zondag 8 oktober 2017

Iceland inspiration 2: start your own blood feud

More roleplaying inspiration from our honeymoon to Iceland. An hour and a half north of Reykjavik is the village of Borgarnes. It's a fine base to explore the western interior or Snæfellsnes peninsula, but while you're there, definitely visit the Settlement Center. Try their top-notch lunch and dinner menu (the buffet is top notch) and gird yourself for the two excellent exhibitions on the settlement era and Egils Saga.

Egil Skallagrímsson (c. 904 – c. 995[1]),
a Viking-Age poet, warrior and farmer. Also the
protagonist of the eponymous Egil's Saga.
Image: U.Chicago Library
Egils Saga? Some dusty old story from the Dark Ages? The sagas may be a bit rough for our modern sense of storytelling, but did these guys ever rock the murderhobo vibe. Find an academic treatise here. For the rest of you, check out these highlights.

Heads caved in, people stoned just for asking the master not to murder his child? Killing people in their sleep after they broke their backs trying to prove themselves worthy of your daughter? Generations of blood feud over a gift axe which was just not shiny enough? Dude. Have a feud play in your setting's background, spice up random encounters with it, or involve a player directly by having them inherit the family feud.

Here, then, a guide to creating your own blood feud for your game. Some of these results seem to end the game early, when you manage to kill your enemy in a single stroke. Naturally, their offspring and banner-men now take up the blood feud.

Why Bob and his entire family need to die

A good feud starts with a first slight. All stolen from actual sagas or reflavored tales we picked up around Iceland. If this doesn't seem to add up (who forgives and forgets a couple of murder sprees after getting married to their worst enemy's daughter?), well, that's a look into the dark ages for you.

Things Bob should not have done. Roll d12 for the original grievance:

  1. Cheated you in a game when you were seven year-olds.
  2. Had your twice-removed niece burned alive.
  3. Had his herd graze on your land.
  4. Mocked your lack of a beard.
  5. Gifted you a piece of silk.
  6. Cheated on his wife, your kinswoman, and kept the dowry after the divorce.
  7. Kidnapped your daughter after you refused her hand in marriage.
  8. Accidentally wounded you in a legal dispute.
  9. Tried to kill you after you collected the king's tribute.
  10. Carelessly destroyed a worthy gift and sent the remains back to you.
  11. Challenged two of his daughter's suitors to drive a road through a lava field in one day. Killed the exhausted berserkers.
  12. Had his tax collectors claim the property of someone you had killed. To the victor the spoils, not to the IRS!

After which you were honor-bound to... Roll d10 for your fitting response:

  1. Have them proclaimed an outlaw, to be killed freely by anyone who wants to.
  2. Take 80 of your warriors and browbeat the law-givers into granting you all your enemy's lands.
  3. Kill a couple of their kinsmen or servants.
  4. Ruin his reputation with a mocking verse (don't mess with bards).
  5. Cut off his beard and take his right eye.
  6. Mount a horse's head on a pole to curse your stolen property so that the thief will not profit from it.
  7. Tell the drunkard that there's a bear attacking the livestock, then ambush them.
  8. Pull out a sword during a drinking game, in a temple where no weapons were allowed.
  9. Set fire to their hall and butcher the fleeing scoundrels.
  10. Challenge them to a duel, wreck both your weapons and tear out their throat.

However, the cowardly... Roll d12 for stinging insults:

  1. Miser
  2. Law-breaker
  3. Brother-killer
  4. Thorn-foot
  5. Brooch-wearer
  6. Grave-breaker
  7. Truth-blaster 
  8. Wolf-eater
  9. Pale-face
  10. God-feaster
  11. Juggler of justice
  12. Gift-lord of jackals

Manages to... Roll d12 fiendish ploys:

  1. Tangle up the legal debate until the sun sets on assembly, rendering void your claim.
  2. Burn everything of value on their farm to prevent it from being confiscated: house, livestock, and even household. Then flees the country.
  3. Engage the support of the queen, who curses you with restlessness.
  4. Have murderers hunt you and your siblings to distract you.
  5. Build up a stockade so you cannot massacre them and the town they hide in.
  6. Look in amazement when you get yourself captured on an unrelated raiding trip to far, far away.
  7. Ambush you after you are weakened from your berserker rage
  8. Take their entire family and their belongings into hiding on some gods-forsaken island.
  9. Trick you into making your case to the king, who you insult with your limited oratory skills.
  10. Convince the king you are keeping rightful tribute from him.
  11. Whip up a flattering poem to claim protection from the king that would have their head.
  12. Bury their money in secret before dying upright in a chair.

However, you get the last laugh as you... Roll d12 for your endgame:

  1. Marry your opponent's kinswoman to seal peace between you.
  2. Gift a headland rich with fish and game to your enemy's servants to indebt them to you.
  3. Steal a fancy ship to bribe the king's son with.
  4. Pose as the rightful heir to riches that should go to your enemy.
  5. Ram the coward's ship and slaughter them and all aboard.
  6. Cause the holy rope which encircles the judges of your case to be erected around your henchmen.
  7. Win the king's heart with a powerful poem so he gifts you with gold and lands.
  8. Cut a bloody swath in a foreign war and come home showered with riches.
  9. Swim a mile of frigid water to evade the party coming to your island-hideaway, then soak in a hot pool.
  10. Use your own blood to paint runes on your drinking horn, causing it to shatter and spill the poison intended for you.
  11. Tell your family you intend to throw all your silver in the air to incite a general brawl at the country's highest law meeting. Instead, have two slaves bury your two chests of silver and kill them to keep the treasure a secret.
  12. Vomit in their face and they vomit in yours, after which "all was equal".

zaterdag 30 september 2017

Iceland inspiration: twelve divine waterfalls

Our honeymoon to Iceland was awesome. Dramatic landscapes; welcoming, fun people; great stories. We even saw the Northern Lights, alone on the rim of a crater. (Fifty meters from the main road and the hotel, before it starts to sound too epic ;) And I brought home tons of roleplaying inspiration! Here's the first catch.

