Saturday, July 13, 2019

[Modron Campaign] Adventure Log #4: Murderhobos of Scrubvale

Fourth Adventure: Murderhobos of Scrubvale
Source: Original
Judge: James M.
Dates: 6/13/19; 7/12/19
Location: Northern Brushwood (Region 01: 3910, Modron 4520, 4522)

Characters & Players
Preacher William Winchester (male Human 3rd level Cleric) [Will P.]
Initiate Tsun (male Human 2nd level Monk) [Will P.]
Veteran-Prestidigitator Balule the Elf (male 1st level Elf) [Dan P.]
Gary, Balule’s War-Dog [Dan P.]
Veteran Yarlag the Hideous (male Half-Orc 1st level Fighter) [Dan P.]
Dave, Yarlag’s War-Dog [Dan P.]
Veteran-Prestidigitator Ayers the Elf (male 1st level Elf) [Lew E.]
Warrior “Mighty” Konkeror (male Half-Elf 2nd level Fighter) [Lew E.]
Robber Bernie “The Bounder” Brushwood-Baggins (male Halfling 3rd level Thief) [NPC]

Tales of Adventure
The members of the party were having lunch at Somethin’s Cookin’ when their friend, Bernie “The Bounder,” stopped by and told them about another ogre-hunting opportunity near his hometown of Brushwood. “The Sheriff of Brushwood has offered a 100 gp reward for the head of an ogre that is raiding the countryside near Scrubvale,” he told them. “This one is working with some hobgoblins, which is odd, as hobgoblins aren’t usually found in the area.” After discussing this and other opportunities, the party decided to head out to Scrubvale.

After the great success of Balule’s war-dog on the last adventure, Yarlag decided to also buy one, and they both kitted out their dogs with savage-looking leather armor. As the group was readying for their trip to Scrubvale, Ayres and Konkeror returned from their trip home to the Adderwood and rejoined the party.

The party took the Difring Trace across the Gasconfold Plain to Scrubvale. Slow travel across the near-trackless plain meant they camped halfway there, just north of an area of rugged, broken lands. Ere the sun set they thought they could make out tall, ruined towers in the distance in the midst of the badlands and felt this might be worth looking into at a later date.

Shortly after dawn before the others awoke, Balule and his dog were on watch and espied a hippogriff in the distance, heading right their way! He awoke the others and they loosed volleys of arrows at the hippogriff, who suffered enough damage such that he felt there would be easier prey on the plain than the party’s horses.

The party travelled the rest of the way to Scrubvale without incident and made it in time to join the locals at the local tavern, the “Basilisk & Cockatrice,” for an evening meal and drinks. When the locals found out they were there to hunt the ogre and the hobgoblins they were feted and had not to pay for their meals or drinks.

The locals provided such details as they could about the inhuman bandits. They knew from chance encounters that the ogre did not reside with the hobgoblins; the ogre lived in a cave near the ruined Tower of the Basilisk, while the hobgoblins laired somewhere further south in the Brushwood. They operated by raiding steadings south of the Difring River; they had started out further away from the hamlet but had now worked their way to the steadings nearly within sight of the river, and so the locals had finally been able to get the sheriff of Brushwood to offer a reward, before the monsters started raiding across the river in the hamlet itself!

There was then much grumbling about how they had had to go to the sheriff in Brushwood, for their own bailiff, Malagig, was quite useless, not even calling together a militia to help defend the steadings. “He takes all the taxes, and gives nothing in return,” they complained. “Useless,” others said, “All he does is stay in his manor and party with his cronies and such maidens as he can seduce to his chambers!” When a deputation of elders from the hamlet went to him to beg assistance, he had his men strip them, beat them with sticks, and hied them away covered in horse dung.

As the party listened to the complaints of the peasants, they asked why they didn’t do anything about the less-than-useless bailiff. Sheepishly, the peasants respondent, “Well, the problem is that Malagig is the younger brother of Gakatig, the seneschal of the Duke, and so little if anything could be done!” It had been heard that, being a complete wastrel, he had been given this post as a sinecure, and treated it as such.

As the complaints continued, Yarlag noticed that a figure in the corner, in the shadows by the fireplace, suddenly got up and made his way to the door. Suspicious, Yarlag followed him out and watched as he tried to melt into the shadows of the houses and shrubs as he made his way west, toward the manor of the bailiff. Yarlag quickly followed and ambushed the fellow, smacking his hooded head with the flat of his blade; down he went with a thump. Upon removing the hood Yarlag discovered he was face to face with another half-orc! He quickly patted him down, took his weapons and his pouch, and gagged him and tied him to a nearby tree just outside the hamlet.

When Yarlag brought back the party, they found him awake and trying to break from his bonds, to no avail. They questioned him, and discovered his name was Krann, and that he worked for the bailiff as a “minister without portfolio,” but yes, that included spying on the locals. After sterner questioning with both carrot and stick (coin and blade), he admitted that he was the one who had hired the ogre and hobgoblins (having recruited them from the clans of the Gilring Wilds to the south), at the behest of his master, Bailiff Malagig. To what end he was not sure, but he had overheard discussion with a messenger from the north that if Malagig were to cause chaos in the region, he would be well rewarded.

Having gotten all the information they felt they needed out of him, they let him go with a purse of coins, and watched him flee east, out of the hamlet toward Brushwood, with the promise that if they ever saw him again they would kill him. They then returned to the tavern, where they flopped on the floor for the night.

The next morning a local lad led them to the cave where they believed the ogre slept by day, “for before the arrival of the ogre, there were no sounds from the cave, but now by day there has been a terrible sound of snoring and at times, roaring!” The cave was about a mile south of the ruined Tower of the Basilisk, of which the local reminded them, “Go not to the ruined tower, as you value your lives! Though it is said that great treasure can be found there, it is guarded by the basilisk, and said to be encircled by the stone forms of all who sought his treasure!” And with that the lad hurried back home, not eager to personally witness the defeat of the ogre… or the destruction of the party!

