August 16, 2015

Deep Carbon campaign - Session 1: the Prepening

Session 1: We made characters.

That was our whole first session.  I felt bad about it.  My brain was all sleep deprived and slow that day, so I wasn't much help speeding things along.

I'd forgotten how long character creation takes in 2nd edition.  I probably should have made some pregenerated henchmen beforehand.  Having everyone make multiple characters just took way too long.  All the players flipped through the splat books and picked out kits for their PCs, and that slowed things down for sure.  Proficiencies took a while to sort out too.  The henchmen didn't get kits or proficiencies and had to make due with secondary skills instead.  It all took up way too much time, and we didn't even run an encounter that night.  Oh, and I decided to try out some Last Gasp Grimoire style encumbrance, so making all those item squares took extra time as well.

I made some 2nd edition character sheets for use with the new encumbrance system.  These are mostly just copy/paste mashups of other peoples work.  Honestly, I don't even recall where that character sheet came from originally.  I did some redesign work to make it 2nd edition compliant and must have copied over the original.

This all works mostly as described at Last Gasp.  You're unencumbered if you don't have any dead weight stuffed into backpacks and satchels.  If you are carrying laden packs and you're packed items are less than your Strength score you are lightly encumbered.  If you packed more items than your Strength and Constitution combined then you are severely encumbered.  It's fairly lenient I think considering those 15 unencumbered slots.

I'm more interested in the bit about attacks hitting items and item breakage.  Instead of opposed attack rolls as detailed at Last Gasp, I'm doing the standard d20 vs. AC thing so I ended up renumbering those item slots a bit.  If a character is hit, they roll a d6 on the Armor row to see which item was hit.  This armor row is reserved just for suits of armor, shield, and bits and bobs like helmet and gauntlets.  You'll still take full damage, but we'll also check to see if that item is damaged as well.  If the result is an empty slot then only the PC is being damaged.  If a 6 was rolled then you roll another d6 on the Loose Items row.  If that is also a 6 then you roll a d6 again on the Held & Protected row.  If you end up rolling three 6's in a row then you've tumbled out of the way in the knick of time and that hit becomes a miss instead.

I'm excited to try this out.

In addition to all the packs and item squares I downloaded from Last Gasp, I also made up this sheet of item squares to represent the backpacks themselves.  These will get stuck onto the character sheet above so that the character's backpacks have a chance of getting damaged as well.

I also found some sheets for Magic-User's Spellbooks and Cleric's Breviary that I quite liked.  Big thanks to Christopher at The Aspiring Lich for those.  They were made for Labyrinth Lord, so I changed the numbers a bit for use with AD&D 2nd edition rules.

August 15, 2015

Religions and clerical abilities for my Deep Carbon campaign

A lot of this is ripped straight from Jeff Rients' Religion in Cinder

The Church of the Gold Dragon
"There are no good/metallic dragons in the World, only neutral and chaotic ones. The Church of the Gold Dragon is basically the Crystal Dragon Jesus trope taken to its illogical conclusion. I don't normally use this kind of faux medieval Christianity in my games, but I'm trying to step beyond my normal Howard-esque sword & sorcery roots to allow for pious knights and clerics and grailquests and all that sort of Arthurian stuff. But the Church isn't all gumdrops and lollipops. The faith supports the social classes of early feudalism, going so far as to divide its sacred texts into Copper, Brass, Silver, and Gold Codices. Only the Copper Codex is used in the presence of the peasantry. Nobles are given access to the revelations of the Brass Codex. The Silver Codex is reserved for clerics. Only the Patriarchs of the Church may read from the Codex of Gold." 
- Jeff Rients

In my campaign this is the official religion of the Assyrian Empire.  Churches are springing up in newly conquered lands.  Missionaries are actively spreading the faith everywhere else.  Metallic dragons are considered to be angelic beings who rarely if ever manifest in the world.  Chromatic dragons are thought to be fallen angels who were cast out of Heaven.  Priests of this faith work just like the generic cleric described in the 2nd edition Player's Handbook.
Cleric Alignments: Lawful Good (occasionally Neutral Good or Lawful Neutral)Weapons: only blunt
Armor: any
Spell Restriction: None
Special Abilities of the clergy: Turn Undead

The Twelve
"Your basic Greek/Norse/Kirby New Gods mash-up pantheon with a Mother Earth and a Father Sky and a sea god and all that standard stuff. Not necessarily opposed to the Church of the Gold Dragon, but open conflict between the two is certainly possible. The priests of the Twelve are losing ground in the long, slow competition for faithful followers, as the Church is better organized and the chaotic dudes (below) promise quicker results and more fun. Some priests of the Twelve are getting all apocalyptic on everyone's asses, claiming that falling away from the Old Faith will only hasten the end of the world."
- Jeff Rients

In my campaign these are the old Sumerian gods from beyond the stars, the Anunnaki.  Most folk simply call this pantheon The Twelve, but priests of the faith would likely use the more traditional name The Seven, the Twelve, the Four, and the Thousand.  The Four refer to the four gods of the fundamental forces, seen on the top row of the family tree.  The Seven refers to "the seven gods who decree fate", these are the gods who sit in judgement over mankind and settle disputes among the gods; I marked these on the family tree with a little star.  The Twelve refers to the major gods of the pantheon who aren't one of the four or seven already listed.  The Thousand is a blanket term for all the other Anunnaki; demi-gods really, their powers are rather limited.  On the family tree below Sharra, Ninshubur, and Ningishzida are the only members of the thousand who were listed.

Cleric Alignments: vary by deity
Weapons: any
Armor: any
Spell Restrictions: vary by deity
Special Abilities of the clergy: vary by deity

Honestly I haven't bothered to determine the abilities of all these faiths yet.  One of the PCs is a priest of the sun god Utu, so I can share those rules at least.

The Priests of Utu
Weapons: Any
Armor: Any
Alignment: Neutral Good
Major Spheres: All, Divination, Guardian, Healing, Protection, Sun
Minor Spheres: Animal, Charm, Combat, Elemental
Restricted Spheres:  Astral, Creation, Necromatic, Plant, Summoning, Weather

Special Abilities
Turn Undead as if 2 levels higher
AC Bonus of 2 due to divine protection (sun glare, ect.)
Take the Hit: clerics of this faith are protectors and bodyguards who are known for throwing themselves into harm's way in order to protect the weak and the innocent.

The Frog God Cults
"Slaad worshippers. Chaos cultists in the tradition of Warhammer. Dudes in black robes wielding wavy-bladed daggers. Naked witches. Etc. In some areas a Frog God might be worshipped openly, but in many regions this faith has gone underground. The Frog Gods are not necessarily evil, but they are opposed to many of the institutions of Cinder society. And their propensity for human sacrifice puts them outside the law in many areas. Totally metal."
-Jeff Rients

I decided to make these guys hybrid magic-user/cleric cultists.  They use clerical spell progression, but their twisted gods grant them some magic-user spells along with the clerical ones; no spellbooks required.  They can use both magic-user and clerical magic items, including scrolls.  The healing spells cast by these guys are vampiric, meaning that you get to see the hp (blood and magical lifeforce juju) fly out from one person and into another.  These vampiric heal spells have a range of 60 yards + 10 yards per level.

