Sunday, 29 September 2019

Belswick 8: you all wake up hanging from a gallows

Asshole wizard Vedric von Vermis needs to die, and my players are taking him down during his birthday trip to the Boswitch Bath House. Here's how this session of Belswick went down.

THE CAST

  • Aju, a hammerhead shark-fishling of the barbarian persuasion, looking for the magic amulet that will turn him into a regular shark again
  • Tilbørd, a nosy human priest of the Authority with more supernatural deals than he or we can count
  • Lomin Mor, an elf thief who masquerades as dear old Lady Olga of the struggling fief Cullfield

Couldn't make it this session:
  • Mike, a human druid/fighter with the grand wish of starting a big animal sanctuary
  • Guy, a human diviner who hunts smugglers and other rogues while looking after a crippling 10,000 gp college debt to the Lodge of Augurs and Diviners


DISGUISES, HARPOONS AND RUST MONSTERS

We kick off with a quick recap for Aju's player, who couldn't make it to last session. The plan is to poison their target Vedric von Vermis later in the morning during one of his bath appointments at the Bath House. After all, he's escaped them once before when they were escorting the lovely lady Liselle, which almost cost Mike and Tilbørd their lives!


During the session, my players whatsapp the absent players to keep them up to date. I see the posts pop up in the corner of my eye and it adds to the tension!

  • Tilbørd will arrive at the bath house disguised (via magic and a dress) as the assistant Leia, to pour in the poison when Vedric gets his bath.
  • Mike is hiding out in the bath house cellar with two friendly rust monsters. He'll create chaos and mayhem to distract any guards in the area.
  • Lomin Mor is outside with a getaway cart and a disguise as medical specialist of the Order of the Leaden Mask, in case a fake ambulance is needed.

  • Guy and Aju haven't been assigned a place to be; their players weren't at the last session. Guy will attend as a regular visitor, while Aju spends 5gp to rent a second story room in the nextdoor brothel. From there, he can look into the open air sections of the complex and jump in if necessary. He's got a javelin and a rope as an improvised harpoon to prevent the wizard from flying away if necessary.

It's a great plan. It's got an exit strategy, a kill route and ways to sow confusion, and it's going to become a glorious mess.


INCREASED SECURITY

"Leia" shows up at 8AM when owner Semyon Bosprus opens the bath house. He's heard (directly from Lomin) that there's going to be an attack on Vedric's life. There's extra security goons present and all guests will have all their equipment stored in the downstairs vault to prevent smuggled weapons. Semyon, Leia spots, is loaded with hidden knives.

Leia will not be preparing the leeches for Vedric's bath; Semyon will handle that himself while she shleps the customers' belongings from and to the cellar. Is Leia/Tilbørd worried? Of course not. He did what he always did, and made a deal with the nature spirit of the hot springs below the bath house during the night.

It turns out that the naiad isn't at all pleased with Semyon committing murders in the complex and even knows Vedric. "The asshole who trails his dirty feet in my sacred pool every year? Yeah, I know him. What's that, can I open up a hidden bottle of poison when he steps into his bath? You got it."

And so the bath house opens for the day. Let's see who's coming in.


HOOKERS, A NUN AND GOTHRUG THE DESTRUCTINATOR


  • Freya is a priestess of the Ivory Candle of St. Kurelda, the religious order of the Light domain - which is to say, fire, fire and more fire - this world's inquisition. She's here to snoop around and look into the disasppearance of her sister Hilde, one year ago.
  • Helen and Elise are hookers from Madam Palfrey's massage parlor. They just want a damn bath.
  • Gothrug the Destructinator is a barbarian from the Vaering. He has just been stood up, and is very hung over. He wants to hang in the sauna, drink, eat and fight someone. The first three can be arranged right away. Leia makes a note to provide the last service in a bit - gotta keep your customers happy!
  • Guy the party wizard comes in, hands Leia all his gear, and gets back a complimentary bathrobe with his spell components hidden inside. He starts to mingle.

Then the carriage with the mage Vedric von Vermis arrives. He's been warned by Semyon and has brought four thugs and his personal shield guardian as protection. The thugs spread out, the shield guardian sticks with Vedric, and Semyon leads him to his first appointment, a private massage.

A massage by the latest person to knock at the door, a looming half-orc woman toting a bag full of bondage gear. As the door to the private bath closes on a booming DOWN ON YOUR BELLY, WORM!, the party realizes they didn't investigate what kind of private massage Vedric would be getting.

They'll keep to their plan. Improv kills, don't you know?


ACTION!

Up to now, the session has been full of fun chat and wacky NPCs, but with zero action. Then Vedric, wincing and walking very carefully, goes from his massage appointment to his private bath with the poison bottle hidden inside.

Showtime.

This would be a good time to explain how the potion works. In small amounts, it enhances male libido and bloodflow to, ah, certain parts of the male anatomy. The Boswitch Bath House regularly sells it to guests. In large amounts, the stuff also triggers a massive heart attack. Vedric gets into his bath, the hot springs naiad senses his dirty feet and pops the cork on the hidden vial at the bottom of the bath, and we wait while Semyon adds a couple of leeches to the bath for Vedric's blood disease.

"Whoa man, you want a leech down there as well? Didn't know you liked me that much!"
"Ah, how embarrassing...perhaps a delayed reaction to the massage...?"

The poison is working. Mike has been given a signal to get his rust monsters in gear. He's ready. Last time they met, he managed to get this bastard mage down to his last two hit points before getting hit by a cone of cold and a fireball. This time the wizard is going down.

(Mike's player couldn't make it to the session but sent me detailed instructions on what he wanted to accomplish: 1) get his rust monsters in and out safely; 2) return with the head of Vedric von Vermis.)

Meanwhile Leia/Tilbørd, sweet Leia walks over to Guthrog the Destructinator, snoozing peacefully in his hot tub.

And empties a bucket of ice cold water all over him.

Screams of rage fill the air. Leia hightails it out of the room and rushes into Vedric's bath room. Guthrog slips, flounders, finally manages to get out of his own bath, arms himself with a sturdy side table and storms after her.

Party time!


MORE CHAOS!


