PBE Games on DriveThruRPG

Friday, May 29, 2009

One Liners

A handful of item short takes today. I'm feeling a bit scattered, so rather than a single item, here are a few quick ideas that can be used as is, or fleshed out to as needed. Sometimes I feel being too detailed is a bad thing, leaving no wiggle room for the GM.
  • The Mantis - An ornate mace with a handle carved and enameled to resemble a praying mantis at rest. The mace head is held within the mantis's forelimbs. Fair damage and accuracy weapon, with Great damage bonus versus insects.
  • Intruder's Hand - A short, thick-bladed dagger with a solid iron hilt ending in a heavy, round pommel. The weapon is curiously unbalanced, using the blade in combat incurs a Fair penalty to accuracy. The pommel makes quite an effective billy club however, providing a Good chance to stun human-sized foes. The blade is an admirable pry, granting a Fair bonus to opening doors or locks if it can be applied.
  • Bawd's Stein - This plain pewter mug is the working girl's friend. It negates the effect of any poison or drug placed within. With a word the owner can also remove the alcohol from any beverage poured into the Stein, or cause it to simply disappear. The Stein also serves as a Fair quality weapon in a bar fight.
  • Cloudwrap - At first glance this item is nothing more than a gray silk cloak with a polished iron clasp. Once donned the item's power becomes apparent, as the cloak transforms, becoming a mantle of shifting gray clouds which provide a Good defensive bonus and Great resistance to electrical attacks. Twice per day the wearer can become insubstantial for five rounds, immune to physical attack and able to pass through small openings with ease.
  • The Chameleon's Dish - Cut from maple burlwood, this oval plate has a polished face and an ornate rim carved with intertwined chameleons. Thrice per day the plate can be commanded to transform any meal it holds into food of the finest quality, removing any taints or poisons in the process.
There you have it! Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Book of Mutations

This malignant volume is more rumor and myth than fact. Legend says the tome was created by a powerful demon lord as a reward for one of his most loyal worshipers in the material world. The Book grants great power, but like all such gifts, the volume exacts a price from anyone that chooses to use it.

The Book is a large volume, approximately 18 inches wide, 24 inches high, and several inches thick. The covers of the Book are fashioned from strips of bone, carefully polished and woven together with human hair. The volume's spine is made of black-dyed human vertebrae, while the pages are carefully tanned and stretched human skin. The contents of the book are written in the foulest of demonic tongues using human blood as ink.

The Book radiates Epic protection magic and Legendary alteration magic. It is a potent artifact of evil.

The Book's protection magic is aimed at protecting the volume itself. This protection has two components:
  • Only the most potent destructive magics can harm its pages. It is immune to physical attack, and only Legendary magical attacks will affect it.
  • Despite its horrid appearance the Book exerts a powerful effect on any that handle it. Anyone touching the volume will find themselves draw to it, and desire to keep it safe. Shaking off this effect requires a Great test of willpower.

To unlock the secrets of the Book requires many days of study and research. Simply translating the contents is a Great test of language skill. Comprehending each of the rituals described requires a Superb test of ritual lore.

The Rituals

There are seven rituals outlined in the book. Each ritual requires a collection of ritual objects (Superb quality and cost) to perform, though the objects are not consumed when used. Carrying out a ritual requires a full day of preparation. The rituals themselves take one hour to carry out (success requires a Great test of ritual magic). A ritual affects a single subject, unless the Ritual of Preparation is used. There are three ways each ritual can be used. Each use of a ritual inflicts Demonic Consequences (see below) on the caster.
  • Performed upon self - The Book's owner performs the ritual upon themselves, gaining the benefit outlined in the individual ritual.
  • Performed upon a willing subject - The target receives the benefit of the ritual and becomes Bound by Blood (see below).
  • Performed upon an unwilling subject - The target receives the benefit of the ritual and suffers Taint of the Demon (see below). Unwilling subjects succumb to the ritual if they fail to make a Superb magical resistance check.

