Thursday, May 31, 2012

Deadlands, Part XVI

When last we left our heroes, they arrived in Boston, secured David Hood's fortune, and were staying in a posh hotel following a conversation with David's attorneys.

The group — David Hood, Father Seward, Jake, Jeb, Ruby O'Flahertie, and Rufina — are all gathered in the penthouse, discussing things.  Jake takes his leave to go for a stroll — he goes to a bookstore to purchase a $300 copy of Hoyle's Book of Games — while the others eventually get dinner.  Jake returns during this time, and after dinner, Father Seward and Jake have an interesting conversation about Jake's magic.  Specifically, Jake gambles with demons every time he casts a spell, and that Hoyle hid magical formulae in his book of card games.

Eventually, there is a noise, perhaps a faint rapping or scuttling, on the side of the building.  Despite thorough checking, nobody can find anything.  Jake and Seward are summoned, and the group convenes in David's room.  David decided to go to sleep early, and so misses most of the conversation.  Nevertheless, the group can find nothing untoward other than the fact that the streets are strangely deserted, and a storm appears to be approaching.  Just to be on the safe side, Rufina awakens David.  As his eyes adjust to the gloom, he spots a large, batlike shape outside the window.  At his scream, Jeb opens fire on...a dressing screen.

After the excitement dies down and David manages to calm the management at the hotel, Jeb and Rufina go to sleep.  David, Father Seward, Jake, and Ruby stay up playing cards until they finally sleep around midnight.

The next morning, everyone gathers in David's penthouse.  Jeb is missing, as he apparently took an early morning stroll looking for grain alcohol, although he returns shortly.  During breakfast, it becomes apparent that Jake, Jeb, and Ruby did not sleep well.  Jeb will not discuss his dream, although Jake indicates that he saw the man with purple gloves — the same man who took Seward's daughter.  He says the man with purple gloves is none other than Cornelius Cobb, the man who taught him sorcery, and his vision involved someone coming to kill the sorcerer (although, obviously, he failed).

Quite frankly, this confirmed Seward's suspicions.

Ruby explains that her dream involved a man with a severe gut wound — he kept working to keep his intestines in his abdomen — digging a hole.  It appeared that he had his children bound alive, and planned on throwing them into the hole.  He believed they were possessed, and rambled about this preventing them from taking his soul.

After breakfast, David decides he needs a tailor, and he talks to the staff.  A flamboyant tailor arrives and makes him a suit; Ruby and Jake also end up getting fine clothing from this man before he leaves.

This whole affair puts the time to about three in the afternoon, and so the group decides to go to David Hood's mother's house.  The trip is uneventful, and they find themselves at a rather large townhouse.  David indicates that he has never been here before.

The group enters and immediately begins investigating.  There are books everywhere, and tables hold many papers in a state of disarray.  These papers are in no particular order, cover a myriad of subjects, and are written by two different people, one of whom is David's mother (and the other is presumably his father).  Some of the papers depict drawings (primarily renditions of Da Vinci's art made by non-artists), while some depict cyphers or occult glyphs.  Others depict shopping lists, while still others depict lunatic ravings.  A crate of ink wells is missing several jars, indicating that someone used a lot of ink.

Upstairs is in a similar state of disarray.  One of the bathrooms has a pile of ash on the floor, while one of the rooms features walls solidly painted black.  The inkwells on the floor and the fingerprints suggest someone blacked out the walls with ink.  Scribbling on the floor reads, "Purple, purple — I'll take her eyes if she wears purple!"

Jeb spends his time looking at the model ships downstairs, including a model of the Peerless, while also investigating the pantry, largely bearing rotten food.  Rufina returns downstairs and goes through a mud room to investigate the garden outside.  She pokes around, finds a patch of disturbed earth, and grabs a small spade to see what was buried.  She finds a small ship's wheel buried in the soil.  She leaves it.

Father Seward goes downstairs to look at the model of the Peerless, but sees nothing abnormal.  When Rufina enters the mud room, she sees the outline of a door frame, evidently painted over.

Meanwhile, David Hood has found two diaries, one belonging to his mother, the other to his father.  Both seem to depict a descent into madness, and both leave the cargo of the Peerless tantalizingly vague, although the indication is that it relates to some lost Da Vinci piece.

Everyone reconvenes downstairs.  David Hood notes something in his father's diary — that a man with dripping, purple hands reached into his mind, driving him to madness.  Jake says that sounds way more powerful than he recalls Cobb, but who knows?

Rufina notes the doorway and the ship's wheel.  Father Seward checks and notes that the Peerless model is missing a ship's wheel; he goes to the garden to retrieve the model wheel.

The group then breaks open the secret door in the mud room to reveal a small room, possibly once a closet, containing a pedestal with an illuminated manuscript, likely Renaissance in origin.  After it is transferred to a table, Jake and Seward manage to puzzle out enough Latin to identify it as The Fall of Man, a lost (and possibly blasphemous) work by Da Vinci.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wednesday Werk: Necropixies

"Oy there, berk.  You ain't 'eard of the necropixies, 'ave you?  A plague upon the realms with Positive Energy, they are.  Little blighters 'ave all o' their living cousins' trickster proclivities, with all the horror of a demented barber.  Little bastards'll cut you from nave to chops before you know what hit you.  An' you'll never see the one what gets you." — Ogden "The Glaive" Thursson

In this week's Wednesday Werk, we'll look at the Necropixies.

