Monday, July 29, 2013

It's a Nice Day for a White Wizard [ACTION X]

Yeah, I should probably be shot for that title.

So, a couple days ago I posted a spell list for "black magicians" that was based on the supposed powers that the demons in De Plancy's Infernal Dictionary could bestow upon a conjurer. In ACTION X, these magic-users, officially called black magicians or conjurers, are Charisma-based spellcasters, meaning they will make a charisma-based task check to cast spells.

The flip side of these folks are the white magicians, or theurgists, who are Wisdom-based. Same rules for spellcasting, but a different key ability and a different spell list. For the white magicians, I decided to delve primarily into reputed miracles, both from the Old and New Testaments in the Bible, and from what I could glean from the lives of the saints and a few notions tucked in from the druids. If you were running a campaign with somewhat Biblical clerics, you might find this list useful. I think it's a pretty fun mix of God's mercy and God's wrath, and isn't completely foreign to what is expected from a fantasy cleric.

1. Aid
2. Bless
3. Comprehend Languages
4. Control Light
5. Cure Light Wounds
6. Multiply Food and Water
7. Protection from Evil
8. Summon Nature’s Ally I
9. Sustenance
10. Turn Undead

1. Augury
2. Buoyancy
3. Calm Emotions
4. Consecrate
5. Cure Moderate Wounds
6. Detect Thoughts (ESP)
7. Gentle Repose
8. Levitate
9. Remove Paralysis
10. Speak with Animals
11. Summon Nature’s Ally II
12. Summon Swarm

1. Cause Disease
2. Create Food and Water
3. Cure Blindness/Deafness
4. Cure Disease
5. Cure Serious Wounds
6. Fly
7. Hold Person
8. Remove Curse
9. Summon Nature’s Ally III
10. Tongues
11. Water Walk

1. Blight
2. Charm Monster
3. Control Water
4. Cure Critical Wounds
5. Divination
6. Flame Strike
7. Holy Smite
8. Restoration
9. Sticks to Snakes

1. Awaken
2. Bilocation
3. Commune
4. Contact Other Plane
5. Healing Circle
6. Hold Monster
7. Insect Plague
8. Raise Dead

1. Banishment
2. Geas
3. Move Earth
4. Wind Walk

1. Control Weather
2. Create Golem
3. Transmute Matter

1. Earthquake
2. Holy Aura

1. Astral Projection


Bilocation - A trick of the saints and apparently noted in psychic phenomena, this is the ability to be in two places at once. I aim to make this a non-combat spell - the point would be to allow the magician to simultaneously accomplish two tasks.

Buoyancy - There is a tale of a miracle that involved making a metal object dropped into a river float to the surface.

Create Golem - A clay golem, to be precise.

Multiply Food & Water - This is based, obviously, on the loaves and fishes episode.

Sustenance - This would allow the magician to go without food and drink (and maybe sleep) without suffering any negative consequences.

Transmute Matter - In the Black Magic post, I mentioned Transmute Metal and Transmute Liquid. Since spells in ACTION X are not prepared ahead of time, creating scarcity and thus more challenging game play by multiplying the number of spells, it seems to me I might as well combine those spells into a Transmute Matter spell.

Turn Undead - Yes, in ACTION X it's a spell.

Now, if we have charismatic Conjurers and wise Theurgists, who uses intelligence? Well, besides the non-magical brainiacs and hackers, it's the psions of course. I'll post the psion power list in a couple days.

Friday, July 26, 2013

De Plancy's Spellbook [ACTION X]

I've been working on the spells and psionic powers for ACTION X, and wanted to not only go a bit "lower magic" for the game, but also make it as realistic as one can make the supernatural. To that end, I decided to only use psionic powers that reputedly exist in the real world (fair warning - I don't believe in psychic abilities). For magic spells, I decided to use two main sources, since the magician class has two lists of spells - black magic and white magic. The source for the black magic spells is de Plancy's Dictionnaire Infernal and the powers the various demons were capable of granting to conjurers. For the white magicians, I looked at the miracles of the Bible and of the saints as well as the reputed powers of the druids.

Since lots of gamers are acquainted with de Plancy's work, I thought the spell list I extracted from it would be of interest ...

