Monday, December 30, 2013

Rory's Story Cubes and the Lost City of Akkarod

I got a fun present over the holidays, a set of Rory's Story Cubes ("Voyages" edition).

These are a set of nine regular (six-sided) dice each with a unique and evocative image on it. They are designed to be used as a storytelling game, with several variants.  I am mostly interested in using these as a game aid.  Pretty much every image would work great as D&D adventure fodder.  To give you an example, the die shown above with an octopus (Cthulhu!?!) face up has five other sides as follows:  a city with tall towers capped by minarets; a large jewel on a necklace; a crab; what looks to be a giant talking to a normal person, or perhaps a normal person talking to a miniature person; and a shield.  Another die, shown with a treasure map face up, also has a crown, a raygun, a whip, a snake, and what looks to be an explosion.

Just for fun I thought I would roll the dice and come up with a quick adventure from the results to post here - here are the results I got:

Looking at my results, I arranged them as shown above and decided the telescope was a magical item that revealed the location of the city.  Animated T-Rex skeletons guard the approach to the city.  The strange sun looking symbol I decided was the badge of office worn by the Sun Lich, the leader of the city.  He used magical potions to transform the inhabitants of the city to cannibal apes.  The sun lich is seeking a great treasure hidden below the city, an alien space ship and its high tech treasures.  Fleshing out those thoughts a bit further, we get...

The Lost City of Akkarod (story cube adventure) 

(this adventure assumes that a desert exists in the campaign world - it does not have to be close to the PCs present location)

The Telescope of Nichbod the Moon Lich:

The adventure starts with the PCs coming into possession of a collapsing brass telescope, exceedingly well made, covered with runes, with crystal lenses that glow softly at night with a green light. The telescope radiates strong magic.  If looked through during the day the telescope is completely black and reveals nothing, but at night the telescope will always allow the viewer to see a fabulous city of slender towers and golden minarets, which seems to be bathed in moonlight.  Only the city will be visible, and looking in any other direction will again result in blackness.  The city will be visible through mountain ranges or other physical obstacles, and will be visible at any distance.  The ornate runes are hard to identify but a knowledgeable sage could at least note that they appear to be a very early form of one of the desert languages.  If read through magical means, the runes identify the telescope as the creation of Nichbod the Moon Lich, the city as "Lost Akkarod" and the rest of the runes appear to be invocations of protection against Soleus the Sun Lich.  If identified, the telescope has several properties - first it will always reveal the direction to the lost city of Akkarod, second it prevents any form of magical scrying from being used against the telescope's wielder while the telescope is being looked through, and third it grants +1 to saves vs. Magic to anyone carrying it.

Desert Rumors (about the city of Akkarod or the liches Nichbod and Soleus):

Akkarod Rumors (d10, add +1 to +4 to the result if the source is knowledgeable on the subject of ancient cities)

1-2: Akkarod once was the richest city of the desert before being swallowed by the sands, and untold wealth was buried with it. (TRUE)
3-4: Akkarod is a fairy tale city supposedly inhabited by cannibal apes, used to scare children from wandering out into the desert  (TRUE)
5-6: Akkarod sank beneath the earth in a great earthquake and vanished without a trace as a punishment for the greed of its inhabitants.  (FALSE)
7-8: Akkarod is the mythical home of the fountain of youth and the Garden of Paradise - it is not of this world.  (FALSE)
9: Akkarod was consumed by a pillar of fire as punishment for withholding sacrifices to the old gods (FALSE)
10: Akkarod moves around the desert, tempting onlookers with its golden minarets, but it is a magical illusion that only lures people deeper into the desert (FALSE)
11: Akkarod was a walled city built around a famous oasis, the largest permanent water source in the deep desert. Many believe it to be a myth but it is mentioned in the old clay tablets that recorded the tributes of the first kings - it was located in the middle of a vast region of the desert with no other water sources.  Most knowledgeable sages agree that the  likely cause of the city's "disappearance" was simply that the oasis dried up.  (TRUE about the city, but FALSE about the cause of disappearance)
12:  The gardens of Akkarod are mentioned in some old ballads and epic poems, supposedly many unique magical plants grew there including the famed Moon Orchid that only bloomed under a full moon and whose fragrance was a powerful aphrodisiac.  The waters of the Akkarod Oasis cause even normal plants to take on magical properties, and the alchemists of Akkarod were known far and wide for the many potions they created with the magical water and plants.  (TRUE)
13: Akkarod was ruled by a council of liches who attained great power over the centuries, but eventually infighting amongst the liches doomed the city.  (TRUE)
14: Akkarod was ruled by a council of liches who attained great power over the centuries by controlling trade across the desert.  They demanded a fee from all caravans, and it was widely believed that they used their magical powers to bring doom upon those who attempted the dangerous desert crossing without stopping at the oasis of Akkarod.  A little known account of the great trader and explorer Sambalor details his last expedition to Akkarod - he reported that the famous gardens had been destroyed and all the workers of the city were engaged in digging a huge pit in the center of the city.  He was supposed to meet with the lich council as normal in the morning to pay his tariff before taking his wares to the market, but instead left the city hurriedly when a number of his caravan disappeared during the night, strange tracks revealing that they had been drug down into the pit by something monstrously huge.  (TRUE)

Moon Lich Nichbod rumors - only a wizard or sage specializing in arcane magic would know any of these (d4):
  1. Nichbod was one of the lich kings of Akkarod, specializing in the gentle magics of love and nature. He bore the title of Moon Lich, meaning he was the second ranking member of the lich council that ruled Akkarod. Nothing has been heard of Nichbod for centuries (TRUE)
  2. Nichbod  was a master of the undead and some believe that the rumors of huge skeletal monsters in the desert are proof that Nichbod still exists (FALSE)
  3. Nichbod was an illusionist who enjoyed luring people to their doom with illusions of great splendor (FALSE)
  4. Nichbod perished centuries ago at the hands of a rival (TRUE)
Sun Lich Soleus rumors -only a wizard or sage specializing in arcane magic would know any of these (d4):

  1. Soleus was one of the lich kings of Akkarod, specializing in necromancy and illusions (TRUE)
  2. Soleus is an aspect of the sun god (FALSE)
  3. Soleus bore the title of Sun Lich, meaning he was the leader of the council of liches.  He was the Sun Lich when the city Akkarod disappeared (TRUE)
  4. Soleus perished centuries ago at the hands of a rival (FALSE)

Approaching the City

If the telescope is used to locate the city, it indeed lies deep in an area of the desert with no water sources, sheltered within a ring of mountains. Any expedition must be properly outfitted with enough food and water to last the journey.  Desert encounters could include scorpions, giant sand spiders, caravan raiders, were-hyenas in human form pretending to be weary travelers, territorial lizard men, a brass dragon, chimera guarding a tomb, or more as needed.   A circular ring of mountains surrounds the low-lying basin where the city sits.  The mountains are not high but they are extremely steep on the descent down into the basin, and unless a roundabout route is carefully planned, several vertical cliff faces will have to be navigated.  The cliffs are riddled with caves, many of them connected into several large cave networks.  There are several passages that lead all the way to the caves under the city of Akkarod  (see The Great Pit below).  Once in the basin normal encounters become rarer and the most common encounters are either a group of cannibal apes (stats as a gorilla, a hunting party going to or coming from the mountains to bring back meat for the other apes in the city,  some of the apes wear clothing and armor and wield huge longbows that do 1d12 damage and two-handed swords that do 3d6+4, while most appear much more animalistic and attack with claw and fang) or an animated T-Rex skeleton (statted as the dinosaur, -2 HD and with the usual undead resistances and vulnerabilities - there are other kinds of animated dinosaurs as well but the T-Rex are the most commonly encountered in the basin). If tracked, both the apes and the skeletal dinosaurs appear to come from the city.

