Friday, June 9, 2017

"Shadow of the Demon Lord" Yard Sale

Once upon a time, I was flirting with the idea of running a Shadow of the Demon Lord campaign. For various reasons it never materialized. I re-discovered my notes this afternoon while organizing my desktop, and figured I might as well share it with you, The Internet, in the hopes that someone, someday, plays the campaign I envisioned. Also, if you're familiar with Carcosa, you'll probably see where I was going with this...



A Hell-bound Fetch [Phantom or Wraith] haunts this road, killing at his whim. He wears black armor covered in unholy symbols and wields an oversized black iron greatsword. Each time he is killed, the person killing him becomes him. If the players kill the Fetch and take/wear his things, the villagers in the towns nearby will notice and attempt to capture the heroes and bury them alive beneath tons of rubble. Unwitting heroes wishing to avoid this fate must be quick to seek out a scholar or a priest.

The fetch is called Iron Samuel. He was a killer who slew the constable, then took the town’s girls for his own, killing whoever tried to intervene. He raped and murdered twenty-nine people before Michael Turner, the blacksmith, stuck a hot poker down his throat while he slept. They burnt Iron Sam’s body at the stake, and his armor and weapons were broken. Thirty-seven days later, Turner emerged from his smithy looking exactly like Iron Samuel, wearing armor forged to look exactly like Sam’s. He killed eleven in a fit of madness before Bill Mortonson gouged his eyes out with a trowel. Forty-four days later, Mortonson appeared in Iron Samuel’s armor, wielding his sword, and killed eighteen. He fled into the night.

In a funeral shaft dug into a weathered hilltop is the forgotten grave of a long-dead sorcerer. Clutched in the remains’ bony fingers is a stoppered vial filled with a mysterious green-glowing potion. Drinking the potion causes one to enter a hallucinogenic state for 2 hours, and to be visited by visions of forgotten, arcane gods.

The gods have polyhedral heads (platonic solids) and address the PC as "Initiate."  The PC may ask a question of each god. D4 is concerned with ascension. D6 is concerned with progress. D8 is concerned with war. D10 is concerned with measurement. D12 is concerned with the unknown. D20 is Advent, the God of Adventure, and will answer any question truthfully in exchange for a random curse or mutation. The PC need not ask any questions.

In the swamp is an empty catacomb containing ancient coins and jewelry, curious figures made of precious metals, and similar treasures (with a combined value of 500 silver). If taken the thieves will be unerringly tracked down in 3-6 days by the 3 Mummies [Barrow Wights] which inhabit this catacomb.

An elderly Ogre lurks among the gullies and ravines. It is voracious and will fight to the death; in fact, its only desire is to die in battle.

A clockwork creature is barely visible from within a small pit crawling with poisonous myriapods
[Rot Scarab Swarm] Upon closer inspection, the clockwork creature is badly damaged and cannot be salvaged, except for its left arm: A clockwork character who takes 4-7 days to replace its arm with this one has its Strength increased by 1.

The faeries direct you to the Unbreakable Stick, taken from the world’s first tree. It holds up an unstable rock ceiling; removing it will collapse tons of rubble on you. If only there were a way to remove it without setting off the trap…

Near the outskirts of a notoriously difficult to traverse bog lay a castle occupied by 6 Ogres led by a Champion.

A dozen crumbling huts mark the remains of an abandoned hamlet. A solitary Living Tar clings to the ceiling of the largest hut, waiting for prey. 500 silver may be scrounged from the ruins.


Did someone say treasure?
A magnificent brass necklace. It is of exotic workmanship, set with stylized images of stars and planets. You can use an action to instantly and safely teleport yourself and up to five willing creatures within your reach to a destination chosen by the GM. This object has one use.

A matching pair of limestone bracelets. They appear to have been made by an underground race of men. They emit a field in a 10-yard-radius sphere around you that keeps out normal insects.

An elegant platinum and walrus tusk breastplate. You do not become fatigued from exposure to extreme heat or cold.

A bronze spearhead on a birchwood shaft, engraved with images of the sun and set with obsidian flakes. It is of ancient workmanship. The object radiates menace. Creatures within 5 yards of it make Will challenge rolls with 1 bane to resist being frightened.





Monday, June 5, 2017

The Magic of Adult Swim

China, IL is a pretty great show. Anyway, here are some magic items for 5th Ed D&D (or whatever, nothing has stats, you can figure out what this stuff does in Pathfinder or B/X or what-have-you). 

