Monday, September 27, 2021

Scavenging NPC Mechs in Lancer

So I finished my Lancer campaign, the Onus of Lore, and figured I should make some of the notes available to others, namely a solution I often used when players mechs blew up and they needed to Power at a Cost for a new one. Lancer is a fun system for crunchy tactical combat, but I need a break after all the rules discussion and will be returning to simpler systems for the next campaign.

I like the idea of bolting alternate weapons and systems from downed enemies onto your own mech in Lancer when a proper rebuild of your own mech is unavailable, as well as the idea of hijacking enemy mecha mid-combat or just repairing a broken one. Over the course of my lancer campaign it didn't happen often, but it made for a good Power at a Cost option and gave pilots something to strive for if their mech died early but they didn't want to die trying to Jockey.

The basic rule for hijacking is that, while Jockeying, if you'd remove the last Structure or Stress from a mech you can instead breach the cockpit and kill/force to surrender/throw out onto the ground/forcibly Eject the pilot and get in yourself, though you don't have any actions until next turn. Driving an NPC mech in the moment is handled by just using the NPC stats and rules, then it is rebuilt with player-side equivalent rules if the mech is kept for the next scene. Alternately, if the hijacking takes place early in a mission it could be worthwhile converting the mech on the spot. In any case, players still only get 1 turn per round, even if they hijacked an Elite or Ultra. You may also hijack downed enemy mechs mid battle, in which case you have to make a risky and perhaps difficult skill check to deal with the pilot and boot up the mech as a combination Mount/Skill Check action.

To allow a player whose mech was destroyed to continue on missions, they may repair a broken mecha into the appropriate operational chassis with all the appropriate things from the NPC installed (limited to SP and weapon mounts), or run it as a player-controlled NPC, depending. Grunt chassis are sually downed due to pilot incompetence and can be repaired successfully (though if the gm rules they're physically crap too nevermind) and the fine-tuned power of an Elite or Ultra is lost upon repair and an unfamiliar pilot. Repaired NPC mechs do not have Core Battery systems available for use, as they were presumably damaged or expended in the fight., but are otherwise in decent condition apart from any destroyed weapons and systems, and probably not having any repairs remaining. Having them have limited stress and structure is usually too much a Cost to be worth it for a Power at a Cost repair- the downside is their setup probably doesn't match the players skillset exactly.

The impaired/slowed penalty for using off-license equipment should also be waived, as that's another cost too hefty for any player to have fun with I think, but could be added in if a game is trying to be very punishing about having ones mech destroyed.


Formatting is
Original Weapon or System/Reskin Name (if applicable)-Player System Used-License

Some systems are better suited to be simulated with Talents (or are too unique) rather than Systems and so have no equivalent, and some are replaced by systems that fit a similar function rather than being an accurate representation of the NPC system.

ACE
Chassis- NELSON
Any- Flicker Field Generator
Any- GMS Flight System
Missile Launcher, Bombing Bay, Missile Swarm- Unexploded Ordnance-Missile Racks OR Hex Charges- GMS
Chaff Launchers-Pattern A Smoke Charges-GMS
Flight System-Strap-On Jet Engine- Rapid Response Jump Jets OR Type III Flight System if Chassis repair.- GMS



AEGIS
Chassis- SALADIN
Light Laser Rifle- Sol-Pattern Laser Rifle- Sherman 1
Defense Net- Enclave Pattern Support Shield- Saladin 1
Ring of Fire- Swarm Body - Balor 2
Adaptive Shielding- Aegis shield Generator- Drake 2
Guardian- Argonaut Shield-Drake 1
HA Blackwall System- Stasis Barrier- Napoleon 2
Hardlight Cover System- Hardlight Defense System- Saladin 2



ASSASSIN
Chassis- MOURNING CLOAK
Heated Blade- Variable Sword- Mourning Cloak 3
Devil's Cough Shotgun- Bolt Thrower- Raleigh 2
Kai Bioplating/Leap- Rapid Response Jump Jets GMS
Cloud Projector- Flash Charges OR Smoke Charges- Metalmark 1 OR GMS
Explosive Knives- Shock Knife modified with Shock Wreathe- Metalmark 3
Sap- Smite- Manticore II



ASSAULT
Chassis- PEGASUS
Heavy Assault Rifle -Assault Rifle- GMS. Tier II and III assaults may have the Heavy Machine Gun.
Combat Knife= Tactical Knife. Tier II and III may yield the Tactical Melee or Heavy Tactical Melee. GMS
Underslung Grenade Launcher- Missile Racks. GMS. Tier II and II may yield the RPG.
Micromissile Barrage- Thermal Lance
High Impact Rounds- Cyclone Pulse Rifle- GMS.
Auto-Targeting- Kinetic Compensator- Death's Head 3

ARCHER- Not the same without Heavy Gunner. Just prepare skirmishes and pretend....
Chassis- TORTUGA, Core Battery Available
Light Machine Gun- Assault Rifle/Assault Cannon/Heavy Machine Gun-GMS or Drake 1



BARRICADE
Chassis- BLACK WITCH (Size 2)
Mobile Printer-Pattern A Deployable Cover-GMS. Alternately, the Total Strength Suite I from Zheng I
Bulwark Mods-Bulwark Mods- Nelson 1
Graviton Lance/Hunger-Pursuit Limpets- Whitewash Sealant Spray- Lancaster 2
Tier II-III Lances may yield Magnetic Cannon (Black Witch) Gravity Gun (Saladin) or Slag Cannon (Kobold 2)
Titan-Snare-Drone- Webjaw Snare- Vlad 1
Tear Down- Viral Logic Suite (Banish)- Minotaur 1
Seismic Repulsor- Repulsor Field- Iskander 2


BASTION
Chassis- DRAKE
Rotary Grenade Launcher- Missile Racks, RPG at Tier II and III. GMS.
Heavy Assault Shield- Power Knuckles, Nelson 3.
Friendly Interdiction- Argonaut Shield- Drake 1
Fearless Defender- Mimic Mesh- Gorgon 1
Near-Threat Denial System- Monitor Module Gorgon 2
Pause Engine- Stasis Generator- Napoleon 1



BERSERKER
Chassis- VLAD
Chain Axe- Chain Axe- Blackbeard 1
Avalanche Charge/Juggernaut/Harpoon Cannon- Reinforced Cabling- Blackbeard 3
Nail Gun- Impaler Nail Gun- Vlad 2
Aggression- SEKHMET class NHP- Blackbeard 3
Superhot/Retribution: Lightning Generator OR Explosive vents- Manticore 3 or Genghis 1
Stampede Defense- Flicker Field OR Hyperdense Armor- Dusk Wing 2/Tortuga 3


BOMBARD
Chassis- ISKANDER
Bombard Cannon- Howitzer- GMS
High-Impact Shells- Siege Cannon- Barbarossa 3
Siege Armor- Hyperdense Armor- Tortuga 3
Flare Drone- Lotus Projector- Swallowtail 1
Repeater Cannon- Concussion Missiles- Drake 2


BREACHER
Chassis- EVEREST
Dual Shotguns- Deck-Sweeper Auto-Shotgun or Shotgun- Tortuga 1 OR GMS
Thermal Charge=BB Breach Charge or Havok Charge- Raleigh 1 or Genghis 2
Breach/Superior Ram- Siege Ram- Tortuga 1
Flechette Shot- Catalyst Pistol- Manticore 1
Follower Count- Reinforced Cabling
Break Armor- Chain Axe, Blackbeard I


CATAPHRACT
Chassis- BLACKBEARD
Impale- Synthetic Muscle Netting- Blackbeard 2
Electrified Lasso, Impale- Reinforced Cabling, Blackbeard 3
Lance Shot- Hor_0S system upgrade 1
Capacitator Discharge- Manticore Chassis
Electrified Bola- Flak Launcher- Barbarossa


DEMOLISHER
Chassis-DRAKE
Demolition Hammer- Catalytic Hammer- Tortuga 2
Concussion Missiles-Concussion Missiles- Drake 2
Seismic Destroyer- EMP Pulse- Manticore 3
Sap- Smite- Manticore 2


ENGINEER
Chassis HYDRA
Deploy Turret- Turret Drones and/or Ghast Nexus- GMS and/or Hydra 2.
Flak Cannon- Burst Launcher- Dusk Wing 2
Mobile Turrets- Puppetmaster- Hydra 1
Arsenal- Ghoul Nexus- Hydra 1
Any- Assassin Drone- Hydra 3
Any- Sentinel Drone- Gorgon 1


GOLIATH-
Chassis BARBAROSSA
Any-Hyper Dense Armor- Tortuga 3
Drum Shotgun- GMS Shotgun
Crush Targeting- Neurospike- Dusk Wing 3
Power Knuckle- Power Knuckles- Nelson 3
Watchful Guardian- Argonaut Shield- Drake 1



HIVE-
Chassis BALOR
Hunter-Killer Nexus- Swarm/Hive Nanites- Balor 3
Drone Barrage/Driving Swarm- Ferrous Lash- Black Witch 1
Razor Swarms- Hive Drone- Balor 1
Electro-Nanite Cloud- Swarm Body- Balor 2



HORNET
Chassis- DUSK WING
Any- EVA Module
Stinger Pistol- Burst Launcher- Dusk Wing 2
Impale Systems- Eject Power Cores, Goblin 1
Umbral Interdiction- Stasis Bolt- Napoleon 1
Supersonic- Ramjets- Nelson 3
Lock/Hold Javelins-Charged Stake- Vlad 3
Hex Missiles- Excommunicate- Minotaur 2


MIRAGE
Chassis- SWALLOWTAIL
Warp Sensors/Illusory Subroutines- Neurospike:Mirage- Dusk Wing I
Dataveil- Active Camo- Metalmark 3
Glitch Scanners/Blip- Metafold Carver-Minotaur 2
Metafold Shove- Beckoner- Manticore 1
Manifest False Idols-HorOS Sys Upgrade II- Goblin 2
Multiplicity- Swallowtail Core Battery


OPERATOR- Typically these explode and are not valid for salvage but u never know
Chassis MANTICORE- CASTIGATE ACTIVE or MOURNING CLOAK
Any- External Batteries- Tokugawa 2
Any- Singularity Motivator- Mourning Cloak 2
Raptor Plasma Rifle- Shatterhead Colony Missiles- Saladin 1
Fade Generator- Active Camo- Metalmark 3
Fortress- Black ICE module- Black Witch 3
Nova Missiles- Missile Racks w/ Nanocomp Mods- GMS/Balor 3
Telefrag- EMP Pulse- Manticore 3


