December 29, 2012

Custom Class: Naked Mole Ratling

The first new class I've made for my Death to Humans! campaign.  I'm using race as class in my heavily house-ruled Franken-clone, but to each their own.  As always, feel free to use or improve upon my ideas for your own games.

Naked Mole Ratling
Requirements:  Comeliness 5 or less
Prime Requisite:  Constitution
Hit Dice:  d6
Max Level:  12th
Hit Progression:  Fighter
Saves as:  Dwarf/Halfling
Armor Allowed:  Any
Weapon Restrictions:  None
Magic Item Restrictions:  No wands, cleric scrolls, or magic-user scrolls
Racial Abilities:  Tremorsense 60' and Heightened Smell 

*Tremorsense:  Automatically detects any footsteps or burrowing within 60'.  This can detect invisible creatures, but not thieves who succeed in moving silently.  A slowly slithering snake might go unnoticed, but a small hopping frog would not.  Naked mole ratlings detect these vibrations with the whiskers sprouting here and there from all over their body, but usually it is their bare feet or tail which is touching the ground.  These sensitive hairs make wearing clothing and armor uncomfortable, but they can become acclimated over time.

*Heightened Smell:  Can sniff into passages or under doors to get a whiff of what lies beyond.  Roll as a thief of the same level using the Hear Noise skill.  This may also detect strong emotions and/or the stench of evil, at the DM's discretion.  A strong overpowering scent can mask more subtle odors.

Society and Culture
Naked mole ratlings are almost always considered repulsive and disgusting by other sentient species.  A few caring people will do their best to be accommodating and accepting of these "poor unfortunates" and tell others that "underneath it all they really do have a great personality", but even these gentle souls find it difficult to eat a meal with a naked mole ratling sitting next to them.  It isn't only their wrinkled visage that hinders social interactions, but also the rampant rumors of incest (mostly false) and stories of daily baths in their communal cesspits (mostly true).

Naked mole ratlings typically live in large underground colonies dominated by a single reproductive queen.  These colonies are rather similar to some insect colonies, such as ants and bees.  Each queen can choose to rule her colony/family a bit differently, but most will conform to normal standards presented below.

Queens are well fed, rarely moving from the raised platform deep in the center of the colony.  Below the queen is the communal cesspit where others of the colony bathe daily in order to cover themselves with the scent of the queen.  Within their dark tunnels it is this scent that helps them to determine friend from foe.

The queen's carnal needs are tended to by her harem of males.  The males are typically uneducated, lazy, hedonists.  Their only other responsibility is to feed and care for of all the queen's babies for the first few years of life.  In lean times males will occasionally eat one of the young.  Neglect and incompetence also takes a toll.  Almost half of the young survive to adolescence.  Adolescent males are typically sold to neighboring colonies as love slaves; a queen has little use for her own lazy sons.  Adolescent females are given over to the care of the sterile female soldiers for training and work duties.

The sterile female worker/soldiers are responsible for bringing food to the royal chambers and nursery, and for the defending and expanding the colonies tunnels.  These females are often referred to as amazons.  They are tough as nails and usually follow a rigid military hierarchy.  They are expected to show fanatical devotion to their "Great Mother", the queen.  As these females prove themselves by gathering resources and defending the colony, they are given higher rank and allowed greater autonomy.  Besides the males, only the highest ranking amazons are allowed to speak directly with the queen.  Most of the higher ranking females will train and command groups of lower ranking amazons, but a few will take it upon themselves to learn crafts and trade skills for the good of the colony.  Most colonies produce only primitive weapons and armor, but they are great scavengers and will make use of any arms they find.  Larger colonies may even have a blacksmith's forge in a well defended outpost upon the surface.

A few of the young amazons (1%) are reproductive females.  Usually these are quickly discovered and the queen will challenge these rivals to single combat, killing them before they can become a threat to her.  If the old mother is killed, then the young reproductive female will become the new queen.  Some few reproductive females are able to flee the colony to take their chances up in the outside world.  These "Amazon Queens" can start a colony from scratch (once they acquire a male), or can take control of any existing colony by defeating it's queen mother.

Rival colonies and their queens are always a threat, but without neighboring colonies there would be no source of new young males... except for their own sons.  Often there will be a cluster of colonies in the same region who are constantly feuding over bits of land and food, but also trading males and other resources.  The established queens will usually stop short of killing each other, preferring instead to demand tribute from weaker colonies.  Rogue upstart queens are afforded no such courtesy, unless the males they'll produce are a much needed commodity.

In the border regions between two colonies one will sometimes find one of the famous "Mud Pits of Love".  The mud collected at these sites fetch a high price in human (and other) communities because it is said to remove wrinkles, restore youth, and cure impotence.  Naked mole ratlings know their value and guard these sites viciously.  The mud is sometimes collected for trade with outsiders, but they know enough to trade it sparingly in order to drive up the price.  Some mad hermits claim to have seen naked mole ratling males and amazons from different colonies come together on certain nights to bathe in these mud pits, wash off the scent of their colony, and have huge orgies in the mud.  Any naked mole ratling who hears such rumors will become angry and offended, demand that such things are never repeated, and then quickly change the subject. 

I made the xp chart by using my (overly?) intricate Custom Classes for B/X guidelines.

Naked Mole Ratling
100 Base
70   Hit Dice: d6
70   Hit Table: Fighter (+2hp after L9)
25   Max Level: 12th
55   Dwarf/Halfling Saves
60   Armor: Any
90   Weapons: Any
30   Magic: no wands, no spell scrolls

15   Sensitive to Vibrations 
(can detect footsteps/burrowing within 60')
20   Heightened Smell (can smell the emotions of those nearby)
0      Immune to pain from hot peppers and acid (but take damage as normal)
Total = 535% (of standard base xp)

Level 1 --------------- 0
Level 2 ---------  2140
Level 3 ---------  4280
Level 4 --------   8560
Level 5 --------  17120
Level 6 -------  34240
Level 7 -------  68480
Level 8 -----  136960
Level 9 -----  273920 

_____ Level 10+ _____
2hp/Level = +120,000 each

Level 10 ---- 393920
Level 11 ---- 513920

Level 12 ---- 633920

December 15, 2012

Death to Humans!

I've started running a new campaign designed especially for my wife.  She's always had an interest in playing, but usually declines my invitations to play when other people are involved.  She's always been a bit shy, and I suspect that she doesn't want to appear silly while playing pretend with other adults watching.

Running solo adventures is not my favorite (I prefer groups of around five players), but at least I get to play some D&D with my special lady.  Who knows, she might even get comfortable enough with it that she'll want other people to join in the fun.

Our first session did not go well.  It was something of a fiasco honestly, as I was totally unprepared to accommodate her style of play.  I'm used to characters who are greedy murder-hobos descending into the mythic underworld to kill monsters and loot their treasures.  This time it was very different.  She's not motivated by treasure, at least not enough to risk entering a dungeon.  She doesn't want to attack any wild animals, she seems to prefer trying to cuddle them as they try to eat her.  When her NPC henchmen attacked the creature biting her, she turned her blade on her allies for harming the poor misunderstood beast.  Legendary and magical creatures are even more precious to her.  For a moment I became very irritated with her for playing the game wrong, but that quickly turned to shame as I realized that it was my responsibility to adapt to her playstyle and make the game fun for her.

I stopped the session mid-combat by saying "I'm sorry.  This sucks and it's my fault.  Can we try again once I put together something new?".  She agreed and we talked for bit about what kinds of things her character might like to do.  I asked quite a few questions, but the responses were mostly "I dunno" and "whatever you think would be fun".  Not real informative.  Luckily though, this is my wife, and I already know enough about her to make informed design decisions.  So then I went back to the drawing board and tried to design a campaign that we both would love to play.

