Thursday, March 31, 2011

A to Z April Challenge

(I know I've been MIA for a week or so; I got hit with the flu. Blegh.)

I've basically decided to pick up the A to Z April Blogging Challenge -- you know, the one letter a day, 26 days, Sundays are a break meme. To make it more of a challenge I also decided to do it cold, with no pre-prepped list of topics. I am a brave fool, why yes ;3

I make no guarantee said topics will have gameable material or even be game-related except in my own head. Fair warning ~ *grin*

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Monster: Brass Jackal

Brass Jackal
Armour Class: 2
Hit Dice: 2**
Move: 150' (50')
Attacks: 1 bite
Damage: 1-6 (special)
No. Appearing: 1-2
Save As: F2
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: Nil (special)
Alignment: Neutral
XP Value: 30

Clockwork constructs of bronze and black iron, brass jackals take their name from the smooth shell of brassy armour that encloses their delicate internal workings. The eyes of a brass jackal are softly glowing orbs of blood red crystal, and their teeth likewise. Brass jackals are sometimes used as roaming sentinels but are more commonly encountered as the guardians of treasures and shrines.

In combat a brass jackal bites, its crystalline teeth inflicting 1-6 hit points of damage. The danger it poses lies not in its bite alone, but in combination with its sideslip ability; every other round the jackal may teleport anywhere within a fifteen foot radius, taking that opportunity to attack as if backstabbing like a thief.

Brass jackals are immune to non-magical weapons. They have a +3 bonus to saves against spells cast directly upon them.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Monster: Khetirr

Armour Class: 5
Hit Dice: 1+3*
Move: 150' (50')
Attacks: 1 bite
Damage: 1-8 + flames
No. Appearing: 1-8 (1-12)
Save As: F1
Morale: 9
Treasure Type: Nil
Alignment: Neutral
XP Value: 19

The khetirr is an elemental-touched variant of the giant ferret. It's pelt varies from sooty black to the colour of burnt cream, and the creature can envelop itself at will in an aura of crackling flames. The khetirr is more foul-tempered than the average ferret and will attack any creature that disturbs it or its lair; if successfully trained as a kit, it makes for an unusual guard animal.

In combat the khetirr bites for 1-8 hit points of damage. When its flame aura is active, its bite attack inflicts an extra 1-4 hit points of damage; likewise, any successful attack with a melee weapon causes 1-4 hit points of damage from the flames as the attacker gets scorched in the process. If especially riled the ketirr may lock its jaws upon a successful bite, inflicting 1-3 hit points of damage automatically per round but causing its Armour Class to worsen to 7.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Inspiration from odd places

On, a spambot popped up in a thread and (among other randomness, presumably), posted the following:

There are vampires in caves and forts all over Cyrodiil, and Daedra Hearts can be found in the realm of Oblivion.

A poster noted "That's quite poetic for a spambot." I think I'll take it one step further, and see what I can't whistle up as game inspiration -- with a few name changes and whatnot of course -- from such an interesting~ little spambot ...

Deadly Gardens

Brought upon by musings and the previous post --

I like plants that decide the PCs are dinner. I especially like plants that have bulbous, snapping jaws, like the greenfang and marrowlight and the upcoming post of "killer watermelons" -- nothing says "aiiie" like a plant sprouting (ha) a gaping maw. Plants are supposed to get eaten, not be the eaters!

Thorned plants can also be fun, whether found in rough sculptures, taking on animal forms, or even animating the dead. But they're a different kind of fun than killer chompers.

So, I want to hear about any deathplants out there in other people's games! What kind of greenery have you sicced on your players?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Some wee wandering critters, post the first

Over on Zak S's blog he made a post that ended with his asking commenters to fill out a What's Chewing On That Carcass? Table For The Last NonDungeon Place Your PCs Were. It's been a bit since an active game, but memory told me my table would be:

1. (really twitchy) green rat people
2. a deathcluck
3. giant fire ferrets
4. brass jackal
5. rabid watermelons
6. Pac-Man

And, for the giggles, I think I'll write up and post all of these. They won't be groundbreaking but it'll entertain me ;3

Now, the green rat people were in fact one of the very first things I posted here on this blog, but I don't think I've ever done the rest. So, without further ado:

