Sunday, November 16, 2008

Relevant L5R Names, Dates, Etc

This is a growing list of names I will need for the Scales of War adventure path in Rokugan. It will cover places and people and the occasional historical fact as necessary. Perhaps it will evolve into the general conversion document. Who knows?

Kawa sano Saigo no Kamae (River of the Last Stand): This is the river at which Kuni Osaku cast her legendary Cresting Wave spell and held the Shadowland's horde back for 73 days while the Kaiu Wall was constructed on its far bank. During the battle, Hida Banuken swore he would not take another step back and the Shadowlands have never pushed further than River of the Last Stand.

Haikyo sano Kappa (Ruins of the Kappa): Once a strong fortress of the Crab Clan, the Kappa palace fell long ago to the Shadowlands. Now, it houses a great goblin city, shabbily rebuilt in a mockery of its original style. Dozens of tribes gather here to meet, haggle, debate, and fight in a hideous mockery of human society. Haikyo sano Kappa seems like a good location for Umbraforge.

Kuni Areno (Kuni Wastes): The reclaimed homelands of the Kuni family, this area is a flat plain of cracked mud and blowing dust where no living thing will grow. The only humans who live here are the Kuni who live alone in ramshackle huts. The odd Shadowlands creature wanders about, looking for lone travelers to prey upon. The Kuni Wastes are a possible location for Castle Rivenroar.

The Black Finger River and the River of the Dark Moon: Just north of Crab lands, the Kawa sano Saigo no Kamae forks. The eastern fork is the River of the Last Stand. The western fork splits once more into the above-named rivers. The Black Finger River is the furthest any Rokugani has traveled into the Shadowlands.

Yugure Yama (Twilight Mountains): The tough and rocky range in southwestern Crab lands that forms the border with the Shadowlands. The passes in the Yugure are garrisoned or booby-trapped and any wise traveler announces his intentions to the Crab and enters the mountains via the Kaiu Pass. The northern Yugure support a large number of tea plantations which grow much of Rokugan's tea supply.

Kaiu Roka (Carpenter Pass): The Kaiu Pass is the largest passageway through the Twilight Mountains. Many merchants, peddlers, and hucksters frequent the road leading to the pass, plying their wares to any who pass by. Anyone who wishes to sell along the road pays a tithe to the Yasuki and, in fact, many of the merchants are Yasuki themselves. It is the only reason the Crab tolerate their presence. Kaiu Roka is an obvious choice for Bordrin's Watch.

Midaki sano Mura (High Tree Village): A mining town abutting the Kuni Wastes. It is supposedly haunted by Shakoki Dogu, the spirit of the Twilight Mountains created when the entire Boar Clan was sacrificed to forge the Anvil of Despair. The villagers are scared to walk through their own village at night, let alone enter the mines. This could serve as Rivenroar but probably not.

Koten: The ancestral shrine of the Crab Clan. It was meant to outshine the Lion Clan's ancestral shrine but very few Crab samurai leave enough remains to be cremated and interred. Koten has been moved further north so that it is closer to Shiro Kuni and Kaiu Pass. It is the temple in Siege of Bordrin's Watch.

The artifacts left from the Battle of the Cresting Wave would lie in either Shiro Kuni or Kyuden Hida. The Maw's skull hangs from the gates of Kyuden Hida so it makes sense that the artifacts would be there. However, that means Rescue at Rivenroar would require the Shadowlands scouts to attack the Crab capital. Perhaps they sow chaos and destruction in the outlying village to draw the Crab forces while a few lone figures sneak into Kyuden Hida and steal the artifacts.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Update on Current Project

I went to Gamers' Inn to look at the game postings and think about what I should mention in my own game post to find players.

While there, I saw a flyer for A Gathering of Players. They are the RPGA group for Mesa and they run Living Forgotten Realms games every other Saturday. Long story short, I decided to play and judge LFR to gather my data (for the time being). Playing the pick-up style games of LFR allows me to see a wider variety of characters and tactics and presents situations not created and moderated by myself. I still want to run my Crab Clan vs the Shadowlands game to gather further information and to see what happens when the same people play the game week after week. Both sets of information make up the larger whole.

WotC Forum Quotes

Found these in TheBouncyPherret's signature:

I may not be smarter than a 5th grader, but I'm sure I could kick his ass
-Mike Merles, D&D Podcast Ep. 17; ~21:40

As far as I know the roles are pretty ironclad. The leader will make decisions for the party. The defender will speak up if another party member gets insulted in a tavern. The striker will be primarily responsible for scoring goals. And the controller will monitor air traffic conditions. Says so right in the DMG.

To me, there's nothing in HP and HP recovery that implies that you are always dodging until the final blow. Sometimes a blow pounds you into the dirt and leaves you looking like burger. Sometimes, you're just too Bruce Willis to care.

Seriously, though, how much fun would it be to read these boards if everyone behaved reasonably?

This post was brought to you by the interwebs. Destroying your language since it was invented by Al Gore!
-Calestin Kethal

Common Sense shoots! Rules goes for the block... and misses! Common Sense scores!

That's an easy fix: Your DM politely reminds the player who's running the game, and every time the player starts running his mouth, his character takes d6 + Annoyance modifier damage.

I'm not used to people asking smart questions in Rules Q&A...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Current Project

So my current project is playing Legend of the Five Rings using 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. The point of this, in part, is to help familiarize myself with 4e and get an experiential handle on the system's balance so I can start work on my Avatar: The Last Airbender bending class.

I am going to use the Scales of War adventure path from Dungeon Magazine because the first two adventures fit my idea for a Crab war party entering the Shadowlands very well. The first adventure features a band of hobgoblins raiding Brindol and absconding with several people as well as some artifacts of the war against the Red Hand of Doom. That sounds like a Shadowlands raid against a border town. The second adventure concerns a gathering orc army outside of Bordrin's Watch and their attempts to bypass that keep through the tunnels that run underneath it through the mountain. This sounds like a gathering army of Shadowlands creatures trying to get past an outpost of the Kaiu Wall by navigating the Kaiu's own tunnels beneath the wall.

Despite what I just said, I am not sure if the campaign will take place before or after the battle with the Maw and the building of the Kaiu Wall. I am going to tentatively say yes because the adventure path presumes a prior invasion by the Red Hand of Doom and it fits right in with the invasion of Crab Lands by the Maw. My final decision will come in another week or two when I see the third Scales of War adventure. While I originally wanted to use 12th level characters for the greater variety and amount of powers, if these adventures keep being so perfectly adaptable I will want to start at 1st level.

I also want to make a cool campaign introduction sheet/advertisement. Remember that this started out as an attempt to get back into a regular game when the rest of my group decided to stop for a while. So I was going to put up an ad in Gamers' Inn to find some players.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

4e Crab Patrol

I have picked out the power choices for the two fighters (twin Hida Bushi), rogue (Hiruma Scout), and warlord (Kaiu Bushi taisa). Both fighters and the warlord are dwarves while the rogue is an elf (for the extra movement). Since the warlord does not have a quote to show off his build purpose, let me just say that "he heals people" (although I gave him several other tricks to play with too).

Fighter/Pit Fighter 12: "A Hida bushi shows no mercy, striking with overwhelming force the instant opportunity presents itself."
At will - Cleave, Reaping Strike
Encounter - Spinning Sweep, Crushing Blow, Reckless Strike, All Bets are Off
Daily - Brute Strike, Crack the Shell, Victorious Surge
Utility - Get Over Here, Battle Awareness, Into the Fray, Deadly Payback

Fighter/Iron Vanguard 12: "Standard Crab withdrawal procedure in the face of an insurmountable foe: one man holds off the advance while his comrades go for reinforcements."
At will - Cleave, Tide of Iron
Encounter - Steel Serpent Strike, Sweeping Blow, Come And Get It, Frontline Surge
Daily - Comeback Strike, Rain of Steel, Thicket of Blades
Utility - Boundless Endurance, Unbreakable, Stalwart Guard, Inexorable Shift

Rogue/Cat Burglar 12: "The Hida stand with the stubbornness of a mountain; the Hiruma skulk with the swiftness of the wind around that mountain."
At Will - Piercing Strike, Deft Strike
Encounter - Torturous Strike, Bait and Switch, Cloud of Steel, Cat Burglar's Gambit
Daily - Easy Target, Deep Cut, Knockout
Utility - Fleeting Ghost, Chameleon, Shadow Stride, Instant Escape

Warlord/Knight Commander 12: "(Insert fancy quote here)."
At Will - Viper's Strike, Wolf Pack Tactics
Encounter - Warlord's Favor, Hold the Line, Surprise Attack, Slash and Press
Daily - Lead the Attack, Stand the Fallen, Knock them Down
Utility - Knight's Move, Stand Tough, Defensive Rally, Break their Nerve

The Kuni Shugenja will take a bit more time because I have to go through both the Warlock and the Wizard powers.


Wizard/Blood Mage 12: "More Kuni have become practitioners of maho, or blood magic, than all the other shugenja families in the Empire combined."
At Will - Ray of Frost, Scorching Burst
Encounter - Icy Terrain, Icy Rays, Winter's Wrath, Blood Pulse
Daily - Freezing Grasp/Sleep, Bigby's Icy Grasp/Web, Ice Storm/Wall of Fire
Utility - Expeditious Retreat/Shield, Disguise Self/Wall of Fog, Blur/Resistance, Soul Burn


Feats and skills are done for everyone but the warlord. I have no idea what to give him for feats; skills are Athletics, Endurance, Diplomacy, Heal.