Owl Suit. A ludicrous, over-sized carnival costume. When worn, you can flap your wings and do a ridiculous little dance which will transform you into a giant owl for 1 hour. You can't voluntarily change back until the hour has ended, but you can transform back if dispel magic or a similar effect nullifies the Owl Suit's magic.

Universal Doorknob. Place on any wall to create a door, which can be opened with the knob. When you remove the knob, the door disappears. Placing and removing the knob is as easy as touching the doorknob to a surface and uttering a magic word.

Inventor Crows. A flock of crows which, if challenged to build something, will. It takes them 1 hour and a stack of materials appropriate for the thing's construction. So, the crows could build a sailboat, but they would need wood, linen, nails, pitch, rope, etc.

Organic Water. It's not so much that it's good for you, just that everything else is bad for you by comparison. Treat as a superior healing potion.

Ointment and Athame of Alternate Truths. Will resurrect any recently killed creature (rough ballpark, say, within the past two weeks).  Simply slather them in ointment, then plunge the accompanying ritual athame into the dead being's heart (or brain, if a heart is unavailable). Missing limbs will regrow; damaged tissue will become whole; old scars will disappear. The resurrected being will believe (regardless of the truth or falsehood of it) that you were the person who killed it. This belief will have accompanying memories (false ones, if you weren't the killer) and the resurrected being will believe them forever. "You," in this context, means, "Whomever plunged the ritual dagger into the dead guy's chest," so plan accordingly.




Thursday, May 25, 2017

Maze of the Blue Medusa (Actual Play Report) - Session 4

A continuation of this post. It should be noted that we wrapped this campaign after Session 16, and I only took detailed notes for the first four sessions. That said...

OUR HEROES
Fitzy, air genasi spellsword.
Moonblossom, wild elf bard.
Nagus, ferengi cleric.
Teka, human fighter.
Crimsonbeard, dwarf rogue.
Ea, tiefling monk.
Jezebel, human fighter.

SESSION 4

The party decides to enter the room with the silver blocks and shadow-pits. They find half of Smallbeard’s corpse and Moonblossom falls into a pit. Fitzy uses some lightning magic to retrieve Smallbeard’s corpse, and it’s effective but also super gross, like lots-of-burnt-hair-and-a-cooked-half-dwarf- flying-into-you-at-galloping-speed gross. Crimsonbeard figures out the puzzle; they drop bedrolls on the ground and walk across the bedroll bridge. True to form, they have a healthy discussion in the middle of the room, and decide to go left instead of right after a heated yet pointless debate.

The dark garden. Everyone’s on edge. Nobody likes the vibe. They go in anyway. They do lots of searching, lots of paranoid mucking around and rhetorical question-asking, but not so much that they tarry too long. Fitzy leads a tepid push south – only then the statues come to life, and start holding on to the heroes, pathetic-like, not letting them leave. Teka resorts to violence. The others trick their unwanted stony admirers into accompanying them to the exit, then make a break for it.

Two surprised Oku lovers – Tuntun and Agrimony – have been making out on a bench in the other room, fairly innocent-like. The room looks like a 3D render of one of those 19th century secret garden paintings, only with fucked-up bird people instead pudgy nude youths. The party is surprised by the shift in tone. Agrimony and Tuntun are surprised that a bunch of armed mercenaries busted in on them while they were making out. The party was surprised that two weird teenagers were making out in bird masks. A suspicious Nagus demands everyone reveals his or her nipple jewelry and state why he or she is not Chronia Torn –thus, a conversation ensues. The heroes learn from Agrimony that Chronia Torn is north-east of the garden, that “There’s a pig thing around here somewhere, watch out, it’s gross,” and are warned against going deeper into the garden at all. Ignoring her warning almost as fast as she gives it, Fitzy opens the door and unleashes a 7HD Id Pig. Everyone’s repressed desires start to manifest – Teka and Moonblossom start making out, Crimsonbeard stares at a goofy snowglobe thing he’s got in his pack like it has all the answers; Nagus starts counting his money; Tuntun and Agrimony both start acting like birds. It’s up to Jezebel, Fitzy and Ea to actually beat the thing, which they do, really hard, because Jezebel is pretty self-actualized and rolls critical hits with shocking regularity.

The id pig vanquished, our heroes search further in the garden-complex, finding little of interest until nine orchid-men ambush them. The ensuing fight is epic. (The orchid-men’s pheromones cause players to damage themselves on their own initiative and skip an action if they fail enough saving throws, so at one point only the monk was actually landing any hits, and the cleric was too busy killing himself to heal the party – that part of my soul that loves all things Dark Souls was positively beaming). They eke out a very narrow victory and, barring the doors, decide to rest and recover for as long as they can...

