Tuesday, January 31, 2017

In The Half-Court

(shockingly, not about basketball)

Me and Patrick are working on some kind of Anti-Camelot project...
Part One
Part Two
Part Three:

Humans say there is no law in the Half-Court of the Half-King where the half-elves thrive, but there is--and it is that everything must happen sometimes.

Crimes must be punished half the time--but half the time they must not. Treaties must be half-honored, women half-respected, children half-raised, dangerous magic half-banned. The genetic chimeras prowl the half-sown fields and swim the hot and then cold again waves.

The passionate and unreliable King Thanacharis would call himself True Neutral--but this in no way suggests the abstractedness of the modron, serene remove of the druid, or the selfishness of those who give no fucks. His knights come on hybrid horses to fuck your mom and send her roses, then eat her whole and buy you shoes. Their net goal is to cancel themselves out, like youtube comments. Wildly that and then wildly this--seeking zero, signifying nothing.

Any half-elf is welcome in the half-land. Half choose to live in that half-enlightened land of half-seelie and half-unseelie laws, and half prefer to remain diasporic, welcomed widely, but home nowhere.

They are trouble half the time--which is a lot if you think about it.

Strange Characteristics of the Half-Knights
Roll d100 until the knight's characteristics cover overlapping domains (14 and 15 for example, or 3 and 90, or 9 and 11) or the knight becomes too complicated to keep track of

1, Invulnerable Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning
2, Invincible at night
3, Invincible by day
4, Invulnerable from the right
5, Invulnerable in half-light
6, Invulnerable every other round
7, Invulnerable every other day
8, Only there half the time
9, Touch reduces/raises you to half hit points
10, Half-mad, half-genius
11, Left hand cures the same amount of damage the right deals
12, Radiates indecision
13, Friendly every other round
14, Zebra-skinned of dark and pale
15, Two beings, divided down the center
16, Despised by their own mount half the time
17, Knight on one round, wizard the next
18, Immune to anything middle-gray to black
19, Immune to anything white to middle gray
20, Immune to anything a cold color
21, Immune to anything a warm color
22, Invulnerable when attacking a position
23, Invulnerable when defending one
24, Obedient to their liege on alternate days
25, Chivalrous one round, corrupt the next
26, Can only roll 1s and 20s
27, S:18  I:3 W:18 Cn:3 Ch:18 D:3
28, S:3  I:18 W:3 Cn:18 Ch:3 D:18
29, S:18  D:18 Cn:18 I:3 W:3 Ch:3
30, S:3  D:3 Cn:3 I:18 W:18 Ch:18
31, Every other word is elvish the other half are common
32, Takes two steps forward, two back, never gets anywhere
33, Smites as a standard paladin one round, as an oathbreaker the next
34, Aura of healing one round, damage the next
35, Immune to magic and magic weapons one round, immune to ordinary weapons the next
36, Blessing aura one round, Curse aura the next
37, Aura of healing on the left, aura of damage on the right
38, Immune to magic and magic weapons on the left, immune to ordinary weapons from the right
39, Blessing aura on the left, Curse aura on the right
40, Blind on one round, x-ray & dark vision the next
41, Invisible by day, Faerie Fire'd at night
42, Silence aura one round, causes painful din the next
43, Smells corrupt and then sweet
44, Always accompanied by twin (roll again, characteristics divided between them)
45, Conjoined twin (roll again, characteristics divided between them)
46, Halfling sized on Wednesday night, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, 12' tall otherwise
47, Follows opposing gods on alternate days
48, Prudish at night, lascivious by day
49, Aquatic by day, air-breather at night
50, Prudish by day, lascivious at night
51, Air-breather by day, aquatic by night
52, Paralyzed on the right side
53, Deformed on the right side
54, Darkness aura one round, blinding light the next
55, Always honest for 5 minutes, then always dishonest the next 5
56, Reckless one round, prudent the next
57, Follows the etiquette of a knight for 5 minutes, then the etiquette of a lady for 5
58, Paired knight and squire--they switch roles every minute
59, Elf on the left, human right
60, Elf left, orc right
61, Always wins initiative, then always loses the next round
62, Veteran (+10 to hit) one round, novice the next
63, Attacks then flees, then attacks, then flees
64, Ugly and then beautiful on alternate rounds
65, Spreads disease one hour, healing aura the next
66, Heat aura left, cold aura right
67, Manic depressive
68, In front of you one round, behind you the next
69, Always inside at night, always outside by day
70, Outside by night, inside by day
71, Invulnerable from the front
72, Invulnerable from the back
73, New armor on the left, ancient and worn armor on the right
74, A wealthy lord for one minute, a beggar for the next
75, Harnishly realistic for one minute, a terrifying enchanted fey creature the next
76, Sleeps for five minutes, awake for five
77, Dual wields: one sword normal, the other held in "icepick" grip
78, Only attacks creatures on the right side
79, Only attacks creatures on the left
80, Alive for 2 rounds, dead for 2
81, Sick for one round, causes sickness the next
82, Blind for one round, causes blindness the next
83, Dead for one minute, death aura the next
84, Drunk for one round, causes drunkenness the next
85, Transposes positions with foe every round
86, Swaps weapons with foe every round
87, Swaps abilities with foe every round
88, Swaps hit point totals with foe every round
89, Swaps goals with foe every round
90, Only takes half damage
91, Deals half damage on one round, then double damage the next
92, Left half undead
93, Left half stone
94, Left half glass
95, Left half glass, right half stone
96, Left half magma
97, Left half ice
98, Left half magma, right half ice
99, Only appears for five minutes at dawn and dusk
100, Left half unarmored body, right half empty armor

In large battles, legions are formed of knights aberrant all possessing the same characteristic and paired with another.

Although the Half-King may or may not, GMs may wish to pair individual half-knight antagonists with partners with half-knights with complimentary vulnerabilities to present more of a challenge.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Because Fuck This Shit

Lamentations of the Flame Princess, the publisher of Vornheim and Red & Pleasant Land is offering any book from its catalogue free to anyone who donates US$50 or more to the ACLU (that's American Civil Liberties Union for those of you who don't read the news).

So if you've ever wanted these or any other LOTFP books like Kenneth Hite's Qelong (played it, loved it) or Jeff Rients new classic Broodmother Sky Fortress (ran it, love it, will run it again),  now's a great time--the offer ends soon:


Offer is good for donations made from January 29 2017 onward.
One free book per person.
Offer good through February 2017, or until we give away 500 books, whichever comes first.
Books available through this offer: http://www.lotfp.com/store/
(yes, you can pick a t-shirt instead)
Email proof of your donation to lotfp@lotfp.com along with your desired book and your shipping address.
You will not be added to any mailing list, your information won't be passed on, etc.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Pit of the Demonweb Queen

This adventure was created by taking every line of TSR's Queen of the Spiders (which combines the Giant series and the Drow series), rearranging them in reverse alphabetical order using textmechanic and sampling:

Your party crosses the last of the low hillocks
your misfortune

you will need a copy of the statistics of the Slave lords
You will also need the map of the Lonely Inn.
you want to fuel their paranoia
you want the coming events to be surprising!
You should devise the glyphs upon this pillar and select which two are the trigger mechanisms..

you force us to dispose of you personally.
you do not understand

yet vaguely familiar men shadow them.
Yet the trail does not end there
yet I cannot remain silent

written in giant
writhing and bleeding as needed
wreaking havok in their wake.

worthless hot peppers
worthless and mangy

with 10th level the norm as the characters leave the surface world and journey into the sunless realms of the depths beneath the earth.
Within this room are two lounge chairs
Within this alcove is a table with a flat chest upon it.
Within the Web
within must save vs.spells or be blinded from a sudden

with specks of lilac and orange and purple.The third tier is dull black stone with whorls of plum and lavender and splotches of red.There is a great drum of blackened skin and chitinous material on the western third of the first tier.On the eastern third of this tier stands a rack from which depend nine silver cylinders.
with specks of lilac and orange and purple.The third tier is dull black stone with whorls of plum and lavender and splotches of red.There is a great drum of blackened skin and chitinous material on the western third of the first tier.On the eastern third of this tier stands a rack from which hang nine silver cylinders.

with slits in the walls and murder holes above.
with slits and murder holes guarding its length.
with sleep poison
with slaves
with slaves
with slaves
with skins and hides covering the floor

with several chairs around it and several comfortable couches along the walls.The floor is covered with soft carpeting

with a spider on one face and a female drow on the other
with a small black metal cap which al lows her silver hair to float free.