Weapons: as Magic-User
Armor: as Magic-User

Major Spheres: All, Divination, Charm, Any Necromancy (M-U or Cleric), Any Conjuration/Summoning (M-U or Cleric), Vampiric Healing
Minor - Elemental, Protection (reversed), Sun (reversed)

Special Abilities
Turn/Command Undead
Detect Good 1/day
Self Mutamorphosis 1/body (roll d6 mutations on the mutation chart)
the vampiric healing stuff mentioned above
can cast spells beyond their level of ability by using multiple casters, long rituals, and sacrifices

Frog God Cultist Spell List
1st - Armor, *Bless, Chill Touch (MU), Combine, Command, *Create Water, *Detect Evil, Detect Magic, Detect Poison, Detect Snares and Pits, Detect Undead (MU), Endure Heat/Cold, Find Familiar (MU), Grease (MU), *Light, Locate Animal or Plants, Mount (MU), *Protection from Evil, *Purify Food and Drink, Sanctuary, *Remove Fear, Unseen Servant (MU), Vampiric Light Wounds

2nd - Aid, Augury, Barkskin, Chant, Charm Person or Mammal, *Detect Charm, Dust Devil, Enthrall, Find Traps, Fire Trap, Flame Blade, Glitterdust (MU), *Heat Metal, Hold Person, *Know Alignment, Melf's Acid Arrow (MU), Produce Flame, Resist Fire/Cold, Slow Poison, Speak with Animals, Spectral Hand (MU), Summon Swarm (MU), Withdraw

3rd - Animate Dead, *Continual Light, *Cure Blindness/Deafness, *Cure Disease, Dispel Magic, Feign Death, Flame Arrow (MU), Flame Walk, Hold Undead (MU), *Locate Object, Magical Vestment, Meld into Stone, Monster Summoning I (MU), Negative Plane Protection, Phantom Steed(MU), Prayer, Protection from Fire, Pyrotechnics, *Remove Curse, *Remove Paralysis, Sepia Snake Sigil (MU), Speak with Dead, Starshine, Stone Shape, Summon Insects, Vampiric Touch (MU), *Water Breathing, Water Walk

4th - Animal Summoning I, Call Woodland Being, *Cloak of Bravery, Contagion (MU), *Detect Lie, Divination, Enervation (MU), Evard's Black Tentacles (MU), Free Action, Imbue with Spell Ability, *Lower Water, Monster Summoning II (MU), *Neutralize Poison, Reflecting Pool, *Tongues, Vampiric Serious Wounds,

5th - Animal Summoning II, Animate Dead (MU), Atonement, Commune, Commune with Nature, Conjure Elemental (MU), *Dispel Evil, Insect Plague, Leomund's Secret Chest (MU), Magic Font, Magic Jar (MU), Monster Summoning III (MU), Mordenkainen's Faithful Hound (MU), Quest, *Raise Dead, Summon Shadow (MU), *True Seeing, Vampiric Critical Wounds, Wall of Fire

6th - Aerial Servant, Animal Summoning III, Animate Object, Conjure Animals, *Conjure Fire Elemental, Death Spell (MU), Ensnarement (MU), *Find the Path, *Heal, Invisible Stalker (MU), Monster Summoning IV (MU), Reincarnation (MU), Speak with Monsters, Stone Tell, Word of Recall

7th - Confusion, *Conjure Earth Elemental, Control Undead (MU), Creeping Doom, Drawmij's Instant Summons (MU), Exaction, Finger of Death (MU), Gate, *Holy Word, Limited Wish (MU), Monster Summoning V (MU), Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion (MU), Power Word Stun (MU), *Regenerate, Reincarnate, *Restoration, *Resurrection, *Succor, Symbol

Ritual Only (multiple cultists and sacrifices required)

Clone (8th)
Trap the Soul (8th)
Gate (9th)

August 14, 2015

A Deep Carbon Observatory Campaign: Adventures in 889BC

We've started a new campaign yesterday.  It's based upon my recently purchased copy of Deep Carbon Observatory.  This new campaign is set within the mapped area of my KI.EN.GIR setting (fantasy Mesopotamia), but instead of the main campaign that is set in 3000BC using Labyrinth Lord this new campaign is set in 889BC using 2nd Edition rules.  So yeah, now I'm running a game every Thursday.  Each week we'll switch between characters, time periods, and rule systems.

I like to stay busy I guess.

That's Deep Carbon Observatory shoehorned into ancient Iran.  6 mile hexes.  If my calculations are correct, a loch about half the size of Loch Ness should be able to flood that whole green mountain valley rather nicely

We have four players and I'm making an effort not to scare them off right away.   For some reason not everyone seems to appreciate "roll 3d6 in order" style character creation.  They also seem to like the idea of having race separate from class.  Oh well, I'm here to please.  I've jettisoned all my home-brewed races, and we're making PCs straight out of the 2nd Edition Player's Handbook.  There were some questions about kits and proficiencies.  One of the guys wondered aloud about rerolling low hp rolls.  Suggestions were made.

I've decided to acquiesce to all demands.

Since character creation in my main KI.EN.GIR campaign is a bit harsh and unforgiving (roll 3d6 in order for stats and if you roll a 1 for hit points that's just too bad), I've decided to go the opposite direction with this new Deep Carbon campaign.  This is my version of being super generous and benevolent during character creation.  We're going with "4d6 drop the lowest" for stats, and MAX HP EACH LEVEL, and I'm starting them off at 7,500xp (or 8,250xp if 10% bonus for prime requisite).  Everybody also gets a henchman with 3,500xp.  I'm also throwing in some sweet proficiency benefits/bonus slots.  Oh, and don't forget about those helpful house rules.  Shields Shall be Splintered!, and the d30 rule is in effect too.  And hey!  I'll even throw in some magic items :-D

Don't worry though.  The monsters are all getting max hp too, and I'm still using the Arduin crit table and my own crazy fumble table.  I fully expect to be smiting some characters in the near future.  In fact one of the henchmen died during the first encounter of the campaign, so we're off to a good start.

I'm getting off topic though.  I really just wanted to lay out some setting info.

