.  I won't feel bad about rounding here.

Measures of Volume 
That merchant guild I mentioned earlier has been especially keen to standardize the containers of every land.  This makes it easier to trade between realms and to divide or consolidate goods.  These units are used for both liquids and dry goods.  These are all approximations.  Individual containers might be a little larger or smaller than standard size.  Don't be shy about rounding up or down.

#of in3 --------------- Container/Name ------ Weight of Water

82944 ------------------ Butttun/Wagonload -------------- 512gal/3072 lb
55296 ----------------------- Tun/Cartload ----------------- 256gal/2048 lb
↑ x2
27648 ------------------------- Butt/Pipe -------------------- 128gal/1024 lb
↑ x2
13824 ------------------- Hogshead/Oxhead/Gur ------------ 64gal/512 lb
↑ x2
6912 ------------------- 4ft³/Barrel/Large Sack ------------- 32gal/256 lb
↑ x2
3456 ------------ Half-Barrel/Keg/Kilderkin/Sack ------- 16gal/128 lb
↑ x2
1728 -- 1ft³/Talent/Amphora/Bushel/Firkin/Small Sack --- 8gal/64 lb
↑ x2
864 --------------------- Urn//Bag/Saddle Bag ----------------- 4gal/32 lb
↑ x2
432 ------------------ Peck/Small Saddle Bag ---------------- 2gal/16 lb
↑ x2
216 -------------------------- Gallon/Jug ------------------------ 1gal/8 lb
↑ x2
108 ------------------------- Skin/Belt Pouch ------------------------- 4 lb
↑ x2
54 ------------- Liter/Bowl/Bottle/Quart/Small Pouch ----------- 2 lb
↑ x2
27 ------------------ Flask/Pint/Jar/Large Coin Purse ------------- 1 lb
↑ x2
13.5 ------------------------ Cup/Coin Purse --------------------------- 8oz
↑ x2
6.75 -------------------- Gill/Small Coin Purse ---------------------- 4oz
↑ x2
3.375 ----------------------- Egg/Jigger/Shot -------------------------- 2oz
↑ x2
1.6875 -------------------- Dose/Vial/Potion --------------------------- 1oz
↑ x2
0.84375 ------------------------ Spoon --------------------------------- 0.5oz
↑ x5
0.16875 --------------------- Button/Dram --------------------------- 0.1oz
↑ x50
0.003375 --------------------- Grain/Drop ------------------------- 0.002oz

Well, there it is.  Later, I'll come up with some dwarvish and elvish words for these units too.  Quite a few of those are real world units of measure, but little on that list matches exactly to real world sizes.  Those are all approximations, shaved or extended a bit until they line up neatly together.  If the players hound me about it, I'll blame the discrepancies on differences in gravity or something.  I doubt they'll ask. 

I've included some standard adventuring containers on the list.  These units represent standard sizes.  Individual sacks, flasks, wagons, or whatever might be a little larger or smaller.  Overall though, this makes for easy conversions when the characters move items from one container to another.  I can quickly see that a large sack full of dragon scales can be split up into 4 small sacks, or 8 saddle bags, or 4 saddle bags plus 2 small sacks.

You'll notice that the largest unit is equal to a Tun plus a Butt.  Called a Butttun... because I'm childish.  I also included a button as one of the smallest units, because I like to plan ahead.  I'm sure that a Butttun/Button miscommunication will be entertaining at some point.

The smallest unit is a grain of wheat.  These grains on Ezzin are a little smaller than the ones found on Earth.  Ezzin grains just so happen to be about the same size as a drop of water, which is rather convenient if you want to use the same units of measure for dry goods as you do for liquids.  Which I do.

So, what do you think?   Is this useful, or am I crazy?  I'd appreciate hearing some thoughts about what needs to be fixed, and what works well.

June 15, 2011

Google search wallows in failure

Today someone reached my blog by googling "free movie of demons porn and monster porn".


My blog is nowhere even near the top of that search... but I still feel dirty.

Poisonous vs. Toxic vs. Venomous

 All of these different terms confused the hell out of me for the longest time.  I place part of the blame on the monster listings for "poisonous snakes" which would have been more accurately listed as "venomous snakes". 

When describing plants and animals "poisonous" or "toxic" means that you shouldn't try to eat it (or even touch it in some cases), "venomous" means that you shouldn't let it bite, sting, or scratch you.  Poisonous species are generally immune to their own toxins.  Venomous species keep their toxins stored safely within certain glands, but are generally not immune to them.  So, it usually goes badly for a venomous creature if it bites or stings itself.
  • Poison - Any substance that can cause severe distress or death if ingested, breathed in, or absorbed through the skin. Many substances (including water) that normally cause no problems, can be poisonous if taken in too large of a quantity. 
  • Toxin - A poisonous protein produced by living cells in some higher plants, animals, and pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria. A toxin typically has a high molecular weight (as compared to a simple chemical poison), is antigenic (elicits an antibody response), and can be highly dangerous to living creatures. 
  • Venom - a toxin produced in a gland and used by a species in order to subdue its prey.  Typically injected via a sting or bite.