I won't bore you with a blow-by-blow of the fight. There were many cinematic highlights though, great use of all the bath house scenery to swing the fight:

  • Guthrog smashing his way through bath house guards and Vedric's bodyguards, who were stupid enough to yell "stop right there" instead of sensibly making themselves into non-targets by cowering on the floor
  • Aju jumping out of the brothel window and reinforcing Guthrog just when he hits Vedric's heavy bodyguards - "ONWARDS, BROTHER!" No questions are asked. Raging together is a language deeper than words.
  • The naiad grappling Vedric with the bath water when he tries to fly out of the open air bath
  • Mike leading his two rust monsters into the bath and siccing them on the shield guardian, which starts to slowly rust
  • Vedric failing again and again to save against the poison; each successfull save would have reduced the potential damage further and further, but he keeps on taking 3d6 poison damage every other round. I rule the shield guardian's ability to prevent half the damage its owner takes works only on external attacks, like Mike's arrow fire or falling into shards of glass; the poison has full effect on the wizard

  • The shield guardian shattering the entire glass bath at Vedric's command - shards and leeches flying everywhere and Vedric getting free of the naiad's grapple

  • Lomin and Guy coming in through a back door they opened earlier and distracting a couple of bodyguards with deadly arrow fire
  • Vedric, not thinking quite straight because of the poison, line-of-sight teleporting to the top of the wall, ready for a fireball or other mayhem. Then getting wrestled down by scrawy Leia/Tilbørd who jumps up, grabs the wizard's legs, and pulls him down into the glass shards where he belongs. Should have used a fly spell!
  • Mike rushing in to defend his rust monsters, taking blows from bodyguards, and shapeshifting into a boar. He charges Vedric and the wizard is on his last couple of hit points...
  • Ayu making it almost to the room Vedric is in, calling for Guthrog (who is pretty hurt after plowing through all the bodyguards) to find the exit. Guthrog trips one last guard and exits through the front door
  • Mike, sending away his rust monsters before the shield guardian can smash them - they escape safely!

  • The shield guardian smashing Mike's head in with two hammer blows of its immense arms. The druid drops, dying.

  • Vedric unleashing a Cone of Cold on Leia/Tilbørd. Tilbørd calling on his favor from goblin prince Litvars to reflect the spell - the wizard and the priest end up both taking half damage. As does Mike. Already bleeding out, Mike takes enough cold damage to die outright.
  • Tilbørd channels a full power inflict wounds right into Vedric's naked body - the shield guardian tries to block the attack but fails. Vedric goes down hard and I start making death saves for him; three strikes and his fatal wound will kill him. He needs to roll a 20 on d20 to pull through.
  • Semyon making it from his discussion with Freya and into the fray. Leia the "servant girl" and the shield guardian are the only ones standing; Vedric just collapsed after a burst of magic. From behind, he decides to simplify the situation and slits Leia/Tilbørd throat from behind. Assassins do buckets of sneak dice and Tilbørd only has 15 hit points at full health. Tilbørd drops and starts choking on his own blood
  • The shield guardian, out of enemies, blocking the door into the room but Aju quickly climbing across the top of the inner wall, to succeed in stopping Tilbørd from bleeding out.
  • Vedric making that crucial last death save! He decides to first turn invisible, then close-range teleports outside the room. Leia tries to grapple him and steal the shield guardian amulet Vedric is wearing before the mage can teleport, but the invisibility is too much of an advantage
  • Aju getting smashed to a pulp by the shield guardian, Lomin and Guy running up, Semyon recognizing Lomin, leading him on a short chase and carving up Lomin, Vedric getting yet another stroke from the poison and giving away his position with a gasp of pain,
  •  ...Vedric realizing he's going to die here, naked and bleeding and poisoned in his bath, and going out with
    one
    last
    fireball.

Which leads us to a total party kill.

The fight wasn't remotely fair; the wizard alone was a gruelling opponent (but cleverly neutralized) and the shield guardian and assassin/bath house owner just made it an unwinnable straight up fight. The group was amazing in using NPCs to distract or disable opponents, and perhaps if they'd just trusted the poison or if they'd bunched up or retreated earlier...water under the bridge, as the naiad would say.

A rush of a session that ends on a huge letdown.

It sucks, I say; all their characters are dead.

But not done for!

DARKNESS, THEN A BELL RINGING

The five wake up to the sound of a belltower. The feeling of wind in their hair; crows croaking overhead. Rope around their unbreathing throats, ash gallows creaking. Wearing their most comfortable clothes, all their posessions gone except two copper coins each - except for Lomin Mor.

The group is on the Isles of the Dead (don't peek, guys), between heaven and hell. They'll get a solid opportunity to return to life next session!

Belswick: Letter found in Sarah Vennis' diary

I love writing out letters between NPCs, even (especially) if they don't get intercepted. For one, it's cool to give a real hand-out for players to keep. It also helps me collapse the nebulous quantum evil plot cloud in my head to specific plans. And with Skerples's post on medieval letters, it's fun to write these as well!

(Of course my players have been helping rather than investigating the biggest letter exchange; they haven't even asked to see the letters. Which is cool, because every new letter, I get to progress a dastardly plot one more step.)


In the case of the letter below, the text is a list of hooks to places to explore. The party found the body of Sarah Vennis, a nun of the Silent Order, in the Tomb of the Serpent Kings. Sarah's ghost told them she's been sent on a series of missions by a Rectrix Porthia in the Order of the Eye. (Dubious minor order, never heard of before.) Tilbørd, our party cleric/warlock/thief of the Order of the Scroll/Radiant Maiden, pried open the thick back cover of Sarah's diary and found the following letter with those quests.

Not clear what the party will be doing with this yet. They're in the basement of a sauna right now, getting ready to murder the wizard Vedric von Vermis during his birthday party.




(Notes in petrol. Some links lead to entries in the One Page Dungeon Constest or other adventures. Players: feel free to read those if you want, I know you don't cheat with out of character knowledge. Personally I think it's more fun to be surprised, but up to you!)





First rectrix Porthia to her student Sarah, greetings.


May the Authority guide you in all things. And as He guides you, may you search out places that trouble His Church. Word has reached us of the following events that deserve our attention.


Tilbørd's player choked on his coffee when he saw this list of chores. All his own mentor asks him to do is keep the noise down at night and help out in the church. "I already liked the old man, and that's before I saw the shit you have to do in the Silent Order."

On a hillside near Crossroads in barony Walden, a cave has opened to a forgotten crypt of the Ancestors. Ensure that no heresy reaches out and secure any scripture and artefacts.

This is where the party found Sarah, in the Tomb of the Serpent Kings because rocks fell and I needed a way to plant a note. Died exploring the very first item on her list. Sorry love.

Near Crossroads also, confer with Father Eustace of the Scroll and learn the health of the Keeper of the Third Seal of Saint Cascarrion.

Father Eustace is Tilbørd's mentor. He takes care of Hieronymus, an ailing Sleeping Priest in a temple at Old Crossroads. Hieronymous keeps a god-spirit of travel and hearth bound in dreams. Saint Cascarrion the living dead is the world's single remaining vampire and the Saint of the Third Lantern. His seal? The players have no idea.

Look into the riddle of a stream in barony Corsewall's northern Snake Mountain, where the water has turned foul and dark.

If you've read Johannes Cabal: Detective, you maybe remember The Tomb of Umtak Ktharl? Looking forward to this.

We hear stories of a cult to a being named the Messenger in barony Martin.

This ties into the backstories of two PCs: our pet lover Mike the druid and Guy the wizard. Caiphon Rising: it's going to be fun.

Lights and unsanctioned movement have been reported in Lake Ful. Ascertain whether this is a point of concern.

The church at Glourm in barony Ballumbie has sent no messenger since winter time. Enquire after their wellbeing.