DM Notes: I wish I would’ve recorded the conversation with the Oku lovers, but honestly, you probably had to be there. This session had everything: Puzzles, exploration, over-the-top roleplaying, an absurdly easy fight that shouldn’t have been easy, and deadly fight that shouldn’t have been deadly. My players loved the id pig, too, which ... well, I'll save that for another post. The encounter with the id pig has definitely had some unexpected repercussions.


Monday, May 22, 2017

And here are some magic items for you to use and enjoy

Drawing by Dreadweasel

I wish I'd drawn this. Potential treasure from a Chameleon-Woman Sorceress.

Drawing by... crap, I dunno. It's some old D&D drawing. Google Axe of Dwarvish Lords or something? Anyway it's a riff on a 4th ed magic item I really dug from the Planar Adventures book. Wordy but not too complex.

Drawing by someone else. Rest in peace, Jack Prescott.

Didn't do the drawing here either.

Yeah! I totally drew the art for this one. I dig how it turned out, too.

And this is just a blatant copy-paste of a sweet-ass sword from Dark Souls. I like these rules over older editions rules for Vampiric Swords, though. Maybe. Dunno. My players haven't found this one yet.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Maze of the Blue Medusa (Actual Play Report) - Session 3

A continuation of this post. It should be noted that we wrapped this campaign after Session 16, and I only took detailed notes for the first four sessions. That said...

THE HEROES (level 3)
Fitzy, Air Genasi Sorcerer/Fighter.
Teka, Human Fighter.
Jezebel, Human Fighter. Courageous and unflinching.
Moonblossom Honeywine, Wild Elf Bard. Impulse control issues.
Crimsonbeard, Dwarf Rogue. Weird and gross.
A number of players were missing so their heroes just sorta “ghosted,” like if this is game a movie/tv series, the absent characters still show up on camera, but they don’t have any dialogue in this episode and they get a reaction shot at most. They’ll rejoin the story on an appropriate story beat.

SESSION 3

Our heroes (plus Crimsonbeard), still reeling from their fight with the lizard-man negamancer and his primate thralls, gather their wits and set off deeper into the maze.

They find a room with a glowy orange pentagrammatic ward on the floor, a table, a vase, and a note stuffed in the vase. Fitzy uses levitate on Crimsonbeard, who does a mid-air Michael Phelps and backstrokes his way through the air to the vase. He grabs the note, and everyone stands around for a while as he reads lurid love poems that just go on too long. They enter the room, muck with the pentagram, get some orange dust on their boots, and keep pushing.

Another room. A fancy rose in a vase on a table. Detect magic says it’s magical, but nobody rolls high Arcana so it’s just a rose, whatever, who cares. [Perhaps amusingly, this rose will be the last thing they steal on their way out of the Maze]. The door on the far end brings them face-to-face with a band of five Oku (random encounter).

They don’t immediately start stabbing the Oku this time. [Fewer PCs and less wine at the table, I’m guessing]. They get into a discussion; the Oku are searching for a lost treasure – the jewelry of Chronia Torn (I said “nipple tassels” for some reason, so OK, it’s canon now that Chronia has some fantastically expensive nipple tassels) – and they could use some helpers. Of course, the Oku are only rational for a fraction of the conversation, so planning this heist turns into an absurdist farce pretty quickly. Moonblossom, true to form, gets bored and opens another door.

She finds an enchanted hourglass. As the sands fall, it plays beautiful music (I think someone had swapped out our usual soundtrack for some chillstep, so I just cranked the volume and said, “This is what you hear.” And it fit!) Moonblossom snatches it, examines it, and Crimsonbeard figures out how to carry it just-so, because it’s huge and fragile and expensive, and the enchantment is limited.  Fitzy says, “Let’s bring it to Lady Capelli!” and honestly, it’s a good idea.

They finish plotting with the Oku – the bird-men go north and leave a contact, Yarrow, in the room with the rose. They muck around in the campsite-hallway some more: They find some hypno discs, some crazy books – lot of neat stuff but it’s not relevant, not yet, so I’ll just say it’s pretty groovy and let it be.

