Thursday, 18 January 2018

Map and rumors for the jungle

Crashed airship, hideous flesh eating jungle, etc. Here's a nice and vague set of directions for my players. I'll probably make a table with encounters by terrain at some point. Some of the sites mentioned below are sort of pointed out on the map, others they'll just have to find by hunting for rumors.

Anyway, a young and overly dramatic Drow babbles on while he scratches in the dirt:

Resolution is crap but so is the quality of the map they
actually have, so it evens out. Base image from Eberron campaign setting.

On the Hydra [huge-ass river] is where the slave takers [Giant empire] sailed their boats to their palaces. Here we lived in hidden tunnels to serve them without being seen. This is where their princes choked on ashes when the sky fell. No-one knows the cursed treasures that lie there. This is where traders bring strange gifts from far kingdoms. Some who go to trade with them return. No one knows where the Hydra comes from. It flows forever.

Be on the lookout for: drowned cities, giant leeches, water snakes, dinosaurs, ruined palaces, slavers, traders, giant camps, fields of dream flowers, city of the ape lords, isle of enduring light, falls of 1000 ghosts, many-colored frog demons.

This, but more ruins and more cannibals. Maybe you can catch a boat out of here.
Source: DeviantArt / Jordangrimmer

In the jungle were the cities of the slave takers. This is where we served their every wish. These are the places where Vulkoor [the scorpion god] broke their people in his claws and poisoned their blood. There are many places where the slave takers live in their ruins. There are new cities here of other peoples. They do not last. Vulkoor hunts those who band together. 

Be on the lookout for: ruined cities, bands of Drow, scorpions, giants, Druxis of the Serpent Folk, dinosaur boneyards, colony-cities of giant ants, buried armies from 40.000 years ago [Warhammer -40k], fortresses of the ancient war, giant metropolis of Praxirek, the Great Rot.

So much gold. So many stairs. So many traps. So many scorpions.
In the mountains were the forts of the slave takers. This is where they practiced their magic on us. These are the places where they angered Vulkoor. Some still dig for their secrets. They are slaves to what was, but dangerous and strange. The Firebinders use slave taker magic here. The Shadowbinders live in the depths where even we cannot see.

Be on the lookout for: mundo artifacts, city of the Firebinders, Orrax the city of Gold, tunnels of the Shadowbinders, giant cults, giants, giant birds, air whales
Across the mountains lies the great desert. We do not know what sins the slave takers were punished for here. There is no shade from the sun. There is no food but what you fight for. There is no water but what you kill for. But there are creatures here that hunt us for food. We see in the dark but they see in the mind [psionics may be overpowered or weak sauce, but it's definitely awesome].

Be on the lookout for: sandstorms, sandworms, sand giants, sand in your food, sandwalkers, sand people. Also Tri-Khreen.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Manticore is a tool user

Apparently raptors in Australia actively guide wildfires to flush out prey. Two take away messages from this news item: one, wildlife can be canny. Two, this discovery is based on -finally- taking Firehawk stories of Aboriginal peoples seriously. As one news article puts it online: they probably already knew this for 40.000 years. (Yes, Australia has been inhabited for that long.)

Back to the firehawks. Groups of kites and falcons have been observed (although not on camera - more research needed) to carry flaming branches in their beaks, light fires, and feast on escaping insects and other animals. Does it count as tool use? Or just clever use of the environment? In any case, let's look at some of the tricks that D&D monsters have up their sleeves.

Rust monster - prunes mushrooms into circles to attract faeries. Faeries are allergic to cold iron. Questing knights will bring said substance, i.e., teh nom. Faeries safe, rust monster sated, knight set back 1500gp for full plate armor but he can increase taxes.

Basilisk - hunt rust monsters for metal-dissolving antennae. Uses to peel petrified knights out of inedible metal armors.

Manticore - hates and loves to hate. Functionally immortal, so -like oozes- takes a long term view. Protects trade caravans, shipping expeditions, clears obstacles for long distance travel. Arranges for assassins to take out war hungry nobles, increases standards of living, supports the arts. All so more people have more opportunity to come into contact with fresh new ideas and take up NEW FUCKING HIPSTER HOBBIES FOR IT TO HATE

Stirge -  nests have been seen planting seeds and redirecting streams to increase plant growth and get a nice, humid area where people like to take some clothes off.

Ooze - slowly etch dungeons into the rock, herd in monsters, treasure. Once murderhobo-occupant relation takes hold, feast on victims and thus create more hygienic environment for occupant numbers to rebound. Mimics - a type of ooze - may infiltrate nearby towns and inspire the locals to set up a Murderhobo economy.

Bulette - play with stone and mud to arrange difficult terrain for topside prey. Blow rock vortices at surface folk. Create dry sand traps.