While the first succubus does her routine
While the characters are opening the door hidden by the illusion
While the characters are making this over land journey
while the characters are lazing about in their favorite castle
while the characters are in the web

which is inlaid with ivory
which is in the center of the wall and  feet from the floor
which is covered by snow and ice
which is beyond the range of the spell.
which is almost certain
which is a lie

which are very successful in this land of perpetual night.

which are not too large
which are filled with ornate pieces of art and other objects rescued
which are a mixture of various races
which apparently serve as chairs for the sala manders.

Three salamanders from room # will come to investigate the cause of any disturbance

This type of behavior continues for ten years
this town is not named nor is a great amount of detail given.

This sudden increase in activity
This structure is not only Lolths castle; it is also her vessel
This stronghold of the dark elvenfolk is
This stone block is blue and twice as large as the one below it.

This special encounter should occur just as night begins to fall.
This spacious room is littered with broken furnishings
This small place has excellent acoustics

This room would delight the heart of the most avaricious person in the world.
This room quarters two female drow fighters
This room is primarily meant as the place where slaves are rounded up and sent about their tasks under guard.
This room is of faintly glowing purplish green stone
This room is identical in contents to #6
This room is hung with rugs and skins and there are hides on the floor.There is a bed
This room is furnished with a table
This room is foul and odorous

This room is dank and unlit
This room is bare of any furnishings

This room is as lewdly and evilly decorated as the outer room.
This room has a strong animal odor
This room contains no treasure.
This room contains beds

The main ways of this ancient and depraved city are thronged with as unlikely a mixture of creatures as can be imagined.

the guardsmen use force.
the guardsmen carefully circle around the party
the guardsmen are going to pursue this arrest with great vigor

the guards.
The guards sound the alarm if attacked
the guards arrive in  round.

The floor here is polished obsidian
The floor here is also of traceried black stone

the drow will never by surprised by the party.

the drow will flee to safety back down the passage from whence they came here
the drow take their positions on the pyramids and cast various protective spells in anticipation of
the drow merchant who knows the secret of this pool usually tosses only 2 gp gems into it.

the black mass at the center grows larger and shows swollen veins of purple
the black mass at the center grows larger and shows swollen veins of purple
the black lion on red.

Royal Spawning Pool
Royal Fingerling Pool

On the second tier is a huge stone altar block of dull
On the other side
On the other hand
On the floor outside the curtains

multilensed eyes can be seen

mottled in various shades and tints of purple and violet.

more horrible as the end of the passage nears.
more disgusting

many different types of bones may be seen jutting from the body.

malachite statue
malachite and azurite

making the structure seem lacy thin.
making it very reflective.

Lolth uses weapons common to drow
Lolth uses vampires to terrorize lands she is about to invade.
Lolth regularly forces captives into the labyrinth
Lolth rewards

it is your input that makes it a worthwhile adventure.
it is whispered
It is very important to note that while in the Abyss
it is very probable that the thieves will strike from behind and kill in order to completely loot them.
it is up to you to fill in any needed information and to color the whole and bring it to life.
it is so.
it is quite nourishing.

it is of exceptional quality and rarity

In this chapter
In this chamber
in this case
in their attractive female forms
In the Web
In the Vault of the Drow
in the center of which stands an old fountain
In the storage area underneath the stairs which lead to the roof are two ration boxes
in the shade of an old elm
In the secret room are three very heavy iron chests
in the pool of water
in the past.

Ignore the whole thing
ignoring the blending power of the creatures

If the party leaves the area they find the land barren and depopulated.

If an individual tosses gems into the pool

Her Noble Highness Lolth
her infernal majesty is making the necessary final arrangements to link her plane of the Abyss most fully to that of the World of Greyhawk
her high armor class prevents most damage

Here dwells the Keeper and his wife.
here at all times

he will fight to the very end.
he will either go down to the rooms in the lower area or fight to the death.
He will do his utmost to prevent any creature from going northwest from the area toward the drow vault.
he will do any thing.
he will attempt to seek safety in the bottom of the pool
he will attempt to rally his troops and counterattack.
he will abandon the shrine entirely

he shouts
he screams for the guard.
he rumbles.
he returns with a round of cheese the size of a wagon wheel.
he releases the spiders
he realizes his mistake and apologizes for the case of mistaken identity

He knows nothing of the secret tunnel to area 7
he is to leave
he is secretly in vassalage to Neldyne
he is here with his wife and two guards

He has one goal to slay the player characters
he has prepared the final act.
he has no regrets.
He has a shield
He has a hoard of ivory tusks

Chamber of the Keeper
Chamber of the GoatBeast

but there are dozens and dozens of leeches elsewhere in the pool

and three halfgrown young.
and three eggs in the room.
and three bars of black metal
and three barrels

and those who chance to look within see a beautiful female gray elf imprisoned in a bowl filled with water.

and the walls are hung with tapestries
and the walls are hung with gossamer veils
and the victim spins uncontrollably.
and the very air tastes sharp and acrid

and the merchant clans and noble houses employ all sorts of servants and slaves who roam through the black and debauched City of the Drow
and the marble pillars are veined with black webbing.
and the manticores are wild with rage at their captivity.
and the males then fertilize them with milk
and the major sciences of dimension walking

and the eye is a fiery redorange
and the eye is a fiery red orange.
and the drow with them are of the few who are neither totally degenerate nor wholly evil; they hate the society around them and see no good in it.

and she will observe them through the slit of the secret door of room
and she will be suspicious of ANY creature entering her current abode.
and she some times assumes this form on her own plane
and she patiently anticipates the delicious moment of confrontation
and she is able to heal herself at will

and Lolth will paralyze these victims and then take them to feed upon at her leisure.
and Lolth will not be helpful.

and if they proceed closer they will observe it is an arena or pool filled with transluscent green water and surrounded bv six tiers of stone benches.

and each branch holds a fat black candle which burns with a flame of leaping lavender and deep glowing purple but never grows smaller.

and bone darts.
and bits of string.
and bits of armor

and anyone in plate mail is unavoidably drawn in.
and any within it must save versus poison at  -3

and by secret entrances in each pool bottom

An ancient city carved into the living rock itself

above which are two horizontal rows of circular windows.
above the floor

a wall of tentacles
a walk.
a victim hit must save vs.poison or die.

A giant black widow spider guards these weblike stairs from a position about halfway upon them.
a ghostly plum colored light to human eyes
a gemset orb
A full mile from the entrance to the Vault

a darkness has fallen over that land
a dagger +2 among them
A curious stranger comes up to the player characters and asks them an innocuous question.
a crossbow bolt is fired at one character of the group.
a crennelated battlement pierced with small crosslets.

A city of white goblins

a blackness that threatens to eat the world.
a black stone tower with walls 3 feet thick.

a being created from the joining of many skeletons.
a bed
a bed
a beautifully wrought coffin

Thursday, January 26, 2017


This adventure was assembled by pasting the text of several classic RPG texts into one document, then alphabetizing the (60,000+) sentences using Textmechanic, then slowly scrolling up from the bottom, cutting and pasting consecutive lines that made sense as I went.

You probably consider magic and spells fascinating but strange.
You probably don’t have a family, so you live in a cheap, one-room flat in a two- or three-story building with six or eight such flats.
You probably like the Commissar.
You probably live in a two-room flat in a two- or three-story building that contains six or eight such flats.
You wandered the forest like an animal.
You wear cloth slippers inside and wooden-soled leather shoes outside.
You wear your hair long but tied, bound, or braided to keep it manageable when you’re working.
You wear your hair shoulder length and (if you’re human) you keep your face clean shaven.
You were healed by a hermit.
You were healed by a hermit.
You were taken care of by a poor knight.
You were taken in by simple shepherds.
You would know more of it than I.

You fell in with robbers.
You focus the holy power within yourself into your heart, causing it to glow like a brilliant light, which can be seen through your chest, and even your clothing and armor.
You get splattered by bird droppings
You get what you pay for.
You get what you pay for.
You got lost in the stinking alleys and waste the whole bloody day
You have a strange relationship with the wealthy.
You hear all kinds of stories about the strange things delvers find down there in the Dungeon.
You hear the mermaids singing.

Without warning, ten little windows snap open, revealing crossbows loaded and cocked.
Without warning, the bed begins to roll wildly around the room.

Within the room is a small horde of golden objects: two end tables (250 gp each), a statue of a derro (725 gp), a two-handed sword and sheath
within the sewers themselves is a ratman nest.
within the small bed chambers.
Within the winding, mazelike network of the Serpent Caves, more than one hundred evil nagas of all types breed and sleep in dark pits filled with warm, befouled water.
within thirty feet.

where is merlin?
Where is the border between Làhàg and Lamarakh? Of that the humble author is not sure.

