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Monday, November 30, 2009

Desert Island Games

Over at Ratty Ramblings they've proposed an interesting thought exercise. Choose the eight games from your current collection you'd want if you were stranded on a desert island. You get to bring along all the material you own for each game chosen. Here's my list:
  1. AD&D - Pretty much a no-brainer for me since I have multiple campaign worlds for this rule set. If forced to chose a version I'd pick 2nd, since I can hack out the parts I don't want.
  2. Traveller - For a Science Fiction fix, this is an easy choice.
  3. AFMBE - If you're stuck on an island the only thing missing is zombies.
  4. Call of Cthulhu - Hmmm two horror picks. Might not be prudent, but it's my list.
  5. Amber - A diceless change of pace from the other games on my list.
  6. Playing Cards - Because they're simply too flexible not to bring.
  7. Cosmic Encounter - An awesome game to scratch the non-RPG itch.
  8. Chess - Sometimes you can't get a group together, even on a desert island.
As for which is most important to bring, I'd say AD&D, simply because it's the system I keep going back to, and I have so much material for it. For a non-gaming luxury, I think I'd have to choose my music collection and some means of playing it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Timeslip is a wide silver band engraved with a a pattern of three interwoven lines enameled in blue, yellow and red. These engravings pulse with tiny flashes of light, creating a tiny nimbus of colors around the item. When worn the ring feels heavier than it should, though not so much as to create a burden upon the wearer. Timeslip radiates Legendary alteration magic and a Superb test of divination magic will reveal its enchantment.

When worn, Timeslip has two primary functions. First it provides Legendary protection against any sort of time-altering magic, allowing the wearer to operate normally when under the effects of such enchantments (including area of effect type magic). Second, the wearer occasionally steals time from those around them. Anyone carrying out an action with Timeslip's wearer as a target or in the area of effect has a 10% chance of having their action stolen. This chance rises to 30% if the action requires physical contact (melee attacks or touch based spells for example). The character losing the action simply does not act, spells are not cast, missiles not fired, blows not struck. Instead Timeslip's wearer gains a free action, during which they can use any of their abilities normally. Note that intent has no effect on this enchantment. A healer attempting to cure a wound on the wearer may lose their action as readily as a foe attempting to remove their head.

Monday, November 23, 2009


This silky cloak is worked in a seemingly random pattern of leaves. Each leaf is cut from silk of its own unique hue: pale green, delicate yellow, burnt orange, or deep red. Each leaf is sewn in place with polished gold or copper thread. The whole is a somewhat gaudy but pleasing to the eye calf-length cloak.

If examined for magical properties Leafwrap radiates Great alteration, protection and obscurement magic. A Superb test of divination magic will reveal its enchantments. It conveys the following powers when worn:
  • The wearer gains a Superb bonus against any attempt to detect their presence while they are within forest or woodland. This protection includes observation, tracking, magical detection, and scrying magic.
  • They may tirelessly travel on foot through woodland terrain with a Good speed bonus for up to 16 hours per day.
  • The wearer gains Great protection against all nature-based harmful magic.
  • Thrice per day the wearer can cloak themselves and up to six human-sized companions as a small grove of trees. This alteration lasts thirty minutes and provides a Great bonus versus detection. The cloaked area radiates faint alteration magic while the magic is in effect.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Stonetoe, Stormfist and Ramwall

Today's post features a collection of armor pieces. I'm feeling lazy, so short and sweet:

A pair of heavy leather boots reinforced with metal plates and fitted with heavy hobnails. Stonetoe radiates Good evocation magic. They grant their wearer Superb stability when walking on any natural stone or earth surface, making it impossible to knock them off their feet. Thrice per day the wearer can stomp their foot to cause a tremor in the earth. Anyone within 30 feet is knocked prone (Great reflex check to avoid).
These light-weight gauntlets are fashioned from the skins of electric eels covered with the tiny neck scales of a blue dragon. They radiate Great elemental and protection magic. Stormfist's wearer gains Great resistance to all forms of electrical attack. Five times per day they can add Fair electrical damage to any normal melee attack they carry out with a metal weapon.