Then it’s back across the freaky white room where 94% of Session 2 took place, past the screeching shell and the Escher stairs, and there they are, standing in the dragon-lady’s presence. Lady Capelli is surprised to see them. She’s lost in thought and they startle her out of it. Moonblossom leads with her rendition of The Hourglass Song, and Crimsonbeard emphasizes that it’s not the actual song, just a tribute. Then his player starts blasting Tenacious D over the chillstep, and it goes on way too long, and Moonblossom botches the perform check to impress Lady Capelli anyway so it all works out, actually. A practical Teka has noticed that nobody brought rations: She asks Lady Capelli for some food and water in exchange for completing the task, and Lady Capelli obliges. She draws a picnic spread on the walls in her own blood, then speaks a few bone-shaking words of power, and bam, three days’ worth of hardtack, pemmican, lard, and Chardonnay for the entire party. Lady Capelli is unimpressed with their opinions regarding the music but, pleasantly distracted and seeking to distract herself further from her task of destroying the library, she gives the heroes another job: She wants art, and it had better be an ironic commentary on the music they just brought her.

The party asks her some decent questions this time and learns some of the history of the Maze, the Selenium Isles, the Oku, the Reptile Empire, the Triarchy, and the Medusa. Nothing deep, just surface level stuff really, but enough to have some actual context for the maze and start putting together some edge-pieces. Lady Capelli is being helpful, but astute heroes understand she is not to be trusted…

We check the clock – we’ve gone way late – and decide to wrap the session here.

The closest I'm going to get to a pic of Lady Capilli without drawing something myself
or wasting the whole afternoon. By Reverie-drawingly @ Deviantart.

DM NOTES

Lots of exploration and a good flow of events. Nobody even noticed that we didn’t have a fight until I mentioned it while I was cleaning up. A smaller group was a more focused group. I’ve also gone unintentionally light on the random encounters to this point, so I’m going to open next session with some lost, bloodthirsty Orchid-Men and see how it goes.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Maze of the Blue Medusa (Actual Play Report) - Session 2

A continuation of this post. It should be noted that we wrapped this campaign after Session 16, and I only took detailed notes for the first four sessions. That said...

THE HEROES (level 2)
Fitzy, Air Genasi Sorcerer/Fighter. Regrets not buying armor before this thing started.
Teka, Human Fighter.
Jezebel, Human Fighter.
Nagus, Ferengi Cleric of the Great Nugget.
Moonblossom Honeywine, Wild Elf Bard. Totally down with this maze thing.
Ea, Tiefling Monk.

SESSION 2

Our heroes (minus Smallbeard) are chastising Gibba Gognata for eating all the chess-men. They are ineffective in getting him to realize the error of his ways, but manage to convince him to join them on their adventure, at least for a short time.

Moonblossom opens a door. There’s a room made from white marble, glowing subtly. On the far end she sees another door. The room is conspicuously empty. With a gleeful “fuck it” she steps inside and instantly, awfully, becomes paralyzed by a vision of her worst fear (a world without sound or color!)
                A line-drawing appears on the floor leading from one door to the next. Intuitively, she represses her fear and starts walking on the line, believing that it is the only safe path across this room. Fitzy runs in next, and the line drawing gets far, far more complex (he fears a complex feeling of disappointment and regret stemming from a difficult relationship with his father). Nagus follows, the complexity escalates, and then Moonblossom figures out what’s happening and yells at everyone to go back until she gets to the far end. Fitzy doesn’t listen. Gibba takes one look at this scary room and goes back to gnawing chess-people. His adventuring career is a short one.
Moonblossom and Fitzy reach the far end and, fatefully, impatiently, they open the door. A lizardman negamancer and three primate-slaves are waiting in ambush! [Random encounter – At this point, I was certain I’d just killed them.]
Moonblossom is dual-wielding a sword and dagger; she wades right in and kills the nearest primate with a flourish. Fitzy is trying to use some thunder cantrip thing effectively and almost gets it to work, but the negamancer closes ranks, curses him, and more-or-less exsanguinates him in two rounds. Teka start throwing stuff across the room but it’s too far [nobody bought bows?!], and the negamancer turns one of Teka’s low attack rolls into a fumble, dealing crucial damage to Fitzy and knocking him out. Nagus tries to run across the room without touching the lines but is overwhelmed by fear and falls over, screaming and crapping himself. (His fear? He’s naked, everyone’s laughing at him, and he’s down to a single gold piece which he holds over his genitals. The gold piece slowly shrinks, but no matter how small it gets, his genitals are still smaller). Jezebel (who fears drowning) takes a deep breath and just starts walking toward the fight, tracing the fear-lines with her boots as she does.
Moonblossom is fighting for her life. Despite being outnumbered and badly injured, her swords sever enough veins and arteries in her primate foes to kill them, and she turns her gaze to the negamancer. For a brief, shining moment, it seems like she might win. She stabs him in the chest, but there’s nothing there, just dust. The negamancer stabs Moonblossom and finds a heart pumping blood. Moonblossom falls. Jezebel, courageously walking forward since the fight broke out, undistracted, undeterred, reaches the negamancer a moment later. She doesn’t hesitate. She just hits it with her greataxe very, very hard, and it collapses broken on the floor.

