Monday, December 26, 2011
The Simpsons Season 14 DVD
The Three Stooges Collection Volume One: 1934-1936
Doctor Who Complete Series Five (admitedly, I bought this for my wife, but as I will enjoy it too, I guess it counts)
I Am A Barbarian by E.R. Burroughs
The Lost Continent by E.R. Burroughs
The Goths in Spain by E.A Thompson
Constantine Porphyrogenitus: De Administrando Imperio, Greek by Gyula Moravcsik, English by Romilly J.H. Jenkins
Charlemagne: Emperor of the Western World by Russell Chamberlin
A pile of 7 issue of The Simpsons, 6 issues of Bart Simpson, and one issue of SpongeBob Squarepants comic books (yes, I like SpongeBob, at least, the first three seasons... and the comic book is very well done)
The Simpsons 2012 Daily Desk Calendar
Antique Maps 2012 (another sign that one of these days I need to whip up a campaign based on the mythical island of Frisland
Plus, I'm going to buy myself something from DriveThuRPG... the Wishlist is getting long, and there are a LOT of good things that have come out recently... I'm torn between:
Isle of the Unknown
LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing Grindhouse Edition
Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
The new edition of Carcosa would be on the list, save that I already have the original Carcosa, so I want to go for something new and different first... any suggestions? Or perhaps, suggestions of something cool that I have missed otherwise?
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Lazarus von Schwarzenherz, Lord Lugosi (NE male Glantrian [Thyatian/Alphatian] 2nd level Magic-user) is a distant cousin of Prinz Jaggar von Drachenfels and former student of Prince Morphail Gorevitch-Woszlany. An expatriate petty lord of Glantri, exiled for some unnamed but doubtless severe courtly faux pas, he is also the newly-appointed Lord of Lugos, a petty domain in Transylvania (the region between Achelos and the Radlebb Forest). Sent to Karameikos, the Glantrian ambassadress, Doña Marianita Lucia de Leon y Valdez, was able to use her influence to get him appointed as Lord of Lugos. Lugos had remained without a lord for several years due to political infighting; as the expat was party to none of the factions and undesired by pretty much all, the Archduke felt that he was a fair choice (the favors he gained thereby from the ambassadress more than balanced out any potential troubles). His first act as new lord of the territory was to root out the growing faction led by Father Martin, the local self-appointed domain priest of the Church of Karameikos. He is served by an Ochalean manservant, Kato, and an imp he summoned from Hell, Myxlplyx, and possesses an unusual “wand of magic missiles” his father recovered from an ancient ruin while on expedition with his cousin, Prinz Jaggar. [Hans]
Lurka (N female Vyalia Elf 2nd level Assassin) is descended from Vyalian royalty on her father’s side (a usurper, actually, whose descendents have formed a clan of assassins to seek to regain their power) and a long line of jewelers on her mother’s side. Due to exposure of her cell she was forced to flee the realm and made her way into Karameikos, where she took up with a pair of sisters of less-than-subtle evil in Specularum. The trio slowly made their way west to Luln, and thence to Lugos, where they became entangled in the destruction of the Church of Karameikos faction led by Father Martin. After turning on her erstwhile companions and slitting their throats as they slept, she is now happily the mercenary “invisible hand” of Lord Lugosi. Formerly of rather more chaotic and evil alignment, she suffered a spiritual enlightening when she tried to loot a cross off the altar of the Lugos church; her evil was so great, however, that even the divine grace that sought to purify her soul was unable to drag her into law and good, but simply thrust her into the nebulous realms of neutrality. Her latest victim: Severus “Fatty” Stolnik, the erstwhile seneschal of Lugos; though he could not prove that he was stealing from the coffers during his tenure as steward of the domain, Lord Lugosi felt it most expedient to have it appear as though Fatty died during an orc attack while his party was en route to Luln. [Zell]
Lazarus and Lurka are now en route to Luln, seeking to hire on more guards, an armorer, and a smith, find a new (and tractable) priest for the local parish of the Church of Karameikos, and purchase needful equipment unavailable in the rustic domain. They also hope to recruit more like-minded adventuring types to provide assistance in “overseeing” the peoples and combating the dangers of Lugos. They have also taken advantage of an orc attack to eliminate a troublesome pest; while their guards were dealing with the remaining orcs, Lurka assassinated the erstwhile seneschal of Lugos, Severus “Fatty” Stolnik, and pinned it on a stray orc arrow (that somehow stuck him in his prodigious gut twice). At the end of the last session, the lord and his entourage were approaching the gates of Luln after a three day journey…
OTHER PLAYER CHARACTERS
Magnus Magnusson, aka “Mongo the Destroyer” (LE male Norse 1st level Fighter) is a Norse pit-fighter and circus performer. At a young age he discovered he loved hitting things with his axes… targets, trolls, people, you name it, he loved hitting it. Sadly, though he was quite proficient with his axes, his fellow Ostland Vikings were not quite as proficient, and on their first raid into Ylaruam, were nearly extirpated. Mongo was among the few survivors who fled into the hills; he eventually made his way south to Tel Akbir, in Thyatis, where to make some quick money he joined a travelling circus as a strong man and axe-thrower. He found he liked the circus life, and remained with them for some years throughout Thyatis. When the circus moved west into Karameikos, he met Elenor Grayleaf in Rugalov, where she joined them and they became fast friends. He saved her from the unwanted advances of her mentor, Boris, and the two became more than friends. Shortly after the circus reached Luln, Mongo disappeared; he had been kidnapped by slavers from the Black Eagle Barony, where he was sold to a pit-fighting establishment, his docility ensured through judicious application of charm person spells. Elenor was able to rescue him from duress vile, her presence breaking the charm, and the two fled back to Luln. There they sadly discovered that the owner of the circus had actually sold Mongo out to the slavers, and thus they had no safe place to hide. Hiding in a tenement in Orctown, the two are trying to figure a safe way out of Luln to a place where they can hide out from the slavers and their erstwhile employer… [Robbie]
Elenor Grayleaf (NE female Vyalia Elf 1st level Magic-user/1st level Thief) is a Vyalian expatriate of wealthy and influential if non-noble family; she fled her forest home when she refused to submit to being used as a bargaining chip by marrying her into a noble home to improve her family’s lot. She joined a travelling circus, first as a prestidigitator, then later as a knife-thrower, a talent (among others) that she learned from Boris Gudenov, the (now previous) knife-thrower. Unfortunately, for his training, Boris sought more than Elenor was willing to give, and when her screams attracted Mongo to her wagon, he thoroughly beat Boris to within an inch of his life. For the rest of her history, refer to Mongo, above… [Robbie]
Robert “Brother Bob” “The Red” Sorrel (LG male Kerendan 1st level Cleric of the Church of Karameikos) is a young acolyte freshly ordained in Luln. An orphan, he was raised in the Abbey of Saint Gnaeus and Saint Lucius just south of Luln, Bob knows little about the outside world. Being unassuming and apolitical, upon ordination he was sent forth into the world as a mendicant priest, to heal and console the peoples in the streets. He joined Aldaré, Gosgorgenos, and Talon on a brief excursion into the ruins of Koriszegy Castle (aka the Haunted Keep) to find the lost scion of a noble family at the behest of the Vicar of Luln, Vitale Fonzarelle. Though they discovered plenty monsters, they were unsuccessful in finding their lost charge, and got little in the way of treasure for their efforts. As the other adventurers saw little to be gained by following Brother Bob back into the dungeon, they left him in the streets of Luln, seeking new companions for his quixotic quest. [Robbie]
Aldaré Quellisar (NE female Vyalia Elf 1st level Houri [Courtesan/Assassin]) yet another expatriate elf from the eastern realm of Vyalia, little is known of Aldaré at this time, though she was a member of the party that explored the first level of the Haunted Keep (see Robert Sorrel, above, for details). [Brooke]
Gosgorgenos the Mighty (N male Luludjan 1st level Fighter) is a native of Luln. Scion of a politically influential family of moderate means, he has taken up adventuring to fill his purse with gold. He was a member of the party that explored the first level of the Haunted Keep (see Robert Sorrel, above, for details). [Zell]
Thorn the Gypsy (N male Darine 1st level Ranger) is a member of the wandering Darine peoples, the gypsy folk of the Known World and beyond. When he was a child his band was captured by slavers operating out of the Black Eagle Barony, and he was worked mercilessly for several years on the plantations of the Baron. He managed to affect his escape four years ago, and has since wandered the forests and hills of Luludja, taking vengeance on the foul humanoid servants of the Black Eagle Baron as opportunity permitted. He was a member of the party that explored the first level of the Haunted Keep (see Robert Sorrel, above, for details). [Jason]
ANTAGONISTS: IMPORTANT NPCS IN THE CAMPAIGN
Father Martin Teague (LG male Kerendan Cleric of the Church of Karameikos) sought to bring the Light of the Redeemer unto the benighted lands of Transylvania, and set up his church in Lugos, a petty domain at the heart of the region. After three years of proselytizing the native peoples, he had gained a sizeable following among the downtrodden Luludjans and Volagans, earning him the enmity of the Volszegy old guard and the resolutely pagan Voldavians. Things came to a head when he captured Zofiya, the Black Witch of Lugos, and a brace of anti-paladins sought to free her at the same time the newly appointed Lord of Lugos, an atheistic magician from Glantri, arrived in his new domain. Caught between the two vile forces – his brave acolytes slain by foul sorcery, he himself grievously wounded by blade and spell – Father Martin called upon the Source of All Things and was miraculously transported back to the church where he was first ordained, far away in Kerendas. He has in the last week recovered from his wounds and is gathering allies for a crusade against the rise of foul Chaos in the lands he had sought to convert… a fact that has been surmised by Lazarus, Lord of Lugosi, through communing with the foul masters of his imp familiar, Myxlplyx.
Béla Blaskó (male Volszegy) is the Hetman and Mayor of Lugos. He is the leader of the Volszegy and Volagan faction that opposed the rise of Father Martin in the vacuum left by the absence of a true noble lord of the domain.
István Szabó (male Volszegy) is the smith of the village of Lugos. Cousin of Béla Blaskó, a member of the Volszegy/Voldavian faction.
Werner Messerman (male Halagan) is the proprietor of the Dacoit Trading Company, the only general and import store in Lugos.
