Monday, May 16, 2011

[Wilderlands] Hyborian Gods of the Wilderlands

In the beginning, the gods, demi-gods, and heroes of the City State of the Invincible Overlord and the Wilderlands were taken directly from Dungeons & Dragons Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-Gods, & Heroes, by Robert Kuntz and James Ward. Judges were directed in pretty much every case to refer to GDGH in just about every reference to a deity in the Guide to the City State and the later Revised Edition of the City State of the Invincible Overlord.

In addition to the classical deities and demi-gods of history, that tome included the mythic creatures from several literary sources, including Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories. Several of the gods of Thuria (the name of the continent whereon all Conan’s adventures took place) naturally made their way into the Wilderlands. The Blood-Stained God of the Orcs of the Purple Claw was among the first gods mentioned. Boomer Bronk, the cleric of Haghill in Initial Guidelines Book K revered Yezud the Spider God. Elsewhere, the mighty nature of the barbarian races, the nature of the relationship between Mitra and Set in Dark Tower, and the inclusion of Tsathoggus in the Shield Maidens of Sea Rune, indicate a strong Howardian influence in Judges Guild products in general and in the Wilderlands in particular.

Thus, it is not at all inappropriate to return to the gods of “Robert E. Howard’s Hyborea” section of GDGH for inspiration for further gods for inclusion in the Wilderlands. I think I’ll be adding them to my current Selisengard campaign…

CROM - Neutral
Crom is a fine, grim god for the savage tribesmen of Barbarian Altanis, for whom he is their paramount (though non-exclusive) deity. Being inspired by a god of the Irish, and in line with many later Conan pastiches, his clerics are druids; as he is most certainly of Neutral aspect, this fits pretty well, as does his “survival of the fittest” philosophy. Only men may be druids of Crom, thus the women of Altanis turned to the development of psychic abilities and formed the Protector caste. Too, druids of Crom are not much for protection of the clan or tribe, so the Protectors fill in a needed niche in a harsh world. In the current campaign, he is of course revered by mercenary Altanians, though there are few such in the region. Perhaps a few Tharbrians revere him, as a distant, more martial cousin of their gods…

MITRA - Lawful Good
Mitra is used to good effect in the original Modron town book from Judges Guild; with the advent of the Necromancer Wilderlands, his worship spread far and wide (though interestingly has no major presence in the City State). The GDGH choice of a sword of cold is an odd one; I think I’ll go with the more traditional fire association as used in the Necromancer Wilderlands, as well as the far more martial aspect. In addition to the center of worship in Modron, I have him being the patron deity of the Tharbarres clans of the northern Endless Desert; I also have him as an ally of Mycr in my campaign, so this is not as odd as it might seem. Temples to Mitra are rare, however, in the Falling Empire, and usually hidden, due to his association with Mycr.

SET - Lawful Evil
The Egyptian gods are the gods of the Ghinorians in my campaign, and through long ages of Ghinorian migration, trade, and proselytization, they are found throughout the Wilderlands. He was long ago the patron of Bukera, the founder of the Quizats Haterak faith of the Lenapashim of the Endless Desert; since their falling out his worship in the region is mostly limited to a cult found in the port cities from Dagonsharp to Lenap.

ASURA - Lawful Neutral
Howard’s Asura is essentially an analogue of Varuna, who in Vedic belief, is the counterpart and ally/twinned god of the Vedic Mitra, Varuna being a lawful sky god of the sun at night (the Cosmic Ocean, perhaps the Milky Way), opposed to Mitra being lawful sky god of the daylight and the solar disc. In Howard’s “Hour of the Dragon,” he is a god of illusion and reality, of seeking the reality beneath the illusion… an esoteric cult, to be sure. In my Wilderlands, Asura is a former cleric ascended to godhood under the patronage of Varuna, a god of the Telanghans, a southern people found far to the east in the Kingdom of Karak. Asura sought new followers among the peoples of the Wilderlands proper; today his cult in the Falling Empire is hidden in plain sight, under the guise of another temple… of this I will say no more, lest players in my campaign happen to read this…

TSATHOGGUS - Chaotic Evil
Tsathoggua/Tsathoggus never featured directly in any true Howard Conan story; he was found, sorta kinda, in one of the De Camp/Carter pastiches, “Conan the Buccaneer.” But he’s made an even bigger splash in the Wilderlands, where he is everyone’s favorite Demon God. In GDGH it is mentioned that he takes any opportunity he can get to animate one of his stone idols; a feature certainly to be used if any PCs raid a temple of the cult! Tsathoggus fits in nicely as one of the “monstrous demonic mystery cults” of the High Viridians, and is sure to make an appearance in the campaign!

Not to be confused with the Hindu (and Telanghan) god Hanuman, Hanuman the Accursed is a demonic being who has taken the name of the ancient and honored god in mockery of all that he represents. Born the son of a vanara ape-woman and a rakshasa king in distant Telanghata, Hanuman the Accursed eventually attained godhood around the same time as Asura, who was among his greatest enemies. Thus, wherever Asura sends his followers, Hanuman the Accursed seeks to send his own. This demonic god makes for another excellent “monstrous demonic mystery cult” of the High Viridians, and also fits in nicely as a cult among the Lenapashim.

