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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Return of the New Minions

I mentioned a couple weeks back that I had introduced my younger nieces to D&D. They've apparently taken the concept and run with it, with their own personal twist. Christmas Eve they surprised the family by doing a piece of adventure / performance art called "Holly and Rudolph Save Christmas". According to the story Santa's Sleigh broke down, so he sent Holly the Elf and Rudolph the Reindeer off to recover a magical crystal to fix it. Apparently the crystal McGuffin was located in a scary cave on the other side of the continent, so they went on a trek through the Frosty Woods, flew over the Rainbow Mountains (to avoid the Abominable Snowman of course), and recovered the crystal from deep within the cave, saving Christmas. The entire family was greatly entertained, but the whole time I was thinking "Man, next time THEY can run the game."

Eye of the Demon (part II)

I wrote up the Eye of the Demon a few days ago, and a couple of comments on that post led me to write more about it.

The Eye of the Demon is no singular artifact, rather it is one of many such Eyes, each cast forth by the Watcher with a Thousand Eyes, a demonic being trapped within a binding circle beneath a long abandoned fortress, which is located upon a rocky island within a vast, steaming swamp. Over the centuries the Watcher has managed to find a tiny loophole in the seals that bind it, allowing it to send forth its Eyes, cast into the form of the previously described amulet.

Each use of an Eye of the Demon amulet has a 1% cumulative chance of alerting the Watcher to the fact that the amulet has been found. Once alerted the Watcher will establish a link to the amulet, allowing it to see whatever the Eye can see while it is in use. Once the link is established, each additional use of the Eye has a 1% cumulative chance of strengthening the link, which both adds to the Eye's powers and increases the Watcher's connection to its user. Note that once the link between the Eye and Watcher becomes active, the Watcher will be aware of who owns the amulet. Destroying the Eye (which can be accomplished by inflicting Great physical damage) will gain the Watcher's enmity for all time.

The following additional powers become available with each strengthening of the link:
  1. In addition to seeing what the Eye sees while it is active, the Watcher can view the area immediately surrounding the Eye at will.
  2. The Eye's wearer gains a enhanced vision, allowing them to see in the dark and pick out fine detail with a casual glance. Secret or hidden doors are easily spotted, and attempts to use sleight-of-hand or trickery against the wearer suffer a Fair penalty.
  3. The Watcher gains the ability to read the surface thoughts of whomever is wearing the Eye. This ability allows it to pick up the gist of conversations involving the wearer and learn their basic motivations and purpose.
  4. The wearer's gains the ability to read people's faces as if they were an open book. Anyone attempting to deceive or lie to the bearer suffers a Good penalty to the attempt.
  5. The Watcher gains the ability to make minor mental suggestions to the wearer. It will use this ability to lead the wearer to its place of imprisonment and to create a feeling of isolation and paranoia in the wearer.
  6. The wearer gains the ability to split their view while using the Eye, carrying out normal actions while maintaining their remote view.
  7. The bearer begins to experience minor hallucinations, vague glimpses of movement at the edge of their vision, along with a creeping sense of paranoia brought about by the Watcher's suggestions.
  8. The Watcher's power of suggestion grows in strength, allowing it to guide and direct the wearer unless they make a Good test of resolve to resist.

The Watcher with a Thousand Eyes

The Watcher is a squat amphibian creature, much like a toad in form. Where a toad has warts, the Watcher's ten foot long, lumpy gray body is covered in unblinking, dull black eyes, each staring in a different direction. A pair of snake-like tentacles sprout from the demon's head, taking the place of its normal eyes. Its broad mouth has three tongues, each ending in a set of jaws lined with needle-sharp teeth. The Watcher has the following characteristics:
  • Demonic Vitality - The creature has the strength and vitality of a powerful demon, making it difficult to kill by mundane means. It has Great natural healing ability, recovering an Average wound every 10 minutes. It is immune to cold damage and mundane weapons.
  • Thunderous Leap - The demon can leap up to 30 feet in any direction, striking with all four clawed feet (Superb physical damage) when landing. Anyone within 10 feet of its landing spot is knocked prone by the force of impact.
  • Demonic Bite - The Watcher can strike up to three separate targets with its fanged tongues, each blow struck inflicting Great damage and spattering the target with the demon's corrosive saliva, which inflicts Average damage each subsequent round and dissolves any organic material it touches. Tongues can extend up to 15 feet.
  • Constrictive Tentacles - The Watcher can use its tentacles to attack with Superb accuracy. Once a target is hit the tentacles envelop them, inflicting Fair damage each subsequent round.
  • Perfect Awareness - The creature's thousand eyes make it instantly aware of anything happening within line of sight. Its vision allows it to see in the dark with perfect clarity. Even invisible and out of phase objects are revealed to its all seeing eyes.
  • Spell Use - The Watcher has Great magical abilities, and is a master of illusion and charm magic.
The Watcher is an intelligent creature. It will use clever tactics to isolate and control anyone under the influence of one of its Eyes. Its primary goal is to gain its freedom, then reestablish its cult-like following on the material plane. The wards that hold the demon have been weakened by time, and any physical disturbance of the inscribed stones that bind it will break the warding and allow it to roam free.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pathless Treads

The Pathless Treads are a pair of light-weight calf-length boots made from rather nondescript, dull red leather. Their only distinguishing feature is a bit of fancy fringe along the top of the boot. The interior of the boots is lined with dense gray fur of some supernatural beast, making them warmer than one would think. The Treads radiate Great alteration magic and a Great test of divination magic will reveal their enchantment.

The Treads have the following magical characteristics:
  • The boots magically adjust to fit the wearer and serve as warm and tough footwear in any weather or terrain.
  • The wearer gains a Good bonus to endurance when traveling on foot.
  • Attempts to follow the wearer via tracking or divination suffer a Good penalty.
  • Thrice per day the wearer can walk across any surface as if it were a broad and stable path across solid ground. This power operates irregardless of the surface's orientation or strength. The wearer could, for example, walk across a pool of water, cross a great chasm on a thread, run up the side of a building, or run across the sky by stepping from snowflake to snowflake during a winter storm. Each invocation of this power lasts up to thirty minutes.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bonesmasher Belt

This broad girdle is made from pale brown leather fitted with a heavy steel buckle. The entire length of the belt is covered with short lengths of bone sewn to the leather with twisted lengths of steel wire. When worn the bones seem to creep and shift along the belt in a chaotic fashion. The Bonesmasher Belt radiates Great combat and enhancement magic. A Great test of divination magic will reveal the belt's enchantments:
  • The Belt provides a Fair bonus to the bearer's strength.
  • The wearer gains a Good bonus to melee accuracy and damage when using crushing weapons (mace, club, etc.)
  • Any blow struck by the wearer has a 10% chance of inflicting a broken bone on the target.
  • Skeletons and other creatures made of animate bone suffer triple damage from any blow struck by the bearer.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Eye of the Demon

This amulet resembles nothing so much as an eyeball from a freshly slain corpse. It's dull black pupil seems to stare at anyone nearby, while the setting of reddish metal resembles nothing so much as dried blood encrusting the ugly orb. The entire amulet is an inch or so in diameter, and hangs from a silver chain that remains tarnished no matter how much it is polished. The Eye radiates Superb divination magic, and a Great test of divination magic will reveal its magic and the command word required to activate it.

When the Eye's command word is spoken, a ghostly eye forms in the air in front of the bearer and their point of view is transferred to this ghostly object. The bearer can command the Eye to fly at Superb speed, carrying along their point of view as it travels. The vision provided by this artifact allows the viewer to see in the dark and view invisible or out of phase objects normally. The bearer can carry out no other actions while using the Eye, and a successful attack upon the user disrupts the magical link.

The Eye can be invoked up to three times per day, each invocation lasting 10 minutes. The Eye moves with Great stealth, and its insubstantial form has Great protection from mundane forms of attack, though any magical attack will disrupt it.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Sled of the Winter Elf

This magical conveyance is a thing of legend, showing up but once a year during the winter holidays, when it makes an appearance in the skies above all inhabited lands.

The Sled is an over-sized sleigh designed to be drawn by a team of beasts. The sleigh body is made of some eldritch wood painted with a deep red lacquer that is so highly polished it almost glows. A frame of silvery metal attaches the sleigh body to long polished steel runners beneath and traces and harnesses of red dyed leather at the front. Rumor claims there are eight harnesses (some claim nine, with the odd harness fitted in front of the others) fitted to the Sled, each bearing a line of silvery bells.

The Sled body features a luxurious padded front bench decorated with heavy woolen cloth trimmed with rich white fur. The rear of the Sled consists of a large open compartment lined with rugged red leather.

The Sled radiates Legendary enchantment and alteration magic. And has the following characteristics:
  • The front seat has room for but a single passenger, who is carried in perfect warmth and comfort no matter what the weather conditions or speed of travel.
  • The rear compartment of the Sled will hold a near infinite quantity of material.
  • The Sled's passenger gains Legendary ability to detect alignment, though this power is strangely limited to knowing 'Naughty' or 'Nice' alignments.
  • The Sled's passenger also gains Legendary teleport ability. This allows them to transport themselves and up to 50 pounds of inert material at will, with the limitation that the destination must be reachable via a chimney.
  • When a proper set of beasts is fitted to the harness, the Sled gains Legendary flight capability. Oddly enough the only creatures that seem to fit the harnesses are reindeer.
Happy Holidays everyone! I'll be off-line to post Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Plagueheart Band

With the upcoming holiday, my time to write is a bit limited, so I'll be posting a few short item descriptions instead of my usual longer articles...