I'm friends with some veterinarians, paramedics, nurses, and a budding toxicologist.  They say that it would be cool if we could help preserve their sanity by using the terms correctly.

That is all.

Go with Grod my friends.

Joesky Tax:

White Baneberry fruit
White Baneberry (Doll's-eyes)

A small flowering plant sometimes found in temperate forests.  The white flowers are produced in spring, developing into berries during the summer which last until the first frost. All parts of the plant are poisonous if ingested, but the berries are especially toxic. 

The toxins have an immediate sedative effect on the heart causing the victim to feel weak and tired and are likely to cause a heart attack and death. (Save vs. Poison: success = ½ Str rounded down for one turn, failure = death)

The plant is prized by assassins and poisoners because it is fast acting and it does not cause sickness or nausea like many poisons, so when it is used unsuccessfully it does not always raise suspicions.  Cultivation requires lots of shade, regular water, and a crumbly, loamy soil like a sandy clay for good drainage.

The berries are harmless to birds.  Birds eat them often, helping the plants to spread their seeds.

June 13, 2011

Populate this Dungeon!

I found this map over at Lost Papers of Tsojcanth that is supercool.  Tsojcanth for the WIN!!!  I am overcome by your aura of awesome.  "We're not worthy, we're not worthy".

I did notice some slight room for improvement though.  I decided to take the time to smooth out the seams, and polish it up a little, then I keyed most of the rooms.  I made 2 versions of 2 maps.  The white background is for easy printing; the brown background is for easy editing.

Grab it and turn it into a cool crawl for your group...  if you dare!    Be sure to go tell Tsojcanth about your creation.   :-D

Here are the first copies, I keyed the rooms for your convenience.  I don't know why the name of Tsojcanth's post is "69: Random Unsubstantiated Hypothesis", but I thought it was a good excuse to limit the number of keyed rooms to 69.  The rooms are numbered 1-40, A-Z, and rooms FF, ZZ, and 88.

Click to Embiggen! Keyed
Click to Embiggen! Keyed

If you don't like the way I numbered the rooms on the first set, then you can grab this version with just the seams smoothed out.  Then number the rooms however you like.  

Click to Embiggen! No-key
Click to Embiggen! No-key

June 11, 2011

In the Caverns of the Croaking Chaos (A Fat Frog Adventure)

In the Caverns of the Croaking Chaos

Trouble Brewing

A small mining community has been beset by strange events after an accident in the mine reveals an ancient underground cavern.  While the metal digger golem was smashing at the back wall a huge section of the tunnel collapsed.  The rubble forms a rough slope into the natural cavern below.  The miners quickly informed the small garrison of soldiers at the nearby smelting furnaces and metalworks.

The garrison commander decides to personally accompany his wizard and all but five men to investigate the caverns and assure the superstitious miners that the mine is safe.  Some of the miners follow them into the mine, but wait at the entrance to the cavern.  The miners wait for hours periodically calling out to the soldiers below, but there is no answer.  Eventually the miners hear strange sounds coming from the darkness below, scuttling movement and an ominous croaking that seems to grow closer and closer.  The miners flee, and soon the mine is boarded up to prevent any of the horrors within from escaping to terrorize the town.

Involving the PCs

Some of the townsfolk have begun leaving the town seeking to make homes elsewhere.  The PCs could meet them along the road and hear of the troubles at the silver mine.

Lord Bithekous, who bought the mine from afar several years ago, could hire the PC's to investigate the disappearance of his soldiers and sort out the problems at the mine before all the workers he employs leave the the area.

The PC's could be traveling along a road and happen to see the lights of Holder's Township up on the hill.  They might decide to go there looking for supplies or a place to rest and get caught up in the action.

A group of brand new characters might have grown up living in Holder's Hollow all their lives, or they might be the garrison soldiers who were left to guard the silver ingots in Smelter's Hold when all their comrades disappeared into the mine.


Arriving at Holder's Hollow

Holder's Hollow is a small, shallow valley containing a town with a population of about one hundred souls.  The town is set upon a tall hill, nestled in the flat depression between the three peaks.  Holder's Township is a mining town.  Some 25 or 30 of the residents work within the mine itself, or at the nearby smelting furnaces and metalworks.  The rest of the town's people make their living supporting the miners, raising goats and sheep, tending large vegetable gardens, or working in the apple orchard.

