PBE Games on DriveThruRPG

Friday, April 30, 2010

Bottle of Endless Foam

This large greenish blue glass bottle is encrusted with dust, grime, and mineral deposits that obscure any markings or features on its surface. Its narrow mouth is sealed with a heavy lead seal held in place with a swing-arm mechanism that is clamped around the Bottle's neck. If studied closely under a strong light a swirling, pale brown liquid can be seen within the Bottle's glass walls. The Bottle radiates Superb evocation magic, and a Great test of divination will reveal the command words required to activate its powers.

When the Bottle is uncapped a stream of foam will begin to pour forth. The exact nature and volume of the foam is determined by the command word spoken.
  • Ichor - If no command word is spoken the Bottle pours forth a sticky, pale brown foam. This foam is more a hindrance than a hazard, though it could drown someone if it were deep enough. Anyone within the Ichor will be covered with the sticky substance, which soaks clothing, gear and skin within a single round. Anyone so soaked suffers a one rank penalty on all actions due to the foam's sticky nature.
  • Wisp - This thin white foam forms itself into puffy, globular blobs that harden into a resilient, but extremely light pillows of foam. These blobs float on water and potentially serve as comfortable seats or beds.
  • Mesh - This thick gray foam pours forth in a thick stream ten feet long, It immediately hardens on impact into a resilient but tough solid with Good strength. Mesh can be used to block openings, temporarily fill holes, or snare and trap foes. Breaking free of Mesh foam requires a Good test of strength.
Each round the Bottle is open it produces a ten cubic foot volume of foam. It can be resealed at any time by replacing the cap, but will continue to pour forth foam until so sealed. All foam produced lasts one day before vanishing completely. Each form of foam is flammable, burning with dull heat and leaving no trace when consumed.

Image Source: http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/reef0799.htm

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Stepping Stones

When discovered the Stepping Stones appear to be nothing more than five smooth pebbles of reddish sandstone, each about two inches across. They are contained within a metallic pouch made of thousands of tiny interlocked steel rings, held closed with a red silk drawstring. If examined form magical properties, the Stones radiate Superb alteration and animation magic. A similar test of divination magic will reveal their magical properties and the command words required to operate them.

Once the command words are know the Stones' owner can bring them to life. Each stone instantly grows to a two foot wide boulder and begins floating in the air. The Stones can be commanded to move with a thought, generally aligning themselves in a linear pattern a comfortable stride apart, beginning at their owner's feet. They form a stable walking surface and their owner can traverse them with ease, his or her feet stabilized by the magic of the Stones. Others may also tread the Stones, though they gain no magical assistance and must make an Average reflex check per round of movement to avoid slipping and falling off.

The owner can command the stones to form a path over chasm and gaps and ascend or descend as they desire. As the owner advances the rearmost Stone moves to the front position, creating an endless floating bridge. The owner can rearrange the Stones for their own travels with ease, but maintaining Stones in position for others requires a Fair test of willpower each round they are in use. Each Stone will support about 500 lbs. before the supporting magic will fail, instantly causing all stones to revert to their small form and fall to the ground.

The power of the Stones can be invoked twice a day, remaining active so long as their owner maintains at least minimal concentration on their workings. Should the owner be knocked unconscious or be totally distracted the stones revert to their small form and fall to the ground.

Each Stone has Great toughness. Should a Stone be shattered, a new Stone will appear in the bag one week later.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Shift Change

I'm going to be slowing my posting schedule here for the next few weeks. There are a couple reasons for the change. First, I'm feeling a little burned out right now, and a short break will do me some good. Second, it's Spring, and the weather is excellent, so I'm going to get out and enjoy it while I can. I was quite the slug this Winter and I really need to get out and get some exercise! Third, I've started a second blog, which is consuming some of my writing energies.

I've been maintaining a five to six posts a week pace for over a year now. I expect to drop this to three or four posts a week for the next month or so. Don't worry, the blog isn't going away! I already have a couple weeks of posts queued up, and expect to maintain that lead with a slower pace of posting. As Spring turns to Summer I expect things will pick back up to the usual five to six posts a week pace.


Monday, April 26, 2010


This terrible artifact was constructed by the Dwarfs in ages past as a weapon of last resort. There has only been one recorded instance of Townkiller being used in battle, a situation that quickly revealed the device's terrible potency.

Townkiller is a forty-foot long juggernaut of metal and stone. Its worm-like body is made up of a dozen segments of magically hardened obsidian laced together with a steel matrix. Dozens of multi-jointed, adamantite  limbs sprout from these segments, each five or six feet long. At the forward end a ring of gleaming diamonds surround a circular maw lined with dozens of smaller limbs and dagger-like adamantite fangs, the whole forming a funnel-like opening. The bottom of this funnel glows with white-hot energy. At the rearward end Townkiller tapers to a small, spout-like final segment.

The artifact radiates Legendary protection, animation and evocation magic along with Epic divination magic. Discovering the mechanisms and magics that drive the device is a Legendary test of artifice, and requires access to a Superb quality library of Dwarf-lore.

When activated, Townkiller's operator can command the device to attack a single specific location within 100 miles. Townkiller will immediately come to life, burrowing through earth and stone at Great speed; it's many limbs dig through stone as if it were soft soil, while the heat of its central maw, powered by the trapped might of no fewer than four magma elementals, melts any obstacle to molten lava, which is ejected from the device's rear. When it reaches its target, the device will immediately seek out the nearest man-made structure and begin consuming it with adamantite limbs and fiery maw. Townkiller can destroy a normal house-sized structure in a few rounds, while larger structures, stone fortifications and the like, are consumed at a rate of 1000 cubic feet per ten rounds. Townkiller will not cease operations until all structures within a one mile radius have been turned to molten stone and burning ash. Once active the device cannot be stopped by any known force until it has completed its task. There is no off switch.

Townkiller can also be commanded to simply move. It travels to its destination at Great speed, leaving a tunnel lined with melted stone in its wake. The device can easily travel 50 miles per day.