This wide platinum band is set with a dozen square-cut, black onyx stones spaced equally around its circumference. The ring radiates Great protection and alteration magic. Anyone that dons the ring gains complete immunity to all forms of disease. Each time the wearer avoids a disease, one of the stones on the ring begins to glow with a dim, inner light. Each time the wearer has direct physical contact with a living creature there is a chance (a percentage equal to the number of lit stones on the ring), that they will inflict a Great strength wasting disease on whomever they touch (which also causes all stones on the ring to go dark). If all the stones on the ring are lit, there is a 25% chance per day that the disease contained within the ring will be released into the air, afflicting anyone within a 60 foot radius of the wearer. This also causes all stones to go dark. Once one of the stones upon Plagueheart begins to glow the ring cannot be removed until the disease contained within is released.

Plagueheart's protective characteristics can be discovered with a Great test of divination magic. It's disease spreading characteristic is a curse which can only be revealed with an Epic test of divination magic.

Any creature afflicted with Plagueheart's disease suffers a one rank penalty to vitality per day of affliction. There is also a 25% chance the disease will spread to anyone exposed to an afflicted creature. Removing the disease is a Great test of healing or healing magic.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Snow Dust

Snow Dust is a sparkling-white, crystalline powder, always contained within a black glass vial with a tightly fitted stopper. Dust feels cool to the touch, and if exposed to air or sunlight for more than a few minutes it will slowly sublimate, leaving nothing behind. If examined for magical properties it radiates Superb alteration magic. A Great test of divination magic will reveal its powers.

Snow Dust is activated by tossing a pinch into the air under the open skies. This has the following effects:
  • The ambient air temperature drops to sub-freezing temperatures within ten minutes.
  • The sky becomes cloudy and overcast, completely obscuring the sun.
  • Precipitation immediately turns to snow and increases in intensity. If no precipitation is falling, there is a 25% chance per hour that snow will begin to fall. Snow accumulates at the rate of three inches per hour.
  • Open water begins to freeze, accumulating one inch of ice per hour.
The effects of Snow Dust cover a one mile radius area and last for one day. At the end of the period, temperatures return to normal over the course of an hour. Accumulated snow and ice melt at a normal rate.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ash Stone

A relic left behind by a long forgotten god of decay, the Ash Stone is a shapeless chunk of granite shot through with veins of pure black obsidian. The Stone, which is ten feet or so in diameter, has been crudely worked, but whatever shape the artist intended was never achieved. The Ash Stone radiates Legendary alteration magic. Anyone approaching within 30 feet of the artifact can sense its potent aura, which manifests as a sensation of warm, choking dryness in the air and a feeling of unease, strengthened by a curious shifting of light and shadow at the edges of vision.

The Ash Stone has the following characteristics which affect anyone within its area of effect (base 60 foot radius):
  • Draining Aura - Any living creature will be drained of one rank of vitality per hour of exposure (Fair test of resistance to avoid). The draining effect is subtle and might not be noticed (Fair test of observation to feel the effects). Those completely drained of vitality become Ash Walkers (see below).
  • Spell Negation - All magical powers and abilities are reduced two ranks in power. This includes all forms of spell casting and powers invoked from items. A Legendary resistance check allows this effect to be negated for an individual spell effect.
  • Magic Draining - Magical items exposed to the Stone's aura are drained one rank of potency per hour (Fair test of resistance to avoid). Artifacts completely drained by the Stone crumble to dusty gray ash. Any item so drained adds five feet to the Stone's radius of effect for seven days.
  • Ash Swarm - Each evening at sunset the Ash Stone summons forth one or two Ash Swarms (see below) which will venture forth to wreak havoc in the area surrounding the stone.
The area around the Ash Stone will be devoid of plant and animal life. One to three Ash Walkers (see below) will be encountered nearby. The Ash Stone is nigh indestructible. The GM should establish a unique method of destroying this artifact suitable to their campaign.

Ash Swarm

Ash Swarms are a cloud-like manifestation of the Ash Stone. They appears as crawling, swirling patches of gray-black ash 10-15 feet in diameter. They are drawn to any living creature and attack by enveloping their chosen target and draining vitality, draining one rank per round unless a Fair resistance check is made. They have the following characteristics:
  • Average toughness.
  • Sense life, 120 foot radius.
  • Epic resistance to fire damage.
  • Terrible resistance to divine magic.
  • Destroyed by sunlight.
  • Draining touch, draining one rank of vitality per round of exposure (Fair resistance to avoid).
If a creature is slain by draining touch, the Ash Swarm instantly possesses the victim's body, rising as an Ash Walker (see below) within 3 rounds.

Ash Walker

Creatures slain by the Ash Stone's Draining Aura or by Ash Swarms become Ash Walkers, possessed creatures intent on increasing the Stone's potency. They retain the basic form they had in life but appear as dessicated, gray-black figures surrounded by a cloud of choking ash. They have the following characteristics:
  • Fair toughness.
  • Sense life, 120 foot radius.
  • Sense magic, 30 foot radius.
  • Epic resistance to fire damage.
  • Poor resistance to divine magic.
  • Incapacitated by sunlight.
  • Draining touch, draining one rank of vitality by touch (Fair resistance to avoid).
  • Natural attacks. Ash Walkers retain any natural combat abilities they had while alive.
Ash Walkers in possession of magical items will immediately return to the Ash Stone and deposit these artifacts within its area of effect, allowing the Stone to absorb their power. Any creature slain by an Ash Walker will rise as an Ash Walker within 3 rounds.

Friday, December 18, 2009

4th Edition is just like WoW

It's a phrase guaranteed to give forum moderators nightmares as the overly-motivated flame out on the pros and cons of this simple statement. Is it true? Heck if I know, I don't play 4th Edition. My point in using this rather inflammatory post title is draw your attention to the potential benefits of accepting that MMOs and RPGs have some commonality. Let's face it, rather large chunks of the MMO and RPG markets share a focus on fantasy worlds with magic, strange monsters and players as characters within the setting, killing things, and taking their stuff. Why not take advantage of that fact?

Every GM I know uses media, be it books, music, TV, movies, or comics, to inspire their creative process, even if they don't admit it. Let's face it, we're all influenced by by the media we're exposed to. In my opinion we should treat MMOs the same way. After all they're simply another form of media. The biggest hurdle to treating MMOs as media is the fact that they cost money to play, and most people aren't willing to spend their hard earned cash just to pick up a few ideas for a game they're running.

Never fear. Most MMOs have been data-mined by fanatical players, who publish this information free of charge of the web. Using World of Warcraft, the 900 lb. gorilla, as an example, you can find information on every single item, quest, NPC, spell, dungeon, zone and skill in the game on WoW Head. A quick poke at their database reveals it contains:
  • 35,936 items
  • 20,895  NPCs and creatures
  • 8227 quests
  • 49,171 spells
  • 161 zones and dungeons
Now I'll be the first to admit that some of this information is of no use. Quests for example, often boil down to either "Go kill 17 Gog-whompers. Return when you are done." or "Go collect 12 shiny bits from the corpses of Shmees you have slain." But don't scoff. MMOs are built by large teams of talented designers. There's good stuff in there. Browsing through the item data (organized by item type for easy searching), can turn up some interesting and inspiring stuff easily adapted to your game, even if it's just the name that catches your eye. Dungeon zones feature bosses with unique abilities and interesting layouts that you can take advantage of. The named NPCs are a little one dimensional (most are little more than filler), but the bestiary can provide some interesting twists on the mundane.

When stealing... uh adapting ideas from a resource like this, be flexible. Most games won't support direct adaptation, but with a liberal dose of imagination pouf, new item or encounter. Here are a couple examples:

Bloodthirst Breastplate (from here)

Leather armor made from the hide of some red-skinned reptile, the tiny, flexible scales provide Good physical protection without encumbering movement. The armor bears a Good enchantment of guiding and accuracy, allowing the wearer to strike blows with great precision and strength (Great damage bonus).

Nerub'enkan (from here)

A demonic spider lurking in the depths of a web-filled pit, Nerub'enkan is a terrible foe. His spider-like body is covered in dense steel-strong hairs, providing him with Great protection from physical attack. His fore-limbs bear heavy, mantis-like claws that shear through armor like paper (Superb physical attack which ignores two ranks of armor). Nerub'enkan can spray forth a patch of sticky webs that cover a 10' radius area up to 5 times a day. Anyone caught within this area must succeed at a Great strength check to break free. Each round there is a 50% chance 1-2 Shadow Scarabs will leap from the creature's body and attack the nearest foe. Shadow Scarabs are shadowy spider creatures that move with Superb speed and strike with a single Great bite that does Good damage and stuns their target for 2 rounds. Once they deliver their bite they fade away, leaving only a foul stench.

Worldcarver (from here)

Legend says this heavy two-handed axe was forged in the heart of a volcano by the dying king of the fire giants, who imbued the weapon with his own life force. Worldcarver has a heavy, rune-etched blade backed with a stout hammer head. Its haft is ironwood wrapped in thick, red leather, providing a sure grip. A pale golden gem that glows with its own inner light is fitted to its claw-like pommel. Worldcarver is an unbreakable weapon, enchanted with Epic combat enhancements to accuracy and damage. It grants its wielder the strength of a fire giant and provides Superb protection from fire damage. It can be commanded to burst into flame, inflicting Good fire damage with each blow struck.

So there you have it, my thoughts on MMOs and RPGs. Isn't using them as a source of information more fun than arguing about them?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Will to Write Fading

I've been sporadic about posts the last couple weeks, and today is no exception. Instead of subjecting you to my slightly deranged mental state, brought on by attending the musical version of the Pied Piper of Hamelin as performed by my niece's 4th grade class, let me share this comic series, which is probably old news to some, but new to me: DM of the Rings! Also slightly deranged, but funny as hell.

