Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Save vs. Conga

What follows is one of my odder ideas and may not be suitable for those who take their dungeons too seriously.

The Devious "Save vs. Conga" Trap

The Set-up: The party chances upon a pair of double doors that lead to a 20’ wide, T-shaped corridor. The branch before them extends 40’ past the double doors before branching left and right and continuing out of sight. The only decoration present in this otherwise plain hallway is terrazzo floor. The party enters the hallway at the end marked "A" on the map above.

The Trap: Once one or more PCs venture out of the shaded area on the map, everyone in this corridor must save vs. spells or succumb to the Conga Curse. Those cursed are compelled to form a conga line and dance down the corridor. The PC farthest into the corridor who succumbs to the curse forms the head of the line with the other adventurers falling in behind him. It is this PC that will chart the course the conga line takes.

Unless restrained or otherwise incapacitated by unaffected party members (dispel magic and remove curse will both break this compulsion), the conga line proceeds down the corridor at half the normal movement rate of the line’s slowest member. The referee should sketch out the corridor and allow the conga line’s leader to indicate what path the line travels. This decision is the line leader’s; the rest of the line must follow the chosen path without question. The line must move forward and cannot double back, reverse or otherwise deviate from making forward progress. The dancers are free to travel from side-to-side and can move diagonally down the hallway as well.

Once the conga line’s path is determined, the referee consults the map above to determine if the dancers blunder into any of the myriad traps that line the corridor. If they do, the normal chance to trigger traps is applied and those doing so suffer the effects indicated below:

Dart Trap –Struck by a fusillade of 1d6 darts for 1d4 points of damage each. A successful save vs. wands reduces the number of darts striking the victim by half, rounded down.

Fire Trap – A blast of fire inflicts 3d6 points of damage to the victim (save vs. breath attacks for half damage).

Gas Trap – Save vs. poison or suffer 2d8 points of damage. Although the area of the gas’s effect is 15’ square, the victim must pass over the trap’s actual trigger to activate it. Note that this trap will likely effect everyone in the conga line.

Lightning Trap – A bolt of lightning strikes the victim for 3d6 points of damage (save vs. spells for half damage).

Spear Trap – Save vs. wands or struck by 1d4 spears for 1d6 points of damage each.

The referee is encouraged to see if a trap activates as each dancer passes through its square and then inflict damage upon affected individuals before rolling to see if the next dancer triggers the trap. This builds tension as the dancers at the back of the line watch helplessly as others conga through the trap, knowing they themselves must pass through it.

Once the dancers reach either set of doors at the end of the corridor, the conga compulsion ends and they may move normally. Once they leave this corridor, however, the curse is reset. Adventurers passing this way again will need to make a saving throw after entering the corridor or fall under the curse’s sway yet again.

The Payoff: If the adventurers survive the conga curse and reach one of the corridor’s far doors, they are free to explore this strange hallway free of the compulsion to dance. In a secret compartment beneath the floor (marked "B" on the map above) is a cache of treasure. This hidden compartment is locked, but does not bear a trap other than the corridor it lies in. The cache consists of 19,000 gp worth of assorted coins and jewelry.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I’d Like an Art Department

As part of my first week as a nonsmoker, I watched the extended version of The Lord of the Rings, including all the behind-the-scenes special features. That film can cause schisms amongst gamers, depending on how seriously they take their Tolkien. I don’t mind its lack of Bombadil or the shield-boarding Legolas simply because I’m usually too busy being wowed by how beautifully the film brings Middle -earth to life.

Some years ago, I worked for the Hollywood Dream Factory. I was working in the industry when The Fellowship of the Ring was released and, in the months leading up to it, there was a lot of talk about that film on the various sets I worked. I doubt that I met one person who wouldn’t have sacrificed a family member to have crewed on that film. Of course, that was mostly because having a single steady job that lasts five years is unheard of in Hollywood unless you’re working on a successful series. And while I’d admit that that would have been nice in my own case, I had other reasons to be jealous.

I’ve mentioned that one of the reasons I enjoy this hobby is the opportunity to world build. So when I heard what Peter Jackson and Weta were up to down in New Zealand, I wished I could be part of that production. Not as a cast member or an extra, but as someone who helped breathe life into what I consider the most realistic fantasy world ever brought to the screen.

Watching the special features of the DVDs confirmed that the stories I heard during my time in L.A. were true. An army of artists, carpenters, craftsmen, miniature makers, set decorators, prop builders, greensmen, et al were needed to make Middle-earth as real as it seems on screen and I can’t help but feel a bit envious. Film may be a more visual medium when compared to role-playing games, but I still wish I had a small cadre of artists and craftsmen to help bring my own imaginary world to tangible life.

I’m in awe of people who can draw, paint, sculpt, or otherwise take something that exists solely in their mind and reproduce it in a concrete format. As a wordsmith, I’m only allowed a portion of success in that regard. Try as I might, I’m never 100% sure that people are really seeing what I describe with my writing. And while compete mental replication of what I’m envisioning isn’t necessary for people’s enjoyment of it, it’d be nice if I could be sure it happens once in awhile. One of these days, I should take a drawing course so that I might occasionally depict what’s in my head with a small degree of realism.

This lack of ability to physically replicate an imaginary world is one of the reasons that painting minis had grown on me. I’m in effect populating my world with representations that I can manipulate and visualize outside of my own head. Although they may be molded and poured by a third party, it’s my choice of paint and detailing makes turns them into unique residents of my own imaginary world. It’s a tiny accomplishment, but one I find satisfying nonetheless.

I wouldn’t mind being able to do more with what’s in my head, however. Maybe it’s time to start exploring crazy new ideas and see if anything comes of it…

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Quick Poll

If you were asked what animal you'd associate with dwarves, what would be your answer?