Initiate Tsun was sent to scout out the cave, as he was the most stealthy of the group (not the first time the party missed their good friend, Bernie, nor the last!) When he entered the cave, he discovered it quickly branched into three tunnels, one each north, east, and west, and at their crossway he discovered, to his terror, two statues, perfect of form, one of a human and the other of a halfling, both with a look of terror on their face, looking toward the northern tunnel! He also found a midden pile at the entrance to the western tunnel, and evidence of passage to both the east and west. But he heard no snoring, nor noises of any kind.

He returned to the party and explained that the cave may very well connect to the ruined tower of which they were warned, and that there was activity toward both the east and west. They decided to check out the eastern tunnel first. There they discovered a sleeping cave bear, which awoke upon their approach! The bear raised up its head, snuffled and whuffled at them, and growled… they quickly backed away and hurried to the cross way. They decided that perhaps the bear was the pet of the ogre, and used to trespass by the hobgoblins, and so not interested in bothering them if they did not bother it, which seemed like a very good plan!

They then decided to check out the other cave, and after a short walk they found the cave ended in a handsome new door, very large and of stout oak, complete with a shiny new lock! Curiouser and curiouser! Listening at the door, Tsun heard a terrible snoring within; thus, the answer to the lack of noise in the caves! Tsun picked the lock, and they quietly filed into the large room, where they found the ogre sleeping on a large, rough-hewn bed of timbers and furs, with a chest in one corner and various detritus piled in another corner.
The best ogres are sleeping ogres...
Not believing their luck, they motioned for Tsun to go up and slit the ogres throat… which he did without incident. And the terrible ogre died with even less trouble than Hegrash before, and they knew not even his name. They then looted the room, finding gold and silver and a bag of gems – a bag of eight zircons, the same bluish-purple as they found in Hegrash’s hoard! And so now conspiracy theories began to whirl wildly in the talk of the party as they counted out the loot.

In the end they decided that, since the hobgoblins lived deeper in the Brushwood, in all likelihood they would meet up with the ogre at his lair to go on their raids, and they decided to try to pull off a long con – they would represent themselves as the “new bosses,” sent by the “big boss” to take out the ogre and “take over the operation.” And so, they beheaded the ogre and dumped the body in the cross way, then napped and ate as they waited for night, and the hobgoblins to arrive.

Not too long after dusk the hobgoblins arrived, as expected; speaking to them in Goblin, the party explained the “new arrangements,” and passed out several gold coins, which mollified any questions the hobgoblins had about being led by humans, elves, and a half-orc. They then told them they were going for a “big score,” the leader of the humans of Scrubvale, the bailiff’s manor! And so, the party, with 16 hobgoblins in tow, marched back to Scrubvale, quietly forded the river, and snuck to the manor house. They discovered it was well fortified, with only one visible entrance, and that up a stair, with the wooden bridge pulled away; no real windows only arrow slits, and all of stone until the third floor, which was of stone and wood and wattle and daub.

Fortunately, it was apparent that no guards had been placed outside, for the bailiff was either too secure or too cheap. But how to gain entrance? “Do not despair my friends,” said the cleric. “All places like this have an escape tunnel or three. We just need to find the other end and then we are easily in!” They spread out and searched the area, eventually finding an odd trap door in the floor of the stable. Upon opening it, they saw it led down into a tunnel that headed straight toward the manor house. They filed into the tunnel and made their way slowly and carefully. Tsun, in the lead, discovered a tripwire, meant to warn those within against this very kind of assault. He disarmed it simply by placing bales of hay to either side and everyone carefully crossed over.

The tunnel ended in a door, locked of course, but picked easily enough. They found it entered a “panic room,” filled with go-bag supplies and such, with a door on the other side, obviously of secret sort to the outside. They opened this door and found it entered a well room, with another door on the other side. They passed through this door and found it opened into a long corridor which hugged the outside walls to the left, for they were in the cellar level on the ground floor. They followed the corridor and found three doors before the corridor turned left and ended in a stair up. They listened at the doors; two were silent, but behind the third they heard some sort of chanting.

One of the other doors was easily opened and found to be a supply room; the other was locked, as was the door behind which they heard the chanting (loud enough that no one heard them test the door). Tsun and William went up with some hobgoblins and scouted upstairs, while the others remained below and had the hobgoblins break down the door behind which they heard chanting… and then all Hell broke loose!

The Sorceress is still at large...
For they had burst in on the bailiff and his fellow cultists performing a ritual sacrifice to Set, the ancient enemy of Mitra! There were four cultists – a priest with a snake staff, a warrior-woman, a sorceress, the bailiff (obvious from his description from the peasants), and a maiden sacrifice, all standing before a statue of Set with great gem-stone eyes.

The hobgoblins charged the cultists and engaged with the bailiff, the priest, and the warrior-woman; sadly, for them, they could not get to the sorceress, and after the first engagement she caused many of them to fall into slumber with a spell. But more hobgoblins piled in, as did the party members, and their dogs; Tsun and William quickly returned when the cry of “Setites! Setites!” was shouted up the stairwell. Apprised of the dangers of a priest of Set and the sorceress, William quickly cast silence 10’radius on a stone and cast it into the room, quashing any enemy spell casting.

It then became a whirling grind of blades and staff against blades and teeth; but the party prevailed in the end, with the loss of two hobgoblins and both of the dogs (the last to the poisoned blade of the bailiff). The sorceress had disappeared, though whether she had used an undiscovered secret door or gone invisible during the melee, none were sure. The party was busy looting the bodies and about to check out the statue and altar when the hobgoblins who had been left upstairs ran in…

“Uh, boss! BOSS!”

“What, what?”

“We killed some guys up there!” the hobgoblins smiled, then frowned.

“Yes, and?”

“Uh, well, one of them was holding a lantern…”


“Uhm and… and it fell when we killed him.” They nodded.

Uh oh… “It fell?”

“Yeah, it fell… and, uh… blew up…”

“BWOOSH!” the other hobgoblin exclaimed, happily, waving his arms to show how big the explosion had been.