We don’t expect the player knights to obtain the Holy Grail.
We hope everyone agrees.

Unless he is otherwise alerted, assume he’s always asleep.
Unless otherwise stated, the ceilings of this level are thirty feet high.
Unless otherwise stated, the interior walls and floors of this tower resemble desiccated, diseased, and warped flesh more than stone.
Unless stated otherwise, doors are made of adamantine and are one inch thick.
Unless stated otherwise, the various underground rooms and passages are dark and filled with dust, grime, cobwebs, and patches of black slime.

Trolls are horrid carnivores found in all climes, from arctic wastelands to
Trolls have no fear of death, and launch themselves into combat, flailing wildly at their opponents and biting whoever comes closest.
Trolls have no language of their own, using “trollspeak”, a guttural mishmash of common, giant, goblin, orc, and hobgoblin.
Trolls have ravenous appetites, devouring everything from simple grubs to bears and humans.
Trolls live in small packs of 3 to 12 trolls led by a dominant female who acts as shaman/chieftain.
Trolls walk upright but hunched forward with sagging shoulders.

Those who are awake but remain in the vault complex gather in circular chambers with the names of various Galchutt inscribed in blood-red runes on the floor.
Those who can afford it usually prefer
Those who have seen Yapefulu describe a creature like an ape, yet thin and wasted, featureless and black like shadow.
Those who immerse themselves entirely in the pit can control their own shadows and, with practice, those of others, as well as unattached undead shadows.

This temple at the center of the tower’s top floor is dedicated not to any specific god, but to Good itself.
This temple has been desecrated and gutted.

This shrine has no altar, per se, but rolling up the carpet exposes a ten-foot-square iron plate.
This shrine located southeast of the Wind’s Mystery is dedicated to not one but all elven gods.
This structure predated the Necropolis.

This room at the south end of the Dark Reliquary’s second floor remains mostly empty.
This room connected to the disused chamber is full of boxes, barrels, crates, kegs, coils of rope,
This room contains a huge brown mold.
This room contains no secrets of the lance.
This room contains the coffin of Medre Allaconda the vampire (see Area 37 in the Dark Reliquary structure above).
This room has a 2000 gp bed of silver, a 1500 gp gold trimmed stone rocking chair, elaborate rugs worth 5000 gp, several intricate stone urns and furniture (worth a total of 2000 gp and weigh- ing a total of 10,000 pounds).
This room has a series of black marble pillars that run along the wall.
This room houses four skeletons (hp 8,5,4,3) and four zombies (hp 12,11,8,8).
This room in the central area of the nest south of the cesspool is empty except for trash.
This room in the far southeast corner of the first dungeon level is completely bare except for its lone resident.
this room is a great skeleton, armored with chainmail, carrying a two-handed sword.
this room is very hard to see unless you are looking in the right place.

this obscenity preys primarily upon infants.

this monster
this monster is attracted by the sound of laughter.
this monster will eagerly serve any chaotic Sorcerer of 5th level or higher as a loyal henchman.
this monstrosity prefers to lurk in shallow pools, from there to ambush prey.

This is actually the bottom floor of the old tower.
This is actually the top of the tower.
This is all a permanent illusion.
This is all that remains of Zagig’s counter aging lab.
This is an incomplete flesh golem, constructed from the pieces of various humanoids.
This is another good opportunity for the Game-master to introduce other knights or characters whom he wishes the player knights to know.
This is another victim.
This is BaCkGround
This is because the zombies are full of spiders.
This is far from common knowledge, however.

This is a difficult scene.
This is a difficult year.
this is a drowned cemetery, its tomb doors forced open by the onrushing flood.

This can be any castle in the forest, and need not be one near where the knights began.
This chamber at the south end of the first dungeon level is empty except for a dozen stitched zombies that mill about aimlessly until commanded.
This chamber at the south end of the lair remains mostly empty, except for a squat ceramic idol one foot tall atop a three-foot-tall simple stone pedestal.
This chamber can only be reached via the one- way door from Z636 or from another one-way door from the Tower of War.
This chamber contains the results of some of Shilukar’s most successful experiments to date.
This chamber east of the font (Area 8) has blood and gore spattered across its stone walls and floor.
This chamber has a forbiddance effect cast by a 20th-level neutral evil caster (Will save, DC 23).
This chamber is clearly meant for a sizable creature.
This chamber is filled with choking black smoke at all times (any smoke that does waft out of the room dissipates immediately).
This chamber is lavish and opulent.
This chamber is long and narrow.
This chamber is ninety feet high.
This chamber is the abode of a mighty balor demon.

They strive to reap honor for their region as well as themselves.
They take their name from the acetic acid they produce, which has a pungent, not unpleasant vinegarish smell.
They toiled for two years to create three swords: Deceit, Insight, and Power.
They typically hold only a trickle of water, except during a heavy rain.
They used to be Zagig’s apprentices and upon death their greed for life and magic caused the supernatural forces to keep them in this state of undeath! However, their once vast wealth has dwindled and now they covet 2420 gp in a locked and poisoned chest (Type B, Onset 2d6 min Str 10/l-3).
They want fresh victims brought to them.
They weren’t wrong, but they were misunderstood.
They will greet all who arrive and direct them to P103.
they will murder and devour outsiders
they will never grow weary in the middle of a long dungeon crawl either.

They may be permanently laid to rest only in one of two ways:

There is no king.
There is no staircase to the top level of the Tower of Malice.

The two gods are using this statue as a visual representation of their current sway with these underworlders.
The two groups coexist in relative harmony, but only because the Forsaken realize that, with the Wintersouled hidden away and asleep, the Fallen enjoy greater power than their undead allies.
The two heads are from losers of past troll brawls.
The two kinds of religion presented here are very different.
Their names are whispered respectfully in crypts where nothing lives

The tension between the two religions is so strong that the very air of the dungeon will seem taut.
The TenTaCled desiCCaTing one
The Tentacled Desiccating One

The skin of a single organism.
The skulls melt into stinking vapor once they come to rest.
The Slime God will ooze up through the earth and envelop the sacrifce’s body.
The smoker believes a cloud of locusts is approaching.
The smoker believes he or she has changed sex.
The smoker thinks his eyes are bleeding uncontrollably.
The smoker's conciousness leaves his body and his spirit may travel through the spirit world to spy on goings on elsewhere.
The Sorcerer and the blasphemous knowledge he amassed are sealed behind traps, puzzles, wards, and ageless guardians.
The spines of a stone fish
The sting of a drilling wasp
The susurration accompanies the Sorcerer for – days, after which time the Violet Mist is no longer bound and will probably attack the Sorcerer.
The symbionts of Fear, grown fat and lax
The system allows for greater uncertainty in the game.

The sight is without sound and stinks like an airless tomb burning in the light of an unwanted sun.
The sight of it causes both fear and insanity, and it regenerates 4 HD every – rounds.
The sight of it causes fear, and it cannot be surprised.
The sight of it causes fear, and it is immune to heat/fire.
The sight of it drives one insane save vs.
The sight of it here will render such a viewer gibbering and insane for  die days.
The Sixth Undulation of the Tentacled One per se
The sizes of the locks adjust to the wearer so they can never be escaped.
The skeleton’s skull has been replaced with the skull of a vaguely-equine alien creature.

The ratman’s favorite class is rogue, although many are also warriors.
The ratmen have rigged a crude trap in the pas- sage beyond the entrance.
The ratmen of this nest have been breeding a very large dire rat, which they believe to be semi-divine.
The ratmen seem eager to take advantage of intruders trapped here.
The rest will try to eat you.
The risk of fire is too great to burn the webbing.

The Puzzle of Drumbeats: An explorer comes to a sealed door with a number of buttons on it.
The Puzzle of the Pictures: A long hallway is trapped with a series of different hazards.
The Puzzle of the Rune-Names: The floor of a room is tiled in a pattern of square stones labeled with runes.

The pool is 10’ deep (armored PCs may drown).
The pool is eleven feet deep.
The pool is occupied by three water weird (hp 20, 18, 15).
The pool itself is magically therapeutic; any who submerge themselves in it up to the neck will regain one hit point per round.
The Pool of the Psionic Octopodes.
The Pool of Éhúlé.
The Pool: Rivulets of sewer water run into the middle of the room, and a few leaks in the ceiling drip down into the befouled water as well.