Dragon turtle - grinds up corals, bleaches in stomach and uses resulting sand to create immaculate white beaches for egg laying. Paradisical environs attract sun worshiping hedonists as baby's first NOM for when it exits its shell. Takes care to break up reefs near the coast so escapees face slow going back to their ships.

Kraken - bonsai gardens sargassos, fuels ocean currents, stirs whirlpools, binds elementals to create underwater volcanos - anything for another hilarious shipwreck.

Gnome - has craftily infiltrated society by learning to mimic its sounds - such as speech. Serves as a display to attract mates and allows parasitic occupancy of cities.

Lyrebird (Australia again)

Friday, 5 January 2018

Jungle Trek session 1 - grocery trip

Jungle Trek: they crashed their airship in the middle of the jungle, now they want to get back home. Here's the first session report on how the players made friends and met the wildlife. It's long - I added DM notes and thoughts in between the log. Shorter? Less blathering in between? Comments please!


Don't leave your healer out at night, displacer beasts might catch him; I suck at making being held up with a knife sound scary; when the Druid says that, amazingly, you're a sentient instead of an animal, don't gripe, you just avoided becoming dinner; I hate how Pathfinder gives characters stuff for free that I'd happily have written an adventure about; when the dirty old treant offers you his fruit, don't take a bite but use a whip; and finally, it's remarkably easy to get a hippo bull to charge but don't expect it to be able to trample you to death. Also, swanky new tattoos.

Two weeks I spend writing up hex generators and random
encounters, and in the end I just quick-sketch an area map with
mostly planned content. Valuable lesson there - will expand
in a later post. Note the illegible cartoons of salamanders and
scorpions all around the map.

The crash survivors

  • Indiana Gnoll - male Gnoll ranger. Whip. Deranged laugh. [player: Robert]
  • Woody the Warforged Wizard - fucking guess [player: Bas]
  • Drake - male human healer [NPC]
  • Eorie - female human rogue [NPC]
  • Santash - male kalashtar psion who fell off the Peryton but managed to shove his mind into his psicrystal [NPC]
  • Emalyse Hargo - female crewgnome who fled the Peryton before the crash on an unknown elemental-powered contraption [NPC]

The dead

  • Captain Orsken Maine - male Half-Orc professor at Morgrave University
  • Enzo Biscotti d'Sivis - male Gnome communications expert, House Sivis
  • ...and 22 other NPCs to be detailed later

What happened last game

Players explored the crash site of the Peryton on the slope of a smoldering volcano - no survivors. Basic survival gear, the ship's compass and maps, and its long-range communication item are taken.

And a shit-ton of magical gear, Pathfinder PCs of level 5 starting off with several thousands of gold pieces worth of loot. Retire already!

The four lift a ring of petrification from captain Orsken Maine's decapitated statue - which turns back into flesh when the ring is jacked. Resident psycrystal Santash catches a final thought in the captain's head: "throw the box into the fire". Off they go to break into the captain's safe.

Seriously, I don't know why I even bothered with that hint, they were probably going to loot the captain's safe anyway. Come to think of it, I might have thrown them off of investigating exactly why the Peryton crashed...

BOOMING RETROACTIVE DM VOICE: you find a mysteeeerious box clamped around a pylon on the engineering deck. Looks out of place, once you pry it open you see it contains crystals and runes and shit to break enchantments. Probably why the fire elemental broke loose. Funny thing is, the magic isn't written in Draconic but in some weird other language. OOO MYSTERYYY!!!

...yeah, back to our scheduled programming:

The captain's safe is trapped of course, but not lethally.

I'm a big softy (and I was saving up the nasty for later.)

Inside, the players find a slightly better map puzzle box decorated with symbols of the Silver Flame. The puzzle box has a multicolored feather, which gives oracular answers (and a weekly contact other plane), automatic writing style. Box closed, no signs of magic; box open, and any magic user gets all tingly with the mad mojo in the feather.

Yer basic "we need to dispose of this horrid relic somewhere - you fly to a volcano and throw it in" plot. I was short on time when the previous game TPKed and I had to whip up something new.

Meanwhile, brave lookout Drake is ambushed by a displacer beast, goes down shrieking and the party investigates. Motivation is high on all sides: the cat and its mate need the kibble, the party doesn't want to see their only healer get eaten half an hour into their first session. Some killer magic and whip-work see the displacer beasts off, and then it's time to clutz their way through old-fashioned first aid to wake up the healer who can magic wounds away.

Uninspired mix of body parts or incredibly annoying ambush predator that magically makes you see it where it isn't?
They may not have expected this D&D critter in their Pathfinder game, but that sure wasn't going to stop me.
Welcome in Xen'drik, where everything wants to eat you.