Update: "Badger" is the clear winner, followed by ponies/mules. That answer solved the problem I was having and I'd like to thank everyone for sharing their thoughts in this matter. I had dismissed the badger early on because I associate them more with gnomes (the whole "burrowing mammal" thing), but it seems I'm in the minority. Badger it is then. Please continue to leave your comments if you so desire.

Tavern Tables

As you open the door to the tavern’s common room, a blast of heat from the massive hearth and the crowded bodies within banishes the last vestiges of cool night air that cling to you. In the room beyond the door, uproarious laughter and cascading conversations mingle with the myriad smells of delicious cooking, spilled ale, and perfumes from a half-score of foreign shores. The tavern is busy tonight as both locals and travelers gather for companionship, filling the taproom to near capacity.

Momentarily pausing in the doorway, you cast your eyes across the bustling common room. A row of patrons three-deep crowds the bar, clamoring for the attention of Yven the barkeep. On your left, next to the tavern’s gigantic hearth, a small performance space has been cleared. The dense throng surrounding it erupts in a gale of laughter and applause, but their numbers obscure the performers beyond. At the rear of the tavern, a wide door bangs open, revealing a serving wench emerging from the kitchen beyond with a larger trencher of succulent meat balanced atop her shoulder. More servants move about the room collecting the culinary desires of the common room’s occupants.

Near the kitchen door, a worn staircase rises to the tavern’s second story, providing access to the numerous small apartments and rooms that occupy that space. To your right, in a dimly-lit, sunken corner of the tavern, stand several gaming tables. Wagerers of all races and creeds swarm the tables, risking coin and property to the whims of Chance. As your eyes rove about the room, you detect the presence of several other doughty adventurers also between forays into the ancient subterranean holdings just outside of town.

With pouch laden with wealth plundered from the dungeon depths, you plunge into the throng in search of an evening’s entertainment and relaxation. Do you want to:

Tavern Tables: Barfight!

Feeling arrogant and in the mood for a good dust up, you punch the closest, meanest-looking face you see. He goes sprawling into a table occupied by a crew of sailors on shore leave. They jump to the feet, sending their chairs into a group of dwarves, spilling their ale. In ten seconds flat, a brawl has erupted!

Bar Brawl Random Event Table
At the end of each round of combat, each PC involved in the brawl rolls a d6. On a 1, some event has occurred to that character. Roll a d20 on the table below to determine what has happened.

1) The PC is caught in the area of effect of a random 1st-3rd level spell.
2) The PCs current opponent gets blind-sided, taking him out of the fight.
3) The room’s chandelier comes crashing down. Make a save vs. petrify or take 1d6 points of damage.
4) Hot soup is splashed on the PC. Make a save vs. breath attacks or take 1-2 points of scalding damage.
5) Furniture goes flying. Save vs. petrify or take 1d6 points of damage and get knocked down.
6) A fire breaks out. In 1d10+5 rounds, it grows out of control, engulfing the room in flames.
7) A mug sails through the air. Make a save vs. wands or take 1d4 points of damage.
8) A brawler lands on the PC either accidentally or intentionally. Make a STR check to remain standing and there’s a 50% chance this brawler will start fighting the PC next round.
9) The PC dives to the ground to avoid a flying chair. Lying in front of him is a pouch containing 2d20 random coins.
10) The PC steps in a puddle of spilled liquid (stew, beer, blood, etc.). Make a DEX check or fall to the ground.
11) Whoops! In the chaos, the PC accidentally takes a swing at a fellow party member or other ally. Make a normal attack roll and apologize later if successful.
12) A swing comes at the PC from behind. Make an attack for a 3rd level Fighter against the PC’s armor class (no Dexterity or shield bonus) and, if it hits, he takes 1d2 points of damage.
13) An attractive member of the PC’s preferred sex grabs the character’s ankle and attempt to lure him to safety under a sturdy table.
14) Burning logs spill from the hearth. Make a save vs. breath weapon or take 1d6 points of damage. The logs will ignite a fire as #6 above.
15) The PC’s opponent is tougher than he looks. Increase that combatant’s hit points by 2 hit dice. If the PC has yet to land a blow on him, improve his armor class by two steps as well.
16) A 2nd level Thief takes advantage of the melee to lift the PC’s pouch. He has a 47% chance of success due to his level and the chaos.
17) Your opponent has friends. Next round, there is a chance that one (75%) or two (25%) of them join their pal to fight you!
18) The PC gets debris in his eyes, blinding him for 1d4 rounds unless a save vs. poison is made.
19) The Watch arrives to break things up. The patrol consists of 2d6 1st level Fighters led by 3rd level Fighter.
20) The PC gains an unexpected ally during the next combat round who will help him take down his opponent.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tavern Tables: NPCs for Hire

Making your way through the crowd, your eyes spot several fresh faces that look hungry for work. After the losses sustained during your last delve, you and the rest of the party have agreed to increase your numbers for the next attempt. You approach some likely-looking candidates and inquire if they’re looking for work.

