Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nightwick Abbey Session 1

You have no idea how long I've been waiting to use this picture.

Finally we get to the actual campaign.

I had four players who had contacted me earlier when they found out I lived in Knoxville.  The party consisted of a Thief (specialist), a Magic-User, a Cleric, and a Changeling.  The Changeling's player decided he had ram horns and a generally satyr-like aspect.

Unfortunately, character creation took a bit longer than expected, but not so long as to prevent play all together. Still the actually descent into the dungeon was far less extensive than the outings of my old gaming buddies.

We decided, due to time constraints, to skip over play in town.  I won't do this next session, but I thought it was a good idea as we only had an hour left to get any playing done.  They did hire two hirelings, one torch bearer and one man at arms named Clodivec and Oderic respectively.  My players assert (perhaps correctly) that they had the life expectancy of a mouse at a cat convention.  At the shaft that lead to the entrance, the players suggested tying Clodivec with a rope and lowering him down with a barrel attached to see if there was a "nibble."

At the base of the stairs they found a small chamber.  Opening the door to this was rather difficult, and once open the found that the room was filled about an inch deep with water.  The room was otherwise empty, which deeply disturbed all of my players.  Since the ceiling was too high for their torchlight to reveal it, they elected to leave it the hell alone and crossed into the dungeon proper.

Anyway, they took much the same route of the earlier party and ended up in the torture chamber/prison.  Here, since it's a keyed encounter and they hadn't been in the dungeon before, they found the same Death Worm that had been so easily slain by the previous delvers.  It put up a much more vigorous fight here.  Its hypnotic dance immediately transfixed everyone in the party other than the cleric.  To his dismay we discovered that Death Worms are not in fact undead.  He went toe to toe with the beast but was sadly slain.  Still, he managed to hold it off long enough that it only had one round to attack before the rest of the party left their stupor.  The Magic-User pelted the thing with Magic Missile and they returned to town to bury their friend.

Not the most exciting session, but it's a start.  The players seemed to enjoy it, and have asked me to run it again.  Hopefully we're looking at the start of a regular campaign.

 Sorry I don't have the character's names, but they only got an hour of play time and I can't find where I wrote down their marching order.

One Page Megadungeon Project

I've been giving a little more thought to my one page-geomorph-megadungeon project.  I'm beginning to wonder if the Underworld is the best place for such a project.  Yes, one perfectly fits in it, but I don't know how useful it would be to other DMs.  Also, I discovered over Thanksgiving that I obtain a perverse joy from stocking things with the DMG and FF.

My question is this: gentle reader, would you prefer freely available versions of an as yet unnamed Underworld Megadungeon, or levels of Nightwick Abbey edited for popular consumption?

There is of course a third option where I use the excellent How to Host a Dungeon game to get the broad areas and then detail them on the blog.  If I do so I'll most likely edit the game to fit better in Nightwick's setting.

I be placing a poll on the blog to ascertain the general opinion on the matter.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Quick Question

Is anyone else trying to import AD&D/OSRIC/AEC classes into a game thats using the LotFP encumbrance/armor system?  How did you do it?

Sorry about the lack of a Monster Monday, but I'm a bit swamped right now.  Regular posting will return the week after next.

Nightwick Abbey Test Session II

Again I warn any readers living in the Knoxville who may be playing in this dungeon starting Tuesday to find something else to do.  Spoilers ahead.

This session began with the party recruiting a few more hirelings before heading off into the dungeon.  That done, they sought to explore a hallway that they had bypassed the previous session.  To their surprise, they found that it was quite short and ended in a large chamber.  Here some men in red robes seemed to be at work, painting various things on the walls.

The party quickly surmised that these were not truly living men, but rather undead revnants.  Alma managed to turn them and they fled from her sight before battle could be joined.  They then set about exploring a southern corridor.  At the end of it they found a door that was rather difficult to open, but Schlog managed to force it anyway.  Beyond they found a massive chamber filled with bats and their rather foul excrement.  The ceiling was far out of their torch's range, but they could tell by the squeaking that they had stumbled into a bat cave.  Armand elected to hurl a few vials of flaming oil into the room, neglecting the fact that the party had spied a large crack in the ceiling where the sun shown in.  The floor quickly caught ablaze and they exited.

After leaving, they heard a deafening noise emanate, as if a large creature had been stirred.  They were not the only ones who heard it.  They proceeded (quickly) down a side passage and found themselves confronted with a set of fat, saucer-eyed creatures.  The Goblins, upon seeing that the party was not in fact some horrible collection of beasts, seemed rather disinterested.  They let down their guard, but refused to let the party pass. Fearing the large number of Goblins, the party elected to treat with them a bit.  The squat things referred to a master, simply called "the Boss," and they had a bizarrely long conversation about the number of whippings they received from this figure.

Realizing a deal could not be reached and that the Goblins were growing impatient, the party decided to seek down a corridor they had not yet ventured into.  This corridor lay beyond the room where they had first seen the zombies diligently painting.  The undead had since returned and continued their work in eerie quite.  The Cleric again shooed them away with a wave of her cross.  They entered and began to debate their next course of action.  Unfortunately, the zombies quickly returned and set upon them while they were in disarray.

The fighting was fierce, and though the party was triumphant they were badly injured and most of their hirelings went to meet their maker.  They wisely decided it was time to return to town and recoup.  This took a number of days, during which time Coll heard that several loggers and trappers had gone missing after entering the woods.

They soon found the source of this trouble:  several giant bats that laired in the large chamber they set ablaze.  Angered by the flames, the bats had set forth to hunt and reek terrible vengeance on men.  The party found these creatures and did battle with them in the forest outside of the dungeon.  The party made it away relatively unscathed and set forth to return to Nightwick Abbey.

This time, at the behest of Coll's player, they decided to look through the cemetery that lay near the abbey proper.  In it they found a vault that concealed an entrance to some (apparently) extensive catacombs.  These were guarded by two iron statues that looked like this.

These proved to be insanely tough, though the party was luck in that they left the Paladin and the Cleric alone.  Unfortunately Coll -- whose player had suggested they enter in the first place -- perished along with his hirelings.  The party returned to town and he rolled up a Magic-User in short order.

When they returned, they elected to not tackle the remaining statues, but instead to continue down the path they had intended before the fight with the zombies.  One of the rooms along this corridor was a storage room with miraculous properties.  It appeared as though it had recently been cleaned and occupied, and a torched blazed on its wall.  However, any material brought outside this room aged as though it went through one hundred years in an instant.  The players spent the rest of the evening conducting experiments in this chamber. My favorite of which was when they brought several books from the library inside and found that they had reformed and were almost brand new (until being removed from the room).