The Necropixies are vicious little creatures, pixies corrupted by the energies of the Negative Energy Plane (or the Shadowfell if you're using the World Axis cosmology).  At present, no one has observed their genesis, so it is unknown if they occur naturally or are made by corrupt spirits or sorcerers (or even if they have no real relation to pixies at all).

At least one adventurer has claimed to see a necrogrig, but he was barmy, so his testimony is typically considered suspect.

Nevertheless, Necropixies may be encountered alone, in groups, or with undead and their associates such as zombies, skeletons, necromancers, vampires, wraiths, and the like.  Necropixies retain the trickster nature of their "normal" counterparts, although their tricks are significantly darker — cruel pranks, mutilation, and torture have all been recorded as necropixie "tricks."  More than one village in the world reviles the Tooth Fairy, considering the entity to be a necropixie harvesting bone from the mouths of babes.

The following Necropixie Scrapper is indicative of a typical Necropixie warrior.  It will typically attempt to remain invisible as long as possible, using Invisibility each turn — if it is dazed or otherwise incapable of action, it will always opt for Invisibility if it can.  The creature will frequently open with Confusing Blow to aid its allies, and then it will make Scythe attacks.  It will always attempt to attack so as to make use of its Combat Advantage ability.  Necropixies are stout combatants, although they have been known to avoid death if they are not fully devoted to the cause at hand.  They can be fanatical, but they're not stupid.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Axe with the Edge of the Sun

Here's another entry from my archives.  I developed this legend and artifact for the campaign False in Some Sense.  (As such, the stats are for new World of Darkness, specifically from the book Reliquary, and the axe's backstory references Mage: the Awakening.)  Humorously, the legend appeared — that was how the PCs determined the Snake-Bear had a weakness against gold — but the axe never did (the PCs improvised some gold weapons instead).  Presumably, it's still buried in a funeral mound somewhere in the wilds of Indiana...

Obviously, with a minimum of work, the axe and its legend could appear in any setting.

Astute observers might note mention of Red Horn's Fury "protecting" these lands.  It is possible that this is just a metaphor, or that his unquiet corpse stalks the land, or that his restless ghost guards the funeral mound.

Or that a combination of factors are true.

Axe with the Edge of the Sun (5-point Relic)

Damage 3(L), Size 2/L, Durability 2

Description: The Sunburst Axe is a copper axe, bearing pictures of suns and human faces.  A ring at the bottom may have once borne some object or cord, but no longer does.  Curiously, the axe seems to have avoided the worst of the aging process, and the edge is a brilliant gold sheen, which seems slightly anachronistic and not terribly practical.  Nevertheless, appropriate tests confirm its antiquity.

Background: The following legend has been dated to the Southern Cult, around 1000 CE.  It is an Indiana legend from the remnants of the Mississippian empire, but is not well known.  It can be found by a Research action (Intelligence + Academics, see World of Darkness Rulebook, pgs. 55-56) requiring 15 successes.  Finding the dig site is another Intelligence + Academics roll, requiring 10 successes; each roll requires 4 hours of surveying.  Determining how to activate it (which is little more than just an effort of will on the part of the user) requires a Wits + Resolve roll requiring 5 successes; each roll represents 30 minutes of research and trial.

The lake was haunted by a panther, and the Little People lived in the woods, but there was something more terrible in those lands around the lake.  People avoided it, but the horrible Snake Bear came to their tribes and took people for its own feasting.  They refused to worship it, so it came for more.

Finally, one day, a young warrior, Red Horn's Promise, who had not yet proved himself, decided that he would defeat the Snake Bear.  He visited Looks Both Ways, a woman who entered those woods a maiden and returned an old woman.  The Great Spirit had made her wise in the ways of the world, and Red Horn's Promise knew that she would know the answer to his question.  So he asked her, "Grandmother, how will I defeat the creature in these woods, a thing that is part snake and part bear, and that the Elders say fell from the heavens before our people came to these lands?"

Looks Both Ways thought, and said, "I must ponder this question.  Give me three days to think upon this question and to commune with the Sacred Medicine, and I will give you an answer."

Red Horn's Promise returned three days later, and Looks Both Ways told him, "I have seen the answer you seek.  Sun came to me in a sea of fire, and said that the creature had fled before his light for too long.  It is afraid of Sun on earth," she said.

"Fire?" Red Horn's Promise asked.

"No," she replied, "It fears the Sun's metal, what our brothers to the South consider the droppings of the gods.  The beast fears the bite of gold."

"But gold is rare, and our warriors do not craft with it.  How will I make a weapon of gold, O grandmother?"

Looks Both Ways thought, and then said, "There is a man to the North, a man who lives alone, for most others fear him.  He claims to be possessed of great powers, gained by visiting a vast tower to the dead, and he commands the spirits of the ancestors, and crafts fabulous objects that our smiths cannot make.  You will go to him, and ask him to make you a weapon that you can wield against the Snake Bear.  But be cautious, for the ancestors grow angry around him, and they cannot tell friend from foe."

Red Horn's Promise thanked her, and after returning home to give his farewells to the tribe and gather a few items he needed for his journey, he started to travel North.

His journey was long, and the further North he went, the more game became scarce and the more cold he became.  But he continued.

