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Monday, May 31, 2010

The Eye of Achra

This legendary artifact is a perfectly sculpted human-sized eye carved from a piece of white opal. The Eye's iris and pupil are represented by a curious circular flaw in the stone, black within green. The craftsmanship of the Eye is exquisite, and a knowledgeable jeweler could identify the work as Dwarven in origins. Legend says the Eye grants anyone brave enough to place it within an empty eye socket perfect vision and a penetrating gaze, but there are darker stories that tell tales of madness and woe that have befallen anyone that has tried to wear this artifact.

The Eye is a fairly potent magical object. If examined for magical properties it radiates Superb alteration and illusion magic. A Great test of divination will reveal the item's enchantments:
  • When the Eye is placed within the empty eye socket of a human-sized creature it instantly bonds to flesh. After attuning itself to the wearer for about a week, the Eye's powers come to life.
  • The Eye provides perfect vision to the wearer, fully replacing their missing eye and even removing any sight defects previously suffered (such as near- or far-sightedness).
  • The wearer gains dark vision. Under normal nighttime conditions they see as if it were day. The Eye allows vision even total or magical darkness, though these conditions reduce visibility to that of a bright moonlit night.
  • The Eye's wearer can see hidden or secret objects, even those concealed by magical means. Using this power requires concentration. The wearer can scan a ten foot square space each round.
  • The Eye allows its wearer to focus on very distant objects or tiny details, bringing them into perfect focus and clarity. Focusing like this requires unbroken concentration, and each round spent focused on an object brings it into greater clarity. Breaking off this power requires one round of recovery to bring the Eye's vision back to normal.
The Eye bears a subtle curse, one hidden by the illusion enchantments placed upon the item. A Legendary test of divination will reveal the presence of the curse, but its nature is impossible to detect by magical means. One month after the Eye becomes active the wearer will begin to suffer from the effects of the curse, which manifests itself once or twice per day. The curse causes a subtle shift in the faces and features of those around the wearer. A simple smile becomes a sly look, a greeting between two friends becomes a whispered plot, a passing look becomes a threatening gaze. The curse most often affects the appearance of the wearer's closest companions, but if none are present, even total strangers may be affected. These alterations are illusion only, though the GM should present them to the wearer as fact.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Dividing Coin

This object appears to be nothing more than a simple gold coin, its markings and features eroded by time and constant use. An assay will show it to be made from the purest gold. A careful examination of its markings will show the faint outline of a face on one side, and a wheel-like icon on the other. Magical examination will reveal the Coin is enchanted with Superb quality alteration magic. A Superb divination will reveal the command word required to activate the Coin's magic.

When the command word is spoken, the Coin duplicates itself, creating a second gold coin of equal value. This coin is of equal quality to the original, though the minor flaws and nicks on each coin's surface are slightly different. This command word can be used once per hour, creating up to 24 new coins each day.

Any created coins that remain in the possession of the original's owner vanish at midnight. Coins traded or given away have a 5% chance of becoming coins of lesser value each night at midnight. Gold become silver, silver become copper, and copper become lead slugs. This chance is additive across all coins in a single person's possession, and affects all owned duplicates. For example if someone owns ten duplicate gold coins there is a 50% chance they will all become silver each night at midnight. The original coin is never affected by this.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Vortex of Souls

This legendary artifact is made from the spiraling, horn of some long-extinct sea creature. It's twisted, white length is encrusted with barnacles and coralline growths, each carefully preserved beneath a layer of polished gold leaf. The horn rests upon a framework of polished black steel formed and shaped into a twisted maze of branches and vines that wrap securely around its length. The horn's hollow interior is sealed with a thick, hinged cap made from the same material as the supporting frame. The device radiates Legendary abjuration and protection magic. An Epic test of divination will reveal an extra-dimensional rift contained within the artifact.

