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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Monster Monday 07/28/14

Welcome back to Dungeon Mastering by Candlelight.  Yesterday we had our biweekly 2nd Edition AD&D game.  I think we all had a great time.  Great food.  Great friends.  Great game.

I think next week I will add great wine for total win.

The image to the right is a pen sketch I did of a beastie from my home campaign called a Grick.
See below for the write-up.  As usual I will be offering this as a 2nd Edition monster but it can be adopted into any edition of the game.


Frequency: Rare
Location:  Swamps and Bogs
No. Appearing: 2d4
Armor Class: 5
Move: 12
Hit Dice: 2+2
No. Attacks: 2/1 Claw or Bite
Damage from Attacks: Claw 1d3, Bite 1d4 save vs death or bleed (see description)
Special Attacks: Bite causes bleeding.  Bite can target weapons or shields.
Special Defenses: None
Magic Resistance: None
Intelligence: Semi
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Size: Small
Morale: 14
Psionic Ability: None
Experience: 95 xp

Grick, also known as Death Pygmies are a species of small, semi rodent looking, snarling, nocturnal humanoids that inhabit isolated regions of swamp or bog.  Their squirrel like teeth are diamond sharp and incredibly resistant to damage.  Lizard men prize Grick teeth for the fashioning of high quality war clubs and other weapons.

A Grick typically attacks with its small claws but on a roll of a 4 on 1d4 it will bite.  A Grick's bite is incredibly savage.  Grick teeth can tear through oak, leather and even gnaw chunks out of iron and steel.  A pack of savage Grick can chew their way through doors or even walls in order to reach those inside.

Grick are stealthy in their home swamps, they are only surprised on a roll of a 1 on 1d6 and they have a natural move silent and hide in shadows ability of 75% when lurking about in marshy terrain.  Grick are only semi intelligent.  They dwell in the hollows of large trees or inside of rotted out logs, pretty much any location that provides extra concealment from the dangerous environment where they dwell.  Grick call to one another in hoots like certain forms of jungle dwelling tree monkey.  They are excellent swimmers with webbed hands and feet and can stay submerged for up to three minutes at a time.

Any character that is the unfortunate victim of a Grick bite must save versus death magic or bleed profusely.  The saliva of a Grick defeats the natural clotting ability of those creatures that they bite.  The bite victim will bleed for 1d3 points of damage until a successful application of a pressure bandage or healing skill is applied to the wound or until a cure light wounds spell is cast upon it.

Grick are Chaotic Evil in alignment.  They are vile, vicious savage little beasts who delight in the torment of most life forms that they encounter.  Lizard men hunt them and attempt to eradicate Grick packs where they encounter them.  Trogolodytes have been known to capture Grick and hold them in cages, training 2d4 to act like the equivalent of a pack of savage hunting dogs.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Soulful Sunday

To new edition or not to new edition that is the question...

I picked up the starter set for 5th edition to have a look.  The rules sorta kinda remind me of 3rd edition.  Gone is the ability to hop between character classes and I don't see options for multi-class characters so it seems like single character class play all the way.

The advantage / disadvantage rule seems like an interesting way to go but could be pretty brutal depending on the point of view of your DM.  If your DM seems the players as a group of blundering knuckle heads I have a feeling there might be a whole lot of disadvantaged rolls in store for them and I can see how that might equal a fair amount of character death.

Some of this all seems to be swimming in the bigger and larger pool that is D&D.  I love the game as a whole and so I have no real complaints.  The starter set didn't really make me stand up and cheer a big yes that this is the cool hip version of the game for me.  Its basically D&D.  I see that as a very good thing.  It pulls the game back from 4th edition which, while interesting, didn't feel quite the same to me.  The only real strong complaint I had about 4th edition though was that combats became intolerably long in very short order.  Long in the realms of an old fashioned Champions game combat where you spent maybe an hour of adventuring leading up to some big encounter and most of the rest of that entire night...easily two whole hours..was spent just bashing it out in that one combat.

Rules bloat was another thing I didn't much care for in 4th edition.  Again there was an entire massive amount of powers and terms you had to learn to play and DM the game.  The similar game being Champions again with all of its powers and modifiers and rules.  Now Champions I learned by playing in a really good group over a matter of a year or so and eventually I got the rules down...mostly.  I think that was back in 3rd edition before things got even more rules heavy in that game.

I own a copy of the last version of Champions / Hero to be released out of nostalgia sake more than anything else.  The rules are so involved that I wouldn't begin to try to learn it again and here I am a hardened veteran of Hero 3.0.  I feel the same way about 4th edition D&D.  This new edition seems like a step into a more rules light territory but I guess we will see.

Thumbs up so far on the rules.  A cautious thumbs up but thumbs up all the same.

Most of the starter set was the adventure which in some brief period of adventuring carries the entire party from first to fifth level.  Fifth level?  Seriously?  Bagooodabagee???

Spoiler Alert - Stop Reading if you intend to play as an adventurer in the starter set...

Anyway.  In the first encounter you run into an ambush of four goblins.  You fight some goblins.  You rescue a guy.  You go to a town and do some stuff.  It seems pretty ok.  Maybe I had higher hopes for something to really wow me in the starter set but this set is written for kids ages 12 and up and for newbies to the game, not for battle hardened old campaigners like me.

Will I play this edition?  Yes.  I think so.  I don't think this system inspires me to want to write any material for it though.  I don't think I'd ever bother to create a dungeon for this system or do much of anything outside of using it as a fun beer night RPG game running adventures straight out of the can.  Which has its place.  I kind of like the notion of being able to entertain a group of players for a period of months with some groovy fun out of the can D&D that I don't especially have to bleed a lot of personal writing, art and work into.

Why?  Because that entertains them while I bleed and pour art and effort into something of my own to run for them later, when the serious game nights happen.  I'll probably stick with 2nd Edition AD&D or Basic or Swords and Wizardry or maybe even something completely different that I write from top to bottom by myself for those nights.

In the mean time 5th edition can be a really fun time I think.  We will know more when the three rule books and the out of the box adventure series comes out.

Sandbox Saturday 07/26/14

Franklin Booth Art
Welcome back to Dungeon Mastering by Candlelight and my post for Sandbox Saturday.  A little detective work will reveal I am playing a bit of catch-up ball this week but this happens to us all in our busy work + kids + family time lives and mine is no different.

Today I am going to expand on some signature issues in my campaign setting, wandering monster tables, monster lists and so forth and the reasoning behind them.  Let's get started.

Trees and Brush

So why include trees and brush in a wandering monster table.  Who the crap cares about this?  Well.  I do.  I do because I love the approach the game Skyrim took to herbalism and alchemy and I want to emulate that in my table top game.  Not only are some of the plants listed useful food sources or helpful for weaving, making bows or other sorts of gear they are also part of my table for gathering and combining ingredients using the alchemy skill to make all manner of minor potions.  In this region of my campaign there is little left in the way of fantasy infrastructure.  There are few places even in dungeons where characters are going to be able to come up with healing potions, cure poison, potions of spider climbing or feather fall or invisibility and all the rest.  That leaves it up to the players to get involved in brewing their own.  I am working up a simple system of plant name x yields 1 or 2 or 3 bundles of ingredient depending upon an herbalism skill roll.  Herbalism is used for collecting, drying and preparing bundles of ingredients and alchemy is used for experimentation to discover what these ingredients can be used for and making the actual potions.  Just like in Skyrim I wanted at least a two tier list of possible things a particular ingredient can do.  Let's say the party finds a stand of Blue Ash trees.  I roll a result of 4 trees.  A character with herbalism decides to gather ingredients from the trees which are bundles of Blue Ash bark.  They set about this task and then later spend an hour of their time preparing the bundles for use as an alchemy reagent.  A prepared bundle of Blue Ash is worth about 1 gold piece to an Alchemist.  If the party encounters an alchemist either dwelling as a hermit up in the hills somewhere or in a group of survivors they can simply prepare bundles of ingredient and then sell them for the gold.  Otherwise a player character can pick up the Alchemy skill.  They must have a collection of tools and some sort of alchemical lab to do this work in which begs the question of where the party is going to hole up and build some kind of base of operations.  It also requires the party to go out and find these various things, trade for them and possibly slaughter some poor alchemist to seize theirs.  Four hours of work in the lab allows a skill roll.  If the skill roll is successful the alchemist learns the first type of potion the ingredient can be used to make.  In this case Blue Ash bark works as a reagent for a potion of slow disease.  The alchemist must find at least one more reagent useful for a slow disease potion to have a chance of brewing up a single dose of slow disease.  Each additional reagent the alchemist can add that is listed as slow disease adds a bonus to the chance of success and effectively triples the output.  Three reagents combined together to make a cure disease potion will brew a potion with three doses rather than the usual single dose created by combining two reagents.