Audible Glamer
Burning Hands
Charm Animal
Charm Person
Cure Light Wounds
Detect Evil
Detect Magic
Phantasmal Force
Protection from Evil

Calm Emotions
Detect Thoughts (ESP)
Find Familiar
Improved Phantasmal Force
Speak with Animals

Compel Return
Cure Blindness/Deafness
Cure Serious Wounds
Hold Person
Locate Object
Reveal Secrets*
Speak with Dead
Spectral Force

Cause Disease
Command Plants
Cure Disease
Detect Lie
Lightning Bolt
Modify Memory
Polymorph Other
Polymorph Self

Contact Other Plane
Control Winds
Song of Discord

Find the Path
Legend Lore
Water Tell*

Control Weather
Raise Tower*
Transmute Liquid*
Transmute Metal*


Astral Projection

* New Spell

While most of the supernatural ability granted by these demons were easily converted into an existing spell, a few were not. I haven't written these spells up officially yet, but the following will give you a brief idea:

Knowledge: Gives the conjurer expert knowledge in one particular skill.

Numismatize: Turns raw metal directly into coins.

Putrefy: Causes a wound to become ridden with worms and rot.

Raise Tower: Sort of a variation on the magnificent mansion spell; this one raises a stone tower with an armory full of weapons.

Reveal Secrets: Like ESP, only it plucks the secrets from one person's mind and shares them with all people nearby.

Transmute Liquid: Transmutes one liquid into another, i.e. water into wine, wine into blood, etc.

Transmute Metal: Transmutes one metal into another, i.e. lead into gold.

Water Tell: Variation on stone tell; in de Plancy, one couldn't talk to rocks, but they could talk to rivers.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fiendish Flora: Portal Plant [Monster]

Huge plant, Neutral (N), Non-intelligent; Solitary (1)

HD 4 (20)
AC 15
ATK 1 bite (1d6 + swallow whole)
MV 0
SV F10 R17 W14 (F3 R8 W5)
XP 400 (CL 5) (2000)

Portal plants are carnivorous plants that slightly resemble pitcher plants. To most folks, they appear as thick (6 inches in diameter) vines topped by large, bulbous structures that can open and close like a great maw. Portal plants are usually found in tropical woodlands.

What most folks do not see and do not know is that the plant you see is actually part of a much larger network of plants, connected by a monstrously huge root system. The plant one sees has 4 hit dice in combat, while the entire colony of plants has 20. It is possible to destroy one of the plant's "heads" while not destroying the plant as a whole. This colony can cover 1 square mile.

When a person is bitten by the plant and swallowed whole, they are teleported into another of the plant's pitchers, up to 1 mile away. From this plant, the person is disgorged onto the ground and ignored, the colony having stolen 1d4 points of intelligence from the victim (this is damage, not drain). The magical plants draw nourishment from this psychic vampirism.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Madame Blavatsky is my Dungeon Master

Since I'm currently working on a pseudo-Atlantis hex crawl at the moment, I've been doing some light reading (i.e. Wikipedia) on subjects related to undersea land forms and, of course, Atlantis. This, of course, lead me to some articles on Madame Blavatsky's Theosophy and that group's thoughts on Atlantis and its place in their cosmology. As I read up on the "root races" concept, I couldn't help but see fertile ground for a very entertaining science-fantasy campaign. What follows is an outline that folks might find useful:

The theosophists believed (okay, made up - sorry, I'm a science guy, so I don't jibe well with the realms of pseudo-history, pseudo-anthropology and pseudo-science) in the concept of root races - races of "humanity" that preceded modern human beings. These races were supposed to be our forebears, and indeed shared the planet with us. In these elder days long forgotten, planet Earth was very different than the Earth we know today, geographically-speaking. The theosophists were working off of some theories popular at the time that have since been abandoned, specifically the notion that continents could sink into and be raised from the ocean depths. Understanding continental drift as we now do, we know that Earth's continents were configured differently back in the day, but we also know that this was not due to continents sinking or rising from the ocean floor.

A Theosophy-inspired campaign might be set in the waning days of Atlantis. That civilization is no longer at its height (this ties into the implied setting in D&D of a medieval world built on the ruins of a more highly advanced world), but it isn't at the point where it's sinking into the sea. We will also assume that the other root races are still knocking around, and that modern humans are now appearing on the scene - that gives us the "multiple races" concept we need for good and proper D&D. Of course, we're going to mess with those races just a bit to make them work better in terms of the game rules.

So, first things first - what are the different races, and where can they be found.

The first race, the eldest race (so we'll call them the elders) were an ethereal race. These folks are actually composed of etheric matter - which in D&D terms means they can only be hit (or attack material creatures) with silver and magic weapons. That doesn't work too well as a playable race. The original elders were formed when Earth was still cooling - their ethereal bodies were unaffected by the heat - but their descendants are less ethereal. They reproduce as amoebas, by dividing their bodies, and are the forebears of the second root race, a golden skinned people. Perhaps these modern elders are halfway between their purely ethereal forebears and their golden skinned descendants. They'll have silvery-grey skin, be slight and graceful, can walk through walls once in a while but are otherwise vulnerable as normal humans are to cold and heat and physical duress. Their slight forms make them quiet (i.e. move silently). Because they reproduce by dividing, they are asexual. While they can be found all over the primordial world, their "home base" is Mount Meru, an ethereal (and invisible) mountain at the center of all creation.

