Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Erol Otus Art Challenge

I entered in the Erol Otus Art Challenge and picked up two honorable mentions (and free loot as well). It is rather strange to have an iconical artist of D&D give your chicken scratch a look over and give a nod. This certainly exceeded my expectations and I am quite pleased.

4-5 of the entries were spot-on works for the Erol Otus era of D&D art and I look forward to the enlarged versions when they post them. I recommend taking a loot.

As a general update, I changed jobs and am also contracting at my old job. Thus the cobwebs and crickets. This project is in the 'dry polish' stage so there is not much to post anyhow. My cousin who is going to Iraq is visiting in a few days and we will likely give Valley of Blue Snails a playtest and I will make the appropriate changes. It is certianly playable now but who knows what will change after we actually play the damn thing. I am sure I will update after such.

Friday, April 17, 2009

You spy your long time love laying eggs in the wilderness one evening

These tables really have nothing to do with B/X or Valley of Blue Snails. Rather just anecdotal write-ups for my own amusement. I am fond of random tables, probably a side effect of growing up with AD&D.

Anyhow, this is the follow up to the traumatic childhood background generator. Onwards to the Traumatic Adolescent Background Generator:

COMELINESS 3d6
New ability score deriving physical appearance, roll 3d6. Discard this ability score at the end of adolescence. The memory will always haunt you however.

3 – Exiled from the village for being not of your race
4 – Ruthlessly tormented and forced to wear bag over head
5 – Beaten at random intervals for no apparent reason
6-8 – Brought along by your good-looking friends to stand next too
8-11 – Non-descript and utterly forgettable
12-14 - 1 in d4 chance to have a stalker (roll on Hirelings table)
15-16 – 1-3 in d4 chance to have a stalker (roll on Hirelings table)
17 – Ritualistically beaten by far uglier peers and family
18 – Extremely paranoid from lurid looks and random gropings from entire village

TEMPORARY WISDOM MODIFIER d6
The Wisdom for an adolescent can never be above 12. If the modified Wisdom is 0 or under, it is assumed the PC has gotten themselves killed in a spectacularly stupid manner.

1 – minus 6 (permanent injury incurred caused by lack of wisdom)
2 – minus 5 (temporary injury incurred caused by lack of wisdom)
3 – minus 4 (several scars caused by lack of wisdom)
4 – minus 3
5 – minus 2
6 – minus 1 (remarkably unscarred)

HIRELINGS d20
Aka – gullible friends. They will be available as future hirelings. Roll once unless your Charisma modifier is 0 (then you have no friends).

1 – An ill-tempered marmot capable of using tools but can not speak
2 – Friend of opposite sex, extremely attractive with no interest in you what-so-ever
3 – Lost Ogre who stays in the woods, friendly because you bring him small furry animals
4 – Disguised Fey creature entertaining himself for a few years
5 – Friend of same race, exact same interests, skills and traumas
6 – Friend of the same race, wholly inept
7 – A completely innocent, pure, and gullible friend of the same race
8 – Friend of the same race, who is better than you at just about everything
9 – A hopping bird with a smug look on its face
10 – Friend of different race, wholly inept
11 –The lone survivor of a decadent and extinct race
12 – Friend of different race, who is better than you at just about everything
13 – Some old hermit that follows you around
14 – A colony of lepers
15 – A dog that never stops barking
16 – A foreigner who can not speak your language but is remarkably loyal.
17 – The village retard with freakish strength
18 – Young orphan kid with a knack of finding snares and traps
19 – A blood-crazed and insane Knight who calls you ‘liege’
20 – A half-man half-cat that hides in your addict. Howls incessantly at the moon.

ACADEMIA d12
‘Trade skill’ is any knowledge applicable towards making a living. Fishing, begging, carpentry, pick pocketing, flogging, scribing, hole-digging, and so forth. Roll once.

1 – PC incapable of learning anything useful (hence their future career as adventurer)
2 – Trade skill learned but turns out to be wholly inept in any application
3 – Single trade skill learned and mastered
4-5 – No trade skills learned, but cursory knowledge of a great many things
6-8 – Two trade skills learned and re-roll (ignore 1)
9-10 – Two trade skills learned
11-12 – Single trade skilled learned

LANGUAGES d12
Roll as many times as your Intelligence language modifier allows (0-3 times usually). Player or DM choose the language they wish to learn, results below.

1 – Gibberish, the language was made up by a hard-up or insane instructor
2 – Language learned, but different language than intended
3 – Language learned with strangely alluring dialect
4-5 – Language learned and mastered with fluency as if born with it
6-8 – Language learned remedially, many words have entirely different meaning than what you think they do
9-10 – Language can be written and read, but unable to pronounce
11 – Language learned, and can understand all similar languages
12 –Language learned with annoying and irritating dialect

TRAUMATIC ADOLESCENT EVENTS d12
Count the number of odd dice rolls thus far. Roll on this table that many times (1-5 usually).

1 – Re-roll twice and combine the events. Ignore 1.
2 – Re-roll. You learn an appropriate trade skill from applicable event.
3-5 – Horror Event
6-8 – Romance Event
9-11 – Adventure Event
12 – Weird/Other Event

HORROR EVENT d20

1 – Head stuck in a hole in ground for 1d8 days. Something licks your legs periodically during your entrapment.
2 – Deranged hermit pulling a cart with unidentified meat follows you around at night for 1d4 years
3 – Walking barnacles abscond 1d4 members of your family and are never seen again
4 – Tawdry and irksome fey spirit prevents you from getting a good nights rest for 1d4 years
5 – Any deceased siblings or family reanimate and haunt your village periodically
6 – Another is blamed for a crime that you commit and is burned on a pyre. A revenant in a twisted amalgam of fire and that person seeks to slay you twice a year
7 – A Kalevope culls the lands around your dwelling once a year, no matter where you live
8 – A priest inadvertently turns you with his turn undead ability. It appears to effect you
9 – Strange ticks grow under you skin and must be burned out lest they multiply
10 – A wingless forest drake smashes your dwelling while you are not home and devours all inside. It used the remaining timbers for its nest
11 – A horrid Nakki drags you into its stagnant pool and forces you to clean the bones of its victims. In 1d6 years you manage to escape with many horrible tales.
12 – A water nymph enslaves you but is utterly boring. You are released 1d4 years later with few tales to tell.
13 – A group of carnivorous ape-men ransack your village leaving you as the only survivor
14 – Nomadic Frog-Yetis encamp near your village causing much horror and strife for 1d6 months. By the time they leave over half of the village is dead or maimed.
15 – You are enslaved by the Carpmen of Raelenac and forced to scrape abalone shells on a Meglo-Coy for 1d4 years before escaping.
16 – A small but playful Trent ensnares your legs in its roots. It does not release you for 1d4 months.
17 – You fall down a sinkhole permeated with the remnants of Vaunderfel, the Great Spring. You age in reverse until reborn into a different being (re-roll stats and race). This occurs within 1d4 months time and none recognize you after.
18 – Desert raiders enslave your village forcing you to act as pack animals. You escape 1d6 years later.
19 – An old and forgotten being of enormous power is released from its bygone prison by your meddling. It promises to repay you someday, searing your mind as it communicates.
20 – While sleeping in the wilderness you get enveloped by a Sky-Shell and live within a pocket of air and fluids inside of the creature for 1d6 months before escaping.