All in all it was a fine session.  When Coll's player had to make a new character, I realized that I need to reform certain things about the Druid before it is a viable class for my system.  LotFP:WFRPG's strange encumbrance/armor rules (which I enjoy) are largely incompatible with the requirements of a Druid.  I will also need to decide how much Scale, Banded, and Splint armor add to encumbrance.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Nightwick Abbey Test Session

Wednesday night marked the first time I've run this version of Nightwick Abbey for a face-to-face group.  I'm happy to report that it went tremendously well.  There are a few things I'll have to tweak before presenting it to the face-to-face group in Knoxville, but it hit pretty spot on.

Before I get started talking about the session itself, I want to say a few words about how I prepared the dungeon for our would-be delvers.  I'm using a strange hybrid of Labyrinth Lord and LotFP:WFRPG for my system, but I found myself consulting the AD&D DMG and FF more than those two volumes.  I got a strange joy using those to stock my dungeon levels that I find very hard to convey.  It is physically impossible for it to be nostalgia because my first game was 3e.

Anyway, first I placed the various "Saturday Night Specials" that lie in the first layer of Nightwick Abbey.  Then I used the DMG and FF to stock the first three levels with monsters and the LL book for the various treasures and traps.  The map itself was a combination of Dizzy Dragon's interpretations of Dyson's geomorphs and Risus Monkey's geomorphs.  Each level is pretty dense, with about 80-100 rooms.

We had a total of five players, but two came to the game significantly later.  The first three characters to plumb those terrifying halls were...

Alma, a Cleric dedicated to the God of Law
Schlog, a pagan Fighting-Man who has a strange obsession with bones
Coll, a converted Specialist

I mostly skipped over their time in the village, allowing them to look for hirelings.  They found quite a few, and when they were satisfied they headed through the woods to the Abbey itself.

If you are possibly going to play in the Knoxville campaign please stop reading now.

They found that the abbey consisted solely of a large church and a graveyard.  The players noted that there seemed to be no sign of a cloister or dormitories for the monks who once lived there, and found it strange that it would be so.  They church itself was mostly ruined except for the foundations of two bell towers.  They discovered the staircase down within one of these.

At the bottom of the staircase, they found a large room that seemed to be a prison of some sort.  While investigating the rather fearsome torture devices there, a large snake-like creature made entirely out of a man's spinal column and skull surprised them.  Its strange dance caused all but Schlog and Coll to be completely entranced.  Fortunately they were able to dispatch the thing on their own (I had rolled pitifully for its HP).  They were most interested in a small dais that was bloodstained.

While attempting to discern the purpose of this oddity, they overheard the approach of a number of armored individuals.  It was a patrol of heavily outfitted skeletons who attacked once they saw the party.  Luckily, Alma was able to turn them and the fighters and hirelings were able to destroy them before they could flee back down the hallway.  Schlog then broke open all of their bones to see if there was any treasure within.

After exploring a few empty chambers, they found one covered in various bits of refuse.  Coll -- fearing the presence of an Otyugh -- refused to enter but prodded about with his 10ft pole.   His pole was grabbed by a pallid tentacle, and then the horrible face of a Carrion Crawler (or Carcass Scavenger if you prefer the LL nomenclature) appeared to greet them.  At this point the hirelings in the back rank bolted down an unexplored hallway.  The party the heard a number of strange, semi-intelligent, noises echo down the corridor that the hirelings had just fled through.

Schlog and Coll's players argued over whether or not they should close the door to the room with the Carcass Scavenger in it or if they should attack it.  Schlog ran in quasi-suicidally but due to lucky rolls (and the fact that I seemed incapable of rolling high on HD the whole night) he killed it in one, swift blow.

They then turned to greet the number of deer-headed orcs that stampeded down the hallway at them.  After fierce fighting, one character lay unconscious and their linkboy had soiled himself but the party was alive.  They retreated back to town to recoup and plan.

At this point the other players arrived, and they made their characters while the original party re-outfitted.  All but one of their (living) hirelings decided to jump ship after their previous expedition, but they were able to garner some new ones before venturing forth again into the dungeon.

The new players had not quite finished their characters before this, so I needed a way to work them in.   I rolled a random encounter check and decided that these characters were the remnants of a party that had been destroyed by whatever I just rolled.  So two screaming men running as fast as they could confronted the party.  Behind them came 15 Mites.  These were dispatched surprisingly easily (due to an ability I gave Fighting Men which I need to remove immediately).

There new companions were...
Armand, a Paladin
Franz, another Specialist

After arguing a bit over the contents of the room, and some rather humorous roleplaying (Franz has an IQ of 3, but believes it to be considerably higher), they continued off through the dungeon.

They next found a large room with an immense tapestry.  This tapestry seemed to shift in the flickering light of their lamps.  When the light hit it directly it depicted a number of valiant Sword Brothers slaughtering some demonized pagans.  When slightly obscured by shadow it seemed to depict innocents running from the fiendish blades of a number of undead horseman.

Beyond this chamber they glimpsed a figure in red robes who seemed to be placing a book in a shelf.  They debated what to do about this, as the Paladin was able to detect that a number of other chaotic creatures laired within.  They hastily formed a plan and destroyed the monsters -- which they determined were zombies -- with the liberal use of flaming oil.

The room that the zombies had emanated from was once a library, though now all the books were rotten and destroyed.  The players hypothesized that the zombies were carrying on work they had done during life.

The last chamber they were able to explore contained a fiendish trap lifted from Stonehell and the only real treasure they found on either excursion.  Afterwards, due to their trap-oriented Specialist's  injuries, they headed back to the village and we wrapped up the session.

All in all it was a good session.  It was a joy to see some of their strategic and tactical discussions.

In about an hour, I'll be running the second session.  I'll probably break that report into multiple posts due to this one's length.  Sorry about that.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Quick News Updates

  • I am one day away from my trial run of Nightwick Abbey and its houserules.  Whatever "bugs" I detect while running it for my old gaming buddies will be fixed before I present it to my hypothetical new group.
  • Risus Monkey has permitted me to use his fabulous geomorphs for my newest side project idea.  I'll make another post about it shortly.
  • Sorry about the lack of a Monster Monday post this week.  The drive from Knoxville to Hattiesburg is about 9 hours and zapped me of all energy.
  • I'm probably going to be busy with Thanksgiving and gaming prep all week, and papers the week after.  I'll try to get the occasional post in here and there, but I'm unlikely to be able to blog regularly until the 12th of December.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Underworld's Underworld

A confluence of events has caused me to consider making a campaign dungeon of sorts for the Underworld setting.  First and foremost among these events has been my recent rereading of Empire of the Petal Throne.  M. A. R. Barker's discussion of how to construct an underworld for that setting has caused me to think about how one might map and stock such a beast in the land without a horizon.  I am especially intrigued by the number of Saturday Night Specials that might exist in such a place:  lost tombs, morlock villages, near-dead gods, etc.

Some changes might have to be made to my conception of the setting to account for a big-ass dungeon beneath a huge ruined pile.  Most notably I will probably have to ratchet up the amount of time that has transpired between Orontes's founding of the city and the present day.  Not too terribly difficult a task, but it may remove some of the wild west elements the setting had previously acquired.

