Monday, April 30, 2012

Monster Monday: Flukeman

No. Encountered: 1 (1d4)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 90'/120' Swim
Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: 1 (claw or bite)
Damage: 1d6 (claw) or 1d4 + Flukes (bite)
Save: F2
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: II
XP: 30

Flukemen are unfortunate humans and demihumans that have been infected with a parasite found in remote swamps and steaming jungles.  These parasites take control over the host's body, as well as making a number of physiological changes.  Flukemen appear as hairless humanoids whose skin become thick, covered in scabs, and mottled grey in color.  This gives them an AC equivalent to leather armor.  Their mouth has turned into a gaping hole ringed with four large fangs and other smaller teeth.

Before a Flukeman can bite an opponent, it must first hit them with a claw attack.  Once hit, they may make a bite attack with a +2 to hit.  Those bitten by a flukeman must make a saving throw against poison.  Failure indicates that the victim has been injected with a number of living flukes.  Each day there after, he or she must make a save vs poison.  Failure lowers the victim's CON to the next lowest modifier.  For example, a character with 15 CON who failed their saving throw would have 12 CON due to the flukes burrowing into their flesh and changing their physiology.  Once a character is reduced to 0 CON or less becomes a flukeman.

The flukes that permeate the flukeman's body also work to repair it.  Flukemen regenerate 1 hit point per round as the flukes weave them back together.  Fire and acid do not stop this affect, but if the creature should reach 0 hit points or less then its life functions have ceased and it will not reanimate as a troll would.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Coinage of the Dark Country

Inspired by Chris of the Hill Cantons' monetary system and this post on Jeff's Gameblog, I decided to work out the coinage system for the Dark Country.  Note that this is pending the approval of my players who might not want to think about all this nonsense.

Most coinage in the Dark Country is either Western or uses the same system found in the West.  Some are imperial coins that have been found in various caches and put back into circulation via adventurers; however, these are rare.

The Shield is the largest form of currency.  It is issued by the various cities in order to trade between each other on a massive scale.  It is incredibly rare, but it is not unheard of for it to be found in large numbers in old treasuries.  They are called shields because they bear the arms of whatever kingdom or city minted them.  They often have a picture of the current ruler on the obverse side.  Shields are equal to platinum pieces in Labyrinth Lord.

A Gold Shield

The Guilder is the most common of the gold coins found in the Dark Country.  While still issued in the name of a ruler or a city, guilders are backed by the holdings of a guild.*  On one side they will have the face of a ruler, and on the other side they will have a symbol representing the guild that financed the coin.  They are equal to gold pieces in Labyrinth Lord.  Guilders found in Nightwick Abbey likely have the symbol of the Sword Brothers one one side and the face of one of the Hochmeisters on the other.

A Guilder Financed by a Mercenary Company

The Sold is the least common gold coin in the Dark Country.  Most predate the founding of the most powerful guilds and were instead minted directly by cities or rulers.  They typically bare the rulers face one one side and his or her coat of arms on the other.  Some go back to the times of the Empire.  Solds are universally smaller and usually more debased than guilders.  They are equal to electrum pieces in Labyrinth Lord.

An Ancient Sold

Denars are the most common form of currency in the West and therefore also in the Dark Country.  They are silver coins minted by rulers or cities and are marked in the same way as a shield, but are also much smaller.  Denars are equal to silver pieces from Labyrinth Lord.

Two Silver Denars

Nummi are relatively rare coins made of bronze or copper.  They originate in Zenopolis, but many of the Seven Cities issue them themselves.  They are totally unknown in the West.  Nummi are equal to copper pieces in Labyrinth Lord.

Two Bronze Nummi

Zenopolitans and Novgovites have their own forms of currency (both of which include both the denar and the nummus), but I'm too lazy to describe them right now.

*I am aware that historical guilders are named after the Dutch word for gold, but I don't really care and this sounded neat.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Unfocused Thoughts Riffing off Jeff's Saikaido Idea

Jeff of Gameblog fame has been posting has been posting about a campaign set in Japan since before I got a blog of my own.  He hasn't posted about it recently - the last one was late last year - so this isn't really prompted by anything, but I had some ideas about what I would do with a D&D/LotFP game set in historical Japan.