Ramwall is a thick oak shield covered with the shaggy hide of a mountain goat and decorated with a pair of matching horns. It radiates Great protection and alteration magic. It provides Great protection from physical attack. Three times per day the wielder can hold the shield before them and charge forward along a 30 foot path, inflicting Good damage on anyone they strike and knocking them back or to the side 10 feet.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Face of Stones

This heavy helmet fully encloses the wearer's head. Each of the helm's three sides is carved from a slab of stone, granite, obsidian and quartz. Each is carved in the shape of a human face. A narrow silver and iron framework holds the three faces in place. The item radiates Superb alteration magic, and a Great test of divination magic will reveal its enchantment.

To activate the item's powers it must be worn. It can be worn with any one of the three faces forward. The wearer's body and gear takes on the appearance of whichever stone is forward on the helm (granite, obsidian, or quartz). It has the following characteristics:
  • Impaired Vision - the helm's construction restricts sight, reducing all observation or perception skill checks by one rank.
  • Body of Stone - The wearer's body becomes as dense as stone. The effect also makes swimming impossible as the wearer sinks... like a stone. The wearer also becomes susceptible to any spell or magical effect that specifically targets stone or earth.
  • Alter Face - The wearer rotates the helmet so a new face is forward. This action takes a full round.
  • Granite Face - While this face is forward the wearer gains Superb toughness versus physical attack. Any mundane weapon used against them has a Fair chance of shattering upon a successful attack. Thrice per day the wearer can summon a wall of stone, 30 feet long, 10 feet high and one foot thick. This wall can be summoned anywhere within 60 feet. The wall lasts for 10 rounds.
  • Obsidian Face - While this face is forward the wearer gains Superb resistance to elemental damage, and any fire damage received actually heals the wearer. Furthermore, thrice per day they can summon razor-sharp shards of obsidian from any natural earth or stone surface. This effect covers a 20 foot radius area, inflicts Fair damage on any creature within the area of effect, and lasts 10 rounds. Any creature attempting to move through the shards suffers fair damage for each 10 feet traveled.
  • Quartz Face - While this face is forward the wearer reflects all spells directed at them back at the caster. They also gain the ability to walk through stone or earth as if it were air.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Return to Moria: First Victi... err Characters

I thought I'd give a brief update on the status of this campaign setting. I took a few days off after my last significant post on the subject, primarily to let things stew in my head for a while. Since then things have moved forward a bit.

After I tweaked the available characters and racial level limits a bit, I opened up character creation to the players. Since the group that's going to be playing this is scattered over three states, we do all character creation via email. There are three methods of attribute generation available:
  • Pick from a pre-generated list.
  • Roll using a 4d6 drop lowest, in order method.
  • Roll using a 3d6 best of twelve, choose order method.
The third method generates the weakest rolls, but is the only method that allows the player to order rolls. The pre-generated attributes provide rolls that support any allowed class. Each player rolls two 1st and one 2nd level character. So far the tally is:
  • A pair of Iron Hills Dwarves, fighter (2nd) and cleric
  • A Man of the North magic-user
  • A paladin of Gondor (2nd)
  • An Iron Hills Dwarf cleric
  • A human cleric (race TBD) (2nd)
  • A paladin of Gondor (squire of the other paladin)
  • A Western Dwarf fighter/thief with extremely low HP
  • A ranger of Gondor (2nd)
  • A Hobbit thief
  • A lame Dwarf cleric (the only character rolled randomly)
As I expected a very Dwarf heavy party (a common theme with this gaming group). There are still seven or eight more characters to go. I expect at least one elf will put in an appearance.

[My players, stop reading!]

I've spent a fair bit of time laying out stat blocks for the various creatures and races inhabiting Moria. When populating a dungeon like this I try to come up with at least three variants of each major inhabitant, and for important races, five or six. I've also laid out the named NPCs found in the dungeon. Using Goblins, as an example, I have the following information:
  • Three main tribes, each with three or four important named NPCs.
  • Seven variants of basic Goblins (including sneaky, tough, very tough, spell using, and leader types).
  • Three creatures that associate with or are used by Goblins.
  • Relationships between the Goblin tribes and the various other groups in Moria.
This may sound like a ton of work, but since I'm using old school rules, stat blocks are nice and short (most are one line of stats plus a line or two of text).

