Monday 30 April 2018

DIY dungeon dice

Rainy weekend over here with nothing much planned, so an excellent time for us to arts&crafts ourselves our own dungeon dice - inspiration from Dyson. Here's our 5x5 cm geomorphs on grid paper. Roll the dice, arrange top sides as you like, and there's your quickie dungeon.

About productivity. In one day, I managed two of these cubes with little mini-dungeons on each side. My wife made four in the same afternoon, three more the day after, and is now experimenting with a version in wood, either to stamp or to shape clay. I stand in awe.

Friday 27 April 2018

1000 Ghost Falls: landmarks and treasures

Part three of 1000 Ghost Falls. Part one: huge waterfall uncovering and demolishing an ancient city, with raiding parties looking for loot in the ruins. Part two: flying eels hibernating in the mud before they eat your mind and spin a delicious cocoon. In this last post, there's landmarks for the dig and treasures to find.

By the way, here's a great page with real world ancient finds.


The explorers of 1000 Ghost Falls have uncovered a bit of the city's history; thousands of centuries ago, a race of protogiants built one of their first bronze age cities when they were graced by visiting Guests from the stars or another plane. Trade of tools and knowledge started, and the Guests used their arts to uplift certain protogiants. The result was an upper caste of larger, vividly colored protogiants with three eyes and radially symmetric hands (like the gripper of a plushie grabbing machine).

Putting uppity baselines in their place.
(Yoko Tsuno panels - found here)

Once you lift up one group of servants,
they can help and teach the uninitiated.

The green obelisks

Meanwhile, in the spirit world.
(Deviantart / StephenGarrett1019)
Three sided pillars of greenish stone capped with a charcoal metal pyramid found in separate districts of the city. The sides of the pillars are inscribed with glyphs describing the benevolent Advisor to the local population, a tally of gifts rendered unto them, and the deeds performed by uplifted locals in service to the advisor. Each obelisk cries out in the mind the first time light touches it after at least a few hours of darkness. Psions of the Fortunate Peony Blossom can distinguish flavors in the cries and are starting to decypher messages exchanged by the obelisks. The first time a new obelisk comes to light after ages under the falls, the shriek can cause catatonia or even a permanent coma - suffer 5d6 Wisdom damage, -1d6 per 100 yard distance (Will save 20 to halve the damage). Lost Wisdom returns at a rate of 1 point per day.

The Oval

A large oval open space 150 x 250 foot across, surrounded with large basins and the remains of great columns. At the centre a mosaic that depicts a globe with unfamiliar continents and paths between them. Precious stones used to mark the sites of what is thought to have been cities.
Someone who can replace the gem corresponding to the alien Guests' origin on the map finds a mechanism to open up a doorway beneath the mosaic. The gem is not on site any more and was sold to a trader in Stormreach decades ago.

The Bathhouse

A stone and metal dome 150 feet across and 50 high at the top has broken long ago. Inside are large basins connected in a network that extends deep underground. A double helix hallway descends from the center of the structure, one strand a staircase and one strand a smooth tube. Egg-shaped basins connect to the smooth tube, the staircase to flat floored rooms in between the basins, with incredibly hard and thick glass windows between the two sets of rooms. Decorative carvings with an under water theme, mosaics of night skies and continents subtly altered in shape fill the rooms. Water and mud still fills many basins and has seeped into the rooms for air breathers. Many treasures can be found here, and passages to other sites under the city. The theory is that the Bathhouse was an embassy or government centre for the city's water breathing Guests. Lower levels are unexplored due to Ghost infection.

The Bronze King

Found here
In a pentagon building ringed with the remains of fluted minnaret towers is a courtyard. Here kneels a brass statue of a protogiant, arms lowered and spread aside, palms upward in a pose of rest or submission. The head is long missing, but on the back is a platform where a device was mounted once. Glyphs down the statues torso indicate that "to enter the statue end yield the primal" was a high honor bestowed on willing suplicants. The statue is hollow and filled with rocks and mud. Finding the King's head would reveal a hinged mechanism to upen up the entire statue and place someone inside. The head contains a helmet-platform for a juvenile Ghost and allowed the Guests to siphon of the supplicants dreams and distill them into a potent narcotic. Carvings indicate the location was a meeting place for high-ranked Guests to relax.


Where the thing is found (d20)

Just add water.
Found here
  1. on ancient mummy in a partial collapse. Chance of extra cave in when removed.
  2. behind dizzying mosaic of star creatures communing with locals. Invasion, gift exchange, sacrifice? Sanity check when investigating the scene too closely - ever smaller and more gruesome details emerge from the cracks.
  3. in a mud-filled bath house infested with lampreys.
  4. through a hole in the unstable ceiling.
  5. sweeping past on a river of mud.
  6. in the wreckage of an experimental apparatus.
  7. glinting in a tiny crawl space under toppled pillars.
  8. inside a crushed statue.
  9. under a pile of decayed furniture.
  10. in an alcove, on a pressure plate.
  11. wedged down a narrowing chute.
  12. tossed in a pile of gnawed bones.
  13. in a sealed room filled with rows of glistening eggs.
  14. carried by escaping inhabitants caught by mudslide.
  15. in a hallway where the sophisticated alien stone carvings mix seemlessly with cave paintings.
  16. at the feet of a gigantic primitive stone statue.
  17. beneath a dome of a sky filled with too many/few moons and stars.
  18. at the centre of a metal wireframe pyramid inside a geodesic dome.
  19. in the collecting basin of a sacrificial altar.
  20. in the mouth of a gigantic stone head.

