Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Twenty Questions About Rockulon Prime

E. M. Lamb of (the now-defunct) Malleus Blogstrorum keeps telling me that we should do an actual sourcebook for Rockulon Prime.  I don't know if and when such a project would come to pass, but we can always humor the thought exercise.  Having recently happened across the twenty questions for Khorlhossa, I decided to apply Jeff Rients' twenty questions to Rockulon Prime.

1. What is the deal with my cleric's religion?

Rockulon Prime is traditionally monotheistic, so you more than likely worship the Space-God.  Encompassing everything, you can be of any alignment and worship any of the dead-but-dreaming Space-God's aspects.  The nearby planet of Llurb Tdunon allegedly worships Lolth, the Princes of Elemental Evil, and two of the Slaadi Lords, so some few heretics might worship those.

2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment?

Most towns of decent size have general stores, blacksmiths, etc.  You likely won't find anywhere that sells everything you need, but the market probably encompasses whatever you'd want.  The sample town of Västernorr holds the Bizarre Bazaar, and being close to the borderlands, you can probably find any weird equipment item or piece of scavenged drowtech if you look hard enough.

3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?

Any blacksmith worth his salt could probably custom make armor, particularly in a settlement where mutants are welcome.

4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?

He's technically off-world, although still in the planet's orbit, but the demilich known as the Librarian of a Thousand Lunacies probably counts.  Doctor of metalphysics and wizardology Karl Satan is probably one of the best known in academic circles.  Wiss Khan Sin was fairly potent in his time.

5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land?

Many storied heroes are known to the people of Rockulon Prime, but Midnight Lordzealot allegedly killed Glithuthatu the Putrid, an infamous Hell-Maggot that had long plagued the people of Fórnarlamb.

6. Who is the richest person in the land?

Again, off-planet, but the Librarian of a Thousand Lunacies certainly counts.  There's a lot of talk that the monarch of the enlightened city-state of Skarpurlofa holds a great deal of wealth in her coffers, but some folks also say the Cosmic Hierophant of Lok Tooran controls a fair amount of cash garnered from tithes.

7. Where can we go to get some magical healing?

Any major city probably has a temple with a settled cleric of the Space-God.  Smaller towns and villages may have a doctor or herbalist who can give you some treatment, even if it's not wholly magical.  Some borderlands towns may have access to scavenged drowtech, which might as well be magic.

8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?

Again, a temple can probably help you in a major city, although you may also want to check out a drowtech specialist.  Smaller towns have to make do with doctors and herbalists, who very well may not be able to treat any major curses.  The fabulous lost technology of the once-great drow might be able to handle that, but again, that depends on finding a mechanic, scavenger, or Grease Monkey with access to lost drowtech.

9. Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?

The University of Wiss Khan Sin is probably the best known, but there are no doubt other schools and guilds throughout Rockulon Prime.

10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?

Major cities and border towns are your best bet.  Anywhere with a University of Wiss Khan Sin annex is probably safe.

11. Where can I hire mercenaries?

Any major city-state or border town probably has a mercenary company of notable size.

12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?

The whole world is pretty adventure-friendly, although you may have to deal with whatever strange decrees the local leaders have concocted.  The Cosmic Hierophant and his Schizoid Parliament of Lok Tooran have some...rather strange local ordinances.

13. Which way to the nearest tavern?

The tavern is the heart of the town, so you're likely close to one.

14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?

Hell-Maggots are so grotesque and feared that they likely count, especially for the larger ones.  Individual spots may be plagued by feral mutants, goblins, gnolls, orcs, undead, or whatever local monster is common in the region.  Liches tend to be widely feared enough to count.  Creatures of the Outside — aboleths, beholders, mind flayers, and suchlike — are also widely feared and hated enough to count.

15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?

There's always some pissing contest among city-states.  Lok Tooran's Schizoid Parliament tends to instigate conflict with its neighbors.  The undead warlord and Dread Warrior known as Seraph Sinner-anger is frequently on the march with his warband, and rumor has it that he can only be stopped by the Axes of Evil of Torturion...