The Vortex contains an alternate reality, a dimensionless place where physical matter does not exist and all forms of energy are negated by the very nature of this bizarre realm. The Vortex was originally created as a sort of extra-dimensional prison. Any living creature drawn into the Vortex loses all material form, reduced to little more than a floating consciousness lost in a void of pure white nothingness. The Vortex negates all magical, divine, mental or physical energies within its bounds, making escape from within impossible.

Should the Vortex's seal be opened without proper preparation, any sentient creature within 100 feet will be drawn into the void. A Legendary test of will must be made each round to avoid this effect. All held or carried items are drawn into the void along with the creature, instantly becoming insubstantial and powerless. Left unattended the Vortex will reseal itself in 1d10 days.

The enchantments surrounding the Vortex negate all attempts at divining its operating principles. Only research into the device's history will reveal the mechanism required to protect oneself against the Vortex's effect. When it was first created, a number of medallions were fashioned that provided a defense against the Vortex. Discovering the existence and appearance of these medallions requires a Legendary test of historic lore. Researching the location of each medallion requires three Epic tests of research. Of course the researcher must have access to appropriate materials and references to carry out this research. There are no fewer than three, but no more than seven of these medallions. Any sentient being wearing a medallion is immune to the Vortex's effect.

It is rumored that several medallion wearers can open the Vortex and call forth one of the banished, a ritual requiring exacting knowledge of the desired target. There is, of course, a chance that this summoning will allow 1d4 other entities to escape the Vortex. Anyone returned from the Vortex reappears in exactly the same physical state as they departed.

The GM should determine a single method by which the Vortex of Souls can be destroyed. They should also determine what happens to the contained souls when the container is shattered.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Storm Scream

This heavy dagger has an 18-inch long, single-edged blade with a slightly curved tip. The blade's pale, silvery-blue metal is etched with a pattern of overlapping clouds and lightning that runs from haft to tip. A swirling guard of the same silvery-blue metal provides the wielder with some hand protection, while a grip of gray leather provides a firm grip. The dagger's pommel is decorated with a polished sapphire that contains an endless cascade of tiny sparkling bolts of energy. When not in use the blade is protected by a simple scabbard, also of gray leather, inscribed with the same clouds and lightning pattern as the weapon's blade. When drawn the weapon emits a continuous howling shriek, like strong wind blowing through a narrow crevice or crack.

Storm Scream radiates Epic evocation and weather magic. It's scabbard radiates Superb protective magic. A Great test of divination will reveal the two item's enchantments. Storm Scream's scabbard provides its wearer with complete protection from the dagger's effects. The dagger itself has no intrinsic combat bonuses, but any creature that touches the weapon is subject to the effects of the weapon's primary enchantment. To determine the exact effect use the table below:
1DrenchThe target is soaked from head to toe with gallons of chilly water, as if they had stood in a torrential downpour for five minutes. Any open flame they were carrying is instantly doused and they are chilled by the cold water (suffering a one rank penalty to all actions if outdoors in cold weather). Any cold attack used against the target within the next five rounds does an additional one rank of damage.
2HazeThe target's vision is clouded by a misty haze, like dense fog. All skill checks and combat actions suffer a one rank penalty. Subsequent Haze results are cumulative. The effect lasts ten rounds.
3FrostThe target is struck with a bolt of pure cold, that coats all items and gear with an icy glaze. This effect does Good damage and there is a Fair chance the target will drop anything carried due to the slick icy coating. The icing effect lasts five rounds.
4MaelstromThe target is surrounded by a twister of howling wind, that knocks them off balance and deafens them for five rounds. Any physical maneuver suffers a one rank penalty and only the loudest shouting will penetrate the howling noise.
5ScorchThe target is scorched by the light of the sun, suffering serious sunburn. This effect causes Average damage, but severe discomfort for three to four days afterwards. Any creature affected by sunlight struck by this effect suffers the equivalent of a full day's exposure to the sun in an instant.
6ThunderboltThe target is jolted with a burst of electrical energy that inflicts Great damage and stuns them for 1d4 rounds.
The effects of Storm Scream can affect any number of targets in a round. All that is required is a touch.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Blue Glow

No one is quite sure what the Blue Glow is, magical remnant, extra-dimensional being, or time-space anomaly. It appears and disappears with no apparent pattern, showing up for a few minutes on one occasion, shadowing someone for days on another.