What's weird about the thing (d12)

  1. placed carefully between five bronze mirrors. Reflection will seem to move.
  2. in a 1 foot wide, absolutely spotless circle.
  3. smells of childhood memories.
  4. ruffled by a slight wind.
  5. you can only ever see the same face of the object, even when you walk around it or coordinate with someone.
  6. Source
  7. vibrating softly.
  8. back teeth ache when you come near it.
  9. hypnotic, soothing to look at
  10. weight very different than size suggests.
  11. looks like it is always receding.
  12. sweats a murky amber liquid - creates one random potion per week.
  13. levitates 1" off the surface.

This thing you've found (d30)

  1. 10ft wide stone disk, jade inlays. Floats 10ft/rd, 1ft off the ground on command in unknown tongue (inscribed around edge), carries up to 6000 pounds.
  2. huge metal-strap harness that takes 70% weight off of whatever's inside it. Shaped for a huge fish.
  3. a three-pronged Strength 16 claw prosthetic, designed to be mounted on a tentacle.
  4. 5 ft long skull of an unknown fish/amphibian, three exquisite bronze swords through its dome.
  5. cracked but sealed jar of glass a finger length thick, contains goopy clear liquid with 3 eyes that slowly dilate while they adjust to the light.
  6. a fossilized egg, translucent.
  7. a lens the color of a bruise and the size of your hand with fingers stretched wide. When you look through it, you see glowing paths and unknown stars in the night sky. The user can also see into the spirit world, but without any added protection she will be visible and vulnerable to the spirits. Coupled with the astrolabe below, the lens allows for a definitive pinpointing of the aliens' origin.
  8. foot wide jade bowl designed to be worn as a hat or helmet. The outside is set with spiral ridges the width of your wrist. A dead juvenile Ghost lies in the ridges, its head sticking through a hole in the center.
  9. jade glasses that see into spirit world for 5 rounds per day (can be divided up but all lenses activate simultaneously). Designed for three eyes - two-eyed users choose which lenses to use: ochre lens of seeing into the spirit realm; cobalt lens of protection vs possession, jade lens of seeing the true form. (Example: when you look at a deceitful spirit that posed as someones ancestor to ride them, the ochre lens lets you see a ghostly outline of the ancestor around the victim, the cobalt lens blocks the spirit from flowing into your mind, the jade lens shows the spirit's true form. When you look at a werewolf, the ochre lens would show an aura in turmoil, the cobalt lens would do nothing, the jade lens shows the outline of a wolf around the person.)
  10. barbed stabbing weapon (damage as dagger, inflicts a wound that bleeds for 1 damage for 1d6 rounds unless bound or healed). The handle is fitted for a radially symmetric three-fingered hand - humanoids take -1 to attack rolls.
  11. clear crystal dome on a shoulder rest - like a diving helmet, filled with the smell of brackish water. For reverse divers who cannot breathe air.
  12. set of delicately ornamented drinking cups of an unknown wood, heavier than water. The designs seem to invoke protection by (or from) unknown gods.
  13. golden bust of disfigured or mutated person. Weighs 300 pounds. Will shift form over the course of weeks to match the current owner, who then gains resistance to poison and disease but suffers a minor mutation (permanent even after losing the bust).
  14. astrolabe of interlocking sliding rings and rulers, can be manipulated to form familiar and strange constellations of stars. Immune to rust, green-tinted anthracite metal, inlaid with pearls. When shaped to match the city patterns of the Great Oval, this astrolabe suggests that the cities are in fact known and unknown moons and planets in the night sky. Several possible origins of the city's alien Guests can be uncovered.
  15. gloves of overlapping jade plates with cruel claws at the end, allows an unarmed attack for 1d4 damage. Three fingers + thumb per hand; unwieldy for humanoids with five digits, who attack with a -1 penalty.
  16. set of nested, painted and jade/gold-inlaid wooden boxes; a d4,d6,d8,d10,d13. (Yes.) All sides of a smaller box will touch the sides of its outer box as if they were the same shape. When all boxes are fit inside each other, contents of innermost box (the size of your heart) are frozen in time and do not spoil. Whole set weighs 40 pounds. Do not place into bag of holding.
  17. Go on, read it out loud.
    Found here
  18. five unconnected gems maintaining relative position as if they were fitted in an invisible, intangible holder.
  19. jade helmet with three eye-holes. Can fit the jade glasses of the spirit world and can be closed to provide partial immunity to poison gas (+2 to saving throw).
  20. bucket-sized jars of dried out make-up and perfumes - colors make your eyes hurt and the rotting meat stench will stay with you for d6 days.
  21. angular wireframe pendant of twisted charcoal-colored metal, can capture the sights and sounds in a scene (~1 turn, 30ft range) and replay it afterwards as an illusion; holds 3 scenes maximum, currently holds 1 scene: in an alley, two persons are exchanging a hollow metal cilinder with a map inscribed on the inside. They are a protogiant (female, three eyes, blue skin) and a cloaked warrior with a bronze dagger, and both seem on edge.
  22. amulet of twins standing back to back with weapons out, gold and lapis lazuli
  23. very wide and heavy decayed leather belt with gold thread and huge golden buckle
  24. stone hooks and knives, polished and inscribed with spiral glyphs.
  25. text in curved glyphs engraved in a spiral on a head-sized marble ball, 50 pounds - describes the correct fasting and purification rites to protect the mind against illusions. Malnutrition lowers hit point maximum by 1d6 lower for every day the rite is observed, but the penitant automatically spots and sees through the first illusion encountered that day.
  26. finger-tall statuettes of five unfamiliar deities. When positioned in the correct religious scenes and prayed over, will provide blessings that last a day. If placed incorrectly, will curse the heretic. Can be used multiple times, but each use must be repositioned according to forgotten rules. Roll to see if you got the positioning exactly right: d8: 1 wasting curse, no natural healing and magical healing provides only 1/4 effect; 2 all rations and water carried spoil, vegetable or animal materials (rope, leather) decay; 3 blessed fecundity, 4-in-6 chance of succesful pregnancy after intercourse; 4 good health, +2 bonus against poison/disease; 5 endurance, +2 bonus to checks involving hard physical labor including forced marches; 6 blessed hunter: guaranteed to find prey to feed your entire group, but will only find (d8) dinosaurs (1-2), vermin (3-6) or fungi (7-8).
  27. Found here
  28. set of bronze hammers and chisels that can carve any stone.
  29. bronze spear, vague inscriptions on the blade of a whale hunt scene. +1 attack and damage to attack aberrations, but must attack such creatures on sight or the spear imposes -1 on all attacks and damage for you.
  30. orb of the star song: when fully submerged in water, will vibrate and chime in weird harmonies. Draws aberrations in the water to it; range 1 mile.
  31. cuirass of bronze overlapping plates, each an icon of a religious scene; as breastplate, wearer has +2 bonus on saves versus mutation.
  32. 4 finger rings of tarnished silver connected with bronze chains.

