Monday, September 16, 2019

Brownies

The Original Gygaxian Brownie
Brownies are weird little amalgamations of various fairie myths in terms of their inspiration. They are "perhaps" half halfling, half pixie, lawful good, able to repair or create items of wood, leather, and metal with ease, and are good guides. They also can be convinced 50% of the time to help lawful good charaters, and havfe a hodgepodge of magical abilities to keep them safe- protection from evil, ventriloquism, dancing lights, continual light, mirror image, confusion, and dimension door. Their speed and camouflage allows them to escape as if invisible, and they are never surprised, and they come in groups of 4d4, which is honestly pretty terrifying if you consider the consequences on being on the receiving end of 9 Confusions.

Finding them and gaining their aid would be a tremendous boon, and might be the sort of help one might hope a brave, kind, honorable fellow (ie, a Lawful Good character well in line with a fairy tale protagonist) would obtain on a wilderness quest.

Brownies of various walks of life describing their work environments, so as to provide framing for
the game of 'whose job sucks worse'

Sunset Realm Brownies
More commonly known as Hobs, these are halfing servants, trained in specific useful magics and domestic services, of Alves who were drawn into the fey realms when the Alves retreated from the waking world into various dream realms in the 3rd intersolar period. They have grown magically potent in these realms, but are bound by strange fey laws and revert to regular halflings if they break their rules. Some brownies are entirely opposed to losing power, having grown accustomed to the favors and privileges allowed to favored servants of Alves. But others would happily forsake their corrupted Alf overlords and return to mortal lives, if only they can find an escape.

The Winter Court- The alves that struck pacts with ice and darkness ride in the frost and snow at the edge of the worlds, their own light and life sustained only so long as they pillage and steal from the sunlit realms. The halfling sorcerers dragged along for the ride were not infected by the cruel madness that took the Alves, and serve their masters only begrudgingly, and may offer aid to those humans who prove themselves worthy. They may not accept gifts without losing their powers, and doing them favors is a grave insult as that forces their hand to repay the favor in kind. They open mirror-gates in reflective ice and water so that the Hunt may spring forth, and are well versed in protective wards to keep Darkspawn away, and maintain artificial auroras to light the glacial fortresses that stretch between dream, waking, and the mirror-realms.

The Summer Court
- the Alves who retreated into the dreams of trees are kindlier, in seeming, than those of the land of the ice and snow. Their Hob servants often venture forth to the waking world as scouts and messengers to mortal races who have despoiled too many trees, warning them to keep out of the forest before more strenuous objections are raised. Some brownies are assigned to households to keep an eye on the mortals, and ingratiate themselves by performing various household chores and repair jobs, as well as providing guiding lights to those lost in the woods. They may ally with humans against monsters that despoil their master's groves, acting as, essentially, animal control.

The Iron Moon- Those Alves who did not escape the fall of the 3rd Sun found themselves bound to its corpse, the Iron Moon, but their brownies were bound in no such way, and established mutually beneficial relationships with humans in the intersolar period. As such, some forests and households in the moonlands have brownies watching over them and keeping them from falling to the shadows and moon madness. Acknowledging these 'Free Brownies' directly may ruin their powers and revert them to their original mortal forms, so milk and bread are left out 'for the cats' and clothing 'for the children.' It is only on the holiday of Names Written In Light Upon the Face of Darkness that they may safely reveal themselves to humans and frank discussions may be had. Their names are lost, part of how they gained power, and discovering ones name ensures they cannot use their powers in your presence, and threatening to reveal it can compel obedience if the brownie fears loss of their magical powers and reversion to a regular little person. They fear Alves and Elves, for those immortal beings are more likely to know their secret names than any other being.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Maze of The Blue Medusa Diss Track

As a disclaimer, I'm not running the Maze as is. Names and relations are changed to suit the local Gothic Villain, everything in it has been warped to suit my own setting and the characters, the players aren't trapped within, etc etc. I've heard complaints about complaints about the place along the lines of 'You weren't running it properly and that's why it sucked' but that's not even remotely the problems I'm talking about.

While  it is certainly interesting as art/fiction, and while the overwrought aesthetics which lured me to this mess in the first place still provided a few fair few monocle-popping chuckles reading it, running it is an entirely different sort of activity, and unfortunately, the activity it is allegedly intended for. There are plenty of adventures so trash that I don't even deign to say they suck, they just get wiped from my memory, and while this is not one of THOSE dungeons, it's definitely not as high above the trash tier as one would hope. (unlike ur favorite anime which is definitely at the bottom of the trash bin)

1. Map Sucks

this is the sort of thing I see in fever dreams about running D&D late at night. Yeah sure lemme just flip to 3 different pages at once every time the players look around a corner




Maze has really complicated, in depth rooms(in description at least, but more on that later). It also has these open ended 'rooms' that seamlessly merge into other rooms. So what happens fairly frequently is the players are standing somewhere and there's like 3 circus attractions visible and possibly raring to throw clowns at them and my sorry ass has to describe all that and no one really cares anyway. The gallery area is especially bad for this- some complicated magical trap painting and then some cannibal critics standing around having highfalutin conversation about art, and there can be like 4 paintings with line of sight to each other. I run a text game, so players can just look at the chatlog to review information, but I can't even imagine trying to keep all this straight in a voice game or a live table where words get talked over and forgotten (actually I can imagine, I was in in a voice game for one session where the forest was constantly missed for the trees and we only got to the 'your fear becomes a scribble on the floor you must walk' room)

As another problem, I've been running and rekeying this place for months and I still have no clue what 90% of the 'secret/hidden/otherwise doors are. They're sometimes just not described on the room they're on for whatever reason so I had to make them up on the fly or make them regular doors.

2. Rooms Wondrous Only In Theory 

Someone made a complaint about Death Frost Doom (I think) that as everything is a horrible cursed item, there's no incentive to poke stuff, and the ideal player behavior is shuffling through politely not touching anything like they're on a museum tour. Well MotBM is like that too, only it's literally a museum.
Here's how a few rooms went.
Wizzz (GM)-The next room! has a glass vase, surrounded by what looks like a ribbon of dust wriggling in a circle around it
Blix:Magic?