At this point, we're an hour into the first session. After a near-fatality, the party decide to hole up in the wreck of their airship. Shenanigans happen when the gnoll PC designates the remains of the crew fair game to use as rations. It's fine, I'll just adjust their morale modifier. But my bigger problem is that I want them moving; so I roll to see which of the three factions in the area gets to the ship first.

First natives to investigate the crash site is a mixed group of dark elves. A couple wearing bronze armor ride a miniature airship with a cute little fire elemental and has a face suspiciously like escaped crewgnome Emalyse Hargo. Others wear furs, leather and chitin, marked with a couple of different clan sign. Unfriendly folk, who are turning the wreck inside out and start right at the captain's quarters.

No, a different flying ship - oh, forget about it.
(La Chasse Galerie - Wikimedia)

Players still waiting to see what happens. They decide to watch from the shadows. I decide to pick up the pace. Stealth check, perception check...

You can tell us if you
are Firebinders. We will
know when you are.
Are you Firebinders?
From here.
A group of Drow in leather and yet another clan sign surprises the group, they talk via the wizard's magic, and all decide to make off before the "Firebinders" notice them.

NOT happy with this scene. The initial "Drow pops up behind you with knife at your throat" felt too much like a capture scene, and players loathe those. It didn't feel dangerous - no OMG this guy could kill me - but like a chore. Needs work.

Drow scout speaks! (Are you Firebinders? Your ship is Firebinder craft. Do you serve the Firebinders? Which Firebinder did you steal it from? How do you feel about Firebinders? Are there many where you are from? With the constant looking at the jugular and other sweet spots.)

Indy and Woody deny that they are Firebinders themselves, say that they come from far far away, where a people called Gnomes use Firebinder magic to make ships fly. Because fuck Gnomes and their unreliable binding stones, that's why.

What the hey, the Drow scouts are done with this scene as much as the players are and it's off through a dark scorpion-infested jungle to see the wiz---leader of their Broken Pincer clan.

We're an hour or two into the session (with a lot of sneaking and dialogue) and it feels like time for the players to have some more action and a chance to do instead of being done to. So I soften up on the whole suspicious native angle and usher them into a not-too-unfriendly Drow village.

Tribal leader welcomes the group, they muck around in a couple of languages because the wizard's Tongues spell is long-gone, there's a wonderful bit of diplomatic incident when he tries Giant (of course they speak the language of these ancient slavetakers) but in the end the group is welcomed and get asked what the f*** they're doing in our jungle, thank you?

Local Drow custom is to only give your name as a sign of surrender, or as a sign that you are sure in your strength to defend it. This means that I only have to indicate tribe members by role or description, not by name. Much easier to DM on the fly.

In a hilarious aside, the tribe's druid tries Speak with Animals on the Gnoll, which doesn't work, after which Indiana gets a chit saying he's a bona-fide sentient. Money passes hands in the audience as the losers pay their debts. Gnoll steams but decides not to massacre entire Drow camp for snacks.

Sentient my ass.
Gnoll Defenders by BenWootten

I really had to send some interaction this player's way - it may be realistic to have the local tribe not speak fluent Common, but it sure is annoying. Next level, I see people investing in learning Drow. Am not going to introduce bable fish or somesuch - let them muck about. The Gnoll is already trying if people speak Gnoll, Lizardfolk or Goblin. Have decided that Lizardfolk is a distant cousin to Serpentfolk, and of course there are Serpentfolk in the jungle. Don't eat their flowers.

What do you know? If the strangers really want to travel far to the north, and if they're willing to perform a slight service, the Broken Pincer will be delighted to help them on their way. Turns out there's a youth on the rite of adulthood who has bitten off more than he can chew; he was supposed to go out for fruit, but never came back. The Drow can't help him during this rite of adulthood, but if some stranger were to help out...

This, the party feels, sounds like an excellent opportunity to show their worth. Could they perhaps escort said youngling back to camp? And this would be utterly delightful to the Drow.

Heigh-ho, it's down a steep cliff via slippery steps and across some rapids, with hilarious falling damage and being swept away by the river at the bottom, but everybody survives although their dignity doesn't, but nobody here knows them so it's all a wash. Plus, fast-moving water so less leeches.

Scene needed better description though. I wasn't in the game this session - felt unprepped, had to think hard to give responses or describe scenery.
Google giant leeches. I dare you. Or clicky. Via

As an aside, our ranger has jungle as a favored terrain and it turns out some rule variant says he can have the entire party leave no tracks for as long as he wants. Honestly, this bugs me so much about Pathfinder, D&D3.X and VDND - not this single class option, but the enormous heap of powers and tricks that get piled onto even a beginning character, every level again.