Zofiya, the Black Witch of Lugos (female Volszegy)
Baba Magda (female Voldavian) is the proprietress of the Shady Dragon Inn, the only inn and tavern outside the “walls” of the town of Luln. She assisted Lurka, Borsha, and Demonica in their kidnapping of Matilda Bronisen, and intimated to the anti-paladins that she was a fellow cultist.
Igor (male Voldavian) is the hunchbacked and wall-eyed stable-hand at the Shady Dragon Inn.
BOOT HILL: THE DEAD AND THE DAMNED
Borsha (CE female Thyatian 1st level Anti-Paladin) and her sister Demonica (CE female Thyatian 1st level Anti-Paladin) were first generation Thyatians of Specularum. Little was known about their background, save that they came from a moderately wealthy and, quite likely, indulgent or overly-strict family. They cut a swath of destruction and evil across western Karameikos, on the battlefield and in the boudoir, en route from Specularum to Luln. There they participated in the ritual slaying of several ne’er do-wells, urchins, and shepherds in the name of their patron, Glasya Queen of Hell. They also slew their former lover, Friedrich the Bastard, the Sergeant of Orctown in the Red Sashes, and participated in the kidnapping of Matilda Bronisen, the only daughter of a prominent Darokinian businessman in Luln.
Thereafter they, together with Lurka, went to Lugos, where they were tasked by their patron with the rescue of Zofiya, the Black Witch of Lugos, who had been captured by Father Martin and was to be burnt at the stake on the night of the full moon. When they arrived they quickly seduced the Hetman of the village, Béla Blaskó, and his cousin, the influential town smith, István Szabó. They planned on turning the forces of Béla’s faction (mostly Pagan or Church of Traladara Volszegy, including the bulk of the militia) against Father Martin and his followers (mostly Luludjan converts to the Church of Karameikos). Their plans were cut short by the arrival of the new Lord of Lugos; when Béla and Father Martin and most of the village went to the manor at Black Pool to greet the new lord, the three decided to push up their timetable and scout out the church. They slew three praying babushkas and otherwise desecrated/profaned the church in terrible ways. They then went into the catacombs, where Béla had told them that Father Martin was holding the witch. There they found eight halfling warriors, followers of Martin, and slew them. They also discovered that the witch was held in stasis within a divine field of power; there appeared to be three keys to open the field. They found two, one on the lead halfling’s body, the other guarded by an animated suit of armor. During the assault, the new Lord of Lugos sent Father Martin and his followers packing (being Glantrian he despised the church, and had no place for the unofficial and unapproved power gained by the priest). Lazarus secretly followed the priest and his acolytes back to the church, where all discovered the horrible desecration. Martin and the acolytes were eventually caught between the wizard and the anti-paladins; the acolytes were slain in the battle, while Martin called upon the Source of All Things to have mercy upon him as he was about to be slain… and he disappeared. Unsure of who was up to what, the victorious evil-doers ended up in a Chinese Standoff, as Lazarus had found the third key hidden in Martin’s hidden treasury. Being both untrusting and psychotic, the sisters decided to attack… and were easily bested by a sleep spell. Lurka, being far more open to negotiations (also having been converted from Chaotic Evil to Neutral through un-judicious touching of holy objects), Lazarus cut her a deal, and she slit the sister’s throats. Shortly thereafter, “awakening” on the shadowy Astral Plane, the pair were horrified to view the True Visage of their patron, in her most wrathful aspect at their failure, being promised an eternity of horrible torments… [Robbie and Jason]
Friedrich the Bastard (male Halagan) was the corrupt Sergeant of the Constabulary (the infamous “Red Sashes”), in charge of the Thieves’ Quarter. He was slain out of hand early in the morning of the 3rd of Thaumont by his lovers, Borsha and Demonica, when he failed to wake them in time for them to join Lurka during the kidnapping of Matilda Bronisen. His body was desecrated and defiled, and it and his flat were burned to cinders (though fortunately, the fire did not spread any further, otherwise half of the Thieves’ Quarter might be in ashes today)
Severus “Fatty” Stolnik (male Thyatian/Voldavian) was the Seneschal of Lugos, a fat and thieving fellow who cooked his books well. Unable to legally deal with him, Lord Lugosi dragged him along on the journey to Luln “to assist in the hiring of new guards and retainers.” He was assassinated by Lurka during an attack by orcs while en route. [NPC]
Thursday, December 8, 2011
I've changed the scale of the map somewhat. The original maps were 24 miles per hex, with each Gazetteer map broken down to 8 mile hexes. I've taken the 8 mile hexes from the Gazetteers and changed the scale to 15 miles per hex, then broken those down for this map to 5 miles per hex, as used in the classic Grand Tactical Scale from Judges Guild.
Here's the reference map I am using, an adaptation of the original by Thorfinn Tait; the section that has been blown up in the previous map is outlined in a black box...
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
So I'm running two campaigns right now, though both on a highly-irregular basis. Here's a map for one of them. A No-Prize to the first who tells me where this is...
Click to embiggen...
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Here's the first half of the campaign setting cheat sheet.
Once upon a time, the Land was free, home to many merry elves, dour dwarves, naughty gnomes, and flighty fairies, all led by mighty, kind, and just men and wizards. Then came the time of the Great Invasion from the Outside Lands…
In the north, Elfland was invaded by the horrible Goblins of Gixx; they passed under the Impassible Desert through tunnels.
In the east, Gnomeland was invaded by the terrible Orcs of Orcland, who sailed across the Shifting Sands in magical galleons or flew over the sands upon the backs of their war parrots.
In the south, Dwarfland was invaded by the villainous Gnoles of the Laughing Land, who crossed the Great Sandy Wastes upon the backs of their hyenadon steeds or flew high above the sands in the arms of their gargoyle allies.
In the west, Fairyland was invaded by the Drow of the Nightmare Realm (found deep underground beneath the Kingdom of Evil) who sailed across the Deadly Desert in magical dragon-prowed ships or flew high above upon the backs of dragons.
In all the Land, only the shining City of Wonders at the heart of the Land remained free. There, protected by the High King and the most powerful wizards and mightiest heroes of the Land, countless refugees fled the depredations of the invaders. All seemed lost, even in the face of the great heroism of men, wizards, elves, dwarves, gnomes, fairies, and even halflings, until, as evil is often wont to do, it turned upon itself…
The formerly allied invaders turned on each other in their zeal to get at the City of Wonders and conquer all the Land for themselves. Their fragile alliance broken, they turned to invading each other’s conquered lands rather than pressing against the City of Wonders. In time, the newly-conquered lands fell into complete chaos, as goblins, orcs, gnoles, and drow all fought each other…
Today, 10 years later, the land remains in chaos, with the City of Wonders and the Royal Realm around it the only spot of peace and order.
Compass: Land: Color: Metal: Primary Culture*: Primary God and Goddess
North: Elfland: Green: Copper: Gaelic: Danaan and Lugh
East: Gnomeland: Blue: Tin: Dutch: Frey and Freya
South: Dwarfland: Red: Iron: German: Thor and Sif
West: Fairyland: Yellow: Bronze: French: Belenus and Belisama
Central: Royal Realm: Purple: Gold: Italian: Jove and Juno
Everywhere: Good Magic-users: White: Silver: Latin: (Merlin and Morgana)
Everywhere: Halflings: Any: Any: English**: (Rarely concerned with such matters)
Elsewhere: Evil Magic-users: Black: Brass: Secret Tongue: (Old Nick and Hecate)
North: Goblins: Furs: Iron: Slavic: Chernobog and Baba Yaga
East: Orcs: Riotous: Iron: Pirate: Leviathan and Kraken
South: Gnoles : Brown/Tan: Iron: Arabic: Gargoyle (m) and Corpse Tearer (f)
West: Drow: Black: Iron: Norse: Hel and Loki
* The culture that is native to that race. The listing is an Earth equivalent it is not the Earth culture by name. It is not “French” culture or the “French” language; it is the Fairy culture and the Fairy language.
** The Common Tongue
Player Character Cultural Origins
Halfling*: Racial Cousins: Culture
Hairfeet: Mostly Humans: English
Tallfellow: Mostly Elves: Gaelic
Broadgirdle: Mostly Gnomes: Dutch
Stout: Mostly Dwarves: German
Twinkle-Eye: Mostly Fairies: French
* 65% of the time, Halflings are of Hairfoot variety. The rest of the time, roll as per the native homeland race (Elfland, Gnomeland, Dwarfland, or Fairyland) to determine culture. If from the Royal Realm, there is a 96% chance of being a Hairfoot, otherwise, roll based on the nearest demihuman settlement.
Royal Realm: 01-60
Note that there are no half-elves in the Land; any child begotten of a human and elf is a halfling (a Tallfellow, to be sure), just as any child begotten of a dwarf and gnome is a halfling (Broadgirdle or Stout), or for that matter, of any race with any other race, or of halflings with halflings, the result is a halfling. Thus, halflings are a plurality in the Land, and very nearly a majority!
Similarly, there are no half-breeds of the humanoid sort as the humanoid races do not reproduce normally:
Goblins reproduce by fission; when a goblin grows fat on loot and plunder, he feasts upon special mushrooms from the goblin warrens, goes into torpor, and puffs up like a puffball, then after 1d3 days splits into 2d6 goblins, each with partial memories of their “sire.” If the goblin also feasted on man-flesh before going into torpor, the fleshy puffball bursts to reveal 1d6 hobgoblins. If a hobgoblin reproduces by fission, it splits into 2d6 hobgoblins, but if it also feasted on the flesh of a powerful animal or monster of 3 HD before it went into torpor (such as, most commonly, a bear), the fleshy puffball bursts to reveal 1d6 bugbears.
Orcs reproduce by budding; when grown fat, an orc produces 2d4 buds that fall off after 1d3 days. These are placed in a spawning pool, or simply tossed into a nearby lagoon where the bud bursts open to reveal the orc larva or “maggot.” Provided there is enough food, orc maggots grow fast; they resemble nothing more or less than humanoid piranhas. The largest surviving 1d3 maggots grow to become a full orcs within 2d4+2 days; lesser maggots grow into smees (“petty orcs,” as per kobolds in size and abilities). Orcs spawned in a breeding pool that is regularly supplied with man flesh invariably all grow into full-fledged orcs, with the most 1d3 most successful maggots developing into high orcs, of greater intellect and abilities (as per half-orcs).