"Wizzz" (GM):ye

It blocks access west, but you can go north, your intended path, without issue

Thirbaek Merrymace:"Looks like a horrible magical trap. Let's not bother it."

Blix:"As you can probably guess, it is indeed magic"

North it is

"Wizzz" (GM):North- there is an iron grille that peers down into Chronia's room. This window was too high to see from below. There's something that looks like the rainbow swirl of a bubble instead of glass in the window.

Thirbaek Merrymace:(Everything being worthless** has had the unfortunate effect of really dampening my treasure lust.)

"Looks like a horrible magical trap. Let's not bother it."
Scribe Elmyr:"Yes, horrible magic. Agreed."

**
Also re: everything being worthless- it's astounding how true this is. I was running a game where 1 copper piece was worth 1xp, so finding a suit of plate mail, which RAW is 300gp was a whopping ~3000xp. Magic items were worth AD&D values if recovered as well, and yet, the players were still largely unable to collect satisfying hauls from the place to the point where I suspect the place wasn't designed with xp for treasure in mind. The dragon Crucem Capelli who serves as a buyer for art is said to 'pay you' but not with what or how much, which seems a sorry bit of lip service to the idea that the players are primarily treasure hunters.

3. Room Key Hard To Consult, Not Worth Consulting Most The Time Anyway

 Here's what the room fills the players skipped above actually read as. Amazingly, the players still aren't going to touch idiot-bait even if I describe it as "Idiot bait with the form of a 4-dimensional, open-work diagrammatic fluctuating construct, like an amoeba in a broken kaleidoscope"
I find it telling this entry assumes the players would try to cross the room with a saving throw instead of just poking it with a 10 foot pole first. Maze assumes a lot of 'roll to do thing', which I hate.


pentagrammiC WardThe Pentagrammic ward on the floor to the west is a ribbon of magical dust endlessly rewriting itself into the ground like the tracks of a snake. Also in the corridor, a table; on the table is a jar of glass and under it a note. You catch slight letterforms on the white paper.The wardIt traps evil people who try to walk across (save to leap away, leaving you back outside the corridor which-ever way you came in). If it holds a party member, it will slowly and fluidly move across the floor without breaking its pentagrammic shape. The party member will still be trapped inside as it moves and must move with it. It takes them all the way to Torgos Zooth in Almery 256. It moves at half walking speed.The noteIf you unfold the paper, it won’t stop. Unfolding and unfolding without end, cramped black handwriting on every page. Surface area doubles every round. It is a love letter. Picata Pleshenka writes to Psathyrella Medusae (Cells 304), listing all the reasons they should be “as one”. It won’t go back in the vase, no matter what you do. It does burn, though.


WarpWalloWThere is torn cast lead fencing across the threshold of the southern entrance; it is burned open and easy to step through. A room-filling, 4-dimensional, open-work diagrammatic construct fluctuates constantly like an amoeba in a broken kaleidoscope.It measures the ebb and flow of entropic time distor-tions due to Chronia To r n’s (Halls 27) movements and tempers. The basic pattern is simple: it moves violently when her time distortions are at their maxi-mum and it pulses quietly when she is restraining the effect.A magic user may discern the subtleties of her current mood by passing both a successful INTand CHA test. Psathyrella used to come here and just stare for hours.If touched (save to avoid doing so if you cross the room), the construct is actually made of entropic distortion, so it snags spacetime, causing a tear in reality. The effect of a tear isAny spell effect introduced into the dungeon for the next hour “echoes”—the spell repeats itself in some distorted way. Every time a spell is cast, roll d4:1. The spell repeats in a way harmful to the caster2. The spell repeats in a way inconvenient to the caster3. The spell repeats in a way helpful to the caster4. The spell repeats in a way extremely helpful to the casterSo, for example, on a roll of 2 for Magic Missile, a single new missile might appear and strike the cast-er’s ally, on a roll of 4, all the missiles cast at the origi-nal target might be launched again.
 
Naturally, despite these rooms being right next to each other their entries are far, far apart. All the 'woaaah this would be so cool to look at' grew tiresome. If I wanted to appreciate shiny pictures, the surrogate activity of staring at a pimply dungeon master as they describe shiny pictures gets real old when,
as
Thirbaek Merrymace so succinctly pointed out, it's mostly better to just avoid stuff. Little of all that tl;dr is actually gameable. The Warpwallow is a save to avoid touching or have wild magic accurse the dungeon for a bit, and a magic user can 'discern the subtleties of her current mood by passing both a successful INT and CHA test.' Rolling to see if you roll is not agency, not to mention, why would anyone roll such a thing when they can walk like 2 rooms over and just talk to Chronia? Why didn't the medusa pick up on 'Chronia is high on crack beasts' if this thing can detect Chronia's subtle moods and the medusa used it all the time? So yeah, I described it as a weird window and let the players walk past it, because they'd have no interesting decisions to act upon even if I did spout forth the full description.

Strawman MotBM Fanboy- "Oho, but you're forgetting the two core tenets!"

Never read text out loud word-for-word, it’s too dense and only terrible GMs do that. Just use the general impression to shape your own description. 
&Random encounters are very important—many of the rooms in the Maze are mere curios unless activated or interacted with. Without Random Encounters, the party may find themselves simply sneaking past lots of things they’re scared to touch
Yes SMotBMF, I am aware of basic gming procedure, the problem is that my 'general impression' of most of these fills is 'hollow aesthetics the players will swiftly tire of that provides neither actionable information nor gameable decision making.' And frankly, what, precisely, are these random encounters going to do to solve this?
After all, one must assume that, in reaching the players, those wandering encounters ALSO must be sneaking past lots of things they're scared to touch and interacting politely with dangerous maze inhabitants. Should the players just rely on judo-throwing enemies into art installations while trying to avoid the same done to them, every single room, just 'exploit da nearest killer art' again and again? Is that what you think random encounters are, SmotMBF, just obligate combat scenes to add excitement to those endless killer paintings that sane people wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole? Ever heard of a reaction roll, where immediate attack is a mere 1/36 chance, you leering smurf, you ignoramus gretchling, you, you FOE GYG SMotMBF!?

