Thursday, 8 August 2019

Belswick 5 & 6: early domain play

In a double whammy, we find time for a double session with all players present! A rarity amongst Gen X gamers with busy lives. Last session there were only three, but they did manage to clear out the goblin infestation in the Tomb of the Serpent Kings. The gang kept really busy - I'll write down the highlights first, then detail side events below.

Note that these characters are 2nd level, and they're already dealing with domain play, building a stronghold and conspiring to replace noble rulers. What really helps is having a good handle on the local feudal lords and their feuds and obligations. Setting here, Skerples-inspired way to generate your own feudal domain here.

My posts on buying land and positions are already seeing use! To date, the group have dealt with ghouls, the Winter Court of faeries and with two warlock patrons. One has made a pact with the Radiant Maiden.

Your characters don't need megastats to change the world, just a lever and motivation. In this case all that motivation came from the group themselves, I just set out the situation. Wonderful to see that happen at my table!

Overview map: Duchy Belswick. Play has been in the barony Walden, right above the Stone Principality

THE CHARACTERS

Aju - fishling barbarian who (having just finished his backstory) is actually a shark turned half-human by the crab wizard Oktal and tasked to find a green-bronzed amulet with an eye on it. He went to land with his Walrusling mentor Niboje and their Turtleling wizard friend Nunawe but got separated.

Lomin "Mr Mor" Mor - on-the-run-from-his-murderous-noble-brother Elf rogue who became good friends with Lady Olga of the neighbouring fief Culfield. Lady Olga having died a year ago, Lomin now masquerades as her with the help of her manservent Manuel.

Guy - human wizard whose whose burgeoning magic caused walking nightmares and a fire that burned down the family keep and most everyone in it. Taken in by Fergus the Augur of the Lodge and Lord Kerjules of Crossroads. Has since dispatched a cult that wanted to exalt/sacrifice him to something called The Messenger, and discovered he has strange mind powers of hallucination and tentacly doom.

Michael "Mike" - human fighter/druid whose clan was ensorceled and sacrificed by a cult of The Messenger to a life-sucking horror from the lake. Has since dedicated himself to taking exceptional care of animals and wants to buy land to start a sanctuary. Residual psionic powers rather like Guy's.

Tilbørd - human cleric of the Authority's Order of the Scroll. Wants to know everything. Makes deals easily and constantly; up til now, has dealed with a ghoul, a ghost riding people that he forces to smuggle packages, a faerie Court and a Warlock Patron. More to come I'm sure.


Barony Walden is an out of the way corner of Duchy Belswick. Play has concentrated in the eastern side of the Barony.

MAIN EVENTS

The Goblin Prince: after he recived an over-enthousiastic axe to the forehead last session, the party decides to save the life of Litvars, prince of the Winter Court of the faeries. It takes a visit of the three ladies Sorya, Kata and Illyria of the Winter Court (appearing after being called thrice) and the sacrifice of Litvars' last fungal goblin copy to properly revive him.

I have to applaud how the players handled the fact that their characters were at cross purposes over the goblin's life. None of the stupid drama we had in our twenties. I guess age does mellow. A bit ;)

Tearful scene where young Gustav the library-goblin decides to offer his own life to merge his soul fragment back with the prince. Old Illyria produces a wicked flint knife and the deed is done. Litvars awakes and thanks his saviours in confusion. Life boons are given in the form of silver leaf broaches. Those will turn out to be very useful at the end of the session.

The three ladies and their prince leave by opening an endless hallway full of cold wind and icy-blue torches from a cupboard in Mike's cottage. The door closes and hasn't been inspected since. Snow covers the landscape. It's mid summer. Want to bet the Summer fae have an opinion on this outburst of Winter in their season?

It turns out yet again that I'm a "show, don't tell" kind of DM. I've hinted that Litvars is a prince of the winter court by way of his signet ring and thorny armor, but I don't spell out what "saving a Winter noble" (or killing him!) means in terms of consequences.

Luckily, Tilbørd's player is happy to explain to the group that we're now dealing with great, powerful beings that only look like common sprites and goblins. Two lessons: 1) should've explained that better; 2) I have awesome players who immediately know that my frame of reference is Queen Mab's court from the Dresden Files. Haughty, honour-driven and without a shred of mercy. Be on your best possible behaviour or risk their ceaseless cruelty.



The three fiefs in four hexes that we've explored so far.


Lady Liselle's tour of the barony: in a few weeks, Baron Walden's son Peter the Hedgehog will marry Lady Liselle of Hartford, a deerling noble out of barony Ballumbie. The lady could have married her toadling baron but her father chose to honour her love to Peter, a baron's son from another barony.

As part of the engagement, Liselle is now touring her new barony Walden to meet all its banner lords. Her escort is Fergus the Augur, the master of Guy the diviner. Bandits operating out of the Witmarrow marsh have twice prevented the pair from reaching Vennax, and after chasing the bandits into the marsh, Fergus fought and had to flee from a powerful wizard. Liselle needs to visit Vennax before she can marry.

Guy hits on an idea: can Fergus hire the party as backup for the task? Fergus gladly agrees. He will stay behind to recuperate will the group travels to Vennax with Lady Liselle. Along on the ride is Aju's vast Walrusling mentor, a barbarian named Niboje who rolled into town on the groaning cart of Dinadan the swanling merchant.

The group soon smells the wet rot of Witmarrow marsh. Stories go that the deeper you head into the swamp, the weirder the place becomes; there's supposed to be a witch there, and bandits on flatboats, but also hidden treasure and a strange water snake in a half-sunken temple.



I've taken the Depth mechanic from Emmy Allen's Gardens of Ynn and Stygian Library and used it to power a marsh crawl. Will post in a bit when the players have had a chance to explore.