Armour Class: 8
Hit Dice: 1/2*
Move: 90' (30')
fly 90' (30')
Attacks: 1 flurry
Damage: 1-4
No. Appearing: 2-16
Save As: Normal Man
Morale: 10
Treasure Type: Nil (special)
Alignment: Neutral
XP Value: 7

The nightmare of farmers and foxes alike, the deathcluck is best described as a manic, predatory chicken. In nearly all ways a deathcluck resembles a mundane dusky brown hen, if an unusually large and stocky one; then the thick pick of a beak and long curved spurs get noticed, followed by the streaks of red feathers down its face -- and the bloody gleam in the bird's beady eyes. Flocks of deathclucks have been known to invade farmsteads in order to free -- or kill -- mundane poultry.

In combat a deathcluck lashes out in a flurry of spurs and pecking, inflicting 1-4 hit points of damage. Every three rounds it may use a fury battery, flying at its victim's face and pummeling with its wings, stunning it for one round if a save vs. paralyzation is failed.

A rare strain of deathcluck possesses a ruddy, copperish sheen to its plumage and the ability to ignite its victim's wounds on fire once a day, inflicting 1-3 hit points of damage a round until extinguished. This variant is sometimes given the (very overblown) name of flaming chicken of doom.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Humanoid Trait Tables

The following set of tables can be fun for quick-and-dirty humanoid species creation, or just for spicing up an everyday encounter with goblins and orcs.

Not every single table needs to be used, but nothing says you couldn't, either ~

Roll 1-3 times on each or as desired:

Hit Dice
1. 1HD
2. 2HD
3. 3HD
4. roll again and add a +2 hp modifier to the result
5. roll again and add a +4 hp modifier to the result
6. Hueg Humanoids! roll twice and add the results together, ignoring another roll of six

Animal Traits
1. claws or small horns (1-4 hp damage)*
2. fangs or large horns (1-6 hp damage)*
3. hooves
4. wings (50% functional)
5. fins (50% granting a swim rate)
6. animal hide (fur, feathers, scales ...)
* may be completely theriocephalic

Weird Traits
1. extra arms (1-4)
2. extra legs (1-4 ... centaur goblins?)
3. multiple eyes
4. skin oozes slime
5. tentacles
6. mismatched body parts

Funky Colours
1. neon blue/green/pink/etc
2. animal pattern (leopard spots, tiger stripes ...)
3. monochromatic
4. camoflaged
5. paisley (wtf)
6. roll twice; use both

Special Abilities
1. infravision
2. poison (paralysis)
3. charm resistance
4. Armour Class bonus (1-6; tough hide, scales, awesome armour, magical aura ...)
5. speedy (extra attack/round)
6. elemental attack (1-6 hp damage)

Special Weaknesses
1. photophobic (-2 penalty to actions in sunlight or bright light)
2. vulnerable to holy water
3. obvious weak point (double damage if struck; marking on forehead, discoloured patch of flesh ..)
4. poor Armour Class (1-4 penalty)
5. unnaturally low morale
6. weak against element (half again damage from fire, cold, or electricity, etc)

1. to pillage and raid all they encounter
2. to found a new humanoid camp or colony
3. to party! come join the fun!
4. to find allies against enemy humanoid community/tribe
5. to find captives for sacrifice to their gods
6. roll twice

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Magic Item: Greysoul Shards

Greysoul Shards: Found in bundles of 1-4, wrapped in rough linen or the furry hide of some small beast, greysoul shards are long thin wedges of a strange translucent black substance -- not metal nor glass -- that taper to razor-sharp points. Though some claim the shards to be tangible darkness, this has not been proven.

A shard may be thrown like a dagger, inflicting damage as the same, but that is not their main purpose -- a target struck by a shard finds that the shard passes through their body, skewering their shadow and pinning it to the nearest solid surface. A creature so pinned cannot move further than the length of their shadow until the shard is pulled free (which may be done by anyone other than the victim) and is wracked with icy terror, forcing a morale check every round -- with a -1 cumulative penalty -- to be able to function.