Fantasy Mesopotamia in 889BCE.  This is the dawn of the Iron Age.  The Assyrian empire is now quickly rising to power.  This is about 300 years after The Catastrophe in which almost every significant city in the eastern Mediterranean world was permanently razed within a forty to fifty year period.  This may have been caused by a combination of attacks from the Sea Peoples from the west and unknown barbarian groups on horseback from the east, but stories are sketchy and little is known for certain.  During the following Dark Age many people suffered and starved as the web of trade within the known world began to collapse.  Empires faltered and grew weak, but Assyria survived intact and mostly untouched thanks in part to their large standing army.  It was during this time that Assyria allowed the influx of displaced elves and dwarves to enter Assyria so long as they settled within the mountainous border region near the kingdom of Urartu.  Soon the cities of Elvholm and Dworvholm flourished as their kin flocked to these safe havens.  The elders and artisans of these far flung races have come together and begun to reassemble their ancient cultures and relearn the old crafts.  Assyrians protect these cities and trade with them heavily.  Dwarven metallurgy and elvish magic has helped to propel the Neo-Assyrian Empire into a superpower.

The Assyrians are currently fielding three different armies, each moving in a different direction and rolling over all who oppose them.  The first army is moving northwest through Anatolia toward Greece.  The second moves southwest through Canaan toward Egypt.  The third army has swept south through Babylonia, turned eastward and is now in the midst of conquering the Elamite lands.  Their armies are well equipped and flush with treasure, but when fielding three armies simultaneously manpower becomes an issue.

The PCs are all indentured soldiers, mercenaries in the third army.  The PCs each have their own heritage and background, but whether native born or the child of slaves from distant lands they have all now sold their services to the Assyrian army in order to pay debts and buy a better life for their families and loved ones.  They all signed up for a term of either 5 years or until Susa (the Elamite capitol) was captured.  Desertion is punishable by death, and their loved ones would be sold into slavery unless they could pay back the advance that was given.  The PCs were in it for the long haul.

Susa was taken yesterday.  The PCs are free to go home now, but have heard tales of the ancient treasure palace that lies nearby in the mountains to the north.  The great battles are over and the Assyrian army is headed west to take the poorly defended city Chogha Mish.  If the PCs hurry perhaps they can claim some of the treasure and magic for themselves before the army turns north and lays claim to it all.

Following the river north of Susa, you'll be heading toward Carrowmore and into the valley of the Optical God.  This valley is one of the main population centers for the Gutians, the wild hill people who live all around the Zargos Mountains.  They claim to be descended from the first human slaves to escape from the clutches of their Anunnaki masters.  Arattu was the name of the first Anunnaki research facility/treasure palace where humans were created.  When the Anunnaki moved west to build the first cities and create Sumeria, Arattu was hidden when the Igigi loyal to the Anunnaki built the Great Dam.  The Dam, the Igigi, and the area north of this valley are all taboo to the Gutians.  They all know where it is, but they will not go near there and few will even speak of such things.

All credit to Scrap Princess.  All I did was make it ugly by scrubbing off some numbers and a few other tells.  Now I have a player's map to hand out.  Turns out one of the PCs is Gutian and grew up in this area.  His folks helped him make a map of the valley.

All the PCs were recently soldiers in the army.  You have no money, but you are all fully equipped with whatever you want.  No pack animals though.

Proficiencies are a little different than the book.  Any weapon your class has access to can be used without penalty.  Using a Weapon Proficiency slot will give a weapon +1 to hit and +1 damage.  Weapon specialization gives +2/+2.  You can use Weapon proficiency slots as non-weapon slots if you want.  Bonus languages from high Intelligence = bonus non-weapon proficiencies, use them for whatever.
Everyone starts off speaking 2 languages for free.
Free: Common = Aramaic
Free: Elves get Elvish, Dwarves get Dwarvish, everyone else rolls a d6.  This might help determine ethnicity/background also.  PCs probably grew up in Assyria or Babylonia, but maybe a parent was taken as a slave or was just a traveler from another land.
    1. Assyrian
    2. Babylonian
    3. Elamite
    4. Gutian (Zagros Mountian region)
    5. Roll a d8 instead 
    6. Roll a d8 instead
            1. Egyptian
            2. Iranian (Persian, beyond the southwestern edge of the map)
            3. Urartian (Caucasus Mountain region)
            4. Moabite (Canaan)
            5. Phoenician
            6. Luwian (Anatolia)
            7. Harappan (Meluhha AKA India)
            8. Greek

Ancient Languages: Akkadian, Sumerian, Hittite, Hurrian
Reading/Writing: One slot makes you Literate in every language you can speak

Wizard spellbooks start with twice as many spells as the wizard can memorize (so a 3rd level wizard has 4 first and 2 second level spells in his book).  You pick those spells, then add Read Magic and Detect Magic for free.  Specialist wizards work just like the book says, so they end up starting out with more spells in their spellbook since they can memorize more.  Failing a roll for % chance to learn a spell is lame, so don't bother.  Auto-succeed all those rolls.

OK, I'm tired now.  Next post will be all about deities and religions.  I'm pretty much just stealing the pantheons from Jeff Rients world of Cinder, mixing in some Sumerian deities, and converting them all to 2nd edition rules so that we can have various factions of clerics in this Deep Carbon campaign.  The super brief, cursory glance version looks like this...

Priests have to choose a deity, for everyone else it's optional
Lawful Good + occasionally NG and LN: Church of the Gold Dragon = same as Cleric in the book, no spell restrictions
CE+CN: The Loathsome Frog Gods = Vampiric heal spells, Wizard necro+summon spells, some clerical spheres restricted, MU weapon + armor restrictions, possible mutamorphosis
All Varied Alignments: The Old Sumerian Gods = no weapon restrictions. Bonus abilities and spell restrictions vary by deity.  Family tree below.

May 12, 2015

LL Custom Class: Shaman

Among the people of the hills are individuals who speak to stones and call the rain to fall.  These are the shamans.  They are respected throughout the clans of the hill people, often advising the elders and even acting as leaders in some communities.  Shamans are spirit-workers; able to interact with the spirit world through dreams and altered states of consciousness.  The Shaman negotiates and trades with spirits in order to produce magical effects.

The world is full of spirits.  Plants, animals, inanimate objects, phenomena, and even ideals can have spirits.  These spirits will have various levels of magical power, but they are difficult to bargain with.  In addition to all of the spirits already attached to the physical realm there are countless others locked out in the spirit world waiting for their chance to come in and play.  These disembodied spirits are much easier to barter with.  The shaman can offer them access and influence within the physical realm, and in exchange they might perform magic on the shaman's behalf.

When a child is is proven to have the calling, their family secrets them away and gives them over to a shaman from another clan in order to learn the art.  The family holds a funeral for the child they have lost.  The child must give up their old identity and take a new alias.  They must constantly wear a mask or costume so that they do not risk their soul as they haggle with spirits for the magic that will help the clans to prosper.  A shaman whose true identity remains secret at their time of death does not run the risk of spirits coming to settle an old grudge or to collect a debt by laying claim on the shaman's soul.

It is the job of a shaman to fix problems, and in exchange they often receive free food and lodging anywhere in the hills.  Still, a traveling shaman should expect some suspicion among the Hills Peoples.  It is easy enough to make a mask and costume, and sometimes thieves and con-men will don a mask in order to evade capture and mooch off of the hospitality of strangers.  Until their reputation precedes them a shaman should not expect too much of strangers other than that they keep a respectful distance.  People who have witnessed the power of the shaman's spirits first hand are much more likely to be friendly and accommodating.  Those who are revealed to be a false shaman trying to take advantage of people's generosity can expect whole communities to turn upon them with violent anger.  Except during the holiday of All Shamans Eve in the fall, this matter of masks and costumes is very serious business indeed.