Gnoles reproduce in two ways. First, most gnoles are born of hyenadon females; each litter of 2 to 6 cubs is divided equally into normal hyenadons and gnoles. The gnole cubs grow quickly, able to fight as 1/2 HD monsters immediately, as 1 HD monsters at 1 year, and attaining 2 HD maturity within two years. Secondly, gnole witches and allied evil witches are able to create gnoles by supplying a potion to evil Men who seek power; the potion grants them the power they seek, but it also transforms them into gnoles (d20% cumulative chance per use of the potion).
Drow reproduce the normal way, as they are in truth merely dark elves, and so reproduce as do the elves. Drow-descended halflings are like other halflings in all respects, save that their skin, like that of the drow, is ebon black, and their hair is bone white; too, while they are much like their Goodly cousins, being rustic in nature, most dark halflings revel in Chaos and Evil, as their cousins find contentment in Law and Good.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Inspired by the Mars/Barsoom works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Gygax's Lost Planet evokes the old sword and planet stories of the early days of science fantasy. It provides an esoteric and exotic adventure opportunity for a party of four to six adventurers of 9th to 12th level, though many players of more classical adventures written by the creator of AD&D might be shocked at the start of the adventure and disappointed at the end game...
First, the characters are unceremoniously dropped, quite literally, from the lowest level of their current dungeon adventure through a chute... a magical gateway that flings them across space to the world of Garsoom (described in the module as "the next planet further out from the sun in whichever campaign setting your campaign is based in.") Shockingly, the characters are deposited nude, sans adventuring gear and, horror of horrors, magical items, in the midst of the ruins of an ancient city.
Here begins the meat of the adventure, which is presented as a wide-open campaign with several possible end goals. First, most of the 48-page booklet is taken up with a gazetteer of the Gyxis region of Garsoom, where the red-skinned Rubine Lords of Gyxium rule a dwindling empire of magic and technology from their ancient city. They are menaced on several fronts by strange and arcane enemies:
* The Viridian Lords, a savage race of giant green-skinned nomads, possessed of barbaric honor, who seek to undo the ancient and, in many ways, decadent Rubine civilization;
* The Necrourge Kings, eldritch beings from an even earlier age, who seek to enslave all other races; and
* The Yarnen Horde, a band of white-skinned barbarian rhino riders who, like the Viridians, seek to bring down the ancient Rubine Empire... but to usurp it, not destroy it. the "Princess of the Lost Planet" depicted on the cover of the module is one of the leaders of the Yarnen Horde, though there is a rival princess of the Empire that the players might find more appealing as an ally.
The adventurers are, of course, caught in the middle of these three major factions, and their every action can weigh heavily on the future of the Lost Planet as easily as it does their own fate!
While the bulk of the main book deals with the gazetteer that details the enclosed 17" x 22" map, it also includes a full adventure in the ruined City of Al'Chee-Gaxx, which promises to provide the adventurers the power to save - or destroy - the Rubine Empire.
Finally, a small bestiary and equipment guide is provided. Most of the bestiary deals with converting standard monsters from the Monster Manual to the flora and fauna of the Lost Planet - general rule is to add two or four legs or arms, and either increase or decrease size and hit dice, though there are a few original monsters included. Most of the technology included is taken straight from "S3: Expedition to Barrier Peaks," though imagery is significantly altered, and only "radium guns" are included, rather than blasters or lasers (though the Necrourges use something similar to the needler, which drains levels and transforms the slain into zombies at their command).
The 18-page illustration booklet provides an excellent selection of views from various locations provided in the gazetteer, as well as specific useful scenes from the ruins of Al-Chee. It also marks the return of the art of Erol Otus, which helps define the alien landscape of Gyxis and Garsoom. The full-color center-page spread by Otus depicts the glory of Gyxium from a varth-bird eye view, while the reverse provides a panoramic view of being on the receiving end of a charge of a mixed band of Viridians and Yarnen!
Finally, it should be noted that adventurers who successfully complete the Al'Chee-Gaxx adventure and either help protect or establish a new Gyxium Empire are given a method of returning "home," should they not wish to remain on the Lost Planet as heroes... however, the way home is not without cost, as they return to their natal planet in exactly the same state as they arrived on Garsoom - nude, sans all won treasures - and if they fail a saving throw, back on the lowest level of the dungeon whence they came!
Altogether, Princess of the Lost Planet provides a solid campaign, though it might not be for everyone, due to the alien landscapes and the broader scope of adventure. It is certainly a departure from the norm for Mr. Gygax, though it also hearkens back to his storied adventures in Castle Greyhawk where one might fall through pit and wind up in China or on Barsoom...
5 out of 6 Pips
LP1: Princess of the Lost Planet
$13.50, 48 pp, 18pp, 17" x 22" tri-color map
NOTE: If you haven't figured it out by now, this module does not really exist, it is a "fake review" for a module cover posted by Zak...
Sunday, July 24, 2011
The party returned from the Sixth Expedition with a total of 370 gp value in copper funerary items and gems. They spent several days resting and recuperating while preparing for the next expedition. Medium-Veteran Albert Fairbreeze and Veteran Rost the Dwarf were called away for other business, but Exior the Mysterious and Medium Jace du Rush were able to rejoin the party, while three new members were recruited, bringing the total party number up to an even dozen, plus two hirelings:
Bravo-Prestidigitator Exior the Mysterious (m elf 1st level Assassin/1st level Illusionist)
Medium-Veteran Smoke Cloud (f elf 1st level Warrior-Mage)
Scout Raylin the Outcast (m half-elf 3rd level Ranger) with his hound Cur
Acolyte Him, Cleric of Somebody Somewhere (m human 1st level Cleric)
Medium Jace du Rush (m elf 1st level Magic-user)
Acolyte Fin Thorbergr, Cleric of the Dwarf Gods (m dwarf 1st level Cleric)
Veteran Dane Gerous (m human 1st level Fighter)
Veteran Wulfgar the Stout (m dwarf 1st level Fighter)
Veteran Jalden of Iron Mountain (m human 1st level Fighter)
Apprentice Quickleaf (m halfling 1st level Thief)
Warrior Margit the Halfling (f halfling 2nd level Warrior) with her dogs Rufus and Blake
Medium-Veteran Ellan the Elf (f 1st elf level Warrior-Mage)
Galen the Link Boy
Latimer the Pack Boy
The party, together with 10 hired guards, arrived at Stonehell with no troubles. The guards were left topside to guard the horses and wagon, while the 12 adventurers and their hirelings went once again into the depths. Having poured over the maps in the previous week, it had been decided to explore the southern corridors of the catacombs, with the hope to find a further connection back into the central body of the dungeons, that there would be a second escape route to the stairs to the outer world…
Thus continuing south down the north-south catacomb corridor, the party discovered an effective “T” in the route; the one to the right was followed, and was quickly discovered to end in a pair of stone doors covered with writing in Kobold, “Kobold Neutral Ground.” When the doors were opened, it was discovered that the short corridor beyond ended in a small room, blocked off by a gate. Debris was strewn about the room, and further writing on the walls in Kobold spelled “Bad Juju;” whether it was this or the lack of interesting debris is unknown, but it was decided to return to the corridor and investigate the other branch of the T rather than enter the Bad Juju Room to check out the door on the eastern wall.
The other corridor led to a large room, wherein was seen a stone bridge crossing a deep pit filled with nasty, stagnant water; the water contained rotting bits of flesh. Quickleaf and Jalden quickly crossed the stone bridge, the thief having declared it free of traps; unfortunately, before the dwarves could move up and check the quality of the stone, Raylin crossed and discovered that it crumbled beneath him! Fortunately Cur was already past the bridge when it crumbled; down went the ranger. To his horror, he found that the water was filled with horrible grubs living in the rot; these quickly burrowed into his legs! Jalden pulled him up with a rope, and Quickleaf quickly applied the tried and true anti-grub weapon: burning fire, and lots of it! Fortunately, the fire killed the grubs before it killed the ranger.
After much debate, a rope bridge was built across which Him the Cleric crossed the pit; he healed the ranger of most of his burns. Only Ellan was brave enough to cross to join the portion of the party on the other side. It was decided, after consulting the maps, that the two groups would meet in the Grand Chamber of Flesh and Bone, for it was apparent that (ideally) the southern east-west corridor would eventually meet up with the exit south of the Grand Chamber.
The far-side group (Raylin, Quickleaf, Him, Ellan, and Jalden) quickly made their way down the corridor; they encountered many doors, and Quickleaf stopped at each to listen. In one he heard voices, and in another he heard stirrings. Their trip to the Grand Chamber was otherwise uneventful.
Unfortunately for the near-side group (Wulfgar, Dane, Margit, Jace, Fin, Exior, Smoke Cloud, Galen, and Latimer) when they neared the Ruined Temple they discovered that their stakes had been uprooted and the door closed; when opened, five skeletons attacked! However, Wulfgar and Dane were in the front and made quick work of the things. They continued on, once again staking open the doors behind them (fortunately, as it turned out), and made their way into the Grand Chamber. There they took up a defensive position in the corner, as they had in the previous expedition, and waited for their comrades to join them. They didn’t have long to wait, and the party was reunited (and it felt so good).
Filling the near-side party in on their discoveries of the many doors in the southern corridor, it was decided to go with a “Doing Dong Ditch” plan, wherein the party would ready themselves in a gauntlet oriented toward the southern entry and the fastest member of the party would kick down one of the doors and run through… drawing the monsters into the gauntlet of death!
The plan worked quite well the first two times, with three skeletons and then three ghouls being quickly and efficiently disposed of, with Quickleaf as the bait. Exior decided to be the bait on the third try, and as they say, the third time is the charm… as he readied himself to kick in the door on the southern side of the corridor, the door opposite on the northern side of the corridor opened and out stepped several black-robed men! Surprised, they grabbed him and stabbed him through the heart with their wavy daggers before he could even scream!
The sound of the scuffle carried, though, to the readied adventurers, but even as they rounded the corner to help their friend they heard his death rattle, his life-blood pooling around him. They saw the door close, and before the cultists were able to barricade it, Raylin and Wulfgar had burst it down and were engaged in hand-to-hand combat. The others piled in behind them, and three of the cultists were down in quick order, with Wulfgar laughing off the leader’s mystical cry for him to “Die!”