Tomorrow a real post: promise!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Against Your Type

I was talking to one of my Return To Moria players the other day and the conversation turned to favored character roles. After a bit of discussion we realized that none of the players involved had picked primary characters that matched their usual roles. The "I don't care what I play as long as it's a magic user" player is playing a cleric. The two roguish, jack-of-all-trades types are playing a paladin and cleric. The bowman and thinker / support players are both playing front line fighter types, and the healer is playing a pure magic user. It's going to be interesting to see how the mixed up roles turn out. I'd be curious to hear if any of you have experienced a situation like this, and how it turned out.

The other thing that came up during this conversation was the fact that this group doesn't have any players that favor the front line fighter type. On the rare occasions that I play, that's my favorite role, but I'm usually GMing instead of playing. The combat types in this group tend to go for ranged or sneaky fighters. We usually have pretty big groups at the table so someone usually fills this role, but this game is going to have quite a few pure melee types. I may have to make some adjustments to my GM tactics to compensate.

The last thing we discussed was the fact that we spend waaay too much time analyzing our gaming...

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Book of Tongues

This artifact is a thick tome covered in dull gray leather reinforced with a silver spine and reinforcing bands. Two broad straps of black leather is woven into the front and back covers and can be fastened together with a delicate silver latch to hold the volume shut. A white silk ribbon is bound into the books spine and serves as a page mark. There are no markings of any kind on the spine or cover to hint at the book's contents. A Great test of divination magic will reveal Superb alteration magic at work and a second such test will reveal the workings of the item.

Two dozen sheets of the finest vellum lie between the covers of this magical tome. The pages are enchanted with potent spells of translation. The book can be used in the following ways:
  • A page can be attuned to a specific language by having the book's owner hold it while someone speaks the desired language. Full attunement requires three hours of speech be 'heard' by the page, during which time it slowly fills with magical symbols encoding the underlying structure of the tongue. Each attunement is permanent.
  • The book's owner can speak and understand any attuned language simply by opening the book to the desired page and placing their hand upon it. This ability lasts so long as they hold the book in this fashion.
  • The book's owner can understand speech in an attuned language, but not speak it by marking the appropriate page in the book with the attached place mark. This ability lasts so long as they carry the book.
  • These two powers can be combined, allowing the owner to speak and comprehend one language and comprehend another at the same time.
Any spoken language can be attuned with the book, but there must be an audible component. The item does not grant the ability to read and write the attuned language, only to speak or comprehend it when it is spoken.

Friday, December 11, 2009

New Minions

No, not in game, in real life. Tonight I introduced my two younger nieces to D&D. They're 10 and 11, with great imaginations -- they've created an entire world of "Little Guys" that they make up stories about. The leader of the Little Guys is, as far as I can tell, an invisible, talking cloud.

Anyhow, we had an hour to kill so I ran a brief game, setting them up as two young elves in a woodland village. They rolled up a couple characters (straight 3d6 old school of course!) with both girls deciding to play magic users, not surprising given their Harry Potter reading habits. I doled out some basic equipment, gave them a few spells, and off they went!

We were time limited (and only had a few d6s available) so I ran a quick scenario. Their Mom sent them through the woods to get their Grandmother for dinner, the first time they've been trusted alone in the woods. They wandered along, almost getting lost at the fork in the trail, and finally reached their Grandmother's house, only to find she wasn't there! That kind of took them by surprise, especially when I asked what they were going to do about it. They put their heads together and decided to search the cottage. One of them noticed that Grandma's herb basket was gone, so they figured she was out at her herb garden just down the stream and across the meadow.

Off they went, reaching the meadow without incident. Unfortunately Grandma wasn't there, but her basket was. What's more there were tracks nearby. GOBLIN tracks! The players debated going back to the village for help, but figured out it would probably be too late because the village was pretty far away. The decided to push on and see if they could rescue their Grandmother.

They trailed the Goblins to their lair where they discovered a trio of the creatures debating something in a foul language in front of a cave entrance, their Grandma tied up nearby. They cast a sleep spell (which worked) on the Goblins, ran into the camp and dragged their Grandma to safety. Once she was safe they went back past the still sleeping Goblins, snuck into the cave, and searched it, uncovering a cache of gold coins, a silver ring, and a golden bracelet.

After making their escape (one of the girls decided it would be a good idea to brush away their tracks as they left) they returned to the village with their Grandma, who told them that the ring and bracelet they recovered from the Goblins are magical.

All in all a great intro session, when we were done they were both very enthusiastic to play again. I guess next time I go over I'll have to bring some form of dice and actual rules along!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


A selection of candles to light the darkness:

Endless Candle

A stubby yellow beeswax candle in a heavy iron holder with a snuffer attached to the handle with a short leather lace. This candle radiates Fair alteration magic. Once lit it provides Fair illumination within a 15' radius. The candle burns without consuming itself, and can only be extinguished by the attached snuffer. It will continue to burn even when completely submerged.

Flame of the Risen Dead

This pearly white conical taper has three wicks twisted through its center. It radiates Superb divine magic. When placed on the body of a newly slain creature and allowed to burn completely (a process that takes four hours), the candle will restore life to the dead. Anything that causes the flame to go out causes the magic to fail, and the remaining portion of the candle crumbles to dust.

Hedging Candle

A chunky black candle with bits of white and gray powder suspended in its waxy interior, the Hedging Candle radiates Good protection and divine magic. Once lit it prevents undead and supernatural creatures from entering the area it lights. This candle will burn for a total of six hours, and can be extinguished by normal means.

Taper of the Roaring Flame

This squat candle of deep red paraffin radiates Good alteration magic. It provides normal light while lit, but burns with the heat of a bonfire. The candle will burn for six hours before being consumed.

Note: I'm trying out Blogger's 'page break' feature, not because I plan on using it with regularity, but to see how it works, both here and in RSS feeds. Sometimes the partial article break in the RSS feed shows up in an odd place, slicing a sentence in half for example, so I may use it from time to time to avoid that. (edit: well that was a failure...)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Endless Pipe

This artifact is a tube of flexible metallic material. Each end of the tube is fitted with a solid metal ring, one silver, one copper. The Pipe is about two feet long and three inches in diameter when found. It radiates Superb alteration magic. It has the following characteristics:
  • The Pipe can be lengthened or shortened by twisting the copper end clockwise (longer) or counterclockwise (shorter). Its minimum length is three inches, its maximum length ten feet.
  • The Pipe's diameter can be increased or decreased by twisting the silver end clockwise (increases diameter) or counterclockwise (decreases diameter). Its diameter can vary from one inch to one foot.
  • When the ends of the Pipe are placed in different liquids or gasses, it begins to transport whatever substance is touching its silver end through its length and ejecting it out the other end. If, for example, the silver end is placed within a pond and the copper end is left laying on the bank, the Pipe will immediately begin to drain the pond.
  • The Pipe's nature makes it impervious to any harmful effects caused by the substance it moves, so it easily transports acid, lava or poison gas with ease.
  • If sufficient material is available to pump and a large diameter is chosen, the Pipe can serve as a crude weapon, blasting foes with a powerful spray of potentially harmful material.
Legend says the Dwarves created the Endless Pipe as a tool to drain flooded mines and tunnels. Others claim is was an invention of the Elves, who used it to create perpetual water fountains.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Bronze Wain

The Bronze Wain is a large wagon with four over-sized spoked wheels. At first glance it appears rather mundane, but closer examination will reveal that each plank used in the construction of the wagon is actually cast from solid bronze. Similarly the wheels are shaped from some silvery metal, lightweight and strong. Normally a wagon this size would require a team of a half-dozen beasts, but there is no harness fitted. Instead a pair of golden reins hang in mid-air before the velvet covered bench seat.

The Wain radiates Superb animation and alteration magic. A Superb test of divination magic will reveal the command words that activate its magical abilities:
  • Fully loaded the Wain can hold about 3000 lbs. Three people can fit onto its bench seat, and another dozen can squeeze into the cargo area. The Wain provides a smooth and comfortable ride, well protected from the various bumps and impacts of the road.
  • The Wain will move itself at a slow but steady pace for up to eight hours at a stretch, so long as the reins are being held by whomever spoke the command word causing it to move. The Wain moves over any sort of mundane terrain with ease, provided its bulky form is not blocked by obstacles. After traveling for eight hours the Wain will stop and remain motionless for four hours before it can be commanded to move again. The Wain will cover approximately 15 miles during a single eight hour travel period.
  • While moving, the Wain can be commanded to cross water as if it were firm ground. The Wain can cross up to one mile of water while this power is active, and it can be invoked twice per movement period.
  • Once per movement period the Wain can be commanded to conceal its passage. The Wain will travel one mile leaving no wheel marks or signs of passage. It will, however leave a faint trace of Alteration magic, which a Superb test of divination magic might reveal.
  • Once per movement period the Wain can become insubstantial for five minutes, allowing it to travel through solid objects or obstacles such as a stand of trees or a fortress wall.
The Wain is, for most purposes, immune to physical damage and most forms of magical damage. Extended exposure to extreme heat or magical flame will destroy the Wain.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Patchwork Cloak