Elders for B&T
Elders are medium-sized creatures with a base land speed of 30. They have darkvision to a range of 60 feet and a knack for moving silently. Since the matter of their bodies is only about 90% material, they suffer a one point penalty to starting strength, but gain a one point bonus to starting dexterity; an elder's starting ability scores cannot be reduced below 3 or increased above 18 due to these modifiers. Once per day, an elder can force their bodies to become completely ethereal, per the ethereal jaunt spell, for 1 full minute. In addition, an elder can reduce its solidity enough to reproduce the effects of the blur spell for a total of 1 minute per day. Elders can multi-class as fighter/thieves, thief/magic-users and thief/clerics.

The second root race are the Kimpurshas (sometimes called Hyperboreans). The Kimpurshas are golden-skinned humanoids who reproduce by budding - so again, no males or females in this race. They hailed from a great northern continent that was tropical, because Earth had not yet received its axial tilt. In time, this continent was shattered and altered, so that the Kimpurshas had to move on. They can still be found in the world as nomadic sea peoples - sometimes merchants, sometimes pirates - moving about in great, ancient galleys.

Kimpurshas for B&T
Kimpurshas are medium-sized creatures with a base land speed of 30. They have darkvision to a range of 60 feet. Possessed of vril (mystic energy) in their veins, they enjoy a one point bonus to their starting charisma scores due to this infusion of energy, but suffer a one point penalty to their starting intelligence scores due to their primitive lifestyle; an elder's starting ability scores cannot be reduced below 3 or increased above 18 due to these modifiers. A kimpursha's magical blood gives them a +3 bonus to save vs. magical effects (spells, powers, etc.) and a +1 bonus to all other saving throws; they are famed for their luck. As kimpurshas are nomads of the waves, they have an innate ability to predict the weather and a knack for keeping their balance. Their climb speed up non-sheer surfaces (i.e. where they have hand-holds) is 15 feet per round. Kimpurshas can multi-class as sorcerer/fighters, sorcerer/thieves and sorcerer/clerics.

The third race are the Shalmalians (sometimes called Lemurians). The Shalmalians are taller and larger than modern humans, and have black skin. They inhabited the continent of Shalmali (Lemuria) in the Indian Ocean and southwest Pacific, a continent that is no longer with us. Their remnant populations now reside in proto-Africa, proto-India and proto-Australia. There were four sub-races of the Shalmalians, the first three reproducing by laying eggs, the fourth as modern humans. I think for our purposes it is more fun to have them be egg-layers (which also gives a nice tie-in to Barsoom!). They aren't as advanced as the Atlanteans, so we'll give them a medieval level of technology and cool weapons and armors based on Africa and India. Since dinosaurs still roam this primordial Earth, we'll also make them the masters of these great beasts, using them as beasts of burdens and as war-beasts. Imagine an 8-ft. tall Shalmalian knight astride a triceratops in mirror armor with lance and curved sword!

Shalmalians for B&T
Shalmalians are medium-sized creatures (though they often grow to almost 9 feet in height) with a base land speed of 30 feet. Their size gives them a two point bonus to starting strength, but they suffer a one point penalty to starting wisdom due to their bravado and tendency to use their strength to solve their problems; an elder's starting ability scores cannot be reduced below 3 or increased above 18 due to these modifiers. Shalmalians have a knack for taming wild animals and using them as mounts. They can multi-class as fighter/clerics, fighter/magic-users and fighter/thieves.

The fourth race are the Atlanteans, of which there were several sub-races. For our purposes, we have the High Atlanteans (essentially based on the American Indians) and the Low Atlanteans (essentially based on the Turanian peoples - a nice tie to Hyborea!). The High Atlanteans built an amazing civilization that harnessed vril (google it!) to power their flying machines, telecommunications, etc. They had aerial battleships that carried 50 to 100 fighting men who launched poison gas bombs and fire-tipped arrows, etc. The High Atlanteans worshipped the Sun as the ancient Egyptians did (their descendants) - so our Lawful clerics are sun worshipers. Unfortunately, they eventually fell into the use of black magic (chaotic clerics and magic-users) and became materialistic - they fall, and the Low Atlanteans (who also use black magic) become dominant. Atlantis is torn by strife and goes post-apocalyptic on us. Some old vril-powered technology (magic items) survive, but most is gone. The people have a medieval-level of technology now and the end is coming soon.