PRIEST
Chassis- LANCASTER with CORE BATTERY ACTIVE
Any- Cable Winch System
Abjure- Neurospike- Dusk Wing 1
Dispersal Shield/Greater Investiture- Enclave Pattern Support Shield
Fortress- Black ICE Module- Black Witch 3
Sanctuary- Ideal Image- Goblin 2
Fractal Assault-//SCORPION V70.1-Gorgon 2


PYRO
Chassis- GENGHIS
Flamethrower-Krakatoa Thermobaric Flamethrower-Genghis 1
Explosive Vent-Explosive vents- Genghis 1
Firebreak Shield-Oasis Wall- Dusk Wing 3
Siege Armor- Hyperdense Armor- Tortuga 3
Napalm Bomb- Havok Charges- Genghis 2
Explosive Jet- Jump Jets+AGNI NHP- GMS/Genghis 3



RAINMAKER
Chassis- MONARCH
Any- Siege Stabilizers (Barbarossa 1)
Missile Pods- Sharanga Missiles- Monarch 1
Javelin Rockets- Javelin Rockets- Monarch 1
Atlas/Hound/Hades Missile- Pinaka Missiles- Monarch 3
Volley- Core Battery Active


RONIN
Chassis-TOKUGAWA
Monowire Sword-Variable Sword- Mourning Cloak 3
Rebound- Noah-class NHP- Saladin 3
Charged Slash- Bristlecrown Flechette Launchers- Blackbeard 2
Chaff Launchers- Flicker Field Generator- Dusk Wing 2
Instinct.exe- Scylla-class NHP-Gorgon 3
Echo Edge- The burn from Tokugawa traits
Extended Blade- Nanocarbon Sword- Blackbeard 2



SCOURER
Chassis-SHERMAN, TOKUGAWA, or MANTICORE
Thermal Lance- Thermal Rifle- GMS
Focus Down- TOKUGAWA Chassis
Ablative Shielding- MANTICORE Chassis
Cooling Module- Autocooler- Genghis 2
Super Charged- Best thing I can imagine is Centimane and a Integrated Light Nexus
Emergency Vent- Agni class NHP, Genghis 3
Pulse Laser- Thermal Lance- GMS
Flash Lens- Stuncrown- Dusk Wing 3


SCOUT
Chassis-SWALLOWTAIL
Marker Rifle- Black Spot Kidd 1
Sight- Eye of Horus Pegasus 2
Rebound Scan- Athena-class NHP -Swallowtail 3
Cloaking Field- LB/OC Cloaking Field- Swallowtail 3
Dataveil/System Flayer- Neurospike- Dusk WIng 1
Orbital Strike - HEX charges - GMS


SEEDER
Chassis- TORTUGA
Grav Grenade Launcher- Gravity Gun -Iskander 3
Assorted Mine
Webjaw Snare- Vlad 1
Mesmer Charges-Minotaur 1
HEX charges- GMS
Grounding Charges- Iskander 1
“Roller” Directed Payload Charges- Barbarossa 1


SENTINEL
Chassis- GORGON
Any- Vorpal Gun - Gorgon 3
Any- Monitor Module (Gorgon 2) or Scylla-Class NHP (Gorgon 3)
Combat Shotgun- Decksweeper autoshotgun, or regular GMS Shotgun- Tortuga 1/GMS
Retractable Sword- Tactical Melee Weapon- GMS
Rapid Response- Mimic Mesh- Gorgon 1
Impaler- Nailgun- Vlad 2
Wrath Lock- Hunter Lock- Pegasus 2


SNIPER
Chassis-DEATH'S HEAD (Core Active)
Anti-Material Rifle- Sniper Rifle-GMS
Any- High-Stress Mag Clamps Death's Head 1
Any- Roland Chamber Raleigh 3
Any- Core Siphon- Death's Head 2
Defensive Grapple- Reinforced Cabling- Blackbeard 3
Shroud Charge- Smoke Grenades-GMS
Deadmetal Rounds- Railgun- Death's Head 3


SPECTER
Chassis- MOURNING CLOAK
Any- Active Camo- Metalmark 3
Any- Fade Cloak- Mourning Cloak 3
Monowire Sword- Variable Sword- Mourning Cloak 3
Fortress- Black Ice Module- Black Witch 3
Step- Core Battery Active
Machine Pistols- GMS Pistols- GMS
Weakness Analyzer- Hunter Lock- Pegasus 2


SUPPORT-
Lancaster
Sealant Gun- Whitewash Sealant Spray-Lancaster 2
Restock Drone- Aceso Stabilizer- Lancaster 3
Remote Reboot- PEBCAC- Kidd
Latch Drone- Core Active
Empowered Cloud/Defensive Pulse- Redundant Systems Upgrade- Sherman 2
Remote Cloud- GMS Smoke Charges- GMS


WITCH-
Chassis-GOBLIN
Tear Down- Sear-Manticore 2
Blind- Neurospike- Dusk Wing 1
Predatory Logic- Law of Blades, Minotaur 3
Blur- Flicker Field- Dusk Wing 2
Chain- Celestial Shackles- Goblin 3
Petrify- Chassis MINOTAUR
Pain Transference- Eject Power Cores, Goblin 1


SQUAD- Salvageable for Pilot Weapons


MONSTROSITY- Most features are too biological for use, but others...
Claws- Heavy Tactical Melee, GMS
Corrosive Bite/Acid Spittle- Acid Sac- as HEX Charges, GMS
Spined- Throwing Spines- Tactical Knife, GMS
Tempered Hide- Argonaut Shield, Drake
Chameleon-Camo Hide-Retractable Profile/Swallowtail

There are assorted weapons and systems to be found in the 'templates' as well, though whether or not they should really be salvageable is debatable, as many simulate talents of the pilot. Some very obvious things like 'flight systems are flight systems' were left out.

COMMANDER
Voice of Authority- Sisyphus Class NHP- Pegasus 3
Bolster Network- Black Ice Module- Black Witch 3
Press the Attack- Autopod, Goblin 1
Quick March- Puppet Systems, Goblin 1


MERCENARY
Last Word- Reactive Weave- Metalmark 1
Scout Drone- Lotus Projector- Swallowtail 1
Favors Owed- Howitzer- GMS

PIRATE
Chassis Change- Blackbeard with Sekhmet Class NHP if possible
OR
Chassis Change- Minotaur with Core Active
OR
Chassis Change- Tokugawa


(Depending on if it has melee and cockpit ripping capabilities, coreworms/slaver signal, or is just a ranged attacker focusing on deadly and splinter rounds respectively)

SPACER
Gravity Rifle- Mag Cannon- Black Witch 1
Concussion Gun/Thumper Grenades- Repulsor Field- Iskander 2
Sealant Trap- Webjaw Snare


ULTRA
Hover Propulsion- GMS Flight Systems, or Chassis Swap to Dusk Wing
Repulsion Field- Lightning Generator- Manticore 3
Siege Shield- Hyperdense Armor- Tortuga 3
Silver Shielding- Active Camo- Metalmark 3 or Chassis Swap to Metalmark, Core Active
Short Cycle Lance- Railgun- Death's Head 3
Volley Module- Asura-Class NHP- Sherman 3
Wolfhound Missile- Pinaka Missiles- Monarch 3
Devastator- Chassis Swap to Monarch
Fortress- Black Ice Module-Black Witch 3
Lead the Charge- Mimic Mesh- Gorgon 1
Limitless- Redundant System Upgrades- Sherman 2
Sight- Eye of Horus- Pegasus 2
Superior Targeting- Nanocomp Mod, Balor 2
Supreme Melee- Sekhmet-Class NHP Blackbeard 3
Unstoppable- Armor-Lock Plating- Nelson 2
Hellfire Projector- Krakatoa Thermobaric Flamethrower- Genghis 1

VETERAN
Acrobat- Ramjets- Nelson 3
Hacker- Sear, Manticore 2
NHP Co-Pilot- Comp/con Unit- GMS

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Mundane Security in a Magical Land

Something I experienced in D&D games where the players had access to spells of higher potency than the usual low level adventuring fare was that our understanding of defenses comes from a non-magical world, and as such, most locales are woefully underprepared for magical assault and infiltration.

This can work in settings that are generally low magic, where hostile wizards and monsters are freak accidents akin to a natural disaster. But in the highly fantastical worlds most games take place in, one has to wonder why the world is not ruled by sorcerers by now, and then further ask why countermeasures against said sorcerers have not been developed.

The answer D&D mostly came to seems to have been a 'magical arms race.' There are scrying spells, so there are anti-scrying spells. Personally I do not much care for this- it smacks of childhood playground roleplay where one insouciant youth declares they have a force field, another declares they have a force field breaker, the first responds they have a force field breaker proof force field, and so on until the recess bell sounds. Looking at the statblocks of high level characters, it also leads to a sort of tiresome 'checklist' of necessary defenses against increasingly esoteric means of attack- anyone who's anyone has to have freedom of movement and contingency spells and a ring of spell turning and I'm not here for it.
But what of the common humanoid, who does not have access to so much as a 1st level Magic-User, who nonetheless wishes to defend themselves against vicious wizards? These are the concerns and defenses and protocols that should be as commonsense as locks and walls in a world with magic, though not all locations would have the funding for all of these countermeasures.


THREATS AND POTENTIAL COUNTERMEASURES

In general- casting spells is VERY illegal outside of trusted individuals performing societally-approved functions.
Are you casting Cure Light Wounds on the wounded mayor, or Charm Person? Comprehend Languages to understand the foreign king, or Fireball to assassinate him? Throwing rocks, knives, ale goblets, and so on to disrupt anyone mumbling gibberish to disrupt potential curses would save many a village from wicked sorcerers, wall guards are probably allowed to shoot first and ask questions later if they see some gesticulating occultist, and anyone attempting to cast a spell unprompted in the presence of someone with enough authority to have bodyguards should expect to be clubbed and tackled, bound and gagged at best, and shot dead by arrows, javelins, shuriken, etc at worst.

Sanctioned wizardry would come from court-sorcerers who must go through a lengthy training and background-check process, battlemages who are part of an established military, and magically-engaged tradesfolk whose services are well known and have established trust, like appraisers, translators, educators at a wizard college, alchemists, etc etc. In few circumstances would foreigners, strangers, or vagabond adventurers be allowed to cast magic willy nilly. Wishing to practice sorcery would likely require applying for a permit of sorts, and any actual spellcasting would be overseen by two squads of burly fellows with instructions to bash the wizards brains out if anything untoward occurs- one squad being immediately present, the other waiting some distance away. There would likely be an alarm system for 'magic threat' in the form of drums, horns or bells, with codes to provide basic information throughout a fortress quickly, allowing word of shapeshifters, mind influencers, fliers, invisible foes, etc to be warned against.