YEZUD - Chaotic Evil
In the Conan tales, Yezud was actually the name of the city that worshipped the Spider-God (or Goddess); in the Conan comics, he/she/it was first named Omm, then later Zath after the name used in a De Camp pastiche. With Yezud of the Wilderlands, I’m going to say that today, the name Yezud is simply applied to the cult, rather than to the “god” itself, the exact Spider-God entity today being the largest, most ancient spider in the world. Another Wilderlands classic, the cult of Yezud was once upon a time far more widespread, until the Spider God allied with Set during a war between various deities and somehow managed to piss off Nephtlys. She and her followers soundly trounced the Spider God and almost permanently destroyed it. Today, its spirit lives on only through the expediency of inhabiting the largest, oldest male giant spider in the world; as sometimes this spider is not strong enough to hold all the deific power, other giant spiders of lesser though still great size often hold a portion of the deific power, and thus split the cult in many schisms based on the different avatars. Nephtlys has effectively locked the Spider-God out of the Spider-Goddess business, and thus taken over the most generative portion of the deific “portfolio.”

It should be noted that since the days when the Spider-God and Set were allies, they had a great falling out (as Set turned on the Spider-God, which led to his downfall), and so today, the Spider-God and his followers are among the greatest enemies of Set and his temple!

The clerics of Yezud are notable in that they have several special powers:

1) They can, at 1st level, memorize and cast the special 1st level summon spider spell; this spell creates a small black pearl-like object that can be kept until used, though it dissipates if not used within 24 hours. When thrown, or when handled by anyone other than a cleric or devotee of Yezud, the pearl opens up into the form of a giant spider, with 1 HD per level of the caster. If the spell is cast on a gem of at least 100 gp value per level of the spider, the pearl remains permanent, and can be used and reused until the spider is slain, after which nothing remains except black goo. Note that clerics of Nephtlys also have this spell, though only gain it as a 2nd level spell.

2) In addition to the 1st level summon spider spell, they also gain access to the following druid and wizard spells as cleric spells of the noted level: 2nd = spider climb; 3rd = web; 4th = envenom (reversed neutralize poison); 5th = animal growth (spiders only); 6th = insect plague; 7th = creeping doom; 8th = animal shapes (spider only); 9th = shapechange (spider only).

3) At 3rd level they gain a small giant spider as a familiar, as per the spell summon familiar. The cleric gains the ability to spider climb, as per the spell, once per day per three levels (once at 3rd, twice at 6th, etc) as per the spell cast by a wizard of the same level. The spider grows in size, one HD per level the cleric gains (though the cleric does not gain any hit points after the initial gaining of the familiar). If the spider dies, he cannot get another familiar for a year and a day, and when he does, the spider starts out again at 1st level. If the spider familiar ever gets to 11 HD, it becomes an avatar of Yezud, and thus requires the cleric to build for it an appropriate temple above a great cavern where it can raise its spawn.

4) Clerics and true devotees (i.e., those who can handle spider pearls safely) all adhere to a strict regimen of abstinence from alcohol and fornication; this is especially true of the temple virgins, who dance for the god on holy days!

5) Clerics of Yezud can use daggers.

Some say that a cult of Yezud is found in the Dankbark Forest, where they are led by man-like spiders…

The Blood Stained God is worshipped by many, not just the orcs of the Purple Claw! He/she/it takes many forms, though always some sort of metal idol of vile and martial nature, invariably covered in the blood of sacrifices. There’s not much to the faith other than sacrificing people to it in return for power; anything else considered important to each cult is pretty much at the whim of the current Evil High Priest, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of sacrifices. The Blood Stained God is perfectly happy for two of its own cults to fight… it has no preference for any type of blood, whether that of the innocent or that of its own followers. Often, the idol used as the center of cult worship is a defiled, debased idol of some goodly, lawful deity.

YAMA THE DAMNED - Chaotic Evil
Yama the Damned is another being not to be accused with the Indian (and Telanghan) god Yama, the Judge of the Dead, Yama the Damned is a mysterious demon god who seeks to further his worship through seeding the world with his own children. These Sons of Yama godlings are the Evil High Priests of their temples. Each such usually rules a temple-city or even kingdom, whether found hidden in a high mountain valley, a deep earth cavern, a jungle-cloaked island, or even a secret in the midst of the ancient dungeon ruins under a modern city. His children and their closest followers are granted clerical spells; his ruling child can actually animate the great stone idol of the demon god that stands at the heart of the temple-city. The size and power of the idol depends on the secular power of the ruling Evil High Priest. While most often found in the Kingdom of Karak, his children and followers are of many races, and can be found nearly anywhere… there is said to be a tribe of cavemen in the Pinnacle Mountains, who are said to live in the ruins of an ancient city, and are ruled by their godling Evil high Priest.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

[Wilderlands] Selisengard Campaign Session #1

Session 1: May 13, 2011
The Battle of Pyrgoslofos (Castle Hill)

János Gaál, LE male Smyrian 2nd Level Wizard [Alan]
János is the son of József, a wizard of Smyrsis Province. Third of five children, he possessed Talent enough that his father taught him the ways of wizardry, but had little enough intellect to understand the deeper mysteries. Unhappy at the rate of his learning, and believing that his father did not trust him (with good reason), of a day János absconded from his father’s tower with his father’s wand and a scroll, and lit out for the further lands, where he would seek his own wealth and power, out from under his father’s thumb. Since then he has encountered nomads, werewolves, orcs, bugbears, hobgoblins, and once, from a distance, spotted a small roc. Having discovered in some ancient tomes references to the wealth of magic once at the beck and call of the lords of Selisengard, he made his way there by long and circuitous rout, choosing to bypass the wagon trails that pass far too close to the Missing Memory Marshes. Instead, taking on the guise of a wandering pilgrim, he followed the Western Road all the way to Millo Fortress, thence to Ezrahaddon, and then north to Saimon, this last leg of the journey purchasing a place in a grain caravan, riding on one of the great wains of grain headed north…

