Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Whaling Woods

At night during high tide the fishermen of Frogston lure whales into the woods. When a whale is entangled in the dead trees, they surround it in their small boats and slay it. Whaling at night is a doubly dangerous activity due to the undead the high tide brings. Along the coast wreckers make trouble by luring passing ships into the woods. Shallows and sandbanks are frequent in the waters around the Whaling Woods.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Distant Gods and Corrupt Priests

Today, I was watching the first part of the European production "Borgia", when I realized something. Having a corrupt cleric with a close family of two fighter sons and specialist daughter could be fun. Especially as one of the main antagonists in a fantasy campaign. I haven't seen this done yet, because in a fantasy setting corrupt clerics worship evil and corrupt gods. Therefore, the appearance of respectability is never an option, unless heavily disguised beneath alignment concealing spells. Even then it is hard to pull off, because the deities in a classic fantasy game are ever-present.

Lotfp brilliantly circumvents this by having all clerics be of lawful alignment, recommending that most positions in the church hierarchy are filled by level-0 NPCs and by recommending distant gods. The referee manual talks about religion being about the way worship is done, and not by one universal truth spread by the deity himself. Religion is a mortal lense to view the deity.

This nicely breaks with the assumption of having one true way of worship and one true word of god. I think, in our fantasy gaming we expect clerics to be true to their gods, in a way the real world all too often shows us that our priests are not (I don't intend to offend anyone's religious sensibilities here, but just take a look at all the scandals rocking the churches in Europe, the U.S. and the rest of the western world).

Lotfp actually paves the way for having a Borgia-esque power-mongering going on in a church. Now, imagine the players' surprise, when they find out that the morally questionable, corrupt and decadent cleric is still able to call upon the spells granted by his oh-so-pious religion.

The Swamp of Submerged Secrets

The swamp was once the center of the realm of the Emerald Magi. Purportedly their reign was brought to an end when a successful uprising of pleasure slaves replaced the magiocracy with pornocracy (rule by prostitutes). This spelled doom for the Emerald Magi and today the swamp is littered with their ruined towers hidding the secrets of the magi. It is an initiation ritual Marsh elves living in the swamp to steal something from the ruins.

Magic is still strong around the ruins. Therefore clerics, magic-users and elves need only half as much sleep and half as much time to prepare spells while in the swamp.

Note: This incorporates an entry from the Random Weird Historical Events table I won for my entry into the Hack Vornheim contest. Entry 50 to be precise.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play 3rd Edition

Something I would like to mention here, even though it is neither Lamentations nor old-school. Yesterday, a friend of mine started a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay campaign using the 3rd Edition rules. The game was fun. We are still trying to get the hang of all the fiddly bits and rules, but it was an entertaining evening.

Still, I think WFRP pertains a bit to this blog, since Lamentations gives of a similar vibe as WFRP in some places. Also, I like the mechanic of the party sheet. In essence, the player characters form a themed adventuring party. The party sheet measures party tension (nifty), allows the referee to award fortune points (similar to bennies, fate points or the proposed hero points of this blog) to the group, and gives the players the ability to share some their characters' capabilities with the group.

So, what happened yesterday? We are a company of Swords for Hire (our party sheet) who are just returning from Black Fire Pass where we were part of an imperial army fighting against orcs and goblins. The party consists of a wood elven wardancer, a high elven bounty hunter, and two Reiklanders, a smuggler and a wizard's apprenctice of the Grey Order (illusionists). While travelling to Ubersreik on the day before Geheimnistag, we encountered an over-turned coach (why do almost all WFRP adventures and campaigns I ever played in start with raided coaches?)  Apparently, it had been raided by beast men. Our elves thought that there were around 12 persons travelling with the coach. We didn't find any bodies. So we assume that they ended up as beast men lunch. A bit apart, concealed by the bushes the wood elf found an injured servant. He was carrying a marriage contract between two noble families. When he was revived, he told us that he was travelling back to his master with the contract. They were attacked almost before the end of the journey. Our smuggler had the idea of building a small cart out of the remains of the coach to have an easier time carrying the servant to the nearby hunting lodge.

On our way to the hunting lodge, we were attacked by a group of four smaller beastmen and their larger leader. We fought valiantly and after the wardancer killed the leader, the three remaining bestmen fled. Not a moment too soon. In the distant, a hunting horn already announced another pack of beastmen approaching. We ran toward the hunting lodge. Our wizard's apprentice was wondering why the beastman leader had tried to specifically kill the servant. Thanks to our smuggler he did not succeed.

At the hunting lodge we were greeted by Lord Aschaffenberg. He seemed rather jovial and congratulated us on defeating the beastmen (why didn't he help us?). The high elven bounty hunter noticed that someone was watching our arrival from a first floor window. We were invited to stay and share dinner with our host. Our host told us that Andreas Aschaffenberg, his brother, vanished here a year and a day earlier. All in all, considering the events, the lord seemed to be a bit unconcerned for my tastes. At that, we became a bit suspicious. We convened in the girls' room (the high elf and the wood elf) and shared our various suspicions. There might be some mastermind directing the beastmen, tomorrow is Geheimnistag (a day where the undead are roaming) and our arrival had been observed by some unknown person.

We decided that the smuggler should scout the room where the observer was most likely hidden. There, he found a doctor's study with a curious skeleton and a box of sleeping potions under the bed. Meanwhile the wizard's apprenctice was taking a bath.

Later we met again and decided that not all of us should eat dinner. The high elf volunteered for that. The wizard's apprentice plans to make his food look like he has eaten some, but in reality he'll not eat at all. Also, we decided that sitting in our rooms is not getting us anywhere. Instead, we should scout the estate. Here we finished the game yesterday.