ROMANCE EVENT d20

1 – You have absolutely no romance in your adolescence and are mocked ceaselessly by your peers
2 – Desert raiders abscond you into slavery, forcing you act as a pleasure slave in the profane Ziggurats of the Man-Bull. You are released 1d4 years later. Gain a trade skill.
3 – The sexually frustrated Elf maids from the Village of Two Stars kidnap and fight with one another over mating rituals for 1d4 years. Still unresolved, you eventually escape.
4 – A moonlight date to some abandoned ruins result into running for life from crazed flesh-eating Halflings. Your date has 1 in d4 chance of escaping and naming you hero.
5 – A walk on the shores of nearby lake with your date results in a tribe of intelligent sand-crabs worshiping you both as a god.
6 – A winged fey creature becomes infatuated with you for 1d4 years, following you day and night
7 – Your hireling falls madly in love with you (applicable if you rolled on the hireling table, otherwise re-roll)
8 – You are forced into an arrange marriage by your family, roll for race and birthright of new family
9 – You fall madly in love with a Knights squire. The belligerent Knight hates you at first sight. They quickly travel away but you vow to find them one day (squire can be male or female or any race)
10 – An orphan vagrant falls madly in love you with and follows you around until death
11 – You find a potential mate to be amazingly beautiful and attractive. Everyone else you speak with talks about this person as if they are the ugliest person in the village
12 – The one you love cares not for you. An ancient family text speaks of a mushroom from the Great Rot that will infatuate all who look upon you should you devour it. A map of the location of where these mushrooms can be found are located in the book.
13 – A rival courtier of the one you love challenges you to a duel. You accept and accidentally geld the person. None in the village will be seen with you now.
14 – A wizard/sorceress falls in love you with you and is constantly changing their shape into alluring forms to gain your love.
15 – When finally alone with your date, you inexplicable turn into a fox-beast and attempt to devour them. None believe the tale.
16 – A wayward spirit steals a part of your spirit. You can feel no love nor lust until you retrieve it from them.
17 – You awake one morning married in Astrumdantalas with a mate of ill-repute whom you never recall meeting.
18 – An ogre of the opposite sex finds you and drags you off to their cave. You barely escape the event, but still hear forlorn cries from that area of the wilderness to this day.
19 – You awake most mornings with smallish fey creatures cuddled against you. They leave tiny offerings of flowers, sweet food and perfumes.
20 – You spy your long time love laying eggs in the wilderness one evening.

ADVENTURE EVENT d20

1 – The PC finds a nest with an opal-eyed fox in it. The fox follows the PC around and attempts to remove the skin from my other humanoids its comes across
2 – You follow some singing in the distance and find several of the village females dancing and singing around huge nodding toad. The women flee if confronted, but the toad-thing speaks to you of fantastic adventures to the far south.
3 – You find a pole in the wilds that climbs higher than you see. You climb it as far as you can but it appears to be endless.
4 – While traveling six screaming men run past you with ruined clothing and smoldering hair. One of them drops a half-burned tome that speaks of an underground desert.
5 – A traveling Bard plays a song of a Bard trapped in a keep who is forced to play music to keep an angry tribe of man-eating bears asleep. The next day when you speak of the Bard none know what or who you speak of.
6 – While swimming in a lake you find a large tablet of polished coral. You drag it up the surface and see upon it a miniature city of incredible detail. The city appears to be abandoned but you see tiny sculptures of minuscule shrimp among the coral.
7 – After stealing a shield from a wandering Knight, a magic mouth follows you endlessly insulting you in many strange tongues. A wizard agree to remove the magic mouth, but only if you find him some rare grasses from the Valley of Endless Summer.
8 – A colony of lepers imposes themselves into the center of town unless the PC find them a new home.
9 – The fields of rye turn ashen and start to rot from the ground up. On your land you find a small cave leading under the fields of rye.
10 – As penance for committing an act of heresy, the local Priest-Lord send you on a quest to find an ancient knight an honorable death in combat. He puts emphasis on ‘honorable’. (Gain ancient knight as henchman until he has found an honorable death)
11 – A troupe of Marggots build a carnival some miles away and the village sends you to find out what it is all about.
12 – A fetid and diseased rhino stumbles near your home. When dealing with the creature it vomits a ruby encrusted bracer (value 500g). When worn the PC hears faint chuckling.
13 – A huge flightless birds runs into your dwelling, takes your most valuable possession in its beak and flees and blurring speed. You track it the best you can but you only know it headed towards a thicket of foreboding woods that none enter.
14 – While near a waterfall you think you saw a pair of feline eyes behind it. Exploring behind the water fall you see a crevice that sinks into the depths. You also find a huge discarded cat-claw larger than you are.
15 – While looking for a camping site you come across a meadow with a dozen Dwarves that appear to be sleeping. They all are simply overcome with lethargy and stare upwards. When you look upwards you see a low hanging cloud with a near invisible rope hanging down.
16 – A theater troupe stages a play that insults the local lord. All are due to be executed in a week unless they can make the lord laugh. They are all foreigners who can not speak the native language. Only you can translate for them.
17 – A group of pygmies wearing feather-clothing jumps out as you walk on a road and toss spears at you, some wounding you. When they hear your angry cries they flee up the tall trees. You can see platforms in the high canopy.
18 – A PC is given the deed to a pawn-shop in a nearby city. The store is in complete shambles, vagrants often use it to sleep in, and a crazy dwarf lives in the walls.
19 – A crazed Tyrannosaurus assault your village and you miraculously defeat with legendary bravery and guile. The local lord is so impressed he sends you on mission after mission of nearly suicidal quests.
20 – A half-man half-raccoon stumbles towards you camp, lets out and chattering sound then tosses a pouch of regurgitated seeds in your lap. Before you can respond it flees to a taboo vale that none enter.

WEIRD/OTHER EVENT d20

1 – A fey creature leaves a child at your door step. (if taken) the child grows to adulthood in 1d4 years, looking exactly like you
2 – While working you see a cat standing on a strange pillow that flies above the ground. If followed it eventually lifts off high into the night sky
3 – While in a drunken brawl, a wounded friend appear to be bleeding water. When closely inspected they flee. When met the following day they pass it off as you being drunk
4 – A sullen painter asks you to pose for a portrait. After a few hours he starts screaming and runs off never to be seen again. The painting is of you sitting upon a bronze throne with ruby-eyed imps prostrating themselves at your feet
5 – You find a Cudgel like weapon wrought from fossilized wood embedded in the side of a hill The Cudgel is larger than your dwelling
6 – Your friend swears on his life that he saw the chair in his room beat the snot out of his table. His table appears to be in shambles and the chair looks remarkably smug
7 – When coming home one day you find a group of six trilobites carrying your (most valuable possession) under your dwelling
8 – A saber-tooth cat will periodically jump on your back out of no where, give you a quick mauling, and then scamper off leaving only superficial wounds
9 – After bathing in a small pond of tranquil and serene water your notice your hair is remarkably full, flowing and vibrant. It grows quickly past your shoulders and the slightest wind bellows it heroically
10 – After traveling to a cave you once found when a child, you find a skeleton of a child. Long since dead, a pair old cloths it wore that appear exactly like the ones that you once owned
11 – You find a tomb made of fossilized wood with strange glyphs carved upon it. After studying the glyphs you think you can read it, but hear ghostly sounds when you start to do so
12 – While traveling on a long forgotten road you come across a coaching-inn. You open the door and see fey and goblinoid creatures enraptured in a wild scene of debauchery and unspeakable acts. You flee but the scene in seared into your mind
13 – In your travels you find a huge flowering plant with a large silver sphere in the center of the flower. (if removed) The orb transforms into a malicious leprechaun that torments you at in opportune times with song and dance
14 – You find a geyser that erupts erratically, sometimes days, sometimes months apart. When showered by the geyser you gain great insights (+1d4 Int and Wis for 1 week).
15 – While tracking your lost horse, you find a tar infested canyon hidden in the wilds. Deep within you find your horse being eaten by a diseased and featherless Ruhk.
16 – You awake one morning with your feet painted red an a adorned crook at your side (value 150g). Occasionally you can see odd looking crickets in the trees above you peering in your direction.
17 – A carpet of rolling moss implants false memories into your head as you walk upon it. (roll again on the Adolescence Events Table, this event is merely a false memory)
18 – A small duck billed Hadrosaurid will periodically approach you when it thinks you are asleep and clean any parasites from your skin and hair. This is strangely soothing and does not wake you.
19 – After using a bar of soap given to you by a Dwarven trader, all of your body hair falls out. If eaten, the soap changes your gender.
20 – Lichen grows prolifically on a notably comfortable pair of boots you own and must be scraped daily to be kept clean. The lichen is eatable albeit not very tasty.

I am not sure if I will delve into adult events or not. I am getting a bit loopy after that last batch, and lets face it, adult life is boring anyhow.

Entry - One Page Dungeon Creation Contest

I am generally a sucker for contests so I recently did a write up for one floating around the OD&D blogs. Here is my submission to the One Page Adventure Design Contest. My submission is streamlined version of a homebrew adventure which I've had decent fun running several times in the past year. Also I'm a bit lazy in drawing new maps so that is another factor in not doing something on the spot.