This immediately makes it clear why wizards may wish to build their towers and dungeons far from society- it is the only way they can practice their craft in peace. Of course, going 'rogue' makes one an appealing target to other 'rogue' wizards, so defenses against spells are necessary be they a dungeon or a lord's castle.

Charm Person
Perhaps the most problematic spell for security, the simplest solution is probably to have all employees act in groups of two or more, without exception.Very high security positions would also likely quarantine any new hires for at least a month to allow any arcane influence to wear off. There would also be established protocols to enact if you believed someone was under bewitchment, the rigor and effectiveness varying greatly by circumstance. 'Charm checks' would likely be de-escalatory and delaying in nature rather than going straight to tackling and binding people acting suspicious- an invitation to sit down and talk and explain what they're doing, possibly calling in more people to judge, all the while searching for lurking sorcerers.

Guard dogs may also serve as security against this specific spell to some degree, both for places and peoples, and other types of guardian beasts provide even better insurance, though at some point the logistics of exotic and monstrous guardians may outweigh the benefits.

In terms of information security, this spell is a disaster, but it could be mitigated somewhat by keeping much information on a 'need to know' basis, and instilling values of secrecy where you do not tell details of an operation to anyone- not friends, not family, certainly not minions.

Depending on where the spell's description is from, "Protection From Evil" may prevent or suppress charm effects. If so, any churches should be able to schedule 'charm checks' within a 24 hour period. Though this is part of the 'magical arms race' I mentioned, such check-ups should be common in populated areas with organized religion as any cleric could pull it off.

Sleep
While groups of 2+ work well against Charm Person, to have good odds of at least one individual not falling asleep, the group must be of 4+ size, and to prevent those who resist from being taken out by opposing forces before they can wake their fellows, sizes of 12+ are likely required, which quickly requires unmanageable masses of personnel. The best solution is likely to have small squads of guards on mobile patrols and frequent check-ins rather than long, static positions. That way, if one person evades sleep, they can sound an alarm horn and expect hasty reinforcements, and if a small group of 2-3 is taken out, their absence will quickly be noticed. Passwords would help prevent the issue of Slept targets having their gear stripped and used as a disguise, though none of these are sleep-specific countermeasures so much as general security against guards being taken out.

But that's for a fortress with funding and troops- is there no way for, say, a small shop owner to prevent being robbed by a sleep-casting thief? One method to counter sleep would be an unpopular one- clothing or armor could be crafted such that, upon slumping or otherwise falling prone, a nail would stab the so afflicted, waking them. This method would be used only by those with serious personal investment or professionalism rather than the average hired guard, as those unwilling to risk accidental wounding would likely modify the clothing to reposition the digging nails, but circumstance where attack by enemy wizards could be expected (in a war zone, for instance) this sort of gear might be worn in appropriate circumstances of sentry duty (nail-suits being unsuited for actual fighting).


Magic Missile
Though not all too different from a crossbow in many circumstances, this spell would be of considerable concern for assassinating troop commanders and other VIPS through normal methods of defense like armor, horseback, heavy cover, etc. While it has a magical countermeasure in Shield, the mundane countermeasure would be decoys, bodyguards who are also body doubles, equipped in similar gear. Ornate masks and full helms that declare ones identity would be popular for this reason, and if lined with lead, this works well against ESP as well.


Light/Darkness
Though the short duration of these spells makes them not too concerning save for, perhaps, causing a focus on training to fight and operate blind from mage-hunters and elite forces, the Continual Light would change campaign settings considerably. Temples would likely be illuminated by continual light, as would the homes of kings and the like, and perhaps even the streets of cities or popular roads. Continual Light lanterns(or glowing swords) would almost certainly exist in abundance, as someone knowing the spell has little reason not to create at least one daily. Rather than a defensive concern, this is an infiltration concern, as there may be no way to approach a locale under cover of night or shadow if there are arbitrary amounts of 'Continual lights' keeping the grounds forever well-lit.

ESP
Infosec's worst nightmare, this spell actually has a mundane countermeasure in that a 'thin sheet of lead' will block it (and other scrying spells). As such, any structure with secrets should have lead embedded in thinner walls, and individuals such as guards, clerks, and so on who may have handy information should be clad in lead-mesh cowls/hats or lead-lined helmets. If operating costs are an issue, simply keeping things secret from ones own organization lowers the chance that an ESP-caster will gain access to someone with sensitive information. All manner of espionage tradecraft from real life will also be useful here- dead drops, coded messages, false information, agent handling, etc etc. Some of my players came up with the idea of using ignorant messengers to relay information they did not know of to break up ESP security and play double agent during a civil war.

One might be tempted to remove ESP from a game due to its ability to flatline an investigation, but having it available does allow one to sidestep boundary-transgressing torture/interrogation scenes that commonly may occur in groups. Also, it may keep nobles and other authority figures from becoming corrupt, or, in the event of corruption, they may disallow evidence obtained in that way from counting as proof, so the effects on a game are far from society-shattering, even if players may lean on it as a handy crutch.

Knock
A fairly comprehensive spell of opening, it has one notable weakness in that it will not open portculli. As such, having small but heavy interior portculli suddenly is not merely bizarre dungeon whimsy, but a legitimate defense against certain spells... though a rather expensive one, and one that can be foiled by Charming the portcullis operators. I wonder if dungeon portculli were introduced after knock as a knock-proof obstacle...
The existence of Knock also may explain secret passages somewhat- while a secret door may spring wide from a knock, an open passage behind a piano or whatever remains concealed. 

Spider Climb/Levitate/Flight
While largely not too different from the fear of climbers, this allows for access to basically any window, so height and difficulty of scaling a climb alone cannot be considered proper deterrents. Windows should be either arrowslits, or of metal bars to disallow entry or exit without relying on locks, on account of knock. Curtains or wooden shutters can block line of sight as well. Caltrop-like spikes, grease, or other hazards could line certain areas as well to discourage landing and setting forth a rope line to bring others up, and blind spots with regards to the sky and rooftops should be avoided. If nothing else, 'sky watchers' with bells to alert a stronghold of aerial infiltration should be employed in positions that more standard guards might find tiresome- a 'crow's nest' could be cheaply constructed, or belltowers, watchtowers, etc could serve this purpose.

A common concern is also the issue of locating invisible fliers, but apart from perhaps lighting fires and firing at disturbances in smoke, or perhaps keen-eared and nosed hounds put on sky watcher duty, I think it easier to prevent these fliers access rather than hope to deny them all nearby airspace, and hope they do not have bombing capabilities of breaching a location.

Locate Object
As mentioned in ESP, interior walls where secrets are to be kept should be lead-lined, and the same applies to keeping objects of value safe in lead-lined chests and coffers. Coffins may be commonly lead-lined as well.

Invisibility
Closed doors, doors that have bells to ring when opened, and guards trained to look for footprints, throw dirt or liquids, swing spears or ropes in wide arcs, and the ever-useful keen-eared and nosed guard dog will do much to limit the use of Invisibility. However, it becomes complicated when combined with other spells, especially those which allow the spellcaster to avoid contact with the ground like Spider Climb, Levitate, Flight, Silence etc. This allows casters to get close and perhaps get a spell off without interference. Exploiting the wizards self-preservation instincts with the threat of being caught in anti-aerial crossfire is hopefully deterrent force enough if the presence of sky-watching archers is obvious.

Clairaudience/Clairvoyance/Wizard Eye
A difficult spell to counter, as lead sheets do not block it, the best mundane methods I can think of would be to conduct sensitive meetings in secret code or obscure language, as well as to keep records written in ciphers, and of course, to change and update these codes and languages with enough frequency so that if the code is broken, the vulnerability will be temporary. Changing meeting locations would also help dodge such scrying attempts.

Speak with Animals
A rare but easily overlooked vulnerability could be the guard dogs, farm animals, and local wildlife around a location. The best defense is probably treating those animals very well, but this may not always be possible- for example, spikes on roofs and windowsills would upset birds, but may help keep away fouler fliers. Removing animals entirely may be possible depending on location, though this will in turn likely upset wild animals at being denied an environment and make them more likely to help intruders who encounter them nearby.

Fireball/Lightning Bolt/Arson
Soggy mats of vegetable matter or hides are sometimes draped over wooden walls to prevent arson via flaming arrows and the like, but this is not always feasible. Pots/Sacks/Buckets of sand and earth could be kept around to help extinguish fires before they get out of hand (and can help find Invisible targets in a pinch). Of course, the main defense is not using wood as a structural material, relying on stone instead, though this is a much higher cost of construction.

While less structurally menacing than Fireball, Lightning Bolt can smash through weak walls and devastate hallway defenses. Tricking a wizard into shooting a stone wall through a well-placed tapestry might kill them with a reflected bolt, but shortening lines of fire will also reduce the efficiency of ranged weapons. Having twisting corridors may be beneficial if guards are primarily melee combatants, though this defensive measure makes infiltration easier without clear lines of sight.

Protection from Normal Missiles-
Missile weapons are one of the best ways to interrupt wizard nonsense, so this spell is very relevant for siege-wizards. At close distances it could be foiled by molotovs, as it is the ensuing pool of flame that causes damage, not the thrown flask of oil or alcohol, but at longer distances, without magic, only siege weapons can pierce this defense. Providing such engines with anti-personnel shot like baskets of spiked balls may allow for more accurate blasting of wizards, though this is more of a measure to add to pre-existing siege engines, not a reason to buy them as a specific counter.

This spell may not work against specific projectiles depending on GM interpretation-odd ranged attacks like nets or bolas, boomerangs or blowpipes, or perhaps firearms, or attacks made such that gravity propels them like dropped rocks, may be able to bypass it.

Water Breathing
Castles with streams, local wells, etc etc should have grates that allow water through, but little else, and moats or other watery barriers should not be written off as inaccessible means of approach. Honestly, this is less for the concern of water-logged wizard infiltrators and more for various amphibious horrors.


Speak With Dead/Animate Dead-
These two spells turn the dead into potential liabilities, and as such, crypts to inter those knowledgeable about secrets should be a must-have over common graveyards. They must be securely guarded, perhaps by portcullis, certainly by lead-lined coffin, and perhaps by keeping those coffins held shut by nails, welding, etc. Corpses could also be staked down, mouths filled with lead, and other means of preventing speech or reanimation.