Chestnut trees, Apple trees have obvious immediate benefits in a campaign where there is no home base village to return to for resupply, at least not immediately.  A bundle of apples might make a good trade in this setting for information from someone the characters encounter or it might stave off starvation for another day.  That same apple tree might have bundles of leaves which can be dried and prepared as bundles of reagent for an alchemist who may discover that apple leaves are actually useful in the preparation of xyz potion.

Trees and brush are not the only items useful as reagents in alchemy.  Part of the fun is having the party alchemist trade information with an NPC alchemist in this or that village where they might learn that the horn of a particular food animal can be used as a reagent or that the poison of a particular type of huge spider might have beneficial effects if prepared in the right fashion.

I know it doesn't make a ton of sense but I've wrapped all of this alchemical reagent preparation into the herbalism skill for now and that includes things like the preparation of animal horns, ears, snouts, blood and whatever other item can be turned into a bundle useful for the alchemist.

Freaky Friday 07/25/14

Its been a busy week so today I am going back a few days and trying to play catch-up on various items.

For Freaky Friday I am going to share two and eventually edit this to share three more random wandering monster encounter charts for the sandbox project.

Here we have Grasslands and Hills for you to look over and possibly yank into your own campaign.

There were some good comments on some of the boards about the bell curve these create and why I include encounters like various types of tree or wild game.  Remember that the players start in this region in a sort of apocalyptic situation.  Food and water is a valuable resource.  At least initially in the game there is no supply shop to buy food and supplies in or armor or weapons for that matter.  The players have what they can gather out of the old wizard's tower where they begin and after that they need to equip and resupply from whatever they encounter in the world outside.  There are groups of survivors with food stored up, to be sure, but the players will need to decide if they want to help the survivors and try to do some good in the world or if they are just going to turn into a bunch of brigands and slaughter survivors for their food stores.  I try to have some clear consequences if the players decide to turn into a bunch of savages rather than heroes.

 I did push some encounters around on the charts so that I have the sorts of things I want at higher odds than things like plants or the rare NPC encounter.

Hill country is decidedly dangerous and is in fact deadly for a party under level three.  The players will have to sort this out for themselves.  If they bother to ask the survivors or humanoids they encounter about the surrounding terrain they may get clear intelligence that the hills are filled with things worse than orcs, wolves and zombies although there are plenty of those to be had as well.  You have to be tough and well armed to brave exploring into the hill country.  There will not be a big sign or DM warning for the players better think twice about wandering into this area.  Truly I think that is part of what is at the heart of a sandbox campaign.  You invest a major effort on the front end of campaign building.  In my case this is usually several months of preparation time and then you unleash the players into the region you have built and let them run wild doing whatever they want.  Sure there will be a few dungeons built and ready to explore.  There will be heroic deeds to perform should the players choose to be heroic.  What exactly they decide to do though and how they go about it is completely in the hands of the players and I think that is what makes for a very fun campaign experience.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Terra Firm Thursday 07/24/14

Hi and welcome back to Dungeon Mastering by Candlelight.  It has been blistering hot out this week in Kansas but otherwise today was a pretty good day.  The kids are finally snuggled down in bed and I have a little time to slide into my desk and work on the AD&D campaign.

Last week I shared this same map minus the red bits and some wandering monster tables based on the types of terrain being entered.  Remember this is my adventure scale map where one square equals one mile of terrain.

Now I've added in red spots on the map using a color pencil to help me drop in set encounters.  Weather tables, a calendar, rumors lists, a couple of mini dungeons, custom wandering monster tables and between 30 and 50 set encounters for each map in the sandbox is the ultimate goal here.  We are talking about a whole lot of work but thankfully a great deal of this has already been knocked out when i worked on other similar regions in the same campaign setting.  It will still take me a couple of months to get this sandbox to where I want it but in the mean time my players are happily dungeon crawling in the barrows North of the city over in the Kingdom of Daria ( a few hundred miles away from this expansion).

I am running my Monday nights campaign using 2nd Edition AD&D and I plan to create encounters using those rules.  Really this approach can be used for any version of the D&D rules from Basic to 5th.  I recently picked up the 5th Edition box set and the game looks like it has some nifty little bits to it.  Nothing particularly awesome to the point where I'd drop what I already have in early editions of the game.  For me part of the problem is learning new rules sets is no longer very interesting to me.  I'd rather use what I have already and spend my time working on my campaign / playing.  I do plan to keep up with the new rules this time though.  I may create a 5th edition version of this adventure area to haul with me to conventions just so I am sure I have something people will play.  Sometimes it can be hard to find players for the older versions of the game.

Enough of that.  On with setting down a few encounters.

We will start at the center and work outwards in a sort of spiral.  I'll reorganize these for easier use in my notebook for play but working out from where the players begin is always better for me creatively in visualizing the world as it unfolds.

J9 Kilwich Royd - North

Kilwich Royd is the name for the old gravel and dirt road leading North and South out of the ruins of the city of Kyros.  The road here is uneven but remains a reasonable path with a rolling slope covered with tall wild grass to the West dusted here and there with Red Mullberry and Frosted Hawthorne trees.  Far off in the distance one can make out the silver thread of the Morda River carrying frigid water down from the Trollish Peaks far to the North as it twists its way South through Kyrene all the way to Shem and the Slavemark Coast in the Southeast.

To the East a narrower dirt cart path rolls into a sectioned and previously cultivated group of four fields, each a quarter mile in size and sectioned by tumbling gray stone walls lined with tall, old White Ash trees.  Each field has or rather had its own attending farm house, barn and out buildings although only one of the four remains standing.  The other three appear to have been burned or smashed into ruins by beasts or disaster or war.  It is clear that the ruined farms and fields have grown wild and are now a thick mixture of wheat half choked out with wild flowers and purple bramble brush.

Encounter: Orc Outpost

Standing in the road are a dozen slightly stooped, primitive appearing humanoids with orange green skin covered in matted tangles of hair.  They have snouts with overly large teeth protruding from slick, rubbery dark green lips.  Their small eyes look intelligent and narrow if they spot the party but they do not attack immediately.  They wear simple tunics and armor of leather and hide.  They are armed with rough looking iron weapons ( axes and spears mostly ).  One of their number holds up a bright orange banner on a wooden pole.  The banner is blazoned with a black skull cloven in twain by an axe.

DM Notes:  The Orcs who have migrated into the region, displaced from their home by more dangerous outbreaks of the undead plague have established themselves in the ruins of the old Kingdom castle at Q1.  They have grown bold and have begun to assert themselves as a legitimate power in the region and have set up this outpost both to monitor and command the road out of Kyros, keep a watch on the ruins of the city and also to assert the Orc's authority by demanding a small tribute from everyone who happens along this way.

12 Orcs - Leader "Adjai" 8 HP Axe 1d6 AC 6.  Two assistants "Togus and Oosun" 8 HP Spear and Axe 1d6 AC 6.  Remaining Orcs HP's 7,7,6,6,6,5,5,4 and 4.  All use weapons that inflict 1d6 damage.  All are AC 6.

Note:  Oosun and both 5 hp orcs are infected with zombie taint.  They will rise as 1 HD, fast moving zombies that slam or bite for 1d6 (save vs zombie infection) within 1d4 combat rounds of being slain.  They will attack the nearest living being to them whether it is a player character or another orc.

Experience: 240  Treasure:  Adjai has in his possession a small wooden chest about the size of a box used to contain notecards.  This chest is secured with a metal clasp and lock.  Adjai has become adept at picking this lock with one of his own claws and there is no key.  The chest contains 34 copper, 14 silver and 1 gold piece.

Adjai will demand tribute of anyone passing on the road but this tribute can be reasonable.  A handful of silver coins is sufficient but he will obviously take more if he can.  He is under orders not to simply attack human or humanoid survivors as the Orc Chieftain Nahmka Tarkan hopes to establish a sort of fiefdom here.  The orcs will share a little information if they are dealt with respectfully.  There is a family of human farmers dwelling in the surviving farmstead to the East of here and they have paid tribute and are now under the protection of the great Nahmaka Tarkan.  Adjai advises any characters that they would be wise to leave those under the banner of the Tarkan alone.  A few wandering traders passed through a day ago headed North out of the ruined city.  The orcs do not enter the ruins as it is known to be infested with undead and dangerous monsters.

