Saturday, November 24, 2012

More Monsters Coming Soon

Sorry the blog has been silent for a couple of weeks, my friends.  More monsters coming very, very soon.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

I Gotta Get This Off My Chest - Old Fantasy vs. New Fantasy

Alright, I normally don't like "rant" posts, because they're little more than self-serving.  However, I decided to indulge my selfish side and get this message out, because I think it needs said, and you may agree or disagree freely.  I will not take offense.  It's the view I hold, and here it is.

I've been spending a lot of time with old paperbacks, like the one pictured, old pulps from the '40s, and material from the sword & sorcery genre written well before the inception of D&D.  Here is my observation:  too much of modern fantasy is informed by what D&D brought to the world as an implied fantasy setting, and is too informed by modern political correctness.  Where is my proof?  Well, just off the top of my head (like I said, this is a rant, not a dissertation), Jim Butcher wrote a role-playing group turned werewolves into his books about Harry Dresden.  Dragonlance still sells.  And how many Forgotten Realms novels are there?  A billion, you're right.  (We'll get to PC influence in a minute.)

Most big-name fantasy tomes, and I use the word tomes to purvey a sense of the page count of most of the epics coming out these days, are Tolkien-esque imitations.  There is little in the way of the manly and un-politically correct heroes of yore who exist in a world that is just plain old out to get them.  Sure there are a few authors still writing this kind of thing, but just like everything else these days that has suddenly become mass-marketable (I'm looking at you D&D), the things masquerading as heroic fantasy or sword & sorcery usually aren't the kind of visceral, imagination-inspiring, sword-wielding, death-escaping stories of yesteryear.  Too often I see "sensitive" heroes, or the author dwelling on how things make the character "feel."  We've lost the action, the adventure, and the sense of wonder because fantasy has become commonplace.  I'm not saying that every hero has to operate in the same moral gray area as Conan or his ilk, but the action, atmosphere, and wonderment in those stories far surpasses a lot of what is written today.

I think the crux of the problem is this:  fantasy and science fiction literature used to be outsider entertainment, just like roleplaying games.  Both the stories and the games are much, much, much less so these days due to the huge movies coming out and succeeding (the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings adaptations for instance - which I love, oddly enough), and the onslaught of sci-fi/fantasy video games of the last two decades spurring the genre into the national consciousness.  

It's good in that it will never, ever go away and that there will always be a market for fantastic imagination, but it is heavily diluted with marketing.  Decisions are made to tame things down in stories because it might offend people, and that was rarely ever a concern of the pulp fantasy writers even up through the 1970s because of how society was at the time (white-centric, male-centric).  I totally get why companies do it, but I think people are offended far too easily, especially today in 2012.  Quentin Tarantino is getting things right with his movies - push the limits!  Challenge what people think.  Smack them in the face with something.  Rattle their stupid post-modern cage.  That's what the original S&S stories did.  They were vivid, lurid, and in-your-face.  They sold exactly because they were shocking!  The words popped off the page, even in some of the poorly written stuff.  I'm just so sick of reading about nature-loving elves, mountain-dwelling dwarves, dragons, paladins, and worlds that aren't weird.  That is normal now.  I don't want a normal fantasy novel.  Ever.  I wish Quentin Tarantino would take a shot at sword & sorcery.  He'd get it right.

Now get off my lawn.

(Addendum:  Sometimes I think the above thoughts are what really rankles a lot of us in the old-school gaming community.  We desire what the game was before it was marketed and diluted.  Of course, it is in OUR hands to take back that feeling.  And it's what the OSR has been doing all along.  It can only be done in a niche of a niche today.  This whole thing is why so many of the monsters I've put up here on the blog have that old pre-D&D pulp fantasy feel to them.  The rules serve my world, not the other way around.  You can even do that with 4E and Pathfinder - remember Rule Zero.  We shouldn't have been at war with the rule set, we should have been at war with the marketing.)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Witch - A Plug and A New Monster

Over at The Other Side, Tim is having a little contest.  Go here to read about it.  While you're there, make sure you check out the preview of his book The Witch (for Basic era games).  I thought his contest was not only a cool idea, but the notion of cross-trafficking that bloghop with his own Monstrous Monday bloghop was pretty novel.  I decided to take that novelty a step further and enter his contest along with bringing you a brand new monster that fits the concept and the season.  And yes, this one totally violates Wheaton's law, or so my players will say.  I am indeed a fan of Tucker's kobolds, just so you know.  Hey, they get multiple saves before they die... 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monstrous Monday Post Roundup on Hit Adjacent Ally

I've posted a lot of monsters over the past month (and there's more to come since this has been so good for me creatively).  Here is a link roundup to all the posts on this blog.

THE MONSTERS OF HIT ADJACENT ALLY SO FAR

Monstrous Monday: 3 New Monsters

In addition to the monsters I've posted throughout the month, I wanted to finish strong, so I've given you all three more monsters today.  However, I have many more ideas, and at least seven more write-ups.  Expect them to keep coming indefinitely for a while.

Chameleon-Men of the Jungles of Gath
Hit Dice: 2
Armor Class: 12
Attacks: `1 weapon (1d6 + weapon modifier) or psychic disorientation
Saving Throw: 16
Special: Psychic disorientation, hide in shadows (jungle only) 95%
Movement: 9
CL/XP: 3/60

The chameleon-men of the Jungles of Gath are savage and vicious men, appearing much as any human being, but with distinctive gray skin that, when in the midst of jungle foliage, mottles and blends into the background, much like an actual chameleon.

Chameleon-men have the ability to psychically disorient their foes. They can focus this ability on one target each round, and the victim must make a successful saving throw or be afflicted by a loss of balance, equilibrium, and direction (gaining the sickened condition for 1d4 rounds). A target may only be affected by this disorientation again if the effect has expired. Otherwise, chameleon-men may attempt to disorient a foe as many times as they wish if they are not successful.

 
Swarmonids of the Fell Pass
Hit Dice: 2
Armor Class: 12
Attacks: `1 swarm (2d4 + distraction)
Saving Throw: 16
Special: Distraction, ½ damage from slashing/piercing weapons, automatic damage, cannot be flanked
Movement: 9
CL/XP: 4/120

Lurking in the Fell Pass, the only easy way into and out of the City of Sages, Taltun, are the swarmonids. They are permitted to waylay those travelers as they see fit, so long as they do not attack those in the employ of the Sages, or those on official business to the city. Anyone not flying a banner of the city is at risk when traveling through the pass.

The swarmonids are small, 2 ½ to 3 feet tall at most, and they attack in rabid swarms – sometimes with bare hands, sometimes with tiny weapons. They are treated as a swarm in every case, as they are never encountered in groups of less than twenty. They resemble small green men with black hair and pointed ears.