Telemakhos son of Theon, LN male Common Viridian 3rd level Fighter [Evan]
Telemakhos is the son of Theon, last scion of a disowned cadet branch of a minor noble house. His father was a wandering mercenary adventurer, much of his fame earned through the might of the last family heirloom, Kobosefetes, “Slicer,” an ancient vorpal blade. Raised among the mercenary followers, Telemakhos never knew his mother, who had died in childbirth. Raised on looted beef and plundered wine, Telemakhos grew tall and strong, with a great barrel chest (Str 18, Con 17). His father was slain in defense of a castle when he was 16; he inherited from him his blade, his armor, and his wandering ways. Since them he’s been wandering, serving as a guard here, a full-on mercenary there, and now and again doing a bit of adventuring in old ruins. He’s had unpleasant run-ins with dwarves, hill giants, giant scorpions, cavemen, oozes, giant rats, pirates, nomads, ogres, harpies, and dissension among the ranks of an adventuring party. Sometimes he wins a great treasure, other times he’s fortunate to get out of a debacle with his blade and the armor on his back, most of the time he’s been glad just to have enough in his purse to afford some decent wine and a wanton wench. Such is the life of a wandering mercenary adventurer who worships at the altar of the Lady of Luck, Nephtlys. Most recently he was hired as a guard for a grain caravan between Ezrahaddon and Saimon…

The caravan was passing through the verge of the western plain that spilled east of the Saffrin Groves, a half-day out from the pissant “town” of Smaragdipoli (an up-jumped village, at best), when without warning, battle cries and screams of hatred erupted on both sides! Down over the rolling hills to the west sped a large party of horse nomads from the Berserker Wilds, blue-skinned Shardan savages wearing war paint waving their lances. Out of the tall grasses to the east a pack of maddened red-cap gnomes, barbarians from the Bestial Barrens riding war-lizards, bellowed and leapt at the guards and oxen.

János hopped off the back of the wagon and whipped a dart from beneath his robes; it spun straight and fast into the right eye of the lead gnome, knocking him cleanly off his steed, though his two companions kept running straight for him. On the other side of the caravan Telemakhos drew his blade, which sang from its scabbard ready to drink rich blood. One nomad, a stripling, screamed in fury as he tumbled past on his steed into the milling oxen tied to the wagons; the lance of the other glanced off the breastplate of the old Viridian panoply, and for his effort the young warrior earned a split skull and fell from his horse, dead ere he hit the ground.

He turned as the warrior that ran past him returned, swinging his lance wide; he, too, felt the bite of ancient Viridian steel and fell to the ground, spattering his life-blood across the tall grass. János was in greater peril, as the other two ran up and slashed with their short scimitars; one tore through the thick robes and scored a nasty red cut across his chest. He swung his iron-shod staff and stove the gnome’s blood-red cap and skull clean down to his shoulders. A snarl crossed the last gnome’s file-toothed carved grin, but ere he could act, the wizard grasped his staff in one hand and with the other reached out and cast a bolt of power straight into his face… his eyes went wide, as did the flash of his scimitar, and for the first time in his life, the red-cap gnome knew fear.

Looking up and down the line, Telemakhos was pleased to see that his fellow guards had dealt with the rabble professionally; in a glance at his opponents, he could see that these were merely stripling warriors, from the lack of full paint, not even blooded, and so though born to saddle and lance, no match for more than two dozen hard-bitten experienced mercenaries. Cursing sulfurously, he nudged his horse on toward one of the savages, an older warrior who was engaged with a nearby guard; he rued the day he lost his last warhorse in a game of knucklebones, as the simple hackney he rode, though sturdy enough, had no fire for battle.

Blood mad and spitting in fear, the last of the gnomes leapt toward János with a scream; he died with a whimper as a bolt of pure magic burst his belly wide, and fell to the ground with a plop, like an overripe melon. Likewise, the stripling warrior jabbed furiously with his lance at the gore-spattered Viridian; his lance tip slid harmlessly away, glancing off the plate, and he ended his life hewn in twain, together with his shield and lamellar leather breastplate.

The battle was over as suddenly as it began. All told, 32 Shardans and 15 gnome lay dead, with merely three dead and a handful of wounded on the part of the caravan. Per their contract, the guards were allowed to “keep what they killed,” and after they tended to their wounded and dead, and made sure that all the dead enemies were, in fact, dead, through the simple expedience of stabbing each in the gut with a spear, they looted the bodies as only professionals can. But a poor bit of looting it was, for each youth and gnome had but a pittance of silver and a sprinkling of gold, as well as mediocre weaponry; only the older, more experienced warrior slain by Telemakhos had any real treasure, a handful of gold sequins riveted to his leather shirt. János took from the lead gnome a small cape of giant weasel fur. The few plains horses that had not run off were simply added to the caravan’s remuda.

János ended up getting the best of all, perhaps, for after he’d finished bandaging his wound, he’d discovered much to his surprise that one of the war lizards, obviously carnivorous, had decided to stick around and was nibbling on the entrails of the gnome whose belly had burst at the wizard’s magic words and passes. Grinning with devilish glee, he took out a ring he had been saving toward such a possible prize, a ring he had prized from the finger of the dead hedge wizard who knew not its value. Placing it on his finger he twisted it three times, then spoke the magic charm at the toothy beast; the lizard’s eyes glittered for a moment, then it turned its bloody maw toward the wizard and nuzzled up against him like an affectionate cat. “Excellent…” thought the wizard…

Leaving the bodies where they lay to rot by the side of the track, the caravan continued on to the north, though with scouts posted further to the van, sides, and rear. On the further end of the long, warm, Spring afternoon, the vanguard came riding back, reporting a great pillar of smoke rising from beyond the hills several miles away, about where the caravan planned to spend the night at Pyrgoslofos, a small village the local Aelphen called Castle Hill. Sergios, the Maldevarian-Viridian half-breed bastard captain of the guard, shook his head sadly and cursed, for he had worried about just such an occurrence. He gathered together a few of his better scouts and deadlier warriors, including Telemakhos; together with János, who invited himself and the lizard along (with the promise that the lizard would well behave itself), they headed out through the tall grasses west of the track.

