Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Monsters in Your Campaign: The X-Com Method

Oh shit! Oh shit! Oh shit!

A little while ago, one of my Hburg players gave me a copy of the latest X-Com game in payment for helping him move some shit.  Playing it has reminded me of playing the original - which I did for the first time only about two years ago.  Thinking about that almost 20 year old game has helped coalesce an idea I've had for a while about how to present monsters in a campaign.

What I'm calling The X-Com Method requires a large number of new monsters.  Many blog posts and products advocate for all unique creatures which only appear once to menace the PCs.  This, they assert, will mean that the players are afraid of everything.  This is true, but it comes at the sake of agency.  Since these monsters appear only once and are by necessity weird and outside of the experience of the players, it means that the players can't make decisions based on the monster they are currently facing.

An extreme example of this problem can be found in Isle of the Unknown. Aside from the fact that many of the monsters are just plain stupid, their appearence does little to telegraph information about their toughness or abilities to the players.  A 15' tall pyramidal ostrich might have 15 hit dice while  30' long beaver with snake legs has only 5.  This wouldn't be a big problem except that - with very few exceptions* - these monsters will only be encountered once.

What X-Com does is have whole races of monsters.  Each time you see a new one your thought is "what the hell is that" and then it starts glowing or something and you're like "what the hell is it doing?!" and you're scared - or a scared as you can be playing a 19 year old game.  Eventually though, after you've had some of your men die due to their glowing thingies, you learn what the monsters do and how to counter it.  This offers the best of both worlds: you get scared players and - eventually - your players can make decisions based on information they've gathered in the game world.

If you think that this would lessen the horror overall, let me introduce you to this asshole:

I hate you

That, as the image will inform you, is a Chryssalid, and they are awful.  They have the ability to implant eggs in your men, which turn them into zombies, and then the zombified versions of your men move to attack the non-zombified versions and then when they're close a new Chryssalid emerges from its kills the shit out of you.  I've heard from other people that have played the game that a common tactic when confronted with these bastards is to activate a timed grenade at the end of your turn such that it will blow up when your squadie gets impregnated.  That's some awful shit right there.

One example from my game would be the Children of Stone, who have bedeviled the PCs ever since the first party entered the South tower.* While some of their capabilities are described in that post, most have been things that the players had have to guess at, and in some cases this has informed their decision making - such as whether or not to pursue the things when they flee or how one should close into melee with them quickly.  Another example might be the Valt-Weaver, which has only been directly encountered once, killing the PC of a notably cautious player.  Ever since then anytime I give any sort of hint about the creature being nearby - the smell of ozone, a soft blue light, corpse dust with strange ropy bits - the players get visibly worried in a way that amuses me.  The reason I stat that it might be one is that the current theory among my players is that there might be only one that wanders the first level.  A kind of soft example one can only get at obliquely would be the mention that MAR Barker makes to his players fearing the smell of musty cinnamon and the chiming of bells.

The chief problem with this method is that it takes time.  If you want to do it properly, you have to come up with a whole new list of monsters; however, I find the the advantages far outweigh this.  Watching my players speculate on how pig-men and maggot-men work in the Dark Country and Uz respectively has been a joy.

Plus, there are shortcuts.  The easiest is to steal weird monsters from things that your players are unlikely to be familiar with.  Uz has quite a few Tekumel beasties in it because I knew my Hburg group doesn't know anything about that setting.  I've also tried to tweak them a bit for my G+ group, which is far more familiar with that material.

*The most prominent exception I can remember is the legless platypus that looks suspiciously like a piece of bloody poop.  These things, unfortunately, turn you into one when you die, thus making them a slightly lamer version of the shit weasels from Dreamcatcher.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Dwarfs of the Dark Country

Dwarfs in the World of Nightwick are a fairy race and thus are fickle creatures known for mercurial moods - though by fairy standards they are fairly predictable.  They are shorter than a man, and typically thinner, though some famously barrel-chested ones are recounted in legend.  They love gold, jewels, and the other treasures of the earth more than all other things.  Due to their constant toil in search of wealth, their skin is often covered in soot and their hands black and calloused, though strangely delicate.  Their noses are universally large and knobby, their ears pointed, and their beards long and spindly.