I also must establish the overall nature of the campaign dungeon.  In a previous post  I hinted that their may be an extensive network of tunnels, caves, chambers, and catacombs beneath Ilion.  Perhaps the dungeon could be this series of tunnels.  Of course there are also countless ruin that lie in the steaming jungles, and it may be one of these lost cities that holds this endless labyrinth.  The location of the underworld will obviously change the contents of it rather drastically, so I must take great care in deciding where to place it.

My ultimate goal for this project would be a kind of spirtual successor to Sham's aborted Dismal Depths project.  I would present the dungeon sections in quick and dirty one page formats in much the same way he did.  One difference will be that I am probably going to use a number of dungeon geomorphs, particularly Risus Monkey's to create the various 30 x 30 sections.  This will most likely mean that the dungeon is a bit more packed than the Dismal Depths, but I doubt anyone will complain.  

I will also ditch the 2x2 section square format most One Page Dungeon megadungeons use.  Instead one level may be a 2x2 square, but the one beneath it has five sections in a cross pattern, and the one beneath that is composed of only three sections in a kind of pyramid shape.  This should make the dungeon a bit more unpredictable.

In the event that I decide to take up this project, I will contact the various organizations who I will be stealing geomorphs from and see if I can post the results on my blog for free.  I have not made any decisions yet, and since Nightwick Abbey is still my one true love the moments when I could work on these sections would be few and far between.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanksgiving Plans

I mentioned in an earlier post that I would be meeting with some old gaming buddies the week of Thanksgiving and playing some games.  I've finally decided that they'll be the guinea pigs for the current draft of the Nightwick Abbey campaign dungeon.  

We'll be playing two sessions, so they obviously won't be able to see much of the dungeon.  Still I want to try out some of my house rules and procedures before I meet with the face to face group.  I'll post a recap of both sessions after I return.

I've hit a wall creatively with Nightwick and its world that can only be overcome through actual play.  I fear that any further development that is made for anything outside the concerns of the table will overly limit me.  I could be wrong about this.  

I will continue to do articles like Monster Mondays and I have a few more to put out about the world in general before play starts, but there will be a bit of a slow down for the next week or so.  Once I start running this thing I have no doubt that the needs of play will cause me to generate more content that will be posted here.  I'm still very interested in this setting so don't worry about its future.  It just needs a party to muck around in it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Underworld Systems and Character Types

Forgive me if this is a bit rambling.  My thoughts on these subjects are a bit half-formed, but I feel like I need to get something about them hammered down before I continue developing the Underworld.

In the days when the Underworld was called the Lost Lands, I went through a number of possible system options.  It was originally designed alongside a homebrew system created in order to fill the requirments of Matt Finch's Quick Primer on Old School Gaming while still being appealing to the new schoolers I played with.  It did this with some success, but it lacked the kinds of guidelines I like when making wilderness and dungeon areas (such as No. Appearing and Treasure Class).  I toyed with using the "Lost Lands" as the basis for a Swords & Wizardry based game, even going so far as to write up a pretty extensive house rules document that is now lost to the ages.  I've even considered using a combination of yellow book BRP and the Bronze Grimoire to power the setting, but nothing came of that either.

Now that I've picked it up again (as a side project) and given it a bit of a face lift, I need to think about what system I'm going to use to power it.  Obviously, I could go the route of Scott of Huge Ruined Pile and make all the material as systemless as possible.  I don't feel comfortable with that option.  The amount of  changes that would have to be made to any given system to accommodate just the monsters is pretty large.  Almost all of D&D's monster list is completely useless.  The only exceptions being certain undead and summoned monsters.  I'm fine making a wholly new monster list, but I wouldn't want to burden some other sap who decided this setting was the bomb and wanted to use it in his or her home game.  Therefore I need some system I can provide stats for, though I will probably put out little handouts on how to run this setting with other systems.

So what system?  I'm currently getting better acquainted with Labyrinth Lord since the group that I will be DMing for is relatively familiar with that system.  I'm also a fan of LotFP:WFRPG.  So some sort of B/X D&D hack?  Well... no.  I've never really been comfortable making monsters for those systems as I never know how much xp they should be worth.  The most likely answer is the Swords & Wizardry White Box, which is by far my favorite retroclone.  It has a bare bones sensibility that I think will lend itself well to tinkering and this project in general.

Of course I could pick up another side project that would fill a similar niche in my creative efforts but not be as arduous a task.  Possibly more on that later.

With that out of the way, I need to decide what character types I wish to represent with these rules.  Fighters and Magic Users fit in easily to the setting.  Clerics stick out like a sore thumb.  They fit great in Nightwick Abbey's pseudo-Medieval milieu, but their holy magic and mace wielding antics are a poor fit for a setting where even the nicest gods have terrible serpents for pets.  I could just stick to Fighting Men and Magic Users, possibly importing LotFP:WFRPG's encumbrance rules and lack of weapon/armor restrictions, but I'm not sure about that yet.  I feel like I want to allow some other class options for the players if only to give them more options.

That being said, none of the other classes developed for TSR D&D strike me as appropriate for this setting.  Thieves could work, but I find that they generally muck up OD&D.  Still they are an option.  The others work less well.  I'll probably have to create some of my own with the setting in mind, but I'll burn that bride when I cross it.

To close, here is an inspirational image for the setting:

Now back to thinking about Nightwick Abbey...

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Cult of Apollo

Apollo was the god of Troy and so too is he the god of Ilion.  As Aeneas brought the Lares to Italy so did Orontes bring the Farshooter to the Underworld.  They pray at his altars and sacrifice many shield-lizards on each of his feast days.  The cult of the Son of Leto is alive and well.

The stout sailors of Ilion take up the bow in his name.  Nowhere else in the Underworld can one find archers of their caliber.  They have learned they Farshooter's art and histories often claim they can leave whole ships depopulated before they come close enough to board.  These accounts are most likely exaggerated, and more than a few Ilionian ships have been captured by Thulian reavers.

The center of the cult is the fabulous marble temple that dominates Ilion.  Here the Brides of Apollo perform the various rites and dances that please the god.  They wear saffron colored garments and golden chastity belts decorated with rare and exotic jewels to symbolize their devotion to the Savior of the City.  They tend the Fuel-less Fire that is the lifeblood of the city and feed the sacred snakes that are the pets of Apollo.  These women are chosen by their ability to handle the snakes.  If the great basilisks devour the perspective maiden, then she was unworthy of Apollo's love.

Chief among these priestesses is the Pythia.  She, alone among their number, is allowed to wear white and go without a chastity belt.  It is said that if someone takes her maidenhead she will lose the powers granted to her by the Son of Leto.  There are those who say that she is bedded by Apollo once she becomes a priestess, but no mystes in the cult would ever say such blasphemy.  By breathing the smoke of the Fuel-less Fire, she can hear the voice of the god Apollo and relate his command to the litany of priests and male guardians who also inhabit the temple.

