Thursday, June 28, 2012

Some Demon Lords of Nightwick

This is a bit of a companion piece to yesterday's post.  I have not included the information for summoning these entities because too many of my players read this blog.  The entries are based off of the format presented in the Dictionnaire Infernal.

One of the Grand Princes of the Pit, Armadeus is also known as the Damned One and the Master of All Knowledge.  He appears as an empty, black cloak that floats as though there were a human of enormous stature inside.  His eyes are red and bright as fire.  Ancient texts claim he once appeared as a handsome, well muscled scholar with teeth, tongue, and skin as black as night, but even these state that this was millennia in the past.  He answers questions relating to the past and the present, reveals hidden treasures, teaches the magical arts, and reveals the ultimate desires of men.

This Grand Duke of the Pit is also known as the Lord of Toads and Master of Hags.  He appears to the conjurer as an impeccably dressed frogling with eerily human skin that is bruised pallid.  His eyes are large, human-like, and bloodshot.  He is always genial and well-spoken and observes all the courtesies of human society.  Crapoad makes frogs and toads into familiars, turns froglings into bullywugs, and curses both men and women.  He is a patron to witches and the slaad are his servants.

He is the Grand Duke That is Buried in the Earth and the Father of Goblins.  He appears to conjurers as a bloated dwarf with the ears and nose of a bat.  His skin is mangy and scabrous and his beard is patchy and grey.  He reveals the secrets of gems, advises men on how to obtain wealth, delivers treasure, turns dwarves into goblins, and bestows the love of beautiful things.

The Horned One
He is a Great Prince and Master of the Sabbath.  He appears a large man with the head and feet of a goat, skin as hard and grey as steel, and hair like copper wire. He smells of sandalwood and all about him can be heard a faint chanting in an unknown language.  He leads Black Sabbaths, delivers women to men and men to women, makes men into monsters, ruins churches, makes children deformed, and baptizes the faithless in blood.  His servants are devil-men and beastmen of all sorts, and he is a patron of witches and hags that rivals Crapoad.

This Knight of the Pit is often called Hell’s Chief Architect.  He appears to the conjurer as raven of normal size but sinister aspect, and always approaches from behind the conjurer’s left shoulder.  Some say that in the Pit he appears as a withered man with the head and wings of a raven.  He builds fortifications, towers, and cathedrals, destroys the same, advises commanders during sieges, and can make men invisible for a time.

This Grand Prince of the Pit is known as He of the Fuel-Less Fire.  He was worshiped as a god in the Desert Lands, where children and priests were given to his fires.  He appears to conjurers as an enormous man with the head of a bull.  He is reported to be covered in blood and the tears of mothers, and it is said that these floods constantly bubble and simmer as though his skin was amazingly hot.  He appears naked except for the crown and cloak of an emperor.  He accepts sacrifices, turns men into githyanki, makes warriors strong, and topples kingdoms.

He is the Lord of Madness and the Master of Terror.  When summoned, Ozgin rides out of the west riding a horse made of blood-red fire such as to appear that the sun is rising in the wrong direction.  He appears as a tall and slender man of middling years with a trimmed beard and pointed ears.  He wears well made clothing in a style unfamiliar to the people of the World of Nightwick, in all the colors of the rainbow.  He carries a sword and pistol bearing incredibly intricate decorations.  He teaches the magical arts, shows things that were not meant to be shown, and makes men mad.

Note that this is by no means an exhaustive list and that the legions of the Pit are ever-spawning and infinite. The categorization used to delineate demons of the sixth circle, princes, dukes, etc. is an inherently lawful structure forced onto beings of pure chaos.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Demonic Conjuring in the Dark Country (Draft Rules)

I’ve been reading over a bunch of Tekumel stuff and Carcosa recently in order to help me get inspired for Uz.  Oddly enough, it’s actually given me quite a few ideas for the Dark Country.  I’ve long wanted to include some form of ritual magic in my Nightwick Game, and thinking about those settings has helped me identify a method by which I could: summoning demons.  