Banshees

A banshee (or Bean-Sidhe) is the howling spirit of a dead elf woman whose appearance foretells death. Now, most elves in the land beyond the Drowning Woods are either marsh elves (sometimes called swamp elves) or pale elves. In other words, most elves aren't of the goody two shoes variety. What that means for the disposition of their ghosts is left up to the individual referee to determine.

Banshee: HD 9, AC 18, Speed: half as fast as an unencumbered man, Morale 12, Damage: 1d8 (claws), only vulnerable to silver & magic, 50% immunity vs. spells, typical undead immunities, AL: Chaotic.
  • Death Cry: Once per night, a banshee may scream loudly, painfully and deadly. Everyone within earshot has to succeed at a save vs. poison or die painfully in 2d6 rounds. Everyone who fails their save also is immediately deaf due to ruptured eardrums.

The Lake of the Spooky Nun

Many legends surround the fresh water lake and the nun from the society of the Ice Serpent who drowned herself to close a gate at the bottom of the lake. Supposedly, the gate leads to another world in a far-off cluster of stars where strange gods and ancient evils dwell. The nun was transformed into a banshee that haunts the lake shore when there is danger of the gate being opened. Some halflings fearfully whisper that the nun has been sometimes seen at night in the past couple of decades. At the same time, there have been reports of strange foot prints found at the shore. Foot prints some crazed magic-users believe to belong to Deep Ones. But of course that's typical villager talk.

Note: The Lake of the Spooky Nun can serve as a starting point to introduce monsters, artifacts and rituals from Carcossa into the campaign.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Goblin-Spiders

A Goblin-Spider Forest of course needs goblin-spiders. These are not your  traditional Japanese variant. Goblin spiders are smallish to largish creature with the body of a spider and the head of a warty hooked-nosed goblin. Their two foremost legs are actually able to manipulate tools and weapons. Though they rarely use them.

Goblin-spiders: HD 1, AC 13, Speed: one-and-a-half times as fast as an unencumbered man, Morale: 8, Damage: 1d4 + poison (save vs. poison +2 or die) (bite), 1/day web (caster level = HD), AL: Chaotic.

This is the most commonly encountered variant. For larger variants increase HD, increase armor class by 1 for every 2-3 HD, at 3 HD loose the +2 save bonus, at 6 HD impose a -2 save bonus. Queen Tittania probably has at least 10 HD and may even be a magic-user.

Goblin-Spider Forest

Through the dense and pathless coniferous forest run several brooks flowing from the two lakes towards the coast. The weather is rainy in summer and snowy in winter. The forest is home to the halflings, centered around the town of Darkenstone. Somewhere deep within the woodland the caves of the goblin-spider queen are hidden, where the goblin-spiders enslave unlucky travelers and their queen, Tittania, spins a vast web over a bottomless pit.

Notes: Yes, I realized too late that a spider queen sitting over a bottomless pit has been done to death. But at least Tittania is neither demon nor godess, just a big fat spider. Think Shelob with more malice and spells. Also, the halflings have finally found their homeland. Unfortunately, as you will read later, it is under attack by the Deep Ones from a distant star.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dragons

I just mentioned the dragon Anthrax the Purple Thunder, so it's logical to post my take on dragons. When I told a friend the name of the dragon, he immediately suggested heavy metal band name themed dragons. We'll see if I roll with that.

Dragon: HD 2 to 12, AC 12 + # of HD, Speed: half that of an unencumbered man on ground, thrice that airborne, Morale 8, Damage: 3d6 (bite), 2x 1d8 (claws), 1x 1d6 (tail slap), magic resistence at HD x5%, AL: see below.
  • Alignment: 50% of all dragons are aligned with law, the other 50% with chaos. 
  • Dragon breath: Lawful dragons breath a cone of cold. Chaotic dragons breath a cone of fire. 1d4 attackers will be caught in the cone. They take # of HD in d6 damage (save vs. breath weapon for half damage). Accordingly, lawful dragons are immune to cold, and chaotic dragons are immune to fire.
  • Spells: Lawful dragons cast cleric spells. Chaotic dragons cast magic-user spells. They will know 1d6 randomly determined 1st level spells, 1d3 randomly determined 2nd level spells and 1 random spell of 3rd level. Each spell can be cast once per day. If a spell is rolled multiple times, it can be cast multiple times. Caster level equals dragon HD.
I don't know yet where I am going with the lawful/chaos thing. It just seems right. The dragons are not chromatic or metallic, instead rather traditionally scaled and mottled in grey and brownish scales. I am thinking Skyrim a bit too much here...

Iron Blade Lake

According to stories, two enemy armies plunged their weapons into the fresh water lake as part of a peace treaty. Anyway, sometimes one can find strange scimitars of ancient design on the muddy banks. Trolls are living in the caves on the highland side of the lake. They worship the dragon Anthrax the Purple Thunder as God under the Lake. By braving the troll caves, an enterprising (or suicidal) adventurer could reach the dragon cave located at the bottom of the lake.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Rustmoor Highlands

The hill country is densely populated. Outside of the four large towns, the people live in clan holds and tribal villages. The highland clans are influenced by the Church of the Iron God. The clans are mining for iron ore and coal. The village tribes produce iron ingots and steel. The townsfolk produce tools and weapons. The signature weapon of the highlands is the two-handed greatsword (double cost, non-magical +1 to damage).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Experience Points Revisited

The Degenerate Elite has offered some very valid commentary about my proposed xp progression. I'd like to address that in more depths.

