Wednesday, November 19, 2014

feathery asshole generator

Kenku (or tengu if you are of that persuasion) are obnoxious and caw a lot. Names are vaguely japanese sounding - I had my players name their pregen'd PCs for the first game we played and the kenku's player came up with "Doseki Su, of the Clan of the Pitted Eye" so that's what I've been working from ever since.

Clans are big, so multiple families make up each one. They're named after something vaguely related to some legend or other - Andy's was "the first of the clan had one eye and he died and a tree grew from the empty socket and we all live in the tree" so good luck finding something equally rad

The final syllable is the branch name, and the first three are the self name. Roll four times (d8,d6) to build these:

1 D
2 J
3 K
4 M
5 R
6 S
7 T
8 Y
1 a
2 e
3 i
4 o
5 u
6 ai
So d8:4 and d6:2 would be Me, etc etc. Made for the off chance my PCs will go to the kenku refugee city

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Quick places: Voldset

A little different than usual, more drama? or just interNPC bullshit

On the edge of the Sweetwater Basin in the midst of the thick, boggy jungle there. Curiously built with stone, it is a tiny outpost on an outmoded trail through the jungle. A portage was cut near the river a few miles away, so passage and water became easier to get for travelers elsewhere. It is abandoned more or less.

Castle built by the Kleppers to defend against elves. They were convinced the natives were all devil worshipers. Now interred in the crypt below, Othaniel and Avis Klepper brought a band of blind gargoyles they controlled with them to make building easy. They were reluctant but obedient servants and can shape and move stone very easily. Several still perch around the empty palisades, still as statues.

The Kleppers had two children who took over Voldset, maintaining its use as a waypoint for travelers. They also inherited their parents' fear of elves and devils, however, so the gargoyles will brutally attack anyone they hear to be elvish or associated with known demons.

Cultists of the Subtle Mire now meet in the crypts. They are led by Fastred Klepper, granddaughter of Othaniel and Avis, who regularly speaks with dead to receive xenophobic advice from her gruff grandfather and gossipy grandmother. She uses tar conjuration against anyone interrupting her consultations, but welcomes non-elves to worship with a drink of black milk. She wants to recruit an army of black-weep cultists to join with her in wiping out or enslaving the "subhumans" and has already begun poisoning the water of the basin against them. Drinkers or swimmers have a 1/6 chance to encounter dark motes in the water and must save against poison or start going blind and puking up tar over 1d4 days.

Haveran Klepper, Fastred's estranged cousin, lives with his elven wife Uyle across the lake. He witnessed the bound elemental within a gargoyle escape in his youth and developed a desire to help the good of the whole. He seeks to undo the damage his family has caused to the basin and is a disciple to the elf shaman. His adopted tribe has taken over the duty of helping travelers that Voldset once held, and offer perception- and movement-increasing magics.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

not your daddy's grimoire

I have been playing as an archivist (from Heroes of Horror) and while I like the flavor it's shooting for, the actual experience of finding scroll after ancient scroll with yet another 2nd-level druid spell on them (much obliged to the hospitable DM, Andy) sort of lessens the effect. 

Where are the forbidden tomes, the shards of forgotten lore? So I made a little listy thing. Your mileage may vary.