This short, gaudy cloak is made from strips and patches of brightly colored cloth. A rich red silk lining and a black leather tie at the neck give the item a touch of elegance, but there's no hiding the mismatched and garish nature of the cloak. If examined for magical properties the cloak radiates both Good charm and alteration magic. A Good test of divination magic will reveal the cloak's enchantments:
  • The Patchwork Cloak grants its wearer a glib tongue and friendly demeanor, giving them a Fair bonus to all initial reaction checks.
  • The wearer gains a Fair bonus to all skill checks when performing before a crowd. This bonus rises to Good if the act involves sleight of hand, juggling, or acrobatics.
Patches sewn into the cloak can be pulled free by the wearer, becoming the items listed below. There are initially 10 patches available, and patches that are removed reappear after three days. If all patches are removed the cloak's enchantment fails completely, turning it into a rather threadbare mundane garment. Created items last up to two hours unless otherwise noted. The possible patches include:
  • White - The patch becomes a polished human skull, which can be used to call forth the spirit of a dead person. The spirit can be compelled to answer three questions before it departs and the skull crumbles to dust.
  • Red and Black - The patch becomes a deck of playing cards, which grant the cloak's wearer a Good bonus to all gambling or sleight of hand skill checks involving card tricks.
  • Silver - The patch becomes a crystal ball, which can be used to scry any known location for five minutes, before it vanishes in a cloud of smoke.
  • Blue -  The patch becomes a fine silk handkerchief, which can be stretched, compacted, knotted, and unknotted with a hand gesture, making it ideal for sleight of hand tricks (Good bonus to any such tricks carried out with this item).
  • Yellow - The patch becomes a bright yellow canary, which obeys the wearer's commands. The bird is able to teleport with perfect accuracy up to five times.
  • Black and White - The patch becomes a top hat and wand, which when used together can summon forth a white rabbit or pair of white doves. Furthermore anything placed within the hat can automatically be teleported to a secret pocket in the Patchwork Cloak.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Hallow Stone

This artifact is a squat natural column of red-veined granite with a crudely shaped circular base and a slightly concave, basin-like top. The holy symbols of some long forgotten religion are carved into the sides, the deep incisions glimmering with a faint reddish light. The column weighs about 300 pounds, making it difficult to move or transport. Anyone touching the object can feel a faint tingle from the Superb divine magic contained within. A Great test of divination magic will reveal the item's enchantment.

The Hallow Stone's powers can only be used while it rests on natural soil under the open sky. When placed in such a setting the Stone has the following characteristics:
  • Unnatural creatures (summoned beings, undead, magical constructs, perhaps others), are hedged out of a 100 foot radius area around the artifact. Entering the protected area requires a Great test of willpower for such beings.
  • Natural creatures (animals, and nature-based magical beings, perhaps others) within the same area of effect gain Great protection from all forms of mental attack (fear, charm, mind control, etc.).
  • The beneficial effects of all healing magic within the area of effect are doubled.
  • A Great test of magical lore research will reveal a ritual associated with Stone. The ritual requires the basin-like top of the Stone be filled with pure rainwater collected in a silver bowl. The water must then be blessed as the sun rises by a priest familiar with the ritual. Once the ritual is completed any weapon dipped into this water gains a Great damage bonus against unnatural creatures for four hours. This ritual can be performed once per day, provided materials required are at hand.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Return to Moria: Status Report

In my last post about my upcoming Moria-based campaign I talked about the three main tasks I was pursuing at the time, character creation, mapping, and encounters. The last two weeks have seen some good progress on all three fronts (my players keep out).


All my players have now created their characters. Yes, characters, plural. Since the first session of this game is going to be a full weekend of gaming (my gaming group is 4 states away), we're setting things up to insure a couple of character deaths don't lead to excessive downtime for the players. Here's the full list of characters:

A trio from Gondor:
  • 2nd paladin Man of Gondor
  • 1st cleric Iron Hills Dwarf
  • 1st fighter/magic-user Elf of Lothlorien
War orphans from Rohan:
  • 1st fighter Man of the North
  • 2nd cleric Man of Rohan
  • 1st thief Man of the North
A pair of brothers and their shifty friend:
  • 2nd cleric Man of Gondor
  • 1st paladin Man of Gondor
  • 1st/1st fighter/thief Western Dwarf
Three strangers:
  • Man of Gondor, Ranger, 2nd Lvl
  • Hobbit, Thief, 1st Lvl
  • Iron Hills Dwarf, Cleric, 1st Lvl
Three more strangers:
  • Man of the North 2nd level magic user
  • Iron Hills Dwarf 1st level cleric
  • Elf of Lothlorien - 1st level fighter/magic user
A pair of Dwarf cousins and their chance companion:
  • Iron Hills Dwarf fighter, 2nd level
  • Iron Hills Dwarf cleric, 1st level
  • Man of the North magic user, 1st level
As expected, a solid Dwarf contingent, plus a heavy dose of clerics and fighters. Pretty typical for this group. We already have a betting pool going on which character dies first.


I now have a near complete set of level maps for the entire dungeon. After doing rough drafts of each major level by hand I switched to using Open Office's Impress, which is theoretically presentation software, but does a very nice job of creating flow-chart style maps. Compare my lame rough draft with this close to final version.

Using Impress I've been able to color code a ton of information into the basic map. I can also jump between levels with the application's interactive features, which link slide navigation to mouse-clicks on objects.

I'm still working on naming and tweaking the level maps. I'm also adding at least two more layers of connectivity between the levels: sewers and natural waterways. Other potential links include natural unmapped caves and volcanic vents.

Next steps for mapping include descriptions of the blocked out areas of each level map. I'll be starting this process with the levels most likely to be visited, then work inward from there. The party has a few clues about various entrances into the Mines, so I'll be focusing my efforts on those levels. As I do this I'll also be sketching in sewer lines and waterways, and drawing up unique maps as needed.


I've continued sketching out the various groups that currently inhabit the depths of Moria. I now have 20 major groups inhabiting the depths. My biggest challenge now is placing them all in some sort of reasonable fashion. There's a lot of connectivity between the Mine levels and I'm trying to lay out groups so there's some rhyme or reason to it. Some of the recent additions to the bestiary include:
  • A cult of curiously twisted Dwarves who worship at a strange stone altar dedicated to a previously unknown God.
  • The reptilian Grimmve, primitive tribal creatures who use living weapons in combat.
  • The Ettercap, my own take on the original, half-spider / half-human cross-breeds that serve one of the other groups in Moria.

All in all I'm pleased with how Moria is developing, though I find myself spending way too much time thinking about it. I've also discovered I can waste hours tweaking map layouts, something I have to put a stop to if I want to keep moving forward. There's still a ton of work to do, but I love world building, so it's all good!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ice Maul

Ice Maul is a heavy warhammer with a head of unbreakable blue ice. Wisps and streamers of chill white mist trail from this hammer, causing anyone they touch to give an involuntary shiver. The weapon's haft and handle are fashioned from brightly polished and silvered steel. A diamond pattern provides a sure grip, and a polished globe of obsidian finishes the haft. Ice Maul radiates Great combat and elemental magic, and a Great test of divination will reveal its enchantments. The weapon has the following characteristics:
  • Ice Maul has a Fair bonus to accuracy and a Good bonus to damage. It inflicts double damage upon fire-based foes.
  • Ice Maul's bearer gains Superb resistance to cold based attacks.
  • Any melee blow struck by Ice Maul chills the target, causing them to miss their next action as they shake off the effects of the cold (A Great test of resistance negates this effect).
  • Ice Maul can be thrown thrice per day with a Good accuracy bonus. If the throw is successful the weapon does normal damage to the target, and sprays forth a burst of icy needles that strike anyone within 10' of the impact for Great damage. The weapon immediately returns to its wielder's hand.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Desert Island Games

Over at Ratty Ramblings they've proposed an interesting thought exercise. Choose the eight games from your current collection you'd want if you were stranded on a desert island. You get to bring along all the material you own for each game chosen. Here's my list:
  1. AD&D - Pretty much a no-brainer for me since I have multiple campaign worlds for this rule set. If forced to chose a version I'd pick 2nd, since I can hack out the parts I don't want.
  2. Traveller - For a Science Fiction fix, this is an easy choice.
  3. AFMBE - If you're stuck on an island the only thing missing is zombies.
  4. Call of Cthulhu - Hmmm two horror picks. Might not be prudent, but it's my list.
  5. Amber - A diceless change of pace from the other games on my list.
  6. Playing Cards - Because they're simply too flexible not to bring.
  7. Cosmic Encounter - An awesome game to scratch the non-RPG itch.
  8. Chess - Sometimes you can't get a group together, even on a desert island.
As for which is most important to bring, I'd say AD&D, simply because it's the system I keep going back to, and I have so much material for it. For a non-gaming luxury, I think I'd have to choose my music collection and some means of playing it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Timeslip is a wide silver band engraved with a a pattern of three interwoven lines enameled in blue, yellow and red. These engravings pulse with tiny flashes of light, creating a tiny nimbus of colors around the item. When worn the ring feels heavier than it should, though not so much as to create a burden upon the wearer. Timeslip radiates Legendary alteration magic and a Superb test of divination magic will reveal its enchantment.

When worn, Timeslip has two primary functions. First it provides Legendary protection against any sort of time-altering magic, allowing the wearer to operate normally when under the effects of such enchantments (including area of effect type magic). Second, the wearer occasionally steals time from those around them. Anyone carrying out an action with Timeslip's wearer as a target or in the area of effect has a 10% chance of having their action stolen. This chance rises to 30% if the action requires physical contact (melee attacks or touch based spells for example). The character losing the action simply does not act, spells are not cast, missiles not fired, blows not struck. Instead Timeslip's wearer gains a free action, during which they can use any of their abilities normally. Note that intent has no effect on this enchantment. A healer attempting to cure a wound on the wearer may lose their action as readily as a foe attempting to remove their head.