The Blue Glow appears to be nothing more than its name implies, a faint blue glow radiating from some hidden light source. The Glow varies in both size and shape, appearing as a single palm-sized area to several dozen glowing patches scattered over a hundred foot radius area. The source of the Glow is always obscured by some mundane object, the corner of a building, a tree or stone, or a piece of furniture. When it first appears the Glow is very faint, gradually gaining intensity as it remains undisturbed. If approached the Glow fades away, often reappearing in second spot even as the first fades.

The Glow's elusive nature make its characteristics very difficult to determine, an Epic test of divination magic may reveal the... whatever it is, radiates a sort of anti-magic, causing even a potent divination spell to quickly collapse upon itself. The Glow appears to have no physical manifestation, and whatever controls its form and function detects and avoids even the most potent forms of magical scrying. No one has ever seen whatever source produces the Glow, leading some to speculate that no such source exists. Magical defenses, such as warding circles and protection spells, seem to have no effect on the Glow. The only true defense seems to be rigorous observation of the surrounding area.

The Blue Glow has a singular unique property. If it remains in the vicinity (approximately 30 feet) of any magical effect for more than an hour it consumes one rank of magical energy from each device or source. All sources of magical energy are affected by this draining effect. In the case of items with charges or use limits, the Blue Glow reduces or permanently destroys a portion of the stored charge. In the case of permanently enchanted items, the draining effect is temporary, lasting one week per rank of energy drained. Note that living creatures can also be affected, causing magic using creatures or spell casters to temporarily lose access to their magical powers.

The Glow will remain in the vicinity of magical energy sources until it has drained 2d10 ranks of magical energy, then it will vanish, reappearing in a new location in 2d10 weeks.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Blastirab

The Blastirab is a dangerous inhabitant of sandy beaches and shallow bays. In general form it resembles a gigantic, hulking crab, a many-legged monstrosity complete with heavy nipping claws. The creatures range in size from six-inch hatchlings to twelve-foot wide terrors. They are fearless predators, attacking any living creature that strays near their sandy burrows with claws and jets of sandy, gooey water they spit from their strangely tube-like mouths.

As mentioned Blastirabs live in sandy coastal areas, preferring warm waters to cold. They dig burrows lined with sticky sand just below the tide-line, using them as hiding places for their ambush hunting tactics. Blastirabs have well developed gills paired with primitive lungs that allow them to survive out of the water for several hours at a stretch. Blastirabs have few natural enemies, though their tasty flesh makes them a target for well organized humanoid hunting parties.

Blastirabs have the following characteristics:
  • Superb armor plating. The creature's thick shell makes it a very tough nut to crack. This plating covers the creature's entire body. It can even retract its stalk-like eyes beneath its tough carapace.
  • Good ambush skill. When hidden away in its den the Blastirab is very difficult to spot. Its shell is often covered with barnacles and sea growth that make it look like nothing more than a rock or coral outcropping.
  • Great claw attack. The creature can attack a single target with its heavy paired claws. Any creature hit with both claws in a single round will automatically be crushed and torn in each subsequent round.
  • Sand Spit. The Blastirab can spit forth a mixture of sea water, sand and sticky saliva in a narrow jet 30 feet long with Great accuracy. Any target struck by this jet takes Fair damage, is blinded for 1d4 rounds, and must make a Good balance check or be knocked off their feet. The sticky goo clings to the target, slowing movement by one rank with each application. The Blastirab can spit forth this jet once every three rounds and can target anyone within range, it's long tubular mouth giving it a great deal of control.