It seems so obvious to me now.  I was trying to force her to fight on the wrong side.  Humans are definitely her prey of choice.  I toyed with the idea of having her play a druid who protects the wilderness from hunters and the slow creep of civilization, but then I thought "No, she should play as a monster".  And so, the Death to Humans! campaign was born.

The first order of business was to roll up a monster character.  I had her roll 3d6 for each of the seven ability scores (Comeliness being the seventh).  No rerolls or moving points.  The default monster race is Andorian (medieval technology, and at war with humans).  There are many other monster species to choose from, but all of the others have ability score requirements.  These requirements are not ability score minimums, but rather ability score maximums.  Rolling low ability scores opens up new choices.  Here's the chart we're currently working with.

Artwork by Leonard O'Grady

No Requirements - Andorian
8 or less............. 5 or less ...................3
Str  | Halfling -------- Frogling ------------ Ghost
Int  | Pakuni ------------ Sleestak ------------ Troll Runt
Wis | Gnome --------------- Satyr ----- Psychic Jester Psycho
Dex | Dwarf ------------ Serpentaur ----------- Zombie
Con | Elf ------------------- Muppet ------------ Robogolem
Cha | Tiefling ---------- The Cloven ------------- Haniver
Com | Goblin ----- Naked Mole Ratling ------- Mutant

So, for example; rolling a bunch of 9's, a Wisdom 5, and Constitution 8 would allow you to choose from Andorian, Gnome, Satyr, and Elf.

The wife rolled some decent ability scores, but there was a Dexterity 8 and a Comeliness 5 in there.  Bless her heart, she willingly chose to play a Naked Mole Ratling.  Mechanically I'm using race as class, but the character sheet I gave her had separate spaces for race and class, so when she asked I told her that Naked Mole Ratling was her race and Amazon Queen was her class.  She seems quite pleased at that.  We're already having more fun than last time.

The setting is going to be a Land of the Lost/Middle Earth mash-up.  Honestly that's probably an accurate description of most of my D&D settings.  I am taking something from the Land of the Lost TV show that I've never tried before...  Exiting one side of the map will bring you to the opposite side.  Travel in a straight line and you'll eventually (5-8 days later) end up back where you started.  Conveniently, my world map fits on a single page (20x32 hexes).
I hope she likes it.

October 8, 2012

Awfully Unforgettable Fumbles

I was looking for a great fumble chart to pair with the Arduin Criticals.  If you haven't seen it yet, then you should go take a look.  Jeff posted the whole thing a while back, here it is.  That's a thing of beauty,  that is.  Critical hits deserve to be deadly serious, and that chart delivers.

I think you have to go the other way with fumbles though.  Fumbles need to be weird, and silly, and stupid.  I like the contrast I guess.  Just like how in my games the surface world is all politics, scheming, and control; while the underworld is full of chaos, horror, and the bizarre.

The Arduin Fumbles don't impress me as much, and I know I'm not alone in that.  I suspect that they are too serious for me.  Is it strange that the same reason that I love the crits makes me feel "meh" about the fumbles?

Anyway, I went looking through every fumble chart I could find on my budget of $0.00 to see what struck my fancy.  None of them made me scream "This is perfect!", so I stole a bunch of bits I liked from different charts and mashed them all together.  Then I just kept thinking of crazy stuff that would be fun and make my friends laugh when it happened at the gaming table.  Some of the results below are embarrassing and meant to wound a character's pride a bit, but nothing too insulting.  Insults aren't much fun.

Here it is, totally untested.  I'm excited to try it out.  Let me know what you all think.  Does anyone out there see room for improvement?

Awfully Unforgettable Fumbles
Roll d100, add 10 when outdoors

01-02  Xenomorph bursts out of your chest!  You will die next round without magical aid.  With magical healing, you will stabilize but remain unconscious for 24 hours.  (Xenomorph: 6hp, AC3, bite d4, acid blood - it will grow to full size if it can manage to escape)
03  Three is the magic number.  You loose your balance, stumble, mumble, drop your weapons, grasp at thin air, and just happen to cast a random M-U spell. (Roll randomly for both spell level, and individual spell.  Your melee opponent is the target if applicable.  If you aren't wearing the proper mage type garments, the feedback loop knocks you unconscious for a number of rounds equal to the level of the spell.  When you wake, your memory for details is kinda hazy until you can sleep it off.)
04-05  Your weapon tears a hole in reality!  Before it can sew itself shut, out steps a (1 Alien, 2-3 Shoggoth, 4-5 Demon, 6 Dead President)
06  No one saw it coming.  The Invisible Stalker following you chooses this moment to strike.
07  Lucky you!  You find a shortcut to the lower level when the floor gives way under your feet. (falling damage, and whatever else is down there)
08-10  Wait... what?  It turns out you are not holding your weapon, but rather, an angry (1-3 crab, 4-5 lobster, 6 giant isopod) 

11  Spontaneous Combustion!  (Any nearby monsters/NPCs immediately roll morale, while you must Save or Die!  Loose half your remaining hp and Cha/Com if successful.  You can regain the hp.) 
12  Faux Pas. You shriek, spasm and either urinate in fear or orgasm in excitement (player chooses secretly) 
13  Your own worst enemy.  Critical hit... yourself.
14-15  It's a trap!  A 10'X10'X10' pit trap.  You and anyone standing too close need to roll a Dex check.  Succeed by 5+ to jump clear and be fine.  Succeed by less than 5 to catch hold of the floor at the edge of the pit and you can pull yourself up at the end of next round.  Failure = falling damage.  The pit trap is (1-3 empty, 4-5 spiked, 6 infested) 
16-18  Stop hitting yourself! (normal damage)
19-20  Choke!  You've managed to smash your own larynx.  Your voice is strained and raspy, maybe permanently.  For the rest of the session it is a real struggle to speak each sentance.  (Roll a Save vs Poison each time.  Failure indicates a loud, choking, coughing fit.)
21-23  Pass it on.  Jostle random nearby combatant (they roll a fumble now)
24-26  Sorry, my bad.  Hit an ally
27-29  Arrow to the Knee!  It's origin is a mystery.  That leg will not hold weight until healed. (hop around at 1/4 movement, or half movement with a crutch, AC penalty of 3)
30-31  Wakey Wakey.  Your stumbling reveals a fist-sized hole,and disturbs the nest of d6 1HD venomous (1 snakes, 2 frogbats 3 spiders, 4 centipedes, 5 scorpions, 6 fishcats).  Half will roll initiative next round, the others enter combat the round after.
32-35  Get a grip.  Your weapon slips from your fat, greasy, butter fingers. It ends up stuck somewhere that makes it difficult or impossible to retrieve.
36-38  The taste of fail.  You give your tongue an epic bite!  You think part of it might be missing now. (1 damage, and until it is healed you are slurring speech, drooling blood, and your spellcasting times are doubled as you slowly enunciate each sound)
39-41  An innocent mistake.  Hit a random innocent bystander.  If necessary, one appears as if by magic.
42  I pity the fool.  One of the mad jesters who teleport innocent people into harms way has somehow offended his brethren.  He appears just in time to receive a Critical Hit from you.
43-44  Rent Asunder!  Your weapon takes a crushing blow!  It breaks if normal, permanent -1 if magical.
45-47  Collateral Damage. Your weapon goes flying and damages the most valuable breakable object in the area.
48-49  That's Fowl.  d6 putrid zombie chickens surprise attack this round. The first one goes for you, the rest choose living opponents at random. (1HD, d4 damage, AC 8)
50  Sad.  You accidentally slash your own wrists.  At least, that's your story. (1 damage/round until bandaged)
51-53  RABIES!  A rabid creature bursts unto the scene.  (Random encounter + rabies) 
54-55  Friends Forever.  You fall into a pile of refuse/puddle/snow drift/sand dune, and it's full of weird leeches (no attack next round as you pick yourself back up.  The leeches are harmless really, but release a bunch of phero-hormones into your blood.  You quickly grow very, very fond of them.  You'll probably take a Charisma hit once you start naming and petting the ones who live on your face.)
56-58  Look, no hands!  You fall on your face... Hard! (d4 damage, Cha/Com moves 1 toward 7, no attack next round as you pick yourself up)
59  Et tu, Dumbass?  Critical Hit... an ally
60-63  Smooth Move.  You fall onto your backpack (player rolls for each breakable: even=fine, odd=ruined; stop if 3 break)
64-66  I attack the darkness!  Your head gear slips and covers your eyes (blinded until it is adjusted)
67-68  Ants in your Pants!  They're biters. (-2 to hit until you take off your pants and knock them all away)
69  Wardrobe Malfunction.  Your sexy bits flop out!  Fix it or risk it. (attacks that miss you by 1 will now strike sexy bits)
70-73  Classic.  You stumble over an unseen imaginary deceased turtle.  You are very confused.  (loose next action)
74-76  Trying too hard. You are overextended and off-balance. (Melee enemy gets an extra attack)
77  Dumb Luck.  You slip and Critical Hit a random enemy.
78-80  Watch your Step.  You accidentally step on a small venomous snake and it takes a bite at your leg before slithering away.
81-83  Moth to a flame.  You fall into a nearby light source.  (Choose the worst case scenario within the given variables... torches go out, lanterns break, oil lamps spill, flames spread, ect.  FYI, lava sucks.)
84-87  You're doing it wrong.  Twisted Ankle for 24 hours. (AC penalty of 2, and 1/2 movement until healed)
88  A happy mistake.  Hit an random enemy. (normal damage)
89-91 WristStrong!  You sprained/fractured your wrist. (your weapon is dropped, and dominant hand cannot hold any weight until after 24 hours)
92-95 Pop & Lock  You bent your elbow backwards somehow (only 1 damage to you, but until it is healed -2 to hit rolls and damage)
96-97  You got Knocked the F*** Out! (unconscious for d6 rounds)
98-99  You've got the funk!  It's the bad kind.  Sorry, Patient Zero.  Did some enemy blood spray into your mouth, water drip into your eye, or slime get on your finger?  I hope it's not a highly contagious airborne virus. (DM determines illness/infection)
100  Deja Vu!  You were distracted because you've seen this before and think you know the enemy's next move. (for any one melee attack next round you can yell out advice, giving the attacker a 2d20 for their to-hit roll.  20+ is a crit, but any 1s rolled require a fumble roll in addition to the combined result.  Double fumble is possible.)