Saikomi Ka
a population map of the dark side of the moon dated from one year hence (with notes on recent developments)
Ibn Battuta
one hundred ways to convince someone to die by their own hand (a random three work on any given person, but using three incorrectly makes them immune to all)
Beobert Rothmund
the method of shedding one’s skin to grow (can continue manyfold)
Tannhauser Gate
a well-known national hero’s story, but revealing the truth (his cowardice and the evil it caused)
Dissident Priests
a pressed flower from the Buried Gardens of Ur, sickly sweet and muddy. It charms earthen creatures and calls the bearer downward
the Silvering Path
a drawing of a formulaic braille-key to the grinding Pyramid Calculative, quietly clicking
the Honored Dead
preserved skin-scrip from the Mummified Market, valuable to Nyarlathotep's slaver-priests
Westford School
notes on discerning venomous arthropods (and on living as one of them)
Birds, Summated
instructions to the path between stars (your heart will traverse it endlessly, with or without your body. It will never rest. You will never again be at home wherever you go)
Sun’s Dark Sister
guide to speech with the spirits of the sun (they are knowledgeable about many things but asking more than one question alerts their uncalled siblings. Shadowy companions seem to follow you in the memory of others, though never in the present. Eventually those around you begin to be killed by the dark sisters)
the Middling Kings
a process whereby the doors of far-future time could be unlocked (their contents flood into your body, your mind, your home. You are now future)
Salt and Glass
a history of a violent people who never lived. Reading it further causes history to change to fit
Western Queens
a massive genealogy, revealing the breeding machinations of an ancient order of witches (you may be related to this culminating person, or not, but you are in a position to help complete this plot. The sleeper must awake)
the War Without
knowledge of 4th dimensional movement and its application to unarmed combat
a living inscription; reading it will make it crawl onto your skin and hide under your clothes until a more suitable host comes along. You have no idea what makes a suitable host or what it even wants. It looks horrible
Massa di Requiem par Shuggay
instructions on the summoning and binding  of a white demon (depicts a dove, but insists that the protective circles are necessary, that it is a being of pure evil, and that it has some ancient and inscrutable plan to which you are an insect in comparison)
the Burnt Emperor
memories of your past lives. Gain their wisdom and experience but also their trauma: ember rings traced into your skin, lungs half full of water, a hyena snatches your liver
Lost Opak-Re
musings from the Mirror of Prophetic Irrelevance (it is signed up to a varied but arbitrary collection of twitter feeds)
Prusalto Gabon
observations of Gnollish frenzy-fires and the spirits they call
A Faire Wood Withering
blood-writ runes that would call the demons of the fifth and seventh planets (the sixth planet is itself a demon)
Apologies to Clark Ashton Smith, and various others.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Creature Design: Giants

So I needed a reason for some borderline science fantasy stuff to exist in my otherwise colonial-africa style campaign world, including a way for the coeurls to have shown up, and I figured aliens are as good as any. Naturally I watched Alien for the relevance and the ancient exploded pilot really stuck out. Having an old derelict ship helmed by a dead member of a extraterrestrial race of Goliaths is good stuff for a twist on a ruin.

Scrap Princess' mothfaced Cloud Giant has stuck out in my head for a while now and this would be a baller place to use it. Some kind of silent (because doesn't breathe with lungs) robed ascetic, 12 feet tall. Real cool for the PCs to find in the driver's seat of some bizarre metallic dungeon in the middle of a crater.

(Also, relevant to the campaign: I had named a location Puzzle Tower a while back to sow the seeds of just setting off into the jungle to explore, and later when it worked I realized there was actually nothing there, so the ship became long and thin and half buried vertically in a swamp. I really only spend a lot of thinking time on things I plan to be able to use, so its place in my world informed some of the thinking later:see below)

Also this and this and maybe this? and the second part of false machine's this joined the slow roasting redesign soup and eventually I had a dream about giant pale green moth samurai floating down from the moon, their feathery antennae wafting in the air. Add that they are watching the sleeping people and maybe helping them sleep? helping them dream. watching them sleepwalk about their business as usual. so thank you all, no further design needed