The artifact is effectively indestructible. It's adamantite and magic enhanced body shrugs off physical and magical damage with ease. Should someone accomplish the Legendary task of causing physical damage, the magical matrix encasing the device can heal any damage suffered at the rate of one rank per week. The GM should determine a unique method of destruction as suits their campaign setting. A good place to start might be extreme cold, such as the breath of a white dragon or a trip to a frozen elemental plane.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Weird Animals

There are some really, really, messed up creatures in our own world. When I see stuff like this, I don't feel so bad about some of the things I make up.

Warning, link NSFW (language mostly)

The World's 50 Freakiest Animals

Some good inspiration mixed in with some... "Wait.. WHAT?"

There's also Bogleech's biology page, which features another array of real-life inspiration.

Sleep well!

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Survivor's Rope

This length of silky, dark green rope is about 20 feet long. Twisted from some unknown organic substance, it is thin and light, but very strong and flexible. Careful study will reveal the Rope is twisted from dozens of thinner cords, each of which is, in turn, made up of dozens of finer threads. A magical examination will reveal the Rope is enchanted with Superb alteration and enhancement magic. The multi-function Rope has several command words which activate its various features. A Great test of divination magic will reveal one of these words.

The Survivor's Rope has the following characteristics:
  • It has Superb toughness and strength. The Rope is capable of holding up to 5000 lbs. weight, and only a Superb blow will damage its twisted fibers. The Rope heals any damage done to it at the rate of one rank per week.
  • When in use the Rope blends with whatever surface it is placed upon, requiring a Superb test of perception to spot and avoid.
  • Coil - The Rope instantly ceases any previous command and slithers back to its owner's hand, where it quickly coils itself for storage.
  • Magic Knot - When this command is spoken the Rope will securely tie one of its ends to the nearest object with a magically strong knot. This command can be used multiple times to suspend the rope between two or more objects. Magic Knots can be untied with a second command word.
  • Tanglefoot - When laid out on the ground, this command causes the rope to rise a few inches into the air and become rigid. Any creature passing over the Rope has a Good chance of being tripped. A second use of the command word returns the rope to its normal pliable condition.
  • Spider's Snare - When this command is given, the rope's strands separate into a net of thin cords which spread themselves over a 15 foot wide circular area. Any creature that crosses this area will be snared within the net's many coils and held immobile with Superb strength. The Rope does no damage, and a repetition of the command word causes it to return to its normal form.
  • Fisherman's Weave - When cast into a natural body of water and this word is spoken, the rope spreads into a 15 foot wide mesh of fine, glittering fibers. Any nearby fish are drawn to the sparkling lights and instantly snared by the many threads of the Rope. A repetition of the command word causes the Rope to pull itself from the water and deposit its catch at its owner's feet.
  • Secure Slumber - When this command word is spoken the Rope transforms itself into a comfortable mesh hammock that attaches itself to the nearest two trees or similar objects. The hammock is large enough for two people to sleep comfortably, though the Rope provides little warmth or padding.

Image Source

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tower of Green Lights

This ancient coastal tower, raised by an unknown race of builders, stands at the end of a granite jetty that guards the mouth of a well-protected bay. The stone walls of the jetty itself have been replaced many times over the years, but the brilliant green stone of the Tower itself remains untouched by the passing years. The structure is about 25 feet high and ten feet in diameter. A single narrow door made from the same bright green stone that makes up the Tower's walls is outlined with a white marble frame on the structure's shoreward side. The top of the Tower is ringed with a railing of verdigrised bronze featuring a series of horizontal horns or spires that protrude three feet from the edge of the walkway. A pole surmounted by a large triangular spike, also bronze, tops the tower. Within the structure a narrow two-foot wide stair winds from lower door to narrow roof, where a bronze trapdoor seals off the Tower's interior from the elements.

The structure's main door and the trapdoor above are sealed, with no sign of hinge, latch or handle. The structure radiates Epic quality evocation magic and Superb protection magic. An Epic test of divination magic will reveal the Tower's secrets.

The doors of the Tower are protected by a potent warding spell. Speaking a command word will cause both doors to swing open for three rounds, allowing free passage to the top of the tower. The walls of the Tower are curiously slick, any attempt to climb the walls suffers a three rank penalty on all applicable skill checks. Furthermore the protrusions extending from the Tower's railings will discharge Superb strength electrical discharges into anyone that attempts to cross the circle they inscribe. These bolts will target both climbers and fliers. Up to four bolts will discharge each round, one per possible target.

Each night the Tower's central spire glows with brilliant green light from dusk to dawn. This light cuts through fog and bad weather with ease. Anyone within five miles of the Tower can spot this signal light. Sages believe the Tower was originally constructed as a lighthouse. Anyone standing on the top platform with knowledge of the Tower's command words can extinguish this light with a spoken order, the light remaining off until a second command word is spoken or sunset the following night.

Someone with knowledge of the Tower's command words can also invoke its more dangerous power. By touching the central spire and speaking an appropriate command, anyone can summon forth a tremendous lightning bolt that can be directed against any target within one mile of the seaward side of the tower. This bolt discharges in a ten foot radius at the target location, doing Epic damage to creatures and Superb damage to any structure or vessel within its area of effect. One such bolt can be called forth per hour, but no more than seven such bolts can be summoned during a single day.

Image Source: http://www.offrench.net/photos/gallery-3_photo-982.php

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sack of Eyes

This magical artifact is a large sack, perhaps a foot across, made from slick, slightly sticky-feeling leather. The distasteful material is stained in random patterns of dull red and purple, like bruised flesh. No stitch or suture mars it's dull, quivering surface, the only features evident being a loop of the same sticky leather designed as a strap or handle, with a puckered opening next to it. The Sack is roughly spherical, though its surface is bumpy and gives, like warm gelatin, when pressed. The artifact radiates Epic alteration and necromantic magic. A Superb test of divination will reveal its magical characteristics.

