Friday, March 23, 2012

What's in your haversack?

In this third post in the series What's in your haversack? we find our selves looking in the pack of Bachand Sendel, Cleric of Kord.  Bachand is not looking to go dungeoneering or adventuring, he is preparing to make a trip by horseback that will take a little over a month, at the end of which he will find himself on the edge of the unexplored regions of his country.  He is on a mission to find an appropriate spot to build a temple to the God of Athleticism, brawling and sports.  So what does one bring for such a mission? Let's see...

In Bachand's haversack you find:

  • Cleric's robes
  • Holy Symbol of Kord
  • Holy Tenets of Kord
  • A Greatsword (not actually in the haversack)
  • Hard tack and trail rations
  • Spectacles
  • Scroll/Map Case
  • Portable writing table with Quill and Ink
  • Letters of Writ from the Church of Kord
  • Church Blue Prints (which includes a meditative wrestling ring)
  • Hand Axe (for chopping wood not battle)
  • Potion of Bulls Strength
  • Bracers of Strength

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Trying on a New Skin: Two More

Today we have two more reskins.  One is another reskinning of the Goblin, and the second is a reskin of the Derro from Forgotten Realms.

Let's start with the Goblin (again, I know).  In D&D3.5 they are described as such:

"Goblins have flat faces, broad noses, pointed ears, wide mouths, and small sharp fangs.  Their foreheads slope back, and their eyes are usually dull and glazed, varying in color from red to yellow. They walk upright, but their arms hang down almost to their knees.  Goblins' skin color ranges from yellow through any shade of orange to a deep red; usually all members of a single tribe are about the same color. They wear clothing of dark leather, tending toward drab, soiled-looking colors"  
The Pendek a.k.a. The Short Men (using the same stats as the goblin)
"The Pendek, also called The Short Men by locals, are small creatures averaging around 3 feet tall, with rotund potbellies and disturbingly thin arms and legs.  Its skin is s sickly shade of brownish-yellow with yellow, red, brown or black hair on its head arms and feet. The eyes of the Pendek are solid black, including what would normally be the "whites" of the eyes.  While the Short Men are not particularly strong, they are quite clever and often set intricate traps or attack from unseen hiding places. Pendeks are omnivorous like humans, but once they smell or taste blood they go into a "Blood Frenzy" where they become ferocious (no statistical bonus, they merely do not back down and do not coordinate like usual). Pendeks have a coarse and simple language, that is akin to ancient humans languages. Their weapons and tools tend to be on the simple to moderately complex side with the most complexity appearing in their traps, including trip wires, counter balances and pressure switches."

In this way the "goblin" could be related to humans and even be an offshoot of an early pygmy-esque tribe.

Moving on to the Derro, this creature is not one that I personally have used often but is common enough that seasoned players could recognize it pretty quickly and (unconsciously) start metagaming.

"A small, stocky dwarflike creature in studded leather armor titters and mumbles to himself. His skin is a pale blue-white color, and his bulbous white eyes have no irises or pupils. His hair is coarse and white, and a long mustache droops past his chin. Derro appear to be some degenerate hybrid of dwarves and humans. Their rough skin is white with blue undertones and have sporadic tufts of coarse tan or pale blond hair. The eyes of the derro lack any visible pupils. Derro are degenerate and evil creatures of the underground, created from dwarf and human stock by some nameless deity of darkness and madness. Incredibly cruel and murderously insane, they enjoy taking slaves and torturing surface dwellers (especially humans) to death. Derro are afflicted by a form of racial madness, which most often manifests as delusions of grandeur coupled with an overpowering urge to inflict torment on other creatures" -From The Forgotten Realms Wikia Page

Replacing the description of the Derro with the following will entice your players to figure just what the hell this thing is.

The Minyak
The Minyak is a gangly creature standing at five feet tall.  They are lanky and thin and covered in a greasy black substance that is secreted from its pores. The Essence of Minyak as it is called can be very slippery and very nauseating.  The hair of the Minyak is jet black and covered in the Essence of Minyak miking it perpetually wet or greasy.  Its skin is a dusky grey color, possibly even white, but stained by the black substance on its skin.  The Minyaks hands are thin and long, tipped by sharp claws. When the Minyak attacks it strikes with a furious assault, swinging its claws wildly in an insane frenzy.  If struck by the claws of the Minyak you could be infected by its poisons and suffer a terrifying madness that will make lash out at friend and foe alike." 

