Saturday, 21 December 2019

Secret Santicorn 2019

Got a prompt from Zoeology from the OSR Discord this year. It is as follows:
"Some kind of temple/shrine dungeon based around ""water = knowledge and/or memory"". Preferably not the evil cult kind of temple"

I'm not sure what level they want it or what kind of setting its for, so I'm not really going to focus on the level and I'm going to make it broadly compatible with D&D-type games.

I've made a bunch of rooms but deliberately left some stuff empty- namely the second floor & the room the Cocytus room connects to. The former cause I want it to be open enough for a bit of homebrewing to fit what they want. 

The latter is empty because I ran out of steam on the night of the 21st.

This dungeon is situated underneath a waterfall. It's incredibly ancient, belonging to whatever your precursor race or ancient culture or campaigns' equivalent. Local legends cite it as the place you go when there is something you want to forget.

In a way, the legends are sort of correct. The temple of Lethe is really a place where people came to remember, as well as forget. It was a place of knowledge and power. In addition to the clergy, an order of hydromancers often came here on pilgrimage.

A few things to explain, before I continue:

  • I have virtually no sense of scale. Adjust the size of the rooms to your leisure.
  • Likewise with costs & values. I have enough difficulty pricing stuff in my own games where I wrote the item list.
  • I often use LotFP style skills in my game. Since reading what the "Architecture" skill is for, I try to put hints for it to be used at least once in each dungeon.
  • 30ft is how fast a Human moves in one round. Any creature that's sprinting moves double.
  • I always roll HP for monsters, and I generally roll terribly. That's why monsters in this dungeon have not insignificant HD. Adjusting the stats for a monster should be pretty easy if they're a bit much.
  • I like to use Giant Spiders as monsters because I find the concept terrifying. I've not got any pictures of spiders posted here and you can very easily substitute the spiders for giant geckos or something if you are or you have an arachnophobe in your group.
  • I've not got a lot of experience writing dungeons lmao

The dungeon map

Atop the waterfall the library is built in, the castle-like second floor can be seen. It's not hard to find and PCs can come across this area without hearing any rumours about it prior.

The intended route is the one that's implied in the rumour- going down the ravine and behind the waterfall goes to the intended entrance (PCs that go this route start at "The Entrance & Library", and work upwards).

Alternatively, PCs with some climbing equipment and something to ride across the river can follow the stream above, and scale the side of the tower wall, before taking the steps down.

The entrance is easy to find. It's a cave entrance that's been hollowed out. PCs travel through an entrance point with multiple pillars holding it up, before reaching the true entrance inside the side of the ravine.

Two somewhat large stone doors (each about 8ft tall, wide enough for a horse and cart if both are opened, and with a glass window above) situated immediately behind the water fall. You can even get there without getting wet, cause there's a dirt path that loops through a hole in the rock. Large enough for a horse and cart to get there.

Actually getting the doors open is quite difficult, however. Something behind them is stuck and not budging.
  • The doors can be forced open with a successful open doors roll/ strength check/ whatever else you are doing.
  • A suitably powerful burst of magical force can knock the doors open.
  • Someone smashing the window above can climb in to see that a small fallen bookcase is blocking the entrance. It can be moved quite easily by characters with at least average strength. 
Lifting the bookshelf up reveals a crushed skeleton beneath it. This person was attempting to escape from one of the spiders, and died when the spider knocked the bookshelf onto him. He's got a pouch with some silver in it, a rope with a grappling hook, some mouldy rations, a smashed lantern and a couple pitons. Tucked inside one of the pockets of what's left of his coat is a map of the local area, with the dungeon entrance circled.

Immediately to the PCs' right is a desk that's currently abandoned. This is where the receptionist for this area worked from. The desk has a few things of note in it:
  • Lots and lots of papers. A PC that sifts through these for at least 20ish minutes uncovers a notice by the head of security that activity surrounding the Ammonite room is to be more closely monitored.
  • On the floor underneath the desk is a Wand of Fire Extinguishing.

When the PCs pass through, you may have them make perception checks (if that's a thing) or if they turn up something in a search, they find a second skeleton of a human adventurer not far from the collapsed bookshelf.

The first room is large, and at first extremely dark. It is circular and far larger than the entrance into the cliff face could expectedly be- it's a 100ft radius circle, but with bookshelves and reading nooks all around. PCs that search around see some wall sconces, but not nearly enough to illuminate something of this size.

DM NOTE: If you aren't switching out the spiders for something else, then PCs could well catch sight of webbing if they look around or up at the ceiling. Light being brought into the dungeon (see how in a second) also illuminates it, revealing webs around the place.

Three Giant Water Spiders have made their homes in this area, each tunnelling in through a different way. Obviously, they might not all be in at once. Roll for wandering monsters as soon as someone enters the dungeon. Any result indicating a wandering monster in this room means that 1d3 of the Spiders have caught a glimpse of the PCs in the entrance.

Giant Water Spider:
  • Armour: as Chain
  • Movement: 30ft, Cl30ft, Sw30ft
  • HD: 3+3
  • Bite: 1d6 + Poison
  • Size: L- 8ft diameter. These things are horrifying, but there is an edge the PCs have over them- the bookshelves are closer than 8ft together. To keep pursuit, a given spider will have to follow their quarry over the top of the bookshelves, or spend a turn reorienting itself to walk along the side of them.
  • Slim Pickings: While the spiders generally coexist, pickings are scarce and they will fight over any unconscious PCs. Players can take full advantage of this.
  • Escape: While the Spiders are nightmarish in the dungeon, they are hungry and impatient. They will struggle to fit through the entrance door to give pursuit (and likely won't bother if the PCs get out faster and flee). Similarly, they're too desperate to hang around the entrance and wait for PCs to possibly come back.
  • SPLAT: I'd rule that successfully collapsing a bookshelf onto a Giant Spider inflicts at least 2d8 damage to it (no save) and halves its movement speed until the end of its next turn. Can possibly do more damage if you collapse several shelves on it, do it with some serious force or the GM is impressed.
  • Play Dead (Optional): If you're feeling particularly evil, the first spider to be reduced to 5 or fewer hit points plays dead. It will immediately attack the first creature to go into its melee range once they don't believe it is a threat anymore.
My intention as a GM is that these spiders are tough but not invincible even for low level parties. They're also very possible to escape in a chase.

