Sunday, December 27, 2015

Dwimmermount II: The Restart

After over a year's hiatus, we've restarted a twice monthly campaign centered in and around my version of Muntburg and the Dwimmermount. The Argent Flame, our previous adventuring party, is busily living down the accusations of demonic consortium and Chaos-worship. Accusations for the most part true.

Here is the FB post I put as a new hook:

Dwimmermount II
The Dwimmermount. For centuries, if not millenia, the massive mountain fortress loomed large across the realms of men. Famed first as a redoubt of the Red Elves of Areon, then the Zaharan Empire, and finally the wicked Termaxian sorceror-cult, the Dwimmermount was sealed under mysterious circumstances two centuries ago, and the Zaharan Empire fell to squabbling successor-states.

Almost six months ago, in Tensmonth of the year 214 After Zahar, the great "Red Doors" of the Dwimmermount were found to be open again for the first time in centuries. Strange lights and shadowy figures were seen moving up the carven stairs to the doorway, and furtive travelers, avoiding the frontier town of Muntburg, were observed on unknown errands to and from. Adventurers, already not uncommon along the frontier, began to flock to the ruins. The most famous group is the Argent Flame, a large band composed of many strange characters with many different goals.
Some of these goals, alas, proved inimical to civilization, and on the 21st of Thirdmonth four of the senior members of the Argent Flame, Whelan-Thiss of Irrun, Lydia the Doomspeaker, Rain Weatherbourne, and the knight known as Arthur fled the Muntburg compound. A trial, of sorts, was held to determine how much Chaos had infested the Argent Flame, and now they tread lightly through Adamas, worried that their rapid rise to fame and power have doomed them.

Thus, the Dwimmermount goes largely undelved in this Thirdmonth of 215 AZ, and adventurers hoping to emulate their success have begun to enter the fortress in search of fame and fortune.

The time has come for other tales to be told on Talis.

And thus, five new adventurers set forth into the Dwimmermount:

Gwenaria, a Neutral elf ranger interested in learning more about Areon.
Pendelton Reed, a Neutral mage with interests emulating Turms Termax- a knowledge of alchemy, astrology, and collegiate magic.
Phaedra, a short-haired, tomboyish Neutral fighter with a two handed sword.
Robin the Red, a Neutral assassin played by my wife. He's a pirate far from the sea.
Thomlin Dell, a Neutral fighter armed in Zaharan panoply, with plate mail, shield, throwing javelins, and sword.

Long ago, the Argent Flame established humankind's dominance over Level 1 once more, and bladedancers from the temple of Astarte and clerics from the Great Church reconsecrated shrines and had workers laboring to clean the floor. Some of them had even moved in.

Alas, when our new heroes arrived, the human residents were on the great stair outside the dungeon, tending their wounded. It seems a wizard by the name of Balthus entered the 'mount a week ago, asking strange questions of the Speaking Mask on the first floor (which in my campaign answers many questions on many topics.) Somehow, Balthus reanimated the dwarven statues (the inert dead) in the cemetery and these dwarven "deadstones" then fought a bloody path, pushing the living out. Brother Beoholdt, the only cleric to survive, vouched that turning the deadstones was difficult. Not that our party could do much about it anyway.

For homework (and to get their XP bonus), I am making my players do session reports. So I will let one retell what happened further in their own words:

Dearest father,
Having arrived safely in the Town of Montburg, I have acquired sufficient rooms at the local Inn. Whilest I was partaking of some ale and nourishment at the tavern, I overheard some humans talking about exploring the Dwimmermount, an ancient place first settled by the Red Elves of Aeron. Intrigued by the chance to explore such a place, learn more about the Red Elves and also gain the resources we need to restablish our honor back home, I asked if the two fighters, Pheadra and Tomlin, if they were in need of a tracker. They being new to town and eagar to obtain treasure as well, agreed to add me to there group.
The next morning we headed out, joined by a mage (Pendleton) and a pirate named Robin. Upon arrival at the Dwimmermount, we saw several people outside tending to some wounded workers. The cleric and bladedancer attending an extremely injured man warned that the place had been taken over by a man named Balthasar and he was raising the dwarven dead. Eager to assist them with ridding the Dwimmermount of such a terrible person, we set forth. As we opened the door, I spied something shuffling about at the back end of the room. It sounded like one of the undead dwarves based on the cleric's description. I was able to lodge an arrow in the mucky clay consistency but it was Tomlin's javelin that depensed the creature and turned it into a pile of stinking muck. The pirate found some jewelry tucked into the base of a statue before we moved forward with my torch lighting the way. In the first hallway, Tomlin busted down a door that had been bared with iron spikes. Inside we found a man hiding. Unable to get much information out of him, I offered to escort him safely to the main door. He reached the outside safely without incident and we continued exploring. In a room just off the one where he was hiding, Pheadra encountered a gelatinous cube and received some serious acid burns. Others did damage to the cube with their first hit but it was my arrow strong and true that turned the beast into a puddle of goo and more treasure was obtained within its acidic contents. In another room, there was a black pillar with some sort of runes that no one recognized. Nothing seemed to happen to the humans when they touched it but I had a bad feeling became very tired suddenly and very sad as it I didn't want to continue any longer. Fortunately we didn't, having discovered a room of workers and another cleric that had been murdered by the dwarven undead. We carried the bodies out and placed them by the doors so the order could attend to them before heading back to town.
I will continue to keep you informed of my adventures as best I can father.
Take care until we see each other again.
- Gwen

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Almost a Review: The Gnomes of Levnec

The Gnomes of Levnec
OSR Bundle of Holding +33

I just got this as part of the OSR Bundle of Holding +3, which I encourage you all to go get RIGHT NOW.

Go on, I'll wait.

This is a really simple module/supplement, talking about a small area, it's idiosyncracies, and it's weird gnomes.

Now, it's no secret that I hate gnomes and halflings with a fiery passion (at least, in my games). But I had a cool idea for gnomes for my ACKS game (they're little cannibal wooden guys who grow up into treants), and The Gnomes of Levnec is at least as awesome as that. I mostly wanted to write this because it reminded me of my own idea for gnomes.

It's a little too over-the-top-gonzo for me (as so much of the OSR stuff is- I also read Slumbering Ursine Dunes tonight, which was more (but not much more) my speed. But it's awesome and some of the stuff in it is usable- the spells included are thoughtful, the village which is written has the mandatory dark secrets one expects from a document that feels kind of LotFP to me, and there's a bit of a dungeon to crawl.

All in all, it's a pdf I would not have bought unless it was in the Bundle of Holding, and for which I am glad I shell for those.

Monday, November 2, 2015

[ACKS Monster] Using the Random Esoteric Creature Generator

Random is Cool.

It's true. Sometimes, Randomness can build awesome new ideas, or add another dimension to something you planned.

The Random Esoteric Creature Generator was written (or at least released) seven years ago, so I am well behind the curve in recommending this gem for any D&D game. But recommend I shall, because it's a wealth of information and ideas, even if you just mine it for useful stuff instead of rolling randomly. But, in order to show what it can do, I am going to do just that- populate a previously existing hex where I have a mystery in my game.

In my campaign, between the cities of Adamas and Domacco along the river there is a canyon, or river valley, that boats try to navigate as quickly as possible. A pall is over the land for miles- dead trees, darkness, and the feeling that you are being watched.

The locals say that... something... dwells in the forested hills there.

Well, let's find out what that something is!

The monster who lives here is probably as nasty as a Hill Giant or so. I will call it 9 HD.

The first roll is 2d10 to find basic body shape- Quadruped. This creature moves about on four legs.

On this page, there is a super awesome picture of a creature shaped like a d10. I don't know what the hell that thing is- some kind of horrible beholderoper thing- but *I* never want to face it.

The next roll is 2d10, for basic characteristics- I get an 11, which means it's a combination of two creature types. Combo monsters are very common here, as they ought to be.