K9 - Curtly and Valina Farmstead

As the dusty dirt cart path makes its way out to the one remaining farmstead in this area you can see that to the North the Kilwich Royd can be just seen turning to the East and continueing along the Northern border of the farm where you are headed.  Additional fields further to the East look just as battered and abandoned as those in this immediate area.  A few in that direction of a building remaining, a sad looking wooden farmhouse here and a lone barn there.  Here the dirt path is joined with a slightly wider drive paved in loose gravel.  Flanking either side of this approach are large green leafed Mulberry Trees.  Beyond the trees you can see a tall, three story red wood barn built atop a first story which is made from fieldstone.  Beyond the barn is a single story fieldstone farmhouse.  The windows have been closed with stout looking wooden shutters.  Surrounding the front door is a barricade built from various things, piled stones topped with crates and pieces of what once may have been a wooden cart.  Peering over this is a pair of male humans.

Fluttering from the side of the farmhouse chimney is a length of orange cloth like a small banner with a black spot painted in the center.

Curtly and Jorg

Curtly is a 40 something year old, tough, no nonsense farmer.  He wears leather armor and a cap of iron.  He is armed with a light crossbow with 10 bolts.  Jorg (his son) is 20 and armed with a short bow and 12 arrows.  Both are also armed with spiked clubs (1d4+1 damage).  Both are zero level humans with 7 hp and 6 hp respectively.

Reaction rolls are made with a -2 penalty in this area even for fellow humans.  Curtly is worried about bandits and cannot be convinced to allow the player characters close to his home no matter what the circumstances appear to be.  He can be convinced to trade a couple of days of home baked bread and other foods (3 days rations) for a basic weapon or shield.  He will require the goods be left on the road by the barn and that the party retreat 100 feet.  He will walk out with the food and leave it in exchange for the goods.

Curtly will remind the party that he's made a deal with the orcs just to the West for protection.  If questioned he will remind the party that the orcs are the only organized military aid anyone has seen in these parts for almost two years.  Since they have been around chopping down the undead when they encounter them, things have improved a good deal for Curtly and he is not interested in other "maybe" deals and promises.

Inside the house is Bilfor (his second eldest son), Val (his wife) and Tessa (his daughter).  Bilfor has a small hole dug in various places in the walls around the house allowing him room to fire his light crossbow but he is otherwise hidden from view.  He is armed like his brother and has the same HP.  Val has a small fire burning in the fireplace and to this she can add a handful of dried herbs which will put up a very thick, choking blue color smoke.  This smoke will alert the orcs of trouble on the road and they will arrive to sort things out for their allies within 1d4 combat rounds.  The orcs automatically side with Curtly and his family...apparently they were not kidding (shocking as this seems) about protecting the farmers here.  They will attempt to kill anyone engaged in combat or harassement of the family under the immediate judgement that they are bandits out to rob from the farmers and orcs.  Those they kill they will hang from poles set up near their road patrol location as an example to other would be bandits.

Little Tessa is only 10 years old.  She is also the only member of the family who is infected with zombie taint.  If she goes down she will open her eyes in 2 combat rounds and immediately attack the nearest person as a full strength, furious fast moving type of zombie.

Experience: 150 xp if the party kills the farmers but also a note on the DM's alignment chart.  Attacking and killing the farmers is both a Chaotic and Evil action.  It will not change a party members alignment immediately but a few more actions of this sort will.  Treasure:  The farmers gather, cook and preserve food supplies both for themselves and their orc protectors.  This includes breads, pies, dried meat, dried fish and bundles of applies and berries.  There are a total of 60 days of standard rations currently inside of the house although all of it except the dried meat will go bad for normal character consumption (not for orcs) in 10 days.  Leaning against the door into the farm is a shovel covered in dried brown mud.  There is an area of loose dirt under some of the old hay piled in the now empty barn.  This is a location where Curtly buried a large sack containing what remains of the family treasure.  There are a half dozen goblets, sets of forks and spoons, several dinner knives and some cook ware of high quality with silver handles or embellishments.  All together this large sack of muddy clanking loot is worth 10 gold pieces.

K12  Hobbel Atford

Hobbel Atford is the name for the 80 foot long, 10 foot wide stone and wood covered bridge that spans the river in this location.  Here the steep shores of the Morda River are nearly choked with stands of ghost sycamore trees and holly brush.  This makes movement down to the pebbled edge of the slow flowing Morda slow going and counts as difficult terrain for between 60 and an additional 1d6x10 feet. The entrance to the bridge here has been barricaded closed with an over turned wagon and piles of dirt filed sacks.  A banner of sorts made out of a string of squirrel hides flutters pathetically from a small pole nailed to the roof ridge of the bridge.

Kobald Outpost 

The Kobalds dwelling South and West of the Morda River have been driven out of necessity together into one large and determined clan.  What was once a half dozen smaller communities has united into the Nut Smashers tribe and their banner is the skins of several squirrels fastened together.  The Nut Smashers have claimed this name because their primary survival diet has focused on the walnut groves situated in the cultivated lands immediately West of the former community of Midge.  The Nut Smashers have taken over the buildings in what was once the village of Midge and the entire place has been turned into one enormous kobald warren.

The kobalds recognize that closing the bridge just East of their community is a key move in attempting to keep themselves secure and so they plan to defend it enthusiastically.  A group of no less than forty kobalds is on duty at the bridge at all times.  Their standard tactic is to defend the barricade with ten kobalds and if pushed back will attempt to sucker the enemy into the bridge interior.  They have stacked a few crates of food and a barrel of water both for their own supplies but also to lure intruders inside about half way down the bridge.

At the far end of the bridge the kobalds have repaired the double doors so that these can be slammed shut with ropes and secured by dropping beams behind them.  These doors have a half dozen arrow slits cut into them so the kobalds can fire slingshots (1d2 damage) or darts from blowguns through these openings at anyone trapped inside of the bridge.  The kobalds will enjoy cover and the protection of the barrier while softening up the enemy but the real trap awaits the foe should they manage to smash through the double doors and exit the bridge.

Outside on the far end of the bridge the remaining 30 kobalds will gather.  They will fight savagely to stop the enemy force here rather than have it continue on to their community at Midge.

Every day a force of ten kobalds will travel up the road from Midge to the bridge to relieve ten of the kobalds on guard duty.  If the kobalds find their force destroyed they will spend two days fitting out the bridge with every sort of trap and dead fall you can imagine.  Ultimately the kobalds will work to make the bridge dangerous for direct travel and then will set about installing spikes and snare traps to mess with individuals who attempt to ford the river near the bridge.


The Kobalds are not especially hostile to other humanoids in the current environment.  They demand control of the bridge and the road from the bridge to Midge.  They demand that nobody interfere with or enter the walnut orchards West of Midge and above all else that nobody enters the old village of Midge where the kobalds have built their community.  So long as these rules are respected the kobalds are perfectly happy trading the occasional crate, sack or bag of walnuts for whatever useful object or trinket they can get in return.  While not especially bright the kobalds are not complete idiots.  They want useful objects and will only trade for pretty shiny things one or two times before demanding something useful like a bow and arrows, spear, short sword, couple of daggers or something of that nature.

Experience:  Defeating the Kobalds is worth 300 experience points.  Treasure:  Three crates of what passes for food for the kobalds.  This includes some semi rotten fish, heaps of walnuts which have been shelled and smashed into a paste with rocks, a few dead birds brought down by slingshots and a small bag full of hard sour green berries.  There is a barrel filled with fresh water and a somewhat rusty cup hanging off the side of it from a nail.  The Kobalds have no other treasure here besides their trusty slingshots (10 of these), pouches filled with smooth stones, blowguns made from river reeds (10 of these) and 100 darts.  There are also clubs, short spears, hand axes, small hammers, kitchen knives and a short sword or two.

Note:  I will try to add one or two more set encounter examples down in this blog entry tomorrow or over the weekend when I have a bit more time.  Ultimately I would like to share all of the wandering monster tables for this area and probably half of the set encounters leaving the remainder for you to expand upon and create for your own group.

That is it for this entry for Dungeon Mastering by Candlelight.  Have a great evening and happy gaming!!!


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wonder Workers Wednesday 07/23/14

Pentagarchy Sorcerer Creates a Wind Node
by Me.
Welcome back to Dungeon Mastering by Candlelight.  Today is Wonder Worker Wednesday, the day of the week that I share ideas about spell casters, spells and magic from my home campaign.

Most recently I have been running a group every other Monday night using 2nd Edition AD&D and so this colors to some degree my perspective on how spell mechanics jive with the rules.

I will say that in my home campaign we do not use the spell point system from the 2nd Edition optional rules but I do like a number of the ideas that are shared about Channeling and Summoning and different expansions on magical effects.

Magic in my campaign as I suspect it is written in many fantasy campaigns is on the decline.  Rare artifacts are almost non-existent.  Powerful magical items with sustained magic which do not operate off of a charge system are also rare.  Enchanting items no longer "holds" the power in the way that it once did and sorcerers for the past three to four hundred years have worked around this by tagging a charge system onto magical items which otherwise might be of a fairly minor nature (+1 to +2 magical weapons or armor for example).