Traveling to Holders Hollow is simple enough. A small dirt road follows a winding creek up the south side of the forested hill.  The trees thin out as the road climbs up, eventually leading to the relative open flatness of the vale.  Within the hollow only a few short trees and bushes are dotted among the rocks and grasses.  The North, West, and East sides of the hollow rise steeply toward the three barren, rocky peaks.  The vale is filled with the sounds of life.  Insects and croaking frogs can be heard throughout the day and night.

A few hundred yards into the vale the dirt road forks.  To the right, the road goes up the eastern slope toward the Busted Boot Mine and nearby Smelter's Hold.   To the left, the road leads over a bridge crossing Croaker's Creek and then into Holder's Township.  Straight past the fork in the road a tall column of white stone rises from the bushes, known to the locals as "Froggert's Perch".


After the PCs Arrive

1st - Arriving at about the same time as the party is a group of about 10 soldiers hired by Lord Bithekous.  They are lead by his able and trusted nephew.  They have been instructed to secure Smelter's Hold, load all the remaining silver ingots and ore into the three wagons they've brought with them, and bring it all back to the city where he lives.  They have all been instructed to stay out of the mine, but the PCs could convince the nephew to post some guards at the mine entrance since it is only a few hundred yards from the Hold.

2nd - When the PCs arrive the people of Holder's Township are all making preparations for their yearly Froggert Festival.  Usually a very merry time, this year's festival is much more subdued because of the recent disappearance of the soldiers.  However the townspeople set about the preparations with a grim determination.  Many tables and chairs are set out near Froggert's Perch, and the campfires and cooking pits are set ablaze.  The children will chase each other and play games, the adults will all eat together under the open sky and some might get a little drunk on cider.  Almost everyone is looking forward to the culmination of the festival, when under the full moon every man, woman, and child is given the chance to touch the column of white stone and ask (in a shout or a whisper) a favor of Froggart who sits impassively on his perch.  It's a good bet that most of the favors asked this year will be for the return of the soldiers or lifting the curse from the mine.

3rd - Shortly before the start of the festival, Father Hessel makes his yearly plea for everyone to abandon their pagan festival. He asks all present to follow him back into town and join him in the temple where prayers can be offered to [popular deity] for the souls of those lost in the mine.  Over a dozen people follow him back into town, more than ever before.

4th - During the festival all hell breaks loose.  I imagine it would be at the end, just after the first few of the townspeople shout their favors to Froggert asking for the return of the soldiers, but if the PCs decide to head into town at some point during the festival that might also be a good time for the uproar to begin.  Frogolytes (10 of them) dart in suddenly and grab revelers at the edge of the crowd.  They work in pairs, trying to grab people and carry them away out of the firelight.  None of the Frogolytes stay to fight, they all run toward the eastern slope at high speed.  Husbands chase after wives, fathers chase after children, and a dog named Enoch chases after his boy Johann.  Shrieks and wailing pierce the night.

5th - The townspeople slowly regroup at Froggarts Perch.  Weapons are brought from the town, and Father Hessel tends to any who are wounded.  Most are frightened, but some are far more angry than afraid.  If the PCs make an impassioned call to attack the Frogolytes or rescue those taken then a number of armed villagers (equal to the highest Cha score +3) will follow them into the heart of the caverns, no morale checks needed until area #5.  As the group prepares to leave, Enoch the dog returns.  Enoch has dark blood (not his) all around his muzzle, and is limping slightly on his left front paw.  Enoch will follow the mob, or even lead them to the pool around Croakers Cave where he lost the scent.  Enoch never needs to check morale, EVER.  Enoch will not rest until Johann is safe.

The Mob

Determine how many townspeople are going with the PCs.  If the PCs refuse their help, then a small group will head into the mine anyhow and try to get their loved ones back or at least some revenge. Maybe 6hp each.