With apologies to friends who can't type "blasting crabs" in IM.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Encasing Brooch

This jeweled brooch is rectangular in shape. It's gridded form consists of 12 square-cut diamond arranged in a three by four matrix, held together with a frame made from petrified wood. When discovered the Brooch will invariably be clinging to a scrap of cloth or leather, its magical fasteners holding it in place until released with a command word.

The Brooch radiates Superb alteration and protection magic. A Great test of divination magic will reveal its magical characteristics:
  • As mentioned the Brooch will magically fasten itself to any piece of clothing with a touch and a word of command. It will remained fastened until released by another command word.
  • When a second command word is spoken the Brooch will shoot forth a beam of pure white light that divides and expands in a series of geometric twists and reflections, creating a large scale representation of the Brooch itself. After one round this light image solidifies into a four foot by six foot grid-like construct of petrified wood made up of 12 cells. Each cell is about a one and a half foot cube, framed with wood and faced front and rear with a thin slab of clear diamond.
  • With a command word and a touch, any of the panels can be opened, revealing the contents of the cubic storage area behind it. Items can be freely added or removed from these storage areas so long as space permits.
  • The construct will remain in place until a sealing command word is spoken, which causes it to vanish back into an array of light and motion, eventually shooting back into the Brooch as a single beam of white light.
Any item placed within a storage space is held secure and safe. Objects within the cubes experience no sense of movement or passage of time and all natural and magical processes cease within the Brooch's confines.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Wolves of Shiral

This supernatural pack has been mentioned in legend and story for decades, a black stain of terror that has touched every culture with its dark presence. Though the reasons and stories surrounding the appearance of the Wolves varies, their description is constant, a pack of gray-furred beasts, each the size of a pony, armed with dagger-like teeth. Legend claims the Wolves are peerless hunters, tracking their prey by smell and sight, their slit-pupil, yellow eyes cutting through the blackest night or thickest fog.

The Wolves of Shiral are native to another plane of existence, a grim, shadowy realm where they are little more than predatory beasts. They can only appear in the mundane world with assistance. There are three ways the Wolves can be called forth from their native plane of existence:
  • Summoning Ritual - The Wolves can be called forth with a carefully prepared ritual. Researching this rite requires access to a Superb quality library of magical lore. Due to the Wolves' terrible nature this lore is often kept locked away by powerful organizations, so anyone seeking this information must navigate a maze of bureaucratic red tape and organizational obstructionism. Fully researching the ritual requires four Epic tests of ritual lore once the appropriate materials are at hand. The actual ritual requires a Superb expenditure of coin on tools and components, which include diamond dust for inscribing magical sigils, a silver-bladed dagger to carry out the requisite human sacrifice, a silver chalice to the victims blood, and a red silk robe laced with silver thread to protect the ritualist. The actual ritual requires three Epic tests of ritual magic on the part of the ritualist, though carrying out the ritual at the proper time (midnight on the night of a new moon) reduces the difficulty of these tests to Great.
  • Wolfhead Stone - This unique artifact was found by Dwarf miners in ages past. It is a nugget of pure silver the size of two fists, its tarnished form  bearing the shape of a snarling wolf's head. No hammer or fire has been discovered that can affect this relic. Legend says the Dwarves set the nugget in a heavy gold setting suspended from a silver chain. Anyone that obtains the Stone can call forth the Wolves by bathing it in the blood of a human sacrifice at midnight on the night of a new moon.
  • Altar of Doom - In a haunted wood stands a monolithic altar to some unknown god. Black power radiates from this site, tainting the surrounding woods with fear and shadow. Legend says that anyone with the will to brave these dark woods and sacrifice themselves upon the black altar can summon forth the Wolves of Shiral to exact revenge upon their enemies.
When a successful summoning is carried out the nine Wolves appear, ready to hunt down and slay anyone named by their summoner. The Wolves have the following characteristics:
  • Epic toughness and endurance. The Wolves move with Great speed over all terrain, hunting by day or night with equal ease. Their tough bodies are immune to mundane weaponry and they have Superb resistance to all forms of elemental damage.
  • Their Superb senses cut through the foulest weather or deepest dark, unraveling complex trails or obscuring spells with ease. The pack's own trail is obscured by Superb magic that disguises their passage and misdirects spells seeking their location.
  • The Wolves are immune to spells of warding or protection. Any attempt to return them to their own plane of existence before their mission is complete suffers a three rank penalty.
  • When their prey is located the Wolves attack with Epic strength razor sharp fangs and claws, inflicting terrible bleeding wounds that heal at one-quarter the normal rate.
  • The howls of the hunting pack reduce the strongest soul to shaking terror. Anyone within 60 feet of the pack must make a Superb test of will every three rounds or suffer a cumulative one rank penalty to all skill tests.
The Wolves are as capricious as they are deadly. After they have carried out their assigned task there is a 20% chance they will turn on their summoner. This chance rises by 10% for each day the pack has been active.

