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Friday, January 29, 2010

Return to Moria: Let the Game Begin

By now my trek across the tundra to run this game should be complete and the game should be underway (assuming there wasn't a blizzard or something, in which case I might be dead along the road somewhere). Hopefully I'll have a report on how the game went written up sometime next week.

I won't be checking comments or email for a few days here, so please bear with me if you're expecting a response.

Voice of the Elements

This unusual artifact is a massive abstract oil painting, four feet wide and six high, framed with a flat and narrow, black-lacquer frame.The frame and canvas weigh a good 150 lbs, making it quite difficult to carry or move. The painting itself goes through a startling transformation every night at midnight, shifting from one image to another in the blink of an eye. One of four images will be shown at any time and the order of their appearance is completely random, though images will never repeat themselves day to day. The four images are:
  • Earth - A mass of overlapping, translucent squares and cubes, rendered in various flat shades of ochre and umber. Various areas of the painting seem to gain or lose intensity as one studies it. There is a subtle grainy texture to the entire piece, as if it were painted on sand.
  • Air - A simple circle of pale blue rendered on a silky white background. A pale glow seems to radiate from the center of this piece, though no light can be seen in a darkened room.
  • Fire - Angry red triangles seem to dance across this image, competing with the intense orange and yellow hues that are woven into the background.
  • Water - A study in blue gradients, this piece depicts soft horizontal strips of blue in a more or less light to dark, top to bottom arrangement. Various strips seem to shift from side to side as one studies the piece.
The painting radiates Legendary divination magic and Epic alteration magic. Discovering the exact nature of the item's enchantment is a Superb test of divination magic.

Each of the four scenes depicted connects to the named elemental plane, providing a conduit to a potent elemental lord. Once per day the painting's owner may ask a question and receive an answer via this link. Note that the elemental lord will be compelled to answer, but answers can be as obscure. Repeated use of this item will earn the ire of the elemental lord in question, which may have dire consequences should a direct confrontation occur.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Return to Moria: Experience

There have been a few recent blog posts concerning experience points in the campaign recently, this one from Jeff's Gameblog, and this and this from The Tao of D&D. Here's how I'm handling experience in Moria.

XP for Treasure

I'm using 1 XP = 1 GP for treasure recovered from the dungeon. There are some pretty nice stacks of coin hidden away in the Mines, almost all of it protected by something mean and nasty. I figure Moria has been empty for a long time, so any wealth, unless it was very well protected, has long since been redistributed. XP for treasure is handed out only after it's safely returned to civilization, in this case the town of Hollin. This might sound a bit arbitrary, but it makes for some interesting choices for the players. Who goes back to town, what do you do with the treasure once it's there, and who stays behind to guard it suddenly become tough questions.

XP for Killing Things

For monster-slaying I use a version of the 1st Edition D&D experience value calculations. For this game I'm awarding accelerated experience so the numbers have been tweaked up a bit. I don't do adjustments for individual hit points; to be honest I don't really do individual HP in most cases. I have a cheat sheet listing each creature's XP value and a simple spreadsheet to plug in numbers killed for a quick total calculation. I have my laptop at the table (since all my notes are in TiddlyWiki). It takes about ten seconds to plug in kills and come up with an XP total. Kill XP is awarded at the end of combat and is split by everyone involved in the fight. On the low end sub 1-HD creatures are worth maybe 20 XP, on the upper end, well there's a unique creature in Moria that's worth about 12,000 XP right now.

XP for Completing Encounters

I give an XP bonus for completing encounters during the course of play. Completing might mean killing all the goblins, but it could also mean negotiating passage through their stronghold or getting them involved in a conflict with the neighboring trolls so the party can slip in and loot their camp. I base this on the potential threat and hostility of the encounter. This XP is sort of a "discretionary fund" and I'll admit to using it as a reward for play that I find entertaining (the GM is there to have fun too!) This XP is awarded on the spot, and is split between everyone who helped complete the encounter, so all characters involved in a multi-attack plan, for example, would receive a share.

The relative amounts of the three types of experience are weighed toward loot, then kills, then encounters. Loot first, because it allows clever play to bypass risk for immediate gain. Kills, because my players like combat, and encounters, because hey, I have needs too. I've used this system in the past and it's worked well. It probably sounds more complex than it is.

It's likely any responses to this post will be delayed, since I'm actually driving from Indiana to Virginia today for this game.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Goblets of the Beasts

Legend says there are seven of these artifacts, each crafted to capture and convey the fundamental nature of the creatures they depict. The Goblets are simple golden bowls inscribed with ancient magical sigils and mounted on a base and stem carved from deep green jade. Each thick stem has been carved in the likeness of a natural creature or mythical beast, with fine details highlighted with tiny flakes of gemstone and gold. Each Goblet radiates Superb alteration magic and discovering the secrets of their use is a Good test of divination magic.

To activate the powers of a Goblet it must be filled with good quality wine then held aloft as the words inscribed upon the bowl are spoken aloud. It is a Great test of ancient lore to comprehend the sigils, which are a simple phrase, much like a toast, praising the animal depicted upon the Goblet. Once this minor ritual is complete anyone drinking from the Goblet gains the benefits it conveys. Each Goblet can be used once per day, and contains enough wine to allow seven people to drink from it. The effects last four hours. Drinking from a Goblet negates the effects of any other Goblet. The Goblets are:
  • Unicorn - instantly cures any poison afflicting the drinker and provides them with a Superb resistance bonus against further poisoning.
  • Ox - grants a Superb bonus to physical strength.
  • Winged Horse - grants the imbiber the ability to fly with Great speed and maneuverability.
  • Eagle - grants a Superb bonus to vision and perception..
  • Phoenix - should the imbiber be slain, they burst into searing flame, inflicting Great damage on anyone within a 30' R, then rise from the ashes one week later, fully restored to life and health.
  • Panther - grants a Superb bonus to all Stealth and Hiding abilities
  • Dragon - grants Great resistance to fire damage and the ability to breath flame in a 30' long, 5' wide stream, doing Good damage. Fire breath can be used up to 3 times before the flames are exhausted.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Return to Moria: House Rules

My Return to Moria game is hewing pretty closely to 1st Edition AD&D rules, but we're adding a number of house  rules to add our own flavor to the game. Here they are:

Attribute Checks

Certain situations call for the use of a specific character attribute. We've always used a 'd20 roll under' system for attribute checks in our games. This time I'm flipping it and using an attribute + d20 roll. This allows me to keep my notes a bit neater, flips a roll under mechanic to a roll over, and doesn't really change the results.


We're using 2nd edition THAC0 rules. Everyone at the table is familiar with it and it saves me some table searching.