High Atlanteans for B&T
High Atlanteans are medium-sized creatures with a base land speed of 30. Natural magicians, they enjoy a one point bonus to starting intelligence. Their over-reliance on vril-powered technology and fine living imposes a one point penalty on their starting constitution. High Atlanteans are usually well-educated, and have a knack for deciphering codes and activating magic-user scrolls (with a penalty to the roll equal to the level of the spell; one an activation is failed, the scroll is worthless and the Atlantean suffers damage equal to the level of the spell). High Atlanteans have limited telepathic abilities, being able to communicate telepathically with sentient creatures up to 150 feet away. This also allows them to attempt to implant a suggestion, per the spell, once per day in other humanoids. High Atlanteans can multi-class as fighter/magic-users, cleric/magic-users and magic-user/thieves.

Low Atlanteans for B&T
Low Atlanteans are medium-sized creatures with a base land speed of 30. They enjoy a one point bonus to starting intelligence but suffer no constitution penalty, and they have a knack for deciphering codes and can communicate telepathically up to 150 feet, but without the ability to implant suggestions. Low Atlanteans can multi-class, as High Atlanteans, at first level or choose to change classes in mid-play as humans.

The fifth race (and now things get tricky) are the Aryans. Yeah, the people with "moon-colored" skin. They emerge from the Atlantean race and leave Atlantis to found other kingdoms - specifically on an island in the shallow sea that will become the Sahara Desert - The City of the Sun, and on a similar island in what will become the Gobi Desert - The City of the Bridge, located directly beneath the etheric city of Shamballa. These people are guided by the Lord of the World and will eventually become many different peoples in the modern world - Hindus, Arabs, Persians, Greeks, Celts, Teutons and Slavs. To play this campaign, you'll need to get over the old idea of the Aryans being a master race, and just play them as "normal humans". If necessary, drop the word Aryan.

Aryans for B&T - as humans in B&T

So we have a large campaign map and several races. Classes are according to whatever version of the game you play. The point is still one of exploration (primarily in the ruins of Atlantis) and treasure hunting. Lawful clerics want to reestablish Sun worship, so maybe they want to enter Atlantis in search of holy relics. Magic-users are searching for ancient Atlantean wisdom - perhaps all magic in this campaign is powered by vril, and the magic-users are trying to discover the secrets of that science, now lost to mankind (but still lurking in the hollow world with the aasimar vril-ya). Wildlife is from the age of the dinosaurs (which means - whatever dinosaurs we like, and maybe well throw in some ancient mammals as well). Serpent men are lurking about, as well as other degenerates (goblins, orcs, etc.). You get the idea.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Monster of the Day: Snag-Beast [Blood and Treasure]

Huge Aberration, Neutral (N), Low Intelligence, Solitary

Hit Dice: 10
Armor Class: 20
Attacks: 6 tentacles (1d8 + constrict) and bite (1d6 + swallow whole)
Move: 5 (Burrow 20)
Save: F7 R11 W9
XP: 1,000 (CL 11)

A snag usually refers to a dead tree that still stands. Snag-beasts are aberrations that merely resemble snags. The creature is actually octupus- or squid-like, its tentacles resembling roots, and its long, beak-like maw resembling a scraggly, dead tree. The creature burrows into the forest floor, its beak sticking out of the ground and its tentacles spreading out around it like thick, dead surface roots.

When a sentient creature approaches, the monster's tentacles swing into action, grabbing prey and raising them to its beak to be bitten, chewed and swallowed into the monster's underground body.

Because snag-beasts resemble dead trees, they surprise on a roll of 1-4 on 1d6. The monster can only bite a victim it has dropped into its mouth with a tentacle. Once a victim is being constricted, the snag-beast can use its tentacle attack to raise the victim and bite it.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

NOD 20 Released ... Finally

So what took so long? Well, I'll tell you, but first ...

The twentieth issue of NOD finally arrives, detailing the fantasy colonial city of Dweomer Baye. This issue also includes the Vigilante class for Blood & Treasure, new aquatic monsters, cosmic hero Starman for Mystery Men!, an unholy relic, alien cocktails for Space Princess, random dungeon noises and the bogeyman! 34 pages
Click here to buy NOD 20 for $1.99

So, why did I take so long to finish one of the shortest (maybe the shortest) issue of NOD yet?

I think, first and foremost, my brain wanted to take a pseudo-sabatical from RPG writing. My post count has been low on the blog, and my output outside the blog has been a bit lower than usual. Earlier this year, I finished a couple issues of NOD and did some freelance work besides (more monster lairs), so the little grey cells, they were a bit fatigued mon ami,

While my brain was dragging its feet (sounds like something Yogi Berra would have said) on NOD 20, it was also dragging its feet on ACTION X and the NOD Companion - so I've been slowly working on all three projects.