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Creature: Ghosts

This is part two of 1000 Ghost Falls, an ancient city being uncovered from its thousand century sleep under a layer of earth by a thundering waterfall. The ruins are infested by black Ghosts that slide out of the walls and feed on the minds of explorers. Below is write-up of the black Ghosts that infest the ruins and the drugs that can be made from their cocoons.

At 1000 Ghost Falls, alien Guests were entertained by a protogiant bronze age civilization until an uprising ended their visit. Check out the city's explorers and the waterpark of horrors they have to survive in part one of this series. For landmarks and treasures to stock the site, check out post three.

Source: Peter Harrison
Domesticated Ghosts (a foot long) were once used in the buried city to extract and refine dreams into potent hallucinogens for the Guests, who derived much pleasure from sharing the minds of their hosts. Left unchecked, the Ghosts have grown wilful. Their eggs can survive for centures in the mud, and start to hatch when sentient minds come within 60 ft. The Ghosts then start to hunt for stragglers (or, if they are in a clutch, take on an entire digging team.)

Alien, Miéville's Slake Moths and Grindylows (Perdido Street Station, The Scar)


Imagine an eel, a caterpillar, a moray, an earth worm. Wide as your head and as long as you're tall. Make it sleek, shiny-black, smooth looking but every part razor sharp with obsidian microscales. It swims through the air as easy as through mud and earth. Never in a straight line but racing towards you in jerks and turns, sometimes slipping out of sight and appearing from your blind spot. Eyeless but homing in on your heart beat.

The smooth round front splits into three parts to reveal rows of rippling crab's legs pointing inward. A gullet shaded so purple that your eyes fuzz with the near UV intensity. A flash of your childhood. When it engulfs your face, feelers peel back your eyelids. Colors flood your optic nerve like pressing into them with a finger. Your mind fills with forgotten dreams and old memories suddenly fresh - the Ghost predigesting your mind like your saliva does a bite of food.

If you wake - if there is a you - you are numb, senseless. The Ghost has left by now, spun a cocoon, and entered the spirit realm as a Ghost Moth. It will come into your world once more during its death dance of mating and lay a batch of glistening eggs.

DM: This is an excellent time to break out the sanity rules, turn the victim into an Awakened, or induct victims into the Dero conspiracy.

Number appearing (d6): 1-4 one Ghost; 5-6 two Ghosts; 7 three Ghosts; 8 five Ghosts
  • Against a lone digger, spring from a wall or ceiling and perform a head grab, then put the victim in a hold until their mind is sucked dry.
  • Against a group, perform a head grab and try to pull the victim into the wall. It will probably suffocate there while the Ghost feeds - a trade-off between a lesser meal and relative safety.
  • In a clutch, most of the Ghosts use gaze attacks to immobilize the group, while one extracts dreams until its gaze attack recharges.

Ghost - medium-sized aberration [Pathfinder based]

senses: blindsight 60 ft, perception: 13
languages: speechless, understand Aboleth + language of previous victims
str 14, dex 18, con 15, int 3, wis 16, cha 12
Speed: fly & swim 40, burrow 20

AC: 20, touch: 14, flat-footed: 16, when blurring: 20 or 50% miss chance
damage resistance: acid 10, cold 5; damage vulnerability sonic (+50%)
reflex +6, constitution +5, will +8
cmb: +6 (+10 grapple), cmd: 10 (14 grapple)
HD: 6, HP: 35

feats and skills: flyby attack, weapon finesse, acrobatics +14, fly +14, perception +13, stealth +14

attack abilities
  • attack: +8 slither along target for 2d4+4 slashing
  • head grab: +8, 1d4+3 piercing and grappled
  • grappling: +8 to inflict 2d4+2 slashing, Will 18 or 1d6 Charisma drain & stunned 1 round
  • gaze: only if not in a head grab. 15ft cone: Will 15 or 1 Charisma damage & stunned 1 round. Recharge on 5-6 on a d6 every round.

defense abilities
  • razor scales: unarmed attackers take 1d4+1 slashing damage on a succesful attack
  • blur: standard 20%, raise to 50% for 1 round for 1 banked Charisma

other abilities
  • jolt: move up to 10 ft through ethereal plane as part of move action & attack with +1 bonus for 1 banked Charisma
  • cocoon: spend 20 banked Charisma to spin a hardness 10, 50 hp cocoon. Emerge into ethereal plane as a Ghost Moth (tbd) after 7 days. Reduce by a day for each extra 5 banked Charisma spent. Each cocoon yields 2d4+2 batches of Ghost dust.