Each of the spiders has a lair, which is dug into either a wall or the floor somewhere in this huge room. This is the first hint that there's a lot more water to be found in this dungeon, as each has pools of water located at the bottom.
Altogether, the spiders have Type C treasure, divvied up between incidental treasure in each of their lairs.

In the centre of the leftmost wall of the room is a wheel, not unlike those you'd see on a pirate ship. Turning the wheel requires a bit of Strength (a strength test or your games' equivalent, people can aid to boost it. Succeeding opens a valve in the centre of the ceiling, and both water and either sunlight or moonlight will pour through. This has a few effects:
  • If it's daytime, the light pouring through will illuminate almost all of the inside of the library a lot better. The spiders will retreat to their lairs and the dark parts around the outside. If the PCs haven't seen the spiders yet, they may catch a glimpse of one or more scurrying across the tops of the bookshelves.
  • If it's night-time, some light will come through, but not much. Only the immediate area surrounding the fountain will get any illumination.
  • Either way, water is pouring onto the kappa statue in the centre (see below for the significance of this).
  • Water passing through also sets most of the ancient mechanisms back to life.
  • While the main library relies on sunlight, some of the other rooms (particularly ones that would be inhabited during closing hours) are lit up from a minor enchantment when the water is flowing.  Parts of the piping visible in some of the rooms are enchanted to glow when in contact with water.

In the centre of the main room is a fountain. On top of this fountain is a weird statue of a humanoid creature. It has a bowl-like head, a beak and a shell like a tortoise on its back. It's stood upright. The ancient text reads "the Librarian" beneath it. 
  • PCs who pass an Architecture or Stonecunning check or whatever notice that the statue not only looks out of place with the rest of the art, it's made out of a different type of stone.
  • A bit of detect magic will determine strong alteration/transmutation magic coming from the statue, and Identify will determine it as a petrified Kappa. Water poured into the kappa's bowl, either from something the PCs do directly or from opening the water valve (above) will reverse the petrification. The Kappa is very stupid (INT 6), but very strong (STR 18). He doesn't have a name, and was nicknamed the Librarian by the prior inhabitants for his enthusiasm.
  • While poorly lit at the moment, it's situated in the middle of a reading room that strongly resembles a nice garden, with some grass, some chairs and a small, nice wooden bridge over the top of a small, currently dry stream.
  • When the water is activated, this stream will rapidly fill in the first few minutes of the activation.

The Librarian:
  • Armour: As Chain
  • Movement: 30ft, Sw 40ft
  • HD: 2
  • Claws: 1d6/1d6
  • Size: M. The Librarian is a bit taller than a dwarf, but shorter than an elf.
  • Tough Shell: Attacks from behind count as targeting Plate +1 instead of its normal AC.
  • Regeneration: The Librarian regains 1hp per round.
  • Head-Bowl: The Librarians' bowl in its head must contain water. If the bowl is emptied, he is immediately petrified again.
PCs awakening the Librarian roll for reaction rolls when they meet him, but more favourably (with advantage, or a small bonus, or something). He can tell something weird is going on, but he's got little reason to be hostile to who he perceives as pilgrims and scholars.

If the PCs befriend the librarian, there's a lot he can tell them about other things in the library. Obviously he doesn't know about the spiders or why the place is in a state of disrepair, but he knows about traps and may (1 in 6 chance for a given thing, if unsure) have overheard some interesting things about some of the loot in here. The librarian cannot offer any insight into the "Stone Sage", though he has heard that something illicit was rumoured to be going on in the Ammonite room, though nothing was actually found.

The other point of interest in the library is another collapsed bookshelf, just in front of the Nautilus room. Nothing underneath it, but very close by is a skeleton that has multiple yellow flowers growing on it. This is the first hint of a Yellow Musk Creeper being located in this dungeon. It's been sending out "scouts" but most have been killed by the spiders.

The Nautilus room is in the north west side of the main library section, and the door is initially sealed, with the hinges on the door being in a strange, stone and metal mechanism. A big lock in the middle of the door sits just beneath a carving of an ammonite and old glyphs adorn the top of the carving. The glyphs simply say Nautilus. They can be in either the common tongue or some ancient text that makes sense for your campaign setting.
  • Studying the Glyphs reveals with a passed Languages/ Traps/ something else check that one character on the door doesn't fit in with the rest of the word. It also looks considerably newer. Detect Magic also reveals that this out-of-place character is the only one that is magic.

Attempting to pick the lock triggers the Glyph of Warding that is the out-of-place character hidden among the others. It deals 2d8 damage or half on a passed saving throw. The trap is triggered prematurely if the door is opened by activating the valve and bringing water onto the statue. This means it's unlikely to hurt anyone if activated this way.

If water is powering the dungeon, the Nautilus Room is well lit by illuminated piping. It is clearly a place of worship, with one door at the far end, an altar with several interesting symbols placed at it, a fountain on the west side and tapestries on each wall.

Also inside the room are two zombies, wrapped in a weird ivy with yellow flowers. Both look at the PCs before skulking at them, with improvised bludgeons or hands outstretched. There is a third, partially obscured because it has grown into the northeast wall of the room just behind the door. It's quite visible- nobody is going to miss the corpse in the side as long as there's light of some sort- but anyone who attempts to open the door without killing it first will be attacked by this zombie. It gets advantage on its to-hit roll and bites the target on a hit.

Yellow Musk Zombies:
  • Armour: Unarmoured
  • Movement: 20ft
  • HD: 2
  • Unarmed Strike/ Improvised Weapon: 1d6
  • Size: M
  • Grab and Bite: On a natural 20, the Musk Zombie bites a target viciously. Fortunately for the player, this doesn't actually do anything special beyond bonus damage. They'll learn this if they meet the Musk Creeper in the Ammonite room or simply wait.
  • Fire Susceptibility: Yellow Musk Zombies take double damage from fire.

The altar has multiple interesting items for the PCs' taking- four holy symbols of your campaigns' knowledge deity or deities, two silver symbols worth 10sp each and a very high quality holy book with a thick leather cover wired with gold, worth 75sp.

Of the various tapestries on the wall, two are damaged by the zombie growing into the wall, but they are all beautiful works and the two that aren't damaged could easily sell for 200sp each if one could roll them up and get them out of the dungeon. That could be quite an ordeal for a party that hasn't kill off the water spiders yet though.