With every use there is a 50% chance that a shard will shatter once pulled free of a victim's shadow.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Magic Item: Mala of the Hexad

Mala of the Hexad: The mala of the hexad is a set of prayer beads, meant to be worn around the neck or brandished at a target. There is no one substance from which the mala must be made; examples have been known to be fashioned from bone, wood, musk, rose petals, or large seeds.

Each example of the mala of the hexad grants its owner a +1 to any defense against offensive elemental sources; this may be a bonus to a saving throw against a spell, a bonus to Armour Class against an elemental's attack, or similar. Additionally each mala sports 1-6 stone beads, usable once a day unless noted, selected randomly from the following types:

- air (crystal): speak telepathically for up to one hour, or plant a single suggestion
- earth (jasper): meld with earth/stone for up to four hours
- fire (carnelian): double movement rate for an hour or gain an extra action
- water (aquamarine): heal disease or purge poison a number of times a day equal to the number of stone beads
- light (topaz): go without food and water for 24 hours
- darkness (onyx): paralyze and blind target, paralysis lasting for four hours

Sunday, March 13, 2011

One-shot items

I've always had a soft spot for single-use magical items, especially in the low level games I find myself running. They're a convenient way to give a reward to PCs without needing to worry about lingering issues of power, can occasionally result in interesting examples of strategy, and frankly are just plain fun.

(why yes, I'm also quite fond of them in my video games, why do you ask?)

The quintessential single-use item is of course the potion, and one can get a fair bit of mileage out of different sorts of potions and elixirs. Adding other types of items -- be they called tokens, charms, or whatever else -- brings in a welcome variety, and the trick here is to make each type somehow interesting or evocative. A single token needn't have a whole history attached to it (though there's no reason one couldn't do that!); but a little bit of detail beyond "this item grants [blah blah blah]" goes a long way, even if it is only a name and a brief description.

The following are a handful of example items; being intended for a Red Box game they are quite low-key, but they serve the purpose. Higher level games can always scale up accordingly:

- Dragon King's Scale: a single scale of glittering silver-gold, granting a +2 to Armour Class for four rounds

- Direction Mirror: a small round mirror that will reflect a single spell of level two or less

- Voiceless Bell: a jade bell with no clapper that creates silence for two rounds

- Scorpion Tail: palm-sized indigo scorpion sting that paralyzes for two rounds

- Sheepcount: a handful of woolen bolls that cause sleep for 1-4 rounds

- Blessed Kiss: silver prayer beads that allow a single turning as a 1-3 level cleric

- Time's Arrow: multicoloured dart that grants a single extra action in the following round

- Sage Insight: a small illuminated scroll that grants a +1 to a single save type for 1-6 rounds (different scrolls for different saves)

- Decree of Order: a golden orb that grants a +2 bonus against chaos for two rounds

- Will of Discord: a scarlet spiral that grants a +2 bonus against law for two rounds

- Essence Fang: shard of solid elemental energy (foam of water, tongue of flame, coil of air, crystal of earth, etc) that inflicts 2-5 hit points of damage of the appropriate elemental type

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Monster: Sau'inpu

Armour Class: 7
Hit Dice: 2*
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: 2 or 1 (by weapon)
Damage: 1-4/1-4 or 1-6
No. Appearing: 1-20 (10-100)
Save As: F2
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: E (U)
Alignment: Lawful
XP Value: 25

The sau'inpu -- crudely referred to as desert jackals by many -- are a species of tall, lean canine humanoids, notable for their narrow, elegant nuzzles, tall tapered ears and short dense fur of jet black, pure white or golden. Cultured creatures, sau'inpu dress themselves in impeccable white linen and exotic furs accented with gold and present themselves as merchants and diplomats of high calibre, all of which is true; but it is their consumption of the dead, whether sau'inpu or other sapient species, that gives others pause.

In combat a sau'inpu attacks with a shortbow when possible, closing to melee with paired daggers when pressed; despite their predatory teeth, they do not bite opponents. Once a target is down, a sau'inpu will take any opportunity within reason to consume the fallen's heart in a death sacrament -- this action, requiring a round, heals the sau'inpu of 1-8 hit points and grants a +2 bonus to all actions for an hour.