I roll again- First one, Insect, +1d6 AC bonus. Second one, 13, Mammal, +1d6-1 AC bonus. It isn't really clear to me if these stack, but I don't think they ought to. I'll go with whatever bonus is better, but I roll 5 for insect and 6 (5) for mammal. So this thing's AC is 5.

There is another table to figure out what KIND Of bug and mammal this thing has the traits of. It turns out it's a hideous cross of... *rolls*... dragonfly and squirrel.

Uhhh, huh. Okay.

So Its got a long, shiny body with great gossamer wings. It has a furry belly, long tree-climbing limbs ending in sharp claws. Its head is a mix, with an elongated furry snout, cutting teeth, and mandibles that close from the sides on the long teeth.

There's a thing to roll to see how big the creature is, but I think it's big, and so I am going "huge". I figure the HD I already determined are part of this, so I don't modify it.

The next thing is locomotion methods, but I know the Drurel can fly with his dragonfly wings, and can climb walls and such easily.

On to Attack Methods. The drurel attacks with it's bite, which increase it's damage one die type. Being Huge, the damage was 1d10. It's now 1d12.

Next comes distinctive features. You can roll on this til you're done rolling on it. When does the freaky monster seem done?

Let's start rolling, then... The first thing I get is "stinger." This creature has a big old earwig pincer. Maybe it hangs from rocks and trees to make it's attacks.

But that's not all this thing has, is it? Rolling again, I get unusual color. This critter is red, with white details. Yeeeeep, it's a squirrel all right. Booring.

Neeeext. I roll a 36, multiple eyes. Huh. The Drurel has six hideous, faceted eyes which run along the top of it's head, making it harder to surprise.

Lastly, because I want to, I roll a 51, Rocklike Features. I think the Drurel has the ability to camouflage itself when it's not moving, Dragonheart style. This normally gives an AC bonus, but I like my take on it better. This is probably why none know what the Drurel looks like- it's an ambush predator, and a big one.

We move on to Special Abilities. A creature has a 10% chance per HD of having one, so 90% for the Drurel. For every full 10% under this, it gets one more. I roll 72, so I think that means 2. A roll of 34 gets "Drains 1d6 Charisma, no Save." This comes back at 1 per hour. I guess the Drurel makes you lose part of yourself, causing you to lose your force of personality. The next roll is 63, Immune to Cold.

Two last tables- Combat Strategy (Least Armored) and Motivation (Hunger).

So the Drurel wants to eat, and it eats soft gooey mages first. Makes sense to me!

As it turns out, I got this far and then I realize that I need to roll on the Delivery of Special Attacks for the Charisma damage. I roll a 9- projectile. But I don't like that, so I call it touch. Take that, Random Esoteric Generator!

Impressions: I've had this book a long time, but haven't used it a whole lot. It makes weird shit- just what it says on the tin. It's certainly a spiritual ancestor to Lamentations of the Flame Princess- especially the Summon spell in that game- but the things this generator makes are less gonzo than Summon. I'll definitely use it again for other critters in my campaign, especially daemons, spirits, or other summoned entities.

% In Lair: Never
Dungeon: Never
Wilderness: Solitary (1)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 120' (40')
Fly: 150' (50')
AC: 5
Hit Dice: 9**
Attacks: 2 (bite, tail) or 1 (tail poison)
Damage: 1d12/1d10
Save: F4
Morale: +3
XP: 1900
The drurel is a hideous crossbreed unleashed by some nameless mage centuries ago. It most resembles a hideous, quadrupedal dragonfly, with vast gossamer wings. However, it's head is almost mammalian, with two rows of faceted eyes a short snout, and mandibles which close over a mouth filled with long cutting teeth. It is, horribly, roughly the size of a very large bear.

The drurel spends most of it's time in the trees and stones around it's river lair. It is an indifferent meat eater, ambushing anything smaller than itself. Unmoving, the drurel is dull and almost stonelike, only shifting to shining dragonfly iridescence when it moves. The drurel causes it's attackers to suffer -1 to their surprise rolls, but gains a +1 to it's own.