Ambush!
Sure enough, a couple of miles down the road Mike, trailing the party, and Guy using his crow familiar, spot a pair of bandit scouts hidden in the bushes. One trails the party while another races ahead - Mike makes short work of the stay-behind. Minutes later, a felled tree blocks the road. A bear of a man called Elias steps out to claim he is a local toll gatherer. He asks for 10 gold pieces from each traveler.

The party is unconvinced, even by clicking crossbows around them, and rush Elias - to find themselves ensnared by grasping vines at the man's command! When Elias turns into a bear and crossbows sing, the party decides to unload. Sleep spells, magic missile barrages, thundering explosive spells, singing arrows and above all the brutal axe of the sharkling Aju make short work of the bandits.

Two surviving crossbowmen sketch the location of the various bandit camps; you need to keep a good eye on the markers, because the pathways in Witmarrow march shift constantly. Tarn and Nigel confess that their former leader Elias put the band together at the behest of a Waldic wizard called Vedric von Vermis.

Yes, Goblin Punch readers, you know that name: it's the Boswich Bathhouse after this!

20 bandits and two lieutenants still survive; Sonnette is a mistress of the dagger, while Merril is an ace bowman. Niboje escorts Tarn and Nigel back to Crossroads, where, Tilbørd informs them, they will do chores for father Eustace or else. He performs a perfunctory ceremony to bless the dead bandits and prevent them from rising as undead.

Finds: a healing potion (used immediately) and a Red Bottle Imp worth 50 gp, 1/2 inventory slot that will allow one rumor to travel through town or insert itself into a manuscript when liberated. Confiscated by Tilbørd. Also found: seven leather armors, light crossbows and short swords/scimitars. Armory value 350 gp, 21 inventory slots, taken back by Niboje.


A cold welcome in Vennax
It is odd, remarks the party, that grouchy old sir Vennax allows bandits to operate from the marsh on his fief. It's even more remarkable that they only raid into neighbouring Culfield and Crossroads. Perhaps there's nothing of value in Vennax - a theory soon supported by fact as the group comes into the decrepit village. There is no trade road here, because a land-shuffle rewarded southern Lady Olga with the toll road for her mighty deeds in the war against Arrayne two decades ago. People are poor, and starving.

I think I feel the distaste for Sir Vennax starting to simmer, so I ham it up even more than my notes say.

Hungry, hopeless looks follow the party. The local priest needs to work a farm to make ends meet. At the manor, Lady Liselle is kept waiting for half an hour, then shown into an audience room. She's cautioned her escorts to ignore all barbs and give no cause for offense. They are shown into the kitchen and given porridge, then told by master servant Bardolph they will attend a dinner that evening. The kitchen staff are scared stiff of their lord, afraid any gossiping will get them fired.

"It would be a right shame if this fief would find itself without a ruler", says the party. "Not by killing him. He needs to be replaced by the baron. DM, what would that cost us?"

The dinner is as cold and inhospitable like the host; Sir Vennax a bitter old man who spends his days bemoaning the unfair treatment he receives while extracting every last bit of tax from his people. His son is drinking at court in Walden town to the west. His guests are a rich lawyer and merchant calling himself "...Walter, out of Waldau" (with a thick germanic accent), who smells of alchemic compounds. Walter denies being a wizard when asked by Guy, and laughs when Vennax remarks that Liselle should've stayed in Ballumbie if her guards couldn't handle some roadside attention.

Regime change
Dawn breaks, the formal visit is over, and Lady Liselle and her escort prepare to head back for Crossroads. They discuss what to do about Vennax.


I honestly hadn't prepped Liselle's personality beyond "doe-eyed lady, actually thrilled by the adventure", but there's a good click with the party and I can feel some steel in the deerling. The party is making an ally at court here.

The group is quietly furious over the treatment they got in Vennax, but even more about the treatment these villagers are getting. As a stop gap, they leave behind some money to support the poor with both head servant Bardolph and with a trusted villager that Mike knows. At the same time they know money only patches things up - they need to make structural changes to improve life here.

"It would be good if this place had another ruler. DM, how hard is it to get someone appointed again?"

Donating wealth is a form of carousing: +5 XP for Tilbørd; +10 XP for Mike. Outright buy/bribing the baron to replace Vennax could run up to 4000 gp for a direct replacement, but that's without any incriminating evidence as to banditry, poor leadership and so on that might swing the baron's decision.


Roadkill
On the way back, Mike spots a lean woman spying on the party; she creeps off and then races ahead through the swamp in what appears to be a canoe. Running up to the party and then ahead, Mike finds a hillock with a poorly hidden lookout that doesn't know he's spotted, and sees a beautiful crossfire from across a deeper pond between the road and dry land.

Soon after, the party walks up and a lone man appears in the road. Vedric von Vermis, because who else could lord Vennax' Waldic merchant friend have been, demands Lady Liselle is handed over. Twelve crossbowmen and a bowman rise up as the wizard blocks the way with an Ice Storm spell.

The offer to hand over the lady is denied.

I'm going over this scene in my head. Why did the party stand their ground? My guess is a big fat hatred for this wizard and his asshole master.

The party sure didn't feel invincible (although 5e characters can take a lot of punishment) and they knew they were heavily outclassed when the Ice Storm popped into existence - as a warning, not an attack, no less.


Two players had to leave after dinner, so both the rogue and wizard were out of commission, hanging around in the background as our usual MO. We agreed to include them in a defensive role to guard Liselle.


Combat highlights
Aju jumps into the pond and, being a sharkling, smells blood trickling from a scratch on a hidden bowman's leg.

Aju's player seems a bit surprised that I basically give him license to move and strike unseen without rolling a single die. For me, it makes perfect sense that a raging shark-man in the water spells doom for the bandits.