To make use of the Sack's powers its owner must plunge their hand into the bag's orifice as they speak the command word required to activate its magic. The interior of the bag is filled with a thick, blood-warm liquid, a portion of which, as the command word is spoken, congeals into a living eye that floats into the owner's grasp. Depending on the command word spoken, the eye produced can have one of the following aspects:
  • Regenerative Organ - This organ is a fully functional human eye. If placed within an empty eye socket within five rounds it instantly bonds itself to its new host's body, becoming a fully functional eye. The newly installed eye has a red iris and a slight cast, which does not affect vision, but does present a somewhat daunting appearance. The recipient suffers a one rank penalty on initial impressions based on appearance.
  • Undead Watcher - This eye is a bit small, with a dead gray iris and bloodshot sclera. The Sack's owner can place this eye anywhere. With a full round's concentration they can shift their gaze to see what the Undead Watcher can see. The Undead Watcher is static, and easily destroyed if noticed, but its small size makes it difficult to spot.
  • Parasitic Eye - This eye has a golden-brown iris with a vertical slit pupil. Gooey tendrils dangle from its bulk, dripping noxious, thick liquid. The Sack's owner can attach this eye to living flesh, where it bonds instantly. The eye provides no benefit to its host, but the owner can, with a round of concentration, shift their gaze to see what the Parasitic Eye sees. Damage to the Parasitic Eye is suffered in equal measure by the host. Only a Good damage cut will remove the entire Eye from the host's body. Any fragment remaining will regrow to a complete eye in 2d6 days.
One eye can be pulled from the Sack each day. Any number of eyes may be active at once. If more than six Undead Watchers or Parasitic Eyes are active at one time, the owner must make a Good will check each hour or have their vision forced to one of these eyes for 1d10 rounds.

Image source: 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Trend

Never let it be said I am inconsistent.

Previous results have showed similar results. Like this. And this.

See there's a reason I'm usually the GM.

Monster Mash(Up)

Nevermet Press is running a week-long Monster MashUp contest that may appeal to some of you. The rules are simple, write a short fluff entry about the pictured beast and submit it via their site. They have some pretty cool prizes in the lineup too, including some custom brass dice, a signed copy of Open Game Table Volume 1, and several PDF prizes.

Take a look, the contest and entry form are here: http://nevermetpress.com/the-monster-mashup-contest/

Monday, April 19, 2010

Flesh Gnawer

This heavy, two-handed war club is over five feet long. It is carved from a single piece of dense yellowish wood. The haft of the weapon is wrapped with rough and scaly green hide. The business end of the club is thicker and rounded, with heavy studs of solid black obsidian arranged in spiraling lines all along its surface. Each stud is carved with the image of a gape-jawed, fanged demon head surrounded by a tangle of wiry tentacles. Flesh Gnawer radiates Epic combat and animation magic, along with a faint aura of evil.

Despite it's wooden construction, Flesh Gnawer is practically unbreakable. It requires Great strength to wield effectively however. Anyone with lesser strength suffers a one rank accuracy penalty and can only swing the weapon every other round. A blow struck by this weapon inflicts Great damage.

Each time a successful blow is struck with Flesh Gnawer 1d4 of the obsidian studs animate and sink their teeth into the target, each becoming a tiny demonic being that clings to its victim with barbed tendrils as it gnaws and chews its way inward. Each tiny Gnawer inflicts Fair damage per round so long as they remain embedded in living flesh. Gnawers can be attacked and destroyed with melee attacks or spell damage. They have Good toughness and armor and Superb resistance to elemental damage. A Great test of dispelling magic directed at the victim will destroy all attached Gnawers. They can also be ripped free and thrown to the ground, where they fall inert and turn to black dust after one round, though this inflicts a Fair wound on their victim.

Flesh Gnawer has 100 studs fitted to its surface, which vanish when they give birth to a demonic Gnawer. The weapon regenerates 2d6 studs each day.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

One Page Dungeon Contest 2010 - Winners!

They've been announced here. The PDF is also available.

I wonder if they'll post up an archive of all the entries?

Edit: Full archive is now available on Alex's site here. I've also made both files available here, along with last year's archives and the original One Page Templates.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Random Reads

A random selection of articles that caught my eye over the last week or so, in no particular order:
  • Uhluht'c Awakens does a good job of summing up my reasons for liking original Star Trek over the more recent versions. Adventures (and short skirts)! Yes, Kirk is my favorite captain.
  • Monsters and Manuals writes about why people play RPGs. The best part of this article was the awesome example of really hooking a new player with a great experience right from the start.
  • The Tao of D&D shows us an image of their gaming environment, showing off a GM / player dual-monitor setup very similar to my usual setup.
  • A Character for Every Game shares another set of excellent geomorphs. People like this make me envious, my mapping skills are nowhere near as good as those demonstrated here.
  • The Omnipotent Eye talks about drawing dungeons and the difficulties encountered therein.
  • Moebius Adventures calls for help with the design challenges they're facing in their game, specifically regarding damage, critical hits and the effects of armor.
  • Geek Ken talks about using minions in 4th edition D&D, offering a nice set of tips that can easily be adapted to other game systems.
  • RPG Blog II discusses the aftermath of a major disaster on the campaign world and offers up a quick random chart to map out the nasty effects. I really like the proposed chart, and think it could easily be expanded to cover more aspects of the disaster.
So there you have it, the short list of articles that caught my eye. Kind of all over the board here, but hopefully you'll see something interesting.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Paquin's Black Book

This is a bit of a departure from my usual article. This tome is from a 2nd edition AD&D game I ran a few years back. I keep meaning to adapt it to my usual system, and then letting it sit in my queue for another month, so I decided I would post it up as is. Most of the material here should be familiar to any D&D player, and easily adapted to any D&D-flavor game.