Stretching the time a summon spell lasts, hiding your party's trail from even the best of trackers, inflicting bleed damage with a sneak attack? Skills like that should be the reward for an adventure, not a basic package you get just for levelling up like every other shmuck. Because it turns those awesome powers into the basic expected power set for every PC and NPC, something not earned but just picked out of a list. 

I know I could rule that sorry, power just doesn't work in this jungle. But I'd have to rewrite every bit of a Pathfinder class until I liked it and at that point, better start typing up my Fantasy Heartbreaker (it's basically D&D with Goblin Punch spellcasting). We chose Pathfinder as this campaign's rule system because the players really preferred it over VDND - and hey, it's their game as much as mine.

Maybe I've just been reading too many OSR blogs.

Jinmenju - via
Anyway. In the swamp down the cliffs, there's a tree with delicious fruit - the Drow youth was sent to get one of the fruits and bring it back to camp. Little detail left out? The tree is sentient, mobile, and sadistic. Having caught the Drow under a root a while back, it now dangles its sick head shaped fruits right out of reach.

A buzzing sound from the tree works its way into the characters' heads and turns into a lechy old guy's voice - some sort of telepathy. (Anyhing but more translating!) Sure, Jinmenju will let the kid go. But Jimnenju will need a gift if he has to give up this tasty snack. Perhaps one of the little grey things from the lake to the west?

Also this as a close-up. Via Lynne's Images (Flickr)

...which turn out to be hippos. Indy and Woody are smart and know that hippos are no joke. Getting run over by a hippo is not good, getting bitten is also not good, basically hippo = bad news, but it's either lure in the alpha male of the herd or fight the tree for the Drow kid.

Plan A is for Woody the wizard to just summon a hippo via magic and offer it to the tree. However the tree sounds smart, the spell only lasts for half a minute, and after some debate they don't think they can pull it off. Plan B then: Indiana Gnoll will try and bellow a challenge to the alpha hippo, hopefully get 2 tons of enraged herbivore to charge after him a bit, then hide and sneak ahead, rinse and repeat.

I gleefully prepare the trample rules. Woefully unimpressive, by the book the hippo wouldn't be able to kill even the wizard with its puny 1d8+6 trample damage. 1d6+Con bonus of hit points per level just sucks all the joy out of a DMs life. Maybe I missed a multiplier somewhere. Yeah, that's got to be it - x4 "because it would be hilarious to see you get smeared into a paste and because hippopotami should be feared, dammit" bonus. Issue resolved. But it never comes up because the ranger manages to outwit the furious alpha male.

Tough dice rolls are no obstacle - the Gnoll pulls off the scheme and delivers the giant hippo right to the Jinmenju tree. Which rips the giant beast down to half its hit points in a single attack. Party finally gets how effing out of their league they are against this creature. This ain't no level appropriate challenge. But the tree does need all its roots to handle the hippo, and lets the Drow kid go. Indiana Gnoll even gets to show off his whip skills and brings back one of the tree's fucked up fruits.

I swear I wasn't planning on making this a story on dirty old men kidnapping kids for sick kicks. Just rolled out of the map that way. What issue do the Drow have? Must be something they can't solve it themselves - some taboo with an adulthood rite. Ok, what's in the area that's dangerous? Oh yeah, the 13 hit die tree with the smelly hypnotic fruit. What could it want - what else is in the area? Lake with hippos. Presto.
I wrap up the game because it's getting late: back in the Broken Pincer camp, the players are welcomed as friends this time. They'll get a guide (same Drow they just saved - he has some shame to work off) and directions on what lies ahead.

For their services, all (N)PCs get a swanky Broken Pincer tattoo of a cracked scorpion claw, which will give a once-in-a-lifetime bonus on grapple checks. For instrumental Gnollery, Indiana's version is upgraded to a single shot Freedom of Movement spell.

He'll need it.

Friday, 29 December 2017

20 questions about the party jungle

Jeff Rients' famous 20 questions about your campaign 

Not your standard campaign with the home base and exploring the local dungeons and schemers - my players want to make it back to civilization after crashing in the heart of the jungle continent Xen'Drik.

What is the deal with my cleric's religion?
Atheist scum that they are, my players picked up a bargain wand of cure light wounds for the ranger. They're not a religiously minded bunch.

Religion in Xen'Drik is fun. The Drow worship Vulkoor the Scorpion, who comes in the flavours of "the cunning hunter", "the devourer of all outlanders" and "the patron of forgotten secrets". There's some links with the worship of the Mockery from more civilized Khorvaire, but banking on what your catechismus told you is a sure way to end up as dinner. In addition, expect mundo totem worship. Degenerate drow, giant and serpent folk tribes will happily worship weirdo spirits or powerful con men. Frogmen and Mantisfolk are big on ancestor worship. What the giant ants and walking fungus pray to is anyone's guess.