There is only one dwarf kingdom remaining in the World - the Kingdom Under the Mountain in the Bald Mountains, near the city of Orlock in the Dark Country. They are ruled by the Mountain King, who is supposedly a knotty creature of enormous girth - though still of vaguely dwarfish cast. He is immensely suspicious of visitors, and like all dwarfs he is of the opinion that all of the metals and jewels of the earth belong to him.   For this reason he sends out dwarfs into the World.  He hopes that eventually they will be able to secret back some lucre that truly belongs in the treasurehouse of the dwarfs.

Despite their apparent preoccupation with this world, it is believed that they worship some form or aspect of the God of Law.  Indeed, many human clerics believe this is the reason that of all of the fairy races they are the most stable - though they are far too capricious for human tastes.  Those few who have ventured into the Kingdom Under the Mountain speak of enormous cathedral caverns that are used for the purpose that is their namesake.  In these are laid all sorts of treasures, including great bejeweled crosses and fired stones made into a vivid sort of stained glass.  Still, most clergy - and indeed most humans - mistrust dwarfs, and many believe they lead men away from honest pursuits towards stranger, darker ones such as adventuring.

Dwarf Race Abilities
Ability RequirementsDwarfs must have a Dexterity of at least 13 and a Constitution of at least 15.  They can have a Charisma of no higher than 9.

Alignment Restriction: Dwarfs must be of good or neutral alignment.

Character Advancement: Dwarfs can advance as high as 6th level as a fighter, and may advance further if their Strength is at least 15.  They may advance as a rogue without restriction.

Weapon and Armor Restrictions: Dwarfs posses the restrictions of their chosen class, but due to their size they may never wield a two-handed weapon.

Hereditary Foes: Dwarfs hate goblins and all of their works.  Due to years spent fighting these creatures, Dwarf characters gain a +1 to hit against them.

Keen Detection: Regardless of class, Dwarfs can search for traps, secret doors, and sloping passages as though they were a rogue of equal level.  If the character is not a rogue, this ability only counts for places and traps constructed out of stone.

Green Eyes: Dwarfs are only able to see in tones of black, white, and grey.  This allows them to see in low light conditions up to 5 times the distance a human would in the same light, but only about half as far as a man could see in the light of the Sun.  The exceptions to this rule are gold, silver, and gemstones of all sorts, which they can see in brilliant and vivid color.

Just Enough Magic: If a dwarf is either alone or in a group consisting only of dwarfs, they can surprise or avoid humans in the wilderness on a roll of 1-3 on a 1d6.

Saving Throws: Dwarfs use the saving throw bonuses of their chosen class.


Inspired partly by this post on Middenmurk and and Zzarchov's take on them in Neoclassical Geek Revival.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Varkolak (Art by Jeremy Duncan)

This is actually a rewrite of a monster that I wrote up three years ago.  When they actually came up in my WFRP game, I changed some things about the monster to more closely match the tone of my campaign.  This version is essentially a Swords & Wizardry conversion of the monster which Abraham Nermal and others fought only a few months ago.  The art, as mentioned above, was provided by Jeremy Duncan based on a sketch he made of the creature at the time.

No. Appearing: 1 (1d8)
Armor Class: as Chain
Hit Dice: 4
Movement: 60'/240' (flying)
Attacks: See Below
Morale: 7
Alignment: Chaotic

Varkolaks are a form of undead that, while not unique to the Dark Country, are disconcertingly common there.  They are the created when a body is improperly disposed of - either because certain burial practices were not observed or because they were interred in unholy ground - or because their grave has been disturbed in some way.  These corpses then rise each night to feed on the living in hopes that it will ease the pain of undeath.

During the day they appear as little more than inert corpses, though of an unusually ruddy cast; however, at night they go through a hideous transformation.  They become hideously gaunt, and their eyes merge into a single, saucer-like orb in the center of their head.  Their hands are filth-caked and end in black talons.  Their hair is stringy and coarse, and their skin is wrinkled and cold and hard as iron.