He came, finally, to a place where he found no game and no trees.  The ancestors screamed at him, but he paid no heed.  They assailed him with visions, but his will was strong.  They challenged him to combat, but he ran from them, running closer to his goal.  Soon, he found him, a wizened man sitting outside of a hut of bones.  He smiled and wheezed a ragged laugh.

"You come to request my aid, yet you bring nothing to give me," said the man.

Red Horn's Promise continued, undaunted, "If you do not craft me a weapon, I will strike you down where you stand!"

The man said, "I can turn your weapon into air, if I wish.  If you strike me down, I will return.  If I let the Snake Bear continue to kill your people, my domain increases evermore.  Why should I help you?"

Red Horn's Promise thought, but he knew he had no answer.  Finally, the man laughed and said, "You must work my fields for three days, and if you can make something grow, I will grant you a weapon that can defeat this creature."

Red Horn's Promise knew that such a task was impossible, but thought that he must try for the good of his people.  He planted some few seeds he managed to collect, and over the course of three days and nights, he tilled the soil and gave as much water as he could.  On the third day, he returned to the man.

"Did you make anything grow?" the man asked.

"How could I?  This land is dead, bitten by the cold of winter, scorched by your foulness.  This place is pregnant with death, and I cannot conquer it."

At this, the man's face brightened, and he laughed, an awful sound that Red Horn's Promise had heard before, as the last breath escaping from an old man.  The man said, "You have faced death, and learned that its power is greater than yours.  I will make you a fabulous axe with the edge of the Sun, and you will return to your people with it and fight this beast.  Whether you win or not, you know that you will only prolong your life, but you will never conquer death entirely."

He laughed and entered his hut.

Red Horn's Promise did not see him for a whole day, but when the old man returned, he carried an axe whose blade shown like the Sun, and whose handle bore a cord like the braid of Red Horn.  "Here is a mighty weapon, shining with the edge of the Sun and empowered by the weight of the ancestors.  Use it wisely, but never forget that though this weapon is powerful, there is one foe it will never defeat."

Red Horn's Promise thanked him and began the arduous trip South.  For many turnings of the moon he walked until he finally found his village again.  Yet, it was not the same village he left, for the people had given themselves over to fear and began to worship the Snake Bear.  Red Horn's Promise swore and held his axe aloft in the town square, but the people thought him mad, and prayed to the Snake Bear to take away his misery.  Red Horn's Promise bellowed challenge against the Snake Bear, sending his mighty cry across the plains.

That night, the Snake Bear came to the village, intent to learn which person did not believe in his might.  There he found Red Horn's Promise awaiting him, holding the Axe with the Edge of the Sun.  The Snake Bear growled and told Red Horn's Promise to worship him.  Red Horn's Promise bellowed challenge, praying to Red Horn to grant him strength, and he found that though the Snake Bear was mighty, the Axe with the Edge of the Sun bit deeply into its flesh.  It screamed and howled to the night, but Red Horn's Promise did not get to swing a second time, for the creature was too fast and Red Horn's Promise grew too confident in the injury he had given to the Snake Bear.  So, Snake Bear felled Red Horn's Promise with one swipe of its mighty claws.  However, as the villagers had seen it bleed, they saw that it was no god, and its spell upon them was broken.  So, broken, the Snake Bear fled that town to nurse its wounds.

The people cheered for Red Horn's Promise, and the elders said that he would henceforth be known as Red Horn's Fury for the courage he had shown in battle.  They buried him with his axe, so that he might evermore protect those lands from the might of the Snake Bear.


Defend (•••): By spending 2 Willpower points, the wielder can make a white light shine from the axe.  This axe grants a -3 penalty to all monster (defined as something following a behavior code other than Morality) attacks on the wielder, physical or mental, in a radius of the yards equal to the wielder's Wits + Resolve.  By spending a Willpower dot, this protection may be extended to up to three others in the radius of effect.

Potent Success, Weaponry (•••): By spending 3 Willpower points, the wielder gains the 9-Again bonus on attacks with this weapon.

Unbreakable (•••): The weapon cannot lose Structure from any mundane attacks.  Magical attacks may damage it normally.

(Curse) Debilitating Loss, Computer: Forged as it was in a bygone era, the magics empowering the weapon are anathema to modern techniques.  After activating one of the axe's powers, the user suffers a -3 penalty to all Computer rolls for a day afterward as she finds it difficult to recall computer science techniques.

(Curse) Derangement: The sense of power gained from using the axe is incredible.  After using one of the powers of the axe, the wielder gains the Megalomania derangement (see World of Darkness Rulebook, pg. 97) until the next day or until she sleeps for eight hours, whichever comes first.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Deadlands, Part XV

When last we left our heroes, they were accosted by gangs in Denver, bought some supplies, acquired counsel in New York, and arrived in Boston.

Having just arrived in Boston (and having just caught up on news of the Hood family drama, among other things), David Hood, Father Seward, Jake, Jeb, Ruby O'Flahertie, and Rufina wonder if David Hood might be recognized.

Rufina is the first to note the answer as a resounding "YES!" — David Hood's face is on missing person posters plastered on the walls.

As there's a lag of about a day until his lawyers from Belton & Dare arrive, we decide to hole up in a hotel.  With a murderer on the loose, people aren't really clamoring to leave, but Father Seward and Jake both have business — Seward wants to buy some things (like rope), and Jake wants to look for a poker game.