Drugs rules: Dungeons and Druggies
Take the drug, gain its advantage and disadvantage for the duration. After the duration, roll the tolerance save to see if you gain tolerance to the drug; if you fail the save, gain one point of tolerance. To lose points of tolerance, stok taking the drug for a week, then roll to kick the habit and hope you don't go into withdrawal.

Coarse purple-black powder or paste, can be inhaled or ingested. Powerful hallucinogen - you move in a dream state, fluid-fast but easily distracted by flashes of the spirit world.

Duration: 1d4 hours
Advantage: +1 to Reflex saves and +1 Dodge bonus per dose taken. Can reroll a d20 you rolled once per dose during the duration. (base: Laba Wasp)
Disadvantage: -1 to Will saves and perception per dose taken.
Tolerance: -1 to reflex and dodge per point of tolerance.
Tolerance save: Fortitude 17 +{number of doses taken} - {tolerance points}
Kick the habit: after week of not taking the drug, roll Fortitude 17 +{points of tolerance in drug} -{tolerance points in other drugs}. Success: lose one point of tolerance in the drug. Failure: double the tolerance effect until you take the drug again.


Friday 20 April 2018

Adventure site: 1000 Ghost Falls

This is an adventure site I had hoped to lure my characters into for a couple of sessions. Random acts of teleporting sky fortress mean they are now somewhere else entirely, and I have two or three posts worth of material clogging up my mind space. I hereby inflict them on you.

Part two: Ghosts
Part three: landmarks and treasures

"Gems the size of snake eggs, yes - the better for the Ghosts to see you with" - Phurin of the Tide

I don't care if there are piles of gems the size of your head on the floor. When the falls head for the building you're in - drop everything and run" - Korrigan

You work too slow. Forget sifting the sand, taking careful rubbings, dusting off artifacts. But think hard before you tear through a wall. At 1000 Ghost Falls on the jungle river Hydra, thundering water is uncovering and destroying an ancient city a building a day. Don't pause to think about the weird architecture. Rush in, grab any relic you can find, and get out before the water brings the whole building down on you - or wakes up a sleek-black Ghost from its cocoon.


Travel to the ruined continent and head far up the river Hydra. You will find 1000 Ghost Falls in the lands of the Stinger Lightning Drow. Once, the falls were the Drow's sacred test for joining the tribe. If you could not cross the treacherous kilometer wide rim with its sudden floods and breaking rocks, you deserved to join the unworthy dead half a hundred meters blow. Then the rushing water uncovered the first buildings from the soft rock below. A century after the find, 1000 Ghost Falls are crowded with strangers. Groups from across the continent and beyond are trying to loot a city older than even the ancient Giants, before the water sweeps it all away.

No-one has named the city - it's "the dig", or "the falls" or "ghost nest" when someone bothers to call it anything. There are far more interesting things to talk about: who raised the Green Obelisks and dug the network of pools? What are the hungry Ghosts and how are they still alive after a hundred thousand years of sleep? And why does history not mention a forerunner race of the Giants trading with people from the stars?

And so it happened that the Old Ones came from the stars
yadda-yadda many gifts they bestowed blah-blah

Where this is from

The visual of a huge city coming out from under a receding megafall comes straight out of Matter, a Culture novel [WARNUNG: 1) TV Tropes 2) Awesome] by Iain M. Banks.

Exploring ancient horror cities goes right back to one of my favorite stories by H.P. Lovecraft: At the Mountains of Madness. That story also inspired the awesome Black City project.

To spice things up, mud slides, collapsing buildings and titanic masses of falling water are not the only thing to worry about. Horrific monsters pop out of shiny black cocoons and eat your soul when you break through the wrong wall. (Miéville's Perdido Street Station / The Scar).

Using this

The city's backstory is left vague, although I've sprinkled hints of an Aboleth visitation/first contact/uplift the locals ploy, and of a Bronze Age uprising. Practically speaking, the destructive waterfall ensures that no building survives for long - 1000 Ghost Falls is a crawl through an ever-changing dungeon. As a DM you can get away with just plonking down random maps of mini-dungeons for the building that the PCs are currenty exploring. Go wild and pick a random map of Dyson's, and use the tables in a follow-up post for random room contents and monster encounters to take care of overall consistency.

(I would love to link you to a post at an unremembered blog from somewhere in 2017, with another ingredient for this area. That post was about making environments more dynamic and cinematic, like setting fights on watermills, swinging on ropes on sailing boats - anything with moving parts and big mechanical forces waiting to be unleashed. Any help in finding that post very welcome!)

A quick tour

The Hydra falls off its plateau into a 100 meter drop. At the bottom, the thundering water is uncovering a city of domes, obelisks, piazza's and bath houses. The further downstream, the less dangerous - but the more chance buildings have collapsed entirely. A large camp sits a kilometer North-East of the falls across treacherous bog country. The river continues for 5 kilometers to the old camp a lost House Tharashk party founded a century ago. In the deep woods to the west is the hidden village of the Stinger Lightning. Visit with an invitation or become a camp story to scare newcomers with. Up the plateau live the Jibaar, a tribe of Hill Giants who worship the river as their god. They raid when night whispers tell them the interlopers are stealing the river's treasure.