DM NOTE: Setting fire to a musk zombie could spread to a damaged tapestry, and if the players are not careful this could also spread to a pristine one…

The fountain is the final interesting thing to be found in this room. It's exquisitely made and while very immovable, it is filled with seemingly clean water. The fountain has two magical properties:
  • 3/day, it purifies water in it, guaranteeing that it is safe to drink.
  • Any number of times, one can choose to gain knowledge from the bowl. The bowl can answer easy and trivial questions for free, but for particularly difficult ones characters seem to just understand it requires compensation in coin or in memories. A character can sell their personal memories, memorised spells or other things in exchange for knowledge from the bowl. With enough compensation, they may even be able to learn spells or even the command words to magic items they've not been able to activate thus far!

The door in the Nautilus room takes the character to what appears to be some bedchambers. Despite being quite a big room with multiple bunks, only about half look lived in, the others being unmade and their footlockers empty. A second altar exists in the south-west corner of this room too. This one is similarly decorated with minor treasures.

The Ammonite room is located in the south-east side of the library. Like the door to the Nautilus room, it's sealed in the same way until the lock is picked or the valve released. The Librarian can tell the PCs that this is the magic wing of the library, with its tomes being on occult research. It's where most of the wizards who travelled here worked.

When the ammonite room is opened, the PCs will have a few rounds to search the room before they begin to hear a hissing sound. This is the secret door into the adjacent room opening- which they can see if they search the room.

Interesting loot that can be found in the Ammonite Room:
  • Two Potions of Healing can be found on a workbench in the leftmost side of the room.
  • Quite a few of the tomes are very old and soaked, but a few interesting tomes Ghouls and their Habits, The Nature of the Fossegrim, Sightings of the Lady of the Lake & Advanced Alchemy Volume II can be recovered. Each can be kept and studied by the more studious members of the party or sold off for an alright sum.

After the door completes opening, two Yellow Musk Zombies with swords on their belts and clad in makeshift armour enter the room, with their hands up. If attacked, they will fight back (as the stats above, but dealing 1d8 damage on a strike and having armour as chain). While raspy, the voice of the rightmost zombie will ask the party to speak with its master. If they refuse, then the zombies will become quite insistent, though will not become hostile until the party attack them.

Their "master" is situated in the other room. It is a Yellow Musk Creeper, a giant telepathic mass of bright green ivy with yellow flowers. It can use its power to devour the brains of its victims and turn them into undead servants but it is facing a difficult problem- the spiders. Its undead are too stupid and simply too weak to fight them off, and they are interfering with its ability to send scouts to the surface. In addition to its two guards that have contacted the PCs, there are three more hidden inside the creeper itself which will wake as soon as the creeper is attacked.

Yellow Musk Creeper:
  • Armour: As Leather (bulb), or hits automatically (tendrils)
  • Movement: Immobile, but it can reposition its tendrils to cover or uncover the chest it is guarding.
  • HD: 3
  • Creepy Tendrils: 1d6/1d6/1d6. These melee attacks can reach anywhere in the room. It makes three tendril attacks a round but has 1d10+2 in total.
  • Puffs of Pollen: Instead of attacking, the Creeper can puff pollen in the face of a creature within 10ft of it. They must save or be entranced and walk into the plant.
  • Drain Intelligence: A victim who is in the plant loses 1d3 points of Intelligence each round. If their INT is reduced to 2 or less, they are resurrected as a Yellow Musk Zombie under the Creepers' control. The zombies retain any armour, weaponry and HP the character had, but fight as 2HD monsters. Lost intelligence that doesn't turn them into a zombie slowly returns over some time of rest.
  • Telepathy: The Creeper can telepathically communicate with anyone who is within 60ft of it, and can telepathically control its zombies anywhere on the same plane.
  • Susceptible Point- Bulb: The Creeper's tendrils can be cut, frozen or burnt, but the only point of it that takes damage is a bulbous root in the centre and growing out of the floor. They take double damage from fire. 
  • Size: M
Characters who have taken INT damage from the creeper and haven't regained it all yet feel very dizzy, and have extremely short term memories. They must make INT checks to remember even basic things they did just a moment ago. PCs with low-to-mid intelligence will play like Dory in Finding Nemo until they get some proper rest in.

It doesn't expect the PCs to care about that. It does expect them to care about the treasure chest of magical loot it has had its minions gather from the parts of the dungeon which it has explored. It also offers the assistance of its two zombies to help complete the task. This is really to ensure it doesn't get double-crossed.

This specimen is one-of-a-kind, and was accidentally created when two wizards were experimenting with infusing golem-type magic into ivy to create a magical assassin. This is the illicit activity that was going on inside the Ammonite room. It was hidden in the secret room.

The creeper will also say multiple lies to the PCs if it feels that it would be beneficial to, including:
  • It cannot be harmed by nonmagical fire
  • It can only be killed by magical fire and/or silver weapons
  • It has only killed people that have attacked it.
  • It can control minds of people who get too close.
  • It can use its psionic powers to do other things.

The chest could contain any of the following:
  • Potions
  • Enchanted Weaponry or Armour
  • Magical books
  • This is an excellent place to put a spell scroll with one or more spells, as well. If you're running GLOG, I'd suggest spells from the Book Wizard on crateredland may be a good fit. Divination is another good school for spells here.
  • Nothing. The Creeper intends to betray the PCs after they've been weakened fighting off three huge spiders, and turn them into its own zombies.

The Cocytus room is dead north of where the entrance is. Opposite side. It's technically locked, but as one of its doors has fallen off its hinges, there's no real need to go and activate the valve to get into here. If the valve is activated, this room is the most well-lit of them all, with a pool underneath the glass-steel floor glowing softly.

It's probably a good idea to though, cause some people have been living in here. A tripwire connected to an axe mounted in the ceiling is in the corridor heading down, and it's a lot less obvious in the dark. (1d8+1 damage if triggered, half damage on a save).

Once the group enters, they are greeted by two lion statues opposite each other and a few bookcases ahead. PCs who examine this room will also note that the wall in the northwest side of the room has partially collapsed. This is one of the giant spider lairs, and if there is at least one spider still alive, it's pretty likely that one will be encountered in this room.