As they leave, they see a ragged beggar watching them.  Father Seward smiles at him, but Jake glowers, scaring the man away.  Seward blesses him as he walks past, but otherwise leaves him alone.

Jake could find a poker game, but as it would take him deep into the dregs of Boston, he decides to let it alone for now.

Meanwhile, Seward completes his errands.  As he returns to the hotel, he sees a well-appointed carriage outside.  A well-dressed man steps out, checks his pistol, and steps into the hotel.  Father Seward thinks for a moment and follows him.

As he enters, the innkeeper points out Seward, saying something to the effect, "That's one of 'em right now!"  Father Seward then proceeds to play the part of a senile, half-deaf old man, generally making a nuisance of himself — and making enough noise to alert the others that something is afoot.  They hide David in a closet, and when the man finally knocks on their door, Ruby and Seward manage to be annoying enough that he leaves (apparently satisfied that they know nothing regarding David Hood) and offers ten dollars for their trouble.

Once Jake returns, they inform him of the proceedings.

The next day, the group goes to meet David Hood's new lawyers at a restaurant.  They previously met Mr. Dare in New York, the other is a new fellow with a cane and colored spectacles.  His name is Mr. Sharp.  Although he is apparently blind, Rufina notes that he is pretending to be blind (and informs us at the earliest opportunity), although she does not know why.

In any event, the lawyers discuss that Hood must maintain a certain image and media presence while in Boston.  They discuss a little about his case, but mostly prep him for the coming legal battle.

There's a weird moment amidst all this — Ruby and Seward swear that the lawyers indicate that David Hood will be shot (like, by a hired gunman) to help his image, but the rest of the group says they understood the "shoot" to be photographic.

Whatever the case, once preparations are made, David is ready to enter negotiations.  The group goes to the Seward & Taft law offices and encounters the rest of the Hood family (including the gunman from the other night, who looks very annoyed to see the people who claimed ignorance of David).  There is much arguing, and it appears the lawyers are just barely maintaining order.  Mr. Sharp slams his cane on the ground to silence everyone.

After some dithering, David, Father Seward, and Mr. Dare go to meet with Geoffrey Seward (who happens to be Father Seward's nephew).  During discussions, David learns that he is inheriting most of his mother's wealth, while he was entirely cut out of his father's will.  Strangely, these provisions were alterations to the original wills, made within days of their deaths.  Regardless, David is now a wealthy man (although he still does not lay claim to the Peerless's cargo, as it is in legal limbo).

Interestingly, further complicating the case of the Peerless, there are multiple ships of the name.  Two ships by that name crashed a while back, and more recently, another Peerless was in Boston harbor when the abandoned Peerless crashed into the harbor.  As the manifests of the two are identical, the captain of the Peerless claims he owns the property on the abandoned vessel — as it is evidently what he was about to go to Italy to acquire.


At any rate, with this new revelation, David, Seward, and the attorneys rejoin the main group.  David Hood's party then decides to leave.

As the group descends the steps of the building, a shot rings out, hitting Hood in the arm.  Jeb returns fire, and when Jake goes to check, he finds the would-be assassin dead from Jeb's shot, which apparently hit the man square in the head.  The man has assorted bills and a likeness of David Hood on his person.

The group regroups and bandages David as best they can.  Then, they relocate to the penthouse of the hotel where his lawyers are staying.

Everyone takes up rooms in the vicinity while David takes the penthouse.  Jeb also takes the couch in the living room so as to act as his bodyguard, while the maids also make arrangements for Ruby O'Flahertie to stay there.

There is a bit more discussion, as well as lunch with David Hood's attorneys, and the group decides to investigate David's mother's house the following day.

Quietly, they hope to determine something about that cargo under guard in the harbor, but first things first.


Forgive the scattered notes on this session; I neglected to write this until two weeks later.

Incidentally, the whole thing about David's lawyers planning to have him shot is an out-of-character thing.  Nicole and I recall the conversation one way, while the rest of the group recalls the lawyers saying something about taking his picture.  It's a little Rashomon up in here.

At any rate, this was one of those sessions where a lot of things happened, but not a lot happened.  Just a couple of meetings and a single exchange of gunfire.

Somehow, though, all the weird little mysteries from this session are more troublesome than Rattlers and cannibals and such.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Colonial Organism

What's worse than the Worm that Walks?

The White Colony from Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque.

You're welcome.

Wednesday Werk: Quintapoidal Fungi

In this week's Wednesday Werk, we'll look at the Quintapoidal Fungi.

A few scholars have written of the Quintapoidal Fungi, but it wasn't until Baron Lee van Hook determined them to be his "carnophytes" (laymen just call them "fungi") that he became interested.

The Quintapoids are feared by civilization, as they are living siege engines, powerful enough to batter through fortifications and with toxic spores that can easily overpower legions of troops.

Fortunately, they're rare on the Sorrowfell Plains — the Wizard's Tower only had one specimen, evidently a pickled curiosity acquired at great expense from a trading partner across the ocean.  Still, the creatures have been recorded on the plains, and many old soldiers recall (typically with a shudder) their use in the Cackledread War.

Quintapoidal Fungi are occasionally found in the wild, but it is more common to find sorcerers or other masterminds attempt to capture the things as use in war and defense.  Unsurprisingly, tales of failure are rather common, and form a frequent punchline in jokes, limericks, and bawdy songs throughout the land ("The mad old wizard prepared his plan to finally kill the duke / But the grand ol' beast had other plans and showed him its rebuke / And when the villagers found the Tower of Hurllenghast destroyed / The townfolk shrugged and raised a glass to Ivan, the Quintapoid!").