You may recuperate from your travels at the Abbey of St. Wilk in barony Nether Stowey.

In the forest of Marrow in barony Corsewall, a black unicorn is said to preach unholy mass to hunters. Record its blasphemies and identify those that follow the beast.

There are rumours of witchcraft in barony Valbonnais. As you pass through, confirm the state of the locks under St. Ennis' crypt.

I honestly can't remember what I had planned for this. No prob, my binder of awesome adventures from the DIY scene will provide.

In all your travels, take care to stay away from Mt. Frostcrown in Ful. Terror dwells there.

No kidding. Death Frost Doom: here's a mostly spoilerless review. I've already written the Du'vanku into my campaign as the people responsible for the fall of heaven.


Go into the dark unafraid, for the Authority guides your hand.


- Porthia, Rectrix of the Eye

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Wavecrawl region: the Maelstrom Islands

Here's a completely new region for a piratecrawl campaign I'm preparing. Map and lots of details about all the islands and settlements. Put it on your world map or lift it as the setting for a short campaignlet or one-shot. Comments are very welcome!


The Maelstrom Islands lie around a titanic ocean whirlpool and are home to all manner of horrible secrets. My place to dump weird lovecraftiana into an innocent piratecrawl. In my own campaign, I'll place the Maelstrom on the route between the Mehabara and Yoon-Suin and the Spice Islands (being written). One last horrible stop on the way to untold riches.


USE THIS


I've made a Google Doc for this entire region; find the same info below. Get all my map handouts via Google Drive. Available under CC by-nc-sa/4.0 (use, attribute, don't monetize w/o permission).

The Maelstrom Islands, possibly the worst piece of real estate on the entire planet.

INTRODUCTION

A raging whirlpool dozens of miles across. Islands of fearful settlers and sleeping ruin. No-one was living here before the Old World countries planted their flags, although there are ruins. Life is cruel near the Maelstrom. The inmates of Dreadhold would confirm it if they ever got out of the prison on the edge of the whirlpool.

If the Maelstrom Islands weren't the gateway to the Spice Islands and Yoon-Suin, no-one in their right mind would have settled them. Some say that no-one in their right mind ever has. Take on supplies and cast off quick as you can before this desolate place sucks you in.

The Maelstrom Islands are just one region to explore in a wide-ranging roleplaying campaign of sea travel and piracy. At sea you can be free from the Old World powers. Life still touches the unexplainable here. The New World is wide open and strange.

THEMES

An iron grip on the spice trade.
All trade with the far east has to pass the Maelstrom. The Ranstead League famously traded property in Chult for control over these islands, but settling the Maelstrom is a steep price to pay for the lock on spices.

Desolate shores and lashing rain,

You will be cold, and wet, and miserable. So does the Lord test his flock, say the islanders. Their life is both simple and difficult. Basic amenities only. Farming, fishing, herding, weaving. Always praying for forgiveness from their fathers's sins or blissfully repeating them.

Old World settlements on the island shores...

Tight-lipped villages of strict morals. Clannish. Mistrustful of outsiders and of the few decadent towns in their midst. The islanders could not worship freely in the decadent Old World. Out here, they found the freedom to lock themselves in a faith like a straightjacket.

..sleeping horror in the interior.
The Lord tests us all of our days, say the islanders. Even so, they know the lure of their home. Be it Kerguelen's whispers, the fishing bounty of Meerdorf, the obsessive search for the wreck of the Fortune, the impossible buildings on Carcosa, or the nightmare honey out of Quellport - the Maelstrom is a place to explore and a place to lose yourself.

The Maelstrom and Dreadhold. 50 miles across, give or take. Don't get this close.

THE MAELSTROM

Image: the Whirlpool Galaxy, W. Parsons.

The heart of the Maelstrom is two miles across, filled with spray. Rainbows when rare sunlight gets past the storm overhead. All ships inside the ring of the Maelstrom Islands feel the inward pull of the whirlpool. A quick dip along the outer edge can speed up a trip, but most captains stay well clear for fear of being sucked in.

No-one knows why ocean currents race  here from hundreds of miles away, how deep the whirlpool is or where it leads.

Maelstrom rumours (d10)
  1. eats a year of your life for every mile you sail towards its heart.
  2. slows when certain stars align.
  3. has a voice. Learn its language and you can ask it a favor.
  4. is where the Devil fell to Earth.
  5. the sea devils have an island full of treasure for those who know the way.
  6. those who ride the Maelstrom down and out can command the very sea.
  7. will one day spit out all it ever ate.
  8. will spare your life in return for your one true love.
  9. is the baleful eye of God on his world.
  10. sends those it eats to faraway places.


What's at the heart of the Maelstrom? (d10)
  1. a direct road to Hell.
  2. a chained thing of endless hunger.
  3. a city cursed for its endless curiosity.
  4. the Sea King, raging for the return of his daughter.
  5. a tunnel down to a vast sunless sea.
  6. Prometheus, bound and tortured for  bringing mankind the secret of fire.
  7. the kingdom of Death himself.
  8. a paradise of eternal life and wealth.
  9. dry land with a thousand shipwrecks.
  10. a secret Old World fortress.


Navigating the Maelstrom


1 turn = 15 minutes; 1 square = 1 mile
*: Include the ships manoeuvre bonus/penalty.
Outside the islands, water flows inward in strong, steady currents. This only affects travel to other places on the world map.
The outer reach of the Maelstrom (outside its drawing on the map) moves counterclockwise around the maw.

  • Radius: 50 to 25 miles.
  • Ships move 2 squares with the flow at the end of their turn. The helmsman can roll Navigation >20* to avoid the ship moving inward 2 squares.
  • Swimmers move 2 squares with the flaws and inward 2 squares.

The grasp of the Maelstrom, inside its drawing on the map, surges around the maw in great swells. The sound is deafening and the sea tilts inward.

  • Radius: 25 to 12 miles.
  • Flotsam slams a ship or swimmer for d6 damage every half hour. Con 15 for half.
  • Ships must roll Sailing >20* or cut their speed in half (round down).
  • All ships and swimmers move 4 squares with the flow and 3 squares inward at the end of their turn.
  • Swimmers have to roll Swimming >20 or go under for 2d4 rounds. Grab a barrel!

The maw of the Maelstrom, inside the orbit of Dreadhold, steepens down into a funnel.

  • Radius: 12 to 2 miles.
  • Ships roll to keep their speed as in the grasp.
  • Move 6 squares with the flow and 4 inward.
  • Flotsam: d6 per 15 minutes. Con 20 for half.
  • Swimmers go under unless they have something to hold on to.

The heart of the Maelstrom is filled with salt spray and the stench of rot. Lightning marks moving shapes deep below.

  • Radius: 2 to 0 miles.



Inspired by the cruel look of the turkish prison from Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest

DREADHOLD PRISON

Dreadhold: Eberron's Inescapable Island Prison, detailed in Dragon 344

A fortress of black stone where the Old World powers send their worst criminals to rot for years, for life or longer. Impossible to reach and harder to leave.