The rituals are:
  • Ritual of Preparation - This ritual can only be performed upon oneself. It allows a subsequent ritual to be performed upon multiple targets (six times the subjects). This ritual can be performed multiple times before another ritual is used, multiplying the subjects of the final ritual by six each time (6, 36, 216, etc.)
  • Ritual of Subjugation - The subject of this ritual becomes a willing follower of the caster, obeying them as if they were a revered and trusted overlord.
  • Ritual of Strength - The subject gains one rank of physical strength and endurance each time this ritual is cast upon them.
  • Ritual of Altered Senses - This ritual enhances the senses of the subject, allowing them to see in the dark, hear a pin drop from across the room, or smell as well as a dog. Each use of this ritual improves two random senses one rank.
  • Ritual of Living Blood - The target of this ritual gains superior healing abilities. Each casting of the ritual improves their resistance to disease and poison by one rank. It also improves their healing speed by one rank. Three uses of this ritual provide the target with true regeneration.
  • Ritual of Guardian Flesh - This ritual strengthens the target's body against physical assault. Each casting of this ritual improves the target's natural resistance to physical harm by one rank.
  • Ritual of Resilience - This ritual grants the subject improved resistance to damaging magic of all sorts (though specifically not to the effects of the Book itself). Each time this ritual is cast the subject gains one rank of resistance. Three uses of this ritual provide the target with true magic resistance.
Demonic Consequences

The Book's creator had a purpose in mind when he created this volume: gaining access to the material plane. Each use of the Book's rituals has a chance of inflicting a permanent change upon the caster. Each time the owner uses a ritual they must succeed at a Great test of willpower. If they fail the test their physical form is altered, gaining one physical feature of the demon lord that created the Book. The first changes will be minor, but over time the user will come to resemble the demon lord in physical form. After a score of rituals the congruence between the demon and the caster will form a bond between the two, allowing the demon to influence the user. Eventually the demon will be able to project their consciousness into the ritualist's body, permanently displacing the owner's soul.

Bound by Blood

A willing ritual subject becomes bound to the caster. Should harm befall the caster the bound subject suffers a portion of the consequences. Each wound inflicted upon the ritualist inflicts a minor wound upon the bound follower. Should the caster be slain the follower suffers a permanent Good loss of vitality.

Taint of the Demon

Unwilling victims suffer this effect each time they are subject to a ritual from the Book. Each ritual inflicts one of the following consequences upon the subject:
  • Dullness - The victim's mind becomes dulled, reducing their intellect and drive by one rank.
  • Demonic Visage - The victim takes on a demonic appearance, gaining one of the following features: black eyes with slit pupils; coarse, scaly skin; horny, sharp claws; twisted, knotted musculature; hunched, hulking appearance
  • Cruelty - The victim becomes cruel, and vicious, taking delight in the suffering of others. They must make a Good test of willpower to resist taking advantage of any situation that allows them to be cruel to others.

Eventually use of the book will unleash a demon lord upon the world, complete with his own horde of minions. The idea for this item came from a campaign I participated in many years ago. I'm sure the details of the book are very different from the original creator's ideas. I hope you find it useful!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Muhol's Boxes

Muhol, known as Muhol the Mad, devoted his life to the study of alternate planes and dimensions of existence. When he vanished without a trace many years ago, most believed he was a victim of his own obsession, having either slipped into an alternate reality or brought something to his own plane of existence that was unhappy with the situation.

Muhol's Boxes are a collection odd little artifacts. Each box is a perfect six inch cube of lightweight, brightly stained metal (blue, yellow and red boxes are known to exist). Each box is featureless except for a small triangular keyhole in one side. There are twelve numbers inscribed in a ring around the keyhole. A single key, made of matching material, exists for each box. The triangular keyhole forms a sort of pointer, clicking into position as it matches each inscribed number. The interior of the box is lined with a soft black material, similar to felt, but impervious to alteration or damage. The walls of the box appear to be a quarter-inch thick, though the keys are over three inches long.

Muhol's Boxes (and the keys) radiate Legendary alteration and protection magic and Good divination magic. Concentrating on a box or key will give the owner a faint sense of the location of the missing part of the pair. The boxes are impervious to mundane damage or magical effects short of Legendary power.

To open a box, the appropriate key must be inserted in the lock and turned a full rotation in either direction. To close the box simply close the lid with the key removed. The key can be inserted, turned and removed freely, so long as the pointer is aligned to one of the twelve inscribed numbers.

Each of Muhol's Boxes is linked to the others. They are attuned to each other via the numbers around the keyhole. Placing an item within a box and closing the lid instantly transports it to another box according to the following rules:
  • The destination keyhole must be aligned to the same number.
  • The destination box must be closed and empty.
If no appropriate target box exists nothing happens to the item. If more than one box matches the criteria the destination is chosen at random.

Clearly owning two or more Muhol's Boxes could be quite useful. The problem with them is, no one knows exactly how many there are and who (or what) possesses them.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Back, with a One Page Dungeon

Well the break was a bit longer than a week, but the long holiday weekend and nice weather was just too tempting. Nevertheless, I'm back and slowly getting back into the swing of daily writing.