The Falcon Blade
by Me
Take the Falcon Blade pictures to the left.  This blue steel dagger with the silver head of a falcon is generally a +1 magical dagger.  The ruby eyes of the falcon head have been enchanted to function as a horcrux.  In this instance a horcrux is not an object where an evil wizard hides a piece of his soul.  In this instance a horcrux is a magical battery tuned to a specific type of magical energy.  The energy is always elemental in nature although negative energy or positive energy in this instance also count as a sort of elemental power.

When the Falcon Blade holds the power of a wind node the blade will throw and return and will also strike a target with a +1d6 of cold energy.  For all practical purposes the weapon is still a +1 dagger when determining if it hits a target and base damage bonus.  The cold energy attack stacks with the daggers usual 1d4+1 damage.  The target of the dagger is granted a saving throw versus spell and if successful only takes half of the bonus cold damage from the blade.  The Falcon Blade can sail and return blasting foes for additional cold damage so long as it contains the power (charge) from an elemental wind node.  Each ruby eye of the Falcon Blade is of such quality that it can contain up to a maximum of five charges each.

So what are elemental nodes and how does a character get them to recharge or charge a horcrux weapon, armor or item.  When sorcerers are active in a particular location for a period of weeks or months there is a chance that small bubbles of elemental power or nodes will begin to appear.  My own players encountered a tomb where the frequent casting of necromantic spells to keep the undead in the area slumbering so the bad guys could pass without triggering them is an example from my own game.  This floating bubbles of dark amber count as one node of negative (necromantic) energy.  Physical contact with a node can be dangerous.  A negative energy node can inflict a point of damage to a character or it can heal a zombie, skeleton or other animated undead for 1d4 hit points should the zombie wander into the node during a fight.

A horcrux weapon tuned to negative energy will absorb a node when it comes in contact with it and if it has open charge spots available will replenish one charge.

Creating an elemental node, a floating bubble of raw elemental energy to use to charge a horcrux weapon or item is a 1st level spell.  Once created different types of nodes have different shelf lives and must be handled in different ways if they are not to be lost or to create minor destruction.  The sorcerer who creates an elemental node maintains a form of telekinetic control over the small orb (about the size of a baseball when complete) and may direct it slowly in one direction or another.  The ability to create a node of elemental fire, for example, can be used to light torches or a fire or flare against a target as a minor magical attack.  The direct damage inflicted by a node is always small.  Never more than 1d4 damage and the caster must make a to hit roll when manipulating the sphere.  Failure means the caster not only misses but impacts something nearby like the wall or floor, causing them to lose the node in the process as if they had missed with a thrown weapon.  Nodes do have the advantage of strike for magical damage.

When a horcrux weapon runs out of charges it continues to function as its base type.  The Falcon Blade in the example above would continue to strike as a +1 magical dagger but it would no longer return when thrown and would not strike a target for any cold damage until it was recharged.

Well that is it for tonight's posting.  Hope your week is going well.  Thanks for reading and hope to see you next time!  Happy Gaming!!!


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Titan Tuesday 07/22/14

Today is Titan Tuesday, the day I offer up a greater power, deity or major villain from my campaign for you to grab for yours.

I managed to include a few classic AD&D tropes into my campaign mythos and one of these is portraying the god of Death as...well, Death.  I remembered the deck of many things had a card where a "minor death" appeared and attacked the characters.  I remember other instances where a classic grim reaper character was referenced in this or that AD&D article so I thought why not write up the Death god in my own AD&D campaign as the Grim Reaper.

Death (The Reaper)

Greater God

Armor Class: -3
Movement: Infinite
Hit Points: 100
No. of Attacks: 1
Damage of Attacks: All of your current HP.
Special Attacks: Shadow
Special Defenses: Immediately heals to full health when attacked by any form of attack either mundane or magical.  Immune to Cold, Fire, Acid, Negative Energy and Lightning.
Magic Resistance: 90%
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Worshiper's Alignment: Any
Symbol: The Skull
Spells:  Casts Divine Spells as a 14th level Cleric.  Casts Arcane Spells as a 14th level Magic-User.  Attacks as a 14th level Fighter.  Saves as a 14th Level Magic-User.

Death wears vestments, robes or armor which appear to be fashioned of iron but which move with the suppleness of cloth.  His skin is pale like bone.  The grand lord of the Darkling realm holds audience in a massive chamber filled with candles and lamps so that he casts no shadow.  Death must be cautious of where his shadow falls for any mortal being touched by his shadow is immediately slain.

Should Death be called to release the soul of someone held within his realm he offers a bargain.  The nature of this bargain is the result of the roll of a strange pair of dice fashioned from the bones of a beast long extinct in the mortal plane.  Should this be played out in the campaign the DM rolls 1d12 and consults the table below:

1.  The soul is released without any further trade or negotiation necessary.
2.  The party must surrender their most powerful magic item in return for the soul of their companion.
3.  The party must trade 10,000 gold pieces in treasure for the soul of their companion.
4.  A party member must abandon and utterly forget one major goal of their character, the death of a dream for the life of a friend.
5.  Death will trade the soul of the friend in exchange for the destruction of a vampire.
6.  Death will trade the soul of a friend in exchange for 10 years from every character in the party bargaining for him.
7.  The soul is granted in exchange for 1d4+1 points of Charisma deducted from the highest Charisma character in the party.
8.  A character must sacrifice one of their senses.  Roll 1d6.  1. Vision.  2.  Hearing.  3.  Taste.  4. Touch   5. Smell. 6.  Ability to perceive colors.
9.  The soul is returned by the characters must find an empty vessel to place it into.  This vessel cannot be the soul's previous body.
10.  Death refuses to return the soul because it would create to great a disruption in the future order of things.
11.  Death agrees to release the soul but one of the party members has to take the dead character's place within Death's domain.
12.  Death agrees to a game of chance.  Roll 1d6.  If the party member rolls higher the soul is released.  If Death rolls higher the party member is slain.

Death can grant the full range of clerical spells to his priests.  He provides clerics who devote themselves to his service a miracle at 3rd level and a miracle at 5th level.

3rd Level Miracle - Cheat Death

At third level the cleric of Death can be reduced to negative ten hit points and appear for all purposes dead.  1d6x10 minutes later the cleric's wounds knit themselves closed and the cleric will drag themselves back to their feet with one hit point.  This miracle occurs automatically but it can only happen once per week in game time.

5th Level Miracle - Dice with Death

Once per day the cleric of Death can re-roll any single dice roll but the second roll must be accepted no matter the result.

Well there you have it.  Another installment for Dungeon Mastering by Candlelight.  The OSR blog that provides you with a little bit of content for your homebrew campaign just about every day of the week.

Happy Adventuring!!

Monster Monday 07/21/14

Sorry for the slight delay on this post.  I work outside and its been 110 degrees out so kinda sapping my ability to do much when I get home besides recover.  Hopefully I can post this now and the real Tuesday post tonight.  We shall see.

Monster Monday's post is the Brendor Bolg (Bren-Der-Bowl-g).  I am writing this up in a sudo 2nd Edition style since that is the rules we've been using for the Monday night game.

Brendor Bolg (Brute Rending Giant)

Climate/Terrain:  Hills, Light Forest and Remote Villages
Frequency:  Uncommon
Organization:  Mated Pairs or Solitary
Activity Cycle: Nocturnal
Diet: Vegetarian, Craves Thatch
Intelligence: Low / Animal
Treasure: Nil
Alignment: Neutral

No. Appearing: 1-2
Armor Class: 4
Movement: 9
Hit Dice: 3 to 5
Thaco: 17
No. Attacks: 1
Damage Attacks: 2d4+2
Special Attacks: Scream, save or deaf for 1d6 combat rounds.
Special Defenses: None.
Magic Resistance: None
Size: Huge 13' Tall
Morale: 10
XP Value: Varies

The Brendor Bolg may be a distant relation to the Fomorian Giants or even some sort of evolutionary throw back.  Certainly this is an ancient cousin of giant kind and not a true giant.  As far as is known the Brendor Bolg are barely more than animal in intelligence, speak no clear language beyond odd whistles, grunts, contented slurping, sucking on the edges of rooftops and crunching roof thatch in their powerful jaws.

Brendor Bolg are huge standing thirteen feet tall, with elongated skulls and always wet, snuffling, bat like snouts.  They have two sets of arms, one set reaches to the ground and is used for movement while the other set is slender with long hands and fingers.  The eyes of a Brendor Bolg are overly large like the eyes of certain other nocturnal beasts.