A swarm must move into an opponent's space to attack them, but it deals automatic damage without need for an attack roll. When a swarm damages an opponent, they are distracted unless they make a successful saving throw. If the save is failed, a character is considered nauseated and suffers a -1 to all attacks, damage, saving throws, and ability checks for 1 round from the distraction. A swarm cannot be flanked or backstabbed, and it suffers only half damage from slashing and piercing weapons.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I Love Misspelled Words

I now love misspelled words.  I've had a few hits on the blog because of a search for this:

d&d alignment axes

Of course, that word should be axis.  But I don't care.  It brought them to Hit Adjacent Ally by some crazy little internet quirk.  And I like it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I Treasure My Fellow Gamers

I just wanted to write a quick post to all of you who have joined the blog or are following through other means in the last several months.  You are truly treasured!  I love hearing from other folks who play these silly games of ours, especially the folks firmly embroiled in creating things for old rule systems.  Your comments are always welcome and appreciated.  Some have been crying out that the OSR has become something less as of late, but I heartily disagree.  My Google Reader page is chock full of goodness every single day from all the great old school blogs out there.  Sure, some have disappeared over time and some have gone commercial, so to speak, but that's how this thing called the internet rolls.  I just wanted to say thank you to those who thought what I was doing here was worthwhile enough to read or steal to use in your game.  I love monsters, so expect a lot more of those, and expect a lot more about my game world that you can mine for your own.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monstrous Monday: Black Hornet of the Green Moon

 

This one's going to be a real pain-in-the-you-know-what for the PCs.  Let's hope they never find a way to make it to the green moon they see in the night sky.  However, they seem to always find a way into certain death...

BLACK HORNET OF THE GREEN MOON

 
Hit Dice: 2
Armor Class: 13
Attacks:  1 bite (1d3) or 1 sting (1d6 + poison)
Saving Throw:  16
Special: Poisonous sting, attach
Movement: 4, Fly 16
Challenge Level/XP:  4/170

On the green moon of Negalu, even insects take on a life-threatening and sinister aspect.  The black hornets of the Green Moon make their nests in the tree-tops of the Negalan jungles, spending the majority of their time foraging for food and growing their nests.  Since it never winters on the moon due to its proximity to the sun, black hornets are always active.  They are notoriously hostile, often attacking for no larger reason than their victim crossed into their flight path.  They are nearly three feet long, and incredibly fast when flying.  Even the warlike Negalu-Men fear them, for their sting often means agonizing death.

Black hornets will always attack with their bite first.  On a successful attack they deal 1d3 points of damage and automatically attach to their victim, dealing instant sting damage.  The victim of the bite is considered grappled, with all relevant modifiers applied, and removing the hornet is resolved with a grappling contest.  As long as the hornet is attached, it may deal automatic sting damage each round.  Black hornets may use their poison in combat every 1d4 rounds, a roll of 1 indicating the very next round.  Victims of the sting will take 1d6 points of damage and must make a successful saving throw or suffer the effects of a particularly virulent poison.  It has an onset time of 1d4 minutes, after which the victim will sustain 1d6 points of damage for 1d4 rounds.  A sting from an attached hornet will always do 1d6 points of damage, whether it can use its poison in that round or not.

Quick Note:  My monsters will make use of my house rules.  Most often referred to will be Conditions, which I converted to S&W from Pathfinder, and put out Condition Cards for you in the blogosphere to have a look at (see link in the right bar).  Also, very few spells will match their standard counterparts in S&W as far as names go - for instance, curse of chaos and disorder is confusion.  I just like how it sounds better.  Plus, it makes use of conditions - so substitute in your own stuff if you feel like it.  All the artwork above is "found art" on the internet, so if it winds up being owned by you and you don't like it being here, just say so and I'll take it down.  These are pictures that inspired me, and they're used out of respect.  No infringement intended.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

My Current Appendix N

Every once in a while I catch a post from the blogosphere referring to their own personal Appendix N, which in turn influences their game world.  Well, time for me to join the ranks.  What follows is a list of selections that have informed my game world(s) in the past two years - as I uncover more, I'll give a shout.  This is just a few that really stand out.

Tales of Mars (SFBC novel anthology) - Edgar Rice Burroughs
Owls Hoot in the Daytime (Anthology) - Manly Wade Wellman
The Sword of Rhiannon - Leigh Brackett
Brak: When the Idols Walked - John Jakes
Tarnsman of Gor - John Norman
Ringworld - Larry Niven
Ringworld's Children - Larry Niven
Gather Darkness - Fritz Leiber
Fragment - Warren Fahy
Mister B. Gone - Clive Barker
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - Susanna Clarke
Redbeard - Michael Resnick
The Book of Ptath - A. E. Van Vogt
Conan the Savage - Leonard Carpenter
Dwellers in the Mirage - A. Merritt
Ursus of Ultima Thule - Avram Davidson
Wizard by Trade (Novel Anthology) - Jim Butcher
World War Z - Max Brooks
Johannes Cabal The Necromancer - Jonathan L. Howard
Shadow Kingdoms (Anthology) - Robert E. Howard
Elak of Atlantis - Henry Kuttner
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
The Best of Weird Tales 1923 - Ed. Kate and Betancourt
Best of Weird Tales - Ed. Betancourt
American Gods - Neil Gaiman
Lovecraft Unbound (Anthology) - Ed. Ellen Datlow
Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos - H.P. Lovecraft and Others
Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories - Algernon Blackwood
The Return of the Sorcerer (Anthology) - Clark Ashton Smith
Out of the Silent Plant - C.S. Lewis
Hell's Angels - Hunter S. Thompson

As you can see, I dabble in many genres, but it's heavy on old sword & sorcery/planet.  And yes, I happen to like Gor.  Even though it's a misogynistic ripoff of the John Carter stuff.  It has that Mars feel about it, and I love it, even when it's really bad.

Of all the weirdness above, I will recommend Redbeard by Michael Resnick.  I found it at a flea market - it's printed on paper so pulpy it breaks when you dog-ear a corner to mark your spot (I hate bookmarks and I don't collect books for the value - they are to be read!).  It's a post-apocalyptic tale about a normal man who is generally a brutish oaf, including being a rapist and murderer, who ends up holding the fate of humanity in his hands - and promptly kills it.  It's remarkably well done, and even though I thought the protagonist was annoying at times, he's supposed to be.  Find it and read it.  There's like a bajillion of them on Amazon for 22 cents and up.  It really has that awesome old S&S feel to it.



Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Campaign Notebook: The Necropolis of Voor

(Written to be a primer for the players before the campaign begins.  This place will be pure nightmare for the PCs.  I've got a reputation to uphold for being a devious S.O.B. at times, and it wouldn't be one of my games without the promise of hardship for the PCs.)