Goðafoss: Waterfall of the Gods

The twelve meter high waterfall Goðafoss is an imposing sight. "You need to cross...this" is food for at least a half hour of players flailing about. But there's more to the 'waterfall of the gods'.

Dig this sweet legend from the information board at the site:

"History tells us that in the year 1000, Þorgeir, Lawspeaker of the Althing [1] was entrusted with the momentous task of deciding whether Icelanders should accept the Christian faith. When his decision was formally accepted, he went home and threw his statues of the pagan gods into the waterfall."

[1] Great no nonsense title. The Althing was the Icelandic parliament. I imagine this huge barbarian rolling up to sort out crap that the politicians won't touch, and flat out refusing to be called something weak like prime minister.

Þorgeir was a follower or priest of the old gods, according to Wikipedia-Which-Is-Truth. He decides that to solve rising religious disputes, come morning there's a new god in town, heads home, and sends Thor and Odin and the rest of his Viking gods into the beyond. Balls of steel, especially for someone named after Thor's own lightning. Did he trust in the christian god to protect him? Or did he know something we don't?

Twelve divine waterfalls

  1. Waters of forgetfulness. Anything you throw in will be forgotten by any living thing as long as it remains at the bottom of the falls.
  2. Swept into history. What goes down the waterfall is forever seen as a quaint relic of former days. Interesting, but not of any relevance to the present.
  3. Washed of sin. The waters cleanse any act in the eyes of the gods - even denouncing them. Popular spot for murders, but beware the angry spirits who come out under the light of the new moon. The gods may forgive, but the dead don't.
  4. Dilution. Objects thrown into the waterfall have their power washed away. Good place to wreck a cursed item. Just don't go in with spells memorized - unless you don't mind losing them forever.
  5. Elemental static. The strong link to the plane of water disrupts divine senses. Gods, angels and demons (because what is the difference?) cannot make out what happens there. Great place to meet for clandestine deals with the Other Side.
  6. Soul sink. The waterfall destroys away the soul of anything falling into it. A way to end a recurring undead (which is nothing but a stubborn soul puppeteering dumb matter) or an angel/demon. Also a great way to make anyone surviving the trip into a soulless sociopath.
  7. Chrysalis. Falling down the falls frees you to make the next evolutionary step and drift off into the void as a creature of pure energy, unconcerned with mortal affairs. Of course your body still gets smashed on the rocks.
  8. Nihilism. All came from the endless dark sea, and to the sea it will return. Being submerged under the waterfall reminds you that everything in between is meaningless. Best to ignore it all and wait for oblivion.
  9. Elemental baptism. Throwing a precious sacrifice into the waters blesses you with a powerful ward against magic.
  10. Life. Anything broken by the water becomes part of its chaotic hivemind, washed to the ocean.
  11. Binding. The waters imprison anything as long as they keep running. Damming the river will stir up seriously pissed-off critters dumped into the falls in ages past.
  12. Fuck all. Waters actually do nothing. Reroll (ignoring this result) to get the prevailing legend. Gods are paying close attention to shenanigans happening here and will visit disproportionate retribution at a time of their choosing.

Bonus waterfall!

Forty-four meter high Dettifoss, of Prometheus fame, is a few hours' drive east of Goðafoss. It is scary and intimidating. You can walk right up to the river and the top of the falls without any fence getting in the way - thunder filling your ears, spray in your face, bits of mutating Engineer getting friendly with your boots. (I exaggerate. Take the eastern gravel road 864 instead of the paved western road 862 to the falls. Not only can you get as close as you want to the water instead of staring down across a canyon, you find that the spray blows right to the observation platform on the other side. You're on your own vis-a-vis mutating goop.)

Dettifoss bears the title of most powerful waterfall in Europe: not the highest or widest, but in terms of water flow and falling height, it does involve the most energy per second. Erosion of the underlying rock makes the fall move up-river at a pace of half a meter every year.

Wouldn't it be great if the waters uncovered a long-hidden underground lair? Now the players have a choice - go in with the water pounding down and beat other explorers, or wait until the waters move back and it's safer.

(I'm pretty sure I've seen this concept either in a book or on a blog, with a huge system of waterfalls slowly uncovering a City of the Ancients. Can't for the life of me remember any details.)

dinsdag 26 september 2017

First session ingredient list

Slight case of DM panic these last few weeks. Traveling through Iceland gave me lots of ideas to use in-game - if only that game were Dark Sun, or Night's Black Agents, or Werewolf, not our ongoing Eberron game. On top of that, I sort-of-promised rpg blog legend Jeff Rients a post on introducing new people to roleplaying.

Introduction to roleplaying, Step One:
Classifications of Polearms
Not only do I need to prep someone's first session and have it be awesome enough that they want to step into this hobby, I also have to write a coherent piece of text about it. It's turning out to be embarassingly hard, for someone who writes popular science for a living. Let's get this done so I can start posting fucked up ideas I got from the land of ice and fire.

The sitch - someone's first RPG session

In a bit, I'll have the pleasure of introduging a bunch of people to RPGs. How do I set up an intro game so that they come back for more? Lucky me, there were two recent blogposts just about intro games. Paul reported on a game for new players he set up at his local library. RPG blogging legend Jeff Rients just ran nine (!) new people through his megadungeon Vyzor. He was even kind enough to write up extra advice when asked - in only a few hours' time, I might add!

But I'm not jealous.

They're almost roleplayers

Roleplaying buddy R. plays Warhammer with a bunch of colleagues and he suggested we run them an intro D&D game. The task before me: to introduce a group of Warhammerers to D&D (or my approximation thereof). These folks are almost roleplayers: they know tactical games way better than I do (frankly, not my favourite part of DMing), they know about imagined worlds full of weird and complex backstories. They have experience going through lists of character options and building an effective machine to tackle a challenge; maybe they even have in-character narration going on while they shoot the crap out of each other's minis.