Brendor Bolg are night dwelling, sneaking and usually peaceful herbivores with a tremendous appetite for both hay and roof thatch.  They are also very fond of potatoes and other roots and tubers.  The ears of a Brendor Bolg are sensitive and they enjoy a one point bonus to avoid surprise.  Loud noises can sometimes drive them off for they are cowardly unless backed into a corner or wounded.

Brendor Bolg attack with powerful bludgeoning blows from its fists.  It never bites an enemy unless it is rabid.  If the Brendor Bolg is rabid it gains a second bite attack that hits for 2d6 damage, target must save or contract rabies.

Brendor Bolg do not use tools and cannot be trained to do so.  Rarely one can be captured as a youth and be trained to pull a plow or to carry stones or timber from one place to another.

Brendor Bolg are deformed creatures with protruding, enormous round flat teeth and bodies which come in a variety of shapes from grossly fat and waddling to disturbingly thin.  One thing is certain, left to themselves these creatures will utterly strip a building of its roof and anything constructed of or containing hay or thatch in a few hours.

Well that's it for today's entry.  I hope you keep coming back for more and hope to see you soon.

Happy Gaming!!!


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday Sandbox 07/20/2014

     Welcome back and we are going to dive right in.  As you can see I've changed Sunday from general thoughts about RPG's to a focus on the sandbox project. Sundays are a good day for me to crank out work on my campaign. Between chores and everything, getting a good five or six pages of material knocked out is a productive writing day by my standards.

The page to the right starts to explain the next step for me in sandbox campaign creation.  Once I have the first adventure scale map knocked out I move on to define each terrain area as a sort of wandering monster difficulty level.  This is exactly like creating wandering monster charts for levels in a dungeon.  The final goal here is to create a grid that players can explore where different types of terrain present a different type of challenge.  I don't simply create a generic level one, two, three and four wandering monster chart although this is one way you could go.  I define the general range of hit dice I want for monsters in that terrain and then I create individual wandering monster charts for each terrain type, so for example light woods and river terrain have two different wandering monster charts.

Creating these wandering monster charts are good mental exercise to get my mind working on what kinds of monsters and what sorts of things are happening in each type of surrounding terrain.  I like to scribble down notes on a notepad I keep handy as I create these tables.   As I finish these tables I will launch into creating set encounter locations scattered all over each adventure scale map.  The end result will be a three by three grid of 20 x 20 square maps like the first one we created for an adventuring sandbox sixty miles by sixty miles in size.

 On the far right of each wandering monster table you will see an empty column labeled "uses".  As I run the campaign I will make a pencil tick in this column each time I roll that result.  I don't like repeating the same encounter from adventure to adventure and so this is a reminder to me of what we've already done.  Generally if I roll a same result I will just re-roll.  After playing in an area I might freshen things up by removing commonly rolled lines completely and making a fresh table with replacements or new things written into those lines.

Also mentioned under the entry for Men and some humanoid encounters is a percentage chance for taint.  Zombie taint is one of the themes of this particular adventure area.  A character can be infected with zombie taint and not turn into a zombie.  In this setting the character who is tainted does not return as a zombie until shortly after they are slain.  So a group of bandits where three of the bandits have zombie taint will see three of the bandits rise up as fast moving, infected ravenous brain eaters shortly after they drop during the combat.  Part of the fun is that you can be bitten, the DM quietly makes a saving throw for you behind the DM screen and you never know for sure if you are infected or not unless the party Cleric has the right spells to figure this out.  It can be cured with cure disease so its not a huge big deal for the party however they never know which humanoid be it bandit, orc, goblin or whatever might -also- be carrying the taint from a previous wound and is a ticking time bomb of crazy flesh eating zombie just waiting to pop back up and return to the fight.

I have included wandering encounter tables for dirt road areas (level one), for light woods (level two) and deep woods (level four) in this blog entry.  This will give you an idea of how quickly certain areas on the map become dangerous.

I include a description of these areas as equally creepy and dangerous looking to the players so when they push deep into that wild, dark, incredibly creepy forest they won't be totally surprised when very bad things are lurking inside.

While the characters are low level they will begin to understand that certain types of terrain are more dangerous than others and they will begin to respond accordingly either giving those areas a wide birth or when they finally feel ready to tackle them going in with planning and some extra thought, maybe some extra help to tackle those locations.  Having difficult and challenging areas on the map will slow down the players and get them more interested in careful exploration rather than just waltzing overland in the direction of the next town they plan to visit or ruins they decide to explore.  Part of the challenge becomes getting from home base to that interesting dungeon site in one piece.

You will also notice that the chance for an encounter increases in more dangerous locations.

I like to use a d12 for my encounter tables.  The poor d12 gets so little use in the rest of the rules that I like to incorporate it whenever possible into any random tables or chances for encounter rolls that I decide to create.

A few of the monsters listed here like the Brendor Bolg and the Honeydipper Swarm are my own creations.  I will be posting these up along with other homebrew monsters from my campaign on Monster Mondays so be sure to come back and visit to pick up the write ups for those as they get posted.

Well that about wraps it up for this Sunday episode of Dungeon Mastering by Candlelight.  Entering our second month and still going strong with about a post every single day.  Feel free to leave a comment or suggestion.

Please add me on google+ or follow this blog however you will.  For now, Happy Gaming!!!  -Ed

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sandbox Project: Adventure Scale Map 1: 07/19/2014

Ed Kann's Adventure Scale = 1 Square is 1 Square Mile
Each Map is 20 x 20 miles because the hexes on my grand campaign map
are done at 1 hex = 20 miles across.
Welcome back!  Its Setting Saturday and with so much work ahead on this sandbox expansion I thought it might be smart to work on it both on Terra Firma Thursdays and Setting Saturdays.

To the right you have what I call an Adventure Scale map.  This is a piece of simple graph paper and the drawing bits done with your basic office black pen.  I am doing this on the low tech side on purpose so that anyone, anywhere can create their own material exactly like mine without a lot of time, expensive materials or fancy shmancy art talent.

The graph paper here is a page out of a spiral notebook called a QUAD PAD which you can pick up at Office Depot.  I like these because I can make all my Adventure Scale maps in one easy to flip open and lay flat Quad Pad while giving the map maker in the party a blank Quad Pad and the layout of their maps will more likely fit what I have in hand.  It seems fair that the players at least have the same size sheet of graph paper to work off of as I have behind the screen.  Plus they are dirty cheap.

This example map is not quite complete.  As I key set encounter locations in the overland portions of the map I will note the locations of these with a red dot.  Example.  If I have a set encounter with an Ogre cave at location T-18 on the grid (see the letters across the top and numbers down the side - cross reference these for the correct grid location like playing a game of battleship) I will put a little red dot on that square on my DM map as a reminder that, "Hey DM, don't forget you already have a set encounter waiting in this square for the players to enjoy.  Take a moment to look it up under the entry T-18 in your adventure notebook."

You can fit a whole lot of adventure into a 20 by 20 mile area.  The players will get dropped into this location in the ruins of the old capital of the Kingdom of Kyrene, the city of Kyros at the center of this starting map.  They will be first level with no specific knowledge about the surrounding area outside of the fact that its in ruins, they start secure in an old wizard's tower with the bare minimum of food and water to survive inside the tower for a few nights.  Exploring the tower will gift them with a very few starting items.  Sufficient so that they have some chance of survival when they decide to leave the tower looking for food and water.

Kyros is smack in the middle of the Taint Lands and there are only two very small groups of "normal" survivors holed up in the city.  Otherwise the entire city is one big ruin full of monsters of all sorts of types and of course the undead created by the Pattern Storms.  Kyros is not an enormous starting city.  At its height it boasted a population of perhaps two thousand people so it will be plenty to keep the characters occupied for several adventures but they will fairly quickly explore the place.

Outside of Kyros the villages of Fork, Blackshore near the edges of the Bogwater Swamp, Pelfore and Grone are completely in the hands of the undead.  These are Haunts.  Very dangerous places but likely holding some of the best rewards as far as nifty gear and that sort of thing.

Northeast of the Haunt of Grone is the ruins of Ironspire Castle, the original estate of the King of Kyrene and his court.  This was abandoned when it became clear that the entire Taint Lands were a lost cause and much of it was emptied of wealth.  A tribe of Orcs has been pushed into the forest in this area by the pressures of the undead rising around them and most of the Orcs have moved into the abandoned castle to turn it into a stronghold and base of operations.

The villages surrounding Kyros are quite small.  A black dot village is more of a two street location with an Inn and a dozen buildings, perhaps three or four of these are shops.  Many of these remain in the hands of the original citizens although one has been taken over by bandits.  Locations identified as a "collection of buildings" is just that, perhaps two large farms located next to one another or an isolated Inn with two or three houses built nearby.