Varkolaks feed by attaching themselves to a victim with their awful, jagged teeth.  This requires an attack roll and deals 1d6 damage for each round that the creature is attached.  They will often do this while hovering over their victim.  As they drain blood, they bloat hideously like a tick, giving a "full" varkolak the appearance of being morbidly obese.  Creatures slain in this manner become a varkolak in 1d4 nights.

Once full, they fly back to their grave, often cackling in a hideously shrill voice that can be heard for miles.  Usually this newly absorbed blood leaks out of the creature's nose, eyes, and mouth as it transforms back into an inert corpse before daylight.  Skilled rangers and monster hunters know this as a way to identify them.

If attacked while full, the creature will move with a horrid, waddling gait and attempt to strike with its filthy claws.  These claws infect victims with a disease in the same manner as a giant rat's bite, and it is said by some scholars that they often scratch those who they are not feeding on while they are sleeping in order to spread their awful disease.

Varkolaks may only be hit by magical or silver weapons, but they are also subject to a number of "rules" that can aid the knowledgeable hunter in slaying them.  First, they cannot enter a house without being invited.  If they desire to feed on someone in a particular domicile, they will usually knock on the door and ask if they may come in, though typically their shrill voices warns their prospective meal.  It is far more common for them to create some kind of disturbance outside using their prodigious strength and ability to fly in order to coax the victim out to see what is going on.  Since they are inert during the day, it is easy to destroy the corpse using the methods that would typically work on the active variety.  Finally, if there is a group of varkolaks, there will always be a "head varkolak," that will cause all of the others to become not but normal corpses if it is destroyed.  If these corpses are not properly disposed of, however, they may still return as a new varkolak.

Some Saints from the World of Nightwick

The Church of Law venerates a large number of saints.  For the common people, these serve much the same purpose as the Old Gods did in pagan days, while for the clergy their examples and writings provide useful insight into the nature of the God of Law.  Many holy orders are organized around the veneration of a particular saint, though only heretics of the worst sort would deny the existence and virtue of others.  In the West, saints are depicted with round halos while in the East they are depicted with square ones.

The Lady is perhaps the most holy of all saints; however, her cult is not terribly popular.  Her name is said to be too holy to mention, but some heretics assert that the High Pontiff has simply forgotten it.  She was the wife of the man Realmish scholars consider to be the first Emperor,* and it is said that she was the first human to hear revelation from the God of Law.

St. Gax the Lawgiver is always depicted as an elderly man with a beard and a habit bearing a festive floral print.  He is usually shown holding two keys that unlock the gates of Heaven and the Pit.  He was the second to receive revelation - after the Lady - but being the one who organized the Law and wrote it down, he is much more widely revered.

St. Hogg is depicted as a fat man with dark eye shadow to protect his eyes from the Sun.  he is said to have been an administrator during the last days of the Empire, serving in the Desert Lands.  He was a fierce opponent of the diabolic cult known to Lawful texts as "the Dukes of Drazah."  He is patron to butchers, reeves, and cooks.

St. Notappearinginthisfilm is typically depicted as a child in ill fitting clothing - usually that of an abbot or a bishop.  It is said that he was the first to introduce "nap time" to monasteries, and he is a patron to guild members and burghers as well as the patron saint of holidays and work breaks.

St. Ralph the Liar is depicted as a monk wearing a sandwich board claiming that his name is St. Benedict the Liar.  He is said to have convinced the High King of the Iron Kingdoms to submit to the Law through obscene aggrandizements, and creating the doctrine of the Ends Justify the Means.

St. Richard the Prior is depicted running while lit aflame.  He is a patron of truth tellers and it is said that he protects from death by immolation.  It is believed by the highest of the clergy that he chose not to exercise this power in order to save himself from death because he was ready to accept the crown of martyrdom.