  • I like his idea of using Onmyoji for Magic Users.  The fount of all knowledge (wikipedia) tells me that during the period his campaign would be set the Onmyoji had fallen out of favor due to the fact that they were associated with the now mostly powerless imperial court.  There is something to be done with this.
  • Spirit Folk as children of the imperial line?  Aren't Elves and Magic Users automatically chaotic in LotFP - the system Jeff plans to use?
  • Ok so let's taking those two things together, the emperor is the degenerate descendant of a Great Old One or similar entity and a bunch of humans.  His chief advisers, and all magic users in the campaign, are horrid magicians trained in arts that shatter mortal minds.  
  • I want to emphasize the word degenerate in that last one.  I imagine that he's a far cry from his ancestors and is generally more interested in getting high and engaging in bizarre and petty amusements with the aforementioned advisers.
  • I like Jeff's pick for the historical period, but I'm also tempted to set it during the Genpei War.  I suppose I might think about doing it during the Sengoku period, but I want to keep westerners out of the mix.
  • What I would probably actually do is set it during the era right before the Genpei War, populating it with some of the same clans and historical figures, and then use the Oriental Adventures event tables to decide what happens politically.
  • For rules I'd use LotFP with some bits - especially monsters - taken from OA and Ruins & Ronin.  I'll also likely be taking some things from the 3e version of OA which was/is my favorite book for 3e.  I really like the monster illustrations.
  • If I set it during or around the Genpei War I would try to find a suitable spot somewhere far away from Kyoto to keep the war off camera.  It just needs to be there to explain why authorities don't intervene as much in player antics and to occasionally show up to burn down a village.  If I used the period he wants I'd also put it on Kyushu for the reasons he mentions.
  • I'd use a lot of Japanese mythological monsters but I'd try to interpret them in the creepiest, most bizarre, and horribly cosmic ways possible.
  • Social monsters will live in isolated, out of the way places and most encounters walking down a road or in a city will be with people.
  • Unless it's at night.  Night is bad.
  • Most people in the world only rarely see or interact with monsters.  That's something adventurers do.
  • My very scant Appendix N: Throne of Blood, The Hidden Fortress, the Lone Wolf and Cub Comics, and those Short & Shivery books I read as a kid.

There you have it.  This is probably one of those ideas that I'll never actually run, but the muse struck me so I scribbled this down.

On a related note: one of the first OSR games I ever ran was Mike D.'s Ruins & Ronin.

Armor of the Dark Country

I'm not normally an armor and weapons nut, but I decided to do some quick google image searches to figure out what the different types of armor present in Labyrinth Lord look like in the Dark Country.  Below are examples of each except for scale and studded leather.

Plate armor is found only in the West, and those possessing it in the Dark Country have either brought it with them, stolen it, or paid a Western-trained smith to forge them some.

Western Nobles in Plate Armor

Mail is considered a bit archaic in the West but is still common in the Dark Country because poor knights often rely on hand-me-downs.  Barbarians, Novgovites, and Zenopolitans also commonly wear mail.

Sword Brothers Displaying Archaic Mail, Leather, and Padded Armor

Two Western Knights in Contemporary Mail

Splint armor is fairly common, but it is mostly used by non-Westerners such as Zenopolitans, Novgovites, and Barbarians.

Barbarians Showing Examples of Mail and Splint Armor

Zenopolitans in Mail, Padded, and Splint Armor

Novgovites in Mail and Splint Armors

Banded armor appears in Zenopolitan, and Novgovite armies but is most commonly seen being worn in the West, where it replaces the role splint serves in other areas.

A Westerner in Banded Armor

Leather, like mail, is used by all the peoples of the Dark Country.

A Westerner in Leather Armor

Hopefully this will make it a bit easier for my readers and players to get a sense of what characters in the World of Nightwick look like.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monster Monday: Devil Men

Devil Men
No. Encountered:  1d6 (4d6)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 90'
Armor Class: 5 (4 with shield)
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: 1 (Weapon)
Damage: As Weapon
Save: F2
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: XXI
XP: 25

Devil men are diabolic servants of the demon lord known to men as the Horned One.  In places in which the Horned One's presence is felt in the material plane, his taint acts like a radiation that twists and deforms the unborn in the womb.  Such infants are typically either directly killed by their communities or left in the wilderness to die of exposure.  However, sometimes the parents will seek to disguise their children so that they might live.  This rarely ends well, for creatures touched by such demonic taint will always seek to sow evil into the world, regardless of whether or not they are shown mercy.

This is not the only way devil men come into this world.  The Horned One is known to appear to women and tempt them to engage in all sorts of sexual perversions.  The result of these awful meetings are often devil men, though some have been known to give birth to jackals, goats, and other animals with diabolic intelligence.  Devil men can also propagate their own vile race by mating with human women in the usual fashion.  Even exposed infants have a chance of surviving, for a devil child reaches full adulthood in 1d6 days.

Devil men typically congregate in old ruins known to possess terrible histories.  If the ruin is remote enough and if enough devil men gather there they will form a small village.  These villages will often have mixed populations, with small numbers of humans and beastmen whose clan is closely associated with the Horned One - such as deer or goats - also present in the population.  The vast majority of the humans will be female, and many communities of devil men are led by a human witch or hag.

Devil men are roughly the size and shape of normal humans, but they possess two great, curving horns, yellow fangs, and either red or metallic grey skin. They are typically well equipped, with mail, shields, and expertly crafted weapons.  These are typically gained through trade with sympathetic humans.  Devil men without these contacts will gain their equipment through raiding, in which case their AC should be adjusted to represent the poorly made and ill fitting armor they have scavenged.