There are some differences between my version and those found in the Book of Ebon Bindings and Carcosa.  Conjuring in the Dark Country is not always 100% effective even when it is performed properly.  Also, my system for conjuring is more concerned with the acquisition of morbid items rather than perverse methods of sacrifice.  A ritual might require the eyeball of a child, but it’s not like there are a lot of unclaimed children eyeballs lying around.  This is not to say that they do not require sacrifices; they universally do.  Rather, the morbid detail is more focused on the items required rather than the way in which the sacrifice is despatched.

Note that these rules have not yet been playtested and that certain aspects - particularly the Wickedness Modifier - probably need significant overhauling.

Any character may attempt to summon a demon by using one of the rituals below; however, even if he or she completes the ritual in its entirety there is only a chance the demon in question may deign to heed the conjurer’s call.  To see if a demon arrives, consult the formula below.

1d20 + (level if Cleric, Cultist, or Magic User or ½ level if any other class) + Charisma Bonus + (Wickedness Modifier) - the Demon’s HD = or > 20*

A natural 20 is always a success.  A natural 1 is always a failure.  If the true name of the demon is used in the ritual, it is always summoned.

The Labyrinth Lord may assign a character a Wickedness Modifier based on the table below.

Wickedness Modifier

Especially Pious*+5
Especially Wicked+2
Italicized traits are up to the Labyrinth Lord to decide.
*Lawful and pious characters receive such a large bonus because demons take a special delight in tormenting and corrupting them.

Regardless of whether or not the ritual works, the Labyrinth Lord must still roll on the reaction table for the demon.  If the reaction is Hostile but the demon did not appear, the character is now cursed in whatever way the Labyrinth Lord finds most amusing and is most appropriate for the demon concerned.  If the reaction is Friendly but the demon did not appear, the character will receive will receive a +2 bonus on future attempts to summon the demon.  

If the reaction is Hostile and the demon is summoned, it will immediately attack the conjurer regardless of what he or she may offer.  If the reaction is Friendly and the demon is summoned, it will answer any questions put to it only asking for (apparently) minimal returns.

Summoning rituals must be carefully research as some, but not all, do not contain information vital to the survival of the conjurer.  Each ritual entry contains basic information and advanced information.  Basic information is that which is included in most books known to cultists and diabolists.  Advanced information is that which is not commonly known and must be sought out.  Not all rituals will contain the same amount of research, and it is advised that the conjurer should not be made aware whether or not he or she has all the information necessary to “safely” summon a demon.

Below is an example of the sort of ritual used to conjure a demon in the Dark Country.

Valax, the Master of Things Hidden
HDE: 13

Basic Information: This demon is one of the three Infernal Ones that serve the Demon Lord Armadeus, the Damned One.  He functions as part of that Lord’s memory, though he only contains a small fraction of his master’s knowledge.  He appears as a shadowy and indistinct form in the rough shape of a man in a deep cowl.  His eyes are hideously formed and are the shade of purest green.  Some obscure texts claim that he once appeared as a handsome youth with night-dark skin, teeth, and tongue, but even the most ancient of these say that this was in the past.  If it ever was true, it has not been so for millennia.  Valax will answer all questions put to him concerning hidden treasures and secrets being kept from the conjurer.  He also makes familiars of snakes, and will reveal their location or deliver them to the conjurer if given leave to do so.

To summon Valax, one must first obtain a jar filled with the blood of a man no younger than 16 and no older than 30 as well as simple robes of darkest black.  He may only be summoned in a chthonic chamber.  It makes no difference whether the chamber is manmade or natural, but an even floor is desirable.  The conjurer must use the blood to write Valax - or the demon’s true name if that is known - 12 times such that it forms a great circle.  Once this is complete, all flames or lights must be doused so that the chamber is completely dark.  Thereafter, the conjurer must chant the Litany of Armadeus.  At the beginning of the twelfth recitation a smoke smelling of brimstone will enter the circle, and at its end Valax will be fully manifest. The conjurer may then offer sacrifices and put questions to the Master of Things Hidden.