But do they know roleplaying - what's so different and how to highlight it?

Jeff's advice is to stay away from the tabletop battles with minis and keep everything in the mind's eye. Simplify the rules because they should be playing asap, not reading attack of opportunity diagrams or grappling charts. Sold, with thanks!
What else?

Speaking for myself, my game - any game I play - ideally has that weird mix of acting out a part in a shared story, bullshitting your buddy because lol, he botched *again* and now the basilisk petrified his left ass cheek, bitching about the random number god messing up your game, and knowing when to crack open the rule book, go by what the DM can be arsed to remember, or just make an on the spot ruling. This goes way beyond RPGs.

Sidebar: Cargo Noir

Case in point: half a year ago we had a couple of my wife's fellow PhD students over for a game of Cargo Noir. Outbid each other for contraband, grow your shipping fleet, buy status symbols such as night clubs, yachts or politicians, and may she who has the most impressive bling win. Two rounds in, one of the more rules-oriented players has more contraband than he can store. Rules say: discard the rest. Fellow player says: I'll store it - for a price. "Can we do that?" Instead of breaking out the rulebook, we spin a little tale of how player A just got an Offer He Cannot Refuse from player B - and a turn later, they're trading options on future gains and scamming each other like they work on Wall Street. It's not in the rules; in fact, it seems forbidden. But damn if that didn't make the afternoon switch from game theory to gaming with friends.


Of course, clearer minds (or maybe "more interesting heads") than mine have already written about this.

If I read Zak S right, his essence of roleplaying is the sum of hanging out with friends, playing a game and acting out a role - in a constant back and forth of how serious you take it all. He calls this fourth ingredient distance. I translate that as taking it all with a pinch of salt and going with what makes for a fun couple of hours with friends.

"Fun" doesn't mean the DM softballs everything so that the players can have a win each time. A hard challenge can be very rewarding. It does mean I tend to prep lightly and make up half the session at the table to match the way the game is flowing. It means sometimes I let myself get roped into the latest crazy idea the players have, rather than always force them to live down a "realistic" turn of events. Or to get them to the "right" outcome. Not that I have any kind of track record in predicting what players will do. They tend to go off the rails two lines into my prep, and not notice (or mind) me ad-libbing until the end of the session.

Baaa-a-a-a-by, you can tell me
what's really going on

In the end, I want to be surprised and have players be surprised by all the ideas flying around the table. Even if those ideas are of the "the ranger will romance the sheep so she tells us if the farmer is really a necromancer" variety.

What I need to do in that first session

Thanks again to Paul and Jeff, here's my list of resolutions for the intro game:
  • Explain how every player will run one character in an imaginary world. The referee or Dungeon Master sets a scene, players ask info and describe what they try to do, then the DM describes how that works out. Rinse the halfling remains off the cave wall, repeat.
  • Have the starting situation ask for immediate in-character choices. And doesn't need a huge explanation of the setting before the players can make meaningful choices. The gambling den is on fire - get out safe, grab the money or nab the guy who might know about the kidnapping?
  • While the DM sets the stage, the players decide what their goal is - or what their goals are. Perhaps coach them a bit on antagonism to avoid player-vs-player stuff, but definitely let them decide for themselves what they want to achieve. 
  • Players need to hear that they can try do much more than what it says on the character sheet; if they can imagine the character doing it, it has a chance of working. If the rules don't spell out how to resolve a situation, the DM makes a ruling in the spirit of the game.
  • To get started quickly, I will need simplified game rules and character sheets. For buy-in, I'll let players make their own characters. At the table of course, to have that first rush of rolling the best (or worst) stats and so that they can get riff off each other's ideas. Make little bags with the dice they'll need.
  • I want to avoid long-winded shopping for inventory and starting spells, so I'll prep starting packs of gear and spells. Include stuff that needs a bit of creativity to use properly. Look at Into the Odd-equipment for inspiration, or Goblin Punch's on situations and tools. Maybe write the starter packs on index cards so that players can quickly compare what to take. Need to find a way to determine who has first pick of the starting packs. Get them thinking on why they have certain spells or equipment, then get into the actual game.
  • Finally, while the basic rules need to be simple, there need to be enough weird, moving parts to characters and the environment to encourage out of the box thinking. Win condition: having players suggest that the environment contains something they can use. Even if it's the old "is there a stream nearby that we can divert into the Goblin den?" (Of course you should never get your Goblins wet after dinner. One in twenty might turn into a Jenny Green Teeth.)

Is that it? I'll just have to see. Any thoughts and suggestions welcome. More to come when this intro game gets planned, prepped and played!

dinsdag 22 augustus 2017

Eberron s1e4 - jewelry heist

Roll call

  • Falco, Human wizard 3/cleric 1 of the Blood of Vol out of Karrnath, former acolyte of the Church of Vol, looking to become a freelancer of the Finder's Guild. Ultimately in search of immortality. The right feat choice means he finally has more hit points than the henchmen.
  • Lhorsan, High Elf rogue 4; Elf out of the Eldeen Reaches with a haunted past. Previously encumbered with a life-sucking cursed item. Got rid of it and took sweet revenge on the organization behind it.
  • Igor, henchman fighter 1 in the employment of Falco. Main duties: hauling stuff, pouring healing potions down Falco's throat.
  • Sara, henchman cleric 1 of the Devourer. Lucky carousing roll means she works for free the first month. 

Happily Retired

  • Rathan, Stout Halfling ranger 2 out of the Talenta Plains.

Dearly departed

  • Hedrak, human drop-out from Morgrave university; the party's original employer. Died in the session's second Lightning Rail crash.
  • Redeker, human member of House Orien, purser on the Lightning Rail out of Gatherhold. Died channeling the escaped lighting elemental back into the train's engine.

Sara: This internship is turning out to be AWESOME.