Critical Hits and Fumbles

Any natural one rolled is a fumble and will be rolled on the fumble results table. Any natural roll of 20 is rerolled, and if the second roll hits, the result will be rolled on the critical hits table. We use a second roll to increase the difficulty of critical hits due to the rather unpleasant nature of our house critical table, which divides result by damage type. An example result (roll of 84):
  • Slash - large slab of meat carved from leg, 3x damage, half movement, roll DEX or fall for 1d3 rounds
  • Crush - masterful display results in normal damage, but dazzles target, they lose 1 round
  • Pierce - weapon pierces and entangles guts, normal damage, subsequent attacks do additional 1d4 yanking damage
Yeah, kind of like that.

Hero Points

Each player (not character) gets a number of tokens at the beginning of the game, and at various points during the game (typically after an encounter completed). These tokens can be spent to achieve specific results in game. One token spent grants:
  • +1 (+5%) to a single die roll (to hit, damage, or save for example) The cost of affecting any single die roll doubles beyond 1st: +2 costs two, +3 costs four, +4 costs eight, etc.
  • Force an opponent to re-roll a single die roll (to hit, damage, save, etc.)
  • Exchange for 100 XP / level of the character gaining the XP.
  • A free use of a charged or use per day magic item (does not include potions, scrolls, or other consumable items).
  • Gain a free non-combat action in a combat round.
Any player can use a token for any player-character (i.e. Player One could give Player Two's fighter a +1 on a critical to hit roll by spending a token).

Hit Points and Death

Characters are fully effective until they reach zero hit points, which renders them unconscious. Characters are slain if their hit points drop to negative constitution. Characters regain consciousness whenever their hit points rise above zero.

Spell Books

Spell books are unique artifacts, created by each magic user to house their encoded understanding of magical spells. They are generally high quality books with dozens of pages and can hold up to 30 spell inscriptions. Spell books are somewhat large and bulky (think encyclopedia volume), and magic users should pack light to allow their spell book to fit into their 'backpack' encumbrance.

Each magic user must decide if they are going to risk their spell book in the dungeon. Spell books are subject to damage, which might cause irreplaceable loss of spells. Specifically if the player suffers an elemental attack and fails their saving throw the spell book will be tested for damage. Swimming (or drowning) might also cause damage. Spell books might be stolen or taken by intelligent foes. The flip side is a magic user cannot recover any spells without their spell book. Note that magic users may attempt to copy a spell from another magic user's spell book, but they cannot memorize a spell directly from its pages (no sharing spell books for memorization).

A new, blank spell book costs 500 GP in materials and takes a week of constant work and ritual to properly prepare.

Spell Copying
Spell copying allows magic users to share or exchange spells, or learn new spells from arcane sources (scrolls typically).
  • One attempt is allowed per day.
  • Scrolls are destroyed by a copy attempt, successful or not. Spellbooks are not.
  • Each attempt takes one hour per spell level.
  • Each spell can be attempted once per character level, no matter the source.
  • Chance to know (INT based from PHB) determines copy success.
  • Attempting to copy a spell you can't cast yet suffers a penalty of 5% / level difference (required level to use vs. caster level).
Identify Spell

Since I'm not forcing the 100 gp gem material component, here's how Identify works:
  • It can only be cast on an item once per day.
  • When cast there is a INT x 5% chance of revealing one characteristic of the item.
  • Having an appropriate LORE adds 15% to the chance of revealing a characteristic.
  • The caster suffers any potential ill effects from an item when casting this spell.
  • Normal 'try it and see' methods can be used as well.
Most magical items have an obvious heritage (Men, Elves, Dwarves) which determines which lore is applicable, though things like potions are less clear.

So there you have it, our house rules. I'm probably missing something in this list, but it should be pretty complete. Nothing too bizarre or unusual (or at least I don't think so), but maybe some of you have different opinions.

On a final related, but different note, a quick print preview with all tiddlers open in my Return to Moria working file shows I have about 275 pages of campaign material written. Over preparation for the win (again). One day I'll learn to either prep less material or leave out some details.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Shadow Lash

This weapon is a single-tailed whip, about 12 feet long from tip to butt. The tail is made from black leather strips braided together with silver wire. The butt is a continuation of the same black leather braid woven with additional strips of red leather covering a short, stiff handle of whalebone. A strap of red leather secures the weapon to the wielder's wrist. The item is imbued with Great illusion and evocation magic. A Great test of divination magic will reveal its powers:
  • Shadow Lash is an Great quality weapon. Unfortunately a whip isn't particularly effective in combat so it only inflicts Mediocre damage. It can however strike any foe within 10 feet of the wielder.
  • Each time an opponent is struck a Shadow Tendril is created (see below).
  • Sonic Burst - With a sharp snap of the Lash the wielder can create an incredibly loud whip-crack, causing Mediocre damage and temporarily deafening anyone within ten feet. This effect is powerful enough to shatter delicate items such as glass or crystal directly exposed to the sound. This power can be used three times per day. The wielder is immune to the effects of this ability.
  • Thunder Crack - A much more potent version of Sonic Burst, this power generates a thunderous burst of noise that can sunder wood or stone. Anyone within ten feet is permanently deafened and suffers Fair damage.

Shadow Tendrils

Each time Shadow Lash strikes a target, it conjures a Shadow Tendril, a creeping line of ghostly black power. This magical construct clings to any surface and attempts to entangle the target. Each Shadow Tendril lasts for five rounds and has a 10% cumulative chance per round of entangling one of the target's limbs. Each successful attack with Shadow Lash adds an additional Tendril to the target and refreshes any existing Tendrils to five rounds duration. Tendrils refreshed in this way continue to increase their chance of entangling a limb. Each entangled limb causes a one rank penalty to any test requiring use of the affected limb. Note that Tendrils can snare nearby objects, effectively trapping the victim. Tendrils require a Good test of strength to break, with each additional Tendril increasing the difficulty by one rank.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Friday, January 22, 2010

Divan of Infinite Rest

This broad and low divan rests upon a frame of gilded wood supported by elegant legs carved to resemble the lower leg and paw of some great predatory cat. The seat and low, rounded back are covered in rich blue and green brocade in a paisley and floral pattern with a somewhat geometric form. A rich coverlet of deep blue velvet decorates the Divan, fine gold thread woven into the fabric causing it to glimmer in even the dimmest light. The Divan is large enough to serve as a comfortable bed for even the largest of men. The entire thing weighs several hundred pounds and would prove difficult, but not impossible, to move.