They possess a crude form of telepathy that can allow them to communicate silently with other devil men; however, they usually prefer speech as this telepathy requires too much concentration and they will only rely on it when stalking a potential victim.

Devil men speak Common, Pig Latin, and Crowleyian.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hand Drawn Lychgate Map

This is the current working map for Lychgate, rendered in the style of Huge Ruined Scott's Dwarf-Land map, except for the settlements which use the key from the Rules Cyclopedia.  It only has those features that the PCs in my G+ Nightwick Abbey game, and therefore it lacks pagan villages, ruins, and monster lairs. 

click to embiggen

Once I have more of the hex contents figured out, I plan to redraw it to fix some of the little mistakes I made on this one and to use some more "iconic imagery" for the settlements.  When I do that one I'll start with the settlements first so that they don't get screwed up by the landscape like the castle in 0816 and Nightwick Abbey (1607).

I haven't labeled anything yet because my handwriting is absolutely abysmal - it took all my ability to write the name of the map in a way other human beings can read.  The swamp is the Great Swamp, the forest in the eastern section is the Fog-Bound Forest, the mountains are the Nameless Mountains, and the forest in the north is the Witchwood.

One final note: my use of the ACKS hex paper does not mean I'm using that system. Their sub-regional hex paper just happens to be about 1/4 the size of the larger Judges Guild paper. This allows me to break it down into manageable chunks, but will hopefully later allow me to have a Wilderlands map of my very own. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Nightwick Abbey Session Report and Something Else

Zzarchov over at Unofficial Games has provided yet another play report for Nightwick Abbey.

Michael Moscrip of the Grumpy Old Troll has something similar, which appears to be an overview of the places they've been in the abbey.

I believe Michael's is a response to something I posted on G+ where I said that the reason I give xp for player made play reports is that I want the players to be communicating with each other about the stuff they missed in a session they were absent, and for new players to be able to get a sense of what's going on.

Michael will have to confirm whether or not that is correct.

Lazy Post: More Music of the Dark Country

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Questions about the Dark Country Part 2

These are from Anthony who currently plays an extradimensional FLAILSNAILS character in the Dark Country.

Sorry there are some weird issues with the spacing.  Formatting in blogger has been a nightmare recently for some reason I'm not fully aware of.

1) What language do folks speak hereabouts? Common? Is that Zenopoli-common or Backward-pagan-common? Are there liturgical languages? Any others I might bump into?

The "Common" language of the West is a heavily debased imperial mixed with grammatical constructions and words borrowed from the barbarians that moved into that area when the Empire fell.  This is the language spoken by all the lawful settlers, and it is also widely used among the pagans since their many different languages aren't always mutually intelligible and the arrival of Westerners has increased the need to organize.

Zenopolitan is a separate spin-off of Imperial that is as close to the common tongue as Romanian is to French.  Froglings speak Croakish, which is notoriously difficult - but not impossible - for humans to pronounce.  Novgovite is a bizarre mixture of Zenopolitan and one of the more common barbarian languages.  Others exist, but I adopted the LotFP rule about languages specifically because I wouldn't have to detail them all at the beginning.

2) How do locals view sorcery? Is it all devilry or are there other opinions? Are wizards organized?

Magic that isn't obviously clerical or druidic in origin is usually looked upon as being devilish, at least by the Church and the peasantry.  However, the fear it instills is the sort of fear that makes people leave you alone rather than the sort that gets you tied to a stake.  That does occasionally happen though, the whole "tied to a stake" bit.

Wizards are not particularly organized in the World of Nightwick.  They are an untrustworthy and paranoid bunch.  The practice of magic is taught by a master to an apprentice, but larger organizations tend to quickly dissolve due to infighting.  

Nobles, who are fare less frightened of wizards than peasants and tend to think of them as useful tools.  Especially rich nobles will have court wizards - a position many would kill to have, and it is that sort of bloodshed that makes wizards distrust each other too much to form guilds.

3) What is medical practice like? If I were to, say, hack someone up or steal their blood while claiming to “heal” them – would that be grounds for a lynching or business as usual?

Most "medical" practitioners in the Dark Country are so-called wise women who utilize either herbs or magic.  Some court magicians are trained in medical arts that would be more familiar to a surgeon from a fine institution such as yourself - leeches, humors, using hot irons to cure colds.  Since such practices are most commonly done by wizards, the relevant stigmas are attached.

Zenopolitans are much more likely to be familiar with secular medical practice, and theirs is quite advanced - for humor theory anyway.  There you'd just be accepted as a doctor.

4) How do citizens view dungeon exploration? Are we covered by some horrible Abbey-taint such that peasants shun us? What social class are we in, as adventurers?