  • Enoch - Dog, tan and white, quick, big ears, heart of gold, nerves of steel, will stop at nothing to save Johann: Bite (1d4+1), AC (5 better than unarmored human)
  1. Blake Holder - Mine Foreman, wishes he had organized a mob sooner to go after the soldiers: Int 15, golem command rod, wooden shield, leather armor, short sword
  2. Rankel - Blacksmith, looking for his daughter:  Str 16, Chainmail with breastplate, Shield, Clank (Pa's old smithing hammer), bag of caltrops, rope and a metal hook
  3. Smefen - Orchard worker, this is his chance to prove his worth: Int 5, hatchet, dagger
  4. Arili - 16 year old, looking for the cute soldier she fancied, likes to kick: Dex 16, wooden shield, short sword
  5. Belthon - Shepherd, looking for his wife: Con 15, Staff, dagger, sling and 20 sling stones
  6. Josef Erhard - Baker, cares for Arili and goes along to help protect her: Dex 7, 2 big knives, red shirt
  7. Father Hessel - Priest, just doesn't want anyone to get killed: Wis 16, will try to save his healing magic for serious wounds, shillelagh(club/walking stick)
  8. Massimo - Miner, totally pissed off: Str 15, Dex 15, leather armor, wooden shield, spear
  9. Nikkon - Town Drunk, is drunk on cider and thinks "this'll be fun": Wis 4, duel-wielding granite and steel beer steins, 5 flasks of moonshine, ridiculous horned helmet
  10. Sulitia - Miner, she just wants to help her friends: Str 17, leather armor, short miners pick, 5 throwing knives
  11. Jaquan - Gardner/farmer, wants to help: Str 12, leather apron, scythe, a knife in each boot
  12. Tercero - Hunter/Tracker, 1 day from retirement: Wis 16, short bow, 10 arrows, hand axe, dagger
  13. Tranter - Smelter, looking for his son but is afraid of tight spaces: Dex 12, spear, hand sickle
  14. (or more)  = Some guy/gal with a spear and a dagger

The Frogolytes

The missing garrison soldiers have been twisted and mutated, they are now the frogolytes.  They are seeking both captives and silver ingots to donate to their new god who sits beneath the steamy falls.  All the frogolytes are now hairless and have green amphibian skin and pale white bellies.    I was thinking 15 of them with 2HD each, adjust based on the power of your PCs.  Roll mutations for each frogolyte, or just make stuff up.

1 - Can breathe underwater, absorbing oxygen through their skin
2 - Frog legs, can jump 20' in any direction
3 - Frog head, extra attack (bite 1d4 damage)
4 - Frog Tongue, chance to disarm/grab items from a distance
5 - Full Frog, all the above, +12 hp, no armor or weapons
6 - Roll 1d4 twice

Any that are still able will be using their old equipment: shields, spears, long swords, chain mail, and helmets

The mutated commander is giving orders to the frogolytes from area #5, he is there protecting the wizard (who is now the High Frog Priest) as he attempts to summon forth Froggert the Fat.

Exploring the Local Area

Froggert's Perch

This 10' tall column is made of a pure white stone, and it is covered in many strange markings and petroglyphs.  No stone like this exists nearby, it must have been brought here from many miles away.  Sitting atop the pillar is a 2' statue of a frog holding a flower in one hand and a basket of flowers in the other.  The statue is known to the locals as Froggert, and is the focus of a yearly festival.  There are many conflicting stories of how the custom started and how Froggert received his name, but no one in the town knows the truth.  The wizard of the garrison spent many hours at Froggert's Perch studying the strange runes.

Croaker's Creek

The waters of the creek begin by flowing out of a mostly submerged cave and into a pond below the mine on the eastern slope.  The creek then runs down the slope into the hollow, then down the south side of the hill and eventually into a river many miles away.  Croaker's Cave, Croaker's Pond, and Croaker's Creek are either named for the multitude of frogs or the many venomous water snakes who make their home there.  It seems that every couple of years someone croaks because of a snake bite.

Smelter's Hold

Smelter's Hold is collection of buildings surrounded by a wooden palisade.  The buildings are a few hundred yards from the entrance to the mine.  This is where ore from the mine is processed, mostly silver, some steel, and a little gold.  One building houses the smelting furnaces.  Another, the metalworks, is a large building that houses the forge, castings, and the wizards workshop.  There is a large barracks and a separate kitchens and mess hall.  There are also two cabins where the commander and wizard made their homes.

Inside the wizards workshop are some incomplete notes detailing his research into many various minerals and a spell able to detect them, a kind of magical surveyer.  These notes might be valuable to the right people.

All ingots produced in the metalworks are stamped with the seal of Smelter's Hold as they are made.  Occasionally some raw gemstones are found in the mine, but these are always sent to a jeweler in the city for cutting.  Shipments are sent out to the city each month, always well guarded and on random dates.

Busted Boot Mine

The mine was owned for many generations by the Holder family.  The town grew slowly over many years as more and more families moved into the area.  Blake Holder sold the mine to Lord Bithekous about five years ago after racking up a huge gambling debt while cavorting about in the city.  Since then Lord Bithekous has spent a lot of money employing the towns people to mine and work the ore, constructing the buildings of Smelter's Hold, employing a garrison of soldiers from the city, and even purchasing a metal golem to help productivity.  Bithekous has been fair to the people of the town, and especially to Blake Holder.  Although Blake must differ to the wishes of the commander and wizard regarding the smelting furnaces and metalworks, Blake is paid as a supervisor and is the highest authority within the mine itself.  Blake holds the digger golems command rod, and has been the only person to command it ever since the cave-in three years ago.  Blake still feels some shame about his gambling and the loss of the mine, but he knows it could have turned out a lot worse.  The Holders would be very surprised and horrified to learn of the true history of their family and of Holder's Hollow.