As for the promotion, I like the idea for the 1-page adventures but in all honesty I find the format to be uninspired. It is a simple 'big map here' 'other crap every where else' with no formatting to speak of. I tend to be more creative with limitations so honestly things like word count, font type, strict layout would have been a favor to me.

So, what is a good 1-page adventure? The box set From the Ashes came with about 30 or so 1-page adventures that were terrific. Some I still use some to this day. Too bad the format in the contest can't really cater to this plot-heavy type of adventures. It seems like it is simply old-school for old-school sake rather than being practical.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A fire-breathing were-mammoth destroys half the village while calling your name

Yes, slow day at work today so this is my 'Traumatic Childhood Background PC Generator'. Perhaps I will work up an adolescent and adult events one day.. anyhow this is for childhood events.

So grab some dice and start rolling:

RACE d4
1 – Human 2 - Elf 3 – Dwarf 4 – Halfling

SEX (use roll above)
If your dice is to the right of you, Male. To the left, Female.

CLASS d4
1 – Fighter 2 – Magic User 3- Thief 4 - Cleric

ALIGNMENT (use roll above)
Light colored dice, good. Dark colored, evil. Mid-tone, Neutral.

SOCIETY d10
1 – Lost/Alien
2 - Decadent
3 - Nomadic
4 - Tribal
5 - Hierarchical
6 - Autocratic
7 - Feudal
8 - Communal
9 - Progressive
10 – Re-roll twice and combine. Ignore 10.

BIRTHRIGHT d10
1 – Slave/Exile
2 - Serf
3 – Lowborn Commoner
4 – Highborn Commoner
5 - Merchant
6 - Guilder
7 - Craftsmen
8 - Clergy
9 - Nobility
10 – Re-roll twice and combine. Ignore 10.

FAMILY d10
Even – Both parents alive
1 – Both parents dead
3 – Mother dead
5 – Father dead
7 – Bastard child
9 –No family, raised on the streets/wilds
D8-1 for Siblings, 8s are re-rolled twice and added.

TRAUMATIC CHILDHOOD EVENTS d12
Count the number of odd dice rolls thus far. Roll on this table that many times (1-5 usually).
1 – Re-roll twice and combine the events. Ignore 1.
2 – Re-roll. This occurred but the PC blocks the memory out.
3-5 – Conflict Event
6-8 – Criminal Event
9-11 – Adventure Event
12 – Weird/Other Event

CONFLICT EVENT d20
1 – Re-roll event, this event results in the characters death. Re-roll character
2 – Chagmen rampage your homeland stealing all pre-teen males (yourself included if male). You are to blame for enraging the Chagmen. (all male siblings die)
3 – Giant leeches erupt from the ground killing those to slow to flee. You are to blame for awakening the leeches. (1d4 siblings die)
4 – A headless Giants smashes every building in your village, except for yours.
5 – Your homeland was surrounded and starved by the Ladoga Imperial Army for 1d10 years.(1d4 siblings die)
6 – An army of semi-intelligent forest animals rampages through your homeland. Your people blame you.
7 – A belligerent drunk starts a riot that burns your village to the ground. The drunk is your closest family member/friend.
8 – A family of Tuehni live in your basement for 1d4 years, occasionally dragging the unwary to their doom.(1d4 siblings die)
9 – A swarm of hundreds of Molletuesks lay their eggs in your homeland. It is said you are to blame.
10 – The Elf Village of Ten Winds slays every able-bodied man in your village looking for the acorn of the World Tree that you stole from them.
11 – An small army of Fionn riding Toucans raiding your village cutting and stealing the dwellers hair. You are the only survivor with their hair unscathed.
12 – After you insult a stranger, the stranger uses an Oculus power to burn your village to the ground.(1d4 siblings die)
13 – A cadre of Dwarven clergy men defile every holy place in your village due to your presence.
14 – A walking tree chases you throughout the village after you angered its spirit. Nothing grows where it chased you to this day.
15 – A small army of water-monkeys steals everything metallic and shiny from your village after you stole a shiny stone from their stone pile.
16 – A fire-breathing were-mammoth destroys half the village while calling your name.(1d6 siblings die)
17 – A swarm of Marggots raid your village, feasting upon its children. You are the lone child survivor.
18 – The Walking Stone completely obliterates your village as it chases you through your homeland.(1d8 siblings die)
19 – A herd of decaying and water-logged horses erupt from the river and hunt you ruthlessly after you toss some salt into their river. Most of the village is destroyed.(1d6 siblings die)
20 – Re-roll twice and combine events. Ignore duplicate results.

CRIMINAL EVENT d20
1 – The PC is accosted for brigandage. The PC is forced to wear iron boots for 1d4 years.
2 – The PC is accosted for begging in the presence of a noble. The PC is forced to wear a halter for 1d10 days and walk through the streets of his homeland.
3 – PC is accosted for piracy and transfer of illicit slaves. The PC is racked for 7 days and nights. The PC is 1 inch taller.
4 – The PC is accosted for stealing dog food. PC is placed in a rat cage with 2d12 rats for 1d10 days.
5 – The PC is accosted for strangling small animals. PC is hanged until unconsciousness every day for 7 days.
6 – The PC is accosted for attempted murder of a high noble. The PC miraculously escape before certain death and starts a new life. Re-roll Society and Birthright.
7 – The PC is accosted for arson. PC is seared with boiling oil.
8 – The village witch accuses the PC of angering the spirits. The PC is lashed for 3 days and so is the witch.
9 – The PC is accosted for raiding the royal harem. They are chemically gelded. The PC is now a eunuch.
10 – The PC is accosted for horse theft. The PC released after the horse steals a child and is later captured and put down.
11 – The PC is accosted for capturing and bottling fey creatures. The PC is placed in a brass tub and soaked in rotten fluids for 1d6 days.
12 – The PC befriends a kindly blacksmith who later turns out to be Medlacklon the Black Vile, an infamous assassin. The PC is released out of fear.
13 – The PC is accosted to defiling holy relics. The PC is magically compelled to only tell truths.
14 – The PC is accosted for sedition. The laws of the kingdom are written upon the PCs flesh and remain to this day.
15 – The PC blatantly slays the village bully in a fit of rage. No one knows this.
16 – The PC is accosted for heresy after a water nymph follows the PC where ever they go and seduces all in her wake. The PC is later acquitted after the judge is seduced.
17 – The PC is accosted for horse mangling after a noble tramples the PC and lames his horse. The PC is imprisoned and beaten daily by the noble for 1d4 years.
18 – The PC is accosted for counterfeiting. The PCs hands were binded for 1d4 years with a coin in each.
19 – The PC beats a bully child only to find out the child is the disguised Prince of the realm. A large stone is tied to the PCs waist and they must drag it for 1d6 years.
20 – Re-roll twice and combine events. Ignore duplicate results. The PC is entirely innocent of said crimes.