The T.Rex are agnostic.

Where can we go to buy standard equipment?
The city of Stormreach is 2500 miles of steaming hell jungle due north. Plenty of time to think of what you want to buy. Meanwhile, why not trade with the local tribes? No, they're not interested in gold. Perhaps you can clear some uppity wildlife from the sacred burial grounds instead.

Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?
Your thinking, I like it. Dark Sun-style, your best bet is to find a tribe that can work in chitin or that can skin a Triceratops. Next, you'll have to find an outsized member of the local fauna to turn into plate armor...

Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?
Whether the Lady of Tangled Virtues in her spiderfooted hut is a witch, a spirit or a myth is a popular topic of debate. During daytime, with no spiders or pools of water around. Otherwise it's a toss-up between the giant Ulgo Storm Preacher and the Firebinder Drow Vertess.

Who is the greatest warrior in the land?
Jaghaz King of Apes is rumored to have personally throttled a T Rex. You'll find this four-armed gorilla in the cursed city of Usaro on Lake Ocota.

Who is the richest person in the land?
 In terms of gold, that'd be Thelonius Aurelius Maurin, sponsored by the Crown of Aundair to explore the fabled riches of Xen'Drik for the homeland. Theo is currently the sole living occupant of Orrax, the fabled City of Gold. His role will soon be taken over by the Voice of Many, the other occupant of Orrax.

Where can we go to get some magical healing?
Witches, wise folk, speakers for the land, restorative magic streams - there's no cure-o-mat temples or healbot clerics around, if that's what you're asking. You'll have to chat with druggy weirdoes and bargain with spirits to cure your ills.

Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath? 
Poison: ask the drow who poisoned you whether they know an antidote. Bring (don't harm) the scorpion or brightly colored frog for reference.
Disease: best to just amputate or burn the afflicted area.
Curse: either make friendly with the local wise folk, or find out what you did to anger the hungry ghosts. Probably a good idea to put that gold statuette back in the crypt where you found it.
Level drain: You're in luck - Xen'Drik offers plenty of opportunities to regain experience!
Lycanthropy: I can understand why you'd want to get rid of that, there being 13 moons and all, but consider the advantages of regenerating and being able to pose as an animal. Unless your animal form looks edible to the local giant tribe.
Alignment change: act as you want. Alignment isn't a big issue in this game. (He said, and was blindsided when the party Gnoll turned the deceased crew into rations.)
Death: in a couple of hours, life will spring from your body again. If you're looking to bring back your character from the dead, keep looking. Resurrection is notoriously hard in the world of Eberron. If you're willing to do without details such as breathing, make a deal with a nice necromancer. Wasn't there a Karrnathi expedition nearby?
Undeath: a nice axe to the face often helps.

Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?

Civilization in Xen'Drik is pretty isolated - there's no continent spanning network of spellcasters. Trade or steal from the locals, or loot them from the ancient giant ruins. The Firebinder and Umbragen drow have impressive libraries of spells, but as an outlander the only way you'll get to see them is as a spell component.

Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?
This is getting repetitive - the Drow tribes are not exactly university schooled, but they do have a couple of wise folk that can help you out. You'll find more classic sages in the few cities of Xen'Drik, if you can stomach the rabid xenophobia.

Where can I hire mercenaries?
If you can befriend the local tribe, they'll probably send a couple of warriors with you. Don't expect to pay them in gold, and don't expect them to travel far outside their tribal lands.

Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?
Law? The nearest city is Druxis of the Serpents, where mammals are expected to wear their slave collars with pride.

Which way to the nearest tavern?
I've made the Stormreach joke already - travelers and traders are welcomed in the camps and towns of the Basket, a loose federation of trading towns near the Hydra river. Local tribes tend to be wary of visitors (or plain hostile / too welcoming. Insert "please stay for dinner" joke here.)

What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?
Plenty! We've got giant dinosaurs, ravenous plants, telepathic fungi...what's your pleasure? Think ahead and collect freaky mementoes to show off with.

Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?
Wars is a big word. Ongoing conflict between almost everyone on the map? That we got. The giants hate everyone who reminds them how far they've fallen, the Vulkoor Drow hate the giants for enslaving them, the Sul'atar despise the other Drow for betraying their giant overlords, the Giant Ants just want everything to be nice and ordered...pick a settlement, any settlement, and they'll have a grudge against someone.

How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?
Most tribes will be happy to prove their braves against you. Or have you prove your strength by eradicating irksome arcanofungi from the hunting grounds. As for cash prizes: even better, they'll give you swanky new tattoos or fetishes from the monsters you've killed!

Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?
Are there fuck! An exciting new cult is the Ashen Lotus, which manages to bring together Drow, Serpentfolk and even a few giants. They'll contact you soon enough.

