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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Revenant Spiders

Revenant Spiders are created by powerful necromancers to punish or torment their foes. The creatures are created by a necromantic ritual, whose rites are a tightly held secret. Simply discovering the ritual exists is a Superb test of magical research unless one stumbles upon a source that outlines the rite. Once discovered, comprehending and learning the ritual is a Great test of necromancy and a Great test of ritual magic. Once learned performing the ritual is a Good test of ritual magic and necromancy and requires a Good expenditure of wealth for material components. Typical components include the remains of a dozen preserved spiders impaled upon pure silver pins and mounted upon the lid of a coffin from an ancient grave, which has been inscribed with the name of the caster's chosen victim. The entire construct is then sprinkled with the ground bones of someone slain by violence. If the ritual is successful it summons forth six to twelve Revenant Spiders which immediately begin pursuit of the caster's victim.

Revenant Spiders take the form of hideous and hairy undead spiders with a leg-span of about three inches. The creatures are partially insubstantial, and seem to blend into the shadows as they scuttle forth in their never-ending search for their prey. A faint aroma of decay surrounds the creatures and a chill hangs in the air when they pass by.

Revenant Spiders have the following characteristics:
  • Immunity to mundane weapons - Only magical or silver weapons can harm these insubstantial magical creatures.
  • Fair regeneration - Slain spiders regenerate fully one day after they are slain unless their remains are blessed (Great test of dispel evil/necromancy).
  • Legendary tracking - The creatures have a near perfect ability to locate their victim.
  • Fair movement - The creatures require no rest or food, being undead. They can travel five miles per day, and have an innate ability to find transportation over or around obstacles that stand between their victim and themselves.
  • Superb stealth - The spider's small size and ability to blend into shadows, makes them difficult to spot.
  • Necrotic bite - Once the spiders locate their victim, they attack with a Good bite and inject a potent magical venom (Superb resistance to avoid). Once their bite is delivered, the spider collapses to dust, its mission complete.
  • The Revenant Spider's bite afflicts the victim with a necrotic poison that begins to slowly consume their flesh, leaving behind rotting, stinking wounds. Each week the poison inflicts the equivalent of Good damage upon the victim, and creates another rotting wound somewhere on their person. The poison can be completely removed only with a Legendary test of dispel evil/necromancy. A Great test of healing will temporarily halt the poison. Each wound left by the poison requires a Superb test of healing to cure once the poison has been removed.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Events from Life: Your local newspaper

Need some rumors and color for you campaign's village or town? The answer may be as close as your local newspaper (or their web site if you don't subscribe). The idea is pretty simple really. Scan the local headlines and community events calendar for ideas, twist to fit your campaign setting, and write yourself a short note. If your local paper does provide the inspiration you desire, check out the web and look for a locale that's a better match.
One of the nice features of this technique is it provides a never-ending source of rumors and local color, and things tend to hold together pretty well over time. Here's a list of thirteen events I adopted from my local newspaper over the last couple weeks:
  1. A runaway wagon crashes into the market, one of the vendors is trampled to death by the horses.
  2. A man is found drowned in his neighbor's pond. The constable suspects foul play, but has no suspects.
  3. A herd of cattle stampedes through a local hamlet. No one is injured but the owner is forced to pay property damages.
  4. Heavy rains flood the local river, forcing dozens to abandon their riverfront homes. The displaced are housed at a local church. The baron condemns many of the properties and forces the refugees to move.
  5. A suspicious barn fire inspires a barn raising. The constable suspects arson (and subsequently arrests a drifter).
  6. A bridge or ford is being rebuilt or improved.
  7. The annual spring boat race down the river draws a larger than usual crowd of spectators.
  8. The baron is nearly crippled by a hard fall from his horse while out hunting. Discord ensues while he recovers from his wounds.
  9. The Autumn apple harvest brings the usual gang of migrant laborers to the area. Locals are on the watch for suspicious activities.
  10. A local farmer is convicted of stealing and killing his neighbor's geese.
  11. A woman is stabbed to death by her drunken accuser while arguing her case before a magistrate.
  12. A new road is being built or an old one improved.
  13. A balcony collapses at local inn / tavern, with multiple injuries. The structure is condemned by the magistrate as a hazard.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Stave of the Woodland Warder

This heavy fighting staff is made from a stout hawthorn sapling and tipped with black iron caps at either end with matching bands of iron spaced at equal intervals along the shaft. A winding pattern of leaf- and blossom-covered vines, which seems to twist and shift of its own accord, winds its way up and down the length of the staff. The artifact is about six and a half feet in total length, and two and a half inches in diameter. If examined for magical properties, the staff radiates Great combat magic and Superb nature magic. A Great test of divination magic will reveal its powers and the means to attune the staff.