Typically adventurers are treated somewhere between perfectly normal and insane.  The whole colonization enterprise in the Dark Country is essentially an adventure.

However, Nightwick Abbey is a place of such ill repute that all those who enter it are assumed to be insane or in league with the Pit.  Those who bring dogs with them are especially suspect, because the peasants are convinced that the satanists squatting in the abbey use dogs in their black masses.  

5) Who are the most prominent local pagan gods? Do they live in a place or object? How common is their worship in Nightwick? What about in Lichegate? Is it public or private?

Few of the Old Gods are "prominent" in Nightwick because their worship is proscribed.  If asked, the local peasants will only look furtively at the local Woodsman's Lodge and say they know nothing.  The lodge is decorated with a large set of elk antlers.

The Brotherhood of Thieves and Assassins is rumored to worship and Old God/Saint/Demon named Saint Death.  She appears much like a depiction of the Lady - the first Cleric to hear the call of the God of Law - but skeletal and undead looking.  The Brotherhood supposedly has a big presence in Lychgate.

Old Gods live in places and objects - like trees and stuff.  This is taken to be proof of their corruptible nature by followers of the Law.

Rumors say that most of the villagers in Nightwick and the other smaller settlements of the Dark Country are secretly pagans.  You'll have to find out the truth of that for yourself.

A lot of the Old Gods haven't been fleshed out yet, and they're almost all localized.  There's nothing like a Zeus at the head of a pantheon.

6) Where is the nearest pagan village? What’s it’s relationship to Nightwick like? Do their answers differ for any of the above questions? Would I get access to a whole new batch of woodsy hirelings if I tried recruiting over there?

The nearest pagan village is somewhere at the foot of the Nameless Mountains or in the Fog-Bound Forest.  If the authorities in Lychgate new where it was they'd have burned it by now.

Nightwick and all Western settlements in the Dark Country are supposedly in a permanent state of war with pagans.

Due to the aforementioned facts you'll have to find out the answers to those other questions through play.

7) Are the Satanists organized? Where’s their secret clubhouse? Are they accepting new members? Do they kidnap children for sacrifice or are they more low-key?
Satanists are supposedly organized into a great Anti-Church that diabolically mirrors the Church of Law in both hierarchy and ritual.  However, it is a bit more factional as the various demon lords don't like each other.

They're always looking for members, but it might be hard to find them.

They totally do human sacrifice all the time.  That's what they're about.

8) How does a local Churchgoer protect their private space from sorcerous/demonic/elfin intrusion? How about a Pagan? A Satanist? 

Churchgoers rely on clerics to provide them with the magic charms needed.  Pagans usually sacrifice something - a pumpkin, a lamb, an infant - to an Old God in the hopes that it will protect them.  Satanists think they are immune to the actions of demons.  They are usually wrong. 

There are also a number of superstitions about things like strings of garlic, horseshoes, lines of salt, etc.  These are usually shared by all three groups, though Churchgoers will usually add something to make it appear more holy like an icon or some holy water.  Satanists do the same but with more Satan.

9) Where all the dwarves at?

The last known dwarf kingdom lies somewhere in the Bald Mountains in the western part of the Dark Country.  They are a furtive and secretive folk who rarely venture out of their mountain holds.

10) What are the big money sinks for adventurers? Random potions? Random luxuries? Property? Indulgences?

I'm working on some custom carousing tables for the Dark Country that will allow for characters who don't want to get besotted to give alms, train, or do magical experiments.  They're still in the early stages though.

Property is also a good one, and I'm also working on a price list for various sorts.

Indulgences are not sold, but other boons from the God of Law might be.  Sin is usually washed away through humiliating penances.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Reflections on a Game I Never Ran: Hill Province

When I first came into contact with the West Marches style of game I was either a sophomore or junior at USM.*  At the time, I and several of my fellow students were trying to form a gaming club.  This put me in contact with the largest player based I'd had before FLAILSNAILS - though it was pretty small by some people's standards.  I immediately thought about running my own West Marches.

There were some problems though.  First and foremost they didn't like the type of D&D I did.  At the time I had just discovered this whole OSR thing (via Huge Ruined Scott's old Wilderlands OD&D blog), and they were die-hard 3.5ers or Exalted and nWoD players.  Some of them also weren't big fans of the typical medieval fantasy thing I like.  So I had to figure out a solution to both these problems.

I came up with a setting very loosely based on Tang Dynasty China, with the campaign region serving as an unexplored frontier of the Middle Kingdom.  There was going to be only one settlement, Twisted Winding Three Rivers,** and the rest would be untamed wilderness.  Much of it would be jungle covered with ruins that had a more South Asian flavor (like this) to make it more clearly appear to be different from the Chinese-ish society the characters came from.