The Pit
The pit below contains a mild acid (ld4 damage each round).
The pit is 40’ deep (4d6 damage).
The pit is 45’ deep and comes to a sharp wedge (6d6 damage due to sharp edges).
The pit is a deep shaft with a spiral stair around the sides leading down into a pool of special liquid shadow.
The pit is actually 30’ deep with 10’ of water.
The pit lid requires 50 damage to break.
The pit looks like it is 100’ deep.
The pit only opens downward (prying up won’t work), and the underside is smooth and without cracks.
The pit plunges eighty feet down.
The pit stores dire energies and substances in the form of a mist.
The Pit: The pit below the illusionary floor has the same diameter as the room but plunges fifty feet down to the actual bottom of the tower.
The Pit: The pit is two hundred feet deep.

The Nāga are the arch-rivals of a local coven of sone
The Nāga despise their servants and desire fresh ones
The Nāga have in their possession a mighty and potentially apocalyptically powerful artefact
The Nāga long to meet a crystal dragon to exchange knowledge, dreams and philosophies
The Nāga seek the death of a local gharial demigod
The Nāga want a powerful artefact brought to them from afar
The night can be split into  corresponding segments if desired.
The Ninety­Six Chants of the Leprous One

The lock cannot be picked.
The lock is unbelievably strange.
The knights are all entertained.
The knights are bored.
The knights are ever afterward known as “the knights who condemned Merlin,” even though they may not have done just that.
The knights are outnumbered about 3:1 by the bandits here, and on foot.
The knights are slowly making their way through the valleys of Wales.
The knights are then brought to the tower chamber of Lady Alene.
The knights are treated generously and with the best manners.
The knights can do much to effectively stop this euthanasia.

The Knight of the Chord’s class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Concentration (Con), Craft (any) (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Gather Information (Cha), Hide (Dex), Jump (Str), Knowledge (any) (Int), Listen (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Perform (any) (Cha), Ride (Dex), Sense Motive (Wis), Speak Language (none), Spellcraft (Int), and Use Magic Device (Cha).
The Knight of the Devil Shield, a vassal to Duke Galeholt, is now the leader of the Atecotti, more often than not going about the land jousting and causing trouble.
the knight oF the dragon
The Knight of the Griffon challenges the knights to single combat, in the order they arrive, for the Lady Frances.
The Knight of the Lake returns to court only after snow has started to fall, where he is warmly received by all, for already the deeds he has done have made him famous.
The Knight of the Wolf agrees to release the daughter if the player knights will perform a deed for him.

The king burns alive a beautiful race with dark skin and white hair that could be male or female, hard to tell.
The king chops off the heads of a pale starved people who crawl towards him, offering gold.
The king in sunlight, releasing waters, drowning those who toil in darkness.
The king is not suspicious; he welcomes the knights and invites them to share his dinner.
The King is quite ill.
The king is restless.
The king is silent.
The king is troubled with nightmares.
The king is very ill.
The king is weary, but determined.
The King is worrisomely ill.

The floor is dark, roughened somewhat by the passage of feet.
The floor is one blue-grey bacterial mat.
The floor looks like blue-grey mud.

The false closet contains several old black robes.
The false doors set off a gong when an attempt to open them is made.
The family funds a number of criminal endeavors, gaining profit from theft, extortion, smuggling, illegal gambling, assassination, and trade
The family has a young apprentice or adoptee who they want educated in the ways of the world
The family has, in no uncertain terms, been a menace to the world virtually since day one.
The family is in full-scale cloak-and-dagger war with a rival and is in need of recruits
The family is plotting a coup
The family know of powerful artefacts hidden in the Old Town which they want recovered without rivals knowing
The family magician A trusted slave administrator
The family magician has long lusted after the owner's daughter and has spirited her away
The family of Oswald Bone-Norman four children, two parents have been starving here for days in this black and sodden copse.
The family owns a number of residences throughout the city, but Menon prefers the manor along the sea cliffs north of town.
The family want to bring down a rival’s pet project (a crab-man stable, club fighting troop, or other)
the family.
The family’s ancient curse has returned
The family’s greatest opponent is also its newest.
The family’s private eunuch army has rebelled and laid siege to their city manse

The cultists of Azathoth are all insane.
The cultists rave that their caverns ultimately lead to the vast cavern at the
The cultists seek an accomplished Sorcerer to inspire them to greater atrocities.

The Chest
The chest contains a severed orc's head with a large gem stuffed in its mouth, a 100 gp finely cut jade.
The chest contains the entire ill-gotten gain of the cyclopskin: 1,000 pp, 3,000 sp, 3 gems (100 gp, 100 gp, and 500 gp), one sword +1 (de- scribed below), and one wizard scroll with confu- sion, telekinesis, and globe of invulnerability
The chest contains three bags, each of which holds 600 gp.
The chest has glue on the handle (roll open doors to free hand).
The chest in Cynric’s room is locked (Open Lock, DC 27) and rigged with a poison arrow trap.
The chest is a decoy reward if anyone should happen to find this room.
The chest is a trap and is filled with the same gas (save vs.
The chest is locked and has a poison needle trap (Class E, Onset immediate, Str death/O) which is hard to find (-10%).
The chest is not trapped.
The chest of drawers contains miscellaneous tools, many bottles of ink, a potion of tongues, and a leather bag with 120 gp and 35 pp.

The Book
The book can take no actions itself except that, once per round, it can automatically dispel any spell with the good descriptor that is active within the Heart.
The book consumed Danar.
The book explains that leaders of the Forsaken are called “shigmaa,” which means “to shepherd toward death” in an ancient, long-forgotten tongue.
The book has been signed by only ten other people.
The book has provided this insight about that individual.
The book never stops working.

The barrels are filled with lantern and greek oil.
The barrels contain ale.
The barrels contain honey mead.
The barrels contain mead, beer, ale, and tonic.
The barrels contain water and are being lifted to W300 as it is now the drink they can acquire.
The barrels contain water.
The barrels contain water.
The barrels each contain a different variety of
The barrels have water and mead.

Spawn of Shub-Niggurath.
Spawn of Yog­Sothoth
Spear, light armour, shield

Something about her makes you mistrust her.
Something grows in Jabel Shammar, even to this day—grows like a cancer.
Something must be done.
Something strange and portentous has been spotted in the night sky
Something strange is going on with the little girl that works for the Dockmaster (DC 18).
Something with a lot of Teeth.
Sometimes knights plunder their enemies.
Sometimes mapmakers charge businesses a fee to put them on the maps sold at the city gates.
sometimes pit humanoid gladiators against such captured monsters as dire animals, monstrous spiders, or even a hydra.
Sometimes ratmen string nets across the sewers to catch lost items or potentially useful discarded trash.
Sometimes the mortally wounded hear the cwn annwn coming, which is certain proof that they are going to die.
Sometimes the ranks of the Forsaken are shaken by conflict.
Sometimes the shadow side of her powers is foremost, as when she fights other enchantresses like Camille, but in general she acts for the good of the court.
Sometimes the terminology a Ptolus native uses can confuse a newcomer.
Sometimes the worms that feed on a dead Sorcerer’s brain will assimilate the Sorcerer’s memories and sorcerous and psionic powers.
Sometimes they have more or better armors as well.
Sometimes, a DM will weave two urban adventures together.
Sometimes, the Shadow Eyes comes to the surface, where it assumes the identity of a mage named Vanum Vaal (who calls himself a witch) with a raven familiar.
Sometimes— although not often—this can lead to spies spying on spies.
Somewhere along the line, though, Lancelot and Guenever cross the line and have sex.
Somewhere in the ruined upper stories (unsafe for the living) is an unprecedented host of 18 swordwraiths (hp 48 each!).

She of the Lake
She picks up the sword dropped by the fallen knight and prepares to decapitate him.
She raises a bony arm and one  finger, with a broken yellow nail curling a couple inches off its end, and points at Percivale.
She says that her lady is besieged by the King of Northumberland and needs help desperately.
She says, “My good friend, eight knights guard me here, and all of them are loyal to the traitor Mordred who has slain the king.
She says, “Two Fatal Disclosures there were on this isle before.
She seems such a great woman that you would do anything to serve her.
She uses her cat only as a spy, never as a combatant.

she is in fact a faerie horse, or perhaps a faerie maiden the knight can have as wife for seven years.
She is old, eccentric, and very lonely.
She is so distraught that she throws herself from a tower and is killed.
She is so indescribably beautiful, in fact, that no male party member will be able to stand the fact that other male party members are looking at her.
She is truly stunning, but somehow she’s just not your type.
She is under the complete control of Lilith, as if dominated by her.

Roll a die to determine exact number.
Roll a die to determine how many turns between screams.
Roll as if generating a unique Spawn of Shub-Niggurath.