A:  The mine entrance is supported by an archway made from large tree trunks.  Boards have recently been nailed across to block access.  The Frogolytes would have busted through if there were no guards.  If guards are posted here the frogolytes use only Croaker's Cave to get in and out.

B:  These are the old stopes, large chambers carved out from the mining of ore.  These chambers are supported by thick wooden beams to prevent cave-ins.

C: The Grand Hall.  This area was created by the digger golem.  Three years ago, a couple weeks after the golem arrived at the mine, all of the golem's pounding and banging caused a small cave-in.  Luckily no one was hurt and the golem was able to smash its way free of the rubble.  Since then Blake Holder has taken sole command of the golem, and has used it to create the Grand Hall.  The entrance of the Grand Hall is next to the rubble of the old cave-in.  Blake has decided to have the golem leave a thick column of rock every 5 to 10 feet, thinking that this would prevent another cave-in from ever happening.  Blake has always felt drawn to dig deeper, thinking that a large vein of ore is below the level of the original mine.  Using the digger golem has allowed him to dig downward in a slow spiral much faster than he could have ever hoped.  Too bad it wasn't silver that Blake was sensing beneath his feet.

D:  Eventually the digger golem dug deep enough that a large section of the floor and columns of rock crumbled and crashed down into the cavern beneath.  All of this rubble forms a sloping pile that can be climbed up and down rather easily to get back and forth between the mine and the cavern, but the shifting pile of stones makes such a climb anything but quiet.

The entire cave feels warm and humid, all the floors and walls are a little slick with moisture.  A person might slip and loose their footing if they tried to run at full speed (Dex check).  Ferns, a thin layers of moss, and other plants seem to grow along most of the walls.  For some reason these caverns are also full of fireflies, their tiny lights flash intermittently but reveal little.  The ceilings through most of these caverns range from 30' to 60' above the floor.  

All of the ridges and ledges shown in these caverns are a bit sloped and only about 8' tall.  Usually this would pose no problem but because of the moisture and slick rocks anyone attempting to climb up one takes a full round and must make a Dex check to avoid slipping.  Anyone climbing a ledge with the help of another person pushing or pulling them up automatically succeeds.

The frogolytes could be anywhere in these caves, and some may be in the mine too.  Feel free to have them jump out and harass the party whenever it seems appropriate.  They will use hit and run tactics, trying to split up the party and draw them away from area #5.  Once the party sees area #5, the frogolytes change tactics trying to slow down anyone running away and taking cheap shots at anyone who flees past them.

1:  The Entry Cavern.  

 The digger golem lies buried in the pile of rubble, but it looks as though the frogolytes were attempting to uncover the golem.  Blake can now have the golem free itself with the command rod.

The stream of water is warm and flows into a pool with a large sucking whirlpool as the water flows quickly down a hole at the bottom of the pool.  The miners are embarrassed to admit that echoes of this sound may have been what scared them enough to abandon the soldiers and close off the mine.

Any frogolytes in this area will throw rocks at the party and then flee to area #2, the frogolytes are attempting to get the party to follow them out Croaker's Cave and away from the caverns.  The High Frog Priest does not wish to be disturbed.

2:  The Frog Pools

These pools are full of frogs and tadpoles, snakes also come in here for an easy meal.  The pools are connected by a totally submerged tunnel, it is easy to swim though if you have a light to guide the way.  In the middle of this submerged tunnel is a branch going up to the whirlpool, but the current is too strong to swim up, making this a one way tunnel.

The exit leading out to Croaker's Pond is not totally submerged, but there is only about a foot or two between the water level and the ceiling of this tunnel.  Mind the snakes in the pond, some of them could be venomous.  A pair of steep ledges prevents all but the largest snakes from going further into the caverns.

3: The Fungal Gardens

In this chamber are giant mushrooms and toadstools up to 10' high.  This area could make for an interesting combat with jumping foes.  It might also be a good place for a myconid or few if you feel like tossing in some mushroom-men.

4:  The Winding Way

A small group of frogolytes are hiding in the small, short tunnel at the top of the ledge near the number "4".  They will jump out and try to push down the first couple of people to climb up that ledge, then they will attack with spears.  This group of frogolytes will make a stand here and try to prevent the party from getting closer to area #5.