There is no vegetation on this rocky island. The only  road leads from the docks to the prison, looking out over the Maelstrom. The roar is deafening. Cliffs range from 40-60 feet high and end in sharp rocks except at the one inlet near the docks. Prison staff from Kerguelen and Graben works three month shifts locked in with the inmates.

Warden Saxon Gundirk is a heartless Ranstead noble. He cares not about guilt or due process; he just imprisons those that the Old World countries send him. Only known agents of an imprisoning government can order an early release.

The original Dreadhold is warded up to the gills against flying ships and teleportation, with endless layers of runes to hem in its prisoners. In a low-to-no magic setting, Dreadhold makes do with stone doors, complex locks, heavy chains and hobbles. No single guard carries all the keys to the many corridors and ward rooms. Engineer Cassius Vreyman is a Weather Witch specialising in devious curse-traps.

Dreadhold keeps 418 prisoners in progressively stricter wards - two to a cell, in a single cell, in 24/7 solitary, in chains, in a deep hole, blinded and mute. The gold ward offers luxury for noble prisoners. Rumours of a ward where dangerous prisoners are turned to stone are almost certainly a fancy tale. So are tales of prisoners that have been incarcerated before the island was even discovered.

Shark's Teeth Reef
Shields Henderson island from the worst pull of the Maelstrom. Tall tales about Knammen Island fishers meeting beautiful mermaids here and coming home lovesick with strange jewelry.

Coffin Nails Reef
Prisoners who die in their cell are tossed into the sea here. There are stories about an underseas tunnel to Dreadhold.

Kerguelen. Perhaps the closest to a classic buried horror story that you'll get.

KERGUELEN

Trail of Cthulhu - The Black Drop

In The Black Drop, Kerguelen is an island group in the Antarctic under French rule. The adventure has the colony closing up, just when a party of Nazi investigators show up to suicide pact a waking Lovecraft horror back to sleep.

Adaptation: recast the French as Valois and the Nazi anti-doomsday cult as the advance team for Kerguelen's new Ranstead masters. Lose the 30 year timer on the big nasty. It's asleep but can be woken by determined action.


Extremely cold, even for the Maelstrom Islands: mountains are covered by snow year-round, the sun seems to sit lower in the sky than on the other islands and plants grow extremely slowly on Kerguelen.

A failing Valois colony has been handed over to Ranstead explorers. The 137 Port Couvreux colonists are miserable and poor, which makes their black gem jewelry even more remarkable. The Ranstead advance team landed in Betsy Cove to explore the ancient quarries where these jewels were found. What no-one will write in a report is that the stones sing softly at night or that the quarry is flanked by immense towers of unknown architecture. A pitch black tunnel leads into the mountain.

Graben Island, Knammen and Nebelstein. For all your evil necromancer and dubious fish folk related needs.

GRABEN ISLAND

Maps: Lyakhovsky Islands. Ship of Horror is a Ravenloft adventure with a cool boat haunting. Players are pretty much expected to exterminate everything but the townsfolk. The module is more novel than game aid. The basic idea is nice. Throw out all the plotted encounters. Recast the land owners as Ranstead settlers. The Graben family is not undead, but they are into dark stuff.

Port Graben (1700) services any trading ship, but non-Ranstead ships pay a hefty extra fee. Currently the largest port in the region. Simple Ranstead villages of fishers, farmers and herders. Reformed Liturgists, withdrawn. Many wool spinners.

A recurring sickness is picking off the settlers. Ezekiel Graben, head of the local landholder family, is collecting the bodies of the dead to contain the disease. The family is in rudely good health. They secretly drug victims, dig up the sleeping "dead" and ship them to Nebelstein for their grandfather's studies.

Captain Garvyn of the Vliegenthart, afraid of catching the non-existing plague, dumped some of the bodies overboard. Now the crew is cursed. They cannot leave the ship, wreck it or even die it until the bodies are returned. Old Jacob, little Charlotte looking for her doll, and her mother Madelyne want to be buried on Graben.

Nebelstein Island 
None of the ice magic. Nebelstein's master isn't a level 20 lich, but a mad scientist.

Manfred Graben is a recluse chemist investigating the boundaries of life. The Ranstead League didn't think the ancient mausoleum on Nebelstein was worth exploring. Manfred is convinced that the ruins hold the secret of eternal life. He invested his family fortune to become land owner of the area.

Manfred is homing in on a potion that stops aging for ten years. He shares a diluted version with his family on Graben. Each potion takes a living person to create. Early experiments produced zombies. Manfred has learned much from the unquiet ghosts, like how to recover from Quellport's Blue Stone radiation.

Knammen Island

Not detailed in Ship of Horror, but in the Nocturnal Sea Gazetteer. Basically the Shadow over Innsmouth in Ravenloft.

Needs very little work to run. Innsmouth, sorry, Meerdorf, was a faltering Ranstead fishing town before one of the fishermen caught a weird statue of a half man, half fish in his nets. (Would it have killed the writers to give a name? Fine, it's the Marsh family in Innsmouth, so Herr Sumpf it is.)

The Sea Strange statue was put in Meerdorf church to worship. Soon after, Deep One knock-offs crawled out of the sea with a deal: mingle your line with ours and your holds will overflow with fish and gold. Said and done: children have been born since with...a skin condition, is what we're going with here. Definitely not gills.

Run this as a withdrawn town, mistrustful of outsiders, with people wearing heavy clothes. They keep their mutated offspring out of sight when travelers show up. All they want is to keep hauling in fish and wearing deep sea jewelry to church.

In other words, an excellent quiet place to lay low and avoid the law. Of course enterprising pirates might become very interested in rumours of sea gold.


Wasn't sure about this place when I plonked it on the artboard, but quite happy with how it came together. Mash-up of alternate realities and a buried Thing Man Was Not Meant to know.


HENDERSON ISLAND

Map: Pitcairn, of the mutiny on the Bounty. I realised I knew nothing about this mutiny and decided to turn that into the rule of the land. Henderson is contaminated with alternate histories. There are many variants of the mutineers and the wreck around.

Henderson is famously where the Wexlish ship Fortune was wrecked after a vicious mutiny against its captain Bligh. The mutineers founded Adamstown. Wexland annexed them three years ago. Factor Squires discovered doubles of the mutineers, and it seems everyone has a different story about the fate of the ship, what it was carrying and even its name.

Paul's Pool
HEX 0609 Blowhole Caverns. A good dungeon delve against vile inhuman beasts - and the tide, when it inevitably rushes in.

Beautiful tidal pool with wild beasts - barnacle and crab men, giant starfish. They come from Yoon-Suin or even from an alternate reality. Barnacle men shamans use actual magic, which would be devilish hard to learn for soft shelled humans.

Bottle Beach
Sunless Sea, the Dead Letter Office. Mad. Glorious.

A beach where message upon message in a bottle washes up. Faber, a Ranstead clerk, collects them in his driftwood hut. He's building a sorting engine to find where the letters should go. He will pay for you to deliver some.