Do you have any reskinned creatures?  Please share them

Sunday, March 18, 2012

So, you're sitting in a tavern...

Why do so many adventures start out this way?  Because, after a few pints (okay gallons, we are adventurers, who do we think we are kidding?) what sounds better than that tale about dragons that old drunkard with the beard always tells every night?  I mean, that guy had great adventurs back in his day.  We could do better than him, right?  Plus, after that many dwarven ales (one) he kinda reminds us of Gandalf and we really need that gold in Smaug's cave. We don't really but how else do you get the attention of a fair princess besides slaying a great and evil dragon and becoming richer than the king? I can't think of a better way.
But why a tevern?  Because this is the quintessential meeting place of the masses in a medieval setting. They met here in the evenings after toiling about their fields and shops and forges all day long and they unwound, telling stories of adventure, of dragons, of heroism. So what better place for those stories to begin than in the place where so many are told?

You have mead, grog, and ale to bolster your courage. You have friends (and strangers) to encourage you.  They are usually dark and smokey places where grand tales are told and fear is the shadow in the corner spurring you to drink and investigate.

So in short, a tavern is the perfect place to begin a life altering, world changing adventure.  So now, what makes this tavern unique?  Every tavern should have something no other tavern has. A signature drink or dish.  An interesting theme. A memorable tavern-keep.  Something special.

While Thom's Pub down the street is a nice enough establishment, there is nothing special or unique about Thom or his pub.  It has four booths, two on each the left and right side of the pub, five tables in the center and a bar in the back. While that gives us a layout it tells us nothing about the pub or its feel.

The Smoking Gnome however is much more interesting.  This tavern is owned by a jovial (and almost dwavenly stout) gnome Girmah Spinstool, who lights it with red paper lanterns that also burn a light incense that fills the tavern with pleasant smelling smoke.  Girmah and his lanterns give the tavern its name.  The rotund gnome works the bar in the back welcoming each patron individually even if it means stopping in the middle of a sentence.

Girmah serves traditional Gnomish meals with a human twist to make them more palatable to his clientele. He has his famous Acorn salad to which he added lettuce and his human customers love (his gnomish customers find it repulsive that he would ruin a perfectly good acorn salad).  Girmah welcomes all into his tavern, but insists that weapons are checked at the door. Not even the Captain of the Guard gets past the door with a sword at his waist.

Thom is going out of business.

Tell me about some of the taverns you have been to in your adventuring days.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Creation of Verdenheim

Ysir, The Father of All, was the first being in existence. He was a giant who begot three sons, Woten, Vili, and Ve. When Ysir died his sons took his body and created Verdenheim. From his blood they created the oceans. From his flesh they created the earth. From his bones they created the mountains and hills. From his hair they created the trees. From his teeth and broken bones they created rocks and boulders. From his mind they took the spirits of the first Humans, Elves and Dwarves.

Ve and The Elves
Ve seeing the beauty in the Elf spirit took it and formed the Elves from the beautiful hair of his father from which he made the trees. Ve took the Elves and showed them the beauty he had made in the world and charged them with protecting and preserving this beauty.

Vili and the Dwarves
Vili took the strongest of the spirits and crafted a body for it out of the Mountains, the bones of his father, creating the DwarvesVili took the Dwarves and showed them the secret places of the world hidden deep within the ground and the mountains. Vili taught the dwarves to revere the stone of the mountains, the bones of the Father of All. He taught them how to take his fathers bones and craft them into their liking using fire.

Woten and The Humans
Woten took the human spirit and crafted a body using the broken bones and hair of his father, infusing it with his fathers blood to bring it life and mortality. Eventually Woten fell in love with one of his creations and fathered a child with a human woman. They named the child Torn, and when Torn would scream, thunder would roll, and when Torn cried, rain poured from the heavens.