Dungeon Layout
I've finally settled on how I'm going to map out Moria. The sheer size of the dungeon is rather daunting and I spent some time spinning my wheels as I contemplated how to map the beast. I finally decided to use three detail levels to lay things out.
  1. A top level map. This corresponds to a standard "level layout" map, showing each major area as a simple block diagram. I've altered the maps in the linked post a bit, but they're a good approximation of the top level maps I'm using.
  2. Level maps. These are block diagrams that show the overall structure of each level in Moria. There's no real detail beyond general connectivity and a note or two for each main area.
  3. Detail maps. These will be traditional dungeon maps, showing actual corridors, walls, tunnels and features. I plan on doing unique maps for some areas and using generic maps for others.
Using these three detail levels I can manage the potentially huge maps in a piecemeal fashion, and provide reasonable detail of any area at a moment's notice.

The other thing I've been pushing on is fleshing out the NPCs in Hollin, the starting town outside Moria. I have a pretty good handle on the main NPCs now, and have most of the locals at least sketched out. I used the NPC trait generator from the 1st edition AD&D DMG to fill in some of the blank characters in the NPC list. I've based Hollin's cast on a popular TV series from the recent past so I have a clear picture of how things work in the town. I'll be curious to see if any of my players pick up on the relationship.

Next Steps
That's about where things stand for now. This week I'm planning on finishing out the level maps for Moria, polishing off the last NPCs in Hollin, and starting on some detailed dungeon maps. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dwarf Wire

The Elves may be known for their rope, but Dwarves prefer wire. Dwarf Wire is formed from the finest mithril-infused silver drawn through complex dies built from the spinnerets of giant spiders. Each length is wound upon enclosed ivory spools and soaked in a bath of troll's blood and gray ooze ichor, making it uniquely malleable. Each spool contains a single 49 foot long strand of Dwarf Wire, as fine as a slender thread. Once pulled forth from the spool the Wire must be activated within 10 minutes or it crumbles to dust. It can be used in one of the following ways:
  • Spread - A length of Wire may be pulled and flattened, forming a rigid, opaque sheet up to three feet wide and as long as the original segment. This sheet will instantly adhere to any stone or metal surface it touches, creating an almost unbreakable panel. It could be placed vertically to form a barrier or laid flat to form a walkway for example. A sheet is so thin and rigid that any creature impacting the edge suffers a Good damage cut.
  • Thicken - A length of Wire can be twisted, causing it to thicken into a rod-like construct, up to six inches in diameter. The rod will instantly adhere to any stone or metal surface it touches, creating a solid protrusion or bar.
  • Flow - When shaken a length of Wire will become soft and jelly-like. When touched to any metal or stone surface it fills any cracks, seams or gaps it encounters, then transmutes into the native material, instantly repairing any breach, crack or damage.
Dwarf Wire remains flexible and movable for ten minutes after it is cut from its spool. Once that time has passed it becomes rigid and almost unbreakable (Superb toughness), permanently bonded to any stone or metal surface it was in contact with.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


This artifact is a three inch crystal of crystal clear quartz wrapped in a net of silver wire fitted with a single loop so it can be hung or worn as a pendant. The item radiates faint warmth when held. A clever craftsman or jeweler will recognize the work as Dwarven craftsmanship. A test for magical properties will reveal Fair evocation magic at work. A Good test of Dwarven lore will reveal three runes of the Dwarves secret language woven into the mesh of silver wire. Holding or wearing the Lampstone and speaking one of the runes will invoke the item's powers:
  • Light - The Lampstone produces a clear white light. Initially this light is dim (equivalent to candle-light), but blowing on the Lampstone can increase the intensity up to that of a bright lantern. A second invocation of the rune will extinguish the light. This power can be invoked at will and lasts as long as desired.
  • Share - When this word is spoken and the Lampstone is touched to another stone, it causes the target to begin glowing with the intensity of a torch. The touched stone will glow for four hours. Touching it again with the Lampstone will extinguish its light. This power can be invoked seven times per day.
  • Flare - When this word is spoken the Lampstone will create a great burst of white light, filling a 30 foot radius sphere for a brief duration. Any sighted creature within the area of effect that is unprepared will be blinded for 2d6 rounds (Great resistance check to avoid). This power can be invoked three times per day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Return to Moria: Mushrooms in the Depths