Jaws style, Aju leaps out of the water and grapples Merril the bowman (who drops a beautiful bow) and proceeds to drown him in the deepest part of the little lake. One Heimlich manoeuvre later, the last air leaves the bandit's lungs and the barbarian is off to harrass more crossbowmen.


NEXT!


The crossbowmen hit Liselle's horse and drive it off (with Aju's shield and handaxe!); there goes the cover for the dismounted lady, rogue and wizard. The pair encircle their ward, hoping that Vedric won't break out the artillery because he wants Liselle alive. Crossbow bolts fly and hit left and right, but the party is still fit to fight.

Vedric tries subtlety, but a Suggestion spell by the wizard for Liselle to come to him is ignored completely. Natural 20 on the save exactly when she needed it. The wizard does manage to Counterspell Guy's Magic Missile. Guy decides to focus his spells on the bandits but is dropped by a crossbow bolt.



As a Mage, Vedric is a level 9 wizard and can unleash up to level 5 spells - but he needs Liselle alive so he's stuck picking off attackers that leave her bubble of safety.

Mike is ambushed from the long grass by the dagger throwing Sonnette, but strikes back and leaves her in the dirt. He then unleashes culty mind powers and propels himself dozens of yards through the air to land in front of the wizard!

Tilbørd unleashes the power of the Radiant Maiden to speed wounded enemies to their death (Toll the Dead cantrip, Xanathar's Guide to Everything). I make all initiate casters except Warlocks pay spell slots for their Cantrips until a rite at level 3. After four sessions of two to three spells per day, Tilbørd feels like an angel of death unleashing the cantrip again and again for d6 or d12 damage. This goes well against bandits, but Vedric is still standing...

Vedric wants to get away from furious Mike and decides to cast Misty Step. Who, walking to a better spot to rain arrows on the bandits, spots the wizard behind some trees right as he casts Invisibility. Lomin and Guy are KO, Aju is hunting the last couple of bandits. Liselle, Mike and Tilbørd are still standing.

I could've ended the combat here, but there was still a chance for Vedric to win the day. The Monsters Know What They're Doing says a Mage should bolt in round 4, but Vedric thinks he has an angle, and he really needs to kidnap that deerling Liselle...

Vedric casts Suggestion to try and make Mike drop and stay out of the fight, but Mike rolls a beautiful save and counterstrikes with a Thunderwave hammer blow.

It's way past closing time in and out of game. Wrap up.

Vedric stops playing nice and unleashes a Cone of Cold directly in Mike's face. Who saves for half damage and is left standing with one hit point left. Meanwhile Tilbørd is running up to help. A vicious burst of spectral tentacles from Mike brings Vedric to 2 hit points.

I go over this in my head. Seems Vedric' next action is clear: nuke them. Vedric has two 3rd level spell slots left, and has Fly and Fireball prepared; he can cast one this round. Fly leaves him vulnerable while he flees; but the two guardians are on their last legs... The wizard casts Fireball, and Mike and Tilbørd's world erupts in fire. Out of range of anyone else, the wizard casts Fly and bolts.

I leave the action hanging there and we end the session on a downer - but proud to have driven off that bastard wizard. All are resigned to two characters dying - fairly rolled and very well done against such an overpowering force.


A few hours later, Whatsapp is pinging furiously with ideas to last-ditch save the pair. We're against ignoring a fair death, but both characters are owed a life boon from the Winter Court and the goblins hate being cheated out of a way to repay their debt.


Find out what happens next session!



ASIDES - MINOR HOOKS AND EVENTS

In addition to the main story above, we covered dozens of smaller meetings and side jobs. Here's a summary.


Quiet potion time: Aju, on returning to Crossroads, spends time with Annabelle to learn the craft of potionmaking. I've zero rules in place for this, so will have to make stuff up in an upcoming post! Aju is also training with his Walrusling mentor Niboje and learning how to unleash the power of sea storms.

Lomin's pirate friend: Lomin chats up with his retired "merchant sailor" friend Burrich Lacrosse, a pirate and contact in the Violet Cloud thieving/mage guild. Burrich is sometimes taking on small jobs for old times' sake - nothing too illegal - and has agreed to train the elf in the finer points of roguery.

5e characters get to choose an archetype as part of their class. To get actual class abilities from these archetypes, my players have to find a mentor and work with them.


Father Eustace's troubles: At the Crossroads church, Father Eustace is dead tired for lack of sleep. He confesses to Tilbørd that he's taking care of a weakening Sleeping Priest; someone who stays asleep for years to trap a wild godling. This Heironeous sleeps under nearby Old Crossroads as goalor for a spirit of roads and hearth - one reason that there's always something happening in Crossroads. Soon, Eustace will have to take over the dreaming task.

While his master was away, Tilbørd's goblin ward Gustav has been keeping busy reorganizing the library and turning master's bed into a book stand. The goblin woke up a couple of nights ago sporting a killer headache and a skin blemish shaped like a thorn branch - right when Aju buried his axe in the head of prince Litvars, of whom Gustav is a copy through a Du'van magic cloning box.


A tower in the south: lord Kerjules is overjoyed to hear that the goblin menace has been dealt with and gives the party permission to build a watch tower with the dressed stone from the Tomb of the Serpent Kings. He agrees to lend workers to the effort. The players need to organize this. They manage to wriggle out of the cost of construction by making a deal with Guy's master Fergus, who was already looking for a good place to settle.

"We should definitely warn him about the titan basilisk down there."
"And the stone golem."
"And the skeleton jellies that won't die. And the singing from the dark."
"He's a master wizard, if he isn't used to this crap he should be."