  • "your xp will result in ridiculously fast leveling for this system" - Correct. That is by design. I am not in favor of skipping the first couple of levels, but I am also not in favor of having the characters stuck at level 1-3 for any longer than absolutely necessary. So I am handing out enough xp to get them to higher levels pretty quickly. I want them to advance quickly.
  • "the +100 per hit die is especially out of scale with normal monster encounters..." - You hit a nail there. I wasn't thinking when I did this. Mechanically, there would be no difference between hunting nine orcs and encountering a 9HD dragon. Except that surviving the orcs would be much easier. I don't like the table on page 32, because I think that the progression is too slow for my tastes. Also, I don't like referencing tables. Lotfp has nicely done away with most of the tables during actual game play.
  • "for treasure to count for xp - it has to be returned safely to civilization" - I don't want the game to depend upon collecting treasure. I don't want to hinder mechanical character growth. I want the characters to advance.
So in order to address the second issue, I need to reconsider the table. I should mention that I don't expect the game to consist of that much combat, and therefore I want the xp gained from combat to count. Currently, I am seeing a formular for exponential xp emerge:

(HD x HD) x20

That would give an orc a value of 20 xp, a gnoll a value of 80 xp, and the 9HD dragon a value of 1.620 xp (or rather 2.000 xp, because due it's breath weapon and other abilities, it counts as a 10 HD monster).
Now hunting nine orcs will net the group 180 xp, and hunting nine gnolls will net 720 xp. Still considerably less than defeating one dragon.

House Rules for Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Role-Playing

Yesterday we rolled up the first character for the campaign. Fiona Wilson, a female fighter from Kirkstead. Finally, this is going somewhere. In case you have been wondering, the Land Beyond the Drowning Woods campaign will start after the current Vampire the Masquerade (V20) campaign will be finished. Probably sometime in January. Maybe the first session will be on New Year's Eve.

Anyway, it is time to present the house rules for the campaign:

  1. Ability scores: roll 3d6 twelve times, chose six and arrange as desired. If you include the lowest score rolled, you get to roll one other ability score again. Three times. If you roll higher than the current score, you get to keep the higher score.
  2. Bonus spells: Clerics and magic-users receive bonus spell slots based on their Wisdom respectively Intelligence. INT or WIS 13-15: one first level bonus spell, INT or WIS 16-17: one second level bonus spell, INT or WIS 18: one third level bonus spell. The spell slot becomes available when a cleric or magic-user becomes elligable to cast spells of that level.
  3. Strength bonus is added to weapon damage.
  4. Elves are called swamp elves. Their appearance is wizened, with flinty black eyes, twisted arms and legs. They are reed thin. Apart from that they follow all the rules of the elven class.
  5. Alignment: all clerics and all dwarves are lawful, all magic-user and elves are chaotic.
  6. Starting Gear: all characters start with the same starting gear. Leather armor, shield, small weapon, dagger, traveling clothes, backpack, purse, bedroll, latern & lamp oil, one healing potion (1d6+1), 10 iron rations and 1d6 sp. Since each iron ration fills one encumberance slot, I give the players the option of foregoing some or all rations and gaining 1 sp per ration not taken instead. Magic-users and elves start with a spellbook, of course. Reasoning behind this package is to get gaming as fast as possible.
  7. Two new common activities: Legend lore (knowledge about the campaign world) and busking (useful for performing and earning money). Legend lore starts at 1 in 6 and is modified by the Intelligence modifier. Busking also starts at 1 in 6 and is modified by the Charisma modifier. A successful busking roll earns 1d6 times roll result in copper pieces.
  8. Starting spells for magic-users: Read magic. Then the player rolls 3 plus Intelligence modifier times on the chart of first level magic-user spells. Duplicates are re-rolled. He can pick three. The magic-user does not get more spells, he just has more choice. I want to emphasize the professional nature of the magic-user. For elves nothing changes. Their acquired spells are a matter of chance.
  9. Hero points: Each session a character receives 3 hero points. Role-playing entertainingly, bringing food, or otherwise contributing to the game, may gain additional hero points. Each hero point can be used to either add a +2 to a roll on a d20, completely re-roll a d20 or to add a small detail to the narrative. We have just played a bit too much FATE 3rd edition to make do without any player empowerment. It probably will not hurt the game and also give the player characters a bit of an edge in surviving the lower levels.
  10. Experience points: Since I don't want to place treasure all over the place, experience will be awarded differently. 500 XP for attending the game. +100 XP for each hex travelled or each dungeon level explored, + 100 XP per HD of monsters defeated (to be distributed evenly among the group), +250 XP if the player creates something that enriches the game-play for everyone (e.g. keeping and publishing a journal, drawing characters, and so on). In case a game has to be cancelled, every would-be participant receives 250 XP.

House rules that my players didn't like:
  • The elven class becomes the tiefling class. Tieflings have small horns, cloven hoofs and smell faintly of sulphur or brimstone. They are more like the Planescape tieflings than the 4E tieflings.
  • The halfling class becomes the swamp elven class. Swamp elves are wizened, with flinty eyes, twisted arms and legs and they are rail thin. They are medium-sized and count as elves for rules purposes.
See? I am listening to you. Now I just have to figure out where to place the halflings.But I already have an idea. Since the elves are roaming the swamps, the forests are kind of abandoned.

Note: That also means I am dropping the tiefling idea. There will be no tieflings as a player character class in the land beyond the Drowning Woods.

The Doomglaroon River and the Death Frost Mountain

Today, we continue with the exploration of the lands beyond the Drowning Woods.

The Doomglaroon River is navigable from the delta around the Nameless City up to Kirkstead. The barges bring finished goods from the Nameless City upstream and raw materials downstream. In the riverside villages, the Speakers of the River serve as priests. They know the secrets of irrigation and river locks. Each spring in each village a prisoner is chosen by lottery to be the Disciple of the River Father. The chosen disciple is drowned in the river to appease the river and prevent flooding.