Requirements: Must wear mask/costume at all times
***Costumes always count as Hide Armor, so please feel free to make them as awesome or ridiculous as you like***
Prime Requisite: Charisma
Hit Dice: d6
Hit Progression: as Cleric/Thief
Saving Throws: as Cleric
Weapons: Any non-metal
Armor: Padded, Leather, Hide, and Shield

Special Abilities
Enter the Spirit World (through meditation or dreams)
Spirit Slots (one numbered slot each level)
Bind a Spirit (bound spirits occupy spirit slots)
Negotiate for Magical Aid (from a bound spirit)
Create a Fetish (to bind a spirit semi-permanently)

Entering the Spirit World
The spirit world exists outside outside our mortal realms, kept separate by a misty veil which the spirits cannot easily cross.  It is teaming with minor spirits and the small gods who have no power or influence within the realms of the living.  Most of these spirits have never experienced the physical world at all, but some are here because they were cast out of the mortal realm.

The Shaman can choose to enter the spirit world through sleep or meditation.  It usually takes hours to pierce the veil, but hallucinogens and mystical locations can help to speed the process.  A shaman can sometimes bring others along if they all clasp hands in a circle and stay focused while meditating together.  For most mortals the spirit world has little to offer.  The living hold no sway there, and everything is insubstantial and misty.  Most will return with nothing more than some cryptic, nonsensical advice from the spirits and a few hazy memories.  When asked about the geography of the spirit world the spirits seem confused by their surroundings and allude to ethereal locations that mortals cannot access.  Perhaps the shaman does not actually enter the spirit world at all, but merely creates their own mental representation which the spirits can enter temporarily.  Regardless of it's true nature, this is the place from which the shamans draw their power.

*A shaman can visit the spirit world through dreams once each night.
*The shaman may visit a second time by spending most of the day in meditation.
*On each visit the shaman will find a spirit willing to be bound for a time.

~The Wheel of Time~
There are eight different factions of spirits, divided according to their essence.  Individual spirits may have leanings toward more than one, but they always have one central essence that defines which family of spirits they belong to.  Those with the same essence are more friendly to each other and more confrontational with their opposed rivals.  Each spirit faction is directly opposed to one other faction, but none of them are in all out war.  They are in some sort of complex competition.  They are usually looking for opportunities to gain the upper hand, but it is not unknown for spirits to occasionally work together across faction lines.  The spirits will not discuss the details of these power struggles and the shaman is often left to wonder about the hows and whys of their interactions and motivations.  Over the course of their career the shaman will see the spirits maneuver against each other, glimpses of some strange game being played out; but the rules will never be fully explained.

The most well known point of contention between the factions is that each family of spirits celebrates the new year on a different day.  Most shamans do not wish to play favorites, so for generations now the clans of the hill peoples have been celebrating eight different New Years Days each year.  The festivals are mostly evenly spaced throughout the year, so this creates a steady calendar that the clans call the Wheel of Time.  Depictions of the wheel vary, usually people will place at the top whichever faction they are currently trying to curry favor with, but it is important to keep all in the same relative positions (though clockwise and counter-clockwise are both acceptable) so that the feast days progress in the correct order and the rival factions remain opposite each other.

(Listing them in a column like this one below is frowned upon, but sometimes necessary. Circles and especially turning wheels are preferred)

Essence --------- Virtue ------------- New Year

Beast ------------ Honor ----------- First Stirrings
Air --------------- Beauty ---------- Fertility Festival (Spring Equinox)
Fate ------------ Reverence -------- Rites of Fortune
Fire -------------- Power ----------- Burning Man (Summer Solstice)
Root ------------ Humility --------- Slaughter Harvest
Earth ----------- Strength --------- Darkening Dance (Autumnal Equinox)
Nether ----------- Mirth ----------- Lifting of the Veil (All Shamans Eve)
Water --------- Compassion ------ Drowning Woman (Winter Solstice)

(Yes, some communities in the hills set a man on fire each summer and drown a woman each winter; and yeah, sometimes the Slaughter Harvest involves human sacrifices but those are mostly voluntary)

Spirit Slots
Shamans get one new, numbered Spirit Slot each level.  For example, a level 5 Shaman would have five spirit slots numbered 1,2,3,4, and 5.  The magic of spirits is variable; factors like damage, duration, and number of targets are determined based on the amount of power they are given access to.  These work similar to spells; spirits are bound to the shaman (occupying a spirit slot), then once the spirit produces a magical effect it goes back to the spirit world (emptying the spirit slot).  There are a few differences though. 

*You don't just cast the magic, you have to ask for it.  Spirits are fickle. (Reaction roll, as below).
*The magical effect's "caster level" is based on the slot number, not Shaman level.
*Enraged spirits might try to slip loose of the binding or take control of the shaman's body for a time.

Binding a Spirit
With each visit to the spirit world the shaman will find a spirit willing to produce a magical effect for the shaman at a later time.  In exchange the spirit wants to take an excursion into the physical realm, hitching along within the shaman's body to experience smells, tastes, feelings, ect.  Once a willing spirit is found the shaman will be able to determine it's essence/faction and major ability (1d8 twice on the chart below).  The shaman will know these things before accepting the offer.

The shaman isn't obligated to accept these offers and can always choose to decline.  Each visit to the spirit world presents a new spirit and prompts new random rolls.  If both spirit and shaman are in agreement, the shaman performs a short ritual to bind the spirit and brings it into the physical realm using the shaman's own body as the vessel.  The bound spirit will occupy a numbered spirit slot of the shaman's choice.

Essence Factions and the Major Powers of Spirits
All of these Major Powers have variable effects, such that the duration and power of the magic is based upon the level of the spirit slot it occupies.  Most of these are modified versions of other spells.  I tried to keep track of where I originally found the spells that these powers are based upon.  I might put full descriptions on my blog at some point, but I feel weird about that since this is mostly stolen material with a few minor tweaks.