Slowly, carefully, and quietly in the gathering twilight, the small party of scouts made their way over the hills and through the shallow valleys, across scrub-dappled plains. They passed carefully over the last ridge, sliding forward on their bellies, lest their silhouettes be made out across the dusky horizon. They made their way toward the southernmost of the last small hills before the stream, where on the other side of a wide, shallow ford stood the village of Castle Hill. The steeper northern hill, they could see in the dwindling light, was covered with ancient ruins of a castle, little more now than the foundation stones and piles of ancient weathered rubble, after which the village had been named.

Or rather, the former village or so all gathered, as they peered out from the cover of the tall grass and brush atop the small hill. For the village below burned, sending out billowing gouts of flame and smoke. From here they could hear the screams of the living villagers, being tortured and raped by the raiders. Pulling out his spyglass, Sergios carefully counted the remaining raiders, and cursed. It was worse than he had thought, by far, for it was not mere coincidence that the caravan had been attacked simultaneously by the Shardan savages and gnome barbarians; they were cooperating in the village, as well, a nigh-unheard of occurrence, as neither peoples was apt toward alliance with any others, let alone across racial boundaries! He counted all told more than 30 raiders, with as many as two dozen men and women staked down in the midst of the village green, amidst burning buildings. “Of course,” he muttered sadly with a sigh, “This had to happen on my last ride, as I intend to retire when we reach Saimon…”

Such numbers of warriors were not nearly enough to have taken out the village militia, let alone the lord and his soldiers who had been stationed at the small tower above the ford… so obviously, the bulk of the raiding party had moved on elsewhere. And most of the villagers were missing, for Sergios counted only two score or slightly more bodies in the streets. These last stragglers were simply hanging about enjoying the torture and rapine of the remaining villagers. Mostly youths, from what they could tell, though two of the Shardans were sub-chiefs, or blooded warriors at least, for they wore stolen Tharbrian hauberks of mail, and one wore a Tharbrian scimitar at his belt. Sergios sent his two best scouts to check out the area around the village on the other side. Meanwhile, he discussed possible actions with his remaining guards.

They basically had three choices; they could attack, hold up in the encircled wagon train and hope the raiders pass them by; or head back to Ezrahaddon. After some discussion, it was decided that they should attack, as going forward was the best of the three options, as none liked just waiting things out, and they were two days out from Saimon and four out from Ezrahaddon. Plus, the warriors all seemed young and inexperienced, and no nomad born had ever learned the methods of defensive battle in an urban setting, let alone one in which they had burned all the buildings of any use! The scouts returned at that point, and reported that all appeared as it seemed, though in addition to two guards of each race at the entries to the village on either side of the track, they also noted that there were wandering guards posted to either side of the village on the other side of the stream.

After ascertaining that János had no enchantments capable of causing the guards to fall asleep, or being useful in other ways, Sergios decided to split up the guards and make an assault several hours after nightfall; 25 guards would attack across the ford, while five, plus János and Telemakhos, would swing around to the other side of the village and attack from the rear once the melee had begun…

Fortunately, the small party made it across the stream with no difficulty; similarly, either the wandering guard had wandered away or passed out from imbibing looted wine, as they found no sight of him on the other side of the stream. They made their way stealthily through the verge of the tall grasses on the edge of the planted gardens, and hid in a small copse of trees on the other side of the village. It was not long before they heard war cries, whoops, and screams of pain and anger across the small vale. The four guards at the entry to the village looked at each other briefly, then the two Shardans ran with great war-cries and one of the gnomes sped away with a scream into the village. The last remaining guard gnome didn’t even have a chance to notice the warriors, covered in black soot, rush from the copse, as one of the guards placed an arrow directly between his eyes. He fell with a thud.

The attackers raced through the village streets, slick with the blood of villagers, weaving through the piled dead and fallen and burned buildings. Telemakhos cursed as he slipped and slid in a pool of blood, and the others sped on without him. They closed in on the rear of the mass of shouting, whooping savage warriors, who milled about on the other end of the village at the ford, fighting and foot with the attacking caravan guards. Caught off their plains steeds, the nomads and gnomes alike wielding unwieldy lances afoot and slicing drunkenly with scimitars, the raiders were still giving as well as they got, and were holding the ford.

Then the second group of caravan guards crashed unexpectedly into their rear, and all hell broke loose!

János closed with a Shardan, and smacked him upside the head with his staff; his lizard friend leapt on the back of another and ripped one big claw down and through his spine, felling him in an instant. Another Shardan turned to face the pair; as the first turned, he again was drubbed by the wizard’s staff. The other guards tore into the massed nomads and gnomes with spear and sword. Blood flowed, and screams of joy turned to screams of terror. The rear wall of the savage warriors fell beneath the professional blades of the men-at-arms, and Telemakhos, finally caught up with the rest, leapt joyfully into the hole rent in the line… and came face to face with the tall, mailed leader of the Shardans!

They traded blows, saber to long sword! A long slash of the saber found a hole in the mercenary’s armor big enough to draw blood and a curse; the mercenary’s blade crashed down through the mail hauberk, shattering bone and slicing muscle. Further back, the lizard leapt from the back of his victim to strike at another Shardan; his great claw caught in the leather coat of his victim, and down he went, face in the mud, a writhing, hissing pile of flesh and fangs tangled in beaded leather straps. János finished off his opponent with a last thrust to the gut, and he went down with a whoosh and a thud.