The Pit Fighter needed to be resilient, powerful, and well protected: Toughness, Fleet-Footed*, Hammer Rhythm, Power Attack, Potent Challenge, Dwarven Weapon Training, Armor Training (Plate), Armor Specialization (Plate).
*Fleet-Footed was to offset the dwarven 5 speed. I may change it if I give him Battlestrider Greaves.
Skills: Athletics, Endurance, Intimidate

The Iron Vanguard needed to be tough, sticky, and deadly: Armor Training (Plate), Armor Specialization (Plate, Toughness, Dwarven Durability, Combat Reflexes, Back to the Wall, Blood Thirst, Dwarven Weapon Training.
Skills: Athletics, Endurance, Heal

The Rogue needed to be stealthy, mobile, and damaging: Alertness, Secret Stride*, Light Step, Defensive Mobility, Running Shot, Sieze the Moment, Backstabber, Elven Precision.
*I need to see if this invalidates Fleeting Ghost.
Skills: Stealth, Thievery, Acrobatics, Athletics, Perception, Nature (switched Nature for Dungeoneering because the Hiruma are above-ground scouts)

The Wizard needed to be a quick, decisive artillery platform: Alertness, Danger Sense, Improved Initiative, Feywild Protection, Burning Blizzard, Wintertouched, Lasting Frost, Spell Focus*.
*Spell Focus pretty much only applies to his non-cold daily spells but it gives the player something for switching them into the line-up.
Skills: Arcana, Diplomacy, History, Religion


I still have not chosen the warlord's feats but I know his focus. He will spend two feats on Skill Training (Dungeoneering) and Skill Emphasis/Focus/Whatever (Dungeoneering) to get his Kaiu bearings. The rest of his feats will focus on the bastard sword (proficiency, weapon focus, heavy blade opportunist, etc).

Monday, August 18, 2008

RIP - Hurley

Well, my new memory card is too small to hold a Superstar save file and my old memory card, which worked last night, is now saying it is corrupt again.

So Hurley is pretty much dead.

Hurley Masterton - NFL Running Back

I have always wanted to document my progress through a season of Madden. I fell maddeningly short in trying to keep track of my fantasy draft team but I am going to give it a go with my second Superstar.

My first superstar was named after myself. He was a quarterback, signed with the Chargers, displaced Rivers, and grew into an excellent Field General. Having Ladanian Tomlinson in the backfield was always a pleasure as it eased the pressure on my rookie QB in the first season and offered an excellent running game to keep the defense guessing against my field general.

This time we have Hurley Masterton. His father was a Pro Bowl halfback who, in today's press, is often called the Larry Johnson of his time. He enjoyed traveling and usually spent the off-season globetrotting with the family.

Hurley's mother was a genius, sporting a IQ of 150. She joined the FBI before meeting Hurley's father and, on their frequent summer vacations, steered her husband to destinations with good hiking.

Hurley stands 6'1" tall and weighs 228 lbs. He attended his hometown school Texas on a football scholarship and hopes to wear #25 going into the NFL.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Pikeman's Hallway Trap

Also known as the Forest of Stakes.

This trap requires a delineated walkway and a floor with seams (or other "roughage"). It could work in a dense forest with narrow paths, an interior hallway with hardwood floors, or a tiled walkway through a garden. The example will use a hardwood floor.

For the intended effect, the planks that make up the floor travel lengthwise down the hallway, not across. Through a hidden trigger, the planks swivel at some point along their length to raise 6-10 sharpened stakes into the air. The angle and length of the stakes put all the points in a solid vertical column facing one way or the other down the hall. Since every other plank across the width swivels open, they form an effective wall of sharp points. Because they angle up from the floor, chopping at the points just makes the wall shorter at each swipe.

This trap works well when someone is fleeing around blind corners. Activate the trap and they duck right into a self-made shish kebab. Activating several in a row (three or four such 'walls' in a single hallway) effectively halts any fast progress without necessarily killing the interloper. On the other hand, adding a trip wire (or allowing a few of the boards directly before the trap to raise just a couple inches as a trip aid) would increase the change of a damaging or lethal encounter.

I view the trap as operating via a counterweight mechanism. Usually the weight (suspended by the far end of the plank) is supported, leaving the floor in the normal, flat, down position. Activating the trap releases the weight, causing the floorboards to swivel violently up, trailing the suspended bamboo stakes beneath them. The stakes could be rigidly fixed in their vertical pattern (requiring a lot of room beneath the floor to house them) or they could be collapsible while stowed underneath the floor and locking into place as the floor rises up. I much prefer the latter as it prevents the hollow sounds and space requirements of the former.

Also, as I mentioned above, only every other plank rises. Why? So the remaining planks can have the same trap facing the opposite direction.

Monday, August 4, 2008

L5R -> 4e Integration Ideas

I have already decided that if I do this, it will start with a converted Keep on the Shadowfell. As I have not read further than a few pages into the Keep, all of the following is conjecture:

The Keep is Shiro Hiruma/a fallen Crab outpost/a Shadowlands outpost that the players are sent to investigate. Patrols are a normal duty of those along the wall so even a fresh batch of recruits is expected to take part in the forays.

All of the kobolds and other creatures will be changed to oni and ogres and bakemono. The characters are Crabs and maybe a few samurai from other clans with obvious ties to the Crab. A Hida Bushi (dwarf fighter) is an automatic include no matter what. I could make all the characters Crab with ease, utilizing two Hida Bushi (dwarf fighter and dwarf warlord), a Kaiu Engineer (tactical warlord or artificer), a Hiruma Scout (rogue), and a Kuni Shugenja (wizard with cleric multiclass). Or I can go whole-hog with the clans and use the characters I have already created (Hida Bushi, Mirumoto Bushi, Isawa Shugenja, Togashi Ise Zumi, Shosuro Shinobi, Moto Bushi, Kakita Kenshinzen, etc).

Further adventures call for an encounter with Spider Clan samurai (before they were the Spider Clan). These Lost would call themselves by the name Daigotsu, such as Daigotsu Tsuno. They would be analogous to the Dark Warlords from Ronin Warriors.

Also, all of the armor special attacks from Ronin Warriors can and will be written up as powers. I just need to find something appropriate to model them on (i.e. choose a good level to house the effect).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

L5R Schools and Avatar Paragon Paths

I will update this post with future ideas instead of creating new posts each time inspiration strikes. If I ever flesh them out properly, then they will receive a new post.

I am not sure whether there should be paragon paths proper for Avatar. These fit really well as prestige classes, may they RIP, but what is there to distinguish between several paths for any given bender? By way of explanation, whether a waterbender focuses on healing, freezing, or cutting should be accomplished through power choice, not a paragon path. Maybe I should render paragon paths down the same as I am rendering classes down for L5R and just have a suite of powers from which a bender chooses at the paragon-appropriate levels. Obviously an assortment of element-specific abilities but also some "bender"-specific ones (that is, abilities that aid a bender of any element in a generic way; if I do so, then the element-specific abilities should really emphasize the element and not be a collection of effects that could be done with any element as I had planned for a generic "bender" class).

Bloodbender (Waterbender):
-always-on ability to increase melee AC as the Bb reflexively interferes with the attacker's swing by bending the blood in his arm
-obviously a domination effect daily from full-on bloodbending

Agent of the Dai Li (Earthbender):
-grasping hands of stone attack power
-bonuses to climb and hide as the Dai Li always seemed to attack unseen from above

Lightning Bender (Firebender):
-able to create lightning
-probably the firejet-based flight powers from Princess Azula and Firelord Ozai
(There was a short thread at ENWorld about Avatar. Lightning Bender was the idea offered for a firebender paragon path. I think either this or a Dragon like Iroh would be the best choice. Of course, Iroh made up his unique attacks ...)

Crab Clan:
Hida Berserker
- Hida "Dead-eye" Berserker
Kuni Witch Hunter
Kaiu Engineer
Falcon's Strike Archer
Yasuki Taskmaster

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lileks on Writing

An interesting quote from Lileks today (actually his tomorrow, my today) in the Bleat:

Had fun on today posting old pictures of the Aquatennial parade in the 40s – same pictures I used last year, but who remembers? Well, I do; I have a record of everything I wrote, but I dasn’t look it at lest A) my previous comments are really sharp compared to my current comments, which suggests a fatal diminution of ability, or B) my current comments are better, which suggests I embarrassed myself last year. You can’t win. Rather I can’t. Living as a writer sometimes meaning you walk into a great howling wind that says YOU JUST SUCK and it’s all you can do to keep from letting the wind pick you up and put you where it wishes. Which is usually in the not-too-distant county of SO YOU ADMIT YOU DO SUCK. It’s a corruption of an Indian name.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Orc Funeral Ceremony

When a prominent orc warchief falls in battle, his warriors sacrifice themselves to recover the body (assuming they are forced to retreat or otherwise routed in battle; most orc warriors, upon seeing their warchief fall, redouble their ferocity and eventually take the field, though still at a considerable cost of life).

The body is arrayed on a funeral pyre and his surviving warriors recount his deeds and their own (for their deeds are are extension of his leadership) before the assembled tribe. Warriors of the Blood Hand tribe will cut themselves and place bloody handprints on the body before placing it on the pyre. The One Eye tribe will remove one of the warchief's eyes (if he has not done so already). And so on.

The body is then burned and the ashes and bones gathered together. The bones are crushed to powder and, with the ashes, are mixed into the food for the surviving warriors as well as the promising warriors-to-be in the tribe. This is to pass on the strength and cunning of the warchief. In the next battle, one of the warriors will show himself to be the new warchief through some act of daring, violence, and ferocity.

Punjar, the Tarnished Jewel

This is a free booklet given out by Goodman Games (makers of Dungeon Crawl Classics) for Free RPG Day. It details the city in which the three first 4e DCC adventures will take place. I got mine in pdf format on FRD and a hardcopy a week or two after at the gamestore. It is good. It is only 15 or so pages long but it really evokes the feel of the city. With a few changes, I think it would work for Wyndhaven (Ptolus also works well for Wyndhaven but Ptolus is a bit more fantastic than Punjar and my world has never gone too far into the fantastic).

The Boiling Rock prison has a counterpart in Punjar: Blackwell Citadel. Blackwell Citadel is built on an island off the city's coast and it hosts the worst criminals in a city filled with criminals. The "Blackwell" proper is the series of ever-deeper tunnels that the inmates excavate during their incarceration. These tunnels then serve as the cells for the newest prisoners, who will join in excavating the next deeper set of tunnels for the next set of prisoners, and so on and so on.

If the Boiling Rock keeps as its justification an active volcano, it makes no sense to tunnel into it. However, if the magma is sufficiently recessed beneath the boiling lake, and the "rock" sufficiently raised above the surface of the water, then such an excavation as the blackwell is feasible.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Cassandra Prison

Stolen from Hokuto no Ken:

Cassandra (a stupid name for English but the working title) is a prison for martial artists. It is also known as the City of the Crying Ghosts. It is lead by three giants, Riaga, Fuuga, and Wighul.