101-102 Shpadoinkle!  It's like a bear trap, only stronger.  You found it the hard way. (d8 damage. You'll probably need some extra hands to help remove it.  Without help, a willingness to hack off your own foot, or a lucky bend bars/lift gates roll; you are stuck here as monster bait.)
103-104  It gets worse.  The ground crumbles under your feet and you drop into some kind of lair. (roll random encounter to see what lives there)
105-106  You've really stirred up a hornet's nest this time!  No, really. (d100X6 hornets unless winter.  Frozen Lands=Ice Hornets unless summer)
107-109  Bree Yark! - Something pooped and/or pissed on your head, probably a bird.  If in a dense urban area it might be someone emptying a chamber pot out the window.
110  Chick Magnet  d12 fuzzy baby birds decide that you are their Mommy and start to follow you everywhere.  You and anyone fighting next to you will need to make all melee attacks with a -2 penalty, unless they are willing to risk stepping on one of the cute little things. (5% chance per chick, heartless bastards)  The chicks don't like bags, and are terrified of the dark unless they can snuggle right up next to you.

Mr. Giant Isopod knew that he had nailed the audition

August 26, 2012

Hack Goblish

Here's a chart for my version of Goblish.  This is what I use to make names for goblin NPCs, goblin villages, or any goblin words.

Feel free to make your own, better version.  Hack Goblish is for hacks, like me.  In either case, once a few words are rolled up randomly you might find certain rules for grammar start to take shape.  Whenever one occurs to you, just write it on the sheet.  It could be anything.  A particular combination of sounds might act as a root word, so it shows up in many related words.  Maybe most plurals end with the same sound.  Maybe some languages use howls, hisses, or clicks so you put those in the chart as predominate and frequent results.  It's the language for your goblins in your game, just write down whatever grammar and sentence structure rules you like and roll up the rest randomly.  Or let the players do it.  They love that shit.  Rolling up something that then becomes canon, like the name of a village?  Hell yeah.  That's almost as good as getting to name it yourself.

You roll percentage dice to determine each phoneme (distinct sound) used to say the word aloud.  A few rolls for short words, more for longer words.  The results here will form a pronunciation key, you can spell the word however you like.  By keeping certain sounds common to certain languages, I'm hoping that the randomly created words for each language will sound as if they belong together.  It seems a lot easier than inventing whole languages like Tolkien did.  As always, you may need to mix up the order a bit or add some vowel sounds to pronounce the result.

Maybe some examples?

First, let's roll up a name for a goblin shaman.  I don't want it to be very short or very long, so I'll use 6 phonemes.

*Rolls*  92 - 83 - 74 - 36 - 2 - 18
Result = O - N - I - OR - E - L
How I decided to spell it = Auneorrel

Second example.  Some PCs decipher some goblin runes about "blood".  Now they want to know how that is pronounced in the Goblish language, because, you know.... players.  So let's roll it up.  The word "blood" has 4 phonemes in English (B-L-U-D), but I'll say that it has 5 phonemes when spoken in Goblish.  Because, why not?

*Rolls*  8 - 49 - 28 - 56 - 79
Result =  F - Z - S - V - N
I just let my brain fill in the vowels sometimes = Fezsvin

Base 44

Blank Language Template

August 24, 2012

Hack Languages

Random name/word generator for any language.

Roll percentage dice a few times for short words, roll more for longer words.  Each roll is a distinct sound.  Just roll until the DM says to stop.  These results form a pronunciation key for the word, it can be spelled however you wish.  You may need to mix up the results a bit or add some vowel sounds to render a word pronounceable.

[1- 44] - Use the Base 44 Chart

[45 - 100] - Make a unique chart for each language using the Blank Language Template.  Just put the name of the language at the top, and pick the ten most frequently used sounds for each language.

Blank Language Template
Base 44

Below is the language chart I use to make names for human commoners, bandits, barbarians, tribesmen, pirates and more.  The percentages used here are similar to those heard in American English, but far less precise.  It's handy to roll up some names and words before the game, just in case you need the name of someone's nephew or whatever.  Rolling up words like this can be time consuming, but in moderation it can be fun let the players roll one up at the table.

August 14, 2012

Archeology makes me sad sometimes...

The archeological sites in the Middle East that interest me at the moment are mostly in the form of Tells.  Over many centuries new buildings were put on top of the remains of older structures.  These became large hills, mounds of mud-brick and sediment that accumulated as cities built up over time.

Some of these Tells are the cities of ancient Sumer, which became some of the cities of Akkadian Empire, which became a few of the cities of the Babylonian Empire.  Some of them were abandoned along the way.  Over the span of thousands of years, rivers and trade routes would change course; and so sometimes change the fate of cities.

That's not the sad part.

Some of these sites that were dug before the mid 1900s were not done systematically.  Without proper documentation the artifacts can loose context, and valuable information may have been lost forever.

Is this statuette from a temple or a home?  What else was found nearby?  We might never know.

In addition to that, these sites are all in Iraq.  You've probably heard that the political climate over there has been a little tense now and then.  As a result, digs have been started, halted, and started again.  There is a LOT left to uncover, and therefore a LOT more that the human race will eventually be able to learn about Sumerian culture.  I hope that I live long enough to learn about it all.

Was Ninurta the original Heracles?
Who is this handsome fellow?

That's not the sad part either.