Igor: Totally.

Sara: Like, I had my doubts when the history teacher at Arcanix said that he had the perfect mentor for me. I mean, a wussy Elf that looks like a stiff wind can blow him over?

Igor: I feel your pain. My new employer ran away from a stray cat, screaming "1d4 damage, if it crits I'm dead!" Swear to god.

Sara: They travel light though.

Igor: They have to. Carrying capacity of a gnat, the both of them.


Sara: It's like they saved all the 18s for our stats and took the crappy rolls for themselves.

Igor: Gotta respect that.

Sara: Do we?

Igor: Nah, just messing. Anyways. At first it didn't seem like the best of career choices. Playing henchman to a Karrnathi cleric/wizard who is trying to sell a Hobgoblin artifact at the Wayfinder auction...

Sara: ...snore. Likewise with the Elf and his constant crying over a sharp edge on his bracelet.

Igor: I think that was actually the thing trying to suck out his soul or something. Anyway, things definitely picked up when they played the Hobgoblin lady and the scary Gnome chick against each other and made off with a couple thou' more than the highest bid in the auction.

Sara: Pfah, money...when the Storm comes, no-one cares about your coins.

Igor: It does buy pretty armor and healing potions.

Sara: ...which they need.

Igor: ...desparately!

[both laugh]

Sara: I still wasn't too sure of our new "mentors" when we set out to ask an old guy about a piece of jewelry.

Igor: Hey, don't diss your boss' armband! It's not just a pretty piece of glitter, it's [waggles fingers] CURSED TO SEND HIS LIFE FORCE TO A MYSTERIOUS MASTER AMULET!

Sara: I pity whoever has to live off of Lhorsan's hit points.

Igor: Still twice the amount Falco has!

[laughter again, and lewd jokes, and more laughter]

Igor: I have a feeling we'll be laughing for a while longer with these two in charge.

Sara: That's a bit harsh - they did track down the dude who originally found these bloodsucking bracelets in Xen'Drik.

Igor: Confession: I spaced out on shrooms during all that exposition.

Sara: Thank the Devourer for eating my memory of that story. Something about a nobleman who decided to stop adventuring and go back to help build up Merylsward?

Igor: Fucking Merylsward.

Sara: Ass end of nowhere, and in the Eldeen Reaches that is REALLY saying something.

Igor: That pimple on the ass of the continent DID have a swanky medical horror dungeon underneath Baron Meryl's mansion.

Sara: Did you notice the old guy was a vampire?

Igor: Pull the other one, it's got bells on.

Sara: I'm not fucking around! Ninety years old human, spry as fuck, can read in the dark, doesn't come out during the daytime, loads of zombies around the place?

Both: [in chorus] FUCK ZOMBIES.

Igor: Be glad it was just zombies. Did you see when the piece of meat that Lhorsan took out of the acid vat started to grow back into a troll??

Sara: Happy he dunked it back in time. But it would have been a nice change of pace from the zombies.

Igor: If I never have to put a patch-job reanimation to rest again, I will die happy.

Sara: Endless. Hacking. Of. Zombies. Most boring night time infiltration job ever.

Igor: Until one got to the alarm button.

Sara: Ok, that was fun.

Igor: If you call an ogre zombie to the face fun.

Sara: Ow. Talk about stamina...

Igor: My personal highlight of the soiree was when master ...


Igor: [blushing furiously] ...fuck you and your stepladder, Dwarf.

Sara: With a smell like yours, the stepladder is the only one you stand a chance with.

Igor: Still better odds than our heroic mentors. 

[both laugh]

Igor: ANYWAY: my highlight is when Lhorsan's sleep spell took down the level 5 wizard and his 15 hit points before he could rain arcane pestilence upon us.

Sara: I glanced at his spellbook. Sleep, Web, Suggestion...guy was a creep. Posing as the count's servant, blackmailing him into allowing a medical dungeon on the estate...

Igor: Lucky us that Lhorsan whipped out Sleep. Falco and his Melf's Acid Arrow, I dunno. That thing gave an unimpressive performance.

Sara: [snickering] That's what she said.

Igor: I was not looking forward to dude getting back up again. But that wasn't going to happen. Not after he got a 40 hit point crit in the throat.

Sara: That was sweet arrow shooting by the Elf.

Igor: Word. It was pretty much over at that point.

Sara: The healer halflings that ran the whole place were still around.

Igor: Sure, but their heart wasn't really in it. First we robbed their precious life draining / healing items without them noticing. And when they woke up it was still clownsville. Trying to set off the self-destruct and failing...

Sara: Trying to gate in reinforcements...

Igor: ...too late...

Sara: ...and being turned blind...

Igor: ...and finally carried away by your own guards through your precious gate...

Sara: Sad, really.

Igor: [stretching] We can't all be awesome muscle-bound masters of mayhem.

Sara: Aw, that last part rhymed.

Igor: Alliterated, actually.

Sara: You're so awesome, you should multiclass into Bard.

Igor: Job's already taken babe. Why do you think our two employers suck so hard that they had to hire the two of us?

Sara: Shush, they might hear you.

Interviewer: Actually, I took a level in Bard. Learned to play the flute and everything. But right now I'm writing this report for the Wayfinder magazine.

Igor: ...

Sara: WHY did we agree to this interview again?

Interviewer: Your master suggested that it would be nice to hear about the past days from your point of view...?

Igor: I'm thinking it's best that this conversation stays private.

Interviewer: You can't silence the press man!

[bludgeoning ensues, followed by brief interaction with a Lhazaar pirate captain looking for new crew]

maandag 14 augustus 2017

So you wandered through the dead-grey mist

Congratulations, traveler! Took a little shortcut, did we? Managed to get stuck in the dead-grey mists of the Mournland and invited them into your body? Have we got a gift for you...