The Drurel can spray a contains a powerful neurotoxin which both confuses and demoralizes it's foes, It can spray a gobbet of this at a foe, dealing 1d6 Charisma damage (no saving throw, must hit successfully) This damage recovers at a rate of 1 per hour. If Charisma is reduced to 0, the target will fall into catatonic gibbering until Charisma recovers to 1.

Due to the Drurel's strange biological processes, it is immune to cold, both natural and magical.

The Well, Room 6: Cult Quarters

Across the hall from Room 4, the doorway opens into a long room, 10' wide by 30' long. Within the room there are ten sets of bunk beds, roughly made from thick wood. A few of the bunks appear to be wholly unused, and only about half have blankets or any other kind of covering. Dirty robes, empty pouches, dice, half-eaten food, and other debris litters the the room. The walls are carved with similar symbols as Room 5- eyes, open mouths with eyes within them, beholders and the like.

A search recovers 13 gold, a usable backpack, two daggers and three days of rations- stringy meat and gritty yellow cheese.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Well, Room 5: Altar of the Eye

At the end of the eastern hall is a lozenge-shaped room, approximately 15 feet wide and 20 feet long, with rough, rounded corners. A one foot wide trough, hewn from the stone of the floor, crosses the room from the northern to the southern wall about five feet from the eastern wall. To either side of the door, torches in sconces with beaten-bronze mirrors shed light on a Chaotic chapel.

Bas relief carvings along all the walls seem to have once depicted more gnolls and elves, but these carvings have been thoroughly defaced. In their place, much newer, cruder carvings abound- massive eyes, human figures with eyes for heads, human faces with eyes in their mouths and mouths in their eye sockets, and the like.

The trough appears to be filled with a dust-covered pool of oil. A brazier with cold coals sits against the northern wall, with flint and steel and several bits of tinder beneath the brazier.

Beyond the trough, a heavy chain descends from the ceiling, suspended by a hook fastened to a ring on the wall. At the end of this chain is a chandelier-like figure- a metal central body with a paste-gem eye, and ten twisted wrought-iron arms ascending from this central mass. The ends of these arms have the decaying remains of human eyes impaled on six of them, and another bizarre, non-human eye with a strangely shaped pupil decorates the last. (This is an ibixian eye, a devotive offering from one of the Servitors of the Bleth on level 2B.)

Kneeling before the oil trough are six human cultists (use the statistics for brigands or bandits). All six of the cultists have shaved heads, long, wild beards, and do not pause for even a moment before leaping to their feet and attacking strangers in their (un)holy place.

Four of the cultists wear dingy white robes, their open fronts displaying crude tattoos of multiple-eyed beasts on their chests. Three of these men kneel next to long-handled axes, while the fourth possesses a massive, multi-headed flail.

The last two wear equally poor robes, dyed a rusty reddish-brown. One of the men has an axe, and one a flail. Beneath their tattered robes, these cultists wear studded leather armor. These red-robed cultists are missing their left eyes, scarred sockets empty and unhidden. On the backs of their heads are further crude tattoos, depicting lidless eyes with triangular pupils. These cultists also possess the chest tattoos of the above men, beneath their armor.

If the room is searched, the paste-gem eye of the beholder figure is revealed to in fact be a grime-covered pearl, worth 250 gp. The cultists each bear 1d6 sp, and one has a pouch with 5 gp and a wooden holy symbol of an open eye.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

[ACKS Monster] Fimir

I really enjoy the 1st Edition Warhammer FRP rulebook. That game definitely scratches a different itch than D&D does.

