PBE Games on DriveThruRPG

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.