Non-Face of Fear Cultists

I had some other cultists that are not part of the Faces of Fear but I still like:

Wyvern - a deranged, homeless man with delusions of grandeur, a tendency to stalk beautiful women, and a poison dagger. He is called Wyvern because he wishes he was a "dragon" but falls short in almost every way.

Kraken - a mostly unremarkable fellow who operates his own one-boat dock adjacent to the actual docks; officials do not bother him because he services small, personal craft that would not bring them enough by way of taxes to cover the cost of processing them; he is a devoted if low-ranking member of the chaos cults who finds his pride in smuggling contraband into and out of the city (illegal goods, drugs, and even people) via his rickety little dock (the mouse ran up the clock). Just invented now, the man sometimes mumbles to himself in rhyme and meter for no reason but will vehemently deny it if questioned.

"Noname" - a character stolen from Hokuto No Ken, this cultist has self-preservation as his number one priority. He will not stand and fight, no matter what. If the party ever manages to back him into a corner, he will beg for his life rather than fight. This is not to say that he does not fight. He would constantly ambush the party, lead gang attacks, and pepper them with ranged weapons. But as soon as he comes into personal danger, he turns tail and flees.

Fourth Edition Blues

I went to the game store today to see if any groups were playing 4e on Sunday evenings. None were.

I am contemplating running a game. If I do, I might run my L5R 4e game as a one-shot (though from the time I have seen combat take, it might take a few weeks).

Friday, July 11, 2008

Tactics War Academy

I had an idea for a video game or miniatures battle game while watching Hokuto No Ken (Fist of the North Star). When Kenshiro is approaching Southern Cross, Shin sends his armies out to find and kill him. Each of Shin's armies are devoted to the style of combat preferred by its commander. One uses only helicopters, one uses motor bikes, one launches his fighters from cannons as human cannonballs, etc.

My idea for the game was to scale it back from armies to a smaller grouping (units, companies, platoons, whatever). When you begin the game, you get to buy your army using a fixed set of points. You can focus your army as you like (for example, buying lots of ranged units for an excellent archer corps) and any build should conceivably have a chance at winning the game, though not every build should make it easy nor should every build be able to win every fight.

Which brings us to another aspect of the idea. I am playing Rondo of Swords on my new Nintendo DS. Rondo of Swords works similarly to a Tactics game in that you field units on a grid-based battle map and work against your opponents (you can also have your units run errands, go on quests, complete missions, etc instead of taking part in the next battle). The game also has a unique combat mechanic in that you do not move next to your opponent and then attack him but move through him to attack him. Since you can move through enemies and allies alike, there is no blocking aspect as with Tactics (i.e. you cannot set up a few guys across a choke-point to block enemy attacks while bombarding them with archers and mages tucked safely away). This requires a change in tactics while playing the game (and the early level against Pirates in the city streets was my first battle where I really felt I used movement and the terrain to my advantage).

Well, that was a long bit. What I meant to get to was that in Rondo of Swords, you cannot lose any battles because losing one battle means Game Over. I think Tactics was Game Over when you lost a story battle as well (and likely the random encounters too.) In Tactics War Academy, losing a battle is not Game Over. You can lose a battle and still win the war. Failing to achieve objectives and failing to win battles will have penalties but they will not be the end of the game. Tenacity is to be encouraged.

I view each battle in the game as a fork in the story progression. Sometimes the forks both lead to the same "city gate" (i.e. there is no great difference in story, resources, or location between winning and losing the previous battle), sometimes they lead to different gates in the same city (you have a substantial difference in the current battle based on winning or losing the previous one), and sometimes they lead to entirely different cities (winning the last fight presses the attack onto City A while losing the last fight forces you to retreat to City B).

The first forks are not really forks at all. The second forks are the meat and potatoes of the win-loss system. And the third forks expand the game and storyline by leading you down actually different paths based on outcome.

Another way to expand the game as with the third fork is to offer a choice between objectives. My eyes were first opened to this in the Brood War expansion for StarCraft. In one of the Terran missions, you had the choice of destroying your opponent's nuclear facilities or starship facilities. You then faced the other type of weapon in the next mission (i.e. destroy the nuclear facilities and your opponent would have Battleships instead of nuclear missiles and vice versa). This would also come up in-game. The more often, the greater replay value the game would have, especially if all choices did not swing back onto the "all win" path but had its own endgame.

Losing every single battle would not lead to a final win. Losing every battle leads to Game Over.

More later with this parting thought:

Some, perhaps early, enemy generals fall into the Shin's Army trap of overspecialization. It would showcase that unit's strengths and weaknesses. This may even be the War Academy portion of the game (the in-game Tutorial that comprises the first few levels as the main character overcomes his classmates to earn the top spot upon graduation).

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Legend of the Five Rings - 4th Edition

This should have gone up weeks ago but I have been lazy. Still am, so all I will give is a quick summary, maybe a link.

I am not a big fan of 4e. In order to get myself interested in just reading the books (to date, I have barely read anything beyond the class descriptions and the 1st and 2nd level powers), I decided to make up L5R characters using the 4e rules. I stripped away all the 4e flavor and inserted the L5R flavor. I got this and more (have not updated the pdf recently either):

I am now working on Avatar the Last Airbender, except that will require a mechanical change rather than just flavor. I want the benders to have unhindered flexibility so they will have X number of encounter power slots and can choose from their list of encounter powers as they go, thus always having the most advantageous bending at any given time. This may be true of utility and daily powers as well. I thought about getting rid of daily powers but then I remembered that they seem to get pretty winded after doing a spectacular bend so there you go.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Re: Fist of the North Star clips on YouTube

Originally Posted by Dirk_Radhammer
It's decided then...I'm playing a Monk when 4E Dark Sun ifs, ands, or buts about it.
Originally Posted by Subedei (who posted the links to the clips)
Just make sure to multiclass into Ranger to pick up ATATATATATATATTA UATATATA AAAATATATATATATATATATAAAA!!

The Boiling Rock

In the caldera of an active volcano is a large lake. The heat from the volcano causes the lake to steadily boil and steam. An island lies at the heart of this lake and upon the island stands a stone fortress known as The Boiling Rock. The Boiling Rock is a prison, virtually inescapable. Travel to and from the island is handled through a teleportation circle.

The boiling lake prevents escape on foot. The water easily destroys impromptu boats and kills anyone stupid enough to try swimming.

The huge cloud of steam that flows from the lake into the air above the volcano is hot enough to kill creatures flying in the vicinity of The Rock, so escape by air is unlikely.

It goes without saying that tunneling into an active volcano in order to pass beneath a boiling lake is right out.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Asp's Poisons and Cloak

Achewound: This was the first magically enhanced poison produced by the Asp and the wizard-cultist Warrick. In addition to its normal effects, any creature with the poison in its system (which lasts one minute from exposure) ceases to heal naturally (including extraordinary healing abilities such as regeneration and fast healing); magical healing is unaffected. It draws its name from the stinging sensation it imparts to an injury. A group of Plagueborn commissioned the poison to aid them in an attack on the trolls that guard the King’s River.

The persistent effect is a supernatural ability and, as such, does not function within a dead magic zone. The poison, however, is extraordinary and will continue to affect the inflicted creature.

Achewound – Injury DC 15; Persistent effect*; Initial dmg 1 Con; Secondary dmg 1d2 Con; 500 gp
*Prevents natural healing, regeneration, and fast healing for 1 minute from exposure

Asp’s Bite: The function and efficacy imparted to Achewound by Warrick’s magic so impressed the Asp that he set about refining the poison. His contribution to Achewound had consisted of little more than supplying the greenblood oil to be enhanced and its success wounded his pride. Utilizing concentrated black adder venom and further treating the resulting Achewound, the Asp created far more potent toxin that he christened Asp’s Bite.

Asp’s Bite – Injury DC 18; Persistent effect*; Initial dmg 1d6 Con; Secondary dmg 1d6 Con; 1,500 gp
*Prevents natural healing, regeneration, and fast healing for 1 minute from exposure

Weeping Cloak: After the success of Achewound, the Asp and Warrick set out to create a permanently poisoned magic item. They settled on a cloak after Warrick recalled the cursed cloak of poisonousness. The idea intrigued the Asp but he hated the idea of granting an instant death. Instead, he described a cloak that would entice the wearer to repeatedly poison himself and others.

The Weeping Cloak is a woolen garment of dull grey color. It appears always soaked through and, in fact, constantly drips liquid from the lowest edge to the ground below. This liquid is harmless until the cloak is worn, at which time it becomes a potent contact poison. Anyone donning the cloak must make an immediate Fort save (DC 20) or suffer 1d2 Con damage. This save need only be repeated once every 24 hours if the cloak is worn continuously. Any attempt to collect the poison as it drips or by wringing out the cloak is in vain; the poison evaporates as quickly as it escapes.

Once worn, the cloak can be used to poison an opponent in melee combat. The wearer makes a melee touch attack as an attack action. Anyone struck by the cloak in such a way must make a Fort save (DC 13) or suffer 1 point of Con damage. This attack is treated as a light weapon.

Moderate necromancy; CL 7th; Craft Wondrous Item, poison; Price 8,000 gp; Weight 1 lb.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Saren's Shared Pain

Since I was just thinking about their unique attributes, I remembered something for Saren that I asked on OYT a long time ago.

I wanted a spell that caused the victim to take half the damage dealt to the caster. I did not want it to be a willing target. What Saren does is force her victims to take half her damage, then she tortures herself. This is sadomasochism at its purest.

The effect is Share Pain, Forced psionic power from the SRD. She would have it as a divine spell and would have crafted it into a torture implement such as shackles that either link her and her victim together (one wrist from each) or paired shackles that they each wear.

Garrick's Swords

I thought about Garrett as I went to dinner tonight. I wanted him to have something of a hook beyond just "swordsman" and it goes perhaps a fraction of an inch beyond that designation.

Garrett collects magical swords.

See, that wasn't so far.