One thing I wanted to do was make the setting a great deal more grittier than most fantasy China settings tend to be.  While I was going to have quite a bit of magic, I wanted getting injured to be a real issue.  I also just personally prefer low powered games about skullduggery and murder to high flying heroic actionmo.

The system I was going to use was Mongoose RuneQuest.  I actually liked their physical interpretation of runes for this premise because they could be turned into treasure.  Want to learn this spell? Well the rune associated in it lies in the tomb of the First Red Emperor, so you better go get it.  Of course I'd change them to make them more setting appropriate - probably some sort of talisman - but the basic idea would be the same.

I never actually ran it and I don't plan to because I have way too many other projects that grab my attention nowadays, but Cole's calling for someone to make "Chinahammer," that is a game set in fantasy China with a more Warhammer level of grit, despair, and hilarity, reminded me of it.

If I were to run it, the only thing I'd change from the original set up would be to add some more settlements, making sure that they are as Spaghetti Western as possible, and maybe to switch to something more closely aligned with D&D.  The reference to Hill Province in the title of this post is actually something I came up with only recently.  At the time I had no name for the campaign area, or really anything other than Twisted Winding Three Rivers, but there are some similarities between the setup and the Hill Cantons, so I thought the name was appropriate.

*Southern Miss just sounds too undignified for the name of a college.

**I decided to use representative names instead of fakey-cakes Chinese.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Questions about the Dark Country Part 1

The concept of this post is stolen entirely from Jeremy Duncan.  I told my players to each ask me ten questions about the Dark Country they would like to see answered.  This batch comes from Zzarchov.

1. How is marriage/bachelor(ette)hood viewed?
In the West, bachelorhood would be viewed much more negatively than it is in the Dark Country itself.  The Dark Country is a frontier land and it's incredible wildness and barbarity make it the sort of place that a single man with little prospects back West, perhaps a second son or a bastard, could make a name for himself without a marriage.

Well, that's the way it is among the gentry.  The peasantry largely favors married men and women because they're less likely to be the sort of violent freebooters robber barons like to hire to fight pagans.

2. How do folks view founding new settlements (forts)?
If you can clear the land and find the people who settle it, any land in the Dark Country could be yours as long as you swear fealty to one of the Seven Cities - unless of course your settlers are numerous enough and your army large enough to match one of the cities.  The Seven Cities are ultimately colonies and the "crusades" are ultimately a colonialist enterprise, even if it's one that lacks the central authority of High Imperialism.

3. How is debt handled?

The Church frowns upon debt and usury.  In the West, froglings provide those sorts of economic services to those who need them, but this practice is highly regulated and earns froglings an ill-deserved reputation as cheats.

However, the crusader-state nature of the Seven Cities makes local authorities considerably more lenient on the subject.  Since most of the settlers in the Dark Country are assumed to be on a state of permanent crusade, any stain that the sin of borrowing money would cause on the soul is immediately washed away.

Most money lenders in the Dark Country are froglings, though some of the more powerful nobles in Palewater and a few of the other cities will render similar services.  Froglings typically hire Brotherhood mercenaries in order to make sure debts are payed, while nobles typically rely on their household guard for the same task.

4. What does it take to become a recognized noble?
The short answer is "make yourself one."  This is typically done by clearing away land that is in the grip of devilry or by capturing pagan settlements.

Exceptional service rendered to a lord, particularly one in the upper echelons of one of the Seven Cities might land you a preexisting title.  This service is usually going to be military in nature.  Ultimately though there is considerably more social mobility - in both directions - in the Dark Country than there is in the West.

5. How much money is it to be "rich" (ie, not need to work again)?

This is a difficult question to answer.  Those who do possess money in the Dark Country typically must fight to protect it or employ others to fight to protect it from both worldly and otherworldy threats.  Retiring is not something that comes easy.

Land is a great deal more important than actual money, and people to protect that land are even more important still.

6. How would you describe the "Gonzo" limit?
It depends one what one means by "gonzo."  The Dark Country is a great deal less gonzo than some of the settings I've made in the past, and it certainly pales in comparison to some of the other FLAILSNAILS campaigns.  However I did once let a player play a pig.

7. Would you prefer if PC's didn't go trapezing about the multiverse?
Not really, as long as they have some idea of what's going on in the Dark Country and can make decisions based on that knowledge.  Remember though that just because you got something in the multiverse doesn't mean that it works or even exists in the Dark Country.

8. Do you have a current level cap for PC's from Nightwick?
The limit for PCs coming from outside of the Dark Country campaign is 2 until I get more dungeon levels drawn.  There is no limit if the PC was made specifically for the Dark Country.  Despite my having a lot of ideas about how the setting functions in a broad sense, I still have a lot of fleshing out to do.  I only know the names of two of the Seven Cities!

9. What are you current travel limits (ie, "don't head to Zenopolis")?

Right now I'd prefer it if you didn't leave the Dark Country, and if you're going to an area outside of the jurisdiction of Lychgate I'd like a little advanced warning so I can fill it out a bit.