The following creature is a fairly common Quintapoidal Fungus specimen.  In combat, the creature will typically move amidst its foes and use Gasteromycotoxin to attack everyone.  The creature then cycles among Bite, Slam Harder, and Mycotic Infection, typically using Slam Harder to advantageously reposition foes (and also to attack foes resistant to poison).  It uses Bite and Mycotic Infection to weaken and disorient foes, trying to take out weakened foes with these attacks.

The Level 10 version of Skinrot is functionally the same as the version noted in Open Grave on page 180, with the following alteration to the Endurance check DCs:

Check: At the end of each extended rest, the target makes an Endurance check if it is at stage 1 or 2.
12 or lower: The stage of the disease increases by one.
13-17: No Change
18 or higher: The stage of the disease decreases by one.

For DMs without access to Open Grave, any sort of rotting or wasting disease with the appropriate Endurance DCs will do.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Arduin's Air Sharks

I was recently fortunate enough to obtain a copy of the Arduin Grimoire Trilogy from Emperor's Choice (who, by the way, are awesome people; there was a slight problem with my order, and they were incredibly helpful with it, even giving me a free Arduin map for my trouble).  It's roughly what you would expect based on the accounts of others.

Like Maliszewski says, some of it really resonates and some of it isn't terribly noteworthy (then again, that's the beauty of the thing; take the stuff you want and ignore the stuff you don't).

One of the things I appreciated were some of the monsters.  They're gonzo and silly, but some of them are malicious and terrible in ways that fit my demented sensibilities.

So, air sharks.

Air sharks are flying sharks.  Exactly what it says on the tin.

As with the Wednesday Werk posts, it is possible to find such creatures in 4e settings, such as the Plain of Sorrows.

So, without further ado, we present this excerpt from Professor Uaaru's Beasts of Bloodstone: A Bestiary of the Bloodstone Crags and the Stonemarch Beyond.
The Stonemarch is best known for the proliferation of so-called monstrous humanoids, perhaps best exemplified by the feared Bloodspear tribe that decimated the eastern Nentir Vale (or so the caravan tales say).  Nevertheless, strange threats are occasionally found in the eastern wastes, and so, a most curious tale is recounted by one Torabell Naaldim, a former Nerathi soldier and adventurer.  Now in her sixties, Torabell described her encounter with the Knights of Thunder.  "All was quiet on the cracked plain," she explained," and we expected no trouble.  Udoven saw no tracks nor spoor to indicate danger — only the goblin tracks we were pursuing into that accursed place.  Nay, danger came from above.   We sighted five figures in the air, and at that distance, we thought them birds.  As they grew closer, Udoven noted they were much larger than any birds we knew.  He thought maybe they were Aarakocra, although he had noted no tribal markers.
"We soon saw them — sharks, flying through the air, each with a small rider, dressed in scale mail.  Graceatris was from an old sailing family, and she noted with trepidation that they were grey reefs.  That was the last comment before the shower of arrows came.
"Out on the plain, we were sitting ducks.  Udoven was prepared to return the volley when they were atop us; rather than staying out of reach and firing from safety, they descended upon us!  The riders — goblins by their look — switched their shortbows for spears.  It was chaos.
"We were forced to retreat.  Only Grace and I made it; Udoven was devoured by a pair of hungry sharks.  I always tell myself that Davice and Vicgold were slain, but I almost recall their screams as we ran, getting further away as if carried off by the shark-riders..."
Beasts of Bloodstone continues, describing what is known of the creatures from their physiology.  It is unknown if they occur naturally or are somehow bred, but it is known that the goblin group known as the Knights of Thunder commonly use them as mounts.  Other creatures have been seen riding the creatures, but the Knights of Thunder are well known for their air shark mounts, just as they are known to torture and consume those they capture.  According to Headmaster Ebenezer Jepson, the air sharks stay aloft due to a special "phlogiston bladder" in their bodies, which converts absorbed and stored phlogiston into magical energy to keep them aloft.  They are apparently quite flammable, and will sometimes explode when killed.  This stored phlogiston is also quite volatile, apparently evaporating quickly after death.

(Of course, the whole "phlogiston bladder" theory is incorrect; the extraneous bladder in the shark's abdomen actually contains hydrogen.)

Air sharks may be found with or without riders.  When found in the wild, they attack relentlessly with their Bite attacks, preferring bloodied characters.  Riders (particularly Knights of Thunder) typically enter the fray with Rip and Tear.  What follows is a typical specimen, possibly one of the grey reef air sharks noted above.  On the open market, such a mount is worth 1,800 gp.  (Incidentally, the base creature is a modified shark from Monster Vault, pg. 299.)

The Knights of Thunder are the best known riders of air sharks.  A group of goblins, the Knights of Thunder are feared for their merciless ways.  Although they are not the only creatures to train and ride air sharks, they are the most infamous.  The Knights of Thunder are known for torturing and eating those they capture, and they are utterly fearless (although they have been known to retreat from open flame, as they know that will detonate their mounts).  What follows is an average Knight of Thunder, most likely mounted.  He typically uses Shortbow until getting close, in which case he charges to take advantage of Knockdown Charge (as well as Rip and Tear, if mounted on an air shark) before switching to Spear attacks.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Kickstarters You Should Investigate

So I haven't been advertising as much as I'd like.  Here's some stuff you may have missed.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess has an Indiegogo campaign to release the core books in hardcover.  And blah, blah, blah, something about adventures from game designers such as Kenneth Hite, Frank Mentzer, Graeme Davis, Jason Morningstar, and Zak Smith.