Note that there is only one pack, and if someone attempts to summon them while they are already active the original summoning breaks, causing the pack to seek out and destroy both summoning parties.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sky Mountain

This relic of a distant past hangs in the air like a black stain. Sky Mountain is a massive slab of native rock, ripped from the ground and hung in the heavens like an ornamental jewel. The Mountain is about a half-mile across, it's relatively flat top gives way to sheer cliffs that are riddled with caverns and tunnels leading to the rock's maze-like interior. Seven massive, mile-long tentacles made from gray, rubbery flesh laced with slabs and spines of black stone hang from the Mountain's belly, giving it the appearance of a monstrous, bloated jellyfish hanging in the sky. In the midst of these tentacles a huge, spherical blue crystal protrudes from Sky Mountain's underside, pulsing with potent magical energies.

The interior of Sky Mountain is honey-combed with tunnels, rooms and passages. There are three main sections to this interior maze:
  • Outer Maze - A twisting collection of smaller caves and tunnels connecting the many cave openings that line Sky Mountain's outer rim of cliffs. The Maze circles the entire slab and serves as home to hundreds of flying, gargoyle-like creatures constantly circle and wheel about the Mountain's cliff-like sides. The Maze is mostly self-contained, with only a few passages linking it to The Wards.
  • The Wards - These broad, open caverns connect the seven wall-connected towers that rise from the back of Sky Mountain, forming a quarter-mile wide defensive ring. The Wards provide access to each tower and link together the many hidden barracks, armories, storage chambers and living quarters that lie beneath the Sky Mountain's central plain. Each of the Ward's seven towers is guarded by forty-nine golem-like creatures armed with sword-clawed limbs and electrically charged spines. The Wards connect to the Outer Maze via a few narrow passages and to the Inner Sanctum via a single gate-guarded tunnel.
  • Inner Sanctum - Positioned over the Sky Mountain's central crystal power source, the Sanctum is both central fortress and command center. The Sanctum features a single seven-sided chamber. Its floor is formed by the Mountain's crystal heart, and a single massive throne, formed from the crystal itself, rises from the center of room.
Sky Mountain is a Legendary artifact, its magical energies defying description or categorization. Mastery of its secrets is the work of a dozen years careful study and experimentation, requiring diligent research and access to many sources of magical lore. It's known properties include:
  • Sky Mountain flies at Fair speed (though with Poor maneuverability), traveling 15 miles per day as directed by its master.
  • The artifact has Legendary toughness. Most forms of attack are simply ineffective against its massive form. Siege weapons might cause minor harm, but Sky Mountain can, via its huge tentacles, consume raw stone and earth to repair itself.
  • Swarms of Gargoyle-like creatures inhabit the Outer Maze, defending the artifact against all invaders. Each of the seven hundred gargoyles flies with Superb speed and skill, and fights with Good strength claws and teeth. Gargoyles have Good toughness and Great magical resistance. Destroyed gargoyles disintegrate and fall to the earth beneath the Sky Mountain, leaving a trail of tainted, polluted soil where no living thing grows. Destroyed gargoyles regenerate within the caves of the Outer Maze by some unknown mechanism. 1d10 new Gargoyles rise each day to replace any that have fallen in battle.
  • Guardian golems protect the Wards. Each golem has Superb toughness and strength, inflicting terrible wounds with their sword-like claws. Any creature approaching within ten feet is subject to electrical discharges from the many spines protruding from each golem, inflicting Good damage each discharge. Like the Gargoyles, golems regenerate while within the confines of the Wards, repairing damage and replenishing numbers to maintain a constant force of forty-nine creatures per tower.
  • The Tentacles hanging beneath the Mountain are terrible weapons, capable of leveling fortifications and structures with ease. Each Tentacle strikes with the force of a battering ram, leveling a ten by ten by ten foot cubic area of stone construction with each blow. The Tentacles can also burrow into the ground and form a sort of natural bridge, allowing troops to travel down their length from the barracks beneath the Wards. Each Tentacle has Legendary strength and toughness.
  • Anyone attempting to master the Sky Mountain's powers becomes symbiotically tied to the artifact, unable to leave the confines of the Inner Sanctum, the Wards, and the Outer Maze.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Legion Killer