Anyway now that that strawman is thoroughly defeated and it is clear that my brain is the big brain, I want to share an example of one of the 'interesting situations' that the author was presumably hoping for, like the random encounter of, I dunno, Torgos Zooth(Sir Moy, for my players) in room 85, where he and the players are forced to roleplay worrying about local schools at a dinner party due to 'boring hallucinations.'
The game says if they don't, they lose a limb. I decided to go for the carrot rather than the stick and offered a reward instead. The players just sorta sat around dumbfounded by the attempt to make them roleplay something so blatantly boring and time-wasting until I declared the duration was up, and that was that. Would it have been better if they
had lost a limb, or if they had actually played along? Would they have shared nostalgic stories afterwards, of 'remember when we were put on the spot for boring improv acting like this was acting 101?' Would Sir Moy become a character-favorite NPC due to his opinion on local schools teased forth by this subtle phantasm?

There's a lot of intended scenes like this that could be interesting in a surrealist work of fiction where the characters are written to be clever and symbolic and full of revelatory character moments...
But this is like LotFP compatible, OSR-adjacent material, not Fate or PbtA.  MotBM would, I believe, be considerably better in a storygame, bizarre as that seems.

4. Characters Out of Storybooks
I could not bear to use many characters as is, and so they were replaced by past NPCs of my own campaigns or original creations who were of similar bent, had connections to the player characters, and roamed outside the maze in the Gardens of Ynn(warped) outside. Frankly, the more mortal a character became, the more popular and empathized with they were. As a rule, players do not view immortal, nigh untouchable beings with a great deal of fondness coughELMINSTERcough  as the usual best practices of interaction tend to be 'act polite and then get away asap.'



It's certainly fun to read and imagine the convoluted interactions between the quirky characters of the maze, and the maze does a relatively decent job of providing hooks and miniquests and so on for them as a way for characters to get to know them. But. Their convoluted psyches are all self-referential, their histories storied but thousands of years stagnant. Where is the room for the players, here? There are, broadly speaking, two types of player characters- empty vessels for the will of the player, who develop depth over time but are ultimately puppets for interaction with the game world, their actions retroactively forming a character when viewed with 20/20 hindsight. Then there are characters who really are 'role-played' as following motivations and backstories that they have earned or started with. Both characters are good. Neither of those characters have a place in the central dramas of the maze save as errand runners and messengers. They gaze upon the room of love letters from Xanthoceras to Zamia and it is a passing amusement at best, like a heart carved on a tree with X x Z, seen while hiking. There are no personal stakes there, and it's frankly hard to get involved when so many characters are immortal superbeings in stasis. Which leads into the following...

5. Dictating Roleplaying
There are too many examples to list, but this module has a great love of 'and then you gotta act like THIS because I'm writing like an playwright, not a GM.' The above example of 'act like you're worrying about local schools at a dinner party' is not an unusual thing- it's everywhere, constantly trying to get the players to act out zany surrealism, or even worse, forcing them to mirror the drama of the static superbeings of the maze, like the painting that makes you hate the killer of one of the sisters. Like really, did the author think a silver-tongued asshole who tries to betray the players and victimize women would be so popular that extra inventive would be needed to ensure the players have the 'correct' response to Milo de Fretwell? It's like the 'show don't tell rule' was never learnt with this place- if you want to have players fall into a pirahna tank, put some gold at the bottom and a greased ramp at the top, don't make magic hypnotic pirahna that make you save vs magic or jump inside (that's a butchered memory of one of the room fills). That's not a clever trap, that's just 'roll dice or suffer lmao,' a test of your character's saving throw, not a test of lateral thinking, observation, and ingenuity. 

I hate dictating player behavior. I don't even like fear and charm effects, having used them in the past and finding the experience utterly boring for me and the player who no longer gets to play their character. I, the GM, am here to adjudicate decisions made by other minds, and they to make decisions. For me to make their decisions for them is to make the game closer to a lonely single-player game or even a novel, and as such I find the attempt to create interesting situations by turning PCs into Non-Playable Characters is utterly at odds with the fun of gaming.


Bonus Round: Lion in Lapis Lazuli might be a punch down at trans people, or maybe it's just shitty representation, or maybe it's pure coincidence(see "Doubt," above). It's a tiger statue labeled and shaped as a lion(or maybe vice versa) and it is endlessly touchy, self-obsessed, and eventually, inevitably, violent. It was not me, but my players, who picked up on this possible interpretation of the symbolism of the creature's struggles and interacted with it in that lens, and, my mind blown by this fire-hot take on what I thought was just another killer golem, I had to abort the 'inevitable combat encounter' the RAW suggests. Read-As-Written, the creature is basically depicted as trying to get offended so it is then justified in attacking you. With the context of how the players were interpreting the encounter and actually trying to be supportive, punishing their actions via inevitable combat was not an acceptable outcome to me

if I get something that sounds like, talks like, and walks like a fairy tale parable,
it damn sure will have a fairy tale moral about kind deeds being rewarded, RAW be damned

Anyway, the maze was never as popular among the players as the nearby 10/10 Gardens of Ynn were (though it did beat out the Castle Gargantua areas in terms of sessions investigated) so it is with great relief that their time with the module is largely over and largely incomplete, leaving me free to mine certain things I like from it (I was always fond of the puzzle-savant king lineage keeping a demon lord bound in a rubiks' cube analogue) and consign the work as a whole to the void.

SHOULD YOU BUY

No because one of the authors has disavowed it and the other one is canceled

SHOULD YOU ADOPT FROM SOMEONE WHO WOULD OTHERWISE TOSS IT IN THE TRASH DUE TO MORAL OUTRAGE
Sure, if you're a snobbish aesthete like me with a strong belief that art=/=artist, but there's a lot of interesting and more easily useful stuff on OSR blogs too, jus sayin


SHOULD YOU ACTUALLY RUN IT AS-IS
 

Nah, though with some work stuff like the reptile archives or golden wedding or an unpetrified prison area could work as sub-levels in a megadungeon.