Monday, November 23, 2009


This silky cloak is worked in a seemingly random pattern of leaves. Each leaf is cut from silk of its own unique hue: pale green, delicate yellow, burnt orange, or deep red. Each leaf is sewn in place with polished gold or copper thread. The whole is a somewhat gaudy but pleasing to the eye calf-length cloak.

If examined for magical properties Leafwrap radiates Great alteration, protection and obscurement magic. A Superb test of divination magic will reveal its enchantments. It conveys the following powers when worn:
  • The wearer gains a Superb bonus against any attempt to detect their presence while they are within forest or woodland. This protection includes observation, tracking, magical detection, and scrying magic.
  • They may tirelessly travel on foot through woodland terrain with a Good speed bonus for up to 16 hours per day.
  • The wearer gains Great protection against all nature-based harmful magic.
  • Thrice per day the wearer can cloak themselves and up to six human-sized companions as a small grove of trees. This alteration lasts thirty minutes and provides a Great bonus versus detection. The cloaked area radiates faint alteration magic while the magic is in effect.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Stonetoe, Stormfist and Ramwall

Today's post features a collection of armor pieces. I'm feeling lazy, so short and sweet:

A pair of heavy leather boots reinforced with metal plates and fitted with heavy hobnails. Stonetoe radiates Good evocation magic. They grant their wearer Superb stability when walking on any natural stone or earth surface, making it impossible to knock them off their feet. Thrice per day the wearer can stomp their foot to cause a tremor in the earth. Anyone within 30 feet is knocked prone (Great reflex check to avoid).
These light-weight gauntlets are fashioned from the skins of electric eels covered with the tiny neck scales of a blue dragon. They radiate Great elemental and protection magic. Stormfist's wearer gains Great resistance to all forms of electrical attack. Five times per day they can add Fair electrical damage to any normal melee attack they carry out with a metal weapon.

Ramwall is a thick oak shield covered with the shaggy hide of a mountain goat and decorated with a pair of matching horns. It radiates Great protection and alteration magic. It provides Great protection from physical attack. Three times per day the wielder can hold the shield before them and charge forward along a 30 foot path, inflicting Good damage on anyone they strike and knocking them back or to the side 10 feet.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Face of Stones

This heavy helmet fully encloses the wearer's head. Each of the helm's three sides is carved from a slab of stone, granite, obsidian and quartz. Each is carved in the shape of a human face. A narrow silver and iron framework holds the three faces in place. The item radiates Superb alteration magic, and a Great test of divination magic will reveal its enchantment.

To activate the item's powers it must be worn. It can be worn with any one of the three faces forward. The wearer's body and gear takes on the appearance of whichever stone is forward on the helm (granite, obsidian, or quartz). It has the following characteristics:
  • Impaired Vision - the helm's construction restricts sight, reducing all observation or perception skill checks by one rank.
  • Body of Stone - The wearer's body becomes as dense as stone. The effect also makes swimming impossible as the wearer sinks... like a stone. The wearer also becomes susceptible to any spell or magical effect that specifically targets stone or earth.
  • Alter Face - The wearer rotates the helmet so a new face is forward. This action takes a full round.
  • Granite Face - While this face is forward the wearer gains Superb toughness versus physical attack. Any mundane weapon used against them has a Fair chance of shattering upon a successful attack. Thrice per day the wearer can summon a wall of stone, 30 feet long, 10 feet high and one foot thick. This wall can be summoned anywhere within 60 feet. The wall lasts for 10 rounds.
  • Obsidian Face - While this face is forward the wearer gains Superb resistance to elemental damage, and any fire damage received actually heals the wearer. Furthermore, thrice per day they can summon razor-sharp shards of obsidian from any natural earth or stone surface. This effect covers a 20 foot radius area, inflicts Fair damage on any creature within the area of effect, and lasts 10 rounds. Any creature attempting to move through the shards suffers fair damage for each 10 feet traveled.
  • Quartz Face - While this face is forward the wearer reflects all spells directed at them back at the caster. They also gain the ability to walk through stone or earth as if it were air.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Return to Moria: First Victi... err Characters

I thought I'd give a brief update on the status of this campaign setting. I took a few days off after my last significant post on the subject, primarily to let things stew in my head for a while. Since then things have moved forward a bit.

After I tweaked the available characters and racial level limits a bit, I opened up character creation to the players. Since the group that's going to be playing this is scattered over three states, we do all character creation via email. There are three methods of attribute generation available:
  • Pick from a pre-generated list.
  • Roll using a 4d6 drop lowest, in order method.
  • Roll using a 3d6 best of twelve, choose order method.
The third method generates the weakest rolls, but is the only method that allows the player to order rolls. The pre-generated attributes provide rolls that support any allowed class. Each player rolls two 1st and one 2nd level character. So far the tally is:
  • A pair of Iron Hills Dwarves, fighter (2nd) and cleric
  • A Man of the North magic-user
  • A paladin of Gondor (2nd)
  • An Iron Hills Dwarf cleric
  • A human cleric (race TBD) (2nd)
  • A paladin of Gondor (squire of the other paladin)
  • A Western Dwarf fighter/thief with extremely low HP
  • A ranger of Gondor (2nd)
  • A Hobbit thief
  • A lame Dwarf cleric (the only character rolled randomly)
As I expected a very Dwarf heavy party (a common theme with this gaming group). There are still seven or eight more characters to go. I expect at least one elf will put in an appearance.

[My players, stop reading!]

I've spent a fair bit of time laying out stat blocks for the various creatures and races inhabiting Moria. When populating a dungeon like this I try to come up with at least three variants of each major inhabitant, and for important races, five or six. I've also laid out the named NPCs found in the dungeon. Using Goblins, as an example, I have the following information:
  • Three main tribes, each with three or four important named NPCs.
  • Seven variants of basic Goblins (including sneaky, tough, very tough, spell using, and leader types).
  • Three creatures that associate with or are used by Goblins.
  • Relationships between the Goblin tribes and the various other groups in Moria.
This may sound like a ton of work, but since I'm using old school rules, stat blocks are nice and short (most are one line of stats plus a line or two of text).

Dungeon Layout
I've finally settled on how I'm going to map out Moria. The sheer size of the dungeon is rather daunting and I spent some time spinning my wheels as I contemplated how to map the beast. I finally decided to use three detail levels to lay things out.
  1. A top level map. This corresponds to a standard "level layout" map, showing each major area as a simple block diagram. I've altered the maps in the linked post a bit, but they're a good approximation of the top level maps I'm using.
  2. Level maps. These are block diagrams that show the overall structure of each level in Moria. There's no real detail beyond general connectivity and a note or two for each main area.
  3. Detail maps. These will be traditional dungeon maps, showing actual corridors, walls, tunnels and features. I plan on doing unique maps for some areas and using generic maps for others.
Using these three detail levels I can manage the potentially huge maps in a piecemeal fashion, and provide reasonable detail of any area at a moment's notice.

The other thing I've been pushing on is fleshing out the NPCs in Hollin, the starting town outside Moria. I have a pretty good handle on the main NPCs now, and have most of the locals at least sketched out. I used the NPC trait generator from the 1st edition AD&D DMG to fill in some of the blank characters in the NPC list. I've based Hollin's cast on a popular TV series from the recent past so I have a clear picture of how things work in the town. I'll be curious to see if any of my players pick up on the relationship.

Next Steps
That's about where things stand for now. This week I'm planning on finishing out the level maps for Moria, polishing off the last NPCs in Hollin, and starting on some detailed dungeon maps. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dwarf Wire

The Elves may be known for their rope, but Dwarves prefer wire. Dwarf Wire is formed from the finest mithril-infused silver drawn through complex dies built from the spinnerets of giant spiders. Each length is wound upon enclosed ivory spools and soaked in a bath of troll's blood and gray ooze ichor, making it uniquely malleable. Each spool contains a single 49 foot long strand of Dwarf Wire, as fine as a slender thread. Once pulled forth from the spool the Wire must be activated within 10 minutes or it crumbles to dust. It can be used in one of the following ways:
  • Spread - A length of Wire may be pulled and flattened, forming a rigid, opaque sheet up to three feet wide and as long as the original segment. This sheet will instantly adhere to any stone or metal surface it touches, creating an almost unbreakable panel. It could be placed vertically to form a barrier or laid flat to form a walkway for example. A sheet is so thin and rigid that any creature impacting the edge suffers a Good damage cut.
  • Thicken - A length of Wire can be twisted, causing it to thicken into a rod-like construct, up to six inches in diameter. The rod will instantly adhere to any stone or metal surface it touches, creating a solid protrusion or bar.
  • Flow - When shaken a length of Wire will become soft and jelly-like. When touched to any metal or stone surface it fills any cracks, seams or gaps it encounters, then transmutes into the native material, instantly repairing any breach, crack or damage.
Dwarf Wire remains flexible and movable for ten minutes after it is cut from its spool. Once that time has passed it becomes rigid and almost unbreakable (Superb toughness), permanently bonded to any stone or metal surface it was in contact with.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