1.  Beast - The Souls of Flesh
----------  1.  Awaken the Beast Within (WW - Bloodlust)
----------  2.  Beast Speech (LL - Speak to Animals)
----------  3.  Egg of the Unborn (TT - Impregnate+Transfer Pregnancy+Life Cycle)
----------  4.  Hide of the Beast (TT - Skin Transformation)
----------  5.  Obsecration (WW)
----------  6.  Prototeanem Transformation (WW - Totem)+(SotEG - Protean Transformation)
----------  7.  Serpent's Kiss (WW)
----------  8.  Summon Swarm (SotEG)

2.  Air - Spirits of the Wind
----------  1.  Aery Porters (WW)
----------  2.  Breathe Easy (TT - Lasting Breath)+(Protection from Acid/Gas)
----------  3.  Disintegrate (LL)
----------  4.  Miasma (WW)
----------  5.  Stormspeech (WW)
----------  6.  Summon/Banish Elemental (TT - various elemental kin summoning spells)
----------  7.  Trapped Lightning (WW)
----------  8.  Wind Barrier (WW)

3.  Fate - The Paragons of Prosody 
----------  1.  Astral Projection (WW)
----------  2.  Bewitch (WW)
----------  3.  Comprehension (WW)
----------  4.  Ethereal Boundary (WW)
----------  5.  Fascinating Gaze (WW)
----------  6.  Hekaphage (WW)
----------  7.  Scrying (??- Effect similar to a Crystal Ball)
----------  8.  Second Sight (WW)

4.  Fire - Spirits of the Flame
----------  1.  Burninate (TT- incinerate/uncinerate) + (LL - Flame Strike)
----------  2.  Gleam (WW)
----------  3.  Haste (LL)
----------  4.  Heat (TT - Heat Metal, but works on anything)
----------  5.  Inner Fire (Protection from Ice/Cold)
----------  6.  Pyrokinesis (WW)
----------  7.  Summon/Banish Elemental (TT - various elemental kin summoning spells)
----------  8.  Wall of Fire (LL)

5.  Root - The Sentinels of Sprout
----------  1.  Animate Totem (SotEG)
----------  2.  Attune
----------  3.  Melding of the Plantform Hulk
----------  4.  Rouse the Sap (LL - Entangle + Animate Objects)
----------  5.  Revisitation (WW)
----------  6.  Revitalize (LL - Restoration)
----------  7.  Speak to Plants (LL)
----------  8.  Vege-Gate (WW - Living Gate)

6.  Earth - Spirits of the Stone
----------  1.  Earthquake (LL)
----------  2.  Grounding (Protection from Lightning/Radiation)
----------  3.  Open the Subterranean Gullets (WW)
----------  4.  Slow (LL)
----------  5.  Stone Shape (2e?)
----------  6.  Stone Tell (LL)
----------  7.  Summon/Banish Elemental (TT - various elemental kin summoning spells)
----------  8.  Vitalize/Petrify (WW) + (LL - Flesh to Stone)

7.  Nether - The Shades of Discord
----------  1.  Cure/Cause Disease/Disability (SotEG)
----------  2.  Guardian Spirits (TT)
----------  3.  Lay/Remove Curse/Hex (SotEG)
----------  4.  Necrosis/Regeneration (TT)
----------  5.  Occult Consultation (WW)
----------  6.  Reincarnation (LL)
----------  7.  Shroud (WW)
----------  8.  Spirit's Lullaby (LL - Sleep) + (Turn Undead)

8.  Water - Spirits of the Flow
----------  1.  Chill (TT - Heat Metal reversed but works on anything)
----------  2.  Cryonate (TT - incinerate/uncinerate reversed) + (LL - Flame Strike reversed)
----------  3.  Heart of Ice (Protection from Fire/Heat)
----------  4.  Icestorm (TT)
----------  5.  Ice Walk (LL - Water Walking, but it's frozen)
----------  6.  Seduce Water (WW)
----------  7.  Summon/Banish Elemental (TT - various elemental kin summoning spells)
----------  8.  Wall of Ice (LL)

LL = Labyrinth Lord
SotEG = Servants of the Elder Gods- Spell List
TT = Theorems and Thaumaturgy
WW =  Wonder and Wickedness (this is what convinced me to give spirit magic variable effects)

Negotiating with the Spirits:  Favor and Disdain
Spirits are not pets who perform tricks on command.  Spirits are fickle; easily distracted by the many wonders of the physical realm, and often taunted by the free spirits all around them.  While they are grateful to the shaman for bringing them into the physical realm, they will always resent being kept bound and expected to obey the whims of the shaman.  More than anything, bound spirits desire to be set loose into the world.

On the shaman's character sheet they will need to keep track of both the Favor and Disdain that they earn with each of the eight spirit factions.  Word gets around quickly in the spirit world, and dealings with one spirit will have repercussions within the entire faction.  Oddly, angering a spirit by destroying it's physical form or thwarting it's designs is considered "all part of the game" and has no repercussions among the faction as a whole.  However, broken promises, minor slights, and even imagined insults can have broad consequences.

When a reaction roll shows that a spirit is uncooperative the shaman can spend Favor (call in a debt) to improve the reaction.  Once the spirit actually performs the service or casts the spell, then Favor also drops by one.  The shaman's Favor can dip into the negatives from time to time.  The shaman has until sunrise to balance their debt by performing a Ritual, Sacrifice, or Service (see below).  At sunrise any negative Favor moves over to become Disdain.  Disdain acts as a negative modifier to every reaction roll with spirits of that faction.  Spirits can be easily offended, and the wise shaman will choose their actions (and watch their friend's actions) carefully.  Disdain is easy to gain, but harder to loose.  The Shaman can usually spend 3 points of Favor to remove 1 point of Disdain.

Whenever the shaman asks a bound spirit to preform magic, roll 2d6 and consult the chart below.  Add any Charisma modifiers, and subtract any current Disdain.

12 or moreThrilled"With Pleasure"
(No change)
Impressive Magic
9 - 11Compliant"Yes"
(-1 Favor)
Expected Magic
(-1 Favor)
Wants hp = to the slot #

3 - 5
(+1 Disdain)
Annoy Shaman
2 or lessEnraged"F*** You!"
(No change)
Escape Attempt

  • Impressive Magic -It REALLY works!  Add 1 to the slot #'s power.  Also, no loss of Favor.
  • Expected Magic - It works!
  • Wants hp = slot # - The spirit will provide the magic if the shaman powers it with hit points
  • Annoy Shaman - The spirit is offended for some reason and will show displeasure by using it's magic in a way the shaman did not intend.  Perhaps targeting the shaman rather than an enemy.  Usually these displays are not life-threatening so much as just embarrassing.  The spirit will tell it's brethren about the offense, and the Disdain will be a more lasting problem.
  • Escape Attempt - The spirit breaks it's promise and tries to escape into the physical world, or take control of the shaman's body.  A struggle of wills takes place, the shaman makes an Intelligence and Wisdom check.  2 successes = the spirit remains bound, 2 failures = the spirit escapes into the physical world, Ties = the struggle continues for another round, and a 1-in-6 chance per tie that the spirit takes control of the shaman's body for d6 hours.  During this time spirits will generally try to perform rituals, gather power, and enjoy sensations.  At the end of this time another struggle of wills takes place with more Int and Wis checks.

Rituals, Sacrifices, and Services
These are the three main ways that a shaman will gain Favor with a spirit faction.  I found this concept on another blog (gloomtrain: Warlock 3.0) and it suits my purposes here perfectly.  Ideally I'll be making extensive charts for each of the eight spirit factions.  Unfortunately, I'm far too lazy at the moment.  For now I'll just quote the bit from gloomtrain that pertains to the patron Queen Mab and pretend like it might also pertain to the wants and desires of Beast spirits (It won't pertain, I'll have to make a bunch of different charts at some point.  For now just go with it). 