5:  Temple of the Frog God

As the party approaches the stairs leading up, they hear a voice calling out in a strange croaky language mixed with words in the common tongue.  The voice drones on and on.

A long time ago someone used some Stoneshape spells to decorate this cavern temple.  The final ledge leading up to this area has stoneshaped stairs on either side of the stream of water, making it easy to enter and exit this chamber. The stream of water is rather hot now, and this chamber has a layer of steam and fog that clings to the floors.  Horrible, twisted faces have been stoneshaped into the rock walls as decorations.

A waterfall of steaming hot water gushes from the ceiling in the back off this chamber and falls behind a 30' tall, 20' wide statue of a familiar, fat, flower holding frog made of white stone.  The water forms a pool in the back of the chamber, and the statue sits upon an island of stone in the center of the pool.  Two smooth stoneshaped bridges go over the hot pool and connect to the island on either side of the hot stream that eventually becomes Croaker's Creek.  A half dozen frogolytes on the island make ready to defend the bridges from the party's crossing.

On the island in front of the statue is a round, two-step, dais with a lectern in the center.  In front of the lectern facing the huge statue is a man in a red robe, the High Frog Priest, swaying back and forth as he reads from a huge moldy tome.  Between the statue and the dais stand the kidnapped townspeople.  Any silver ingots that the frogolytes have managed to steal are piled near the feet of their captives.  The captives are dazed, as if in a trance.

The frogolytes and their commander do their best to defend the High Frog Priest from interruption as he continues to speak his croaky words and occasionally calling out in Common for Froggert to accept the sacrifice provided.  If any of the befuddled prisoners are shaken or moved, they will quickly regain their senses.  Enoch quickly charges, dodges past, and runs between the legs of the frogolytes at the first opportunity so that he can reach Johann.  Enoch jumps on Johann, knocks him over and licks at his face freeing him from his stupor.

As soon as the High Frog Priest or any of the tranced townspeople are touched, the former wizard spins around to face the party.  His twisted features are an indescribable mockery of all things frog and human.  He quickly begins casting a spell, but he never gets a chance to complete it.  The great statue opens it's stone eyes and mouth.  A great long red tongue shoots out, grabs the High Frog Priest, and draws him almost instantly into a crushing bite of stone, killing him.

The spirit of Froggart the Fat was successfully summoned forth, but without a sacrifice he could not take his true form.  Since the High Frog Priest interrupted the ritual, Froggart's spirit was forced to merely inhabit and animate the 30' stone statue of himself.  Froggart does not tolerate failure.  The red robed wizard was chosen as his first victim, but not his last.  The huge statue begins walking forward, every other round his tongue shoots out claiming another victim who stands within 30' of the statue, either townsperson or frogolyte.

The frogolytes do their best to flee out of the range of the tongue, and to slow down members of the party so that they become easier targets for their bloated, stoney god.  Enoch will viciously attack any frogolyte who blocks Johann's path of escape.  Enoch will sacrifice himself to save the boy if necessary.  The great statue can walk slowly, or it can spend a round making a great hop forward.  These hops help him catch up to the fleeing party and also cause the caverns to tremble under his awesome weight, shattering the stone floor at his feet and knocking loose stalactites and falling stones.  Don't forget about the slippery cavern floor while the party is running at full speed.

Some of the passageways are too narrow to accommodate the statues 20' girth, so clever party members might use this to their advantage.  Still, his tongue might be able to reach victims who dart down these tunnels too slowly.  If the digger golem is commanded to attack the statue it will succeed in injuring one of the legs enough that it can no longer hop.  At this point though, the statue will sit on the golem, flattening it to uselessness.

If the party somehow manages to destroy a huge statue made of solid stone, more power to them.  They should get a nice xp bonus.

The party could flee through area #2.  If so, the huge statue will bide it's time, call it's frogolytes to bring it new victims, and try to slowly build in power.

If the party flees by going through the mine however, the statue will follow.  It will crawl though the Grand Hall of the mine, smashing through the stone support columns easily.  It will try to catch any victims it can with its tongue, but the many columns make that difficult.  As the statue smashes it's way down the Grand Hall the mine collapses behind it. Eventually, as the great stone of bloated awfulness reaches the spot marked with the "C" the ceiling collapses around it, and it is trapped with only it's great mouth exposed.  Then the great mouth opens and vomits forth ....  Froggart the Fat.  Not his true form, but the best he is able to muster at the moment.  A great 10' tall frog with 3HD + 1 HD per victim he was able to bite and kill as a statue, AC as unarmored human, a grasping pulling tongue, and a bite (2d4 damage).