Advanced Information: The circle does not act as a ward and other protections must be provided.  Valax will only answer a number of questions equal to the HD of the sacrifices.  Further questions will be answered, but he will drain one level for each additional one before being dismissed, barring wards to prevent this.  Offering a sacrifice that is inside one of the conjurer’s wards will immediately destroy the ward and give Valax free reign.  Sacrifices must be bound or drugged in such a way as to prevent them from making noise during the litany as extraneous noise will cause the ritual to fail 100% of the time.

*Thanks to Zak S. for providing the basic idea for the formula.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Uz G+ Session 1 Report

Yesterday, I ran Uz for the second time on G+.  The reason this is "Session 1" is that it's the first time I ran it during the time slot it will normally appear in and I had a considerably larger party.

Map by Mike D

I started writing a really long session report, but it became apparent rather quickly that it was pretty tedious and no one was going to read it.  So here are the highlights from the session instead:
  • Waw, Priest of Kothar, managed to get the party past some guards who were patrolling the undercity entrance by threatening what they love most: their pension.
  • As with the first session, there was quite a bit of philosophizing by the characters, particularly on matters relating to death and Mot's insatiable maw.
  • The party explored what appeared to be some kind of tomb or temple complex dedicated to Manugal, the Judge of the Dead.  Almost all the depictions of this goddess were flanked by figures with large, spherical heads, four sets of wings, and strange arm bands that would look to a modern observer not unlike a wristwatch.
  • They found a bunch of statues of those dome-headed guys, and the statues shot that red laser that turns non-gold metals and flesh into goop.  This party was considerably better at getting pas these than the Hattiesburg group was when dealing with similar traps.  This was particularly due to the quick thinking of Waw and Aka the Bloodstained.
  • Every time I've rolled on the SBVD critical table so far, someone has died.  Alas, Juba son of Juba!  Oh, and that hireling too I guess.
  • Eshimur, Priest of "Nobody Important Really," was able to warn the party that the Eternal Servants - zombie-type guys whit weird tattoos - had to be burned in order to keep them from reanimating.  I had hoped someone would just chop them up or something so I could have little hands crawling around, but such is life.
  • Unlike the tombs that were explored in the first session, the tombs the party explored this time had already been looted.  This greatly perplexed Ubara the Man-God and Eshimur.
  • Ubara warned his party not to enter a particular room because it contained a grisly scene.  Why he was so disturbed by it is unknown.
  • The party also bumped into a number of Phutian bandits that were trying to loot the complex as well.  They killed one of the Phutians by activating one of those statue-laser-traps, and the other three surrendered.  These were sold into slavery.
  • Maggot men are hideously disgusting, and the party was not willing to let their bodies lie dead for fear that smaller monsters might pop out of them.
Running Uz again has been a really fun experience, and something about designing stuff for those sessions excites me in a way that Nightwick Abbey sometimes doesn't.  I think it's because it's in such a primordial state at this point that I get to see where it's going to go and be surprised by it along with everyone else.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Future and/or Past

During the most recent session of Uz, Cole kept making jokes about Nightwick Abbey as though it was in the Future but also the Past.  I've also been talking with some of the Nefarious Nine* players who are also DMing stuff on G+ about making the connections between some of our campaign settings explicit.  What follows is a totally non-canon thought experiment that places these campaigns on a bizarre timeline.  Note that some of these campaigns are FLAILSNAILS and others are not.

The Past and/or Future
Antediluvian Civilization
The Deluge

The Nicodemus Caravan
The Dark Country

The Hill Cantons
Traveller: Terran Space 

The Cantonment
HumanSpace Empires
Krul and Oriax

The Deluge
Uz and Empire of the Petal Throne and Ugarit

The Nicodemus Caravan

The Dark Country
The Hill Cantons
The Future and/or Past

*Chris Kutalik's G+ Hill Cantons group

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Uzite Slave and Hireling Tables

Here are more things for Uzite PCs to spend money on. Once again I'm stealing from better minds, in this case MAR Barker.