Twenty Random NPCs Looking For Work
1) Wregor Mooseblood [Neutral 3rd level Barbarian, AC 4, H: 22, DG 1d10 (two-handed sword)] – Wregor is a hulking, brooding tribesman of the Tribe of the Moose. He believes he’s doomed to die in an unglamorous battle and, accepting his fate, will join foolish quests for pay.
2) Cleopos Myrthmunt [Lawful 2nd level Magic-user, AC 9, H 3, spells - magic missile, sleep] – Cleopos is a perpetual apprentice. Now entering middle-age, her love of pranks and less-than-devoted pursuit of magic has stunted her advancement. She has a potion of clairvoyance.
3) Rolf Sheepminder [Neutral 1st level Hireling, AC 6, HP 3, DG 1d6 (spear)] – This laconic shepherd lost his flock to wolves. With no money to replace them and limited options, he’s taken to hiring himself out as a torch-bearer and pack mule to adventurers. Rolf saves his wages and avoids strong drink.
4) Rondo Fleagle [Neutral 2nd level Dwarf, AC 3, Hp 13, DG 1d6+1 (war hammer +1)] – Rondo has a very low opinion of anything not dwarvish, believing his race to be the epitome of all things. He’ll work for non-dwarves but will constantly criticize their actions and decisions by saying, “That’s not the way a dwarf would do it.”
5) Sigguard Bloodhammer [Lawful 2nd level Barbarian, AC 5, Hp 18, DG 1d8 (battle axe)] – Sigguard is a convert to a more civilized religion. Having embraced his new faith, Sigguard seeks to do good and charitable deeds to the point where he puts some paladins to shame.
6) Siobhan of the Black Woods [Chaotic 3rd level Elf, AC 4, Hp 14, DG 1d6 (short bow) spells – hold portal, magic missile, detect invisible] – Siobhan comes across like your favorite kid sister. She’s pleasant, cute, and always has a kind word for everyone she meets. She’s also completely insane and serves a powerful demon lord, but she hides that well. Siobhan owns a set of chain mail +1.
7) Greybeard Longtooth [Lawful 2nd level Barbarian, AC 7, Hp 13, DG 1d6 (short bow)] – Greybeard is an ancient member of the Tribe of the Caribou. When he reached senility, he was left on an ice flow to die per tribal law. Greybeard merely wandered south and now hires himself out as an archer during his moments of lucidity. Despite his eighty years of life and his harsh treatment by the tribe, Greybeard remains a trusting soul and takes people at their word.
8) Dirk Sodbuster [Neutral 1st level Hireling, AC 7, Hp 4, DG 1d4 (club)] – Dirk spent his whole life as a simple farmer. Now, wracked with disease and sensing his end approaches, Dirk seeks to have one glorious adventure after seventy-seven years of tilling the soil. Despite his failing health, Dirk remains perceptive of falsehoods, white lies, and has a knack for spotting overlooked details.
9) Ulba Gippfold [Neutral 3rd level Thief, AC 5, Hp 7, DG 1d6+1 (short sword +1)] – Ulba laughs too much—except when she’s picking pockets. Her laugh is more of a cackle and it grates on the nerves. Combined with her nosy nature, this makes Ulba a real pain in the ass to travel with.
10) Haggar Houri-Tosser [Chaotic 3rd level Dwarf, AC 2, Hp 18, DG 1d6+2 (mace + STR)] – Haggar sports black plate mail and shield, which makes his resemble a walking anvil. He is dour and moody, and his sole joy is smashing things bigger than himself into a pulp. If you can offer that, he’ll sign on.
11) Pootak MacDinn [Neutral 1st level Barbarian, AC 5, Hp 7, DG 1d6+1 (hand axe + STR)] – Pootak has journeyed to the civilized lands to learn about the soft ways of the cities (and about something called “chariot racing”). Rather than being dismissive of culture and civilization, Pootak is inquisitive and wishes to learn more of these strange practices. He owns a potion of invisibility.
12) Ervin the Prodigy [Neutral 3rd level Magic-user, AC 9, Hp 6, spells – floating disc, shield, knock] – Ervin is eleven years old but a genius at magic. Despite his age, he’s reached a level of competency some apprentices never see. Regardless of his magical aptitude, Ervin is still a child and acts as one.
13) "Basher" Noggin-Knocker [Neutral 3rd level Fighter, AC 4, Hp 24, DG 1d8+2 (long sword + STR)] – Basher is a seething kettle of insecurities. He’s quick to anger, convinced everyone’s out to get him, and has never known love. As a result, he looks at every problem as one to be solved with violence. He owns a potion of extra-healing.
14) Quilliaramoia-Vell-Shim [Neutral 1st level Elf, AC 7, Hp 3, DG 1d4 (dagger) spells – sleep] – Although he knows how to fight, Quill prefers magic over swordplay and will only engage in melee if it means his life. His studious nature makes him covet magical writing and he will demand first choice of scrolls before he joins the party.
15) Shelia Copperpot [Chaotic 2nd level Halfling, AC 6, Hp 8, DG 1d6-1 (short sword - STR)] – Shelia once worked for the Syndicate, but her greed got the best of her. Now on the run, she hopes to lose herself amongst adventurers. Her obsessive-compulsive disorder, however, makes her stand out even amongst those odd characters.
16) Cecile Zebullah [Neutral 1st level Thief, AC 5, Hp 2, DG 1d4 (dagger)] – Cecile is a young, freckled-faced lad with a mischievous love of pranks. He also has a greedy streak a league wide. At the end of each adventure, Cecile must make a Loyalty check or rob his employers blind—usually in a manner he finds humorous. Cecile owns a pair of elven boots.
17) Rahyk Three-Born [Neutral 2nd level Fighter, AC 4, Hp 14, DG 1d8 (long sword)] – Rahyk suffers from black depressions that greatly inhibit his ability to hold a steady job. In his better moments, he hires out as a sellsword, but he’ll punctuate such employment stints with predictions of doom and gloom for both himself and his fellow party members.
18) Nuada Holyoake [Neutral 1st level Elf, AC 4, Hp 4, DG 1d6 (quarterstaff)] – Nuada is desperate for acceptance and praise, which makes him fawningly servile to his employers. He’s also a bit unbalanced and he will take his employer's commands (or even their unvoiced or unconscious desires) to extremes.
19) Bifferton Blondehair [Neutral 2nd level Fighter, AC 2, Hp 13, DG 1d8+2 (long sword + STR)] – Everyone wants a lackey like “Biff.” Handsome, competent, and completely trustworthy, Biff is an employer’s dream come true. Unexpectedly, he’s also everything he seems to be, which drives some employers mad. They’re convinced that he’s hiding something.
20) Tobias Widdershins [Lawful 1st level Hireling, AC 7, Hp 4, DG 1d6 (spear)] – Tobias is fresh off the farm; looking to earn a fortune so he can marry his sweetheart, Elizabetta. A mere youth, Tobias is neither worldly nor careful – two traits unlikely to lead to a long adventuring career. Under the wing of a more experienced and concerned leader, however, Tobias just may have a chance of making it back to his love’s side.