These priests protect the temple from would be ne'er-do-wells who seek to pilfer their various gems and golden statuary.  They are armed with strange sickle like swords and wear saffron like the Brides of Apollo.  They are rarely charged with sexual misconduct, but occasionally one is thrown into the Fuel-less Fire when a war goes foul.

Some claim that beneath the great temple is a frightening underworld.  Those who are initiated in the cult's inner circle are taken into these dark passages.  There they witness terrible turpitudes.  Some say that the depths beneath the temple are populated by strange half-formed snake creatures who bear a striking resemblance to human beings.  They have horridly man-like features and limbs but the inhuman stare and features of a serpent.  Their origin is the source of scandalous speculation, but most dismiss the possibility that they even exist.

Other cults exist within Ilion, and they too are rumored to have great underground chambers.  Some claim these even connect, but most assume this is rubbish.

New Poll

Since I'm rapidly approaching the point where I'll have a face to face group again, I was wondering if people wanted to read recaps of my Nightwick Sessions.

Vote for the person not for the party.

Monster Monday: Dragons

Dragons are terrible things who lack any kindness or empathy.  They are the physical embodiment of sin: Humankind's evils made flesh to stalk the world and devour their victims.  They are avaricious, slothful, prideful, envious, wrathful, lustful, and gluttonous.  They are almost as wicked as demons, and some even believe they are demons.  This can neither be confirmed or denied, but few sages actually associate Dragons with Hell.

Dragons are rare beasts.  There does not exist a "race" of Dragons, rather there is a handful of highly unique individuals.  No two dragons are alike, though certain lineages seem to exist that pace down traits from Dragon to Dragon.  Still, Dragons resist all attempts to categorize them into types, much to the chagrin of the various scholars of the World.  There are several books on the subject, but all are wildly inaccurate, sometimes laughably so.  Other times they are dangerously so.

One cannot accurately say that Dragons are encountered more frequently in the Dark Country than the West. This would imply that Dragons may be encountered frequently in the first place, which is a patent falsehood.  Most agree that you could count on one hand the number of adult Dragons lairing in the foreboding mountains of the Dark Country.  These make their homes in caves which they make more comfortable with strange beds made of the gold and bones of dead kings and warriors.

They sleep for centuries on these morbid pallets.  Indeed, many have slept for so long that the natives of the Dark Country wonder if they are still there.  It has been centuries since leathery wings brought fiery death to the squat villages and hamlets that dot the hills and valleys.  No one alive has seen a Dragon, for more reasons than one.  Despite the dangers, it is not for lack of trying.

Knights from the West often seek to test their mettle by slaying a Dragon.  Many knights dedicated to the Church believe that defeating a Dragon represents the defeat of their personal sins.  Many seek salvation this way, for the life of a knight is usually fraught with sin.  Most do not ever find a Dragon and those that do seldom live to relate their adventure.  Still, many songs, plays, epics, etc. have been written about knights on such quests.  They range from the darkly tragic to the comical, but they rarely end with the night achieving what he desires.

EDIT: I forgot to put my design blurb.

I realized I'd been writing a Dungeons & Dragons blog for almost two months and I had only used the word dragon once.  That just could not do, so I had to figure out how to incorporate Dragons into The Dark Country.  I've decided not to use the different colored Dragon types in my setting, instead each Dragon shall be built on an individual basis.  Their offspring will be more or less identical, and most likely many of the Dragons will be similar to the different types, but you can't find Green Dragons in every forest you ever enter. They will only show up on Wandering Monster tables if there is a lair nearby, and then its a specific Dragon.  They should be special (though they are meant for killing).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Elves and Fairies

There are few things more frightening to the people of the West than Elves.  Perhaps demons, who have the power to steal the souls of humans, are more terrifying but if so only to a marginal degree.  The Elves and their fairy kin lair in deep forests across the world, and that includes the Dark Country.

In the forest of that strange hinterland they compete with Orcs over "food."  Or perhaps they don't.  Perhaps they share some common and diabolic cause, after all the White Lady employs those bloodthirsty, porcine beasts.  

Elves and fairies come in all shapes and sizes.  Some are roughly human sized but are incredibly beautiful to look upon.  Others are tall leafy things with green, wrinkled skin.  Even more have animal-like features, though they aren't as disgusting as Orcs.  Some are small enough to fit in the palm of your hands, and others are as tall as trees.  They are not one race but many races.  They bicker and feud amongst themselves, but all are equally inimical to Humankind.

Despite this, they are not all aligned with Chaos.  They seem to be much closer to the Old Gods: strange and alien creatures who permit humans to exist within their realms as long as the proper sacrifices are upheld.  They certainly have a capricious nature, but they are not nearly as destructive as the forces of the Adversaries.  Still, one would never confuse them for being "friendly."

Some theologians have postulated that they are the weakened forms of angels who refused to join the God of Law in his battle against the infernal masters of the Pit.  According to this narrative, these angels were cursed to live in quasi-mortal bodies on the material plane, and now spend their days torturing the greatest of God's creations: Humans.  Those few fairies who have been questioned on the subject simply laughed.  Those few souls who have asked did not return to tell this rather enigmatic answer to those who would care.  Of course, that's what legends say, and how can there be legends if no one ever returned?

Elves and Fairies have some connection to Changelings, though no one is entirely sure what the nature of that connection is.

Underworld Map 1 Redux

Click to Enlarge

I took Joe's advice from my previous post and switched the hex height and width.  Hopefully this has made it a bit more appealing to the eye.  Also, I have changed the vegetation to fit a jungle environment for use in the Underworld.  This will replace my previous attempt at Underworld Campaign Map 1.  I haven't begun placing lairs and settlements yet, but I will shortly.

The big hexes are 50 miles across, and the smaller hexes are 10 miles across.  A party can travel 3 hexes in a day, +1 if there is a road and -1 for each complicating terrain type.  Roll for random encounters once per hex.

Here is one without the big hexes for those who prefer it that way.

Click to Enlarge

Hope you enjoy.

EDIT: The original image was a bit grainy so I uploaded a different picture.  I also added another version of the map.  If there is any interest I'll do a similarly scaled version of the less jungle-y version I originally posted.

Dio in the Ruins of Nightwick Abbey

I couldn't help myself.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Labyrinth Lord House Rules

Here is the first draft of my Labyrinth Lord houserules for Nightwick Abbey.  They are in no particular order.

1)  3d6 Assign to Taste -- If you want to assign them in order, go right ahead.

2)  Use HD from Advanced Edition Compendium.

3)  Use Common Abilities from LotFPWFRPG.

4)  Replace the Thief class with the Specialist Class.

5)  Druids from the AEC are available as a Human class.

6)  Ascending AC.  Unarmed Human starts at 10 AC.

7)  Use Encumbrance rules from LotFPWFRPG.  This includes removing weapon and armor restrictions.