Behind the furthest bookshelf is another pair of double doors, both unlocked, and both more intact than the previous set. This leads into a corridor that has another trap- a pit 30ft down. There's a skeleton there, with some other adventuring gear.

There were a few more ideas I had, but hadn't figured out how to properly implement. Feel free to add these:
  • The reason the bedrooms were sparse was because the head priest was aiming to cut costs & embezzle money, by replacing librarians and other staff with a stone sphinx. Was hesitant to include it because the PCs are already activating one statue when they're releasing the Kappa from petrification.
  • Archer Gargoyles (AC as chain, Movement half human, HD 1, 1 stone shortbow 1d6, Resistant to mundane slashing/piercing weapons, Size S)
  • The traps in the Cocytus room were set by a paranoid wizard who believes the entire library belongs to him, despite the fact that he's simply not skilled enough to get rid of the dungeons' other inhabitants.
  • Hidden records in the arch-priests' room, detailing all the memories that have been sold. This would allow PCs who use the fountain in the Nautilus room to know what memories they could trade for.
  • Potions of Memory- Drinking one can recover a memory you have recently lost, and either undo INT damage or recover a spent spell.

Thursday, 19 September 2019


There's a challenge on the OSR discord to make new Dwarves. Now, I already changed how dwarves were in my original campaign setting. They were a race of sapient ape-people, more like Norse dwarves, named dwarves because of their dwarflike proportions. Size actually varies wildly. To take a break from having dwarves and humans being racist bastards like they are in most fantasy, I just made them comrades since the dawn of time. 

While changing a lot, it's not particularly interesting. That's fine for my home games- I want people to know what dwarves are when they look at the race list, after all. Save the weirdness for sasquatches and slugmen, and all that.

I think this take on dwarves is more in line with the spirit of the contest:

Every now and again, a person disappears. The ground beneath them is always torn up, but no other trace of them can be found. Just about any time people are hired to find out what happened, they come back empty handed. Some people say this is coincidence. Dragons, subterranean worm monsters and other monsters are responsible, surely.

This isn't true, and it's not fair either. True, dragons tend to make literal fortunes after being terrible to people weaker than them, but in this situation they're victims, same as us. People disappearing isn't the work of dragons. Dragons occasionally disappear under the same circumstances, and they blame us too. But if they were still here, they would all tell us that it wasn't any of us- it was the work of the dwarves, and this knowledge is what was their undoing.

Dwarves live underground for most of their lives, and so people don't really get that good a look at them. There's a lot that's speculated, but people generally accept that dwarves are shot human-looking guys with big beards and a thirst for alcohol.

That's what they want you to think. Well, the alcohol bit is real. But the rest is merely an illusion. Dwarves being terrible at magic and having absolutely no aptitude for it is exactly what they want you to think. In truth, the race of Dwarves long predates the races of men, elves and whatever else you have in your setting. They know magic, they wrote magic.

Why else would they be inherently magic resistant?

Dwarves really look like mole people, and they live under the ground. They have long since removed the need for physical labour in their society- why work, when you can have golems and elementals do it for you? While elves were making fire, dwarves discovered incantations to bind fire elementals to their will.

Of course, everything going fine in the only safe part of the underdark quickly led to boredom. Stories told of a land on the surface, and while too lazy to leave their caverns, many dwarves desired to see this overworld. Several diviners in their number prepared new clairvoyance spells, and ran them through hunks of crystal to see the brave new world with their own eyes.

Now, the highest in their society live in deep caverns, reverse skyscrapers. They observe the world through the finest quality crystal balls and subtly manipulate the world above through powerful enchantment magic. Nothing escapes the eyes of the Court of the Bat.

Dwarves have been guiding the development of the races above the earth for millennia, using enchantment magic and agents posted to the surface to ensure things go exactly the right way.

For that particular dwarf's vision, anyway.

They are not some incredibly organised force of evil. In fact, recent generations of dwarves (these past few centuries) have led the influencing of the surface world to get off the rails a bit. Discord brews in every dwarven building. Every dwarf has a vision for the surface world, and few correlate. One dwarf might wish to cause a war, while others prevent it. The resulting chaos means that while things are always seen by one of the dwarves below, it's not always going to be responded to or even remembered ten minutes later. Hell, the dwarf watching the PC do something might even approve.

The dwarves are also faced with a new problem: adaptation. The ancient invocations used to influence the minds of the mortals above are not as effective as they were two millennia ago. Dwarves constantly casting these spells every minute of every day for this length of time will do that. The spells don't always work anymore, and the dwarves are losing their grip on the surface world.

And as they can't micromanage the surface world as effectively any more, they can no longer be sure they silenced everyone who finds out the truth about the dwarves. Someone is going to find out. The secret is going to get out.

And there is going to be hell to pay when that happens.

Using This in a Game
In the above interpretation, the Dwarves are a decadent race, too proud to admit that their obsession with the surface world is causing them to live on borrowed time. They have neglected their own world in favour of manipulating the one above. Dwarven cities are mostly abandoned, but kept in excellent shape by the golems and elementals that work their jobs every day as usual.

Dwarves have also mostly forgotten the spells that their ancestors wrote. While most dwarves are still extremely high-level casters, spells outside of the Enchantment, Divination & Conjuration schools will be much less common among them. They are huge on spells that can hide things, make things appear different, plant suggestions in the heads of targets and modify memories. If a spell can theoretically be used to further the masquerade, chances are the Dwarves know it.

While most of the dwarves obsess over the surface world, a growing number simply don't care. Realising that their ancestors' obsession was just that, a movement to cease all interference with the surface world is gaining a following. These dwarves work on being as brilliant as their distant ancestors were, inventing new spells, finding a purpose in life that isn't messing up another person's, just to see what happens.
This group will almost certainly be what player-character dwarves belong to. Mechanically, PC dwarves use the same rules for whatever dwarves normally do in your D&D of choice, with a few notable exceptions: 
  • In games with race and class separate (like my game), if Dwarves couldn't already, they can be in magic-using classes. 
  • In games with race-as-class, the Dwarf PCs have at least limited spell ability, or may instead choose to apply the most important dwarf racial traits to a Wizard class instead, with a few drawbacks to roughly balance it out.  
  • Either way, Dwarves have an additional ability- ten minutes of uninterrupted ritual casting can put on a very convincing illusion of the kind of dwarf people believe they really look like, for about 24 hours or so. This isn't so much a racial ability, as a ritual that every dwarf child is taught at an extremely early age. Depending on your setting, it might be especially important to keep these illusions up, else you may be burned at the stake. 