A package for Copperstone: Ever-cursed merchant Dinadan the Swanling is back in tone, this time with a broken arm. He needs to get a package to the Copperstone mine in the foothills of Mt. Gale unseen, but the road is rarely traveled - can local rogue Lomin Mor arrange something? Or Tilbørd, in the know about the Harkness smuggling band that Dinadan has been roped into, has a better idea: he will give Dinadan the task to get a quarryman from Copperstone who can then inspect the stonework in the Tomb of the Serpent Kings. That'll give Dinadan a good reason to travel to Copperstone.



Dinadan's smuggling is a plot hook baited in session 0, but not seriously engaged with yet. The party knows that the swanling smuggeled something deeply magical traveling from Copperstone - and more importantly, Mt. Gale where Dread Sir Ulric has lived since his third death at the hands of Saint Cascarrion. Doesn't matter, I'm having a lot of fun writing and sending letters from one NPC to another.


Warlockry!: Two characters have made contact -and in one case, a bona fide pact- with a Warlock Patron. Out of spells, Tilbørd's prayer for Litvars' life is answered not by the Authority, but by a young lady he's heard of in connection to a healing sect within the Church. Our rogueish cleric now now has a minor pact with the Radiant Maiden, is forbidden to save people hovering at death's door, and knows magic to kill the wounded painlessly. I'll stat up the Maiden for 5e.

Meanwhile, Aju the barbarian has caught the attention of a redheaded boy named Sable who claims to be the blacksmith's apprentice. Actually the Scorched Blacksmith. Said redhead is deeply impressed by Aju's rage and use of fire against goblins (which he's told no-one in the village about).

"Sable" explains how he needs to produce a masterpiece to graduate as an apprentice and asks to build a fiery weapon for Aju. The payment? Why, it's simple - never put out a fire, and maim the horse of a bastard noble (Sir Drake Selbern, see "Lady Olga's Troubles" below), who rode the Blacksmith down on the road. Aju isn't convinced he wants to get into this deal.

I'm not sure Aju's player got who or what he was chatting with. Other players definitely got it, but stayed mum. You glorious bastards :)


Troubled fief Culfield: The Witmarrow bandits have been raiding into fief Culfield to the south-east of Crossroads as well, and Lady Olga of Culfield has been too bedridden to organize a response.

Lomin Mor has been disguising himself as the lady since she passed away a year ago. Estate manager Manuel is in on it, but with Lomin gone for weeks during this crisis, he's at wit's end and has spread the rumor that Olga is too sick to hold an audience.

Manuel is falling to pieces: "Olga" is unavailable right when there's a contestant for the fief. Sir Drake Selbern, a cousin twice removed of Olga's deceased husband pushes his claim with the baron's sherrif Sir Corrick. Lomin hatches a plan: they will either marry off 70-year old Lady Olga (well, Lomin in a dress) to Crossroads' lord-in-waiting Silas Kerjules, or outright bribe Baron Walden to appoint Silas as Olga's heir when Olga should die.

Luckily I've written a post on what it costs to buy someone a position! Olga is a rank 4 noble, which normally would cost 8000 gp in bribes and services to obtain. However, we're paying for the position of heir (half price), and Lord Kerjules is willing to stand collatoral for half the amount - it's his own son that will substantially benefit from this move.

Lomin is now debating whether to save 2000 gp and buy an NPC a lordship, or put on a dress and try to pull off a marriage ceremony with the barony watching.

I love it.


FINDS AND REWARDS

Google Sheets overview of rewards, loot and XP

Fergus the Augur pays 300 gp for rubbings from the Tomb of the Serpent Kings, and double value (500 -> 1000 gp) for an intact spellbook of a Du'van wizard. "This will settle your college debt for the year - and it's a good step towards an appointment as adept!"

Tilbørd has spent 100 gp on a perfect pearl which powers his Identify spell. He can determine that a ring pried off a statue will turn the wearer's finger dagger-sharp, but also risks poisoning and the finger turning into a snake. Ring is not worn. Can be sold for 10 gp to someone who knows what it does, or 50 gp to someone who think's they're getting an invisible dagger.

For escorting Lady Liselle, the characters are rewarded 100 gp each. For routing the Witmarrow bandits, they receive a 200 gp reward each - and tax free at that!

First ambush: 7 leather armors, 7 short swords, 7 light crossbows: value 350 gp, 21 inventory slots taken back to Crossroads by Niboje on Mike's cart.
Second ambush: 10 of the above, for 500 gp and 30 inventory slots, still lying in the mud.

In addition, two of the bandits carried magical weapons, which will carry a 25% tax if declared:
  • two matched daggers, 500 gp total - the red and gold parrying dagger allows the user to use their reaction and add their proficiency to their AC when hit by a melee attack; the charcoal bladed edge of subtlety gives a +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls for one single attack per round that is launched either from stealth or as a sneak attack.
  • a magical longbow +1 worth 1000 gp made of oak and decorated with silver inlay
  • Elias carried a red bottle imp (can inject/spread a rumor in a city or document; worth 50 gp)

For donations to the poor, 10 XP for Mike, and +5 XP for Tilbørd.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Pirate Wavecrawl - ape archipelago map

A new map in my relentless campaign to, well, prep handouts for a possible new campaign. I've piracy on the brain so I'm stealinglovingly adding to Skerples' wavecrawl maps with a more weathered look, in-character notes and the like, for use as hand-outs. This time: the Ape Archipelago!


PREVIOUS POST AND DOWNLOADS

Check out the previous post with maps of the the Merabaha ("Caribbean") and Chult (jungle with desparate Old World colonies). Get all the Illustrator files and jpgs via Google Drive; available under CC by-nc-sa/4.0 (use, attribute, don't monetize w/o permission).