The Lost City of Akkarod

A massive ring of rubble surrounds the city, up to a hundred feet wide and nearly fifty feet tall in places.  The walled city itself is covered with a great and nearly impenetrable illusion that makes it appear as a rocky outcropping.  The illusion is so powerful that saves to disbelieve it are made at -4.  In addition, another enchantment makes it very difficult to approach the city during the day - within one mile of the city, a save vs. Magic at -4 is required every turn spent moving closer to the city, and failure results in disorientation and traveling the wrong way. Using the telescope at night to find the main gates is the easiest way to gain entrance, although there is a lot of cannibal ape activity around the rubble ring at night (see the Great Pit below).  The main gates into the city appear as shadowy caves in the rocky outcropping.

  The city is laid out in concentric circles, with the outermost and largest circle being the apartment style housing of the lower class laborers and servants, the next circle being the individual houses of artisans and skilled laborers, the next circle being the large villas of the merchants, and the innermost and smallest circle being the high towers of the nobility .  The houses and apartments of the first two circles are built wall to wall with no gaps, only pierced by the four main roads that radiate out from the center of the city to each of the cardinal directions.  Portcullis gates manned by cannibal apes block these roads at the first and second circles.   In the very center of the city (which used to be lush gardens and the famous oasis) lies a gaping and very deep pit.  The towers of the nobility are all sealed and contain many undead and rich treasures (slave quarters on the first levels of the tower, reception halls and dining halls next, then the personal apartments of the nobility above).  The rest of the houses are occupied by cannibal apes (really the polymorphed former inhabitants of the city, enslaved by Soleus, some of whom still cling to a vestige of their former humanity which most of their comrades have lost over the centuries).  The houses of the merchants contain much wealth, but the rest of the dwellings do not.

 The apes mostly sleep during the day, although there will still be some guards in the city and patrols going out into the desert.  Any prolonged combat will quickly draw the attention of more apes, and possibly other , more nefarious agents of Soleus (see the Great Pit below).  At night, the bulk of the apes descend into the pit to continue the excavations.  The apes that have lost their humanity are filled with anger at their servitude to Soleus, but they are completely incapable of resisting his commands.  The apes that still cling to humanity are capable of disobeying the spirit if not the letter of Soleus' commands; they seek the overthrow of Soleus and a return to human form, and could be allies if convinced that the party shares these aims.

The Great Pit

The upper levels of the pit have been lined with stone to prevent it from caving in, and two stone stairs spiral down the outside of the pit from the north and the south.  It is over 2000' feet deep and growing deeper - An intricate system of pulleys and buckets, powered by apes walking around a gear, hauls rubble up from the excavations.  Apes haul sledges to the ring of rubble around the city at night.  200' down, the pit is deeper than the surrounding sands and retaining walls are no longer needed to keep it from caving in.   Many tunnels extend out from the pit at different levels below this point, some leading to Soleus' lair (a series of immense caverns hewn out of the rock containing a metal clockwork construction built atop huge gears, with the rooms slowly and constantly shifting in relative position to each other as the gears rotate), some to the tombs of his undead followers (wraiths and vampires along with their ghoulish minions) and still others are natural caverns  in an area of ancient limestone that contain many dinosaur fossils (the source of the skeletons that Soleus animates as laborers and guard beasts).  Some of these caves are linked to cavern systems in the mountains but the way is long and twisting with many forks.  Trogledytes and stranger dwellers of the darkness live in the far flung cave networks.   The lowest third of the pit is chipped out of a dark blue, glassy obsidean-like rock with no passageways leading out.  The bottom of the pit is flooded with 50' of water, in which giant Anklyosaurus and Triceratops skeletons work to smash more of the glassy blue rock and extend the pit even farther down.  Drinking the water requires a save vs. Magic to avoid polymorphing permanently into a cannibal ape (Soleus corrupted and twisted the natural magic in the source of the old oasis, which is actually in the layer of limestone caverns above but trickles down to fill the bottom of the pit).  Greater ghouls armed with flamewhips oversee the apes as they haul rubble out, and one or more of the vampire lieutenants direct the skeletal dinosaurs.  The dinosaurs labor day and night but the apes only haul out the rubble at night.

The Glassy Core

Long ago... (pick one in keeping with the tone of your campaign - for me it would be A or B)...    
A:  Soleus discovered evidence of a large meteorite impact that formed the ring of mountains and the basin in which Akkarod sits.  He seeks to dig down through the fused rock covering the meteorite itself and uncover an intact alien spacecraft.  Soleus discovered some high tech artifacts that were scattered during the wreck, including a small escape pod and a trove of laser blasters that he outfits his lieutenants with.

B: Soleus discovered evidence of a large meteorite impact that formed the ring of mountains and the basin in which Akkarod sits.  He seeks to dig down through the fused rock covering the meteorite itself and uncover a demon of unthinkable power that is imprisoned in the meteorite.  The demon made mental contact with Soleus ages ago and made a bargain to grant Soleus dominion over the entire world in return for freedom. 

C:  Soleus found two artifacts from the fabled city of Karod, which was buried in a lava flow from the ring of volcanic mountains.  The artifacts are a staff and a robe of great power which elevated Soleus above the other liches, but they are linked to a crown which is still buried below and which has possessed Soleus with a maniacal drive to uncover it.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Time Traveling Seed Sprouts

Back on December 29th of last year we played a session where the PCs had traveled back in time 4 million years before the current timeline to confront a time traveling sorcerer in a hummingbird mask and bright feathered cloak from creating a set of dark artifacts.  During this encounter Tilia ended up entering a shared dreamspace with the sorcerer.  The hummingbird man acted like he had already met Tilia, and when pressed shared the story of how he first met Tilia (none of which had happened as far as Tilia's player knew).  He said that he had been trapped inside a dream after eating a black lotus flower as a young man, during which time he had many visions which ultimately led him to travel to the past to create these artifacts.  During his dream vision at one point he encountered a great dream demon boar which was consuming the dreams of the people of the jungle with a greed and a hunger that could not be filled.  He was attacked by the dream demon boar, but a great white horned beast (Tilia) intruded and said many confusing things that he did not understand but which later he took to mean that he must travel back in time to make a set of artifacts that could be used to manipulate waking reality while in dreamland.  He said that Tilia had shown him one of the artifacts and told him of the others.  This was all very confusing for for Tilia's player who had no idea what I was talking about.  In the end though they wound up trusting the sorceror and allowed him to create the artifacts.