Problem: A man with a red hat has lived here
Problem: A skinny little boy shakes a little

Problem: A group of theatrical players has come into the lands of the player knights.

Problem: A basilisk, the king of serpents, has moved into the area.
Problem: A beautiful woman calls, singing, to the knights.

Of all the Cults of Chaos, this is one of the most insidious because it is the most resilient.
Of all the Cults of Chaos, this is one of the most insidious, because it proves the most

Nothing remains intact of a ruined temple, save a low wall surrounding a broad paved courtyard.
Nothing too unusual
Nothing untoward occurs, until one morning when they are met by Merlin.
Nothing yet.
Now would be a good time to ask Has your character ever seen anyone’s brain? No? Well then you have no idea what this looks like

Not surprisingly, the Necropolis is one of the quietest areas of the city.
Not surprisingly, the Nobles’ Quarter merits some of the city’s most important and interesting locations.
Not surprisingly, the suicide rate among both groups is very high.
Not surprisingly, this district has a distinct odor.

Much of this hex is overgrown with all manner of fungus and mold.
Much of this hex is plagued with countless swarms of biting insects.
Much of this hex is unnaturally cold, and icy winds drive blinding sheets of frost and sleet.
Muddled with blood, dried

Morgan le Fay creates a beautiful drinking horn, bound in gold.
Morgan le Fay has backed last year’s rebellion.
Morgan le Fay is an outlaw from this court for crimes of high treason.
Morgan le Fay is responsible.

locked Two gold statues of human females stand here , 500gp each.
locked Two low tables with tiny stools are covered with coins and gambling paraphernalia.
locked Upon opening this door you find a male dwarf impaled on spikes projecting from the inside of the door.
locked You enter a nicely decorated, though dark, bed chamber.
locked You see four archways, two on a side, open ahead.
locked, - to lock pick attempts A narrow, locked iron door with a small barred window look into a prison cell.
locked doors The doors at both ends of this hall remain locked at all times.
locked eight times
locked Four cages line the hall here.
locked from the hall side A large number of small dirty mats line the floor like so many rags.
locked Several large forms lay sleeping on the furs that lay upon the floor.
locked Spears of two lengths line the walls of this small weapons locker.
locked Ten skeletal archers 8hp are stationed here to kill all beings trapped at W.
locked The floor is coated with layers of dried blood.

locked An impenetrable darkness
locked and a glyph of warding which will cause 4d6 damage to the one opening the door.

It is a mere bagatelle to such as you.
It is a place of malice, but also of abiding sorrow, deep regret, and brooding despair.
It is a sad scene.
It is a subtle but important distinction that this is not a purely artificial magical effect like time stop.
It is a very anxious winter.

It destroys kingdoms, slowly, from within.
it does not return the people to life.

In some ancient texts, the Tenebrous Abode of the Shade Tower is called the Shadow Rift.
In some areas, the former vassals of various slain lords have not surrendered.
In some dinosaurs stand heraldic and bloody over the bones and corpses of men.
In some lands, the typical chaos cultist carries torches, axes, and scythes and wears blood-red robes covered in various symbols of chaos: spirals, demonic faces, many-pointed arrows.

in a city the size of Ptolus.
In a courtyard
In a courtyard
In a cramped grotto beneath the roots of a massive dead tree is a crab-like Spawn of Shub-Niggurath (AC 19, MV 30′, HD 6, Chaotic): a black crustacean with four eyes and multiple clacking mouths.
in a creature’s possible future.

If the PCs approach from the north, they will be engaged in a running battle with the trolls.
If the PCs are captured or killed, they will be taken to W316 or W322.
If the PCs are observant, they can determine that the water is draining out the double doors to the NW.

Hundreds of harmless bats twitter and hang from the ceiling.
Hundreds of large, triangular teeth litter this minor dolm worm graveyard.
Hundreds of magic black candles, forever

He is probably on his way
He is short and balding, and he wears a small mustache.
He is silent, and highly intelligent.
He is still incredibly strong, but has no memory of his former life.
He is strong His bones will not lever force, to kill he must twist off limbs and bite with his great teeth.
He is the only character in the game who must have a Hate
He leaves the dice lying on the table as rolled.
He moves as a Lvl 15 thief.
he moves—every gesture is extraordinarily precise.
He must afterwards spend half an hour slicing the Oracle with a razor-sharp steel knife, causing it to heave and mewl horribly.
He often—but not always—wears glamered armor, but no one realizes that.
He paused and blew a great cloud of smoke from his hookah.
He places the circlet on his head and begins to caper in glee.
He prefers to use the first round of combat to cast ice storm on his foes.
He requested their leave, which was granted.
He rules several hundred personal servants and an army of slaves made up of orcs, zombies and cauldron-born — enhanced zombies that are said to be created in a powerful artifact created by an evil god of the dead.
he says, are a part of this being, and should act accordingly.
He says, “I was instructed to bring this to you, Sir, and to fight in the tournament.
He sees the player knights, yawns, and greets them in the following manner.
He spurned their lascivious embraces.

he does not enjoy the power of most bishops
He does not sleep but he dreams

he can’t afford armor, so he wears as many shirts and cloaks as he can to protect himself.
He cast a romantic eye upon the wrong person.
He confesses to his crimes if forced

Goblins * — —
Goblins and/or hobgoblins see Appendix  – Trolls see Appendix
Goblins love sugar, and also love the gold and goods they can get from selling it.
goblins, hiding in an alley, planning a raid.
Goblins, like the other members of the Unseelie Court, are foul-tempered, thoroughly evil beings that relish death and destruction.
Goblins, undead, and other fell creatures retreated into shadowy holes to hide.

Finally, there is a miniature tableau under glass.
Finally, there is the Knight of the Tusks

Everyone is struck dumb.
Everyone is temporarily stunned.
Everyone is triumphant.
Everyone present must attempt a Lustful roll.

Elf immortals breed special horses for the use of faerie royalty and elf knights.
Elf knight Elf knight Elf knight
Elf knight Extraordinary knight
Elf knights tend to have one or more superhuman powers.
Elf Knights: The faerie peoples often outfit their warriors as do humans.
Elf lords have coats of arms exclusive to themselves, but the knights of their armies often bear the same symbol on their shields

Eleven of the twelve kneel in submission.
Elf armor differs in details of its style (some having animal imagery, perhaps deer or boar; or covered in or crafted from ivy or some other plant; or having strange faces upon it) and in its elegance (having a strange sweeping form, spiky bits, or perhaps  owing or angular decoration).

Eats light or sound
Eats limbs of those still alive

Each time she takes at least 6 points of damage in a round, she remains the next round.

During all this, Narasha is likely to make strong advances toward one (or more) of the male PCs.
During ceremonies, there are usually five or six priests here with around a dozen cultists

Devoted cultists who worship the nāga as demigods
devoted followers and beautiful handmaids.

Desire for adventure
Desire for fame
Desire for fame
Desire for knowledge
Desire for knowledge
Desire for knowledge
Desire for pleasure Desire for adventure
Desire for wealth
Desire for wealth
Desire to inspect crab-man art

Degenerate Knight
Degenerate Tribe

Cultists       Oddly pristine
Cultists of the Ebon Hand have no distinctive garb but usually bear a black hand symbol: a tattoo, a charm, a small embroidery on their clothes, and so on.
Cultists of the Ebon Hand revere mutation and deformity.

Cruelty Excitement
Crushed with eyeballs, made into soluble jelly
Crushing Ceiling Trap: CR 9; mechanical; location trigger; manual reset; ceiling moves down (12d6, crush); multiple tar- gets (all targets in room); never miss; onset delay (1 round); Search DC 20; Disable Device DC 16.
Crushing Trap: A massive iron wheel depends around the staircase set into the ceiling, with the staircase passing up and through the hole in the center of the wheel.
Crushing Trap: CR 14; mechanical; location trigger; automatic reset; Reflex saving throw (DC 25) for half damage (20d6 crush, Reflex save, DC 25, half damage); Search DC 25 (trigger only—trap is obvious); Disable Device DC 30.
Crushing Wall Trap: CR 10; no attack roll re- quired; 20d6; Search DC 20; Disable Device DC 25.