My Thoughts
I'm glad I could finally think of something for one of these GLOG challenges!

I originally intended this to be "aliens but abducting you underground instead of upwards", and then I had a few epiphanies about dwarves' magic resistance and how they could plausibly have invented the crystal ball. I'm sure I'm not the first to think about these. In the end it's become a bit like an illuminati that has really lost sight of its original goals.

The obsession with observing the surface gives me a reason to have a decadent race of overlords, but I feel like it could also be a hamfisted screens = bad message, and I'm not convinced I like it. I'll probably tweak this a lot more before I get close to using it. 

Monday, 13 May 2019

The Carpet Bomber - a class for the GLOG

Magic Carpets (capital M, capital C) are fickle creatures, but ultimately very good natured. The one thing that sets them apart from ordinary magic carpets is that they can fly.

Well, that and the fact that they are sentient creatures.

Few know that the ability that allows them to fly is their absolute refusal to accept the fact that gravity exists. They aren't really "flying", as they are propelling through the air while simultaneously thinking that Isaac Newton is a hack (quietly, because they can't speak).

Multi-class with the Cannoneer for the ultimate aerial combat experience, or with Spider-Man for unparalleled maneuverability.

Whether or not you take a silly multi-classing suggestion, I'd also recommend pairing this class with Lexi's grenade & firearm rules.

Starting Equipment: Magic Carpet, 1d6 grenades
Starting Skill: Carpet Riding

A: The Mystery of the Persian Carpet, Grenadier
B: Explosive Discovery, Tie Things Down
C: Rug of Smothering, +1 Discovery
D: I Can Show You the World, +2 Discoveries
You can carry one person (or a roughly similar weight in objects) on your magic carpet for each Carpet Bomber template you possess. This includes you.

The Mystery of the Persian Carpet: You get a Magic Carpet (capital M, capital C). Currently, it can't carry anything heavier than you are, but as you get stronger so does it. It has a fly speed equal to the average person's walking speed, and can "sprint" for twice that. The carpet is an intelligent magical construct, slightly cleverer than a dog. It can understand and will obey your commands if you give any to it.

Grenadier: You have the know-how to make grenades, with 5sp's materials. Each grenade inflicts 2d6 damage to all in a 10ft radius, a successful Dexterity check halves the damage for anyone not directly targeted by the grenade. If you miss, the grenade scatters 3d6ft in a random direction.

Explosive Discovery: You have learned how to make two new alternative grenade types, that you can produce during downtime with a grenade and an additional 15sp's worth of materials. Choose two from the following. You get two more for your fourth template:
  • Web Grenade: Does no damage. On a hit, the target and anyone else within 10ft is restrained by webs. Creatures that weren't targeted get to make a Dexterity check to avoid this. Webs can be broken in 1-3 rounds, depending on the strength of the victims. Particularly strong creatures might not be slowed at all by it.
  • Smoke Grenade: No damage, but creates thick smoke in a 20ft radius sphere around where it lands.
  • Silver Shard Bomb: As a normal grenade, but it counts as a silver/magic weapon, if you have creatures vulnerable to only silver/magic attacks.
  • Flashbang: Only does 1d6 damage, but any creature damaged by it makes a save (with disadvantage if they took 6 damage). On a failed save, they are blinded for an amount of rounds equal to the damage they took.
  • Shock Grenade: As a normal grenade, but it inflicts an additional 1d6 damage. All damage is considered electrical damage.
  • Warrior's Fireball: As a normal grenade, but it inflicts an additional 1d6 fire damage.
  • Oil Bomb: Does 1d6 bludgeoning damage, but after detonating covers everything in the 10ft blast radius with oil that can be ignited.
  • High-Explosive Grenade: As a normal grenade, but the damage dice are exploding.
  • Mirv Grenade: Does only 1d4+2 damage. Splits into a number of grenades equal to the amount rolled on the damage die, each one scattering 2d10ft in a random direction. Each of these grenades detonate the next turn for 1d6 damage.

Tie Things Down: A few lost items has taught you to properly secure your gear to your carpet. You will no longer have things fall off your carpet. This does not apply to people, only objects you have taken the time to secure to it. Your carpet also learns the joys of grappling. They can attempt to grapple a target in melee range as long as there aren't any people currently riding it.

Rug of Smothering: Your Magic Carpet has picked up some fighting experience by your side. It fights as a fighter with templates equal to your Carpet Bomber templates, its attacks inflict 1d4 points of damage and grapple. Any damage dealt to it while it is grappling is split evenly between the carpet and the person it is grappling.

I Can Show You the World: Your carpet gains the ability to piledrive targets that have been grappled by it into the ground and into walls. Each round it currently has a target grappled, it can bash the target into the nearest wall or floor for 1d6 damage.

A few thanks to:
- Oblidisideryptch, rtx & Walfalcon on the OSR Discord, for suggestions and proof-reading.
- "Wizard" from, for the brilliant idea of willfully-ignorant sentient carpets.

Saturday, 23 February 2019

The Astral Plane

This is my take on both the Astral and Ethereal planes of D&D. I always thought the two could be combined and made more interesting, so this is my current attempt at achieving this. This is based heavily off of interpretations of Astral Projecting in both D&D and in popular culture.

The Astral Plane is a ghostly locale where lots of spirits partially exist, and other races inhabit completely. The Astral Plane is in some ways extremely similar to ours, except separate structures that exist on the Astral Plane, and astral-projecting creatures are not visible on our plane unless the creatures specifically want to be seen. On the astral, what is going on in the Prime Material can be very faintly seen through mostly transparent figures. Interestingly, these figures are completely featureless when viewed from this plane, making its use for surveillance very limited.

When PCs travel to the Astral Plane, they separate their physical body from their astral body, and lose all control of their physical body until they return. PCs initially step into a small "safe zone", that is a clearly marked, 60ft radius sphere. This safe zone is effectively a pocket-plane, allowing the PC astral projecting to stay here without any risk of encounters with native astral entities. Only characters or groups moving beyond the safe zone are in any danger of encountering other creatures. A character cannot leave the safe-zone without being willing- an unwilling character treats it as a solid wall. Characters who are not native to the astral plane can pass through the walls of a safe-zone with no difficulty.