10. Is there anything that should be understood as "Meta-impossible", ie, if you actually did do such a thing that would really end the setting?

I'm not entirely sure what Zzarchov means by this question.  If he clarifies it I'll post the answer here.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Monster Monday: Indistinct Slug-Things

Indistinct Slug-Things
No. Appearing: 1d6 + 5 (10d10)
Armor Class: 16 (12)
Hit Dice: 1+1
Attacks: 2 (sting 1d6)
Morale: 5
Alignment: Chaotic

The Indistinct Slug-Things are an awful race that is believed by those few who know of their existence to have ruled the world eons beyond the memory of even the Antediluvian Age.  What these creatures call themselves is a mystery to those scholars that have been able to glimpse examples of their written language or hear their strange, bewitching song.  It is likely that the strange tinkling noises they use to communicate are beyond the capacity of the human tongue.

They appear at first to be only orbs of light, roughly six inches in radius.  Those who approach closer will see their faint, sluggish outline.  They are only completely visible during their song (see below), when their entire body glows horribly.  When singing, their AC is reduced to unarmored.

The Indistinct Slug-Things require a human slave in order to perform the rites required by their strange, inhuman gods.  To acquire these slaves, the Indistinct Slug-Things employ a horrible tinkling song that hypnotizes humans and other sapient creatures (Save vs. Magic or be mesmerized for 3d6 exploration turns).  After five such failed saves, the hypnotic effect lasts for 3d6 days.  Victims thus entrances are often sent back to human population centers to lure other unwitting dupes into the clutches of these terrible creatures.  While an individual slug-thing cannot carry the song longer than the typical range of human vocal chords, a group of 10 or more can project the song for up to six miles.  Humans who have been mesmerized for a period of days will also replicate the song in a horribly inhuman fashion.

The Indistinct Slug-Things also employ a number of strange technologies in order to restrain their victims.  The most common are shackles made from a strange, golden material that can neither be cut nor broken by any means known to man.  This metal is usually poured over the victim's wrist using an alien device thus far only found in the possession of these creatures.  After it is poured, it flows over the victims wrists and eventually forms the shape of the shackles.  They are rumored to have other technologies beyond humankind's current capacity, but they are so rarely encountered that this may or may not be true.

These creatures are only rarely found in the Desert of Demons.  Their lairs are underground 100% of the time and are usually strangely shaped mountains which are believed by some to have been constructed by them in the ages before the rise of man. Here they live in massive underground complexes - often larger than the size of their community would seem to warrant.  There will be young equal to 50% the total number of adults (HD 1/2).  The Indistinct-Slug Things are believed to be hermaphroditic and if they do possess separate sexes then both sexes participate equally in their attempts to capture human slaves.

Some scholars believe that the Indistinct Slug-Things are only the degenerate remnants of what would have been a far more formidable and psychically powerful race.  The Slug-Things are encountered rarely enough that fears that these more powerful creatures might be encountered are generally dismissed.


Inspired by A. Merritt's "The People of the Pit" with a tiny dash of "the Moon Pool."

I am aware that there is a module based on that story.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Monster Monday: Rawhed

No. Encountered: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 60’/240’ (fly)
Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 5 + 4
Attacks: 2 Claw/1 Bite or Gore
Damage: 2d6/2d8
Save: F6
Morale: See Below
Hoard Class: VIII, IX, XVIII (in lair)
XP: 1060 + 6/hp

Rawheds are a form of undead created when a powerful and especially malevolent wizard is slain but his familiar is not.  If the familiar is able to reach the body of the wizard, it will fuse horribly merge with the corpse to create a Rawhed.  Once finished, the creature resembles a human skeleton roughly 7’ in height with rotting, fleshy head resembling whatever animal served as the familiar.

Rawheds desire to eat the flesh of human victims.  They will not range far from their layers, which are usually the remnants of the tower or dungeon in which the mad wizard once housed himself, but being undead they will never starve and can go centuries without the flesh they desire.  However, doing so makes them extremely violent and aggressive.  When encounter with a Rawhed occurs, roll 1d6.  On a roll of 1 the creature has eaten recently enough that it will let the party pass without attacking (Morale of 4).  On a 2-4 the creature has eaten recently enough to have its wits, but it is still hungry and will waylay passersby (Morale of 8).  On a roll of 5-6 the creature has not eaten in years and will attack wildly and frantically with no sense of self preservation (Morale of 12).

Their favorite meal is lying children, and the Rawheds of the World are in luck because children always lie.  Rawheds can hear a lie from 24 miles away - he maximum amount they will range from their lair.  They can then know the exact location of their quarry for up to 24 hours after they spoke their last lie.  This includes any lies said after the Rawhed became aware of the target.  It will pursue the target using its magical flight until it either catches it or the target moves further than 24 miles from its lair.