Well fast forward almost a full year of real life and Tilia finds herself back in the present timeline and in a shared dream within a massive collective consciousness known as MotherMind.  A dream demon boar has invaded the dreams of MotherMind and is causing greed and hunger where Tilia had tried to create a peaceful dream of the happy hunting grounds to calm down MotherMind.  Tilia suspects that the young man version of the hummingbird sorceror is also inside this shared dream.  At the end of last session Tilia was about to track down the young sorcerer and interrupt his encounter with the dream demon boar.  It will be up to Tilia if she wants to tell the young man to create the artifacts or not, but the present version of Tilia does possess one of the artifacts so if she doesn't I guess there will be changes to the present timeline :)

Of course, this isn't the first time the PCs have messed around with timelines.  The first was a journey back in time to prevent the birth of Slotek, the twisted son of Akili (Old Man Gootie's wife) and the great river spirit of the Zamonas River.  They did this hoping that if they prevented Old Man Gootie from corrupting Akili and creating Slotek that the great spirit of the river would instead be reborn in the form of a river dragon as the river dolphins had told them was supposed to be the natural order of things.  Of course, I used this event as a great excuse to make all kinds of crazy changes to the present timeline of the 4e game, although the players didn't find out about them for a while.  Ultimately this led to the river spirit being fractured into multiple deities each with an avatar in the river basin. 

The second time they messed around with time was a trip to the future, which is much less problematic in terms of not disrupting the present.  They traveled into the far future of the 4e world in pursuit of a time travelling vampire (emerging into an alien spacecraft on the surface of a dead world in the process of being consumed by an expanding dying sun).  After they killed the vampire and took his stuff, they became very intrigued by a magical artifact he was carrying.  Using a ritual to look into the artifact's past, they observed its creation by a strange sorcerer in a hummingbird mask and colorful feathered cape... ultimately proving to be irresistible to the party, so they time traveled to the past to begin this post :)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Wood Magic (Wands and Staffs)

I have a longstanding dissatisfaction with D&D magic.  It is not that I don't like it.  I loved playing illusionists when I was a kid first starting to play D&D and in general I loved the magic that was there in D&D.  I just wanted more.

I have no problem with Vancian fire and forget magic, but I really don't want it to be the only type of magic in my games.  I have come up with some different options over the years, a trance possession cleric, the hekuras of my 4e game (at this point Tilia, one of the PCs in that game, has four different hekuras living inside of her), some point spend casting systems, herbal and mushroom magic, a recharge mechanic for spells... something I am working on now is a nature magic system based on the magical properties of wood.

A caster in this tradition could only cast a spell either by touching a living tree and casting a spell using its energy or by making a wand or staff which draws on the energy of its parent tree (the parent tree must still be alive of course!).  This system would work with the regular spell level limits, so a 3rd level caster could cast up to a 2nd level spell, but the limits on how many spells could be cast in a day would be based on the tree being drawn upon, not the caster.  Creating a staff takes enough time that it would not be done in combat, while creating a wand can take as little as 1 round (see below).  Wands only function at a very short range from the parent tree (unless linked to a staff, see below) but I hope that the ability to break a twig off a tree in one round and use it immediately as a wand will enable some cool options in combat for a caster.  I am making a random tree species chart for different environments so there will be the element of randomness - a caster could be in a combat near a tree that has magical properties useful for the encounter, and they could either touch the tree directly to invoke the magic or break a wand off on the fly and use it during the encounter.

As you can see, I am carrying my staff around :)

Tree Magic

Each tree species has different magical properties, and I will assign each spell in the game to one or more tree species according to those properties.  For instance, willow wood is associated with spells dealing with water, the element of spirit, death and rebirth, transmutations, emotions, healing, and the will.  When a tree is encountered, a roll on the tree age chart will reveal its age and the maximum spell level that could be drawn from the tree.  A rough version of the tree age chart is below.  Each tree species may have a negative modifier to apply to the tree age roll, depending on the maximum age of that species.  For example, only three of the trees occurring in eastern North America listed in this database have a maximum age of less than 100 years - those tree species would have a -4 modifier to the tree age roll to give a maximum age of 100 years.  Looking at the same database (which is very useful) there are 10 tree species with a maximum age between 100 and 200 years - those trees would receive a -2 modifier and so on.

Tree Age (d20)
Max Spell Level
Max total spell levels castable per day
1-8: Sapling (0-10 years)
9-13: Immature (11-30 years)
14-16: Mature (31-99 years)
17-18: Old (100-199 years)
19: Elder (200-499 years)
20:Ancient (500+ years old)

When physically touching a tree, a caster can cast any spell on that tree's spell list up to the max level of spell the caster can cast, as limited by the tree age as shown above.  The tree age chart shows the total spell levels that could be drawn from any particular tree per day.  To draw upon the power of a tree from a distance, a caster can make wands and staffs.  Each spell in the tree's spell list would have a [W], [S] or both to denote if that spell could be cast with a wand or staff.  Some spells might only be castable by directly touching the tree (Wish springs to mind, and it would have other requirements of course).  In general, wands are used for spells that actually emanate out from the wand, like a lightning bolt or paralyzing ray, and staffs are used to create most other magical effects.  Of course not all tree species are created alike; some will have much more extensive spell lists than others, and some might have a more extensive wand spell selection and others a more extensive staff spell selection.


Creating a staff takes takes 10 rounds minimum.  Roll 1d6 per round spent crafting the staff (max = 10 rounds +2 rounds/level);  the result equals the number of miles from the parent tree the staff can be used.  The range is also capped at the age of the tree (a staff made from a 95 year old tree could function at a max distance of 95 miles from its parent tree).  Staffs cannot be made from saplings.  If a staff is more than a mile from its parent tree, a caster must spend 1d2 hours per 24 hour period meditating on the staff to draw magical energy through it.  It is possible to use staffs from more than one tree but this requirement must be met for each staff.  Failing to meet this requirement does not destroy the staff, it simply cannot be used to cast magic until meditated upon for at least one hour again. Even if no spell levels remain to be drawn from its parent tree, a staff can be used in melee and each tree species has a unique effect that is added to the regular 1d6 damage.


Creating a wand takes 1 round minimum    Roll 1d6 per round spent crafting the wand (max=level) result x 10 = number of feet from the parent tree the wand can be used.  If a wand and staff are created from the same tree, as long as the staff is within range of the tree the wand can be used within its range of the staff as it will draw energy through the staff from its parent tree.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

Near TPK in my 4e game

Last Tuesday's installment of my 4e game ended with our heroes in very perilous straits.  We ended the session with Beautiful Bob the half-gibbering mouther psychic (Ardent) and Hammer the warforged barbarian both below 0 HP and surrounded by snakemindflayers, presumably about to have their intelligences consumed.  The party's other member, Tilia the albino minotaur warden, had previously merged her body into the giant honeycomb mushroom brain that the snakemindflayers worshiped and called MotherMind.   At the end of the session Tilia had entered a lucid dreamstate to attempt some psychic healing on MotherMind.  Tilia was trying to sooth the nightmares of MotherMind and she called upon the energy of Bob and Hammer (with whom she shares a permanent telepathic link that was forged with alien energy technology some time back) to help her.  Bob and Hammer had both just dropped below 0 HP that round and lost consciousness so I gave them the option of joining Tilia in the shared dream when she called upon their energy.  They both took me up on that, so we will start next session with all three PCs in a shared dreamscape with MotherMind.