8) Reroll any result of a 1 or a 2 on starting HP.

9) Use Small/Medium/Large weapon rules from LotFPWFRPG.

10) Fighters gain Follow Through.  When they kill an enemy, the may make an additional attack against an adjacent enemy.  They can do this until enemies stop dying.

11) 10% on money spent on genre or character appropriate actions is gained in XP.

12) Only Human or Changeling characters to start, but future characters can be of other races.

13) Magic-Users can only gain spells from research, scrolls and captured spell books.

14) Use magic research rules from LotFPWFRPG.

15) Magic-Users must have their hands free to cast spells.  That means no weapons or torches.

16) Some secret doors and traps will use different die types for detection a la AD&D.

That's it for now.  I'm sure more will come up during extended play.  Now that I look at it, I'm really playing a hybrid of LotFPWFRPG and LL.  Oh well.

More on the Dark Country

The Dark Country is a wild and fierce place with brooding forests and barbarians.  The people of the West know the tales of this land and its haunted mountain peaks.  Monsters swarm in its hills and caves.  They plot there, awaiting the day when they will poor forth and devour the realms of men.  There are monsters in the West of course, but these are considered fiercer.  Brave men quake at the thought of just how many orcs must hide in the forest, or what manner of beast must be eying them from the bushes.  

So why do settlers go there?  Why did the Sword Brothers build their abbeys and trade cities in its hills?  

To save the souls of the barbarians, or so they said.  They saw that the people of the dark country still gave their children to the Old Gods, and these people did not know the light of the God of Law.  Off the Sword Brothers went, fresh from their crusade in the Desert Lands and hungry for glory.

There is more than glory to be found in those dark woods.  The mountains contain precious metals, and the barbarians buried their heathen kings in great mounds with all the treasure they had amassed in life.  The barbarians of the Dark Country are not a poor people.  They trade with the Steppe Peoples to the East, and even before the coming of the Sword Brothers the men from the Dark Country brought their forest products to the cities of the West.

The Sword Brothers brought with them a veritable army of merchants, settlers, camp followers, and treasure hunters.  These are the men and women who -- along with help from converted natives -- founded the Seven Cities.  These cities prospered through trade and settlement and became the rivals of even the cities of the West.

All was not well, however.  The Sword Brothers constant warfare with the various tribal kings took its toll on both the land and the brothers themselves.  They grew more violent and hostile, more motivated by lucre.  They sallied forth from their dark castles to burn villages and capture women, regardless of whether or not they were heathens.  Some say they even turned to the black arts to maintain their growing lordships.  They became little better than the monsters of the forest, and some even say their features grew hideous and grotesque to match their inner character.

The Church was not pleased.  Not only were they now losing potential converts, but one of the pinnacles of sacred Knighthood had fallen into darkness.  A crusade was called, and knights and peasants and yeoman and all matter of warriors and people from the West came to undo the evil that the Sword Brothers had wrought.  They besieged the Grand Master's Chapter House and once they had broken they found evidence of the most unholy turpitudes imaginable.  The Sword Brothers had fallen in league with the Adversaries, and there was no redemption for them.

That was nearly a hundred years ago.  Settlement without the watchful eyes of the Sword Brothers has slowed considerably.  Barbarians retake land that once belonged to their beleaguered kings.  The Westerners who remain huddle in their houses at night, terrorized by both the foul things that live in the hills and the ghosts of the Sword Brothers' sins.


This background has been brewing in my head for some time, and I decided I needed to get it down in some form or I would forget some of the more interesting aspects.  Writing it out here has also helped solidify it a bit in my mind, which is one of the wonders of having a blog.

I've based it a bit off of the Transylvanian Saxons, but even more of the background is the result of reading material on the Baltic Crusades.  The Sword Brothers are of course a stand in for the Livonian Brothers of the Sword and the Teutonic Knights.

I'm going to leave most of the area outside of the Dark Country, such as the West and the Desert Lands, open for now.  I felt that I had to get a handle on the initial campaign area though before play began.

Nightwick is still my primary project, and that fact isn't going to change for a while -- or possibly ever.  I'm struggling a bit with stocking its endless halls, but that is the subject of another post.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Another Map

Click to Enlarge

Here is a map based on the Peloponnese in the very loosest sense.  I took the hex map associated with Columbia Games' Athens & Sparta and used the section of hexes around the Peloponnese.  I estimated -- very roughly -- that each of those hexes is about 25 miles across.  I then assigned a "main" hex type to each of these larger hexes and built this map using those types as a basis for The Welsh Piper's Hex Based Campaign Design, which I used in an earlier post.  The original version of this map was dominated by scrub land, but at my wife's behest I made it a bit greener. This is largely in line with the actual vegetation of ancient Greece, even if it is not in line with the Greece of my mind's eye.

The purpose of this map is threefold.  First and foremost, I just had a wild hair and wanted to make a map.  Second, I wanted to see how realistic the results of the Hex Based Campaign Design system could be.  The closer this looked to the original map, the better I would think it did.  I'm relatively happy with what I got so it definitely gets a pass.  Finally,  I wanted to have a map for Mediterranean themed adventures that are, as I've noted earlier,  is my primary outlet for fantasy roleplaying.  It is possible I will change some of the vegetation to resemble a more tropical environment and use it in my Underworld campaign, or perhaps as the basis of a Mazes & Minotaurs campaign setting.

Nightwick content to resume shortly.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Underworld Map 1 Rough Draft

Click to Enlarge

I'm not happy with some things about this map, particularly the rivers.  Still, it's enough to get me going on the Underworld project.

The scale is 1 hex = 10 km.  A party on foot can travel three hexes in a day if those hexes are open plains.  Roads will add an extra hex a day, rough terrain subtracts one.  Combinations of rough terrain, such as forested hills or mountains, subtract two hexes.

I'm unlikely to start stocking it this week, as I have more pressing matters, but I may refine the map a bit.  The lone city you see on here is Ilion itself.  I have not added its colonial forts, but I may do so before I put the project back on hold and continue with Nightwick Abbey.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Underworld Demographics Part II: Answering the Ilion Question

While having a conversation with an old gaming buddy yesterday, I stumbled upon an answer to my previous issue.  This is only a solution for Ilion, but since I conceive of it as the equivalent to the Wilderlands' Campaign Map 1, I'm ok with that for now.  

Ilion is a fairly prosperous city due to trade and the crazy primordial jungle fruits that its farmers produce.  This prosperity means that Ilion has the means to make colonies of a sort.  Scattered about neighboring islands and in areas further inland are small forts designed to accommodate various settlers.  Homesteads and villages are there too but in much smaller numbers.  At this stage in Ilion's colonial project, the areas outside the forts are far to dangerous to allow for permanent settlement, even with the garrisons' ranging occasionally into the frontier.

