Saturday, November 21, 2015

Quiet, crickets!

Yeah. Been a while. Ugh.

Taking a hiatus from running my regular (now 5E) game - until after the holidays. Taking the time to work on other projects.

  • OSR-compatable adventure. A dungeon exploded out into big floating chunks by an ancient Chaos artifact. Watch your step. The pits really can be bottomless.
  • Duckin' & Braggin'. Finally making the push to get my humor-fantasy campaign setting into some semblance of order - and print. Pretty much settled on the fine Dungeon Crawl Classics system as a foundation. Hence the logo mockup.

  • What else? Um...haven't been doing a darn thing with my main campaign. Bad DM. Hopefully some more interesting and solid posts to come soon.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Lord Stickybones

When working on a campaign setting, I will often consider what is happening behind the scenes, or even in areas of the world where none of the adventure is happening. Not always because I want to add depth or verisimilitude to the setting - just because that's how I think. That's kind of where Lord Stickybones came from. While I enjoy using "classic" monsters in my game, I also like to have some fun with it all. Here's a part of that.

Some time ago, an ordinary gelatinous cube had an extraordinary encounter with a magic-user in the process of becoming a lich. In a foggy transitional stage of undeath, the would-be lich staggered blindly into the 'cube and found himself engulfed. By uncanny happenstance, the gelatinous cube had recently survived a conflict with adventurers where it became inundated with a large number of experimental potions - some of which became permanent. These exceptional circumstances resulted in the singular monstrosity known among dungeon denizens and explorers as Lord Stickybones.

Stickybones is the derisive moniker given to the skeletal remains inside the 'cube - sentient remains infuriated by their present condition. Trapped within a gelatinous cube, the skeleton makes its way through the dungeon passages and chambers, seeking a means of escape before being utterly dissolved by digestive acids. So far, the skeleton has lost most of its fingers and toes, making the casting of spells almost impossible.


MOVE: 9"
% IN LAIR: Nil
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 2-8 + 1-10/2-8 +1-10
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Paralyzation, surprise on a 1-3, see below
SPECIAL DEFENSES: +1 or better weapon to hit, see below
ALIGNMENT: Neutral Evil
SIZE: L (10' cube)

The gelatinous cube has developed an almost symbiotic relationship with its prisoner, granting it a heightened awareness and intelligence. The potions have bestowed magical abilities that cause the 'cube to function as a crystal ball for the skeleton inside, allowing the undead creature to use powers of clairaudience and clairvoyance exactly as the respective potions. The 'cube possesses fire-resistance (invulnerability to all normal fire, plus -2 damage per die from exceptional or magical fire and +4 to all applicable saves) and invulnerability (immunity to non-magical weapons and unarmed attacks, or by creatures with fewer than 4 hit dice - also +2 to armor class (included in the creature's stat block) and all saves), also as the potions of the same name. Finally, the 'cube seems to have some kind of influence over the skeleton which allows it to keep the creature imprisoned, almost as a potion of undead control.

Lord Stickybones is as transparent as other gelatinous cubes, but is never without the full skeleton within. Thus, the creature will often be seen as a floating skeleton, but the surrounding 'cube will be noticed only on a 3-in-6 chance. Unlike a typical gelatinous cube, Lord Stickybones lashes out with two pseudopods per round, each with a chance to paralyze those struck if a save is not made, plus 1-10 points of cold damage as if from the touch of a lich. The gelatinous cube will attempt to engulf a victim, if possible.

The failed lich inside the 'cube has but one attack of its own. Lord Stickybones will make a magic jar attempt upon a suitable creature within range (16") - magic-users are preferred. The creature's intelligence and wisdom are both 16. Inside the skull of the failed lich is a red ruby so dark as to appear black in all but the most direct light. This is the phylactery/magic jar.

The 'cube containing the skeleton cannot be hit by non-magical weapons and has fire resistance. Cold will slow the creature by 50% on a failed save, but has no other effect. As with all gelatinous cubes, Lord Stickybones is unaffected by electricity, fear, hold, paralyzation, polymorph, or sleep.

The skeletal figure inside the 'cube cannot generally be attacked directly, and is considered part of the monster. If the gelatinous cube is slain or destroyed, the figure within is released. Lord Stickybones (the magic-user cannot recall his own name and thinks of himself in this way) is a failed lich and possesses only some of the abilities of that undead form. The semi-successful process of lichdom, coupled with the constant punishment of the 'cube's digestive juices have reduced the figure's armor class and hit dice. Also, Lord Stickybones does not possess the usual fear aura of the true lich. Finally, he was only 16th level when attempting the transformation in the first place, giving him fewer spells than even the least true lich.