The Shardan stripling stood above the lizard, ready to gut it with his lance; a crackling burst of magic struck him square in the face, his eyes burst out their sockets, and smoke curled forth from his ears. Down he went. With a sneer across his purplish lips, the Shardan leader drew back his saber to strike again, which was all the opportunity Telemakhos and Kobosefetes needed; snicker-snack went the ancient blade, and the Shardan leader’s head went galumphing away though the remaining nomads. They gave a great cry of terror, and fled in all directions, as the mercenaries slaughtered all in their path up from the ford. One crossed under Telemakhos’ blade; it fell as without thought, and the warrior fell, split shoulder to sternum. Another passed by János, and was well thumped for his foolishness, though all he earned was a goose egg, rather than death. All told, three Shardans fled from the battle alive, while the last three gnomes stood; naked as the day they were born save for their red caps, drenched in the blood of their tortured victims and their companions, at the center of the circling mercenaries.

Thinking to perhaps question the gnomes, Telemakhos offered them mercy, but they simply spat blood (some their own, perhaps some their victims) into his face. A flash of magic from János, and one fell dead; the central gnome, with the tallest, finest blood-drenched cap, rushed Telemakhos. Their blades flashed once, twice; Telemakhos was unscathed, and the leader of the gnomes lay dead. The other mercenaries closed on the last warrior, and left little more than a red ruin of flesh and bone.

And the Battle of Pyrgoslofos was ended.

The mercenaries, always practical and self-interested, first checked to make sure that the remaining Shardans were truly fled, and then tended to their own wounds. Only then did they check after the folk of Castle Hill. They found 22 men and women staked down in the green, mostly grievously wounded in body, if not in mind, from the horrors visited on them by the raiders. They discovered another 52, all wounded, many poorly used and abused, locked away in the village hall and temple… built of solid stone, neither burned well, so the nomads used them to hold their victims.

All were merely peasants or serfs; they related how the previous day a small band of warriors had come raiding the further cottages, and the lord and his soldiers bravely and foolishly rode forth to meet the “small band of savages,” never expecting and having no sign of the much larger force laying in wait, no less than three hundred Shardans and scores of blood-mad barbarian gnomes! They were slaughtered to a man, and then this morning the force rode in and slaughtered the disorganized and leaderless militia. Most of the villagers, more than six score, had been taken away by the main force of savages and gnomes; those that remained were the uglier women and older men, left for the rear-guard to toy with as they wished…

The mercenaries breathed a collective sigh of relief when they were told the nomad force had lit out for the plains to the west, rather than deeper into farming country to the north. Several headed back to the wagons to bring them thither, as even a burnt-out village was better protection than none at all! Meanwhile, Telemakhos and János gathered together their loot. Telemakhos made out quite well; the hauberk of the leader was worth a pretty penny on its own, and the saber he had wielded was a Tharbrian blade of expert make, but the real value lay in the purses filled with gems. Three of these he found, one on each leader, the third on the youth he slew as he fled. Altogether ten gems, including three cabochon-cut green nephrites! The Shardan leader, too, wore a fine gold medallion, which János averred was enchanted; he warned Telemakhos against wearing it until he had a chance to determine the nature of the enchantment, which he promised he would do when they reached Saimon (for a nominal fee, of course).

János, for his part, only netted a handful of gold and silver. Of course, once the caravan reached their destination, they would each be able to pull a few horses from the remuda, which grew by another 20 of the hardy plains ponies.

And there the session ended…

Saturday, May 7, 2011

[Wilderlands] Selisengard Campaign Set-up

So I've decided to start up a Castles & Crusades campaign in the Wilderlands of High Adventure...

In best Wilderlands fashion, I determined the starting point of the campaign entirely randomly, first determining that it would begin in Campaign Map 4: Viridistan, then randomly determining the hex where the game would start: Hex 0729, on the trail between Saimon and Ezrahaddon. I decided the adventure would begin in media res, with the party being part of a caravan between the two towns. I randomly determined that they were heading north, so the caravan is likely filled with grain, as well as glassware from Calah and rare and unusual goods from the Desert Lands. Who, exactly, is attacking I have yet to determine!

One thing I've doing with this campaign is going with a larger hex scale: 12.5 mile hexes. I've always like a larger scale for the maps, and having worked with 12.5 mile hexes for the Realm, decided to go with that scale rather than the 15 mile hexes I've used before. I've also pumped up the settlement populations accordingly (though only x2.5), as I've always felt that they were a wee bit on the light side; though even so, there is a LOT of empty space and wilderness left between those small points of light!

I've laid some ground work for the local region. Here is the material from my "Selisengard Campaign Cheat Sheet" that I pass out to the players. It is filled with general information any adventurer in the area should be able to find out easily enough. As you can tell from the name of the campaign, I am hoping the players will be enticed by the possibile treasures found in Selisengard (which is a rather more extensive ruin in this world than in the Wilderlands of High Fantasy, along the lines of Pavis/Big Rubble in Glorantha). Of course, things can go quickly off the rails in any campaign, especially a sandbox as I am designing this to be, so you never know!

As you will see from the house rules, I am also trying to keep things simple, as the camapign is designed to be an introduction to C&C, and as I discovered much to my chagrin with the Realm, if you give the players the full range of available classes and races, they will more than happily push far beyond that! There's something to be said of the 4x4 option in keeping the campaign simple... though being a culture freak as I am, I gave them plenty of interesting human and demihuman cultures to play with!

House Rules
0) The Castle Keeper is Always Right!