But wait, how shall they engage in the play of things??? you say. Well alright

They're silent but telepathic (and I mean for real telepathy, like psychic. No radio waves here) and generally peace loving so the discussion and broadcast of ideas is vurry vurry popular - on the moon. They do not breathe in the normal way and in fact do not need to breathe at all. They are sustained by the ideas themselves. They have fluffy skin and wear long robes which keep them warm as they migrate along with the shadowed portion of the moon each month. They do not understand why terrestrial creatures don't make a similar trek, and similarly why they do not burn up in direct sunlight. All strange mysteries, hotly debated among the craters

the Tycho Symposium

So they love ideas so much but are always sharing their own and as a race are bored or can't get sustenance from them anymore. They travel down to the multihued orb above their homes, hooking their minds together like a series of parallel processors to design and calculate spaceflight missions to collect the thoughts of the natives. Eventually they get bored of the humdrum thoughts of everyday life and begin spying on them at night, when they seem to do a weird thing where they stop moving for several *orbital period percentages* and create vivid thoughts that seem to be a mash of various other thoughts. To the giants this is like a delicious but novel salad - often familiar ingredients in an unusual mixture. These dreams quickly became the currency of fashion among them, rapidly leading to varying castes and economic classes. For the first time in their history the great soup of shared thought became quieter as members hid away to exchange valuable dreams away from eavesdroppers and riffraff. They started crafting swords for themselves, because moth samurai are to good to pass up.

Dreamers with particularly fanciful dreams are highly prized, and many are the morning they will wake to find shreds of greenish fur and pale feathery bits on their lawn - the sign of a territory feud between two dream giants. The giants' limited understanding about breathing and pressure means the dreamers are safe from kidnapping - the first few tat were tried suffocated or exploded so the giants have agreed not to do that kind of thing anymore. The sleepwalking thing is still troubling, though - unscrupulous giants will use their telepathy to suggest to dreamers to get up and walk, gathering together in a field or some such place away from nocturnal eyes, so a small group of giants might harvest all of their dreams at once, They are usually caught by the giant police after only a couple nights, but occasionally a community will find themselves waking in a peat bog two miles from town everyday for a month. This farming behavior is looked down on but is the most efficient way to gather new thoughts for the people. How then to proceed????

(this is where my campaign rears its burgeoning head.)

An artificial replacement for humans would be ideal. No reliance on a foreign race, no resorting to ugly farming to meet demand. Luckily an idea had been making the rounds regarding a particular dusty ore found on the planet below. It was still not fully understood by the natives, but they knew that its dust would cause madness if inhaled - hallucinations and extreme emotional swings, sometimes permanent. This seemed to do the trick, but now to get it.

(thus the long vertical ship is in fact a drill, or the casing of a drill, long descended into the earth. It has some sort of link still with the moon in order to transport the ore directly from the site to the refinery. It has broken into a cavern of madness ore thralls and perhaps slaad-to-be. It carries resources and technology from another world, and has a slightly creepy magical intelligence aboard to help the crew, who it actually viciously killed in order to fully make the reference.

So now dead moth giants lie in a ruined tower full of science bits and a tunnel deep downward to an ore patch, where sleepwalking spelunkers and semi-slaad cultists fight with escaped pets and specimens in a big cavern. Sounds like a place I want to keep the door down

we can talk about their fractal eyes and things particular to having them but i forgot til now so that stuff was left out of THE VISION so sorry so sorry

looking back at this i realize it has become a bizarre commentary on environmental policies going from animal farming to fossil fuel exploitation but it's all jumbled and i don't understand so sorry it's five a.m.

more to follow

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Fic Rip: Jurassic Park

So Jurassic Park in a world with wizards. Taking fossils and bringing them back to life. Like undead? Could be. Dinos? Maybe. Like a vampire raptor would be horrifying. Archaeologists are scraping away at this skeleton when one of them scratches his hand. A solitary drop of blood rolls down his finger. It reaches the ancient skull...clever girl.

(lifting the script of the movie as a whole and simply replacing dinosaurs with vampires would make a rewarding and possibly hilarious adventure. "i have spared no expense" for nice coffins and finest virgins' blood. Instead of herds of herbivores the PCs see some sophisticated salons where tired gothic lesbians recline and complain of ennui. Wayne Knight ruins the system of holy symbols and running water, letting frustrated immortal teens looking for love mob the players' transport. Also suggesting the bard player do goldbloom impressions the entire time would be worth it by itself)

I don't exactly want to do straight dinos though. The bit about using frog DNA makes me think of slaadi, and the fact that they infect humanoids to progenate makes it perfect. The toadlike ancients are perfectly preserved, but some weird colored dust was kicked up and now a nasty flu is going around the diggers' camp and the priest has been looking a little green.

