Wednesday, September 25, 2013

5 Intelligent Swords

In Arden Est, intelligent swords are created when their owner perishes and his or her soul, rather than passing on, inhabits the weapon they bear instead. Here are five such swords:

'Vajra', Sword +1, light 30' radius, INT 9, EGO 3, AL L, speaks through empathy.
Detects evil, invisible or hidden, and traps.
Vajra was owned by an enthusiastic, but none too bright, cleric of Fayon named Marcus. Marcus desperately wanted to be an adventurer, but his order, fearing for him in his foolishness, attempted to dissuade him. When he would not be dissuaded, they gave him a magic sword that shed light, hoping that it would light his way. Sadly, Marcus fell in with the Family, a mafioso type of thieves guild that Marcus thought was just a normal family business. While attempting to retrieve a golden falcon for them from a tomb, Marcus was killed by a pit trap.

'Almace', Sword +1, luck blade, 2 wishes, INT 9, EGO 5, AL L, speaks through empathy
Detects traps, metals, and invisible or hidden.
Chris was a halfling thief who often performed heists far beyond his ability. He attributed his success to skill, but in fact, he was always merely incredibly lucky. His luck ran out when the mound of rubies he was climbing turned out to be a red dragon, who incinerated him.
'Gram', Sword +1, +2 vs. spell-casters, INT 7, EGO 10, AL C, speaks through empathy
Detects magic
'Gram' was the blade of a barbarian named Gram who hated magic-users. Whenever the wielder of this blade is in the presence of a wizard, she feels a compulsion to slay them. Gram left a streak of dead witches and warlocks throughout Fogelon, until a wizard named Wilhelm proved to be too much for him.

'Skofnung', Sword +3, vorpal, INT 12, EGO 6, AL L, speaks Common, Morachi, Dwarven, and Thyranian, can read languages. Detects magic and invisible. Can levitate the bearer for 15 turns.
'Skofnung' was wielded by Thorkel, a warrior from the early days of the Solarian Empire. Thorkel led a band of barbarians against the attempts of Solaria to expand into Fogelon, but he was eventually slain when a Solarian mage summoned an invisible stalker to assassinate him.
'Gallowglass', 2-H Sword +1, +3 vs. undead, INT 8, EGO 6, AL L
Detects secret doors, traps.
Reed was a famed tomb robber, best known for a legendary set of thieves' tools. He commissioned Gallowglass to help him defeat the undead who tended to guard the more lucrative of these tombs. His friend, the sage Zakarios, worked with him on a translation of the epic story of the defeat of the lich king of Surash-Knaak, leading them to believe they knew where the lich king, and his treasure, was interred. They were correct: however, they did not know that the tomb was guarded by a massive iron golem. Zakarios escaped with the sword containing the soul of his friend, but himself was killed by bandits shortly thereafter.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

d30 Challenge Favorite Low-level Monster

I'm mostly writing because I saw someone say 'bandits'. No! Bad DM! Bandits are boring. They walk up, take some of your money, and leave you alone, because they are rational creatures that don't want to risk death. Goblins are fun little murder demons with sharp pointy teeth. THAT'S interesting. There's a bunch of different ways you can go with it, too. My goblins are sort of the seedy underbelly of faerie and chaos, closely related to things that go bump in the night (mental note: find a way to use bugbears). But those don't have to be your goblins. Maybe yours speak backwards and walk on ceilings. Maybe yours are actually plants. Maybe yours steal babies to feed to bugbears. But that's all more fun than "Give me your wallet."

Monday, September 9, 2013

Gauntlet of Law

The Gauntlet of Law was worn by Haradon, doomed emperor of Solaria, in his fight against the demons in the Second Demon War. It gives the wearer a permanent 'protection from chaos' and +1 to hit.

d30 Challenge: Favorite Character

Dark ranger by Galligi
I've already talked about, and will undoubtedly continue to talk about, my favorite characters, so let me bring up one I was unlikely to in other contexts: Alkaline. (I had a habit in the 80s of naming characters after batteries...) Alkaline was a 2nd edition ranger who is the closest I've come to playing a tragic hero. In his case, his tragic flaw was arrogance, and, in circumstances I can't recall, eventually fell, becoming a Chaotic Neutral fighter. Pride goeth before the fall, they say...