Fortunately, I'm starting to get back into high gear (well, maybe second gear), and I'm also getting a bit more excited about NOD 21, which will detail the western half of the Virgin Woode hex-crawl. This will concern the Damnable Sea and the Victorian/Atlantean aquatic elves who dwell beneath its waves and are preparing to launch a war of conquest on the surface dwellers. They've enslaved the locathah, scattered the sahuagin, and now they're turning their eyes towards humanity!

For ACTION X, I'm currently detailing some notable automobiles from the 20th century for the game. I still need to grab spell descriptions from B&T and some psionic power descriptions from Tanner Yea's excellent Psionics of Lore supplement for the Spells/Powers section, but otherwise it's just about ready to playtest. For anyone interested in participating, I plan to run the playtest on Google+ - it will involve entering Iran Mission:Impossible-style to capture or help escape (who knows!) a scientist working on their nuclear weapons program.

For the NOD Companion, I'm detailing the gazetteer portion that gives people an overview of the NOD campaign world in its entirety. I was originally going to make it somewhat detailed, then changed my mind and thought about doing the entire thing as a travelogue involving a Tremanni merchant, and have finally settled on doing more of a glossography with some hand drawn maps. When finished, it will include the overview of NOD, a collection of classes published in NOD and updated for Blood & Treasure, new weapons and some other character-oriented articles from NOD.

So - that's the gaming side of "why it took so long". The other side is what's known as "my real job".

For those who don't know, I am a researcher/pseudo-economist who tracks the commercial real estate market in Southern Nevada (i.e. Las Vegas). I maintain an oft-neglected blog concerning commercial real estate, maintain a massive database all on my lonesome, and produce quarterly reports. Back when I started the blog and the hobby publishing, I produced three quarterly reports, detailing the industrial, office and retail markets in Las Vegas. Now, I produce those, as well as reports on the local economy, the hospitality sector, medical office, multifamily, rarely land and I help with a gaming report. I've also started doing some freelance economic work. In other words, I do quite a bit of writing, and that's detracted a bit from my hobby writing.

Still, I think I'm getting back in the swing, so expect more content moving forward than you've seen in the last few months. Hopefully, as Frog God Games finishes the big projects it has on its plate, I'll get the nod (no pun intended) to produce some more Hex Crawl Chronicles for them.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Using Skills to Evoke a Setting

While OD&D did not have a skill system, it did have skills. They were very focused skills that probably emerged from game play within a dungeon - "find secret doors" and "find traps" rather than a generic "search" skill, for example. OD&D saving throws were similarly specific, with "Save vs. Dragon Breath" being much more evocative than a generic Reflex save. When I wrote Blood & Treasure, I tried to use a similar system in naming skills, keeping them dungeon-centric to evoke memories of the old game and to create a certain dungeon-exploration-atmosphere in the game.

This got me thinking about using a similar structure in making similarly simple games that are meant to be evocative of a period or a genre. Take Star Wars for example. Are there certain tropes in Star Wars that might translate into interesting skills? Maybe "Bad Feeling About This" to handle something like an intuition that the adventurers are heading into something wrong or dangerous. "Swing Across Chasm" might also be appropriate, and I'm sure there are some lines in the movie about R2-D2-oriented actions that could work as well. The point would be that asking a player who is blanching about a course of action to make a "Bad Feeling About This" check would put them into the Star Wars mindset. A Star Trek-inspired game might have skills like "Analyze Spacial Anomaly" and

One can also think of things done more in a particular genre or show or movie than in other genres or shows or movies. You may not need a "Translate Ancient Dialect" check in your average spy game, but in an exploration genre, it makes good sense.

So - for those readers who like to play along at home - how about  throwing out a few genres or franchises with a list of trope-inspired skills for them. They can be a bit comical, but should be skills that would be useful in a game.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Fiendish Flora: Devil's Rope [Monster/Danger]


This is really more a danger than a monster, something like green slime.

Devil’s rope is a vine that grows from the top of cliffs and hangs about 10 to 20 feet. The vine is a greenish-brown and looks corded like a rope. At the bottom there hangs a deep purple gourd filled with bitter flesh and seeds that can be crushed to form a primitive flash powder.

After the first five feet, the vine becomes increasingly sticky, requiring those who are in contact with the lower portion to pass a Strength test (Fortitude save modified by Strength or save vs. paralysis) to unstick themselves. Naturally, if they keep climbing down, they must make this save every couple feet. Once somebody is stuck (i.e. fails a save), they are stuck for good unless somebody else removes them using a dagger (1d4 damage to the hands), boiling water (1d6 fire damage) or magic of some kind. A grease spell might work, though one would slip off the vine and fall. Most victims are simply stuck fast and die on the vine, their rotting flesh and clothing eventually allowing their corpses to fall from the vines and litter the ground below.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Campaign Idea - Sailing the Irish Seas

Among other things (whiskey, warp-spasms and fierce women), the ancient Irish had a knack for telling stories about great sea voyages. Seven of these tales, called Immrama, have survived, with the most famous perhaps being the voyage of Saint Brendan.