Could it be her gray eyes, or her perfection, or your knowledge that such women are always trouble?
Counter-warrens of the Autistic God
Counts as undead.

chaos surgery 569–570 disease incubator implant 572–573
Chaos Surgery DC 28; Procedure time 10 hours; Recovery period one week; Price 60,000 gp
Chaos Surgery, page 569 Craft (chaositech), page 568
chaos symbols 71
Chaos United?
Chaos Weaving (Su): The shaadom can use a move action to weave chaos into a spell, making it much more difficult to resist.
chaos within the Spire called the Entropy Sphere.
Chaos, Destruction, and Evil.
Chaos, Evil, Technology*.
Chaos, Luck, Trickery
Character develops aberrant sexual desires (exhibitionism, necrophilia, nymphomania, teratophilia, foot fetish, slug man fetish/human fetish) which is overriding or incapacitating on a 1 in 6 chance
Character develops an attachment to a lucky charm and cannot function without it
Character develops psychosomatic blindness, deafness, loss of use of a limb
Character has a severe phobia (1 - heights, 2 - animal type, 3 - dark places, 4 - monsters, 5 - open spaces, 6 - crabmen), must save versus petrification each time he tries to confront the object of the phobia
Character has an unreliable short-term memory and forgets things at the drop of a hat; 1 in 2 chance of forgetting any memorized spell when trying to cast it Character has bouts of psychosis - is crippled by lunacy on a 1 in 6 - roll every day
Character has permanent hallucinations (determined by the DM; whenever the PC is called on to do anything there is a 1 in 10 chance he can't due to crippling terror)
Character has uncontrollable tremors and tics (-4 to all rolls unless purely mental in nature)
Character is paranoid and cannot keep henchmen or hirelings
Character loses ability to communicate through speech
Character performs compulsive rituals; suffers -2 to initiative rolls because of necessity to perform ritual before acting

Carp pool.
Carpet, thick
carpeted with emeralds.

By 288 BE, Ghul had so mastered the power of the Entropy Sphere that he drew the Utterdark out into the normal, physical world.
by a beardless bastard?”
By a big bazaar
By a cemetery Crossing a bridge over a canal
By a cesspit
By a crayfish breeding lake
By a crowd watching an execution
By a dark back alley
By a dyer’s emporium By a mortuary where bodies are being burned By a river
By a fakir’s tent
By a fighting eunuch training yard
By a flock of peacocks
By a gaol
By a guard post
By a guarded mausoleum
By a herd of sacred cows
By a huge old tree By a small shrine
By a large shine
By a large temple
By a large warehouse
by a lover.
By a place of learning By a huge old tree
By a pond
By a private garden By the city wall
By a run-down opium den
By a run-down opium den By a tannery
By a run-down tea shop
By a run-down tea shop By an expensive opium den
By a seraglio
By a small bazaar
By a small park
By a small shrine By a large shine
By a small temple
By a stream of raw sewage
By a tannery
By a tannery
By a training ground for chattars
By an abandoned palace By a guarded mausoleum By a crab-man ghetto
By an abandoned temple
By an aviary
By an expensive opium den
By an expensive tea shop
By an open refuse pit By the strung-up carcasses of criminals By a field of corn
By an opium den
By and large, ratmen don’t have names

Both men and women have long, pointed shoes.
Both men and women smoke tobacco of various types.
Both of the columns have chips in them where they have been bit by picks.
Both of the mirrors on the east wall are mirrors of life trapping

Bones and Debris: These rooms are old, as old as the City of Greyhawk itself, built of stone hewn from the native rock of the Cairn His.
Bones and refuse cover the floor of this old kitchen.
Bones of ancient beasts

Beyond is a wide stairway going upward, entirely engulfed in roaring flames.
Beyond that point you are basically fucked

Behind a tattered curtain hanging in the southwestern corner of the nest lie the quarters of the Nest Master and his bodyguard.
Behind each pillar is a skeleton (hp 7,7,5,4,3,
Behind the Skull and Sword is a sadomasochism club simply called the Back Room.
Behind the wall on which the clown is carved (which is only four inches thick) is a hollow space in which sets a gong attached to a metal cord running to the doors at P206

Be behind the enemy rather than in front of them.
Be Brave
be called.
Be cursed to be unable to speak Wake as children
Be cursed with permanent invisibility
be freed without her sister.
be made anytime a column marked with an “X” is stepped on-these have been coated with a thin layer of lard.
be made.
be magical.
be performed only in the buried
be punitive, but for their own good and the good of others.
be shriven because he was going to be killed soon.
be sucked into the crevice.

Battle Size: Huge

BATTLE ENCOUNTER: The enemy can be encountered amidst the clash and swirl of battle.
Battle is joined.

At the battle, the elves expect to fight monsters from Hell, demonic things they simply cannot imagine.

As a race, their numbers are ever so slowly decreasing, rather than increasing.
As a resident, Narasha sleeps late and long, often wandering the halls of the castle nude after she wakes.
as a result of a recent love affair, and that she believes the affair is over.
As a result, bullies and opportunists are active, robbers take their pleasure, needful decisions are not made, and necessary things are not done.
As a rich heiress, she wants a husband — but as a twice-widowed woman, she can choose her own

and other less intelligent beings; they call these minions Pactslaves.
and others to prepare the way for her lover to arrive.
and painfully, suffering each day of life in grief and loneliness until her last breath expired, bringing blessed relief and unity to the lovers only in death.

And it is difficult to describe what
And it is.
And it’s likely that, if they did truly understand, most of them would probably want to leave town as fast as possible.

An empty city of black houses
An enemy leader falls nearby
An escape route from
An NPC race.
An otherwise unremarkable mountain lichen
An Unquiet Worm of immense power lairs in rank tunnels beneath a forgotten burial ground.
An unrequited love or sexual craving
An unrighteous spirit, taking the form of a fierce, black-skinned ape-like creature, which loves the taste of human flesh.
An Unusual Prestige Class

Always half-turned away

Almost always solitary.
Almost always solitary.
Almost always solitary.

All handles in this area are either wrapped with something or made of stone.
all in the area suffer 3d6 points of sonic damage.
All in this room take ld4 damage per round if breathing.
All interior doors are wooden and bound in iron.
All is dark and quiet, save perhaps for the gently flickering candle.

admit, things get so frustrating some days that you wouldn’t mind seeing this city in flames.

A: No, for a knight should never act in a manner unseemly for his station.
A: No, for the act of sex is a false love that does not provide the motivation for the lovers to continue to strive.
A: No, not yet.
A: To be a true lover, the knight must subdue the enemy knight.

A Sorcerer may perform this ritual when
A sort of maze without walls, the Serpent Path resembles a snake painted on the floor, winding its way through the dungeons.
a sort of throne.

A rumbling shriek tears a ragged hole in the silent sky, followed soon after by a thunderous explosion
A scorpion which hides in corpses
A scream in an ancient tongue*
A sea cucumber washed up on beaches

A powerful and intelligent spirit which manifests itself with the front of a terrestrial animal and the rear of a marine or riparian beast.
A powerful and malevolent spirit, three-headed, which drinks blood through its palms.
A powerful and malevolent trickster spirit, who seeks godhood.
A powerful artifact sends potent cleansing energies through a dimensional rift.
A powerful union of dark elves, using chaositech, will help spread the chaos needed to bring upon the Night of Dissolution

A massive meteorite is embedded in the earth, glowing and smoking with weird, dangerous energies.
A massive tentacle (AC 15, 2 dice damage) erupts from the soft soil and attacks a random target.
a maximum range of two hundred feet, with a range increment of fifty feet.

A horrible death.

A Heraldry roll is useless.

A great and powerful demon, which in its mature form is near god-like in status.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Secretest Pearl (a campaign for levels 1-12)

There is a secret ocean, hidden to contain Tiamat and the Malachite Gods.
The ocean contains a secret continent, where the xenophobic people fear contact with the cursed ocean.
The continent contains a secret city, whose Agonarchs secretly court and control the forces that menace the people.
The city contains a secret district, where dissidents hide from the wrath of the Agonarchs.
The district contains a secret castle, from which agents of the Agonarchs surreptitiously spy on them.
The castle contains a secret level, where prisoners have escaped and taken control.
The level contains a secret wing, where an Agonarch assassin monitors the prisoners for clues to destroying the resistance from within.
The wing contains a secret shrine, long buried and built by the Second Good King to contain a most holy artifact.
The shrine contains a secret room, where the ancestors of the Agonarchs concealed an ancient and sinister relic, to undermine its influence.
The room contains a secret box, which contains the buried legacy of the dead empire over which the evil worshippers of the sinister relic did their mischief.
The box contains a secret dagger, hidden in a compartment--long lost weapon of the great traitor who first brought down the First Good King--which the Good Queen’s father was forced to forge.
The dagger contains a secret gem, a tiny pearl of sabotage, a gift of the dagger-maker, which can sweep away the wickedness of the world.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Zak vs Adrian Smith, Round Two

click to enlarge
A few months ago, I posted about doing an homage to an Adrian Smith illustration from one of the old Realms of Chaos books--and about how I fucked it up. 