The Divan radiates Superb divine magic and a Great test of divination will reveal its characteristics. Anyone reclining on the Divan for more than three rounds falls into a deep, unnatural slumber. This slumber lasts a minimum of eight hours, during which time the user will simply not wake up, no matter what the circumstance. After eight hours have passed the user can be awakened by others, but will not wake up on their own, remaining asleep forever if no outside force intervenes. After eight hours of sleep, the user is healed of all injury, including any poisons or diseases they may have been afflicted with. Sleep causes aging to cease and purges the body of accumulated toxins, so regular use of the Divan can greatly increase the user's lifespan.

The Divan of Infinite Rest once graced the temple of a minor god of prophecy, a gift to the temple's oracle. Rumors of the oracle's apparently infinite lifespan drew the attention of an evil warlord, who pillaged the temple, slew the oracle and the other priests, and stole the Divan. Legend claims the gods cursed the Divan so it inflicts a compulsion to restore the couch to its proper place on any that make use of its powers.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Wavering Expanse

This is a bit more thinking aloud about the metaphysics touched on in my Nexus of the Mad God post a short while back.

The Wavering Expanse

An extra-dimensional plane of twisted light and sound, the Wavering Expanse is a vast sea of existence. The mundane realms float upon this plane like driftwood and detritus, slowly shifting and moving as waves of colorless light and surges of noiseless sound become currents and tides in this vast ocean.

The Wavering Expanse is an uninhabited realm, its extra-dimensional nature inimical to most forms of life. Some creatures of the mundane realms are capable of existing for short periods of time in this place, and some powerful beings are capable of crossing the voids between worlds, breaking through to alternate realities. Some, like the Mad God, can establish conduits between realms, linking two or more realms with nebulous passages that draw energy and matter from one realm to the other.

Traveling the Wavering Expanse

Creatures transported to the Wavering Expanse  remain connected to the mundane realm they arrived from (unless making use of a Conduit, see below). Mundane creatures suffer from disorientation/confusion, (Legendary difficulty to shake off, recheck every ten minutes with a cumulative reduction in difficulty), though they eventually become acclimated to the realm's bizarre sensations. Some typical examples:
  • Hear a wave of sour green light
  • See a roaring wall of sweet silence
  • Step into a pool of buzzing blue that clings like the scent of honey
Creatures trapped within the Wavering Expanse experience the passage of time, but require neither food, nor drink. Those without a natural means of escape eventually expire under the mental strain of this bizarre place.

Movement in the Expanse is chaotic at best. Each mundane realm casts shadows of solidity into the maelstrom, allowing normal modes of travel, but the terrain constantly shifts and twists beneath the tides and currents. An hour's walk within the Expanse might cross ten feet or half a continent in the real world, depending on conditions.

From time to time the Wavering Expanse breaks through to the mundane realm, creating a temporary passage back to the normal world. Experienced travelers in this twisted space become attuned to the currents and energies of the Expanse, and can sometimes predict and locate these breaks. A lucky few can make their escape in this manner.


Some beings of supreme power can establish Conduits, linkages between mundane realms that allow the passage of energy and matter. Establishing a Conduit requires some form of anchoring at either end of the connection. Conduits are bidirectional, but most favor a flow in one direction over the other. Traveling through a Conduit has various effects:
  • Energies transmitted via a Conduit are attenuated, losing potency as distance increases.
  • Creatures traveling through a Conduit see only a fuzzy white passage of drifting, noiseless fog, a dim patch of brightness their only guidance. The time required to travel the length of a Conduit is subjective, some survivors say they traveled for days, others seconds.
  • Items are slowly pushed by the directional flow of the Conduit and are eventually ejected from the outbound end. This extends to items that are still anchored in the originating realm, so entire rooms, structures or landscapes can be pulled through a Conduit and remain intact.
Once established, Conduits can never be completely destroyed or removed, but their capacity for transport can be diminished. Inanimate objects are easiest to stop, pure energy the hardest.


Though the Wavering Expanse is, for the most part, uninhabited, some few creatures are able to travel freely within this twisted realm. Others, trapped here by chance or fate, have become immune to the Expanse's mind-twisting effects and spend their endless days searching for a means of escape.


Inspiration comes from a lot of different places. Lately this site has been producing some great, inspirational photographs of abandoned places. From the site's about page:

"This site, started in 2002, is basically an account of the various abandonments I have explored and the photographs I have taken. I have become quite interested in the history of many of these places, and include a short summary of each location from whatever sources I could find. This site was originally going to focus mainly on photography, but many people seem to express an interest in the act of exploring, so descriptions of the images and personal accounts of the trips made their way into the site, although I'm by no means a great writer."

Definitely worth a peek.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Token Magic

In my Failures of 2009 post a few days back I made mention of Token Magic, a system I implemented in a heavily house-ruled AD&D 2nd edition game I ran a while back. One of my readers commented that it sounded interesting, so here it is, cleaned up and (hopefully) in a system neutral format.

Token Magic

Token magic refers to the art of placing magical energies into specially created constructs and imbuing these items with specific magical effects. The resulting item is referred to as a token. A token does not have to be an item; it can be a picture (glyphs), a series of words (scrolls), a weapon, or something else entirely. Any magic using character can create a token, provided they have sufficient skill.

There are two broad categories of tokens. Normal tokens are imbued with a limited amount of energy and have a fixed number of charges. When the charges are used the item shatters and is destroyed. Permanent tokens contain their own source of power and do not wear out.


To create a magical token, a magic user must have at least Good magical ability. Spell casters can only create tokens that reproduce magical effects they can create.

The Creation Process

There are several stages required to create a token:
  1. The creator must research the components that will contain the spell desired.
  2. The container must be created.
  3. The container must be infused with energy.
  4. The container must be enchanted with the desired spell.


The spell being cast determines what sort of components will be required to make the container. Component research is a secret test of the character's alchemy skill versus the rank of the spell token being created and requires approximately two days of uninterrupted research per spell rank. The cost of components is proportional to the rank of the spell being imbued. As a guideline the material cost of a token is one rank below the power level of the spell being contained (a Great power spell would require Good cost materials). Note that some components might be very rare and difficult to obtain, particularly for higher rank magic.

Container Creation

Once the components have been gathered, the caster must create the container. This requires at least two days of work per spell rank crafting the special features of the container, plus any standard creation time (i.e. a sword might take several days to forge, after which it can be worked on by the mage). Basic containers can be made by a craftsman and then enhanced by the mage, but the final crafted features of the container must be done by the mage. This is a secret test of an appropriate artistic skill versus the rank of the spell being imbued.

Container Infusion

Once the container is (theoretically) complete, the creator must infuse it with energy. The amount of energy channeled into the container is limited by the power available and the creator's ability to infuse that energy. Infusing is time consuming; each two ranks of power require an hour of work to channel. A caster may work for as long as they desire on channeling energy into the token, pausing to rest and regain strength, etc. The maximum energy a particular token can contain is determined by its quality and the power of the spell being contained. Generally more powerful enchantments are more difficult to maintain and thus fewer charges can be held.