Most of these voyages were taken by men in currachs, wooden-framed boats covered by tanned hides. Imagine if you will an entire campaign built around a party of adventurers setting off from the coast of Ireland into the Atlantic Ocean in one of these small boats, their sights set upon glory, treasure and reaching the Blessed Land beyond the sea. When Uí Chorra embarked on his voyage, he took with him a bishop, a priest, a deacon, a musician and the craftsman who built the boat, as well as his two brothers. Uí Chorra and his brothers were bandits who turned over a new leaf. In D&D terms, this would be three clerics (one 6th level, one 3rd level, the other, well, who knows), a bard, a 0-level human (I guess we know who was stuck carrying the torches) and three bandits (probably fighters).

So, where did these fellows go? Well, as in all sea voyage tales, they went from island to island – apparently the Atlantic Ocean was lousy with them. In essence, each island could be something like a dungeon in its own right. A list of island visited by Saint Brendan and Máel Dúin follows:

  1. The island of ants, from which the men flee because the ants' intention is to eat their boat
  2. The island of tame birds
  3. The island of the horse-like beast that pelts the crew with the beach
  4. The island of horses and demons (demonic cowboys?)
  5. The island of salmon, where they find an empty house filled with a feast and they all ate, drank, and gave thanks to God
  6. The island with the branch of an apple tree, where they are fed with apples for 40 nights
  7. The island of the "Revolving Beast", a creature that would shift its form by manipulating its bones, muscles and loose skin; it cast stones at the escaping crew and one pierces the keel of the boat (cool!)
  8. The island where animals bite each other and blood is everywhere (vampiric animals?)
  9. The island of apples, pigs, and birds
  10. The island with the great fort/pillars/cats where one of the foster brothers steals a necklet and is burned to ashes by the cat (awesome!)
  11. The island of black and white sheep, where sheep change colors as they cross the fence; the crewmen do not go aboard this island in fear of changing color
  12. The island of the pigherd, which contained an acidic river and hornless oxen
  13. The island of the ugly mill and miller who were "wrinkled, rude, and bareheaded"
  14. The island of lamenting men and wailing sorrows, where they had to retrieve a crewmen who entered the island and became one of the lamenting men; they saved him by grabbing him while holding their breath
  15. The island with maidens and intoxicating drink
  16. The island with forts and the crystal bridge, where there is a maiden who is propositioned to sleep with Máel Dúin
  17. The island of colorful birds singing like psalms
  18. The island with the psalm singing old man with noble monastic words
  19. The island with the golden wall around it
  20. The island of angry Smiths (azer?)
  21. A sea of like green crystal, in which they found only rocks, no monsters
  22. A sea of clouds with underwater fortresses and monsters
  23. The island with a woman pelting them with nuts (halflings?)
  24. The island with a river sky that was raining salmon
  25. The island on a pedestal
  26. The island with eternal youth/women (17 maidens)
  27. The island with red fruits that were made as a sleeping elixir
  28. The island with monks of Brendan Birr, where they were blessed (cleric’s stronghold)
  29. The island with eternal laughter, where they lost a crewman
  30. The island of the fire people
  31. The island of cattle, oxen and sheep
  32. An island with a boy who brings bread and water
  33. An island of sheep
  34. The island of Jasconius
  35. An island that is the Paradise of Birds, and the birds sing psalms and praise the Lord (Lawful birdmen?)
  36. The island of the monks of Ailbe, with magic loaves, no ageing, and complete silence
  37. An island with a well; drinking the water puts them to sleep for 1, 2, or 3 days based on the number of cups each man drank
  38. A "coagulated" sea (Sargasso?)
  39. An island of 3 choirs of anchorites (monks) who give them fruit
  40. An island of grapes
  41. A gryphon and a bird in battle
  42. An island that is actually a whale
  43. A "silver pillar wrapped in a net" in the sea
  44. An island of blacksmiths, who throw slag at them (see above)
  45. A volcano inhabited by demons that drag people down to Hell
  46. Judas sitting unhappily on a cold, wet rock in the middle of the sea
  47. An island where Paul the Hermit has lived a perfect monastic life for 60 years wearing nothing but hair and being fed by an otter

The great thing about this formula, of course, is that it can be used in genres other than medieval fantasy. Voyages of this sort were reported in later centuries, and the same formula could be used in a pulp adventure of exploration and sci-fi planet-hopping adventures as those in Star Trek.