ABOUT THE APE ARCHIPELAGO

The Ape Archipelago is a bunch of failed or corrupted colonies that the Old World powers seem to have forgotten about. They'll come in play soon enough as a stop-over between the Merabaha ("Caribbean") and the Ilse of Dread or Golden Isles.

Skerples invented the Island of the Apes and God's Larder (reading about the Barque cracked me up) and added the modules Sacrebleu and Neither Man nor Beast to the archipelago; I've added the Island of Viledel from module N4 Treasure Hunt at the south-western end of the chain. It's either a great funnel for level 0 starting characters, or a cool place with factions and sites to explore.

The Ape Archipelago, without notes by travelers or pirates

Same map, different background


ABOUT THE APE ARCHIPELAGO MAP

My two previous maps of  included a basic map with area and site names, on which some pirate had jotted down notes and drawn info about a secret treasure on a little-known island.

For the Ape Archipelago, I wanted to add a more direct hook to get players interested. Again, there's the basic map with the names of islands and sites, but this time I had enough whitespace to include a desparate letter in a bottle to some explorer's sweetheart. Halfway through the voyage, there's a mutiny and the crew turn pirate! I've added the ship's route for clarity, and a final message from someone who found the map and is looking to start an expedition to the Archipelago.

The Ape Archipelago with the tragic story of the Sea Nymph and its mutinous crew
Same map, different background


TEXT ON THE MAP

A pirate is being fed information to explore new land:

Dehavilland,
Our factor in Golden Isles came across this map in a bottle. Seems perfect for that new buccaneer captain you spoke of earlier. See that it gets to them and sneak one of ours on board their ship.
-F

A letter scribed on the map:

Dearest Ophelie,
May this letter find you in better straits than its author. How I wish I had sought your hand instead of adventure.

Our Sea Nymph was tasked to find the fabled antipodes and sailed thus from King’s Bay in the Mehabara. After five weeks at sea, a hurricane forced us to islands not on our map, and we made port in Fairmead, an obscure Wexlish colony with curious hill ceremonies. They cautioned us to ware the jungle apes. an easy mark - or a new home port?

Heading north we were in for a nasty surprise as a fort flying our own Valois flag turned cannon on us! Turning southward, we made landfall on an island with curious stone statues of kneeling giants. We set out for a monastery on the southern cliffs and met a Valois seigneur of prodigious medical skill, who treated our wounded. Alas, at night cruel natives attacked our beach encampment and forced us to abandon the seigneur’s hospitality. if we scour their villages, what will the doctor do for us?

Our supplies now run low and the crew whisper sullenly. too right As I write this letter, captain Dampier inspects two final islands through his spyglass. Instead of “angering God by landing on His Larder” he favors what he claims is the cursed Isle of the Sea King.  I fear for our lives and trust this letter to the sea.
-P wanker


Assorted pirate notes:

down with the captain!

trade here for guns and trained monkeys

Larrimer shot from the jungle by muskets

a hedgehog of cannons. what does it defend?

a lot of fighting over old ruins

strange beasts always in pairs

temple means gold!

blasted tribes and their animal howls!

ripe for the picking 

gods save us it came out of nowhere!

have the doctor treat our wounded

monks say they guard secret of life

-the horror!


You have to admire the kind of pirate that takes the time to jot down "the horror!" while his mates are eaten alive by ravenous wossnames.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

GLOG class: Really Lazy Cat

After the Really Good Dog and Really Vicious Goose, I give you the Really Lazy Cat. Like a bard, it's generally useless but good for morale and minor healing, with a couple of surprise attacks and mental powers thrown in.


CLASS: REALLY LAZY CAT


Starting Equipment: Evil Overlord Mentality, Sharp Bits, Fluffy Coat, Fussy Eater
Starting Skill: d4 1= Rat Catcher, 2= Dog Tamer, 3= Alley Cat, 4= Noble Animal

Generally too lazy to run your own evil empire, you have servants to take care of trivia for you. Such as planning and actual work. Your claws and bite deal damage as daggers to people who want to pet you. You have a shiny coat for people to pet, and a viciously annoying mewl to use when someone serves you Wrong Food.


Cat templates
A: Cat, Servants, Tripping Headbutt
B: Stowaway, Hissy Fit, +1 Attack
C: Mad Rake Attack, Venus Hand Trap
D: Dead Eye OR Fluffy Horde, +1 Attack


Cat:
You can't manipulate things with your hands, because you're a cat. You can't talk, because you're a cat. You understand all spoken language perfectly but you generally can't be arsed to convey useful information to your Servants, because YOU'RE A GODDAMNED CAT. You speak Cat fluently.

You can do anything a cat can - climb trees, ladders or stairs but not a rope; carry something light and dead in your mouth; hide in the underbrush even under observation; sleep for hours then groom yourself and go on sleeping on your other side.

Your awesome reflexes and small size give you +4 armor class. Your movement is 15 in a short sprint (12 for an ordinary human) but 10 for longer distances. (Have a Servant carry you.) You have half the inventory slots as usual and don't start with any equipment.

Sure you can multiclass. Rogue is obvious. Here's a cat wizard instead.



Servants:
You can adopt a random monkey or a small pack of them. Yes, fine, "hoo-mon" or "elf" or whatever. They are now responsible for your wellbeing: Proper Food, scratchies, a dry place to sleep. As long as Servants take care of you, their house/camp/ship will remain blessedly free of vermin (although they'll find the occasional hairball and all their gear will be covered with cat hairs). Your soothing presence allows Servants and yourself to heal +1 hit point per Cat Template every short or long rest.


Tripping Headbutt:
Non-cats are klutzes. Take advantage of this by headbutting them at an opportune moment so they trip over their own feet. Roll a Dexterity attack against an opponent; if you hit, they make a Dexterity save or either trip or drop a precious item.