The natural caves and caverns beneath Moria are home to a variety of fungi and mushrooms. Along with the naturally occurring species there are several varieties cultivated by the Dwarves. Some of these fungi are useful, some deadly. Here are a few I'll be using in the campaign:
  • Blackspire - These slender, fifteen foot tall, smooth-capped mushrooms have a tough central stalk that the Dwarves used as a construction material. The stalk can be split into long, board-like segments.
  • Drowseballs - Thumb-sized, globular puff-balls with a delicate yellow skin and filled with a jelly-like substance. When eaten they instantly cause a deep, uninterpretable sleep that lasts one hour. At the end of the hour the consumer awakens, fully rested and alert as if they had just had a full night's rest.
  • Balrog's Flail - This fungus grows from damp stone in clumps of thread-like red-tipped tendrils. It is highly toxic if consumed, but if ground to a paste and combined with alcohol it makes a powerful solvent capable of dissolving iron-based metal.
  • Slaver Domes - Tiny pale green mushrooms with a delicious and nutritious sweet flesh, Slaver Domes make anyone that consumes them extremely vulnerable to suggestion or charm effects for four hours (two rank penalty to any resistance checks).
  • Red Tongue - This nondescript gray fungus grows on the stems of other fungi, forming broad rounded shelves. It is a nutritious food source, but dyes the tongue of anyone that eats it bright red for hours.
  • Clamshell Fungus - A gleaming yellow fungus shaped like a half-shell clam, this growth is poisonous if eaten, but if boiled for an extended period it creates a broth that can neutralize toxins and poisons if consumed. The broth loses potency within a day of its creation.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Three Potions and a Story

A few random potions for a gray and windy day. I like potions because they're easily managed packets of power that can be exceptionally powerful without being unbalancing. After all, once they're used, they're gone for good.

Silverskin - A shiny, silvery liquid with a sharp smell and extremely bitter taste. When consumed it causes the imbiber's skin to take on the color and shine of a polished silver mirror. All elemental spells directed at the imbiber are reflected back at the caster for full effect.

Aqueous Form - A clear, viscous liquid that is both odorless and tasteless. When consumed the imbiber's body transforms into coherent water. They can retain their shape, or flow through small openings or crevices at will. The imbiber could, for example, put out a torch simply by dousing it with their hand, or drown someone by smothering them with their body. While under the effects of this potion the imbiber is immune to mundane weapons and most elemental attacks, though cold damage is increased by two ranks.

Winter's Breath -  Each dose of this pale blue and minty potion allows the imbiber to breathe forth a gust of bitterly cold air, inflicting Great damage on anyone within the area of effect, a 20 foot long, 5 foot wide path. Any water in this area of effect will be frozen solid, making this potion useful for creating temporary bridges or dams.

And now for my favorite potion story: In a D&D campaign I ran a few years back, Father Bo, the party's cleric, got saddled with a potion of sweet water. The player grumbled and stowed it away, not really thinking much of the item. Weeks later the party was investigating events in the sewers beneath a coastal city. The sewers were routinely flooded by the ocean's high tides and one of the pools had been occupied by a gigantic crevice creature. The beast surprised the party as they were crossing the pool on a narrow walkway, and quickly dragged several party members into the water. Good old Father Bo pulls out his sweet water potion, uncorks it, and tosses it in the pool, instantly transforming the salt water to fresh and killing the crevice creature in the process due to osmotic shock. Never let it be said sweet water is a useless potion!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Magic Missile!