Saturday, September 7, 2013

House Rules on Proficiencies

I realized last Wednesday that I don't have a good grasp on what different proficiencies do, particularly those not likely to be taken by wizards. So I'm looking through the relevant chapter to see if I can't get some idea on how they work. As I was doing so, I came across the bribery proficiency, and decided to change it a little.

Bribery: As written, this proficiency allows the PC to offer bribes, with bonuses based on the size of the bribe. Since I want any PC to be able to offer a bribe, I need to amend this a little. Now, when offering a bribe, any character can gain a +1, +2, or +3 to the reaction roll for bribes equal to a day's wages, a week's wages, and a month's wages, respectively. But if you take the proficiency, you get double the bonus.

d30 Challenge: Favorite Edition

I know I started out with BECMI, played 2nd Edition for years, and I'm currently loving ACKS, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say 3.5 was my favorite edition. Why? Because 3.5 is why I'm playing D&D today. I played 2nd Edition all through high school, but I barely played any D&D at all in college. I'm not sure why -- certainly most of my gaming group was still in the area. I think on the one hand, the Skills & Powers type books ("2.5") turned me off of the game, and on the other, I was just playing more board games. I wonder what the guys I knew back then would say.

But a few years into grad school, I was talking with a friend of mine who mentioned that he had been hearing great things about 3.5. Apparently, it was a streamlined and rationalized game, much better than the old clunky systems we played in our youth. In a fortuitous coincidence, I was going to be back in Grand Rapids for the summer, and a fellow grad student was going to be there as well, willing to DM for us. James the Lesser was born, and we enjoyed ourselves greatly. I never really found a gaming group in South Bend, but when I got to law school, I found a thriving Living Greyhawk community in and around St. Louis, as well as a number of fellow law students to play with, and I haven't looked back since.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Rumors following session beta

While celebrating your exploits against the goblins, you overhear a group of adventurers at the next table. Apparently, another party took out a nest of giant carnivorous flies. Apparently the porcelain frog they found was sold for 500gp! On the other hand, it seems like no one was brave enough to go after the crab spiders.

d30 Challenge: Favorite Deity

A bust of Fayon. (Actually Ptolemy II.)
So, I have to mention Fayon first. He's been the chief god of all of my homebrews, so has a lot of lore built up around him. His portfolio is justice, wise rulership, and barbers. As I mentioned the other day, he was a character of mine from the 80s who eventually, through the dynast path, became an immortal. There's a bit of backstory that I'm not going to reveal so I don't spoil my players, but there's one thing you might be wondering. Why barbers? Well, I've always liked the idea of having gods wandering around the setting, like Fizban, but never really liked the character. I played around with a few ideas, but I think I've stuck with the idea that he likes taking the form of a traveling barber. So there you have it.
I'd be remiss, though, if I didn't mention my favorite canonical deity, St. Cuthbert. When I first heard of him, I thought it was a fantastic idea. An old school Catholic guy wandering around Greyhawk? Sign me up! Plus, the idea of a god carrying around a cudgel is just great. As far as it has affected my campaign, it got me around a limitation on the number of deities. For a while, I've had a pretty hard cap of nine major deities. It's a good number to have -- enough for some diversity, but not so many you couldn't keep track of them. But then one of my players wanted to play an assassin, and I decided that the church should have an order of assassins. But it didn't fit the portfolio of any of the existing gods, so what to do? Well, that's how Saint Carino was born, the first known saint of Arden Est.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Goblin Wars! Session Beta

Reginald went back to town and brought his friend Gilbert to the temple. Blinded as he was, Gilbert decided to retire from the adventuring life, and Reginald vowed that he would take care of Gilbert for the rest of his life. But he is short on gold right now, so back to adventuring it is. Reginald went back to Karolina, and told her that he had killed most of the goblins, but some still remained. "Well, you had better finish up, hadn't you?" was the law-woman's reply.