St. Santa Claus is believed by some to be a sickeningly obvious adaptation of Father Winter, an Old God venerated in the Dark Country.  He is depicted as a jolly elf of enormous stature and weight wearing festive clothing designed for colder climes.  He is invoked by the superstitious against plague and frostbite, and is the patron saint of toymakers and bakers.

St. Simian the Fool is depicted as an monkey making an obvious gesture of refusal.  It is said that he refused to eat a martyr in the arena, and that once he was released he and the martyr traveled the world spreading the Law through an ornate organ grinder show.  On his feast day, bananas or other fruits are traditionally hurled at clergymen.

St. Simon the Wise is depicted typically as a magician, though sometimes only as a brazen head.  It is said that he was the first to organize the building of a grand cathedral in the capital of the Realm.  In order to do this, he developed a number of ways to increase revenue for the Church.  As such, he is patron of simony and money lending.

St. Toad is depicted as a frog in a monk's cowl.  He was the first frogling to submit to the Law.  He is not venerated in many parts of the Realm and the Dark Country, and some even assert that his feast day - Smarch the 32nd - isn't even a real day.

St. Twiddle is depicted as a man holding a church in one hand and a quill in the other.  It is said that he designed the cathedral that Simon the Wise had built, and that in doing so he established the intervals of 10' used by architects until this day - though some heretics claim that the presence of this standard in pagan and pre-human ruins calls this "fact" into question.  He is also patron of cartographers, though most who call on him in this capacity find him to be a fickle friend at best.

*Zenopolitan scholars disagree with this assertion, claiming the Empire existed for many years as a pagan polity before the Law was revealed to the Lady.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Some Cults of Zenopolis

Edit: I've been worried about this post for a while and I finally decided to do something about it. When I wrote this, I was not aware of TERF and "Gender Critical" talking points the way I am now. I meant for the description of the Antichurch to mirror the professionalization of women's work turning into men's work in the later middle ages and thought it would be funny if it was due to a technicality. However, what I wrote very clearly matches what TERFs say trans women are trying to do to women's spaces and I have been uncomfortable with that for some years. After debating deleting the post, editing the post, or putting a disclaimer like this one here, I decided on the last option. It is likely I will still do a revised version of this post so that that is no longer the "canon" version of it in the World of Nightwick. 

The Church of Law
The Eastern Church differs in a number of minor theological points from the Western Church known to most of the inhabitants of the Dark Country.  The most contentious is the shape of their god, which the Easterners believe to be a cube.  As evidence of this, they point to a relic they rescued from the wastes of the Desert Lands - an enormous cube they believe to be a section of the God of Law itself.  The High Pontiff states that this cube proves nothing as it is clearly nothing more than a large wooden frame with a man yelling loudly inside.*

This cube forms the center of Lawful worship in the City of the Emperor.  On the feast day at the beginning of each month, the High Patriarch places his hands on the cube to receive wisdom from the God of Law which he then relays to the Emperor, who is believed to be best able to interpret the Law. 

Unlike its Western counterpart, the Church in Zenopolis does not persecute  pagans.  Instead, it is highly syncretic, reinterpreting pagan worship in ways that make it actually venerate the God of Law, even if the actual pagan cult disputes this "fact."

The Cult of the Fathers
The people of Zenopolis place a great deal of importance on family, ancestry, and history.  As a result, the powerful noble families of the city long ago established the Cult of the Fathers in order to venerate powerful magnates who they believe performed great deeds - such as crushing slave rebellions and being really good at farming.

The Fathers are housed in a great system of catacombs that is rumored to intersect with Zenopolis's undercity.  There the pickled remains of great men are animated with strange magic known only to the cult.  They are poked and prodded with goads and their screams and jerks are interpreted by a learned caste of magicians and idolaters.

The Imperial Cult
Worship of the Emperor is one of only a few cults to be technically proscribed by Zenopolitan and Church law; however, it is "suffered" by the Emperor who has "better things to do" than stop peasants from leaving coins and votive candles at his statues.