What is there to eat around here?
Plenty! Check out the awesome Coins and Scrolls for a gourmet guide to the monster manual. I'm thinking of a spin-off post called "Snorting Your Way Through the Monster Manual". Stay tuned.

Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?
You literally have no concept of how much gold there is in the city of Orrax. Rumor has it that the ancient Giant capitol of Pra'Xi'Rek is an even bigger find of artifacts.

Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?
(I'll confess I had to look up what Type H treasure is. Best I can find online is "big hoard" - I started playing with AD&D 2nd edition, only started DMing with D&D 3rd edition and usually ignored the random treasure tables.)

That said: seriously steer clear of the Isle of Enduring Light in the Hydra river. It is said that a beast the size of a small hill protects a hidden treasure vault from the Age of the Titans.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Gear and loot in the hell jungle

My players - voluntarily - chose to be crashlanded in the middle of Xen'drik, continent of wonders and adventure. Also murderous Drow. Giants. Giant-sized temples covered in gems and gold. Giant-sized traps. But I digress.

The setup

The privately-owned airship Peryton just crashed on a mountainside during its epic adventure to discover the mythic southern coast of Xen'drik. While pondering exactly how the fire elemental got loose from the propulsion ring, a couple of survivors are scavenging the wreck.

You are...X here. Good luck.

The survivors

  • Indiana Gnoll - male Gnoll ranger. Whip. Deranged laugh. [player: Robert]
  • Woody the Warforged Wizard - fucking guess [player: Bas]
  • Drake - male human healer [NPC]
  • Eorie - female human rogue [NPC]
  • Santash - male kalashtar psion who fell off the Peryton but managed to shove his mind into his psicrystal [NPC]
  • Emalyse Hargo - female crewgnome who fled the Peryton before the crash on an unknown elemental-powered contraption

The dead

  • Captain Orsken Maine - male Half-Orc professor at Morgrave University
  • Enzo Biscotti d'Sivis - male Gnome communications expert, House Sivis
  • ...and 22 other NPCs to be detailed later

You just crashed your airship on a volcano slope in Xen'drik, a year away by foot from your civilisation's nearest outpost, and this is what you could scavenge from the wreck*

* In my day job, I decode academic papers into press releases. This title would be considered overly short and on the nose for a science paper. More on that whenever I get my other blog on nuclear propulsion off the ground.

Available for free
(Although it will add to your inventory and encumbrance)
  • Ring of petrification (turns wearer into statue until removed)
  • Sending stone, cracked (for long range communication) - 1/2 inventory slot
  • House Sivis sending log, encoded - 1/2 inventory slot
  • Navigator's kit & logbook (sextant, rough maps, points of interest) - 1 inventory slot
  • Ship's compass - 1 inventory slot
Equipment you can salvage
NPC henchmen: 400 gp worth of gear (includes weapons, armor)
PCs: 9400 gp worth of gear (again, includes weapons and armor)

You can of course pool resources. No single item with a cost over 8000 gp though. Note that any spare coinage will probably be worth jack in the jungle. Best invest in some trade goods. (Post with horrible stuff to lug around to follow!)

Just so you guys don't have to look it up:
Masterwork armor +150 gp (armor check penalty 1 lower, can be enchanted)
Masterwork weapon +300 gp (attack roll 1 higher, can be enchanted)

In case you want to loot the ship mage's book
Spellbook: 15gp
Adding spells to spellbook:
  • cantrip 10 gp
  • 1st level 20 gp
  • 2nd level 80 gp
  • 3rd level 180 gp (max. 2 spells)
  • 4th level 320 gp (max. 1 spell)

This stuff might be useful, or not - feel free to buy
  • Bedroll 1 sp - 1 inventory slot
  • Rations/day 5 sp - see Usage dice (d4-d6-d8 1 slot; d10-d12-d20 2 slots)
  • Waterskin 1 gp - see Usage dice (d4-d6-d8 1 slot; d10-d12-d20 2 slots)
  • Flint & steel 1 gp - small item (5/inventory slot)
  • Rope (50ft) 1 or 10 gp (hemp/silk) (d4-d6 1 slot; d8-d10 2 slots; d12-d20 3 slots)
  • Tent 10 gp - 1 inventory slot
  • Hammock 3 gp - 1 inventory slot
  • Everburning torch 110 gp - small item (5/inventory slot)
  • Antitoxin 50 gp - small item (5/inventory slot)
  • Healer's kit 50 gp - 1 inventory slot
  • Wand of Cure Light Wounds (1d8+1, 50 charges) 750 gp - small item (5/inventory slot)

Sunday, 12 November 2017

The long haul - encumbrance and inventory

Last session saw a slight case of total party wipe-out. We're now setting up a completely new campaign: a jungle adventure on Eberron's continent of Xen'drik. And when I say "jungle adventure", feel free to read "exhausting slog through vicious wet murder-forest with increasingly deranged inhabitants". Sort of like Dark Sun with more plants. For this campaign, I want to track carrying capacity, inventory management and foraging in a bit more detail than usual.