ADVENTURE EVENT d20
1 – The PC finds a Chagmen who offers the PC a large sapphire if the PC bring him a child to devour. If the PC accepts, the gem is worth 2000gp but the child ghost haunts him.
2 – The PC finds a large leathery egg on the beach of a large lake. The PC kept it safe for years but the egg has not changed nor hatched (yet..).
3 – The PC sets off to kill mice for an odd job. After setting a trap the PC finds a mouse with a hat, a tiny crossbow and a tiny belt. The mouse speaks and offers the PC treasure if they free him. (If they agree) The mouse gives the PC thousands of tiny gold coins, value, 1gp.
4 – A Halfling mistress of Gnaeun accosts and marries the PC in a strange land. The PC is later released and wanders back home, only left with the words that she will return for them at a later date.
5 – The PC finds a underground chasm that leads to a underground valley still carrying the full effects of The Great Rot. Occasionally the PC sees walking mushrooms following them.
6 – A rotting river otter corpse follows the PC home one day, scratching at his window and door then scampering away when confronted. Eventually the corpse is found outside the PCs window unmoving. A silver otter amulet is clutched in its jaws, value, 200gp.
7 – A lone knight crosses paths with the PC while on the road. The knight speaks of the PCs eventual heroic deeds and honor before riding off. A few days later the PC sees the knight ‘s image on a mausoleum in his travels, apparently a Paladin who perished an age ago.
8 – A rancid behemoth hippo attacks the PCs village and the PC lured it away. Unfortunately the thing dwells under a well used bridge cutting off the main road too and from the town.
9 – The PC accidentally released a group of desiccated Halflings from a bygone barrow. The Halfling Ghouls stalk the village and terrorize the entire area.
10 – The PC finds a man in rich garbs in the deep woods being strangled by a feathered imp-creature. The PC scares off the imp but the man is dead. A book on the man contains information on spells and ritual to conjure creatures from other places.
11 – The PC finds a bush with plump orange leaves which are edible. The PC seems impervious to sickness if they consume at least one per week. Only the PC knows where this plant is.
12 – The PC finds a piece of ice that never melts. When carried the PC feels as if they are being watched.
13 – The PC find a large tar pit and strange fey creatures appear to live within. They have invited the PC into the pit to see their home but the PC has yet to accept.
14 – A traveling Elf maid gives the PC an orchid plant. The orchid never changes and is perpetually pointing towards one direction, even if turned or moved. If the Orchid is followed like a compass, it leads to a strange and wondrous place leagues away.
15 – The PC finds a lone bolder marbled with lapis. Before the PC can take any, a deer-spirit emerges and begs the PC to leave it. (if heeded) A yellow deer can be seen in the distance when the PC is in the wilds. (if ignored) Gain 1500gp in lapis.
16 – One hundred fat hamsters scamper across the road when the PC is traveling. If followed they dive into a sinkhole writhing through mud and compost. The PC follows the narrow path and finds an underground ziggurat on a miniature scale.
17 – The PC came face to face with the dread wurm Haecern while on the roads. The wurm demanded tribute but when the PC had little to offer, the wurm only mentioned it would ask again one day.
18 – In a pile of family books the PC comes across a map of an island west of Kaboria. This island is not listed on any other map the PC has found. Scrawled across the map in giant letters reads 'BEWARE THE PARROTS!'.
19 – An uncle visits the PC and tells them grand tales of adventure in the southern lands of Saltwhisker Glens. The uncle speaks of a Marggot King who owes him his life and says to speak his name should they travel to there.
20 – The PC is dragged away by a group of cat-men and taken to a desert city where the PC is forces to dance and juggle. After many months the PC escaped and find their way home, but none believe their tale.

WEIRD/OTHER EVENT d20
1 – Perfectly normal childhood. The PCs peers mock the child for his normalcy.
2 – Every morning the PC wakes up and finds a silver piece under their head, as well as a splitting headache.
3 – PC is ruthlessly hunted by Dwarven slave-traders for an unknown reason. The Dwarves have a very annoying war cry they scream when ever they see the PC, 'Vbblalalalbalalalalbala!'
4 – Rats and other vermin hate the PC and attack on sight. Other animals find the PCs skin very tasty.
5 – Strange words appear in the PCs mind when they dream and the PC can usually remember them. If spoken aloud nearby spirits take notice.
6 – The PC dreams of another life and other experiences. Generate another entirely new character for the PCs alter ego in this dream world. At some point of time the personalities will switch.
7 – Halfling precognition is always blank in areas where the PC should be. This greatly unsettles Halflings.
8 – Once per full moon a lead tablet with the PCs name will appear near them during the night. Should this tablet be harmed in any way, the PC will suffer the applicable effects as well.
9 – A crow will occasionally follow the PC and bark guttural words that appear to mock the current situation.
10 – When ever the PC has broken an egg, someone very close to that PC has died.
11 – A pearl button seems to appear on the PC clothing, no matter what they are wearing. Random buttons the PCs apparel are usually missing as well.
12 – The PC gains a sense of inexplicable serenity when pointing towards the north-east. The PC gains a feeling of loathing when pointed another direction.
13 – Occasionally when the PC is alone in the wilds, a talking hedge lizard will roam near the PC and gives them non-sense advice.
14 – After the PC was beaten ruthlessly with cattails by a group of fey, the PC seems to never get hungry and must be reminded to eat or else starve to death.
15 – Ashes appear in the PCs footsteps after they commit an evil act.
16 – When drunk, the PC can see and communicate with spirits, much to the chagrin of the spirits.
17 – The PC can play any instrument even though they have never learned how.
18 – The PC can speak and communicate with moving machinery. The machinery completely lacks humor or sarcasm but is fond of well-oiled puns.
19 – The PC is compelled to travel to Nifflaer during the Lightless Day of Loksos and dance naked for days on end.
20 – The PC is not actually of his race, but their form was forced upon them as punishment for some prior transgression. The DM should instead create another race for the PC which was their original form and former life.

Appropriate phobias, nightmares, paranoia, nervous twitching, and likelihood to burst into tears at random times should likewise be recorded.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Cleric Rationale


Rationalizing Clerics has troubled me since starting Valley of Blue Snails, and I have thus far avoided the issue by skirting over all but the most basic details. Naturally this has to end as I am sewing up some loose ends as I am putting together a working copy of the rules and setting. I have about a month left however, which is enough time for some new ideas.

One idea I have been messing with is using a pantheon war between four or five pantheons. The pantheons would likely be fairly straight forward with vastly different agendas and philosophies. Naturally they come into conflict with one another and use their mortal power-base to wipe each other out. So which pantheons? I am not sure yet, but I need something that would have constant conflict within civilization. My first inclinations (and cheesy names off the top of my head):

Fiorse (Finnic/Norse) - Finnic and Norse have similar themes, stories and philosophies. A lot of the gods themselves are practically interchangeable. Hierarchical but independently motivated with vying agendas. Generally have the best interest of themselves and the world at heart.

Egyines - (
Egyptian/Chinese) - Foreign pantheon encroaching on the civilized areas of the campaign. Thus while they are definitely human/humanoid, they have very different and alien philosophies. Similar to above with a hierarchical map of gods, although their vision of good/evil and right and wrong are vastly different.

Paragons - Each race has a paragon deity(or deities) which embodies the archetype of that race. They will have their own pantheon and it will include everything from humans to elves to fey to dragons to were-elephants. The deities are equally powerful and quite potent. They however rarely work together and only have the best interest of their patron race to care for.

Nehmerian - (Nehwon/Cimmerian) - These gods are identifiable as human or humanoid but usually more eccentric and defiantly more rogue. They have no organization and battle with each other as often as other pantheons. This is the largest 'pantheon', at least by sheer numbers of deities. This is the home of the 'failed' Paragons as well.

'Old Gods' - This will blanket anything that is not above including primeval deities, deities from long ago, elemental or natural force deities, loathsome unfathomable deities, and just about anything else that does not fit in.

The most important thing is that they fight with one another considerably. And so a good reasons for mace wielding, spell casting, holy warriors to be around. They would naturally vie with other pantheons foremost, and with each other secondarily. Temples would be erected either towards an entire pantheon or specific deities. Specific deities mostly, although other deities of the same pantheon could certainly be worshiped there, at least if the first few examples above.

Deities that are clearly historical will use a thinly veiled disguises with a name change and perhaps some small changed to fit the setting. Most of the others I will make up on the fly. Individual Clerics would support a specific deity first, and pantheon secondarily. They would fully be expected to battle on the front lines using martial skills in combination with divine magics.

The gods themselves are strictly tied to their nature and simply do not know how to behave otherwise. This makes them have little reason to interfere directly with mortals, unless it is simply to fuck with them. Most mortals are far too unpredictable for gods, sort of like a shovel with a hose for a handle. Gods will usually only speak to the most obedient and best trained priests who act as close to them as they possible - and so these priest end up being the most powerful. The gods are also not omnipotent; they may have prophecies to share but can not tell for sure what the future will hold. Gods frequently make mistakes when they delve into things that are not in their nature - and so most gods loath to do so. Gods can understand what all mortals say but can not listen to their minds. Lastly gods can and do die.

Anyhow, some of this will likely change as I mull it over. Perhaps drastically if I come up with something better.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Winding Down and Setting Design as a Hobby

The bulk of the rule modifications and setting material is more or less complete. As a writer it I think it is important to know when to 'call it', and move on to the next step. One of the reasons I am using the B/X ruleset is because it is unrestraining and well suited to an open-ended world. I do not want to over develop it. It should be loose guidelines of what is where with a lot of sandbox material to play in as the players go. Anything further would be diminishing returns I would think, since the players have a good chance to never see it. As of right now I am fairly happy with the amount of material that is done and it should be an ample amount to rake fresh characters over the proverbial coals.