This artifact is a three inch crystal of crystal clear quartz wrapped in a net of silver wire fitted with a single loop so it can be hung or worn as a pendant. The item radiates faint warmth when held. A clever craftsman or jeweler will recognize the work as Dwarven craftsmanship. A test for magical properties will reveal Fair evocation magic at work. A Good test of Dwarven lore will reveal three runes of the Dwarves secret language woven into the mesh of silver wire. Holding or wearing the Lampstone and speaking one of the runes will invoke the item's powers:
  • Light - The Lampstone produces a clear white light. Initially this light is dim (equivalent to candle-light), but blowing on the Lampstone can increase the intensity up to that of a bright lantern. A second invocation of the rune will extinguish the light. This power can be invoked at will and lasts as long as desired.
  • Share - When this word is spoken and the Lampstone is touched to another stone, it causes the target to begin glowing with the intensity of a torch. The touched stone will glow for four hours. Touching it again with the Lampstone will extinguish its light. This power can be invoked seven times per day.
  • Flare - When this word is spoken the Lampstone will create a great burst of white light, filling a 30 foot radius sphere for a brief duration. Any sighted creature within the area of effect that is unprepared will be blinded for 2d6 rounds (Great resistance check to avoid). This power can be invoked three times per day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Return to Moria: Mushrooms in the Depths

The natural caves and caverns beneath Moria are home to a variety of fungi and mushrooms. Along with the naturally occurring species there are several varieties cultivated by the Dwarves. Some of these fungi are useful, some deadly. Here are a few I'll be using in the campaign:
  • Blackspire - These slender, fifteen foot tall, smooth-capped mushrooms have a tough central stalk that the Dwarves used as a construction material. The stalk can be split into long, board-like segments.
  • Drowseballs - Thumb-sized, globular puff-balls with a delicate yellow skin and filled with a jelly-like substance. When eaten they instantly cause a deep, uninterpretable sleep that lasts one hour. At the end of the hour the consumer awakens, fully rested and alert as if they had just had a full night's rest.
  • Balrog's Flail - This fungus grows from damp stone in clumps of thread-like red-tipped tendrils. It is highly toxic if consumed, but if ground to a paste and combined with alcohol it makes a powerful solvent capable of dissolving iron-based metal.
  • Slaver Domes - Tiny pale green mushrooms with a delicious and nutritious sweet flesh, Slaver Domes make anyone that consumes them extremely vulnerable to suggestion or charm effects for four hours (two rank penalty to any resistance checks).
  • Red Tongue - This nondescript gray fungus grows on the stems of other fungi, forming broad rounded shelves. It is a nutritious food source, but dyes the tongue of anyone that eats it bright red for hours.
  • Clamshell Fungus - A gleaming yellow fungus shaped like a half-shell clam, this growth is poisonous if eaten, but if boiled for an extended period it creates a broth that can neutralize toxins and poisons if consumed. The broth loses potency within a day of its creation.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Three Potions and a Story

A few random potions for a gray and windy day. I like potions because they're easily managed packets of power that can be exceptionally powerful without being unbalancing. After all, once they're used, they're gone for good.

Silverskin - A shiny, silvery liquid with a sharp smell and extremely bitter taste. When consumed it causes the imbiber's skin to take on the color and shine of a polished silver mirror. All elemental spells directed at the imbiber are reflected back at the caster for full effect.

Aqueous Form - A clear, viscous liquid that is both odorless and tasteless. When consumed the imbiber's body transforms into coherent water. They can retain their shape, or flow through small openings or crevices at will. The imbiber could, for example, put out a torch simply by dousing it with their hand, or drown someone by smothering them with their body. While under the effects of this potion the imbiber is immune to mundane weapons and most elemental attacks, though cold damage is increased by two ranks.

Winter's Breath -  Each dose of this pale blue and minty potion allows the imbiber to breathe forth a gust of bitterly cold air, inflicting Great damage on anyone within the area of effect, a 20 foot long, 5 foot wide path. Any water in this area of effect will be frozen solid, making this potion useful for creating temporary bridges or dams.

And now for my favorite potion story: In a D&D campaign I ran a few years back, Father Bo, the party's cleric, got saddled with a potion of sweet water. The player grumbled and stowed it away, not really thinking much of the item. Weeks later the party was investigating events in the sewers beneath a coastal city. The sewers were routinely flooded by the ocean's high tides and one of the pools had been occupied by a gigantic crevice creature. The beast surprised the party as they were crossing the pool on a narrow walkway, and quickly dragged several party members into the water. Good old Father Bo pulls out his sweet water potion, uncorks it, and tosses it in the pool, instantly transforming the salt water to fresh and killing the crevice creature in the process due to osmotic shock. Never let it be said sweet water is a useless potion!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Magic Missile!

No, not that Magic Missile. Arrows and quarrels often get the short end of the stick when it comes to magical properties, usually stuck with a simple accuracy or damage enhancement. Here are a few unique missiles for your reading pleasure. All missiles share the following characteristics:
  •  Each missile radiates Good alteration or evocation magic.
  •  A Good test of divination magic will reveal the missile's power and command word, which must be spoken when the missile is fired.
  •  Each missile can be activated once per day, recharging each morning at sunrise. Missiles fired without activating them perform as normal weapons. Missiles activated before firing gain a Good bonus to accuracy.
  •  Missiles are almost unbreakable (Superb toughness) and immune to most forms of elemental or magical damage (Superb resistance).
The Missiles:
  • Iron Fist - This missile has a broad iron point, shaped to resemble a closed fist. Its shaft is made from polished black oak, and it is fletched with eagle feathers. When its power is invoked this missile does normal damage and knocks the target back five feet along the flight path.
  • Needle's Point - This missile has a slim, silver point fitted to a blue-dyed ash shaft. It is fletched with the feathers of a stirge. When its power is invoked this missile pierces the target, doing maximum damage, then continues its flight, striking additional targets and doing maximum damage. Needle's Point can strike up to six targets in this fashion before it loses its enchantment.
  • Splinter - This missile is tipped with a razor sharp obsidian point fitted to a shaft of polished bamboo fletched with hummingbird wings. When it's power is activated it splits into six individual missiles, each targeting a separate foe, beginning with those nearest the original target. Each missile does normal damage. Duplicate missiles fade after striking, leaving only the original Splinter intact.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Return to Moria: Millstone Doors

These are one of the defensive constructs that will be appearing in Moria:

Defensive doors consisting of a great circle of granite designed to roll in front of a narrow tunnel entrance. The entry is sunken so the stone is held vertically in a trough. It overlaps the frame of the door and can be wedged in place, making it nearly impossible to roll aside from the outside. From the interior it is quite easy to move.

A variant of this door features a narrow hole bored through the center of the stone, allowing a steel rod to be pushed through. One end of the rod features a "T" that unfolds flat against the stone's surface, the other end is held in place with a metal pin. This allows a bar to be fastened across the stone, held in place by the rod and the walls of the tunnel.

The locking version of this door is often used to create cul-de-sac style traps. The enemy is led into a large chamber with multiple looping corridors leading back to the entry area. The pursued party loops through the corridors, exits and seals the door, trapping the pursuers within. Water or poison gas can be used to kill the enemy, or they can simply be left to starve.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Return to Moria: Next Steps

In the last article on my Return to Moria campaign, I closed with the intent of focusing this article on setting up the main inhabitants of Moria for the campaign. I quickly discovered that wasn't the only thing I was doing however, so rather than stick to plan, I'm going to write a bit about what I'm really working on (My players keep out!).


At the close of the previous article I had enough in the way of notes and ideas that I needed to get them organized. My go to method of organizing campaign notes these days is Tiddlywiki, a single file wiki implementation that requires no hosting, runs in a browser, and is very easy to use. I use it to write articles for this blog, to maintain a personal to do list, and for campaign notes. If you haven't tried tried Tiddlywiki, I'd urge you to check it out. A couple key features I like:
  • Tagging - Any tiddler (Tiddlywiki's term for 'article') can be tagged with one or more terms that serve as categories, making it easy to find things by topic. I have regional (Moria, Hollin, Eregion) tags, category (item, bestiary, location) tags, purpose (encounter, lore, overview), and status (incomplete, published) tags, about 30 in total.
  • Inclusion - Any tiddler can be included within another with a one line command. This is extremely useful for encounters as you can include the stat block tiddlers (always written up separately) for all participants in each encounter tiddler without rewriting a bunch of stuff.
  • Navigation - You can customize the main navigation bar to reflect your content easily, as the navigation bar is just another tiddler. Moria currently lists the home page article for each major region, plus links to my player site, and a few other external resource sites.
The second part of my organizational efforts was to put together a few web pages for my players. Nothing fancy here, just a recap of the pitch, character creation and an overview of the sandbox right now. I'll expand it to provide more information as the need arises.

Moria Expanded

Once I was organized, I spent some time working on a really rough map of Moria. Moria is gigantic and I've realized I can't map every square inch, so I'm going to be using a mix of graph-style maps that show linkages, geomorph-style maps that I can use to piece together secondary areas, and traditional dungeon maps. With this mix I think I can quickly lay out a reasonable map for any section of the Mines that the players choose to explore.

I also spent some time thinking about how Moria is laid out, and drew a few conclusions based on that. I already talked a bit about the major areas within Moria in the sandbox article, but a few more details emerged:
  • Moria was a city, so there must be places to live and work. I made the decision that Dwarves live in clan halls that house many multi-generational families. This decision allows me to design a few clan hall layouts geomorph style and get a lot of mileage out of them. Similarly, workshops and smithies are clan focused so a similar approach can work there.
  • Dwarves are defensive and isolationist. Moria is riddled with defensive fortifications and stonework tricks and traps. Each Hall and Deep can be locked down and isolated from the others and secret tunnels and doors allow flanking maneuvers and troop movements without enemy interference. A combination of geomorph and unique maps will cover these features.
  • The Lower Caves are cold and wet. Gandalf hints at this a few times in LotR. I'm going to run with it. The Lower Caves contain vast lakes and rivers of chill black water. With little lore concerning this area, I will take quite a few liberties with the depths.