16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?

They're not common, although sizable towns and cities on the frontier likely have them.  Any town lacking gladiatorial bouts will likely have unofficial boxing matches or fights if you want to get in the underground fighting circuit.

17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?

Since the Space-God encompasses all alignments, his Evil adherents frequently count (although some rule openly).  Secret societies tend not to range beyond their own city-states, although there are persistent rumors of a widespread conspiracy of jingoist drow who wish to return to the glories of their decadent and fallen civilization.

18. What is there to eat around here?

Depends on where you go.  Prodigious quantities of alcohol are pretty much universal.

19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?

Well, the Axes of Evil mentioned above likely count.  The lost technomagical marvels of the drow are renowned as being fairly potent.  Any warlord who could recover an operational Bloodstone Bomb (and not vaporize himself and the surrounding countryside in the process) could probably take any city-state he or she wanted.

20. Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?

Again, depends on where you are.  The now-dead Lord Vau had a lot of treasure stashed in his tower, and there are some dragons overlooking hordes.  Some of the older Hell-Maggots rest among hoary tombs with archaic treasure hordes, although the legendary Vakothmm the Tumescent Putrescence allegedly lairs in the hallowed halls of a long-dead drow queen.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Dave Ryder Random Nickname Generator


About two-and-a-half weeks ago, Charm Monster released the East/West Bowl Random Name Generator.  A friend of mine recommended doing one for Dave Ryder (of Space Mutiny fame) according to his list of MST3K nicknames.

So, without further ado, roll 1d46 (go on random.org if you're stuck):

01 Beat PunchBeef
02 Big, Brave Brick of Meat
03 Big McLargeHuge
04 Blast HardCheese
05 Blast ThickNeck
06 Bob Johnson
07 Bold BigFlank
08 Bulk VanderHuge
09 Brick HardMeat
10 Buck PlankChest
11 Buff DrinkLots
12 Buff HardBack
13 Butch DeadLift
14 ChunkHead
15 Chunky
16 Crud BoneMeal
17 Crunch ButtSteak
18 Dirk HardPec
19 Fist RockBone
20 Flink
21 Flint IronStag
22 Fridge LargeMeat
23 Gristle McThornBody
24 Hack BlowFist
25 Hunk
26 Lump BeefBroth
27 Punch RockGroin
28 Punch Side-Iron
29 Punt SpeedChunk
30 Reef BlastBody
31 Roll Fizzlebeef
32 Rip SteakFace
33 Slab BulkHead
34 Slab SquatThrust
35 Slam
36 Slate Fistcrunch
37 Slate SlabRock
38 Smash LampJaw
39 Smoke ManMuscle
40 Splint ChestHair
41 Stump BeefKnob
42 Stump Chunkman
43 Thick McRunFast
44 Touch RustRod
45 Trunk SlamChest
46 Whip SlagCheek

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Faelhen

The Faelhen (Elven for "Neutral Eye") is a planar assassin organization.  Based out of a hidden monastery and training school located in the Outlands, the Faelhen are not organized like most assassin's guilds.  Instead of being available for hire, they are devoted to the concept of Balance (being True Neutral as a whole) and work directly for the rilmani.  In addition to whatever tasks their argenach contacts give them, they are believed to somehow monitor various Prime Material Planes to determine when Balance is threatened, allowing them to dispatch assassins to deal with the situation.

(There is some suspicion that the Red Scale Guild of Nerath [Player's Option: Heroes of Shadow, page 16] has somehow fallen under their influence of the Faelhen, as they have similar goals.  However, it is difficult to say; they are obfuscated, possibly deliberately, by the dichotomy between the Great Wheel and the World Axis cosmologies.)

The Faelhen do not stringently revere any gods, although they do recognize and occasionally invoke Chronepsis, the Furies, and Sirrion in their Neutral aspects.