I like this set up for several reasons.  First, it kinda-sorta-not-really emulates Greek history.  Most of the important city states had colonies as far away as Marseilles.   Second, the tribute from these areas explains why Ilion can be as large as I want it to be without straining credibility too much.  It's obviously not realistic, but it's realistic enough for me.  Third, it gives a kind of Wild West feeling to the setting, which I enjoy.  It is basically the same set up as Beyond the Black River, and one cannot go wrong with Robert E. Howard.  Finally, and most importantly, it supports adventure.

Now the player characters can be hired by a band of naive settlers seeking stout men to protect them from the horrors of the night.  A local noble might want some forlorn peak and the caves about it cleared of the savage beasts and chthonic races that live there so that he can mine it for precious iron.  The PCs could flee to a border fort to hide from the authorities after killing a powerful noble.  Scouts may spot a long forgotten temple to an unknown and blood thirsty god.  Rumors could say treasure lies within...

You get the idea.

Now all that's left to do is draw up a map and sprinkle it with these forts and some ruins and I can continue on from there.  More Underworld material to follow.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Underworld Demographics

One of the biggest problems I have with making settings is placing settlements.  With Nightwick Abbey, this was easy since I've only detailed a little outside a 25 mile hex.  Since I have conceived Underworld as a Wilderlands style hex crawl setting, I need to give a bit more thought to where settlements should go.

I'm in no way interested in realistic ecologies and demographics.  This is a setting where a giant sun "winks out" each evening and where dinosaurs and mad sorcerers wait in steamy, jungle ruins.  However, I need to determine certain demographic procedure -- for lack of a better term -- so that players can make informed decisions about how they're going to explore this lost world.

The problem I see with tackling this bugbear is that the Underworld is trying to do several things at once.  On the one hand I love the idea of decadent city states ruled by terrible sorcerers of strange cults, on the other hand the cultures that exist in the setting see it as a "new world."  Ilion was founded by a group of shipwrecked Trojans and their wives, so depending on the amount of time between that founding event and the star of the campaign, there might not be enough of a society to support decadent magicians and their carnal desires.

The Underworld is a land of battling city states and howling wilderness.  How do those city states support themselves?  My conception has always been that Ilion and Aram focus themselves around a chief great city and possibly the minor villages that support them.  Who do they trade with?  How are they as big as they are?  I'm wary of breaking up these civilization into different city states because this waters down some of each city's identity.

Then there is the question of what to do with the lost civilizations that are already in the Underworld.  I want to have mole men, morlocks, Atlanteans, Lemurians, Mu men, dinosauroids, lizard people, and so on with their own ruins and gods and sorceries.  How do they interact with the cultures the PCs are from?  I could solve some of my problems by saying that Atlanteans integrated int Ilionian society, but that removes much of their mystery and horror.  These creatures represent a sort of localized "orcs" in my campaign world, and I am loathe to humanize such beasts.  I don't like "moral questions" in my game because all they serve to do is make players uncomfortable.  I want action and adventure, not philosophical debates on the nature of evil.

Commenters on previous posts I've made have noted that these issues don't really matter much to the player.  By and large this is true, but the implications on play are great enough for me to take this issue into consideration.  Since I'm wedded to the hex map set up, players will want places they can resupply before trekking out again into the savage wilderness.  I have to define the nature of these places and make sure each one is unique but not completely oddball.  This is a tall order.

I'm not sure what to do about these issues, and they're one of the primary reasons that I decided to use Nightiwick Abbey and its world instead of the Underworld for my fantasy gaming.  I love the concept of the Underworld, but I have a very hard time with the execution.  I'm interested in seeing my readers thoughts on these and other issues.

Expect to see quite a bit of Underworld material this week.  I recently watched the MST3k episodes Hercules and the Moon Men  and the Mole People, so I have lost worlds on the brain right now.

Monster Monday: Mites

Mites are wicked little creatures found in old buildings throughout the world.  Their origin remains uncertain, but many people are keen to guess.  They seem to have no gender differentiation and therefore probably are created some other way than the regular route for reproduction.  The most common theory is that stones in old castles or dungeons or whatever other edifice of a certain age just achieve a kind of rude sentience after hundreds of years and becomes a Mite.  This explanation conveniently explains why ruined castles are generally in a state of disrepair, lacking various stones or doors or what have you, without requiring the local innkeeper to explain where he got the stone he used to make the base of his tavern or the fireplace.

Mites rarely appear in uninhabited buildings, no matter how old they are; however it is not unknown to have one hiding in the darker corners of one's house.  This is not to say that Mites are merely common house pests.  They are quite dangerous, and even a lone one has a fairly good chance of killing a normal person.  Compound this with the fact that they are found in great numbers in their ruinous homes, and one can see that Mites pose more than a nominal threat.

They are quite fond of traps, tunnels, and other things that general range from minor annoyances to deadly perils.  Ones found in peasant houses, or in their own terrible context, will seek to jam doors,  stall machines, remove axles from carts,  and a number of of other things that could spell doom in the right, or wrong, circumstances.  Often they use these methods as a way of subduing an victim so that they may rob them blind.  What they do with the items they steal is unknown, and it seems as though they steal for the sake of doing so.

Mites  seem to lack the power of speech.  They are to make no noises at all.  They bob their heads at each other and point and gesture as though they were talking, but they never open their mouths or utter a squeak or a murmur.  This fact greatly perplexes scholars.  Some believe that these are merely the tales of those madmen who are willing to travel to places where Mites could be found in the first place.  Who would listen to such imbeciles?  Others believe they have some primitive telepathy, but if so they never use it to communicate with those outside their own species.

Peasants have attached a strong social stigma to Mites.  Husbands who feel their wife should step up their cleaning often wonder out loud if a Mite might be living in their house.  Wives who observe what their husbands do when they return home are sure there is one.


I'm more than a little tired of Kobolds.  Since I started with 3e, I'm too use to the little buggars being associated with dragons and I can't seem to separate the two in my head.  As such, I needed a replacement, and I found it in Mites and Pesties.  I've combined the two for world building purposes because there is little to distinguish the two from each other, and a I gain nothing by doing so.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Underworld Manifesto

This post is largely to help me organize some of my thoughts on the Underworld as a setting before I begin any work on it as a project.  Part of my initial problem with running the setting was that I didn't have any real guidelines, so I'm going to try to set some out here.  They are subject to change as the setting develops.  They are in no particular order.