Sometimes, the archeologists will start digging but then have to leave because of some turmoil or another.  Then once the site is exposed and abandoned, looters will come and dig for things to sell on the black market.  I don't mean like some punk kid and his buddies.  I'm talking about a large scale pillaging force.

On May 21, 2003, Col. John Kessel and Professor Macguire Gibson of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago toured various sites in Southern Iraq by helicopter. After visiting Uruk, Professor Gibson "flew north to Isin, (modern Ishan al-Bahriyat) where I had already heard from a German visitor that it was being badly destroyed. Her report was correct. At least 200 to 300 men were at work on all parts of the site, and the damage was clearly of long duration. We landed and the men came up waving. They were surprised that the US troops would think that it was wrong for them to be doing the looting. They lied by saying that they had been working only a few days, only since the German woman has been there and told them to do so. We told them that it was forbidden, and the army men fired over their heads to speed up their exit. A boy with a tractor and cart, the only vehicle on this site, wanted us to pay him his taxi fee, since we had chased off his fares. The next day, the German woman returned to Isin with a German camera crew, to find hundreds of men at work again. Clearly, an occasional visit by a helicopter is not going to save the sites. Only the imposition of authority in the entire country, as well as the reconstitution of the State Board of Antiquities with its full complement of guards, backed by Coalition power, can preserve what is left of these major Sumerian sites." Scholar Simon Jenkins, in a subsequent report, noted "the remains of the 2,000 BC cities of Isin and Shurnpak appear to have vanished: pictures show them replaced by a desert of badger holes created by an army of some 300 looters."

I get it, you know.  Times were tough and full of craziness.  They're just trying to do what was best for themselves and their families.  I try not to judge, really.  I don't live there, so I don't know what it's like.

but I do know that this is the sad part...

Umma above has been rather thoroughly looted.

 Bad-Tibira isn't a total loss... yet.

That is Zabalam up above, we know that because of clues found at other sites.  It has never been officially excavated, at all, ever.  What you see there is all the work of looters.  Impressive really, in a soul crushing sort of way.

Hopefully any looted tablets and artifacts will make their way through private collections and eventually end up in museums.  Of course, there often won't be any way to tell which artifacts came from which cities, so good luck with that Sumerianologists.  I wonder how many irreplaceable treasures of history were broken by shovels, dropped, or stepped on.  *sigh* 

Alright, I'm done being sad.

Learning about Sumerian culture and mythology is really a tangled snarl of contradictions and conjectures.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  These cities evolved over a huge span of time, their names and gods sometimes changed, old myths were sometimes recast with new characters, and certain beliefs held in one city might be different than the city down the river even though they both existed at the same time.  It's a lot to take in and try to puzzle out.

It's all super confusing, but also super fascinating.  Here are some helpful websites if you are interested in reading about Sumer without any of the ancient alien theories.

Iraq's most significant ancient sites and monuments

The Nippur Expedition, Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago

Sumerian Deities

Sumerian Mythology by Samuel Noah Kramer

The Temple of Sumer

This map is interesting.  The dotted lines show the future paths of rivers.  The Persian Gulf is today receded so far to the south that it would be off the map, but in 3000BC it covered the area roughly as shown above.  The dotted red line is the current Iraq/Iran border.  A few of the cities are out of place, and shouldn't be there.  Babylon and Borsippa haven't been built yet, that probably comes after the Euphrates changes course 500 or so years later.  Also, Baghdad has apparently traveled back in time a few millennium just to appear on the map here.  Maybe those are just on there for reference?  Regardless, it really is one of the best maps I've found of Sumer circa 3000BC.

August 13, 2012

Ancienter Ancients and Aliens

Living together in a long forgotten valley.  Year Unknown.

1. Prehistoric Goblin
2. Prehistoric Human
3. Prehistoric Halfling
4. Prehistoric Wild Elf
5. Prehistoric Woodwose (Sasquatch)
6. Prehistoric? Morlocks (Orc/Ogre)
7. Prehistoric Dwarves
(Not Pictured) 8. Mysterious race in a vast underground complex (dungeons).  Most of this scientifically advanced race are sleeping away the centuries in cryo-stasis.  A small group is left to watch over the complex and the frozen sleepers. Each watch lasts about a decade, then they'll defrost the next group and prepare themselves for cryo.  These geneticists made their own Jurassic Park on the surface.  Pterodactyls, Terrorbirds, Saber-toothed Smilodon, Titanoboa, and herds of mighty Snooffleoophegoos.  There are even stranger creations shuffling down the corridors in the complex below.  Recently, the watchers have started sending mixed teams of humanoids (PCs) to the surface where they work together trying not to get eaten.  Any survivors get picked up at the end of the day.  These teams either spend their down-time in a lovely garden, being medically scanned and treated, or getting new training downloaded into their brains, Matrix style.  Are these tests leading up to a reward, or are the watchers just bored and passing the time by betting on who will survive? 

I'm still doing research on ancient Sumer, but this idea amuses me.

The Real Facts
1 HOMO HABILIS ~ NICKNAME: Handyman LIVED: 2.4 to 1.6 million years ago HABITAT: Tropical Africa DIET: Omnivorous – nuts, seeds, tubers, fruits, some meat

2 HOMO SAPIEN ~ NICKNAME: Human LIVED: 200,000 years ago to present HABITAT: All DIET: Omnivorous - meat, vegetables, tubers, nuts, pizza, sushi

3 HOMO FLORESIENSIS ~ NICKNAME: Hobbit LIVED: 95,000 to 13,000 years ago HABITAT: Flores, Indonesia (tropical) DIET: Omnivorous - meat included pygmy stegodon, giant rat

4 HOMO ERECTUS ~ NICKNAME: Erectus LIVED: 1.8 million years to 100,000 years ago HABITAT: Tropical to temperate - Africa, Asia, Europe DIET: Omnivorous - meat, tubers, fruits, nuts

5 PARANTHROPUS BOISEI ~ NICKNAME: Nutcracker man LIVED: 2.3 to 1.4 million years ago HABITAT: Tropical Africa DIET: Omnivorous - nuts, seeds, leaves, tubers, fruits, maybe some meat

6 HOMO HEIDELBERGENSIS ~ NICKNAME: Goliath LIVED: 700,000 to 300,000 years ago HABITAT: Temperate and tropical, Africa and Europe DIET: Omnivorous - meat, vegetables, tubers, nuts

7 HOMO NEANDERTHALENSIS ~ NICKNAME: Neanderthal LIVED: 250,000 to 30,000 years ago HABITAT: Europe and Western Asia DIET: Relied heavily on meat, such as bison, deer and musk ox

July 29, 2012

Prophets (cleric sub-class)

Gods can do whatever they like, and their methods and machinations are often inscrutable.  Sometimes they may even find that granting full clerical powers to a follower is too impractical or overt.  When a deity wishes to bring their faith to a new world, they will often make use of prophets.  Through dreams, visions, and visitations the god will convince a mortal to spread the word and gather a flock of followers.

Prophets are almost exactly like clerics.  Prophets use cleric hp, xp, saves, to-hit, ect.  They even share the same spell list, but prophets keep all their spells memorized at all times.  The catch is that the prophet can only perform each of these miracles once, then they loose that spell forever.  A 1st level prophet has access to all the 1st level spells.  At level 2 they gain all the 2nd level spells, and so on.  Before long they will have access to the full spell list.  Prophets gain spells more quickly, but can only use each spell once.  To prevent dud miracles, certain spells may have increased durations, or may forgo saving throws.

Prophets are meant to teach and convert new followers.  This is especially important if they are the first and only worshiper of a new and unknown god.  If this is the case, whoever plays the prophet has full creative control over all aspects of the god.  Details about their deity and religion are gradually introduced by the player over the course of the campaign.  Feel free to make up any details you like about holidays and beliefs including any ethical restrictions or handicaps.  The Prophet is the head of a unique religious movement, and may claim to be an avatar of the deity, or anything they wish.  My advice is to keep your stories consistent.  A deity can have multiple prophets, but if they disagree about anything (even a minor detail) it can end up creating rival factions and splinter groups within the church.  Such infighting might never be resolved.