Faber guards the hatch to his basement. Stairs, turning down and down and down until the light is gone. Shelves everywhere for more letters and parcels. Language shifts, alphabets never seen before, paper becomes parchment, then wax tablet, bone, clay. More letters. They never end. They must be delivered.

Wrecks of the Fortune
The wreck of the Fortune has been found thrice already. Each salvage ran into puzzling anomalies of the ship's layout and encountered unknown sea beasts.

The wreck of the… (d10)
  1. Fortune
  2. Destiny
  3. Benevolenc
  4. Salvation
  5. Legacy
  6. Benediction
  7. Chance
  8. Favor
  9. Recompense
  10. Bounty

Mutiny, because… (d10)
  1. Cruel captain
  2. Endless bad luck
  3. Mermaid charm
  4. Religious spat
  5. Going pirate
  6. Lost at sea
  7. Cannibalism
  8. Infighting
  9. Superstition
  10. Want to settle

What doomed the ship (d10)
  1. Hurricane
  2. Food ran out
  3. Rotting curse
  4. Kraken
  5. Pirate attack
  6. Haunting
  7. Hallucinations
  8. Disease
  9. Fire
  10. Crew sank it

The ship's cargo (d10)
  1. Vast riches
  2. Murmuring statue
  3. Slaves with witch
  4. Magical beast
  5. Lovecraftian beast
  6. Alien ship
  7. Secret weapon
  8. Opium and worse
  9. Spices
  10. Breadfruit


Snake reef
Check every bit of water for snakes. Even if you just checked it; even if the barrel has been closed ever since you left port. The reef's brightly coloured snakes get everywhere. Reef snakes turn fresh water into salt and good men into corpses. Become bigger the deeper you go. Sailors say the entire reef is one, sleeping. When the Maelstrom slows, you can see structures down there like those on Kerguelen.

My very simplified variation of Micaholism's United Tribes of Carcosa map. Added in some Bretonnish myth and Hyperion Cantos for fun. Well, as much fun as being hunted by a time-shifting razor golem can be.


ISLE DE CARCOSA

Based on Robert W. Chambers' King in Yellow and this gorgeous map by Micaholism. Lovecraftian horror, but asleep like on Kerguelen. You can wake it, of course. Have added the city of Ker Ys (found via Chambers), a Bretonnish myth about a sunken city, and added a second city with the same name scheme on dry land.

Carcosa is filled with the remains of previous occupants. Many things simply become known to visitors, like the Candela Mountains being named for their dancing lights or the names of Ythill and Kêr Ys.

Kêr Bras
Valois settlement controlled by Baptiste Gralon, the nominal governor of the entire island. In practice most of it is still unexplored. Kêr Bras, or "the High City" in Gralon's native Brezhon, outfits many expeditions into the interior. Growing appreciation for the fine arts. Tarracon composer Benvento Chieti Bordighera is working on the reputedly unplayable Massa di Requiem per Shuggay. The exiled Valois violin maker Erich Zahn is working on a masterpiece out of bone. No-one wants to know where he gets his material.

Kêr Ys
The "Low City" of Kêr Ys lies beneath the waves of Chambers Bay. All know without asking that Kêr Ys was punished for its arts and sins, and that its princess opened the tidal gates to the sea. There are plenty of fish in the bay, but no fisherman dares to brave the songs of drowned Kêr Ys. During the new moon, you can hear the city's bells ringing. Silver glitters in the depths.

Free City of Alabasque
A town more than a city, but the grandiose name stuck. Home of the Leaden Brothers, anarchist gunsmiths who settled here to live in the name of the gun. Create strange and powerful firearms and find disturbing bullet caches in the hills. Assign spiritual value to guns and those who wear them. Everyone is armed. Any dispute is settled with a shooting contest or an outright duel.

Ythill
Known to all without anyone telling. An abandoned metropolis on lake Hali where a mirage fills the sky with two suns. Domes, villa's, towers, piazzas, colonnades. Famous for its arts, balls, masquerades, literature and music. Famously devastated by a play about the King in Yellow, who came into reality to sweep the people of Ythill into nightmare.

No-one alive has ever visited Ythill, seen it from less than a day away, spoken to one who has been there or read about its history. It is, and is known. Most Carcosans try very hard not to think about it, or about the fads of literature and poetry that are following each other ever faster in Kêr Bras.

The Time Monuments

Names from Micaholism's map of Carcosa, idea from the Hyperion Cantos.

The monuments are carved with an unknown script that can be read anyway. That is how we know their names: Ciethal the Priestess, the Navel Stone, La Torre Amarilla, Olimatte's Tomb. They are vast works of stone. Edgeless, unmarked by time, empty but waiting. You can enter some, but their insides can shift or close up. A giant statue made of razors sometimes appears to observe or slaughter visitors.

Are these buildings without doors or windows the tombs for ancient dead or memorials markers for a forgotten war? No-one knows. Historian Sol Weintraub wants to pilgrimage here and find out.

Four monuments have been discovered. A fifth is known (but how?) to exist. They are rumoured to plumb time itself. Far in the past, or future, things were locked in. They were to travel towards a now not far away. The right procedure should seal them shut. Or crack them wide open.

 
So...for this last island I actually took the text that goes with one of Dyson's maps. I then used a completely different island for the image because I liked the slant of this one better. The Red Honey from Sunless Sea came to me when finishing up the Henderson map with its own link to that game.


QUELLPORT AND SEVEN BEE ISLAND

Area: Dyson Logos' map of the same name. Geography: Heard and Mcdonald islands.

The Ranstead colony Quellport could be a perfectly normal resupply point for ships on the spice run. Mayor Stijn Gellink works his men to the bone to make that dream a reality. Work on a dry dock should see Quellport become the port of choice in the Maelstrom Islands over Graben. Alas, the vile and unnatural has a strong grip here. Gellink will pay well to have Quellport's vices squashed.

Red Honey and the Rose Garden
Red Honey: Sunless Sea.Produced and shipped from Quellport and extremely popular amongst jaded nobles and merchants. Red Honey is highly addictive. Users delve into ultra-realistic dreams, fears and pleasures, living an entire life inside an hour.

The Sweet Sisters are the only ones who can produce it, and they protect the secret recipe for Red Honey with your life. The group is led by Sister Zaira, an ex-slave from Chult, and the popular poet Isery. Below Quellport, they oversee the Rose Garden, where lamplighter bees drink the dreams from screaming prisoners' brains and make a nectar redder than blood.

North Cove
Mundane, on the surface. Herders, fishermen. North Cove is the home of exiled notables who wish to overthrow the Burgherparlement of the great merchant houses of Ranstead.

Lawyer Hugo Grotius and parliamentary clerk Gilles van Ledenberg are co-conspirators of the executed Johan van Oldenbarnevelt. They want to return the Burgherparlement to the hands of the people of Ranstead. Lacking the oratory gifts of Van Oldenbarnevelt, they are interested in any and all word of his descendents, lost speeches - or of ways to bring the old man back from the grave.