This is a book of black stained leather, bound with bronze and silver fittings. The book radiates both strong magic and evil. It contains the collected writings of the mage Paquin, a vile black sorcerer from the early days of the Empire. The main book is actually five volumes within a single binding. Each sub-book is protected by a shell of chitinous leather and guarded by a magical seal (except the first, which is open).

Within each sub-volume is the specific ritual that will unlock the next section. Each time the ritual is performed, there is a 50% chance the guardian spirit of the section being opened will be invoked. Discovering the ritual for the next section should be treated as discovering a spell within the book. Each week spent studying a sub-section of the book has a chance of revealing one of the contained spells or some useful piece of information (chance equal to chance to learn a spell). Each week of study also has a 25% cumulative chance of invoking the demonic spirit that guards the particular sub-volume.

The book's guardians are permanently bound to the volume. If defeated they disappear, but can be reinvoked after 1 day has passed. If a guardian is invoked it appears in a pillar of fire and smoke that bursts from the book, choking and blinding anyone within a 10'R for 1d4 MR (ST vs. spell to avoid).
The book cannot be destroyed by any mundane means. Only the burning breath of a dragon will destroy it and send its guardian spirit back to the nether planes.

Volume I

Guardian: Hook Horror (HP: 30 AC: 3 Dam: 1d8/1d8 THAC0: 14)
  • Mount (1st)
  • Paquin's Ghoul Touch (1st)
  • Detect Undead (1st)
  • Clay Flesh (2nd)
Volume II

Guardian: Shadow Demon (HP: 40 AC: 9/5/1 Dam: 1d8/1d6/1d6 THAC0: 12)
  • Summon Swarm (2nd)
  • Irritation (2nd)
  • Fools' Gold (2nd)
  • Paquin's Vortex of Terror (3rd)
Volume III

Guardian: Doombat - enhanced (HP: 50 AC: 4 Dam: 1d6/1d4, shriek THAC0: 10)
  • Dispel Magic (3rd)
  • Protection from Evil 10' Radius (3rd)
  • Protection from Normal Missiles (3rd)
  • Paquin's Rain of Horror (4th)

Volume IV

Guardian: Guardian Daemon (HP: 60 AC: 1 Dam: 1d6/1d6/2d12 THAC0: 8)
  • Enchanted Weapon (4th)
  • Phantasmal Killer (4th)
  • Contagion (4th)
  • Paquin's Fire Tornado (5th)

Volume V

Guardian: Necrophidius - enhanced (HP: 70 AC: 0 Dam: 1d8 (ST vs. magic or paralized) THAC0: 6)
  • Conjure Elemental (5th)
  • Major Creation (5th)
  • Domination (5th)
  • Reincarnation (6th)
Paquin was a historic figure of legend in my campaign, a mage who once advised the Emperor, he fell from grace and was eventually hunted down and slain. His name is considered curse, his works tainted by demonic forces and blackest magic.

I've written about Paquin and some of his leftovers previously,
As for Paquin's Rain of Horror, that's right here in its original form:

Paquin's Rain of Horror

This spell causes a rain of protoplasmic globs to rain from the skies within a 30 foot radius circle. These blobs are acidic in nature, searing flesh and eating away at metallic objects. Once they land the globs animate, becoming gooey worm-like creatures, each seeking the nearest living target to sear and feed upon. 1d4 globules fall in each 5 foot square within the area of effect. Each globule must be slain (HP: 1 AC: 8 THAC0: N/A, Damage: 1d4) before they cease movement. This spell has a 200 foot range, and a full round cast time.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Enhancing Glyphs

These items are paper-thin slabs of polished stone, generally obsidian, turquoise, agate or similar semi-precious material. Each one to three inch wide stone is inscribed with a mystic glyph that reflects the magic contained within. Despite their thin and fragile appearance, the Glyphs are fairly sturdy (Good toughness), though if chipped or shattered their magic dissipates instantly. Each stone radiates Good enchantment magic, reflecting the actual magic of the Glyph itself. Each Enhancing Glyph also radiates additional magics, depending on its own unique properties. A Great test of divination magic will reveal the magic contained within any particular Glyph.

Each Glyph contains a unique magical power trapped within its matrix. To make use of this power the Glyph must be bonded to its owner's flesh. This process requires placing the Glyph against the owner's skin and speaking its unique command word. The Glyph will instantly sear its way into its owner's flesh, causing a Fair damage wound as it permanently attaches itself. This wound can only be healed my time and mundane means. Once placed the owner can invoke the power contained within the Glyph with a mental command. An embedded Glyph can be removed, but is destroyed in the process. Each Glyph has a unique power:
  • Icy Touch - This Glyph is carved from bright blue turquoise and radiates Good elemental magic. When invoked the bearer's flesh gains a freezing aura that causes Fair cold damage to anyone that touches them (including anyone they touch with a successful melee attack). This power can be invoked thrice per day and lasts six rounds per invocation.
  • Rejuvination - This Glyph is cut from warm green malachite and radiates Good healing magic. When invoked the bearer gains accelerated healing, recovering one rank of damage per round for six rounds. This power can be invoked thrice per day.
  • Cheetah's Paw - Cut from a slab of citrine, this stone radiates Good alteration magic. Thrice per day the bearer can invoke its power to move at triple their normal pace for six rounds.
  • Feather's Grasp - This obsidian Glyph radiates Good alteration magic. When invoked the bearer becomes light as a feather for six rounds. While in this state they suffer no damage from falls, descending at a leisurely ten feet per round. This power can be invoked thrice per day.
  • Divine Consecration - This Glyph has been cut from pure white marble and radiates Good divine magic. When invoked the bearer is surrounded by a ten foot diameter circle of protection, which hedges out undead creatures or beings from other planes (a Good resistance check applies). This power can be invoked thrice per day and lasts six rounds.
  • Warded Mind - Cut from a sheet of clear rock crystal, this Glyph radiates Good protection magic. It can be invoked three times per day, and provides the bearer with Good resistance to all forms of mental / emotional attack (including fear, mind control, esp, etc.) This protection lasts six rounds per invocation.
  • Hunger for Blood - This Glyph is cut from reddish agate and radiates Good necromantic magic. When invoked it grants the bearer a vampiric touch. Any successful melee attack they make drains an additional rank of blood damage from the target and heals the bearer a like amount. The bearer is compelled to attack while under the effects of this Glyph, which can be invoked thrice per day for six rounds per invocation.
  • Wind Shear - When this tiger's eye Glyph is invoked it surrounds the bearer with a ten foot diameter storm of gusting wind, which picks up sand, dirt and small objects in a blinding swirling cloud. All actions directed against the bearer take a one rank penalty, with missile fire suffering a two rank penalty. The bearer is unaffected by the wind, which can be invoked thrice per day for six rounds.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Igniter's Rod