Note: Tonight I will come back and write at least a general description of several areas on this starting sandbox map.  Next week I plan to key in about a third of the set encounter locations and just keep working, working, working on this.  As I mentioned earlier this will probably take a few months to set up completely how I like to have my areas written before I start dropping players into them.  Good times making them though.  Good Times.

Saturday Afternoon Notes:

I'm thinking the central area of this map surrounding the city of Kyros should be called the Kyree'an Veld, a region of fertile farmland, gently rolling hills with scattered trees.  The Southwest area is marsh and swamp theme so just going with the simple Bogwater Swamps name for now.  The South East corner of the map is mostly forest and has the biggest concentration of deep woods.  Light woods squares have a slightly more difficult wandering monster value than plains, roads or cultivated fields which all share a basic wilderness encounter difficulty of 1.  Light Woods being 2.  I'm thinking both hills and deep woods have an encounter difficulty of 3 but with two different wandering monster lists, one for hills and one for deep woods.  I think that concentration of heavy forest I'll call The Willow Dirge Woodlands.  Immediately to the West of Kyros is some hills with an area defined as rocky highlands.  There is a fort up in the highlands and a couple of caves which may or may not be linked via an underground cavern system.  I'm thinking I'll call that area the Dragon's Heart.  You have to have some reference to a dragon or dragons in a dungeons and dragons game, after all.  There are two infestations of a sort of massive tangled web of brush which are impassible for a rider on a horse, one has to hack and climb and crawl through these areas.  I think I'll call the Western area the Spider's Nest and the Eastern tangle will be merely a part of The Hive.

I can lighten up my scan of the adventure map and drop it into the background to create this reference map.  I like having broad regions to reference when I work on a map and encounters because it helps me focus on whatever theme I want to build into each area.

As a note I intend this first adventure map to be an entry level area with encounters ranging loosely from level zero to level three.  Likely there will be no actual dragons on this map but perhaps there will be clues to where one can be found on another map nearby up in the Dragon's Heart highlands.

So look to the right and do the "follow" this blog thing.  There are five of us now and we need YOU to join us.  Remember.  Its wrong to be different.  Mwhahaha.  Join in the fun.  Comment often.  You are welcome to chime in on anything.

Happy Gaming!!


Friday, July 18, 2014

Freaky Friday 07-18-14

Welcome back to another daily post for Dungeon Mastering by Candlelight. If you haven't already become a follower of this blog, why not? Worried we might follow you home?  Its to late you know.  You hear that heavy breathing outside your door?  That's me.  Quick become a follower and maybe I'll be appeased and go away.

Today I reached into the random pile of AD&D campaign stuff piled near my desk and pulled out a folder containing calendar information.  I thought to, how utterly boring is that, but what a fantastic and completely appropriate random thing to post on Freaky Friday.  So here we are anyway, me writing and you reading about creating a fantasy calendar for your home campaign.

First, why create a calendar in the first place?  I am so glad you asked.  Eventually players are going to want to know how many days have passed since the last time they were in dungeon x or town y.  They may even be so crude as to ask you what day it is.  Responding with Wednesday is both inaccurate and not especially inspirational for the sense of immersion into the story for your game.  We already experience far to many Wednesdays at our day to day jobs but how many Starly days have we had?  Just about zero Starly days I would guess, until you happen to play in my campaign and survive to the fifth day of the week.  

This begs the question of course as to how long are the days in your world?  How many days are in a week?  How many days are in a month or in a year?  Are there any fun things you can use a fantasy calendar for in your Dungeon Master notes?

Kingdoms Chimerical

In my home campaign I decided to make it simple and go with a seven day week.  There are seven days in a week, four weeks in a month, thirteen months in a year and twenty four hours in a day, so not exactly the same as here on planet Earth but close enough for the players to relate and carry in their heads without much trouble.

The calendar is divided into four seasons with winter having four months while the other three seasons only have three months.

Winter Months    1.  First Snow, 2.  Ice Grip,  3.  Storm Hearth,  4.  Last Frost.
Spring Months    5.  Greenwood,  6.  Planting Song,  7.  Blossom Gale
Summer Months  8.  Far Road,  9.  Festival,  10.  Dragon Wind
Fall Months    11.  Harvest Song,  12.  Weaver Tale,  13.  Romp

The seven days of a week are called (in order) Westerly, Easterly, Northerly, Southerly, Starly, Farwing and Hearth.  It is thought to be good luck for the direction of the prevailing winds to match the named direction of the current day while it is sometimes believed to be an ill tiding if the direction of the wind blows against the wind name for the current day.

Rumor Sheet

One easy application of your fantasy calendar is to draw out the calendar for the current month or perhaps several months in a row and write down 2d12 worth of rumors.  I like to make sure that about thirty percent of the rumors that the players encounter while they explore a city or town are completely and utterly false.

Let me add to this bit that every month or every few weeks your rumor list might change based upon what you have in store for the campaign.  The changing rumor list from month to month can come straight out of what the characters are doing or it can be a mix of unfolding mini and major plot threads you have going on in your campaign along with what sort of trouble the characters have been getting into.  I like the second option.  It doesn't take long to bash together a 2d12 list of rumors for the next month in the campaign and you will be surprised at how often you can make use of it from game to game.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Terra Firma Thursday 07/17/14

The Kingdom of Kyrene
by Me
Welcome to another daily installment of Dungeon Mastering by Candlelight, the blog where I plunk down at my desk, dig around in existing maps or make new maps, artwork and write ups based in my home OSR campaign.  Everything here is fan material and is freely shared for you to import in whole or in part into your home campaign.

Today is Terra Firma Thursday and I am going to go ahead and focus a spotlight into an existing region in my world pulled from my grand campaign scale map but which I have not yet worked up as a fully developed adventure area.  In my home game the players have explored the Kingdom of Daria to the West to some degree and that is where my current group of 2nd Edition AD&D players is currently based.  I thought it would be fun to break out the paper, pencils and pens and work on Kyrene which is situated to the immediate East of my current play area and go through the entire process of building it into a ready to play sandbox from start to finish.

Building a more or less finished sandbox ready for play can take me several months of on and off writing and so this process is going to be broken down into a great many small steps.  My hope is that by some time in November this area will be finished sufficiently so that anyone reading this could DM it and have a fairly complete region ready for a good many games.

In the spirit of this being an OSR blog I am going to follow, at least in part, the broad instructions for building a campaign area as outlined in the Dungeon Masters Guide.

Ancient Lore

For time out of mind the lands now known jointly as the Kingdom of Kyrene and The Taint Lands has remained a wilderness where the grasp of Lawful aligned civilization never really managed to gain a firm purchase.  The earliest records of this area belong to the Elves who knew it then as the Darkling Lands of the Hag.  This unkind description has its roots in the presence of the greatly feared and powerful Goddess Aglaeca who dwelt bodily within the enormous Boglands of Ghagnasdiak right up to her defeat and imprisonment by the original Hundred Lords of Mankind roughly a thousand years ago.

Prior to her defeat Aglaeca was the betrayed lover of Silviarius the Goddess of the Moon and Twilight.  Ages ago Silviarius and Aglaeca had been birthed out of the Primordea at the beginning of time and had met at the edge of the silver pool.  There, after many meetings and discussions they fell in love and worked tireless and hand in hand to breathe life into the wilderness surrounding them.  Silviarius for her part was drawn to refinement and things of breathless beauty while Aglaeca was deeply in love with simple beauty, the chirping of crickets, the light of fireflies, the splash of little frogs in ponds.  Ultimately Silviarius tired of Aglaeca and decided to rid herself of her lover by pushing her into a bog, body bound and unable to swim to the surface by a silver bracelet fashioned in the form of the crescent moon but also as a two headed snake.

After gifting Aglaeca with the cursed object and pushing her headlong into the swamp, Silviarius walked away, turning her back on Aglaeca's strangled cries for mercy and help.  Aglaeca was stronger than Silviarius suspected and she managed to defeat the cursed object by biting it at first and then by chewing it up in her strong teeth, swallowing it along with her own left hand and wrist and absorbing the cursed silver jewelry into her own flesh.  Aglaeca emerged from the waters of the swamp long weeks later covered in silvery scales with snakes for hair and a cold angry gaze that could turn warm living creatures to stone.

Aglaeca Unholy Symbol
by Me
Aglaeca remains the only Medusa creature in my Kingdoms Chimerical campaign setting.  Following her betrayal by her one and only love, Aglaeca remained in the swamp and poured what remained of her affection for the creation of things that crawled, things birthed from slime, things that were hulking brutes or terrifically poisonous.  From her swamp home deep in the Bogland of Ghagnasdiak, Aglaeca created and loved much of the things now known as monsters in our current world.  To this day they venerate her as their mother and queen and most of the intelligent sorts of creatures she created, orcs, gnolls, ogres, trolls and the like, retain a special hatred for the elves for that refined and beautiful race was ultimately the handiwork and most beloved artful creation of Silviarius the Goddess of the Moon and Twilight.