  • The cultures of the Underworld are based on real world cultures.  They are assumed to be the descendants of these cultures who found their way to the Hollow Earth.  The amount of time they've spent down their has changed the cultures significantly, but they still have that core of the original ones.
  • On that note: accuracy-shmacccuracy!  I know the Ilionians are supposed to be Trojans, but they're movie-style hoplites with bows, and I don't give to shits about it.
  • The setting is designed for hexcrawling and sandbox play.  'Nuff said.
  • Modern animals don't exist.  They're replaced by lost world style animals that fill similar ecological niches.  Who needs wolves when you have velociraptors?  Ice age megafauna rub noses with dinosaurs and flowering plants, and I have no problem with this.
  • The setting is young.  Civilization is just beginning to creep in to most parts, and the civilizations that exist are rough and new-founded.  Of course, many are still equally decadent, but thats another matter.
  • The setting is ancient.  Despite the fact that Illion, Aram, and Thule are new on the scene ruins abound. Some of these ruins will resemble real world cultures and some won't.  
  • Killable gods are served by sinister cults throughout the setting.  I don't know if Apollo is hanging out in his temple in Ilion, but he might be.  If he is, he's much meaner than Apollo is typically represented (in modern literature.  He's a douschebag in the Iliad).
  • There is in fact a nighttime.  Most Hollow Earth settings don't have this, but I think that losing night would change too much of how a culture works.  I need to keep it if the players are going to make any kind of informed decisions.
  • No (or at least few) standard monsters exist.  Aside from the weird lost word animals, monsters are more in line with Raggi's Creature Generator.  Many are the only ones of their kind, and those with societies only exist in a few lost mountain ranges or stinking jungles.  There are exceptions to this rule, but they'll be noted later.
  • I'll be stealing a great deal of shit from the Clark Ashton Smythos.  This won't be done wholesale, but he definitely lays out the kinds of gods I want.
  • If Ray Harryhausen couldn't put it in a movie it isn't in.  If he could, it goes in there somewhere.
That's it for now.  I'm sure I'll think of more as the setting develops.

Looking over the list I see the one that is my biggest problem: the setting is young.  I like this from a standpoint of having the cultures be heavily based on real world ones, but I think some things about the setting suffer.  Primarily, though I love decadent city states, I normally associate such decadence with decay and decline.  It's a bit hard to explain why a rough and ready civilization that must defend itself from newfound horrors each day would fall into debauchery.  Ever notice how many of those words start with the letter "d?"  

Also, I need to figure out how to set up my demographics.  I want at least a few CSIO sized cities, and they'll need to be fed and supported with trade.  I'm not a big stickler for Demographics, but I can't really see Ilion existing in a vacuum.  The problem then is that I need to give these villages and towns some personality without detracting from the big cities.  That might end up being a big headache.

More to come.

News from Places Deep

  1. Last Thursday I met with a few people to talk about running NIghtwick Abbey.  I'm scheduled for a test run later this month, and with any luck I'll soon have a regular campaign.
  2. If this works out, I'm going to have to cancel the online game I run.  I should be able to continue playing in Scott's Stonehell game, but I may have to quit that as well.
  3. In discussing the campaign with them, I've decided to switch it from the White Box to Labyrinth Lord plus a copious amount of house-rules largely taking from Raggi's Game.  These will be posted whenever I have a working draft.
  4. I'm working on a few entries for the Petty Gods project, and I may or may not post those on this blog in the near future.  I'm very enthusiastic about this project, and it has made me sad that my setting is more or less monotheistic.  Maybe I can work them into the Underworld.
  5. During the week of Thanksgiving I will be back in my hometown.  I've already made arrangements for my old group to get together for a short OSD&D game.  This game will be set in either the Underworld, the World of Nightwick, or the Wilderlands.  I have not yet decided, but a play report will go up on this blog when it happens.

I hope to have a more substantive post later today.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Getting Rid of Witches

I've said several times that the Witch is one of my favorite classes to add to D&D; however, I'm thinking about removing it from the Nightwick Abbey campaign.  While I have a very good context for the Druid, the Witch  makes surprisingly little sense in this campaign roughly modeled on a dark version of Medieval Europe.  The chief issue is that Magic-Users in my setting already fill my "bargains with demons" niche, and I like my conception of them far too much to change it.  For now, I'll be allowing Druids as priests of the Old Gods, and removing Witches from the campaign setting for the time being.  It is possible they will show up in the Underworld though.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fantasy Wargaming and the Crusades

Zak's post along with my recent ramblings about miniatures have given me a neat idea for a miniatures campaign.  The particular impetus of this idea is found in the episode "Pilgrims in Arms" of Terry Jones's documentary on Crusades.  In general, Jones's treatment is good, though I have some issues with his presentation of the papacy and a few other things.  On incident discussed in this episode is a miracle, which Jones hypothesizes is the product of starvation-addled minds, in which armored saints and risen dead crusaders come to the aid of their still living brethren.  Now, I've not read the account that reports this, and Jones does not name it specifically but his use of other sources is good enough that I don't think he just pulled it out of thin air.

Here then is my idea:  use Hordes of the Things to model a kind of psychedelic, fantasy version of the Crusades.  The Crusader army list would be roughly modeled on the above story.  They would have normal men and knights, but also be accompanied by zombies and have the ghosts of martyred saints leading their armies into battle.  The Byzantines could have mastered strange sorceries and sciences allowing them the use of arcane weapons of war.  If I want to buy into Crusader propaganda, and add further fantastic elements, I could also have the emperor make a pact with the Adversary giving them access to demons of various sorts and heretical fanatics.  This is a tad offensive to the Byzantines, but I doubt Alexius Comnenus is going to pound on my door tomorrow asking for an explanation.  The Saracens possess fire sorcerers and genies.  Again, not the most enlightened view, but I like Sinbad movies too much so I'll deal.  Plop out a big map of the Levant with various towns, cities, castles, holy sites, and other points of strategic import and have at it.

I might use some of the material I generate for this in the Nightwick Campaign.  I can see this setup working very well for the Desert Lands, though obviously with a severely edited map.  If I do decide to use this material, then it will have some pretty big implications, especially in regards to the portrayal of the Sword Brothers.

EDIT: Weird timey-wimey stuff happened to this post.  Not sure how.

In Defense of the Table

A response to this, plus my own musings.

In the above link, James admits that he does not entirely buy what he is saying, but is throwing it out there as food for thought.  Well, my thoughts are hungry, so lets dig in.  For those of you who have not read the article, James posits that Tabletop RPGs might be what he calls a "transitional technology."  He compares them specifically to the Walkman, placing computer games in the place of MP3 players.  I find much about this analogy suspect, and as I've already mentioned James does too.  Leaving aside the fact that this sort of argument is a bit teleological for my tastes, the primary flaw is that Roleplaying Games still have two tremendous advantages over their computer cousins.

The first advantage I will discuss is the position of the Dungeon Master.  In computer games the role of Dungeon Master is placed in the hands of the program.  The chief issue with this is that if one prefers that particular role then they had better find something else to do.  Granted, many games include level editors, and someone with a great knowledge of computers could make their own game, but the time it takes to master these is far more than it does to pick up the Red Box and start making a setting.