To make use of the Stave's powers it must be attuned to both its bearer and a wilderness locale. The attunement process requires the bearer to stand solitary vigil within the heart of a wilderness region, and offer a blood sacrifice at midnight. Once attuned the bearer can use all the Stave's powers, though some can only be used within the attuned area, and they cannot be used against the natural denizens of the area.

The Stave has the following globally available powers:
  • Good bonus to accuracy and damage when used as a weapon.
  • Sense Nature - While outdoors the bearer can concentrate for one round and obtain a general knowledge of the terrain, features and inhabitants of the area within a one mile radius. This power can be invoked thrice per day.
  • Pathfinding - The bearer gains a Good bonus to tracking tests and a Good bonus to any tests involved in losing their way or becoming lost. This ability is passive.
  • Obscuring Way - The bearer can conceal the tracks of themselves and up to six companions, removing all traces of their passage. This provides a Great penalty to anyone attempting to follow the concealed trail. This power can be invoked thrice per day.

The Stave has the following additional powers and abilities within the attuned area:
  • Sense Nature - This power becomes a continuous passive ability, the information is always available to the bearer.
  • Pathfinding - The tracking bonus rises to Superb and the bearer always knows exactly where they are within their chosen territory.
  • Obscuring Way - The penalty to tracking created by this power rises to Superb. The tracks of up to a dozen creatures can be hidden. This power can be invoked an additional three times within the attuned area.
  • Forest Minion - Twice per day the bearer can summon forth a nature spirit from the attuned area. This spirit will take possession of and animate a plant chosen by the bearer of the Stave for 10 rounds. All minions have Good toughness, but Poor resistance to fire damage. Typical minions include:

    • Vines - A patch of clinging vines 30 feet in diameter comes to life, ensnaring foes with Great strength and causing Poor damage each round they are entangled. Vines move 10 feet per round.
    • Thorns - A patch of spiny brambles 30 feet in diameter comes to life, striking foes within range for Fair damage each round. Thorns move 20 feet per round.
    • Tree - A single large tree comes to life, striking up to three targets per round for Great damage. Trees move 60 feet per round.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sand Constructs

This collection of creatures is something I created for an old Dungeons & Dragons campaign. I probably shouldn't be posting them here, since the session they appeared in ended up being a total party kill. Nevertheless, here they are.

Sand Constructs are magical entities summoned from the tainted sands of The Burning, a cursed desert forever tainted by the death throes of a mighty demon. Those who master the summoning spells involved can raise a potent fighting force by using a few grains of  polluted sand taken from The Burning. They all have the following common characteristics:
  • Legendary protection from electrical damage.
  • Terrible resistance to cold damage.
  • Legendary stealth when passing through sandy areas or desert terrain.
  • Great damage reduction from cutting weapons.
  • Sand Constructs slain within a sandy area disintegrate into powder, but reform and regenerate to full health within four hours unless their remains are subjected to a Good dispel magic effect.
  • Active Sand Constructs can be permanently destroyed with a Superb test of dispel magic.
  • All Sand Constructs have a primitive intelligence and are capable of following simple commands from their creator. Groups of Sand Constructs use Good tactics when engaging in combat.
There are three known types of Sand Constructs:
  • Sand Dolls - Two foot tall humanoids that move with Great speed. These creatures attack with Good claw and bite attacks, and have Fair toughness. They often provide distraction or harassing attacks for their more potent Sand Construct allies.
  • Sand Golem - These creatures are squat four-armed humanoids, each arm ending in a heavy fist capable of Great damage. Golems have Superb toughness. Thrice per day a Sand Golem can belch forth a vortex of blinding sand and dust in a 50 foot long, 20 foot wide cone, inflicting Good damage and inflicting blindness for 1d6 rounds on anyone within the area of effect (Good resistance check to avoid blindness).
  • Sand Viper - Massive serpents that are almost invisible in sandy locales. These creatures are capable of inflicting a Superb damage bite attack, but their more potent weapon is their desiccating venom, which they can spit up to 30 feet. Anyone struck by this venom must resist its effect (Great resist poison test) or be drained of one rank of life energy (*). Those completely drained of life energy are left as dried out corpses that quickly turn to dust and disintegrate.Sand Vipers have Superb toughness.
(*) In the original game this was a constitution draining effect.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Spin Caster

Spin Caster is a mace-like rod, with an ornate copper and silver head shaped into an intricate knot of loops and spirals. The rod's handle is formed from dozens of tiny bamboo shoots bound up and woven together with silver and copper wire. Each shoot dyed a different shade of blue or green. Spin Caster is about two and a half feet in length, and though it resembles a weapon, it is not particularly well balanced in the hand. Examining the device for magical properties will reveal Epic alteration and protection magic at work. A Superb test of divination magic will reveal the device's operation.