The Necropolis of Voor is haunted by mystery.  From its practical origins as an interment site for the extinct Voori race to the legends of the incredible fortunes it hides, it has captivated the minds of the more adventurous in Antediluvia for centuries.  However, no one enters the Necropolis without fear being foremost in their mind.  It is said the mountain itself is alive, that it can sense intrusion and repel it with its defenses, which are said to include the bodies of the reanimated dead, traps, and the remnants of Voori sorcery. 

What began as a mountain-top cemetery for the honored dead of Voor grew over thousands of years to encompass the entire outside surface of the mountain.  The Voori began to build monuments to house their dead after this, building on top of the graveyards of old.  When the monuments began to fill, it was decided that a complex must be designed and built within the mountain itself to house the bodies of the dead to come.  Centuries passed as the project commenced and was completed, but in the process the Voori discovered, hidden under the mountain, secrets of dark sorcery and the dark masters that ruled them until they disappeared completely.  No one knows what these masters were or what sorceries were taught to the Voori by them, but certain hieroglyphs found within the first several levels of the Necropolis mention them in passing.  

After the discovery of their new masters, the Voori were taught their secrets, which may or may not have been limited to the worst sort of sorceries.  Mention has been made of strange technology found within the pits of the mountain.  The Voori came to dwell entirely within the mountain, caring nothing for the outside world any longer, wanting only to worship their masters and learn their secrets.  Their sizable nation fell into discord and ruin, leaving no legacy other than the Necropolis and a few places in the wider world named for them.  They disappeared from the earth, and only recently have the Necromancers of Naat found evidence of Voori activity again after many centuries, but they have noted that the creatures calling themselves Voori today are no longer of mankind.

It bears note that the Necropolis attempts to claim those who enter without permission.  It sends dark messengers of various sorts after those who pilfer the dead that rest there, and very little is known of the interior other than what the Necromancers have uncovered and brought back from the tombs, and only that which (as relates to physical objects) the Necropolis did not send its messengers after to retrieve (resulting in the deaths of the interlopers in nearly all cases).  It is these expeditions that have returned with horror and rumor as their only treasure that have fired the ambitions of many adventurers in the lands near the mountain, but few have actually dared to delve the Necropolis.  Those who live in the surrounding country avoid traveling too near it at all costs, and consider those who wish to plumb its depths foolhardy or insane.  

However, the lure of riches is strong, with some strong enough to ignore the warnings.  For those that the promise of treasure does not snare, there is also the rumor of rare knowledge secreted away below the mountain by the Voori of old.  The Necromancers of Naat have laid near-exclusive claim to finds in this regard so far - and most have escaped with little else but their lives and memories intact and live in fear lest the mountain send something to claim what they took, tangible or otherwise.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Monstrous Monday Addendum: Charnel Ape of Pit-bottom

CHARNEL-APE OF PIT-BOTTOM


Hit Dice: 2
Armor Class: 11
Attacks:  2 claws (1d4 each), 1 bite (1d6 + poison)
Saving Throw:  16
Special: Poisonous bite, blindsight, phosphorescent glow
Movement:  12, Climb 15
Challenge Level/XP:  4/170

Deep at the bottom of the Shaft of Spiderspire (that great vertical shaft that connects the temple at the peak of the mountain to the pits below where the Elder Spider dwells) live a degenerate race of beings that are much like apes, but can operate in the blackness of the pit.  They subsist on the garbage and sacrificial remains tossed into the Central Shaft by the Spider Cult and the denizens of the Spire, but only those which are uneaten by the Elder Spider and her brood.  They can see perfectly in total darkness, requiring no light, working much like bats with echolocation.  Truly, their heads resemble more a bat's than an ape's.  They can jump up to 20 feet, across chasms, from wall to wall, and to a floor or ceiling, and still cling to sheer surfaces without any effort at all.

They can climb with frightening ease and speed, even up sheer surfaces.  They can be found on nearly every level of the complex, as they work their ways up the shaft and into the recesses of all regions of the Temple Below.  They do not hide well, however, as they are limned in a phosphorescent glow as a result of the consumption of garbage containing magical energies and their close proximity to the demon-god that is the Elder Spider.  This glow grants them no benefit, but is rather a hindrance, granting enemies +1 to attack them if there is no more light than just a torch.  

One other side effect of the charnel-apes' subsistence on refuse is their highly poisonous bite, made so by the necrotic detritus they eat.  If a character is bitten by a charnel-ape, he must make a saving throw.  If the saving throw fails, he is poisoned, and the poison will start affecting him in 1d10 minutes, during which time he has the nauseated condition.  When this time is up the character immediately takes 1d6 damage for the next 1d6 rounds.  If the character's saving throw was successful he is merely nauseated for 1d6 rounds.

Monstrous Monday Addendum: Wax Mockery

WAX MOCKERY


Hit Dice: 30 hp (6)
Armor Class: 14
Attacks:  2 slams (1d8) or 1 weapon (1d8 + weapon modifier)
Saving Throw:  11
Special:  Mimic, immune to slashing / bludgeoning / piercing damage, immune to mind-affecting spells and abilities, speak any language
Movement:  12, Climb 12
Challenge Level/XP:  9/1100

Though the population of the city of Taltun is small, the Sages have seen fit to create special automatons, wax mockeries, to serve as their special guardians and secret police force.  In their natural state they appear as featureless humanoids made completely of beeswax, and smell of wax and honey.  They exist solely to blend in with the populace, which consists largely of mercenaries and scholars, and indeed can take on the appearance of any person they study for at least one hour.  Not only do they mimic the appearance of their subject, but they also mimic perfectly the clothing, gait, physical traits, voice, mannerisms, and habits of whoever they are studying.  After transformation, which is quite complete, even the odor of wax and honey being removed for the time the wax mockery spends in its new form, they are nearly identical to the person being imitated.  People who know the subject well must succeed at an Intelligence check with a -4 penalty in order to detect that the creature is not the person being mimicked.  They are magically imbued with the ability to speak all languages known to the Sages of Taltun, and this excludes very few - only the rarest of languages in Antediluvia will be an exception, and they even have record of the languages spoken on the moons Negalu and Nibiru as they have traffic with the beings there.

This ability has implications far beyond mere police work.  The Sages guard their knowledge jealously, and take great care to safeguard their secrets.  They have no qualms about sending a wax mockery to kill and replace an interloper in the city, and it is not unheard of for rival Sages to infiltrate each others' laboratories and libraries using a wax mockery as a spy, although it is strictly forbidden for one Sage to kill another, even by proxy.  They can climb, since they are naturally sticky as they are made of beeswax, and can do so alarmingly fast.

The wax mockery also has a few abilities beyond its ability to mimic.  It can reform its body when it is damaged - if a limb is separated, it simply has to hold it in place for 1d3 rounds and it is reattached.  It is immune to all mundane attacks of a piercing, slashing, or bludgeoning nature due to this.  Normal weapons do not harm it.  Magic and magical weapons will harm it as usual, and indeed, only magic can penetrate its physical defenses.  The only noticeable effect of normal weapons upon it is the release of the smell of wax and honey in a 10 foot radius.  Also, it can detect any magic spells or items in use within its range of vision, and the same goes for any invisible creature.  They are difficult to surprise, being surprised only on a 1.