The energy required for each token charge is determined by the spell effect desired, the success of the character's alchemy and artistic ability rolls, and their channeling success. The caster will never know exactly how many charges an item has, but a reasonable estimate for a single charge is twice the desired spell's rank.

Channeling energy carries a certain amount of risk. Failed channeling attempts can damage the token, drain the caster of energy, knock them unconscious, or have other effects. Damaged tokens are made useless, though it may be possible to salvage components for use in another attempt.

Container Enchantment

The last step of the token creation procedure is imbuing the specific spell effect desired into the token. The difficulty of this test of channeling skill is one rank higher than the rank of spell being imbued, and failure may have negative consequences. Enchantment takes a full day of preparation.

Permanent Tokens

There are additional steps required to make a permanent token. These procedures are highly dependent on the type of caster involved and are not detailed here.

Work Environment

Each phase of the token creation process requires significant focus and effort. The creator requires a private and quiet environment with appropriate tools available for the task. Work can be paused for rest, but no other activity is allowed. The creator can take breaks between the creation phases without penalty however. Note that an infused container awaiting enchantment will slowly bleed energy until the enchantment is complete.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lurking Murderer

A hellish predatory creature of the cold reaches, few survive an encounter with one of these vicious hunters. Some believe a creature of such concentrated fury must have been created by a demented wizard or wrought as punishment by an angry god, but most believe the Lurking Murderer is a natural beast, its numbers kept in check only by the harshness of its native arctic climate and the scarcity of prey.

The Lurking Murderer resembles nothing so much as an over-sized, six-legged wolverine with a pale gray coat of long, thick fur. Each of their six legs ends in a heavily clawed foot, each capable of inflicting serious damage on any opponent willing to face the creature's wrath. Lurking Murderers also have powerful jaws capable of crushing bone with ease. The average adult specimen is about five feet long from its nose to the end of its stubby tail.

Lurking Murderers are capable climbers, often ambushing prey from elevated positions in rocks or trees. They prefer hunting during the night, and actively avoid sunlight. They are capable scent hunters and will pursue prey over great distances, their curious waddling gait belying their ground covering hunting pace.

In combat these creatures are agile foes with a massive array of armaments at their disposal. Their fierce claws and powerful bite can bring down the largest prey, and their heightened senses, stealth and speed allow them to establish a tactical advantage in the opening moments of an attack.

Lurking Murderers have the following characteristics:
  • Superb vitality and quickness, making the creatures difficult to hit and kill.
  • Superb sense of smell and hearing.
  • Superb stealth and hide ability.
  • Great running speed.
  • Epic claw and bite attacks inflicting Superb damage. The creature can use up to four claw attacks in a normal combat round.
  • Leap Attack - If attacking from an elevated position, its favorite ambush tactic, it can attack with all six sets of claws on its initial strike.
  • Rake - Should a Lurking Murderer hit with more than three claw attacks in a single round, it will rake its opponent with all six sets of claws in the next, automatically hitting with each attack.
Lurking Murderers are normally solitary, territorial creatures. They lair in rocky caves or under dead-falls, and occasionally may have some form of inedible treasure in their lair. During the spring season encounters with a female and 2-3 young are possible. Females defending their young gain a Good bonus to attack accuracy and damage.

No one has ever tamed a Lurking Murderer.

This was the original AD&D 2nd edition stat block for these creatures:
  • Frequency: Very Rare
  • Number Appearing: 1 or 4-7
  • AC: 2
  • Hit Dice: 6d8+6
  • Move: 18"
  • % In Lair: 30%
  • THACO: 12
  • Number of Attacks: 5
  • Damage: 1d8/1d8/1d8/1d8/2d12
  • Special Attacks: Leap, Rake, surprise on 1-5
  • Special Defenses: Surprised only on 1
  • Magic Resistance: Standard
  • Intelligence: Animal/Low
  • Alignment: N
  • Size: S-M (4'-6'long)
  • Exp. Value: 1200+10/hp

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Weird Stuff I Find

I was cleaning up my RPG folder on my computer this week, a never ending process, and stumbled across this text file dating from 1997. It appears to be some sort of classless advancement system for AD&D 2nd edition, but I have no memory of writing it. It also appears to be implementing spell use based on a point system. It looks a bit incomplete too (some of the XP costs near the end are a bit sketchy too). Look familiar to anyone?


The follow rules are applied to advancement:

Each player specifies their top 5 priorities for advancement. Experience is divided according to the following breakdown:
  1. 40%
  2. 25%
  3. 15%
  4. 10%
  5. 10%
Hit Points

Measure physical toughness and ability to avoid damage. All characters use d8 for hit points. Each begins with 8 hit points modified by constitution. Each additional die costs : 1500 EXP


The chance to hit as rolled on a d20. Characters all begin with a THAC0 of 20. Each 1 point of THAC0 improvement costs: 1500 EXP

Magic Power

The development of raw energies of magic. Each point of magic power corresponds to one point of magic power. Each point of magic power costs: 750 EXP

Magic Channel

The power to channel greater energies. Each point of magic channel allows another level of spell to be cast without penalty. Each point of magic channel costs: 1500 EXP

God Power

Like magic power, only for divine power. Each point of god power costs: 500 EXP

God Channel

Like magic channel, but for divine power. Each point of god channel costs: 1000 EXP

Minor Ability

Each costs: 100 EXP

Major Ability

Each costs: 150 EXP

Minor Level Related Ability

Each costs: 75 EXP per level of ability

Major Level Related Ability

Each costs: 75 EXP per level of ability

Minor Penalty

Each gives back: -75 EXP

Major Penalty

Each gives back: -100 EXP

Thief Skills

Each costs:

5 EXP per
7 EXP per
10 EXP per
15 EXP per

Non-Weapon Proficiencies

Each costs:

3 EXP per
5 EXP per
7 EXP per
10 EXP per

Weapons Proficiencies

Improves character abilities with a weapon of choice. Each costs: 150 EXP

-3 THAC0
-1 THAC0
+1 THAC0
+1 THAC0
+2 THAC0,+1 DAM

Multiple Attacks

The ability to attack more than once per round. Each costs: 1500 EXP

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Blood Broth Cauldron

This foul device is an unholy relic of a Goblinoid cult dedicated to a nameless god. The blood priests of this foul cult used this artifact to grant their unholy warriors potency in battle. The Cauldron is a heavy bronze vessel, two feet in diameter and a foot deep. It is supported by three short, squat legs carved to resemble twisted, skeletal hands curled into fists. The outside of the bowl is carved with foul runes in some unknown Goblinoid tongue and a narrow band of gleaming red stones is worked into a serpentine pattern around its mouth. The interior of the vessel is lined with some flat black substance that is sticky to the touch.The Cauldron is stored in a yew box, the wood stained with blood and other foul substances. The box is reinforced with black iron and locked with a small complex padlock.