Garrett's swords, however, should be unique and interesting. A +5 flaming burst giant-bane mighty cleaving bastard sword is beneath his notice, despite its market worth.

Garrett always has access to at least two of his swords. We all know he uses the little girl as a scabbard (well, I know and you would too if I ever told you) but the sword she carries is not one of them.

The sword Garrett usually carries at his hip is a completely invisible and silent blade (no clanking or bumping into things to give it away). I have not yet decided if it is ever visible (such as becoming visible when drawn). The inspiration is a magic sword called the Sword of Lyons from an old adventure module. When the blade was sheathed, both it and the bearer were invisible. When drawn, both it and the bearer became visible. Good sword for bodyguards. Perhaps Garrett's is the opposite. While sheathed, the sword is invisible but when drawn the bearer is invisible while the sword is visible (creates the appearance of a dancing weapon effect). But I do like the idea of Garrett wielding an invisible blade.

Another sword usually sequestered upon Garrett is his chain sword. He typically keeps it miniaturized in a glove of storing. With a snap, the long rapier appears in his hand. By pressing a concealed button on the hilt, the blade comes apart into dozens of razors held through the middle by a metal cord (the cord is usually wound tight within the crossguard thus holding the various razors together in a single sword blade). While thus extended, the sword acts as a bladed whip studded with razors along its length. A second press of the button rewinds the cord taut, but the razors do not fit perfectly back together. Instead, each is arrayed in its own rotation, turning the original twin-edged blade into a sort of stick with edges on all sides. In this configuration, the sword acts as a shredder that Garrett draws across his opponent. It is all but useless for hard strikes and thrusts with the point (the wire is taut but lacks the strength to present an actual cutting edge and the many orientations of the razors means the sword bends or creases at a thrust) but the wounds caused by dragging the blade across flesh are deep and wide and bleed profusely. A third press of the button tightens ancillary wires that run alongside the main cord and realign the razors into a single blade once more.

The final sword that Garrett always has access to is a knock-off version of the Pureblade. I see it as a black blade with fiendish connotations. It has the ability to travel through dimensions and across planar boundaries. As Eldric can summon the Pureblade to his hand from anywhere in existence, so can Garrett reach into a tear in space and time to emerge with the black blade in hand. This is his ultimate weapon; the blade's dimensional properties do not end with being always at hand. Just like Linedwell's Shakhal, the black blade can strike through folds and tears in space so that Garrett, thrusting at you from the front, will strike you in the back, or the side, or from above, or below, etc. It is all but impossible to defend against the black blade because it is constantly moving in and out of folds in space, i.e. it is not displaced X feet and moves accordingly like a displacer beast; rather, it blinks around like a blink dog, ceasing to be here and suddenly being there without traversing the intervening distance. Needless to say, it can impart such mobility unto its wielder as well (blink effects, dimension door, and cross-planar travel).

Those are the hidden blades of final resort that Garrett possesses (with the chain whip sword being the most likely to find use and the black blade being the true weapon of last resort). He of course has dozens of other magical blades with which to challenge the party.

- A sandstone blade that absorbs water and dessicates flesh.
- Himura's Justice
- A sword that, upon killing someone, causes a huge eruption of blood from the wound that envelops the victim in a blood golem
- A sword that causes wounds to teem with vermin
- A sword that can shape the earth with a swing (creating an earth wall or a rock spike)
- A coral sword that allows you to breathe underwater

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Underdark Locations

As is my method, stolen wholesale from an OYT poster (phindar):

I've always liked Underdark adventures. It's a high threat, alien environment, but it's not just a dungeon crawl. It has an ecology, even if it is a mix of the natural and the fantastic. I just wrapped up a Pirates of the Sunless Sea game, and my rule of thumb on underdark ecology was to make the plants into fungi and the animals into vermin. People drank mushroom tea and herded giant beetles.

I'm a big fan of the old 1e Dungeoneer's Survival Guide and the lands of Deepearth. That's a sourcebook I've kept handy for three and a half editions and counting. In the Forgotten Realms, the only known link (I believe) between the Sunless Sea and the surface is the town of Skullport, under Waterdeep. I kept this detail for my game, and Skullport became the major importer of surface goods to the underdark; ships, slaves and wood were all brought through there by the yuan-ti merchants.

Some sites from my Sunless Sea included:

Boomtown: A fortress carved into a stalagmite island, this town got it's name from the fire giants that sold their blackpowder cannons to any who could meet their price. The refuse-filled caves under their foundry were inhabited by a clan of devious goblins (the Boomtown Rats) who stole blackpowder and used it in gourd-bombs. Boomtown also had a large (for the underdark) shantytown on the opposite side from the fire giant docks, which was a wretched hive of scum and villainy (tm).

Octopon: The mind flayer city; a sculpted island of unspeakable horrors and good bargains. Suffice to say some characters loved this place, and some never left their cabin. Octopon's "streets" are a series of canals that cut through the city. Travel is easily arranged through a great number of water taxis, although small private craft are also permitted. Octopon is pretty quiet for a city of it's size, but there are a few restaurants and alehouses that cater to visitors. (And some that cater visitors themselves.)

Nothing in Octopon is built along a straight line or a right angle. It is said that the design of Octopon is supposed to refer to a giant octopus, although if that's true it must be something that speaks to the illithid sensibilities. For everyone else, there is something disorientating about the city; visitors find it easy to get lost even on streets and alleyways they have been down several times. Sometimes when walking through the city you get the feeling being on a sharp incline or decline, even though the ground is flat. There are a few subtly curving avenues that allow you to see great stretches of the city at once, but the way the buildings seem to lean and bow in on themselves is displeasing to the visitor's eye. The city is lit by a series of braziers and street lamps that give off an uneven, greenish-blue glow. The stone of the city is carved with countless deformed and squid-like figures, as well as larger reliefs that depict odd and unsettling scenes. These carvings are everywhere, the one thing you almost never see in Octopon is blank stone.

Honzoun: The rakshasa city carved into a large, hanging stalatite; ships would dock under it and then cargo would be unloaded via levitate spells. My pc's never went here, which I thought was a shame.

Corvalag: The Duergar city of Steel and Stone. The pc's never went here either, but the ironclads and stone barges that launched from here and traveled to the duergar's mines around the Sunless Sea were frequent sights.

Sitha Igothul's Pleasure Palace: This wasn't a location as much as a large, organic structure that submerged and resurfaced at various points on the Sunless Sea. It was controlled by the underdark/undersea crime lord Igothul, a giant psionic catfish (or in D&D terms, an aboleth) and his skum assistants. Igothul kept a banquet table in his meeting room and a powerful suggestion was in effect that made anyone who entered ravenously hungry, which always freaked my players out. There was nothing wrong with the food though, Igothul just liked watching people eat. He (or really, "It") kept a number of translucent-skinned slaves around, and delighted in consuming the memories of those who had suffered greatly in unusual ways; he always payed top coin for slaves like that. Igothul was my game's Jabba the Hutt, in other words.

Stonemarsh: This was a tiny village of weird derro who kept and milked catoblepases (catoblepi?) to make into Death Cheese, which wasn't fatal but otherwise popular in the underdark. This village was eventually slaughtered by a particularly savage tribe of grimlocks (think Reavers from Serenity) who kept a derro adept who went crazy and began thinking he was a grimlock too. The party ended up here having to fight the crazed grimlocks while the derro adept kept throwing down fog clouds and silent images that not only were the grimlocks not affected by, they weren't even aware of them.

Portage: This was a locathah city on the far western edge of the Sunless Sea. The sea continued but the cave did not, and the locathah would transport ships to a sea on the other side for a price. The method was the ship was unloaded and it's crew took the cargo through caves to the other sea while the locathah scuttled the ship and swam it through the completely submerged caves. (Sailors capable of water breathing could accompany the ship, but the trip took a couple of days.) On the far side the ship was repaired the water pumped out, and could then be reloaded with its cargo.

Pellucidar: My nod to Edgar Rice Burroughs (if outright stealing can be called a "nod"), Pellucidar was a large series of caverns with a magical false sun, surface-like jungles, super-intelligent apes and dinosaur-riding Amazons. The campaign never made it that far and the world is poorer for it, but there you go.

Hellspike Prison:In my game, the Oubliette was called Hellspike Prison, a name a took from a WotC product but otherwise know nothing about. (I think it was a D&D minis terrain pack, but I'm really not sure.) In my game the Lawful Evil's had come together as the Black Sun Trading Company, and Hellspike Prison was a place they put people too dangerous to be set free but too valuable to simply kill. It was run by beholders and staffed by devils, but was otherwise the prison from the beginning of Dead Man's Chest.

Some pirate crews I used, or statted up and never used: renegade drow warlocks on the backs of huge water spiders, a longship crewed by skeletons and captained by a necromancer who specialized in cold spells, duergar ironclads, troglodyte savages in war canoes, yuan-ti on a slaver ship infested with snakes, a yuan-ti ship builti n sections that propelled itself by swimming like a snake, a host of converted Spelljammer ships (illithid nautiloids and the like), a myconid floating fortress that was itself a giant fungus, the Goblin Armada (three small rowboats), a sahaguin strike force inside of a giant zombie shark, kuo-toa who worshipped a colossal albino kraken they called Dagon, a group of ogre magi ninjas called The Oni Brotherhood, and if I dug through my notes maybe one or two more.

The subplots and deep background of my game had to do with a lost svirfneblin empire (said to be lost when the caverns flooded and created the Sunless Sea), and an ancient society of surface peoples that had fled underground and slowly been corrupted. So in addition to the usual stuff of pirates and piracy, there were also a lot of ancient temples to forgotten gods and hidden troves of the svirfs.

Hope you can find some useful stuff in all this.

As far as side routes go, if the PC's have some idea where the big bads are headed, they might be lured into taking the shorter, more dangerous route. I'm thinking something like The Descent, where the caves are narrow and constricting. Escape Artist checks (because who takes that skill?), short passages that are submerged, basically a claustrophobic nightmare. That's the underdark adventure I've always wanted to run.
And from theBlackJaw:

Cthon's advice is dead on: Treat it as wilderness instead of a dungeon. Most of it will be travel, making camp, and interesting encounters along the way... except in this case the way is a series of interconnected tunnels. You can still describe landscape, wandering monsters, trouble on the roads, etc... just describe them different.