SHOULD YOU RUN IT IN STORYGAMES INSTEAD OF OSR

 I think there's a lot more potential for deep narrative character arcs about healing yourself by healing others, perhaps playing as depetrified prisoners who aim to redeem themselves by restoring a smile to everyone's faces (save for the irredeemably wicked, or perhaps rewriting them to be less irredeemable).
But you could do that with the massive overhaul conversion that would take too, so.

IN CONCLUSION 

Did I even run MotBM, or was this all, in the end, just my warped interpretation, the Nightmare House of The Naughty Noures? At what point does adjusting and tweaking and reskinning stray too far to be called running a module?

¯\(°_o)/¯

But I did the precise same thing to Gardens of Ynn and that's still been great, so there

Friday, September 13, 2019

Brain Mole, Buffalo


OG Brain MoleThese are regular harmless moles that attack those who use psionic powers with a 121 power Mind Thrust, or with an attack that causes a 20% chance of insanity per round against non-psionics using spells that emulate psionics.

If we look at the psionics tables in the 1e AD&D DMG to learn about Mind Thrust, we see psionics are a load of hooey and Gygax was totally justified in bullying these psionic nerds
This is how I imagine psionics advocates in the 70's must have been like at the D&D table to have provoked
enough manbaby gygaxian ire to spawn the Brain Mole


In short, it is the sort of gygaxian 'stop using your class abilities so much asdfgjkl' monster. It is much like the Ear Seeker, a similar sort of 'harmless unless you do the thing' monster. You'd think he coulda just not used psionics but whatever. I somehow doubt anything interesting ever came of the Brain Mole, but I imagine courts of kings could have these critters as pets to prevent psychic infiltration, and then you could have a plot about stealing Brain Moles from a king and then wearing them in cages to enable Mind Flayer busting.

Sunset Realm Brain Moles
Short Story: There are none

Long Story: There is no difference between a soul and a mind, so 'psionics' aren't really a separate thing, because souls cannot directly interact with each other, and souls imposing their will on matter without a matter proxy is called 'magic.' The nearest that can occur is manipulation of the brain, which can then affect how a soul can interact with its body, but you might as well call alcohol a 'psionic potion' then.



Buffalo-I believe both north american and water buffalo are included here. Anyway, the head has armor class as plate while the rest is leather (or possibly leather+shield), though since D&D does not track hit locations I do wonder why this was mentioned. Maybe they're the anti-mind flayer steed of choice, as one could rule that, as the tentacles are drawing out the brain, they must strike the head and so buffalo have slightly more AC than other steeds against brain-sucking. Unlike cattle, buffalo have no herd stampede rules, just a big charge attack that needs 40' distance to accelerate to ramming speed, which could make for some mildly interesting tactics and counter-tactics if the players own/are battling wartrained buffalo.

Sunset Realm Buffalo- I've nothing to say so here's a hex fill you could put n some plains somewhere. Frankly I halfassed it after the first entry because I need to complain about MotBM asap

You can skip reading my the rest of the the post and just try to make things dynamic and dangerous with water-buffalo riders everywhere, charging, failing to turn in time and ending up in the trenches, etc etc.


"Baron" Von Boltz's Buffalo Bastion of Banditry
 Quick Rundown- Von Boltz is a mercenary captain who has fallen on hard times, forged some documents of noble lineage, and claimed an old ruin from which he extorts (taxes) locals and hopes to have proper defenses up by the time any feudal nobles try to oust him. Though a good buffalo wrangler, his capabilities as architect and foremen are lacking, and the ruin (a single tower, two walls, and a fountain) has been surrounded by dirt mounds and trenches of aborted architectural schemes.

He needs more stone to renovate the keep, and would like to disassemble the {local minidungeon} for worked stone as he has neither miners nor masons in his employ, but his two strengths of buffalo cavalry and sniping are useless in the narrow confines of the {local minidungeon}. Alternately, wood could be hauled from a nearby forest with his buffalo workforce and a wooden fort could be constructed, but the woods are haunted by a horrible forest monster that, again, a bunch of buffalo cavalry are poorly suited for charging through.

There are frequent buffalo-rider patrols a few miles from the grassland fortress, and they engage with one member immediately returning to the fortress to raise the alarm, with those remaining attempting to negotiate for the peaceful surrender and escort to the fortress of anyone they meet, quickly escalating to violence if denied and taking captives by force. They use hit and-run tactics using the charges of the buffalo and their small bows that can be fired inaccurately from horseback.

Rider- 1hd, AC 16 (chain+mounted), shortbow and dagger, well disciplined.
Buffalo- 5hd, AC as leather (But as plate on head!), 3d6 charge with 40' running start or 2x1d8 horn attacks. Speed as warhorse. If rider is slain, immediately disengages unless it was already charging that turn. They can walk over the dirt hills around the ruin, but cannot charge over.

1. Von Boltz's Tower- A 3 story tower with 15 foot walls running off from two sides of it, which can be walked up at the ends due to collapse and ruin. Von Boltz conducts meetings on the ground floor (where his second in command, as 6th level fighter, stays as guard and companion), sleeps on the second, and gazes out upon 'his' lands from the top, and if alerted to intruders, will snipe at them with arrows from his magical quiver, "Henpecked"

Von Boltz is rarely armored these days and will prefer to escape on a buffalo or bribe his way out of trouble that manages to reach him. He wears a crown, necklace, and ring of 3000 coins total value that he claims are ancestral heirlooms, but are grave goods of a extinct noble line he looted.

"Henpecked" A human leather arrow quiver, with a bloodstain of a woman's lips (a harpy's) on the side. Arrows that rest in it will fly to their target heedless of range (though line of sight is still required), and then fly back to the quiver and whisper the name of whoever (or whatever) was struck. Small objects an arrow can penetrate that weight under a pound may be retrieved this way, and Von Boltz uses nasty barbed arrows that inflict an additional point of damage when they pull themselves free of the wound.
The enchantment must be renewed by having a harpy kiss the bloodstain once every year, or the returning arrows will strike the wearer of the quiver. Von Boltz knows of a flock and has sacrificed some of his enemies to them to get their cooperation, and plans to build an aviary for them to keep them conveniently at hand, which will definitely not backfire horribly ever.