A few notes on how we got into this predicament:

*  The party allowed themselves to be led to the caverns of the snakemindflayers by a guide, knowing the entire time that the snakemindflayers wanted Tilia to merge with the MotherMind to fulfill an ancient prophecy about a white cow that featured prominently in the snakemindflayer religion.  The party had also gleaned that the snakemindflayers intended to kill the rest of the party and consume their intellects.

* The previous session, the party had initially parlayed with the first few snakemindflayers that they ran into... until suddenly jumping them and massacring them in one round.  For some reason the party decided to take a five minute rest in the same cavern that they just fought in, apparently deciding that no alarm had been raised despite knowing that the snakemindflayers and the mushroom men thralls that they had just killed had a psychic connection with MotherMind.

*  When the party's five minute rest was interrupted by a legion of approaching snakemindflayers and thralls, they decided to confront them rather than attempt to flee (although to be fair the only obvious direction to flee would have been deeper into the caverns of the snakemindflayers and toward MotherMind).

*  Faced with overwhelming numbers the party willingly marched with the snakemindflayers deep into their living mycelial city and Tilia willingly merged herself with MotherMind.  At that point the rest of the snakemindflayers politely asked Hammer and Bob to accompany them back to the ritual sacrifice chambers so they could fulfill their destiny of being consumed.  Hammer and Bob didn't want to comply.

*  The party soon learned that the metallic rods that the snakemindflayers all carried were some kind of technological laser weapon.  Hammer learned that getting shot with lots of lasers hurts.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Nur-Kubi and Zaninum the Cambions

This is a post for the benefit of my players, so they have the stats of the two cambion NPCs they now control.  I based these off the Cambion Wrathborn and Chained Cambion, but I bumped up the HP, defenses and damage expressions because my players are 23rd level at this point.  These cambion were meant to be an annoyance in combat with the PCs while their sorcerer master flew around above them and caused problems; of course when it came down to it the party thrashed the sorcerer pretty quickly while Beautiful Bob rolled a natural 30 on his once nightly roll on  the d30 in an attempt to dominate the two surviving cambions (he has an ability to attempt to permanently dominate bloodied opponents, I believe he gained this ability by consuming the soul of an inquisitor devil that he had trapped in a malevolent nut a while ago).  I usually wouldn't have let him dominate the cambions because they were sired by the sorcerer the PCs were fighting, but if you roll a natural 30 on a d30 you succeed in whatever you are trying to do.  That is why Beautiful Bob is half-gibbering mouther as well, he rolled a natural 30 in attempting to psychically befriend a gibbering mouther in his very first session and then he later combined his own form with the mouther in a dark ritual.

So anyway, Beautiful Bob now has two cambion NPCs, Nur-Kubi and Zaninum (both fathered by Mezizi Al-Bado, member of the royal sorcerer's Order of the Phoenix and secret member of the order of the Horned Skull - their mothers are two different succubus devils).

Nur-Kubi is a shifty sort who prefers to assume human guise and dislikes it when he loses control and must assume his natural, fiery winged form.  He wishes he were human. He despises devils and his half-brother Zaninum

HP: 200       Bloodied 100                          Initiative: +15   Perception: +12  Darkvision
AC:33  Fortitude:31  Reflex: 34  Will: 30
Speed: 6, Fly 8 (clumsy)
Resist 10 fire

Traits:  Burning Anger (fire): Aura 1 - while Nur-Kubi is bloodied, any enemy that ends its turn within the aura takes 10 fire damage.

Standard Actions:
Pain Blade (weapon) at will: melee 1; +30 vs. AC  4d8+16 damage and the target grants combat advantage until the end of Nur-Kubi's next turn.

Path of Pain (weapon) at-will: Nur-Kubi shifts 4 squares and uses pain blade at any point during the shift.

Fire Bolt (fire, implement) at will: Ranged 5 +28 vs Reflex 4d6+10 fire damage

Burst Skyward (fire, implement) Encounter: Requirement: Nur-Kubi must be bloodied. Close Burst 2 (enemies in burst); +30 vs Reflex 4d10+10 fire damage and Nur-Kubi flies 8 squares without provoking opportunity attacks.

Minor Actions: Wicked Guise (illusion) at will - Requirement: Nur-Kubi must not be bloodied.  Nur-Kubi can assume the appearance of a specific Medium humanoid.

Zaninum  is an angry sort, full of hatred and wrath.  He loves killing things.  He hates humans.  He thinks his half-brother Nur-Kubi is weak but envies his ability to fly.  He wraps himself in chains that he can control telekinetically.

HP: 220       Bloodied: 110                             Initiative: +15  Perception:+15   Darkvision
AC:34  Fortitude:32  Reflex:30  Will:30

Binding Chains: Aura 3  Squares within the aura are difficult terrain for enemies

Child of Chains: While immobilized or restrained, Zaninum gains +2 to attack and +2 to escape a grab or to savings throws against immobilization or restrain.

Standard Actions
Chain Lash (weapon) at-will: melee 3 +32 vs. AC  6d6+16 damage and a dazed target is immobilized (save ends)

Vile Fetters (psychic) at will: melee 5 +30 vs. will  4d6+12 psychic damage and if the target ends its next turn closer to Zaninum it is dazed (save ends)

Unfettered Scream (psychic) recharge 5,6: Close blast 3 (creatures in blast) +30 vs. Fortitude 4d6+12 Psychic Damage and the target is pushed 2 squares and dazed (save ends)

Minor Actions
Mind Shackles (psychic) Recharge when first bloodied:  Two enemies adjacent to each other in a close burst 5 are psychically shackled (save ends; each enemy makes a separate saving throw against this effect).  While psychically shackled, an enemy takes 20 psychic damage at the start and the end of its turn if it isn't adjacent to the other creature that was affected by this power.  Aftereffect: the effect persists, and the damage decreases to 10 (save ends).

Siss-Anor Dungeons pt. 1

Last session in my 4e game the players were exploring the dungeons underneath the royal palace of Siss-Anor for the first time.  Magical wards prevented teleporting into or out of the area underneath the palace, so for the first time in a long time the party didn't have the safety net of being able to open a portal back to their orbiting spacecraft with their portal coins.  I am going to post some maps of areas of the dungeons, because by the end of last session Beautiful Bob had wrested control of two cambion (half-devil) slaves from a royal sorceror.  These two cambions are now totally loyal to Beautiful Bob, and they are intimately familiar with the areas of the dungeon occupied by the devil-pact Order of the Horned Bull as well as the network of passages and caverns that link from the order's temple to the ancient ritual caverns in the lowest level of the dungeons.  I am going to post some maps soon, but first some back story.

For the last few months of game time, the city of Siss-Anor had been oppressed by the snake men who suddenly arrived in their flying golden city/meteorite over the palace and activated sleeper cells of snake men loyalists within the royal family and royal inquisitors.  The royal bloodline of House Al Treez was revealed to be of snake man scientist creation - genetically modified to be susceptible to snake man telepathic command.  Squadrons of large humanoid lizardmen with green shadows instead of heads abducted most of the ranking leadership of both the other royal houses and the named merchant houses.  Unprecedented numbers of blood sacrifices were demanded of all the houses, and several resulting uprisings were put down with brutal efficiency by the legions of the snakemen.  Then just as suddenly as they arrived, the snake man city flew away upriver into the jungle and has not returned.

