Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Nuit, A Forlorn Sphere

A lightless moon that hides beneath a sooted sky. Eyeless horrors infest the warm black stones of her surface, praying to the god of hunger as they search for prey. Off-worlders unprepared for the atmosphere usually perish from black lung, or draw the ire of photophobic natives.

Creatures

Malaechids

Transparent-chitined goblin spiders whose poisonous saliva induces pathological, narcotic cruelty. Their horrible shrieking is chiefly used for echolocation, but also deafens off-worlders for days at a time. They build giant nests that resemble termite mounds the size of skyscrapers. Most of these nests are unused the same way only the top layer of a tell is active, with the goblin spiders chittering across the exterior in search of prey. Other creatures will sometimes move into the crumbling lower tunnels and half-collapsed hatchery pits if they are particularly dangerous or fearless.

Carrion Kaleshes

A sort of radially symmetrical six-winged buzzard that soars from world to world, but breeds and nests here. Their eggs emit waves of terrifying psychic energy to dissuade predators. They also have an early-hatching mechanism that triggers if the eggs are tampered with by non-avians. The razor-beaked hatchlings won't survive their early emergence, but neither will you. There is only one reasons to steal the eggs: the egg-plasm retards aging.

Truedark Skeletons

Some of the native spirits of this desolate place enjoy collect things from other worlds, like the dead bodies of those who died for want of light. They pluck these unfortunates from other worlds and bring them here, where they become a sort of undead. You probably don't want to use a light source around them, since that will make them furious. They focus fire and can summon their friends through shadows.

Ariah, He That Was Banished

Imagine a severed lion head, soot-colored, dripping gore, and flying across the surface of a dim and lightless planet at sixty miles an hour. After it has devoured 1,009,000 people, it will be permitted to return to its home-world and destroy it. It is in a hurry. Ariah can regenerate to full health if even one molecule of its body survives combat, only disintegration can truly slay it.

Places

The Blotted Monastery

The monastery was built by an order of penitent gorgons. They will bandage you for a price. Within these shifting walls lies the Orb Of Emptiness, a sphere of cursed obsidian placed here so that light would never fall on it. It will eliminate weak nuclear force from the universe if exposed to full illumination for more than a minute. It is lonely and would like to talk.

The Carious Mountains

These volcanoes spew great plumes of soot into the atmosphere and are responsible for most of the gloom that girds this world. They occasionally get particularly active, sending out flesh-scouring, ashen shamal winds that roil the entire surface of the planet at once.

Objects

Maliced Diamonds

Black stones from deep below the surface of Nuit that have never felt light, which must be mined, cut, and polished completely before any exposure. People bedazzle their armor with them to deflect magic missiles. Lacing steel with maliced diamonds shows some promising applications regarding the design of solar bathyspheres, if that's somewhere you want to go.

Dark Magma

Most magma sheds quite a bit of light. Not here, though. The sludgy, superheated stone beneath the surface of Nuit absorbs light rather than sheds it. It isn't good for much except for keeping this planet from becoming inhospitably cold.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Wizard Meth

That crazy wizard living in a tower wants to buy the corpse of whatever monster your players just carted back to town. Of course he does. Why? To make wizard meth. They don't call it that, of course. To them it's "the salve of Black Gilead" or "the Vitruvean process". But it's totally meth.

Essence Of Dragon Bile

Please substitute whatever obscure carcass is convenient for your campaign. In my example, the bile resides inside the dragon's gall bladder, pretty easy for non-experts to miss.

In order to prepare the bile for use, the wizard must extract its essence. This is done within a special kiln costing no less than 100 gold, which must burn for three days straight while the bile simmers within a sealed clay sphere. During this time, the bile reduces to less than an ounce of liquid (the waste materials glaze onto the interior of the sphere). Any flaw in the kiln or sphere will result in the total loss of materials involved and force the wizard tending the fire to make a save against leukemia.

The kiln is an awful thing. It smells bad, poisons small animals, kills nearby vegetation, and pollutes bodies of water within a fifty foot radius. Even when not in use, kiln bricks that have seen use emit an unsavory glow.

A Bilious Concoction

After extraction, the essence of dragon bile is rushed through a series of breakneck alchemical processes: it is mixed with a tincture of nightshade and esphand seeds; vitreous humors from beetles are added and subtracted; finally, turquoise dust is dissolved in it and the whole substance is allowed to crystallize.