When a command word is spoken, Spin Caster floats out of its owner's hand and floats head downward in front of them. The handle opens, flower-like, forming a delicate six-petaled construct, each petal a different shade of blue or green. Once fully opened Spin Caster floats above its owner's head and begins to rotate at a steady pace. The entire unfolding process takes two full rounds. Spin Caster will remain aloft so long as its owner remains within five feet of the device. Should they stray it will fall to the ground and collapse back into its rod form.

While active Spin Caster provides its owner with a magical shield. The protection provided determined by the petal facing the attack when it occurs. The number of attacks the device can block is determined by the speed it spins. Initially the device can block two attacks directed at its owner per round. Each speed increase provides defense against an additional attack. Should the device reach a speed of eight it instantly reverts to rod form and cannot be used for one day. To determine the result of an attack when Spin Caster is active, roll 1d8 on the following chart:
  • 1 - The energy of a physical or magical attack is absorbed, causing Spin Caster to gain one speed. Each speed gain increases the attacks blocked per round.
  • 2 - A magical attack is reflected in a random direction (roll randomly) traveling a distance equal to that it had traveled before it struck the device. No effect on physical attacks.
  • 3 - A physical attack is deflected, inflicting no damage. Mundane weapons have a Fair chance of being shattered. No effect on magical attacks.
  • 4 - The energy of a physical or magical attack is converted to energy, and discharged as arcing electrical discharges that inflict Fair electrical damage upon anyone within ten feet of Spin Caster's owner (who is unaffected).
  • 5 - The force of a physical attack is converted into a brilliant spark of blinding light. The attacker has a Good chance of being blinded for 1-4 rounds. Magical attacks are unaffected.
  • 6 - The force of a magical attack is absorbed and converted into a thunderous explosion of noise. Anyone within 30 feet of Spin Caster, including its owner, has a Good chance of being deafened for 1-4 rounds. Physical attacks are unaffected.
  • 7-8 - No effect, the attack passes between Spin Caster's petals and strikes the target normally.
Spin Caster can be activated at will. Once active it will remain so until it absorbs too much energy and falls inert, its owner leaves the area of effect, or it is recalled. Spin Caster can be temporarily neutralized by targeting it with Superb dispelling magic.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


The Screwfish is a large eel-like fish that inhabits rocky tidal pools and reefs, its blotchy body blending in with the coral and debris of the ocean's floor. The creatures are six to eight feet long, but only eight or ten inches in diameter. They take their name from the dorsal and ventral fins that run the length of their body. These fins are made up of dozens of short, stiff spines that the Screwfish can raise or lower at will. They use these fins to lodge themselves in narrow crevices and gaps in the coral. Once 'screwed in' to a gap the Screwfish is nearly impossible to remove from their lair.

Screwfish are lurking predators, luring prey into reach of their toothy jaws with their tongue, which features a small protruding lure. Once prey comes close the Screwfish latches on with its powerful jaws and withdraws into its lair. Even fairly large creatures are potential victims of the Screwfish, once pinned they become a target for other predators, and once killed, lure in even more prey to the Screwfish's deadly reach. Even humans in shallow water can fall victim. Once bitten and held they eventually bleed to death or fall victim to rising tides or other predators.

Screwfish characteristics:
  • Superb bite attack with Epic jaw strength. Dislodging a Screwfish's jaws is an Epic test of strength.
  • Great toughness. The Screwfish's head is covered with thick, sharp scales, while its more vulnerable body is protected by its lair.
  • Good camouflage. Screwfish adapt their coloration to their locale, making them difficult to spot.

Screwfish flesh is considered a delicacy, and fishermen use heavy lines attached to air bladders lifted by the tides to slowly pull them from their stony lairs. Screwfish jaws are used as crude torture devices by some primitive island cultures.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Plunging Room

The Plunging Room is a 20 foot diameter circular room with stone floors, ceilings and walls. A series of iron pillars are spaced at four foot intervals around the outer edge of the room, and a circular arrangement of five similar pillars are arranged in a 10 foot diameter ring around the center of the room. In the center of the chamber a two foot diameter well is cut into the floor. There are two doors into the room, one opposite the other.