Without the backing of the snake men, the collaborators within the old royal government soon were besieged in the palace.  When the palace fell the old loyalists/snake man collaborators retreated into the dungeons below the palace.  The royal sorcerers, while not of snake man blood and in fact chafing under the new order, had not openly resisted the snake men and indeed had helped put down the uprisings.  A secret society within the royal sorcerers known as the Order of the Horned Bull had formed a pact with the lords of hell many generations ago, and they called upon the minions of hell to protect them as they retreated into the dungeons.  The upper level of dungeons, mostly consisting of barracks for the royal guard and extensive prison cell blocks, are now flooded with devils - at the moment keeping the forces of the uprising houses from capturing the collaborators.

The party has a man on the inside, a member of the royal family and a royal inquisitor himself, Kaaz al Treez.  Many sessions ago Kaaz allied himself with the party because he had been investigating secret plots of the snake men in the royal house of Siss Anor for quite some time.  He had been investigating a secret order within the inquisitors known as the Order of the Serpent.  This secret order passed down the knowledge of the snake men for thousands of years, conducting rituals in hidden caverns far below the surface where a strange race of snake-mindflayers (snake man scientist creations) live in a network of tunnels honeycombing a sentient mycelial mass.  Even after the the snake man citadel left, Kaaz observed snake man scientist activity in the lowest levels of the dungeon where the snake-mindflayers live.  Literally taking the form of a fly on the wall, Kaaz observed a snake man scientist entering a secret doorway in the Cavern of the Blood Sacrifice.  Following the scientist in his insect form, Kaaz discovered a snake man scientist installation hidden underneath the caverns.  A large circular chamber was filled with the golden machinery inset with gem buttons and festooned with levers that is characteristic of the snake man scientists.  In the center, some kind of energy vortex or singularity danced suspended in mid-air.  Kaaz observed the snake man scientists walk directly into this energy vortex and disappear.  When Kaaz followed after a discrete moment, he found himself on a clear platform far above the floor of an immense chamber.  Hairless blue skinned humans and snake man scientists of unusual coloration busily crisscrossed the floor of the chamber to and from the eight archways ringing the chamber.  Something in the atmosphere felt wrong, and he had difficulty maintaining his insect form.  He was unable to communicate with the party from in this chamber through the magical wasp ear rings that he and Beautiful Bob wear for this purpose.  When he attempted to fly down into the chamber he lost his insect form and crashed into a far corner of the immense chamber.  He had difficulty using any magic at all and was unable to assume any of his tattoo forms.  Eventually he was able to figure out how to activate an elevator lift to take him back to the platform, where he stepped back through the energy vortex.  He contacted the party after this and told them the whole story.  He explained to the party how they could access the lowest levels of the dungeon through a long flooded passage connecting to the old sewers, and that is how and why the party came to be entering the Cavern of the Blood Sacrifice underneath the palace of Siss Anor last session.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Magical Circuitry pt.2

A while back I posted about my 4e players beginning to figure out how to assemble magical circuitry to create magical "machines" that functioned much differently from the magical items created through rituals in 4e.  Plants, organs from magical creatures and magical crystals and minerals could be combined to create magical effects.  This worked in a fairly straightforward manner; the blast cannons the party made from the legs of genetically-modified partially robotic giant insects and the dark organs of the larval spawn of an elder godcreature are an excellent example.

Next, the party figured out that magical energy could be transformed in the shadow world to enable magical machines to perform many more functions. They first learned about this by observing how shadow pearls in a magical shield constructed by the snake men scientists transformed raw energy and created both a repulsor beam to fly the shield as well as a laser to blast the crap out of things.  I want to post more about the magical discoveries the party has made since then, but first I need to lay out some cosmological groundwork.

In my game cosmology there is the physical world, the spirit world and the shadow world.  The physical world is a multiverse that I call the IPM (infinite possibility matrix) in my games (I use this cosmology independent of system - I used it for my 3e game and my Mutant Future game as well as the 4e campaign).  The main thing distinguishing the IPM from any other multiversal theory is the travel of energy between different possibilities. Imagine every particle of energy in the universe somehow "freezing" in time.  The planets and suns and comets stop zooming around and hang motionless, as do the electrons and protons and in turn quarks and neutrinos...  and if you zoomed in as far as you could on an individual unit of energy, in the IPM you would discover that the smallest unit of energy both does and does not exist at the same time.  In the frozen universe, outside of time, energy flickers in and out of existence.  It is travelling outside of time between the different possible universes.

If you could somehow follow the flow of energy outside of time between the different possible universes you would be in the shadow world.  The shadow world exists outside of time and the usual constraints on the forms energy can take.  It could simultaneously be thought of as an undifferentiated sea of energy, and as a sea of every form that energy could take.  If you followed a linear conception of time backward to the big bang, the shadow world is on the other side of the big bang if you kept heading "backward".

The spirit world is the borderland between the physical world and the shadow world.  There are as many spirit worlds as there are possible universes, but there is only one shadow world.  The spirit world is how/where energy leaves the universe to join the shadow world, and the spirit world is how/where energy returns to the universe from the shadow world.  The spirit world could be thought of as a veil that covers the universe and defines its bounds, even as energy flows to and from the universe through the spirit world into deep shadow and all other possible universes.  As energy constantly flows between the different probable universes, it is possible for networks of energy to simultaneously become sentient in the spirit world surrounding a universe.  Once such a consciousness arises, it persists even though the individual units of energy that make it up are constantly in flux.  These are spirits.  Different sorts of spirits arise in the different spirit worlds surrounding different possible universes.

Back to magical circuitry - every universe has rules that govern how energy can behave.  Anything that breaks those rules is magic.  The way that magic functions is to tap into the possible forms of energy in the shadow world and make energy returning to the universe retain these shadow forms.  The study of magic is the study of the potential forms of energy, how to tease out the desired form in the shadow world, and how to bring back that form through the spirit world.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Flying Saucer Deck Plans

There is the off chance that the players in my 4e game might end up exploring a high-tech spacecraft today of the flying saucer variety so I was Googling "flying saucer deck plans".  This old web page has the complete blue prints of a Constitution class Starfleet vessel, the top portion of which is basically a flying saucer (deck plans for this portion below).  The page also includes the contents of each level and a key for all the abbreviations.  The full ship is a mega-dungeon all gift-wrapped and ready to go :)

Flying Saucer Deck Plans:

Monday, July 15, 2013

Two Men Down

Roderick and Claude the Ranger dropped yesterday at the hands of slime hounds in the catacomb levels below the sewers of Kaladar in my friend Carter's Labyrinth Lord Lands of Ara campaign.  While these were two NPCs, followers of Vivuli the assassin and Uncle Junkle the bard, the loss still hit hard.  The party was a bit stunned, actually, because we completely underestimated the pack of seven dogs that attacked us in the tunnels.