Exploiting Pulp Era Fantasy

When I launch the campaign I'm gearing up for right now, it will include things I have borrowed wholesale from pulp era fantasy and science fiction, especially the sword & sorcery and sword & planet genres.  You will probably ask if my players will recognize any of these things and be able to figure out what direction things are headed in based on what they know.  Well, I'm sad to say that my players know absolutely jack about pulp era fantasy other than watching the Conan movies and perhaps dabbling in one or two of the stories.  I'm the only one of the group who went backwards after reading the Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy and found The Hobbit, and then Lovecraft and Howard and Burroughs.  A lot of the ideas I'm going to be using will be fresh to the players since their most common literary conquests are likely to be in the vein of George RR Martin or whatever new slab of paper holds the current epic high fantasy tale.  Myself, I've been buying old pulp magazines, scouring the internet, and adapting art I stumble on to game mechanics (I'm all visual).  They do not know of Barsoom from things other than the John Carter movie (which I liked a lot, sue me), they've pretty much never touched the Lord of the Rings in book form (some of them own it but just haven't really read it), and the real Conan has never been seen in their mind's eye.  Fafhrd?  Grey Mouser?  Matt Carse?  Solomon Kane?  Herbert West?  These names are well known to those of use who read the fiction of the 1930s-1970s.  But for those living in mainstream D&D land they are not as well known as could be.  Yes, I said Fafhrd isn't well known.  Just ask someone who has only played since the late 2E era who that is.  I dare you.  It is a rare answer in these parts when they say, "Yes, Fritz Leiber rules!"  Of course, I'm delving way deeper, into authors that came and went during that period that even some well-read fans may not have explored before.  And I'm stealing ideas like I was a third-level thief.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Monstrous Monday Addendum: Necropolis Spearhound

Here's one for the adversarial GM in us all.  It's going to suck for the players.

NECROPOLIS SPEARHOUND

Hit Dice:  5+5
Armor Class:  15
Attacks:  1 spear (1d8+3)
Saving Throw: 12
Special: Wounding spear, telepathic harassment, tracking, prey scent, immune to spells that affect the mind, cause sleep, and charms
Movement:  12
Challenge Level/XP:  8/800

The Necropolis of Voor is many things.  It is a dungeon, a mountain, and a grave site for the extinct Voori people.  Rumors of vast wealth and forgotten knowledge draw adventurers and treasure-seekers from far and wide, but very few ever make it out of the mountain's depths alive.  This is because the Necropolis seems to "awaken" to intrusion, becoming more and more deadly the closer adventurers come to its heart.  Truly, it is semi-sentient and insidious, and has the power to raise the dead and put them to its defense, a power given to it long ago by the sorcerers of Voor to protect their honored dead.

When something important is taken from the mountain, or interlopers who manage to escape with their lives remain too near the Necropolis after they leave its depths, the spearhounds, who appear much as any skeletal undead, are dispatched to retrieve the stolen items and capture or kill those who entered Voor without permission.  Killed and captured treasure-seekers are always returned to the depths of the Necropolis to become part of its retinue of undead guardians, becoming spearhounds themselves if they are destroyed by the horrible sickness the spears of these creatures inflict.

When the victim of a spearhound is wounded by its spear, which is fashioned of one piece of black iron, the wound is immediately more painful than it should be, bestowing a cold, stinging sensation under the typical pain of a normal spear wound.  This is the beginning of the curse the wounds inflicted by one of these spears carry.  The wound cannot be healed by normal or magical means while the spearhound who inflicted it still lives, and if the initial encounter is not immediately fatal and escape is managed, there is a 50% chance each day that the wound grows worse, inflicting another 1d8+3 points of damage that cannot be healed if the spearhound is not destroyed.  After its destruction the wound is free of the curse and can be healed.  If the character dies because of this wound, he will rise as a spearhound himself in 1d6 days, during which he will rot at an exponential pace and he cannot be brought back to life by other means.

While a character is cursed by the spearhound's wound, the spearhound haunts his mind by telepathy, made possible by the curse of the wound.  Visions of decay, death, and the hound itself haunt the character randomly and will be of a highly disturbing nature.  This activity will manifest 1d4 hours after escaping from a spearhound, and is represented in game terms as a -2 to all saving throws that would normally be modified by Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma.  This limited telepathy does not allow the spearhound to determine where the victim is hiding or how hurt he is, but it will know if the victim dies.

Escaping the spearhounds will not be easy for their victim.  They are able to track their quarry, much like a ranger, with a 95% chance of success day-to-day (only one roll is necessary per day for them to stay on the trail).  They are also able, while a character is under their curse, to detect them by scent at a range of 200 feet.  They can pinpoint the scent to within 20 feet of where the character is hiding.

Destroying the spearhound who inflicted the cursed wound will free anyone who is afflicted by it, and all telepathic harassment will cease.  No character may be cursed by more than one spearhound at a time, although his pursuit may be carried out by several spearhounds working as a unit.  Note that to anyone but a spearhound, the black iron spears are simply regular weapons and cannot be used in the same way by a character.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hit Adjacent Ally Monster Round-up (So Far)

This is the sort of weirdness in regards to magic that I try to portray to my players.  Unrelated content to post, I know, but a side note worth noting.  Magic should be utterly strange when dealing with old-style sword & sorcery and sword & planet settings.  As much as I've enjoyed the high fantasy approach over the years in other campaigns, weirdness is my preference.

I thought it would be useful to round up the posts in which I created or converted monsters for my game, to help those of you who may be looking for some inspiration in this regard.  Plus, I want to collect them into my GM campaign document, and felt like getting all the links into one place.  I love lists, and sometimes looking at lists of my own stuff helps me to focus on new creations.