You know you want to make those adventures happen, right?

How awesome is Lamentations?  Last time I ran it, the phrase "Sexually transmitted beartrap" was the takeaway message.  Prior to that, Remnant happened.  Check out Mr. Raggi's Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign (you have until June 1).

Barrowmaze II is a thing.  Following on the heels of the wildly successful Dwimmermount Kickstarter, Barrowmaze II is another old-school megadungeon for Labyrinth Lord.  In this case, Barrowmaze II is the sequel and continuation of the highly-regarded Barrowmaze.  Don't know about Barrowmaze?  Check out the website.  Or the review at Dreams in the Lich House.  Check out Mr. Gillespie's Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign (you have until June 11).

Farewell to Fear seems like a bit of a gamble, but I'm a gambling man.  It bills itself as "progressive post-fantasy" and indicates that it will focus more on social issues than typical D&D-type games.

While that sounds a little very pretentious, the game has some neat concepts, like the potential for scientific and archaeological exploration.  The planned supplement introduces a chef class, and features a cookbook.

Plus, it's being penned by David A. Hill, Jr., who has done work on World of Darkness, Shadowrun, and Eclipse Phase, so he didn't just fall off the turnip truck.

If you want to learn more, or give funding a try, check out Mr. Hill's Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign (you only have until May 20).

Wednesday Werk: Plodder-Shell

In this week's Wednesday Werk, we'll look at the Plodder-Shell.

Considered by many to be a relative of the glimp-shell (although some researchers claim the two are the same species, either as different sexes or at different points in the life cycle), the Plodder-Shell is a similarly implacable pack animal.

Unlike the glimp-shell, Plodder-Shells are not used as mounts, but typically only as beasts of burden.  This is well-founded: they are capable of hauling tons of goods, and they walk in one direction.  Always.

Even when asleep, they walk forward.  Like sharks, if they ever stop moving, they die (the largest specimens, becoming too heavy to move, die shortly thereafter).  They also cannot move backward, and so are typically kept on curved tracks so that they may continue to walk.

Plodder-Shells see little use in the Sorrowfell Plains — merchants typically find they move too slowly — although they are occasionally seen in Scandshar.

Plodder-Shells do not engage in combat; instead, they trample anything lacking the sense to get out of the way.  They always move in a relatively straight line, never turning more than 45° between squares.  As such, if the Plodder-Shell is at the 'X' and is facing toward '2', it can move to 1, 2, or 3.

Assuming it uses its first square of movement to move to '1', it can continue in this fashion.  On its next movement, it can move to 9, 10, or 11.

A typical Plodder-Shell costs 1,000 gp, and can push or pull 1 ton of cargo per level.  As such, the typical specimen presented here can push or pull 4 tons of cargo without difficulty.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sacred Prostitutes

The Sorrowfell Plains plays host to many religions, including several temples that engage in sacred prostitution.  Sometimes, this practice is simple hierogamy, while other times, the temples simply incorporate sex into their rituals.

The temples that engage in these rites are many and varied, with some taking unforeseen forms.  Most, however, worship predictable deities.  In the places where the grim galleys of Vornheim occasionally seek port (Sorgforge has been known to receive ships from those bleak lands, and they occasionally travel upriver to Scandshar), the mystery cults of the Temples of the Ecstatic Flesh worship Corellon, Sehanine, and Tittivilla with sexual rites, in addition to magical rituals and exotic displays of body modification.  Out of deference to the goddess of mutations, the priestesses (and they are always female) who run these temples are called "Maidenmothers."

Outside of the influence of the mystery cultists of Tittivilla, some also find a similar trinity within various temples dedicated to Corellon and Sehanine.  Frequently, a third deity is venerated at these temples, typically being a local deity from the nearby culture.  Patron deities of cultures or races, such as Bahamut, Erathis, or Moradin are sometimes represented, as are minor deities such as Aaluran or Myhriss.  Some whisper of darker temples, such as those that include Vecna in the roster of deities (think of Eyes Wide Shut and you'll get the idea).

Along the trade roads, shrines may be found.  Although the stereotypical image of a small temple full of shrine maidens is firmly ingrained in the consciousness of Sorrowfell citizens, the gender ratio is roughly equal.  Temples engaging in sacred prostitution provide similar services to those provided by other temples, although the peasants typically talk more about ecstatic temples than any others.

Whether the talk helps or hinders the temples' donations is unclear.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Forgotten Commands

The Forgotten Commands by Adeptus Uaaru forms the most complete accounting of grim Carcosa known to the Sorrowfell Plains.  A travelogue of sorts, The Forgotten Commands describes Uaaru's knowledge of Carcosa, presented for a non-native audience.  As with most works, it is woefully incomplete, compiled as it is by one person who was trying to survive in Carcosa.