That's wasn't all that was going on in Threshold, though. Rumors were circling that a group of gnomes had been ambushed by giant carnivorous flies in the hills northwest of town. And a halfling, the lone survivor of his party, reported on a group of crab spiders that killed all of his friends. Reginald knew however where his duty lay, and searched for companions to return to the goblin spawning pit. He found two -- a barbarian (Huge) and a thief (Snit).

They went to the cave, and Reginald suggested they follow the same path as last time. The antechamber was still empty, but when they went down the stairs, they found four goblins in the breeding room. Three of them were still dripping with goo from the breeding pit! The party killed them without mercy, and then proceeded to the last chamber in the complex, where they were finally able to exterminate the goblins from this set of caves. Returning to Karolina, she thanked the party brusquely and paid them their gold: 100 gp each, and 50 gp for the henchman.

Goblin Wars: Session Alpha (reposted to give context for this week's session)

We were down a player last night, and, except for the killing of a hydra, had important plot stuff to do. So I ran a one shot in Morachi.

Jeb and George were down on their luck. Half the population of Threshold was an adventurer, it seemed, so pickpocketing was not a safe profession. But they weren't the sorts to be any good in a fight, either, so dungeoneering was out. That is, unless they found some mooks to do the fighting for them. That was where Reginald and Gilbert came in.

Jeb spotted Reginald in a corner of the Wailing Whistle. The imposing paladin was hard to miss, and seemed to be the perfect mark. He sent his younger brother George over to propose a plan. "Pardon sir. My brother and I are experienced treasure hunters, needing only a couple of strong men like you and your manservant to aid us." Jeb had gone to the Sheriff's assistant, Karolina Nmec, about jobs only a few hours before. "The law of this town has tasked us with driving out some goblins who seek to establish a spawning den near this very town! With your aid, this evil will not be able to stand against us." Standing behind his brother, Jeb's eyes glinted with the thought of the treasure they would have once the goblins and the men of faith killed each other.

And so the four men (and a mule) found themselves standing in front of a narrow cave mouth, looking inside. The cleric, Gilbert, lit a torch and led the way. The cave, only being recently occupied by the goblins, was merely dank rather than fetid, and fairly dry. The torchlight flickered, and as the group explored it revealed two exits from the chamber. Jeb heard some noise from the right-ward corridor, and the party decided to move that way to head off any trouble that might sneak behind them.

The next room was large enough that the torch could not illuminate its entirety. The two thieves fanned out, hoping to catch any potential residents in a flank, when an arrow bounced off Gilbert's armor. Goblins! cried Reginald, and the men of faith charged forward as the thieves lobbed arrows from behind them. The goblins fell quickly before Reginald's blade.

Exploring the room revealed nothing more than a set of roughly hewn stairs. The room felt danker and closer near them, and George grew apprehensive. Using his ten-foot pole, he prodded at each step before he would put his weight on it, but each step held. As the party edged into the room below, two arrows leaped from the darkness, and this time the goblins aim was truer -- Gilbert was hit. Fortunately it was only a scratch, and battle was joined.

For whatever reason, though, this battle was not as smooth. The first swings of Reginald and Gilbert failed to give the goblins more than superficial injuries. And without the precision necessary to fire into a melee, Jeb and George were forced to engage the goblins in hand to hand. This was when tragedy struck. A massive goblin the size of an average human appeared from behind his minions, and struck George down with a single blow to the head. Reginald turned to face the champion as Jeb and Gilbert tried to winnow the ranks of the remaining goblins.

Reginald managed to thrust his blade clean through the chest of the goblin champion, but not before one of the archers put an arrow through Jeb's heart. The last goblin squeaked as Reginald turned towards him, and with a desperate blow, slashed Gilbert across the eyes.