1) Roll 4d6 drop the lowest die six times, arrange to taste

2) Available Races: Human only!

3) Available Classes: Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, and Wizard. No multi-classing is allowed!

4) Starting Level (d6) 1-3: 1st, 4+5: 2nd, 6: 3rd

5) Max hit points at 1st level; thereafter, you get what your roll!

6) Roll 3d6x10 for starting gold (SL Modified), multiply by your level.

7) Starting Social Level depends on the 3d6 roll used for initial gold.

8) You might have magic items! I will check for you once you have rolled for starting gold but before you have purchased your equipment.

9) You have a 1% chance +1% per point of Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma over 15 of having a psychic ability.

10) A natural 20 rolled to hit is always a hit; if you would have hit anyway, it is a Critical Hit, and you can do extra damage or even kill your opponent instantly! Of course, this can work against you, as well…

11) A natural 1 rolled to hit is always a miss; if you would have missed anyway, it is a Fumble, and bad things can happen!

12) Some poisons and traps can kill instantly… though you usually get a saving throw… you have been warned!

13) You regain half of the hit points you lost from each individual wound (rounded up) after 10 minutes of rest and bandaging after each battle, so keep track of your exact wounds!

14) If you are reduced to less than 0 hit points, you are unconscious, and may suffer long-term debilitating effects from your wounds, even with magical healing. At -7 hit points, you are mortally wounded, and lose one hit point every 1d6x1d10 rounds if you do not make a Constitution check to stabilize. When you reach -10 hit points, you die… and as 9th or higher level clerics are quite rare, death is usually quite permanent in the Wilderlands!

15) I count encumbrance, so keep careful track of all your equipment and treasure, especially where it is all kept!

16) Most men and women of the Wilderlands are 0-level commoners, but you never know when the bartender you are dealing with is some 0-level schmuck, a 3rd-level wizard, a 20th-level fighter, or even a slumming godling!

Clerics and Wizards
As a spell caster, you have a number of spells known and a number of spells per day, for each level of spell you know. Thus, you memorize your spells, but you do not forget a spell when it is cast; instead you use one of your spell casting slots of that level per day. Your bonus spells count toward both spells known and spells per day. You can use a higher-level spell casting slot to cast a lower-level spell, but there is no bonus for doing so.

Wizards and Armor
Wizards may wear armor, but if they cast spells while wearing armor, they must make an Intelligence check against a CL equal to the level of the spell plus the bonus value of the armor they are wearing! Elves must only add the level of the spell they are casting to their CL.

Rogues and Armor
Rogues can wear padded armor, a leather coat, leather armor, and leather helms without penalty. Any other armor worn while performing their special abilities causes them to suffer a CL penalty equal to the full bonus value of the armor worn.

Weapon Proficiency
Remember, the weapons listed with your class are those in which you are proficient. You may use any weapon, but if you are not proficient with it, you suffer a -4 penalty to hit.

Human Cultures
Ælfen [Aelphen] (NG):
Ruddy-skinned, blonde-haired, hazel-eyed Doughty Serfs or Lower Class Freemen Peasants, Swineherds, Shepherds, or Craftsmen (Very Common, Anglo-Saxon)

Cavemen (N): Swarthy, black-haired, brown-eyed Subhuman Degenerate Descendants of Ancient Lost Civilizations used as Slaves and Mercenaries (Rare)

Common Viridian (LN): Pale green and blue-skinned, tawny-haired, blue and green-eyed Lower and Middle Class Freemen and Citizen Peasants, Shepherds, Craftsmen, Merchants, and Soldiers (Very Common, Anglo-Greek)

High Viridian (CE): Swarthy blue-green-skinned, dirty blonde to platinum-haired, blue or green-eyed Decadent, Debauched, and Demon-Worshiping Noble Lords and Gentry (Rare, Greco-Persian)

Lenapashim (LE): Golden-skinned, black-haired, brown-eyed Mercenary or Raider Outlander Savage Paynim Desert Nomads of the Endless Desert (Very Rare, Arab-Persian)

Maldevarian (N): Swarthy-skinned, black-haired, amber-eyed Mercenary Outlander Hot-Blooded Conquistadors (Rare, Spanish)

Shardan (LN): Blue-skinned, white-haired, blue-eyed Middle to Upper Class Citizen and Gentry Artisans, Craftsmen, Soldiers, and Ranchers or Mercenary and/or Raider Outlander Nomad Horse Warriors (Uncommon/Rare, Persian-Greek and Persian-Mongolian)

Smyrian (CG): Pale-skinned, brown-haired, blue-eyed Kindly if Mysterious Lower and Middle Class Citizen Peasants, Craftsmen, and Merchants (Uncommon, Hungarian)

Tharbarres (LG): Bronze-skinned, red-haired, blue-eyed Zealous Desert-Dwelling Crusaders of Mitra and Prophets of Mycr Dedicated to the Liberation of the Holy Cities from Viridistan (Rare, Gallo-Persian)

Tharbrian (CN): Pale-skinned, red-haired, green-eyed Mercenary and/or Raider Outlander Nomad Horse Warriors (Uncommon, Gaelic)

Vandarian (LN): Swarthy-skinned, black-haired, sloe-eyed, hawk-nosed and big-boned Mercenary Barbarian Mountain and Hill-Dwelling Warriors of the Haunting Range and Ered Demivand (Very Rare, Armenian)

Demihuman Cultures (All are Very Rarely Encountered)
Dwarves, Kazadrach (N):
Tan-skinned, red, brown, or blonde-haired, blue or green-eyed Smiths, Jewelers, Merchants, and Alchemists of the Cities and Towns. (Kazadarum)