Polymorph-
As troubling as a perfect disguise might be, introducing code phrases would help shut this down, as well as help confirm anyone turned into a newt is who they say they are. The usual protocol of everyone always has someone with them would help reduce the chances of a single polymorph being sufficient Keeping cats and chickens about to menace any rat/insect-polymorphs for infiltration could help, though that then requires the cats and chickens to be marked somehow to prove they are local and not infiltrators themselves.


Dimension Door/Teleportation-
Though blindly teleporting in is too risky for most wizards, with some scrying or prior infiltration, they might be willing to try it. Having 'decoy' rooms (and ideally body doubles acting as decoy people to add a sense of liveliness to those locations) and guards ready for exotic modes of infiltration is the best mundane countermeasure I could think of.

On a side note, the safest method for an AD&D teleport pad would be a platform suspended about 30' above a pool of water, so 'low' mishaps teleport the person into water or free-falling into it, rather than into the earth.


Cloudkill/Gas-
Though rather specific, ventilation shafts both for lighter-than air and heavier-than air gases could be placed in key locations. to help disperse such gases rather than let them collect within the halls. This does well to prevent problems with smoke as well, which is a mundane enough concern to merit inclusion anyway.

Passwall-
Walls that are a prime target for being passwalled, Dig'd, or sundered by various magics may do well to in fact be TWO walls, with a hollow space between them, ideally with a moat or spiked pit. While expensive and pointless against scaling or flying, on exterior walls this is a fairly effective countermeasure for subterranean complexes.

Illusions (Thanks to DymeNovelti of the discord for this update)
For the most part, illusions function as a distraction to humans rather than a unique problem like Knock, and have a lot of variance of being 'hologram' or 'delusion' based on GM handling. I think for the most part, illusions would be handled much like any other distraction- trigger happy sling stones, investigating only in groups of 2+, and not clumping everyone up to investigate and sticking to chain of command, but still challenging illusory kings for passcodes, etc etc. I think generally speaking 'high alert' caused by illusory fires or dragons would still be met with 'standard' responses of locking down portculli, keeping people in their assigned squads and battle stations, and the like.

Dogs would be handy against certain illusions that lack full-sensory output (such as Phantasmal Force) and could be relied on against certain illusory tricks, and can sniff out illusionists regardless of what the illusion is, so whenever there's trickery afoot, there's sure to be a dog-team deployed to look for a mage sooner or later.

EXAMPLE SECURE LOCATION
I hope to use this map as a training grounds in one-shots to refine these ideas, and would welcome feedback for general countermeasures and specific ones so that future locations may have tighter security. Ways to reduce the number of staff, portculli, and general cost of operations would be useful too so as to scale things down to smaller operations. This isn't quite a full module, so certain NPCs and logistics may need to be improvised, but the goal is not to be a place impervious to guile or force- just one that will not roll over and die to wizardly action.

Missions
1- Assassination/Abduction- Take out the master of the castle
2- Rescue- Recover a prisoner or corpse.
3- Information- Learn of secret plans from encoded correspondance or a meeting with a visiting noble
4- Sabotage- disable defenses, allowing incoming army to take it over with ease
5- Compromise-Get an imposter, charmed, bribed, blackmailed, etc agent on the inside of the keep and a way to leak info
6- Theft- Steal an item of note, a confiscated artifact or legendary grave good.




Castle Gant Gard
A border castle of the north end of Queen's Coast, this place must be vigilant against infiltration by agents of King's Point, and frequently holds sensitive information, VIPs, and meetings of the lords of the warfront.


The "Forester Mounds" refer to semi-permanent dwellings of civilians who have served as archers and have taken this position out of patriotism, and often a lack of other good living opportunities. While the lack of prestige might breed resentment in 'real' guards, foresters are strictly separate from castle affairs and so are in little position to affect anything if compromised. They are not allowed within the castle,  except in event of a siege, and are expected to keep their distance from castle staff. They are barred from bearing arms within sight of castle-dwellers, and failing to do so may bring great suspicion or even arrows down upon them. This is to prevent assassins from replacing foresters. They are allowed to hunt men and beasts that come within 3 miles of the castle who are not on the Gant Road, shooting first and questioning later, leaving captured or dead foes at the castle gate for review by the castle. They are expected to keep at least one dog to help sniff for sneaking or invisible agents, and as they are responsible for feeding themselves, they are frequent fishermen, so as to keep an eye on the river/canal. The foresters are expected to meet daily with each other so imposters or missing peoples may not go unnoticed for long, and report inconsistencies at the castle gate, speaking through the portcullis, but have no strict organization, being a very passive and nebulous first line of defense.

General-
Most rooms have a large pot full of dirt to help extinguish fires, or throw to help reveal invisible infiltrators. Overzealous dirt-throwing is kept in check by the requirement that whoever threw dirt sweeps it up and returns it to the pot.

There are no windows or chimneys large enough to allow human passage, but any external room does have some to allow for ventilation and light.

Roofs of towers and the keep are steep and lines with caltrop-like spikes around the edges, making climbing or landing precarious and risky.

Passwords are required to have a house guard allow wallguards access to the keep, as it is strictly off-limits otherwise. Said passwords change every week, and are not known to the wall guards or other  staff, only by the garrison commander and the house guards of the keep.

The grounds and halls are kept well-lit by candle-lanterns, and are somewhat crowded, making it difficult to be alone and not within sight or earshot of someone else. Privacy is very low, and it is protocol to take at least one extra person with you at all times. Typically, ones chosen partner is also a good friend, and training exercises encourage partnering up to foster these duos.

Alarms go from whistles, which are for internal communication between foresters, wallguards, or house guards. To Horns, which are for communication with everyone on active duty and have codes for things like fire, invisible, fliers, climbers, shapeshifters, etc etc that squad commanders at least must have memorized. Finally, there are the Bells of the keep, which are used to rouse not just those on duty, but everyone, and have similar warning codes to horns but indicate a problem that even the serving staff and lord must be made aware of immediately. Bell alarms wake sleepers, and may wake those magically Slept as well, depending on GM ruling.

Any guard higher ranking than the rank and file will have a lead lined helmet and a horn.
Guard equipment includes a lantern and oil to light arrows with, a sling to hurl rocks if ammo is to be conserved, a bow or crossbow, and spears and shortswords. They are typically armored with chain mail, or unarmored if they are on arrow-slit firing/watching duty.

House guards (the guards of the Keep) wear Nail-Suits that deal 1d4 damage to them if they become prone (such as by being Slept) and count as leather armor. They also wear lead-lined helmets, have password knowledge, generally do not carry ranged weapons, and are high-morale elites unfazed by blindfighting, grappling, or other unusual circumstances, chosen for loyalty. Any bribe they are offered will be matched by the lord of the castle.

Keep servants are usually not true civilians, but experienced military camp followers who were recommended to the position after proving themselves to a knight or other high-ranking member of the keep occupants. All recruitment requires a quarantine period and background check that takes close to a month to ensure they are not compromised nor an imposter.

The master of the castle, when in public, wears a lead-lined mask and helm, as do their two bodyguards/body doubles. They are with the master at all times, and may even pose as the master to attempt to draw out schemes. There are two more, to take care of alternating day/night shifts, and they add to confusion by using the masters quarters as their own, doing paperwork, resting in the royal bed, and so on just as the master might, to bamboozle scriers and spiers.

The castle moat (a canal dug to divert the river it is near) is not that deep, and is surrounded by damp wooden spikes bound together, cheval de friese. This is largely an anti-siege measure, but for infiltrators, anything attempting to reach the castle wall will be delayed and likely noisy thanks to splashing, and zealous and bored wall-guards alike will fire bolts at basically any noted disturbance. At night they use fire-arrows to help illuminate the surroundings, animals being good sport or food. If a dog has an official collar, it may avoid being fired on, but animals(and their trainers) that run loose are not viewed with goodwill here.

The Drawbridge
is controlled from the gatehouse, which also has a portcullis. Though the drawbridge is usually down, the portcullis is usually closed.

The Walls have overhanging machicolations to make climbing more difficult and are 2 stories tall, and are patrolled by 2-man teams of crossbowmen (or slingers in rain) who travel from tower to tower until their shift is over and they return to tower-duty. Their main task is to blow an alarm whistle if they spot a threat or anything anomalous to bring the larger squads inside the guard towers to attention. Whistles between the guards are common and do not cause larger alarm or reprimand for overuse save for in the most gratuitous instances.

The Watchtowers, A-F, 3 stories tall are primarily for sieges, allowing for crossfire upon enemy troops and are manned with swiveling ballista with a variety of shot, both anti-infantry, anti-air (chains or multiple smaller bolts in a bundle), and dirt-loaded sacks that are used for practice shots and for catching invisible foes in clouds of dust. They have small squads of men on each floor, including squad leaders- the top floor being the ballista crew and external lookouts, equipped with horns to blow alarms for various situations to bring the castle to alert status and alert other guard towers. The second floor, on the level of the walltops, has guards who watch the walltop patrols and the castle interior grounds, peering through door slots and arrow slits with crossbows at the ready in case of internal problems. Finally the ground floor has the keymaster for each tower, and resting guards who are only semi-on duty, armed with melee weapons and only called upon to respond to active threats.

Gatehouse C has no ground floor or entry for security reasons.

Gatehouse E has a door leading to the wall that runs to the Keep, but the Keep-side door is a small portcullis operated from inside the keep and is rarely used due to the annoyance of requiring a password and cooperation of the internal house-guards.

E's ground door entry is near the kennels, not in the inner courtyard.

The Gatehouse- A special watchtower with an added murder-hole and portcullis operations, and no ground level (the ground level being the space between the portcullis and the standard large gates.) Portcullis lifting requires several people to operate, as the winch-wheel is quite hefty. The doors to the gatehouse, on the walltops, are kept locked and guards on wallpatrol knock and ask for a 'all is well' password when encountering it on their trip around the walls.

Like Gatehouse E, there is a wall that leads to a tower of the Keep that is locked by a portcullis and barely if ever actually used in day to day life due to the required security measures, being primarily a way for the gatehouse guards to fall back to the keep in the event of the outer wall being breached.

Entry Booth- Inside the walled entry courtyard, this building is only manned when the portcullis is up by guards looking for imposters, infiltrators, etc. They make a record of all who enter or leave the castle, demand weapons be turned over (to be returned later), note declared cargo, beasts of burden, etc etc. They will always have guard dogs.