“And… the upstairs is on fire, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, that’s it! The upstairs is on fire!” they both nodded, smiling.

The party looked up as one at the rafters above, and through the floorboards they could see smoke slowly drifting down… and in the dead silence hear the crackling of the floorboards burning merrily above.

“Out! Out! Everyone out!” they cried, as everyone rushed to the corridor, and then to the well room, and through the panic room, and into the tunnel to the stables. They peeked out of the stable doors and saw the local peasants gathering at the manor on the other side, trying and failing to put together a bucket brigade to the nearest well. Their attention wholly on the burning manor, the party and hobgoblins snuck out the back of the stables into the nearby forest. They had brought with them the bodies of the cultists and the living, walking form of the erstwhile sacrifice, a lovely maiden named Daniena of Brushwood, who had been enticed hither by the warrior woman with promises of joining an adventuring group. They had given her the warrior-woman’s plate mail and long sword, but they had kept the shield, which they had discovered was magical (as was, obviously, the staff, which nearly bit William when he tried to pick it up, but left Konkeror unmolested).

They decided to send the hobgoblins home (they had hoped more would die in the battle and they could finish them off after, but to no avail); they gave them each some coins or a gem from the treasure they found on the warrior-woman but kept the ring and necklace they found on the bailiff. After the hobgoblins left (with the bodies of the priest and warrior-woman “for their victory feast,” the party started bickering about what to do now?

After much debate, it was decided the safest course was to bury the body of the bailiff in two parts so he could not be raised. They would collect their horses and wagon in the morning and go to Brushwood to collect the reward for the ogre’s head. A simple plan. But then, most plans go awry…

They hunker down and sleep, awakened at the roar of the manor house as the burning top stores collapsed into the cellar below; a great ball of fire shot up, visible even from the woods, in the form of a dancing snake. Mere coincidence, of course…

The next morning when they awake they discover that the snake-headed staff now looks like a normal walking staff/quarter staff. Curious, they all think. They then go back in circuitous route to appear to come up from the south to allay any suspicions. They arrive at the tavern and are welcomed halfheartedly. “You have slain the ogre!” people say, but then also lament that they had not found and slain the hobgoblins, for that night they had attacked and burned the bailiff’s manor (feelings were a bit mixed on this, of course).

When the party inquired how they knew it had been the hobgoblins, they discover that though the flames had burned almost everything from the upper levels, the cellar level was mostly spared, and they had discovered the bodies of two hobgoblins therein…

They took the bodies of the cultists but left the two dead hobgoblins! Drat!

The party decided they’d better check out the ruin before any other evidence they left behind showed up. When they got there, they discovered most of the fire was out, having blown itself out when the upper levels collapsed. The found that the two hobgoblin bodies, somewhat charred, had been dumped unceremoniously off to the side, while the peasants were still pulling out bodies and remnants from the cellar, whose walls still stood. There were several partial-bodies, covered with blankets, off to the side, and various items of potential reclaimable value piled nearby.

They climbed the ladder and looked down into the cellar; where they thought to find a statue of Set they found instead… a statue of Mitra! “Set is the Great Deceiver,” Will comments to all, “Obviously, the enchantment I saw upon the statue earlier allows it to appear in different forms. This will not go well for us, if we are discovered!”

They climb down to the cellar and start helping the peasants sift through the ruins. “Any sign of the bailiff?” they ask. “None yet,” the peasants say, “but with that fire, he may have been reduced to ash.”

The espy the poisoned blade of the bailiff, where they left it, too worried of poisoning themselves. Even as a few of them discuss what to do with that, Konkeror looks to his staff, then to the statue; then back at his staff, and again to the statue. Smiling, he steps over and touches the staff to the statue… and immediately the statue of Mitra turns into the statue of Set, and the quarterstaff turns to the snake-headed staff!

The other party members notice this even as the peasants do… “Setites!” the peasants call out. “You are all Setites!” they cry as they run to the ladder and climb out.

“No!” William and Tsun cry out. We are followers of Mitra! It is the statue and staff that are evil!” William and Tsun follow the peasants, with Yarlag and Balule close behind. Now angered beyond reason, Konkeror lassos the statue and tries to pull it down… whereupon it turns into a giant rattlesnake!

The rattlesnake lunges at Konkeror and bites him twice; on the second bit, venom courses into his body, and the half-elf begins convulsing and crying out terribly. His half-brother, Ayres, engages the snake in melee; Yarlag and Balule, on the wall, loose arrows at it. Balule’s arrow strikes it between the eyes; it shakes, hisses, then collapses into stone kin the form of a dead serpent.

Ayers kneels by his brother and attempts to help him with a scroll potent against poison, but to no avail; it is obvious that Konkeror is dying and will very shortly breathe his last. Yarlag sees that William and Tsun have given up following the peasants; he turns to look down at the others and tells them that they are going to have to flee.

“But my brother!” Ayers cries out, “What about him?”

They look down at him, turning black and blue and shuddering, and shake their heads. “If we stay, we may die as well, accused of being a cultist like him.” Weeping tears of anger and sorrow, Ayers says a few elven prayers over his dying brother as the others strip him of his weapons and valuable equipment, then they flee, with Ayers promising vengeance on Set and his minions. His last sight of his brother is of him shuddering in a painful death amidst the ruins of the manor, beside the shattered statue of Set and next to the snake-headed staff…

They sneak into the forest and around to the blacksmith where they had left their horses and wagon. Finding there only a young boy, they pay and tip him generously, the swiftly fell down the road to Brushwood.