The Death Frost Mountain (name taken from Zak's campaign map) is the only mountain to survive the moonfall in the area. The top is covered year round by glittering ice. The Doomglaroon River has its source at the foot of the mountain. Legends tell that the mountain formed around a sleeping giant. If you want to explore the Death Frost Mountain, get yourself a referee and the excellent Doom Frost Death module from Lotfp.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Ravensfriend

Okay, I tried to resist, but failed my save miserably. I am just impressed with Richard Morgan's The Steel Remains and its sequel The Cold Commands. Also there is this:



The hero of both books is Ringil Eskiath, a war veteran who wields the blade Ravensfriend. The Ravensfriend was forged for him by the alien and immortal Kiriath. Its full name is something like:

I am welcomed in the home of ravens and other scavengers in the wake of warriors. I am friend to carrion crows and wolves. I am carry Me and kill with Me, and die with Me where the road ends. I am not the honeyed promise of length of life in years to come. I am the iron promise of never being a slave.
 I just have to do this sword as a magic item for Lotfp:

The Ravensfriend is a very sharp sword that can be drawn nearly instantly from its scabbard. It has the following powers:
  • It grants a magical +1 bonus to hit. In terms of Lotfp, that is huge. I am not planning on having any magic that grants a larger bonus.
  • The blade is very sharp and does double damage, i.e. 2d8.
  • The blade can be drawn and an attack made without any penalties.
  • The wielder is immune to all charm spells and effects. That's the bit about "the iron promise of never being a slave."
  • The wielder will not be attacked by ravens, carrion crows and wolves. They recognize the blade as provider of food. Again, see name.
The wielder of the Ravensfriend must "do the right thing" (as per the alignment righteous). Not neccessarily as a knight in shining armor, but using those means that come most naturally to him. As long as he is trying his best and getting somewhere, the Ravensfriend will not desert him. If he shirks away from this duty, the referee has two options: let the character roll a save vs. magical device. If he fails, he has to do the right thing (as determined by the referee). Or, the Ravensfriend will not grant him powers any longer.

Note: I am not satisfied with the negative effect of the blade. Any suggestions would be most welcome.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cults in the Land beyond the Drowning Woods

Clerics require gods to worship and grant their spells (or whatever passes for gods in the campaign setting). Lotfp assumes that all clerics are lawful (i.e. allied with law as opposed to chaos). Reading the Tales from the Flat Earth by Tanith Lee where gods are very distant and aloof beings, that gave me ideas.

Basically, all religions in the Land beyond the Drowning Woods are cults. They venerate distant gods. Most clergy are 0-level. In order to gain insight into the nature of the gods and the mysteries they present, one has to leave the safe confines of ones village or town and travel to distant places to experience creation. Enlightenment is not for the meek.

The Church of the Iron God worships a stern father-figure. They value honor, righteousness and obedience. It's a cult of warriors, smiths and mineworkers. It is very prevalent in the Rustmoor Highlands where the main cathedral of the faith is located.

The Order of the Pale Worm venerates the lord of death and decay. He is the patron of graveyards and tombs. The statues depict Lord Death as a giant white maggot dressed in hooded robe of black velvet. His main temple is on the Isle of the Pale Worm where he is served by the Verdigris Virgins.

The Children of the Beast King worship the Horned One as a fertility god. They dance around the equinox fires and celebrate rites to ensure the bounty of the harvest. The cult has a large following the Goblin-Spider Forest and the rural communities on the Swamp of Dreadful Dreams. At the spring equinox, a young man who has never before known a woman, has ritual intercourse with the harvest hag, a woman who has raised at least three sons.

The Speakers of the River Father can be found along the Doomglaroon. They idolize the river as a benevolent father who brings live and prosperity to the villages and towns along the Doomglaroon. Sacred priests usually accompany the river vessels.

The Society of the Ice Serpent is a mystery cult based upon ancient teachings of the pale elves. It is believed that the Ice Serpent is the creator of the pale elves. Today it is a deity worshipped by magic-users, alchemists and tieflings. The marsh elves revile all clerics and priests of the Ice Serpent.

The Servants of the Bloated Toad are merchants and traders who believe in decadence and opulence. They see obesity as sign of an affluent lifestyle and favor of the deity. The priesthood is rich and lazy. Rarely do they find the tenacity to explore the deeper meanings of the tenets of the Golden Toad. Currently, the priests are trying to open a temple in the Nameless City. An effort regularly met with some sort of setback or disaster.

These are the cults and churches of the land beyond the Drowning Forest. All of these cults have clerics, but so far they aren't really differentiated from another. I am thinking of ways to do this without unbalancing the game. On the other hand, I am not sure, if that is necessary at all. I am tempted to just let this stand, until a player decides to actually play a cleric and chooses a cult as his own.

The Estuary of the Unquiet Dead

The floods caused by the moonfall created the estuary. Rumor has it, that sunken cities and kingdoms of men lie at the bottom of the sea. Sometimes the tide washes jewelry and gold coins on the shore. Always the rising tide brings the undead drowned ones to the shallow coasts. In the depth of the sea live sea serpents, whales and seals. Still, fishing boats, merchant ships and dwarven galleys sail the estuary.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Stone-Cold Forest

The Stone-Cold Forest is a woodland of petrified trees radiating an unnatural and unseasonal cold. Before the Moonfall, the dwarves build their galleys of stone from the trees. The docks were located in the nearby city of Brú'na'Brae. Today, the forest and the city lie abandoned by the dwarves and creatures of night and cold have come to roost there.

Those who enter the forest without winter travel clothes take 1d4 points of damage each turn. In winter, even someone travelling in winter clothing takes 1 point of damage per turn. Wearing heavy furs protects from even the worst winter weather, but all actions are at -2 penalty.

The Stone-Cold Forest rises above the tides of the Estuary of the Unquiet Dead. Not even storm tides will flood the hilly woodland.

The Book of Stone

This grimoire consists of thin stone sheets harvested from the trees in the Stone-Cold Forest. Within the pages are densely etched with dwarven runes. The book contains five 5th level spells that any magic-user or tiefling can learn: major creation, passwall, stone shape, transmute rock to mud and wall of stone.