Rawheds can mimic the sound of any animal, including humans and demi-humans.  If it has heard a person lie, it can mimic the voice of anyone that person has met.  Rawheds can also cast invisibility at will, which it will do before approaching anyone unless its wits have been taken by hunger.  They are also only damaged by magical or silver weapons.  Finally, they possess all the normal immunities and weaknesses associated with intelligent undead.


The reason I haven't posted one of these in a while is that this one has been really hard to write.  I'd like to thank Brandon and Cole for giving me some of the ideas that made it in the final version.

The monster itself is based on the Rawhead and Bloody-Bones boogeyman that supposedly originates in Britain but is most know to me by way of the American South.  I first encountered the creature in the pages of a Short & Shivery volume probably sometime around age 10.  The version I have rendered is a mixture of what I could remember about the monster after not having read that story in 14 years and some stuff I thought was neat.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

More Unfamiliar Familiars

Jack over at Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque has a table for spicing up the "Find Familiar" spell.  The table is damn good, but I thought it could be improved by the addition of a few more entries.

The chart below is a stand alone version of my entries:

d8FamiliarSenses Modified
1Hop Toad (a large toad with pale skin and occasional clumps of hair, croaks sound sickeningly human)Hearing, improved sight
2Tommy Rawhead (a pig’s head rudely placed on a human skeleton, speaks common in a low mumble, shouts obscenities)Hearing, improved smell
3Mandragora (an animated root in the shape of a babe, mouths inaudibly, grimaces as though in pain)Night vision
4Porcelain Double (1d6 1-3 miniature 4-6 life sized, appears identical to the magic user, cannot speak, expression appears blank to most onlookers but withering to the magic user)Hearing, Night Vision
5Horned Serpent (viper with tiny horns, horribly human eyes, blood red scales, hissing sounds like whispers tempting the magic user to commit horrible acts)Night vision, improved smell
6Gamecock (belligerent rooster, always appears covered in blood)Improved sight
7Living Scarecrow (made of straw with a painted or jack o’ lantern face, incredibly mischievous, delights in terrifying children)Night vision
8Black Goat (walks upright, plays panpipes, is incredibly haughty)Improved smell, improved sight

A combined version of the two tables (which uses a d20) can be found here.

Special thanks to Cole for providing the idea for the porcelain double.

Nightwick Abbey Session Reports (Sessions 1 and 3)

I've started running Nightwick Abbey again on G+.  This time I've decided to use something more like Chris Kutalik's model where you have a core group of players with new players rotating in occasionally.  When I was running just the megadungeon part a few months ago, I was using Jeff Rients' model of a completely randomized pool.  While this worked well enough, I missed having players whose characters had goals.  Since the Hill Cantons' Nefarious Nine seemed to have a pretty good idea of what they wanted to do from session to session so I thought Chris must be doing something right.

Those of you who have played in my games online will remember that I give extra experience for Session Reports.  Here are three produced by the first two sessions.  I have labeled them using the character they played.

Session 1: Abraham Nermal
Session 3: Abraham NermalErasmus

I ran a somewhat spontaneous session on Wednesday that involved a few of the players in the regular group, but to my knowledge none of them have produced a play report.  Zzarchov (Abraham Nermal's player) also ran a game set in the Dark Country on Friday, which also has yet to produce a play report.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What Novgova is Like

Once again I steal Jack's format.


Precis: Feuding principalities play dangerous power games in a ham-fisted version of fantasy Russia with strong horror overtones.

Conspectus: Terrible Old Gods who live in the rivers and pray on travelers; baba yagas (plural); Scheming Grand Princes who back their ambitions with torture and violence; sorcerers who sustain their vile lives with the blood of innocents; massive, onion domed fortress cities that dwarf their kind in the West; fiendish cleric-spies who use torture to root out sedition and heresy; werebears; Cossack-style adventurers roaming the wilderness looking for plunder and easy prey; fucking tigers; brooding taiga forests.

Taste, Sound, Image: Vodka on the way back up, "The Song of the Volga Boatmen" Russian Red Army Choir, Sergei Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible

Monday, April 2, 2012

Jeff's Twenty Campaign Questions for Nightwick

1.  What is the deal with my cleric's religion?
Clerics in the World of Nightwick universally worship the God of Law, as it is the only true god in the setting and therefore the only entity that can provide clerical powers.  The Church of Law has at least two branches (Universal and Zenopolitan Orthodox) which resemble an overly fascist version of the Latin Church and an overly permissive and somewhat sinister version of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The other religions that exist are primarily focused around the worship of the Old Gods, extremely powerful entities who must be placated in order to prevent a number of natural disasters.  The Church estimates that the vast majority of unwashed humanity living in the World of Nightwick are at the very least secretly pagan.  Those special few who know the proper rituals to placate the Old Gods are typically Druids.