They arrive several hours later, hopefully long before any strange rumors (for they had not been passed on the trail), and quickly seek out the sheriff, from whom they receive their 100 gp reward for the head of the ogre. Yarlag and Balule each give Daniena 5 gp of the reward, to help her “get started as an adventurer, especially if you are going to be sticking with us.” She thanks them both, and gives Balule a meaningful smile…

Unsure of what exactly to do next, they stop for lunch at the Tipsy Troll Tavern, on the Difring Trail west from Brushwood, just outside the palisade wall, to decide what to do next… and to keep an eye out for anyone from Scrubvale who might call them out as Setites…

They shall learn why they fear the night...
Treasure Gained
Ogre treasure 1,000 sp, 1,000 gp, eight zircons worth 50 gp each.
Set necklace worth 1,500 gp; signet ring worth 500 gp.
Magical +1 shield from the Warrior Woman.
Warrior Woman treasure 10 zircons worth 50 gp each (given to surviving hobgoblins).
Ayers gets his brother’s magical +1 broadsword and potion of water breathing.
Poisoned blade of the Bailiff abandoned in ruined manor house.
Snake staff abandoned in the cellar.

Opponents Slain or Defeated
Hippogriff of Gasconfold Plain
Nameless Ogre
Malagig the Bailiff
Nameless Priest of Set
Nameless Warrior-Woman of Set
Nameless Sorceress of Set (no body found, still alive?)

Companions Lost
“The Mighty” Konkeror
Dave the War-Dog
Gary the War-Dog
Two hobgoblins

Yarlag the Hideous advances to 2nd level.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Wilderlands of High Adventure Campaign

I am running a Wilderlands of High Adventure campaign in the Modron region using Advanced Labyrinth Lord. The details of the campaign are on my Wilderlands-focused blog, Hanging Out in the City State. Click here to check out the campaign; so far there are maps, note about the Royal Family of Modron, and Campaign Logs for the first three adventures. We generally meet every other week, so that is when most updates will occur, though I'm in the process of an info-dump of materials as I get them in writing...

Sunday, June 9, 2019

[Now Available] Advanced Labyrinth Lord Adventure Record Sheets

Advanced Labyrinth Lord Adventure Record Sheets
By James Mishler
10 pages, PDF, $1.00

Advanced Labyrinth Lord Adventure Record Sheets provide players and Labyrinth Lords with useful forms and information to use and keep track of individual adventure sessions.

This pack contains the following:

A 2-page Party Adventure Record Sheet, which is used to keep track of the party members, locations explored, NPCs encountered, information learned, monsters killed, treasures won, henchmen & hirelings, divisions of the spoils and XP, and mysteries & loose ends of an adventure session.

A 2-page Character Adventure Record Sheet, which is used during ad adventure to keep track of the character’s combat stats, special abilities and skills, and spells, and is used to keep track of locations explored, NPCs encountered, information learned, monsters killed, treasures won, and secrets kept from other party members during an adventure session.

A 4-page Labyrinth Lord Adventure Log includes two pages dedicated to information needful for running labyrinth and wilderness adventures, including rules for time & movement; light & darkness; listen & spot checks; doors in the labyrinth; traps & trap detection; climbing, stealth, & swimming; and foraging & hunting rules. Also included are a page for keeping track of details of player characters and henchmen, plus a page for keeping track of marching order (by tactics), light sources, monsters and treasures, and notable events.

Permission is granted to print these record sheets for personal use.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

[Now Available] Quick Start Character Race & Class Sheets: By-the-Book

For use with Labyrinth Lord and Advanced Labyrinth Lord
James Mishler Games
By James Mishler
32-pages, $2.99 – Introductory Price of $1.99!

The QUICK START CHARACTER RACE & CLASS SHEETS BY-THE-BOOK are designed to enable a group of players, new or experienced, to quickly create 1st level characters of the various races, classes, and racial classes available in Labyrinth Lord and Advanced Labyrinth Lord. Each race, class, and racial class is detailed on a single sheet with all the information needed to begin play with that class, including requirements, class abilities, a description of basic 1st level spells (as needed), and a list of starting equipment that makes the most difficult and tedious character-creation element – choosing equipment – relatively fast and simple!

Also included are appendices dealing with Rolling Up Advanced Characters, Rolling Up Basic Characters, Equipment Lists, Fast Packs, and Secondary Skills.

Note that the Quick Start sheets do not usually include any information about advancement, abilities, or spells available after 1st level, other than Experience Points required to attain 2nd level. For all such information, consult the Labyrinth Lord, Advanced Edition Companion, or Advanced Labyrinth Lord tomes.

Permission is granted to print these sheets for personal use only; in fact, such is essential to use the product as intended!

Quick Start Race Sheets
Dwarf Race.....3
Elf Race.....4
Gnome Race.....5
Halfling Race.....6
Half-Elf Race.....7
Half-Orc Race.....8
Human Race.....9

Quick Start Class Sheets
Assassin Class.....10
Cleric Class.....11
Druid Class.....12
Dwarf Racial Class.....13
Elf Racial Class.....14
Fighter Class.....15
Halfling Racial Class.....16
Illusionist Class.....17
Magic-User Class.....18
Monk Class.....19
Paladin Class.....20
Ranger Class.....21
Thief Class.....22

Appendix A: Rolling Up Advanced Characters.....23
Appendix B: Rolling Up Basic Characters.....24
Appendix E: Equipment Lists.....25-27
Appendix F: Fast Packs.....28-29
Appendix S: Secondary Skills.....30
Open Gaming License.....31-32

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Death by Infravision!

So for the first time ever in almost 38 years of play, I have witnessed the first Death by Infravision (playing Labyrinth Lord, BTW).

The party -- human thief, human cleric, halfling, dwarf cleric, and elf -- burst into a room and found some goblins. They slaughter all but one, who ran down a stair screaming for backup.

The party starts to hear rumblings of many feet, howling and gibbering and thumping, and start to freak out; they are already down hit points, and not ready to deal with a whole swarm of goblins. 

So they start pouring every flask of oil they have 15 feet down the stair, over the side of the short wall beside the stair.

They say they are going to wait until the goblins reach the oil, then hit it with fire. So far, so good...

Knowing the only fire they had at the time was the thief's lantern, I ask, "So what are you going to throw down there?"

"Oh," they say, "we'll use our flint and steel."

"Flint and steel? 15 feet down a stairwell?"