The real treasure, though, is the treatise on building stone galleys, an art currently lost to the dwarves. If dwarves hear of a character possessing the book, they will stop at nothing to acquire it. They will try to buy, steal or rob it.

But that is not the worst. The grimoire is as cursed as any other. Each time someone learns a spell from the book, he has to save vs. magical device. If the save is failed, the character is turned into a dwarf of equal level losing his spellcasting abilities. The victim can be saved by casting a remove curse on him.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Drowning Woods

Pale dead trees stretch their branches accusingly towards the sky, the spongy ground is covered with rotting leaves and mushrooms, and it smells of moss and brine. Each tide of the Eastern Ocean brings more water. Each footstep fills with it. The trees slowly sink into it. The marsh elves fear the woods and the woods hate the marsh elves.

Here, in antiquity, the lichwitch Audreen the Icy ruled over the ivory court of the pale elves. Rumor has it, her palace still lies at the bottom of a lake within the forest.

The Swamp of Dreadful Dreams

The Swamp of Dreadful Dreams is a mire of treacherous mud holes and quicksand, overgrown with cyan blue grass and weeping willows smelling of coppery death, and at night flooded by the saltwater tides from the Estuary of the Unquiet Dead. Legend tells that beneath the ever-present hills are the barrows of the queen consorts of the First Dwarves, lying dreaming, waiting to be reborn as slime demons from the outer dark.

Every night's sleep in the Swamp of Dreadful Dreams has a 25% chance of being a nightmare. If someone experiences a nightmare, the next day he suffers a -1 penalty to any and all actions and saves. Marsh elves never experience nightmares in the swamp, dwarves have a 50% chance of having nightmares.

The Sword of 100 Deaths

A long sword burnished black, glinting with a hint of silver. It does 1d8 damage and grants no bonus to hit. But, any creature hit by the sword must make a save vs. poison or be instantly slain. It's soul bound into the sword. So there is no way to resurrect a person while the sword is still whole. The lost dweomer might get around this limitation.

For any wielder, the sword will 99 times. The 100th death is the death of the wielder. After slaying the 99th victim, each time the sword hits another person, the wielder must save vs. poison or die. His soul is then absorbed into the sword.

Of course clever players would probably only use the sword, when it really counts. But alas, escaping the curse is not that easy. Each time the wielder is reaching for another weapon, he must succeed at a save vs. magical device at -5. If he fails, the weapon he grabs, is the Sword of 100 Deaths. Of course, this effect also means that it is extremly difficult to separate the wielder from his weapon.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Magic Mushrooms

Inspired by the Mushroom Song, I decide to have magic mushrooms in the lands beyond the Drowning Woods.


Lyrics:

Sleep of the Earth of the land of Faerie
Deep is the lore of Cnuic na Sidhe
Hail be to they of the Forest Gentry
Pale, dark spirits, help us free
White is the dust of the state of dreaming
Light is the mixture to make one still
Dark is the powder of Death's redeeming
Mark but that one pinch can kill

So there are magic mushrooms that can be distilled into various essences. A magic-user can create the mixture like a potion of a 1st level spell. Instead of silver, creating the mushroom mixtures cost coppers. Selling price will usually be double the production costs.

White - The Dust of Dreaming
When taken before sleeping, the subject experiences vivid dreams. They have one of the following effects:

1 - Well rested (heal two additional hit points)
2 - Prophetic dreams (character can decide to take +2 on any one roll with d20 in the upcoming day)
3 - Inspiring dreams (character gains a +1 chance on one common activty roll made the upcoming day)
4 - Chaotic dreams (character can cast one spell at a caster level 2 higher than his level)
5 - Weird dreams (player decides that a d20 roll has to be repeated, the new result counts)
6 - Dreams of chance (game master decides that a d20 roll has to be repeated, the new result counts)

Light - The Mixture that makes one still
When taken, the character enters a death-like trance. He will not be plagued by any dreams. For 1d6 hours he will appear to be dead to any onlooker. Taking the light mixture prevents you from having nightmares.

Dark - The Powder of Death's Redeeming
Deadly poison. Save vs. poison or die. The death will be painless and quick.

Addiction
Each time some one ingests a dose of mushroom powder, he must save vs. poison to avoid addiction.
The save is +2 for white and -2 for dark powder. Yes, you can become addicted to the dark powder. If you become addicted, you have to have the mixture in order to sleep. If you don't you suffer a -1 penalty to all activities the next day. If you become addicted to white powder, this may progress to
light and later dark powder addiction at the discretion of the referee.

Black Unicorns

Okay, I know they have been done to death. But I still want to do them. Also, beyond the Drowning Woods there are no white unicorns.

Black Unicorn: HD 5, AC 19, Speed: twice as fast as running man, Morale 10, Damage: 2x 1d8 (hooves), 1d8 + cause disease (horn), 25% magic resistance, double damage if charging, teleport as MU lvl 5 once per day, AL Chaotic.
  • Virgin sacrifice: If the black unicorn encounters a man who has sacrificed a virgin, it must save vs. spell or forevermore serve that man.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Drowned Ones

The land beyond the Drowning Woods does not have a moon, yet there are strange tides. When the sun sets, the water rises. When the sun rises, the waters recede. Thus it has ever been, since the moonfall.

With the tides come the Drowned Ones. The unquiet dead of the sea. They go where the salt water flows.