The entire room is suspended in a vertical shaft, held in place by massive counterweights. Anyone entering the central ring of pillars will trigger a release mechanism, allowing the entire room, floor, walls and ceiling a single unit, to slide down the iron pillars, cutting off retreat through the doors after a single round.

There are several possible variants of this room:
  • It could be a simple elevator-style trap, splitting up the adventuring party unless they can find a means to raise the room back to the main level.
  • Once lowered the room could provide access to additional doors out of the chamber, revealed by the gaps in the walls.
  • The entire room could be suspended over a pool of water or oil, which rushes into the room through the central well when the room drops. Those within the room must find a means to escape before they drown or accidentally start a fire.
  • The central well could actually be a means of egress, but only if the room is lowered, its weight opening a trap door beneath the well.
  • The well could provide access to a creature or creatures that lurk below the room, waiting for the mechanism to deliver them fresh prey.

Once the room has dropped its full distance anyone left behind can cross the roof of the room to gain access to the door originally on the far side of the chamber.

Depending on the variant(s) chosen, the mechanism to raise the room could be a simple timed device or a mechanism hidden away elsewhere within the complex.

Monday, September 21, 2009


These predatory plants are found in arid, desert regions. They closely resemble a typical saguaro cactus, though they tend to be shorter and broader. They range in height from 12 to 18 feet with a body diameter of five or six feet. Each has three to six arms branching from a single point on the main stalk. The entire mass is supported by a network of thick, motile roots, which allow the plant to slowly move across open terrain in search of prey. Saguaronids are often found in groves of a dozen or more individuals.

Saguaronids have the following characteristics:
  • Fair toughness - Saguaronids are covered with a thick rubbery layer of fleshy material which is dotted in wicked spines two to three inches in length.
  • Poor movement - The plants are capable of moving a few hundred yards per day, provided they move over sandy or loose soil. They cannot move over rocks or other hard surfaces.
  • Each Saguaronid bears four to six pink or salmon colored blossoms, which emit a potent narcotic capable of causing drowsiness and hallucinations to anyone within a 30' radius (Good resistance check to avoid the effect).
  • Spine Spray - Saguaronids can shoot forth clusters of four to six needle-like spines up to 30', striking with Great accuracy and inflicting Average damage. Each spine that hits has a Fair chance of injecting the target with a paralytic venom (Good resistance check to avoid the effect). The venom slows the victim a cumulative 50% per dose, with four doses completely paralyzing the target. Saguaronids effectively have an infinite supply of spines.
Paralyzed victims are slowly surrounded, wrapped in thick bundles of roots, and absorbed by the Saguaronid, leaving no organic remains (even bones are consumed), though metals remain untouched.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Random Encounter or Three

My 1st Edition AD&D DMG was sitting on my shelf, calling my name. Courtesy of the random encounter tables that fill the back of this excellent tome, I give you three random dungeon encounters. I'll roll a d12 to determine the level of the dungeon, then follow the Dungeon Random Monster Level Determination Matrix to determine the content of the encounter.

Encounter One (dungeon level: 12)

The die roll points me to the level IX table, where I roll 43, Yellow Mold! Adjusting for level difference of the table vs. dungeon level, I'd say this is a huge colony, large enough to potentially have formed a collective intelligence. A die roll of 1 on a d6 indicates that yes, this colony is sentient, meaning it can sense approaching entities and release a spore cloud offensively, and use psionic attacks if it detects psionic use nearby.

I would set up this colony in a large open area in a cavern or passage, where creatures passing through can serve as a food source. The floor of this passage would be scattered with the remains of past victims, along with any surviving equipment they might have been carrying. Yellow Mold doesn't affect metal so coins, armor and weapons would remain, long after flesh and other organics have been consumed.

Encounter Two (dungeon level: 3)

The d20 roll comes up 12, indicating monster level III, and the subsequent 51 indicates 2-5 Wererats! A d4 roll comes up 1, indicating 2 Wererats total.

I'd play this as two clever Wererats intent on luring the party into a trap or splitting up the members. Wererats can take human form so infiltration is one possibility. Using rat form to spy on the group and gather information about their capabilities is another. I'd also establish a small lair with rat- and human-sized exits for the Wererats. The creatures might have a small cache of supplies and treasure hidden away in their lair, but protected by one or more traps.