The Faelhen citadel's location is unknown, but is suspected to be somewhere highly defensible, possibly underground.  The fact that some of their members have displayed shadow magic suggests that they are not so close to the Spire as to lose their magical abilities; otherwise, how would they train?

It may look something like this.
The assassins are led by Kalanna Aleanathem, known as the Maikash Thaltria ("Fateslayer Bladedancer") to her pupils.  Evidently centuries old, Kalanna's longevity comes from her stature as a half-elf, half-dragon of concordant lineage.  Although not a cleric of Chronepsis, she keeps a sandclock by her bedside so that she may contemplate her life slipping away.

Kalanna Aleanathem, the Maikash Thaltria
Referees wishing to run Kalanna as an NPC in old school games should assume she is an elf assassin of the maximum level allowed by the game system at hand (ignore elf level restrictions).  She moves at Movement 15ʹ, flies at Movement 30ʹ.  She has a natural armor as per Scale armor and is immune to poison.  At will, she can Detect Balance as per the Druid spell (in systems without this spell, assume she can determine how far from Neutral a character's alignment is, although she cannot expressly determine the alignment in question).  Three times per day, she can use invisibility, as per the spell.  She can claw twice per round (1d4/1d4), and twice per day, she can use her breath weapon — an eight foot long cone of antithetical energy.  Assume antithetical energy deals no damage to Neutral creatures.  Neutral Good, Neutral Evil, Lawful Neutral, and Chaotic Neutral creatures take 2d4 damage, while all other creatures take 4d4 damage.  In games with only Lawful-Neutral-Chaotic alignments, assume Lawful and Chaotic creatures take the full 4d4 damage.

Referees wanting something in the 3.x paradigm can use Pathfinder statistics for Kalanna (and anybody with more Pathfinder/3.x experience than I should feel free to revamp her statistics and equipment).  And yes, I'm aware she breaks the rules in a couple of spots (Neutral assassin, breath weapon).  Strange things happen out in the planes.

Kalanna Aleanathem (CR 21)
XP 409,600
Half-dragon elf rogue 10
Assassin 10
N Medium dragon (elf, half-dragon)
Init +9; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; low-light vision; Perception +26
————————————————————
DEFENSE
————————————————————
AC 27, touch 20, flat-footed 21 (+7 armor, +5 Dex, +1 dodge, +2 natural)
hp 118 (20d8+20)
Fort +7, Ref +19, Will +7; +2 vs enchantments
Defensive Abilities evasion, improved uncanny dodge, trap sense +3, +5 vs. poison; Immune paralysis, poison, sleep
————————————————————
OFFENSE
————————————————————
Speed 30 ft., fly 60 ft.
Melee +3 stalking dagger +22/+17/+12 (1d4+6/19–20/×2 plus poison)
Melee claw/claw/bite +18/+18/+18 (1d4+4/1d4+4/1d6+4)
Ranged +1 called dagger +20/+15/+12 (1d4+6/19–20/×2 plus poison)
Special Attacks angel of death 1/day, breath weapon 1/day (30-ft. cone, 6d8 antithetical*, DC 11), death attack (DC 25), quiet death, sneak attack +10d6, swift death 1/day, true death (DC 25)
————————————————————
TACTICS
————————————————————
Before Combat The assassin uses Stealth or Disguise to get close to her prey so she can study and strike with her death attack.
During Combat Using her fast stealth to rush into the fray, the assassin attacks the most threatening target using bleeding strike. Next, she moves out of melee to soften foes with throwing dagger attacks before reentering melee.
————————————————————
STATISTICS
————————————————————
Str 18, Dex 20, Con 12, Int 20, Wis 12, Cha 15
Base Atk +14; CMB +18; CMD +34
Feats Critical Focus, Dodge, Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes, Mobility, Shadow Strike, Sickening Critical, Skill Focus (Stealth), Spring Attack, Stealthy, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus (dagger)
Skills Acrobatics +28, Bluff +15, Climb +27, Craft (alchemy) +28, Diplomacy +15, Disable Device +18, Disguise +25, Escape Artist +30, Linguistics +18, Perception +26, Sense Motive +14, Sleight of Hand +28, Stealth +36, Swim +17
Languages Abyssal, Aquan, Auran, Celestial, Common, Elven, Draconic, Dwarven, Goblin, Ignan, Infernal, Orc, Rilmani, Sylvan, Terran, Undercommon
SQ hidden weapons, hide in plain sight, poison use, rogue talents (bleeding attack +10, combat trick, fast stealth, feat, surprise attack), trapfinding +5
Gear +5 improved shadow leather armor, +3 stalking dagger, +1 called dagger, bag of holding II, ring of feather falling, ring of mind shielding, hat of disguise, minor cloak of displacement, black lotus extract (1 dose), tears of death (2 doses), oil of taggit (2 doses), dust of tracelessness (1 dose), 2,070 gp