Here is what I would do: Ask yourself who built the primairy tunnel network your players will be in. Sure large chunks might be natural cavern system, but when it comes to miles of interconnected underground roads, which most large scale D&D underdarks are, you have to imagine that one of the many inteligent underground civilizations built them at some point. Who built this one and why?
Now ask yourself who uses it now... With those to basic ideas, you can easily create a selection of interesting possible encounter locations, and descriptions of the general "wilderness terrain."
Example: In my game the underground area was built by the dwarves. It use to be Darven kingdeom, and they had miles of interconnected tunnels linking their variouis mining camps, smelting locations, temples, villages, tombs, bridges over underground rivers, and gate/guard house tunnels. Of course the dwarven civilization had been wiped out long ago, so those places were mostly ruins now inhabited by selection of underdark ecology, goblins, undead dwarves, trolls, etc.

Come up with a series of simple locations & encounters for this portion of the game that fit the theme and plot. Place the encounters on a map as if they were cities & locations on a regional map. Now draw simple lines to represent the tunnels that connect them together. The end result should look like mental map of the possible encounters locations... because it is. Now go ahead and add a note on travel time (a value in hours) to each line.
Example: In my game I placed a "bridge troll" encounter at an ancient dwarven bridge over an underground river. The dwarves had built a Tomb & shrine complex on boths sides of the bridge, overlooking the underground river space, and the resulting encounter had trolls tossing spears across the river, among other things. This site was along the path between a dwarven mining camp (goblins) and a dwarven gate house (undead). From the gate house were 3 lines (tunnels), one leading to a dead end at a strange dream temple, one leading through a puzzle encounter dealing with a damaged section or the tunnel, and another to Player's intended destination: a magic seal used to hold back an ancient evil. This was only a section of the network of tunnels by the way.

You should also come up with a few "random" or planned encounters to set in generic tunnel areas. Use this to showcase who lives down in the depths.
For example: in my game I designed some modified vermin, swarms, plants, and animals to represent the underdark ecology. In some places I had them as part of a set encounter location (and underground spring the players had to cross) and in other spots I used them as a random monster. I did save one encounter for while they made camp in the tunnels. A stamped of 6 legged wall climbing creatures... dwarven cattle equivalents gone feral rush through their campsite climbing on the floor, walls, and ceiling. As they went by a large predatory mole creature burst out of the ground... ate an under cattle creature, and then attack the party. It was an interesting encounter.

In play all you have to do describe what it's like to be traveling through the tunnel systems. How does it look, sound, and smell? Then describe every crossroads and let them pick a direction. Each path they travel is travel time. As they pass through a location, stage that encounter. Eventually they will get tired and setup camp. Treat that like they had setup camp on the side of a road on the surface.

In case your wondering, here are some more details:
Under Dark Ecology was kind of fun to design. Mostly I took existing normal monsters from the MM and added or changed them. Nothing I did changed their type from animal or vermin, and I only gave them Extrodinary abilities even if those abilities were based on spells. Had my players wanted to polymorph into a giant wasp that explodes on death in a ball of bio-luminescence, I would have allowed it.
* The dwarven 6 legged cattle were simply Bison with a crawl speed and a big racial bonus to jump. They crawled, leaped, or stampeeded along walls. They had blind sense to a short range.
* The Massive predatory moles were Dire Sharks with burrow instead of swim, and Tremor sense instead of scent. Swallow whole on a burrowing creature is interesting. I had one burst out a wall and the other burst out of the ground. The cleric used a
* I had puffball fungus growths that glowed. They were more like traps then monsters. If they took any damage (like being walked on or hit by a fireball) they exploded in a 10' burst doing acid damage. The damage wasn't much, but it did also leave biolumincent slime behind that was more or less like being hit by a Gliterdust spell (no blindness, but it makes invisible visible.) Statistically they were Small versions of a Shrieker fungus with only 1 hit point.
* I had colonies of underground flying bugs the size of dogs. I used giant wasp stats, but made them glow like fire flies (they eat the puffballs). When killed, they explode in a bright blinding flash of light (Glitterdust with blindness). Like bees attracted to an already stung aggressor, they would go into rage when they smelled one of their exploded kin... gaining a +2 bonus to attack, damage, and poison DCs against targets covered in the glowing slime of their dead kin.
* I had "Light eater beetle swarms" These were flying black insect swarms attracted to light sources. They would attack characters with light sources (torches, lanterns, glowing weapons, etc) or ignore people otherwise. The provided concealment like a fog spell in the spaces they occupied. I would add these swarms to otherwise normal encounters. Players with glowing swords had trouble, and a Goblin cleric even used a light spell to attract the swarm to the party during one fight.

Advice on underground locals: Who ever built the roads would have left signs (in their native language) carved into them... which makes crossroads easier to understand. Who ever uses the roads and locations these days would leave graffiti scrawled all over these crossroads, this can be used to hint at which way the PCs should or should not go... such as were some big nasty kyber monster lives.

A Model Ship, A Treasure Map

The clues to the use of the model ship as a treasure map lie within the main sail. There are three methods that could be used:

1- There is a code or pattern plainly visible on the sail which needs to be deciphered.
2- There is a code of pattern hidden on the sail, such as with temperature dependent ink (hold near a candle flame to view) or invisible ink that can be seen through a special glass or crystal.
3- There is a hidden message contained within the sail, a slip of paper or linen woven or concealed between two larger pieces that together constitute the sail.

I have tentatively gone with the temperature-dependent ink revealed by the heat of a candle's flame. The hidden message is something along the lines (no attempt at refinement or rhyme having been made):

"A true captain of the sea does not rely on a map in hiding his treasure.
He needs only the hull of his ship and his sails to lead the way."

The hull of the ship is made from knotted wood. Around the hole for the anchor chain is an eight-pointed star corresponding to a compass. When the ship is turned such that the SW arrow points north, the knots in the wood correspond to the islands visible during the monsoon floods. Between the knots is an almost imperceptible indentation in the shape of an X. This is the location of the sunken ship.

Unfortunately for those who seek the treasure, the knots do not correspond to permanent islands but, rather, mountains. So as they pore through nautical maps to find a match, they will be sorely tested.

Edit: I am adding my additional thoughts to this thread post publishing because I want to keep them all in the same place.

Problems I encountered while thinking of this:

1- How do the players know where to look? The ship sank ages ago in a desert covered by water. Their only map details a landscape entirely unfamiliar to them or anyone else because the valley has not been flooded more than a couple times since (and likely not even that).

Obviously even the survivor who made the model ship needed a prominent landmark on a continent-wide scale to find his way back to the ship lost in the ocean. Since his ship wrecked and he had to drift back to land, the map would allow him to find the place he came ashore and then lead to the treasure from there.

2- How to indicate such a landmark on the ship? A huge knot in the wood could indicate a nearby town or island or even continental coastline. But there needs to be a clue for the player's to discover its identity. It may be that the shipmaker did not intend for the model to lead himself back to the ship but, rather, for an acquaintance or descendant to find it.

The ship's name could correspond to the landmark via code or local nickname. Or the riddle on the sail could include the starting location and its indication on the hull. I had an idea a while back that the sail would have a spot in the cloth or a hole or the rigging would have a stray knot or two such that when laid over the hull it would indicate a particular knot or mark in the wood. This spot would be the location of the sunken ship. It could also be the starting location or a clue to it.

Another idea I had, in conjunction with the ship's name or sail containing the starting location (which would match up to the source material, since they were given the latitude and longitude of a town from which to begin their search), I thought of using the diary of the survivor. It, or fragments of it, would be hidden away in the town inside a chest or secret compartment. Inside the ship, either glued inside the hull or concealed within the mast (or consisting of the mast itself, after pulling it from the model), would be a key that opens the lock. The diary could then provide further details to find the ship.

But to stay with the point of the adventure, the real treasure of the sunken ship is not the meager gold it carries from its first foray but the half of the treasure map still stowed with its cargo. One wonders why the survivor did not put that map in his diary, be it in fact or by reproduction, so I want to steer away from the diary.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bubble Dragon

Also from Gummi Bears:

A dragon that breathes out large bubbles filled with fire. When these bubbles pop, they explode with enough force to crumble the side of a rock cliff.

Other elements and effects are easily imagined. Sound bubbles with undulating sides, frosted ice bubbles, flashing lightning-filled bubbles, etc.

A Lost Island

From the Gummi Bears:

An island that is impossible to reach or leave by ship because it is entirely surrounded by a waterfall. By which I mean, an island in the middle of a vast sinkhole in the ocean. A literal gulf several hundred yards wide into which the waters of the ocean unceasingly pour to an unknown and unseen depth. To peer into the void is to see an impossibly deep trench which ends only in blackness. The roar of the water rushing over the edge of the world drowns out any sound it might make hitting bottom. The island is not even with the ocean's level but sits somewhat within the sinkhole so that the view from land is at least halfway dominated by the site of the rushing wall of water.

This island could easily lie at the center of disk world (or anywhere, really; it just happens to sit within a hole in the disk).

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Duke Ickthorn

Yes, I am still working on the Temple. You know I work on things in bursts.

So I was watching Gummi Bears and I thought Duke Ickthorn was an interesting concept. He would be a brilliant siege engineer who levees his armies from amongst his human subjects as well as mercenary forces among the ogre tribes.

An Oath

I received this in an email that our CEO sends out every week. This was the issue for New Years:

New Year's Resolutions

To your enemy, forgiveness
To an opponent, tolerance
To a friend, your heart
To a customer, service
To all, charity
To every child, a good example
To yourself, respect.

I would change that into an oath:

To my enemies, forgiveness
To my opponents, tolerance
To my friends, my heart
To my countrymen, my service
To all, charity
To every child, an example
To myself, respect.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Rath Quote

I was going through the Rakdos cards from Ravnica to find something inspiring for Radok the goblin's write-up when I came across this:

"Rage, my servants. Our ancient power is renewed in blood." —Rakdos

Sounds like something Rath could read from the Book of Rage.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Temple of Venkatesh 8

Just some notes to myself this time:

1- Make sure to use the halfblood archer from the Slayer's Guide as an encounter since you have a decent picture.