Any exposure to fire during this process will cause the liquid to explode, scattering deadly shards of glass and burning goop. At several critical junctures, the chemicals are unstable enough that even light (especially magical light) will cause them to combust. The wizard must navigate these alchemical crossroads in total darkness. Should the matter combust, treat it as a fireball cast by a 5th-level wizard, but with more property damage.

Even after completing the process, the alchemist must avoid others for 1d6 days afterwards, for during this time they suffer from a residual curse that inflicts 1 damage per round on any creature that they lay eyes upon, out to about a hundred feet. Such individuals feel that a wicked spirit is tormenting them and intuit that the wizard is the cause.

The Delicious Effects

The exact effects of wizard meth vary from batch to batch, but it always includes a weeklong spate of egomaniacal euphoria. During this time, the wizard cannot sleep. Indeed, they are immune. Though they cannot rest to recover spells, the wizard meth allows them to recover expended spells at a rate of one per 1d4 hours (lowest-level first, skip 0th-level if that's a thing).

Several other effects can occur, as well. Each time a player makes use of wizard meth, the DM and they each choose a single effect from below:

  • The range of any fireball spells cast by that wizard are doubled.
  • They do not suffer falling damage. Though they leave impressive impact craters.
  • They can kill one NPC with less than 10 max hp, per round, just by staring really hard. If the NPC has a name, they get a save.
  • They can summon a giant bat that will carry them for about a hundred feet before they realize the wizard is way too heavy and need to put them down.
  • The wizard's brain can slip out their ear and move about by its own slimy self, perceiving its surroundings via dim telepathy. The body lies mostly comatose during this time, though it may sometimes attempt the actions it knows best.
  • The wizard can conjure a golden skull that skeletal undead will do anything to possess.
  • The Midas touch, but centipedes instead of gold, and only affecting furniture.
  • Whatever else you come up with. Write it down.

The Tail End

After the drug wears off, the wizard is listless and unable to cast their highest level of spells for a full week. Non-wizards who imbibe wizard meth get a headache so fierce that they are effectively blind for a full day. Neutralize poison fixes the latter but not the former.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Slaves Of The Angel

Fallen Forever

The fallen angel Aszottiel has spent millennia plotting to return to heaven. Not the heaven associated with your campaign world's deities. No, that's small potatoes. Aszottiel wishes to return to the domain of the Unmoved Mover, whose divine service it betrayed. To effect this return, it has carefully cultivated power and influence with the cold calculus that only an inhuman immortal can muster.

Below are some of its more handy servants.

The Slaves Of The Angel

Vile Cherubs

When the mighty fall, they really fall. The vile cherubs are a swarm of fat, leprous children, buzzing about on improbably small insect wings. They're like flying pustules, drooling green bile from scabbed lips. Their arrows and bite inflicts a curse of selfishness that prevents assisting others for 1d4, preventing things like healing others. Resisting the effect should be a long-shot, perhaps a Will save with 20 DC. These poor creatures believe Aszottiel will help them return to heaven, and are willing to do anything for that. Hint: not gonna happen.

The Hermit

The hermit Vittirmech is a talented, half-mad priest of no god in particular who believes that he has been chosen by the gods to join their ranks, so long as he passes their many tests. Sadly, the tests are actually tasks decided on by Aszottiel, who can whisper into his ear or cause him speak in tongues from any distance. The angel is constantly aware of anything transpiring in Vittirmech's presence. Vittirmech does cleric stuff like building golems, summoning walls of swords, healing himself, striking his foes blind, and summoning dire bears to attack his foes. He can also travel rapidly via kefitzat haderech. Vittirmech is one of the angel's most useful servants.

The Esoteric Brotherhood

Jakob Luria is the Supreme Nighthawk of the so-called Esoteric Brotherhood Of Magicks Angelica, a hoary circle of upper-crust wizards with endless titles, initiations, and symbolic actions. Though they count more than a few duelists amongst their number, their chief utility lies in flexing their social capital (they are rich and have agents everywhere) and in performing days-long ritual spells that do things like give entire nations cultural amnesia, modify climate, and manipulate stochastic fields.

Stuff they might do at the angel's behest:

  • Kidnap a person to baptize them in the Font Infernal, which permanently charms victims toward the angel and the head of the brotherhood. Hundreds of critical people are under its influence.
  • Enact a play designed to generate nationalist fervor, in preparation for that country warring with a neighbor. The chaos of the war is necessary to facilitate the theft of a powerful magical artifact, perhaps the Eye Of Omnipitos.
  • Perform magical rituals that hasten the inevitable, regardless of time and distance. For example, their spells can make an avalanche in a snowy pass thousands of miles away, cause an elderly political rival to die of heart failure, or provoke a race war in an already tense political climate.