No, not that Magic Missile. Arrows and quarrels often get the short end of the stick when it comes to magical properties, usually stuck with a simple accuracy or damage enhancement. Here are a few unique missiles for your reading pleasure. All missiles share the following characteristics:
  •  Each missile radiates Good alteration or evocation magic.
  •  A Good test of divination magic will reveal the missile's power and command word, which must be spoken when the missile is fired.
  •  Each missile can be activated once per day, recharging each morning at sunrise. Missiles fired without activating them perform as normal weapons. Missiles activated before firing gain a Good bonus to accuracy.
  •  Missiles are almost unbreakable (Superb toughness) and immune to most forms of elemental or magical damage (Superb resistance).
The Missiles:
  • Iron Fist - This missile has a broad iron point, shaped to resemble a closed fist. Its shaft is made from polished black oak, and it is fletched with eagle feathers. When its power is invoked this missile does normal damage and knocks the target back five feet along the flight path.
  • Needle's Point - This missile has a slim, silver point fitted to a blue-dyed ash shaft. It is fletched with the feathers of a stirge. When its power is invoked this missile pierces the target, doing maximum damage, then continues its flight, striking additional targets and doing maximum damage. Needle's Point can strike up to six targets in this fashion before it loses its enchantment.
  • Splinter - This missile is tipped with a razor sharp obsidian point fitted to a shaft of polished bamboo fletched with hummingbird wings. When it's power is activated it splits into six individual missiles, each targeting a separate foe, beginning with those nearest the original target. Each missile does normal damage. Duplicate missiles fade after striking, leaving only the original Splinter intact.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Return to Moria: Millstone Doors

These are one of the defensive constructs that will be appearing in Moria:

Defensive doors consisting of a great circle of granite designed to roll in front of a narrow tunnel entrance. The entry is sunken so the stone is held vertically in a trough. It overlaps the frame of the door and can be wedged in place, making it nearly impossible to roll aside from the outside. From the interior it is quite easy to move.

A variant of this door features a narrow hole bored through the center of the stone, allowing a steel rod to be pushed through. One end of the rod features a "T" that unfolds flat against the stone's surface, the other end is held in place with a metal pin. This allows a bar to be fastened across the stone, held in place by the rod and the walls of the tunnel.

The locking version of this door is often used to create cul-de-sac style traps. The enemy is led into a large chamber with multiple looping corridors leading back to the entry area. The pursued party loops through the corridors, exits and seals the door, trapping the pursuers within. Water or poison gas can be used to kill the enemy, or they can simply be left to starve.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Return to Moria: Next Steps

In the last article on my Return to Moria campaign, I closed with the intent of focusing this article on setting up the main inhabitants of Moria for the campaign. I quickly discovered that wasn't the only thing I was doing however, so rather than stick to plan, I'm going to write a bit about what I'm really working on (My players keep out!).


At the close of the previous article I had enough in the way of notes and ideas that I needed to get them organized. My go to method of organizing campaign notes these days is Tiddlywiki, a single file wiki implementation that requires no hosting, runs in a browser, and is very easy to use. I use it to write articles for this blog, to maintain a personal to do list, and for campaign notes. If you haven't tried tried Tiddlywiki, I'd urge you to check it out. A couple key features I like:
  • Tagging - Any tiddler (Tiddlywiki's term for 'article') can be tagged with one or more terms that serve as categories, making it easy to find things by topic. I have regional (Moria, Hollin, Eregion) tags, category (item, bestiary, location) tags, purpose (encounter, lore, overview), and status (incomplete, published) tags, about 30 in total.
  • Inclusion - Any tiddler can be included within another with a one line command. This is extremely useful for encounters as you can include the stat block tiddlers (always written up separately) for all participants in each encounter tiddler without rewriting a bunch of stuff.
  • Navigation - You can customize the main navigation bar to reflect your content easily, as the navigation bar is just another tiddler. Moria currently lists the home page article for each major region, plus links to my player site, and a few other external resource sites.
The second part of my organizational efforts was to put together a few web pages for my players. Nothing fancy here, just a recap of the pitch, character creation and an overview of the sandbox right now. I'll expand it to provide more information as the need arises.

Moria Expanded

Once I was organized, I spent some time working on a really rough map of Moria. Moria is gigantic and I've realized I can't map every square inch, so I'm going to be using a mix of graph-style maps that show linkages, geomorph-style maps that I can use to piece together secondary areas, and traditional dungeon maps. With this mix I think I can quickly lay out a reasonable map for any section of the Mines that the players choose to explore.