For the players

Your characters are aware of the text marked purple. Yep, that's precious little. I'm still putting all this out-of-character info up here to work up some appetite / fear / Schadenfreude ;) 

Folks touched by the Mists

  • Falco, human wizard/cleric from Karrnath [player character]
  • Some gnome assistant to the wizard who originally found their way into the pocket realm and escaped by figuring out that blood sacrifices make the mist sit up and pay attention.
  • Survivors in Last Hope, the hamlet in the pocket realm 

Mist-touched condition

How to get it: bleed while in the pocket realm of Last Hope. You now have the mist-touched condition ability. This is visible as tendrils of mist swirling around in your pupils.

How to raise it: there are some mechanisms below, but the big one I'll keep secret until I can spring it on my players.

  1. Sense the direction and distance to nearest location tied to the mist. Direction is terms of N-NE-E-SE-S-SW-W-NW; distance in steps of 500m/5mi/20mi/100mi/beyond. You always know where the Mournland is. 
  2. Dedicate this death: once per day, touch a dying creature (up to 9 hp below 0) with your blood (deal 1hp to yourself if necessary). If you maintain the touch for a full round (concentration), the creature fails all its death saves, dies, and its soul is sent to the pocket realm. You gain temporary hit points equal to the difference between the creature's hp and -10. These hit points last for an hour.
  3. Cast vampiric touch once (refresh condition: secret). Spell slot is equal to your level of mist-touched. If you kill a creature this way, the area you were in is now mist-touched (see below).
  4. Mark an area or person with the mists and transport people through the mists. 
    - alignment: spend 10hp of your blood to mark a place with the mists OR share 10 hp of blood with another creature to make it mist-touched. With additional uses, you can raise the creature or area's level in mist-touched up to one less than your own. (But why would you?)
    - transport: spend 10 hp of your blood to call the mists and guide yourself and up to (wis bonus) creatures to a mist-touched place you visited personally. The trip takes 1d20 x 5 minutes and seems to last for (reroll) 1d20 x 5 minutes. Multiple mist-touched creatures may cooperate to bring larger groups. If a mist-touched creature has a wisdom penalty, it can only transport itself.
  5. Cast raise dead once (refresh condition: secret). The deceased returns to life mist-touched, or gains a level in this ability if already mist-touched.

Mist-touched areas

Location infused with the dead-grey mist. This carries the influence of Dolurrh, the plane of death. Mist-touched comes in 3 levels for areas:
  1. Area has stunted plant life, sunlight less bright, animals have reduced survival instinct and reduced fertility. Area size ~10ft radius per level of mist-mark. Tendrils of mist fill the area. It is lightly obscured unless you are mist-touched. Size: up to 30 feet radius.
  2. The area is heavily obscured by mist. Sound is randomly distorted and redirected. Disadvantage on rolls to orientate yourself. Treat as light obscurement if you are mist-touched. Anyone wounded and bleeding in this area gains the initial stage of mist-touched. Higher levels of mist-touched gain no effect. Anyone dying in the area is sucked into the realm of Last Hope. Size: up to 60 feet radius.
  3. When wandering into this area, 20% chance of being sucked into Last Hope, 20% chance of stumbling out of another mist-touched area, 10% stumble into the Mournland, 50% wander out after 1d20 x 5 mins. Will feel like (reroll) 1d20 x 5 mins instead. Size: up to 150 feet radius. Dead things in the area do not decay. Natural or magical healing does not work in the area. (Exception: the Goodberry-spell and any mist-touched abilities.)

zondag 6 augustus 2017

It's a world of adventure

Next session, the players will join the Wayfinder Foundation and get access to leads on all kinds of crazy adventure. Taking a page from Jeff, I'll be awarding XP for visiting wondrous locations and living to bring back the story.

The map below lists current leads for the PCs. The list is open to all members of the Wayfinders - explorers might find rival bands on their adventure, and explorers can suggest other sites they'd like to explore.

Benefits of membership

The players will be sponsored for membership by adventurer-gentlemen Tymen Rand, a well-known explorer in his own right. If they prove themselves with a few expeditions of their own, he will consider hiring them on for his personal outings beyond the continent.

Membership fees and priviliges

Expedition member: 50 gp / year (often paid by expedition leaders)
Expedition leader: 300 gp / year
  • Membership in the Wayfinder Foudation gets you access to their travel lounges at lightning rail stations, harbors and airship towers.
  • Expedition members and leaders can buy specialized gear (we'll have to make up stuff...)
  • Expedition leaders can submit expedition locations to the Wayfinder pinboard (which makes these expeditions eligible for sponsoring)
  • The Wayfinders will sponsor expeditions (to the Demon Wastes, Q'Barra, Shadow Marshes and to other continents) in return for 1/5th of the profits. 
  • The Wayfinders will arrange for the auction of historic relics by expedition leaders. Taxidermists will buy the bodies of magical beasts, aberrations, or plant creatures recovered from the Demon Wastes, the Shadow Marches, Q'barra, or any continent beyond Khorvaire.
  • The Wayfinders will provide insurance if members miss a due-back-date. If a rescue team determines that an expedition has lost without hope of return, the Foundation will send 100 gp and a lily bouquet to each party member’s next of kin.

The map, man! Show us the map!

Black leads are regular adventures. Purple leads are specific to the players.

vrijdag 28 juli 2017

Dragonmarks 5e

I have to think hard to remember more than a couple of Eberron's deities, but the Dragonmarked Houses with their genetic arcane tattoos more than make up for that. Magical guilds that dominate the economy? I know, economics is boring, but not with Prismatic Wall or Control Weather in the mix!

Here is my 5e tweak for the Dragonmarks; feats work slightly differently than in 3.Xe, and not all the spells survived the transition, so I had to hunt for nearest neighbours. I also like to get the overclocked Syberis Marks in play way earlier; level 8 (not 12) is when they can first show up.