The Imperial Cult is considerably more popular among the lower classes than the upper classes - mostly because familiarity breeds contempt.  The nobility is all too aware that the emperor is merely the most recent in a line of cunning men who knew the proper application of eyespoons.  Still, a small number of young nobles have joined the cult as an act of petty rebellion.

Deposed or exiled emperors are sometimes still worshiped, but none are worshiped after their deaths.  It is not uncommon for angry cultists to beset a public statue of a recently deceased emperor in order to slash out the statues eyes with a knife or set of eyespoons.

The Cult of That God We are Supposed to Pray To
No one in the city, not even the cult's High Hierophant and Hierophantess can remember the nature, gender, or purview of the God We are Supposed to Pray To.  Despite this fact, the whole of the city believes that if the cult is not properly maintained then Zenopolis will meet great disaster.  It is difficult to ascertain where this belief comes from, but surely it must have some foundation in truth or their ancestors would not have created the cult in the first place.  

Rites to this god are carefully executed by a double-clergy of men and women for none can remember whether the god prefers priests or priestesses.  Each says the ritual words simultaneously and then says them backwards in case that was the way they were supposed to do it.  The most prominent symbol of the cult is the Pit and the Fire of the City.  It is believed that if either the wood in the pit is lit aflame or if the fire is ever doused the city will be destroyed.

The Followers of the Conquered Sun
A reconstuctivist religion, the Followers of the Conquered Sun believe they have restored worship to a deity that was of vital importance to Man before the Revealing of the Law.  Critics note that they have clearly cobbled together a mixture of unrelated mythologies and hero tales into something only vaguely resembling a religion.  

Accounts of the Conquered Sun's appearance vary wildly, but believers are quick to observe that the Sun has many "rays" and that their god has known many guises in the past.  Indeed, some members of this sect believe that a form of apotheosis is possible in which one merges with the solar godhead.

This sect also produces a large number of ascetics - a fact which Church theologians use to assert that this "young" religion is merely a strange form of copycat.  These ascetics typically attempt to bake themselves in the sun, sometimes constructing large pillars in order to more easily have access to the sky in the crowded streets.  It is not uncommon to see a an iron box fervently and loudly debating with a stone column in market squares.

The Ones Who Know the Stars
This small but formerly influential cult venerates a set of beings known as the Star Lords.  Eastern Church theologians states that these beings are simply angels while Western ones assert that the cult actually falsely deifies the cyclops - a race of beings said to have built many of the miraculously large structures found throughout the World.

Their current leader - a "scholar" named Tsoukalos - was once a manager of a racing team in the Hippogriffdrome.  Now he spends much of his time asserting that wonders previously believed to have been built either by the work of Man or by the work of enormous beings was actually accomplished by  creatures from beyond the stars.  A member of famed explorer Parco Molo's expedition - Erich the Kin of Dan - heard this message and brought it back to Atalia, where he was promptly burned.

The Eastern Heterodox Antichurch
The Eastern Heterodox Antichurch is a brand of devilry that is rumored to exist and perform a number of foul turptiudes - including the slaying of stray animals, the perpetrating of ritual murders, and the playing of strange "adventure" games.  Its leader is, according to Western witch hunters, the Low Matriarch - a position which has been occupied by a eunuch in a wig for as long as anyone can remember, but witch hunters believe this is due to a loophole.  

It is unlikely that this organization actually exists, as demonic cults rarely organize themselves in the way that Lawful clergy expect them to.  Instead, there are a number of micro-cults dedicated to all sorts of demons working their dark arts beneath the city streets.  The most popular demon seems to be Moloch, whose leprous, inhuman servants are often seen in the company of hooded men in the bowels of the undercity.

*Those who have actually seen the cube note that it is opaque, clearly metallic, and does not make any noise whatsoever.

Monday, April 15, 2013

One By One We Will Take You

This could be you!