The system of choice for this campaign will be Pathfinder, because of its many options and fiddly bits for players. I'm drawing the line at using the standard D&D/Pathfinder per-gram inventory system. There's much sleeker stuff to be found in the OSR-blogs.

Sources: Raging Owlbear, Goblin Punch, Games with Others, the Black Hack (usage die).

What you can carry

  • You have an amount of inventory slots equal to your strength. Most items (shields, one-handed weapons, a crowbar or lantern) take up 1 slot. This is more a function of unwieldiness than basic weight.
  • Two-handed weapons and medium armor take up two slots, heavy armors take up four.
  • Sets of up to 5 smaller items (pitons, potions, arrows, coinage) can be bundled in packs that take up 1 inventory slot. See below under Usage die.
  • Of your [strength] inventory slots, dexterity/2 (round down) are quick-access slots. Use these for items you need to find at a moment's notice, such as weapons or potions. These are easy to access (free as part of a move or standard action) but are also vulnerable.
  • All other items are assumed to be in containers, bundles or your backpack. They are stored more safely but take d6 x 10 movement to dig out (half if you just spill everything on the ground).

Light encumbrance.

Bundles of small items

  • Jewelry and other ultra-light materials don't need to be tracked via inventory slots.
  • Coins and gems run to 300 per inventory slot. 250 gold pieces + 300 copper pieces = 2 inventory slots. And if you find gems big enough to break this rule, rejoice. Also, run from the inevitable horde of cultists whose temple you just robbed.
  • Some items are small and light enough that it takes 5 of them to fill up an inventory slot: for example, daggers, vials and flasks, scroll cases, pens and signal whistles.


  • Not encumbered: carrying up to [strength] inventory slots worth of items. Use only the armor check penalty from your armor or shield.
  • Encumbered: carrying up to 5 more items. Movement speed -10. Dex and strength based skills take a -5 penalty. Maximum dex bonus to AC is 3. (Use this or your armor check penalty, whichever is worse).
  • Heavily encumbered: carrying up to 10 more items than your strength. Movement speed becomes 5. Maximum dex bonus to AC is 0. Penalty to dex and strength skills becomes -10. (Use this or your armor check penalty, whichever is worse).


Consumable items

Many small items are perishables or consumeables. Examples: ammunition, rations, ink, oil, paper, parchment, pitons, rope (50ft), wax, soap (for gods sake stock up on soap), torches.

Rather than track each arrow and drop of ink, or foot of rope, we'll borrow the usage die from the Black Hack. This goes from d20-d12-d10-d8-d6-d4-gone. After intensive use (for instance writing for ink; exploring with torches; rope climbing; shooting arrows; eating), roll the usage die and on a result of 1-2, decrease the die to the next lower step. A roll of 1-2 on 1d4 means your resource is gone. Usage dice d4, and d8 take up 1 slot. Usage dice d10 and d12; d20 takes up 3 slots.
Cost per die size: d4 - regular price; every step thereafter: price x2.
Quiver of arrows / case of crossbow bolts: regular price buys you usage die d12.

Gruesomely expensive items such as magic potions or magic arrows are tracked per item. What, keeping track of how many +5 godbothering arrows you have is too much work? 

Extra inventory slots

  • A traveling backpack adds 2 inventory slots without triggering encumbrance (below). A fancy bandolier or belt with pouches and straps adds 1 quick-access slot. Does not add to the total inventory slots. You can use either a backpack or a bandolier/belt, not both.
  • A Bag of Holding takes up 1-4 inventory slots and has internal space for 5/10/20/30 slots. And it will cost you a fortune to get one. Put a Bag of Holding in a quick access slot to have all its contents available as quick access items.


Damaging stuff

(You can thank Goblin Punch.)
If you fail a save and get crushed by rocks, torched by a dragon, sprayed with acid or other unconventional forms of greeting in Xen'drik, the DM rolls 2d8:
  • doubles: count this number upwards from the bottom of the backpack (and continue into quick access slots). This item gets damaged (a multiple-slot items such as a medium armor counts as one).
    Roll 2,2: damage the second-lowest item in the backpack.
  • different numbers: take the lowest of the two, count down this many slots from your topmost quick access slot (continuing into the backpack) and this item gets damaged.
    Roll 5,7: damage the 5th item down on your list.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

That's a first: total party kill

Just when they have me resigned to the fact that even over-challenge-rating monsters cannot bring down even one of them, a couple of lowly Ettercaps bring down my entire group of regular players. May actually be the first time I wiped out the entire party - and I had to fight my instinct to have the monsters spare a couple of players all the way. New game: still Eberron, different continent.