Ysir’s dreams
Ysir’s dreams escaped and the first magicks entered the world. Magic became ingrained in humans and elves, while leaving the dwarves untouched deep under the ground as they were. Magic creatures sprang up from the remains ofYsirYsir’s toenails became the Frost Giants. The drops of his sweat became all manner of magical beast. And his Shadow became the dreaded goblins and orcs.
Torn, The Sonders and The Frost Giants
Torn did the same as his father, Woten, and fell in love with a human woman. With her he fathered many sons, fathering the human race of the Sonders. After centuries of living among the humans he loved so much, the Frost Giants invaded their land and killed many of Torn’s people. Torn then trained the remaining Sonder men to be great warriors and lead them in an assault against the Frost Giants. With his command of thunder and lightning they vanquished the Frost Giants, driving them back to their homeland, Isheima (Ees-hime-a). The Sonder’s have ever after been a warrrior people bred to fight the Frost Giants should they ever return.
Woten's Blessing
May the Blessings of Woten reach you, no matter far or wide you travel

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Trying on a New Skin: Mephits and Sand Spirits

What is reskinning?  Simply put it is when you take one creature and describe it differently.  You leave the stats the same, so you can run it them same if you wish, but with the creature looking completely different you have a completely new creature.

Salt Mephit

Mephits are minor creatures from the elemental planes.
All mephits appear as small, winged creatures with more or less humanoid features. While they are often described as impish, 
their elemental origins are apparent at first glance. Salt mephits are sarcastic creatures who loathe water and moisture of any kind. Each one is about 4 feet tall and weighs about 80 pounds.

Sand Monster from Lauren K Cannon
Sand Spirits

A humanoid creature stands in front of you. At first you mistake it for a scarecrow of sorts, a man shaped pile of sand and sharp rocks meant to scare off the carrion birds of the desert. But then it moves toward you.  Sand constantly falls off its body, falling from the inhuman arms and head, replaced by the sand it picks up as it moves along the desert floor. As you watch it in terror, a beetle scurries across its face and into one of the depressions that can only be its eye sockets. As you stand there it comes closer and you are suddenly parched.  Your mouth is bone dry and you can feel your skin grow tight as is it dries out in the dryness and heat emanating from this creature.

Sand spirits stand about 5 1/2 feet tall and are roughly humanoid in shape, with a head, torso, and two arms. Occasionally the legs separate to form two legs, but most of the time they are a solid mass of sand and stone that melds with the desert floor. When the Sand spirit is threatened it roars at its target and send a furnace blast of heat with sand and shards of stone. Sand spirits are the remnants of ancient desert shaman who bonded their souls with the desert itself.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What's in your haversack?

This is the second in a series that deals with what gear a PC can/should have available depending on the situation.  Not every PC will have every piece of equipment that they need for every situation. Sometimes they will fall short.  My rule of thumb is to think about who your PC is and how it is they started in on their current adventure/encounter.  If you take into account that your PC may not be prepared for everything it makes for much more interesting game play, and increases the ingenuity of the players.
Some varied gear for the common adventurer
So what would my PC's have in their haversacks?  Let's take a look...
Elnok Callahan, human thief (level 2 Rogue) has heard of the riches stored within the walls of the governor's mansion.  He has also recently heard of the corruption of the governor and has decided this is a very good reason to relieve the governor of his riches. He has prepared himself for this daring night time raid. 
In Elnok's haversack you find:

  • Haversack/satchel
  • MW lockpicks
  • Thieves Tools (including oils, files, etc)
  • Soft leather boots (for sneaking)
  • Black gloves
  • Stiletto dagger
  • Throwing Daggers
  • Twine / Trap triggers
  • Small lantern (with bulls-eye cover) 
  • Calling Card (a scrap of lamb skin with an eye burned into it, Elnok's symbol) just for flair, left in place of the stolen goods
Elnok is not prepared for a long overland journey, as he does not have so much as a waterskin with him, let alone trail rations, rope, walking stick or the like.  While he may not be prepared for overland travel, it makes for a much more interesting tale when Elnok needs to bargain with some desert nomads for some water, as he has not had anything to quench his thirst for several days after nearly being caught by the corrupt governors gaurds and being teleported at the last moment to the middle of the desert by the magic mirror hidden in the governors secret chamber in the basement of the mansion. 