THE MONSTERS OF ANTEDILUVIA

Quick Note:  My monsters will make use of my house rules.  Most often referred to will be Conditions, which I converted to S&W from Pathfinder, and put out Condition Cards for you in the blogosphere to have a look at (see link in the right bar).  Also, very few spells will match their standard counterparts in S&W as far as names go - for instance, curse of chaos and disorder is confusion.  I just like how it sounds better.  Plus, it makes use of conditions - so substitute in your own stuff if you feel like it.  All the artwork in the posts  is "found art" on the internet, so if it winds up being owned by you and you don't like it being here, just say so and I'll take it down.  These are pictures that inspired me, and they're used out of respect.  No infringement intended.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monstrous Monday: Vomiting Spirit of Voor

VOMITING SPIRIT OF VOOR

Hit Dice:  3
Armor Class:  14
Attacks:  2 slams (1d6) or 1 vomit (special)
Saving Throw: 14
Special: Ectoplasmic vomit, half damage from blunt/piercing weapons, change shape, immune to mind-affecting/charm/sleep-inducing spells and effects
Movement:  9
Challenge Level/XP:  6/400

Many creatures unknown to the surface world are found in the depths of the Necropolis of Voor, but amongst the most insidious are the undead abominations that make their home there.  Spawned by the rampant blasphemous sorcery of the Voori and its proximity to so many buried dead, the restless spirits here are ever-changing and always insidious.  The vomiting spirits of Voor are creatures of pure emotion, consisting of the ectoplasmic residue of decaying haunts and foul sorcery.  Physically they are generally man-sized and roughly humanoid.  Potential victims receive a +1 to surprise if they encounter these creatures since they are never silent, always sending forth wet gurgling noises from what passes for their throats.  They are solid, but viscous-looking, and they leave drippings of ectoplasm as they move.

In melee, vomiting spirits attack with what appear to be arms, but also resemble ectoplasmic tendrils that extend from their bodies, having the harmless side effect of covering the victim in foul-smelling slime.  There is a 3 in 6 chance every round that they will vomit forth ectoplasm at their target, which for game purposes can be considered to be a ranged attack that can be directed at a single combatant up to 10 feet away.  If hit by the spirit's vomit, the victim is immediately nauseated for 1d6 rounds, and must successfully save or be confused for 1d3 rounds, as the latent spiritual energy present in the ectoplasm erodes the personality of the target temporarily as he struggles with visions and voices that are not his own.

As beings made of ectoplasmic slime, they can change their physical shape to squeeze through openings or holes in walls, doors, etc.  It takes 1d4 rounds for the spirit to effectively change its shape to flow through a gap too small for it to normally get through.  They also take just half damage from blunt and piercing weapons due to their nature, and are completely immune to any spell or effect that affects the mind, such as charms, sleep-inducing spells, and any effect considered mind-affecting.  They can, however, be turned.

Quick Note:  My monsters will make use of my house rules.  Most often referred to will be Conditions, which I converted to S&W from Pathfinder, and put out Condition Cards for you in the blogosphere to have a look at (see link in the right bar).  Also, very few spells will match their standard counterparts in S&W as far as names go - for instance, curse of chaos and disorder is confusion.  I just like how it sounds better.  Plus, it makes use of conditions - so substitute in your own stuff if you feel like it.  All the artwork above is "found art" on the internet, so if it winds up being owned by you and you don't like it being here, just say so and I'll take it down.  These are pictures that inspired me, and they're used out of respect.  No infringement intended.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Monstrous Friday? No, A Real Life Monster (sort of...)

Look at the picture.  Cute, right?  That's what we thought when we bought two of these little guys.  They are amazing fun to watch run on their wheel and tunnel.  Plus, they get up around dusk, so my girls can actually watch their hamsters play.  We've had them for a while, and we like them.  They're not as awesome as our black bear hamster or guinea pigs, but they're pretty cool and they're fun creatures to care for.

Until this morning.

We awoke as normal, and after I had dressed, my daughter came down to the basement and asked me "Dad, why is there fluff in the hamster cage?"

Well, it turns out the more aggressive of the little guys ATE HIS CAGEMATE.  ATE him.  ALL of him.  There was just fur and leg bones.  Now, he appears to be getting very, very sick and is incredibly agitated, so he's probably going to die, too.  As much as I hate to say it, because I really like the little guy, it serves him right.  Freakin' cannibal.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Monstrous Monday Late Post: 2 New Monsters


BANSHEE-RAIDERS OF THE RED MOON

Hit Dice:  1+1
Armor Class:  12
Attacks:  1 weapon (1d8 + weapon modifier)
Saving Throw: 17
Special: Piercing wail, steal life force
Movement:  12
Challenge Level/XP:  4/120
 
On the Red Moon of Nibiru that floats through the night sky of Antediluvia dwell a race of beings referred to as the banshee-raiders, named for their horrible, piercing wails and proclivity for looting settlements.  There are many things to fear on the moon of Nibiru, but the banshee-raiders are far up the list.  Their heads and faces are bat-like, their arms gangly but heavily muscled, an their unholy nature is quite obvious upon casual observation.  They dwell in the deserts and harsh places of Nibiru, ever wandering, conquering as they move from ruin to ruin.
 
They can emit a piercing wail (3 in 6 chance per round) that will deafen characters in a 30 foot radius, with no saving throw permitted.  This is, however, a secondary effect of the wail.  The primary effect, which receives a saving throw, is to drain the life force of the victim.  Each banshee-raider may choose a single opponent within 30 feet on which to focus this effect (for they may only drain one life at a time).  A failed save will result in the victim of the wail taking 1d4 points of temporary Con damage (resulting in appropriate hit point loss if it reduces a bonus or incurs a penalty).  For each point of Con damage, the banshee-raider gains 1d4 hit points and a +1 to attack - the maximum they may attain is an extra 5d4 hit points and a +5 to attack in any single day, and this only lasts for 12 hours.  Once a victim of the wail is affected in this way, he may not be affected by the wail of any banshee-raider for 24 hours, with the exception of the deafness effect - this can occur again as soon as the condition is expired or lifted.
 
 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Musing On Monsters

My favorite D&D monster book.
As you may have noticed, the blog has lain fallow for a couple of weeks while I'm in the midst of dreaming up monsters to write up and post here.  I have quite the list of sordid beasties to detail and "publish," but my list got me thinking.

It turns out I have a real distaste for the late 3.X and 4.0 style of naming monsters.  It's taking a couple of words, mashing them together, and sticking them in front of the monster type.  For instance, and this is a completely fabricated monster name, you might see things in late 3.5 Monster Manuals or 4.0 Monster Manuals that read something like "sorrowsworn drake" or "deathdealer zombie" or some other similar (and bland) name.  I even have an issue with the basic monster names of earlier editions, too.  Orc just doesn't cut it anymore for me, since I have been trying to get away from standard D&D and Tolkien fantasy for more pulp-era Sword & Sorcery fantasy anyhow.  (Let me note right now that I have no real problem with the systems themselves, only some of the naming conventions of monsters - there's a lot to like about 3.0/3.5 and especially 3.PF and even, dare I say, 4.0 - minions and random recharge powers in particular).

Thus, I have chosen suitably pulp-like names for the monsters you shall see.  How about the Watchers of the Pit, the Bird-Men of the Floating Island, and other such names (expect to see those written up, by the way).  I also view it as a way to begin deciding what is where in my game world.  It's a wonderful way to map out where the monsters belong, naming them in this way.  And I prefer not to make up fanciful names for them (even though certain monsters, like the crodlu of Dark Sun, have wonderful names in this vein - but there are so many bad ones out there).