How exciting this dig will be

The waterfall and resulting mud streams are wildly unpredictable, sometimes falling away and recovering to full strength in the space of hours. Start the conditions at one of these categories, then roll every hour to see how what the water is behaving.
  1. under a main branch of the waterfall. Thundering wall of water coming down, cutting loose tons of mud. Exposed buildings are blasted clean of any delicate external structures - balconies, friezes, fragile roofs, carvings and the like. Impossible to breathe, stand or move without extreme equipment - a wearable golem the size of a giant for instance. Collapse chance +4. Water conditions (d6): 1-4 no change; 5 side branch; 6 strong flows.
  2. under a side branch of the waterfall. Torrent of water hammering down and blasting mud everywhere. Exposed buildings blasted clean of mud, balconies or fragile roofs and carvings are destroyed. Superhuman 20+ Strength required to move around very carefully. Collapse chance +2. Water conditions (d6): 1 main branch; 2-4 no change; 5 strong flows; 6 gentle flow.
  3. hit by strong flows of water and mud. low-lying structures eroded away, Strength check -4 to move about on this level. Collapse chance +0. Water conditions (d6): 1 main branch; 2-3 no change; 4 side branch; 5-6 gentle flow.
  4. washed by gentle flow of water, covered in hard to spot, deep mud pools. Strength check to move about, Wis check -2 to avoid mud pools (Strength -2 or sink in 2 rounds time and start drowning). Collapse chance +0. Water conditions (d6): 1 side branch; 2-3 no change; 4 strong flow; 5-6 calmed down.
  5. calmed down. Mud pools Wisdom +2 to spot, Strength to escape or be caught (Strength -2 to escape). Collapse chance -1 (treat result of 0 as 1). Water conditions (d6): 1-2 no change and stop rolling; 3-4 no change; 5 gentle flow; 6 strong flow.
Dettifoss in Iceland, Europe's most powerful waterfall.
Drops 45 meters and standing there is terrifying.

Collapse chance (d4 + bonus)

Every hour, roll the collapse chance for an entire building. Find the bonus to the check on the How exciting this dig will be table. High rolls include all the worst results of lower rolls, so a result of an unstable room (3) includes a chance of collapse as well as mud streams from (2).

Room collapse: sudden cave-in of one room. All inside take 10d6 damage and are buried under mud and rubble (Strength -4 to break free). Roll a Dexterity check (with a penalty equal to the collapse chance) to avoid half this damage and only be reduced to half movement speed.
Partial collapse: sudden cave-in of all the rooms in an entire section of the building - divide the structure into 4 or more sections and roll randomly.
Complete collapse: hits the entire structure.

  1. stable - floors, walls and ceilings have settled; no mud streams.
  2. stable, but streams of water and mud force Dex checks or lose balance when moving faster than 5 ft/round
  3. unstable walls, floors and ceilings. Hammering or explosions in a room give a 1 in 6 chance of room collapse every round of activity.
  4. unstable structure, occupied rooms have a 1 in 20 chance to collapse every turn even when not stressed.
  5. partial collapse - 1 in 6 chance every turn that a random section collapses, mud stream sweeps through for 2d4 rounds, Strength -4 every round to escape or suffer 2d6 bashing damage.
  6. partial collapse - 1 in 6 chance every turn that a random section collapses and is swept away by the water. Rooms in adjacent sections check for a 1 in 20 collapse chance - if they don't collapse, they experience a mud slide as under 4.
  7. structure-wide collapse - every section has a 1 in 6 chance of collapsing every turn. Debris then hits a random adjacent building and forces structural integrity check.
  8. whole structure collapse - 1 in 6 chance every turn of the entire building collapsing. All adjacent buildings will be hit by debris for a structural integrity check +1.


Stinger Lightning Tribe
The local Drow tribe and nominal owners of the Nameless City. Less interested in treasure than in lore, powerful relics and trade for better gear and drugs. Tribal leader Thiristi is a traditionalist Giant-hater, as is the warrior Uvoor. Blood mage Jerrak is very interested in finding and trading relic lore, which Scorpion Singer Ryaan is strongly opposed to.

Guards and tribe members have a 1 in 6 chance of having traded favors or finds for Dream Smoke from the Riedrans. All Stinger Lightning members know their way around the camp and environment and can track (or guide) a party undetected.

Leader: First of the Stinger Thriristi, Drow ranger 9
Notables: Jerrak, Drow sorceror 6; Uvoor, Drow barbarian 4, Ryaan, Drow druid 5
Guards: 15x Drow ranger 3, 3-bladed boomerangs and long blades; 5x rogue 3, same
Tribe: 30x Drow ranger 1, 2x Drow sorceror 1, 5x Drow barbarian 1

House Tharashk enclave
The House of Finding was just passing by - like so many times when they catch a fugitive or spot a buried dragonshard - when the first buildings of the dig came to light a hundred years ago. Working with the Lightning Stinger they set up a first excavation. Work leader Rizhaak is the great grandson of the shard inspector who lead that first excavation. He wants to make big on his family's long list of promises to the House now that the centre of the ancient settlement is being uncovered. House Tharashk has put a lot of money in this project over the course of the century and doubts anything big will come of it. Rizhaak is pushing for more and more dangerous digs but his workers are grumbling at the risk.

Leader: Rizhaak the Nose, half-orc ranger level 4, minor dragonmark of finding
Guards: 1 Orc fighter level 2, hook blades and chain shirts (Rhizaak's aunt Makraal)
        1 Gnoll barbarian level 2, throwing axes and harpoon
Workers: 5 Orcs and 3 Half-Orcs from the Shadow Marshes, 5 Drow ranger 1 (youths from the Lightning Stinger tribe), 1 Dwarf rogue level 3, (Liesl) House Kundarak-licensed security expert

Fortunate Peony Blossom
A Riedran contingent that are very interested in others keep their own reasons for exploring the Falls to themselves. Workers and warriors speak only few words of Common, but Laneth Azul and her soulknive guards will go out of their way to learn about visitors. The Blossom are looking for the source of a psionic beacon that started its siren when the Green Obelisk was uncovered. Laneth Azul will charm powerful but weak-willed visitors and pump them for information or insurance, but is very careful not to expose her network of plants in the other companies. She will offer translation services for any visitors who do not speak Drow.