Drowned one: HD 1 to 3, AC 13, Speed: 3/4 of a walking man, Morale 12, Damage 1d8+3 (sabre), undead immunities, upper-half damage from bludgeoning weapons, vulnerable to rock salt, AL Chaotic.
  • Watery touch: Drowned ones with 3HD or more can forego their weapon attack and instead touch the target. Target must save vs poison or die from drowning within 3 rounds. The corpse will rise as a drowned one in the next night. 
  • Cursed treasure: Drowned ones carry 1d6 brass coins which will gleam like silver at night; tattered leather which will function as leather armor at night; sabres that will gleam as if struck by moonlight at night, but are useless in daylight (still count as magic weapons!). If anyone carrying part of such treasure is slain, he must save vs poison or rise the next night as a drowned one.
  • Breaking the curse: Either prevent victim from drowning with appropriate spells or cast a cure spell on him. After the victim has turned into a drowned one, only a remove curse spell will work. But the victim will still be dead.
Note: At night, the tides are rising and all hexes not occupied by hills will flood with salt water. Villages and towns constructed on those hexes lie in elevated areas or have been elevated.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Book of the Pale Moon

"As the uncaring gods warred in Heaven, the Moon was cracked and flung to the Earth. A great upheaval followed as the shards of the moon struck the cities of dwarves, rent the nations of elves and drowned the kingdoms of men. All that had been built was shattered. All that had been gathered was scattered.


Today, the world knows nothing of the Fallen Moon, the skies are empty save for distant stars. The oceans are shallow and the tides sweep the land. Yet dwarves, elves, men and tieflings prevail. But some, those born with seething sorcerous blood, look up to the sky, at the poisonous pale green moon glaring down on them. Ever full, never half, an accusing eye directed at their sins of wizardry and chaos."
- From the Book of the Pale Moon, written in the 2nd century of the Era of the Leaden Dawn by the magic-user Aglemore the Lunatic

Note: The Book of the Pale Moon is a grimoire containing the magic-user spells: summoning, force of forbidment, howl of the moon, strange waters II, seven gates, contact outer sphere, weird vortex and witchlamp aura.

Once per day, the owner of the book may cast any one of the spells contained in the book as a magic-user of his level. After casting the spell, he must make a saving throw vs magic at a penalty. The penalty is the difference between his current level and the minimum level required to cast the spell (if he is of higher level, this can become a bonus). If he fails the save, he will dream poisonous dreams of a pale moon. He will thrash and howl in his sleep and cannot be woken until dawn. Such a sleep is not restful at all. A magic-user or tiefling will not be able to prepare spells, and all his rolls on that day will be at a -2 penalty.

The spells in the grimoire can be studied and copied normally. This will not having any ill effect.

Port Nameless

The city once had a name. Then the people decided to sell the name (and something else) to inchoate entities from beyond time and space - for food. Nobody in Port Nameless goes hungry. All the temples are abandoned, their windows cracked, their roofs open. In the sewers rules the Shrieking Shrew and the Council of Groats. Their rule is the law.

There are always six on the council. Snatched from the streets. They serve for life (and beyond?). They are the maker of laws and the judges. They may only speak in council while eating oat groat. Each time they meet, one of the groat meals is poisoned. One of the councilors may perish. To be replaced with another citizen snatched from the streets.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Marsh Elves

In the Swamp of Dreadful Dreams and the Swamp of Submerged Secrets, the marsh elven tribes roam. Marsh elves look wizened, with flinty eyes and long gnarly legs & arms. There ears are large and pointed.

A marsh elven tribe usually consists of 10d10 people travelling in strang boat-like wagons with big spidery wheels. About 90% of a clan are 0-lvl individuals. 10% are marsh elves (as medium-sized halflings) of levels 1-10. The highest level individual will be the leader. There is a 50% chance that the clan has a marsh witch. The witch is a female of level 5+1d10 and casts spells as a magic-user of equal level. She usually has 1d3 apprentices of levels 1-6.

Clan Names: Use the tables below to create a two-part name. The table could conceivably be used to generate tribal or clan names for other species (orcs, gnolls, goblins, etc.)

First part (roll 1d10)
1 - Blood(y)
2 - Black
3 - Gray
4 - Rusted
5 - Gnawed
6 - Bleached
7 - Crimson
8 - Purple
9 - Rotted
10 - Ghostly

Second part (roll 1d10)
1 - Bones
2 - Skulls
3 - Teeth
4 - Eye
5 - Fingers
6 - Boots
7 - Gauntlets
8 - Swords
9 - Knives
10 - Wheels

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Land Beyond the Drowning Woods


I finally created the map using the Hexographer. It covers about 400 hex fields. I am not yet sure about the scale of the hexes. But I think I am going with 6 miles per hex. That's still a fairly large area. Considering that there are no roads and the terrain is either swamp, hills, forest or all of the above, an average adventuring party will cross a two swamp hexes in 3 days or three forest/hill hexes in two days.

The Cold Commands

I just have to link this. Judd mentioned "The Steel Remains" in his blog, which got me reading the book in the first place.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Races in the Drowning Woods

I don't very much like the standard races conceptually - or rather I like only elves (and tieflings, but they aren't part of OSR). But I don't like those flighty wood elves, frolicking in moonlight, singing and dancing for all eternity. That's boring and not weird. On the other hand, I like the Lotfp concept of the nearly unkillable dwarf with lots of hit points. For the halflings, I have absolutely no use. Even if they have the best saving throws in the whole game. Stop! I have just re-read the halfling class in Lotfp. Suddenly I find intriguing things: they have +1 bonus to their Dexterity modifier, are very stealthy and even gain a +1 bonus to AC when not surprised. So I guess, I'll keep the class around.

That leaves me with two options: divest race from class (which is not at all supported by Lotfp) or re-skin them. Leave the mechanics intact, but put them in a different make-up or put a different spin on them. The goal here: make the classes weird. Even weirder than in Lotfp.