Dwarves, Kazakarag (LG): Bronze-skinned, flame red-haired, ice blue-eyed, big-headed barrel-chested Orc-Loathing Isolationist Goldsmiths and Miners of the Starrcrag Mountains. (Elementalists)

Elves, Aelsinar (CG): Brown-skinned, straw-haired, blue or green-eyed short and wiry Isolationist Forest-Dwelling Pleasure-Seeking Merry-Making Joke-Dealing Wandering Wood Elves of the Elsenwood. (Beytnorn, Teros, Torrchas, and Vernaha)

Elves, Aelvoress (LG): Ivory-skinned, platinum-haired, violet-eyed, tall and lanky City-Dwelling Gray Elven Refugees of a Lost Kingdom of Faded Glory in the Savage North. (Cilborith)

Halflings, Mishell (N): Mauve-skinned, white-haired, golden-eyed elven-eared Vale-Dwelling Rustic Hard-Working Yeomen Farmers, Ranchers, Hunters, Brewers, Vintners, and Merchant-Adventurers. (Limtram, Losborst, Scodem, and Teth Tufa)

Mannish Temples, Faiths, and Gods
Ælfkirkje (NG, Ælfen):
Eorthe the Earth Mother, Meili the Lord Bountiful, Aelfwine the King, Wulf the Warrior, and Grimm Greywand the Wizard, plus lots of “petty gods” of forest and stream. It is a very homey, earthy faith, with peasant-style rustic rituals and beliefs.

Alinah (LN, Vandarian): The Vandarian moon goddess is also patroness of werebears, wereboars, and weretigers; it is said that many of the chieftains of the Vandarians are lycanthropes.

Demon Cults (CE, Cult, usually High Viridians): Many and various, all nasty, many monstrous, some public, most not.

Gnosophim (N, Cult): Thoth, God of Knowledge and Wisdom. Ascetic mystic cult, with many wizards and monks, charges high price for spell casting services to any who can pay.

Hedonae (CE, Cult): Tama Hama, Goddess of Pleasure and Pain, the Divine Dominatrix. Most festivals are open to non-believers, for an appropriate fee… converts always welcome!

Mer Shunna (LE, Viridian): Armadad Bog (the Green Death) and Baba Yaga. Worshipers revere power, water, magic, and death; each family must give one child or a slave to the temple for sacrifice. Only Viridians allowed, is the official Imperial Faith. Most followers pay lip service, though a few are truly zealous.

Mitraic Mysteries (LG, Tharbarres): Mitra is dedicated to combating evil and chaos in all forms, particularly Set. Often works with Mycretians and Sekerites.

Mycretianism (LG, Cult): Mycr is a god of peace; he claims that he is the only TRUE god, and all other “gods” are false gods. His followers have great powers of healing, but lose them if they so much as defend themselves with intent to do harm. Often work with the Starlight Temple and Mitraic crusaders.

Natchai (CE, Cult, usually Cavemen): Eqni the Earth God requires the sacrifice of still-beating hearts, live burials, and the building of stone circles and the raising of obelisks. Eqni is very popular among the lower classes and among semi-civilized Cavemen.

Quizats Haterak (LE, Lenapashim): Bukera, God of the Endless Desert, the Old Scorpion, a god of desert winds, strange proclamations, genies, honor, harsh and unyielding traditions, misogyny, slavery, and living idols of stone.

Rune Ki Temple (LN, Cult): A mystic cult dedicated to Shang Ta, the god of sky, air, law, ritual, and meditation, followers spend most of their time blessed out on tithweed juice, ringing gongs, and discussing their strange visions.

Seekers of Health (LE, Cult): Clerics of Ugtargnt, the Devil Goddess of Disease, charge exorbitant fees for their healing services… and are rumored to start the very diseases they are paid to cure!

Smyrdyboga (CG, Smyrian): Dorak the Lord of Peace and Suthak the Lady of Plenty are central to a faith that exhorts its followers to believe in peace, kindness, community, and freedom.

Starlight Temple (LG, Cult): Seker, the God of Light, seeks out evil wherever it rears its ugly head. Only females (Cha 13+) may be Sekerite clerics and temple guardians.

Sun and Wind, Earth and Grass (N, Tharbrian): The Tharbrians revere druidic gods, notably Belenus the Sun, Epona the Earth, Goibhniu the Smith, Lugh the Excellent, and Morrighan Battle Queen. Donn, the Demon God of Death, is not revered so much as propitiated and hated. They have no temples, only stone circles.

Tanga-Dorn (LN, Shardan): Mystic patron of the nomad shamans, the Everlasting Sky is also the Blue Thunderer. Requires strange taboos, odd rituals, and strong ethics; morals not so much.

Tardome (N, Maldevarian): The Falcon King is a god of exploration and conquest; his followers are exhorted to go forth in the world to make their mark or die trying. The merciful need not apply.

Temple Tempter (LN, Cosmopolitan): Nephtlys is the goddess of trade, luck, wealth, conspicuous consumption, and spiders, in that order. She is very popular with merchants and craftsmen.

The Bad Guys
: For centuries, the Emperor has ruled through use and abuse of demons, many of which have gained their freedom and now make their way as they will across the land.

Goblins of Slithytove: Put down harshly during the Great Slaughter of Pain two centuries ago, the Goblins of Slithytove are again on the move, led by a Priest-King with strange powers.

Redcap Gnomes of the Bestial Barrens: In the last decade before the Emperor went into seclusion, he pushed the border of the Empire deep into the Bestial Barrens, traditionally the home of savage gnomes… and today, their blood-maddened descendents seek revenge!