"Oh... um, somebody light a torch!" they scream, as I describe how the mass of goblins is now swarming up the stair...

I tell them they have a 2 in 6 chance of lighting a torch in time.

"No time!" shouts the thief, down to 2 hit points... who then throws his lantern down the stair, which shattered amongst the oil and the front rank of goblins.

The party shouts in joy as the first two ranks go up in flames! Then the fire dies down after two rounds... casting everything into darkness.

A few moments pass as both sides take stock, and the goblins once more start rushing up the stair. The elf and the dwarf, the only ones who can see, loose arrow and stone down the stair at the goblins, with the dwarf acting as a shield in front of the elf. The goblins can't hit, as both are heavily armored and swift...

And then the humans, desperate for light, fire up their other light sources, blinding the elf and the dwarf for 1d3 rounds!

Dwarf, unable to use shield and dexterity, becomes much easier to hit, immediately takes an arrow, dies, and falls down the stairs (and rolling into a goblin, killing the poor 1-hit point creature)... and so, Death By Infravision!

The previous session an elf got taken out with Death By Acid. The party encountered some new creatures -- I call them Screaming Mimis -- greenish balls the size of a beach ball with eyes on stalks and big feet that let them jump far and high. When killed by slicing or piercing weapons they explode, and anyone within 5 feet has to make a saving throw versus Breath Weapon or take 1d8 points of acid damage. The gnome's dog killed one with its terrible bite, and the elf failed her saving throw with a "Natural 1," and rolling maximum damage, melting off her face, and killing her...

At least they were able to bring her body out of the dungeon. When they fled the goblins they never got a chance to recover the dwarf's body... but I am sure they will encounter it again... mwahahaha!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Origin and Life Cycle of the Elves

The following thoughts were inspired by the posts on From the Sorcerer's Skull here and here.

NOTE: this information is known by all elves but is never revealed to other races. Other races, over long centuries, have gained hints and rumors of the elven life-cycle; whenever the truth is fully discovered, the elves ensure that the information, and those who know of it, are wiped out.

The basic truth of elves is that elves are not native to the mortal world. When the ancient elves first arrived in the mortal world from elsewhere (where has been lost even to elven knowledge) they were spiritual, non-corporeal entities made of pure energy.

The ancestors of the elves arrived when humanity was still in its infancy, only recently evolved from the proto-human, near-simian man-apes that preceded true humans.

The energy beings encountered these creatures and possessed them, becoming the first elves.

As the world then was covered in primeval forest, and the elves embraced the life-energy of the forest, they adapted their bodies to become best adapted to the forest. In all the long millennia since, the elves have never lost this connection to nature and the living world, not even the aloof gray elves nor the corrupted dark elves.

Over time, the first elves slowly molded the bodies they had possessed to what they considered a superior form, what is today known as that of the “sylvan elf” or “wood elf.” This form is smaller than modern humans, as humans of that long-passed age were smaller than modern humans (the sylvan elves were taller and more muscular than the humans of the day).

The elf-spirits did not like the hairy bodies of the humans, and so rid themselves of all hair save for that on their head and their eyebrows. Eyes were made larger, the better to enable darkvision and improved eyesight; similarly, ears were made larger and pointed, to improve hearing. The elves could also change their hair, skin, and eye color at will, the better to express their individuality.

Not wishing to limit themselves to either the male or female form, the elves made themselves capable of remolding the sexual form of their bodies, and thus they may become male or female, neither (neuter) or both (hermaphroditic) as they wish (a change that requires several days to go from male to either neither or both, then to female, and vice-versa). As a result, all elves are physically androgynous in appearance, even those who prefer the biological male or female sexual form to any others.

This sexual polymorphism was due to seeking out differing pleasurable experiences with the physical body; due to religious and cultural reasons, the idea of childbearing was anathema to the first elves (this is no longer true of elves in general, see below). The first elves would never use their own bodies for such distasteful activities (essentially, childbearing was considered equivalent to hosting a parasitical growth).

For long centuries the superior form and technology of the first elves (for the first elves quickly developed advanced technology and civilization from long-buried racial memories of their pre-energy life form) kept the elves alive and in good health. Then the first elves experienced the first physical death among their kind.

They sadly discovered that the spirit of the deceased had become too tied to the body it had long inhabited, and so could not possess another adult body. However, after some experimentation they discovered that the spirit could inhabit the newly-conceived fetus of a human child. The child grew to term, and then after its birth, they retrieved the child by exchanging the newborn with a wolf cub they had polymorphed into a human child. This was the first changeling (and also the origin of lycanthropy, as that human child became the first werewolf).

And so, the issue of the rebirth of existing elves was dealt with when the circumstances first required it. This sparked the issue of the population growth of the elven race, for the human population was growing even as human civilization was quickly advancing (by elven standards). 

In all too short a time elves would be grossly outnumbered and perhaps brought to extinction.

However, as the bodies they had taken and improved upon were still, for all intents and purposes, human, they believed they could reproduce with humans.

After some experimentation it was discovered that elves could, indeed, reproduce with humans. And not only physically; in half of all cases the child bore an elf-spirit, while in the other half of all cases the child bore a human soul.

Those of elf-spirit could, when taught properly, mold their bodies as did the original elves, and their spirits lived on to reincarnate as did the other elven spirits. Those of human-soul, however, could not mold their bodies, nor live on to reincarnate, for they did not have an elf-spirit, but instead had a human soul.

And so over long millennia, the first elves grew their numbers by mating with humans and then taking the elf-spirit children who would grow into proper elves (usually leaving a changeling in its place in payment). In most cases, the half-elf children were left to their own devices, though in some cases there might be some interaction, either with the parent or with the community, depending on the community of the elves.

Then came two schisms among the elves at the same time.

First, many elves noticed that humans had physically improved over the long age; they had grown taller and stronger, more intelligent and capable, and had taken to domesticating animals, growing gardens and grains, and settling in small hamlets and villages. Some of this they had learned from the elves, other things (such as primitive metallurgy) they had learned from the dwarves. And some of the elves were worried that as a people, they were being left behind.