2- You can use the maps from the Fortress of the Yuan-Ti whole cloth or as guides for the large temple.

3- Klang from TaleSpin (For Whom the Bell Klangs) could be a human-headed abomination in charge of a group of purebloods who are seeking the Valley of the Sun (if you want to go with the option that the yuan-ti are looking for it as an offering to their god). As per the episode, he disguises his snake-body with robes and a cloak, allowing only his face and hands to show. However, his arms are fake; they are either grafts from another creature (demonic grafts from the Fiendish Codex sound good) or chaositech (if you want to bring a little Ptolus into the game). His movements are not natural for a walking creature so some hints may be dropped about his heritage that way (although with demon grafts the players might think something along those lines, which is good).

Friday, May 9, 2008

Temple of Venkatesh 7

More pictures!

I wanted to get across what I visualized with Venkatesh's headdress so I decided to Google image search some pictures of "aztec priest".

This was one of the first images and it is pretty much exactly what I was looking for:

Each of those feathers would be replaced by a spine. Whether the skulls would be on the outside of the headdress or make up the head part of it is up for grabs. It would look suitably morbid either way.

Here is some jewelry and tattoos from Apocalypto, a movie I knew would have some inspirational material:

Again with a large headdress, although not as peacock as the first one. I figure Venkatesh would have some of that jewelry hanging from his neck and armbands and tattoos or multicolored scale patterns on his body.

Here is another big headdress:

Without even trying, I duplicated his skin coloration by choosing coral snakes as the temple servants.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Temple of Venkatesh 6

Abominations serve within the temple itself as the priests. Venkatesh is, of course, the high priest.

The surrounding community is populated by halfbloods and a few purebloods not on a mission in foreign lands.

Slaves of all races are found within and around the temple. They perform menial labor and often serve as food.

The inner areas of the temple can only be safely accessed by abominations and snake-tailed halfbloods (though the halfbloods are not actually permitted there).

Most of the traps in the temple are poisoned so the yuan-ti can detect them with their detect poison psionic ability. Some traps, particularly those further in the temple, are not specifically to foil any yuan-ti who would overstep their bounds. The abomination priests know where these traps are and they are mostly the kind that trigger via stepping (rendering the snake-tailed yuan-ti immune).

The abomination temple acolytes are red, yellow, and black banded snakes like coral snakes. They always have black heads.

The abomination priests are all black-scaled cobras with gold-lined hoods (the inside of their hoods, near the face, have golden scales). They also possess the indian cobra's curled design on their backs, again of gold scales.

I have not decided if Venkatesh has a hood. He is definitely black-scaled and he has the diamondback pattern down his back.

I feel a hood would get in the way of, and detract from, the skull and spine headdress he wears. It is possible, however, for him to have a hood but keep it "tucked in" against his head and neck while wearing the headdress. Whether he has the hood or not, he definitely does not display it while wearing the headdress.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Book of Experimental Might II

This just came out tonight and I am giving it the once over.

Two new feats intrigue me right from the start.

Accept Attack - you allow an enemy to hit you (automatic hit, no attack roll) and in exchange you hit him automatically for max damage

Berserk Attack - you can subtract an amount from your armor class (up to your BAB or your total AC, whichever is less) and add it to your damage rolls

Since you are going to be hit automatically with Accept Attack, your AC does not matter for Berserk Attack. Plus, you get to attack people multiple times for automatic maximum damage for the low low price of some hit points (which you have more of thanks to BoXM health and grace rules). Combine this with the Stalwart Defense domain's basic power (extra hp equal to hit die + con mod) and you get one bad mofo.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Little Wooden Boat

So we had a brainstorming session in the OYT community chat and I think I finally came up with something. And, of course, it is obvious.

Contraserrene once again is brilliant and creative at the drop of a hat, although this time it was not his idea I stole.

The main sail of the model ship will contain hidden markings that serve as the key to the map. The map consists of the knotholes and other wood patterns on the hull of the ship. Some fine filigree along the ship's railing serves as a coordinate system that is detailed on the sail. So, you decipher the sail, discover the markings on the boat, and match them up to find the sunken ship.

Of course, it is not so easy. Because the valley is no longer flooded, you have to look up to find the islands and landmarks that were visible from the sailing ship.

The actual construction of the cipher will come later.

Perhaps the mast, maidenhead, or the pole that juts out from the hull above the maidenhead is detachable and bears a key on the hidden side. This key opens the chests in the sunken ship and disables the traps on them.

Names I stole from Disney Cartoons

1. Officer Parolski
2. Fritter A. Way Lending Services
3. Captain Juan Tumeni

The early episodes of DuckTales are a good source for punny names.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Temple of Venkatesh 5

So, if I want to combine the yuan-ti temple idea with some of the DuckTales ideas, I need to brainstorm a bit.

The point of the sunken ship in DuckTales was to get the party interested in finding the further riches of the Valley of the Golden Sun. But the yuan-ti temple is not a golden paradise waiting to be found. It is an active temple inhabited by a cult of yuan-ti and fueled with human sacrifice.

Did some of the yuan-ti pureblood agents plant the sunken ship solely as a ruse to lure adventurers to the temple? If so, the yuan-ti would be prepared for their arrival. The party would likely be captured and have to escape. That is all well and good, but I imagined an ignorant population of yuan-ti being infiltrated by the investigating PCs, not the other way around.

If the sunken ship was not planted, how does it lead the PCs to the temple? It could be that while searching for the two halves of the map, the bearer of the second half (not the high priest of the coin) was abducted by the yuan-ti. But this implies that the ship was only recently sunk if the PCs' investigation of him lead to the temple.

Perhaps the map-bearer was headed on another adventure that passed by the area of the temple. He was trying to finance an expedition back to the Valley (or just heading to his homeland to put one together) and befell an accident. The PCs then stumble across the machinations of the yuan-ti. But this seems rather haphazard. Even if the map was subsequently found by an adventurer who was then abducted by the yuan-ti, although that is the best choice so far as it directly ties into the yuan-ti "problem" of raiding the countryside for human sacrifices.

I doubt that the yuan-ti happened to build their temple next to the Valley of the Golden Sun but it does now make some sense that they would seek out such a rich and majestic temple as one made from solid gold to welcome their god into this world.

My initial plan was to have the sunken ship contain half the map and cut out the coin priest. However, what if the coin priest was replaced by the yuan-ti. Venkatesh possesses some item or knowledge that is necessary to find the Valley of the Golden Sun. He is either using it for an alternate purpose that fits with his plans (the key to the Valley is also the key to the dimensional gate that will allow his god to enter our world) or he is planning to find and loot the Valley himself (he wants to offer up an incredible tribute to his god when he arrives and the gold of the valley is fitting).

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Temple of Venkatesh 4

When I decided to work on the temple, I thought I would do some research. I found a book on Aztec sacrifices at Wowio. It is only 10 pages long (an excerpt or short essay from a larger work) but it gave me a few concrete ideas.

Aztec temples are shaped like stepped pyramids (rather than the smooth pyramid we are familiar with in Egypt). I knew they had stairs on the exterior but I found out that while some temples had one set of stairs up the entire length of the western side (the kind I was picturing in my mind, minus the western detail), most temples alternated their staircases at each level. So the stairs on the ground level went up the western side and then you would have to walk around the edge of the pyramid to the eastern side for the next set of stairs and so on. This allowed for a much longer procession than the single set of stairs and was especially grand when the processors went up two-by-two and split to walk around each side of the temple to the next set of stairs.

Adopting this layout of alternating staircases pushes the PCs through each level of the temple (no climbing straight to the top). And, because it is a yuan-ti temple, the stairs will be moulded ramps. I want the temple to be 5 levels tall at least and the edges of the two lowest levels will be wide enough for full-scale combat.

The top of Aztec temples contained two towers up to 50 feet tall that housed, at their peaks, idols of the god or gods to whom the temple was dedicated. Before these two towers was the large stone altar upon which the sacrifices were made. And flanking the sacrificial stone were braziers that were never allowed to die out. Because the Aztecs had so many temples (most not nearly as grand as the one I am making), their cities glowed at night from the many exposed fires at the tops of the temples.

Following the sacrifice, the body was relinquished to a special warrior who would prepare the meat for a meal to be held within and around the temple. There is no problem with yuan-ti eating the human bodies after sacrifice, so a gruesome kitchen is in order. The bones, particularly the skulls, were then kept in special buildings (more below).

Finally, the scale at which the Aztecs performed their sacrifices was enormous. It was rumored that 70,000 people were sacrificed at the opening dedication of a temple in 1492 in a ceremony that lasted for days. While this number may be exaggerated, a Spanish priest who came to the new world counted 139,000 skulls in one of those special buildings near a large Aztec temple. No one can say how long it took to accumulate them, but the general rule is 1 skull per person.

Here I draw from the Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republic. In the early 16th century, a monk gathered up the bones of plague victims and those who died in the Hussite war and brought them together in the Sedlec Ossuary. Some time later, an artist was commissioned to use the bones to decorate the ossuary and to fashion them into pieces of art. The masterpiece was a chandelier containing every bone of the human body. There is also the Skull Chapel in Poland (Kudowa-Zdroj, Kaplica Czaszek), where the entire room is covered in skulls and bones with an altar (this time a Catholic altar) at the far end (thankfully the altar and crucifix are standard, rather than bones).

The yuan-ti have an ancillary building specifically for holding the skulls (and maybe other bones) of their sacrifices. I am not yet sure whether the entire building is constructed from the bones of their victims or if it is simply covered with them (and then whether inside or both inside and outside). There would no doubt be a nefarious altar inside as well as the standard evil necromancer yuan-ti and guardians who animate from the very bone-covered walls and ceiling to attack. I do not think I would go so far as to have the entire building animate as one giant skeletal abomination unless I made the entire building out of bone (with no actual wood, stone, or other walls and ceiling underneath).

Temple of Venkatesh 3

I am watching Duck Tales on YouTube these days. I think the opening episodes of the series would make for an interesting series of adventures.

A mysterious old man breaks the Beagle Boys out of jail. In return, he wants them to break into Scrooge's money bin and steal a model ship.