* The antithetical energy breath weapon deals the full 6d8 damage to Lawful Good, Chaotic Good, Lawful Evil, and Chaotic Evil creatures; 3d8 damage to Neutral Good, Neutral Evil, Lawful Neutral, and Chaotic Neutral creatures; and no damage to True Neutral creatures.

Referees wanting a D&D fourth edition version of Kalanna can use the statistics below.  Her vial of poison can represent any poison the DM sees fit to use; assume she is trained in any of them, including the assassin's poisons from Heroes of Shadow.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Great Planar Race

I happened to see this video last week, and as it seems to be in theme with this week's blog posts, I felt it was noteworthy enough to share.

Plus, I really like the idea of the plot in question, the so-called "Great Planar Race."  (I particularly enjoy the idea that the Planar Trade Consortium is using it as a form of advertisement — Esteban has already appeared in one of my D&D games to monetize a dungeon, so the idea of the Consortium as shameless money-grubbers is already well established in my Planescape headcanon.)

Watch the video after the jump:

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Word on Cosmology

So when this blog was but a young blog, I wrote a short post about a post that Zak S. wrote inspired by a theoretical science article he read.  The main thrust is that if fantasy worlds are polyhedral worlds rather than spherical worlds, gravity would still pull the atmosphere into a spherical shape, meaning that each face of the polyhedron would be a flat plane with a bubble of air atop it.  The edge of this bubble would form the outer edge of the habitable zone of the world, meaning that one could not cross from plane to plane overland, but one could do so through the megadungeons carving their way through the interior of the earth.

My idea was that all myths are true, and so one can paradoxically reach alternate planes by going deep enough into the earth, or going into the sky via Spelljammer, or accessing planar portals, or getting transferred through the Mists, or whatever.

To elaborate: as previously noted, my background in modern occult conspiracy games informs my current fantasy gaming trend.  As such, my wizards tend to be the weird obsessives Unknown Armies paints its wizards to be, and the world tends to run on belief and consensus the way it does in Mage: the Ascension (which neatly coincides with Planescape, and to a lesser degree, Unknown Armies again).  There are a couple of bits from the Mage book Infinite Tapestry, the sourcebook on the spirit worlds, that really illustrate this.  To wit:

  1. The spiritual realms beyond the Horizon (what we would term outer space but a lot of mages call the Deep Umbra, particularly once you hit the asteroid belt) are full of Ether, which is breathable.  If you're a mage.  And if you believe you can breathe it.  A modern Hermetic, raised on modern science, probably doesn't believe he can breathe it anymore than a Technocrat can, so he doesn't try and suffocates in the "vacuum."  One of the books notes a bit of dissonance that occurs when Technocratic Union astronauts in full space suits arrive on a planet to find a half-naked shaman there beside a campfire.  It doesn't compute, but both things are true.
  2. The High Umbra, the spiritual realm of concepts and ideas, initially appears as a mental landscape called "The River of Language."  (Fans of The Book of Worlds will note that this was originally its own realm; it got transplanted as the near High Umbra as part of Revised Edition.)  The River of Language forms a variety of branches and deltas mirroring a a diagram of linguistic family trees, and emptying into the Great Ocean of the Future — itself containing the potential of languages yet-to-be.  The further up river one goes, the farther back in the zeitgeist of the language one goes, so that the modern cities of modern English will give way to the Elizabethan towns of early modern English which will give way to the walled, medieval cities of Old English, which will pass through locales indicative of its Germanic and Latin roots (incidentally, most American characters will find themselves on the Indo-European branch of the River).  However, scientifically-minded magi (such as Technocrats) may only be able to navigate the River by the avenues posited by modern psychology and linguistics, whereas pseudoscientists and old-school occultists might be able to navigate discounted linguistic relationships — The Infinite Tapestry makes reference to the Technocracy trying to hunt hidden Traditionalist Masters who disappeared into a linguistic region corresponding to Barry Fell's discredited work in New World epigraphy, which the Technocrats cannot find because they don't believe in it!
I run my D&D games the same way (although it rarely comes up).  As noted above, all things are true — you might be able to access Oerth via Toril if you dig deep enough, or you can take a Spelljammer, or you can just get there by way of Sigil.  Or maybe you bypass Sigil, instead accessing planar travel through the city of DisTanelorn (good luck finding it, though), or the World Serpent Inn.

Likewise, an old-school planewalker from Áereth might be familiar with the Great Wheel Cosmology of AD&D and 3.x, whereas a new planewalker from fallen Nerath might be more acquainted with the World Axis Cosmology of 4e.  Of course, that affords them different opportunities — the Nerathi planewalker might be able to lose the Áerethian planewalker by using the Shadow Passage ritual to jaunt into the Shadowfell, where he cannot follow because it's outside of his knowledge and belief structure, whereas the Áerethian can lose the Nerathi via a Plane Shift to the Outlands.

Tricky, eh?

As such, when the Shields of the Sorrowfell go plane-hopping — let's say to Baator because the DM hates them — they do so according to the World Axis (and therefore they'll likely sail across the Astral Sea) because that's what they learned to be true.  But when Dr. Dagger Nazareth tries to track them down (probably to try to score some space-cocaine), he has to take a different path (maybe he goes to the Outlands and travels through the gate-town of Ribcage) because the University of Wiss Khan Sin only teaches Great Wheel Cosmology.  Of course, if either side has an open mind about the experience, or simply finds evidence leading from one place to another, they might be able to backtrack through the alternate cosmology.  After all, if your ranger is tracking someone and finds that they fled to Arcadia, the trail is still evident even if the destination is not.

(And given the differences in cosmology, what might be important to one person has less relevance to another, but may still be reconciled — Dr. Dagger Nazareth realizes that the Outlands and the Spire form the axis around which the Outer Planes turn, whereas the Shields of the Sorrowfell might just assume they're in some weird demiplane that nulls magic the closer they get to the Spire.)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Review: Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition

Based upon the Basic Rules and Starter Set, it's emphatically D&D.  (It even says it on the cover!)

We can all go back to our lives now.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Unboxing D&D 5e

God damn it, I was going to do a brief unboxing blog post, but then Raggi did a better one:

It's the pout that makes the shot, really.
Anyway, 5e is the first D&D edition I've purchased upon release.  So that's noteworthy.  Although I've not really been following the hype or controversy — I downloaded all the playtest packets, but didn't really have time to do anything with them — it's always neat to see how things have changed and how this edition does things differently than the previous ones.  So I'm on board for that reason, at least.

Without further ado, have some unboxing pictures!  Here is what you get:




Rulebook, adventure, dice, pregenerated characters, advert for the Encounters program.

Also noteworthy: RPGPundit just added me on The Google, and I added Zak S. many moons ago, and I'm taking about Fifth Edition, so feel free to boycott me over on Google+.

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