A great number of elves, though not the majority of elves, decided that the elven people needed to evolve.

Against the advice of most of the first elves (who at this point were mostly in their fifth to seventh incarnations), many of the younger, third and fourth generation of elves morphed their bodies en masse, to something similar to or even superior to that of humans. These elves, the high elves, were also the first elves to abandon the strict forest lifestyle of their ancestors.

They then did humans one better and, using their advanced technologies and ancient ancestral memories, built towns and cities when humans had built hamlets and villages. They moved out of the forests and into the meadowlands. There they built vast fields to grow the grains needed to support an advanced civilization. Some humans they adopted like pets, others they enslaved to do their bidding. And so, the first great elven civilizations arose. They allied with the dwarves against the giants and the dragons, and created a time of peace and plenty, which even in human lore is remembered as a golden age.

The first elves who still led the sylvan elves watched all this in horror. Some of them even went mad when they discovered that the high elves had taken to procreating among themselves! Most of the first elves met in conclave and decided that they had to come up with a way to strengthen the sylvan elves against their erstwhile cousins. Of two minds – sane and mad – one group decide that they needed to outdo the high elves and transform themselves into the most potent elven form possible; the other group decided that it were best to call upon the life-force of the forest and to meld with it, to protect the sylvan elves and the forests from the expected depredations of the high elves, who they felt had become too human.

Then from the first elves (all but a few) were born the fairies – the gray elves, the ultimate form of elf (at least, in their own minds) known as faerie elves, and the fairy races, such as pixies, sprites, nixies, and others, born of the merger of the first elves and the life force of the forests. Which faction was sane, and which was mad, none today knows, not even amongst themselves.

In the case of the gray elves, they decided to remain aloof from both high and sylvan elves, seeking to live their lives as an example to their cousins. They moved to hidden mountain valleys and other isolated locales, there to further develop the ancient magic that was inherent in the elven form and to study the very nature of the cosmos and existence. Eventually, over time, these became their obsessions, and they mostly lost their way, though some gray elf peoples continue their self-imposed guardianship of all elven peoples.

The fairy folk, whatever their original ideals and plans, quickly fell into the eternal reverie and merrymaking that is the fairy way. They remain staunch allies of sylvan elves and guard the forests, though now more for their own purposes rather than for all of elf kind. Though they were born from the first elves, the process of unifying with the life force of the forest shattered the spirits of the first elves, and their memories, such that there are few among them today who recall their origins, and even fewer who retain any complete memories of one of the first elves, so jumbled have the spirits of the first elves become.

Over time, without the direct influence of the first elves, the sylvan elves and fairy folk turned to procreation within their own kind. However, many sylvan elves and fairy folk, and even some high elves, continue the ancient tradition of the changeling, the better to bring in new blood to improve the ancient bloodlines. But today, most reincarnation of elven spirits occurs with an elven mother, rather than a human host.

The gray elves have developed an intermediate form of procreation, having developed a form of parthenogenesis. Whenever one of their number dies, a friend, with whom arrangements were made previously, takes on the female sex (most grey elves prefer to remain biologically neither male nor female) and becomes host to the reincarnated spirit of the deceased, the host for the spirit forming via parthenogenesis.

The origin of the dark elves is intertwined with the arrival of the forces of Law and Chaos in the mortal world at the end of the golden age of the elves and dwarves. When Chaos was brought into the world through the civil war between the hosts of the gods of men, it sought power among all the peoples, not merely humans. Some high elves found the whispered promises of Chaos much to their liking, and so began a war of elf versus elf for the first time in all of elven history. In the end the elves aligned with Chaos lost the war and fled underground, where the survivors became the ancestors of the dark elves, held in thrall by the dark lords of Chaos.

Elves self-reincarnate; that is, when an elf dies, its spirit separates from the body and seeks a new host body. Most elves have made previous arrangements with friends to host their spirit prior to death. Unfortunately, elven spirits can travel no faster in incorporeal form than they did in physical form (though they fly, and terrain is not an issue), and until they find a host, their cohesion and memory slowly degrade over time.

Some elf spirits never make it back to a host, and they either fade away or end up being pulled into some other direction. Some are found by demons, devils, ghosts, and other spirits, and are lost. So not all elves reincarnate, and even those that do have usually lost a significant amount of memory.

Some elf spirits, weak and fearing being lost forever, reincarnate in beings other than elves. If an elf spirit reincarnates in a child born to a human, it will be reborn as an elf, though will seem to be a fey human until it attains puberty, upon which most of its remaining memories will return to it (unless it is found by elves and raised among them, in which case its memories start manifesting shortly after infancy).

If an elf spirit reincarnates in a child born to a dwarf or gnome, the child is a gnome, and always remains a gnome; memories manifest at puberty, but the gnome remains a gnome. If an elf spirit reincarnates in a child born to a halfling, the child is a tallfellow halfling; memories manifest at puberty, but the halfling remains a halfling. In these cases, the gnome or halfling cannot be raised from the dead, and when it dies the elf-spirit is free again to seek an elven host.

Considering that most elves have been reincarnated many times, and each time memory degrades somewhat to nearly entirely, an elf has only glimpses of its past lives available. Only the first elves had near total recall from previous lives; these are now very few, most of them being gray elves, a few remain among the high elves and sylvan elves, and sadly, the memories of even the first elves among the fairy folk have been highly dis-articulated, disbursed into the life force of the forest and reintegrated in bits and pieces among the various fairies.

There are also odd cases where elves are reincarnated into non-human and non-demi-human forms. Some elf spirits, lost and weakened beyond consciousness, take shelter in the bodies of animals, and are born into animal form. In most cases these creatures manifest as highly intelligent animals that can speak Elvish (and perhaps other languages the elf-spirit knew).