2. Captain Tents-Near to Von Boltz's tower, but on the outside of the defenses, these captains have 2hd and lead scouting and extortion squads across the grasslands. They are loyal and have a buffalo each, and their buffalo are loyal beasts as well and will avenge their deaths.


There is a tunnel between two of the trenches here, and a slope down to the west.

3. Collected Stones- A low wall of salvaged rubble from this ruin. A large haystack is piled here for the convenience of the captain's animals. One can see over the stone wall, trench, and dirt mounds into the fountain 'courtyard' from this angle. A stone lying in the trench makes for easy crossing.

4. Troop Tents- The living quarters of the common member of the gang. A good many are just peasants who have decided to throw in their lot with Von Boltz in the hopes of getting a better deal, but some are actually members of Von Boltz's company.

5. Untrained Buffalo Pen- These animals are either wild or in the process of being trained. If spooked and released, they will stampede away.

6.Lookouts- Set to guard the camp from the north, it's never the same people two nights in a row, meaning they're easy to impersonate.

7. Quartermaster's Bridge- goes over the trench that dug into the aquifer that feeds the fountain. Buffalo can't cross without it having a 50% chance of breaking.

8. Magic Fountain- Maybe it has a nymph or a water weird or a buffalo spirit-god inside. The quartermasters tent and supplies are here as well, the quartermaster being one of the two 6th level second in command.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Bores

Original Gygax Boars
Pretty much bears, tbh. Omnivorous beasts with bad attitudes that hit pretty hard and keep fighting after reaching 0hp in a berserk rage for a few rounds unless reduced to some negative hp score,. There are giant prehistoric boars which are twice as big, and warthogs which are basically the same thing but with adjusted damage. For whatever reason, the damage scores of the baby boars of varying sizes are given as well, which I suppose is well in-line of the assumption so far that, in AD&D, all baby animals must be fought to the death and/or sold to villains.

if you think these are too halfassed maybe I should go back to the drawing board
but i probably won't because that sounds way too boaring
Don't hate me for my puns, I was boarne and bred this way

Sunset Realm Boars
Mostly notable in that the domestic boar, the Pig, is one of the animals favored and domesticated in ages past by Our Lady of Gardens, and they are sometimes used for corpse disposal, either of huge monsters or people. This practice is common in Prince's Spit to the point that the phrase 'Feeding The Pigs' has the same energy as 'Sleeping with the Fishes.' does IRL, and they are popular animals in the moonlands, though the winter moon can quickly revert them to hairier, wilder versions of themselves. ie, boars.

This has given boars some totemic value to some hunter-gather civilizations who are contemptuous of agricultural civilization and shaving, likening their own strength and adaptation to the harsh environment with that of the boar, and that of agricultural citizens being 'pigs.' Barbarians and castle-dwelling nobles alike tend to enjoy hunting boar for sport and meat though, and while boars aren't monsters, Our Lady of Gardens appreciates a prayer in her name at boar feasts regardless.

There is a misconception that berserkers and barbarians hate being called sucg. The truth is that boarserkers hate being called bearserkers because bears and boars have a bit of a rivalry going on, as they share mytho-ecological niches as bad-tempered warriors too angry to die on time. As a quick shorthand, a fur-clad warrior with a bad temper from the Moonlands (espeically Wrecker Bay or the Auroral Reaches) is probably your classic berserker, while the same fellow from Vint-Savoth, Prince's Spit, or the Beast Islands is probably a Boarserker/barboarian.

Monster Boars
 In the dark forests of Vint-Savoth, boars, like all meat eaters in the area, have a tendency to grow corrupt with age, as trace amounts of the accursed moonblood of the fallen Blood Moon collect in
 their bodies. Though the hunters work tirelessly to eliminate the scourge of beasts, there are several legendary boars that roam the dark forest and have decades-old bounties on them that are so swollen that many doubt the blood ministers of Vint-Savoth could even pay them.

Gloso- A black boar of large but not unusual size, with a bristly hide of black iron and internal heat like a furnace, said to sharpen its bristles by rubbing on gravestones and vomit the molten armor and weapons of those it has devoured. This particular creature is thought to use the ghoul-tunnels to travel the land and is said to haunt ruined settlements moreso than the deep woods.
Bounty: 32,768 gold coins. Doubles every Hunt, and has been doubled for 15 years straight since the monsters first appearance in the village of Gloso, which is now an ashen ruin.

Three Tusk- tall as trees, with a third tusk as long as a man's arm sprouting from its horrid jaw, this tremendous creature is too large to be hurt by conventional weaponry, and too deep in the overgrown wilderness to bring siege weaponry to bear against it. The alleged offspring (or, more likely, similarly accursed boars) sometimes grow to the size of oxen and are known as Two Tusked.
Bounty on Two Tusked Boars- 50 gold
Bounty on Three Tusk- Estimated ~50,000 gold coins, priced at 1000 gold coins per head of height at the shoulder the titan has, which hardly accounts for the massive increase in mass each head of height implies, frankly.

Carnutes Monok- a gigantic, scarred and one-eyed boar that emits a stultifying musk that draws other boars(and domestic pigs that fail saves) to it and causes confusion(as the spell) in humans. It is known to have had many offspring with the stampede of boars that always surrounds it and this virility has spawned (probably spurious) rumors of bestiality that proclaim this creature the grandfather of were-boars.
Bounty: 1 gold per lesser boar, and 1 gold coins per pig living in farms near Vint and Savoth (estimated twenty-three thousand, currently) as it is feared that if the beast ever makes it to the largest pig farms, the danger corresponds to the pig population.