Special Abilities
1st Level - Turn Undead  
same as cleric

2nd Level - Recruit Disciples
Spread the faith by recruiting disciples.  Give your best sales pitch and then the NPC makes a reaction roll.  A disciple is a very special ally who rededicates their life to these teachings and helps convince others to take the prophet seriously.   Disciples almost never need to check morale... almost.  Each Disciple can repeat one spell/miracle that the prophet has already used, but then they loose this ability forever.  One miracle per disciple only.  Prophets can choose to recruit a number of disciples equal to their level, but any who die can never be replaced.

3rd Level - Cast Out the Spirits
Jesus uses the once per session d30
In biblical times, most illness was caused by spirits.  This ability does not heal physical damage, but it might help to relieve the symptoms of fever, disease, poison, madness, curses, magic or anything you can talk your DM into.  Roll 2d6 and consult the Turn Undead chart, twice.  The difficulty is determined by how many people are watching.  If you are showing off for just one witness, that's Ghoul; but performing for even a small crowd can be a real Lich.  Your disciples do not increase the difficulty.  The second roll determines how many of the bad spirits are cast out, it may take multiple tries to remove them all.  This ability is powered by your own lifeforce.  Take 2d6 damage if you succeed, 1 damage if you fail.  Love hurts.  If taking this damage drops the prophet below zero hp, then the prophet collapses and seizures for a number of rounds until they finally wake up with 1hp.

4th Level - Transfer Essence
Prophets can heal physical damage by transferring hp from one being to another.  The prophet must first remain in physical contact with both for a full round, then d6 hp are transferred each round thereafter.  The disciples are always willing to share their hp with others if the prophet asks them to.  Yes, you can totally kill someone by accident (or design) if they drop below 0hp.

9th level - At this level a Prophet can build a stronghold and gather followers like a cleric.  If this is the first church dedicated to their deity, then the prophet can choose a holy symbol for their religion and the god will begin to bring 1st level clerics into the fold.  The new god is known across the land, and now anyone can play as a cleric of that deity.

July 23, 2012

Ancients and Aliens

So, I've had this campaign setting bouncing around in my head for a while now.  In a nutshell, it's a fantasy version of Mesopotamia that incorporates some ancient alien theories and a bunch of my own strange ideas. 

I'm thinking something like ancient Sumer circa 3000BC, but honestly I'm chucking historical accuracy out the window on this one.  I'll just dive right into it and you'll see what I mean.

The "gods" (known locally as the Anunnaki) are actually refugee aliens who escaped from an interplanetary war.  They can cloak their ships, but those are meant for quick trips, not permanent living quarters.  Those ships had to refuel and resupply somewhere, and Earth looked nice in a kind of galactic backwater sort of way.  Knowing that they were being hunted, they hollowed out an elaborate maze of underground tunnels and traps (dungeons), and did not brave the surface again for many thousands of years.  The Anunnaki did all kinds of genetic experimentation down there (thus monsters), because they wanted to perfect a new intelligent species that would seem indigenous (should their enemies still be looking) and could be used as workers.  They set their new slave race (humans) loose on the surface, and then put themselves into cryosleep up in the cloaked mothership (taking turns at watch) until enough time had passed that some installations could be built on the surface and seem to be the natural progress of human development.  There was no way to tell how closely their enemies were watching this world, and building something too complex too soon could arouse suspicion and get the whole planet blown up.  Apparently, the Anunnaki's defining trait is patience.

Are you with me so far?  No big deal, the PCs don't really need to know any of that stuff anyhow.  What is important is that the Anunnaki have been guiding humanity for the last few centuries in order to kickstart civilization.

There are a number of cities now with populations of about 5000-50,000.  The center of each city is the ziggurat temple complex from which the Anunnaki rule.  Surrounding the ziggurat is a grand bazaar full of craftsmen and traders.  Some of the most obedient humans are given preferential treatment and special training by the Anunnaki.  Some of the most clever are even taught to use the magic of the gods.  The magic of the Anunnaki is actually superior technology in the form of very fast moving nanoclouds programed to transform matter and energy in response to trigger words and complex gestures.  Not willing to give the humans full control of such a powerful tool, the nanoclouds are all programmed to delete the instructions for their use from both tablets (scrolls) and human memory after every use (cast and forget).  Over time, these favored humans become the priests of the ziggurats who teach, organize, and bring the commands of the Anunnaki to the common people.  So, the magically trained priests (called Zagmi) are actually going to use the Magic-User class.

Little known fact:  About 25 years ago all the Anunnaki went into their "sacred houses" at the top of each ziggurat and flew up into the sky.  The head priest of each city (the Ensi) was commanded to hold things together until the Anunnaki return, but none of them knows how long that'll be.  Almost all of the Ensi are claiming to still be in contact with their gods, but the number of high level scrolls are dwindling and the Ensi are beginning to feel control slipping away.

The wild people from the hills of Elam have shaman/druid/witch types who practice a kind of natural magic that the Anunnaki do not understand at all.  The "old ways" of magic that these humans developed while the Anunnaki cryo-slept seem to defy all scientific testing.  As a result, these magics are forbidden inside the cities and practitioners are treated with suspicion by the priests of the Anunnaki.  Any of the hill peoples deemed troublesome are either driven far away from the cities or rounded up as slaves.

The third and latest group of spellcasters are what I call the Prophets.  These are all monotheists, but they do not necessarily agree on which god that is.  They all agree that the Anunnaki are false gods, and seek to convert others over to their faith.  It's not an easy life.  These Prophets are hunted down and made an example of by those faithful to the Anunnaki, and it is hard to stay hidden and convert followers at the same time.  The Prophets use the Cleric class, but instead of praying for spells each day, they perform miracles.  At first level they can use Turn Undead/Bless ability, which will actually ward off all kinds of bad juju (uses per day equal to your level).  At second level they gain access to every first level cleric spell, and can cast any of these at any time (one per round).  However, these are not repeatable spells, but miracles that can only be used once per lifetime.  Just keep a spell list with your character sheet and cross them off as you cast them.  Prudence and timing is the name of the game for these guys and gals, oh and you'll want witnesses to your miracles too, otherwise no one is going to join your faith.  Charisma is their prime requisite.  Your henchmen get a loyalty bonus if you can get them to convert, and instead of gaining a bunch of loyal followers late in your career, you gain 1 each level.  Followers do not count toward your max number of henchmen, and they can gain levels as a Prophet.  Turning Undead is easier if your followers are present, but they don't all get separate rolls, rather each follower gives you a +1 bonus to your Turning roll (max of +6 to the success roll and +6 to the effect roll, so that 13th follower isn't actually helping).  Also, each follower gets only one single-use miracle, and it has to be one that you have already performed.  If your Prophet PC ever dies, your highest level follower becomes the new head prophet for the faith and gets a fresh list of miracles to perform (minus whichever one they already used while in your service).

The other two class options are Fighters and LotFP style Specialists.  The Specialists will have a bunch of assassin/thief/hunter type skill options to choose from.

July 11, 2012

Roll for Initiative!

Look what I found today.  This is a Caddis fly larvae.  They spin silk into protective shells that incorporate pebbles, sand, twigs, or whatever is lying around their streams or ponds.  French artist Hubert Duprat decided to see what they would do with some gold and precious stones.  You can find more info, pictures and a video over here.

I love the aesthetic.  I'll have to give these guys some stats.

June 25, 2012

Unsanctioned Warpstar Knights XP Table

Lately, I've been trying to fine tune the class tree for my Ezzin setting.  I wanted a bunch of variety, but fast character creation that doesn't overwhelm new players.  I think I'll have class determined by die roll.  I'm missing one class for my list; I still need a race/class that always has Charisma 3.  I know it should be some kind of alien thing, I was thinking a lot about Monopods and Blemmyes but nothing really seemed to fit.