So a long time ago in an Illinois far far away, Jeff proposed using a table when PCs had to end a session in a dungeon.  The G+ Nightwick campaign already had a somewhat infamous moment when the party got trapped in the dungeon and the other party members had to enter it and rescue them.  While running this rescue mission was fun - my wife (who has been to the abbey more than any other player) and I co-DMed, with her taking the rescue team and me taking the lost survivors - it was a bit of a hassle.  It also looks like this situation might become increasingly common going forward due to changes I've made in how I run the dungeon.

As such, I've decided to make a version specifically designed for my special-snowflake huge ruined pile.  Since it affects the decision making process for the players, I think this is something I should be fairly transparent about - thus the blog post.

As with Jeff's version, you have a base 50% chance of making it out alive with no ill effects.  It's level of difference between your character's level and the dungeon level gives you a 10% bonus/penalty.  If you roll over your percentage chance, consult the table below.

Lost in Nightwick Abbey
You escape!  You lucky dog.  Roll a d6 1 - 3 You’re unscathed 4 - 5 you suffer the effects of a mangled limb from the Death & Dismemberment table 6 - you emerge confused and completely naked
Your character walked through a thick curtain of purple mist and now is lost in time and space!  You must reroll on this chart each week until you either perish or escape.
You have been captured! One of the intelligent groups of monsters in the abbey is holding you captive for some purpose.  Roll a d6 1 - 3 - They will ransom you for the value of your combined equipment 4 - they demand double the price 5 - 6 They are holding you for some alien purpose, treat this result as though you were lost in time and space.
The malevolent forces within the abbey have taken their toll on your mind and your soul.  You are now possessed!  You will wonder the level as a monster of HD equal to your level.  If you can be returned to civilization and taken to a church, it is possible that the demons might be exercised and your PC returned to normal.
Your character was cruelly slain by a band of monsters!  Roll a d6 1 - 3 location of corpse is unknown 4 - 6 location of corpse is known.  Warning: bodies left unattended in the abbey tend not to stay dead
You have been sacrificed in a Satanic ritual!  You are dead and a new horrible monster is added to the dungeon level.

Characters who are possessed and brought back to a church must undergo an exorcism before they may re-enter play.  Each week both the demoniac and a cleric attempting to loose them from their demonic chains must make a saving throw - treat as a magical effect to determine bonuses.  If both characters succeed, the demon is banished to the Pit.  If only one character fails the demon remains in control of the PCs body but no other ill effects happen.  If both fail, you must roll on the Super Secret Possession Mishaps Table.*

Note that this is still just a draft.  I'll make revisions to it as inspiration strikes me.

*Includes results such as "Demoniac breaks free to terrorize the village!" and "Now you're both possessed!"

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Demi-Humans of the Wilderlands of Swords and Deviltry

The Wilderlands as presented in 3e had a number of demi-humans that appeared as normal humans except with funky colored skin.  I’m going to be keeping them because I still have a few oddly colored minis in my box.  “Common” versions of these - which are essentially humans descended from these demi-humans - are made using the normal rules for humans.  “True” versions are made using the rules below.

Altanians are a strong and hardy race that gave their name to Barbarian Altanis.  Their skin is a deep red, and they commonly appear in slave markets throughout the Wilderlands.  It is said by some that the blood of demons courses in their veins.

Altanian Abilities
Ability Prerequisite: Altanian characters must have both a Strength and a Constitution of 15 or greater.

Character Advancement: Altanians may reach any level as a fighter or rogue.  They may only advance as high as 4th as a druid, but may advance further if their Wisdom is 16 or greater.

Weapon and Armor Restrictions: Regardless of class Altanians are not trained in the use of any armor higher than chain.

Blood Rage: An Altanian may enter a rage for 1d6 rounds. During this period they gain +2 to to hit and damage rolls and -2 to AC. They can only attack with melee weapons in this state and will not allow opponents to flee and will not accept surrender. Regardless of how many rounds are left, the effect ends when combat is over.

Stealthy: Altanians who are not in a blood rage suprise opponents on a 3 in 6 instead of the normal chance.  Note that this does not ignore the normal penalties incurred from carrying lightsource in a dungeon.

Saving Throws: Altanians use the saving throws of their chosen class.