I'm starting off with an easy one. The One Page Dungeon Contest has been quite successful, despite a minor fumble roll on the deadline. I'll start things off by sharing my entry, Serpent Temple - Lost Tombs. I actually finished this off in a couple days, then spent two weeks twiddling details to make it fit the format. Hope you enjoy it, wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Brief Respite

I've been a bit burned out on posting over the last couple weeks, so I'm going to take a brief break from daily posts, no more than a week. Back soon!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Lucky Penny

This worn copper coin is easily overlooked in the typical dragon's hoard. At first glance it appears to be nothing more than a regular coin, albeit a bit shinier than most. Closer examination reveals that it is no standard coin. On the face it bears the head of a winking dragon, on the reverse a lotus flower. If tested for magical properties, the coin radiates Superb illusion magic, which obscures any other enchantment it may bear (exactly the purpose). To attune the coin, the owner must carry it on their person for one week.

The coin has the following characteristics:
  • Fair bonus to any activity involving the exchange of cash or valuables, such as trade or barter.
  • Fair bonus to any test involving surprise or sneak attacks. The owner naturally avoids such things, generally in a lucky fashion rather than with skill.
  • When making a binary choice (heads we do X, tails we do Y), the coin will flip the more beneficial answer 75% of the time. This power can be used thrice per day, any additional flips will behave normally. Note that the owner may not actually know the limit on flips per day.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Grim Monday: Hell Crows

Pestilential infernals from the nether planes, Hell Crows are occasionally summoned / sent to the material plane to harass and torment the living. Though they rank among the least powerful demonic beings, their raucous and aggressive nature makes them annoying foes to deal with.

Hell Crows have two forms. The first is that of a large crow with exceptionally heavy claws and a steely sheen to its feathers. The second is a roiling cloud of shadow that moves through the air with uncanny speed. Bloody claws, glittering eyes and ragged feathers occasionally take shape within the dark mass. No matter what form they take, the smell of decay and death follows Hell Crows wherever they fly.

The creatures have a malevolent nature, using all the powers at their disposal to torment their target. Hell Crows sent to the material plane by a more powerful being will usually have a specific victim assigned. They can also be summoned and controlled with Superb test of demonology lore combined with a Superb test of ritual magic. Occasionally Hell Crows are drawn by summonings directed at more powerful beings, slipping through the provided gateway while the summoner's attention is focused elsewhere. These free-willed Crows are drawn to negative magical energy, particularly those with a curse (for example) inflicted upon them. Once they discover a victim the Crows use their own powers to increase the victim's suffering.

Hell Crows have the following powers and abilities:
Crow form:
  • Good toughness
  • Good flying ability
  • Good resistance to mundane physical damage
  • Good physical attack with beak and claws
  • Fair regeneration
  • Raucous call - cause fear in mundane beasts, at will
Cloud form
  • Good toughness
  • Great flying ability
  • Epic resistance to mundane physical damage
  • Superb stealth
  • Good regeneration
  • Good strength-draining attack
Hell Crows slain on the material plane revert to their cloud form and regenerate completely in one day. They can be banished to their original plane with a Great test of demonology combined with a Great test of divine magic.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Witching Blade

The Witching Blade is a slender, silver-bladed dagger about 18 inches in length from tip to pommel. The blade itself is polished to a perfect mirror-like finish, both edges sharp as razors. The guard is cut from some oily, black, eldritch stone, its surface carved with a chaotic maze of runes and symbols of power. The grip is wrapped in finely scaled, yellowed hide fastened with silver tacks. The pommel is an uncut crystal of smoky quartz.

The Witching Blade radiates Good alteration and enhancement magic. A Good test of divination magic will reveal weapon's powers and a second Good test the ritual required to attune the Blade to a new owner. The Blade must be held for its powers to manifest. Once attuned it has the following properties:
  • Fair quality melee weapon with a Fair bonus to accuracy.
  • Fair protection against charm or curse magic directed at the owner.
  • Good bonus to charm, curse or enhancement magic use attempts by the owner.
  • Good bonus to any ritual magic use attempts by the owner involving the sacrifice of living creatures, provided the Blade is used to make the sacrifice.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sacrificial Pool

The Pool is an ancient construct formed from a dozen massive blocks of crudely shaped granite. The structure consists of eight blocks that form a stone basin or pool, about eight feet in length. Each of these blocks is inscribed with a series of symbols or runes from some long forgotten language. At one end of the pool three stone blocks form a waist-high table that slants downward toward the pool. A shallow channel is cut into the upper surface of this platform.