This two foot long rod is made from sooty black metal that stains whatever it touches with smears of black ash. Twisting coils of copper, steel and lead tubes spring from and wind around this black core, culminating in a tangled knot of metal at the end of the shaft where each tube drains greasy, yellow liquid into a small cup-like container. Within this narrow bowl a tiny blue flame slowly consumes this liquid, giving off faint light and heat, along with the acrid odor of burning metal. Igniter's Rod radiates Epic evocation magic, and a Superb test of divination magic will reveal the command words required to control the device. It has the following powers and capabilities:
  • Eternal Ember - The tip of the Rod burns with an eternal flame which cannot be extinguished. The Rod's owner can command this flame to brighten or dim as desired, the light and heat produced ranging from a match's flame to that of a large torch.
  • Searing Flame - Six times per day the Rod's owner can command it to emit a one foot jet of searing hot flame lasting six rounds. The Flame is hot enough to melt even extremely hard substances such as stone or steel, cutting through a one inch steel rod in a single round. This Flame does Superb fire damage to anything it hits (requiring a successful melee attack to hit an active foe).
  • Lava Belch - Three times per day Igniter's Rod can spew forth a gout of burning liquid lava which can be directed anywhere within 30 feet of the wielder. Sufficient liquid is produced to create a burning pool 10 feet in diameter. Anything struck by this gout (treat as a hurled object to determine where it lands) suffers Epic fire damage when initially struck, followed by three rounds of Great fire damage as the lava continues to sear and burn. Should the lava strike a large body of water it will cause an explosion of steam and rock fragments that inflicts Superb fire damage on anyone within 30 feet of the point of impact. Lava Belch leaves behind a mass of stone approximately 10 feet in diameter and one foot thick when it finally cools.
  • Dragon's Tongue - Once per day the wielder can call forth a massive cone of flame 60 feet long and 30 feet wide at its furthest reach. Anything within this area of effect suffers Epic fire damage unless they make a Superb test of reflexes to avoid the effect, which reduces the damage by three ranks.
Each usage of the Igniter's Rod will set alight any flammable object within the area of effect. The heat produced by the device is so intense that normal fire resistance checks all suffer a one rank penalty. Igniter's Rod must be used at least once per day (any power) or it will randomly launch a Lava Belch to relieve the buildup of magical energies within its matrix.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Random Events

Today, a few random events and rumors for your consideration. A while back I wrote an article about adapting news articles to your campaign. These ideas were all pulled from today's paper. Well today's paper on the day that I'm writing this, so actually sometime last week. I've actually kept my New Year's Resolution to keep at least a few day's buffer on posts.
  • The city council has agreed to turn over the abandoned barracks and jail complex to a local merchant's coalition for conversion to a warehouse. Neither side is exactly sure what might be found in the old jail, so they're looking for a group of adventurous types to accompany a party of surveyors and engineers into the warren of buildings and cellars.
  • Recent flooding, caused by heavier than usual spring rains, have forced town officials to condemn the town's main well. The militia has been called upon to provide labor for digging a new well, while a local noble is beginning construction on an aqueduct to bring fresh water to town from nearby highland streams.
  • A local festival, delayed due to terrible rainstorms, has been rescheduled three days hence. The festivities include the unveiling of a new memorial to a local priest who died recently, an open market catering to local potters and craftsmen, and a huge game of tag involving everyone in attendance.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Man-eater Spirits

These bestial undead creatures are created when man-eating predators are slain without the proper rites and rituals being observed to placate their victim's souls. Driven by a predator's endless hunger, the Man-eater Spirit haunts the wilds where its origin creature was killed, possessing other creatures to satisfy a hunger that only the flesh of man can satisfy.

Man-eater Spirits appear as large predators, their exact shape determined by their creature of origin. All Spirits have pale white fur, tinted blood-red around claws and fangs. Their eyes gleam with faint greenish light, and a faint odor of carrion surrounds them. Their bodies are translucent, reflecting their partially insubstantial nature. They are constrained to the area surrounding the site of their death, never straying more than a dozen miles from this point.

These undead creatures are driven by a never-ending desire for blood and slaughter. Though they are completely insubstantial during daylight hours, at night they will stalk and kill any living creature that enters their territory, their preferred prey being man. Man-eaters possess a fierce cunning and knowledge of their home terrain. Their typical tactics include using their abilities to divide groups into scattered individuals, then isolating and cutting down individual targets. After drinking the blood of their victim, the Spirit will often drag the remains into an obvious spot to cause further terror.