Avalonians are descendents of a mating between a northern elf and a human.  This occurred so often in the North that they now have a substantial population.  Due to their elf heritage, their skin is a pale blue and their hair is either platinum blonde, white, or silver.

Avalonian Abilities
Ability Prerequisite: Avalonians must have a Intelligence of 13 or greater and a Constitution of no higher than 9.

Character Advancement: Avalonians may reach up to 6th level as a Fighter, and may advance further if their Strength is 16 or greater.  They may advance without restriction as a rogue or magician.

Keen Detection: Avalonians can detect secret doors on a 1-2 regardless of their class.  If they are a rogue their chance to find secret doors increases by 1, but may not go higher than 5.

Saving Throws: Avalonians gain a +2 to saves made against cold and charm effects.

Languages: Avalonians begin play knowing both Common and Elven.

Ghuls are humanoids with transparent skin that haunt the northern parts of the Wilderlands.  They delight in the taste of human flesh, but they can put this aside long enough to have fairly stable relations with humans.  While many live in semi-nomadic tribes, there are some who dwell in cities and a few have even made a living as wizards and scribes.

Ghul Abilities
Ability Prerequisite: Ghuls must have a Constitution of 18 and a Charisma of no higher than 9.

Character Advancement: Ghuls may advance up to 6th level as a fighter and 4th level as a magician, though they may advance beyond this if their Strength or Intelligence is a 13 or greater, depending on class.  Ghuls may advance as a rogue without restriction.

Weapon and Armor Restrictions: Regardless of class, Ghuls may not wear armor heavier than leather - which is always in the form of a harness.

The Hunger: Once per day, Ghuls may spend a full round eating human flesh.  If they do so, they gain regeneration 1 for the next 1d6.

Stealthy: Regardless of class, a Ghul’s surprise chance is 1-3.

Saving Throws: Ghuls possess the saving throw bonuses of their chosen class.

Viridians are descended from the great fish-god Armadod-bog.  Their skin is a bright green and their hair is universally black.  They are few in number today, with most being members of the family of the World Emperor.  They are often known to bear scars along their back, since they scourge themselves in apology to their god for not being more fish-like.

Viridian Abilities
Ability Prerequisite: Viridians must have a strength and intelligence of greater than 12.

Character Advancement: Viridians advance as a blend of fighter and magician using the table below.  Viridians with an intelligence and a charisma of 18 may use the magician spells per day chart instead of the one below.

Viridian Advancement

Weapon and Armor Restrictions: Viridians may use any weapon and wear any armor, but must have a free hand to cast spells.

Spell Casting: Viridians may cast a number of spells based on the chart below.  Viridians with an intelligence greater than 15 gain an extra first level spell per day.  Otherwise, they function identically to a Magician.

Spells Per Day
Viridian Level
Level 1
Level 2
Level 3

Saving Throws: Viridians gain a +2 to saves made against magical effects.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Unfocused Thoughts on the Wilderlands of Something Something

I've mentioned before that I have a great fondness for the Wilderlands.  I ran it for most of my time as an undergrad, and it has created some of the most memorable gaming experiences I've ever had.  For some reason, yesterday my mind wandered back to those Judges Guild maps, and I decided to see what I could come up with in one of these posts.  So here we go...