The Cauldron radiates Epic divine and alteration magic. It is an artifact of evil. To make use of the relic's power the proper ritual must be discovered, an Epic difficulty test of religious lore. The difficulty of this test can be reduced if the researcher is a member of or has knowledge of the Goblinoid races. The ritual involves sacrificing a sentient creature and filling the Cauldron with their life's blood. When the ritual is complete the blood within the Cauldron transforms into a greenish, seething potion (20 doses) which retains potency for 1 hour. Anyone imbibing this brew gains the following characteristics for four hours:
  • Blood Rage - the affected feels no doubt or fear, gaining a Great resistance bonus to any mental attack, including sleep, charm or emotion-affecting magic.
  • Vital Essence - the imbiber gains a Fair bonus to their physical toughness and endurance.
  • Fearless Death - if the affected is slain in battle, they fight on for one round, unaware they have been slain.
In addition to the basic process outlined above, the ritualist can add a body part from the sacrifice to the cauldron to invoke an additional effect in the resulting potion:
  • Eyes - imbibers gain a Superb bonus to all alertness and spot checks.
  • Heart - consuming this potion grants a Great bonus to strength.
  • Liver - the affected gains a Superb resistance to poison.
  • Lung - consuming this potion grants Great endurance, the imbiber can run tirelessly at full speed with no ill effects.
Other effects can be obtained by using different organs in the ritual, though no more than one such addition to the ritual can be made.

Participating in this ritual, either as the ritualist or a consumer of the final result, should be considered a strongly evil act. Each invocation should be treated as a powerful sacrifice to the nameless god of the Cauldron (the GM should feel free to define the deity the Cauldron is dedicated to and determine any additional divine effects that may manifest from repeated use). The Cauldron can only be destroyed by a unique process, which the GM should define for his or her campaign.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Failures of 2009

No, this isn't some bitter rant about all that was bad about last year! I use TiddlyWiki to organize my blog posts. I have a 'draft' tag I use to track ideas that have popped up but haven't really come together as an article yet. I started a new wiki for 2010, which left me with a handful of undeveloped articles in last year's file. I suspect these are ideas that may never come together since some of them are close to a year old, but I thought if I aggregated them they might spark something for someone else. Here goes:

Aberrations of Black Secrets

This was a book of spells I actually used in a 2nd edition AD&D campaign. Most of the spell list was pretty boring (though I did write about some of the spells here), but the book itself was a magical construct. It consisted of five sub-volumes, each protected by a magical seal. Attempting to open a sub-volume without the proper ritual released the section's demonic guardian to attack the interloper, but if the proper ritual was used, the demon could be invoked and controlled.

Gem of Knowledge

Another refugee from an old campaign, this gem was an artifact designed to reveal magical properties and abilities. In AD&D terms it allowed the use of Identify, Detect Magic, Read Magic and Detect Evil on a regular basis. In the end I concluded this was nothing special so it went nowhere.

Intelligent Worms

I wanted to create an NPC race based on the lowly earthworm, but it never really came together. Here's what I have so far:

Their physical form is earthworm-like, except their tail subdivides into a cluster of tentacles they can use to manipulate things. They exude an acidic slime that allows them to burrow through solid stone if need be. They are blind, but have well developed vibration senses (perhaps something else as well). Their body and mental functions are distributed across multiple clusters of nerve fibers, with larger specimens having more developed nervous systems and potentially, more intelligence.

They dig communal burrows with networks of radiating tunnels that cover large expanses. Individuals can communicate and carry out organized activities as a group.

Lizardman Variations

This was a skeleton article for a set of lizardman encounters that never really came together. I'll probably end up making use of this sometime this year, since I do love the lizardmen.

Numerology in the Campaign

This was a brief paragraph about implementing numerological systems in the campaign world, but it never really went anywhere. Another potential article for the coming year.


This was an article on an earth based magical material. I never really devoted any time to it, so it went nowhere.

Sandbox Toolkit

This started as a series of posts about creating a sandbox campaign from scratch. I hadn't looked at this article in a while and I was surprised to see there's a fair bit of writing here. I may revive this and finish it off sometime this year.

Token Magic

This is pretty much a cut and paste of a house ruled system I've used in the past to create magic items with short lifespans. It's quite dependent on the game system (2nd edition AD&D) and I never spent the time porting it to a neutral format. Another potential article for this year.

World Building

This was intended as an article on bottom up vs. top down world building, with some thoughts on using both methods simultaneously. I think this got lost in the shuffle, since there's the basis of a good post here.

So there you have it, the failures of 2009. Maybe some of them will see the light of day in 2010. Anything sound interesting?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ice Caller

This six-foot long staff of pure, unmelting ice glistens with energy. Its simple form contains potent magical forces, designed to wreak havoc on the wielder's enemies. It is a device of pure offensive power, and radiates Epic elemental magic. A Great test of divination magic will reveal the command words that unlock the powers of this potent device.

Once mastered Ice Caller's bearer can activate any of the following powers at will:
  • Ice Storm - Summons a brief storm of fist-sized chunks of ice that rain down on a 30 foot diameter area for three rounds, doing Fair damage to anyone within the area of effect each round. This has the side effect of creating a two foot deep layer of icy rubble in the target area, which hampers movement until it melts. Ice Storm has a range of 120 feet.
  • Icicle - The wielder can cause a razor-sharp icicle to shoot from the tip of Ice Caller, striking the target of their choice (a ranged melee attack success is required). Icicle inflicts Great damage and chills the target, causing them to miss their next action as they shake off the cold.
  • Freezing Touch - When the proper command word is spoken a successful melee attack with Ice Caller inflicts normal melee damage, plus Superb cold damage, encasing the target (up to ogre-sized) in a shell of ice and frost that freezes them in place and slows their movements for four rounds. The target acts at half normal speed and suffers a two rank penalty on all actions that require physical movement.
  • Ice Wall - The wielder can draw a line up to 60 feet long, then speak a command word, which causes a wall of ice one foot thick and ten feet high to spring up along the drawn path. This wall radiates intense cold and does Good cold damage to anyone attempting to break through.
Each invocation of Ice Caller's power draws energy from the environment around the staff itself. The first time a power is invoked a five foot radius aura of cold surrounds the staff. This aura inflicts Poor damage each round to anyone in the area of effect (a resistance check can be applied). Each additional invocation either increases the radius of the aura by five feet or increases the intensity of the aura by one rank (50/50 chance). Note that the wielder is not immune to the effects of this aura. The aura shrinks or loses power (50/50 chance) every ten rounds that pass without a power being invoked.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


This sword has a long, slender, straight blade of an unknown silver metal inscribed with an interlocking knot-like pattern of green and purple enamel along its entire length. This knot-like motif flows off the blade and onto the wide and slightly curved guard, which is made from the same silvery metal as the blade. The weapon's grip is covered in dark green leather and wrapped with coppery wire and the pommel is fitted with a polished slab of malachite. The weapon radiates Great combat magic and Epic abjuration magic along with Epic demonic energies. Demonsoul radiates both good and evil.