Man-eater Spirits have the following characteristics:
  • As undead spirits the creatures appear only at night, becoming completely insubstantial between dawn and dusk.
  • Each Man-eater inherits the physical capabilities of its creature of origin. For example a tiger-based Spirit would have claw and bite attacks as well as the ability to climb and move quietly. Any attack or defense abilities possessed in life gain one rank of improvement due to the creature's magical nature.
  • Man-eaters are immune to mundane weaponry. Normal weapons simply pass through their insubstantial bodies. Even a simple blessing will neutralize this power.
  • Because of their insubstantial nature, all Man-eaters have Superb stealth and hiding abilities.
  • Terrorizing Growl - Six times per day the Man-eater can emit a terrible growl, which causes fear to anyone within a 100 foot radius. Mundane animals automatically flee in terror, though intelligent beings can make an Average test of willpower to resist the effects.
  • Shadow Eyes - Man-eaters can project glowing, illusionary eyes that seem to hover in the shadows on the edge of vision. They can maintain three sets of Shadow Eyes at will. The Man-eater Spirit can shift their point of view to any set of Eyes at will.
  • Predatory Possession - Any mundane predator that crosses a Man-eater Spirit's territory is subject to possession by the Spirit (a Good test of will allows the predator to escape unharmed). Possessed predators are driven to stalk and kill any creature that crosses their path, their normal instincts overridden by the Spirit's never-ending need for slaughter. A single Spirit can possess up to three predators at a time. The possessed creature hut ceaselessly, day or night, until slain, or exorcised with a Great test of exorcism magic.

Man-eaters slain by magical weapons or spells dissipate until the rising of the next full moon, when they are returned to their unliving doom. To permanently destroy a Man-eater, a ritual must be performed at the site of their origin creature's death. This ritual must be performed on the night of the new moon beginning at midnight and requires a tooth or claw from the original creature's remains and a bone or token from at least one of their victims. Researching the ritual is a Good test of ritual lore. Performing the ritual is a Great test of ritual magic. During the ritual the Man-eater is summoned to the site, and the ritualist must be protected for the six rounds required to complete the ritual.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Quick Note on Comments

I've just swapped my news reader from Brief to Google Reader, and I'm still in the process of making sure all my feeds were moved over. I usually check the comments feed to insure I catch feedback, but I may miss a few in the next couple days. Apologies if I miss your comment.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Spell Catcher

Spell Catcher is a heavy hooded cloak woven from deep red wool and lined with dark gray silk. A heavy gold clasp decorated with magical runes fastens the cloak around the wearer's neck. The bottom hem is decorated with a broad pattern of swirling black lines sewn with gleaming silken thread. The lapel area of the cloak are trimmed with a pattern of gold braid and set with twelve cabochon-cut star rubies ranging in size from tiny to sizable.

Spell Catcher radiates Superb alteration magic. A Superb test of divination magic will reveal the secrets of the cloak's magic are locked away in the runes inscribed upon its ornate clasp. Deciphering these ancient runes requires access to a Great quality magical research library, and four successful Great tests of magical lore.

This item allows its owner to store the energies required to cast a spell or magical effect into the rubies set into the cloak's fabric. The size of the rubies determines the potency of the spell that can be stored. There are four rank one, three rank two, three rank three, and two rank four stones. To store a spell's magic, Spell Catcher must be worn by the spell caster, who casts the spell as usual, directing its energies into the chosen stone with a command word. This process consumes any resources normally used in spell casting components, spell points, etc.

Once charged a stone can be discharged by the cloak's wearer with a simple command word and directed per the spell's normal usage. One stone can be discharged each round as a free action, or two stones can be discharged as a full round action.

Stones charged with a spell glow with a faint inner light, though there is no obvious indication of what sort of spell is stored. Attempting to charge a stone that already contains a spell has the following potential results:
  • 50% chance of replacing the spell
  • 25% chance of discharging the stored spell and replacing it
  • 20% chance of discharging the stored spell and failing to replace it
  • 4% chance of discharging both spells
  • 1% chance of discharging both spells and destroying the target stone

Should Spell Catcher's owner be struck with a magical attack and fail their resistance check the cloak must make a resistance check against the attack as well (treat it as having Superb resistance). Should this test fail, 1d4 charged stones will randomly discharge centered on the cloak's wearer.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Skull of the Demon Master

This potent relic radiates Legendary summoning and protection magic. It is made from a skull of some mythic humanoid being, the bone pure white and polished, each rough edge or ridge gilded with purest gold. Lines of tiny seed pearls, topaz and onyx form a swirling pattern across the Skull's smooth dome, winding down and around the empty eye sockets that seem to gleam with their own inner light. Magical examination will reveal the Skull as a potent artifact of good.

The Skull is designed as a trap for Demonic beings. Discovering the rituals involved in actually using the artifact requires three Superb tests of ritual lore (the GM should determine what sources are required to make these tests as suits their campaign). Preparing for each of the rituals involving the Skull requires a Great test of ritual magic, with the material requirements for each representing a one-time Superb cost to obtain the proper accouterments. The three rituals are outlined below:

Ritual of Snaring - This ritual allows the Skull's owner to trap a demonic being within it's magical protections. To carry out this ritual requires the demonic being be present on the mundane plane, either of its own accord or after being summoned. Once present the appropriate ritual must be complete, which requires the aforementioned research and ritual tools be available. Completing the ritual requires five Good tests of ritual magic. While attempting the ritual, the Skull's owner may only focus on the task at hand. They are subject to attack by the target demon unless other preparations are made -- protective devices, defenders, etc. Once the ritual is completed the target demon must make a Legendary resistance test against summoning magic or be compelled to enter the Skull. Once snared they are held in stasis until released or banished. The Skull may hold up to three lesser or one greater demon at a time.

Ritual of Banishing - This ritual allows the Skull's owner to banish a trapped demon from the mundane plane. This ritual requires five Good tests of ritual magic in a row. Each failed test gives all demons contained within the skull a chance to escape its confines. To escape the demons must make a Legendary resistance check against summoning magic, gaining a one rank bonus to this test with each failed ritual magic test. Demons successfully banished are forced to return to their plane of origin and cannot return on their own accord for 666 days. Demons that are freed during the ritual are free to do what demons do best, cause chaos and destroy their foes, beginning with the Skull's owner.