In more exotic cases an animal born with an elf spirit morphs into a semi-humanoid form, becoming a most unique creature indeed! As this kind of thing has happened no few times over long, long millennia, there are forested regions where elves once live, but were wiped out, where strange animals reside in numbers. These creatures are usually allied with the fairy folk of the region. Some sages say this is the origin of dryads, treants, satyrs, bear-folk, harpies, and other sylvan creatures of semi-humanoid and/or high-intelligence. The elves themselves, of course, do not speak of such things…

Friday, April 26, 2019

G+, Bloggery, Legendaria, Campaigns, Labyrinth Lord, and Stuff

So lately folks have been reminiscing about G+, and if they miss it, or don't. For me, the loss of G+ was mostly a negative; I liked being able to read other's posts that were more than a Twitter and not yet a full Blog post. G+ was just right for that kind of activity without being a chat room or Discordia or whatever passes for such these days. I will miss it; I already do, but its Golden Age was long since passed, anyway.

I intended, after the closure of G+, to blog more (to get back to blogging regularly, as I was with Legendaria). But Real Life has been busy lately. I hope to be able to get blogging regularly again soon, maybe next week, more likely the week after that.

Legendaria is on the back burner and will likely stay that way for a while. I definitely want to return to it and make something out of it, but right now I am running one Labyrinth Lord game (the Western Realm Campaign) and playing in another. Both were intended to be Dungeon Expedition style, a la Rythlondar, but in both cases the party has been stuck in the dungeon between sessions. 

I think the major issue here is that due to time constraints we are only able to play three to five hours per session, which is really not enough to get as much done as one might think. Each campaign alternates every week, so meeting only twice a month does not help, either. Hopefully once the groups get a bit more cohesion each session will run faster and smoother.

I am still working on the Character Race and Class Quick Sheets, but for the initial release I am going to make them By The Book, rather than include any significant house-rules or new races or classes. I hope to have that finished in the next week or two.

After that I've got a couple of things I want to work on. Sadly, my Alien Summoner Wizard Lair Dungeon grew way the hell too much, too fast, and I dunno what to do with it now. It, too, goes on the back burner.

I may publish the adventure I am running now. So far it is working out nicely for a low-level adventure. Simple, with some goblins and undead, but with a few twists here and there to make it fresh. We'll see how the game goes; I already got a nice reaction from the players when they unexpectedly encountered a zombie bear; I haven't had that many players scream from surprise with an encounter in a while. :)

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

[Advanced Labyrinth Lord] Rationalized Reaction Roll House Rules

One thing that has always bugged me about reaction rolls has been that they have never followed the basic curve that is presented with most ability scores. In BX and Labyrinth Lord, they are rolled on a 2d6 table, and so the Charisma modifiers are all on the 2d6 curve (as opposed to the 3d6 curve for all other ability scores); and AD&D had a d00 table which did not follow any curve.
And so, I have come up with the following new tables:
Note that Morale remains on a 2d6 scale, as I feel that works plenty well as it is.
The Charisma bonus of the party spokesperson affects how the encountered creatures react; if the character with the 18 Charisma stands at the back of the party and does not interact, their bonus is worthless; only one bonus counts, that of the spokesperson. If multiple party members try to speak all at once, any bonus is lost, but any penalty still applies; in such cases, there is an additional -2 penalty when dealing with Lawful groups.
Note that there are certain cases where a reaction roll is not needed. For example, certain humanoids always react with hostility and immediately attack certain demi-human races (and parties containing members of such races): kobolds always attack gnomes; goblins always attack dwarves; and orcs always attack elves. All humanoids otherwise react with a -2 penalty to any party whose members are of any demi-human race (such as orcs reacting to a party with dwarves, but no elves).
Chaotic creatures of extra-planar sort have a 5 in 6 chance of immediately attacking extra-planar Lawful creatures, and vice-versa, regardless of the reaction roll (as do Champions of Law or Champions of Chaos). Similarly, any group of obvious Chaotic nature that encounters a group of obvious Lawful nature has a 4 in 6 chance of attacking without even rolling reaction; Lawfuls encountering Chaotics have a 2 in 6 chance of immediately attacking (Orcs encountering the King’s Rangers; Crusaders of Law encountering members of the Cult of Chaos, etc.).
Other examples also include any party found in a creature’s lair, most especially if the party has already slain members of the creature’s clan or tribe or looted their treasury. In such cases, they will be immediately hostile and attack. They might, if patient and cunning, seek to trap the intruders in such a way that they gain advantage on their attacks and/or can eliminate the party without a fight (cf. The Hobbit, ex: Smaug and Barrel-Rider).
Otherwise, except in cases of immediate attack or immediate helpfulness, after the initial contact what thereafter occurs is up to how the party interacts with the creatures. If the party acts or the spokesperson speaks in a belligerent manner, add 2 to the chance of attacking and subtract 2 from the chance of helping. If they act in a friendly manner add 1 to the chance of helping and subtract 1 from the chance of attacking; if they act in a friendly manner and offer gifts, the modifier is 2 instead of 1.
Of course, all this is predicated on the fact that they can parley in a mutually intelligible language; if this is not possible, and they are trying to sign or use mummery to negotiate, add 2 to the chance to attack and subtract 1 from the chance to help.
If the party decides to attack suddenly, the chance of gaining surprise on an Indifferent, Friendly, or Cordial group is equal to the chance that they would have helped (2 in 6, 4 in 6, and 6 in 6); surprise only lasts for one round, regardless of the roll. A party that suddenly attacks cannot gain surprise on a Neutral, Uncertain, or Unfriendly group.
In the case of a Neutral and Uninterested group, there is a base chance of attack of 1 in 6 and a base chance to help of 1 in 6. After the first interaction, apply all modifiers and then check to see if the creatures attack or help.
If Lawful, first check the chance to help; if that fails, then check the chance to attack. If Chaotic, first check the chance to attack; if that fails, then check the chance to help. If Neutral, first check the higher chance, then the lower chance; if both chances are equal, then roll 50/50 to see which chance is checked first. If the creatures do not attack or help, continue the parley…