Creatures on the Astral Plane cannot target creatures on the Prime Material with attacks, and vice-versa, for the most part. A notable exception is Silver and Magical weaponry. These weapons can still target an Astral character. While this is a drawback, most extraplanar creatures (fiends, celestials etc), and all spirits also have some Astral presence. An astral-projecting PC can leap into the Astral plane and successfully hurt them with nonmagical weapons. Creatures on the Astral plane can divert any number of attacks to the PC instead of corporeal ones, and a GM may rule that the creature either has dice affected like humanoids do as above, or play by separate rules.*

Everything on the Astral Plane is practically weightless. Knockback effects now knock them back double the distance on a successful use of it. Furthermore, each PC has a jump speed equal to their fastest movement speed. The PCs' fastest movement speed is also the speed used for all movement on the Astral Plane. Two objects of roughly similar size impacting each other both fly back a distance equal to the total strength involved, x2.5ft, while a small object pushing off a large object flies back a distance equal to the total strength x5ft.

Additionally, there is near-zero drop-off for ranged weapons. This means any ranged weapon can shoot up to their maximum range with no penalty. However, this also means a stray shot will keep travelling at a strong speed until it either hits something or a really long time has passed.

In the Astral Plane, "up" and "down" are relative, and no character takes any kind of fall damage while on the plane. A character proficient in astral projection can change which is which on a whim, while a character who has not yet learned how it works thinks down is whatever they perceive it to be, but can figure it all out with training. It is not unheard of for fights in the astral plane to be three-dimensional slug fests that throw characters around great distances.

Every astral-projecting character has a silver cord that extends 1ft behind them. It actually extends further, but it's completely invisible and impervious to any damage beyond that distance. If the silver cord is cut, the character's astral body fades and the physical one goes into cardiac arrest. Both bodies die at the same time, in 1d3+1 rounds. Note that

A characters' Astral body has slightly different stats from their physical body. These stats that change are the following:
  • The characters' AC and Willpower** scores now equals their Wisdom score, without any modifiers. Manifesting or using a shield can raise this AC score though.
  • The characters' Reflex and Magic Resistance scores now equal their Intelligence score, without any other modifiers.
  • The characters' Fortitude defence is now equal to their Charisma score, without any other modifiers.
  • While astral projecting- the character counts as having proficiency with all weapons if they know one method that allows them to project. Otherwise, the character has weapon proficiencies as normal.
  • While astral projecting, the character can manifest any nonmagical normal or silver weapons they want, as a free action on their turn. Characters can also use the astral form of weapons they were holding when they projected if they want, too. Characters who cannot Astral Project on their own cannot do this initially, but can be taught how to do it by another character.
  • A character with knowledge on Astral Projection can manifest any nonmagical object as an action. This item is Astral-only, and will not come with them onto the Prime Material Plane.
  • All weapons on the Astral Plane do 1d6 damage on a hit. This damage die raises to 1d8 at 5th level, 1d10 at 11th level and 1d12 at 17th level. Weapons on the Astral Plane use the characters' Intelligence, Wisdom or Charisma as their attack stat. If the character has the ability to do Astral Projection, they may use their Spell Attack bonus instead of their physical Attack Bonus, even when making weapon attacks.
  • Note that using a weapon on the astral plane is purely a flavour thing or for one of the weapons' special properties (such as whip entangling), as they do the same amount of damage as an unarmed strike on that plane.
  • Other abilities that affect physical combat do not function in Astral Combat. For example, Regeneration has no effect because it's not the characters' physical body.
  • On the Astral Plane, no spells have any risk of burnout and any caster has the ability to Improvise a Spell, even if they couldn't normally.
  • While in astral form, the casters' body rests, and the casters' astral body suffers none of the ill effects that plague the casters' main body- their physical body sleeps while their astral body keeps watch, for example.

While this is all going on, the PCs' physical body is still intact on the Prime Material Plane. Any attack on the PCs' physical body while they are astral projecting automatically scores a critical hit. In my system, this means damage bypasses a large chunk of "Stamina" points and goes straight to HP. In your game of choice, you might decide that the character is automatically Incapacitated or Helpless or your equivalent.

If a PC enters the Astral Plane with a physical body, other things happen too:
  • The PC uses their actual defences instead of the ones listed above.
  • The PC cannot manifest astral items, and their weapons do normal damage.
  • The PC does not age, nor do they require food, water or sleep. Theoretically, a character can live for the rest of eternity on the Astral Plane with no ill effects. This is why the Githyanki value their slaves.

*In my home game, the current rule I am going with is humanoids play by the same rules PCs do, but other extraplanar entities do not unless they are also specifically astral projecting.
**Also, I have removed saving throws from my own game. Instead, things make attacks against different AC-like targets- AC, Fortitude, Reflex, Willpower and Magic Resistance. For example, a Wizard casting Fireball rolls to hit vs the Reflex defence of each target, instead of those creatures making saving throws. If you are playing a saving throw based game, you might wish to give characters bonuses/penalties to their saves equal to the relevant modifiers while they're here, or ignore this rule entirely.

Astral Based Spells
Astral Projection (Astral) [Ritual] (Range Self, Duration 12 hours, AoE the caster). The casters' astral body leaves their physical body for the duration of the spell, with astral copies of whatever items they have. Additionally, if the caster wishes, they can treat their Stamina maximum and current total as 4 x their level + their Spellcasting Ability Modifier while they are on the Astral Plane, if it is higher than their maximum Stamina total***. If the spell expires when the caster is still on the astral plane, they get reeled in to their body at a speed of 300ft/round, the spell ending when the caster returns to their body.
  • Level: 2

Group Astral Projection (Astral) [Ritual] (Range Self and 30ft, Duration 12 hours, AoE the caster and up to eight willing creatures). The group determined by this spell all simultaneously leave their physical bodies, with astral copies of whatever items they are carrying. Additionally, if the caster wishes, they can treat their Stamina maximum and current total as 4 x their level + their Spellcasting Ability Modifier while they are on the Astral Plane, if it is higher than their maximum Stamina total***. No other character in the group can do this.