Reginald rushed to the side of his friend. Life was leaving Gilbert swiftly, but with a swift prayer to Fayon, Reginald laid his hands on Gilbert, bringing him back from the edge. But noise coming from a corner of the cavern reminded them that these were not necessarily the last goblins here. The two men of faith gathered the goblin's coins and hurried out of the den the way they came.

d30 Challenge: Favorite Set of Dice

Spherical Cube, by Kaptain Kobold
Do people really have favorite sets of dice? I certainly don't, though I have a soft spot for a particular d20 that always seems to roll well. But my favorite die is an orange spherical d6 I picked up a while ago. It's a sphere, but inside there is a set of grooves and a ball bearing, such that it will come to rest on a number just like a cubic die. It's not really practical in play, but I think it's pretty neat.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Russian: Malyshev. Water. 1910.
% In Lair: 25%
Dungeon Enc: Gang (2d4) / Lair (1 warband)
Wilderness Enc: Warband (1d4 gangs) / Village (1d10 warbands)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 90' (30')
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 3 + 1**
Attacks: 1 (weapon)
Damage: 1d4+1 or 1d6+1
Save: F3
Morale: +2
Treasure Type: H (per warband)
XP: 135

Vodyanoi appear to be large, portly, men with large, soggy beards, but they are in fact made of water, and can be recognized by the pools of water that tend to appear around their feet. They are the chief soldiers and minions of Koschei the deathless, fey prince of winter. They are affable and friendly if it does not interfere with their mission, but are completely loyal to Koschei.

In combat they normally wield daggers, doing 1d4+1 points of damage, but if it is bitterly cold out, the daggers gain a coating of ice, and deal 1d6+1 point of damage. Vodyanoi can breath water, and can cast control water as a 5th level magic-user. Often, a vodyanoi in the water will attempt to grab a victim and drown him; they gain +2 to grapple attempts while in the water. The can also summon fish, either 1d4 attack fish, or a cloud of fish that acts as a wall of smoke.

Vodyanoi lair in rivers and lakes, and, to the extent Koschei allows it, will give the local community fish in exchange for propitiation. They especially like pearls. Each gang is led by a vodyanoi zakone, a larger vodyanoi with AC 5, 4+1 HD, and a spear doing 1d6+1/1d8+1 damage. Each warband is led by a sub-boyar, with AC 6, 5+1 HD, and a spear doing 1d6+3/1d8+3 damage. There is also a 25% chance that there will be a koldun, who has the stats of a normal vodanyoi, but 1d4 wizard levels. Each village is led by a boyar, AC 7, 7+2 HD, and a spear doing 1d6+5/1d8+5. There is also always a koldun with 1d6 wizard levels in each village.

Urban Vodyanoi are vodyanoi who have left the traditional habitat of streams and lakes, and moved to the city. There they can often be found working for the local theives guild. They have learned to alter their features to blend in; those meeting them outside of combat do not remember such encounters unless they save vs. spell or the vodyanoi wishes.

d30 Challenge: Favorite Setting

Art by Clyde Caldwell
My first campaigns were all set in the Known World, since that's the default setting for BECMI, but I can't say we ever used much of the detail that was available. None of us owned many of the gazeteers (though I apparently owned the Ierendi one, since I still have it laying around), and we didn't care much, if it all, for the details. Nevertheless, the Known World has the greatest amount of nostalgia value for me. After all, it's where Fayon wrestled in the arena of Garald the Blue, and established the Thyranian Empire from parts of Thayatis and Ylaruam!

I don't think anyone who's my age, who was into DnD at the time, escaped the influence of the Dragonlance setting, Krynn. I don't know how much we used the setting itself, really, but it's amazing how much more inspiration I get reading the book now compared to when I was younger. I know we ran the first module of that series, since I definitely remember the PCs killing the dragon when the Irda character shapeshifted into a poisonous gas.

When we switched to 2nd Edition, probably around '89, we also switched to Forgotten Realms. Again, more color than actual play inside the setting. Looking back, I think a big part of this is because we never bought many modules. When I was younger, I couldn't afford any, and by the time I was in high school, I had 'better' things to spend money on. So a lot of my gaming memories are homemade, like the Magical Mirrors of Muldavia.