For every eight sau'inpu in a community there is one clan warrior of 2+4 Hit Dice. Warriors attack as 3 Hit Die monsters and either inflict bleeding wounds with their daggers, causing a loss of one hit point per round until the wound is seen to, or may use a single first level magic-user (or cleric) spell per day. A clan is led by four Elders who possess 4 Hit Dice and the spellcasting abilities of third level magic-users or clerics (50% chance of either).

Friday, March 11, 2011


Usually found as small solid pellets of a translucent yellowish-brown or in a thin syrupy tincture stored in a jade -- always jade -- phial, magistry has a potent effect indeed: it may be used to restore spell levels expended during the casting of magic. Each dose (a single pellet or five drops) of this rarest of essence-of-amber will replenish a spell level for a magic-user, though depending on circumstances re-memorization of a suitable spell may be required.

There is a notable hazard to the use of magistry more often than once a day; for each successive dose there is a cumulative 10% chance of instead permanently burning out a spell level. Some insidious branches of the Western Empire force magistry on captive or criminal spellcasters, gradually destroying their capacity for magic.

Magistry is usually found in caches of 2-5 doses.

Oi ...

No, I haven't fallen off of the map again already -- just had to deal with training the most evil new arrival to the worksite I've seen in years for two nights, then capped it off with a three-hour dental appointment. Blegh.

Posting shall resume anon! In the meantime, a question that I've surely asked before but the moment, my mind it is a sieve:

I posted a draft of an esper class here on the blog that (mainly because I futz around with the Red Box) only went to third level. Would it be worthwhile to expand the class and see what happens, and -- more importantly for scaling concerns -- would ye folks prefer to see such an expansion run to twenty levels, or to thirty-six?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Unrelated twins: spells

[Found dyed in cobalt and peacock green on a tattered white silken scroll on the one hand, inscribed on verdigrised brass plates in delicate white acid etchings on the other, these two spells appear entirely unrelated though lying amongst the same bleached bones. But are they indeed coincidentally collected together, or is there a connection after all?]

Shining Tear of Time
Level: MU3
Range: 30'
Duration: up to one year / level
Effect: crystalline shell preserves

Casting this spell cloaks up to three feet cubed of physical matter with a dense, fluidly-shaped shell of a translucent, glassy iridescent blue substance. Any material -- or creature -- encased within the shell are placed into an unchanging stasis until the duration of the spell expires or a successful dispel magic is cast; dispel magic affects shining tear of time as if the target spell were three levels higher.

Snapping Clockwork Teeth
Level: MU3
Range: 60'
Duration: instantaneous (see below)
Effect: hostile energies especially disruptive to magitech

By casting this spell the magic-user summons a bolt of cobalt and white semi-tangible energy that inflicts 3-12 hit points of damage. Against clockworks, golems, living statues and similar creations of artifice, however, snapping clockwork teeth inflicts 6-36 hit points of damage as the object is weakened by a webwork of flaking cobalt crystal. Cast against a magical item of magitech or clockwork origins, this spell disables the item for one hour.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Magic Item: The Boneheart

The Boneheart: A singular lute, though related to an older strain of harps, the Boneheart is stripped of nearly all colour; the instrument has been fashioned of bleached wood and cunningly shaped ivory plates, its pegs and details carved of bone and the grillwork of its soundbox woven from splinters of baleen. Only amongst the gut of its strings is there notable pigment -- four of said strings are a deep crimson hue.

So long as the Boneheart is being played, once a round the musician may attempt to charm (as the relevant spell) a single undead target as if it were a living creature. However, no matter the number of successful charms, once the music ceases playing the Boneheart's influence ceases and the effect fades away within one round.

If so chosen, one of the crimson strings may be removed and wound around the neck of a corpse, causing it to rise as an undead creature fully under the control of Boneheart's owner. The undead type is as follows:

1-3 skeleton (shedding flesh as necessary)
4-5 zombie
6 ghoul

Once all four strings have been used in this manner, Boneheart dissolves into dust.