Sharl Maragh Fhimm/Dirach
Lair: Special Special 17+
Dungeon: Special Special Band (1d8)/Lair (1d4 bands)
Wilderness: Special Special Slaving Party (1d4 bands)/Stronghold (1d6 parties)
Alignment: Chaotic Chaotic Chaotic
Movement: 120' (40') 120' (40') 120' (40')
AC: 3 (piecemeal armor) 3 (piecemeal armor) 3 (piecemeal armor)
Hit Dice: 2+1* 6+3*** 3+2* (3+2** for Dirach)
Attacks: 2 (slam or by weapon) 2 (slam or by weapon) 2 (slam or by weapon)
Damage: 1d6/1d6 or 2x by weapon 2d6/2d6 or 2x by weapon +2 2d4/2d4  or 2x by weapon +1
Save: F2 M7 F4
Morale: 0 +2 +1
TT: Special Special G per band
XP: 47 1280 100 (135 for Dirach)

Rumored to be the descendants of humans and demons, the Fimir haunt bogs, fens, and desolates moorlands throughout the world. They are common in coastal areas, but can be found anywhere suitable dank. Their strongholds tend to be human ruins, coastal headlands and barren hill-forts, perpetually shrouded in thick mist.

Roughly human-shaped, Fimir have massive barrel chests, short, powerful legs ending in three-toed clawed feet, and long arms which nearly reach the arms. Their heads are large and almost hairless, tapering to a noseless, tusked snouth. They possess a single baleful white eye set low on their head. When Fimir stand up straight (which is rare), they reach nearly to eight feet. Fimir have long tails ending in thick knobs, and pebbly greenish-yellow skin.

Fimir communtiies are divided into caste by body type, with the majority being of the Sharl caste, servitors and menials. The next is the Fhimm, or warriors, followed by the Dirach- demonfriends. Most feared of all are the Maragh, the witch-queens who rule over Fimir strongholds, the only female Fimirs. How Fimir maintain their numbers with so few females is a matter of much scholarly debate, mostly amongst the more depraved scholars of Talis.

The Fimir shun the light of day, traveling in darkness whenever possible. They raid human farms and villages, in search of food and captives. Fimir are perpetually shrouded in thick fog to a radius of 20'.

Each Fimir warband consists of the above noted number of Fhimm warriors. A warband has a 50% chance of having a Dirach leader.

Each lair or slaving party has an additional 1d4 Dirach and a Maragh.

A Fimir stronghold in the wilds has all of the above, plus 1d4 more Maragh, with 1d4 Dirach per Maragh as a sort of honor guard.

Sharl rarely leave a Fimir lair, whether it be in dungeon or wilds. When such a lair is encountered, there will be a total number of Sharl Fimir equal to 150% the number of Fhimm.

Combat: Enemies to the side or behind a Fimir can be attacked by their tail. This attack is at a -2 to hit and inflicts 1d6 damage, regardless of the Fimir's caste. Sharl and Fhimm invariable use a pair of heavy-bladed axes, maces, spiked clubs, or the like.

Dirach: Dirach are, essentially, Fhimm born with some talent for spellcasting. They are able to cast spells as 3rd level mages, in addition to their normal abilities in combat. Once per week, seven Dirach may come together at the direction of a Maragh in order to perform an hour long ritual which is able to summon and command a demonic servitor elemental, as the spell Conjure Elemental. This elemental, when summoned, always appears somehow unwholesome (stinking reddish water, greenish-blue flame, bone-filled earth and the like).

Maragh: Maragh do their best to avoid melee combat. They have the spellcasting ability of a 5th level cleric and 5th level mage, and in addition may throw a bolt of crackling green-black energy up to 120', dealing 1d12 points of damage. Once per week, four Maragh may come together in a day-long ritual to cast Contact Other Plane.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Well, Room 4: Black Chains

Twenty feet away from the True Well, down the eastern passage, the hallway passes by two doors, one on either side of the hallway. 

Ten feet further, the hallway ends at a third door.

The left (north) door appears to have been hacked down at least once, and has been re-hung, apparently recently, on well-greased hinges. The door is neither locked nor stuck. Through the door is a fifteen by fifteen room. Thick black chains hang from the eastern wall- four sets, all of which are empty. 

In the western side of the room is a crow cage, with several tongs, branding irons, and knives hanging from hooks along one of the hoops of iron. The knives are very sharp, and appear well-used. Stamped into the steel blade of one of the knives is the Dwarven rune for "N", and there are several strange notches near the base of the blade.

This knife can be used as a key for the chest in Kaaz the Runic's room on level 2A.