This is my second attempt--I won't write anything about it today, you can decide for yourself what's working and what isn't.

Here's the (still completely superior) original:
Here's my first attempt:

Monday, January 23, 2017

Things You Can Do With Ram's Dungeon Mad-Libber

So Ram over at Total Party Kill has, in response to me just being like "Somebody should..." just went ahead and made the most useful random adventure widget since the Last Gasp Generators.

What Ram's new thing does is it takes any text you put in and replaces the word or phrase of your choice with random items off a random table of your choice. Now, making your own Abulafia generator already kinda does this, but Ram's generator allows you to do it in a more flexible, off the cuff way--and without making a public page that might step on copyright.

Here's an example:

Carcosa is one of the most useful hexcrawls out there--it's also notoriously repetitive--103 Spawn of Shub Niggurath, endless Villages led by Sorcerers or Fighters full of men distinguished only by the color of their mutant skin.

This formulaicness makes it perfect for this example: the ideal text for Ram's Dungeon Mad Libber is repetitive (so the randomiser will have lots of places to ply its trade) and long (so you'll get to see lots of stacked combinations that reveal lots of different ideas)--


1. Paste the base text into the top box.

2. Choose a word to replace with random options (I started with the ubiquitous Spawn of Shub-Niggurath)

3. Type in some alternate options in the lower box or paste in your favorite random table (or paste in a bunch of random tables, whatever).

Like so:
click to enlarge

Carcosa also has a ton of castles and citadels--another thing you can do is paste in random results with different levels of detail. So basically one result is just "castle" another is "city" but then I also added in a bunch of more complex castles taking from the Dungeon Dozen-the fan index is excellent for this kind of project.

...and then keep going with all the other repeated words:
Until soon you have a whole new book to read:

Village (Rampant perversity after nightfall, outsiders welcome) of 240 black-eyed witches  ruled by “the Servant of the Master,” a  quick-witted  6th-level  knight .

3 mutant red-haired women  hide in these hills, cast out by their fellow village (Barley fields must be soaked in sacrificial blood: every crime or misdemeanor carries death penalty)rs. One has bulbous, hypnotic eyes (save vs. paralyze or be stunned for 2–5 rounds), one can spit acid twice per day (2 dice damage), and one is semi- gelatinous (half damage from non-electromagnetic/ ele werewolvestal weapons).  They have no armor and wield crude clubs.  They are desperate and will attack any passersby.

A raiding force of 35 White witches  led by a chaotic 3rd-level sentient pig terrorizes stragglers and small villages (Ubiquitous witchery: hexes and charms fly about willy nilly) in the area.  Their masters rule the lands to the west.
Looking for another long and repetitive text, I seized on the Shady Dragon Inn--an old TSR book that's basically a list of NPCs. Each entry has stats and a short description--by replacing phrases you don't need with stuff from random tables, you can turn these random hirelings into complicated villains or heavy NPCs, hundreds at a time. For example in each description, it says the NPC "wears" something:

After doing this a few times with key phrases, and using "find and replace" and text mechanic to remove things like all the +2 swords, etc, you get dozens of entries like:

Nadia Svensdottir

 Telepathic and driven by a fear of the dead. Elf. Cleric of Tiamat (Red hand) a sword,  four javelins, and dagger.

Nadia is only 5'2" and 98 lbs. Her dark hair and merry brown eyes show little of the hard life she has spent. Her father, it is said, is the famous pirate Beorn Waverider. She fights for honor and nation: personality nullified by grim nationalistic fervor, demands of rigorous ethical code and extreme stoicisms. A scarlet bandana is her favorite headband. At , she has travelled most of the waters and lands around, and is well- known. She once fought and killed five bandits to protect her boyfriend, who is now dead.

I like how she turns out to be afraid of the ghosts of her pirate father and ex- . That's a whole plot suggesting itself right there.

You can do the same thing with any Monster Manual--take the Treasure Type stat and have the widget replace that with entries from a random treasure table, take a stat you don't care about (Psionics?) and tell the generator to replace that with any kind of detail that interests you, etc.
You can also use the mad-libber to make stuff from scratch. I started with 50 rooms with "Empty", and mixed it up with a list of generic descriptors:
Then once each room had a generic something in it, I went to work pasting in tables to replace each generic thing. Here's all the "treasure"s replaced with random elements from a list of treasures:
Aaaaand then monsters:

And then read through what you've got and season to taste:

1  In chest: Colony of live bats (chewed aperture in rear of chest).
2 Empty
3  Furious pirate captain w/squad of the vilest sea-dogs conducts brutal search for pick-pocket who slithered below with enchanted sextant, cutlasses drip with vital fluids of the last one to refuse questioning+ Invisible cages and explosive floor tiles triggered by delicate pots..
4  Empty
5  Green Bastards: bark-covered, extremely thorny war pawns of the Earth God dedicated to extermination of human nuisance, nurseries hidden in vast, aggressively expanding forest known as The Green Hell.
6  Sizable swarm of dungeon gnats forms into patterns that appear to be a repeating series of rune.
7  Ditto
8 Infested alarms and gravity reversing animated statues triggered by a forbidden scroll.+ Moldy snares triggered by steep stairs.
9  Packet of extremely old hard tack: now really quite hard indeed.
10  Giant spider with web+  Partially looted royal catacombs of the extinct prehumans, signs of necromantic tampering, access denied by massed skeleton warrior.
11  Empty
12 Carnivorous bats +Diseased swinging glaives and gravity reversing crushing walls triggered by a bound prisoner 
13  Empty
14  Blood trail leading to middle of wall (no secret door).
15  Sizable swarm of dungeon gnats forms into patterns that appear to be a repeating series of rune.
16 Floor: Hot to the touch, protective footwear required.
17  Human mercenary in skin tight action suit w/ rapier, dagger, armor-piercing specialist of the utmost skill, leads frail bald human in stained hospital gown w/power to detect gold at 120 feet.
18 Empty
19  Warrior with face melted by eldritch sorcery staggers to and fro senselessly, has no mouth but would love to warn adventurers of mind-bending dangers on level three + Floor: Covered in thick layer of a very fine white powder (instantly airborne).
20  Stunning snares and nauseating barbed nets triggered by tripwires.+  Drownesian elf.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The End of Thought Eater

These two essays are not by me--they are the final two essays in the Thought Eater DIY RPG Essay Contest.  The winner of this round reigns supreme for all time!

Here's the first one--if you like it best send an email saying only MASS in the subject heading to zakzsmith at hawtmayle dawt calm .

Mass Combat Belongs in the Monster Manual

D&D started as a hack on a war game, which is why OD&D depends  on, but does not provide, mass combat rules. The original game  included kingdom management rules and prices for castles and  armies. The first adventure module, in the Blackmoor  supplement, had rooms that contained hundreds of soldiers. You  were expected to break out TSR's Chainmail war game to use  these things. In fact, as you got higher and higher level,  Gygax expected that more and more of your time playing D&D  would actually be spent playing Chainmail. That's sort of like  if you went to a Scrabble tournament and they said, "Good news!  You guys are such good Scrabble players that now you get to  play Monopoly."

D&D went mainstream because audiences liked the fast,  immersive, co-op game of the imagination, and they didn't latch  onto (or even understand the references to) the slow, rules- bound, head-to-head, miniature-requiring war game. So, in later  editions, the Chainmail references were cut. Essentially, D&D's  intended end game, conquest and rulership, was removed. The  middle of the game, grinding for money, was extended, even  though there were now no castles and armies to spend the money  on. 

And this is a big loss for D&D. In any edition, high level D&D  is not a solid product. High level fights are swingy, monster variety is  sparse.  And, worse, with epic battles and kingdom-building  mostly offscreen, characters can't leave their mark on the game  world, except by saving it from ever more powerful dungeon  monsters. Players and DMs alike generally try to keep away from  war epics, because running big battles isn't something D&D  does. 

To fill the hole left by the removal of Chainmail and epic-fantasy play, TSR and WOTC churned out stand-alone battle  supplements every few years:

-OD&D introduced Swords & Spells, which was an updated  Chainmail with special rules for each of the D&D spells and  monsters. It technically allowed battling lone heroes against  10:1 (10 soldiers to a mini) figures, although it recommended  avoiding cross-scale combat as much as possible.

-Basic D&D included War Machine: a sort of spreadsheet where  you came up with a rating of each army and then rolled a  percentile die to decide the battle.