Then today I see that the blog MONSTROUS TELEVISION turned this...

 ...into this...

... and wrote up a Kirby Warpstar Knight race/class for AD&D/OSR games.  It's pretty badass.  Does that dude look like Charisma 3 to you?  That can't be a good first impression, right?  Also, anyone who knows about them will be put off by the possibility of being eaten.  Plus they are always eating, and have you seen them eat?  That's not something you want to watch.  These guys are just what I was looking for.

So yeah, I'm swiping it for my game.  Thanks, yo!  Rather than use the Fighter XP table as suggested, I'll use my class making charts to work up a new xp table for these guys.  Overall there won't be many Kirbies on Ezzin.  Players'll need to roll a Charisma 3 at character creation to have the option of playing as one.  In addition to their freakish appearance and mind warping eating habits, Kirbies are usually either wary or confrontational to others.  Remember, they grew up on a planet where a loved one might suddenly try to eat them just because it was three hours since second breakfast.  Trust no one.

To make the xp table I'm just giving a value to each of their abilities, then I tally those values up to use as a multiplier to the base xp.  Some of the values for the special abilities will get readjusted later, these are more like estimates that I might use for the playtest.

Standard Column (same as Fighter)
+100%  base standard used for every class
+180%  Hit Dice d10
+70%  Fighter Hit Progression
+10%  Level Limit 9
On my charts, classes need to pay for a level limit in order to gain access to beyond human abilities.  Making these guys cap at level 9 puts their max hp (90) just under the max for dwarves (96), which feels right to me.
+25%  Cleric Saves
+25%  Non-Metal Armor + Shield
They don't wear much back home.  When they first arrive on Ezzin, they are usually nude.  It's ok to look, they don't seem to have anything going on "down there".  Kirby reproduction remains a mystery.  Given their light squishy frame, they have dislike wearing most metal armors.  Any armor made of leather or hide must be specially made to fit their spherical shape.  Luckily, Kirbies can make their own armors just like they make weapons, from they're own cleverness and the half digested remains of their enemies.  Most hides will burst apart and be ruined whenever the Knight next puffs up to use it's floating ability.
+90%  Any Weapon
Since they can use two-handed weapons, I'm imagining them as human sized.  Like 5 to 6 feet tall.
+30%  Magic Item Use:  Weapons, Armor, Potions, Rings, and Misc. Magic Items
-----Beyond Human Abilities
+20%  Float (Levitate/Featherfall).  One round to puff up with air. 
+80%  Immunity to all naturally occurring poisons and diseases.
-15%  Voracious Eaters.  May be compelled to eat allies or pets.
+20%  Defensive Star Spew.  Air bladders can push the stomach contents under of lot of pressure.  Effects vary depending on how much was recently eaten.  It could be a globby projectile, or a slimy spray.
+65%  Craft Corpse.  Create your own magic items from the bodies of monsters.  Some may run out of ammo or expire.  No other class can learn to use them, except Necromancers.
+700% Total

XP Table
Level 2 - 2,800
Level 3 - 5,600
Level 4 - 11,200
Level 5 - 22,400
Level 6 - 44,800
Level 7 - 89,600
Level 8 - 168,000
Level 9 - 336,000

May 24, 2012

Randomized yet Customized Familiars

Wizards and witches and familiars and random charts and probabilities and how to make them all work just right. 

I've been pondering on this for a while now.  Like years actually.  I've never found the perfect solution.

The right answer is that there is no right answer, or more precisely that the right answer depends upon the exact setting and the overall tone that you are trying to achieve with your particular campaign.  There is a certain alchemy to mixing an infinite number of players to an infinite number of campaign settings, and I'd be a fool to think that I've found the perfect chart.

Yet, I have this thing.

It relies heavily on DM intervention and player imagination, but it seems to work.  I mean that it works in that myself and my players all seem to enjoy the results.  I share it in the hopes that you and your players might enjoy it too. 

This ... thing was originally designed to be used with a Beast-Master class, but that was never fully designed.  I've ended up using it for Wizard familiars and Druid/Ranger animal companions.  It's a bit gonzo and I'm sure it's not for everyone, but if you're still interested, here it is.

Spellcasters below level 4 use the "Uninspired Familiars Chart".  You know, the one with cat, rat, owl, toad, raven; and all that stuff on it.  Max of one Familiar per caster (unless you are a Beast-Master).  Any spellcaster who is 4th level or above can choose to remove (500xp/level) to use this "Super Secret Familiars Chart".  Assuming that you like spellcasters to roll a bunch of weird dice and are willing to wing it.  It goes like this.

The spell casting character casts the spell, does the rituals, or whatever.  At the end the character is in a trance-like state and imagines the particular creature they are trying to summon as a familiar.  The player describes the desired creature to the DM.  Then, the player rolls one of every die.

The DM (who is probably me unless someone else is crazy enough to try this) says "OH! That's interesting." and writes down the six results in order of lowest to highest.  Then the DM consults this system/chart/thing that they keep behind the DM screen.

Player Rolls:  d4 + d6 + d8 +d10 + d12 + d20.  

Lowest Number: = (special abilities + # Attacks/round)
2nd Lowest Number: = To-Hit Bonus (THAC0 20)
3rd Lowest Number: = Bonus to all Saves (0-Level Saves)
3rd Highest Number: = highest damage from a single attack
2nd Highest Number: = max HP (+1 per caster level)
Highest Number: (this number divided by 2; round down) = AC

The end result should be somewhat similar to what the player described, but you know... let the dice speak their peace.  Remember that HP can represent luck, combat reflexes, size, or whatever.  Give the player their desired aesthetic and everybody wins.  I don't let the players see exactly what I'm doing because it amuses me that they think I have a chart with over ten thousand familiars on it.

I guess the hardest part is to determine what the lowest number means.  What counts as a "special ability"?  I just sort of make it up as I go, but here is a partial list.

* +1 Attack per round (default of zero)
*Flying/working wings: (damageable, but faster than running human)
*Floats/Levitates: (innate, but slower than running human)
*Breathes Air AND Water
*Big/Ridable (can carry a PC)
*Breath Weapon (or special attack you'll allow)
*Speaks Common or Whatever (human face optional)
*Casts a Spell (nothing flashy, once per day)
*Other (whatever's clever dude)

Now, I haven't mapped the probabilities for every possible roll, but I'm sure the curves are sexy.  I do know that the probabilities for the lowest roll (Special Abilities/# of Attacks) are:
1 = 57.14%
2 = 27.86%
3 = 11.51%
4 = 3.49%

The probabilities for the highest roll (AC) are:
1 (AC: 0) = 0.0002%
2 (AC: 1) = 0.01%
3 (AC: 1) = 0.14%
4 (AC: 2) = 0.73%
5 (AC: 2)= 1.82%
6 (AC: 3) = 4.03%
7 (AC: 3) = 5.75%
8 (AC: 4) = 8.82%
9 (AC: 4) = 9.04%
10 (AC: 5) = 11.29%
11 (AC: 5) = 8.75%
12 (AC: 6) = 9.58%
13 (AC: 6) = 5.0%
14 (AC: 7) = 5.0%
15 (AC: 7) = 5.0%
16 (AC: 8) = 5.0%
17 (AC: 8) = 5.0%
18 (AC: 9) = 5.0%
19 (AC: 9) = 5.0%
20 (AC:10) = 5.0%

Hmmm.  Maybe some examples would help?