The Pool radiates Legendary necromantic and alteration magic. A Superb test of divination magic will reveal the grim magic it contains.

To invoke the magic of the Pool it must be filled with earth. When a living creature is sacrificed upon the Pool's table and the proper ritual is performed, the victim's life essence will flow down the table and into the pool. The magical reaction that follows creates a homunculus with the rough form of the victim. A second ritual, involving marking the newly formed creature with the user's blood, establishes control over it.

The Pool can be used as often as desired, so long as victims and earth are available for the ritual. With care the stones of the Pool can be taken apart and transported, though each of the 11 stones weighs a thousand pounds or more.

The creatures created by the ritual have the following characteristics:
  • Average attack and movement - The homunculus' limbs are shaped to crude stabbing or cutting weapons. They move at a slow but steady pace.
  • Fair defense and toughness - The creature's body is dense and tough, covered with a stony shell.
  • Epic endurance - As a magical construct the created creature feels no fatigue and does not require food or drink.
  • Mindless obedience - The creature can follow simple commands given by whoever completed the second ritual when it was created. Orders beyond "guard this place" or "destroy that person" are beyond its comprehension.

Pool creatures cannot be healed so any damage inflicted is permanent. Once destroyed they revert to muddy earth. A victim sacrificed on the Pool's platform is permanently slain unless a portion of the homunculus raised from their life essence can be recovered.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Malevolent Head

An artifact of ancient times and potent magic, the Malevolent Head is a living, sentient artifact (though its sanity is doubtful). The Head was once a complete person, beginning life as a powerful mage in a bygone age. Driven by a lust for power, this mage sought out any form of magic that would lengthen and preserve his life.

All good things come to an end. As his tainted power grew, corrupting mind and body, his enemies multiplied. Eventually they joined forces to blot his evil from the face of the world. The ensuing battles brought entire kingdoms to their knees, and eventually ended when the mage was trapped in the collapse of his own stronghold. The site was left as a smoldering crater, and the victors rejoiced.

Unknown to the victors, the fallen mage survived the holocaust. His body destroyed, all that remains is a hideous, scarred head.

The Malevolent Head appears to be a normal-sized human head, hideously burned and scarred. Only its malevolent gaze reveals its nonliving state. It radiates Legendary necromantic and alteration magic and has the following characteristics:
  • Legendary toughness - even in its current form the Head is protected by potent spells. Few can muster the power required to break these enchantments and permanently destroy the head.
  • Terrifying gaze - The maddened, malevolent stare of the Head is sufficient to keep weaker souls at bay. Approaching within 15' of the head requires an Average test of resolve.
  • Telepathy - The Head can communicate telepathically with any sentient being within 60'.
  • Encyclopedia of Magic - The Head knows... pretty much everything about magic. When it was whole it reigned for centuries over a vast kingdom, and harvested the magical knowledge that grew there. The Head can be compelled to share this knowledge, but it comes with a price...
  • The Price of Knowledge - Each magical spell or power learned from the Head bears a hidden compulsion woven into its substance and form. Each use of a learned ability requires an Average test of resolve to resist this enchantment. Once failed the compulsion will force the victim to assist the Head in achieving its goals (see below).

In its present form the Head cannot make use of its knowledge. Without a body or vocal cords it cannot cast spells or even move. The Head will attempt to gain assistance by sharing the least potent bits of knowledge it possesses in exchange for aid. The Head's goals are:
  • Form - Though its own form was destroyed long ago, if the Head is provided a body (magically constructed, cloned, or otherwise created), it can easily control and use it.
  • Vengeance - The Head will seek to destroy anyone that tried to thwart its plans to obtain a body. From its twisted perspective, that includes pretty much anyone that knows of its existence.
  • Power - Once free the Head will return to its old ways, driven by a monomaniacal lust for power. The Head without a body is a potent and tainted source of magical knowledge and power. The Head with a body has powers sufficient to level cities or destroy an army.
The Head was inspired by Glen Cook's The Silver Spike. All hail the Limper!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Clay of Perfection

When Lagra-bearing waters flow near clay-laden soil, deposits of the Clay of Perfection form. Dense as stone and as supple as fine leather, this substance an ideal material for the artificer with the skill to use it.