Note: The NPCs above were generated using a combination of Cook/Marsh Expert, The Rogues Gallery, and the Labyrinth Lord rulebook. The classes of Barbarian and Hireling are from my own "New Classes and Racial Variants for Basic Dungeons & Dragons".

New THM Games Release: Swords & Wizardry Reference Sheets

Michael “Chgowiz” Shorten announced yesterday that he has completed the Swords & Wizardry Reference Sheets, his second release under the Three-Headed Monster Games imprint. The PDF is available from RPGNow.com and DriveThruRPG.com for $1.99 US. Here’s what Chgowiz has to say about them:
It is a 28 pg PDF digest sized booklet of the charts and tables from the 3rd printing, as well as a couple of new monsters, a whole slew of Wilderness Encounter tables (not in Core Rules printing) and an updated/revamped Treasure Generation system (enhanced from Core Rules). It will be priced at 1.99$US.

Why should you buy this? Quite simply, if you know the rules of S&W/OD&D and you merely need tables/charts and some random encounter/treasure generation - then this is for you. I ran a game on Saturday with just this booklet and didn't have to open any other reference. If you are learning the game, this organizes all the tables/charts into a small reference so you can quickly look up what you need to look up.
Pick up your copy today!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tavern Tables: Rooms for Rent

Sensing that tonight’s activities will leave you looking for nearby quarters to rest your head, you inquire as to the availability of the rooms on the second floor. After several attempts to make yourself heard over the noise of the crowd, you’re finally directed to a matronly, grey-haired woman who mans the counter of a small alcove. She says that there are several vacancies available and, depending on your purse, she’d be glad to give you the key to one.