So, now that you know what Elnok has in his haversack, tell me, What is in your haversack?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Seven Wonders of Verdenheim: The Labyrinth

The Labyrinth is a temple on the edge of the Chasm, dedicated to all three Gods, Woten, Vili and Ve. There is a tile mosaic on the floor of the temple that resembles a complicated labyrinth that it is said no one has ever finished. It is rumored that if you complete the labyrinth then you will be rewarded with great riches.
The path is dirt and dust covered ivory and obsidian tiles, just wide enough to walk single file.  Once the maze is begun there is no backtracking.  If you turn around to retrace your steps the path has changed, and you must go back to the beginning.
This mystical occurrence has brought many adventurers, puzzle seekers and travelers. The Labyrinth sees a steady stream of visitors every year, but not many are known to make it to the center of the maze with out cheating.  While the Labyrinth sees many faces and feet every year, none stay to care for the temple. 
The tile floor maze is magically enchanted so when beat a hidden trapdoor in the center of the maze unlocks and opens for the person who completed the maze. The secret door leads to a winding stair case that descends hundreds of feet, eventually letting out far below into the true Labyrinth within the Chasm. At the center of the true Labyrinth lies the fabled Minotaur.  There are only two ways to defeat the Minotaur once encountered, answer his three riddles and be rewarded, or defeat him in combat. Once the Minotaur is defeated a path is opened out of the Labyrinth (Player choice determines whether that path leads back to the stair case and the world above, or out into the Chasm).

Thursday, March 8, 2012

40 Random Names

Here are two list of random names.  20 males and 20 females. Do your PCs run into a random human guy in the local tavern whilst engaged in discourse about your next grand adventure?  The random bar wench?  Well here you go

1. Abel
2. Addison
3. Baldrick
4. Brooks
5. Cuthbert
6. Denton
7. Eben
8. Eustace
9. Freeman
10. Gareth
11. Ingram
12. Jayden
13. Jarvis
14. Kendal
15. Marlowe
16. Orval
17. Quentin
18. Teom
19. Vaughn
20. Zachahiah

1. Ademina
2. Alise
3. Chastity
4. Delphina
5. Edith
6. Essence
7. Gabrielle
8. Hayden
9. Imogen
10. Janessa
11. Kiana
12. Layla
13. Magdelena
14. Maredith
15. Odette
16. Pernel
17. Raylene
18. Safara
19. Tabitha
20. Wren

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Trying on a New Skin: Bugbears and Rhinox

What is reskinning?  Simply put it is when you take one creature and describe it differently.  You leave the stats the same, so you can run it them same if you wish, but with the creature looking completely different you have a completely new creature.
Bugbears resemble hairy, feral goblins standing seven feet tall. They take their name from their noses and claws, which are similar to those of bears. Their claws are not long and sharp enough to be used as weapons, so bugbears often armor and arm themselves with a variety of purloined gear. Most often, this gear is second-rate and in poor repair.

Bugbear eyes are greenish white with red pupils, and their wedge-shaped ears rise from the tops of their heads. Most bugbears have hides ranging from light yellow to yellow brown and their thick, coarse hair ranges from brown to brick red.

Rhinox are large humanoid creatures who bear two horns on their sloped skulls. These horns however are not on either side of the head but in the center of their snouts.  Their horns are kept a brilliant ivory white and are a great source of pride for the male Rhinox. 

These fearsome creatures are stocky and are covered in a thick grey hide that provides the Rhinox with a natural sort of armor.  While very intimidating these creatures are very stoic. It takes a lot to anger a Rhinox, but once they are angry they are a very dangerous foe.  Those their legs are short and stocky for their size, they are very fast and even unarmed the Rhinox can use their horns for a powerful gore attack that can fell the sturdiest opponent.

While using the same stats of the Bugbear but describing it as above you create a brand new creature, and possibly a brand new race for your game world.  You can also use the morning star stats that a typical Bugbear has (from 3.5) and use those stats for both their weapons and their gore attack.  