“Surrender now and we’ll kill you quickly and mercifully!” Wulfgar shouted… and surprisingly, surrender they did! They were tied up, and the leader, obviously a cleric of some unpleasant deity, was gagged. Raylin questioned the other cultist, fruitlessly, as was apparently more afraid of his master than of the ranger; he was quickly gutted and dropped to the ground, dead.
They then carefully questioned the cleric, who told him that the cultists were in the dungeons looking for someone named “Malfrecles Nauld (?),” apparently a powerful being, seeking to get him to join their cult. He would say no more, and thus being a dwarf of his word, Wulfgar quickly and mercifully slit his throat.
In the cult’s lair they discovered an unfortunate fellow trussed up in a corner; this was Veteran-Prestidigitator Mijiltur the Elf (m Elf 1st level Fighter/1st level Illusionist), who claimed to have been the last remaining survivor of another party of adventurers who stumbled upon the cult. He was asked, “You remind us of our slain friend. Would you care to join us?” And he did.
At first underwhelmed by the cultist’s 32 electrum pieces, they were better rewarded by the discovery of two healing potions and, potentially, a magic item, when it was realized that the cult leader’s staff might be a snake staff! They also took the daggers, mace, unholy symbol, and the black robe of the leader, to perhaps use later in a disguise, if necessary.
After looting the cultists the party decided to try the “old way” on the door that Exior died trying to open; to their chagrin, they discovered it was the lair of 10 giant rats. After much grinding, slicing, and dicing (during which Jalden earned the epithets “Mr. Meat Snack” and “Tasty Bacon”), the rats were dead. It was decided to finally loot the three rooms; the rat room contained dead rats and rat feces, the skeleton room was empty, and the ghoul room had several sarcophagi, one of which was filled with 200 platinum pieces!
Wulfgar thought it was best to leave at this point; most were wounded, a few badly so, and most of the cure spells of the clerics were long used. 2000 gp in platinum was a worthy treasure! But no, it was decided to try at least one more door…
It’s ALWAYS that door too far, isn’t it?
The party fortunately went back to the Ding Dong Ditch tactic for the fourth room… when Mijiltur (“He of the 19 Dex”) kicked in this door and ran, something… very… bad… followed. A black cloud of clicking, buzzing beetles, a huge swarm of flesh-eating scarabs!
Everyone else was confused at the sound and the sight of the black cloud, but Wulfgar, who, prior to his days as an adventurer worked as a bear-baiter and animal trainer, knew a Bad Thing when he saw one. “RUN!” was all he cried as he bolted, dragging the torch boy and pack boy with him. And the party ran… though only most of them followed him. Raylin, Jalden, Quickleaf, Jace, and Fin ran to the north-western exit, while the others followed Wulfgar to the south-western exit closest to the known exits. He and the main party made a beeline for the Ruined Temple, where they pulled up the stake and slammed the door shut behind them…
The others had rather more trouble, as the swarm descended on them (karma, really, as they thought that being the smaller group, the bugs would follow the OTHER guys); droves of beetles ripped bits of flesh off of them, the unarmored Jace and Cur the Dog taking the worst of it. As they decided finally to follow Wulfgar’s lead, they turned down the corridor paralleling the Grand Chamber and out popped four zombies from secret alcoves! Desperate battle ensued. Fin turned three of the zombies; Jace and Raylin took the opportunity to flee further down the corridor after the zombies, while Quickleaf and Jalden were stuck fighting the fourth. The beetles followed the ranger and magic-user; Jace fell under the bites of countless beetles, and Raylin fled back into the Grand Chamber when he saw the door had been slammed shut!
The swarm followed Raylin; the rest of the party, in the Ruined Temple, counted heads and realized they were missing several companions! Said companions, minus Raylin, made their way to the Ruined Temple, and there again encountered the zombies cowering against the door; they made short work of these, then pounded on the door begging exit. Raylin fled into the Room of Dead Rats, slamming the door behind him just in time to cut off the swarm…
The rest of the party was allowed in the Ruined Temple, quickly, and then they waited a while to see if Raylin would follow. Soon he did, as he cautiously checked the door to see if the swarm had left, which it had. He then ran at speed to the Ruined Temple, and gained entrance, dragging the stripped bones of Jace behind him.
It was decided, finally, it was time to leave! The trip out of the dungeon and back to Shady Hollow was uneventful…
Monster Slain: 8 Rot Grubs, 8 Skeletons, 3 Ghouls, 5 Cultists, 10 Giant Rats, and 4 Zombies.
Treasures Won: 32 ep, 200 pp, two potions of healing, and a snake-headed staff that MIGHT be magical; also recovered 2100 gp in gems and 185 gp from Exior’s body and 76 gp from Jace’s body. Ellan paid the party 402 gp for Jace’s spell book, and Mijiltur paid the party 200 gp for Exior’s spell book. Total Value: 4,998 gp.
XP Gained: 2,668 total
Comrades Lost: Exior the Mysterious (Cut down by Cultists), Jace du Rush (Eaten Alive by Beetle Swarm).
Monday, July 11, 2011
First and Second Expeditions (May 29, 2011)
Five disparate, desperate adventurers ventured into Stonehell Dungeon...
Raylin the Outcast, Half Elf Ranger, nearly died when bitten by a giant rattlesnake, discovered that he was allergic to snake venom. Shot in the back while in melee with skeletons (which, being "not-snakes," he had no fear of). We ended up saving his life by getting him to the local higher-level cleric just in time, but it ended up costing us 1500 gold that we didn't yet have! Robbie: "I swear by the Gods, if anyone shoots a bow into melee again, I. Will. Kill. them." Ray: "Why is everyone looking at me? What?"
Exior the Mysterious, Elf Assassin/Illusionist, was fond of being first to claim that he was "right there" when any treasure may be present, but being "way over there" when bad things happened, such as when green gas suddenly poured forth from a fountain. But in the end, his illusion of a giant snake (quite realistic, having recently seen one), helped us quite nicely when we encountered too many orcs while with too few hit points remaining. Mason: "Me? I'm Exior... you needn't know more." Everyone Else: "Oh hell, an assassin, sheesh..."
Cormac MacNicol, Human Cleric of Crom and Saint Conan, took charge of the party because everyone seemed hell-bent on hanging out at the taverns rather than going into the dungeon. He also hired on Flynn the Torch boy, and took him under his wing to teach him the values of struggle and mighty combat. It was Cormac's mace that crushed the skull of the giant snake, and his exhortations that pushed the group to the fore into battle... except when he had to bolster the morale of Flynn when he was threatened with violence by a fellow party member (see Rey From Round the Bend, below). James: "A temple o' feertili-tee y' say? Le's see jus' 'ow feer-tile th' wee preest-esses be!" Dan: "Um, the temple is run by a priest, Father Huxley..." James: "Och, thet won' doo... wait, be he a fine, pretty preester lad?" Dan: "..." Mason: ::squicked::
Ray Rennel, From Round the Bend, Elf Thief, Sleeper in Trees, Leaper into Mid-Air, Spinner of the Wheel of Fortune, Summoner of the Skeletons of Doom, He How Happily Shoots Arrows Into Melee, the Dancer in the Dungeon, Tempter of Fate, He of Little Faith. 'Nuff Said! Ray: "I'm jumping out of the tree with my 18 Dexteroty! Wooo!" Dan: "You take 3 points of damage from the fall." Ray: "But... 18 Dex... awww!"
Winthrope the Even More Mysterious, Half-Orc Assassin... Mysteriously, likes to use his dagger rather than his sword. In battle. Really! Bailey: "..."
The first foray toward Stonehell ended up with us dragging Raylin back to town before we even got within sight of the ruins! The second ended very unprofitably, with only a handful of coins looted from orcs, and a bevy of smallswords taken from the skeletons and same said orcs. Exior also harvested some venom from the giant rattler, and we took the glow-orbs from the bodies of five fire beetles, but we are most certainly not remotely near paying back Father Huxley for the neutralize poison spell... we'll be hard-pressed next venture to pay for the torch boy and more torches and trail rations!
Such is the life of adventurers...
Monsters Slain: 1 Giant Rattler, 5 Fire Beetles, 8 Skeletons, and 5 Orcs.
Treasure Won: 5 Fire Beetle Glow Organs, 26 gp, and 24 gp from the sale of the orc blades.
Adventurers Lost: None!
Third Expedition (June 12, 2011)
Most of the records of the Third Expedition have been lost... as were Ray Rennel to a spiked trap and Winthrope the Mysterious to the bite of a cobra. Ray had apparently "acquired" some valuable gems during a "scouting" expedition ahead of the party; these were found secreted on his corpse after it was pulled out from the pit. It was decided that we would leave the body behind in the dungeon, but Exior decided to drag it out to give the thieving thief a proper burial. Winthrope, too, was buried outside of the dungeon, both on a hill nearby, overlooking the trail between Stonehell and Shady Hollow.
Monsters Slain: 5 Orcs, 7 Kobolds, and 3 Cobras
Treasure Won: 188 cp, 84 gp, and two gems each worth 4,000 gp!
Adventurers Lost: Ray Rennel (spiked pit) and Winthrope the Mysterious (snake bite)
Fourth Expedition (June 26, 2011)
Most of the Stonehell Dungeoneers - Cormac Cleric of Crom and St. Conan, Welton Stonebeard, Who the Druid, and Raylin the Ranger - returned to Stonehell Dungeon for a third time, this time joined by Margit the Halfling, Rugar the Dwarf, and Dent the Warrior. Also joining them was Trance the Cleric of Metallica, whom they had rescued from kobolds in their prior venture (wherein they lost two previous companions to the foul pits). Exior the Mysterious remained behind in the town, resting from his exertions in the prior adventure...
And for most of the Dungeoneers, it was a final delve... in the depths of the first level catacombs. For though they fought well against many foul undead, including a dozen zombies, nine skeletons, a ghoul, and a super-skeleton (not to mention a clutch of nine fire beetles), their greed was their undoing...