That said, the posts here will likely dwindle greatly as I concentrate on the fairly dry tasks of assembling the mess I've created in the past three months. This will include a lot of rewriting, organizing, editing and smashing it all together to form a single book 'Valley of Blue Snails'. A one stop rules/campaign setting, hopefully ready to go by the May Iraq deployment date. None of this process will be very interesting to share so I will not do so. I may do a few new articles (the two remaining great seasons, a cleric write up) but they should be uncommon at this point. Hopefully in MayI will simply post the PDF when its ready and stick a fork in it in this construction project.

Thereafter this blog will highlight the actual campaign as it goes and I will fill future setting details as the player(s) stumble across strange lands, high adventure, and butter supple loins.


I have a few notes in reflection, notably regarding setting design as a hobby:

I suppose part of the reason that I have worked on Valley of Blue Snails is that it is a hobby in of itself. It is not all preparation for a campaign, although that was definitely a motivating factor to get some actual work done (ie Iraq deployment date). It is quite possible that I will spend far, far more time doing the labor and toil than actually playing the game. Granted I hope this is not necessarily the case; but it is foreseeable that the setting sees very limited play for one reason or another. There is war going on after all.

I won't belabor the point since I don't want to give the wrong impression that I think this would be some horrible thing. I'm having fun designing my little maps and trivial lore. I'm sure I will use the better bits in whatever I run or play in. Even if I don't it was fun to write them and generally explore some ideas that I've been mulling over.

In retrospect I would change a few things from the get-go and move towards a more open approach to setting design. Preconceived notions seem to stifle creativity and I am surely caught up in that mix to some extent. I started from the ground up (B/X rules, 4 races) instead of the top down (And then there was light, what else is out there?). I should have taken the top down approach as I am sure I would have arrived at some more interesting conclusions rather than dipping into my prior gaming repertoire to fill in the blanks.

The closest thing that comes to mind in treating the actual game design as its own hobby is probably Traveler. DMs and players for that matter almost certainly spent far more time generating characters, ships, worlds, systems and so forth than actually playing. Traveler summed it up as so:
  • The Solitaire Game: One player undertakes some journey or adventure alone. He or she handles the effects of the rules as the situation progresses. [...] In addition, there are many aspects ideally suited to solitaire consideration. A single player can spend time generating characters, designing starships, generating worlds and subsectors, planning situations, and mapping out ideas to use in later group scenarios.
Note that this is reflected as its own game rather than simple preparation. And it is, I would recommend it to almost anyone with interest in D&D, old and new, or any general role-playing. Get to it and don't dilly-dally around. I know I would be interested and inspired with setting material that other people come up with who are more creative and talented than I.



Thursday, March 26, 2009

A few NPCs

Locations and NPCs I prefer to dole out in small allotments rather than attempting to do them all at once or do them on the fly. A few that may make an appearance.

Miviel, the Hands of Twin Cinders - A well known Sheriff known for his lust and remarkable fighting style with a dagger in each hand.

The Dweller in the Pit - Unfathomably ugly Dwarf that lives in the Miasma Pit of Klormb. He is said to be 1000 years old.

Romine, the Shield of Lime - A half-man half-bear who honorably carried out the will of Selecuid. Ostracized by most civilizations.

The Selfish Braggart Hothir - Well known warrior with an endless assortment of tall tales, some of them perhaps true.

Juilio, the Fleecing Shadow - Middle aged woman, thief and killer. Follows a strange cult in reverence to the Great Rot.

Coycoy, the Resting Magi - Wizard from distant lands who makes him home on the Plateau of Gnaeun. The Halfling women keep a wide berth from his citadel.

Twice Born Reguln - Renowned prophet and miracle worker. Said to raise the dead and died himself, only to return to his faith to serve once more.

Larnis the Clipper - Lecherous old man but remarkably skilled pickpocket.

Seilnoon of the Moons Edge - A lone Elf maid who sit near a lake during full moons. It is said she can be several place at once.

Gluberlane the Carnal - Grotesquely fat giant with insatiable thirsts for all carnal things. Endlessly seeking for exotic and forbidden pleasures.

Thrymil, the Settled King - Dwarf King dwelling among the Halfling of Neorn as their Lord.

Brother Cabil Douern - Elf brother struggling with his kin over the leadership in the Pearpines. His bastard brother lacks a claim for the throne but is far more popular.

Brother Vesper Douern - Bastard brother to Cabil, and romantic warrior. One of the few Elf men driven by passion, and has the heart of legions of Elf warrior women.

The Staring Child - Prophetic Halfling child who never blinks with a powerful Oculus. Said to see the future in perfect clarity.

Kaetlin, of Three Lodges - Dwarf maid who bludgeoned a Halfling Sheriff to death with an ale stien. Now an unwilling Dwarf folk-hero whom the Halflings resent.

Pereglorg, the Wizard Archeon - Powerful Wizard-Lord who dwells in the Shedding Peaks. A race of long-furred Muskrats serve him loyally.

Ulfius, the Fasting Knight - Viciously cruel and skilled knight known for his hatred in all things fey.

Kessel the Napper - Named for her propensity to rest with the abnormally large sheep-hounds, Kessel is known well as a hound trainer and breeder.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mageai and Sea of Boulders

Southwest of Orobia is a pitted vale stretching the distance from the Orobian highlands to the western gulf. This span is over 100 miles in length and is known as the Caustic Plains or the Sea of Boulders. It is an inhospitable place that is laden with round boulders of all sizes, ranging from the size of a small house to a pebble. This creates a virtual maze of crags, canyons, pitfalls and other broken hazards. Sulfurous plumes seep into the landscape and create a perpetual low hanging fog near ones feet and a damn caustic footing. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Sea of Boulders is the dark sheet of thick glass it is apparently sitting upon. Under the fog, under the boulders, and under the sand an endless sheet of thick smoky glass sits sturdy and ageless. In some places where the terrain can be cleared the glass can be seen clearly; meters thick, dark, swirling, with movement underneath, and seemingly unbreakable.

The terrain of the Sea of Boulders is free from grasses, shrubs or other low hanging plants. Spindly tree do reach up in some areas with foliage attached only to the very top. The most noticeable creatures are the Rock Tossers, bipedal tusked behemoths which move boulders in search of smaller creatures to devour. They do so by leveraging their tusks against the ground and boulder and shifting it weight while their flabby trunk reaches under to grab any morsels.

Smaller creatures have also adapted to the sulfurous fog and call the plains their home. Most are poisonous to eat or even touch. Swarms of putrid toads, lithe fog-snakes, boulder morays, sticky yellow slugs, furred flight-less birds and a plethora of other strange beings eek out a defiant existence. Lichens, molds and yellow toadstools often grow under boulders or in the damp crags. Few humanoids travel within but it is known that a few oasis are cast into the deeper areas of the plains, usually in large sinkholes with fresh water at the bottom.

One of these is Mageai, a small Dwarf village in a particularly large sinkhole. The sulfurous fog seep into the sinkhole but apparently is drained down into the crevasses. Water leaks from the side of the sinkhole and makes the appearance of constant light rain on the bottom. No more than 100 Dwarves dwell here and they are a paranoid and primitive lot suck in the age of bronze and copper. They will trade with peaceful travelers but it is difficult to attain their trust and most are not allowed to come inside their sinkhole home.

The Dwarves know of the thick glass that lay under the Sea of Boulders and say that another world lay beyond it. They believe it is taboo to travel under the glass but are well aware of several entrances, one of which is their own sinkhole home where the crevasse reach under the glass. The Dwarves also know of a handful of other breaks in the deep reaches of the Sea of Boulders, although they do not speak of such information and often intentionally hide these entrances. Once the Dwarves fully trust a visitor, that visitor is assumed to be a part of the village and is obliged to all manner of strange traditions, rituals and knowledge. Those who betray their trust are quickly exiled to the world under the glass and usually never heard from again.

What lay under the glass is a matter of speculation. No reliable accounts exist and no known explorers have returned from such a journey. It can only be said that glass extends throughout the Sea of Boulders and perhaps beyond under the mountains and under the sea as well.