Inner Courtyard
Two more portculli and walls prevent access to the rest of the grounds around the keep. These portculli are not open even when the outer door is, opening to allow access to the keep and grounds only once the Entry Booth guards declare visitors cleared for entry.

Kennels- Where the castle dogs are kept by the Master of Hounds. Castle dogs have spiked collars with identifying marks and most squads of guards will have a dog whose main purpose is to sense hidden foes, but is trained to sic people as well. Dogs are only fed at the kennels, to prevent them from being fed poisoned food or distracted while on-duty.

Smith
The blacksmithy for upkeep of arms and armors. Invariably busy. Well away from other wooden structures to avoid spreading fire, as are most structures. There are multiple smiths of varying quality ensuring the place is always active to keep up with demand.

Barracks A and B-  These 1-story wooden buildings are the quarters for the wallguards, who are the most numerous of troops for this place. The Garrison Commander has a special office in Barracks B where paperwork is handled. They are for the most part always semi-occupied by off-duty guards sleeping or relaxing, and there are usually guard dogs as well, either leashed to a post near the door or inside with their trainer.

Training Grounds
Where troops and knights drill riding, dog training, archery, and sparring, even at night, to keep eyes and boots always active around the keep.

THE KEEP


The keep has its own portcullis that comes down in front of its standard double door entrance, as it is a secondary fallback zone for the troops if the outer wall falls. Though closed at night, it is usually open during the day to save time.

Waiting Room/Checkpoints
The entry hall, mostly a place for guards to operate the portcullis mechanism, looks left and right down halls that lead to guard-manned checkpoints. Unlike other internal keep guards, these guards are armed with crossbows so as to catch intruders in crossfire. Similarly to the external checkpoint booth, the guards here take note of all who enter or leave the keep, and there are even more internal portculli that bar entrance to deeper into the keep past these checkpoints. While one portculli, typically the left one may be left open to speed things along (like when servants are loading up supplies), it is protocol to never have both open at once, and they are opened not from the checkpoint side, but from the hallway beyond, so that in the event the internal guards are taken out the keep may be locked down from within, and crossbow bolts fired from down the hall at anyone or anything attempting to force its way through the second portcullis line of defense.

Tower/Stairs
The northmost tower bottoms have stairs leading to the second level and little else.

House Kennel
There are dogs and cats kept inside the keep to hunt rats and other pests, and the kennels are located where they are to deter sneaky entrance through the left portcullis, sleep near their master's beds to raise the alarm if something untoward occurs, and so on. They are smaller animals than the large guard-dogs of the wallguard, though there are accommodations for larger beasts if required. House animals are closer to being pets and have collars and bells making their presence and identity easily known, and though these animals may go outside, outside animals are not allowed inside the keep.

Great Hall- a throne room/feasting hall/dance hall for general assembly of the house guard and guests, and where the castle master takes public audience. There are three thrones, occupied by the liege and their bodyguards/body doubles, and guards will typically be in attendance as well, standing to the sides of the room to keep an eye out for any would be sorcerers, assassins, etc.

The support wall behind the throne is actually two walls, with sand filling the gap between them, just as a possible preventative measure against a Passwall assassin.

Kitchen- Though the Great Hall also has a fireplace to roast things in, the kitchen is a crowded space full of servants, who frequently enter and exit. As an unspoken rule, it is expected that servers taste the food as they bring it out as a guard against poison, (and a chef who isn't tasting food constantly is a poor one) and failure to do so is seen not as a sign of potential poisoning typically, but of a possible imposter, to which a challenge of the weekly password may be posed as proof of identity.

Storage/Descent
A storeroom and cellar, frequently used as passage by servants. If the master of the castle is in his throne room, the door is usually guarded or locked, much to the dismay of the kitchen staff who must go the long way for ingredients so as to avoid bothering the master.

It also has the staircase to the lower levels.

Lounge/Stairs Up
A well-appointed and high-traffic room with stairs up to a landing, then to the second level.

Chapel
Somewhat isolated from the hustle and bustle, this is a chapel to Our Lady of Gardens, though a somewhat dingy one with no external window, reliant on candlelight. It is a common place for people acting suspiciously to be brought, and while this place is meant to focus on mundane countermeasures, if there is clerical assistance to be had, it will be had here.

Low Status Guest Quarters
A communal sleeping space, the barracks for the wall guard if they must retreat to the keep during a siege gone wrong. Also serves for the retinue of visiting nobles. It will be guarded at night on both doors, with anyone wishing to leave escorted by additional guards called in from the nearby right checkpoint, to ensure guests may not wander freely. As usual, guards operate in pairs.

Privys
Tunnels let waste go into the moat, and are blocked by metal grates. Occasional blockages require the appointment of a very small person to wriggle through the tunnel to clear the blocked grate, and nothing larger than a cat should be able to enter or exit the castle this way. Often clogged in winter due to freezing, leading chamberpots clumsily thrown out the arrow-slits to be the preferred method of disposing of waste.

KEEP, SECOND STORY
Guard Towers-
Guards keep an eye on the wallguards and grounds from here. The towers with portculli leading to the walls are kept closed to the outside unless a password is spoken (and of course, the speaker is identified as someone to let inside) and there is a secondary interior portculli that requires further cooperation of someone from within the keep (typically guards from the top-right tower) allowing entrance. There are far fewer interior guards on the keep towers than on the walls, and they are more concerned with security than serving as archery-turrets.

There are stairs leading to the roof here, but the trapdoors are locked, and barred from opening due to the placement of stones that prevent them from opening from outside. Daily "Roof Duty" is undertaken by four house guards who must call the password to be allowed entry, even if they have rung alarm bells that indicate their peril. This 'third level' is wall-less save for defensive ramparts but not roofless, and has a hanging alarm bell and vision to the other bell-towers, save diagonally, for the steepled roof blocks vision.

The top towers have at times been used for nesting birds or messenger bats, though this is a potential security issue.

Guard Barracks
Near the noble quarters for quick assistance if an alarm is sounded. Though they sleep in shifts, these barracks are guarded as well, by human and dog.

Servant Quarters-
Unguarded, but often active with servant swapping shifts, with the top left guard tower guards able to keep an eye on this hallway in case something untoward occurs. Thin walls and arrowslit windows allow one to hear shouting from the lower left guard station, an awkward and slow way for the wallguard to request access to the keep if that tower is unmanned.

Armory
Guard equipment and masses of arrows, used to supply the house guard and equip troops that fall back to the keep in time of peril. Typically locked, requiring a key from the keep commander, so that those without weapons cannot gain access (though the doors are between two guard towers and behind portculli so it is difficult even ignoring the lock.)

Storage
Domestic storage for servant winter clothing, bedding, candles, stepladders, buckets, mops, etc. Frequently accessed by servants and guards alike for odds and ends.

Noble Chambers
Grand bed, closet,etc etc. Everything a noble needs to be ostentatious.

Noble Chambers (decoy)
Identical to the Noble Chambers, occupied sometimes by the master of the castle and sometimes by bodydoubles.

Noble Chambers (alternate)
Not identical, but equally well-appointed, and has a door to the bath-house allowing for more privacy than tramping in a bathrobe through the halls to the other chambers does.
Also has a secret passage behind the curtains of the four poster bed that allows for swift exit that will hopefully be mistaken for exit into the bath-house.

Panic Room/Secret Study
A portcullis can be lowered with the pull of a lever, but is kept open unless someone is inside. The walls are lined with lead, foiling some forms of detection. Sensitive items and information are kept here, and it is sometimes used as a meeting room by people who already know of its existence (past masters of the castle, royal agents, or body doubles.) It contains rations and weapons in addition to any secret information.

BASEMENT/SUBLEVEL
Dungeon Entry Guard Station
Manned by guards who are on long shifts, but have frequent checkups from servants/other guards due to the convenient location of being between two storage rooms.Their main duty is to restrict access to prisoners and the crypts, typically opening only to identified people like the master of the castle, garrison commander, or other people of note. They are equipped with crossbows and burning oil to menace anything coming up the hallway through the portcullis. They tend to have an older guard dog.

Lower Storage Room
The lower-food storage where root vegetables, wine, cheeses, etc are kept. Dungeon guards tend to gain weight and nibble on foods here out of boredom, which is overlooked as long as consumption is not egregious- a reward of being posted to dungeon duty. Dungeon guards and kitchen staff tend to be on a first-name basis with each other.

Solitary Cells
For important and public prisoners, or just quarantine for people who are suspected to be compromised, plagued, etc. Locked iron doors with more privacy than an iron bar door.

Prison Cell-
Single large room behind locked iron bar doors for containment of masses of prisoners of war and the like.

Secret Meeting Room (Alternate)
A dingy dungeon meeting room where clandestine meetings spoken in alternate languages or code may be held so as not to give away the location of the panic room.

Has a secret door (a brick-lined iron door that opens when a torch sconce is pulled) behind which is a locked iron bar jail-cell style door behind which a lead-lined oubliette where secret prisoners may be held is hidden.

Secret Meeting Room (Decoy)
A very obviously fake wall slides open to this room filled with compelling but obsolete or useless junk- a desk with a map, pyrite and glass treasures, code scrolls no one uses anymore, etc etc. A pressure plate will close the wall behind anyone entering, and it does not open from the inside, trapping snoopers. Occasionally used as a meeting room to bait suspected agents and spies whose presence is suspected but not identified.


Crypt
Old coffins line the walls, covering up older alcoves where the dead lie, with the central support pillar full of alcoves for corpses and their grave-goods. The hallway to the crypt is strewn with tripwires that ring small bells to alert the guards the dead walk if there are no prisoners to howl in terror at such an occurrence.

Behind one such coffin is an empty alcove that can be crawled through to reach the secret crypt.

Secret Crypt
The walls and the stone sarcophagi alike are lead-lined. Corpses of spymasters and others with sensitive information lay here and have their mouths bound shut with lead to prevent necromancers from forcing them to speak, and their stone coffins are nailed shut to further deny access to the dead and any sensitive grave goods they may be buried with.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Imp, Intellect Devourer, Invisible Stalker, Irish Deer, Ixitxachitl

 AD&D Imp
Similar to the homunculus of last post, the Imp is a potential familiar for Lawful Evil magic users, though there are so many caveats on rolling special familiars as opposed to birds, cats, toads, etc that they mostly seem like set dressing for NPC magic users. Though they could be very effective assassins with disguising polymorphs, a save or die stinger, invisibility, and flight, they are 90% likely to not fight for their masters.