June 10, 2011

Maps of Real Castle Keeps

I found some other pictures of interest over at From Old Books, so I thought I'd share them.  These are all from the book The Growth of the English House by J. Alfred Gotch, published in 1909.

First up is the keep of Hedingham Castle, Essex. 


Next is Haddon Hall, Derbyshire.  Not really a castle, it is actually a medieval country manor house that I find quite interesting.  I like that the plans show how the sections were built over time.

And last but not least is the keep of Warkworth Castle, Northumberland.

1. Vestibule (leading from entrance in basement)
2. Hall.
3. Chapel.
4. Great Chamber.
5. Kitchens.
6. Pantry and buttery.

Most of the unmarked rooms are smaller bedrooms.  The square room in the center of the floorplan is actually a shaft that provides a little air and light to some of the interior rooms.  I believe that the tower seen in the exterior picture of the keep is the top of the shaft.

Intermission (with maps!)

Designing a tumbling dungeon is an interesting mental exercise.  I have the bones of it worked out in my head, but fully describing how it works is difficult.  I need the help of pictures.  My whole blog needs the help of pictures.

So, I went off looking for public domain images and wandered the links longer than any sane man should.  Wikipedia has a convenient list of such resources here.  Bloggerstop was kind enough to post this handy list as well.  If any other bloggers out there can suggest other sources, I'd be glad to hear them.

I'll probably end up drawing some pictures of my own in order to show the tumbling dungeon clearly.  Until then, here are some maps I found over at FromOldBooks.org.  Thank you Mr. Liam Quin.

Here we have the plans of a sixteenth-century mansion, Buckhurst House in Sussex. It would be found near Withyham today, but the house is much older than the village.  Withyham is not included in the Domesday Book, although the manor of Buckhurst is, as ‘’Biochest’’ (probably from the Saxon ‘’boc hyrst’’ or beech wood). There have been two houses at Buckhurst for many centuries: the older Buckhurst House, now no more, and the present day ‘’Buckhurst Park’’.  The numbers on the plan are unexplained, but I think it's pretty obvious that some contemporary DM must have gone back in time and started up a game.

Click to Embiggen... twice

This is from the book “Laws and History of the New Forest” (1811).  It is, I think, one of the most lovely maps I've ever seen.  You can see the edge of Salisbury Plain in the West, and Christchurch Bay in the South.  I especially like the all the little details, such as the Hurst Castle Lighthouse marked at the southern edge of the map.

June 6, 2011

One Fell Swoop

Elbuagnin - Idea Man
I found this bit of inspiration over at Curse of the GM.
He thought of it first --->

Thanks dude!

The basic idea is to set up an adventure where the PCs stumble upon events that are turns of phrase acted out literally.  The first would just seem strange, but the mystery builds as more and more are encountered.  Are the town's people cursed?  Is it magic?

This seems like a perfect fit for my Dreaming Gods campaign.  I don't want the Dreaming Gods to be defined only by their portals to other realms, or some random wild magic zones.  I want them to influence the world only very rarely, and in strange unexpected ways.  This set up is perfect for one such instance.  It's an effect that's obviously set into motion by some kind of intellect, but the reasoning behind it seems to make no logical sense.  More on that later.

Adventure Notes
I'd start with the PCs traveling along a road leading to the town.  Just before they get into town they see a fork in the road, literally.  A big metal fork, like a carving fork sticking into the road.

A little further along the PCs see some of the events described in the post I linked above, a mother throwing out her baby with the bathwater, a performer gets his leg broken, ect.

The people might seem surprised by their actions afterward, but they aren't in a daze or stupor at the time.  It is more like temporary insanity than any sort of charm spell.  They may not remember their strange actions at all.

A man buys a pig in a poke (sack), but discovers that he has been swindled when he lets the cat out of the bag.

The blacksmith grumbles and berates his apprentice while grinding an axe, eventually yelling loudly at the young man for his laziness, grappling with him, and trying to force his nose into the grindstone.   Once the PCs intervene (I hope), the blacksmith will snap out of it and be full of remorse and guilt.

A dishonest merchant cooks the books, but he gets burned and is caught red handed.

A magistrate of the local lord is trying to help stop these odd events as best he can.  He keeps saying "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help" but invariably causes even more problems, because he is compelled to do things "by the book".  He is constantly flipping through his book of laws and trying to punish every minor crime he sees.  No one can seem to stop him though, because his pen in mightier than the sword.

By this time I imagine that the PCs will be trying to get to the bottom of all the craziness.  I'm not sure how they would start to investigate, but I'll see what they come up with, it could be useful.  The PCs won't have to spend much time investigating, because a little bird will fly up and tell them what's causing all the trouble.