If the spell expires when the caster or any others are still on the astral plane, they get reeled in to their body at a speed of 300ft/round, the spell ending when the caster returns to their body. This also immediately happens if the caster dies while on the astral plane.
  • Level: 7

Portal to the Astral (Astral) [Ritual] (Range 10ft, Duration Permanent, AoE a 10x10ft area). The caster creates a huge portal, which transfers anyone who steps through it to the astral plane. The portal lasts until the caster either dies or dismisses the spell. Astral natives who pass through this portal disintegrate, leaving only a charred skeleton on the other side.
  • Level: 5

Solidify (Astral) (Range Touch, Duration Permanent, AoE 1 incapacitated target). This is an evil spell employed by the Githyanki to capture slaves. An incapacitated target is afflicted by a curse, depending on their method of entering the astral plane:

If the character was astral projecting, then their physical body fades as their astral body becomes more solid. Their physical body has been teleported here. The character can escape by making it back to the Prime Material, somehow.

If the character was already physically here, then their link to their home plane is temporarily interrupted. As long as this curse persists, the character cannot leave this plane and is considered a native to the astral plane. This effect can be ended for 12 hours with a Remove Curse spell, and permanently if they escape back onto a Prime Material plane while under the effects of a Remove Curse spell.
  • Level: 4

Soul Separation (Evocation, Necromancy, Astral) (Range 60ft, Duration 1 minute or Concentration, AoE 1 target with a soul). Target creature is targeted by a spell attack vs Willpower. On a hit, the targets' astral form is forcibly separated from their body for the duration of the spell. The soul while separated follows the rules for astral projection, and the player controls their astral body for the duration of the spell.

However, during this time, the body animates as a Zombie of the appropriate type under the control of the caster. This zombie does not count towards the limit of undead a character can control. Once the spells' duration expires, the soul can be reunited with the body if they end a turn in the same space.
  • Level: 6

***In my game, HP and Stamina are split into two pools. Stamina is the damage a PC takes when they dodge, block and otherwise get out of the way of serious harm. This damage regenerates much faster than actual physical damage.

Githyanki of Eithlos
The Githyanki are some of the coolest creatures in D&D, a race of marauders that inhabit the Astral Plane. As inhabitants of the plane, they are in physical bodies and as such use all the rules for physical creatures on the astral plane where relevant.

Githyanki in the Eithlos campaign take full advantage of the lack of weight of most objects. They are usually on large mobile cities that they constantly have on the move, hunting other astral characters. When they have found their prey, they will speed towards them at a rate of 60ft a round and use Spearguns mounted on the cities to capture their targets. Enslaved targets will be robbed and put to work inside the mobile city. The largest mobile city, Mori'voodah, is a colossal airship with tens of thousands of Githyanki, and almost half that number of slaves aboard as well. The Githyanki there are ruled by a powerful Lich-Queen who rules with an iron fist, and destroys any Gith that becomes strong enough to challenge her supremacy.

I picture cities on the Astral Plane looking like the traction cities on Mortal Engines.

 These are the stats I use for Githyanki on the Astral Plane, considering all the rules above:
Armour: Variable- base AC is as Leather, but as they are physically inhabiting this plane, they can benefit from armour.
Hit Dice: Base 2 or by class
Hit Points: 10 or by class
Move: Standard
Damage: by weapons- see below
Manifest Objects: Any Githyanki can manifest simple objects as if they were projecting. More intelligent ones and ones with more class levels can manifest more.
Adapted to the Astral: Githyanki have lived their entire lives on the Astral plane, and will take full advantage of their knowledge in combat. They will leap, and attack from unexpected angles, usually granting advantage on their to hit rolls.

Githyanki Weapons:
Silver Swords: These have been with Githyanki since their first introduction. I rule them as longswords (1d8 damage in my game, or 1d10 if two-handing it). The sword can target the cord if they get a chance, which has an AC of 20. On a hit, a result of 8+ on the damage die severs the cord. If brought back to the prime material plane, these swords function as ordinary silver swords.

Githyanki Spear-gun: These spear-guns have a range of 300ft on the Astral Plane and inflict 2d6 damage on a hit. They then reel in the weightless character at a rate of 60ft a round. The character will be lifted off the ground by this attack and will likely be able to do very little about this. This is one of the main ways Githyanki capture their slaves.

Explosive Shields: These shields are rigged with explosive charges. When sundered, the shield explodes, inflicting 1d8 damage to the attacker and half that to the wielder. Both characters then get thrown back 2d6x5ft.

Githyanki SMGs: These rifles are huge diesel-punk looking devices that use their own ammunition type. Despite their size, they are light enough on this plane and recoil-compensated enough to function while being comfortably wielded on one hand. They're a higher calibre than most SMGs. In my own game, they use Assault Rifle statistics, with the additional bonus of +1 to hit from the large anti-aircraft style sights. I picture these weapons looking like the assault rifles in Fallout 4 

Assault Rifles: 2d8 damage, 300ft range, 30 round magazine. Any assault rifle can fire an increased burst, every extra bullet fired giving a +1 bonus to hit and damage. This stacks up to +5.

Other Encounters on the Astral Plane

Githyanki and their moving cities aren't the only things that characters can find on the Astral Plane. Despite being pretty deserted aside from the Prime structures and inhabitants, other inhabitants can be found if you venture beyond the safe zone:

Escaped Slaves
These characters are either unfortunate victims of the Githyanki's "Solidify" spell, or slaves obtained from another plane that were brought here. These characters use the rules for normal humanoids, but may be armed with stolen Githyanki weaponry.

Lost Souls
Occasionally, someone's astral body will be destroyed while astral projecting, but the astral body survives. These unfortunate victims now wander their own astral purgatory, without any way of getting home. If they find a group of astral-projecting travellers, they will attempt to attack one of the PCs, destroy their astral body and then grab the silver cord, following it to their body to possess it.
Armour: As Leather +1. All defences are 1d4+10 each.
Hit Dice: 1d8 dice
Hit Points: 4hp/die
Move: 1.5x Standard
Damage: 1 attack, 1d6+1 damage. At 5th level, this is raised to two attacks for 1d8+1 each.
Astral Projection: As an astral projection that is lacking a body, a Lost Soul can do anything that is listed above in combat on this plane. They may even know spells and be able to improvise them.