The three Thri-Kreen scouts are highly sensitive to the city's siren call and are used to find promising locations to dig. Laneth Azul has shut down some of their higher reasoning to make the trio more sensitive, but this makes it harder to control their instinctive rage against Ghosts. The group inspects any Obelisk that comes to light and can get clues from it that others may miss.

Fortunate Peony Blossom carefully inspect mostly-stable buildings away from the waterfalls, but sometimes rush into frantic digs just outside the main waterfall when their Thri-Kreen or network of charmed plants serve up a lead. Heavy reliance on psionics to find, excavate and escape. Looking for historical relics, special gems, wall carvings and frescoes. Weird trades where they give away high value for very specific finds others would find mostly worthless.

Leader: Laneth Azul, Inspired Lady of the Seventh Morning, Psion (telepath) 11
Guards: 5 human warriors level 3, crystal-studded armors, shields and short spears
3 Empty Vessel* soulknives level 4, exquisite armors and clothes
Workers: 10 humans; 3 Thri-Kreen psi-scouts (Tik, T'a, Y't)
* Human/Elf/unnameable hybrids capable of hosting Quori spirits ( = becoming Inspired)

The Tide

A party of slaves and overseers from Druxis of the Serpents, looking for exciting and exotic valuables to please their decadent masters. Vathissa handles diplomatic exchanges, and rests in its tent enjoying its dwindling drug stash. It is unclear whether the serpent is male or female, only that it grumbles a lot about the horrific conditions among the savage mammals. Vathissa's retriever specialists appraise goods and conduct trades. The guards are there to protect the expert slaves, not to prevent them from fleeing. Who would want to leave safe and prosperous Druxis to live in the jungle, after all?

The Tide trade for favors freely in steel and other tools, and have a solid trade in Dream Smoke on the side. A pair of mated ogres (one guard, one shield carrier) and one of the Drow guards have been charmed by Laneth Azul to give her leads and trade valuables.

The Tide explore right up to the main branch of the waterfall but only dig deep when they strike lucky early on. They look mainly for exotic jewelry, knick-knacks and well-preserved specimens, but will bag other items for trade if they come across them. The lizardfolk druids help stabilize mud and water, ogre shield carriers form improvised shelters and girallon diggers clear an area for the drow workers.

Leader: Vathissa, serpent folk wizard 5
Guards: slaves: 2 ogre barbarians level 2, 3 drow rogues level 3
Workers: 3 lizardfolk druids level 3, slaves: 3 ogre shield carriers, 2 girallon diggers, 7 drow retrievers

Mud Salvage
Penal legion from the Lhazaar Principalities. Sent to find wealth in Xen'drik and pay off their crimes. Korrigan and her guards are a disgraced minor captain and her home guard, who were caught keeping their Lord's share of their plunder. They have a chance to win back some status if they ply their master with enough treasure. The common workers are digging to avoid the death penalty for murder, tomb raiding and witchcraft. Mud Salvage workers steal and smuggle small valuables, trying to get enough wealth to their name to get the Tharashk to smuggle them to safety or at least buy their freedom and passage to Stormreach. Many hopeful ploys and escape attempts.

Mud Salvage, or the Mudders as the diggers have started calling themselves, look for classic portable loot: gold, gems, art. Korrigan has done enough 'aggresive trading on the high seas' to spot the really valuable goods. On the side, the Gnome sorceror Flavia (an exile from Zhilargo) is smuggling out any arcane finds and small samples of drugs from the Tide to get reinstated in the Trust.

Mudders explore buildings just out of or under side branches of the waterfall but flee when the main falls come closer. Scouts keep watch and sound the alarm so the teams can clear sites before they become too dangerous. Half the workers are Dream Smoke addicts. Two of the warforged, one shifter and 2 human guards have been psionically charmed by Laneth Azul.

Leader: Korrigan, Half-Elf rogue 5
Guards: 4 humans, 1 half-elf, 2 elf, level 2 fighters, twin cutlasses, studded leather
3 Warforged level 2 fighters, axes, shields and crossbows
Workers: 11 humans, 3 shifters, 2 half-elves, 3 dwarves - rogue/fighter 1
        1 gnome sorceror 3