Cats of Ulthar - Abigail Larson on ArtStation


Stowaway:
You are forever getting into places the monkeys don't want you to be. Once per session, you may declare that you've been napping in some hideaway like a backpack, under a blanket or in the bushes - as long as there was a plausible way for you to walk to that place, that's where you are now. Deal with the consequences of invading the queen's boudoir once you're discovered.


Hissy Fit:
Having come to the conclusion that non-cats rarely know their place, you've adopted ancient techniques to scare the fear of cat into them. Roll under your charisma to throw a proper hissy fit; creatures with hit dice equal to or lower than your cat templates need to roll a Wisdom save or be too afraid to approach within 10 feet. This lasts while you keep up the display, maximum 1 turn.

Inner monologue. ArtStation, by Massimo Righi



Mad Rake Attack:
You can now make two claw attacks every Attack you make. If you haven't moved yet and both claws hit, you can rake with your back claws for one extra claw attack. This costs you your movement for the round.


Venus Hand Trap:
By rolling on the floor and exposing your delicious fluffy belly, you tempt foolish monkeys to come closer if you make a Charisma roll. Either allow them to pet you for a number of rounds equal to your Charisma bonus, or launch into a Mad Rake Attack.




Dead Eye:
It has occured to you that a lot of the monkeys that generally stop to pet you and jabber are not, strictly speaking, alive. You can now see ghosts, spirits, faeries and other supernatural entities even when they're hiding under cloak of invisibility, and your attacks affect them normally. Once per day, you can enter the spirit world at will for (charisma bonus) rounds. That's how kitty got inside the locked vault.


Fluffy Horde:
Your vast multitude of casual lovers and offspring have moved in with you. You now move at the centre of a cat swarm 10 feet on a side (with many, many strays out to 30 feet). Consume thrice as many rations. Gain extra hit points equal to your max hit points and make an extra Attack every round. If you lose all your extra hit points, many cats have been driven off and a short/long rest can only restore the extra hit points up to 4 lower than previously. If this reduces your extra hitpoints to 0, you may instead gain Dead Eye (or start a siring spree to rebuild your horde in d6 months.)


Sunday, 28 July 2019

Pirate wavecrawl - map handouts

Prep work for a possible pirate campaign: I'm going over Skerples' overview maps for his pirate wavecrawl and am turning them into player hand-outs and DM summaries.

I aimed for a yellowed paper style map that has been annotated by a later owner to spell out profitable trades and possible adventures. Will expand this into a trading system in a later post.

Like any rumour you'd do well to take these notes with a pinch of salt. Check out Skerples' notes and the original adventures for what your group will get themselves into.

DOWNLOAD THE HELL OUT OF THIS

Get the original Illustrator files here, as well as jpgs and pdfs of the full maps with/out notes.


USE, MODIFY, DON'T SELL

This is available under CC by-nc-sa/4.0, which means feel free to share and modify as long as you attribute me. No commercial use, please get in touch to discuss if you're that interested. (In any case, the original maps and module summaries were not put together by me but by Skerples!)

Map icons: mountains/volcanoes by Red Blob Games, palm trees by FreeVector


MERABAHA ISLANDS

Written up by Skerples. A Caribbean-like archipelago where Old World countries fight for the best colony sites. Much is unexplored and there is enough room for pirates to slip between the cracks or even topple the local powers.



With notes, all islands, all ports and settlements

Add your own notes


With only the main named islands

CHULT

Based on Forgotten Realms' Tomb of Annihilation but with the supernatural dialled way down and overarching plot removed. Skerples has done a fantastic job reflavouring Forgotten Realms powers as Old World countries and reskinning to fit the pirate sensibility. Chult is now a powder keg of ambitious lordlings, greedy merchants and oppressed commoners, waiting for a match...

This map again adds notes that hint at what sites are all about (useful for players as well as the DM) and adds one or two hints taken from the broader Realms lore. I've hunted through the module and online sources to get a list of favoured imports and exports.

Below are versions that don't show the location of the pirate triad nest; the google drive folder has versions that proudly fly their three-boned flag.



With all the bells and whistles except the pirate anchorage


No pirates, no notes - pristine map for your group to mess up


Even more basic; left out the mountain / jungle icons.

OW, MY CRAMPED FINGERS

"It'll be easy", I said. "Just have to pull the original maps into Illustrator and reskin a bit", I explained. That was a week ago. Sure, Illustrator can convert jpg outlines into vector shapes...including holes where map icons or text sat, which then all need to be patched and smoothed. Happy with the result though!

NEXT UP

Yoon-Suin, the Ape Archipelago, and the Island of Dread!

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

GLOG wizard: pyromancer

Found this GLOG wizard class in a homebrew I prepped for first time players and hey, why not share it? Based on the Elementalist. Very much Oh Fuck Its A Wizard. Damage-focused and probably overpowered compared to regular GLOG wizards because they recover magic dice so easily, but let me know what you think.

THE GLOG AND ITS WIZARDS, BRIEFLY

I tend to write for people who know of a general topic (roleplaying, physics) but aren't immersed in it. So, just in case: the GLOG or Goblin Laws of Gaming by Goblin Punch is a trimmed down version of D&D, optimised for speed, improvisation, table rulings over lengthy rule lookups, and customizability.

Original and further posts by Goblin Punch, pirate variation by Skerples, overview of the GLOG's many contributors by DIY and Dragons.