Sheep's Cay
Sheep's Cay treats with a giant in the hills named Zalt, who can see the future. He shades his prophecies to sow discord, but brings enough fortune to his petitioners that they keep coming back.

The Blue Stone
A 400 yard cube of deep translucent blue stone in the bay off Quellport. Ships have wrecked themselves, those who climb and explore its sigil-covered sides take ill within weeks, but still the Society of the Blue bribes captains out of Quellport to ferry them to the stone.

The lamplighter beehives
Name & inspiration: from Sunless Sea. Scaled down from the 20m bees in the Quellport write-up to make them less physically intimidating and hopefully all the scarier. Effect of being stung: False Machine's Atomic Bees.

On the northern Seven Bee peninsula, seven enormous beehives are home to luminescent bees the size of your thumb. Their honey twists the body. They can zip through ordinary matter in short bursts and are relaxed like bumblebees - until threatened.

To be stung by a lamplighter bee is to implode in a heartbeat. The feeling is beyond agony, golden essence streaming out of you like the blaze of a falling star. Every seven years, the seven hives swarm to the Blue Stone for reasons unknown. They might be linked to the Flying Gods of the City of Barzon in Chult.

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Belswick 7: planning a murder

Last session in Duchy Belswick, our heroes saved the young lady Liselle from a kidnap attempt by bandits and the vile wizard Vedric vor Vermis. Mike and Tilbørd were this close to taking him down, and so he dropped a fireball on top of them. Let's find out what happens next.


THE CHARACTERS

  • Mike - human druid/fighter. Loves all kinds of animals. Wants to run an animal sanctuary. Has crazy mental powers to summon headaches and tentacles and freak waves out of nowhere.
  • Lomin Mor - elf rogue and gambler, formerly of noble blood but chased off by murderous brother, has a second identity as old Lady Olga of Culfield, right next to Kerjules.
  • Tilbørd - human priest of the Authority out of the Vaeringjar. From a criminal family. Insanely curious about anything and everything secret. Made deals with: some crazy eye-amulet to gain spellcasting powers, the church of the Authority to become a junior priest in Crossroads, a Ghoul gourmand names Jacques Cousteau, the ghost of a nun called Sarah Vennis, a body-riding spectre working for someone called Harkness, the Radiant Maiden, and a couple of bandits.

Players not present this session:
  • Aju - shark fishling barbarian who was originally a shark but wanted to see the surface world and got turned into a freaky half-fish by a crab wizard who wants him to retrieve an amulet with an eye.
  • Guy - human wizard of former noble stock - caused a horrific accident after having endless nightmares of sea and darkness. Saved by his Lodge mentor Fergus, tracked down a cult that wanted to anoint him as The Messenger, and started working for Crossroads' lord Kerjules.



COLD OPENING

We pick up the game in the very next round. Lomin Mor, taking care of Liselle and KO-ed Guy, sees his buddies disappear in fire. Vedric sneers triumphantly - then the smoke clears and Mike and Tilbørd reappear, alive but frozen in a huge block of ice. Vedric shakes his head in amazement, then uses his very last spell slot to Fly away.

With only 2 hp left, I tell them.

Aju and Lomin start chipping away at the ice block. Both frozen PCs survive, but Mike fails a roll on the Death and Dismemberment table and loses his right ear to frostbite. The group heads back for their home village with the captured bandit Sonet in tow.




TAXES AND DEATH

The players shlep over two dozen pieces of armor, short swords and crossbows to Crossroads via improvised sled. They earn the following rewards:
  • safely escorting Liselle, 500 hp
  • exterminating the Withmarrow bandits, 1000 gp
  • two magical daggers of parrying and sneak attacks, 250 gp each
  • magic longbow +1, 1000 gp
  • red bottle imp that can spread rumours, 100 gp
  • 17 pieces of armor, crossbows, short swords, 800 gp

Taxes on the above:
25% on all of the items (not the rewards), but the group decides to just gift their lord with all the confiscated weaponry. Identical weaponry with the owner's brand carefully sanded off - very suspect.

Total haul: 300 gp in coin per person, and the magical items.


DEALING WITH BANDITS

It looks like Sir Vennax might be behind the bandits working from the swamp in his domain. Sonet confirms as much, giving up the "merchant" Vedric von Vermis as middleman.

"Two hit points", says Mike. "This close."

Two bandits kept alive earlier are admonished STERNLY by Tilbørd. They've tried to flee twice already; the next time sends them straight to the cells, without a chance to confess their sins. Brent and Jannick agree to play ball. They will assist Father Eustace in church maintenance, and will work Mike's new farm in the future.


BRING ME THE HEAD OF VEDRIC VON VERMIS

Liselle is furious over the kidnapping attempt. It's clear someone doesn't want her wedding with the baron's son to go through, and her father-in-law's bannermen cannot protect her. Tilbørd convinces her not to cancel the wedding straight away and helps her write letters to her father and to baron Walden.

"Dear father. Please send me half the promised dowry to Walden so I can hire people to murder a wizard. Love, Liselle."

Liselle will offer 1000 gp for Vedric von Vermis' head on a platter - silver, wood, whatever - and extra payment for proof that shows who ordered the kidnapping. It's illegal, it's murder, it's a sin, it's a deal that doesn't even need discussing.

After all, let's hear it from Mike: "Two hit points. This close."

Totally a coincidence that I have an image of Baron Ballumbie here. The place Vedric spent a lot of time the past couple of year. Also where the group's patron-to-be Liselle was almost married to baron Ballumbie. Shh!

THE CURSED SWANLING

Dinadan the merchant returns to Crossroads from a trip to Copperstone mine, in the shadow of Dread Sir Ulric's castle Gale. Unlucky as always, this time he's sporting a foot injury.

Dinadan explains to Tilbørd how he was once a fairly succesful merchant, until asshole competitor Vedric von Vermis from barony Ballumbie arranged to have his ship run aground. A person called Harkness, whose cargo was late, saddled Dinadan with a specter who has been riding him since.

Vedric always sends Dinadan a mocking invitation to his annual birthday party at the Boswitch Bath House. It's coming up in seven days and is about two days away by road.

Careful though - the guy doesn't go anywhere without his nigh-invulnerable metal golem. Still, the bath house has to be an easier place to pick him off than his fortified watermill in Sir Vennax' domain.

The band isn't worried about the golem. The band knows where to find a nest of rust monsters. Vedric von Vermis is going to end up on a platter.

Sans hit points, specifies Mike.


TO BOSWITCH

Scenic Boswitch on lake Ful is a big town. Not a city, but definitely larger than li'l old Crossroads. Our band of murderers to be find themselves an inn - the Stuffed Boar - and start planning.

Mike is staying outside town with two teenage rust monsters. He's just learned to speak with animals, their mom needed space in the nest and was easily convinced the nice biped with the 100 lbs of scrap iron would take good care of her big boys. As teenagers do, they're laying in their bench all day munching scrap metal.