Encounter Three (dungeon level: 9)

The die roll directs me to monster table VII, and the percentile roll there comes up 67 a Mummy (only one based on the subsequent roll).

Clearly the party has stumbled into a long abandoned crypt where a defiled grave has released this horrible foe. It roams the corridors of its tomb, unleashing its undying hatred of the living on anything it encounters. Unfortunately for the party, the grave-robbers that released the creature successfully made off with any loot buried in the tomb.

Who said random encounters weren't fun?

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Ransomer is a short, heavy rod of polished redwood. Each end is capped with a lacy filigree of mithril and gold set with tiny globes of lapis lazuli. A deep blue leather grip covers the butt end of the rod. Ransomer is about three inches in diameter, and thirty inches long. Ransomer radiates Epic charm and alteration magic. An Epic test of divination magic will reveal the device's powers:

Upon command Ransomer can completely entrap and absorb the mental energies and physical form of a chosen target. This power requires physical contact (a successful physical attack) and the target can resist the effect (Epic difficulty). This power can be used once per hour, though only one target can be contained within the rod at a time.

With a second command, Ransomer can eject its trapped target contained within a small, unbreakable crystal of lapis lazuli. This crystal is almost impervious to harm (Legendary toughness) and easily fits within a pouch or pocket.

Ransomer's owner can restore a victim stored in the rod or crystal at will, though the crystal must be within line of sight. The rod has sufficient power to maintain one crystal and one trapped victim at a time. If the owner attempts to snare a target while someone is within the rod, that victim is ejected as a crystal. Creating a new crystal automatically frees any previously 'crystalled' victim.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Parachute Spider

These large tropical spiders inhabit the treetops of dense forests and jungles. They have long, slender, hairy legs and broad flattened bodies. They are green and brown in color, and their multiple eyes are black orbs. Parachute spiders have a two to three foot long body and a leg-span of six to eight feet.

Parachute spiders take their name from their method of hunting. They spin small circular webs the diameter of their leg-span, and then hang from tree limbs with outstretched legs, waiting for prey to pass beneath. The web serves as both a crude wing, allowing the spider to glide significant distances, and as a snare, the sticky webs quickly enveloping prey when the spider lands atop them. A quick bite and the victim is usually done for.

Parachute Spiders have the following characteristics:
  • Mediocre toughness - they are rather spindly and will flee into the treetops if their victim breaks free of the snare.
  • Good camouflage - when lurking in the treetops Parachute Spiders blend in quite well with the foliage.
  • Good bite attack injecting Good strength paralytic poison.
  • Superb web snare - if the target is snared they must make a Great test of strength to break free from the entangling webs.

Parachute Spiders are usually solitary hunters, though multiple creatures from the same spawn may lurk in the same area, giving the impression of cooperation.

Monday, September 14, 2009


This six-foot long staff is made from thousands of shards and slivers of crystalline stone, each fragment stacked one upon the other, each glowing with a tiny spark of light. The staff is a bulky three inches in diameter and is on the heavy side (though lighter than a mundane piece of stone that size would be). If examined for magical properties, Sliverstone radiates Superb animation, divination and illusion magic. A Great test of divination magic will reveal the command words required to make use of the item's powers:
  • Light Shards - When this power is invoked the tiny sparks of light that glitter along the staff's length brighten to provide illumination covering a 30' radius area for ten turns. There are three color variants of this power:
    • White - Gentle light, equivalent of daylight fills the area, providing normal illumination. This variant can be invoked at will.
    • Red - Deep reddish light tints the area, providing only dim illumination. Any hidden or secret doors, traps or devices are revealed, glowing brilliant red under this light. This variant can be invoked thrice per day.
    • Purple - Faint purple light saturates the area, providing almost no illumination but revealing any magical objects or enchantments (including invisibility) present. This variant can be invoked thrice per day.
  • Wall of Slivers - Upon command Sliverstone fragments into thousands of individual glowing crystals, which swirl around the bearer in a ten foot thick, obscuring wall of glittering light and motion. This wall provides Epic protection against ranged attacks, deflecting physical missiles and bolts of energy with ease. Anyone attempting to pass through the wall suffers a Great physical attack from the cloud of rock shards each round they remain within the area of effect. This effect lasts six rounds and can be invoked twice a day.
  • Shard Cyclone - When this power is invoked a stream of glowing stone shards bursts forth, cutting a path 30 feet long and five feet wide before vanishing into dust. Anything within this path takes a Great physical attack from the stream of razor-sharp slivers. This power can be invoked at will, but after each invocation the staff must recharge for three rounds before any power can be used.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Tower of the Tortoise