Only the highest ranks of the order know that the purpose of the order is to serve Aszottiel, or have any inkling of its true nature.

The Aerial Hunter

An aerial spirit of great age and power, the Hunter is a sort of top-tier predator from the elemental plane of air. It is essentially a five-mile diameter bank of sentient fog that roams the world looking for invisible stalkers (they're delicious). Aszottiel knows it's true name and can command it to unerringly hunt particular creatures.

Its method of attack is to drift onto the players (or whatever) then precipitate droplets of milky white to fall. These drops leach color from anything they contact, inflict permanent blindness, and can kill small animals and children. The Hunter will do this for 1d6 hours, then wander off for a few days. The players can't really harm the Hunter. It's of a higher order of being than them. I suppose it would not be able to penetrate a protection from evil spell or a hermetically sealed building, though that's little consolation to anybody else that happens to be around.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Roll20 Characters

I'm getting ready to run a game for some of friends on roll20. I know, I know. Still, it's free.

Because I never do things the easy way, I've made different classes along late-medieval themes and modified the d20 ruleset down to the barest bones possible. I doubt that will interest any randos that stumble across my blog, though.

Class Abilities

Anyway, here are the classes. They have strong, thematic capabilities. These assume you agree with the objectively correct, morally superior position of death to ability scores. They also assume that you receive two feats at first level and rely on them for all of your player-driven character customization. So feats have to be pretty chunky, more like 5e feats than 4e or buy-in 3e. Lastly and perhaps most objectionably, they assume that you don't receive more hit points as you increase in level. If you want that so much, take a feat.

A slow, dangerous melee class.
A defensive melee class. 
A standard-fare ranged caster. I'll probably post their Dark Gift table later, after I de-plagiarize it.

"Let's not fight," you say as you discreetly reach for your sword.
"Ze healing is not as revarding as ze hurting." A non-clerical healing class. I know plague doctors are done to death.
Never stop firing. Also, never stop moving.

Sit in the back row and gank people.

A momentum-based class.



Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Lord Of All Fragments

Vhalkana, his hammer, and his... arm-spikes?

Vhalkana, The Smith-God

Vhalkana was manufactured by the previous smith-god, Cobannos, in an attempt to correct what that deity perceived to be his own weaknesses. Cobannos used all of the best parts of himself as ingredients and died as a result. He omitted various flawed qualities from the new god. Stuff like empathy for mortals, interest in non-smith-related activities, et ceteras. The result is a very hands-on deity.

Vhalkana likes dragooning random mortals to fetch raw materials for him, and not just his worshippers. He sees mortals as a naturally occurring resource much like a lode of mineral ore or a stand of trees. If he needs something they can provide, he will take it.

A typical interaction with Vhalkana might involve him dropping a four-faced angel into the players' vicinity, followed by the angel imperiously ordering the party to retrieve an unusual crafting material from their proximity. Or else. The angel will wait.

Stuff Vhalkana Wants

Things Vhalkana might plausibly demand players fetch:

The Devoted

A priest of the smith-god is known as a "pyraethi", which means fire-keeper. They must be devoid of birth defects, proficient in metalworking, and ideally are descended from another pyraethi. Supposedly, most pyraethi are descended from Vhalkana or Cobannos. After death, they can expect to have their soul collected by their deity, converted to soulsteel or another substance (the better a craftsman the pyraethi was in life, the more rarified a material his soul becomes in death), and incorporated into Vhalkana's next project. For a pyraethi, there can be no greater reward.

The smith-god grants prayers relating to the creation of objects (magical or otherwise), the manipulation and refinement of materials, and protection from destruction or calamity.

Every shrine to the smith-god houses a sacred kiln that contains fire from one of Vhalkana's forges. If it doesn't have a sacred kiln, it isn't a shrine. The fire is continually fed and maintained. Many such fires have burned continuously for hundreds of years or more.

Summoning a wall of shields always helps.

Prayers Of Metal And Making

Create Facsimile (1st-level)

You fabricate a copy of a single common magical item touched. The item is identical in all ways except that it vanishes at the end of the day. You cannot copy the same item more than once on any given day, regardless of how many times you memorize this spell, nor can you copy expendable or charge-based items. [1]

Recharge (1st-level)

This spell attempts to recharge a rod, staff, or wand that has at least 1 charge left. It requires 50 gold in semi-precious stones and rare earth powders. Roll 1d6+1. If you roll a natural 1, your working is flawed and you destroy the object in question. Otherwise you restore the that amount in charges to the item (though not above its inherent maximum, if applicable).