Legends speak of an order of knight-musicians found in the courts of Aejeron -- now the Shattered Plains -- that consorted with the dead and cloaked themselves in ivory and bone. A connection to the Boneheart and other such instruments is often speculated, but unproven.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Monster: Parvani's Curse

Parvani's Curse
Armour Class: 4
Hit Dice: 2*** to 6****
Move: fly 120'/40'
Attacks: 1 or by spell
Damage: 2-12 or by spell
No. Appearing: 1
Save As: C6
Morale: 9
Treasure Type: Nil
Alignment: Chaotic
XP Value: 35 - 1175

Parvani's curse is seldom seen; this troublesome daemon much prefers to feed from its victim from deep within a magical item or some other precious object. If cast from its hiding place by any means, Parvani's curse reveals itself as a coiling mass of topaz scales and spurs, a reptilian daemon with cunning silver eyes that hangs silently in mid-air.

At will, a Parvani's curse may inhabit an unclaimed magical item or any object of at least 100gp value. If the chosen object is not magical, the Parvani's curse will often create some minor enchantment, such as a +1 bonus to Armour Class or the ability to use a single first-level spell once a day. Once its object has been claimed by an individual for twenty-four hours, the Parvani's curse may use a soulbite to snarl its victim's fate 1-4 times a day, typically causing one of the following effects:

* -1 Str for an hour
* -1 Con for an hour
* 1-6 hit points of damage
* -2 save vs spell, poison or paralysis

If the inhabited object has detect magic cast on it a number of times equal to the Hit Dice of the Pavani's curse within it, the final spell will show the curse coiled inside. Any attempts to destroy cursed or evil magic -- or attempts to dispose of the object -- will cause the Parvani's curse to materialize and attack (or, if it possesses the spell, attempt to charm the item's bearer).

Only if materialized and sorely pressed will a Pavani's curse engage in physical combat, lashing out with spurs, claws and fang for 2-12 hit points of damage. A Pavani's curse possesses the spellcasting ability of a magic-user equal to its Hit Dice in levels; it cannot be harmed by nonmagical weapons.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Book of the Burning Sands: the first fragment

[This spellbook -- or, rather, portion of spellbook -- has seen better days. Sages are uncertain whether the tawny scroll's surface is of papyrus strengthened by magic to the durability of parchment, or of parchment enchanted to resemble papyrus; the lettering and diagrams of the spells upon the scroll's surface are inked in sooty black, accented with vermilion and gold. A scattering of notations in the language of the Shining Sands describe the binding of desert spirits, but the scroll is incomplete -- it breaks off after the third spell, tattered and scorched, and the ragged end-edge where a winding rod should be hints at a missing introduction at the least. As the Book circulates through learned circles, quests for the remainder of the scroll have been mounted but have so far been unsuccessful.]

Level: MU1
Range: 50'
Duration: 2 rounds
Effect: Sets subject alight

This spell sets a single subject on fire, causing 1-4 hit points of damage on the first round and an additional hit point of damage on the second; if used to ignite a target soaked in oil, the damage from the spell is doubled. The double damage will also apply if the subject is in contact with at least a pound of sand.

Junari's Dustcurtain
Level: MU2
Range: 60'
Duration: 8 turns
Effect: Concealing curtain baffles attacks

Casting this spell creates a swirling barrier of golden, garnet-flecked sand measuring up to 400 square feet in dimension (10'x40'). This barrier obstructs missile attacks (inflicting a -3 penalty) and baffles line-of-sight spellcasting. The dustcurtain may be penetrated physically, but those crossing through it take 1-4 hit points of damage from the sharp, burning sand crystals.

Desert Spite
Level: MU3
Range: 0
Duration: 4 rounds
Effect: Incapacitates foes with heat

Casting this spell causes the temperature within fifty feet of the magic-user to suddenly spike, as searing, flickering winds begin to whirl. For the first round, affected creatures are at -4 to all actions; for the second and third round, the penalty is -6 to all actions and movement is halved. The fourth round resembles the first, as the winds weaken. The magic-user may designate up to six subjects to be unaffected by desert spite at the time the spell is cast.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Plentiful Potions

Aah, potions. Those useful little gulps of liquid, especially when they happen to be a potion of healing and one's hapless PC is in desperate need of hit points; dungeon standbys, really, especially in the low levels where I tend to have most of my games.

Magical potions have an appeal for me (as do one-shot items in general, but more on those in another post), evoking a certain alchemical flavour on the one hand and strange herb-brewery on the other. They can easily get a little boring, however, especially if delivered with a routine "you find a potion of healing/invisibility/ESP" -- so here are a few thoughts on making potions a little more interesting.