Ordinarily the sword functions as a normal weapon with Good bonuses to damage and accuracy. When drawn in the presence of another demonic being Demonsoul's true nature is revealed. The weapon contains the energies of a demonic being trapped within its matrix. When confronted by another demonic being the sword gives off a continuous piercing scream as the blade begins to glow with an eerie purple light. In this state the weapon has the following characteristics:
  • Great bonus to damage and accuracy.
  • It negates any special attacks (natural energy attacks, ability drains, mind control attempts, spells, etc.) used by the opposing demon, absorbing any energies directed at the wielder.
The more energy Demonsoul absorbs, the more unstable the bindings holding the demon it contains become. The wielder must make a test of Will each time the weapon absorbs energy, suffering a one rank cumulative penalty each time the weapon responds to an attack. Should they fail a test, the demon within the blade possesses their physical form, which begins glowing with the same eerie light previously surrounding the sword:
  • The sword's damage and accuracy bonuses rise to Superb.
  • The wielder gains Superb physical toughness, reducing all physical damage received by two ranks.
  • The possessed becomes immune to fire, electrical damage.
  • The possessed gains immunity to mental attack forms (except, of course, being possessed).
  • Demonsoul continues to absorb demonic attacks directed at the wielder.
The sword continues its possession for 2d8 rounds. At the end of this period the wielder may attempt to regain control of their body with a test of Will. The previously accumulated penalties to this Will check still apply, and any absorption since possession add to the penalty. After the initial possession period the penalty is reduced by one rank per round.

Should the demonic foe be defeated before the wielder recovers from possession the demon will launch an attack against the nearest target available. The demon powering Demonsoul is a low intelligence creature, bent only on destruction.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Crossbow of the Black Crow

This heavy crossbow features a stock of rich burled wood tinted with black stain that reveals its intricate grain patterns. The bow and trigger mechanism is made from blackened steel, which glistens with an unearthly sheen. The bow string is a strand of brassy metal that merges seamlessly with the bow ends. The arms of the bow are inscribed with fine lines that form a faint pattern of widespread wings. The stock is plain, decorated only by the natural patterns of the wood. If examined for magical properties the Crossbow of the Black Crow radiates Great alteration and combat magic and Good divination magic. A Great test of divination magic will reveal the item's magical properties:
  • The Black Crow functions as a Great quality weapon, receiving Great bonuses to both accuracy and range.
  • The Crossbow is self-loading. It fires magical quarrels that inflict normal damage, then vanish after striking their target. The Crossbow reloads itself instantly, and can be fired once per round.
  • Crow Bolt - The wielder can fire this special shot at will. Once launched the bolt sprouts wings and begins circling. The wielder can direct the flight of this bolt, which moves at Great speed. They can also observe the area around the Crow Bolt simply by closing their eyes and concentrating. The bolt will remain aloft so long as desired, though it will never stray more than 1 mile from its controller. The other functions of the Crossbow are lost while the Crow Bolt is in flight.
  • After possessing the Black Crow for at least one month, the owner gains a crow familiar. This creature will share knowledge and senses with its owner, serving as guard, spy or scout. Should the familiar be slain it is permanently lost until the Crossbow changes ownership.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Return to Moria: Lost in the Maze

It's been a while since I've posted anything about my Moria game, so I thought an update was in order.


The holidays threw a wrench into my schedule so there was a lull in my side of the process. Most of my players had some time off over the holidays, so everyone has finalized their characters. We've also done a bit of preparation via email, so everyone knows a bit about the locale. The group has discussed their clues and potential entrances to Moria, and have determined they're going to follow the map the trio of orphans from up north received from their uncle. From my perspective, the character side of things is pretty well done, a good thing, since there's a lot left for me to do elsewhere.


I've finished off all the broad scale maps of Moria. These reflect each level of the mines in broad strokes and provide a framework of connectivity and general layout. I posted up a sample of this style of map here. My mapping work is now focused on two separate tasks:
  1. Geomorphs - I've been sketching out general purpose mini-maps for use and reuse throughout the session. These maps include stuff like variations on clan halls, defensive works, mines and tunnels, and similar common features.
  2. Singular maps - These are maps of one shot areas, unique locations that need a map to clarify the layout. I'm trying to minimize these as Moria is huge. Doing unique maps of every area is a near impossible task.
I've made mixed progress on mapping. What I'm finding is that as I write up encounters and area descriptions I can capture the detail in text better than with a map. The jury is still out, but right now I'm finding the emphasis shifting from maps to area descriptions.

Area Descriptions and Encounters

This is where my activities are really focused now. With a firm commitment from the players on their entry point, I've been able to buckle down and start creating content. After a bit of flailing about with some standard templates for TiddlyWiki I've finally started making progress. I've mapped out the three 'levels' surrounding the party's chosen entrance in preparation for their arrival, and I plan on expanding this coverage over the next couple of weeks.

The problem I'm facing now is with sprawl. There are four additional levels connected to the area I've already mapped, and each of those levels leads to four or five other levels. I'm planning on taking an organic approach and expanding the coverage in all directions as the mood strikes. If the players choose to fully explore the area I've already mapped I have plenty of material for the first weekend session, but players never do what you want. I'm sure they'll go haring off into undefined areas within a couple hours of play.

Speaking of sessions, readers might be thinking this is an awful lot of prep work for a single session game. I should probably explain. The group I'm running this for consists of people I've gamed with for many years (in some cases 30+ years). We're now scattered from Indiana to Maryland, so we only get to game together a couple times a year, and the sessions are weekend-long affairs lasting from Friday afternoon til mid-day Sunday. We probably pack in 6-7 'normal' sessions during these games. Even with a minimalist approach to prep there's a substantial amount of stuff to get ready, and I'm not really a minimalist on the preparation front.