To run a campaign like this, you’ll want a hex map covered with islands (when I get around to mapping the South Seas of Nod, you can use it), good rules for sea voyages (ship to ship combat tables maybe, especially if you’re using a larger boat than a currach, a random table of seaborne disasters, etc.) and a pretty good number of pre-drawn dungeon maps that can be pressed into service when a landing is made and the adventurers get drawn into trouble. In fact, you might also want to review a few Star Trek episodes to get some ideas about how to draw the adventurers into the island’s dangers.

Well, back to plant monsters tomorrow - and a couple other fearsome foes that popped into my head today.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Fiendish Flora: Prism Plant [Monster]

Medium plant, Neutral (N), Non-intelligent; Patch (1d6)

HD 2
AC 14
ATK 6 vines (1d4)
MV 0
SV F12 R18 W15
XP 200 (CL 3)

Prism plants are desert vines. The vines grow to about 7 feet in length and are about 1 inch in diameter. They are dark green in color, but are covered in dark tan needles that give the vines a shaggy appearance. The vines produce a sticky sap that forms crystalline "icicles" in the sand.

The vines usually hug the ground, but when it detects the presence of creatures within 30 feet via vibrations the vines rear up, exposing the crystalline sap-cicles to the light (well, at least in the daytime) and creating an prismatic effect that forces all within 30 feet of the plant to pass a Will save vs. the color spray spell. The plant can also attack with its spiny vines.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Fiendish Flora: Virginal Creeper [Monster]

Large plant, Neutral (N), Non-intelligent; Cluster (1d6)

HD 4
AC 13
ATK 1d6 spines per person within 10 feet (1d3 + poison*)
MV 0
SV F10 R17 W14
XP 400 (CL 5)

Virginal creeper is named for the virgin goddess of the hunt, due to its unique form of defense. The creeper is composed of thick green vines that grow from a central, woody core. Each of these vines is covered with thin, greenish-yellow leaves and large, white flowers. Within each flower there are several needle-like spines.

The plant appears to detect people by a sort of tremorsense that extends to 30 feet. Within 10 feet, it begins to rustle and launches its spines, throwing 1d6 spines each round at each target that approaches within 10 feet. These spines are coated in poison that acts as a major adrenaline rush to those who fail a Fortitude saving throw. Each round, the person struck by the poison enjoys a cumulative +1 bonus to strength, up to a +3 bonus, but also suffers 1d4 points of damage as their heart is driven to bursting.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fiendish Flora: Belial's Breath [New Monster]

Today I'm kicking off a series of plant monsters, because - well frankly, because when I was walking yesterday some ideas started popping into my head and now I'm going to flesh them out and use them, by golly. So - a plant monster a day until I run out of ideas.

Large plant, neutral (N), non-intelligent; pit (1d6)

HD 4
AC 12 (vines have AC 13)
ATK 6 vines (1d4 + 1d6 fire)
MV 0
SV F10 R17 W14
XP 400 (CL 5)

Belial's breath, also called salamander vine, is a monstrous plant that grows in volcanic regions, sending tap roots deep into the earth that tap into pockets of heat. The plant appears as a clump of vines that range in length from 4 to 8 feet long. The vines are about 1 inch in diameter and black. They support large leaves that are black on top and crimson on the bottom. The plant produces small yellow flowers that exude a sulfurous smell.

The vines themselves are covered in a tar-like substance that is both sticky and flammable. When the vines detect, by tremors in the ground, the nearness of a creature they snake out and attempt to grab the creature. The stickyness of the vines give them a +2 bonus to grapple attacks. If a grab is successful, the vine bursts into flame. This flame deals 1d6 points of fire damage to its victim as well as to the vines themselves. Each vine has 3d6 hit points; when a vine's hit points are reduced to 0 by the flame or any other source, it is severed from the plant. The plant's hit point total is not reduced by damage sustained by the vines. To kill the plant, one must deal damage to the large, crimson bulb that lurks beneath the soil and from which the vines emanate.

Special: Resistance to fire

Friday, July 5, 2013

Using Combat for Non-Combat Tasks

This post is really just me chasing down the thread of an idea, so don’t expect a finished product. Here’s my thought process:

Real life melee combat, medieval or otherwise, is a pretty tough thing to simulate with pen and paper. Folks are making all sorts of moves, offensive and defensive, that are pretty tough to keep track of. Because of this, Gygax and company developed an abstract combat system with hit points, Armor Class, etc.

What if we take this abstract process and apply it to other tasks – i.e. skill checks? Using combat rules really only make sense for non-combat tasks that are a process, and even then only when time is of the essence. They would be especially useful for tasks being performed while combat is underway. In these situations, though, they might work pretty well and create a pretty cool atmosphere in-game.