Feat: Dragonmarked

You manifest a magic tattoo called a Dragonmark, which boosts your skill in a certain field and allows you to draw on magical power. You may be a recognized member of your House, or a scion of a lost bloodline, but your Dragonmark marks you as an heir of the great trade houses. Over time, your Dragonmark will expand and grow in power, as your House takes greater and greater interest in you.

You may take this feat at level one, by giving up +2 worth of ability bonus from your race. 

Prequisite: Human, Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Halfling, Half-Elf or Half-Orc
Effect: when you take this feat, gain advantage in the use of a skill and gain the use of one spell in the Least Dragonmark line. The next time you qualify for an ability boost or feat, also gain the power of the Lesser Dragonmark, and use your Least Dragonmark power one extra time per day. When you qualify for an ability boost or feat again, gain the powers of the Greater Dragonmark and use your Least and Lesser powers one more time per day. Note: you do not have to spend extra feats or ability boosts to grow your Dragonmark; it happens automatically when you hit the right level.

Mark of Detection - House Medani
Race: Half-Elf
Warning Guild
Least: Advantage: Investigation; Detect magic 1/d OR Detect Poison 2/day
Lesser: Zone of Truth 1/d OR See Invisiblility 1/d
Greater Dragonmark: True Seeing 1/d

Mark of Finding - House Tharashk
Race: Half-Orc, Human
Finders Guild
Least: Advantage: Perception; Identify 1/d OR Locate Object 1/d
Lesser: Locate Creature 1/d
Greater: Find the Path 1/d

Mark of Handling - House Vadalis
Race: Human
Handlers Guild
Least: Advantage: Animal Handling; Animal Friendship 1/d OR Speak with Animals 1/d
Lesser: Dominate Beast 1/d OR Conjure Animals 1/d
Greater: Conjure Animals (level 5 slot) 1/d or Awaken 1/d

Mark of Healing- House Jorasco
Race: Halfling
Healers Guild
Least: Advantage: Medicine; Cure Wounds 1/d AND Spare the Dying cantrip
Lesser: Lesser Restoration 1/d OR Cure Wounds (level 3 slot) 1/d OR Protection from Poison 1/d
Greater: Heal 1/d OR Greater Restoration 1/d

Mark of Hospitality - House Ghallanda
Race: Halfling
Hostelers Guild
Least: Advantage: Persuasion; Purify Food & Drink 2/d OR Prestidigitation cantrip OR Unseen Servant 1/d
Lesser: Create Food & Water 1/d OR Tiny Hut 1/d
Greater: Heroes' Feast 1/d OR Magnificent Mansion 1/d

Mark of Making - House Cannith
Race: Human
Tinkers Guild, Fabricators Guild
Least: Advantage: Artisan's Tools (and proficiency in one set); Mending 2/d
Lesser: Fabricate 1/d
Greater: Creation 1/d

Mark of Passage - House Orien
Race: Human
Couriers Guild, Transportation Guild
Least: Advantage: Survival; Jump 1/d OR Longstrider 1/d OR Misty Step 1/d
Lesser: Dimension Door 1/d OR Phantom Steed 1/d
Greater: Teleportation Circle 1/d OR Wind Walk 1/d

Mark of Scribing - House Sivis
Race: Gnome
Speakers Guild, Notaries Guild
Least: Advantage: Deception; Comprehend Languages 1/d OR Message 1/d
Lesser: Illusory Script 1/d OR Tongues 1/d OR Sending 1/d
Greater: Divine Word 1/d OR Telepathic Bond 1/d

Mark of Sentinel - House Deneith
Race: Human
Defenders Guild, Blademarks Guild
Least: Advantage: Insight; Mage Armor 1/d OR Shield of Faith 1/d OR Warding Bond 1/d
Lesser: Protection from Energy 1/d OR Stoneskin 1/d
Greater: Globe of Invulnerability 1/d OR Wall of Force 1/d

Mark of Shadow - House Phiarlann / Thuranni
Race: Elf
Ph: Entertainers and Artisans Guild; Th: Shadows Guild 
Least: Advantage: Persuasion Darkness 1/d OR Disguise Self 1/d OR Minor Image 1/d
Lesser: Clairvoyance 1/d OR Scrying 1/d
Greater: Mislead 1/d OR Programmed Illusion 1/d

Mark of Storm - House Lyrandar
Race: Half-Elf
Raincallers Guild, Windwrights Guild
Least: Advantage: Acrobatics; Fog Cloud 1/d OR Gust of Wind 1/d
Lesser: Sleet Storm 1/d OR Wind Wall 1/d
Greater: Control Weather 1/d

Mark of Warding - House Kundarak
Race: Half-Elf
Banking Guild, Warding Guild 
Least: Advantage: Investigation; Alarm 1/d OR Arcane Lock
Lesser: Glyph of Warding 1/d OR Nondetection 1/d OR Private Sanctum 1/d
Greater: Faithful Hound 1/d OR Guards and Wards 1/d

Feat: Syberis Mark

Very rarely, an unmarked member suddenly erupts with a Dragonmark covering almost their entire body. These Syberis Marks are more powerful than even the Greater Dragonmarks and are highly prized by the Houses. Only two or three Syberis Marks are active at any one time. Syberis Marked are quickly approached by their House - or competitors - to gain access to their power or to slit their throats if they prove willful, to try and get the Mark to manifest on someone more pliable. From underappreciated peon to overpowered trophy cousin, who wouldn't want a Syberis Mark?

Prequisite: Human, Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Halfling, Half-Elf or Half-Orc. Level 8+
Effect: gain the power of your House's Syberis Mark.