  • When I ran it in college, it was a bizarre combination of Classical and Late Antiquity.*  I'd likely keep that mix because I like it.  
  • In my old Wilderlands game, the CSIO got destroyed by a giant robot.  If I run this, it will have been rebuilt but that means it's going to look significantly different than the one presented in Judges Guild products.
  • I'm probably only going to use the original 70s Wilderlands of High Fantasy book and then fill in the details based on what I remember from the 3e version as well as stuff I think is cool.
  • Also this map.  I'm using that too.  Primarily to determine the polities and the different groups whose cultures I have to describe.  I care mostly about the part north of the equator because the areas covered in the Wilderlands of High Fantasy book are mostly located there.
  • Based on that map and my recollection of what I liked from my old campaigns, the different groups would be Skandiks (pseudo-viking guys), Ghinorians (pseudo-Hellenistic Greek guys), Avalonians (blue part elf guys), Altanians (red Conan guys), Viridians (green fish worshiping guys), Karakhans (mongol guys who worship gods that require blood sacrifice), and Orichalcans (purple skinned, scaly humanoids that dominated the area of the CSIO in the distant past)
  • There are also micro groups, like Tarsh and Antil, but these tend to be permutations on the above cultures.
  • Elves are blue.  Dark Elves are pale and morlock-y.
  • I'd either run the game in the newly rebuilt CSIO or in Tarsh.  Both of which have large sections of the city which are in ruins, which gives me a good excuse to have an undercity as the central dungeon in addition to the ruins and stuff in the wilderness.
  • I'd have quite a bit of ray guns and stuff, as well as quite a bit of Devil.  My inability to combine these two in settings which aren't the Wilderlands has led to immense frustration on my part over the last three years.
  • If I run it in Tarsh, there will be a large portal in the shape of a dolmen that is covered in depictions of Flailsnails.  This is where inter-dimensional travelers come from.
  • Originally, my Wilderlands was a ring world.  This was done solely so that when the players figured it out I could go "well you never asked!" which amused me at the time.  Some of my G+ players seem to like the idea.
  • IF it is a ring world, then the map above marks the East and West boundaries of the world.  Any farther and you reach a giant mountain range that runs the length of the ring.
  • Viridians wear the fish hats that my Uz players have come to associate with Phut.  I originally designed them for the Viridians and put them in Uz because I remember my Hattiesburg players liking the Viridan fish cult.  Viridians also scourge themselves in sorrow for not being a mermaid.
  • Oh, there are also Ghuls!  How could I forget about them?!
  • Which also reminds me: it'll be heavily influenced by Leiber's Swords Series (the Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser stuff)
  • I'd probably use the Swords & Wizardry White Box with the normal classes and demihumans plus my version of the thief and demihuman write ups for Viridians and maybe Altanians, Avalonians, and Orichalcans too.
  • The gods would be taken from Unknown Gods and Petty Gods, with maybe the ones from Pegana thrown in there too.
  • At the time, I was calling my custom version of the Wilderlands "The Wilderlands of Foul Devilry" after the Wilderlands of Darkling Sorcery and the Majestic Wilderlands.  I might keep that or do something like the Wilderlands of Swords and Wizardry (or Swords and Deviltry as a reference to Leiber)
That's it for now.  Just had to get that out of my system.

*Known to some as "The Dark Ages" /shudder

Monday, April 8, 2013

Bog Mummies

Bog Mummies
No. Appearing: 1d6
Armor Class: 13
Hit Dice: 6
Movement: 60’
Attacks: 1 (Slam or Garotte)
Morale: 12
Alignment: Chaotic

In the days before Rutha the Conqueror, the pagan kings of Kars would kill their political enemies in ways that humiliated the victim and placated the strange gods of the fens. Unfortunately for the people of Kars, these “gods” were actually demons who managed to shake off their chains and gain purchase on the mortal realm.  These beings use bog mummies as horrid servitors, and have granted them the ability to make more of their kind.

Bog mummies appear as withered corpses with blackish, leathery skin and slashed or strangled throats.  They are often completely nude with their eyes, nipples, and tongues removed.  These acts were considered degrading by the pagan Karslishmen, but they impede the bog mummy in no obvious way.

Bog mummies are extremely adept at sneaking up on opponents in the fen-pool tombs.  As such, they possess a 3 in 6 chance of surprising their opponent.  Bog mummies typically possess the weapons used to end their lives - typically a strangling cord or dagger.  Those with garottes tend to surprise their opponents from behind and throttle them, dealing automatic damage each round after the initial to hit roll.

These horrid creatures create more of their own kind from the corpses of their victims.  Travellers passing through the marshes speak of seeing ghastly gatherings of these creatures dancing on their victims, pushing them deeper into the mud.  These corpses rise as bog mummies at the rise of the next moon.