MOVE: 6"
HIT DICE: 9 (8-sided)
% IN LAIR: Nil
SPECIAL ATTACKS: See above, and below
SPECIAL DEFENSES: +1 or better weapon to hit, see below
ALIGNMENT: Neutral Evil

In his current form, Lord Stickybones cannot hold objects and cannot walk, as he has no fingers or toes. Typically, he summons an unseen servant to lift and move him about.

Though the skeletal figure may attack for 1-10 points of cold damage exactly as a lich (plus paralysis on a failed save), he will attempt to magic jar an opponent at first opportunity - see above. Lord Stickybones is not entirely himself and has been somewhat addled by his experiences. He may have moments of forgetfulness or outright delusion. This could cause him to address a foe as someone else, cast an entirely inappropriate spell in combat, or simply start to walk away from a battle entirely as he suddenly recalls something else more important to do.

From his time spent within the 'cube, Lord Stickybones has gained fire resistance and immunity to undead control. As a type of lich, Lord Stickybones retains immunity to charm, sleep, enfeeblement, polymorph, cold, electricity, insanity, and spells or symbols of death.

Lord Stickybones receives his title from the silvery coronet that rests upon his bony brow. The slender crown is only silver over ordinary metal and worth about 55 gp. The dark ruby that rests inside his skull, acting as phylactery or magic jar, is valued at 5000 gp.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The OD&D Project - installment 16 (the spellbook)

Now begins the process of scribing spells into my spellbook.
Thank Gygax for brief spell descriptions.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The OD&D Project - installment 15

Still plugging away. Essentially done with the "Men" part of Men & Magic. Now working on what promises to be an extensive latter section on the spells of the various 'casting classes.

This concludes the "Men" portion of Volume 1, Men & Magic. What follows is a compendium of spells for Magic-Users, Clerics, Illusionists, and Druids. These entries are gathered from multiple sources and compiled, organized, and edited hereafter. No distinction is made regarding the publication source of any spell, be it from  Volume 1, Men & Magic, GREYHAWK, ELDRITCH WIZARDRY, The Strategic Review, or (The) Dragon magazine. All spells are presented alphabetically under each spellcasting class entry.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The OD&D Project - installment 14

Well...I started this endeavor a while back - and let it slide a bit. Mostly because I'd reached a point where my interest was greatly lessened - combat tables. Recently, I got back in the saddle and started plowing through this stuff.

For those who don't know - or may have forgotten, this project is an ill-considered attempt to compile and edit the original D&D booklets into something as complete and coherent as possible. The text includes additions from Greyhawk, Blackmoor, and Eldritch Wizardry - as well as offerings and articles from The Strategic Review and Dragon magazine. It is all compiled and edited to retain as much of the original content and flavor as possible, but organized and laid-out to offer maximum clarity and coherence. All the rules and additions in one place - and in one format.

Here are the latest pages. Edit: Added the Thief class to the Saving Throw Matrix.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Fairy Tale Dungeon Theatre

Does anyone else find it interesting that the Ivory Goats among the Figurines of Wondrous Power come in a set of three? The only obvious reason (to my tortured brain) is that they are somehow inspired by the Three Billy Goats Gruff.

With that in mind, the dungeon I am currently running has a bridge with a giant troll that will be almost impossible to defeat without using the Ivory Goats. All three Ivory Goats. One by one. Each Goat will be a little bigger and plumper than the one before. The Goat of Traveling will come first, convincing the troll to let it pass in favor of the next, plumper Goat. The Goat of Terror will intimidate the troll into letting it pass, but will mollify the monster with the temptation of its even plumper brother to come. The Goat of Travail will end the troll for good.

The legend of the troll and the goats has already been set for the PCs to find as a clue. My players are good with stuff like that.

The dungeon design employs various Figurines as means of passage from one portion to another - almost like elaborate magical keys. The PCs received the Figurines as an inheritance at the start of the campaign.

Here's hoping.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Monstrous Relations

If you know me, you know that my mind makes associations and connections in a frenetic and barely-controlled fashion. Leafing excitedly through the Monster Manual for the first time, my young brain almost immediately fixated upon the hobgoblin and ogre mage entries. Why? Because they were both depicted with an Asian/Oriental flavor. This made them stick out from the rest. I like exotic Eastern stuff. I'm like that.

I've never liked orcs. Too many piggy depictions of them in fantasy art, I suppose. Plus, they've always kind of bored me. After Lord of the Rings, I was done with orcs. But, hobgoblins...almost the same monster - but dressed like samurai! I could get behind that in a big way.