Ritual of Compulsion - Using this ritual the Skull's owner may call forth a trapped demon and force it to serve their will for ten rounds, after which the demon will return to the Skull's confines. This ritual requires a single Good test of ritual magic, though each demon contained within the Skull is granted a chance to break free with each invocation (Legendary resistance check vs. summoning magic). This ritual may be used no more than once per cycle of the moon.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Deed Breaker

This potent magical device is a thick platinum necklace woven from thirteen chains of the gleaming metal, each strand woven with a different size and shape link, giving the item a somewhat irregular appearance. Each unique chain is set with a different gemstone. These stones, like the chains that connect them, are cut to unique shapes and vary in size from tiny to huge. A gold clasp allows the relatively short chain, about 18 inches in total length, to be donned or removed. The necklace radiates Epic alteration magic, and a Superb test of divination magic will reveal its unique power.

Deed Breaker grants its wearer the power of negating actions with a simple mental command. When the power is invoked the target must make a Superb test of willpower or simply halt whatever action they were carrying out. Any resources devoted to the interrupted action (magical power, missiles, components) are lost or dropped as if forgotten and the victim loses the time the lost action would normally consume. The target cannot repeat the interrupted action for three rounds. Any attempt to do so has the same effects as the initial invocation of Deed Breaker without a resistance check, though a Great test of perception will allow the target to realize they are being affected by a magical obstruction.

Deed Breaker's power can be invoked up to thirteen times per day. The owner may select any visible target within 100 feet. Issuing the mental command to activate the device is a free action, but it can be used no more than once per round. Each invocation of the device's power has a one percent chance of shattering one of the item's gemstones, reducing the number of invocations available by one. Gemstones can be replaced with a duplicate of the destroyed stone. Note that the unique cut and type of each stone requires a Superb skill jeweler to match the stone and cut of the destroyed gem.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Science Behind the Blog

I crossed 350 posts sometime in the last week or so. Yay posts! I also just crossed the one year mark with my Google Analytics data. With those milestones behind me I decided to take a hard look at the blog and content. Specifically I wanted to see what people are reading and what they're ignoring. If you're not familiar with Google Analytics, it's a site monitoring tool that provides tons of statistics and numbers or any site you set up for monitoring. If you're involved in web publication it's definitely a valuable research tool. I've had it running here for just over a year, and I'm going to be looking at the data for that period.

So what are people reading? By far the most popular article was Deadly Maladies, a post that someone stumbled. That generated over 1000 hits in two days, so I view that as something of an anomaly. The next most popular articles were a post noting the availability of Diaspora, an article on critical and fumble charts, my TiddlyWiki tutorial (part one), and an old dungeon map I scanned a while back.

Notice anything there? Not one of those posts actually fits the stated purpose of the blog. Hmm. I might treat it as a fluke if the trend didn't continue, but the next 20 articles are about the same. Pretty much every fluff, advice, or opinion piece I've written has received more views than the regularly featured items, creatures and encounters posts. Even the lame filler post with the scanned image of my original Armory dice crayons made the top 25% of posts. Apparently I should stick to opinion pieces and posting scans of the ancient maps in my files. Heck I bet this article hits the top ten within a few days.

Looking at it from the other end, let's take a look at some of the worse performing articles. Now some of these were written before I started running Analytics, so the results are certainly skewed. Some also predate my joining the RPG Bloggers Network, which pushed up readership significantly. Nevertheless, the bottom performing articles are all items, encounters, creatures or treasures. Removing all the archive and keyword links the bottom five articles are:
Now in fairness, all of those articles (and most of the rest of the bottom 20) were all posted before I started running Analytics, so they weren't being tracked when they were fresh. But looking further up the list, the trend continues. Even search links like Moria or encounter end up garnering more hits than the average article.

It's a bit depressing.

The next thing to look at is where people are coming from. I expected to see most hits coming from RPG Bloggers, but surprisingly they ranked 5th in the list. The number one source was Feedburner, which implies a lot of people subscribe in an RSS reader, something supported by the 100+ subscribers Feedburner says it has. Direct links and Google searches come up next, indicating people using bookmarks or hitting links seen elsewhere. In 4th place, hats off to Jeffs Gameblog for sending me a big chunk of hits, beating out RPG Bloggers by a narrow margin (Thanks Jeff!)

The next couple entries are Google, Blogger itself, and Stumbleupon (that stumble I mentioned earlier). Sword+1 gets honorable mention for making the top 10 sources, one of only two blogs in that group. The 10th entry is the forums at rpg.net, which I'm sure is mostly people hitting the link in my signature.

Geographically the mix isn't that surprising. The USA is the biggest source of readers, with 10 times the hits as the next biggest source, Canada. The UK, Brazil, and Germany round out the top five. In the USA I've managed to garner at least one hit in every state, with California, Virginia and Texas having the highest numbers (discounting the many hits from me in Indiana).

So what's all this mean? Well, I'm not sure yet. It's clear from the numbers that most people really aren't interested in one-off ideas for campaign material. The dismal performance of that category of articles relative to opinion, advice or fluff pieces is significant. Maybe I could raise interest by using a specific system (D&D 4e I'm looking at you!), but I'm not sure that's a tack I'd like to take. Maybe I just need to alter my focus and broaden my writing to include the more appealing fluff, advice and opinion articles on a regular basis. Maybe I need to go bigger and start developing a larger product to frame some of the stuff I've already written here. Maybe I should reboot with a new format. Maybe people just think my writing sucks.