I came to this realization while using some random monster name generators on the internet to spark ideas (an amazing way to find inspiration, if you've never tried it!).  The modern 4E style naming conventions found in some of them were sorely lacking.

And yes, I realize this is purely preference.  Some folks like what I consider bland, and etc.  This is all just what the post title says - Musings on Monsters.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Magic and Power Sources

I used to think the Harry Dresden books were crap "urban" fantasy cranked out for the cash.  I seem to think that of a lot of fantasy novels published these days.  The problem is that I'm making a snap judgment before ever having read the books - I'm judging them by their covers, and equating old as better in all cases, which is patently wrong in a lot of ways.  There - confession out of the way.

I am happy to say I'm almost through the third of the four Dresden books that I have acquired in the last couple of years.  I am absolutely hooked, and I love the series.  Of course, I'm way out of chronological order at the moment, but they're written in such a way where it doesn't matter so much.  Harry reminds me a lot of myself in many cases - some of the same struggles (family, personality, etc., of course - I don't have mold demons in my car, even though it might smell like it).

One thing I came across while reading Blood Rites gave me one heck of an idea for revising the wizard class for old school and related games.  Look at this passage:

"Supply and demand," I said.  "There are limits to what outside forces can deliver to the mortal world.  Think of the incoming power as water flowing through a pipeline.  If a couple of people are using a rite once every couple of weeks, or every few years, there's no problem pumping in enough magic to make it work.  But if fifty thousand people are trying to use the rite all at once, there isn't enough power in any one place to make it happen.  It just comes out as a little dribble that tastes bad and smells funny."

Murphy nodded, following me.  "So people who have rituals don't want to share them."

I can't remember what blog I read it at, but the blog's author was investigating Vancian magic and why wizards drive a hard bargain on spell trading.  It comes directly from Jack Vance's Dying Earth material.  Between that and the above passage from the Dresden book I'm into at the moment, it inspired me to determine that as with any form of power (electricity, fire, cold, etc.) there has to be a method of generation.  My current version of the wizard is much the same as the core S&W rules with a few tricks up its sleeve.  The rewrite is going to infer some of the above assumptions.  The wizard must decide where he gets his power.  Innately, from a pact, from book-learnin', or even from an item.  Then I'll have to decide if the power source can be severed from the power user at any point.  This may help me in trying to fix the "I'm a first level wizard, just cast my first and only spell, and now I suck read bad" problem.  When I figure it out I'll post it.  Until then, mull this over.  It's a wonderful assumption about the actual "system" of magic as it exists in the game world.

Friday, September 7, 2012

More Monstrous Monday

The Monstrous Monday Bloghop seems to be growing by leaps and bounds!  What a great tool the code for the Hop list is - if you look to the right of this post you'll see it below the Monstrous Monday banner.  There seriously oughta be more of these going on.  Maybe I'll organize something in the future right here....  We'll have to see how it goes.  I'm ridiculously busy with trying to create monsters right now, and trying to get this lesson for Sunday school finished.  After MM concludes, we shall see.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Monstrous Monday

Tim over at The Other Side has set up a blogfest all about my favorite thing - monsters!  Go here to read about it.  I'll be contributing my share of monsters, all original creations, probably for Swords & Wizardry with some of my weird and wonky house rules included - which I'll reference if the monster makes use of them.  I'd do some Pathfinder entries, but, well, that's mental gymnastics and I'm not up for it for a while.

Campaign Notebook: Vigilantes

I love films and comics about hard-nosed vigilantes - the clear delineation between good and evil and a simple way to solve the issue always appealed to me.  I abhor any type violence in the real world, as it is never constructive and is in opposition to what Christ teaches us about loving our enemies, but in the fantasy world of books, movies, and comics, it is an ingrained part of the heroes' world and a legitimate method of solving problems.  Indeed, it is often the only way in a violent game world to stop something from becoming way, way worse.  The real world doesn't typically let crime slide so out of control that we have the complete insanity that you would see in something like Hobo With A Shotgun or even Death Wish.  And games are an escape from the real world, where we can see things in black and white and the choice to stop a criminal by any means necessary is simple.

That being said, I've come up with the germ of a campaign idea for D20 Modern or maybe Savage Worlds (if I feel like learning a new system this would be my first choice, Alternity coming in close behind it).  It would take place in a semi-post-apocalyptic (how's that for vagueness?) city at first, perhaps like the cities of The Warriors or Escape from New York - in other words, it's the points of light idea from 4E grafted onto a modern/near-future setting.  The PCs are the vigilantes or bad guys gone good, who are sick and tired of the chaos of endless gang warfare and being hassled on the street.  Bodies are piling up, and the only way to solve it is to strike.  Crime lords and a feudal gang system have to be dealt with, as well as the equally sick government that allows things of that nature to thrive and become partners instead of enemies.  Serial killers operate in the open, and other varieties of human monsters are on display as well.

For material, I'm going to mine movies like Death Wish, The Warriors, 1984, A Clockwork Orange, all 3 Punisher films (including the one with Dolph Lundgren), Escape from New York/L.A., Cyborg, Terminator, Mad Max, Day of the Dead, and various less-well-known vigilante and near-future post-apocalypse films.  Judge Dredd comics and the corresponding D20 game by Mongoose are going to get mined for anything useful as well.  I may have to inject a little extra testosterone into my players' bloodstreams.  One or two of them may lack sufficient quantities for this to truly get them excited.

The cool thing about all of this:  when I run out of mundane-world ideas or the PCs solve the world's ills, I simply turn to the back of D20 Modern and choose a campaign outline and gradually introduce out-of-control weirdness onto the streets in the form of D&D monsters.  Ah yes, the chaos never ends. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Campaign Notebook: Ghost Hunters

My wife loves the TV show Ghost Hunters - she's always loved stories about the supernatural, and peoples' pursuit of it, and answers to life after death (now that she's Christian, like me, we have those answers, but the shows remain interesting and that's not necessarily on-topic anyhow).  It occurred to me that the only way she might play roleplaying games with me (she doesn't really enjoy the concepts of D&D or RPGs in general) is if I develop a campaign specifically focusing on ghost hunting - which I have plans to do.  I'm not sure what system I'll use yet, since I want to use something rules lite so it's easier for her to learn (Do I need a Modern OSR-related hack, or do I go with a different system built for horror games or use... shudder... slimmed-down GURPS?  Perhaps CoC will serve me best, now that I think about it.).

Anyhow, I would begin the campaign much as the TV show, with one investigation after another, which progressively get more obviously supernatural.  Eventually, after all this leads to success in the characters' lives, the government takes notice, or perhaps a large corporation, and begins to investigate them and what they do.  This in turn will lead to ever-scarier investigations, and perhaps put them in the middle of some shady business deals or even a warzone or two if the government is involved.  And perhaps those employers want to enlist the aid of the supernatural for their own ends?  The possibilities are endless!