When first encountered the Tower of the Tortoise appears to be nothing more than a small, rather dilapidated tower rising above a steep oval hill of smooth gray stone. A narrow path spirals up the hill to the mossy, bronze-bound oaken door that allows entrance to the tower proper. From the outside the tower appears to be a simple 20 foot diameter structure about 30 feet high. The walls are made from reddish blocks of conglomerate stone containing thousands of tiny pebbles, bits of shell, and the fossilized remains of aquatic creatures. Aside from the main door, there are no other openings in the tower's walls, though crenelations along the top hint at rooftop access.

Once inside the magical nature of the building quickly becomes apparent as the entryway alone is larger than the entire exterior of the tower. The interior of the tower contains a grand entryway which allows passage into a large banquet hall. Stairs wind both upward and downward from this chamber, leading to kitchens and storage chambers below and bedchambers, guestrooms, parlors and libraries above. A third staircase leads from the second floor to the open roof, where a garden runs rampant. In the center of the garden a stone pillar rises from the ground, bearing upon it an emerald green stone statue of a tortoise. A massive aviary rises above the Tower roof.

Magical examination of the tower and the hill it sits upon will reveal the entire area is enchanted with Legendary alteration magic. A Legendary test of divination magic will unlock the command words that allow control of the Tower.

The Tower has the following attributes:
  • The interior rooms and chambers of the tower are constantly cleaned and maintained by invisible magic servants. Beds are made, fresh flowers appear in vases, books are re-shelved, and candles replenished.
  • The kitchen and pantries are continuously stocked with food and drink sufficient to support a dozen people in great comfort, though human hands are required to prepare and serve meals.
  • In the banquet hall invisible musicians can be commanded to play at will, and the massive fire pit burns with a clear, smokeless fire at need.
  • The walls of the Tower itself have Legendary toughness and are impervious to mundane weapons
  • The tortoise statue in the rooftop garden can be used to bring the hill beneath the tower to life. The entire thing animates, taking on the form of a gigantic tortoise. This beast is capable of moving at a slow but steady pace so long as the Tower's owner stands with a hand upon the statue. The owner may direct the creature as they desire. The tortoise will not fight, but has Legendary resistance and toughness and complete immunity to mundane weapons.
  • The rooftop aviary is home to a dozen magical raptors. These massive birds of prey can be summoned forth to defend the tower. Each is capable of Superb flight, has Good toughness and attacks with beak and claws for Great damage.

Any damage inflicted to the Tower, the Tortoise or the raptors that protect it heals at the rate of one rank per four hours. Should the tortoise statue within the garden be destroyed the entire construct crumbles away to gray rubble.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Spirit Skulls

Spirit Skulls are magical totems created by certain primitive shaman to protect sacred sites such as burial grounds or holy lands. Sophisticated practitioners of magic sneer at these crude artifacts, claiming they lack finesse, but Spirit Skulls serve their purpose well.

Each Spirit Skull is a unique object so their appearance varies, but they all have several features in common. Each is created from the perfect skull of a predatory animal such as a wolf, eagle, lion or snake that was slain by the shaman creating the totem. The skull is cleaned and polished, then dyed or painted in colors to reflect the creature's original appearance. Each fang or tooth is inscribed with a magical symbol of strength, cunning, or protection. Once prepared the skull is enchanted in a night long ritual that includes a blood sacrifice and an offering of food to appease the slain animal's spirit. Once the ritual is complete and the first rays of the rising sun strike the skull, the enchantment is complete.

A Great test of divination magic will reveal that a Spirit Skull radiates Superb spirit and protection magic. An Epic test of divination will reveal the command word required to control the Spirit Skull (the word revealed being the true name of the spirit contained within the skull).

If the Skull's name is known, it can touched, moved and reset at will. The primary use of a Spirit Skull is to protect a specific area, no more than 100' in diameter. Anyone who enters the area without naming the guardian spirit automatically summons it forth and it instantly attacks anyone that violates the boundaries it was set to guard. If a Skull is not actively guarding an area it will remain passive unless touched, which has the same effect as entering a protected area.