Seven dogs covered in filth and disease didn't exactly strike fear into our hearts after disposing of three green dragons and a half dozen winged Balrogs over the last two sessions.  We did have a string of terrible rolls, including several critical fumbles resulting in dropped weapons, as well as Innominus rolling a 6 for damage on his nightly d30 roll in an area attack that hit all the dogs in the surprise round before combat proper started.

Still, we figured we were going to dispatch these critters handily and I even advised Innominus against blowing a Bless or Prayer spell on the second round because I was sure these things couldn't have many hit points left after they all took 6 damage on the first round.

That all changed in a heartbeat when they started spewing acidic bile at us, scoring a hit on Roderick that did 35 damage!  We were all sitting around silently digesting that tidbit when Carter asked us, so did that kill him?  35 damage?  Did it kill the 5th level thief with 5d6 HP?   Yes, yes it did.
The vicious Arandish Slime Hound

Nothing like a 35 damage breath attack to put the fear of the lord in a bunch of 5th through 7th level Labyrinth Lord characters!  Plus the dogs turned out to have HP in the 30's.

While Roderick and Claude are going to be raised, they are out of commission for two weeks game time - which could well be a year of real life time at the rate we are going - the last 4 of our game sessions have only covered three days in game time I believe and we meet every other week at the soonest.

Playing with the expectations of veteran players is a great way to introduce a little fear into a game.  I don't know if Carter made these slime dogs up or if somebody else did (their breath weapon had a recharge mechanic which makes me think these are someone else's creation - that is just too 4e for Carter) but either way they were an awesome foe because they seemed like something in the 2 to 3 HD range (they were described as normal dogs but covered in slime and disease as they had been living in the sewers) but turned out to be quite a handful indeed!

I am actually thinking about house-ruling the Labyrinth Lord / Old School style "you are out of commission for 2 weeks following a raise - 1 HP - cannot fight or undertake any strenuous activity" Raise Dead into my 4e game.  I have managed to kill a PC quite a few times in that game but then they get raised with no real consequence at all.  2 weeks of game time is simultaneously not that outlandish of a penalty for coming back from the dead, and a real nuisance for a game like mine in which all kinds of stuff is happening outside of the PCs control and will continue to happen during the 2 weeks that a player is out of commission.

Of course the PCs in my 4e game are all experienced time travelers at this point so that might throw a little wrinkle into this :)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Carl's Creatures pt.3 - Temple Toad Temon

This is your garden variety six legged toad demon bred by were-toad cultists in the mutating energy of the Huwawa complex.  It is large enough to swallow a man whole or carry two riders if specially constructed saddles are used.

pen and ink by moi

I am going to try statting up one of my 4e creatures in a more old school D&D style here:

Temple Toad Demon

MV: 12 (15' vertical 40' broad jump)
AC: 3 (blessed weapons do normal damage; holy water deals 1d8; 1/2 damage magical weapons, fire and acid; immune to normal weapons, cold, charm, sleep, paralysis, lightning)
MR: 50%
THAC0: 9 (or as a 14 HD creature)
Attacks:  Kick 2d12 (can kick two targets simultaneously if both are behind the toad); Bite 2d12+10 (swallows man sized or smaller targets whole on 25+ dmg - swallowed victims take 4d6+10 acid damage each round, can only use small weapons and do 1/2 normal damage to the toad); Tongue (range 35') +4 to hit; target is pulled to the toad which makes a free bite attack at +5 damage)

Temple Toad Demons are partially obscured by thick noxious fumes which constantly spill from popping blisters and warts on the toad demon's skin.  Unless holding their breath, attackers in melee range suffer -2 to hit and damage.  At the end of any round that these fumes are breathed a save vs poison must be made or the victim is dazed for 1d4 rounds and cannot take any actions beyond falling to her knees (and retching if a Constitution check is failed).

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh

I am purchasing a Cthulhu mug as a reward to myself for sticking through a rough first year laboring for a new company and getting a work from home position that should both be more lucrative and allow me more time to geek out on D&D.  Cheers!
I already own a raven mug made by Ziggy which is among my most cherished positions, being capable of imbuing stout beers with magical properties (I have proven this on many occasions through a rigorous and very scientific method).
Raven Mug
I can hardly wait to get my paws on the Cthulhu mug.  My only question is what sacrificial victim shall provide the blood for my first offering?

As a side note, a really cool campaign idea could be lifted from my conversation with Ziggy's shipping clerk:

"...surreal cabalistic magic, swashbuckling Gypsies and noblemen, overly principled merchants, and incestuous Moorish lesbians, all intricately wrapped up in stories within stories..."

For a frame of reference, my conversation with Ziggy's shipping clerk wherein I "haggle" for a $5 increase in price:

  • Kevin Runey

    Hey Carl, here is a second Cthulhu mug which is actually larger and studlier than the one that we put on Etsy, and just as fine in general quality. (Ziggy just snapped this picture with her iPad.) If you like, we could just sell this one to you locally (without the shipping charge) and let someone further afield order the one that's already posted. If you want, I could take some higher-res pictures and email them to you, or show it to you in person downtown or somewhere.
  • Carl Nash

    I want! I want! I will take not a penny less than $35 for this larger and studlier version. What is more convenient - a home invasion or a Kiva pickup?
  • Kevin Runey

    I suppose whichever is more convenient for you. And we do like your style of haggling—how can we resist? Something like that shows up in The Saragossa Manuscript. Ever see that one? It's a very trippy black-and-white film, set in Napoleonic Spain, based on a contemporaneous Polish novel, with dialogue in Polish and English subtitles available. Supposedly it was one of Jerry Garcia's favorite movies. Hey, with surreal cabalistic magic, swashbuckling Gypsies and noblemen, overly principled merchants, and incestuous Moorish lesbians, all intricately wrapped up in stories within stories, how can you lose?

Check out Ziggy's Etsy store, she is awesome and her creations are magical.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Stat My Wife's Dinosaurs

My wife doodled some dinosaurs (and a crocodile and pterosaur) at work and I saw the page of doodles laying around.  I asked her if I could post them on this blog and she acquiesced.

Non-commercial rights granted to use these drawings in your personal game.  If you want to stat up and name any of these critters on your own blog, feel free... provided you comment here with the link.  I think Dinosaur 9 could be a magic using dino-assassin turning un-invisible after the attack, or perhaps a chameleon dino mid-paper emulation.  But that's just me.

Emma's Dinosaurs (and a crocodile and a pterosaur)

- All Commercial Rights Reserved - Emma Nash 2013 Pen and Ink - 

Dinosaur 1

Dinosaur 2
Dinosaur 3
Dinosaur 4
Dinosaur 5
Dinosaur 6
Dinosaur 7
Dinosaur 8
Dinosaur 9

Crocodile 1

Pterosaur 1

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Snake Man Scientists and Servitors (part one)

Snake Man Scientist:  A four-armed sterile caste that occurred through random mutation shortly after the Prime genome was expressed from a clutch of Temple Servitor eggs on Celestia, the Snake Man Scientists propagate their species by cultivating the mycelial egg mats which hatch under the correct conditions.  Unlike the Primes who emerge from the egg in amphibious tadpole form, Snake Man Scientists burst from their eggs as a tiny version of their adult form.  Several molts are required before they attain their adult size, and the coloration of each of these molts identifies several juvenile stages.