The model ship is actually an ingenious map leading to a sunken ship filled with gold from the Valley of the Golden Sun. The twist is that the ship sank miles inland after sailing over flooded plains during a horrific monsoon season. Following the map proves difficult because it was made using the flooded landscape instead of the dry, desert landscape that normally exists.

The design of the coins in the treasure is familiar only to a few sages who study ancient history. They know the design is from the Valley of the Golden Sun and that the last known appearance of such coins was in a remote mountain village. Traveling to the village reveals that the descendant of one of crewman on the sunken ship lords over the locals thanks to his possession of the Golden Sun coins (revered as religious artifacts by the people there).

This "high priest of the golden sun" possesses his ancestor's half of the map leading to the Valley of the Golden Sun. In the show, he commands the people because he possesses the sole Golden Sun coin until Scrooge shows up with a single coin from the sunken ship. Since two "high priests" are now present, the people follow either one's commands. The high priest demands Scrooge's coin in return for his ancestor's half of the map.

The other half of the map was taken by another of the crewmen from the sunken ship. He decided to leave the remote mountain village and set sail on the open ocean. The currents lead him far south to a frozen tundra. There, he met an ice people who horde all the colored objects they find. His map was confiscated to be put on display in their museum and he was thrown into a prison cell and left to die. Scrooge and company showed up and managed to abscond with the second half of the map.

The map showed the location of the Valley of the Golden Sun. They arrived on a wide caldera ringed with humongous golden disks hanging on the inner lip. Far down below, an ancient, vine covered temple made of solid gold still stood undisturbed. Making their way inside, they were faced with three doors. Behind the first was an endless expanse of golden coins. Behind the second was a similarly endless expanse of gold dust. And behind the third was a solid wall of gold bricks. Opening all three doors, however, trigged a trap that would ultimately destroy the temple.

The volcano below the temple was filled not with magma but with liquid, molten gold. Upon triggering the trap, the golden disks lining the caldera's lip hinged out and reflected the sunlight into the temple and down into the molten gold. The magnified energy of the sunlight caused the liquid gold to boil over as the temple began to crumble. Finally, the caldera fell in on itself, burying the temple and everything else beneath hundreds of feet of rock and earth.

Working from that general outline could be a way to engage players in the Temple of Venkatesh.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Temple of Venkatesh 2

So the big challenge for me is that I have some coolness planned for at the temple but I need to figure out how I am going to get my players there.

I could be cheesy and just have the temple be the entire adventure. The PCs head into the jungle and arrive at the temple after a little wandering. They sneak around, duck inside, make a ruckus, fight Venkatesh, banish the anathema, and then go home.

But I want to be a little bit more involved than that. I want the PCs to find out about the yuan-ti through their machinations in the human world and then go investigate the temple. Basically I want this to play out like 90% of the modules I read. The PCs get involved in plot X, find out about plot Y while resolving X, and then resolve plot Y. I have no idea why this is the formula but why mess with it?

Just wanted to get my goal more clearly stated than in the last post. I need a string of events that bring the PCs to the temple without railroading and without being too obvious yet without being too hidden (at least as they go along; I never want to bring about the feeling of "we're done, what next?" until they destroy the temple).

Yuan-Ti Temple of Venkatesh

I am going to try something here. I want to make an adventure that culminates in discovering and destroying a yuan-ti temple. I am going to document my thoughts and progress here. And, because I know how I want the adventure to end (the temple), I am going to work backwards from there.

The highest ranking bad guy is a yuan-ti anathema (from Fiend Folio), though at CR 18 I doubt I will use it as written but, instead, utilize the idea. The anathema is a 25ft long giant snake body with a humanlike torso, two arms, and six snakes instead of a head. They are incredibly potent psionicists and very evil to boot. In my adventure, the anathema is worshiped as an incarnation of the god Merrshaulk.

Because of the tremendous power that could be attributable to the anathema, I am not sure if it is already present in the temple and being served by the yuan-ti worshipers or if, like in Red Hand of Doom, it is being summoned to this plane and the PCs arrive just in time for its incarnation.

Regardless, the actual big bad guy of the adventure is the high priest of the temple, a massive half-black dragon yuan-ti abomination with class levels (likely cleric but maybe some fighter-type levels thrown in). He wields a huge sword (either a great sword or falchion) and his symbol of office is a wide headdress made from the spines and skulls of his victims arranged peacock-style. Because of his size, the headdress is not unwieldy in normal wear (although it would be difficult to fight in it). This abomination has long been in my villain repertoire but he did not have a name yet. I am calling him Venkatesh (which is actually the name of a colorectal doctor where I live).

The rest of the temple is filled with the more exotic and snakelike yuan-ti cult members. The cultists that can pass for human are often lurking in the human world, accomplishing their leader's goals there. Some human stock are kept as slaves and sacrifices (perhaps even serving as food; have to check what yuan-ti eat).

The temple is going to be designed for snakelike creatures with architecture foreign to legs. When I first thought about this, I thought I was being clever in imagining ramps (with molded curves) and poles, both smooth and "branched", to serve in place of stairways. Then I read their Monster Manual entry and found out both were listed there. My legacy of independently having the same ideas as others lives on.

Another idea I had was to sprinkle traps throughout the temple that activate when stepped on. The yuan-ti, having snake bodies, would slither over the ground without setting off the trap (the snake's weight is distributed over the length of the body on the ground, so it neither pushes directly down on that one particular flagstone like a foot would nor does it exert a body weight's pressure while on the plate like a foot would). Intruders, however, would. This allows me to add traps that affect the players without breaking verisimilitude by leaving players wondering how the yuan-ti get anything done while avoiding all the traps.

That is it for now.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Feast of St. Stephanie

A quick idea: a cleric who saved a town from destruction became a local hero. He took up residence nearby and served as their special protector for many years. One day, he joined a band of adventurers on a quest against a lich. When he returned, he was a woman (thanks to a curse) and she remained so for the rest of her life.

Each year, on the anniversary of her return to town, all the residents dress in opposite clothing.

The Eve of Burning Devils

In the Northern provinces, citizens maintain a long-standing
tradition, called the Eve of Burning Devils. This archaic
holiday is so ancient that nobody remembers where or why
it started, but most believe that the ceremony started when a
group of devils were chased out of town.
During the holiday, local citizens run through the crowded
streets carrying flaming barrels of tar, which they relay to
randomly selected runners. The runners plow through the
streets, pushing onlookers aside to clear a path. Still, it is a
great honor to be chosen as a runner and hopefuls clamor
toward the flaming barrels, anxious to be chosen to partake
in the ritual. The ritual ends when the last runners clear the
village and roll their tar barrels into the nearby lake.

Adventure Hook: As the adventurers watch, the last tar bearer
clears the city, but arrows fired from a nearby copse of willow
trees kill her before she can reach the lake. In the eerie light of
the swiftly spreading fire, a two-headed giant in chainmail lifts
a heavy fist and screams, “Tonight the devils are with ye!”


This would be a peasant festival in Aelonia. The two-headed giant has company, either actual demons or a group of monsters and cultists.

The Berserker's Initiation

The Berserkers are the no good, rotten, bloodthirsty pirate crew that operate along the stretch of coast that includes Wyndhaven harbor (and their base is hidden in an ocean cave not far from there). They stand as the counterparts to the gentlemen privateers who sail the Crimson Gale.

They are based unabashedly on Captain Hammerhand and his crew of ThunderCats fame (although only Hammerhand for sure is a direct analogue; Top Spin and Ram Bam are kind of stupid).

The initiation into the Berserks requires incredibly strength, stamina, and insanity. The applicant must make his way onto the Berserker's ship (not yet named) alive, last through battles against various members of the crew, and then survive The Drag. Still bearing the wounds from the fights, the applicant is scourged by Captain Hammerhand and then his wrists are bound with thirty yards of rope. He is then tossed overboard with the tail end of the rope secured to the back of the ship. Salty seawater burns in open wounds and the blood attracts sharks. One hour later (if they remember), the crew hauls the rope back onboard. If the applicant is still attached to the end, and still alive, he is a lifelong member of the Berserkers.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

LordHawk likes me

In a post at Magi-Soft's forums, Anthon said that O-Gaming was no more and that MTGTemple should now replace O-Gaming's links on the MagicWorkstation pages.

I went to visit MtGTemple and, while in their IRC chat room, met LordHawk, a player and judge I had known from Magic-League while I was a judge there.

Another player, named Revik, entered the room and said "hi". I said hello back. He commented on me being a "random person". Then LordHawk awoke:

would be staff here
if he was coming here when we started this
I like strovil
good guy

I happen to like LordHawk too. It was seeing his name on the MtGTemple homepage that made me investigate deeper.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

AZ RennFest Pleasure Feast

I was at this feast:

I am only visible as an indistinct dark blur at 0:13 and 1:13 seconds. The tall guy in the white visible on the left side of the screen during each pan around the room when the camera sets still for a brief moment was sitting on my left (so I am just off-screen to the right).

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Whichblade

Courtesy of Ask ... A ... Nin ... Ja!

The Whichblade is a legendary weapon. The only problem is, you never know what you'll get when you draw it. It could be a rapier, could be the corkscrew from a Swiss Army knife, it could be Marv Wolfman, etc.

There is also the extremely, extremely broad sword.

And the Sai of Sighs. One nick and all you can do is exhale.

The Sai of Sighs would be a cool sword or dagger called Last Breath. It literally prevents you from inhaling after you take damage, so anything that requires breathing will suffocate if the initial wound is not enough to kill it. The legend surrounding the blade simply distills it into "anyone wounded by this blade has breathed his last breath." It is both literally (cannot inhale) and figuratively (is now dead) true.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Freakin' Scary Spider

As I was getting food from the drive-thru earlier, a tiny spider suspended on a line of web slunk down right outside the window of my car (and the window was open, so a slight breeze would have knocked it right on me).

This lead me to consider my fear of spiders and that, in turn, lead me to the following idea: a giant trapdoor spider that comes up from beneath a square of the sidewalk and pulls you under.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Himura's Justice

That particular name is a place-holder.

I was reading the section on nemuranai in the L5R rules and it addressed how nemuranai are empowered by the kami within the object. Since the kami come in one of the four elements or void, the effects that a nemuranai could produce were distributed among the elements.