I also spent some time thinking about how Moria is laid out, and drew a few conclusions based on that. I already talked a bit about the major areas within Moria in the sandbox article, but a few more details emerged:
  • Moria was a city, so there must be places to live and work. I made the decision that Dwarves live in clan halls that house many multi-generational families. This decision allows me to design a few clan hall layouts geomorph style and get a lot of mileage out of them. Similarly, workshops and smithies are clan focused so a similar approach can work there.
  • Dwarves are defensive and isolationist. Moria is riddled with defensive fortifications and stonework tricks and traps. Each Hall and Deep can be locked down and isolated from the others and secret tunnels and doors allow flanking maneuvers and troop movements without enemy interference. A combination of geomorph and unique maps will cover these features.
  • The Lower Caves are cold and wet. Gandalf hints at this a few times in LotR. I'm going to run with it. The Lower Caves contain vast lakes and rivers of chill black water. With little lore concerning this area, I will take quite a few liberties with the depths.


I spent quite a bit of time over the past week sketching out a bestiary for Moria. I've been working in broad strokes, from the known to the unknown. I ended up doing three passes, beginning with what was known about Moria. The first pass gave me the following list:
  • Goblins, Orcs, Trolls - These are very much evident in LotR and other historic references to Moria so they'll definitely be included. They also make great fodder for more powerful groups, allowing me to set up some internal politics in the Mines.
  • Dwarves - By canon, the Dwarves were driven from Moria long ago, but there's no reason to assume they all left. I've sketched out four general groups of Dwarves that remain in Moria:
    • Slaves - Some Dwarves were captured and enslaved by Goblins, Orcs or other inhabitants. Their descendants labor on in the dark.
    • Survivors - Isolated groups that remained independent or colonies of escaped slaves.
    • Turned Dwarves - Cultists, power-mad or overly greedy, these Dwarves aligned themselves to the dark powers found within the depths, becoming hated outcasts.
    • Returnees - Dwarves that have returned to reclaim Moria for the Dwarves.
  • The Balrog - To my reading it's pretty clear that Gandalf utterly defeated the Balrog, but I'm listing it here just in case I change my mind.
  • Watcher in the Water - Gandalf believes this creature was driven from the waters beneath Moria. I'll run with that. There is no longer a lake outside Hollin gate and the Watcher has returned to the depths, but it is not alone.
My first pass gave me a nice little list of occupants, but it's a bit limited. I'd like a little more variety so on to pass two where I dug a bit deeper into Tolkien's writings to add a few more occupants (taking great liberties with canon):
  • Spiders - Shelob is one of my favorite villains in LotR, and spiders appear elsewhere in Tolkien's works, so it seems natural that a lesser daughter of Shelob and some of her spawn will find their way into Moria.
  • The Corrupt of Angmar - The realm of the Witch King was defeated long ago, but some of the most powerful and corrupt sorcerers of that evil empire escaped into the deep tunnels and passages beneath the Misty Mountains, eventually finding their way to Moria.
  • The Nameless - Gandalf said "Far, far below the deepest delvings of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Sauron knows them not. They are older than he. Now I have walked there, but I will bring no report to darken the light of day." Yeah, gotta use that.
That's a pretty good sized list now, but Moria is BIG, so time for a third pass. I focused on extrapolating from the existing bestiary or blatantly stealing from other areas of Tolkien's works.
  • Khazad-azun - Dwarf cultists who worship The Nameless as Gods, a faith shared by...
  • The Deep Ones - Foul aquatic beings of the Lower Caves, minions of The Nameless. With the fall of the Balrog they are free to expand their realm.
  • Herders - As the Ents watch over the great forests of Middle-earth so do the Herders watch over the fungal woods and their inhabitants in the depths.
  • Minions of the Corrupt - The dark magic of Angmar perverts flesh and mind to its purpose. Bestial Weres, demonic Imps, stony Gargoyles and spidery Ettercaps serve the sorcerers of the dead Witch King.
  • Golems - Some of the automatons of the Dwarves remain active in the Halls and Deeps of Moria, forever executing their last commands to work or protect the Mines.
  • The Aquatics - The Nameless and the Deep Ones are not the only creatures inhabiting the Lower Caves, the Beingreip and Grimmve, hard-shelled and scaly, also lurk in the depths.
And now, I think, I have a good bestiary for the depths (and a much longer article than I anticipated). I'm going to be walking away from this project for a couple days to see what gels in the interim. Stay tuned for further developments!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Desert Wight

The Burning is a huge desert wasteland, created by the death curse of an ancient evil long ago. The remnants of this curse linger even now, affecting any creature that dies in this place. The remains of those that die by violence in the Burning rise as Desert Wights, undead creatures with a deadly touch and an aura of evil.