Mozus Vanfeyr- A pig of average appearance, somehow infected with first-order vampiric immortality and able to affect men and pigs with all the dread powers of a true vampire. Animals usually do not have their blood tested for moon-corruption until they are slaughtered, so the thought of a domestically camoflauged monster has kept many a Vint-Savoth peasant in terror during campfire tales.
Bounty- None, though the state will pay sages a pittance to lecture the populace on how such a beast is impossible and does not exist, ostensibly to reduce panic. But if you believe the conspiracy theorists, this is only proof that Mozus is real and was, in fact, elected as [ignoble politician of their choice] within the last decade.

The Cromerlydonian- Once a sacred oracular pig of Our Lady of Gardens, now a disgusting moonspawned monstrosity, an abominable horror of writhing flesh barely recognizable as a pig. Its oracular powers seem to inform it to develop mutations to counter whatever might stop it, and the Gardeners of Our Lady have offered anything in their power to grant, if only someone can put an end to this blasphemous mockery. It roams the Bog of the Canal and the borders of Vint, and so is really more of a Prince's Spit menace.
Bounty- Name your price to the biggest Church-State of the Three Kingdoms!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Blink Dogs

OG Blink Dogs
Somehow these always struck me as gamma world monsters for whatever reason. The sort of critter Samurai Jack would befriend for an episode. Anyway, mechanically speaking they teleport behind you and bite your ankles and flee early making them really hard to pin down if you're antagonistic, but at the same time, there's no particular reason to be on their bad sides right off the bat. They have a decent treasure type and, just like giant beavers, children you can sell for scads of gold on the market. Once again I find myself puzzled at who exactly is obsessively buying up all these talking animal babies in the world implied by the D&D setting, and what they hope to accomplish
i have my suspicions tho
Sunset Realm Blink Dogs
Blink Dogs hail from the isle of Sometimes, a small island off the coast near the city Oroboro that only sometimes exists. Everyone born there and all items created there are similarly intermittent, making, for instance, a sword an amusing curio but not something to rely upon (whenever used or looked for in a backpack, such items have a 50% chance of vanishing for a round instead). Uniquely, dogs of the island grow more humanish in intellect (recall all animals are sapient, just very different psychologically from people) and have an instinctual control over their 'blinking.' In anycase, these Lassie-tier superdogs are trained and sold to people all over the world (and especially to Yuban Jackal-Priests) for exorbitant prices (2500gp, possibly not adjusted for a silver standard) and demand is always kept high because breeding beyond the shores of Sometimes does not guarantee a full inheritance of the desired abilities, and over-exuberant dogs can vanish into the wild and go feral whenever they please due to their abilities, and due to their intelligence, they are likely to do so if not treated with utmost affection.
 

Blink Dogs are illegal in the Whitegreen City of Prince's Spit, as the high temple of Our Lady of Gardens forbids all mutant deviations from the animal forms (and plant forms) carefully domesticated and shaped by Our Lady in ages past. They are also illegal in the cities of Vint-Savoth, as the populace is extremely anxious when it comes to any hint of corruption of beasts from the fallen Blood Moon. When it comes to beast battlers of the Beast Islands, they have a reputation of being 'soft rich boy' fighting animals, bought by rich parents for novice beast battlers who are likely to lose the respect of the dog and have it teleport away from them and choose someone they find worthier (or simply end up joining a pack of island-dwelling dogs.)

Unbeknownst to all but a few sages of Heleologos, the reason behind the isle's disappearance is due to it being drawn into the Mirror Realm. The blink dogs prosper well enough in the dark reflections (though complete darkness or blindess means they cannot see the mirror realm and therefore cannot teleport), and descendants oft return to Sometimes, regressed to feral Blink Wolves, and so the stock of dogs is replenished. Unbeknownst to even those sages is that Blink Dogs enjoy a certain holy awe from regular dogs, who view Blink Dogs as their superheroes and paladins, basically. Blink Dogs will oft be tasked by local dog communities to defeat great evils that not even a whole pack of wild dogs can defeat- Catlords being the main threat, as since they have upset the natural order of the foodchain, the teeth of regular dogs(and heck, most mortal weaponry and spellery) cannot touch them. Besides more 'standard' monsters, the other thing heroic Blink Dogs are tasked with is keeping an eye on the mirror realm, should the Puma-That-Walk(the sunset version of displacer beasts) grow bold and begin peeking out from mirror frames, jaws a-slaver.

even the ontologically vague Void Monk swordmaster Sa of Sometimes cannot reliably strike down a blink dog preferring to blink behind a tree

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Black Pudding

OG Black Pudding
The biggest baddest slime, and one you must kill with fire. Not a big deal if the GM allows for mundane pyrotechnics from torches and burning oil to inflict damage, but without such molotovs, the only hope for many parties would be that 'it avoids fire.' How much fire is not stated, but a feeble line of candles being the only line between the party and death by acid is pretty great, especially if torches and lamp oil will not actually harm the creature, but only ward it off.

A few things of note one might not realize about this iconic slime monster is that, despite the size, it creeps across ceilings and walls as well as floors, making pits only a delaying tactic and it likely just as prone to unusual angles of attack as smaller slimes. They also come in brown, grey, and white variants, which are expanded upon in the MMII, the major differences being
  • Brown Puddings- marsh dwellers, do not eat metal, destroy leather or wood instantly.
  • Dun Puddings- Desert dwellers that are smaller, weaker brown puddings that also eat metal at a reduced rate. Twice as fast as a regular pudding. Can eat silicates.
  • White pudding.-cold-loving, perhaps polar puddings that look like ice and snow and do not affect metals, but hit very hard (7d4) and dissolve animal and vegetable products instantly.
All in all I am not particularly thrilled by these variants. Half the appeal of a black pudding, to me, is the idea of trying to manage a dungeon where you cannot kill it and must instead evade or distract it while continuing exploring. Terrain-appropriate puddings encountered in the wilderness seem a tedious exercise in kiting a (relatively) slow creature around on horseback while the mage flings magical death at it, or for a fighter to get eaten by some 'mud' or 'ice' that they had the gall to investigate while wearing encumbering armor. And once inside a dungeon, some out of place 'mud' or 'ice' might provide a scare a single time, but after that lacks the alien dread that a tide of unstoppable and ravenous black goo has, and instead conveys a sort of palette-swap re-used asset vibe more suited to a RPG videogame than anything.