DM: "You cast the spell and enter a trance-like state.  What creature is your character picturing?"
PC Wizard:  "The floaty eel thing from the bad guy in Aladdin!!!"
DM:  "You mean Xerxes?  The eel thing that followed Mozenrath?"
PC Wizard:  "Yeah! That thing was awesome!"
DM: "Yeah, he was.  Go ahead and roll one of each die."
Player: *Rolls*
d6: 3
d8: 7
d10: 7
d12: 3
d20: 11

In Order: 2, 3, 3, 7, 7, 11

Lowest Number: Floats + Bite Attack
2nd Lowest Number: = +3 to Hit (or THAC0: 17)
3rd Lowest Number: = +3 to all 0-Level Saves
3rd Highest Number: = Bite Damage (d6+1)
2nd Highest Number: = 7 HP max (+1 per caster level)
Highest Number: (11/2 round down) = AC 5
End Result: 3 foot long Floaty Eel Thingie 

DM: "You perform the ritual and enter a trance-like state.  What entity is your character picturing?"
PC Wizard:  "A Mini-Me!!!"
DM: "Sure, OK.  Now roll one of each die."
Player: *Rolls*
d6: 5
d8: 4
d10: 4
d12: 10
d20: 2

In Order: 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 10

Lowest Number: Speaks Common + Casts one spell per day (out of your spellbook, just like you; I'm being generous here.  It should really be a specific spell, but since you called it a clone thingy... whatever)
2nd Lowest Number: = +3 to Hit (or THAC0: 17)
3rd Lowest Number: = +4 to all 0-Level Saves
3rd Highest Number: = No Attacks/It abhors physical violence
2nd Highest Number: = 5 HP max (+1 per caster level)
Highest Number: (10/2 round down) = AC 5
End Result: 1 foot tall Caster Clone/Homunculus 

DM: "You spend a day meditating in the grotto.  What image does your character call to mind?"
PC Druid:  "Jabberjaw!!!"
DM: "Wait, what?"
PC Druid: "You know, the talking shark guy.  Didn't you ever see that cartoon?"
DM: "The shark guy who won't shut up and walks around on his tail fin?"
PC Druid: "Yeah!!!!!"
DM: "Ummm, Ok.  Sure, whatever; just roll"
PC Druid: *Rolls*
d4: 3
d6: 4
d8: 6
d10: 6
d12: 9
d20: 6

In Order: 3, 4, 6, 6, 6, 9

Lowest Number: Bite Attack + Breathes Air and Water + Speaks Common
2nd Lowest Number: = +4 to Hit (or THAC0: 16)
3rd Lowest Number: = +6 to all 0-Level Saves
3rd Highest Number: = Bite Damage (d6)
2nd Highest Number: = 6 HP max (+1 per caster level)
Highest Number: (9/2 round down) = AC4 
End Result: 3 foot tall Walking Shark Dude

DM: "You commune with the great Willow Tree and seek to find your soul-mate.  What are you picturing in your mind?"
PC Wizard: "A little butterfly"
DM: "A butterfly?  Like, just a normal Monarch Butterfly?"
PC Wizard: "No, it's white with blue spots on the wings."
DM: "Okey Dokey.  Now roll one of each die."
d4: 4
d6: 6
d8: 3
d10: 3
d12: 7
d20: 11

In Order: 3, 3, 4, 6, 7, 11

Lowest Number: Flying Wings + Big enough to Ride + Dangerous Proboscis
2nd Lowest Number: = +3 to Hit (or THAC0: 17)
3rd Lowest Number: = +4 to all 0-Level Saves
3rd Highest Number: = Proboscis Damage (d6)
2nd Highest Number: = 7 HP max (+1 per caster level)
Highest Number: (11/2 round down) = AC5 
End Result: 10 foot wide White Butterfly with Blue Spots

DM: "You call out to your dark masters.  What servant is your character imagining?"
PC Cleric:  "A Demon Scorpion"
DM: "Um, what does that look like?"
PC Cleric: "It's big and black, and has fangs and shit."
DM: "Wow.  That sounds badass.  Roll it up."
PC Cleric: *Rolls*
d4: 4
d6: 6
d8: 4
d10: 6
d12: 5
d20: 9

In Order: 4, 4, 5, 6, 6, 9 (that's a nice roll) 

Lowest Number: Claw/Claw/Tail Sting + Big enough to Ride
2nd Lowest Number: = +4 to Hit (or THAC0: 16)
3rd Lowest Number: = +5 to all 0-Level Saves
3rd Highest Number: = Tail (d6), Claw (d4), Claw (d4)
2nd Highest Number: = 6 HP max (+1 per caster level)
Highest Number: (9/2 round down) = AC4 
End result: 6 foot long black scorpion with a human face, red eyes, and sharp teeth

May 12, 2012

Bizarre Safari: A Traveler's Guide to Goblin Land, Pt.4

The Nature and Astronomia of Goblin Land

I don't understand Goblin Land quite yet.  I cannot easily explain it's mysterious flora, fauna, or stars.  I've found the celestial curiosities especially inscrutable.  I'm afraid that the best I can do for you is to simply describe the things I've seen.  Even then, I'm sure to do it poorly.  What words of ours will help me paint the colors which I've had to train my eyes to see?  One feels them first at the back of one's eyes. After a time the eyes will then adjust.  Can I then train my pen to write them down?  I shall try my best.

The sky here is not blue at all, but an obstinate shade of green.  It's green like a pool of stirred algae, green as a bright jade stone.  The days are lit by a pair of suns.  The larger is perhaps the same size as our yellow sun, but colored instead a piercing bluish white.  Close beside it is a second sun, tiny by comparison and colored in a deep crimson.  These suns change position a bit each day.  They take turns leading one another across the sky.  About once each week the small red sun hides and is not seen at all, perhaps afraid of the blue who swells up with anger making these days hotter than most.  On the next day the red sun emerges again and seems to have calmed his blue friend a bit.  No matter the day, the blue sun is always painfully bright.  To my eyes, it's light has a certain thickness.  The colors of our clothes and skin all seem slightly skewed.

If anything the nighttime sky is even more bizarre.  The stars are all wrong and I can't make sense of them at all.  I see none of the familiar constellations.  The stars here show far more variety; some of them shine in colors that I've never seen before. 

The nights are lit by three different moons.  You might not see all three in a single night, but to go until dawn without seeing at least one is very rare indeed.  At first glance they each appear to be the size of our familiar Luna.  By stretching out an arm and holding up a thumb for measure, one can see slight differences in their size.  I've compared all three against my thumb on many nights, and impossibly they all seem to take turns at being the smallest and largest moon.  One of these moons is rather blueish, but a thick white-gray haze slowly creeps across it's face; it looks to me like a great milky blue eye now blinded by cataracts.  The second moon is a moving patchwork of color with shades of purple, black, and blue; this moon is the darkest of the three.   The last one is the brightest, and reminds me most of our familiar Luna.  It is mostly white with spots and splotches of grey and black.  Perhaps this is our Luna with her face turned away from Goblin Land, but recently I've come to think of this moon as the lost sister who once was Luna's twin.

Artwork by aanonymvs

The procession of days, nights, and seasons seem to pass much the same in Goblin Land.  The time you spend here is equal to the time you've lost back home.  However, these two worlds have their schedules misaligned.  While England is having a rainy dawn, Goblin Land might have clear green skies with the double suns riding high at midday.  I don't see any obvious pattern to these discrepancies, but I haven't yet made much of an effort to study them.

On the whole Goblin Land seems to be a drier place than England, but at least the clouds and weather seem familiar.  Storms come and go much as they did back home.  When the heavens open, it is good pure water that falls.

Mostly I've seen scrubland and rolling hills, but I've seen lakes and forests too.  The plants here are not green at all, but instead a variety of purples.  Leaves, needles, sprouts of new growth; all purple.  Also, I do not recognize any of the twist of branches or shapes of leaves.  These are not simply purple oaks and pine, but something altogether new.  Among the trees I've found some fruits to eat, and others to avoid.  The most common type of grass has tufts of thick fat purple leaves shaped similar to aloe.  If you find yourself in dire need you can boil these down until they are soft enough to chew.  It's not very pleasant, but it is safe to eat and easy to find.