Bro, is it ok if we murder a guy in your bath house?
Lady Olga-- sorry, Lomin Mor tours the town to look for signs of the Violet Cloud crime guild. He finds them - hidden in the decorations of the Boswitch Bath House! It's a hot pool behind a high wall, half open to the air. The next-door "massage parlor" has a second storey and windows overlooking the baths.

Lomin talks to the owner of the bath house, a Seymon Bosprus. A wiry human, 50-ish, with an accent that drops like the temperature in the room when Lomin tells him that a well-paying regular of his will be assaulted in his bath a few days hence. He also gets a look at the layout of the place.

Seymon is a cold one; for a 2000 gp bribe, he'll let the assault happen. Lomin promises to think about it and leaves.

The group doesn't have 2000 gp to spend on this shit. They'll rough it. I so enjoy the eye-rolls of other players when one of them waltzes in and blabs the plan to the baddies :D



The other guys
Tilbørd, meanwhile, has heard rumours of a planned heist at the bath house via his own crime connections. The gang meet up with a fixer, an owlling called Vesuvius from Asturia. Vesuvius is concerned that this murder on a bather will tighten up security in the hot springs. Likewise, the PCs worry that a heist will make their murder all the harder. The only thing for it is to partner up!

And so we spend an hour or so going over options. Vesuvius is a handy NPC to feed info to my players! He can tell them about the rough time schedule of Vedric's visit, about his gang's plan to buy off a night guard and incapacitate the live-in stoker, a mouseling living in the basement, and make off with all the stashed money and the special bath potions and poisons.

Poisons? Sure!

There's this herbal concoction they drip into your bath or sauna. Just a drop gets you raging and ready to go next-door to Madame Palfreys. Take the whole bottle, and your heart could stop...and for just 250 gp, Vesuvius will give it to the PCs!

What if the heart attack doesn't kill off the wizard though? In a heist movie, this is when the thieves would roll up in a fake ambulance. And so a costume is put together for Lomin to impersonate a priest of the Leaden Order of St. Vivione. Leaden mask, white robes, satchel of unnamable metal tools and potions. He'll be outside waiting for someone screaming for a doctor, to finish of Vedric or sweep him away.


THE HEIST

We move to the break-in on the night before Vedric's anniversary. Vesuvius' gang gets the group in, ties up Carglop the mouseling boiler stoker, and empties the vault. They wave the PCs goodbye and hightail it out of the bath house.

Tilbørd has been thinking - which bath to poison, and what if there's a guest going in before Vedric? The appointment book shows that the custom bath, at 10am, has no previous bookings. But it will be filled with leeches for a bloodletting first thing in the morning. It would sure be suspicious if the leeches were floating belly-up when Vedric comes in.

The night is getting on - 3 AM already - and there's no time to waste: the group look up who will prep Vedric's bath and race to her house. 3:30 AM. Leia the bath attendant would be thrilled to get out of Boswitch - Seymon is a cold creep - but the money, the money... Would she accept a position in Crossroads? Hell no, she's got her eyes set on a job in metropolitan Domesbury, the Duchy's capital.

A 40 gp bribe convinces Leia to lend Tilbørd one of her dresses so he (and his new Disguise Self spell) can impersonate her the next morning.


End of session
Mike is in a dark cellar with two rust monsters and a tied up mouseling; Tilbørd is trying on a dress; and Lomin is fitting his leaden mask the next morning when a street urchin runs up. Tilbørd has spent 3 gp to get himself a little info network. The wizard Vedric von Vermis has just sailed into port with a couple of badasses and a metal man. He'll be at the bath house in an hour.


YOU GUYS SURE ABOUT THIS?

I ask, just to be sure. They do know they're planning a murder? An unforgiveable sin? (Well, there's an indulgence you can buy.) And for what, exactly?

My players are very clear in their replies.

"YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID!"
"Two. Hit. Points."
"He lived."

Here's to next session!


OTHER EVENTS THIS SESSION

  • Dinadan also brought back the miner Dorek, a dwarf accustomed to the privileges of the miner's guild. Tilbørd takes Dorek to inspect the tomb they found nearby and see if the stones can be quarried and used to build a watch tower. The upper level turns out to be good for decoration and paving only, but the lower level is made of excellent blocks. Dorek will need the entire complex cleared and mapped before he can start quarrying.

(Cost, for who's curious: 25 gp per 5x5x10 ft block of stone quarried and built into the new complex. Guy's mentor will foot the bill, as he'll be living here.)
  • In the full sunlight, and speaking Waldic so his rider can't understand, Dinadan is swan enough to confess he's smuggling letters and packages between Sir Ulric and the feuding baronets of Emlyn. Both brothers want to rule the baronetcy, but a blessing from their fairy godmother prevents them from straight up killing each other. Apparently Sir Ulric is lending a hand.


DOMAIN BUILDING

  • Mike is a few dozen gold coins shy of buying the first plot of land for his animal sanctuary. Lord Kerjules is willing to sell 1500 gp worth of farmland in blocks of 500 gp; monthly revenue 12 gp per block. This is post taxes and expenses like upkeep, worker salaries etc.
  • to oust Sir Vennax from his domain, the group will need to pony up a hefty 4000 gp bribe for Baron Walden. They're decided he needs to go - mistreating his serfs is bad enough, funding bandits to rob his neighbours is even worse. (I dread what they'd do if they discovered he was behind the kidnap attempt on Liselle. They've taken a liking to that girl.)

    Any items and rewards that relate to this (for instance, matching the bandits' matching weapons and armor to Vennax', or the reward for ending the robberies) will count towards this number.
  • Lomin is having succession trouble. His alter ego, old Lady Olga of Culfield, is childless and heirless. A cousin twice removed of her late husband is sniffing around.

    Lomin meets with this Drake Selbern, owner of pretty much a big farm and a noble title. He offers to set Olga up nicely in a little cottage - no more trouble ruling these tax cheating peasants.

    Olga declines and informs Selbern the succession is already taken care of; young Silas Kerjules of Crossroads will take her domain after she dies. It's not arranged yet (4000 gp total, of which lord Kerjules covers 2000), but Selbern doesn't know that. He races off to his buddy, sheriff Corrick, who advises the baron on the succession.

The gang will really need to rob Vedric's water mill next, and clear out the rest of the Tomb of the Serpent Kings, if they want to finance all their plans. But first:


BRING ME THE HEAD OF VEDRIC VON VERMIS!

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Pirate wavecrawl map handout: Isle of Dread

Still prepping pirate campaign stuff, still got no players lined up for it but having a lot of fun illustratoring this material. This post: a quick handout map of the Isle of Dread region as laid out by Skerples. Upcoming: a new of my own making, the Maelstrom Islands! First, though, what's that on the horizon?

Right before posting:

Wow. If you want a really, really well done period piece type of map of the Isle of Dread, just go here.


Want to see how Mockman's group did exploring the original module? Clicky.