This artifact is a massive crossbow, almost too heavy to be wielded by one person. Its heavy lath is made from a curved piece of mithril-laced blue steel fitted with a heavy string woven from the hair of a giant. The crossbow's stock is cut from a single slab of oak, its grain shot through with glittering shards of some crystalline stone. A complex crank (obviously of Dwarf manufacture) provides a mechanism for cocking the device. Legion Killer is enchanted with Epic combat and alteration magic. A Great test of divination magic will reveal the command word required to activate its unique power.

Legion Killer has the following characteristics:
  • Its mechanism is so powerful that it takes two full rounds to cock the weapon.
  • Once cocked, Legion Killer self-loads with a magically created quarrel of steel-tipped oak fletched with slabs of clear stone crystal. The weapon has Superb accuracy and range bonuses, and each quarrel that hits inflicts Good damage before vanishing the round after it strikes home.
  • Once loaded, Legion Killer begins projecting a magical charge into the fitted quarrel. The accumulated charge causes the quarrel to split into multiple missiles when fired, each bolt striking a unique target within the weapon's field of fire. The number of quarrels created increases with the duration of the charge, each round doubling the number of quarrels created: two after one round, four after two rounds, eight after three rounds, and so forth, to a maximum of 1024 quarrels after ten rounds.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Movies I Would Play

There are plenty of connections between movies and RPGs. They're both concerned with character and story, and both are forms of entertainment, albeit one is active, one is passive. I happen to watch a lot of movies, mostly because I have given up on cable/broadcast TV as a form of entertainment. Between Netflix and services like Hulu I can satisfy my passive entertainment itch pretty well, especially now that Netflix supports streaming on many gaming consoles. About the only things I miss on regular TV are some sporting events, like March Madness.

Anyhow, I often find myself comparing movies to games, and thinking about which movies would make good games. Here are the movies I would play in a heartbeat. The movies themselves may not be great works of art, but most games aren't either.

Pulp Action: The Mummy

The Mummy (Widescreen Collector's Edition)I seem to drift back to this movie for gaming inspiration on a regular basis. There's so much to love. A nice little historic vignette to open things up. Great introductory scenes for the interesting and varied main characters. Strong but not overwhelming NPCs. Burning boats. Ancient ruins. Cursed treasure. Romance. Gun fights. Evil undead. Tricks and traps. Witty banter. The list goes on and on. If a game I ran turned out as engaging and entertaining as this movie, I would die a happy GM.

One of the greatest features of this movie is every single character is fully engaged. The main characters have differing motivations and stakes in the story, and each pursues their own goals with gusto. The NPCs, from the spineless Beni, to the foul prison warden, to the secretive museum curator, are well developed and interesting, without overshadowing the leads. When the GM and players engage with this level of intensity, it raises the entire game to a higher level.