Instead of living in Limbo or wherever cosmology you have they were just ancient rulers of the dinosaurs. An amphibian/fungus hybrid race. If you don't have myconids give these guys all their abilities too, like confusion spores. Miners break into a slaad grave and start going crazy and burping up clouds of spores on each others' faces. wait that's a little too 28 days later.

Okay miners dig up a weird froggy skeleton and start getting sick and growing fungal lumps and their features start looking decidedly toadlike. This is all covered up by the mining company and quarantined. A wizard who loves-knowledge-and-doesn't-count-the-ethical-cost decides to "breed" some reds in a big petri dish, like an island or life-sustaining cavern. Keeps the human host thing secret and engineers it somehow so they don't produce more spores. Gets aristocrats from the nearest decadent civilization to invest in the curiosity of the ancient masters of the earth. Somebody gets attacked by a crazy frogperson and shows signs of transformation. Wizard hires PCs to distract/protect the rich folks while he finds out why. Act 2 a new big blue slaad appears and attacks the rich group. Act 3 a semi-infected green has been sabotaging security. Wizard shows that maybe he is the real monster here etc etc.

I like all this stuff but it isn't sandbox material so probably just stick with "miners dig up something that is making them crazy" or like "people drinking from a certain stream look froggy" and have it be one of several factors in a dungeon or town instead of THE thing

Friday, September 26, 2014

Creature Design: Displacer Beast

So I have recently re-read Black Destroyer by A. E. Van Vogt, which features a mightily familiar creature as the antagonist. The coeurl's description is almost identical to the displacer beast's, though TSR seems to have added at couple legs and canonized it as purple. It was a particularly interesting creature, though, with a lot of potential for interesting interactions. I want to combine the two - displacer beasts have a lot of potential themselves but there isn't quite enough information about them to really dig in the kitty's claws

Let's see how well they expy'd it, though

From Black Destroyer: Coeurl
-Some kind of (probably black) cat. Tiger-ish.
-Is a hunter
-Eats id, a kind of phosphorous compound. Found in bone marrow. It smashes people up just to suck their bones dry. So a hunter which is uninterested in actual meat.
-Very long-lived, possibly immortal if kept fed. Can be killed though
-Has tentacles coming out of its shoulders (probably two) with either slender fingers at the ends or suction cups, depending on the version of the story you read. Can manipulate tools to an extent.
-Sensitive to/ has control over vibrations. Specifically radio waves, though other electromagnetic radiation is mentioned. This could maybe extend to sound? Unclear. Also there is a frequency of radio which is unaffected, so it seems limited in band. Interesting.
-Intelligent, with implied communication skills via radio telepathy (though no spoken language)

from Dungeons & Drawings

From MM 3.5: Displacer
-Catlike. (name-checks Bengal Tiger) MATCH
-Hunter. MATCH
-Carnivore. SORTA MATCH
-Nothing special mentioned about lifetimes. DANG
-Tentacles. MATCH
(though describes them as horny) RACY LANGUAGE MATCH
-Displacement. A continual supernatural ability to bend light in order for their true location to be unknown i.e. some power over photons ...A UNIT OF ELECTROMAGNETISM. MATCH

So some folks really focus on the photon thing, which is cool, having the displacer exist in a probability cloud, constantly hopping around. Like some quantum type stuff - Heidelburg etc. That's all really cool and I like that monster but they have already made that monster and I want to make a different thing.