This is loosely based upon the Moeraki Boulders. I had a distinct sense of deja'vu when I wrote this up. I looked over previous articles to see if repeated any ideas but did not see any. Hopefully I did not do so. I generally am prolific enough that I often forget what I previously wrote leading to the occasional contradictions. I suppose that is what editing is for when I eventually put the thing together.

Monday, March 23, 2009

- OF THIEVES

Journal of Khazrel Nakhu “Journey to the Cities Afar” 32’s93

- OF THIEVES

“Let me be clear about one thing before I bedraggle my readers through the loathsome pits of skulduggery. When I speak of Thieves I do not use the term loosely to anyone finds their ways gravitating towards crime rather than honest toil. Wither it encompass offenses such as burglary, embezzlement, larceny, looting, robbery, mugging, trespassing, shoplifting, intrusion, deception, and criminal conversion (though consider a bad pun to be a theft of my time). Such folk that willfully act out such things are often the most wretched of people with few redeeming qualities. Whatever motivation they have, most sorts lack any sort of prosperity in their life, driven by petty impulses, and many are short lived.”

“And then there is an entirely other sort, which is the Thief. One that perhaps walked the same trails of these criminals, but is something more than them. I have met many folk who were skilled in many things. I once knew a manling archer who used his bow so often and was so skillfully, watching him pluck a bow was nothing short of magical. The speed, delivery, and accuracy was a singular fluid motion of perfection. Some Thieves are of this ilk and are far removed from their lecherous criminal brethren. It is these folk that I both admire and fear, and I dug deep into my reserves of bravery to learn more of them in my travels.”

“It is no coincidence that I sought the Thieves in the city of Astrumdantalas, the Opal of the World, the great Free City. I used nearly every connection that I had to see the cities inner workings and perhaps gain an unhealthy amount of knowledge within. I surmise that many of the most skilled Thieves come here to find a measure of prosperity and camaraderie that they could not find else where. It is no secret that the city operated with a number of guilds, councils and merchant troupes. I can only image what I do not know about the city. Astrumdantalas is one of the few places where such men openly organize and are in fact a both balancing power and an important tool for the Scryers Guild.”

“Once they knew of my interests, I was invited to a sect known as Eight Aerlin which is a member of the larger collective Thieves Guild. I was most respectful and forthright about my writings and I think they appreciated the boldness. Among them met many unassuming folk who could pass easily for a baker, a farmer, a clothier, a charcoal burner and so forth. All highly skilled Thieves and single minded professionals. It was here that I learned that this sect operates as a part of the Thieves Guild but separate as far as organization and operations. From what I gathered there is no single ‘Thieves Guild’, but rather it is a vague term for a collection of professionals, similar to any craftsmen guild. Sects come and go, unworthy upstarts are quickly snuffed out, and most true sects are well aware of boundaries, politics, and rivals. They are similar to large families and control territory. “

“Unlike petty criminal organizations, they rarely vie with one another over territory as it is usually passed on from generation to generation, from city to city and realm to realm. Astrumdantalas itself is merely the fulcrum for the organization; a place to find new talent, resolve disputes, find jobs, and otherwise organize. I was told that one of the most difficult things for a sect to accomplish is finding new skilled members. I suppose this is why so many make the pilgrimage to Astrumdantalas. While I was not privy to where Eight Aerlin operated originally, I did learn that it had a dozen members, most of whom where human, and that they operated in conjunction with the Scryers Guild.”

“The two seem to have a symbiotic relationship. The Scyers Guild trades in all kinds of knowledge, and the Thieves Guild attains particular bits that they need. In turn the nobles and great lords cultivate the Scyers information for an assortment of needs; from predicting the future, to usurping a rival’s throne. By no means is this the Thieves Guild only source of revenue, but it is usually one that they tend to nurture and not sully for petty reasons.”

“Just about all manner of folk could employ a Thief for a variety of reasons, and Thieves themselves cover the full gambit of demeanor and personalities. Some will only steal from wealthy Halfling Merchants, others still will merely track and follow important peoples. Others are heartless killers who will snap a child’s neck without a second thought. All have desired talents and ones price is purely on the behest of the Thieves reputation, thus most Thieves rarely back out on a deal or sully their name. Even law enforcement will seek out skilled Thieves if they are particularly befuddled, as Thieves have a knack at unusual means to accomplish their goals.”

"Not all Thieves are guilded. Most novice Thieves must earn a name for themselves to rise above common rabble. Fame can come from many ends, but only those who have a measure of honor, even a twisted one, would be approached. Lone Thieves who are not guilded are not unheard of, but are a distinct minority. Guild sects do not like competition from solo Thieves and will often push them out or worse. Still, many solo Thieves exist, either has loners, exiles, eccentric individuals, or merely filling a vacuum where no Thief sect exists. Solo Thieves often have it much harder than guilders. The Guild often provides means to escape the law or at least reduce penalties in most areas if a Thief is inadvertently caught. Guilders usually pay dues but it is often far more lucrative than a solo Thief could be. Also the Guild tends to watch out for itself in times of trouble."

"Still, it is a hard life and few Thieves reach a measure of wealth where they can quit the business and go honest. There is always the next job, the next mark and the next rush of pilfering a noble’s riches. Many Thieves find a sad fate at a guardsman’s blade or cross harsh words with the wrong master Thief. The politics of the Guild can likewise take its toll in exasperating struggles for contracts, pouching talent or even stealing from each other. With this in mind it is no wonder that some of the most talented Thieves seek more direct and tangible goals by adventuring in times of struggle."

The Scryers Guild is a bit like a Bene Gesserit think tank, minus the transhuman powers. The Thieves are their main means of getting hard information since they don't have the skill to do so themselves. I had a hard time justifying a Thief Guild, especially ones that span cities and realms, so it seems a good of a reason as any. Over all I think the Thief is pretty true to B/X and I didn't want to make the lore too specific where they are almost a different class. I may eventually rename the Scryers Guild, the Thieves Guild to something more setting specific. For now its a literary place holder.

I wanted to include some Spy vs Spy elements into the Thief class (hence the pic) but found it surprisingly hard to do without forcing PCs into one guild or another. I think I will use this element, but just on the RPing side of things rather than a setting level with forced conflict. I think rival Thieves would be good story elements so they would attempt to out-do each other, sabotage each other, kill each other off and so forth.


Quick Update

We have had some major web incursions at my work and I am having to manually clean up some malicious code. Time consuming to say the least. Hopefully by Wednesday it will be straightened out and I can think about some more articles here.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Pointillism


Here are the two pieces I spoke of yesterday. The first is The Molluetuesk (click to enlarge). This was done using a Micron pen and some pointillism. I like pointillism since you can use the same pen for the entire sketch and I suck at traditional shading (as you will see below). I originally planned to use pencil to draw some natural cave stalactites and stalagmites to see how the critter could blend in. I opted against it because pencil smears too easily and I didn't want to overly obscure the Molluetuesk. I may submit this one to the Erol Otus art contest. I would feel honored just knowing he saw one of my pieces.


This next one is practically a colleague. It uses pointillism, crosshatch, scribble-sketch, brush ink and whatever else I could think of. This is what I think approaching Throxia would look like (Otter's game, Thool). I don't like this one nearly as much but it is really a mandatory sketch since I need to get back into practice somehow.

I will probably try to do some pen and ink art work in the future since I enjoy it and have let it go for far too long.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Molluetuesk Effect

I've been a bit busy recently will endless meetings at my work, a job interview and some more pen art work. I picked up a sketch pad, micron pens, and some bottle india ink - the first time in many years I purchased art supplies. Really buying the supplies is a high of its own, as nothing is quite as promising to me as a empty book of really nice graph paper or a nice clean sketch pad. It is almost a shame to sully them with my meager scratchings. Good art supplies more so, simply because I could never afford the higher quality stuff as a kid. I distinctly remember doing Studio Art AP projects in high school on empty brown grocery bags. Not that there is anything wrong with that, brown-bag sketches had a unique quality to them, but its nice to have some options.

Anyhow I will post a few sketches tomorrow when I have access to a scanner. One is of the Molluetuesk, which is my favorite home-brew critter that I've done recently. Not necessarily because its particularly clever, but because it has single handedly brought three groups to their knees - even though these parties have conquered far more insidious critters.