  1. issued with sincerely worded prayer for party's souls in waterproof, reusable case.
  2. provided with one (1) hand shovel and liable for wear and tear.
  3. chains and ropes carrying air hoses.
  4. quick-build gallery with struts to avoid cave-ins.
  5. druids with mud-hardening magic
  6. delicate crystal statue to local air goddess keeps any and all earth/mud 5ft away from it as long as wafted with pricy perfume or incense. 
  7. ogre with huge tower shield works as mobile strut. Slow thinker. Claustrophobic. 
  8. given huge back shields to form a dome and bang against to attract rescue
  9. air bladders and reinforced armor. 
  10. telekinetic shielding, psionic locator and hibernation crystal. 
  11. giant star faced mole will find victims. Relaxed attitude to such concepts as urgency, focusing on the job, digging in a straight line, avoiding extra cave-ins. 
  12. semi-tamed umber hulk will tear into mudslide, 20% chance of getting the munchies.
  13. carry hyper nervous weasel as early warning system for tremors. 
  14. pet giant tortoise will dig itself and you out. s-l-o-w-l-y.
  15. Kranzuul, psionic idiot savant. After a cave-in, will attempt Herculean feat of mental might, then pass out for 1d3 hours - d4: 1 disintegrate a tunnel clear to the surface; 2 telekinetically lift sizeable part of terrain; 3 dimensional gate straight into camp; 4 locally reverse time to just before mudslide and cry warning before collapsing. Excitable.
  16. clay statuette will take you into the spirit world for 1d10 minutes when broken. Pray you can shake off the city's psionic siren song and make it to safety. 
  17. heavily boosted seeds will explode into temporary scaffolding. Plants then start to look for nutrients. 
  18. vial of syrupy yellow elixir will boost your strength to superhuman levels for 1d6 rounds. Hard Wisdom check to retain control or black out while your dig yourself out from under tons of mud. Con check every round of action or take 1d3 dmg/level from tearing muscles. 
  19. shaman Shen's enchanted coprolites. Take a bite to summon a friendly mud elemental and swoosh you out into the open. 
  20. dried beetles inscribed with polymorph glyphs. Chow down to turn into a beetle and scurry out of your cave-in. Con check to turn back, -1 penalty for every round as a bug. If you fail, Wisdom check or lose your mind.

Sunday 8 April 2018

Jungle Trek session 4: that which does not killlll mmmeeeee

Session four of a golem, a hyena man and two mentally scarred humans making their way through scenic Xen'Drik. This time on Jungle Trek: mutations-a-go-go, fun with prismatic walls, please do not disturb mistress, and flying a teleporting fortress tomb. Also, I am torn between railroading, nudging players towards stuff I've prepped, and giving them free reign - end up going with the last one.

Our noble, heroic, stalwart explorers:

  • Drake - male human healer [non-player character, hireling]
  • Eorie - female human rogue [non-player character, hireling]
  • Santash - male kalashtar psion who shoved his mind into his psicrystal [non-player character] dead

And their decidedly less Good-aligned fellow travelers:

  • Indiana Gnoll - male Gnoll ranger. Whip, gills, suckers. Deranged laugh. [player: Robert]
  • Woody the Warforged Wizard, currently a black-and-white ogre-bot [player: Bas]
Last session, the group infiltrated a flying fortress/tomb hanging over a lake, fought Wyverns and mutated teen giants (there's a band name), and found an enormous map with dozens of highlighted locations all across the continent.

My adaptation of Trilemma's awesome Lantern of Wyv

This wall is odd - also, I'm blind now

In the map room, both Indy and Woody notice that Ak the bound caretaker Djinn is standing conspicuously in front of a piece of wall map with an island that shouldn't exist. He's definitely hinting the group but can't say anything outright because of the crippling control geas he's under.

I keep playing Ak as sort-of-helpful but also end up using him to keep the wandering monster away from the players. Next time use less deadly wanderers but let them roam free?

Prodding proves that the wall is an illusion, Woody sticking his head through strikes him blind in an instant by a riot of lights. It wears off in a minute, but the team decide that a breather is probably a smart idea before pushing on.

I'm hurt, let's have a lie-down on the nuclear powered altar

When a session stalls, I have found a good way to pass the time is to show Woody's player a random table.

(This comes back to bite me in the ass at the end of the session.)

Any table will do really, but if it involves high odds of completely warping his character, the man is game. And so after a fight with some ogre mages, the black mutation/healing altar on the lower level of the flying tomb / fortress / lab / spacecraft they're in starts to look awfully attractive.

A quick test shows that while Yes, the black altar will heal your wounds and replace them with pearly flesh (or whatever a Warforged is made of), surplus healing runs a chance of mutating you. The group spend an hour of game time happily rolling on this chart. MANY action points are spent to force rolls onto the (sort-of) beneficial table instead the other one. The result:

  • Eorie ends up smelling pretty rank and has glowing blue eyes (a trial run while the Warforged figures out the controls)
  • Woodie gets two extra thumbs and an extra pinkie
  • Drake is gifted with a hidden smuggling pouch in his abdomen
  • Indy gets a set of gills, realizes he can maybe guide the mutations by cutting the victim subject patient in specific patterns, scars himself with the symbol of the Dark Six pantheon, and receives thousands of miniature suckers on his skin so he can now spider climb.
  • Everyone gets the spider climb mutation when Ak mentions the altar can also transfer powers between subjects.

A good night's sleep is only interrupted by Ak using his illusions to generate light shows and noise on the upper levels - "to keep Master distracted - she gets restless this turn of the century". It turns out that leaving someone's body on the altar mid heart attack turns them into the classic misbegotten "killlll mmeeee" - technically alive, but not in a good way. The altar will happily try to keep healing the resulting mess until it loses all cohesion and sanity. And this 40.000 year old giant wizard is still around.

Sleeping beauty

Behind the illusionary island in the map room, the group find a healthy Clone of the wizard - Giant, female, three eyes - behind a half-decayed Prismatic Wall spell. The Clone is set to revive when the original body dies, which hasn't happened yet because Ak is spitefully keeping the mute thing that was once a wizard alive.

Woody discovers the wall's effects the hard way (sorry) when he tries to outsmart the wall's blinding effect by walking through the protecting illusion, eyes closed and a hand outstretched. He isn't struck insane or sent to another plane, but does get turned into stone.

Back to the healing altar it is. It takes some convincing the site's pixie-sized Drow cleaners that no, the block and tackle should not be cleaned up while the group is using it to lower their golem-turned-statue down a level. Much hauling of a quarter ton of wizard down to the healing altar later, Woody is turned back into his regular shape, plus one quickly carved symbol of the Dark Six on his shoulder (thanks Indy) and leeched of all color.