Nevertheless, she records her experiences with scholarly attention.  She opens with history, which is unfortunately spotty — old legends have led her to understand that Shub-Niggurath is likely the source of all life on the planet.  She further understands that the Snake-Men destroyed themselves, although she does not know that they created the races of Men as slaves and ritual components (she suspects that Men are constructs, but considers the Great Race or Primordial Ones to be more likely candidates).  She then moves into geography, which indicates someone who is well-traveled but still has gaps in her knowledge.  She can recreate a relatively accurate map of Carcosa's regions, although it is not to scale and lacks details.  The book finally closes with a bestiary (truly, a naturalist's journal) detailing the creatures of Carcosa.  This forms the largest portion of the book.  It details all forms of lotus and all races of Men, going into some detail regarding the other races.  Professor Uaaru notes information regarding the Space Aliens (she refers to them as "Sky-Men" in her papers, considering them Men who come from the stars), as well as vague information on B'yakhee, Deep Ones, the Great Race, Mi-Go, Primordial Ones, and Shoggoths.  She has information on some of the more common creatures, such as gelatinous creatures (like oozes and puddings) and beasts of burden (such as dinosaurs and lizard-wolves).  She also has another glaring error — she lists any Spawn of Shub-Niggurath as individual races of which she has only seen one specimen, not realizing that they are likely unique.

Professor Uaaru also notes information regarding sorcery in The Forgotten Commands, although she does not detail any spells.  Instead, any creature that can be affected by sorcery is noted in its description.  Those in the know suggest that her descriptions of sorcery suggest familiarity with the subject, and many suspect she was a sorcerer in Carcosa.  Indeed, her facility with ritual magic further implies this connection.

As one might suspect, this tends to make those who are knowledgeable of such things rather nervous about Professor Uaaru.

There always seems to be some scuttlebutt regarding a potential Carcosa expedition by Wizard's Tower personnel, but nothing has yet materialized.

Author's Note: So, I had the idea of writing a Carcosan professor into my D&D game.  Oddly enough, the other night, I was messing around with Wampus Country's d100 Arcane Books table, and rolled "forgotten," "commands," and "travel to a distant planet."  Rather than interpreting this as some form of gate-book, I decided this meant a travelogue of some other world.  Carcosa immediately sprang to mind.

And then I remembered the professor I was brainstorming.  Serendipity.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wednesday Werk: Mind-Slime

In this week's Wednesday Werk, we'll look at the Mind-Slime.

The Mind-Slime is a member of the ooze family along with creatures such as green slimes and gelatinous cubes.  Unlike these, the mind-slime appears to have more than an animal level of sentience, displaying what might be considered knowledge.  Noted naturalist and ooze expert Professor Uaaru has studied Mind-Slime incursions on the Sorrowfell Plains, and apparently acquired a sample of one.  According to her notes, she was able to get her sample to navigate simple mazes and otherwise display critical thinking skills roughly akin to those of apes.

Of course, in a wilderness or dungeon environment, the Mind-Slime is not immediately recognizable, as it appears to be just another ooze.  As Professor Uaaru's experiments suggest, however, the Mind-Slime is at least somewhat sapient, and will intelligently hunt its prey.  More importantly, the Mind-Slime is interested in both a food source and an intellectual source.

Mind-Slimes prefer sapient prey, apparently feasting upon both flesh and memories.  Although their acidic plasm is a rather weak acid, it appears as though the creatures actually grow more acidic if enraged or offended.  More startlingly, these creatures appear to devour memories as well as flesh.  They are able to memorize spells devoured from magic-users, although some of the creatures have displayed the ability to mimic certain attributes of creatures they have attacked.  Professor Uaaru's (admittedly few) accounts of Mind-Slimes make note of the creatures attacking foes and then displaying expert knowledge: in one account, a Mind-Slime that attacked a warrior displayed the fighter's knack for breaking limbs, while a Mind-Slime that started devouring a thief later surprised the thief with a daring sneak attack.

Professor Uaaru's notes also contain a firsthand account of a Mind-Slime attack survivor who described the sensation as "a grotesque pulling sensation, much like the accounts of patients undergoing surgery.  But that's not even quite right.  It's like several feelings vying for your attention simultaneously.  I mean, the creature's acid is burning you, and then you have this weird pulling sensation that feels like a sinus headache and a chirurgeon's grim work.  But then there's this other feeling, like a high-pitched whine between your eyes.  By description, it matches accounts of madhouse patients or experimenters with Diviner's Sage; just this dull, aching buzz in your head.  It's terrible."

According to Professor Uaaru's notes, some people lose the memories devoured by the Mind-Slime, while others retain them with varying degrees of clarity.  The mechanism behind this discrepancy is unclear, but inquiries are ongoing.

In combat, the Mind-Slime prefers humanoids to beasts, almost always preferring intelligent targets (although it will certainly attack animals if hungry or defending itself).  For example, it has been observed to ignore mounts and go straight for the riders.  It will typically use Attach on a victim immediately, using Double Attack to attack the most dangerous adjacent foe.  Whenever it has a foe immobilized, it will use Brain Drain whenever that power is available, using any stolen powers at its earliest opportunity.

Typically, the Mind-Slime can use a stolen power only once per encounter.  The Mind-Slime uses stolen powers as if it were the creature in question, so it uses the same attack bonus, damage, and effects.  To keep the creature more in line with the original Hereticwerks creature, the DM may only allow it to successfully mimic powers with the Arcane keyword, although I would probably allow it to mimic any sort of power.