Their presence does offer a variety of bonuses like a sensory link between the imp and it's master, 25% magic resistance if the imp is right there, +1 level, and 6 questions per week as per a commune spell. But if the imp dies, the 'master' loses 4 levels of experience, and any silver or magic weapon could do the trick, so all in all an Imp familiar may prove more of a liability against informed foes despite its usefulness as a resilient, sneaky monster and the magical advantages.

I think they would be more interesting if they would offer to enter a familiar pact with any willing wizard, with the goal of corrupting them to the service of hell. They also make for an interesting weakness of villainous wizards.

AD&D Intellect Devourer
As the lore of these creatures became more developed (as bodysnatching minions of mind flayers) they departed somewhat from their origin, which well deserves its description as "one of the most feared of monsters."

There appears to be either a flaw in my own understanding of AD&D Psionics, or in the description of Intellect Devourers, because, apart from the four dagger-like claws used to multiattack, these creatures do not appear to have any ability to attack non-psionic targets, for their attack modes of C and E correspond to Ego Whip and Psychic Crush, while the text mentions Ego Whip and Id Insinuation, but no psionic attack mode save for Psionic Blast actually functions vs non-psionics.

Ignoring this however, for a giant brain on legs (as the AD&D variant is medium sized, rather than brain sized, a possible typo given that they were even then meant to 'house themselves in the mindless body'.) they have an inexplicable form of invulnerability. They are immune to normal weapons and 'most spells' and +3 or higher magic weapons  do only 1 point of damage- better even than the fabled demon lords. Fireballs only count as 'bright light'  and lightning bolts deal only 1 damage per die. Death spells have only a 1/4 chance of success, and power word kill slays them. No explanation is given for this, alas.

Bright light and protection from evil drive them off or keep them at bay, which are some fairly accessible weaknesses that at least make up a little for their nigh-invulnerability.

All in all, the idea of brain-eating (and replacing) monsters seems good, but runs into a similar problem as the succubus, where there are implied potential situations of subterfuge and deception, which are then somewhat ruined by the lack of a true need to engage in those situations in that way, due to the complete lack of danger that situation poses to the would-be deceiver.

AD&D Invisible Stalker

A creature I think has a serious case of overlap with Aerial Servants, despite being significantly different. Both invisible, both servants summoned from the plane of air. Stalkers seem to be physical, intelligent, and stealthy, while an Aerial Servant is essentially an Air Elemental. Stalkers seek to subvert commands occasionally, while Servants just go berserk if thwarted. They are discussed almost entirely in terms of how they serve their masters, rather than what they 'are'.  It is even mentioned that stalkers can be seen dimly on certain planes of existence, but not what they actually look like. These creatures are talked about more as of a spell effect with no associated spell than an actual being.

AD&D Irish Deer
These fall within the provenance of  'herd animals' and I assume their inclusion is to appeal to the pleistocene enthusiasts of the early D&D crowd.

AD&D Ixitxachitl
A bizarre combination of 'evil clerics' and 'manta rays,' with some of them being level draining vampiric variants. Though no doubt one of my internet friends will be displeased to see me once again scorning the aquatic inhabitants of D&D, I cannot say I understand the appeal of these entities.


Sunset Realm So and So's

Imps were already discussed in the demons post, and while I am not opposed to a killer body-snatching brain, I don't think my implementation of such an entity would have anything in common with an Intellect Devourer. And as for the rest, no, I think not.

I haven't decided how such a brain would enter the cranium yet though, so perhaps this Yuban apprentice screams in horror at the questionable perspective rather than the brain


Saturday, September 4, 2021

Hobgoblin, Homonculous, Horse, Hydra, Hyena

 AD&D Hobgoblin
While inexplicably garbed in samurai armor in the illustration, hobgoblins do not have any actual correspondence to japanese mythology that I am aware of. Instead, they seem to be the D&D variant of the Uruk-Hai from lord of the rings, being superior to goblins in terms of being able to fight in sunlight or darkness, as well as having many siege engines in their lairs. Contrary to what you might expect given the general increase in depiction of orcs as the beefiest demihuman, hobgoblins are actually more powerful and larger than orcs, which is what makes me think they may have originally been Uruk-Hai with the name filed off, much as halflings were once hobbits.

Of some note is Koalinths, marine hobgoblins with gills. I do wonder at the fairly pointless oceanic palette swaps of some monsters, when ocean-specific entities liek Kuo-toa and Sahuagin fill that niche with more flavor for sure.

AD&D Homonculous
Compared to the other forms of artificial servitor in AD&D, which often require Limited Wish, these little creatures are quite reasonable to manufacture, requiring a hired alchemist, Mending, Mirror Image, and Wizard Eye, 1 pint of the casters blood, 500-2000GP, and 1d4 weeks. For a creature with 2HD, a sleep-causing bite, flight, and a telepathic link, that's a pretty good deal, apart from the 2d10 feedback damage sustained if it dies.

They are rather similar to Imps in the form of a diminutive, flying, and poisonous mini-me, but without the demonic traits. They seem a flavor monster above all else, a way to spice up NPC wizards, but I do wonder if they were ever commonly manufactured by players.

AD&D Horse
A horse is a horse, of course of course. But there are some horse-mechanics that may have been lost over the years- firstly, horses are said to panic 90% of the time when confronted with... well, basically any adventuring hazard, really. Warhorses panic only 10% of the time, and do not fight on the first round of melee, kicking and biting only on round 2 and beyond.


AD&D Hydra
Tactically, a pretty good monster in that you can take its heads off rather than just abstractly attack its HP bar. Only 4 heads can gang up on a target at once, making them reasonably 'fair' to engage in melee with. Most do not actually regrow heads, which is fine in my book as everyone has seen Hercules, so the task to burn the stumps is less of a puzzle and more tedious busywork at this point.

Pyro and Cryohydra are of course more dangerous, having miniature breath weapons that can bypass armor and attack HP via saving throws instead.

AD&D Hyena-
3HD dog, with 5HD prehistoric version. Though interesting animals in real life, there's not much going for them in the game world.

Sunset Realm Hobgoblin-
Hob is merely a prefix meaning house, so a 'House goblin' is a goblin ready to serve as a house servant for their alvish masters, having been granted a name and a shadow to distinguish them from the nameless, interchangeable hordes of shadow-goblins servants. As time marched on and the shadowy-type died out without alves to replace them, basically all goblins became Hobgoblins, people rather than monsters, so the term became pointless and they were just referred to as goblins. Refer to the goblin-post for more details.

Sunset Realm Homunculus
Artificial children of biomancy and/or alchemy, Homunculi are traditionally grown in glass jars. They appear as a mixture of whatever blood was offered in their creation. While Chimerae may be grown via similar methods, Homunculi refers to creations that have human blood, even if their appearance does not end up humanoid. They are sometimes made as noble heirs, and may be referred to as 'clones' if grown from only a single donor's blood.

Notable historical/fictional homunculi include
-Barnabas O'Jar, companion to Queen Astrid of Del'Narith on her early adventures, including the chaining of Anathemant, later court sage and librarian. A homunculus grown by a wizard of a lost age who left Barnabas in a jar for years until the Queen and her companions rescued him.
-Seven-Veils, a toadlike little magical prodigy who made a pact with the Great Raven, threatened and saved Fassulia from the Forbidden Moon Gate, defeated Finzu the Egregrious during the Eclipse, and became the lead of the Tower of Cul'Khuwa in Phavea after a long and lawful history of defending the peace.


Sunset Realm Horse- Two gods compete over claiming responsibility for the domestication of the horse- the Horse-God of Yuba, and Our Lady of Gardens. While the Horse-God had a stronger claim in the 3rd and 4th ages, on account of having a horse's head, Our Lady's story became more popular in the 5th age onward, due to the death of the Horse God in the 4th intersolar period. Either way, horses are as part of human society as dogs, being a workforce, mode of transportation, and companion all in one.

horse hydra


Sunset Realm Hydra- A stolen idea I got from one of my players is Hydra-as-template to apply to anything whose heads or limbs are notable. This is a jolly good idea, and so the Sunset Realms has Hydraitis, a rare disease that causes ravenous hunger to fuel regeneration and replication of heads, limbs, or both. It most commonly affects snakes and lizards on the Fault, that being the homeland of the disease spirit, but captured Hydra have spread the disease across the world.

The source of Hydraitis is an ancient gene-modding retrovirus from the days of Yg and the Serpent Empire, originally meant for the creation of medusa, but persisting in a fragmented, free-roaming form due to the various magical catastrophes wrought by wielders of the Orb of Omnipotence. This is why most hydra are reptilian (reptiles save with disadvantage against contracting hydraitis). Eating hydra flesh or blood forces a save vs poison/disease, and it is a potential result of the Death and Dismemberment chart if forced to roll upon it by an infected creature. New heads will retain about half the memories of the original, and so those afflicted become increasingly bestial and instinct-driven until they become a monster eating constantly to sate each head's hunger.

Sunset Realm Hyena
Also known as 'False Dogs' these animals dwell in the north deserts of the Fault and the deserts of Saresare. Cats and Dogs view them with unease, and although they rarely attack humans, (and can be distracted by jokes if they do) they are dangerous vectors of the grinning-plague, ghul fever, or whatever you want to call it, so are regarded as dirty menaces to society and are driven into the wilderness by most human societies. Some lion prides have hyena jesters, though such jesters typically are there as prisoners, rather than by choice, and would happily join anyone who could rescue them, at least until an opportunity to rejoin their own society presents itself.

In the 4th age, they were used extensively by the Korozong, that demon-cult of ghuls, and so it is not unheard of of -zong societies to still use them in the role of dogs, though that is mostly the domain of criminals and people overcompensating for something.

In Saresare, they have a friendly rivalry with Vulch with regards to fighting over corpses, and due to the ancient antics of the head-swapping Ibn Haur, saresaren society has a fair few hyena-headed folk known as Gnolls.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Hell Hound, Herd Animal, Hippocampus and Hippogriff

 AD&D  Hell Hound
A pack of big, angry firebreathing demon dogs is kind of self explanatory.
They are not explicitly demonic, but aren't from around here either. With good surprise chances, high HD, decent AC, and 1d10 bites that also deal an automatic fire damage equal to HD (4-7) with a save for half, they're threatening to both armored and unarmored people, and can locate hidden or invisible creatures 50% of the time. This is due to exceptional eyesight and hearing, rather than smell as you may have guessed, but honestly it makes sense they aren't bloodhounds if they've got fire shooting out their nostrils.