Snake Man Servitor:  The result of many years of controlled breeding and experimentation by the Snake Man Scientists, the Servitors are bipedal, four-armed and covered in brilliant purple and violet scales.  The Servitors are an attempt to recreate the original Temple Servitor created race that served the pan-universal religions of the Celestian temple cultures.  Despite the origins of both Snake Man Primes and Snake Man Scientists as mutant variants of the Temple Servitors and the bloody rebellion that freed them from temple servitude, creating their own servitor race was a high priority of the Snake Men.  Ancient Snake Man Proverb:  Treat others as you would not desire to be treated yourself :)
Servitors are bred with a servile nature and an unfailing belief in reincarnation into Prime form upon death.  Servitors are quite intelligent and serve both as lab assistants to the Snake Man Scientists and ranged fire support on the battle field.  Unlike Snake Man Spawn (which are never outfitted with weapons or armor to denote their inferior status compared to the Prime and the Primelings of their line), Servitors wield blast cannons and wear energy armor into battle.

As a side note I stumbled upon this DeviantArt page by JGood8 which seems to contain drawings of the snake man scientists lifted directly from my cranium.  I figure if he can telepathically invade my mind like that, I can post his drawing here - at least I linked to him!  And I will gladly remove this picture if requested, but I had to post it.  This is EXACTLY what a 3rd molt juvenile Snake Man Scientist looks like, on the left in color:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Snake Man Spawn

Snake Man Primes constantly emit spores that grow into mycelial mats which produce fruiting bodies and ultimately tadpoles that eventually metamorphosize into the adult snake man form (see Snake Man Prime post).  These are referred to as snake man spawn to differentiate them from the Prime of their line.  Snake man spawn are marginalized and live in constant fear of being slaughtered by their own Prime or a Prime of another line.  When a snake man spawn is killed, all line allies within 50 gain a temporary +1 bonus to hit and damage until the end of the encounter (stackable up to +5 for other spawn, no limit to the bonus the Prime of the line can gain in this manner).  For this reason Primes enter battle in the middle of a vast convoy of their spawn, who lend their life energies to the Prime and their clone brothers even in death.  It is not uncommon at all to see a Prime cutting down swathes of his own spawn to get pumped up before a battle.  Spawn are not given battle armor or weapons, relying on the snake man martial arts (heavy on tail sweeps, knockdowns, strangulation, punches and elbows) and their deadly venomous bite in combat.
Snake Man Primeling

Snake man spawn have no rights or protections in snake man society, and are considered only barely above the created Servitor race that assist the snake man scientists.  Only if a spawn survives for long enough to be one of the 100 oldest spawns of the line, one of the next in line for Primehood, does it receive any rights at all.  The 100 oldest spawn of the line are referred to as Primelings and they are never allowed to be in the same vicinity as the Prime of their line, so that if the Prime falls the line will not fall with him.  Primelings begin to develop a tumor in the left shoulder that becomes the fetal twin sister that will awaken upon the Prime transformation.  Even though the twin remains nascent and unconscious until the Prime transformation, they do lend some psionic abilities and protection to the Primelings that sets them apart from the other Spawn of the line.  Primelings are also outfitted with magic armor and weapons in the style of their line. Primelings are trained in the snake man weapon arts by the Prime of another line.  Each line has a traditional relationship with another line that shares the same weapon style, the Primes of each line training the primelings of the other.  Killing a Primeling is considered a mortal insult to the Prime of the line, and a duel to the death between the Primes involved usually follows.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Snake Man Primes

Snake Man Primes are the warrior and dominant caste of snake men.  They only have male snake sexual organs.  There are 7919 lines of Primes, a number that has not changed since the original mutation in a batch of temple servitor eggs on Celestia birthed the species.

Each line has a Prime, the eldest living member of the genetic line.  When the previous Prime is killed (a Prime is effectively immortal and will not die of natural causes) the next oldest member of the line becomes the new Prime.  Only the Prime of each line can reproduce; upon achieving Primehood the four organ tentacles constantly emit spores that grow into a fleshy mycelial mat in the presence of energy and moisture.  These mycelial mats produce fruiting bodies with a water filled pod on top.  Connections through shadow to Shadow DNA (sDNA) cause mycelial tissue in a specialized node to turn into animal flesh and a tadpole is formed which swims up the stalk of the fruiting body and lives in the pod, eating algae blooms in the water if there is light present or pieces of the fruiting body itself which decay and fall off in the absence of light.  A fully grown tadpole bursts from its pod and wriggles to a dark place to metamorphosize into the adult snake man form.  Each snake man is an exact genetic clone of the Prime of its line with whom he shares a telepathic link of unlimited range.

When a snake man becomes Prime a set of genes are activated which cause a dwarf female conjoined twin to grow along the arm and left shoulder.  One eye opens in the palm of the left hand from which the female twin can see.  It takes many years for the newly developing female twin to achieve adulthood, and many more years to fully access the memory of the previous female twins.  A fully mature female twin has full access to the memories of all her clone-sisters before her.  Even newly forming female twins have powerful psychic abilities which add to the battle prowess of the Prime.  When a Prime raises its left hand in battle and the eye of the twin opens, enemies cower and flee.  Over long centuries the female twin's continued growth causes a hunchbacked deformity that saps the physical strength of the Prime even as the psychic powers of the twin continue to expand exponentially.  The lines of the Primes are ranked according to the longevity of the Prime of the line.  The oldest Primes are completely dominated by their female twins in normal life, existing in a kind of vegetable slumber while the twins hone their mental skills.  The 10 oldest primes have not stirred for over 20,000 years.  If roused the combination of deformed male Prime warrior and ancient female psionist would be perhaps one of the deadliest combatants in the multiverse.

Snake Man Biology Pt. 1 - Introduction

I introduced the Snake Men in my 4e campaign in Session Numero Uno through the wild tales of a swamp trapper who told of a "city made of gold" that he and his friends had discovered, which he claimed was inhabited by snake men.

A handful of sessions later the party was in an alien spacecraft made of pure energy and they were accessing the data logs of several linked satellites in stable planetary orbit.  In the course of observing several billion years of planetary formation they also caught a relative blink-of-the-eye in time highlighted by a meteorite slamming into the exact center of the formation of alien spacecraft, forming the depression now filled by the swamp.  Yes, the many minareted and domed city which stood on the meteorite was made of gold. A circular rocky ridge in the center of the swamp, thrown up by the impact, conceals the city of gold. Mushroom life sprouted across the meteorite shortly after the crash, and from the mushrooms sprang tadpoles which metamorphosized into snake men.  To the party's horror they discovered that all of the humanoid races of the planet had their origin as experiments released by the snake men scientists into the swamp.

When the party thought to look for the visual evidence of the swamp trampers finding the city, they observed two snake men meet the three trappers on the top of this ring.  A snake man held up its hand and two of the trappers disintegrated into dust.  The third trapper soiled himself as the other snake man grasped him solidly for a moment before releasing him.  The party's informant fled promptly.

Curious, the party kept investigating that moment in time through satellite footage and discovered that the outbreak of the white death plague could be reliably dated to shortly after the return of this swamp trapper to the settlement.