  • 8 – The north section of this cave is the home of the Molluetuesk, which appears as a tranquil pool of water with several small fish swimming inside. The pool is faintly radiant and is lined with stalactites and stalagmites. Should a PC disturb the pool the Molluetuesk will attack relentlessly. If the PCs are 15’ or further back and somehow disturb the pool, the mouth will snap shut and the creature will slowly ‘reset’, ignoring the party.

  • A passageway is in the South East section of the cave which vaguely reeks of sweet cooking smells, like heated fruit.

  • In the refuse under the Molluetuesk a Shield +1 sits along with the bones of its previous owner.

  • Molluetuesk – hd 3 hp 18 ac 5 att: bite 1d6, on max dmg swallow whole.
  • Very large cave-lurking beast that looks similar to a huge horseshoe crab, which opens itself up into a cavernous opening. Its ‘mouth’ very closely resembles an iridescent tranquil pool of water with some small fish in it, stalactites and stalagmites lining the sides above and below (teeth). Should the pool be disturbed, the ‘mouth’ will snap shut.
'Swallow whole' is intentionally vague to suit the DMs lethality. I had it do an automatic d6 per round until the critter is slain. Bad yes, but hardly save or die. I really have no idea why the groups I've ran have nearly gotten TPK'd from this thing; especially considering the stirge-breathing dragon is so, so much worse and they kick the crap out of that thing. I guess some critters are just bad luck.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Seat of the Soul

Philosophy interests me and I like to integrate a bit of it into Valley of Blue Snails where I can. Admittedly I am probably doing a poor job but I have made the attempt to offer themes with a philosophical slant. Some examples:

  • Elves and Descartes dualism. The males are heavily slanted towards the mind, introverted thought and consciousness. The females far more into the body and bringing things into motions. Two must interact, yet find it an abstract affair where they just don't share the same context. The conflict here is between body and mind.

  • Another would be Dwarves and naturalism. The Dwarves see everything as a machine. The mind being no exception, it is just a machine that they do not fully understand. The 'saints' of Dwarf-kind are the very knowledge whitebeards who do understand the brain as a machine (so they think) and can replicate consciousness into machinery. Ala Golems and their ilk. Spirituality is waning with the Dwarf culture but so is their society. Some Dwarves believe this is no coincidence and perhaps spirituality is not something to be ignored. Anyhow you have some conflict between spirituality and naturalism here.

  • The Oculus is based upon 'effortless action' in Taoism. Abilities through the Oculus are actions that are more like yielding to natural force rather than forcing an action into being. It takes great effort to swing a heavy broad sword, but using the Oculus powers is easier than watching water flow down a stream. I am not sure if I captured that well in the original articles at all, so perhaps it needs a rewrite. The Oculus is intended to be a very natural thing, an effect of the Great Seasons (Estaoculus) and operates far differently than magic, battle and divine types of conflict. All who have the Oculus have their own personal struggles on how to harmonize their ability with the rest of the natural world. This should include PCs as well.

Halflings like wise have a dilemma with seeing the future and the problems with changing it. Humans are more based upon the pull and tug of civilization vs nature. On a broader level I suppose Valley of Blue Snails operates with very symmetrical themes. The major theme is seasons; four seasons which effect all races drastically. Great Season are the major events in the campaign. The seasons dictate prosperity, society and basic survival. I've thought about making the Great Season much more common, as in one after the other rather than years apart. They need not necessarily be in the order of spring - summer - fall - winter, but I think it would be interesting to have seasons that were random in order, years long, and having drastic effect as I've spoke of before (fall, spring).

Still, it feels like something is missing to bring it all together. Some harmony to link it up and bring a greater sense of a singular campaign rather than a mish-mash of ideas. I suppose a mish-mash is not all bad, Greyhawk and Wilderlands are definitely that. It still nags me though, like a constant reminder that I forgot something.

Astrumdantalas – The Opal of the World

Astrumdantalas is one of the few human cities that can pre-date itself before the time of Lodoga and when the Emperors walked the world. Elves say with certainty the city was founded by the Bard Deledago and his troupe of performers. It was originally intended to be a small trading post at a river fork between the Banshar Krush, the eastern seas, and the Elf Village of Six Stars. It was promoted heavily by Deledago as a free city, with no taxation, little police, and open to all who come in peace.

Within two generations Astrumdantalas had a population of several thousand, a functional port on both rivers, and rife bands of thieves, brigands, beggars, merchants and vagrants. All races participated in the growth of the city and even today there is no definitive minority or outsider race. Astrumdantalas has been sacked and burned to the ground innumerable times but it continues to be rebuilt over the ruins of the old. This has in effect created layers of previous half-destroyed dwellings that were further built upon or buried. Those newer buildings were likewise built upon when they start to crumble, or at the very least torn down and wrought anew. These under-structures are a labyrinth of ruins and passages that maze their way down fifty, sixty or more feet under the cities current roads and buildings. One would assume that these pits would be best avoided or only used by the most loathsome of folk, but on the contrary, the wealthy and powerful dwell underneath while the vagrants and beggars take hearth to the filthy streets above.

The Bardic colleges controlled what little law lay within Astrumdantalas for many years. Over time they simply lacked sufficient numbers and the proper ruthlessness to maintain power. The Bardic colleges still exist but hold little power beyond their well-financed dormitories. Astrumdantalas technically has no law, no police, and no civil services at all. It is kept from falling into complete anarchy by several powerful merchants, pirates, thieves, beggars, craftsmen and the Scryers guild. All of these have the mutual interest to keep Astrumdantalas thriving as a tax free haven to ply their trades. Ownership is held only by word of mouth and sword in hand. Permanent citizens known exactly who owns what and why, and this is referred to as Reeveless Law – that is a sort of common law that all are expected to abide by, or face vigilantism. A hand shake with some spit and blood in it is the proper means to barter ownership of something like a building or docking rights. Simply slaying the previous owner and taking what he owns will only get one mobbed by the cities hardened residence.

Reeveless Law caters heavily towards the current powerful patrons of the city. Naturally nothing is outright taxed, but protection payments for visitors, inspection fees, and writs for services are all collected by the dock-lords and merchant captains. This law changes from district to district, and in particular when one travels into the deeps of the city. Older sections of the city have stone walls to delineate them from the rabble and are generally more upscale with sewage drains and fresh water wells. The shack towns beyond the stone walls host the worst of the vagrants and few travel within for anything wholesome. The worst criminals, killers, and sociopaths make their way into these shack towns when they wish to escape the law of more proper realms.

The under-levels Astrumdantalas are situated under and between the two rivers and are of two distinct types - maintained and unmaintained. Unmaintained sections are considered to be uninhabitable and consist of sewers, caves, rubbled ruins and areas that are too damp to build. The Maintained sections are considered to be richest and most lavish dwellings within Astrumdantalas. Rich merchant lords and guilders will form their own private maze of under-dwellings with the finest goods and services that one may come across. These individual mazes are linked through a variety of smaller passages to the huge internal cistern called The Bards Bazaar. The cistern is long since dry and its ceilings rise thirty feet above the floor and the cistern itself stretches over a half a mile in length. Dwarves crafted it long ago and many Dwarven noble lords still make a vacation home that connects to the grand cistern.

The Bards Bazaar is the open market for the opulent and well connected. No permanent residence are allowed within the cistern so the floors are clean and trades come from all over the world to set up a shop for the daylight hours. Of all in the cities in the world, none can compete with Astrumdantalas and The Bards Bazaar for the sheer variety and quality of good it attracts. Bizarre races who come peacefully are welcome to trade within, and few are denied entry if they pay the proper guilder fees. The finest slaves, weapons, narcotics, cloth, grains, brews and crafted products of the world can usually be found within. The cistern is one of the few places with armed guards that are neutral in their loyalty and traders come to the bazaar only if they are invited by one of the local merchant of guilders.

Several smaller and far less impressive markets operate on streets of Astrumdantalas. These are seldom more than brigands selling their goods, but often quality goods can be had at barging prices. Barter is more common than exchange of coins, and the demand of certain goods changed from day to day or even hour by hour. Very powerful and important travelers will often stop at Astrumdantalas and pay nearly anything for their hearts desire. A flock of pygmy parrots may trade for a bowl of porridge one day, then a sack full of gems the next. Fortune tellers, card readers, bone scryers, and just about any Halfling are in high demand because of this.