Uzite Slaves and Hirelings
Uzite society is by no means egalitarian.  Slavery is a legally enshrined institution used to punish criminals and captured enemies as well as a way to settle debts.  The slave market most familiar to the PCs would be the Great Slave Market on the Street of Sins, which runs between a particularly slummy neighborhood and passes the Wine House of Baram-Sin. To determine the number of slaves available at the market in a given week, consult the chart below.

Slaves Available

Type of Slave011d61d202d201d100Cost (gp)
Servant boy or girl1-56-2021-5051-8081-9596-00150
Unskilled Labor1-3031-4041-6061-9091-00-200
Skilled Labor1-5051-7071-9596-00--5,000

Servant boys and girls  typically serve as cupbearers or house servants.  They are very common among Uzite elites, but are not usually found in adventuring parties.  Unlike the other available slaves and laborers, their base morale is 3.

Unskilled laborers can perform menial tasks that require little training.  The ones most familiar to PCs are likely torchbearers and porters.

Skilled laborers can perform crafts smithing, piloting a boat, or training animals.

Overseers are specifically selected to keep other slaves in line.  While technically a slave position, they are usually considered part of the household in a way slaves are not.

Men-at-arms are captured soldiers that have been sold into slavery.  To determine the type roll 1d6: 1-2 - Spearmen 3 - Slinger 4 - Peltast 5 - Archer 6 - Noble.

Courtesans are exactly what it says on the tin.

Special slaves are typically nonhumans that have been captured by slavers.*

If the PCs wish to sell a captured opponent into slavery, assume that Getherite slavers will purchase him or her for 1/10 their market value.  This should be modified by the campaign circumstances.

Free laborers and warriors also will offer their services to adventurers.  To determine how many of each type is available in a given week, consult the charts below.

Free Labor Available

Type of Laborer011d62d61d20Cost (gp)
Skilled1-5051-7071-9596-00-1d100 x 3
Noble1-7071-8586-9596-00-1d100 x 5

Noble laborers rarely perform physical labor and instead can serve as interpreters, translators, sages, poets, assassins, etc.

Free Warriors Available

Type of Warrior011d62d61d202d20Cost (gp)
Slinger1-4041-6061-8081-9596-00-1d100 x 2
Peltast1-5051-7071-8586-9900-1d100 x 3
Archer1-6061-8081-9596-00--1d100 x 4
Noble1-7071-8586-9900--1d100 x 5

Spearmen are armed with a axe or dagger (1-3/4-6), a spear, a wicker shield, and light armor.  They have a 30% chance of having a helmet.

Slingers ar armed with light armor, a sling, 20 stones, and a dagger.  They have a 30% chance of having a wicker shield and a 15% chance of having a helmet.

Peltasts are armed with light armor, swords, 3 throwing spears, and a wicker shield.

Archers are armed with medium armor, bows, 20 arrows, and swords.  They have a 50% chance of having a helmet.

Noble warriors are always armed with a sword, two spears, a bronze shield, heavy armor, and a helmet.

Note that Cost for free laborers and warriors assumes a monthly salary.  If a PC wishes to hire them for only a single expedition, assume that their cost goes up by one degree.  Thus, a Peltast will charge 1d100 x 4 gp and a linkman would charge 1d100 x 3 gp for a single outing.  Nobles, whether laborers or warriors, will always charge 1d100 x 10 gp for single adventures.

A Google doc containing these tables is available here.

*There is currently no table for generating what type of nonhuman is for sale.  This will be rectified shortly.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Uzite Property Owner's Guide

One thing I've noticed while running Nightwick Abbey is that PCs tend to amass a large amount of money without much to spend it on.  This has been a problem for DMs as long as D&D has existed, and it has produced such mechanics as Orgies inc., carousing, training costs, and magic item shops.

For Uz, I decided that I want to have discrete lists of flavorful items PCs can purchase rather than an abstract system.  Today I'm presenting a rough draft I've been working on for purchasing homes and estates for posh PCs.  I've also worked up a system for generating the slaves and hirelings that are available in a given week, but that one still needs a bit of explanatory text before I can present it.