All the troubles stem from a man named Swoop.   Swoop is the local animal trainer, but unbeknownst to the townspeople he's also a grim killer who takes delight bashing people with a hammer while making awful, awful jokes about "hitting the nail on the head".  His last victim cursed him with her dying breath.  Though the Dreaming Gods aren't conscious per se, even They sometimes take notice of extreme emotions... especially when mixed with blood.  They're moved by the dying woman's basic desire to punish Swoop, but Their reaction is unfocused and dreamlike, causing turns of phrase to be acted out in literal ways in a wide area around the killer.

Swoop can no longer sleep at all because there is "no rest for the wicked" so he is now "barking mad".  If confronted he will "cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war".  Obviously the dogs he trained are this man's best friends.

The solution to this town's problem is a "no-brainer", the killer just needs to be decapitated.  Then all of these troubles can be wrapped up neatly with "one felled Swoop".

Some other things that may be worth including:

A nest of vipers
Bats in a belfry
A skeleton in the closet
Frog in the throat
A fish out of water
I heard it through the grapevine
Go out on a limb
Paint the town red
A wolf in sheep's clothing
Beating around the bush
Raining cats and dogs
Apple of my eye
A pot calling the kettle black
Pulling the wool over your eyes
Spill the beans
A sight for sore eyes
Bury the hatchet
A sick puppy
Saved by the bell
Dead Ringer (but not the real McCoy)
Music's charms sooth the savage beast
Fruit of your loins (yeah... maybe not this one)


I was driving home from my job at the "dream factory" when my thoughts on adventures and obscure combat rules were rudely shoved aside by some flashing blue and red lights in my rear-view mirror.

I tried to break the ice with a little humor, but that worked out pretty much as you would imagine.


Seriously though, I've been pulled over all across the US (because I'm a menace to society, obviously) and I have to admit that the cops here in Illinois are by far the nicest and most pleasant that I've ever encountered.  I just wish they'd stop hassling me.  This time it was because my left turn signal wasn't working.  Oh, and I wasn't wearing my seat belt while going 30mph on a city street... because I'm a rebel like that.

Oddly enough, my car was at the mechanic for 2 days last week while they worked on my turn signal and brakes.  Their electrician never made it in to the shop though, he had to go to the hospital instead.  So when I picked up my car I made an appointment to bring it back this Tuesday so the electrician could fix the signal.  Not soon enough I guess.

Oh well, it all just serves as a reminder to me.

All the world's an RPG,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
always seeking fun in spite of house rules that suck.

Abulafia, why do you taunt me?

Abulafia seems really cool.  It's basically a special wiki that allows anyone to create their own random generators.  I love random generators, and I have a few of my own that I'd like to add to the site.

The trouble is that I can't create an account.  Their "log in/create account" page only seems to allow the "log in" part.  The sysops seem willing to listen to questions, but rather than give an email they suggest putting questions on the discussion page... which I can't do until I log in.

I've looked and looked, but I haven't found any trapdoors or secret passages.

Does anyone know the trick to creating an account there?  I feel like I'm missing something obvious.

June 5, 2011

The Wonders of Ezzin

Inspired by these posts on Rather Gamey and Jeff's Gameblog, I've decided to create a growing list of the Wonders of Ezzin. 

 These wonders will come in many forms and might be either natural, magical or created.  The only requirements will be their great renown and awesome spectacle.  More likely than not there will be some dungeon or adventure to be found nearby, but mearly traveling to look at these famous destinations will also be rewarded.

I'll write up a short but colorful description for each wonder, to be read aloud when the PC's see it for the first time.  Then each character who gazes upon the wonder will be awarded some XP. 

I'm thinking a reward of 1d10 x 100xp sounds good, but maybe I'll use different dice for different wonders.  I like the idea of including a random roll to represent the subjective taste of a person to find certain wonders more impressive than others.  Each wonder will probably also have bonuses for certain species or circumstances.

I had thought it would be easier to imagine a bunch of unique wonders, but right now I can only seem to think of wonders from history or literature.  I'm not above stealing ideas, so I'll probably come up with something based upon each of the pictures I've included here.  I'll have to wait for inspiration to strike to get some truly unique wonders, maybe I should focus on wonders made with magic?    .....or wonders of magic, hmmm.

I suppose I should also lay the groundwork for an XP reward for creating wonders.  Because (after they find a few of these) the chance the PC's will go out of their way to build a new wonder is about 100%.  Maybe, 1xp per 1gp spent on the construction?  It would probably just be easiest to have them gain a level once the wonder is completed.  The wonder will have to be impressive enough that people would write poetry and sings songs about it forever... obviously.