Then, to give me an even nastier creature dressed in fantasy-Asian garb? Bliss!

The ogre mage set me on the path to including an Asian-themed realm in my own campaign setting. Along the way, they became something like fallen genies to me. Well, because genies are also Asian. So - association. With that pedigree, suddenly the hobgoblin became something else. I decided to give them a relationship with ogre magi. Hobgoblins would be fallen ogre magi - who were fallen genies. Now I had an entire family of exotic monsters with a common flavor and origin.

Before, hobgoblins had simply been something like Mongol horsemen for my setting. They had the unique quirk of being able to become Barbarians of a lawful alignment. But, that's another entry.

Today, in my campaign setting, there are monasteries at the edge of the giant kingdoms that are run by ogre magi masters, with mostly hobgoblin students. Both races are lawful in alignment and Oriental in tone - so: Monks!

While David Sutherland has never been my favorite D&D illustrator, he certainly did a lot for my setting design with these particular entries. For that, he holds a special place in my heart. It doesn't take much to spark my imagination into something akin to a fireworks finale, but I do give credit where it is due.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Surely, you Joust

Bad blogger is bad.

Been failing my saves vs. real life lately. So, to provide a bit of dubious amusement while I regroup, here's some notes for my goofy arcade-game-inspired RPG project from the late 20th Century.

Joust Kingdoms - Mini RPG campaign.

Inspired by the arcade game and its sequel. Expanded and modified to suit an RPG environment.