Yeah, I'm sweating a bit.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Bone Snatcher

This foul undead creature inhabits the watery depths of large rivers and streams, lurking along the banks near bridges, trails or fords in hopes of securing victims to feed its endless hunger for recently drowned flesh. Bone Snatchers are created when a murder victim is drowned in running water, though no one understands exactly what triggers the metamorphosis from corpse to undead predator.

Initially, Bone Snatchers take the form of a recently drowned human, a pale and bloated corpse streaked and smeared with the ooze and muck of their watery domain. Over time the transformation turns any hair the creature once had greenish-gray. Their nails and teeth lengthen and transform into sharp claws, while the flesh of their hands and feet slowly shifts and transforms, becoming webbing between fingers and toes. Their skin slowly stretches tight over their skeletal form as the creature's flesh decays away, leaving them thin and pallid, little more than webbed skin stretched over a bony frame.

The final transformation occurs when a Bone Snatcher claims a victim. After consuming their flesh, the Snatcher incorporates the victim's bones into their own bodies, magically fusing their limbs and spine into two flexible tentacle-like arms ending in bony claws connected to Bone Snatcher's shoulders and back. The skull of each victim is mounted as a sort of trophy to the creature's chest or waist (though some say these skulls retain some form of consciousness). As additional victims are consumed existing limbs are extended or new limbs are created. There are stories of Bone Snatchers with a dozen or more tentacle-arms, each ten or twenty feet long.

Bone Snatchers hunt by lurking in the shallow waters of rivers near trails, bridges or fords. When they sense approaching prey they leap forth to seize their victim with sharp claws and fangs, then drag them beneath the water's surface to rend and tear flesh as the victim drowns. Bone Snatchers prefer to hunt under the cover of darkness, but have no fear of sunlight. They have the following characteristics:
  • Great strength and toughness.
  • Superb swimming ability.
  • Good damage and accuracy with claws and fangs.
  • Elemental resistance - The creature's watery form grants them a Fair resistance bonus to fire damage and a Good resistance bonus to cold damage.
  • Watery regeneration - Bone Snatchers recover one rank of damage per hour when submerged in running water.
  • Tentacle-arms - Each Bone Snatcher has 1d6-1 tentacle-arms which it uses in combat. Each arm has Good toughness and strikes with good damage and accuracy.
  • Ambush - Bone Snatchers are cautious predators with a certain native cunning. When attacking from ambush they gain a Good bonus to all combat checks during the first three rounds of battle.
Bone Snatchers maintain a lair of sorts, digging a pit or using an existing underwater cave as a base of operations. They have no real use for treasure, but collect the valuables carried by their victim and arrange them in their den as a sort of grisly trophy hall.

If submerged, a damaged Bone Snatcher will regenerate fully provided some portion of its original skull remains. Tentacle-arms do not regenerate so hit and run tactics may weaken a powerful creature. The only way to permanently lay a Bone Snatcher to rest is to burn their remains completely and scatter the ashes.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Nexus of the Mad God

This idea has been stuck in the back of my head for a few days now, so I thought I would write it up and see where it goes. It's not quite a seed for campaign, but maybe getting it down on paper will solidify it.

The Mad God

It exists in a void of blackness and empty space, god of a dead world, unhinged by the loss of its followers and the slow decay of its realm, which was destroyed long ago in some forgotten cataclysm. Its divine power curls and twists in the void like so many black and terrible serpents, constantly seeking that which a god desires most. Worshipers.

The Mad God sends shards and fragments of its own being across trackless space and twisted dimension, seeking sentient creatures to make its own. It cannot challenge the gods of other realms in their own places of power. Instead it nibbles at the edges of their worlds, the lost places, the hidden tunnels and caverns in the depths, the sunken wrecks of galleons, and forgotten cities long covered by jungle vines. When the dark reflections of the Mad God touch these places they are altered, becoming conduits to its own dead realm. Those that explore these forgotten sites sometimes find themselves traveling through a strange reality inhabited by races and creatures from unknown worlds. The Nexus.

The Nexus

An aggregation of lost places drawn together by the Mad God, the Nexus is an endless maze of black caverns, tunnels carved by unknown hands, and lost cities crumbling to ruin; the forgotten places of a thousand worlds. There is no sky in Nexus, only dark vistas and endless depths. Those that find themselves in the Nexus are often lost forever, the conduits to their own world shifting and vanishing in the endless maze. Some despair and lose hope. Others struggle on, seeking a way back to their own realm and former life. Some chose another path and begin anew in this strange and terrible place.

For there is hope here. Islands of light and stability in the endless night. Conduits between worlds, once established, never entirely vanish, allowing powers from other realms to manifest in this place, diminished perhaps, but never lost. Wizards of lost worlds light the darkness with powerful alchemical spells while priests intone rituals to distant gods and warriors defend these new realms against the encroaching night. Disparate races gather together in common purpose and form communities bent on one goal: survival.

But there is despair here too, for between these points of light lie many hazards. The power of the Mad God touches only the forgotten places of distant realms and most of those regions were forgotten for good reason. There are dangers in the darkness, some mundane, some so terrible they exceed the boundaries of sane thought. Dark things creep from tunnel and cavern, seeking to destroy the islands of order in the middle of chaos.

And the Mad God remains hidden in the center of it all, a vortex of need and hunger driven by endless desire.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

More Random Encounters

A while back I posted a set of three random encounters generated from the random dungeon tables in the AD&D 1st edition Dungeon Masters Guide. Since I'm using 1st edition rules for my Moria game, this book has become something of a fixture at my desk. I thought I'd give the random tables another spin. This time I'll work from the outdoor encounter tables, determining terrain and climate randomly and using the resulting table to create the result. Here goes:

Tropical Wilderness (Forest) - Giant Poisonous Snake

To me giant snakes are GIANT, so this particular specimen is 30 feet or more in length. Its lair is the upper floor of a half-collapsed stone structure, half-covered by the jungle's vines and creepers. The lower level of this structure has an intact room which would make a good shelter for, say, a group of lost adventurers. The upper floor can only be reached by climbing one of the nearby trees or by flight; the stairs have long since collapsed. The party might be alerted to the creature's presence by a cast of skin or partially digested bones scattered on the ground around the structure.

The snake will be lurking somewhere in the branches above, and will strike at any creature that passes beneath, though it will avoid large groups. The snake has Great strength poison, and can also drag off or constrict (Fair damage) prey up to a small human in size. It usually preys on monkeys or antelope, so it will flee in the face of determined resistance.

Should the snake be driven off or slain, the party might find some valuables scattered amongst the digested remains of past victims. The snake could also be skinned by a skilled hunter or leatherworker.

  • The snake's lair might prove to be more than a simple ruin. 
  • Among the scattered remains the party finds a curious key which opens a similarly curious box in a nearby crypt. 
  • The snake has recently laid eggs, which are valued by a certain serpent cult that uses the young snakes in their temple rites.