If you have any suggestions for future Skin jobs, please leave them in the comments. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What's in your haversack?

As a GM I don't really like for my players to build complicated and "complete" adventuring kits.  It takes some of the drama and ingenuity away from the players and their characters.  Yes, having that grappling hook and rope makes scaling the castle wall easy, but its much more interesting when your lumbering hulk of a fighter has to make several athletics and acrobatics checks to climb jumping from window to window, silently, avoiding notice from the patrolling guards.

I don't want my players to be completely unprepared, just not prepared for every situation.  The adventuring gear that the party has must be appropriate given the types of characters being played and how they are written into the story.  It makes sense for a professional guide through the Underdark to come prepared with grappling hooks, ropes, lanterns, climbing gear and possibly ten foot poles and what not. But the novice mage who is awoken in the middle of the night and pushed out the door with what meager supplies he could grab on his stumbling way through the darkened hall, would not be similarly prepared.

So, what would my PCs have in their haversacks? Let's see...

Corrin, a very young sell sword (1st level Fighter), whose camp was destroyed in a surprise attack in the middle of the night, runs off into the woods and catches up with a ragtag band of other Sell Swords and Sell Wands.  During his flight from the camp he was only able to manage to grab a few things other than his sword.

In Corrin's haversack you find:
  • Haversack/Backpack
  • Sword
  • Dagger/Knife
  • A few days rations
  • A fire brand (torch)
  • fishing twine and hook (already in haversack)
  • cook pot and travel cup
  • Waterskin
  • Flint and steel (already in haversack)
  • Whetstone (in hand sharpening sword when the attack started)

This is all that makes sense for Corrin to have grabbed during a hurried escape.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Racing toward your own execution

Niven Souflikar is the royal executioner and lover of the Queen of the realm.  Niven wears the hood of the executioner and the black apron of a butcher.  When a criminal is convicted of a crime and sentenced to death that criminal is given the opportunity to race Niven through the Sanctuary. Though his apron should hamper him considerably, Niven is quite fit and can move swiftly through the maze.  Not only is he very quick footed, but he knows the best ways to reach the center of the maze in a very short time.

The sanctuary is a beautiful garden maze that only the nobility are normally allowed within.  The only time someone of the lower classes is ever allowed in the Sanctuary is for the Race. In preparation for the race, the criminal is given a rough copy of the layout of the maze and can plan his route to the very center of the maze.  If The criminal is able to make it to the center of the maze before Niven, his life is spared and he is banished instead.

However, if Niven beats the criminal to the center of the maze, the criminal is executed.  This is not done in the traditional manner, with a headsman's ax, but instead with a thin garrote wire.  The criminal is slowly strangled to death, while a collection of nobility stand around and spectate.  If Nevin thinks the criminal will die too quickly he will lessen his pressure with the wire and thrash him about, allowing him to struggle, after all he doesn't want the show to end to quickly.  He is ever the consummate showman.

Once the criminal has died the body is thrown into the river which runs through the Sanctuary.  The body is washed away down river and once out of the Sanctuary the body is collected and either buried or sold on the black market. Neither of which concern the nobility in the slightest.  

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Obsidian Portal

What is Obsidian Portal? From the Obsidian Portal "About" page:
"Obsidian Portal is a content management site for tabletop role playing games. Rather than trying to automate the playing of the game, Obsidian Portal provides tools to help manage your game and your gaming group."
Obsidian Portal is a wiki site that allows you to create not only your characters, but your entire game world in one place.  OP is a wonderful tool that makes it easy for GMs/DMs to keep track of everything from what their PCs are carrying to the goals and motivations of the NPCs.  Depending on the level of detail you want you can spend the time coding and making intricate beautiful layouts or simple data dumps on a page with links and info only.  Its up to you.

Obsidian Portal user Spotlight: Vstraydogstrutv who has encouraged me on this little blog and even spotlighted it on his "campaign" Shared Creations. Thanks Vstray

The beauty is that you have the option to do that. You can create two campaigns under the free version and an unlimited number of campaigns under the same user when you become Ascendant.  You can upload maps, pictures and more to your wiki and embedding pictures is pretty easy.  Along with the forum options and ease of use, this website is amazing.