Clay of Perfection forms itself into pale spherical globules within a larger bank of mundane clay. Deposits range in size from tiny spheres the diameter of a gold coin up to massive blobs requiring block and tackle to move. Clay radiates alteration magic, with potency ranging from Great to Epic. The paler the Clay the more potent the potential enchantment. Harvested Clay must be wrapped in water soaked cloth to retain its potency. Clay that dries out crumbles to powerless dust.

The Clay's principle characteristic is its ability to be shaped into a desired form, then imbued with animating magical energies. It is the perfect substance for creating golems or animate statues. When properly enchanted it can be used to create replacement limbs for living creatures.

Using the Clay of Perfection requires a Great test of artistic skill to shape it to the proper form. Once shaped a Great test of artifice plus a Great test of the appropriate enchantment are required to properly animate the constructed object. For complex constructs (such as a golem), multiple tests are required to complete the entire construct. A few examples:

A mage wishes to replace their lost eye with a construct made from the Clay of Perfection. Creating the new eye is a Great test artistic skill. Enchanting the eye requires a Great test of divination magic to imbue it with vision, followed by a Great test of artifice to properly seat the eye.

A replacement limb requires a Great test of artistic skill to properly shape the object, then a Great test of necromancy to properly tie the limb to the wearer's nervous system. A Great test of artifice completes the physical connection and animates the limb.

A golem might require individual tests of artistic skill and artifice for each limb, a necromancy or spirit magic test to imbue some sort of intelligence into the construct, then a final artifice test to properly link the entire construct together.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Grim Monday: Curse of the Disputed Way

I just realized I failed to post up a Grim Monday article this past week, so I'm focusing on writing up and scheduling out a few to insure this doesn't happen again. I usually try to keep a half-dozen articles in the queue, but I've been slacking off the last couple weeks as the weather turns nice. Nose back to the grindstone!

The Curse of the Disputed Way draws obstacles to the victim the way sugar draws flies. Any time the victim travels, be it a long journey through perilous country or a simple trip across the bar, this curse will manifest as an obstacle or obstruction on the journey. These obstacles don't necessarily prevent travel, but they do make it trying. This curse is subtle, so detecting it requires a Great test of divination magic. Once discovered Good protection magic can remove its effect, though previously created complications might remain to be dealt with.

Typical obstacles / effects of the curse include:
  • Casual blockage - The slowest walkers always step in front of the victim, pausing often to chat or shop. Stepping around the blockage usually results in a collision with oncoming traffic. Even a casual trip to the washroom can result in a collision with a mug-laden waitress or drunken patron.
  • Official diversion - Guards and watchmen will pore over documents or travel papers, slowing the victim's progress. The tiniest irregularity in their papers will draw the full attention of the bureaucratic process.
  • Bad luck - A broken shoelace, a lame horse or a twisted ankle. Misfortune always dogs the victim's progress.
  • Weather delays - The curse magnifies the effects of weather along the victim's path, flooding fords, filling gutters and collapsing canopies. The victim and their travel companions are assured of arriving scorched, soaked, frost-bitten or sand-blasted depending on the circumstances.
  • Unwanted attention - The victim draws the attention of highwaymen, predators, and other unsavory characters as they travel. All will be convinced the victim is the ideal target for their predations.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Sand Digger

The Sand Digger is a desert creature that burrows beneath the sand. It is an ambush predator, burying itself near water or a food source and pouncing on unsuspecting prey when it approaches.

The Digger is a worm-like creature averaging eight feet in length and a foot or more in diameter. It has a tough, leathery hide dotted with small hook-like spines that help it burrow through sandy soil. Its senses prey by vibrations in the earth, being nearly blind.

The creature has a pair of retractable, feathery antennas it can raise above the ground, forming a small shaded area attractive to its prey, typically rodents and reptiles. Once it detects prey the Digger attacks, spraying its victim with a blinding, acidic gel, then bursting forth and striking the target with its tough body. Victims are consumed entirely, the Digger's acidic saliva softening flesh and bone so even large victims become manageable meals. Though Diggers usually target smaller prey they are capable of slaying larger creatures. A careless camel or wandering human will be attacked just as readily as a snake or rabbit. Diggers have been known to leave large victims on the surface as lures for scavengers, vultures being more manageable prey.

The Sand Digger has the following characteristics:
  • Good toughness
  • Fair burrowing
  • Terrible vision
  • Superb hiding
  • Great vibration sense
  • Acidic spittle - 15' range, Good damage, causes blindness
  • Strikes with body for Average damage
  • Great immunity to acid