Before we get into specific examples, let’s break down the elements of the combat rules.

Offense in combat is governed by one’s attack bonus (or THAC0) and Strength bonus, which modifies “hitting” and damaging. In other tasks, a character using one of his class abilities/skills/concepts will “attack as a fighter of his level”, while those attempting things they know little about (little, but not nothing), would “attack as a magic-user of his level”. GMs could adjudicate situations in between these.

Defense in combat is governed by one’s Armor Class, modified by Dexterity, and Hit Points, modified by Constitution. We’ll refer to these concepts as active defense (AC) and passive defense (HP).

So, for task resolution, we need to know which ability scores govern the “attacker’s” offense, active defense and passive defense. We also need, for the “defender”, Hit Dice and Armor Class. Hit Dice here will represent the overall difficulty of the challenge, and to keep things simple, Armor Class will be 10 plus (or minus, depending on your system) the challenge’s Hit Dice.

Let’s begin simply with picking a lock. Specifically, a thief is trying to pick a lock so that the party can escape a combat they don’t think they can win.

The GM decides the lock, since it’s on the third level of a dungeon, has 3 HD and thus AC 13. For this task resolution, he rolls 3d6 and determines the lock has 9 hit points. It will get one “attack” per round, for 1d6 damage, and it turns out it contains a poisoned needle trap, so the attack actually scores 1d6 points of damage and requires the lock picker to pass a save vs. poison when hit.

The lock picker in this case is a 4th level thief. For this task, she’ll attack as a 4th level fighter – the player rolls 4d8 for her “hit points” during this task and gets 15. She’ll “attack” the lock once per round with her tools (and experience), and score 1d6 damage per hit.

For offense, the thief will use her Dexterity modifier to hit and damage. For active defense, we’ll use Intelligence to modify AC, and for passive defense Wisdom will modify Hit Points. I’m sure one could argue endlessly over which ability scores are appropriate to any given situation, but this is just an example so let's not worry about it.

So, the thief has a +2 Dex bonus, no intelligence bonus and a -1 Wis penalty. If we’re using Blood & Treasure, the thief has an attack bonus of +4 (+6 with her Dex modifier), scores 1d6+2 damage against the lock, has 11 hit points (15 modified down by Wisdom penalty) and AC 10. If you wanted to argue that leather gloves provide a +1 to AC, you probably could.

Each round during combat, the thief and lock attack one another. If the thief is reduced to 0 hit points, she fails to pick the lock, but does not die (unless she also fails a save vs. poison, since this particular lock is poisonous). Perhaps the lock can even make one of it's attacks an attempt to sunder the thief's lock pick. If the lock is reduced to 0 hit points, the lock is picked and the thief can open the door and save the party. Heck, it’s even possible that the thief is poisoned in round one, but manages to survive long enough to pick the lock before expiring. Such dramatic possibilities!

Here’s another idea. Imagine a sub-plot in a modern game requires the adventurers to sneak into a museum and steal a valuable diamond. This wasn’t really planned by the GM, so instead of hastily drawing a museum map, figuring out the security guards and cameras, etc. In this case, the museum would be the challenge – maybe 7 HD and AC 17. The GM might also rule it gets three attacks each round, from security cameras (1d6 damage), patrolling security guards (1d8 damage) and infared beams (1d4 damage). If successful, the adventurers, who are all involved in this combat, get to the diamond and take possession of it. If they fail, they are caught – at which point they might be allowed to choose to go quietly or fight their way out, in which case we would enter traditional combat in a room filled with Egyptian antiquities against two armed guards with the police on their way.

Final notion for now – spellcasting. This might be good for a more modern game or a light magic game. The level of the spell is the spell’s Hit Dice (and thus determines Armor Class). The magic-user’s offense is governed by Intelligence, his active defense by charisma and his passive defense by Wisdom.

If the spell wins, it is beyond the magic-user and he cannot cast it. If the magic-user wins, he casts the spell. Obviously, this would now govern the casting time of spells, and one could dispose of preparing spells, instead simply requiring the magic-user to have a spell in their spellbook to be able to cast it. Perhaps some high-level spells could have “special attacks”, like wisdom drain or paralyzation, to make them more dangerous.

Imagine a 7th level magic-user attempting to cast a 9th level monster summoning spell while the party is holding off a balor demon. Heck, multiple magic-users could now join forces in casting a spell, chanting together, one sprinkling the powdered bone while the other waves the wand.

Anyhow – just an idea. I might explore it further and use it in ACTION X. I'd love to hear what folks think of it.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Dweomer Baye Map

Finally finished my map for Dweomer Baye, so I thought I'd share it.

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