Twenty Rooms to Choose From
1) "Oasis" (8 cp/night) – This room should really be called “Desert,” as it is bare of any furnishings whatsoever. Other than a coat of white paint, the room in empty, but for the frugal adventurer with a bedroll and no desire to share the common room, it’s a good deal. The room’s narrow window overlooks the courtyard outside and the lock on the door is new and of good construction.
2) "The Shambles" (8 cp/night) – The mattress is lumpy, the bed squeaks, the chamber pot has a crack in it, and a mouse lives in the wall. Still, it beats sleeping in the rain.
3) "Sweet Slumber" (8 cp/night) – The inn’s staff has been scrubbing this room for a week and something continues to stink. The innkeep believes something crawled into the wall and died. Rather than tear up the wall and floor in search of a carcass, he’s had the staff double their cleaning efforts and hang sachets of pleasant-smelling herbs in the room. The stink will eventually clear – once someone finds the murdered halfling that’s been dismembered and sewn into the tick of the bed. Will the PC be the lucky one to discover this?
4) "Evening Grove" (2 sp/night) – This room is located off of the main hallway of the inn at the end of a secondary corridor. While the room itself is nondescript in appearance (simple furnishings, small hearth, single window, and a good lock), both the room and the corridor outside always remain clean. While this phenomenon has been noticed by the staff, the innkeeper’s wife forbids anyone to investigate the matter for fear of ruining a good thing. She suspects that the Wee Folk have something to do with it and she’s correct. A booka has taken up residence in the attic just over this room. He regularly passes through this room by way of the hearth and likes to keep the place tidy. The booka respects the privacy of both the innkeeper’s family and guests; he expects the same in return.
5) "Starlight Dreams" (2 sp/night) – All the furniture in this room was made by the innkeeper’s eldest son and he’s not a very good carpenter. Each piece of furniture is slightly off-plumb, creating minor nuisances for the guest who stays here (things roll off tables; shins are banged on oddly-angled corners, and the chair just feels wrong). On the plus side, the innkeeper’s son works cheap. If the party needs something crafted and isn’t concerned about quality, they can get it half-price through him.
6) "Labor’s Rest" (2 sp/night) – The furnishings in this room are old and worn. The bed creaks, the chair is rickety, and a sliver of wood propped under the night table keeps it from rocking. Despite this, anyone sleeping in the room gains a +1 bonus to their natural healing roll. This is due to the enchanted straw mattress that lies atop the bed. The innkeep bought the bed second-hand from a dead mage’s estate sale and it bears a slight aura of magic – a fact that the innkeep is unaware of. If he was to learn this, the cost of this room would certainly rise.
7) "Oak & Ivy" (2 sp/night) – The décor of this room bears a forest motif. Intertwined vines are carved into the exposed wood, the walls are daubed with green and brown paint in a leaf-like pattern, and large carved acorns adorn the bedposts. A wicker basket containing a pillow lies in the corner, left as a bed for familiars, pets, and animal companions.
8) "Monk’s Cell" (2 sp/night) – As the name implies, this simple room contains a bed, a small table, a pitcher, washbasin, and chamber pot. A smoky candle provides the only illumination, as there is no window.
9) "Beggar’s Banquet" (2 sp/night) – This room is a closely-guarded secret and, unless you’re friendly with the innkeep or really down on your luck, it’s likely to remain that way. The room is extremely comfortable. A feather mattress and soft linens grace the bed; a plush, padded chair and ottoman sit in the corner, and a collapsible bathtub waits inside the room’s wardrobe. A fine dinner is also included with an evening’s stay. The price for such opulence: 2 silver. Despite his gruff exterior, the innkeeper is a softy when it comes to folks truly down on their luck. Itinerant adventurers who lost everything in their last delve or a humble tradesman who fell afoul of robbers might be rewarded with a night of luxury for a very low cost. The innkeep believes he’ll gather his reward for such kindnesses in the next life. Loutish or lazy folks never benefit from his charity, however. He has no tolerance for such behavior.
10) "Nook Bed" (2 sp/night) – This tiny room was intended to be a storage closet until greed trumped practicality. These small quarters are cramped and oddly-shaped, as the room lies under a conflux of the inn’s eaves and gables. The small bed is comfortable at least. The solitary window in these quarters looks directly out over the inn’s roof and is shielded from view by the building’s gable and a chimney, making it a superb place from which to launch unseen forays onto the city’s rooftops.
11) "Solitude" (2 sp/night) – This room occupies the inn’s garret and is accessed by a narrow staircase. Cheap wall-hangings and a thick rug cover the walls and floor, providing sound-proofing from the rowdy common room far below. The furnishings (bed, armoire, desk & chair, and cloak stand) are worn and need to be replaced, but the quiet is well-worth the rustic conditions for a travelling magic-user, sage, or other private individual. Due to this room’s elevation, it is the only quarters in the inn that can see the window to Nook Bed – a fact that could become important depending on the resident of that room’s nocturnal activities.
12) "The Chapel" (4 sp/night) – These quarters are named for its two stained glass windows. A third, more functional, window is also present. One window depicts a man in red cowl and robes bearing a knobby-headed staff; the other shows an elven maiden surrounded by animal life. The windows were purchased second-hand and the innkeep doesn’t know where they originally came from.
13) "Feathered Nest" (4 sp/night) – This room was once filled with plush finery but time has taken its toll. The down mattress and pillows are stained and worn, the rug is growing threadbare, and the padded headboard of the bed bears stitches. For those all-too accustomed to sleeping in the raw or not too picky, however, these quarters are well-worth the cost.
14) "Battened Down" (4 sp/night) – This rooms is done in a nautical motif. The bed is of driftwood, the chairs are captain’s chairs, and old rope and ship paintings hang from the walls. The windows are even porthole-shaped. A battered, bent, verdigris-covered telescope is mounted on a plaque above the bed. The top section of this telescope can be pulled off to reveal a small compartment within. A certain clandestine organization uses the telescope as a drop point for coded messages. There is a 5% chance that one such missive is inside at any given time.
15) "Warm Comfort" (1 gp/night) – These quarters and the three that follow are located around the tavern’s main chimney. The ambient heat from that smokestack warms the chambers quite well when in use, making these rooms comfortable lodgings during the height of winter. This room sports a comfortable bed dressed with thick quilts sewn by the innkeeper’s wife. She has two more available for sale if guests find them to their liking.
16) "Frost Foe" (1 gp/night) – These cozy quarters are perhaps the best of the four “hot rooms.” The furnishings are clean, comfortable, and well-cared for. The temperature in the room is never stifling and, as an added feature, the innkeeper’s daughter rooms just below this one. She’s in the habit of singing in her room at the end of her workday and she has a pleasant contralto voice.
17) "Hearth Home" (1 gp/night) – There are two sets of furnishings in this room: one human-sized and one halfling-sized. Each set includes a bed with wool-filled mattress, a night table with ewer and basin, a padded chair, and a chest of drawers. A worn, blue rug covers the floor and a small tin tray, suitable for tapping out the pipe ash, sits on the halfling-sized night table.
18) "Fire Rest" (1 gp/night) – This room is warm, uncomfortably so except for on the coldest of nights. Characters bedding down here will find themselves sweating despite opening the window, shedding the covers from the bed, or sleeping au naturel. The PC must make a CON check to get any sleep at all. A failed check results in no natural healing and the inability to memorize spells the following day.
19) "Sage’s Sleep" (3 gp/night) – Perfect for the travelling scholar, this room contains a massive desk and comfortable padded chair in addition to its other opulent furnishings. An array of inks, quills, and scribing tools rest in a caddy atop the desk and parchment is available for the asking. The rug in this room roughly resembles a written letter.
20) "The Dragon’s Den" (5 gp/night) – The apex of housing in the inn. No expense has been spared to furnish these quarters and all the room’s accouterments are of the finest quality and materials. A gilded bathtub stands on a platform of marble, privacy granted by a painted silk screen. A separate room is provided for entertaining guests and a bell rope hangs in both rooms to summon immediate attention from the staff. If you award experience for gold spent, booking the Dragon’s Den for a week or more gives a +10% experience bonus but only to one character. The PCs may find themselves contending against one another to get the room first.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tavern Tables: Games of Chance

Making your way down the short series of steps that lead to the tavern’s sunken gaming area, you enter the throng of gamblers. All around you is the sound of shuffled cards, clattering dice, clicking tiles, and - of course - the tinkling of coin. Through the lingering haze of pipe-weed and smoldering taveesh resin, your eyes catch a glimpse at the games being played on the stained, felt-covered tables placed about the gaming pit. With a hand firmly wrapped about your money pouch, you take a seat at a nearby table and signal the games’ master that you’re ready to play.