Sunset Realm Black Pudding
While the realms are full of squirming jelly monsters of boundless variety, a Black Pudding is a form of Darkspawn that arises in the slimy depths of the earth, where it stays, relatively harmless, until it is enraged by light. Like all full on darkspawn, their substance is unknowable and primordial until forced into being something specific by a lightsource that outshines their own darkness. Unfortunately for sunlit beings, this means that upon getting near one, the primordial darkness coalesces into the exact most corrosive acid tailored to destroy whatever it touches. Dark and unknown stone of the underground is unaffected, and when unobserved, a black pudding is not acidic at all, and so their environs are not as melted and scoured clean as one would expect from a proper biological organism. Good for looting subterranean ruins, bad for predicting the appearance of a pudding before it writhes into the torchlight, lapping at your ankles like an orphaned nightmare ocean (miniature midnight-black nightmare oceans are of course, something completely different)

Of course, light is not totally unknown underground, for deep below, Yg-A, the Undersun, churns in his prison of molten rock. Black puddings avoid heat as an instinct to avoid destruction by the 2nd sun, and so unbroken lines of flame can ward them off, though they are simply too great a volume of cold muck to suffer any harm from feeble firebombs or torches, requiring magical conflagrations or actual molten metal to harm them significantly. They will not come within about a hand's span of flame, meaning that they will ooze around held torches to attack shadowy backsides, and lines of candles must have no gaps, lest the slime ooze through.



Friday, August 16, 2019

Beholder

OG Beholder
As a child, I always wondered how the hell any party would ever kill a beholder when you'd be subject to like 1d4 save or pretty much die effects per round. (Child me had relatively little imagination when it came to tactics and strategies). Nowadays I'm actually quite keen on using such a creature as a dragon-alternate. Rather than pinning it down and taking cover as one does with dragons, I imagine fighting a beholder would be like ambushing a tank. You need to make sure the big gun isn't pointed at you, you can't rely on cover more than once on account of disintegration, and you need some manner of dealing with random debuffs. Someone was complaining about all the RNG rolling one has to do in determining what eyeballs are available in what angle of attack round to round but honestly that sounds like half the fun of making this lone 'boss monster' really stand out from other fights.

That said Beholders are popular but I have never used one, so that's all I have to say here.

Sunset Realm Beholder
 I have two takes on the Beholder. The 'default' type is an artificial life form designed by either serpents, or by alves emulating the dread weaponry of the fallen Serpent Empire. Either way, they are grown from the heads of wizards, and as such Beholders tend to resemble huge mutant heads of the source head. Despite the resemblance, however, there are only spell-souls inside the creatures, and they are no different
  1. Serpent Beholder- Scaly and befanged, slit-pupiled and horrid. Able to unhinge the jaw to swallow things whole.
  2. Alf Beholder- Elegantly arched eyestalks, skintones reminiscent of fashionable cosmetics from a thousand years ago, an imperiously sneering nightmare vision of an Alf, beauty and mutation magnified to ten times the size of a regular head.
  3. Ningen Beholder- Massive and piscine, a giant anglerfish with 10 lures and needle teeth, skin black and bioluminescent in spots. These gilled grotesqueries are found in the depths of the sea and are known as 'Eyes of the Deep.'
  4. Great Orb of Eyes- Inspired by the BFRPG's reskinned (and much simplified) version of the beholder, this is just a cluster of huge eyeballs hosting spellwisps, the work of master sorcerers who found the giant head version more disturbing than a bunch of eyeballs.
  5. Moon Eater ( this is the second variety see entry below)


 Their eyeballs host spell-wisps of terrible power, and in the absence of their masters, Beholders idly guard ancient ruins and hoard other spellwisps with which to communicate and breed. Fortunately, this merely results in hybrid spellwisps being bred, and at worst infesting a spell-scroll or something, rather than entire new beholders being spawned. They are colonial beings, a collection of spells piloting a meat-vessel that they are bound to until it is slain, at which point the spellwisps go their separate ways. The wisps are likely sick of hundreds of years of servitude, and it is unlikely that a wizard could learn a spell from a dead beholder's component wisps, though an intact eye-stalk might be good for just one more spell.