PS - The Campaign Notebook series of posts are a way for me to keep track of my inspiration for campaigns so I can get the ideas out of my head, on "paper," and under control.  The side effect is you get to see what some of my possible future campaigns will be!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Campaign Notebook: The Repository

I've always loved the idea of the Hollow World setting that TSR put out about 20 years ago (and it's various literary inspirations, like Pellucidar).  In particular I liked the idea that the Immortals saved cultures on the brink of extinction by moving them to another place where they can thrive, in whatever relative fashion.  Then I thought, what if the cultures were literary archetypes or even specific characters or places?

What this idea has done is give me another idea, a moment of inspiration, after reading a little about the Appendix N kickstarter that's going on for DCC.  I've always wanted to run a really gonzo campaign with whatever system suits my fancy (and for this one, it's probably going to be Pathfinder, since I have so many sourcebooks for the players to snatch from).  I call it The Repository, or The Library.  It's where all fantasy literary ideas go after they're published for so long and forgotten about, or only cared for by a segment of existing readers (take, for instance, various cult Appendix N titles).  The "world" would be populated by characters, places, cultures, etc., that exist within fantasy fiction - all fantasy fiction, whether set in the modern day or in some forgotten time.  Think of it like looking in on a sort of "Neverending Story" of fantasy literature.  It's the supreme fantasy mash-up.  You could have Conan-esque barbarians alongside elves alongside technomancers alongside psi-warriors alongside evil Cthuloid cultists alongside Arthurian faeries alongside mythological heroes alongside kobolds alongside Harry Dresden alongside Buffy alongside.... well, you get the picture.  Any idea, literally any idea, made possible by the various permutations of the D20 System and its plethora of genre sourcebooks and settings, will be possible, including monster classes.  It will be a campaign limited only by the sheer imagination of those involved.

Sure, there will be imbalance.  We'll handle that as it comes.  Sure, it creates too many options.  That's part of the fun.  

Think about it - how fun would it be to mix a class like the Psion from the Complete Psionics Handbook (3.5E) with a cool prestige class from D20 Modern or even... choke... D20 Star Wars or D20 Fading Suns?  Yes, I think this could be a great idea.  How would Pathfinder's Gunslinger work with a similar shoot-em-up style of class from the various 3rd-party Modern supplements?  Let's go one step further.  How about using the Troll monster class from Savage Species and combine it with Fast Hero from D20 Modern or something equally offbeat?  What about an aasimar with Jedi as the base class, who later takes levels in the Horizon Walker prestige class or learns spells like a Sorceror?  I just sold myself on this with that one!

Oh yes...  This will require some house rules.  But imagine the pure insanity.  Dice flying everywhere!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Fantastic Languages

It is my experience that there are generally three schools of thought on languages in RPGs. 

School 1:  D&D Vanilla-ism
Codified languages based thoroughly on race and boxed for convenience by the rules of the game from setting to setting, varying only slightly.  Examples:  Common, Elf, Dwarf, etc.  Detailed, but without detail.

School 2:  Who Cares
Some groups could care less who speaks what, they just don't really give a thought to it.  They want hacks, slashes, loot, and survival.

School 3:  Details, Details
Here's where I fit.  My game world is defined in part by its languages.  I don't want it to be terribly easy for the PCs to communicate with someone else from a different nation.  I want language barriers to reinforce that it is a fantasy world that changes with the actions of the party and others.  Should all the PCs instantly speak something so bland-sounding as Common?  No - but they'll probably speak Karthaginian, since it's the most widespread empire on the map.  There are probably going to be individual languages found within that same empire, as well, since it stretches so far.  The folks in Megiddo speak Megiddian, there's the dead language that was once spoken by the Voori (Vooric), and perhaps local dialects of Karthaginian spoken in Antioch, Pergamon, or Pangkot.  Just within the area south of one of the main bodies of water in my game world, you have the following: Xotathi, Phyrgilian, Lengite, Kombolo, Kongese, Uccastrogi, Aktenshepolite, Seljuk, Kanaima, Ongian, Yezidee, Haemodite, and Khapuran.  

And then I get the urge to do something really weird - well, it is sword & sorcery/sandal/weird/pulp fantasy-influenced, right?  Here are a few I just dreamed up - not sure what, if any, game mechanics are going to be involved, but I'm going to work some of this into the magical background of the game.

Black Speech:  A tool for evil beings, sorcerers, and priests of dark gods.  Strangely, it can enhance the efficacy of evil magic (that is, magic used for evil purposes), but also opens psychic doorways to things that lurk in the Outer Dark, influences that can creep into the psyche and possess the speaker.

Red Speech:  The secret language of vampires, hidden from mortal eyes at all costs.  Even learning this language can bring strange urges to mortal minds.

White Speech:  The language used by the priests of the Nameless God of Megiddo, the only pure and benevolent god in all the lands.  It is used to cancel any effects of the Black Speech, and for divine rituals.

Vooric:  A dead language, once spoken by the extinct Voori people, but preserved through the undead speakers that still exist within the Necropolis of Voor.  It has a pictographic alphabet, and it is necessary to understand many of the rites of the Voori practiced in the mountains depths.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Seriously Awesome Basing Solution for Paper Minis

This link comes from a forum all about paper minis - if you're into them, you've probably been there, but this was too good not to share!

Here.

Dice and Kids

I think my two girls share my affinity for all things dice.  They are constantly bugging me to play with them, and they've begun to ask about the games that are played using them.  My oldest has even picked up a game book or two (since she can read extraordinarily well for her age) and has flipped through them.  I believe she tried reading Gary Gygax's introduction to the 1E DMG the other day, since that book was laying out.  Naturally, the robust word choice foiled her attempt.

This leaves me facing a conundrum.  The oldest is definitely old enough to play a roleplaying game with Dad and be able to understand the basics, but the youngest, well, she hasn't learned all her letter sounds yet.  I would love to start them off with a nice, girl-oriented, fairy or Oz type of game, and make it very easy for kids to understand, but I'm not sure I want to frustrate my youngest.  I may wait.  She is going to be a stubborn one, and she hates to learn if it bores her, and it does most of the time.  The oldest is the exact opposite - she's a sponge.  It's amazing that two kids 15 months apart are that different.  And for sure I'd have to keep violent conflict out of it at such a young age.  Not only do I not want them to think that is a way to resolve a problem, they just wouldn't understand it.  We don't let them watch television with violence in it, so they're very unaccustomed to seeing it in any more detail than Tom & Jerry or Looney Tunes.  I mean, I even turn off wrestling if it gets too bad (or vulgar, but that's another matter) - they've never even seen MMA and they're not allowed toy guns (and those of you who know what Anabaptists/Mennonites believe about violence, that's us, and that's why).