Random Games of Chance Chart
1) Spottle
2) In Between
3) Zowie Slots
4) Up is Down, Down is Up
5) Crystal Palace
6) Wolves & Jackals
7) Mouse Racing
8) Hornswoop Me Bungo Pony
9) Xultvarian Tile Storm
10) Knucklebones
11) Battle Chess
12) Punch-for-Punch
13) Fizzbin
14) Roulette
15) Arm Wrestling
16) Craps
17) Double Cranko
18) Guts & Balls
19) High-Low
20) Lick the Lich

Quick and Dirty Gambling Table
There will come a time when a player wants to spend the evening sitting at the gaming table rather than pillaging forgotten tombs. This isn’t a problem if the rest of the players are also keen on a night of R & R, but when the rest of the party wants to go exploring, it helps to have a quick and easy way of determining the gambling character’s luck at the tables. Rather than play out the process, have the gambler state how much he or she is willing to risk at the tables (known as the character’s “stake”) and roll on the table below. If the character wishes, he or she may cheat, which adds a +20 modifier to all rolls made on to the table below, but also increases the chance that they’re caught.

Gambling Results Table (d100)
01: Lose stake plus all wealth carried unless a successful WIS check is made. If successful, result as 02-10.
02-10: Lose stake plus an additional 10-100% (1d10x10).
11-50: Lose stake
51-60: Win stake + 10%
61-70: Win stake + 50%
71-80: Win stake + 100%
81-85: Win stake + 200%
86-88: Win stake x (2d4)
89-90: As 86-88 plus an additional unusual object (magic item, treasure map, deed to Tegel Manor, the Millennium Falcon, etc.)
91-95: Another gambler is cheating; roll again and subtract -20 from the result.
96+: Character is accused of cheating/caught cheating. Lose stake plus additional consequences of the referee’s devising.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tavern Tables: Evening’s Entertainment

Gingerly making your way through the crowd, you work your way to a better vantage point from which to watch the performance area. On a roughhewn stage, the most amazing performance is underway. The audience laughs, gasps, and cheers at the talent displayed before them, indicating that the battered straw basket at the edge of the stage will soon be filled with gladly-donated coins.

Random Tavern Entertainer Table
1) Gnome yodeler
2) Magic lantern show
3) Acting troupe
4) Grizzled storyteller
5) One-man band
6) Half-orc or barbarian drummers’ circle
7) Dwarven wrestlers (2-6)
8) Trained animal act
9) Strolling minstrel
10) Bump & grind act
11) Acrobats/tumblers
12) Conjurer/prestidigitator
13) Half-ogre insult comic
14) Oddities & wonders show
15) Hobbit dance troupe
16) Kabuki theatre
17) Juggler(s)
18) Elven harpist
19) Gypsy fiddler and fortune-teller
20) Sword-swallower/fire-eater

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tavern Tables: Meals from the Kitchen

Taking advantage of an opening left behind by a party of departing dwarves, you settle down at a scarred and ring-marked table. A moment later, a young serving wench, her brow and ringlet curls dabbed with sweat, sidles up to your table. With barely concealed impatience, she cocks her hand to her waist and briskly rattles off the kitchen menu from memory. What’ll it be?

Tavern Meal Table
1) Hunk of bread and a wedge of cheese
– course, black bread served with a wedge of sharp white cheese (5 cp).
2) Crawfish with rice and beans – fished from the stream just outside of town and served on a bed of wild rice and red beans (8 sp).
3) Dog-head soup – exactly what it sounds like. An acquired taste to say the least (2 cp).
4) Cottage pie – beef, carrots, green beans, and corn served with a mashed potato crust (5 sp).
5) Stuffed mushrooms – mushroom caps stuffed with sausage, onions, bell peppers, and cheese (10 cp).
6) Fruit – assorted types (apples, peaches, strawberries, cherries, blueberries, grapes, etc.) served in season (1 sp per piece or equivalent).
7) Mutton haunch – a steaming sheep’s haunch served with gravy and potatoes (15 sp).
8) Venison – roasted deer served with a green leaf salad and bread (6 sp).
9) Beef steaks – served bloody rare (15 sp).
10) Frog’s legs – caught in the swamp just down the road, breaded, and fried (1 sp).
11) Chicken and dumplings – cooked chicken breast, vegetables, and balls of dough served with sauce (5 sp).
12) Haggis – stuffed sheep’s stomach (5 sp).
13) Rabbit stew – a thick stew containing rabbit, onions, celery, carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms (3 sp).
14) Roast boar – local wild boar taken legally from a nearby forest (1 gp).
15) Giant crab legs – baked crab legs of the giant (and I mean giant, not just big) variety, trimmed down to fit in the oven (10 gp).
16) Lutefisk – dried cod soaked in cold water and lye, then cooked. Served with potatoes, peas, and bacon (4 sp).
17) Roasted fowl – game bird served with rice and seasonal vegetable (10 sp).
18) Perpetual stew – constantly simmering stew comprised of meat and vegetables. When the stock gets low, more of the same are thrown into the pot (2 sp).
19) Blood pudding – pig’s blood, fat, and barley cooked thick then cooled (5 sp).
20) Honeycomb – a piece of fresh comb dripping with honey (1 gp).

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Tavern Tables: Drinks at the Bar

Working your way to the front of the throng that surrounds the bar, you tap a gold coin soundly on the battered counter. The distinct ring of gold pilfered from a monster’s dungeon lair catches Yven’s one remaining ear. The grizzled former solider moves down the bar, turning his attentions to you. Pointing to the wooden placard hanging next to the moth-eaten owlbear’s head mounted above the bar, Yven asks what you’re drinking.