Mark of Detection (Half-Elf) - Foresight 1/d
Mark of Finding (Half-Orc or Human) - Discern Location 1/d (as the 3.5e spell)
Mark of Handling (Human) - Animal Shapes 1/d
Mark of Healing (Halfling) - Mass Heal 1/d
Mark of Hospitality (Halfling) - Antipathy / Sympathy 1/d
Mark of Making (Human) - Animate Objects (level 9 slot) 1/d
Mark of Passage (Human) - Teleport 1/d
Mark of Scribing (Gnome) - Symbol 1/d
Mark of Sentinel (Human) - Mind Blank 1/d
Mark of Shadow (Elf) - Project Image 1/d OR Etherealness 1/d
Mark of Storm (Half-Elf) - Storm of Vengeance 1/d
Mark of Warding (Dwarf) - Prismatic Wall 1/d

maandag 24 juli 2017

Stuff found in a Lightning Rail compartment

Our rogue decided to dig around in a random first class cabin of a crashed lightning rail. The treasure below was [rolled] fair and square, then seasoned with details because inspiration struck.

Send in a reaction / e-mail for:

50 bonus XP if you can guess a short profile of the previous owner.
100 bonus XP if you can suggest interesting consequences of trying to sell the art objects!

[see bottom of post for responses]

Treasure hoard, level 0-4 (p137, DMG 5e)

[1d100] = 43
--> [2d4]=4 art objects (25gp each)
--> [1d6]=3 magic items, table A

Art objects, 25 gp each (p134, DMG 5e)

[1d10]=2 = carved bone statuette; pouncing displacer beast
[1d10]=1 = silver ewer; decorated with stars and moons
[1d10]=9 = embroidered silk handkerchief; initials Sd'T
[1d10]=3 = small gold bracelet; charms of a lute and dagger

Magic items table A (p144, DMG 5e)

[d100]=84 = wizard spell scroll (lvl1) - fog cloud
[d100]=15 = potion of healing
[d100]=68 = potion of climbing


Locked strongbox (1/2 litre volume)
- rustling sound (paper)
- something small and dense rolls around inside

Previous owners of your honest find

  1. Member of an archaeological society, who found the item in an abandoned village in the Demon Wastes and informed the society of his find.
  2. Property of a Warforged mage - the only thing (s)he/it held dear in life. Hopefully the mage is now wandering the mists of the Mournland instead of hunting down his stolen property.
  3. Commissioned by the world famous adventurer and explorer David Dunn. Heirloom from his father, equally legendary in stature.
  4. Previously owned by a dragon called Eugene. Total mystery as to how it got to where you found it.
  5. Assassin Harmless dragonmarked entertainer from House Thuranni. Sleep tight.
  6. Soul-vessel of the bound Rakshasa demon Teacher-of-Slaves, who is pleasantly surprised at having been stolen instead of buried forever by Silver Flame paladins.

Complications when selling an honest find

  1. A secret society the previous owner belonged to finds out about your selling their item. When they discover the owner is dead, they want you to take their place in their ranks.
  2. Previous owner will hunt down his property and try to take revenge on whoever stole it.
  3. Item turns out to be a highly valuable collectible, worth easily 3x listed price. Buyer will try to screw you over by offering 80% listed price.
  4. Item's previous owner known as supremely covetous, will want property back. Good luck finding a fence who will risk buying it.
  5. Item is a perfect focus for scrying spells. Previous owner capable and/or wealthy enough to get said spell cast. 
  6. Item will provide inspiration through odd dreams.  

Eberron s1e3 - House Orien lightning rail liability

The House Orien Lightning Rail is not liable when the dead grey mists of the Mournland abduct passengers and their train.

...hey, the Talenta Plains were getting a bit boring, right?

Also not insured for ensuing trips to Ravenloft-lite demiplanes filled with hungry two-headed wolves and demoralized survivors of earlier crash.

...survivors who were hiding the fact that one of their number murdered another to escape the place, and half the rest may still be walking, but have already been claimed by the mists.

...also touchy-feely tendrils of mist trying to zombify you by creeping into your wounds.

...not that you tried because you had rations, but eating the fungus from the cavern filled with, again, mist? Big no-no.

...we're sure you guys will get the mist out of your eyeballs real soon! In the meantime, enjoy these totally free of charge powers.

Passengers are notified that allowing the lightning elemental to escape the engine voids the warranty.

...repairing the engine by allowing the House Orien purser to become a lightning conductor does not restore warranty.

 ...neither does luring out the mist from engine by kiting it along with a freshly cut forearm.
...nor does sacrificing old hermits (even it was only the one guy!) to the mist to get it to spit you back out into the world.

...although awesome job piloting the engine through the mists and right into the main rail hub at Passage 🤘 (There's this Gnome insurance agent here to see you.)

Although circumstances were extreme, dismantling conductor stones to rig a maglev lift and get the engine cart back on the track is not use-as-intended.

...while House Orien applauds the creativity, it must frown on lashing together makeshift huts out of precious rail carts to protect from nightly wolf attacks.

On a tangent, management apologizes for all the other passengers dying in the crash and getting up as zombies.

...you had to nick their stuff?

Roll call

  • Falco, Human wizard 1/cleric 1 out of Karrnath, former acolyte of the Church of Vol, looking to become a freelancer of the Finder's Guild. Ultimately in search of immortality.
  • Rathan, Stout Halfling ranger 2 out of the Talenta Plains, an outlander warrior searching far and wide for news about his disgraced, outcast family member (who at this point has neither name nor background). (Sadly retired because player had to drop out.)
  • Lhorsan, High Elf rogue 2; Elf out of the Eldeen Reaches with a haunted past with a life-sucking cursed item.

Dearly departed

  • Hedrak, human drop-out from Morgrave university; the party's original employer. Died in the session's second Lightning Rail crash.
  • Redeker, human member of House Orien, purser on the Lightning Rail out of Gatherhold. Died channeling the escaped lighting elemental back into the train's engine.

vrijdag 14 juli 2017

Actual megadungeon

Undermountain. Castle Greyhawk. Rappan Athuk. IKEA. What is this hobby's fascination with megadungeons? In any case, here's images of a real life megadungeon I found lurking in a bookmarks folder. Head ye to Turkey and dig (haha) Derinkuyu, Kaymakli or the other underground cities of Cappadocia. Just don't forget the garlic.

zaterdag 8 juli 2017

Hirelings vol.2: the sorry lot of 'em

Hirelings. They smell. They bumble. They faint when they should fight and preach when you try to rest. Ready to become their employer? Finding a sellsword or two will be easy as long as you can spend some cash to get the word out.