The most common animals by far are lizards.  Well, either those or bugs.  They scurry here and there in infinite shapes, colors, and patterns.  Some of these grow to enormous size, there are ants here larger than men.  Gone though are the mice, and bats, and bears, and boars, and basically anything with fur.  There are cats now, but we brought those here.  Oh, and once I saw a kind of rabbit thing, but it had big bulging compound eyes like a horsefly so it may have been some manner of hairy insect.

Stay sharp if you head out into the wilds.  Watch for the large flying lizards, they'll sometimes carry off man-sized prey.  Tread careful when you aren't on rocky ground, occasionally a great toothy worm will burst up from below.  Also be wary of large nests that lie upon the ground.  The eggs might belong to a six legged Frostilisk who can freeze you solid with a glance.  Many dangers in the wilderness can be avoided if one just stays alert.  Yet even if the path is known, a wise man hires guides.

May 9, 2012

Bizarre Safari: A Traveler's Guide to Goblin Land, Pt.3

The Focus of my Fear

My first journey beyond the portal to Goblin Land was most disagreeable.  The strangeness of the place turned my dungeoneering instincts into paranoia.  Danger is no stranger of the strange, and so I know to be wary of weirdness.  But here, everything is an oddity.  Each look I took fed my fear and tension.  I was jumping at shadows, and raising my shield at the buzzering clicky-clucks of the buggybirds.

Artwork by Sjemenka

As it turns out, I needn't have worried so much.  I hope these written accounts of mine might help set your mind to ease.  The dangers of Goblin Land are similar to those of England.  To get a sense of it, just replace the desperate bandits with burrowing death worms who have toothy mouths at both ends, and instead of vicious soldiers there are four armed red men flying on pterodactyls who will drain the fluids from your living decapitated head to fuel their strange machines.  On second thought, "similar" might be the wrong word. 

What I mean to say is that the dangerous things tend to be obvious.  I haven't seen a tree or rock eat anyone yet.  I'll grant you that it's not an idyllic place, but at least there are no kings and queens to scrape and bow to before you're caught in the middle of their stupid war and die.  We make our own way here.

Excerpts from a strange travel book left at the Abbey of St. Emmet within Jeff Rients' Wessex campaign "A Surfeit of Lampreys", as written by my character, Vithujin the Elf.

April 30, 2012

Bizarre Safari: A Traveler's Guide to Goblin Land, Pt.2

Excerpts from a strange travel book left at the Abbey of St. Emmet within Jeff Rients' Wessex campaign "A Surfeit of Lampreys", as written by my character, Vithujin the Elf.

Down and out in Goblinville

When we first arrived this place was much different.  There was no goblin merchant, and the entire village was abandoned.  Just a collection of broken hovels at the bottom of a crater surrounded on all sides by a steep incline.   The looted shacks were either falling apart or burnt to ash; it was a ruined ghost town.  Around the perimeter of this village are eight passages dug into the steep incline at the bottom of the crater.  The portal we came through was one of these.  I know that a few of these lead back to various parts of the dungeons under Dundagel.  Perhaps they all do.

Artwork by Illeander
Turg (our goblin guide) explained to us that many of his kinfolk had been captured as slaves by the brown skinned people with three eyes or killed by purple skinned raiders.  With their numbers dangerously low, the remaining goblins decided to cross the runestone portal and seek safety within the dungeons of Dundagel.  A desperate plan indeed.  Some of the purple raiders pursued them and crossed into our world as well.

That was when we stumbled upon the pack of goblin survivors.  We knew nothing of their plight, of course.  The first words we heard from them were not greetings but the magical mutterings of their shaman.  We all sprang to action.  I threw my spear at the shaman hoping to disrupt his spell.  It not only pierced his right shoulder, but pinned him against the wall as well.  Then I pulled my blade and ran to finish him.  I'm not in the habit of leaving enemy spellcasters alive.  After that I spun around and saw the fight was over.  The scene was carnage, my comrades had cut down all the goblins save one.  That last goblin wisely chose to drop his weapon and surrender to us.  Thus Turg became our prisoner.

Luckily Fred the Dwarf knew the goblin-speak.  We bound Turg's wrists and questioned him, but suspected his words were lies.  It was decided that he should travel with us, so Fred began leading him through the dungeon by a length of rope.

We threatened to kill him if he tried to escape, but we need not have bothered.  He was telling us the truth; the goblin people were utterly wrecked and broken.  I hate to imagine how Turg must have felt that day.  Even if we let him go, where else could he have possibly gone?  At this point, every familiar friend he had ever known was either dead or enslaved.  I think it would have been cruel of us to set him loose.  Without home, hope, or haven; just a poor lost soul, forever floating, like a shadow in the darkness.  He needed our protection, and he knew it.  He was quite content to be our prisoner.  He even told us that we treated him more kindly than the shaman ever had.  For our part we were not quick to trust a goblin, but Turg proved his loyalty to us time and again.  He became a useful ally, and eventually our trusted friend.

Since then we've found and freed many goblin slaves, perhaps 30 in all.  They seem to have accepted Turg as their leader and have returned with him to Goblinville.  They were an instrumental source of unskilled labor as we built our stronghold up on the edge of the crater, looking out over their ruined village.  We invited all of them to live and work within the safety of our walls, but some (like the goblin merchant) have chosen to rebuild their old homes.  I suppose they feel safe enough within the shadow of our keep, and after all the time they spent in captivity the taste of freedom must be sweet indeed.

Bishop Aethelred has begun calling the goblins to mass within his newly built Chapel of the White Queen.  His teachings have made an impression on them.  They're slowly learning to solve their problems using words rather than fists, the importance of telling the truth, and best of all... hygiene.  They've really taken to the morals within Aethelred's teachings.  Their memory of the bible stories are atrocious though, which we elves (Lankii, Sonoma, and I) find highly amusing.  Our new pastime is to ask the goblins what they know about Adam and Eve or Moses just to hear some ridiculous thing come out their mouths.  Sometimes Aethelred informs us that they are actually telling the story correctly, which only makes us laugh even harder.  We mean no offense, honestly, it's all just so... delightful.

Anyhow, the town is growing and looking better all the time.  It seems that the soil in the crater is poor for growing, far too rocky and hard, but no one has gone hungry yet.  Thankfully there is a forest of sorts growing near the crater with fruit and some small creatures.  The elves we led here are trying to learn all they can about the strange new flora and to expand the forest.  Fred and the other dwarves insist we keep the trees the hell away from the walls of the stronghold, which is fine.  There is some debate now raging about planting some trees within the stronghold itself, but I'll keep my nose out of all that.  I'm beginning to worry though about the great family of feral house cats we rescued from below Dundagel and released into these woods.  The cats seem to be doing well since they are quicker than most of the other predators.  The trouble is that according to the goblins, the small lizards of the forest are becoming harder to catch. If the trend continues I suspect they'll begin to hunt for cat instead.  I think they would be eating the cats already if not for their great respect for Aethelred.  His affection for his cat, Billy White-Paw, is quite well known.

Perhaps we should lead some chickens and goats through the portal next.  I'll ask the others to invest a few coins to help prevent a goblin famine.  I'd buy the livestock myself, but I'm essentially bankrupt now after paying for part of the construction of the stronghold and my continuing magical research into creating the Gommagolem.  If successful I'll have made a magical, slightly corpsey automaton infused with the spirit of my dead friend Gomma.  For now I'm just glad that I was able to reanimate his skull; I can't imagine having to lose any of my closest friends.  Eventually, I hope to have him walking about, sleeplessly protecting Goblinville and guarding the portals that we've sealed.  Whenever I command him to answer, he tells me that he is very excited for the opportunity with his usual understated response "If I must".  He's such a card.