Sadly the subsequent movies in the series were much less entertaining. The second retains some of the fun of the first, but after that... well, it's just not the same.

Horror: Alien

Alien (The Director's Cut)
Don't let anyone fool you. Alien is a horror flick. Sure it takes place in a Science Fiction setting, but the heart of the movie is all about the horror. The movie is a suspenseful ride punctuated by a few scenes of pure terror. I think the only reason Alien would be tough to game is the body count. With only a single survivor, I think many players would be frustrated as the death toll rises. but as a one-shot survival game it could be quite entertaining.

One of the things I like most about Alien is the underlying grittiness of the movie. There are no slick, high-tech solutions, only improvised solutions and quick thinking. The PCs are forced to deal with the fact that they're facing an unknown force that they may not be able to defeat. Once the ferocity of the Alien is exposed they, quickly change their strategy from opposition to escape. They also split the party, with expected results.

Western Tombstone

TombstoneWesterns often focus on single characters instead of ensemble casts, but Tombstone, ostensibly the story of Wyatt Earp,  has a collection of colorful main characters. From the game-perspective this movie is about much more than gunfights. The characters and their relationships are the true focus. This includes bonds between the main characters themselves as well as their ties to their enemies.

I view Tombstone as a great example of party creation. The main characters (including the late arrival Doc Holiday), all have strong ties to the rest of the group that assure cooperation. The characters are also well-developed and competent. One could also argue the Tombstone GM engaged in bait-and-switch tactics, since the initial story is about retiring and settling down. In my view this is a good example of bait-and-switch, and it's clear the GM talked to his group beforehand, since the swap became a central focus of the story.

So there you have it, three great games... er movies. If you haven't engaged in the 'what would this be like as a game' exercise, I encourage you to give it a try. After all, movies have been telling us stories far longer than we've been sharing them via RPGs. We could learn a thing or two from the film craft.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Snapper Worms

These giant predatory caterpillars lurk in primeval forests and jungles, creeping along the branches of giant trees and vines in search of prey. The Snapper ranges in size from two to twelve feet long, Their smooth gray-skinned bodies are slender and cylindrical, with six stubby gripping legs at the rear and six sharp claw-like legs at the front. The creatures head is little more than a pair of huge compound eyes and narrow nipper-like jaws.

Snapper Worms are the larval form of a short-lived giant moth. The innocuous gray moths live only long enough to mate and lay eggs before dying. Typically eggs are laid in early Spring. Two foot long Worms emerge after a very short gestation, voraciously feeding on both animal and plant matter, In late Autumn the now gigantic Worms burrow into loose debris and weave a tough silken cocoon, where they hibernate through the cooler months, emerging as adults the following Spring to begin the cycle anew.

The cocoons of Snapper Worms are prized for the tough silk strands that make up the protective shell. Hunting parties with specially trained dogs seek out the buried cocoons in early Winter, spearing the helpless larva and stripping away the outer husk, which can be used to make tough armor or very strong rope. The wings of the short-lived moth form are prized as a dye base.

Snapper Worms are omnivorous. They voraciously consume all manner of leaves and flowers, preferring young shoots and buds. They are also quite capable hunters. Their typical tactic involves anchoring themselves to a large branch or trunk and extending their body outward, mimicking a branch. When prey, any creature smaller than themselves, wanders near, they lunge forward, grabbing their victim with claw-like front limbs and biting with sharp jaws.