As they found little if any treasure during most of the adventure, the three great and two lesser jewels, thousands of silver pieces, and many stone's weight of fine copper funerary items found in the super-skeleton's tomb were felt to be great recompense for their efforts. Of course, so great a weight in silver and copper would take several trips in and out of the dungeon. Leaving Raylin the Ranger and Margit the Halfling with the horses and the hired horse-guards, the other six adventurers (and the linkboy, Flynn the Farmer) returned to the tomb a second time to gather more silver and copper...
En route they encountered a roving band of six ghouls in the large Cross-Chamber of Many Pillars, and there they met their final fate! Linkboy Flynn, Who the Druid, and Welton Stonebeard fell ere they knew what had struck them. Cormac and Trance called upon their gods to no avail, and the ghouls kept coming. Cormac cried out for a fighting retreat, but the three remaining companions either did not hear or heed... for all the good it did him, for a ghoul pursued him and sent him to Valhalla, even as Trance and Dent fell beneath the fiend's claws and fangs. Finally, fighting alone in the growing darkness, Rugar the Dwarf and the druid's wolf-like hound companions Bingo and Dingo fell, too, their resting place as ignominous as could be...
Raylin, Margit, and the horseguard waited... an hour, then more, then the whole of the night and morning, until they determined that their companions would not return with them. Heaving a terrible sigh of sadness as he departed, Raylin led the much-reduced troop back to town, where the two surviving adventurers sold off the jewelry for a baron's ransom, the better to equip themselves for their next adventure, to hopefully find some sign of their lost companions...
I should also note that the meticulously-kept map was in the possession of Cormac the Cleric when he fell... as much a loss to the remaining party members as their friends!
Monsters Slain: 8 Fire Beetles, 9 Skeletons, 12 Zombies, 1 Ghoul, 1 Super Skeleton
Treasure Won: 8 Fire Beetle Glands, 4,008 sp, 5 gp, 2 Brooches (30 gp each), and two Jeweled Necklaces (1,300 gp each)
Adventurers Lost: Cormac MacNicol, Trance the Cleric of Metallica, Welton Stonebeard the Cleric of the Dwarf Gods, Who the Druid (with Bingo and Dingo the Wolf-Hounds), Dent the Warrior, Rugar the Dwarf, and Flynn the Link Boy
Fifth Expedition (July 10, 2011)
After the debacle of the Fourth Expedition, only Strider Raylin the Ranger (m 2nd level Half-Elf Ranger) and Warrior Margit the Halfling (f 2nd level Halfling) survived to return to Shady Hollow. There they determined to rebuild the group and go in search of the fate of their lost companions. They recruited the following adventurers:
Medium-Veteran Ellan the Elf (f 1st level Elf Warrior-Mage)
Veteran Wulfgar the Stout (m 1st level Dwarf Fighter)
Veteran Dane Gerous (m 1st level Human Fighter)
Acolyte Fin Thorbergr, Cleric of the Dwarf Gods (m 1st level Dwarf Cleric)
Acolyte Him, Cleric of Somebody Somewhere (m 1st level Human Cleric)
Galen the Link Boy
Latimer the Pack Boy
Additionally, Raylin acquired a guard dog, whom he named Cormac after his lost companion, and Margit acquired two guard dogs, Rufus and Blake.
Together the seven went once again into the dungeons. Without the lost map, Margit and Raylin wracked their memories in the maze below to find the catacombs, but after some searching, the great Chamber of Many Pillars was found, and there they discovered the fate of many of their party. Amidst blood and gore, torn armor and ripped clothing, and the lost map(!) were found the bodies of Rugar and Welton, the dwarves. Whatever had slain them and (perhaps?) the other companions had no interest in treasure or equipment, so the party looted the remnants there found, including an extensive hoard of platinum coins that one of the former adventurers had apparently been holding.
Further into the catacombs, they found the first sign of what exactly had happened to the party... when they encountered the former warrior Dent, now a ravenous ghoul! The party quickly put him to rest, and shortly thereafter, sadly, too their former companions Cormac, Flynn, and Who, the last being a most effective ghoul, perhaps due to his ineffectiveness in life. Of Trance, the Cleric of Metallica, there was no sign... perhaps he had been consumed whole?
The party returned then to the surface, rode back to Shady Hollow, and had the bodies of their erstwhile companions cremated and buried in the town cemetary, as none wished to leave their bodies rotting in the dungeons deep.
Monsters Slain: 4 Ghouls (the former adventurers Dent, Cormac, Who, and Flynn)
Treasure Won: 26 sp, 78 gp, and 110 pp.
Adventurers Lost: None!
Sixth Expedition (July 10, 2011)
After some rest and recuperation, the party added two more members for the Sixth Expedition:
Medium-Veteran Albert Fairbreeze (m 1st level Elf Warrior-Mage)
Veteran Rost the Dwarf (m 1st level Dwarf Fighter)
Thus further reinforced, they went again into the dungeons and sought further treasure in the depths of the ill-fated catacombs. There they encountered:
A Giant Spider, which made short for Raylin and Cormac CuRaylin; a mere hadnful of copper was all that was gained from its lair;
7 Stirges, laired in the ruins of an ancient Temple of Evil; these would have drained Ellan the Elf to the last drop of her blood, had it not been for a timely healing spell cast by the dwarf cleric. A worthy gem of unknown value was found buried in the rubble of the altar and idol;
7 Skeletons wandered into said temple, as the party was searching it for treasure and secret doors; these had no treasure to speak of;
Finally, in a vast chamber (The Chamber of Rotting Flesh and Bone), they encountered a large force of 8 Skeletons and 10 Zombies! Quickly forming a battle line, many were grievously wounded, and Cormac CuRaylin was lost to a savage zombie, but in the end the party prevailed...
It was decided then that a return to the surface and their base in Shady Hollow was in order, to rest and recuperate. The party would loot as much of the remaining copper funerary items as they could in a single trip (lesson learned!), and return to town to fight again another day...
Monsters Slain: 1 Giant Spider, 7 Stirges, 15 Skeletons, and 10 Zombies.
Treasures Won: 21 cp, an as-yet unvalued gem, and an as-yet indeterminate amount of copper funerary items...
Adventurers Lost: Cormac CuRaylin
Thursday, June 23, 2011
So one of the ways that I've found helps a little is cutting down on the shopping time per character. Obviously, each player wants to personalize armor, weapons, and a few things, but I've found that one way to cut down on the "fiddly bits" shopping is the use of the Bag of Convenience.
This is not a magical bag, it is simple a classic "Adventurer Kit" (a la B3 and B4) cut down to the very basics. Essentially, a character can invest as much gold into a Bag of Convenience as they desire. The bag is a shoulder bag or backpack, depending on the total invested (~20 to 30 for shoulder bag, ~40 to 60 for a backpack). The bag weighs as much in pounds as it costs in gold pieces.
Thereafter, whenever the character needs something he has not previously purchased, he can simply pull it from the Bag if it: 1) costs less than the value remaining in the Bag; 2) weighs less in pounds than the value remaining in the Bag, and 3) could actually fit in the Bag.
Each item taken out of the Bag of Convenience costs the Bag's running value, in weight and gold pieces, 1 gp/# per either gp cost or # weight, whichever is greater. Thus, a vial of ink, though negligible of weight, costs 8 gp/#. 50' silk rope, costing 10 gp and weighing 5#, would cost 10gp/# from the value of the Bag.
Once taken out of the value of the Bag, an item is then with the character as normal. At the end of an adventure, a character can simply 'cash out" the value of a Bag if needed ("hey, I have an extra gold piece! Woot!)
Many players have taken this option; it gives the characters more opportunities to ahve things needful, and cuts way down on the pick and peek through shopping lists...
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
I used the old AD&D Historical Reference Guide for The Crusades to develop the core of this campaign, which I ran using D&D 3E. Major historical deviation was that it was set in a D&D version of Aerth rather than Earth, so there were elves, dwarves, old gods, etc. Developed quite a bit of background, drew up a bunch of maps, had some fun. The primary goal of the campaign was for the adventurers to find an ancient aegyptian treasure that had been stolen by local bandits long ago and hidden away, tied in with an ancient tomb where several of Alexander the Great's loyal followers had been buried. The group found the tomb, which was based on an old tomb from the Valley of the Kings, but we never finished that campaign, and they were left still exploring the tomb...
Another Aerth campaign, this time actually using Dangerous Journeys, set in the time of King Richard the Lionhearted in a very alternate Angland where the island was broken up into many petty kingdoms and London was a Free City. The adventurers were tied into the latest battle between the cultures and gods over the island; they eventually recovered the scabbard of Excalibur, though it was left open-ended at the end of the campaign where the scabbard would end up. It was presumed, of course, that it would go to the young Prince of Logres, from which the Brythokelltic Renaissance would start and eventually re-conquer the isle (and flow back onto the Continent to conquer the Low Countries).
As you can probably tell, I really like Gary's Aerth setting. It is my "go-to" setting for pseudo-historical campaigns.
Monday, April 25, 2011
Upon closer inspection, the face projects about three feet out from the wall. It is humanoid of sort, certainly of masculine appearance, though thick of features and not of any particular race. The face has large close-lidded eyes, a large bulbous nose, wide elephantine ears with pendulous lobes, thick lips, and a jutting chin. The most remarkable thing about the face is its lips, which appear to be sewn shut with a thick string of gold!
That is, they seem the most remarkable thing, until the lids of the eyes flip wide open (which they do when any being approaches within 10 feet). The eyes are brilliant flashing green, like star emeralds, the pupils being the star of the gem. The eyes go wide when they see anyone who has a cutting weapon, and then the face writhes in pain as the lips purse out toward that person, the eyes pleading.
To all save the very dim, it is obvious the face wishes them to cut the golden string. If the adventurers argue among each other against cutting the string, or turn to leave, the eyes of the face tear up, and it begins to weep and sob and snort sadly. If the adventurers leave, as they pass through the door they hear a horrible burbling whine come through the sewn lips, with a muttered "..hhhhpppllllzzze?"
If the adventurers are so foolish as to actually cut the golden string, disaster, naturally, awaits them. Upon being cut, the string falls away immediately and the mouth flies open, the face giving off a great shout of joy. Then, a huge, 30' long black tongue darts out of the mouth and attacks as a 10 HD monster! First, it attacks the adventurer who most strongly fought against cutting its bonds. The tongue attacks by grabbing at the target; a successful hit deals no damage, but will grapple the target with an inhuman and irresistible strength, and on the next round will drag the target into the mouth completely.