After reading the different mechanical effects assigned to each element, I thought about a weapon and armor combo with the appropriate weapon or armor property from each element (the armor would grant a bonus to initiative from air and damage reduction from earth; the katana would gain a bonus to damage rolled from fire and a bonus to damage kept from water).

Then I thought about a unique power for an element. The scene of a Crab (in this case, a Himura bushi) being insulted by a Crane courtier at a court. The Himura really wanted to defend his honor against the courtier but the Crane was allowed to choose a champion. He had a Daidoji yojimbo who faced the Crab in a duel. However, the Himura's anger was so potent that when he struck at the Daidoji yojimbo, the blow passed through him on the whim of the air kami and struck the Crane courtier who was standing at the edge of the dueling circle directly behind him. Both the courtier and his yojimbo died in the single stroke of the blade.

That was a cool unique weapon property and I immediately thought about using it in D&D. You just allow the strike to also target the next creature immediately opposite your initial target from you within X feet. Suddenly you have a spear or a longsword that, in the right circumstances, attacks two creatures (you could even go more cinematic with it and allow the sword strike to apply in a line or cone area of effect).

In fact, having just now thought that up, it would be a pretty cool 4e power.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Cults in Wyndhaven

1. I heard a song on my way home tonight that inspired a small, quick thought:

The song is December by Collective Soul. The opening line is "why drink the water from my hand, contagious as you think I am?"

I imagine cancer mages and other disciples of disease forming one of the myriad cults in Wyndhaven would initiate novice members by the ritual of drinking water (or some other liquid) from their hands. These novices would not necessarily know that they are being inoculated with a disease that would test their fortitude and favor with the dark gods of disease. To survive the course of the affliction would prove they were worthy to be indoctrinated further into the fold. Any disfigurements would be badges of honor. Those who died still served the cult's purpose, especially if they infected others before passing.

2. The second cult idea is stolen from Fall From Heaven. Since it is stolen so wholesale from the game, I will simply reprint the Civilopedia entry for the Zealot unit:

I have not been able to discern how the Cultists choose their zealots. Sometimes it is a vagrant, sometimes the son or daughter of a noble, and everyone in between seems eligible. He is abducted and taken to temple, usually on the night of the full moon. The hands and feet are bound. Sleep is induced. Some sects use various herbal concoctions; this one simply strangled the man until he passed out. He is laid in a shallow pool, submerged partially in sea water.
All night the Cultists gather around, listening for anything he might say in this sleep. This becomes the zealots new name. It is etched onto a clay jar, which is filled with sea water. I observed the names on some of these. "The Leviathan Trembles But Does Not Awaken," read one. "Pour the Blood of the Slaves Into the Styx," another. The victim tonight seemed to hear nothing, for he was silent as he slept, nearly until dawn. Should this be the case, the victim is drowned and serves in the undead army of the Overlords. Fortunately for this man, or perhaps not, he at last called out screaming, "The distant one has watching eyes!"
The Cultists nodded to each other and pulled the man from the water. When he saw them holding him, he cringed. They spoke not to him, but dragged him to the back of the temple. I was unable to follow, but observed the Zealot days later in sea colored robes. He had bloodshot eyes, and moved through the crowd in the town marketplace engaged in a constant dialogue with himself.

From chapter 7 of Reflections on the State Cults, by Elder Methyl of the Luonnatar.

3. I am also stealing the Mouse King from Kobold Quarterly #4, but that is more of a thieves' guild than a cult. Just thought I would mention it.

4. And because I am already making this post, other Wyndhaven cults obviously include the Sons of Wrath (followers of Rath and mechanically similar to Ravagers) and the Faces of Fear (followers of Saren Kollmer).

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Bound-Spryte Magister

From the inimitable and laudable mind of Contraserrene (see the previous post on the boneshaper fae for another of his contributions):

For an upcoming campaign I've designed a human magister who's replaced his staff with a slave- he keeps a dominated spryte leashed to his wrist with an ensorcelled chain. When he casts spells he's channeling his power through the spryte, who provides the verbal and somatic components.

Mechanically, he can cast his spells without worrying about somatic components (allowing him, along with a feat, to wear armor without a spell failure chance). He also gets an extra pair of dull-but-obedient eyes and ears to watch for stealthy attackers. He also gains additional weaknesses- knock out the spryte or break the control and the magister has problems. He's not doing it for power; he's doing it to show off what a badass he is.

I was thinking of generalizing it into a feat with a less malevolent twist, but I haven't worked out the mechanics for that. It would be closer to a familiar than anything else, I suppose.

Edit: Needless to say, once this magister goes public he'll become something of a priority for the faen community...

Friday, March 21, 2008

A few notes on Trokair

Things I want to get down "on paper" about Trokair that I have been mulling over the last few days:

1. The game really wants a rumor table for players to roll on at the beginning. It helps suggest player-driven courses of inquiry and keeps me from herding them towards a specific encounter or goal (since part of the whole point of Trokair is that it is so versatile and adaptive).

2. Which group the players encounter on their first foray to Trokair depends on which path they take (which, in turn, would be influenced by the rumors they hear). Anyone entering by the shortest path will travel along the trade route and then head north as they pass by the city ruins. That is exactly where the bandits hang out and they are likely to find a few traps or even an ambush along the way. Players who travel through the foothills north of the forest are likely to encounter the orcs (although why you would approach the city ruins from that direction has so far eluded me). Finally, some players will want to trek through the woods from further east than the shortest path (perhaps starting at the Wanderer's Shrine after a tip from Yadri, since the road at that point curls south before coming back north at the shortest point). Such characters have a chance to encounter either/both the bandits or/and the orcs but most likely make it into the city without proper greeting. Their first NPC encounter would likely be with one of the necromancers (since their buildings stand out so much and because they spend more time traversing the sewers than either the orcs or the bandits).

3. Orcs and bandits can be encountered throughout the city ruins, both above ground and in the sewers (and, increasingly unlikely, further below). So too can the necromancers. In fact, some of the bandits or necromancers can be encountered in town between forays into the city (they need to buy stuff and keep up on the rumors too).

4. I really need to play up the intelligence of the humans and some of the orcs. The bandits are not going to throw their lives away on the players' swords after seeing that they are clearly outmatched. At the same time, I need to impress upon the players that having even as few as 5-10 crossbows aimed at you is a death sentence and not an inconvenience. It is only this that makes me feel d20 is not a particularly good system for my vision of Trokair.

5. Jhanzur can seal a door with his channeling (a rebuke undead attempt). A door so sealed requires either a sufficiently strong turn attempt, any old rebuke attempt, or a dispel magic effect (and possibly knock) to open. This allows me to seal off certain areas of the sewers and deeper until the characters are high enough level to overcome the seal or they befriend/negotiate passage with Father Quint.

6. I really need to copy over my notes from Venura before the boards disappear again. I have a lot of stuff there that I really do not want to lose (like the original spelling of Jhanzur's name, which I had to double-check for point 5 (although I did spell it right)).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Rainbow Brite's Girlfriend

Not the cartoon Rainbow Brite but my superhero character Rainbow Brite.

A while ago I found a slightly anime wallpaper/desktop image of a cute but rough girl wielding a stylized chainsaw against a hippy-inspired playground wall (bright blue with Beatles-esque cartoon imagery of clashing colors).

She is what I see when I think of Rainbow Brite's girlfriend. She is not the badass, foul-mouthed, ass-kicking machine. She is a sweet but strong girl who loves all the wonderful colors Brian can show her but she also likes hacking into mutant alien robots with a chainsaw.

If it were a television show, I can definitely see her popping up in the middle of a battle against mutant alien robots and cutting them down left and right. Afterwards, the party (or cast, if I am going with the TV metaphor) look at her standing there with a chainsaw, their mouths agape. Then Brian steps over, puts an arm around her, and (either sheepishly or proudly, depending on how things play out with him and the rest prior to her arrival) says, "Guys, this is my girlfriend." Then they kiss.

Later on, Brian describes her:

"I am Rainbow Brite.
She's more like Rainbow Six."

Monday, March 17, 2008

Reign of Steel - Kafka's Androids

So I was searching the web for Reign of Steel information as the urge strikes me every few months when I found a pdf copy of Pyramid magazine from 1996/7 (just before Reign of Steel was released).

One of the cover stories was Designer Notes from the author of Reign of Steel. I decided to pay the $5 for the download. It was then that I discovered the article was a scant 3 or 4 pages. And most of that was just describing what would be in the book, rather than something substantial and additional.

But it did offer a few campaign ideas, one of which resonated strongly with me. It was titled Kafka's Androids and the idea was thus: several AIs worked independently to plant android agents in a human resistance movement. Unfortunately for them, the resistance suffered heavy casualties soon thereafter and only the preternaturally tough android agents survived. So, the party consists entirely of double-agent androids working for separate AIs in what they believe to be a human resistance group. They continue to play their parts, fighting against the zone AI and helping human survivors and resistance, until the opportunity to fulfill their original subterfuge presents itself. Despite their enhanced abilities and senses (including scanners), none are aware that their compatriots are also androids because each was built to remain undetected in a rival AI's territory.

I really, really like this idea. It allows all the players to think they are the special character with the juicy secret that leads to backstabbing.

In my Reign of Steel campaign, they would be part of the Human Liberation Army in zone Vancouver. One of the agents will be Vancouver's own android, sent to gather intelligence on the HLA in its own territory. Another would be Moscow's, sent to keep an eye on Vancouver as well as coordinate with human resistance to divert Vancouver's resources away from the covert operations in Siberia. Both Denver and Mexico City are also direct neighbors of Vancouver and, thus, likely candidates for android spies. However, I see a more human-hating AI with an agent instead of the all-life-hating Mexico City. For example, I see Manila's agent revealing the locations of human hideouts as he travels through the zone, allowing Overmind to send another covert agent in its wake to wipe them out. Or, more accurately, I see Manila's agent as the android equivalent of a homicidal maniac or serial killer, wiping out survivors when he has the chance and allowing the "clean-up crew" to get those he cannot.

Moscow is my favorite idea so far because it just makes a lot of sense but Manila's agent has the strongest visuals in my mind.