GLOG wizards in particular:
  • come in four levels of power and risk life, limb and soul using magic
  • get one magic die (MD) and one spell slot per power level
  • can use a wand (has one spell memorized) and robes (+1 MD)
  • learn 2 spells at level 1, one spell at each next power level, from a widening spell list (d6&d6,d8,d10,+6 spells from list)
  • invest MD to cast memorized spells in spell slots, which run off the [sum] of the [dice]
  • retain MD that roll 1-3, lose MD that roll 4-6, refresh all after a good night's sleep
  • have always-active perks and drawbacks, and cantrip spells they can cast without using MD


Source: Kevin Keele

PYROMANCER



Fire was the second spirit we made a deal with - ancient, hungry, always in danger of running wild. Orthodox wizards may sling more refined spells, but none with the purity of flame.

Perks: can recover one magic die by starting a fire and tending it for an hour. This is your only way of recovering magic dice.

Drawbacks: smell slightly smoked, cannot eat uncooked food. Forbidden to put out fires and cannot cast fire magic if you are soaking wet. Use the Size of fire table below to determine how many magic dice you lose when hit with an equivalent amount of water. Four buckets of water should drench you, as will a barrel full.

Right off the bat, you're a pyromaniac. You're always fiddling with fire because that is where your power comes from. I'd say that you cannot actively put out a fire with water or sand, but you can let it peter out in a controlled way. You could also stop a forest fire by starting a controlled burn in its path and exhaust the local fuel supply. Your drawback is easy to predict and accessible even for townsfolk: soak the pyro in water so he can't burn you to death.


Cantrips
  1. You can always start a fire, even if the wood is soaked or a gale is blowing.
  2. Snap your fingers to summon a flame the size of a candle's for a second. Cannot deal damage.
  3. Sense the direction and rough distance to the nearest fire.




Useful cantrips, but you'll need them if you want to perform magic. I'd rule you can't start a fire underwater (your drawback would prevent your magic from working), but in a monsoon, you can either keep a tiny flame going or sense the nearest village with a fire pit.

Dawww. Source Nishio Nanora

MISHAPS OF THE PYROMANCER

(On doubles on magic dice; suffer the mishap that matches any matching dice. Yes, 2-2-5-5 makes you suffer two mishaps at the same time.)

  1. MD only return to your pool on a 1-2 for 24 hours 
  2. Take 1d6 damage 
  3. Random mutation for 1d6 rounds, then make a save. Permanent if you fail. 
  4. Burn-out. Cannot regain [dice] for 24 hours. 
  5. Burning agony incapacitates you for 1d6 rounds. 
  6. Bursts of 2d6 fire fly to random flammable targets in 50', 1d6 rounds. 
Mishaps 1-3 are standard; mishaps 4-6 show what happens when you lose control.

DOOM OF THE PYROMANCER

(On triples on magic dice; each time, take the next higher Doom)

  1. Take sufficient fire damage to reduce you to zero HP.
  2. Each time you cast a fire spell, Save Cha or the spell flies out of control and escapes into the world. Treat your spells well, and good luck luring them back into your spellbook.
  3. Fire consumes you.Take enough fire damage to reduce you to a pile of ash. This doom can be avoided by performing a great service to Fire, such as reigniting a dormant volcano or resurrecting the mythical Phoenix bird.
A big goal of senior Pyromancers is to hunt for Phoenix eggs, or to unblock a lava tube. A big goal of non-Pyromancers on the same continent is to stop them.




Size of fire: [dice]
An apprentice can't yet command a forest fire, and even a master will struggle to make a forest fire do their bidding.

  1. torch - can fit in the palm of your hand, perhaps fill a bucket.
  2. campfire - size of a barrel or a small child.
  3. pyre - size of a cart -or a person- requires two hands to control. 
  4. bonfire - size of a cottage, requires two hands and half your movement to control
  5. conflagration - size of a small keep or forest fire, requires two hands and your whole round to control


Anyone else feel cold huh huh huh


Anima banner: your inner fire made manifest
An idea I got while adding images. This fits with Oh Fuck Its A Wizard. As a Pyromancer, fire is in your very soul and the more magic you use, the more this spills out into the waking world. As you cast spells, you will be surrounded with a ghostly image of fire; it doesn't start fires and doesn't burn anything it comes into contact with but it is bright. This anima banner (stolen directly from Exalted) starts as near-invisible flames and blossoms into an iconic image.

When you cast a fire spell, increase your current anima level by the number of [dice].
Anima levels drop by 1 for every scene you're not actively using magic.
  1. From certain angles, a flickering flame seems to dance on your brow. Subsides an hour after you stop using magic.
  2. The soulfire on your brow is visible from across the room. Disadvantage on stealth. Subsides one level a turn after you stop using magic.
  3. Your entire body is enveloped in soulfire bright enough to read by and the flame on your brow is a golden blaze that shines through any covering. Stealth is impossible. Subsides one level a turn after you stop using magic.
  4. You are enveloped by a bonfire from your feet to a foot above your crown. Anything it touches becomes bleached as if left in the sun for may days. Enough light to read by out to 100 feet. Visible a mile away. Subsides one level a turn after you stop using magic.
  5. Your towering soulfire takes the shape of the great spirit of fire that inspires you; for instance, a fiery dragon, a powerful smith, a twisting salamander, a hulking efreet, a golden bull. The spirit moves, observes, responds, but takes no direct actions. The glare is visible for miles. Ghost heat prickles the skin out to a spearcast. Thankfully, subsides one level the next round you use no magic.

Pyromancers should have anima banners that flare up the more [dice] they use. Cool. Let's add that to the class. Image found here

SPELLS



Pyromancer apprentice spells

1. Control fire
Range: 50’
Target: existing fire up to [dice] size
Duration: concentration up to [sum] rounds
  • Shrink a fire up to [dice] size steps down to 1 for [sum] rounds (concentration to maintain)
  • Make a fire grow up to [dice] size steps for [sum] rounds
  • Move a fire up to [dice] size a distance up to your movement speed

Talk to a fire, see if you can get it to do something for you. Note that you can't completely extinguish a fire, and that it's quite easy to make a fire grow out of your control. At least a fire that's too big for its fuel source will burn itself out. (You flame murderer.) Then again, if a bigger fire finds the powder room or dries out the undergrowth enough to catch fire...)