Any target dragged into the mouth is stuck in the face's extra-dimensional gullet, and suffers 3d10 points of damage per round from the terrible acids. When an adventurer reaches 0 hit points, his body and most of his equipment are completely dissolved beyond recovery. Any magic items or gems, however, remain, and will be spit out as opportunity permits.
If the tongue is attacked, it is AC 2, immune to non-magical weapons, suffers no damage from bludgeoning attacks, and has 20 hit points. If the tongue is destroyed it falls into a pile of black ichor, the face puckers up angrily, and spits out a mist of black demon blood poison in the next round. Anyone in the room must make a saving throw against Poison or die. The tongue regenerates at a rate of 1 hp per turn.
The face can be attacked; only two can melee with the face directly at any time. Any such attackers immediately become targets of the tongue by default, the tongue attacks them with a +4 bonus, and if hit, they are dragged in immediately in the same round. The face has an AC 0, is immune to non-magical weapons, and has 50 hit point (separate and distinct from the tongue). If the face is slain, it crumbles in on itself and the tongue, if remaining, falls into a pile of black ichor. If merely wounded, the face regenerates at a rate of 1 hit point per turn (again, separate from the hit points of the tongue).
The face will continue to attack until it has consumed all the adventurers, save the one who cut it free... provided said adventurer has not attacked it in the meantime, in which case it will show no mercy. However, if the adventurer who cut it free did not attack it, it will introduce itself, quite politely, as Humbgrol the Erudite, and offer the adventurer a wish for his troubles. If asked about its eating of the other adventurers, Humbgrol will respond that it had been thusly sewn up for decades, and it was quite hungry, indeed, on the verge of starvation.
If asked, Humbgrol informs the adventurer that he is in fact, a demon, placed here long ages ago by a cult. In return for a sacrifice, he is able to answer any one question thoroughly and truthfully, no matter how secret, obscure, or otherwise lost the knowledge may be... though his answer may be in no more than seven words. He can also grant one wish per century.
Finally, Hubgrol will offer the adventurer any remaining magic items or gems that he could not digest from the adventurer's erstwhile companions, in return for the adventurer broadcasting that Humbgrol is again available for service... after all, he needs people to come to him and bring him sacrifices in order to eat!
Monday, April 18, 2011
As an aside, I've been thinking about the Druids of the Realm a bit lately, as I've been going through the core classes of Labyrinth Lord (Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, and Thief) and shaking out the "Things You Need To Know" write-ups, and am now considering moving on to the classes of the AEC. Assassins are easy, at least, for me, but the Druids need more consideration, due to the cosmology I've been building, with the Gods of Law and Gods of Chaos. In the Realm, the Druids revere not the gods, but the World itself; and frankly, the World isn't overly much interested in either the Gods of Law or the Gods of Chaos, prefering for the most part its own way, though at times, intersecting with Law, Chaos, and the mortal races and Civilization (with the noted capital "C") in different ways. I'm considering four primary branches of druidism:
Great Green Circle: Law-favoring, Civilization-Friendly, Tree-Hugging nature worshipers. Rustic, rural druids, who work with the peasants of forest and field, united with Civilization to enable it to best thrive together with Nature and the World. Distrust Arcane magic as an unnatural abuse of Nature. Work with the Gods of Law, or rather, work with the clerics of the Gods of Law.
Great Brown Circle: Neutral with respect to Law and Chaos, Civilization-Wary, Barbarian-Loving nature worshipers. Most Druids of barbarian peoples will be of this type (especially of the Highlanders and Northlanders). Despise Arcane magic as an unnatural abuse of Nature. Distrustful of the Gods of Law and Chaos, work closely with the Petty Gods and Godlings of Field, Forest, and Stream.
Great Black Circle: Neutral with respect to Law and Chaos, Civilization-Loathing, Savage nature worshipers. Druids of this Circle are the most primitive with respect to the ways of Civilization; they believe Men and other Mortals should live like beasts, in order to fit in "as they should" with their animal brethren. Despise Arcane magic as an unnatural abuse of Nature. Smallest of the Circles.
Great Red Circle: Chaos-Favoring, Civilization-Loathing, Beast-Like, more-savage-than-Savages nature worshipers. Take the pervasive Druidic belief that the World is merely an extension of the Dragon Primordial to the most unpleasant end, beleive anything that is not subsumed into the reverence of Nature as the Dragon Primordial must be undone (similar to the Demonic belief that the World must be Undone to enable the Dragon Primordial to return to full power and bring the World back to its true potential). Embrace Arcane magic as an natural extension of the Will of the Dragon Primordial. The Red Circle Druids are mostly of monstrous sort, i.e., goblins, orcs, and the like, but there are no few Men and others of mortal races who turn to the Red Circles for power or in madness.
Each Great Circle has its own hierarchy; one Great Circle is usually dominant, though rarely exclusive, in a region. The Druids of the Western Wastelands, for example, are mostly savage Red Circle druids tied in with Kishar; they view the wastes created in her Wrath as a good start toward undoing Civilization and returning Nature to the way intended by the Dragon Primordial. There are, however, Brown Druids among the Highlander clans and other local barbarians, and a few small circles of Green Druids work with the rural folk of Haelyx, Royalton, and nearby towns, villages, and hamlets. Black Druids are rare in the region, the few that can be found here generally living as mad hermits in the Great Northern Stink.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Kishar (Greater Goddess Trapped in Mortal Form)
Kishar is the First-Born Dragon-Queen, the Great Dragon Bitch, Mother of Dragons, Mother of Demons, Big Red, and She-Who-Burns. Born of the Heart of the Dragon Primordial, Kishar is the first and greatest of the Five Dragon-Queens, the mothers, queens, and goddesses of all dragon-kind. She and her sisters were born from the largest parts of the Dragon Primordial which, after being slain by the Elder Gods, fell down to the World and came to rest in places of great and potent power. Kishar and her sisters led the attack in the War of Angels and Dragons, seeking to overthrow the Elder Gods and their Law which had, to their way of thinking, usurped the rightful place of the Dragon Primordial and the way of Chaos. Though they failed in their initial war, they have been more or less at war continually with the Gods and Law ever since, keeping the Gods from realizing their Plan to re-make the World wholly in their image.
Like the demons and gods, however, the Dragon-Queens and other Gods of Chaos have been limited by the terms of the Divine Compact since the end of the War of Angels and Demons. Limited not in that they themselves ever signed on to the Compact, but by the very real limitation that if they did not recognize the Compact, and thus remain outside the World, the Gods, Angels, and Demons together would gang up on any who abrogated the Compact, an alliance against even which all five of the Dragon-Queens together could not stand… and the five Dragon-Queens had not stood fully aligned together since the War of Light and Darkness, save for the debacle of the War of Angels and Demons. Thus, in the long millennia since, Kishar operated through clerics and servants, who wrought her will on the World in proxy.
During the early years of the Wizard War, Kishar was foolishly summoned into the World by Shelmorian Vorl, a wizard of great talent but little wisdom. Naturally, he could not control the goddess as he could control other summoned demons; the result was known as the Wrath of Kishar, a terrible event that devastated the western Heartlands and created the Western Wastes. The last laugh, however, was on Kishar, as though Shelmorian had summoned her hence from her otherworldly Hell, the limitations of the nature of the summoning were such that they forced her into a mortal body! Thus, while Kishar now had a way around the Divine Compact against direct assault and action on the mortal World, she too could all-too easily perish, and even by mortal blades! This she discovered when the Unknown Hero, who gave his life for the cause, stopped her wrath and ended the destruction by striking her with a dragon-slaying blade, paralyzing her. Though she survived the encounter, it frightened her…
Unsure whether death in the mortal World now meant true and final death for herself, her wrath cooled considerably, or at least, her own personal, physical enactment of it. She settled down in the wastelands of her creation, first to heal her grievous wounds, then to build her power. For though she was now of mortal form, she still had much to do as a Dragon-Queen; she could still grant spells and visions, send out servants to perform tasks, and so forth. She has since set up her own petty kingdom, of sorts, in the Western Wastes; the heart of the Wastes are known as the Wastes of Kishar, and are home to all manner of evil and Chaotic dragons and dragon-like creatures.
Like all the Dragon-Queens, she has five dragon heads, one of each of the major chromatic colors: outer left Black, inner left Blue, central & body Red, inner right Green, and outer right White. The central Red head and neck is twice as large as the other four. Her body overall is and is thick, strong, and powerful; some might describe it as almost elephantine in bulk. Her scales are a deep maroon above and a crimson-red on the underbelly, including the scales on the underside of all five necks. She has a pair of great red bat-like wings upon her back; they seem far too small to lift such bulk, but nonetheless, she can fly, if clumsily. She has a great red-orange mane of bristly hair that flows from the crown of her Red head, down her central neck and back, to half-way down her tail. Her tail is long and thick and heavily armored at the tip; a retractile poisonous stinger the size of a long sword is found at the tip. She stands 30’ tall at the shoulder, with a 60’ long body, a 60’ long tail, and 30’ long necks.
As a mortal being, Kishar has the stats of a Chromatic Dragon (AEC p. 121), with the following additions:
• Her main head has 32 hp, the other four have 24 each, and her body has 144 hp (18 HD)
• She fights as though she has 36 HD
• All her saving throws are 3
• Each of her heads can breathe the appropriate type of breath attack three times per day
• If all five heads breathe at the same time at the same area, any being subject to all five breath attacks at the same time must make a saving throw against death or be disintegrated, as the spell, in addition to all other possible effects and damage
• Her bite attacks each deal an additional two dice of damage of the appropriate type
• Her tail sting deals 1d8 damage in addition to the venom that must be saved against at -4 (failed save meaning death is instantaneous)
• She has the personal spell-casting abilities of an 18th level cleric of Chaos and an 18th level magic-user with Intelligence and Wisdom scores of 19, having access to all known (unnamed) spells and many named magic-user spells
• She has 120’ Infravision
• She possesses a form of telepathy that allows her to understand any spoken language
• She can only be hit by magical weapons of +2 enchantment or better
• She is immune to all forms of charm, sleep, enchantment, suggestion, and similar powers and spells
• She takes half-damage (no damage on a successful save) from all the following normal and magical attacks: cold, gas/poison, fire, electricity, and acid
• She has the following abilities, which she can use at will, one per round per head: clairvoyance, clairaudience, continual darkness, fear, detect invisible, detect magic, dispel magic, ESP, greater phantasmal force, levitate, polymorph self, read languages, read magic, suggestion, telekinesis (500 lbs. per head), wall of fire, wall of ice, and water breathing
• She can use the following abilities once per day: feeblemind, power word blind, power word kill, power word stun, project image, symbol, unholy word, and gate (95% probability of success). If the gate is successful, she summons one or more chromatic dragons of maximum hit dice and hit points (d6): 1, White; 2, Black; 3, Green; 4, Blue; 5, Red; 6, Roll Twice.