Saturday, March 23, 2019

[Known Realms] Map of the Northlands for Dungeon Crawl Classics

Back in early 2018 I started working on a campaign for the Known Realms of Aereth, the campaign setting for the original 3E Dungeon Crawl Classics line. Being me, of course, the first thing I had to do was set up a Hexographer map of the Northlands; nine maps, each hex 25 miles across, covering pretty much the entire Northlands except for the northernmost wastelands and Punjar (which really is part of the Lostlands, anyway).
As is normal with my life, other things got in the way of completion, and I moved on to other campaigns. However, the maps have still been sitting there, not complete but mostly complete, and now and again I've been thinking of them and what I can do with them.
Would anyone be interested in seeing these maps completed? Along with a Wilderlands-style run-down of major cities, towns, castles, citadels, ruins, islands, and lairs? Each of the nine maps would be sold separately with a gazetteer (under license from Goodman Games, of course).
Below is a small, stitched-together version of the first draft of the nine maps. Each of the nine has since been worked over more, with more details and corrections between the stitching areas, so this is merely a rough draft.
Let me know what you think...

Click to embiggen

Saturday, March 16, 2019

[Advanced Labyrinth Lord] Ransoming Player Characters

One factor in adventuring that has long been forgotten in Dungeons & Dragons, even through to Labyrinth Lord, is the possibility of ransoming captured characters. While the idea of ransoming captives is an old one in gaming, likely originated in and used to this day in RuneQuest, it was apparently only mentioned briefly by Gary Gygax in D&D in the module B2: The Keep on the Borderlands. There, he mentioned that, “Organized  tribes can optionally be allowed to take player characters prisoner, freeing one to return to the KEEP to bring a ransom back to free the captives. Set the sums low – 10 to 100 gold pieces (or a magic item which the ransoming monsters would find useful) per prisoner.”

Ransoms are actually part of the original DNA of the game. In OD&D, brigands, bandits, nomads, pirates, and buccaneers all kept prisoners for ransom (or to sell as slaves). Historically, ransoms were actually the way many such groups – as well as nobles – got cold, hard cash to add to their treasuries. And so, ransoms – or at least, the potential for them – are going to be added back into campaign. This enables player characters to have a third “out,” so that combat does not always end in death or retreat.

Of course, not all creatures are willing or even able to take on prisoners with the hope of gaining a ransom. Most humanoids have long come to the understanding that in exchange for taking a pass at a fine dinner of man-flesh they may earn themselves a significant treasure – but not all have learned this, nor do all care. Under no circumstances will a humanoid or monster take prisoners for ransom if the player characters have slaughtered their young or elderly, defaced their places of worship, or otherwise caused such pain and consternation that the treasure gained would never outweigh the desire for revenge. Also, humanoids never take their ancient racial enemies prisoner for anything less than torture and sacrifice – goblins never give quarter to dwarves, nor orcs to elves, nor kobolds to gnomes, except as  ruse to capture them for torment and worse.

Human scum – bandits brigands, nomads, pirates, and buccaneers especially – are always interested in taking prisoners for ransom. They have no desire to battle to the death, and they find it a very lucrative trade. Nobles usually only take other nobles or wealthy merchants for ransom; others are enslaved or killed out of hand. Slavers are more likely to take prisoners to sell, unless the captive is very wealthy, while berserkers and cavemen take captives only to torture and/or eat. Pilgrims generally turn dangerous adventurers over to local authorities (if Lawful) or keep them to sacrifice at their unholy shrines (if Chaotic). Druids keep interlopers prisoner until it is time to light the Wicker Man; dervishes release their enemies back into the desert, though without equipment or even clothing, to let the wastelands be judge, jury, and if needful, executioner.

Other monsters and monstrous races may take prisoners to keep for ransom if they are intelligent, capable and willing to work with two-leg creatures, and greedy for treasure. Vampires, medusae, manticores, dragons, lycanthropes, satyrs, and centaurs are all likely to take prisoners for ransom. Most other monsters are either too inimical to humans and demi-humans, too hungry, too disorganized, or just too stupid to recognize the possibilities to taking prisoners for ransom (these others are more likely to take prisoners for their larder or for torment).

Creatures of lesser intelligence and non-discerning temperament such as humanoids will usually ransom anyone for 10 to 100 gp, regardless of social class or station (they will keep all equipment and treasure found on the character, of course). But be sure that the messenger they send back to civilization hurries – they are not known for their patience, and sometimes their lust for entertainment or hunger will get the better of them!

Humans and intelligent monsters are more likely to try to suss out their prisoners and find out just how much they are worth – a noble is obviously worth more than a mere peasant, a 5th level son of a duke is worth far more than a 5th level mercenary, and magic-users and clerics are often worth as much as a noble to their guild or temple! In such cases they will usually set the ransom at 100 gp per level of the character, more if of noble family or wealthy connections, less if of poor or modest means.

Failure to pay the ransom in the demanded amount of time ensures the wrath of the captor. Humanoids and monsters either eat or enslave the offenders, while humans are more likely to kill or sell their captives into slavery. And of course, in the case of captors of thoroughly Chaotic sort, there is no guarantee they will honor the deal even if they are paid the ransom!

On the player character’s part, in order to even take advantage of the opportunity for ransom, they must set up a ransom with someone back in civilization – someone close and readily accessible, someone that they can trust to pay the ransom when demanded. Player characters with families can usually count on them to pay a ransom if it is within their means, or even if they have to borrow heavily to do so – provided the character is on good terms with their family. Black sheep need not apply.

Characters who belong to guilds or similar organizations – temples, mercenary guilds, wizard guilds, thieves’ guilds, and the like – can count on these organizations to come to their aid, again, provided their fees are up to date and they are in good standing. Ion any case, the character, unless he has the fund on deposit, will be required to pay back the ransom paid, with interest, and is beholden to the family or organization even moreso until it is paid.

So, as players, please remember this third option! Not all battles need to be to the death. You now have the option of living to fight another day – and seeking revenge on those who captured you and ransomed you!