I spent quite a bit of time over the past week sketching out a bestiary for Moria. I've been working in broad strokes, from the known to the unknown. I ended up doing three passes, beginning with what was known about Moria. The first pass gave me the following list:
  • Goblins, Orcs, Trolls - These are very much evident in LotR and other historic references to Moria so they'll definitely be included. They also make great fodder for more powerful groups, allowing me to set up some internal politics in the Mines.
  • Dwarves - By canon, the Dwarves were driven from Moria long ago, but there's no reason to assume they all left. I've sketched out four general groups of Dwarves that remain in Moria:
    • Slaves - Some Dwarves were captured and enslaved by Goblins, Orcs or other inhabitants. Their descendants labor on in the dark.
    • Survivors - Isolated groups that remained independent or colonies of escaped slaves.
    • Turned Dwarves - Cultists, power-mad or overly greedy, these Dwarves aligned themselves to the dark powers found within the depths, becoming hated outcasts.
    • Returnees - Dwarves that have returned to reclaim Moria for the Dwarves.
  • The Balrog - To my reading it's pretty clear that Gandalf utterly defeated the Balrog, but I'm listing it here just in case I change my mind.
  • Watcher in the Water - Gandalf believes this creature was driven from the waters beneath Moria. I'll run with that. There is no longer a lake outside Hollin gate and the Watcher has returned to the depths, but it is not alone.
My first pass gave me a nice little list of occupants, but it's a bit limited. I'd like a little more variety so on to pass two where I dug a bit deeper into Tolkien's writings to add a few more occupants (taking great liberties with canon):
  • Spiders - Shelob is one of my favorite villains in LotR, and spiders appear elsewhere in Tolkien's works, so it seems natural that a lesser daughter of Shelob and some of her spawn will find their way into Moria.
  • The Corrupt of Angmar - The realm of the Witch King was defeated long ago, but some of the most powerful and corrupt sorcerers of that evil empire escaped into the deep tunnels and passages beneath the Misty Mountains, eventually finding their way to Moria.
  • The Nameless - Gandalf said "Far, far below the deepest delvings of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Sauron knows them not. They are older than he. Now I have walked there, but I will bring no report to darken the light of day." Yeah, gotta use that.
That's a pretty good sized list now, but Moria is BIG, so time for a third pass. I focused on extrapolating from the existing bestiary or blatantly stealing from other areas of Tolkien's works.
  • Khazad-azun - Dwarf cultists who worship The Nameless as Gods, a faith shared by...
  • The Deep Ones - Foul aquatic beings of the Lower Caves, minions of The Nameless. With the fall of the Balrog they are free to expand their realm.
  • Herders - As the Ents watch over the great forests of Middle-earth so do the Herders watch over the fungal woods and their inhabitants in the depths.
  • Minions of the Corrupt - The dark magic of Angmar perverts flesh and mind to its purpose. Bestial Weres, demonic Imps, stony Gargoyles and spidery Ettercaps serve the sorcerers of the dead Witch King.
  • Golems - Some of the automatons of the Dwarves remain active in the Halls and Deeps of Moria, forever executing their last commands to work or protect the Mines.
  • The Aquatics - The Nameless and the Deep Ones are not the only creatures inhabiting the Lower Caves, the Beingreip and Grimmve, hard-shelled and scaly, also lurk in the depths.
And now, I think, I have a good bestiary for the depths (and a much longer article than I anticipated). I'm going to be walking away from this project for a couple days to see what gels in the interim. Stay tuned for further developments!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Desert Wight

The Burning is a huge desert wasteland, created by the death curse of an ancient evil long ago. The remnants of this curse linger even now, affecting any creature that dies in this place. The remains of those that die by violence in the Burning rise as Desert Wights, undead creatures with a deadly touch and an aura of evil.

Desert Wights appear to be desiccated corpses with pallid gray flesh and glinting black eyes. Their nails and teeth have lengthened and thickened, giving them an almost bestial appearance. Desert Wights hunt down and slay any living creature who's path they cross, expanding their numbers with each newly slain individual.

Desert Wights have the following characteristics:
  • Great toughness and Fair stealth.
  • Fair physical attack with two claws, Good bite attack.
  • Superb resistance to heat and electrical damage.
  • Dread Aura - Anyone coming within 30 feet of a Wight must make a Great test of willpower or be filled with dread for 1d3 rounds, either fleeing in panic or standing frozen with fear. There is a 50% chance anyone struck with dread will drop any held item.
  • Desiccating Touch - Any successful melee attack drains one rank of strength and vitality from the target (Great test of resistance to avoid). Anyone completely drained of strength or vitality is slain. Their remains crumble to dust within six hours, leaving only bones which rise as an undead skeleton under the control of the Desert Wight that drained them.
Desert Wights are inherently evil. They may be affected by holy artifacts or protective devices.

Those slain by violence in the Burning can be prevented from rising as Desert Wights by burning their remains.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Breaking out of a Rut

Well, not that big a rut really. More a shallow groove.

I've been spending far too much time thinking about my upcoming Moria game lately, and I've decided I've become... predicable. Now this isn't completely surprising. I've been gaming with some members of my group for more than 30 years (yes that puts me squarely in the old school camp) and after that long, your tricks of the trade are pretty well know.

I'd like to shake that up a bit and for that I'm asking for help from you. I'd like to hear about a standout element from one of your games, be it a memorable NPC, a dramatic combat scene, a dangerous foe, or an unusual trick. Ideally it'd be something matching up with a dungeon-y fantasy game with Tolkien-ish elements, but that's not critical. I'm just looking for some inspiration from outside my regular circle of players.

If you feel like contributing, just drop a comment on this article. I look forward to reading the results!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Living Weapons

The aquatic races of the deep caverns and caves suffer grave handicaps when it comes to weaponry. The lack of wood and inability to work metal underwater has led to the use of bone as a primary construction material and toxic, venomous, or just plain nasty creatures as the damage dealing component. Because of water resistance thrusting weapons are preferred, so most Living Weapons are spear-like, consisting of four to six foot long shaft tipped with a cluster of curved spikes, which hold the weapon's living payload. Each weapon is "primed" with one of the following creatures:
  • Razor Nautilus - Normally these fist-sized predators scour the deep cracks and crevices of the subterranean aquatic realm, grabbing their prey with strong sucker and claw equipped tentacles. When used as a Living Weapons the creatures grab the target and attach themselves with their strong tentacles, causing a Good wound on impact and continuing to inflict Fair damage each subsequent round. In addition they release a cloud of inky black dye, which obscures vision if underwater, or stains anything it comes in contact with black if on land. The Razor Nautilus can survive for one hour out of water. It has a tough shell providing Great defense.
  • Venom Stars - These multi-armed creatures are covered with a thick coat of venomous spines and have excrete a strong digestive acid. When used as a Living Weapon the creature grabs the target and immediately belches forth a Fair strength acid that eats through wood, metal and flesh, inflicting Fair damage and searing pain each round. Attempts to remove the creature are met by sharp spines, which inject a paralyzing neurotoxin into any flesh that comes in contact with them (Great test of resistance to avoid the effects). Venom Stars can survive for hours out of water.
  • Stoneshell Crabs - Thick-shelled crustaceans with strong, sharp claws, Stoneshells inflict Good slashing wounds with each attack. Unlike other Living Weapons Stoneshells are tied to the weapon shaft, so they can be used repeatedly. Stoneshells are shore-dwellers, so they can survive for extended periods out of the water. They have Superb toughness due to their thick shells.
Races that use Living Weapons often keep several at hand, sticking the butt of the spear-shaft into the lake bottom if underwater, or using keeping the creature in a small barrel of water if on land. The Razor Nautilus and Venom Star are used as first strike weapons. Once they've attached themselves to a target the combatant switches to a Stoneshell, or a simple shell tipped spear.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Return To Moria: Some Maps

These are two quick maps I pulled together for my Moria campaign using Open Office Draw to lay them out. Note to my players: Don't be peeking!

They show the main upper halls, the lower deeps, the two gates into the Mines, a number of upper and lower natural cavern complexes, and Durin's Tower, with a few miscellaneous markers up too.

The first one is a top-down view of the main areas of Moria.

The second is a side view showing relative elevations.

Of course there's no real scale here, other than a rough 40 miles between the gates.

Friday, October 30, 2009


The cloak is fashioned from thousands of earthworms, sewn into a calf-length cloak. The worms are preserved by the enchantment, forming a squishy, sticky garment of pinkish-brown flesh. A rough collar of wriggling worms circles the wearer's neck and magically fastens the garment, once the proper command phrases are know. The garment radiates Superb alteration and Good protection magic. A Great test of divination magic will reveal its enchantments.
  • Wormskin provides Good protection against physical damage, its resilient skin simply absorbing the force of the attack.
  • Wormskin's wearer gains Great protection against any grappling or grabbing attacks, which simply slide off the slippery, wriggling surface of the cloak.
  • Wormskin's wearer is vulnerable to fire or heat-based attacks, suffering an additional rank of damage.
  • Burrow - The cloak envelopes the wearer completely then, in the form of gigantic worm, burrows into any soil or earth. It digs to a a depth of ten feet, then becomes inactive. While in the burrow the wearer is completely hidden from sight, the only hint of their presence is a small hole on the surface. The cloak shields the wearer from magical detection, appearing as nothing more than a natural creature hidden beneath the earth. Burrow can be invoked twice a day, and lasts four hours per invocation. The wearer can end the effect at any time.
  • Wormform - Twice per day the wearer can assume the form of a giant worm, allowing them to slither and squeeze through narrow crevices and cracks or dig through soil or earth at the rate of 30 feet per round. This effect lasts up to six rounds.
Yeah, it's pouring down rain here, and my driveway was covered with earthworms when I went out to get the paper. Eww, worms on bare feet!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Crooked Hand