Tavern Beverage Table

1) Sour beer – a cloudy beer that results from the presence of impurities during the fermentation process. Normally, such a beverage would be discarded, but some rough-and-tumble establishments serve it nonetheless (5 cp per tankard).
2) Goblin grog – the drink of the desperate or destitute, some taverns pour the dregs of any remaining drinks into a large cask at the end of the night. This unwholesome mixture is called “goblin grog” and sold for a pittance (2 cp per tankard).
3) Bubbling concoction – the ingredients of this drink vary from establishment to establishment, but the results of their mixture are always visually stimulating. Bubbling concoctions can foam, burble, emit vapor, change color, produce flame or sparks, generate tiny thunderclouds, glow, or even cause temporary physical alterations to their drinker. The special ingredients that make these effects occur are purchased from a local alchemist (5 gp per cup).
4) Kumis – fermented mare’s milk (4 cp per cup).
5) Ale – local, human-made variety (2 sp per tankard).
6) Old Red Eye – A vile, rotgut liquor. Rumor has it that Old Red Eye is made by orcs who dwell in an evil land far to the south (5 cp per shot).
7) Goat’s milk – like cow’s milk, but from a goat. Non-alcoholic (2 cp per cup).
8) Bark Tea – tree bark and various herbs steeped in hot water (1 sp per cup).
9) Viskha – amber-colored, fiery-tasting corn liquor (10 sp per glass).
10) Wine – common human-made wine of local vintage (5 sp per glass).
11) Elven ice wine – a light-tasting, blue-white wine (15 sp per glass).
12) Kahvak – a dark, bitter-tasting beverage made from roasted kahvak beans. Non-alcoholic (2 sp per cup).
13) Dragon’s blood – rare liqueur usually reserved for the tables of nobility, but bottles occasionally turn up in establishments of lesser status. This dark red liqueur has a spicy tang resembling cinnamon and an extremely sweet aftertaste. Its distillation process and ingredients are a closely guarded secret (1 pp per glass).
14) Ale, dark – local, human-made stout (5 sp per tankard).
15) Snow barbarian whudka – a clear but potent liquor distilled on the northern tundra, whudka makes its way south to civilized lands where it is traded for gold ornaments and steel weaponry. Its distillation process and even ingredients are unknown to outsiders (15 sp per shot).
16) Dwarven brandy – this potable is a clear liquor distilled from the apples and cherries that grow along the slopes of RInghammer Hall. Possessing a light fruit flavor, dwarven brandy is kept in cool caves and cellars, and is served chilled (15 sp per cup).
17) Hard cider – fermented apple cider (3 sp per cup).
18) Mead – honey wine (10 sp per cup or horn).
19) Varkarös rum – a dark liquor distilled from molasses and sugarcane grown in the southern islands, primarily around Varkarös, the City of Foul Mists. Popular with sailors and wannabe mariners (8 sp per cup).
20) Kvass – a mild alcoholic beverage made from rye bread and flavored with mint (2 cp a tankard).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Flora and Fauna: Crumblebark Tree

These deciduous trees are recognizable by their ashy grey bark and star-shaped leaves. Crumblebark trees reach heights of 100’ and a trunk circumference of 30’ when fully grown. They thrive in climates with cool, wet winters and warm summers, requiring abundant water for their dense root systems, and are commonly found in river valleys, foothill woodlands, and in coastal areas.

The tree gets its name from the layers of loosely attached bark that covers its exterior. Unlike most trees, crumblebarks can shed its bark in large quantities without harming the tree, and applying even light pressure to the tree’s surface causes its exterior to crumble and fall away. This makes the tree extremely difficult to climb without rope or climbing spikes. Any character attempting to climb a crumblebark tree has a 4 in 6 chance of failing (and falling); Thieves climb at half their normal Climb Walls percentage.

Predators, both natural and monstrous, utilize this quirk of the crumblebark tree when hunting prey. They attack from ambush in crumblebark groves and, when prey attempts to flee to safety by climbing a nearby tree, the predator corners and devours them as their prey claws frantically at the disintegrating bark. The crumblebark tree unwittingly benefits from this arrangement, as the bones and blood of animals killed and eaten at its base provide rich fertilizer for the tree. Adventurers are warned to be wary when passing through crumblebark groves where the trees appear exceptionally vibrant and healthy – danger lies in wait.

Dry crumblebark bark makes excellent tinder and using it to start a fire will result in success on even the wettest of days. Powdered crumblebark is a common ingredient used by herbalists and wise women in poultices for treating sunburn, acne, eczema, and other skin ailments.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Unlikely Enchanted Objects

The following is a list of twenty everyday objects most likely to be overlooked by magic-hungry adventurers. While most jewelry, boots, cloaks, hats, books, rugs, and even brooms are regularly scanned with a detect magic spell, these common items might slip past the party’s “spell-dar,” making them suitable for enchantment by a devious referee. Two suggestion for possible magical powers of the item follow each entry.

1: Washboard – turns normal clothes into temporary armor; parts/lowers water
2: Boot-scraper – temporary enchants boots with speed/water-walking/levitation/other; teleports user
3: Andirons – causes fire to burn without consuming fuel; screams if intruders try to climb down the chimney
4: Chamber pot – summons otyugh; cures disease
5: Hoof knife – heals horses; hastes mounts
6: Candle snuffer – extinguishes all fire in local area; inflicts damage against fire-based creatures
7: Hoe – commands burrowing animals; creates circle of protection against anhkhegs & bulettes
8: Bed warmer – grants bonus to saves vs. cold the following day; causes enchanted slumber
9: Knitting needles – entangles opponents; grants physical protection if worn in hair
10: Wheelbarrow – carries enormous weights with ease; self-propelled and sentient
11: Ink horn – creates magic/invisible ink; produces ink cloud like an octopus’
12: Ball of yarn – grants infallible direction sense; charms cats of all sizes
13: Hay rake – turns straw to gold once per month; grants the power to walk up vertical surfaces
14: Colander – neutralizes poisonous foodstuffs; serves as magical helmet if worn
15: Wicker basket – summons magical house cat that acts as an arcane eye; produces one meal’s worth of raw food per day
16: Apron – Bonus to saving throws vs. area of effect spells/hazards; acts as potion of super-heroism if worn by a Normal Man
17: Shears – magical weapon against incorporeal undead; slices through steel and lesser metals
18: Burr mill – grind gems into truth powder; produces a stinking cloud
19: Draughts set – grants human control as potion; summons cadre of 1st level fighters
20: Bucket – traps oozes & slimes; creates well when placed on bare earth