let's do stuff:
-Keep the id thing, it's unique. Monsters don't discriminate which part of you they eat except for vampires.
-Also keep the near-immortality. Killable immortals are always cool.
-So an immortal who needs to eat bone marrow. Why? I'm gonna go with just a general gnawing hunger. Maybe it's related to fueling the displacing abilities, but I hate making rules for that stuff and it seems unfair to have it be a guess thing. I guess we'll come back to this
-Tentacles hell yeah. I like the finger ends, so it can pick up certain objects, just not use like guns or wands (do you need a thumb to use a wand? you do in hogwarts. maybe not for like druid style ones? there are some nature Darwinists who would probably be way into intelligent predators using wands)
-Displacement. Extending this to include other light manipulations would be ideal. Color shifting, chameleon style stuff, bending light for cloaking etc. Just in the immediate area. perfect for a stalker
coeurlskin anorak 

-Other waves/radiation. The radio telepathy is cool, so if there was a pack they would coordinate (I doubt there would be a pack though. They live the solitary life of a shifting shadow)
ALSO: interact with spells that are blocked by lead sheet? They're basically xrays. So they could fool Detect Evil/Law/Kitties/whatever. So could play dumb for detect thoughts, or do a passable nystul's aura for detect magic. This would depend on it encountering that spell before, to get the frequency right and know how to scramble it. Same with Message - could be a good trap component (see below)
  (also if you have any other radiation-dependent stuff you play with sitting around, go to town. like the aurora is extra strong around its lair; it lives in a thorium cavern; it can cook popcorn by concentrating on it; it reroutes migration patterns and alters compasses; whatever. If you give it free range of the spectrum the implications are pretty wacky, so i'm keeping it to radio, light and detect)

The fact that it is constantly misrepresenting its location is intriguing. Why? It has a deep fear of being pinned down, trapped, seen for what it is. This means constant deception, even to each other (so no packs, then) plus staying in open spaces, so no bottlenecks, tunnels, lead-lined rooms. Work through proxies. like Keyser Soze but a giant flickering panther. Hates being touched
  - also it hates both full darkness and bright light - both are harder to manipulate to cloak itself. Grays and shadows.
  - also since it fakes teleporting around all the time, it is insanely jealous of anything that can for real like blink dogs or wizards. Same with polymorphing or shapeshifting. like serious berserker rage level jealousy. This is generally the only way to ruin a coeurl's plan once it's in motion
  -finds undead skeletons inconvenient because if the bones STAYED DEAD they would more easily give up their id. Like, just hold still for a sec Mr Bones this won't hurt

clearly if this thing was known about by civilization it would be thoroughly hunted since it is a goddamn bengal tiger that can turn invisible and fiddle around with magic. nobody would just let that exist in their forest. especially if there was a pack or den or something. staying secret and spread out is the only way to survive in this loud and probing world (oh yeah i forgot to mention they are still aliens. biowizards can't explain this GLORIOUS APEX BEAST. they stargated in or something)

what does it do though???for activities
some strategies it might employ for a steady source of bones:
-cloaked hunting obv. Pounce on animals from a hidden location. This would work best on nonsentient creatures
-visible lures, like a glamer of a little girl sitting in front of a tree, or a pile of treasure or whatever. basic illusions 101
-magic traps. like faking some magic items in a good pounce location; pretending to be a dumb/good ally; altering a magic message to tell someone to go into a trap. This is all adventurer-dependent so it kinda sucks as a real plan but still an effective tactic
-reversing detect thoughts waves to project thoughts to the user. a lucky coeurl with access to a helm of telepathy could purposely bequeath it to an unsuspecting victim then threaten, bully, plead, whatever
-same with radio waves. find somebody with the right dental work and convince them you are an angel or whatever. develop a cult of dentists who gladly find sacrifices for the dark prince fangwhisper. get fat
-generally the control of humanoids would be for the purpose of fomenting conflict. remain anonymous and unsuspected while coercing others to kill, then slurp clean the bodies.