All in all, they fulfill much the same roll as other guard dogs, just on a higher 'power level.' The bandits have regular dogs, the goblins have wolves, presumably someone in the increased HD demihuman pool has wargs, the fire giants have hell hounds.


AD&D Herd Animal
Barely an entry and more of a suggestion that you can give animals 1-5 HD, a damaging attack, and a note that "Humans or humanoids of about man-size or less will be trampled to death if caught in the path of a stampede" which I have always thought sounded ripe for some rules-lawyer to buy a bunch of cattle and drive them before the party to trample Elminster or something.

AD&D Hippopotamus
They're big, they're tough, they're amphibious, they come in numbers, but there is not much else to say.

AD&D Hippocampus
The classic horse with flippers and fish-tail hindquarters, that tritons often have. Did you know they apparently talk in their own language and can learn more, so you can have a talking fish horse? I didn't know that. They are also chaotic good because reasons.

AD&D Hippogriff
Being half bird half horse as opposed to half bird half lion, Hippogriffs seem to me to be a much lamer sort of Griffon, and their statblock does little to disabuse me of this notion, essentially being half a griffon in HD and price of their young and eggs on the open market. They are slightly faster, and are omnivores, in comparison to carnivorous griffons and herbivorous pegasi.



Sunset Realm Hell Hound
The punishment for Bad Dogs (and humans) who repay kindness with viciousness, as prescribed by the Jackal God of Yuba, is to become a hell hound. Their sense of smell choked by smoke, their burning breath spoiling any attempt at kindly interaction, their spiritual existence is an exaggerated mirror of their violence in life, sicc'd on the enemies of Yuba. Those hell hounds who come to miss kindness and repent their own wickedness after a few years of this afterlife can be reborn as dogs or humans once again to try to do better next time, while those who revel in the hunt will forever be demons set to torment the enemies of Yuba, so their bloodthirst might at least be put to good use. Some slip their leashes and run rogue, at which point Very Good Dogs will be assigned to fetch the hellhounds soul back to the Jackal. As in life, they come in all breeds and sizes, but they are blackened by soot and ash and glow from the fires within.

Sunset Realm Hippogriff
Rather than an independent species, Hippogriffs are chimerae, artificial hybrids of bird and horse made by designer Beast Breeders and given a unifying name for marketing purposes (those purposes being a Griffon that can trot, mostly). Unlike Griffon-patterns, Hippogriffs did not escape and thrive in the wild and exist only as domestic populations, primarily in the Beast Islands and Mercia. They are seen as 'budget gryphons' and despite(or perhaps on account of) being considerably more affordable, they never became superbly popular among the nobility. 


From the medieval tome of 'things that didn't happen'

In Mercia, a Hippogriff is a term used for a lower-class person who puts on airs in order to try to interact with the nobility as equals, as some nouveau riche would purchase Hippogriffs in order to keep up (literally and socially) with Gryphon-riding Mercian nobles. As many of these people were lowborn but successful military commanders who amassed Hippogriff squads as budget Gryphon-Knights and held considerable military power despite their lack of titles, and wanted recognition, there is an undertone to the word that insinuates a 'Hippogriff' is someone who might be dangerous to the status quo as well.

In the Beast Islands "Hippogriff" also has derogatory connotations, but in a different sense, indicating something is a cheap knockoff, a product with corners cut rather than a piece of art, etc etc, due to hippogriffs being just that with regards to Gryphons.

Like Gryphons, they were almost entirely phased out by Oroboron Gwyverns by the 6th age, as the value of flying mounts turned more towards speed and efficiency, as claws and fangs were eclipsed by firearms wielded by the rider.

Sunset Realm Hippocampus
Like Hippogriffs, Hippocampi are also artificial Chimera, but unlike the Hippogriffs, Hippocampi were created by the Ningen, the huge fish-people of the sea, as something to trade with land-dwellers-2nd age elves in particular. As such, Hippocampi have a bit of feyness to them compared to the monstrous wild gryphon or the domestic Hippogriff. While all animals can potentially speak, hippocampi had to keep up with the linguistic whimsy of elvish companions, and as such are quite clever in ways one would not expect, not to mention rather independent. They choose their riders and will not abide being tied to a dock-post like a donkey left outside the local inn, but if their independence is respected they can be loyal to humans, but more as a 'friend you visit and can give you a ride' than a beast of burden.

Ironically, the Ningen do not treat Hippocampi with the respect land-walkers afford these sea-steeds. The Ningen created the hippocampi as bargaining chips, steeds for landwalkers, but the Ningen, being larger by far and perfectly capable of swimming on their own, view Hippocampi as a fun species to hunt and prey upon, the taste of horseflesh without the bother of interacting with the land. As such, Hippocampi live in moderate terror of their own creators, which may explain some of their eagerness to ally with landwalkers.

Sunset Realm Hippopotamus
If ever there were any, they are surely gobbled up by now.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Harpies

AD&D Harpies-
Derived from the grecian myths, AD&D harpies have an alluring song that allows them to slaughter all who fail their save vs magic and are lured to it. As usually, the entire adventuring party will not fail their save, the question becomes how to save the entranced party members from 2d6 flying monsters with 3HD and 3 minor attacks... though this is rather complicated by an additional, deeper 'charm' effect that takes place on touch, a rather rude surprise to adventurers who stuffed their ears with wax to dodge the song.

Honestly, charm spam into being 'attacked, tortured, and devoured' by a bunch of bird women reeks of a TPK with little player agency or counterplay if the encounter is sprung upon you without forewarning. This post goes into the variation by edition and even suggests some potential countermeasures to this ignominious character death, mentioning that, at least in the AD&D version, the text does not state the song is a charm as the touch is, merely that it requires one to move towards the harpy, which could allow the character to sling arrows and spells as they walked towards the harpy. Since later editions specify that the entranced characters 'take no actions but to defend themselves' and proceed directly to the harpy, regardless of cliffs or dangerous terrain, this suggested strategem seems likely to be against the spirit of the rules, though later editions also tend to remove the charm on touch ability, giving entranced characters at least a single round to defend themselves after the song stops and, one presumes, the harpy flock goes for the kill.

All in all, a bit suspect as far as good monster design goes, but I'm not the biggest fan of any effect that means the player isn't playing. If it was just problemsolving to avoid hearing the song/disrupt the hearing of the entranced, that would be decent. But the squad of 3HD feathery maulers kind of puts a damper on that. Mythologically, they were abductors and befoulers (and conflated with Sirens) so focusing on them attacking supplies if denied their entranced thralls would be better, as 'how can we get these awful birds to stop shitting on us' is a more interesting problem than 'fight flying monsters that swoop down for a claw/claw/bite + charm spam.'

From Top: Vulch, Bat-harpy, true Harpy



SUNSET REALM HARPIES
The word harpies refers to three beings primarily- the Bat-people of the fault, the Vulch of Saresare, and the monsters of the name.

Bat People, or House Desmodia
Despite having supersonic vocalizations to daze most vertebrates, anaesthetic saliva, a diet of mammalian blood, and better than average odds of being bi disasters, the bat people of the cavernous earth of the Fault are not actually vampires.

all sorts, according to science

Birds do not, as a rule, live underground, so these batty creatures mainly exist because it made more sense to have bat-harpies in the subterranean tomb caverns of my megadungeon than birdly ones. After all, dungeons have a lot of opportunities to make walking towards an enemy a dangerous prospect, so underground harpies have a lot of potential. A pack of them charmed a character who was separated from the rest of the party by a fear effect from a headless horseman, but then rolled very low on the con damage from bloodsucking, allowing the player to survive. From this I reasonably assumed that, as flying creatures, these bat-harpies do not drink all that much blood in one sitting, which makes sense. You wouldn't want to be so bloated you couldn't fly, after all. And from this, it followed that, once the whole megadungeon thing calmed down, they would likely integrate into the already rather furry society of Phillipstown (dominated by wererats as it was) as a superior source of blood than the troll they had been feeding on before. And from there, they'd likely prove valuable as night scouts and mass-manipulators during the intersolar period, which would then give them the clout required to secure exits from the Fault once the 5th age began, escaping the curse/blessing of undeath. And in the more human-dominated lands beyond the Fault, they may have shaved their fuzzy faces and hidden their wings beneath cloaks while in human society and, with their foreign wealth, gotten into advantageous positions, extracted modest blood taxes far more amenable than taxes of silver, and so became the Desmodia family, with the branches extending to Queen's Coast, where they lived as sanctioned beings of Our Lady after initial tragic misunderstandings, and Vint Savoth, where imbibing corrupted blood did indeed make them more vampiric, tarnishing the reputations of those dwelling in Queen's Coast, whose dalliance in the military, the market, and the nobility were honest enough.

But those are just one family. There are doubtless more of the bat-folk in the caverns of the world, unfettered by the social structures of the Desmodia, winging through dungeons in search of blood.

Bat-Harpy
No Appearing 1d6
HD- 1
AC- as chain due to dextrous flight, unarmored if not flying.
Move- twice human flying, half-human crawling on the ground or walls.
Treasure Type C- All will be very light objects
Morale- 4
Echolocation- Provided they can click and squeak, they can tell where physical objects are within their hearing.

Supersonic Song- Bat-harpies singing while stationary causes a chosen species (humans, typically) whether asleep or awake within 300', regardless of walls, to save vs spell or proceed towards the Bat-Harpy at maximum speed, not needing light to navigate and dropping any encumbering packs and items to move faster. They may defend themselves, but not from the harpies. There is a +1 to the save per 10 years of age(assuming human lifespan), as the higher registers are harder for the elderly to hear. The harpy chooses whether the entranced victim will fall into traps or off ledges or wade into water, or take circuitous but safe routes, depending on if they wish for a living victim or a corpse. Upon reaching the harpy, entranced victims are sonically sedated and stripped to expose veins, bitten (the bite causes no damage, being a minor incision from which blood is lapped) and have 1d4 points of constitution drained from them per feeding harpy, feeding taking 1 turn per harpy.
Surviving victims are then abandoned and the harpies flee, taking any lightweight objects they find interesting with them.

Directed Squeak- The subtle effects of supersonic vibrations on the brain can cause other effects when screeched/whispered directly at a target within melee distance, forcing a save vs Sleep or Confusion with the same +1 per 10 years of age to the save. Sleeping victims do not wake if fed upon.