• She is able to teleport without error, at will, though only to known and studied locations
• Her primary treasure hoard in the Dragon’s Graveyard has 10 times the maximum number of all possible coins, gems, jewels, and magic items! She also has five lesser treasure hoards, scattered around the Wastes, each equal to Hoard Class XV x 5, though each is guarded by a daughter, a normal Chromatic Dragon, plus 1d4 other dragons of chromatic type (and random sizes and ages)!
At some point in the last several centuries, she moved her personal, primary lair from the Wastes to the Dragon’s Graveyard, which is found on Rogull, the Dragon-Moon. It is thought that she did this in order to protect her vast treasure from the greed of Djiabaleur, the Dread Lord of the Heartlands, who, approaching the status of divinity himself, sought to challenge her and steal her magical hoard for his own purposes. She still wanders the wastes that bear her name; most mortals are beneath her notice, even when they seek to attack her, but should an obvious Hero-type challenge her, she will gladly stomp him into the ground for his troubles. And then again, she might just feel a bit peckish, or a bauble carried by the mortal might catch her eye…
When encountered in the Wastes, there is a 10% chance that Djiabaleur chooses that moment to attack Kishar, seeking to overthrow her or, at the least, seeking to get enough leverage on her for her to give him some of her magic items. She rarely ever turns from battle with Djiabaleur, so great is her hatred of him that it overwhelms her sense of self-preservation. Needless to say, getting caught between the two in battle is an unpleasant place to be, and adventurers in such straits may wish they were merely caught between the proverbial rock and hard place.
Though not commonly known, she also travels the wider world in polymorphed form… though she loathes to take on the form of “lesser” creatures, from time to time she does so when she wishes to see and study something with her own eye or hear with her own ears, rather than through her minions or through magic, and stealth is required. Her favorite form is that of a beautiful, flame-haired elven fighter/magic-user/cleric. There is a 15% chance when so encountered she is traveling with the Arachnidaemon, Lolth, a sometimes-ally, who is similarly polymorphed into an identical form (and, like Kishar, trapped on the mortal World in mortal form). Legends of these “Sisters of Chaos” spring up from time to time, as the pair like to get their Chaos on, and go raid a Lawful temple just for the fun of it…
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
In ancient days, the hill lands known today as the Jotun Hills were home first to Dwarves, then later Goblins, then later still Gnomes, and finally, in the waning centuries of the Elder Days, settlements of Elves. These Elves were a mix of the old Taur Annoc and Taur Elthoniel, or rather, of Sun and Star Elves, who were more commonly found in mountains and forests, respectively. Their domain, the Realm of Sun and Stars, spread from the ridges of the Dusty Hills in the north to the southern valleys of the Giant Spine Mountains in the south, and from the Giant Spine Mountains in the east to the meadows and forests where stand now the Wastes of Kishar. Hither in the last of the Elder days came clans of Men, of tall and goodly mien, who befriended the Elves and learned much from them.
These Men were the direct ancestors of the modern Highlanders, and though their bloodlines are long since watered by those of other Men from other lands, the modern Heartlanders. With time, over the ten long millennia of the Mortal Compact, the Heartlanders mostly moved down into the meadows, and cut down the forests as the Elves retreated to make way for Men, though many clans still remained in the hills of old, and these too eventually moved further afield, keeping the old traditions in new homes among far-distant hills. By the time of the Wizard War, the forested hills of the northern realm of Sun and Stars were home mostly to Elves, allied Gnomes, a few friendly clans of Men, and under the hills, tribes of Goblins, more or less tamed and friendly, weaned from Chaos by long centuries of labors on the part of Gnome and Elf alike. The southern realm of wind-swept heather and moor was given over to the clans of Men, who even then were a semi-barbaric peoples apart from their civilized kin of the cities of plain and field.
Many of these clans of Men moved into the Giant Spine Mountains when the Sun Elf cities were abandoned during the early years of the Wizard War. True Giants migrated south along the Giant Spine, eager to reclaim their ancient homelands. Unfortunately for the clans of Men, this was the time of the outbreak of the war between the brother wizards Shelmorian and Daraztheon Vorl. The clans of the Tribe of Sun and Stars joined in the war, mostly on the side of Daraztheon, for the southern clans were great enemies of the northern clans through ancient blood feuds. Thus, when the True Giants invaded, most of the men-folk were away at war, and their homes and families fell to the ravages of the northern Giants. The few stragglers who returned from the disastrous War of the Brothers were able to do little to oust the invaders; conversely, the disaster that struck the region with the Wrath of Kishar caused the invading giants no end of troubles, and they were not truly able to consolidate their gains, as each of the surviving clans fell to bickering in the shattered hills.
Centuries passed, and the peoples of the hill lands became even more savage as they were hunted by Giants like beasts. No few fell into complete degeneracy, devolving to such a low cultural state that they took to living in caves and lost all knowledge of metallurgy. Some few clans held on to the old ways; these are the ancestors of the modern Highlanders of the Jotun Hills, savage and barbaric by even the standards of the Highlanders in general. Then, as the Mannish clans once again grew great enough in numbers to challenge the presence of the True Giants, another disaster struck. Migrating clans of savage Northlanders passed into the region, pushed there by the city-states of the wastes (these unified for the first time in centuries against the common enemy). These Northlanders, a tribe known as the Jotun due to their Giantish blood, swarmed into the hills and shattered the power of the Highlanders and True Giants alike.
Today, the settlements of the Jotun Hills are a patchwork of savage and barbarian tribes of Men (descendents of the savage Northlanders known as Groezlingas, Highlanders, foreign merchants, and degenerate Cavemen), Giantings (known in local parlance as Jotun or Verbeeg), and True Giants, with a leavening of Ogres, Orcs, and Dwarves (these last attracted in the last century due to re-discovery of the ancient rich mines of their forebears). The modern, post-Wrath geography of the hills includes all the highlands and vales south of the Flaming Highlands of Herkull, west of the Great Fungal Forest, east of the Putrescent Pits and Brigand Ridge (inclusive of these hills), and north of (though including) the southern vales of the western spur of the Giant Spine Mountains, including Mimir’s Vale (these last vales and hills being south of the edge of the map). The Hillfalls Ridge south of Pendrayk between Herkull and the Great Fungal Forest, strictly speaking, does not fall within the Jotuns geologically, but as peoples of the Jotuns moved in there in the century before the conquest of that region by Djiabaleur, most of what applies to the Jotuns applies there, too, save for a greater frequency of dragonnels.
Groezlingas are descended from savage Northlanders, with a dash of Gianting blood by way of the Jotun clans (which the Highlanders and Heartlanders call the Verbeeg). Like their cousins to the north they average 6’ tall and 200 pounds, are usually blond or redhead, blue or hazel eyed, pale to ruddy skinned, and like to wear beards and long braided hair. Due to intermarriage and wife-stealing with the Highlanders and Heartlanders, though, many have other skin, hair, and eye colors. They use scale mail armor, spangenhelms, round shields, and wield spears, swords, and axes. Their clothing has adapted to the more temperate climate of the Jotuns, but like the Highlanders, they like to wear furs, especially bear furs; some of their clan leaders, particularly among the Kor (Koram) and Thyrm (Tyrm) worshipping clans, are werebears. The bulk of the 21 clans, though, are druidic, with their own rather bloodthirsty canon, made moreso by their unpleasant encounters with the city-states of the wastes generations ago. They are led by Earls (Clan Chiefs), each of whom rules his clan with the support and assent of his Thayns (warriors). Like the Highlanders before them, the Groezlingas today live on cattle ranching (and cattle raiding), farming, and raiding. They speak Groezlinga, a dialect of the Northlander tongue, though most leaders speak a bit of Common, Heartlander, and/or Highlander.
Highlanders of the Jotuns are a savage people, even in comparison to their cousins elsewhere. Like most Highlanders, they average about 5’10” and weigh 185 pounds, have black, brown, or tawny hair, green or hazel eyes, ruddy to light brown skin, and generally wear their hair in braids, though the men are otherwise clean-shaven. Due to intermarriage and wife-stealing with the Groezlingas and Heartlanders, though, many have other skin, hair, and eye colors; those of mixed Groezlinga and Highlander blood are often pale-skinned redheads or raven-hairs. They use chain mail armor, conical helms with short bull horns, oval shields, and wield spears, swords (bastard swords especially), and hammers. They prefer to wear woolens with fur trimming and fur cloaks, even in summer, eschewing shirts and pants in favor of fur cloaks on hot days. They prefer wolf furs over other kinds, especially wolf furs of pure white or black. Most of the 18 clans are druidic, belonging to a tradition distinct from and inimical to that of the Groezlingas. Many clans also have a patron Demon Prince of one sort or another, much to the chagrin of the Druids; the Makkhus Clan is renowned for its patronage of the cult of the Charonadaemon, Kharun. A handful of clans follow the old Elven Ways of Flumon Fey-Moon, seeking her protection against the faeries of hill and dale. Ravens feature prominently in local Highlander tradition and superstition, traits that the Groezlingas have adapted to their own druidic and other cultic traditions.
The Verbeeg clans are similar in culture to their cousins, the Groezlingas, though since they arrived in the Jotuns, they have “gone native” to a great degree, and turned back to the ways of their Giantish forebears. Thus they remain only semi-civilized, if still cultural paragons compared to the local Ogres and Orcs, whom they often lead, sometimes in the service of their True Giant cousins.