Ideas to fight it (for the dullards)
-full darkness or bright bright light to throw off displacement
-lead sheets
-hidden mundane trap. bait with bones
-find out its secret name and threaten to expose it. yes you can blackmail the giant space panther but good luck finding out. probably need commune or something powerful
-faerie fire still works. glitterdust has a 50% chance

(i just remembered something about it switching from chlorine to oxygen atmosphere without any problems so i'm sure there are implications from that. i don't really care though)

The coeurl is a big cat with grasping tentacles. It hungers for bones constantly, is intelligent, and probably very old, so can plan long-term. It can look different and mess with certain spells, and can send and receive radio waves. It sets traps and keeps to the shadows.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Quick places: Westing mine

Town built around and in a mine owned by the Westing company. Exports orichalcum ore. Over half of population lives in tunnels. Led by Mayor Gwannon - not a company man.

Has the mine proper, headed by Boss Slaghorn (gnoll male), as well as about fifty itinerant miners and haulers. They stay in the cave or surface bunkhouse, respectively (both run by a kind middleaged man, Julint). There is an elf woodsman (Etla), a priest of Fengrid (Abraxas, human male), and five guards for the company under Slaghorn’s command. In the tunnels there is a brewery (run by a female triton, Lanola). Outside, and tanner (Belkor, male gnoll) and a leatherworker (Laren, optimistic young human man).

-Gwannon is haunted by buzzing when he sleeps and is paranoid that Lanola is letting her wasps into his house. It’s actually a guard with a noisemaker - Slaghorn is trying to drive him out.
-Mining has extended farther away from the town to continue following the ore vein, so there are many empty tunnels between the active dig and the dwellings. Some facts/rumors of their uses:
>There is a demonic shrine, covered in gold and ore dust. Anyone who finds it is hunted down by its undead guardian (actually the hermit, see below)
>Some of the wasps have escaped and prey on those lost in the tunnels (see Lanola)
>Something like a gnoll has been sneaking around the tunnels (suspect Belkor obviously, is actually one of the crazed miners. See below)

-Laren is Julint’s nephew. Each will do anything to protect the other. He has also taken a liking to Belkor, who is generally avoided by most of the town. They will often be found drinking together.

-Lanola is an accomplished alchemist and has made her own version of gorgon wasp brew, which is actually pretty good. She keeps her wasps in a warded off area of the tunnels that most people know about. Her real intent is to study an antidote to petrification. Her right hand which she keeps gloved has turned to stone as a result of self-experimentation. So far her closest product is a draught which turns one into living stone. She will teach cheap potion recipes if the trouble with Gwannon is cleared up (choose three lvl1 spells, when brewed into potions you get two for one).

-Etla fells trees and fashions rafts for transporting the ore downriver. He keeps to himself generally but if bought a wasp brew will tell something of the local area - the hermit’s hut, locations of two hidden mine entrances, a riding lizard nest, and an area upstream where he spotted rush (signs of ore) which he has kept secret from the Westing men.

-Miners in a freshly cut area start going crazy after a month or so there. The new vein they have tapped into has some kind of spores which affect the mind - a fossilized slaad is within. Slaghorn has been switching them out and sending them away to keep it quiet, but one miner has wandered off into the tunnels. In another week he will transform into a slaad himself.

-The hermit in the hills has a long tangled head of silver hair and beard, and is generally ignored, though he stops in about once a month to trade for supplies. He always has skins and small metal goods like nails or a knife. Is an aasimar paladin, who has been melting down his plate armor to buy supplies. He is wracked by guilt over the loss of the boy he was entrusted to guard, whose skeleton lies where he was trapped by a boulder while exploring a mine entrance near their hut. The hermit has decorated the corpse and the rocks around it with bits of orichalcum and the filigree from his armor. Will defend this shrine like a madman, and can be found there every night. If confronted peacefully he will give his sword and beg for it to be delivered to the boy’s parents in Accra.