-1e and 2e both published an edition of Battle System. This was  another entry in the Chainmail/Swords & Spells tradition, but  it came in a box with cut-out-and-assemble peasant houses,  which was cool.

-3e had the Miniatures Handbook. Again, its mass combat rules  were along the lines of Chainmail, featuring typical war game  rules for formations, facing, morale, etc, using d20 mechanics. 

-5e has playtest mass-combat rules, which will presumably see  official publication some day. They're traditional wargame- style rules.

All of these games perpetuate the flaw that kept Chainmail from  catching on in the first place: in order to play them, you have  to stop playing D&D.

D&D is not a war game. All the design decisions that make a  good war game lead to a bad D&D game, and vice versa. 

-Because war games are played competitively, they must be  fair. D&D campaigns can only achieve longevity when they are  unfair in favor of the players. 

-Because war games are fair: war games must have complete rules. You can't make stuff up halfway through without  favoring one of the players. So you can only make a pontoon bridge if there are rules for it. D&D rules are incomplete by  design. There are no rules in any edition for making a pontoon  bridge, but if you can scrounge up some boats and lumber, the  DM will let you do it. 

-Because war games are complete: war games must have  detailed rules. A good war game models the rock-paper- scissors of archery, cavalry, and spearmen, and provides big  bonuses and penalties based on terrain, flanking, morale, fog  of war, high ground, and anything else that might conceivably  come up. D&D, on the other hand, features abstract combat rules  that look nothing like reality. Core D&D combat is a barebones  transaction of combatants trading swipes. More important than  realism is simplicity, because most of D&D is not in the combat engine but in the DM and player improvisation that happens at the same time. 

running an epic battle in D&D

D&D is great at handling small fights - say, five characters  fighting a few trolls. Why can't the same rules handle five  characters, the town guard, and a dragon fighting against a  skeleton army, a lich, and a dozen trolls?

What if the first edition Monster Manual had contained stat  blocks for a skeleton horde, a town watch, and so on? Think of  the stories we could have been telling all these years.

My alternate-history army stat blocks are pretty simplistic, but that's what I like about them. A requirement for war-game standards of rules completeness and detail has been holding back high-level play for years. A  D&D  combat is great because of all the rules that Gary Gygax didn't include. Let me talk about the war game rules I  think D&D can live without. 

Casualties. When half your archers are dead, you can  fire half as many arrows, right? Nah. Just as a D&D hero at 1  hp fights at full strength, A 100-soldier army, even at 1 hp,  is still a 100-soldier army. After the battle, hit point damage  can be translated into some ratio of dead, wounded, and fled,  at the DM's discretion.

Facing, frontage, formation. These rules appear in  nearly every war game. We need that level of detail like we  need the First Edition grapple rules. 

Figure scale. War games are not designed for varying  figure scales: every miniature on the battlefield needs to  represent, for instance, 20 soldiers. A war-game fight between a lone  hero and a 20:1 army unit is usually wonky or impossible. On the other  hand, if every army is treated as an individual D&D monster, a  tenth-level fighter can battle on fairly even terms with a  troop representing 10 first level fighters, which can in turn  battle a troll or a unit of 36 goblins. 

Time scale. Most war games have realistic but D&D- incompatible turns of ten minutes or more. I'm sticking with D&D combat rounds. If a massive war is over within a few six- second rounds, that's fine with me. 

If anything, D&D-style fights can be too fast. To make it more likely that everyone gets a turn, I've added a special  rule in my army stat blocks, capping attack damage so that no  army can score a one-hit KO. This favors the underdog (and the  underdog is usually the PCs). Still, this is a special  exception and I wouldn't be surprised if it were unnecessary.

Leadership bonuses. Many war games assign static bonuses to  troops based on the abilities of their commanders. In a war game, which doesn't allow for referee discretion, this is the best  you can do. But in D&D, if a player delivers a speech and leads a charge, or  comes up with a clever scheme, the DM can assign appropriate  bonuses. The more the players act creatively, the more vivid  the scene will be - just as in a standard D&D fight. 

Spell rules. We do NOT want a Swords and Spells-style gloss on every spell describing its  interaction with armies. Here are my abstractions: 
1) Damage  spells ignore area of effect. An 8d6 fireball does 8d6 damage. 
2) "Condition" spells are all-or-nothing. If a Bless spell can  target all the members of an army, it operates normally.  Otherwise, it fails. 

Morale, flanking, setting ambushes, charging, fighting withdrawal, high ground, and every special case I haven't already mentioned. First and and Second Edition have explicit morale rules. In other editions, morale failure is by DM fiat.  If the local morale rules (or lack thereof) are good enough for  10 goblins at level 1, they're good enough for 100 goblins at  level 10. The same principle, "use existing combat rules", applies for flanking (present in 3e and 4e), charging (present in every edition but 5e) and so on.

Here are the stat-block templates I've used for turning any  creature into an army of any size. I've done first and fifth  editions (my current favorites).

Here's the first one--if you like it best send an email saying only FOOL in the subject heading to zakzsmith at hawtmayle dawt calm 

A Fool in Lovecraft Country

There is no single story as important to roleplaying games as H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu,” and there is no single paragraph as important as the opening paragraph of the tale: 

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

This statement of theme is at the heart of the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game (which reprints this story) and other roleplaying games of Lovecraftian horror. You see this statement in rules that drive PCs insane for learning about the Mythos and in countless published scenarios and campaigns that make it clear that any victory won over a cult or a monster is but a brief respite. Clearly that passage has captured the imagination not just of readers but of game designers as well with its depiction of toxic knowledge and comforting ignorance, and those inspired designers have created many excellent works of roleplaying horror, and yet, though I love and play many of those games, Lovecraft’s horror is not my horror.

To understand his horror requires understanding a little about him. Lovecraft, although not religious, was, in his words (in a letter to Maurice Woe in 1918), “Very much interested in the relation I bear to the things about me — the time relation, the space relation, and the causative relation.” Lovecraft thought highly of man’s curiosity, of “the acute, persistent, unquenchable craving TO KNOW [capitalization his].” Lovecraft lays out the case for the modernist view that man can, eventually, know everything. Although I think this point of view is naive, I also find it admirable, and like Lovecraft, I too am “interested in the relation I bear to the things about me.”

However, a few years later in 1923, Lovecraft had soured. He had this to say about Einstein’s counter-intuitive advances in physics: “My cynicism and skepticism are increasing, and from an entirely new cause — the Einstein theory […] There are no values in all infinity — the least idea that there are is the supreme mockery of all.” Reason and science, the tools he used to make sense of the world, had destroyed his sense of the universe. Better to retreat to the “safety of a new dark age.”

That betrayal of faith in modernity was felt by many of Lovecraft’s era. In addition to the chaos of science, they could point to the futile brutality of war, to the inability of medicine to combat a pandemic, to the helplessness of the elite who failed to maintain world order, and to the clergy whose explanations sounded more and more hollow.

This disillusionment, this betrayal, as profound as it was for Lovecraft and others, is not something I shared with Lovecraft. I first read him as a middle school gamer in the early 1980s, and what I read was not existential horror, not to me. Of course some situations were frightening and he created a dark, moody, atmosphere with his writing. But I never wanted the “safety of a new dark age.”I had already grappled with faith, belief, and atheism, and I came around to atheism, and I was the happier for it. 

I had considered Pascal’s wager: If believing in God costs nothing, and if belief in God is a prerequisite for a good afterlife and disbelief automatically sends you to Hell, then why not simply believe? What Pascal hadn’t counted on is that there many variants of “belief in God” but there is only one Hell, and so I saw his wager as a con: Someone is sending you to Hell, so I refused his wager, and was content with at least philosophical peace of mind. Unlike Lovecraft, I found comfort in the absurd universe that could kill me at any moment: At least I wouldn’t suffer forever. 

I envy those people who can feel in a Lovecraftian game or story the fear that the author tried to inspire in his readers, but I do not play those games because I feel a delightful frisson of fear when I play. Although I love Call of Cthulhu (and Delta Green), I play those games because the characters are the most heroic characters I know. They are saving the world, opposing an impossible evil, and the players, at least, “know” that it is a fool’s errand: “Well, Nyarlathotep will just get the world next time and your characters will die or go insane, so why bother?” Of course Nyarlathotep or some other dark god will walk the Earth one day, but the Earth will be swallowed by the sun one day too, and, in the meantime, the heroes who saved the world have bought its inhabitants another few years. And if according to the Talmud, “whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world,” how can you count the good (imaginary, I know, but also a good to aspire to) done by the heroic investigators in Call of Cthulhu?