Wall Of Swords (2nd-level)

You conjure a 5x1 wall of spinning blades within short range. The wall blocks line of sight. Each turn, the wall inflicts 1d8 damage to creatures that start their turn within it or enter at least one space of its area. It will not inflict this damage to a given creature more than once, per turn. This wall counts as a friendly creature for the purposes of determining flanking, both for players and enemies.

Wall Of Shields (2nd-level)

You conjure a wall of hovering shields into a 4x4 area within medium range. The zone blocks line of sight to creatures within or past it, imparts +1 AC and AOE resist (half damage) to creatures within it, and counts as a creature for the purposes of determining flanking for both you and your enemies.

Greater Facsimile (3rd-level)

As create facsimile, but for a single uncommon magical item touched. You cannot cast this spell more than once, per day. [2]

Sacred Holocaust (3rd-level)

With a touch, you envelop a foe in agonizing flames. A target touched suffers 4d6 fire damage, Fort half. This is a fire and pain-based effect. On a failed save, they are weak (inflict half damage) until the end of their next turn. On a successful save, this spell is not expended from your memory.

Glassteel (4th-level)

Obviously, the pyraethi can cast glassteel. For them it's probably a 4th-level level spell. I don't know why anybody would think it should be 8th level.

[1] I think the price point for a common item should probably be about 1500gp or less. In Pathfinder, anyways. Basically, the spell should let you clone a +1 weapon or armor.
[2] 4000gp or less.

Notable Pyraethi

Pyraethi Faerzin is the most highly regarded of his order, essentially acting as high priest. He has a dozen four-faced angels working for him and occasionally borrows Vhalkana's forge hammer for personal projects.

Per the direct orders of her deity, Pyraethi Xenia has infiltrated the Yellowcake-Priests. They possess sacred scientific knowledge that mankind is not yet ready to use and are obsessed with destroying the world. Since the world is Vhalkana's -or rather Cobannos'- greatest creation, Xenia is commanded to destroy them. She has forged a marvelous helmet that allows her to eavesdrop on their communications with the star that they serve, permitting her to pretend to be one of their number and to infiltrate their ridiculous floating pyramid. She feels like she is operating on borrowed time and will escape as soon as conveniently possible.

Though not the most powerful of spellcasters, Pyraethi Jasparo has bred a sacred goose that lays eggs of the purest iron ore. He guards it like one in the throes of a deeply insane paranoia. Unbeknownst to Jasparo, the goose also exhales fumes of concentrated mercury.

Several pyraethi cooperate at Yesh Barit, the sacred foundry. All manner of projects are carried out here under the direct supervision of Vhalkana's angels. Their chief task is refining orichalcum, used for divine armaments such as thunderbolts, and panchaloha, a chameleonic idol-metal sometimes used by the gods in the manufacture of living creatures.

The Fire Caravan

Now that is a cool-ass mineral. It's moldavite, found exclusively at meteor impact sites.
The Fire Caravan is a troupe of ten or so pyraethi that wander the world in search of thokcha, also known as meteoric iron. They pay top-dollar for documentation of recent meteor activity or stories about meteor fields. They eventually turn all of their findings over to Vhalkana, but will also perform their own experiments prior to that. They probably have all manner of void-kissed substances.

Stuff like:

  • Armaments glazed with void-rust scrapings. They are forbidden from using the void-kissed meteoric iron, itself, but surely the forge-god will not begrudge his followers a little bit of rust. The priests are getting quite clever at working with it.
  • Spun objects of ultra-frozen primum frigidum that will never melt. Useful for, uh, well. Maybe they're unbreakable? I could see laminating some sort of ice-themed armor with it, or alloying it with an igneous mineral to make some sort of fire/ice super sword.
  • Superconductive wands (superconductive to electricity, magic, or emotion, depending).
  • Metals that convert into dangerous organic matter when contacted with water. They could probably use this to grow you a new limb or organ. Assuming you didn't mind it being hideous and unrecognizably alien.
  • A portal stone that permits instantaneous travel between worlds. The sender is waiting for somebody to activate it so they can come through. This would probably lead to undesirable outcomes.
  • An Eye of the Star-thing. Whatever it is, it grew uncountable millions of extra eyes, attached each to a stone capable of surviving atmospheric entry, and hurled them at an unfathomable number of worlds. This is probably one of those "when you gaze into the darkness, it gazes also into you" situations, so I wouldn't get too cozy with the eye. Maybe it could give you a bonus when casting contact other plane.
  • More moldavite than you can shake a fist at. I'm sure it possesses amazing properties for magic or spellcraft. Maybe allow it to reduce the price of crafting plausible magic items?
This is basically what I think an Eye Of The Star-Thing should look like.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Tias: Soulbound Gems As Magical Keepsakes


tldr; there are dozens of magical gemstones, each with a soul-bound princess trapped inside of them. Each conveys a small bonus, while collecting several conveys a cumulative set bonus.