Temperate Wilderness (Rough) - Giant Wasp

A straight-forward encounter, this relatively young colony has just begun building its nest in a broad crevice in a nearby crevice. The initial encounter is with one or two wasps on the hunt, but should the party venture nearer the nest, another four or five wasps will join the attack.

Should the party flee the nest will remain active, gaining 1d4 wasps per week so long as warm weather continues. Party members stung by the wasp's paralyzing venom will be taken to the nest and used as food for young wasps. Should the party destroy the nest, they might find other victims (living or dead) tucked away in the nest.

  • The party was hired to kill a giant that locals believe is killing their livestock. The giant is innocent, the wasps are the real culprit (and the giant could be convinced to help the party get rid of them).
  • One of the party is stung by the wasp's powerful poison and the group must find a means of curing them before it's too late.

Temperate Wilderness (Marsh) - Ghouls and Zombies

The site of this encounter is the shell of an old church, half-flooded by the shifting waters of a great marsh. Once there was a village here, but the wooden homes have long since rotted away. All that remains is the shell of the church and the headstones and crypts of the graveyard rising from the water like broken bones. Dead trees and a rusty iron fence form a border around the graveyard and create a crude barrier of sorts.

The rising waters have disturbed the graves here, causing the dead to rise. A dozen or more zombies roam the area immediately surrounding the church, while a half-dozen ghouls lurk within. The undead have no need to breath so they often creep along on all fours beneath the water's surface, dragging victims down into water-filled open graves.

Walking through the graveyard is an arduous task, the waist-deep water slows progress, and submerged tombstones and open graves create obstacles throughout the area. Within the church the broken remains of the stone pews form a similar hazard, and in several places the church's floor has collapsed, opening gaping holes into the crypts beneath.

Carefully searching the site might uncover a variety of treasures, grave goods buried with the deceased, valuables and relics stored in the church, even a cache of coins from a long lost offering. Searching the area should be time consuming however, and there are plenty of zombies to go around.

  • The undead have not risen on their own. Now they are spreading to a nearby village and the party has been hired to determine why they are rising and who is behind it. 
  • The original church housed a potent relic and the powers that be want it back.
  • Grave-robbing for fun and profit!

There you go, three random encounters. Hope you enjoyed them!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Reflection Spectre

These extra-planar creatures inhabit the same twisted realm as the Door Haunts. Like their doorway lurking kin they are drawn to the mundane realm by strong emotion, feeding on uncertainty and fear caused by the sudden perception of things that aren't really there. Reflection Spectres are granted passage to the mundane world by broken reflections. Their favored means of access is a broken mirror, and many a magical theorist believes they are the source of the seven years bad luck from a broken mirror superstition.

Reflection Spectres take on the shadowy, broken form of whatever image was being reflected when the reflecting surface was shattered. Most Spectres are passive, short-lived things, incapable of action in the mundane plane of existence. Rarely a Spectre will be lucky enough to capture the reflection of a living creature, imbuing it with a more enduring, active nature. These Spectres have the ability to follow the creature they reflect, moving from surface to surface as their victim moves from place to place. Most people see them as simple reflections, but the victim will notice subtle changes in their appearance, especially when seen out of the corner of the eye or at a distance. Faces blur and melt, colors shimmer and darken, and skin and flesh erodes and decays away.

Spectres will continue to follow their victim, feeding on the momentary surge of disorientation and uncertainty that accompanies each twisted reflection. They have no physical form, manifesting only as an extra-planar reflection of their chosen target. Should their host be slain the Spectres will return to their home plane, and a Superb test of extra-planar magic can break the tie that binds them to their host.

Long term exposure to a Spectre's haunting has a draining effect on the psyche of the victim. Each day of exposure the victim must make test of Will to avoid being snared by the Spectre's dweomer. Those snared find themselves lost in contemplation, staring in eerie fascination at their own reflection in a bit of broken glass or the surface of a pool of water for 1 to 20 minutes. Each time the victim succumbs to this effect they lose one rank of Will for one week. Will loss is permanent until the Spectre is driven off. Victims reduced to zero Will spend their hours helplessly staring at any reflection that catches their eye, powerless to avoid the disturbing changes reflected there.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Pretty Sweet Deals

RPGNow is offering some pretty sweet deals on RPG products now through January 7th. Might be worth a look! I'm looking at Fading Suns, Mouse Guard, and Legend of the Five Rings myself.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Props: Aged Paper

I was digging through my box of old game props and came upon these pages, props from a campaign I ran a few years ago. After reading over some of the text I took a look at the paper itself and realized A) it looked pretty awesome for a prop, B) it was really easy to do, and C) other people might like to use this technique. Here's how to do it.

This is a good place to start, feel free to improvise of course!
  • Good high rag content paper - Typical laser printer or copier paper will just turn to mush.
  • Writing materials that are not water soluble - I use either a laser printer or ink jet with waterproof ink, because my handwriting is horrible. Test your ink if you're unsure of its water solubility.
  • A big Ziploc bag - for treating the paper.
  • Dirt - just a few tablespoons worth.
  • Water
  • Water color or acrylic paint (optional)
  • A steam iron and an old towel (optional)
  • Matches (optional)
  • A mug or cup (optional)

The Process
It's best to do this someplace that's easy to clean up, as it can be a bit messy. I generally do the messy bits outside on the back porch.
  1. Create your document using your writing tools and paper.
  2. Crumple up each page then flatten it several times. You can also fold and crease them if that's the look you want.
  3. Place the pages in the Ziploc bag, insuring there's enough space for liquid to get between the pages. Don't overcrowd!
  4. Add dirt and at least a cup of water to the bag. You want to end up with dirty water, not mud.
  5. Seal tightly and shake carefully to get all the pages wet.
  6. Soak pages for 30 minutes to two hours.
  7. Remove pages from bag and spread on a flat surface to dry.
  8. Once pages are dry rub them to remove excess soil that may have accumulated (or not).
You can stop there with some pretty good looking props, but for more options...

Before putting the pages in the Ziploc:
  • Iron them flat by dampening your old towel and placing the pages between its folds. Iron using high heat.
  • Carefully scorch the edges of the pages with matches (have water handy).
  • Using your mug, create some ring stains on the pages (coffee works quite well for this).
After you remove the pages from the Ziploc but before drying:
  • Apply some diluted paint (earth tones or greens work well for this) using a Q-Tip or crumpled up paper towel, allowing the stain to spread over the wet surface of the page. Warning: acrylic paint will permanently stain surfaces!
  • Add more ring stains with your mug.
  • Re-fold, re-scorch or re-iron if desired.
Your done!