Astral Whales
Large space whales occasionally float around the astral plane, sometimes migrating in herds. They are mostly mindless, but very aggressive to something that crosses their path. It is strongly recommended that they are avoided, as they will give up chase as soon as something flees. They are occasionally hunted, because their blubber and ambergris are magically-infused and worth even more than a normal whales' produce, and are used in some spells.
Armour: Unarmoured
Hit Dice: 10+30 (50+30)
Hit Points: 80
Move: Fly 2x Standard
Damage: 2d8 Headbutt and 2d4 Tail Slap
Tail Slap: The whale can make one attack behind it and one in front of it in the same round. Both attacks knock a character back 30ft on a successful hit.
Astral Seafarer: Astral Whales are very aware of their surroundings. They will only be surprised on a 1 for initiative.
Astral Regeneration: Astral Whales are the only creatures known to regenerate while on the Astral Plane. They regain 3hp a round.
Song of the Astral Whale: Their whale-song can be heard for a long distance. Nobody can be surprised by an Astral Whale encounter unless they are deaf. This whale song changes during combat, each round having a 10% chance per round of attracting another Astral Whale that arrives in 1d6+2 rounds.
1/day: The Astral Whale can target its song on any hostile creatures within 90ft. The whale makes an attack vs Willpower (or save vs Spell). Targets affected are treated as if the whale put a suggestion spell on them, to cease fighting and leave in peace.
Album art is one of my favourite sources of inspiration

Dimensional Shamblers
Nightmarish creatures from the astral plane, Dimensional Shamblers capture creatures either on the astral plane or one of the primes, and takes them back to be devoured.
Armour: As leather +1
Hit Dice: 7+7
Hit Points: 42 (35+7)
Move: Slightly faster than a humanoid (35ft as opposed to 30ft in my game)
Damage: 2 claws 1d8
Silver or Magic Weapon to hit: Shamblers are immune to mundane weapons while on the Prime Material Plane.
Planar Jaunt: On a hit, the Shambler can attempt to grapple a target. If they succeed, the Shambler and the victim are both teleported to the Astral Plane, in the Shamblers' safe-zone. This is where the Shambler will attempt to finish off the character before devouring them. If relevant, the Shambler has a Str score of 19, for a +4 modifier.
2nd Person Vision: The shambler can only see creatures that can see it, while they are looking at it. A character who is blind or averts their eyes from the shambler are effectively invisible to it. Furthermore, the Shambler is incapable of grappling a target that isn't looking at it.

Independent Settlements
Not all settlements are under Githyanki rule. Some are settlements where slaves have risen up and overthrown their masters, and others are settlements simply built and made movable independently.

Due to the extreme weight reduction of everything on the Astral Plane and the amount of resources in Githyanki camps- coupled with the lack of need for other resources, entire cities of Astral inhabitants can be mounted on engines and driven around. Most astral inhabitants escape as soon as they can, but others stay here for a greater purpose- hatred for the Githyanki, desire to free the slaves or just liking immortality are all reasons for people to stay on the Astral Plane.

Junk City
Junk City is the largest known independent settlement in the Astral Plane, a titanic behemoth of steel made mostly of former Githyanki slaves and renegade Githyanki. Despite being hated by the Gith, the overwhelming size and force employable by Junk City's inhabitants plus the collective genius used to create its engines have also made it extremely fast for its size. Aboard Junk City are several mages and mystics (my campaign's Cleric equivalent), who can remove the curses from "indentured" characters and send them home through permanent portals on Junk City. Before they are let go, however, they are asked to join the fight against the tyrannical overlords on this plane.

Junk City is run by Keira Blackstrand, a human. She is centuries old, taken from her adventuring party by Githyanki raiders. She led a revolution and overthrew the reigning government on Junk City (formerly known as Melekkiyar), and ran a haven. Her ultimate goal is to abolish slavery on the astral plane. She is a 14th level Human Fighter (or Warlord/Tactician, if you have a class like that), who uses a Githyanki Silver Sword and a +3 Assault Rifle. In GLOG, she would have at least four templates, possibly more if you allow multiple classes.

Other notable figures on Junk City include:
  • Claudia Marsh, Human Wizard. Claudia intends to sabotage Junk City under orders from her Githyanki masters. She maintains regular contact with them, as they have a geas spell on her, and she uses sending (or a similar spell) regularly to keep them informed. If freed from the geas spell, she will immediately be able to tell them everything. Otherwise, she will answer any questions about her involvement with the Githyanki with "I cannot say".
  • Dareon Marsh, Claudia's brother and bard. Dareon suspects something is up with Claudia after they were rescued together, but doesn't know anything for sure and assumes it is more benign than it really is.
  • Ikarahan, Marid (Water Genie). Ikarahan (or "Ike" for short), is one of several marids that were used to power the steam engines of Junk City underneath the Githyanki masters. Most of the genies fled home to the plane of water when Keira's revolution succeeded, but Ike stayed behind in order to power the engines and free his kin on the other raiding settlements.

Sea of Tarrasques
Tarrasques are Godzilla in a D&D setting, nightmarish monstrosities that are overwhelmingly powerful. On the astral plane, sometimes entire herds of tarrasques can be found, peacefully slumbering. These tarrasques likely won't stir unless especially magically woken up, but there's exactly no reason why you should tell your players this. Roll stealth checks for them behind the screen, shake your head with a smile and have nothing happen.
Armour: As Full Plate armour
Hit Dice: 75
Hit Points: 375
Movement: About 2/3 Standard (Move 20ft compared to human 30ft)
Damage: 2 Claws 1d12 each, two horns 1d10 each, tail lash 2d12 and bite 5d10
Rush: Once per minute a Tarrasque can rush, essentially hasting itself for the round. During this time, the tarrasque simply moving through somethings' space forces an attack vs reflex/ dex save for 2d10 damage or half on a miss (successful saving throw)
Literally the scariest thing you have ever seen: This thing is huge, and terrifying. Creatures of 3HD or lower that see a Tarrasque flee immediately.
Regeneration: Regardless of what plane it is on, the Tarrasque regenerates 3hp a round automatically.
Almost Indestructible: The only way to kill a Tarrasque for good is to knock it unconscious, reduce it from 0hp to -30 while it regenerates, and then wish it was dead, via the spell.

Of course, this statblock will almost certainly prove to be worthless to you. There's not much chance that the PCs will be able to rouse these sleeping behemoths, even if they wanted to!

As always, opinions and feedback are gladly accepted!