Shardan Nomads of the Berserker Wilds: Descended from the clans who would not bow to the Viridians, the Shardans of the West ride once again in strength, raiding far into the domains of the Falling Empire and claiming their ancient homeland of Eba Aba.

Starrcrag Orcs: Centuries ago this savage tribe of orcs swarmed into the Starrcrag mountains from the Unknown West, conquering the southern ranges and extirpating the dwarves of the southern delves. Of late their mysterious shamans have been very active around their great Glass Mountain Temple, and orcs have been seen far and wide from their mountain homes.

Viridian Noble Lords: With the preoccupation and virtual isolation of the Emperor for the last 20 years, the High Viridian noble lords of the Empire have been competing with one another for power and wealth in a low-grade civil war; for upon the death of the Emperor, the last of the True Viridians leaves the Imperial Throne wide open for the taking!

Geography, Settlements, and Ruins
Berserker Wilds:
Home to savage tribes of Shardan nomads, including chaotic heretics dedicated to Tel-Star, the Darkness Between the Stars, brother and enemy of Tanga-Dorn.

Bestial Barrens: Home to terrible monsters, including redcap gnomes, giant lizards, toads, snakes, and beetles.

Cabral Jungle: Said to be home to ghouls and ruined pyramids.

Calah: Frontier town deep in Bestial Barrens, capital of the Mikraino Military District, and last slice of civilization to the west.

Celedorinlin: Eastern, drier reach of the Slithytove contains most extensive ruins of the ancient Elven civilization.

Crown Knoll: Burial site of ancient Shardan kings and shamans.

Crystal Lake: Home to orcs, ruins once site of advanced civilization.

Dankbark Forest: The northern eaves of the Cabral Jungle, Infested with giant spiders who collect silver from the ancient Elven ruins that abound throughout the region.

Desert of Blood: These rocky wastes, sheltered by the Haunting Range are said to be covered in rubies, by legend the congealed blood of a dead god.

Ezrahaddon: Plains town on frontier, many ruined villas nearby; capital of the Viscounty of Ezrahaddon.

Glass Mountain Mines: Diamond mines infested with orcs; the diamonds are said to possess strange magical powers.

Haunting Range: These southern mountains are home to Savage barbarians and rich ancient tombs of the pre-Mycretian civilization of the Endless Desert.

Lake Saffrin: Said to be the home of the Lady of the Lake, a powerful fey who rewards righteousness and punishes wickedness kin her own inimitable fashion.

Millo Fortress: The Citadel of the Shah, the only city in the Province, it is a single vast citadel of many walls and towers in the eaves of the Dankbark Forest along the shore of the River Leander.

Missing Memory Marshes: Home to cavemen and giant leeches, the marshes to the north are avoided by all save those who seek the ancient treasures that lie within moss-covered mounds that were once great cities and citadels of a lost civilization.

Obsidian Citadel: Fortress of a particularly ferocious storm giant stands between the dwarves and orcs of the Starrcrags.

Plain of Eba Aba: To the west across the River Leander, these wide plains are the Shardan heartland where genies roam free and ancient and terrible magic abounds amid barbarian splendor.

River Leander: Wide and fast river glows a golden light.

Saimon: The largest town in western Shardis and capital of the Archcounty of Solomos stands near Selisengard on the southern shore of Lake Saffrin, near the verge of the Slithytove.

Selisengard: Ruined ancient city filled with monsters and treasure, once an advanced civilization of Men who inherited the greatness of the Elves of Celedorinlin.

Slaekt the Gold Dragon: This ancient gold wyrm is the Great Dragon of the Starrcrag Mountains, and is both wise and feral, being as likely to eat you as to speak with you.

Slithytove: Marshy lowland forest filled with goblins, evil fey, snakes, and nastier things, as well as littered with ruins of an ancient Elven civilization.

Starrcrag Mountain Mines: Ancient and bountiful gold mines of the Kazakarag dwarves, well guarded and trapped.

Valley of the Dead Queens: Long ages ago, a great kingdom once ruled the western lands from this valley high in the Starrcrag Mountains. The kingdom fell in a great cataclysm after the three sister-queens turned against each other. The queens and their followers were turned into monsters, which thrive in the valley to this day… still guarding the vast treasure of the lost kingdom.

Campaigns New and Old

Been kinda busy in real life lately, thus the whole A to Z thing went out the window for the better part of a month. Maybe I'll be able to get back to posting regularly now... we shall see. I did like the format, as trying to write something based on such an arbitrary method made sure I ahd to stretch my creativity, so might return to the method for posts eventually.

The Realm campaign is on hiatus for a while. I'll definitely be returning to the Realm, as I really like where it is going, but for now, it is shelved. we are still playing Labyrinth Lord on Sundays, but for once, I actually get to play, rather than be game master! At least, for a while. Robbie, one of the players, has been running an adventure now for the last three sessions, and we will finish out the adventure next week (no game this week due to Mothers Day). After that, every other week, he will run an all-monks Labyrinth Lord game, which promises to be a blast!

The alternating weeks, we shall see what develops. I'm hoping someone else can pick up the GM shield for a while there, too, so that I can either play more myself or even have a Sunday off from the shop regularly (between work and the game, I've been there six days a week for months, and the idea of having two-day weekends away from the shop once in a while is kind of enticing, to be frank). If someone else can't fill in on the alternating weekend, I might just run a Mutant Future game in that slot. We shall see.

But now I am also starting up a new campaign on Friday nights: Wilderlands of High Adventure, using Castles & Crusades. Yes, the Wilderlands have called me back, and this time, I've answered the call. So if you are in the area, you can find a Castles & Crusades game every Friday night from 5:30 to 9ish at Chimera Hobby Shop in Appleton, Wisconsin. More details in my next post...