Bat-Harpies must feed once per day or begin starving. They may feed more than once per day, draining another 1d4 points of constitution, but must space out these meals 6 hours apart or become bloated and unable to fly until 6 hours of digestion pass. They do not favor open conflict and will prefer to lure targets and attack sleepers, and corpses are of little use to them so they only kill those who attempt to kill them.



The other winged beings one might call a harpy goes by many names. Mercians called them Vulch, for Vulture-Harpy, Saresarens call them Ibn Nasir, Yubans called them the Yazata. They are long necked and bald, hairless in fact, and hold to a pacifistic, scavenger faith where they do no violence, and take nothing but what has been abandoned, subsisting on trash and carrion in their ascetic lifestyles. They were the first necromancers, though they sang to the restless dead to show them to their dreaming afterlives, and consumed them so their remains may return to the earth. The bell exorcists crafted their instruments from the tones of Vulch-humming, and the earlier, kinder portions of the Necronomicon were penned in part due to apprenticeship under one of them. Their song is for the dead though, not the living, and are able to live among humans as mendicant mystics in Saresare, quelling certain disturbances in the netherworld that go unnoticed or unmanaged by established funerary services.


And lastly, for the monsters that truly bear the name 'Harpy.'

The true harpies of the Fault are birds said to have the heads and torsos of women, though this is a misapprehension. Their 'breasts' are pectoral muscles for flight, their hair, downy feathers, their eyes the far-ranging, wide-open glare of an eagle, not a wide-eyed maiden. Their young are fed flesh, not milk, and they are not birds, despite the eggs and the feathers. They are monsters, creatures that descended upon ill winds from Beyond and now infest the jungles of the Fault and the Beast Islands. They speak your language in the fashion of birds, part cunning comprehension, half thoughtless mimicry. And they speak that which you most wished to hear, the words carrying on the wind and rousing you from sleep, drawing you off the paths with promises of knowledge. Do harpies truly know the secrets and answers, half-heard, or is it merely some monstrous trick? Either way, they are not particularly dangerous in melee combat, having sharp talons and teeth. They roost atop trees and cliffs, and knock the entranced climbers to their doom, or live near larger, more terrible beasts that kill those they lure, leaving the scraps for the harpies. They like shiny things, and so their nests are another sort of glittering lure, promising the treasures of dead heroes when in fact it is mostly fools gold and broken glass. They do befoul things they fear to attack directly with their excrement, ruining rations and marking the shat-upon with a smell that indicates to other creatures that here, here is man-flesh for the taking.

True Harpy

No Appearing 2d6
HD- 1
AC- as leather
Attack- 1d3 claws swoop, save or fall if climbing/precariously situated, fall prone if battered on unremarkable terrain. They may attack at any point during their movement.
Move- twice human flying, half-human crawling on the ground or walls.
Treasure Type C
Morale-9

Swooping Menaces- Harpies cannot be hit in melee by people they are tormenting, as they attack from behind, cause distractions to cover each other, and may well have some supernatural power to torment and victimize those who are alone. Targets the harpy is not targeting in a round may attack them as they fly by as normal.

Nest- Harpy nests glitter enticingly with potential treasures and sparkle from miles away. Harpies sing when they spot prey animals coming, their song reaching about 3 miles (ie, covering a 6 mile hex).
1d6 Nest Location-
1- 40'-90' tall tree (or higher!). Harpies begin attacking once creatures climb to 20' tall, hoping the fall will slay them.
2-50-100' tall cliff or waterfall. The nest will be situated halfway up, and harpies attack once prey are within 20' of the nest.
3- Rock island on raging river, deep lake, or sucking swamp.  Attacks begin once victims are swimming, pushed underwater on failed saves on hits
4- Ruins- highest point of ruin exterior, likely contains dungeon.
5- Bramble Patch- Very slow movement through patch, 1 damage to unarmored AC, harpies viciously harass as soon as the target enters the bramble.
6-Monster Lair- Harpies hope monster will kill entranced targets, less used to personal combat. Roll up a monster lair, Harpy morale reduced to 6.


Secret Song- Players may tell the GM what hinted-at secrets or mimicked voices would  lure them away on a failed save that lures them to the harpies, if the GM wishes to convey truths, half-truths, lies, or nonsense on that topic. Those without DEEP CHARACTER MOTIVES could be given rumors of treasure or simply be lured by the beautiful song. Affected players are not deeply hypnotized, just tempted, and may justify their actions to their allies and will defend themselves even from the harpies, who usually lurk in their nest out of direct line of fire until the time comes to dash the victim onto the rocks. Their goal is to listen to the fragmented information of the harpies, though the harpies themselves invariably foil this goal.

Excrement- Harpies can befoul targets with their droppings from above, with the usual to-hit roll, befouling 1 random inventory item and the target themselves. Though no damage is caused, the reeking smell makes stealth impossible until the character is washed with soap, and items are forever stained, smelly, and (in the case of consumables) ruined, though magic items get a save vs poison or similar.
The smell also attracts wandering monsters at double the normal rate, and the character must save vs a random disease unless they discard the befouled item and clean themselves within an hour or so.

As true monsters rather than simply carnivorous beings, spells such as Protection from Evil ward off harpies, and their very presence brings ill luck and ruin to the waking world.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Halflings

I have put off this post for some time, for must admit I find halflings a mediocre addition to most fantasy games and can muster no excitement about them. Even in Tolkein's work from which the D&D halfling is derived from, their prosaic, domestic nature is in fact their defining quality. This is all well and good for a story with thematic purpose and authorial intent indicated to highlight the virtues of rustic civilians vs those consumed by power struggles, but in D&D games that message is rather hard to pull off outside of 'and then my character retired from the disgusting murderhobo life and lived happily ever after' which is a fine ending but a poor incentive for actually continuing campaigns.

They seem to be meant as a sort of 'underdog' character which I can understand the appeal of, but on the player-end of things, their impressive offensive and defensive bonuses spoil such notions for me, as they end up less underdog, more 'low-profile artillery platform/tank.' The idea is that to a halfling, humans and similarly sized foes would be like ogres, twice as tall and 8 times as heavy. But whereas ogres compared to humans have quadruple the HD and unarmed deal the same damage as a halberd, there's ludonarrative dissonance at play when that difference, one that we intuitively understand should be a nigh-insurmountable combat disadvantage, is represented in game by halflings merely suffering a strength capped at 17, max fighter level 6 or other such negligible differences that pay lip service to the notion that halflings face bigger, relatively speaking, perils.

AD&D Halflings

This is the monster statblock rather than the player bonuses, the player side of things being rather tamer in AD&D 1e but, in later editions and in various retroclones, prone to the defensive creep mentioned that turns them into short tanks. Tactically speaking, they may appear to be essentially goblins who cannot see in the dark, but are crack shots with the bow and sling. +3 to hit with their ranged weaponry is, for masses of soldiers, incredibly menacing, moreso even than Elves. They also resist magic, saving as 4 levels/HD higher, have a few uninteresting fighter/leader types of levels 2-4 based on # appearing, and have 1d4 dogs per halfling when encountered in lair. All in all, fighting halflings would be a numbers game that one would be unlikely to win, and they have treasure type B, which is likely to be no more than a few thousand GP worth of treasures and maybe some halfling-sized magic arms and armor on the leader types. Not at all worth the effort required to defeat, treasure wise, for most would-be pillagers.

There are also the Tallfellows, who are taller and get along with elves, and the Stouts, who are shorter, have infravision, and get along with dwarves. From this I conclude halflings are just shorter humans/elves/dwarves and not actually their own thing, and move on.





Sunset Realm Halflings, or Little People
They're just short humans, or if you take the halfling viewpoint, humans or 'hugemans' are just tall halflings. Most commonly found in the Beast Islands, they hold they are the original humans, and those humans who left small islands for the gigantic mainland grew larger as their habitat did, much like goldfish. Halfling, though not a slur, is a slightly rude term to refer to them as, a diminutive -ling suffix and assumption of deviance from a 'whole' norm. "Little people" is a generally acceptable term when referring to them as a group based on height rather than the actual culture they hail from.

Those who live in the moonlands are rumored to see in the dark, but in truth, those often dark lands simply encourage people to lean more heavily on senses beyond sight. Little clicks for makeshift echolocation, feeling air currents, smelling and hearing, and of course, simply letting ones eyes adjust rather than brandishing a torch can all contribute to this notion.

Due to their small size, they favor training beasts as guards and hunters, and are the origins of the 'Beast Battling' culture of the isles. They also are excellent sailors, mostly culturally but partly physically. After all, a 200 pound grown human requires more food than a 60 pound one, so their ships can be trimmed down and lighter weight compared to larger ships to take advantage of the winds and currents. Rowing is one aspect where they lose out to larger sailors, so most ships of levels larger than personal rowboats are entirely sail-reliant.

Islander customs of beast-befriending can be traced all the way back to the 2nd age, with children who had come of age being sent through rites of passage to claim a pet to serve as their friend and defender. As technology advanced, the war-torn 3rd age added a reputation as trap-makers, as it was easier to defend ones home with gravity, torsion, and so on than with force of arms. The technical skills required to build such devices also allowed one to identify and disarm them, and so 'security specialists' were often hired from the Beast Islands for all manner of legitimate and illegitimate ventures, making the trap-maker reputation shorthand for 'burglar.'  The 4th age saw them in conflict with the dwarves, desiring the  banned clockwork and gunpowder tech which cared not for the size of its wielder, and this gave the Beast Islands, already regarded as roguish, a further reputation for piracy, as dwarvish and Saresaren ships became prime targets of Beast Islander ships aiming to claim the unobtainable tech, and settling for whatever else was onboard. The calmer 5th age saw the rise of fine beast islander alchemists, as trade opened up and technology advanced further, and before the 6th age, the islands became known as the scientific hub of the world, surpassing the rationalist Saresarens and the stagnated dwarves.

On a less lore-heavy note
Rules for Halfling Players(Also children, goblins, ratfolk, and other ~1 meter tall beings)
HD per level never higher than 1d6
5-in-6 chance to hide, gain surprise, etc etc, compared to base 2-in-6, at least vs larger entities in larger environs. Not applicable in metal armor.
Saving throw bonuses based on whatever your system says, based on things missing you mostly
"Darkvision" is a more like a skill for moving without sight. Unless Goblin, they do see in the dark.
Weapons are 1d6 1-handed, or 1d8 2handed, and d10 weapons are too large (guns aside).
Though not explicit, it is assumed most entities find you less threatening due to size, which has its pros and cons