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Pair of Magical P’s

The following are two magic items that revealed themselves to me recently. As with most magic, their value lies in how they are put to use.

Ring of Psychometry: This ring grants the wearer the ability to receive mental images and impressions off of a physical item. By expending one of the ring’s charges and touching the item he wishes to examine, the wearer glimpses a brief mental picture of the last person to manipulate the object and possibly the actions that accompanied its use. The clarity of this image and the information gleaned from it is determined by rolling a d6 on the following table:

1-2: Image of the object’s handler only – Details include race, sex, and physical appearance, but handler’s name, profession, and other intangible elements are not perceived.

3-4: Comprehensive details of the object’s handler – As above, but description includes name, class, and the handler’s emotional state at the time he/she held the object. Alignment is not revealed, however.

5: Replay of events – As above, but the ring-wearer observes the handler’s actions in the moments leading up to the point where he/she ceased handling the object. The length of time observed is only a minute or two, but the ring-wearer experiences them as if he was in the same room with the object’s handler.

6: Total Clarity – As above, but the ring-wearer also perceives the handler’s surface thoughts in the moments observed as if he had cast the spell, ESP.

When first found, a ring of psychometry has 2d10 charges.

Jar of Infinite Pickles: This ceramic jar with lid contains 1d10+10 fresh, tasty, dill pickles in brine when first discovered. The enchantment on the jar ensures that there will always be 1d10+10 pickles inside it each time the lid is opened. Breaking the jar destroys the container’s magic, but whatever pickles it contained at the time of its destruction remain behind and may be consumed as normal. These jars are highly prized by halflings and may command a price of a few hundred gold pieces if sold in a predominantly halfling community.

With Twitchy Hands and Sweat-beaded Brow

I’ve reached seven days smoke-free and I’m slowly attempting to return to writing. It is only now that I’ve put down the smokes that I’ve become aware of how vital they were to my personal writing process. Stumped for an idea? Take a walk on the parapet and have a cigarette. Not sure how to form the next section? Light up a Camel and turn the idea over in my head until I found a crack to grasp. Working without that “creative tool” is like starting rehabilitative physical therapy. I know how things are supposed to work, but my mind and body aren’t sure as to how to make it happen.

Unfortunately, things worth doing are never easy and the only way back home is usually via the hard road. I’ve no choice but to knuckle down and work past this. Posting will now resume, but I wouldn’t expect much initially if I were you. Just finally being able to string a few sentences together in a cohesive manner will be my initial goal. In many ways, it’s as if I’m starting this blog from scratch and attempting to find my voice and bearings again. This could result in some interesting choices of topics and direction, as well as a varying level of quality. Things with crystallize over time, I hope.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Up in Smoke

I wanted to step on stage a moment and let you folks know that posting will resume sometime in the near future, but I cannot say for sure when. I quit smoking, you see.

I’m three days down that long road and I’m currently enjoying all the signs of withdrawal, but it’s my inability to string two coherent thoughts together which is confounding my efforts to produce a new post. These few sentences took much more effort to write than I’d care to admit.

In another week or two I might not be white-knuckling it as much and have started to put my mental capabilities together enough to tackle some of the ideas that have been piling up in my creative inbox. Until then, I’m fighting off the monkey and watching the entire extended version of The Lord of the Rings (which of course has an addiction theme and prodigious amounts of smoking for a fantasy film), special features and all.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Idle Hands: Angry Villagers

With the Stonehell draft finished, I've had a few precious free moments to kill and I've used them to catch up on my miniatures painting. I've been choosing minis that are offbeat and unlikely to be found in one of the WotC prepainted sets. When I stumbled across the "I Just Don't Feel Put Together Right" set produced by Blue Moon Manufacturing, I was overjoyed. Not only does it come with a mad scientist, his hunchback assistant, and a Frankenstein's Monster, but it had an assortment of pitchfork-and-torch-wielding angry villagers to boot! Just the sort of thing that comes in handy when the adventurers get a little to big for their britches.

I painted the villagers in batches of twos and threes, learning a little bit with each set. The earliest ones are the man with the tree-trimmer, the goodwife with the rake, and the geezer with the scythe. Out of those three, I'm most satisfied with the geezer.

The second batch was the maiden with torch, the sea captain with the pitchfork, and the one-legged codger with a length of pipe. I'm very happy with the captain's and the maiden's blue clothing. Learning more about base coats, washes, and dry-brushing helper make them "pop" and the splash of color is a nice change of pace from the rest of the villagers' drab clothing.

The preacher and policeman finished off the mob and, as they're monochromatic, they were a snap to finish up. While it's not really clear in the photo, a bit of highlighting made the preacher's somber black garb more three-dimensional than what would have resulted if I painted him earlier on. My only complaint with this batch is with the matte varnish I used to seal them. The policeman's shiny buttons and helmet were dulled by the spray. Still, I prefer a matte finish over a glossy one as I've too many bad memories of glossy, cherry-red Testor paint minis from my youth.