I picture Aglaeca as a once wonderfully kind Goddess, the sort of underdog you would root for in any movie.  Simplistic, trusting and wonderfully inventive part of the betrayal of Aglaeca by her lover Silviarius rests in a growing and bitter jealousy.  The things wrought by Silviarius while full of grace and refinement simply pale in comparison to the raw, wild untamed natural and eternal beauty of the things created by Aglaeca.

In the end Aglaeca becomes a Baba Yaga + Medusa figure, an incredibly strong one handed titan turned bitter and brooding.  She is at the dark heart of very nearly every nightmare thing that was ever birthed in the world and yet she should not be confused with true evil.  Aglaeca is a loyal and loving queen over her menagerie of nightmares to a fault.  The Mother of All Monsters retains a certain thread of purity and mercy, she loves and protects the slimy edges of the world that nobody else wants.  Its her ongoing feud against the elves and against Silviarius that gets her into trouble ultimately.  It results in her imprisonment far from her swampy home.

The Orsip Dynasty and the Kingdom of Orsia

The Orsips moved into the void created by the defeat of Aglaeca and they ruled over this entire region for six to seven hundred years.  The Orsips were some of the last of the Chaosborn Kings over man.  When mankind poured through the elven gates as the shock troops of the Great Elder beings of Chaos, the Goddess Shub and other such Mythos inspired creatures, the Chaosborn Kings were their rulers and commanders.  When the armies of Chaos were finally defeated the six dynasties of the Chaosborn Kings were smashed and scattered to the four winds.  The Orsips found themselves in the lands now occupied by the Kingdom of Daria but there they remained during the earliest years of their rule, little more than a line of tyrant warlords over blue painted tribes of Chaos worshiping Picts.  With Aglaeca out of the way the Kingdom of Orsia greatly expanded and managed to build something more lasting.

The Kingdom of Orsia lingered as the last of the great Chaosborn dynasties until the ancestors of the Hundred Lords of Man finally managed to wrestle control of these lands from them, creating the three Lawful aligned kingdoms of Daria, Kyrene and Etruria.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wonder Worker Wednesday 07/16/14

Sable Order Apprentice
by Me
The Pentagarchy (continued)

Welcome back to Dungeon Mastering by Candlelight.  Today we will talk a little more about the Pentagarchy, where it comes from and how it differs from say Hogwarts.

The Pentagarchy is a magical order made up of five originally independent and unrelated magical groups.  The five groups that comprise the Pentagarchy have joined together for the common purpose of expanding their own individual power and influence throughout the world by maintaining that arcane magic by its very nature is extremely dangerous not only to the individual who dabbles in it but to the wider community.  Because arcane magic is so very dangerous this power cannot be allowed to fall into the hands of irresponsible and unenlightened individuals who may cause lasting and horrific harm to the wider community if they are left to their own devices.

The Pentagarchy upholds the principle that all arcane knowledge should be regulated and controlled.  Only sanctioned spells should be taught and only those who pass the careful standards for knowledge and morale bearing should be allowed to advance as magic-users.

The Pentagarchy has used this argument to good effect and at the present time controls great influence within the courts of every civilized human kingdom surrounding the Sea of Harlots.

Each of the five Orders of Sorcery that make up the Pentagarchy teach their own custom spells along with those shared almost universally throughout the organization.  New members are introduced into the Pentagarchy as an apprentice of one of the five magical orders.  An apprentice is more than a mere student.  A apprentice magic-user is recruited at the human age of sixteen at the very youngest and at the human age or equivalent of twenty two at the oldest.  An apprentice serves their master as a student, a servant but also as their personal agent in the world beyond the order.  An apprentice may enter the service of a master at level one but is soon dispatched upon one errand or another on behalf of their instructor.  Apprenticeship is therefore more of a system of give and take.  The master agrees to teach a new spell when the apprentice returns but the apprentice must leave on a mission for their master to earn this knowledge.  Many masters have more than a single apprentice.  Some masters even cull their apprentices and encourage competition between them.

The closest example I can think of for this structure is found in the Star Wars universe.  A first level magic-user in my campaign may have a certain amount in common with a padawan studying under a Jedi master but quickly by level two or three and beyond they function more like a Jedi.  They still must obey the rules of their individual order and the directions of their assigned master but they are considered capable adults and agents of their organization, not clueless children that require protection.

Unlike the Star Wars universe there are only two titles in the Pentagarchy.  One is either an apprentice and remains so all the way to level seven at the earliest or they are a master.  Most of the five magical orders within the Pentagarchy have clear rules to govern the behavior of both their apprentices and masters.  Most restrict a master from having more than three apprentices at any given time but one who is killed or vanishes while on assignment can be quickly replaced.

While an apprentice is expected to complete missions on behalf of their master each master is expected to complete important missions which are in the interest of the larger order.

The Pentagarchy is a highly political organization and rivalries exist between masters, even masters within the same order.  Each of the five orders of sorcery have their hated opponents within the Pentagarchy, one particular faction that stands out as an enemy to that order's cause and interests.  Each of the five orders also has at least one other order to which it is (at least publicly) aligned.

The Crimson Order

The Crimson Order has its roots within the City States of Carthusia.  It has long sold itself as a cabal interested in warfare and the application of magic both for the defense of a city or fortification and magic use during a siege.  During the Nightshade War it was the Crimson Order which unleashed a massive weather control spell to slow the advance of the Necrogarchy's undead armies by creating the Bitterfrost Spellblight.

On a deeper level I picture the members of the Crimson Order as a society of Leonardo DeVinci characters.  They are brilliant scholars with an interest in inventions, especially magically powered inventions and not only the sorts that make for grand explosions or spectacular death during war.  These scholars have a great interest in applied knowledge more so than scholarly pursuits into history or lore for the sake of knowledge.  They are movers and shakers.  They want to shape the world and the course of history not merely catalog it in a library.

Members of the Crimson Order tend towards Neutrality.

The Sable Order

The Sable Order has its origins within the mageocracy of Sorcerous Xian.  Its ancient citadel still stands just beyond the walls of the capital of that dark and exotic nation's capital, the city of Tamger.  The Sable Order is the only sorcerous order within the Pentagarchy which is overtly malevolent.  They openly practice necromancy which is an evil form of magic outlawed in almost every kingdom outside of Xian and Leng.  Despite this agents of the Sable Order seem to be active at least in small cells almost everywhere scattered through the world.

The Sable Order promotes the traditionalist point of view that only blooded members of the Hundred Lords of Man should rule over the civilized kingdoms.  This and their fairly bloodthirsty pursuit of anyone practicing magic outside of the membership of the Pentagarchy keeps them in good standing in places where their questionable morale standing might not otherwise be tolerated.

Members of the Sable Order tend towards Chaos.

The Amethyst Order

The Amethyst Order has few members any longer.  It represents perhaps the least politically motivated of the five cabals.  Members are trained to put wisdom and knowledge over power in their magical pursuits.  They tend to be isolated loners, sages and researchers.  The main focus of many members of this order is the creation of powerful and unique magical objects or the acquisition and research of artifacts.

If the Amethyst Order survives and retains its grip on power at all it is because its members cooperate and can act quickly and decisively as a unified whole.  Every other cabal within the Pentagarchy is gripped by schism and infighting of every sort while the Amethyst Order seems to tolerate one another fairly well.

Members of the Amethyst Order tend towards Law.

The Azure Order

The Azure Order is the newest of the five cabals that make up the Pentagarchy and it still tends to cater to a younger, more forward thinking crowd.  The Azure Order is all about power, money and power...and not the magical sort of power.  One can rise to a high rank within the Azure Order by being a great politician and leader more than a high level spell slinger.  The Azure Order seems to have an interest in illusion magic, charms and other mind influencing spells.  They share a traditionalist world view with the Sable Order and the two cabals would get along well if they weren't both trying to grab control of the same kingdoms.

Members of the Azure Order tend toward Neutrality.

The Pale Order

This Order has long existed at the front of any crusade meant to protect or forward the cause of men.  If there is a cabal within the Pentagarchy with members running around like Gandalf the Grey it is this one.  At the present time the Pale Order is most heavily engaged in the ongoing war against the undead being created by the Pattern Storms in the Kingdoms of Daria and Kyrene and Western Leng.  They see this undead host as the single most pressing danger to the future of the kingdoms of men of any threat in the world and they work tirelessly against it.