We're hiring

The table below lists all the hirelings available in the local area. To track down your future hireling, go around the local watering holes, hang up posters, hire a town crier or even a bard to spread the news. Then check out the table below, find the right die for your PR campaign and charisma (who's a dump stat now?) and roll for your hireling.

 CHARISMA3-45-8 9-12 13-1718+
 10 gp1d11d41d6 1d101d12
 25 gp1d4 1d6 1d101d121d20
 50 gp 1d61d10  1d121d201d30
 100 gp1d10 1d12 1d201d30your pick
Hiring a bard means you get to use their swanky charisma instead of your own to roll a bigger die. Bigger dice get you further down the list, where the more skilled hirelings are. Then again, the lower numbers will get you that unique Skyrim Henchman feel.

Hiring a bard to hire your hirelings

Charisma 14: 10 gp.
Charisma 18: 40 gp. 

You mean you literally only want me for what you consider a dump stat?
Yes. Now sod off and find us someone who likes to get stabby.

Hireling table

 1Edrik the Stalwart
Porter 1
1 sp/day
Human, Karrnath
Complains when hungry, wet, sleepy, alive.

 2"Powder" Jenkins
Sage 1
4 sp/day
Gnome, Cyre
Alchemist. Druggie. Prepares his own.

 3Theo the Barrel
Porter 1
1 sp/day
Halfling, Aundair
Eats. Everything.
 4Blind Steggis
Torchbearer 1
2 sp/day
Halfling, Breland
Runs and hides when threatened
Torchbearer 1
2 sp/day
Kobold, Droaam
Obsessed with dragons
 6Smiling Bertolt
Crossbowman 1
3 sp/day
Human, Aundair
Actually a bard looking hard for recognition. In over his head.
 7Grey Ashdrak
Brute 1
3 sp/day
Hobgoblin, Darguun
Macho, alpha male. Noisy as fuck.
 8Mad Kolviss
Locksmith 1
3 sp/day
Gnome, Aundair
Advantage to find traps. Paranoid; takes ages to check EVERYTHING
 9Stitchy Holmes
Battlefield healer 1
3 sp/day
Human, Breland
Leaves sloppy scars
(Heal 4 hp/day)
 10Akkin One-Tusk
Halberdier 1
4 sp/day
Half-Orc, Thrane
Silver Flame zealot. Judgmental
 11Kaffiyah Darkmoon
Scout 1
5 sp/day
Elf, Valenar
Inferiority complex, hero worship
 12Breaker Ulf
Shieldbearer 1
5 sp/day
Dwarf, Eldeen Reaches
Flashbacks to tunnel fighting
 13Blackfang Gilla
Brute 2
6 sp/day
Lizardman, Q'barra
Stoic, fatalist. Pronounces others' doom at slightest misfortune. Anyone hurt gets left behind.
Battlefield healer 2
6 sp/day
Kalashtar, Aundair
Very touchy-feely. Path of Light preacher
(Heal 8 hp/day)
 15Dariel Longshot
Crossbowman 2
6 sp/day
Half-Elf, Thrane
Nationalist. Changeling on the run
Locksmith 2
6 sp/day
Warforged, Cyre
Finds death traps fascinating
 17Mikaela Forgehold
Shieldbearer 3
15 sp/day
Dwarf, Mror Holds
Follows the Host. Ever so slightly hunted by House Thuranni
 18Dargo the Hound
Scout 2
10 sp/day
Shifter, Karrnath
Wildhunt (wis). Blood of Vol follower. Moonlights (haha) as bounty hunter
Halberdier 2
8 sp/day
Hobgoblin, Breland
Vow of silence. Intent stare. Listens to whispering bottle.
 20Eyes-only Jaleel
Torchbearer 4
8 sp/day
Elf, Breland
Alert feat. In it for the adrenaline
 21Alvis the Penitent
Sage 4
16 sp/day
Half-Elf, Cyre
Religion/Arcana, Ritual caster [1]. Masochist; automutilation; Mockery monk
 22Zakra the Hammer
Brute 3
9 sp/day
Shifter, Eldeen Reaches
Beasthide (AC). Not a fan of subtlety; plans; Aundarians. Owns trained bloodhound
 23Hilda Swiftfingers
Locksmith 4
12 sp/day
Dwarf, Karrnath
Dungeon delver feat. Kundarak reject because of low birth
 24Lida the Kind
Battlefield healer 4
12 sp/day
Halfling, Talenta Plains
Magic initiate [2]. House Jorasco healer.
(Heal 16 hp/day)
 25Ovak Longstride
Halberdier 4
16 sp/day
Half-Orc, Shadow Marches
Noble savage type (50% chance Cultist of the Dragon Below)
Shieldbearer 4
20 sp/day
Warforged, Karrnath
Heavily armored feat. Bodyguard; Deneith Defender's Guild
 27Paelias the Knife
Crossbowman 4
12 sp/day
Half-Elf, Lhazaar Principalities
Crossbow expert feat. swashbuckler, follows the Traveler. Total hit with the ladies.
 28Philena Silverfire
Sorceror 3
15 sp/day
Human, Thrane
Draconic - fire. Pyro. Silver Flame. Demonhunter.
Ranger 3
15 sp/day
Gnoll, Drooam
Hunter archetype. Takes a bite out of everything he (she?) kills
30Dreyga Blackwing
Barbarian 3
15 sp/day
Human, Seren
Path of Rage. Totem quest. Frazetta armor. Black dragon wings tattooed on shoulder blades.

[1] Rituals known: Comprehend Languages, Identify
[2] Cantrips: Spare the Dying, Resistance. Spell: Healing Word