When a shaman wishes to, they may ask a spirit what must be done to gain their Favor.  Roll once on the Rituals/Sacrifices/and Services charts to see which three things the spirit suggests.  The DM can choose to award Favor for other actions as well (much like disdain).

////From Gloomtrain/////
When a warlock offers to perform a Ritual in negotiation, roll on the following table to determine which the signatory wants.
Performing a ritual takes 1 Turn and requires chalk and incense.

  1. Perform a ritual over the body of a recently slain foe, claiming their soul for the signatory.
  2. Perform a ritual to summon an agent of the signatory into the area.
  3. Perform a ritual to banish a rival's influence from the area.
  4. Perform a ritual to attune the area to the signatory's sphere.
  5. Perform a ritual to erase all evidence of the signatory's meddling.
  6. Capture someone nearby and compel or convince them to swear a binding oath, making them an agent of the signatory.

When a warlock offers to perform a Sacrifice in negotiation, roll on the following table to determine which the signatory wants.
Sacrifices take 1 Round. Sacrificing a live, healthy goat (1 Turn) takes the place of any Sacrifice.

  1. Blood: d6+level damage
  2. Flesh: d4 Strength damage
  3. Grace: d4 Dexterity damage
  4. Judgment: d4 Wisdom damage
  5. Nous: d4 Charisma damage
  6. Time: incapacitated for d6 Turns
  7. Vigor: d4 Constitution damage
  8. Wit: d4 Intelligence damage

Queen Mab's services usually involve some of the following:
  1. Explosives
  2. Poison
  3. Regalia
  4. An exquisite meal
  5. A curse
  6. An ancient and enchanted weapon
  7. A treaty from times primeval
  8. A parasol
  9. A gown
  10. A rose

  1. A spy
  2. A knight
  3. A child
  4. A cook
  5. A maid
  6. A shepherd
  7. A lord or lady
  8. An ambassador
  9. A magician
  10. The King of Roses Red

  1. Sabotage
  2. Assassination
  3. Marriage
  4. Sowing the earth with salt
  5. Framing someone for a crime
  6. Transformation
  7. Defenestration
  8. Decapitation
  9. Burial
  10. A feast

  1. A busy kitchen
  2. A terrible prison
  3. A haunted barrow
  4. A decaying castle
  5. A splendid ballroom
  6. The cold and empty moor
  7. The Kingdom of Faerie
  8. A moonlit glade
  9. A backwater village
  10. A haberdashery

  1. A hated rival
  2. A friend betrayed
  3. A wrathful widow(er)
  4. A murderous parent
  5. An erstwhile ally
  6. An aging guardian
  7. A fading beauty
  8. A vengeful victim
  9. An old friend
  10. A loyal servant
                  ////End Gloomtrain/////

Creating a Spirit Fetish
Some spirits will agree to remain bound inside a fetish until the shaman's death, after that time it is free to wander the physical realm.  Once the shaman and spirit are agreed, the shaman must prepare a fetish for the spirit to reside within.

On the character sheet, write down the spirit's name, essence, and spirit slot level, as well as the form/appearance of the fetish created.

*****Creation of the fetish costs 100gp per (Spirit Slot # - 1) or more, and once finished it will have a resale value of half or less (at least half of the cost is for incense, candles, herbs, ect. that are consumed during the preparation rituals).  The fetish can be anything, but it's appearance and preparation rituals should be tailored to attune to that spirit's particular essence.  Most commonly a small pouch holding tokens and trinkets that are appealing to the spirit.  Giving spirits more and more spirit slot power will require the fetish to be upgraded more and more as well.

Once the spirit occupies the fetish, it also occupies these spirit slots for as long as the shaman wishes to keep it bound.  The spirit can help guide the shaman through the spirit world in order to find other spirits of the same faction.  In the physical world, the spirit guide can act as an intermediary with other spirits, sometimes able to negotiate and trade the shaman's services in exchange for other magical effects.  If a spirit is given multiple spirit slots, it may manifest additional powers.  These will not be Major Spirit Powers as listed above, but might be comparable to M/U or Clerical spells equal to half or less of the Spirit Slot #.  The shaman can ask for specific powers when the spirit slot is given, but the DM decides which power is actually gained.  The shaman can choose to take back the Spirit Slot afterward, but the spirit will likely be upset for a while.

Nether Spirit's Fetish Doll

Spirit Names
Once a spirit goes into a fetish, the DM will need to think about how this individual spirit fits into the hierarchy of it's faction.  Until it occupies a fetish it is basically just a one-use spell that the shaman has to convince to cast itself.  Once the shaman decides to make the spirit a semi-permanent ally by binding it into a fetish then that spirit will need a name, some personality quirks, a narrow portfolio of influence, an ethos... the characteristic spirit of the spirit.  It will be like a deity write up for a really minor god.  This will help to determine what minor powers the spirit might access should the shaman decide to grant it access to multiple spirit slots.

I'd like to make each spirit really unique all on my own, but sometimes I get stuck and it's good to have some other outside sources to draw from.  For inspiration regarding the hierarchies of the spirit factions I'm going to lean pretty heavily on the pantheons listed in the Miscellaneum of Cinder because it's totally awesome and it's totally free.

Root (neutral) -
Air (neutral) -
Fate (lawful) - based upon "A Dozen Saints" + poorly disguised names of game designers
Fire (neutral) -
Beast (neutral) -
Earth (neutral) -
Nether (chaotic) - based upon "The loathsome Toad Gods" + The Alphabet of the Damned.
Water (neutral) -

Most of those blank spaces will be based on "The Twelve Gods of Neutrality" a.k.a The Seventeen Unknown Gods a.k.a. The Twelve and the Four and the Thousand.  Since I've already gone this far I might as well go ahead and pillage the rest of Jeff's Gameblog for more spirit/deities... like these ... and here ... and yoink! ... and also why not?  Thanks Jeff!  Now I just have to sort these a bit, all the judge types could go to Fate or Beast, sentient colors seem like Fire spirits to me, and I'll have to sort through the rest of them later.

Oh! I should also delve into David Young's excellent work Phonomicon Ex Cultis for even more ideas.

I'll use whatever other pantheon and deity list my eyes fall upon as needed.


Releasing a Spirit

The shaman can choose to release a spirit from it's fetish at any time.  The spirit might be grateful enough to manifest physically and help the shaman immediately in their time of need.  Otherwise the spirit might be a real dick and say "Thanks Yo!" and run off to enjoy the physical world while the shaman dies a horrible death.  Either way, the spirit is free to roam the physical world.