From. Also I need this on a shirt.

No but seriously tell us about the party kill

First the group decides to go into a ready-to-collapse underground medical horror show (courtesy some wayward Halfling healers). They already know there's a rapidly regenerating troll down there. Rogue sneaks off and finds the troll at half hit point maximum and raiding the kitchen to restock calories after regenerating from a cubic inch of meat. Of course, he tries to one-shot the thing with three flaming arrows.

He's going to hunt down
their next characters.
Source: Caio Monteiro / DeviantArt

This, to put it mildly, does not go according to plan. The pretty wounded troll ducks into cover (darting out to grab a tasty chicken leg) and waits for regeneration to kick in. The rogue decides to walk up and stab him with a flaming arrow. The troll, not being stupid (actually a kidnapped envoy from very nice people would not say a bad thing about them lovely folks the three of them), is holding a readied action to clawclawbite the fuck out of anything that shows its face. And it shows its face and said face is ripped off and that's pretty much it for the rogue. Rest of the party rolls up and using judicious amounts of magic, mauls and firewood to kill the troll. Rogue miraculously does not die but is save via divine intervention, Blood of Vol style. Party cleric/wizard feels pretty good about those 1d4+2 hit points he tosses around the room into his body. Entire dungeon collapsed via explosive runes-based safety system. Suspicions of troll quietly regenerating below.

Travel actually was the safest part of the adventure

Players then decide to take a trip cross country to the Whisper Woods, where someone named the Seven dispenses prophecy. Run into a nice random encounter during a storm with a messed up Dwarf building a tower which is so unstable it will float up to heaven. Dwarf hireling is staring wide-eyed at the mad masonry while making "let's take our chances with the lightning storm" sounds.

No violence erupted. Was saving up for more violence later.

Hex map: Whisper Forest

Players roll up to Whisper Forest, which I've remade from the standard book, dumped pretty much everything already written about it, and turned it into "three evil fairy sisters inhabit these woods with their minions". Crazy coincidence: I've only taken the concept of "dangerous forest with prophetic witch" from the Eberron book, haven't looked at the map for months but somehow generated a forest pretty much the same shape as in the official map. Scaled to 1/4 size because  Huh.

Source: layout mine, ideas all over the place, map Hexographer

Party unwinds in local inn, where their necromancer picks up a nice countryman hireling who is totally not Ein Member of ze Emerald Claw, ach mein Herrgot nein! But secretly is.

Then into the woods it is, with first careful exploration of a densely webbed forest edge, then a run to a vacated shack where they get ambushed by 3 Ettercaps. They chose a pretty easy approach - there were wereboars and basilisks and Dryads and a shitload of Mephits and dark fairy-themed hexes in there. Somehow I get the idea the party did not see this encounter as easy, with them getting eated and all.

I should mention that one Ettercap is listed as a level 2 monster, the party consists of 2 PCs at level 4 and 2 hirelings at level 2. They get surprised, stuck to the walls of the shack with webs, then poisoned and clawed and poisoned so more. They never regain the initiative, some pop up after getting healed again and are then taken down hard, and in couple of rounds the party is dead - long live the party.

Ettercaps: these fuckers. (bilingual bonus:
in Dutch, "etter"means both "pus" and "dipshit")
Found at Ettercap Evolution /

Want to go back?

We break for dinner (goooood peanut soup) and a short scene where the players think they wake up in the desolate afterlife...only to discover they're back in a creepy Ravenlofty demiplane (like this but with a train station on the side of an ever-growing pit and a city hanging off of chains above it) and if they just make this tiny deal with the realm's Dark Lord...

New adventures forthcoming. Follow the hapless survivors of the Peryton Expedition!

In the end we decide to stick with Eberron, ditch 5th Edition for Pathfinder (more options for the players, more headache for the DM ;) and roll up new characters who are the only survivors of an airship crash in mysterious jungle/dark elf/giant-filled Xen'Drik.

Jungle trip! C'mon, it'll be fun.
Source: Igor Chakal / DeviantArt.

Where to find the new characters? Their airship The Peryton went down - possibly sabotaged - "right below the D", as the players spout out before checking the scale of the map. That's fine by me. Now they have to walk 2500 miles of hell-jungle to the outpost of Stormreach. Their posessions: a cracked sending stone which can maybe pass messages, a psion sage who fell of the airship but managed to cram part of his mind into his psicrystal, and a ring that turns the wearer into stone until it is removed somehow.

Happy camping.

So a Warforged Wizard, Indiana Gnoll and two hirelings
are stranded right below the D and have to make their
way back to civilisation. Or any kind of safety, really.