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:

Revik
Strovil
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).