Several sessions later, the party had crossed the mountains and was exploring the verdant rainforest beyond.  They found an artifact of the snake man, a flying laser shield meant to be worn by a snake man warrior.  This shield revealed that the snake men had four small organs that could interact with four circular depressions on the inside of the shield, like four sensitive finger-tentacles that stick out of the snake man torso.

Using ritual magic to look into the shield's past, they watched its creation by snake man scientists, all of whom had four arms.  The scientists tended to mats of mycelial tissue which they grew in molds in the shape of the shield and many other items (I just realized that the use of the word "mold" in the sense of a 3-dimensional negative shape that you pour or push a substance into to form a sculpture could be confusing when the substance that fills the mold is mycelium!).  When the molds were full of mature mycelium the snake  man scientists activated a complex arrangement of pearls and gemstones that transferred energy through shadow and turned the mycelium into many different substances, gold in the case of the enchanted flying shield.  The discovery of this shield was the first step in the party's current understanding of how to manipulate energy through shadow, the foundation of a true understanding of magic.

When the party began to piece together the history of the city states of the great human civilization on the other side of the mountains they realized that the influence of the snake men had crossed that great natural barrier long ago.  They discovered the fingerprints of the snake men in the blood tattoo magic that raised their hackles.

Even Manu Jablitu, the ancient technomancer lich who has become number one on the party's most wanted list for quite a few sessions in a row now, was first encountered because his services were procured by the snake men to solve a dimensional instability.  A while back the players in my Mutant Future campaign discovered an alien installation in a strange dimension that had a machine in it containing the entire 4e probaverse in a controlled singularity.  A player running PCs in both campaigns looked at the machine and infamously said "I'll flip some switches".  I asked him to roll d100 and he rolled a critical failure "01".  As a result, the machine began powering down and the stars started going out in my 4e campaign and many monumental constructions of the ancients that drew their power from the stars no longer worked.  The snake men were pissed and Manu Jablitu was brought in to fix things, but interestingly the 4e party managed to stabilize the probaverse without resorting to reprogramming the machine like Manu Jablitu intended to do.  All Manu Jablitu has done since is rise to near mythological status as the party keeps encountering more evidence of the crap he has done in the past.  Much of which was done under the patronage of the snake men, evidently.

I bring all this up because last session Beautiful Bob used the psychic enhancing module in the radiant energy vortex that he was accessing from the energy bath of the lich Pay-Gon to split his consciousness into 16,000 pieces to simultaneously accept a telepathic information feed from the 16,000 intellect-equivalent crystal gas mind the party encountered.  It may take him a while to process, but Beautiful Bob actually received the entire genome of both the warrior or "snake man prime" caste and the four-armed scientist caste in this telepathic transmission from the crystal gas mind.

I plan to write several posts about the biology of the snake man now that the party would definitely know the ins and outs.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Pai-Gon's Hexagonal Experiments

Poking around in the arch-lich Pai-Gon's work room whilst trying not to draw the ire of the incredibly powerful crystal intelligence bound into the tree of human arms flesh golem thing, some members of my 4e group decided to open up some random sealed ceramic containers.

Pai-Gon's Work Room

These containers were roughly cubic, with each face of the cube being a hexagon and some odd faceted angular faces making up the difference.  Each container was stacked six high with the sealed opening facing out into the room, in three rows six containers long.

Each container held one of Pai-Gon's experiments, left to bathe in the mutating and energizing radiation emitted by the Huwawa Complex after Pai-Gon mysteriously disappeared.

I made some random tables to determine the contents of each jar.  They proved to be very stimulating in play, causing quite a few "what the fuck" moments amongst the players as they had no clue what they were getting themselves in to.

Roll on each chart.  4e Plant, Animal or Insect refers to an organism native to the "prime material plane" or whatever you want to call the normal plane of existence that D&D is played in.  Planet X refers to an inhabited planet in another dimension/plane of existence that has a considerably different periodic table and physics.

Chart 1: Physical Environment inside the container (d20)
1-3: Fresh Water
4-5: Salt Water
6: Acidic Liquid
7: Basic Liquid
8-9: Acidic Soil
10: Ph Neutral Soil
11: Basic Soil
12: Silt/Inorganic Mud
13-14: Organic Mud
15-16: Clay
17: Solid Rock
18: Crystal
19: Metal
20: Metallic Gas (some heavy metals in Dimension X have a gaseous state)

Chart 2: Subject of the Experiment (d20 - containers with plants have a magical light source and magically regulated growing conditions, containers with animal and insect experiments also contain appropriate food species - many containers are much larger inside than their external dimensions would suggest)
1-4: 4e Plant (roll d10: 1-2: Fungus, 3-4: Flowering Plant, 5-6: Succulent Plant, 7-8: Bush, 9-10: Tree)
5-7: 4e Plant / Planet X "plant" hybrid
8-10: Planet X "plant" (roll 2d6: first d6: 1-3: Carniverous, 4-6: Chemosynthetic, second d6: 1-2: Mobile, 3-             4: Anchored but moving parts, 5-6: Stationary)
11-12: 4e Amphibian (roll d6: 1-2: Frog, 3-4: Toad, 5-6: Salamander)
13-15: 4e Insect (roll d6: 1-2: Crawling, 3: Jumping, 4: Digging, 5-6: Flying)
16-18: 4e Insect / Planet X "insect" hybrid
19-20: Planet X "insect" (roll d6: 1: Crawling, 2: Jumping, 3: Digging, 4-5: Flying, 6: Teleporting)

Chart 3: Broad area of Pai-Gon's interest that the experiment falls into (d20) (combine with subject matter and environment to determine purpose and exact contents of each experimental container)
1-2: Protection from Damage
3-4:  Controlling Agression
5-6:  Controlling Emotion
7-8: Protection from Fire
9-11: Love
12-13: Dispelling Magic
14-17: Plant Propagation
18-20: Insect Breeding
21-30: Shadow Plant Analogs (I put this entry in the chart because we use the d30 houserule - once a session replace any roll with a d30 roll.  What exactly a shadow plant analog is might be a subject for an entire post on its own I think)

Chart 4: Current State of the Experiment (d6)
1-3: Experiment existing in stasis and performing as designed by Pai-Gon
4: Stasis failed due to Huwawa field, contents destroyed
5:  The experiment succeeded but the intended results have run wild for thousands of years
6:  The experiment failed but a secondary organism in the controlled environment has mutated and thrived (flies included as food for a spider experiment might still be thriving, or a plant included as food for an insect experiment has mutated and taken over the container, etc.)

Obviously these charts are going to give suggestions of categories, not specific results:  It is up to the DM to interpret what an acidic liquid environment, Teleporting Planet X Insect experiment about Love that has succeeded but run wild means, exactly.

My party ended up with worms that burrowed through solid rock and consumed magic, a green gas spore cloud that left sickly mutant flowering plants springing up wherever the spores encountered moisture, a burbling pot full of mud with a fire-resistant salamander in it and a crystal matrix that served as an artificial growing medium for a Planet X insect grub.  Hammer the warforged barbarian opened the container of magic consuming worms, much to his disgust as he realized that they were consuming the very magical lifeblood that flowed through his constructed body.

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