Huge profits can be had at a moments notice if the proper information is known. One of the most powerful guilds in Astrumdantalas is the Scryers Guild because of this. Other guilds and powerful nobles will pay dearly for their services, and they often pay with favors rather than gold. This has thrust the Scryers Guild into a fulcrum role of information collection and leaking. The Scryers Guild is not limited Astrumdantalas. Many of their agents are sent to hot spots all over the known world to collect information. It is said the Scryers guild knows many secrets, including the nature and time of the next Great Season. Naturally lords of all races and demeanors find great interest in this secretive guild.

The Scryers Guild works in conjunction with the Bards Guild the Thieves Guild for their information collection. This is usually a one sided affair where the Scryers pay the Bards and Thieves for a certain collection of information, goods, or people. The pay is usually exorbinate and the best and most skilled Bards and Thieves are guilded. To a lesser extent beggars, vagrants, pirates and mercenaries are also used, but usually in less important roles for the Scryers Guild. Astrumdantalas is the nerve center of their operation so it is natural that most talent folk in those skills make the pilgrimage.

Smaller sects, cults, and guilds also make Astrumdantalas their home. As long as they do not molest the citizens and guilds, they are usually left to their own workings free from lordly scrutiny or moral restrictions. There are far too many to list but one of note is the little known, but powerful Indolesmanus. The Indolesmanus scours the world for children with the Oculus in their bloodline or child prodigies. It is unknown who their leader is, but it is clear who over he or they are, they operate a well funded orphanage in Astrumdantalas for these children. The children are said to be instructed with the finest tutors and skill masters, and honed into hyper-intelligent masters of many disciplines. Those who have been encountered are sociopathic killers, extremely intelligent, and highly dangerous to those in their way. No Indolesmanus agent has been captured alive, and few have been bested.

This is somewhat of a parody on the City of Greyhawk with a bit of Lankmar thrown in. I expect Astrumdantalas to act as a good travel-by location to find some bits of information that would otherwise be unavailable. Information for a heafty price of course.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Thoolish Art


I did some pen art for Otter today for his upcoming Thool webzine. I did six, here is one (click to enlarge).

The agenda this week for VoBS, Thieves. I will talk about the class, the lore and their place in Valley of Blue Snails. Also a cities of thieves that will be somewhat of a City of Greyhawk parody - a free city gone too far where the thief and beggars took over. One of the locations therein will be an orphanage that seeks out child prodigies to mold into evil-geniuses.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Multi-Classes Revisited

I will be changing a few of the multi-class titles though I'm a bit mixed on what direction to take it. The titles are similar to normal class titles (Veteran, Cutpurse, Wizard, etc) in that they are mostly for fluff with perhaps a minor ability to adhere the two classes better. I'm deciding on wither to make it very setting specific or use more intuitive titles.

Example, a Fighter-Cleric would be a Paladin. Pretty intuitive. Setting specific would be something like a Dwarven Fighter-Cleric would be a Whitebeard. Not so intuitive but perhaps a better choice since this sort of multi-class fluff is well outside of the realm of B/X anyhow. The main problem is the setting specifics titles would indeed be rather specific, slanting towards race with specific classes.

I've been reading up a bit on what Gygax had in mind for 2nd edition AD&D and here are the classes that seemed to be included Cavalier, Barbarian, Acrobat, Mountebank, Savant, Mystic, and Jester. The first three were in Unearthed Arcana of course. Savant and Mystic seem fairly similar, both being based on divination (a DMs nightmare). The Jester is not really for me, but I am sure some others would get some use out of it. Bards were to be revamped, Monk would removed and put into Oriental Adventures. The one that interested me the most is the Mountebank because I never heard of it, and because it seems fairly interesting.

The Mountebank is a bit of a a skilled liar, heavy with slight of hand and verbal trickery. They would depend a lot on speed, theatrics and disguise. From what I read Gygax had them in mind as primarily a Thief with a bit of Illusionist and Fighter. Judging by Unearthed Arcana they probably would have had a plethora of specialized abilities, their own theify skills and probably their own spell list too. Naturally I won't get that far into since this is B/X, but I will add the title to for a PC who fits the bill.

Monk I will probably remove and replace with Mystic or perhaps something else. This will be the 'Fighter-Mage' although I am not sure how the mechanics will go. This one is a bit tough because of the balance. I may allow any weapon but still disallow armor for spell casting, or something of the like. Bishop I do not care for overly, but I will probably leave it in as a homage to Wizardry. If that is the case then I will need to develop a strong clergy that would at least resemble something abbots, bishops and whatnot would be involved with. Stratogineer is just a placeholder name but I have yet to think of replacement. I do want a Dwarf title somewhere that will involve mechanical things.

The rest I will probably leave in and stick a fork in it. At the moment it will look something like this.

Fighter/Cleric - Paladin
Fighter/Mage - Mystic
Fighter/Thief - Ranger
Mage/Cleric - Bishop
Mage/Thief - Illusionist
Cleric/Thief - Assassin
Fighter/Thief/Mage - Mountebank
Elf (T/M/C) - Druid
Dwarf (F/M/T) - Stratogineer
Halfling (F/M/T) - Sheriff
Human (F/M/T/C)- Bard

Paladin - Zealous and self-righteous, the Paladin smites his foes with the holy might and clarity
of purpose. Valorous and bold, the Paladin is is both a slave and a master of his Lawful nature.
Req : Lawful, Charisma 12
Abilities : Paladins may re-roll a failed save throw once.

Mystic - Mystic warrior who study with forbidden masters and ancient warschools occasionally return more than they once were. Unpredictable and aloof, Monks are both rare and unsettling, never quite at home away from the isolated training grounds they left.
Req: Wisdom 12
Abilities: Mystics may use any weapon and still cast spells.

Ranger - Often seen as well trained brigands, Rangers are masters of the wilderness, striding with ease where others loose their footing.
Req: Int 12
Abilities: Ranger may use ranged weapons for their backstab ability.

Bishop - Unbeholden to the influence of the traditional Clergy, Bishops wander the lands setting their own holy agenda collecting lore and reason in the world.
Req: Non-Neutral
Abilities: Bishops may attempt to identify the nature of magical or supernatural effects; this includes items, spells, phenomena, as well as flora and fauna.

Illusionist - Pragmatic tricksters who use magic and shadows to beguile both friends and foes. They are both the joker and the joked upon, as 'true' Wizards discount their petty ways as demeaning.
Req: Non-Lawful
Abilities: May cast spells listed with a * on their Magic User spells list (Illusionist spells).

Assassin - A super human fighting machine, the assassin is gifted as a spy, a saboteur and a killer. Universally loathed and desired, assassins walk a fine line between life and death.
Req : Non-Lawful, Strength 12
Ability: Victims of a successful Assassin backstab must make a save throw vs Death or immediately die.

Mountebank - Charlatan skilled with his hands as well as a his rhetoric; the Mountebank is a liar, a thief, and trickster. They use speed, theatrics and disguise to accomplish what a mere blade can not .
Req: Charisma 12, Dexterity 12
Abilities: If a Mountebank hold the attention of a humanoid(s) for more than 1 turn, he may Confuse them (as spell).


Druid - Druids are the keepers of natural lore and the order of the seasons. Compelled to travel to see the world, Druids yearn to wander the years in a new location every day.
Req: Wis 14
Ability: Druids can change their shape to any animal their size or smaller.

Stratogineer - Powerful and possessive, the Stratogineer of the deep workshops hold the might of sway of the cog, gears and steam at thier grasp. Bowing to no one man but to the power of the mechanical alone, Stratogineers tread heavily upon the world in their bronze-tubed boots.
Req: Int 14
Ability: Stratogineers can mechanically replicate any spell they know with mechanical devices.

Sheriff- The Halfling Sheriff is prophet, divining the future and setting upon the world to correct and thwart the horrors set in his mind's vision. Ultimately a protector of the Halfling people and the world, the Sheriff takes upon the role of prophet and corrector.
Req: Wis 14
Ability: Sheriffs presence may be called upon at will, once per day.

Bard - Both whimsical entertainer and traveling sage, Bards use dance and music to soothe those around them. Known as true polymaths, Bards seems to have knowledge in just about everything.
Req: Cha 14
Ability: Any intelligent creature listening to the Bards song for a turn or longer will be inflicted by a Charm as the spell if the bard so wishes. Save throw applies.