Any of you dads out there - how've you handled the young 'uns?  How did you deal with kids that couldn't read much or wanted to play with Dad but the game was beyond their understanding as far as the rules?  I know there's a few of you out there who have used roleplaying as family time, which I think would be amazing, but for the hurdles involved.

Friday, July 27, 2012

House Rule: No Experience Points

I haven't used experience points in at least ten years.  It goes back to my days with 2E, when I began to detest the calculations involved and keeping track of numbers during the game, since it was always impossible to remember who did what at the end of the game (we kept track of individual experience totals for each character back then, instead of divvying everything up equally for the group).  However, my longest running 2E campaign rarely kept track of XP this way.  It was a bit more of a typical campaign, the only oddball being a halfling cleric that spoke every language in my game world (Helenista).  That is when I stopped handing out experience and we ruled that every 2-4 adventures, we would raise levels.  If I wanted the PCs to move quickly through beginning levels, it was every 2 adventures, and then I slowed it down during the mid-level sweet spot to every 4 adventures.  It worked pretty well.  It's something I kept doing throughout 3.0 and 3.5.  I've never once handed out experience points while running a 3.X game.  Nor will I ever do so with 3.PF, which I do intend on running (it's too cool not to, and I love messing with rules like 3.X encourages).  I will be taking this rule into the canon for my S&W/Frankenstein OSR game.  Depending on how quickly I need to move them along, they'll advance 1 level every 2-4 adventures.  Complete adventures, mind you, not just sessions. 

What's the side effect of doing this?  Well, in OSR games it helps negate greed and murder as a primary motivation.  It might be right for a certain character in the game who has that sort of persona, but when that is the main way characters are rewarded it fosters that behavior as proper within the context of the game.  I thought to myself - would I want my children (I have two daughters, 5 years and 6 years) playing a game in which greed or murder are rewarded?  Easy answer.  No.  When you take that away, and reward the PCs with level adjustments based on them actually completing adventures, it has the effect of motivating them toward story goals and thinking about what their characters would do instead.  Some may see this as "against" an OSR game philosophy.  I say that those particular folks have put the game on a pedestal on which it does not belong, and that no game is important enough to argue about or "revere".  The "spirit" of D&D is fun.  Not how you play the game, not what rule set you use, and not "keeping it old school."  It's... a... game.  So, with that in mind, I freely adapt what I see fit - and since I had a problem with the moral issues in play with the older XP reward systems, and to some extent the current (PF/3.5) ones, I made the switch to the system I use now, which is the lack of one.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Dungeon Doesn't Care

Dante's Underworld doesn't care if you survive.  Neither does Leptis Magna.
Since the game world I'm using now is one I intend to be used for multiple campaigns and different rule sets, I have created enough dungeon space to keep the group going for a long, long time.  There are, as I count now, 3 megadungeons including Leptis Magna, Spiderspire, the Necropolis of Voor, and several more large dungeons that I know exist within the known portion of the world.  Too many, you might say.  Just enough, at least for my gamer ADD, is what I say.  Surely the PCs will not become embroiled in all of them, but see, in my world, they are interconnected in a very Underdark sort of way.  Tunnels to and from different dungeon areas exist underneath the continents, and some of them might as well be mega-highways for the nasties below ground.  Some of the dungeons have their own sets of rules, like the Necropolis of Voor, which seems to come alive to repel any attempts to gather its secrets, going back to the idea some have maintained about the dungeon as an "underworld" setting.  Not entirely off base, although I don't think I'd necessarily declare it to the players in my campaign.  We'll have to see how far I can take the idea, depending on my gumption levels.  One thing I will definitely adhere to is a rule I have about dungeon ecology - the dungeon doesn't care if a game is balanced.  It does what makes sense.  If it makes sense for a gaggle of nasties too difficult for the players to defeat to live in a particular area on Level 1, well, then, they're going to live there.  If the PCs don't run, they face their fate with blank expressions and morbid surprise.  This is going to be difficult for my group to grasp at first.  They're used to 3.5 and 4E.  The balance factors present in those versions of The Game may have spoiled my guys.  This I shall accept.  They began playing that way with 2E and I was surely part of that problem.  I facilitated it.  But no more.  Take an extra PC, suckers.  Don't worry, if they die, I'll make it fun.  Or gross.  Or both.

New Monster: Vulkanite

Vulkanite

Hit Dice:  3+3
Armor Class:  12
Attacks:  1 touch (1d4 plus 1 Con dmg)
Saving Throw:  14
Special:  Con damage, can only be hit by silver or magic
Movement:  Fly 12
Challenge Level/XP:  4/120

 The vulkanites are near-incorporeal denizens of the depths of Leptis Magna.  They are of mysterious origin, and not many who have encountered them have survived to tell tales of their existence.  It is theorized that they were cursed in ages past by sorceries now best forgotten, or enthralled by evil gods.  They are cruel and life-hating, and seek to destroy all those who would delve too deeply into Leptis Magna.

In combat, they touch their targets with their wispy claws, and this inflicts a wracking pain that deals 1d4 damage plus 1 point of Constitution damage.  Reduced Constitution, of course, can lead to additional hit point loss if appropriate (by the loss of Con bonus, or if a Con penalty is gained).  Also they can only be hit by magic, magic weapons, and silver weapons, as their sorcerous nature protects them from most mundane forms of attack.

New "Monster": Thuggi Cultist

Thuggi Cultist

Hit Dice:  2
Armor Class:  12
Attacks:  1 weapon (1d6 + weapon dmg modifier)
Saving Throw:  16
Special:  Backstab (x2), strangulation, hide in shadows 55%, move silently 35%
Move:  12
Challenge Level/XP:  4/120

The Cult of Thuggi is a pervasive threat to the Empire of Karthage.  It is a cult of assassins, thieves, and cutpurses who worship a god whose identity is kept secret to all but those initiated into the cult.  Members of the cult have been kidnapping and holding for ransom high-ranking members of the Karthaginian aristocracy with increasing frequency, and often the victims end up slain even if the ransom is paid - the bloody god of the Thuggi demands ritual sacrifice as part of its worship, and the cult will not deny their god.  They are fanatical in their belief, and have been known to slay opposing religious leaders as part of their initiation.  They are especially opposed to the Nameless God of the Megiddians, as the Nameless God is the sole symbol of purity and hope in the bleak world of Antediluvia.

The Thuggi are adept at sneaking up behind their targets in silence and strangling them to death.  As this is part of their training in the cult, these abilities seem to be supernaturally bestowed upon them.  A successful backstab attempt also allows them to initiate their strangulation ability automatically, as if they had won a grapple.  During strangulation, victims take 1d4 points of Constitution damage per round.  If the victim's Constitution reaches 0, he dies, windpipe crushed.  Breaking free of this requires winning a grappling contest (see house rule on Grappling), but the Thuggi gets a +2 bonus to their roll due to the supernatural adeptness of their ability to kill in this way.