Additionally, I would be inclined to say that the Mind-Slime can only steal unused powers, but that's a matter of personal preference.

If you're a real bastard DM, characters "expend" powers stolen by the Mind-Slime, meaning that they can only use them again after a short or extended rest.  Naturally, this greatly increases the Mind-Slime's threat level, although it still has to successfully use Power Drain to make this all happen.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Big Book of Slaanesh

So Nicole and I decided that we're going to write a version of the Book of Erotic Fantasy for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

We're calling it Small but Vicious Dong.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Some News for your Modern-Day Occult Conspiracy Game

When I read these stories, I had Unknown Armies in mind (naturally), but you could really use them in anything.

First, a woman, Lerina Garcia, claims to have been displaced to a different reality.  Our reality has minor differences from her own.  (Astute observers might note similarities in concepts from John Dies at the End.)  Read it here.

And some scientists are recreating the experiments of one Dr. Royal Raymond Rife who claimed he could destroy viruses through the use of electromagnetic beams.  (Naturally, one can only assume he's using SUPER-SCIENCE!)  Read it here.

Concrete Hustle

This is the distilled essence of World Pulse Remix battles:

Friday, May 4, 2012

Legend of Grimrock

So I have limited time in which to play video games anymore, but I had to grab this one.  It's called Legend of Grimrock, and it hearkens back to to the old dungeon crawlers like Arcana, Dungeon MasterEye of the Beholder, Shadowgate, and suchlike.

The premise?  The four PCs are criminals.  They are taken atop Mount Grimrock to a dungeon so remote it must be reached by airship.  They are absolved of their crimes as soon as the guards throw them into the pit that leads into the ancient dungeons underneath Mount Grimrock.  As such, they are free if they escape, but since no one has ever survived the deathtrap that is Mount Grimrock, their odds of survival seem slim.

That's it.  They start with no equipment, and have to stagger their way through the dungeon.

Personally, that's what drew me — I fell in love with the premise, and love the idea of a megadungeon used as an actual prison (despite the name, fantasy dungeons tend to have another connotation rather than historical dungeons).  It'd be a neat premise for something such as, say, a World's Largest Dungeon campaign.

Anyway, the Legend of Grimrock has a website, or you can just buy it off or Steam, or you can read about it on Wikipedia (plot spoilers ahoy!), or you can read a review on Something Awful.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wednesday Werk on Tuesday

So I'm all discombobulated, because I posted Wednesday Werk: Illigom yesterday, or as the more astute among you will note, Tuesday.

Ah, well.  I blame May Day.

So go ahead, inject a little anarchy into your day with this six-month-old post: Sharpened Hooks: The Root of All Evil.

And for those of you whose associations of May Day run more towards Beltane, here's a little something from Jonathan Coulton.  Not safe for work, and all that jazz:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Wednesday Werk: Illigom

In this week's Wednesday Werk, we'll look at the Illigom.

The Illigom are an ancient, mysterious race.  Some say they come from the Astral Sea (that's the Astral Plane for all those old cosmologists out there), while others say they have an extraplanar origin in some foreign Material Plane.

Whatever the case, hell follows the Illigom.  They cause trouble.  Some suspect the cataclysm that befell Duchy Aalsburg was caused by the Illigom, and according to rumor, the City Watch of Scandshar has standing orders to destroy any Illigom they witness within a mile of the city (some believe a couple of slave revolts in the City of Dread's history were organized by Illigom).

The Illigom are agents of change.  A lot of the cosmologists in places like the Nentir Vale or the Sorrowfell Plains have abandoned the old Good vs. Evil / Law vs. Chaos cosmology (having adopted the World Axis cosmology in its stead), but no one doubts that the Illigom serve Chaos.  Wherever they appear, they cause strife.  They foster chaos and revolution wherever they appear.  Frequently, their actions are subtle: they may heal a sick man, or place the proper words in the proper ear.

The aftermath is not subtle.  Fires burn, heroes rise, kingdoms topple.  Mao said, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun," and while that may very well be true, someone has to plant the seed of an idea first.  The Illigom do just that.

Unsurprisingly, the Illigom are rarely encountered alone, although they are typically found with those whom they are courting rather than their own kind.  (Equally unsurprisingly, Hereticwerks provided some inspiration for followers, if you find yourself out of ideas.)

The following specimen represents a typical Illigom, sowing discord and revolution among the local populace. In addition to its combat statistics, assume the Illigom Rabble-Rouser can cast rituals and achieve prophetic visions outside of combat, thusly allowing the creature to do what needs to be done.  The Illigom Rabble-Rouser will attempt to keep distance between itself and its foes, opening with Opiate of the Masses to turn the tide of battle early in a conflict.  It then uses Feeblemind when it is available and Lance of Faith when it is not.  In melee combat, it prefers to use Bite so that it may escape its dazed opponent, typically resorting to its Quarterstaff if the target is resistant to poison.  It uses its minor action for Don't Mourn, Organize! whenever that power is available.  When one of its allies becomes bloodied, it uses Cure Light Wounds as soon as it is able.

The Illigom fight intelligently, but will frequently accompany their comrades unto death as a show of solidarity. That, of course, assumes that the Illigom who started a revolution sticks around to await its end.

Addendum: It is most appropriate that I post this on May Day, although I must sadly admit that it was merely coincidence.  ¡Viva la Revolución!

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