Unfortunately for the rest of the civilized kingdoms this cabal of good guys is so busy trying to save the world that they leave most of it up for grabs for the power hungry opportunists that populate most of the rest of the Pentagarchy.

Members of the Pale Order tend towards Law.

Where there you have it.  Today's Wednesday Wonder Worker's blog update and your daily installment of homebrew goodness from Dungeon Mastering by Candlelight.  See you next time!

Happy Gaming!!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Titan Tuesday 07/15/2014

Bok's'torn Strides Alone in the far North of the Goblinspite Mt. Range.
by Me
Hi and welcome back to Dungeon Mastering by Candlelight.  Today is Titan Tuesday where I share one of the Major Powers, Gods or Evil Baddies from my home campaign.

Today I am sharing Bok's'torn, an ancient being sometimes glimpsed in the far North.  Bok's'torn is most associated on cloudy evenings when the Northern Lights are visible.  In my world the Northern Lights are called The Giant's Lantern.

Bok's'torn is not technically a god in the traditional sense.  The being is in fact a phantom, a shade, a ghost.  It is the lingering memory of the last of its kind, a race of titanic elemental giants who once walked the world from land to land but who are no more. This race predates even the early memories of the elves and so almost nothing is known about them except for the knowledge that they once existed as evidenced by the presence of Bok's'torn.  The name Bok's'torn is in fact a creation of two old words from the early language of the Northmen dwelling within the Warholds high up at the edge of the Wintersmark.  Originally the word was more a title than a name and it translates literally to "roof breaker".

BOK'S'TORN (Roof Breaker)

Lesser Power

Armor Class:  -1
Movement: 14
Hit Points: 200
No. of Attacks: 1
Damage from Attacks: 3d10 Crushing, Grab, 2d10+10 Rending save or lose limb follows grab.
Special Attacks: Summon Blizzard
Special Defenses: Immune to Cold, Immune to Charm and Mind Control, Immune to Turn Undead, Limited Invisibility - Constant
Magic Resistance: 30%
Alignment: Neutral
Worshiper's Alignment: Any
Symbol: A primitive drawing of a gigantic humanoid with red feet.
Spells:  Locate Object x 3 per day. Plane Shift to Spirit Realm x 2 per day. Cone of Cold as spell cast by a 12th level caster x 2 per day.

Bok's'torn lingers as a being venerated in the current age by giants of almost every variety, especially the more humble sorts such as hill giants, mountain giants and forest giants.  He is also worshiped by ogres, certain tribes of orc and a few outlying clans of human barbarian.  Bok's'torn is neutral in alignment but his followers tend towards chaos.  When he does appear he seems to be a shimmering outline passing along the horizon, a dark outline of an ancient titan most easily seen in front of a background of stars or the Northern lights.  The closer one stands to Bok's'torn the more effective his phantom nature and limited invisibility become.  To a character standing within 100 feet of Bok's'torn he is effectively completely and totally invisible.  Only the evidence of his passage (the accidental destruction of farm houses he happens to step on, his enormous footprints left in fields, etc...) can be experienced by those standing close to the creature.

Bok's'torn only appears at night and more often during a blizzard or when the Northern Lights are visible.  He only appears in the far North and never wanders more than two hundred miles South of the permanent ice sheets of the Wintersmark.

Northmen fear Bok's'torn more than worship him but his priests linger, more in the countryside of the Warholds of the Northmen region than anywhere else.  Bok's'torn seems unconcerned with the affairs of the mortal world with the single exception of a religious ceremony whereby oaths are sworn in a strange and forgotten language to cement a treaty.  A later violation of this treaty sworn before Bok's'torn priests inevitably attracts the wrath of the being although he may come immediately or suddenly make an appearance years after the fact.  When he does come to seek revenge for a broken Oath he usually appears out of a storm, smashes everything and rends the offenders bodily tearing off arms, legs and heads and flinging these about everywhere.

Priests of Bok's'torn receive spells up to casting level five only.

A third level a priest of Bok's'torn is granted the miracle of strength.  Once per day they may call upon a burst of superior strength capable of bending iron bars, smashing down a stout door or lifting something heavy off of a companion.

At fifth level Bok's'torn grants his priest the ability to call a single lightning bolt out of the sky against a foe.  This lightning bolt never misses.  It strikes for 6d6 damage against a single target.  No saving throw for half damage.  The priest may call this bolt once per day and only while outdoors.

If confronted with combat Bok's'torn will start smashing things.  He can stomp with his feet as an area of effect attack crushing everything in a thirty foot wide by sixty foot long area.  He attacks as a level 14 fighter.  He saves as a 10th level magic-user.  Bok's'torn may also grab a target.  A grabbed target cannot move or make any action except scream for help.  The following combat round Bok's'torn may rend the target limb from limb.  The target must make a saving throw or suffer the loss of a randomly rolled limb plus 2d10+10 damage.  Roll 1d6.  1 Left Arm, 2 Right Arm, 3 Left Leg, 4 Right Leg, 5 both arms, 6 head.  Note:  A character who has his head ripped off by Bok's'torn probably deserves it and usually expires soon after.

Well there you have it.  Today's blog entry for Dungeon Mastering by Candlelight.  Please become a follower of this OSR / D&D blog today.  I post something very nearly every day.  Thanks for visiting and see you next time!

Happy Gaming!!!

Monster Monday 07/14/14


Climate/Terrain:  Temperate and Subterranean, Abandoned Structures
Frequency:  Uncommon
Diet: Large Rats, Housecats, Kobalds
Intelligence: Animal
Treasure:  Nil
Alignment: Neutral
No. Appearing: 2 - 24 (2d12)
Armor Class:  6 (14)
Movement: 10
Hit Dice: 1
THACO: 20 (18 from Unshielded Side, 16 from Rear)
Number of Attacks: 1
Damage / Attacks: 1 point + save vs poison
Special Attacks:  Poison / Paralyzation
Special Defenses: Teleportation
Magic Resistance: None
Size: S (2 feet - Housecat Size)
Morale: Average 8
XP Value: 150

Blinkspiders are an uncommon but dangerous arachnid pest known to inhabit certain temperate areas North of the Sea of Harlots but South of the Goblinspite Mountains.  They prefer dark, quiet locations to breed and lurk, often at the edges of human civilized areas where their favored prey (housecats, small dogs and especially large varieties of rat) are concentrated.  Blinkspiders are an aggressive form of hunting spider.  They do not make webs.  They stick to the shadows or hiding in corners or clinging to the backs of surfaces, doors and such.  When a brood reaches sufficient numbers it may migrate looking for more plentiful sources of small prey.  Larger infestations of these creatures can sometimes be found close to kobald dens.

A single blinkspider is the size of a house cat.  It has a dark brown body that bears a white marking sometimes compared to the symbol for infinity.  Where or how these creatures developed with their teleportation ability is not known.  Likely they escaped from a wizard laboratory and then bred quickly once outside of the confines of captivity.

Blinkspiders will band together if one of their number is attacked.  This is a survival reaction not one born out of any particularly high level of intelligence.  When surprised or agitated or in combat a blinkspider will blink about trying to get an advantage against a perceived threat or future meal.  As a rule they do not attack medium or large opponents aggressively unless they are attacked, threatened or cornered.  A blinkspider will teleport on a roll of a 6 or higher on a 1d12.  They appear within three feet of a target on a roll of a 1 in front of the foe, 2 shielded front, 3 unshielded front, 4 shielded flank, 5, unshielded flank or 6-12 rear.  When a blinkspider teleports it does so as a half movement part of its action and can then immediately attack with its remaining action.  A blinkspider can teleport to a range of one hundred feet and appear anywhere it can see from its current position.  A blinded blinkspider will attempt to retreat but will not teleport.

Blinkspiders have a poison bite.  Medium sized targets receive a +1 bonus to save.  Large targets receive a +2 bonus to save and targets larger than L size ignore the poison completely.  If the saving throw versus poison is failed the target is paralyzed within 2+1d4 combat rounds.  Blinkspiders only eat paralyzed prey if they are left alone with it for a period of an hour or more.  Paralyzation lasts for 2+1d4 hours unless treated magically.

Blinkspiders are not intelligent nor do they have any treasure of their own but their victims sometimes do.  The abandoned structures they can inhabit sometimes are places where treasure happens to be found as well.

Well there you have it.  Last night was GAME NIGHT here at casa Ed Kann.  So no installment of Dungeon Mastering by Candlelight last night but I am making up for it with two installments today.  I hope you enjoy your monster for Monster Monday.  This monster was created for a 2nd Edition game.  Please remember this post is a fan posting and is not meant to conflict with any copyright of anyone anywhere.  The drawing of the Blinkspider is my own little art doodle.  Enjoy!

Happy Gaming!!!