2d6 Jotun Hills Encounter Table 1
2. Jotun Hills Encounter Table 5: Very Rare Encounters
3. Jotun Hills Encounter Table 4: Rare Encounters
4+5. Jotun Hills Encounter Table 3: Uncommon Encounters
6-8. Jotun Hills Encounter Table 2: Common Encounters
9+10. Jotun Hills Encounter Table 3: Uncommon Encounters
11. Jotun Hills Encounter Table 4: Rare Encounters
12. Jotun Hills Encounter Table 5: Very Rare Encounters
* Ravens in the day, Bats at night
D20 Jotun Hills Encounter Table 2: Common Encounters
1. Bear, Black
2. Bear, Brown
3+4. Cattle, Wild
5. Dog, Wild
7. Giant, Hill
8+9. Herd Animal
10+11. Man, Groezlinga
12+13. Man, Highlander
17+18. Raven, Common*
D12 Jotun Hills Encounter Table 3: Uncommon Encounters
1. Bear, Cave
2. Cat, Wild
3. Faerie, Leprechaun
4. Giant, Verbeeg
7. Man, Bandit
8. Man, Pilgrim
10. Raven, Huge*
11. Skunk, Giant
D30 Jotun Hills Encounter Table 4: Rare Encounters
2. Bee, Giant Killer
3+4. Boar, Wild
6+7. Cat, Mountain Lion
9. Giant, Cloud
10. Giant, Stone
12. Hobbit, Black
14. Lycanthrope, Werebear
15+16. Man, Caveman
17+18. Man, Merchant
20-23. Raven, Giant*
24. Shadow Mastiff
25. Stag, Giant
27. Wasp, Giant
30. Wolf, Dire
D30 Jotun Hills Encounter Table 5: Very Rare Encounters
3. Boar, Giant
6. Dragon, Pseudo
7. Dragon, Red
9. Faerie, Atomie
10. Faerie, Brownie
11. Faerie, Grig
12. Faerie, Nymph
14. Galeb Duhr
16. Giant, Fire
17. Giant, Frost
18. Giant, Mountain
22. Hornet, Giant
23. Lycanthrope, Wereboar
24. Man, Berserker (d6: 1, Groezlinga; 2, Highlander; 3, Kharun Cultist; 4-6, Madman)
26. Ram, Giant
30. Yeth Hound
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Ilzara (Intermediate Goddess)
Ilzara is the Messenger of the Gods, the Celestial Psychopomp, the Guide of Souls, Guardian of the Dead, Queen of the Valkyries, the Wife of Tyrm, and the Mother of Iluna. Once an Angel in service to the Gods, Ilzara ascended to full divinity in gratitude for her service in the Elder Days, and has since been a favorite patron goddess of many. She and Tyrm were very close even before their ascension; they had many occasions to work together due to Tyrm’s duties as a war leader, as Ilzara passed information and orders on from the Gods to their warrior-angel and gathered the souls of fallen warriors. They were married soon after their ascension; their daughter, Iluna Silver-Moon, was born at the end of the War of Light and Darkness.
Ilzara has three very important duties in the family of the Great Good Gods:
Messenger of the Gods
She and her servants deliver messages for the Great Good Gods, to other gods, to demons, and to mortals. This is a very important task, as the gods are neither omniscient nor omnipotent, and thus cannot be everywhere and know everything. Nor are they telepathic over great distances. Thus, the gods have need for courageous and incorruptible messengers to deliver important messages to servants, friends, allies, and enemies alike. No gods or servants of the gods are faster than Ilzara and her servants; they move faster than the wind upon wings of light. No few of her servants have died to bring messages that the Gods of Chaos or Demons want unheard by the intended recipient or stolen for their own ears. While Qnath and his servants are the masters of divination, it is usually through the services of the servants of Ilzara, if not Ilzara herself, that the gods send word of their will to their mortal followers. While divinatory queries as to the future are usually answered by a servant of Qnath, questions that can be answered about the past or present are usually answered by a servant of Ilzara. These messages are usually presented in dreams or visions, though if important enough, the messenger might appear in spirit form to the recipient and those around them and deliver the message verbally. Finally, Ilzara’s servants also act as the heralds of the gods, standing before them to deliver pronunciations of the gods and act as intermediaries between the gods and mortals.
Divine messengers carry a distinctive rod, known as a kerukeion (from the Southlander tongue). This device is about three feet long (for human-sized figures), at the top an egg of adamant (to represent the Cosmic Egg), below a lemniscate (infinity symbol) parallel with the rod, and at the point below the lemniscate, a pair of wings. As heralds, the rod is a full-sized staff about six feet tall (again, when the figure is human-scaled), bearing the personal symbol or badge of the god for whom the herald works in between the wings.
Guide of the Dead
Ilzara and her servants are tasked with the retrieval of the souls of the faithful upon death, to see that they are brought before Qnath, Koram, and Galendar to be properly judged. Each class of death has a special Psychopomp, or guide, to take the immortal soul to the Straight Paths of Elysion and thence to the Hall of Judgment. The most notable such guides are those who gather the souls of fallen valiant Lawful warriors who die in battle. Known as the Valkyries to the Northlanders and, in general, in the Heartlands, these guides are angelic beings of beautiful female form, armed and armored complete with helms with wings of hawks, swans, or ravens. They are often, but not always winged, but can fly regardless; they also sometimes, but not always, ride flying horses, which might also be winged or not. Only those destined to die soon in battle can usually see Valkyries, unless they let themselves be seen otherwise. Other guides of the dead in service to Ilzara include the cherubs who guide the souls of children; the more common angelic type who handle death by accidents, plague, or illness; and the hale warrior angels who welcome a valiant warrior who dies outside of battle to the afterworld. The horrific “Angels of Death” of skeletal form dressed in black robes with great, blood-dripping scythes are sent only to those whose damnation is fore-ordained by the deeds of their own hands… such are still guided to the Hall of Judgment, usually by a circuitous route through Infernus or some other Hell, that they may get a taste of what is coming to them. Of course, if one’s soul is already promised to a demon, then said demon usually appears alone, ready to gather his loathsome harvest with no argument from Ilzara or her servants…
Guardian of the Dead
As the guide of the dead, she also functions as the guardian of the dead, as it is she and her servants who must guard the soul of the dead from demons, evil spirits, and other nasty beings who might seek to wrongly steal the soul away from the gods. Thus, her priests also serve as officiant at funerals, with the priest of the deceased patron god or goddess assisting (and often with clerics of Galendar, when the temple focuses on Redemption and Resurrection). Clerics of Ilzara also guard cemeteries, catacombs, and necropoleis against the intrusion of grave robbers, the rise of undead, the machinations of chaotic sorcerers, and worse things.
Spheres of Influence: Messenger of the Great Good Gods, Divination of Past and Present, Guide of the Dead, Guardian of the Dead, Mother of the Silver-Moon
Symbols: Kerukeion (see above), winged helm, winged boots or sandals
Animal: Swan, raven, winged horse
Raiment: Flowing white robes, winged helm, winged sandals
Colors: White, silvery-blue
Place of Worship: Common temples of the Great Good Gods, cemeteries, catacombs, necropoleis, places where the wind blows freely and quickly
Holy Days: None especially
Ceremony: None exclusively; clerics of Ilzara serve the other priests of the Temple of the Great Good Gods as messengers, officiants at funerals, and guardians of the dead.
Sacrifice: In addition to the standard tithe to the Temple, once per month or as needed, one should give a secret to Ilzara by seeking solitude and speaking the secret aloud, that any nearby messenger might hear and deliver the secret to Ilzara. Those seeking to have their messages delivered to the gods (or mortal messages delivered to allies/friends/enemies, etc.) should promise or deliver further tithes of goods or services to the Temple; failure to deliver after promises made and messages delivered results in bad things happening!
Taboos: Never leave a message undelivered, even if it means your death; never desecrate a holy grave; always bury the dead, even those of your enemies
Special Spells Granted: Clerics who focus on the messenger aspect of the goddess and earn her respect through their service will gain access to the following spells (spell level): message (1), locate object (2), fly (3), freedom of movement (4), teleport (5), repulsion (6), and phase door (7). Clerics who focus on the guide of the dead aspect of the goddess and earn her respect through their service will gain access to the following spells (spell level): deathwatch (1), speak with dead (2), fly (3), freedom of movement (4), true seeing (5), astral projection (6), and trap the soul (7 - used to contain Chaotic souls only). Clerics who focus on the guardian of the dead aspect of the goddess and earn her respect through their service will gain access to the following spells (spell level): detect undead (1), consecrate (2), glyph of warding (3), death ward (4), disrupt undead (5), forbiddance (6), and spell turning (7). Generally heroic clerics might gain access to some or all of these spells. Each spell group is gained in order; thus a higher-level cleric who only gains Ilzara’s personal respect late in his career might only have access to the level 1 and level 2 special spells, even though he can cast third and fourth level spells.
Saint Exmin the Valkyrie
Her greatest servant, her Captain of the Valkyries, is Saint Exmin the Valkyrie, a once-mortal woman who, during her life, fought valiantly for the Great Good Gods and the cause of Law as a wandering paladin. Aged and doddering after a life dedicated to fighting the good fight, she refused to die in bed, and went forth to fight one last battle against a horde out of the East. She died on the battlefield, after defeating the leader of the nomads in single combat; though her wounds were not great, the enemy khan had poisoned his blade. Rather than die from festering wounds, she sought to have her shield-maiden finish her with a dagger that she might die from a blade in battle. But none of her weeping followers could do the deed. As Ilzara was already in attendance at the battle, she herself manifested in order to grant her life-long follower her greatest wish… and when she arrived in Elysion, she found that the Gods were ready to welcome her into their fold as a Saint in the cause of Law.
Her other major servant is Exalted Sotillion, the Maiden of Summer, Mistress of the South Wind. It is she who blows the great Celestial Oliphant to let the spirits of air and water know that summer has arrived. It is she who gathers the souls of the dead who die of heat stroke and other summer maladies. She appears as a beautiful maiden of fiery golden hair, diaphanous white gown, bare feet, and white-plumed wings, with a great golden halo.
Exalted Frantilla, Shield-Maiden of Koram
Finally, another important figure in Ilzara lore is that of Frantilla, the Shield-Maiden of Koram. Frantilla is the sister of Ilzara; for her great service to the gods, she was asked to join them when they left the Vault of Heaven to the Angels, and she remained loyal to them and their cause. Frantilla often joins Ilzara and Exmin to gather the soul of a king or great paladin in Koram’s service when they fall in battle.