PREVIOUS POST AND DOWNLOADS

Check out the previous posts with maps of the Merabaha ("Caribbean"), Chult (jungle with desparate Old World colonies) and Ape Archipelago (failed colonies with weird, weird animal noises from the jungle. Also monkeys with guns.)

Get all my images via Google Drive; available under CC by-nc-sa/4.0 (use, attribute, don't monetize w/o permission).

ABOUT THE ISLE OF DREAD

Jungle; gold; monstrous beasts; the secret of returning the dead to life. If that's not reason enough to scour the ocean for this island and win eternal glory, I don't know what your pirates are doing.

This map is in the same style as the previous ones, with fewer notes by previous explorers because I think this place should be more than half myth - actually finding it and finding a reliable route there will be a huge achievement.

With all sites and explorer's notes.


No notes
Nothing on here, just the name. Notes, sites, reefs, shallows and even distances removed. Probably the version my players will get off a wild-eyed hurricane survivor.

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Handicrafts: felt ocean and islands for pirate battles

If you're running a piracy campaign, you'll need rules for naval combat - and a battlemap to go with them. A quick trip to the local fabric shop gave me enough felt to make layers of deep ocean, shallows, sandy beaches, jungle and rocky cliffs. Wooden boats from spielematerial.de

Interestingly, this has the same colour palette as Skerples' pirate maps - which I've been redrawing in a more parchmenty style.


Quick and dirty, sure - but on the plus side it's light weight, easy to fold and transport, and stacking layers of felt gives a nice height map effect. The base ocean layer is 76x76 cm and has 4x4 cm squares drawn with a ruler and black marker pen. Large enough to fit a couple of boats into the same square for boarding actions!



Going forward, I'll probably make more smaller islands rather than a few larger ones. Easier to recombine (for instance, into an atol!)



Rocky islands like the one above were a blast to make. Cut anthracite felt with traight edges and sharp corners, layer on top of each other with glue and add some red felt for lava streams and green for scant forest. (Green flet is thicker than the red and anthracite - may need to shave a bit of height off, it looks wonky in close-up.)

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Bottoms up! a 5e / GLOG bolt-on mechanic for potion brewing

"I can teach you how to bewitch the mind and ensnare the senses. I can tell you how to bottle fame, brew glory, and even put a stopper in death."
- J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Who needs a better reason than Snape's speach to learn potion brewing? This is a bolt-on system that any class can make use of. Fit for D&D 5th edition and for the GLOG.

Our party barbarian has been spending time with the local potion brewer to learn the craft. Although I use Goblin Punch's 100 potion recipes, ad-libbing the brewing process costs me a bit of time every session. So if I just hammer out a quick system, that should me save time in the long run...

To your health!

Lab work 101. Much still to learn.

TOIL AND TROUBLE

To become a potion brewer, you need to learn the Alchemy skill (a couple of sessions of work with a friendly alchemist in downtime gets you basic proficiency). Then, it's time to experiment and trade so you can learn new recipes. These come in 5 categories: common - uncommon - rare - very rare - legendary.
  • Once you learn Alchemy, you know how to make 3 Common potion recipes.
  • Recipes cost half their store value to create.
  • Very Rare and Legendary potions also cost a special component to create; you can flavor other potions with components if you like, but I just assume those are part of the base cost.
  • Buying a new recipe costs the same as its store value.
  • To brew any potion, you need a laboratory outfitted to certain specifications and you need to be of a minimum level yourself.

Identifying potions in Goblin Punch's potion system is a matter of keeping records: each has a distinct look, taste and effect for taking a sip. Anyone can work out that system with time and a notebook.
Trained potion makers can automatically identify potions they know the recipe to.

Using skill checks in your game? You can roll with advantage (2d20, take the best roll) to identify any potion type you could already brew, or roll an ordinary check to identify potions that are still too difficult for you. (Example: in 5e, a 5th level bard with alchemy training could brew and easily identify common, uncommon and rare recipes.)



5e prices and criteria:
D&D 5e doesn't formally put a price on magic items, but it's handy to know how much they're worth anyway. For instance, when you want to trade in a magic staff to buy yourself a bishopric. I'm using the lower end of these item prices, but adjusted the higher levels because I don't see anyone plonking down 50,000 gp for a single potion of youth, even though it de-ages you 3d6 years and gives you 1000 XP. Then again, maybe I'm just not used to high level play. 

potion type
5e level
lab size
sell potion
create potion
common
1
100 gp
50 gp
25 gp
uncommon
3
250 gp
100 gp
50 gp
rare
5
500 gp
500 gp
250 gp
very rare
7
1000 gp
1000 gp
500 gp
legendary
9
5000 gp
10000 gp
5000 gp


GLOG prices and criteria:
The GLOG has less levels and lower XP thresholds than 5e D&D, so using XP for gp, I expect players to have less wealth to throw around. These prices are aimed at having the lab be a serious investment, but not crippling.

potion type
GLOG level
lab size
sell potion
create potion
common
1
100 gp
50 gp
25 gp
uncommon
2
200 gp
100 gp
50 gp
rare
3
400 gp
200 gp
100 gp
very rare
4
700 gp
400 gp
200 gp
legendary
5
1000 gp
5000 gp
2500 gp




Basic supplies


POTION RECIPES

This has been taken wholesale from Goblin Punch; there's just no improving on his format with brief rules and sensory clues! Any edits and mistakes are mine.

common recipes
comprehension, false life, hate, healing 2d4+2, heroism, love, sovereign grease, ventriloquism

uncommon recipes
anchoring, bottle imp (blue, gold, green, grey, purple, red), bounty, breathlessness, burrow, clairvoyance, darkvision, energy resistance, fire breath, fleeting journey, giant size, glibness, gold, grandeur, healing 4d4+4, hide from animals, hide from undead, invincibility, iron skin, levitation, magic weapon, mapping, mirror image, purge poisons, reverse gravity, seal soul, shrink, sound bubble, speak with beasts, speak with birds, speak with crawling things, speak with fish, speak with plants, spider climb, suggestion, tongues, transposition, water breathing, zombie blood

rare recipes
alternate self, deep sleep, ethereality, flight, gaseous form, green slime, haste, healing 8d4+8, invisibility, mutate spell, mutation, nondetection, poison (DMG), raise dead, sovereign glue, speak with dead, speak with metal, the great gambler, the hero, the poltergeist, the scoundrel, transformation: bees, transformation: rat, transformation: salmon, transformation: seagull, universal solvent, water walk

very rare recipes
cloudkill, duo-dimensionality, exit, healing 10d4+20, liquid boat, petrification, polymorph, random teleport, recapture spell, simulacrum d6m, spell ward until sleep, transformation: troll, true seeing, void metal, void wood, X-rays

legendary recipes
lycanthropy, sovereign acid, time hack, time skip, youth


POTION EFFECTS
Originally by Goblin Punch, tweaks in red to up some durations or effects for 5e by myself.

>> GOOGLE DOC <<