There's definitely some thinking ahead for me. I'm certainly not in this solely for the hit counter, if that were the case I'd have been gone a while ago, but the feeling of talking to an empty room definitely wears on me. That said, I'd like to take a moment to say two things. First THANKS to those of you that read and comment here. It really brightens my day when I see a comment pop up in my RSS reader. Second, no matter what, this content won't vanish. Even if I decide to reboot, this blog will remain available until Blogger decides to wipe it. Rest easy, my awesome chili recipe will be online forever!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Enhancing Censer

This pewter incense burner is cast to resemble a bizarre being, a creature that is little more than a hairy demonic head supported by scaled legs and a long twisted beard. A variety of horns and spines protrude from the back of the its head. The creature's eyes, ears and spines are pierced to allow smoke to pour forth from the interior of the hollow shape. The top of the figure's head can be removed, allowing access to the hollow interior, where an iron grate supports incense over a bed of ever-burning coals. Despite the great heat within the outside of the burner is cool to the touch. The Censer radiates Superb enhancement magic and Good evocation magic. A Great test of divination will reveal its properties:
  • The coals within the Censer burn with fierce heat no matter the conditions, even if fully submerged. Any incense (or other flammable object) placed within the Censer will be lit within one round. Like the coals, incense will continue to burn under any conditions. Note that this protection is lost if the burning substance is removed from the burner. The coals are permanently affixed to the Censer and attempting to remove them has a Great chance of destroying the object.
  • Incense, including magical incense, within the Censer burns for three times its normal duration and retains any special effects or magical properties it normally has for the entire period.
  • Magical incense gains a bonus to its area of effect, which doubles, and a two rank bonus to any magical effect it carries. This bonus can be applied as an increased effectiveness or a penalty to resistance checks as appropriate.
  • Upon command the owner can extinguish any burning substance within the Censer. Any remaining material is instantly vaporized and vanishes.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Diaspora & Fate RPG Bundle Deal

Recently Evil Hat Productions put together a pdf bundle deal featuring Spirit of the Century, a FateRPG-based pulp super game, and Diaspora, a FateRPG-based hard science fiction game. Here's the link to this cool deal.

I really like the ideas found in the FateRPG, even though they're not a good match up to my regular gaming group's tastes. Along with zero-centric FUDGE dice mechanics, the concept of Aspects has probably done more to change how I think about games in the last five years than anything else I've read. If you're at all curious about the FateRPG, this deal is a great way to see two implementations of the system. If you want to find out more about the FateRPG itself, there are free downloadable copies of FateRPG 2.0 and the Spirit of the Century SRD on the main FateRPG site.

If you're interested in print versions of either game, they're a bit more costly, but you can get Diaspora here via Lulu, and Spirit of the Century here via Evil Hat's storefront.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Crystalline Owl

This small figurine shows a horned owl perched on a branch, wings half spread and beak ajar. It is made from smoky gray crystal sand-blasted to a dull finish. The Owl is extremely detailed, with individual feathers and quills carefully carved into the flat finish. The figurine's eyes and talons are highlighted with glossy black slabs of onyx. The Owl is approximately six inches high. The Owl radiates Superb alteration and animation magic. The command words required to command the Owl can be discovered with a Great test of divination magic. The figurine can be commanded to life in one of two forms.

Normal Form

The figurine transforms into a construct of living crystal. In this form the Owl has a two foot wingspan and can be commanded to fly anywhere at Epic speed and maneuverability within ten miles of its owner. The owl has Legendary night vision and is practically invisible and silent while flying (Epic stealth). The Owl can return to its owner and report anything it has seen, conveying this information via a series of hoots and coos which only the figurine's owner can comprehend. The Owl can remain aloft for four hours at a time, after which it becomes inert for four hours.

Gigantic Form

The figurine grows to monstrous size and sprouts a saddle and harness designed to carry up to two human-sized beings. One of the riders must be the figurine's owner, who is the only person that can command the Owl to flight. In this form the Owl flies with Great speed and Good maneuverability. Like its smaller form, it flies with Epic stealth, and anyone riding the Owl benefits from this ability as well. The Gigantic Owl can be summoned but once per day, and can remain active for up to one hour.

Both the Normal and Gigantic form of the Owl are poor combatants, having only Fair toughness and Poor combat abilities with talons and beak. Should the Owl suffer more than two ranks of damage in Normal form or Four ranks in Gigantic, it will revert to crystalline form and become inert for one day per rank of damage suffered.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Shadow Caryatid

These unusual undead are manifestations of the restless souls of innocent women slain by violence, driven to avenge their deaths. No one understands the exact conditions required to cause one of these creatures to appear, since the perpetrator of the violence usually doesn't survive long enough to explain.

Shadow Caryatids appear only between sunset and sunrise, vanishing instantly in the direct rays of the sun. They appear as a life-sized statue carved from pale marble depicting a slender female figure dressed in long, flowing robes and wearing a veil that covers her face. To most observers there is little else to see, but to the Caryatid's target, there is a sinister aspect to the figure, a hint of menace in the blind shadows hidden by the veil, a faint scent of blood in the air around her.

Caryatids are undead creatures, but not particularly evil. They avoid contact with anyone other than their victim, and never move while under observation, appearing to be nothing more than a mundane piece of statuary. They have the following characteristics:
  • Resilient Form - The stone flesh of a Caryatid has Superb toughness and quickly regenerates any damage done. Even if reduced to powder a Caryatid's body will fully reform with the next sunset.
  • Sudden Movement - A Caryatid can shift position in the blink of an eye, moving up to 200 yards in a single round, so long as she is unobserved. The creature is utterly silent while moving, and can instantly freeze in place.
  • Dread Aura - A 30 foot radius aura of dread surrounds the Caryatid, instilling a desire to flee in anyone within the area of effect. A Fair test of willpower negates this ability, though the Caryatid's victim suffers a one rank penalty on this test.
  • Hand of Doom - If the Caryatid is able to touch her target, the victim must make a Superb test of willpower or have the attribute drained one rank. This power only affects the Caryatid's target. Should the victim be reduced to zero willpower they are slain, their mind destroyed by the Caryatid's fearful aura. Victims slain by a Shadow Caryatid are invariably found crushed beneath a fallen statue.
The Shadow Caryatid will relentlessly follow their victim wherever they travel, moving swiftly and silently throughout the night. They approach their victims from behind, and always strike a grasping, reaching pose when near their target. As the victim's willpower is slowly destroyed they become more and more panic-stricken as terror slowly erodes their mind. Should their victim be brought to justice by mundane means the Shadow Caryatid will be freed from their unnatural life, their soul freed to ascend to whatever afterlife awaits them.