Beholder Spellwisp-Eyes
  1. Alvish Bewitchment- As Charm Person. Rather than simple light-bending illusion, this spell creates hallucinations within the brain of an individual that allows perception to be utterly controlled. As with all mental effects, the soul itself cannot be controlled, only convinced or coerced, but the perceptions of a living body can be fooled, and the soul with it. The illusions are tailored to things with humanish psychology and are ineffective against beasts, and undead see with their souls rather than their body and are similarly immune.
  2. Alvish Override- As Charm Monster. Many monsters (and people) were artificially created by tinkering with the artificial 3rd Sun, the Alf Star, the Sorcerer's Sun, and have failsafe codes, instincts of obedience wired into their blood. This spellwisp essentially just runs through a list of access codes, attempting to brute force guess the password that will hack the physical wetware of the brain, leaving the soul to curse impotently within a rebellious body. Making one saving throw is no guarantee that a being has no genetic curse-coding lurking within- it merely means the litany of codes did not include the correct code in time before the spellwisp grew tired of guessing.
  3. Sleep-  In the event no subtler control can be gained, mortal brains can oft be disabled and forced into rest mode by even weak spellwisps. Souls of sufficient willpower can rouse their bodies from this false slumber with no effort at all, of course. Elvish beholders utilize Slumber, a variant that has no HD restriction, but is single-target.
  4. Telekinesis, 250 pounds. While heavily armored warriors are too heavy to be moved by the spellwisp that effects this telekinesis, people of slighter build and smaller packs can be moved into peril with no saving throw (though acceleration to high speeds takes a great deal of time). Large rocks may be lifted as deadfalls as well, and the utility of this eye, once used for simple manual labor, should not be understated
  5. Petrification Ray- A short range (7 feet) basilisk soul ray, spellwispified (see basilisks for details there). The limited range is a failsafe to prevent the Beholder from petrifying itself by shooting a mirror.
  6. Disintegrate Ray- perhaps the ultimate weapon of a beholder, this highly destructive beam of negative sunlight, kept barely in check by a specialized spellwisp from the mirror realm, undoes the elemental covenant, blasting matter into shadow and nothingness. It has a range of merely 5 feet, so even a spear is sufficient to stay out of danger.
  7. Fear- A bit of a gimmick, this spellwisp merely tickles the adrenal glands, triggering a fight-or-flight response from most living beings. One might wonder why, when Charm effects are available, such an effect would be included, but the answer is simple. Alves sometimes wished to be free of the presence of people they disliked, but could not kill them without risking a faux pas. Charm effects are useless when attempting to get someone to leave you alone, and so this effect was included in beholders to smooth over social incompatibility.
  8. Slow- As Beholders are not particularly fast, this decently-ranged effect allows them to close to melee range and utilize their more powerful effects, preferably on targets who are already Feared.
  9. Heretic's Lance- As Cause Serious Wounds. this spellwisp is typically a imp or cherub in service to some forgotten and spiteful god (Isfrix the Demon Lord of Hate, probably). With a range of 12 feet, this effect, along with the Death Ray, is used against targets who prove resilient to the Death Ray and refuse to come within range of the other rays.
  10. Death Ray- With a range of 10 feet, the spell wisp used for this effect is classically a rogue psychopomp, empowered to pluck souls from their bodies. The effects are all-or nothing and, against many targets, the Heretic's Lance is actually the more reliable option.
  11. Spellwisp Suppression- as anti-magic cone. While most spellwisps are composed of light or shadow, the central eye of the beholder contains a mote of Darkness. Spellwisps that it regards immediately flee from this realm of existence, fearful  of obliteration, and as such, spells cast in the direction of the eye fail, magic items cease their functioning, and a jolly good defense is had by the beholder. The beholders own wisps are not exempt, and while the central eye is open, the beholder may not fire spell-rays in that direction
There is another creature similar in function, though metaphysically alien.

Moon Eaters
These tentacled creatures that inspired the creation of Beholders are among the boldest of darkspawn known, for they nibble on the eldritch moons that bedevil the moonlands, and carry around chunks of moon-stuff that still glow with the effects of the light of the moon, feeding upon the stolen light. Once equipped to their satisfaction with moon-stuff, they may descend from the high places of howling darkness between the stars to try their luck at stealing sunlight. Not from the sun itself, of course, oh no, they would not dare... but the sunspawned mortal races and their magical baubles are irresistable to Moon Eaters.

A Moon Eater is a squiggly spheroid mass of midnight black, ontologically vague tentacles that clutch glowing moon-fragments and other baubles. They are devoid of set features, possessing an amorphous form, and do not have a predictable set of effects, as they simply brandish moonstones, stolen fairies, spell-wisps half-trapped in magical scrolls or items and pressed into servitude, haunted skulls, etc etc... an example mirroring Beholders is shown below, but there are endless possibilities of spell and moon combos.
  1. Nightmare Anchor- A tormented human soul trapped in a nightmare of its own making, calling out for assistance, and trapping those who heed its call. Those drawn into the nightmare leave their bodies uninhabited and watched over only by the shadow, which is naturally more inclined to listen to the Moon Eater's Darkspawn will than the light-souled human friends of the absent soul. unless they can save the trapped soul and return.
  2. Animal Dream- An idyllic dream-afterlife of prey animals, channeled through the skull of a longdead animal. Other prey animals may be tempted to enter the paradise, and predators too, though for different reasons. As with the Nightmare Anchor, once the body is vacated in favor of another realm, it is ruled by the shadow and prone to allying with Darkspawn immediately.
  3. Captured Slumbermaid- A fairified spellwisp of a sleep spell, pinned inside a dark tube-tentacle and squeezed to encourage cooperation with the Moon Eater's wishes. The fairy would rebel even under pain of death if an Alf was being threatened, but so long as the Moon Eater preys on humans, the relationship is more symbiotic than you might initially assume.
  4. Gravity Elemental- A form of earth elemental found at the very edge of the deep darkness of the earth, now corrupted to serve the Moon Eater instead of the laws of the world. As it is a very small elemental, it may only change the subjective gravity of objects of up to a large man's weight.
  5. Winter Moon Chunk- Those exposed to the narrow beam of light freeze solid (save to dodge). Nearly any amount of liquid can be frozen. Thawing out frozen people is dangerous unless a warm bath of holy sun-warmed water is used.
  6. Slurping Tentacle- as the Moon Eater is a darkspawn, anything it devours (and it can devour anything) will have the light and law leeched from it until nothing but inchoate matter (and presumably a wailing spirit) remains.
  7. Fear- Honestly, the writhing of a darkspawn is naturally fearsome to any sunlit mortal beings, and a tentacle that lunges at peoples faces, unfolds like a tooth-filled umbrella, and screeches like a dying trumpet is enough to spook most things away.
  8. Air Rebellion- One tentacle whispers like a mouth rather than clinging to a chunk of magic rock. The air listens and becomes like cold gelatin, slowing movement around an unfortunate being. Air, Earth, and Water- all are more similar than you might think when nostalgic for their primordial form of undifferentiated dark matter.
  9. Dark Jab- As Cause Serious Wounds. It looks like a simple jab of black tentacle impaling the target, but darkspawn have no set composition. It can harm anything, because the tentacle is potentially everything harmful all at once.
  10. Soul Yank- While the Dark Jab affects the material, a Darkspawn is not exactly a physical being, and can drag a soul from a body with no more fuss than you might pull someone out of a sweater.
  11. Eclipsing Regard- identical to the dark-spellwisp beholders have, smaller beings of light cannot stand before a being of such deep shadow, and the eyeless 'gaze' eclipses the small sunlit laws spellwisps bring with them in favor of the quiet stillness of the dark. Stronger lights like souls and moons and suns cannot be eclipsed.