Dwarves - Sailors in Ships of Stone
The dwarves are hardy (as mentioned above). I like that. I want to keep them around. But hard-working dwarves living in subterranean fortresses - not weird! Dwarves loving the sea and roaming the waves in their galleys of stone are different. So the dwarves are a sea-going people, who live on huge galleys made from stone. The secret of fashioning them now lost to time. On the other hand, a stone galley just wrecks your average wooden ship. They are the rulers of the waves, caught up in commerce and piracy. Yet, still a dwindling race. Ruleswise they stay as they are.

Elves become Tieflings - Spawn of the Netherworld
The elves in Lotfp are rather strange. They are aligned with chaos. They are vulnerable to holy water and holy symbols. Also, some spells specify that elves are immune to them. You could easily use the elves as presented in Lotfp to model Melnibonéans or other extra-planar creatures. I love tieflings. Therefore, I am reskinning elves as tieflings. Mechanics-wise it is not a complete match, but close enough. Tieflings will have small horns (not like those huge horns of the type IV tiefling) and faintly smell of brimstone or sulphur.

Halflings become Marsh Elves - Dwellers beyond the Drowning Woods
My rpg experience is heavily influences by the fighting fantasy gamebooks (and especially the Sorcery! epic). In "The Seven Serpents" you meet these shifty gypsy black elves. In "From the Pit", you find out that they split from the Dark Elves, because they didn't like their evil ways. Now they are ostracized from good and evil elven society. I just like the concept: a broken elven people condemned to roam the country side having lost much of their heritage. I've already re-purposed the elves, so the halflings remain. Let's make the medium sized, leave all of the other stuff in place and transform them into wretched Marsh Elves. They are chaotic and all the rules about elves regarding holy water/symbols and spell descriptions apply to them.

Beyond the Drowning Woods there is also one important rule (taken from Swords & Wizardry): NPC members of the dwarves, tieflings or marsh elves may have completely different capabilities than the PCs.

XP and Levels

It seems that I am not the only one thinking about the issue of XP and levels. I am not really comfortable with the way Lamentations of the Flame Princess is handling XP. You get them for treasure, but relatively few for slain monsters. Partly because in Lotfp you're not expect to slay that many monsters.

Handing out XP for treasure has its own issues. Because suddenly I feel compelled to place enough treasure everywhere so the PCs can level up. To me that's not helpful. If they don't find the treasure, they don't level up and I can't bring on greater challenges. For my group that's further complicated by a player pool-style of the campaign.

Therefore, I need another solution. Either I am going to hand out a large sum of flat XP each session. So that you can be sure if you show up, you'll get maybe 750-1.000 XP per evening plus XP for monsters. Also, I tend to award additional XP, if you come up with something game-related that makes the game more fun for the other players or the GM. That could be, but is not limited to: a character portrait (either self-drawn or found on the internet), a character backstory (nothing fancy, just a couple of sentences describing who you are, where you are from and what you want) or even a session log. That would fit right into an XP model. Say 1.000 XP for attending and 500 XP per thing you do for the game.

That's huge chunks of XP at lower levels. But that's me. I want to play through the low levels, but not get stuck there for ages.

The alternative system would be to award a new level as soon as the character has participated in a number of game sessions either equal to his level, equal to his level +1 or even double his level. Thus honoring the investment of time and getting each character to advance roughly at the same time. I am not worried about game balance for the same reasons the blog post mentioned earlier isn't. You are hyper-specialized. You can as well get better at the same time everybody else is.

But currently, I think I am going with the flat XP model for honoring the time spend in the game.

The Weird Warlock from Beyond the Drowning Woods

Zak suggested a very efficient way to make things weird. I'll use that as one design principle of my campaign setting.

Not weird: The lands beyond the forest are ruled by the benevolent and just Marquis de Carabas. He lives in a castle attended by loyal servants and steadfeast men-at-arms. The marquis levies modest taxes and dispenses fair justice.

Weird: The lands beyond the Drowning Woods are ruled by the decrepit and shrewed Weird Warlock. He lives in a ramshackle village, surrounded by the wretches who failed to live up to their bargains with him. The Weird Warlock levies seemingly random taxes and dispenses cruel and unfair justice.

It really helps to think in non-weird terms first and then make it weird.

Mermaids

Currently, I reading Death's Master (part of the aforementioned Tales from the Flat Earth). The hero Zhirem is currently captured in an undersea kingdom. That reminded me of my take on mermaids.

Mermaids are of course no gentle creatures. They are murderous monsters bend on drowning and devouring sailors and other unfortunate men. So lets build a mermaid. Again, I am going for the lower end of the hit dice spectrum. Merman are usually given 1 HD. But I find that a bit underwhelming. So lets settle for 3. Enough to be a more serious threat. Armor class is probably going to be 12. They are unarmored after all. Let's add one more point for higher dexterity. They will be very fast in water, but not so much on dry land... Morale will be above a snivelling creature (6) but below a courageous monster (9). So I am settling for an eight. Damage will be by sharp teeth or claws. Somewhere around d6. Of course they are able to breath water and air. Also, they can cast charm person at will (instead of an attack). But the spell will only work on males.

All in all, nothing special here. They want to drown and eat you, so better forget any romantic notions about live under the sea.

Mermaid: HD 3, AC 13, Speed: double that of a walking man in water, practically nil on land, Morale 8, Damage: d6, Able to breath in water and air, charm person at will, AL: Chaotic.

A further bit of inspiration

I totally forgot to mention Tanith Lee's Tales from the Flat Earth as inspiration. I like the strange ideas and small stories she weaves together into a big epic about demon lords bringing about the ruin of men.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Vampiric, crimson etc. mist

Again, a monster that conjured my imagination when I read about it. There was a short passage in a play report where a magic-user cast a fireball at such a mist monster and it retreated. The actual stats disappointed again. Here is my take on the mist monster. Let's call it Mist of Betrayal for no particular reason than liking the sound of it.