The group finally convince Ak to walk through the protective wall, slip a petrifying ring onto the Clone, and then set out to explore the rest of the complex.

I got my eye on you

In the obligatory library/lab, the team find the wizard's enormous spell book, engraved on metal plates (see bottom of post) and a special type of Artifact Spell carved into the wall of the lab. It cannot be copied or written down, but can be learned as a level 2 spell to grant one round of True Seeing.

Crappy rolls finally alert Master to the fact that all's not entirely well in its home. Soon, her amorphous flesh rolls into the room, three eyes floating in the mass and shooting eye beams. Worse, the regenerating thing splits into three and starts to engulf and digest people. Fire spells have limited effect, Indy's magic whip slowly whittles down the thing's hit points, and Woody provides summoned elementals to tank most of the Constitution damage, but it's a tough fight with eye beams shooting curses, paralysis and lightning around the room.

The witch is dead, I'm outta here

The fight ends well for the party - one magic eye is squashed, two of the giant's eyes are kept intact and can probably be trained as limited wands. (bestow curse, Will 17 or -6 Dex for 9 rounds; and 2d6 lightning damage, Reflex 16 for half damage; both with a 60ft range).

The eyes also allow access to the wizard's vault (book of biomancy, bonus to control the mutation altar - we'll get to that - ring of +1 saves and protective bracers +4 AC).

Indy has sucked up a total of 5 Constitution damage but slowly recovers during the next week. He does get a nice post-combat bit of damage when Ak finds out his geas has been broken when Master died, and he can now directly hit 'students' in the face after millenia of having to bow to trespassing kids. A satisfying punch in Indy's snout later, he flies out of the fortress.

I should have ended it there

But I didn't. The session finale is past, and the players evidently feel safe enough to start fooling around.

"Can I transfer all the mutations from the Ogre Mages onto myself?"
Why yes, with a horrendous (I thought) difficulty of 30/40/50 on the check to gain size, defenses and spell powers. Woody ends up weighing 2400 pounds, is now ogre-sized, and regenerates. On the plus side, minor mutations mean he's also covered in shiny black scales, has a lamprey mouth on his throat, and (stroke of luck for the already genderless 'bot) loses all genitalia.

I inform the player that he's free to keep mutating, but checks will become harder the more off-baseline he is.

"Can I fly the fortress?"
Yah, sure - the first experimental shove you give the helm knocks the whole thing sideways and teleports you to an enormous buried city which is slowly uncovered by a massive waterfall.

Look for this Iain M. Banks-stolen Nameless City in a follow-up post.

I really should have ended it there

This was the place I'd have like to send the party to next. Intrigue, danger, excitement, ties to far-off centers of civilisation, dynamic and constantly changing environment, I was looking forward to using it!

But I didn't end the session here - or perhaps I rightly avoided railroading the group. In any case, when the players said:

"Awesome, we can teleport this place! Can we try again by coordinating between the map room and the helm?"

...I told them I also had a random table ready to decide where they'd end up. No sooner did I say "random" or poof, the flying tomb had left the Nameless City far behind. From half-remembered history lessons, the group gathered they were now over the vast ruins of Pra'Xirek, once metropolis of the Giant empire.

I ended it

Remember those pixie-sized Drow cleaners? I reworked me some Quicklings because I adore hyperfast attention-span-of-a-gnat faeries. I roll honest random encounters every now and then, and Indy spots a trio of the little assholes taking a critical look at the petrifying ring that the team slapped on the wizards's back-up clone body. Kicking them through the prismatic wall ends up petrifying two of the three mini-Drow, the third climbs up to the offending jewelry, and the party beat a hasty free-fall out of the fortress before they have to deal with a mad archmage.

I'll roll next session to see if the drowling gets the ring off, and if the wizard revives at all. 



1 - Wave shield

VS, immediate action, target: self
DR/- and fire resistance equal to your caster level against 1 attack

2 - Aboleth's lung

VSM (seaweed), standard action, living creatures touched, will resists, total of 1h/level
targets can breathe water, cannot breathe air

3 - Storm step

VS, standard action, target self, range 25ft + 5ft/2 levels, Reflex halves; Spell Resistance yes
- teleport to visible/specified site within range
- targets between start&end take 1d8/level electricity (max 5d8), save halves
- barriers take damage; if you do not manage to break barrier, stop in front of it

4 - Touch of slime

VSM (acid in glass sphere), standard action, creature or object touched, spell resistance yes
create coating of green slime on your hand; touch attack (fort save) infects one target, 1d3 Con damage/round until scraped off, removed with fire/cold/sunlight (which deals 2d6 damage). Wood/metal take 2d6 dmg/round (ignoring hardness)

5 - Absorb toxicity

VSM (poison thorn), standard action, target: self, duration: 10min/level, save/spell resistance: no
During the duration, you are immune to the first disease or poison you encounter. You absorb it into your body and can release it onto a target or item with a touch attack. If dispelled or if the duration ends before you transfer the poison or disease, save against it as normal.

6 - Conjure black pudding

7 - Planar refuge (safe spot from planar effects)

8 - Clone (duplicate awakes when original dies)

9 - Transmute blood to acid

Artifact spell: Glimpse of truth

Wizard Artifact spell level 2; prepare and use once, cannot copy into spellbook
VS, standard action, range 120 ft, target self

For 1 round, you gain the benefits of the True Seeing spell. You see through normal and magical darkness, notice secret doors hidden by magic, see the exact locations of creatures or objects under blur or displacement effects, see invisible creatures or objects normally, see through illusions, and see the true form of polymorphed, changed, transmuted or posessed things. Further, you see into the Ethereal Plane and see ghosts etc.