Greyhawk deserves a special mention. I never played in it, or knew much about it, back in the day. But when I got back into the hobby post-college, it was through 3.5, and Greyhawk was the default setting. Not only that, but when I discovered Living Greyhawk, I played that a bunch as well. The Living Campaign system LG used, where you could only play regional modules in that region, gave each place a definite feel that I'm not sure it would have had without that rule. So even if I don't play there any more, I'll always have a soft spot for Greyhawk and, especially, Dyvers.

However, for the most part, I've preferred to use my own setting. It's not my favorite yet, because I've never been able to perfect it. But each campaign adds something to it, whether it's Fayon from my earliest adventuring days, Kilmar and Alexander from high school, or the plethora of saints from the aborted 4e campaign I ran a few years ago. Later this year, we'll be exploring the lands of Morachi which, with any luck, will create new details for the next campaign after that. Now, if I could just get the shorelines to look right.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

d30 challenge: Favorite Class?

Hands down, my favorite class is the cleric. I like the support abilities it gives; while able to still provide basic combat support in the form of a mace to the head, the cleric can also give her companions more advanced aid. I've played clerics like Zakarios that focus on healing and buffing the party, and I've played clerics that focus on debuffing the enemy. My earliest major character, Fayon, was a cleric -- he'd be a paladin in a more advanced ruleset, but we didn't have paladins back then. One of my two main Living Greyhawk characters was a cleric. The 4e character I played the longest was a cleric. I mentioned this morning that I like characters that can stand on their own, and clerics can do this as well. While not as good at going toe to toe as a fighter (or dwarf!), a cleric can definitely stand on her own.

The second choice would be a bard, which goes along with the jack of many trades I was emphasizing with cleric. I've had a bard character in just about every edition I've played, since the concept has always appealed to me. The execution, however, has always been lacking. I think my favorite bard so far has actually been the 3.5 version. The minor spell casting helped make it feel a bit more useful than most other versions, which, especially at low level, end up feeling like a bad version of the fighter (I'm looking at you, ACKS!)  (Updated since Feedly had the original draft).

d30 challenge Day 2: Favorite Race

To be honest, my favorite race is probably human. In race as class systems, they have a lot more flexibility than other races, especially older systems. And even in systems where race and class are broken apart, there's more flexibility. In Second Edition, demihumans are restricted in what classes they can play, and some classes can only be played by humans. In 3.5 and Pathfinder, the extra feat helps model that extra flexibility in a different way. But I want to put a plug in for dwarf.

My favorite character in modern times was my Living Greyhawk dwarf, Dustin. He was a dual-axe wielding whirlwind of death. His best moment was when, on a narrow causeway over a gaping chasm, he was the only thing standing between a charging ogre and the mages in the rear. Going fully defensive, he was able to force the ogre to miss on its touch attack to drive him into the abyss. What made it fun was going against type. Sure, most dwarves are plodding, slow, and encased in the heaviest armor they can find. But Dustin had maxed-out dex, and only wore a breastplate to protect him from his foes.

And who doesn't like the sheer survivability of the dwarf? With bonuses to saving throws, and in some cases constitution, not to mention a pretty good hit die, the little buggers are probably the hardest class to kill at low levels (RIP, Ezra Meatbeard). In an old school games, that's not something to scoff at.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Dungeons and Dragons d30 challenge

(Stolen from Tenkar)

I got started in D&D with a babysitter, back in 1982 or '83. I was five or so, and he had my sister and I pretending to be exploring a dungeon. It must have been AD&D he was playing at the time, since one of us was a gnome, but when I finally prevailed on my parents to buy me a set, it was the red box. I've bounced around since then, but BECMI was always my favorite edition, and it's good to be back to a version of it with ACKS.

New Blog!

Well, as I prepare for my campaign to start up in a few months, I thought I'd start up the blog now. For the time being, there won't be much here, since I want to save any stuff actually useful for the campaign until we're much closer to starting. But, I might find random things to talk about, like one of those "answer a question a day for a month" things. If you want to ramble through the detritus that's been going through my mind, check out the Goblin Wars! page on Google+.