The monster should be a challenge and withstand a fireball (at least theoretically). So it should have at least 6 hit dice. It's not particularly hard to hit, but all the various mists seem to be immune to anything less than a magic weapon +1. Let's keep that and intensify: the mist is immune to any weapon attack. But they are vulnerable to any sort of fire. If hit by magical fire they must make an immediate moral check or withdraw. The mist doesn't do conventional damage. It is deadly cold and sucks your life energy away. If you remain conscious, the betrayal will happen. A random member of the group is charmed to attack his comrades (save vs. magic; save can be repeated each round). Effects wear off, as soon as the group leaves the mist.

That's what my mist of betrayal looks like. It's more of a natural hazard than a monster. But still it can be "killed".

Mist of betrayal: HD 6, AC 14, Speed: half that of a walking human, Morale: 6, Damage: special (see below), Immune to all weapon attacks, vulnerable to fire (if attacked with magical fire must pass morale check or flee), AL: Chaotic
  • Hard to perceive: Succeed at a bushcraft check to notice the mist before it solidifies.
  • Cold, clamy mists: Save vs. poison each round inside the mist. On first failed save, you are knocked out. On second failed save, you die. If only knocked out, you regains consciousness one round after leaving the mist.
  • Betrayal: A random party member who is not knocked out must save vs. magic or be charmed to attack his comrades. Save can be retried each round. Leaving the mist ends the effect.
  • Leaving: Take a round to flee outside the mist. Do not attack during that round.

The Peryton

When I first saw an illustration of a peryton: half-eagle, half-deer, I found this very inspiring. But the actual monster stats aren't that interesting. It has 4 HD, an AC 7, a fly speed about twice as fast as a human, it is immune to normal weapons and gets +2 to hit due to sharp antlers. I also remember reading that they hate elves and harvest hearts from a freshly killed body. Strangely, their claws are sharp enough to tear a heart out and even carry some aloft, but too weak for fighting? Seriously?

Here is my take on the peryton: let's keep the HD, 4 is a nice challenge. AC 7 would equate to AC 13 in a straight conversion and proly AC 15 in Lotfp. Let's say they are tough and their AC equates to chainmail (AC 16). Then, since they are flying birds and have big flapping wings that will mostly likely disorient the combatants, I would give them AC 17. Tough critter. Since magic weapons aren't common in Lotfp, I would do away with the resistance to ordinary weapons. Rather, I would do it backwards: the peryton is vulnerable to magic. Magic attacks do twice their hit points in damage. That's also why they hate elves. Elves have magic. The get an attack bonus for sharp claws. That's also rather contra-productive in Lotfp, where magic armor is also rare. So rather than an attack bonus, let's have them do extra damage. They'll use their sharp claws, because using the antlers for anything more than mating games is impractical. The Monstrouos Manual gives their damage as 4-16 (4d4 I guess). A bit much... I'd scale that down to 2d4+2 giving an average of 7 damage and making them quite lethal.

The end result is a weaker peryton useable at lower levels, but one I feel will still be a challenge to the adventuring group.

Peryton: HD 4, AC 17, Speed: flighing twice as fast as a human, on the ground half as fast as humans, Morale: 9, Damage: 2d4+2, Vulnerable to magic (twice damage), AL: Chaotic

Tactics and special abilities: they will always attack elves first, because they just hate them. A peryton will not change the target of its attack, until either the target or itself is dead. As soon as they have slain an opponent, they will tear his heart out (obstacle to raise dead...), this will take one round during which they are vulnerable to attacks (AC reduced to 14). When they have the heart, they will end the attack and fly away.

Monsters!

Back when I was mostly reading about D&D instead of playing, certain monsters grabbed my imagination and they just sounded wonderful. Monsters like the peryton or some sort of vampiric mist. I imagined what kind of interesting abilities they might have and how an encounter with them would play out. Then I did my research and was very disappointed. Instead of cool abilities they just were big bad monsters. Big bad equated a lots of hit dice (more than any beginning group of players could hope to handle), being invulnerable to normal weapons, enjoying some sort of special to hit bonus and doing massive damage. In short: booooring!

Some articles of this blog will revisit the old monsters, try to spark the imagination and turn them into interesting monsters Lotfp style.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

World Building

As I stated earlier, I like designing fantasy worlds. This time around, I am trying to do this differently. Not so many flowery sentences, or useless facts, but instead a sandbox style game that describes the world in terms of who you meet, which treasures you find and which dangers you face.

I'll be heavily inspired by:
Zak's random tables are a very efficient way to populating your campaign world and generating story ideas. Also, they have a certain "weird" element that I like.

Evan's site has very useful bits on designing dungeons and standardized Lotfp monsters. Also, I like the inspirational sources gathered for the Nightwick Abbey setting. They help to inspire me for my as own, as-of-yet-unnamed setting (tentative working title "Beyond the Drowning Woods").

Richard Morgan just writes kick-ass sword & sorcery fiction. I especially like his take on the main character Ringil Eskiath.

What's in a name?

I almost named the blog "The Weird Warlock from Beyond the Drowning Woods", but that would've been a tad too much. I got the name by some creative of Raggi's Weird Fantasy Module Names generator. He is also the publisher of a great game called Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Go check it out. It is cool, it is weird and it is an old school rpg.

Old school, because I am not really comfortable anymore with new school gaming and the 21st century batch of the oldest fantasy game in the world: Dungeons & Dragons. It's just too complicated, too involved and ultimately too time consuming in preparations. Just my 0.02 € on this.

I like to create worlds, I like to let my imagination run wild and spring my creations on my players. As a reference for rules, I'll be using aforementioned Lotfp, because I like the weird bent it has, and because I already own the grindhouse edition, and the rule book sans art is available for free at http://lotfp.blogspot.com/. That'll help my players.

So that's what this blog is going to be about.