As always I am stealing from better minds.

Uzite Property Owner’s Guide

TypeCost (gp)Upkeep (gp/year)Number HousedAvailability
Reed Hutnoned6 12
Reed Longhouse, Suburband6 x 100d6 x 5104
Reed Longhouse, Urband6 x 100d6 x 10106
Mud Brick House (one room)d6 x 200d6 x 2058
Mud Brick House (courtyard)d6 x 1,000d6 x 501012
Palace, Smalld6 x 10,000d6 x 1001514
Palaced6 x 100,000d6 x 1,0002018
Palace Complexd6 x 200,000d6 x 2,0003020

Cost represents the variable cost that one will have to pay for a building once a suitable candidate is found.

Upkeep represents the amount of gold needed to maintain the houses amenities and to pay taxes.

Number Housed represents how many the building can house comfortably.  This number can double or even triple, but at the cost of one's quality of life.  Increasing beyond this number increases the chance that a building of reed-based construction will burn down.

Availability presents a target number the prospective buyer has to beat on a 1d20 roll (modified by the circumstances of the campaign).

Houses of Reed-Based Construction must check each month to see if they are razed by accidental or purposeful means.  Their is a 10% chance in normal weather and a 15% chance in times of drought.  Wet months, which are exceedingly rare, only present a 5% chance.

If you have any feedback, I'd love to hear it.

EDIT: I updated the prices to be more in line with the tables for slaves and hirelings.

Monster Monday: Vortlup

Note that this Monster Monday entry contains spoilers for the Clark Ashton Smith story "The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis."  If you haven't read that story, I cannot recommend it highly enough.  It is one of Smith's best works - some would say the best - and it along with "The Tale of Satampra Zeiros," "The Tomb-Spawn," "The Weaver in the Vault," and several others are very adaptable to D&D.

No. Appearing: 1d6 (4d6)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 120’*
Armor Class:  7 [12] <14>
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: see below
Damage: 1d6 (automatic)
Save: F2
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: XX
XP: 47

Vortlups are a horrid race of fungus-things that brought doom to a Martian civilization that was born and died millennia before the Martians known to the Uzites.  These malevolent creatures made their way to Earth on Martian ships in the time after the Deluge, and they have remained here ever since.

These fungal-horrors appear as small sheets of night-black moss.  They move in a manner similar to that of an inchworm - folding unfolding rapidly and at an unnatural speed.  They are capable of crawling across walls and ceilings just as easily as the ground, and indeed they prefer to do so, though those that have just fed must stick to the ground and move at half-movement.  

The vortlup attacks by dropping on its victim, making an attack roll to see if it lands on the victim’s head.  If it does so, it will deal automatic damage each round until the victim is slain.  This is how the creature feeds, growing bloated and filling with blood, hair, and the gelatinous residue of melted bones.  Creatures slain in this manner immediately come under the control of the vortlup, which uses them for their own nefarious purposes.  Such bodies are only usable by the creature for 3d6 days, after which point the body is too decayed to be propelled in any fashion.  Vortlups will typically remain on the victim until another passes by.

Killing the vortlup will cause its grip to slacken and its cowl-like body to slump to the floor.

Creatures that manage to survive being attacked by a vortlup must make a saving throw or become the victim of a poison used by the vortlups.  This poison infects the brain and causes the victim to perform whatever actions the vortlups desires.  It takes effect regardless of whether or not the vortlups is still alive.  This is the same chemical that vortlups use to pilot the bodies of the dead.

An ancient Martian chronicle states that the vortlups were originally created by a race known only as the Necromantic Ones.  The precise nature of these beings is unknown, but they seem to have survived from the dim antiquity during which the solar system was born.  While perhaps more common on Mars, Necromantic Ones are believed to exist on Earth as well, and the vortlups chief goal seems to be their reawakening.  To accomplish this, they lead their victims to strange vaults in order to perform rituals best left to the referee’s imagination.