I am currently using OP to build my campaign world Verdenheim, which I reference here regularly.  It is a great way to organize all the information I have amassed/created for this world.  While I do not currently have time enough to actually run a weekly or even monthly game, I can go back to OP whenever and add to or edit the information already there.  I have never had a campaign world so rich with detail created by myself before having this wonderful organization tool.

I believe that the most beneficial aspect of this site however is not in its functionality, but in the community on the forums and its Campaign of the Month.  The people on the forums are a wonderful source of information both on gaming and on coding for the website. Also, they are offer great inspiration and encouragement that all GMs/DMs should have.

While this review is not as eloquent as some, nor was it solicited in any way it is a completely heart felt recommendation for a wonderful tool and website, the best I have yet come across.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Seven Wonders of Verdenheim: The Falls of the Fathers

You reach the edge of Maur Lake, a vast lake fed by the raging waterfalls called the Falls of the Fathers. The Falls are are three tier set of waterfalls that lie due east of Maur Lake.  Each tier of the falls are an impressive height of two hundred seventy five feet.  The top most tier of the falls holds a single statue, nearly 50 feet tall.  It is the the likeness of King Vasilis, the first high king of Mauritan. 

The Second Tier of the Falls of the Fathers is adorned with the likenesses of the two Merchant Kings, Adalhard and Ferdinand, who helped Vasilis found the kingdom of Mauritan.  Of a height with the statue of Vasilis, the two statues look up to him in approval. 

The third and lowest tier of the Falls hold the three statues of the Roadmaker Princes.  Appius, Hodos, and Itiner look down to their feet where lies the road they helped to create and which connect all the nations of Verdenheim.  These three statues are accessible by any who wish to take a walk on Roadmaker's Bridge, which spans the distance between the shores on either side of the falls and passes at the feet of the Roadmaker Princes.  It is a widely practiced superstition for travelers to walk Roadmaker's Bridge and kiss each of the feet of the Roadmaker Princes for good luck and weather on their travels. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

On Dragons

On the subject of dragons I am torn.  While on the one hand I love the iconic creatures Dungeons & Dragons presents, on the other I think most of the time they are a little much. Sometimes I don't want my PC's to wait until 15th level or higher to say they have fought a dragon. That is why in my game there are Dragons and the True Dragon.

Dragons are large flying reptiles from the tropical regions of the world, primarily from the Tropics of the Chasm.  Many myths tell tale of extremely intelligent Dragons who breathe fire and cast spells, and adventurers the world over have gone in search of them and never returned. There are other tales that say dragons are no smarter than a horse and can be used as a pack animal or even a mount.

In reality Dragons are tropical predators who are very very difficult to catch, let alone tame enough to ride. They are not magical and do not breathe fire. They do, however, occasionally hoard treasure. Dragons often dine on the unwary traveler and are attracted by bright and shinny objects such as metal weapons and armor as well as coin. When the Dragons dines on these unfortunate people, it will gather the shiniest bits or treasure in its mouth and pile it in its cave or den. Which is typically near by.  These dragons are lithe creatures with four appendages. Two back legs and two wings, each of which has a clawed hand that they can walk on and climb with. Their scales vary from emerald green to mottled brown. They have keen eyes of a brilliant yellow and superb sense of smell. Their tales can be as long as twice the length of their bodies which can be as small as a pony to as big as a buffalo. 

The True Dragon exists on the other side of Verdenheim. The True Dragon is highly intelligent and has the magical ability to breathe fire and cast magic like in the legends. This dragon is much bigger than the standard non-magical dragons, said to be 65 feet long or bigger. Often referred to as The Red Dragon, this dragon is also green in color with red in its scales, has six appendages, four powerful legs, and two enormous bat like wings. The Red Dragon lives on the other side of Verdenheim, near or even in Yggdrasil the world tree. The Red Dragon also hoards treasure, like its mundane cousins on the other side. However, it maintains this treasure hoard for much the same reason as men amass wealth. Greed. It will use this treasure to hire less intelligent creatures to do its bidding and to buy certain items if it does not wish to bother itself with taking the item by sheer strength and power.