Free spirits can physically manifest during which it's attacks count as magical and it can be damaged by normal means.  While manifest the spirit can see and hit incorporeal, ethereal, and phase shifting enemies.  The power of this manifestation is always based upon the highest level Spirit Slot that it had access to when it was released.

Spirit Manifestation Stats
Spirit Slot Level----Hp-------AC-----Damage----THAC0
------1--------------1d4+1 --------9---------1d4----------19
------2--------------2d4+2 -------8---------1d4----------19
------3--------------3d4+3 -------7---------1d4----------19
------4--------------4d4+4 -------6---------1d6----------18
------5--------------5d4+5 -------5---------1d6----------18
------6--------------6d4+6 -------4---------1d6----------17
------7--------------7d4+7 -------3---------1d8----------17
------8--------------8d4+8 -------2---------1d8----------17
------9--------------9d4+9 -------1---------1d8----------16
-----10+----------10d4+10 ------1---------1d10-----As Shaman

So now I need to make an XP chart with my Customized Class Doohickey.  This is surprisingly difficult.  This Shaman spirit magic is not really like M/U spells or Clerical Spells, but let's try to simplify the process by putting it into those types of terms.  Shamans don't give a 10% tithe, and they can't copy spells like Spellbook users, so they should use the Standard XP chart I think.  I'm pretty sure they have access to the M/U spell effects starting at level 1 (+70%) and that can go up to 9th level M/U spell effects eventually (+180%), so that's a +250 total for spirit magic effects right?  They get fewer spells (spirit slots) than Magic Users, but they can reuse those assuming that they pay a (not huge) amount of gp to create Fetishes, and they have to make Reaction Rolls.  Let's just assume that the (fewer slots + gp spent - reusable magic) all evens out to zero.  Also, if you release a spirit it can manifest for you, but after that you and the rest of the world have to deal with this spirit being set loose on the world, so that evens out to zero too, right?  Sure.  So, shaman magic costs 250 just like M/U magic, but they can't scribe scrolls or learn new spells from each other and if I want to (as the DM) I can have spirits run amok and do crazy stuff, so it all works out... right?  Sure.  +250 it is.

100 Base
70   Hit Dice: d6
30   Hit Progression: Cleric/Thief (+1hp after L9)
25   Cleric saves

20   Armor: Padded, Leather, Hide, Wooden Shield
50   Weapons: No metal weapons (no pole arms, long or short swords, most choppers, ect.)

30   Magic: no wands, no spell scrolls 

250 Shaman Spirit Magic
575 - Total

Standard Base Experience X Shaman Class 575%

Base XP--------------Shaman XP
0 -----------Level 1 ------------- 0
400 --------Level 2 -------  2300
800 --------Level 3 -------  4600
1600 ------ Level 4 -------  9200
3200 ------ Level 5 -----  18400
6400 ------ Level 6 -----  36800
12800 -----Level 7 -----  73600
24000 -----Level 8 ----- 138000
48000 -----Level 9 ----  276000
________ Level 10+ ________
1hp/Level = +100,000 each
Level 20 @ 1,376,000         

Sources of inspiration:
Mostly it started with all these pictures, but then also...
These pictures...

Servants of the Elder Gods- Spell List
Shamans of Pavelorn
The Miscellaneum of Cinder
Theorems and Thaumaturgy
Warlock 3.0
Wonder and Wickedness
and a ton of other ideas shared by wonderful people on RPG blogs and Google+, Thanks! :)

Ancients & Aliens: The Dragonslayers - Session 16

This week we flipped back to the group of PCs in Niru (The Dragonslayers).  They have been acting as diplomats lately, trying to ease the tensions between Niru and the town of Urum.  A sticking point in those negotiations was that the magi in Niru and Sippar were threatening to attack Urum unless the magi's Tablet of Fate was returned, but Duhngemezh believed that the only thing keeping Urum safe was his threat to destroy this Tablet of Fate if Urum was attacked.  It's been something of a problem.

This session the PCs return to continue the talks in Urum with a wagon full of food in tow.  There is something of a breakthrough this time.  Duhngemezh has learned of an entrance to an underground Dwarven vault.  It is located at the ruined dwarf fort, which is near both Niru and Urum (hex 13.07).  Somewhere inside is a magical black cauldron, and Duhngemezh says that he will trade his Tablet of Fate for the cauldron if the PCs can bring it to him.

When the PCs ask how Duhngemezh learned of this he explains that the elf named Justice told him about it.  Justice and the orcs at the Caves of Chaos had been investigating the place and trying to come to some arrangement with the undying goblin who lives down there.  The dwarvish vault is dangerous though, designed to be something of a deathtrap.  Now that the troops from Sippar are patrolling the lands around Niru and Urum the elves and orcs will no longer risk delving there.

The elves and orcs were able to parley with the goblin down there, at least for a little while.  The goblin says that his name is Yaabdilum the Deathless and claims to be thousands of years old.  He says that he was the apprentice of the elvish wizard Xylarthen.  When Xylarthen grew suspicious of the Anunnaki, he sent Yaabdilum to guard his cauldron and keep it hidden deep within the dwarvish vault until he could smooth things over with the Anunnaki.  Apparently that didn't go so well.  The Anunnaki blew up Xylarthen's tower (hex 14.12), and that was the beginning of the Great Purge when the Anunnaki tried to exterminate all the elves, dwarves, and halflings on the planet.

So anyway... Duhngemezh could send teams of his mutants into the vault, but he thinks that the Dragonslayers would have a much better chance of success.  He does line up about 15 mutants who are eager to help, and lets the PCs interview them.  The PC's pick out two mutants to take with them down into the vault.  Here's the lineup.

The new mutants
Kabatot - Human Mutant Fighter level 2
(4 mutations)
1. Invisible meat (he looks like a walking, talking skeleton)
2. Shocking Touch at will (d6 damage + save vs. stun)
3. Can become 2-Dimensional (slide under doors, but slashing and piercing damage auto-crit)
4. Telekinesis (Str 9)

Lagykwi - Human Mutant Magi level 1
he memorized Floating Disk to help move the cauldron
(2 mutations)
1. Immune to Poison and Disease
2. Fire Blast  - 60' range, 10' diameter burst, 1d6 damage + burn (save vs dragon breath for half)
The PCs
Sura the Orionixie
Ony the Human Mutant Jedite
Gorp the Halflingon
Zheel the Halflingon

When they travel to the ruined dwarf fort they bring along a wagon pulled by donkeys and a few extra mutant guards.  These all wait outside while the six brave adventurers head into the remains of the old keep, which is the only structure still partially standing.  They go through a secret trapdoor into an old looted wine cellar, then through another secret door, down a hallway and end up at a tall ring of stones carved with magical runes.  They touch the top, bottom, then the rightmost rune and the magical portal activates.  The six adventurers head through the glowing portal that looks like something out of Stargate.