Diabolists and demoniacs also practice their foul religion in the Dark Country (and, though no one would like to admit it, beyond).  Their "priests" are typically magic users though anticlerics are not completely unheard of.  Their trappings are typical Satanist paraphernalia.

2. Where can I buy standard equipment?
Rupert van Toad, the local Frogling merchant of the van Toad house runs a small shop just outside the village walls that provides a variety of common, and sometimes uncommon, goods.  However, he is subject to the whims of his corporate masters.  A more reliable source of goods is the market in Lychgate, but the road is long and perilous.

3. Where can we go to get platemail (sic) custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?
While that situation is unlikely, the local village blacksmith -- a young man named Duncan -- is said to be a sort of idiot-savant where smithing is concerned.  

4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land? 
The locals insist that it is Halfdan the Black who resides in the crumbled tower just south west of the village; however, their knowledge of the whole land is suspect.

5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land? 
The general consensus is Arnawald the Black Eagle is probably the most powerful and cunning warrior.  It is said he has designs to take unite the Seven Cities into one kingdom.

6. Who is the richest person in the land?
Notker the Unshaven, the Bishop of Lychgate, is a likely candidate; however, the patriarch of the van Toad family is pretty damn close.

7. Where can we go to get some magical healing?
The vicar of Nightwick Village probably has you covered.  Even the two Silent Brothers who assist him seem to be able to work petty healing miracles.

8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?
For the more advanced stuff you'd have to talk to Notker the Unshaven, but by all accounts he is an asshole.   Level drain can be cured by killing the creature who inflicted it within 24 hours of the attack.  Otherwise it is permanent.  

The conditions beyond the bishop's powers might be curable by the various court wizards found in the Seven Cities, but who trusts those guys?

9. Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?
Nope.  Magic users are too cowardly and suspicious to trust one another; however, individual magic users of high level have been known to take on apprentices.  They usually ask for hideous favors though.

10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage, or expert NPC?
Amalric the Incontinent is the known to be wise in the ways of past things.  He resides in Lychgate.  Other sages abound and usually make their homes in either the Seven Cities or near pagan shrines, depending on their religious affiliation.

Halfdan the Black is said to be able to brew a potion or two.

11. Where can I hire mercenaries?
Nightwick village has been more or less taken over by Badder's Boys, a nefarious mercenary company that spends most of its time fulfilling the bishop's wishes for petty revenge.  Many of the young lads who serve in the company have a rather liquid sense of loyalty, and the sight of a few coins will convince them to find new masters.  How happy or unhappy this would make Lord Eckhard, the governor of the village, has yet to be seen.

Other mercenaries might be hired at any of the Seven Cities, and there is a constant trickle of fighting men from the West.

12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed, or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?
The bishop of Lychgate is a dick who has an incalculable number of pet peeves he has labeled as capital offenses.  Practicing magic or openly being pagan is highly illegal in most of the Seven Cities and will get you tied to a stake and lit on fire.  Practicing clerical magic or open worship of the God of Law will get you hanged in most pagan settlements.  Tread lightly.

13.  Where is the nearest tavern?
Right in the center of the village.  It's the Medusa's Head and is owned and operated by Bruno the Bloated Barkeep.  It is a frequent haunt of Badder's Boys.  The woodsmen who made up the bulk of the village's male population before the arrival of the mercenary company typically drink in their lodge, but strangers are not allowed in.

14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?
The most obvious answer is the White Lady, whom some believe is actual one of the Old Gods.  Her foul, half-bestial servants have been raiding caravans along the Long Road and it's starting to become a serious problem.  There is also a dragon rumored to live in the Bald Mountains, a whole village of werewolves, and who knows how many devils lurk about.

15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?
The Dark Country is pretty much in a constant state of crusade.  I'm sure any of the Seven Cities would be glad to enlist you to fight the vile pagans and vice versa.  Arnawald's ambitions for uniting the cities will also undoubtedly cause their fair share of bloodshed.  The men of the West are not squeamish about spilling each others' blood.

16. Are there any gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?
Not as such, no; however, whenever a noble from the West is visiting on crusade the Seven Cities like to wine him and dine him with great tourneys and melees.  These usually come with the associated glory and prizes with a much lower probability of death.

17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join/fight?

18.  What is there to eat around here?
The pagans prefer dishes such as robber's steak (a kebab of beef or goat meat with bacon and red peppers), while the Westerners prefer to put everything in a pot and boil it until it's grey and tasteless.

19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?
The Sword Brothers supposedly brought vast amounts of treasure with them from the Desert Lands.  It's rumored to be somewhere deep within the abbey.  Several villages also have rumors of old Imperial treasures in the ruined hill forts and stone rings that dot the landscape.

20. Where is the nearest dragon or monster with Type H treasure?
In a long-abandoned Dwarf Hold in the Bald Mountains.  The Mountain King would pay handsomely for its head.