One is also far less bound by  constraints when making a world or location or dare I say "plot" for a Tabletop RPG because one can easily invent new material for their system of choice.  Granted this is true of computer games as well -- at least those with level editors -- however, the time taken is much higher.  Take the Triffid I posted this morning.  The time from the moment I decided I wanted to do a White Box version of the Triffid to posting it was only about 20 minutes, and most of that was looking up information on Triffids.  Compare this to making a monster in a video game engine.  Assuming you did not want to use an existing skin or model, it could take hours to make the same creature.  One could make whole worlds in the time it would take someone to plan and execute a single adventure in a CRPG.  It is this urge to create material and worlds to explore that keeps me coming back to the table, and Tabletop RPGs allow me to do this more quickly and easily.

One might think that the only advantage then belongs to egotistical madmen who want to draw funny maps and populate them with knockoffs of whatever stilted tripe they happen to be reading this week.  This is not the case.  Being a player in a Tabletop RPG has advantages over being one in a Computer RPG as well.  The most obvious and most powerful is freedom of action.  Due to the fact that one is issuing commands to a program, in a CRPG one's choices are limited to what that program is constructed to handle.  When one changes this from a program to the human mind, anything is possible.  A character in a Tabletop RPG can do or say anything that the player wishes.

This freedom is the chief advantage of the Tabletop RPG.  The range of possible outcomes of play are essentially infinite.  For those of us who like Old School play, this is an absolute necessity.  Without the ability to negotiate one's way out of fights, come up with clever and bizarre uses of spells, and to explain how one bypasses terrible traps, the game loses the very things that make it fun.  Computer RPGs by and large lack the ability to handle these kinds of situations, and even when they are allowed it is only within a very specific framework.

Tabletop RPGs are not Walkmans. Walkmans are big clunky things that have nothing to recommend them over MP3 players, unless one is purely a Luddite.  Tabletop RPGs do have advantages over their counterparts, and I hope that people will continue to discover these advantages for years to come.

EDIT: This article is meant as no slight to computer games or CRPGs in particular.  I play computer games fairly regularly -- though admittedly not with the voraciousness that I take to the table -- and dearly love many.  It only serves, I think, to explain why Tabletop RPGs matter.

The Driffit

Armor Class 9 [10]
HD 3 and above
Attacks Sting
Saving Throw 14 and above
Special Poison
Move 6
HDE/XP 5/240 and above

Driffits are deceptively hostile plant creatures who feed on decaying animal flesh.  Scholars say that these odd creatures were created by a now lost race as a cash crop; however, few believe this as no one would be insane enough to think they could harvest these horrid things.  They resemble a large barrel with a blunt, tripod appendage at the bottom and a pitcher plant springing forth from the top.  Hidden inside this pitcher plant like appendage is a 10' long retractable stinger, not unlike that of a jellyfish.

In addition to taking damage, anyone stung by a Driffit must make a Saving Throw or perish instantly.  The creature then will stay next to the body, sometimes for months, removing flesh and pulling it into what can loosely be called its mouth.  They have a shambling gait and tend to lurch forward slowly and spasmodically.  Most Driffits reach a height that is a little over 7'; however, in certain tropical climes they have been known to reach as tall as 60'.

Some believe that they are highly intelligent.  Their barrel-like body is covered with woody twigs that they use to constantly pound on themselves.  Those who believe they are sentient think this is a primitive, or perhaps even advanced, form of communication.  Most just find it annoying.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Inspirational Picture

That look like the Caves of Chaos to anyone else?

If I ever ran B2, I'd have the caves be a former monastery.

The Votes Are In

The people have spoken, and they want Underworld articles as well as those on Nightwick Abbey.  The poll was pretty much a landslide victory for the Underworld.  Expect to see articles on the various civilizations, monsters, gods, and ruins of the Hollow Earth over the coming months.  Nightwick Abbey will remain the primary focus of this blog, however, and don't expect that to change.

Monster Monday: Mummy

The Dark Country is not the only land that has seen the Sword Brothers.  Almost two centuries before the founding of Nightwick Abbey, the Sword Brothers fought a series of terrible wars in the Desert Lands.  They carved out a small kingdom for themselves, but eventually were forced to leave and abandon the kingdom they had won.  Scholars say that this is when the first Mummies appeared in the lands where the Church holds sway, but pagans say that they had seen the creatures much earlier.

Apparently, the Sword Brothers learned a strange embalming technique during their time across the Sea.  They reserved this rite for those exalted among them who died due to the workings of the Adversary.  The exact qualifications for this are hazy, and most Sword Brothers were placed on a shelf in the catacombs once their life was finished.  Even most High Masters only received a sarcophagus to hold their bones and not the full embalming process they took from the Temples in the Sand.  

For whatever reason, though the Church firmly believes it is due to the unholy nature of the embalming itself, these cadavers are prone to being possessed by the spirits of the dead.  Usually the spirit is of the body's former inhabitant but it is not uncommon for a mummy to be possessed by a strong willed individual who died decades after the body saw the rites of burial.  When this happens, the mummy is filled with a sort of base intelligence.  It is as malevolent and brutal as it is stupid.  They seek revenge on those who wronged them in life.  This is, for most mummies, a very long list.  They carry out this revenge in the most blunt way possible.  They crash into the house of their betrayer and throttle him or her before leaving into the night air.

Unfortunately for the mummies, many animate after all of their foes are long dead.  Though they sometimes carry their revenge out on the descendants of their enemy, most have intellects that are too dim to be able to determine who these descendants might be.  Instead they attack any creature who roughly resembles those they knew in their past life.  This can be as simple as sharing a hair color, or being a bit taller than average.  Mummies always mistake such minor similarities for the real thing, and act accordingly.

Or at least they would if they were able to.  Most mummies are buried in catacombs and barrows and remain there unable to escape.  These mummies are so full of anger that they attack any living creature who crosses their path.

The natives of the Dark Country know that the meticulously embalmed creatures brought from the Desert Lands are not the only form that mummies take.  For centuries, perhaps even millennia, worshipers of the Old Gods have made terrible sacrifices in bogs and lakes.  If the god is displeased by such a sacrifice, the corpse animates and becomes a creature that resembles a mummy in everything but appearance.  These creatures are commonly used in folk medicine and witchcraft, though the Church frowns upon such things if they find out about them.  Across the Sea, the Desert Nomads tell of mummies of great magical strength and intelligence.  These mummies are still guided by the powerful hate which grips their kind; however, they enact their revenge more slowly and methodically.  These creatures, it is said, wish to revenge themselves upon the whole, living World and will not rest until it is tramped beneath their linen-wrapped foot.


Today is the saddest day of the year.  I've always hated how the showing of horror movies and the general Halloween spirit come to a dead stop on November 1st.  In honor of this fact, I will more slowly ease out of the Halloween spirit on this blog.  The above entry is designed to take some of the typical conventions of a mummy movie and place them in a context that works for Medieval Europe.  

I'm an idiot by the way.  First, other blogs have been using Creature Feature as a title for articles on monsters.  Second, I missed a chance for alliteration by not tying the name into the fact that I make these posts on Mondays.  This has been corrected.