The vault is basically a death trap.  The doors are metal plates controlled by levers.  Once a lever is pulled the metal doors spring open by splitting apart in the middle like some great beast with sharp metallic teeth opening it's jaws .  Some of these doors snap shut whenever something begins to pass through.  The PCs get a running start to jump through these trapped doors one at a time, then pull the lever again to open the doors for the next person.  Sometimes there is a pit on the other side of the chomping door.  Sometimes that pit is hidden by an illusionary floor.

The PCs managed to avoid both the chomping doors and the illusion covered pit in the first room.  The ceiling here is covered in magical circles and runes that seem to be metallic silver inset into the stones.  It seems to be an elaborate anti-necromancy ward.  There is also some graffiti on the west wall here showing a partial dungeon map.  On that map, this first room is labeled "only safe room".  One of the hench-mutants asks aloud "Is anyone else worried that this 'only safe room' has multiple traps?".

They move on through a few more rooms.  Some of the metal doors seem perfectly safe, they do not slam shut when someone crosses through them.  This troubles Ony, he is wary of everything now.  The next room has 13 small piles of balanced stones, each stone is stacked one on top of another.  Another room has a huge detailed mural painted onto the ceiling of a goblin ascending into the heavens.  They open a secret passage.  A third room is full of various pottery and ceramics, many are shattered into shards but some remain whole.  The party finds a few that are beautifully glazed and takes those as loot.

The forth room has interesting architecture, archways form alcoves all over the room and all meet at the center point in the vaulted ceiling.  In the middle of this room is an active fountain, a 4 foot stone column topped with a wide stone bowl, a stone fish in the middle spitting water up into the air.  As the PCs investigate all of this, Sura suddenly looks up to see that something is also investigating all of them.  A ball of eyes is floating just outside the doorway that they left open when they entered the room.

It seems to focus on them one at a time, then slowly hovers back down the hallway.  Lagykwi blasts it with fire, a couple of burnt eyeballs pop off and it zooms around the corner.  Sura and Gorp give chase.  They see it zooming down a long hallway and Sura uses her Magic Missile ability and her once per session d30 roll to make the thing explode in a burst of arcane power.

Everyone seems to be on edge now.

They hurry down a different hallway, turn North at a T intersection and find a stairway going down.  After 30' of stairs there is a 10'x10' landing with a pressure door, a circular hatch with a locking wheel in the center.  It opens onto a hallway.  They pass a connecting hallway and continue forward to a second hatch.  Opening this they see a huge chamber beyond, but their light doesn't reach far enough to see any walls or anything inside.

There is a noise behind them.

At first all that they see is a corpse floating upside down, entering from that connecting hallway that they had just passed.  It begins to turn toward them and they see that there is something growing out of it's back.  The rib cage of the corpse splits open and they see that it is the jaws of some huge beast, exposed splintered ribs acting as teeth.  As it turns the corner they see that it is a huge mutant monster made up of many different bodies.

by Johannes Holm

The party rushes through the open hatch and into the unknown room.  Zheel the Halflingon pauses long enough to throw a bottle of Firewater at the beast.  Another d30 is used for the damage, and the firewater bottle erupts mightily.  The beast howls in pain and snaps at Zheel, but he makes it through the hatch.  The PCs are able to push the hatch closed and turn the wheel to lock.  They pause for a moment and listen, but the beast doesn't seem to be trying to get through the hatch.

This room is a 150'x150' chamber, and the walls are covered in unspeakable pornography.  The level of detail and artistry is quite good, but that only adds to the discomfort of the viewer.  There are pictures of elfmaids and ogresses, and a whole host of goblin females doing awful, degrading things.  A great variety of uncomfortable scenes are depicted, but the one with the centaurs and mermaids seems especially horrible.  This is about the time that the group noticed a formless fleshy blob undulating across the floor toward one of the mutants.  It gets blasted with fire and starts backing away quickly.  It tries to stay away from the PCs, but Sura is intent on finishing it off.  It doesn't really have anywhere to hide, and Sura keeps shooting it with arrows until it stops moving.  No one really speculates about why the fleshy blob is in the pornography room, and maybe that is for the best.

Blob 3 by Jeanne Dunning

They find another circular hatch on the far side of the room.  Another long hallway.  They pass by a stairway going up, and head over to yet another hatch, but this one is already open.  This next chamber is also quite large.  There are clay bowls on the floor in here holding various colors of paint.  On the ceiling here is a work in progress.  It looks like it is going to be of a dragon in flight while breathing fire.  On the opposite wall they find yet another hatch.  As Zheel reaches out to open it, the wheel begins to turn on it's own.  The PCs get ready for a fight.

The hatch opens and these short, obese, toad-like men rush into the room wielding axes and shields.  There are 5 of them, and they put up a good fight.  The PCs damage all of them, but none of the short men ever make a sound.  Some of the blows fail to pierce their blubbery hide.  Two of the fat men hold the doorway while the other three retreat.  Shields are splintered.  These two get cut down after a couple of rounds, but their friends have escaped.  The PCs shut the hatch and begin to examine these odd men.

...and that's the end of the session.

by Webang111

May 3, 2015

Ancients & Aliens: People of the Hills - Session 2

Extra Bonus Game Session: this Thursday 5-7-15, Armored Gopher 6:30pm
Then another one on the 14th and the 28th.

Just trying to get the word out since I don't have current contact info for one of my players.  Walk-in's are welcome too, so if you're in Urbana IL on Thursday go ahead stop by for a game.

Right, so session 2.  I ran the adventure "A Stranger Storm" from the LotFP Referee book, but altered a bit to fit my setting.  Now, I don't want to give too many details and ruin it for those who might play the adventure someday, so I'm leaving out the spoilers and keeping this one brief.  I'll just say that it involves people showing up even though they are already there, then confusion ensues.

I really wish I had spent more time prepping (tweaking) this adventure.  The adventure is set up as a kind of puzzle, but no real solution is presented in the adventure as written.  It seems that the PCs are meant to just choose randomly and hope for the best.  I should read through the adventure again, maybe I missed something.  It was a fun and interesting adventure, but by the end I worry that there was not so much a sense of accomplishment as just plain frustration.  This adventure did not seem to "awesome up" my players.

Even if it's not in the text I could have come up with some other gimmick, a tell, or a clue.  Maybe these problems are all in my head, the players did seem to enjoy themselves.  On my end though, this adventure made me feel less like an impartial referee and more like an active adversary.  That may not be a bad thing, but I will say that for me personally it did not enhance my fun.  I just wish that I had thought more about how the adventure would play out from the perspective of the PCs and maybe changed a few things.

I don't mean to say that it is a "bad" adventure, but maybe just not my style.  There was a nice little bloodbath though when people got all evil and murderous toward their copies all at once.  That was fun.

Near the end of the adventure I introduced the idea that there is a hag trapped in the well of a nearby town and maybe she is to blame for all of this.  So, there is a hook for another adventure if they choose to follow up on it.  The hag adventure might prove to be just as problematic for the PCs, but at least the motivations behind the copies should be revealed so that would be one less source of frustration I hope.

Good game everyone, let's try again this week. :)