Standard Descriptions: This one is an old chestnut but always bears returning to; give each non-poison potion type a typical suite of details. (Sure it makes identification progressively easier -- until the party comes across a flat of botched or deliberately altered potions -- but that's not always a bad thing. Rewards for observation are good!)

Maybe invisibility potions are typically completely colourless, filled with uncountable tiny bubbles and rather thin. A potion of growth may be syrupy, granular, and the colour of flesh or a deep greenish-brown. Potion descriptions may even be specialized within certain time periods, specific cultures/organizations or both; unsettled were the PCs in a past campaign when, unwittingly on the trail of a certain small god's cult, they kept coming across potions of healing of a distinct deep crimson, thick and vaguely metallic-tasting. Certainly they worked just fine, but it was like drinking blood -- which was exactly the point.

Other forms: Of course, the liquid-in-a-vial potion is the "industry standard"; but changing it up a bit can make for a nice change of pace. Some of these alternate forms are as easy or easier to make use of than the "standard" potion, some harder:

- Powdered: Sealed in a waxen packet or small pouch, this potion requires mixing with a liquid (mmm, magical Kool-Aid) before being consumed. On the upside, no worrying about bottles breaking ...

- Tinctures: Found in tiny phials indeed, droppers of metal or glass encased in a "sheath" and often hung on a chain or lace to be carried around the neck, tinctures are highly concentrated and are meant to be dropped under the tongue or -- frequently -- into the eyes. (If there is more than one dosage, be careful!)

- Fruits or other edibles: Enchant a peach instead of a potion? Why not? This one is a classic, used in everything from Snow White to Dark Sun.

- Absorption gels or crystals: Now we get a little stranger, with ovals of flexible crystal or gelatin (or stranger things) meant to be applied to the flesh directly. Perhaps they fall off immediately; perhaps they stay attached until the effects end, slowly changing colour or being absorbed by the body.

- Injectibles: Almost a standard potion, except this one needs to go into the flesh by the direct route. Whether administered by the "poison pin" of a ring, through a cut in the flesh, or perhaps by its own specialized mode of delivery (perhaps a bulb of glass with a long 'stinger' -- break off the tip, drive the thing home), its all good.

And here is a new potion, just to round things off:

Ghostsight Potion: Murky grey-white threaded with colourless marbling, a ghostsight potion seems to swirl a little whenever it is watched for a time; it resembles mist or fog captured in water. When a ghostsight potion is consumed, it grants the ability to perceive intangible, invisible and ethereal creatures for 2-7 turns.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Monster: Pakh (Goblin Cat)

Armour Class: 5
Hit Dice: 3+5***
Move: 150'/50'
Attacks: 2 claws + 1 bite or by weapon
Damage: 1-3/1-3 + 1-4 or by weapon
No. Appearing: 1-8
Save As: F4
Morale: 10
Treasure Type: D
Alignment: Chaotic
XP Value: 150

The pakh, or goblin cat, is a malicious and vindictive creature that delights in playing with its human (or demihuman) prey. In its natural form a pakh is an oversized coal black cat with burning yellow-green eyes, its claws and fangs licked with greenish fires; but the goblin cat may freely take on the shape of an ordinary housecat or a slender human with dark hair and shining green eyes. Using its alternate shapes, the pakh insinuates itself into a community or masquerades as a helpless lost pet or wayward traveler.

In combat a pakh will attack with its claws and fangs in feline shape, inflicting 1-3 hit points per claw and 1-4 hit points per bite -- but the goblin cat's fires cling to its victim, causing an additional hit point of damage per round until doused. In human shape a pakh will fight with whatever weaponry may be at hand, and can ignite its chosen weapon in the same manner as its natural armaments. Once a day a pakh may steal breath by touch, causing the subject to lose a point of Strength for twenty-four hours. At will, it may inflict a bane on little cat feet, causing a -1 penalty to all actions for twenty-four hours; multiple such "cat curses" are cumulative.

A pakh cannot be harmed by non-magical weapons unless crafted from rowan wood or rosewood. Some elder goblin cats are said to have the spellcasting abilities of third level magic-users or even greater.