The spirit summoned forth from the Skull takes the form of a giant-sized variant of the most powerful version of the creature in question. A wolf's skull will summon forth a giant dire wolf, a bear's skull a giant cave bear, and a serpent's skull a massive anaconda. The spirit creature has the following characteristics:
  • Superb toughness.
  • Great combat abilities - the spirit creature has access to any attack forms available to the base creature type.
  • Superb creature abilities - the spirit creature can use any special abilities (tracking or running for example) available to the base creature type.
  • Immunity to mundane weapons - the creature's insubstantial form makes it immune to mundane attacks.
  • Great magical resistance.
  • Spell-breaker strike - Any blow struck by a spirit has a Good chance to shatter any temporary magic affecting the target (permanent enchantments are unaffected).
  • Perpetual - If the spirit creature is slain, it returns to the spirit world, where it must remain until dawn of the following day. During this period the spirit cannot be summoned.

The totem itself is difficult to destroy (Superb toughness), but if the spirit creature it represents is slain and cannot be summoned, toughness falls to Good.

Once summoned a spirit creature will defend its totem and the area it wards to the death, attacking anyone that ventures into the protected area. It will remain within line of sight of the warded area at all times.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Giant Hellgrammites

These aquatic insect horrors are fierce and dangerous predators. They inhabit large streams and rivers, preying on anything that comes within reach of their heavy, sharp jaws.

Giant Hellgrammites have long, flattened and segmented bodies covered in heavy chitinous plates. They are air-breathers, but also have rows of primitive gills along their body allowing them to stay below the surface for hours at a time. Their strong legs and flattened form allow them to cling to the bottom of the swiftest stream or river without fear. They are six inches long when they hatch and grow to a length of four or five feet within a year, eating voraciously and molting several times along the way. They feed on anything they can get their jaws on, inflicting dreadful gaping wounds with their bite.

After two to three years of underwater living, the Giant Hellgrammite burrows into a muddy river bank and pupates, emerging three to four months later as a Giant Dobsonfly, a huge, lacy-winged fly with massive jaws. Fortunately the adult form lives only a few days, long enough to breed and lay eggs on leaves or branches overhanging a stream. The eggs hatch in a few weeks, and the young drop into the water below, completing the creature's life-cycle.

In some societies Hellgrammites are considered a delicacy. Intrepid souls 'fish' for the beasts using heavy lines baited with whole fish, then dispatching the creatures with heavy bladed pole arms. Unfortunately Hellgrammites are just as dangerous out of the water as in, and Hellgrammite fishing is a risky business.

Giant Hellgrammite characteristics:
  • Great toughness. Hellgrammites have a tough exoskeleton and great vitality, making them difficult to kill.
  • Superb bite attack. Hellgrammites inflict terrible wounds with their heavy, razor-sharp jaws. Large specimens can sever limbs or snap spear shafts with a single bite.
  • Fair swimming. Though not particularly agile swimmers, the creatures can crawl along the bottom of streams and rivers quite well.
  • Poor agility. Out of water the creatures are somewhat clumsy and slow, though their bite is still quite dangerous.

Giant Dobsonfly characteristics:
  • Great bite attack. Females retain the heavy jaws of the larval form, though males exchange them for much longer and completely useless jaws used for show.
  • Poor flying. Adults are slow and clumsy fliers.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Strangler Moss

This insidious plant appears as nothing more than typical pond moss, floating on the surface of lakes, swamps, ponds, and other still or slow-moving waterways. It forms large, irregular, green mats that drift with the wind and tend to accumulate along shorelines or obstructions.

Looks can be deceiving. Strangler Moss is quasi-sentient, and any creature brushing against its fibrous mass will quickly attract its attention. The plant is immobile, but it can curl and lengthen the thousands of tiny strands that compose it's primary substance. Once a living creature comes in contact with these sticky strands, the rest of the mass will gradually contract around the victim, covering every exposed surface with a thick mat of dense, stringy, water-logged vegetation. Weighed down with this massive burden, most creatures simply sink and drown, providing the Strangler Moss with food as it slowly absorbs anything organic it comes in contact with.

Strangler Moss has the following characteristics:
  • Good camouflage in its natural setting.
  • Average entangling grasp to anything that touches it. The strength of this ability increasing by one rank per two rounds. Victims that fail to break free after eight rounds are pulled under by the weight of the Moss.
  • Great resistance to crushing or stabbing damage. Poor resistance to cutting damage.
  • Immune to fire or electrical attack. Terrible resistance to cold damage.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Cloud Stone

This necklace is made up of a dozen pendant-like, crystalline beads strung upon a cord of black silk woven with silver thread fitted with a simple silver clasp. Each bead hangs from a circular silver fitting, each inscribed with an array of tiny magical symbols. The beads themselves appear to be quartz, or some other translucent mineral. Their color varies, but they all have a similar polished form. It tested for magical properties the necklace radiates Superb evocation magic. A Great test of divination magic will reveal the command word used to activate the item's powers.