Jezebel drags Fitzy and Moonblossom out of the room and into a shallow hallway. Two solid Medicine rolls later, she stabilizes them. It’s a long wait as the others cross. Hours pass. Nagus is shoved across the room first – Cleric magic being what it is – and the group has to resist the urge to wander apart and explore further while the others cross the room.
One of the primate livers begins to swell and burst; it twists and distends, taking on the shape of a hairy skull. Everyone watches in horror as a thing emerges over the next few minutes: a red-bearded dwarf, scarred and armored, who claims to be equally surprised at what just happened. He is Crimsonbeard, and he has been lost in this maze for quite some time.
“How did you… what did you just do?”
“Oh, that? Magical gut bag. Not really sure if it works in reverse. It’s some kind of teleporting bladder device, you see. Put your head inside, and you can come out through any nearby organ, long as it’s not in use. I think, anyway. Dunno for sure. Haven’t tried it before.”
“So you just stuck your head inside a bladder and came out here? Why here? Who are you?”
“Crimsonbeard!” He extends a gore-covered hand. Nobody shakes it. He cooly brings it back and uses it to slick his hair. Faintly: Gagging sounds.
“I’m a treasure hunter, y’see. Here for the treasure.”
“You find any?”
A beat.
“Magical gut bag!”
[That was one of my favorite character intros.] Crimsonbeard joins the party and they share stories around the campfire (actually a light spell on an ape skull, but it does the trick)

The party cautiously decides to explore while the most injured members rest. They take a dozen footsteps before an ambush scarab launches itself at them from the ceiling, right at Fitzy’s head. Crimsonbeard tries to be a tank and goes from full health to dying in a single round. Teka, Fitzy, and Moonblossom pull off a coordinated sequence of hits – the scarab breaks, the day is saved. Nagus uses his last healing spell on the weird greasy dwarf. Everyone realizes, huddled in the glow of an enchanted skull, that it is no longer night on the other side of the painting. If they lose track of the hours, they could be stuck here forever…

I was searching for some visual spice for this post and found this within seconds. Thank you, internet.
DM NOTES
This session was great. They only explored one room and the room outsmarted most of them. I found Jezebel saving Moonblossom in such a dramatic fashion super entertaining (they’re married IRL), especially when contrasted with Teka knocking out Fitzy (also a couple). I bent the rules a little for flavor reasons: Jezebel shouldn’t have been able to get to Moonblossom in time, but she was courageously confronting her fears and not letting anything distract her, which was the whole point of the challenge – it was just too good to go unrewarded.


Anyway, it was a short session with lots of tired players, so I was pleased when it got exciting early and stayed there.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

New Gods, Same as the Old Gods (D&D 5e)

This write-up is my way of bringing these Greyhawk (or as I think of them, "Third Ed Player's Handbook") deities into my 5th Ed D&D game without telling my players to check Wikipedia.



Boccob, Old God of Magic. An old Yorish god from time immemorial, Boccob is the champion deity of librarians, beardy wizards, and academics. His Temple is well-established and common people are apt to recognize Priests of Boccob as traveling scholars and learned individuals. There are dozens of sects who each pry into their own mysteries.
Domains: Arcana, Knowledge.


Heironeous, Old God of Valor. Twin-brother to Hextor, the god of strife, Heironeous the Arch-Paladin is a god associated with martial prowess, victory in combat, chivalry, law, and masculine virtue. His Temple is old, well-funded, and recognized world-wide, thanks to his prominent place in the Yorish pantheon during the Age of Expansion. Although his popularity has waned somewhat, he remains an iconic god, instantly recognizable by the symbol of the gauntleted fist clutching a lightning bolt.
Domains: Light, War.



Hextor, Old God of Strife. Twin-brother of Heironeous, Hextor  the Anti-Paladin wants the opposite of what Heironeous wants: A world without victory, virtue, chivalry, or glorious combat. Hextor’s perfect world is a violent one where people fear authority, men and women are downtrodden, and no one tells stories about virtue or justice because no one believes in them anymore.  He is depicted as a four-armed knight with four bloody swords – never a shield. Domains: Death, War.

They're not quite the deities described in the old texts, and that's on purpose. Legends change. Dogma shifts. I want these to be something evocative for folks who started playing a while back, but still flavorful and brief, so someone can just look at them and say, "Yeah, this one, I'm gonna roll a cleric of this one."