2. Protection from fire
Range: touch
Target: [dice] targets
Duration: 10 minutes / 8 hours
Ignore [sum]+[dice] fire damage for 10 minutes. Alternatively, the spell protects its targets from the negative effects of heat for the next 8 hours.

Was very tempted to make this a higher level power. But I like the idea of wild-eyed apprentices thinking they're now invulnerable to flame.



3. Ignite
Range: 50'
Target: object or creature
Duration: 0
Target takes [sum] damage and catches on fire. Save negates.

Upgraded version of your firestarter cantrip. You need this. Start more fires. Fire fire fire. Yes, this spell as written can set anything on fire. Fires burn out without a fuel source.


Source: GunBooster




4. Ancient Flame
Range: touch
Target: ashes
Cast upon ashes to determine what they were before they were burnt. You can see what happened in the [sum] rounds before the object caught fire. [dice] determines how old the ashes can be:
1 [dice]: a day
2 [dice]: a week
3 [dice]: a year
4 [dice]: a decade
5 [dice]: a century or more

Because fire is more than damage; it's destruction and rebirth. Crazy pyros swirling their hands through ashes and getting wild visions.



5. Wall of Fire
Range: 20’
Target: wall
Duration: 1 minute
You summon fire to form a 10’ by 10’ panel per [dice]. You can mold the wall, similar to cutting holes and notches in a sheet of paper. The wall does not block line of sight. It deals 1d6 fire damage to anything that passes through it. Save vs Dex or be set on fire.

Seen it before? Sure. Love the classics. Fire is beauty. Fire keeps you safe. Build more fires.

6. Fire Sight
Range: 10'
Target: fire you lit from another fire
Duration: concentration
Cast this on a fire you lit from another fire that is still burning. You can see and hear as if you were present at the site of the original fire. At 2 [dice], can speak through the fire (flames take on shape of your face). At 3 [dice], can cast spells on the original fire.

It'll take a bit of setting up, but now you can use fire to scry and cast at a distance. Light the lord's privy council fire with an ember from the kitchen or the smithy. Hear his words, strike him down from afar. Yes, you can multiclass and cast other spells through this link.


Pyromancer adept spells



7. Fireball
Range: 200'
Target: 20' diameter
Duration: 0
Does [sum] fire damage to all objects.

Some schools get fireball only as a legendary spell. Those schools are amateurs who are playing with entirely too little fire.

I'm in love. Found here


8. Black Flame
Range: 50'
Target: fire up to [dice] size
Duration: [dice] hours
Cause a fire equal to or smaller than [dice] size to stop shedding heat or light.

You can not see it,  you cannot feel it. You just hear the crackling of the wood around you and then your skin turns to ash. Light a torch with black flame and wander through the castle.

Source: Lucas Graciano






Master pyromancer spells
 
9. Fiery retribution
Range: self / target within 50'
Duration: [dice] x 10 minutes or depleted
Target who attacks you immediately takes 2x [dice] fire damage. Once this spell has dealt [sum] damage, it ends.
Fire you want fire I will give you fire


10. Unburn
Range: touch
Target: flame
Duration: concentration up to [sum] minutes
Cause a burnt item up to [dice] size to become whole again in [dice] rounds. Target will burn again once you stop concentrating.

Again with the utility magic. Players can peer back in time, disguise stuff they need to smuggle as ash, and so on. Reconstitute ancient warriors from the fire that consumed them. A zombie is a size 3 fire; a skeleton a size two. An ancient fire dragon, burnt out after its death, size 5. Gives you zero control over anything you Unburn.
Source Tavener Scholar

11. Heart fire
Range/target: fire within 50'
Duration: 1 round per [dice] refreshed
Pull fire from a nearby blaze and reshape it. You temporarily refresh a number of MD up to the fire's size-1. These dice remain for [dice] rounds; each round, you lose one of them.


This might be overpowered. I just can't resist the idea of a pyromancer, cornered and exhausted after lighting the castle on fire, nothing left to throw at the guards...and then she sucks in the surrounding blaze. Verges on the edge of extinguishing a fire, so be a good pyromancer and start some fresh fires to make up for that.


Mythical spells

12. Body of Fire
Range: self
Duration: [dice] rounds
You turn into a fire elemental; immune to fire damage, vulnerable to water/cold, touch deals 1d6 fire damage.

I am become FIRE. Cannot fly, cannot enter water, in fact water is now deadly poison to you. But fuck water. Droplets evaporate before they touch you, rain creates a hissing cloud of steam, and it all doesn't matter because you're blazing away like a happy little elemental.


13. Phoenix
Range: within 50' of a bonfire sized fire
Target: self
Duration: special
You can cast this as a reflex when you take enough damage to kill you. Explode in an impressive shower of sparks. If taking [sum] less damage would not have killed you, you reform in 100 / [dice] hour.

Inspired by a psionics power from D&D. Keep some magic dice in reserve to try and cheat death.

I'd rule that savvy enemies who know of this spell can douse your ashes in water to prevent your resurrection. Keep in mind that it's rare and mythical, so they'd have to see it once. If a fire the size of the [dice] you used could be extinguished by the amount of water used, you stay dead.

(Or do you just wait until the ashes dry out? Ancient pyromancers finally reconstituting after the amphora holding their ashes in holy water gets broken by adventurers. "I. I need. I need FIRE." Awesome.)

Found here