These hungry creatures have the following attributes and characteristics:
  • Average toughness - Snapper Worms have rather soft bodies, making them vulnerable to physical attack.
  • Great stealth - When in their ambush posture the creatures are very difficult to spot until they strike.
  • Superb vision - The creature's huge compound eyes provide it with an excellent sense of its surroundings.
  • Great claw and bite attacks - On their initial attack the Snapper Worm gains a two rank bonus to attack accuracy and can strike with six claw attacks and one bite. On subsequent rounds they strike with up to two claws and one bite. All attacks must be directed at the same target.
  • Numbing bite - Any successful bite attack by a Snapper Worm injects a Good quality poison into the target's bloodstream. This venom numbs the target, making them clumsy and slow. Unless a Good resistance check is made the victim will suffer a one rank penalty per bite to all skill checks.
  • Silky webs - Snapper Worms can spin silk fibers, strong enough to support their own considerable weight. They use these strands to pull themselves into the forest canopy. A Worm will typically have a strand available as an escape should an ambush go awry.
Snapper worms were inspired by the humble Geometridae moths. Weird Animals are always a good source of inspiration!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


"Ugly" is the first word that springs to mind when first viewing this crudely fashioned two-handed mace. The weapon's haft is fashioned from a thick length of crudely hewn wood wrapped with rusty steel bands. Its business end is made from a jagged, bloodstained, section of some gigantic thigh bone, which has been crudely fastened to the haft with heavy cords of twisted leather. Though the weapon's construction seems somewhat haphazard it is quite solid when wielded, its enchantment lending strength and stability to its structure. The Bonegrinder is rather large, requiring at least a human-sized wielder, but no great strength is required, appearances to the contrary.

The Bonegrinder radiates Superb combat magic. A Great test of divination magic will reveal its magical properties, though no particular invocations are required to take advantage of its capabilities. The weapon has the following properties:
  • Fair accuracy enhancement. As mentioned the weapon is, despite appearances, well-constructed and well-balanced.
  • Great damage bonus. Even the weakest wielder can inflict terrible blows with this weapon. Creatures that are primarily made of bone, skeletons, bone golems and the like, take triple damage from Bonegrinder.
  • Bonebreaker - Any exceptional success on an attack results in a bone breaking blow, disabling the target of the attack. The GM should determine what constitutes an exceptional success, but as a guideline, any critical hit or three rank margin of success should activate the Bonebreaker effect. The resulting disabling wound should require at least a Great healing test to negate. Creatures without skeletons (jellies, oozes and the like) are immune to Bonebreaker.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Nexus Arch

This ancient arch of crumbling stone is the sole remaining artifact of a lost city, its simple form rising over a dessicated wasteland of sand and dust with only an occasional block of carved stone breaking up the monotonous landscape. The Arch could pass as an architectural oddity were it not for the sonorous, insect-like buzzing noise that surrounds it. Should the site be examined for magical properties, Legendary extra-dimensional magic will be discovered. The aura of a living extra-dimensional being may also be detected, buried beneath the Arch. A secondary source of Epic divination magic lies buried in the sand and stone near one side of the Arch.

The Arch is a portal through time, space and dimension. The secondary source of magical energy is a controlling device which allows communication with the time elemental snared within the Arch's matrix. Any living creature passing through its aperture is instantly whisked away to a new locale. Passing through the opening without first attuning it sends the individual to a random destination, with multiple individuals passing through the arch at the same time reaching the same destination. Operating the tuning device is a significant challenge, requiring sufficient knowledge of the desired destination and a potent will to focus this knowledge into a coherent mental image the empowering elemental can use to stabilize the portal's destination. It is at least a Great test of locale lore to form the appropriate mental image, and a Superb test of will to maintain this image for the three rounds required to establish a more stable connection. Once a connection has formed it will remain attuned so long as the user maintains concentration, and for three rounds after they cease. This allows any number of living beings, including the user, to pass through the Arch to a single destination.

With a nod to The City on the Edge of Forever.

Photo: Jackie Skeate via Stockvault

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Amazing Buildings

I've recently accumulated a number of links to some really odd buildings and structures. I thought I'd share them as a source of inspiration. For more of this sort of thing, I recommend Village of Joy and Web Urbanist. Occasionally Oddee will feature similar stuff, but they also post a lot of borderline grotesque / sensationalist material as well.

The Stone House

The Church of Hallgrímur

Paoay Church

Chapel of St. Gildas

Kerala House Boats

Great Mosque of Djenné

Bubble House