When Cloud Stone's wearer speaks the command word they can pluck one of the crystals from the necklace and make use of its power. Crystals can be activated in this manner as often as desired, but each crystal takes one week to reappear. The type of each regenerated crystal is random. If all crystals are removed from Cloud Stone, the item's enchantment is forever destroyed.

The crystals are:
  • Green - This crystal can be thrown up to 60', shattering when it lands. A 30' radius globe of pulsating greenish vapors spreads from the impact site in one round. Anything within the area suffers Great damage from the acidic effects of the vapor. Inorganic substances are unaffected by the cloud's acid. The cloud lasts for 10 rounds or until dissipated by natural means.
  • Yellow - This crystal transforms into a bolt of electrical energy when thrown, projecting 60' in the direction it is tossed, inflicting Great electrical damage to everything in its path.
  • Blue - This crystal can be swallowed by the owner. Once swallowed it dissolves instantly, permeating their body, and allowing them to pass through inorganic solids as if they were air. While in this form most weapons are useless against them, simply passing through their body without harm. The effects of this crystal last one hour.
  • Gray - When this crystal is tossed into the air it expands to form a shimmering gray hemispherical dome over the user's head. This dome is twenty feet in diameter and ten feet high. It absorbs and nullifies any magical energies that impinge upon its surface from the outside, reducing their potency by three ranks. This globe lasts for ten rounds or until thirty ranks of energy have been absorbed.
  • White - When swallowed, this crystal instantly dissolves into the bloodstream, curing any disease, poison or curse currently afflicting the target. This protection continues for eight hours.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Dialogue Amulets

This device consists of a pair of amulets, one gold, one silver. The face of each amulet bears a representation of an open hand, palm forward. Set within the center of the palm is a large faceted sapphire. Each amulet hangs from a long rope-like chain of matching metal. Both radiate Great alteration magic if an appropriate check is made. A Great test of divination magic will reveal the powers of the amulets.

When only one amulet is begin worn, no benefits are gained, but when the two amulets are worn by different individuals they provide the following benefits:
  • The wearer of the gold amulet gains an immediate understanding of all languages spoken by the wearer of the silver amulet. This understanding extends to anyone within earshot speaking any of the learned tongues, not just the silver amulet wearer.
  • The wearer of the silver amulet can comprehend anything the wearer of the gold amulet says, though they do not gain knowledge of the language involved.
The powers of the amulets persist so long as both are being worn.

If a single individual dons both amulets they are immediately struck unconscious. When they awaken everything they say will sound like gibberish to others, and the speech of others will sound like gibberish to them. This state of language confusion will last for one day.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


The PBM game I've been running for the last year or so has finally reached its conclusion so I'm starting to work on the next game I'm going to be running. It's something vaguely post-apocalyptic, and we'll probably be using some variant of FUDGE/Fate. Here's the quick and dirty intro I wrote to give pique the player's interest:

It ended not with a bang, but a whimper.

People predicted the end was coming for years. War. Disease. Climate change. Asteroids. Super volcanoes. No matter how outlandish the cause, someone was there, claiming it would cause the downfall of civilization as we knew it.

Who would have thought they were *all* right?

Over one hundred years have passed since the Fall. For the most part only stories remain. Stories of New York and Washington under water. Of Los Angeles consumed by wild fires and riots. Of a great meteor that struck Europe and blackened the skies for months. Of plagues that killed thousands. Stories of wars fought for oil. For religion. For technology. Stories of despair and death. Of poison vials released from secret labs. Of terrible weapons unleashed from space. Stories of burning skies and terrible storms that wiped away entire cities. Stories of honor and courage. Of those who faced the darkness and fought. Fought and lost.

The world is different now. No gas. Little power. The sun still burns. Much of the land has been seared by fire, or worse. The world is alive with danger. Man's domination of the land has faded and the wild things have returned. People have changed as well. The disasters that brought down civilization affected mankind as well, twisting gene and mind in equal measure. Not everything that looks human is human.

But the green has come back. Mankind survives. Scattered and isolated for the most part, but stubborn and resilient. Mankind survives.