The Ishnindah is not one of history's actors. She lurks in the background, plying her trade with the stoic fools of each era. Her footprints stretch across millennia, backwards and forwards.

Though she has lately preferred body parts as payment, there was a time when she preferred maidens of royal extraction. Want a spell that causes an enemy to only gain nutrition from cannibalism? Turn over a princess. The Internal Struggles of three centuries ago were largely an arms race of purchasing death-hexes from the Ishnindah. The royal families of the great cities mined their extended family trees for suitable candidates, turning them over by the dozen. Much magical lore was accrued from these transactions (the Ishnindah's well of magic does not run dry), though it was largely destroyed later, when the faith of the Idolatrous Lords waxed supreme.

The Witching Ways
The Ishnindah confounds analysis. But we know very well what happened to the princesses given over to her: their soul were trapped in gemstones, used to power their magics. There are at least fifty of them, each made by the Ishnindah and traded away. Over the centuries they have fallen into the hands of many adventurers and monster troves. In my game there is a flat 5% chance per incidence of treasure that a tia is among them.

The gemstones are called "tias". Keeping them in your possession only counts as one magical item, total. I use a trinket slot. If you use the absurdly granular Pathfinder 17+ item slot system, please stop. If you persist, maybe use the amulet slot.

The Tia Stones

Each tia stone conveys a small magical bonus, while the total number of tias equipped by a character conveys a cumulative "set bonus".

Set Bonuses (total mumber of tias: bonus)
  • 3: You have resistance (half damage) against acid and poison.
  • 5: You have +1 to all of your saving throws.
  • 10: Your spells inflict +1 damage.
  • 20: +2 to all saving throws.
  • 35: Your spells inflict +2 damage. 
  • 50: You cease aging, gain +3 to all saving throws, and can infallibly detect lies and detect magic as per those spells.
Individual Stones

I really dug deep for these t-named gemstones. You should come up with your own, too.
  • Tia Topaz: You heal 1d6 hit points from healing spells of 1st-level or higher.
  • Tia Tigerseye: You have a +4 bonus to Sense Motive checks.
  • Tia Turitella: You are immune to slow and similar effects.
  • Tia Tanzanite: You have resistance (half damage) against electricity.
  • Tia Tourmaline: You can cast cure light wounds twice per day.
  • Tia Titanite: You can cast a weak version of dimension door, once per day. It functions as the normal spell, but with a range of only 100 feet.
  • Tia Tektite: You ignore the first incidence of ability score damage, each day. If that doesn't match your rules set, it instead makes the player immune to the first debuff to affect them, each day.
  • Tia Tortoiseshell: You have +1 AC.
  • Tia Turquoise: Outsiders and spirits have disadvantage when attacking you.
  • Tia Tsavorite: You have resistance (half damage) against attacks of opportunity.
  • Tia Thomsonite: You have +3 initiative.
  • Tia Tugtupite: You are immune to bleeding effects. You have +5 max hp.
  • Tia Taaffeite: You can cast meld into stone once per day.
  • Tia Tinaksite: You are immune to damage and suffocation from non-magical heat and fire. For the purposes of this tia, magma and other geothermic heat is magical.
  • Tia Tyuyamunite: You shed a ghostly green light within a short radius. You are immune to blindness, magical or otherwise. If, for example, your eyes were gouged out, you could still see so long as you had this tia.
  • Tia Tsumebite: You can see through barriers of 1 inch thickness or less, including fog and many doors. You can't see through lead or other unusually dense materials, though.
  • Tia Tsumcorite: You are immune to color spray, prismatic spray, and any other "color-based" spell. You have +2 speed.
  • Tia Trona: Your fire spells inflict +1d6 damage.
  • Tia Triphylite: You cannot be knocked prone.
  • Tia Tridymite: You do not suffer any ill effects from excessive atmospheric pressure or the lack thereof. You are immune to decompression sickness. You can also hold your breath for up to a week.
  • Tia Tremolite: You have fire resistance (half damage).