PCs and Allies 
·      Sky Knight: Main PrC class of the setting. Plumes signifying rank, along with rare magical plumes. Exceptional riding and melee skills. Superior armor and main weapon(s). Animal handling for mount type. Will be obligated to follow a "knightly code" and wear the crest/coat-of-arms of a specific region or noble. A cavalier-like character type. PCs should be able to qualify at about 5th level.
·      Setting-Specific PC Classes: As the majority of core enemies will be of the demonic, elemental, and undead varieties, character classes will often focus on battling these types of foes.
·      Jousting (and possibly Aerial Jousting) will be a skill where an opponent makes an opposed check to help determine success. There will be joust-related feats. Aerial movement and combat will be a focus of the setting. Comparative altitude will have an effect on aerial jousting success. Naturally, there will be jousting- and aerial jousting-related feats.
·      Possible mounts include Ostrich, Stork, Winged Horse (these first three from the arcade games), Griffon, Hippogriff, or (rarely) Wyvern (replacing the pterodactyl from the game). Lesser mounts will not be able to maintain altitude for long periods of time and must rest rather frequently.
·      Pyrostrich: Phoenix-like mount (though ostrich-like in appearance) that may rise from the flames of the lava pits to become a burning steed for a Sky Knight who wears the extremely rare Phoenix Plume. Wild pyrostriches can sometimes be found roaming the Cinderlands.
Enemies and Monsters
·      Bronze Heron: The metal-feathered wading birds with the steam attack from the original Fiend Folio – giant strider? Obviously influenced by Stymphalian Birds. These bronze-feathered monsters could serve as mounts for some kind of enemy Steam Knight and be native to the Scalding Lands of geysers and bubbling mud pits.
·      Enemy Knights: Bounder (weakest and poorest flyers), Hunter (roughly equal to an average PC), and Shadow Lord (possibly similar to death knights). Their buzzard mounts fly somewhat better than ostriches or storks, but do not accept non-evil riders.
·      Destroyed enemy knights dissipate and re-form into an egg that falls to the ground at the end of the round. An egg will usually hatch at the end of the next round into an undead version of the slain knight: Bounder Wight, Hunter Wraith, Shadow Vampire Lord – and fall under the sway of the Shadow King. When slain in the Cinderlands, their souls usually descend to the Underpits – domain of the Underlord of the Pits. This puts the Underlord at frequent odds with the Shadow King. The Underlord creates demonic minions from these fallen undead knights.
·      If destroyed before hatching, or during the one-round development period, the knight is slain permanently.
·      An egg that falls into the lava may be destroyed, or it may hatch into a Lava Troll Knight – a rare, elite variant of the standard lava troll that can control and ride the pyrostrich.
·      Lava trolls dwell underground and often drag unwary victims down into the fiery depths of the Underpits. A lava troll’s grip is burning hot, but generally weak. These creatures will resemble primitive efreeti with trollish features and stony skin. They regenerate only in very hot conditions.
·      Plunderlord of the Shining Clouds: Stories tell of a flying castle that rides the winds above the scintillating clouds of the plunderstorms. It is possible that the legendary Plunderlord is a type of mighty noble djinni with power over the winds and the lightning. His colors are said to be silver and sapphire.
·      Shadow King: Logical progression above the Shadow Lords of the arcade game. Ruler of the Twilight Reaches and lairs in a castle found inside a dormant volcano under an eternal cloud of ash and smoke. The Shadow King will be some kind of cold, dark efreeti or shadowy balor. Possibly a sort of mirror image of the Underlord. Perhaps even related, somehow. Indigo and silver.
·      Underlord of the Pits: Great winged lava troll resembling a pit fiend. Major villain of the setting. Crimson and gold. Ruler over the demonic hordes of the Underpits.
·      Wyvern: These creatures make their homes in the Grim Heights and tend to be smaller than the traditional wyvern. Aeries of Scarlet Wyverns can be found among the cliffs surrounding lava pits. These creatures hunt and harass sky knights that linger too long in their territory. There will be ancient specimens that are similar to dragons, along with a rare Crimson Wyvern that breathes fire.
Realms and Locales
·      Cinderlands: Scene of many jousting encounters. Treacherous lava pits and sinkholes. Many lava pits develop a thin crust of hardened ash and magma that collapses easily under a small amount of weight. Beneath this crust is usually a pocket of gas that offers just enough support to make the pit look like solid ground. Occasionally, these pockets will burst free to create a dangerous geyser of steam and sulfurous fumes. Situated roughly at the middle of the map as a central battleground.
·      Grim Heights: Found between the lands of the ‘griffs and the Cinderlands. Probably to the north. Home to wyverns.
·      Scalding Lands: Found between the Cinderlands and the marshy delta where riding storks are found. Probably to the east.
·      The other (human) kingdoms of the realm surround, and usually border, the Cinderlands. Each will generally be known in heraldry by the mount their sky knights chiefly use – suggesting about six such realms. One kingdom will be a savanna which is home to the ostrich mount (west, ruled by a queen), another will be a marshy delta which is home to the stork mount (east, ruled by a duke), another will be a region of hilly plains which will be home to the winged horse mount (south, ruled by a king), while the rest will probably be somewhat mountainous to accommodate the griffon, hippogriff, and wyvern mounts (north, ruled by kings and queens).
Events and Stuff
·      Plunderstorm: Named thus because one is always cause for a raid to recover fallen hailstones. Opalescent clouds and multicolored lightning signal a storm where hail falls to the ground in the form of silvery metal pellets, called cloudsilver, encased in thick ice.
·      Cloudsilver: These pellets are the rare metal known as cloudsilver – a weightless substance of unknown origin. It is often used to fashion armor for Sky Knights and their mounts – as most winged mounts cannot bear a lot of weight and still maneuver or remain aloft for extended periods of time. While it has no significant weight, cloudsilver does have mass. It is still somewhat bulky to wear (though not as much as steel armor) and will eventually drift to the ground by force of gravity alone. The majority of plunderstorms occur over the Cinderlands and is the chief reason for the frequent battles there as cloudsilver is possibly the most valuable substance in the kingdoms. Additional enchantments on cloudsilver armor allow an unsaddled Knight to fall slowly to the ground – as Feather Fall. There is little in life more important to a sky knight than this armor – or his/her mount. Accordingly, armoring the sky knight's mount is almost as important as armoring himself.
·      Thundergold: Very rarely, a plunderstorm will yield a different form of precious metal that is brassy or golden in color. These pellets fall to the ground in flickering trails and are encased in a crust of blackened cinders. Despite its appearance, the metal does not melt easily and comes to no harm from the conditions of its fall. Thundergold is similar to cloudsteel in that it is essentially weightless, but it is also proof against heat and flame. The metal's name comes from the tendency of the pellets to resemble lightning bolts as they fall from the sky and to strike the ground with a thundering impact.
·      Early Campaign Hooks:
---Ankheg, bullette, umber hulk, xorn, or other burrowing monster threatens livestock or mining operation.
---Clear an aerie of wyverns.
---Come to the aid of an outpost under attack.
---Protect a shipment of cloudsilver.
·      Mid-Campaign Hooks:
---Become a Sky Knight (after meeting PrC prerequisites) or qualify for similar PrC.
---Break the power of the Shadow Lords.
---Destroy a clutch of Scarlet Wyverns.
---Explore the Underpits.
·      Late Campaign Hooks:
---Confront an ancient Crimson Wyvern.
---Confront the Shadow King.
---Confront the Underlord.