Desert Wights appear to be desiccated corpses with pallid gray flesh and glinting black eyes. Their nails and teeth have lengthened and thickened, giving them an almost bestial appearance. Desert Wights hunt down and slay any living creature who's path they cross, expanding their numbers with each newly slain individual.

Desert Wights have the following characteristics:
  • Great toughness and Fair stealth.
  • Fair physical attack with two claws, Good bite attack.
  • Superb resistance to heat and electrical damage.
  • Dread Aura - Anyone coming within 30 feet of a Wight must make a Great test of willpower or be filled with dread for 1d3 rounds, either fleeing in panic or standing frozen with fear. There is a 50% chance anyone struck with dread will drop any held item.
  • Desiccating Touch - Any successful melee attack drains one rank of strength and vitality from the target (Great test of resistance to avoid). Anyone completely drained of strength or vitality is slain. Their remains crumble to dust within six hours, leaving only bones which rise as an undead skeleton under the control of the Desert Wight that drained them.
Desert Wights are inherently evil. They may be affected by holy artifacts or protective devices.

Those slain by violence in the Burning can be prevented from rising as Desert Wights by burning their remains.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Breaking out of a Rut

Well, not that big a rut really. More a shallow groove.

I've been spending far too much time thinking about my upcoming Moria game lately, and I've decided I've become... predicable. Now this isn't completely surprising. I've been gaming with some members of my group for more than 30 years (yes that puts me squarely in the old school camp) and after that long, your tricks of the trade are pretty well know.

I'd like to shake that up a bit and for that I'm asking for help from you. I'd like to hear about a standout element from one of your games, be it a memorable NPC, a dramatic combat scene, a dangerous foe, or an unusual trick. Ideally it'd be something matching up with a dungeon-y fantasy game with Tolkien-ish elements, but that's not critical. I'm just looking for some inspiration from outside my regular circle of players.

If you feel like contributing, just drop a comment on this article. I look forward to reading the results!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Living Weapons

The aquatic races of the deep caverns and caves suffer grave handicaps when it comes to weaponry. The lack of wood and inability to work metal underwater has led to the use of bone as a primary construction material and toxic, venomous, or just plain nasty creatures as the damage dealing component. Because of water resistance thrusting weapons are preferred, so most Living Weapons are spear-like, consisting of four to six foot long shaft tipped with a cluster of curved spikes, which hold the weapon's living payload. Each weapon is "primed" with one of the following creatures:
  • Razor Nautilus - Normally these fist-sized predators scour the deep cracks and crevices of the subterranean aquatic realm, grabbing their prey with strong sucker and claw equipped tentacles. When used as a Living Weapons the creatures grab the target and attach themselves with their strong tentacles, causing a Good wound on impact and continuing to inflict Fair damage each subsequent round. In addition they release a cloud of inky black dye, which obscures vision if underwater, or stains anything it comes in contact with black if on land. The Razor Nautilus can survive for one hour out of water. It has a tough shell providing Great defense.
  • Venom Stars - These multi-armed creatures are covered with a thick coat of venomous spines and have excrete a strong digestive acid. When used as a Living Weapon the creature grabs the target and immediately belches forth a Fair strength acid that eats through wood, metal and flesh, inflicting Fair damage and searing pain each round. Attempts to remove the creature are met by sharp spines, which inject a paralyzing neurotoxin into any flesh that comes in contact with them (Great test of resistance to avoid the effects). Venom Stars can survive for hours out of water.
  • Stoneshell Crabs - Thick-shelled crustaceans with strong, sharp claws, Stoneshells inflict Good slashing wounds with each attack. Unlike other Living Weapons Stoneshells are tied to the weapon shaft, so they can be used repeatedly. Stoneshells are shore-dwellers, so they can survive for extended periods out of the water. They have Superb toughness due to their thick shells.
Races that use Living Weapons often keep several at hand, sticking the butt of the spear-shaft into the lake bottom if underwater, or using keeping the creature in a small barrel of water if on land. The Razor Nautilus and Venom Star are used as first strike weapons. Once they've attached themselves to a target the combatant switches to a Stoneshell, or a simple shell tipped spear.