This magical relic appears to be a mummified human hand mounted on a short mahogany rod. The hand itself is dessicated and leathery, the fingers and joints twisted and gnarled as if stricken with some bone-distorting disease. Its nails are long corkscrews of blackened keratin, tough and sharp. A fine tracery of silver wire winds up and down the wooden rod and binds the hand to it. If examined for magical properties Crooked Hand radiates Great alteration magic. A Great test of divination magic will reveal its powers each activated with a command word. Each power can be used three times per day and lasts ten rounds. The target must be within 60 feet of the wielder and a clear line of sight must also exist. The target may resist the effects with a Great test of willpower.
  • Crooked eye - The target's vision is warped and distorted causing distant objects to loom up suddenly, while nearby objects vanish in the distance. Any task requiring sight suffers a three rank penalty for the duration.
  • Crooked touch - Sensation is twisted and distorted, soft becomes razor sharp, hard surfaces feel like liquid, and silk becomes sandpaper. The victim will drop anything held and become completely distracted by their attempts to remove anything touching their skin. Ignoring the effects inflicts an Average psychosomatic wound upon the victim each round the effect is ignored.
  • Crooked foot - The victim loses all sense of balance and direction, perceiving the world as a spinning kaleidoscope of color and motion. Any attempt to walk will send them reeling into the nearest person or solid object. Repeated attempts to walk or run have a Fair chance of causing Average damage to the victim or whomever they run into each round.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Return To Moria: The Sandbox

A while back I posted the pitch I made to my gaming group. The response from my players was overwhelmingly positive, so the game is afoot. Since mega-dungeons and sandbox play are recurring threads in the blog-sphere and that's the direction I'm taking with this game I thought I'd throw down some information about how I'm preparing for this game.

Since the game is set in Tolkien's Middle-earth, my first step was to find some inspirational resources. A quick web search turned up two sites that look useful, The Encyclopedia of Arda and The Thain's Book. I also spent the weekend watching the The Lord of the Rings.

My next step was to define the potential roles for player characters. Tolkien's world provides many options for races and backgrounds, but doesn't really fit the classic old-school class model very well, but I've already decided to play fast and loose with the setting, so coming up with a collection of races and classes wasn't all that hard.

My initial pitch sketched out the very basic outlines of the sandbox, so my next step was to firm up the area of play. I had visualized Hollin, the player's base of operations, as a gold rush town, populated by those drawn by the potential wealth of Moria. With that in mind I laid out a list of businesses:
  • Durin's Rest - A slightly better quality inn and tavern
  • Farin's Provisions - General supplies and provisions
  • Gamling's Mounts - A stable
  • Garden of the Valar - Shrines to the various Valar
  • Mithril's End - A smithy
  • Moria Tours - Guided tours of Moria
  • Sheriff's Office - The local law enforcement
  • The Common - The open central square of the village, generally a muddy morass
  • The Dancing Dwarf - A tavern, brothel, casino and inn, all rolled into one
  • The Market - A bazaar held outside the palisade three days a week
If you're a Tolkien fan you can probably see the first big divergence from canon, shrines to the Valar. Since we'll be using some variant of D&D, clerics and magic-users are pretty much assumed. Clerics draw their power from the Valar, while magic-users study the remnants of magical lore left by the Maiar.

The next step was to lay out an overview of Moria. Moria is a huge place, something like 40 miles east to west, so a broad strokes layout is going to be very helpful in planning who or what lives where. Clearly laying out 40 miles of dungeons a grid at a time is the work of a lifetime, so I needed a framework to hang the important bits on. I did a little digging into the history of the Dwarves and discovered the number seven has some significance to them (seven Dwarf clans, seven rings of power), so I decided to play up that theme. Moria, I decided, was made up of seven Great Upper Halls, cut into the slopes of Silvertine. Twenty-one Great Deeps (seven times seven [edit: clearly my math is flawed]) were cut beneath the mountain's roots and housed the mines, armories, and workshops of Moria. I also picked out some of the major features of Moria mentioned by Tolkien, Durin's Tower, the Endless Stair, Dimrill Gate, the Bridge at Khazad-dum, and added them to the list. I then did a very rough layout of these levels on paper.

So far so good, but all those levels are carved by Dwarves. I wanted a little more variety, so I defined a few different areas as well:
  • The Upper Caves - natural caverns that honeycomb the slopes of Silvertine.
  • The Lower Caves - lightless caverns deep beneath the Dwarven diggings inhabited by creatures even Gandalf didn't understand.
  • The Black Reaches - Caverns tainted by the foul presence of the Balrog.
Now I have a variety of level types and potential sources for occupants for the Mines. I've discovered an obstacle though. Moria as described by Tolkien only has two entrances, Dimrill Gate to the east and Hollin Gate to the west. Unfortunately Tolkien did a good job of destroying both these entrances. The watcher in the water blocked Hollin Gate and the Bridge of Khazad-dum was broken when Gandalf confronted the Balrog. Hmmm, time for some improvisation. I concluded men and Dwarves had reopened the Hollin Gate (in fact a group of men has set up a toll at the newly opened gate to capitalize on the adventurers venturing into the depths). I also added the Seven Watches, towers built on the slopes of Silvertine by the Dwarves, and Balrog's End, a great chasm smashed into the depths when the Balrog was finally destroyed by Gandalf. I also have some speculative notes about Upper Caves that lead to the surface, but nothing concrete yet.

At this point I have a pretty good idea of how things are laid out in and around Moria:
  • I have thumbnail descriptions of the important businesses and points of interest in Hollin
  • I've written a line or two about most of the named NPCs in Hollin.
  • I have the general layout of Moria in place, and have solved the "how to get in" problem.
  • I've also accumulated some rough notes about who or what might be found in Moria.

My next steps are going to be focused on the occupants and features of Moria proper, but that's fodder for the next article.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Flesh Carver

Flesh Carver is a wicked-looking dagger with a short, curved blade chipped from gleaming obsidian. The hilt of the weapon is wrapped in the smooth, almost slick hide of some unknown beast, and a heavy chunk of roughly shaped and polished hematite is fastened to the pommel with gold wire. The dagger has a forward-curving guard of gilded iron. The blade is protected by a heavy scabbard of matching metal set with three rough hematite stones.

If examined for magical properties, Flesh Carver radiates Superb alteration and evocation magic. A Great test of divination magic will reveal the item's enchantment.

Flesh Carver is at best an Average combat weapon, its short blade curiously off balance when wielded in battle. Its true purpose has little to do with combat. Flesh Carver allows the wielder to invoke a Word Curse, a potent malediction that affects the wielder's chosen victims. To invoke a Word Curse with Flesh Carver the wielder must carve the victim's name and the desired Curse into their own flesh. The Curse must be a single word that reflects the effect desired. The base potency of the Curse determined by the wound inflicted during the carving, at least a Fair wound is required to activate the power of the weapon's enchantment.  Each Word Curse must be carved by the wielder's own hand upon their own flesh, and Curses cannot overlap or obscure previous carvings. Each Word Curse consumes at least a six inch by six inch square of skin.

Wounds inflicted by Flesh Carver can only be healed by the passage of time, and they always leave permanent scars reflecting the names of past victims and the curses inflicted upon them. A Word Curse can be removed at the source with dispelling magic at least two ranks greater in potency than the original Word Curse. Removal in this fashion inflicts a wound on the wielder equal to the  dispelling magic required.

Curses are permanent so long as the flesh they mark is alive. Any attempt to dispel a Word Curse from a victim suffers a three rank penalty, and even if successful will only offer temporary relief. A Great test of divination magic will reveal the source of the malediction.

The exact nature and effects of the curses inflicted by Flesh Carver should be determined by the game master. As a guideline:
  • Fair - Occasional frequency with minor effect.
  • Good - Weekly occurrence with noticeable effect.
  • Great - Daily occurrence with debilitating effect.
  • Superb - Frequent occurrence with debilitating effect.
  • Epic - Continuous with debilitating effect.
  • Legendary - Continuous with crippling effect.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ocarina of the Transmuter

This ceramic instrument is about ten inches long, shaped like a slightly curved yam. It's smooth, polished surface is glazed in delicate shades of green, yellow and red in an abstract pattern. It is pierced by eight finger holes arranged in two groups of four, and, of course, a mouthpiece. The Ocarina radiates Great alteration magic, and a Superb test of divination magic will reveal its basic powers, but actual use and practice is required to master the device.

The Ocarina can be used to alter the nature of a specific group of objects or creatures within hearing distance. The exact target of the alteration is determined by the the skill of the musician playing the instrument. The two chambers within the instrument allow playing a pair of notes, one controlling the target of the alteration, the other controlling the alteration itself. The basic target notes are Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, and Supernatural. The basic alteration notes are Size, Motion, Shape and Energy.

Basic success with the Ocarina is a Fair test of musical ability, which allows the musician to play a simple target plus alteration tone. This level of mastery causes the alteration to affect an entire class of targets within hearing range. For example Animal plus Size might cause all mundane living creatures within range to double in size. Each note can be tuned to a specific subset of the main effect, allowing finer control. Each refinement increases the basic difficulty of using the Ocarina by one rank. Multiple target and alteration notes can be combined to achieve even greater control. For example targeting a group of undead might require both the Animal and Supernatural notes be played. Each additional note required increases the difficulty one rank.

The effects achieved by the Ocarina affect anything within audible range of the player, even if the target has no sense of hearing. The difficulty of any resistance test is equal to the difficulty of the note being played. The effects of the Ocarina persist so long as the musician plays, and for 1d4 rounds after they stop.